Author's note: This was inspired by a conversation between Acacia Heartstrings and Hazel on the latter's art thread on the Fiver's Honeycomb forum.

Based on the books. If you only saw the series, Hyzenthlay is mostly Primrose but also co-Chief Rabbit and other things. Blackberry is not a doe, but a buck. Bluebell is a buck who likes to make jokes, Speedwell is a random buck, Nyreem is a random doe, Vilthuril is Fiver's mate, and Thethuthinnang is Bigwig's.

Copyright: All named characters belong to Richard Adams. Do anything you want with this fic except claim it as your own.


No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.

-Charles Dickens


It was a late summer day on Watership Down. It was ni-Frith, and Hazel was sitting just outside the warren's main entrance, looking at what was happening around him. Several rabbits were at silflay, while a few does were supervising their kittens. It was just like any other peaceful day at the warren.

Hazel, however, was mainly paying attention to the owsla training exercises. Several rabbits were following Bigwig across an obstacle course consisting of rocks and small logs, ending with a large pile of leaves that had been gathered from around the Down. The trainees were mostly younger bucks and does who had lived on Watership Down all their lives.

After the younger rabbits had gone through the course came some of the original Sandleford bucks and Efrafan does. There was Speedwell, then Nyreem, followed by Hyzenthlay, and finally captain Holly, struggling to keep up with the others.

As Hyzenthlay ran on one of the logs, Hazel recalled how she had started training around a month before. She claimed that it would be helpful if she had to take part in an important mission, a likely situation considering her position of co-Chief Rabbit. Hazel understood her decision, but worried that something might happen to her. He closed his eyes to relax, thinking about how peaceful this day was.

Suddenly, there was a grunt, followed by a squeal, and loud rustling. Hazel hurriedly got up and went to see what was happening. He approached the group of rabbits that had formed around the pile of leaves, and squeezed his way through to the centre.

-What happened? he asked.

-Holly crashed into Hyzenthlay while trying to jump over the rock, answered Fiver. It wasn't even his turn to jump.

Everyone kept staring at the pile of leaves, until Holly emerged.

-You clumsy idiot! shouted Bigwig. Why don't you watch where you're going?

-It's all her fault, Bigwig! said Holly in an accusing tone. I warned you about letting does take part in training!

-Shut up! That was my decision and you are not going to shift the blame away from the one who deserves it, and that's you.

-What did you expect? I tried to warn you but you didn't listen. It's as much your fault as it is hers...

Arguments between Bigwig and Holly were becoming increasingly common. In ordinary cases, Hazel would have asked the two owsla veterans to go back to their respective burrows until they had calmed down enough to resolve their differences. However, this time he was worried about Hyzenthlay. His worst fears had been realized, she had gotten hurt.

Just as he was about to dive into the pile of leaves, she crawled out, covered with cuts, some caused by the leaves, others by Holly's claws. She weakly shook off the leaves on her back, and started to make her way to the warren. Hazel tried to support her as she slowly approached the warren, but once they were underground he was forced to stop, as the run was too narrow for two rabbits side by side. She eventually reached the burrow they shared, and collapsed in a corner. Several rabbits had been following Hazel and Hyzenthlay, but Bigwig prevented them from entering the burrow. He only let Blackberry in, so he could examine her.

-She's going to be fine, he said once he had finished. But she will need a lot of rest. It would be better if we all left her alone.

-All right, lads, let's get out of here, ordered Bigwig.

He then turned to Captain Holly:

-And as for you, meet me in my burrow right away. It's important.

Holly's ears dropped to sides of his head as he realized what was going to happen, but he nevertheless obeyed Bigwig's order. The other rabbits slowly went away from the burrow, until the only ones left were Blackberry, Hyzenthlay and Hazel.

-You coming? asked Blackberry.

-Can't I stay with her?

-That wouldn't be advisable. I know you're mates, but she needs to be completely alone, if she is to get better.

Hazel reluctantly agreed, and followed Blackberry out of the burrow and towards the Honeycomb.

Late in the afternoon, Fiver approached his brother, who was lying in a far corner of the Honeycomb with a depressed look on his face.

-You've been feeling down today, haven't you?

Hazel made no response.

-You can tell me. After all we've been through together, now is not the time to start keeping secrets from each other.

-I'm just worried about Hyzenthlay.

-Blackberry said she was going to be fine. And she will be. I can feel it.

-It's just that...she's all alone. When I got hurt on that reckless patrol earlier this summer, she was always with me while I recovered. But now that she's the one who needs help...I can't be there.

-Blackberry advised that everyone leave her alone. I don't know much about healing, but he's probably right.

-HE CAN'T ALWAYS BE RIGHT! What if, just this once, he was wrong?

All nearby rabbits stared at Hazel in shock. Luckily, Blackberry was not among them; he was at silflay.

-I'm sorry, Fiver, it's just...this is terrible...

-I understand. But it's been a while, you can probably go and see her now.

-Are you sure? You're not saying this just to cheer me up...

-Everything should be all right. You worry too much.

-Thank you so much Fiver!

The two rabbits touched their noses together, and Hazel ran to the burrow where Hyzenthlay was. By this point, she was awake, but was simply sitting in a corner, staring at the burrow wall. She did not react to Hazel's arrival. Of all the things that could have happened, this was one he had not expected.

-Are you all right?

Hyzenthlay let out a loud sigh.

-Physically, yes. But I made a mistake.

-What happened earlier today wasn't your fault.

-Whether or not it was is besides the point. I'm quitting training.

-You're quitting? Why? Bigwig will do everything he can to make sure things like this never happen again.

-Can't you see, Hazel? The owsla is no place for a doe. Captain Holly was right.

With that, she lied down and placed her front paws over her head. Hazel did not know how to react to this. He couldn't deny that owsla training was useful to her. It was plain to him that she didn't really want to stop, she was just affected by Holly's remark. Expelling him from the owsla was a proper punishment, but that would only convince Hyzenthlay that someone else was suffering for what she considered her mistake. How to bring her back to her senses, Hazel didn't know. He slowly backed away into the run, and bumped into Bluebell.

-You heard everything?

-Everything, Hazel-rah.

-In most cases, I would be annoyed at you, but since you know what I'm up against, do you have anything to suggest?

-You just need to distract her from her problems. Be funny and mischievous.

-That's easy for you to say. Games and jokes are your speciality. I'm more of a serious rabbit.

-Here's something you can try.

Bluebell put his nose in Hazel's ear and whispered something. After he had finished, Hazel pulled away in shock.

-Are you crazy? She's going to kill me!

-If she tries, you can probably hold your own in the fight.

Seeing Hazel remain silent, he continued:

-Just try it. If you don't believe me, ask Fiver. The last time Vilthuril was depressed, I told him about this, and it worked extremely well.

-All right. I'll try. I don't know if it will work, but I have nothing to lose...

As Hazel went back inside the burrow, Hawkbit arrived from further down the run and approached Bluebell.

-What was that all about? he asked.

-That's confidential, Bluebell replied.

-You were whispering, I didn't hear a thing!

-I didn't want you to hear.

-Why does nobody tell me anything?

-Because you can't keep your mouth shut, answered Fiver, who happened to be walking by.

Hawkbit scowled at the last remark. He walked away mumbling something about how everyone always gangs up on him whenever something goes wrong.

Hazel entered the burrow and sat next to Hyzenthlay. She had still not moved, and did not react to his presence. He remained there, letting the feeling of mischievousness take him over, until he just couldn't contain himself anymore. It was crazy enough to work. He put one of his front paws on her side and started moving it through her fur.

-What are you doing? she asked, turning her head and staring at him.

-I'm tickling you!

With that, he put his second front paw on Hyzenthlay and started moving them faster. Hyzenthlay became very agitated and soon rolled on her side, but Hazel kept going. He tickled her everywhere, from her whiskers to her hind legs. Hyzenthlay, while previously nervous and stressed, finally seemed to be enjoying herself.

As Hazel briefly stopped to catch his breath, he felt something touch him, and soon found himself pinned to the ground.

-What...

-You didn't seriously think I was going to let you do all the ticking, did you?

With that, she started softly caressing his sides, but the tickling soon intensified. She was clearly not going to let him off easily, relentlessly moving her paws all across his back and abdomen, and even on his tail. Hazel struck back, and soon found a particularly sensitive spot at the base of Hyzenthlay's ears. However, that proved to be a mistake: as soon as he put his paws there, she instinctively gave a powerful kick of her hind legs, propelling him across the burrow.

Hyzenthlay panicked at this. She slowly approached Hazel, hoping that he was not hurt.

-Hazel? Are you all right?

Hazel got back up and shook the dirt out of his fur.

-I'm fine. But I didn't know you could kick so hard. This training has done wonders for you.

-Oh Hazel...

With that, the two rabbits started tickling each other again. This went on until suddenly, Hyzenthlay spotted a dark shape at the entrance of the burrow. Both rabbits immediately scrambled to their feet to see what was happening. Bigwig and Holly were sitting at the entrance, and Holly in particular looked shocked.

-I...was inspecting her cuts...

Bigwig rolled his eyes at Hazel's obvious lie. Then, he poked Holly's side.

-Well? What are you waiting for? Get on with it!

Holly snapped out of his trance at Bigwig's comment, and approached the doe.

-Hyzenthlay...rah, Bigwig said I...

As he heard a soft growl coming from Bigwig, he changed his speech:

-I feel that I should apologize for...uh...what happened earlier today...I...I wasn't...I wasn't looking, I just...wasn't paying attention and...uh...it's all my fault...do I keep going?

-Embleer hraka, Holly, you're completely missing the point of all this! You're making it sound like I carried you here by the scruff of the neck to apologize.

-Isn't that what you did?

-That's subjective.

-Uh...all right...Hyzenthlay-rah, I am sorry for everything I did today, I was wrong, you totally should take part in training, there is no problem with does in the owsla and maybe I could learn a few things from you, and I promise I will be more careful next time and...is that enough?

-It's enough, just get out of here.

-Very well. Once again, I'm sorry, goodbye!

With that, he ran out of the burrow. Bigwig shook his head.

-What an old fool! I hope he learned his lesson. But seriously, Hazel, you don't have to lie to me. While I have no idea what you were doing, you certainly weren't inspecting her cuts.

-It wasn't you I was worrying about. It was Captain Holly.

-Oh. In that case I understand. By the way, Hyzenthlay, do you think you will feel well enough to participate in training again tomorrow morning?

-I'll be there, Bigwig.

-All right. I will leave you two alone now. Feel free to do...whatever it was you were doing. But you should tell me about it sometime. You seemed to having a lot of fun, I might try it out with Thethuthinnang eventually...

After he had left the burrow, Hazel and Hyzenthlay looked at each other lovingly.

-Promise me you will be careful tomorrow, said Hazel.

-I promise. I don't want any more accidents than you do.

-It's getting late. We should silflay.

-All right.

As the two rabbits left the burrow and made their way towards the exit, Hyzenthlay said:

-Thank you for what you did, just now. I was really depressed, and that cheered me up.

-We could try it again sometime.

-We'll see. We'll see.

They touched their noses together. On several occasions, they had helped each other overcome difficult situations, and that was not going to stop. One would always be there for the other when they needed it. With them as leaders, Watership Down was in safe paws.


!FINISHED!

I wish to thank all those who inspired me: Acacia Heartstrings, arnoldretsch1998, ask-thezpd, Bright Side, Chibiscuit, chip_architect, Crackers, Fox Teen, Marinell Harriman, Hazel, Nancy LaRoche, Lauz-millz, Josh Lee, Indi-rah, rabscuttles, Sharks Potter, Silverweed's Claws, and my sister.

Thank you for reading, and please review.