AN: I am so sorry it's been so long since I've posted. Life seems to get in the way often as it obviously comes first. Rest assured that this story has NOT been abandoned. I am still writing it, working on it, and will continue to update it into the future. I will get the next chapter out as soon as it's available for posting. To my loyal fans, I give you my deepest apologies. Now on with the chapter!
The hood was finally removed, and Nick found himself standing in an alley near the hospital. James smiled warmly at him and stretched out his paw.
"If you should ever need us for any reason, hit this button. It's a homing device that alerts us to any problems you might have. It's been an honor, Shadowpad."
The door to the van slid closed, and the van itself pulled away into the busy morning streets. Just another vehicle in the crowd. Nick took a moment to enjoy the morning air as he wandered around to the front of the hospital and slipped the small round button into his pocket. He stepped through the doors and started heading towards the room Officer Tommy Reynarks was in. Nick remembered quite well what room he had been put in, but he hadn't seen the fox in four days. He really hoped he had regained more of his memories.
His thoughts drifted back to what Anubis had said. Flowers had been sent here to the wounded officer. Who had delivered them? It bothered Nick to think that an assassin was in the same room, even taking into account their guiding edicts.
As he mulled this over, Nick reached the door to Tommy's room and quietly stepped inside. He found the young fox, still bandaged, asleep soundly. No heart monitors, and only a single IV line in his arm. On the table near the window, there were a few vases full of flowers. One set of roses caught his eye. Nick stepped quietly over and examined them. They were unique, with red rims around the petals, but their centers were black as night. They were very odd indeed, and Nick also noticed a card was attached. He opened the card and read it to himself.
Officer Tommy Reynarks,
We send well wishes for a speedy recovery and return to duty. You have our deepest sympathies for your injuries.
Moonlight guide you to health.
While any other animal reading the card would surely assume that GMA was some sort of corporation or mega company, Nick knew who it truly was. He didn't quite know how to feel about this.
"Wilde. It's good to see you."
Nick looked to the corner of the room to find Wolford rubbing his eyes as he slowly woke up. Nick smiled at his sergeant warmly. "Good to see you too. How is he?"
Wolford sat up fully and shook his head. "More and more memories are coming back. I can't explain it, but you foxes sure do seem to be anything less than frail. He's a tough kid. Still doesn't remember how it all happened, but he remembers most of the last two years. So once he is completely healed from his latest surgery, he'll be free to leave."
Wolford sighed as he stood up and put his paw on Nick's shoulder. "How are you though? I can't imagine you have slept much. So if I guess right, you are going on over 30 hours without sleep. Then there is the stress of all that has transpired."
Nick suddenly felt all the weight of what had happened over the last 24 hours fall upon him once again. The pain, the misery, the guilt, and most recently, the stress of being among the assassins that had been hunting him over the past week. He felt his posture go lax and ears droop as it all caught up to him in a rush.
He sighed heavily. "I think I'll need to sleep for a week after the past two days...I'm just worried about closing my eyes to have everything haunt my dreams. How...how's Judy?"
Wolford shook his head. "Well, she carries enough stress for all of us, and she's keeping the janitors of the ZPD busy with all the fur she has been shedding...and pulling out. First chance you get, call Lieutenant Fangmeyer and report in. She has Judy helping her with assignments since she's not really in a good state of mind right now. Kerava has been trying to help the poor bunny through all of this as well. That panther has a good heart, despite the deadly paws."
Both Nick and Wolford looked to find Tommy awake, his blue eyes locked on them. They went to his bedside.
"Yeah, I'm here bud, how are you feeling?"
Tommy smiled and blinked slowly. "It's not your fault...I remember it now...I remember why I was there and remember helping you off the floor. I was there because I needed to be, you needed me. I wasn't going to let her kill you even if it meant losing my life. It wasn't your fault."
Nick choked up for a moment but swallowed it down as he spoke, "Thanks Tommy. Glad you are getting along alright." He paused for a moment. "Hey, I have a personal question for you."
Tommy nodded. "Shoot."
"Have you heard from your mother lately?"
Tommy's face fell slightly. "No...I haven't seen her since I ended up in the hospital. I think it's strange that she hasn't contacted me or shown up. I'm beginning to worry."
Nick gathered a pen and paper and held it out to the young fox, who had been adjusting his bed so he could sit upright. Nick cleared his throat, "If you write down her address here, I can go check up on her if you like."
Tommy started writing, scrunching his brow while doing so. "Do you think something has happened to her?"
Nick sighed deeply. "I don't think so, no. However, the Shadow Cult has paid you a visit and left you flowers, and the Grand Master mentioned leaving your mother some too. If that is all the news she has gotten about you, I worry for her."
He handed the pad back to Nick with a serious look on his face. "Please, Wilde, check on her for me. Send her here if you can...I miss her greatly."
Nick nodded and started to leave the room, but as he reached the door, Wolford spoke up, making him stop for a moment.
"Wilde, don't forget to call the lieutenant. They need to hear your voice."
Nick nodded again and left the room. He checked his phone and found he still had enough battery life to make the call...plenty in fact. The Shadow Cult must have charged it for him while he was there...how considerate. He flagged down a cab and read the address to the deer behind the wheel. He nodded, then waited until Nick was buckled in before driving.
The Nocturnal District was a bit of a drive, so Nick had some time to make the call. He found his lieutenant's number, checked the time, sighed deeply and hit 'call'.
Lieutenant Fangmeyer had enjoyed being a lieutenant of the ZPD for the past year. It was a tough job, but for different reasons, and there was always something serious going on. One thing she enjoyed about it was keeping up with everyone on the police force. She was able to keep up on their well-being, speak frankly with them and let them know how they were appreciated for their hard work. She didn't care for the higher rank so much as the personal responsibility of all the other officers in the precinct.
The last two days, however, had been less than stellar. She had been trying to find things for her friend Judy to do; something, anything to keep her troubled mind occupied, but to no avail. She would work on filing papers before staring distantly out at nothing, lost in her own thoughts. When Fangmeyer gave the bunny a break of over an hour to get a nap in, she didn't sleep long, coming back after a half-hour to sit by the phone. The lieutenant had tried to share some of her sketches to cheer her up, and for a time it worked, but her mind always kept drifting off. Now they simply sat in silence.
They were beginning to lose hope. Nick had been gone since midnight. Almost 8 hours had passed since then, and when dealing with assassins, every minute counted. Fangmeyer looked up at the clock. 8am sharp.
She sighed, and then her phone rang, nearly making her jump out of her fur. She only let it ring once before picking up the phone. "This is Lieutenant Fangmeyer of the ZPD, how can I help you?"
Her eyes grew wide and a smile made it across her face as she winked at Judy. "Wait one minute, Officer."
She hit the speaker button on her phone and set the receiver back in its cradle. "Okay, go ahead."
Judy's ears shot up and tears silently fell as she heard his voice, "Right, just calling to check in, LT. It was a long...interesting night."
Fangmeyer nodded. "Yeah I bet. Did they hurt you, or threaten you in any way?"
Nick was silent for a moment. "No, actually quite the opposite. They gave me a new name and sealed our contract. Both myself and Judy are safe forever. They let me seal Kerava's contract too...I still don't want to talk about that right now."
Nick's tone made Judy look Fangmeyer in the eye and shake her head. She whispered to the tigress, "It's because our phones might be tapped. Don't mention anything that might suggest she is alive!"
Fangmeyer nodded and spoke towards the phone again, "I understand, Wilde...Are you coming back to the precinct right now?"
"No, not yet, I have a stop to make first...I'd like to request today off. I'm beat, need to sleep and think a few things through."
The tigress didn't hesitate for a moment, "Granted, get some rest, Wilde. Gather your thoughts and give us your report tomorrow..." She looked over at Judy, who had tears in her eyes, "Wilde, there is someone here who would like to speak to you."
Nick sighed on the other end of the line, and a few moments passed before he spoke, but when he did, he sounded tired, beat, and extremely depressed. "I...I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet. I just...I feel I don't deserve to speak with her. That I don't deserve her...not after the things I've done and put her though...Please understand."
Judy stood up on the chair and put her paws on the table, leaning in over the phone as tears streamed down her face. "Nick, please! I need to talk with you! I need you here! To know that you're safe! I understand why you did what you did, NICK PLEASE!"
Silence was the first response she got. After a few moments, Nick spoke, low and sounding beaten, "Go home after work. After your shift, no earlier...I'll be waiting."
The line went dead, leaving Judy soaking the tigress's desk with her tears. Fangmeyer simply scooped up her friend and squeezed her tight as she sobbed. Lieutenant Fangmeyer couldn't control her own tears as she wept for her friends.
Nick stared at his phone as the screen blinked 'call ended'. When the screen went black, he saw his somber reflection in it. The cuts, bruises and pain of the night prior. Tears dampened his fur as well. He put his phone away in his breast pocket and pulled Judy's wedding ring out. He sat there inspecting it in his paws, blood had stained it in places from where the single-set stone had cut into his face. His face throbbed from remembering each time she hit him. Fourteen times...she hit him fourteen times. The anguish she must have felt. Nick felt sick to his stomach and almost heaved. The driver looked in his rearview mirror at him.
"Officer Wilde, are you alright?"
He breathed deeply before looking into the mirror, meeting the deer's eyes. "Well, I've been better."
The deer nodded. "Well, keep your chin up, fox. So far there has been nothing you can't beat. We all believe in you and Judy Hopps."
Nick smiled at the driver. "Thanks bud...it means a lot to me...so much has changed in these past years."
The deer slowed the cab and came to a stop. "Here we are, Nocturnal District at 4570 West Nightingale Way. Your total comes to fifty even."
Nick pulled a fifty dollar bill out and handed it over to the driver before stepping out into the pleasant morning air. The streets were busy with animals heading home after a long night's work. Nick hoped that Chloie Redmane would still be awake at this hour. He walked up the well-tended path to the door of the home of Tommy's mother. He stood at the door, paw in the air for a moment before readying himself and knocking three times on the door. A few moments passed before the door opened, revealing a vixen wearing a blue sweater, green pants, and a cooking apron. Her fur was slightly dull, and her face was wet with tears. She must have been crying recently.
Seeing Nick standing in front of her wearing his cleaned and pressed uniform caused her to start weeping heavily and sink to the floor. Nick's face fell and his ears drooped back. He didn't waste a moment as he knelt down and put his paws on her shoulders. "Ma'am, please calm down and tell me what's wrong!"
She gulped air as she stammered out her reply. "He's gone isn't he? My son is gone! Why else would an officer show up?"
He couldn't understand why she would think these things, but maybe it had something to do with the flowers she had received and the note with them. He put his paw under her chin and brought her blue eyes to his, putting on his best smirk. "Miss, I assure you, he is quite well and recovering quickly. He sent me to check on you since he figured you'd have come down to see him by now. It's him who is worried about you."
She slowed her sobbing enough to be easier to understand. "All I got was a vase of roses and a note telling me he was seriously injured. I was afraid to leave the house and miss the officers that would bring me any news. So, he's doing okay?"
Nick started to help her off the floor. "Yeah, he is doing much better. I can give you details of what he went through if you wish, but I'm sure inside would be a better place for it."
Chloie nodded and sniffled a bit, but put on a brave smirk. "Yes of course, please come in...do you want anything to drink?"
Nick followed her into the living area as he replied, "No I'm fine, thank you."
He sat across from her on the couch, a small table separating them as she took up the large cushioned chair. On the arm was some knitting she must have been working on.
Nick leaned forward with his paws folded and elbows on his knees. "How much do you want me to tell you? Some of it may be hard to hear."
She picked up her knitting project and placed it in her lap. "Please, tell me everything."
Nick nodded and sat back against the couch. "Well first, Officer Reynarks came to my rescue. I was interrogating a suspect and she broke free and attacked me. His partner distracted the suspect while he came to check on my well-being and help me off the floor. Seeing his partner in danger, Tommy went to his aid." Nick sighed deeply before continuing.
"Unfortunately, he was struck hard in the head and went down. When he came to, he couldn't remember any of us. We got him to the hospital where they discovered the extent of his injuries. He had bleeding in his brain and a fractured skull. The doctor removed part of his skull and repaired the damage, and in a later surgery, it was replaced. He has been working hard to remember all he's lost, and it looks like he will be out of the hospital in a few days."
She took the news well, breathing deeply as Nick pressed on with one more question, "Would you like to go see him now? I'll pay for your trip if you wish."
Chloie smiled. "You must be Officer Wilde then? Tommy talks about you and his partner often. He always sounds happy on the phone when talking about all the officers and how they treat him. It makes my heart swell with pride, seeing him in his uniform and hearing about all the respect he has gained. I have you to thank as well. You painted us foxes in a new light for the city to see. Thank you, Officer Wilde...and yes, I think I would love to go to my son now."
The ride to the hospital was pleasant, and her fur had finally dried since she finally stopped crying. Chloie didn't say much along the way, but she constantly wore a faint smile and gazed out the window in deep thought. A few times Nick asked her if everything was alright, but she always answered the same way with, "Everything is perfect!"
The cab pulled up to the hospital and Nick paid as promised. He took her by the arm and walked her in. He could feel her fur heating up and could smell her stress.
When they got to the door, Nick turned to face her with a smirk, "Are you ready, Miss Redmane?"
She no longer wore the faint smile, but her nerves seemed to be getting to her. She breathed in deep, but then she heard the sounds of laughter coming from within the room. Instantly her smile returned and she pushed open the door, walking straight into the room. Nick followed with paws in his pockets.
Wolford and Reynarks were laughing hysterically at some joke they may have just missed and were still oblivious to the new animals in the room. Chloie simply kept walking and threw her arms around her son, who instantly stopped laughing as his face became one of shock. He inhaled her scent deeply.
She started crying, her face buried in his shoulder. "I'm here! I..I'm sorry I didn't come sooner!"
He threw his arms around her and hugged tightly. "Oh mom, I'm so glad you're here! I was worried sick about you!"
She sat up with tears in her eyes. "Yeah, just like my son; lying in a hospital bed worried about other animals!"
Wolford started to get up. "I'll leave you two alone for a bit."
Tommy stopped him. "Wait! Mom, I want you to meet someone very special. This is Officer William Wolford, my partner. Turns out we have a shared past. It's quite the story!"
Chloie looked at the wolf, giving him a warm smile. "Oh I have been waiting years to meet you, but I feel like I already know all about you! Please share the story with me, and stay for a while. I know what you mean to my son, so please stay."
Wolford pulled up a soft chair for the mother of his partner to be comfortable in and sat upon the stool himself.
"Well then, let me tell you of how your son became my partner. Not all of it is happy, but I'm sure the ending will leave you smiling...it's left me smiling for the past two years."