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Familiar Fire: The Embers of the Past

Chapter Text

 

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Epilogue:

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They called it the Ewe's coup.

It almost worked.

But, in the aftermath, everything came to light. The mercenary corps, regardless of which side they were on, finally left Zootopia, with a number of those higher up in Rhinohard facing the consequences of their actions. The average mammal, just following orders, simply had to find a new job. Those responsible for working with Dawn on the plan were sent away. Demrir Tohnrak, the wildebeest, along with those who'd organised the attack on the restaurant, would never be let out.

It turned out that Dawn really didn't have anything to do with that attack. They were just impatient, angry, waiting for blood and snapping too soon. A snap that helped to seal their fate.

Meanwhile, at the ZED, things were slowly put back together. Everyone was scared and shaken, but they'd gotten through this.

They were also keeping an eye on something very, very, odd.

It took two days, pumping him full of IV drip and feeding him incredibly high energy food, to give Nick his legs and tail back. He was rake thin though, the effort of regeneration so much of his body taking everything he could give. He was able to walk, though.

Able to see his other half.

Skye, in her panic, hadn't noticed it regenerate a heart and lungs, pushing an odd headless body up above itself. The medics though had, and immediately hooked it up. It needed complete life support, given that trying to regenerate these things had almost destroyed it.

It had gone into cardiac arrest a few times, requiring the use of a defibrillator. Fangmeyer looked on curiously as it grew, forgoing arms and slowly trying to form a head. "Why did you keep it alive?" she asked.

There was an awkward silence.

"It's…" she tried to justify. "I'd have thought you'd turn something like this away, especially as the real Nick survived. I'm not saying you should have, I'm just wondering why?"

The head doctor, the one who made the call, came up to her. "We saw that it was healing, and it had a heartbeat and signs of breathing," he said. "Were it not for the healing powers, and it was going to perish, we would have. But our code of ethics was firm on this. It had a chance, we had to give him that."

"Him?" she asked.

"Well yeah," Nick butted in from the side. He'd been sitting down, resting himself. "You do realise he has my dick." He paused, looking at it, before chuckling. "I still… -It actually works! -The cloning thing works!"

"It would have killed you both were it not for the medical treatment we gave you two," the doctor said.

"I know, I know," he agreed. "I'm totally not going to do this again."

"Indeed," Fangmeyer said. "One Nick was already enough."

The fox paused, looking at the tiger, seemingly pondering the idea, much to her worry. He gazed at the expression on her face and chuckled, shaking it off. "You know," he said. "Will it be another me? Will he just wake up as if he'd been knocked out when… Will be basically be a newborn baby? If it had been just my head that went, and that died, would I have experienced that death… And a stranger taken over the rest of me?"

A silence hung in the air, before Fangmeyer coughed. "We'll have to wait and see," she said, before moving on. Along went Nick, Judy, Skye and Brittany with her. They all had someone else to check up on. They all had things to do, managing the fallout of the night that had shaken Zootopia.

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Brittany was there to help them along the way.

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She was also there with some news for a certain squirrel. News that she hadn't had the time to tell him. News that she worried would break his heart yet give him hope. She'd debated on whether she should soften the truth to help him, even just a little.

She shook the idea from her head though. She wasn't going to lie to him. She wasn't going to treat him like she'd been treated. She wasn't going to hold back on this news, hoping it'd somehow get less painful in the future when, as she knew herself, it would only get more so. But, before that, she needed to make sure that his mother, his real one, would be there for him.

So, she found herself sitting in the booth of a private coffee shop, looking on as a young squirrel walked in. She spotted Brittany, walked over, and paused.

"Emily Curlyque?" the red fox asked.

She nodded, before breathing out. She was only a couple of years older than Brittany, but her voice seemed ever so much older. More tired. "That's me," she replied, holding a small cup of tea lightly. She looked up though, a faintest look of hope in her eyes. "Is this about Larry?"

Brittany nodded.

"How… how is he? Is Sandra looking after him?"

Brittany breathed out, gave the truth, and watched as the little squirrel tried to compose herself. The cup she was holding rattled and shook in her paw but, with her eyes closing and opening again, she seemed okay.

Just about.

"Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised," she said, looking away. "I… I still don't know if she used her powers or not to make me…" Biting her lip, she looked away, sniffing a few times. "She did use them to make Larry, I know that… I did have feelings for Mr Bushel. But I knew they were dumb… Stupid… Sandra, she was always the bad girl, but we were friends. I joked about it, told her… Then I remember it happening, and both of us waking up the next day. I… I felt disgusted… Horrible. Just so gross about myself, and I couldn't look at him in class. He came after me, after, and we both sort of knew that Sandra had done it. He called the police and laid it all out…" Breathing in and out, she wiped her eyes. "He was a good teacher. A good mammal, he… -he was nice. -He didn't deserve it. Any of it…"

Brittany nodded, leaning forwards to try and comfort her, only to get a paw stuck out in her direction. Telling her to back off, just for a moment or two.

"I… I should have been better. I should have resisted her, it's… it's my fault."

"It isn't. It…"

"I could have tried harder," she said, shaking her head. "Her powers… If she wanted you to bang your head on the table or something, you could resist. It… It needed this little nugget of desire to make it work, and I wanted Lucas just that tiny little dumb bit… -I should have buried it, or tried my best, or…"

"Or handbag the squirrel so hard she forgets how to fly," Brittany said, the odd statement making Emily send out a choked laugh.

"I… I guess," she said sadly, shaking her head. "But… When it came to me giving birth to Larry… I was so scared and terrified. I wasn't ready. I know it sounds evil, but I really wasn't ready. I didn't love him… I only do now in hindsight, but it was too much of a shock back then. I wanted the best for him, but I didn't want to look after him and… and…"

"Sandra offered to take him."

"I don't know why," she said, shaking her head. "Maybe she found him cute, or felt guilty, or… -But a big part of me wanted him gone. I just wanted life to be normal again," she said. "I… -I can't remember if she even had to use her powers. I really can't."

Brittany nodded, her paw coming out. Emily couldn't help but grasp her finger. "But thanks… Thanks so much for looking after him. He… -Does he know the truth?"

The red fox shook her head. Emily looked away, sadly.

"A part of me really regrets letting him go," she said. "But… But a bigger part of me is scared. I… I don't earn a lot, I won't be able to look after him. I don't know what to do."

"Don't you want to meet him?" she asked. "He'd love to meet his real mother."

Emily sighed. "It's as I said. I… I don't think I can handle being thrown into the deep end. Anyway, I don't even earn enough to look after him! He'd… He doesn't deserve to grow up poor, or…" She trailed off, looking down. "I'd love to visit him more than anything," she said. "But I don't think I'd be able to look after him."

Brittany looked on, nodding. "How about this," she said. "I heard the ZED is looking for a new receptionist." There was a pause, as Emily looked up. "And you can live there, and be with Larry. We'll still look after him, but you can be there with him. You can start looking after him." She smiled. "You can start in the shallow end and slowly ease yourself in. How does that sound?"

Emily looked up, her eyes widening. "That…. That sounds amazing," she said, before bursting into tears. She launched herself at Brittany's paw, holding it tight. "Thanks… Thank you so much!"

Brittany, feeling the waterworks come on, smiled back. "That's what we do at the ZED."

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A call came in, and Nick, Skye and Judy were back at the hospital. They'd known the other half had grown a head, but it had been silent. They'd even debated whether it was braindead.

But then they'd got a call and came in, and they saw it looking back at him.

"Okay…" he said tensely. "Just putting it out there, I'm not the shapeshifter, he is!"

"Nick," Judy said, "what do you remember?"

"Urghhh… Fighting, getting these mammals to surrender. There was a flash, this guy was swinging down to hit me and my powers were off…" he paused. "How hard did he hit me on my head to knock me out?"

Nick, the original one, coughed a few times. "He didn't hit us on the head, he cut us in half…"

New Nick blinked a few times. "Oh Mother Marian…"

"Yup."

"The cloning thing worked!"

"Well," original Nick began, tensely. "It almost killed both of us. We needed medical attention…"

"-Wait a minute…" the bedbound Nick began, as he looked at his arms, which had grown back to his elbows at this point. "Rut me, I'm the bottom one, ain't I?"

"Are you the bottom one…"

"-Yes."

"Maybe I wasn't going to say that."

"You were, you totally were…"

"And how do you know that?" Old Nick teased.

New Nick blinked. "I am literally you."

"I like to think of myself as an individual."

"You know, if I realised I was this irritating, I wouldn't have bothered trying to clone myself in the first place… Also, your dick is now mine. Ha!"

Old Nick smirked. "Well, I guess you win that argument."

New Nick gave him a wink. "You know, now that I've got an identical twin I never had before, we could do all kinds of twin stuff. We could dress the same."

"Talk creepily in unison."

They both paused, before speaking out at the same time. "Totally annoy Fangmeyer."

Skye blinked a few times, looking at Judy. "It's uncanny…"

They both turned to the pair and smirked. "It's called a hustle sweetheart."

They both broke down laughing, but the younger Nick paused as he glanced at Skye, then at the older Nick. His entire mind had been twisting and turning, trying to work out just what had happened, and now the heavy weight of reality began crashing down on him. Hitting him hard. He didn't feel like he'd just been birthed into existence, he felt as if he'd been living his life and then sucker punched.

He sighed. He had his red lines, he had his codes, and he knew when he'd received a losing paw in cards. When the others went, he asked the original him, still a concept that messed with him and somehow hurt him a little, to stay.

So he could put things strait.

"We need to talk about your girl," he said, and talk he did. After old Nick left, new Nick settled down in his bed and sulked a little. He was a grown mammal, he was mature, but he still had his feelings. He still felt hurt by this loss.

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Brittany held her breath. It was time to tell Larry the news. Emily was ready, but waited in the side lines, worried about being there for it. So, Brittany settled him down, stroking his back, before opening her laptop. "I've found out who your family are," she said, the squirrel looking up alert.

"Really!? You've found my Momma! You've found my Momma!"

Brittany bit her lip, taking a steadying breath, before carrying on. "It's a bit complication. -A bit confusing, even…" She paused, smiling as he giggle a bit. He did like that word. "-You see, there were once three mammals in a school. One was a nice teacher, called Lucas. One was a squirrel, called Emily, who was his student. And then there was a flying squirrel called Sandra, who had special powers…"

"Like me?"

Brittany sighed. "Not quite," she said, looking down. "She could hypnotise mammals, and she used it to make Lucas and Emily do something which really hurt them both. You see…"

On she talked, giving the kit friendly birds and the bees version to the squirrel. About how students and teachers shouldn't have a relationship like a boyfriend and girlfriend. How Sandra made them do it. How it meant Emily gave birth to a baby, which Sandra made her give over. How Lucas' life was ruined, and he killed himself. She made sure to comfort Larry throughout, as he sniffed and then cried and then bawled into her, even lashing out a few times.

"It's okay…" she said, a few tears of sympathy dripping from her own eyes.

"NO!" he cried. "NO IT'S NOT! MY MOMMA! MY MOMMA WAS A… A BAD MAMMAL!" He buckled down, sobbing into her some more, and she stayed with him until he'd cried himself out. Brittany knew what it was like to some extent. To learn that the mammal you looked up to, lionised, had been deceiving you all that time. Larry had a few, golden, precious memories of his mother, but now he knew they were wrong. She wasn't the font of love and attention he'd dreamed about, reminisced about, hoped for…

His entire world just crumbled into dust. Dust, though, that could be restored again.

"Your Momma, your real Momma," she said, "is a nice squirrel. She's scared though, a bit confused, but she's waiting outside. Waiting for you. Do you want to see her now?"

"You okay, Kitto?"

"NO!" he cried, looking up, his face wincing with anger. "IT'S NOT FAIR!"

"I know it isn't."

"BUT IT'S NOT! WHAT DID I DO?! WHY ME?!"

"I think a lot of mammals thought that," she said, sadly. "Poor Emily Curlyque and poor Lucas Bushel. It's not fair on any of them," she said, with a sigh. "But we can make it better. Just a little bit."

"How!" he shouted. "MY MOMMA'S STILL BAD!"

She cradled him in her paw. "Your Momma might be bad," she said. "But your real Momma isn't. She's here, for when you want her. Her brother and sister, and their kids, aren't bad mammals either. What about your grandparents?"

He looked up, biting his lip, on the verge of tears. "They're not my Momma!"

"I'm so sorry they're not," she said. "I'm sorry it was like this. But your real Momma will be happy to take you in, and love you, and care for you. Then, in five years' time, you'll love them just as much." She paused, about to say, 'Don't you want that?', but not being able to. Larry was still distraught, she couldn't blame him. She could just let him finish crying it out, before handing him over to Clawhauser.

It took him a little while to calm down. They were there for him, as he paused and spoke. "You say… You say my real Momma is here?"

"Do you want to meet her?" Ben asked, as Larry nodded.

So, he brought her in. There was a pause as they stared at each other, and then they ran and hugged. Emily had cried into her lost boy, stroking his back and, after a little bit of time for it to all click together, he embraced her. Crying too. Telling his Momma that he loved her and wanted her to never leave him.

She was still terribly nervous, but she was ready for this. They slept in rooms next to each other, bumped into each other often. Brittany was there a lot for the first month or so, helping Emily out alongside Clawhauser, until eventually they weren't needed. Emily and Larry would stay at the ZED as mother and son, her working and him learning, alongside the many new families that were arriving under the new policies.

He even met his uncle, aunt, cousins and grandparents. Emily's father took a great shine to him, and the little kit loved the cheeky older squirrel whenever he visited. Poor Grandma Bushel, after losing both her boys, found great comfort in him as well. She moved close to the ZED and was a regular visitor.

Brittany smiled as she watched them, Larry surrounded by family and playing with one of his cousins. She felt good. She felt like a hero.

The ball they'd been kicking about rolled towards her, and she picked it up between two of her fingers, just as Larry and his cousin turned up. He looked at her with the cutest eyes imaginable and asked a simple question. "Can you play too?"

She smiled. Just because he had his family back didn't mean she couldn't have lots of fun with him too. "Climb up and get it," she teased, before the gleeful squirrels began racing up and around her, trying to liberate the ball. She smiled and laughed as they went, glowing a radiant warm thanks to the joy she felt. This was the life…

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As Larry was getting used to his new family, a member of hers was also arriving back. Bogo's stay in hospital was long and painful, but he came out of it okay. He had a rather nice pardon from the new mayor as well, and he was content to carry on here as an assistor, like he'd been doing before.

"You did a nice job with his family," he said, looking over at Larry.

"Yeah," she replied, happily. "I did it…"

"Mmmm-hmmm," he noted, as he walked slowly along. "Speaking of that, is it okay if I have a word with you?"

Her ears perked and, in private, he told her about all he felt and all he regretted, before asking for forgiveness. She hugged him back, saying that she loved him. She did. She truly meant it. He told her that he loved her back, before ruffling her hair, sending her tail into a happy little wag. He was friendlier and more supportive than ever, something Brittany couldn't get enough of. But she made sure to tell him to speak to Clawhauser, especially if he ever got dumb ideas like her father had.

Speaking of him, Nigel had got quite the scolding from his wife for his crazy actions. She and Brittany then forced him to get counselling, therapy, and all the works to help him out. Maybe it was all that, or maybe it really was the fact that he stood up for her, but he seemed to carry his head a little higher all the time. He cared for her, and loved her, and the self-hatred and lack of self-worth that had dogged him seemed to be banished out of his mind.

Brittany just loved him.

She always would.

Kinsey, meanwhile, grew up, always practicing her powers. She, along with Larry and many others, got a reward from the mayor for their brave acts, something she enjoyed boasting about here and there.

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Time passed, and another new arrival appeared at the ZED.

"Oh no," Fangmeyer scolded. "No way!"

"What?" Nicholas, as the new fox called himself, asked.

"Firstly, you hate the ZED, so why are you here?"

"Well, it was Nick who…"

"You are Nick."

He paused, blinking, his eyes narrowing. "I think you'll happen to find that I'm Nicholas, thank you very much. I'm my own mammal, and while there are many, many, many, many, many reasons not to join your little cub scout troop, I have recently decided to do so for one very good reason."

"And what's that?"

"How much it annoys both you and Nick," he said with a gleeful smile.

"Seriously?"

"Honestly, looking at you right now, it's totally worth it."

"Well, given your past actions, I can still refuse you."

"Ahem…" Nicholas harrumphed. "I think you'll find that I'm legally a separate person, and you can't deny me based on his actions.

Fangmeyer tried to sort through the mental gymnastics before sighing, head in paws, and plodding over to the labs. "Come on then," she groaned. "Let's get this over with."

It went well, and after passing with flying colours, Nicholas sat outside the ZED. He paused, sighing slightly, before perking up as Judy came up to him. "Hey."

"Hey…"

She slid up to him and smiled. Nicholas had decided to get a little freeze tattoo on one of his ears, giving it a white tip, so mammals could tell them apart.

Well, more like his mother, who was otherwise gleeful at suddenly having twins, insisted he did.

"You okay?"

"Yup."

"Just with the whole ZED thing…"

"Right as rain, Carrots!"

There was a pause. "I'm still surprised."

He huffed a little. "So am I," he mused. "So am I. I mean, I still remember being chased… Jack… All that… Yet with all that's happened, how everything got tossed about, it all feels so much further away. Everything feels more different, everything makes less sense." He looked to her and smiled. "I guess I'm my own mammal now."

"And what about Nick?"

Nicholas chuckled. "Oh, having a twin is still super awesome! You know, I'm planning to throw him a surprise birthday party, and I'll be able to literally plan the perfect party for him!"

Judy laughed, and then paused. "How do you feel about me?" she asked, pausing. "With all this."

"Honestly, I'd forgiven you before it all," he said. "No hard feelings for officer Hippity Hoppity…"

"Oh, I thought I was bunny Javert," she teased. Nicholas nodded a few times, before freezing in shock.

"Oh… How did you…"

"I happened to overlook you and Skye, I…"

"You overlooked Nick and Skye," he said, looking away. He paused. "Listen, that was… That was a dumb joke he… -I made, to try and cheer her up…" He breathed in and out.

"How's all that going?"

He looked at her and shrugged. "Nick was the original," he said. "He gets her fair and square. It hurt… It did. But I got over it, I'm a big tod."

"Yeah. Just like I'm a big bunny," Judy said. She stepped up and turned to walk away before pausing. She laid a paw on Nicholas's one, as he looked down. "Listen," she said, steadying herself. "I have something to tell you."

The talk after was long, it was frank, it was emotional. By the end of it though, the pair left together. Not long after, Nick and Skye found them sharing an ice cream in the canteen. He looked to her and smiled. "You know, I was worrying about him," he said, before looking back and smiling. Nick and Nicholas's eyes met, and one gave the other a wink, the other returning it.

"So was I," Skye said, holding his paw. "But they're both in good paws."

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Nicholas and Judy, and Nick and Skye, grew ever closer. Brittany and Kinsey did too, and often spent their summers together, the little kit over at the ZED's empowered summer camp. By that time, the ZED had grown. Empowered children and their families were a regular sight. Many new houses had been built for them to live in, and there was even a proper swimming pool, all paid for by a donation from Jeb Piper and Edmund Lanhoff. The pair, mainly led by the older deer, had also set up a foundation to help those affected by rogue empowered. Other mammals, including Isaac the code weaver, also joined in, spurned on by the Zootopia incident. They donated a chunk of their wealth now, with almost all of it going into it in the future. It didn't take long for them to reach a point where they were asking some of the mammals to maybe find other good causes to help out, given how well set up the charity became.

Brittany was happy about it, but she couldn't help but cringe just a little. It wasn't that it was a bad idea, rather that was that it was a sticky plaster to an issue with no clear answer. There would always be terrible mammals, some of whom who would then get powers, and there was little to nothing that anyone could do about it.

Maybe some things were just hard truths of life?

Things mammals had to get used to, like the odd sharp bone in a nice bit of fish.

The world was better thanks to the empowered. But however sad it might be, some mammals' worlds would always be worse off thanks to them. She couldn't help but think of Bellwether's mother. Judy and her had met with her once, the Ewe carrying a cold and sad aura about her. She'd said that things were getting better, Brittany hoped they were, but nobody deserved as much pain as she'd gone through.

She sighed as she lowered herself into the pool for some practice laps. The best they could do was try. Try and try, however hard it got… They were still trying to find Sandra Steepler, though she seemed to be off grid completely. They'd carry on until the statute of limitations ended in a year or two, but Brittany had a strong feeling that they'd never find her again.

She didn't matter though. No-one here missed her or loved her or cared for her. They didn't need her. She was just a name with a lot of unpleasant memories attached, which most mammals wished had never existed in the first place.

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The ZED did need Brittany Voxen though. She became a common sight in the air, flying from fire to fire and putting them out. She never became an enforcer, always happy to be an assistor. But, whenever a fellow enforcer needed a bit of help against a certain rogue empowered or other, she felt okay going out. A bit scared, yes, but she was ever happy to assist. Whenever the alarm rang, she was in the command centre, ready for her briefing.

"-Don't worry, false alarm," Fangmeyer said.

Brittany had been summoned to the control building, only to find out that this time she hadn't been needed. She rolled her eyes. "Understood Commander," she said, before smiling a little. "Just don't make a habit of it."

The tiger rolled her eyes. "I don't intend to," she said, before turning to Skye. "Same goes for you, you can go back to doing your thing…"

She was cut off as a blur raced into the room, stopping by her. Nick looked at her and shrugged. "Good to hear," he said, overly cheerfully. "We were in the middle of something!"

Fangmeyer rolled her eyes. "Apologies. But don't do that Wilde!"

"I'll try not to."

"Good," she said. "Dismissed." With a wave they vanished and Fangmeyer, shaking her head, settled down. It had been interesting news to Brittany that Skye and Nick were in a relationship. It had been highly irritating to the tiger. However, after the events of that one night, she held a begrudging respect towards the red fox. He tried his best not to push all her buttons, as did Nicholas as he worked with Judy. While Nick was not part of the ZED, still working contract jobs, he eventually moved into one of the new houses to be with Skye. The flash of his blur was a semi-common site around the place. Just another of the fun quirks that made it feel like home.

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Days, weeks and months ticked by, a year passing by too. Brittany lived her life, spending time with her family and Larry, as her nineteenth birthday passed her by. Nicholas's '1st' birthday did too, with Nick getting him an adult version of a kit's first. Complete with a giant cake in the shape of a one, a pass-the-parcel drinking game, and all sorts of other crazy stuff…

It was a lot more fun than she'd ever imagined.

Then came the anniversary of Larry's reunion with his mother. Brittany still had feelings for the little squirrel kit and, after talking with Clawhauser, she came to accept that they were very maternal in nature. She'd have the odd daydream about having a kit of her own and knew that, in the future when the time was right, she could be a mother too.

She liked that idea, but it could wait.

There were plenty of things she both wanted to do and needed to do before she got anywhere before that. After all, she had to find a Tod to love, didn't she?

She did find herself thinking of Sam again, after all this time. They ended up in contact again, and they did date. Both loved each other this time, and they stayed close for six months until they both found themselves drifting apart.

The feeling was mutual. Some things just didn't work out and this was one of them.

They broke up amicably, though Brittany still cried for a few days. After settling down though, she got on with her life. She passed her twentieth birthday and looked forwards. Fire and ice danced inside her, under control but ever toying. She'd found her place in the world, and she would stay there among the mammals she loved. There was a long road ahead, but she was looking forwards to walking down it.

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After a long mission, Judy landed back at the ZED. Debriefed, tired, but feeling good, she'd grabbed a salad and chosen to eat it outside. The sun was warm, a late summer evening when the temperature was just right, and she was going to make use of it before winter began creeping up again. So, she settled down on a bench in a little landscaped area, near the new houses. It was two years since Dawn Bellwether's coup. Two years since she'd defeated it.

She didn't regret doing it. Her life was going well and she loved it. She was surrounded by friends, and she visited her family ever often.

Still…

She spotted Nick standing by her. Patting the bench, she watched him settling down before offering some food. "-And don't take all the blueberries."

"I'll limit myself to a half," he replied, smirking as he looked at her.

She gave him a stern look.

"A third…"

She smiled and nodded, as he picked them up and swallowed them down, smiling as he did so. "Nice…"

"Thanks," she said, ribbing him gently. "I like to think I've got good taste in food."

"Ha-Ha…" he replied, giving her a wink.

She smiled back, before her ears drooped just a little bit. Turning back to her food, she began eating again, only to pause when hearing Nick clear his throat. "You okay?"

"Sure," she said, with a shrug. "Why?"

"You just seem down, a bit," he replied, turning away and scratching the back of his head. "Might be bad family news, stomach bug, unexpressed feelings for yours truly…"

Judy choked on her food when he said the last bit, before glaring up.

"Huh. Guilty as charged."

Chewing and swallowing it down, Judy looked away. "You know that I'm seeing your better half, right?" she teased, pausing as a flicker of wind came by.

"Trying to poach my bunny, are you?" Nicholas teased, looking down at the blueberries. "And with my favourite fruit!"

"Well they were my favourite first…"

"I loved them from the day I was born," Nicholas defended proudly. "And now I must confiscate them all!"

He lunged forwards to scoop them out, Nick doing the same, and their paws met in a superspeed blur, immediately turning the blueberries into a mush that was sprayed out over both of them and Judy.

The two tods burst into laughter as Judy looked at them. A pair of overgrown kits, the lot of them. "Ahem," she said, both turning to see the mess they'd made of her.

"Being her girlfriend, I'm the one legally able to handle this," Nicholas said proudly, as he leant in and began licking it off her, preening her and sending her giggling as he went.

Nick rolled his eyes. "I guess that both of you are good then."

"Of course we are," Judy replied. "We always are."

"Just checking," he said, looking up into the air. "Just checking."

"Oh, and why's that?" she asked, expecting another joke. It didn't come though. Nick just let a warm smile grow across his muzzle, his tail wagging a bit, before he looked down at her.

"Let's just say that Skye isn't the subtlest of mammals," he said, giving her a wink as he stood up again.

Judy nodded, not sure what he was getting at, before giving him a wave. Despite how they started off, he was her friend. So was Skye. So was Brittany, and Bogo, and the others. She had her Nicholas, and he was proudly looking on at his twin, giving him a salute.

"What was that about?" She asked.

"Oh, you'll see," he replied, before pausing. "You know, if we're petty, and depending on some other factors… We could beat them to it."

"Beat them to it…" she pondered. "And what other factors?"

"Well, for a start," Nicholas said, pulling her in closer. "How much you love me."

.

.

Nick was relaxing, sitting on a warm grassy bank as he watched the sun go down over the city. For all the speed he had, he enjoyed the quiet moments like these.

Him.

Alone…

His ears rose, and he heard a faint ruffling of grass besides him. "Hey Skye."

"Hey," she said. "I brought a mini-picnic!"

He turned to it and his eyes went wide. "Oooh my! Is that blueberry pie I smell, Lava girl?"

She chuckled. "It sure is," she replied, unpacking it. There were a few little nibbles, alongside the pie, and even a glass of champagne. He popped the cork, Skye playfully flying up after it, before landing again beside him.

"Nice catch," he replied, sitting down with her. "Any more surprises?"

There was a pause, as Skye stiffened ever so slightly. She took a breath in, steadying herself, before reaching over to put one of her paws on top of his. "Just the one…"

"Hmmm?" Nick mused. "What ever could it be?"

Skye looked at him, taking a breath in, before speaking. "Nick… -Before I met you, I loved a mammal who seemed to be the world to me. Who I thought I'd grow old with. Who I… -Who I cherished every second with." She paused, looking down, sniffing slightly. "He… He… he then destroyed my life. Taking away everything from me. Breaking my heart and my body. But he wasn't the only one. He hurt you, too. We both lost ten years to him, Nick. Both of us. And then… And then you saved me. And how could I not save you… And then I realised I loved you, but I was so scared of it all going wrong again. You, though…. You helped me past that…."

Tears were dripping from her eyes, and she leaned in, holding his paw tight. "How could I not," he said back, staring into her beautiful eyes, transfixed.

"You did it because you're a big sweetie," she said, the joy behind it pushing through her sadness. "There's more than that though," she continued. "You… You gave me your blood. It flows through me. We're family," she said, holding his paw tighter. She sniffed, tears of joy and happiness and fear dripping out. "I'm your family," she said, as she reached down into a pocket. "And I want you to be mine."

Nick looked down, gasping as a little box was brought out.

"Nick," Skye said. "Will…"

"-Yes."

She blinked a few times, before launching herself into him, embracing her Tod. He held her back. Life had thrown them around and hurt them, and done some very strange things to them too, but they'd picked each other up and survive. They cared for each other, and loved each other, and were made for each other. They both had a long, long, long life ahead of them.

They would walk that long road together.

Neither wanted it any other way.