AN: The A03 version of the fic includes an embedded artwork.

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'This is fine…'

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'This is fine…'

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'This is…'

Ash paused, his head cocking slightly as he noticed a slight typo. It must have been a missed letter on his keyboard, hitting a k instead of an h. 'Ship, not skip', he corrected, noting that it wasn't the worst slip up that he could make with that word. Regardless, he carried on with his last minute work, hoping to get a last read through done before he'd be drawn away from it.

He was in an English lesson, as he always was first thing on a Monday. They'd been practicing speeches and, over the weekend, all students had been tasked with making an educational speech on a particular topic, with a key theme being 'strange reasons for being.' The idea was to learn about the obscure and interesting reasons from the past behind something mundane and unassuming in the present; for instance, how their small size, limited strength and happiness to work in tight crowds led to lemmings being commonly employed in early stock exchanges, the 1929 Wolf Street Crash and resultant hysteria then spawning the stereotype of them jumping off of cliffs. Or, as a different example, how faulty tinned food resulted in the current desk in the Oval Office.

Marks were to be given for the speech's diligence, clarity, and the ability to engage the audience, creative presentation methods being encouraged. He'd got his done the night before, though he'd put proofing off until now. He figured that he could fit it in in between others speaking.

Finally done with his read through, he looked up as the teacher called out for a new student to present their work. An uinta chipmunk, brown furred with white and brown slashes of colour pulling down from his ears to his nose, stepped up. He got to the front, shuffled his notes, before reading off.

"My parents met due to and are both in politics, having both stood for the ZGP, the Zootopian Green Party. However, today, while my mother remains in it, my father is a member of the Green Party of Zootopia, our other green party. Our city and country is unique in having two of them, but why? Why does my uncle, every time he visits, asks if a guy over there is the Popular People's Green Party, and why don't my parents like him very much? The answer is simple. Plate tectonics."

He paused for effect, before carrying on. "Since before the time of the dinosaurs, the Farallon plate, a sub plate of the Pacific, has been diving under the North and South American ones. All that's left now, in our part of the world, is the Juan De Fuca plate and its northern and southern fragments, the Explorer and Gordo Plates. This birthed the Cascade mountains and volcanoes, while accreting islands onto North America. Most of these were small islands. Zootopia wasn't. Zootopia was a continental fragment that slammed into the plate and began buckling it. It buckled it so hard that a great fault was created, through our land, the coastal ranges and then into the American interior. Rivers ran through this, out to sea and through the Zootopian landmass, even as it stuck out into the ocean, or into an inland are called the Great Basin. Tens of millions of years passed, the land buckled and started pulling the fault apart and, with numerous ice ages passing, glaciers dug it down further. At the end of the last one, the meltwater flooded the Great Basin and overtopped the divide. This cut deeper, pulling more water out, and today the whole Great Basin, from the outflow of Lake Tahoe to the meltwater of Ewetah's mountains, drains into the Kula river, through the steep and straight canyon, and into the sea via Zootopia. There, on the awkward lump of land sticking out into the ocean, it tumbled down the Kula rapids, dropping over half a mile before ending."

He paused, cleared his throat, and carried on. "Mexicat claimed Califurnia, to the south of the river, and the States and British claimed Oregon to the north. Zootopia was claimed by all, set up as a protectorate of all as a compromise, and then chose to remain independent. That's when our story starts again. The Kula could give shipping access to the wild west, to the goldmines, to boomtowns like Salt Lick City, Reno and Mesa City, but the rapids blocked this. So, they diverted the river. A small dam at the head of the rapids diverted the river into a holding lake, penned in by Cliffside Dam. A set of giant lifts pulled boats into one corner of the lake, while turbines were installed underground. The river was so big, and the drop so high, that far more power could be generated than sold. So, the city used it, at first building the small climate zones, and then building the climate works to employ mammals during the depression. Despite the crazy energy use, we still had spare energy to sell. While Zootopia grew into a giant city and energy use jumped, the system efficiency improved meaning we never ran short. But the output was limited, and we could now sell that excess power across the western states if we wanted to."

He looked up, flicking his papers, before continuing. "Because hot air rises, the hot zones use far more energy than the cold, and with all the humidity needed and the fact you can't vary with the seasons, it's the rainforest that takes the lion's share. In the early sixties, city leaders planned to build nuclear reactors, not for electricity but pure heat. This would keep the districts warm, while we could sell the dams electricity to the states. To fund it, they planned to use fast reactors, which could break down long lasting waste and breed new fuel, both things that we could sell. However, because it absorbs too many neutrons, fast reactors can't have water in the cores, so most systems use molten sodium which causes all sorts of issues. Zootopia's scientists planned to build a helium cooled one, which solved many of them, given how carbon dioxide cooled reactors were a proven technology. Most of the systems would be the same as British and Furench designs but, with no graphite moderator in the core, it would be denser and cheaper. However, this was also why this technology was rarely pursued elsewhere. Liquid metal, water or graphite in the core adds thermal mass, giving more breathing time if there was a coolant loss. With just rods in the core, and planned super hot temperatures to generate electricity, these reactors could quickly melt down if there was a power loss. But, as we only needed to warm water, the reactors would work fine in Zootopia. They could be run cool enough to flood the core with water if there was a problem. A small test reactor ran successfully, and the commercial prototype was built and ready for loading, but by that point the Green Party had formed and wasn't happy. They protested and obstructed it, claiming we had enough power already, and with new uranium reserves being found and the cheaper cost of burying waste than reprocessing, the plant was never started. But then came the oil shocks and fuel crisis, and it was almost started again, hippy protestors stopping that by blocking fuel deliveries. After that, the plant was abandoned. Things would go on just as they had done, were it not for something big. Climate change."

"-DUN-DUN-DUUUU…"

All eyes turned to a student at the back, who shrunk a bit as the teacher gave him a warning glare. Ash looked at him, before glancing back at his friend Maisy. He hadn't had a chance to talk with her after the weekend. He quickly looked away, his eyes briefly meeting those of Beavis, the chipmunk smirking, before he turned forward once more.

"Thanks to the climate works, Zootopia has by far the world's highest energy use per capita, but coming from the dam means it's also one of the cleanest. However, many mammals began to feel that the system was too wasteful. In the mid-eighties, a plan was proposed to cap all the climate districts with greenhouses, slashing energy use. Mammals hated it. As times have gone past, the technology has improved. The greenhouses would be better insulated, more open and cheaper, and would actually stop rain in Sahara square, unlike today. By selling the electricity to the US, it'd pay for itself and then make us the world's richest country by far, while supplying ten percent of their power. To many green supporters, it made perfect sense. Others felt it ruined something core to our identity, or was done out of greed, or would never be popular, something proven by polls. Some even think we should scrap the wall, sell the power, and invest the earnings in more green energy. Ultimately, the 'climate cappers', including my father, split to form the Green Party of Zootopia, all because of plate tectonics."

He breathed a sigh of relief, bowing a little as the class clapped out. A few questions were asked, a few things discussed, before it was the turn of the next student.

Kris's turn came next. Ash watched as he walked up to the front, cleared his throat and began speaking. "Antivulpinism: defined as a bias or hatred towards mammals of the genus Vulpes, alongside Urocyon, Otocyon, Cerocyon and Lycalopex, most commonly due to a perceived dishonesty, shiftiness, and untrustworthiness. As you all know, I recently emigrated to this city from my home in Canidea, more specifically Prince Edward Island. For those who don't know, it's my country's smallest province, about the size of the country of Zootopia, and one in five mammals is a fox. Half of those are silver foxes, many descended from the Raurfpeltz family and their followers. -It's also worth pointing out that I'm technically a platinum fox, not a true silver fox, despite my name. Most silver foxes are black furred with silver strands, like my grandfather was, but thanks to a dominant gene my father and I have this colouration."

"In any case, the Raurfpeltz were a Germanic dynasty who lost their lands in the Seven Years War but, thanks to their connection to King George III, received large portions of land on the newly acquired island. Both there, and across much of the world, antivulpinism isn't much of a feature of our lives. In Europe, Canidea and to a much lesser extent the States, foxes are commonly respected; many become cops, a vixen even being the Chief Inspector at Interpol, a stark contrast to Zootopia which only employed its first fox cop a few years ago, its second very recently and has its first vixen still in the academy. But why is this the case? Why is Zootopia 'noted' for its supposed antivulpanism? And, at the end of the day, is it a fair criticism? To answer that, we need to go back to the root of this problem… Earth's magnetic field."

Ash nodded at the back. He knew where this was going.

Sort of.

He was missing the middle bit, so he guessed it would be interesting. He settled down to listen in, only for the class to be broken off by a knocking at the door. Everyone turned to face it, the door unlocking and one of the senior teachers, a boar, leaning in. "Apologies," he said, glancing around. Ash could swear that he looked into his eyes, before facing the teacher at the front. "Just checking something."

There was an odd silence as he left the room, whispers bandying around, before the teacher silenced them with a solid Ahem. He looked over at Kris, then gave him a nod to carry on.

"-While many species have a rough ability to sense the earth's magnetic field, often without knowing it, red and arctic foxes have a unique ability, we can visually see the field. This manifests as a shadowy mark in our vision, likely evolved to assist with pouncing at buried prey. The theory is that by lining up this mark with the sounds of buried prey, we could more accurately dive onto them. Come the great uplifting and the stone age, this was no longer required, likely for millennia. As civilization progressed though, two unique uses became clear. Firstly, the ability drew red foxes to large iron deposits, helping to kick start the iron age. The second was its use as a compass, allowing early ships to go far further from the shore. In time, this led to old world red foxes becoming some of the richest mammals in the societal hierarchy. We controlled the iron, and soon all trading ships worth their salt had a fox navigator on board. The advantage only increased when it was realised that the angle of the mark against the earth could be used to roughly measure latitude, while, by observing the deviation from true north, as marked by Polaris, longitude could also be estimated. Old world trade was built upon foxes, and it built them too. Being an insular species, they invested the proceeds inwards, becoming a key part of the merchant classes, hawking, bargaining and forever penny pinching. In a world where the larger the mammal the richer, with Europe more often than not ruled by large carnivores, foxes made it up there. To this day, they're viewed as a 'higher' species there, yet why not here?"

Ash looked on, before pausing as he noticed something at the door. It was that teacher again, looking in. Their eyes met and he left, the fox left tilting his head.

"The Reformation of the church, as led by Martin Loomer, was a strike against everything he saw wrong with it and Rome. He resented the richer predators and their splendour, claiming how easy it was to pray and donate their way to salvation. He resented the corruption he saw everywhere, and he resented the tarnishing of what he thought was the heart of his religion, a simple and industrious life. Connected to the land, he idealised hard working flock and herd species and was disparaging towards predators, one type in particular. His writings mark him out as a noted antivulpite, claiming that 'you should trust no fox on his green heath'. He saw their abilities as trickery, a lazy way to make illicit gains off of common mammals, all while hoarding and profiteering from luxuries. When Loomerism was more widely adopted, the hard realities meant that the adopting ruling classes dropped many of these sentiments, especially in Britain due to the critical role of foxes in their merchant fleets and navy. Still, significant numbers of lower-class prey mammals harboured a resentment towards successful foxes, the exact kind of prey mammal that would jump at a chance to have a new life in the new world. Many communities left together, stayed together, and then grew together in their new home, their prejudices still held. This explains why many rural towns in the States can hold severe prejudices against foxes, or for that matter any species."

There was a pause as he cleared his throat. "In addition, most of the rich merchant foxes who initially settled in the thirteen colonies famously sided with the British during the Revolutionary War, a skulk almost killing Paul Revere during his famous gallop. In return, many were lynched, having their whole families tarred and feathered or their tails shaved before being run out of town." There was a pause, his ears lowering against the back of his head. "The latter is considered the ultimate degradation among many canines, foxes especially. These refugee loyalists then settled in Canidea's maritime provinces, including the Island, and the memory of those events lives on. Ironically, for the same reason that many in the States call foxes untrustworthy, in Canidea they are considered loyal. But still, fox cops have long existed in the States, so what makes Zootopia so different?"

That was what Ash was really interested in, or at least would be. However, the fur on the back of his head was beginning to stand up on end, a feeling in him that something was wrong. Something was terribly, terribly wrong.

"Set up as an independent city state, a compromise between the British, American and Mexicat interests in the Pacific coast, it attracted a large number of followers of the 'Omnibus Locis' society. Both an evolution of very traditional the Loomerist church, similar to and inspired by the founding and independence of the Church of Latter Day Saints, and a highly popular intellectual movement, they believed that a true society was made up of mammals in their god-given places. Elephants were built the strongest, so would haul; beavers were industrious, and they would build; rabbits were small and scared, so they would be kept from danger to farm in peace. Many city founders belonged to it, the city constitution and laws inspired by it, and its promise that 'your species has a true place' attracted numerous mammals from both the States and Europe, especially the kind that was at the bottom of the pecking order and still held strong antivulpine views. They flocked to the city, while those foxes that came tended to be the poorest and least respected. After all, why would a rich fox leave Europe or Canidea? Judged as too small to be protectors, and with better technology now available for ship navigation, they were just normal mammals in a city with a general population that distrusted them."

That made sense, Ash noted, only for his ears to flick up. Everyones did, and they turned to see a police cruiser, lights flashing, pull into the car park below. A second followed, and then a third. The teacher stood up and walked over, peering out nervously before turning back to Kris. "Carry on," he said, only for his students to continue whispering to each other. "Quiet, now!"

They hushed and Kris continued. "The 'every mammal has his place' ideology has long since vanished, replaced with the more optimistic 'where anyone can be anything.' However, it is undoubted that reality takes longer to change. While most areas put in place performance standards for certain professions, like a fitness and strength test for police officers of certain size classes, Zootopia long favoured hard physical limits. At first this was species based, something ruled unconstitutional in the sixties by the 'Itsappe case', where a very large coyote was barred from the fire service due to his species, even though smaller wolves could apply. Since then, a police officer had to be a certain size and weight, regardless of their later performance. This was only revoked by the Mammal Inclusion Initiative, designed to pull the city in line with its neighbours."

"But what about antivulpanism? As a foreign fox, I'd heard some stories, but found most mammals open and nice." There was then a pause, his ears going down. "But the first time I met a mammal who spit out my species name as an insult, it was decidedly extremely hurtful. I've encountered a few since then, they still hurt and I don't like it. Sometimes it gets easy to wonder, is that mammal looking at you that way as you're a fox? Is that mammal nudging away from you for a reason? In a way, these thoughts and doubts can be far worse than the abuse when it comes. However, I chose to let it go, leaving the hate with those that do. In researching this subject, I found some interesting statistics. In studies to gauge perceptions of different species, mistrust of foxes followed a Pareto distribution, a small minority creating the vast majority of hate. It's undoubted that there is an average level of mistrust, and that certainly has a negative effect, but so do other things. Certain names, body modifications such as facial piercings, and so on can also have an equivalent or greater effect. I'm not saying that this is right; I'm saying that life is messy and complicated. But, going forwards, I can look at this city, my new home, and be confident that I can really be anything."

He finished off to a slightly subdued round of applause, a nervous energy filling the air. The teacher seemed to feel it too, clearing his throat before gesturing around. "Any questions?"

There was an odd silence, suddenly filled by the sound of heavy feet marching down the corridor outside of the room. Almost everyone seemed to sink a little in their seats, looking around in worry. Ash was one of them, slowly beginning to massage his sweat bands before closing his eyes and practicing a breathing exercise. What was happening? What was going on? He just hoped that this would be all over, go back to being an ordinary day, but it wasn't happening. He'd even be relieved if Beavis chose to ask some dumb question making fun of foxes, or even just himself, but the dreadful tension filling the air seemed to be getting to him too. He was absolutely silent.

His chair jolted a little as Kris sat down next to him, his paw hovering over his, offering support. Ash shook his head. He could get through this, whatever it was, by himself. He could. He could… The teacher looked down at him, as if wondering whether to call him up to speak, before shaking it off. He went back to the front of the room and looked out at his class. "I will confess, I don't know what's going on," he said. "I can understand you being worried though, so I'll go out and check. You can talk quietly among yourselves."

He left the room, those inside taking far longer to start talking again, and doing so with far less enthusiasm than their age and place would ever lead to be expected.

Ash breathed in, before looking over at Kris. "Nice speech."

"Thanks."

"Worried?"

"A little nervous."

"That bad?"

"I don't know," he said, shaking his head. "I've never had anything like this. I fear someone might have died, or…"

"-Then where's the ambulance?" a classmate in front of them asked. "Maybe they found a gun!"

"This isn't that States," another mammal countered.

"They could still get one."

The chatter was broken off by a sudden squeal of a chair on floor, all eyes turning to one of the girls. She'd pushed her chair back and begun slipping forwards, ready to duck and cover in a second's notice.

The room was filled by the ticking of the clock, the second hand's dull thwacks ringing out every felt-like-far-more-than-a-second, before the door clicked open. The teacher walked in, a stern looking tiger cop at his side. He looked forward, and Ash felt a shiver of primordial fear run through him as their eyes met, his burning into him for a second or two.

The tiger cut away, looking at the teacher. "Is that…?"

"-This is uncalled for," the teacher interrupted. He glanced to the side, Ash could almost swear it was over at them, before looking back at the tiger. "We can handle this far more discreetly, we can…"

"Or maybe these students need a lesson," the tiger almost growled out. "I think they could do with a visual demonstration."

"Listen…"

"No, you listen," the tiger shot back, Ash noticing his taser for the first time. He gulped, trying to find something else to look at but only managing to fix his eyes on the metal muzzle on his belt. He squirmed a bit in his seat, his ears going back. That really wasn't what he needed right now. "I'm the cop here, and I have authority. I'm sure all your students would want to learn about what's been worrying them."

"You know what," Beavis said, standing up. "I'm going to trust a cop on this one."

"Clever kit," the officer said, before waving around. "Come on!"

The clatter of chairs being pushed back rang out and, as their teacher looked on in defeat, the tiger waved them out. "Turn left, wait at the start of the lockers."

Trembling slightly, Ash joined them, unable to not notice the tiger fall in by his left, his teacher following right behind. Kris was by his side, offering a paw, but despite his trembles Ash refused. He rubbed his sweatbands as they carried on forwards, boxed in, marching towards the unknown.

They all froze, assembling in a line in front of a wall of lockers. The wall of lockers that he and Kris used. The boar teacher was there, alongside a bunch of cops, and Ash gulped as he realised that they were assembled around their lockers. His locker. There even seemed to be slight claw marks on its dark blue door, as if something had tried to claw at it to get at the heaped pile of snacks kept inside.

"Can we now?"

"Not… Not yet," the boar teacher replied.

"Listen, once we open it, I'm pretty sure we can find out..."

"-We already know," a different officer, a sniffer wolf, said.

"Not that," the tiger hissed, only to be cut off by the sound of hooves on the floor. Ash looked up, spotting the headmistress and her secretary coming up with another officer, the secretary holding a sheet of paper. The head looked up, before snapping towards the tiger cop. "Why are they here?"

"They should all see…"

"Don't be ridiculous! It's humiliating, degrading, what if you're wrong…"

"That's why you brought this," he said, grabbing the papers from the secretary. He scanned through, before nodding his head. "Tchhh, so be it." He then turned, waving over one of the school caretakers, a key in his paws. It went into a lock, turned, and, with a slam, the door was pulled open, everyone stepping back in horror.

There were gasps, shrieks of fears, cries and exclamations of confusion, and even the dull thud of a mammal fainting.

Ash just looked forwards in terror and shock at the items inside, resting on top of the neat stack of books. A foursome of small, round, shiny purple orbs.

Nighthowler pellets…

"But… but… but…" Ash gasped, looking on in shock. No. How. How did they get there? How, how on earth in that place. This… This was a dream, right? It had to be a bad dream!

The tiger looked forwards, his eyes bearing right at him, and a paw came out, a pair of pawcuffs held tight. Flicking his fingers, he opened it up, the metal ready to clamp down on its prey like the jaws of a waiting alligator.

Ash shot his paw out and held Kris' as the tiger loomed up, above them, anger in his eyes.

...

"Kristofferson Silverfox?"

Ash glanced to his side, finally able to look at the owner of the locker in the face; his cousin looked confused, but with a growing fear running through him.

He nodded his head a few times, as the tiger leant down and grabbed his left paw and tore it out of Ash's own, turning his cousin around on the spot. "You are hereby under arrest for possession of an illegal and dangerous substance, you have the right to remain silent…"

He did, but the rest of the crowd didn't. Friends were screaming about how he'd never be involved in that stuff, how he'd only just emigrated, how something must be wrong; others were screaming out 'oh my god's', unable to believe their eyes; some even started hurling abuse at the Kris, demanding to know why he had the most feared things in Zootopia in his locker, and whether he planned to use it like a school shooter. Others just cried, Agnes and Maisy in tears and almost coming together, only for the sheep to push the vixen away in a swell of fearful emotions. She stumbled next to Beavis, who stopped stammering about it being in Kris' locker and edged away from her. The teachers called out, telling the students to move back, to keep quiet, or lambasting the cops for all of this. Ash just looked on, trembling as he did so, as the tiger locked the cuffs around Kris' paws, reciting his rights as he did so.

"Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. As a youth, any interrogations will be conducted with an attorney and legal guardian present."

The silver fox's head darted around, glancing back before locking with Ash's for a second.

"If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you at government expense. Do you understand?"

His younger cousin looked at him, his mouth slightly parted as he took deeper breaths.

"Do you understand?"

Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath in, relaxing himself. He looked at his older cousin and managed a little smile. "D-don't worry. There's probably a good explanation, I'll be fine."

"I repeat, do you understand?"

"Yes, sir," Kris replied, glancing behind him. He closed his eyes, breathing in and out, managing a calm expression on his face even as a massive paw slammed on his shoulder. The other on his cuffs, the tiger began marching him forwards, speaking as he went.

"Any biting or related threats will result in the use of a muzzle…" The crowd began surging forwards, the other cops darting out in front of them and blocking their way. "-Any attempts at escape will authorise the use of force…"

Pushing to the front, Ash saw him led on and started to run towards him, shouting as he went, only for the wolf officer to tackle him to the floor. "Kris!"

"-You will be taken to Precinct One immediately where contact will be made with your guardians..."

"KRIS!"

Ash's throat tingled from the scream and, looking up, he saw his cousin's eyes meeting his one last time as he was pushed around a corner and out of view. He pushed up, trying to charge forwards, only for the wolf office to hold on tight.

"Down boy! DOWN!"

He felt his drive fade slightly, still strong but not enough to push against the larger canine holding him in place. The teachers were ordering the class back into their room, waving them along, and when a hoof touched his Ash silently followed.

He looked up to see the headmistress, her expression wavering, pulling him along. The wolf cop tracked behind, and they turned away from the rest of the class before exiting the block. A wave of horror filled the red fox. "N-n-no, I don't know where those came from! He doesn't either! Kris didn't…"

He broke off as the headmistress stopped, kneeling down to pull an arm around him. "You're not in trouble," she said, before standing up again. "We're going to my office to tell your parents. You're dismissed from school today. Given the actions of some mammals, I might offer it to the entire class."

Ash carried on walking, breathing in a bit before nodding. "R-r-right…" he managed, as the wolf cop spoke up.

"I didn't expect Jones to make an example out of him either."

She glanced back at him, a venomous look in her eyes. "According to your partner…"

"-That is police business ma'am."

She paused, glancing down at Ash. "He has a right…"

"-Not now," he said, looming up next to her. "If you want what's best for your students, do not interfere with our investigation, understand?"

She paused, looking down at Ash as if she wanted to say sorry, before looking back at him. "Okay then," she said. "Not that I'll like it."

The rest of the walk was done in silence, the trio entering their office and Ash being offered a seat. He sat down, paws clasping as he stared at the floor, frozen in shock.

He didn't even hear the headmistress call his parents, only hearing her telling him that she had.

He glanced up at her, nodded, and looked back down.

.

.

"Ash?"

"Ash?"

"-Y-yes ma'am…"

"You don't need to call me that," she said, and he looked up to see that she'd pulled up a chair next to his, placing one of her hooves on his paw.

"I… I think it makes it… -I think it feels more normal, when I do, I…"

"You do that, then," she said, an odd silence filling the air.

.

.

"When I was a new teacher," she began, speaking out into the air. "I remember this one time having to tell the news that a member of faculty had died over the weekend to my form. Now, in this class, there was this boy… Jason Yakhmi… -Afghan descent, he always joked about it for 'sympathy'. He was the class clown, and always got into the most trouble with this teacher, and I don't know whether he hated him or enjoyed winding him up, or whatever, but it earned lots of complaints. And… and he was the one who asked if something was up, and I told him the news, and I'll never forget how his face changed in that moment. I didn't have him for the next lesson, but I had him for history after, and he still had that dead look on his face. Others said he'd just been at the back and quiet through the last lesson, so I told him he could go to the nurses office. I didn't see him again until near the end of lunch. I was walking down a side of the building and I heard some loud banging, and I looked into a tight alley to see him rutting and charging his horns against the wall. The dam had burst, you see, so I made myself known, and he asked to be left alone. I said I'd wait outside, and five minutes later he stopped. We walked back in silence, and when entering our room he thanked me…"

.

"You're in shock, Ash. I can't blame you. It'll take some time to come out or calm down and, whichever way it does for you, that's not a wrong way. Until your parents arrive, I'll be here for you. For whatever you need me for."

.

Sniff.

Sniff-sniff…

.

They weren't his first. Not by a long shot. She brought him a packet of tissues that he could use to dab his eyes with.

"You feeling okay?"

"N-no…" He muttered, his eyes rapidly misting up again. He chuckled, shrugging a bit. "I mean, why would I, huh? I… My cousin just got caught with bioweapons in his locker, I… Well, that isn't normal. He didn't put them there, did he? So, where did they come from! Where did they come from, huh? I… I… I don't know if more might appear, and I don't know what's going to happen next, and I feel like it was meant to be me and I don't know why and I'm scared! I'm cussing scared!" He sniffed and whimpered, brushing away a few more of his tears before inwardly wincing.

"It wasn't your fault, Ash."

Then why did he feel guilty? Why did he? Why did he feel that he deserved something bad? He was scared, scared for Kris, scared they'd come for him, but that wasn't the right punishment. He felt like there was just one type of pain he deserved, and his jaws and wrists began trembling as he imagined it.

Just a bite down…

Just a bite he deserved, that he…

He slammed his eyes shut and dug his claws into the furniture, clenching his jaw tight as he did so.

"Ash?"

"I'm not going to," he told himself, sniffing.

"Not going to?"

"Hurt myself again… Not again," he sniffed, looking at her. He looked down at his wrists, the sweat bands, and grit his teeth as he slipped one off. "D-Don't let me do it again. M-muzzle me if I'm going to…"

He was cut off as she hugged him tightly with her arms. "I won't let you. You're going to be fine."

He sniffed. "Then why do I feel so guilty? I… I didn't do anything but I feel like I did?"

There was a pause, and she looked at him with a terribly pained expression of sadness and guilt on her face. She looked up to where the officer, standing silently through all of this, was before looking back. "Survivors guilt," she said. "It's tough, but you'll get through it. Your cousin will be fine too, I'm sure of it. I don't think that he was capable of handling or using those for a second."

Neither was Ash. It didn't change the facts though, it was his locker where the terrible monster of Zootopia had been found.

He sniffed some more and looked forwards, before closing his eyes, pushing through with as many of Kris' meditation exercises as he could remember.

By the end he still felt depressed, but coping.

A knock on the door, and he looked back to see his parents enter. He ran straight to his mother, minding her pronounced bump and gripping her tight. She gripped back, as did his father and, standing up, he managed to turn back to the head and thank her.

"You're welcome," she said, before doing so again as his parents thanked her. They looked at her, before Mr Fox spoke.

"We'll be going to Precinct One. We have friends who are already on their way, while Kris' father will be there too."

"Good luck," she said.

They nodded and Ash, gripping his father's paw tight, followed them out.

.


.

AN: And I'm back. As said ages ago, when planning this saga's plot I reinterpreted various events that took place in the Fantastic Mr Fox film, starting off with Felicity's pregnancy. Now, remember how the final act of the movie was the whole gang banding together to rescue Kris?

This fic is going to be big, and everything we've covered before (and a good chunk more) will all be coming together. Now, a good few commentators believed that the fic would involve Fenneko and Finnick (Finneko). I like your logic, and those comments make me glad that I didn't have Nick saying that 'he knew that kit' specifically. Regardless, we will be seeing a fair bit of Finneko action coming up, as they and plenty others band together to rescue a certain mammal.

Thanks to francesca ictbs for the artwork on A03.