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Between the Paws of the Tender Wolf

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“You didn’t have to come with me to the Trip Trap,” Bigby Wolf mutters to Snow White as he extends her a hand. She takes it and climbs elegantly out of the taxi, and they are both hit with a blanket of humidity that’s near-smothering. It’s early evening: the sinking sun is casting long shadows on the tarmac, distorting and elongating their figures. If it weren’t so muggy, Bigby thinks, it would be a pleasant evening, all deep pinks and burnt golds in the sunset. But he’s sweating underneath his shirt and they have a job to do, and there isn’t a damn pleasant thing about this part of town.

 “Yes, but we’re about to break some delicate news to Holly, Bigby. It’s less for my own benefit and more to keep you on your… leash, so to speak.”

 “Huh,” grunts Bigby.

 “If you’ll forgive the pun.”

 “I’m sorry that I’m such a pain in the ass to work with,” he says dryly, tapping out a trusty Huff ‘n’ Puff to try and drown out the mingling aromas of hot garbage and booze.

 “Perhaps I’ve become accustomed to the company of wolves,” Snow says. She looks pleased with her quip but it amuses Bigby less so. He rolls his eyes then lights the cigarette. “Should we go straight in?”

 “Gimme a minute.”

 

He smokes in silence for a moment, gathering himself before they head inside. Informing Holly that her missing sister turned up dead and headless is not going to be the most pleasurable of conversations. She’s going to be pissed, and rightly so. But it still won’t be pretty. Dealing with Gren, assuming he is present, isn’t going to bring him much joy either, especially since he damn-near ripped his arm clean off the other night and Gren is probably bitter about it (and rightly so). But, as he keeps telling himself, it’s just another aspect of his job as the sheriff... A job that won’t get any easier as the night progresses, apparently. Snow interrupts his train of thought by voicing a concern.

 

“I just can’t believe that poor girl… This is so messed up. She’d been reported missing weeks ago. We should have been able to do something, surely,” she laments, her constantly down-turned lips even more worried than usual.

 Bigby pauses, mulling over what to say. It would be perfectly easy to be brutal about the whole ordeal: the troll was a prostitute, not to mention a heavy drug-user… death was just an occupational hazard. But something in the way Snow’s magnificent eyebrows are knitting together tells him that saying that wouldn’t help the situation one bit.

 “We should have,” he agrees. “But it’s too late for that and there’s no point agonising over it. The only thing we can do now is to keep pushing and try to find the bastard who did this to her… Faith too.”

 “It’s just… Whenever I close my eyes, I can’t stop seeing her body... My body…” Her voice wobbles and something akin to mild panic flares in Bigby’s chest. He’s a lot of things but emotionally empathetic isn’t one of them. Unsure of what to do to comfort her, he offers her a cigarette. Snow hesitates for a moment, gazing longingly at the open pack and then the embers at his mouth, but politely declines.

 

Bigby sighs inwardly. Being a wolf is simple: there is only hunger and the hunt and the kill. Human emotions are so much messier. He is dying to apologise for something, although he isn’t quite sure what, even if it is just to drag Snow out of her withdrawn, icy silence. He blurts out the first thing he can think of to say sorry for.

 

“Listen Snow, earlier… about the lingerie thing. I guess I shouldn’t have been so blunt about it-”

A blush rushes to her face and she quickly cuts him off. “Actually, we shouldn’t discuss that any further right now,” she says sharply. “We have more urgent matters to attend to.”

"Right…” Bigby can see the way her cheeks go patchy with blood, hardly disguised underneath her pale skin. An awkward silence muscles itself in-between them. He regrets mentioning the lingerie thing to be perfectly honest, but it had been niggling in the very back of his mind like an itch he couldn’t quite scratch the entire taxi ride here. He felt he had transgressed some kind of boundary back there, and Snow hadn’t been too happy about it. Crossing the line with violence is one thing, but sex is an entirely different kettle of fish. Bigby is no prude, but he’s no Lothario either. And he’s almost entirely unsure of Snow’s stance on the matter. In fact, ever since he can remember she’s been married to the job, essentially. It’s not like she really divulges much about her private life at work anyway... But she had history with Charming, everyone knows that, they must have been… intimate, at some point? They definitely would have, Charming was too slick in that regard. Bigby thinks about Snow and he thinks about silk lingerie and he thinks about her pale, pale skin and her heady scent overwhelming his senses and he wonders if she’s always so cold all the time…

 

The thought is so distracting he nearly burns his fingertips on the butt of his cigarette which has burnt to a stub. He flicks it away hastily.

 Human emotions are much, much messier.

 

“Everything alright?” Snow says, clearing her throat and regaining her professional air.

 “Yeah.” Bigby lights another cigarette without thinking about it. “Just gimme… another minute. Feels like we haven’t stopped all day. The next few hours is gonna be a shit-storm.” He knows it’s a lame excuse but he can’t even remember the last time he slept.

 “You really should stop with those things,” Snow reprimands softly, perhaps even fondly.

 “It’s a little something the Mundy scientists like to call ‘nicotine addiction’,” Bigby retorts, allowing plumes of thick smoke to bloom in his lungs. He exhales slowly.

 “They make my clothes stink. My hair too.” It’s as if she’s trying really hard not to think of the task in hand and Bigby is actually sort of grateful for it, in that moment. It’s funny though: he makes such an effort to mask the smell of Snow White, and all the rest of it, but she’s the one getting stuck with the smell of him lingering around her.

 “Sorry, I guess.” He’s not really sure what to say, so he continues with the theme of apology.

 “It’s fine. I suppose it becomes sort of comforting after a while.”

 “Oh?”

 “That was a stupid thing to say,” she mutters, blushing again, but it makes Bigby’s pathetic human heart flutter regardless. Comforting? Never in his hundreds of years in existence has anyone ever called the Big Bad Wolf ‘comforting’.

 “No, what do you mean?” he says gently. He’s surprised by how gently he says it. He’s surprised by how gently he steps closer to her, close enough that the scent of her overpowers even the billows of smoke he’s puffing into the air above her head. She’s staring up at him, her pale blue eyes so intense it’s almost frightening. He can hear her heart beat getting faster and faster.

 “I just mean that it’s familiar. And in uncertain times such as these… that can be quite comforting…” she says. Her cheeks are aflame and her lips have parted slightly and she’s looking so intently at him that he almost doesn’t notice that her hand is resting nervously on his forearm.

 

It’s a complicated emotion Bigby is feeling. He simultaneously wants to devour her and kiss her and bundle her safely between his paws so none of the shit from the big wide world can ever hurt her. His breathing has become heavy and he feels distinctly lupine despite being certain he’s in human form. Snow White does weird things to him. He wants to kiss her. He has an overwhelming desire to kiss her.

 

Just then, a frustrated yell emanates out of the Trip Trap’s front door and there’s the sound of smashing glass. Both of them are pulled jarringly back to reality.

 

“Um, we should head inside,” Snow says matter-of-factly, straightening her jacket and pushing a loose curl behind her ear.

“Yeah…” Bigby draws hard one last time on the cigarette before following her down the steps.