AN: This is a crossover fic between Zootopia and Fantastic Mr Fox, though it leans towards the former (similar to how the original Take a Stand was a crossover with Robin hood). While you can enjoy it without watching the latter, I advise that you do. Same vice-versa, though to a lesser extent. Finally, I'd also like to thank the brilliant Takoto for doing the artwork that accompanies this fic.

Note, this is not in the crossover section as it's a crossover with the film, not the book, and there is no section for the vastly different film that this story is part based on. Certain 'members' of the fanfic community, please keep that in mind (and check for yourself, if you don't believe me).

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'Different'

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Chapter 1

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The wind ruffled through Nick's fur as he stood on the bridge. A cold northerly was blowing over, cold before it even picked up the artificial chill from tundratown.

Still, he knew it could be worse.

The low rumbling of the Zootopia river below reminded him of that, as it carried the meltwater from the frozen district out to the sea. Despite separating Savannah Central from Sahara Square, the temperature in there was said to often dip below freezing, only the churn of the deadly current keeping it from fully icing over.

Going in there though, and your body would have no defences. Out of his all time worst ways to die, Nick felt that being frozen solid, agonisingly chilled down until your body failed and the cold took your life, and then turned to mush from the frostbite was at the top. A few years ago, he'd wished that he'd be able to drown himself quickly as he and Judy were held over Mr Bigs' icing chamber. Down in that river, he hoped that he'd die on hitting the surface, or be brained against the rock, rather than fight the chill until his ultimate demise.

He glanced back to Judy, and then forwards. He wondered if the fox kit he saw thought the same thing.

Maybe he was just too scared or depressed or angry to think about such finer detail.

"Hey, Kit," the fox cop called out, and the kit turned to face him. He was small, not that much higher than Judy, and had a normal, if a bit light, red fox coat, albeit with some distinctive brown markings around his eyes. From far away, it seemed like he had giant eyebrows, with eyelash like smudges fanning out above them. His petite muzzle was riven with tears, along with fresh scratch marks.

He stayed silent. Standing there, feet on the railing. Nick looked nervously at them, the white socks he wore almost inviting an accidental slip. Into them was tucked a pair of white trousers, and into those a thick white jumper. A cape was fixed to his back, as if he thought he'd fly off like a super mammal.

"Don't like the cold, do you?" Nick began, pointing to the warm apparel. "Neither do I. I hate it."

He glanced over at Judy, who nodded.

She also knew that he hated the cold.

She was also one of the few mammals who knew that he hated revealing that, or any 'personal' information, almost as much. His hustlers mask, as she called it, and how he was loathe to remove it and let others see his inner secrets. Even now, his hustling days well over, that meant vulnerability. It meant being judged on the real you, not some armour you put up. On the way over, up until they knew it was a fox, they'd both agreed that she'd lead the talk down, given how it would be easier for her to talk.

When they knew it was a fox though, she'd suggested he do it.

Another glance over at her face, and she smiled slightly. Proud of how he was doing.

The kit's face remained expressionless. It was then the officer saw the stunt camera fixed to his shoulder, a tag attached to it.

"Now…" he carried on, nervously. Both paws in front of him, palms out and fingers splaying. "It's a bit of an ooopsie if you go in there, as that river's very cold, isn't it Mr…."

Nick paused, tilting his head slightly, waving his fingers as he waited for a name.

The kit turned and spat on the floor.

Nick smiled and nodded. "Very well Mr," he said, before turning and giving his own spit onto the floor. "Now, why do you want to end your life, just when it's getting exciting, huh?"

"I'm not needed."

The words rung out, no echo coming back as the ice-dread sound of the river took over once more. The fox's voice sounded unusually deep and very mature given his stature, though it was a normal adult voice, with a slight adolescent squeak, rather than the crazy baritone of someone like Finnick. Had it been a lighter moment, Nick would have even joked to Judy about it sounding very 'articulate', though now definitely wasn't the time.

"What makes you think that?" the fox cop asked. "I promise you that there are mammals out there who need you, even if you don't know it yet." He motioned back to Judy and smiled. "I thought I wasn't needed by anyone for two decades. I was though. I just hadn't met her. I promise you, it's worth the wait. Everyone's needed."

"Well I'm different," he growled, the last word treated like filth. He pulled up the camera attached to him and pointed it at his face, staring into it. Nick's eyes widened as he spotted the tag attached to it, 'my confession is inside', and he began sneaking forwards as fast as he could.

"You were right," the spitting fox cursed. "That's what you always said, and I wanted you to know it was true. I'm different. I should have worked out that that was code for 'surplus to requirement' a long time ago. For once, I hope your precious Kris does prove himself better than me at another thing!"

He turned and leant forwards, arms wide open like a crucifix, and he fell over the edge.

Nick leapt, sinking both pairs of claws into the boy's leg and screaming as he took the strain. There was a bang as the kit's falling head hit the side of the railing before he began thrashing about.

"NO!" he screamed. "LET ME GO! I CAN'T FAIL AT THIS! LET ME GO!"

"How about no," Nick grunted, as Judy raced over and grabbed the other leg. He thrashed and kicked as the two pulled him up, gripping the railings and pulling himself down, only for Nick to kick his hand-paws free. With a scream of despair from the pit of his stomach, the spitting fox was brought back over, and the two quickly held him down as he fought for release.

There was a click as his legs were cuffed together. Unorthodox, and requiring a huge amount of paperwork, but worth it.

He still fought, bitterly trying to haul himself over the edge, and his tear-filled cries were as cold as the river below. "NOOO! Please! Let me be good at something! Let me be good!"

The effort of trying to keep his arms controlled too much, Nick brought out his own cuffs and waved Judy over, to try and get his paws locked together. "Sorry Mister," he said, before spitting. "But you're making this difficult for all of us."

He brought the paws together and locked them tight, only to gulp at the sight. Below his right hand, on his arm, a battlefield of raw flesh and torn up fur.

Bite marks.

Self-inflicted.

"Don't worry."

Judy said that as the two partners lifted him up and began carrying him back to the squad car, even as he still fought for his freedom.

"We're going to take you to a hospital. You're not in trouble. They'll get you the help you need."

"I DON'T NEED ANY CUSSING HELP!" He yelled, before he went limp. He descended full on into tears, as he sobbed out the rest of his statement. "I can… I can… I can be good at this… I can…"

Carrying on, the cries were interrupted by Judy. "Well done partner," she said. "Good to know I need you!" The bunny turned around, smiling slightly as she diffused the tension between them. Their hearts were still beating fast, and this and the previous in-jest comment helped things a bit. Coming up to their vehicle she turned forwards and shrugged. "I mean I'd be surprised if you were able to confess that kind of thing just to me… Well done partner."

Nick blinked a bit, before gulping.

He had just said that thing out loud, hadn't he?

Truth be told though, he hadn't suffer from any of the apprehension that he'd have usually expected... yet. Maybe it was just because saving the kit was so much more urgent.

Reaching the cruiser, they placed him in the back and released the leg restraints. He stayed put, flinching back slightly as both Nick and Judy placed a paw on his side. He didn't look at them, or notice as Judy placed his wallet back on his lap, giving Nick a glance at it as she did so.

"Don't worry Mr Fox, you're safe now," Judy reassured him, as her partner snorted slightly.

"You know," he mused, "I now know why you go by the name of Mr…" He turned and spat on the ground, before looking back at the kit. "How about I call you Ash? Huh?"

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While well acquainted with hospital waiting rooms, thanks mainly to injuries gained in the line of duty, mental hospital waiting rooms were a much older and less clear memory for Nick. They seemed much nicer, warmer, and colourful though, both then and now.

He'd chosen to be there when the Fox family arrived, pulling up in a restored army motorcycle and sidecar of all things. Mr Fox, as he stepped in, reminded Nick of a cross between the Redtailed baron and the hero of some 70's heist caper. Well dressed in a brown faux-leather suit set, a pair of driving goggles resting above his eyes, he launched right into it.

"I heard that Ash tried to kill himself? Is that true?"

"Yes," Nick replied. "I hauled him back onto the bridge with my partner."

Looking on and, from what he could see, Nick liked the look of Mr Fox. He seemed to be far more of an exciting uncle rather than a father, though Nick never had any uncles (yet alone exciting ones) so he couldn't be totally sure. Then again, surely those exciting uncles could have children too? Maybe his own father was like that, though, from what he could remember of his old man, Mr Wilde had been quiet but sweet (and a hardcore trekkie, though every mammal had his faults). He was the kind of father who wouldn't be rough and tumble with you but would sit by your bed reading stories, and who's soft hugs and strokes really meant something.

A slight movement from the corner of his eye brought Nick back to attention. "Are you two the rest of the family?" he asked.

Beside Mr Fox stood two other foxes, a vixen, who was clearly his wife, and a silver fox, an older brother who was a whole head taller than his brother.

"Felicity…" "Kristopherson…" they both replied, and Nick felt a nervous tick as he remembered the confession on the bridge. Mrs Fox pushed past that though, stepping forwards to hug him, thanking him endlessly for his good deed. After the half a dozenth time, Nick managed to push her off, and turn to Kristopherson.

"Kris is it?" he asked, the silver fox nodding in response. "Ash mentioned you, he said that he wished that you'd prove yourself better than him at another thing? Know why your little brother would say that?"

The question hung in the air for a bit, the silver fox thinking, before calmly replying. "Firstly, it's worth noting that he isn't my little brother. He's my little cousin, in a physical sense. I'm actually a bit younger than him, despite my appearance. I've been living with my family for six months, due to my father having a long-term illness."

Nick's ears dropped at that, and he stepped forwards. "I'm so sorry to hear that."

Kris smiled. "Thanks, it's appreciated. He's recovering quickly though, I should be home in less than a month. Though for it to be truly home we'd have to organise a big get together or something." He looked at his aunt and uncle affectionately, and they looked back at him likewise.

Nick couldn't help but feel his former sadness swept away with warmth, and he looked at the young kit in front of him with a newfound sense of respect. "That's a very good outlook on life, you know. I kind of wish I felt like that when I was your age, it would have made things a lot easier."

"Well, that's Kris for you," Mr Fox said, smiling. "He's just a natural."

"I couldn't help but put it like that myself," Mrs Fox added, before sighing. "As for Ash though, he's different."

That word, accompanied by waving paws by the vixen, rang out, Nick's ears falling back as he remembered how they'd been screamed out. "Different?" he enquired.

"Yeah, different," Mr Fox added, also waving his paws. "Nothing wrong with it, it's just what he is."

"Different," Kris chimed in. "In quite a number of ways."

Nick closed his eyes and opened them again, gazing at each three as he honed his piercing hustlers gaze to its maximum. "What do you mean by different?"

"I just mean he's different. Not the same. Nothing wrong with that, something we always remind him of," Mr Fox said.

Again, Nick spotted him wave his paws as the D word was spoken. What is it with Mr Fox, different, and waving?

"We make sure of it, he is our son after all," Mrs Fox said, looking down slightly and beginning to sniff. "We always tried to make sure that we knew it was okay… But…. But… I guess I…"

"We, dear," Mr Fox said, stepping over to hug her, his face pained as she began to cry.

"WE FAILED!" she wailed out, before covering her eyes with her paws, bawling out into them.

"We won't give up though," Kris said, placing a paw on his aunt's shoulder. "I'll work doubly hard. I'll teach him my meditation. My wellness exercises. I'll volunteer here..."

Nick kept watch over them before shaking his head, his hustlers gaze finding nothing hidden or foul among the three. Just a family shocked by a near-miss tragedy, and not knowing where they went wrong. He turned to Kris and smiled. "He's lucky to have you, you know?"

"I guess so… sort of," the silver fox sighed. "I mean, those things are the kind of things that anyone would do, aren't they?"

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Lead on by an otter nurse, they reached the door to Ash's room. It was thick wood, but two rectangular glass panes were inset, letting the group look in. The nurse gently rapped at it, and spoke.

"Master Fox, I've got some visitors for you. Is it okay if we come in?"

There was some grunting and some noises, before the door clicked open and the Fox looked out. Dressed now in pair of blue trousers, as if trying to give the impression of a pair of jeans, and a grey jumper over a white shirt, he looked at the pair tiredly, before his eyes widened slightly as he saw Nick.

The fox cop, meanwhile, had backed off, startled. A panicked 'yip' escaped his throat before he composed himself from the shock of seeing Ash's final clothing item. It was made of thick white plastic and perforated with holes, rather than cold metal and black fabric straps, but a muzzle was still a muzzle, and this one was locked onto his head. Ash stood there stoically in it, while Nick felt a hot wash of embarrassment. He scanned around at the others, trying to see if they'd noticed his scream, all while he braced for the questions…

The probing…

The expectation to open himself up to them. Bare and exposed…

Nick could already feel the butterflies in his stomach flutter as the otter nurse turned to face him.

"Sorry, he's a self-biter risk," she explained. Nick felt his instinctual guard lower slightly as the limelight was cast away from his fear, while Mr Fox's eyes widening at what had been said.

"No," he said. "My son's never…"

He trailed off as Ash held up his right arm, showing the wounds he'd given himself. As Mr Fox looked on speechless, the kit turned and spat to the floor, the spit trapped in his muzzle and drooling out of a hole. He gave a quick glance up, before grabbing the door and slamming it shut.

It didn't close.

Silently, without a complaint, Kris had his foot stuck in the door, keeping it open.

"I'm fine by myself," Ash growled.

"No you're not," the silver fox replied, his voice perfectly normal and innocent.

"I can break your foot with this door if you don't move it!"

"You can't."

"I'LL MAKE YOU SCREAM IN PAIN!" he yelled, pulling the door back and smashing it into his cousin's foot.

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"No you won't."

Ash changed tactics, pushing forwards as hard as he could, grunting and straining as he did so. "I'll push this door closed."

"Ash, please," he said, the calls mirrored by his parents.

"I'm going to close this door on you!"

"Cousin, we know that won't happen."

"It's gonna happen!" Ash boasted. "I'm an athlete, and I'm…"

He trailed off as Kris stood up and, with just one paw on the door, pushed it open. The fox on the other side 'eeked' slightly and groaned, growling as his feet began to scurry on the floor and fight back. It was futile, and the door was opened up wide.

Ash stood there, looking at his cousin, with eyes that flashed between sorrow and anger and fear and envy and rage.

He blinked, sniffing.

"AREN'T YOU GOING TO COME IN!?"

"Only if you say I can," Kris politely said, before flinching as Ash sank to his knees and screamed, pounding the ground as he did so.

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Mrs Fox, crying, ran forwards to hug her child.

Mr Fox, still composed, did the same.

Kris patted his shoulder with a paw.

Together, they brought him outside.

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"Son," Mr Fox began to say. "I have no idea what went through your mind. Why you would ever want to throw away your life like that? I don't know what pains you've been going through, or how you feel. But remember, we love you. We wouldn't love you any other way. And there's nothing wrong with being diff…"

He was cut off as Ash leapt up, punching his father in an uppercut. The whole crowd backed off as he ran inside his room, pulling the door shut. Mr Fox just stood there, blinking. "Did he try to uppercut me?" he asked.

They all paused as a scream came from inside the room, before being followed by a set of whimpers. Mrs Fox ran forwards and knocked.

"Go away!"

She entered anyway, only to quickly retreat, looking a bit flustered. "I think he tried to fight me off."

"OH CUSS YOU ALL!" he yelled.

Mrs Fox turned to the nurse and sniffed. "You… you can help him. Can't you?"

"We'll try," she replied.

"Is there anywhere where I could sign up? Volunteer work. I know yoga and meditation, it could help," Kris offered, and he was quickly pointed towards a volunteering station, taking off to it.

Nick studied the couple in front of him, and spoke. "When Ash was on the bridge, he said that no-one needed him. He had a camcorder… He wanted you two to watch it. He explained into it that 'different', as you said it, meant 'surplus to requirement."

The pairs eyes widened, and Mr Fox spoke. "Why would he ever think that?"

"I think he's envious of Kristopherson," he finished, just as the silver fox returned.

"NO CUSS!" came a yell from the other side, as Felicity turned to face the door.

"Ash… I know that Kris is a natural… and you're…"

"DON'T SAY THAT CUSSING WORD!"

"But we always told you there was nothing wrong with that," Mr Fox spoke up. "And it's unfair on Kris to be so mean to him. His father's been ill for months, and he's come over and done his best to settle in. He's tried so hard to be your friend, and all you did was act hostile to him. What has he ever done wrong?"

"You tell me? Then we can talk."

"I didn't try hard enough to stop this," the silver fox, who'd returned, said solemnly. "And I'm sorry."

"Oh go cuss yourself!"

"ASH!" both his parents called out, only for their son to continue, breaking down as he did so.

"You've never needed to try. You're just a… you're just a… YOU'RE JUST PERFECT AT EVERYTHING!"

"And that's his fault, how?" Felicity spoke.

The only response that came back was tears and sobbing. The crowd just stood outside, waiting.

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It was an hour before they entered. Nick had knocked, and asked if he could talk.

Ash eventually agreed.

The fox cop asked if his family could join him.

He agreed.

They did.

The room could have come out of a hotel, were it not for the lack of hard edges and the presence of a security camera in the corner. Taking a chair and a desk Ash had built a small pillow fort, and calmly stated that Nick could enter. The older fox grimaced as he saw the younger one's muzzle again, though the kit seemed completely unphased.

"Classy place."

"Wait until you see the one Kris makes," Ash muttered.

"Is he good at them?"

"Of course he's good at them," the fox said. "He's good at everything, especially the stuff that he hasn't had a go at before. Oh no! I'm wrong! If it's something I'm good at, he's so awesome at it that he makes me look terrible!"

"Like when?"

"Like diving or swimming, he's just far better at it. I remember my Dad clapping and cheering at his dives. Never did that for me."

"But they were perfect dives, athletes train for years to do those son," came Mr Fox's voice from outside. "I'm sorry if I was impressed, but I was impressed."

"Yeah, even though I'm an athlete, and I trained for years!" Ash shouted out back. "And what about Whack-a-bat! I spent years training and playing."

"It's no-one's fault if he's a natural, dear," Mrs Fox said.

"IT STILL HURTS THOUGH!" Ash yelled, emptying his lungs. He panted, breathing in, as tears began to flow down the claw marks on both his muzzles. "It still hurts when… when… when he wins your school a cussing first place trophy the day he first starts playing! And the person who practiced… who put in actual effort… who did boring training after school for years… GETS CHUCKED OFF THE TEAM!" The fox broke down, sniffing. "And… and… you're just a stupid short runt who's actually useless…. And… and the person who took that from you just has to be so nice that you know you're a jerk for hating him… What kind of jerk hates the person who beats up your bully! And what kind of person are you when your younger cousin defends you… and… and… just tells you can't win your fights… you can't defend yourself… That you're useless!"

The sound of a clearing throat came in, and Kris spoke out. "Ash, I never tried to hurt you. With the sports and stuff, I never tried…"

"THAT'S RIGHT! YOU NEVER HAD TO TRY!" Ash screamed, bits of saliva dripping from the holes in his muzzle. He curled up tight into a ball, and just sobbed out. "You didn't even try to take Agnes from me… But you stole her…"

"Ash, please don't act like you own people," Kris said. "I was just nice to her."

"AND I WASN'T? I was her friend… and… and… I said her spots were pretty…. And she was pretty… And I brought her gifts and took her out… I WAS ALWAYS THERE FOR HER! AND YOU DIDN'T EVEN TRY!"

Nick leant forwards, placing an arm on Ash's shoulder. "Is this what this is about? Losing your girlfriend. Here's some news, champ. If she left you for him, she didn't deserve you. You'll find someone else."

"I know that…"

Nick's head tilted sideways in confusion. "So why did you…?"

"That was months ago!" Ash sobbed. "He… he showed I was a useless athlete so… so… I started something else. I… I tried making comics… and… and I made more of them… AND I PRACTICED! I PRACTICED SO HARD! I made my own comic book, and I gave it to people at school and they loved it… and I sent it to a magazine and… and they said they would publish it!"

He broke down crying, and Nick softly spoke. "What happened?"

"I saw some of his comic stuff and thought I'd give it a shot," Kris said from outside. "I made a comic to help with my art classes, part of a project, and after a hint from a teacher I sent it to a magazine to see what they thought…"

"Oh…" Nick said.

"YEAH OH!" Ash yelled. "THEY LOVED YOUR COMIC SO MUCH, THEY PULLED MINE! AND MY PARENTS DECIDED TO GIVE YOU A PARTY TO CELEBRATE IT!"

Curling up again, Ash sobbed more into his arms, while Nick peeked out from under the bedsheets and looked at his parents. "Seriously," he said. "That's cold."

"We'd already booked it for Ash," Mr Fox explained, shrugging. "It was going to be a surprise. When this happened, it made sense to give Kris a reward for succeeding. It was this morning, both of them got the news, and I explained the party thing to them. Heck, if anything it was meant as an awkwardness breaking quip! 'Guess we've got a new fox of honour,'" he joked, his hands up and waving. He paused though, a more morose look coming onto his muzzle. "I said sorry for what happened... I thought he'd taken it well."

Nick closed his eyes and took a deep breath, before returning back in.

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"Do you know, I went to one of these places before. When I was younger," Nick said. He noticed it seemed easy to say so, even natural.

Instinctual…

A complete contrast to how he wouldn't let it slip were he outside.

Maybe it was because he was with a kit who needed help? Maybe it was because the pillow fort made it seem like they were alone, one on one, which made it a thousand times easier. He didn't question it much further though, he just let it be for now.

"No," Ash replied. His messy fur was now atrocious around his face, while his eyes looked raw.

"Only for some day things," the fox cop carried on, somehow okay with what he was saying. "For a few years I was mute."

"Really?"

"Yeah really. Someone stuck a police version of one of those onto me in a hazing," he explained, pointing at Ash's muzzle.

"Seriously?"

"Seriously," Nick replied. "In the end, I ended up learning sign language, before getting my voice back.

"Can you show me?"

Smiling, the larger fox quickly began manipulating his paws, spelling out whole sentences as well as catchphrases. His favourite sign though was 'I love you', one of the first he'd learnt, choosing to do so that he could tell it to his mother.

"Palm out," he explained, Ash following on. "Thumb and outer two fingers up, middle one down." They did so together, before both moving their palm backwards and forwards. The teen fox nodded and was interested, but a teen nonetheless, and without any sentimentality. So, Nick returned to some sign-play puns he knew. Despite being completely unaware of the jokes being told, Ash smiled slightly as he watched. "That's cool."

"I could teach you."

"Kris would learn it himself and be ten times better…"

"I now know your problem with Kris, but what about the D word."

"Different?"

"Yeh, Different."

"It's… It's what my parents say," Ash explained. "I'm different. I'm different. The way I act, or feel, or dress myself, or behave… I'm different. BUT WHAT THE CUSS DOES THAT MEAN!?"

Nick flinched back from the shout, the smaller fox's voice cracking up near the end. A sniff, the tears starting again.

"What does it mean? I… I don't know… They don't know… They just say it over and over and over… When I have a complaint or a problem… They don't check it out or… I'm just different! It's like they chose that word as it's easy to explain! It lets them brush everything under the carpet. Am I different!? Am I different to what… I don't know. How am I different? And… And… it's like a shorthand… Like… like they can't be bothered to explain what I am… Like they don't even know me…"

"Son," Mrs Fox said, her voice like a ghost. "I… You understand it's fine to be…"

"TO BE WHAT!?" Ash yelled, choking slightly. "Maybe I'm not different at all… Maybe I'm normal? Is that a bad thing… Stop using the cussing d-word like an excuse… Or just admit you don't know me and prefer peter perfect!"

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"Ash, you are my son," Mr Fox said slowly. "I remember the day I learnt your mother was pregnant like yesterday. I remember seeing you come into this world. I remember you learning to talk and to walk and to play. And I will always love you and… yes, I've said you were different and that that was okay. But I feel I never went in too deep, and that's why you feel so scared now…"

Nick look on as Ash's head tilted curiously and, together, the pair peeked out of the fort and looked at Mr Fox, his wife by his side. "I think I know what's bugging you," he continued. "I mean, looking at how you dress funny, have those markings around your eyes and act odd, or even how you seem to like it when that purple grape juice is all over your mouth like lipstick, I'm amazed I didn't see it sooner. I should have, and maybe me bringing it up would have prevented all this. But let me tell you now that it's okay."

"What do you think is bugging me?" Ash asked skeptically, looking on as Mr Fox stepped forwards and smiled.

"No matter how you feel about yourself or who you love…" he said, before taking in a breath and carrying on, his arm moving forward to gently rest on his son's shoulder. "No matter what you feel like inside… No matter if you're really something other than what you were born as, whether you feel that you're really a vixen or something else, I don't know… Or no matter if you love someone from a different species, or a todd… It doesn't matter. None of that matters as I don't care. I will always love you."

"You think I'm gay… or trans…"

Even Nick flinched back at the accusation, despite it being a whisper.

"It's okay to be…"

"I KNEW YOU DIDN'T KNOW ME!" Ash yelled, jumping up and tearing down the bed sheet. "YOU DIDN'T EVEN LISTEN TO ME WHEN I SAID I HAD A GIRLFRIEND! I WAS RIGHT! GET OUT OF MY ROOM…"

The three fox's backed off a bit.

"I SAID OUT!"

They exited and Ash, cutting past Nick and the otter, went straight for his en-suite. The door closed behind him, and the wailing began.

Mr Fox noted that his assumption may have been based off of entirely circumstantial evidence, having no solid backing, and probably wasn't a good call.

Leaving Ash behind, as it was late at night, the otter nurse, along with the family waiting outside, said thanks to Nick once more. Arrangements were made. Dates booked.

.

It was into the small hours of a new day when Nick exited the hospital. He looked over at the Fox family and his ears fell back somewhat, a sudden nervous feeling growing over him.

He'd wanted to help Ash when he'd talked about his past issues. How he'd been bullied. How he'd been mute. How it had taken years for him to recover.

How he was vulnerable…

He was okay with him knowing, but as he looked at the family who now also knew he was beginning to feel tingles of fear shiver down the back of his spine. He kept his eyes on them, trying to see if they were judging him…

Thinking less of him…

A look forwards though, and the sight of a certain bunny, helped drive those thoughts away. She didn't think less of him, and she was the one who'd helped him to start to open up in the first place. Then again, that cynical part of him thought, maybe he was just fine being vulnerable to her.

Judy, oblivious to his internal musings, was waiting for him in the cruiser, and they left together. She drove and, as they cruised down the road, he felt a soft paw on his larger one.

"You did a wonderful thing," she said.

He turned to face her and saw her smile. That little cynical, defensive, part of him could never stand up against that.

Not in a million years…

"Remember on the bridge," he said. "I said I thought I wasn't needed by anyone for two and a half decades, then I met you."

"Yeah," she replied, smiling. "Thanks for that."

"You're welcome, but I hope you're not the jealous type."

"Why's that?"

"There's someone else who needs me."

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AN: Having read Fantastic Mr Fox as a child, I was surprised by the additions made in the film. However, I found it to be a great film that was enjoyable in places but also, more than anything, one that moved me. Ash's plotline especially seemed to affect me for a little bit, sending me into a quiet thoughtful phase for some reason.

Years later and looking back, I realized that it goes a bit weird at the end. After constantly being shown as less capable, he magically becomes a super athlete, saves the day, and gets his own bandit hat. It sure feels good, but it feels like a cheap happy ending that was bolted on. Why was he suddenly able to do these things he couldn't do before? It almost feels out of character.

I admit that it was very feel good, so I decided to look for any others who'd examined this. TV tropes and several commentators picked up on an interpretation of Ash that I thought was especially stupid, one which I made my opinions of fairly clear in this chapter.

At the same time, the whole 'different' thing also rubbed me the wrong way. The way they called him it, giving the jazz hands, seemed cold and uncaring, as if they couldn't look further and just gave him the most generic label. While the alienating issue of it was semi-addressed in the 'we're all different' speech, my core issue wasn't addressed at all in the film (in fact Ash seemed to give in to them, trying to differentiate himself in more nuanced ways (I'm grumpy, I spit…) before just resorting to the D word), and my feelings towards that are present in this fic too.

Thus, I wrote this fic in part to deal with some of the thoughts I have about Ash's arc. There's two more chapters to go, and I'd be interested in knowing what you think.