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Thursday, May 5th, 2016 09:27 am
The end of this particular story

Exorcist Blues (Wilde Spirit Remix)

Summary: Judy Hopps wants to be the first exorcist in a long line of rabbit mediums. But this is a dangerous ambition in a Zootopia were the spirits of animals don't move on after death. Judy will have to deal with guardian spirits, dark spirits, and worst of all, fox spirits.

Or: A Zootopia remix in which Judy Hopps is an exorcist that specialises in hunting dark spirits. And Nick Wilde is dead, but not gone.

Spoilers: Entire movie, since this is a remix
Rating: T
Genre: Gen
Warnings for: Supernatural elements, mythical beings and vague references to the Chinese Taoist religious system. Implied off-screen character death.
Disclaimer: Not mine as I'm not smart enough to think of the collars storyline.

Chief Bogo was looming over Judy again.

Judy kept at her wards. If he wanted ot chew her out over those, she deserved it, but she wasn't going to volunteer for punishment.

"Very thorough work Hopps.

Judy's ears shot straight up at the startling remark, and stayed that way as Chief Bogo continued. "You've worked elements of your surroundings into your wards. The weaving is intricate, and you added a trigger instead of leaving it up all the time."

Then he tapped the ward and the entire thing disintegrated.

"There's no aura in this. It's an empty husk. I know you're capable of better Hopps. How would the public have any confidence that we'll be able to keep spirits away from the living?"

Even though he'd praised her, Judy felt as if she were being chewed out. Neither did she like the reminder that they had to put up wards to keep the departed separated from the living. It felt like she was enforcing what her mother faced at the fair. It felt like they were proving Nick right.

"Hopps - "

She braced for the command to head back to house calls.

"Walk with me."

"Yes sir - what?"

Chief Bogo had not waited for her response before heading off. Judy hurried to keep up. The Chief wasn't striding as usual, but he still was able to cover in one step what Judy needed to cover in a few. They walked in silence for a while. Judy was curious what the Chief had to say, but didn't want to demand an answer.

"Regarding the missing mammals, I thought you were going to over-promise and under-deliver. Instead, you've done the opposite."

That... was another compliment. The day was getting stranger and stranger. "Thank you sir."

"However. If you intend to continue surprising me, I would prefer if you did that through your success. I have no interest in learning how spectacularly you intend to crash and burn." He stopped in front of a meeting room, and gestured to the door. "After you Hopps."

Figuring he wouldn't give her house calls after his roundabout inspiring spiel, Judy opened the door of the meeting room to find Bellwether waiting for them inside.

"Mayor Bellwether has your next assignment."

"Next assignment?" Bellwether had no documents with her, leaving Judy guessing as she took a seat across from the new Mayor. Chief Bogo joined Judy.

"Yes Judy! As I'm sure you know, spirits have had a bad reputation in Zootopia, what with all the unrest they've caused. Even after we abolished collars, they just wouldn't stop! We were thinking with the latest set of spirits going dark, it would be good for the citizens to know they have someone they can trust."

Judy found herself recalling how cold Nick had gone after she betrayed his trust that she missed a good bit of what Bellwether's speech. She wrenched herself back to the present just as Bellwether said, "That's why we'd like you to be the public face of the ZED."

"No." The response had been a knee-jerk reflex, but now even though Judy had time to think about it, she stayed by that answer despite the disbelieving stares it brought her.

Bellwether was the first to recover. "But Judy, don't you want to make the world a better place?"

"I do want to make the world a better place. But I think I broke it instead. That's why I don't think it's right for me to want to do more."

"If you're feeling nervous we can make some sort of deal," Bellwether pressed.

"No more deals." Judy took hold of the strap of her sword and unbuckled it. Chief Bogo had asked for the right thing at the wrong time. She should have given up her sword before she'd made all these mistakes. Now she lay her sword on the table. "I'm resigning from the ZED."

Even though it wasn't a fair day, Judy found herself running a stall of her own.

"Here's your missing rake," she told her neighbour. She'd been enthusiastic when she first started, but now she just let the thanks wash over her.

"I don't think there's a single missing thing left in the county," Dad quipped, as he and Mom came by to wave farewell to the neighbour.

"Great." Judy sat back down and watched her siblings packing produce for delivery under the watchful eye of Great-Uncle Albert. There was a time when simple chores and being surrounded by family both living and departed would have delighted her, but she found no joy in it today.

Dad tilted Judy's chin up and peered into her eyes as if he was checking her over for illness. "Dad?"

"Jude. Jude the dude, you remember that one?"

Whatever reaction Dad had been looking for, Judy's blank expression was no tit. Her Mom cut in, "Judy is everything alright?"

"Just fine."

"But your ears are droopy."

"I'm just wearing a hat Mom. It's hot. I'll go help with the carrots."

"Hazel and Peter are on that already. But if you're sure you're fine, remember your classmate Gideon?"

"Gideon? Gideon Gray?"

"The very same! He's with Aunt Martha now. Maybe it'll do you good to talk to someone your age."

"When did he get to know Aunt Martha?" Judy wondered. "And what's he doing?"

"Baking pies," said Gideon, by way of explanation. He had appeared with a tray with slices of pie on plates. "Sorry to interrupt. Mr and Mrs H, have some of the latest batch."

"Don't mind if we do." Dad took a slice and bit down. When Gideon had stopped being swarmed by hungry rabbits, Dad said around a full mouthful, "You're really putting new spins on Martha's old recipes."

"She's the master. I'm just learning what she's willing to teach."

"Don't listen to Gideon here. He's starting his own bakery."

"It wouldn't be possible if Missus Martha wasn't willing to teach me and you weren't so kind to sell me the produce from your farm." Gideon held out the tray to Judy. "Hi Judy. It's been a while."

"It really has been." Judy took the last plate on the tray, and helped herself to a forkful of pie. "This is really good!"

"Judy adores Martha's pies," Mom explained. "If you've even managed to win her over, you've done well."

"That's great to hear Mrs H. Especially since she's got no good reason to say anything nice to me." He turned over his now empty tray in his hands, worrying both at it and his words. "Judy, I'd just like to say I'm sorry for the way I behaved in my youth. I had a lot of self doubt, and it manifested itself in a form of unchecked rage and aggression. I was a major jerk."

Judy found the corners of her mouth lifting at the unexpected, sincere apology. "I understand. I know a thing or two about being a major jerk."

"Who made my Judy think she's a major jerk?" Great-Uncle Albert piped up from where he was resting in the tree above.

Before Judy could assure him she deserved it, someone else beat her to it. "She was in Zootopia a good three months Hopps. Who's to say she wasn't a major jerk to someone?"

"You want to get out of that tree and repeat that to me again?"

Gideon huffed a sigh and called up, "Gramps Gabe, could you get out of the tree?"

The Gray ancestor waved his nine tails as he gave the simple question much deeper thought than it required. "No. I'm keeping an eye on you."

"And don't start on me too Bonnie. I'm keeping an eye on him."

Judy exchanged shrugs with her Mom. MOm decided to take her plate of pie to Great-Uncle Albert, leaving Judy to settle things with the Grays.

Well if Gideon could apologise, so could Judy. "I'm really sorry about threatening you with a sword when we were kids."

"We were just kids - "

"Don't let her worm her way out of this one Gid. She's a Hopps. She knew what she was doing."

Judy looked up at the Gray ancestor and met his glare. "Yes. Yes I did. And I'm sorry for that."

The only sign the Gray ancestor was still paying attention was the constant flicking of his many tails. Finally he said, "Does your cheek still hurt?"

"No more than it should."

"I could remove the scars."

And that was as close an apology as anyone would get out of any ancestor. Judy grinned up at him. "Thanks very much Mister Gray, but I ought to take responsibility for whatever Iv'e done."

He grinned at her too and Judy realised maybe apologising wasn't that difficult a thing after all.

"Kids! Don't take shortcuts through the Datura stramonium!"

Hazel and Peter fumbled with their load, but managed to detour around the purple flowers.

"Now there's a four dollar word Mr H," Gideon chuckled.

Mister Gray had gone back to being disinterested. "Be easier to just call them Nighthowlers."

Judy and Great-Uncle Albert started, but for entirely different reasons. "Don't go teaching them the nicknames spirits use Gray," Great-Uncle Albert rebuked. "Words have power."

"Knowledge is power." The Gray ancestor gestured at Judy. "Look your kit doesn't even know what that is."

"Well they know well enough to stay away from it and that's all that matters," said Dad. "I don't want a repeat of what happened to their Uncle Terry."

"Yeah," Mom agreed. "Terry ate one whole and his aura went an awful black just before he went completely nuts."

"He bit the dickens out of your mom."

Suddenly the pieces were all falling together. "What happened was he went dark."

"Dark? That's a strong word."

"Factual if you considered his aura. That as pretty dark."

"Dark is what we use for spirits of murderers and thieves."

"Well it'd have been murder if he'd gone for your neck instead of your arm."

Judy dashed towards the truck parked nearby. Now she knew Nighthowlers weren't wolves but flowers, the news had to get back to Zootopia. Besides, she also had an apology to make.

Once Judy had gotten the location from Finnick, it was easy enough to find where Nick was. The location Finnick had directed her to was a nice place for a grave - surrounded by green in a rare quiet spot in the city, well-lit by the noon sun now directly overhead. Judy felt Nick's aura as she was crossing the bridge over a dried up river. "Nick!" she called out as she dashed towards the source of the aura. "Nick! Nighthowlers aren't wolves, they're plants toxic to spirits - "

She trailed off as she got closer to the river bed. She had imagined Nick's grave was by the river side, perhaps under some willows. But the sides of the river were untouched by shovels.

She stepped onto the river bed, where running water that dampened spirit aura used to flow. She didn't want to, but she looked beneath the bridge.

Where the running water would have crossed under the bridge before the river had dried up, Nick's aura was thickest. She followed his aura down into the cool darkness. Unmarked earth shifted beneath her feet. Kneeling, she felt the ground and couldn't look away from the truth anymore.

This, here, was Nick's grave.

This was a grave for murderers and thieves; for the darkest spirits that couldn't be allowed to move on, only contained. This was even worse than imagining Nick being buried in his collar. Faced with the injustice Nick had faced, that Nick continued to face, that Judy had unthinkingly been a part of, Judy wept.

"If you're here for a pity party Hopps, you can leave right now."


Nick had manifested by the head of his grave. This was the Nick Judy had left behind at the press conference - aura held in tight and cold and distant. Absently she noted his tie was pulled in tight to give him a more formal look.

"Why did they do this to you?" she asked.

"Weren't you the one teaching Spirit Power 101? People expect foxes to be dangerous spirits. It doesn't matter whether we're stealing souls, eating livers or seducing others. We just have to be contained.

"But you're not a murderer."

"And I was a convicted murderer too. Sorry sweetheart, I'm the dark spirit your parents probably warned you about. So hop along."

A more ignorant Judy Hopps would have left at this point. This Judy Hopps stayed her ground. "What actually happened?"

That left Nick blinking at her, and his aura briefly unfurled in surprise. He soon pulled everything back in. "Someone was mauled to death in my speakeasy. I was moving the body so the children wouldn't see it and the police jumped to conclusions. You should know something about that."

It had been easy enough to acknowledge to someone else that she had been a major jerk. It was a lot harder to do that to the one she'd really hurt.

"If you're not walking, I am. Good day."

"Wait!" Judy called after Nick's retreating back. "I know you'll never forgive me, and I don't blame you I wouldn't forgive me either."

That stopped Nick at the edge of the tunnel. Now Judy had started, the apology came out in a tumble. "I was ignorant, and irresponsible, and small minded. But neither you, or any other spirit, should suffer because of my mistakes. I have to fix this. But I can't do it without you. And afterward, you can hate me - " And it hurt Judy to even think that, and made the tears start anew, but Judy had to let NIck know. "And that would be right because I was a horrible friend, and I hurt you, and you can walk away knowing you were right all along. I really am just a dumb bunny."

She was too busy listening for the moment that Nick would walk away that she didn't expect her own voice to come back at her. "I really am just a dumb bunny."

Just for good measure, Nick played it again. "This is a pretty useful gift," he quipped as he twirled the pen. "Don't worry Carrots, I'll let you delete it in 48 hours."

Despite her tears, Judy found herself smiling. Nick had gone corporeal again and when they hugged the hug was solid and comforting as was the sphere of his aura, no longer held in tight.

"You bunnies, so emotional," he said, patting the top of her head. "Very good. Deep breaths. And don't try to steal the pen. You gave it to me, no take backsies."

They left the quiet green place and Nick's grave. Judy had to fix things, but in order.

Getting Weaselton to squeal about the buyer for the Datura stramonium was easy, especially when Mr Big agreed to apply the pressure. Under threat from a vampire, Weaselton gave a location and a name - Doug.

"So what's the plan?" Apparently Hopps produce wasn't just tasty to Bunnyburrow spirits. Spirits didn't exactly chew and digest, but if they passed through food they could enjoy the taste and smell. Nick had been in the blueberries a few times already, and she'd spotted him tucking away a few now. The carrot pen was also suspiciously missing too.

"We find this Doug at the abandoned train station and see if we can get evidence of the Nighthowlers to Chief Bogo. If the effects on the spirits are proven, we can show they were under duress."

"Like being charmed, only for spirits."

The plan sounded easy enough, especially when they got to the protection spells on the train station. The wards were like those at Cliffside, right down tot he same unique finishing twist. Judy wouldn't be surprised if they were made by the same person. Without wolves keeping watch nearby and the similarity in the wards, Judy was able to make short work of them.

The train car that they found didn't seem to need those level of wards. Just to be sure, Judy cast a glamour over herself and Nick.

"I thought it was just the effect of running water, but this is tingly."

"Shush, this isn't a full on shield. They'll find us if they're looking hard enough."

They made it over the tracks and to the door of the train cart without any hiccups. Peering in, they found rows and rows of Nighthowlers growing in trays. In plant form, they didn't seem too intimidating and had no discernable aura. What seemed more dangerous was the ram on the far end of the car, using his shoulder to keep a phone to his ear. He didn't have an obvious aura that suggested spirit powers, but the horns on his head were still intimidating.

Trusting Nick's power to keep the ram looking away, Judy eased the door open. When the ram didn't turn, she ducked under the trays of Nighthowlers. Even with this proximity, they didn't have any effect on her aura. She glanced at Nick, who was sticking close to her, and found his aura seemed fine too.

Together, they crept closer to the ram to listen in on his conversation. "Look, I can hit anything, even a cheetah," the ram was boasting to whoever it was on the phone. Even with her rabbit hearing, Judy couldn't hear what the person on the other end was saying from the cover of the final tray of Nighthowlers. She turned her attention to a setup any apothecary or chemist would have been jealous of. While listening to his caller, the raw threw more plants into a press. That had the knock on effect of adding more dark purple juice to a complicated set up of tubes and flasks, including a round bottom flask over a flame. The ram turned a knob to fill a glass bead with the processed juice, and briefly ran it through the flame to seal it.

"You give me a target and I'll get it done. See you on the news." The ram hung up on his caller and packed the glass bead and a dissembled gun into a suitcase. Some banging on the door Judy and Nick had come in from made his stop his processing of packing and head to answer the door.

Now was Judy's chance. She left the cover of the trays, trusting her glamour to keep her protected.

"Whatever you're thinking, stop thinking it! Carrots!

"I need evidence."

Nick nabbed the suitcase. "Ok, we got it."

"No, we need all of this." Judy pushed through the doors opposite to where they'd come in from. Needing to keep within the cover of her glamour, Nick followed.

"Are you a train conductor now?"

"No. Just a very lucky rabbit." Judy flicked switches as she explained. "I need to get this entire setup to ZED so they can check if there's anything special about the arrangement of the plants or the apothecary's setup. There's no effect on aura now, but testing might turn up something."

"That's if you can get this train car to move. It'll take a miracle to get this started. Even with our auras, my power can't - "

Judy pulled on the handle that controlled the speed and the train jerked to life.

"Well, hallelujah."

"Don't sell your powers short. I don't think you've even maxed what you're capable of."

"Not everyone's had formal training, Exorcist Hopps." He suddenly looked to the back. "Uh oh, incoming!"

He slammed the door shut on the ram's attempt to headbutt them. THe force made the lock fall neatly into place.

"As I said, don't sell your powers short."

"I still think the suitcase would be enough evidence - " The ram chose to smash into the glass window of the door just then. He was too big to fit through, but the yelled threats weren't helping Judy's concentration.

Or the shouting could be just a diversion so Judy almost missed another ram that had somehow gotten onto the roof of the car and had burst in through the hatch on top. The newcomer jostled Judy for the controls. Judy really wished she had her sword, but she settled for kicking the ram in the face.

Nick started to slow the train down. Judy took the brief reprieve to observe the tracks. "Keep going at full speed!"

"We'll crash!"

"No we won't."

"Rabbit, if this is the vines thing all over again - "

"Just do it!"

Nick cranked the speed, and Judy angled her binding spell such that it threw the ram she had kicked in the face onto the switch for the rails. The ram on the other side of the door pulled himself free and chose to jump out after his friend. That left Judy and Nick facing the brick wall of a sealed off station.

In unison they leapt from the car, going the opposite way from the very solid brick wall. A good thing too - the train car exploded barely a moment later.

Judy's ears flopped straight down. "I've lost all the evidence."

"You would have. Except you just happen to know a fox spirit with some tricks." Nick held up the suitcase with the Night howler pellet and gun.

Judy didn't know if she had been leaning on Nick's powers that heavily, but their train had crashed just below the Natural History Museum. The ZED headquarters were just across the square, putting them in almost the right place. They just had to get across the darkened hallways of the museum.

Perhaps it was Nick's luck that they didn't even have to do that. "Judy!"

"Mayor Bellwether!" Relief had Judy slowing her steps as she turned ot face the sheep. "We've found out what's behind the spirits going dark! We have the evidence here."

"I know you could do it. Why don't you give me the suitcase?"

Judy had gotten this far by trusting her rabbit senses. Although she was looking at the bright open face of Bellwether, Judy realised all this time she had not actually been able to read Bellwether's aura. She held it close, just as nick had immediately after the press conference. It seemed she just plain didn't want anyone to know her emotions. Besides, coming straight from Bunnyburrow, Judy found the lack of spirits - any spirits at all - around Bellwether in this less formal situation was disconcerting. Instead she was flanked by heavyset rams in exorcist uniform that looked like they could given oxen and horse exorcists a run for their money.

"We'll just take this to Chief Bogo." Judy turned back to the exit facing ZED only to find yet another ram blocking that entrance.

In the darkened hallway of the Natural History Museum, a ball rang out clean and clear.

Nick's aura faltered. "Judy - "

Without thinking twice Judy took hold of his paw and shared her aura with him as she pulled them into a run again. Each time the bell pealed, Nick flexed his claws in Judy's grasp. "Judy," he grit out. "Just leave me. She's a medium with a bell. I don't think I can fight her control."

"You don't have to. Let me do the fighting." Judy knew she could. Her family was in the same line as the Bellwethers after all. She anticipated the next ring of the bell, and flared her aura at the same time as its peal. This time, Nick did not flash his claws.

"Judy! Why are you fighting me? We're the same kind!"

It wasn't worth the breath needed to argue the appalling untruths in such a sweeping generalisation. Judy stuck to running, even as she despaired at the length of the hallway. Why wasn't she at the end yet?"

"We're from spiritually powerful families in a world terrified of spirits. And yet we're overlooked, underestimated... Aren't you sick of it?"

Bellwether rang her bell again, but Judy didn't just flare her aura. She sacrificed some of her attention for a brief shield. Let Bellwether think of something to counter that.

"If the world is inherently unfair, why shouldn't we stack the odds in our favour? Why shouldn't we be the ones in control?"

Aura flared like a struck match, followed by a crack. Two cracks really. Judy felt her leg give way as Bellwether snapped Judy's leg like a twig.

She fell hard, with the suitcase making an uncomfortable cushion for her landing. Nick stumbled over Judy, then righted himself and tugged her into the shadows that he closed around them like curtains.

That was how Judy managed to see the voodoo doll with rabbit ears in Bellwether's hands. With a broken leg and no way of travelling back to the past to prevent Bellwether from taking fur samples any of the times they had met, there was nothing Judy could do about it. "Just consider us now," said Bellwether. "You and I both know I could snap you in half with this doll. That's what control is all about. Just as the Nighthowler serum is the right solution to a chaotic world. Yet you throw in your lot with a spirit? Is that spirit really worth it? Or do you plan to be the saviour for all spirits? Why? Is that how you plan to take power? With admiration? You don't have to bother with all that! Look at how things are working out so well for me! I even had you working for me Judy, when all this first started."

If Bellwether was as good a medium as Judy thought she was, their window for escape was closing. Judy tuned Bellwether's speech out and focused on what mattered. "Take the suitcase. Leave me," Judy grit out around the pain.

"Ha. Funny you should say that Carrots, when you just refused to elave me earlier."

"You can disappear with the suitcase and get it to Chief Bogo."

"Or I could deliver it straight to Bellwether once she goes back to that bell. Without you I don't stand a chance." He pulled the handkerchief from wherever he had hidden it and sent blueberries rolling all over as he wrapped it around her leg. "Blueberry?"

"Pass," Judy groaned. "You can't carry me all the way to ZED. Keeping corporeal will cost you concentration in fighting her."

"Long distance running is not part of my skill set." He opened the suitcase and popped the glass bead into Judy's pocket. "Luckily, tricks are. Cottonball back there seems fixated on this." He held up an assembled gun and some blueberries. "Are you up for a hustle?"

Judy grinned as she guessed at Nick's plan. "Am I ever."

"That's the best case scenario. If she decides to break more than just your leg, if I really go dark - "

"We'll think of something. We always do."

He loaded the gun. "Oh and since she's such a yakkity yak." He tossed Judy the carrot pen too.

"Nick Wilde, you are a mammal after my own heart."

"Let's hope she's dumber than I was. Upsy-daisy."

Judy tried not to think about what it was costing Nick to hold himself so solid he could take enough of her weight for her to stand upright. Instead she asked him, "You ready?"

"No, probably never, but let's do this." Nick drew back the shadows like curtains on a play.

They attempted a heroic dash that probably was more of a hobble, but that didn't matter. One of the sheep tossed off a binding spell hard enough to throw Nick and Judy into a pit displaying a diorama of the distant past. Judy felt around for the weak point in the binding spell and snapped it.

"Impressive," said Bellwether, still attempting the earnest act despite looming at the edge of the pit. "Your mother taught you all that and didn't teach you how to use a bell?"

Judy stood as well as she could on her one leg, ears up, back straight. She didn't need confidence when she had conviction. "Unlike you, I'm not interested in having pet ghosties."

"All that defiance and power still leaves you down there while I'm up here."

"You can't use that voodoo doll or bell to get rid of me. The exorcists will be able to find your aura."

"That's one of the few things you are right about. But I have a more elegant solution."

Judy thumbed the recording button of the pen in her pocket. "The Nighthowler serum? The exorcists will still be able to find you."

"Judy Judy Judy. I've been using the serum on spirits for months and the exorcists haven't been able to find a thing." This time Bellwether's smile chilled Judy to the bone. "They won't know about your little friend here too."

Bellwether had already fired before Judy could attempt a shield. Bellwether's aim was true, and even though Judy knew what caused the stain across Nick's neck she still felt a true flare of panic. Nick dropped to the ground, Judy following to make sure he had indeed been just hit by a blueberry. This close Judy could tell the roiling in Nick's aura was from him, not the berry. "Nick! Fight it!"

"But he can't help it, he's just the type of spirit that's capable of violence!'

"If that's what he is then why do you need to dart him with the Nighthowler before anything happens?"

Nick shoved Judy away at that moment. To Judy's own surprise once Judy was out of range Nick let his aura go jagged at the edges.

"I suppose the spirits need a bit of help. I didn't think he was capable of that just looking at him. Oh no, I'm so scared. I think I'll call in the exorcists."

Judy didn't bother listening to Bellwether's call to ZED. She was more interested in Nick tapping powers she had been aware he had, but he had never showed. This time when Nick let his aura flare Judy could feel the teeth in it. His two tails lashed as he dropped to all fours. He was all sharp edges now - sharp ears sharp claws sharp teeth. This was the vengeful spirit that couldn't be allowed to move on, that had to be buried six feet under running water under a bridge. This, here, was what others feared.

But Judy found she wasn't afraid, not as she had been during the fight with Ms Manchas. Now she knew Nick had every right to be vengeful yet chose to play with words and tricks. Now she could see past Nick's aura, a deep green so close to black, to the spirit behind it.

At that moment, Judy felt that she was the one capable of violence instead.

Bellwether was buying into their hustle. "I can see the headlines now," Bellwether was saying. "Hero exorcist killed by dark spirit."

Judy tossed off a binding spell to delay Nick and give Bellwether more rope to hang herself. "Mammals are already scared of spirits! What do you get out of this?'

"Judy, spirits are just an outward sign of how broken the world is. Once they're gone, we can see about putting things back the way they were."

Nick snapped the binding much as Judy had earlier. Judy threw a stuffed deer at Nick that he simply passed through. She found her back hitting the side of the pit and put up a shield.

"Spirits completely gone? Predators back in collars?" Judy demanded of Bellwether. Nick made a show of prowling around the shield as Ms Manchas had. "And that's supposed to leave you in power."

"That's the way the world was before spirits broke it. And I'll dart every spirit in Zootopia to restore that status quo."

They had got what they needed. But Judy, despite her rabbit senses, did not feel any aura belonging to an exorcist nearby. They needed more time.

The thing with fox spirits was that if there was even the barest change that something could happen, they could make it happen. Nick seemed to have decided what should happen now was for Judy's shield to shatter.

That left her open to the teeth now in Nick's aura. It hurt now like she had expected it to on the cable car platform back in Rainforest distract. Nick crunched bits of shield as he closed in. This was the closest that Judy had ever been to a spirit marked by violence. Yet all Judy could feel was a sense of pride that Nick's powers were capable of much more. Eyes closed, she ignored Bellwether's taunts and focused on Nick's aura that made sense through the pain. She offered herself up, and let go.

Without her aura, Nick's aura snapped shut around her like a mouse trap. His teeth were next, tightening around her throat. He had the strength to hold her up and help her walk. He could have snapped her neck with that same strength.

But he did not snap her like Bellwether had earlier. Instead he bit down just enough to be convincing, but Judy still breathed.

Judy probably should have screamed at the slight prick of pain. Instead she found herself laughing.

Nick let go with a sigh. "Carrots, you're ruining my performance."

Judy didn't explain how happy she was a proving Bellwether wrong. Instead she said, "I'm sorry but she is dumber than you were."

"You're right about that. I think we got it. I think we got it, thanks Yakkity Yak." Aura smooth again, Nick helped Judy to her feet and focus his strength on holding her upright. Bellwether, for once, was at a loss for words.

"Are you looking for the serum?" Judy made sure to ask with faux sweetness honed to perfect irritation on multiple siblings. "I have that right here. What you have there are blueberries. From my family's farm."

Nick on the other hand still had plenty of teeth in his smile. "They are delicious. You should try some. Or not, since you find spirits so frightening."

Bellwether's stunned expression morphed into a determined scowl. "You shouldn't have let me know you had the serum Judy. Now I can frame you just as I framed Lionheart. It's your word against mine."

"Actually, it's your word against your word." Judy played back the recording for Bellwether, feeling her grin grow wider and wider by the minute. "It's called a hustle, sweetheart. Boom."

Bellwether took a step back, but there was no window of escape left for her. The ZED had arrived.

Judy stepped out of the car and strapped on the sword she had taken off during the drive. She breathed in deep. Zootopia was fine and dandy, but the air of home was a lot better. The earth beneath her feet felt good too and grounded her nicely.

Nick was still in the borrowed car. "Remind me why we had to come all this way Carrots. We've got a perfectly good permit stating I'm your guardian. What's with meeting the folks?"

"That's just paperwork. This is tradition."

"Tradition to hang out in an empty field? Are you hiding your family under a stone somewhere. Or wait, is that why they call this place Bunnyburrow? You all live underground away from the light?"

Judy laughed. "Come out and see."

Nick left the dark of the car and blinked in the sunlight. "Hopps, how large is your home again?"

"We don't actually live all this way out, but we have been looking after this place for a long time."

Instead of facing a threshold, Nick looked like he was facing Mr Big again. "It won't seem so frightening in a moment." She stepped over to her family's side of the threshold, then gestured to Nick. "Nick Wilde, come on over."

He looked between her and the threshold. Then he reached for her offered hand across the threshold, held on tight and stepped over into Judy's world.

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5


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