Author's Note: This story is a sequel to my other work, "It's A Fox Thing." It's highly recommended you check that out first! And please do comment, it helps push me to keep writing. Planning on updating weekly, every Thursday. Cover art is by the ever-amazing Monoflax, King of Floof. Please check out his gallery! He's got an upcoming comic, Nirlock, that looks to be amazing fun!




My voice echoes through the compound. The tunnels spread out like the limbs of a spider as large a city block, with enough rooms to occupy two hundred, maybe two-fifty. Far in the distance and down the halls I can hear my companions fighting for their lives: the snarls of paw-to-paw combat, the cracks of gunfire, the screaming. Yet the sounds of battle are warped as they resonate along the twists and turns of cold concrete, and the ruckus seems more like the echoes of a distant and terrible memory.

I clutch the handle of my pistol tight. The joints of my paws begin to ache.

The irony of the situation isn't lost on me. Yeah. A bunny hunting a fox. Funny, ain't it? But while he has his night vision to help him navigate the darkness, I have my hearing. My ears turn, trying to tease out the source of any sound. A breath. A heartbeat. The click of a gun being cocked.

And then I hear it. A cold chuckle comes from amid the rooms to the left, and carefully I tiptoe towards him. Surely he must smell me by now, but I can hear his breathing. I can almost feel his heartbeat. I swear I can almost pick up the stink of fox, even beneath the scent mask he's wearing to shroud his presence from the noses of wolves and other hunters.

There would be no arrest today. No reading him his rights. No charges or legal proceedings. It's going to end, here and now, with a bullet in his gut. There would be no clean kill for Nick Wilde, not after all he'd done. I'm going to make it last, and I'm going to make it hurt.

Though if it doesn't go down that way I have my own escape, in the form of a cyanide capsule tucked in the corner of my cheek.

Kicking open the door I hoist my gun. The light that's strapped to my shoulder pans around the room for a moment. A small cell, with a pile of blankets on the floor. It has few accommodations, but the former occupant had apparently earned himself a small table and a couple of books for his good behavior.

And on the table sits a small black device: a speaker that's putting out the sound of a fox's heartbeat and breathing, and a small aerosolizer releasing a faint vulpine scent.

A Vital Decoy.

I hadn't been fooled though, not completely. This is precisely how they fight, with decoys and false trails. I spin around and catch a glimpse of that green-eyed devil as he pops out from around the corner and fires his tranq gun.

The only reason we rabbits survived to this day was because our ancestors' agility beat out vulpine cleverness. Those that weren't quick enough had their futures end in the jaws of a fox. Today though I live up to my heritage, and I bounce and roll off to the side just as the dart cracks against the concrete wall behind me. My own return fire pings uselessly behind his fluffy tail as it vanishes around the bend.

"YOU COWARD!" I snarl as I dart after him.

Wilde is a red blur, lit up intermittently by my shoulder-mounted light as it bounces back and forth. He leaps into the air then, twisting around with his arm outstretched, dart gun pointing straight at me. His training had made him quicker than ever, and I don't even have time to react as he fires.

With a soft ping, a light impact against my shoulder, and the crack of plastic, my shoulder-mounted light goes out. I let out a hiss as I stumble.


Out of pure instinct I scramble away from where I'd landed, just as I hear another couple of compressed gas pellets popping, and the darts crack uselessly on the floor. In terms of senses he's got a decisive advantage, yet even with his night vision it can't be easy to hit a rabbit in the darkness.

Thing is, I've got live ammunition, and another two clips.

I fire into the shadows, not looking to hit Wilde. Rather, the muzzle flash lights up the hall momentarily like the flicker of a candle. I catch a glimpse of his stupid narrow face, mouth open in shock, and readjust my aim.


"AUGH!" he yelps, and his body hits the floor.

Reaching into my pocket, I pull out one of the glow-sticks, cracking it between my teeth before I toss it to the ground. There, curled up into a ball, is Wilde. The bullet hadn't pierced his suit jacket, not with the kevlar fibers woven into it. But it still must've felt like a hammer to the ribs.

"Murderer..." I snarl, leaping towards him. Stupid to get into paw-to-paw combat when I have the advantage, but I need to feel his jaw breaking beneath my fists. I need to feel his teeth shattering against my heels. I want to feel his blood spattering my muzzle as I beat him to death.

Wilde has to feel pain. For every life he's taken. For every innocent he's violated. For betraying his uniform.

I crack the butt of my gun into the side of his face as he tries to get up, drive a knee into his tailbone. I pistol-whip him again and again, until the knife-edge of my paw grows damp with blood.

"Do you know how many mammals you've killed?!" I scream, "Loupin... Ramure... Fangmeyer... FANGMEYER!"

"I did..." Nick coughs, a scarlet trickle dripping from his jawline. He refuses to look at me. "I did what I had to..."

I press the muzzle of my gun into his arm and pull the trigger.

Even at point-blank range the bullet doesn't break the kevlar, but Wilde screams in pain at the impact, clutching his bicep.

"Y-you're insane!" he yowls.

I laugh. With all the things he's guilty of, with all that he and his ilk had put me through, did he think I'd be mentally sound right now?

My paw shoots out to grab his tie, and I kick his shoulder, rolling him onto his stomach. Planting a heel into his back I begin to pull. A soft gurgle leaks from his muzzle, and his claws scrabble at the loop of silk tightening around his throat.

"Don't worry, Nick. You'll get to breathe when you say their names. Every single one you've killed. Everyone you've crippled or maimed. Now go on. Speak."

I let the tie loosen just a hair.

"L-Loupin..." Nick gasps with the tears crawling down his cheeks. "R-Ramure... Fangmeyer..."

It feels so good to hear his confession. To hear him admit his betrayal. It's a catharsis, like the first clean breath after a long illness, or the smell of new buds cutting through the stink of rotting leaves in the spring. The names of the dead spill from his mouth one by one like a string of pearls.

Does he actually feel guilty? Does he actually feel ashamed of everything he's done?

Maybe once I kill him, I'll have peace.

Maybe once I plant a bullet in his guts and watch the life fade from his eyes, I can forget that I ever trusted him.

I can forget that he ever kissed me.



~~~ 3 months ago ~~~



Nick Wilde

It's a two-hour train ride to Bunnyburrow, and in all this time we haven't touched once.

It's not like we warned each other off or anything. In fact, up until we reached the platform we were holding paws and sharing kisses. You know, like, I'd give her a peck on the forehead, she has to return with a peck on the cheek. Then I gotta give her one on the cheek too, so Judy pulls me down, wraps her arms around me and smooches me right beneath the ear. It's almost a competition, with a lot of giggling and fussing that would've made an eight-year-old me gag.

Once we boarded though it all just kinda... stopped.

Maybe it was the thought of us heading out to the country. I mean in the city some mammals would give us confused glances, or even just outright stare trying to figure out if they really were seeing a bunny and a fox hanging out and possibly in a relationship. For the most part though we were left alone.

Me, I've always been a city fox. I don't know what to expect from Bunnyburrow, so I guess I'm playing it safe when it comes to the PDAs. Like, I really don't wanna work off the assumption they're all vulpephobic hicks, even with the old warnings in the back of my mind about what they used to do to tods back in the day. The problem is Judy would know how her community would react, and the fact that she seems nervous about this doesn't seem to bode well for either of us. And that makes me nervous.

In a weird way this train is like a time machine. As passengers get off and others get on, the crowd gets progressively more old-timey. Sleeveless hoodies, miniskirts, and ironic OBEY caps gradually give way to plain t-shirts and flannels. Little by little the markings of urban culture become more watered down, and country folk start to take over. I think I even saw a bull in a brown bowler hat and matching suit, and it's a weird contrast to see him reading some article on a PawPad in that outfit.

It's hard to be the touchy-feely type when you grew up the way I did, but nonetheless I get the urge to reach out and hold Judy's paw. That might just freak her out more though. The mammals on the train are already giving us surreptitious glances, no doubt wondering what we're doing together.

I wish I could say it was a relief stepping off of the train, and okay in a way it is. After being boxed up in that compartment with its recycled air and the scents of a dozen different species, it's so freeing to just step out and breathe. The air tastes so damn clean here. I mean the City does a pretty fine job of staying spiffy, but there's always something that laces the air back in Zootopia that gives it the smell of civilization. There's a faintly grungy smokiness to it, like the smell of hot asphalt or a whiff of cigarette smoke, or the powdery mineral scent of cold sidewalks at night when you're hitting the clubs. There's nicer smells too of course: bakeries and the fresh scents of clothing outlets, or the home goods stores that smell of peaches and baby powder.

Here though there's just this pureness to the air. I mean you can get soaps that call themselves "Mountain Spring" or "Summer Breeze" aromas, but they're so artificial in contrast to this. The air here is crisp, green, and faintly earthy, like the smell after a fresh rain. It's so simple and clean.

There's a cutesy plainness to the Bunnyburrow station too. It's just one solid building with yellow and orange walls and a purple tiled roof. A woodwork frame along the side has been designed to make it look like some giant bunny-eared beast grinning down on those waiting on the platform. The columns are all modeled to look like six-foot-tall carrots. I stare at it for a few good minutes, and the realization settles in, "Oh jeez, this is what I'm in for this whole week."


It takes a moment for me to notice him through the small crowd of mammals milling out of the train.

"Cory!" Judy squeaks, running over to give the bunny a hug. Cory's a couple inches taller than Judy, though I can't tell if he's older or younger. From the same litter maybe? That's how it works with bunnies, right? He's got a milk chocolate coat, but shares Judy's violet eyes.

"So, uh... this is your... uhm..." he looks at me nervously. I shoot him a friendly smile, though it probably comes off a bit fake. I kinda have to mimic that whole wide-eyed bunny look, because otherwise I naturally have that slightly lazy demeanor of your average sleaze and I'm pretty sure that's not gonna go down well here.

"Nick Wilde," I say, taking care to not show my teeth.

He reaches out to shake my paw. Hmm. Not much of a grip for a farmer.

I let Judy take the middle seat in the pickup truck so the two siblings can sit side by side, and I stare out the window as she and Cory chat it up. It's really peaceful out there isn't it? Just fields and meadows and light woodland, with broad patches of farmland nestled between the hills. A flock of geese fly past overhead. They'll be migrating south soon, won't they? Autumn's coming up, and Tommy's all healed and he'll be ready to go to school in a few weeks.

We've already done a few ride-alongs. Even took him and his mom out to dinner on Tommy's birthday. Reconnecting with Ruby, even just as friends, feels like I've found a part of myself I'd long forgotten. We'd become so different in the past fifteen years, but she still saw a kernel of the brash eighteen-year-old me, and I still saw a bit of that sunny teenage vixen I'd known too. It was weird to see someone who had just about the same face, but have to relearn everything about her.

And Tommy... gosh he's a great kid, which makes it all the sadder that he wasn't mine. Not book-smart like his mom would've liked, but street smart and with such a saucy mouth on him. The first time we took him on a ride-along it smelled as if he'd doused himself in Musk Mask. Though he did telegraph it in other ways of course. He always scoot right behind Judy's seat and would lean in as close as he could, and in the rearview mirror I could see his tail flicking back and forth as he stared at her with that stupid grin on his face. Kid had a serious crush.

"So any new adventures with you, Nick?" Cory asks as he drives. I blink and sit up, realizing they'd just broken away from some conversation about the recent harvest just so he can do the polite thing and make some small talk with me. "Last I heard you two had some sorta run-in with some bigoted goat, right? Guy ended up getting his butt tossed in prison?"

I freeze up, and the smile that Judy had been wearing slips from her face.

"Oh, uh..." I begin.

"Probably not best to talk about that..." Judy says quickly.

"Oh," Cory says, looking away from the road for a moment to glance at us. "Something happen?"

"He was..." Judy trails off. In a lot of ways she's tougher than me, but Judy's got some sensitive spots about her. This is one of them.

"He died in prison."


As if it's not awkward enough, having a fox visit the Hopps family. Judy's' ears hang behind her, and she clutches one side of her head with her paw.

Not two weeks had passed before Shepsfield was found dead in the prison showers from a dozen stab wounds. The penetrating injuries had been clean, and wider than you'd expect from your standard prison shank, like they were made with a proper blade. If anyone knew what'd happened no one was talking. Worse, any security footage of the locker room and showers had been lost somehow.

What the hell was this city and security footage fucking up?

I'd been having some avocado toast for breakfast when I heard about it on the news. At first I couldn't believe it, and then a sick feeling came over me. I'd thrown the disposable cellphone away by that point, so I didn't have a safe avenue to contact Charlie to grill her. Had she planned this? Was getting Shepsfield killed part of her scheme?

I had to toss the rest of my avocado toast in the trash. And that's the sort of thrifty behavior that's forced me to live in such a rathole apartment.

This was my fault, I knew. I was the one who conspired to put him in prison. I should've known it'd happen... after the Night Howler fiasco and Tommy turning out to be the victim of a bigotry-fueled attack, sheep weren't really popular right now, especially around preds.

Doc Conall had to up my antidepressant dosage after that.

The rest of the drive is pretty awkward, but thankfully it isn't that long when we reach the Hopps family home.

I see the first edges of the pink roof and the bunny-ear motif as the truck threads between the hills. It looks less like a giant house and more like a pastry decorated with thick frosting, the smaller huts flanking it like sweet buns in a bakery's display. Windows framed in even more pink dot the hill. There's something just so folksy about the idea of living in a giant warren underground, like the earth itself is just one big thick blanket around you.

As we reach the crest Judy's family comes into view.

Judy had warned me about the horde of rabbits I'd be facing but it's another thing entirely to see it for myself. Hundreds of 'em were waiting for us outside, bouncing and waving with even more energy than I'd come to expect from bunnies. The little ones especially make Judy look downright sober in comparison.

The moment the truck rolls to a stop they're coming to say hi. A couple of her brothers help with our luggage, while a pair of older rabbits come up to up to greet us. All the while a swarm of kits press around me from all sides. The dozens upon dozens of little ears surrounding me reminds me of one of the wheat fields we'd driven past.

"He's so much skinnier than Mr. Gray!"

"His tail's so fluffy!"

"He's really pointy too!"

At least a dozen little paws are gripping my arms and legs, clambering up on my shirt and feeling at my ears. Judy had warned me about this too, but I'd chuckled and said I could handle myself. Now that I'm actually mired in a swarm of young bunnies though I can't believe I ever thought I'd be able to manage.

Sure I could handle one or two of them easily, but once they pile on ten or twelve at a time I'm weighed down by upwards of seventy, eighty pounds of rabbit. For a mammal my size that's just too much. I yelp as they drag me down and start crawling all over me. I'm left completely helpless not just because I've got a swarm of young fluffballs poking and prodding and feeling up my nose and ears and clinging to me with affectionate curiosity, I'm afraid of even just standing up. With the size difference between me and them any sudden movement might end up knocking one of the tykes over or hurting them, and that would make for a poor first impression.

"Judy..." I reach out among the throng. "Heeeeeeeeeelp..."

When her parents finally shoo the little buggers away I can breathe easy, and Cory is kind enough to give me a paw and help me to my feet.

"Whew! That was..." I huff, trying to clear the sweet, creamy scent of young rabbit out of my nose. "That was something..."

Judy giggles as her parents approach me.

"Well..." Her dad's smile is a nervous, fragile thing, and his lip is trembling just a bit. "Nick Wilde..."

"Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Hopps," I dust myself off and reach out and shake his paw.

"Oh! Uh, Stu's fine. This is my wife Bonnie," he says, pulling his wife over.

"Hello, Nick," she says. Bonnie doesn't flinch when she wraps her arms around me. I'm still not quite used to all this physical contact, and being hugged by Judy's mom leaves me feeling more than a bit awkward. Best I can do to return the gesture is give her a pat on the back.

"So... 'Wilde' huh? That... sure is a fox name, isn't it?" says Stu. "Not quite as... erm... urban as I thought it'd..."

He clears his throat. "I mean! That is... well when Judy said she was dating a... a fox, I didn't expect someone as fine and well-mannered as... we do business with a fox you know. Gideon Gray? Best baker in the entire tri-buroughs. We should have him bring over some pies. You like blueberries, right Nick?"

The shit-eating grin must've been frozen on my face, because Judy pipes up suddenly as if trying to draw attention away from the moment.

"Oh! You guys finally redid the front door?" I give it a glance as I pass through. Apparently as a guest I'm allowed to head in first with Judy, Bonnie, and Stu, while the rest of the Hopps family has to trickle in behind us. The door might've been repainted a glossy shade of lavender, but the peach frame was still a bit faded and dusty.

"Ha yeah, yeah..." Stu says with a nervous tic. He's taken off his hat now and he's fanning himself, still looking quite flushed. "Life on the farm, there's always something that needs fixing."

Judy takes me around the warren, giving me the full tour while her parents and Cory linger behind a few steps.

"So here's the children's playroom," says Judy as we walk through a twenty-foot domed atrium with a big bookshelf on one end, scattered pillows for pillow forts, and a pile of board games. Huh. Glad to see PawPads and laptops haven't taken over everything.

"The living room. We always settle in here after dinner for coffee." Six large coffee tables had been placed in the room. An elderly bunny sits at one of them, and when I walk past he looks up at me from his game of solitaire and scowls. Hmm. Gonna be tough to win Gramps over.

Three big semicircle sofas had been built a couple feet deeper into depressions in the floor, each one facing a flatscreen TV. A cluster of teenage bunnies sit in front of one, playing Scaly Squad on their PreyStation. One of them lets out a triumphant whoop when his crocodile ninja punches a turtle through a wall.

"Aaand this is the dining room!"

My jaw drops. The place is about as big as the ZPD cafeteria. There are a dozen tables, each seating up to eight. At least a hundred rabbits are here. Most of them are sitting down to a meal, though the older ones are either keeping the younger ones in line, clearing the dishes, or helping out in the kitchen. Squalling tykes are playing-slash-eating at the kids' tables, while other bunnies are chatting excitedly at others. The smell of carrots, collard greens, and mashed potatoes fills the air.

All of a sudden a hush falls on the crowd, and a hundred pairs of eyes lock onto me and Judy.




Two hours later, I flop into my bed an utterly exhausted fox.

All of the overtures had been friendly enough. Too friendly honestly, despite the nervous glances and forced smiles from some of the adults and older teens. Now and then I'd see one of them staring at me, and when he noticed I had noticed he'd suddenly look away. I'd just sigh then. After all, you had to expect some tension on seeing me and Judy together.

A dozen family members mushed in with us at the table to listen to Judy's stories of the big city, and even more siblings or visiting relatives would be milling in and out to say quick hellos or offer warm hugs. It'd been real welcoming at first, but as time wore on the parade of new names and faces just kept coming. I was trying desperately to make a good impression and remember everyone who shook my paw, but forty minutes in I was starting to crack.

"Huh I didn't know foxes could be vegetarians."

"Ha! Pawpsicles! Really?"

"Oh Mr. Wilde you've just got to try my peach and blueberry cobbler..."

Judy was in her element, gabbing away and catching up with her siblings, happy as could be. She actually seemed to draw from the energy of the crowd and get even more chipper than before. I didn't realize that was possible. All of a sudden it made sense why Judy's bed was covered with a bunch of plush animals. Living in an apartment on her own in the city must've been as jarring for her as the warren life is for me.

Now and again the subject of Shepsfield came up though, and we had to awkwardly redirect the conversation elsewhere. Must've happened three or four times before word rippled through the grapevine that it was a subject we just weren't ready to discuss.

As much as I tried to keep up with the conversation, as time wore on I could feel the energy draining from me. I was this lone red fox standing among a horde of chattering bunnies, their gray and brown ears swaying back and forth like blades of grass in a giant plush field. The smell of home cooking and the creamy-grassy scent of bunny was thick in the air, condensing even further by the moment to the point that I felt I might choke on it. The world started to melt into a blur of pink and lavender walls and peach carpeting.

I downed a second helping of cobbler before I made my gracious exit, and a few of the kids were kind enough to guide me through the warren and into the guest room where I'd be staying. It was far, far away from Judy's room, which was fair. Their family was trying to be open-minded about a fox staying with them already, and it wouldn't do to push it.

A full belly and a splitting headache don't make a good combination, and it takes me a minute before I realize that I'm lying on two beds that'd been pushed together. My head's still spinning as I reach up and tug my tie loose, pulling it over my head and letting it drop to the floor. I undo the first few buttons of my Pawaiian shirt as well, and once that's done I nuzzle into the pillow. None of that bunny smell that'd gotten so sickly sweet, thankfully. Just rosemary-scented laundry detergent. Crisp and clean.

My headache's receded to a dull throb when I hear a little knock at he door.

"Euuughhhh..." I groan, dragging myself out of the bed.

To my surprise, it isn't Judy at the door, but one of her brothers. The guy who'd picked us up from the station.

"Oh, hey, uh..." I fumble for a name. Damn. My brain just isn't working right now.

"Cory." He grins, walking in bearing two mugs on a tray. "Thought you might like a drink. Judy made several big ol' tubs of this Tigrian tea and it's starting to be a real big hit around the warren."

"Oh. Uh... thanks..." I murmur, blinking to try to clear my vision.

"Also thought you might like some of this," he says, reaching into his pocket. The bottle of bunny-grade aspirin rattles in his paw.

"Oh my god Cory, you're a lifesaver." I almost feel like kissing him when he rolls out several of the tablets onto my paw, and I down them with a mouthful of chai. The flavors of cinnamon, cardamom, black tea, and almond milk bloom on my tongue, and I flop back into the sheets waiting for the painkillers to kick in.

Cory takes a seat next to me.

"Sorry if that was a little overwhelming. We pretty much never have non-bunny guests this deep in the warren, so we tend to forget it can be a bit much."

"How do you guys manage? I grew up in Happytown, probably the slummiest area there is in the City, and even we weren't crammed shoulder to shoulder like you guys are."

Cory shrugs. "Oh I suppose when you grow up with it it comes off as normal. Plus we tend to organize by litters, which make things easier. I'm actually from the same one as Judy... she came out right after me. Then there's Stacey, Dixie, Clover, and Buster. You probably don't remember, but they were the ones sitting closest to her at the table."

The names sound familiar, but I can't attach them to the right faces at the moment.

"Anyway I'll let you get some rest. If you prefer I'll bring dinner in for you if you need some more time to adjust."

"Actually I think if I can get some coffee later, I'll be fine. Especially with these." I raise the aspirin bottle and give it a rattle.

"I'll put on a pot then," Cory chuckles as he gets up. "Well... I just wanna say, um... we never expected Judy to... y'know. With a fox. But we're all glad she did. Her whole life she's been so focused on being a cop that she's never had a real relationship before. She seems real happy."

"Honestly," I say, propping myself up on my elbows. "I should be thanking you guys. I guess the two of us were worried about nothing."

Cory's smile falters.

I sit up a bit straighter. "Something wrong?"

"Well it's just..." he bites his lip. "Look, promise to keep this to yourself, all right?"

"Keep what to myself?"

Cory sighs, shutting the door for the moment. "I'm sure you must've picked up on how nervous some of us were earlier today. Dad especially. It's not anything to do with you, really, it's just..."

Honestly, the whole way here I'd tried to stay open-minded on my end too. That is, to not jump to conclusions that all the bunnies here were gonna be bigoted hicks looking to strip my tail so they can hang my fur on their car antennas. And yeah, even with the bumpy first meeting it hadn't been all that bad. Frankly, I was stressing out more from the headache than the nervous undercurrent that was flowing through lunch.

Cory scrubs a paw over his head. "This morning when we were heading out to the fields we noticed someone scrawled something nasty on our front door. It must've been one of the neighbor kids, but... well with so many bunnies in the area it's impossible to know who it was. All it said was..."

I say it so he doesn't have to.


That explains it then. Stu's jitters. The nervous glances around the table. The fresh coat of paint on the door, even though the frame hadn't been done.

"Look, I'm not tellin' you this to warn you away from her or anything. The opposite really... we're all rooting for you two. It's so great to see Judy with someone special in her life, and it's not easy for her to find another bunny in the big city, but you seem like a really nice guy for a... you're just a real nice guy." He's doing that bunny thing now, where he's talking at this rapid-fire pace. If it were any other species I'd suspect it's him being nervous. "Just... if anyone here seems a little on edge around you, just please believe me when I say it ain't nothing to do with you bein' a fox. Not much at least. We're all just a little shaken by the vandalism. We've known our neighbors our entire lives and the thought that someone would write that on our door..."

"Honestly..." I shrug, "That makes me feel a bit better, if anything. Knowing that crap is coming from the outside instead of being in here. I'm guessing that living around Judy your whole lives kinda makes you a bit more liberal about that stuff.

"Yeah... yeah I suppose," Cory smiles nervously, "Just... please don't tell Judy. Knowing her she'll probably wanna investigate the matter and most of us just prefer to forget it happened."

"Well, if there's one thing us foxes are good at," I grin, "It's keeping secrets."