Nick P. Wilde let out a victorious laugh as he hugged the excited gray bunny in his arms, very much pleased with the outcome of their situation. Mere moments ago, they had managed to get a recorded confession from Dawn Bellewether, resulting in her arrest with the arrival of the very officers she herself had called.
Poetic irony at its best.
Still situated in the exhibit pit, the two small mammals released each other as one of the EMTs, a male tiger, came down to help them.
“Come on, Carrots.” Nick said as he wrapped an arm around her tiny waist. “Let’s get you fixed up.”
“Right.” Judy sighed, but the smile on her furry face did not diminish. With the help of the EMT, Judy was finally out of the pit, with Nick not too far behind. Within moments, the gash in her right leg was treated and wrapped. Fortunately, it was nothing more than a shallow cut located in a particularly painful area of the body. She would make a full recovery, much to the relief of both fox and rabbit.
“Hopps!” A deep voice shouted after the armadillo EMT left them, startling the two. They turned to face none other than Chief Bogo, the water buffalo towering over the two smaller animals.
“Sir—” Judy began, but was cutoff when the Chief raised a hoof. Her ears drooped down as Nick glared at the larger mammal. Before the fox could make a condescending comment, Bogo spoke.
“I’m glad the scene I came upon today was that of an injured officer, and not a dead one.” Bogo said, his normally stern expression softening just a tad bit. He watched as confusion flitted across their expressions.
“Sir?” Judy asked hesitantly.
With a smirk, Bogo extended his other hoof towards the sitting bunny, revealing her badge. “I believe this is your, Officer Hopps.” He watched as the bunny gingerly took back her badge, his face reverting back to its stern expression. “I spoke with the EMT. As of now, you are on medical leave for three weeks, starting today. I expect you back on the 21st at 0700, are we clear?”
“Sir, yes, sir!” Judy saluted, the grin on her face as bright as the sun.
Turning his attention to Nick, who had been grinning lazily at the bunny as she got her badge back, Bogo addressed him. “Fox!”
“I have a name, you know, though it’s none of your concern.” Nick replied calmly. Eyes half lidded, ears up and alert, his easy smirk in place. Wilde was the epitome of confidence in that moment.
Chief Bogo ignored the fox’s sass, recalling how the small predator had stood up to him at Tajunga. It filled him with respect for the animal, especially when foxes were usually unreliable. Then again, these two were proving over and over again that species stereotypes did NOT apply to them. “Officer Hopps has brought it my attention that you want to join the force.”
At the unexpected statement, Nick’s façade faltered a bit, uncertainty peeking through his emerald eyes. “Uh…”
Bogo continued over the fox. “Normally, we don’t take criminals in. However,” he raised a paw to silence Judy’s protest, “the assistance you have provided in this case is proof that you would make a more than excellent addition to the force. Still interested?”
The surprise on Nick’s face lasted a second after the Chief finished speaking, before that familiar lazy smile spread across his snout. Bending his knees a bit so he could sling an arm around Judy’s shoulders, Nick ignored her protest as he smirked at Bogo. “Only if she’s my partner. She’s just so gosh darn cute, someone has to look out for her.”
“Don’t call me cute!”
“Done.” Bogo agreed instantly, already planning to team up the two. “Come by the station in the morning, and we’ll start your paperwork. We’ll also have to get your statement about today’s events, so be prepared for a long day.” He turned to go talk to another officer, pausing briefly as he stared intently at the fox. “Don’t disappoint me.” With that, the chief walked away, leaving the two.
“Should I burst his bubble now, or after I graduate from the Academy?”
Laughing happily, Judy hugged the fox once more. Pulling back a bit, she gazed up into green eyes, her expression serious. “You still want to join the force? To be my partner?”
A rare, genuine smile graced Nick’s features as he gazed at the bunny. “After today, there’s no one I trust more with my life than you.” Her beaming face was worth the sappy comment. Stretching, he added. “Plus, I kinda like the idea of being the first fox officer. It has a nice ring to it. I should probably get it plated and mounted on my wall.”
Judy giggled, rolling her eyes, before she remembered something. “Hey Nick, do you still have that Nighthowler pellet?”
“Yep, right here.” He said as he took it out of his pants’ pocket, the clear blue pellet shinning innocently in the remaining day light.
“Take it to Officer McHorn, the rhino over there.” Judy gestured to one of two rhinos present, this on being the male of the two. He was speaking with another officer, a grey wolf, who had one of the rams in custody. “He’ll keep it safe until we can get a research facility started on a cure for the serum.”
“Roger that.” He said we a mock salute, but hesitated a moment. “Try not to get in trouble while I’m gone.”
“Oh shut it, Wilde.”
Chuckling to himself, Nick made his way to the designated rhino, who noticed his approach and turned to face the smaller predator. The ram in custody, the one that had rammed them into the pit in the first place, took notice of the fox’s approached as well and glared. Nick smirked at the ram, but otherwise ignored the soon-to-be convict.
“Officer McHorn?” Nick asked the rhino.
“Officer Hopps told me you can keep this safe.” Nick said as he showed him the pellet. “It’s Nighthowler serum.”
“Yeah, I can.” McHorn said as he reached for the pellet. “I know someone in forensics who can stor—” The ram behind McHorn noticed that the wolf restraining him was distracted, and made a desperate attempt at escape, bucking into the rhino and cutting off his sentence. This, in turn, caused the rhino to bump into Nick slightly. It was nothing major, just unsettled the fox’s balance a bit, which he quickly regained.
Cursing, McHorn rounded on the ram and wolf. “Wolfbane! What gives?”
“Sorry, I got it under control.” The grey wolf apologized as he manhandled the ram away. “I’ll take him to the cruiser.”
McHorn glared at the retreating officer before letting out a sigh. A whimper from behind him caused his brows to furrow and he turned back to the fox, only to see the animal on the floor, pawing desperately at one of his feet, as if he were trying to get something off of it.
“Nononononno…” The fox whimpered in panic, and that is when Officer McHorn noticed the blue liquid on the tiled floor, and on the fox’s foot. Not only did the bump with the rhino cause Nick to lose his balance, it also caused him to drop the pellet, which he stepped on as he attempted to regain his balance. His weight being too much for the thin membrane to bare, it burst, tainting all it touched.
Including the fox.
Judy, hearing the commotion, focused on the fox and stared in horror as she saw Nick on all fours, his body convulsing. “Nick!” She screamed, gaining the attention of everyone there.
When he had lost his balanced and dropped the pellet, Nick had tried to catch it, to no avail. The little pellet had slip right through his paws, and before he knew, he had stepped on it. At first, there was only the shock at what had happened. In the next second, there was only the fire that was starting to consume him from his left foot, racing upwards towards the rest of his body. The was also dread, the fear of him hurting someone.
Of hurting Judy.
As his body forced itself onto all fours, convulsions wrecking his body, snarls and growls involuntarily left his maw as he struggled against the urge to hunt. To kill.
“Nick!” A voice cried out, and Nick turned his head in its direction, searching for the source. His vertical slit eyes focused on a wounded rabbit.
Amethyst eyes stared, not afraid of him, but for him.
‘No, not food. Judy.’ He had to get away. The way he was now, he could hurt the closest person to him. Vaguely aware of the animals around him, he growled a warning as he slowly backed away from the one nearest him, that being a rhino. When he saw another animal take a step towards him, he bolted between the rhino’s legs, and headed straight towards the corner nearest him.
His instincts screamed at him that a corner was a very bad idea, that he needed to attack, to fight his way out, but Nick ignored that raging part of him, and pressed his body into the corner. If he was there, he couldn’t hurt anyone. He’d also be far away from Judy.
For all those watching, his behavior greatly confused them. From what they had gathered, when affected by Nighthowler, the victim would lose all rational thought, reverting back to their primal ways. They would lash out without rhyme or reason. They would not back themselves into a corner, or try to make themselves as small as possible.
However, that’s what this fox was doing. Instead of attacking indiscriminately, he had run away from all potential targets. He had then situated himself in a corner, crouching down and wrapping his tail around himself. Tremors would rock his small body, and it was evident to all the officers there that the fox was still rational and was holding himself back.
“I don’t know how he’s managing this, but let’s take advantage of it while it last.” Bogo said as he and a few others kept a far distance from the savage fox. “Fangmeyer, get a crate and a tomahawk, and a muzzle just in case.” With a nod, the white wolf departed.
“Please, Chief.” Judy said as she came up next to the water buffalo in crutches. “Don’t use a muzzle on him. Please.” She pleaded. “Let me talk to him, to get him into the crate.”
“Hopps, you’re injured, and a prey animal at that.” Bogo began. “I cannot risk—”
“Then have someone accompany me! Just let me try.” Her eyes were no longer pleading, but determined.
Bogo was silent for a moment, and then sighed. “Fine. But I will be the one to take you to him, got it?” He got an eager nod in response. “When Fangmeyer gets back, we’ll approach the fox.”
“His name is Nick.”
Being that the station was right across the street from the Museum of Natural History, Fangmeyer was back in five minutes with the requested supplies. In no time, Bogo and Judy approached Nick. Bogo held the bunny princess style in one arm, much to her chagrin, while he held the crate in the other. The closer they got, the more the fox’s red fur stood on end. When they were ten feet away, they stopped. Gently setting the open crate on the ground, so as not to startle the fox, Bogo crouched to the ground.
Around them, four officers had tranquilizers guns aimed at the fox. Despite Judy’s confidence, the chief wasn’t taking any chances in case Nick lost the fight with himself. However, that went unnoticed by the savage fox, whose sole attention was focused on the pair before him, primarily, the grey bunny cop.
“Hey, Nick.” Judy began. She watched as his flattened ears flicked in her direction. “I…I know you won’t hurt me, that you’re still my best friend.” A whine was his answer, and it encouraged her. “Yeah, I’m not mad. But the others, they don’t know you like I do. They want you to get into the crate.” Her ears flopped down as she pleaded with her fox, because he was her fox. “Please, Nick.”
Cautiously, Nick raised his head, ears up and alert, and gazed intently at the rabbit. Slowly, the fox stood upon all fours, but kept himself low to the ground with his tail between his legs. Nervously, his eyes flitted across the group gathered around him. Landing seconds longer on the officers with the tranq guns. A low whine sounded again.
“Put me down.” Judy whispered to Bogo.
“He’s nervous, put me down.”
A tense silence and a resigned sigh later, and Judy was placed gently on the floor, right next to the open crate. Sitting herself down completely, Judy opened her paws and gestured towards the feral fox. “Come here.” With baited breath, everyone watched in tense silence to see what the fox would do.
The tension visibly lessened in the fox’s posture. He was no longer afraid of hurting the small rabbit, for he recognized her as a friend, but he was afraid of those surrounding him. He knew they could hurt him. But with Judy, he knew he would be safe. She had already saved his life so many times already in the timehe knew her. He could trust her, and what she was saying. Slowly, he crept towards her, keeping his body low to the ground. The closer he got to her, the quicker he moved, until he was pushing his snout into the fur of her neck, nuzzling his face into her as he comforted himself with her scent. He was letting out happy whines, his tail wagging as he all but forced his body onto the giggling rabbit.
Chief Bogo, along with the rest of the present force, could not really believe what they were seeing. Here was a feral predator nuzzling playfully a prey animal. It was mind boggling, but an overall pleasant surprise. Then again, the water buffalo shouldn’t be all that surprised. It did, afterall, involve his most surprising officer.
Clearing his throat to gain the attention of the now cuddling animals, he was amused when the fox growled a warning at him. “Calm down Wilde, you know I won’t harm your partner.” The fox remained protectively wrapped around the now embarrassed bunny, but curiously listened to the chief. “Now, however, I need you to get into the crate for transportation. I may have confidence in your obvious stellar control, but others will not. Fortunately, there was another pellet in the case Bellewether—”, the fox growled at the name, “—had in her possession, so a cure will be fast coming. Now please,” he gestured to the crate next to the fox, “get in the crate.”
Ears dropping, Nick reluctantly unwound himself from around Judy and made his way to the crate; not before he nuzzled his face and body against her as he did so, and flicked her nose with his tail playfully.
“Nick!” Judy protested as her nose twitched, and barking laughter could be heard from inside the crate.
Bogo closed and secured the crate and picked it up. Somehow, despite the control the fox displayed and the respect he had garnered, his gut was telling him that Nick would be safest with him.
Scooping up a surprised rabbit with his other arm, Bogo turned to his officers. “Finish up here. I’m escorting the fox to the holding facility and Officer Hopps to the hospital. I expect all reports to be on my desk by Monday morning.” Multiple confirmations came his way, and with a nod, Bogo left the Museum of Natural History feeling more proud than ever before.
He had some of the best officers he had ever had that pleasure of meeting on is team, even if one of them wasn’t an officer yet. It was only a matter of time.
Judy sighed as she bookmarked the page she was reading and closed the book, the title reading “The Adventures of the Gutsy Mouse”. It had been five days since the incident with Bellewether, and a lot had happened since then. One of them being that Zootopia now had a new mayor; a regal looking pure black timber wolf by the name of Demetri Wolfgang, who had been Mayor Lionheart’s second Assistant besides Bellewether. He was a calm individual, with a particularly silver tongue in regards to politics—obviously—and was already doing a great job at doing damage-control regarding the Nighthowler incident, with the help of Judy, of course.
She had been honest when she told Nick that she needed to make things right regarding the predators. So, the very next day there had been another press conference, called by the newly appointed mayor himself. There, she had commanded the press in a way she hadn’t been able to that first time. She apologized for the strife she had caused, clearing up some facts regarding Nighthowlers and the effects of the flowers towards both predators and prey. She even used the story of her uncle her father told her about, just to get her point across. All in all, it had been a huge success.
Then, just yesterday, the doctors led by renowned researcher Doctor Viktor Vandyke—an experienced black jaguar with many awards to his name—had finally concocted a cure for the Nighthowler serum and had administered it to all the affected predators, including Nick. Though they did it reluctantly in regards to the fox. Judy giggled at the thought.
Nick, after he had gotten used to his cell, had become the favorite of the researchers, primarily because they could study him without fear of attack and ask him questions, with him understanding everything. They were still stumped as to why Nick wasn’t effected the same way as the other predators, but no one was complaining, least of all Judy.
It had been twenty-four hours since they had administered the cure, and Judy was ready for her best friend back.
Which is why she was in a hospital room, sitting in a chair, reading a book, as she watched her fox sleep. All the other animals affected had woken up, completely cured and with no recollection as to what had happened. Judy had a feeling that it would be different with Nick.
Looking towards the only other occupied piece of furniture in the room, Judy observed the sleeping fox. He looked so peaceful and unguarded, something she had never witnesses since she first met him a week ago. His motto of never letting anyone see his true emotions frustrated Judy most of the time, but she was reconciled with the fact that she was able to get to him, and he showed it, too. The first time had been on the gondola, when he had opened up to her about why he no longer tried. The second time had been after her first press conference, where she had nearly destroyed their new friendship with her naiveté. He had looked so betrayed, and Judy still hated herself for that, because she had been no better than those jerky Cub Scouts. And more recently, when he had accepted her apology in stride and when he said he still wanted to be her partner, even after everything she had done… She knew he let his walls down in regards to her, and it made her warm and fuzzy.
Now she just had to wait, but she was starting to get worried. Why was he taking so long to wake up? She closed her eyes and sighed dejectedly.
“What’s with the sigh, Carrots?” A hoarse voice sounded from the bed before her, causing Judy to look up with a gasp. Tired emerald met hopeful amethyst. “Did someone steal your carrots?”
Judy gave a watery laugh. “That was terrible, Nick, even for you.”
“Yeah, well, my brain was on a forced vacation.” Gingerly, Nick pulled himself into a sitting position, his ears partially droopy from fatigue. He took a tired glance around the hospital. “What happened…?”
Judy jumped onto the fox’s bed, which was big enough to hold five Nick’s, and touched his arm. “What do you remember?”
Turning his face away from the concerned rabbit to think, and also to hide the red under his fur. “I remember…stepping on that damn pellet…of fire consuming me and taking over my mind…it almost did.”
“Nick….” Judy tightened her grip on his arm.
A slow, easy smile came across his snout, but it was genuine and made Judy’s heart beat faster, the warmth of a blush radiating off her ears. “Actually, it was you who kept me sane.”
She froze. “What?”
Nick rubbed his face with his paw, obviously embarrassed. “When you shouted my name, I remembered who I was, and that you were not food, but my friend. And that I had to get away from you to keep you safe. It was a struggle after a moment, but I remember thinking that I was safe with you.” He narrowed his eyes in thought. “And with the chief, for some reason. That’s a first.” Judy giggled at the sarcasm. “So when am I getting the antidote?”
Silence fell upon the two as Nick stared at Judy expectantly, and she gazing back in disbelief. “What…”
“Kidding!” Nick laughed “You should have seen your face, Carrots! Ow!” That was from the punch delivered by one angry rabbit.
“That wasn’t funny Nick!” Judy huffed, trying to stop the tears that were forming. “I was…I was really worried!”
Nick saw this and his ears drooped with guilt. “Sorry, Carrots.” The gray rabbit continued to sniffle. “Aw, come here.” He pulled her into a hug, and she did not protest. “You bunnies, so emotional.” He murmured softly, letting the rabbit rub her tears into the gown covering his chest. He allowed her to stay there, running his paw through the fur between her ears and neck in a soothing motion.
As he comforted the bunny in his arms, Nick lost himself in his thoughts. Despite the act he had put on, Nick had been serious with his question. By Judy’s reaction, they had apparently already administered the cure for the Nighthowler to him, but that couldn’t be right.
Because despite being able to talk, to reason, to recognize that the rabbit in his arms was more than prey…Nick was still savage. His senses were all hyper aware. He could hear beyond his room and Judy’s heartbeat, and his vision had never been clearer. And while the instinct to hunt was still there, it was overshadowed by a stronger one; the one to protect one’s mate.
It was a startling revelation, one he didn’t know how to process, because his mate was Judy.