-Cards, Candy, and a Bow-wielding Bun-
Nick had trouble focusing on his studies. Most lovestruck mammals did during this time of year. Most of the stores were filled with red, pink, and white decorations. Hearts of all shapes and sizes were displayed. Some of them filled with candies, others little treats, some were just giant pillows.
It was the time of year that some mammals took a deep breath and dove into relationships. Others remaining at a distance and sending secrets notes professing their love to another mammal, hoping to one day to be brave enough to reveal who they really were.
The young tod currently daydreaming in the class had only one thing in mind. Well, one mammal at least.
A pair of purple eyes, stormy gray fur, a pair of black tipped ears...one of them just a little thicker than the other which just made her that much more-
"Earth to Mr. Wilde."
Nick winced as he slowly looked back to the front of the class. His teacher, Mrs. Drolet, staring at him with a knowing smirk. The ocelot had caught the young fox daydreaming.
The young fox prepared himself for an earful but thankfully his teacher simply winked before returning to the topic at paw.
"As I was saying before having to wrangle Nick back to Earth," There was a series of chuckles and giggles from Nick's classmates who all looked at the embarrassed tod. Some of them giving Nick encouraging looks, others still held some contempt.
Over the recent weeks, Nick had seen a shift in others opinion of him. To his surprise, some of his classmates had actually started treating him with kindness. He couldn't quite figure out why. Which caused him to become somewhat reserved in how he treated others. The memories of the junior ranger meeting were always lingering in the back of his mind. The mammals he thought would be his friends had turned on him so quickly. He still didn't talk to any of them. Which made things somewhat hard because they were all in the same class.
"Since Valentine's day is tomorrow I thought we could spend the remainder of the day making cards," Mrs. Drolet continued. "Whether they are for your parents, maybe a sibling, or a certain someone sitting in this very classroom."
There was a series of embarrassed giggles, several of the female students glancing around at one another or some of the boys.
Nick's lips curled but the look of excitement was quickly masked. He had learned how to keep his emotions in check around his classmates as of late. None of them really knew about his feelings towards a certain bunny. It helped that she lived in a completely different city. He, however, didn't want to give anyone ammunition if he could avoid it.
He had witnessed on several occasions just how much teasing a mammal would have to endure when the word got out they had a crush on another classmate.
Nick remembered how two of his classmates had been caught holding paws after school. They were still hearing kissy noises when they walked down the hall and it had already been a month.
The students in the classroom started on their assignments as Mrs. Drolet passed out construction paper and various crafting material. Much to her merit, the ocelot managed to maintain a kind of controlled chaos as her students hurried around the room. Most of them breaking off into their little cliques as they gossiped and helped one another with their card and craft making.
"So you going to make something for her?" Came a knowing voice just beside Nick.
The fox looked up in time to see a young female painted dog take a seat in the desk next to his, its previous occupant having long abandoned it.
"And who might that be Copper?" Nick asked as he looked into a pair of forest green eyes that stared back at him.
"Ju-" the young painted dog began but sat back as the young fox reached out and put a paw to the female's muzzle.
"Shhh!" The fox hissed and looked around as if the whole class would be eavesdropping.
Much to the fox's luck, no one had paid the two young predators any mind as they focused on their own projects.
Copper sat with Nick's paw covering her mouth for another moment or two before swatting it away.
"Oh come on," The young painted mammal began, "No one here even knows her."
Nick drew in a deep breath and shook his head, "Sorry Cop, but can't risk it."
"Fox's are weird," Copper mumbled as she began to fold a bright red piece of construction paper.
"Says the pup named after the wiring," Nick grumbled which earned a snort from his friend.
Copper was new to the class. In fact, she was new to the whole city of Zootopia. She had moved to the city recently. She came from a faraway place she didn't like talking about very much. Nick had learned why early on.
Copper had been adopted recently. She had previously been living in various orphanages and homes. One day though she had gotten the wish that so many of the children had, someone had chosen her to join their family.
As luck would have it Copper had been adopted by Delta's uncle. When Copper's new cousin had found out where the young painted dog would be moving he had made sure Nick was aware. Delta and his family had even come to Zootopia to help Copper's family with the move.
Nick had been invited over to meet Copper and her parents.
Much to Nick's surprise he had been taken aside by Copper's new mother and spoken to in hush tones.
"Nick, can you do me a favor?" She had asked.
"My sweet Copper has been through so much," The kind painted mother said as she took a knee so she was level with Nick. "She will need someone to keep an eye on her. Since she is now my only child and all our family is back in Manta Bay she will need a friend. Can I depend on you?"
Nick had been shocked when he had been asked. He had never been spoken to like that. To be asked with such sincerity and hope. He had accepted the request. As it turned out Copper and Nick managed to not only get along but thrive as friends.
Even though things had changed for Nick, he still felt like an outcast. Copper helped him grow out of his shell.
Unfortunately, a certain blue-eyed brown terror back in Manta Bay had found out about all this. Trisha had sent Copper a series of postcards and a few little gifts. Welcoming the painted dog to the pumpkin army, painted division.
Copper at first played it off that she was indifferent to the invitation. Nick, however, noticed how Copper always smiled at the mention of Trisha and how she still had the cards sent from the brown bunny. She would occasionally insist she was not part of Trisha's army which had Nick scoffing, reminding the naive painted pup that she didn't really have a choice. When Trisha wanted a mammal as a minion, they pretty much became a minion.
Being one of Trisha's hench mammals came with its perks for Copper. The main one was how she was now privy to interesting information. Like how a certain young fox in Zootopia had feelings for a certain bunny in BunnyBurrow.
Something that Copper would occasionally bring up to get a rise out of Nick.
"You know you have to right?" Copper mentioned as Nick started to try and cut a heart shape from white construction paper, the edges coming off a little square like.
Nick thought for a moment then glanced over at Copper, "Says who?"
"Well for one if Trisha finds out," Copper began.
Nick winced. Copper had a point. Trisha had this annoying habit of pestering Nick whether it was via postcard or phone call. The doe constantly badgering Nick about how things were with him and Judy.
Not like it is any of her business anyway.
"You also don't want her to think you don't care…" Copper trailed off as she glanced over her shoulder at a jet black panther who was currently using a dark red marker to make a series of swirls on a circular piece of paper. "Its best to do it just as a reminder."
Nick glanced over his shoulder at the panther whose ears flicked, she looked up as if detecting she was being watched. Before she could pick out who though the two canines had returned to their own work.
"Have you even said anything to her?" Nick asked.
"Said Hi in the cafeteria the other day," Copper said with a meek smile.
It was Nick's turn to have a knowing look on his muzzle.
"Vi is really nice," Nick pointed out.
"She reminds me of someone…"Copper admitted. "There was this panther that would visit us and spend time with us...Vi smells just like her."
Before Nick could start his teasing a black hoof grabbed a bottle of glue right off his desk. The fox looked over in time to see a young zebra trying to hurry away. When their eyes met Nick was surprised to see the zebra scowl.
"Save the glue for mammals who actually have valentines. You can always steal more somewhere else."
Before Nick could speak Copper had stood up from her seat and stared down at the zebra.
"Glue, back on the desk, now," The young painted pup growled.
The zebra froze, not ready to contend with the growling painted female. He set the glue back down on the desk and raised his hooves up, giving Copper a weak grin.
Copper had gotten a bit of a reputation when she first arrived at the school. She had proven she wasn't the type to be trifled with. On more than one occasion she hadn't hesitated to get in a scrap if someone pushed her or other around. While she had been told on multiple occasions to simply get a teacher she said she wasn't used to running for help. She had grown up on her own so the way she saw it she had to handle things herself.
Nick admired her a bit for that. He was also very grateful to have a friend like her in his corner, especially now.
"Thanks Cop-"Nick began.
Copper, however, turned to Nick, a fire in her eyes. She reached over to her desk and put a piece of heart-shaped paper in front of Nick.
"Write her something sweet," Copper said simply. "Then use green glitter around the edges, her favorite color is green."
It took a second for Nick to put two and two together, his eyelids drooping.
"Trisha tell you to do this."
"All hail the pumpkin queen."
The next day flew by like a blur for most young mammals. School wasn't really much of a problem since most of the teachers gave up trying to get any work done. Most of their students were bouncing off the walls thanks to all the candy being given out.
Some teachers embraced the holiday and threw little parties for their students. Bringing in punch and different sweet treats for the little ones.
The real highlight was the card exchange. Most students bought packs of cards at the local grocery stores and filled them out for each of their classmates. Taping a small chocolate or treat before depositing them in makeshift mailboxes attached to the front of each desk.
Some mammals, however, would make personal cards. Most of the time these were given to best friends. On very rare occasions though one of the young romantics would muster up the courage and paw deliver a card to someone they really cared about. This was normally done under many different gazes as most of the kits in the class would want to watch.
Judy sat in her own classroom and watched with excitement as one of her brothers strolled bravely down the row of seats towards one of their classmates. The brown and white dutch colored doe froze as she spotted the approaching buck. Her ears went right up and her eyes widened with excitement as a rosy tint went up the inside of her ears.
You can do it, Jeff!
Judy was elated to see her brother stop right in front of the doe at the front of the class and hold out a paw made valentines day card. The bunny giggled uncontrollably as she reached out and took the card.
Before any words could be exchanged however Jeff's bravery ran out and he hurried away back to the safety of his desk where several of his friends waited.
Even Judy was blushing as she watched the awkward exchange occur. She was however happy for her brother as she watched the bunny at the front of the class read the card she had just been delivered before holding it to her chest and letting out an excited sigh of happiness.
Judy busied herself organizing the stack of cards she had gotten. Her mind wandering to a certain someone in another city.
Would he have made me a card and done that?
Judy blushed at her own thoughts as the daydream began.
There was Nick strolling down the series of desks. A confident smirk on his muzzle as he carried a card for Judy. He stopped right in front of her desk, smiling down at her with those handsome green eyes.
"I made this for you Officer Judy," He would most likely say. The little nickname always made her tail wiggle with joy.
Judy's thoughts were interrupted when the door to their classroom opened up.
Their teacher, Ms. Bound, looked up from her own stack of valentines day cards she had gotten from her students. The bunny smiled over at the goat currently standing in the doorway, a bundle of envelopes in his hooves.
"Mail delivery Ms. Bound," The old goat announced as he strolled towards the bunny's desk.
"Thank you Mr. Tedry," Ms. Bound said as she stood up from her desk and met the goat halfway and retrieved the series of envelopes. "Any plans with May tonight?"
"Oh, you best believe it," The goat chuckled. "Got reservations down at Market Street then a stroll through the gardens. Yourself?"
"Well that sounds lovely, give her my love will you?" Ms. Bound said with a smile as she adjusted her large black-rimmed glasses, "Sadly looks like just grading papers with a bottle of wine."
"Oh come now, young looker like you shouldn't be stuck at home," The goat said kindly. "Why don't you join us? I am sure May would love to catch up."
"That's sweet Ed but I dare not get between you two and a romantic evening, how about next week?"
"It's a date," The goat said with a chuckle. "Wait till the boys down on Mainstreet see me walking around with two of the cutest girls in town."
Ms. Bound chuckled and Judy noticed a slight blush on her teacher during the exchange.
The young bunny sat back in her desk and took a moment to close her eyes. What would she be doing tonight? If Nick were here maybe they could go on a walk too. Or maybe to the fair that was currently nestled near downtown. Would he want to?
After Mr. Tedry left Ms. Bound began to distribute the mail that had just been delivered. One of the traditions for valentine's day at Judy's school was parents or relatives could send mail right to the school. As long as it had the class number and students name it was easy enough to be delivered, even in a school with so many bunnies.
Ms. Bound wandered through the classroom, pawing out small stacks of letters to her eager students. When she reached Judy however she paused and studied the pile of letters addressed to the young doe.
"It would seem someone in Manta Bay has forgotten what holiday it is," Judy's teacher said with a chuckle as she held up an envelope for the class to see.
Judy couldn't help but giggle as she noticed a bright orange envelope with a jack-o-lantern's smiling face in her teacher's paw.
"Yeah that's from a friend of mine," Judy admitted as the envelope was placed on her desk.
"Well maybe you can get your friend a calendar for their birthday, Judy," Ms. Bound teased.
"Wouldn't make much of a difference ma'am, my friend loves pumpkins."
Once her teacher left Judy began to flip through the different envelopes. While receiving something from Trisha really made her day, there was another address she was looking for.
Sadly Judy reached the bottom of the envelopes addressed to her with no signs of a letter from Zootopia.
Guess he forgot…Or maybe he sent something to the burrow.
Judy convinced herself that a letter from a certain fox would be waiting for her at home. There normally was one from Nick in the mail at least once a week. Ever since their last holiday visit to Manta Bay Nick had been writing Judy often. A small collection of postcards had been hidden away in her room from her mother for some time now.
Little did she know Bonnie had found the stash ages ago and had immediately called Peggy in Manta Bay to gush about it.
Judy opened the envelope from Trisha and instantly closed it as her eyes widened in shock. She glanced around her desk, making sure no one had seen the contents of the envelope.
Everyone else was too busy with their own cards to pay any attention to Judy who slowly opened the orange envelope once more and peaked inside.
Trisha had made two cards for Judy this year. One of them was a picture of Judy and Trisha hugging one another at the Manta Bay Aquarium from last year. A series of hearts drawn around them. A note had been written over the picture.
"Judy, you are my favorite bunny minion. -Love Trisha"
Judy beamed as she read the card. The fun memories from her trips to Manta Bay filling her mind.
This card, however, wasn't the reason for her surprised reaction.
It was the other card Trisha had made, the bunny either wanting to embarrass Judy or tease her. Whatever the reason Judy still felt her heart swell with affection for Trisha.
Trisha had taken the time to make a card that was covered in small pictures of Judy and Nick from their various adventures. Several bright hearts with arrows through them were sketched on the card.
When Judy flipped the card over her cheeks warmed and she felt her heart skip a beat.
Drawn on the back was a large heart with two words written in the middle.
Judy + Nick
Judy let out a sigh as she sat and looked at the card. Flipping it over from time to time to look at the pictures. She glanced at the card with the picture of Judy and Trisha hugging. Her purple eyes falling on the image of Trisha.
As Judy looked over the cards a thought popped into her mind.
Wonder what she is up to today?
Over in the city of Manta Bay, a series of rain clouds had found a way to park themselves right over the seaside metropolis.
Normally this would have been a bit of a pain. It meant no after-school adventures or get togethers as most mammals would be hurrying home. This didn't phase Trisha too much however as she was currently occupying a seat outside of the principal's office.
The doe was swaying her large feet back and forth in the air. The chair she currently occupied was obviously designed for a mammal much bigger than herself. Occasionally she would glance over at the principal's secretary. The porcupine would look up from her paperwork and smirk at Trisha, shaking her head before returning to work.
Even though the young doe wasn't exactly a bully or a mean spirited kit she seemed to have a knack for finding trouble. The mischievous bunny would regularly end up in the same seat outside the office, waiting to be told she could enter to have a stern talking to.
She was never worried though, she knew if she laid on the cuteness just right she could probably get out of detention.
The doe looked up at the ceiling and studied the tiles on the ceiling. The same tiles she had studied many times before.
Haven't gotten detention before, don't think they will start now.
Trisha's bright blue gaze finally fell on the seat next to her where a plastic bow was currently sitting. It reminded her of the old western movies her grandmother let her watch on occasion. Wild bunnies running across the silver screen, letting arrows fly at other mammals as they chanted a warcry.
Meanwhile, inside the principal's office, three mammals were currently in a somewhat heated discussion. Well, two of the mammals were somewhat heated. Trisha's mother Peggy, however, was both calm and collected as she stared at the principal and the armadillo next to them.
The doe had to maintain her compusre as best she could but even she had to admit the situation was rather amusing. She glanced over at the armadillo on occasion but couldn't even make eye contact out of fear of bursting out with laughter.
The annoyed looking teacher's shell was covered with arrows, the suction cupped tips stuck to his back in all sorts of odd angles which told Peggy Trisha had most likely been jumping off tables and taking shots at the teacher during the attack.
"She was a maniac. She was hopping everywhere laughing like some kind of rabid beast as she fired arrows all over," The teacher explained as he waved his arms about.
"Mrs. Rose," The Jaguar principal said as he raised a large paw, silencing his fellow educator for the moment. "Do not get me wrong, I do enjoy your daughters…..passion….while at school. But such behavior needs to be reeled in. We cannot have her hopping over desks and firing arrows-"
"Where did she get the bow and arrow kit anyways?" Peggy asked as she tilted her head. "My husband and I managed to raid her new hidden weapons cache last week so she hasn't had time to resupply…"
Peggy's mind drifted off as she tried to figure out where her little troublemaker could have even gotten the bow and arrow playset. She was somewhat oblivious to the odd looks she was getting from the two mammals who were shocked that such a sentence could have been said so casually.
To a member of the Rose family, however, this was as casual a topic as the weather. Occasionally Trisha's parents would come across a nerf gun armory, or maybe a super soaker cache, the snowball pile they found in the back of the freezer in mid-July had actually been rather amusing. Especially when Peggy had turned the tables and chased her daughter through the house, lobbing snowballs and the laughing doe.
"Well, she got it from me," The armadillo covered in arrows announced. "As part of a little skit-"
"Wait," Peggy said as she raised a paw and closed her eyes, not sure if she had heard right. "You mean to tell me you are the one that armed her?"
"As part of a little play for the class presentation about Cupid and-"
"How long have you been teaching Mr. Hicks?" Peggy asked as she let out a sigh.
"That is not in question here!"
"Ok, better question," Peggy began as she adjusted herself in the chair before the jaguar and armadillo. "How long have you been teaching my Trisha?"
"Well just this past school year so roughly 6 months I guess, why is this important?"
Peggy chuckled and rolled her eyes before looking right at the armadillo.
"Six months? Then why in the world did you think it was a good idea to give her a bow and arrow set?"
The jaguar's lips curled and he let out a soft chuckle, "She has a point, Mark. I mean how many times have you seen what that little trouble maker can do?"
"That's beside the point!" Mr. Hicks bellowed. "She is a menace!"
"Ok I wouldn't go that far," The Jaguar said as he raised his paws to try and calm his colleague.
"Look what she did Steven!" The armadillo turned to show his shell which was covered in small toy arrows. "What do you all have to say about this?!"
"Nice aim?" Peggy suggested.
When the meeting was over Peggy strolled out of the principal's office, promising she would have a stern talking to about decisions and what not with her daughter.
Peggy took her daughter by the paw and led the skipping doe out of the school and towards their car which sat in a visitors spot. Peggy, however, had visited the school so many times thanks to the little trouble maker she was about to suggest getting her own reserved parking spot.
"We are going to have a talk young lady," Peggy said as she buckled Trisha into a seat in the back of the car.
Trisha's ears drooped slightly and a worried look crossed her adorable face.
"They showed me the box the bow and arrows came in," Peggy said as she looked down at her daughter. "Says there were twelve arrows in the kit. I only saw 6 on Mr. Hicks….your accuracy needs a lot of improvement."
Trisha's eyes lit up with delight and she kicked her legs back and forth, "Hey! He was a moving target and I didn't think he could move that quickly. I would have easily gotten 8 shots on him if Mat hadn't looked like such an easy target. Plus Emily had been asking for an arrow to the butt with the teasing about Delta."
Peggy let out a laugh as she rolled her eyes, "Great….so now I have to call Mat's parents along with Jean and apologize for my little trouble bun."
"Naw," Trisha said as she waved a paw, "They are used to me by now."
"Guess Nick, Judy, and Sarah are used to you by now too," Peggy said playfully as she got into the front seat and started her car.
Trisha's ears shot right up at the mention of her friend's names.
"Because guess who all is coming to visit tomorrow."
-The next day-
"Now arriving at Manta Bay central station," Nick mimicked the announcement that buzzed over the PA system inside the train car.
The young tod nearly leaped out of his seat as he hurriedly gathered his things. Careful not to bend a bright red envelope with a certain bunny's name scribbled on it
"Have a nice stay Nick," A friendly zebra conductor said sweetly as she retrieved Nick's baggage from the overhead.
Nick had been on the Manta Bay line so many times that several of the train staff had gotten to know the young tod. Occasionally the snack cart gazelle would drop off a cookie for Nick, or maybe the bartender in the dining cart would bring him a soda.
The conductor would always make sure she was nearby whenever they pulled into Manta Bay so she could help the young fox with his luggage.
"Thanks, Cindy," Nick said as he grabbed his bags and hurried off the train. "I'm heading back to Zootopia tomorrow, are you working?"
"Yes, looks like we will cya tomorrow kitto," The zebra said as she tipped her hat and watched the eager young fox hurry onto the platform. "Such a sweet fox."
Nick gave a wave to his friend and was about to turn and look for his family who said they would be waiting to pick him up when he heard something whiz through the air.
He felt a slight pressure on the center of his chest and looked down to see a toy arrow sticking to his t-shirt.
"Ten points!" Trisha whooped from down the platform.
Nick looked down the platform and smiled as he saw Trisha standing in front of a group of mammals.
From the looks of it, Nick had quite the welcoming committee waiting for him.
Jean and Peggy stood behind Emily, Sarah, and Judy who were all beaming at the fox. Trisha twirled her bow in her paws and gave the fox a smug grin.
"Welcome back to Manta minion."
Nick bowed before Trisha, "Thank you, your majesty."
Almost as if a floodgate had been opened Nick was swarmed by the girls. The bunnies hurrying over to each greet Nick. Emily following close behind.
Try as they might Nick and Judy could not playoff how happy they were to see one another. Nick's tail swished back and forth as the small gray bunny closed her eyes, burying her face into the fox's shirt.
Trisha managed to climb up on Nick's back and pressed her cheeks to the young fox's.
"Ok snap another one now before they look," Jean said quickly to Peggy who raised her camera and tried to take as many pictures as she could.
"Oh, Viv is gonna love that one," Peggy whispered as she put the camera away.
After picking up Nick at the station the gang loaded up into Jean's car and headed home. The kits in the back catching up with one another. It was somewhat amazing how much time had passed since they had all last seen each other but when they were all together it didn't feel that way.
Over the course of the short drive, each of the kits brought up various memories they had collected over the year. Trisha bragged to Emily about the comic book that Sarah and Judy had made for her on her birthday. Emily laughing and looking over at Sarah who blushed.
Sarah asked how her two painted knights were. To which Emily informed the bunny that Delta and Atom would actually be joining them later at her house. The multi-colored doe nearly leaped out of her seat with excitement.
While the kits chatted in the back seat Peggy glanced over her shoulder at the back rows. A smug smirk crossing her lips as she looked back out her window.
"You seeing your nephew?"
Jean raised a brow as she glanced at her bunny friend who gave her a wink. The vixen reached up to her rearview mirror and adjusted it slightly so she could see the backseat.
Her eyes widened as a similarly smug smirk to Peggy's graced her lips.
"That's my Nick," She whispered.
While the others busied with their conversation no one had taken notice of Nick and Judy, who sat paw in paw in their seat. The gray bunny leaning against the young tod as she held a small card up in front of her, an open envelope resting on her lap.
The way her young ears stood straight up as her purple eyes skimmed across the card was rather adorable. A slight blush covering the doe's cheeks as she read the card over and over again.
Nick kept his paw wrapped around Judy's as he looked out the window, an embarrassed yet pleased smile on his muzzle.
Sorry for the absence as of late. Work has been pretty busy and I haven't been able to have much free time in order to write.
Hope you all enjoyed another fluff filled chapter from Manta Bay. Think we went overboard again but I just enjoy making stories with so much joy!
Hope to see you all again soon in Manta Bay.