-Rising from the ashes-
Standing atop the crest of a black covered hill Judy's bright purple eyes scanned the scorched land that seemed to go on for miles.
Her colorful green button-up shirt and sun-bleached jeans looked odd surrounded by the blackened and ash-covered landscape.
Try as she might Judy couldn't help but let out a saddened sigh as she remembered just how bright and vibrant the forests used to be. Now though it was just a scene of carnage.
Judy's thoughts were interrupted by a large yet gentle paw that rested on her shoulder. The gray doe reached up and put her own paw upon the canines and let out another sigh.
"It will be alright boss," Delta said softly as he gave Judy's shoulder a gentle squeeze. "The forest has always come back after a fire. This will be no different."
"I hope your right," The bunny said softly as her ears raised up. The ranger spoke the truth. This had not been the first fire in the forest. Far from it actually. There had been many fires through the years. Judy had been witness to some of them. She was always surprised just how resilient the forest could be as it would begin to heal on it's on over time.
Of course, none of the fires had been this bad. The June fire had really taken it's toll on the forest and had consumed thousands of acres of woods. The initial reports had suggested that the parks department had lost a pawful of towers and resources as well. It wasn't until the fires had finally been extinguished that the parks department could send in teams to inspect the damage.
Since Judy had recently been promoted to a full-blown Parks Supervisor she had mammals beneath her she could send. That wasn't her style though as she wanted to see the damage for herself. Now, however, she was wondering if it had been a good idea.
Judy was grateful she wasn't alone in this trek. Though she would have loved if another certain someone could join her she also understood that it was important for her safety that a more experienced ranger accompanied her. Delta had happily volunteered to be Judy's escort through the fire scorched forest. Together the pair managed to make some great headway and would soon be making contact with a research team that had been sent a few days prior. Judy was hoping the team would have some good news when it came to the damage caused by the fire. Of course, Judy had always been the optimistic type of mammal, this time though things were different.
"Remember the last big one," Delta said as he began to stroll down the ash-covered path. His paws were wrapped up tightly so his fur wouldn't become covered in the burnt bits of forest, this caused his tracks to look odd compared to the paw marks that would normally be left behind.
"Which one?" Judy asked as she checked her own feet wraps and then continued down the path after her ranger escort.
"The one over at Snow Top," Delta said as he looked back at Judy with a smile.
"Oh gosh that one was a bad one," Judy said, remembering the images of the once bright green mountain in the northern region of the park suddenly burst into a massive fireball.
"Yep," Delta said as he reached out and helped Judy over a burnt log. The bunny took the canine's paw and carefully hoped over the obstacle. "And now look, we have that zip line camp every summer."
The painted dog had a point. Every fire that had occurred wasn't the end of the forest. The woods recovered and so did the parks department. They would always rebuild and come back from the worst that nature threw at them.
"Or the Crystal River fire?" Judy said as she remembered another event from several years back.
"Oh yeah, speaking of, when are they bringing back the white water rafting?" Delta asked with a smirk as the pair continued onward.
"No idea," Judy said with a sigh. "Last time I talked with Superintendent Flo it sounded like they plan to suspend a lot of activities. At least until he have a grasp on the damage from the June fire."
"Worst comes to worst we can have Trisha teach the classes," Delta teased.
Judy let out a snort at the thought of the small brown bunny sitting on a raft throwing pinecones at other mammals to get them to row faster was rather amusing.
"Speaking of which," Delta began with a wicked smile. "Isn't today Day 1?"
Judy's eyes brightened at the question and she nodded eagerly. The bunny reached for a brand new walkie-talkie from her belt and began to fumble with the knobs. The device looked like it was fresh out of the box, bright, clean, pristine. It was a top of the line model that was rare even for the parks department. According to the box, it had some serious range to it. Judy had spent a whole months salary on the new pair of walkies. It would be worth it in the long run, especially when she had to be so far away from a certain someone.
"Take a breather," Delta said as he nodded towards a smooth boulder just off the path. "I'm gonna do some scouting around, be back in a bit."
Judy smiled at the painted dog who gave her a wink. Delta had always managed to pick up on the little tells from Judy and had a feeling she could use some quiet time on the radio. The gray bunny skipped over to the boulder and made herself comfortable as she keyed her microphone.
Miles away in a dimly lit cabin a certain fox was suddenly roused from his slumber. Nick kept his eyes closed as he stretched and let out a yawn. He felt a weight on his chest and smirked. He had to admit he never knew how he managed to sleep before he met Judy. Feeling the small bunny curled up on his chest as she slept was so calming to the fox. He had never taken himself as a cuddler but around the small gray bunny he just couldn't resist curling up and feeling her fur against his.
Nick reached out and ran a paw over a soft ear that twitched slightly in his grasp. He smirked as he let out another yawn. His eyes fluttered open for just a second but it felt like such a bother that he decided to just keep them closed and enjoy the moment. The sun was still rising in the sky but thanks to the heavy blinds on the cabin windows only a few rays of light managed to penetrate the bedroom.
"Come in Two forks," Came a voice over the walkie-talkie next to Nick's bedside. Nick grumbled as he realized it was his walkie that had woken from his sleep. He let out a soft groan as he wondered what Judy needed. Didn't she know that she was currently sleeping on his chest?
"Mmm..so how long am I gonna be Two Forks?" Nick asked as he keyed the mic on his walkie.
"Until Trisha says I can call you Ranger Nick," Judy shot back with a giggle.
"Well shouldn't be long," Nick said softly. "I plan to ace anything that blue-eyed monster throws my way."
"Oh yeah," Nick chuckled as he ran his paw over Judy's ears. "I have been practicing."
"Well then your next few weeks should be a breeze," Judy giggled over the frequency. "I hope to be back soon so I can see you in that uniform."
"Where are you?" Nick mumbled.
"Delta and I are on our way to meet up with a conservation team in the river region to see how the waterways faired. Hope to have a full report of the June fire damage soon so we know what we need to get the forest on the path to recovery."
It was at this moment Nick suddenly tensed up, his paw stopping mid-stroke down what he had thought was Judy's ears.
"Wait…" Nick said as the fog in his mind began to clear and he suddenly remembered that Judy wasn't actually in the cabin with him.
They had had this conversation earlier that week. Judy would be out in the forest gathering information on the damage the June fire had done. She wouldn't be back for at least a week.
Then whose ears are these?!
"If your there," Nick began as he felt a nervous shiver go down his spine. "Who the heck is here?"
"Oh that must be your wake up call," Judy chuckled over the radio with a bit of a mischievous tone. "I pulled some strings and arranged for someone to come and make sure you weren't late on your first day of training."
Nick didn't want to open his eyes. He just wanted to fall back asleep. Anything would be better than the alternative. His curiosity got the better of him though and he slowly opened his eyes. As he looked down he gazed into a pair of bright blue eyes that had a rather pleased look about them. Nick noticed how his paw still gripped a dark brown ear and he quickly let it go.
"Awwww…but it felt so good," Trisha said with a flirty smirk.
Nick remained frozen as the brown bunny climbed up and sat down on the fox's stomach. She then scooped the walkie from the stunned fox's paw and keyed up the mic.
"Two things," the bunny began as she smiled down at the frightened predator.
"What's up?" Judy responded, sounding completely unphased that Trisha's voice now filled the frequency.
"He is a super heavy sleeper," Trisha said with a smirk as she reached behind her. Nick's eyes widened in fear as the brown bunny began to toss a pinecone up and down in the air.
"How long were you here?!" Nick asked as his eyes went to the pinecone and then to the ranger sitting on top of him.
"Not important," Trisha said as she stuck her tongue out.
"He also snores," Judy shot back over the radio.
"He is also super good at ear rubs," Trisha said playfully.
"Oh gosh yes," Judy's voice gushed from the walkie. "Wait….how would you know?!"
"You said to make sure he was awake. I was just waiting for the right moment," Trisha teased.
"You just sat on top of him and waited didn't you?" Judy's voice came out in a monotone.
"Yup," Trisha giggled.
"Oh gosh.." Judy began and Nick prepared to hear Trisha berated which would probably get him in trouble as well. "Trisha I love you."
"Oh I know it," Trisha shot back. "Now say good morning to your fox so I can drag him off and mold him into the perfect ranger."
Trisha then held the walkie to Nick's muzzle.
"Good morning Nick," Judy said sweetly over the radio. "Have fun on your first day. I will contact you later."
Trisha then squeezed the walkie and turned on the microphone in the device. Nick's eyes widened as he stared at the walkie as if it were a lifeboat.
"Help me…" he pleaded as his eyes darted up to Trisha and then back to the walkie.
"If she gets too bad just lay down and play dead," Judy teased. "She should get bored eventually"
With that Trisha set the walkie down on the nightstand and grinned evilly down at Nick who felt very vulnerable suddenly as he tried to pull the sheets over his face.
"What was that about a blue-eyed monster?"
"Pinecone?" Nick said meekly.
"Oh don't try and sweet talk yourself out of this Wilde," Trisha said as she leaned down and reached out. "Time to get dressed ranger, we got learning to do." Trisha then reached out and pressed a digit to Nick's nose.
-Day 1, Ranger Training-