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H&H2 - Of Help and Hauntings

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Judy stared in horror. Penelope stumbled back, bulletholes torn through her jumpsuit. Nick just glared.

"You... y-you..."

Arms stiff, fingers shaking, Penelope stood there. Her voice was breathless. Judy couldn't drag her eyes away, a captive of every detail. So she noticed immediately when the holes began to bleed, slowly oozing and staining Penelope's yellow overalls... black?

"...You jerk! You busted one of the central actuators!"

Penelope tried to turn, but her whole frame was stiff, unresponsive. Nick pulled the trigger again, but only produced a click. Without hesitating, he flung the empty pistol straight into Penelope's mask, eliciting an annoyed grunt.

"Hopps! Get ready!"

Nick was already moving, sprinting forward to tackle Penelope to the ground. She fell with a crash of metal. For a moment, they struggled on the floor.

Then, the mask popped open, and something small and pink leapt out.

Judy, on cue, was ready. The pink blur was shooting for the door, but Judy was just as fast. Sprinting into a dive, she caught her target with both hands.

Judy looked down to see two furious brown eyes glaring up at her.

She had caught a mouse. Long blond hair, pink fur – dyed? Red bandanna, round spectacles, a tiny set of light blue overalls over yellow, much more vivid than the jumpsuit. Struggling.

"Let me go! If you think I'm too dignified to bite you, I'm really not!"

Judy sighed. "Just full of surprises, aren't you?"

She glanced to Nick. He tugged at the jumpsuit, ripping it. Underneath was a labyrinth of metal, fashioned into a functioning bipedal shape. A steel skeleton.

"Thought so. I bet tiny mouse hands are great for fine circuitry, but for working on anything bigger, you'd need more strength." He flashed a lopsided grin. The insult was nothing new, but there was a strange venom in his tone. "Especially since you don't have any friends."

Judy frowned, but said nothing. She focused on restraining Penelope. They were both well-trained in arresting mammals of all sizes, but normally they would have appropriate handcuffs. Instead, Judy found a sturdy piece of wire and wrapped it tightly around Penelope's delicate wrists.

"Alright, Penelope Earhart. I hereby place you under provisional arrest."

She scoffed. "Oh, this'll be fun. Maybe we'll all get put in the same cell, huh?"

"We're prepared for the consequences," said Judy firmly. "Are you?"

Penelope shook her tiny head. "Like I said! You played this all wrong. You were Dawn's target. I just wanted Sly. If you had just asked me nicely – and let me kill him – I'd've been happy to straighten this out. It's not like Dawn's gonna sue me or anything." She shrugged, sullen. "But you've really ticked me off now. So you're getting nothing from me. No testimony. No evidence."

"Fine. Either way, we're bringing you in to the proper authorities."

There was silence for a moment. Then a low, dark sound.

Nick laughing.

It started as just a chuckle, calm and quiet, but it built slowly, filling the room. Penelope watched as laughter began to rack Nick's chest, shaking his whole body, echoing off the walls. He turned to Judy, grinning in mirth, his fangs on full display.

"Oh, Carrots..."

In an instant, his humour died. His face went slack, devoid of emotion. Green eyes glassy.

"No."

Judy stared. "Nick...?"

His voice was low and even. Emotionless. "If we bring her in..." He turned slowly to Penelope, looking straight through her. "...she'll exercise her legal right to say nothing. And she's rigged all the evidence to explode if we touch it. Best case scenario, the ZPD goes easy on us and we only spend a few months in prison before someone throws us a bone. Worst case..." He shrugged, the motion stiff. Unnatural. "We go down anyway. And all this will be pointless."

Judy's mouth twisted. "So... what? You just want to run? Flee Zootopia, leave behind everything we have here?"

"Sure. Sounds rational, doesn't it?" His gaze hadn't left Penelope. "But first..."

The mouse watched as something returned to his eyes. Not mirth. Not life. Just cold green fire.

"She ruined my life. So I'd like an eye for an eye."

Judy's eyes widened. "You can't mean that."

"Oh, I 'can't'?" Only a vague note of irritation. An irregularity in his flat, dead tone. "After the week I've had, I can do whatever I want."

He took a step forward. Penelope began to realize just how large he was compared to her.

"Nick, be sensible," tried Judy. "We – we all worked so hard to get here."

"Yes. All according to plan. Even the Cooper Gang did their jobs... adequately." His mouth curled. Slightly. "I suppose it doesn't matter if they get away, though I hope Carmelita gives them the beating they deserve. Either way. They got me here."

Another step. Penelope regretted destroying Nick's sunglasses. His eyes were so cold. So... humourless.

"So that's it." Judy sounded like she was fading out of focus. Smaller. Weaker. "You – you planned this. All of this."

"Yes. I was never going to stay. You're welcome to join me, of course." His tone didn't waver. "But before I go, let's give Bogo a real reason to fear me."

Another step. Penelope's wrists twisted against the wire. No escape.

"Nick." Judy drew herself to her full height. It wasn't much. "You stop this right now, do you hear me? It's not funny."

"No. It's hilarious."

Another step. Penelope backed up and hit the wall. No escape.

"That's enough!"

Judy planted herself in front of Nick. She glared up at him. It seemed unsteady.

"This isn't okay. This isn't you. I'll... We can pretend this didn't happen, if you just stop. Please."

Nick watched her. Impassive. And then he tried to push past her. Towards Penelope.

"Nick!" Judy shoved him and he backed up.

Penelope tried to sidle away, moving along the wall. She got a perfect view of their faces. Nick's blank stare giving way to irritation. Judy's eyes wide with confusion and anger and pain.

"What's gotten into you? Why are you acting like this?"

Nick's eyes narrowed. "You don't get it, do you? I suppose that shouldn't surprise me – you're always too idiotically optimistic to accept the facts. If you're really that dense, let me spell it out for you. You didn't save me, Judy. You were too late. I'm... broken."

She stared. "Broken?"

"That's the simplest word for it." Nick turned to Penelope, who froze against the wall. "After what she put me through... I questioned everything. My mind. My life. My morals. If it's so easy to believe a lie, why should I bother believing in anything? Why can't I just do whatever I feel like?"

"Because it's the right th–"

"There is," he snarled, "no 'right thing'. There's no order here, Judy. People do things because they can. She ruined my life because she could. Now I can return the favour. You don't want me to do it, but you can't give me one good reason why not!"

"Don't do this! Nick, please..." Her voice was barely a whisper. "I... I love you."

"Oh."

For a moment, silence. Penelope heard nothing but her own heartbeat.

"Oh, Judy..." Nick's face softened. The anger left him, and like that, he was his old self again. Her partner.

He took a breath, as though trying to steady himself. One hand drifted down to his belt.

Nick looked up, giving her a warm smile; but the pain in his eyes made it bittersweet. "I love you too. I really do. More than I've ever loved anyone." He gave a little half-shrug. "But I can't trust my own feelings, can I? Everything I know is... fake. Which makes my love – and by extension, you – meaningless."

The movement was almost too fast for Penelope to follow. Nick whipped out another pistol and shot Judy right in the neck. Her famous reflexes only had her paw reach the dart as it struck her.

She stared, purple eyes wide. Already she was starting to wilt. But the emotions on her face were obvious. Fear. Shock. Betrayal. "N..."

"Sorry." He had already returned to his emotionless state. "I can't let you stop me."

Judy's knees buckled, but with one shaking paw, she still tried to reach out. "N... Ni-ick..."

Penelope watched as she crumpled to the floor. Face down.

Motionless.

"No more distractions." He turned his attention back to his captive, discarding the empty pistol with a clatter. "Now hold still."

Penelope stared. And then she ran.

She shot for the door as fast as her tiny legs would take her. Penelope glanced behind to see him ambling – ambling, moving at an easy pace – past his fallen partner. He barely looked at Judy as he stepped over her small, unmoving body.

"Stay there, sweetheart." His expression darkened, just an inch. "I'll be back for you."

And then he lunged.

The change was so abrupt Penelope flinched, nearly losing her balance and then he was upon her. She threw herself out of the way as his paw swept through empty air, one claw almost snagging her overalls.

She ran.

She ran down the hallway, suddenly vast and looming. She sprinted for the security room, and it crawled towards her. Slowly.

He was following her. Slowly.

Satisfied she couldn't get far, he was back to ambling behind her. Penelope glanced over her shoulder and caught sight of his gleaming fangs.

"Stay back, you freak!"

"Hey." His voice was level. "No need to be rude. What's got you so upset?"

Penelope pushed herself, her feet pounding. But no matter how fast she went, she couldn't escape the fox's shadow.

"What's the matter, Penelope? You're not laughing. I thought you liked jokes. Go ahead and laugh. I'm a funny guy."

Penelope bit her lip, trying to tune him out. Focus on running. But his voice was inescapable.

"You know why I crack so many jokes? Fun story. Back in school, there was this group of kids who'd laugh at me no matter what I did. So I figured, y'know, maybe I should make people laugh on purpose... Because that's all I am, Penelope. A mirror. I am what people make me. Society wanted me to be hustler. Judy wanted me to be a cop. And you? You wanted me to be a monster..." A low whisper, yet so loud. "What's the matter? I thought you wanted this, Penelope..."

After an eternity, she reached the security room – and flung herself under the desk. She couldn't outpace him. Her best chance was to hide. Wait in darkness until she could slip away.

She wished she could fight back.

Penelope cowered behind one leg of the table, wrists bound, tiny. She glanced over the room. The commotion had left her things scattered everywhere. Amid the wreckage of the wall the Knight burst through, she could see her favourite sword. A gleaming sabre with an ornate golden handle. More than enough to kill one psychotic fox.

It was also several times her actual weight. It was useless. No – she was useless.

In moments, he was at the doorway. He sauntered inside, looking around for her. He saw the sword, too.

"Huh. Nice letter-opener."

He picked it up, feeling its weight. Examining the handle. And then, as Penelope watched, he snapped the thin metal over his knee. He dumped the pieces on the floor. As though they were trash.

"I'd rather stay au naturel, though." He turned, eyes searching. "Just using your teeth... Can you imagine, Penelope? It actually sounds pretty fun..."

He slowly began to sweep the room. Penelope stared at her sword. A practical thought pushed through the fear, the rage. The broken blade was probably enough to cut through the wire on her wrists.

She would need to leave cover.

But he would find her anyway. It wasn't that large of a room. If she had any shot of escaping, she needed her hands. So while his back was turned – while he kept talking – she darted toward the sword.

"If the world's only gonna see me as violent and murderous – well, why bother being anything else?" Anger was starting to bubble through his monotone. "Quit hiding already. You did this. You pushed me too far and couldn't handle what you found. You underestimated me. Everyone always underestimates me." A growl. "I'm just Judy's sidekick, huh?"

Penelope reached the blade, her eyes darting dizzily between his back and her wrists. She could do this. She just had to be careful, but firm, enough force to cut the wire without injuring herself, and silent, obviously silent–

She backed herself against the blade. Nothing happened. She pushed and pushed and suddenly the hilt dragged against the ground.

The noise was quiet. But it shattered the silence.

In an instant he had spun around, those eyes finding her. Predator and prey.

"There you are."

He moved with deadly grace. Penelope squeaked, stumbling aside before his claws found her.

She ran back for the hallway. It didn't make sense. But nothing made sense any more. There was no planning around this, no trick or gadget that would put her back in control. All she could do was run from room to room. One tiny, pounding heart and little else.

The outcome was already decided.

Penelope felt the air leave her lungs as he kicked her in the back. It was light. Just enough pressure to knock her over.

She had the terrible realization that he was really going to drag this out.

"You're making a mistake!" she yelled. "I can give you anything! Money, fame, power – please, no!"

She barely dodged another swipe of his paw. She lost her footing, but he didn't stop. Penelope began to scrabble backwards, unable to tear herself away from those cold eyes.

"Nick, please! Judy wouldn't want this!"

"Judy's not here." The fox licked his lips. "For that matter... neither is Nick."

Penelope squeaked. She scanned his face for any weakness, any inkling of mercy. She found none.

She hit the wall. Dead end. Nowhere to go. Dead end. He just stood over her, expressionless.

"I'm sorry," she gasped. "I'm sorry I'm sorry I – I can still fix this! Please! Let me help you, I can – I –!" Her breath was ragged. "Please! I'm not Bellwether! I'm different!"

"No. You aren't."

Penelope stared up at that haunting face, those dead, glassy eyes – and then she blinked and Nick Wilde was smiling down at her.

"For one thing, you fell for pretty much the exact same trick."

"I... wait." Her brow started twitching. A lot. "Y-you're – you're not...?"

Someone politely cleared their throat. Penelope dragged her eyes away from Nick, and then Judy Hopps was smiling down at her too.

"No," she said. "He's not."


"Stay there, sweetheart." Nick's voice above her. Fully in-character. "I'll be back for you."

Sounds of scuffling as he broke into a sprint. A terrified squeak. The gradual fading of those scuffles and squeaks and growls and villainous monologues.

Judy, still flat on the floor, perked an ear. Silence.

She got up, slowly. There was no room for overconfidence. They had beaten the Phantasm, and the other Phantasm, and the Knight, and now Nick was distracting Penelope herself. But for all Judy knew, there were yet more ludicrous tricks in the mouse's toolbox. A giant attack robot, perhaps.

She crept over to Penelope's pastel laptop, still on a nearby barrel. Still on. Resisting the urge to turn the news back on – don't make a sound, don't threaten the plan, you're so close! – Judy grabbed it.

She had actual, physical access to Penelope's computer, which made the job of 'hacking' her data so much easier. But as soon as she touched it, the screen turned red and displayed a very, very short timer.

Rigged to explode.

Judy would charitably describe Penelope as 'thorough' (and uncharitably as 'insane'). Even her personal computer would blow at the slightest wrong touch. There was only one possible way to stop the timer once it began. Judy had it on her belt.

She took a flash drive from one of the pouches and plugged it into the laptop. In seconds, the drive activated, pausing and dismissing the timer. Penelope's own encryption algorithms.

Judy began her search.


Penelope stared. "How did you resist the tranquillizer?!"

"What tranquillizer?" Judy produced the dart, letting Penelope get a good look. "It's a complete fake. Not even a real needle. Nick's a big softie, really."

Nick just shrugged, still smiling.

"Convincing, though, right?" continued Judy. "Your boyfriend put it together for us. Well. Ex-boyfriend. He's a smart guy. Shame you couldn't make it work."

"Ugh! Don't you dare even–" She started. "Wait a second! What – what did you do? This whole time this maniac was chasing me around, you were..." Her voice dropped. "...alone with my laptop."

"Yup!" said Judy. "Apparently, you didn't change your encryption algorithms after Bentley grabbed them a few days ago. And guess what I used them to do!"

"I'll kill you."

"Incorrect answer! I disabled all your weird explosives! Once the ZPD gets here – which should only be a couple minutes, now – the bomb squad will give everything a once-over, just in case. Then this'll all get taken into evidence."

"But Judy!" said Nick, with the cadence of an infomercial. "What if something goes wrong? A second booby-trap, perhaps?"

"Never fear, Nick!" she replied, in the same tone. "As a modern professional in the digital age, I understand the importance of backing up data. So I also copied some important files off of the laptop. One or two blueprints for the Phantasm, and of course..." She smiled at Penelope. "...audio logs of you laying out this plan, in complete detail, with Dawn Bellwether. That's gonna be super useful, thanks."

Penelope hissed a sigh. "Dammit."

"Hey, this is your own fault," sang Judy. "Don't you know you should never leave a personal device unattended? All Nick had to do was flash some fang, and you went running. I caught some of that performance, by the way." She put on a low, gravelly voice. "'Ugggh, Nick's not here'... How edgy can you get?"

"Indulge me, Carrots. It was my big scene." His smirk had returned to Maximum Smug. "What, you weren't impressed with my murdersona?"

"Oh no, he's great! Did you name him?"

"He doesn't have a name. That's how dark he is."

"Ooh! Next level."

Penelope's eyes bounced between them, horrified. "Ugh! I can see why Sly likes you. You're just as insufferable."

"Hey!" snapped Nick, and for a moment it seemed his good mood had been ruined. Then he smiled. "I'm ten times more insufferable than Sly, and you know it."

"It's not a contest, dear," said Judy.

"That's what Sly thinks, and it's why he's losing."

"Shut up! Shut up shut up shut up!" Penelope kicked her tiny feet against the ground. "You aren't smarter than me! And you haven't won! Just because you performed one of your dumb dramas doesn't mean you... it doesn't...!"

When her point evaporated into hot air, Nick and Judy shared a look. He hunkered down to Penelope, meeting her gaze. "Listen. I know you might have difficulty grasping this, being an amoral traitor with no lasting relationships, but I would never hurt Judy. And the fact my little temper tantrum didn't immediately tell you it was an act? Well..." He shrugged amicably. "Guess you just aren't quite the mastermind you think you are."

"Common problem," said Judy. "Scar was the same."

"Yeah, he was! Man, you are in the same bracket as Scar. Trust me, Nelly, that's not a compliment."

"Mark my words." Penelope's eyes burned, her voice a low threat. "I'm not done. This is not over. And the second the opportunity presents itself, I am going to–"

"Hey Nick look what I found," said Judy, seconds before covering Penelope with a glass jar.

Penelope started, whiskers flaring. She shouted a string of obscenities which were almost muffled by the glass. Almost.

Nick sat down by the jar, his back to the wall. He kept a hand on it. "She's going be okay in here, right? Enough air and everything?"

"Sure. It won't be long now, anyway."

"Right. Just double-checking."

Judy smirked. "To think a few minutes ago you were playing serial killer. You are a big softie..." She flopped onto him, cuddling close. "And you've got the fur to match!"

"Carrots, contain yourself." He smirked at her. "We're on official police business."

"We're fugitives, Nick! Bringing down a villain completely off-books! So there's no rulebook keeping me from hugging my best friend in the whole world!"

"Dear god, you've gone mad with power." Keeping one hand on the jar, he used the other to pull Judy closer. "I have no choice but to bend to your evil whims."

"Nyeh heh heh...!"

They lapsed into silence for a moment. Eventually, Judy looked up to him.

"So, uh... it got pretty real back there. Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yeah. I'll be fine."

"Nick..." She leaned up, her expression kind but serious. "Don't brush this off. Don't brush me off. I'll ask you again – are you sure you're okay?"

Nick sighed. "Honestly, truthfully, with one hundred percent sincerity... I don't know if I qualify as 'okay'. This whole thing took a chunk out of me. I'm sorry if I've been acting weird these last few hours, I..."

"It's okay," said Judy quietly. "This was so hard on you."

"But that said..." He gave her a little smile. "I wasn't being flippant. I will be fine. I'll recover, and this'll just be another notch on the belt. I'm confident of that. Because... I have you."

He met her gaze, eyes warm.

"Just to be completely clear... you mean the world to me, Judy. And you always will."

She returned his smile. She said nothing. There was nothing that needed to be said. Instead, she held him close, their breathing in sync.

"So..." murmured Nick. "You really went all in, huh? Pulling out the L-word like that?"

"Hey, you reciprocated."

"'Course I did!" He smirked. "I do love you. It's just, y'know, you said it first. So you lose."

"That's not how that works. That's not how any of that works. You're a dork."

"I'm your dork."

"Yeah. You are." She pulled tighter into the hug, nestling her face against his chest, and he returned it. "...dork."

"Kill me," muttered Penelope.

They did not. Instead, the partners simply waited, until the comfortable silence was slowly eroded by the oncoming sounds of sirens, even helicopters. Judy had been right. It wasn't long.

They both felt a rising, giddy excitement. But they didn't move. They waited. And before long, he appeared.

His silhouette, looming and almost ominous, was backlit by the setting sun. Their senior on the force had finally found them. And he wasted no time.

"Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh you guys!"

They grinned as Clawhauser hurried up to them, pulling them into a tight hug they gratefully returned.

"You're okay! You're here and you're both okay!"

"We are! We are." Nick put all the energy he could spare into the hug. "It's so great to see you, Sprinkles."

"See me? You're the ones who – Chief! Chief, get over here, they're alright!"

He reluctantly pulled away, stepping to one side. Behind him came Chief Bogo. Solid as ever. Eyeing the partners quietly.

They stood. They met his gaze. And they saluted.

Bogo examined them. His eyes were sharp. And then, the ghost of a smile began to shine through. "Well. This is outlandish. Even for you two."

Nick nodded, back straight. "Officer Nicholas Borderline Illegal If Admittedly Successful Wilde. Reporting for duty. Sir."

Bogo chuckled at that – actually chuckled – but before Nick could savour his most impressive achievement of the day, another voice cut through.

"You! What kind of operation are you running?!"

They glanced down. Penelope was fuming inside her glass prison.

"This psychopath," she spat, jerking her head towards Nick, "threatened to kill me! Several times!"

"Oh?" Bogo raised an eyebrow. "He explicitly stated that?"

Penelope blinked. Her mind replayed the last few minutes with vivid detail and rapid speed.

I'd like an eye for an eye give Bogo a real reason to fear me I can return the favour Now hold still Just using your teeth why bother being anything else?

"It was... very strongly implied!"

"I'm sure." Bogo turned to the cheetah gently vibrating beside him. "Clawhauser?"

"Sir?"

"Escort her outside, would you? She seems shaken, so... make sure she's never left alone."

"Sir!"

Penelope's eyebrow twitched. "Wait. No. It's fine. You don't need to take a statement or anything I'd really rather– no, put me down you son of a–!"

Clawhauser tightly locked his paw around the jar's opening, muffling Penelope's voice. He gave Nick and Judy a sheepish grin. "I'll, uh – see you soon!" He returned their warm smiles and hurried off.

"Don't worry," said Bogo. "We'll be using the tightest possible security when transporting and containing Miss Earhart."

"That's good to hear, Chief, she's–" Judy blinked, cutting herself off. "Wait. You know her?"

"Yes," he said. "Cooper told me."

Nick and Judy shared a look. Getting the evidence was their job; Sly was never supposed to reveal that much to Bogo. They had the same expression in their eyes, the same question.

What happened?

Bogo's voice caught their attention. "Don't worry. He's already confessed to everything."


Sly lay in the hospital bed, breathing steady. Carmelita sat right next to him, slightly too close than was professional. All he wanted was to hold her hand; and from how the fire in her eyes had subsided to a gentle warmth, it seemed like she wanted that too.

Unfortunately, the two dozen other cops squeezed into his room sort of killed the vibe. Sly might've tried it anyway, if one of those cops wasn't Chief Bogo.

Sly met his gaze. His voice was weaker, hoarser, but he kept it steady. "First thing's first, big guy. I'm thinking I won't press charges over how you punched me in half."

"I," said Bogo carefully, "did not know the extent of your pre-existing injuries, and would have exercised due caution if I had. Obviously."

"Obviously," echoed Sly. "But you still punched me in half. That's not gonna look good if I make a fuss." His grin was woozy but triumphant. "So I won't. If you hear me out."

Carmelita caught his eye. Was this accidental? said her eyebrow. Or did you plan on maiming yourself?

I don't know which option is less dumb, replied his quiet smirk, so I'll let you decide.

He turned back to Bogo. "I will fully surrender on two conditions."

Bogo's eyes narrowed. "You are handcuffed to a hospital bed, awaiting a worryingly large blood transfusion."

"Ugh. Fine. I will promise not to break out again on two conditions."

"Chief, can't we table this discussion?" said Carmelita. "He needs rest."

Sly raised a hand. His handcuffs jingled softly. "No, this is urgent. You accept my surrender, the game ends. The game ends, I tell you where Nick and Judy are."

That got their attention. A ripple went through the ZPD officers. Bogo leaned down, one hoof on the bed railings. "Talk."

"First: no criminal charges against Nick or Judy. They're blameless." He glared. "I'm serious!"

"Your confession would prove their innocence," said Bogo. "The professional punishment, if any, is up to Internal Affairs. But they wouldn't face legal action."

"Good. Second: when I go to jail – and will I ever – I want to be in the same facility as Penelope."

Bogo frowned, but thoughtfully. "That... may be hard to arrange. There'll be resistance to imprisoning you with a former member of your Gang."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought my psychological profile was well-documented."

With effort, Sly leaned up. Teeth gritted against the pain.

"Penelope has already escaped at least one maximum-security prison. I'm offering to help keep her in."


Nick and Judy stared, unsure of what to say.

"I can see you're tired," said Bogo. "You two have gone through quite the ordeal. But we can straighten all this out..." He smiled. It seemed shy. "If you'd follow me?"

Judy turned to Nick. Her eyes softened and she gave him a little smile. They had made it.

Nick returned it, then nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, we're... ready to come home. Sir."

"Glad to hear it."

Bogo guided them out of the asylum, walking just behind them. It felt dreamlike to Nick as they cleared the dark hallways and emerged out into the courtyard. The darkening sky was lit by dozens of quiet sirens, red and blue stretching out ahead of them. And their colleagues, watching. Relieved.

"Chief?"

Nick craned his neck, green eyes tired but warm.

"I'd like to cash in some vacation days now. Please."

Bogo chuckled. "Fine with me."

Moments later, they were being guided into a cruiser. A long night awaited them, but not an unpleasant one. The danger was behind them. Ahead, their normal lives.

Dusk in Zootopia.