Hello there, dear readers! I am super excited to be bringing to you the next story in The Door's saga, The Keyhole! I certainly do hope that you enjoy this next installment! And I would also like to say "thank you" to everyone for their kind words and enthusiasm. I never expected to write any story that people would enjoy, at least not as much as this! Now, on to chapter 1 of The Keyhole, the sequel to The Door!
The Keyhole (Chapter 1)
"And, of course, the lunches that are provided are varied based on the many different species," explained a lynx in a professional-looking pantsuit at a podium to the different parents and guardians present for the PTA meeting. In the auditorium, near the middle-most row of seats sat a little grey bunny, paying rapt attention, while sitting next to her was a red fox who was very clearly bored out of his mind.
"Why again are we here, Carrots?" Nick mumbled under his breath, knowing full well that the rabbit could hear him just fine.
"Because it's important for a child's parents to be more active in their education." Judy whispered back her reply.
"Okay, fine then, but why'd you have to drag me along? We're not married after all."
"Need I remind you about a certain video still getting views on FurTube? Besides, you care just as much about Eli as I do." Nick rolled his eyes, but still sat up straighter, a smile at the corners of his muzzle. He rested his paw on Judy's much smaller one, and she looked up, smiling brightly. The fox and bunny couple drew a few looks of surprise from some nearby mammals, but for the most part interspecies couples were not an uncommon sight. Granted, a fox and a rabbit was perhaps the least common, though. The principal continued on with a few more points and issues before it was time for the parents to begin meeting with the teachers. As Nick and Judy waited near the exit of the auditorium, they heard an excited voice.
"Hello, Judy! Is that you? Oh, indeed it is!" a small white mouse in a yellow sundress called out. Judy watched as she dragged a middle-aged male mouse, his fur grey, towards their location. Judy immediately recognized her as the mother of Eli's friend, Big Mike.
"Hi there, Isabella!" Judy said, nodding to the grey mouse whom she assumed was Isabella's husband, having yet to actually meet him before. Her suspicion was confirmed when he strode forward and offered his tiny paw to shake, which Judy complied with.
"Isabella's told me quite a bit about you, Mrs. Hopps. I'm Bryson Musculus." Judy introduced herself and Nick as well. "And I take it that you must be Mr. Hopps?" the mouse asked the fox. Nick took his outstretched paw.
This is going to be a long PTA meeting... he thought to himself.
"Alright now, everyone, just clear off. Eli may be bigger than the rest of us, but that still doesn't mean that he's a jungle gym to climb all over." Thomas, a teenaged bunny, said to all of the kits currently clambering over Eli as he sat stark still on the couch, afraid to move for fear of accidentally hurting someone. There was a collective groan of disappointment as all of the young rabbits slid off of the human boy and to the floor, dispersing to explore their aunt Judy's house, with some of the older ones keeping an eye out to keep their younger siblings out of trouble. Thomas, the oldest kit, smiled up at his younger cousin.
"You okay there, Squirt?" he asked, using the term of endearment he used for Eli and all those younger than him. Thomas' parents, Judy's sister Olivia and her husband Charlie, had finally decided to up and move to the big city a month earlier. They both had to return to Bunnyburrow, however, to sort out a mixup with the moving company, leaving all of the kits under Thomas' supervision, on the same night that Nick and Judy were both attending the PTA meeting.
"Uhm, yes," Eli said. Thomas smirked and hopped up to sit down next to his new cousin.
"Y'know, if you're ever uncomfortable with them climbing you like that, all you have to do is speak up."
"...I just don't want to hurt anyone's feelings..." Eli replied.
"Your feelings are important too, Squirt," Thomas said gently. "Put it back." His tone was flat and brooked no argument. Eli looked up to see that Thomas had not been addressing him with that last part, but instead three of his little brothers who had been trying to sneak by with a hammer, which they were all carrying together as it would have been too heavy for the tiny kits to lift individually. They groaned again and went to put it back.
"So, how's about you stick by me and together we keep everybody from destroying your and aunt Judy's house before she and Nick get back, okay?" Eli smiled a little and nodded. He followed his cousin's lead, having to catch a kit who had somehow gotten on top of the ceiling fan. The little bunny girl in her purple dress squealed in delight from Eli's hands.
"Again, again!" she called out.
"No, Penny," Thomas said.
Later that evening...
All throughout each meet and greet with the different members of the faculty, Nick had surprised Judy with his sudden enthusiasm in keeping up with how well Eli had been doing in some areas, and where he could use improvement in others. The fox had even made some suggestions that several of the other mammals around them had seemed to agree with, including several teachers and the principal herself.
Judy let out a little giggle as she watched him speaking with a few fathers, with Bryson on his shoulder, before turning back to her previous conversation with Isabella.
"I never actually expected for there to be so much to get involved in," Judy said as she looked down briefly at the pamphlet of all the different PTA projects being organized this month.
"Oh yeah, most of the parents of this district definitely don't need a lot of convincing to get more involved with their children's schooling," the little mouse woman chirped excitedly, sharing Judy's enthusiasm. "Of course with Mikey it's not just school, he's also got his Ranger Scouts meetings."
"The Junior Ranger Scouts?" Judy said, having a vague memory of the name. Isabella shook her head.
"Oh no, the Junior Ranger Scouts were disbanded about a decade ago, not that I would ever let Mikey join them."
"Oh yes. There were allegations of rampant specism directed towards predators, and then several scoutmasters were caught on camera saying some really specist things themselves. After that, parents stopped letting their kids join, followed by some lawsuits, and in the end they simply disbanded."
It clicked in Judy's mind where she had heard of the Junior Ranger Scouts before, and she looked over to Nick, who was wagging his tail as he discussed something with an opossum teacher.
"I see. So then these Ranger Scouts, there's been none of that?"
"Nope, and Mikey would have told me himself if he had heard anything like that," Isabella stated simply before she seemed to think of something. "Say, Eli wouldn't happen to be interested in joining the Ranger Scouts, would he?"
"Oh, uh," Judy said, being brought out of her thoughts of the time Nick had told her what had happened to him as a kit, "he hasn't ever really mentioned anything about it himself, but then again, I don't think he's ever heard of them."
"Oh, well I only ask because Mikey's troop, number 608, had some of their members move away, and they could really use some new kids joining up," Isabella explained.
"Hmm, well, after researching them a bit first, I'll ask him if maybe he would be interested in joining then," Judy said. Isabella smiled back up at her.
"I just know my Mikey would be thrilled to have one of his friends join his troop. He is the troop leader after all."
The meeting finally coming to a close not long afterwards, Nick and Judy said goodbye to the Musculuses in the parking lot of the school, making their way to Judy's pickup.
"Okay Carrots, I'm big enough to admit when I'm wrong." Nick said, startling Judy from her thoughts.
"I was wrong about how boring that was going to be." He said, offering to drive and opening Judy's door for her.
"Such the gentlemammal." She said as she climbed up. "So you had fun then?" She asked after buckling her seatbelt as he climbed in on the driver's side.
"Well I wouldn't call it fun exactly, those games I got for Eli are fun. To simply put it, that just wasn't as boring as I was expecting it to be."
"Uh-huh. So hey, Nick." Judy asked, looking out the window at the night sky, the moon shining brilliantly.
"Yes Fluff?" Nick said as he pulled them onto the street.
"Isabella floated an idea by me, and I want to know your opinion about it."
Judy hesitated for a moment before continuing. "Well, as it turns out, Mikey, Eli's friend," Nick nodded, having met the mouse a few times, "it turns out that he's in the Ranger Scouts..."
"Oh?" Nick asked, frowning a little as the name brought up a certain painful memory.
"Yeah, it turns out the the Junior Ranger Scouts have been disbanded for about ten years now." Judy explained about the problems brought on by the specism. Nick nodded, a smirk appearing on his muzzle at the thought of their group having to shut down.
"And, after doing some research to ensure that no similar thing has been happening in the Ranger Scouts, I was thinking of asking Eli if he would be interested in joining." There was silence for a moment.
"So... what do you think?" Judy asked, her ears drooping as she now became worried that Nick would be upset. Nick picked up on her ears and flashed her a reassuring smile without taking his eyes off the road.
"Judy, I think that if it turns out that Eli wants to be a Ranger Scout, then that's going to be great."
"Really?" Judy's ears perked right back up, and Nick had to stop himself from telling her how cute she looked at the moment, having already received a punch in the arm for doing so previously.
"And if he doesn't, then I have no problem in helping him get better at gaming."
"And in so doing, turn my kit into a couch potato." Judy said.
"Oh, so now he's your kit then?" Nick asked with his usual smirk as they pulled into the driveway.
"He always was. It just took a while for us to find each other." Judy said, making Nick's smile become more genuine as he walked with her up to the front door, which he unlocked with his own key. The door swung inward to reveal Eli on the couch, covered in a bunch of sleeping kits, looking unsure of what to do, while Thomas was in the process of gently peeling two off of him at a time to carry up to the guest bedroom that they were staying in for the night, stopping to quietly shush his aunt and Nick. Before she could stop herself, Judy let out a little coo at the cute sight, which was all it took to slightly wake up one of the smaller kit boys.
"Huh?" He asked from his spot on Eli's head as he looked around sleepily, and then spotted a certain red fox. "UNCLE NICK!"
This was immediately followed by a chorus, and a panic stricken Nick attempting to turn to run, before being quickly overwhelmed and swarmed by the happy and laughing kits. This was followed up by Judy snapping a few pictures of the sight for later.
Baily flipped the Open sign to Closed, after doing a once over with a broom and a spray bottle of glass cleaner, checking each display as he passed by, smiling as he wiped away the last smudge he could find, before he started to count out the register. A large elephant woman stepped out from behind a beaded curtain, patting a lion in a fine business suit on the shoulder.
"There there Leodore," Phyllis comforted the dejected looking lion as she led him over to the coat rack, "the cards may not be in your favor tonight, but that doesn't mean that they always shall be. The future is not a set path after all, but a winding and ever changing journey." She said to the former mayor, who seemed to perk up a little.
"Y'know what Phyllis, you're absolutely right. Nothing's set in stone. Besides, all this means is that I've got another four years to prepare for getting re-elected." Leodore Lionheart said, nodding to Baily behind the counter, who politely nodded back. Leodore soon left, the door jingling as he opened it and stepped out into Tundratown. Phyllis looked around the shop at Baily's handiwork and enjoyed what she saw. She had been impressed with his attention to detail when it came to cleaning on day one, and he has yet to disappoint her on that front.
"Baily, I must say that I am so grateful to the cosmic powers that be that led to you becoming my employee." The elephant woman said. The human man smiled.
"Thank you Phyllis. I really do like working here." Baily said, grateful to Phyllis for hiring him, and grateful to her nephew, and now one of his friends, Arnie.
"So, have you any plans tonight with your little lioness friend?" Phyllis teased as she walked to the back of the shop and began to turn off each light, one by one.
"Uh, well actually I was going to be seeing Sophia on my day off tomorrow." Baily said, blushing a little. Phyllis chuckled, not actually seeing his blush, but certainly knowing him well enough by now to know that it was there alright.
Bogo, in his street clothes, was driving along in Sahara Square, enjoying a brief moment of respite, listening to Gazelle, in between all of the usual headaches that came with being the police chief. He stopped at a red light and waited, watching as a human man walked along, tapping away at his phone. More and more of the mammals had shown up over the months, their appearances quickly becoming old news, with them just being accepted as another species of mammal by most. Of course, it was those few who saw them as something much more sinister that had a tendency to cause problems. He snorted as he thought to the earful he had to listen to because a human had joined the police academy.
He smiled, remembering a similar series of calls he had received when a fox had joined the academy ranks, who over the years, had proved himself time and time again, just as much as his bunny partner had as well. The light turned green, and Bogo continued along. While not wanting to show it, especially after he had learned that the human in question was indeed going to be joining the police academy, he found that he actually like Walter Cruz, former sergeant of the Los Angeles Police Department. He had high hopes for him, as he did for all of the officers beneath him, even Clawhauser... not that he could ever let any of them know it.
And there you have it folks! I hope that you enjoyed the very first chapter of my newest story! Sorry for the late updates, by the way. I was participating in an online challenge for writers, to write at least 50,000 words for a novel in the entire month of November, which by the way, I totally managed to do with three days to spare! But it did leave me a little drained, hence the slow updates. But now that it's over, I'm back to writing for my other stories!