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Zootopia: Firefalls

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-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."

"Including pinecones?"

"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-

 

Chapter Text

 

-Truck Talks-

"No its ok Nick, really. It's not like we had to use thousands of gallons of water to put out a fire recently," Trisha shouted from the bed as she crossed her legs and began to fiddle with her phone.

Nick meanwhile chuckled as he let the warm water wash over his fur. After the surprise wake up call he had been told to get ready. Not that he needed much prompting from the brown bunny who had let herself into the cabin. The fox had hurried into the bathroom and hopped into the shower. He had only been in there for a few minutes before the impatient doe began to pester him from the other room.

As the water poured down his body Nick closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. The memories from the past few days began to come flooding back.

-Several days earlier-

Nick was standing in a well-lit hallway inside the local lodge. The massive wooden structure was probably one of the largest resorts Nick had seen outside of Zootopia. It boasted many rooms that could accommodate mammals of any size imaginable. There were restaurants, a bar, and of course many cozy little spots where mammals could just sit inside and relax as they took in views of the local valley.

The resort itself was owned by the Parks Department as a form of revenue. At the moment it was really the only form of income for the department thanks to the loss of so much in the June fire.

Nick took in a deep breath as he looked at a mural that was painted on one of the walls of the small waiting area he currently found himself in. The mural had trees of epic proportions rising up from the soil and into the sky. Of course, they weren't the main focus of the picture. A black and blue steam train was crossing a bridge towards a series of mountains. A plaque beside the mural explained the significance of the train and the parks department.

Before Nick managed to read the brief history he detected movement behind him.

A lovely looking raccoon in a business suit approached Nick and gave him a polite nod. The smile on her face was a welcome sight to the fox who had to admit he was somewhat nervous for this interview.

He had to get this job. If he didn't then…well, there wasn't much point in worrying about that at the moment.

"They are ready for you in room 113 Mr. Wilde," The raccoon said softly.

The raccoon was actually a form of receptionist for the conference center. Nick had checked in with her upon his arrival at which point he had been told to wait till his interviewers were ready. Nick normally liked to have more knowledge before going into a meeting like this. He didn't even know the mammals that would be present. He had tried to get info out of Judy but she was pretty useless when it came to this as she would simply put her lips to Nick's and distract him with one of her wonderful kisses.

Trisha had been equally unhelpful. Not that she was running around and kissing the fox though. No, the brown bunny found her own ways of keeping her lips shut. One of her preferred methods was throwing objects at the fox till he got the hint she wasn't telling him anything.

"Any last minute tips?" Nick asked with a hesitant smile.

Once again the mammals that called the parks home showed how they did not see Nick as a sly fox but someone in need. The raccoon gave Nick a friendly smile and stepped forward. She reached up and straightened Nick's tie and then brushed the dust from the shoulders of his suit.

Nick didn't know why but he felt slightly calmer thanks to this strangers assistance, small as it was.

"Remain calm Mr. Wilde. Remember you got this interview because they think they want you here. Simply remind them that they do and the rest will fall into place." The raccoon said with a smile. "And if all else fails…" The receptionist glanced to either side before looking back at the fox. "I get off at 5."

Nick felt his ears flick slightly and he couldn't help but smirk.

"Thanks but I am taken," Nick said happily.

"See that," The raccoon said with her own confident smirk.

"What?"

"How the world didn't come crashing down?" The raccoon said with a wink, her teal eyes showing a slight confidence in them. "If you get turned down it's not the end of the world. Just brush it off and make a new plan."

Nick stood there for a moment and processed what had just happened. He thought the raccoon had just asked him out but as it turned out it was a form of life lesson.

Did….did I just get hustled?

Nick was still running over what had just happened when he entered conference room 113. He pushed the thoughts from his mind and focused on the now. The first thing he had to do was assess his situation. To do that he needed to try and read the mammals at the interview. He liked to think he was rather good at reading mammals and could even predict what they would say next.

Except for that raccoon. She is good…maybe a former street hustler.

Once inside the small conference room, Nick took a moment to look at the three mammals sitting on one end of the large wooden table. He couldn't help but freeze when he looked at them.

"Welcome Mr. Wilde," Judy said with a smirk as she looked up at her fox. She was dressed in her new parks supervisor uniform. It was a light green button up shirt with the parks patches on her arm. A tree in a shield was on the front, Nick recognized it as the Park Departments unofficial logo.

"Please odd stranger who we have never met before, have a seat," Trisha joined in. The brown doe was in her standard ranger outfit. Her dark green hat sat on the table before her.

"I am going to apologize in advance Mr. Wilde," An arctic fox between the two smiling bunnies began. Nick guessed this was one of his future bosses. She wore a long-sleeved version of Trisha's outfit but her hat was absent. Her dark blue eyes looked directly into Nick's emerald ones. Her smile seemed genuine and when she reached out to give Nick's paw a shake he felt some strength behind her. He had a feeling that she was a tough but friendly kind of leader. Time, of course, would tell. "My name is Skye Winters. I am part of the Ranger's leadership. I handle all day to day operations when it comes to the Rangers." She then took a moment to look on either side of her at the two smiling bunnies. Judy's gaze never left Nick while Trisha smiled up at her boss with a mischievous grin. "We normally require a representative from the Parks leadership along with a frontline ranger…these two managed to guilt trip their way into this interview."

"I wonder why," Nick said with a smirk towards Judy. His view of his lovely doe was somewhat obscured by Trisha who literally climbed up onto the table and crawled in front of Judy. Waving at Nick the whole while.

A white-furred paw found its way onto Trisha's head as Skye pushed the playful doe back to her seat.

"You already know these two so don't have to apologize for them right?" Skye asked.

Ok, starting to like Skye.

The interview was actually a lot more fun than Nick thought it would be. For the most part, they kept things rather casual. Skye dropped the Mr. Wilde and she refused to let him call her by her last name.

They looked over Nick's resume which was a little embarrassing at first. Nick's job history was somewhat…absent. After all, what was he supposed to put? Professional hustler? What about Pawpsicle seller?

In the end, he had gone with: Consultant.

While Skye had been slightly skeptical about all this she admitted that one of their best rangers was given the job on a chance a while back. Skye explained while it is important to make sure they hire the most qualified candidates there are rare occasions when it's important to take a gamble and give a mammal a chance to prove themselves.

"Thought I got in because of my good looks," Trisha said as she looked over at Skye. The brown bunny playfully assuming Skye had been referring to her.

"I wasn't talking about you," Skye grumbled, keeping her eyes on Nick and trying to ignore the brown nuisance next to her. This became incredibly hard as Trisha reached over and began to tug at Skye's sleeve.

"Who is it?"

Skye remained silent but her eyelid began to twitch.

"Skye….Skye….Skye….Skye…"

"Anyways," Judy began, trying to get the interview back on topic. "Mr. Wilde.."

"Please, call me Nick," Nick said as he gave Judy a wink. The doe blushed and she had to look away for a moment to collect her thoughts.

"Skye, is it Delta?" Trisha asked on the other side of the table. "Is it because he couldn't make up his mind and just put every color he could find on his fur?"

"Focus!" Skye finally managed to get out which silenced the other three mammals in the room. The white fox closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. She then looked up at Nick as her smile returned. "Sorry, but I think we need to ask you at least a few questions relevant to the position before we let Trisha start terrorizing you."

"Think you meant training boss," Trisha said sweetly.

"I know what I said," Skye shot back without breaking eye contact with Nick.

The rest of the interview was just as chaotic, no matter how hard any of them tried to stay professional.

Judy asked Nick a few basic interview questions. Like what were his strengths? What were his weaknesses? How did he solve problems?

The real kicker came when Judy asked, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"

Nick remained silent and just stared at Judy. The longer he stared the more she began to blush till she eventually had to put a folder in front of her face as she couldn't look at Nick and his handsome smirk. The two had talked about their relationship after the June fire. Nick applying to become a parks ranger told Judy that he was in this for the long haul and wanted to spend his days with her. In 5 years time who knew what could happen?

"So are they always this dorky?" Skye asked as she leaned over towards Trisha.

"Yes," Trisha snorted. "Which is why he would make an amazing ranger."

"You realize we have other requirements then just being dorky right?"

"Gosh Skye, don't ruin the mood you dork!"

-Present day-

"So once you are FINALLY DRESSED!" Trisha shouted from her seat inside Nick's room as she waited for the fox to finish getting ready in the bathroom. "We can get going for some breakfast, no way am I dealing with you on an empty stomach."

"Looking good takes time," Nick said as he finished getting ready. The fox opened the bathroom door and stepped out in his firewatch apparel. A dark green long sleeved shirt and some hiking pants which had been rolled up slightly. He had been told his uniform came later so, for now, he was to wear something he wouldn't mind getting sweaty in.

"You need more time," Trisha shot back as she looked the fox up and down.

"Oh haha," Nick grumbled as he closed the bathroom door.

The pair exited Nick's cabin a minute later. Trisha strolling over towards Nick's orange rusted pickup truck. As an employee of the parks service, Nick was offered a place to stay which the parks department would provide in exchange for a doc in his pay. Nick had done the math and realized it was kind of a steal so he took the parks department up on their offer and was now a resident of what was called "Camp Curry." Judy however called it Camp Cuddly because Nick was there. He had earned a slap on the arm after making a few gagging noises from that one.

Nick watched in mild amusement as Trisha hopped into the passenger seat of Nick's truck and made herself comfortable.

"Oh no I insist, I will drive," Nick grumbled as he fumbled for his keys and hopped into the driver's seat. Trisha was fiddling with her cellphone as the fox got comfortable and started his truck up.

As the engine rumbled to life Nick couldn't help but give the steering wheel a little rub. This truck had been through a lot and it still had a lot of life in it. The fox looked over at the ranger next to him and smirked. Trisha's paws hurried over the screen of her phone and her mouth hung open slightly as she lost herself in thought. Nick cleared his throat which caused the does ears to suddenly perk up as she came back into reality.

"Oh sorry there Nick," the bunny said with a smile as she buckled up. "It's so rare to be within cell range that I gotta enjoy it while I can."

"Not exactly something I am looking forward to losing," Nick admitted. He had grown used to having cell service as well. While out in the forest as a firewatcher there hadn't been any service and because of that, he didn't have much to do. Well besides fall head over paw for a certain purple eyed firewatcher.

"Oh, pu-lease.." Trisha snorted as she waved her paw around. "Like you are ever going back out into the woods again without her."

"What?"

"Rank has its perks, Nick. Plus you are most likely gonna be assigned to the main visitor region for a bit. There is a pay differential for those rangers out in the woods. It pays more so normally those spots are covered rather quickly." As Trisha explained some of the ins and outs of the Ranger hierarchy Nick couldn't help but smile.

Part of him had been worried about taking this job and what it could mean for him and Judy. From the sounds of it, there was very little for him to worry about. Sure there would be occasions when they would be apart. Right now for example. For the most part, though he could look forward to a lot more time with Judy.

Nick heard a snapping noise next to him and turned to see Trisha aiming her cellphone at him, a mischevious smirk on her face.

"What was that for?"

"You have a super goofy smile," Trisha said as she scrunched her nose.

Nick was about to speak up before Trisha cut him off.

"Plus Judy said to snag as many pics of you while she is out in the woods with my painted ranger. And what Judy wants.."

"Judy gets," Nick finished the Bunny's sentence.

"Smart fox. We will make a ranger of you yet!" Trisha exclaimed but was silenced as her stomach rumbled. "First though we have to get some grub before the monthly briefing."

"Briefing?"

"we got tons of time. Normally the briefings are done via radio but since you don't have your equipment yet I thought it would be best to take ya to the Rock Pile for our briefing. Plus the bosses are both in a big meeting today discussing budgets…or was it badgers…either way, I was told we don't need to be on frequency until 11 am."

"Is it always like this?" Nick asked, wanting to learn as much as he could about the job.

"Normally briefing is at 9 on the first of every month. Every once and a while they change it up. But they will always contact us before doing that…shouldn't you be driving me to food?"

Nick chuckled as he noticed a slight annoyance in Trisha's tone. He guessed the bunny got cranky when she was hungry and since they would be in a close capacity over the next few days Nick thought it was best to keep her happy.

"Where to?" Nick asked as he put the truck into drive.

"Um, where else? Lynn's!"

Nick laughed at the excitement in Trisha's voice, she sounded like a kit who was told they were about to have cake and ice cream for breakfast. Of course, Nick had no idea what they served at Lynn's so they very well could be having junk food.

Nick pulled the truck out of the small cluster of cabins and down a dirt road which soon turned to pavement. As they drove along Trisha and Nick chatted about little things here and there. Nick enjoying the does company. During the short break between Firewatching and Ranger training, Nick and Trisha had actually grown a lot closer than he thought they would. Nick soon realized that the way Trisha was he didn't have much of a choice, the doe managed to wiggle her way into mammal's lives and stay there. In the end, he was actually grateful for that. He was also grateful for another reason.

"So Judy is just standing there on the edge of this hill that is covered in mud with this look on her face like she is standing over a cliff," Trisha snorted as she recalled one of the many stories that involved a certain gray bunny. "Every time she tries to move she slipped a little and let out this adorable squeak."

"Because she didn't want to fall in the mud?" Nick asked between laughs.

"Exactly. Which is the best part because she already was covered in it from the other part of the obstacle course!"

"Then what was the point?" Nick asked as he followed Trisha's paw when she signaled for him to take a turn up ahead. They were making great time which was saying something since everything was so spread out here in the forest. The one thing that saved them time though was the fact that the roads were practically deserted. Only the occasional dirt covered car would pass them, a casual waved thrown their way by the other drivers.

"I have no idea but she spent like 5 minutes trying to climb this hill and was stuck in this one spot sliding all over the place," Trisha explained, her eyes bright. "I kinda felt bad when I pegged her with that water balloon, she was so close to the top."

"Why did you hit her with a water balloon then?"

"Because she was close to the top and I wanted to see what would happen," Trisha said as if this was the only reasonable response.

Nick chuckled and shook his head as he glanced over at the bunny next to him.

"What did she do to you afterward?"

Trisha wheezed," She couldn't get to me because she got up and tried to not fall in the mud again!"

"Oh Judy," Nick mumbled as he shook his head.

"Next time you talk to her ask her about Mud mountain," Trisha said happily.

Nick reached to his side and scooped up the radio clipped to his belt. He then glanced at Trisha who gasped excitedly and nodded, her ears flailing about as she did so.

"Hey there mudslinger," Nick began and had to do his best to remain calm, "Trisha was telling me about the time you braved Mud mountain."

"Note to self….toss Trisha in a lake," An annoyed response came back over the radio.

Both Trisha and Nick shared a laugh at Judy's expense.

"I am suddenly seeing a problem with leaving you with Trisha," Judy continued over the radio.

"I like story time," Nick responded before looking at Trisha and giving her a wink.

"I got a story for ya," Judy began as she cleared her throat. "There was once a Park Supervisor who made it her sole duty in life to make sure a certain Ranger and her trainee were responsible for teaching all camp courses for the rest of the season."

Trisha let out a groan and looked at the ceiling, "Oh gosh those are so boring."

"That include the CPR courses?" Nick asked over the frequency.

Had he looked over at Trisha he would have seen the bunny snap her head in his direction, a look of admiration on her lovely brown face.

"Ok new plan," Judy began. "Gonna jump into a lake myself so a certain fox practices CPR on me…..and ONLY ME!"

Trisha nudged Nick's arm and nodded to the walkie. He followed the bunny's command and clicked the mic. "You know standard procedure dictates that he trades off after the 2nd set of breaths," Trisha pointed out.

Laughter filled the radio as Judy tried to respond but was apparently enjoying herself too much.

"You ok boss?" Came a voice on the other side of the frequency.

"Sorry, just dealing with the troublemakers back home," Judy explained to Delta as she kept the mic on her end active.

"Awww, my sweet Delta," Trisha mumbled as she looked at the radio as if it were a picture of her own ranger.

"He is a big sweetie," Nick teased as he looked over at the doe.

"Oi! Paws off!"

"What about you little Miss I am gonna give Judy mouth to mouth!?"

"That's different?"

"How?"

"Because I am Trisha and I do what I want," The bunny giggled as she looked ahead. "Make another left up ahead and then it's the first building on the right."

Nick chuckled at Trisha's response and clipped the radio back onto his belt. He followed Trisha's directions and pulled the pick up truck into a small dirt lot in front of a large log structure on the side of the road. A wooden sign hung over the door and read, "Redwood Resturant."

"Thought we were going to a place called Lynn's?" Nicked asked as he looked at the sign.

Trisha was already opening her door but took a moment to look over at Nick, "Everyone calls it Lynn's."

"Really?" Nick asked as he eyed the doe.

Trisha smirked and nodded down at Nick's belt. The fox scooped up his walkie and keyed the mic.

"Trisha is treating me to breakfast, can I get ya anything from the Redwood Resturant?" Nick asked. A small pinecone whizzed by his head, Trisha obviously wasn't planning on paying for the fox.

"Lynn's! Oh my gosh, I am so jealous," Judy responded over the frequency. "Say hi to her for us. You are totally taking me there when I get back from this little hike. Trisha and I eat there like every day when we are in the central valley. Actually…one sec…Hey Delta!"

Judy's end of the transmission cut out for a moment before she returned, "Yeah So I think everyone in the Park's service eats there. So behave yourself."

"Don't have to tell me twice," Nick chuckled.

"I was referring to Trisha."

Trisha snorted as she skipped towards the restaurant.

"I'll try and keep her in line," Nick chuckled. "Oh and Carrots?"

"Yeah, Nick?"

"I bet you look really cute covered in mud."

"Keep talking Two Forks…I ain't gonna be out here for long and when I come back you are gonna be in trouble."

"No I am not," Nick corrected. "I am gonna be in heaven."

"So sweet….but still in trouble."

 

Chapter Text


-Breakfast is for champions-

The inside of the Redwood Restaurant reminded Nick of his cabin. All the walls were made of wooden beams that had been cemented and secured together. Of course, it was hard to see any of the walls with all the different pictures and old posters that covered them.

As they strolled up to the hostess stand Nick took a moment to take it all in. He noticed all the pictures in black and white. Their frames chipped and work down from the years of mammals inspecting the images. Nick couldn't help himself as he took a second to examine one of the pictures. In it were two coyotes smiling up at him. They were dressed in what looked like old army apparel. By old, it was very old. The dark uniforms looked like they were from the unification wars. The Coyotes held a flag behind them with a makeshift parks logo.

"Oh gosh-" Was all Nick heard before there was a thud followed by a series of giggles behind him. Nick turned to where Trisha had been wandering and realized the doe was now absent. Something at Nick's feet moved and the fox looked down to see a rather amusing sight.

Trisha was on her back with a big smile on her face as she wrapped her arms around a smaller white doe. The new arrival had a series of large black spots that graced her fur in random areas. Her eyes were closed but her mouth was open in a wide smile as she nuzzled her head into Trisha's chin.

"I missed you I missed you I missed you!" The black and white bun said as she continued to nuzzle into Trisha.

"First off," Trisha began as she squeezed the bunny who was more than happy to lay on top of Trisha. The ranger however squirmed and managed to slowly get up, only to have the smaller bun hold on for dear life as she was lifted from the ground. "I missed you too. Second…we saw each other literally yesterday."

"Yeah but that was like 24 hours ago," The bun said excitedly before finally releasing Trisha from her grasp. The bunny then looked up at Nick and began to shake with excitement. The thing is she just stood there, like a small black and white puffball that shivered as she took Nick in.

Nick raised an eyebrow as he tried to figure out exactly what is going on.

"Hi, I am Nick," Was probably what Nick wanted to say. All he managed to get out though was "Hi, I-" Before the bunny in front of him pounced, using her strong rabbit legs to propel herself through the air like a furry hug missile. Nick felt the wind suddenly forced from his lungs as the smaller mammal made an impact.

"Hi hi hi!" The rabbit exclaimed as she clung to the fox like he was some kind of pillow.

"Nick meet Taconny," Trisha said with a chuckle as she watched the site. The does eyes widened suddenly and she pulled out her cellphone and took a picture of the odd meeting. Nick had his paws forced to either side as the small bunny held onto him with hug strength that was oddly powerful for a mammal her size.

"Eeeeeeee," The doe said as she looked up at Nick with her bright teal eyes.

The bunny was met with an awkward smile as Nick squirmed a little in her grasp and then looked at Trisha for help.

"Best to just let her finish, normally only lasts 30 seconds before something shiny catches her eye," Trisha chuckled.

True to the rangers word the smaller bunny eventually became bored and released her foxy prey. She then hopped down to the floor and smiled at the pair.

"Usual spot?" Taconny asked eagerly as she rolled on the balls of her feet.

Trisha nodded and followed the bouncing ball of energy. Nick couldn't believe there was a bunny out there with more energy than Trisha but apparently, they just flock to the woods.

Nick couldn't help but key up his radio as they made their way through the maze of different sized tables set up for the many different mammals that frequented the small roadside restaurant.

"So just met Taconny," Nick muttered into his radio.

"She is so sweet isn't she?" Judy responded.

"She is a hugger that's for sure," Nick responded. The fox's attention had been back on the walls as they passed more pictures. He didn't realize that the two does in front of him had stopped.

A black spotted paw suddenly waved in front of Nick's face and the fox stopped and looked down to see Taconny trying to reach up towards the walkie.

"Wanna talk to Judy," Taconny mumbled as she stuck out her tongue to the side.

Nick looked at the walkie, to Taconny, and then to Trisha who giggled.

"Best to just let her say hi," Trisha suggested as she folded her arms and watched.

Nick eyed the small bunny in front of him as she began to bounce up and down, trying to get the last few inches she needed in order to reach the walkie-talkie just being held out of reach.

Like an older sibling being forced to share a toy Nick let out a sigh and lowed the walkie-talkie. Instead of taking it from his paws though Taconny put her paws on top of Nick's and squeezed, telling the fox to key the mic. Nick flexed his paws slightly and clicked the microphone.

"Judy! Are you in there?"

"Taco!" Judy responded happily. "Hey, sweetie. How are you?"

"I'm good! Your fox is super tall!"

"I know right? And super handsome right?"

Both Taconny and Trisha looked up at Nick and as one gave a shrug.

Nick gave Trisha a scowl but felt his lips curl as she stuck her tongue out at him. He then realized what Taconny had just said as well. He slowly raised his paw up, expecting Taconny to let go. Instead, the doe held onto the fox's wrist and giggled as she was lifted into the air.

"Judy's fox?" Nick asked as he keyed the mic, "How many mammals you been telling?"

"What? Are you ashamed of me?" Judy shot back playfully.

"Why aren't you Nick's bunny?" Nick teased. He looked ahead of him at Taconny who smiled with a toothy grin as she dangled in the air, the bunny completely unphased that she was just hanging there.

"First off I am," Judy responded with a chuckle. "Second off…these are my forests Two Forks. You are mine."

Nick rolled his eyes though he secretly enjoyed being called Judy's. He let it go for now but made a mental note to pester Judy about this subject later.

The fox slowly lowered Taconny to the ground which caused the doe to pout, apparently, she had been enjoying herself but sadly she had to get back to work.

The three of them finally made it to a table that was just the right size. Trisha scooted into a cushioned booth as Nick sat on a chair across from her. While he would have preferred sharing a meal with Judy Trisha was good company.

"Ahhh!" Came a surprised but happy shout from behind Nick who suddenly felt pressure on his tail. He looked over and his eyes widened as to just how friendly Taconny could be. The bunny having picked up Nick's rather fluffy tail, she wrapped her arms around it and nuzzled into the soft fur as she let out a series of pleased noises.

"Just remember Nick," Trisha began which caught the fox's attention. "Fall back on your training and I will be sending you here for food runs every day."

The threat, though playful, caused the fox to gulp. He finally managed to wrestle his tail away from the overzealous bunny and it took Trisha playfully shooing Taco away for them to finally have some peace and quiet. Nick couldn't help but laugh as he watched the black and white bunny skip away to go help other patrons, a bright smile on her lips the whole time.

"You get used to her," Trisha said sweetly. "Course she has really taken a liking to you."

"What can I say?" Nick asked jokingly. " it's my foxy looks."

"Foxy looks?" Trisha asked as she raised an eyebrow. She then looked over at the walkie-talkies Nick had set on the table. Before Nick could stop her Trisha grabbed the walkie and began to hurriedly call Judy.

"Judy come in! Nick just called himself foxy!"

Nick scrambled and tried to grab the radio from Trisha.

"Yeah he does that," Judy responded. "Think we spent a good 2 days making jokes about his foxiness."

Nick finally managed to get the walkie back and gave the bunny across from him a look. He then dusted the radio off.

"I will have you know that I work hard on my foxy looks."

"Like that tail?" Judy responded in a dreamlike state

"I am more than just a tail and good looks."

"Mmm….tail…."Judy responded which caused Trisha to snort.

"Guess you will just have to stare at Delta's for now."

"Not the same," Judy grumbled. She kept the mic keyed though and seconds later they heard another voice over the radio.

"I heard that!" Delta shouted in the distance. "I like to think I have a very nice tail."

"It is nice Delta," Judy responded. "But it doesn't have the same floof."

Trisha giggled, "Floof…I like that word…floof."

As Trisha examined the menu Nick made one or two more tail jokes to Judy before excusing himself.

"Gotta get back to breakfast at Lynn's. You enjoy your tail, I mean, trail mix."

"Oh, that's cold Two Forks…so cold."

Nick set the walkie down and smiled at Trisha who just shook her head and rolled her eyes. Her smile though told him she was actually enjoying his company. He didn't want to admit it out loud but he was enjoying herself as well.

It's nice having a friend..even if she is crazy.

"Well well if it isn't my favorite ranger," Came a sweet voice in front of Nick.

The fox looked up from his menu and was greeted with a friendly smile from an elderly she-wolf. The fur which had started out as jet black was faded in some places. White and gray flecks appeared on the fur. A pair of glasses sat on the predator's nose which completed the old she-wolf look. Nick imagined this is what most sweet grand wolfs looked like and he was right. The wolf wore a lovely looking blouse and slack combo which was wrapped up in a maroon apron with the name Lynn written in yellow letters.

"Morning Lynn," Trisha said happily as she put a paw on top of the wolfs which was currently resting on the does shoulder. "How have you been?"

"Oh you know, same old same old. Fred keeps me busy and that Taconny seems to have taken it upon herself to help my no good husband in that regard."

The wolf gave Trisha a warm smile which told Nick all of this was said in jest.

"So this the new Ranger?" The wolf asked as she looked over at Nick.

"He ain't a ranger yet," Trisha teased as she gave Nick a wink. "Give me a few days though and I will get him there."

"Oh I know you will darling," Lynn said with a smile. "I am Lynn. It's nice to meet you Mr…?"

Nick gave Lynn a handsome as he looked her right in the eyes. "Call me Nick."

"Nick. What a handsome name for a handsome canine."

"Careful now. He already has a pretty big ego."

Lynn chuckled as she looked down at Trisha, "Well then you two should work well together."

"Oi!" Trisha shot back as she looked right up at the wolf. "I resemble that remark."

"You also resemble someone with no manners like my husband," Lynn said as she reached down and pulled the hat from Trisha's head, her ears flopped about for a second before going straight up. Lynn set the hat down on the end of the table and gave Trisha a knowing look, the doe blushed as her ears lowered. Nick didn't realize till after the fact that he should have taken a picture. He had a feeling it was rare to see Trisha like this.

"Sorry Lynn," Trisha mumbled.

Lynn reached down and brushed some of the fur next to Trisha's ear which instantly perked the ranger up.

"No worries darling," The wolf said with a smile. She then scooped a notepad from her apron and looked at the couple. "So the usual?"

Trisha nodded eagerly and set her menu down.

"And for you dear?" Lynn asked as she turned to take Nick's order.

"Just coffee for me thanks," Nick began. "I don't actually eat breakfast."

One could hear a pin drop with how silent the diner suddenly became. It was as if the air itself had been sucked out of the room. Nick's ears flicked as he noticed just how quiet it had suddenly become.

Lynn gave Nick a concerned look as she wrote down the rather short order. What told Nick he had really messed up though was Trisha who was suddenly putting her hat back on and lowering the bill so it covered her face. The way her ears fell behind her back and how she slumped in her seat was all Nick needed to know he had done something wrong.

The wolf took the menus from the table and strolled away. Nick looked around as the waitress left and noticed how several mammals were all staring at him.

"I can't believe you just said that Nick…" Trisha whispered as she put her hat on the table and tried to hide her mouth from the other mammals looking their way.

Nick looked back at Trisha and gave the doe a confused look.

"What? I just don't like breakfast food."

Their table was suddenly covered by the shadow of a large grizzly in a tan and green uniform. Nick looked up and was nearly blinded by the shining gold badge that glistened even in the light of the restaurant.

"Ranger Rose." The grizzly said with a friendly but firm tone.

Trisha didn't look at the grizzly as she simply kept her eyes focused on the placemat in front of her.

"Sheriff," The doe said with embarrassment.

"New recruit?"

Trisha simply nodded.

"So rookie.." The bear began as he turned his attention. "Aint a breakfast mammal?"

Nick let a smug smirk cross his lips. He could tell when someone was trying to intimidate him. He had just never had it over breakfast food.

"Nope, just coffee. Looks like you eat enough breakfast for the two of us though.

"Hmmm," The bear said with a toothy grin.

Trisha slowly put her head on the table before her.

"Gonna have your paws full with this one Rose."

"Yessir," Trisha grumbled from the table.

"Nice meeting you recruit," The grizzly said as he turned and strolled away from the table. "Enjoy your….coffee.."

"So you gonna explain what I did wrong or should I just keep embarrassing you?" Nick asked smugly as he looked over at Trisha.

The brown doe didn't look up as she reached across the table and managed to get Nick's walkie talkies before the fox could react.

"Judy come in.," Trisha grumbled.

"Go ahead, Trish."

"Your fox just told Lynn that he doesn't eat breakfast."

There was silence over the radio before Judy finally responded.

"You're kitting me.."

"Nope," Trisha said as she slowly raised her head and looked at Nick. "Oh, and he said it in front of the sheriff…and let's see who else is here."

Nick watched as Trisha scanned the room. As her bright blue eyes fell on certain mammals she would list them out over the radio.

"Looks like the Fire marshal, postmaster, a few deputies, oh gosh a local council mammal….oh and look," Trisha groaned as she gave an awkward wave to a porcupine who eyed their table with slight contempt. "Judge Quill…"

Nick still didn't understand what the big deal was about not having breakfast. Sometimes he wanted it sometimes he didn't. Apparently, though this was some kind of taboo in the community.

"They all heard?" Judy groaned.

"Yup…" Trisha said as she put her head on the table.

There was a sudden scuffling sound coming from the walkie and soon a familiar voice filled the frequency.

"Put Nick on," Delta said firmly.

Trisha handed over the walkie and Nick looked at it nervously.

"Hi Delta…"

"Ok rookie," Delta said firmly. Hearing he messed up from Trisha was one thing, the tone of Delta's voice though made Nick nervous. "First off you are representing the Parks Department. So you need to know we got some honor on the line here. Second…who skips breakfast? Really dude? You can literally have desert food in the morning and get away with it. In this town, a mammal is judged on what they order for breakfast. One time Skye ordered this fat free yogurt because she wasn't feeling well. Needless to say, we all heard about that for like a week. So here is what you do. You call Lynn back to your table, tell her you will have what I normally have, and eat some breakfast like a goddamn ranger!"

By the time the transmission was done Nick had the walkie stretched out across the table, worried Delta would climb out of it and start berating him.

"But its just breakfast…"Nick said as he looked at Trisha. There was a coughing from across the room and Nick looked over to see a moose in a local firehouse shirt hold a hoof up to his eyes and then point it back at Nick.

Nick raised his paw up and managed to catch Lynn's attention. The wolf strolled over with a happy smile.

"Yes, Nick?"

"I will have what Delta normally has?" Nick said in the form of a question as he looked across at Trisha who nodded quickly.

Nick had thought that Lynn's smile was warm and bright before, now though it was 10 times more friendly.

"Of course Nick, let me go and get that put in for you," Lynn said as she hurried away.

"Disaster averted," Trisha said as she reached up to the walkie in Nick's paw. "Thanks, sweetie."

"Its what I do," Delta came back. "Enjoy your breakfast."

Seconds later Judy's voice filled the radio. "So Two Forks what have we learned?"

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day," Nick grumbled.

"Good fox."

"Oh and Delta sounds sexy when he is being all Pred in charge," Trisha added.

"I'll second that," Judy teased.

Nick couldn't help himself, "Third!"

When their food finally arrived Nick was a little annoyed with himself knowing he had nearly passed up what looked like an amazing meal.

Delta's normal order was what Nick would have come to expect from the ranger. Country fried beetle steak with gravy, biscuits, eggs, and some toast on the side. It was a somewhat large meal and since Nick was a class size beanth Delta he had a feeling he wouldn't be able to finish it all. Once Lynn poured Nick's coffee and made sure the two were all set she headed off to help other tables.

There was another coughing noise and Nick looked up to see several of the rather important mammals Trisha had listed off earlier all staring at him. Nick wondered what he had done now but was pleasantly surprised when they all raised their glasses in Nick's direction, giving him a kind of salute. The fox raised his own glass and gave them a nod before digging into his breakfast.

Trisha took time during the meal to explain the next set of plans for the pair.

"It's not all bunny cuddling and tail stroking," Trisha teased as she took a moment to enjoy some orange juice.

"Its also about pinecone throwing?" Nick added.

Trisha chuckled and shook her head.

"Once we are done here we are gonna head to the operations building for the Rangers. We call it the Rock Pile and you will see why when we get there. Once we are done with briefing I wanted to take you to the lodge to show you around. Then maybe a few of the visitor trails and such. This week will be all about getting you used to the region you will most likely get assigned to."

Nick couldn't help but smirk at how professional Trisha had become when just a short while before she had been sitting on his stomach threatening him with a pinecone.

"Oh and we are gonna have to lean you down a bit," Trisha said with a friendly smile.

"Rangers have a physical fitness test?"

"No," Trisha said as she sat back in her seat. "I just refuse to let Judy settle for a pudgy fox."

Both of them shared a laugh at Nick's expense. He had to admit he had put on some weight while fire watching. It wasn't exactly big or out of shape, but he had noticed there was more of him to love lately.

Once they were done with breakfast Lynn brought the bill which was quickly scooped up by Trisha. Nick pleading with the doe about paying.

"Think of it as a first day welcome meal," Trisha said sweetly. "If you do feel so bad you can get tomorrow."

"Same place?" Nick asked with a smile.

"Oh you better believe it," Trisha shot back.

Much to the pair's delight Lynn brought them some brown bags and informed them that she had taken the liberty of packing them a lunch for the day. She put a paw on Nick's shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

"Welcome to the Forest Service," Lynn said with a motherly smile.

Nick smiled back up at Lynn and nodded in thanks for both the meals and kind words.

Getting out of the restaurant was a bit of a task. Nick slowing down thanks to a certain black and white doe who refused to release his tail. Claiming it was so fluffy should could just explode. Nick had a feeling that this may actually happen with the amount of energy the small bunny seemed to exude.

It took all of Trisha's strength to finally pry the smaller bunny off Nick's tail. Only to have the bunny wrap her arms and legs around Trisha, causing them to fall to the floor. Nick tried to help but soon found his arm wrapped up in a hug by Taconny. The small bunny squeaking with laughter as she kept the Ranger and her recruit from leaving. Trisha managed to distract Taconny with a small piece of candy that had been sitting in a bowl on the hostess stand. She tossed it back into the restaurant, Taconny running after it, giggling the whole while.

As they made their escape Nick chanced one last glance at all the different pictures on the wall. One stuck out in particular and it made him pause as he read the inscription beneath it.

A beautiful black wolf in an old Ranger uniform stood smiling at the camera. She had one leg up on a rock, showing off her strong leg muscles that would probably make most males howl. Behind her was a beautiful view of a waterfall that cascaded down the side of a mountain. She had a look of both confidence and happiness as she smirked at Nick.

A small piece of paper was taped to the photo of the wolf: "Ranger Lynn, First Female Captain"

 

Chapter Text

-Let's be brief-

"Wake up sleeping beauty," Trisha said as she fiddled with her phone in the passenger seat. "Check."

"And a handsome beauty he is," Nick added as he glanced over at Trisha in time to see her roll her eyes, the smirk on her lips though lingered.

"Breakfast…which should have been easy but a certain someone had to go and embarrass me."

"Ok, so what's the big deal? So I don't like-" Nick began but was cut off by the brown bunny sitting next to him.

"Check."

"It was just breakfast…" Nick grumbled.

Nick felt something tugging at his waist and looked over in time to see Trisha holding his walkie-talkie in her paws. The doe wiggled the device and gave the fox a look that told him he was on thin ice.

"I meant to say it was an amazing breakfast. The most important meal of the day," The fox corrected himself, worried that Trisha would call Judy and tell her what he had just said.

Seriously it was just breakfast.

"what was that?"

Nick froze and was suddenly worried that Trisha could read minds. He kept his eyes forward and his paws on the wheel as they drove down the road.

"that's what I thought."

Note to self, ask Judy if Trisha can read minds.

There was no response from Nick's passenger and he breathed a sigh of relief, he must have just been letting his paranoia get the best of him.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. The two of them chatting about the day ahead. Nick tried to get another story about Judy out of Trisha but the brown bunny said he only got one a day.

"Aww come on Blue," Nick said as he turned the dirt covered truck down a side road.

"Nice try there Foxy, but no…you gotta earn embarrassing stories about Judy."

Nick let out a sigh but smirked all the same.

Trisha guided Nick through the many forest roads. The scenery was rather fantastic. The trees were all large and healthy. Occasionally a strong breeze would flow through the valley causing the forest to sway like water in a lake. Nick was glad they had the windows rolled down as his nose picked up all the different fresh scents that came pouring into the truck.

"Take the next left and then it's just straight ahead," Trisha advised as she put her phone in her pocket and enjoyed the drive.

The Rock Pile as it was called wasn't an actual rock pile. It was actually a series of cement block buildings that made a small complex that sat in the middle of the woods. There was a small parking lot in front of the main building. The Parks Department logo was painted on the large double doors. A metal sign on the entry doors read: Park Operations. Underneath the main title were the departments located in the building.

Nick had thought that the Rockpile would be Rangers only but as it turned out they shared the building with Dispatch, Emergency Management, Forestry, and even the sheriff's department had some offices inside.

Trisha noticed Nick reading the list of the different departments located in the building and she took a minute to explain.

"It's a new complex. It's only a few years old. Built like a bunker to withstand a lot of punishment from the elements. We have generators, supplies, even got a bunk room in the back. The whole forest could fall apart and we would still have operations running. We have our own building that we can access from the side but I thought you would like the nickel tour."

"Can you break a dime?" Nick asked with a wink.

"Nope, that can just be my tip," Trisha shot back with a wink.

Nick smirked and opened one of the double doors and stepped to the side so Trisha could lead the way.

"Such a gentle mammal."

"Only on weekdays."

"Because you and Judy go wild on weekends?"

"No comment."

"That's a yes!"

The tour was a quick one. Trisha led Nick through the halls. The walls covered in different murals from around the parks. Nick took a second to appreciate each one as they passed, Trisha explaining where each mural was in the parks.

"All of them done by one of our talented Firewatchers," Trisha explained as she pointed to a plaque next to one of a beautiful mountain vista, the sun setting just behind the peaks causing a beautiful palate of red to mix with a starry night.

Nick leaned close and inspected the plaque: Picture by Velvet "Red" Panda.

"She has a lot of talent."

"Also is quite the looker," Trisha added with a playful wink.

"Oh I'm telling Judy," Nick shot back.

The pair shared a laugh as they continued on the tour.

As they made their way around the building Trisha would occasionally open a door slowly and explain to Nick which department was where. They peaked into a call center where several mammals sat in front of a series of large screens, all of them wearing headsets as they communicated with various departments or mammals throughout the valley. A handsome looking lion noticed Trisha and waved over at the pair. Trisha beamed and waved back, blowing a kiss to the lion who chuckled before continuing with his call.

"That center handles most of the calls in the region for both the parks service and emergency service. They compacted it a few years back in order to have a smoother operation. Surprisingly it works. Folks would call 911 all the time and ask for something a ranger could handle. So they would have to transfer which would tie up a line and then take up time. Then we would get a call requiring the fire service so that was another dispatch center. Meanwhile, some dispatchers would be sitting on their butts all day bored…so long story short they brought them together. Don't ask me how but it just seems to work."

"Ok question," Nick began.

"How do mammals know which number to call? They don't. Which just makes it easier to have it all funneled here so these folks can handle the dispatch accordingly."

"No, I was gonna ask what's going on between you and the lion."

Trisha snorted and shook her head.

"He is a good friend," Trisha said softly as they strolled past another mural.

"Gooder than Delta?" Nick asked, knowing full well he had just butchered the English language.

"No one is gooder than Delta," Trisha said playfully. Nick couldn't help but notice how Trisha's tail flicked at the mention of the painted dog. He wanted to point it out but knew full well that every time a certain gray bunny was mentioned he lost all control and his tail would sway from side to side.

The rest of the tour was rather quick. Though most departments had their own offices in the complex most of them weren't occupied. Trisha explained that a lot of administrative stuff was handled at the parks main offices down the road.

"We are also in a line of work that requires us to be out and about anyways. So most of the time offices like these are used for quick meetings and the likes. If you ever need anything its better to call dispatch and have them direct a call. If they don't have a way of contacting someone then that mammal doesn't exist."

"Wait, so say someone has to contact me. How would that center get a hold of me?" Nick asked as he looked at another mural which was just a giant pile of pinecones. The plaque next to the picture had a message from the artist: Is this enough pinecones Trisha?

"They would probably just contact Judy because let's face it, you two are probably gonna be holding paws constantly when she gets back," Trisha teased.

Nick let a stupid grin cross his face at the thought. Just thinking about holding Judy's paws was enough to warm the fox up on the inside.

There was a snapping noise to Nick's side and he looked over to see Trisha snapping a picture of the daydreaming fox.

"Oh come on!"

"It's for Judy!"

A short while later Trisha had a bit of a skip in her step as they made their way down one of the hallways in the complex. A sign on the wall told Nick they were on their way to the main ranger offices. While Trisha seemed right at home Nick couldn't help but get a little nervous. He was the new mammal and he had a feeling that he was in for some hazing. That he could handle with no problem. He couldn't explain it but he felt on edge as they approached a set of dark green double doors.

Trisha stopped at the doors and turned to look at Nick, a cute smirk on her face.

"You ready to meet the team?" Trisha asked excitedly.

Nick looked down at the doe and managed to feed off her positive energy. "Better question is are they ready for me?"

Trisha rolled her eyes as she put a paw on the main door, "Don't think anyone is ready for that Nick."

Before Nick could respond Trisha put a paw on one of the doors and pushed it open. The pair strolled in and were met with…

"Is this it?" Nick asked as he noticed there were only two other mammals in the room.

"Oi! Whats that suppose to mean?" A female moose asked as she looked over from a counter where several pots of coffee were brewing. The mammal was dressed in a similar outfit to Trisha. However she had gone for long pants with large pockets on the side, she was also missing the dark green cap that Trisha seemed to love sporting.

"Ignore the rookie, he has ways of saying stupid things," Trisha giggled as she skipped into the room.

"Then you two will make a great team," The moose responded with a laugh.

"You're lucky your so big," Trisha shot back as she hopped up onto the counter on the side of the room and stared up at the moose.

"Because I could pound you into the dirt?" The large mammal asked as she put a hoof on her hip and stared daggers at the doe.

"No because you can reach the sugar," Trisha nodded at a cabinet over the counter.

The moose and bunny stared at one another for a few seconds before the moose rolled her eyes.

"Can't say no to those big old blues.." The moose grumbled as she reached up and pulled a can labeled sugar from a high cabinet.

Trisha clapped her paws together as she reached out and took the can, she then hopped from the counter and began to stroll away.

"That's not for just eating!" The moose barked as she watched the mischievous doe try to get away with all the sugar.

Trisha stuck out her tongue as she turned back to the counter, obviously caught by the larger ranger.

"Nick, coffee?" Trisha asked as she hopped back up on the counter and took a seat, making herself right at home.

"Sure," Nick said as he approached a large circular table that sat in the center of the room. The parks logo painted in the center. The fox grabbed a chair and was about to pull it out when he heard Trisha speak up.

"Then come and make one, and while you're at it I'll have some hot chocolate," The bunny said as she kicked her feet in the air. She looked up at the moose who chuckled.

"Anything else boss?" Nick grumbled as he strolled over to the counter where the ladies were waiting.

"A foot rub would be nice, Jenny anything for you?"

"Could go for a shoulder rub," The moose mumbled.

"Old dog what about you?" Trisha shouted over at an arctic wolf who had been reading a newspaper at the circular table.

"First off that name is the only thing that is old around here," The canine grumbled from behind his newspaper. "Secondly the Rookie has to earn the right to make me coffee."

Nick rolled his eyes, it had only been a few minutes in the rangers HQ and he had already been called rookie two times. He actually began to miss being called Two Forks but that was probably because a certain bunny called him that. The thought of Judy gave him the strength to bear being called Rookie.

"Make you coffee?" Jenny asked as she took a sip from her own cup and turned to the wolf on the other side of the room. "You always take yours black…what's there to make about it?"

"Takes a special kind of mammal to make something I like," The wolf shot back.

"Takes a special kind of mammal to deal with your old crotchety attitude," Trisha teased.

Nick felt a little more at ease as he realized he wasn't the only one being picked on. Apparently, everyone was fair game. He wondered how well a unit like this really worked if they all had some kind of distaste for each other.

The fox had been so busy making Trisha and himself a drink that he hadn't noticed Trisha pouring some coffee into a cup and hopping down from the counter. He turned in time to see the brown bunny stroll around the table and place the cup in front of the wolf. The canine folded his newspaper and Nick finally caught a glimpse of the wolf. He was somewhat surprised to see such a kind and gentle expression attached to a predator with such a grainy voice. Nick studied the canine and took note that though the wolf looked rather fit and spry there was some gray mixed into his coat, his eyes seemed slightly glazed over and the fur on his muzzle seemed worn. This was an old canine, but he looked as if he still had a lot of life left in him. The wolf's uniform also gave his age away. This was the type of wolf that probably woke at sunrise to do a several mile run before saluting all the flags in the park. His long sleeves were crisp and pressed. There wasn't anything out of place and to top it all off his hat wasn't a regular ball cap but one of the drill instructor hats that most mammals associated with when they thought ranger. This wolf was the definition of old school.

"I know you like it black but…you know I have to add a little sweetness," Trisha said sweetly as she smiled up at the wolf. The canine let out a sigh but smiled all the same as he leaned down. Trisha stood up on her tippy paws and pressed her lips to the white fur on the canine's cheek and gave him a friendly little kiss. "Good morning Chris."

"Good morning Trisha," The wolf said with a smile as he reached down and rubbed the base of one of Trisha's ears. The small bunny let out a cooing noise before skipping back to the other side of the table where Nick was waiting with her hot chocolate.

Trisha scooped up the warm beverage and took a seat at the table, signaling for Nick to join her. The fox followed the bunny's signal and pulled out a chair next to his trainer and made himself comfortable.

"So besides being super sweet," Chris began as he folded his newspaper and set it down in front of him before picking up his coffee. "Trisha can be rather forgetful it seems."

"Agreed," Jenny said as she sat a seat away from Nick and eyed the fox.

"Forgetful?" Trisha asked as she sipped her hot chocolate.

"Oh no its ok Trisha, don't introduce us to the new guy…just let us sit here in awkward silence," Jenny said in an annoyed tone.

"Oh right!" Trisha said as her ears shot up and she smiled at Nick. "Sorry about that bud."

Trisha stood up in her chair and waved her paws around as if she were a game show host presenting a brand new car.

"Presenting…."

Oh, this is gonna be good.

"Judy's plaything," Trisha said simply before sitting back down.

Jenny snorted into her coffee and Chris rolled his eyes.

Nick, however, could let Trisha have all the fun. The fox put his coffee down before standing up in his chair, "Hi I am Judy's plaything and I have been pinecone free for only 2 hours."

Chris roared with laughter and Jenny had to put her cup down as she clapped her hooves together. Even Trisha giggled at Nick's antics.

"Around here that is a kind of record," Chris said as he raised his coffee in Nick's direction.

"Seriously though," Jenny began as she smiled at Nick. "Give us a proper intro. I mean we all know about you and Judy. If we are working together it would be nice to know a little about ya."

Nick was slightly surprised at how these words hit him. These mammals were once again, unlike the ones he dealt with back in Zootopia. While most mammals back in the city would want to know something about Nick they would most of the time be officers of the ZPD or some kind of con artist trying to figure out how to work the angles against Nick. Meanwhile, the mammals in front of him seemed more interested in who Nick was. He had to admit it was both odd but refreshing.

"Well, my name is Nick Wilde. Formerly of Two Forks as a firewatcher," Nick began.

"Firewatcher hero," Trisha corrected which earned him a smirk from Nick. "He is the one that helped Delta rescue that kit that was on the news."

"Oh my gosh that kit was so cu….I mean adorable," Jenny began. Nick taking note how the moose corrected herself before saying the C word in front of a bunny. "She was so shy in front of the cameras and how she held onto that carrot doll the whole time!"

"Good on you Nick," Chris said as he nodded at the fox. "Delta told us all about that rescue. Took guts, think you earned a lot of respect around here for that one."

Nick actually felt slightly bashful about all this but did his best to keep his emotions in check as he continued.

"Before I worked for the Parks Department I lived back in Zootopia…and.." Nick suddenly felt a little nervous, he didn't really want to go into detail on what he did back in the city. It was now a part of his life he was slightly ashamed of. After meeting Judy he was more focused on the future and less concerned about his past.

"Bet you were a real heartbreaker," Jenny teased. Trisha gave the moose a look. "What? Oh, come on we are all friends here. Nick, you must have been slaying the vixens back there…or should I say bunnies?"

Nick gave a nervous chuckle and rubbed the back of his head, "Actually Judy is my first.."

"First what?" Jenny asked with surprise written all over her face. "First mate?"

"What?! No! I mean bunny, first bunny," Nick blathered out.

"So just banging vixens left and right then?" Jenny asked with a flirty wink.

Trisha coughed and Nick turned in time to see the bunny making several slicing motions across her neck, obviously signaling Jenny to stop. Nick gave Trisha an odd look and made two mental notes. One was to talk to Trisha later and ask what she knew. Two was to talk to Judy and see what she had said. He felt a slight pang of annoyance, wondering what his bunny may have revealed to Trisha.

"Well, I am sure we can discuss Nick's prowess in that regard later," Chris chuckled, it was painfully clear what the wolf was trying to do but Nick was grateful none the less. "In the meantime, I think our own intros are in order."

"Oh right!" Jenny said happily as she straightened her uniform before looking back at Nick. "Jenny Spil. I normally work the entrance regions."

"Entrance regions?" Nick asked as he looked over at Judy and then back to Jenny.

"You will get a tour of it all later but the quick answer is I am kind of the greeter to our parks guests. I normally patrol the Train stations, entrance to the campgrounds, and the main tourist sites near the town."

"So she is the first face a lot of mammals see when they come to visit," Trisha explained. "Which is why we see so many folks running away."

While the other mammals shared a laugh Jenny sat and made a few faces in Trisha's direction.

"I am Chris Wolfard," the wolf on the other end of the table said after the laughter died down. "I am the lodge Ranger. Used to be one of the lead patrol rangers. Would go out into the woods and stop mammals from causing trouble."

"Or cause some trouble of your own?" Jenny asked with a playful wink.

"Hush," Chris said, not breaking eye contact with Nick. "After years of service, and a few injuries, I am now the ranger that patrols the main lodge. Mainly just pointing tourists in the direction of the nearest restroom and stopping cubs from climbing on the furniture."

"He also does the flag retreat, assists in lodge security, patrols neighboring campgrounds, performs life-saving aid on mammals in trouble, and keeps all of us in line," Trisha listed off the many more important roles that Chris had neglected to mention.

"I just stand around all day and drink coffee," Chris tried to say but the ladies in the room wouldn't hear it.

"He is just too modest to take a compliment," Jenny said with a smirk.

"Yeah, unlike other canines he doesn't have much of an ego," Trisha joined in.

"Gonna assume that one is directed at Delta," Nick said as his eyelids drooped.

There was another round of laughs before a chirping came from a small black box in the center of the table. Nick stared at the device and realized it was a kind of speakerphone combo. A red light blinked next to a small screen. Trisha grinned as she jumped up onto the table and scurried over. The other rangers made themselves comfortable as they stared at the box. Trisha reached the device and pressed a small button next to the screen.

There was a few moments silence before a familiar voice came from the speaker.

"Good morning Rangers," Skye said over the frequency. "Before we begin let's begin with role call.."

Several different mammal's voices came over the radio in order.

"Ranger 1 present," Came a firm voice over the speaker.

"Ranger 2 present," Chris said before taking a sip of coffee.

"Ranger 3 still waking up but here," Came a lovely voice from the speaker.

"Ranger 4 present."

It went on like that for a while. Of course, Nick was thrown into the mix at one point.

"Ranger 7 took me a while to wake the rookie but we got him going."

"Bet you did," Came a male's voice.

Several different laughs came over the radio.

"Your just jealous Frank," Trisha shot back.

"Children focus!" Skye said quickly. "Nick just making sure you are present…"

"Yes ma'am," Nick said quickly.

"Hehehehe, he called Skye ma'am," Delta's voice came through the speaker.

"Ranger 16! Don't make me come out there," Skye shouted.

"Oh send me boss! Send me!" Trisha said as she waved her paw in the air as if Skye could see her.

"Ranger 8 you there?" Skye asked as the arctic fox tried her best to get some control back on the frequency.

Though the lower numbers had a voice connected to them Nick noticed some of the higher numbers were absent from roll call. When it got to 16 though he was met with a surprise.

"Ranger 16 present plus one from Parks Department," The painted dog informed. There was a pause before another voice came in.

"Good Morning Rangers," Judy said softly.

The radio erupted with greetings to Judy. Most of the rangers seemed to know the gray bunny and Nick couldn't help but smile at how popular his doe was.

"No good morning Nick?" Judy asked, sounding somewhat disappointed.

There was a pause over the radio as everyone waited for Nick to say something.

"Good morning Carrots," Nick said with a smug smirk.

There were a series of coos from some of the female rangers.

"Oh gosh that is the most adorable thing," Jenny squealed.

"Think I'm gonna be sick," Came a male's voice.

"Oh shut up, your just mad Nick doesn't call you Carrots," Came another male's voice Nick didn't recognize.

"Zack looks more like a pumpkin if you ask me," Trisha shot back.

More laughs over the radio, Nick noticed Skye's voice was amongst the ones throwing the occasional comment as well. It took another five minutes for the group to finish up role call. Nick felt more and more at home as he listened to the rangers giving each other a hard time.

Eventually, though they did actually have to get to work.

"Alright so as you know Jack and I are in and out of meetings all week at the lodge," Skye began as the group finally settled down. "Lots of meetings because of the June fire."

"Should rename it the Judy fire," Trisha teased.

"Ok explain," Skye shot back, pausing the briefing.

Nick began to shake his head as he looked at the brown bunny next to him. It was too late however and Trisha came out and said it.

"Two Forks tower was the one to name it," Trisha explained. "Bit of a coincidence don't ya think?"

Nick put a paw to his forehead and closed his eyes as the catcalls came pouring from the speaker.

"That's one way to get a girls attention," Delta joined in. "I mean some folks send cards, others flowers. Nick though names a raging inferno when professing his feelings."

"Could be worse," Nick shot back. He looked over at Trisha whose ears raised in curiosity, "Least I don't go smashing my bunny against trees."

"OH MY GOD!" Came a female's voice over the radio as laughter exploded out of the speakers.

"I'm dying!"

"You 'smashing' a lot of mammals against trees Delta?"

"Knew those two got freaky on patrol!"

"I really resented that pumpkin remark," Zack grumbled.

Trisha meanwhile continued to punch Nick in the arm. The fox tried to block the attacks but eventually, the bunny climbed onto the fox's chair and began to slap at his ears. A look of annoyance and embarrassment on the doe's face.

"Anyways," Skye came back, sounding short of breath.

"Oh come on boss we cant just leave this be," Came a gruff voice.

"I said anyways!" Skye shouted. "I have like 3 hours sleep because I'm busy with all this June fire junk and keeping you idiots in line."

"Haha! She called all of you idiots," Came a female's voice.

"Your one of those idiots too, Samantha!"

"Oi! Focus!" Skye shot once more. "Ok So briefing. Stuck in meetings all week about the June fire. Not gonna lie to you rangers. That thing cost a fortune to fight and right now the parks budget is a lot more depleted than we previously thought."

Silence fell over the radio. Everyone could tell from Skye's tone that this was a serious matter.

"There are teams out there evaluating what it would cost to get the forest back into full swing. Talk is we may need to cut budgets across the board. Don't worry though no job cuts on our end. But say goodbye to overtime for now."

There was a collective groan over the frequency before a sweet voice chimed in.

"Don't worry Rangers. Delta and I are on our way to meet one of those teams. I am sure they will have good news..." Judy said confidently.

"Nick has the dumbest grin on his face right now," Trisha teased which earned a chuckle from the group and a push from Nick. Trisha however latched onto Nick's arm which made the fox panic. It was a rather amusing sight to Jenny and Chris who watched as the fox had to stand up in his seat, waving his arm about, as the brown bunny held on tightly and began to laugh uncontrollably.

The briefing continued without another hitch. Skye gave out a few assignments to rangers out in the field.

"Ranger Rose," Skye said as she came to an assignment for Trisha. Nick chuckled at the eye roll from the bunny who wasn't a fan of folks using her last name.

"Yes, Head Ranger Winter?" Trisha shot back.

"Oh that's cold," Skye teased. "Anyways your assignment for the coming weeks are simple."

"Terrorize Nick to no end?"

"Exactly," Skye said with a chuckle.

"Try and keep him in one piece please," Judy said sweetly over the radio. "I still have some uses for him."

"Care to tell us what those uses are?" Trisha asked seductively.

Delta roared with laughter over the radio, "Oh my gosh I have never seen a bunny turn so red before- OW!"

"Oh hey, Jackl!" Skye said rather quickly as an annoyed male voice could be heard in the background.

"Bunch of idiots the lot of them….they want us to cancel all overtime…oh but we also need extra coverage. They expecting my team to work for free or something?! Bunch of pencil pushing idiots…"

"I have the team on the briefing channel if you want to-" Skye began.

"Rangers!" Came a firm male voice.

"Sir!" Everyone responded quickly.

"Keep doing what you do best. Ignore what anyone from parks said, bunch of idiots the lot of-"

"Hey now," Judy interrupted.

"Hopps? What are you doing on my ranger frequency? I mean don't get me wrong good to hear from you but…umm…explain."

"Out surveying some of the land affected by the June fire. Delta is escorting me and I borrowed his radio," The bunny said innocently.

"This is because that fox of yours is on the frequency isn't it?" Jack grumbled. There were several catcalls and jeers from the other rangers on the frequency. "Speaking of which. Wilde you there or has Trisha scared you off yet?"

Nick had finally gotten free of Trisha's grasp and took a moment to respond, "Right here sir."

"Nick, Jack Savage here. I am the senior supervisor for park safety operations. Fancy way of saying I handle big picture stuff while Skye keeps the knuckleheads in check. Let me apologize for several things. First, I should have been at your interview. It's my job to be there to greet all our new rangers but been busy putting out fires here at the lodge," Jack began to explain.

"Poor choice of words don't ya think boss?" Trisha piped up.

"Second off let me apologize for Trisha," Jack continued.

"I haven't done anything yet!" Trisha shouted as she put her paws on the table and glared at the radio.

"I meant in general," Jack teased.

"Skye!" Trisha said quickly and stared at the speaker.

"Ow! Hey, whose side are you on?!" Jack shouted, Skye, having done something to the mammal on the other end of the radio.

"Oh I am on one's side, I just know I need to keep that brown bun of energy happy," Skye commented.

There was some grumbling from Jack before he continued. "Good point, happy Trisha equals less paperwork. Nick you still there?"

"Yes sir," Nick responded as he looked at the radio and then to Trisha who was still fuming.

"In all seriousness, you have an amazing trainer there. She has said nothing but good things about you so I fully expect you to fit in with this team. If you have any issues you have Skye and me…unless its Trisha causing said problems. At that point, you are best going to Delta."

"Yeah, no.." Delta piped up.

"Judy?" Jack suggested.

"Oh like I have control over her."

"Ok so maybe you are on your own," Jack chuckled. "Anyways, welcome to the Rangers, Nick. We will meet face to face soon. Till then good luck and just trust Trisha….as crazy as that sounds."

Nick looked over at Trisha who had a wicked smirk on her lovely lips, "Trust me," she mouthed silently and winked.

Nick gave the doe a smug smirk of his own, "You got it, boss."

"Skye anything else?" Jack asked.

"Nope, all assignments are given and team has been briefed."

"Judy say goodbye to your fox for now," Jack teased.

There was laughter coming from the team once more but they all fell silent rather quickly and listened.

"Have fun my foxy ranger in training," Judy said in a seductive tone that Nick knew was made simply to get him in trouble.

The kissy noises were endless as several mammals made jokes at his expense. The fox, however, refused to be outdone.

"Talk to you later beautiful. Hurry home, been needing something to nibble at. Think I will start with the tail this time."

There was a roar of laughter and applause, the rangers knowing Nick just one-uped his bunny.

"So Judy had this really funny look on her face, then fainted, way to go Wilde. Now I have to carry your bun to the damn meeting site." Delta came back over the radio. "Still though, that was pretty good."

Chapter Text

-It's all fair in Fairfax-

There was another set of bumps as Nick drove his truck over what must have been the third railroad crossing they had traversed in the matter of a minute.

"Did you pick the bumpiest route on purpose?" Nick asked as the truck leveled out, only for another set of tracks to appear straight ahead.

"Oh hush this is fun!" Trisha squeaked as she was bounced up and down in her seat, the doe grateful she had managed to get her seatbelt on in time. Her small body would have easily been thrown out of the truck if it weren't for the straps wrapped around her supple frame.

"Poor truck," Nick grumbled as he patted the dash. When he had bought the old rust bucket he had done so with the intent of never returning to Zootopia. It had merely been a last second buy to get him from point A to point B. He had however grown fond of the truck over his time in the forest. When they had returned from the woods Judy and Nick had spent many a night laid out in the truck bed looking up at the stars.

Memories came flooding back, even though they had only just been made, Nick had cherished them all as if they had been happening all his life.

The way the moon brightened up the sky. How Judy would point out the constellations only to realize Nick had never let his eyes wander from her beautiful fur during her explanations of what stars meant what. She would always slap him on the arm and giggle as his green eyes took in every bit of her beautiful body that he could. The thought of breaking his gaze from her never entering his head.

Of course, that was when Judy was here. Now his bunny was out in what was left of the forest trying to get the park's operation back in order. Nick meanwhile was stuck being a chauffeur to-

"Next time we should bring a can of soda then give it to Skye when we are done!" Trisha exclaimed as they crossed another set of tracks that went off in a different direction like all the others before.

"Why are there so many tracks in this area anyway?" Nick grumbled.

"Your kitting right?" Trisha asked as she eyed the fox in the driver's seat.

"No, should I be?" Nick asked, sounding slightly confused.

Trisha suddenly had a rather mischievous look on her face as she eyed the tod. Nick had the urge to try and cover himself up, wondering why Trisha looked at him that way.

"She hasn't taken you into town?" Trisha asked with a smug smile.

"No…"

"And she never took you to Lynn's?" The ranger remembering their breakfast earlier that day.

"No…" The fox said a second time.

"How long have you two been back in the main region?" Trisha asked as she tried to contain her giggles.

Nick suddenly realized what Trisha was getting at, or at least what he thought she was.

"Are you suggesting that my Judy is embarrassed of me?" Nick asked, a coldness in his tone.

Trisha burst out laughing, "No, but I am now."

Nick let his eyelids droop, he should have known that wasn't the thought crossing Trisha's mind, then what was?

"Then what?"

"I just didn't realize foxes could go that long," Trisha giggled.

Nick's eyes widened at what Trisha was suggesting and he couldn't help but laugh. He glanced at the doe who had a somewhat hungry look in her bright blues, her appetite was hopefully just for knowledge.

"No. It's not like that. We just…stayed in the cabin..."

"Annnnnd?"

"Shut up," The fox grumbled.

The squeaks and laughs coming from the other side of the truck made the fox wince as he tried to stay focused on driving. He did, however, let his lips curl into a smug smile. The small brown bun at his side was actually not wrong in one regard. Foxes could go long. But not in the sense Trisha was thinking. No Nick could go for hours stroking Judy's ears as she slumbered in bed with him. He could stare at her for what felt like forever as she curled into a little ball and slept on his stomach. He could go the whole day without saying a word as he held the bunny close in his arms and breathed in her scent.

Judy and Nick had done nothing but cuddle and share one another's company since their arrival back to the main region. They would occasionally go for lunch at the lodge, it being nearby Camp "Cuddly" meant it was a perfect spot to grab some food. Other than that they had spent most of their time sitting on the lake near the small set of cabins. Or maybe strolling through the woods. It wasn't until Trisha pointed out Nick knew nothing of the region he had been staying in for the past few weeks that he realized how he had spent most of his time, and how wonderful it all had been.

The fox began to wonder if this was his life now. Spending sun-soaked days paw n paw with a certain gray doe as they talked about utter nonsense. If that was his lot in life then he thanked whoever was looking out for him upstairs because to him that was paradise.

"I mean I know you canines can go at it for a while but damn Nick," Trisha teased, bringing the fox back to reality.

Nick simply rolled his eyes and shook his head, "It isn't what you think…we just-"

They turned a bend and the fox let his words fall silent as he saw the town ahead of them. He let out a low whistle as he took in the sight.

The town of Fairfax wasn't exactly a sprawling metropolis like Zootopia. Far from it. The town was easily just a fraction of the size of the smallest district back in the city. There were a few dozen buildings spread out here and there. The main sight of the town, however, was the 6 different set of train tracks that sat in the middle of town.

"It used to be the central hub for all coal, lumber, and passenger trains outside of the city. When Zootopia was first being built where do you think they got the resources? Fairfax was set up at first as a simple mining community. Then it expanded when more and more workers came from the city. Eventually, it became a full-blown town. Mind you I heard it was a lot livelier back in the day," Trisha explained as Nick drove his truck down the main paved road towards the town.

The fox was surprised to see as much activity as he did. Mammals of all sorts and sizes were strolling around the town. Vehicles of various shapes and designs whizzed through the winding streets as they took their occupants to various destinations.

"Looks pretty lively to me," Nick commented.

"It does, the Township has roughly 8000 residents spread throughout this smaller valley. The train lines you see are mostly unused these days except tracks 2, 3, and 4. Two is used by the Zootopia Transit Authority to bring mammals in and out of the town from the city, three is used to transport folks to the lodge on this old steam train, and four is used for another steam train that takes folks on a grand circle tour of the parks."

As Trisha explained this they drove past an old-fashioned train station. Nick noticed it had recently been repainted and actually reminded him a little bit of old westerns he would see as a kit. The building was an old school house red with white trim. Parts of it was made of brick while the rest was of a finely polished wood. The image wouldn't be complete of course without a large clock that sat on top of the train station.

"Make a left and we will be on Main Street," Trisha instructed as they passed the station.

As they made a lazy turn onto the main street of Fairfax Nick was somewhat impressed. For a second he thought there wouldn't be much in the way of offerings in what appeared to be a dust-covered berg. Surprisingly though the town seemed to have everything. There were coffee shops, restaurants, a few convenience stores. All of them though were dressed up to look like they belonged in another era.

"Has everything a city slicker like you could ask for. And if you can't find it then a quick order from the general store can be made to get it," Trisha explained as they drove past a large building with an old wooden sign that read: Fairfax General Store.

"Gotta say, kinda impressed," Nick let out as they drove down the main street.

"We may not be Zootopia but we got all the modern conveniences you could ever need," Trisha said proudly before instructing Nick to park in front of a green and white building nestled between two restaurants.

Once parked Nick and Trisha hopped out of the truck and stretched for a moment, the bunny's chest puffing out which caused a young buck riding his bicycle nearby to nearly crash into a parked car. Nick plucked the radio from his belt and keyed the mic.

"So why haven't you ever taken me into town? Too embarrassed to be seen with your fox?"

There was a pause over the frequency before Judy picked up.

"What are you talking about? I would never be embarrassed of you….well maybe your jokes, but not of all of you." Judy came back quickly.

"Well Trisha is taking me into town," Nick teased. "A town that has been only 20 minutes from our cabin and I have never been to."

There was another pause before Judy answered. The bunny must have been searching her memories, trying to see if what Nick was saying was correct.

"Oh, my gosh…how did we not go to Fairfax?" Judy asked, sounding genuinely confused.

"Oh, I know why!" Trisha shouted as she raised her paw. Nick rolled his eyes at the doe's antics before keying up the mic.

"I think it's because we have been far too busy," Nick suggested.

"Busy with?"

"You know," Nick said, wanting to see if Judy would put two and two together.

Silence was all Nick got for a few seconds before Judy responded. "Mmmm….stargazing…"

"Late mornings."

"Walks by the lake."

The voice over Judy's radio suddenly changed as Delta came on the frequency, "Wilde if you make her faint again and I have to lug her bunny butt around I am gonna come back and dunk you in a lake or something."

Trisha scurried over and tried to get the radio from Nick but the fox had started to learn Trisha's tricks and kept her at bay.

"Delta are you jealous? Listen bud when you get back you and I can go stargazing," Nick suggested.

There was a roar of laughter from the radio, "You should see the pout that is on your bunny's face right now."

Judy's voice returned to the radio a second later, "You can take him stargazing but cuddle time is for me."

Trisha managed to sidestep Nick's defenses and scooped the radio up, "And me!"

"And Trisha," Judy giggled over the radio.

Nick just rolled his eyes as he plucked the radio from Trisha's paws, the brown bunny turning and giving Nick a playful wink.

Once done with their amusing radio conversation Trisha led Nick inside the store they had parked in front of. The sign just above the doorway read: Fairfax Clothing and Tailor. The fox was met with a series of familiar scents as they entered. As his nose twitched the fox recognized all the different fabrics and the odors they would carry. Looking around he had to admit the store had a lot in the ways to offer when it came to fashion. It was no Tundra Town fashion selection but it was still pretty impressive. Different kinds of apparel hung on the walls and down the aisles. Nick followed Trisha who strolled casually through the store towards a counter where a tiger was currently reading a newspaper. A soft sound came from the radio on the shelf behind the main counter. The whole place felt rather cozy.

"Hey Edward," Trisha said happily as she hopped up onto the counter and took a seat.

The tiger held up a large paw, signaling he needed a moment. Trisha looked down at the paper then rolled her eyes. She turned to Nick and whispered, "He likes keeping up on the town's gossip column. You know which resident is dating who- OI!" The doe snapped as the tiger leaned over and flicked one of Trisha's ears.

Nick smirked, having a feeling he would like the tiger who didn't hesitate to correct Trisha. Of course, he also had a feeling the tiger's size kept the doe in check if he tried something like that the brown bun of doom would probably tackle him or worse…find a pinecone.

Once the tiger was done with the article he had been perusing he set the newspaper down and gave Trisha a warm smile.

"Ranger Trisha, good to see you again," He said with a toothy grin.

Trisha rubbed her ear but smiled at the large mammal none the less, "Yeah I can tell you are oh so happy to see me."

"Let me guess, new uniform?" The tiger asked as he looked over at Nick.

Trisha suddenly brightened up and nodded.

"Yeah, need a standard unarmed patrol uniform set and probably something for lodge detail. Make him look good."

"Well I already look good," Nick pointed out which caused both the tiger and the bunny to turn to one another with knowing looks. "Oh, that's cold…"

As Edward came around the counter Nick studied the large predator. He was wearing a pair of black slacks that had been expertly measured and cut to a perfect length. The sky blue dress shirt had also been molded so it fit the tiger's body rather well. This gave Nick some confidence about the tailor and his abilities. Of course, the look wouldn't be complete without some measuring tape slung around Edward's neck.

"Arms up, mister?"

"Wilde, but call me Nick," The fox said as he held his arms out.

"Nick? You mean Judy's Nick?" Edward asked as he stretched his measuring tape along one of Nick's arms, going right to work. The tiger looked back at Trisha who nodded.

"Ok seriously how many mammals know?" Nick grumbled.

"Small town, word travels fast, think it was in the paper a week or so ago," The tiger chuckled.

The fox looked over at Trisha who held up the newspaper and mimed the words "Gossip column".

Nick rolled his eyes, "Of course it was."

"Don't worry, Delta and I had a whole article about us a while back," Trisha said with a wink as she crossed her legs and bobbed one of her large feet in the air. "What was the article called?"

"Ranger Romance," Edward said softly as he continued to measure Nick. The fox noticing how the predator wasn't writing anything down but seemed to silently mouth the measurements to himself. "Think a lot of ladies were pretty upset when they read that one."

Trisha growled slightly from her spot on the counter. Nick raised a brow at the doe before Edward continued the conversation.

"Oh yes, apparently there were one or two ladies in town and one at the lodge that fancied a little painted playtime." Edward began to chuckle when a spool of thread whizzed through the air and smacked him on the back of the head.

Edward stood up and looked over at the doe who looked over her shoulder and then back at the tiger, trying to play innocent.

"Where did that come from?" Trisha asked, her eyes wide but her grin gave her away.

"Ranger Nick I pray for your sanity," Edward said softly as he returned to measuring the fox's legs.

"I am not exactly a ranger, still need to pass my training."

Edward smiled at Nick and leaned a little closer, "Last thing she needs is her ego stroked, but you have a very dedicated ranger sitting on my counter who will make sure you are ready when the time comes. So your Ranger status is a matter of when not if."

Trisha giggled and Nick even noticed a light blush going up the inside of the doe's ears.

"Great…think she heard me…" Edward groaned before standing up. "Alright, all set Nick."

"That was fast," Nick said in surprise.

"Tigers ain't like foxes," Trisha teased. The comment going right over Edward's head. Nick, however, rolled his eyes and wondered if the bunny ever planned on letting that one go. Trisha hopped from the counter beamed at the fox. "For a big brute, he sure can be gentle though."

"I'll show you big brute," The tiger grumbled as he strolled back behind the counter and pulled out an order form. "Charge to the regular account?"

"Please," Trisha nodded. "When can we expect it?"

"I have no other orders right now so it shouldn't take long. Plus I have a ton of material left over from the last order so I may not even need to order more. I'll call you in a few days."

"Sweet!" Trisha exclaimed. A thought then popped into her head. "Any chance on a pair of short shorts for him? You know…for Judy."

Nick's eyes went wide and he started to shake his head. Edward looked up and chuckled.

"You want him to go for your look now?"

"Oh please," Trisha said as she put a paw on her hip and snapped her fingers. "Like anyone else could pull off this cuteness."

"Bet Judy could," Nick pointed out.

"Well yeah…I guess"

The two predators laughed at Trisha whose ears drooped at the idea she wasn't the queen of cute but even she had a smile on her lips in the end.

Once back outside Nick keyed up his radio. "So got measured for my uniform. Requested we go for a more stylish look. What do you think of a tuxedo?"

Judy responded back with a snort, "Love it. Bet you look pretty handsome in one."

"I look handsome in everything," Nick teased.

"That you do…" Judy said in a somewhat distant voice.

"You two have only been apart for a day! A freaking day! Whats with that look?" Delta asked in the background of Judy's transmission.

"You should see Nick's dumb grin," Trisha joined in as she keyed Nick's radio by squeezing his paw with both of hers. "I mean he looked dumb before but this is a whole new level."

After the tailor, Trisha took Nick on a walking tour of the small town of Fairfax. They didn't exactly stray far from Main Street but Trisha managed to paint a pretty picture of what the town was like and how it was laid out.

"Now if you ever get a call just confirm with dispatch where it is. If you don't know then call them on your cell and get directions. No point tying up the radio while they guide you through town," Trisha explained as they passed a small furniture store with several wooden rocking chairs sitting out front.

"Wait," Nick began as he began to go over what Trisha had just said. "Why would I get a call in town? Don't we have the sheriffs department for that? I mean what was with Sheriff Eat Your Breakfast at Lynn's?"

Trisha chuckled before answering, a slight skip in her step, "The town of Fairfax was designated a landmark a while back. It also has several parks spread throughout the area that we assist in. We kinda have a shared jurisdiction of the area with the local authorities. Most of the time if we are called though to assist with events or maybe meet someone to take up to the lodge on a special detail. So don't worry it ain't like you are chasing anyone down in the streets." The bunny paused before glancing over at Nick. "Unless that someone is Judy and you are-"

"I get it I get it," Nick chuckled as he shook his head at his friend's antics.

The town as it turned out had a lot to offer in the way of activities. There were several walking trails, lush parks, and even a museum dedicated to the town. All of these were run by the parks department as made apparent from all the different signs with the tree and shield logo.

Trisha bought them to lunch in town at a small café run by an otter who, of course, knew Trisha and scurried over to give the ranger a hug. Nick noticed how the smaller predator eyed him and looked at Trisha who gave a nod. Nick knowing full well what the unspoken signal meant, he couldn't resist.

"Yes, I am Judy's fox," He said with a sly wink.

After lunch, they took a turn off Main Street and wandered down another shop filled street. The stores all kept with the rustic theme of the town. Trisha was actually a rather fun tour guide in the end. She seemed to know a lot of the mammals in the town and they all knew her. She was kind of a Fairfax version of Nick when it came to Zootopia. Of course, for every mammal that knew Trisha, they always asked how Judy was. Nick was somewhat concerned as to why mammals seemed to associate Trisha and Judy together so much.

"Because we are park besties," Trisha said as she wiggled her nose at the concerned fox. Nick's feelings must have been betrayed by his expression as Trisha rolled her eyes. "Nick trust me, there is no breaking you two up. Even if I wanted to-"

Trisha didn't finish her sentence as she glanced inside a small store window. Her body tensing up as she took a step back and grabbed the door handle. Nick was completely caught off guard as to how fast the doe ran inside, completely abandoning their previous conversation. As the fox made his way inside he watched with wide eyes as Trisha leaped through the air, arms open, and landed on top of a surprised sounding red panda, causing her to fall with a thud on the floor.

"What the bad word?!" The predator shouted at first before she realized who it was now laying on top of her.

"Red!" Trisha squeaked happily.

"Bamboo mix supplier!" The red panda shot back playfully as she turned her head slightly, still laying on the ground as a certain brown bunny wrapped her arms around her neck and nuzzled into her back.

"Hey, Trisha," A porcupine behind the counter chuckled.

"Hey Amy," Trisha responded as she began to bury her head into the side of Red's neck.

"Ah! Ticklish!" the panda squealed as she squirmed on the floor. "Get off me, you pinecone tossing terror!"

"Never!" Trisha shouted.

Trisha being a small doe meant the red panda had no trouble standing up and brushing herself off, the bunny remaining on the predators back like some kind of adorable backpack.

The two mammals had been so caught up in their tackle meeting that Nick had come up almost unnoticed. The red panda's ears flicked and she eyed the fox that approached. A look of realization came over the mammal's face as she studied Nick.

"Oh my gosh! Your-"

Here it comes.

"Nick! The Two Forks Firewatcher?"

Nick was surprised for being recognized for once and not having it be because he was "Judy's fox".

"Um yeah," Nick said as he held out a paw which was taken by the panda who began to wiggle with excitement.

"So glad you made it out! I Am Velvet Panda. Most call me Red. I worked the Red Rock tower during the fire. When I detected the wind change I tried to alert base as fast as I could."

Nick realized who he was talking to. This mammal was the Firewatcher that warned every one of the changes in wind patterns which in the end strengthened the June fire into the inferno that tore through so many regions. If it hadn't been for her then they wouldn't have had enough of a warning. In some ways, she had actually saved Nick's life.

"Well thank you for the heads up," Nick said as he gave the red panda's paw a gentle but grateful squeeze. It was followed by a wink which caused the panda to giggle uncontrollably as her cheeks warmed.

Trisha leaned close and whispered something into her friend's ears which caused the predator's eyes to go wide.

"They are?!"

Trisha nodded quickly, her ears flopping forward.

Velvet then looked right at Nick, "You are?"

Nick rolled his eyes, knowing full well what Trisha had probably told the Firewatcher.

The squeal coming from Velvet as she put her paws to her mouth and began to hop in place was actually pretty adorable.

"Oh my gosh that is the cutest thing!" The predator said as she bounced up and down, Trisha holding on as she laughed behind Velvet. "I love Judy! Like so much! Omg, you two make such a cute couple! When did you start? When was your first date? Oh my gosh, did you kiss her or did she kiss you?"

Question after high pitched question came out of Velvet as she acted like a fangirl talking about her favorite movie couple.

Nick was slightly bashful at first but proceeded to answer the curious mammal's questions. The answers, however, were hard to get out because with every answer came a fit of coos and cute noises from both Velvet and Trisha. Though the ranger had been privy to a lot of information hearing it from Nick's side of things must have been a treat. Nick kept a lot of information to himself however but did his best to be polite as he explained little parts to how he had fallen for the bunny in the Thorofare tower.

Eventually, Trisha and Nick excused themselves and headed out of the art supply store. The red panda wrapping Trisha in a warm hug while explaining they needed to catch up soon. She then extended her paw to Nick and gushed how it was a pleasure to meet him.

"One of these days we will have to get together, you think they sound gross you should see how they just stare into each other's eyes," Trisha teased as she gave her friend a wink.

"Stop! I can only take so much cuteness!" Velvet teased as she waved to her friends. "Nick it was so nice meeting you. Send Judy my love!"

Nick held up his walkie and waved it in the air, "Sending."

"Oh my gosh, he carries it around all the time?!" Velvet squealed having heard about the famous walkie-talkie from her interrogation, continuing to act like an overeager teenager watching a romantic movie. "Too much! Too much cuteness!"

Much to Nick's surprise, the day went by rather quickly. The afternoon sun began to slowly dip into the sky as early evening fast approached. Walking the town with Trisha was rather entertaining as the doe skipped alongside him and pointed out certain stores he should check out later or the small movie theater that showed classic movies.

"FYI, next month they are showing Casablanca," Trisha said as they walked under the theater's marque.

"Bet Judy would love a date night," Nick thought aloud.

"She does and will with me," Trisha said firmly as she gave the fox a look.

Nick raised an eyebrow at the sudden change in tone from the brown doe.

"Judy and I have a standing date night every time that movie comes in," Trisha said firmly. "No boys allowed."

Nick laughed at how the doe tried to stand tall as she crossed her arms. Before he could stop her Trisha lept at him and managed to get the radio off his belt.

"Judy, we still on for next month at the movies?" The doe asked as she took a step back from the fox who tried to grab the walkie-talkie back.

"Oh heck yes! Been looking forward to it."

"And if a certain fox tries to come along?" Trisha asked slyly.

Nick stopped and crossed his own arms, giving Trisha s smug look. Sure Trisha and Judy were very close and had an amazing bond. Now that Nick was in the picture though Trisha would just have to share Judy-

"He and I can go later," Judy responded.

Nick's mouth fell open as he stared at the walkie-talkie like it had betrayed him.

Trisha stuck her tongue out at the fox and tossed him his walkie.

"What if I buy the snacks?" Nick asked as he keyed the mic.

"Don't even try dude," Delta's voice came over the frequency. "Trust me. You don't get between the buns and their date night. You and I can go for drinks at the Barn though."

"Trying to get a roll in the hay?" Nick asked playfully.

Delta and Judy's laughter filled the frequency and Nick prided himself as he watched Trisha's tail flick, her own sweet laughter filling his ears.

"It's not that kind of barn Nick," Judy managed to say after catching her breath. "Maybe Trisha can show you later."

"Oh no, that's on Judy," Trisha said as she led them back down the street towards Nick's pick up truck.

"Trisha says you are gonna have to take me," Nick said.

"What? Trisha not wanting to take my fox to a bar? What gives?"

"Wanna sit."

"Says she wants to sit," Nick repeated over the radio. Sounding somewhat confused. "What they don't have seats at the bar?"

As it turns out Trisha wanted to not just sit but to show Nick something. The drive out of town didn't take long. Trisha guiding Nick along a small dirt road that slowly ascended up a tree-covered hill. Nick was somewhat curious what was next on their tour but kept his questions to himself, knowing that Trisha would probably have something rather entertaining set up for the end of the day.

Once at the top of the hill Trisha unbuckled her seat belt in silence which told Nick they had arrived at their destination. He put the truck in park and shut the engine off. Trisha opened the door and hopped out and took a slow stroll towards a ledge just beyond their dirt parking spot. Nick followed the bunny and froze as he took in the sights just beyond the log Trisha sat down on. In the distance sat the town of Fairfax and all its glory. Beyond that was the sea of trees that led into the National Park Nick had called home for several weeks. The same place he had met Judy. The same place he had fallen in love.

To some, it may have just been a vast expanse of trees. To Nick though it had so much meaning that he couldn't help but take a moment to appreciate the view.

Trisha turned and smiled at the fox. She reached over on the log and patted the spot next to her. Nick followed the doe's silent orders and took a seat. He instinctively left some space between them. Space which vanished quickly as Trisha scooted over till their legs touched. Nick couldn't tell if this was a bunny trait, always wanting to be close to someone or if it was just how his ranger friend acted.

They sat in a peaceful silence for some time until Trisha finally spoke up.

"Nick I want you to know something," Trisha said, her voice was not its normal bubbly self which caused the fox to look over at the bunny who kept her gaze forward at Fairfax. "I really love Judy…"

The urge to chime in was overwhelming but the tone in the small doe's voice told Nick to let Trisha speak uninterrupted.

"She is one of my dearest friends and I want her to be happy," The bunny looked up the Nick and her lip curled slightly. "You know she almost left all this for you?"

Nick took in a deep breath and nodded. He knew that Judy nearly gave up her life here in the forest to be with him. There was a short time that they didn't know what would happen to the fox. They had both lost sleep over the thought of him having to leave the parks service because they didn't have a job for him. If he couldn't find work nearby he would have had to return to the city to find something. Judy had insisted she would follow him. He had felt somewhat guilty knowing what Judy would leave behind but she would brush off his concern and claim as long as they were together they would be alright. It wasn't until just now that Nick realized what this would have meant to Judy's friends and family in the forest.

The doe wouldn't just be leaving a job behind but so many mammals that knew her and cared for her. He couldn't help feel a slight pang of regret, knowing he had completely overlooked what would happen to Trisha if Judy left the forests.

"You didn't have to stay here ya know," Trisha continued as she looked out at Fairfax as the sun began to slowly sink behind the mountain vistas beyond. "You could have left. I know you only took this job as a kind of last minute thing. Something to keep you from having to go back to Zootopia right away. I don't know what your plans were or still are and I won't pry. But I want to do anything I can to make it so you enjoy being a ranger…so you don't leave. Because if you do then…" Trisha trailed off, not wanting to say what they were both thinking.

The two sat in silence as the sun finally disappeared behind the mountains. The sky which had been a brilliant orange was soon invaded by a dark blue. The stars illuminating the heavens above the two mammals sitting on the overlook.

"I don't want you to feel I'm only doing this to keep Judy around," Trisha continued as she reached over and put a paw on top of Nick's. "You are a good mammal Nick. I can tell. And I want you to know, I'm going to do everything I can to make you the very best ranger you can be."

Nick remained silent for a moment before finding just the right thing to say. Sometimes in moments like this, there was only one thing to say.

"Pinecone."

 

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.

Chapter Text

-Weekends are for the buns-

It was morning. The exact time was not important to Nick. Nothing really was that important to him right now. He was listening to one of his favorite sounds in the world and frankly, nothing else really existed to him.

Judy took in another breath as she continued to sleep, curled up against her fox who had her wrapped up in his arms.

There it was again. How could something so simple as breathing be such a wonderful sound to Nick? Every time Judy took a breath Nick held his own, not wanting to miss a single note of the sweet song that was his bunny's breathing.

How am I this into her? She is just sleeping for crying out-

Judy took another breath followed by a soft moan. Her nose wiggled slightly as she continued to dream.

You are never allowed to leave this region again!

Nick ran a paw down Judy's ears and gave them a gentle squeeze. The petting must have triggered something in the sleeping bunny as she scooted closer to Nick and burrowed into him. He absolutely adored it when she did this. The way her paws tightened on the tuff's of fur she had grabbed, how her eyes tightened shut, the way she just buried herself into Nick because being an inch apart was too far for her.

The world could end right then and there and Nick wouldn't mind at all. He was content, he was happy, he was loved.

As the rays of the sunlight managed to penetrate through the gaps in Nick's blinds the fox just laid in bed and held his doe close.

Judy had been absolutely exhausted from her time out in the damaged regions of the forest. So exhausted that she hadn't even told Nick about her adventure.

When she had made the surprise appearance at the tailors the previous day, the time had just sped up till it was a blur.

Nick remembered how they had hurried over to the movie theater. Desperate to find a place where they could be alone. When the lights dimmed in the theater the tired doe found a sudden spurt of energy and pinned herself against the fox. Nick wasn't very surprised since he had been thinking of doing the same thing to her. They sat through the whole movie in a loving embrace. The occasional gasp for air was the only sound that came from the couple. Only when the movie had ended did they realize how sore their jaws had become.

From there it was a quick dinner pick up from Lynn's and then back to Nick and Judy's cabin. Dinner had been a simple affair. Judy wasn't that hungry herself and was more tired than anything. Nick decided it was best for them to call it a night early and the couple had curled up together in their bed.

As Nick continued to watch Judy sleep in his arms his cell phone started to buzz on the bedside table.

Nick's eyes went wide and he looked over at the device. He reached over and wondered who would be calling him this early in the morning. The fox grumbled to himself as he sat up in bed. The bunny at his side let out a soft groan and began to stir but Nick pulled her close to him and after an ear stroke or two, she drifted back into Dreamland.

It wasn't until he looked at the screen of his cellphone that he realized what time it was. The morning had come and gone and it was now early in the afternoon. Judy had been far more tired than Nick had first thought. The bunny was now getting close to the 14-hour mark when it came to sleeping.

A picture of a certain brown bunny was also on Nick's screen along with a nickname.

Video call from Trisha the Pinecone queen!

Nick chuckled at the image and name that the bunny had made for herself on the fox's phone. He slid the answer button across the screen and the fox was greeted by a friendly face.

"She still sleeping too?" Trisha asked with a playful smile.

Trisha was not in her normal ranger outfit. Instead, she had a dark green shirt on. Her head was resting on a wooden headrest that looked like the one Nick was currently using to support himself.

"Yeah, Delta?" Nick asked with a smile.

Trisha smirked and nodded. She then moved the phone slightly and showed Nick the top of the painted dog's head which was currently resting on the bunny's lap.

"You think they went on some crazy long hike or something?" Trisha joked as she brought the screen back to her lovely face. "But have to admit he sure is cute when he sleeps."

"About as cute as my little snoozer," Nick added as he flipped the phone's camera so Trisha could see the bunny still curled up at his side.

"Bawww," Trisha gushed. "I miss that.."

"Miss what?" Nick asked as he brought the camera back to his handsome muzzle.

"Cuddling with that cute bun back at Thorofare," Trisha teased as she wiggled her nose.

Nick raised an eyebrow as he looked at the bunny on the other side of the call.

"Oh not like that," Trisha rolled her bright blue eyes. "Sometimes I would be stuck out in that region for a bit and needed someone to just..well..cuddle with. I'm sure you noticed we bunnies are super good at cuddling."

Nick smiled at how bashful Trisha had suddenly become. The doe's eyes darted around for a second before falling back on Nick.

"Judy is a pro that's for sure," Nick said playfully.

"That she is," Trisha said in a dreamlike state.

"You two are probably gonna do a lot of that on your little Kung Fu movie date."

Trisha giggled and rolled her eyes, "I was just joking Nick."

"I'm not," The fox said with a warm smile.

Trisha fell silent and gave the fox a pensive look.

"I um…"

"Listen," Nick began as he adjusted himself on the bed and gave Judy a squeeze. "You were here first. I'm not gonna make you two stop whatever it is you two do."

"Cuddle and look adorable?"

Nick snorted but nodded.

"The way I see it you are Judy's best friend. Just because she and I are mates doesn't mean-"

"Mates?" Trisha asked excitedly as her eyes brightened.

Nick froze. The words had just come out. It was all so casual and it felt so right to say that he hadn't thought much about it.

"I um…well..that is to say."

The fox trailed off when he saw the biggest of smiles suddenly appear on Trisha's face. The brown bunny seemed to be shaking with excitement.

"Did you do that mark stuff you foxes do?"

Nick didn't realize his eyes could go wide but they did. The fox looked down at the doe sleeping in his arms. She nuzzled slightly and exposed some of her chin to him. The very spot that if he wanted to he could put his scent. To bond with her in such a way few mammals understood. Foxes, while considered to be sly and cunning, actually had many other traits that folks seemed to forget. Many of them were loyal, caring, and hopeless romantics. To be bonded and marked was a very big deal. Was he ready for such a thing? To let another in they

"Nick?" Trisha asked softly.

Nick came back to reality, having lost himself in thought as he looked down at the bunny asleep in his arms.

"Sorry, just kind of drifted off there.." The fox said in a low mumble.

"I shouldn't pry that was my-"

"No, you're fine Trisha," Nick said as he looked back at the brown bunny on his screen. "And to answer your question no…I haven't done that yet."

Trisha tilted her head slightly as her lips curled, "Yet?"

Nick closed his eyes and smiled, shaking his head slightly as he ran a paw up Judy's side which made the snoozing bunny purr.

There were a few seconds of silence as Nick just sat there with his eyes closed, the way Judy's fur felt against his was wonderful. Her scent was intoxicating. The noises she made as she slept we're like some kind of sweet song. While Judy probably possessed all these traits before they seemed to be amplified as of late.

Was it because she had been gone for so long? Was it because she had finally returned? Or was it another reason? One that was so blatantly obvious that he would be a fool not to give in.

Nick finally opened his eyes and took in a deep breath before speaking.

"Yet."

Trisha's eyes brightened and began to water. The smile on her lips intensified and she seemed to be shaking with excitement.

"Just don't tell her ok?"

Trisha remained silent and nodded quickly, the stupid grin on her face never faltering.

Nick rolled his eyes and wondered if Trisha would just suddenly explode with excitement.

The bunny froze however as a thought must have crossed her mind.

"Does that mean no more Kung Fu movies and cuddles?" Trisha asked nervously.

Nick snorted and shook his head, "No, I won't deny my Judy her Trisha time."

Trisha began to shake once more with happiness.

There was a groan in the bunny's side of the screen and the doe looked down.

"Hey there my sweet painted snore machine," Trisha whispered. She then looked up at Nick. "This conversation ain't over Wilde."

"Had a feeling you would say that."

"Talk later?"

"Sure Trisha," Nick let out a yawn before saying his farewell. "I'll talk to ya later.

"Pinecone!"

"Pinecone."

With that, the screen on Nick's phone went blank as Trisha hung up. The fox looked down at the bunny who let out a soft sigh as she continued to slumber. Nick leaned down and buried his muzzle into the fur between Judy's ears and gave her a gentle smooch.

"Mmm...Nick.." The doe whispered as she stirred, only to drift off once more.

"I'm right here Judy, I'm right here."

A pair of the most vibrant and beautiful purple eyes fluttered open as the bunny in Nick's arms looked up at him.

"Mmm morning…" Judy said as she let out a long yawn.

"Afternoon," Nick corrected her in a loving manner.

"Oh gosh really?" Judy asked with a light chuckle as she reached up and rubbed the sleeping from her eyes. "Sorry I guess that hike took it out of me more than I thought."

"Nothing to be sorry about," Nick said as he leaned down and gave his bunny a peck on the forehead. "Didn't mind just listen to you snore and talk in your sleep."

Judy tensed up suddenly at the fox's comment.

"Talk?"

"Oh yes," Nick teased. The bunny had actually been rather quiet while she slumbered but that didn't stop him from messing with her. "It was pinecone this and two forks that."

"Oh thank goodness," Judy let out with a sigh as she closed her eyes and rested her head against Nick's chest once more. "For a second I thought I was talking about Trisha again."

The cabin was filled with squeaks and giggles followed this as Judy squirmed free from Nick who had started an onslaught of tickles.

"Ah, Nick no!" Judy squealed as the fox grabbed hold of one of her ankles. "Noooooooo! I was kitting!"

Nick knew Judy was telling the truth since she had been quiet the whole time. That didn't stop him though from running his digits up Judy's paws. The gray doe froze and tensed up suddenly, trying her best to keep in the fits of laughter from escaping her lips. She didn't even last a second as her mouth popped open. The sweet laughter from Judy made Nick's heart swell. So much that Judy's pleading for mercy may have gone unnoticed for a minute or two.

When Nick was satisfied Judy had learned her lesson, whatever it was, the fox laid back against the bedpost and looked at the bunny currently sprawled out on the bed, her back rising up as she caught her breath.

"I should be mad at you for that you cruel cruel fox you," Judy said, her voice muffled by the blankets. She then got on all fours and crawled over to the fox, plopping down on top of him. "but I missed you too much."

"Missed you too carrots," Nick said as he stroked the bunny's ears.

"Besides I didn't have a dream about Trisha," Judy grumbled.

"I kno-"

"It was about Delta," Judy cut the fox off. She had learned her lesson, somewhat, last time and pushed herself off the fox before he could catch her. Nick let out a grunt as he fell flat on the bed, his bunny having used her strong legs to propel herself off the bed.

Nick took a moment to look over at his giggling bunny as she stuck her tongue out at him.

"Oh really?" Nick asked as he scrambled off the bed.

Judy let out a squeak as her ears fell behind her head. The couple spent the next few minutes running around the cabin. Judy darting over the wooden furniture with a determined-looking Nick close behind her.

Though Judy was quick, Nick had his size on his side. He managed to double back around the kitchen table. Judy saw it coming and tried to dart underneath the table, giggling the whole time. Her giggling stopped when her leg was caught by a strong fox paw.

"Ah!" Judy let out in surprise as she was dragged back towards a smirking Nick. "No! The mighty fox has caught its prey."

"And now…" Nick said with a toothy grin.

He placed his paws on Judy's slender waist which caused the bunny to squirm, her bright purple eyes pleading for mercy. She would not have any.

Nick wiggled his digits which caused the doe to squeak and gasp for air between fits of laughter.

The attack didn't last very long this time much to Judy's gratefulness. Nick leaned down and nuzzled his nose into Judy's neck and took in a deep breath. The bunny wrapped her arms around Nick's neck, wanting to keep him close.

"You smell…" Nick began.

"Hmmm?" Judy let out in a purr, wanting to hear how her mate would describe her scent.

"Terrible," Nick finished.

Judy tensed up and slowly opened her eyes, looking up at the ceiling.

"Gee, thanks Two forks…."

"Let's go change that," Nick said playfully.

"oh?" Judy asked, her ears rising up, suddenly getting where Nick was going with that. "I haven't had a shower in a week."

"Well maybe we need to take an extra-long one to catch up," Nick chuckled as he slowly stood up, carrying his bunny with him.

Judy began to giggle uncontrollably as she was carried off towards the bathroom. She looked down behind Nick and saw the fox's tail swish back and forth.

"Mmmm…I missed you," Judy whispered as Nick opened the door to the bathroom, where a warm and passion-filled shower would be waiting for her.

Chapter Text

-I missed you-

"How did we end up back here?" Nick whispered as he ran a paw down the pair of bunny ears currently laying behind the small gray bunny currently curled up in the fox's arms.

"Mmmm?" Came a sweet response as the bunny wiggled closer to her russet colored pillow.

"I mean I remember chasing you," Nick teased as he squeezed Judy closer.

"Yes, and I let you catch me," Judy mumbled.

"Oh really?"

"Mhmm," Judy responded, stifling a yawn.

"And then there was the tickling," Nick chuckled as he ran a paw down Judy's back.

"Go any farther and you will lose the paw," Judy said softly, knowing that if she hadn't said anything she would surely be wheezing with laughter as the fox attacked her large feet currently under the blankets.

Nick's paw stopped just above Judy's tail, a smug smirk on his lips. While the urge to listen to the bunnies infectious laughter was overwhelming he did resist the urge.

"Then there was the shower."

"Mmm…shower.," Judy repeated as she grabbed pawfuls of the fox's fur. Nick's shirt was absent from his body. He had been in the process of getting dressed when this most recent cuddly session had started.

The couple had only just recently finished their shower. They managed to use up all the hot water and had only ended showering when the brisk water became too much. Nick actually didn't mind the cold temperature as long as he had his bunny to hold. Whenever he closed his eyes and held Judy close memories of the past summer came pouring back.

The sun-soaked rocks of Bunny Falls, the cool mist that blew over the pond, the small gray bunny wrapped up in his arms as they waded through the refreshing water. All of these memories would come flooding back whenever he held Judy close and smelled her wet fur.

"And yet even though we got cleaned and ready for the day," Nick whispered in a playful tone. "We are back in bed."

"You complaining?" Judy mumbled.

"No just-"

"Nick?"

"Yes?"

"Shut up and hold me," Judy said firmly as she buried her head into his chest.

"As you wish Carrots," Nick said happily as he kept the small doe in his arms warm. He leaned close and nuzzled his snout in between her ears and took a deep breath of her scent. Judy let out a soft purr at the action. They had both had to get used to certain habits when it came to this relationship. Nick was used to how much physical attention Judy needed, in fact, he secretly loved it. That didn't stop him from throwing in the occasional joke about bunnies though. He felt that Judy, however, had been a real trooper through all this. As a bunny, he knew her protective instincts must be going absolutely mad whenever he held her certain ways or started to smell her. It wasn't exactly a common thing for smaller mammals to do. For a fox, though it was something they did. Her scent was unique to her and he had grown to not only enjoy it but crave it.

As Nick closed his eyes and enjoyed the pleasant scents a certain brown bunny's voice echoed in his mind.

Pinecone

After that, however, something else Trisha had mentioned came to mind.

Did you do that mark stuff you foxes do?

As he slowly ran a paw over Judy's fur he began to let the seed of that thought grow. Trisha's curiosity had actually sparked something inside Nick he hadn't thought about before.

Judy and Nick had only been dating for a short while. In that short time, however, they had grown so very close. While Trisha and a few others had warned Nick that feelings can be odd when you are alone in the forest this was something completely different. He had spoken to Judy about this as well and she agreed with him. While friendships and bonds formed with the mammals out in the woods theirs was a unique relationship, and not just because they were a fox and bunny.

One of Nick's most recent favorite memories from before Judy's survey departure began to play out in his mind as the two snoozed on the bed.

They were laying against a tree that sat on the edge of a lake near "Camp Cuddly". The moon full moon was sitting high in the night sky and illuminating the water for them as the wind played a sweet tune for the couple.

"So what if it has only been a few weeks?" Judy asked as she ran a paw through the russet fur on Nick's arm which was currently wrapped around her waist as she sat between the fox's open legs.

"Just something a few folks pointed out is all," Nick said softly, their conversation was low, almost in a whisper as the night surrounded them in a peaceful serenity.

"Trisha?"

"That pinecone hurling bun may be one of them.."

"Well I know why she is saying it," Judy said with a soft sigh. "She really cares about both of us.."

"Both?"

"Yes both," Judy said with a chuckle as she tilted her head up to look into her fox's handsome green eyes. "You will see when you start training. She really likes you Nick and when she says those things I think its because she is just worried about our feelings and what might happen. She is only looking out."

"Sappy blue-eyed monster."

Judy chuckled and shook her head, "Don't let her hear that when training starts, may just encourage her."

"So what might happen?" Nick asked, barely hiding the hesitation in his voice as he brought up why Trisha was concerned.

"Well Trisha and I talked about that and while she still wants us to be cautious I like her idea of what will happen."

"Which is?"

"One day we wake up," Judy began as she looked across the water. Nick could hear a slight nervousness in her voice which made him anxious.

Of course being the kind of fox that Nick was his mind started to play out all sorts of different scenarios in his mind. What Judy may say next worried in slightly.

What? One day we wake up and realize this won't work? That we cant have kits together? That I am a sly fox and you are an innocent bunny?

"And we will have grown old together," Judy said with a satisfied sigh. "And oddly enough, that's all I think I want."

"Trisha said that?"

"Yeah, I think she can read minds," Judy chuckled as she wiggled her body slightly against Nick's.

"And that's something you would-"

"I said Trisha could read minds didn't I?" Judy asked as she closed her eyes and let out another soft sigh. "Nick I know this is all so new to us. We haven't even known each other for a year. But that time out in our Firewatch towers showed me what kind of mammal you are."

"A handsome fox."

"Meh," Judy joked which caused the fox to bury his snout in her neck which he knew was a spot to get a giggle out of her. After a second of sweet laughter, Judy continued. "I learned so much about you and you didn't even know my species. You showed me that it didn't matter what we are. What matters is who we are. And I know who I am now."

"Who is that?"

"I am yours."

"You bunny's," Nick said with a smirk. "So emotional."

That wasn't the only memory he had where he had to hold back a tear thanks to his bunny. In fact, there were so many that the fox could now choose from and all of them created in such a short time. It reminded him that it didn't matter what others said. Sure they were a fox and bunny, sure they hadn't known each other as long as others, all that mattered was their new plan.

To one day wake up, and realize they had grown old together.

"Mmmm," Judy began to stir from her spot in Nick's arm. "So as much fun as it is to just lay in your arms and dream about our first kiss.."

So cheesy. Gosh, why do I love cheesy so much now?

"I am kinda hungry."

"Well then, why don't I finish putting a shirt on and we can go," Nick suggested with a chuckle.

"Or you can just go shirtless," Judy teased as she opened those big beautiful purple eyes of hers and looked up at him.

"Could have sworn I saw a no shirt no service sign at Lynn's," Nick chuckled.

"Was actually thinking maybe a picnic," Judy said as she stretched.

"Didn't you get enough of nature while out with Delta?"

"Nature is like you Nick," Judy giggled as she eyed her fox. "I will never have enough of it."

After a quick trip to Fairfax, the couple had managed to scrounge up some food. Judy having lived in the region for a while knew exactly where to go and when. Since it was now later in the afternoon she had recommended a small sandwich shop that specialized in making subs on freshly baked bread. A young ewe at the counter knew Judy and nearly jumped over the counter in excitement when she saw the gray-furred bunny. Her excitement nearly doubled when she recognized Nick walking in just behind Judy.

Nick remembered his times back in Zootopia. He would normally keep a little space between himself and prey when entering a shop. A glare or two would be thrown his way or on some occasions, a firm warning was given.

Not here though. The black ewe looked from Judy and then to Nick, only to smile back at Judy which caused the puffy mammal to squeak with excitement.

"Oh my gosh, it's so nice to finally meet you! I have been bugging Judy asking why it has taken so long for her to finally bring you around!" The mammal behind the counter exclaimed.

"You ashamed of me Carrots?" Nick asked playfully as he reached out and brushed one of her ears.

There was a thud from behind the counter and Nick looked over in surprise, the ewe having vanished.

"Yeah….she does that," Judy said as she peered over the counter.

"What?! Faints?!" Nick asked, a little concerned at how calm Judy acted about this.

"He called you Carrots…so cute…" came a whisper from the sheep behind the counter.

"You ok back there Erin?" Judy asked as she stood on her toes to get a better glance.

After getting some sandwiches and snacks the couple bid the fainting ewe in the sandwich shop. Nick however just had to test out a quick theory. He reached down and gave Judy a peck between the ears as they prepared to leave.

Erin's teal eyes went into the back of her head as she fainted once more.

"Nick!"

"Ow! I couldn't help it!"

A short truck ride later Nick and Judy found themselves at a familiar lake. Nick and Trisha had been here just a few days prior to have him certified in CPR. Nick chuckled at the memory of him leaning over an odd circular dummy. He had taken a moment to pause.

"Everything ok Nick?" Tammy, their cheetah instructor asked as she looked down at the fox.

Nick looked up with an innocent look before speaking, "when do I get naked again?"

Trisha nearly died laughing as she fell to the ground, wheezing with laughter. Tammy's cheeks turned a bright red and it took her a whole minute to regain some kind of composure. The other mammals all looking over at Nick with slight concern. A white and brown colored bunny in a red and white lifeguard outfit leaned over to her raccoon friend.

"I left my cell phone in my bag if he strips down-"

"Oh you best believe I will snag a picture," the raccoon in the lifeguard uniform said in a hurried whisper.

Now though it was just Judy and Nick sitting under the same tree Nick had gotten the famous Ranger expectation book from Trisha. There were a few mammals off in the distance enjoying the lake, there was even a moose cruising leisurely through the water in a canoe. Nick took everything in and let out a satisfied sigh. He began to wonder what he would be doing right now if he had stayed back in Zootopia.

He would probably be hustling some mammal out of their hard earn cash. Or maybe sitting with Finnick in his van in some abandoned lot as they sipped cheap beer and planned their next gig. Another thought crossed his mind. It was of Finnick sitting in a lawn chair as he looked back at Nick, a somewhat sad expression on his face.

"You don't need her Wilde. She left. She made her choice now it's up to you to choose what you want to do next," The small fennec fox said in a deep but oddly caring voice.

For the first time in what felt like forever, Nick didn't really feel all that bad about the memories of Zootopia. And the reason was perfectly clear.

Nick looked down at Judy who was sitting between the fox's legs as she happily munched at her carrot salad sandwich. The doe must have realized she was being watched as her chewing came to a slow stop. She leaned back so she could look up at Nick, one of her ears brushing against his snout. The way her beautiful purple eyes just brightened up his day made him grin.

"Hey," Nick whispered as he wrapped an arm around Judy's waist which earned him a happy coo from Judy who wiggled backwards so she could rest against her fox.

"mmmphn," Judy grumbled, her cheeks full of carrot and sandwich.

A bunny, I fell for a bunny, and I love it.

"How is your sandwich?" Nick asked as he ran his free paw down Judy's ears.

Judy purred as she closed her eyes and let the warm feelings fill her, she then swallowed and let some of her sandwich fill her too.

Without saying a word she held her sandwich upward so it was in front of Nick's muzzle. The fox chuckled as he leaned forward and took a bite. While not the biggest fan of carrot, salads, or anything really healthy, Nick had to admit the sandwich wasn't that bad.

Judy smirked as she watched Nick chew on the different greens in her food. She then looked back at the lake and let out a pleased sigh. The small breath from the bunny made Nick swell with joy as he held her close. He rested his head between her ears and looked out at the water.

Right now he could be back in the city feeling sorry for himself. Instead, he was on the edge of a peaceful lake with his beautiful bunny.

How did I get so lucky?

"So you know why they call it Lake Plowfox?" Judy asked as she finished her sandwich, not hesitating to wipe her paws on Nick's leg. Something Nick found amusing, having learned long ago that Judy had picked up a few traits from Trisha. Or was it the other way around?

"No," Nick said softly as he took in a deep breath, Judy's scent mixing in with the different smells that filled the woods.

"Oh, fun story then!" Judy exclaimed as she wiggled and prepared to tell the tale. "So it happened years and years ago. There was this fox who owned a plow service. It was really just him and a modified plow truck. He would go around the region after snow storms to help clear the roads."

"Noble."

"Charged a fortune to do it."

"Smart."

"And would sometimes have a few drinks."

"Ah….less smart.."

"Well, one day he and the Misses get into this argument about," Judy thought for a moment but couldn't quite remember the deeper details of the story. "I forgot about what, to be honest, but it was a big one. So they are arguing while he is cutting this turn and I guess he didn't pay too much attention and…"

"Uh oh.." Nick sighed, sadly knowing the feeling.

"See the ridge up there?" Judy said as she pointed a small paw up towards a ridge that overlooked the lake.

"Yeah.."

"See how some of the guardrails are a different color."

"He didn't!"

Judy's paw went over the lake and then straight down towards the water, the bunny making a splashing sound when her paw was level with the lake's surface.

"And did they?"

"Oh they are fine now," Judy chuckled. "You best believe his wife was livid. Apparently, some mammals were on the frozen part of the lake ice fishing when it all happened. When they arrived to help all they saw was this soaking wet bunny dragging an equally wet fox out of the lake."

Nick snorted at the thought of a soaking wet Judy carrying him out of the lake. He then realized how the pair Judy just mentioned was just like Judy and him.

"And how long ago was this?" Nick asked curiously.

"Like 10 years ago I think," Judy said absentmindedly.

"And folks were ok with it?"

"Oh heck no, he was the only one with a plow truck at the time."

"No, I mean a fox and bunny couple.."

Judy looked up at Nick and smiled, "What, did you think we were the first ones?"

"I mean…back in Zootopia-"

"You aren't in Zootopia Nick," Judy said sweetly as she reached up and ran a paw against one of Nick's cheeks. "When are you gonna learn we don't see species here, we see you for what you are."

"And what am I?" Nick asked with a smug grin.

Judy's eyelids drooped as she sat there for a second. The bunny then stood up and turned so she was level with Nick.

"You are mine," Judy whispered as she put both paws on Nicks' cheeks and pulled him into a tender kiss.