TITLE: Once Upon A Time.
BY: Seanan
E-MAIL: delirium at xocolatl dot com
FOR: Carla
CHARACTER(S): Bigby Wolf, 'Fables' (Vertigo/DC).
RATING: PG-13, for language.

Once upon a time...

I hate that stupid sentence.

Once upon a time there was a big green wood in a big green world, and nobody thought there was a damn thing special about it, because it was just like every other big green wood in the big green world, and nobody tried to save it, because it didn't need any saving. Woodcutters came there, they didn't come out again. Same went for hunters. The ones that weren't born there, anyway, the ones that came like thieves instead of natives looking for a meal. It was a green place and it was a good place, and nobody who grew there ever thought they'd wind up anyplace else.

Ma was a looker. She had fur that was gray like...like something that's gray, and strong white teeth, and she ran almost as fast as the wind itself. Priorities in beauty are a little different, when you're a wolf. Less confusing, that's for damn sure. By wolf standards, she was even prettier than a human girl with skin as white as snow and hair as black as coal and...

Stop that.

Ma was a looker, and so maybe it wasn't any wonder when the West Wind himself swept down and took an interest. Not any wonder in fairy tale fable-land, anyway; they do things different here, where they keep the forests in cages and nothing is really happy ever after. Back there, though, back in that big green wood, in that big green world, when the West Wind said 'marry me' to a bitch he'd have been more likely to keep in his kennels any time and any place else, she said yes, and she went with him, and if she was ever sorry, she never told me. And if he was sorry when their only son had a tail and four feet, strong white teeth, and fur that was brown as branch-bark, well, he never said it to my face, and when we ran away so she could teach me about the wood that was the world, he didn't stop her. I even think he loved her, the old bastard. What does it say about my childhood, that I come from a time and a place where even the wind could fall in love, and mean it?

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time the world got smaller, because the stories were changing, becoming less about wide spaces and green places, and more about the changes men could make in those places, those spaces. Less about wolves and winds and wilderness, and more about monsters in the wood. I never decided to be a monster; that was just where the story took me, what it said a great wolf of the westlands had to be. Ma...she wasn't so lucky. Fables are forever, and so are winds, but what about the wives of winds? What about the mothers of the stories? They become background, stuff that happened before 'once' began, and they're forgotten. I haven't forgotten her. But there's no story in this world or any other about a gray-furred bitch who ran so fast she stole the heart of the wind himself, and there never will be, and I miss her.

Three days after she died and left me alone, basically a teenager with an appetite the size of the whole universe and a lot of power he didn't know how to control, the first woodcutter came into the wood that was my world. I didn't know what to do, but he reminded me of my father -- in shape if nothing else -- and so I let him pass unchallenged. That was my first mistake. He stole wood and meat and fur and knowledge, and he took them all away with him, back to the world of men, where stories are born and forged through careless words. More followed. More, and more, and more besides, until all the world was made of men. There were fewer people than rabbits in the wood, sure, but they stank ten times as much, and they made ten times as much noise, and they destroyed what they couldn't care about. They killed the rabbits that were my rightful food. They killed the smaller wolves, when they could catch them. Is it any wonder, then, that as a story of the wood, I started fighting back?

But here's the problem: men wrote the stories. Not wolves, not winds, not little pigs in brick houses; men. Men decided what endured. And so I died a hundred times, even though I was faster, bigger, bolder, braver. Even though my teeth were strong and my legs were swift and I blew out a wind that even my father would have been proud of. I wasn't a man, and so I couldn't win. Only men can win.

Seen Goldilocks recently? Once upon a time...

Once upon a time, more men came into the woods; cruel, cold men, and creatures who weren't men but obeyed them all the same, and witches, and wizards, and monsters more monstrous than I was, and all of them looking to do just what men have always done. They wanted to take the wood and the world and the stories, take them away, take them over and turn them into something new. Why would I want to stop them? Not my fight, men. You stole the stories from the green, from my parents, from the things you killed. Why would I help you keep those stories? Why would I care?

And the fight went on, and I held my wood, because I didn't care about the men, but I cared about my skin. Dying hurt. I avoid it when I can. And then...

Then...

Once upon a time there was a queen, or maybe just a woman, who wanted a child very badly. And one day she pricked her finger, and she bled three drops of blood onto the snow. And -- having the color sense of a freak, or maybe a vampire, or something already half-dead with boredom and longing and stupid human inbreeding -- she said 'I think I'll have a daughter with skin as white as snow and lips as red as blood and hair as black as ebony'. And that was enough to catch and hold a passing story, and so Snow White was born. Whether she was a princess or a peasant girl changes story to story. Doesn't matter all that much, does it? Either way you look at it, she got here. She came into the world with a bloody scream of 'once upon a time', and everything began again for the very first time ever.

They brought her to my wood. That was their fatal error, those bastards, that was the thing that saved her, and damned them...and damned me. Because once I saw her, once I smelled her, there was no other way for the story to go.

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time there was a wolf who lived in a big green wood in a big green world, and who learned quick and hard that only the men win when the stories are told. That only the men can get the girl, that princesses like hands to cup their faces and thumbs to stroke their cheeks. That tails are a real turnoff, unless you're a freak like Beauty. That sometimes you have to make sacrifices if you want half a chance of seeing what it's actually like, living happily ever after.

Once upon a time there was a man who sometimes dreamed he was a wolf.

Once upon a time, I thought I could wake up.

Happy ever after?

Fuck you.