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The Good Little Wolf

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Foggy’s been training for this day his whole life.

 

Years of practicing growling and the greedy gobbling of goodies. Years of charm school and debate classes to learn how to tempt wayward children off the path and into the Woods. Years of learning his lines perfectly so that nothing will go wrong. Years of learning the Story.

 

Tempt Little Red Riding Hood. Eat Granny. Dress in Drag. Eat Little Red Riding Hood. Eat Little Red Riding Hood’s Basket of Goodies. Live Happily Ever After.

 

The Chapters are clear, every rule and step explained to Foggy a million times by the other Wolves. As long as he follows the Rules and finishes the Story, everything will be perfect. Foggy will get his Happy Ending. This is what Foggy was born to do. This is his destiny.

 

Fuck destiny. Foggy picks flowers instead.

 

He’d been given the keys to his new cottage this morning, deep in the Woods and away from the world. The trees are sort of twisted and the bushes are thorny, and it seems like it’s always nighttime at Foggy’s cottage regardless of what time it is anywhere else in the Woods. There’s also a roasting spit and a cauldron and a lot of butcher knives that came with the place as a subtle hint of his duties. The other Wolves had assured him that the cooking part was optional—actually, they recommended Little Red raw. Juicier, they told him. Tender young meat, nice and sweet. You’ll love it.

 

Foggy had tried mentioning for the hundredth time that he was a vegetarian, but they’d just patted him on the head and chuckled.

 

Still, Foggy likes his new home. It’s the first time he’s been away from the Den by himself, and he’s thrilled to have his own space. The trees are twisted, but that just makes them look elegant. The thorny bushes are actually berry bushes, which means he can make jam and pies. It’s always nighttime, but that means Foggy will never get sunburned. He can roast apples on the spit, make veggie soup using the cauldron, and use the butcher knives to…well, he’ll figure out something to do with them. Other than butchering, of course. 

 

And it’s cozy, he thinks—or at least it would be if there were anything other than menacing cooking implements and a surprisingly nice bed for decoration. It just needs some sprucing up. So he sweeps away the cobwebs and washes the surprisingly nice silk sheets on the surprisingly nice bed, and then he goes to pick flowers.

 

He packs a basket lunch, because he has a tendency to stress eat and also because picking flowers is seriously hard work. He’ll need his strength. They’d given him all sorts of baking supplies—mostly for shepherd’s pie, they told him, heavy on the shepherd. Foggy picks some berries and bakes fruit pies instead, packs one for the road, and sets out.

 

He decides that following the path from his house is probably the best idea. The whole point of being here is to tempt Little Red Riding Hood. He’s supposed to tempt her with flower picking, which means somewhere around here there are flowers awesome enough to make little girls dumb enough to break the Rules.

 

They're nice Woods, Foggy muses as he walks. There are a few maples, which means syrup when the season’s right. There are pines too, which means pinecones for the winter fire. The path’s winding, but also clear—once he learns where it goes, it will be very hard to get lost.

 

And there are the lovely flowers, just off the path. They’re bright and colorful, far prettier than anything Foggy’s seen at the Den. They smell sweet too, heady and perfumed. They make Foggy feel a little dizzy, but in the best way. The sleepy way you get after a warm bath, right before you climb into bed. He can see why you’d be willing to break the Rules for them.

 

They’ll brighten up his new house like a charm. Foggy wanders off the path, settles down and starts choosing blossoms. His new house is going to look badass. So many flowers.

 

He’s gathering quite a nice bouquet, and has just started towards a patch of purple flowers to complement the yellow ones he already has, when he feels the knife press gently to his throat. A warm arm wraps around his waist and pulls him back into an even warmer body. He freezes, a handful of buttercups in his hands.

 

“New blood, fantastic.” The person wielding the knife mutters, sounding like he doesn’t think it’s very fantastic at all. His breath is hot in Foggy’s rather sensitive ear, and Foggy shivers. Thank goodness he's fully human at the moment. If he had his wolf ears, this would be ten times worse. They're far too delicate for...this. “Who did you steal the basket from?”

 

“No one.” Foggy assures him quickly. “My basket. Totally my basket.” The knife man snorts.

 

“A Wolf carrying around a basket of goodies?” He drawls dryly. “I think you’re in the wrong Story.” Foggy scowls, wishing he could scowl at the man instead of at the flowers.

 

“What, a guy can’t like goodies?” He snaps. “I happen to have a sweet tooth.”

 

“Sugar.” The man murmurs, pensive. “You smell like sugar and berries. Strange, for a Wolf.” The man takes a deep breath, deliberate, and his lips brush just against the shell of Foggy’s extremely inconveniently sensitive ear. Foggy shivers again automatically, and then he blinks when the actual words register.

 

Excuse me?” He asks, breathless with indignation. “Are you sniffing me right now? Are you some sort of sick sugar-loving pervert?”

 

“What?” The knife man yelps, and the knife falters just enough in his shock that Foggy manages to knock it aside and scramble away and around. He crouches in the grass in a wary position, basket crooked in one arm and carefully crafted bouquet in the other. The bouquet will be pretty useless in a fight, but he might be able to smack the man with his basket.

 

The man who is…wow. Foggy swallows, eyes wide.

 

Seriously hot. Dark hair, red lips, and a complexion that Snow White herself would be jealous of. Fantastic body, lovely face that is made roguishly rugged by just a trace of stubble, and probably stunning eyes—although Foggy can’t be sure, since the man is wearing tinted glasses. He’d bet anything that the man’s eyes are just as perfect as the rest of him. Hot.

 

Still. Hotness is an excuse for many things, but it is not an excuse for armed assault.

 

Hot Guy’s lovely perfect red lips are just slightly parted in surprise. He stares back at Foggy for a few long moments, and then holds up his knife again.

 

Why do you smell like sugar?” The man growls. “Did you eat a baker?”  

 

“No!” Foggy hastens to reassure him, a little alarmed as the very-hot-but-still-holding-a-knife man advances towards him. “No bakers. I’m a very friendly Wolf. Very nice, no murdering. A pacifist, actually, and one who happens to be allergic to knives, so if you wouldn’t mind…” He scrambles further away.

 

“Wolves aren’t friendly.” The not-quite-so-hot-anymore-because-of-the-whole-knife-thing man takes another rather menacing step towards him. “Do you know what I did to the last ‘friendly’ Wolf I met?” His smile is grim and a little too pleased. Foggy swallows.

 

“I’m guessing you didn’t pick flowers with him.” He offers weakly, before holding up the bouquet as a desperate shield. “But we can totally try that part right now. It’s a much more rewarding activity than brandishing a knife at someone.” He gives the man a significant stare. “You know, someone who hasn’t actually done anything wrong.”

 

“You’re a Wolf.” The man says flatly, like this explains everything. Foggy frowns.

 

“That doesn’t mean I’ve done anything wrong. You’re profiling!” He scolds. “I was just sitting here picking flowers and minding my own business. I’m not the one going around whipping out my dagger at people.” He pauses, and then snickers. “Heh, that sounded kind of dirty.”

 

The very hot man looks rather taken aback. His mouth is slightly ajar again in a rather adorable display of confusion.

 

“Dirty? I’m not—you—“ He stops, gritting his teeth. “Why are you picking flowers? What are you going to do with them?” He doesn’t sound like he means it in a kindly inquisitive way. It sounds like he’s accusing Foggy of using them to make a Draught of Living Death or something.

 

“I was planning on putting them on my kitchen table.” Foggy tells the man honestly. “And maybe some on the windowsill. Different kinds, of course, to complement the color scheme.”

 

The man hesitates.

 

“You don’t seem very wolfish to me.” He admits slowly. “Wolves don’t have kitchens, and they don’t pick flowers. None of the other Wolves did, anyway.” Foggy nods eagerly.

 

“Right, I’m a different kind of Wolf.” He agrees quickly. “A really nice Wolf, honestly.” The man frowns at him.

 

“Really.” He drawls, skeptical but definitely not as aggressive as before. “So why are you here, Wolf? Other than picking flowers and interior decorating?” Foggy hesitates.

 

He’s well aware of the dangers of this Story, the roadblocks to his Happy Ending. Foggy’s been trained to handle them his whole life. The number one threat? The Huntsman. A lean, mean, Wolf-hunting machine, given to gutting, decapitating and all other grisly manners of murder. Foggy’s heard horror stories from the Wolves who have managed to limp back to the Den after a run-in.

 

This particular Telling has a worrying high turnover rate. Foggy’s seen over twenty well-worn veterans wandering around the Den, perpetually dazed and forced to drink their meals out of a straw. None of them have been killed, which is unusual, but judging from their babbling words about a Devil they might wish they had been.

 

It’s only due to the sudden job opening that Foggy even got this assignment. He was supposed to be in training for another few months, but they wanted to try a fresh take on the problem. Try not to get stabbed, they’d told him helpfully.

 

He eyes the hot man’s knife in great trepidation. Good with pointy things and not afraid to use them, serious vendetta against Wolves…

 

“Please tell me you’re not the Huntsman.” Foggy begs. The man tenses in a rather telling manner, and Foggy moans. “No, come on. I haven’t even been here one day! How can I have already been caught by the Huntsman? That’s not fair. I want a redo.”

 

The man regards him blankly for a moment, knife not faltering an inch.

 

“A redo?” He asks incredulously. “Of course I’m not going to give you a redo. It’s not my fault you’re a bad Bad Wolf.” Foggy glares at him.

 

“I am an amazing Bad Wolf.” He snaps. “I got the top score ever in my persuasive speaking class. I set a record! And just because I failed Mauling 101 doesn’t mean I’m a failure. That class was rigged anyway. Favoritism.” He mutters mutinously.

 

Truthfully, he failed Mauling 101 because he refused to actually maul anything, instead tucking away the rabbits out of sight until after class and setting them free later. The teacher didn’t know that though, and he’d still failed Foggy. Asshole.

 

“You failed Mauling?” The man—the Huntsman, Foggy’s screwed—asks, sounding bewildered. “What kind of Wolf are you?”

 

“A good one.” Foggy tells him primly. “Which is why I shouldn’t get killed by the Huntsman on my first day. Or ever, actually. I’m not planning on killing anyone, so there’s no need for any bloody vengeance.” He offers hastily. “We can just along peacefully, no need for violence. There’s plenty of room in the Woods for the both of us.”

 

He gives his most winning smile, careful to keep his teeth humanly blunt and nonthreatening. The Huntsman seems unimpressed, ignoring the smile entirely and snorting.

 

“So, you want me to leave you alone, unattended, and trust that you’re not going to attack people?” He translates, a little derisive. “That’s not going to happen. I should probably just nip this in the bud, actually.” He takes another threatening step forward, and Foggy flings up his hands in panic.

 

He really doesn’t want to fight this guy, for several reasons. One, Foggy’s not a fighter. He prefers to make love, not war. Two, this guy is seriously beautiful and Foggy doesn’t want to mess up that face. Three, and perhaps most importantly, Foggy’s pretty sure he wouldn’t win a fight with this guy and he’d prefer not to be slaughered before he’s even had his pie.

 

“I don’t have to be unattended!” He points out quickly, taking a surreptitious step backwards. “You could watch me, make sure I don’t do anything overtly wolfish. That’s sort of your job anyway, right? Watching out for Wolves? This is the same thing, only less stabby.”

 

The Huntsman stops, frowning.

 

“You want me to guard you?” He wonders, sounding entirely bewildered. Foggy nods eagerly.

 

“Yeah. I’ll just be picking flowers and eating pie, and then I’ll head back home. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. No murder or mayhem. You can make sure, and then you’ll know you can trust me.” He explains, a brilliant idea striking him. “And you can have pie too! Lots of pie, plenty to go around.” Pie makes everything better. No one can be in a bad, murderous mood after eating pie.

 

The Huntsman’s frown deepens, but his arm relaxes a little, knife slipping into a lower position.

 

“You want to have a picnic.” He paraphrases slowly. “You want to sit in a field of flowers and eat pie with your destined enemy.” Foggy nods, warming to the idea considerably.

 

“But we’re not destined to be enemies.” He argues earnestly. “People say that, but one size doesn’t fit all. We need to be like Cinderella here, find the right slipper. A peaceful, picnicking slipper.”

 

He gives another winning smile, because he’s heard they really are quite charming and maybe the Huntsman’s not as unaffected as he seems. It can’t hurt, anyway. The Huntsman is quiet for a long moment, expression indecipherable, and then he sighs.

 

“One wrong move and I will give you a firsthand demonstration of what I do to Wolves who cross me.” The Huntsman warns, and then settles down on the grass across from him, knife in one hand and the other outstretched expectantly. “I want the blackberry.”

 

Foggy beams at him.

 


 

The Huntsman eats the pie, holding the knife the whole time.

 

When they’re done, Foggy goes back to finishing his bouquets, and then the Huntsman walks him home. Foggy could almost imagine it was a date, except for the jagged knife being brandished at him every time a twig snaps.

 

It takes Foggy about halfway through the trip to figure out the Huntsman is blind.

 

In his defense, he’d like point out that the Huntsman doesn’t act blind. He doesn’t use a walking stick like the blind old hags do before they turn into beautiful fairies and start cursing people right and left. He never takes an uncertain step, and he trips less than Foggy does.

 

And yeah, the Huntsman wears those cool red glasses, but Foggy had honestly just thought they were a fashion statement. After all, they do look very cool. He’d been a little distracted by the knife earlier, but now that he’s looking he sees that the Huntsman is not looking. His eyes behind the glasses slide just a little past things, are just a little unfocused.

 

Huh. Foggy shrugs and keeps walking. It explains why the guy wasn’t swooning over Foggy’s winning smiles. He couldn’t see them. It’s a relief, actually—Foggy had been afraid he was losing his touch.

 

They arrive, and the Huntsman continues brandishing his knife as Foggy heads for the front door.

 

“Well, thank you for a lovely evening.” Foggy tells the Huntsman, smile pointedly warm and eyes straying towards the knife. The Huntsman grins right back.

 

“And thank you for a lovely dinner.” He replies just as amiably. “I hope you won’t mind if I don’t kiss you goodnight.”

 

“You’re an asshole.” Foggy tells him sweetly, and the Huntsman’s grin widens. “Okay, fine. You’re an asshole that walked me home, so—“ He shoves one of his bouquets into the Huntsman’s free hand. “Here, for being a such a gentleman.”

 

The Huntsman startles back, clutching the flowers and raising the knife sharply for a moment before seeming to realize that it’s not an attack. He frowns down at the bouquet.

 

“These aren’t cursed, are they?” He asks warily, and Foggy snorts.

 

“You were with me when I picked them.” He points out. “And Wolves aren’t fairies, honestly. I doubt I could cast a curse to save my life.” Which it actually might, considering he’s currently chatting with a man who most people agree would like to murder Foggy in cold blood. “It’s just a thank-you bouquet, chill.”

 

“A thank-you bouquet.” The Huntsman repeats slowly, expression unreadable. “Well. Thank you for the thank-you, I suppose.”

 

He shakes the bouquet, holding it with surprising gentleness. Not a single petal or leaf is bruised. Foggy nods, smile a little more real. It’s kind of cute, seeing the Huntsman holding a bouquet of flowers. The knife ruins it a little, but it’s still cute.

 

“Mm-hmm.” Foggy agrees, unlocking his door. He pauses, turning back to face the Huntsman who is still frowning down at the bouquet. “Seriously, it wasn’t bad for a first day.” He says quietly. “Thanks for giving me a chance.”

 

The Huntsman watches him for a moment, and then carefully sheathes the knife, stepping away.

 

“I still don’t trust you.” He informs Foggy bluntly. Foggy considers.

 

“I’ll probably get a few more flowers tomorrow, just to finish up decorating.” He offers cautiously. “So you could guard me then too, make sure I don’t commit any nefarious deeds.”

 

The strangest part is, he actually wouldn’t mind seeing the Huntsman again. He’s a little quiet and menacing and too fond of knives, but he seems like a good guy otherwise. Much nicer than Foggy was expecting the Huntsman to be, honestly.

 

Plus, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Which probably should have been the first reason he thought of, come to think of it. Not the ‘seems like a good guy’ bit.

 

The Huntsman is silent for a while, and then he nods tightly.

 

“Tomorrow then.” He says, turns on his heel and stalks away. He still has the bouquet clutched in one hand. Foggy smiles after him, bemused.

 

Odd man, definitely. Still, Foggy’s survived his first day and he’s reached a truce with the Huntsman already. He might actually be able to pull this off. A Happy Ending without the killing.

 

It’s a pretty good Once Upon A Time.

 


 

“You know, most people who go picnicking together actually know each other’s names.” Foggy mentions casually. The Huntsman hums thoughtfully, fingers running along the wicker of Foggy’s basket like he’s checking it for traps. Maybe he is.

 

“Most people picnicking together aren’t mortal enemies.” He points out, wry. Foggy glares, tearing out a daisy from the dirt with more force than is strictly necessary.

 

“How many times do I have to tell you, we’re not mortal enemies?” He snaps. “We are friendly acquaintances getting to know each other over a series of pleasant outings. Pleasant.” He emphasizes, perhaps just a little threatening. “Outings.”

 

“Fine.” The Huntsman says easily. “You start.” Foggy snorts.

 

“No way. You’ll just cop out after I tell you mine. You hunters are wily.” He eyes the basket suspiciously. The Huntsman isn’t setting traps, is he? Foggy will make him carry the basket back home, just to be sure.

 

The Huntsman shakes his head.

 

“No I won’t.” He denies. “I swear on my honor as a Huntsman that I’ll tell you my name after you tell me yours.”

 

“Huntsmen have no honor.” Foggy retorts tartly. “I heard all about you guys. You literally stab us Wolves in the back.” The Huntsman nods.

 

“Maybe if the Wolf is the Huntsman’s enemy, but we’re friendly acquaintances getting to know each other over a series of pleasant outings.” Slippery, smug bastard. “It would be a show of good faith.” He adds enticingly.

 

“I’m giving you pie and trusting you not to stab me or steal my basket.” Foggy cries, exasperated. “You’re the one who owes me a show of good faith.” The Huntsman remains silent. Foggy considers. “Is it really bad? Because I can relate to that.”

 

“Really?” The Huntsman wonders, looking curious. “Why, what’s your name?”

 

Foggy hesitates. Does it really matter if he tells him? It’s more a matter of pride than anything. The Huntsman can’t really use Foggy’s name against him. What, is he going to spread around Wanted posters with Foggy’s name and face? Foggy could nail him for libel if he did, which might be nice.

 

“You can’t laugh.” He warns. The Huntsman nods solemnly. “Okay. People call me Foggy.” The Huntsman blinks.

 

“That’s not bad.” He assures Foggy, looking slightly disappointed. “A little unusual, but kind of nice.” Foggy beams, a bit bashful. The Huntsman is still trouble, of course, but a hot guy saying Foggy’s name is pretty? That’s awesome. Still…

 

“People call me Foggy.” He continues on deliberately. “Because I hate my real name.”

 

“Which is…?” The Huntsman encourages, smile kind. Foggy takes a deep breath.

 

“My full name is Fearsome Fang the Great.”

 

The Huntsman laughs. Loud and long and hard.

 

“You asshole!” Foggy growls, shoving him. It’s perhaps a testament to how amused the man is that he doesn’t react like it’s an attack. He just laughs harder. “You promised not to laugh.” The Huntsman shakes his head, still chuckling.

 

“I made that promise before I knew your name was Fearsome Fang the Great.” He argues, breathless from laughter. “That’s horrible. Did you get teased a lot?” Foggy sighs, playing with the stem of one of the daisies.

 

“Yeah, actually.” He admits quietly. “It wasn’t the name, it was that I never really lived up to it. I come from a long line of the biggest, baddest Big Bad Wolves ever. My grandpa is a legend—he figured out how to tear down a house of brick with the right breathing exercises.” He adds miserably. “But I was awful. I failed Mauling, I failed Menacing. I failed everything that had to do with the actual Big Bad Wolf parts. Everyone was so disappointed.”

 

The Huntsman frowns, looking maybe a little guilty.

 

“Oh.” He says a little helplessly. “But that’s good, right? Big Bad Wolves are monsters.” Foggy glares at him.

 

“That’s my family you’re talking about.” He growls, but it’s weak. He twists the flower stem into a knot. “But they could get a tiny bit too bad sometimes. You should have seen what they made me for my birthday dinner—not that I ate it!” He adds quickly. “I rescued it when they weren't looking. But yeah, it could get hard. And they were so proud when I got this job. I think Dad was hoping it would help straighten me out a little, being in the real world. Make me Fang the Great instead of Foggy.”

 

“But you’re still Foggy.” The Huntsman prods gently, reaching out but then seeming to think better of it, putting his hands back on the basket. “Aren’t you?” Foggy twists another stem into the knotted one, linking them together.

 

“They’re going to be so embarrassed if I go home without eating Little Red Riding Hood.” The Huntsman makes an alarmed sound, shoulders tensing and hand tightening around the basket handle.

 

“You’re not eating anyone.” He orders Foggy, voice heavy with threat. It’s easier now to see the Huntsman in him, when he tilts his head so the glasses go dark and bloody red, smile thin and sharp and not a smile at all.

 

Foggy nods miserably.

 

“I know. I don’t even eat meat, let alone people.” He moans. “That’s what will make them so embarrassed. And even though I’m not going to hurt anybody, you could still send me back to my family with a broken jaw and a complimentary straw to drink my meals out of—which was tacky, by the way. Rubbing salt in the wound.” The Huntsman shakes his head firmly.

 

“It was a kindness they didn’t deserve.” He mutters darkly. “Besides, if you’re telling the truth, I won’t have to hurt you. I only hurt Wolves who try to hurt me first.”

 

Foggy eyes him warily. He seems honest, but he seemed honest about not laughing too. And he’s still got that smile, the one that seems mild but carries a secret—a threat.

 

“I’m not going to try to hurt you.” He promises. “Even if my family does hate me for it. I can’t be that kind of Wolf.”

 

He leans over and places the knotted flower crown on Huntsman’s head. The Huntsman does flinch back this time, but only for a second. Then he reaches up, running tentative fingers over the blossoms. Just like he did with that first bouquet—light touch, not a chance of bruising.

 

“You’re a very odd Wolf, you know.” He mutters, but the sharp smile is gone. Foggy nods, sighing.

 

“Yeah, I know.” He agrees glumly. Then he clears his throat, desperate to change the subject from his failure as a Wolf. “So, name? Fair’s fair.”

 

The Huntsman is quiet for a moment, fingers still brushing across the petals of the crown. Finally he smiles, and it’s softer this time. Kinder.

 

“Matt.” He says quietly. "My friends call me Matt." 

 

Oh. Foggy beams.

 

"Nice to meet you, Matt."

 


 

Matt continues ‘guarding’ Foggy for their next seven outings. After four of these outings, Foggy really can’t pretend to need any more flowers—his house already looks like an overgrown wildflower jungle. Instead he takes Matt to collect acorns, and then to gather herbs, and then to bake pies.

 

“You know, if there was something you wanted to do instead, we could try that.” Foggy offers, watching Matt sprinkle the sugar on top of the crust with a look of intense concentration on his face. Matt blinks, looking up at him.

 

“I like pies.” He argues, frowning. “Besides, the whole point of this is to make sure that you’re not doing anything wolfish. I need to know your schedule, your daily routine.” Which Matt probably didn’t mean to sound as creepy as it did. Foggy sighs, opening the oven (disturbingly large just in case he wants to bake Little Red whole) and letting Matt slide the pie inside.

 

“This is my daily routine, Matt.” He tells him, a little exasperated. “This is it, this is what I do. I’m pretty boring.” Matt shakes his head.

 

“No, you’re not boring.” He says earnestly. “This is fun. I can’t remember the last time I baked.” This makes sense. Foggy honestly can’t imagine Huntsmen get many lessons in baking. Of course, Foggy hadn’t really gotten any either—he’d taught himself. But Matt doesn’t really seem the baking type, even if he knew how.

 

“Okay, so what do you do?” Foggy prods meaningfully. “In your free time, when you’re not babysitting me?” Matt considers for a moment.

 

“I run.” He offers. Foggy nods, making an encouraging noise. “I do my combat drills. I practice knives in the morning and clubs in the evening. Stretching’s important, so I do a couple different routines for that. Oh, and I swim laps after stretching in the morning, before breakfast.” He finishes grandly. Foggy stares at him, stunned.

 

“Right.” He says slowly, a little apprehensive. That is way too much combat experience for his comfort. Matt would slaughter him in a fight, unless it was a baking fight. “So what do you do when you’re not being a Huntsman?”

 

Matt blinks at him again, like the very idea of this is unheard of. Poor guy, Foggy thinks with a pang of pity. Stuck constantly having to fight off Wolves and thwart dangerous schemes. It’s become his whole life.

 

“I read.” Matt admits uncertainly, like it's some sort of guilty pleasure just because it doesn't involve beating things up. “I can feel the ink on the pages and figure out the words. I have more books than I do space to keep them in.” Foggy beams.

 

“Awesome!” He enthuses. Now they’re getting somewhere. “Very cool trick. I wish I had some books.” He looks around his house, which is rather well endowed with sharp implements and flowers, but not much else. “They don’t really encourage leisure activities though, so I’d have to buy them myself.”

 

He’s got plenty of money, but he’d been told quite firmly that it was only to buy more sharp implements and other menacing items, maybe a disguise or two if Little Red was particularly shrewd. Foggy would much rather spend the money on books, but that would mean going into town, and he’s not sure that’s a good idea yet. People tend not to be too fond of Wolves. He needs to establish a good reputation first so he won’t be burned at the stake the second he steps foot in the market.

 

Matt hesitates, rubbing his sugar-covered fingers together thoughtfully.

 

“I could show you mine?” He offers cautiously, and Foggy cheers.

 

“Hell yeah! Pie first, then books. Best day ever.”

 

They bake the pie, then put it in the well-used wicker basket and make their way to Matt’s house. Foggy’s never seen it before now, but it’s pretty nice. It’s sunny here, at least. He’s fine with the eternal night thing, but it’s nice to have some variety.

 

It’s a little plain inside, but that makes sense. Matt doesn’t have much of a reason to go crazy with decorations. Still, the books are the best decoration in the world, in Foggy’s opinion. There are tons, on the table, on the desk, on the floor in neat piles, even a few scattered on the bed—silk sheets, interesting. It appears to be a thing here. Foggy wonders if Matt’s house came with silk too, or if he bought it later.

 

They eat pie and read books, and it’s a good afternoon. Matt walks him back home even though Foggy tells him it’s fine, and by the time Matt’s walking away again Foggy feels like Matt might actually like him a little. It makes him embarrassingly lightheaded with happiness, so he waves at Matt until Matt’s out of sight even though Matt can’t appreciate it, and then he wanders inside, humming.

 

Matt starts offering suggestions about what to do, and after several dozens of these outings Foggy’s pretty damn sure they count as friends now. Good friends. It’s working out better here than Foggy had ever dreamed. He doesn’t have to hurt people, and the one person most likely to hurt Foggy is his new best friend.

 

And it’s great, it’s fantastic, but…

 

The attraction thing hasn’t stopped. Actually, it’s gotten worse. Every day, Matt’s lips are redder, his skin is creamier, his smile is brighter and his everything is more amazing.

 

It doesn’t help that he’s funny and smart and sweet, or that there’s this slight edge to him that isn’t sweet when he’s telling Foggy about some of his encounters with other Wolves. Matt, it seems, can be brutal if the situation calls for it. It’s strange for Matt to talk about how he broke a Wolf’s arm in three places, and then smile and ask Foggy if he wants to split the last apple turnover. And it should be disturbing, but Foggy’s a Wolf and he’s attracted to a little bit of trouble, even if he’d rather avoid causing it himself.

 

So Matt’s lovely and perfect and wonderful, and one of Matt’s favorite activities to do together is swim. This sounds nice in theory, but there are some…risks involved.

 

Matt likes to swim laps enough that Foggy wonders if he’s part fish, and when he settles down next to Foggy on the picnic blanket he’s usually shirtless and breathless, beads of bright water gliding down his rather impressive body. He grins and asks Foggy more than once to join him. Half the time Foggy goes and dips his toes in the water, pretending not to ogle Matt while he’s swimming laps, and half the time he refuses in a strangled voice and goes to hide until he’s a little less hard and aching.

 

This time Matt won’t take no for an answer.

 

“Come on, it’ll be fun.” Matt coaxes, and Foggy buries his face further in his book and ignores him. He’s not actually reading any of the words, but if he doesn’t look at Matt he can pretend that Matt’s not so stunningly gorgeous that it takes his breath away. “You’ll be okay. I can teach you how to swim.”

 

That makes Foggy look up sharply.

 

“I know how to swim, thank you very much.” He snaps. “I happen to be an awesome swimmer.” Matt grins at him, wading a little closer to the shore. The sunlight hits the water just right and it looks like he’s glowing, like some sort of siren beckoning Foggy to the water. Huh. Okay then.

 

Foggy looks quickly back down at his book, fighting down a blush.

 

“Right, I bet. Doggy paddling, right?” Matt asks with affected innocence, and Foggy grits his teeth, puts down his book and dives into the water.

 

“It's freezing!” He yelps, immediately heading back towards shore, but Matt takes his hand and tows him further out.

 

“No, you get used to it.” He promises, and Foggy should probably yank himself free and get out of this icy water before he gets sick, but Matt is shirtless and holding his hand and smiling at him, and Foggy is a weak-willed Wolf indeed.

 

So he does what is the logical next step in this romantic setting and dunks Matt under the water.

 

Matt pops back up a second later, blinking and spitting out a mouthful of water. Foggy fights dirty by immediately splashing him in the face.

 

“Splash fight?” Matt asks, expression intent, and Foggy nods.

 

“Splash fight.” He agrees solemnly. Matt grins, bows his head in acceptance of the challenge, and tackles him.

 


 

The splash fight seems like a great idea at the time. Lots of contact with a mostly naked Matt, lots of fun and roughhousing, and lots of distraction from how amazing a mostly naked Matt looks.

 

The next day, Foggy’s regretting it. That water was freezing, and now it’s given Foggy a cold. A bad one.

 

Foggy has about enough time to tell Matt that he’s not feeling so great, he might head back home early, before he faints.

 

When he wakes up, he’s in Matt’s house, and he feels like another house just fell on top of him. He has a whole new level of sympathy for the Wicked Witch.

 

“Hey, welcome back.” It’s not Matt talking. Foggy blinks blearily at the woman sitting at his bedside. She looks a little tired too, just like he is, and also a little harried.

 

“Hi.” Foggy rasps, and the woman smiles at him.

 

“Hi.” She returns lightly. “How are you feeling?” Foggy licks his dry lips.

 

“Awful.” He admits. He looks around the house, getting his bearings. It looks like it’s late evening, judging by the sun. It was morning when he was talking to Matt. Has he been out all day? “Where’s Matt?”

 

The woman rolls her eyes, smile tinged with exasperation.

 

“He wouldn’t stop hovering, so I sent him out to get some rapunzel for your fever.” Foggy frowns at her.

 

“Rapunzel doesn’t help with fever.” He argues. He remembers that much from survival camp. The woman’s smile widens. “No. He bought that?”

 

“I sold that.” The woman retorts, deadpan. “Don’t worry, he’ll be back soon. I just needed to get him out of the house for a while. He was driving me crazy.” She regards Foggy thoughtfully for a moment. “He’s very fond of you.”

 

Foggy blinks.

 

“Really?” He asks, trying not to sound too eager. The woman nods.

 

“He’s been talking about you nonstop since he met you.” She tells him dryly. “And I’ve seen him a lot less. He’s keeping out of trouble, and I think I have you to thank for that.”

 

“No problem.” Foggy croaks, clearing his throat to try and clear it. “He got in a lot of trouble?” The woman laughs.

 

“More than you can imagine.” She says, wry. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stitched him up after a fight. Mostly Wolves, which makes the fact that he likes you even more interesting.”

 

“I like him too.” Foggy admits without a hint of shyness. The woman grins.

 

“I figured.” She replies, holding out a hand. “Claire, the Good Witch of Hell’s Kitchen.” Foggy takes her hand and shakes it, confused.

 

“Foggy. Nice to meet you.” He answers by rote, and then, “Hell’s Kitchen?” Claire nods.

 

“It’s what we call this Story, on the inside. Trouble brewing all the time like a pot on the stove, and plenty of beasts to get the pot boiling.” She explains with surprising casualness considering she’s comparing her home to hell. She sounds quite content, actually. “And now we have a Devil too.”

 

“Right.” The only other people he’s heard call Matt a Devil are the straw-sucking Wolves back at the Den, but apparently they’re not the only ones to make the connection. And Foggy can understand, just from listening to Matt’s cheerful recounting of his meetings with Wolves, but still. “Devil seems a bit harsh.”

 

Claire shakes her head.

 

“No, it was mostly his idea. He thought it fit, considering everything else.” She gestures meaningfully, but Foggy has no idea what it’s supposed to mean.

 

Before Foggy can ask, the front door slams open and Matt comes hurrying in.

 

“There were a few that smelled spicy, so I just brought all of them.” He tells Claire, hefting that rather sizable collection of plants. It’s practically a bush. None of them are rapunzel, and at least three of them are poisonous—Foggy’s really going to have to teach Matt some herb lore. How does a Huntsman not know this stuff? He’s supposed to live off the land.

 

“Great, thanks.” Claire says, sounding disturbingly sincere even though she’s grinning. She winks at Foggy, the sly minx, and waves Matt over. “Your Wolf’s awake.”

 

Foggy wants to protest that he’s not ‘Matt’s Wolf’—no matter how much he might want to be—but Matt acts before he can, tossing the plants on the table and practically running over.

 

“Thank god.” He breathes, sitting down next to Foggy on the bed. “You weren’t waking up. I got Claire as soon as I could.” Claire rolls her eyes.

 

“It was a simple fever.” She assures Foggy. “Your body just needed some time to recover. You’d have woken up on your own in a few hours. I just helped it along a little.”

 

“Thanks.” Foggy tells her gratefully, and then reaches out to squeeze Matt’s hand. “And thank you. For taking care of me, and for…” He glances at the tangle of deadly plants and weeds. “And for the rapunzel.” Matt tried, and it’s the thought that counts.

 

“Of course.” Matt smiles at him earnestly. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”

 

“Yeah, Claire says that you’re fond of me.” Foggy can’t help but tease. “She says you never shut up about me.” Matt glares towards Claire, who shrugs innocently.

 

“It’s the truth.” She points out. Matt grits his teeth but doesn’t deny it, and Foggy beams. Matt’s fond of him. That’s almost a crush, right? Almost, maybe?

 

“Thank you, Claire, for sharing that.” Matt tells her with a grimace of a smile. Foggy pats his hand.

 

“Don’t worry, I’m fond of you too.” He says kindly, and Matt’s grimace softens to a grin.

 

“Yeah?” He asks quietly, and Foggy grins back.

 

“Yeah.” He agrees, holding up his free hand’s fingers just a hairsbreadth apart. “Just a little. A tiny bit.” Matt’s grin widens, reaching up and catching Foggy’s fingers.

 

“A little more than a tiny bit.” He argues, and Foggy rolls his eyes but nods.

 

“Just a little more.” He allows. “So don’t get cocky.” Matt chuckles and opens his mouth to answer when Claire cuts in.

 

“So, you two seem to be getting along just fine. I’ll just be heading home.” She says pointedly. “If you want to walk me to the door, Matt, I’ll let you get back to your discussion on just how much you adore each other.”

 

Foggy flushes, but luckily he can probably just pass it off as a symptom of the residual fever. He wants to argue that that’s not what the discussion is about at all, but it sort of is. It’s embarrassing, but at least it’s a discussion instead of a monologue. Matt likes him too.

 

Thank you, Claire.” Matt grits out, squeezing Foggy’s hands once more before rising to his feet. “I’ll let you know if he gets any worse.” Claire nods easily, smiling at Foggy.

 

“Feel better.” She tells him politely, and then turns her smile on Matt. “You should keep this one. He’s not so bad for a Big Bad Wolf.” Matt nods back, relaxing.

 

“He hasn’t got a bad bone in his body.” He claims, which is more than a bit insulting. Foggy’s bad! He can be bad! Matt says it almost proudly though, very pleased, so Foggy lets it go. “He’s a very good Wolf.”

 

Foggy melts a little at the warmth in the words. He’s a good Wolf. It sounds lovely. He’s always been embarrassed about being a good Wolf, but it sounds wonderful when Matt says it. He smiles dopily at Matt until he sees Claire watching him with raised eyebrows. Then he clears his throat, schools his face into a more acceptable smile, and waves at her as Matt leads her out. Matt wanders back into the room a few minutes later, smiling brightly at him. Foggy’s smile goes dopier again now that Claire’s not here to judge.

 

“So, should I make the rapunzel into a salad?” Matt asks cheerfully, and Foggy gulps, eying the lethal plants once again.

 

“No, I feel much better. Really.”

 


 

A few weeks later, they’re eating lunch and picking flowers—the ones Matt likes with minimal pollen and sweet smells—and Foggy notices that here he is again. He’s a Wolf off the path in a field of flowers, just like he was months ago, and nothing has happened.

 

The only person he’s tempted off the path to pick flowers is the Huntsman.

 

“Am I ever going to meet Little Red Riding Hood?” He asks Matt curiously. “Or how about Granny?”

 

It’s something he’s wondered about for a long time. Ever since he got here, actually. He met the Huntsman on the first day, but he hasn’t met either of the other two Characters that are supposed to be pivotal to his life. And it’s not like he wants to, in case they’re not friendly like Matt is, but the fact that he hasn’t even seen them is a little worrying. The Woods are big, but they’re not that big.

 

Matt never talks about the other Characters in his Story.

 

Foggy’s okay with this, honestly. He’s not that eager to hear about how awesome the little girls and little old ladies he’s supposed to murder are. Still, it should probably have come up by now.

 

Matt blinks at him, popping a blackberry into his mouth and remaining suspiciously quiet for a few seconds.

 

“I don’t know if it’s a good idea.” Matt tells him slowly. “The ‘Granny’ isn’t much of a Granny, and he’s…I don’t think you two would get along.”

 

“That bad?” Foggy asks, wincing at Matt’s expression. Obviously a Granny isn’t going to want to be eaten, so of course she—he, but it’s a new world and who is Foggy to judge about unorthodox Characters—wouldn’t be too fond of Wolves. But he’d hoped that maybe the other Characters might be as cool as Matt.  

 

“Not bad.” Matt says hesitantly. “He’s done good things too. He took me in after my father died, taught me how to survive on my own. Trained me to fight.”

 

“Oh.” That explains why Matt’s so hardcore. Foggy’s pretty sure even most Huntsmen don’t usually walk around armed to the teeth and practicing martial arts every moment of every day. They usually just have the one axe and a strong urge to gut occasionally-lupine creatures. Of course, most Grannies don’t do that either. This is a very strange Story. “Is he nice?”

 

Another telling silence.

 

“He’s not really the most personable man.” Matt says diplomatically. Ah, total asshole. “And we don’t really talk much anymore. We disagree on a few things.” The way he says it rings all kinds of alarm bells in Foggy’s head.

 

“What kind of things?” He asks warily, popping another berry into his mouth. Matt bites his lip, doing the same to buy a little time. He chews it for a moment too long before swallowing, just to put off the inevitable.

 

“He always wanted me to kill the Wolves.” Matt admits quietly, expression somber. Foggy knew it was coming, but it still sends a chill down his spine. Kill. Granny-not-Granny wants Matt to kill him. “I don't do it.” Matt tells him urgently. “I didn’t do it to any of the others, and I’d never do it to you.”

 

“Uh-huh.” Foggy agrees dimly, feeling dizzy. He’d almost let himself forget that he’s not here to have picnics with the Huntsman and be happy. He’s supposed to kill and get killed, and Matt doesn’t want that but other Characters do. They follow the script. They know what’s supposed to come next.

 

“Foggy.” Matt says, voice low. Foggy jumps when Matt’s hand covers his own, warm and gentle and a little berry-stained. “I said I wouldn’t hurt you, remember?” Foggy nods hesitantly. “That means keeping you safe from Stick too. I’m not going to let anyone hurt you.”

 

Stick. Is Stick the ‘Granny’ that wants to kill him? It’s a weird name—although, once again, can Foggy really judge?

 

“I can take care of myself, you know.” Foggy argues weakly. “I’m a Wolf. We’re born predators.” Matt smiles indulgently and squeezes his hand. Foggy frowns. “No, really. I can be vicious. Fearsome, you know—it’s my name. I have a seriously brutal bite when I'm full wolf.” Matt’s smile softens.

 

“Of course.” He soothes. “But you don’t have to bite anyone. You’d hate it.” Yes. He’s not going to tell Matt that, though. Matt seems to guess anyway, squeezing his hand again. “You’re such a good Wolf.”

 

Foggy goes a little dazed and dreamy at the words like he always does. Good Wolf. Then he shakes himself. No, this is not the time to be sweet-talked by lovely sentiments that make his spine go gooey.

 

“So, Granny’s a no-go. How about Little Red? Does she want to kill me too?” He hurries on, ignoring the gooey spine bit. Matt hesitates, and then shakes his head.

 

“I don’t think so.” He says slowly. Oh. Foggy brightens.

 

“Yeah? You know her?” He wonders, excited. After a moment, Matt nods.

 

“We’ve met, yes. More often than I'd like.” He says, voice a little odd—too measured, too even. Foggy frowns at him.

 

“You don’t think Little Red would like me, do you?” He accuses, a little forlorn. “You know, I can actually be quite charming. I took a year on it back at the Den.” Matt shakes his head, nods, and then does something in between.

 

“It’s not that. I know you’re charming. I’m just not sure how it would go between you two. It might actually...and then it might...and then you might...yeah.” He explains rather ineffectively. He looks uncomfortable at the thought, whatever he’s imagining. “I think it’s better to be safe than sorry. Maybe in a little while, once you get more settled in.” Foggy blinks.

 

“It’s been months, Matt.” He points out. “I’ve already met Claire, and no one at the village looks at me funny anymore.” Matt had stuck close by his side the first time, glaring down anyone who looked like they might have something to say. They’ve kept up the pattern, going shopping together every week, and sometimes Claire has joined them. The villagers barely give him a second glance anymore. Apparently a nonviolent Wolf is a bit boring.

 

“Just a little longer.” Matt promises. “Just until I know it’ll be okay.” He looks desperate, eyes wide and pleading. Foggy considers him for a moment.

 

“How will you know it’s okay?” He asks curiously.

 

He can’t think of what else he can do to prove to Matt that he’s ready. Stick sounds like a jerk, just from Matt’s careful explanations, but what about Little Red? How bad can she be? Matt seems a little sick at the thought of Foggy meeting her. Is she really that likely to hate him?

 

“I’ll just know.” Matt tells him earnestly. “Please, Foggy?”

 

Matt’s biting his stupid, perfectly red and rosy lip. Foggy can’t stand when he does that. It’s almost as bad as Matt calling him a good Wolf. It just sends all of Foggy’s common senses off the rails, makes his brain go haywire.

 

He wonders if he could make Matt bribe him with a kiss. It would be an awful manipulation, of course. He’d be just as bad as his fellow Wolves, taking what doesn’t belong to him, devouring. But it would be worth it, so worth it. And Foggy took no less than three classes on seduction. He could make it good, he could make Matt like it. All he would need is one kiss…

 

He’s not that kind of Wolf.

 

“Fine.” He sighs, and Matt beams. “I will have to meet Little Red eventually, you know.” He points out, and Matt’s smile is a little pained.

 

“Yeah, I know.”

 


 

Foggy’s curious about Little Red after his conversation with Matt.

 

Matt doesn’t like to talk about her. When Foggy pushes and prods, all he’ll say is that Little Red wouldn’t hate Foggy. Not at all. And he puts a weird sort of emphasis on the words, and then he just gets kind of frowny and quiet. And Foggy lets it drop until the next time he gets too curious, because Matt does seem upset about Little Red. He always sounds a little bitter, like he really doesn't like her.

 

And there’s got to be a reason Matt doesn’t want them to meet. Foggy wonders what sort of person Little Red is. Little Reds are supposed to be sweet and pretty and naïve, but nothing else in this Story is the way it’s supposed to be. So Red might be some shark of a lady that could chew him up and spit him back out without breaking a sweat. The thought’s a little terrifying, but Foggy still kind of wants to meet her.

 

He has absolutely no desire to meet the Granny, so of course Foggy runs into him instead.

 

“I didn’t do anything! This isn’t fair.” Foggy yelps, dodging another swipe. “Why are all of you people so violent?”

 

Matt hadn’t hurt him, of course, but he’d been willing to. Foggy had seen that much in his face, heard it in his voice the first time they met. Matt had talked about fighting the other Wolves, and he’d been smiling. Foggy’s not stupid enough to think that Matt’s not a little violent. He’s a Huntsman, after all. They hunt.

 

The Granny smirks at him, cane held aloft in one hand. He’s already taken a swipe or two, and it’s only years of training at the Den that’s allowed Foggy to escape relatively unharmed. This guy’s fast though, and he’d been as quiet as Matt was, sneaking up on Foggy that first day. Foggy hadn’t heard a thing, and he usually got pretty impressive hearing.

 

He can see where Matt got his training—they move similarly. He can also see why this guy’s called Stick. Foggy eyes the cane apprehensively.

 

“How long you been in town, Wolf?” Stick inquires pleasantly. “If you’re new, let me give you a tip. These Woods aren’t fair. Only the strong survive, and you don’t seem so strong to me.” He thwacks the cane forward, catching Foggy on the arm before he manages to dart away.

 

“Would you stop that?” Foggy snaps. “I’m plenty strong, I just don’t want to fight you. Because I’m a nice person, which you seem incapable of understanding.” Stick snorts.

 

“Nothing to understand. You’re a Wolf.” Apparently Matt learned more than his fighting from this man. At least Matt had been willing to listen to reason. Stick looks like he’s completely sure that he’s right, and he’s not willing to hear any reasons why he’s not.

 

“But you’re the one who attacked me.” He can’t help but accuse. “Just because I’m a Wolf doesn’t mean I’m the bad guy.” Stick doesn’t seem impressed.

 

“The Big Bad Wolf isn’t the ‘bad guy’?” He drawls sarcastically. “Right.” He manages to land a hit on Foggy’s thigh this time.

 

“Stop it!” Foggy orders, and to his horror he feels his teeth sharpen a little in his mouth, words coming out more as a growl than as a question. He’s got to get out of here now. Stick’s just making him angry, and also scared. Fight or flight, and when Wolves get scared, they fight.

 

“There we go.” Stick says smugly. “Right on cue, the claws come out.” Foggy looks down at his hands, gulping. No, no claws. Not yet, but it’s just a matter of time. He needs to end this now, or he’s going to end up attacking Matt’s sort-of friend, and one of them is going to get hurt—probably Foggy.

 

“No, look. I’m really a good person.” Foggy argues earnestly, even though he gets the creeping feeling that it’s useless. “No claws, see?” He holds up his hands. “No blood, just berry juice.” Stick takes a strange, deep inhale.

 

“No blood, but you smell like people. You run into the brat?” Stick scoffs. “Told him he needs to finish the job. A slap on the wrist won’t stop a Wolf.”

 

Matt, Foggy realizes. He’s talking about Matt.

 

And Stick can smell him, just like Matt can. Walking stick, dark glasses, and a creepily good sense of smell. Foggy wonders a little hysterically if Little Red Riding Hood is a blind superhuman too.

 

“No, but see? I’ve got the seal of approval from the Huntsman. Come on, if anyone was going to have a reason to kill me, it would be him. It’s his job.” Foggy points out desperately. “But Matt and I are friends.”  

 

Stick doesn’t immediately attack him like he did every other time Foggy tried explaining himself. In fact, he doesn’t do much of anything for a few seconds. Then he laughs, a harsh sound.

 

Friends. That fucking idiot.” He tilts his head a little, stick still trained on Foggy. “Come on out, fucking idiot. You’ve never been able to sneak up on me before—you sure as hell aren’t starting now.”

 

There is a moment of taut silence, and then Matt drops down from a tree and slinks to Foggy’s side, stepping just a little in front of him.

 

“That was awesome.” Foggy tells Matt honestly. Matt had been completely silent, both in the tree and as he jumped down. Matt shoots him an absent but still fond smile.

 

“You okay?” He asks quietly, and Foggy nods.

 

“Just a couple bruises.” He assures Matt, and he’s relieved to find that his teeth have dulled again, his instincts calming with Matt's presence. Matt nods, then turns back to Stick.

 

“You’re in my half of the Woods.” Matt says, low and dangerous. “We had a deal.” Stick snorts.

 

“What can I say? I missed you, kid. You never come visit anymore.” It might be true, a little, but Foggy’s pretty sure most of it’s mocking. Matt bares his teeth, smile much less absent and fond now. “Besides, I need to make sure you’re not doing stupid things. Like screwing a Wolf.”

 

Foggy’s not sure whether he or Matt tenses more at that.

 

“I’m not screwing a Wolf.” Matt grits out, flexing his hands and reaching a little towards the clubs he keeps at his sides. Matt prefers clubs, blunt instruments—he says it’s harder to do lethal damage that way, which is important because sometimes he gets a little overzealous in his peacekeeping. This is about as terrifying to hear as you would think.

 

“Really?” Stick drawls, unimpressed. “You sure about that?”

 

“Even if I was sleeping with one, it wouldn't be your concern.” Matt points out sharply. “My side of the Woods, my rules.”

 

“You have rules about screwing the fleabags you’re supposed to be slaying?” Stick goads. Which, no.

 

“Okay, you need to stop being a blatant bigot.” Foggy snaps. “’Fleabag’ is a derogatory term—you keep talking like that and smacking me with that cane, I could slam you with hate crime charges.” Stick points the cane accusingly at him.

 

“You want to talk crimes? You eat people!” He points out incredulously, and Foggy nods sagely.

 

“But I am technically allowed to within the confines of the law.” He responds matter-of-factly. “I’m a Big Bad Wolf. I have a permit. There is no permit for being an asshole.” Stick smiles at him rather threateningly.

 

“I got a permit for skinning you and making you into a nice rug.” He says nonchalantly, taking a step closer. Matt tenses further, fingers brushing against the clubs.

 

“No, actually.” Foggy informs him. “You don’t. You’re the Granny. Pretty much all you have a permit for is baking cookies and wearing nightgowns.” He looks Stick up and down deliberately. “And I don’t think you’ve got the legs to pull off a good gown.”

 

“You little shit.” Stick breathes, but he actually sounds a bit amused. Murderous, yeah, but a bit amused. “Fine, but I know someone who does have the right permit.” Foggy shakes his head.

 

“Matt won’t do it.” He claims confidently. “And he’s the only one who legally can.” Actually, the Huntsman literally has the right to skin him and make him into a rug—or a stylish cloak if he’s so inclined. It’s a pretty brutal permit.

 

Stick considers the both of them in silence for a moment.

 

“It’d be right thing to do.” He tells Matt, firm and a little frustrated. “I trained you better than this. You’re not the hunted. You’re the hunter.”

 

Matt shakes his head, fingers closing around the club’s handle.

 

“Not this time.” He says, quiet and certain. “Not with him. Don’t make me be it with you.”

 

“You’d lose.” Stick tells him flatly. “You never could beat me.” Foggy peeks out from over Matt’s shoulder.

 

“Bet he didn’t have a Wolf on his side then.” He offers lightly, bearing sharp teeth in a grin, letting a little more of the wolf through. “Two against one’s not fair, but then you said it yourself. These Woods aren’t fair.”

 

There’s a second of taut tension, and Foggy’s sure, sure that he’s going to have to get the claws out, the way he hasn’t in years. He might have to go full wolf too instead of just borrowing the perks, which sucks. It makes his skin itchy, and he prefers thumbs to paws. It's also hard to shift back after a fight, especially if he’s hurt. And he has no illusions—he would get hurt in this fight. He’d get hurt badly, because he’d be keeping Matt from getting hurt at all.

 

“Not a Wolf.” Stick murmurs, and then he snorts, lowering his stick down his side in a gesture of—not peace, but a cessation of aggression. At least for now. “You’re not a Wolf. You’re his guide dog.”

 

Which is offensive on so many levels. Stick does not seem to understand the concept of polite conversation. Fine, whatever. It’s not as awful as it could be, because in a horrible way Foggy actually likes the idea of being Matt’s guide dog. Not the dog part, of course—he’s not some slobbery belly-bearing lapdog—but the guide bit… Yeah. He likes the idea a little too much. Matt doesn’t need a guide, but Foggy wants to give him one anyway.

 

“And I’m his guard dog.” Matt tells him, that brutal Huntsman smile back on his face, the one that means it's about to get bloody if things don’t change. Fast. “Back off before you get bitten.”

 


 

Matt is jumpy after Stick.

 

He never mentions anything, but Foggy sees him looking over his shoulder sometimes, cocking his head to listen to something. Then a moment later, he’ll take Foggy’s arm and lead him away, briskly. Some guide dog he is, Foggy thinks wryly when Matt practically carries him away from whatever he’s hearing. He wonders if Matt’s hearing Stick, or something else. Matt has declared 'suspicious' squirrels to be a threat to Foggy's safety, and Foggy thinks it's less because Matt thinks Foggy's a wuss and more because Matt's an overprotective dork. 

 

Matt also insists on teaching him knife throwing.

 

“I want you to have a long-ranged defense.” Matt tells him earnestly, pulling out more and more knives to place on the grass. It’s like a magic trick—Foggy has no idea where he was keeping them. Matt doesn’t even like knives. He only uses them as a menacing tactic.

 

Which would have been good to know during their first meeting, incidentally.

 

“I have a long-ranged defense.” Foggy tells him wryly. “It’s called running away. Not all of us have to be big macho men who beat up bears with our bare hands.”

 

This is not an exaggeration. Matt has actually beaten up a bear with his bare hands when it tried to attack them on their picnic. It was both impressive and unnerving to behold, although Foggy had managed to steal Matt’s sandwich while he was busy fighting off the bear. So, more good than bad.

 

“Well, thank you.” Matt says, either missing or ignoring the sarcasm, and Foggy rolls his eyes. “If you’re against someone like Stick though, he’ll catch you if you run. You need to slow him down.” Foggy considers.

 

“Are you giving me permission to stab your mentor?” Matt shrugs. “Sweet. But how many people like Stick are in the Woods, honestly?” He teases. Matt shrugs again, which is a little worrying.

 

“Enough.” He mutters darkly. “You need to be prepared.”  Foggy sighs.

 

“Matt, we spend maybe 90% of our time together.” He points out patiently. “I’ll let you take care of that stuff—you like it anyway.” Which is also worrying, but also kind of hot. Which is even more worrying.

 

Foggy thinks he might want to kiss Matt most of all when Matt sprawls next to him after a fight, face flushed and grinning, just a little out of breath. Matt doesn’t fight Wolves, of course, not anymore. But he fights lions and tigers and bears and several unfortunate bandits, and he seems happier which every one he takes down. Claire tells him that Matt’s more careful recently, much fewer cuts and bruises. Matt’s a bit wild, the times Foggy’s seen him. What the hell was he like before, when he was fighting Wolves? No, Foggy knows. Straws, drinking out of straws.

 

And Foggy adores the guy. There is something seriously wrong with him.

 

“Just one lesson?” Matt coaxes. “Just in case?” Foggy sighs and stands, brushing grass from his knees.

 

“Fine, just one.” He warns. “What do I do?” Matt grins at him.

 

“Okay, we’re going to aim for the tree. Just do your best, and we’ll work from there. Let's get an idea of your skill level.”

 

Foggy nods, takes a knife, and throws. It goes about three feet and almost brains a squirrel Matt previously labeled as 'having dubious motives, needs more monitoring'. 

 

“Direct hit. I was aiming for the shady squirrel.” Foggy lies. It’s not like Matt can tell where he was pointing. But Matt gives him an unimpressed look, so maybe he can.

 

“Pick up the knife.” Foggy groans, but obeys.

 

An hour later, Matt seems a little amazed.

 

“I’m blind.” He says, incredulous. “How are you so much worse at this than me?”  Foggy glares.

 

“That’s not fair.” He snaps. “You have super senses. Wolves aren’t built for weapons. I can manifest razor-sharp claws and teeth in a second. I can turn into a full-on fearsome fanged wolf whenever I want—I'm a killing machine already.” Matt snorts. “Yeah, screw you too.” Matt grins.

 

“No, come on. I’ll show you.”

 

He picks up one of the knives and tosses it, hitting the tree dead on. Then he tosses another three, all within a second and without a single twitch of his mild smile.

 

“That is terrifying.” Foggy informs him bluntly. “Also, your hands were going too fast. I couldn’t see a thing.” Matt nods, thoughtful.

 

“Right.” He picks up another knife and presses it into Foggy’s hand, and then, oh. He just threads their fingers together and starts correcting Foggy’s grip.

 

Matt’s talking, but Foggy can’t make out the words. Matt’s so warm, fingers calloused and just a little rough but still so gentle. Foggy’s felt Matt’s hands, but not like this, steady and sure in his, lingering, lovely. Warm.

 

“Got it?”

 

“Uh.” Even if Foggy had been paying attention, he’d still lie. “Nope, sorry. Try again, and make more sense this time." He commands. Matt sighs, but he doesn’t seem too upset.

 

Foggy plays dumb and has Matt explain it three times.

 

He might be tempted to flub the throwing and get more lessons, but it turns out he doesn’t have to. He couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, let alone a tree. Matt considers him for a second.

 

“Maybe it’s your stance.” He muses, and yes, yes, he starts touching Foggy’s arms and shoulders too. “That feel okay?”

 

“Uh-huh.” Foggy replies, voice a little high. He tosses another knife, and it actually bounces off the tree this time. Handle rather than point, but it’s something. “Hey, it worked.” Matt smiles indulgently at him.

 

“Remember to keep your face tilted just a little towards the knife hand.” He orders gently, and reaches out to press his fingers softly against Foggy’s cheek, turning his head. Turning his head in a lot more ways than one. “Better.”

 

Foggy gulps and throws the knife. It actually connects this time, a bit wonky and off-center but it sticks.

 

“I got it!” Foggy exclaims proudly. “Awesome.” He goes to gather the knives, and tries again. He hits it every time. “Thanks, Matt. You’re a great teacher. I’ll be the toughest Wolf in the Woods.” He’ll also be the only Wolf in the Woods, but he’ll still be the toughest.

 

He can’t help but give Matt a quick hug. He feels a little giddy. Lots of touching Matt, and also plenty of lessons in being badass. It’s a good day. Matt holds him back for a few moments, until Foggy’s pretty sure he can’t pass it off as platonic unless he lets go. Too much lingering. He pulls away, beaming.

 

“Hmm.” Matt agrees, expression pensive and hard to read. Then his smile quirks a bit oddly, not quite his Huntsman grin but close. Slightly too sharp. “Maybe just a little more work on your stance.” Foggy blinks.

 

“I already hit the tree. A lot.” He explains, just in case Matt couldn’t hear the thunk of metal against wood. Matt nods agreeably.

 

“But you could hit it harder.” He encourages Foggy, slipping around to stand behind him. “Relax. It’s easier if you relax.” He urges softly, pressing down on Foggy’s shoulders, and Foggy swallows but tries to obey.

 

“I hit the tree.” Foggy says again, weakly. “We can stop now.” He’s pretty sure he can’t survive Matt hot against his back and whispering in his ear. Not now.

 

“Mm-hmm.” Matt agrees vaguely. “Legs a little wider, I think. Can you spread your legs for me?”

 

What?” Foggy yelps, but Matt ignores him, reaching down to put a hand on each thigh, edging them apart gently.

 

“There, perfect.” Matt murmurs, but he doesn’t move his goddamn hands. Foggy stares blankly into the distance. Not going to survive this, definitely not going to survive this. Doesn’t mean anything, Matt’s just being a very thorough instructor. That’s all. “And hips back.”

 

Foggy freezes.

 

“We don’t have a knife.” He points out faintly. “Shouldn’t I be holding a knife for this part?” Matt sighs, breath tickling across Foggy’s stupid fucking sensitive ear.

 

“Doesn’t matter.” He assures him kindly. “Knives are optional.”

 

“For knife throwing?” Foggy asks skeptically, ignoring Matt’s instructions and going tense. Just a good teacher, just a good teacher, just working on theory, relax, not what you’re thinking, stop getting your hopes up.

 

Hips, Foggy.” Matt chides, hands running up so he can wrap his arms around Foggy’s waist.

 

This is familiar. In fact, this is how he first met Matt, back against chest and too warm and too many knives involved. And this time Foggy doesn’t have the fear of being stabbed to distract him.

 

Foggy shifts his hips back. If he’s not going to survive this, he might as well make the most of it.

 

“Like this?” He wonders, unsure, and Matt hums agreeably.

 

“Perfect.” He murmurs, lips brushing against Foggy’s ear. “Good Wolf.”

 

Foggy shivers. Yeah, nope. No way is this just theory. Foggy’s pretty damn sure this isn’t how Stick taught Matt to throw knives. 

 

“So, call me crazy, but I don’t think we’re talking about knives anymore.” Foggy mutters, and Matt laughs. There’s another brush of lips, and that is a kiss, there is no doubt about it.

 

“Not really.” He agrees. “Is that okay?” Foggy snorts.

 

“If you think there’s any way that I wouldn’t want this, you’re blinder than I thought you were.” He teases. “Can we end the lesson now?” Matt’s arms loosen enough to let him turn around.

 

It’s a pretty good way to end the lesson—an excellent reward for hard work. Matt’s not exactly a sweet kisser, fierce and with little nips and bites, but he does pull away periodically to shower gentle kisses against the rest of Foggy’s face before pressing back in. It’s an interesting dichotomy, a contradiction. A lot like Matt himself.

 

“Bed.” Foggy orders, pressing a kiss to Matt’s jaw. Matt shakes his head.

 

“Blanket.” He corrects firmly, and Foggy shrugs. Works for him.

 

He pounces, because that’s what Wolves do.

 

Matt catches him, because that’s what Huntsmen do.

 


 

Despite the intense start, it turns out to be a rather lazy thing. The blanket’s nice, but it’s a little too rough for Matt’s bare skin—they’ll need to wait for silk for that part. Instead instead it’s just tender kisses and roaming hands.

 

“I feel like one of those sappy Princes who spend half their time in Happily Ever After.” Foggy tells him honestly. Matt hums, licking berry juice from Foggy’s fingers.

 

“I like those Stories.” He admits easily. “Everyone ends up happy.”

 

“Except the Wicked Witches.” Foggy points out, and Matt shrugs. “Besides, our Story’s already pretty happy, isn’t it?” Matt sighs, nodding.

 

“Very.” He agrees, smiling and brushing a thumb across Foggy’s cheek—probably getting berry juice all over it, jerk, but it’s not like Matt can see how ridiculous it looks. Foggy grins and leans down to kiss him again—

 

“Oh. My. God.” A woman exclaims. “They all told me it was true, but I didn’t believe it.”

 

Matt goes white as a ghost. Foggy blinks. He didn’t hear anyone coming, but Matt? He hears everything. This woman must move like a shadow.

 

“No.” Matt whispers, looking horrified. He sits up slowly, grabbing Foggy’s hand like a lifeline and pulling him closer. Tight, like he’s afraid Foggy will run if he lets go.

 

“A Wolf. I go on one vacation. I leave you alone for one second, and you end up getting seduced by the Wolf. It’s pathetic.”

 

The woman is rather shapely, blonde and pretty. She’s wearing leather boots with rather lethal-looking heels, making the fact that she snuck up on them even more startling, and she looks pissed.

 

She’s also wearing red.

 

“No way.” Foggy breathes, looking back and forth between them. Matt’s still looks frozen, shocked and a little terrified. The woman is glaring dangerously and stalking towards them like a lithe predator.

 

“What’s your name?” The woman asks him briskly, and Foggy glances at Matt. Matt’s still zoned, but if it were dangerous he’d probably say something.

 

“Uh, Foggy.” He offers uncertainly. “It’s very nice to meet you.” The woman snorts.

 

“Polite. That’s new.” She holds down a hand, perfectly clean and smooth nails and soft skin when he shakes it gingerly. “Marksman Savvy, but anyone with a sense of self-preservation refers to me as Marci.” She gestures towards her rather impressive bow, complete with rather impressively sharp arrows. Foggy gulps nodding.

 

“Marci. Good. Great name. Very pretty.” He assures her quickly. She smiles at him sweetly. It’s possibly the scariest smile he’s ever seen.

 

“I know.” She agrees without a hint of humbleness. “Foggy’s an odd name for a Wolf, though. But then, I’ve heard you’re an odd Wolf.” Foggy nods.

 

“A good kind of odd, right Matt?” He looks desperately towards Matt, poking him when Matt remains non-responsive. Finally Matt seems to jolt back into himself, staring up towards Marci with wide eyes.

 

“You weren’t supposed to be back for another month.” He accuses hoarsely. Marci snorts.

 

“You’d have been married by then.” She says flatly. “I didn’t want to miss the ceremony.” Matt shakes his head, and Foggy’s a little offended. Is it that unlikely they’re going to get married? Sure it’s early days, but he thinks they have a future. He adores Matt.

 

“No, it’s—“ Matt stops, taking a deep breath and licking his lips. “Look, Marci. I’ll talk to you later, alright? I’ll tell you everything, just let me get him home first.” He waves towards Foggy, standing swiftly and tugging Foggy up with him. Marci steps in front of them.

 

“Not yet.” She commands, and Matt tries to step around her. Marci holds up a scolding finger and blocks him. “How did you convince him not to attack you? You’re not that charming.” Foggy frowns at her.

 

“Matt’s very charming.” He argues earnestly. “And I wouldn’t attack anyone.” He looks towards Matt, who is pulling him a little to the other side in an attempt to flee. Marci blocks them again. “Matt’s the one who almost attacked me.” Marci looks him up and down, speculative.

 

“And you talked him out of it.” She muses, looking grudgingly impressed. “Not bad, Foggy Bear.” Foggy blinks.

 

“I’m a Wolf.” He corrects her, and Marci shakes her head.

 

“You don’t act like a Wolf.” She says easily. “You act like a teddy bear.” Foggy rears back, insulted.

 

Dogs, bears—why does no one call him a Wolf? It’s humiliating.

 

“I’m actually very good at my job.” He claims earnestly. “I don’t maul, but I’ve got everything else down pat. I’m quite sneaky and sly.” He nods sagely, gesturing towards Matt. “I managed to make a Huntsman like me.” Marci tilts her head thoughtfully.

 

“I think you’re okay.” She admits graciously. “I wouldn’t go all the way to like, but you seem nice enough. Cute, anyway.”

 

“Well, thank you.” Foggy says, slightly mollified. “I’m glad to hear it. But I meant the Huntsman.” He points at Matt again. Marci’s smile is a little bemused.

 

“So did I.”

 

…What?

 

Foggy turns with wide eyes to face Matt. Matt eyes are closed, face pained and pale and jaw tight.

 

“No.” Foggy breathes. “No way in hell.” He looks at Marci. Marksman Savvy. Hunting boots and a giant bow. He looks back at Matt. He's not wearing them now, but before...

 

Red glasses.

 

“You’re Little Red Riding Hood?”

 

Matt winces, eyes opening slowly, wide and dark and scared. Guilty.

 

“I was going to tell you.” He promises weakly. “Really. Eventually. Probably.” Marci takes a sharp breath.

 

“Maroon Scarlet Hood, have you been lying to this Wolf?” Marci scolds, and she actually sounds a little indignant. “For shame. You’re supposed to be the nice one.”

 

“You’re also supposed to be an adorable virginal girl who skips around picking flowers.” Foggy points out, a little hysterical.

 

“I like flowers.” Matt assures him, like this is the important part. “I do.”

 

“You don’t even wear red.” Foggy accuses, and when Matt opens his mouth to argue, “Glasses don’t count. There was no riding hood involved. That’s cheating.” Matt shrugs miserably.

 

“It looked stupid.” He mumbles. Foggy laughs, high and incredulous.

 

“How the hell would you know?” He wonders with a nervous giggle, and Matt’s shoulders slump, defeated. Marci tuts at them.

 

“He’s an awful Little Red Riding Hood.” She confides to Foggy. “I haven’t met a Wolf myself in years. He always gets to them first, and he can get a little rough. They call him the Devil, did you know?” She adds idly. “The Devil in Red.”

 

Matt flinches. Devil in Red. Foggy remembers Claire’s words. It was mostly his idea. He thought it fit, considering everything else. Red.

 

“You bastard.” Foggy whispers disbelievingly. Matt lurches back into motion, squeezing Foggy’s hand and using it to yank him closer.

 

“It doesn’t matter.” He pleads desperately. “It’s just a name, a stupid name. I’m not Little Red Riding Hood, not really. I’m Matt. I’m Matt, and you’re Foggy, and we love each other.”

 

Of course. Of course the bastard would play the love card. Foggy hasn’t even said it yet. Matt is making assumptions. True assumptions, yes, but assumptions. Foggy has just learned the danger firsthand of making assumptions. Little Red Fucking Riding Hood.

 

“Well.” Marci mutters, and Foggy spares her a glance. She actually looks a little startled. “I wasn’t serious about the marriage, but it looks like I might need to start looking for a caterer.” Foggy smiles at her, strained.

 

“Would you mind if I took Little Red Riding Hood home?” He asks, voice calm, squeezing Matt’s hand back hard enough to almost hurt. “I think we need to have a little talk.” Matt makes a small, terrified sound. Marci nods, smiling sweetly.

 

“Of course. Try not to bite too hard.”

 


 

“Tell me how the Story ends, Matt.”

 

Matt whimpers.

 

“Little Red Riding Hood meets the Wolf.” He whispers hoarsely. Foggy grins, licking just a little, just enough to make Matt arch up into it before pulling away.

 

“What happens next?” He asks patiently. Matt swallows.

 

“I—I get caught.” Another lick, and Foggy lingers this time. He has to press Matt back down when he pushes up harder with a desperate sound.

 

“And what do you say?”

 

Matt smiles down at him tentatively, licking his lips.

 

“What a big heart you have? What a big capacity for love and forgiveness?” He tries hopefully, and Foggy grins at him, light and teasing.

 

“Oh, we Wolves have pretty big everything. Helps with the tempting of Little Reds, you know.” He says cheerfully. It’s not a lie. He’s pretty impressive even for a Wolf. “Those goodies we want so much? Are actually a metaphor for the best sex of your life.” 

 

“Are they really?” Matt wonders, voice strangled. Foggy shakes his head, grin widening and teeth just a little sharp as he nips at Matt’s hip.

 

“Nope.” He admits cheerfully. “Although it will be the best sex you've ever had, as soon as we finish the Story. Try again. What do you say?”

 

“I don’t know.” Matt gasps, frustrated tears in his eyes and face flushed. “What do you want me to say? Just tell me. I’ll say it.”

 

“That’s not how it works.” Foggy sighs sympathetically. “Come on, Matt. This is your line. Don’t tell me you forgot your line.” Matt shakes his head, swallowing when Foggy presses a soft kiss to his stomach.

 

“Please tell me? I’ll say it. I’ll say anything you want.” He begs. “Please?” Foggy smiles at him, running a hand down his thigh in reward.

 

“There we go.” He murmurs, moving back down, and he lets Matt have a few more seconds this time before pulling away again. Matt tries to cheat, tangling a hand in Foggy hair and trying to press his mouth back down, but one growl puts a stop to that.

 

“No, no, please.” Matt whimpers. “I said it. That’s what you wanted. Please, right? I was supposed to say please.” He repeats, low and hopeful. “Please?”

 

“One last question.” Foggy soothes, pressing a kiss to the hot skin. Matt moans, hips pushing against Foggy’s hold. Foggy pushes them back down again, keeping Matt still. “Come on, Matt. Just one more. What happens next?”

 

Matt changes tactics, fingers turning soothing, running gently through Foggy hair instead of pulling it. Smart man, knows when he's been beat.

 

“Happily Ever After.” Matt murmurs softly. “We live Happily Ever After.”

 

Foggy watches him quietly for a few moments.

 

Foggy’s still mad, sure. He’s also going to tease Matt about this for the rest of their lives. But Matt looks heartbreakingly hopeful, biting his rosy red lip that makes a lot more sense now. No Huntsman has rosy red lips.

 

Matt’s trying. He’s trying hard, and the way he says the words is full of awe and joy. Happily Ever After. A Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood, living Happily Ever After. Together.

 

“That’s right.” Foggy agrees, smiling up at him. Matt smiles back, tender despite his desperation. “Happily Ever After.” He laughs, low and knowing. “One bit you missed though. Right before the Happily Ever After.”

 

“What?” Matt asks, smile bemused and a little worried. “It is please again? I can say please again. Please?” Foggy shakes his head. He leans down, open mouth and all the way to the throat. Matt sobs when Foggy bobs back up, giving another gentle lick.

 

“You forgot the part where the Big Bad Wolf swallows Little Red Riding Hood whole.” Foggy reminds him kindly. “And Little Red Riding Hood wants it more than anything in the world, and Little Red says…?”

 

“Good Wolf.” Matt whispers obediently. Foggy grins at him, feeling more wolfish than he ever has in his life.

 

“Perfect. Now you get your Happy Ending.”