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Sunday, June 26th, 2016 11:00 am
Summary: After being framed for a murder in his speakeasy Wilde Times 50 years ago, Nick Wilde has lingered on as a spirit. Judy Hopps, an exorcist set on finding out more about the past, is his chance of righting past wrongs, and uncovering the true cause of why collars were abolished.

Recipe for this fic:
Take the original movie concepts - collars, the 1960s, Judy chasing Nick through Little Rodentia, with more to come. Add to the actual Zootopia movie. Blend well, with a dash of the supernatural to spice.
Rating: T
Genre: Gen
Warnings for: Supernatural elements, mythical beings and vague references to the Chinese Taoist religious system. Lots of references to off-screen character death
Disclaimer: Not mine as I'm not smart enough to think of the collars storyline.


If Bunnyburrow was kind to Hopps rabbits, then Zootopia was kind to Nick Wilde. He'd felt his aura relax the moment he stepped onto the platform at Zootopia's central station, and entering the ZED HQ this evening hadn't changed that. So long as Judy's sword stayed strapped to her back, Nick was happy to consider whatever happened in Bunnyburrow as a fever dream.

"I didn't know you liked my report on Lynxington much to share it with the whole of ZED," he quipped after Chief Bogo had handed them their orders. If the Chief appreciated Nick risking the wrath of the Librarian by borrowing files to come up with that report, or relieved his star exorcist was still in one piece, it didn't show in the brusque way he'd handed Judy a map at the briefing and told her to catch up.

Judy on the other hand seemed to thrive on having work, never mind the less than stellar delivery. Her ears were perked in interest as she stared at the symbols marking the locations Nick had found, which was the only thing Nick recognised on the map. He hoped it made more sense to her than it did to him. "I should have asked you," Judy admitted. "I didn't want to give Lynxington and friends too much of a head start. We have been away for a while."

"Anything that stops Lynxington is fine by me. I just hoped we could claim the best places first." Even with his luck, he doubted he could wrangle any of those now. "So what's left?"

"Some place I've never been. Do you know Happytown?"

As far as Nick was concerned, Happytown had the same status as Officer Judy Hopps - only shared on a need to know basis. It would take too long to explain why to Judy, so he settled for his usual, "I know everyone and everywhere in Zootopia. You got an address Whiskers, or are we picking places by throwing darts?"

"Chief Bogo has a shift of exorcists keeping a watch on Lynxington's family in case Lynxington decides to return. We're supposed to call on them today for a more detailed check on the inside of the apartment."

"Are the Lynxingtons still there?" It wasn't Bunnyburrow so Nick still had a sliver of hope.

"There's an ancestor tied to that address - a Lysandra Lynxington."

Nick knew that name from his research. Apparently dark spirits had mothers too. He wasn't sure if she'd cooled with her transition to a spirit; she had written many impassioned letters to the ZED back in the day regarding her son.

"I'd have preferred the darts," he admitted to Judy.

"One day we'll convince Chief Bogo." Judy nudged Nick to alert him she was going to hop off their shared chair. It seemed today was shaping up to be a normal day at the ZED.

That was until they passed Clawhauser. "Oh oh Judy! It's dangerous to go to Happytown. Take this." He shoved some talismans across the counter to dangle off the edge so Judy could snag it with a hop.

Right now Judy frowned up at them. "Are you that sure we'll find Lyndon Lynxington?"

The part of Clawhauser visible when he leaned over the counter morphed from concerned to disconcerted. "Oh no the Happytown gig should be almost like house calls, but the thing is that houses when called on have mammals in them. And sometimes those mammals aren't that friendly to prey - "

Nick cleared his throat. "I'm a Happytown native Claws."

"No offense Nick, from one predator to another, but you know what I mean right?"

"I'll steer her right. Lynxington's close enough to the edge."

Judy snagged the talismans off the counter. "Thanks anyway!" She called up, and only shook off the rainbow sprinkles on the talismans once out the door.

Running around on official work meant they got to use the official cars, though Nick could have gotten there twice as fast on the ley. He'd survived the train ride from Bunnyburrow back to Zootopia without mentioning the conversation in the graveyard. He could survive this.

Especially when Judy changed the topic. "So what is this Happytown?"

"Take everything you know about Bunnyburrow and flip it on its head. Except for the medium part - we've always had those too, though less traditional than what Mrs Hopps does."

"So it's less crowded and there's more to do than stare at dirt?"

"Ha, that's the optimistic bit of it. You might find it a bit exciting after our trip to the boonies."

"Why haven't you mentioned Happytown before?"

"What's past is past. There's no one I know anymore that stays there - living or dead." He was glad to find that his parents had moved on. Happytown was not a place made for lingering.

At the red light she placed her hand on his arm. "You're always welcome at the Burrows."

He'd appreciated the sentiment long before Judy had given voice to it, but he couldn't help feigning surprise. "So all those visits to your home were just trial runs? I'm touched I finally made the cut."

She elbowed him, laughing and finally rounded the bend that brought Happytown into sight.

The graffiti was always the first thing Nick noticed about Happytown, a warning and a welcome all in one. It was mostly names and notes that only made sense to the creator. At this section, someone had made the effort to outline a pair of door gods bracketing one of the larger streets, though age and being doodled on had weathered them into ghostly outlines, especially under the harsh glare of street lights.

That didn't make them any less effective. "Drive down that street," Nick directed.

The static caused by crossing a threshold crackled briefly over the car, but receded once it found no ill will. Nick shook himself to make his bristling fur lie flat. Judy brushed through her ears.

"That's quite a threshold. Why is it there?"

"Happytown doesn't like outsiders much, especially those looking for trouble. But sometimes those who bother to ask the natives are given a free pass. So now others know we're here on official business."

"It would be nice to meet the medium that set these up."

"It's polite to call on Mama Odie. But she'll understand we have work to do first since Lynxington's digs are that a ways. You might want to park on this stretch now." Judy's ears curved towards Nick in a silent question. "It's like your Visitor's Way. Anywhere else is just asking for trouble."

By the time they'd parked and set off towards Lynxington's place, Judy's ears had gone ramrod straight and she was walking on the balls of her feet, ready to dash at any moment. Nick supposed it was a variant of what he felt in Bunnyburrow, except the watchful and curious eyes in the dark belonged to predators both living and dead than the land itself. The questions were similar: Who was this rabbit? Why was she here? (Who was going to get the short end of the stick - the rabbit or them?)

Extending his aura as Judy had done for him in Bunnyburrow was no use to Judy here, but it did serve as a reminder to those watching that he was Judy's guardian. Judy's shoulders eased, which was a good enough side effect anyway.

Between Nick's aura and Judy's sword, they made it to Lynxington's apartment block without any trouble. Lynxington's place was just high enough for the stairs to be annoying. Judy, having trained on the rickety stairs of her apartment, gamely bounced up the stairs. Nick took full advantage of floating.

Nick had expected ominous black aura or elaborate death traps or Lyndon Lynxington himself to challenge their approach. But their destination was just a normal apartment, its door matched with all the rest. Judy's hand hovered over the door with its peeling paint when she didn't feel any protective wards. At Nick's nod of confirmation, she rapped sharply.

As Nick felt the approaching aura, he had to quip, "Knock knock."

"Who's there?" The mammal behind the closed door demanded, right on cue.

Despite the eye glowering at them through the peep hole, Judy spared Nick an eye roll before going into Official Exorcist Mode. "Judy Hopps, ZED. We're here -"

Before she could explain the door flew open to reveal the lynx on the other side had her hands on her hips. "Look here, poster girl, if you think my grandma's going to join you in having her face plastered all over like your pet ghostie here you've got another think coming. The nerve of you to think we have nice words for the ZED after what you did to my uncle - "

For all that Judy looked wide eyed and gentle she could be amazingly hard when she wanted to be. "With all due respect," she cut in, her tone conveying the exact opposite meaning of the words she spoke. "Guardian Wilde is not a pet ghostie. And we're not here as part of any outreach efforts."

That knocked a bit of the wind out of the lynx's sails but she was still gruff when she shot back, "It's about my uncle then, innit? Your kind came sniffing around here a few days ago - "

"Lyra," someone called from inside the house. "Let the exorcists in, we've got nothing to hide."

Lyra narrowed her gold eyes at Nick and Judy, but stepped aside. It wasn't a full out invitation and was just enough for them to step across the threshold without future repercussions - for now. Nick felt the threshold shiver across his fur, a milder version of what happened with the door gods.

He didn't mean to notice the Singer sewing machine right off, but it was the exact same model and colour as his father's. He could still remember oiling the machine under his father's watchful eye -

Nick blinked and made himself refocus on the rest of the room. The differences couldn't be more obvious now. The apartment was filled with a mix of different things that had to belong to different mammals. There were three different chairs at the dining table, the throw cushions had striking geometric patterns that drowned out the soft baby blue of the sofa set they were tossed on, and the art on the walls had to come from at least five different art periods.

Lyra had thrown herself on the longest sofa, attempting relaxed disinterest in a stretched out slouch even though her eyes and ears were trained on the pair that had come in. Nick stuck by Judy, who had come to a stop in the middle of the hall. "Ma'am," Judy called out to the other mammal in the house that had addressed them. "Could you join us in the living room?"

"Just a moment." The bead curtain separating the deeper part of the house from the living room swayed briefly before Lysandra Lynxington ghosted through it to enter the living room.

Lyndon shared his gold eye colour with his mother and his niece, but his mother was stockier, and looked like she could give Rosie Riveter a run for her money in the guns department. Thankfully, lynxes were one of the smaller cats, and she didn't tower over them like most other mammals did even when she came right up to them. Lysandra still had to lean a little to get to eye level with Judy. "They do make you seem taller on the posters," she mused. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"I'm afraid we're here on the job ma'am. Are you Lysandra Lynxington?" Judy asked.

"That's me. So what does the ZED want this time? I always knew they were insensitive, but I'd never thought they'd do this."

"Ma'am?"

"Lyra is too young to know this, but the first time ZED came, they handed me a paper and asked me if I knew about what connection my son had with the mammals named on it. They asked me if I knew why he'd murdered them, including one Judy Hopps."

Distress crackled through Judy's aura. Nick placed his paw on the small of Judy's back, but spoke to Lysandra. "Ma'am, if Exorcist Hopps here had been the first to approach you after your son's disappearance, I would agree that the ZED had motives in sending her. But she was not. Exorcist Johnson and her guardian were here the first time, am I right?"

"Then why is she here now?" Lyra shot back.

"Exorcist Hopps is the best tracker in the ZED. Her sensitivity to aura is unparalleled. Ladies, your family member has been missing for almost a week now. His current company are two other spirits who are just as unfamiliar with the Zootopia of today as he is." Nick paused to survey his audience. Lyra had looked away from Nick and Judy for the first time since she'd opened the door, and Lysandra had straightened, as if she needed the distance. Judy's aura beat in a comforting cadence against the pad of his paw.

He went for the kicker. "For his sake at least, help us find him."

Lysandra too turned away as Lyra had. "He's not here. I don't know where he is."

"And that's where Exorcist Hopps comes in to do the hard work. Hopps, what do you need?"

"I'm sorry that I remind you of the events involving your son," said Judy, soft where she had been hard before. "But I'm not here to remind you of that. All I need is something that belonged to him that he might still have a link to."

"You mean you don't have to poke around every room?" Lyra demanded, all bristles and snark again. "That's what your other exorcists did."

None of Judy's previous fluster was showing now. Exorcist work was what she was most comfortable with, and she always had a ready answer for any question. This was no exception. "If Exorcist Johnson didn't find anything that way, I'll have to try something different."

"I think I might have something," Lysandra admitted, and ducked back behind the bead curtain.

Lyra had decided on studied disinterest of the two guests. Judy might be fine with standing at parade rest in the middle of the living room, but not Nick. He drifted around, getting a better look of the living room.

If the eclectic mix of furniture didn't reflect who lived in it, then the photos placed at random did. They were all showed various stages of age and dust, but in all of them happy lynxes smiled at the camera. Even Lyndon, recognisable from the placement of his spots, was smiling in a few of them too. That was a far cry from the lynx spirit Nick had seen in the miasma.

That made the reappearance of Lysandra Lynxington with a guitar less jarring than it could have been. The guitar was free of even the dust that was on the photo albums, suggesting someone still cherished it very much.

"This belonged to Lyndon. He used to play it to soothe his vibes after rallies. Said it helped him focus on what he was fighting for."

Judy inspected it without touching it, then asked, "Do you know any of the songs he used to play?"

"I'm not a guitar person. Perhaps your guardian could try."

Judy's ears curved towards him in question. Between the frivolous and the deep discussions that they'd had, somehow music had not come up. Nick hadn't talked about music with many. Once, his mother would ask him to play for her. No one had asked since.

"I haven't played in years," Nick admitted, even as he reached out for the guitar. Lysandra placed the guitar in his paws, faintly smiling as his mother might.

Someone had made an attempt to keep the guitar tuned, but not a very good one. Nick made adjustments as he picked out chords until things sounded right. He glanced around at the apartment. Looking around had given him a hunch, and he'd always trusted his hunches. Including the song that had just occurred to him.

He'd only made it to the second quiet chord when the house shivered around him. The array in the Lynxington house wasn't as apparent as in the Hopps estate but it awoke now at the vibration of a guitar string. Heh, lynxes and their vibrational perception.

He'd played this song often enough that he could let it just flow through his fingers and focus on the mammals around him. Lyra had relaxed enough to have half closed her eyes, her ears flicking in response to the music rather than trying to track Judy. Judy was moving, more to the eddies of aura than to the song itself. He could see the constellations in her aura as she made connections and tested them to see if any of them would lead her to Lyndon.

He made the mistake of looking at Lysandra exactly once, but that was enough. His fingers slipped off the strings and struck a wrong note. The array he'd been building was gone.

"I said I was out of practice," he remarked, and strummed a few notes to soothe whatever he'd unintentionally messed up.

Lysandra was no longer covering her mouth, but her eyes were still suspiciously wet. "How'd you know he liked that song?"

"Your son shares my good taste."

"Or it could be that foxes always make lucky guesses," Judy remarked, as dry as Sahara Square.

"Or maybe they're both in my nature. I just can't help being so awesome." When the room stopped vibrating, Nick paused his strumming. "Will that do, Exorcist Hopps, or do you need a full concert?"

"It wouldn't lead us to the right Lyndon Lynxington," Judy admitted.

Nick presented the guitar to Lysandra, who accepted it with both hands. Judy also bowed. "Thanks for your time Mrs Lynxington, Ms Lynxington. I'll let my superiors know we've done the sweep."

"Did - did that help? Could you find my son?"

Judy approached Lysandra to touch her on the shoulder. "Mrs Lynxington, the Lyndon you remember and this house remembers is not the Lyndon of today. If we find him, are you sure you want to know?"

"The Lyndon I know wouldn't have hurt anyone. I know he's probably not the same anymore. That's why I have to meet him."

They seemed to come to an understanding just looking at each other. Judy nodded. "I'll keep you updated then."

She stood and bowed again. Ms Lynxington inclined her head in acknowledgement, a paw stroking the guitar on her lap. That was how they left the Lynxingtons.

They'd barely stepped into the streets of Happytown when Judy started and almost collided with Nick. "What is that?"

On the wall in front of them a feathered serpent had been painted in greens accented with yellows. As Nick watched, the painted snake slithered behind some metallic words before dropping its head atop of a T to blink slitted eyes at them.

"Oh no. Carrots we gotta go."

On the word "go", the graffiti snake flared its feathers before slithering onwards. Nick hurried after it.

"Mama Odie is capable of that?" Judy exclaimed as she dashed to keep up.

"She's 197 years old, she's capable of anything. But I think it's the snake that's actually doing this."

This was setting the graffiti in motion so the words and pictures swirled in a riot of neon colours. Previously scribbled arrows helped spun the right way to point Nick and Judy in the right direction. Images bounced along with the snake. Words grouped and regrouped to form phrases Nick was too busy hurrying to read.

Finally the snake slithered around a squat apartment, winked at them, and faded into the wall. The rest of the graffiti rushed back to where it was.

"It's only 4 storeys," said Judy, as if she saw graffiti snakes disappearing into buildings everyday,and tugged Nick onwards.

Even with Judy's light steps, the wood of the apartment creaked around them like a tree swaying in a light breeze. None of the apartments they passed seemed to mind the racket, though Nick supposed the residents under the care of a medium would be too content to care about such things.

The staircase led straight to Mama Odie's door. They had scarcely touched the front step when someone called out from inside. "C'mon in! The door's unlocked."

Judy pushed the door open, even as static cracked over her paw as she did so. Here an invitation made the wards quiet but they were still active. Nick gestured for Judy to extend her aura and step in first. His antics met with a black stare. He gave up and tiptoed in, wincing all the way. Judy followed after, closing the door as she did.

Nick had to visit Mama Odie a grand total of once, maybe twice, and every time the jars on display got to him. There were far too many eyeballs floating in them. It was more comforting to focus on the bob of Judy's ears as she drew ahead of him. From their movement and how they were perked up, it was clear Judy didn't share his qualms in looking around.

He was focused enough on her ears that he nearly tripped over her when Judy came to a stop. "Is that Mama Odie?" She whispered.

"Yeah that's me!" The black bear exclaimed, and promptly walked into the corner of a table. "I don't have rabbit ears but I can hear pretty darn well. It's my eyes that aren't doing so hot." She tapped her dark glasses with a claw for emphasis. "Juju! Juju! Where are you you bad boy? You were supposed to make the introductions!"

The snake reappeared, minus the feathers and the paint and plus an actual snake body. Judy squirmed a little as Mama Odie cooed over her pet snake and kissed it right on the mouth. Using the snake's tail as a leash, Mama Odie picked up her white skirt and made her way towards an oversized rattan chair that she threw herself into. "Let's get a little more comfy." The snake pulled up a whole variety of chairs. Nick settled in the comfiest armchair. Judy settled on something that was closer to a footstool. Mama Odie wriggled her feet so vigorously they cracked. "You'll have to excuse us ladies prattling on Wilde. It ain't every day that the bayou and the burrows meet!"

"My mom's really the medium of the family. I'm just here doing my own thing."

"Your mama taught you some Grade A modesty right there. How's the fam?"

"We're doing really well, thanks for asking. We'll be busy soon - summer's coming on."

"I can tell! Your aura looks nice and plump now." The black bear pinched the edges, using finger pads instead of claw tips. "You ought to head back home more often. Your guardian won't be much use to you right now. Ha! What a choice! But you were never one for doing things the easy way."

"What do you mean, Mama Odie?" Judy wondered.

Nick cleared his throat. "In our defense, Mama, we don't know things like you do. The whole past lives thing was pretty recent."

For his trouble he was whacked over the head with a stick. "There are things that you don't need a pot of gumbo to figure out. That's what comes of hiding your head in the sand! Things would have gone a lot easier if you'd bothered to ask."

"I haven't been liking the answers I've got lately," Nick grumbled as he rubbed his sore head. This was why he usually didn't speak to Mama Odie unless spoken to.

"That's cause you ain't asking the right questions. That goes for you too girl."

"But Mama Odie, I don't have any questions."

"You telling me that with a straight face after all you been through lately? Sure you do! Just today, the door gods told me you were looking for someone."

"They're really fine work Mama," Judy agreed. "But we don't want to trouble you."

"Those neck deep in trouble shouldn't be troubled about troubling others. Y'all going to accept my help, or you intend to muck around trying to figure things out?"

"So you'll help us find Lyndon Lynxington?"

"Ah ah ah." Mama Odie wagged a finger. "That's a job for Exorcist Hopps and Guardian Wilde. No, I'm here to answer a more basic question: what do you need?"

"It's not finding Lynxington then."

"Spoken like the daughter of a medium. Go on. Dig a little deeper."

Judy stared down at her hands. "Am I doing the right thing?"

"Ah, one of the hard questions. But that ain't the question either. Questions of right and wrong are bigger than you and I."

"Someone's got to set an example."

"I knew you gave your mama headaches girl, but it's another to see it!" To Nick she said, "I don't envy you your job as her guardian either. So, you want to take a stab at figuring out what you need?"

He glanced at Judy and was reminded of all the unasked and unanswered questions between them right now. "I think we have to figure out how to go on from here."

"I always knew you were a smart one Wilde. That's the closest anyone's ever got, though it's still a bit off. It don't matter. You'll get what I'm saying when I tell you two this: hold on when you get love and let go when you give it. In your hearts of hearts, you know what's right."

Despite Mama Odie's assertion Nick wasn't feeling very smart in figuring out what that meant. He glanced over at Judy and got a shake of her head in response.

If Mama Odie knew they were completely confused, she didn't let on. "I gotta check on my gumbo. C'mon along then."



Later, fed with gumbo and having heard more about mediums than Nick ever wanted to know, he found himself and Judy back on the streets. He glanced at Mama Odie's apartment and when he didn't see any graffiti moving he asked, "Did you figure out what she said?"

"No. My mom always said that's because we're not ready to hear the answer yet."

"No offense to your mom, but that sounds like me pulling one of my cons." For that, Nick earned himself a punch in the arm. "Ow, someone's plenty awake for this time of night."

"We still have a few places to get to. The Johnsons usually stopped at the Zootopia University next."

"Ah, the Zoo."

"Are they really that rowdy?"

"Carrots, your Bunnyburrow roots are showing," Nick couldn't help crowing. "See, here in Zootopia we love our alphabet soup. Zootopia University is the ZU, and if you say that three times fast - "

Judy jabbed an excited finger at Nick, "You get Zoo! Because it sounds like it!"

"We'll make a proper Zootopian out of you yet." They reached the larger street, where it was more apparent night had completely fallen. "What do you think Carrots? You want to brave these dark streets?"

She fished out her phone and checked her GPS. "It's not that far."

"C'mon, let's show them what a big bad exorcist looks like."

If the watching eyes bothered Judy this time, she didn't show it in the way she strode ahead with her head up high. This was Judy on a mission. He suspected that she'd seen something during his impromptu concert, but she wasn't sure enough of it to voice what it was. Hopefully whatever was at the ZU would help her put it into words.

Happytown didn't sleep, but that was nothing compared to the ZU. Nick hadn't attended ZU himself, but he'd observed enough of the students when Finn had still been figuring out the best places to sell pawpsicles. Students zombied through their classes during the day to come awake at night. When Judy and Nick finally left the rows of dodgy student housing, they found the place humming with students going about their business. Not too far away was the University Library with its lights still pouring from all windows.

Judy strode confidently towards that, even though her uniform and sword made it clear she was not a student. Their presence attracted a lot of stares, whispers and camera phones.

"You know, you ought to make more appearances in full uniform outside of graveyards and deserted places."

"I'd never get any work done, and you'd be too busy posing for the camera."

"They haven't made a camera yet that could capture my full glory."

"You look fine enough on those posters." Judy nodded to one set left up from a past recruitment drive.

"Carrots, that is a classic example of a bad photo. My fur is dull and my eyes aren't green enough. I must say the pose looks good -"

"Keep posing and I'll leave you outside the library."

At this hour the Library wasn't staffed. Judy joined the students with their key cards, gaining access with a pin code scribbled on her map. Inside the library, tables and shelves warned for space. Most of the students were clearly in favour of the tables, heading straight to them to set up their laptops. That plus the hush made it seem like the last place to plan a revolution.

Nick and Judy headed towards the higher levels with discussion rooms lining the glass front that faced one of the lawns. These were filled with students too.

"That might be a problem," Nick commented as he saw how the presence of different mammals disturbed the make up of the library. If even he could tell, the presence of the students must be playing merry havoc on an aura level.

"I don't see any notes from the Johnsons."

"Thomson and Thompson don't know everything."

"Now that's just mean. The Johnsons more competent than them."

"It's a better nickname than J&J," said Nick. He had to agree with Judy on the Johnson's competence when they finally reached the right discussion room. "Ah, the old Hoof and Paw."

In the very last discussion room, someone had plonked a sculpture of the purported first handshake between predator and prey on the table. If the lump of metal depicting severed hands held aloof by olive branches didn't deter the students from using the room, the lack of chairs and the presence of lengthy educational material did the rest of the job. It was Judy who looked around this time, reading the exhibited write-ups on the students who had used this room to organise their protests with interest.

Nick drifted over to the window, unwilling to read about a Zootopia he'd lived in and the sacrifices that had changed it. "Now there's a sight to spark a revolution," he quipped.

Judy joined him at the window that overlooked the low tidy buildings of the university contrasted against the colourful sprawl of Happy town beyond. "Even though this was the first university to accept predators, it must have been a harsh reminder that the place they came from hadn't gotten any better."

"And that's why they dumped a sculpture in front of it. I don't suppose that hunk of metal they call art is what we're here for, even if it's better than the flat teeth sharp teeth logo they tried once, it made all the kids cry."

"That's not how any of them should be remembered!" Judy blurted. "They had family! They had friends! They - "

"Started a bloody revolution. With emphasis on the bloody."

"How can you say that after you met Mrs Lynxington? Look! See? See this? Does this look like a murderer to you?" Judy jabbed a finger at a nearby photo. Lynxington wasn't the main subject or smiling as widely as he had been in his family photos, but he was still different from the Lynxington they saw. Next to him, Roni was mid wave in trying to grab the camera's attention and smiling in a way that didn't give Nick the heebe jeebes. Otariids was grinning at a fuzzy shawl she was knitting. As far as photos of plotting a revolution went, it was decidedly domestic.

"It's the same thing you told Mrs Lynxington. The Lyndon from the photo is not the Lyndon of today. You should know that best."

Judy pulled something from her pocket. "I don't believe someone should be defined by something I can't even show their mother."

In the middle of the flannel cloth lay a long thin pin. Nick didn't have to be aura sensitive to tell this was one of the pins buried with Lynxington.
"The aura on this wasn't the aura we felt in his apartment or in this room. Whatever Lynxington is now isn't all he has to be."

"He could have been the cutest widdle kitten, but you've seen his aura now, you think he's gonna go back to that?"

"You went dark in Little Rodentia, but you came back."

Nick turned his back on the photo. "I'm going to pretend you didn't insult me by comparing me to Lynxington - "

"What's wrong with being compared to someone who tried to make a change to the world?" Judy made a broad gesture that encompassed the whole room. "Here's evidence of his activism - "

"Which he killed mammals over, or you wouldn't be here!" Nick hadn't meant to turn and snap at Judy, but the damage was already done - she had stepped back from him. "I didn't mean that reincarnation is a bad thing. I just meant that if Lynxington hadn't interfered, you'll probably be an old grandmother surrounded by kits."

"Officer Hopps and I don't seem to care much for the family way. I - I don't know why he killed my past self. But someone has to give him a chance to do the right thing."

"He's already made his choice when he started killing people. Murder isn't something you can come back from."

"He was shut in a box with more like this before he got the chance!" Judy brandished the pin.

"I hate pins as much as the next spirit but he was killing mammals even before he was shut away."

"Then shouldn't he be killing more mammals now after being buried with pins for so long? Something's not adding up here. Maybe he doesn't want to be a murderer any longer and he just doesn't know how."

"And why is that your problem exactly?"

Judy busied herself with keeping the pin away. Nick waited, arms folded, hoping that she didn't have a ready answer to that.

But this was Judy after all. She took a deep breath, then said, "The thing is, Lynxington was already a spirit when he killed my past life. The details surrounding his death are unclear, but - but I was there then."

"So you think you're the one who murdered him?"

"I've already made one wrong choice in that life Nick. Who's to say I didn't make more?"

Nick raised his paws to his temple, then gave up and dropped his hands. "So you're saying Lynxington murdered you because you got him first? Do you even know how ridiculous that sounds?"

"Well it is possible - "

"Newsflash Carrots, not everything happens because of you. Maybe it's time for you to step back and let other people do the work because you are clearly too invested in this story you've cooked up - "

"You didn't believe me about Officer Hopps, but it was true! You know what your problem is? You don't dare to face up to the past."

With that, Judy stormed off. Nick wanted to just let her go, make his way back to his grave under the bridge and forget about annoying rabbits. But knowing Judy, she was headed right back to Happytown in the middle of the night to keep searching. If Lynxington didn't kill her, that might do it.

Sure enough, when he caught up with her Judy was just crossing over to the bad side of the street. "Where do you think you're going?" he demanded.

"To find Lynxington and ask him exactly what happened, since I'm cooking up stories."

"Fine. Let's spin out your scenario. Say you do get to Lynxington and his oozing black aura and you say to him I can clean that right up! All you have to do is stop killing and live in peace and harmony with your fellow mammals! And he decides oh this rabbit I killed before would make a really good example of how much I don't want to change - then what?"

Judy didn't pause in her strides. "I guess I'll be dead and you'll be right."

"T-this is your life we're talking about here Carrots!"

"If that's the price I have to pay to doing the right thing, I'll give it."

"So you're going to offer Lynxington the same deal that you offered me in your family graveyard? For the supposed wrongs you've done you're going to give up your life? Well you can't go offering your life to everyone." Tired of her striding ahead of him, he darted in front of her to make her stop. Jabbing a finger at her for emphasis, he said, "Judy Hopps, your life is mine."

He'd meant it as a figure of speech. He'd forgotten that the offer she made in her family graveyard was still open.

His assertion in his own neighbourhood was sufficient enough answer to the offer she'd made. He could feel the new link forming between them. For a moment, Judy's narrowed eyes convinced Nick that she would protest, that she would challenge him on whether he really meant it and he could take back his words -

Then her shoulders slumped and she looked right him as she replied, "On my word."

Their new reality came crashing down around them. Nick tried not to flinch at his awareness of his new responsibility. "I think we did exactly what Mama Odie told us not to do."

"I don't know. Maybe you were supposed to hold on and I was supposed to let go." Judy sighed and the last of her anger seeped out of her aura and posture. "Am I allowed to look for Lynxington or do you still think it's a death wish?"

"I need to think about it." Nick was remembering Little Rodentia when he'd looked into the blue eyes of Officer Hopps. "But if it's the past we want to know about, I believe I have a package waiting for me."