Tumbling Down the Way

By Shahrezad1

Summary: On Tumblr I asked for Red Cricket prompts and this was the result. A mix of drabbles and longer one-shots, courtesy of mostly DJRocca87 and ACoupletShort's imaginations. :)

Disclaimer: I don't own these guys—you should know that by now. I've been a fan for how long? XD

Chapter 5:

DJRocca87-Red meets Jiminy (your choice of setting and story)

The smell of the library tickled his nose. It was a mix of age, knowledge and crumbling parchment. And guilt. There was a definite feeling of guilt.

It itched along his skin from his fingers to his toes, like the powder his mother kept at the back of the wagon, used for one of their "cure" schemes. Only this time the itch was below his skin—along with the heaviness of his heart.

They'd never attempted a ploy this elaborate before—it had always been little things. A cheap trick here, a distraction there, never…never…

Well, never this.

He stumbled slightly at the thought of it, nearly falling over the book return cart. His parents…they…they'd made a deal with the devil. Well, Rumpelstiltskin, more like, but it was all the same. They had hoped to get a charm; one that could lure wealthy targets in like moths to flame. And it had worked—it had actually worked. Not that there was any room for doubt, given that it was the Dark One himself whom they'd dealt with.

Being present at the festival in honor of Prince James and Princess Snow White's engagement was proof enough that it had worked (an event most vendors would kill their own mothers in order to be in attendance). And from their prime position in the square his mother and father were surely pilfering the pockets of royals from miles around!

But the problem was their end of the bargain.

The Dark one had provided an opportunity for the thieves to gain great wealth, but it was also an opportunity to achieve his own ends. And with his parents occupied with their other activities, that left him to toil at the required task.

If he didn't, well, it didn't bear thinking about.

The problem was, he wasn't even sure where to start.

King George's royal library rose around him like mountains, taller than eye could see. Long ladders reached from the ground floor all the way up, attached to a track near the top, but with the wall sconces posted only half way up the corners were dim with shadows.

He'd tried searching all along the ground level and had come up with nothing more than every-day tomes—history, dust-filled and moth-eaten and popular novelas, their edges thumbed. There was an entire section dedicated to children's primers and grimoires with basics on talisman-making and basic herb-lore.

Nothing advanced, however. And there was so much more to go through. It didn't help that his glasses were broken on the one side, either, the side-effect of a run in with local constabulary.

It was discouraging. And should he fail—well, it didn't bear thinking about.

Resting slightly against a bookshelf, Jiminy rubbed at the furrow he was developing between his eyebrows. The distant sound of music—full orchestra hired for the royal event—played upon his nerves, faint echo aside, and his time was drawing short ever-quicker.

"I…I don't know what I'm going to do," the words were gasped out without thought, a reflection of his inner turmoil. But he certainly didn't expect a reply!

"Well, you could always ask for help."

He was up before he'd even registered it, breath coming fast and heart rate pulsing frantically just under his skin. Squinting into the darkened corners of the room, he couldn't see anything and belatedly realized that he'd come here—into enemy territory, to steal from King George's great library—unarmed. After all, it wasn't as though he was stealing something of worth. A-a painting, for example, or anything of monetary value. It had never even entered his mind to worry about the physical ramifications of getting caught.

Swallowing harshly, he tried to scan the area to find the origin of the words. Attempting, at least externally, to put up a brave face, "wh-who's there?"

"Just someone else trying to avoid the crowd," the words were slightly wry, soothing and a little ironic. Then it was with a quietness of manner that a young woman stepped carefully into the torchlight. Her foot treads were soundlessly placed, and something about her manner reminded him of a…an animal of all things. Like a deer, or…no, more like a fox. A woodland creature somehow examining his humanity and finding it curious.

But then he blinked and it was gone, and she was nothing more than a simple young woman, her hands clasped before her.

The brown of her outer-dress was simple and elegant, created with a loving if lowly hand. There was no beadwork or jewels hanging off the heavy material, but amber thread created a sweeping design of wheat and curling leaves. As for her hair, it was rich and dark, a tumble of wholesome curls and a braided crown crossing over her head. The young lady's hands were long but calloused, features unadorned by an paint or product, and expression open and interested.

She was as common as he was, the gypsy realized, a wildflower among hothouse roses.

Except for, well, the vivid vermilion of her cloak.

Still, the knowledge calmed him somewhat, and without realizing it Jiminy let out a wobbly smile.

The woman gasped out a grin in response, as though she, too, had been holding her breath. With some determination she strode forward then, hand outstretched to clasp his own. He had no choice but to oblige, and as their skin brushed he could have sworn that something…strange passed between them. A semblance of familiarity and understanding.

"I'm Red. But everyone calls me Red Riding Hood, on account of my cloak. What's your name?"

"J-Jiminy."

"Well, Jiminy," she smiled up at him cheekily, "I'm pretty familiar with this place after being cooped up while waiting for Ma-Snow and David to just get married already. What can I help you find?"

He swallowed guiltily, "w-well, I…my master…"

Her green eyes watched him knowingly, as though she could see into his soul. She placed her hands on her hips before nodding decisively, "he's one of the guests, I imagine, wanting to take a peek while cranky ol' George is busy with other things. Well, let me tell you, the King won't miss a thing. He's not exactly a reading man, if you get my meaning."

Her tone was deadpan and annoyed.

And just like that he suddenly didn't feel half as guilty. But still…he hesitated.

Until her face whirled to look deeply up at him, long lashes sweeping over honeyed, alabaster cheeks, "what are you looking for?"

The redhead swallowed, fiddling with his glasses, "well, it's, ah. A book on traveling to other worlds. Blue cover, gold writing."

"Probably upstairs, away from the children's section," she waved at the area before taking his arm. And suddenly it was as though his arm was on fire, the areas where his sleeve brushed against hers an electrifying span of heightened nerves, "follow me."

And just like that the reluctant thief was aided by none other than the Princess's best friend herself. Although discovering that would be a surprise all its own.