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More Than A Beast

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It was the little things that caught his attention first.
Small things that, had it been anyone other than Snow, probably wouldn't have drawn anything more than suspicion from Bigby: her eyes, once full of confidence and resolution, had taken on a feral look, wide with panic and unable to settle on a single target; her nimble fingers had begun to twitch, restlessly drumming against her desk or inattentively tugging at her collar; her scent, usually peaceful and smelling of summer, had suddenly taken on an undercurrent of paranoia. Small, subtle differences but differences nonetheless.
Bigby discreetly rose his eyes from the cigarette dangling between his fingers and settled his gaze on the frazzled woman standing at her desk. "Snow", he began, slowly approaching her.
She jumped, running her eyes around the room until they settled on Bigby. "Oh, Bigby. Hi." She cleared her throat and tucked her fidgeting hands behind her. "When did you get here?"
He shrugged and gave her a once-over, quickly noting the loose strands of hair dangling from the bun sitting atop her head. "A few minutes ago."
"Sorry", Snow sighed. She ran a hand over her face, brushing the loose hair up as she did so, and gave him a small smile. "I guess I'm still waking up."
"Hm. You get any sleep last night?"
"No more than usual."
Bigby nodded and leaned against her desk, looking over the papers scattered about the wooden surface. "Anything interesting", he asked, watching her carefully.
"Huh? No, uh, nothing really. Just the usual complaints and report", Snow responded quietly. She ducked her head and turned around, humming as she walked towards the towering book shelves lining the walls.
"Uh huh." Bigby followed her, mindful of staying a few steps behind her, and listened to her frantic heartbeat. "Is, uh, is everything alright?"
Snow glanced at him sideways then refocused her attention on the bookcase. "Yeah, I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be?"
"I don't know. You just seem a bit on edge lately." He blindly reached for a book, snorting when it turned out to be about wolves, and flipped it over to indifferently read the summary. "I was just, you know, wondering if you were okay."
"Mm hm. Yeah, I'm great." She stared ahead and crossed her arms over her chest, nodding to herself. "A little tired maybe, but that's nothing a little coffee won't fix."
Bigby looked up from his book, risking a glance in Snow's direction. He hesitated before gently reaching out and laying his hand on her shoulder. Her reaction was instant, eyes widening and back stiffening. She shivered, slowly turning to face him.
"Um, Bigby?"
"Snow." He sighed and slowly retracted his hand. He shifted his attention to adjusting his tie, trying the mask the hurt. "What's going on?"
"Nothing", she insisted. She shook her head and walked back towards her desk. "I'm fine. Honestly. Now, I have a lot of work I need to do today, so if you could just-"
"You don't have anyone to see."
Snow settled into her chair, looked at the window in her office door, and found no faces peering in at her. She massaged her temple gently, letting her eyes close. "Why isn't anyone here?"
The sheriff shrugged, pressing his back against the bookcase, and turned over the book in his hands. "We discussed this last week, Snow. Remember? You, Bluebeard, and I agreed that the line was too much for one person to maintain. You get the line for the first half of the week, and he gets it for the rest." He stared at her worriedly. He was about to speak when she held up her hand.
"Thank you, Bigby", Snow began. "I guess it just slipped my mind." She stacked the papers to a neat stack with shaky hands, and slowly rose to her feet. "No one's coming by today", she whispered to herself.
"Right. You could take the day off. Hell, you have the next few days off. If anything happens, Bluebeard and I will handle it", he explained, turning his nose up at the end.
She smirked. "And who will handle you?"
He rolled his eye, smiling as the tension in her shoulders eased. "I can take care of myself, Snow."
"Sure you can. And what happens if someone comes by the office anyway."
"There's a sign in the window", Bigby said gruffly, scratching his chin. "If they can read, then there shouldn't be a problem."
Snow leaned against her desk and rubbed her eyes. "Okay. I guess."
He reached for her again, the urge to comfort her overwhelming, but let his hand fall to his side at the last moment. Bigby scratched the back of his head and cleared his throat. Snow looked up at him, and he smiled softly. She smiled back, rubbing her arm, and the swift beating of her heart began to slow. "Thanks, Bigby. Really."
"No problem. Just take care of yourself, alright? I, er, we need you. Fabletown needs you."
Her smile widened, and Bigby restrained himself from inhaling too deeply as her eyes softened. "I will, Bigby." She lowered her voice. "And...I need Fabletown, too."
Bigby held her eye for a moment before she suddenly looked away. He frowned and pushed himself off of the bookcase.
"I'm just gonna finish looking over these reports about the Farm", she explained, waving the papers in his direction. "After that, I promise, I will go home."
"And get some rest", he finished with a pointed look. "Not just take another stack home and bury yourself into more work."
Snow laughed sheepishly. "Right. I'll leave work at work", she promised, lightly tapping her fingers against the desk.
"Good." He dropped his book beside her stack of papers and straightened his back. "Well, uh, I'd be on my way. Mundies have apparently taken up shop in the Trip Trap."
Snow's eyebrows shot up. "Oh. Should I be worried?"
Bigby crossed his arms and shook his head. "No. It's problem just some of their young looking for a new spot to meet. It happens every once in awhile", he said, walking to the door. "Nothing serious."
Her knee began to bounce, and she chewed on her lower lip.
Bigby snorted. "Kick your feet up, Deputy", he called, closing the door behind him.
Snow blinked, her eyes still on the door, and sighed heavily. She waited a moment, listening to the sound of his fading footsteps, before she drifted her gaze to her forearm. She slowly drew the sleeve back and sadly looked at the three fierce claw marks marred her skin. Snow clenched her fist, letting the sleeve fall, as her eyes took notice of the book Bigby had been looking over. She reached for it and stared at the cover. "'Wolf Folk Tales'", she read aloud. She dropped the book and turned around, eyeing its contents uncertainly.
"Bufkin!", she called. She stuffed her papers into a drawer, attaching a sticky note with an exclamation point onto the sheet on top, and set off in search of the flying monkey. "Can you help me find something?"