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The Keyhole

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"And here we are, safe and sound," Judy said in a sing-song voice from the driver's seat of the police cruiser. She looked over at her mate and then at Eli in the back seat, both gripping their seats for dear life, and rolled her eyes.

 

"Relatively speaking, Carrots," Nick said before composing himself. He, just like Judy, was in his dress uniform. He then got out and opened the door for Eli. They were just in front of West Mammalia Middle School, various students milling about, many tapping away on their phones.

 

"Now, got your lunch?" Nick asked. Eli zipped open his green backpack and looked up with a nod.

 

"And your textbooks?"

 

"Right here, Dad," Eli said, smiling down at the fox. Judy watched from her raised seat and smiled.

 

"And your homework?"

 

"Daaaad!" Eli said, earning a chuckle from Nick.

 

"Okay, okay. You have a great day today, buddy, okay?" Nick said as Eli bent down to hug him.

 

"I will," Eli said, smiling brighter than before.

 

"And remember to call us for anything!" Judy called from the driver's seat.

 

"Okay, Mom!"

 

"Alright, buddy, see you after school." Nick gave Eli one more squeeze before letting go and, with slight hesitation, climbing back into the car. He was quick to buckle up and instinctively grip the dashboard, while Judy let out an annoyed huff.

 

"I am a perfect driver," Eli heard his adoptive mother call out from the open window, just as she almost side-swiped a camel on a bicycle. The cyclist raised an angry hoof, just as the cruiser sped off. Eli turned to enter the school, when he found himself mobbed by his fellow ranger scouts.

 

"Eli!" Isaac said, the coyote boy's tail a happy blur, "What was it like being captured by a real mad scientist?" Isaac let out a sharp yelp, looking up at the mouse boy standing on top of his head, who had just yanked on some of his fur. "What was that for?"

 

"For lack of tact," Mike said sternly, before looking back up at his human friend.

 

"How are you doing, Eli?" Mike asked.

 

"Okay," Eli said, shifting a bit under the gaze of the various mammals.

 

"We heard you got your Escape Pursuit Badge!" one of the black bear twins, whom Eli guessed to be Ned said.

 

"No, it was the Jailbreak Badge!" his brother Ted chimed in.

 

"Guys, save it for the meeting at lunch," Mike said, cutting the two off before they got into another playful shoving match.

 

"After we discuss the possible striking down of the candy ban during scout meetings," Chuck said, already holding an open bag of gummy tarantulas. Eli had come to find that they were the cougar boy's favorite treat.

 

"Again, save it for the meeting!"

 

"Oh Eli, I was so worried!" Kimi said, throwing her arms around Eli. The rest of the young mammals looked at the tigress' display with rolled eyes.

 

"I'm glad that you're alright," Lyla said once Kimi had stepped back, making sure to flash the approaching zebra girl a smug grin.

 

"Th-thanks, Lyla," Eli said, blushing. Kimi looked annoyed and was about to speak, when Adam cleared his throat. Everyone regarded the elephant that towered over all of them, who looked around.

 

"Hey, anyone seen Darryl?" Adam asked. Just as the others started to look as well, a van pulled up, rap in a different language blasting from the open windows. On the side of it was a mural of a fox warrior, which Eli instantly recognized. The passenger door opened and out hopped the chinchilla in question.

 

"Thanks for the lift, Uncle Finn," he said in a deep voice, energy drink in paw as he eyed his friends around his shades.

 

"Don't mention it, Darryl," came an equally deep voice. The fennec fox looked over from the driver's seat and spotted Eli. Eli gave a wave, while Finnick gave a nod before driving off. Just then, a tone sounded.

 

"Alright troop, looks like we've got to get to our classes. Remember to meet up in the usual classroom at lunch!" They all nodded and all headed inside, waiting for the literal stampede of their fellow students to pass first.

 

 

Sahara Square...

 

 

"Nadine? Nadine Fangmeyer?" The tigress in question, who was pushing a stroller out onto the crowded sidewalk, turned to the voice calling her.

 

"Mina Roarbertson?" Nadine excitedly asked after taking a second to remember the other tigress, who had been a close friend back in high school. Unfortunately, they had drifted apart after graduation, just before Nadine had gone to the academy. The insides of her ears blushed a little as she was standing there wearing her yoga clothes while Mina was wearing an expensive-looking pantsuit, possibly Poochi. Mina finally seemed to take in the stroller and then stopped to take a look at the building Nadine had been coming out of.

 

"Momma and Myself?" Mina said, before letting out an excited squeal, looking down at the stroller. "You had a baby?"

 

"Ralph and I adopted this little sweetie, not too long after we found her out on our beat," Nadine said, gesturing to Rosalie, whom she could hear making faint cooing noises.

 

"So you actually became a cop? That's wonderful! I always knew that you could do it!" Mina said.

 

"Thanks, Mina, wh--" She was about to ask her old friend what she had been up to, but Mina cut her off, apparently having already been anticipating this question.

 

"I went to business school, taking the time to learn some computer science on the side, and graduated in the top ten in my class, and got hired right out of the gate for Pony! And, the best part, I've just been given the job of branch manager for this branch!" Mina said in a rush of words.

 

"Oh, well, I'm so happy to hear it, Mina," Nadine said, just as she heard Rosalie starting to fuss.

 

"I can't believe that you became a mommy already though," Mina said, with a slight whine to her voice. She looked excitedly as Nadine pulled back the sun-visor on the stroller, her eyes going wide at the sight of the human baby, wearing a pink and white tiger-striped onesie. Rosalie smiled at the sight of Nadine, and reached for her while she was unbuckled. Nadine cradled her daughter as she used a free paw to unzip the attached cooler and pull out a bottle of juice.

 

"Well, when I saw little Rosalie here, we just fell in love on the spot," Nadine said as her daughter happily drank. Mina was still looking at the baby with wide eyes.

 

"O-oh, wow... you adopted a human baby? That's really... uhm... wow!" Mina said, at a loss for words.

 

"She may be a human, but she's Mama's little cub," Nadine said, leaning down to coo and plant a kiss on Rosalie's forehead.

 

"Huh... well, I wasn't expecting that," Mina said, taking a step back, frowning. "Anyway, Nadine, it was so nice seeing you, but I've got a meeting scheduled today. We should catch up sometime." Nadine understood, picking up on Mina's eagerness to continue on her way. They exchanged numbers, and Mina was off. Nadine was putting Rosalie back into her stroller when Ralph called. Mina had made it to the crosswalk, muttering under her breath.

 

"Not only did she adopt a baby, but a human baby at that? Well, I'll show her," Mina said, ignoring the sidelong glance from the lemur standing next to her. "I'll adopt a set of twins!" Her eyes blazed with a competitive fire, prompting the lemur in the casual clothes to take a big step to the side and focus straight ahead.

 

 

At the ZPD Academy...

 

 

Walter, now dressed in a new dress uniform, was sitting backstage behind the curtain out on the training grounds. One leg was twitching as he read over his speech once more, trying his best to memorize it. Part of him couldn't believe that he was really here, once more graduating from a police academy, but now on a new world. It was as he set his index cards down on his lap that he spotted a certain hare, also in full dress uniform, coming towards him.

 

"Hey, Jack," Walter said before noticing that Jack was sporting a shiny black eye, "I take it that your date didn't end well?"

 

Jack rolled his eyes. "It was actually going pretty well, right up until we entered the spa... which turned out to be a naturalist club." Jack was shaking his head.

 

"What's a naturalist club?"

 

"A fancier way of saying a nudist club," Jack responded, looking unamused by the snicker that this elicited from Walter.

 

"So on your first date, you take her to a nudist club?"

 

"A bold opening move in the chess game of romance," Jack said, once again puffing out his chest, "made all the more effective once I explained that I had been told that it was just a day spa by Dennis."

 

"After she had decked you," Walter supplied.

 

"A little love tap," Jack said, just as a snow-white vixen, also in a dress uniform, appeared by his side.

 

"Jack, please don't tell me you're back here bragging about getting on your knees begging me to believe you about not being a pervert?" Skye asked before looking up at Walter, beaming.

 

"Congratulations again, Walter," the arctic vixen said.

 

"Thanks, Skye," Walter said, his mood having been lifted significantly.

 

"Oh, yeah, congrats, Walter," Jack said, "I'm glad that our friendly rivalry has helped you to achieve new level--YOWCH!" Jack yelped as Skye tugged on his right ear.

 

"Enough of that for today, Jack," Skye admonished, "besides, let's go take our seats."

 

"Alright, alright, geeze," Jack petulantly said before turning back to Walter. "You'll do great, buddy!" And with that, the pair left. Feeling more relaxed, Walter let out a snort, and leaned back in his seat.

 

 

In the Suburbs of the Meadowlands...

 

 

Baily and Sophia were walking down the sidewalk, holding hands. The redheaded human man, carrying a bottle of wine in his free arm, suddenly felt Sophia's paw giving him a comforting squeeze.

 

"There's no need to be nervous," the lioness said, a tremor in her voice revealing her own nervousness.

 

I'm f-fine," Baily said, giving a weak smile. They came to a stop in front of a house, with a cactus garden in the front yard.

 

"It's just a barbecue," Sophia said, mostly to herself.

 

"Right," Baily reaffirmed, now the one giving Sophia's paw a squeeze. They both stood there, just staring at the house for a few heartbeats, before Sophia started to lead them forward. She had just removed her finger from the doorbell when the door quickly opened, revealing an older lion standing before them, thankfully, fully-clothed.

 

"Hey you two! Glad to see you both here!" Keith said, pulling both into a happy hug.

 

"Hi, Grampa!" Sophia said with a wide grin, hugging him back.

 

"It's nice to see you again, Mr. Lightmane," Baily said, at which Sophia's grandfather smiled.

 

"Now, Baily, I prefer it that you call me Keith," he said, jovially.

 

"Oh, r-right, Keith," Baily said, rubbing the back of his head, before remembering his gift and presenting it. "I picked up some wine for you, Keith."

 

"Oh, well that was very thoughtful, thank you," Keith said, taking the wine and looking at it. "Oooh, cactus fruit wine? I wonder how you knew to pick my personal favorite?" Keith said, giving Sophia knowing wink.

 

"S-Sophia mentioned how much you love cactus fruits," Baily admitted, blushing a little, noticing that Sophia was also blushing. It was then that they realized that they were both still holding the other's hand, and let go, much to Keith's amusement.

 

"Well, once again, thank you Baily. I love it," Keith said before continuing, "And I love that you two arrived when you did. Your aunt Margaret is here, Sophie, and she brought her new boyfriend with her." He rolled his eyes as he said that, leading them into the living room where a lioness was standing next to a boisterous lion who had his back to the three. Baily started feeling as though he recognized the voice from somewhere when, at that moment, the lion in question took that moment to turn around.

 

"Barry!" Leodore said. "I certainly wasn't expecting you to be here today! Not that I'm complaining. I had mentioned to Keith earlier today about you setting me on my glorious new track to becoming the head of sanitation."

 

"Mr. Lightmane," Keith corrected with a flat tone that Leodore didn't pick up on.

 

"Right, Mr. Lightmane," Leodore continued before looking back at Baily. "So, have your cosmic forces directed you to come here today to read me another fortune?"

 

"Uh..." Baily said, finding Sophia taking his hand in her paw once more. "N-no, Mr. Lionheart."

 

 

Back at the Graduation Ceremony...

 

 

"I'm not one for speeches," Walter said at the podium, looking out at the assembled graduates, spotting Skye discretely tugging on a frantically waving Jack's ear, "but, as I have done and will continue to do every day on the job, I'll do my best."

 

The newly minted Officer Cruz looked out at the amassed mammals for a moment before he continued.

 

"Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would be going back to the police academy, let alone one where my fellow cadets would be of various species other than my own, or on training grounds for so many different environments. And yes, there were times when I felt overwhelmed. But... I was fortunate enough to find friends who could support me, and I them. No one can ever know what the future holds, but after seeing the determination and perseverance and courage of my fellow graduates, and other notable individuals... I just know that we will all put our effort into making the world... this new world, a better place. Thank you for this opportunity."

 

Walter stepped back away from the podium and turned to his left, where a smirking russet-furred fox was standing, on a stool, next to a small grey rabbit whose bright amethyst eyes were sparkling. Walter bent towards the fox, allowing him to pin his badge to his chest. Walter felt his heart swell with pride as he took his seat, the bunny hopping down from the stool and doing the same. The fox climbed down from the stool and picked it up, carrying it towards the podium, to give his own speech. Walter spotted Jack wiping his eyes while Skye rolled hers, her white fluffy tail surprising the hare as it flicked itself around his ankles briefly. Walter watched as Jack froze, and the insides of his perked up ears turned crimson.

 

 

In Bunnyburrow...

 

 

"It sure is a lovely day, Darlin'," Gideon said to the black-wooled ewe who was walking beside him. They were walking hoof-in-paw along a country road, lazily passing by fields of crops.

 

"That it is, Sugar Tail," Sharla said, resting her head on his shoulder.

 

"So... yer really goin' into space?" Gideon queried.

 

"Mmhmm," Sharla nodded, picking at the hem of her light blue tank top.

 

"It amazin'," Gideon smiled as he spoke, "ya made yer dream come true."

 

"So did you when you first opened up yer shop," Sharla said, her voice slipping back into a southern drawl.

 

"Aw, shucks, a pie shop don't really compare ta flyin' in a rocket outta the atmosphere," Gideon said with a chuckle.

 

"Sure it does," Sharla insisted, a giggle to her voice.

 

Gideon smiled and was silent as he mulled over what he wanted to say next.

 

"I'd be lyin' if I said I wasn't nervous fer ya, Shar."

 

"I know... as thrilled as I am, I'm also nervous too... but this is something I still want to do." They stopped and turned to face each other and said nothing. They stayed like that, sharing the moment, before they then shared a kiss.

 

"C'mon," Sharla said after the broke apart, tugging Gideon by the paw, "we should go pick up little Jeremy, before he plucks out all of Bobby's whiskers." With that, the happy couple turned at the fork in the road to head back into town proper.

 

 

Back in Zootopia...

 

 

"Tag, you're it!" Sarah squealed as she was tagged by the excited wolf pup. She was currently at daycare, playing with a large group of children. She turned and spotted a raccoon boy and, giggling the entire time, started to chase after him. The happy laughter and sounds of playing children a delightful cacophony drifting on the afternoon breeze. Emmitt's muzzle crinkled upwards as he approached; it time for him to pick his littlest pup up.

 

I hope that she doesn't figure out about the surprise party we have planned for her, he thought to himself, it being Sarah's birthday. He and his wife and sons had gone all out to make it a special day for their newest addition. Emmitt's smile grew wider when he saw Sarah on the ground, laughing as she was tickled by the very raccoon boy she had been chasing.

 

 

Over in Tundra Town...

 

 

"Oh, Renato, it's beautiful!" Lily said as she looked down at the opened white jewelry box. Inside was a silver bracelet, glinting just like the snow around them.

 

"I was hoping that you would like it," the black jaguar said, rubbing an arm nervously.

 

"I love it, thank you!" Lily said, before frowning. "But... this must have cost you quite a bit."

 

"I saved up for it. And I have a friend who was able to help me get it for a reduced price," Renato explained, taking the bracelet from the box and gently clasping it around Lily's wrist.

 

"Still though, I feel guilty having you buy me something so expensive," Lily said.

 

"I wanted to," Renato said, then taking Lily's hands in his paws, and leaning down to plant a kiss on her nose.

 

"And I wanted to ask you something."

 

"What, Renato?"

 

Lily watched as Renato shuffled his feet as other mammals passed them by on the sidewalk.

 

"My family is planning a large get-together and I was wondering if you'd like to join me on the trip there?"

 

Lily smiled, finding it cute how nervous Renato could get from time to time. "I would love to," she said, taking that moment to return his kiss on the nose. He let out a low rumbling purr.

 

 

In Savannah Central...

 

 

Adam Harcourt garnered a few stares as he walked along. Whether it was because of him being a human, or because of the prosthetic leg and the scars, he didn't know, nor did he truly care. It was a nice day, he was no longer in the hospital, and had even found housing through the New Dawn program. With very little difficulty, he took a seat on a park bench and leaned back, just enjoying the day.

 

He turned his gaze to the left, and saw a group of mammals playing basketball. When he turned his gaze to the right, he saw a park with a bunch of small children playing on it. He took note of a teenage human boy who was sitting near a sandbox, talking to what Alex thought was a dingo boy, whom he guessed was around the same age. The human looked like he was blushing and feeling awkward, while the dingo's tail slowly wagged. Then Alex was really surprised when the two started to hold hands. He chuckled when he then noticed a cute little grey fox kit hop out of the sandbox, dash over to the human teen, and scramble up into his lap to give him a hug, his little fluffy grey tail a blur of pure joy.

 

Alex then turned back to stare ahead and mammal watch. He let out a sigh as he started to wonder where he would go from here, but felt positive that the future, which had seemed to him so desolate and bleak not too long ago, was now as bright as the sun.

 

 

Meanwhile...

 

 

It was a darkened room, lit only by the flickering televisions lining the desk, one of which was showing a view of Alex Harcourt sitting on a park bench, and another of Eli walking outside his school's cafeteria with a tray of food, heading back towards the school, and others still with other humans on them, going about their daily lives in Zootopia and abroad, the pictures periodically changing to a different human. There was a clacking of keys on a keyboard, as a hunched figure looked over the various formulae on the computer screen before him. He then turned towards one of the monitors, this one showing Russell in the park, being swarmed by his younger foster siblings, Ethan now sitting on his shoulders.

 

"Soon..." a hoarse voice said, followed immediately by wheezing, hacking coughs. Once the figure had settled himself down, he looked back up. "Soon... it will be soon..."