The sun had set in the skies of Zootopia as a nine year old fox ran excitedly to his destination. Tonight, his hopes and dreams were finally coming true. Tonight, he would set a name for foxes everywhere.
For so long, Nick Wilde had wanted to be a part of something, some sort of pack, but for just as long, he had been ridiculed just because he was a fox. Almost everywhere he went, mammals looked at him as if he was about to steal something from them. No one at school ever wanted to play with him and whenever he tried to join in on other kids’ fun, they either told him to leave them alone, or they left themselves. There was hardly a day that went by where the young kit didn’t come home crying.
His mother was honestly his only friend. She would listen to his problems, hugging him with every tear he cried. She would always reassure him that, someday, things would change for him. She had no doubt her son would change the way the world viewed foxes and would make her the proudest mother alive.
This was another reason the fox had decided to join the Junior Ranger Scouts. This would be one step closer to making his mother’s dreams a reality. He would make her just as proud as he was as he ran up the steps towards his first scout meeting.
As Nick entered the building, skipping two stairs at a time, he could hear his new troop talking downstairs.
“Guys, he’s coming!” he heard one of them say as he reached the stairs. He ran down them, a smile glued to his muzzle. This was it.
“Okay, Nick,” a beaver said. On his right were a hippo and a zebra and to his left, a moose and a horse. Nick stopped at the last step and beamed at the boys in front of him.
“Ready for initiation?” the beaver asked. The other scouts looked at him with smiles.
“Yeah, pretty much born ready,” Nick replied, doing his best to seem calmer than he was. He proudly strutted to the middle of the group, giving the zebra a double high paw. The other scouts gathered close, forming a circle, as the beaver snapped his fingers, signaling for the lights to turn out.
The darkness only lasted for a few moments before Nick found himself blinded by a bright light. When his eyes had adjusted a bit, he saw it was nothing more than the beaver, who was shining a flashlight in his face.
“Okay, now raise your right paw and deliver the oath,” he said with a smile.
Nick raised said paw, smiling once more. Even though he had practiced the oath in secret countless times over the past few days, he still stumbled a bit when he proudly stated; “I, Nicholas Wilde, promise to be brave, loyal, helpful and trustworthy!”
The beaver threw a quick glance at his comrades and his smile vanished. “Even though you’re a fox?” he spat.
Nick’s heart stopped and smile faded once more. Had he heard that right? “What?”
Suddenly the flashlight was snapped off as the wind was painfully knocked out of the young kit, making him let out a painful cry. The scouts crowded around him as two of them held him down by his arms, making it impossible for the poor young fox to get away. Nick became horrified as the boys now stared at him with contempt. Animals had treated him poorly before, but it had never been physical.
“What did I do wrong you guys?” Nick desperately asked as he noticed one of the scouts take out a shiny metal contraption. As it was brought closer to his face, Nick was horrified to discover what it was.
He had heard about them and seen pictures. He had even heard stories of other animals getting muzzled before, but never had someone tried to do it to him. As he continued to plea for answers as to what he did wrong, the horrible thing was placed over his mouth. It hurt as the cold metal pressed into his fur, even gripping his flesh. He cried out in pain as the scouts began to laugh at his misery.
“If you thought we would ever trust a fox without a muzzle,” the beaver laughed, “you’re even dumber than you look!”
Tears began to roll from Nick’s eyes. This couldn’t be happening. All of his effort for nothing? With every cruel laugh from the scouts, the kit felt what hope he had of joining a pack crumble away. All his hopes of setting a name for foxes, his dreams of making his mother proud of him were gone. Suddenly the lights in the room turned back on.
“Hey! Let go of him!”
Everyone in the room froze, turning to look towards the stairs where the voice had come from. Nick did the same as best he could since the boys were still holding him to the floor. Standing just a few feet from the end of the stairs was a gray bunny who looked about his age. Clad in a police officer costume, the bunny stared down the scouts even though every one of them were bigger than she was.
“What do you want, Judy? We’re in the middle of a meeting!” the beaver asked, sneering at the girl bunny.
“Yeah, sure looks like it,” the bunny so-called Judy shot back sarcastically. “What did this poor fox ever do to you?” she asked, gesturing towards Nick.
Wait, Nick thought, eyes widening. She’s taking my side?
“He’s a fox, you can’t trust him! You know what his kind is like!” one of the other scouts replied, putting extra emphasis on the words “his kind.”
Judy marched closer to the troop till her feet were mere inches from Nick’s head. “Just because he’s a fox doesn’t mean he’s bad! Now let him go or I’m telling on you!”
The boys all laughed. “You can’t prove we did anything! It’s our word against yours!” the beaver taunted with a smile.
The young bunny smiled and pulled something out of her pocket. “Oh yeah?” She then revealed the object in her paw. From what Nick could see at first, the object was nothing more than a carrot, until Judy pressed a button on it he hadn’t seen. The sounds of Nick’s recent desperate pleas echoed throughout the now deathly silent room.
“If you ever thought we would ever trust a fox without a muzzle, you’re even dumber than you look!” The object played every word the beaver had said right back at him with perfect clarity, along with some of the other scouts’ cruel laughter in the background for good measure.
“Actually, it’s your word against yours!” Judy retaliated. “Now let him go!”
Nick’s eyes grew wide once more as he quickly looked around the room. The once smiling scouts were now looking rather nervously at the still smiling bunny. The beaver then turned to Nick, staring at him with so much anger that the young fox could feel a tremor run down his spine, but with an angry nod from the beaver the scouts let him go. Nick sat up shaking and breathing heavily, tears still running down his face, when he felt a gentle touch.
“Hold still,” Judy kindly told him. The nine year old obeyed as he suddenly felt the horrible metal contraption removed from his face. As he rubbed his sore jaw, Nick turned to look at the bunny, who was now holding the muzzle in her paws. She smiled at him, nothing but sympathy and kindness in her eyes. He couldn’t help but offer a small smile in return, hoping she understood how grateful he was.
Judy then turned back towards the beaver, her kind smile disappearing. She took a few steps towards the scout. He was trying his best to look tough, but even Nick could tell he was nervous.
Judy held the muzzle out. “Put it on.”
Everyone in the room was silent. “What?” the beaver dared to ask.
“Put it on.” Judy repeated, raising the carrot pen once again in a silent threat.
The beaver looked like he was about to argue, but at the moment it was pointless since the bunny had the upper hand. The boy looked at her with hate before snatching the dastardly device and slipping it over his own head. It didn’t fit around his mouth and was more of an extension to his face, but it still got the message across. None of the other scouts said a word.
“Don’t pull anything like this again.” Judy commanded. She walked back to Nick, who was still sitting on the floor in shock, and offered him a paw and another smile. Nick took the paw and she pulled him to his feet.
“Come on, let’s get out of here,” said the bunny, who started towards the stairs. Nick immediately followed suit; he dared not look back.
The closer the two of them got to the steps outside the building, the more Nick processed what had just happened. This bunny- his ancient ancestors’ natural enemy- just saved him from a group of bullies who he had been convinced were going to be his friends. He didn’t want to think about what could have happened had she not been there.
“Thank you,” he timidly said when they exited the building.
The bunny smiled once again. “No problem. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, its animals with backwards attitudes like that. Just because you’re a fox doesn’t mean you’re a criminal or something.”
Nick’s ears stood up as his shock returned. “You really think that?” he asked.
Judy nodded then frowned. “I know what it’s like when others think you can’t be more than you are. I want to be a police officer when I grow up, but other animals tell me I can’t just because I’m a bunny.” She kicked a stone off the sidewalk and onto the street.
Nick pondered that for a moment. He had only known this bunny for less than half an hour, but she was quickly becoming one of the most incredible animals he had ever met. She single-handedly saved him from five Junior Ranger Scouts and got one of them to wear a muzzle just by using their words against them. She was the first animal he had ever met that didn’t judge him by what he was, but rather who he was. If those weren’t signs of a truly remarkable animal, he didn’t know what was.
Nick smiled. “I think you could be a cop.”
It was Judy’s turn to look shocked. “You do?”
He nodded. “Yeah! You’re really cool! The way you stood up to the scouts was awesome!”
Judy smiled. “Thanks… That really means a lot to me…” She then giggled. “Did you see the looks on their faces?” Nick couldn’t help but laugh as well.
“I’m Nick,” he said when they had finished laughing, offering a paw for her to shake.
The bunny smiled back, shaking his paw. “I’m Judy.”
Judy ended up walking Nick back to his house as they told each other stories. Judy told Nick how she had been at the building because an officer from the Zootopia Police Department- or ZPD- had been there that night to tell kids about his job and what they could do to make the world a better place. She had been just about to head home when she had heard Nick’s struggle down the stairs and decided to help him.
Nick in turn told her about his struggles with society and why he had tried to join the Junior Ranger Scouts in the first place. He was surprised at how easy it was to talk to her. He felt like he could tell her anything, almost as if they had known each other for years.
“I just wanted to be part of a pack…” Nick finished, staring down at the sidewalk. There was silence between the two of them for a moment until Judy gasped.
“You know what we should do?” she asked excitedly. “We should start our own pack!”
Nick’s ears perked up. “Really? But what if it’s just us?”
“Who cares?” Judy enthused. “We’re a fox and a bunny and we get along, right? If we could show the world that, maybe we could make them see that anyone- not just us- can be way more than what they are! No one has to be what everyone expects them to be!”
Nick smiled, getting excited himself. He briefly imagined his future with his new friend by his side. The world could become a place where not just foxes, but all animals could truly accept and understand each other. No one would be ridiculed for what they were, and that could start with the two of them.
Imagine how proud Mom would be… he thought.
“You really think we could do that?” he asked.
Judy nodded. “It’s worth a try!”
Nick’s smile grew as they shared a high paw. He was so glad he had finally found a friend. The pair walked on, excitedly talked more about what their newfound pack could do for a few more minutes before they finally reached Nick’s house.
“I have to go. I told my mom and dad I’d come straight home when I was done with the event.” Judy said.
Nick nodded. “Thanks again.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Judy replied and happily began skipping back the way the two had come.
“Hey wait!” Nick shouted after a moment.
Judy stopped in her tracks. “Yeah?”
“Do you want to come over and play at my house tomorrow? We could come up with more ideas for our pack!”
The rabbit beamed. “Yeah! That would be fun!” Nick smiled back.
Judy then continued to skip down her previous path. “See you tomorrow! Bye Nick!”
Nick waved after her. “Bye Judy!” he shouted as he slowly walked up the steps to his house. He stopped at the top one and watched his new friend round the corner.
The night hadn’t gone at all like he had planned, but strangely, at this point he was actually okay with it.
Nick opened his eyes to see that he wasn’t a nine year old kit again, but back to his adult form in his own apartment. He also realized that he wasn’t in his bed, but rather on the floor in front of his TV, which was glowing with the menu of the movie Pig Hero 6.
A small survey of his surroundings revealed quite a bit. The first thing he noticed was what, or rather who, was lying to his right. Still fast asleep was the very bunny he had just dreamed about. Her head rested on a pillow and she was half covered with a fluffy blanket. Her ears were drooped behind her head as she softly snoozed. The predator smiled. She looked cute when she was sleeping, though he wouldn’t dare tell her that unless he wanted to get punched.
Another thing he noticed was they were both lying on a makeshift bed on the floor. There were a few blankets surrounding them, one large and billowy one underneath them, and at least a dozen pillows, four of which they had been using for their heads. Near one of the pillows was an almost empty bowl of popcorn and a few empty soda cans and discarded chocolate wrappers.
It was then Nick remembered what lead to this. They had both been told to take the next day off when they left the ZPD that night since they alone had just stopped a rather complex bank robbery. While Judy had been against the idea at first, Nick had managed to convince her to accept the rare opportunity. They had both decided to celebrate their success in stopping the crime with a movie night at Nick’s apartment. They had gotten through Robin Hood, Foaltasia, two and a half bowls of popcorn, a few sodas and a little candy before finally falling asleep to Pig Hero 6.
Nick watched the bunny sleep next to him, reflecting on his dream. He smiled once again at his best friend. If only she really had been there that day. Maybe his past wouldn’t have ended up so checkered…
The fox shook those thoughts out of his head after a few seconds. Even if Judy couldn’t have been there then, she was here now, and he wouldn’t trade that for anything. She was, without a doubt, the best thing that had ever happened to him, and he really hoped she knew that.
Nick grabbed his cell phone, which was lying next to one of the pillows his head had been resting on. With a simple push of a button, the screen lit up (his screensaver being one of his many pictures of him and Judy) as the clock read 2:18 a.m. Grateful for the early hour so he could get some more sleep, he turned the TV off and lay his head back down on his pillow.
The fox looked back at his best friend, who still hadn’t stirred from her deep slumber. He carefully grabbed one of the corners of her blanket and pulled it back over her to keep her warm, stroking her long ears ever so gently. He then grabbed his own blanket and pulled it over himself as his eyelids began to grow heavy. Nick wanted to pull Judy closer to him, but he was afraid he would wake her up, so he simply draped a protective arm over her sleeping form.
“You’ll always be my greatest accomplishment, Carrots…” he whispered and fell back to sleep.