Angel and Opal and Judy and Nick

by Gabriel LaVedier

First published

Angel and Opal help out family to get the same advantages they had.

Angel is quite content with things, post-wedding. He has his beautiful bride, some much-loved kittens and a relatively hassle-free life.

That changes when some unexpected family pops up in his life, allowing Opal to see an unknown and very unexpected side of his family. They're after a favor, a very big favor, so they can purposefully enjoy all the things that came to Angel and Opal purely by accident.

No, this is not a crossover. But the names were just too good not to use. I've had this idea kicking around for a while. It was helped to fruition by, of course, my writing that actually is in Zootopia. But this is all pony. Sort of. Looks like being angry has brought a little mojo back.

Angel and Opal and Judy and Nick

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Fluttershy's little home encompassed a surprisingly large expanse, mostly fallow and forest land that were too small for parceling off but large enough to be noted. Without good use the tax rate was rock bottom, skewed by the presence of large farm acreage nearby that produced big numbers. It helped Fluttershy to maintain her animal sanctuary's diversity and still manage to live there on her subsidy payments.

The large spread also allowed the animals to have lots of places to go and allowed them to be left to their own devices with an assurance of safety. Predators could feel the earth pony mana, they knew the area was claimed, and that they would not be tolerated if they did violence. It represented the safest place in the area, given that the Everfree was close by, and Whitetail Woods was not a safe location, suited only for truly wild animals who could not manage in the Everfree.

The safety and variety provided excellent dating space for animals so inclined, as well as family bonding space for all the animal families that inhabited the sanctuary. Angel and Opal took particular pleasure in availing themselves of the locations, usually with their kittens in tow, Opal heading the parade, with Angel hopping in the rear, eying his children and keeping them in an orderly line that let him keep an eye on all of them.

On a clear, warm day, Angel and Opal were on their own, kittens safely entrusted to Winona and Gummy, to allow them a date day. Angel hopped happily along beside Opal, one foreleg draped around her neck, head leaned against hers, planting an occasional kiss on a chubby cheek. Opal, for her part, purred happily and let her tail flick occasionally and playfully whip softly at Angel's pear-shaped bottom.

“Now this is the life, babe...” Angel whispered, lightly teasing his buck teeth along the rim of Opal's ear.

“I do so adore our darling kittens, they are true treasures, but they do get to be a trifle much...” Opal purred, stroking her tail slowly along Angel's meaty hips and thighs.

“Maybe it's our fault. A little. We're attentive parents. Really attentive parents. Probably annoying, but attentive. I warned the little scamperers they'd end up embarrassed to be seen with us in public sooner or later,” Angel said with a soft chuckle.

“At least they're loved. They can hold their heads up and be proud. They have parents that invest time and energy into them. No cold presence, no abusive dismissal. Just love, attention and a proper upbringing,” Opal sighed.

They were going along in a rolling, grassy expanse with several thick bushes that abutted a forested area which reached vaguely toward Sweet Apple Acres. The location appeared to be clear of all other animals, but a soft rustle of leaves told them that they were far from alone. Both of them turned their ears, Opal's tail lashing, Angel's nose twitching.

The mysterious presence finally made itself known, parting the leaves on one of the bushes, and hopping out slowly. The figure was a rabbit, but slightly longer of limb and torso than Angel, with a wider set of hips giving her an even more bell-like body. Her coat was a soft gray shade, with a light bit of black at the tips of her ears. Opal felt a stab of jealousy deep in her belly on looking at the very lovely doe.

“Judy...” Angel said, looking a trifle surprised.

“Who is Judy, Angel?” Opal said icily, pressing herself against Angel more solidly.

Angel's surprise slowed down his reaction time, the question, and the ice behind it, taking more time than usual to pass through his head. “What..? It's Judy. I never told you about Judy?”

“No. You most certainly did not,” Opal fairly hissed.

“Didn't tell her about me? Aww, I'm insulted, Angel. I thought I meant more to you than that.”

“Judy!” Angel shook his head and huffed loudly. “Don't worry, babe. This is Judy, my sister. I'm reasonably certain she's my full-blood sister.”

Judy giggled and slapped her feet on the ground “Yeah, one of the few family members he can stand. How's it going, little brother?”

“I'm a litter ahead of you, Judith and you know it!” Angel screamed.

“But I'm bigger than you. You're the most successful runt of the litter ever. Unless you'd like to admit I might be half hare...” Judy teased.

“I might think mom was unremittingly oversexed but she would never have had it with a hare!” Angel barked, stomping his feet rapidly. “You're my sister and I'm almost certain we're not half in that and I'm no damn smug hare!”

Opal took a moment to digest the information, and watch the siblings interact, her reflexive jealousy turning into pure amusement. “My word, dear. I wish you had told me about your charming sister. You two lovingly fight like my caretaker and her sister.”

“I'm on the outs with most of my family, so I tend to forget they exist,” Angel explained.

“Does that include me, now? I'm a freak like you, bro. They'll kick me to death for the normal freak stuff, never mind the other stuff,” Judy said, with a slightly firm tone.

“I take it that means you are not in line with rabbit culture, as my dear Angel has said was his alleged crime for which he was excluded, along with a disdain for certain family members?” Opal inquired.

“Your queen's a real clover-talker, bro. I like her more than her reputation said I should,” Judy chuckled. “Yeah, I'm a freak. I'm a free-doe. And the old warren was not happy about that.”

“Passing on the odd but complimentary description, I take it that a free-doe is a lady who makes their own choices in life regarding certain things?” Opal asked.

“Regarding everything. My presumptive father, the one who fights off other claimants to a litter, gets to dictate which warren I get sent to if he thinks it's needed, and picks which bucks I get to select a mate from. Free-does reject some or all of that, from the buck that says he's their dad to picking her own mates to deciding not to have any mates. Some warrens tolerate free-does, to some degree. Some throw them out into the wild. And like ours, some make escaping into the wild the better option. I hopped away before they forced me to accept being controlled by some buck, either some perverted buck chosen for me, or some idiot that says he got my mother pregnant or some hare we can't identify....” Judy said.

“You're not part hare!” Angel interjected.

“That's my hilarious button push. Instant comedy, just say mom was done by a hare. What's yours, sis?' Judy asked with a wink to Opal.

“Why, that would ruin the fun,” Opal noted with a laugh. “I may not know about you but you seem to know about me, at least enough to know of our relationship.”

“I live in the wild, but talk still filters in. I like keeping tabs on my brother, even if we're kind of distant. We're united by a lot of things,” Judy said, hopping up to give Angel a hug.

“I have my own life, and it's pretty full. Plus... I didn't know where you were. You could have come any time. I'm always with Fluttershy,” Angel murmured, squeezing his sister solidly.

“You know why I have some trouble with that. I guess I'm just not like you. Even with enough nerve to be a free-doe in a pellets warren, I can't do it all,” Judy sighed, slipping out of the hug and hopping toward the bush she had emerged from. “I envy you, bro. I envy lots of things about you. Your amazing queen is the big one, of course. You deserve that kind of happiness. And your kittens. Where are they?”

“They are with friends today. We wanted a date day and our friends also have interspecies hybrid children, so they know the care required. I'm so sorry, I'm certain they would love to come to know their aunt,” Opal noted, apologetically.

Judy was going to respond, but her ears perked up suddenly, nose twitching, some rustling in the bushes drawing attention. The rustling traveled along, the sound the only trace of the unknown creature's passing. A flash of russet and a snarling bark marked the emergence of a fox, the creature leaping right at Judy.

Angel, in sudden defensive mode, threw himself protectively onto Opal, getting her to the ground and covering her, despite being smaller than her. Judy, though, sinuously twisted herself to the side and back, dodging the lunge and kicking her legs at the ground, launching herself away from the fox. He deftly turned and lunged again, nipping at her face and missing, his claws reaching for her body and missing, thanks to the easy and dance-like twists she used.

She could not easily escape him, so she bulled herself into him, using powerful hops to ram her body into his, demonstrating additional almost-sensual sinuousness, grinding her powerful body against his while attempting to push him away. She slipped and slid along his body, almost intentionally winding her way around his body while he attempted to pin her down.

A few more slippery moves twisted up the fox, getting his legs crossed and sending him just off balance. Judy took advantage of that, finally knocking the fox down to the ground with a solid kick to his side. She wasted no time in climbing up onto him and burying her open mouth against his neck, a yowling yap coming from his mouth.

Both held their position for some time, Judy pulling back finally, forepaws waving over the damp section of throat. “Blood. Blood! Blood! And then, death.”

The fox chuckled deeply, writhing on the ground. “Okay, okay, we get it. Wipe off my throat, dry saliva isn't a good future. But, you can keep your wide hips there all you like...”

Angel looked on with wide, disbelieving eyes, his nose twitching a mile a minute. He leaped up and landed heavily, angrily and rapidly pounding his feet. “Inla damn it, Nick! This fake-wild pellets was bad enough before but I have kittens now! Do you know what a rabbit with kittens will do to a homba?”

Nick tilted his head curiously, staring in confusion at Angel. “Uh, nothing?”

Angel face-palmed, shaking his head slowly. “Do you know what a rabbit with kittens who gives a pellet will do to a homba?”

“Oh! They'll tear them into constituent pieces of meat-covered skeleton for Frita to bake to putrefaction,” Nick replied with a smile.

“Damn, smug, hare-like... Judy! Why does your pup keep doing that?!” Angel screeched.

“Now now, Angel, Nicholas is his own, grown up animal with his own life, he's not 'my pup' like he's my property or something. The fact that he is completely unable to live without me is entirely secondary,” Judy said, with a superior sniff and grin to Angel.

“Now now, Judy, I can certainly live without you...” Nick said, sidling up to Judy and leaning down to kiss her cheek. “I can also live without air. Yeah... not that well, and not that long but I can.”

Opal had taken a good deal of time to deal with the protective dive, the acrobatic fight and the snappy talk between siblings. “I'm afraid I am a trifle lost. For... so many reasons...”

Angel hopped back to Opal's side, helping her back to her paws. “Sorry, babe. I'm all keyed up because, you know, kittens. This is Nick. He's Judy's pup... sorry... Judy's mate who happens to be a pup. Satisfied?”

“I'm my own pup. I'm Judy's tod,” Nick corrected in a smug voice.

Angel looked ready to spasm into an apoplectic fit, one eye open wide, the other with a twitching lid, veins almost standing out on his forehead. Opal defused the situation with a kiss on his cheek and a warm purr. “Perhaps you should explain the finer points of rabbit speech. Your terms are quiet foreign to me. You really have been deficient in teaching me of all things rabbit, which are second nature to you.”

Angel shook his head and gave his foot a thump, blinking as his ire dropped. “Sorry, babe. I've been away from rabbit stuff for a long time. And I forgot that even if I think a lot of it does me no good, it's still in there. And the kittens probably need a good dose of rabbit culture. There's some nifty myths and legends out there.”

“Gonna make them snarky at hares, bro?” Judy asked.

“And then some!” Angel asserted. “They were born just as blind and deaf as any warren-born kitten and those hares think their leverets are all clover because they can see and hear at birth.”

“But more to the point...” Opal firmly said. “You were going to tell me about many of the things you said to your... brother-in-law? I'm not certain about the fine points of rabbit relationships. We are married, but that was a unique happening.”

“Yeah yeah... Nick's been keeping company with Judy since... since before I left the warren. I left because she did; no reason to be there with the only friendly face gone,” Angel admitted.

“Yeah... some lines are less clear for some rabbits. Keep company with a squirrel or a hedgehog or a beaver and you might get the cold shoulder or you might get asked to leave. You show up covered in what those Inla-damned seed-brained jerks call 'predator stink' and they don't bother asking you to leave. You run because they're just waiting for the right time to cave your skull in. I was doing good hiding it until then...” Judy sighed.

“No you weren't,” Angel flatly stated.

“I let you find out!” Judy shouted. “You would understand so I let you find out.”

“I caught you with his back to me and your head hidden behind his body. You just got lucky it was me or your pup would have had to go homba really fast,” Angel snorted.

“She was tired, she was resting her head, it was all perfectly innocent,” Nick said with a look of wounded dignity.

“Save it, lover-tod, I know what lust-musk smells like from a predator. I'm not saying it's bad, but she was sloppy.”

“She was actually very clean and neat,” Nick said, stroking a paw down Judy's back.

Judy rolled her eyes and gave him a sock on the foreleg. “You... you're lucky I love you.”

“Setting aside issues of cleanliness, with which I can certainly relate,” Opal broke in, “There is still a certain issue of terminology. You constantly call this tod a pup. Yet, and no offense to you sir, but you seem more matured than a pup. And 'homba' is quite beyond my vocabulary.”

“Thank you kindly for the compliment. It means a lot coming from a charming lady,” Nick cooed, giving Opal a wink.

“Keep it off my queen and on my sister!” Angel said, staring hard at Judy when she grinned at him. “I know what I said, and I mean it. Get yours, sis, but keep him in line.”

“Oh darling...” Opal shook her head and rolled her eyes with practiced skill. “But you still haven't explained...”

“I was getting there. Just had to keep him in line,” Angel said softly, patting Opal's back and sides. “Rabbits refer to most animals in pretty ordinary ways. But some animals have been changed by ponies. There's a lot of changes that need special terms to describe what they're like. Standard stuff for dogs like Winona, or you, babe. It's mostly predators because they did a lot of work with predators. Wolves are not on the list. Coyotes are but I have no idea what the names are, you'd have to ask a rabbit from Appleoosa. Dogs, cats, but especially foxes get names. We've got three names. Pups, foxes and hombas. Pups are like Nick there. Semi-domesticated and calmed, not by being made pets but just by living so close to ponies they are way less wild. They rarely if ever hunt, and probably mostly fish if they do that, and eat a lot of fruit, scraps, garbage and steal pet food if they can. Did I get that right?”

“Bugs. I will, do and don't mind eating bugs. But we live near that apple place. I can stuff my belly on windfall apples, save stuff over winter and get dog food now and then. I haven't hunted since before I met your sister. My whole family is like that. Not that I turn down meat, I just don't run after it like an idiot,” Nick said.

“I'm meat, you run after me, and I make you look like an idiot,” Judy quipped.

“Yes, but eating you isn't fatal, and I only do the chasing to make other rabbits freak out. Serves them right. Making their hearts explode when you do that scream while I wrap my jaws around your throat... pure comedy,” Nick chuckled.

“Full. Blood. Sister,” Angel stated, pointing to the pair. “Not a drop of hare in her.”

“They can try, but Nick would eat them,” Judy noted.

“And sleep like a kit curled up around her,” Nick added.

“Foxes are foxes,” Angel said. “They just are foxes. No pony trash and no restriction on hunting. They might hunt rabbits, but that happens. They love fruit too, so, you know, maybe more trustworthy than something like a wolf or a wildcat. Foxes are questionable rut-mates but hey, even if they're not pups, if you keep the belly full they're agreeable.” An odd shiver ran through Angel's body, and he turned to see Opal fixing him with the most hateful glare he had ever seen her give anything, including Rarity in the depths of her most annoying times. The fear had long since vanished from him, given how much they had gone through, leaving only an annoyed understanding. “No, babe, I didn't do that. Judy does the foxes in the family.”

Nick cleared his throat. “Excuse me, but the correct phrase is, 'Does the fox in the family.' I'm a fox, I'm your family and Judy...”

“I get it!” Angel shouted, crossing his arms and snorting as the others laughed at him.

“And the last...” Opal said with a fading mirth. “The... 'Homba' was it?”

All the humor was drained out of the whole gathering. The air grew thick with tension, and the faces on the three grew stern and serious. “We can talk like it's a joke, or use it as a slur. But that's just giggling at the ghosties, like the pink one says. We have to. A homba is... remember when you told me about cat legends? Remember the Slashy-Smiley Cat that ate unborn kittens and crushed tom-bits? Think of the fear of that thing, think of that level of pure evil. We'd call a cat that bad a pfeffa, the most dangerous class of cats, avoided at any cost. You'll throw your family members at a pfeffa to get away. Now imagine that, but real. Real as it gets.”

Nick almost automatically drew Judy into a tight squeeze against his chest, and Judy nuzzled herself into him, lost in his warm scent. “A pup will eat rabbits if it's starving. A fox will hunt rabbits if it has a decent chance and not enough mice and fruit...”

“A homba will murder rabbits,” Nick finished.

“M-murder?” Opal asked, shocked and incredulous. “But surely... perhaps I am mistaken because of my domestication, but surely there is no murder when one must hunt to merely live.”

“You kill, you eat, you live. You get killed, you get eaten, others deal. That's the way it goes. Not for a homba. Something goes wrong in their damn heads. You eat what you kill, as much as possible. You eat. What you. Kill,” Angel rasped. “Hombas are fixed on rabbits. And hares. The only time I'll feel sorry for the things. They hunt and kill and eat. They take joy in it. I don't know how far it goes but they take some kind of pleasure in killing. It's rare, they are rare, but they exist. Inla take them, they exist. The worst thing, that every rabbit knows about, that we whisper about when we feel safe enough to do it, is when a homba tracks down a warren, stops up all the exits and then goes in... just to kill. Does huddled in corners, newborn kittens, pregnant does, old bunnies, every buck that makes an attempt to stop them. Dead. And the homba slinks out, covered in blood, stinking in a way no pup or fox ever could, never once thinking about what they just did. That's what a homba is, babe.”

Opal sat there, stunned, eyes wide, mouth agape, staring into nothing. “G-goodness... I believed the Slashy-Smiley Cat was the worst thing in the world for eating its own kind. But somehow, murdering in the wild, defiling the natural way for the sake of some sick pleasure and virulent hate, that is far worse.”

Angel wrapped his arms tightly around Opal's Rubenesque figure and gave her a tight squeeze. “There's a lot of things I want to leave behind, for good reason. Being a pet rabbit isn't perfect, but there are advantages. I met you. That's the best thing that ever happened to me, babe.”

“What you have is special, and it gives you things some can only dream of. Literally dream of. You can do the impossible. The impossible, Angel. The literal damn impossible,” Judy said, her neutral tone growing frustrated and sad as she spoke.

“Judy...” Nick whispered, rubbing over her body with slow, soothing strokes.

“No I promise I'm not gonna cry this time, Nick! I practiced!' Judy insisted, forcing herself out of Nick's paws. “But you did the damn impossible! The rutting damn impossible that I wanted! I wanted it, Angel! I did! You did it and I want to know how you did it! Tell me!”

Angel reflexively put himself between Judy and Opal, nose wiggling wildly and one foot thumping. “Calm down, Judy! Hug your pup or something, take a breath and tell me what you're trying to say. I don't speak wild hare.”

“That's my gag,” Judy huffed, the semi-humorous comment defusing some of her frustrated ire. “Sorry, bro. That's been building up for a while. I thought I worked out all the anger but that was when you weren't there, you and your queen, who could finally answer the question.”

“Please, ask your question,” Opal said softly, casually pushing past Angel's protection and moving to Judy. “I'll be glad to help you, sister. Family is very important.”

“Angel, keep this queen. Even if she eats an ear or something,” Judy laughed, ending with a small sniffle. “I want what you had. I want Nick's kitkittens in me. We've been at it like foxes and rabbits in every season and a few we just made up as an excuse to think it was possible. There's magic all over. We've been at it in mystic glades, sheltered copses, hidden crystal pools, even a hidden temple ruin we were sure was magic enough to do the job. Nothing but memories and some muscle strain.”

“I temporarily lost the ability to lunge, but Judy was kind enough to bring me blueberries and plums in the den, and I only malingered for an extra day as thanks,” Nick noted, gently nuzzling at Judy's neck.

“There's only one kind of magic that can do that, I'm reasonably certain,” Opal said. “For all that Rarity is focused on artistic pursuits, she does know some things about magic, and Twilight knows far more. Taking their talk together, I gathered that only the pure exactness of Order can bring the different into unity. That means the princesses. Or, if Twilight is to be believed, the Crystal Heart and the Empress and Emperor in tandem. No matter the power in other locations, it is either Chaotic, mixed, untamed or not pure and directed enough. Raw power will do much, but not what you need.”

Nick nuzzled at Judy's neck again, adding a soft lick. “Sorry, Judy. Guess we need to ask for the big favor.”

“Nick...” Judy whined.

“We knew it might not be as simple as 'rut here, get kitkittens', that's why you practiced keeping your cool,” Nick replied.

“Look, rabbits have a reputation but you of all bunnies should know it's a hare-created lie. We don't actually impregnate family members. Not... not the normal ones. Crazy bunnies do terrible, terrible things,” Angel stated, looking aside.

“Not that kind of favor you hare!” Judy screamed, at a level that made everyone cover their ears. “That wouldn't even count! We'd get regular kittens. Sure, I love kittens, but if they aren't half fox then it's pretty pointless.”

“Coulda worded that a little better...” Nick noted.

“Actually, I understand her quite well,” Opal said, giving Judy a commiserating pat on the shoulder. “I actually disbelieved my own maternity because I was certain the dream I shared with Angel was impossible and what was happening could not have been a litter as we wished. I was... almost angry that I was with litter when the father couldn't have been him. But it was and that was the height of happiness. Sister, we are very alike indeed.”

“Let her eat both ears if she wants, you can live without ears, but I want this queen as a permanent sister,” Judy laughed, hugging Opal's plump form.

“So what's this big favor? I almost don't like the sound of it,” Angel noted, hopping closer to Judy and Opal.

“We need to know how you did it. Exactly, down to the smallest detail, down to the jaw-snap if you can give it,” Nick said.

“You know how well enough, if you got to the temporary loss of lunging stage. I'll bet your den probably permanently smells like lust-musk, and likely any lounge spots you have, too,” Angel replied.

“Angel!” Opal hissed in Angel's direction, patting Judy immediately after. “Be serious. This is a family matter and family is paramount!”

“I get it, I get it! Sis... we did it by accident. Seriously, accident. I was leading us around in Canterlot palace...” Angel began.

“And then Winona followed the smell of an Apple relative to a chamber where the ceremony for interspecies fertility was performed,” Opal finished.

“But I was leading the expedition,” Angel asserted. “I took us through and managed everyone. I'm good at leading folks. It's why I'm so good at keeping the kittens in line.”

“But not in the manner of your... many potential fathers,” Opal whispered aside to Judy. “He is... almost too caring, keeping them in a hopping line for their safety and security. He really has unbounded affection for his kittens, yet loses none of his edge. A kind of loving firmness.”

“Well, he'll never admit it, but that's Angel, through and through. I always hoped he'd make a good dad. I'm reasonably certain my pup won't be too bad of an influence,” Judy whispered back, affectionately rubbing Nick's chest fluff.

“I'll have them malingering in briar patches and gorse before their milk-fangs drop,” Nick proudly stated.

“As I was saying!” Angel shouted, thumping his foot in an agitated manner. “I led us all up to that point, and then carefully noted all the twists and turns to the chamber. I remember the time of day, the day itself, and how many guards we saw.”

“Two. There were two, and they were focused on their companion who was being led to one of the princesses. To her bedroom, as I recall. Most mysterious, especially as Winona said she recognized him. I believe that guard presence is low inside the palace itself except during night patrols. The exterior is a solid line of defense which is the real problem. We entered with our owners, which was the only way we escaped scrutiny,” Opal said.

“According to Fluttershy there's a reasonably vast... what did she call it..? A vivarium. Which I guess is what you call it when rich ponies do it. For rinky-dink operations it's a petting zoo, then a regular zoo, then you add some marble and fancier enclosures it's a zoological garden, and then when royalty does it it's a vivarium. The animal diversity is supposed to be enormous. I doubt you'd be noticed if you could hide out there until the right time. But you'd need to figure out how to get from there to a place that is part of the route we know,” Angel noted.

“Sounds... dangerous...” Nick coughed into his paw, looking aside at Judy. “Maybe we could try one of the magical glades again. My lunging muscles are good for another round. I know how much you love it.”

“Oh, the big pup is getting scared? I'm not giving up on this. I want this, Nick. And you know how much. If you don't want it as much as I do then frankly I question what we're even doing together,” Judy sternly said, pulling Nick's head down to look into her eyes.

“I want to keep you safe...” Nick whispered.

“Honestly, I'd love to be safe, all things considered. But that might not always be an option, not if we want some things. This is the only thing we have left, and it's the one thing we know for sure works perfectly, exactly as we want it without any chance of failure. We have to do it. Nick, we have to do this. I swear, this is not my biological clock blaring at me. I promise. You want these kitkittens as much as me. I've seen you when you thought I wasn't looking, working on how to show tiny paws how to dig for fungus and how to pick fruit from blackberry bushes without getting stuck.” She leaned in and planted a kiss on Nick's nose, softly caressing his ears.

“Angel...” Nick's breath almost caught in his throat, and he looked deep into Judy's eyes. “However you can, if you can... get us some instructions about how we can do this. We've gotta try. Gotta. Absolutely gotta.”

Angel nodded, face looking serious. “Be back here in three days. We need to put our heads together, work out all the details, make some educated guesses and then get it all ready for you.”

- - -

“I hope you're ready, this is not something you do halfway. You go all out, or you don't even bother. Don't you string my sister along, Nick. I'll rip your throat out with my adorable buck teeth if you do her wrong,” Angel threatened, sitting with Opal, both of them carrying a rolled length of puce fabric on their backs.

“Angel, relax. He does me right in every way possible. He's the best pup ever whelped,” Judy chirped, pushing herself into Nick's fluffy chest.

“I had several sisters in my litter, whom I never see, and I don't miss them at all. But you... I'm sad that I have not known you since I first took up with Angel,” Opal purred, smiling warmly at the sight.

“Pet fox, Nick. I swear, annoying as it can get, there are huge benefits,” Angel said.

“I'm not a domesticated vulpine, I just live next to the ones with the food,” Nick deadpanned.

“Setting that aside... is that is?” Judy asked, eying the rolled strip of cloth.

“Indeed it is. I liberated this from my owner. It's a shade she does not favor well, and would hardly notice a long strip of it being gone,” Opal explained, carefully helping Angel set it down and unroll it.

The puce expanse was about as long as Nick, and as wide as the two rabbits standing beside each other. It was slightly wrinkled at various spots, and the material itself looked reasonably fluffy. Nothing looked to have been added to it, but Angel still hopped over to the left corner farthest from Judy and Nick. “You start from up here. We had a good bit of luck. Our friend Owlowiscious found a layout of Canterlot Palace in Twilight's personal document collection. We bridged the gap between the vivarium and the path we knew. Getting in is still the issue, but you're small, and hard to notice.”

Nick put his nose down at the indicated spot, sniffing deeply and running his nose along the cloth, following an unseen path. “I see. Use the train, up the mountain, at a location marked with the character we learned means two. Up the stone lanes, only the widest, to the side. Okay... okay... approach before the middle of the day. Wait... what does this mean? Smells like... wisteria-celosia-generation-burrow-grand-warren... I'm not that good at smelling rabbit.”

Angel face-palmed, stomping a foot in frustration and chittering his teeth. “Well sorry, Nick. I had to make it as close as I could with fancy flowers and the best our kind can do with describing big dwellings. I don't know how to pee 'castle.'”

“There-there don't worry, I wouldn't know what to dribble either. I think the point comes across,” Judy said, sniffing the spot beside Nick's nose. “Hope it's not too confused. Pups have super noses, gotta keep it spaced.”

“Our friend Winona is a dog. She helped us determine how to space the marking. I assume it works out well for you. Her tracking skill is prodigious,” Opal explained.

“I'm not dog-level but very close. This works out just right. After the castle entrance I get it. Wait until after the middle of the day, then go along this path. We will find many... oh, large others. All classes?”

“Usually one pony and something else, probably more than a few Diamond Dogs and donkeys. But Nick, we figured something out...” Angel softly said.

“Something else you couldn't scent-mark?” Nick asked.

“Owlowiscious told us something else. He read up on the ceremony. He didn't think it was formally scheduled, and happens when they get enough couples together to justify it. Which means they could do it several days in a row, during the day and at night but could also just have nothing for a while. We're guessing on sending you there the same pony-named day. It's just a chance. I told you, for us it was just an accident...” Angel said, ears drooping.

“On purpose,” Opal whispered, nuzzling at Angel's face. “We explored and what we found by chance was beautiful.”

“Sis... don't hare off, but just keep in mind, the thing works, but it has to be happening.”

“I never would, bro. This is our chance to be happy the way you are. And it's amazing, isn't it?' Judy asked in Opal's direction.

“Sister, it is the most magnificent shared experience you can imagine. Never did I feel closer to him and more loved. And after the birth, caring for our blind, deaf litter was almost indescribable...” Opal cooed, her eyes staring off at nothing as she remembered.

“You ready for this, pup? You don't get to be a good dad by accident. You work at it. You work at it hard and you push yourself. Those little balls of fluff are your blood. But way more importantly, they're hers, too, and both of yours combined. Think about how much you love her and wanna take care of her. Multiply it by the lea grass blades and you get an idea how important those probably long-eared, red-coated puffballs are going to be. You think wild life is hard, be a father,” Angel asserted.

“My father cared about his kits,” Nick answered. “He brought us berries and tree fruit and the mushrooms that weren't poisonous, and once he even found a beaver that the river had knocked to death. It broke his heart to push us out to found our territories, but he did it. I know something about responsibility.”

“Nick's from a good family. Foxes in general are pretty stable, but pups really do it up right,” Judy noted.

“Finally, someone in this family with decent parentage!” Opal cried. “We can use them as examples of acceptable parental care.”

“Her parents were a regulated fling, and her mother just showed her where the milk was,” Angel whispered to Judy and Nick.

“At least there was only one dad,” Judy responded.

“I did not know him, and I do not care to. But now I am fascinated by the prospect of meeting my... I suppose it would be father-in-law once-removed. A solid family tod.”

Angel rolled the cloth back up as carefully as possible and gave it over to Nick. “Inla take your obstacles. And Frita light your way. You're going to meet them, you know. At least one of them, anyhow.”

“I'll remember to bow,” Nick snarked, carefully settling the cloth on his back. “We have to leave, now. The travel time was sprinkled out exactly and the sun looks right.”

Judy hugged her brother tightly, then moved over to Opal, who greeted the squeeze with loud purring. “I'll come back a mother-to-be, or I won't come back. This is it.”

“Get yours, sis. Get all that you can. You deserve it just for trying this crazy scheme.”

- - -

“Should we go back for the cloth?” Judy anxiously asked as she hopped beside Nick, the two of them running down the corridors of Canterlot Palace.

“Too late for that. That gardener just barely lost us in the brambles, and the cloth is hung up on them. We go back, we're getting caught,” Nick answered. “I remember the directions but just barely. We can't have any more detours. We're just hoping that it's happening today.”

“I love you, Nick! I just love you so much! I'm sure it's happening! It has to happen! This can't end any other way!” Judy cried.

“Love the optimism. You rabbits, just endless fountains of positive energy. Maybe it's being a pup talking but I can respect the positive vibe,” Nick chuckled, speeding up slightly to keep up with his fading olfactory memory.

The two sharply turned a corner and were confronted with a towering figure of white and gold, very nearly slamming into her long legs.

Princess Celestia turned and looked down in confused shock, horn glowing as a reflex, her mind instantly thinking that she had encountered one of the vivarium foxes engaged in the grim but necessary task of continuing its life. She would at least take them outside to do that and give the rabbit a fighting chance. But she stopped her telekinetic grip, when she saw the rabbit was pressed to the fox, which stood upright and slightly curled. He was ringing her. He was protecting her.

The three stood there, still, staring, no one sure what to do. Nick finally made a motion, slowly bowing his head to Celestia. Noticing it, Judy did the same, head pressing against Nick's back due to her position.

The glow around her horn faded away, and a smile spread across Celestia's face. “I'd better hurry. All those couples are waiting for me. They've waited a long time for this moment...” With that, Celestia trotted grandly off, slightly to the side of the corridor, to allow anyone coming from behind to pass her up.

“She really does know all...” Nick whispered with no small amount of awe.

“And her sister knows more,” Judy added.

“The night sees all and no heart hides from the moon. Every fox knows it, and every homba huddles in the deepest den on the full moon night,” Nick said. “She wants us to go. So, let's go.”

“We make love in the light of the moon,” Judy reminded him as they resumed their dash.

“I have no secrets that I fear being seen. I'm proud of my love for you and I want it known,” Nick laughed.

“I hope she likes that kind of a show!” Judy chuckled.

- - -

Fluttershy smiled gently as she surveyed her little menagerie, enjoying the sound of that over most other words. All the little animals were getting along well, thanks to her low-key wild talent of earth pony animal concordance, refined well over a lot of practice and with a lot of food. She hadn't domesticated the animals, but calmed them.

As she took a sip of her chicory drink she noticed someone new had arrived. She knew all the animals, permanent and transient, that lived on or near her property. This one was a complete stranger. It was a bunny, gray with black eartips, a little longer overall than her Angel. She hopped with some difficulty, carrying what looked to be a particularly large litter, larger than any she had seen before.

“Well, hello there, little bunny. Are you looking for a safe place to have that big, big litter of yours?” Fluttershy cooed. On getting a nod from the small creature she leaned her head down and softly touched her nose to the nose of the lapine. “Don't you worry. This is a safe place. I promise you can have all those adorable little babies safely.”

Her focus on the rabbit made her miss the approach of a long, lithe red fox, which smoothly wound its way through the area and approached the rabbit openly. A quick flick of her eyes brought a gasp and a scowl. Most animals knew or could tell her land was a peace ground, and knew how she enforced her will. She fixed the fox with her famous stare once he had gotten close to the vulnerable doe, locking him in place with the magical force of her will.

“Naughty fox! This pregnant bunny doe came to me for protection from predators like you! Her litter needs a chance to be born and they're going to have it! I can't believe you- Oh!” The concentration was broken when Angel hopped onto her back and bounced repeatedly. “A-angel bunny? What are you doing? I'm protecting another rabbit, why are you stopping me?”

Angel leaped quickly over Fluttershy's head, landing between the two animals before he drew the two together into a kind of hug, patting the fox and giving the rabbit a platonic kiss on the head. He pointed at the large, pregnant belly, and the fox's chest, insistently jabbing his fingers to emphasize his point.

The desperate pantomime confused Fluttershy for a moment, before she made the connection. She would never have thought of such a thing before Opal and Angel had kittens together. She hadn't expected any more things like that. But it seemed to have happened again. And given the little kiss on the head... “Is that your big sister, Angel?”

The easily aggrieved rabbit slammed his paws into the ground and thumped them repeatedly, holding a forepaw to the top if his head and pointing at the other rabbit, before indicating a smaller stature.

“Oh! Sorry, I forgot you're a r- a small, sweet rabbit. Your little sister. Looks like your family likes being with non-rabbits. That's so sweet!” Fluttershy softly stroked over the heads of the two new arrivals. “You two should come with me, I'll clean you up and give you some nice food. We can see the vet another day.”

“So, I guess 'pet pup' started looking really good, didn't it?' Angel asked with an amused tone.

“I'll slog through living in the wild. I'll follow if Judy says she wants to live there too. But these are our kitkittens. If there's an option to give them a better life, I'm taking it, no questions asked,” Nick responded, with a very serious tone.

“He's been very awestruck since out little adventure. I think he got a little religion out of our encounter,” Judy noted.

“We did have our wish come true. I think I'm allowed a little worshipful seriousness,” Nick relied, with some humor creeping into his voice.

“So what now?” Judy asked, looking with some trepidation at the open door.

“Get domesticated fast, both of you. No snapping, no pellets or pee outside of marked areas, no making a mess in the house, no making excessive mess outside the house, don't eat anyo- well, that one isn't a problem for a pup. Food is regular, usually fruit and dry stuff like what you were scavenging out at the farm. Don't gulp, no one will try and take it. Nick, she'll probably give you some fish once or twice a week. She gives it mostly to the weasels but her girlfriend's dad lives on one of the local lakes and fishes a lot, so there should be some excess for you. Expect baths, regularly. Fluttershy is not the kind to use fancy stuff and won't perfume you, but Rarity might and she's over here a lot. Consider it the cost of living here,” Angel rattled off, motioning for the two to enter the cottage.

“Anything else to keep in mind?” Nick inquired, striding along beside Judy while she carefully hopped her way into the home.

“Her friends love adorable animals, especially friendly ones. Pups fall into that category. Bunnies invented that category. Pregnant ones, don't even get me started. They practically couldn't get enough of Opal while our kittens were in there. All kinds of treats, petting, lots and lots of praise. They're gonna love you, Judy,” Angel chuckled, leading the pair through the door. “They also might want to marry you together. It's an annoyance, they dress you up in weird stuff, but there's loads of food, so, take your lumps.

“Mmm, marriage. How domesticated,” Judy laughed, leaning heavily on Nick's side.

“Fine, fine...” Nick sighed. “Arf.”