Note: The Fourth Bear is a wonderful book and I love it dearly, well written, witty, sharp and punchy, but I did miss the interaction between Jack and Madeleine which made "The Big Over Easy" so warm hearted. What might Madeleine have thought when it was all over and she had an opportunity to look back over several days of emotional ups and downs.

I don't own and make no profit from any stories written about Jasper Fforde's worlds or any other.

The Fourth Bear- Coda

Madeleine watched her husband sleeping beside her as she lay next to him. Five years they had been married, and in those five years he had not told her one of the single most important facts of his life. He was a PDR, a Person of Dubious Reality, a character from a story, a nursery rhyme. It had felt like a colossal betrayal when she had found out. How could he keep something so incredibly important from her?

Her response had echoed that betrayal and she had said things to him which she knew wounded him to the soul. She had pushed him away right when he needed her love and support. Then what she took to be the ultimate betrayal when he allegedly slept with another woman. She had thought at that instance, when she had received the call from Briggs, Jack's superior, that he had sought comfort in another woman's arms after she had rejected him so forcefully. She dreaded to think what would have happened if Punch, of all people, hadn't been there to work his way through the tangle of half-truths and misconceptions.

She reached out and brushed a strand of his hair back off his forehead. There were one or two white strands mixed with the brown. He shifted a little, said something incomprehensible and slipped back into a deeper sleep, the lines of tension around his mouth and eyes easing a little.

How could she have thought that just because he was nursery rhyme character that he was any less real than she? He loved her just as much as she loved him. He ate and drank like any real person. He had three children, two by his previous, now dead wife, herself a PDR, and one with her, all of whom were wonderful, perfectly real people. He laughed and cried like any other. He bled like any other.

Madeleine's fingers hovered just above his brow, where a deep purple bruise marred his skin. While it was true that that bruise was just one of many he sported all over his body since his last and final run in with the homicidally psychopathic murderous biscuit known as the Gingerbreadman, it was a bruise she herself had caused. The night before. With a rolling pin.

The blue and purple glory of the bruise was a reminder of what she had almost done, and almost lost. It was not unknown for police officers in Jack's line of work- investigating nursery crime- to go rogue, snapping under the incredible pressures of the job, getting others and ultimately themselves killed pursuing their obsession. He had said before that the sheer normality of his home life was one of the few things that kept him sane. If she had pushed him away completely, would he have pursued his obsession to the death?

The thought that she could have lost him made her heart plummet. How could she live without him, especially if she had been the cause of his death? What would she have told his children whom she loved as her own?

She tried not to think about it. He was here, with her now. She only hoped that the chasm that had opened up between them could be closed again and they could get on with their lives. After all, his daughter was getting married in a couple of months. She chuckled a little as she settled back down. With five children between them, one of whom was engaged to Prometheus, a three thousand year old Titan, another played the tuba and a toddler whose main hobby was making a mess, home life was far from normal, but it was what they all needed.