Finally that last chapter is here!
I'm sorry it took so long, I've been so busy with work its just taken me ages to get this written and finished!
I do hope that in the (not so near) future to do a sequel, but please bear with me as I do need to focus on my studies for the time being which i'm sure you all with understand.
Thank you all so much for following, reading and commenting on this story, it was fun to write and I can't wait to return to this storyline with you all!
But for now, happy reading all the other amazing fan works out there!
When Monday came around, Judy felt sick. She wasn't ready. She was hurting, she was fretting, and she hadn't slept a wink since the… incident. She couldn't think of anything else to call it; what do you call nearly getting murdered by a fox? It was all so fresh, and very real, so real that when she closed her eyes she relived it all over again. In some of the visions Nick hadn't turned up to protect her, but that was a nightmare she preferred to lock away in a box at the darkest corner of her mind.
They were going to destroy Nick. Everyone knew now that Nick had gone willingly savage, but refused to acknowledge that it was in her interest. Savage meant headline news, and better yet, this was a fox that was in the ZPD. It was ground breaking, a money maker, that was all that the press cared about. If Chief Bogo found any reason that Nick was no longer fit to work for them…
No. He wouldn't do that. Pull yourself together, Hopps.
She stared in the mirror, adjusting the collar of her shirt. The force had sent her a new uniform, for her old one was beyond wrecked and hidden in the shadows beneath her bed, completely discarded and untouched. Somehow this new one didn't feel real, like it was a joke laughing at her. It felt tight and uncomfortable, pricking at her fur as if reminding her of the mess she had found herself in, even now. She tried to swallow, but her throat felt swollen.
Any minute now she was going to throw up, she knew it.
"Breathe, carrots." It was Nick on the other side of the door speaking, and it made her jump two paces away from the mirror. "I can hear that heart hammering from out here, which is very annoyed, by the way."
"You can come in," she called, refocusing on the mirror. It looked wrong, everything looked wrong.
She glimpsed Nick in the mirror, leaning against the doorframe behind her. He looked so calm and collected, just like he always did. His shirt was no tucked into his belt, his tie loose around his throat and his neck free from that top button. So scruffy, yet he looked right. Everything about Judy was sharp, in order, whilst Nick was smooth and endearingly messy. Why did he look so right and her so wrong.
"You look fine, fluff." Nick said, exasperated.
"Am I even fit to be an officer anymore?" she said aloud. "I couldn't even be respected enough to arrest a fox, so what's the point."
"Okay, now you're blabbering rubbish because you're nervous." Nick said, strolling into the room with his paws stuffed in his pockets. His red fur blazed against the blue of his uniform, the green in his eyes shimmering, and suddenly Judy felt invisible in comparison.
She sighed heavily, her entire body shrinking, and Nick sighed with her. He nudged her gently, knowing she was still hurting, and urged her to turn around. "I'll be right next to you. You're not gonna be up there on your own, not like last time; I've got your back."
She looked up at him, looked him in the eyes, and she made herself believe him. This was just one stupid conference where the press were going to try and throw her off for their own personal gain. It was just a game to them, nothing more. She forced a smile, trying to believe that she was better than a group of nosey, obnoxious journalists. She would be the better animal, she had to be.
"Okay," she sighed, ears drooping. "Let's get this out of the way."
"After you, Officer Hopps." He replied, gesturing towards the door, and emphasising on the word 'officer'. He believed in her. That was all she needed to know. From now on they were in everything together, as a team, and they would never abandon the other again.
She led the way out of her apartment, Nick closely following, and walked towards the biggest challenge in her career.
No big deal.
Nick watched Judy hop from one foot to the other, wincing when she landed on the wounded one. It made him cringe each time, but when he tried to encourage her to stop, she would only do it more vigorously. Was this a coping mechanism that rabbits did? He couldn't fathom it. Nothing he said seemed to calm her, and now he simply couldn't say a word now that Chief Bogo began speaking to the public.
Granted, he was nervous. The wounds on her stomach and chest began to burn with the anticipation and worry, reminding him that he was going to be the centre of attention. He certainly wasn't happy about that part. Yet he was handling it much better than his nervous wreck of a partner. He had shuffled her so that she was at least twitching out of sight of the cameras and public, which was the least he could have done for her.
He listened to what Bogo had to say, explaining the attacks, the investigation, right onto Judy's disappearance, her family's safety, and the final confrontation that had gotten Nick involved. He couldn't lie to them. None of them could lie, not about this. A small number of predators were out to re-establish the relationship between predators and prey, a very illegal thing to do, but an even more dangerous situation for everyone involved. Families needed to be warned, just so they were aware and could at least watch their backs. Bogo spoke every ounce of truth he had in him, and yet the crowd grew more anxious and demanding if it was another case of Night Howlers.
"No, that case has been shut down and will remain that way due to the fact that we have a cure. This is different. These… rebels are fully aware of their actions and are choosing specific targets to send out a message. This is a time we must stick together as a community, not divide into two different units. We are much bigger than the threat being presented."
"How could you know that?" demanded a pika, who had a microphone just to be heard clear enough due to his size, no bugger than a large rat.
"We have a black bear in custody, and he had no trace of the Night Howler in his system, and was stable enough to have a conversation with."
"But your fox went savage, correct?" the pika retorted, and Nick heart seized. Here we go. He felt Judy flinch beside him, and when he glanced at her she was looking at him with such hopelessness it was almost insulting. Was she really feeling guilty over the fact that he has taken the measures needed to save her life? He did what he had to do, and that was the end of it. Why was she so upset over what they both knew was an overall desperate act for salvation?
"Our fox did not go savage, sir," Bogo objected, clearly annoyed by the comment and the murmurs that followed.
"I beg to differ, chief," the pika replied, lifting up some photographers that were twice as big as him. He struggled to keep his balance before a fellow journalist, a puma, retrieved the images and passed them to Bogo, but not without sneaking a peek.
Nick already knew what the images consisted of, and began to grind his teeth at just how desperate and sly the press really were. Judy began to tremble, and Nick firmly grabbed her shoulder to keep her still, giving her an icy look. She needed to stop blaming herself for what could not be helped. He was not going to let some sleazy pika ruin his reputation.
"Officer Hopps, do you have anything to say about this?" the pika called out, snatching Judy's gaze from Nick to him.
"About the attack? Surely you must have felt threatened in such a scene, particularly with your own partner involved."
The other journalists began to chanter in agreement, much to Nick's growing annoyance.
"Um, no, you don't understand…"
"You must have been scared half to death! How awful, to know that your partner was gallivanting with the enemy, right under your nose. How could you not have known, Officer Hopps?"
Bogo turned back, looking concerned, and Nick purposely caught his eye. Nick lowered his snout ever so slightly, his eyes sharp and seeing all, his ears pricked with awareness, his tail swishing side to side ever so slightly with eager agitation.
His Chief nodded, and not without a squeak of protest from his small partner, Nick took the stand.
"Maybe it's me you should be firing the questions at, not my partner." Nick said loudly, silencing the crowd, who gawked like a group of idiots in the firing line of a sniper. "So, regardless of what those images imply, I did not go savage."
"You showed the signs of aggression!" accused a stag, pointing a hoof at the young fox.
"On the contrary, I was showing signs of aggression in the best interests of my partner." Nick replied calmly.
"What about the vixen, Hunt? What was your relationship with her?" asked another member, a gazelle this time.
"A complicated one." Nick said sternly.
"Were you plotting with her?"
Exasperated, Nick lifted his paws as if to bat away the accusations, more annoyed than anything else. This was just a silly game they were playing to get yet another headline, and damn it he was not going to give them that satisfaction.
"Let me ask all of you a question," he began. "What would you do to save someone you cared about? A friend, a sibling, a child or a partner? What would you do? Would you just stand by and let the worst of the worst happen to them, or would you stand up against the threat with every bit of strength you had? That's what I had to do." He took a breath, finally having got the attention of everyone around him, including the sleazy pika and the panicky Judy behind him.
"A friend of mine once told me, that deep down, despite being evolved, we are still animals. Take that as what you will. However, bearing in mind the questions I asked before, what instincts would come into play if, say, a tiger began stalking towards your cubs, or your calves, or pups, with the intention of hurting them? Or what about a rhino charging towards your husband or wife? How would you react?"
He let them think for a moment, and whilst his heart was in his mouth with the truth of his words, he continued. "What you see in those photographs is a friend protecting another friend. The vixen in those photos is the savage, but me? I knew exactly what I was doing, how I did it, and what I intended to get out of the situation. I wanted Off- Judy, safe, and out of harm's way. What you see is an animal acting on instinct, not Night Howlers, and I've learned over the last few weeks that our instincts are what ground us to the animals we truly are. Evolved, sure, but my God, we have more in common with our ancestors than we truly know."
"Do you think I'm a savage now?" he asked them, meeting each stunned pair of eyes with his own. "Or do you need to see the wounds I endured along side Judy to prove it? Better yet, do you really think that that rabbit behind me would so much as look at me if she thought I was going to hurt her?"
Nobody replied to him, frozen by his words.
"I ask you to look at yourselves in the mirror when you return to your families, and ask yourself, what would you do in return for their safety and wellbeing?" he told them. "If you can do that, and find the correct answer of anything, Zootopia will become a better place once again."
A long silence, the only sound being the snapping of photographs clicking away in the distance. Nick looked back at Judy, who was stepping closer towards him, smiling brightly. She was proud. He could see it, right there in her smile and her eyes, and he smiled back. Silently he reached out his paw towards her, taking hers in his own as he helped her step up onto the stand. He watched her gaze out to the crowd, who now focussed on only her, letting his own words settle before them as they waited for her contribution. She was no longer shaking like a leaf, no longer fretting, and he smiled even wider.
"As our Chief has already said, we must stick together as one community, one unit, to overcome the threat that is faced before us. Enough of the petty differences we bear, whether we have blunt teeth or sharp teeth; it doesn't matter. What matters is that we are so much bigger than this, and we can overcome it as animals, the very things we are. Our ancestors spent their lives fighting one another for survival; if we can overcome that, who's to say we can't over come a group of senseless rebels who have no compassion for the world we fought so hard to build?"
And suddenly Nick was watching all of the doubt melt away into nothing. He saw himself and Judy on the cameras, now being broadcast around the city and beyond, and what he saw was natural enemies standing side-by-side, paw in paw, a single unit. He recognised this at the same time as everyone else. If they could overcome their differences, police officer and former con artist, who was to say that no one else could? They were two animals, who happened to be of a difference species with difference characteristics, yet with the same mind set of wanting the world to just be better.
Judy had once said that Zootopia was messy, and it was, but with mess you could clean it up. These rebels were just one heap of trash that simply needed to me scooped up and overthrown. If the force could get the rest of the city behind them, the rebels would have no one left to fear them, thus their existence becoming worthless. It was so, so simple.
But when had life ever set out to make things easy?
And then Chief Bogo hovered behind the pair, clearing his throat, but Nick heard the smile without needed to look up and see it. "No more questions."
In the explosion of camera flashes and a bombardment of questions, the two officers were guided off the stand and away from the crowd by security, much to their relief.
They waited patiently in the car for their Chief, who was finishing up the conference before driving them back to the station.
"Did I do good?" Nick asked, smirking at the rabbit beside him.
She grinned back. "No, you were dreadful."
Nick mockingly punched his own kneecap. "Damn."
A moment passed as they shared a soft laugh. "So what now? Home? Milkshakes? Food?" Nick asked, cringing when his stomach growled incredibly loudly.
Judy turned away, gazing out of her window, looking thoughtful in the reflection. "Later. There's something we have to do first."
Tracking down Peter Bush's family was easy.
After going through his file, the first place to look was of course his original origin, a small house just on the inside of the Rainforest District. It was a pleasant little play, with a friendly neighbourhood where children played and the roads remained quiet. It was almost picture perfect. Heck, even Peter's old home had a letter box with 'The Bush Family' engraved into the metal, so family perfect it made Judy's heart flutter.
Nick followed her quietly as she made her way towards the door. Judy wasn't sure what to expect, particularly from a family who had fallen victim to the very worst, but she couldn't let the family continue on so broken. For the animals to begin fighting back against the rebels, the families already affected needed to be restored. Peter was number one of Judy's list, simply for how broken his life truly was.
Gently, she padded her paws against the oak red door of number twenty-two, Nick quietly lingering behind, and waited.
A moment passed until the door creaked open, revealing a young squirrel in a pink t-shirt and blue jeans. Judy silently searched for a name, and Poppy sprang to mind in an instant.
"You must be Poppy," Judy said gently. "My name is Judy Hopps, is your mom home?"
The child nodded, looking curious, before calling into the house for her mother. She disappeared into the house, and Judy waited another moment.
Mel, a squirrel as beautiful as Peter had described, came to the door with incredibly sad eyes but curious, twitch whiskers. She looked Judy up and down before she drank in Nick behind her, and her eyes flashed with recognition. "Officers, you were just on the news. What on earth can I do for you, you much be so tired from that terrible press conference." She said, feigning excitement. "Though what you said was truly inspiring."
"Actually," Judy said softly, "I wanted to ask you about your husband, Peter."
Mel's eyes flashed, and Judy thought she was about to close the door in her face. "What about him?"
"We were wondering if you wanted to see him again?" Judy asked, even gentler this time, and the look on Mel's face told Judy that that was not what she was expecting.
Suddenly, around Mel's legs were her three children; Zach, Poppy and Roy. They looked at her with such hope, and the love there was undeniable. This was a family that had been so broken for so long, and after all this time, someone was trying to fix them.
"Papa?" Roy whispered. The four of them turned to Judy and Nick, all of them looking so painfully buoyant, and Judy could only hope that Peter was still at the safe house they had last found him in.
"Would you like to come with us, Mrs Bush?" Nick said, gesturing towards the cruiser the pair had arrived in.
Everything was a blur from then on, from the drive to actually arriving at Peter's place to the agonising wait of his appearance. Judy refused to let the family climb the ladder, for it was far too dangerous, but it didn't take much to entice the male squirrel out of his hiding place and poke his head down below with a simple, "We have your family here!"
Nick and Judy waited in the car, watching from afar once Peter began to descend from the tree. It was an agonising sight, Judy's heart in her mouth and her breath painfully hitched. She just wanted one thing to go right, just this once, and it had to be the reunion of this family. It had to be. Everything else had been so cruel and un-kind, one family deserved a happy ending. This was that family.
And it was worth it.
In a blur, the family of five was together once more, crying and laughing with joy, embracing one another so tightly it was as if they would never, ever let go. They wept for so long and held on so tight, exchanging kisses and nuzzles and tears of a family that had once been so close finally reuniting. It was everything Judy wanted it to be and more, and even Nick looked slightly emotional at the scene before him.
Together, the pair would ensure that this type of thing never happened to this family, or any other family, again.
Zootopia was approaching dark times.
Nick and Judy were far from out of the woods, even now.
But, if a fox and a rabbit can before the faces of a unity, regardless of their differences and their history, who was to say that others couldn't?
Granted, they were far from safe, and the future was going to test them to the limit, but for now, they had each other. Better yet, they had the weight of Zootopia behind them, which meant for now, the threat remained dormant.
But for how long?