Disclaimer: All characters are owned by ©Disney. Any resemblance to actual persons or mammals, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The following OCs belong to their respective creators: Violet belongs to VariableMammal; Dr. Dave Hawthorne belongs to eng050599; Bailey and Lori belong to Selaxes; Jasmine and Juniper belong to DancingLunarWolves.

Author's notes: My apologies to those who have been following my stories. A recent development in my life hampered my ability to overcome my writer's block. As I had mentioned in my previous chapter, this was meant to be released in March, the month The Children's Wish Foundation of Canada celebrates how it has impacted the lives of young children by granting nearly 25,000 wishes over thirty years. I started writing a chapter in February and it quickly blew up into five more chapters. I wanted to release all five at once as they are all related to the same idea but RL issues had to take a front seat. Updates will be sporadic until such time I have ironed out my personal issues. I thank all my readers for their patience with me.

Again, many thanks to my editors who have contributed and helped me churn this story out: DancingLunarWolves , stubat007, eng050599, and NightWolf0179

As Stu approached the pair in the wheelchair, Judy continued to shamelessly nuzzle Nick, overcome by his emotional confession of his love for her in front of her parents and most of her siblings. She was grateful that most of her family members respected her decision and accepted their relationship. As for the rest...well, she and Nick would take it one day at a time. After all, they had several weeks of enforced medical leave in Bunnyburrow before they headed back to Zootopia to resume their official duties once the doctor gave them clearance.

She realized that her father had been standing beside them for some time after he had reluctantly coughed into his paw in order to catch their attention. She peeked out from Nick's chest fur, slightly blushing because of her sudden public display of affection, but defiantly staring him down, silently daring him to attempt uttering another speciesist remark.

Stu sighed, knowing that he had brought it upon himself, however, he was a rabbit who knew when he was licked and wanted to mammal up to his mistakes.

"Nick...Judy...I'd like to apologize...again...for my earlier remarks and attitude. It was wrong of me to pre-judge him just because he's a fox. I...I hope that you'll both find it in your heart to forgive me.

"Nick, I can see that despite all you've been through, you've always put the mammals that you love first. You've been there for Judy and supported her even though we didn't." He wrung the cap in his paws in shame. "That says a lot about you. And you were always there to protect her when I wasn't around. As a father, I will forever be grateful for that." As usual, Stu struggled with his emotions, but he pushed through. "I'm very proud to know you and," wiping a tear from his eye, "you both have our blessings." Stu said, as he tentatively reached out a paw towards the reynard.

Nick reached out with his free paw and firmly shook the old buck's. "The honour is mine, Mr. Hopps. I lost my father. I didn't want her to lose you...especially over someone like me."

"Nick," Judy chastised him, "stop that. I've said it once and I'm going to keep saying it. You're worth fighting for."

"Agreed," added Bonnie as she stepped into their circle and gently hugged the embarrassed fox. "No child of mine is allowed to speak ill of themselves. Now, why don't you both go back to your room and get some rest? I believe that's why you were sent here, hmm?"

Nick, taken aback by Bonnie's words, was uncharacteristically silent as his brain tried to process what she had just said. "Y-y-you'd consider me as one of your own? A predator?"

"Of course!" she smiled warmly. "Ever since she got back on the force, I've known that she was head over paw in love with you. She could never stop talking about you. It was always, 'Nick did this, Nick did that.' As a mother of 276 bunnies, it's second nature for me. However, she needed to realize it herself. The hospital incident merely confirmed what I knew all along. Unlike my dumb, silly rabbit of a husband, over here," she chuckled as she pinched Stu's cheek affectionately.

"Okay, okay," the older buck grumbled, "no need to rub salt in it." He straightened his shoulders, stuck his thumbs in his suspenders and puffed out his chest. "Son-and I mean that from the bottom of my heart-welcome to the family!"

The moment Stu made the formal announcement, the collective breath of Judy's siblings was released and most of them erupted into cheers. At least those that she could see through her moist eyes as she left Nick's side to embrace her father. Nick found he had his own issue in fighting off tears as Bonnie came to stand by the wheelchair and caught him up in a hug as warm as the sun. All his life, Nick had wanted to be part of a pack, which is what prompted him to attempt to join the Scouts, but their bigotry and hatred for predators had soured his outlook in life. But now, with Judy's family accepting him as one of their own, he couldn't help but feel overwhelmed with happiness. Hugging her back, he whispered, "Thank you, Bonnie."

She released Nick, moisture in her eyes as well. "You'll be fine. And I know you're going to take care of my bun-bun."

He nodded in reply as she went to join Stu and Judy. He managed to crack a grin as Bailey approached to offer a paw-bump.

"Welcome to the Hopps family, fox-bro!"

"Thanks for sticking up for me, dude. You, too, Lori," Nick said, acknowledging her support as she reached over to give him a hug.

"Well, I just couldn't stand by and let the two mammals who gave me the courage to come out be disrespected," she beamed. "Us weird ones gotta stick together," she snickered, winking at Nick.

"Unca Nick!"

"Hey, Zach, come on up here and give your fox uncle a big hug." he grinned as he reached down to lift the small chocolate bunny onto his lap.

"I'm guh-guh-glad Pawpaw isn't muh-muh-mad at you anymore, Unca Nick!" stammered the young bunny as he hugged the reynard's neck.

"Me, too, squirt."

"Yuh-yuh-you're not leaving anymore, ruh-ruh-right?"

"Not until your aunt and I get better. And your special hugs will definitely help me get better faster."

"Wuh-wuh-why would I want you to guh-guh-get better faster, Unca Nick?" queried the young bunny innocently. "Th-th-that just means you'll luh-luh-leave us sooner. I duh-duh-don't want you ever to luh-luh-leave!" he gushed as he tightened his hold on the tod's neck.

Nick chuckled at the young bunny's emotional outburst and squeezed him back fondly. "Now, Zach, your aunt and I have very important jobs back in Zootopia protecting innocent mammals. If we don't go back, then they could end up getting hurt by criminals and that would make us sad."

The young chocolate bunny thought about what Nick said and slowly nodded. "I uh-uh-understand, Unca Nick. I wuh-wuh-won't be suh-suh-selfish."

"That's my little trooper. Hey, tell you what," as he took off his tie and hung it around Zach's neck. "Here's my favourite tie. Can you keep watch over it for me? Until I come back, that is?"

Zach's smile lit up the room. "Shu-shu-sure thing, Unca Nick! I'll tuh-tuh-take care of it real swell!"

Nick suddenly felt a pair of soft paws running through his tail and he smiled, guessing it was Judy coming to claim her 'property'. He chuckled before turning around. "At least have the decency to buy me dinner first, Carro-"

The joke died in his throat. He was startled to be looking at a pair of green eyes belonging to an off-white rabbit. She was wearing a black off-shoulder cocktail dress cut to mid-thigh and displaying a lot more cleavage than was proper.

"Well, now...what do we have here? What's a sexy fox like you doing in a place like this, hmmm?" her sultry voice said as she continued to run her paws through his tail. He stiffened at the inappropriate groping and invasion of his personal space. She could have passed as Judy with makeup on. However, the offender with the sticky paws did not smell like her at all. In fact, she reeked of beer and cigarettes. He quickly whipped his tail out of the paws of the culprit and glared at her.

"Hi there, big boy," she husked at him, one paw on her hip and another behind her head as she seductively winked an eye at him, "you come here often?" she chuckled. "Why don't you and I get better acquainted? My room is just down-"

"Jasmine Hopps!" yelled Judy as she rushed to Nick's side, "You get away from my mate, you...you... Jezebel! "

"Oh, please," said the doe as she rolled her eyes, "I was just having a little fun. You're such a stick-in-the-mud. And you really should update your material, dear littermate," she cooed. "You sound so...eighteenth century!"

"I'll show you where to shove that stick-"

"Ahem! Carrots," Nick quickly interrupted as he immediately placed his paws over Zach's ears. "Let me handle this, please. Why don't you bring Zach over to his mother?" as he nodded his head in the direction where her siblings were gathered. "It really is way past his bedtime."

"But, Nick-"

"Please, sweetie, I'll be fine," he smiled as he took her paw in his and drew her nearer for a quick smooch. "Come back quickly though. We both need to get up early as the doctor will be arriving in the morning. And you know I can't sleep without my personal cuddle bunny beside me. Just like back under the bridge." he said, wiggling his eyebrows. "Oh, and why don't you pass by Vi's office and see if she can accommodate my request for the video?" He gave her a curt, impish wink.

Blushing at the compliment, Judy knowingly smirked, nodded, took Zach from Nick and headed towards where Zach's mother was waiting. However, before she walked away, she held up two fingers in a V-sign, pointed them at her eyes then at her sister.

Nick fondly watched her go then turned and confronted Judy's littermate. "So, you think I'm hot, do you?"

"Honey, you're definitely smoking," giggled Jasmine. "And I can show you a thing or two in the sack better than ol' Loony Judy, over there." she suggested, hungrily ogling Nick from head to paw.

"What makes you think I'm interested?"

"Sweetie, all males want one thing only...and I've got plenty of that to spare," she coquettishly demonstrated as she ran her paws down her busty chest to rest on her ample thighs as she half-turned to display her pert rear and short, wiggling, fluffy tail. "Besides, aren't foxes supposed to chase rabbits, hmmn? How about you chase me into my room?" she enticed, sidling up to him and starting to rub her paws on his broad chest. "I'll even let you go down my rabbit hole," she seductively whispered into his ear as her paw moved down to squeeze his inner thigh. "What d'ya say, lover?" her callous digits slowly inching up towards his groin area.

Nick merely smiled and caught her paw before it could travel up any further. "You know, that's twice in the last ten minutes that you groped me without my permission. That's called sexual assault."

"Oh, please!" she snapped as she pulled her paw away from his grasp. "Just because I stroked your tail and squeezed your thigh, it's a crime? Ha! No one's going to believe a filthy fox over a rabbit! Why, no jury is going to convict me when they see these innocent eyes," batting her eyelashes at him. "Besides, it's your word against mine."

"Actually," he reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out Judy's carrot pen and pressed the playback button, "it's your word against yours."

"Oh, please!" came her voice from the recording pen . "Just because I stroked your tail and squeezed your thigh, it's a crime? Ha! No one's going to believe a filthy fox over a rabbit! Why, no jury is going to convict me when they see these innocent eyes….besides, it's your word against mine."

"Okay, so tell me if this story sounds familiar. Sexy rabbit with a hot bod, thinks she's Gaia's gift to males and expects them to eat out of the palm of her paws once she shows some interest in them. Only to find - whoopsie - not all males think with their lower head. Plus she doesn't know that when foxes choose their mates, it's for life - whoopsie number two. And whoopsie number three - she committed a felony against a Police Officer which carries a penalty of two to four years in jail.

Jasmine slowly backed away, eyes bulging out of their sockets. "Y-y-you still don't have proof that I did anything," she stammered. "That's just a silly recording on a pen."

"Hold that thought," Nick said as he held up a digit while he pulled out his cellphone and dialled. "Carrots? You got it? Uh-huh. Okay. Wow, she had several angles?" he chuckled. "Okay, I'm putting you on speakerphone. Would you mind repeating what you just told me for your sister's sake?"

"Sure, partner," came Judy's voice from the phone. "Violet has voluntarily given me a copy of the video recording of Jasmine's sexual assault on you. She also sent a copy to my parents and is ready to send the file to Chief Bogo on your request."

"Thanks, Carrots," Nick said. "That's all for now. I'll see you in the room in five minutes, okay?"

"You got it, Slick."

"So, you were saying, hmmm?" as he turned to the now very frightened Jasmine who had backed up against the wall.

"You ain't got nuthin' on me, copper!" yelled the scared rabbit as she bolted out of the room. Only to be led back a minute later with her paw held behind her back by a jet black bunny who had purple eyes just like Judy's. "Ow! Ow! Ow! Take it easy, June! I still need my arm you know!"

The bunny called June merely rolled her eyes. "Quit yer bellyachin', Jaz. Mom and Pop sent for ya and asked me to make sure ya din't get lost." Her eyes turned to Nick and she let out a whistle of appreciation. "Ya must be Jude's feeyans," she said, all the while grinning. "No wonder she's all hot and bothered. I'd make a pass at ya meself if I din't have sumun else in ma corner. Not as strappin' as ya but he's got a lot more meat on his bones. Names Juniper, by the way, Judy's littermate. Deputy Juniper Hopps. I'd shake yer paw but as ya can see, they're kinda full at the moment."

Nick chuckled at the outspoken bunny. "The pleasure is all mine, Deputy. The name's Nick Wilde and yes," bowing as he spoke, "I am that dashing, handsome fox that Judy's fallen for." He then sighed dramatically, throwing a paw to his forehead while he placed his other paw on his chest, looking up with closed eyes. "'Tis a curse I must bear. Fear not, good maidens of the Hopps clan, thou shalt recover from thine broken hearts for 'tis fair Judy I've chosen as a mate."

Juniper stared dumbfounded at Nick for a moment, then snorted in laughter as she frogmarched the protesting Jasmine away towards another area of the house. "Ya right!", she snickered derisively. "One gal's sweet petunia is another's poison ivy. See ya around, City Slicker!" she called back as they disappeared into the bowels of the warren.

Nick scowled as he maneuvered the wheelchair back to the room he and Judy were sharing. " Hmph. I don't get no respect. Didn't think they made them in Country Hick flavour, anymore. "

Nick woke up in the morning to the sounds of Judy's light breathing. They had become accustomed to sleeping together with her back to him as he spooned her petite form, his muzzle resting atop of her head as she fit perfectly against his chest. A quick glance at his phone showed the time to be 7:45 a.m.

The previous evening had been a rollercoaster of emotions starting when Stu had unceremoniously barged into their room, pointing his gun at him, to the impromptu gathering at the Dining Hall where he had professed his undying love for Judy in front of her parents and siblings. He had managed to win over Stu Hopps, though. However, when Judy's parents had welcomed Nick as one of their own, the gesture had moved Nick to tears.

For the last twenty years, he had lived on the streets of Zootopia, relying only on himself so he could take care of his mom. There wasn't anyone he could have turned to if something went wrong and more often than not, he ended up paying for it one way or another. When his mom had gotten sick one very bad winter, he had spent a week taking care of her, constantly being by her side. He had had to touch the money he had earned from his last scam to buy food and medicine for her. The days that followed had stretched his very meager resources. He had not eaten for three days and was quite weak and desperate when he had been ambushed by a gang of wolves for trespassing on their territory. He had been left to die in the snow when Grandmama Big chanced upon him and took pity on him. She had nursed him back to health and insisted that he become her personal carrier after that. And even though he was part of the Bigs, it wasn't the typical family that made you all warm and fuzzy on the inside. One mistake could easily have been his last.

But with the Hopps, he had been accepted because Judy loved him. Suddenly, he not only had someone to call dad again but his family had increased exponentially from just himself, his mom and Judy to now include her whole clan. He reflected on the blessings he continued to receive simply because a young naive rookie bunny had come hopping into his life.

Said bunny stirred in his arms, adorably yawning as she smacked her lips and slowly rubbed her head underneath his jaw. "Morning, Slick!", she purred, turning so that she could face him. "How's my fox this morning?"

"Mentally exhausted from last night's emotion fest but happy now that we have your father's blessing and approval."

"You know, even without his approval, nothing would have changed between us, right?"

"I know, Carrots. Still, nothing beats being part of a family. It used to be just my mom and I and now I'm going to go crazy trying to remember all two hundred and seventy-five names of your immediate family, not to mention your nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins, once and twice removed."

"Silly fox, you just stick with me and you'll be fine," Judy giggled as she buried her nose in his neck fur, deeply inhaling Nick's musky scent. "Mmmhh...I can't get enough of this."

"Neither can I," agreed Nick, as he, too, breathed in Judy's special scent, one that reminded him of sweet honeysuckle flowers swaying in the summer wind. Last night, when she was in his lap, it had grown stronger right after he had spoken of his love for her. He had managed to control himself but with winter soon coming, he knew he would have to address the inevitable sooner than later. Still, he was comfortable just snuggling with her and was in no hurry.

"Jaz was being an ass last night," grumbled Judy, still visibly upset. "I'm glad you took her down a peg or two."

"You know, that's insulting to donkeys. And yes, she was being difficult. I hope that your parents read the riot act to her. Us foxes are very particular as to who can touch our tails. We only let our loved ones or family do so. I hated the fact that she presumed I wanted to jump her bones," he griped.

"Yeah, but knowing her," Judy fumed, "it may not be the end of it. They told me she has several restraining orders against her from other mammals. There's even a story of when she was being interviewed for a job, she didn't wear any underwear while wearing a very short and revealing dress. The minister who was conducting the interview almost had a heart attack when she crossed and uncrossed her legs in front of him.

"When we were younger, she was always taking my toys. Juniper would always help me get them back. But as we grew older, she started 'stealing' my male friends from me. I initially felt hurt but I realized that if they wanted to be with her because she was willing to put out and I wasn't, then they weren't the kind of friends I wanted. In the end, I didn't pay any mind to her shenanigans.

"But this time," gnashing her teeth, "she's threatening to take away the one mammal that I truly love. I can't let her do that." Judy squinted as a tear threatened to drop from the corner of her eye. "Just like if any vixen attempts to hit on you, they're going to be busy picking up their teeth," she growled.

Nick had never seen this possessive side of Judy. He remembered she had confessed she had never had any real relationships as she grew up. It was, in a sense, the same for him as he had never the time or the inclination to fall in love as he was always busy surviving.

He had had a hard time believing that someone as beautiful as her could love someone like him. But she constantly went out of her way to reassure him that she did. He reflected that he did not do the same for her given his old trust issues but he was starting to see the insecurities she had been hiding from him. And if there was any mammal he could fully open up to, it was her.

As he lay in bed, softly caressing her ears that were laying back along her head, a love poem that he had memorized once before came to him. He tucked her closer into his chest and whispered it in her ear.

In times good or bad, whether happy or sad,
Wherever, whenever, just flee, so I'll,
Hold you when you're small, catch you when you fall,
And bring back your wonderful and gentle smile,
Today we'll live for what tomorrow can give,
When we're wrapped together we can keep on going...

"Judy, my sweet dear bunny," Nick assured her as he gazed deep into her amethyst eyes, "foxes mate for life. You-and only you-are the mammal for me. It took me a long time to realize it, but when I did, I decided that I wanted to be in a life-long commitment with you. It's not going to be easy 'cause aside from the fact that society may not accept our relationship, we're both liable to make mistakes. We could even say things that will hurt each other again. But I will always love you as I hope you do me. And as long as we are open and talk it out, I think we'll be fine."

Judy thought that she was already totally in love with Nick but as he spoke, she realized that she was wrong. He continually surprised her by the depth of his love and how he went about showing it. He made her heart flutter like a tap-dancing spastic hyena. It ignited a heat in her loins which demanded quenching.

She pressed closer to Nick and captured his muzzle in her paws. She caught his lips with hers and poured out all her frustrations, love and longing into the kiss. Her tongue demanded entry into his mouth and when he allowed it, she let it tantalizingly play with his larger one for a while then used it to explore his teeth, pausing to lick his fangs, savoring their sharpness.

Her mind raced back to the time in the museum when Nick had faked becoming savage. She had never told him her instincts had initially been to run away at the sight of him baring his fangs to her. She had, however, focused on the kindness and gentleness he had shown her and she had managed to overcome the old fear. But when Nick had her by the throat with his teeth slightly pressed against her fur, it had triggered something else: a desire for him. The fact that he had held her life between his jaws had been an exhilarating rush.

"Rabbits mate for life, too, Nick," she whispered happily back as they broke their kiss. "And, you're not getting rid of me that easily. I'll always love you no matter how snarky and irritating you can be. Because you're my dumb fox."

"And you'll always be my sly bunny," he winked at her, happy that he had been able to reassure his mate. "I'm not going anywhere. No matter what any female tries to do. We foxes are hard-wired to remain faithful to one mammal once we've bonded."

"The same can be said for bunnies, but we get a lot of bad press because before we settle down on a single mate, we may go through a lot of partners. I guess I was the exception as I've never been one to settle for being just another carrot farmer."

"Speaking of bad press, it's bad enough being judged just because I'm a fox. But for your sister to assume that I'm just a prey-chaser? Puh-lease. Her boobs were as fake as her." he bristled. "There's only one prey I want to chase and she's right here in my arms," snuggling Judy tighter to his chest. "And, I'm never going to stop chasing her," he grinned as he playfully snapped his jaws on her ear.

Judy squealed in laughter then suddenly moaned passionately. She quickly covered her mouth, embarrassed at the incriminating sound she had made and quickly smacked him on the chest. "Stop that, Nick!" she glared at him.

"Oh? Is somebunny turned on by teeth?" he grinned. "What about claws?" as he jokingly ran a pointed digit down from between her shoulder blades to her fluffy tail. If her high-pitched squeak-or the fact that her eyeballs rolled up till only the whites showed-didn't give her away, the sudden change in her scent did.

Typically, she smelled earthy, like fresh dew in the misty morning. Whenever her mood changed, it would shift a little, which he was able to pick up given his canine sense of smell. In the hospital, where he had presented her with the Promise Ring and his desire to make things a little more permanent, her scent had also changed. She had smelt like apple pie and a warm fire on a winter's evening. Ever since last night, the smell of sweet honeysuckle flowers swaying in the summer wind had permeated his senses. But when he had run a claw down her spine, her scent had suddenly spiked. It reminded him of lightning over the sea: sharp, pure, electric.

Without a word, she carefully pushed Nick onto his back and climbed on top of him, discarding her top along the way.

Caught off guard, Nick could only blink in surprise. "Uh, Carrots, whatcha doing?"

"Shirt off. Now, Nick!" she demanded, tugging at the offending fabric between her and her mate's chest fur. Nick had never seen her like this and quickly complied. Tossing the shirt onto the floor, she proceeded to chin every inch of Nick's chest, carefully avoiding the wounded area. As she began to travel southwards, Nick nervously spoke up.

"Hopps? Carrots? Ju- woohoohoo -dy! W-we're supposed to take it easy, remember? D-d-doctor's orders!" he frantically scrambled to get things under control as she marked him in a very ticklish area while trying to pull his shorts off.

Unfortunately for Nick, Judy was too entranced at this point, growling out under her breath, "My fox! All mine!" As her paws started yanking hard on his shorts, Nick needed to distract her from her mission. Thankfully, she had forgotten about his tail hole which prevented her from accomplishing her objective. The only thing within his paws' reach were her ears, standing at attention as if they were sentinels watching out for intruders. He began to run his paws along the length of them, starting from the base to the tip and back.

As he began to massage her ears, Judy quickly forgot about disrobing Nick as her brain started to melt from the sheer pleasure of it. Nick had inadvertently stumbled onto the Achilles heel of rabbits: their ears were the most sensitive part of their bodies considering the number of blood vessels and nerve endings per square inch, making them extremely susceptible to a lover's caress. As he varied his strokes, he noticed Judy's hind paw would shake as he gently drew a claw along the inner portion. After about five minutes of this, he stopped and lifted her up to his chest as she lay there immobile, slightly gasping and making adorable mewling sounds.

Nick chuckled. "Well, whaddya know? I think I found the 'off' switch."

"No fair," Judy faintly protested as she feebly attempted to swat him. "I wanted to take care of you," she whined.

"Now, now, sweetie, no pouting. It isn't becoming of you. Besides, isn't the doctor arriving this morning for the check-up? I don't think you'd like to be probed while we're knotted, eh?"

Judy blushed mightily although she wasn't sure if it was due to the thought of being caught or getting knotted by Nick. She had read up on the mating habits of vulpines and was aware of the intricacies involved. Given their size difference, she was unsure of the logistics but she had never backed down from any challenge. She wanted to embrace all aspects of being her fox's mate, including the vulpine tradition of being physically bitten by her mate as a form of marking during the mating process.

"Urgh...what time is it?"

"Uhmm...8:42 a.m.?"

"Sweet cheese and crackers!" Judy yelled as she shot up from the bed. "He'll be here at 9:00 a.m.! C'mon, Slick! We need to get dressed."

"I'm pleased to say that you're both well on your way to recovery," Dave said as he began to make his way out of the burrow. "I don't mind saying that you two are a bit outside of my usual patient demographic…well, at least you are Mr. Wilde."

All three mammals chuckled at the thought as they all knew that Dave's role was primarily as an OBGYN at the Honeywell Centre. His presence in Bunnyburrow had been a pleasant coincidence, and the wolf had been more than happy to check in on the two officers.

"Please, Doc," Nick chuckled. "We've already broken bread at Mac's. You can call me Nick."

"Fine, as long as you get to call me Dave then." the wolf retorted with a smile of his own.

"Thank you for coming out to see us," Judy said, taking the lead of their group and escorting Dave to the entrance. "I'm glad that we don't have to use the wheelchair anymore. I was getting antsy just sitting in it all the time."

"Speak for yourself, Fluff. I could ride that baby the whole three weeks I'm here."

"Oh, no you don't. Dave's cleared us for some light exercise. So, you're getting your lazy butt in gear and out the door with me beginning tomorrow. Oh, and Dave," Judy said as she finished playfully chastising Nick, "Be sure to let Carol know that we'll be back on duty soon."

"But not too soon," Nick chimed in with a faux sense of fear in his voice. "I get tossed around the gym enough by her when I'm healthy."

Dave gave a real laugh at the comment, knowing all too well how his mate's enthusiasm for her job often meant bruises for her students, himself included.

The group reached the front door, and Dave offered his paw to the pair. "I'll be by to check in on you again tomorrow. Barring any change, I think you should be fit for duty in a couple of…"

Whatever the wolf was about to say was lost when there was a crash from down the hall. All three mammals looked to see Zach struggling to get to his feet. The kit had knocked over a small end table, spilling a bowl full of nuts in the process. As he got to his feet, he wobbled unsteadily, and reached out towards the wall for support.

A frown appeared on Dave's face, and he looked towards Judy and Nick, who also had worried looks on their muzzles. "Excuse me for a moment," he said, and he quickly moved towards the young rabbit.

Kneeling down, he offered a paw to the young buck, "You okay there, Sport?" he asked gently. "You took a nasty fall."

The rabbit nodded his head, but was still having difficulty keeping his balance. Judy came up behind the pair, and reached out to steady her nephew. "Zach, this is Doctor Hawthorne." Looking over to Dave, she couldn't help but notice the concern plainly visible on the wolf's face.

"It's nice to meet you, Zach." Dave said, and then reached out and placed his paws on either side of Zach's face, carefully pulling down the skin around the young buck's eyes so he could better see them. Removing a small penlight from his pocket, he shone the light into Zach's eyes. "Just keep looking at the tips of my ears, Zach."

Replacing the penlight into his pocket, he held both of his index digits out towards the kit. "I want you to squeeze my fingers as hard as you can, okay?" he asked, and Zach complied, squeezing as hard as he could.

Dave nodded and smiled at the kit's efforts. "That's it, very good!" he said, and motioned for Zach to let go. "Now I want you to reach both arms out, then look up and close your eyes," Dave said, pantomiming the act. Zach attempted to mimic the pose, but as soon as he closed his eyes, he wobbled, and would have fallen if Dave hadn't reached out to steady him.

"That's fine, Zach," he said and looked over to Judy. "Judy, would you mind finding Zach's parents?"

Worry spread across both Nick and Judy's faces at Dave's words. "What's wrong?" Judy hurriedly asked, while reaching for her smartphone.

Dave shook his head in reply, "It might be nothing, but I want to take Zach to the hospital to have him checked out. This loss of balance is probably just a bug, but I want to be sure."

At the Bunnyburrow General Hospital, Dave came out of the MRI room and met with Judy, Bonnie, Stu and Zach's parents. He tried to keep an impassive look on his face while maintaining a neutral tone of voice. He approached the group, knelt on one knee so he was at their level and introduced himself to the other rabbits.

"Good day. I'm Dr. Dave Hawthorne. Zach's doing fine and is just resting. I've asked Nick to keep him company. I've called a specialist friend of mine, Dr. Doug Wilson, who is on his way from The Honeywell Genetic Counselling Centre. He's a pediatric neurosurgeon and is currently en route on a medivac helicopter as we speak."

"What's wrong with him, doctor?" asked Abigail, the eldest daughter of Stu and Bonny and mother to Zach, as she worriedly wrung her paws. John, her mate, stood beside her, rubbing her shoulders as he tried to console her while trying to put on a brave front himself.

Dave could smell their fear and concern; he took no pleasure in having to deliver the news. He tried to soften it as much as he could. "Mr. and Mrs. Grazier, right? Well, I have my suspicions but I've asked Dr. Wilson, who's one of the top pediatric surgeons of Zootopia, to come over so that we can do a biopsy with your permission. If I'm wrong, then we need only have to get a physical therapist for Zach to help him with his clumsiness."

"And...if you're right?" John asked fearfully.

This was the part of his job that Dave hated most of all. He stood up and looked at the group. "If I'm right, then Zach is a very sick boy."

"What's your prognosis, Doug?"

The elderly rabbit wiped a paw across his forehead and sighed. After arriving, he and Dave had prepped the little bunny for surgery where they had obtained a sample for further testing. The whole process including the screening had taken over eight hours and he was drained. "It's obvious, isn't it Dave? Not sure why you needed me here to confirm it."

"I was hoping it's still curable."

"I'm afraid not. With this type of disease, when the symptoms manifest themselves-"

"Damn it, Doug!" growled the wolf as he stood up to pace the room. "For once, I'd like to be able to deliver some good news once in awhile."

Doug nodded, understanding Dave's frustrations. Back at the Honeywell Centre, they seemed to be perpetually pitching themselves against a brick wall. " Hell, even Sisyphus would throw his paws up in exasperation if he faced our challenges daily! " he thought.

"Sorry, Doug." muttered Dave. "Didn't mean to take it out on you. I just wish-"

The rabbit reached out a paw and placed it on the wolf's shoulder. "If wishes were fishes, we wouldn't have to work a day in our lives." he said sympathetically.

"Right," Dave said somberly. "Stole that from that sheep on tv, Dr. Oztrich, didn't you?" he lightheartedly accused.

The older buck merely shrugged, letting a small smile grace his muzzle. "He mentioned that it was an old saying from his grandfather who was a Scottish Blackface. So...are you-"

"Not so fast Dr. Wilson! We ," he indicated the space between them, "are going out there. Together. You're the specialist and they'll want to hear it from you."

Doug groaned. "Fine, but you owe me one, you poor excuse of a flea-bitten mutt."

Dave gathered the Hoppses into one of the hospital's consultation rooms. Stu and Bonny sat together while Judy sat on one side of her sister while the boy's father was on the other. He and Doug sat across from them. He had asked Nick to stay with Zach in case he woke up from surgery. He didn't want the young bunny waking up without a familiar face nearby.

He studied the faces of the lagomorphs before him. Except for Judy, who was trying to put on a brave face, the grandparents and parents seemed terrified. Not because he was a predator but because of the news he was about to deliver.

"Mr. and Mrs. Hopps, John, Abigail, Judy," acknowledging his audience, "I'd like you to meet Dr. Doug Wilson, pediatric neurosurgeon of the Honeywell Genetic Counselling Centre. He performed the biopsy on Zach and confirmed my suspicions.

"Zach has Glioblastoma Multiforme or GBM. It's a fast-growing tumor which has attached itself to Zach's brain. It has grown to a size that it is now pressing against or damaging nerves or other structures. This can interfere with the brain's normal functions. For example, a brain tumor can disrupt thought, memory, emotion, movement, vision, hearing, and touch. Unfortunately, there isn't a known cure for GBM and the available treatment is meant to relieve pain and symptoms, improve the quality of life of the patient, and prolong survival."

All the rabbits on the other side of the table stared in horror at the wolf. Judy finally found her voice to whisper fearfully: "Can't the tumor be operated on?"

Doug took over to explain the problems about operating on the brain tumor.

"The reason why these tumors are insidious is they can go symptom free until they are quite advanced. As the brain itself lacks any pain receptors, it's only when the tumor encroaches on a regulatory region, and starts to mess that up that the symptoms become apparent...and by that point there's often little that can be done. Zach's cancer is now considered to be at Stage IV," he said glumly, seeing how the faces of all the adults in the room fell at the diagnosis.

"But I've heard of cancer patients who've managed to beat the disease even at that stage!" Judy cried. "Surely something can be done to save Zach!"

"I wish there was," Doug grimaced. "Those 'miracle' cases are few and far between. Think of a vine that's been left unchecked to grow wildly," the rabbit motioned towards the MRI scan showing the tumor's location plainly defined by the image. "In Zach's case, the root of the 'vine' is lodged in his hindbrain where the medulla, pons and cerebellum lie. These three parts control his breathing, blood flow, heartbeat, communication between different parts of the brain and sensations such as hearing, taste, and balance. The tumor has metastasised and spread to almost a third of his hindbrain."

Doug shook his head, and there was no hiding the sadness in his voice, "If we try to operate, we might be able to get most of the tumor out but the operation would likely kill him or leave him in a vegetative state. He would need to be hooked up to machines that would help him breathe, make his heart pump, and filter the poisons out of his body...we wouldn't even know if he would be capable of coherent thought."

Abigail could no longer control herself as she collapsed against her husband, sobbing hysterically. John couldn't move as he, too, was in shock. Bonnie sought solace in Stu's arms, weeping uncontrollably while Stu tried to comfort her, not faring any better with his own emotions. With tears streaming down her own cheeks, Judy asked the two doctors if they could have some privacy.

Dave nodded. As he and Doug left, he glanced back at the grief-stricken lagomorphs. He observed that all five had formed a small huddle in the corner, instinctively seeking the comfort of each other's bodily contact.

Nick sat by Zach's bed, processing the news Judy had told him. She sat in his lap, seeking comfort, devastated for the little bunny lying asleep on the hospital bed who was blissfully unaware of his fate. He had wrapped his tail around her, her head underneath his muzzle as he stroked her ears which lay against her head. He had shed copious tears as well. Having just gotten to know Zach, he had been enamored by the young bunny's innocence, selflessness and unconditional love he had shown for Nick. The fox trembled as he hugged Judy to his chest, his breath coming in gasping sobs.

Judy wiped the tears from her face as she kissed the side of his muzzle, reaching a paw out to caress his neck. "Are you okay, sweetie?"

"This is what I hate about loving," confessed Nick as he gathered himself. "It's the pain. Sometimes, I wish I was still my old hustler self. I was good at keeping it out."

"Do you truly feel that way?" she asked softly.

He quietly reflected. After some time, he answered her with a tight hug. "No. Love is what brought you into my life. You brought the sunshine back. I would have remained a jaded, egocentric mammal without a future. With you beside me, I know I- we -can get through the hurt together."

She hugged her fox back, happy with his answer. She knew he was still managing the various issues related to his life before she met him. He continued to surprise her with his capacity to care for others, even putting their needs before his. His concern for Zach touched her. He had no reason to care deeply for the young bunny but he did.

"I wish we could do something for him, Carrots."

"The doctors said they would make sure he was as comfortable as possible. He'll be placed under palliative care."

"Not that. I want him to be happy. If I knew I was going to die, I'd want to go through my bucket list. Do the things that I've wanted to do before-"

"Hush, sweetie." she whispered. "I don't want him to find out right now. I'd like Abby, John and my parents to be around when we break the news to him."

"It's oh-oh-okay, Aunt Judy. I ka-ka-kinda figured something was wrong with muh-muh-me."

Judy's ears flew up in surprise, smacking Nick in the face, eliciting a yip from him. The little bunny laughed at this. "Duh-duh-do that again, A-a-aunt Judy." he grinned from his bed.

She turned to find Zach's eyes open. Except for the bandage around his head, one would never think anything wrong was with him as he was beaming as brightly as a sunbeam.

"Hey, Sport." Nick spoke up. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm oh-oh-okay, Unca Nick. Little wuh-wuh-woozy."

"Zach," Judy asked, "how long have you been awake? How much did you hear?"

He gave a little shrug. "Wuh-wuh-when you're as small as me, you luh-luh-learn to kuh-kuh-keep quiet around guh-guh-grown-ups. Thu-thu-they duh-duh-don't realize I'm thu-thu-there and I luh-luh-listen well." he smiled.

"Zach, is there anything you want to do, you know before…?" Nick asked awkwardly. "Just let me know. I'll make it happen for you."

"Nick, you can't promise things like that!"

"Au contraire, Fluff. I can and I will. Remember, I know everyone in Zootopia." he boasted.

"Yuh-yuh-you can make my wish cu-cu-come true, Unca Nick?"

"Yup! I'm gonna be your fairy godmother."

Zach suddenly guffawed, clutching his stomach, tears rolling down the side of his face.

"Uh, are you okay there, Zach?"

Zach grinned as he wiped a paw across his face. "Nuh-nuh-nothing, Unca Nick. I ih-ih-imagined yuh-yuh-you wearing a duh-duh-dress and ho-ho-holding a wand is all." he smirked.

"Well," snickered Nick, "if that's what it takes to make your wish come true, then I'll do it. Besides, I rock in a dress. Had to wear one once to in order to make a lion believe that I was a fortune-teller. He was a visiting prince from another country and I convinced him I'd be able to tell him when he'd become king if he donated the contents of his wallet to the first blind fox he came upon soliciting for a charity. Told him once he did that, to come back and I'd be able to see when it would happen. Of course, Finnick was waiting down the block. You should have seen the lion's face when he came back and the shop was empty. He started to suck on his thumb and cry for his 'mummy'."

As the three of them laughed over Nick's story, Zach reflected on Nick's offer.

"I wa-wa-was talking to the other kits here buh-buh-before I wuh-wuh-went into su-su-surgery. Suh-suh-some of them a-a-are like muh-muh-me." stammered Zach as he struggled to speak. "Bu-bu-but they duh-duh-don't ha-ha-have a fuh-fuh-fairy guh-guh-godmother like muh-muh-me. I wa-wa-wanna he-he-help them." he finally managed to get out.

Nick pondered over what Zach was asking. "Are you saying that your wish is to help the other kits make their wishes come true?"

"Ye-ye-yes, Unca Nick."

"Oh, Zach," Judy sniffled, her eyes moist with tears, "for someone so little, you have the biggest and bravest heart I've ever seen. But, how can we do that?"

"Don't worry about it, Carrots. I know someone who might be able to help us."

A/N: For those of you who have stuck with me, many thanks again for your patience. The following chapters shouldn't take as long as I've fleshed out most of them. Hopefully before I have to move from my current residence for the last ten years. I will be busy in the first quarter of next year as my Creative Writing online course will require me to read and submit a short story every week for the next thirteen weeks. There are three more chapters to go so I must ask for your indulgence once more.

The poem I referenced above is an original by GuiltySpark2K12 from AO3. Also, I must credit the idea of Judy's ear massage to VariableMammal which came from his own story, "Zootopia: Partners - Partners and Family".

And an advanced Merry Christmas to all! For those who are not of the Christian persuasion, Happy Holidays! XD