"Then you flip the bucket over and pat the top just like this – there ya go! Then – ta-da! You have one of the towers for your sandcastle!"

Judy smiled as her four children marveled at the perfect tower of sand she had produced from the little blue bucket.

One year, four weeks, and two days.

It had been one year, four weeks, and two days since Valerie's death. To Judy it felt like it had just happened yesterday, but it also managed to feel like it had happened years ago, perhaps in a past life. She didn't have nightmares anymore, didn't have to remind herself to keep moving forward each day, didn't have to say "stop" aloud to prevent her negative thoughts from creeping in. No, she found that these things had disappeared once Valerie had. Now that didn't mean she didn't still feel the shockwaves of Valerie's actions in her life. There were times when Judy would catch herself staring out into the backyard through the sliding glass door, her mind empty and a strange hole aching somewhere in her chest.

Quite a bit had changed in one year. Another Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day, Easter, and Fourth of July had passed. Birthdays had also passed; Judy now thirty-four-years-old, Nick now forty-two, the kids now each five. Judy and Nick had also celebrated their anniversary marking one year since their marriage while also celebrating their anniversary marking nine years since their first case that brought their two individual worlds colliding into one another.

Both Nick and Judy had since returned to work following the official close of the case against Valerie. Judy had been welcomed back by her colleagues with a soft mentality, which she couldn't quite decide if she liked or not. The bunny had even received a medal for her "heroic actions in the face of adversity," as Chief Bogo had so professionally put it in his opening speech; another thing Judy couldn't quite pinpoint her feelings on. With this strange hole now aching somewhere in her chest, Judy had decided to slowly pick up on a routine of seeing the ZPD therapist, Itali Wolfard, though she didn't know if it was truly helping or not. After returning to work, the couple had also made the decision to willingly open themselves up to interviews and press conferences discussing the most popular case since the Night Howler incident, giving full disclosure on how Valerie had become so intricately involved in their lives and how bad the damage she had caused truly was. Judy had even surprised Nick – and the rest of Zootopia – in one particular interview with ZNN when she calmly stated that she was "still open to the possibility of having more children" when asked about her rumored miscarriage.

One year, four weeks, and two days later, it seemed that life had returned to normal for the Wilde Family. Following the kids' fifth birthday party, the family had decided to take a family summer vacation and return to the Canal District for a week in which they explored the busy stores, the Zootopia Space Station, and the sunny Beach of Zootopia.

"Again, Mommy! Do it again!" the children demanded of Judy, making her laugh as she happily complied to their wishes and began scooping sand into the bucket.

"Alright, I've got six snow cones here," Nick announced upon his return from the Snow Leopard's Snow Cones stand on the boardwalk.

Judy chuckled at Nick's dangerous attempt to balance six small plastic cups in his arms as the children abandoned their amazement in her sandcastle abilities and squealed happily at the sight of the flavored ice.

"Cotton candy for Violet, cherry for Robin, lemonade for Red, and green apple for Alan," Nick designated as he handed the children their treats, who each happily ran off to play under the two umbrellas the family had set up on the warm sand. "Blueberry for me, and carrot for the beautiful wife," he finished with a smile.

Judy returned his smile warmly as the fox sat down next to her in the sand and handed her a cup.

"Blueberry, huh?" the bunny joked.

"Carrot, huh?" Nick shot back with a smirk.

"You'd like it if you tried it."

"I highly doubt that, but it's cute of you to try."

A moment of silence fell between the couple as they enjoyed their snow cones. With the sound of the salty waves crashing against the warm shore, and their children behind them giggling as they played, the scene seemed to breathe a sense of comfort around them. After some trepidation, Judy nibbled her lip and let out a sigh.

"Do you ever view our life as like – oh, I don't know – maybe a movie? Or maybe a badly written book?"

"I wouldn't say badly written," Nick chuckled. "Maybe a little rocky with the constant ups and downs, the emotional pulls, and the drama, but we always come back for a fluffy conclusion."

"Do you ever take anything I say seriously?" Judy laughed as she teased.

"No, not really," Nick said in a melodramatic fashion. "My character was written to be too flawed, Carrots."

The bunny and the fox laughed as Judy threw a playful punch and Nick attempted to avoid it.

"You know," Judy sighed again as she turned her attention to the vast blue ocean. "For a long time, I wanted to blame someone for what happened. I wanted to blame you when Valerie first started threatening us. I wanted to blame the academy for not teaching me enough when she kidnapped me. I wanted to blame the ZPD when it took a month for me to finally come home. I wanted to blame the prison system when she escaped, and so on. All of this time, I've been trying to blame someone – sometimes others, sometimes myself – and now that it's all over, I could take the easy way out and blame Valerie for it all. In fact, I'm sure that's what everyone is expecting, or maybe even wanting, but what good does that do? Blaming her, or anyone else for that matter, doesn't change anything. Blaming her isn't going to make the scars or the bad memories go away, or-or bring back what we lost."

"I blamed myself," Judy breathed. "For things I had absolutely no control over, and all it did was make me feel alone, like I was lost, even though I never went anywhere. It always felt like this weird mixture of this feeling where I wanted to be angry and to just break things, and this feeling where I just wanted to curl up into a ball and cry until I couldn't cry anymore. Everything was so conflicting and confusing. Everything is still so conflicting and confusing."

"Like?" Nick asked gently, listening carefully as he urged the bunny forward.

"Well, like," Judy hesitated as she stared intently ahead. "Like maybe I don't want to be an officer anymore."

Their eyes met as the sentence settled uncomfortably between them, a slightly stunned look on both of their faces.

"Well, that was sudden," Nick finally said with furrowed eyebrows as he set his snow cone aside.

"The Chief offered me a retirement plan, Nick."

"Wait, he what? When?"

"I could stay at home with the kids," Judy reasoned, ignoring his inquisitions.

"But," Nick struggled. "You've wanted to be an officer since you were a kid."

"I think my wants have changed, Nick."

"What do you want now?"

"I want my family to be safe," Judy said softly. "I want to be able to come home and go to bed at night knowing our children won't ever have to worry about the monsters in the closet turning out to be real. I don't want to have to wake up to a strange noise in the middle of the night to find one of my babies in the arms of a murderer."

"Carrots, that will never happen again."

"Nick, we never thought it would happen to begin with."

Nick paused, his jaw briefly falling open to form a reply that never came. Judy reached out and took his right paw in her left.

"Nick, I'm tired of talking about the temporary solutions. We can double security around our home, we can move across the city, we can take a sabbatical, we can take desk jobs, but how long until we encounter another case that puts us in the hospital for the umpteenth time?"

"You're my partner, Judy," Nick said in a hushed tone, hurt in his voice. "I can't do this job without you."

"And you're my partner, but I don't think I can do this job anymore," Judy said while reassuringly squeezing the fox's paw. "Nick, I want to have more kids, but I will never take that risk again while in this job."

"Carrots," Nick began, catching a glimpse of the look in Judy's eyes. "…you've really thought this through, haven't you?"

"Not entirely," Judy chuckled lightly. "I'm not really sure just yet. It's a lot to take in. This may just be a phase of mine, but I'll be honest in saying I'm considering it. It's just so–"

"Conflicting and confusing?"

"Exactly," Judy laughed.

"Well, then we will figure it out together," Nick said with a smile as he returned the reassuring squeeze to Judy's paw. "And I will support you in whatever you decide, Darling."

Judy made to respond, to tell him how much she loved him, but the couple's conversation was quickly interrupted by their children now demanding their shared want to go swimming.

Though this tough conversation was far from finished, it could wait until later. After all, both the bunny and the fox acknowledged that their story – no matter how badly written – was far from over. There would be more family vacations, more anniversaries, more birthdays, more decisions, more laughs, more tears, more fun, more disagreements, and more love. Maybe there would be more monsters like Valerie to shake their world, maybe there would be more children to fill their home, maybe there would be more cases solved by the partnership of Officer Hopps and Officer Wilde to fill their memories, but for now they were just that – "maybe." The little couple had come a long way from their first encounter a decade before, a long way neither had expected but both had thoroughly enjoyed. The knowing when to quit, all of the muzzling, the shared secrets, their family and its beginning, their Wilde wedding, and their honeymoon – not to mention the hilarious yet regretful bunny espressos, the betting they did on each other, every time they had worked it out, all of their little firsts with their children, and the great conversations – it had all led to this blissful moment on a beach with their children.

With that, Nick and Judy merely shrugged and happily swept their children off to swim in the ocean's blue, leaving the "maybe" to be dealt with at another time.

Well, there it is!

It's crazy to think that I published my first Zootopia story in March of 2016, and it's even crazier to think that we're now here in January of 2020, almost four years later. During that time, I published twelve Zootopia stories, I posted over 100 chapters, and I wrote over 150,000 words, all of them meaningful to me and hopefully, meaningful to you as well. I knew my work wasn't complete until I compiled all of these stories and put them all in one place for my readers to access, and now here it is!

Thank you all so much for reading my Zootopia stories, for all of the reviews you have left, for all of the ideas you've given me, for all of your patience with me, and for all of your help in improving my writing and story-telling. Since my last published story, I have gone through and edited each of my previous Zootopia stories, so I always welcome you to read back through them if you want to view them separately.

Words really can't express my gratitude to each and every one of you. As usual, please leave a review to let me know what you thought of the story, and be sure to check out my profile, where you can favorite/follow me and find links to my social media! I wish you all the best in your endeavors and hope that life treats you well!

-Taylor (TatorTotTottish)