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Zootopia: Firefalls

Chapter Text

-Let's get started-

The sun had long dipped behind the mountains that surrounded the town of Fairfax. The sky though still found a way to illuminate the valley in a kind of peaceful beauty. The stars seemed to shine so much brighter out in the wilderness. Nick couldn't help but take in a deep breath as his eyes slowly panned to take it all in.

Trisha was still leaning against the fox and Nick couldn't help but enjoy the tender moment he was sharing with his friend. After Trisha's Revelations about her concern for leaving Judy and her gratefulness to Nick for staying in the parks, the two had sat in a kind of peaceful silence.

The brown bunny at Nick's side would occasionally adjust herself to find a more comfortable position. Her fur however still stayed rubbing against Nick's own russet colored fur. That was probably why Nick felt it when the goosebumps on Trisha's fur suddenly formed. How the bunny tensed up and seemed to begin shaking in fear.

"Oh no…" Trisha let out in a frightened whisper.

"What?" Nick asked nervously as he looked down at the scared looking bunny next to him.

Trisha was looking straight ahead at the mountains that overlooked the small town in the valley. Nick slowly looked in the direction of the does gaze and suddenly realized something. One of the mountains seemed to be moving. It's peaks steadily growing taller and taller as the stars in the night sky were blocked by the gigantic shadow the mountain produced.

"I thought he was gone!" Trisha said as she leapt off the log and took a step closer to the ledge they had been sitting near.

"Who is he?!" Nick shouted as he too stood up.

"It's…" Trisha trailed off as a series of spotlights sparked to life from the town of Fairfax. The beams began to move across the sky as they searched for a target. Slowly and steadily the lights found their target and illuminated the mass towering over the town from the mountain. "Pineconezilla!"

The gigantic beast let out a deafening sound. Well, not so much deafening as it was like…well…like when you kind of shake a pinecone and it makes that odd noise like it has something broken inside it. Yeah, that noise but only super loud.

"Pineconezilla?!" Nick blurted out in shock as he stared at the pinecone which was easily taller than any skyscraper in Zootopia.

Trisha turned and leapt over the log which had been their peaceful stargazing seat just moments before.

"Truck!" the bunny shouted as she ran towards Nick's rusted vehicle. To the fox's surprise, the truck beeped its horn two times and rumbled to life. "Combat mode! Contact the other rangers!"

The truck beeped two more times and suddenly bounced two times on its worn front tires. The third time its tires cleared the ground and it began to transform. Two arms popped out from the side as the cab lifted upward and became a cockpit.

"Wait…what?" Nick asked in confusion.

"Come on ranger! We have a monster to fight!" Trisha shouted as she leapt into the air towards the truck. The bunny reached down and tore her uniform away to reveal a skin-tight blue flight suit clinging to the doe's curvy figure. She did a mid-air twirl and landed in the truck's cockpit.

"Seriously that wasn't mentioned in the ad online!" Nick pointed out, still stunned that his 23 mpg orange and rusted pickup truck was some kind of battle robot.

There was a loud thud next to Nick who turned in time to see another modified battle bot truck land nearby. This one piloted by Jen who gave the fox a salute. Another loud noise caused the fox's ears to twitch and he turned to see yet another vehicle land nearby. This one was an ice cream truck though. The fox tilted his head in confusion and noticed a blonde furred painted dog waving at him happily from the cockpit. Only to reach down and produce an ice cream cone which he began to lick at happily.

"Seriously Trisha is this part of the training?" Nick asked as he looked back at his now orange battle ready pick up truck.

"It's in the manual!" Trisha shouted through a speaker from the truck which began to shake and lift off the ground. A set of rockets popping out the backside of the truck which gave it enough thrust to lift off the ground.

"Trisha wait!" Nick shouted. "That's my ride!"

It was too late though. Nick watched in annoyance as the brown bunny stole his ride and began to pilot the battle truck towards the massive pinecone which was still looming over Fairfax as several helicopters did lazy circles around the monster, dumping orange fire retardant on the beast as it loomed in a loomey manner.

"Trisha wait…" Nick grumbled. "Trisha.."

"Niiiiiiiick," Came a sweet voice from somewhere above him.

"Mmm...Trisha…"

"Niiiiiick."

"Mmm…"

Nick suddenly popped his eyes open as a pair of paws grasped the fur in his cheeks and began to shake him.

"Wake up sleeping beauty!" Trisha said playfully as her bright blue eyes filled Nick's vision.

Nick realized he wasn't on the ledge overlooking Fairfax. No, he was back in his cabin, in his bed, with Trisha straddling his chest as she tried her best to wake up the sleeping fox.

"Oh for the love of…" Nick groaned realizing he had slept in. The attack on Fairfax having been a dream.

"Ok so three things," Trisha said with a happy smile, her paws on his cheeks.

"Mmm, what?" Nick grumbled as he just laid in bed trying to figure out why he had been having so many pinecone related dreams recently.

"We are gonna invest in an alarm clock for you till Judy gets back," Trisha chuckled. "That is unless you like my early morning wake up attacks."

"Cant you just call instead?" Nick groaned as he closed his eyes and smacked his lips. Trisha squeezed his cheeks once more which made his eyes bulged open.

"Two, it's your turn to buy breakfast," The bunny continued, ignoring the fox's suggestion.

"Fine…" Nick mumbled as his eyes closed once more.

"And Three," Trisha said in a light whisper as she leaned down so she was inches away from the fox's muzzle. "Why were you mumbling my name in your sleep?" Trisha asked mischievously

Trisha was tossed to the edge of the bed as Nick sat up suddenly, his eyes wide as he scrambled out from beneath the covers and headed to the bathroom, the does sweet laughs filling the bedroom behind him. After catching her breath Trisha wiped a tear from her eyes before falling back in Nick's bed. She stretched her arms up and let out a pleased noise as she closed those beautiful blues of hers.

"Let's get this started."

-Ranger Training Day 2-

Nick was wheezing as he held the stitch in his side. His panting was labored and he looked like he had just run a marathon.

"Come on, almost at mile marker one," Trisha said as she bounced in place near the fox.

"Running is evil," The fox managed to say between pants.

"It's not that bad," Trisha chuckled as she took a moment to put a paw against a tree and stretch one of her slender looking legs. The pair had changed out of their regular ranger apparel for something more fit for running. Nick was in a white shirt and had gone with a pair of black jogging shorts he had gotten in town. Trisha was in a green running top and matching shorts. A pinecone in a shield logo had been stamped on one of the cheeks of her shorts.

"Running is evil," Nick repeated, only this time he had his walkie-talkie keyed up,

"Oh my gosh isn't it?" Judy responded. "But its important your in shape."

"I know I know because of the ranger stuff…" Nick groaned.

"Oh no I meant for when I get back to the region," Judy teased.

Trisha giggled at her friends comment over the walkie and Nick noticed how a light blush went up the doe's ears.

"Tell ya what," Judy began after a pause on the frequency. "Why not make a game out of it."

"A game?" Nick asked, slightly intrigued.

"Sure," Judy said happily. "Where are you all?"

Trisha perked up and smiled at Nick, "Running trail near Thunder mines."

"The running trail near Thunder mines," Nick relayed the information.

"The first one to the old water tower at the edge of the camp gets a prize," Judy suggested.

Both Trisha and Nick's ears flicked at the suggestions.

"What kind of prize?" Trisha and Nick asked as one over the radio.

"A date with yours truly," Judy teased.

Nick couldn't help but chuckle at the idea. He looked at the walkie for a moment and then to Trisha. Or at least where Trisha had been. To Nick's surprise, the doe was already several yards away, her ears behind her head as she dashed down the path towards the old Thunder mines.

"Pinecone," Nick cursed as he clipped the walkie to his side and broke out in a wild run to try and catch up to the bunny. "There is no way you are getting that date!"

"We are going to snuggle on the couch and watch kung fu movies and you aren't invited, Wilde!" Trisha shouted from her position ahead of Nick.

A few minutes later the pair were standing underneath the shade provided by an old wooden water tower. The white lettering spelling out an old mining company was all but completely faded away. Both mammals were panting and trying to drink up what oxygen they could. Nick had sprawled out on the ground, his chest rising rapidly. Trisha was nearby with her paws on her knees, the bunny had her eyes closed as she hung her head.

"So who won?" Judy's sweet voice came over the walkie.

"Hope you like Kung fu movies and snuggling on the couch," Nick groaned.

"That sounds like a Trisha victory," Judy giggled. "Don't worry Nick, runner-up gets to take Delta out to lunch."

"Why am I the runner-up prize?" Delta could be heard shouting in the background of Judy's transmission.

"Hope he likes Lynn's."

"I like being the runner up prize!" Delta corrected over the radio.

-Ranger Training Day 3-

While running had been a pain in the tail then hiking was in a category all to itself. Sure Nick wasn't exactly panting but his legs grew rather sore thanks to the incline they were occasionally on. It wasn't always a steady walk up a rising path though. Oh no, that would have actually been rather pleasant. Trisha had somehow picked a path that ended at certain climbing points. Nick had thought once they reached the first wall it was time to turn around. He then looked down at the doe and felt the color drain from his face as he realized Trisha was producing a set of gloves from her bag. She held the black climbing gloves out to Nick and smiled.

"You have got to be kitting," The fox grumbled.

"Oh come on Nick, it will be fun," Trisha teased as she put on her own gloves.

"Trisha is trying to make me go over a cliff," Nick grumbled into his walkie-talkie.

"Oh Hiking today? This should be no problem for the fox that managed to scale My boss is trying to get me killed mountain," Judy replied playfully.

"What hiking difficulty is that one?" Trisha asked as she tilted her head, her ears falling to one side.

"Last time I did anything like this I remember my butt being especially sore," Nick groaned.

Trisha burst out laughing as she stretched her arms, "Listen I don't know what you and Judy call hiking but with the rangers, it involves the outdoors and occasionally scaling a small wall. But remind me to ask Judy how you two hike."

Nick rolled his eyes at the bunny's comments but put the set of gloves on none the less. Trisha gave Nick a few tips on how to stretch for the climb. The fox grew somewhat worried as to why they were prepping like this and only wearing a pair of gloves for protection.

"It's not like we are scaling a mountain," Trisha pointed out. "Just gonna climb up for a minute or two and then there is a path with a nice breeze."

"Lousy bunnies…always trying to find creative ways to end me," Nick grumbled into his walkie which earned a sweet laughter from the device.

"Oh come on now," Judy replied. "If it makes ya feel any better Delta and I haven't exactly been just strolling around. Lots of fallen trees to navigate around and the occasional rock slide on the path here and there."

"Yeah but you have the painted protector with you," Nick pointed out. "I have…"

Right on cue Trisha turned and gave Nick a wicked smile followed by a wink.

"Trisha.." Nick finished his sentence, Trisha didn't seem phased by the fox's tone and giggled.

"FYI, Delta loves his new nickname," Judy chuckled. "And also Trisha will look after you. She knows the price of failure."

"Whats that?"

"Death by Pinecone.." Both Trisha and Judy said at once. Which was both amusing and slightly odd what with Trisha gazing off into the distance, a look of worry in her brilliant blue eyes.

A few minutes later Nick was taking a moment to catch his breath. Both the bunnies had been right, this wasn't exactly the most dangerous of climbs. The grade was steep but it wasn't like he would fall to his death if he slipped up. At the most, he would probably just slide down the steady slope and end up on the path they had just left behind. And if he missed that part then he would probably just tumble until he stopped in some bushes.

"You know Nick," Trisha said as she took a moment to wipe some sweat from her brown and look over her shoulder. "Some mammals would kill for the view you are getting right now."

Nick took a moment to look out across the valley just below them. He had to admit it was actually rather beautiful and-

"Not that one," Trisha teased.

Nick was somewhat confused and looked up. His eyes widening as he realized what Trisha was getting at. From his position beneath Trisha, he had a perfect view of the rabbit's rather supple rear. Her tight green shorts hugged to her rump in a rather attractive way. To add to the effect Trisha took a moment to wiggle her butt at Nick, complete with a tail flick.

"Trisha won't stop shaking her booty over my head," Nick mumbled into the radio.

"I say just enjoy the view," Judy shot back playfully. There was a sudden scuffling noise over the frequency before Delta's voice replaced Judy's.

"Take pictures!" The other canine shouted which caused Nick to close his eyes and shake his head.

"Yeah lots of pictures," Judy teased.

"Only if they were of a certain wolf," Nick teased, hinting at the old game Judy and he played last season.

For a good part of Nick's firewatcher career, he didn't actually know what species Judy was and they had played a game guessing what she could be. At one point she had been a wolf and the two spent hours saying what wolfy things she may be doing out in the woods. The thing is Trisha and Delta weren't as quick to realize what Nick was talking about.

A pinecone came whizzing past Nick's head which caused him to yelp in surprise. The fox looked up to see a rather angry looking Trisha glaring down at him.

"What wolf you talking about?" She growled. "You have a perfectly good bunny wanting to come back to you!" The doe continued as she managed to pull another pinecone from her bag.

She packed pinecones?!

"Trisha wait!" Nick shouted as he waved a paw to try and stop from getting pine-coned in the face. "Its all a jo-" Nick forgot that with one paw holding his walkie he had depended on the other one to keep him from falling down the side of the steady incline. As he tried to wave his free paw in the air he began to lose his balance and felt one of his feet give way.

He tried to grab a nearby rock with his other paw but it had the walkie-talkie in it so he couldn't get a good grip.

"Nick!" Trisha shouted as she scurried down the side of the slope. She reached the fox just in time and grabbed his wrist and pulled. Causing the fox who had started to slide to stop for a moment. The two caught their breaths for a moment and smiled at one another. Nick's green eyes saying what his ragged breathing was keeping him from saying. Before Trisha could make a silly comment however she slid slightly. Her bright blue eyes widened with realization as she began to slide a few more inches. "This may hurt in a second…"

Trisha's weight was not enough to keep them anchored to the side of the slope and the pair began to lose their gripping. There was a pause and the two remained completely silent as if the slightest noise would cause them to fall.

"So I just had to calm Delta down," Judy came back laughing over the walkie. "He was about to call Chris and ask if you two had started a secret romance!"

Both Nick and Trisha began to laugh at Judy's suggestion only to freeze when they both slid a foot down the slope. The foot then turned into two, then three, until they both began to tumble down the side of the mountain they had just hiked up. Both of them let out painful grunts and yelps as they hit small bushes and the occasional pinecone. With a sickening thump, they both came to a stop against a tree. Nick was laying on his back with his eyes closed. Trisha had somehow landed on Nick's stomach, her head buried in his chest.

"That sucked," The pain in Trisha's voice only slightly muffled by the fabric of Nick's shirt.

"Where are we?" Nick groaned as he rubbed his throbbing head.

"Bottom of Dutch mountain…" Trisha groaned, remaining on top of Nick, the fox couldn't blame her though, the thought of moving did not sound like a good one. All the muscles in his body ached and he had a feeling there was going to be some bruising later.

Nick slowly raised his walkie to his lips and whispered into the mic, "So Trisha and I are now renaming Dutch mountain to…Ow, my aching back hill of doom…"

-Ranger Training Day 4-

The lock on the door to the darkened cabin made a soft clicking noise. A small brown paw gingerly pushed the large wooden door open as a mischievous looking bunny tiptoed into the bedroom where a large lump laid curled up underneath the covers.

Trisha had to do her best to contain her excitement as her eyes narrowed on the mass covered by the sheets. She controlled the fits of giggles that wanted to escape as she turned back to the other side of the door. It took her a second but she finally managed to lift the large water balloon from the bucket she had been carrying it in. The water in the bucket sloshed and made a clinking noise as the ice cubs bumped into one another. She had to admit this was a little cruel but she also really wanted to do it. Judy had told her, after all, to make sure Nick was woken up bright and early so he could get as much training in as he could.

The bunny slowly slid her paws across the floor in an attempt to muffle her movements. She lifted the water balloon over her head but froze suddenly as her ears raised up. She detected something, it was breathing, but it wasn't coming from the comforters on the bed. Trisha slowly turned her head to see Nick standing already dressed leaning against the wall just behind the door.

The fox took a step forward and put his paws on his hips as he leaned forward.

"You're going to have to get up pretty early in the morning now to-" Nick began but Trisha didn't wait. She lobbed the water balloon of ice cold water at the fox.

Meanwhile, outside the cabin Erin, a sweet looking pig with bright blonde hair dressed in a park supervisor uniform was taking a moment to enjoy the brisk morning air. She stood on the small porch of her cabin and breathed in the fresh aroma of her coffee which had just been brewed by her boyfriend who was currently getting ready for his own day at work. Many of the mammals in Camp Currie worked in various regions or departments of the Park Service so it wasn't uncommon to see employees of various regions getting ready for their day in the parks.

Erin's calm morning, however, was momentarily interrupted when the door to the cabin next to hers burst open. Trisha darted from the cabin, laughing uncontrollably as a soaking wet Nick chased after her.

"Morning Erin!" Trisha shouted as she whizzed by.

"Trisha."

"Hey Erin," Nick manage to pipe up as he hurried after Trisha.

"Nick."

The pig took a sip from her coffee mug as if this was all normal. Erin reminding herself that she wasn't in charge of the rangers and whatever mischief they got into was Skye's problem.

After Nick changed into a dry set of clothes the pair visited Lynn's for what must have been the 4th time that week. Not that Nick minded at all. The roadside diner was slowly becoming one of his favorite places to eat. Lynn had been extremely warm and welcoming to the fox. Even Taconny had grown on Nick. Like a fungus or maybe a growth of some kind. Even he had to admit that the bunny had a way of making him smile. The black spotted doe would always come rushing through the restaurant when she heard Nick and Trisha enter. Trisha would receive a quick hug and nuzzle only to be pushed aside as the bunny eyed the fox's fluffy tail. Nick kept wondering what it was with bunnies and playing with his tail. Of course, he did remember spending hours upon hours just laying in bed with Judy's long ears in his paws. He would occasionally run his digits down the doe's back, eliciting a soft moan from the snoozing bunny. The moan would deepen whenever Nick reached Judy's rump, giving her tail a gentle squeeze.

Once they were done with breakfast, Trisha having paid as a way of making it up to the still somewhat damp fox, the doe directed Nick to drive them to Lake Plowfox. She then pulled her phone out and proceeded to text some of her friends. This had started a day or so ago. Trisha would tell Nick the location they needed to head to and it was up to the fox to figure out how to get there. It had actually been one of Judy's ideas. Reminding Trisha that they needed Nick to be the very best which meant homework. Nick would spend his nights talking to Judy over the radio as she and Delta continued their tour of the damaged regions. The fox would have a large map opened up on their bed and he would study different locations. Occasionally asking Judy a little history of certain spots on the map. Much to his surprise Judy not only knew most places but had a story about them. Nick then made it his goal to find a place the bunny didn't know about so they could go there together and make new memories. So far he had only found a pawful of places. Small lakes here and there or a nature trail way off the beaten path. Still, though he had a feeling they could find a way to make them special.

Sometimes Judy wouldn't be available but that didn't mean Nick was met with silence over the radio. Delta was always happy to chat with Nick. The pair of canines had become rather fast friends. After what they had been through together it was no surprise though. Delta would happily give Nick tips on how to handle Trisha when she was being a little over the top. Nick taking notes as to how to handle the bubbly brown bunny. Sometimes Delta would admit there was little that could be done and it was best to just let the doe have her way. Even if it meant Nick had to lay there and be used like some kind of pillow.

Today though Trisha seemed to be in a more calm state. Maybe having soaked the fox with the icey water balloon had been enough to slate her playful nature.

Once they had arrived at Lake Plowfox Trisha informed Nick that she had managed to squeeze them into a last-minute CPR class. All rangers had to have their CPR and first aid certifications which meant Nick needed to get one before going on patrol. They had arrived a little early however and Trisha told Nick to take a seat under a tree near the pebble-strewn beach that surrounded the rather large lake. A mountain in the distance sat directly over the lake and Nick noticed a damaged fence sat on the edge of the rocks. He tilted his head in curiosity but his attention was brought back to Trisha who produced a book from her backpack. The green bound book looked worn as if it had been used many times in the past. Trisha looked at the book with a kind of fondness reserved for mammals staring at something they truly cared about. Nick noticed the book had the parks logo drawn on it, though it had started to fade Nick still recognized it.

"So I know how important becoming a ranger is to you," Trisha said as she ran a paw over the book and then looked up at Nick. The fox could tell this was one of those moments it was best to let Trisha finish her thoughts uninterrupted. "I think it will help you. Sorry it has taken me so long to show this to you…its just…it's a long story."

Nick reached out and gently grabbed the top of the book but felt some resistance as Trisha held on.

"Please take care of this Nick…its…rare," Trisha said nervously, the sweetness in her smile had some hesitation mixed in. "Read it, learn it, and one day you will become an amazing ranger like me."

With that, the doe hurried off to a small wooden shack with a medical flag blowing in the wind. Nick watched doe hurry off and tilted his head in confusion. He then looked down at the manual in his paws. It was obviously very old. He wondered why it had taken Trisha so long to show it to him and why she acted the way she did when she showed Nick.

The fox took a seat in the grass beneath the large tree. The way the wind blew above his head made the leaves play out a sweet sounding song. Nick closed his eyes and let the world around him play its unique tune before he retrieved his walkie.

"So I finally got my paws on a ranger manual. Kept wondering if we had one," Nick chuckled as he ran a paw over the green book.

"Stuck at the office today?" Judy chuckled.

"No Lake Plowfox," Nick corrected. "Trisha gave it to me while she sets up a class for us."

There was a pause over the radio before Delta came over the frequency. "Trisha let you take those boring binders out of the office? Oh, Skye is gonna be ticked!"

"Binders?" Nick responded with some confusion.

"Yeah. Skye said we needed a proper manual a few years back and made like 4 of these big white binders filled with some of the driest and boring operational guidelines I have ever read," Delta explained.

Judy's voice came over the radio once more, "In fairness, it is important to read those. I mean anything to help you become the very best right Two forks?"

"Well it looks like Trisha left the binders back at the Rock Pile," Nick chuckled as he flipped open the cover of the book. He noticed nothing was typed out on the pages but paw written in a rather eloquent way. "She brought this green book with us today."

There was a pause over the frequency before Judy returned.

"A green book?" The doe asked with some hesitation. "Does it have the Parks Logo painted on the front?"

"Faded but yeah its right here," Nick commented as he ran a digit over the worn cover.

"I…I don't know what to say," Judy said, sounding slightly shocked at this news.

"Everything ok Carrots?" Nick asked as he opened the small book and looked at the first page. The writing, though slightly faded, was still legible. There were just a few words on the stained page: Ranger Expectations by T. Roosevelt.

"Nick that book," Judy began to say in a soft yet sweet tone, "It's not just a book. It's something more…"

"A really good book?" Nick teased.

"Nick, how much do you know about the Parks department?" Judy asked over the radio.

"Well, I know they process my paychecks in a prompt and timely manner so…"

"No I mean its history," Judy chuckled.

"Well…umm…" Nick looked up at the leaves of the tree he was sitting against and realized he actually didn't know too much about the department he now worked for.

"Settle in Two Forks, I have a story for you," Judy said proudly.

"Oh this will be good," Nick laughed as he looked down at the book in his paws and flipped through its stained pages. There were notes, sketches, even a short poem or two. Not exactly something Nick would expect to find in an official guidebook made by the parks department. Of course, all of it was paw written so there was a chance this wasn't exactly a massed produced text. It was probably written by some pencil pusher a long time ago. Someone tasked with creating a series of rules for the Rangers to follow.

"When Zootopia was first founded it wasn't exactly the large metropolis you know," Judy began releasing her part of the channel for a comment she knew Nick would want to make.

"Really? Thought the place just sprouted out of the ground overnight."

"Close…but not at all," Judy giggled. "No, it used to be a small town. Smaller than Fairfax. Then it grew and it grew fast. Companies were desperate for lumber and other resources so they came out here. They mined, milled, and chopped up the forest."

"Which is bad," Nick commented.

"Very, all those trees, the rivers running dry, the mountains gutted.."

"Oh that too," Nick chimed in.

"What did you mean then?"

"No forest, no Firewatch job," Nick began. "No Firewatch job then no you…and that is not a world I want to live in."

"Stop…" Judy said with a giggle. Nick could hear Delta in the background of the frequency cracking up.

"Geeze Hopps thought you had gray fur not red!" The painted ranger teased.

Nick chuckled at the ranger's comment about his bunny and waited for Judy to continue her story.

"Anyways!" Judy said firmly which caused Nick to sit up a little straighter as he flipped through the manual, only paying half attention to the notes within. "Well, a certain mammal saw what was happening to our national treasures. He became concerned with what kind of world we would leave our kits and cubs. So he took it upon himself to push for conservation."

It was at that moment Nick came to the last page in the book. In the center of the page was a message from the author:

"There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, it's melancholy and it's charm."

"As a Ranger, you are expected to protect this land of mystery and all those who seek solitude in this truly magnificent realm. Stand tall and know you have both my respect and admiration for undertaking this duty."

"Of course being president didn't hurt his cause," Judy continued.

It was at that moment Nick's eyes went wide as he heard Judy's play over in his mind.

"President?" Nick asked as he flipped back to the front page of the book.

"Yes," Judy said, her voice filled with pride. "He is considered to be the Parks Department, unofficial founder. One of the greatest presidents of all time. Theodore Roosevelt."

As Judy said the name Nick read the author's name once more: T. Roosevelt.

"They sure don't make 'em like that anymore," Delta chimed in over the frequency.

"No, they don't," Judy agreed having gotten back on the airwaves. "They also don't make books like the one you are holding anymore Nick."

Nick rubbed a paw across the pages. The book seemed heavier now. Not in a way where it was a burden though, no, now it had more meaning to it.

"I don't know how Trisha got a hold of that book, she won't tell anyone, not even me!" Judy explained. "Nick if she is letting you borrow it. You must understand that's a big deal."

A shadow crept over Nick and he looked up to see Trisha standing over him. He couldn't explain it but there was something about her. The way her ears were raised but arched at the top told Nick she was both listening to the conversation and somewhat deep in thought as to what to say.

"I know, it means a lot to me," Nick said over the radio. "Any idea why she would let a bum like me see this?"

The question was meant for both Judy on the radio and Trisha who stood in front of the fox with a look of embarrassment.

"No idea, I know I wouldn't let you get your grimy paws all over it," Judy teased.

Trisha shrugged and remained silent.

"Well if you excuse me, this grimy pawed fox has some studying to do before that mad bunny comes back," Nick teased as he gave Trisha a wink.

"Sounds good, Delta and I are about to make contact with one of the conservation teams out here. I'll talk to ya later Two Forks."

"Cya Carrots," Nick said before he clipped the walkie-talkie to his side. He looked down at the book only to look back up at Trisha who had a somewhat proud smile on her lips as she rocked on her paws in front of the fox.

"Why?" Nick asked as he closed the cover to the small green book and tapped it with his knuckles.

Trisha actually looked a little embarrassed as she put her paws behind her back and rocked back and forth. She looked at the lake and then back to Nick.

"Do I really need a reason?" She asked with an uncharacteristic hesitant smile.

"Trisha…this…it really means-"

"I know," Trisha cut Nick off and gave the fox one of her signature winks.

The words lingered in the air between the two mammals who seemed content with just smiling stupidly at one another.

"You two ready?" Came a shout from the building nestled near the lake. A slender cheetah standing near a large open doorway.

"Coming Tams!" Trisha shouted in return as she reached a paw out to Nick.

The fox took a second to look up at the bunny smiling at him before reaching up and taking her paw. Trisha helped Nick up and turned back to the lake. With a skip in her step, the bunny led Nick towards the water where the cheetah was waiting nearby with several other mammals in red and white outfits. A series of crosses on all their outfits.

Trisha took a sec to reach over and take the Ranger Expectation book from Nick and put it back in her backpack. She gave the fox a wink signaling that he would have more time to read it later.

"Alright everyone so we have some folks from the Rangers department joining us today for our CPR cert," The cheetah announced as she stood in front of the class.

Nick took a moment to look over at the cheetah and suddenly a rather smug smirk crossed his lips.

"Any fireworks in this class?" Nick asked playfully.

The cheetah was slightly confused at first as she turned to look at Nick when a sudden realization came over her. The cheetah began to blush before stammering something out.

"Fi…Firewatcher?"

Nick resisted the urge to burst out laughing as the two recognized one another.

"You look good in that outfit Tammy," Nick complimented as he strolled past the cheetah to take a position with the other members of his class. The comment was a jab at the feline who Nick had met during his time as a Firewatcher. Tammy along with two of her friends had been caught by the fox skinny dipping in Lake Jonsey launching fireworks.

"Oh that's a story tone right there," Trisha chuckled as she stepped next to Tammy and smiled.

"I uh….ok so first class we need to make sure the patient is breathing!" The instructor tried to change the subject and get the class on track.

-Ranger Training Day 5-

Nick did the final button on his shirt and closed his eyes. He took in a deep breath before opening them once more and looking ahead at the large mirror that hung in the corner of the changing room.

Wait till mom sees this…

The fox barely recognized himself but at the same time, he felt this was something he was made for. Nick was dressed in a long sleeve dark gray shirt and long green hiking pants. The ranger logo had been sewn just above his breast pocket.

Trisha had told him while most ranger uniforms looked the same he had the ability to customize certain parts. Nick took a moment to try something and rolled up his sleeves. Going for a more casual look. Apparently, Edward had thought of this ahead of time because two straps popped out from Nick's sleeves which made it easier for him to secure them just above the elbows.

This was just one of several different outfits. All of them were currently hanging around the large changing room. There was a dress uniform that Trisha told Nick should be worn whenever working an event or ceremony. There was a cold weather set, summer set, standard casual. Nick felt a little overwhelmed when he had been handed all the different uniforms but Trisha had reminded him that Judy would probably tell him which one she wanted to see him in whenever the time came. This earned a laugh from the fox who had to admit Trisha had a point.

Right on cue the door to the changing room slowly opened and clicked closed behind the bunny who had entered.

"Anyone ever teach you how to knock?" Nick chuckled, had the bunny come in just a minute earlier she would have seen quite the-

"Hey, there Two Forks," A sweet voice like a lullaby floated in the air. Nick felt his ears twitch and his heart start to race.

How was it he had forgotten just how beautiful that voice was? How every time he heard her speak it was like he was falling in love all over again? How just a single word from those luscious lips of hers was enough to make his whole world brighter?

Nick turned to see Judy standing in front of the closed door to the changing room. She looked a little worn out. Bits of forest were stuck in her fur. She probably hadn't showered in days and was now covered with a fine layer of dirt, ash, and who knew what else. To Nick thought she was still the most beautiful sight.

The two stood in silence for only a moment before they both took a step towards one another. The space between them vanished as Nick wrapped the small doe up in a strong hug.

"Sorry if I smell bad," Judy whispered into the fox's chest as she buried her nose in his stomach and took a deep breath. "I just…really missed you and as soon as I heard you and Trisha were on your way to pick up your uniforms I-"

Nick didn't let her finish. He couldn't. He had been dreaming of those lips of hers for several days now and the fact they weren't pressed against his was starting to become painful. The fox put a paw underneath Judy's chin and tilted her head upwards as he leaned down. Their lips met and he felt the bunny in his grasp shiver as she let out a purr into the kiss.

Neither of them kept track of how long the kiss lasted. Not really caring for the construct of time when they were together they could have been there for a minute or an hour. When the couple finally parted Judy still had her eyes closed as she put her chin against the fox's chest.

"Mmmmm….I missed that," Judy said playfully as she kept her arms wrapped around Nick's waist.

"And I missed you," Nick whispered as he ran a paw down one of Judy's ears. "You and all your rather unique forest smells."

Judy snorted at Nick's joke as she opened her eyes.

"I like to think I smell nice," She said as she wiggled her nose.

"Well once you get past the smell of the ashtray," Nick teased as he leaned down and buried his muzzle in the side of Judy's neck which caused the doe to squeak happily as her wonderful giggles filled the changing room. "That's better."

"Nick stop that tickles!" Judy gasped as she squirmed in the vulpine's arms.

There was a loud knock on the door that caused them both to jump.

"I am running a tailoring service here not a motel," Edward said from the other side of the door.

Judy blushed but remained in Nick's grasp.

"Sorry Ed," Nick responded casually. "But you really should think of putting a bed in here or something could really help bring in some extra business."

A minute later Nick and a still blushing Judy exited the changing room, Nick carrying all his uniforms over his shoulder. Judy holding Nick's free paw as she skipped alongside her fox.

"Everything fit great Ed," Nick proclaimed as he approached the counter where the large tiger was busying himself with another order.

"You expected any different?"

"Not at all," Nick chuckled. "You wouldn't happen to make tuxes would ya?"

Judy snorted at Nick's comment and then looked around the store, a confused expression crossing her lovely face.

"Hey Edward, where are Trisha and Delta?"

"Oh, those two?" The tiger said with a laugh. "Well after I finally managed to pry them off one another Trisha said that they had some 'Ranger Business' to attend to and then hurried out the door….with your truck keys I am afraid."

Nick groaned, he had left his keys with Trisha so he didn't lose them when trying on all the different uniforms.

"Well it looks like you are driving Carrots," Nick said as he turned to smile down at his bunny.

Judy had a nervous look on her face as she smiled up at Nick, "I didn't drive here. We were dropped off by someone from the parks service who was passing through town."

Nick let his ears droop along with his eyelids. He then turned to Edward and placed the uniforms on the counter. "Mind watching those for me big guy? Don't want to have to lug them to the movie theater."

Edward picked the uniforms off the counter and placed them on a series of hangers. "I close at 6 so if you're not back by then.."

"Then I will be training in my boxers for a bit," The fox joked. He then turned to Judy and grasped her paw in his and led the doe towards the exit of the store.

"Movie theater?" Judy asked excitedly. "What movie are we seeing?"

"Like it matters?" Nick asked suggestively. He turned to give Judy a wink which caused the doe to blush as her mouth hung open.

"I am so glad to be back," Judy exclaimed as she began to pick up the pace.

The theater on Main Street was showing an old black and white western that afternoon. Of course the fox and bunny curled up in the back row didn't see a single frame.