Chapter Twenty Four: A New Dawn

Author's Note: We're almost at the end! I'm so excited, and in a weird way, it's bittersweet to be leaving this story behind. This fanfic represents a chapter in my life that has lasted over six months, and I'm not sure whether or not I'm going to miss it.

Miraculously, it looks like I was able to publish this chapter on time. Which is pretty crazy, considering how I was really busy this week.

Disclaimer: I do not own Zootopia.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Out of the darkness, Dawn slowly became aware of a faint beeping sound in the distance.

She couldn't see anything, and her entire body felt numb. Her only connection to reality was the odd beeping sound. At least she was finally free from the awful nightmares.

But with each passing beep, Dawn realized that she recognized the sound; it was the sound of a heart-rate monitor. And it sounded close.

Slowly, Dawn opened her eyes. It took a while for her brain to register where she was. Everything was super bright, and her memory was hazy. All she could remember was a lot of loud noise, a lot of pain, and…

Gideon.

She had sacrificed herself for him. She had been shot by a midnicampum holicithias pellet.

She had gone savage.

Looking around her, she realized that she was in a hospital bed. She had an IV needle in her arm, and when she looked to her right, she could see a vase full of daffodils, with a note attached. She tried to lean in closer to read the note but her body was too tired.

She took several deep breaths, trying not to overexert herself. There were curtains around her bed, so she couldn't see if there were any other patients in the room. Which was probably for the best, given her reputation.

After a few more minutes of waiting, the curtains were opened by a doctor. Dawn recognized her; she was a honey badger, and Dawn vaguely recognized her being involved in the Night Howler case two years ago.

The doctor smiled. "Miss Bellwether, you're awake."

Dawn tried to speak, but her voice was scratchy. She coughed multiple times, clutching her throat.

The doctor took a few steps closer. "Here, have some water." She handed Dawn a paper cup. The ewe slowly took a sip, all the while questioning why this doctor was being so kind to her.

Dawn kept thinking that she should apologize to the doctor for what she had done, followed by the realization that she could very well spend the rest of her life apologizing, and it would never be enough.

When Dawn could finally speak, she asked the doctor, "How long was I out?"

"I'd say about a week and a half," the doctor said, shrugging. "Normally, it doesn't take that long to extract the serum, but your immune system is not terribly strong. For a while, we thought we might lose you."

There was silence. After a few moments, Dawn decided to ask something that had been troubling her from the moment she had woken up.

"…Did I hurt anybody?"

The doctor shook her head. "No. The police were able to keep you under control for long enough to sedate you. No one was hurt."

Dawn gave a sigh of relief, "Oh, thank God."

The doctor went on. "Evidently, a small sheep was considerably easier to control than a fox would have been. Or a tiger for that matter."

"And what about Doug and his crew?" Dawn asked. "Are they still out there?"

Once again, the nurse shook her head. "Mr. Ramses is in jail. All of that drama ended rather quickly."

Dawn was relieved but also a little confused. "…What happened?"

"For one, you proved that the serum doesn't work exclusively on predators, which messed up the storyline that Mr. Ramses was trying to promote. And as for those prey supremacists, once they found out that their fearless leader had switched sides, a lot of them just gave up. The whole thing was wrapped up in a matter of days."

Dawn took all of this in, hardly daring to believe it. "Well, I'm happy to hear that," she finally said.

The doctor had an unreadable expression on her face. "I'll tell the other doctors that you're awake, and you seem to be stabilizing quite well. No doubt you'll have guests soon enough."

She turned around to leave. "Wait," Dawn said, calling out. "Doctor, I…. I really am sorry. For everything."

The doctor seemed emotionally torn. But she pulled herself together and tried to remain professional. She said, "Understood," and then left.

A few more minutes passed. Gradually, Dawn started to feel less tired, though parts of her body still ached. Looking back to her right, she saw the vase of daffodils. Leaning closer, she was able to get a closer look at the note. A message was written in rather sloppy handwriting.

"I wanted to bring you something from my shop but the doctors said it would go bad by the time you woke up. I hope you like these. Please wake up soon. - G.G."

Dawn felt a tear run down her face. In hindsight, the whole situation was ridiculous. She was a grown ewe with serious mental problems, she shouldn't have felt like a lovestruck teenager. Even so, it warmed her heart to be reminded of Gideon's continuous, albeit irrational, support of her.

More time passed. Dawn couldn't tell exactly how long it was, but she was pleasantly surprised when the curtains opened again, and two familiar mammals walked through the door.

Life could be weird sometimes. Once upon a time, Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde had been her lifelong enemies. Now, it seemed like they were potential friends.

Judy spoke first. "We came as soon as we could. How are you feeling?"

"Um…" Dawn tried to think of an appropriate response. " Good. I'm good, all things considered." She paused, the nervously glanced back at the vase of daffodils. "Where's Gideon?"

"He's on his way." Judy replied. "After you… uh, became hospitalized, he stayed in the city for a couple days. He didn't want to go back to Bunnyburrow, but his shop needed to be looked after. Plus his mother was worried. He's been texting me at least once a day asking for updates on you."

"Wow..." Dawn thought about what she had heard, as a small smile crept up onto her face. "I guess a lot of stuff happened while I was out."

Judy nodded. Nick spoke up. "That's putting it mildly. You know, some of the doctors were worried that you wouldn't make it.

Dawn wasn't sure if she had heard that correctly. "Some of the doctors were worried about me?"

"Well," Nick replied. "Maybe not all of the doctors, to be sure, but…"

At that moment, Judy gave her partner one of her signature 'playful' punches to shut him up.

Dawn decided to change the subject. "So… I take it you two saved the city once again?"

Judy shrugged. "Well, we certainly helped, and we had a lot of backup from the other cops. But personally, I think you're the one who saved the city this time."

Dawn wasn't sure what to say. After a few seconds passed, Nick was the one who spoke. "Yep. So that means you and the city are even at this point."

"Nick…" Judy sighed.

"Admit it," Nick said, staring at his partner with flirty eyes. "You love me for my sense of humor."

"Oh, is that the reason?" Dawn asked, sarcastically. "I was wondering."

Judy chuckled while Nick looked mildly offended. "Same old snark as always," he muttered.

Dawn just shrugged. "I guess it's hard to change overnight."

"Well, you've already come a long way," Judy said earnestly.

Dawn felt herself blushing a bit. But after a moment, the reality of her situation began to sink in. "So… what happens now?"

Judy and Nick exchanged apprehensive glances. Eventually, Judy cleared her throat. "Well, you're not gonna like this part, but… as soon as your body heals they'll probably take you back to prison."

Dawn slowly nodded. "That's fair enough."

"But listen," Judy said, insistent. "I honestly think we can make a case to get you parole."

"What?" Dawn asked, confused. "But… when I was first arrested, it was for a life sentence. And given all the escape attempts…"

"I know," Judy said. "I know it seems unlikely, but the public opinion of you has shifted after the video of you sacrificing yourself went viral. I think if we can get you a therapist, a real therapist, to psycho-analyze you... I mean, Nick and I have been looking at some of the loopholes in the system, and we think it's certainly possible."

"If there's one thing I know about, it's loopholes," Nick added.

Dawn was silent. "I… I don't deserve parole."

"I think everyone deserves a second chance," Judy said, in a comforting tone.

Dawn smiled, then she caught herself yawning.

"The doctor said you should try to get some rest," Judy said, moving closer. "You'll be out of the hosptal soon.

Truth be told, Dawn was feeling a little tired. "At least this bed is comfortable," she muttered to herself.

Judy smiled. "All right. Nick and I have to get back to work. We'll see you in a couple days, around the time you get transferred."

With that, Judy gave Dawn a friendly wave and walked back out through the curtain. Nick started to follow, but he stopped mid-stride to look back at the ewe.

"I uh… I…" He was stammering, which was unusual behavior for him. "This is really awkward, but I just wanted to say… I'm sorry."

Dawn blinked. "You have nothing to apologize for."

"No, it's just…" He held the back of his head, nervously. "Well, I may have been a bit harsh before. I didn't think you had the capacity to be a good mammal."

"And now, what do you think?" Dawn asked. She realized that Nick was having an incredibly awkward experience, and she decided that she wanted to prolong the experience It seemed like old habits really did die hard.

Nick, for his part, tried to brush it off. "I've learned that it's best not to argue with her," He sighed. "She sees good in you just like she saw good on me."

"Well, the jury's still out on the first one, so..."

Nick gave a soft smile at the ewe's quip. It was an awkward situation, but both mammals felt like this was probably as close to friendship as they were gonna get.

After the two officers left, Dawn ended up taking a nap that lasted several hours. When she woke up, she was surprised by how clear her mind felt. She didn't know exactly the Night Howler antidote worked, but if something in that formula had made her less crazy, then that was definitely a plus.

While parts of her body still ached, she was definitely feeling stronger now. For one thing, it looked like one of the doctors had removed the IV needle from her arm while she had been sleeping. She was able to sit up in bed and look around the area. But she realized that there wasn't much to see or do here.

She didn't know how much longer she would continue to be hospitalized. She did not look forward to going back to prison, and she had no idea whether or not Judy's plan to get her parole was practical.

But as Dawn was thinking about all this, she heard an all-too familiar voice coming from the other side of the curtain,

"Where is she?! How is she?! Is she okay-"

"Mr. Grey, calm down," said one of the doctors. "She's doing fine. All of her vitals are normal."

"Can I see her?" Gideon asked, barely even stopping to take a breath. "Please, I have to…"

"Take a deep breath. We're going to need you to sign this document."

After that, things went quiet for a moment, and Dawn felt her heart beating faster. She was used to Gideon being calm, and hearing the genuine fear in his voice was a little surprising. Did he really care about her that much?

Suddenly, Gideon opened the curtain, and when his eyes landed on Dawn, he breathed a hearty sigh of relief.

"You're okay. Thank God. I... I came as soon as I could." He was so nervous he was tripping over his words.

"Gideon, I…" Dawn realized that she wasn't doing much better in the words department. "You look nice."

Gideon looked down at the maroon sweater he had on. "Oh, this, I just threw this on when I left the house."

Dawn tried to ease his comforts by shifting some of the awkwardness over to her. "At least you're not stuck in an orange jumpsuit."

"Yeah, I could see how that would be a problem…" He paused, unsure of where to take the conversation next, before deciding to change the subject. "Are you feeling all right?"

"Yes," Dawn said. "I feel great. Better than I've felt in a very long time."

"Good. Good to hear," Gideon nodded, then he paused again, looking hesitant. "So… what's gonna happen now?"

"Judy said they were gonna wait until I was completely healed, and then I would be transferred back into the prison."

Even though Dawn had accepted her fate for a while now, Gideon looked absolutely mortified. "No. No, they can't do that."

"Don't look so worried," Dawn said, trying to reassure him. "It might only be temporary. They're going to get me a therapist. An actual qualified, medical professional. No offense."

Gideon smiled and shrugged. "None taken."

Now It was Dawn's turn to smile. "I don't know too much, but from what I could gather, they're gonna put me through conversion therapy and then, if they feel I've really changed, they'll let me go on parole.

"Oh, Dawn, that's great news," Gideon said, genuinely happy for her.

"Yeah, it is." Dawn wasn't entirely sure how to feel. So many things in her life had changed recently, and sometimes it felt like she didn't even know which way was up anymore.

Gideon seemed to be able to sense the inner turmoil going on in her head. "You're a hero, Dawn." He said, assuredly. "You know that."

But Dawn shook her head. "I don't feel like a hero," she said, solemnly. "And even if I do get out, I have no idea if it's possible for me to have a normal, happy life. …Or even if I deserve it."

"Of course you deserve it, Dawn," Gideon said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "The world saw what you did that that day. How Doug and all those cronies were taken down."

"So the whole world saw me go savage," Dawn spat out, coming across as colder than she had intended. "That's what happened. I turned into a monster."

"Turning into a monster was the most heroic thing you've ever done."

There was silence for a few moments before Gideon rapidly backtracked. "I'm sorry, that was kind of a cheesy thing to say."

"No, it's fine," Dawn reassured him. She remembered how, at one time, she had made the observation that Gideon apologized way too much. It seemed like some things never changed.

After yet another awkward silence, Gideon took note of the vase of daffodils. "Oh no, the flowers are starting to wilt!" he exclaimed as he moved closer to the bedside table to check on them.

"It's all right," Dawn said, once again trying to reassure him. The daffodils didn't look like they were wilting from Dawn's perspective. But then again, the freshness of the flowers didn't matter nearly as much as the flowers themselves.

"Do you like daffodils?" Gideon asked. And before she could answer, he started to talk rapidly, as if he were on the verge of a minor panic attack. "I wasn't sure, The flower shop had a whole bunch of 'em, so many different colors, and I thought about maybe something purple, but then I thought it might look too much like the Night Howlers, so I went with the daffodils, cause they're yellow, and it's like the opposite. To show that you've, uh… changed." he finished weakly.

"They're beautiful," Dawn said honestly, before asking, "Is everything all right with you?"

"With me?" Gideon looked confused and seemed almost desperate to steer the conversation away from himself. "We're talking about you. I mean, why would you even ask that?

"Because you look like you're about to cry."

Gideon looked up, with genuine vulnerability in his eyes. He took a few deep breaths, uncertain of how to formulate his thoughts into words, Finally he pulled up a chair next to Dawn's bed and sat down, so the two mammals were closer to eye level with one another. He looked completely helpless.

"…I can't imagine what that might be like, going savage." There was a certain shakiness in his voice as he recalled the memory. "When Doug pointed that… that thing at me, I thought I was a goner. And then you…" He sniffed, clearly on the verge of tears. "…You took the shot for me."

There was a long pause. Gideon tried to say more, but nothing came out. Eventually, Dawn decided to speak. "It's all a blur. I can't even remember any of it." She paused, and then asked hesitantly. "What did it look like?

Gideon looked back at her, trying to deliver the facts without becoming overtly emotional. "…Your eyes just became slits, you lost all emotion. You weren't…" he seemed at a loss for words, before he finally just gave up and said, "It didn't look natural."

Hearing this, Dawn took a deep breath and asked "…Were you afraid of me?"

"Not even for a second."

There was absolutely no hesitation in Gideon's voice. All the nervousness seemed to disappear, leaving him with a sense of conviction.

"…Why not?" Dawn asked.

Gideon thought about it for a moment before saying, "Because you sacrificed yourself for me. Nobody's ever done anything like that for me. I…"

He paused again. His insecurity started to come back.

"Whenever we meet, I always try to be calm," he admitted. "I try to be like a rock. Someone that you can lean on. But sometimes… I feel like I'm just as lost. Like I'm trying to be nice because it's the right thing to do, but sometimes I feel like no matter what I do, I'm always gonna feel lonely."

He tried to pull himself together and get to the point. "I guess the idea of having somebody, somebody who could look at me and think, you know what, he deserves to be saved. He doesn't deserve to get shot." He looked down for a moment, lost in thought. "What I'm trying to say is… it meant a lot to me."

At this point, Dawn was trying to avoid becoming emotional herself. "Well, you're welcome. And for the record, you shouldn't beat yourself up too much. I mean, who knows what would have happened if it hadn't been for you? Maybe I never would have snapped out of those delusions. Maybe right now, Doug and I would be taking over the city and turning everything into chaos!" She realized she was being louder than necessary, but she felt it was important to emphasize this point. "…You saved me, Gideon."

Gideon was blushing slightly. "You saved yourself. I just helped out a little."

But Dawn shrugged it off. "You don't give yourself enough credit."

She managed to sit up. The two mammals were on eye level now, and they were very close together.

"You are better than you think you are," Dawn said, earnestly.

"…Well, so are you."

He smiled, his cheeks blushing a deep shade of red. His blue eyes were so vibrant, they were practically glowing.

In that moment, Dawn was overwhelmed with emotion. She knew what she wanted, and with every second she looked into his eyes, she only wanted it more and more.

She had to do it now. She might not get another chance.

And so, before her sense of judgment could get in the way, before a lifetime of hatred and bitterness could rear its ugly head in, before her conscience could kick in and ask her if this was what she really wanted, Dawn leaned in as far she could and planted her lips directly onto his.

The feeling was almost indescribable.

Gideon hadn't been anticipating the kiss, but he didn't back away. And after a few seconds, he allowed himself to sink into it. Dawn started to wrap her arms around his body, and he did the same, reminding himself to be as gentle as possible.

It was difficult to surmise the feeling that swept through both mammals at the same time. This feeling that nothing else in the universe mattered except the simple fact that the two of them were together.

Maybe the past hadn't been so bad after all if it had led them to this moment.

This one, glorious, perfect moment.

And when the time came for the two mammals to slowly separate, there was a sense of magic in the air, as if fireworks were going off.

Gideon was the first to speak, very slowly. "…Wow."

"...Yeah." Dawn could sense that the experience was a shared one. Gideon was smiling, but there was still a subtle hint of hesitance, as if he was unsure of his own kissing ability.

In Dawn's opinion, there was no problem there.

After a few seconds, Dawn spoke again. "So… I take it you feel the same way?"

"I…" His awkward nervousness was starting to come back. But by this point, Dawn found it charming in it's own way.

"To be honest, I wasn't gonna say anything," he confessed. "I know that you're uncomfortable around predators, and I didn't want to make the first move. I was worried that it might scare you off."

Hearing those words just sealed the deal even further. "Well you don't have to worry about that," Dawn said, confidently. "I've decided that I'm not going to be afraid anymore."

Gideon smiled, genuinely proud of how far she had come, before asking, "So, does this make us… boyfriend and girlfriend?"

Dawn let the notion sink in. "…I guess it does."

'I'm dating a predator.' She thought to herself. A year ago, even the idea would have terrified her. But now… it just went to show how much she had changed because of him.

Just then there was a knock in the door, and one of the orderlies, a female antelope, poked her head in. "Mr. Grey, hospital visits have a restricted time limit."

"Just a little while longer, please!?" Gideon begged.

The orderly didn't know much about the fox, and she wasn't entirely sure why he cared so much about the infamous Dawn Bellwether. Then again, if that viral video was any indication, these two must have had some sort of history together.

The orderly sighed. "I'll give you five more minutes."

Gideon. But when he turned back to face Dawn, he noticed that her smile had vanished. "Gideon, do me a favor. Don't tell anyone about this. About… us. At least, not right away. I imagine the media will have a field day over it."

Gideon nodded. "Of course."

Part of him was disappointed. He wanted to yell on the rooftops that he was in love with the most beautiful ewe in the world, but then he remembered that the rest of the world didn't see what he saw.

But he had to have faith that one day, they would.

He leaned in closer to her and looked her right in the eyes. "Dawn, listen to me, when you get parole-"

"…If I get parole."

There was a brief pause, then Gideon started again, with more emphasis this time. "When you get parole, I promise you, I am never gonna leave your side. Ever."

He was beginning to feel tears running down his cheeks, but he didn't care about that anymore. He wanted her to know just how serious he was about this. "I've been alone for so long, and now, I am not gonna screw this up. I'm gonna be the best boyfriend I can possibly be. Whatever I have to do. If I have to move to the city, I can do that. Or if you want me to lose weight, I can do that…"

"Gideon…" Dawn hated to interrupt him, but she had to. Maybe she was just used to things going wring, but the idea of parole just seemed so far off to her. "I appreciate all that. Truly, I do. But I might not get released. And besides… you deserve someone better than me."

"I don't want anyone else," Gideon said, with as much confidence as he's ever had. "I love you, Dawn."

Dawn was tearing up. "I… I love you, too, Gideon. And I…" Now she really started to tear up. "I want to be with you. I just don't know if this is practical."

"We can make it work," He had changed to a calmer tone of voice, which is what Dawn was used to. "Just have a little faith."

But she remained unsure. She didn't look up. She wanted to believe that everything would be okay. But the idea of having a life with Gideon… it seemed like a fairytale. It was nice to think about, but it wasn't something that could ever realistically happen.

After a few moments, Gideon gently reached out his paw.

"Do you trust me?"

Dawn looked up and saw those gorgeous blue eyes looking at her. That reassuring smile. Those two perfect dimples.

She put her hoof into his paw. "Yes."

And no sooner had she said it, than Gideon's lips were on hers. She half expected to flinch but she didn't. The fact that he was a predator no longer bothered her. It seemed so insignificant compared to the tremendous feelings that she had for him.

Gideon held her in his arms, and she held him back. He knew beyond a fraction of a doubt that he loved her. Her past crimes didn't matter. They were in the past, long forgotten in his mind. He loved this ewe and he was going to take care of her. And, if need be, he would fight for her.

They both knew they didn't have a lot of time left, so they poured everything they had into the kiss, praying that it wouldn't be their last.