Disclaimer: All characters are owned by ©Disney except for the following: Serendipity and Karma are owned by VariableMammal; Dave Hawthorne and Doug Wilson belong to assamite1/eng050599; Shakespeare is owned by WriteAnon from the story, 'Water Under The Bridge'; Sirse Sinclair, Amenii Oakwoods and Nera are owned by CodeShark from DeviantArt; Augustus Ghrizzly and Zachary are my OCs. Any resemblance to actual persons or mammals, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The commissioned art pieces were created by TheWinterBunny and Quirky-middle-child.

Many thanks to my editors: Code-shark, DancingLunarWolves, Stubat007 and Nightwolf0179 for their invaluable help with this chapter. As for the other OCs that I create and you take without permission… I'm gonna give you to the count of ten, to get your ugly, yella, no-good keister off my property, before I pump your guts full of lead! One…two…ten! (sounds of machine gunfire and maniacal laughter) Keep the change, ya filthy animal!

"Don't worry about it, Carrots. I know someone who might be able to help us. Do you remember when we were at the Meadowlands Memorial Park last Memorial Day? The bear we met, Augustus Ghrizzly?

"What about him?"

"I'll explain later on. For now, we need Dave's permission to see if we can hitch a ride back to Zootopia tomorrow on the medivac helicopter."

"Duh-duh-do you ruh-ruh-really need to guh-guh-go, Unca Nick?"

"Afraid so, Zach, but don't worry. We'll only be there a few days but we'll come back here to continue our medical vacation. We'll be thinking of you while we're gone," confessed the tod as he sat by the young bunny's hospital bed the next day.

"Oh-oh-okay! I'll be wuh-wuh-waiting." smiled the young bunny, eyes drooping. "I'm just guh-guh-gonna rest my eyes for a-a-awhile."

Nick couldn't believe how upbeat Zach was. Despite knowing he had a terminal illness, he continued to look at the silver lining in everything. He had quickly made friends with the whole staff in the Kits Cancer Ward and had made a difference among the young patients as well. There seemed to be more smiles in the room when he entered to visit Zach with Judy.

He leaned over to kiss the sleeping bunny's forehead, careful not to wake him. He then went to look for Judy. After consulting with Chief Bogo, she had donated their ZPD-issued motorized wheelchair to the Bunnyburrow General Hospital. She was making arrangements with the hospital administration for Zach to use it in the meantime.

He caught up with her just as she was leaving the hospital director's office. "C'mon, Nick! Dr. Wilson just informed me he's ready to leave in fifteen minutes. We're to meet him at the helipad outside."

"So, where are we going to find this Augustus Ghrizzly?" Judy raised her voice as she spoke into the mike of the headset. She could hardly hear herself over the noise of the helicopter.

"Tomorrow is the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year. He'll be back at the War Memorial paying respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier." Nick's voice came back over the headset. "We can get our dress uniforms from the ZPD lockers and meet him there at the eleventh hour of the day. They will hold a two-minute moment-of-silence ceremony and then we can talk to him."

"Why exactly are we going to see him?"

"He owes me a few favours. Last I heard, he's done pretty well for himself. He's a real softie for down-on-their-luck stories, plus he travels in the high society circle so he can put us in touch with other philanthropists. I figure we can let them know about the situation with the kits in the cancer ward of Bunnyburrow General Hospital, get some pledges and then use the funds to bring some joy into the lives of those young mammals."

"But what if he can't help?"

Nick fidgeted nervously in his seat. "There's always Mr. Big," Nick said, "but you may have to be the one to approach him. He may have forgiven me for the skunk butt rug incident but I'd rather not push my luck. Besides, you're little Judy's godmother. How can he say no to you?"

"We'll see. What do you have in mind for the kits?"

Nick leaned back in his seat, deep in thought. "Not sure yet, Fluff," came his voice hollowly over the radio. "If I knew I was about to 'shuffle off this mortal coil', I'd make plans to reach out to those whom I wronged in the past, to make amends. But if I were a kit?" He shrugged his shoulders, a helpless look in his eyes as he stared down at his paws. "Stuff my face full of sweets? Stay up all night to watch the scary movies my parents wouldn't let me watch? Go to all the amusement parks there are? Eat ice cream and pizza everyday? Buy the latest toys or gadgets? I really didn't have much of a childhood so I really can't really say. Those are just some of the things I'd imagine those kits are missing out on. They've been dealt a bad blow and Zach just wants to make things right for them before he..."

He looked up, seeking her face, unable to complete his sentence. "It's just not fair," he whispered.

Judy's eyes began to tear up hearing Nick's somber tone. She realized why he was so affected by this. Since he had never experienced a happy childhood, the thought of young kits having to go through what he had in the past broke his heart. Unable to climb into his lap due to the seat restraints, she reached out to him instead, smiling while she held his paw and brought it up to her lips to place a kiss on it. "Dumb, emotional fox," she sniffled. "Have I told you lately that I love you?"

"More than I tell you, Carrots," Nick smiled back at her. "You've always been there for me. You've believed in me from the start. I can never thank you enough for choosing me, lifting me up from my humdrum existence. If not for you, I would have remained a vagabond and a hustler. It's time, though, to stop using my past as an excuse and step up in our relationship."

"Nick, have you heard me complain?" she asked wryly.

Nick held her paw in his, feeling the soft fur against his rough calloused pads, head bowed as he reflected on her question. He was thankful she understood his reluctance to talk on his past life. And although she never pressured him, she often encouraged him to talk to her about it as a form of cathartic release.

"When I was a pup of seventeen," he began, "there was this artic vixen with fur as white as Tundratown snow. I met her during one of my scams and she became my 'partner-in-crime' for a while. This was before I met Finnick. She and I did pretty well in our hustles, appearing as a newly married couple who just had lost all our valuables in a fire. Or we'd pose as panicked parents looking for our missing kit. I...I thought she was the one...my soulmate. One day, I bared my feelings for her and she just laughed in my face. Said that the hustle had gone to my head and she was there only for the money. She called me a fool for being a romantic and walked away, breaking my heart in the process."

"Nick, I-"

He placed a finger softly on her lips, smiling tenderly as he interrupted her.

"I know you're not like her, Judy. You're ten times better than she was. Heck, a hundred times even! I'm just letting you know that, ever since then, it's been one of my biggest fears that someone I loved would walk away if she knew the things I had done in order to survive. You, on the other paw, already knew of my past and still accepted me in spite of it."

As he looked into her amethyst eyes, spellbound by the pure, unconditional love radiating from them, he began to realize his fears were unfounded. With the beautiful grey bunny beside him, his baseless apprehensions disappeared as quickly as smoke in the wind.

"So, no, Judy. You haven't," he said, bringing her paw to his lips as well. "But that doesn't mean that I should just sit back and enjoy what we have. A relationship needs two mammals to work on it together. It's time for me to start doing my share of the heavy lifting. You're the one who inspired me to become a police officer. You're the spark plug of the team. Your optimism is a breath of fresh air to this once jaded fox. You deserve more," Smiling, he reached across to cup her soft cheek in his paw, "and I'm going to be there. Every day. By your side. To make sure."

Judy's ears warmed under his piercing emerald eyes. She couldn't deny that the fine specimen of masculinity beside her made her giddy with desire. If they had been alone, she would have made sure he knew that fact. For now, she settled on chirring contentedly as she closed her eyes, enjoying his caresses. She vowed to herself to show him, when the time was right, how much she loved him.

The following morning at the stroke of eleven, Judy and Nick, in their dress blues, found themselves besides a huge grizzly bear wearing a business suit. The three of them stood in silence before The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which was located inside the Meadowlands Memorial Park. The cenotaph was flanked on its four corners by four vigil sentry mammals in full dress uniform. They represented the four services: Army, Air Force, Navy, and Police. Nick and Judy had their paws up in a salute while Gus had his head bowed as a sign of respect as a raccoon bugler played Last Post. There followed two minutes of silence, after which an elephant bagpiper wailed out the Lament. As the elephant finished, Nick and Judy escorted Gus forward as he strode with a large wreath in his paws. He placed the wreath on a stand prepared for the occasion, stepped back, placed his right paw on the left side of his chest and recited:

They were young, as we are young,
They served, giving freely of themselves.
To them, we pledge, amid the winds of time,
To carry their torch and never forget.
We will remember them.

Both Judy and Nick responded: We will remember them.

"Thank you, Officers Hopps and Wilde, for being my escorts today. To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?" Gus inquired at the end of the ceremony as the three of them walked towards the exit.

"Please, Gus. We've known each other for some time. I still go by Nick. And this is my mate, Judy. We're here to ask your help on behalf of some young terminally ill mammals who badly need a break."

"Is that so?" Gus pondered, scratching his jaw as he considered Nick's request. "Tell you what. It's almost noon and I promised my mate I'd cook lunch for her. Get out of your dress uniforms and meet me at my place. I have a few ideas I'd like to kick around with you. I'll have Francine let you in so you won't need to knock. Just announce yourself at the door."

Gladly accepting Gus' invitation, Judy and Nick headed back to the ZPD so they could change back into their casual clothes and make their way to the address Gus had provided. They found themselves entering a sprawling property as they drove up the lengthy driveway. Many trees dotted the landscape, but in the middle of everything stood two buildings. One obviously was a house constructed in modern design. There were many large glass windows that let in natural light, and the architect favoured the use of the open concept for a lot of the living space. The other looked like a small warehouse which seemed out of place on a private plot of property.

They walked up to the front door of the house, pressed the intercom button and announced themselves.

"Welcome, Officers Wilde and Hopps. Master Ghrizzly is expecting you," the female voice from the box said. "Please come in."

As the door opened on its own, both Nick and Judy were amazed at the palatial scene spread before them.

"What exactly does Gus do, Nick?" whispered Judy as they stepped inside.

"He's an inventor, Carrots," he responded, lowering his voice as well. "Likes to tinker with a lot of stuff. When I first met him, he was peddling some electronic doodads, doohickeys and whatchamacallits on a street corner. Had no concept of how to market them, so I pitched him a few ideas and next thing I know, he's the next Bill Goats. Last time he was mentioned in the news was when his mate, a female bear, passed away a couple of years ago due to a lingering illness."

"Master Ghrizzly is in the main living room," came the disembodied female voice out of thin air, making the duo jump. "Please go through the main foyer and turn right."

They suspiciously scrutinized the ceiling and walls for a hidden speaker but couldn't find any. Not sure what to expect, they cautiously entered the premises and saw their host, now wearing a red technical shirt and brown slacks, wave to them from the center of the living room.

"Welcome to my humble abode. I've only just arrived myself. I was about to look for my mate when-aaack!"

Nick and Judy watched in horror as a creature clad in a yellow jumpsuit seemed to magically appear out of thin air and dropped onto Gus' head, snarling and latching onto his ears with its mouth whilst slashing away at him with its sharp claws. To his credit, Gus didn't scream like a schoolgirl when the attacker had surprised him. Instead, he countered the attack with a punch to the creature's midsection, forcing it to release his ear when it gasped for breath. He quickly swiped at the creature with his massive paw only for it to disappear again as quickly as it had appeared.

Just as Nick and Judy were about to rush over and check on him, they froze when the bear began to laugh uproariously, clapping his paws as he called out: "Bravo! Tres bien, mon petit cheri! You certainly outdid yourself that time. Now, how about you come-oof!"

They watched in confusion as the bear continued to be pummeled by the invisible intruder, dancing about like a marionette on a string. Although he seemed helpless, Gus appeared to be able to counter most of the attacks but his shirt told a different story as it was slowly getting shredded to pieces.

"Nick, we just can't stand here! We need to help him."

"I don't know, Carrots. They never covered this back in Basic Training."

"But he's going to get killed if we don't do anything."

"You're right," he relented. "I know I'm going to regret this but let's go!"

Just as Nick and Judy attempted to step in, Gus waved them off. "Stop right there! Urk! For your safety-ouch! Don't come any closer," he warned. "I-yow! Damn it, Sirse!" he cursed, hopping around on one leg as he clutched his other one. "Let me at least finish! Uh, sorry, where was I? Oh, yes. I have to handle this alone."

He crouched down on one knee with his eyes closed. His ears were up high on his head and his face reflected extreme concentration. Suddenly, he began to sniff and his ears twisted towards a wall on his left. They watched as he quickly lunged at something with incredible speed only to appear clutching at nothing but thin air as he leaned with both paws against the wall. Then, in a puzzling turn of events, he began smooching the wall.

The fox and bunny were about to call for the mammals in white as they feared the ursine had lost his mind until the air in front of the bear began to shimmer and the creature in the yellow jumpsuit became visible. Upon closer examination by the police officers, their host's assailant was a red vixen, who appeared to be slightly taller than Judy. Her fur colouring was exactly like Nick's. Her ears were slightly larger in proportion to her stature but what set her apart from other foxes was her tail. It was gorgeous, lush, and extremely bushy. And was wagging up a storm. She had her paws all over Gus' muzzle, pulling him closer as he had her pinned against the wall while he was stroking her tail. Judy awkwardly turned away and forced Nick to do the same when she realized that they were having a very intense and intimate moment based on the sounds coming from the two. She tried not to listen in but after a few minutes of almost obscene slurping sounds, she coughed into her paw.

"Oh, my apologies, Officers." Gus unabashedly said as he lowered the vixen to the floor where she stood silently beside him, looking at the pair questioningly. "Where are my manners? This is my mate, Sirse Sinclair. Sirse, may I introduce our guests, Officers Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps. They'll be joining us for lunch."

The vixen smiled warmly and wiggled her fingers in greeting. She then quickly flashed out some paw signs to them.

"Apologies, my mate is mute and only communicates with sign language. Amor, why don't you wear that special choker I had made for such an occasion?"

The look Sirse gave Gus could have melted steel. She quickly flashed more paw signs to him. Gus responded in kind.

Judy leaned into Nick and whispered out of the side of her mouth, "Are you getting any of this?"

"Not all, Carrots," responded Nick in kind.

"What? I thought you knew sign language. Isn't that what you used back at the Cliffside Asylum when we tracked down the savage mammals?"

"I know the basic stuff. But the way these two are communicating, it's like an advanced form of sign language. They start off with one or two words then the other quickly answers and then vice-versa. It's almost as if they're reading each other's minds."

"Did he actually say she's his mate? Huh, another interspecies, like us."

"Yeah, but we're the first pred-prey couple at least." Nick admitted proudly.

"Au contraire, Nick," Gus said as he broke into their conversation. They turned to look at the bear who had the resigned look of a mammal who had just lost an argument. "I know of a very lovely hare-vixen couple who have kept a very low profile over the years because of the work they do. But with you two being the new darlings of interspecies couples, I wouldn't be surprised if they make their own announcement soon. I also have female friends, a bunny-hyena couple, who are lovers."

A fleeting memory of pulling over a speeding bear driving with a hyena and very pregnant bunny in the back crossed her mind. The bunny, she recalled, was obscenely bloated like a balloon about to pop. The highly agitated bear was rushing her to the hospital as she was about to give birth. But as soon as she tried to focus on the memory, she felt dizzy and her head hurt. Suddenly, she forgot what she was trying to remember as she felt Sirse looking at her. She smiled back at the vixen whose eyes seemed to twinkle mischievously. She signed a question to Judy and then looked at Gus.

"She's asking if you're feeling alright, Judy, and whether you'd like a glass of water?" Gus interpreted for his mate.

"Yes, I do feel a bit woozy. Maybe I shouldn't really exert myself as we're still on medical leave."

Sirse acknowledged Judy's request and left to get her a glass of water while Gus showed them to the dining room. "Please make yourself at home while I go change. Sirse's enthusiastic welcomes always tears me up."

Nick stared blankly at the receding back of Gus and then slyly grinned while finger-gunning him. "Aha! A mammal after my own heart."

Judy groaned and asked Sirse who-now dressed in an off shoulder, green cocktail dress which came to just above her knees-had returned with several glasses, a pitcher of water, and a cup of lavender tea for herself. "How do you put up with his bad puns? I can barely keep from hitting Nick when he does that. Oh, and I love your dress!"

Sirse acknowledged the compliment and did a slow twirl to show off the opalescent fabric as it hugged her obviously voluptuous contours and accentuated her lovely appendage as it flowed from her taut hindquarters. She then shrugged, snickered and signed slowly so Nick could read her message as she wagged her tail lazily while wiggling her eyebrows.

"She said: 'He makes up for it in other ways.'," he interpreted.

Judy blushed as she tittered. "Wish I could say the same for my lazy partner here. Seems like I do all the paperwork at the precinct."

"Why, Carrots, you wound me! At least I make sure that my mate eats eight times a day so she doesn't waste away."

"Hey, bunnies have a very high metabolism. Besides, I need to work off all those delicious calories from your culinary creations. I can't have your eye wandering coz I'm not keeping this figure trim," she said as she ran her paws down over her hips and flicked her tail enticingly as she looked at him with half-lidded eyes and licked her lips.

Nick nearly swallowed his tongue at the sudden change in her demeanour. He had never seen this side of her before. Not that he was complaining. In fact, even though he was on anti-libido pills, her actions prompted an instinctive reaction in him. He slid up to her, hooked his paw around her hip to pull her closer, and, growled softly into her ear as he licked its base while wrapping his tail around her waist.

"Officer Hopps," he whispered, "I should place you under arrest because it should be illegal to look so beautiful." he smirked.

Caught off guard by his actions, she shuddered as his hot breath tickled her inner ear and blushed as his tongue caressed her ear. Judy was surprised her heart was beating as fast as it was. She had been diligently taking her suppressants as her mother had suggested to lower her sexual urges as she did not want to place any pressure on Nick. But, she felt a heat come over her as she felt his claws lightly press against her outer thighs.

"Nick!" she hissed. "Not in front of her! We can continue this later...I promise."

"I'll hold you to that promise, Fluff," winking as he swiped his muzzle across her nose, marking her with his scent. "In fact, I want to hold more than that. This predator wants his prey in his den tonight."

She trembled at his words, clutching his shirt front, trying to collect her thoughts as his musk flooded her senses. "By Serendipity! Don't tease me, Officer Wilde, or else I'll be the one placing the cuffs on you for stealing my heart."

Having changed his ruined shirt, Gus walked in at that moment carrying a tray. "Here we are," he announced. "Three typical predator chicken parmigiana dishes and a vegetarian spinach lasagna for-" he stood open-mouthed as he walked in on what appeared to be a very intimate moment between the two entangled police officers while his mate sat in her chair, a leg crossed over the other, innocently sipping her tea while averting her eyes away from the scene. The sound of his ahem caught the entwined pair unawares, as they suddenly realized to their embarrassment they had been caught in flagrante delicto. Mortified, they quickly arranged their disheveled clothing as Gus placed the food on the table. "I was going to wish you bon apetit but it looks like you both already have healthy appetites," he grinned.

Flustered, Judy attempted to shift the conversation elsewhere. "So, tell us, Gus. Why did Sirse attack you and how did she manage to disappear?" Judy asked.

Gus slapped his knee and roared out in laughter, startling Nick and Judy. "It's really my fault," he chuckled. "You see, we recently watched an old film called, 'The Primrose Panther'. The main character of the movie, an Inspector Clawseau, had arranged for his driver/bodyguard, Catto, to attack him at random times in order to keep him alert. My mate," as he waved a paw in her direction with a loving twinkle in his eye, "is a martial arts teacher for a very select clientele and she thought it would be fun to do the same thing while she's training me."

"Let me get this straight," Nick interrupted. "You agreed to let her ambush you? In your own home?"

Gus' booming laughter nearly deafened the two officers. "With Sirse, one doesn't agree. One acquiesces to her. She is a primal force of nature. Besides," smiling as he waggled his thick eyebrows at his mate, "the reward afterwards is always worth the struggle. Isn't that right, mon petit cheri?"

The object of his affection merely smirked back over the lip of her cup as she quickly signed back to him. Nick caught something about 'caterpillars' and 'burning them off your face' but other than that, he had no clue as to what she had said.

"But how did she manage to disappear?" Nick questioned.

"She's using a prototype of one of my inventions. It's a static cling dress with a built-in mimicking technology not unlike that of a chameleon. The dress doesn't require any buttons or zippers but uses a low voltage electric charge from a small battery to keep itself on its wearer. It also negates the need to have to go to a tailor. One simply puts on the fabric and when the power is turned on, it automatically fits the contours of the wearer's body. Then, you choose the pattern you want and the dress will display it. It also has the ability to mimic the appearance of having a traditional one. If you remember, when you first saw her, she had programmed the dress to copy the jumpsuit worn by the actress, Uma Furmammal, from the movie, 'Kill Bull'. As you can see, she's now wearing a traditional evening dress, the colour of which perfectly complements her hazel eyes." He captured her paw in his as he began placing kisses up her arm. "Her bewitching, *smooch* beguiling, *smack* enchanting *mwah* eyes that has me totally under her spell," he amorously declared as he tried to steal a kiss from her lips.

Sirse languidly watched and smiled as she had gotten used to his silly romantic antics. As his muzzle approached hers, she blocked it with her finger. She pecked his nose and made a few signs with her free paw. Gus frowned for a moment then smiled as he released her arm. "As you wish, mon petit cheri. I'll behave. . . but I'll be collecting on that promise tonight." Sirse responded by blowing him a kiss.

"That still doesn't explain how she was able to disappear," chimed in Judy.

"That's because she's wearing a more advanced prototype. The basic dress will only allow for certain choices. The one she's wearing," he nodded in her direction, "has a more advanced function of scanning the environment and copying it so that you blend in. I didn't notice her because when she straddled the ceiling corner, the dress made her look part of it. It's the camouflage option that I'm preparing to show to the military."

"I admit it's rather cool, but why don't you build it into the basic dress as well?" posited Judy.

Gus sighed. "It's not as simple as that. I know I could make make a fortune if I did. But I have a moral and ethical responsibility as an inventor. I often ask myself if I am letting Pandora out of the box again every time I create something that starts off as beneficial yet later turns into a literal Frankenstein.

"History is rife with examples: dynamite, atomic energy, 3D printing, Zoogle Earth. These seemingly helpful inventions created with the purpose of making life easier instead get turned around to be used against the very society it was meant to help," spoke the bear passionately, a grimace playing around his lips as he soapboxed. "You see, once the genie has been released from its bottle, who will be around to put it back? This is what I am always concerned about with my own creations.

"Tell me, Judy. Were you able to see or detect Sirse while she was in camouflage mode?"

"Uh...not really?"

"Imagine then if organized crime had just even one of these camouflage dresses. Can you imagine the crime spree they'd go on? Or the amount of classified information they could steal? I shudder to think what havoc they'd create if ever they got their paws on it."

"Then why even create such an invention? If the potential to misuse it is greater than the good it can bring, why do you even bother?" she accused.

Gus dejectedly settled back in his chair, his face a maelstrom of conflicting emotions. Sirse came around to his side, concern clearly written over her face as she clambered up the side of his chair to hug the bear around his neck. He wrapped his large arms around her small frame and pulled her closer. To the two officers, it was apparent the grizzly, who stood close to eight feet tall, weighing in at just over eight hundred pounds and whose species was known for their brute strength, was leaning on the smaller vixen for moral support. The irony was not lost on them.

Finally, he pulled back and gave the small fox a kiss on her muzzle. "Merci, amor," he whispered. She smiled and proceeded to curl around his neck. Grinning at her actions, he faced Judy and replied, "I've wrestled many times with that particular demon and all I've been able to come up with is: 'if not me, someone else will'. I've been able to assuage my conscience knowing that I can file enough patents on my inventions to prevent it from being misused. Even if it is only temporarily. But by doing so, I can sleep at night knowing that I've taken all the steps I can to safeguard my creations from falling into the wrong hands.

"The thing I value most is my family. I will do anything and everything to protect them. I intend to make the world a better place for them. Now, I'll admit the profits I make are sometimes embarrassingly huge but I share them with all my employees plus I make a lot of donations to well deserving charities. Which brings us to the reason for you coming to see me."

"Yes," Nick said, embarrassed about how the philosophical direction their conversation had taken had ended up troubling their host. "We don't mean to judge as each mammal's moral compass is their own business. I do believe, however, that yours points in the same direction as ours. We would not have approached you otherwise.

"The reason we've come to you today is to help us with raising funds for a small group of kits in the Bunnyburrow Cancer Ward with one of them being Judy's nephew, Zach. Nature has given them a bum deal. When I asked him what I could do to make his...his last days memorable, he said that he wanted to grant the wishes of the other kits who didn't have the same opportunity as he did. He's a real sweetheart and doesn't even think of himself.

"If you can refer us to a group of philanthropists in your circle of society, we plan to go to each of them asking for contributions to this cause of ours." Nick ended as he looked hopefully to the older mammal.

Gus pondered for a while. He looked up and asked Nick, "What is this young rabbit's last name?"

"Grazier." answered the tod, wondering why the ursine needed it.

"Francine?" Gus called out.

"Yes, Master Gus?" spoke the pleasant disembodied voice, startling the fox and bunny.

"Please look up one Zach Grazier currently staying at the Bunnyburrow General Hospital in their Cancer Ward," Gus directed the spectral voice. "Please check his medical files and let me know what you find. Also, please begin Protocol Charlie Whiskey 007."

"As you wish."

"Splendid. Now, Nicholas Wilde and Judith Hopps, I must inform you that this conversation is being audio and video recorded for legal purposes and we will need your consent to continue."

"Who-what-where?" spluttered Judy, ears upright in confusion as she scanned the room to find the other speaker. Nick, on the other paw, stiffened at the words, 'recorded' and 'legal', having had previously poor experiences when they were used together in one sentence.

Noticing his guests' confusion, he addressed the invisible mammal in the room. "Francine," he chided the voice, "did you forget to introduce yourself to our guests?"

"It was not my intention to omit such a basic courtesy, Sir, but they appeared agitated when I spoke to them at the foyer so I surmised further conversation with them would only cause their mental state to quickly escalate into a higher state of anxiety. I calculated that the better option would be for you to make the necessary introductions."

"In other words, you didn't want to scare them so you're leaving it to me to explain."

"I believe that is what I said."

Gus rolled his eyes.

"That is an immature response, Sir. Mistress Sirse has advised me to increase your training difficulty level each time you act inappropriately."

Gus glared at his mate wrapped around his neck. She merely grinned and waggled her eyebrows at him.

"Fine!" he huffed. "It is clear I am outnumbered here. Francine, your assessment of the situation was correct and I will proceed from here.

"Judy, Nick, my apologies again," he huffed, turning to the pair, "I should have made introductions earlier. Francine is my virtual butler, Girl Friday, legal assistant, and security officer here in my house. She's an AI who was randomly born during one of my many experiments to create a Virtual Intelligence persona for my product line called Handicapped Helpers. The products are meant to assist those who are disabled to assimilate themselves back into regular society. For example, I created a beautiful choker for my mate which has a small speaker built into it. Using a virtual reality glove and an optical head-mounted display built into glasses, the VI was meant to convert inputs via a virtual keyboard or her signing into actual words.

"As usual," he glared at the little vixen who stuck her tongue at him, "my mate refused on the grounds it interferes with her fighting ability. That," he grumbled good-naturedly, "and she doesn't see being mute as a handicap. There is also the issue where I haven't found a way to make the glove both comfortable and able to survive a punch against a concrete block." Seeing their puzzled looks, he explained further. "That's how she broke the last one. Suffice to say, both the block and glove did not survive the demonstration." he chuckled.

"Anyway, Protocol Charlie Whiskey 007 is a legal and binding agreement between myself and any foundation I donate to. Francine records everything and then converts the transcripts into a working contract."

"But...we aren't a foundation. We're just two mammals looking to help a bunch of young kits." Nick spoke up. "Plus, we won't have time to run one as we're pretty busy with our regular jobs as police officers."

Gus steepled the digits of his paws against his jaw as he scrutinized his two guests. "Hmm… that is a bit of a problem. Would I be able to convince you two to resign from the force in order to work for me? Whatever your salaries are, I'm sure I can easily match it. Like I said, money would not be a problem."

Judy shook her head in disbelief at the offer. "Gus, we certainly didn't join the ZPD for the money. Gaia knows Nick and I have had our fair share of near-death experiences. Yet, despite those, we look forward to putting on our uniforms every day in order to help make the world a better place, one day at a time."

"I'm on the same page as Judy," Nick agreed. "There are other safer professions out there. But, the beat of the drum we both march to calls us to serve and protect our fellow mammals. I'll admit," he shrugged abjectly, "that there are days I wonder if it's all worth it. However, when we receive the heartfelt thanks of a mammal whom we've been able to help, then that's when I know it is."

Gus nodded understandingly. "Forgive this old bear's boorishness then. I just wanted to make sure as this project speaks to my heart. Now," clapping his paws, "enough of this dreariness. Let us get down to business. Nick," he turned to the reynard, "why stop at only ten young kits? And why only at Bunnyburrow General Hospital? What about the Zootopia General Hospital? Deerbrooke County General? The Tri-Burrows Medical Centre? I'm thinking long-term here not just a one-shot deal. I've been meaning to look for a worthwhile cause for some time and I can't think of anything that fits the bill more than making the lives of sick young mammals who have to go through the pain and suffering of cancer treatments a little more bearable.

"What if…" the bear mused, deep in thought, as he muttered to himself, "I use one of the off-the-shelf paper companies I have and convert that into a working foundation whose mission will be to fulfill the wish of a terminally ill child and help out their family? I can make a sizeable donation to use as seed money and then we can tap the other philanthropists for additional working funds. Zach and the other kits can be our initial wish grantees but we need to generate a lot of publicity when we do this in order to establish it in the eyes of other mammals as a worthwhile cause."

Both Nick and Judy were awestruck as they processed the suggestion.

"Wow…" Nick murmured, "just...wow."

"Same here. Wow." Judy concurred.

"Master Gus," Francine abruptly chimed in, "I've forwarded the medical reports of one Zachary Grazier to your tablet. It appears that his estimated lifespan is quite short given the nature of his illness."

"Wait!" Judy cried. "Those are private records. How did you gain access to them?"

"I'm sorry," the bear sheepishly admitted. "I should have asked permission beforehand. Because of the nature of my work, I have a very high security clearance with various government departments. I wanted to learn how serious his illness was and I felt time was of the essence. This is a necessary step in the screening process of selecting candidates. I sometimes take shortcuts in order to speed up the process. I'm hope you understand I only have good intentions and I beg your forgiveness regarding the breach in privacy."

"C'mon, Carrots. It's not like we didn't do the same thing when we solved the Nighthowler Case."

"Fine," Judy huffed. "You're entitled to one 'Get Out of Jail' favour," she grumbled at the bear, "and you just used it up!" She climbed up on the table, walked angrily over to him and pointed her forefinger while giving Gus the stinky-eye look. "Don't make me regret this, buster." she growled.

"Perish the thought!" Gus nervously smiled, fearfully cringing as he put both paws up in abject surrender. "Francine will adhere to the proper procedure from now on. Scout's honour."

"What my mate means to say,' Nick hastily interrupted as he dragged Judy back to her seat, "is that we appreciate your candor and honesty about the situation and we accept your apology."

"He'd better behave!" she mumbled under her breath as she took her seat, still glaring at the ursine but momentarily placated.

Sirse, who had remained curled around the bear's neck throughout the exchange, tapped him on the side of his muzzle to get his attention. When he looked at her, she held a single digit upright on her right paw as she glared at him.

"Strike one?" Gus sputtered in confusion. "What did I do to-" He looked in horror as the vixen now held a second digit up on her right paw. Gus nervously swallowed, closed his eyes and bowed his head. "Mea culpa, amor. Errare brutum est. Non compos mentis. Non obstante, ignorantia non excusat." he intoned under his breath. When she was satisfied that he had been properly chastised, only then did the little vixen's features soften as she placed her small paws underneath the bear's large jaw and lifted it up to kiss him sweetly and gently on his lips. Afterwards, she returned to her former position around her lover's neck.

Regaining his composure, Gus continued. "Back to the subject of publicity. Now, ever since the Nighthowler Case, you two have been the talk of the town, more so now that your relationship was made public. So, my proposal is that the two of you sit as Co-Chairmammals of the foundation, leaving the day to day running of it to others. You can nominate whomever you wish to sit on the Board on your behalf since your police duties may not allow you to attend the monthly Board meetings. They will be automatically be part of the Screening Committee for the selection of kits and their family who are most deserving of the foundation's assistance. So are you in agreement?"

"There's just one problem," Judy said with an evil twinkle in her eye.

"What's that?" asked Gus.

"We never gave you our consent to continue the recording," she giggled.

Gus stared at her wide-eyed and then slapped his head with a massive paw as he audibly groaned while his three companions doubled up in laughter.

"Thank you for allowing us to use the recordings ex post facto," Gus commented as he escorted the fox and bunny to the front door. "While you're both on medical leave, let me do some brainstorming with other like-minded mammals as to what we can do to kickstart the foundation's first fund-raising activity. I'll keep you updated on the plans."

"Thank you for all your help Gus," Judy commented as they were leaving, "and I apologize for my outburst at the table. You've been nothing but kind and gracious. Zach will be very happy with the news. And, as an added bonus," leaning into Nick's side, she wrapped an arm around his waist, "you didn't make my mate a liar in Zach's eyes."

"I really owe you one, buddy." Nick said as he stretched out a paw to the bear.

The bear readily clasped the fox's paw in his own massive one. "No, Nick, you don't. It's the other way around actually," he said as he caught Nick up in a one-armed hug. "You're helping me pay it forward."

Embarrassed, Nick managed to stammer out: "Think nothing of it."

As he watched the pair leave, Gus questioned the vixen by his side. "Why did you use your abilities on them, amor? After the incident with Nera and Amenii, I thought we agreed to avoid it as much as possible."

Sirse signed back: "I did it to help her. She was trying to remember an event that had been undone which is why she was having a headache. I thought it best to nudge her and her mate in order to distract her. Besides," she smirked, "they didn't need much pushing. They're both ready to rut at this point. I merely strengthened the desire."

"You mean she was about to remember the first time I met her with Nera and a pregnant Amenii? How is that possible? I thought I had undone the event with the use of the Temporal Interlocation Causal Transport Oscillating Chronometer?

"The TICTOC machine?" she snorted. "Seriously? You need to come up with better names for the 'toys' The Baron gives you."

A few weeks after their meeting with Gus Ghrizzly, Judy and Nick made their way into the Great Hall of Zootopia where three well-known mammals were waiting for them at a table setup in front of the stage. They had received a missive from the bear advising the pair that he had setup a preliminary meeting in order to discuss the nature of the charity fundraiser.

They were back in Zootopia after completing their mandatory medical leave. Considering the grievousness of their injuries, their attending doctor had advised Nick and Judy be kept on light duty for a few more months as they needed to fully recover in order to be at one hundred percent capability. Police work being very rigorous and demanding, Bogo concurred as he didn't want his two best officers committing rookie mistakes because they were still recuperating. In coordination with the Mayor's Office, Bogo readily agreed to allow them to concentrate on the fundraising efforts. For all parties involved, it was a win-win situation: it would generate good public relations for both the Mammal Inclusion Initiative and the ZPD, both Nick and Judy avoided being shackled to their desks buried in paperwork and boredom, and Bogo didn't have to listen to Nick's wisecracks for another few months.

Nick could see Judy was very nervous by the way she was wringing her paws and her nose kept twitching. They were meeting several high-profile celebrities and she was just managing to keep her inner fangirl in check. Judy quickly glanced in Nick's direction for support, her ears all aquiver, wide-eyed as she attempted to wipe the excess moisture from her paw pads. Nick could only smile. His mate, who had no fear of facing down criminals, and who had easily knocked out her fair share of mammals ten times her size, was acting like a little kit about to meet her favourite celebrity for the very first time.

"Easy there, Carrots. With the way you're fidgeting, you might open up one of your old wounds. Besides, we don't want you having a heart attack before we meet your idols, now do we?" Nick smirked.

"Nick! How can you be so calm?" Judy exclaimed. "We're about to meet the renowned stage directress, Julie Neighmore, winner of the Pony Awards for the Wolf Disney Broadway musical, The Lion Monarch. Then there's the well-known singer/songwriter, Sir Pelton John who wrote the Oxcar Award winning Best Song, Feel the Love. As for Sir Andrew Hogg Webber, why he is arguably the most successful composer of our time! Felines and The Phantom have set several records for the longest running musicals!" she gushed. "Aside from Gazelle, I've always wanted to meet them. Those three are giants in the Zootway theatre world."

Julie Neighmore caught sight of the pair and waved them over to the table. "Officers Wilde and Hopps! Welcome! We were just about to start rehearsals for the musical fundraiser," the Gypsy Horse greeted them. "I'm sure you know Sir Pelton," she gestured to a bespectacled meerkat, "and Sir Andrew," waving a hoof in the direction of a portly warthog. "Andrew came up with the idea of a musical based on your adventures in Zootopia. We're calling it, Nighthowlers: The Musical!" she said with a sweeping dramatic flourish, chuckling. "He's already made several drafts and Pelton has a few ideas for the music."

"Yes, however," the meerkat sighed dejectedly, "we don't have any word from Wolf Disney about using my Oxcar winning song, Feel the Love for the fundraiser. But not to worry!" he said enthusiastically, "I've got several others that we can use and Sir Andrew is letting us use some of his songs from his musicals, as well."

The boar grunted. "Never thought Wolfie would waffle on a simple fundraiser like this. It's only a one-night production and it's for a very good cause. Considering who his target audience is, you'd think he'd let us use one measly song," said the porcine crossly.

"Hakuna matata, Andrew." the meerkat chuckled, "Don't be too hard on Wolfie. If he sees that this fundraiser is a success, he's promised to support the foundation all the way. We've talked about free lodging and rides at his theme park plus the unlimited use of his various mascots for the deserving kits. He's a business mammal first, but he has a warm, beating heart underneath all that fur," he smiled.

"Well, now that's out of the way," the horse declared as she clapped her hooves together, "there's the small matter of picking our leads for the musical. Judy," she turned to face the excited bunny who was still trying to contain her adoration, "we think you would be perfect for the part for the female lead given that you've had previous stage experience plus you have such natural enthusiasm."

Judy swooned. She was so giddily surprised by those words she immediately began hopping up and down with Nick's shirt bundled up in her paws. "Nick! Did you hear! They want me to star as the female lead. Oh, I'm beside myself. And I'm sure you'll be my co-star!" Judy squealed with delight.

"Uh, no." Julie flatly answered, as a slight sneer curled along her lips.

Judy whirled around, dumbfounded. "But, why?" she asked. "Nick's a natural actor! And how hard will it be? After all, he'll be playing himself."

"He's…how shall I put it…a fox!" Sir Andrew said ungraciously. "Nobody would believe that a shifty, untrustworthy, cheating mammal would help anyone except themselves much less become a police officer!"

"Besides," chimed in the meerkat snobbishly as he scanned Nick's dossier, "according to his file, he has no stage experience whatsoever! So, I've reached out to some of my friends and there's this hare actor by the name of Jack -"

"No!" interrupted Judy, fuming. "If my mate isn't going to be in the musical because of your-" She stopped when she felt Nick's paw on her shoulder.

"Let me handle this, Carrots," Nick said with a smug grin.

"But, Nick, they-" Judy began to angrily retort.

"Shh! Trust me." Nick smiled as he went on, squatting to be on eye level with her, massaging her shoulders to calm her. "You bunnies, so emotional." Nick teased.

"Hmph! Fine!" Judy snapped as she crossed her paws across her chest, ears down and sporting an adorable frown while thumping her right hind paw rapidly in anger. Nick found her so adorably cute when she pouted in this manner but would never say it to her face, not unless he wanted two permanent bunny-sized pawprints on his back.

"Now, where were we, my good mammals?" Nick enquired as he stood up. "Ah, yes! You said my file says nothing about stage experience. What if I can prove my worth? Would you reconsider your stand, then?" wheedled Nick.

The three mammals looked at each other, and then shrugged their shoulders. "The stage is all yours, Officer." Julie offered indifferently, waving a hoof at the stage behind her.

Nick winked at Judy and calmly walked towards the stage then quickly bounded onto it in one fluid motion.

Judy was worried for Nick as she took a seat near the stage. She knew his side still hurt from the injury he had suffered when he had rescued her from the deranged hyena. They had mostly recovered from their injuries but she knew he still was in some pain because she had seen him taking the prescription painkillers from time to time. And although he was a good hustler, the injury might affect his ability to act and those three were the best of Zootway. She had heard they could be merciless with criticism, worse even than that bovine, Simon, from Zootopia's Got Talent. She prayed to Serendipity, the bunny god, and Karma, her mate's deity, to be there for him.

Nick stood upright at center stage, facing away from them. He straightened his back, slightly inclined his head and, assuming a regal posture, he slowly turned. As he did, his demeanour changed, taking on a beseeching look. He raised his eyes to the ceiling and, in a powerful voice, began to orate:

O, my offence is rank it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,
A brother's murder. Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will:
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And, like a mammal to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursed paw
Were thicker than itself with brother's blood,
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
But to confront the visage of offence?

She recognized the lines from a classic play she had studied for her English Literature class in Bunnyburrow High School. Suddenly, she no longer was in the Great Hall surrounded by empty theatre seats. She found herself transported to a cold, gloomy castle where torches flickered, casting shadows on the wall as a newly-crowned king was nervously pacing about his bedchamber. He suddenly threw himself on his knees, paws clasped together, forlornly praying to a higher power as a storm raged outside.

And what's in prayer but this twofold force,
To be forestalled ere we come to fall,
Or pardon'd being down? Then I'll look up;
My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? 'Forgive me my foul murder'?
That cannot be; since I am still possess'd
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition and my queen.
May one be pardon'd and retain the offence?

Slack-jawed, she stared wide-eyed at the regal creature, her heart skipping a beat as she listened in on the gruesome confession. Wracked by guilt, the fox continued to beseech the heavens for mercy as they seemed to rage in anger at the horror of his deed.

In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence's gilded paw may shove by justice,
And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law: but 'tis not so above;
There is no shuffling, there the action lies
In his true nature; and we ourselves compell'd,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
To give in evidence. What then? what rests?
Try what repentance can: what can it not?
Yet what can it when one can not repent?
O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limed soul, that, struggling to be free,
Art more engaged! Help, angels! Make assay!
Bow, stubborn knees; and, heart with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe!
All may be well.

She returned back to the Great Hall by the time Nick ended his soliloquy. He was down on one knee, eyes closed, muzzle and paws raised towards the ceiling, having confessed his unforgivable crime to the heavens above. His face, no longer bearing the regal look, had transformed into one beseeching for respite from the emotional storm churning within.

Judy was mesmerized. She had never seen this side of Nick before. It was as if he had transformed into a whole new mammal. The sorrow that he spoke of, the guilt of committing the crime, the utter despair of the character he was playing… she felt all that and more. As soon as he had ended, she immediately jumped up onto her seat and started enthusiastically clapping her paws while simultaneously thumping her right hind paw in a rapid staccato. She put two digits of her paws in her mouth, emitting a very loud wolf whistle.

Nick got up from his kneeling position and, with a smug grin, leapt off the stage only to have Judy glomp him.

"Oh, Nick, that was… incredible!" Judy gushed as she carefully bear hugged her mate, mindful he was still recovering from the gunshot wound. "I never knew you had it in you!"

Nick only chuckled as he attempted not to fall over, hugging Judy back. "Thanks, Carrots! It's been some time so I think I was a little rusty up there. But what say you three?" Nick asked as he turned to face the three mammals. "Do you think our old drama coach would approve?" he smirked.

The horse answered first. "Nick, you know we can't give you a ten for that performance. Why, your timing was off by at least one-tenth of a second."

"Agreed," harrumphed the boar, "and your voice was not low enough. Another octave lower and you would have been perfect!"

"Having said that," the meerkat commented, "we agreed that as per the standards 'Shakespeare' persistently drummed into us, we can only give you a 9.9" flashing a large toothy grin as he raised a scorecard with the number written on it.

Judy was floored. "You know them?" she asked, her head awhirl.

Nick laughed heartily. "I told you I know everyone in Zootopia. They hustled you, sweetheart! Our old drama coach, 'Shakespeare', is a vagrant leopard we knew when all four of us used to hustle the streets. I still see him around once in awhile, dressed as The Bard. He's a little touched in the head but is a damn good actor who taught us in the fine art of thespianism. We used to hold street plays in order to raise money for food. And, not to brag, but we had them eating out of our paws.

Nick eyed his former gang of buskers. "Looks like you guys decided to follow the straight and narrow and you've certainly made names for yourselves."

"You could have joined us, Nick, when that tv producer offered us a spot," mentioned Julie. "You would have made a great stage actor. 'Shakespeare' always gave you the meaty roles. I admit when we set up this prank we wanted to see you in action again. That," pointing towards the stage with her hoof, "was the best King Claudius I've seen in a long time. Why didn't you?"

"Aside from the fact that he deliberately ignored me because I was a fox?" Nick abjectly shrugged. "I never felt the compulsion or passion for it. I just learnt the craft to help me with my hustling. Until I got hustled myself, by a mammal with the largest heart I have ever seen." He wrapped his arm around Judy's shoulder, pulling her closer to him and giving her a kiss on the lips. "And I've never regretted it." Nick whispered.

Judy pulled an ear down trying to hide her blushing face, unused to Nick's public praise of her. "Oh, shush, Slick!" she chuckled as she hit him with a hip bump.

"Anyway," Nick lightheartedly began, "now that we've verified I can act and you've had your fun with my mate, where do we go from here?"

Julie smiled. "We've got a few more production issues to iron out. We are arranging to have Leonard Bearnstein conduct the Zootopian Philharmonic Orchestra for the musical. In the meantime," she tossed two copies of the musical script over to the two mammals who easily caught them. "Read this, memorize your lines and come back to me in a week's time. We'll begin rehearsals then. Don't worry about tonal inflections or the sheet music. We'll cover them when we start rehearsals."

As the fox and bunny turned to go, Julie casually mentioned, "Oh, and Gazelle agreed to act as a vocal coach for the both of you."

Julie was sure she had never heard any mammal shriek a note that high. She grinned as she pitied Nick, seeing he was closest to the source.

Author's note: For the guest from Fanfiction who asked: only Jasmine has made an attempt to hit on Nick because...she's Jasmine! The fact that he's Judy's boyfriend who wants nothing to do with her only adds spice to the challenge. Juniper was only being polite to Nick when she complimented him on his looks. Like she said, she's already spoken for. Nick, on the other hand, was just being his overly dramatic and smug self when he said that to Juniper who literally laughed in his face.

Thank you to all my readers for your patience. I wanted to add a Christmas story to this chapter but alas, it's already run far longer than I wanted. I may add the Christmas story to the next chapter. As to when it will be finished, I can't tell you as my life is going to get pretty complicated as January 31st comes around. Rest assured that I have no intention of abandoning this as there are at least three more before I can wrap up the Foundation Series (no relation to the beautiful scifi work of Isaac A.)

I've introduced two OCs here that will lead into a new series that I'll be calling: Tales From the Shark Pool. Gus, my zoosona and Code-Shark's OC, Sirse Sinclair, having made their debut appearance, will star along with other OCs from CS' universe in an offshoot that may at times have our favourite ship appear in a cameo role. Most of the stories have been written but-like diamonds in the rough-need to be polished so that they can shine brilliantly like the stars in the sky. What makes this new series interesting is that we will delve into as many crossovers as we can get away with considering our two protagonists are Zootopian based mammals.

References and inspiration come from the following:

DancingLunarWolves' "Immemorial" found in DA, AO3 and FF
Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 3 by William Shakespeare (modified for Zootopia)