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Bun and the Frog

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Chapter 1: That Restaurant

A beautiful and impressive white mansion stood out against the inky night sky. Inside, a sweet older gray bunny was working on a light pink bow to attach to a dress. Her sweet and matronly voice could be heard telling a story to a darling pair of kits: a gray bunny and an Arctic shrew.

"Just at that moment, the ugly little frog looked up with his sad round eyes and pleaded: 'Oh please, dear princess, only a kiss from you can break this terrible spell that was inflicted on me by a wicked witch.'"

The tiny shrew whispered delightedly to the bunny kit, "Here comes my favorite part."

The older bunny tied the pink ribbon together around the mannequin she was using and continued, "And the beautiful princess was so moved by his desperate plea that she stooped down, picked up the slippery creature, leaned forward, raised him to her lips, and kissed that little frog! Then the frog was transformed into a handsome prince. They were married and lived happily ever after. The end." She used some scissors to snap off the last remaining pieces of the pink ribbon.

The bunny kit gagged and made a disgusted sound while the tiny shrew, spread out on the floor, kicked up her feet delightedly as the story came to an end. "Yay!", squealed the tiny shrew, "Read it again, read it again!"

The older bunny smiled amusedly at the shrew and set her right side up, wrapping the bow around the precious pink dress she was wearing, "Sorry Fru-Fru, it's time for us to be heading home. Say goodnight Judith." Judith folded her arms defiantly, "There is no way in this whole wide world I would ever ever ever I mean never, kiss a frog. Yuck!"

Fru-Fru grinned slyly, "Is that so?," she shoved her plush frog in Judith's muzzle, "Here comes your prince charming Judy. Come on kiss him!!"

"No!"

"Kiss him!!"

"Stop it!"

"Kiss him kiss him kiss him!!!"

"I won't I won't I won't!"

"I would do it. I would kiss a frog! I would kiss about a hundred frogs if I could marry a prince and be a princess." The shrew sighed dreamily and repeatedly kissed her plush frog, sputtering when all she got was a mouthful of green fuzz, which made Judy laugh.

The older bunny chuckled and said with a grin, "You won't have to worry about that girls. There hasn't been a frog sighting in centuries."

Judith smiled in relief while Fru-Fru replied, "Yes, but if I did see a frog, I would definitely kiss it, even if it didn't ask me! So then I could be a princess!"

Both bunnies chuckled at this.

"Evening Bonnie!" Another Arctic shrew, Mr. Big, came through the door on the paws of a massive polar bear. This shrew, being the father of Fru-Fru Big, adored his daughter and spoiled her, drenching her in lavish gifts. This was made evident by the toys scattered around the pale pink, decorative room.

Fru-Fru scurried over to her father and twirled to show off her new dress, "Daddy! Daddy! Look at my new dress, isn't it pretty?"

"Haha, look at you! Well, I'd expect nothing less from the finest seamstress in New Orleans!"

The book that the older bunny had been reading from was left open to the drawing of the beautiful princess, wearing an equally gorgeous dress. The dress caught Fru-Fru's eyes and she exclaimed, "Ooh I want that one!"

Her father shook his head, "Ah ah, you have many gorgeous dresses already."

"I want that one, please please please!"

He never could say no to her pleading.

"Bonnie, you suppose you could whip something up like that?"

Bonnie smiled, "Anything for my favorite customer." She gestured to the cluster of dresses on the side of the room, all atop tiny mannequins.

Fru threw her tiny paws in the air. "Yay!"

Bonnie turned to her daughter and held out her hand. "Come along Judy, your father should be home from work by now."

As they came out of the pink ruffled room, they could hear Mr. Big scolding his daughter.

"Princess, you're getting that dress and that's it. No more Mr. Pushover. Now, who wants a plushie?"

Fru-Fru grinned, "I do! I do! It's so cute!"

Judy and her mother walked out of the mansion paw in paw. Nights in the Bayou District were beautiful and New Orleans was no exception. As they walked to the bus stop, mammals who were waiting smiled and waved at them. While Savannah Central was known as the gorgeous big shot area in Sahara Square with thousands of sky-scrapers, New Orleans was known for its friendly locals, food, and lively music. The locals were indeed friendly and treated everyone the same.

Judy and her mother ascended the trolley and sat on a bench, Judy on her knees looking out the window in childlike wonder at the sights of New Orleans. She could never get tired of her beautiful hometown, and no matter how many times she saw it, it was breathtaking. The trolley continued until stopping at a small, intimate neighborhood called The Burrows. This was a place just for bunnies to have their warrens safely and peacefully, without disrupting other mammals' homes.

Judy hopped down the trolley while her mother waved goodbye to the driver and the mammals aboard. They walked into their burrow, fully prepared for what would happen next. They grabbed onto anything sturdy that they could find, closed the door, and waited for the kerfuffle of bunnies of all sizes to come cascading out from all directions.

"Judy's home!"

"And Mom!!"

"From the Big Mansion?" *snicker*

"Aw that's so old Vi"

"Shut it!"

Judy grinned at her siblings' antics. Her father, Stu, came along with the mob of bunnies and rushed to hug his wife and daughter. "Bonnie! Jude! How are you two? How are the Bigs? Did little Fru like her dress?"

Bonnie laughed, "We were only gone for a couple of hours everyone! But we are great and so are they!"

Judy spoke up, "And Fru-Fru loved her dress."

That got all the kits rolling again.

"How is Fru-Fru??"

"How is Mr. Big?"

"How is their BIG house??"

"Ugh, seriously Vi stop!"

"How does Fru's dress look like?"

This went on and on as Judy walked farther in the burrow with the rest of her siblings trailing behind and around her. Bonnie, Stu, and several older siblings entered the kitchen to start dinner. Bonnie stopped in front of the kitchen sink and turned to her husband, "Wait! Stu, go get Judy."

"On it!"

Her father popped in and out of rooms only to find Judy running out of a room far across from him, having heard her mother call for her.

"I'm here!"

Bonnie and Stu got out the prized family pot and laid it out on top of their table, starting the process of "Judy's Home Cooking." Judy's parents and her siblings filed out of the kitchen to give her space, finding a place to sit and watch her. She was extraordinarily gifted, but it was still important to keep an eye on her.

Judy stirred and mixed, gathering different ingredients around the kitchen until her gumbo reached perfection. She stirred in the last ingredient, wondering if she was missing something as her dad came with a spoon to check in on her. They all dubbed Stu Hopps as the official "taste-tester" of everyone's, not just Judy's, cooking. Somehow, he always knew when she was just about finished and came in at the right times.

"Mmm, gumbo smells good Jude."

"I think it's done, Daddy."

Stu looked at her skeptically, knowing that she wasn't really done. "Are you sure?"

"Mm-hmm."

"Absolutely positive?"

"Yes!"

He dipped the spoon in the soup and slowly started drawing it to his mouth. "Ookay I'm about to put the spoon in my—"

"Wait!!" She found the tabasco she was missing, poured some in the soup, and tasted it. She savored the taste, making sure it was to her satisfaction.

She nodded. "Done."

Stu tasted the soup and thought about the flavor, a serious look etched on his face.

Judy furrowed her brows. "What??"

"Well, sweetheart...this is the...best gumbo I've ever tasted!" He laughed and picked her up, making her laugh in turn as he tickled her. The rest of the family got a whiff of Judy's Gumbo and scrambled over to the kitchen.

"Yay! Judy's done!"

"I'm so hungry."

Stu looked over at his wife and exclaimed, "Bonnie, our little girl's got a gift!"

She grinned, "Mmm-hmm, I coulda told you that"

"A gift this special just gotta be shared!"

Judy shot out the front door. Her fellow neighbors were sitting on their lawns and porches, catching up with one another as she said, "Hey everybody, I made gumbo!"

All at once, her neighbors exploded into friendly exclamations.

"Wooo that smells good!"

"I got some sweet roasted carrots over here Judy! Here I come!"

All the neighbors all over the warren darted over to the Hopps' burrow to get Judy's homemade dinner, bringing in all types of food to eat alongside it. They all crowded together comfortably in front of the burrow for their impromptu reunion and ate. Judy looked around, a feeling of warmth rising in her chest as she saw how a little food brought her neighbors altogether. No scuffles, no hesitations, everyone sitting happily together as close as could be. Judy looked over to her parents, smiling when she saw them laughing about something and acting like kits in love. If this is what making food for the masses would do, she would gladly do it ten times over.

Eventually, everyone finished up their meals and relaxed on the grass, looking up at the bright stars in the night sky. As they started to notice that it was getting late, families hugged, said their goodbyes, and walked on home. When everybody was gone, Stu and Bonnie filed into their burrow and started the process of getting their kits ready for bed. The older siblings corralled the younger into the showers to get ready as they got ready at the same time.

"Move it!"

"Someone pass the toothpaste!"

"It's right next to you!"

"Ack! The shower's so cold!"

"Violet!!"

"Ehehe."

Thus was the nighttime process of the Hopps' family. Of course, the kits did not take hour-long showers, lest there be no hot water ever. There were just so many kits that inevitability, the last few kits would have freezing water, and the last kit with hot water was doomed to be chastised by the next in line to shower for using up the hot water.

Once they all had showered and readied themselves for bed, they all gathered in the grand living room in the center of the Hopps household to pray together before bed. It worked best this way instead of having Stu and Bonnie pop into every room to pray with the kits. As was the norm after they said their prayers, a few kits would get to talking about the day, and an uninvited, but lengthy discussion would emerge. Today, however, Stu was the one to comment on the day, hoping that he could wrap it up quickly to get some sleep. He ended up making a surprisingly profound statement, which in turn had a profound impact on one kit in particular.

"You were all good today kits, and thank you Jude for that delicious gumbo!"

"Yeah, that was pretty good."

"Judy always makes good things though."

Judy smiled at her siblings. "Thanks!"

Her father looked around and said, "Wanna know something kits? The thing about good food, it brings folks together from all walks of life. It warms them right up, and it puts little smiles on their faces."

Judy nodded thoughtfully, as she had just been having these same musings.

Stu became more animated and enthusiastic as he pulled out a paper with the silhouette of a restaurant and said the next part, "And when I open up my own restaurant, I tell you, people are going to line up for miles around just to get a taste of my food."

Judy piped up, “Our food,” she said cheerfully.

Stu laughed, “That’s right Jude, our food.” As he said this, he found a pen, wrote Judy’s Place on the silhouette of the restaurant, and gifted her with the piece of paper. “And don’t you forget it.”

Judy smiled and looked at the paper reverently with slight awe. Bonnie looked over at their mantle clock said, “Okay kits, time for bed!”

Stu and Bonnie started hugging the kits around Judy before going to hug her. Just then, Judy saw the brightest star she had ever seen. Her eyes widened and she gasped as she pointed it out. “Look!” Everyone turned to the window and oohed and ahhed at the sight.

Judy turned to her siblings and said, “Fru-Fru’s fairytale book said that if you make a wish on the Evening Star, it’s sure to come true!” Her parents came closer to her and hugged her. Bonnie chuckled and replied, ”Well, you wish on that star sweetheart.”

Her father nodded, “Yes, you wish and dream with all your little heart. But you remember, Judy, that old star can only take you part of the way. You got to help it along with some hard work of your own. Then, yeah, you can do anything you put your mind to. Just promise your daddy one thing. That you’ll never, ever lose sight of what’s really important. Okay?”

Little Judy had a serious look on her face and slowly nodded. Stu and Bonnie smiled at each other and made their way around the room, hugging all their kits before saying, “Okay kits, scatter, follow your older siblings to your rooms let’s go!”

“Bye!”

"Goodnight!”

“See y’all in the morning!”

Judy followed her litter into their room. She hopped on the top of the shared bunk bed and took out the paper with the silhouette of a restaurant. She looked at it, really looked at it, and had an idea. She walked over to the window and looked right up at the star. Her siblings were naturally very curious as to what she was doing and spoke amongst themselves.

“What is Judy doing?”

“Gonna look at the star again I suppose.”

"It’s just a star… isn’t it?”

“I guess”

Judy paid no heed to her siblings and closed her eyes as she held the paper close to her heart. If Fru could do it, and she said it worked, why would it not work for me, she thought. She spoke in a hushed voice, “Please please please.”

A few siblings rolled their eyes from behind Judy but most did not care. Judy stayed still, an epitome of tranquility until a certain something disrupted that. A small green frog sat like a lump by her windowsill. They locked eyes, unmoving until he let out a deep croak.

Judy screamed and fled from the room, locking herself in the bathroom where she decided she would stay for a nice long while. At once her siblings broke into peals of laughter. Some wiped tears from their eyes as they grinned at each other.

“Woo! That was funny”

"I thought frogs were extinct or something?"

"Ehh I think people just haven't seen them in forever, don't remember, but that was hilarious."

“Oh yeah, I don’t know about you guys, but I am looking forward to springing this on her in the morning.”

“Haha, count me in!” “Me too!” “Let’s get some sleep now so morning can come faster!”

“Good night!”

“G’night!”

“Night!”

As the years went by, the Hopps family went through plenty of ups and downs but stayed strong throughout. As they always said, "We have each other and our Lord, we'll be just fine." This was very true, although the outlook of their financial situation was not looking very good. They had a very small farm with very small production and that year was not shaping out to be a fruitful one. In fact, this was one of the worst they have had in years, and with saving for their future restaurant, it had gotten to an all-time low.

They sold things they didn't need which seemed to calm things down a bit, but not forever. Everyone's (with the exception of Stu and Judy's) spirits seemed to be slipping. Stu still had ideas and put each one to use, but they all had little or no impact. No one but Bonnie could tell how this wore out Stu and she continuously told him to take out the restaurant funds and stop exhausting himself, but he wouldn't. She said he would break at the last straw, he said he wouldn't.

Until he did.

Stu tried to strike up several deals with several businesspeople, explaining his situation. He said he would give them a certain number of shares, among other things, if they would help him start his restaurant and save their farm. He finally found one who agreed to their terms and they spent days fixing up their farm, which paid off well. What Stu did not consider was the trustworthiness of the businessman, or rather lack of. He asked Stu for his restaurant savings so he could "invest and try to start up your restaurant." Stu didn't think anything of it and was relieved that he found a businessman such as this one who knew his stuff.

Days passed before he got any news of the businessman, until one day he got word of a snake oil salesman that traveled around stealing money from poor and unsuspecting mammals. He had apparently left the area days ago after cheating someone out of a chunk of money. The name and species of this snake oil salesman were the same as the "businessman" whose services Stu had called on.

The Hopps' family was devastated, but none more than Stu. He felt awful for being so naive and more so for not listening to Bonnie, though she didn't hold it against him. From this day on, Stu Hopps was never the same. He was, of course, a great father and husband, but didn't have that same determination and was deathly afraid and cautious of any sort of opportunities that could arise. His motto went from "Try Everything" to "If You Don't Try Anything New You'll Never Fail." In other words, that part of his personality had changed forever.

As he looked for better (and safer) ways to aid his family, Zootopia was looking for people to serve in the ongoing War. It was made clear that the drafts were to be put in action, every male that was of age would be forced to serve. This included Stu. In two days, he would be at his stationed military base.

The Hopps' family stayed strong throughout all of this and put on a brave front. Bonnie was determined to find jobs for herself while Stu was serving. The money Stu would get would help, but not by much. The older kits were to take care of their younger siblings. If they were able to have jobs, a few would. Many needed to stay with the kits.

The day of Stu's leaving quickly came and they all gathered at the train station and said their goodbyes. Stu came to each one of his kits and comforted them before leaving. Judy wore a brave look on her face, not wanting to cry and make her younger siblings cry in turn. Stu hugged his daughter and blinked tears away. His throat constricted. He looked at her, "Take care of your mother alright? Don't forget everything I've taught you. Trust in the Lord. Be safe and cautious. I love you Jude."

She squeezed her eyes shut, "I know. I love you too Daddy."

The train rumbled closer as it steadily came to a stop and Stu slowly walked away. His eyes moistened as he looked at his family around him. He swallowed a lump in his throat. Tears blurred his vision, making it hard to see as he shakily waved to his family before getting on the train with his fellow draftees. Thousands of wives, mothers, and sisters waved to the departing train. One newlywed ran alongside the train while crying out, "Goodbye! I love you!"

Judy watched with blurry vision as the train became nothing more than a speck in the distance. All the siblings looked at each other with teary eyes, some with straight, serious faces, some with tears and snot dripping down their muzzles, no qualms about breaking down in front of everybody. After a little while, Bonnie wiped tears from her eyes and straightened, "Okay everyone, no use standing here like bumps on a log, we are going to go and make ourselves useful. We will not have a pity party here while your father is out there fighting for Zootopia. Let's go!"

True to her word, Bonnie found a job in a factory and worked long hours to make ends meet. So did Judy's older siblings. The ones that stayed with the kits homeschooled them and made sure they did their chores correctly.

Many of Judy's siblings had grown into the mindset where they were also afraid to try new things, but thankfully, Judy remembered what her father had taught her. She remembered what he taught her before everything had gone downhill.

But you remember, Judy, that old star can only take you part of the way. You got to help it along with some hard work of your own. Then, yeah, you can do anything you put your mind to. Just promise your daddy one thing. That you’ll never, ever lose sight of what’s really important. Okay?

She would stick to that. The mantra of "Try Everything," would become hers. She would live her father's dream and she would own a restaurant. None of her siblings wanted to, but she did, and she must. She would!

She will.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: New Arrivals

10 years later

An attractive, but weary-looking, gray bunny opened the door to her compact little bungalow. She laid her back on said door to rest for a spell and sighed in fatigue. She stretched her arms and let out a huge yawn while she got up and walked over to her dresser. As she took out her night's worth of tips from her white apron, she spoke to herself.

"Well, Miss Judy, rough night for tips but every little penny counts."

She dropped the money in her drawer, where her large collection of saved cash was stashed. A photograph of an older male bunny in a soldier outfit smiled at her from atop her dresser. She smiled wistfully at it and said, "Don't you worry Daddy. We'll be there soon."

She hung up her apron and staggered to her bed, collapsing in exhaustion. Not a minute later, her shrill alarm screamed from her small coffee table near her bed. Her foot swiftly put an end to it and she begrudgingly got off her bed. After quickly showering and getting into her yellow work dress, she pulled off a green coat from the hanger rack and threw it on. With newfound energy, she burst out of her home with determination and ran to the bus stop. As the trolley was still in motion, she jumped onto the bus and grabbed onto the pole, laughing in exhilaration. Judy spent the duration of her ride enthusiastically reading her cookery magazine.

Eventually, the ride came to a stop. Judy hopped off the bus and straightened her coat as she prepared to walk the musical streets of New Orleans. A line of mammals dancing down the street interrupted her walk as they pulled her into their dance. She stiffened as a bear took her by the paws and twirled her around. Struggling to get out of his grip, Judy managed to free herself from the dancing line of mammals, briskly walking for the remainder of her journey.

Finally making it into her second job, Jumbeaux's Café, she clocked in and got right to work, grabbing orders and serving them tout suite. Being the expert she was, it was almost mesmerizing to watch her deliver orders at a smooth and quick pace. It was a dance she enjoyed, well-rehearsed from years of practice. Many customers requested Judy's trademark beignets, and she happily complied, dancing to the music in the café as she poured honey on the fluffy desserts and powdered them. Even the sternest of mammals would feel pure joy at the delicious taste of those beignets. As Judy walked to and fro, she chatted with the many usual customers about the gossip circling their friendly town.

"Hey, Judy! Heard about that new prince coming to town?"

"Yes I did, I'm sure everyone's heard of him by now! He has everyone in a tizzy, making preparations for his arrival and such."

"And for good reason too! From what I hear he's very handsome. I can't wait to meet him!"

Another customer piped up, "Oh my goodness, same here!"

Judy shook her head and chuckled as the regulars chattered on about the prince's arrival.

Meanwhile, a ways past the café, a large ship anchored at the docks of New Orleans and crowds of citizens and reporters prepared to flock to the passengers of the ship. As the doors of the ship opened, a young, suave-looking fox sauntered out with his butler trailing behind him, carrying luggage on his back. A loud cheer came up from the crowd as the fox grinned at the crowd, grabbing his ukulele and dancing down the steps of the ship.

A trio of vixens swooned as he joined them, playing his ukulele and winking. His eyes wandered over to the streets and his expression brightened as he saw a dancing line of mammals playing music and parading down the street. He danced towards them, raising an eyebrow roguishly at the vixens, silently luring them with his charms. They all rushed after him, tripping on each other in the process. The fox's butler, a scrawny weasel, hurried to catch up with him until finally collapsing under the weight of the luggage, as he fell down the stairs of the ship.

The fox prince managed to lose the vixens as he followed the music and continued to dance down the street. As he paraded down, he saw a small, tan-colored restaurant called Jumbeaux's Café. A lovely gray bunny waitress cleaning the tables outside caught his eye as he passed by. He danced over to her, winking flirtatiously as he played his ukulele. The bunny, however, was immune to his charms, rolling her eyes and scoffing at him. He grinned and shrugged, continuing his dance down the street.

The bunny finished cleaning and grabbed her pot of coffee, on her way to the kitchen counter where the latest order was waiting.

"Another coffee here Jude!"

She twirled around to her customer, "Coming right up!" She poured the coffee in his mug and continued walking until a voice rang out from the sounds of pots and pans and cheerful banter.

"Hey, Judy!" A slender black sheep, clad in purple, called her from a table full of mammals.

"Morning Sharla!"

Another mammal chimed in, "Hey girl!"

"Hey, y'all!"

Sharla gestured to the rest of the mammals, "We're all going dancing tonight! Care to join us?"

"Yeah, come on Judy. Live a little!"

"Come on Judy!"

"You can dance with me!"

"It's Mardi Gras!"

Judy shook her head and spoke as she delivered food to different customers, "You know I have two left feet. Besides I'm" —she handed a kit some napkins— "I'm going to work a double shift tonight. Here are your hotcakes! You know so I can—"

"So you can save for your restaurant. I know, I know. Girl! All you ever do is work!"

The cook shouted from the counter, "Order up!"

Judy shrugged apologetically, "Maybe next time."

As she walked towards the counter, she could hear a doe whispering, "I told y'all she wouldn't come."

Judy's ears drooped a bit at this. Maybe I should've said yes. Then I cou—

"You still talkin' about that dang restaurant?"

The cook, a small, tan-colored fennec fox interrupted her internal thoughts.

Judy responded nonchalantly, "Finnick, your eggs are burning."

He quickly took out the eggs and threw them haphazardly on the plate. "You ain't never gonna get enough for the down payment!"

"I'm getting close!"

"Yeah? How close?"

Judy dodged his question, refusing to disclose such personal information, "Where are my flapjacks?"

Finnick roared with laughter. "You've got as much chance of getting that restaurant as I do makin' it into the ZBA!" He mimed shooting a basketball into a hoop. Judy walked away with another plate, shaking her head at the cook. She turned her head as a small-sounding doorbell chimed. The tiny door reserved for smaller mammals opened and in came a small male Arctic shrew. He strolled to the side specially designed for smaller mammals.

She grinned, "Morning Mr. Big."

The shrew grinned back, "Good morning Judy!"

"Congratulations on being voted king of Mardi Gras parade!"

The shrew nodded, "Caught me completely by surprise, for the fifth year in a row!" He rubbed his hands together, "Now how about I celebrate with—"

"Beignets?" said Judy as she set the beignets on a platter in front of him, "Got a fresh batch just waiting for you!"

"Well, keep them coming until I pass out!"

The same doorbell chimed again, and a female Arctic shrew burst in. She rushed over to hug Judy’s ankles. “Oh, Judy! Judy, Judy, Judy, did you hear the news?”

“Hey, Fru-Fru!”

Fru-Fru rushed over to her father and sat at his table, "Tell her! Oh, tell her Daddy!"

Mr. Big turned his newspaper over to the front page so Judy could see the picture of a grinning fox, "Oh yes, Prince Nicholas—"

Fru-Fru plucked the newspaper from her father's grasp and squealed, "Prince Nicholas of Zootopia is coming to New Orleans! Oh my goodness is he foxy or what! Tell her what you did Big Daddy, tell her!"

Mr. Big smiled calmly, "Well, I invited—"

"Daddy invited the prince to our masquerade ball tonight! Tell her what else you did Big Daddy."

Mr. Big looked hesitantly at his daughter, knowing she would interrupt yet again.

Fru-Fru made a go-ahead motion with her paws, "Go on."

He raised his eyebrows slightly as he said cautiously, "And he's staying—"

"And he's staying—"

He stuffed a beignet in Fru-Fru's mouth before she managed to interrupt him again, "And he's staying in my house as my personal guest."

"Mmm-hmm!" Fru-Fru chewed her beignet with some difficulty as she nodded.

Judy bit her lip to refrain from laughing at the scene that had just played out. She piled up another tiny plate with beignets and said, "Oh Fru that's swell! A little word of advice, my mama always said 'The quickest way to a male's heart, is through his stomach.'" She set the plate down in front of Mr. Big as he chuckled.

Fru's eyes widened at this piece of news, "THAT’S IT!" She dashed out of the table, leaving the chair spinning.

"You're a genius, Judy! I'm going to need about five hundred of your mammal-catching beignets for my ball tonight." Fru went over to her father and fished out his wallet, "Excuse me, Daddy."

She motioned for Judy to bend down and put a bundle of hard cash into her open paws. Judy gaped at the amount she gave her.

"Will that about cover it?"

"Th-This should cover it just fine Fru. This is it! I'm getting my restaurant!"

"Woo-hoo!"

Finnick, who had been eavesdropping the whole time, now stood slack-jawed, unable to believe what had just transpired. The pancake on his spatula fell to the floor with a splat.

Fru-Fru pushed her father towards the door, telling him that it was time to fix up the mansion to prepare for the prince's arrival. The door closed with a slam as the doorbell jingled a bit. Several diners had looked up from their meals at the dizzying exit of the Bigs. One diner, in particular, took an unusual interest in the scene that had just played out.

A small, white ewe sat in a dim corner at the back of the restaurant. She made a "hmm" sound as she peered over her menu at the door that had just slammed. She smirked and put her menu down, casually strolling out of the restaurant. In direct hit of the sunlight, she walked, smiling and waving at different mammals that she passed by. She had such a friendly exterior, that no one would have guessed she was secretly harboring bitter feelings towards anyone. They would be wrong.

Dawn Bellwether hated predators. She absolutely despised them. The way they were so strong, overpowering, how they commanded attention in every room. It was nauseating. Mammals couldn't see them for what they really were. Savages. She shook her head slightly as she walked, trying to clear her mind. No, she had a plan. A plan that thanks to news of this foxy prince, would be put in motion. Again.

She arrived at a small building called "Bellwether's Emporium." She opened the door and walked in, the painfully loud hinges announcing her presence. The few mammals shopping waved at her as she passed by. She waved back but never stopped, booking it to her tiny office. Dawn clicked on the button controlling the PA system and spoke, "Attention employees! Please file in to the staffroom for an emergency meeting. No exceptions, you must all attend." Her voice echoed throughout the small building and she smirked. She had always liked the echo, it made her feel powerful. She walked into the staffroom, and her feeling of power dissipated. Three employees were waiting for her. Only three. Sheep.

Well, she thought, no one wants to work for a tiny ewe. Let's see if they still feel the same way after our little plan comes through.

She looked around the room and clasped her hands together, "So! I'm assuming we all know why we're gathered here today."

Woolter and Jesse, two of her employees, stared dumbly at her, as Doug, her third employee nodded seriously.

She sighed and her shoulders drooped. Walking over to the front of the room, she swiveled the mobile whiteboard to the back of it, displaying a complex-looking "battle plan". She looked to the board and said, "This is why. We are here to finally put our plan into action!"

"Ay, not again."

Dawn whirled around to the sound of the voice, "Jesse? What was that?"

Jesse rubbed his face with his hooves and sighed in annoyance. "It's the same old thing every time. You want us to carry out this plan, but retract because it isn't the right time."

Woolter spoke up, "Yeah, why should this time be any different?"

Dawn nodded. "Yes, I agree, I have done this quite a bit. However, I have perfectly good reasons for that, starting with the fact that some of the times I 'retracted' from the plan, was because you three had not worked out all the kinks in the serum. Am I right?"

The three rams seemed to shrink slightly under her hard gaze, as her voice had gotten more venomous as she spoke. They nodded.

Dawn rolled her eyes. "Anyway, the fact is that right at this moment, the Prince of Zootopia is making his way through the streets of New Orleans."

"Yet another reason to postpone our plan."

She narrowed her eyes at Jesse. "Actually, it is quite the contrary. The prince is a fox, as we know, and an important one at that."

He shrugged, "So?"

"We canuse him."

Woolter's eyes widened, "Surely you don't mean..."

Dawn smiled. "Yes, yes I do. You're catching on! Finally!"

Doug decided to join in here, "Wouldn't that, you know, not work? You said yourself, he's an important mammal. Wouldn't that just hinder the plan?"

She shook her head and tsked, "Doug, Doug, Doug. All of you for that matter. Do you guys not understand? He is an important mammal. A predator. If he, who is an important predator—a fox no less— if he can go savage, any pred could. Predators will be looked down upon and treated differently on the whole. Seen for the savages they are."

All three ram's eyes widened in realization.

"Ohhhh."

"That makes a lot of sense."

"That's very smart."

Dawn relished the praise. "Yes, yes I know. We need to test the serum on some predators though. Just to make sure it will work correctly for the main event."

Doug nodded, "Alright. The boys and I are going to go make sure the serum is up to par. Finishing touches and all that."

"You do that." Dawn clapped her hands smartly, "You all are dismissed! Bye you guys, have fun!"

Doug rolled his eyes as the three left the staffroom. Sometimes, he liked the venomous, callous side of her much better than her overly peppy persona.

Dawn stayed behind in the staffroom for a spell, to think to herself. She grinned maliciously.

Finally, she thought, those preds will get what's coming to them.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: Almost There

"See you tomorrow Finnick!"

Finnick, with his back turned, waved his spatula at her. “See ya, Jude."

Judy grabbed her coat and stepped out into the cool afternoon air. She shut the door soundly, relieved that her shift was over so early. Seeing as it was a breakfast-only café, they closed around noon. She enjoyed her job and loved to mingle with the diners, but today she was more than anxious to clock out. A giddy feeling rose in her chest, as she thought of the amount of money Fru-Fru gave her. Her eyes sparkled as she practically danced down the street. Her feet seemed to move of their own accord as she hummed to a tune all her own. Judy knew where she was going. She went there every day after all.

In a few minutes, she was standing in front of an old-looking, yellow sugar mill. The paint was severely chipped, and pieces of wood were scattered around the front. To any passerby, it would have looked like a poorly kept, gloomy mess of a building. To Judy, however, it was the most beautiful thing she had ever laid eyes on. She gazed at the building until a slight cough caught her attention.

"Ms. Hopps?"

She whipped her head around. A kudu and oryx pair stood near the "For Sale" sign next to the sugar mill. Judy, in her dizzy state of happiness, had nearly forgotten the brief call she gave to the Oryx-Antlerson Realty, alerting them of her new financial development.

"Oh! Yes, that's me. Judy Hopps."

The kudu replied, "Great, we've just come to remove the for sale sign."

The oryx added, "Yeah, seeing as it isn't for sale anymore."

Judy grinned, "Thank you! When will I be able to sign the contracts? I'd like to have everything in writing and documented as soon as possible if you don't mind."

"Later today?"

"Tomorrow?"

The kudu and oryx looked at each other and narrowed their eyes, on their way to a heated argument on when to deliver the paperwork to Judy.

Judy sensed the tension rising and quickly put a stop to it, having seen the two argue before.

"Wait, I'll do you one better, why don't I sign them tonight when I see you two at the Big's masquerade ball?"

The two realtors looked at each other.

The kudu spoke first, "Yeah, that seems pretty reasonable. What do you think, Bucky?"

"I think you drive a hard bargain, bunny. Alright, we'll deliver the paperwork at the masquerade ball. Let's go, Pronk. See ya later, bunny!"

Pronk and Bucky sped away in their small black buggy as Judy waved goodbye. She grinned at the departing buggy as it drove off into the distance. They were right, she did drive hard bargains. It's how she was wired. Without such determination, she might have not gotten to this pivotal moment in her life.

"Table for one, please?"

Judy spun around to see an older grey bunny holding a large beat-up pot. The older bunny looked slightly out of breath from walking all the way to the sugar mill.

Judy put her paw to her chest, "Mama?"

Bonnie Hopps tenderly smiled at the most optimistic and independent daughter she ever had. "Here's a little something to help you get started."

She held up the pot as Judy put her paws on either side of it.

Judy's eyes started to water. "It's...Daddy's old gumbo pot." Judy and her mother hugged each other comfortingly.

"I know sweetie, I miss him too. Well now, why don't we hurry up and open the door to your restaurant?"

Judy wiped her eyes quickly and smiled softly, letting go of her mother to open the door. She threw open the door and walked in, her eyes jumping from left to right and her ears standing tall.

She spun around, grinning wildly. "Just look at this Mama, doesn't it make you want to cry?" Her voice echoed through the building.

Bonnie took in the dusty cobwebs and pieces of wood scattered around the room. She glanced uncertainly at Judy. "Yes..."

Judy's body was nearly vibrating with energy, and her eyes shined with enthusiasm as she went on, "The maitre'd is going to be right where you're standing. Oh! And over here, a gourmet kitchen! And hanging from the ceiling, a big ol' crystal chandelier!"

Bonnie chuckled and shook her head at her spirited daughter. "You're your daddy's daughter alright! When he was set on owning a restaurant, he would go on and on about this old sugar mill too. Bun-Bun, I'm sure this place is going to be just wonderful, but you're working yourself to death. You need to take a break Judy!

Judy had taken up a broom while her mother was speaking and stopped sweeping to respond.

"How can I let up now when I'm so close? I have to make sure all Dad's hard work means something."

Bonnie set down the slightly rusted pot on a stool with an angry thump. Judy winced.

"Judith! Your Daddy may not have gotten what he wanted, but he had something better. He had love. And that's all I want for you, sweetie. To find your Prince Charming, and dance off to your happily ever after."

Judy rolled her eyes at the implication of a husband. Bonnie took away her broom and raised an eyebrow, proving her point as she gestured to the broom. Judy put her paw to her chin, thinking of a way to make her see reason. Her eyes brightened as she had an idea.

I know what to do. She always did like musicals.

Judy looked at her mother and grinned, shaking her head.

Mama, I don't have time for dancing!

That's just gonna have to wait a while

Bonnie shook her head and chuckled. "How long are we talking about here?"

Judy ignored her mother and smiled slyly, pushing her to a seat at an empty table near a window.

I don’t have time for messing around

And it's not my style

Bonnie had a playfully annoyed look on her face as she put her paws to her hips. "I want some grandkits!"

Judy pushed up the curtains on the window and dusted a bit as she sang.

This old town can slow you down

Mammals taking the easy way

Judy placed her father's revered "Judy's Place" restaurant paper in her mother's paws. She wrapped her arms around her as she sang.

But I know exactly where I'm going

I'm getting closer and closer every day

Judy stood up and gestured around her future restaurant.

And I'm almost there

I'm almost there

Mammals down here think I'm crazy

But I don't care

Trials and tribulations

I've had my share

But there is nothing to stop me now

'Cause I'm almost there

Judy took the broom and began dusting the windows as she sang.

I remember Daddy would tell me

'Fairytales can come true

You gotta make them happen

It all depends on you'

So I work real hard each and every day

Now things for sure are going my way  

She swept the floors with flourish, spinning as she sang.

Just doin' what I do

Look out boys I'm coming through!

And I'm almost there 

I'm almost there 

Mammals are gonna come here from everywhere

And I'm almost there 

I'm almost there!

She slid from one side of the large building to another, spinning her broom around enthusiastically. Her mother continued to watch with shining eyes and a sweet smile. Judy slowly came to a stop and turned to her mother. She slowly strolled up to her mother with a tender look. She hugged her mother tightly as she sang softly.

There's been trials and tribulations

You know we've had our share 

Judy and her mother looked at each other, with a slightly sad smile as they thought about their past tribulations. Judy pulled her mother off the chair and softly spun her mother around. Bonnie's eyes brightened and she grinned as she realized Judy was bringing her into her musical dance.

But we've 

Climbed a mountain

And crossed a river

And we’re almost there

We’re almost there

I'm almost!

There!

Judy handed her mother a spare broom and they both spun around as they swept. Together, they brought down random shutter pieces on the windows left up from past hurricanes. They continued to dance together as they quickly cleaned Judy's future restaurant. Bonnie threw stray pieces of trash into a small bin as Judy dusted the cobwebs. As they finished their rapid, momentary cleaning of the old building, Judy grabbed her father's old pot and linked her arm through her mother's. They happily skipped out, shutting the door together with cheerful vigor.

As they walked away from the sugar mill, Bonnie turned her head to glance at it. It might have been her imagination, but it didn't look half as dreary as it did when she first saw it. She turned to look at Judy, who was humming to her song she spontaneously sang moments before. Judy's eyes sparked with energy as she took in the town before them. Bonnie smiled as she observed her stubborn, vivacious daughter.

Judy was right. That old mill has something special about it. All it needs is some love, love that Judy is determined to give. I only hope she finds love in return.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: Midnight Howl

A scrawny weasel perspired out of exhaustion as he heaved luggage on his back. He gasped for air as he staggered on the sidewalk. Mammals offered him help but he pushed past and ignored them, adamant about continuing his search. His eyes wandered from left to right, fervently hoping to find his objective.

He sighed and slouched down on a bench, catching his breath as he wondered what to do. Suddenly, his ear quirked slightly to the right. He listened intently and could make out the sound of lively music being played. He grabbed the luggage and tottered over to the sound. The music became clearer and louder as he got closer.

He came into the view of a small group of mammals clapping to the rhythm of music pouring out of the crowd and laughing. The weasel ran towards the group of mammals as fast as he was able. He poked his head in the crowd to catch sight of what they were gathered around. A handsome tod was dancing with a ukulele as a small fox kit danced beside him.

The tod grinned as the kit spontaneously did a split in the air. He let the kit have the spotlight, which he took full advantage of by doing a mini breakdance.

The tod grinned. "Whoa! Yes!"

The weasel looked at the tod and did a double-take. He squeezed into the crowd and stumbled towards the fox. Wheezing, he spoke, "Sire! I've been looking everywhere for you!"

The tod winked and tipped his hat. "What a coincidence, Duke! I have been avoiding you everywhere."

Duke looked around nervously. "Nicholas, we're going to be late for the masquerade."

Nicholas shushed him. "Listen, Duke, listen!"

The bright and rich tone of the tubas, clarinets, and trumpets rang out from the chatter and laughter of the crowd.

Nicholas grinned delightedly. "It's jazz! Jazz music! It was born here!"

He nonchalantly rested an arm on Duke's head as he winked at a few vixens nearby. "It is beautiful, no?" The vixens glanced at each other and giggled.

Duke rolled his eyes and pushed Nicholas off him. He threw the luggage on the floor and threw his paws up in exasperation. "We are supposed to be at the Bigs estate by now!"

Nicholas waved him off. "Yes, yes, yes, but first, I will buy everyone here a drink!"

The crowd cheered as Duke's eyes widened. He gaped at Nicholas. "With what, Nick? At this point, you have two choices. Woo and marry a rich young lady or get a job!"

Nicholas grimaced in disgust as he thought of all the labor that a job entailed. He rolled his eyes. "Alright. Fine...but first we dance!"

Duke's eyes widened. "Wait! No! Stop!"

Nicholas grabbed Duke by the paws and spun him around, but Duke, being a very uncoordinated weasel, accidentally tripped and fell directly into the bell of the tuba.

Nicholas burst out into laughter and walked over to the tuba. He started speaking into the mouthpiece. "It's perfect! You finally got into the music! Do you get my joke? Because your body is...it's in the tuba."

"Get me out!"

"Alright, alright, hold still."

Nicholas and the tuba player both held the tuba and shook it until the scrawny weasel fell out. He stood up and stomped out angrily. Nicholas followed him, laughing all the way. Duke shook his head. "I've never been so humiliated I—"

Duke crashed into Nicholas' back as he stopped suddenly. In front of the fox was a small ewe. She stared unnervingly at them until she grinned and giggled.

"Gentlemen, what a surprise! Welcome! How are y'all doing?"

Nicholas tilted his head. "Ah, good? Who—"

"Bellwether! Dawn Bellwether! I'm the owner of the little store you are currently near."

Duke and Nicholas looked up to see a small building with a dusty sign that read, "Bellwether's Emporium."

Dawn smiled. "Beautiful, isn't she?" Duke raised an eyebrow skeptically. Dawn sighed, "It's just too bad that no one ever shops here. Are you two—wait, you're the fox prince that everyone is talking about!"

Nicholas nodded. "Yes, yes I am."

"Well isn't that just the darnedest thing! You two should take a tour of my sweet little shop, it would be my honor to give you one!"

Duke shook his head. "We...really should be going actually!"

Dawn's shoulders drooped and her eyes started to water. "Of course." She sighed. "I—it probably would be selfish of me to think that the Prince of Zootopia and his handsome butler would want to come into my little shop. Especially when no one comes in anyway."

Duke's eyes widened. "W-well I uh—I'm sure we could come in for a little while, right Nick?" He turned to Nicholas.

Nicholas snorted. "Sure, buddy."

Dawn beamed at them. "Wonderful! Follow me you two!"

They followed the ewe into the small, eerily quiet building. The cheerful ewe contrasted greatly from the musty, dimly lit building. Small trinkets lined the shelves against the dark purple walls. Traces of cobwebs could be seen in several corners.

Nicholas was not sure what he expected the inside of the "Emporium" to look like, but for some reason, he was not very surprised at the state of things.

She's too peppy, she's trying too hard, he thought. Something's not right here.

Dawn began to speak. "That is everything that we sell, the small trinkets and such. And over here is my office."

She opened a door and they walked through a small hallway before arriving at her office. She smiled proudly as they looked on with blank expressions at the dingy, cramped office. A few moments later, the clomping of hooves was heard behind them. Nicholas and Duke turned around to see three rams walking up to them. An uneasy feeling came upon Nicholas as he managed to wave casually. He tried to brush it off, but that feeling stayed in the pit of his stomach.

"Ahh! These are my employees! Doug, Jesse, and Woolter. The most loyal sheep you will ever meet!" Dawn smiled happily as they were introduced. Her eyes suddenly brightened as she seemed to have thought of something.

She looked at the rams. "Guys, can you take the prince to the staffroom? I'm sure he would love to see the rest of the shop. Which is, admittedly, just the staffroom, but it is beautiful! I wanted to have a chat with Mr. Duke for a while, okay?"

The rams nodded and led Nicholas away as he looked back at the door closing on Duke and Dawn. The uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach bubbled up to his chest. He had a strange feeling that something was about to go terribly wrong. Though he did not show it—at all— he did care about Duke and did not feel so great about leaving him with the overly peppy, peculiar ewe. Hopefully, nothing bad would happen to him.

Doug opened the door to the staffroom and led Nicholas inside. He looked around the room and was surprised at how wide and clean it seemed.

They must spend most of their time here, Nicholas surmised.

They stood there for an awkward moment before he decided to speak up. "So...this is a very nice room, newly painted?"

Doug nodded. "Yup."

Nicholas scanned the room again until a large machine caught his eye. A vending machine. Nicholas' stomach rumbled and he grinned sheepishly. "Is that vending machine working at all?"

Jesse nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah! It has the best food and drinks in there too. We always use it on our lunch breaks. I recommend the Midnight Howl Soda, which is the best drink there. The honey-dipped carrots are really good too. We also added some roasted crickets for any preds that come our way."

Nicholas' stomach rumbled louder at this. "Well...thanks! I'll try those roasted crickets and maybe some of that soda. Is that—"

Jesse waved his hooves at him. "Oh don't worry, we'll pay for you." They walked over to the vending machine and pushed a few buttons until the soda and bag of crickets came through. Jesse passed them over to Nicholas. The rams stared at Nicholas as he ate his crickets; they stared long enough for Nicholas to grow uncomfortable.

"Do...uh...you guys want some?"

They shook their heads as Woolter said, "No, no we're good. How's that soda?"

Doug tried not to roll his eyes. Could you be any more obvious? 

Nicholas shook his head. "No. I should probably have some to wash down those crickets now, am I right?" He grinned.

The rams laughed mechanically, humorlessly, which caused Nicholas to look at them strangely. He raised an eyebrow at them as he drank the fizzy liquid. As he set the bottle on the table, he prepared to leave the staffroom. He wanted to get over to Dawn's office because that sinking feeling of dread would not leave him. In fact, that feeling seemed to be making him dizzy and...slightly nauseous? The whole world seemed to be getting bigger, bigger, bigger.

Wait a second.

What kind of soda was that?

The rams all stared at him in shock. No words were able to be spoken. Nicholas looked with curiosity at their paling faces and realized they were gawking at him. Nicholas glanced at his paws, expecting to see his rough paw pads and russet-colored fur.

His paws were gone.

In their place, he was greeted with thin, long, and green fingers. Large and sticky pads were at the ends of the fingers. Nicholas closed his eyes, wishing away the ungainly sight. He slowly opened his eyes to the same sticky green fingers. He willed himself to look at the rest of his body. His eyes widened in panic and disbelief as he found that his body was not there. Instead, he found a tiny torso and long legs with sticky green feet.

In horror, he realized that the world had not been getting bigger. He had been getting smaller.

The rams slowly started walking backward and broke into a run. They quickly shut the door to the staffroom and stared at each other before deciding that one of them had to tell Dawn of the new...developments.


Dawn and Duke had been chatting in the cramped office, with Dawn sitting on a small flimsy chair and Duke leaning on her table. As they spoke, they found that they had much in common. Duke had explained how he had never wanted to become a butler for the royal family, especially since they were foxes. He was raised in a home that was strongly against foxes, but he needed the money. Being Nicholas' butler only reaffirmed his dislike for foxes. He told her how Nicholas somehow always managed to humiliate him with his shenanigans. How cocky, arrogant, and lazy he could be.

Dawn sympathized with Duke, having gone through much trouble to start up her business only to have hardly any customers. She had a distrust of foxes as well. The wheels in her head began to turn as they spoke.

She smiled pleasantly at Duke. "You know, Duke, we have a lot in common. Now, I wouldn't go around telling just any mammal about this. You seem to understand my problems, which is why I trust you."

Duke nodded, unsure of what to say to this.

She continued. "Well, tell me honestly, do you think Zootopia is in good paws with this royal fox family?"

This, Duke knew how to answer. "No. I know Nicholas and he's the future of Zootopia. The future of Zootopia is in terrible paws."

Dawn nodded knowingly. "That's what I thought. So! I am about to make you an offer you can't refuse."

Duke raised an eyebrow.

Dawn grinned slyly. "It involves money. Lots of it."

Duke smirked. "I'm listening..."

Just then, the door swung open and Doug burst in. He composed himself as quickly as he could and looked at Dawn. "Ah...we have a little problem."

Dawn tilted her head. "What kind of problem?"

"A small, green problem."

Dawn's expression quickly switched from annoyance to curiosity with a hint of suspicion. She looked at Duke. "I'll be right back, don't go anywhere!"

He grinned. "Heh, why would I?"

She grinned back, walked out, and shut the door. The grin quickly disappeared and was replaced with a scowl. She whipped her head around to face Doug. "What is it?"

"You really need to see for yourself."

Doug led Dawn into the staffroom and she froze at the sight that awaited her. Two rams were huddled around a small jar. As they got closer, Dawn noticed a tiny green figure inside the jar. Once they got close enough, she grabbed the jar and brought it up to eye level. The small creature inside looked at her questioningly.

Dawn's eyes widened as she glanced around frantically. She noticed a pile of clothing on the floor, a tan-colored hat on top of the pile, and on the table, a half-filled bottle of indigo liquid. She slowly turned to the three rams.

"What. Did. You. Do."

The rams started to speak at once.

"We weren't sure—"

"Couldn't have been the right time—"

"Looked kinda weird—"

"Midnight Howl—"

"Pushed us too early—"

"Excuse me?" The icy venom in her voice stopped them cold. Dawn glared at them. "Who pushed you too early?"

"You did," Jesse stated. Doug stomped on Jesse's hoof.

Woolter chuckled nervously. "What he means to say is that you pushed us just fine, in fact, you didn't push us at all! Hehe..."

Dawn nodded coldly. "That's what I thought. Anyway, from what I could gather, you made a mistake with the serum. Somehow, it turned our foxy prince into this...creature. Will one of you guys go find out what he is? Go to the library and pull out all the books if you must. And keep him in that jar. I don't need any of that slime in my shop."

Woolter scratched his head. "I...don't think that's slime. Looks like mucus."

"I don't care what it is," Dawn snapped. "I don't want it in my shop, do you understand?"

"Understood."

Doug tilted his head. "You seem...calmer about this than I expected."

Dawn gave him a wry grin. "Yes, well, I have an idea. There is a very gullible weasel sitting in my office as we speak. I currently have him wrapped around my little finger."

Doug raised an eyebrow. "I'm not so sure a weasel will be too keen on joining our plot to see the downfall of his fellow predators."

"Of course not, of course not, however, we don't have to tell him the whole plan. We just tell him enough to get him hooked."

He nodded. "Okay..."

"Now here's what I'm thinking. This weasel likes money. It's written all over his muzzle. We'll use his weakness to our advantage. He will pose as the fox prince and somehow manage to woo Big's daughter. They're just about royalty and practically control the entire Bayou District. Hopefully, Duke manages to successfully woo her into marrying him. If and when he does, we'll stage a little...accident with Mr. Big. Duke will be on Big's good side then, and we'll get him to give Big the serum in his tea or whatever he drinks. You had better have the serum fixed by then. When mammals see Big—a mammal of high class— go savage, it will open their eyes to how dangerous preds are. After that, we can change Duke into a weasel again, seeing as he will become useless to us. We will get rid of him and I will step in and be a voice of comfort to all the mammals. We'll rid Zootopia of the royal fox family and I will rise to power as the leader of Zootopia! It's pure genius!"

Woolter and Jesse stared at her with blank expressions as Doug nodded in understanding.

Dawn sighed. "Simply put, we are switching targets. Big is our guy, and our weasel will buy us the time we need to fix the serum. Come to think of it, this could work better than the fox would have. I mean, Arctic shrews are very small predators. If small predators can be dangerous, then any pred can be dangerous."

Jesse nodded. "Got it...this plan sounds like it has a few holes in it but apparently we are now making things up as we go along."

Dawn grinned. "It's called improvising, which I am fantastic at! Besides, you've learned to trust me!"

Jesse rolled his eyes. "Sure sure, just a quick question. How on earth will that scrawny weasel pose as a fox?"

Dawn grinned wickedly. "Do you three still have that pink potion, liquid thing?"

"You mean the one Doug spent 5 years developing?"

"That's the one!"

"Yeah, we have it...oh no."

"Oh yes!"

"We haven’t used it yet! We don't know what could happen if he ingests it!"

"It's worth the gamble."

"You are ruthless, Bellwether."

"I know!"

Doug nodded. "Alright, guys and I are gonna go find it. We have a lot of work to do."

Dawn grinned. "Perfect. Oh and fellas?"

The rams turned to her.

Her voice suddenly turned harsh. "I don't want to see you three until the serum is absolutely finished. Don't even think about showing it to me unless you are one hundred percent sure it is finished, got it?"

They gulped simultaneously. "Got it."

"Fantastic! You guys do have a lot of work to do! Get cracking!"

As they left, Dawn picked up the jar again. She looked into the eyes of the fox-turned-strange-creature and grinned maliciously. "I hope you enjoyed hearing my genius master plan. You guys will never bounce back from the destruction I will cause!"

Dawn peered into the jar and giggled, a strange sound coming through her malicious grin. "You are so tiny! Heh, look who is smaller now! Oh, how the tables have turned. Anyway, enjoy watching everything fall apart for you preds from the comforts of your suffocating jar! Bye!"

Nicholas looked out of the jar dejectedly as Dawn skipped out. He was suffocating. He was slimy, green, and couldn't believe what had just transpired right in front of his very eyes. He was miserable, but not only for his sake. He was miserable because he knew Duke would go along with this horrible plan for the sake of money and power. He knew Duke would be taken advantage of in a horrible way, and he knew things were about to go south for predators very soon.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5: Masquerade Kiss

The milky moonlight shone upon a regal white mansion as lively music spilled out of the courtyard and into the streets of New Orleans. Streams of costume-wearing mammals from all over the district flooded through the stately doors of the mansion. The mammals were led into the sophisticated and spacious courtyard, where a masquerade ball had commenced. Elegant lamp posts stationed around the courtyard lit up the dance floor as mammals mingled and chattered. A small band gathered to the side and played a fast-paced tango as couples danced along. Most mammals were socializing near long tables where the refreshments were being served.

The back of the mansion showed off two sets of a large ivory staircase. The staircase was structured to resemble an arc, the tip of the "arc" being a small hallway where the back door was located. The small band was situated off to the side of the stairs, and a small pink table sat right near the stairs. A pretty-looking grey bunny wearing a brown and honey-toned Renaissance dress, stood at the back of the table serving fluffy, sugared desserts to the masses.

A slender dingo costumed in a Roman toga walked to the table. The grey bunny grinned at the dingo.

"Stella! How are you doing?"

The dingo beamed back. "Splendidly, Judy! Your delicious beignets are bein' snapped up quickly, aren't they? And can I just say that I am adorin' your dress, honey! Renaissance is it?"

"Thank you! And yes, yes it is! I absolutely love your outfit as well! Roman toga?"

Stella grinned. She knew that Judy knew that she was endlessly fascinated with Roman and Greek culture. "You know it!"

They both shared a laugh as another mammal came by the table to grab a beignet.

Stella smiled. "I was right about those beignets."

Judy nodded. "They are selling pretty quickly. I made tons of batches though, hopefully, it's enough to last the night."

"Just the same, it's a good problem to have," Stella affirmed. "Those beignets really are amazin'! And speakin' of, would you be a dear and pass me one, Judes?"

Judy grinned slyly and shook her head in mock annoyance. "Ah ah, I saw you had six already, Miss Stella!"

Stella tilted her head and dropped an ear as she clasped her hands to her chest. "Please?"

Judy snorted and giggled. "Alright, but just one."

Stella grinned and held out her paws for her beignet. As she bit into the soft dessert she started to walk away. "I'll be back for more!"

Judy grinned. “I’ll hold you to it!”

As Stella made her way to the dance floor, she gave a friendly wave to an Arctic shrew in a pink ball gown, standing on the railing of the ivory staircase. The Arctic shrew seemed to be in the middle of a minor argument but stopped to return the wave.

A weasel in a jester outfit stood by the shrew. "Fru-Fru, you said later two hours ago!"

Fru-Fru dropped her head and sighed in annoyance at the weasel. "Travis, when a lady says later, she really means not ever. Sorry Trav, I'm sure there are plenty of young ladies dying for you to waltz them into a stupor."

Travis walked away dejectedly, in search of another female to persuade into dancing. As soon as he was out of sight, Fru-Fru hopped off the railing and landed directly on top of Judy's small pink table. "Give me those napkins, quick!"

Judy whipped her head to the small voice and quickly handed her a tiny stack of napkins. "What on earth for?"

Fru-Fru frantically stuffed the napkins in her chest and underarms. "I'm sweating, Jude, I'm sweating like a sinner in church!"

Judy rolled her eyes and gave her a lopsided grin.

Fru-Fru looked around nervously. "Oh, Judy, it's getting to be so late!"

"There are still a few stragglers!"

Fru-Fru pouted. "It's just not fair! My prince is never coming."

"Now, Fru—"

"I never get anything I wish for!"

"Fru, wait!" Judy ran up the staircase as Fru-Fru dashed up the railing. Streaks of mascara streamed down Fru-Fru's cheeks as she ran. Judy caught up with her and patted her shoulder lightly. "Just calm down and take a deep breath, Fru."

Fru-Fru, deep in her thoughts, paid no heed to Judy as she gazed at her paws. Her head lifted abruptly as her teary eyes brightened. "Maybe, I just have to wish harder!"

Judy raised an eyebrow at Fru-Fru as the tiny shrew clasped her hands close to her chest and raised her head to the heavens. Her eyes squeezed shut as she repeated, "Please, please, please, please, please..."

Judy shook her head. "Fru-Fru, you can't just wish on a star and expect things to—"

"Ladies and gentlemales! His royal highness, Prince Nicholas!"

Majestic music exploded from the small band as the fox prince entered the courtyard, waving regally to the crowd of mammals.

Judy and Fru-Fru stared, dumbfounded, as the prince made his way through the crowd. Judy looked up to the heavens in quiet awe as Fru-Fru swiftly dabbed at her eyes and fixed her makeup. She quickly cleaned the streaks of mascara before whistling shrilly. Seemingly out of the blue, a bright spotlight shined upon Fru-Fru. The fox prince turned to the light as the tiny shrew batted her eyelashes at him. Mammals cleared the dance floor as Fru-Fru enthusiastically ran down the railing.

A mammal from the crowd ran out to the middle of the dance floor and set a small, round table down. The fox prince put his paws out and laid them flat for Fru-Fru to climb on. He carried her over to the table and stuck out a finger from both paws, one for Fru-Fru to hold, and the other for him to wrap around her waist. The music transitioned into a slow waltz as they danced leisurely.

Judy walked down the staircase slowly, smiling happily at the sight of Fru-Fru and the prince dancing. She stopped near her small pink table and stood in the back of it. Swaying to the music, she giggled softly at the size difference between Fru-Fru and her prince. They made quite the comical couple as they danced around the table. Judy watched as the prince dipped Fru-Fru low and she caught her eye. Judy winked at Fru-Fru as the shrew grinned at her.

Judy continued watching her with a joyful expression, glad her friend had found her prince at last. As she watched Fru-Fru's contented expression, she wondered fleetingly if her mother was right about finding her "true love". She had, after all, made her dream come true in owning a restaurant. Shouldn't she find a new dream?

These thoughts quickly dispersed as an oryx and kudu in business suits made their way to Judy's small pink table. Judy grinned brightly at them. "Bucky! Pronk! Good to see you two!"

Bucky and Pronk glanced at each other before Bucky replied, "Yeah, you too."

Judy gestured to their outfits. "What are you guys dressed as?"

"Uh...real estate agents?"

Judy stared blankly at them. "Oh! Like your job?"

Pronk snorted. "Obviously. What else would we be dressed as? Farmers?"

Judy shrugged. "It's a masquerade. You could wear anything you want."

Bucky turned to Pronk. "I told you it was a masquerade but no, you didn't listen."

Pronk crossed his arms. "Why can't you guys just call it a costume party? It would be so much easier."

Judy grinned. "It's fine you two, besides, you look great!"

Bucky shrugged. "It's been a pretty good party, so far."

Pronk sniffed the air. "Those beignets of yours smell pretty good."

Judy held the platter of beignets out to Bucky and Pronk. "They're going to be the house specialty once I sign those papers you guys bought!"

Bucky's eyes widened as he grabbed a beignet. "Uh...yeah...about that...you...ah—"

"You were outbid," Pronk stated calmly, as he chewed on his beignet.

Judy's joyful expression dissipated into confusion. Her brows furrowed. "What?"

Bucky avoided Judy's eyes as he spoke. "A fella came in and offered the full amount...in cash. Unless you can top his offer by Wednesday—"

"You can kiss that place goodbye." Pronk waved his beignet at her for added effect.

Judy's expression morphed into one of anger as Bucky and Pronk walked away. She went around and blocked their path, eyes blazing.

"Do you know how long it took me to save that money?"

Bucky patted her shoulder. "Exactly! Which is why a little bunny of your...background, would have had her paws full trying to run a big business like that. Nah, you're better off where you're at."

Judy took in her breath sharply at the slight. Her paws clenched into fists tightly. "Now, wait a minute you two—"

"Love those beignets though!"

Fire in her eyes at the patronizing comment, she grabbed Bucky's coattail, attempting to halt their departure. "Now, hold on there! You come back right this—AHH!" Judy's grip on his coattail gave way as her foot slipped upwards and she collapsed on the floor with her back to her small table.

The impact caused the table to shake and not a second later, beignets rained down on Judy, powder splattering all over her body, and the sound of plates shattering echoed in her ears. Judy coughed and sputtered as she tried to rub off the powder on her dress. She sighed in defeat and stood up shakily, powder sprinkling off her ears and dress as she moved.

Oblivious to what had just occurred, Fru-Fru came walking up to Judy, slightly out of breath from dancing. She giggled as she looked over her shoulder flirtatiously at the fox prince. She squealed as she turned to face Judy. "Ooh, Judy! Time to give Prince Charming some of those mammal-catching be—"

Fru-Fru stared in concern as Judy furiously wiped white powder off her ears.

"Judy, what happened?"

Judy looked up and stammered. "I...just...I...uh..."

Fru-Fru tsked. "Oh, you poor dear." She looked over towards the fox prince. "Oh, Prince Nicholas! I'll be right back, sugar!"

She turned back to Judy. "Don't you worry a bit, Judy. I have just the dress for you."

Judy bent down and laid her paws flat for Fru-Fru to climb on. Judy walked up the staircase and made her way into the stately mansion. As soon as they reached Fru-Fru's room, Judy gently set her down on her dresser.

Fru-Fru's room had hardly changed since she was a kit. Pink frills laced the curtains of the large, pastel pink canopy bed, and plushies were scattered around the room. A rose-colored folding screen was stationed near the corner of the room.

Fru-Fru turned to Judy. "Now, honey, I have a beautiful dress in my closet that I was saving for your birthday, but this is as good a time as any. You can change in the back of the folding screen and just leave the stained dress for the servants to take care of, okay?"

Judy smiled faintly and nodded. She opened Fru-Fru's closet and took out the bag containing the dress. As Judy changed, Fru-Fru chatted on about the dance while touching up her makeup. "Oh, Judy, did you see the way he danced with me? A marriage proposal can't be far behind. Thank you, evening star! You know, I was starting to think that wishing on stars was just for kits and crazy mammals."

Judy slowly emerged from the folding screen, dressed in a silky, sky blue, sweetheart style dress. Fru-Fru put her paws to her cheeks and softly squealed. "Oh my gosh! Look at you! Aren't you just as pretty as a magnolia in may!"

Judy neared the dresser and stood by it, as Fru-Fru struggled to push a crown towards her. Judy took the crown and quietly thanked Fru-Fru as she placed it over her already droopy ears.

Fru-Fry's brows furrowed in concern. "Jude, are you okay? Wanna talk about it?"

Judy gave her a small smile. "I'll be okay, Fru. You need to get back to the dance floor, the prince is waiting for you."

Fru-Fru smiled. "Aw, if you're sure, Judes. Are you gonna come?"

Judy shook her head. "No. I...I think I'll stay here for a bit, thanks."

Fru-Fru walked out through the door designed for smaller mammals and made her way to the dance floor.

Judy leaned against the frame of the large canopy bed. She never understood why the Bigs used big furniture such as the canopy bed, but it made things more comfortable during the sleepovers they would have as kits. The servants were all different sizes and species, so that was brought into account as well.

The thought of tiny Fru-Fru sleeping on the comically large bed had always made Judy smile, but she did not feel like smiling at the moment. She felt as droopy as her ears were. Judy walked over to her stained Renaissance dress and pulled out a small paper with the silhouette of a restaurant that read "Judy's Place" from the dress' pocket. Somehow, the paper had not stained, which Judy was eternally grateful for. She gazed at the paper and could feel the tears being formed in her eyes. She slowly made her way to Fru-Fru's balcony as she began to sing softly, hoping it would lift her spirits.

Almost

I was almost there 

Mammals would have come here

From everywhere

I was...almost 

There...

Her voice caught in her throat. She couldn't do it. She couldn't continue singing. She didn't trust herself to not burst into full-blow tears, tears which were now blurring her vision. She stood out on the balcony and stared off into the distance. She was almost there. She could almost see, hear, and taste her dreams coming to life. All she had to do was sign those papers and the restaurant would be hers. So close, and yet so out of reach. Tears began to drop down her cheeks as Judy was reminded of the suddenness of it all. The apathetic behavior of the real estate agents angered her, and the patronizing and belittling comments irritated her to no end.

She sniffed and wiped tears from her eyes. No. She would not give them the satisfaction of having made her cry. She sighed heavily and straightened her back as she looked to the heavens. For the first time in her life, she felt helpless. Wednesday was too soon to come up with that considerable amount of money. She couldn't—

Wait

Judy squinted at the sky. A bright star shone out like a diamond from the inky night sky. The star's reflection mirrored in Judy's glassy amethyst eyes. A memory from her childhood flashed through her mind.

Judy turned to her siblings and said, "Fru-Fru’s fairytale book said that if you make a wish on the Evening Star, it’s sure to come true!” Her parents came closer to her and hugged her. Bonnie chuckled and replied, ”Well, you wish on that star sweetheart.”

Her father nodded, “Yes, you wish and dream with all your little heart. But you remember, Judy, that old star can only take you part of the way. You got to help it along with some hard work of your own. Then, yeah, you can do anything you put your mind to.

Judy thought about this. Lord knows she worked her tail off saving for her restaurant, but now...she needed a miracle.

Wishing on a star? That's crazy. It's something Fru would do.

Judy bit her lip and sighed. "I cannot believe I'm doing this."

She looked around quickly, making sure no one could see her, lifted her head, and shut her eyes as she held her restaurant paper to her chest.

"Please, please, please."

She opened her eyes and...nothing. No lightning bolts, no thunders, no shooting stars. Nothing. Except a frog.

A frog?

Judy did a double-take at the small green creature seated on the railing of the balcony. She glanced back to the bright star and her shoulders drooped as she rolled her eyes.

She sighed. "Very funny. I don't have the strength to be startled at the moment, little frog. You can leave now."

The little frog continued to stare at her, almost questioningly.

Judy raised an eyebrow at the frog. "What now?" She smirked as she remembered a certain story her mother would read her. "I reckon you want a kiss?"

Judy squinted at the frog. Did...did the frog just... smirk back?

The frog's eyes became seductively half-lidded as it opened its mouth. "Kissing would be nice, yes?"

Judy let out an ear-piercing shriek and haphazardly ran backward into Fru-Fru's room, crashing into her bookshelf as she fell. Dozens of plushies fell off the bookshelf, burying her in plushies.

The frog jumped into the room. "I'm sorry! Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you!"

Judy groaned as she lifted herself from the pile of plushies. Her eyes widened as she caught sight of the green frog. She swiftly began grabbing plushies and hurling them towards the frog. The frog jumped out of Judy’s aim and held up its sticky fingers. “Wait! No! No! Wait a sec, listen!”

Judy paid no heed to its protests, wildly flinging plushies at it.

The frog grinned roguishly as he dodged plushies.

“You have a very strong arm, Princess. Ow! Okay, please, put the plushies down!"

Judy threw a plushie and it landed directly on top of the frog’s body. She stood up on the chair with a large book in her paws. “Stay back! Or I’ll…I’ll…” She lifted the book in her paws, preparing to smash him.

The frog hopped on top of Fru-Fru's dresser. “Wait! Let me introduce myself. I am Prince Nicholas—“

Judy whacked Nicholas with the book.

The flattened frog continued weakly. “Of…Zootopia.”

Judy raised an eyebrow in confusion as the frog stood up clumsily. She looked in the direction of the shining evening star. “Prince? But I didn’t wish for any…”

She turned back to the frog prince and held up her paws with her brows furrowed. “Hold on. If-if you’re the prince, then who was that dancing with Fru-Fru on the dance floor?”

The frog managed to stand up, wobbling slightly as he replied, “Look, all I know is one minute I am a prince, charming and handsome, cutting a rug, and then the next thing I know, I am tripping over these.” He wiggled his webbed feet at her in emphasis.

Judy’s expression contorted into a grimace at the slimy green feet, and she held the book up once more. The frog lifted his arms in protest. “Wait! Wait—“ He squinted at the book. “Wait! I know this story!”

Judy turned the book so the cover faced her. “The Frog Prince?” She pawed the book over to Nicholas.

Nicholas nodded as he struggled to prop the book against the mirror on the dresser. “Yes! My mother had the servants read this to me every night!”

He rapidly flipped through the pages. “Yes, yes, yes! This is exactly the answer! You must kiss me.”

Judy narrowed her eyes at him. “Excuse me?”

Nicholas raised an eyebrow roguishly. “You will enjoy it, I guarantee! All ladies enjoy the kiss of Prince Nicholas. Come, we pucker.”

Nicholas’ throat inflated. He grinned. “That’s new.”

Judy stared at him and sighed. “Ah...look, I'm sorry. I'd really like to help you, but I just...do not kiss frogs."

"Wait a sec, but on the balcony, you asked me."

Judy threw her paws up in exasperation. "Yeah! I didn't expect you to answer!"

Nicholas grinned. "Aw, but you must kiss me! Look, besides being unbelievably handsome, okay, I also happen to come from a fabulously wealthy family. Surely, I could offer you some type of reward. A wish I could grant, perhaps? Yes?"

Judy's ears raised slightly as she glanced at her "Judy's Place" restaurant paper lying on the floor, as a result of her initial panic towards the frog.

Judy looked back at the frog and hesitantly replied, "Just...one kiss?"

Nicholas nodded. "Just one...unless you beg for more." He licked his lips.

Judy shuddered in disgust. She squeezed her eyes shut and puckered her lips, moving slowly towards Nicholas. She slightly opened an eye to see Nicholas' huge frog lips and recoiled in disgust.

Judy gagged at the thought of kissing Nicholas' slimy green lips. She breathed in and out and quietly calmed herself down. "Okay, Judy, you can do this. You can do this. Just a little kiss, just a little kiss. Phew. Okay."

Judy breathed in deeply, squeezing her eyes shut and plunging into the kiss.

Green light shined from their kiss as sparkles exploded around them. Judy disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

Nicholas opened his eyes and quickly checked himself in the mirror. He sighed dejectedly as he found that his frog body had not changed. He looked around the room, confused at the absence of the grey bunny. Suddenly, he heard rustling from the ground. He peered over the dresser, and his mouth fell open.

“Oh my gosh.”

A sky blue dress lay on the ground. The dress rustled quite a bit until thin, long green fingers stuck out. A small, dainty frog popped out from the fabric. She coughed and looked up toward the dresser, opening her mouth to speak. “Well, you don’t look much different. But how did you get way up there? And how did I get way down here in all this—“

The frog noticed her sticky green hands and gasped. A small compact mirror lay near her and she quickly checked her reflection. An earth-shattering scream rang out.

The small frog jumped atop the dresser and started to hyperventilate.

Nicholas grabbed her arm. “Easy, Princess! Don’t panic!”

The bunny-turned-frog looked at him, incredulous.

“Don’t panic? I just kissed you and look what happened! What did you do to me? I-I’m green and I’m slimy and—“

“No, no.”

“Huh?”

“That isn’t slime. You’re secreting mucus.”

Judy’s eye twitched. “You—you—frog!”

The anger and frustration got the best of her and she tackled him. They both fell on top of a seesaw-like toy and the large book on the dresser tumbled down and fell on the other side of the “seesaw”.

Nicholas and Judy were catapulted out of Fru-Fru’s room and out the balcony. They both screamed and clung to each other as they fell into the courtyard. They landed with a thud on the drumset from the small band near the mansion. The mammal playing the drums stared at the pair of frogs and tried to whack them with his drumsticks. However, instead of whacking them, he only managed to hit his drumset, which set a new rhythm for the rest of the band to follow.

The band began to play a more upbeat tune, which the mammals on the dance floor gladly transitioned into. Nicholas and Judy hopped onto the drummer’s mallets, only to be tossed out as the drummer waved his mallets around. They flew through the air and into the dance floor.

Fru-Fru, dancing on a small table, was oblivious–like the rest of the mammals– to the two frogs sailing through the air.

The two frogs landed on Fru-Fru and knocked her over on the table. Judy’s eyes widened and she grabbed Nicholas’ arm, jumping off the table as Fru-Fru let out a shrill scream.

Judy and Nicholas jumped helter-skelter through all the tables of the courtyard. Dozens of mammals attempted to catch them as they hopped on their heads.

A male Arctic shrew seated near a dingo noticed all the commotion. He turned to the dingo, “Stella?”

The dingo nodded. “I gotcha, Mr. Big!”

She ran towards the frogs in her Roman toga. Nicholas paled as he saw the dingo chasing after them. He pushed Judy to go faster. “Run! Run!”

Judy narrowed her eyes at him. “I can’t run, I’m a frog.”

“Then hop!”

They hopped recklessly atop tables and heads of mammals. As they reached the end of the tables, Stella stood at the end. They tried to hop on her head, but Judy slipped and fell into Stella’s paws.

Stella beamed. “Ha! I gotcha!”

Judy squeaked. “Wait! Stella! It’s me, Judy!”

"What! Judy?"

Nicholas managed to jump into Stella’s paws and grab Judy’s hands, hopping into the air and grabbing onto a balloon floating through the air.

As they floated through the air, Judy breathed in and out heavily. "Did you see that? She heard me!"

Nicholas nodded. "Yeah, why wouldn't she?"

"Maybe she could've helped us!"

"Some mammals actually eat us for dinner, Princess. I wouldn't take that chance."

Judy paled. "Mammals eat frogs? Ew! That's just...gross! Worst than kissing them!"

Nicholas rolled his eyes. "You know, if you let every little thing bother you, it's going to be a very long night!"

As they floated away, a small ewe stood in the Big's courtyard wearing a lab-coat costume. She seethed as she watched the balloon floating through the sky. As fast as she could, she ran to a small shop with a sign that read, "Bellwether's Emporium."

She raced to the office and opened a jar, audibly groaning at finding it empty. Not a moment later, a fox ran into the office, slightly out of breath. The ewe turned to the fox and stared at him silently, unnervingly.

The fox laughed nervously. "Heh, you're...so quiet."

The ewe's frustration boiled over. "YOU. LET. HIM. GO?"

The fox stammered. "The—the poor devil was gasping, so I loosened the lid...ever so slightly."

Bellwether groaned. "We needed him, Duke! It's the only thing keeping you from turning back into a weasel. His mucus, or slime, or whatever. No slime, no pink potion, and no more fox!"

"I'm so tired of this! Why can't you be doing this instead!"

Bellwether sighed. "Don't you understand? We need your...skills for this. You know Nicholas best, therefore you are the best candidate for this. You know how to act like him. Besides, we both know the real power in this world isn't magic! It's money! Buckets of it!"

The weasel-turned-fox nodded. "It's true."

"Aren't you tired of living on the margins while all those fat cats in their fancy cars don't give you so much as a sideways glance?"

Something snapped in Duke and his eyes flashed. "Yes. I am."

Bellwether patted his arm. "All you have to do is marry Big's little princess, and we'll be raking in the dough, with me ruling Zootopia! Heh..."

Duke nodded. "Hmm. Yeah. But...ah...what about Nicholas?"

Bellwether shrugged. "Maybe it won't be such a big deal. Your little slip-up will be a minor bump in the road. So long as we still have the slime in that jar." She pointed to a jar filled with green slime.

They both chuckled. Bellwether grinned.

The show is still on.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: In the Reeds

"Are you kidding me?"

Thunder roared and rain gushed from the clouds as a small red balloon floated in the sky. Two frogs were hanging on the string of the balloon, while the smaller of the two hanging on the bottom spoke, irritation laced in her voice.

"You mean to tell me that this all happened because you were messing with the small emporium owner?"

From the top of the string, Nicholas shrugged. "To be fair, she was messing with me...and Duke. But how should I have known she'd turn out to be a maniac pred-hater?"

Judy groaned and smacked her forehead. "Serves me right for wishing on stars! The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work."

Nicholas tilted his head and laughed nervously. "Hard work? Why would a princess need to work hard?"

"Huh?" Judy looked up at Nicholas. "Oh, I'm not a princess, I'm a waitress."

Nicholas' mouth dropped open. "A waitress? Well, no wonder the kiss didn't work! You lied to me!"

"Hold on, I never said I was a princess!"

"You never said that you were a...a waitress! You-you were wearing a crown!"

Judy scowled and narrowed her eyes at him. She did not appreciate the thinly veiled disgust in his voice as he said waitress. The anger and annoyance in her voice were made evident as she defensively replied, "It was a costume party, you spoiled little rich boy!"

Nicholas laughed bitterly. "Oh yeah? Well, the egg is on your face, alright? Because I don't have any riches! I am completely broke! Haha...ha. Uh oh."

The calmly floating balloon was suddenly swept up in a gust of wind and flung to the trees. The balloon caught on a branch and popped, exploding into tiny pieces as Nicholas and Judy fell, screaming. Judy landed first and was caught miraculously by a spiderweb. She sighed in relief, for the first time thankful that she was currently in the form of a tiny frog.

The sense of relief dissipated quickly, as she heard Nicholas' screams coming closer. Unable to move, she braced herself for the approaching impact.

Nicholas flailed his arms wildly in panic as he fell. As soon as he caught sight of Judy tensely awaiting the impact on the spiderweb, he too braced himself for the collision, which came quickly. Nicholas shot down rapidly like a bullet, knocking Judy off the spiderweb and sending both plunging into the cold, slimy waters of the wild bayou.

Nicholas jumped out of the water with a splash as he spewed out water, slightly relieved that the waters were not as deep as he had feared. It was, however, extremely cold and slimy. Not at all like the sparkling clean pools he was used to swimming in his palace. Nicholas squirmed in disgust as he felt something soft and squishy under his feet. He started to move but stopped abruptly as he felt it starting to move. The soft and squishy sensation underneath his feet lifted him in the air and sent him plopping back in the water.

After rushing back out of the water, he found Judy coughing and sputtering as she looked around wildly at her surroundings.

He looked at her in confusion. "How did you get...here...oh." He quickly put two and two together and realized that the soft and squishy creature he had been stepping on was Judy, and judging by the way her eyes were blazing at him, she knew it too.

Nicholas grinned sheepishly. "Heh...sorry."

Judy glared at him. "You said you were fabulously wealthy!"

Nicholas' eyes widened as he nodded slowly in realization. "Ahh...no, no. What I said was, my parents are fabulously wealthy, but they cut me off for being a—LEECH! There's a leech on me!"

Judy rolled her eyes and pulled the leech off Nicholas' arm. She smirked as she flung the leech into the water and started walking toward a small hill. "Leech, huh?"

Nicholas huffed and glared at her from behind as he followed her steps.

Judy's sly expression turned into one of annoyance as she continued. "You're broke, and you had the gall to call me a liar?"

Nicholas shook his head. "It wasn't a lie. I fully—AH!" He slipped on the hill of mud they were standing on and created a small mudslide. Judy tried to grab his arms to pull him up to safety, but it was all for naught, as she too tumbled down with him.

They fell roughly on solid ground and stood up slowly, both panting from exhaustion.

Nicholas gasped for air as he continued his previously interrupted sentence. "I...fully intend...to become rich again. Once...I marry...Miss Fru-Fru Big. If she will have me."

Judy breathed in and out heavily as she spoke. "You're... a prince?"

"Obviously."

She snorted. "She'll have you."

Judy looked around at her surroundings. She looked up at the trees towering over them, and fully realized how small they were. She was no stranger to being one of the smallest mammals in any room, but this was a new experience for her. An experience that she was not particularly enjoying at the moment.

She started to speak. "Once you two are married, you will keep your promise and get me my restaurant, right?"

Nicholas scoffed. "Not so fast, I made that promise to a beautiful princess, not a cranky waitress."

Judy scowled. "I am not cranky. And I kissed you! You know how hard that was?"

After dragging me into this craziness, he now refuses to give me the restaurant? The nerve of him!

Just the same, a small, very minuscule part of her was slightly excited that he found her beautiful. She had never been called beautiful by anyone other than her family or Fru. She quickly shook her head to clear her mind and rid herself of these thoughts, annoyed and slightly disgusted at herself for even entertaining them.

He's an insufferable, lazy prince. I won't have anything to do with him. After this is all over, I never want to see him again.

Nicholas raised an eyebrow and grinned. "Shouldn't have been too hard to kiss me."

Judy stared at him impassively.

He continued. "And you are cranky."

She ignored him and looked straight ahead and sighed, putting one foot in front of the other...and finding no ground to step on.

Oh no.

She swung her arms in circles wildly, but it did nothing to stop her from falling. She slid down and fell face-first on a patch of reeds, Nicholas following suit.

Nicholas rolled over and looked up to the sky. He panted. "How...long...will this continue...to happen?"

Judy stood up wearily, grunting as she rose, nearly at her wit's end. She walked tensely, just waiting for something to go wrong.

Nicholas stood up and looked around at the tall reeds, shivering slightly. A strange feeling trailed up his spine. He shuddered and moved slightly closer to Judy. The reeds suddenly swayed as a rustling sounded from inside. The strange rustling that disturbed the eerie quietness, sent a shiver up both Judy and Nicholas' spine.

Nicholas looked around nervously as he tapped Judy's shoulder. "Do you...feel—"

"Yeah."

Nicholas nodded. "Okay, okay. Good. Well, not good, but good t—"

"Shh." Judy glanced around with a pensive and apprehensive expression. She felt the unease that she knew Nicholas was feeling, and she did not like it at all. As they walked, every little noise was brought to their attention, and every movement of the reeds made them jump. Judy and Nicholas were both on edge, somehow knowing something was about to go wrong. They just didn't know what.

Judy whirled around. She could have sworn she saw something. Suddenly, a scuttling sound arose from the reeds. Nicholas and Judy froze.

A long, thin, black leg poked out from the reeds. The rest of the body slowly clambered out of the reeds. A large, hairy tarantula stared straight at Judy and Nicholas.

Nicholas gulped as Judy bit her lip, staring with wide eyes at the tarantula.

She breathed in and out, attempting to calm herself down. "This is okay, this is fine. It's fine! It'll probably just ignore us and continue on its way."

"It's huge."

She smiled nervously. "Well, when you think about it, it's really not. We're just very tiny right now. If we were normal-sized, we could probably get rid of it."

The tarantula hissed at that. Apparently, it didn't like that. Nicholas paled. "It can understand us?"

"Evidently."

The tarantula began creeping slowly towards them. Nicholas and Judy walked backward slowly. The tarantula hissed threateningly at them. Its shining fangs snapped at them as the large spider jerked back and forth, almost teasing them as it pretended to lunge.

Nicholas began to hyperventilate.

Judy turned to him. "Hey, don't go nuts on me! The last thing we need to do is panic. Don't preds eat spiders anyway?"

"Not this pred."

Judy arched an eyebrow. "Why not?"

Nicholas tried to relax as he thought about how to reply. "Well...er...let's just say me and spiders aren't exactly the best of friends. Anyway, this spider isn't a normal spider. It's a tarantula, huge, with venom..."

He started to hyperventilate once more, as he thought of what a tarantula entailed.

Judy tried to remain optimistic. "Well, at least it's only one, right?"

Nicholas looked at her and nodded slowly, then paled and shook his head. Judy furrowed her brows. "No? What do you mean?"

Nicholas opened his mouth and found himself unable to speak. He pointed wordlessly toward the back of Judy.

Hordes of tarantulas started creeping out of the reeds, some crawling down the trees from the forest Nicholas and Judy had come from, but most from the tall reeds surrounding them. Some tarantulas were smaller and climbed atop the larger ones.

The sound of all the spider legs scattering around on the ground made Nicholas sick, as he gazed around in despair. This was not how he envisioned his little vacation in the bayou to go. He was supposed to be playing his ukelele without a care in the world, gorgeous mammals hanging onto his arm. Instead, he found himself in the middle of what was quickly becoming the most torturous thing to ever happen to him.

Spiders continued to spring down on them, jumping down from the trees with their sticky web, emerging from the reeds, until they were well surrounded by a multitude of tarantulas.

At this point, Judy was biting her lip so hard that it began to bleed. She closed her eyes and tried to breathe in and out deeply, licking her lips. She blew out a gust of air as she looked around nervously. The first tarantula that had appeared to them stood in front of them, with the rest of the tarantulas circled around them.

Judy cleared her throat. "Well. We...ah...certainly mean no harm to you all! We...hope you mean no harm to us, heh. So, thank you for gracing us with your...presence. We'll just go now." She grinned nervously as she took a step back, gesturing for Nicholas to do the same.

As they took a step back, the tarantula that stood in front of them let out a hiss, which was followed by the clacking of its fangs. The rest of the tarantulas followed suit. Slowly, they began coming closer to Nicholas and Judy, making their respective personal bubbles smaller and smaller until it hardly existed.

Nicholas whimpered. "Can we panic now?"

Judy's eyes jumped from one spider to the next, her brain working overtime to decide what to do in their current situation. She took in the surroundings and noticed most of the tarantulas had come out of the reeds. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she remembered that tarantulas liked long grass to hide in. If they could just get out of the reeds and back into the forest, they would be home free. At least for now.

She turned to Nicholas. "Alright, follow my lead."

She breathed out and jumped up, quickly hopping on top of the spiders' backs the best she could. Nicholas followed her example while the tarantulas attempted to jump up and grab their legs.

Nicholas and Judy jumped on the tarantulas, each of them hissing as they bounced off their back. They quickly hopped, gaining on the forest with speed. Judy started to relax as she noticed them getting closer to the forest.

Just before they would have made it into the forest, a tarantula grabbed onto Nicholas' leg and pulled him into the reeds.

"AHHH! NO! HELP!"

Judy turned back to Nicholas, biting her lip once again as she saw the rest of the tarantulas crawling towards Nicholas, having successfully trapped their own prey.

A small voice in the back of her head that she was not proud of whispered, Let him be. He already caused enough trouble for us.

Judy shook her head. No! That's awful, beneath me!

Nicholas shouted from under the tarantulas.

"Please! Help! I'll get you your restaurant, just help me!"

Judy was launched out of her internal thoughts by Nicholas' voice, almost forgetting that she was short on time. She grabbed a random stick near her and hopped as fast as she could, angering the tarantulas underneath her. As soon as she got to Nicholas, she began whacking the tarantulas with the stick.

Judy yelled, "Nicholas! Say something!"

"ACK!"

As soon as she got the last tarantula out of the way, she grabbed Nicholas' hand forcefully and jumped out of the tarantulas' reach. The tarantulas grabbed their legs, but Judy pulled away and kept hopping until they made it into the forest.

Nicholas and Judy threw themselves into the forest with force, landing on their stomachs in the safety of the forest. The tarantulas crawled closer to them, hissing and clacking their fangs. For a second, Judy began to think that her plan had fallen flat, but as soon as the tarantulas stepped into the forest, they froze all at once. One by one they stepped back and began to crawl backward until there were none left.

Nicholas and Judy panted, the sound quite loud in the now still forest. They looked at each other and began to laugh wildly in relief.

As soon as their laughter died down, Judy began to think about where to spend the night. Somewhere deep in the forest, away from the spiders. She sighed. If they wanted to, they could get anywhere, given that they could crawl. She looked up at the towering trees.

If we slept there, they could still get us. It'd just take longer.

She snapped her fingers and stood up. "That's it! We'll sleep in the trees!"

Nicholas did a double-take at her. "Where?"

She nodded. "You heard me. Trees. Come on, let's start climbing."

Nicholas sighed. We just can't get a break, can we?

As soon as they walked deeper into the forest, they found a large tree with a deep hole inside it and began climbing. With some difficulty, they finally made it, puffing and heaving the whole way. They jumped into the hole and looked around, amazed at the large size. They picked their own sides to sleep in and tried to relax.

The eerie quietness did not sit well with Nicholas, so he decided to speak up to break the quietness, as he moved over to Judy.

"Well. We're going to be here for a long time, we might as well get...comfortable."

Judy whacked him. Hard.

"Keep your slimy self away from me! Stay on your own side!"

"I told you, it isn't slime! It's mucus!"

Nicholas winced as he rolled to his side, keeping a good distance between the two.

Quiet was fine. Quiet was good.

Chapter Text

Nicholas was feeling extremely warm and blissful.

He sighed as he rolled over in the quiet hole, murmuring to himself and bathing himself in the warmth of the sun rays. Everything was still and peaceful for once. He could just lay there forever.

"Ow!"

Or not.

An acorn had flown into the hole of the tree in which Nicholas was sleeping, and bonked him on the head. Nicholas groaned as he opened his eyes, sat up, and rubbed his head. He squinted slightly at the outside of the hole, his eyes becoming accustomed to the light. The warm rays of the sun spilled inside and illuminated the hole.

Nicholas looked around and realized that Judy was not inside. He furrowed his brows in confusion, surely she would not have left him?

"Rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty!"

Nick peeked out of the hole to see Judy near the river bank on the side of the forest. She had built some sort of floatation device made of hard sticks and vine and was tying up the last of it. He raised an eyebrow and climbed down the tree, hopped off once he got to the bottom, and made his way to Judy.

When he came to the riverbank, he noticed a small pile of acorns next to Judy and rolled his eyes as he realized who had thrown the acorn at him.

Judy stood up and climbed onto her makeshift raft, looking quite proud of herself.

"Alright, Nicholas, let's go!"

Nicholas hopped on the raft as it began to float down the river. "Where are we going, exactly?"

Judy paddled with a long stick in her hands, as Nicholas laid on the raft with his arms crossed behind his head. "We've got to get to New Orleans and undo this mess that you got us into."

Nicholas shrugged. "I was not the one parading around with a phony-baloney tiara."

Judy rolled her eyes and continued paddling.

Nicholas began to loudly whistle a tune, much to Judy's annoyance. After the fifth chorus, Judy had had enough. She turned to him. "I could use a little help here."

"Oh? I'll whistle a little louder then."

"No! Just—"

"AHH!"

Judy jumped at Nicholas' high-pitched scream, and turned around slowly, slightly afraid of what she might see. A large, scaled creature emerged from the water, causing waves to billow out in all directions, and Judy to drop her paddle. The two frogs held each other without a second thought, Nicholas in a position that shielded Judy from the creature.

The scaled creature stood up as it walked over to dry land and snapped its fingers.

"I know that tune! La Tortura by Gazelle, the greatest singer of our lifetime!"

The creature began to play its trumpet (which Nicholas and Judy had not noticed before) to the tune of La Tortura.

Nicholas' eyes widened, and he grinned. He let go of Judy—who fell with a squeak— and began to strum an imaginary ukulele, whistling along with the creature's trumpet.

Judy stared at them, wide-eyed, dumbfounded, and unable to speak. When they finished their little duet, they both laughed in delight. The creature grinned. "That was great!"

Nicholas grinned back. "It was! You are fantastic! Who are you? Or—well—what are you?"

"I'm Benjamin Clawhauser, you guys can call me Ben."

Nicholas nodded. "Hey, Ben."

Judy slowly waved, still shocked by the large, trumpet-playing, scaled creature.

Ben began to fiddle his thumbs. "The other question is...kinda hard to explain. It's the craziest thing ever."

Judy snorted.

Nicholas raised an eyebrow. "Let's see if you still think that after our story."

"Well, I wasn't always...what I am now. I'm a cheetah! I got to New Orleans a few days ago because I always come for Mardi Gras. I would never miss seeing Gazelle perform on her float! So, I always arrive early to check everything out. I walked by this small building when a small ewe popped up out of nowhere. She asked if I wanted to take a tour of her store, which turned out to be the small building near us. She seemed so sweet and cheerful, that I couldn't say no! So we went inside, she showed me around, and a few minutes in, she offered me some type of...blueberry."

Nicholas tilted his head. "Blueberry?"

Ben shrugged. "She called it 'Midnight Howl' and said it was her own brand."

Nicholas narrowed his eyes. "What happened right after you ate it?"

"This is the crazy part. I started to get all these hard, green scales all over my body. I was freaking out, you guys! I didn't have a mirror to see my face, but I didn't need one to know how strange and scary it looked—and looks. The ewe and her three employees locked me in their staffroom before I could even think! They started talking frantically, but I couldn't understand them. Something about messing up a serum and testing it? I dunno."

Nicholas' eyes widened in realization. "Oh my gosh! She must've tried to do to you, what she failed to do to me! Who knows how many other predators she targeted before me!"

Ben held up his hands. "Wait, wait, wait. She also gave you a...blueberry?"

"Ah, no. I guess they changed the serum to make it into a liquid because they gave it to me as a drink. They still called it Midnight Howl though. I'm not sure why, but what happened to you, is exactly what happened to me. Except, I turned into a frog."

Ben blinked and tilted his head. "A what?"

Judy piped in. "A frog. It's a creature that was thought to be extinct because there had been no frog sightings for a very long time. Kinda like what you are now."

Nicholas turned to Judy. "You know what he is?"

She nodded. "Yeah, my parents used to talk to me about extinct creatures. He's an alligator."

"Huh. Alli Gator. That sounds strange."

Judy shook her head. "No, it's alligator. There's no space in the middle."

Nicholas shrugged. "Either way, it sounds weird."

Ben nodded. "It does."

Nicholas turned to Ben. "So, how did you even escape?"

"Oh! I just waited until the three rams weren't paying attention, which wasn't too hard because only one of them was really paying attention. Then, once I was able to get out of the room and the store, I booked it out of town before anyone could catch sight of me. I've been in this forest ever since."

Nicholas furrowed his brows. "Wait a sec, were you here last night?"

Ben nodded. "Yeah! It was really creepy at first because I had heard the sound of crawling coming near the forest at one point, but then it stopped as quickly as it came."

Judy gasped. "It was you!"

"What was me?"

"The spiders! We were trying to escape from spiders, and we ran into the forest to escape them. You must've scared them away!"

Ben grinned. "Hey, yeah! You're welcome!"

His bright grin started to diminish as he thought about this, and his body deflated. "But...I don't want to be big and scary. I liked my old self when I didn't scare anyone. I could play my trumpet easily, too."

His shoulders sagged, and his expression became sad, with a hint of wistfulness, as he continued. "This was going to be the year where I finally had the confidence to try and become Gazelle's trumpeter for her Mardi Gras performance, but that won't happen now. Mardi Gras is in only a few days." Ben sighed.

Judy frowned. She absolutely loved it when mammals were passionate about something, and she loved hearing them talk about their dreams. So, suffice it to say, she equally hated it when a mammal's dream was hindered by someone or something.

Judy looked Ben in the eyes. "You know what, Ben? We're going to get you to Gazelle's float if it's the last thing we do. We will get back to New Orleans before Mardi Gras!"

Ben's countenance brightened. "You really think so?"

Judy nodded. "I do! I mean, you did find your way into this forest, surely you know the way out?"

Ben grinned sheepishly. "Actually...I have no idea how to get out. I ran here—practically blind. I don't even know how I managed to get in here."

Judy sighed. "We're just going to have to get out of here the original way. The way our ancestors did."

Nicholas turned to her in confusion. "Our ancestors did what?"

"Well, they didn't have maps or watches back then. They used the sun and their instincts, and that is what we will use!"

Ben nodded slowly. "Yeah...yes! That could work!"

Judy grinned. "Yes! We could ask the locals here too!"

Nicholas raised an eyebrow. "What locals? There's no one here except for us three."

Judy threw her hands up. "Well, we just saw a horde of tarantulas last night! And, they understood us! Surely there must be other...nicer locals here."

Nicholas gulped. "Yeah...I don't think I want to see any locals. I'm good."

Judy shrugged. "We won't go looking for any, but if we happen to see any locals, it wouldn't hurt to ask."

"Or it could! Need I remind you of our little escapade?"

"Or it couldn't! Need I remind you of how we got out alive?"

"Barely!"

"But we did, and all in one piece."

Nicholas crossed his arms. "Are we? I seriously have no idea if I have all my body parts. I'm ten times smaller than I was a few days ago. I could be missing an organ or something."

Judy rolled her eyes. "I'm pretty sure our organs are intact, Nicholas. And if they're not, standing around talking about them won't help them grow. We need to go!"

Nicholas sighed. "Alright, alright. Let's go. Let's get this show on the road."

Ben raised his hand. "I've got a question."

Judy raised an eyebrow. "Uh, yes? It's not school, Ben. You're okay. You don't have to raise your hand."

"I know, I know. I just felt like I had to, to get inside the lover's quarrel you guys had going on there."

Nicholas and Judy stared at Ben and said in unison, "We're not lovers."

Ben frowned slightly. "Aw, but you two would be really cute together! Wait, how come you're both here then?" He looked directly at Judy. "Did you swallow a serum too?"

Judy shook her head as Nicholas answered for her. "No, she's not a pred."

Ben nodded. "Ahh, so, how is she a frog?"

Nicholas grinned slyly. "That is an excellent question and a very funny st—"

"That we do not have time for!" Judy clapped her hands. "So, let's get going! We've got to get to New Orleans before Mardi Gras!"

Nicholas scratched his head in confusion. "How? The raft won't hold the three of us, and you dropped the paddle."

Judy scoffed. "Yeah, the paddle that wouldn't have dropped if you were helping me."

"Pfft, of course I was helping. I serenaded you." He winked at Judy.

Judy rolled her eyes. "Anyway...you do have a point. The raft won't cut it."

Ben's eyes brightened. "Wait! I got it!"

Ben ran ahead alongside the river and laid his back down where the river became deeper. He began to float down the river while Nicholas and Judy ran after him.

"Wait! Ben!" Judy cupped her hands around her mouth. "Where are you going?"

"Come on you guys! I'll be your raft!"

Nicholas and Judy looked at each other and shrugged. They ran after the floating alligator and hopped onto his stomach.

Judy grinned. "You're a genius, Ben!"

Ben laughed. "I know! Hey, do you mind if I play a little?"

Judy's eyes widened, and she opened her mouth to respond in the negative, but Nicholas beat her to it.

"We don't mind, Ben! Play all you want, buddy!"

Judy shot Nicholas a withering look. He donned an innocent expression.

Ben began to blow his trumpet, and, to Judy's surprise (and annoyance) began to sing.

If I were a mammal again

I'd head straight to New Orleans

And I'd blow this horn so hard and strong 

Like no one they've ever seen

You've heard of Louis Pawstrong

Mr. Sidney Bechet

All those boys gonna step aside

When they hear this old ex-gator play!

Ben began a passionate and exuberant trumpet solo as he held his horn up high.

Nicholas clapped. "Alright, Ben!" Judy smiled and nodded slowly, beginning to grasp the beauty of the music.

When I'm a mammal

As I hope to be

I'm gonna blow this horn till the walls come down

And Gazelle's going to love me!

Nicholas grinned at Ben's enthusiastic singing, and trumpet playing. As Ben continued to play his own unique tune, Nicholas snapped his fingers as he began to feel the music. He started to strum an imaginary ukulele and began to sing along.

When I'm myself again

I want just the life I had

A great big party every night!

That doesn't sound too bad...

He winked at Judy as she crossed her arms and scoffed.

A vixen on my left arm 

Another on my right 

A bunny or two to hold a candle 

Doesn't that sound about right

Eh, Ben?

Life is short

When you're done, you're done

We're on this Earth to have some fun!

And that's the way things are!

Ben nodded. "Tell it, brother!"

When I'm a mammal

And I'm gonna be

I'm going to tear it up like I did before

And that's a royal guarantee!

Judy put her hands on her hips. "Oh, please! You are getting married!"

Nicholas groaned and rolled his eyes. "Ohh, right. I'll just have to leave a string of broken hearts behind me!"

Judy shook her head. "My turn."

Your modesty becomes you

And your sense of responsibility 

I've worked hard for everything I've got

And that's the way it's supposed to be

When I'm a mammal again

At least I'll act like one

If you do your best each and every day

Good things are sure to come your way

What you give is what you get!

My daddy said that and I'll never forget!

And I commend it to you

Judy looked over at Nicholas to see him playing imaginary drums on Ben's stomach, obviously not paying attention to her words. She rolled her eyes as Ben laughed.

When we're mammals 

And we're gonna be!

I'm gonna blow my horn! 

Ben blew his trumpet.

Nicholas strummed his imaginary ukulele.

I'm gonna live the high life!

Judy laughed and shook her head, rolling her eyes at the two.

I'm gonna do my best to take my place where I belong!

Completely by accident, Ben, Nicholas, and Judy began to sing at the same time.

When!

We're!

Mammals!

Ben blew the last strong notes on his trumpet and when he finished, he gasped for air.

"Whew! Playing the trumpet and singing around the same time is hard. I feel great!”

Judy beamed. "Yes! And the way we all sang at the same time! So cool!"

Nicholas held out his arms. "See! You're getting into the music! Good for you!"

Judy looked around at the river as they floated by dark green trees. As they quieted down, Judy took in the surroundings. Floating down the river, Judy took note of vines hanging down the trees by the river, and the fresh smell of mildew in the air. The smell was not unpleasant, rather, Judy enjoyed the smell. She thought it smelled like life, just bursting out the sunbeams. She loved it. It made her feel alive, just like challenges made her feel alive. She craved it. Getting back to New Orleans was going to be another challenge, just like getting her restaurant. And she lived for the challenge and adventure of life.

Judy gazed at the river ahead, thankful that they were finally getting somewhere. All they had to do, was follow this river, and they would be just fine, and on their way to New Orleans. Judy's countenance brightened as she allowed herself to relax.

Perfect.