The blueberry splats against Nick's neck, and the impact sends him falling back onto the floor of the museum exhibit. It's okay, he's got this. Just howl in pain, flail around for a while, threaten Judy like he's come down with a bad case of rabies, and they'll get out of this somehow. One step at a time. He closes his eyes and bares his teeth, feeling Judy's gentle paw pressing against his back. "Nick, try to fight it!" she says, and the panic in her voice sounds real. Not bad for an amateur.
But the welt the blueberry created is still throbbing. His vision begins to blur and his limbs tense up. Blueberries aren't supposed to do this. Could he have developed an allergy since this morning?
His nerves burst into flames and Nick blacks out.
The light is painful. Ugh, he shouldn't keep ordering that same tequila. In fact, calling it "tequila" is too kind. It's probably pure rubbing alcohol with a bit of agave extract. Nick should know— he once sold just that to a family of cacomistles for their daughter's quinceañera. He blinks and his eyelids refuse to move again. What happened last night, anyway?
After a brave struggle, Nick gets his eyes open halfway. The light is coming from a window in a hospital room. Hospital? Man, that was really bad tequila. He rolls his head to the side and checks if his paws are handcuffed to the bed: Nope. Well, can't be too bad.
A koala nurse is reading his vital signs, and she pages the doctor over the intercom: "He's awake." Nick tries to sit up in bed but only sinks further into the pillow.
"Hey sweets." His hangover voice is groggier than usual. "If you don't mind me asking, could you fetch me a hair of the wolf? I've got a fifty in my wallet that I assure you was not printed in a dark, moldy basement."
A snow leopard doctor knocks on the door frame and drags a chair next to Nick. "Good afternoon, Mr. Wilde," she says in a hushed voice. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I won the freaking lottery, doc."
"Good, that's good. Do you remember anything from the last time you were conscious?"
"Not a thing. Which means it was probably the best day of my life." Nick tries to push himself up to face the doctor. He collapses back.
"Well, Mr. Wilde, you've been undergoing treatment for Night Howler poisoning for the past seven weeks."
Nick's ears perk up and his eyes bulge. "Night Howl… I wouldn't touch that stuff if you paid me."
"Do you remember anything from when you went savage?"
"Look, Dr. Catnip, I don't know where you're getting this 'savage' business. I stay away from the hard stuff. Tequila's about as much as I'll indulge."
"Do you remember a former police officer named Judy Hopps?"
"Former?" Nick succeeds at sitting up. Despite his splitting headache, he's now fully awake. "I risked my tail again and again to make sure she kept her badge. Don't tell me they fired her!"
The doctor swallows and scratches herself under her chin. "Well, uh, that's not what I meant. She's uh..."
It comes back: The museum. Mayor Bellwether. The exhibit. The blueberry. The... oh God. Where is she? Judy would be at his side when he woke up, wouldn't she?
Nick tries to swing his legs out of bed, but they're too weak to kick away the hospital blanket. "She's what?"
The doctor draws a deep breath and casts her eyes to the floor. "I don't want to be the one to have to tell you this."
"Oh no. No." The hospital room is closing in on itself. What happened after the blueberry hit? There must be a way to bridge the gap in his memory, but there's only darkness. Just nothing...
"She can't be dead." His limbs are coming back to life, and he kicks off the hospital sheets. "There were blueberries in that gun. We put them there while Bellwether and her rams were searching the museum. That was our plan! Nobody got hit with a Night Howler bullet!"
"Don't say that word. I do not like that word."
"...the police brought you here as part of a murder investigation. There was also a rabbit who arrived DOA…"
Nick springs from the bed, sheets gathering around his ankles, and the doctor scrambles out of his way. "Nurse!" yells the doctor. "Security!"
Pure panic sends Nick rushing toward the snow leopard. He grabs the fur of her neck and tries to lower her head to his. "It's not true! She wasn't hurt!"
"I need a sedative, stat!"
"Where is she! Judy! Carrots!"
A needle jabs Nick's forelimb. He yelps. The thick hooves of a rhino officer pry Nick off the doctor and handcuff him to the bed. "Carrots…" His racing heart slows and he falls into a long, dull sleep.