Originally written for Catrinella during Yuletide 2007
Some days, with the cubs zooming around the valley and the once mythical smile brightening his wife's face, it's hard to remember most of the world knows or remembers him as the Big, Bad Wolf. It isn't a face he ever wants his children to see, but he knows it is inevitable. At least the Mundy television they watch is full of parents who are only human. He isn't, of course, but it's a nice thought. Not much of a comfort, but it's something.
It's better now, since the wooden soldiers. He's still frightening, but now even the stragglers believe he's on their side. Or on Snow's side, but since she's on their side it all amounts to the same thing. It's just one of the many shade of gray he's used to living.
He's not looking forward to the trip into the city. It has been months, and the smell of stale cigarettes had almost completely left his clothes. Still it can't be helped. There are some things that have to be taken care of in person.
Rose and Blue are waiting outside with the jeep and the carpet. They're deep in conversation and don't notice him approaching. He wonders for a moment if it's a failure in his training of Blue, but then he catches the new scent lingering between them. He smiles. It's about about time that kid had some happiness in his life. He can already smell the jeep - farm animals and that shampoo Rose uses. Bigby has never understood why hair needs to smell like pomegranate, but he's not about to ask.
Rose greets him with kiss on the cheek and stern look. "Remember to pick up something nice for Snow."
"She didn't ask for anything"
"I know. That's why you need to remember."
Bigby growls in her direction. As it turns out, he's not completely incompetent at the husband thing and it annoys him that everyone else assumes he is.
"I can handle my wife just fine. Why don't you two finish whatever it is you think no one notices you're up to so that Blue here can drive me down to the city."
Bigby smiles at the look of horror on his friend's face. It's going to be an amusing ride.
He lasts 20 minutes on the highway before pulling out a cigarette.
New York hasn't changed much in the months that he's been gone, but Fabletown has. It's clear well before they turn on to Bullfinch Street. Something just smells off.
Flycatcher is sweeping the lobby, and Grimble is at his usual post, but it doesn't take a trained spy to notice that something is very wrong. All the spark is out of Fly's step, and Grimble is doing his best to avoid looking up at all. Bigby has suspicions, but it isn't clear until Fly meets his eyes.
"So you remember." Bigby scowls. He'll take a piece out of whoever slipped.
The janitor nods. "It's no one's fault. I guess it was just time to stop forgetting."
"I'm sorry Fly. It's a tough break."
"Thanks. And it's Ambrose."
"You're a good man, Ambrose."
Ambrose turns away with his broom, hiding his tears. It's a difficult situation, but Bigby doesn't regret the lies. It was only what the man needed to survive. He knows better than most that the truth isn't always a comfort. Grimble looks up suddenly as Bigby moves towards the elevator. His eyes are wide in a silent plea for help. Bigby doesn't blame him.
The sheriff's office doesn't look much different, except that it's a bit neater these days. Beast isn't the moron Bigby feared he would be, but there's still room for improvement. It's a shame there isn't a century or two for him to get his feet wet before the war. Still, might as well make the best of it.
Taking the chair on what he'll probably always consider the wrong side of the desk, Bigby sits and waits. He's been starting to miss even the mundane aspects of the job, settling the quarrels, making Prince Charming's life as difficult as possible, and being in the middle of the information loop. They still tell him just about everything, but the delay is irritating after centuries of hearing everything firsthand. That's another reason he'd come down this week. It only takes sitting in the office, having to smoke three cigarettes just to get through a ten minute wait, and the argument down the hall to remind him that life is relatively good at the moment, despite the doom looming over everyone's head.
Footsteps pound down the hallway toward the office, ending in a crash as the door swings in to hit the wall. Beats is right behind it, panting in an apparent attempt to calm down. His shoulders and arms are covered in more hair than usual, and horns and teeth sprout in the customary places.
"So, how is our Mayor this morning?"
Beast whips around to glare at the voice, then relaxes. "No worth than motht dayth, but Beauty ith out of the offith, so I've had to deal with hith nonsense more than uthual today. Ith not going well."
"I can see that. I thought Frau Totenkinder had worked out the curse."
"Thee did, but I'm thtill working on control. Thometimes, when I get angry..." He doesn't need to finish the sentence. The horns and fangs aren't growing any longer, but Bigby has a feeling they'll stick around for a while if Beast has to calm down for them to go away.
Having apparently paced enough, Beast takes a seat in Bigby's old chair. "Tho, why did you want to thee me thith week?"
"It occurred to me that with Hansel back in town, there is something you should probably know. I'm sure you have realized by now that there are certain aspects of my time as sheriff that I have not completely explained."
Unsurprised, Beast raises one magnificently bushy eyebrow. "Thath one way of putting it."
"Well, Hansel's back in town and that changes things. There's one particular bit of information I think you ought to know."
"And you had to come all the way down here to tell me?"
"I think it's better if I show you."
Bigby leads the way down the hall to the business office, past the desks of the absent mayor and deputy, and down a series of little used corridors.
"I've never been thith far in"
"That's why we keep her here."
"Her? You don't mean..."
They round the last corner and emerge into a small room where a the body of a beautiful woman hangs from the far wall in shackles. The head rises, revealing a pair of eyes practically glowing with hatred.
"So you've brought me a new visitor, wolf. I don't get many of those." The face and voice still send a shiver down Bigby's spine. He knows it's only Baba Yaga's current mask, but it holds too sharp a memory for him to ever be at ease in its presence, especially with grandmotherly woman seated a few feet away. It had taken an extremely long time to pass those stones.
Baba Yaga's jailer stops knitting to manage the disturbance. "Hello, Bigby," Frau Totenkinder says, rising from her rocking chair. "I didn't think it would take you this long to bring the sheriff down. Hello, Beast. Still working on your control, I see."
"She's been here the whole time?" Beast, apparently shocked out of his anger, is back to a more hairy version of normal. His eyes are transfixed on the woman staring at Bigby.
"It was prudent that the rest of you believe she was safely dead. I drain her power daily, so all she can do currently is yell impotent curses. I suspect she caused a snag in my yarn once, but it's no cause for your concern. I've drained her to within an inch of her life since then."
"But..." Beast was still aghast.
"Well, that's the big secret. I have some other errands, so if you two can take it from here..." Bigby's attempt to leave does not pass unnoticed. Beast whirls around, horns protruding again.
"Wait, that's it?"
"Yes." Bigby flicks the end of his cigarette toward the prisoner.
"No explanation for keeping this to yourself?"
"You know the drill, Sheriff. It was a need to know situation. You might need it, so now you know. As far as we know, Hansel assumes she's dead. Prince Charming certainly does. You may need to advise him differently if we see signs of suspicion from the ... ambassador."
"Young man, we have much to discuss. Calm down and let the wolf get on his way. The company in this room makes him nervous."
"It's a long story. I'll leave you two to work out the new arrangement. You're not doing a hideous job. Now get back to it."
By the time the compliment has sunk in, Bigby is gone.
Bigby catches Snow alone in the kitchen washing up. Singing softly to herself, she doesn't notice him until his arms are around her waist and a small package is maneuvered into her wet hands.
"What's this for?" Snow melts against him.
"Do I need a reason to shower my wife with gifts?" He nuzzles her neck, amazed yet again that she fits so perfectly in his arms.
"This is hardly a shower." She turns to meet his embrace. Several moments pass before either can speak again, then Snow turns back to the washing up. "More of a drizzle, really."
"Just open it."
After drying her hands, Snow carefully opens the pale blue box. Inside is a delicate filigree snowflake on a silver chain. A translucent stone is set in the middle, glowing in the fading sunlight.
"It's beautiful." She allows him to fasten the chain around her neck and settles the pendant just below her collar bone.
"I know it's not the most original idea, but..." A kiss cuts off the rest of his sentence.
"It's perfect. I couldn't ask for anything better." Her eyes are shining at more than just the gift.
"Is that so, Mrs. Wolf." Another lingering kiss.
"The kids are with Rose tonight. We have the whole valley to ourselves."
That's all Bigby needs to hear.
Later, he watches her sleep, hair spread across the pillow, utter contentment on her face. He knows the storm is coming, and soon, but in moments like these, even the Big, Bad Wolf can believe in happily ever after.