"How is my favorite wolf today?" Nick asked as he stretched his arms and let out a yawn.
"Uh Nick?" Judy responded over the frequency with hesitancy in her sweet sounding voice. "We met…you know what I am.."
"Oh sorry," Nick managed to get out after his yawn as he put a paw to his side and began to scratch at his fur. "You don't want to play our fun game anymore?" He looked at the walkie and waited for a response.
"I would be the sexiest wolf you ever laid eyes on!" Judy shot back which caused Nick to burst out laughing.
"Well you are already the sexiest bunny," Nick commented before adding, "Never thought I would say that in my lifetime."
"I just never really thought about it ya know," Judy said with a sigh over the radio.
"Well, its just a suggestion," Nick said calmly as he leaned back in his chair and watched the still billowing smoke clouds from the June fire raging. The hotshot teams had been doing their best to keep the fire contained but once it had split off into two large fires they had become a little overwhelmed. They were putting up one hell of a fight but Nick detected the panic in Judy's voice whenever they spoke of the fire. He had a feeling that the fire would be with them through the end of summer. Originally Judy had been confident that the fire would have died out in a week or so but once it split off and still maintained its strength she began to become wary on the subject.
"I mean.," Judy said with a hesitation. "I have been here in the forest service for so long. Its kind of a part of me ya know? Packing up and leaving it all for the city.."
Nick had brought up the topic of them a few moments before. For the first time since they had met face to face, it had been a serious subject. The summer would eventually come to a close and Nick's contract with the parks department would be up. He would have to return to the city soon. A thought, however, crossed his mind as he thought of the scenario once more. Did HE have to return to the city? Part of the conversation had Nick worried. Was this just a summer fling? What if when he asked if he should stay Judy said he should return to the city? Long distance relationships never worked out… Especially the one with..no it wouldn't do any good to dwell on past relationships. He had to stay focused on the present and maybe the future which he hoped at a certain gray doe in it.
"What if I stayed?" Nick went all in. How Judy responded to this would help him understand where they stood.
"You would….you would stay here?" Judy asked with a quiver in her voice. "Do you really like this job?"
"Well there is a certain part I love about this job," Nick admitted as he looked over his shoulder at Judy's tower.
"Nick I…"Judy began with the same hesitant tone. Nicks' heart started to beat sporadically as he waited to hear Judy's response. "I cant force you to stay.."
Nick felt his stomach begin to knot as his ears drooped. He couldn't respond right away though as Judy kept her side of the frequency open.
"If you did though.." The bunny began. "I um..I.."
Judy released her side of the frequency and Nick keyed up, "You would what?"
"No, it's not.."
"Its all about me though."
"You mean us."
There was a long pause and Nick held his breath.
"Nick if it was up to me," Judy began to say as a happiness returned to her voice. "You would have never been allowed to leave my tower the other day. I know what we have is weird. Not because of our species but because of literally what we have. Our relationship is so young and new, and oh so very sweet. I just don't want you to change your whole life on my account.."
"And if I ignored you and just did it all for me and my own selfish reasons?" Nick asked smugly.
"How would it be selfish?"
"Because you are the most amazing thing to happen to me and I …well I don't wanna even think of life without you in it," Nick said, his tone serious but full of a warmth that told Judy he was being honest with her about his own feelings.
"You realize we couldn't be firewatchers anymore right?" Judy said playfully.
"And why not?"
"Because there is no way I am spending another season of this back and forth on the radio!"
"What? I thought I had a voice made for radio," Nick chuckled.
"And a body made for cuddling!" Judy shot back.
"Oh gosh, that was so bad Carrots, even for you."
"Shut up, you are the one dating a bunny, get used to being used as my pillow," Judy said with a giggle.
"Dating a bunny," Nick said to himself as he looked back at Judy's tower, "and loving it.."
"How is my favorite kangaroo this morning?" Nick asked sweetly.
"No!" Judy shot back which caused Nick to the nearly fall out of his seat. "You have to be the kangaroo so I can cuddle up in that pouch of yours!"
"Males don't have the pouch.."
"Are you denying me my cuddle pouch, Nick Wilde?!"
"Males have the cuddle pouch," Nick corrected himself with hesitation.
As the days went on the two's relationship continued to burn brightly, just like the June fire which showed no signs of diminishing. Nick and Judy would joke about having her come visit his tower next time a ranger was free to cover a region. Judy, however, had been through a season with a fire before. The chances of a ranger being free anytime soon were slim to none. She then revealed some troubling news. If the June fire wasn't handled soon they could go the whole summer without seeing one another again. The thought caused Nick's stomach to knot as he tried to think of a way around it. Judy, however, was adamant that they continued their work. The safety of the forest came first.
"I don't see what the point is," Nick grumbled, his mood as of late starting to grow sour as he felt the withdrawal kick in. Maybe going to Judy's tower had been a mistake because now it was getting harder and harder for him to get up without seeing her bright purple eyes staring back at him. "I mean it's obvious where the fire is. Do they really need Two forks to be active?"
"They do Nick," Judy said sadly. "Now more than ever. If a sudden gust of wind carries embers across the region it could cause another fire. So Two Forks is needed more than ever. You may spot a fire as it starts. A fire that could cut off escape for the hotshot teams if not dealt with right away. Or maybe some campers who have been displaced will not think straight and start a fire of their own.."
Nick winced as he realized he was letting his emotions get the best of him. Judy was right on all accounts. There were still dangers out there for the whole forest and it was up to him and his fellow firewatchers to continue to remain vigilant.
"Two Forks important enough for two mammals?" Nick asked playfully. His tone brightening slightly as he looked at his mates tower off in the distance.
"Don't tempt me.."
"Because ever since you have visited.." Judy began but trailed off.
"What?" Nick asked anxiously.
There was a sigh over the radio before Judy responded. "Ever since you visited I have gone to the ravine…and just sat there hoping to see that gondola coming my way.."
Nick put a paw to his head. He was an idiot! The ravine! Now that there was no hiding who they were he could easily head to the ravine and look at her from a distance. Sure it wouldn't be the same as holding her in his arms as she nuzzled into his chest. It was, however, the next best thing.
"What are you doing for dinner tonight?" Nick asked slyly.
"Umm…probably steaming some carrots…why?"
Later that night Nick found himself sitting on the edge of the gondola platform. His paws dangling over the edge of the raised platform the bright yellow machine rested on. An open can of food sat next to him and a lantern which was currently turned off. The sun was still setting and casting the forest in a warm orange glow as it did every night he had been there. Tonight, however, he was especially grateful for the glow as he looked across the canyon.
On the other side of the large open area sat a beautiful gray bunny. She had taken up residence on the other gondola dock and was kicking her legs back and forth as she looked over in Nick's direction.
Even though they weren't together, paw in paw, Nick felt a great deal better as he gazed across the canyon at Judy. He wished he could just leap across the giant gash in the land and sit next to her. For now, though this would have to do.
"Gotta admit," Judy began, her mouth full of carrot, "Of all the dinners I have had out here…this is one of my favorites."
"What about the time we ate in your tower?" Nick asked playfully.
"You mean when you chased me around with that nasty beetle paste?"
"I thought you would like a bite!" Nick said jokingly.
"You stay on your half of the canyon there slick," Judy shot back over the radio.
"Who is gonna make me?"
The two shared a laugh as the sun continued to set in the distance. The colors all around them changed from a warm glow to a brilliant night as the stars shined brighter here than they ever did in the city. Sadly this signaled there time was up, both of them couldn't risk being away from their towers for very long. Especially with a fire raging off in the distance.
"Thanks for doing this Judy," Nick said softly as he began to pack up his things.
"Thanks for suggesting it. I mean I would love to be over there right now. This, however, was nice.."
"You heading back to your tower now?" Nick asked as he finished gathering his things and looked across the way at the small bunny in the distance.
"In a minute, just gonna sit for a minute.."
"I gotcha," Nick said as he took one last glance at his bunny. He felt if he didn't leave now they would be there for hours. He decided it was best just to get this over with and head back to his tower.
"Mmmm…hello beautiful," Came Judy's voice over the radio. Nick turned to look back at Judy and was slightly confused. "No…turn back around! I wanna watch that tail."
Nick couldn't help but let out a laugh as he realized Judy must have brought a pair of binoculars from her tower.
"Are you talking to me?" Nick asked, wanting to make sure.
"Hush up and turn back around…yeah..just like that. Hello, fluffy.." Judy said in a flirtatious manner.
"I am not a piece of meat," Nick shot back over the radio.
"You are some nice eye candy though.."
Nick couldn't help but let his tail sway back and forth as he strolled down the path.
"Gonna be dreaming of you tonight," Judy whispered into the radio.
"You talking to me or my tail?" Nick asked as he continued back to his tower.
"Little of column A, little of column B."
"Two Forks tower this is Ranger 16, Nick it's Delta. Please pick up," came a serious tone from the painted dog on the ranger radio. Nick couldn't help but look at the larger black radio with some concern. From how Delta had always spoken to Nick the painted dog normally seemed rather laid back. This version of Delta sounded serious, almost like something was up.
"Hey Judy give me a minute, Delta calling on the ranger frequency," Nick said and set his walkie-talkie down in its cradle so it could charge while he used the ranger radio.
"Tell him I say hi. Oh and I need a new puzzle book," Judy said with a giggle.
"Two Forks here," Nick said, using a professional tone that mirrored Deltas. "Whats going in Delta?"
"Nick you up for a hike?" The canine on the radio asked.
"Do I have much of a choice?"
"Trust me," Delta said coldly. "You are gonna wanna see this.."
"And what exactly is this?" Nick asked hesitantly as he stood up and began to prep his backpack for a hike.
"It's a long story," Delta responded over the frequency. "I don't think it's safe to discuss over the radio."
This really concerned the fox. What was it that would be so important Delta wouldn't want to speak about over the radio?
"Listen I am not trying to scare you. Everything is alright," Delta said quickly over the radio. "But you need to get to Wapiti station. You know where that is?"
Nick took a moment to examine his map. The Wapiti research station was not far from his tower. He had been told it wasn't so much a station as it was a science campground. Of course, that didn't do much to ease the anxiety building up in the fox's stomach.
"Yeah, got it on my map. Should only take 30 minutes or so.."
"Good," Delta said firmly. "Head on over. Me and the Rangers will be standing by.."
"Rangers? As in plural?"
"10-4. I will explain everything when you get here. And let's just keep this between us for now."
With that, the ranger radio fell silent. Nick stared at the device. Wanting more information or some kind of reason as to why he had to even go to this research station. He did, however, trust Delta and knew the painted dog wouldn't lead him into danger, Trisha maybe, but not Delta.
Nick took in a deep breath and reached for his walkie-talkie and headed out if his tower.
"So gonna go on a little stroll," Nick said as he keyed his mic.
"This have anything to do with Delta calling?" Judy asked. She was smart which made Nick wince as he realized he would have to bend his rules when it came to Judy. Delta had asked to keep whatever was happening between the two of them. Nick had no idea what was going on but he had a feeling if Delta had said something like that it was probably serious. To keep the all-seeing Judy out if things like this wasn't exactly an easy thing and Nick had a feeling Delta knew that.
"Yes," Nick admitted before tossing in a little bit of his own humor. "He finally professed his love to me. Sorry Judy but me and that handsome painted beast are eloping.."
"That bastard!" Judy cursed with a laugh. "First he steals my Trisha and now my Nick! That stud gets all the mammals I swear."
"It's the fur, gotta love the patterns," Nick chuckled over the radio, happy to distract Judy for a moment from the questions currently floating around in his own mind.
What was Delta up to? What could this be about? What happened at Wapiti Station?
Hey there Firewatchers!
Sorry for the short chapter. Short and sweet though right?
Some big things happening soon. Don't want to give too much away though. Just be ready for this rollercoaster.
Till next time.