The first thing he's aware of is that his head hurts. A lot. It feels as though he's recently taken a beating across the skull from a sledgehammer—and from what little he can remember of the battle, he may very well have.
"Ungh," he says, tongue thick in his mouth, and tries to sit up.
A hand firmly presses down on his chest. "Slowly, Bigby," a voice says, and he blinks up in astonishment.
"Snow?" he says, as her face comes into focus above the wavering lamplight. "What are you doing here?"
She sets a tray of instruments down at the foot of his bed and comes to sit beside him, smoothing her blood-stained apron over her voluminous skirts. "Rescuing you, dimwit," she replies wryly. "Did you think I'd let my sheriff run off and play spy for the Yankees without me knowing? And then you had to go and get yourself captured, like a complete fool. You wouldn't believe the amount I had to bribe the guards to let me in here."
Bigby cautiously raises himself to a sitting position. "You're a nurse?" he says with disbelief.
Snow laughs, and then, abashed, glances around the prison ward warily as a Confederate guard eyes her with distrust. "You had better hurry up and heal, Wolf," she whispers, "because I'm not sure how much longer I can maintain the 'ministering angel' routine."
"Hah," Bigby says. "Point taken."
Even with the snow and the cold deadening his senses like a heavy wet blanket thrown over his head, he can smell her through the storm. As the wind lifts and tosses her coal-black hair, just visible through the blinding white, her scent hits him like a load of bricks (her heart beating fast with exertion and anxiety, though she would certainly never admit to being alarmed-the fear he tastes on her sweat doesn't lie) and he is pulled to her inexorably, like a moth to a flame. As he wades through the waist-high drifts of snow towards her, she finally sees him approaching and her relief is palpable in her face and in her scent.
"Bigby," Snow shouts, or at least he thinks she does, and as he draws nearer she reaches for him with gloved hands and says, lips white with cold, "This damned idress/i, remind me again why I try to keep up with Mundy fashions?"
He wraps an arm around her waist to keep her from staggering into a snowbank. It would be much easier, he thinks wistfully, to go wolf and have done with this charade, but knows exactly what Snow would think of him doing that on a public street and figures it's not worth the haranguing he'd get. "Every other creature in this city," he calls into her ear, struggling out of his overcoat, "has the sense God gave a flea to stay indoors during a blizzard. What possessed you to leave your office?"
Her curt reply is lost to the winds as he drapes his heavy coat around her shoulders, but she leans into him for support anyway. Later, as they sit before the fire, her hair loose around her shoulders and dripping ice and water to the floor, she gives him a rare wide smile. He returns it; her cheeks, already pink from the warmth of the flames, flush darker, and he thinks that's reward enough for his efforts.
Bigby has only an hour or two before he's due to leave, and since he's already feeling decidedly masochistic he decides to say good-bye to Snow White in her office. She's figured out what he's doing already, of course, and is seething mad, the stony set of her face a marked contrast to the delicately feminine lace of her dress and the tiny roses pinned in her masses of sleek hair. She isn't one for his righteous causes and doesn't place any value on noble suffering, and it's written plain across her features that she thinks he's a raging idiot for signing up for a pointless, bloody Mundy war.
"It's not your war to fight, Bigby," Snow says, leaning forward on her elbows. "You have duties here, and anyway, you know you could do more good here than dying in the trenches-we need you. Fabletown needs you."
If she'd said, I need you here, he probably would have stayed. As it stands, he shrugs and gets to his feet, taking a long drag on his cigarette. "I'll be seeing you then, ma'am," he says.
Snow settles back in his chair, one dark eyebrow arched. "You'd better, Mister Wolf," she says coolly, and he briefly admires the skill it takes to maintain her façade of detachedness as anger and dread and frustration roil so obviously—to him, anyway-under the surface. "I've spent centuries of work on you; I'd hate to have to break in a new sheriff."
He takes that in the spirit it's intended and nods to her gravely. Snows watches in distaste as he drops the cigarette to the ground and grinds it beneath his heel, and she makes a show of rifling through the papers on her desk as he walks away. As he turns to shut the door, he catches one last glimpse of her pale face, eyes shadowed as she bites her blood-red lip with worry.
He carries that image with him for a long time.
"Daddy. Daddyyyyyy," Therese says plaintively, climbing over the back of his chair and slinging her arms around his neck. Out of the corner of his eye, Bigby can see her make a face. "Daddy, you're all scratchy."
Bigby sighs and kisses her forehead, rubbing a hand across his roughly stubbled chin. "You're supposed to be headed for bed, you little monster. What do you want?"
"Tell us a story," Darien says, and as if on cue, the rest of the pack joins in, begging and pleading and trying to squirm their way into Bigby's lap. Across the room, Snow snorts, but doesn't lift her gaze from the jacket she's mending.
"They're just trying to put off their bedtime, Bigby," Snow says. "Don't let them play those games."
"I want a story too, Daddy," Blossom says, pouting, and Bigby catches Snow's gaze. She's smiling.
"Honestly," Bigby says, "I wouldn't know where to start."