Disclaimer: The movie Zootopia and everything depicted therein belongs to Walt Disney Pictures/Walt Disney Animation Studios, copyrighted in 2016. I own nothing. This story was originally written by Glowinglightdude but they have since deleted this story and their account and have vanished into the night. I have taken it upon myself to preserve this wonderful story and have decided to re-upload it so that others may continue to enjoy it as well. If the original author wishes, I will immediately take it down but until then, enjoy.

Chapter 1: Not Now

The bustle in the city was undeniable.

It grasped all in its wake and demanded attention.

He sat and watched it, sat and watched people, most of which he would never meet, passing in what seemed to be slow motion, floating amongst cracked concrete and erected monoliths and a labyrinth of winding streets trailing their vein bodies into the heart of the metropolis. Everyone's jobs beckoned them this morning and with unabashed fervor they scattered to their destinations, not far from a cockroach scuttle, fur and colors and tails entwining in impossible knots.

Species butted shoulders with species. Prey and predators passed mere feet from each other without issue. A dance unlike anything seen before. Each passing person, he knew, had experienced a tragedy of some kind in his or her life. Each one had sobbed, had thought of oblivion. It was a calming effect, this realization, that had a horrid implication, one he would often try and suppress into the crevices of his consciousness.

Deeper.

Down there. Now.

Never let them see that they get to you.

This was the mantra that ran through his mind. This was the way to live. His fucked up past demanded it.

In a way, this very same bustle that fascinated him into contemplation festooned the area like a cancer, spreading forth and circumnavigating the homes of mice, deer, horses, bovines, vulpines, rabbits, and an ongoing multitude of species so large that it hurt too much to think about if you dared venture to do so. Lives upon lives. Story after story. A tragedy, a ripple of happiness, a death, a murder, and then nothing. It was the way of this world and it permeated and grew with the passing years, as did new ideas and cultures and a plethora of creations. But what could one expect from a melting pot? What could one expect from a place so perfect, a place so welcoming that every sect, species, and ideal rushed into the open arms of it and was embraced in a love-joy hug akin to a mother clasping her child? Clashing was bound to happen; in fact, it was inevitable. No one was safe from it, especially those who were deemed fit enough, courageous enough, or—in the case of the Zootopia Police Department—foolish enough to take it steadfast.

And yet no one took notice to this. They lived their lives and metaphorically spat in the direction of the very entity that would come rushing to them to save their hides if the moment occurred.

Deeper.

Down there. Now.

Fuckin' ignorant brutes.

This was often a thought of Nick as he sat in the police cruiser waiting for his partner. He couldn't help it. At the moment, he was idly twisting his iPhone in his hand after having browsed the internet on the latest political mockery that was taking place. His mind was a place he had often escaped to in the past, a habit he still cherished and practiced without indecision, and he couldn't avoid contemplating how complicated things were when a species interacted with another that had little to no characteristics, let alone empathy, for its counterpart.

It was now his constant way of life ever since deciding to serve himself for the better good. Sure, he had experienced such a phenomenon in his past, had endured what some would call "life altering" events, yet he could not shake the feeling that whenever he pulled over a mouse or rabbit or shrew that he was somehow exercising a predatorily dominance over them. Their looks (and the occasional tremble) were enough to validate this thought, and with looks sometimes came verbal jabs, and with verbal jabs came a new trait he had such difficulty adopting that he had at first questioned whether or not this was a line of work he could excel in: restraint. Verbal restraint. Biting that fox tongue of his.

An ex-conman's bane of existence—the end of wit, the end of money.

He had loathed learning that skill.

It was his Achilles Heel.

The task had been arduous and harder than the weight training regimen he had gotten into while at the police academy, but he felt he had a good enough understanding of it now.

A smile suddenly crept on his face.

The brief memory of one of his first encounters with talkback rushed in his mind. Had it not been for his partner and her cool demeanor and quick intervention, he perhaps would not be sitting in this very vehicle waiting for the first beat of the day.

It was all because of her.

Always was.

Before he had time to relive the memory in detail, the driver-side door opened. A small, lithe figure plopped in the seat, hands filled with an order from the bakery across the road.

"Back," Judy said as she closed the door. Her tone radiated of jubilance, a trait undeniable to her character. It was something Nick looked forward to every day and was a perfect counter, a medicine in fact, to his nasty morning mood.

He was now back as well. Back in reality. He adjusted his aviators before speaking.

"Well-well, look who finally decided to grace us with her presence. Carrot-cake the sluggish." Nick pointed at his iPhone and continued with, "I got so tired of browsing through unsolicited fox-porn that I actually resorted to watching the latest Troth Tiger music video. Do you know the boredom it took to do that? He actually co-sung with Lil' Wayne. I almost killed myself." Judy giggled before handing him his requested egg breakfast bagel.

Nick continued. "Do you have any idea how…how horrid his auto-tuned voice is? It's a good thing I couldn't understand half the shit they were saying. I mean, do you feel the least bit sympathetic for me? C'mon, be honest." "Nope," she said, sticking her tongue out at him while unwrapping her wholewheat carrot bagel. She started the cruiser and in playful tone said, "I'll have you know I stood behind an elephant the whole time who couldn't make up his mind, and I was nearly stepped on not once, not twice, but three times, so, like, you know, shut up." Nick smiled.

"It wouldn't have been an issue," he said, shaking his head, "they could have scraped you up and used you for a—I don't know—muffin recipe or something.

Squash-rabbit? Rabi-uffin? Fluffin!" Judy's brows furrowed and she managed to punch him in the shoulder, the bagel dangling from her two auxiliary incisors as she drove into the lane intersecting Hutchingson and Wolf Ave.

"Spoofith foth," she said, trying to talk past the bagel.

"I would say the usual back to you, but I didn't realize that growing up on a farm actually meant you were raised in a barn. Talking with your mouth full? What's next? You gonna' piss on the back seat later?" Nick jabbed his thumb, signaling the empty seats behind them.

Judy's eyes rolled. She took a bite from her bagel and followed that with a simple, "Fine, you win." Nick immediately made a fist pump as he chewed on his breakfast. "1-0, baby! Today's gonna' be good." "Yea," Judy said sarcastically. "Until I have to get your fuzzy butt out of a problem. Then it's point 1 for Hopps!" "Perhaps," Nick mused aloud, not half joking.

The morning beat he and Judy scoured was on the upper East side of Zootopia, an area called the Nocturnal District, which bordered Happytown and the Meadowlands. Having been monitoring the district for the past several months, both officers actually developed a well-rounded education of the various dealings and shady methods of making money that the darker side of the district aspires to make. Bats were a prime suspect when it came to illegal sonar-cage matches; aye-ayes hustled the newly synthesized drug "Haowl" and were more often than not involved with domestic calls; owls were the movers (or in this case flyers) and shakers of more difficult to obtain illegal substances, and the list went on and on. Each species had its own niche, its own way of attempting a successful deal or hit that would strike gold. Some were more successful than others and some simply didn't care enough to attempt it. And while Nick realized most registered citizens in the Nocturnal District were upstanding, were just trying to make a living like any other mammal in the metropolis, there were those who slithered through the cracks to make it harder for others and molded the prejudice into something real and objectifying for the rest. He could sympathize, better yet, empathize with such a truism. It was his past life, after all. Thankfully, the morning beat was a cake walk for the two officers: nocturnal animals, for the most part, slept during the day. It would be the night shift they attended that would be the hard part, but that was for another time. Their beat was actually quite a sight for an individual who was not involved with nocturnal Animalia, and it never failed to send a chill up Nick's spine when he watched aardvarks and beavers and bat-eared foxes scuttling about the grid, gold skinned and glistening from hanging street lights and neon signs. Their eyes would glow sometimes and it had the faintest aura of a science-fiction epic. It was a walkingbreathing art piece, and he knew Judy felt the same, the way her purple eyes would occasionally bug from her head and her face slowly plaster over a small smile below her pink nose which was barely lit by the glowing of the radio. A country-rabbit making it big. It was charming to him, and he found himself thinking about her more and more since their partnership started six months ago.

It was positively intoxicating.

Nick shook this off.

No.

Deeper.

Down there. Now.

"So," Judy started as if remembering something. "My mom and dad called me yesterday from their trip to London to see my sister, and guess what: she had her first litter!" Judy practically bounced from her seat after saying the last part.

Nick's eyes widened. "Hey-hey! Nice! Names? Pictures? Mushy quotes with goofy emotes?" Judy glanced down at her custom carrot-shaped Droid cellphone and handed it to Nick after swiping past several photos. He took the phone and looked at a picture that was a younger looking rabbit, a slightly brown and grey hue pattern covering her face, and a pile of what looked like 7 plump rabbit babies wrapped in blankets huddled around her chest. Their ears were amassed in a twist of tangled fluff and they all were sleeping, their heads pointed outward in an almost triangular shape with the upper most point being their barely identifiable noses.

The new half-lidded mother looked positively exhausted in the photo but was giving a weak thumbs-up to the camera and had a smirk on her face that was absolutely Hopps-esque. The babies were cream colored and appeared to have mixing colors of black to them, giving off somewhat of a clue as to what fur color the father had been.

"They're really…cute." Nick's eyes glanced over to Judy.

She had a face that bordered on smiling yet being annoyed.

"Har, har, you butt." Judy instantly snapped back to being overly joyful, "but really, look at them! What do you think?" "They really are gorgeous," Nick said with no sarcasm to his voice. "And she… man…" Nick zoomed in on the photo before letting out a whistle, "lucky father. I mean, realllly lucky father. What-a-catch. Yummy. Grade-A rabbit meat. You don't find that at the market…" Nick's grin turned into a slightly fearful expression, his eyes bugging out and his entire line of teeth showing, as he slowly glanced over at Judy to see what her reaction was, hoping he hadn't gone too far.

"Give me that!" she yelled, her small claws jutting for the phone. Nick quickly moved it aside toward the window.

"No, no…wait! Please! I implore you! Send me this photo." "You're such a dick!" Nick gasped and put a paw over his maw. "Language, Carrots!" Judy's annoyance, which may or may not have been half-real, faded. Her insusceptibility to be angry at the fox that sat beside her baffled her at times. He really did bring the best out of her. She was coming to realize this day by day.

"But really," Nick's voice softened, now devoid of any joking tone, and the next part poured out of him without going through his mental filter, "she is very lucky, and even though I haven't met her, I know she'll be a good mother if she's a Hopps." He could feel Judy's smile and was pleased to see that he was right in thinking that's what she was doing. He couldn't be sure, but it also looked like she had a slight blush on her face and the inside of her pink ears seemed tinted just a hue darker than normal. He smirked at this, but it didn't last long save for him being mistaken.

Without a word, he handed the phone back to her and she took it and placed it in her police uniform breast pocket.

"So, pawtnah, what's on the docket? We gonna' hunt down the latest moneyracket? We gonna' find that treasure trove of freshly packed Haowl?" Judy guffawed. "More like watch trash blow across empty streets." "Yea, that sounds fun too." "You think Bogo did this to us on purpose? Like as a punishment?" Nick gave this some thought and shrugged. "I don't know. It's been pretty slow lately. Maybe. I mean, it's not like we haven't gotten ourselves into a pickle before. I don't see how our latest debacle could be anything worse than what has happened before." "Pickle?! How about near-beat-down, you blabbermouth!" "Hey, hey. Come on, now. I said I was sorry. I've been practicing really hard at keeping my composure. Bogo can see this now. He's commented on it. This hide is thick now, not just sexy. No worries." Judy nodded with a smile. "Okay, I'll give you that. You have been better lately." "See!" Nick flashed a toothy grin, "And look at what I do for you! I go against my very nature to please you." "Please!" Judy rolled her eyes. "You do this because firing you is the next step.

That, or putting you at a desk." Nick put a paw over his heart. "I'm hurt, Carrots. You just cut me to the core." "Oh woe is the Great Nicholas Wilde," Judy mocked in a faux basso voice, images of her play-acting days coming to mind. The thought of Nick dressed in Shakespearian garb nearly made her burst into laughter.

"Okay, okay. Part of it is that the idea of sitting at a desk with papers piled up to my ears makes me want to go poopie." Judy giggled. "And the other part?" "Come again?" "You said 'part' of it is. What's the other part?" Nick gave thought to this. In a completely serious tone, he said in the simplest terms he could muster, "Well…you." Judy's ears stood straight up. She had a sudden serious look about her that showed she was going to take in everything that Nick said. "What do you mean?" she softly asked.

"Well…" Nick put a paw to the back of his head. "I mean, come on, we're partners. We're…the Dream Team. We…we work well together. It's fun, you know. You're fun!" The same near-blush look she had before was resurfacing and Nick could see it for sure this time: fiery pink ears.

He took a chance to pry. "I mean don't you have fun too?" Without a moment's passing, Judy said, "Absolutely." "Well there we go. Now we agree 100%." "Let's not go that far," Judy said, putting a finger in the air. "More like 80%. I'll reserve the other 20 for when I'm trying to get you out of the newest and latest drama-fest." Nick made a gasp as if being stabbed and clutched his chest. "You sure know how to twist that blade, Hopps. Sick and disturbing. What on earth did those parents raise?" Judy raised one eyebrow and said in a somewhat coy tone, "Wouldn't you like to know?" The friendly banter lasted for the better part of ten or so minutes as they continued making their way through the rear-to-rear traffic of the morning grind, snaking their way across town to their barren destination. Nick had come to realize in the past months that the more they got to know each other's personal lives, the more their conversations bordered on play-flirting, a fact he had trouble processing since the idea of doing so with a species deemed "prey" was basically a non-entity in the kingdom that encompasses Zootopia. Not that it was forbidden by law, but that it was literally something unthinkable to most. At best, it would be taboo. His harboring desire to do so with her was sketchy and exhilarating to him, and as someone who spent his entire life suppressing his emotions for fear of being found out, as someone who masked himself over and over again to make money and swindle and deal to the likes of those who did not want to see what you truly were, he had a deep desire to allow himself to cherish and wallow in a real, genuine emotion. The question was colossal and imposing, however: what exactly was this emotion? He fought with it at times, wrestled with the implications, and he still could not come to any conceivable conclusion.

It twisted his stomach and made his heart thump. Goofy. Haughty. Exotic.

Experimental. Mysterious. He listed the adjectives in his mind, plucked through a vocabulary developed through wit and survival, and he could not find the right word. Was it bad to say that he didn't care that he could find it? Was it truly a crime to believe that instead of worrying about what others might think, he would rather just continue going on and flirting with this rabbit that sat beside him? No. Fuck that. Fuck them.

Again, the thought billowed into Nick's mind and swelled: Fuckin' ignorant brutes.

"They don't know what we have here," Nick whispered.

Judy's ear twitched.

"What was that?" "Huh?" Nick turned to her. "What?" "Didn't you just say something?" "Oh…" Nick put a claw to his muzzle and tapped it. "If I did, I don't know what I said. Just…musing I guess." "Stupid fox," Judy murmured with play still in her voice. "Can't even process his own words." A sheepish smile spread across Nick's bust. "Whatever, dumb bunny." The Nocturnal District greeted both officers with a lost landscape filled to the brim with tenement buildings uncomfortably close to one another; they seemed hunched against each other's backs, juxtaposed to thin alleyways where piles of trash sat upon one another like dead bodies and feral dogs rummaged through the contents, gnawing on yesterday's leftover dinner. No one appeared to be awake. It was a ghost town, a zoo for the dead. Stereotypes forced others to picture a filthy, trash heap mound of land, but, for the most part, everything else was fairly clean, from the nearby roundabout with the large Milkwood tree planted in the middle to the sidewalks leading to small well-kempt tattoo parlors and pubs and tiny getaway diners barely visible to anyone but the local eye. In a way, it was somewhat charming, picturesque even, had it not been for the occasional criminal situation that festered in the district's underbelly. The area reminded Nick of his ventures to the Western side of the state when he first aspired to be a con-man. It held a kind of rural, tight-knit feeling to it, which was surprising considering the immense city it was a part of. But then the memory of the shooting crept its way into his mind. The memory of the boy. Nick had to remind himself that this was just a façade within a façade. The truth was deep in itself. He saw this at night, as did Judy. Yes, the truth was deep within itself, and it was not pretty. This sudden want for examination caused Nick to rest the bottom of his maw against his hand as his elbow sat against the police cruiser door.

With a comfortability only two people who spend nearly every waking hour with one another could muster, Judy piped up with, "Hey, whatcha' daydreaming about, Slick?" It took a moment for Nick to answer, "Oh…oh nothing. Just…thinking about when I used to be out West. This place. It reminds me of a certain area, that's all."

"Was this when…well, you know. When you weren't a cop?" "Yep. In fact, it was when I just started out. Tiny little area. Everyone seemed to know one another. Privacy didn't seem to exist, at least that's the perception I got when I was there." "I bet that was hard for a con." Nick nodded. "Sure was. Got out of there pronto. But…I don't know…I kinda' missed it when I left. Strange. It was— Stopping midsentence, Nick thought he saw something happening in between a set of buildings, perhaps an exchange taking place or some other shady business, and Judy could see this in the way he suddenly jolted upward and twisted his head to the side, his ears perking in an alert state.

"Anything?" she asked, her cop voice immediately taking over.

"Naw," he responded. "My mistake. Keep going." After a lapse of time, Judy said more softly, "I know what you feel." "Hm? Oh. How so?" Her paw twisted on the steering wheel and she let up a little shrug. "You know, I mean I'm just a farm girl. I grew up in the place you're talking about.

Bunnyburrow has the exact same feeling. I…I can't help but miss it from time to time." Nick turned his head to Judy.

"You think you're ever going back?" The question hit Judy in more than one way. He could see this in her sudden facial expression of utter seriousness.

"You mean, like for good…or…." "No, no. Well," Nick stopped, thinking this through, "I don't know…yea, I guess.

Are you?" Nick nearly flinched at how sudden the last part of his sentence and tone had changed to nearly sounding depressed. Did she catch on to that? He glanced over at her.

She let out a breath of air. She had not given such a question thought, or at least she had never given it deep consideration.

"I don't think so. I'll visit for sure, especially when I get some vacation time coming up here. On holidays and such. But…I don't know. I would be tossing all of…this"—Judy waved her paw across the dead landscape— "away…" She glanced at Nick with a face that was on the verge of laughing. He took the bait and let out a chuckle, giving her permission to erupt into a tiny fit of giggles.

"I hear ya' loud and clear, Fluff" Nick said. He adjusted his shades and flicked his paw at the road. "Proceed, Great One." "No. But really…I don't know. I set out to be a cop. I'm living my dream in real time. I worked hard to get here. I can't imagine just throwing that away because I got a little home sick. Plus, it's like you said: Dream Team, right?" Nick found himself nodding and said in a near whisper, "Dream Team." "Yea!" They exchanged a smile.

The pieces fell into place once again.

Just as quickly though, Nick's face faded into seriousness.

"Although," he started, "you could be a cop in Bunnyburrow or closer to home, you know." He turned to find Judy's ears had dropped behind her back.

Shit, Nick thought. Why the fuck do you do this? Rearrangement. Rearrange the pieces into your liking, Nick. Alter your dreams for yourself. This was the way to live. His fucked up past demanded it. He found it extraordinarily difficult to articulate why he would sometimes mentally pry into his partner's mind in an attempt to solicit a feeling of dread or concern or deep contemplation, but here he was, doing it once again. It was a routine at this point, a game of chess. By no means was it sadistic or even masochistic on his part, but it seemed to be a necessary action in order to fully understand the one and only true friend he had at this moment in his life. He couldn't deny the fact that he wanted to know more and more about her, wanted to know things that only her parents could pinpoint, wanted to know her fears and what got her angry and depressed so that he might say something in the future to alleviate her suffering even if it be as cliché or base as a joke or quip or even, on occasion, a made-up anecdote. As the months of their partnership blossomed, he often ran this through his mind, understanding that it was not the norm for him to be doing this with prey. Vulnerability went without being said when it came to predators and prey, but a true linking friendship, a bond that dug deep and that's circumference was capacious, held little room to grow in the eyes of others. He couldn't help but feel as though this thought process was going beyond the bounds of what friends would do, though. It made him slightly uncomfortable to think too hard about what it all meant.

What was it leading to? No.

Deeper.

Down there. Now.

He peered over to her and noticed she was about to say something. For the slightest of moments, what would be a fraction of a second, he imagined reaching out and touching her.

"I guess I could," she said. She sat in the silence of the vehicle, clearly deep in thought. She seemed more rigid, her paws tapping at the wheel, and finally she said, "Would you want me to go back?" Nick felt his answer was too quick, but he didn't care at this point, "No. Not at all. I already told you, I have too much fun with you. You make this job more fun than it already is for me. But…happiness is…" he stopped trying to phrase himself correctly, "happiness is largely based on individualism, right? I mean, if you spend the majority of your time dreaming about something else, why fight to maintain what you have? Wouldn't that just be…limbo?" Slowly, Judy nodded.

"I guess so…" she said in a whisper.

"But…I don't know…do you find yourself dreaming about home more than you want?" Judy's ears were now not flopped as low as they had been, something Nick took notice to and felt a sense of relief in seeing.

"No more than anyone else who was away from home for nearly a year." "Good!" Nick blurted out. His bashful expression could not be hidden.

A sly smile began to inch its way across Judy's tiny lips. "Is Nicky getting…a little worried that I might be abandoning him in this wild and dangerous city?" Nick chuckled. He found himself once again rubbing the back of his neck and fidgeting uncomfortably.

"C'mon, Fluff. I've owned this place in more than one way. I'm a walking, talking salesman. Suave. Smooth as silk." "That may be the case, but you know you'd miss me." There was a confidence to her tone, but in a way it almost sounded like a question.

"Would I?" Nick put a claw on his nose.

She gleamed with a smile and they both looked at each other.

"Yes, yes I would," they both said at the same time, laughing.

Nick sighed, and his mouth opened before he could stop himself.

"What can I say?" he started, "I'd jump from the frying pan and into the fire with you." He nearly blushed at confessing that. That was deeper than he wanted to go.

They sat, eyeing the strip for a while. The silence was overbearing. No one was moving in or out of the vehicle.

"Nick," Judy said.

"Yea?" he peered over to her. She looked as content as anyone could, a smirk on her face that could melt a serial killer.

"Thanks." "No problem, partner." They made idle talk for the duration of their Nocturnal District beat, winding through empty roadways to see the occasional animal walking down the street (a "day-owl" Nick would joke) and then cruised into the deeper part of the district where I-95 sat near the Crawler underground transit system, a series of looping railways that popped up in various locations of Zootopia as frequently as the Moles living in Savanna Central or Meadowlands. With this area came a strange intermixture of growth and pain for Nick and Judy. It was in this location that nearly a month and a half ago they had experienced their first shooting (or at least as close to one they have been involved with). The scene had ended in a fatality by the time they had arrived to the 131 call; no one had witnessed what had happened, but the aftermath was enough to make either of them appreciate the fragility of life. The kid, a Honey Badger, had been no more than sixteen years old and had been plugged four times in the chest with 9 millimeter rounds.

No movie or medium could encapsulate the reality and heaviness of the situation when they walked upon the body. It was a thing where you lost something deep inside yourself once put in the position of the realism it provided. The eyes were what killed the innocence for them. The eyes…open, glistening. A scream, in a way, that never ended. It had affected Judy so much that she had been put through a momentary cycle of police psychological help per Police Chief Bogo's request. True, it was routine for officers, but Judy felt she needed it. Nick was required to attend a session as well, much to his chagrin. It literally did nothing for him; in fact, most of the time he had spent talking about how he was worried about his partner, a fact that was written down feverishly on the psychologist's note pad. But Judy would later confess to Nick that what was privately talked about with her psychologist didn't help her and rather it was he and his consoling in the car or in the offices at the police department or on the sidewalk just outside her apartment that did the trick. His silver-tongue, as she put it. That was the phrase she had used. Nick remembered his pride had gone at an all-time high after hearing that, and his appreciation for his partner had only grown stronger in the aftermath of the unexpected death.

It was a bond birthed from tragedy.

Nick turned to speak to Judy, but their duty had other plans.

The roaring could be heard first. It was a steady, low grumble—a motor seeming to push its limit—and then came the body.

In a flash, a car, what would appear to be a brown tinted Subaru of some type, rocketed past them, leaving a trail of dust behind it, shooting up the avenue they would turn onto moments after and barely made the twist onto the ongoing road at what could be no more than 30 over the speed limit. It caught both officers off guard for only a fraction of a second before Judy announced, "Light em' up" to which Nick responded by flicking the siren on, and the tiny rabbit, with her expertise in spatial maneuvering, sped through the street with dogged determination, making a quick merge onto the highway that the vehicle had traversed to. She weaved through other traffic with ease, managed to break through what would have been a partial clog, and then scooted through a patch of clear roadway. The 3.7 Liter Ford Cyclone V-6 whirred and screamed in plumes of horsepower as the Police Interceptor Utility had no trouble biting the ankles of the evacuee—he was by no means escaping the officers, they knew this. But he had to stop. The safety of others was at a risk, not just the neglecting of a basic road tenet. Nick had the car clocked in at 105 and it was only trying to accelerate, still being a good forty or so yards ahead of them. By this point, the driver of the vehicle no doubt had enough time to see that it was being pursued and nick leaned his muzzle down to speak into the radio that hung on his breast pocket prepared to give the call in that a 10-80 was in progress. However, just as quickly as the event had started, it began to dissipate: the car's brake lights illuminated a hellish red and the Subaru Forest began to slowly decelerate yard by yard.

A cacophony of dust and debris scattered about behind it, some smacking against the windshield of the police cruiser.

"Careful," Nick said. "Careful. Might be fuckin' with us." "Yea," Judy agreed, the smallest of labors present in her voice from her minute lagomorph heart beating so fast.

She slowly ebbed the cruiser down to a moderate speed, attempting her best to mirror the vehicle ahead of them.

Both officers let out a sigh, thankful nothing more became of the event. The Subaru had finally come to a complete halt after pulling off to the side of the highway.

Judy did the same.

The dust had cleared and all was still.

Nick quickly ran the plates of the vehicle: Vehicle: Subaru Forester (2009) Plate No.: D40 C34J Registered Owner: Henry Grey Witmount Sex: M Species: Coyote Priors: - Fuck, Nick thought.

As if Judy could discover his frustration from his blank facial features alone, she said in a calming tone, "Maybe he's not the driver." Nick shook his head. "I can see his ears. It's him." "You or me?" she asked with concern.

Nick took a deep breath.

"Me." "You sure?" Nick opened the door. "Follow suit," he said while adjusting his aviators and stepping out, "watch my back and follow suit." Judy exited the vehicle.

Predator. This was it.

The tables were turned.

Predator.

The circle of life came full loop now and Nick had to keep his wits about him.

He kept his hand close to his side, resting just above his standard issue 9 millimeter GLOCK as he approached the vehicle, and without missing a beat, he leaned toward the window after seeing that the coyote had both of his grey and white faded hands atop the steering wheel, and then Nick said in an authoritative voice, "Morning, sir. License and registration please." The coyote wore black rimmed prescription glasses and was clearly some kind of office hound, sporting a tucked-in, plain, button-up long sleeve shirt and khaki slacks that were hugged by a jet black belt; tufts of white fur stuck from out of his collar and encircled his neck, which was thick and puffed due to his species coat, and he was undeniably agitated as seen by his upper muzzle which was nothing more than a row of incisors flashing in a grimace. His eyes scanned from Nick to Judy and then back to Nick. Taking a moment to examine the inside of his vehicle, Nick could see nothing out of the ordinary, at least in the sense of criminal activity: a half-filled coffee cup was in the middle console, a newspaper lay on the floor of the passenger side, and a brown briefcase lay atop the seat next to the driver. Nick felt a wash of distress. There was something uneasy that stirred in his head the more he looked at the coyote; it was perhaps the way his ears connected to the scruff around his neck or the slightly crooked nose that endlessly flared with anger or the deep brown eyes, and as he kept taking in each set of features, Nick finally realized it was that this animal, while not the correct species, had a striking resemblance to what his mother used to describe while intoxicated as Nick's abandoner father.

No, Nick thought. He could actually feel himself shaking his head.

Deeper.

Down there. Now.

"I'm late for work," the coyote grumbled. His deep voice was scratchy and unwelcoming.

"Sorry to hear that, sir. But, I still have to ask you for your license and registration." "This is a bunch of shit! I'm just…late!" The driver's fists bunched up on the steering wheel.

"And I won't keep you here very long, sir. I just need to conduct some business.

As soon as I see that license and registration, we can move on." The coyote shook his head, threw Nick another glare, and produced the documents. Nick quickly eyed them over to make sure they were valid dates.

He then glanced back up at Henry.

A snapshot of Nick's mother laying on the kitchen floor in tears permeated in his head and dissolved as quick as it came. A feeling of confusion. A fear boiling in the stomach. Child-like doom. She had sobbed words to him, a phrase he will die with.

These too vanished.

Judy, who was on the other side of the vehicle at this point, watched with concern on her face, but tried her hardest to stick to the situation and not let personal feelings intervene.

"Okay, Mr. Witmount. We had you clocked in at 35 over the speed limit. That, and you were speeding in a pedestrian area just inside the Nocturnal District.

That's a pretty hefty ticket, sir. I'll have it for you in a moment." "C'mon, this isn't fair!" "And you can contest this if you'd like, sir, at a judicial court of law. If you truly feel like it isn't fair, take it up with the judge and get it overturned." "Where do you get off?" Henry said in a near shout. "Fuckin' fox trying to fish for me? Are you fishing!? Is that what this is!? How many others were speeding back there? Everyone!" Nick shook his head. "Sir, you made it very clear yourself you didn't want to abide by the speed limit. No, we are not, as you say, fishing." Nick continued filling out the ticket, but couldn't help himself. Without looking up, he let ooze from his mouth, "Although…if you would like to let me know where this fishing hole is, I can get us a couple poles." Judy stifled a snicker that barely managed to escape her mouth. It was quick, and her professionalism returned without hesitation.

"What a goddamn joke," Henry said. "A fuckin' fox cop! What do you plan on doing exactly!?" "I'm just giving you your ticket, sir." "You tryin' to size me up? Is that it? I don't have to take this shit from you!" "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to calm down. I'll have your ticket for you, and then you can leave. You don't need to take your anger out on me. You were the one speeding." The coyote huffed and the loaded up for the big one: "You're nothin' but red meat, is all," he sneered.

Fighting words.

Canine dominance.

The moment shifted and everyone could feel it.

Nick's pen stopped scribbling. His dagger eyes, piercing and deadly, shot up to the coyote. Everything seemed to slow down at this very moment. Deep green pools, endless and all-encompassing—these eyes, the seers of pain, forever unending, were millions of years in the making, an evolutionary trait so imbedded in his fur that he could not help but let them be known to this harassing driver as a show of primal dominance because it was here in this animal kingdom that the weak were trudged upon and chaos ensued. No warnings, no mercy. He saw it every day. And now it was here. He slowly took off his aviators and the driver, seeing that Nick looked even more serious than he had before, even more serious than the coyote thought initially thought possible, only slightly recoiled with the faintest of jerks with his head when he stared into the eyes of the vulpine. They were hypnotizing. They breathed a past of destruction and street-toughness and torment. Like a silent battle for territory, like animals feeling one another out and then declaring victory, the coyote had just raised the white flag with that tiniest of recoil motions. He had just let Nick know that he would keep his maw closed.

Broken furniture clouded Nick's mind. A whisper. A jerking motion.

A phrase he would die with.

It would take a simple swipe of his claw to disfigure the coyote sitting before him. Nick knew that's all it would take.

His hand, which was on the verge of trembling with unfettered rage, rose, but all it did was hold out the ticket for Henry. No swipe. No retribution. Cool and calm, like Judy had said in the past.

Think of Judy.

Henry gently grabbed the ticket, keeping his eyes pinned on Nick's, and then turned his vehicle on.

"Good day, officer Wilde," he said in a monotone voice.

"Good day, Mr. Witmount," Nick repeated in just as colorless of tone.

The Subaru Forester took off with modesty and with it the speeder. Without looking at Judy, Nick walked back to the police cruiser and she followed suit, just as Nick had requested. She looked very pleased, although there was a slight wash of concern as seen by her nose involuntarily twitching, the whiskers gently flowing in the slight morning breeze.

Nick tossed his pen into the middle console and ruffled his scruff with his paws.

He sat in silence, contemplating what had just occurred. His aviators were now hanging on the collar of his shirt and he rubbed his paw over his forehead as if a headache was brewing.

"Nick…" The voice was velvet soft. His medicine.

"Yes, Carrots." He felt a small and delicate hand lay against his shoulder and gently squeeze it.

He looked over to see his partner leaning toward him, her face gentle and accommodating.

"I'm so proud of you." He looked down to his lap and nodded.

"You couldn't have done anything better. You kept your cool. He was a complete ass, and you beat him. You beat him by doing the right thing." Nick sighed. He patted Judy's paw with his own, a gesture he hadn't quite thought out but did nonetheless. She welcomed it without a glimmer of hesitation.

"Thank you." Her paw left Nick's shoulder and her smile caused Nick to try and adopt his own.

It was hard, but he managed it.

Judy, now pleased more than ever, started the police cruiser and they took off to continue their route.

The rest of the shift proved to be fairly lackluster with the exception of four or so other traffic stops and a run-in with a human hitchhiker, whom they had the grace enough to transport to the nearest district, and during most of that time, the two best friends returned to their talking, jesting, and in some cases play-flirting, the latter which pleased Nick the most. They recounted the time Nick nearly sprayed mace all over his own face after having first been introduced to the concept of using such a device, and then when Judy, during a physical training session, kicked the living shit out of Samuel McKendry, a wolf colleague with a pension for exercising and the one officer everyone at the station could say for sure has a borderline unhealthy competitive spirit. They laughed during their reminiscing at how she had received a barrage of hoots and hollers after taking him to the ground, and it wasn't until after the battle that she was called Firecracker Hopps by some of the other co-workers. As these memories were relived, as they gave each other jabs and little smirks and nicknames only two close friends could, Nick had to fight the urge to go deep, to go back to the place where it all started. But the thought was there. It just couldn't be flung away. It had been the coyote that spurned this urge on—the coyote doppelganger of his long gone father, a man in which was cloaked in enigma and mystery and regret.

It hurt him deeply to think that there were things in his head that occasionally chipped away at his foundation and have still succeeded even after 24 years; they were things he had never had the pleasure of discussing openly with any other animal, even Finnick or Judy, and the bottled up negative energy was stinging at times.

The thumping of the cruiser making its way through the Zootopia Police Department indoor parking lot jolted Nick back to his body. He could see other officers exiting their vehicles, some entering to leave for the night shift, and among these were groups of people he considered semi-friends, notably Marcus Fields, a tall and somewhat bulky Siberian Husky with cool blue almond shaped eyes and a nearly snow white muzzle save for the triangular grey and black pattern of fur that edged down nearly in between his black eyebrows. He was chatting with a group of officers he normally socialized with, two being humans, and as the cruiser passed them, he gave Nick and Judy a quick two finger raise in a gesture of greeting. Nick replied back by doing the same, briefly contemplating whether or not he would be coaxed into an outing of some kind tonight; their shift would switch to "night crawler" as of Monday and they had all of the next day to fend off any hangovers or mentally squash mistakes made throughout the party hours. While Marcus made it his business to invite Nick to various outings and would consistently make idle talk while in the precinct, he was met with half-and-half of those requests. Nick simply had a difficult time letting people in his life—his past experiences and past profession deemed it necessary to do so, a fact he has come to conceive not so true in the force. Kinship and brotherhood to your fellow police family required closeness; without it, you may end up dead. It was a difficult thing to explain to anyone, but he felt Marcus of all animals (excluding Judy) understood.

As the car came to a halt in their designated parking spot, Nick let out a sigh.

"Score?" he said, fatigue cloaking his voice.

"6-4…Nick," she said in imitated disappointment.

Nick just nodded, a feign smile on his muzzle.

"But," she started, "I think after your marvelous performance this morning, we can count that as 10." "16-4, huh?" Nick chuckled.

"16-4." They looked over at each other and were silent. There was something in the air, something that built upon itself perpetually. It could be felt by either and they did not know what it was, but it was acknowledged in the muteness of the vehicle through their eyes. It was acknowledged in the way they did not feel awkward sitting with nothing else to say. But as always, it dared not evolve. The keys jangling from Judy's paws were what cut through whatever was happening.

"So…" she began, "I know you look tired, and so am I. It's okay if you help me out with those book cases some other time." "No. No, it's okay. I'm fine. I'll be there right after I change. Just wait for me in the lot." "You sure?" "Yes. I'll count it as my work out for the day." "Okay," Judy smiled.

She opened the door and got out of the cruiser.

"Oh, and Nick," she said.

"Yea?" "You really did do a fantastic job today. You weren't kidding when you said you were working on being better. I was so impressed." He pointed two fingers at her like pistols and make a clicking sound with his tongue. "Thanks, Carrots." She giggled and closed the door before making her way to the offices where she would get washed up and discard her uniform.

Nick sat for a long while in the car and thought of implosion. He thought of how easy it would be for someone else to take another life and how easy it would be for someone to abandon another animal. His trepidation of closeness, he now knew after thinking over for so many years, was all thanks to one individual, one individual he still could not concretely imagine other than hearsay. It had left a family in tatters and resulted in a single mother spending half of her life searching for answers in the pleasures of drugs, alcohol, and spontaneous sex. It had brought with it little guidance for a young vulpine, and so he had to create his own dreams. He had to rearrange the pieces to his liking. And these pieces, now, were not fitting together so smoothly. There was only one thing in his life at this moment that brought him a sense of completeness, and it was no longer in the car.

Not Now.

Deeper.

Down there. Now.

Nick obeyed and looked down at his clasped paws and they slowly opened. The world seemed to swallow him whole at that very moment.

A flash of his mother laying on the kitchen floor in tears.

A phrase he will die with.

In the darkness of the room, as Nick had sat at the top flight of stairs, she had cried out though sobs, "In the end, we're all left with nothing."