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Guardian Blue: Season 3

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Guardian Blue: Season Three

Episode 1:  Returning


They sat again in a mostly dark room.  There were the familiar wood-paneled and mostly sound-proof walls.  Impressionist paintings with muted colors and natural, harmless imagery were at perfectly even intervals along the walls.  A velvet-lined overly-comfortable chair not intended for a mammal less than three times her size was where the bunny rested nervously.  These were all cozy features that Judy wished she were not so familiar with.  Sitting across from her in a chair pulled in front of her own desk so she wasn’t hiding behind it was Dr. Carlisle.  Judy’s least favorite part of this was the divider again.  Why did she insist on making it so she couldn’t see Nick?  There had to be a reason.  She did it last time, and now this time.  The other unnerving part was that expression.  Carlisle looked like Nick did when he stood in front of an assorted cheese platter.  A slightly uncomfortable silence passed before Nick finally seemed unwilling to wait anymore.


“I had a dream that I was in that weird Bunny Pop video from the 90s, ‘Mister Fox’.  It was awful.”


Judy sighed heavily.  This was an important visit!  “Ignore him, he’s insufferable today.”  She glared at the divider as if Nick could see her through it, her ears back in frustration, little wiggling nose wrinkled.


“How is he usually?” asked the doctor.  Judy snapped her attention back to the skunk.  Okay, Carlisle was like a steel trap waiting for a random topic to wander by and Judy just dove right into it.


“Amazing,” Nick responded immediately.  The doe winced on her side of the divider.  That would be seen as a character flaw for sure!  His ego had to take a break when he was visiting with a therapist, surely!


“That one was directed to Judy,” the skunk said with a patient smile.


“She’s also amazing.  You know, she should be a police officer.  She’d make a good one,” Nick insisted.


“We’re working on that, Nicholas,” Carlisle said.  It was still like claws on a blackboard, hearing her say his name.  It just sounded all wrong.


Judy could see the mephit writing in her notebook.  This wasn’t even about him, what was she writing?  This was going badly.  Why could he not be serious?  She knew they were supposed to act naturally, but this was not the time for banter.  There would be time for that later!


“Focus!” the bunny finally snapped.  “We don’t get to stay in here as long as we want.” Judy briskly tried to dismiss the behavior of her light-hearted partner.  “Nick is being playful right now, but he’s like that if there’s a lot of stress.  It’s how he diffuses it.”  She didn’t want the therapist to think they weren’t taking this seriously.  The bunny still needed to be cleared to return to active duty.  Having Nick summarily removed from it right when she got back would not be helpful!


“I know that already.  I’m his therapist,” Carlisle responded.  “I want to know what you know about him?  This is what I usually see when dealing with him.  What does Judy see when no one else is around?  How does he act when it’s just the two of you?  Out on patrol.  Hanging out off duty.  Together, at home…”  The last part was mentioned with a bit more weight.  The bunny knew very well what Carlisle was getting at.


“Uh…” Nick seemed to worry about that.  “This visit’s still about Officer Hopps, right?”


Judy answered quickly.  “He’s reassuring, supportive, and kind.  He likes to laugh and he can tell when I’m working too hard, so he will distract me at what feels like the wrong time… but is always the right time.”  There was silence from Nick’s side.  


Carlisle spoke in a quieter tone.  “You hinted last time I met with you both that the two of you might be in a closer relationship than just work partners.”  Judy sucked in a deep breath.  Yeah, that’s where the skunk was going with this.  It was expected.  “…and I have heard the hints of rumblings of whispered secrets that it might even be even bigger than dinner and a movie.”


“Clawhauser,” Nick and Judy said simultaneously.


The doctor bridged her slender mephit fingers in front of her.  “It is curious… For literally everything else, you two haven’t been even the slightest bit cagey, and the thing that’s public record you shuffle your feet on.  I feel like you are having fun with this.”


“I just don’t feel like it has much bearing on our duties.  It’s not like this developed three days ago.”  Judy knew her mate’s explanation was carefully planned.  They knew it would come up, and they didn’t want it to have any bearing on Judy being cleared for duty.  


The bunny had been in for two sessions on her own, and they talked about nothing except the events in The Interior, her injuries, how her family handled everything that had happened to her, and what she was dreaming about.  Judy had been in therapy when Nick was lost under the city, and it felt pretty much the same.  A lot of focus on how Judy was feeling, and how she felt about how she was being treated.  With Nick there, the questions were different.


“Nicholas, are you concerned that your answers here will prevent your wife from returning to duty?” asked Carlisle.  Judy knew that the skunk worded her question carefully and specifically.  Nick would have to deny what Judy was if that was incorrect, but it was obvious that it was not.


“Correct.” Nick said, answering her and simultaneously verifying what the skunk had been told.


“Do you want her to return to active duty?” she asked.


Judy furrowed her brow, dropping her ears back again.  Why would she ask that?  Oh.  Oh no.


“I do.” Nick verified.


“Desk duty is far less dangerous.  You won’t be placed in the position of feeling responsible if she is injured.”  Judy felt a wave of fear.  Had Nick talked to Carlisle about that?  Had he told her he was afraid to let her go back to active duty because she’d almost been killed?  She knew it was hard on him, but they had talked about it.  She even asked him if he was ready to start cleaning up the mean streets with her again.


Nick was quiet a moment, the skunk peering back at him, though Judy could not see his expression.  He finally spoke.


“Doctor Carlisle… I know that you have not forgotten what happened to me several months ago.  And I know you haven’t forgotten what we have both likely explained that we went through in The Interior.  I don’t worry about whether or not I can protect Judy.  She is every bit as capable as I am.  I fear losing her.  I fear seeing her hurt.  But… I know this is what she’s chosen to do with her life, and she chose to walk this path knowing the risk.  Two years ago, knowing the same risks, I chose to walk this path with her.  Don’t make me a deciding factor for Judy serving alongside me.  I need her out there helping to make Zootopia safe, not converting paw-written reports to digital.”  The bunny held her breath.  Nick seemed to have actually considered that specific conversation.  Either that, or he was just really that certain about his response.


The mephit spoke again in that casual, soothing tone.  “Rest assured, Nicholas, unless your partner starts inexplicably knocking over the furniture in my office, she will be clear to return to work.”  Judy restrained a sigh of relief.  She was so sick of being at a desk.


“Can I knock stuff over?” asked Nick with his smuggest tone.


“Nick!” Judy hissed.


“I don’t see why not,” Carlisle asked.  Judy’s heart lurched.  No!  Don’t encourage-




Down the divider between her and Nick went.  Judy looked in utter horror at her smiling mate.  He sat back down in casual satisfaction.  The bunny cupped her paws over her little muzzle.


“Better?” asked Carlisle.


“Lots,” Nick chirped, smiling at the doe brightly.  He looked so freaking proud of himself!  How different were his sessions here?  How could he just show… what was that, even?  Destructive tendencies?  What was he thinking?  Did Carlisle actually expect him to do that?  It was a puzzle to Judy how he’d managed to pass the initial psychological evaluation.  She felt like if she had done this she’d have been committed!


The doctor pulled her from her quiet cringing.  “So, let’s talk about married life, Judy.  Are there things about Nick that make this unusual relationship difficult?”


“I’ve recently learned that he knocks over furniture when merely presented with the opportunity,” the bunny said, her voice rising slowly in pitch at her partner’s behavior.


“You can put the divider back up if you like - it’s quite light,” the skunk explained.


Judy tried to relax.  The doctor wasn’t upset about it.  She seemed to almost expect it.  “That’s not the problem.  He just… I mean, I would never…”


“Why not?”


“Because it’s just not polite.”


“I told him he could,” informed Carlisle casually.


“What if he knocked your whole desk over?” Judy asked sharply, not understanding why Nick got to knock anything over at all.


“It would have been way louder,” Nick offered.  A bewildered Judy stared back at his pleased mug.


“He could have.  But he didn’t.  He knocked over the screen.”  Carlisle said this in such a supportive tone.  However, Judy immediately realized what had happened.  The skilled doctor provided Nick with an opportunity out of sheer curiosity over what he’d do with that leeway.  What he did must have answered some question or offered data to some measurement.  The doe’s heart sank.  Nick chose to behave in a destructive manner in order to remove the barrier between him and his bunny.  That could definitely be seen as affecting their job.


“Judy, if I told you that you could knock anything in my office over without any repercussion… what would you knock over?” asked Carlisle.


“Nick.” the doe deadpanned.  The doctor and her partner both laughed hard.  Judy was not as amused, but she did relax a little.  It felt so much less formal than her usual visits.


“So, back to my earlier question, Judy…”  The bunny perked up.  “Any real difficulties?”


“Those don’t apply to our job,” the bunny defended.


“Judy… to believe that the other twelve to sixteen hours a day have no effect on the applicable eight or so is absolutely not realistic,” the skunk stated.


“You will think it’s dishonest when I tell you this, but there’s really no difficulty with the relationship,” Judy said with a sigh.  “It’s the truth.  I’ve never been so happy in my entire life as I was when Nick joined it.  At first, I thought it was just that I was a cop.  It happened at about the same time, and that was what I had wanted since I was a kit.  I figured that I was happy because I made a difference, and I was needed, and I just had the whole self-actualization thing going on.  Then I started realizing that a part of that happiness that had been there the whole time had more and more to do with why I enjoyed it.  I realized slowly that I needed him more than anything else.”


“If I told you that you had to choose… Your life with him, or your life as a police officer… would you choose him?” asked the doctor.  The question itself made Judy feel sick.  She could very well mean it like it sounded.  She might be forced to choose.


When she thought Nick had been killed, Judy actually thought very hard about whether or not she could continue being an officer.  There were times, right after it happened, that she wasn’t sure she could even resume being a bunny.  Nothing had ever hurt so bad.  She did not want to choose, but if she had to…


“I would choose Nick.”  The bunny stated this earnestly.


“Would that not take away from the citizens of Zootopia though?  Your dream was to make it a better place, you said.  You would stop doing that if it meant you could not have Nicholas?”  The bunny winced again at her use of his full name.


It was her mate who answered.  “Do you truly think that if Judy were forced to stop being a police officer… that she’d stop making Zootopia a better place?”  Judy’s ears went up and she looked over the fallen divider at Nick.  He smiled genuinely at her.


“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you make that expression, Officer Wilde,” came the somewhat teasing tone of the mephit in her chair.


“It’s reserved,” he answered.


“You know that there will be some in the city who do not agree with your life-arrangement,” explained the doctor.


“They aren’t involved.  I’m not vowed to any of them,” Nick stated.


“Have your families been supportive of this arrangement?” asked the doctor.  It was a sensible question.


“Yes, on both sides,” the bunny replied.


“And the public?” asked the mephit.


“Largely unaware,” Nick replied.  “Most treat it like a rumor and the media’s laser focused on the other fox-bunny pair.  We don’t go out of our way to make it anyone’s business.”


“How about your coworkers?” inquired Carlisle.


Nick answered.  “If they aren’t supportive it’s because they just aren’t interested.”


Judy added, “And Chief Tora still doesn’t believe we are really married, I think.  She still uses our different last names.  But… that might just be to avoid assignment confusion.  That’s possible.”  She didn’t want to imply there was animosity toward the new chief.  There really wasn’t.  The tigress had not been abusive or anything, she just hadn’t paid much attention to the smallest officers.


“How are you getting along with Tora?  I know you voiced some concerns that she might not approve of the two of you as officers.”  Judy glanced at Nick first.  She was not supposed to ask for help dealing with their new chief.  He didn’t want to create drama where there was none.  The doe had told Carlisle about the discussion that prompted such concerns, but the bunny made it clear they intended to give Tora some time.


“She’s not given us a lot of attention, honestly.  But I’ve been at a desk and Nick’s been on fluff assignments.” Judy explained.  “I think she sees us as an unnecessary distraction to the other officers.  But even Bogo was skeptical at first.  I’m sure she’ll be happy with our performance just like he was.”


“Has Tora interfered directly with the performance of your duties?” asked the doctor.  There was definite concern in her voice.


“It’s not that she was ever outright hostile I guess… I just got the feeling that she thought our promotion… maybe our being officers at all… was a little fishy.”


“Well, I don’t know the ethics of my mentioning this, but as she’s not directly my patient, I will state that I have been encouraged by our interim chief to help you return to duty, Officer Hopps.”  Judy perked at that.  She saw that Nick did too.  “I won’t say more, but you should not stress about that.  Continue to do your best.  I am clearing you to return to duty.”


“Yes!” Nick and Judy both cheered.


“However, speaking of fishy…” the doctor remarked, “I was curious about the mentioned dietary preference which was alluded to in a previous visit.”  Judy stared back at her with wide eyes.  Oh.  No, that had nothing to do with her mental health.


“I uh… I have eaten fish a couple of times, is all.  I wouldn’t call it a dietary preference…”  The bunny looked uneasily at her mate.  He didn’t seem stressed by it.  Nick wouldn’t eat fish, and he’d been forced to when he was trapped under the city.  Doing so had hurt him terribly.


“You have done this by accident, then?” asked the skunk.


“The first time, yes.” Judy answered.


“How did that happen?” asked the mephit.


“I was accidentally given tuna in a salad.  I didn’t notice right away because of all the dressing.” Judy explained.  No harm in her mate knowing about that.


“Wait, in the cafeteria?” asked Nick with a worried tone.  Great, now he was going to obsess over his salads.  Judy nodded slowly.


“And you ate it again after that?  Do you like it?” Carlisle asked.


“I don’t…”  She looked at Nick with worry.  “I don’t hate it?”  She wanted to be honest.  It’s not like she was going to just order a tuna sandwich while they were out, that would be completely insensitive.


The doctor responded casually, “However, you don’t normally eat it?  Why not?  It won’t harm you.  In fact, with the physical demands on your body with your line of work, the protein is good for you.”


Judy stared blankly at Carlisle.  She was there, surely she understood why.  “Nick…”  She hoped that was enough to remind her.


“Nick won’t let you eat it?” she asked.


“I never said she couldn’t.  She doesn’t stop me from eating shrimp,” Nick informed.  His tone made it obvious that he didn’t want to be seen as controlling, and he really hadn’t ever expressly told Judy not to.  She’d just never asked.


“I am pretty sure there are social reasons for me to maybe not order a tuna salad at lunch, Dr. Carlisle.”  Judy said this with a smile to imply she wasn’t offended.


“And those social reasons might discourage you from marrying a fox,” the mephit informed.  She really did seem to just be trying to figure all of it out.  There was so much going on there.  Judy knew she would be neck deep in it when she got there.


“I don’t love the fish.  That’s different,” Judy explained.


“So… you care about what society thinks unless it’s something you love.”  Carlisle said this with an air of authority.


“I guess.  Sometimes.”  Judy wasn’t sure what point she was trying to make.


Nick spoke up.  “Society didn’t agree with Carrots being a cop, but that was what she loved.  And she ended up with a badge.”  Judy glanced back to her partner and smiled.  “Society might not believe she should be with me… but she loved that too… and now she’s got a fox.  You know what else she’d love?  A sweet cherry red Mustang.”  Nick nodded.  “Yup.  So I just gotta wait for it.”  The bunny rolled her eyes.  She thought… she truly believed… he was having a serious moment.


The doctor laughed at that.  “Thank you Nicholas, I’m sure you will both enjoy it.”  She looked at the clock and then turned to the next page of her notebook. “We are out of time, but I think we have taken care of what we needed to.  I do have a one more matter I wish to discuss… something I wish to ask as a favor.”


“If we can help, we will,” Judy answered.


“May I document the details of our sessions in regard to your relationship?  This is a situation which has never been carefully or reliably documented.”  Judy recoiled at that a little.  She hadn’t expected to have that asked of her.  It was almost certainly not part of Carlisle’s job.


“We aren’t an experiment to study, Doctor.” Nick stated.  “This might advance your career, but I honestly would not have figured you for the type.”


“You’re right, I’m not the type,” Carlisle said softly.  “There are not many resources in the psychology community for understanding and discussing situations like yours.  Nicholas… you and Judy are very deeply bonded, highly intelligent, physically healthy and well adjusted.”


“Please don’t stop,” Nick said with a grin.  Judy pitched a pillow at him.


The skunk continued, “There are many mammals who are not so fortunate in their relationship, and there are lots of problems that can arise.  Knowing how the two of you face those problems, how you support one another, and what you do to cope with the differences and the feedback of others may be a great help to others.  I don’t have to include your names, though I suppose most could guess.”


“We aren’t hiding, we just aren’t advertising,” Nick explained again.


“You can refuse, it won’t have any bearing on anything going forward, but I would like to meet with you both once monthly and just talk about how your lives are going.  If you would be willing, I will even allow you to write the schedule.”


Nick answered calmly, “I defer to my wife on this.”  It pleased Judy every single time he called her that, and it was actually pretty rare that he used it around others who were not directly and closely involved with them, like family or close friends.


“I will allow it,” Judy stated in a slow, earnest tone, “But I have a requirement… completely non-negotiable.”  She glanced back at her curious-looking partner.


Carlisle answered evenly, “I appreciate this, Judy.  I will meet this requirement if I can.  What is it you would ask of me?”


The doe pointed at her mate and gazed hard at the skunk.  “Stop calling him Nicholas.”








The overcast skies overhead might be a bit of a drag to most, but to Judy it was salvation.  Grey, heavy clouds laden with the threat of rain were still absolutely not the poorly installed flickering fluorescent lights of the records department.  She was free.  She had not made Nick switch the seating in their cruiser, so he was getting to drive for a change and that left Judy looking out at the passing traffic.  She didn’t know what the best part actually was.  Getting out of the station was nice, sure, but she was back with her partner.  


The doe had originally worried that everything would be different with the personal changes that had occurred between them.  They had not actually been patrolling together since Nick had vowed up to her months ago.  In reality, on patrol, things quickly slipped into normalcy.  The only real difference was that Judy actively restrained herself from the normal acts of affection she had readily participated in for the previous months.  She wanted to touch him.  She wanted to gather up his tail and stroke it.  She wanted to push in close to him.  It was now that she was supposed to resist it that she realized how often she did it.  Surely it had to annoy him, how clingy she’d been.  He never complained though.  He was a good mate.


“You’ve been kind of quiet,” Judy said, gazing at her fox.  “What’s on your mind, Slick?”


“Our coming assignment.  You know it won’t be easy.  You have to know that.”


“I saw you flinch in the bullpen when Tora said it.”  The doe was concerned about it then, but Nick had seemed pretty normal after that.  It had likely been because it was so good to be back on patrol.


“I think she researched the coin,” the fox said.  “She seems the type.”


“Wait, what?” Judy replied, “You mean you think this it some kind of reprisal?”


“No, not a reprisal,” Nick stated, “That would be unprofessional.  I don’t get that vibe from her.  This is more… a warning.  She can, completely inside the rules, make things harder for us.”


“So, the getting is off?” Judy asked, a sliver of hope in her voice.


“No.  It’s gotten worse.” Nick said with a stern expression.


“So you know, any officer could have been assigned like we did.  It might just be coincidence.”  She really did not want Nick getting in trouble with whatever he was planning.  Still, he’d assured Judy they would not.  She wanted to trust him.  It was deeply important to Judy that Nick knew that she trusted him completely.  She had not honestly pushed her mate to drop the getting.


“Were it any other officer, any other time, I might think that,” her mate responded calmly.  “She’s assigned us to patrol Happytown, starting tomorrow.  And she smiled during that assignment.  I am not sure you notice that stuff as often, but I’m a former confidence mammal.  That was the only time she smiled during that whole briefing.”  Judy’s ears fell back slowly.  Okay, that was harder to refute.


“It won’t be so different from our usual patrols.  Crime’s a bit higher there, but we can handle it.”  The bunny crossed her arms.  They could handle this.


“Oh, I know we can.  For everything that Happytown promises to be, it’s certainly not the lawlessness and danger of The Interior, or fighting Bellwether’s goons without backup.  But it stands to reason that Tora does not think we are up to the task.  Maybe this is her way of testing us too.  Who knows?  But I won’t lie… I am irritated by it.  It’s out of precinct.”


“We’ve been sent out of precinct before.” Judy informed.


“For Fluff Assignments, yes.  Not on patrol.”


“She said additional presence was required,” Judy played Devil’s Advocate.  “They sent Grizzoli clear out to Fenrir on assignment for the same reason back last Spring.  But… I do agree.  The timing and her smile seem… to at least suggest something was up.”


“Well, not looking forward to it.”


“Because you lived there when you were a kit?” she asked.


Nick sighed.  “Because so many mammals there are just… broken.  You want to help Zootopia, and that’s the place you are going to find the most mammals who just… stopped wanting help.  It’s not much different for me, but you, Fluff… It’s gonna be a lot harder for you.”  Judy straightened a bit in her seat and gazed at her fox.  His eyes were on the road, but he seemed pained.  That was what this was about?  She remembered that he seemed pained, almost a year ago when she had found out about what he thought had happened to his mother.  He was upset, not just because of what he felt had occurred, but because it was a hurt she couldn’t heal.  He was very sensitive to her need to help. It only endeared her to him more in that moment.


“We will be fine, Nick.  And assignments aren’t permanent.  We will swallow this pill and move on.”


“I know, Carrots.  But I don’t have to like it.”


The radio crackled.  “Dispatch to Baker 914, Baker 914 please copy…”


Judy picked up the radio.  It was overly large in her paw.  “Dispatch, this is Baker 914, we copy.”


The radio crackled again, Clawhauser’s voice pushing through static.  It was good to hear him on this side of the radio again.  “Baker 914, 10-23 The Gilded Meadow restaurant on Hill Boulevard and Otterdam for a disturbance call.”  Judy did not flip on the siren since they were not requested to run Code 3.  That meant that the disturbance was likely an argument, not a fight.


The ride there was quick.  They were located very close by, which was why they got the call.  The Gilded Meadow was a semi-fancy diner-type establishment that catered to pretty much everybody.  They had the absolute finest salads and wraps that side of town, and Nick always enjoyed their bread sticks.  He claimed that they somehow managed to make them the exact depth of his muzzle which made them perfect.  They buttered them with a sprinkle of garlic salt and herbs.  They had a picture of them on the sign over the door, as it was the focus of social media attention about the restaurant too.


“Oh good, someone called.”  Judy’s sensitive ears picked up conversation from one of a couple of zebras outside.  Judy hopped out.


“Woah, sending out the enforcers for this one!” the other zebra gasped.  Judy honestly wasn’t sure if they were making a wise-crack about her size and effectiveness, or if he was referring more to her unfounded reputation as given by the media.  She was still dealing with the residual effects of the news coverage about her rescue of her partner, and her still-mysterious involvement with blowing the gates off of what was now being called the ‘Lanolin Massacre’.


The pair of officers ignored the zebra and headed inside, where they could already hear shouting.  Judy cringed heavily as she instantly recognized the voice.


“Oh no.  No, not these two…”  Nick looked at her with concern, and then slammed his ears back tight at the loud yelling.


“No, you caused this and now we can’t come back!  Why can’t you shut your mouth?!”  The officers made it through the entryway and into the restaurant proper.  A bunch of miserable mammals sat in their chairs trying to enjoy their food over the din of argument.  The familiar kudu and oryx were at the center of attention.


“Oh thank goodness,” a wallaby said over her hardly touched salad, looking plaintively to the officers.


“Bucky, Pronk, outside with us.  Now.”  Judy’s stern tone was downright motherly.  She couldn’t help it.  She knew these two and this was embarrassing.  The two ungulates stared with huge, round eyes at her.


Pronk groaned miserably.  “Now look what you did!”


“Me?!” Bucky shouted.


“Out.  Now.” Judy growled.  The pair began to file out behind Nick.


“This is all your fault!” Bucky whined.


“They haven’t paid yet!” cried a portly raccoon in a vest and slacks - most likely the manager.


Nick pointed out, “You can wait out their bickering to make them pay, but you’ll end up having to comp a bunch more meals from the folks forced to listen to it.”  There was a roar of applause in the restaurant to show support for what Nick was saying.  The manager shrunk back, gritting his teeth fearfully.  He certainly didn’t want that.  The officers could have the pair of loud ruminates.  Mammals loved logical conclusions, Judy had found.  Someone arriving and talking sense when the situation had been all nonsense was a celebrated event in Zootopia.


They finally got outside and the two hoofed mammals leaned against the building with unhappy expressions.


“Are we under arrest?” asked Pronk.


“Not yet, but we were called to a disturbance,” answered Judy.  “We have removed you from that location intent on keeping the peace.  I trust the argument can wait until you get home?”  This was not new to them, nor was it ever a matter of violence.  She knew that.  They were just loud.  Judy had never considered that they might be the same pretty much everywhere they went.


“We can’t go home, little bunny,” Bucky said dolefully.  “Pronk’s sister threw us out.”


“For being loud?” asked Nick.


“Yes!” shouted Pronk loudly.


“She works nights.” Bucky explained.


The bunny sighed heavily.  “Yeah, I can see that being a problem.  The apartment’s not renovated yet?”


“It ain’t gonna be!” Pronk yelled.


“Set to be demolished.” his companion grumbled.  “Even be banks didn’t want that eyesore.”  Judy cringed obviously.


Pronk crossed his arms.  “Still living with the fox, I take it?” he asked.


“That’s now a permanent arrangement.” Judy explained, looking at her partner.


“What, didja get married?”


“Rude!” yelled Bucky.  “Oh…”  The follow up from him was based on the fact that Nick was practically gushing smug.  


“Wait, really?” asked Pronk.  “Seriously?”


Bucky chimed in.  “The actor and now them.  Soon, no one’s gonna give two swatted flies about us.” he laughed.


“No one already does.  Because you’re too loud!” yelled Pronk.


“Let’s pull focus back where it needs to be,” Nick suggested.  “You can’t get into these loud arguments in crowded places.  At the least, you irritate the mammals around you, and at worst, you two could probably cause physical damage to a fennec.”  


“Sorry,” groaned Bucky.


“Yeah, sorry,” Pronk offered.


Nick took out his ticket book.  There was a fearful squeak from Bucky.  


“I said sorry!” he whimpered.


The fox shook his head and started writing.  “Without arguing, and making as little sound as you can, one of you will wait outside, the other will go inside and pay your bill.  Then, I want the one standing outside to call this number.  Let them know you are one of the mammals who lost their home to that apartment being condemned.  They started a program to help mammals displaced by that because there were so many with no where to go.”


“Really?  That… That’s really helpful…” murmured Bucky, sounding as if he were near tears.  Judy was not used to hearing him show any emotion but anger and frustration.


“I will go pay,” replied his mate dutifully.


“Thank you.”  Judy wondered if they fought like that when there was a lot of stress, and if they had just always been under stress in the apartment.


Nick seemed to feel the same way, as he spoke up.  “Have you two considered maybe taking breaks and doing a day spa together or something so you could spend time outside of your worries and troubles?  It’s hard on mammals to deal with it all the time.”


“We had a thing each week at the MSO, actually.  Do you know what that is?” asked Bucky as his mate disappeared through the doors.


“We know.” Nick stated with a grin.  Judy looked away, hoping her ears weren’t red.


“He had to stop going when the Nighthowler thing was going on.  It was packed.  Mammals were literally hiding out there like it was some kind of paradise quarantine.”  Judy put her fingertips to her muzzle.  She had not realized that had happened, but it made sense.  That place was practically a fortress.  There was a high wall all the way around it.


“I suggest you make a point of going back there, then,” Nick stated.  “It would be good for you both.  You need some down time where no one’s worried about stress.”


“I don’t mean to be ungrateful,” the larger mammal murmured, “but why does any of that matter to you?  We’re out of the building, not yelling, and you’ve kept the peace.  And we might have been Judy’s neighbors, but we were not exactly great to her.”


“It’s part of the long game.  You don’t have to understand.  Just try to find some happiness in this city.  I can’t give it to you, I just promise to you that it’s there.”


“I…” stammered Bucky, “Thank you.”  He then took his cell phone from his pocket and started dialing the number Nick had given him.


Judy got back into the car with her partner.  He smiled at her.


“Well done!” she practically purred.  “It’s so good to be with you again, on the streets, making Zootopia a better place.”


“One broken mammal at a time.  Let’s do this.”  Nick happily fist-bumped his partner and wife.


There was a beep on Judy’s phone.  She took it out as Nick radioed in their status.


Her breath caught.  It was enough to make a squeak that Nick could hear.


“Everything okay?” he asked.


“It’s an email from Sharla.” Judy answered.  The doe had emailed her friend three times trying to check up on her after Nick’s mother had sent her to New Reynard.  She feared something might have happened to her, but Honey wasn’t answering emails, and when Annie checked on her, the manager of the diner said Honey was not at the bed and breakfast.  A few days of worry, and now there was an email.


“Open it…” Nick suggested.


“Okay.  Sorry.”  She poked the line on her email list.


“Well?” Nick asked.  Judy looked with concern at the very short note.


“It says ‘I’m fine.  I don’t need you.’”  Nick cringed at that.


“Well… I mean, it’s good that she’s fine, but that seems unduly harsh,” he expressed.


“Yeah, but at least nothing terrible happened to her.  She’s safe.  Like you said… she’ll probably get over it eventually.  No need being miffed about it now.  We’ve got a city full of other mammals to help.”


The radio crackled in return.  “Baker 914, we have a 10-57 from Misty Acres Retirement Village.  Please 10-23.”  Judy responded in the affirmative and nodded to her partner.


Make Zootopia a better place.  One mammal at a time.