Greetings readers and welcome to Chapter 29. I know it's been quite the long time since I updated, some of you even thought I dropped the story, a thing I have promised I would never do. The reason why it took so long is probably unimportant to you all so I won't go into detail and just say I got caught up in a lot things, moving, buying a house, and working a new job. But enough about things that are not the story let's get too it. Here is chapter 29!

As Always I have people to thank for adding some ideas for this chapter and making it significantly better, so give thanks to

Anteroinen and Spelter82 - They catch plot holes and add logic when I go off the rails.

and

LakesideMiners - He gives me helpful and fun suggestions

AN: Thanks as always to my other editor's SaberGatomon and Toren6000.

Pt2: honestly it's been so long that I won't respond to comments from the last chapter, just know I've read them all. Thank you to all that read and commented, it means a lot and I look forward to reading your comments on this chapter.


Chapter 29: Choices Made

ZPA Dorms, Middle of Nowhere, Saturday Morning, 5:30am

Tom shot up at the sound of his alarm, quickly grabbing his phone and silencing the offending sound. Looking around at the room he breathed a sigh of relief, either his roommates weren't here or he'd managed to avoid waking them. Tom then wiped away the last traces of sleep from his eyes and looked at his phone once more, the light blinding him temporarily.

"Uggh, the least they could have done was let us sleep in a little." Tom grumbled quietly to himself as his eyes adjusted and he stared down at both the time and the picture of his lovely girlfriend. "Sorry I won't be able to come back this weekend babe, but I don't regret a thing."

Tom let out a yawn as he carefully climbed down from his top bunk. This was going to be a long day and he knew it. But as Tom's paws hit the floor he realized that Nick, the mammal who slept beneath him, and the one he really hadn't wanted to wake was not in bed. In fact the bed was neatly made and looked like it hadn't been slept in at all.

Looks like he took my advice and went to Zootopia for the weekend. Tom thought to himself, relieved he wouldn't need to tip toe around the fox while serving out his punishment. I wonder if Jessica is up yet? Tom mused as he made his way to the bathroom and got ready for the day to come.

Fifteen minutes later Tom was ready, teeth and fur brushed, a good morning text sent to his girl, and a clean set of PT clothes as his outfit. Tom then made his way to the classroom Major Friedkin had instructed them to report to, checking his phone he noted it was five fifty-five, he was five minutes early.

As Tom entered the room he did a quick scan, still not one hundred percent certain Nick wouldn't be there waiting. Instead all he found was Arlo, Paul, and Tony, the band of misfits he was proud to call his friends.

"Hey boys," Tom cheerfully called out.

"Morning Tom." Arlo sleepily greeted, still rubbing at his eyes as he let out a yawn that caused the rest of the room to follow suit.

Tony gave Arlo a soft punch on the arm to wake him up. "Damn it Arlo knock it off you're making me even more tired."

"He stayed up too late trying to find an adult video to watch," Paul commented as he nodded in greeting to Tom.

"I WAS NOT! I was playing a game on my phone" Arlo shouted, suddenly full of energy.

"I know you weren't," Paul said with an evil grin. "But you look much more awake now"

"You're a monster," Arlo mumbled angrily before turning back to Tom. "Anyway, I have to say I was expecting Nick to be sitting in the classroom waiting for us with a smug smirk on his face."

Tom smiled, "I had a similar thought but I doubt we'll be seeing Nick this weekend."

"Why not? He usually spends his weekends here." Tony asked curiously.

"Well let's just say I brought him a very compelling reason to go home." Tom explained with a chuckle.

"And what might that reason be?" Arlo asked, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. "I don't think there's anything that could truly compel Nick to do something."

"Yeah what did you do?" Tony added.

Tom just shook his head. "Sorry boy's but you'll have to find out yourselves, if I just told Nick's weakness to everyone he'd not only never trust me again he'd also get revenge in a way I shudder to think about."

Tony and Arlo were about to voice their disappointment but were cut off by the slamming open of the classroom door.

"Alright Cadets enough chit chat, you're here to be punished not gossip like a bunch of schoolgirls." Major Friedkin bellowed as she entered, slamming the door behind her in emphasis causing the four mammals to snap to attention.

"At ease. Now you four are here today because you thought it'd be best to take matters into your own paws, break multiple Academy rules, barge into my office, and assault an instructor." Friedkin paused staring down the cadets menacingly as she laid out their crimes and causing them to stare at the floor in submission.

"Now normally this would lead to your immediate expulsion from my academy, and blacklist you from any future work in law enforcement." Friedkin explained, pausing to sigh as her tone become less harsh. "But in light of the circumstances, how you were protecting a fellow cadet from a harm that I failed to see, you will instead spend your weekend cleaning, running, cleaning, running some more, and cleaning again. Your fur will smell like bleach, lemon scented detergent and sweat, but you'll still be cadets at the end of it."

The room was silent for a moment, the reality of how big a bullet they dodged setting in for the cadets. It was after that moment of reflective silence that Arlo stepped forward, his head bowed in humility.

"I want to thank you for your lenience Major, and I promise nothing like that will ever happen again."

And just like that each of them in turn followed Arlo's example, thanking the Major and assuring her they would be on their best behavior moving forward. Friedkin smiled, thinking to herself that this class has some really good cadets.

Friedkin's kind smile then evaporated and her harsh tone returned. "Good, if I even catch a whiff of you four stepping out of line again I won't hesitate to throw the book at you, and it will be an elephant sized book too. Your first cleaning spot is the gym's male and female locker rooms now get going, and report to me when you finish for your next task!"

Tom, Tony, Arlo, and Paul all snapped to attention, saluted the major, and quickly made their way out of the classroom and towards the gym.

ZPA Gym, a few minutes later….

"So which locker room do you guy's wanna start with?" Tony asked, as they entered the gym.

"Hmmm." Tom pondered the question for a moment. "Let's start with the male locker room, I can almost guarantee it's going to be dirtier and I'd rather tackle it first while I have the energy.

"Oh it definitely will be, I worked out after class yesterday and the place was pretty trashed," Tony agreed, somehow as full of as much energy as usual.

"Let's…." Paul yawned. "….Let's just get this over with."

So the four mammals made their way into the locker room, bracing themselves for the mess they were going to encounter. But, instead of encountering the overwhelming smell of stale sweat and dirty gym clothes, like they had expected, their noses were greeted to the scent of lemon cleaner.

"What the hell is this?" Arlo asked, as he looked around at the spotless benches, freshly wiped lockers, and the near shining floor.

"Do you think maybe the Major had the janitors clean anyway? Sparing us from actual punishment?" Tony mused as he wiped a paw across the top of the lockers, not finding a trace of dust.

"Not a chance." Tom stated flatly. "So the question become what the hell is going on here?"

"Ssssshhhh." Paul said one finger raised, silencing the group instantly. "Do you guy's heat that?"

The soft calming sound of a piano mixing with the deep thrum of a base guitar, was lightly filling the air. The sound was faint, clearly coming from some small speaker, most likely a phone, but it reverberated through the empty locker room. The guys made their way to the showers, following the sound almost as if in a trance. Soon enough they were about to make out lyrics and could even hear somemammal softly singing along. (Youtube: "Dancing in the Moonlight" by "King Harvest")

Everybody here is out of sight

They don't bark and they don't bite

They keep things loose, they keep things light

Everybody's dancing in the moonlight

They turned the corner as the chorus kicked in, and to their utter disbelief they found Nick, in full PT gear, on his paws and knees, scrubbing the floor, singing while his tail swayed rhythmically to the music.

Dancing in the moonlight

Everybody's feeling warm and bright

It's such a fine and natural sight

Everybody's dancing in the moonlight

Nobody was able to say anything as they took in the scene before them, but before the next verse could start up Nick, who had felt the presence of eyes on his back, immediately stopped singing, paused the song and turned to face them.

"What took you guys so long?" He asked with a shit eating grin.

"Bu-But you… and how did… WHAT THE FUCK NICK!" Arlo shouted breaking the group out of their stupor.

"As eloquent as always Arlo." Tom joked before turning to Nick. "As for you I have two questions."

"Ask away." Nick replied smugly.

"One. How did you find out about our punishment?"

Nick smile changed from shit eating to innocent. "What do you mean? I always clean this bathroom at five thirty on Saturday morning." Seeing nobody was buying it Nick put his paws up. "Alright you got me, I just happened to have eyes and ears everywhere, so I knew about the punishment you took on my behalf."

"THAT DOESN'T EVEN MAKE SENSE!" Arlo yelled, still freaking out about the whole situation.

"It doesn't need to Arlo, just know hiding things from me is pointless." Nick then turned back to Tom. "I believe you had another question."

"Yeah, why didn't you go back to Zootopia?"

Nick stood up and walked over to Tom, placing a paw on his shoulder. "Because Tom what kind of mammal would I be if I left my friends behind after they pulled my tail out of the fire?"

Everyone was silent for a moment, each one of them touched, not only by Nick's words, but the fact that he'd rather spend the weekend being punished with them instead of going back to the city for some fun. Nobody could explain it but in that moment they all felt they had gotten a little closer the emotionally elusive Nick Wilde.

"That's really sweet Nick." Tony said, as he wiped at his eyes, withier it was from exhaustion or emotion, Nick couldn't tell.

Paul just grunted and flashed a toothy grin. "He's here now and I doubt we can get rid of him so might as well get to work." Paul then grabbed a scrub brush from Nick's bucket and quietly got to work.

Looking at each other and then at Nick Tony and Tom just shrugged and proceeded to get their own brushes. That left Arlo, still just standing there in disbelief, but after a minute he too shook it off and got to cleaning, but not before turning to Nick.

"I have no idea how you found out, and as much as I wish you hadn't, I am still glad you here."

Before Nick could respond Tony called out. "Hey Nick, turn the music back on, that song was catchy as hell!"

Nick smiled, letting the words die in his throat as he pressed play on his phone and joined his friends in cleaning.

After that it wasn't long before the male locker room was spotless and smelling lemony fresh, So Nick and the guys moved onto the female locker room. With music in paw they set about sweeping, dusting, spraying, scrubbing and mopping until that room too shone with a luster that had probably only been seen when it was first built.

The five of them then made their way to Fredkin's office making sure to wipe the smiles off of their faces so the Major wouldn't yell at them for not taking their punishment seriously and give them even more to do. Friedkin made no mention of Nick's sudden appearance, her only reaction was a slightly raised eyebrow to which Nick responded with a respectful nod.

"Well Cadets you finished a little quicker than I thought but that just means you have more time to run. I want three laps of the five mile course, after that meet me on the sports field for a course of pushups, sit ups, and burpees."

Nobody said a word, merely saluting in acknowledgement of the order before filing out of the room.

"Oh and you better put some real effort in because I'll be watching and if I don't like what I see you'll be doing it all over again." Friedkin called after them.

"Well that wasn't entirely unexpected, but I am a little surprised none the less, then again knowing what I do about Cadet Wilde I guess I shouldn't be." Friedkin said to herself with a smile as she went back to her usual mountain of paperwork.

ZPA Rec Room, Middle of Nowhere, Saturday Evening, 7:30pm

The Rec Room was thankfully empty as the five exhausted and sweaty mammals collapsed onto the couches that were arranged haphazardly around the room. The sound of panting and groaning were the only sounds that could be heard for the next five minutes as everyone focused on catching their breaths and steadying their heartrates.

"That was brutal." Tony finally managed to moan as he stared at the celling in a daze.

Arlo who had fallen face first onto his couch let out a few muffled words of agreement and Paul just wearily nodded his head.

"I don't know if I can do another day of that." Tom whispered as he slowly sat up and looked around the room.

Nick shook his head. "No, she'll make sure you make it, Friedkin seems to have a sixth sense for finding a mammals breaking point. I don't know if you noticed but she always seemed to end the workout just after we reached that point. Then we'd recover what we could while we cleaned and after that she'd push us to our new breaking point."

"Nick aren't you giving her a little too much credit?" Tony asked, as he too sat up his breath almost completely under control. "I don't see what's so amazing about giving us what was probably a scripted workout."

"If anything I'm understating it," Nick mused. "Think about it she could have easily pushed us too hard and caused us to pass out or be physically unable to clean. On the other paw she could have been too easy on us and we'd be rowdily playing games right now. The line between overworking and underworking is incredibly fine, she walked that line perfectly and that's no coincidence."

Tony nodded thoughtfully "Maybe…" but before he could say anything further Arlo, who had finally revived, spoke up.

"Are you guy's as hungry as I am right now? I mean I know we ate dinner but I'm starving right now."

All the guys nodded in agreement, a few stomachs even rumbling as if to voice their opinions on the matter

Nick smiled at this, but before he could say anything his phone dinged notifying him of a text message. "Right on time." He whispered before setting his phone down and slowly standing up, his muscles protesting the entire way up.

"It's funny you say that because I have a surprise for you all." Nick said as he made his way to the door at snail's pace.

"Nick nothing you could do would surprise me at this point." Tom said as he watched with interest as the fox limped his way across room.

"Yeah Tom's right you've maxed out your surprises for the month, anyway if I had to guess you asked one of the cafeteria workers to save us some leftovers, which is awesome of you, and I will gladly devour everything I can get my paws on right now." Arlo agreed as he looked eagerly at the door, drool already spilling from his mouth onto the floor.

Paul and Tony said nothing, simply nodding in agreement as they too stared longingly at the door Nick was about to open.

Nick smiled, "If you want to eat leftovers I can arrange that, but I figured a warm, unhealthy, carb-filled meal would be what everyone is craving right about now, and luckily for me I have a friend who was willing to deliver."

Nick then opened the door with a flourish and revealed his surprise. Tony, Tom, Paul and Arlo were all greeted with the smell of the surprise before they actually saw it, 'pizza,' that one thought flashed through each of their minds and overrode all higher brain function in that moment. Tails began wagging and saliva began building up in their mouths causing everyone in the room to swallow almost simultaneously.

As the door swung open completely the four friends stared in shock, pizza was indeed there, four large boxes stacked alluringly with four bottles of soda perched precariously on top of them. That was to be expected though, what had them surprised was how the boxes seemed to be floating there as they came through the doorframe. Before anyone could as if Nick had picked up amateur magician as a hobby they heard a distinctly female voice call out.

"Are you going to just keep standing there trying to look pretty or are you going to help me with this Slick?"

Nick smiled warmly and took the top box and all the sodas into his paws which revealed a pair of black tipped ears behind the boxes.

"Thanks Nick,"

"Anytime Carrots," Nick then turned to his friends and asked jokingly. "Are you big strong ZPA cadets just gonna sit there and let a lady struggle to bring you your food?"

Though they knew Nick was joking all three of them jumped up and immediately grabbed something and wordlessly brought it to one of the tables in the middle off the room. Paul, who hadn't grabbed anything quickly went to work arranging chairs around the table.

"Thanks boys," Nick said as he too set his precious cargo safely down on the table. "Now let me introduce the mammal who saved your butts more than once this year, ZPD Officer extraordinaire, protector of the innocent, bane of all criminal scum, and-"

Nick was cut off by a swift punch to the arm. "Enough with all that Nick," Judy said reprimandingly, though there was a smile on her face. "I'm just a regular cop like any other." Judy then turned and faced the group. "I'm Judy Hopps, Nick's personal ego deflator and best friend."

"Both of those sound-like fulltime jobs." Tony comment, getting a laugh from Judy.

"You're not wrong, but I wouldn't give them to anyone else." Judy shot a glance at Nick before turning back to Tony. "But enough about Nick or else he'll need his ego deflated again and I'm off the clock."

Tom nodded solemnly, "I agree with Mrs. Hopps, plus with all this pizza that needs eating who would wanna talk about anything."

With that settled the five ravenous mammals and Judy set into devouring the pizza placed in front of them the only words passing between them at first were requests to pass soda or a slice. But as their hunger was sated and their eating pace slowed a casual conversation began to spring up. At first the guys all wanted to hear about the Nighthowler case which Judy happily obliged them, making sure to keep Nick's role entirely voluntary and not blackmail, but other than that not sparing any details while making sure to continually talk up Nick's part in it all.

Nick for his part was humble, talking down his influence and talking up Judy's which led to a few embarrassed punches from Judy and a couple good laughs from the guys as Nick rubbed his sore arm theatrically.

Eventually they got the press conference, a sore spot for everymammal in the room. At first the guys kept their faces impassive, and their emotions hidden. Like every other predator in the city, they knew what had been said and the affect it had, and while they respected Judy and recognized how far she went to fix her mistakes they still felt a sting of resentment. It was only after Judy's ears too, dropped in shame and they heard the heartfelt remorse in her voice as she explained what she had said and why, that they realized she was being harder on herself than any of them ever could be.

Nick, seeing this too immediately put his arm around her shoulder and reminded her that she had owned up to her mistake and had gone farther than anyone would have expected to make things right. The guys watched this scene with interest, each of them noting the Nick's out of character soft side and how close the two seemed, and the thought of the bunny and fox getting together didn't bother them in the slightest.

"Anyway, after that the city went to hell, and I resigned because of how guilty I felt, not only for my part in the chaos but how I'd hurt Nick." Judy explained, getting control of herself and continuing her story.

As Judy finished the story the guys were on the edge of their seats, eyes wide at the multiple times Nick and Judy cheated death that day the ingenious idea to record Bellwether without her realizing.

That fact caused Tom to chuckle, realizing he'd seen a similar tactic in use not too long ago and he then made a mental note to use the trick himself in the future.

"Officer Hopps."

"You can just call me Judy Tom," Judy said with a smile. "Any friend of Nick's is a friend of mine."

"Well Judy thanks for the pizza and the thrilling story but I think the four of us should get to bed since we have another long day ahead of us. Nick feel free not to stay and hang out since you don't need to show up tomorrow."

Looking at his watch and seeing it was already eight fourty-five Paul grunted his agreement and started cleaning up the empty pizza boxes. Arlo and Tony quickly following suit as it hit them just how tired they were.

"Of course we're going to need our energy for tomorrow," Nick agreed. "I'll just escort Officer Hopps to the station while you gentlemammals clean up here alright?"

The four of them grunted in agreement as they continued putting the room back to normal. So after round of goodbye's from Judy, the fox and the bunny left for the train station leaving the four cadets to clean in exhausted silence until they trudged up to their rooms and passed out as soon as their heads hit their pillows.

Sunday was, of course, another long day for Nick and his friends, The Major knew exactly how far they were able to go and constantly pushed them to the brink of exhaustion before pulling them back again. But after many grueling hours the punishment was successfully completed and Friedkin dismissed them with a wave of her paw and a hidden smile on her face. Judy once again brought food and drinks for the guys, this time supplying them with Chinese food instead of pizza. Judy also spent time answering questions of her time in the academy and describing how she managed to knock out a rhino in unarmed combat training.

ZPA Classrooms, Middle of Nowhere, Monday Morning, 7:55am

"You know if this cop thing doesn't work out, I think you have a career as a house cleaner in your future Paul." Arlo remarked as the five of them walked into the classroom. "I mean I've never seen urinals shine like that."

Nick chuckled, "You're right Paul would make a great maid, but you better not quit your day job Arlo because I think you might have made the classroom even dirtier after you 'cleaned' it."

"Oh fuck you Nick, at least I'm able to dust the top shelf without a step ladder." Arlo shot back getting a good laugh from the group, even Nick just sat there and laughed along.

"Cadet Wilde, Major Friedkin wishes to speak with you." the gruff voice of an unknown instructor said, cutting sharply through the groups laughter.

Nick quickly stood up from his chair, "Of course Sir, may I ask why."

"Don't know, don't care. Just get moving." The instructor replied before walking to the front of the classroom to begin the lesson.

Nick suppressed a little shudder as he tried to figure out what exactly the Major could want with him considering everything seemed like it had been wrapped up nicely. Looking over at his friends Nick saw their concerned faces and just shot them a lazy smile.

"Don't worry guy's I'm sure it's nothing." Nick said portraying the confidence he wish he felt at the moment.

Arlo smiled back, "Sure, good luck Nick."

Tom looked Nick over with scrutiny before shaking his head, "I'll take note for you, but hurry back."

"Get a move on and we'll meet up with you later," Tony said with a wave.

"See you," Paul grunted before getting his notebook out.

Nick then quickly made his way to the door, weaving though the desk with ease. Right before Nick reach the door he passed by James and as their eyes met James sent a malicious and seemingly knowing grin which Nick noted but made no reaction to.

It took Nick only a few minutes to reach the instructors' offices as he hurriedly rushed through the halls, his curiosity pushing him to move faster and faster. Knocking properly and announcing his presence Nick made it inside without trouble, in fact the room was surprisingly empty and there was an eerie silence as Nick walked up to the Majors door.

Nick knocked and once again made his presence known, "Major Friedkin, it's Cadet Wilde."

"Come in." Replied a somber and slightly muffled voice.

As Nick opened the door he felt his jaw drop so hard and so fast that he was worried it might've dislocated.

The office was trashed, papers were strewn about the room and covering the floor, mixed in with the papers were little shards of black plastic. Nick carefully made his way across the room on tip toes as he tried not to step on anything at all, and after scrambling up onto the oversized chair Nick stayed silent and continued to take stock of the room. The Major's forehead was pressed against the oak desk which now had a massive indent with splintering cracks going across the top of it.

After a few more moments of silence the Major lifted her head and shot Nick a wry smile. "Why so quiet Wilde, that's not like you at all."

Nick gulped. "Seemed like the right call, I can be quiet if need be."

"Good to know," Friedkin chuckled. "Now down to business."

The Major then sat up straight and stared Nick down as she quickly brushed off some black plastic shards from her desk.

"There are accusations being laid against you." Friedkin explained as she leaned forward imposingly.

"What kind of accusations?" Nick asked casually, already knowing where this was going.

"Accusations of destroying academy property and mental instability."

Nick's heart dropped. "And who's accusing me of this?"

"I'm not allowed to say at this moment." Friedkin growled, her frustration visible as she continued. "All I can tell you right now is the accuser went over my head and outside of the academy altogether."

Seeing Nick was holding back his questions the Major continued.

"Normally accusations like that would be handled 'in house' so to speak, I would appoint an instructor to investigate and they would report their findings to me and I would decide if any punishments were necessary and what those punishments would be but, the mammal went to IA instead of anyone in the academy so IA has decided to handle this case personally."

Nick felt his throat go dry as he knew exactly what the major was going to say next.

"Is, is there anything you can do?" Nick asked, again already knowing the answer.

"No. Against my wishes the higher ups of IA and the academy have decided since IA brought the case forward they will investigate the accusations. It was decided that they will send two IA agents to collect evidence and present the case to me.


Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed it feel free to drop a review down below, tell me what worked, what didn't, what you want to see, ect. I love hearing from you all. Also If for some reason you don't want to comment but still want to suggest something or talk to me personally don't hesitate to PM me, I'll respond when I have time.

Chapterly song recommendation: Far From Home by Five Finger Death Punch