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Two Countries In Need Of Water

Chapter Text

Just get mail, Snow said. Walk right up to the little box, open the little door, grab the mail and come back to the business office whenever he had a chance. She wasn’t in any rush for the mail and had made some quip about it being nothing but bills, and explained that she and Crane had a meeting at any given moment, so it would be better if he waited.

Of course, he didn’t wait. He couldn’t have just grabbed the mail on his way back in, or at least waited outside the door for the meeting to be over. Snow sends him a cold glare for not knocking before walking in that he manages to brush off without bristling him too much, and Crane openly scoffs, shaking his head like Bigby was a child to be chastised. Bluebeard is there, for some reason, arms crossed over his chest and smiling at Bigby like the cat that ate the canary. It was unsettling, to say the least.

The woman they were in a meeting with was someone Bigby didn’t recognize, and she looked over to him, a smirk on her lips as they shook hands.

“She’s your new assistant.” Snow introduces, taking her bottle lip between her teeth. Bigby scratches his cheek as he raises a brow.

“New leech on the Fabletown funds, more like.” Crane mutters, though everyone present could still, very clearly, hear him.

Bluebeard’s response is the most surprising as he says, “Truly, she’s my ex-wife.”

The woman rolls her eyes as Bigby raises a brow and asks, “That so?” Her scent was almost overwhelmingly pleasant, like perfume and the forest, and it wafts right toward him. Immediately, he’s reaching for his cigarettes, swearing silently when he can’t find them.

She sends Bluebeard a disdainful look as she says, “We all made mistakes back in the Homelands.”

He visibly fumes at that, but says, “Now that we have all the paperwork sorted, can I have what’s mine?”

As if she’d been through this argument before, she sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose, “I told you, I sold it with your estate. I don’t have it.”

Bluebeard turns to Crane, “Surely there are repercussions for this. She can’t just sell my property.” Where the hell were his damn cigarettes?

Snow interjects, “Bluebeard, you not only gave her the key, but after you were sentenced to time in prison, she was given the estate. It was hers to sell.”

He pinches the bridge of his nose, “I don’t give two shits about the estate. It’s nothing more than a plot of land and a building in the Homelands at this point. I want my key.” Why did she smell so goddamn good?

“And, pray tell,” His ex-wife says, arms crossed, “why would you want a key that opens nothing that belongs to you?”

He glares at her, and Bigby knows he’ll have to interject soon, but he lets Bluebeard continue, “Because, the magic I used on it was expensive.”

“The ‘magic’ you bought wore off as soon as you were discovered. The damn thing stopped bleeding.” She leans forward just enough to taunt him, and says, “And so I sold it. Just like every other disgusting thing in that house after I buried all those poor girls. You got your fucking wealth, Bluebeard. What else could you possibly think I could get you?” He found the cigarettes. Thank God, but where the hell was his lighter. He almost groaned aloud, wondering what god he had spited.

“Enough!” Crane is the one who finally stops the argument, “Mr. Bluebeard, you can clearly tell that she does not have the key. Bufkin can find the records of who purchased the properties, and you can repurchase it from the third party.” He turns to the woman, “Now, it’s quite discouraging to see the newest employee of the Business Office resorting to petty jabs on her first day, especially muckraking our time in the Homelands! For your sake, I hope you and Mr. Wolf get along well. Ms. White, call my masseuse and tell her I’m coming in early.”

The woman raises a brow at Bigby as the meeting disperses, Crane storming out of the room, Snow shooting them all apologetic glances before picking up the phone, and Bluebeard opening his mouth and shutting it before going to find Bufkin.

“Why does he want a key to something that will open nothing?” The woman asks, more to herself than Bigby. She finally turns to him, wringing her hands together, “Well, I assume they didn’t tell you about me, otherwise you’d look a little less like a deer caught in headlights.” She gives him her name and a smile.

“What exactly is it you’ll be doing?” Bigby asks after a moment’s hesitation. He knew there would be no arguing with Snow or Crane unless he had a legitimate concern. He checks the pockets of his shirt, coming up with no lighter still.

“Answering phone calls, writing things down, going on call whenever you’re unavailable. An assistant, for lack of a better term. Snow also mentioned something about reports you refuse to write?”

“On call?”

“If you’re out and about and something urgent comes up, I’m the next in line to be sent out. Frankly, it’s a little disheartening that the only ‘police force’ we have is one man. It seems unfair to put that burden on one person.” She speaks with an elegant air, and Bigby figured she had to have been some noble to have ever married Bluebeard back in the Homelands, so it only made sense.

He knew better than to ask if she could handle herself, but her entire demeanor was compelling him to. She wore heels, a pencil skirt, and a blouse, and looked about as intimidating as Flycatcher, but there was always more to these sort of Fables than met the eye.

“Anyway, I look forward to working with you, Mr. Wolf.”

“Feeling’s mutual.” In all honesty, she didn’t seem to be terrible company, if a little uptight. And having a little more help was definitely not a horrible concept. “Call me Bigby.” She sees him struggling and pulls her own lighter from the small bag under her arm, lighting his cigarette, and he takes a little pleasure in the way her eyebrow quirks upward in time with the corner of her mouth, but neither of them say anything on the matter. Her scent is still there, but there’s familiarity in the cigarette smoke. Comfort, almost.

“No smoking.” Snow calls flippantly, the phone pressed between her cheek and shoulder, “If you’ll finish filling out your paperwork, I can get you settled in your new apartmen – hello? Yes, this is Ichabod Crane’s assistant.” Snow begins to drone on about how sorry she was but how necessary it was to squeeze Crane in immediately, as he was on his way.

Sending Bigby a small smile as way of parting, she walks over to Crane’s desk, and all but bends herself over it to finish filling out her paperwork. Bigby stands there for just a moment, smoking his cigarette and feeling just a little overwhelmed before deciding to do something.

He approached the magic mirror first, watched as the creepy green face rolled itself forward to say, “Mister Wolf. What a pleasure.” From the tone of its voice, it most certainly was not a pleasure.

“Hey, Mirror. Show me Bluebeard.”

The mirror looks as disappointed as he can and sighs, “You know the rules.”

Bigby rolls his eyes, but refuses to cause a scene, “Mirror, mirror, don’t be…late, show me the…blue-bearded man I hate.”

“Was that so hard?” Bigby doesn’t have time to answer before he’s rolling over, revealing Bluebeard to him, talking to Bufkin as if it were the most normal thing in the world.

After the mirror returns, Bigby continues, frustration evident, “Mirror, mirror, blah, blah, blah, show me Snow.”

The mirror glares at him, but rolls over nonetheless, giving Bigby that small sense of satisfaction that he’d won the argument. He congratulates himself by taking another drag of his cigarette.

Snow is still talking on the phone, but she’s smiling now, so that has to mean something. She’s scribbling something down as she nods against the receiver, thanking the person on the other end profusely.

Once more, the Mirror reveals himself to Bigby, and he says, “Mirror, mirror…show me the new girl.”

She’s beautiful, honestly. She doesn’t look so uptight when people aren’t watching, but Bigby figures it’s just first day jitters. She had to have been able to handle herself if she had ever been married to Bluebeard and survived.

She sets the pen down and reads over the paperwork, as if checking to make sure everything was correct. It’s efficient, if a little unnecessary. He rubs his nose and scratches his cheek as if it would make her scent disappear. It did not.

And then, for shits and giggles and his own twisted sense of humor, he ends the wonderful conversation by asking, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”

The mirror claims, “Your opinion is confused, ask again when you know who you choose.” The mirror disappears altogether at that, leaving Bigby to look at his own, sad reflection. He drops the cigarette to the ground and stomps it out, not particularly caring about Crane’s complaining.

He rubs the lamp, as was his own custom whenever he passed it, because he could really use three wishes right about now. He pages through one of the books on the table and makes some offhand comment about the wine by Crane’s desk, how he was surprised that Bufkin hadn’t found it yet. No one hears it.

He approaches Bufkin and Bluebeard, the former smiling as well as a monkey could and the latter sneering and asking, “It seems you and my former wife will be working closely together, hm?”

Bigby raises a brow, “So?”

“So, that should be…interesting to say the least. If my memory serves me correctly, you have a history of taking advantage of naïve little girls. She has a history of taking advantage of men. I’d like to see who will reach who first.”

“She has the history of taking advantage -?”

Bigby’s fists clench, but Bufkin interrupts, “I…I will go find the records, Mr. Bluebeard.” He flies off as gracefully as a drunken monkey could, and Bigby walks off before things get ugly.

“Don’t get too comfortable, Wolf.” Bluebeard threatens, and it hangs in the air like an omen.

He approaches Snow next, just as she hangs up the phone and takes a long breath. “The work never seems to end.” She says, picking up a pen and scribbling something in a little black book.

“I…can relate.” Bigby claims.

She looks up at him, and sees his gaze cast over to his new assistant for just a second, and Snow says, “You two should get acquainted.”

He raises a brow, “Why’s that?”

“You two are going to be working together for the foreseeable future, Bigby. May as well do it on good terms.”

“Why didn’t you want me to be here for the meeting?” Bigby asks, craving another cigarette. But he knows how Snow is about smoking, so he doesn’t even bother with trying to find his lighter. “I mean, she is my assistant, right?”

Snow huffs, “She is, yes, and I’m sorry for not telling you sooner, but we both know how you are with…people skills. Either way, you’re here now. Just…play nice, please, Bigby.” Before he can answer, Snow calls her name, gaining her attention, “If you’ll follow Mr. Wolf and I, we’ll show you to your new apartment, and I’ll make arrangements for your belongings to be moved.” Bigby new from the way she looked mildly relaxed about the situation that those arrangements were already made.

The elevator ride up is quiet, but Bigby’s all but crawling in his skin. She smells so damn good, and Snow won’t stop glaring at him as he taps the cigarettes in his pockets. He could get away with it in the Business Office, maybe, but in such close quarters…he’d never hear the end of it.

“Here’s your floor.” She was only a floor below Bigby, close enough for a holler, and just far away enough to have her own space. Snow continues, “Your phone connects to the one you have in the Business Office, but Crane insists that you come to the Business Office to work.”

They come to her door, Bigby finally finding the damn lighter – why the hell did he stick it in his back pocket – and lights another cigarette. It helps block out her scent, and gives him half a second of relief.

Snow drops the key into her palm after opening the door, “Welcome to the Woodland Luxury Apartments.”

Chapter Text

Bigby swings by the Business Office around nine o’clock the next morning, and he’s a little more surprised by the fact that she’s in there than he ought to be. It was her true first day on the job, and she seemed like the type to show up on time and work overtime.

“Good morning, Bigby.” She says, the phone pressed against her shoulder, “Mhm…yes I’m still here, Mister Badger…alright, yes…I’ll make sure he takes extra care…mhm…he’ll be right there. Alright, thank you. Goodbye.”

She sighs as she hangs up, looking over to Bigby, “You heard the bulk of it. Someone was reportedly in Mister Badger’s home last night. He, um, asks that you try to respect his privacy as much as possible.” She hesitates, as if trying to figure out if she could say what came next, “Would you like me to come with you?”

The thought of being in a car with her sends Bigby’s head spiraling, so he takes a long drag of his cigarette to clear his head.

“Uh…no, I think I can handle it.” He says, scratching his cheek with his free hand.

She doesn’t look offended, but instead pulls a note card from her drawer, writing an address and phone number down, “Badger’s address and my phone number. I’m sure you know where he lives, but…just in case.” She takes her bottom lip between her teeth and hands him the note card.

“Thanks.” He says, reading the card. It read, ‘Badger’ with his address beneath it, and her name, with her phone number beside it. He flips the card over, even though he saw her write it out on the front. He shoves it in his front pocket, “I’m gonna head out, then.”

Just as he’s about to turn away, she asks, “Bigby, would you…like to grab a coffee with me? When you get back from Badger’s? Snow suggested we get to know one another, and…” She trails off, restricting herself from rambling further.

He thinks about staying quiet, about not answering, but wonders what fucking good that would do him, so instead he nods, “I’ll…meet you back here.”

The smile that crossed her lips was just too damn happy, and all she can do is smile and nod.

As soon as he shut the door, he’s lighting another cigarette, trying to get rid of that intoxicating scent he couldn’t get out of his mind.

He’d already known where Badger’s was, but he pulls the card out anyway and reads it to the driver of the cab, as if he had no idea where he was going. He doesn’t know why he doesn’t put the card back up, looking at her handwriting like it would give him all the answers he needed.

Badger lived in a run-down tenement house not far from Toad’s place. Rumor had it the two of them kept in contact, and Bigby had heard rumors about card games being held at least once a week involving Badger, Toad, Mole, and Rat.

“¡Chúpame la pija, pendejo!” When Bigby stepped out of the taxi, the last thing he expected to see was a Spanish-speaking woman all but bending herself out the window, throwing things at a man on the ground. Two other men stand and watch as the first, begging man cries up to the woman.

Bigby lights a cigarette and approaches one of the bystanders, a greasy, balding old man in a stained wife beater, “You live here?”

The stranger looks startled for just a moment before nodding, “Yeah, I do. You’re the Sheriff, right?”

“One and the same. Who’re you?”

“Humpty.” He says, crossing his arms over his chest. Bigby was fairly convinced the hair on his head was fake, but he said nothing on the matter, “Humpty Dumpty.” A plate collides with the sidewalk, and Humpty cringes, “Look, ‘ese two been at it all mornin’. Can you jus’ quiet ‘em down?”

“Who are they?”

Humpty huffs, “Mr. and Mrs. Cucuy. Our very own resident ‘on again-off again’ couple, as you can very well see, Sheriff.”

The only response he gives Humpty is the final drag of his cigarette before crushing the butt under his shoe. Immediately, her scent hits his nose as if he had never left, and he has to stop himself from swearing aloud before he handles this situation.

“You lousy, two-timing, pendejo!” Mrs. Cucuy screams, a tumbled mass of brown hair falling in front of her face as she throws things into the street in her blind rage.

“Mi estrella, baby, come on.” Mr. Cucuy, a relatively attractive man with a heavy gold crucifix around his neck and a thin moustache calls back up to her, “You know I ain’t mean nothing by it.”

“That little…that little whore you had sitting in your lap was nothing?!” A picture frame hits the ground next, and the Mister gasps.

“That was the last photograph I had of us in the Homelands!” He falls to his knees as he tries to piece together the broken frame.

“This is the last time you’ll see me too! I’m sick of your lying!”

Bigby finally decides to interject, calling up to Mrs. Cucuy, “Ma’am, would you mind coming down here so we can figure this out?” He tries to keep the biting sarcasm to a minimum.

Even three stories down, Bigby can see her nose wrinkle. He’s trying to focus on the little things, the details, so he can try and ignore her scent.

“There is nothing to figure out! This is my house! He can go stay with his new ‘girlfriend’.”

Bigby pinches the bridge of his nose and asks the man still trying to piece together the frame, “Did you cheat on her?”

“No, Sheriff, you misunderstand. I was at a card game, and the waitress decides to sit on my lap.” He throws the pieces down and stands, “The girl is pretty, and so I give her a tip. She walks in and assumes the goddamn worst!”

Sorting through that shitshow was most certainly not on Bigby’s agenda for the day, but there was a median reached, and for that he was thankful. He lit another cigarette to try and stave off his impending headache, hoping the Cucuys managed to figure things out so he wouldn’t be called again.

It’s at that moment he remembers that that wasn’t the reason he was called in the first place. He groans and makes his way inside the slummed building.

Badger is hesitant to answer when Bigby knocks, but the door opens to a three foot badger with glasses on the end of his nose, wearing rumpled clothes and smoking a pipe.

“Classy, Badger.”

“Ah, Sheriff.” He chooses to ignore him, “Welcome, welcome. I hope you’ll pardon my appearance – I only ever wear my glamour when I go out, you understand, cheaper that way – and I had intended to today, to meet with my friends Rat and Toad – Mole couldn’t make it, he had an appointment with the thirteenth floor – but when I woke up this morning, as you can see…” He trails off, wringing his little hands together as Bigby steps in.

The room is absolutely wrecked.

“I tried not to touch anything, but evidently I had to touch the phone, and I haven’t been able to get off the pipe since I realized everything was out of sorts, and I didn’t know where else to turn.” He begins to ramble again.

“Where were you last night?”

Badger wrings his hands again, “Ah, you see, I was at a thrift store called Second Hands – I do so love thrifting, and they’re the only place that really stays open past midnight – so I wore my glamour, like a good citizen, and was there for a good portion of the evening, before I went and played cards with my good friends Toad and Mole – Rat couldn’t make it because it was his anniversary with his wife the previous day – and I came back here at around six this morning – I do so hate the sunlight – and found everything…like this.” While Badger had been going on his tangent, Bigby had been rifling through his things; the liquor cabinet, the coffee table, the pull-down bed, the dresser, and poked his head into the practically untouched kitchen. The stain on the couch looked like wine, but had long lost its smell, so Bigby had no real way of knowing.

“Do you have any idea who might’ve done this? Someone you upset or might have a vendetta?”

Badger scoffs, “I hardly get out of me house. Even back in the Homelands, I wasn’t one for getting out. I can’t really think about anyone I might have crossed.”

Bigby smashes the cigarette out in the ashtray, taking the room in one more time, “Did you look through your things? Was anything missing when you got back?”

Badger waddles over to his dresser, holding a finger up as he puffs on his little pipe, “The only valuables I have are over here. The perps opened the dresser, but they didn’t find this…” He pulls out a small box from a hole beneath one of the drawers. He hands it to Bigby, who raises a brow.

He opens it and looks through the little vintage box. Inside wasn’t too startling, but held a pearl necklace, a pair of rings, a key, and a postcard.

He looks the postcard over. It was a standard card from Florida, with a picture of Orlando with a few cheesy words written across it. On the back, though, he found a would-be fancy script, if the hand writing it wasn’t so clumsy. There was no signature. “Who’s this from?”

“My dear friend Mole. He’s always been one to…”

“Yeah, yeah, alright. What about the necklace?” He picked up the pearls, furrowing his brow.

“My late mother’s.” He offers no explanation beyond that, which was entirely out of character. Bigby figured there was some bad blood there.

“The rings?” He continues, looking at the pair, one obviously belonging to a man, and the other to a woman.

“Me poor mum and dad’s wedding rings.” Again, no further explanation.

“And…the key? What’s it go to?” It was certainly the strangest thing in the box, and as Bigby looked it over, he was certain there was nothing particularly special or exemplary about it. It seemed out of place amongst these valuables, save the postcard.

“Y’know how I said I went thrifting? Bought that little beauty back in the Homelands, before th’ Exodus. Not particularly meaningful or valuable, as it don’t open anythin’ of mine, but it’s something from home.”

Bigby drops the key back in the box, and hands it back to Badger, inhaling, and immediately regretting it when her scent hits his nose.

“Have you…have you thought of anyone it may be, Sheriff?” Badger wrings his hands together, sucking on his pipe furiously.

“I can…think of a few people. You mind if I smoke?” He pulls out his cigarettes.

“Not ‘t all.”

Bigby lights his cigarette, and tells Badger, “Look, I’m gonna run a few names by the Business Office, and we’ll give you a call as soon as possible. There’s not much to go off of here, but we’ll figure it out.”

Badger nods slowly, puffing on his pipe, “Thank you, Sheriff.” He hesitates, “That woman? Who answered the phone? That your new assistant, replaced Snow White?”

“No.” Bigby shakes his head, “Snow was never my assistant. This woman…she’s got a newly instated position.”

“She was the first person I spoke to after I saw th’ mess th’ perp’d made. Calmed me down ‘n all. Good woman. She a Fable?”

They both knew he knew she was a Fable. He was just trying to place her.

“You know Bluebeard?”

“Mm hm.”

“His last and only living wife from the Homelands.”

“Damn.”

The conversation was cut short by the sharp ring of a phone and Badger’s quick excuse as he wandered into the kitchen to answer the phone.

“Allo?”

A moment’s silence passes before Badge pokes his head out of the kitchen, telling the person on the other end, “Yeah, he’s right here.” He looks at Bigby, “It’s for you.”

That didn’t surprise him as much as it should have. He takes the phone, taking another drag of his cigarette, and answers, “Hello?”

“Bigby.” It’s her voice, and all Bigby can think of is that old phrase. ‘Think of the devil.’ “Bigby, we need you back at the Business Office.”

“Why? What happened?”

Her voice drops to a whisper, “Grendel just came in and reported a missing person.”

Chapter Text

Crane and Snow White aren’t in the office when Bigby arrives, but she’s standing there with Grendel, trying to calm him down. She’s holding a stack of papers, standing against her desk as he paces across the floor in short bursts.

All eyes train on Bigby as the door shuts behind him. She looks relieved, whereas Grendel snarls, shaking his head, “Sheriff.”

Bigby responds by way of taking another drag of his cigarette.

“Bigby.” She says carefully, if a little desperate, “Grendel, would you tell the Sheriff what happened? Then, we can fill out the necessary paperwork.”

“Nothing fucking happened, that’s the problem.” He runs a hand through his hair, “Holly tried to call her sister, Lily. She hasn’t been able to get a hold of her for days now.”

“So, Lily decided to leave?” Bigby asks, growing more and more uncaring as the moments passed.

Grendel’s nostrils flare at that, “No.” He says sharply, “Lily wouldn’t just up and leave like that.”

“Look, Grendel.” Bigby says, taking a step closer to him, “Unless you have something more to go off than ‘she decided it was time to go’, there’s nothing I can do. It’s not a crime to leave.”

“It’s a crime if you’re taken.”

“You got any proof of ‘foul play’? You got anything outside of a few missed phone calls?”

“Bigby.” She says his name once more, and he tears his eyes away from Grendel and onto her. He hadn’t noticed the way his fingernails were biting into his palms. “Grendel, why don’t you take this form to Holly, and I promise, we’ll take care of everything to the best of our abilities.” She holds the manila folder out to him, and they all stand there in a heavy, tense silence for just a moment, before he nods.

“Yeah. Sure.” He snatches the manila folder from her and leaves without another word, door slamming behind him.

She takes a heavy breath after he leaves and asks, “Is it like that every day?”

He almost cracks a smile, “There’s definitely a reason Snow hired you on.” She chuckles at that, and he decides it’s something he wouldn’t mind hearing again. “Speaking of, where is Snow?”

“She went with a Fable up to the Thirteenth Floor. Mole, I think.”

“And Crane?”

“Came across an inkling of stress.” She snorts, “Back to the masseuse. Does he have a habit of that?”

“News to me.”

There’s a heavy moment of silence before she asks, “How did things go? At Badger’s? From what he said, things were…rough.”

His eyes fall to her lips, and he chastises himself, lighting yet another cigarette, “They were. It wasn’t a normal sort of break-in, though.”

“What do you mean?” She furrows her brow as she crosses her arms over her chest.

“They didn’t take anything.” He taps the end of his cigarette, “Everything was still there when I got there, even his glamour.” She raises a brow, “They were looking for something specific, and they didn’t find it.”

“Well…shit.” She mutters, rubbing the back of her neck, “What do you think we should do?”

He almost forgot he was the boss in the situation, which was new to him. Lily hadn’t done anything illegal, and there wasn’t much for them to do on that front, but there was practically nothing to go off from Badger’s apartment.

Four days pass. Grendel brings back Holly’s missing person form and two pictures of Lily, one glamoured and one not. She thanks him, and asks if there’s anywhere he thinks she would go. It’s almost sad as he deflates, shakes his head, and tells her that ‘no, she had nowhere to go’. Bigby has been working day in and out to figure out who the hell it was in Badger’s apartment, and she’s trying to find where the hell Lily went.

On the fourth day, Bufkin interrupts their, all but crash-landing on Crane’s desk with a book in hand as he says, “I may have something to help.”

She and Bigby share a look, and approach Bufkin, Snow White standing alongside them. There’s something comforting in the clicking of her heels, but he doesn’t know where to place it.

Without prompting, Bufkin opens the book and says, “Mr. Crane asked me to find who bought Bluebeard’s key.” He sets the book down, open on a page written in a messy cursive script, “It was purchased by the Jersey Devil back in the Homelands.” He points to the middle of the page, “It was sold during the Exodus, so the records of sale were mandatory, but the descriptions…” He flips the page, “They’re gone. I suspect foul play.”

“That’s convenient.” She says, leaning down to read over the page, “I’ve had dealings with Jersey recently.” She looks up at Bigby, “Do you want to head over to his pawn shop?”

“Just…give me a minute. We’ll head out in a few.”

She nods and looks back at the book.

After rubbing the genie’s lamp, Bigby approaches the mirror and it says, “Hello, Sheriff Wolf. Have you come to find someone in hiding, or simply deliver your good tidings?” If Bigby didn’t know any better, he’d think the Mirror was being sarcastic.

“Mirror, mirror, show me Bluebeard.”

It looks like it’s about to protest, but instead, rolls over to show him Bluebeard adjusting his tie before walking into a particularly shady building with neon lights. The clip ends, and Bigby’s met with the Mirror’s face yet again.

He drops his cigarette and stomps it out as he asks, “Show me Bigby.” The Mirror would have raised a brow if it could, and reveals the back of Bigby’s head. He turns around, confused, and tells the Mirror, “I really wish I understood how the hell you do that.”

“I could explain, but I’m certain you haven’t got the brain.”

“You know, you’d look pretty interesting as a pile of shards.” The Mirror doesn’t answer, “Show me…show me the new girl.”

She’s practically bending herself over Crane’s desk, talking to Bufkin and Snow as she skims the pages of the book. He can’t tear his eyes off her, just watching as her brow creases in concentration as she reads over the ledger, the way her lips move when she speaks to Snow and Bufkin.

He finally looks away before Mirror decides his time is up, feeling creepy and dirty, and tells it, “That’s it, Mirror.” And once again, Bigby’s left staring at his own reflection. He sighs, shakes his head, and walks back over to Snow’s desk.

“And just tell them that the Sheriff is on call and will be back soon. Write their numbers down where I can find them.” Bufkin gives a nod, eager to begin his duty as secretary. She turns to Bigby and crosses her arms over her chest, “You ready to head out?”

“Yeah, whenever you are.”

Snow wishes them luck and returns to her desk as the phone rings.

They stand at the curb as they wait for a taxi to pass, a cigarette burning between his lips. She fumbles with her lighter, pressing a cigarette between her lips, and swears when her lighter refuses to work.

Seeing opportunity, Bigby pulls out his lighter, and makes a plan to light her cigarette, but instead drops the damn thing.

“Mother fucking fucker.”

She pulls the cigarette from her lips and laughs, leaning down to pick it up at the same time he does, bumping heads and hands. It doesn’t necessarily hurt either of them, but neither of them expected it, and the embarrassment alone seemed enough to kill Bigby.

“We’re obviously the most qualified people for this job.” She jests, fingers curling around the silver lighter. They both stand, and she drops the lighter in his palm.

“Obviously.” He cracks a smile for her and lights her cigarette.

She takes a drag, hollowing out her cheeks, and the smoke puffs from her lips, “So…why don’t we take a car or something? Can Fabletown not afford one police car?” She taps the end of her cigarette.

He shrugs and pockets his lighter, “I don’t drive.”

Her brow arches as she takes another puff, “Can’t or won’t?”

“Neither.” She was easy to talk to, and he didn’t mind the politely intrusive questions as he would with just about anyone else. “Never learned. Never really needed to.”

She hums and asks, “Not many dramatic car chases?”

He’s almost convinced he wants to laugh, “None. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve had to chase people on foot, much less gotten behind the wheel.”

“I’ll have to teach you sometime.”

“You can drive?” He asks. It wasn’t particularly necessary in the city, and not many Fables had ever picked up the Mundy skill. He’d seen Crane drive, but that was the extent of it.

“Back in the twenties, I think, before the first World War.” She takes a drag, “It was…something completely different than it is today, but it was driving nonetheless.” She sighs, “Look, Bigby, if we find this key here…we can’t let Bluebeard have it. I don’t know what the hell he’s using it for or why he wants it, but nothing good ever came from that damn thing.” There’s a desperation buried in her voice, and he wants nothing more than to reassure her that he would never do anything that would cause her that much pain.

Instead, he stubs out his cigarette and nods, “Understood.”

It seems to be enough to relax her.

He steps forward and hails the passing taxi, opening the door for her and earning a gracious smile, and, at that moment, he was convinced he could die a happy man.

She gives the address, telling the driver to head to the Lucky Pawn shop, and Bigby is all too aware of how close they are, of how she smells, of the steady beat of her heart. His throat parches as he looks out the window, trying not to look at her, trying to block her out, so he lights another cigarette.

“Is it a sensory thing?” She asks. The driver glares at him through the rearview mirror, but has a thick cigar between his lips, so he says nothing.

“Is what?”

She points to her lips as she stumbles over her words, and Bigby is suddenly all too aware of them, “The cigarette. Is it to…tone things down?”

“In a way, yeah.”

She bites her lip, and Bigby wants to ask what god he offended for sending this goddamn succubus after him, but then realizes that the infatuation was completely one-sided and a succubus would be trying to get in his pants right then. The thought in its entirety depresses him, but it was the reality.

“Do you think Lily’s alright?”

Bigby nods, “She probably decided she was done with whatever shithole situation she was in and left. She’s probably better off.”

She wrings her hands together, and nods slowly, “I hope you’re right, Bigby.”

The rest of the drive is filled with comfortable silence and cigarette smoke. Bigby doesn’t miss the way she looks at the Trip Trap, but instead of going to talk to Holly, they make their way inside the Lucky Pawn.

Jersey is standing behind the counter, Jack Horner sweeping in the corner. Both of them look at the pair incredulously, and Jersey is the first of them to speak, “Well, well, Mrs. Bluebeard, I didn’t think I’d be seeing you again so soon.”

She approaches the counter, and cuts right to business, “Jersey, someone sold you a key back during the Exodus.”

“People sell me a lot of things.” He says, hands splayed on the glass as he looks at her. Bigby doesn’t miss the way Jack stares at them, as if they might attack at any given moment.

“Well, this one was pretty distinctive.” She says, patience wearing thin, though Bigby can smell it rather than see it, “Bluebeard’s family insignia was on it. Long, three teeth, I think.”

“You know, Bluebeard came here yesterday to ask the same thing.” Jersey says, leaning forward on crossed arms, “You’re not trying to start some shit, are you sweetheart?”

“I’m trying to prevent it, Jersey. You know how Bluebeard is, so cut the shit.”

Jersey furrows his brow and pulls away from the display case entirely, “I don’t know. Told your husband the same thing yesterday. I don’t have the goddamn ledger from the Homelands.”

“He’s not my fucking husband, Jersey.”

“That so? He was talking big fucking game when he came -.”

“I know where it is.”

Chapter Text

“What do you mean, ‘you know where it is’?” Her voice takes on an accusing tone, something he’d yet to hear from her, and definitely something he never wanted to hear. Bigby has another cigarette in his mouth, trying to figure out if he should really tell her while they’re in the shop, especially around the choice company.

For the next few moments, the pawn shop is filled with heavy silence, the four of them completely still, as if a great secret had been prematurely revealed and they knew they weren’t supposed to be the ones to hear it. Jersey’s knuckles are all but white as he grips onto the display case, shooting Jack a dirty look. Horner stands there, holding onto the broom, staring at the ground. She stands there, though, unsure of what to do with her hands as she stares at him, eyes uncertain, not knowing what, exactly, she was supposed to do.

Bigby is the first to break the silence, saying, “Come on.” Jack’s brow is pushed up halfway up his forehead, and Jersey is stewing to himself, while she hesitates for just a moment. He’s terrified she’s going to hate him for this, hate him for not putting the pieces together sooner, even though there isn’t much he could have done, but instead, she nods, and without another word, they leave the Lucky Pawn.

“Lead the way.”

It was the last thing she said to him from the time they stood on the curb, rain pattering against them, to the car ride. She’d opened her mouth like she wanted to say something, but her eyes flitted forward to the mundy driver, so she crossed her legs and watched the road pass out her window.

She raises a brow when he pulls the note card from his pocket, the one with Badger’s address and her phone number on it, and reads the address to the driver, who gives a curt nod and speeds off.

As he stuffs the card back in his pocket, he catches her still looking at him, obviously trying not to disclose too much, “You think it’s at his house?”

She doesn’t look hurt, not like he thought she would be, but something along the lines of fear is on her face. He wants to be comforting, wants to help, but he doesn’t know how. All he can do is nod and tell her, “I do.” With those two words, she nods, slowly, and looks away from him, out the window. There isn’t much more to say.

Bigby watched her, her scent wafting toward him, and he felt like he’d been kicked down. This past week had been about pleasing her, about making things easier for her, and he’d made it so much harder by not connecting the dots. He didn’t even know why, exactly, he wanted to appeal to her so much, but the sinking feeling in his stomach was becoming more prominent the longer this went on.

He watches as she wrings the fabric of her skirt, opens his mouth to say something and closes it, unsure of what he could possibly say.

“Lover’s quarrel?” The obnoxious mundy driver asks, overstepping, “Sorry, I can just feel the tension from here.”

Bigby glares at him through the rearview, but she answers, “Yeah, my husband here lost his wedding ring.” She rolls her eyes and takes his hand in her own, “He thinks it’s at one of his buddy’s houses. Isn’t that right, hon?” Her eyes train on him, and all he can think to give is a curt nod.

“Not much of a talker, eh?” The cabby asks, “Well, check by the sink. My wife left her own there more times than she’s got fingers and toes.” He shakes his head dramatically, but Bigby is all too aware of her hand still firmly intertwined in his.

“Yeah, uh, thanks.” Bigby says, cautiously wrapping his fingers around her own.

The driver responds by way of humming, and Bigby doesn’t miss the soft squeeze of her hand. She was absolutely terrified.

She doesn’t let go of his hand the rest of the drive.

“Good luck to you, buddy.” The driver says as Bigby hands him a wad of cash, not caring enough to say anything to him.

She’s standing on the curb, looking up at Badger’s building. As he approaches her, he asks, “Husband, huh?”

“Not the worst thing to be.” She forces a smirk, but doesn’t look over to him.

“No, it’s not.” He doesn’t know what else to say to that, so he lights a cigarette and looks over to her, “Ready?”

She hesitates, but nods, “As I’ll ever be.”

As they walk inside, the creaking of floorboards and overly-exaggerated moans are very clearly heard from upstairs.

“Who is that?” She asks, but immediately looks like she regrets bringing it up.

“I think Mr. and Mrs. Cucuy are ‘on’ again.” He shrugs.

She wants to ask, he can tell, but she shuts her mouth and shakes her head, following Bigby to Badger’s door.

He knocks twice, and calls, “Badger, it’s Bigby. You in there?”

She looks concerned when he doesn’t answer.

“It’s the middle of the day, Bigby.” She says, brow creased in worry, “Badger doesn’t go out in the day.”

He nods, and knocks again. Once more, there’s no response.

And, without warning, Bigby kick the door, watching as the wood splints away and the lock falls off. She peers into the room and asks, “Was it like this the other day?”

The room was just as much of a disaster then as it was now, and Bigby says, “Yeah.”

“I’m pretty sure we just broke in.”

“Yep.”

“That’s illegal.”

He pauses, “We’re the cops.”

She follows him over to the dresser, and hesitates to say, “…I’ll bill Crane.”

He wears a small smile as he opens the dresser and pulls the box out. He’s suddenly aware of how close she is, standing behind his right shoulder, waiting for the moment of truth.

The lid of the box opens with a creak, and sitting amidst the pearls and the postcard and the rings lays the ornate metal key that draws a gasp right from her lips. He sets the box on top of the dresser and his fingers curl around the long metal key.

“This it?”

She accepts the key when he offers it, and inspects it with an appraising eye, turning it over twice before she nods, “It is. I never wanted to see this thing again.” She hands it back to Bigby, taking a long breath.

He’s about to make some joke, some quip, something to lighten the mood, when a soft croak sounds through the apartment.

Acting first, she follows the noise into the kitchen, Bigby trailing closely behind.

“Oh my God, Badger.”

Chapter Text

She only stops flitting around like a hummingbird on crack when Swineheart calls to tell them that Badger is stable. Bigby’s smoked all of his cigarettes and is halfway through the pack she kept in her purse by the time the call comes through, and the sheer relief in her voice when she finds out that Badger is going to be alright is enough to calm Bigby down as well.

He’d spent the last hour trying to talk her down, and all it took was one little sentence from Swineheart.

“Alright, that’s great.” She smiles at Bigby, giving a small nod. “Has he said anything? Does he know who attacked him?”

Bigby steps closer, and manages to catch what Swineheart says on the other end, “He insists on talking to you and the Sheriff. Can’t say I blame him, but he’s doing well. He was hit multiple times with a blunt object. I’m going to keep him here for a few more days, but he’ll be fine. I’m allowing visitors, but no more than two at a time. He’s already called up a few of his ‘dear friends’ but know that you take priority.”

“Thank you Doctor. The Sheriff and I are on our way now.”

She hangs up, and turns to face Bigby, only succeeding in running into him. The collision isn’t enough to push either of them back, but she tries to step away on her own volition, but only bumps into the desk, stiffening as she looks up at him. He grabs hold of her arm to steady her, feeling the hair on her arm raise and skin cover itself in gooseflesh.

“Hey, you.” She jokes, still as tense as when she ran into him. She makes no notion to move, though, and all but moves into his touch, “My hero.” She knows she wouldn’t have fallen, even without his help, but the praise makes him smile.

“Glad to be of service.” He makes no move to let go of her either, something else wedging its way into the awkward situation they found themselves in. “Suppose I’m your knight in shining armor?” The joke is so corny and there’s so many ways it can go wrong, but the smile on her face is too much to pass up.

“Something along those lines.” They stand there for what feels like forever, at least for Bigby. He’s hyperaware of everything, her eye color, the perfume she’s wearing, the way her tongue darts out to wet her lips, the way her shoulders relax but her throat and chest are still seized as she limits her breathing. “Bigby, I…” She trails off, taking her bottom lip between her teeth, and he chastises himself for the way his eyes flit downward.

As soon as they hear the flapping of wings, though, they’re separated as if nothing had ever happened. Bigby knew nothing had happened, but he definitely felt like something could have.

“Bufkin.” She clears her throat and smooths nonexistent wrinkles from her blouse, “Bigby and I are heading to Doctor Swineheart’s. Could you tell Snow when she gets back from her lunch break?”

“Consider it done.” The monkey smiles and gives a small nod. Bigby raises a brow at the bottle of wine in his left hand, but she’s still buzzing – whether it be from finding the key, or Badger’s survival, or whatever it was that just happened – so she says nothing about it, leading Bigby out of the Business Office.

“You still have the key, right?” She had entrusted it to Bigby on the ride back over to the Business Office from Swineheart’s – her hands had been shaking and she didn’t know if she could keep up with it. He was less than proud of the goddamn stirring in his stomach at the sheer amount of trust she put in him.

He pats his right pocket, where the key spoons his lighter, “Right here.” She nods and purses her lips, watching for a passing cab. “So, is there something special about this thing? Why would Bluebeard want it so badly?”

She sighs, and shrugs, turning back to look at him, “I…I don’t know. I figured it was just out of spite, but to send someone to beat the hell out of Badger…” She shakes her head, “It has to be more than that.”

“You think he had something to do with the break in?”

She hesitates, but nods, “I do. They didn’t take anything else. Not his money, his glamour, anything of value. They didn’t find the box. Unless they were looking for a postcard and some pearls, I don’t see any other possibility.”

“What, uh…” He pauses, unsure of how to word his question delicately. It wasn’t the first time that week he was trying to tone himself down, “What happened with the key in the first place?”

“Well, I’ve never told this story sober.” She tries to joke, though he can see that it’s harder than she’s letting on, “Bluebeard was a nobleman back in the Homelands, and a wealthy one at that. No matter how often his wives ‘mysteriously disappeared’, everyone was always in line to marry him.” She turned away from the curb to look at Bigby, “I’d heard a few people had intended to kill him to keep his wealth for the family, but the wives were always… they were always the ones who went missing. Eventually, he came around to our family. My father…he didn’t want to marry any of us off, but he held a banquet, in Bluebeard’s honor, and let him take his pick of the seven of us…long story short, Bluebeard and I were married.” He lights a cigarette, and offers it to her. She accepts it with a forced smile, and continues, “It wasn’t so bad, at first. He wanted sex, of course, and…” She takes another drag of the cigarette, her hands shaking, “He left, about two weeks into the marriage, on some business and gave me the key.”

She rolls her shoulders, tapping the end of her cigarette, “The key could open every door in the house. He told me he loved me, that he would be back soon, and to not go into the cellar. I hadn’t even realized the cellar was there, but now that he drew attention to it, I couldn’t just not go in. I just…I had a bad feeling about it, like everything that had to do with Bluebeard. I threw a party, and slipped out halfway through. Now imagine me, dressed in the most expensive silks Bluebeard could get his grimy hands on, a candelabra and the key in each of my hands as I made my way to the cellar. As soon as the door swung open, the key started to bleed in my hand, and I saw…” Tears prick at her eyes, “I saw all the other wives, all of them, in…hung on the wall or dismembered and blood was everywhere. He was bleeding them out, like damn pigs, collecting their blood in big washing basins. I locked the door, my hands covered in the blood from the key.”

She takes a long breath, and looks back into the street, “The party dispersed itself. My sister stayed. I tried to wash the blood off, in hysterics.” She chuckles, “I was an absolute mess. My sister tried to help, and we made plans to run away in the morning, but…Bluebeard came back from his trip early. He found the key, and threatened to kill me right then, but I begged for one last prayer. My sister went and got my brothers, and they managed to grab him just as he was about to…you know.” She doesn’t need to say it, and Bigby smokes his own cigarette, “He was taken to prison. I was given his fortune and estate, and that damned key. I sold most of it, buried the wives. The key stopped bleeding, Bigby. I don’t know what that means, but Bluebeard wants it for something, and we can’t let him have it.”

“I promise.” He says, “We won’t let him have it.”

She smiles, and it isn’t forced this time, “I really do appreciate that, Bigby. What about you? Is everything they say about the Big Bad Wolf true?”

“Depends on what part you mean. Red Riding Hood? Mostly true. Three little pigs? True. That little fuck Peter? More true than I’d like to admit.” He rubs the back of his neck, “What part did you want to know about?”

“How did you survive?” She asks, stepping on her cigarette, “When the Woodsman cut you open and threw you in the river?”

“I, uh…I held my breath. For three weeks. And shit the stones until I could swim.” It sounded pretty ridiculous when he put it like that.

She smiles at his sour expression, “So, it is intruding if I ask what’s going on with you and Snow?”

He nearly chokes on the drag of his cigarette, “Me and Snow?”

“Well, yeah, I mean, you all but melt whenever she’s around. And you only never smoke around her. I figured there had to be something there.”

He blames it on wishful thinking when he hears a tinge of disappointment, but he shakes his head, “No, no. Nothing’s going on between Snow and me. She’s a friend, yeah, but that’s it.” He couldn’t really deny the fact that he had been infatuated with the idea of Snow for longer than he would care to admit.

“I don’t mean to pry.” She says quickly, “Especially about your love life or anything. It’s…a welcome distraction, though.”

“Me too.” It takes him a moment longer than it should have to realize that that made little to no sense, and explains, “I mean, it’s a welcome distraction for me too.” Finally, he manages to hail a taxi, and is silently thankful for the distraction from their distraction – Bigby decides then that he needs a vacation.

She laughs, and thanks him as he holds the door open for her. As she passes, her scent him like a ton of bricks, and he knew he had to do something about this soon, before he really did face sensory overload.

“Well, if it ain’t the happy couple! Did you find the wedding ring?”

Bigby wants to groan when he sees the same obnoxious frog-like mundy driver. She, on the other hand, smiles at him, and delves into an elaborate lie about how they couldn’t find it, but were sure they would find it eventually.

He just watches, her face lighting up as she spun a lie to the mundy driver, taking his hand in her own once more, and he can’t help but smile.

Chapter Text

“Took you two long enough.” Toad gripes as soon as she and Bigby step into Swineheart’s office, one hand in his pocket and the other around a sniveling TJ. They were obviously wearing a cheap glamour, but Bigby couldn’t particularly care to comment on it.

She ignores his comment and asks, “How is he?”

“Fine, I s’pose. Knocked over the head with something – a bat of sorts, Doc thinks. Been bitching for the last hour about wanting a puff from the pipe.” Toad scoffs to hide his chuckle, “Find the bastards who did this. Badger’s a better fella than most.”

Her eyes fall to TJ, rubbing away at his eyes, and she kneels down so she’s closer to him, and asks, “Do you like Stalk Thing too?” She references his t-shirt, and everyone watches as his eyes immediately light up.

Through a sniffle, he asks, “You like Stalk Thing?”

“Oh, I love it. I personally liked the comics more than the TV show. Do you like the monster or the detective better?”

“I like Missus Harding the best, actually. But Detective Dursley is better than Stalk Thing.”

“I think I still have a few original comics from the sixties. Would you like to borrow them?”

The smile that crosses his lips is too pure, and he’s about to nod enthusiastically before turning to his father, “Can I, Dad?”

Toad looks absolutely flabbergasted at the mere idea of someone being nice for no reason, but manages to nod, “Yeah, yeah, I don’t mind.”

“Alright, I’ll bring them ‘round to your apartment as soon as I have a chance. We’re gonna go talk to Badger now, and I’ll let you know when he’s ready to see you?” She smiles at him, and manages to coax a smile and a nod out of the little boy.

Mr. Toad gives her a grateful nod, and after exchanging a look with Bigby, the pair were back on their way to Swineheart’s office.

“So…you like Stalk Thing?”

“Don’t tell me the Big Bad Wolf is a closet fan.” She jokes, “No, I watched it back in the sixties. It’s a relatively old mundy show.”

Bigby hums in response, and she glances back at him, tongue darting out to wet her lips. He’s itching for another cigarette by the time they reach Swineheart’s Office.

Badger is lying on a cot, un-glamoured, twiddling his paws as he talks to Swineheart, as if it were a completely normal day.

“Ah, you’re here.” Swineheart says, standing as soon as he sees her and Bigby. “I can give you three a moment alone…?”

“That’d be preferable, doc.” Badger says. The doctor gives a slight nod of the head before walking out.

“Do you remember anything from the attack, Badger?” Bigby asks, crossing his arms over his chest.

Badger sighs and sits up, not without resistance, and says, “I remember being hit over the bloody head by the March Hare.”

She raises a brow, “The March Hare? Did he break in?”

“No, he came over for tea. Unannounced. He’s a ghastly man, but I wouldn’t turn him away. He started asking me things, more questions than I can remember.”

“Like what?” Bigby asks.

“If I had paid of all me loans. If I had ridden over from the Homelands with that scoundrel Bluebeard.”

“Bluebeard?” She asks, interest piqued, “He asked about Bluebeard?”

“He didn’t say much about him, I don’t think. Just that he was looking for something of his. I was too busy trying to get him out of me place.”

She and Bigby share a look, and he gives her a small nod, “Badger, we broke into your place, you know? March Hare must have locked up behind him. We’re going to have the door repaired as soon as possible.”

“I’m just grateful you found me when you did. Doc says if I had waited much longer, there was a possibility of bleedin’ out. I wasn’t planning on havin’ any company for a week or so, and didn’t have any sorts of plans until the weekend. Have Mole and Rat and Toad arrived?”

“Toad and TJ are here. I think Mole and Rat are on their way.” She says, offering him that little comfort.

“I don’t know what else I can say. The Doctor…he’s a good man, but I didn’t want to disclose anythin’ you might’ve needed to hear first.”

Bigby nods, “You did the right thing, Badger. Do you know where we can find the March Hare?”

Badger pauses for a moment, but says, “The Tweedles, maybe? Perhaps at the Trip Trap? I don’t know him well, which is why his visit was such a shock.”

“Badger, we took the key you kept in your box. We…we think it’s what Hare was after.”

“That so? It hasn’t done me much good, eh? What’s if for anyway?”

Bigby hesitates, looking to her for confirmation. She nods, mouth pressed into a grim line, and he explains, “We think it’s what Bluebeard wants. We don’t want to cause any trouble until we know what it is.”

“But we’re going to pay you for it.” She promises, “You'll receive the check soon.”

“I suppose it’s just the way things go. That damned thing never did much for me.”

“Did you…did you buy it from the Jersey Devil, Badger?”

“I did, that. Mighty fine deal too, if I remember. Why? Is Jersey mixed up in all this too?”

Silence hangs in the air for just a moment too long, and she drums her fingers against her leg, “Alright, I’m gonna send Toad and TJ in. Wish you the best, Badger.”

He gives them both a brisk nod, but as they walk out, he calls, “Sheriff? Could I have a moment?”

“I’ll hail us a taxi.” She says, placing a hand on Bigby’s shoulder before leaving, almost looking somber. He nods and takes his place back at Badger’s side.

“Yeah, Badger?”

He turns to face Bigby, groaning, but manages to say, “The March Hare is not to be trifled with, Bigby. But the key…I think you should figure out why he wants it before you go pointing fingers and arresting citizens. If Bluebeard wants it so badly, March Hare may not be the one in control here.”

“You saying he didn’t do it?”

“I’m saying there may be more to it than a break-in over a key. Put the bastard in jail, of course, but make sure you’re getting the puppet master and not just one of his stringed pawns.” Badger pauses, “You said she was Bluebeard’s wife, right?”

“They’re not married anymore, if that’s what you’re asking.” Bigby scratches his cheek.

“I’m not. I just didn’t want to dredge up anything about her past in front of her.” Badger coughs into his fist, and after steadying himself, says, “I saw the way you were lookin’ at her, Sheriff. I think you ought to take her out or somethin’ along them lines. You both seem like you could use it right about now.”

“Yeah.” Bigby rubs the back of his neck, “Get well soon, Badger.”

She’s waiting for him on the curb when he walks out of Swineheart’s office, after letting Toad know he and TJ could head in and promising TJ to remind her to bring the issues of Stalk Thing around, a cab pulled over and waiting.

“How about we go get that coffee?”

Chapter Text

“So you swallowed the duck whole?” She asks, hardly stopping herself from snorting her coffee. “Like, alive and everything?”

“Exactly, and so this little fucker Peter decides it’s a good idea to try and trap me – stop laughing, it’s not funny – he ties a rope to a tree and fucking hangs me by my tail so the harder I pull away, the tighter the noose gets. These hunters had been chasing me, the same one’s I told you about, finally catch up to me. I’m pissed and honestly terrified.”

Looking every bit interested, she leans forward on her elbows and asks, “What happened then?”

“The mundy version is I’m forced into some parade or some shit, but what really happened,” He pauses for dramatic effect, and he can see that it’s working as her eyes widen and she leans just a little bit closer, “is that the kid’s grandpa comes out, and starts yelling at Peter for leaving the gate open, for what couldn’t have been the first time. Everything just kind of standstills, the hunters are confused as hell, and so the grandpa starts tearing into their asses. He points at me, and starts yelling about how ‘this is why little boys shouldn’t be allowed outside their fences’ and ‘why are you torturing this poor creature?’. Honestly, I think the grandfather was more of a show than a parade ever would have been.”

“So they cut you free?” She asks, her laughter finally dying down as she takes a sip of her coffee.

“The grandfather cuts me free, and tells me to go away like I’m a puppy he just can’t take care of anymore. The hunters start bitching and moaning, and I can hear him – him being the grandfather – yelling about how wolf meat is ‘fucking nasty’ and was ‘rancid from the start’ and that they need to hunt for game, not hurt a ‘poor, innocent creature’ like myself.”

“Did the hunters leave you alone?”

“They did, but, ah…if you were quiet enough, and being alone in the woods, I was…” He rubs his neck, embarrassed, “You could hear the duck quacking…you know, in there.” She covers her mouth to stifle a laugh.

“No.”

“Oh yeah, little bird just quacking up a storm. Lemme tell you, that was a shitstorm of indigestion right there.” He shakes his head, hating that particular story. But, of all the tales he was in, it was the one he was least ashamed of. It was funny how that worked.

“I can only imagine.” She jests, and pulls her coffee mug to her lips, the effects of a smile on her lips. “My father made this – or had someone else make, more like – this god awful duck dish thing that all of us hated, including him, but his pride refused to let him concede to his children. He ate every piece of that disgusting meal. It’s funny…memories like that are the ones that I remember more than anything.” A faraway smile crosses her lips.

“How many brothers and sisters did you have?”

“Twelve.” The number astounds Bigby, and before he can ask, she’s continuing, “I was the seventh daughter and the thirteenth child, the blessed and the cursed all at once. My mother couldn’t decide if she wanted to rest me on laurels or get rid of me. But, I was the youngest, and the least likely to inherit anything, so they still wanted to marry me off quick.”

“There were seven girls and six boys?” Bigby still can’t seem to wrap his head around the sheer quantity of children.

“Exactly. If there’s anything that fueled my father’s pride, it was his ability to procreate.” She pauses, stirring her coffee with a metal spoon, “My older sister was the captain of some pirate ship, and the sister just older than me took a vow of celibacy, but other than that, they all got married back in the Homelands. It, uh…not all of the marriages lasted.” She takes a sip of her coffee and asks, What about you?”

“I was the runt of a litter of seven boys.” She raises a brow and the right corner of her lips, “My brothers were quick to call me the ‘Big Bad Wolf’.”

“Is that how you got your name?” She asks, and he nods, remembering the endless taunts from the six others.

“I don’t know what really happened to the rest, but I know Longtooth is dead, and uh…My father wasn’t around at all, and my mother passed away. I tried to protect her body while the others…went about their lives.” He shrugs, but she takes his hand in her own, looking almost sympathetic for him. “I, uh…I couldn’t.”

She doesn’t ask what he couldn’t do as the pad of her thumb passes over his hand, but she but she does say, “People say that you’re just a wolf among us, Bigby, but…you’re not. You’re a part of this place, and probably the only one ensuring that there is still an ‘us’ to be a part of.” She squeezes his hand, a soft smile on her face, “You’re a good man, Bigby.”

He clears his throat, unsure of what to say to that. It was more heartfelt than he had been prepared for, and busies himself with his drink. He takes a quick drink of his coffee, trying to bury himself in the beverage, and wonders why he ever brought her here. He hated the disgusting drink and didn’t know how anyone could ever stomach the bitter stuff without at least grimacing a little bit.

Apparently, despite his best efforts, he still makes a face, “You don’t like coffee?” She asks, a laugh still buried in her voice. She lets go of his hand, and he’s about to take her hand in his own again, but ultimately decides against it.

“Is it that obvious?” He sets his mug on the table, hoping to never look at it again. He found he was much more content with the sight in front of him, though.

“Just a little.” She jokes, absentmindedly emptying a packet of sugar into her mug, “Why did you want to come here if you don’t like coffee?”

He tries to think of the first thing that isn’t ‘because I like you’, and ends up saying, “We both needed a break after everything. A minute to stop and think.”

“I think thinking’s the reason we’re here in the first place.” The cryptic answer is short lived as she continues, “What did Badger tell you after I left? If it’s nothing too…personal.” She tacks the last sentence on quickly, as to not overstep a boundary.

“He wants us to wait to make an arrest, to make sure that Hare wasn’t hired by Bluebeard or anybody else.” He decides there’s no point in hiding it from her, “I think if we keep looking for Hare, we’ll find out who’s pulling the strings along the way.”

She nods and takes her bottom lip between her teeth, scratching the back of her neck.

“What’s on your mind?” Bigby asks, looking her in the eye.

“It’s just…” She hesitates and looks back at him, “I can’t stop thinking about Lily. We were looking for her one minute, and then something else takes priority, and it’s all but forgotten. I don’t want to leave her behind if she was taken, Bigby.”

“We didn’t leave her behind. We don’t know where she went, and we have no leads outside of her leaving on her own. But right now, Badger is in that bed because of the Hare, and maybe because of Bluebeard.”

The inkling of a speech makes her think for a moment, and Bigby worries he’d struck a nerve. But, then she nods and agrees, “You’re right.” She pauses, and looks down into her coffee before meeting Bigby’s eye once more and asking, “Why do you think Bluebeard wants the key so badly?”

Bigby pauses to think about his answer. He’d been turning it over in his head for the past few days, but now that assault was probably a factor, he wanted his answer to be plausible, “It’s gotta open something over here.”

“You don’t think he’s just sentimental?” She jokes, her finger tracing the rim of her mug, “No, I was thinking the same thing. There has to be something he’s trying to get into.”

“Why can’t he just break it open?” Bigby asks, knowing from experience there were easier way to open a door than hunt for the key.

“Magic, maybe? A protection spell? I don’t know, I’ve never really been partial to magic.” She takes another drink of her coffee, setting the empty mug aside. Bigby pushes his mug of sludge in front of her, and she smiles gratefully. “He needs a key to open something protected – probably by magic – or he just doesn’t want to ruin whatever’s inside.”

“You think it’s a box or something?”

She shrugs, “Could be a box. Could be a door. A lot of things use keys. But, if it needs a key, there’s something inside.” She pauses, looking into her coffee, “Bigby, we need to break into Bluebeard’s apartment.”

He raises a brow, “Weren’t you the one who didn’t want to break in to Badger’s place?”

“That was different.” She shakes her head, “Maybe it’s not. But he may have been the one -.”

“We need proof, alright? Bluebeard’s one of Fabletown’s largest benefactors, and we can’t just tear down his door without probable cause. Crane and Snow would have our asses if Bluebeard doesn’t get to us before them. I say we find the March Hare first, take him in and get him to talk. Bluebeard’s door or box or whatever isn’t going anywhere if he wants it so badly, and I’ve still got the key.”

She pinches the bridge of her nose and nods, “You’re right. I really, really hate that you’re right, but…Badger said we might be able to find out from the Tweedles. I know where their office is, or…we could hope they swing by the Trip Trap. What do you think?”

He hesitates, “We go to the office first. See if one of the Tweedles’ are there, and if they’re not, head over to the Trap and see if Holly has seen ‘em.”

“Alright.” She finishes the last of her coffee, “Let’s head over to the Tweedles’.”

Chapter Text

“You’re not what I was expecting, Bigby.” She says after they’re situated in the taxi and speeding down the street, watching the Bronx pass.

He hesitates, watching as she uncrosses and crosses her legs, “What…were you expecting?”

Cautious of the driver, she grins as she looks over to him, “The big bad wolf everyone warned me about.”

He raises a brow, “Really?” Sarcasm was practically dripping off that one word as it rolled off his tongue.

She smiles, but says with a serious air, “I’ve enjoyed working with you, Bigby. And I hope you feel the same.” She seems content without getting an answer, and turns back to look out the window.

The rest of the ride is filled with a talk show on the radio that Bigby chooses to ignore. She pays the cabbie, and he speeds off as soon as their feet hit the pavement.

“Here it is.” She mutters, looking up at the bleak building, “Dee and Dum’s office is on the second floor.” She crosses her arms over her chest, and leads him up to the office. She knew where she was going, and Bigby couldn’t help but wonder how she knew Dee and Dum, and why the hell she knew exactly where their office was. Before they reach the top of the stairs, she asks, voice low, just hardly above a whisper, “Just…don’t think less of me for whatever might come next, alright?”

He doesn’t have time to consider any of the possibilities for what she might mean before they reach the door, slightly ajar and the putrid stench of alcohol and cigar smoke coaxing its way out. The room itself is particularly tacky, one side painted orange and the other blue. They’re almost mirror images of one another, hand-painted signs with the word ‘brothers’ printed across it make it almost homey, if a little creepy. Her eyes fall to the unfinished chess game beside the twin desks while Bigby looks at the desks, knowing there had to be something on the March Hare in there somewhere. There’s only one of the Tweedles in the office, sitting on the blue side of the room. The fan blows uselessly as he taps away at the typewriter, a thick cigar between his fat lips as he chats away on the phone.

“That’s Dum.” She says, grabbing hold of Bigby’s wrist when he goes to push the door open, “Just give him a minute.”

Bigby nods, and pulls away from the door, but still manages to catch part of what Dum is saying.

“Yeah, boss, Dee ‘n me’ll be there…Seven thirty sharp…Alright, yeah. You too.” He hangs up quickly, putting all his attention onto the document he was typing up.

Finally, Bigby is allowed to shove the door open. Dum jumps, pulling away from the typewriter altogether to look at the pair. When the adrenaline from the scare drops, a sickening grin curls on his face, “Well, well, well, Missus Bluebeard. Find yourself a new pet plaything, eh?” His eyes train on Bigby, taking pleasure in the way Bigby’s fists clench, “To what do I owe the pleasure of a visit from Fabletown’s finest?”

She glances over to Bigby, as if asking how they should go about it, so, he decides to speak up, “We’re looking for an old friend of yours.” Dum’s smile disappears at that, but Bigby continues, “The March Hare. You seen him?”

Dum lets out a humorless laugh, “I ain’t seen the March Hare in years. Now piss off, I’m tryna work.” Bigby chooses to ignore the mumbled, ‘Unlike some people.’

She places a hand on Bigby’s shoulder in an attempt to calm him and takes a step forward, “Dum, I really need your help on this one.”

He raises a brow and stubs his cigar out on the ashtray, “This where you went after our time together?” He stands, and Bigby bristles as he approaches them, “Went crawlin’ up the big bad wolf’s ass?” He trails a fat finger from her shoulder to her elbow.

“I got a new job.” She hisses, jerking her arm away from him, “I had better things to do than be your errand girl.”

Dum presses his lips into as thin a line as he can manage, “So you fucked the wolf get yourself a few rungs up the ladder, eh? Pity that, ‘m certain he pleasures his women as well as he does his job.”

“Oh, trust me.” She pauses, staring Dum down, “He’s a much better investigator than you and your brother.”

Bigby’s brow furrows and he looks over at her, “You worked for these fucks?” He curses himself for thinking about how she basically just said he would be a good fuck.

“Snow knows, alright? I didn’t think it was important.”

Dum interjects, “Well, your little visit doesn’t change much about the fact that I don’t know where the hell March Hare is. Might try the Trap. Holly has a picture of him up on the wall, I think.” He shrugs, and Bigby knows there’s something he’s not saying.

She looks back at Bigby and nods, taking a step back. Bigby crosses the two-step distance in one, towering over Dum.

“Last chance, Dum. Where’s the Hare?” It isn’t hard to be intimidating, and it’s evident it’s working as Dum visibly swallows and his eyes widen, looking for anything to help him escape.

“You gettin’ all huffy and puffy ain’t gonna do nothin’ to jog my memory. I dunno where the Hare is…Alice or Hatter might know…maybe even Cheshire…” He backs into his desk, and it’s significantly less sexy than when he did it with her. “I-I-I dunno, Bigby…ya gotta believe me!”

Bigby opens his mouth to answer, but is interrupted by a slammed door and a pair of obnoxious laughs. Bigby shushes Dum, who’s obviously considering yelling to warn his brother, but with the Big Bad Wolf standing over him, he doesn’t have many options.

“Dum! Dum, you still here?” Dee calls, heavy footsteps clomping their way up the stairs.

Bigby nods, wrapping a hand around Dum’s throat. He gulps once more and calls, “Yeah, Dee, I’m in the office.”

“You’ll never guess who I found at the Trap!” Dee laughs loudly. She watches the door, taking a step behind the orange desk.

“Long time no see, Dum…” The March Hare, a gangly brown-haired man with a few hairs on his upper lip and light brown eyes, is the first to step into the office, and is cut off by the sight of Dum being held by Bigby, and a practically fuming woman. Dee is just behind him, and immediately, the Hare turns on his heels to run off, Dee is pulling his pistol, and she grabs Dum’s hand as he grabs a paperweight off his desk to knock Bigby over the head.

There’s only a split second he has to decide, and he refuses to let her get harmed on his watch.

He turns, grabbing the paperweight before she has a chance to, and hits Dum over the head twice, taking a little bit of solace in the way he manages to croak, “Fuck you, Wolf.”

As he crumples, Dee finally shoots. The reaction is immediate, and Bigby practically pounces on the twin, eyes glowing yellow. The gun is knocked from Dee’s hand before he has a chance to shoot again, Bigby all but howling as he knocks the second bastard’s head in.

“Bigby, the Hare!” She doesn’t have to say anything else before he’s out the door and down the stairs, chasing after the fucker. The sidewalk is practically clear, but he stops and sniffs for the Hare.

He curses aloud when she’s all he can smell.

So he guesses, turning to the left and running down the street with all the ferocity he can manage, looking for any sign of the damned rabbit.

He wants to thank every god he can imagine when he sees the vibrant purple suit and plume of brown hair nonchalantly trying to blend in, despite the fact he’s the only one of the street.

Bigby stays as silent as possible, watching the Hare move, and immediately, he turns, and sees Bigby standing there, chest heaving, taunting him.

The Hare just stands there a moment, and Bigby is the first to move, sprinting down the road after the man in the purple suit. The Hare takes off once more, barely faster than Bigby.

He makes his mistake when he turns down an alley, and when Bigby reaches him, he finds him trying and failing to climb a fence.

“Shit, shit, shit, fuck, motherfuck, no, no, no, no…” He mutters to himself. Bigby stalks toward him, watching as he struggles to get up the fence, and just as he’s about to make it over, Bigby grabs him by the legs, slamming him back down to the pavement.

The Hare scrambles to get away, but Bigby pins him in place, throwing him against a wall.

“You broke into Badger’s. Beat the living hell out of him. Why?” Bigby growls, elbow digging into Hare’s chest and fist ready to break his nose.

“Piss off.” He spits on Bigby, landing just below his eye. Immediately, Bigby punches him, relishing in the way his nose snaps. He cries out, panting and looking around for a way out, “Alright, alright…Bluebeard hired me.”

“Any proof?” Bigby pushes his elbow deeper as he wipes the spit from his face, “Or am I supposed to take your word for it?”

“I…I…I, uh…I have the messages! He called, at me place, and I missed the call! But, I have it, I have it, I have it, I swear! He wanted me to find some key! Just a key, I swear!”

“You’re gonna take me and my partner to ‘your place’, alright? Double-cross us, and you’ll be spending your time in the Witching Well instead of a cell.”

The Hare gulps, and nods wildly, but can’t stop himself from asking, “Yer partner? The pretty lady you left behind?”

Bigby punches him again, “Yes, the pretty lady.”

The Hare cries out, but Bigby smells and hears her heels clattering before he sees her.

“Did he talk?” She asks, arms crossed over her chest as she looks the Hare up and down.

“Yeah, he did. Hail us a taxi, would you? We gotta take a little trip.”

She purses her lips, “You’re bleeding.”

“I’ll be fine.” He promises, and she looks unconvinced, but nods, and goes to hail a taxi, looking over her shoulder once.

Chapter Text

Bigby winces as she pulls the bandages just a little too tight, and immediately, she apologizes softly but makes no notion to stop wrapping them around his shoulder. She doesn’t look him in the eye, refuses to be the one to start the conversation as she focuses on her work. There’s too much to say, and neither of them really know where to start.

His place feels significantly smaller with the two of them in it, at the very least from Bigby’s perspective. The proximity was killing him, but he refused to make either of them more uncomfortable than they needed to be.

“Swineheart said you ought to feel better by the end of the hour.” Her voice is lower than it normally would be, and she still refuses to look him in the eye, “But, we needed to stop the bleeding.” She ties off the bandages, her fingers lingering just a second longer than necessary on his chest, and takes a step back to admire her handiwork.

He rolls his shoulder, testing the waters, and nods, “Feels better already.”

She purses her lips and crosses her arms over her chest, unsure of what to do next. She had shed her jacket on the ride back from Hare’s place – a studio room he shared with the Doormouse – and it was currently lying over the television, spooning his shirt. Her once white blouse was stained in his blood, her skirt rumpled, and heels abandoned at the doorway.

She fills the silence, “Now that we have the March Hare’s confession and the recording…what do we do now?”

Bigby had been asking himself the same thing since they left the alley with Hare. There was no right answer there, but he assumed they needed Crane’s stamp of approval before they could do anything else.

“We brief Snow and Crane. Let them know what we know.”

She hesitates for just a fraction of a second too long, and he knows something has to be up. She nods, crossing her arms over her chest.

“What’s wrong?”

Taking her bottom lip between her teeth, she pauses once more before answering, “Back at the Tweedles’…you knew we were after the Hare, and the Hare alone. Why did you fight them?”

He thought the answer was obvious, but he answers anyway, “Because they had a gun.” And with the gun, they would hurt you. He decides to leave that part off.

Her eyes narrow at him, and she purses her lips, “Look, Bigby…” She sighs, “I…I know it’s your job to protect other people, but if the decision arises…I need to know you’ll pick the job before me.”

He knew he should’ve just nodded, just let her believe that he wouldn’t put her first, that if the gun was on her and the case was slipping through their fingers, he’d let her get shot before letting someone else get hurt.

“No.”

She arches a brow at that, as if she was confused by the mere thought of being put first, and he continues, “You’re more important to me than some goddamn case.”

That only seems to piss her off further, and she says, voice rising, “Badger was beaten within an inch of his life. You were shot, Bigby. Don’t tell me for one second that I’m more important than the safety of innocent goddamn Fables.”

He doesn’t remember standing up and he doesn’t remember the heated exchange between them, the yelling, and he throws her previous employment with the Tweedles in her face. He doesn’t mean to. He doesn’t want to. Hell, he isn’t even angry about the fact that she worked for them.

He’s angry because she doesn’t seem to understand how important she is to him and he has no idea how to tell her that.

They stay life that for what feels like forever, slinging angry, biting words at one another, though most have no merit behind them and others sting worse than the bullet hole.

“You can’t put my life ahead of anyone else’s Bigby!” She finally screams, “It’s not…it’s wrong, Bigby!”

“I haven’t!” He yells, “I didn’t! I got the gun and got the Hare and what the fuck else do you want me to do!” He screams her name, egging her on, hoping she yells. It’s a sick game, he knows. But he’s tired, and he feels the bullet wound healing and he seriously doesn’t give a flying fuck anymore.

“And what happens next time!” It isn’t a question, so she doesn’t give him a chance to answer, “And the next time someone holds a gun up to me and you don’t take the first opportunity to catch whoever it is we might be after and they get away? I’m a Fable too, Bigby! I heal! Gunshot wounds hurt for a while and they just go away! I am not your priority!”

“You are!” He yells, “You are my fucking priority!”

Tears glaze her eyes and that’s the thing that takes her aback, and he’s practically panting and she steps back, looking him up and down.

He looks down at his hands, and sees the claws. The fur. He can only imagine how his eyes look.

She’s frightened of him.

By the time he looks back at her, she’s making a beeline for the door, grabbing her shoes but forgetting her jacket. Bigby doesn’t say anything about it because he’s still seething.

She slams the door, and he wonders how one man could so royally fuck up in less than twenty minutes.

Chapter Text

Button his shirt. Loosen his tie. Run a hand through his hair and call it combing.

Colin had shown up unannounced. Bigby had gone to her apartment to return her jacket and hopefully smooth over their argument, and while he was gone, the pig managed to open his door, open his fridge, and open a beer. Bigby only looked at him and asked what he was doing there. He should’ve asked how he managed to do all those things, but he was too busy cursing himself for yelling at her and being stupid enough to think she would be at home.

As he shut the front door, Colin went into some longwinded excuse about why he had to leave the Farm and how Bigby owed him about the house, and this was, what, the third time he was throwing that in his face in the past two years? But, Bigby was too tired to worry about it, so he let Colin stay without putting up a fight, and all but collapsed in his chair.

“What the hell’s up with you? You look like shit.”

“Gee. Thanks.” Bigby retorts, pinching the bridge of his nose. He’s worried, honestly, about where she might be. He thinks Trip Trap, and then thinks he ought to go look for her.

She still fills his senses, and he’s acutely aware of her, even though he can’t really ‘keep tabs’ on her with it. She’s just there.

“Really, Bigby, did you finally grow an emotion?”

Bigby stands abruptly, and Colin reels back.

“I’m going to my office. Make yourself at home.” He manages between gritted teeth. Colin says something about doing just that, and Bigby slams the door behind him.

He’s tired and angry and doesn’t exactly know why, and he just want to be sure that she’s alright. With the March Hare and the evidence against Bluebeard, things were finally falling into place, and they were angry at each other, of all things.

He should have just agreed with her. He knew he shouldn’t prioritize her over all of Fabletown, but he couldn’t just let her fall. He could have – should have – lied to her and said he still had his priorities straight.

He curses himself when he all but punches the number four elevator button and it barely flickers to life. The building was already falling apart. It didn’t need his help.

The halls are empty, and for that he’s thankful. People are probably doing the sensible thing – sleeping – but he’s up, and he’s probably about to drink a full pot of his least favorite drink and wait for her to come back because he doesn’t want to follow her and he’s too worried to sleep.

His office door creaks when he opens it, and he sighs when he closes it.

“Bigby.” She sees him first. She’s sitting on his desk, one leg crossed over the other, shoes tucked under the table with the coffee pot, a file in hand. She looks like a deer caught in the headlights, but says nothing, taking her bottom lip in her teeth.

He forgot his jacket in his apartment – it wasn’t like he was going out to look for her again – and with his hand still on the door handle, he isn’t sure whether he wants to stay or go.

“Look, Bigby, I’m…I’m so sorry. I was out of line and…” She hoists herself off the desk.

He crosses the three step distance in two, and suddenly he’s right there, and she’s looking him up and down and trying to figure out what to say. She can reach out to him, or tell him to go, but whatever’s happening, he’s given her control of the situation, to give her a chance to initiate or send him away.

Her hands find his chest, as if they have a mind of their own, and suddenly, they’re kissing.

There’s no fireworks or explosions or cataclysm, but there’s an overwhelming something building between them finally coming to a head. It’s a close-mouthed kiss through and through, testing the waters, seeing where the bounds ended. She pulls away first, and his hands are on her hip and hers are draped around his shoulders, and she’s sitting on the desk again, her legs slowly wrapping around his, drawing him closer.

He wanted to be selfish, really. Wanted to have her, make her call out his name because it was all he wanted for weeks, and now her pupils were blown so wide he could barely see her irises, and she was pulling him down for another kiss, and when she gasped she let him slip his tongue past her lips and her hands become more insistent on his shoulders.

The file has long fallen to the floor, and he briefly wonders what she was reading about, because of course he has to wonder that when he has the only woman who’s been on his mind for a month finally in his arms.

“Bigby…” She practically breathes his name, and it drives him wild.

He’s half convinced that this is just a dream and that he’ll wake up at any moment now. Colin was sitting alongside the TV and he was in his chair and he was just imagining all of this – it wouldn’t be the first time.

Her nails dig into his neck as her lips move from his lips to his neck and the blunt ends of his own nails press into the curve of her backside, drawing her closer. He didn’t care if she was just a dream, he was going to take this as far as she’d let him.

She was too much – too much and it wasn’t enough at the same time, his desire ultimately beating the lightheaded feeling of being in her presence without smoking a cigarette. She says his name as she unbuttons his shirt, says it again when he turns her around, and breathes it when he pushes her underwear to the side and slips the first finger inside her slick folds. She’s moaning and gasping and twisting those gorgeous hips. When she asks for more, says his name again, he doesn’t know if he has the self control to say no.

He should stop, he knows, the nagging voice in the back of his mind that sounds suspiciously close to Colin’s won’t shut up about it. It’s unprofessional. It’s wrong.

It’s perfect.

She comes undone on his fingers and she clamps down on her hand to keep herself from screaming. He was certain he could come just from that pretty – no, gorgeous – sight. She looks at him over her shoulder, the smile on her lips that screamed sex, and then turns, pulling him down to kiss him again.

He wouldn’t tire of kissing her, he was certain.

“Bigby…” She breathes against his lips, smelling suspiciously of coffee, and he found that he didn’t hate the drink as much when it came from her.

He kisses her again, bruising her lips with his, and her legs are around his again, the damp spot on her underwear brushing just there –

“I’m on the pill.” She assures him, and he assumes it’s some mundy thing that prevented the effects of sex, and he nods, letting her unbuckle his belt.

He catches the way her eyes linger on it for just too long, and he nearly sees stars when he imagines her wrists bound above her head, or vice versa.

It’s heaven, he’s sure, to be inside her. It’s even better when she rolls her hips off the desk and moans about it being the right spot, and wraps her fingers in her hair as he works on her neck, meeting her pace thrust by thrust. It was too much, too much, but he was so close. She was everything, everything.

He spills inside of her without warning, and she doesn’t complain. Instead, she kisses the mark she left on his neck and murmurs against his skin, “This won’t be the last time?”

He can only breathe out a raspy laugh and kiss her again.

Chapter Text

They’re practically buzzing in the elevator.

She could hardly keep her hands off of him on the way to the elevator, after purring something or another in his ear when she came the second time about wanting to fuck him properly on her bed, and he practically stormed his way out of the office and to the elevator.

Beauty was out for some godforsaken reason, coat tied around her waist, but Bigby couldn’t find it in himself to care. He did, however, let go of her hand, give her a curt nod, and punch the elevator button while she tried to smooth the wrinkles from her shirt. She and Beauty exchanged a bit of small talk, and she manages to not let it slip that they’ve been together, and mentions something about an important case. Beauty doesn’t notice she’s not wearing shoes, and he doesn’t have his tie or watch.

Bigby grabs her by the forearm when the elevator reaches the first floor, and tugs her inside, enough to show how ready he was, but not – never – enough to hurt. Unless she wanted it to hurt. He mutters some bullshit about the case being urgent and Beauty nods and claims she was late for something too.

She calls her goodbyes to Beauty, and as soon as the doors shut, she’s turned and pulled herself up to kiss him.

So, buzzing was an appropriate word to describe the thumping of Bigby’s heart, and then for shits and giggles, she asks, “Your place or mine?”

“I got company.” He answers, nails bite into her hips as she buries her face in the crook of his neck, “Don’t think he’d appreciate the thumping headboard.” That was a lie, actually. Bigby didn’t even have a mattress – but he did have a frame with files and folders and work shit piled on it.

She spares him a glance from her work on his neck, a wicked smile on her lips. Crane would shit a golden egg if he found out about this.

And nothing is more of a turn off than Crane.

They’ve got two more floors before they reach hers, and, with an added flourish, she pulls away, taking her bottom lip in her teeth and straightening her skirt, even though they both know damn well it’s not gonna stay that way for long.

“I’m gonna make a horrible joke, alright?”

He raises a brow. “Shoot.”

“They said you were big and bad, but I thought ‘big’ was an exaggeration.”

A sputtered laugh escapes his lips before he can stop it, and she’s smiling, looking thoroughly fucked and tired and anxious and she threads his fingers in her own.

He was convinced he loved this woman.

The next morning, she and Crane and Bigby and Bufkin are all in the Business Office, two of them trying not to act as if they had enjoyed one another’s company the previous night in the most explicit manner imaginable, one trying to act like he wasn’t still drunk from the previous night, and one acting as if he had some form of power.

“What do you mean there’s nothing that can be done?” Bigby does his best not to raise his voice, but if Crane got any closer to him, he’d knock the ignorant bastard back down a few pegs. “We’ve got the evidence – we’ve got the tapes, we’ve got the confession, we’ve got the key. What else do you fucking want to prove this guy’s guilty?”

She places a hand on Bigby’s shoulder and puts herself between him and Crane. And he backed down. Good God, he was getting soft.

“Crane, Cole put you in charge while he was gone, I get that, but would he really like to hear about your reckless endangerment of the community?”

Crane has the audacity to scoff at her, and Bigby feels his blood boil. “Reckless endangerment? Everything I do, I do for this community!”

“Then put Bluebeard behind bars. Does Cole really want to hear that you’ve…you’ve fudged evidence to keep him out?”

“The tapes prove nothing. They key was found in Badger’s possession, and the Hare is mentally unstable.”

“The tapes prove everything!” She stands a little taller, and immediately tries to calm herself, “It’s evidently Bluebeard, and he mentions both Badger and the key.”

“Enough! I’ve had enough of your inane ramblings -.”

“What’s going on here?” The door opens and shuts just as quickly, Snow stepping inside with the rhythmic sound of her heels.

“Ah, Miss Snow. I trust you’ve released the Hare?”

“What?!” Bigby practically roars, “He’s a goddamn suspect in a robbery! Assault! Breaking and entering! Do I really need to go on?!”

“I didn’t release him.” Snow interjects, a stern edge to her voice, “And I won’t until I know what the he – what’s going on.”

“There is no case. There is no need for this. The Hare is mentally unstable, Mr. Wolf and his assistant have found no evidence whatsoeverand there is no basis outside of a conclusion gathered -.”

“You know, it’s quite discouraging to see the Mayor of Fabletown resorting to petty jabs, especially muckraking our time in the Homelands. The March Hare cleared his psych analysis when we came over,” She produces a folder from God knows where, and Bigby’s chest swells with pride, “So unless you’d like to oversee the twelve week painstaking process of reevaluation, I’d suggest you find another point, Crane.”

Crane scoffs, clearly floundering as he looks between Snow and Bigby. Snow only crosses her arms and Bigby can only smile.

“The voicemail -.”

“The voicemail was proven by the Thirteenth Floor that it is Bluebeard.” She pauses, “It’s all in the folder, Crane. And last I checked, the amount of money you have doesn’t determine the consequences of committing a goddamn crime.”

Crane flounders once more, before exclaiming, “Bias! She’s clearly biased! She is Bluebeard’s ex-wife!”

“That she is.” A deep, baritone voice says, and she turns, practically snarling when she sees Bluebeard, “But the evidence provided only implicates the March Hare in the crimes committed.”

“What the hell are you going on about?” Bigby asks, itching for a cigarette.

“I called and asked the Hare to do it, yes, but I am not implicated for anything he chose to do afterward…for example, if my lovely ex-wife asked the Sheriff to murder you, Mister Mayor, and he was found guilty of doing so, would that also implicate my wife?”

She scrunched her nose and furrowed her brow, “Asking someone to do something in passing a putting a hit on someone are two completely fucking different things.”

“Do you have proof of payment? I know of no records of it being a ‘hit’, my dear.”

“Don’t fucking call me that.” She hisses, a hardly notices Bigby practically shaking with rage.

“Of course.” Bluebeard crosses his arms over his chest and takes a step closer to her, “My dear.”

Bigby has a moment to decide. Keep his mouth shut for once, interject with some smart ass comment or just say what he was thinking.

He opts to punch the shit out of Bluebeard.

“Stay the fuck away from her!”

“Bigby!” Snow gasps, covering her mouth.

“Mr. Wolf!” Crane hisses, angry, but doing nothing to intercede.

And she says nothing, just places a hand on his shoulder, and he stills, watching as Bluebeard nurses his jaw and glare at him.

“You fucking mutt!” Bluebeard hisses, but does nothing, not with Crane watching.

“That’s enough.” She finally says, stepping between Bigby and Bluebeard, “You want proof? I’ll find you some fucking proof so I can shove it right back down your fucking throat.”

And with that, she storms out, Bigby close behind, Crane shouting up a storm.

Chapter Text

The petticoats and silks and layers of skirts were as suffocating as the party itself. Her sister insisted she hold the gala, to commemorate her marriage, and as she stood there, waiting for the end of the evening to finally show its face, the key rested around her neck, dangling on the fine gold chain he had given her.

The key…

Marriage with Bluebeard had neither been good nor had it been bad – but she knew it was wrong. There was something in the way he carried himself, the way he spoke of his previous wives and the way he showered her with gifts and finery and always seemed to be sizing her up as if she were a prized pig to be slaughtered that convinced her there was something wrong.

There was jewelry and there were silks and there was the estate and there was finery, and best yet, he had insisted that her father need not pay a dowry. Some would have taken that as an insult, but she only thought it a blessing. Seven daughters meant seven dowries, should they all marry, and their estate had fallen on hard times.

She’s finished the flute of champagne before she realizes she’s drained it, and purses her stained lips.

She tries to take a deep breath, but the strain from the corset might have been enough to end the gown right then and there.

The music comes to an abrupt halt, and almost immediately, a new, slower song has begun to play. No one would ask her to dance, as she was Bluebeard’s wife, and Bluebeard liked to keep his toys to himself, and those who opposed him would surely meet an abrupt end. She liked dancing, almost wanted to, but she could ask no one to dance with her, and her husband was away on business.

It was always business, really. Always some vague excuse about work piling up, though she had yet to see any sort of so called work, save correspondences regarding his very, very expensive tastes in artwork, if it could be called such.

If anything, he was too…eccentric for her tastes.

He was a crooked man, with a crooked way of life, and lived under crooked lies and –

He was gone.

The idea strikes her like a bolt of lightning, and as soon as she’s thought of it, there’s no pushing it from her mind. The party would keep the servants occupied, so no one could snitch on her, and with Bluebeard gone…

The key became ever more present on her breast, and her hand wrapped around the thrice-toothed piece of iron. She glances around the room, catching sight of her sister, Anne, dancing with a man she recognized to be the candlestick maker. Perhaps Bluebeard hired him to fulfill his many candlestick requisitions.

She should tell Anne, she knows, but she has to know what he’s hiding in the room alongside theirs. Her mind runs wild at night, when she’s supposed to be devoting herself to Bluebeard, and she only succeeds in wondering what awaits her beyond that door. It was agony, not knowing, and so, she disposes her champagne flute, and makes her way to her quarters.

When she reaches the eerily crafted iron door – a stark contrast from the lovely wooden walls and detailing – she slips the chain from around her neck, and counting to three twice, pushes the key into the lock, and twists. The key in her right hand and a candelabra in her left hand, she uses her left shoulder to push the door open.

And she screams.

Bigby is shaking her, telling her to wake up, and she gasps for air as if she had been drowning, and she shoots upright, feeling the bed and thinking she was back with Bluebeard, wrapped in those damned silk sheets, and the blood –

Oh God, the blood, she could feel it, she could see it dripping off her fingers and down her wrists and she couldn’t breathe and her fingers were stained with the blood of the key, and she remembered those girls – she knew some of them – and she was next, and he would come for her, and the damn key wouldn’t stop breathing.

Bigby yells her name, and she finally remembers how to breathe.

“Bigby?” She asks, cheeks tear-stained and finally coming back down to Earth, and for the first time, she sees fear in his eyes. “Oh my God, Bigby.” She pulls him into a hug, fingers digging into his shoulders.

He was standoffish, as he was with most things, but after a moment, his arm is locked around her, holding her as she cries into his bare shoulder. He tries to soothe her, tell her that it’s okay, but the empty promises fall deaf on her ears.

“Those poor girls.” She sobs, on the edge of bewailing them. She’d had her time to mourn, had time to move on, but that night haunted her, “Bigby, it was almost me too.”

She felt selfish as she finally said it, but it was true. Had she held out, not looked into the room, it was only a matter of time before Bluebeard grew bored of her and continued his sick game. And after the Exodus…whatever justice he had been served was cut off completely. And if Anne hadn’t brought her siblings…he would have ended her on her knees.

“He can’t get you.” He promises, and finally, she nods and just lets him hold her. “I won’t let him.”

She’d faced down the Tweedles and she faced down Crane and she was never afraid, but now, she’s quaking, tears steaming down her cheeks, and she licks her chapped lips, holding him close.

They don’t say they love one another. She knows it, from the way he holds her close and the way he doesn’t get angry at her for waking him and lets her cry.

“I thought I was done with him – I thought he wouldn’t be able to hurt me anymore.” But no, not with his fortune and his smug grin and the way he knows that she can’t do anything to escape because of the debt.

The debt.

She needed to tell Bigby about the debt.

“You get nightmares often?”

She considers lying to him, but wonders what good that would actually do her, so instead, she opts to nod, “Not every night. And not always about him.” He doesn’t push it, and doesn’t stop holding her, “Do you?”

“I don’t remember my dreams.” He’s lying, she can tell, but she doesn’t push it. It’s not important, and if he doesn’t want to tell her about it, that’s alright.

“I miss my family sometimes.” She admits, “Their stories – they all got happy endings, back in the Homelands. I got the good ending here.” She presses a kiss to his chest, effectively distracting him from the fact she woke up thrashing and screaming.

“I don’t think we’re at the end yet.” It’s oddly poetic from Bigby.

She loves this man.

Chapter Text

"When I came over from the Homelands, I came with the Tweedles. A few of my siblings, they went with Bluebeard, and I told them I would rather die than get on a boat with him. And just like that, he was back where he started, pockets overflowing. The Tweedles - they didn't make me pay, but I owed them."

The debt. She was finally telling Bigby about the debt, and she wished she wasn't doing it naked, tangled in her bedsheets, but with the cases, everything had been so hectic.

"That's why you worked for them?"

She nods and tucks her head under his chin so she doesn't have to look him in the eye, "I worked for them during the Twenties and into the fifties. The Depression didn't really hit us...people, Fables, always die. They always needed us." She pauses, "I was one hell of a flapper."

He presses a kiss to the crown of her head, and her heart still. It wasn't what she was expecting. She was expecting questions, or accusations, or something.

"I finally paid off my debt when the sixties started coming around. But I stuck around - jobs weren't exactly easy to come by, especially for women and Fabletown...it was bad. And everyone knew I was just Bluebeard's wife. And here we are, in the beautiful eighties."

She'd lived for hundreds of years living in the shadow of the actions of her ex-husband. She was lucky that he was imprisoned, even luckier that she was able to divorce him, and she wondered if Bigby was understanding or judging her. The latter thought scared her.

He pulls her closer, fingers pressed into her hip, and she sighs, content, and presses a kiss to his chest.

"We should probably get up." He says a few minutes later, sounding every part unwilling.

"Fight me." She retorts immediately, arms wrapping around his waist.

His chest reverberates with the sound of a chuckle, and he pulls his head back to look at her, "The sun's up."

"I'll fight the sun."

Again, he chuckles, and though she can't see the smile on his lips, he says, "Maybe later."

"You or the sun?"

"I'll take a rain check on both."

She pulls back and just looks at him a moment, studying his face, and pulls him down for a kiss.

"Keep that up and you'll get your way."

"We're gonna fight if I kiss you again?" She asks against his lips, and he flips them over, relishing in the surprised squeal that escapes her lips.

They do, eventually, make it down to the office, opting to sit in Bigby's office rather than the Business Office. They do manage to get some work done, keeping their hands to themselves into the evening, but it only leads to her sitting on the desk and him whispering filthy things in her ear as he strips her of her jacket and skirt.

His fingernails send a shiver up her spine as he traces incorrgible patterns on her thigh and her lips attack his neck, teeth and tongue and heels digging into his back.

"Bigby, do you -."

"Are you -."

She smiles and buries her face in the crook of his neck as she fumbles with his belt, needing to be closer, needing to feel him, because he was everything and she didn't think she could go another second without feeling him again. He smiles at her enthusiasm and kisses her on the lips, more than happy to oblige.

They both jump when they hear the door open. She yelps and covers her chest, and shuts her eyes, as if she could will whoever it was away, and Bigby only glares at Snow as she walks in.

"What...Oh my God." Snow stops cold in her tracks.

"We're working." She calls, pressing her knees together, and then she whispers, "Fuck."

"You...work without your clothes on." Snow raises a brown, obviously put off.

"It's a mundy thing." Bigby calls back, unimpressed, "Very efficient."

Snow purses her lips, looking between them and over her shoulder and back at them, "Just...don't let Crane find out, alright? And for the love of God, lock the door."

Snow leaves without another word, and she laughs as she hides her face against his chest, "Fucking fuck."

Bigby smiles, "You good?"

"I might just die of embarrassment, but otherwise, I'm fine." Her words are only slightly muffled. A silence falls over then, and she pulls back, "You know I'm not embarrassed of you, right? I'm embarrassed that my boss just walked in on me without a shirt, between the legs of my partner."

He smiles, and it warms her heart, "I know." But from the way he says it, and the way he looks at her, she knows that he didn't, that it helped to hear it.

She'd tell him as much as he needed to hear it.

The phone rings, and she reaches over before he has a chance and grabs it, prattling off, "Officer Wolf's Office."

Seizing the opportunity, Bigby nibbles at the pressure point on her neck, and she absentmindedly tugs at his hair. She presses the phone between her cheek and shoulder as he palms at her breast.

"The Woodsman? At yours? Alright, Toad, I'll send him over. You too. Give TJ my love." She leans back over to hang up, holding onto Bigby for leverage. "You heard the bulk of it. Woody's tearing shit up at Toad's - there might be a 'lady friend' over there. You want me to come with you?"

"Nah, I can handle Woody." She opens her mouth to protest, "Besides, I need someone to look for dirt on Bluebeard."

"I hate you." She says, and he only smiles as she crosses her arms over her chest and pouts.

He buttons his shirt and tosses her jacket to her, "Yeah, yeah, love you too." He falters for just a moment, and her heart skips a beat, but neither say anything further.

She kisses him on his way out, and says, "Love you too."

Chapter Text

Bluebeard’s file wasn’t giving her anything beyond what she already knew – her eyes stung after the tenth time she skimmed over it, and her head ached by the fifteenth. Briefly, she wondered if Bigby’s copy of the folder had anything different than her own, and then wondered why she hadn’t gone to question Bluebeard herself.

She certainly wasn’t getting anywhere chasing her own ass in Bigby’s office.

If she could just prove that the Hare had been paid off by Bluebeard, Crane would have to acknowledge that he was crooked, and reprimand him somehow, even if he was Fabletown’s largest benefactor. And so, she steels herself and makes her way up to Bluebeard’s apartment.

He lived on the same floor as Bigby, but if rumors were to be believed, he had one of the nicest, if not the nicest, apartment at the Woodlands, while Bigby stuck himself in the smallest, dingiest apartment. She knew it wasn’t a matter of money – Bigby didn’t think he was worth anything more than the worst, and it broke her heart every time she was reminded that he didn’t think he was so, so very valuable.

She knocks on his door and crosses her arms over her chest, awaiting his answer. A beat passes. Two. She knocks again, hard enough that the neighbors would hear. She swears when he doesn’t answer.

It could be that he isn’t home – he owns a club, and he could very well be there – but something about the whole situation wasn’t settling well with her, so she steps across the hall and knocks on Cryer’s door.

A moment later, he answers, bleary eyed and looking more than a little frustrated, but he sobers up as soon as he sees it’s her, “Officer…is everything all right?” He stands in his doorway, just scared enough to be real.

“Have you seen Bluebeard recently?” She tries to sound casual, but worry is starting to build in her voice – what if he knew that Bigby was out? What if he knew he still had the key?

“He mentioned going on vacation earlier today…I dunno, you’d have to take it up with Crane.”

She’s angry, but all she does is nod and apologize for interrupting his evening, and storm right up a flight of stairs to Crane’s apartment, the epitome of hell having no fury.

She bangs on the door and calls his name out, rage driving her beyond sense.

And with that stupid pinched look on his face and a too-short baby blue robe on, he answers the door, doing everything in his power to look angry instead of scared, he says her name and exclaims, “What is the meaning of this?”

“You gave Bluebeard vacation leave?! In the middle of an investigation regarding him?”

Crane scoffs, “The case was closed, Officer. The March Hare is to be locked away until we make an appointment for a court.”

“And I suppose you’ll be the judge, hm?” She shakes her head, “You’ve allowed us no time for a proper investigation, and all we’ve found is a puppet -!”

“Enough!” Crane exclaims, “Your outburst is less than appreciated, and I’ve been more than generous with the amount of time spent on the investigation.”

“If you’d just give us more time, we could find -.”

“I have given you weeks, Officer! You found the Hair, which I applaud, and if you can’t find that Bluebeard was paying for his services, then there is no crime to be found.”

“You’ve taken away any chance of us finding out! Doesn’t it strike you the least bit suspicious that he would choose now to go on ‘vacation’?”

“It strikes me as a perfectly reasonable reaction.” Crane sneers at her, floundering at this point, desperately trying to keep up the charade, “What with his ex-wife accusing him of treason.”

She glares at him, “My marital status has nothing -.”

“Your marital status is the only reason you’ve dragged the case out this long! If it’s not out of spite, tell me, what is it?”

“It’s for justice!” She’s all but yelling at this point, “Badger was beaten within an inch of his life, and the only Fable you seem to care about is yourself! I took this job because I wanted to do something right…here’s just as corrupt as down there.”

She turns on her heel and storms off, ignoring Crane as he yells after her, “One more outburst! One more outburst and you’re fired!”

“Yeah, keep talking, Crane, it’s all you’re good for.” She doesn’t even spare him a glance as she steps into the elevator.

**

“Bigby, did you have to throw him out the window?” She asks, bandaging the cut across his nose.

“Technically, I jumped out the window with him.”

She spares him a glare as she pours alcohol on a cotton ball, not even bothering to warn him before pressing it to his cheek. When he recoils, she says, “I’m damn sure jumping onto the car hurt worse than this little bit of alcohol, Bigby.”

The corners of his lips turn up ever so slightly, but he clears his throat and asks, “You find anything while I was gone?”

She yawns and nods, grabbing a pair of bandages, “Crane granted Bluebeard vacation time – not suspicious at all, mind you.” She doesn’t tell him about how he threatened to fire her because it would only piss him off more, and he was seething enough as it was.

“You’re fucking joking.” He deadpans, staring up at her like she told him he had to dress up like Snow for an investigation.

“Scout’s honor.” She mutters, packing up the first aid kit, “Look, don’t worry about it tonight. You’re spent. Get some sleep and we’ll…figure it out tomorrow.” She presses a chaste kiss to his lips and entangles their fingers together.

She walks with him until they reach the door of his apartment, and again, they’re standing shoulder to shoulder, she with her arms over her chest and he with his hands in his pockets. He didn’t know what to say or do, honestly, and didn’t really know what they were. They slept together, both PG and R ratings, and they kissed, but they hadn’t exactly had time to have the ‘significant other’ talk. They said they loved one another, and it didn’t feel hollow. At least not to Bigby.

She’d listened to him about Woody, though, and patched him up tenderly, and looked at him like he was the most important thing in his life, and he wanted to believe it.

“So…goodnight, Bigby.” She offers a small smile. She’d yet to even set foot in his apartment, and if he still had these boundaries, she was going to respect them, dammit.

He tips her chin up, and for that moment, he forgets all about the pig crashing inside, and asks, “Wanna stay?”

The smile that erupts across her face is too damn happy, and she pulls him down for another kiss.

“I love you.” She promises, and from her, it doesn’t sound hollow. “I, um…I wanted to…”

The door creaks open, and before either of them can react, Colin says, “Well, damn, that’s why you haven’t been around.”

Chapter Text

“So the pig…” She starts, taking a long pull from her beer.

“Colin.” The pig calls flippantly, somehow drinking from his own beer can. She had too many questions to ask about that just yet.

“Colin, sorry.” She corrects, “He’s…a friend?”

Bigby rubs the back of his neck, “More like a headache. This is, what, the third time you’ve escaped from the Farm?”

“Fifth.” He retorts, seemingly proud of his crimes, “Third time I’ve squatted here, though. You ain’t gonna say anything, right, toots?”

“Crane’s already pissed, so no. I won’t. Besides, I think the Farm law is a load of shit, and so long as you stay within Fabletown borders, but…” She shrugs and takes another pull of her beer.

“What exactly do you see in our resident asshole, anyway?”

“He’s…smart. And good. There’s not a whole lot not to see, you know?” She glances over to Bigby to gauge his reaction, but only finds that he’s picking at the label on the beer bottle, half asleep. “I think we ought to get some sleep, Bigs. Got a…big day tomorrow.” She lied. They had nothing on the agenda but running around in circles, trying to figure out what was going on with Bluebeard.

“Yeah, that’s a good idea.” He stifles a yawn, “I don’t…I don’t have a bed.” He says it as if he’s just realizing it, and bashfully looks into his beer bottle. “Sorry.”

And Colin’s jaw fucking drops.

“I’m sorry, what?” She asks, stopping mid sip, “You don’t have a bed?”

“He sleeps on the chair, when he actually commits to sleeping.” Colin snitches, trying to get this man’s girlfriend to freak out so the grown ass man might actually get a mattress for his bedframe.

“You’re joking.” She deadpans, and looks from Colin to Bigby and back to Colin, “You’re not joking.” Bigby glares at Colin, and she bites her lip before saying, “Well, we’re definitely going to get a mattress tomorrow. But, tonight, you’re sleeping at my place.” She casts a disdainful look at the chair and grimaces, “You’re lucky I don’t toss that thing right here, right now.”

Bigby almost looks offended, “It’s comfortable.”

She arches a brow, and takes the full two steps from his kitchenette to his chair, plopping down with a flourish, “Yeah, you’re welcome to tackle this thing out of a window since you’re so keen on that.” She arches her back, trying to get comfortable, and Bigby can only hide his smile. “You actually have a bed frame? Hell, do you have a bedroom?”

“Yes I have a bedroom.” He mocks, and she smiles, throwing her legs over the armrest, “And I have the frame…just not the mattress.”

“Have you…ever had a mattress, or…” She rests her beer bottle on her stomach as she continues to try and make herself comfortable, to no avail, “Or is this hell-spawn of a chair the only luxury you’ve afforded yourself?”

“I squatted in some blind guy’s place back in the Homelands.”

She looks shocked, to say the least, “We’re definitely going mattress shopping tomorrow.” She repeats it, like she can’t reiterate its importance enough.

“Look, you don’t have to…”

“I want to.” She interrupts, “I wanna spoil you Bigby. Even though a goddamn mattress is far from spoiling.”

“Barf.” Colin interjects, “You two are fucking disgusting, you know that?”

She lets out a real, happy laugh, and it’s enough to warm Bigby’s heart, “It was nice to meet you, Colin.” She swings her legs off the chair and makes her way back over to Bigby, “But I think it’s bedtime for our indominable Sheriff.”

“Yeah, like the two of you are gonna be sleeping in a bed.” Colin rolls his eyes as the door shuts behind them, their fingers intertwined.

“I love you.” She promises when they reach the elevator, “And I don’t want you to keep knocking yourself down and spreading yourself so thin, Bigs. Let me take care of you sometimes, right?”

The elevator opens with a soft, broken ‘ding’, and before she realizes, she’s being pushed into the elevator, his mouth on hers, fingers digging into her hips, and she nearly trips over her own two feet as she tries to keep pace with him. She moans embarrassingly loudly, but she doesn’t have time to be bashful about it as he dips his tongue between her lips, tasting her like he just can’t get enough of her.

“You have no idea what you do to me.” He whispers in her ear, drawing her closer. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation or maybe it was just adrenaline, but neither of them were keen on stopping any time soon. “You’re too fucking good for me.”

The nips and kisses on her neck aren’t enough to distract her from the very prominent problem on her mind, and she practically gasps out, “You’re worth so much more than you realize, Bigby.” Her fingernails dig into his back, and suddenly, she hates the invention of the shirt.

He chuckles against her neck, letting his hand trail from her waist to her thigh lazily, slowly dragging the hem of her skirt upward.

“Fucker.” She accuses, fisting his shirt as his thumb draws unintelligible symbols on her thigh.

Again, he does that little half-laugh, the one he only ever seemed to do around her, and she realizes what he’s writing on her leg like a freight train slamming into her, full speed ahead.

“I’m trying.” He jokes, just as he finishes the ‘e’ in ‘I love you’ for what was at least the third time.

She smiles, all sin and sex and sultriness, and leans toward him, not bothering to whisper as their elevator finally arrived at her floor, “I love you too.”

He looks shocked, but only for a moment, and its replaced by a wolfish grin. She almost laughs at just how fitting it was that he was the big bad wolf, and suddenly, she can’t stand to be in that elevator a second longer without some part of him inside her, pronto.

Grabbing his hand and her key, she drags him toward her apartment, and he makes some smart ass remark about her eagerness that earns him a halfhearted glare, and the process starts all over in the bedroom.

His fingers hold the back of her head in place, gently, trying to restrain himself for her, always, and she runs her hands over his thighs, trying to remember every inch of him. For when she’s alone, she tells him, and if his pupils weren’t already blown, he’s staring at her like she’s a goddamn snack right about now. She memorizes him, tells him he is beautiful, kisses every inch of him because he was so much more to her than he seemed to understand, and she didn't want him to think he was undeserving of any love ever again.

She kisses him on the mouth, straddling him, and tells him, raw and real and so, so very sincere, “I love you.”

And every time she says it, every time he hears it from her or is the one to say it, he believes it a little bit more.

Chapter Text

Once upon a time, there lay a small village in the deepest recesses of the Homelands, ruled by the distant hand of the Homelands Royalty, and by the few noble families that resided there.

A proud nobleman had a young, arrogant son who was to be his heir apparent. The boy was handsome and strong, and was already betrothed to one of the most successful noblewomen in the village, but life had proven to be boring within the four corners of their bleak little village, and he found comfort sitting alone in the fields with the farmers’ sheep.

The quiet grew to be overbearing, and the boy decided that he would invent his own fun. Eyes wandering from the sheep and back to the condensed little village, his grin grew as wide as his arrogance, and, feigning worry, he ran all the way through the village crying, “Wolf! Wolf! A wolf is attacking the sheep!”

The village relied on the sheep for food and for warmth when winter came, and the entirety of the people were terrified of losing the only thing that kept them alive, and in a matter of moments, the boy had the entire village running with him, no matter what they were doing, from spinsters to children to old men and women.

“There ain’t no wolf here.” A little girl clutching onto a toy bear says when they reach the fields.

A man who had been in the middle of bathing cried out, “Where’s the wolf, boy?!”

“It was here, I swear!” He lies, and the crowd disperses, angry but willing to return to their duties without too much of a fuss.

Though, when the boy cried wolf the very next day and they found that there had been no wolf plaguing them yet again, the people went to the boy’s father, angry and demanding that the false accusation cease. The people relied on their sheep, and to have a child threaten their entire village with a single lie twice over was enough to have the boy scolded – but not punished – by his father.

Which is how, on the third day, the boy lay in the field again, picking at wheat and watching the clouds roll by, when he heard a sheep belt loudly. Sitting up, he caught sight of the sheep milling around him, when suddenly, the sheep nearest to him disappeared under the ocean of wheat.

Consumed by fear, the boy rose, and without missing a beat cried, “Wolf!”

The townspeople only scoffed when the boy ran through the village once more, watching as he tripped over his own two feet, being mocked and ridiculed by those who had been so eager to follow him.

On the fourth day, rather than fear, the boy was consumed by rage. He stole his father’s sword and ventured out into the woods, smugly passing everyone as they mourned the deaths of their sheep. A pregnant woman wept, for how would she swaddle her baby when winter came? A child cried for his father was weeping. But the boy strode out with determination to avenge the deaths of the sheep.

“Wolf!” The boy cried, brandishing the iron sword with his family insignia on the hilt, “Show yourself!”

He counted to ten, and prepared to venture deeper into the woods, when a voice rough like sandpaper said, “You are the boy who cried wolf.”

The boy turned wildly, swinging his sword blindly, and the wolf had the gall to laugh at him.

“Go back to your village, boy.” The Wolf commanded, “I am full from the sheep, and do not need another meal.”

“I’ve come to avenge the sheep!” The boy cried, hoping his voice wouldn’t betray him, “Show yourself!”

The Wolf steps from the woods, maw bloody with what can only be the blood of the sheep, and the boy takes a step back, “You’re so eager to be accepted, you had the audacity to believe that I would what? Become your prey?”

“I…” The boy stumbles and falls backward, landing on his rear, “I didn’t…”

“Know this boy: I am no man’s prey. I am the seventh son of the North Wind, the seventh son of the Winter Wolf. I am the Big. Bad. Wolf, and I will never fall prey again, least of all to the likes of you.” The Wolf snarled, “If you’re so desperate for prey, why not hunt some young maiden?”

“You…you stole our sheep!” The boy cries, swinging his sword wildly. The Wolf growls, and he drops the sword in fear, “You…”

“What do they call you, boy?”

“Bluebeard…” He glances about wildly, biting his cheek and swearing under his breath.

***

Bigby woke up out of breath and startled, laying in a familiar bed with a familiar arm tucked around his waist.

She looks up at him, awoken by his sudden outburst, and she asks, half-asleep, “You okay, baby?”

He presses a kiss to the crown of her hair, “’m fine. Didn’t mean to wake you up.”

“I was up anyway.” She lies, and he moves so he can put his arm around her shoulders, bringing her closer to his bare chest. She moves her arm from his waist to his chest, fingers curling there, “Wanna talk about it?” She knew it was a nightmare – there was no hiding anything from her – and he just rubs her back.

He blamed himself, really. He told Bluebeard all those years ago to hunt a young maiden rather than himself and it…he didn’t know if that was the reason why he did that to all those women, but…

“It’s okay.” She promises, kissing his neck, “You don’t have to.”

He does, he knows, and just as he’s about to tell her, somebody starts banging on the door. She’s up in an instant, throwing a robe on and passing a mirror to make sure she didn’t look completely dead, and makes her way to the door. He smiles, just enough so he could still deny it if she turned around, but she was…everything.

“Is Bigby in there?” Just as his smile came, it was swept away when Snow said those four words. He makes his way out of bed and pulls on his pants from the previous night.

“What’s going on, Snow?”

“I…um…we can’t talk about it here.”

“I’ll…I’ll get Bigby.”

He hears the door shut and in a moment, he sees her, looking like the goddess she is, and she says, “Snow’s here…” Without another word, she pulls her robe off and slips on a bra and dress from her closet, and grabbing a pair of panties dangling off the corner of her dresser.

Before she can slip them on, though, Bigby snatches them, a smug grin on his face as he admires the lace.

“This for Crane?” He jokes, turning the skimpy black pair of panties over in his hands, letting out a low whistle.

“Snow, actually.” She practically trips into her shoes, “We’re having an affair. Are you gonna put a shirt on, or do I get to be distracted this whole time?” He laughs, and she raises a brow when he stuffs her panties in his pocket. “Can I have my underwear?”

“I dunno.” He grins, buttoning up his shirt, and then shrugs, “Can you?”

She approaches him, taking extra care as she buttons his shirt, and as soon as she’s finished, she’s grabbed him by the collar and pulled him into a searing kiss. She pulls the panties from his pocket like a handkerchief at a cheap magician’s show, and grins at him, “I think I can, Mr. Wolf.”

This woman was gonna be the death of him.

Chapter Text

“Oh shit.”

They barely made it out the door before she was swearing, and Bigby wasn’t much better. He knows it’s something dead before he kneels down – he can smell it – but he was expecting a bird or maybe a rat or some shit, not…

Not the girl.

He shuts his eyes and turns his head, “No.”

“You knew this girl?” Snow asks, stepping forward, wary of the severed head of the girl. “Is…she’s not a mundy, right?” Bigby could only imagine the shitstorm if she was. He only shakes his head and Snow presses, “Who was she? I thought I knew everyone in Fabletown.”

She crosses her arms over her chest, looking anywhere but at the girl’s head, and Bigby wonders if she knew her. Snow, on the other hand, was a long step away from knowing everyone in Fabletown.

“A…working girl.” He wants to get the fact that she was a prostitute across without being…disrespectful, but Snow doesn’t seem to catch it.

“A working girl? I don’t…I mean, I’m a working girl.” Snow flounders, raising a brow and crossing her arms over her chest.

“A prostitute.” She interjects, “She’s…she’s a prostitute.”

“Oh.” Snow says, biting her lip, a blush rising onto her cheeks.

“The Woodsman. He attacked her, I stepped in. Then he threatened to kill us both.” His eyes flit over to her, and he hopes that the rumors about them being together haven’t started yet because he knows he can’t see her hurt.

“No…you don’t think he…” Snow trails off, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

She shakes her head, “Woody took an ax to the head…I doubt he’d be strong enough to…” She covers her mouth and Bigby swears he sees tears in her eyes. He wonders if she knew this girl.

“I don’t think anything yet.” He answers, still crouching, “Just…gimme a second.”

“It’s just…terrible.” Snow rests her arms at her sides and looks at the girl’s head. She looks anywhere but, resting her arms over her chest. “It took me a second to even realize what I was looking at.”

Before anyone can say anything else, she’s made her way up the stairs and slinks back inside the Woodlands. Snow looks after her, and Bigby stands, wondering if he ought to follow her.

It sort of clicks then, why she couldn’t look at the poor girl, outside of the fact that she was…just a head. This wasn’t the first murder she’d seen, and both times – if there weren’t more he just didn’t know about – they were pretty goddamn gruesome.

“I’ll check on her.” Snow promises. “You just…make sure there’s nothing important.”

Every instinct in his body is demanding that he ignore Snow and make sure she’s alright, but he’s planted on the walkway, so he gives her a curt nod and bends back down to check the…her head.

***

Snow didn’t know her very well. She knew her story was nothing but heartbreak after heartbreak and that she was a nice person, if a little short-tempered with Crane, but right then, she felt the overwhelming need to be there for her, to make sure that she was alright.

Snow finds her in the Business Office, standing in front of the Mirror, after she apologizes profusely to those waiting in line for the Business Office, despite the fact it was the middle of the night.

“Mirror, mirror, on your stand, show me the Woodsman of the Homeland.” She’s tapping her foot and crossing and uncrossing her arms.

The Mirror rolls over without a word, and shows Woody puking beside a street lamp. “Fuck…did he kill her, Mirror? Can you tell me?”

The Mirror reveals its face and looks almost remorseful, “I can only show, I am sorry that I do not know.”

“I know, Mirror. Mirror, Mirror standing there, show me the man…with blue facial hair.”

He complies and rolls over to reveal Bluebeard sitting on a chair with a naked mundy woman rolling her hips on top of him, and Snow looks away. She only glares at the mirror, sighs, and thanks the Mirror for his help.

She practically speed walks over to her desk, “Bufkin!” She calls, rifling through a multitude of papers, “Could you get the book of Fables, please?”

“Right away, Miss!” Snow can’t see Bufkin, but she can hear the distinct flapping of his wings. Knowing she wouldn’t notice her, Snow clears her throat, and she flinches, looking at her, wide-eyed and bedraggled.

“That poor girl.” She shakes her head, evidently unsure of what to say next.

“You think Bluebeard did it?” Snow prods, cautiously taking a step closer to her desk.

“Yes.” She answers decisively, then shakes her head, “No. I…I don’t know. I don’t think he did it personally, but…you know how far he’s willing to go when he puts his mind and money to something.”

“Yeah…are you okay? You kind of…left before we could figure anything out.”

She watches Snow cautiously, like she’s trying to figure out if she ought to trust her. “I mean…I know it’s not the first murder I’ve seen, but…shit, it only gets worse.” Snow had seen dead people. Every Fable had, of course, but…it was easy to forget that she had seen a dozen women mutilated beyond recognition in her own home, and found that her husband was planning to murder her too – and no one else would believe her because if anyone knew about how hard it was for women back in the Homelands, it was Snow. “I knew her…I mean, just in passing, but…it brought me back.” She pauses and digs through the desk Snow knew she kept cigarettes for she and Bigby.

She lights the cigarette after the second flick, and Snow doesn’t tell her not to. For the first time, Snow was actually compelled to ask for one.

“Where’s Bigby?” She asks, wiping her eye after she takes a puff of her cigarette.

“I asked him to take a look at the…her.”

She nods, and then smiles, letting out a tired laugh, “I knew all the girls Bluebeard killed. My sister works with that girl…worked with her, I suppose.”

“Your sister’s a prostitute?”

She sucks on the filter of her cigarette and shrugs, leaning against the table, “She…didn’t want to tell me that she needed the money.”

Snow bites her lip. She really didn’t know as much of Fabletown as she thought.

“Anyway, I don’t know the girl’s name, but my sister will know.”

“Would she…would she know anyone who might do something like this?”

She lets out another shrewd laugh, tapping her cigarette into the ashtray, “The pimp. A client, maybe? I don’t know. We don’t…Anne and I haven’t talked in a while, you know?”

Snow knew. Snow understood sister issues.

Bufkin flies back and lands on Snow’s desk, book and bottle in tow just as soon as Bigby walks in, adjusting his tie and sending a look Snow’s way before focusing entirely on her. He doesn’t say anything, but it was almost annoying how they seemed to be able to carry a conversation without actually saying anything to one another. She offers him a cigarette, which he accepts – of fucking course, it’s Bigby, for God’s sake – and she turns the pack toward Bufkin, who refuses politely, and then Snow, even though she doesn’t smoke.

She has to think about it, but ultimately refuses.

“Did…” She hesitates, smashing her cigarette in the ashtray, “Did you find anything?”

“She had a ribbon in her mouth. And a ring.” He hands snow the ring with the long purple ribbon tied around it.

“I don’t recognize it. Bufkin, could you find it?”

“Of course, Miss Snow.” He seems all too pleased to help and takes the ring, paging through the book.

“And…someone hopped the fence to get in. Cut themselves.”

She pales at that, but steels herself, “Whoever put her there wanted us to find her. I don’t think it was Woody, unless you count puking your guts out with an open head wound capable of…And Bluebeard was…occupied.” Snow rubs her hands together, picking at her fingernails.

“They put her there with some care.” Bigby offers, “Didn’t just toss her on the steps. I, ah…made sure it’d…she’d be cleaned up.”

Snow hopes she looks thankful, “I’m gonna have to tell Crane about this. Sooner rather than later.”

She rolls her eyes, but Bigby talks first, “I guess it’s useless to drag it out. He’ll find out either way.” She opens her mouth to say something, but clamps it shut.

“I think I found something!” Bufkin calls triumphantly, holding the ring up to the book. Snow sees her take a long breath, and they both know it’s going to be a long night.

Chapter Text

“-and now you tell me there’s a killer on the loose! With you three tittering behind my back looks suspect enough, and it’s only going to grow because you are the one bringing this to me, Miss Snow. The one who so simply ‘stumbled’ upon this catastrophe on our very doorstep! The last thing I need with Mayor Cole away is a hysteria. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, of course I do but -.”

“Don’t interrupt me, Mis Snow!” Crane exclaims, waving his arms wildly.

Snow snaps, “You asked a question!”

“Don’t change the subject!”

She interrupts, stepping between Snow and Crane, “Maybe if you did your job and didn’t go to the goddamn masseuse every other hour, you’d’ve known about it sooner.”

“You are to blame for this unpleasantness!” Crane screeches to the high heavens, and she rolls her eyes. “You are trusted to keep things running smoothly around here!”

Bigby interjects, “Back off, Ichabod. It’s not her fault.” She places a hand on the front of his shoulder so he doesn’t bite Crane’s head off. “Instead of trying to assign blame, maybe we should figure out how to catch the fucker who did this.”

“Exactly.” She agrees, “We’ve got a lead on who the girl is -.”

Crane was either too dense or too misinformed to know about the officers’ relationship, and stews for a moment before biting back at Bigby, interrupting the newer officer, “Oh. Says the man who is most to blame for this catastrophe! How convenient.” Ichabod steps over to his desk, and she’s half convinced she wants to strangle him herself, “Sheriff, you are the one charged with protecting the citizens of Fabletown. Your failure to do so cost someone their life and the safety of the entire community!”

“Oh, get off your fucking pedestal, Crane.” She mutters, trying to step closer, but Bigby beats her to it.

“So tell me you’ve been doing something. Are there any leads? Suspects?” Crane asks, though he just interrupted her a few moments prior when she tried to explain the situation. “Anything? Anything at all?”

“The Woodsman is a person of interest…from what we’ve been able to gather, he was the last known person with the victim.”

She adds, “But the Woodsman was clearly too inebriated to do anything but puke and stumble around. I think it was the pimp.”

Snow crosses her arms, “I hate to play devil’s advocate, but Bluebeard’s a suspect too. He left just before this girl shows up dead and right after he was…on trial? It’s…worrisome.”

“So you’re saying either a drunken wretch, some unknown pimp, or a man who’s not even in town are our greatest leads?”

Bigby looks unimpressed, “They’re leads. Nothing certain yet.”

“Well, get the Woodsman in here if you so need. The three of you handle this quickly and quietly. The last thing we need is all of Fabletown knowing there’s a killer amongst us.”

“Yes…sir.” Snow supplies, obviously upset about the whole situation.

“Miss Snow, call Vivian right this minute and let her know I’m coming in early for my massage.”

“I will.”

Crane looks around his desk, and then, as if it was the most important thing in the world right then, he asks, “Where is the bottle of wine you were to purchase?” Snow stands, and Crane shakes his head, “Oh bother. Forget it. Can’t do anything right.”

“All due respect, sir,” She supplies, watching as Snow tries to keep a brave face, “which is none, you’re a lying bas-.”

Bigby pinches her wrist, trying to ensure it was as subtle as possible, and Crane looks between the two of them, back to Snow, and walks to the door, calling over his shoulder, “Do your job, Sheriff.”

Whirling toward Crane, he’s about to say something he’d probably regret, but Snow grabs his shoulder, “Stop.” Crane, obeying, turns and raises an expectant brow, “We’ll get on it right away sir.”

As soon as the door shuts, she mutters, “Fucking hypocrite.”

“What the hell was that?” Bigby asks, turning on her in an instant. “Are you trying to get fired?”

“At this point? If he wanted to fucking fire me, he would’ve a long time ago.” She sighs, “I just want to find the killer, and he doesn’t give a flying fuck. So, no, not intentionally, but I’m sick of the bureaucratic ‘holier than thou’ bullshit.” Bigby knocks a cigarette from the pack and puts it between his lips, lighting it without a word and offering it to her. Quietly, she turns it over and tells him, “Thanks.”

A moment later, she says, “I’m gonna talk to my sister. See if she knows anything about…whatever’s going on. Come find me if you need me.”

Bigby accepts the cigarette as she walks over to her desk.

He can hardly believe that just a few hours ago he was teasing her about her goddamn panties, and now they were in the middle of a shitstorm of a murder case with no real leads and barely any evidence.

She sits at her desk, one leg crossed over the other, and dials the number she kept on a notecard in her top drawer. “Puddin’ N Pie, can I help you?” Some guy’s raspy voice cuts over the line suddenly, and she presses the phone between her shoulder and cheek.

“Hi, can I speak to Anne please?” She hopes that Anne’s in, hopes that…she hopes that Anne’s okay, for God’s sake. “It’s urgent.”

“Who the fuck is this?” He asks, “You want an appointment?”

She sighs. She knew if she got an appointment, she’d have to pay, because if Anne didn’t go back with money, some bad shit would go down. “Yes. I would love to make an appointment. I didn’t know if I could do it over the phone.” She added a giggle for good measure.

She can practically hear Georgie roll his eyes, “Alright, she’s open at ten this morning. Rate’s a hundred and fifty an hour.” She nearly choked. Crane didn’t pay her enough for this shit.

“Book her for the ten o’clock.”

“I need a name.”

She hesitates. If it got back to Snow or Crane that she was meeting with a prostitute, she wouldn’t hear the end of it. “Bella Key.”

“Meet her at the Open Arms Motel, room 201, two o’clock. Bring the cash.” He hangs up without another word and she sighs, setting the phone on the receiver. After the entirely…unpleasant evening and the conversation with Crane, it might be nice to see Anne again, even if it was on business.

“You okay?” She doesn’t jump when she hears Bigby’s voice, but she does stand, smiling tiredly. The main shock of evening had died down a bit and she was able to think a little more rationally, and she wouldn’t let her emotions get in the way of helping the girl.

“Doing better.” She promises, “How about you? Woodlands aren’t used to murders, I guess?”

He shrugs, “Not particularly. First one in a long, long time.”

A moment of silence passes, “I’m going to meet my sister at the Open Arms in a few.”

Bigby nods, “You want me to come with you?”

“No, thanks.” She says sincerely, “If Anne’s still the same Anne I remember…she’s not exactly the biggest fan of large men.”

“Alright, just…be careful.”

She forces a smirk, “Always am. What about you and Snow?”

He remembered, just a few months ago how she was asking if he and Snow were in a relationship because he didn’t smoke around her, how she could feel the sexual tension. How much she liked him even then.

“We’re gonna talk to the husband.”

“You think he did it?” She didn’t know Lawrence, and she only knew Faith – Bufkin found her name for them – in passing, but she really didn’t want to be there to break the news to him.

He sighs, “Nothing would surprise me at this point. We can’t rule him out. The Mirror…We’re gonna leave as soon as Snow’s ready.”

She nods, slowly at first, and then with more conviction, “Yeah. You’re right. If he really tried to kill himself, he’s either guilty, or he’s going to break when you tell him about Faith. If he was murdered…we’ve got a pre-meditated attack, I suppose.”

The phone rings, and just as she goes to answer it, Snow calls that she has it, so she only crosses her arms over her chest and pauses, “It’s always bigger than it feels, Bigby. I just…I can’t help but think that…” It’s going to be some sociopath who’s on the hunt for prostitutes and is going to get Anne next.

“It’s gonna be alright.” Bigby promises, then looks over his shoulder to be sure that Snow isn’t watching, sneaking a quick kiss, “We’re gonna be alright.”

She wanted to believe him, so, so very badly.

Chapter Text

She sat in the lobby of the Open Arms, noting and ignoring the no smoking sign and knowing that this place had seen much worse than a little cigarette smoke. No one was there, save the receptionist, and she couldn’t stop glancing up at the clock.

Three till ten.

She had half a mind to ask the receptionist to let her try and call Bigby, but she had no idea where he really was. She bites her lip and takes a long drag of her cigarette, tapping her cigarette into the ash tray. She wondered why the hell they had an ashtray if it was a ‘no smoking’ area, but she wasn’t going to bother the receptionist.

“Honey, if you want a room…” The woman calls, obviously getting sick of her.

“I’m waiting for someone.” She promises, “I’ll be gone soon.”

The woman rolls her eyes but is seemingly satisfied, sitting back in her chair and reading a porno mag.

Just as she was about to get up and walk down to the Puddin’ N Pie, the door swings open, the bell clinging, and her lips ghost around the filter of her cigarette.

And there she was. Anne, wearing a dress that barely covered herself and the same damn ribbon Faith had lodged in her mouth. She looks around the room, taking a deep breath, before her eyes settle on her little sister.

“Anne.” She smashes her cigarette in the ash tray and stands, unsure of whether she needed to hug her sister or get straight to business.

Anne says her name slowly, crossing her arms over her chest. Her eyes were sunken, and dark rings surrounded them. “What’re you doing here?”

“I needed to talk to you.”

“Why the fuck would you need to talk to me?” Anne spits, “The fucking Tweedles have something to say?”

“I don’t work with them anymore.” She answers, passing her tongue over her lips.

Anne raises a brow, “Really? Finally got yourself out of that shitshow?”

“What’s with the ribbon, Anne?”

Her hand flies to her neck, and she sighs, telling her, “Let’s go to the room.” She casts a look at the receptionist, entirely enraptured by her porno, and leads her sister up the stairs.

They sit on the bed, Anne perched on the edge and she with her legs crossed.

“Why’d you really come here?”

She scratches the back of her neck, “I got a new job.”

“Really?” Anne raises her brow, relaxing a little, “Where?”

“The Woodlands, actually. I’m living there now. I’ve been trying to turn shit around there, but…” She shakes her head, “Anyway, that’s mostly why I’m here.”

Anne is quiet for a moment, “You’re working with the Big Bad Wolf and Snow White?”

“The only fucker up there who doesn’t really want to help anyone is Ichabod fucking Crane.” She explains, “I’m trying, Anne.” And then, “You should’ve told me you needed the money.”

“We’re not doing this.” She claims.

“Anne, just…did you know Faith?”

“Faith? What about her?”

“We found her dead last night.”

Anne’s eyes widen a fraction, “Faith’s…dead?”

“Is there anything you can tell me? We know about her husband, just…anyone she might’ve upset or crossed, or even someone who might have just been angry at her?”

Anne bites her lip and looks like she wants to say something, but all that she says is, “These lips are sealed.”

“What?”

Anne looks forlorn and then away from her entirely, “Have…did you find Lily?”

“You know Lily?” It isn’t much of a question, she knows, but she wants to find out as much as she can.

She turns to look back at her sister and bites her lip, “She and I…”

“Oh.” She responds, “Oh, you and Lily are…”

She forces a smile, “We are.”

“Anne, is everything okay?” She turns and reaches to touch Anne’s shoulder, but pulls away at the last minute, wringing her hands together.

“I’m a lesbian prostitute.” Anne says, pulling her knees to her chest, “Not so great recently.”

“I could get you out. We could…you could come to the Woodlands with me. Anne, I have a place now.”

Anne actually looks sad for a moment. “I can’t.”

“Anne, just…”

“Look, just…tell me if you find anything about Lily, okay?” She hesitates, “How’s everything going at your new job? Do you like it?”

“I mean, I have a shitty boss, but…you know Sheriff Wolf?”

“That fucking douchebag?” Anne snaps, “Yes, I know about our glorious sheriff.”

She purses her lips. “He’s not that bad, Anne. He’s a good guy.” She almost sounds whiny, she knows, but there was no way that Anne could know she was with the same guy she was badmouthing.

“Holy shit.” Anne says, turning around completely to face her younger sister, “You and the Sheriff are fucking?”

She shuts her eyes and lays back on the bed, trying not to imagine how the bed was used last, “Yep.”

Anne lets out a half laugh and shakes her head, “I can’t believe it.”

“What?” She hisses, “Can’t believe I’ve found something decent in my life?”

“Can’t believe you didn’t tell me sooner, little sister.”

“I’m paying you to be here, Anne. It wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.”

And they talk. They talk about how their sisters were lost to the winds, how one was the captain of a fishing boat instead of her once glorious pirate ship, how another was probably still having an affair with a princess, how their brothers were even harder to find. About how their parents died in the Exodus and about where life was taking them.

Saying goodbye was harder than saying hello, but she gave Anne the money and she hugged her, tears prickling her eyes, telling her that she had a place with her if she ever needed to get out.

After Anne was gone, though, she dialed Toad’s, knowing that Snow and Bigby agreed to head there before Lawrence’s, hoping to catch them before they left.

“’Allo?”

“Hi, Toad, did Bigby and Snow come around?”

“They did.” He sniffs, “Load of help they were.”

“Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, nothing was wrong in the first place.” He lies, “But Sheriff ballsack couldn’t keep his hands to himself, yeah? TJ, I’m on the goddamn phone – look, it’s nice talkin’ to yeah, but I gotta mess to clean, alright?” He hangs up before she can respond.

Hailing a taxi isn’t too difficult, which is surprising, considering it was the middle of the day and there was no one else on the street, save a tweaker and someone smoking in their car. She was lucky the cab was out there when she was.

The ride over to the apartments is almost silent, save the music playing softly over the age-old radio.

After she paid the cabby and stepped onto the curb, she lit a cigarette, and swore as she realized she should’ve asked which fucking apartment they were going to be in, because she knew damn well she wasn’t about to knock on every single door to find them.

She steps into the alleyway, considering heading up to see if Cinderella was in town, and if she and her sister were still having their little affair, but before she can even decide if she wants to show her face, she finds Bigby, laying in the piss and the water.

“Fuck.” She mutters, dropping her cigarette in a puddle and running over to him, kneeling alongside him, “Bigby.” She shakes his shoulder, and before long, Snow is running down the alleyway, out of breath and full of concern. “Bigby, wake up.” She orders, and slowly, but surely, he wakes up.

“Comfortable?” She asks, giving him a lopsided smirk.

“Yup.”

Snow interjects, “Except you’re lying in a dirty alley.”

“Yup.”

“With an open wound on the back of your head.”

“Yup.” Bigby rubs his forehead, “What happened?”

Snow answers, “Well, the one guy hit you, then the other one started kicking you.”

He groans, “Explains the ribs.” Snow stands, and she casts a glance over to her.

“They jumped in a car and drove off. I…tried to chase them.” She almost looks bashful at that.

“Who attacked you?” She asks, looking between Bigby and Snow.

“Your shithead ex-bosses.” He mutters, resigning himself to laying on the ground.

She furrows her brow, “They did this? I’ll fucking kill them.”

“Eh.” He shrugs, “Don’t worry about it.” He looks over to her as if she can’t believe she’s actually there, “And you? The hell are you doing here?”

“I’m not here.” She jokes, “You’re hallucinating from all the piss.”

“Ah.” He nods his head, then winces, “Makes sense.”

“I got everything I needed from my sister. Toad said the two of you already dealt with him?”

“As much as anyone can deal with Toad.” Bigby looks at her, and gives her what must pass as a smile, but only looks like a pained attempt at taking a constipated shit.

“Come on.” She puts her arm around him and heaves him up, “Up you go.”

“Dee mentioned the Trip Trap.” Bigby explains, rolling his shoulder, “Woody might be there.” He pats his pockets and swears, but she’s way ahead of him, lighting a cigarette and handing it to him on the second puff.

“Then that’s where we’ll go.” Snow agrees, wringing her hands together, “I’ll call a cab.”

Snow saunters off, so Bigby turns to her and asks, “How’d things go over with your sister?”

“She’s a big fan of yours.”

Chapter Text

Snow sat in the front seat, one leg crossed over the other as she chatted amicably with Tiny Tim, their driver, and Bigby ignored the would-be subtle glances from Tim as he put his arm around her, his girl.

That had a nice ring to it, he found. She smiled, barely there, at the small public display of affection, and rested her hands in her lap. She knew of Lawrence’s suicide, knew about how Dee chased him and knew everything that Bigby did, without even having to pick his brain for answers. He wasn’t going to hide anything from her; she was just as involved as he was.

“Every time I think I’m getting a handle on what’s going on, things just get more complicated.” Snow says, pressing her head against the headrest, “It feels like we’re always a step behind.”

She was talking about the Bluebeard case. About March Hare. About Faith, and Lily, and now Lawrence. And somehow, just to shit on the whole thing, Woody and the Tweedles were involved too.

“The Woodsman is the best lead we’ve got, and he was one of the last people to see Faith alive.”

“My sister said that Faith didn’t come back to the Puddin’ N Pie last night. It might’ve been the pimp, but Woody…the Woodsman does seem more likely.”

“What’s the Puddin’ N Pie?” Snow asks, turning, her brow furrowed.

Bigby interrupts, smoothing over the question, “Getting some answers out of him will start to clear things up.”

Snow, obviously not going to press her last question, presses her lips together and says, “I hope you’re right.” A beat passes, “Bigby. Be honest with me. Who do you think…did this? I know it’s still early but…”

Without skipping a beat, Bigby answers, “The Woodsman. He had the motive, he had the means.”

“You sound so sure that he’s guilty.” She says, pulling away from Bigby ever so slightly to look him in the eye, “We’ve still got to question him, Bigby.”

“I don’t know if he is. That’s why I need to talk to him. I don’t have the whole story. Maybe he has some information that can help us out.”

Snow chimes in, “Makes sense. That’s probably the best approach.”

Stuck in traffic, she stares out the window, the air heavy between the three of them, and Bigby knows he ought to try and clear things up. A suicide was hardly the worst thing any of them had heard about, but it immediately followed a murder and an investigation into one of the largest benefactors of their city.

Instead of saying anything, Bigby pulls her closer and presses a kiss to the crown of her head, the awkwardly heavy silence there to stay, until Snow sighs, “Seeing all this today…there are Fables that are struggling worse than I’d imagined. We pay so much attention to the residents of The Woodlands…you forget there’s a whole community out there to serve. To have to turn to…prostitution. I wish there was more we could do. This isn’t how I thought it would be…but, Crane runs things is own way.”

“You’re doing your best. It’s all anyone can do.” Bigby claims, squeezing her hand when she takes his.

“And it doesn’t help that Crane works with a thumb up his…butt.” She interjects, catching her swear when Bigby squeezes her fingers.

“Obviously you don’t know what I do all day. Right now, I’m the gatekeeper, making sure none of these disenfranchised folk are, as he puts it, wasting his time.”

“You’ll fix it.” Bigby claims.

“We’ll fix it.” She corrects, leaning forward to place a hand on Snow’s shoulder.

“I don’t know.” Snow pats her hand, appreciative yet pensive, “It’s just a broken system. The Fables who walk in through the back door, like Bluebeard…we have all the time in the world for them. You try and come in through the front door, through the proper channels, asking for anything – needing help, well…I turn you away. Now things are worse off than they’ve ever been.”

Bigby answers, trying to make her feel better, “Well, that’s not true.”

“Things were pretty bad in the Homelands.”

Snow furrows her brow and sighs, “Right…we’ve had it worse, but not by much.” Snow was the only one in the car who hadn’t had it much worse than it was now. She didn’t seem to understand that her situation wasn’t the default, and that there were so many who were thankful that their situations had gone from fucked to just shitty. “Maybe this isn’t for me. It thought public service was…pure. I wanted to help.”

“You’ll figure it out. You’re better than I am with this political stuff.”

She squeezes his hand, “That’s not saying much.”

Bigby cracks a smile, “I trust you to make the right decision, Snow.”

Looking out the window, she nods, “I hope you’re right.”

The Trip Trap is just as dismal as they left it, a singular light illuminating the plaque barely legible above the door. Snow stares at the intimidating sight, noticing the man puking in to the trashcan and another standing against the wall, glaring, “Yeah, maybe you should handle this one.”

Bigby nods, “Yeah, maybe I should.” He opens the door, and before he can protest, she’s stepping out with him.

He opens his mouth, but she cuts him off with, “Holly can tolerate me, and I don’t need you getting us banned from the Trap.” He closes his mouth and nods, knowing that the people inside gave less of a damn about her than they did about him.

Snow calls their names as she rolls down the window, “I…um…just…be careful, please. Both of you.”

“Same goes for you.” He says, hand on top of the taxi, giving her what passes for a smile, and Snow’s face practically erupts with a smile of her own.

“I will.” She promises, turning to her, “Keep him out of trouble, yeah?”

“Always.” She promises, a little stiff. The taxi drives off as soon as Snow tells him where to take her.

“You’re jealous.” Bigby accuses, a grin actually gracing his lips for once.

“I’m not.” She denies, crossing her arms over her chest, “Why would I be jealous, exactly?” She huffs and she puffs and she stares him down, challenging him in the middle of the street, and his smile only grows, “Drop the shit-eating grin, Sheriff. It’ll only get you so far.”

“Maybe in your bed tonight?”

“Mm, sorry. I have work.” She closes in, as if she were coming in for a kiss, but just as their lips are going to touch, she pulls away and starts down the stairs to the Trap, “Maybe I said it wrong: we have work, Bigs.” She smiles at him from over her shoulder, and he knows that from here on out, he’ll be in trouble.

Maybe he already was.

Shit country music plays over the speakers and the fan wavers with every spin, and Grendel is all too excited to see the pair of them step in, but Holly gives her a smile, and gives Bigby a glare. He adjusted his tie and approached the bar, ignoring the looks from the only two in the bar’s lobby.

Holly spits, “What do you want, Sheriff?”

“I was in the neighborhood. Thought I’d pop in and say ‘hello’.”

She gives him an incredulous look, as if asking when the hell the last time he ‘popped’ in anywhere.

“Well, fuckin’ ‘hello’. Now you can get the fuck out of here.”

“Look, I’m not eve gonna ask where -.”

She presses a hand on his chest, “Bigby.” She turns to Holly, “Holly, look, the Woodsman might be involved in a goddamn murder. He might involved in Lily’s disappearance. If you know where he is, please…we need to talk to him.”

Holly’s eyes widen just a fraction, “Lily…He wouldn’t…look,” She shakes her head, “he hasn’t been here for a few weeks.” She gives Gren a look, and he tries, and fails, to subtly shake his head and turn away when Bigby catches on. “No…maybe…I don’t know…But, yeah, he hasn’t een here a while, if he’s been here at all…which…I…I don’t know.” She flounders, busying herself with the strap of her dress.

Bigby responds, “I’d just like some help, then I’ll be out of here.”

A smirk on her lips, Holly retorts with biting sarcasm – and for the first time tonight, looks completely genuine, “Well, I’d be willing to help you out of here. Would that help?”

Biting her lip, she sits on the stool next to Gren, flashing Bigby a look, “I’ll take a drink, Holly.”

“Whaddya want?” She asks, never taking her eyes off Bigby.

“Whiskey. Neat.”

Bigby asks Grendel about where the Woodsman was, and he pushes his denial off. Bigby’s quick to threaten him, calling him a liar, but she lets him handle him, however he wants. And just as she thinks he’s going to drop interrogating Grendel, he plops down on to the seat to his left.

“Lotta stools in this place.” Grendel practically growls into his drink.

“Problem, friend?” She can almost hear how painful it is for Bigby to call him a friend.

“I don’t like you, and now you’re sitting’ right next to me.”

“You could ask me to move.”

She turns back to Holly, a bemused little smile mirrored on both their faces, “You know that Lily and my sister are together?”

“Which sister?” Holly asks, evidently not knowing that they were together.

She swirls her drink, “Anne. I just spoke with her today, actually. She’s worried about Lily.”

Holly snorts, “Me too. That girl always got herself in some kind of trouble.” She shakes her head, “You’re…you’re lookin’ for her, right?”

“You know I am, Holly.” She looks Holly in the eye, and she looks away, at the floor, at Bigby, anywhere but at her, “She just…vanished.” Holly pinches her lips together, as if she had just tastes something sour, and steps over to Bigby.

“You gonna order something, or you just here to bother my customers?” Wordlessly, Bigby turns to take in the entirety of the empty bar, “You know what I mean.”

Raising a brow, Bigby says, “Gimmee a Midas’ Gold.”

“Want a lime?” She offers, knuckles turning white as she grips onto the countertop.

“Sure.”

“I think they have some at the bar down the street.”

Grendel sniggers, and Bigby says, all menacing and threatening, “Think that’s funny?”

“I think it’s fuckin’ hilarious.”

Bigby shrugs, “It was alright.” He turns back to Holly, “This is fun, this back and forth…we should really do it more often, but, uh, I’m starting to lose my patience.”

She knocks back her drink and stands, interrupting, “Holly, who’s drink is this?”

And, as if on cue, the toilet in the back room flushes, and Holly looks to Gren frantically, who again, tries and fails to give a subtle nod.

“Holly, you’re out of paper towels in the…”

Bigby glares at him, and then, gives him the most shit-eating grin she’d ever seen. Wordlessly, the Woodsman sits at the bar, returning to his drink.

She glances over to Bigby, still standing, and all has to say is, “Number one or number two?”

Chapter Text

She remained standing, wary of Woody as he hulked over his half-empty glass, and stepped over to the pool table, willing to let Bigby sort out the many, many issues he had going on with the Woodsman.

As she gathers the pool balls, she listens in on the conversation, taking time to ensure every movement is calculated and precise. Just as she hit the cue ball and sends the others flying wildly, Woody says, “You and me’ve been goin’ at it for hundreds of years…I’m through fightin’.”

“Well, Woody, that makes two of us.” She smiles to herself when she realizes that he’s willing to make his life a little less antagonistic – whether it be because of her or not, it was definitely progress. She glances back at the trio at the bar, only to see Bigby lean over to tell Grendel something and stand, a shit-eating grin on his face. She grips onto the pool cue, ready to fight, when Grendel presses his hand onto Bigby’s chest.

“It’s been a long day. It doesn’t have to go like this.”

Grendel turns and gives Bigby a sickening grin, “Well, maybe he don’t wanna talk with you.”

“Why don’t we let him tell me that?”

Woody sighs, “It’s okay Gren.” In response, Grendel sneers and stands, brushing past Bigby to join her at the pool table.

“You need a partner, toots?”

“Depends.” She gives Bigby a look as he moves to sit by Woody, “You ready to beg for mercy, sugar?” She could have a little fun with this – and she and Bigby needed to keep their relationship a secret, anyways. At least for the interrogation.

Grendel grabs a pool cue and tries to act like he’s not listening to the conversation at the bar – they both were, but it wasn’t important – and grins at her, “Trust me, doll, I won’t be the one begging by morning.” Ew. But, she puts on a sickly sweet grin and lets him take his turn, taking her bottom lip in her teeth and trying to act like she had no idea how to play pool. She had intended to play straight, but he sinks number nine, calling for a stripe. Eight ball it was.

She acts like she can’t feel Bigby’s gaze on her back, and acts like she doesn’t hear the stutter in his voice when she leans down to take her shot, “Come on, Woody, you know why I’m here.” He’s probably remembering that if they weren’t in the middle of an investigation…well, the thought has her wiggling her hips a little more than necessary.

Woody starts talking about Little Red Riding Hood, she realizes with a start, almost fucking up her shot. He was robbing the damn place. She sinks two solids in one go and smirks, Grendel muttering something about ‘fucking barhoppers’.

“I only saved her ‘cause I thought she might give me a reward…but she didn’t give me shit.”

She almost takes the pool cue to the back of his head right then and there, but Grendel fucking up his shot grounds her back to reality.

She almost – almost – feels sorry for the Woodsman when he says, “’Cept a buncha people thinkin’ I’m somethin’ I ain’t. I played along as long as I could. Only thing I managed to get from it was a free drink every now and again…huh, lotta good that did.”

It happens in an instant, really, and results in her sinking the goddamn cue ball, but Bigby grabs one of the glasses and smashes Woody’s face with it, knocking him off the fucking bar.

“I’m draggin’ you back to the Woodlands.” He sneers, pointing down at the Woodsman, who was laying there, rubbing his already open wound.

“For what?” He demands, confused as balls, and just as she thought…she knows that Woody had nothing to do with Faith’s murder. “Jesus Bigby…that fuckin’ hurt.”

Bigby shrugs, and Grendel retrieves the cue ball from the pocket, seething at this point, “Wasting my fuckin’ time.”

Cue ball in hand, Grendel saunters back over to the bar, and as Woody stands, he yells, “Hey! Stop! This isn’t what I want!”

“Shut the fuck up, Woody! Shit ain’t just about you. It’s about this fuckin’ lap dog. Only comes sniffing around this part of town when the rich fucks in the Woodlands need a shakedown. Ain’t that right, Bigby?”

“You’re backing the wrong guy.” Bigby turns to look at Grendel, “If you saw what I saw last night, you’d know that.”

“What I see is someone who wouldn’t be here if I was the one needin’ the law for some help.”

“Grendel.” She interjects, “I’ve tried to help -.”

“Shut the fuck up! You haven’t helped for shit! What’ve you done since you rose up from the ashes, Mrs. Bluebeard, huh? Holly’s sister goes missing and no one gives two shits about her! Paperwork, waiting rooms, and this little fuckin’ bitch looking right past me, talkin’ big shit about how she’s lookin’ for her, then ushering me out the fuckin’ door.”

“I wouldn’t call her that. It’s happened before and it doesn’t end well.”

She tries to step between the pair, “Bigby, it’s -.”

Grendel talks right over her, “I didn’t realize you were the bitch of the bitch.”

Before anyone can say anything else, Bigby punches him, knocking the little man over one of the barstools and right on his ass. With only a shake of his head, he gets up and asks, “That all you got?”

Bigby shrugs, “Seemed to be enough.”

As he stands, Grendel sneers, “Don’t be so sure.”

With a sickening display of green light and a metamorphosis that would eternally be inscribed in her nightmares, Grendel shakes off his glamour.

“What the fuck?” She asks before she can stop herself. She’d never seen Grendel outside of his glamoured form, and it was definitely…interesting. She could see where his arm’d been stitched back on – Beowulf lived in the Woodlands and loved to talk shit about his ‘three great conquests’ – and Grendel glares at her before dipping down to Bigby’s height.

“Should’ve walked out of here when you had the chance.”

“Come on.” He jests, “You’re scaring the lady.” He motions to Holly, who rolls her eyes and un-glamours herself, like it was a new goddamn trend to break the law. While Bigby was distracted with that, Grendel takes his sewn-on arm and knocks Bigby onto the bar, where he goes to grab the tankard, but Holly puts her hand atop it, digging her claws into Bigby’s wrist.

Without thinking, she takes the pool cue and breaks it over Grendel’s head. He growls at her, but ultimately, moves onto Bigby, grabbing him by the chest and beating him into the ceiling.

“Bigby!” She screams, sinking the broken half of the pool cue into Grendel’s shoulder, knocking her back with a roar that could make clouds scud and skies weep. She’s knocked against the bar on the furthest wall from the door, and swears to herself, taking the moment to clear her sudden case of vertigo. Taking advantage of the distraction, Bigby grabs the ceiling fan and throws it at him. Grendel finally drops Bigby, but just throws him across the room, where he lands with a sickening thud.

Grendel grabs the pool table and tries rush him with it, in an attempt to crush him, but Bigby is faster, jumping on top of it and punching Grendel, which is more comedic to watch than anything. Gren slaps Bigby aside, as if he were nothing, knocking him against the door.

She screams his name again, and this time, Grendel turns on her, “I’ve had enough of you, you little…”

“Grendel!” Holly screams, stepping between them and shoving him away, “Don’t fucking touch her!”

Grendel huffs but does as she says, turning back on Bigby, throwing whatever he can find at Bigby, namely a chair and table. As Grendel tears the payphone off the wall, Bigby grabs the coat rack and jams it into his eyes, drawing that ungodly roar from Grendel’s throat. Bigby’s knocked away, and Grendel pulls the coat rack out of his face – though he left the pool cue in his shoulder – and grabs Bigby by the ankle, smashing him around the room like a rag doll.

Holly grabs her by the arms to stop her from doing something stupid and getting herself hurt further, but she screams and cries and fights, but she’s not a glamoured fable, and she’s not as strong as a troll.

He drags Bigby’s unconscious body over to the bar, and she cries out, “No! Stop it, please…” Relief floods through her when she sees Grendel stop and Bigby start to stand again, shifting from human form to…glowy-eyed hairy form. As soon as Grendel thought he might attack, he’s thrown into the far wall, landing on the bar there. Holly holds her still when she tries to run to him, and she yells, swearing and kicking, trying to get to Bigby because Grendel was still coming and…

Grendel charges at him, but Bigby launches himself over him, digging his claws into the back of his head, turning around to kick him in the stomach. Holly’s grip tightens around her arms as she tenses.

Grendel tries to rush him again, but Bigby digs his hand into the sloppy stitching on his right arm and knocks him aside, throwing himself across his back. He goes for the throat, clawing across the exposed flesh there, drawing another enraged roar from Grendel, and then for the eye. She closes her eyes at that, looks away, anything so she doesn’t have to watch the blood seep from where the eye used to be.

Bigby manages to knock him down and kick his knee in, the snap being the only sound any of them heard for what felt like and eternity.

Woody finally calls out, “He’s had enough!”

Bigby snarls at him, the epitome of a beast, and then, his gaze falls on her, still being held back by Holly.

She shakes her head, and his expression softens.

He walks away from Grendel, leaving him to deal with his wounds.

He approaches the bar and growls, “Whiskey.”

Hurriedly, Holly lets go of her, practically tossing her to the side, and makes her way behind the bar, setting a glass on the bar, to which he throws aside before she can pour it.

“Double.”

Holly pours the rest of the bottle into the oversized cup, and he knocks it back in one gulp, the glamour slowly coming back into play.

She pulls a few bills from her dress pocket at that, and sidles up alongside Bigby, “For the drink.” Holly accepts it, trying not to look scared, “Submit a damage report with my office. Fabletown’ll pay for this.” She promises. Holly almost looks thankful.

Woody, the epitome of grace, starts to back out toward the employee-only section, and Bigby hisses, “Don’t even think about it.”

“Is this the type of treatment I can expect if I let you take me in?” Woody snarls, motioning to where Grendel still lay.

“Oh, fuck off, Woody.” She says, rolling her neck. “He started it.”

As if they needed any more headaches, the door swings open, and none fucking other than Tweedle Dee steps in like he owns the place. “Alright, I got a hundred bucks for the first bloke that can tell me something about a girl named…” He unwraps a lollipop and gasps when he sees Grendel on the ground.

“Hiya, Dee.” She mutters, leaning against the bar, just as Dee says, “Fuck.”

Both Woody and Dee start to run, Woody tripping over a barstool and Dee over his own two feet, and Bigby has a split second decision to catch one or the other.

He runs after Dee.

Chapter Text

She turns and chases after Woody, only to have a stool thrown at her. She doesn’t react quickly enough, stumbles, but manages to keep pace with Woody, bursting through the door, and being met with the Woodsman’s elbow.

He manages to escape while she’s left with yet another case of vertigo and a bloody nose.

Stepping back into the bar is only a little humiliating, and she turns to a now-glamoured Holly and says, “Charge a Midas’ Gold to Crane, would you?”

“Jesus Christ, what’d he do to you?” Holly asks, reverting back to her human form as she wipes the blood dripping from her nose with the back of her hand.

“Resisted arrest. Assaulted an officer. Missing anything, Bigs?” She turns back to her wolf, Tweedle Idiot in tow.

Tweedle Dee’s shouting up a storm before he can answer, swinging wildly, “I didn’t fuckin’ do anything! Get the fuck off me before ye fuckin’ regret it, you goddamn fuckin’ retriever!”

“Fucking Christ.” Bigby mutters, punching Dee’s temple so he’ll shut up, but it also means Bigby’s resigned to carrying him until he wakes up. “You alright?”

“I’ve had worse, Bigs.” She promises, thanking Holly for the drink, “And when I said charge Crane for the drink, charge him personally, not Fabletown.”

“You got it.” Holly says, taking stock of the damage.

“Holly, I’m, ah…I’m sorry about the whole…everything.” Bigby says sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Don’t worry about it.” She says, obviously worrying about it, “Not coming outta my pocket.”

She lights a cigarette and lets it dangle from her lips, watching Bigby try to subtly take stock of the injuries she had. The worst of it was that her favorite dress was destroyed beyond repair, but she also had a split lip, a shiner on her right eye, a bloodied nose, and probably a bruise on her back where she’d collided with the bar. Her makeup was a mess, from the blood and the tears and whatever else had found its way onto her face, but she smiles and smokes.

“We’ll see you, Holly.” She smiles at the troll, “As soon as we have news, we’ll be back.”

“Try not to destroy the place next time, alright?”

Bigby hoists Dee over his shoulders with a grunt, and they leave the Trap in much worse condition than they found it.

“That bastard hurt you?”

“I’m fine, Bigby, really.” She promises, “Back at you…Grendel didn’t hurt you too bad, right?”

“’m fine.” He promises, and he looked it, really. She pulls out her compact, swearing under her breath when she finds the mirror cracked, but notes that her shiner is already starting to fade. “Nothing hurts?” She tries to wipe off the blood, but only succeeds in smudging it further.

“I’ve got a headache, but other than that, everything’s running smoothly.” She closes the compact and shoves it back in her pocket, “Save the dress. I really liked this one.”

“I’ll get you another.” He promises, sending her a sideways smile, “After we unload Tweedle Dipshit.”

“A man after my own heart. You’re really okay? Nothing that needs to be looked at?”

“I don’t want you looking in on this with me anymore.” He says suddenly, just about knocking the breath right out of her lungs.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“I don’t want you working on this case anymore.”

She arches a brow, “You’re joking right? You know the Tweedles’ office is three blocks from here – I’ve done worse than a little bar fight.”

“Little…” He forces a chuckle, “They could’ve killed you.”

“And they might’ve killed you if I hadn’t been there, Bigby. We’ve been over this. It’s our job.” They couldn’t let their relationship make their job any harder than it already was, “And if you don’t let me come with you, who knows where I’ll go, all on my own.”

Bigby huffs, “You’re cruel, you know that?”

“Would it be cruel of me to offer you a hot bath and massage, Sheriff Wolf?”

He gives her a half-smile, obviously not satisfied with their last conversation topic, and adjusts Dee. “Did I say cruel? I meant kind. Beautiful. Smart.”

“Keep up with that, and you might even get -.”

Bigby doesn’t get to learn what he might get if he keeps complimenting her, only getting a moan and an earful from Dee about how unfair it all was and that he got the wrong guy. Bigby sets him on the pavement, and he, of course, tries to run, Bigby grabs him by the wrists, and forces him to walk.

“Why the hell’re you doing this to me, doll? Weren’t me an’ my brother good t’ you?”

“I’m gonna head over to their office, see if I can find anything, alright?” She smiles, at him, and before he can protest, she says, “I’ll be at the Woodlands as soon as I finish up there.”

“And if Dum’s there?”

“I’ll give him your regards.”

“You can’t fuckin’ go there! It’s personal property and you ain’t got a fuckin’ warrant!”

She turns her attention to Dee and crosses her arms over her chest, “I think the fact that you’re not only implicated in the murder of Prince Lawrence,” She didn’t actually think Dee murdered Lawrence, but she hadn’t been there, “But you’re covered in blood. I think that’s reasonable cause to wander into an office and pay a visit to my old boss.” She smiles at Dee and looks back to Bigby, “I should be back by the time you and Snow have him processed.” She pauses, “Be careful.”

“You too.” He says, looking more worried than angry for once.

As she takes the right turn, he keeps heading straight, and she lights a cigarette, trying to fathom what she might say if Dum is at the office. The streets are empty, save the streetlights’ melancholy display.

She rubs her arms as a chill runs up her spine, and casts a glance over her shoulder – she was alone on the street, but she couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. Tossing the half-smoked cigarette into a puddle, she walks a little faster, and reaches the office without any further scares.

Dum isn’t there, and the door is locked, but she knows that they keep a key in the plant they tried to convince her was real for a fifty years. She looks around the office, feeling an odd sense of nostalgia washing over her. She hated the job, but she spent sixty years working for them, and had come to consider this place as home.

She dipped her head inside the Tweedles’ shared room – she would’ve thought that after she quit one of them would claim her room, but, evidently, neither did. It was probably illegal for her to root through their things like that, but she didn’t particularly care anymore. Crane wanted results, and she was going to get them.

The most scandalous thing she found was a ledger in Dee’s dresser, most of it written in her handwriting, but, more recently, had been taken over by Dee’s blocky hand. They’d always barely made ends meet, but somehow, they always had just enough to make sure they didn’t go under.

She leaves everything the way she found it, and can’t resist stepping into her old room. Newspaper clippings still lined the walls, and the bed was still there, but other than that, everything was barren, drained of all life, save whatever rats had started calling the place home.

She makes her way up to the office, and finds that someone – probably Dum – left the lights on. The answering machine is the first stop, and she plays the only message left on the machine.

A voice she doesn’t recognize says, “Dee, Dum, delete as soon as you fuckers get this, right? We’re not gonna fuck around anymore. You two know what to fucking do.”

She swears – that didn’t fucking help as much as she wanted it to. They’ve always been shady. She rifles through desks, papers, anything that might have helped her – hell, she bends down to check through the trash can, but even if they did have anything to do with the murder, they didn’t leave a paper trail.

“Fuck.” She mutters, and writes out a note, copying Dee’s handwriting as best she can, telling Dum that he had a lead on Faith and not to wait up for him. She remembers to leave the lights on on her way out, just in case Dum gets suspicious. Leaving everything just the way she found it, she makes her way back to the Woodlands, wishing she remembered to bring a coat.

Chapter Text

“Where’s my husband?” She asks, knowing full well that Bigby was pushing their backup plan onto the mundies just as thickly as she was. Her arms are crossed over her chest as she sits firmly in place, doing her damnedest not to look at the photograph of Snow’s…

Of Snow, she reminds herself.

“Mrs…Wolf,” She tries not to think about how much she likes hearing that, “You’re making this more difficult than it needs to be.”

“I know I don’t have to say anything until I so choose, and I want to know where my husband is.” She and Bigby had only a few moments in passing since the mundies showed up after the reports of Snow’s murder, and she didn’t even know if he was still at the station. “I just found out that my friend was murdered. Can’t I at least see my husband?”

The man – Detective Rhodes, he called himself – interviewing her sighs and runs a hand through his hair, “Look, the sooner you answer my questions, the sooner you can get out of here and see your husband, alright?”

She arches a brow at him, unimpressed, and reaches for a cigarette, challenging him as she takes a long drag, letting the cigarette smoke spill from her nostrils.

“This back and forth is fun and all, but I don’t know what happened.” She shrugs, tugging at the edge of her shirt so she wouldn’t give herself away. “So just let me go.”

Rhodes clicks and unclicks his pen, “It’s been a long night. How’re you feeling?”

She taps the butt of her cigarette, flicking the ashes into the tray, never looking away from Detective Rhodes.

“Right. I’m trying to help you.” He clicks his pen, “I know you must be going through hell right now, but we need your cooperation.”

She bites her tongue, considering the tongue lashing she’d get from Bigby – or worse, Crane – if she spoke out of line, and merely smokes, getting that same annoyed sigh from Rhodes. He narrows his eyes at her, considering what to say next, as if they hadn’t been going back and forth all morning.

She glances over to the conspicuously placed blank wall and asks, “How many people are watching this right now? Two? Three?”

He purses his lips and glances not-so-subtly to the wall, before suddenly going quiet for the first time all day, just looking her in the eye as she takes another pull of her cigarette.

“Hey, your nose is bleeding.” She says, wiping her own face where the blood was dripping down Rhodes. He wipes it with the heel of his head, nursing his head, and cautiously, she asks, “Are you okay, Detective Rhodes?”

He looks at her as if she were miles away, just a blip on the horizon, and hesitantly pulls his hand from his head, “Do you hear that?” He glances around the room and stands, “Please…” His pen clatters to the floor, and she hears the people on the other side of the one-way glass fall forward, “Please, make it…stop.” He’s clutching his head with one hand again, and reaching toward her with the other. Wide-eyed, she scoots back, just out of his reach, until he finally collapses across the table.

She stands slowly, hesitantly, and pokes Detective Rhodes’ hand, “Um…are you okay?” It was explicitly obvious that he was not okay, but she felt like she was doing her civic duty as an officer when she asked. “Detective Rhodes?” She pokes his head, and he doesn’t even move.

Stepping over to the one-way glass, she knocks on it twice, waiting for an answer. When she receives none, she approaches the door, only to find it locked.

“Damn.” She swears, and then turns back to Rhodes. She digs through his pockets, hoping to turn out a set of keys or something. When she finds nothing, she only wonders how the hell he was planning on getting out.

She turns the photograph of Snow over a moment later, not wanting to stare at it for however long she might be in there.

The door finally creaks open after what feels like hours – though, truly, it was only a few minutes – and she’d admit that she was never happier to see Crane, especially when she saw that he had Bigby in tow.

His face lights up when he sees her, like knowing that she was alright was enough to make everything else disappear, and they both have to stop themselves from running to one another. Instead, he approaches her first, setting his hand on her forearm, “We have to go.”

“What happened?” She asks, looking from Bigby to Crane, “What happened to him?”

“He’ll be fine.” Crane snaps, glancing over his shoulder, “It’s just a memory wipe spell. Very expensive, but it works. The whole station will forget the last twenty-four hours and everything they saw at the Woodlands.”

They’re about to follow Crane out when Bigby abruptly turns and crumples the photograph on the table, not even bothering to check what it was.

They have to pick up the pace to keep up with Crane, but as they follow them, Bigby asks, “They didn’t hurt you, did they?”

“No.” She fumbles with her lighter, hand shaking when she reaches for a cigarette, “They just kept shoving her picture in my face and asking me what I knew.” It had shaken her, more than it should have, but the smoke should help – it would calm her down…

Bigby pulls his lighter and lights the cigarette for her. She mumbles a quick thanks, sucking on the stick like it was her last lifeline, “Are you okay?” She asks, tapping the filter, “You played the husband and wife plan?”

“Yeah.” He answers, accepting the cigarette when she offers it, “Mrs. Wolf.” She fakes a grin, but doesn’t have to fake just how much she liked hearing that. He hesitates, looking from her to watching his feet. No matter how far they fell into this little entanglement of theirs, she was convinced he would always think he would trip over himself, always think he was unlovable, that he had to keep himself in check.

It broke her heart.

She casts a quick glance to Crane, who was two steps ahead of them and pushing the front door open with his shoulder.

Crane’s car is an ugly green hatchback with even uglier, duller tan interior. Wine or blood stains the backseat, and Crane can’t stop adjusting the rearview mirror. They sit in awkward silence as traffic slows them nearly to a halt.

Crane clears his throat – completely inconspicuously – and throws a glare Bigby’s way, to which he shrugs and mutters, “Thanks for the lift.”

“Certainly.” He pauses, “We, uh, we found Tweedle Dee chained up to a post. That was your doing, correct?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I don’t know why you detained him.” She gets angry at that, but Snow continues, “Dee was at the Trip Trap when Snow was left at the Woodlands, so he couldn’t possibly be involved in this mayhem.” He looks at her in the rearview, “Bluebeard’s currently interrogating him.”

Bigby looks at her, silently telling her to keep her mouth shut before she really does lose her job, and answers Crane, “He’s working for somebody, and whoever it is wants him snooping around every crime scene I’ve looked at.”

“That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re involved in the murders.”

She rolls her eyes, “Three in a row is one hell of a coincidence.”

They come to a halt at a red light, and she can’t help but watch as a bus meanders by with a bright red sign that red ‘Will you be next?’ She sets her hands in her lap and stares out the windshield, wondering…

She was always the one who barely made it out, the one who just barely survived. But, with this…serial killer on the loose, who had some sick fetish for decapitating women…

She didn’t want to think about it.

“I know what you’re thinking, Bigby.” Crane’s voice knocks her from her thought spiral, “It’s been one full night and a slice of morning, and I already miss her too. You know, I never get more homesick than when one of us dies. And now…for it to be Snow…I’ve never been good with these sorts of things.” He sighs, “I just can’t believe this is really happening.”

“Yeah.” Bigby stares ahead, “It’s hard.”

“Our stories used to be so simple. We had a beginning, a middle, and an end. But ever since we moved to this awful city…everything’s gotten so confused.” He pauses, and she has to stop herself from touching Bigby or saying something that would give them away, so she bites her tongue, “Did she, um, give any indication to what she was thinking…when you saw her last, I mean?”

Bigby pauses, “She just…told me to be careful.”

“She was always fond of you, Bigby.” Crane supplies, trying to be kind…or something.

“Yeah.”

“I don’t know what else to say, Bigby. We have to…have to put and end to this.”

Chapter Text

“There’s been two murders in as many days. If we don’t unearth our culprit and soon, there will likely be another on our doorstep tonight.” She doesn’t miss the way Bigby glances back at her at that, and she bristles, trying to retain some sort of ignorance that she was probably on the killer’s hit list.

It didn’t make sense – kill Faith and then Snow White? They looked alike, yes, but the similarities ended there.

“I’ll get it done.” Bigby claims, and they all crawl out of the car, none of them wanting to face the music just yet.

“Please, Bigby.” Crane shuts his car door, “For Miss White.”

Bigby slams his door, cracks webbing their way along the window, and he growls, “I got it.” She flinches at the sound of the glass shattering, and watches as he storms off.

She breaks out of whatever trance she found herself in and follow him a moment later, arms over her chest, and was thankful to find that he waited for her in the lobby.

“Are you okay?” She asks, and he exhales, releasing a breath she didn’t know he was holding in.

“Fine.” He says, brushing her off again, but then looks at her, “You?”

“I keep thinking…we were with her, Bigby. I should’ve…I should’ve stayed in the cab with her.”

He pulls her into a hug, and she relishes in the safety he offers. “It isn’t your fault.” He answers decisively, as if it was as cut and dry as that.

“We should…” She pulls out of the embrace and wipes a tear before it can fall, “We should go talk to Dee.”

“He said Bluebeard was there.” Bigby shakes his head, “I don’t think you should -.”

“I know.” She offers him a weak smile, “I’ll wait for you in your office.” Crossing her arms over her chest, she sighs, “I doubt I can break the news to Bufkin if he doesn’t already know, but…I’ll, uh, compile a list of suspects, and maybe head over to the Business Office to…take a look at what’s left.” She swallows at that, hard, and Bigby opens his mouth to protest, but Crane enters, pinching his lips when he sees the two of them cornered away, talking amongst themselves.

“Well?” Crane asks, and they part, Bigby following Crane and she heading for the stairs so she didn’t have to be a part of that elevator ride.

Bigby’s office is comfortable, familiar, and she actually feels safe in there. It’s quiet, save the whirring of an overworked desk fan, and smell overwhelmingly like coffee and Bigby. She still wondered why the hell Bigby still drank coffee if he hated it so much.

The Woodsman and Dee are still on the table for killing Faith, along with the pimp, but she can’t think of a connection between any of them and Snow, and it’s unlikely that it’s not the same person, considering they completely decapitated the women, somehow managing to cut off their heads without any indication as to what the hell it might have been. Hell, that’s probably not even how they died.

She shivers at that, and tries to think of anyone that might have the motive to kill Faith and Snow, and comes up short. Bluebeard crosses her mind briefly, but vacation flashes through her head and she’s angry all over again.

And relieved, maybe. She just wanted him to go away at this point. She’s suffered enough by wanting him to suffer.

She thinks of the March Hare. He’d only been in custody for a month before they released him, and she wonders if he might have the same ties that Dee does to the mysterious employer.

Bigby still had the key, too.

The pimp might have done it, though that was definitely a far cry for Snow’s death.

She couldn’t even begin to imagine what the hell was going on in the boiler room with Bluebeard and Bigby in the same room, and had half a mind to go down there and see for herself.

She decides to head up to her place for a change of clothes. She felt dirty all over again, and knew that she was probably just going to go look at the body, but she couldn’t stand to be in that stupid blouse and pants any longer.

Staring at her closet, she tries to pretend, tries so hard to pretend that those girls haven’t been haunting her for centuries, and now, with Faith and Snow and god knows who next showing up on her doorstep, bodyless…she feels helpless, like more of a burden than anything.

Her hands shakes when she zips up the dress, but she feels that much better. She brushes her teeth and splashes her face with water, the wake-up call welcome and much needed.

It was going to be a long day, anyway.

She makes her way back downstairs, intent on heading into the business office. Just as she was about to open the door from the stairs, she hears, “I’m not yours to lose!” In a voice that sounds suspiciously like Snow’s. She hesitates, not wanting to let herself believe that she might be going insane.

She twists the knob and opens the door, and can’t believe it when she sees Bigby and Snow standing there, talking like she hadn’t been dead just a few moments prior.

Snow sees her first, and they both resemble deer caught in the headlights, and Bigby turns, and she stands there, one hand on the doorknob and the other clenched into a fist.

“What the fuck?” She asks, her voice cracking on the third word, unable to believe what she saw. “Is this some fucking joke?”

Bigby says her name, and Snow crosses her arms over her chest, answering, “It wasn’t me.”

“That’s obvious.” She scoffs, “Either that or I really am losing it. What’s going on?”

Snow purses her lips, “TJ found the body last night…the, uh, the rest of it. We thought it was Faith, at first, but…Bigby, you might wanna leave this part to her. He’ll start talking, but after a certain point, he shuts down entirely.”

She shakes her head, “What point does he stop?”

“He was swimming, and I can’t get much else out, other than that he found her in the water.”

“They dumped her? In the river?” She approaches the both of them, still wary, “And this was after we found the…her head?”

“Yeah.” Snow offers no further explanation, “Bigby, you just…don’t be too…”

“Myself.” He almost sounds upset about that, like he knew he was dejected to be the bad guy.

Her fingers brush over his wrist, and she wishes she could hug him, but Snow doesn’t give her the chance, leading them both inside the Business Office.

TJ perks up when he sees them, and pads away from his father when he sees her, wrapping his arms around her legs, “Miss Snow said you might not come.” He’s sobbing, and she wishes she knew the right thing to say.

“I’m here, TJ.” She kneels down so she’s nearly face to face with him, and asks, “How are you? It must’ve been scary, huh?”

He nods and sniffles, taking her finger in his hand, “It was.”

“It’s okay to be scared. I’m scared too.” She glances up at Toad, “TJ, Mr. Wolf is here to help, okay? He wants to try and make the scary things go away. Do you think you can answer his questions?”

“It would really help us, TJ.” Bigby supplies, frozen in place. He was scared of scaring TJ.

TJ sniffles again, rubbing his nose with the heel of his hand. He nods, slowly, and she waves for Bigby to walk over, “Your dad and I will be right here the whole time, and Mr. Wolf isn’t going to hurt you.”

“I want to help.” He says decisively, and Bigby kneels at her beckoning, trying and failing to hide his eye-rolling sass.

“Sorry if I scared you.” He promises TJ, and she glances over at him, taking her lip between her teeth.

Snow prods, “Go ahead, TJ.”

TJ takes a deep breath, still clutching onto her finger, “I go swimming at night sometimes, in the river. I wasn’t doing anything bad, I promise.”

“Of course you weren’t.” Toad promises, setting his hand on his son’s shoulder.

“We know you’re a good kid, TJ.” Snow adds, trying to be helpful.

Bigby, still stiff as a board, but she gives him kudos for trying, says, “You’re not in trouble. Just tell me what happened.”

“I was there, under the big blocks…and then I heard noisy feet. And when I hear that, I’m supposed to go underwater and stay real still and quiet.”

“That’s right, son.” Toad pats his son’s head and rests it on his back, sending a thankful glance her way.

“Then I saw…” He sobs into his free hand, “I saw the lady.”

Finally feeling able, or safe, or whatever, Bigby reaches his hand out to TJ, in an attempt to console him, but only manages to have him pull away, frightened.

“Careful, Bigby.” Toad hisses.

“I wasn’t…” He sighs, and she interjects, “Bigby isn’t going to hurt you, TJ. He knows you’re scared, and just wants to make things better for you.”

“Like…like you do?” TJ asks, rubbing his hands together.

“Just like I do.”

Timidly, TJ looks back at Bigby, “I’m sorry. The lady…fell in…but she didn’t have her head on!” He sobs, “I thought…I thought he was gonna pull me down too. ‘Cause she had rocks on her feet. And she kept falling down in the dark parts.”

“Cinderblocks.” Snow supplies, “Tied to her ankles.”

She doesn’t bother to try glaring at her, but it sends TJ into a whole new batch of tears.

“Is there more, TJ?” Snow asks, seemingly growing impatient.

He sniffles, and she nods at him, trying to let him know it was okay, “Is it true…you know when people are lying?” He asks Bigby, and she nods at him, trying to let him know that he had to push on TJ’s time, not his own. “I heard you could do that. That’s why you’re the Sheriff.”

Bigby smiles, and it warms her heart, “Yeah, part of my job is being able to tell when people are lying. I’m really good at it. Is there anything else?”

“Please, don’t be mad.” TJ looks to his dad, rubbing his arm.

“What is it, TJ?”

“I didn’t…” He sniffs, “I didn’t stay under the water.”

Toad goes from sympathetic to pissed in less than a second, “What?”

“I know I’m supposed to, but I was scared, and I went to the top again. I couldn’t help it!” He presses himself against her leg, afraid of his father’s wrath.

“I gave you very specific rules! You have to stay quiet and out of sight or bad things can happen!”

“Toad.” She says sternly, “He found a body. Did you expect him to stay down there too?” His grip tightens on her skirt, “You did the right thing, TJ.”

“Leave him, alone, Toad.” Bigby interrupts when he opens his mouth to continue.

“He’s my son! I’ve set boundaries for a reason!”

Bigby lowers his voice, “This is a special circumstance. Leave him alone.”

“So you didn’t stay underwater?” Snow presses, not commenting on Toad’s outburst.

“I don’t know…if anyone saw me, but someone said ‘stop laughing’. And then I was scared, and I went under for as long as I could.”

“Wait, so you heard someone?” Snow asks, and is followed by a decisive ‘yes’ from TJ, and ridicule from Toad.

“Were those the same words they used, ‘stop laughing’? Try to remember exactly what they said.”

“They said…they said, ‘stop laughing at me’.”

“Did you see who, TJ?” She asks, rubbing his back as he cries. He only shakes his head.

“Okay, TJ.” Bigby eases up, not wanting to push the poor kid any further.

“I’m sorry. After I came up again there was no one there, and I ran home. That’s all. I promise. I wanna go home.”

“Okay, you can go.” He nods at Toad, who only harrumphs.

TJ is left sniveling, and she smiles down at him, “Thank you, TJ. You were very brave.”

Bigby smiles, “You did a good job, kid.”

TJ smiles briefly, but then lets his dad take him away.

“He’ll remember that, Bigby.” She promises, “How kind you were.” She rises and smiles at him, “I appreciate that. Really.”

Chapter Text

The Witching Well Chamber is dark and depressing and wet, and has a green tint to it for some reason, like whoever built the place felt the need to bring that little bit of extra evil from home. She shivers, wrapping her arms around herself, and wishes she thought to grab a coat when she was back in her apartment. Bigby notices – of course he notices – and brushes his fingers against her hip. She lets her arms hang, and he takes her hand in his own, lifting it to press a fleeting kiss to her knuckles.

The cold doesn’t bother her much after that, until they reached the center of the room.

Snow is the first to see herself laying on that table…decapitated, and she’s the last, arms crossed over her chest as she approaches it. A chill runs all the way through her body, and she can’t take her eyes off of the girl or Snow, like she’s trying to come to terms that it wasn’t the same woman.

“Wow, I’ve never realized…” Snow hesitates, “I’ve never seen her face before now.”

Bigby raises a brow, “Are you gonna be okay? You don’t have to stay.”

“I want to stay.” Snow says sternly, and she feels herself go on the defensive, stepping closer to Bigby in what she hopes is a subtle movement. “I’ll be fine, it’s just…a little strange. The glamour is so effective, it’s…invasive, but…” She hesitates again, “Just do what you need to do.”

She goes for the body, and Bigby takes the head. While he finds that it had to be the same method of murder and that there were no signs of a ribbon, she pulls off a brooch that is both unrecognizable and clearly not Snow’s, and finds the track marks on her thighs.

“She was on mundy drugs, I think.” She says, fingers ghosting over the marks.

“Must be pretty heavy, too.” Bigby adds, “I hear they only go for the legs if they’ve used up the veins in their arms…or if they’re trying to hide the marks.”

“Wait.” Snow interrupts, “If the glamour is supposed to make her look like me, shouldn’t it be concealing things like track marks? That brooch too? I’ve never seen one this sloppy.”

“It’s possible it’s designed not to.” Bigby answers.

“Designed not to hide track marks?”

“Good point.”

“It could be a cheap glamour.” She adds, “Or it…might just be wearing off.”

Snow’s brow furrows, “The witches upstairs know what they’re doing, that’s why they cost so much. Unless someone is making glamours illegally.”

She interjects, “It’s actually not illegal to make glamour. I mean, the 13th floor is obviously the go-to, but it’s not illegal to make it.” Snow’s nose crinkles at that, like the concept made no sense to her.

“So there’s some sort of black market for glamours?”

She bites her lip, and wonders if she actually ought to say what she thinks. It was a viable reason, she knew, and made more sense. “I mean, if someone’s into, I don’t know, role-playing, I could see it being used for…sexual purposes.”

“Oh my God.” Snow swears, “So you think this was some…some sick sex game?”

“I think she could be another prostitute.” The pieces start to click in her head, “I think someone could be wanting to have sex with you, or even have sex and then kill you, and then, there’s a correlation between Faith and…” They still didn’t know who this poor girl was. “All I’m saying is that it’s completely possible that whoever did this had a sick fixation on you, Snow. Either that, or they’re sending a message.”

“That they’re coming for me next.” Snow crosses her arms over her chest, trying to keep a brave face.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” Bigby says, “We need to wait for the glamour to wear off, and see who she is.”

“Well, black market glamour or not, it’s a pretty good match.” Snow studies the body, and then touches her stomach, “Look at that. The buttons aren’t exact either. There’s an extra one here.”

Bigby looks at the woman’s chest, “You’re right. These buttons are wrong.” He scratches his cheek, baffled, “I wonder…”

“What?” Snow asks when Bigby looks at her, a hard stare that let’s them all know something’s up.

“Snow, I need to open her coat.” He doesn’t wait for approval, instead moving in to unbutton all four buttons.

“Bigby.” Snow says suddenly, “Just…let me.” She does it quickly and steps back, eyes glued to the dead girl’s body.

Bigby looks over to his girl, “We’re making progress. Let’s see what else we can find.”

Crane interrupts Snow, seemingly appearing from nowhere, “Well, I hope you’re behaving yourself up here. Now that you’re done punching people.”

“I’m sorry, what?” She interjects, looking between the three of them.

“Not now, Ichabod.” Bigby growls.

“Why won’t you tell her, hm? Since it was important enough for you to lay hand on me?”

“Bigby, what?”

Bigby huffs, “I hit Crane, alright?”

She shakes her head, “Okay, can we just…continue?”

“What have you found out?” Crane asks, and she looks at Bigby. He agrees to take this one.

“Her glamour is defective.”

“Defective?” Crane snips, as if the mere concept was too much to even fathom.

Snow supplies, “We’re thinking it’s black market. We should really be regulating this kind of thing.”

“Or making it more accessible for Fables who need it.” She says, flipping the brooch between her index finger and thumb absentmindedly.

“Yes…” Crane mutters, and they all wait for him to continue.

“We should…keep going.” Snow says, allowing them to continue their work. Bigby pulls the perfume from her pocket, and knows exactly what it is.

“How do you know what perfume I wear?” Snow asks, mildly disgusted.

He shrugs and smirks at her, “You can’t fool this nose.”

“Let me see it.” She says, taking the small vial from Bigby, “’Use this’…Snow, are you missing any perfume?”

“Um, no, I don’t…I don’t think so.”

“Looks like someone picked it out for her.” Bigby interjects.

Snow looks between her and Bigby, “So someone…gave her instructions.”

Bigby turn to Crane, “Our best lead is that she’s a prostitute – someone hired her out and dumped her in the river.”

“Hm.” Crane quips, “Seems viable, Bigby.”

“I didn’t think of it.” He admits, shrugging.

She pulls the wiccan object from the girl’s other pocket, and Snow says, “I’ve seen things like that before. It’s definitely magic, though witches don’t usually craft objects these days.”

Crane’s eyes widen, “I don’t think it’s wise to fool around with that.” Then he scrambles, “It’s some kind of black market magic, who knows what it could do? We should have it looked at. Just to make sure it isn’t dangerous.”

She finally snaps, “Will you keep quiet?” Then as an afterthought, “Please.” She rattles it, and says, “There’s something in here.”

“How do we open it?” Snow asks, crossing her arms over her chest.

After the puzzled container is opened, she dumps its contents on the table, finding a lock of hair and a photograph of Snow.

“Holy shit.” She mutters, looking up at Snow. Bigby sniffs the hair and confirms that, yes, it was Snow’s hair, and Snow is shocked to find that the torn photograph had to have come from her apartment. “Did you know it was missing?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t think…” She shakes her head, staring at the torn photograph, “This was the last picture I had of Rose and me. My sister and I don’t talk much anymore.” She turns around, “Who did this, Bigby?”

And, as if on cue, the green light of a glamour transformation sounds behind them, and she gasps.

Everyone gasps, mostly at the fact that she was a troll.

“She’s a troll!” Bufkin exclaims, landing beside her head.

“All right, you can calm down.” Bigby tries to mediate, “You’ve all seen a troll before.”

She steps toward the table silently, eyes catching the holly branches tattooed around her ankle, and she covers her mouth, suddenly feeling sick to her stomach all over again.

“It’s Lily.” She claims, taking a step backward, “Oh, God, no.” Anne and Holly and Lily…Jesus Christ, none of them deserved this. She turns back around, “We’ve got to tell Holly.” And then, eyes flickering back to Crane, “My sister, too.”

Crane arches a brow, “Pray tell why?”

“Because this is her girlfriend, Ichabod.”

His lips pucker, but he says nothing further for the moment, keeping his bigotry to himself.

Bigby sets a hand on her shoulder, “We’ll talk to Holly first and then find Anne.” He promises. To make sure she’s alright, to let her know, but he doesn’t have to say that part.

Snow supplies, completely unhelpful, “Who knows, she might know something about this. Who Lily was seeing.”

***

The Trap goes about as well as she thought it would: a bruised hand from punching Jack, telling Holly about her dead sister and giving her the brooch, and she learns the pimp’s name is Georgie, and promising Lily’s body to Holly.

“Did you really have to hit him?” Bigby asks when they sit in the cab.

“Coming from the guy who starts more fights than he can finish.” She shrugs and looks at her hand, “It’s not that bad. It’ll heal.”

“I can finish the fights I start.” He claims, drawing the first laugh of the day from her.

She presses a chaste kiss to his cheek, letting him hold her, “I love you, Bigby. You know that, right?”

“Of course. I love you too.”

And for that moment, it’s enough.

Chapter Text

“Sheriff? I don’t think I’ve seen you here before.” Vivian approaches she and Bigby when they step out of the cab, “You’re always welcome of course.” She looks her way, “Is this business…or pleasure?”

She steps forward, “Is Anne here?”

Vivian looks taken aback a moment, but regains her composure quickly, “No, she’s working. But we have plenty of girls here if you’re…”

“No, sorry.” She interrupts, “Do you know where she might be? It’s…urgent.”

“Sorry, sweetie. She’s the only one with the room number. Headed down to the Open Arms, probably.”

She sighs and nods, thanking Vivian as Bigby asks, “We’re friends of Georgie’s. Where is he?”

Vivian narrows her eyes at Bigby, “Friends, huh?” She looks between the Sheriff and the girl, “You’re in luck. He’s here. Come on.” She unlocks the door, and hesitates, “I should warn you that Georgie does not like to be bothered when he’s working. And he’s in kind of a…mood right now.” Vivian’s eyes flit to the ground, and she wonders if Georgie’s mood ever affected her. “I mean, more so than usual.”

Her eyes fall on that damn ribbon, but Bigby shrugs, “It’ll be fine. I have a way with people.”

She giggles, “So I’ve heard.” Vivian looks at her bruising hand, but said nothing about the ugly purple marks.

Without another word, Vivian opens the door and leads them inside. The walls are covered in lewd promos of the workers they offered, and her eyes widen when she sees Anne on one of them, as naked as the day she was born and covering her nipples with her fingers. She clenched and unclenched her fists, swearing she’d get her out of this shitshow, tonight.

“Welcome to the Pudding and Pie.” Vivian prattles, “Where we cater to the diverse tastes of the Fable Community. Your pleasure is our pleasure.” She’s trying to fill the silence with her spiel.

“Did you know Lily?” Bigby asks as soon as she finishes. “She worked here?”

Vivian sighs, “My lips are sealed. You’d better ask Georgie.”

Her eyes flit up to Bigby. She’d heard that one time too fucking many for it to be a coincidence.

Loud music plays over a shitty boombox, and the vibrato purple vibe is probably the tackiest thing she’s ever seen. A girl dances on the pole as Georgie watches, completely clinical in his ‘constructive criticism’.

“For fuck’s sake, what’re you doin’? You look like you’re trying to take a shit!” He yells, and she crosses her arms over her chest, already tired of this fucker. “Who’s gonna want that? No one’s gonna want that!”

“Nice guy.” Bigby snarls, “Seems like a real prince.”

Vivian arches a brow, like she can’t determine what Bigby’s deal was, “You do have a sense of humor. That’s good.” She sashays off, her eyes lingering on her, “Good luck.”

“It’s your face. You never smile. You have to smile! How many times do I have to say it?” She cuts him off before he can keep berating the poor girl.

“Georgie?” She asks, recognizing that terrible voice from when she spoke to him over the phone.

His eyes pass over her like she’s nothing and land on Bigby, “Oh, it’s you.” He looks back at the girl, “Keep dancing, you. I didn’t say stop.”

“I think it’s time for a break.” She says, looking from Georgie to the girl, “Turn the fucking radio off, Georgie.”

“Who the fuck d’you think you are -.”

“I’d listen to her, if I were you, Georgie.” Bigby says, backing her up.

Georgie scoffs, “For fuck’s sake.” He finally turns the radio off, “You. Stay right there, and don’t even think about sitting down. We’re not finished.”

“Leave her alone, asshole.” Bigby sneers, stepping around him.

Georgie rolls his eyes, “Sure, whatever you say. Never expected you to stop by, especially with a pussy parade.” He looks at her, giving a low whistle, “Damn fine, eh? What do you want, then?” He pauses, “You here for a little taste?”

Bigby’s nails dig into his palms, but she sets a hand on his shoulder and turns to talk to the girl. Her arms are over her chest as she stands there, and she gets secondhand embarrassment from the poor girl. She climbs up the four steps and stands alongside the girl, who looks ready to run away or burst into tears.

“Hi.” She says, offering a small smile and her name.

“Nerissa.” The girl says, avoiding eye contact. They’re both trying to ignore the growing argument between Bigby and Georgie. She shrugs off her jacket and offers it to Nerissa. She arches a brow and watches it, like it might attack her, but accepts it, pulling it tight around her chest. Georgie either doesn’t notice or care. “I’m assuming you’re here to ask some questions.”

“Do you mind?”

She purses her lips, but shakes her head. “I don’t know if I’ll be much help.”

“Do you know Anne?”

Nerissa looks taken aback at that, “I mean…yeah, she works here. She’s not here right now, but…” She shrugs, “Why? Did she do something?”

“No, nothing like that. Do you know anything about the disappearances of Lily or Faith?”

She purses her lips again, “These lips are sealed.”

They’re interrupted by the music again, and Georgie finally takes an interest in the fact she’s wearing a coat, “Get off the fucking stage! Go on, then. And for fuck’s sake, take the jacket off.” Slowly, Nerissa looks at her, fear and sorrow in her eyes, and hands her the jacket, putting her hand on the pole and swinging herself around. She steps off the stage, giving Bigby a quick nod.

“We’re not done here.” Bigby growls, stepping closer.

“I think we are.” Georgie shrugs.

Georgie stands, and Bigby all but snarls, “I said we’re not.”

“You gonna hit me? Go ahead.” Georgie taunts, stepping closer to Bigby, “That’s what you wanna do, right?”

“One more time. Who…hired…her?”

Georgie reels back to hit him first, but only ends up knocking over chair he left the boombox perched on, cutting the music off, to the relief of everyone but Georgie, “Ah, fuck no.” He turns his anger on Nerissa, “You! Take your sad fucking face where I can’t see it!” He turns back to the radio, “Bloody bastard fucking shit!” And then, to Bigby, “You proud of yourself, mate? Proud of your little mess?” He kneels over the radio, “Fuck’s sake.” He slams it in the chest of the hulking blond man, and says, “Fuck off, Hans.”

She follows Hans over to the bar, where he sets the radio and sighs, “Hans, is it?”

He looks surprised, like a deer caught in the headlights, and he nods, slowly.

“Do you know anything about the girls that went missing?”

He looks back at Georgie, and says, “You can look it up.”

“What’s that?” Bigby asks.

“There’s a little book with all the stuff about the girls and all that written in it.”

Georgie turn on Hans, pointing his finger, “You’re a fucking moron.”

“Lay a fucking hand on him, Georgie, and I’ll make you eat your own fucking asshole.” She threatens, getting in his face before he can touch Hans.

Georgie looks surprised, and then scoffs, “You’re just the little chihuahua humpin’ the lapdog’s leg, sweetheart. You ain’t shit.”

“Show me the fucking book.”

Georgie pulls away, “There is no book.” He steps behind the bar, “And as for you, Hans. We need to work on your communication skills, and I’ve a fairly good idea where to start.” He waves a stick with ‘crowd control’ written on the side, and Bigby doesn’t hesitate in snatching it from the bastard.

“Hey, that’s my personal property.”

Bigby slides the stick along the bar, and she lights a cigarette, knowing this was going to be one hell of a show.

“You alright, Hans?” She asks, standing alongside him.

He looks surprised once more, but he nods, “Yeah, thanks. I’m fine.”

She smiles, and takes another puff of her cigarette, watching as Georgie gets his panties in a twist when Bigby smashes the ever-living fuck out of the boombox.

Bigby backs him into the cigarette machine, and says, “Cut the crap, Georgie. I want the book Hans is talking about.”

She looks back at Hans, confused, “Do you know where the book is?”

He shakes his head, “No, I’m sorry. Georgie brings it out when the girls are about to go on…jobs.”

Bigby threatens to smash the TV, but instead says, “Look, Georgie, why don’t you just tell me where the book is?”

He keeps going round and round until her cigarette is burned down to the stub, and Bigby finds the floor safe. He backs him into the sign and yells, “Two women are dead! Two women who worked for you!” And finally, finally gets the key after he threatens to smash the godforsaken DJ booth, of all things.

He produces the book from the floor safe, and she wonders if Hans lied to her about it.

Bigby flips to Lily’s last entry, and asks who the Mister Smith that hired her was.

“Oh, dear. I’m afraid it might be a fake name, Bigby.” They had Snow White’s name written by Lily’s, and the room number in the ledger. Vivian definitely fucking knew Anne’s room number then.

“Fuck.” She swears, taking the book from Bigby and paging to tonight’s ledger. “Fucking hell, Bigby, look.”

‘Anne (Snow White) – Mister Smith, 207’

Chapter Text

“Get off of him!” She screams, not stupid enough to get in between the Big Bad Wolf and the Beast, feeling helpless as she held Beauty back, not wanting her to get hurt because of her stupid boyfriend or Beauty’s stupider husband.

“Jesus, let go of me!” Beauty yells, “Let go of each other!”

“Bigby, stop it!” She screams, “You wife isn’t sleeping with Bigby, goddammit! I am! Two women were fucking killed, and you’re acting like fucking children!”

Nothing she says does anything to stop either of them, but she screams when Beast hits Bigby with the pipe, and again when Bigby sinks his fingers into his eye sockets, tackling him to the ground.

“Beast!” Beauty screams, trying to throw herself out of her grasp, to no avail. “Bigby, no, don’t hurt him!” She pleads when he’s about to land the second punch.

Beast grabs the abandoned beer bottle and smashes it over Bigby’s head, “You bastard!” She screams, letting go of Beauty and standing in front of Bigby. “Stop, please!”

“You ruined everything!” Beast yells, preparing to charge, “She’s my fucking wife!” In a swift movement, Bigby pushes her to the side and slams Beast into 207’s door, solving two problems at once.

“Shit.” She swears, rolling her shoulder, “You alright?” She asks Beauty, who’s more concerned about Beast than she is about herself.

“I’m fine.” She claims curtly, “Beast?”

She sets her arm on Bigby’s shoulder, and he breathes, trying to steady himself as he looked around the room.

“Are you okay?” She asks, stroking his blood-soaked cheek, “Jesus, he really…”

“Stay out here.” He demands, pulling her hand off his cheek, never taking his eyes off the bed, “Just…stay right here.”

“Why, what…” She looks past him, into the room, and shakes her head when she sees the blood and the flowers.

Bigby takes her shoulders, “Stay right here.” She nods, dumbfounded, but lets him be the first to walk in, stepping over Beast.

“Shit, Bigby.” Beast mutters, standing up.

“What have you done?” Beauty asks Beast, more concerned about the door than anything.

“What…what is this?”

“What?” Beauty asks, frightened, “What is it?” She steps inside, and immediately swears, turning back to her husband so she didn’t have to look at it any longer.

“Oh my God.” She swears when she sees the flowers and the altar of blood on the bed, strewn about reverently, and covers her mouth with her left hand, her mind reeling to the worst case scenario. “Was this Lily?” She asks, prying her eyes from the crime scene, “Faith?” Her breath catches, “Anne?”

“No, it wasn’t human blood.” He claims, “Troll, I think. Might be glamoured. It was definitely Lily.”

She feels terrible for the sigh of relief.

But…her brow furrows, “If Anne isn’t here…then where is she?”

Bigby looks at Beauty, “You seen any girls come in here tonight?”

“I mean…” Beauty crosses her arms, “Girls come in here every night. It’s…kind of what they do. I don’t know anyone named Anne, though.”

“Shit.” She swears, “Okay, first things first…you take the bed and I’ll take the room?” She offers, pinching Bigby’s wrist with her index and middle finger.

Half a question from Bigby later, and Beauty starts to ramble about how it happened last night and she heard something loud, but nothing out of the ordinary, whilst she pages through the old book of Fables, open on Snow White’s mundy tale.

“They were roleplaying.” She interjects, “She was Snow White, and whoever the fuck else was here was playing Prince Charming.” She picks up the ‘poison’ apple and tosses it to Bigby, “Poison?”

He sniffs it, “No. Probably just a prop.” He turns to Beast, “Go lock the front door. I need you to be sure no one comes in here. This is a crime scene, okay?”

“But…”

Beauty looks over her shoulder at him, “Just do what he says. I’ll explain later, okay?”

Beast leave without another word.

“The notes in here are pretty unsettling.” She draws Bigby’s attention, “All questions and note about Snow’s mundy story.” She pulls a cigarette and lights it, drawing the ire of Beauty, though she was certain far worse passed through the room than a Huff and Puff. “Look. This bastard wanted to get it down the last detail.” She flips back to the page about what kind of apple she had.

“I think the apple is part of his fantasy about Snow White. That would explain the one we found on the floor.”

“That makes sense.” Beauty supplies, and she steps away from the book to tap the ashes into the ashtray, and is surprised to find a cigarette already lying there.

“Bigby, what can you smell on this?”

He looks up from the book, obviously trying to make sense of the mundy language – German? – it was written in, and steps over to smell the butt of the cigarette. “It’s a Huff and Puff.”

“I thought you were the only one who smoked that crap brand.”

She arches a brow, suddenly hyper-aware of the fact that she was smoking a Huff and Puff.

“Apparently not.”

“You smell anyone on it?” She presses, hoping that it might point them in the right direction.

He shakes his head, “No. Smell’s long gone.”

“Damn.” She reaches past Bigby to grab the cassette tape, and he steps aside, giving her enough space to work. “It says ‘for my arrival’.” She looks over her shoulder, back at the damned book, and then to the cassette player on the nightstand.

Bigby steps back over to the bed, “Looks like she was lying down when she was killed. Flowers were already here.”

“Jesus.” Beauty mutters, “How can you tell about the flowers?”

“Blood patterns.” Bigby answers simply. “And it looks like the body was dragged off the foot of the bed, here.” He points to where the blood splatter ended.

Beauty opens her mouth to yell, to rage, to get something off her chest, but she steps forward, and says, “It look like Snow’s coffin.” She looks between them, “From the book, I mean. He’s reenacted it, with her here, surrounded by flowers and the ‘glass coffin’.” She supplies air quotes when necessary.

Bigby shakes his head, and thinks of the most ominous thing he can say, she’s certain, “Mr. Smith put Lily to rest here.”

“You’re right.” Beauty shakes her head, like she doesn’t want to believe it, “It fits. He’s acting out scenes from the book. That poor girl…” She steps over to the door, crossing her arms over her chest, “She couldn’t have known…she probably just needed the money. She could have been…anyone. How did she wind up here?” She pauses, contemplating, “I mean, not exactly here, but…”

“Georgie Porgie took advantage of her.” Bigby offers simply, trying to sound comforting.

She places the cassette into the player, her stomach flipping with anticipation as she wonders what the hell might be on the damn thing, and is more surprised than she ought to be when nature music and fake Homelands music plays.

Beauty steps forward, “Bigby, this…I think I heard this music. Last night. It was playing pretty loudly for a while, and then stopped in the middle. I didn’t think twice about it at the time, I mean…you hear all kinds of things around here. And I guess I’ve already gotten used to blocking them out.”

Bigby looks to her, and starts tossing ideas, “Could have covered up the sound of the murder.”

She steps over to the far wall, responding with, “She might’ve refused to play along, you know? She tries to shut things down, and he gets pissed. The cassette had to get on the desk somehow, though.” She pulls open the closet, and is yet again baffled to find the traditional Homelands dress she remembered the little farmgirls wearing whenever she managed to sneak off to Village or market.

“This dress is torn, and pretty old, from the looks of it.” She shakes her head, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was Homelands original.”

“Oh no, she must have been wearing it! He killed her, and then he…took it back off -.”

Bigby shakes his head and interrupts, “No. There’s no blood on it. It must have been torn some other time.”

“But it plays into the Indignant Snow theory.” She says, trying to keep a level head.

“This is the exact same dress as the one in the book about Snow.” Bigby claims, crossing his arms over his chest, “Smith was dressing up Lily, to recreate the book.”

Beauty steps around the room, like she’s only just piecing it all together, “God, I can see the whole picture now! It all goes together, like you said! The creep put that girl in a Snow White dress and recreated the whole tory from the book, with the apple and the deep sleep and…everything!” She pauses, shaking her head, “You two are better at this than I thought you’d be.”

They glance at one another, and Bigby offers a confused, “Thanks?”

“So, he planned it all out , he had all the details noted down. Only, then, when it comes time to kiss her and wake her up…”

Bigby looks back at the closet, “Yeah.”

“I hope you’re just about through. I don’t really want to stay in here any longer.”

He ignores her, and continues to look at the dress, examining it from head to toe, and every stitch, like it would give him all the answers he needed, until something on the ground catches his eye.

“What?” She asks, stepping forward, “What is it, bab…Bigby?”

The first photo is of Snow crossing the bridge in the center of Fabletown, the one good place they hadn’t managed to fuck up yet. Save TJ finding Lily’s body there.

The next one is of the winter before she came to the Business Office, Bigby and Snow standing out front of Cinderella’s shoe store, dressed warmly.

“Oh, no Bigby…this kind of stalking…it doesn’t just stop by itself. Trust me, I know about this, firsthand. He’ll keep trying to get closer and closer.”

The third photo is of she and Snow, on one of the days they were working on the Key Case, Snow flailing her hands wildly as they walked back to the Business Office.

“Jesus.” She mutters, trying to suppress a shudder. She watches as he pulls the next picture, dreading it even more than the last. Bigby gasps, and her throat swells when she sees the photograph.

“What is it?” Beauty asks.

They turn to the bed, and she leans against the desk, incapable of really believing it was true, and massages the bridge of her nose.

“It’s Crane.”

Chapter Text

She didn’t know what to do with her hands. She only realized they went numb after she goes to cover her mouth, to hide her shock, and she doesn’t want to believe it. She doesn’t want to believe that Crane was…as crooked as she’d thought him to be, and feeling right settles in her stomach like wet cement.

Bigby lowers his arms, his brow furrowing, as if everything were coming into perspective for him, and growls, “That fucking creep. Spineless little fuckin’ rat!”

She can’t move. She only realized that her feet were stuck in place when she tries to follow Beauty and Bigby and the cement in her chest starts to harden, and her breathing becomes impossible and she shakes her head, watching as Beauty and Bigby bicker about how Crane was...fuck.

“Bigby, you have to tell her.”

“I know!” He snaps at Beauty, and just before he takes off down the stairs, he watches her kneel down and pick up the horrible photograph of Crane’s twisted fantasy, and she knows, she fucking knows that it isn’t Lily in the picture, and she stares at the blood and the ringing in her ears has to be caused by the cement welling in her chest.

“Hey!” Bigby’s voice cuts through the ringing, silencing it, and she realizes he must’ve been calling her name, “We gotta go, now, alright?” His voice is harsh, but he tries to be soft, for her, because he knows how much this means to her.

“This isn’t Lily.” The picture is practically slipping from her fingertips, but she manages to point at the small tattoo on the girl’s thigh, “It’s Anne.”

“We’re gonna find her.” He swears, and she can’t bring herself to believe him, not after what happened to Lily, “We need to find out where she is tonight, alright?”

“Snow’s in danger now.” She says, voice only cracking a little as she does her damnedest to switch back into Officer mode. “Let’s go.”

They practically sprint down the stairs, and he thinks to head to the phone first while she tries to shut Beast up.

He throws the phone, disconnecting the useless wire and drawing the whole machine from the wall, leaving it dangling.

“Whoa! Bigby, calm down.” Beauty says curtly, like Bigby was just another Beast she could try to tame. “Everything’s going to be fine, okay? It’s going to be fine.” She couldn’t tell if Beauty was trying to convince them or herself.

Beast huffs, “Will someone please explain this to me?”

Running his hands over his face, Bigby explains, “Crane might be following Snow. If I can find her, I can…goddammit!”

“She’s at the Business Office.” She interjects, feeling smaller than herself, “She’s with Holly, preparing for the funeral tonight.” She pauses, swallowing, “I’m going to find my sister, Bigby. You go find Snow.”

“You can’t go alone -.”

“Bigby.” She interjects, shaking her head, “Crane’s not after me. I need to find her, and you have to warn Snow.”

“She was supposed to be here.” He answers, defeated, as Beauty and Beast argue about his drinking habits, letting him know when and where the funeral was taking place.

“I’ll go back to the Puddin’ and Pie, talk to Nerissa or…someone, okay? I will be fine.” She pauses, “Every second we waste here, they’re both in more and more danger, alright? So…” She can’t think of anything else to stay, so she steps forward, pinching his wrist, “I’ll be fine.” She swears, and he shakes his head, and then nods, storming out the door to find the funeral. She doesn’t stay to hear what Beauty has to say.

Vivian smiles when she sees her again, and then frowns, her brows drawing together, “You alright, sugar?”

“Vivian.” She says curtly, trying to sound stronger than she felt, “I booked an appointment with Anne, and she didn’t show. Where is she?”

She purses her lips, looking over her shoulder like the boogeyman could reach out and take her, “These lips are -.”

“Sealed.” Fresh tears threaten to fall, “My sister might be dead, Vivian. I don’t if this is some curse or whatever, but she’s the only blood I have left.”

Vivian shakes her head, pity crossing her expression for only a moment, “I can’t help you.” She whispers, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Please, please, just…” She sounds desperate, begging like that, “You can write the address or even just…I can’t lose her too.”

Vivian just stares for a moment, like she was just some relic from a time most of them forgot, to be appraised and to be sold, like she was judging her worth.

And then she holds out her hand and says, “Cigarettes.” Her free hand pulls a pen from her cleavage, and she shakes her head as she scribbles on the base of the cigarette carton.

“Huff and Puffs.” She snorts, “Shit brand.” She takes one anyway and returns the rest of the pack to her, “Good luck, sister.” She presses a kiss to her cheek, and pulls away with a smirk that reminded her why Georgie kept her out front.

The cigarette pack only read ‘Woodsman’.

The concrete is back and heavier than ever.

The taxi can’t drive fast enough, and she bangs on the door, cursing Toad for locking it, demanding that he open it, that it was the police, that –

“What the bloody fuckin’ ‘ell!” Toad screeches, unglamoured, and then stills when he sees her, “What the ‘ell you doin’, luv?”

“Did Woody bring anyone here tonight? Did you see him?” She’s already pushing past him.

“Fuckin’ drunk is always bringin’ girls in. Brought one in tonight, I reckon.” He shrugs, “Long as the noise stays down, s’all fine.”

She doesn’t bother with any more conversation, heading up the stairs and grimacing when she hears the conversation.

“Anne!” She knocks on the door, “Police! Open the door!”

They still for a moment, and the seductive ambience might be ruined, but she’s never been happier to see Anne than she was right then, regardless of her state of undress and the fact that she stood in the middle of the room, despite the mediocrely patched hole in the wall.

“What’re you doin’ here?” Woody slurs, alcohol evident on his voice, and then he blinks, “Oh…oh, shit. I hit you, didn’t I?”

She hesitates, trying to find the best way to handle this ticking timebomb, “I’ll drop the charge if you let your girl come with me.”

He seems to mull it over, but slowly starts to nod, “S’okay. Sounds good.” He steps out of the way, and Anne grabs her things, thankful for the opt out.

“Give her her money.” She demands, and Woody, seemingly too drunk or too intimidated, pulls out a thick wad of cash just as Anne zips her dress back into place.

Her eyes wander to the little Homelands tattoo on Anne’s thigh, and she breathes a sigh of relief, knowing that she would be talking with her sister.

She slams the door shut on Woody, leaving him to his own stupor, and grabs Anne by the arm, pulling her down and out of the must-ridden building.

“What’s going on?” Anne demands, pulling her arm free when they step onto the sidewalk, “Stop…stop!”

She stops walking, groaning and turning to look at her sister, “Everything is going to shit, and I thought you were dead.” She throws her arms around her, finally, holding Anne close, “Fuck, I thought that sick fuck got you.”

“Hey, hey, I’m right here.” Anne promises, and then pulls her to arm’s length, “What’s this about?”

“We found who murdered Faith and Lily.” Anne pales, “Why aren’t you at her funeral?”

“Woody booked me before he got drunk. Couldn’t get out of it.” She shrugs, “Never been too fond of goodbyes anyway.”

She sheds her jacket and pulls it around Anne’s shivering frame, “Come on. We can still meet Bigby if we…”

“No.” Anne stills, her brow furrowing, “You don’t just get to step in and try to make things better.”

She scoffs, “Two women were already murdered, Anne. I’m trying to keep you safe.”

“I don’t need your help!” She pulls the jacket off and throws it to her sister, “And I’m not in any danger.” She lies straight through her teeth, but then pauses, contemplating.

“I didn’t think I was in danger with Bluebeard until it was too late, Anne. Until I found those girls.” She shakes her head and sniffs, “You’re not safe.”

“It’s not the same thing.”

“It is!” She raises her voice, “At least, at the very least, let Holly know that you really were there for Lily.”

That seems to do it for Anne, as she runs a hand over her eye and sighs, “Okay. For Lily.”

Chapter Text

The ride to the underpass is filled with awkward silence, heavy as they look out their respective windows, until she finally breaks the tension.

“We found the picture of Crane…doing things to you.”

Anne turns to look at her, looking beaten down and…tired. Really, really tired. “These lips are sealed.” She mutters, picking at her thumb nail.

“What’s with that? Is it the ribbon?”

Anne opens her mouth to answer, but instead of saying anything, she clamps her mouth shut and shrugs. “You’re not going to get any answers out of any of us.” She finally answers, shutting her eyes.

“Do you know who Georgie’s working for, at least?”

Anne purses her lips, frustration passing her face, until she shakes her head. “No.” She lies, thinking it better than giving her spiel again.

She looks at Anne, really looks at her, and tries to understand why she went to Georgie before she went to find her, why she went straight to the last resort before coming to her. “I’m sorry.” She says instead, “About Lily.”

Anne shrugs, tears springing to her eyes, “People hated her, you know? We needed the glamour so she could…not be a troll for those guys. She liked it. Said being glamoured made her feel prettier.” She shrugs, “I loved her, through and through.”

“We’re gonna find him.” She promises, daring to press a hand to her shoulder blade, trying to comfort her. Anne looks at her, tears still welling in her eyes.

She sighs, “I want to believe you. I really, really do.”

They reach the underpass just in time to catch shit falling apart, Holly yelling at Bigby and Snow.

“Shit.” She mutters, and Anne follows closely behind, “What’s going on?”

“And you!” Holly turns, pointing an accusatory finger at her, “You let your fucking boss toss my sister down the fucking Witching Well!” Her voice breaks, and she tries to regain composure, “You fucking promised me!”

She looks at Snow and Bigby, eyes wide, “Crane threw Lily down the Witching Well?”

“We didn’t know.” Snow says, adamantly crossing her arms over her chest.

“Holly, we’ve been in and out of the Trap all day.” She compromises, “We went to the Puddin’ n Pie. The last time Bigby and I were at the Business Office was…” She comes to a halt, trying to remember when she was last there, “Was last night.”

“Well, why the fuck are you here?” She finally looks at Anne, “And who the fuck is this?”

Anne answers for herself, “My…my name is Anne. Your sister and I…” She trails off, seemingly embarrassed. It takes her a minute to realize she’s crying, “Your sister and I were together.”

Something passes over Holly’s face – regret, shock, pity, whatever – and she shakes her head, “Goddammit.” She turns back to Bigby, “You have ten fucking minutes to talk to Snow, and when trouble comes, because you are a fucking trap for it, I want you outta here.” She demands, and then, voice softer, she looks back to she and Anne, “You two can stay.”

Anne goes to sit by Nerissa, the latter putting her arm around the former, and the three of them step off to talk.

Snow immediately starts biting, “I know you didn’t come here to pay your respects, so whatever it is better be wildly important. It’s been hard enough making a connection with these people. When you pull this kind of stuff it just resets the clock.”

She’d never wanted to hit Snow more than right then.

“Snow, Crane is completely obsessed with you.”

“Oh my God, if this is how Crane treats me at work -.”

She finally snaps, “For fuck’s sake, Snow, just listen to him!”

Snow puckers her lips like she sucked on something sour, but Bigby continues, “I followed a lead to this shithole motel, The Open Arms. Cane had a room there, and he’s been taking prostitutes, or at the very least, Lily and Anne…and making them look like you while he was…you know.”

She picks up where he left off, “He’s obsessed with your story. He replays it, over and over, down to the crappy Homelands dresses and coma.”

Snow’s eyes widen, and for a minute, she’s afraid she might puke, but instead, she turns away, “This…is…I don’t even know what to say right now. I really don’t. I’m just trying not to…picture it.”

“I’m sorry, Snow.” He suddenly apologizes, “And I’m sorry I had to be the one to tell you.”

“You’re sure this is what happened? This is what he’s been doing? Because, please, Bigby…don’t confuse things. Deposing Crane would be the next step.”

Bigby looks like a kicked puppy, “I thought you trusted me more than that.”

“I do.” Snow is quick to the undertaking, “or…I want to. But you’ve got a hot head and a big heart, and sometimes, that’s not the best combination.”

“That’s fine and dandy,” She interjects, subtly pinching Bigby’s wrist, “But we’ve got a killer – or, at the very least, an insane megalomaniac – on the loose.”

Snow sighs, “You’re right. Look, let’s go back to the Business Office. I doubt Crane’ there at this hour, but…we need to talk and this isn’t the place.”

Nerissa approaches them then, and for some reason, Holly asks for Snow to help with the burn. Considering how much Holly hated the Business Office, it confused her to no end.

Bigby, the ever understand one, let’s her go with a quick ‘take your time’ and she’s off, leaving them with Nerissa.

“How’d it go?” She asks, crossing her arms over her chest, “At the…motel? Did you find anything?”

“I, uh, yeah, we did.” Bigby gives her something resembling a smile, “Thanks.”

Nerissa’s called back off to join the funeral rites, leaving the two of them alone yet again.

“How’s your sister?” He asks, catching sight of her standing next to Holly, speaking somberly.

“Grieving.” She sighs, “I think she’ll be okay.”

And then, before either of them can say anything further, they’re met with the cold metal of a gun’s muzzle, and all she thinks to say is, “Shit.”

“Constable. Luv.” Dee greets, pressing his shotgun into the small of Bigby’s back. When he tries to turn around, Dee shoves it forward as further warning, “Wait, wait, wait, easy now, girl. You know how this goes. The first thing in a visit? You say ‘how do you do’? How do you do? That way, it’s proper?”

“What the hell are you two doing here?” She hisses, trying to break her arm free of Dum’s grasp, “Now’s really not the time for whatever the hell you two are planning on.”

“Well, isn’t that the thing of it? Plans.”

Dum finally speaks up, squeezing her arm, “Except it isn’t our plans you should be concerning yourself with.”

“I’m still hurtin’ you know. From our ‘talk’ in the cell. And I’ll be honest, I’d love nothin’ more than to carve a sweet poem right into your face for the suffern’ you’ve caused me…but I am a professional, and we’re here for a job.” He jabs the shotgun into his back twice, “We’ll snip to the chase, for all’s sake. A little bird told us that you’re fittin’ to go after Crane. And, you see, we have an interest in that particular boy.”

“So you two leave Crane alone, and we leave you alone.” Dum finishes, ending his point with a twist of his pistol.

“Just take a little vacation, is all. A romantic getaway, maybe. Two o’ you, nice little island, white beaches, e’erything two lovebirds could ever want.”

“Are you workin’ for Crane? Did he send you?” Bigby asks, whereas she would have just told them to fuck off.

“See, you’re already askin’ too many questions. Just pay attention.”

Holly catches sight of them, with the Tweedles behind them, and she shakes her head as subtly as she can, trying to ensure no one got hurt. With Holly walking over to them, with the threat of someone getting shot more and more real, he agrees to their terms, agrees to keep quiet.

“Ladies, gentleman, invertebrates! Please! Rest easy, this is not…”

When Gren sees the guns, he asks, “What the hell is going on?”

“Very sorry to impose, but we only had a deal to work out with Bigby. And we’re happy to report that everything went smoothly, so if you’ll just allow us to get out of your hair…”

“Bigby, what is he talking about?” Snow bites, brows furrowing.

Bigby takes the chance to step away, dragging her with him, “I said alright already. Just go.”

“And go we shall, as men of our word.” Dee grins, looking straight at her, “Shame, luv. We worked so well together.”

“We won’t ruin any more of the wedding or…whatever.”

That’s enough to have Holly slipping out of her glamour, rage and sickening green light radiating off of her, and the first thing she does is glare at Bigby, “What did I tell you? What did I say!?”

“Holly…” He tries to diffuse the situation, but they were making it really, really hard.

Grendel shifts, his rage directed at the Tweedles, “You think you motherfuckers can come here uninvited? You think you can just fuckin’ interrupt Lily’s funeral?!

“Calm down, darling. It was just a simple business transaction.” Dee says, completely unhelpful.

“You fucking freaks are not getting away with this!” Holly yells, and she swears under her breath, sick of the petty fighting.

“It’s not worth it Holly, they’ll leave on their own.” Bigby tries again.

“Yeah, let’s spare all the fuss. It’s just a dead whore.”

Holly roars, and is immediately shot when she charges at Dee, but Grendel manages to pin Dum down.

Bigby goes for the gun Dee has trained on Gren, and she feels overwhelmingly unhelpful at the moment, trying to figure out how the hell this all went down in the first place.

Bigby and Grendel are both shot by Dum, and the cowards manage to scurry off, and suddenly, they’re left alone with three victims.

She’s chasing after them before she realizes her feet are taking her that way, kicking off those stupid heels and wishing she wasn’t wearing fucking pantyhose, but the Tweedles are short and stout, and don’t make for a quick getaway. They reach a black car that squeals off, the two of them screaming bloody murder at her as they pull off.

“God fucking shit!” She screams, though no one’s listening.