Dreams of Stars (A Once Upon a Time/Jiminy Cricket fanfic)

This is a New Character fanfiction of "Once Upon a Time", and it's written to be parallel with the original show. It adds backstory to Jiminy and Geppetto.

I've added my own character to "Once Upon a Time"--the girl from this old English fairy tale, "The Stars in the Sky": http://www.essentia.com/book/stories/skystar.htm

In the Enchanted Forest, the little girl--named Kaelin--became friends with Jiminy Cricket in her quest to reach the stars. In Storybrooke, she's 17 and named Bridget, and she has to see Dr. Archie Hopper for her serious struggles with feelings of failure and lack of confidence.

Recommended for people who have watched "Once Upon a Time", but if you haven't, this might get you hooked on it. Just be careful--there are spoilers. ;)

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18. Enchanted Forest

            The first home Jiminy Cricket and Kaelin Mouse chose for themselves was a small, partially-hollowed stump in the forest near the orphanage. The stump was dark brown, rough, and often damp with toadstools sprouting from the top and soft, bulging patches of moss climbing all over it. The inside was still full of rotting leaves when they first found it, but Kaelin tidied it up as best she could and made two, soft nests out of moss. Jiminy said he didn’t really need a nest since he was an insect, but Kaelin insisted on making one for him anyway.

            While Geppetto remained in the orphanage, Jiminy and Kaelin watched over him from a distance, as well as they could. Actually, in Kaelin’s thinking, it was only Jiminy who was watching over him. Jiminy would sneak into the orphanage and try to do some of Geppetto’s work for him or distract the workers to help him, but Kaelin found she couldn’t bear to go in. Just seeing a worker, or hearing their voice, or smelling a familiar odor was enough to give her panic attacks. Kaelin Mouse was as timid and shy as any mouse, if not more so. To her shame, she was unable to help Geppetto.

            Certain she was a burden on Jiminy, Kaelin spent her time foraging for food, never going too far into the forest because she was afraid of getting lost. She collected rainwater and dew in leaves. She discovered raspberries, blackberries, and gooseberries in bushes and mulberries on the ground around trees. Her favorite thing to find was a walnut because she could take the time to roll it home and then nibble through the skin and the tough shell. Kaelin usually had too much time during the day.

            Though Kaelin was constantly wracked with fear, shame, and anxiety—and often paralyzed by it—Jiminy never once grew angry with her. On the contrary, he seemed continually grateful. The small amount Kaelin felt she did to help would have been called worthless by the orphanage workers, so she wondered if Jiminy was just trying to be nice. She wished she could do something of actual value, like help Geppetto. Deep down, Kaelin Mouse was unceasingly amazed and grateful that she was living in the stump with Jiminy Cricket instead of in the orphanage, but she pushed away even those feelings. She felt guilty that she was out here and safe, while Geppetto remained in there.

            Almost a year after Kaelin left with Jiminy, Geppetto turned 18 and was sent away from the orphanage. The cricket and the mouse managed to slip onto his carriage as it was departing, but it simply took him to the nearest town. They hopped off into a bush and watched him as he stood in the street and looked around. He shivered with anticipation and uncertainty.

            “I want to go talk to him,” Kaelin whispered to Jiminy. This was the first time she had really seen him since she left the orphanage.

            “Go ahead,” Jiminy replied, “You’ll have better luck than I would.”

            Her little heart pounding faster than ever with anticipation, Kaelin slipped out from the bush and cautiously approached Geppetto’s foot. She paused at his toe, then slowly stood up on her hind legs and folded her front paws together. She squeaked.

            Geppetto looked down, and his eyes widened slightly with quiet surprise. Kaelin realized that she was still wearing her dress, so she must already look very unusual for a mouse.

            Very cautiously, as though afraid of scaring her away, Geppetto knelt down and placed one hand on the ground, palm up. Kaelin wasn’t afraid. Even though Geppetto carried a deep anger, he was an extremely gentle person. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. Silently, she slipped onto his hand, and he stood up.

            Looking into his thin face again with its strikingly dark eyes and short, black beard, Kaelin wanted to cry. She wanted to pour out all her apologies for not having been there for him in his last year, for not having been able to even enter the orphanage. But she remained silent.

            Geppetto stared hard at her, and her heart beat even faster with unexplained fright. Finally, he asked, “Who are you?”

            Kaelin caught her breath. Geppetto had guessed—or he suspected and wasn’t quite sure—that she was Kaelin. She realized that he had never seen her turn into a mouse, so he would have no way of knowing for certain. Even so, just the fact that she had gone off with Jiminy Cricket and that a mouse was appearing before him now could be enough evidence for him.

            She opened her mouth to tell him who she was, but at the last moment, fear seized her. Wouldn’t he be angry at her too for choosing Jiminy over him? “My name is…Suzy,” she whispered.

            Geppetto nodded without a word. Kaelin couldn’t tell whether he believed her or not, and she sank into a helpless, awkward silence. After another long moment, he spoke again: “Why did you come to me?”

            “Y-you seemed sad,” she replied.

            “I am sad,” he said, “I have no family in this world and no idea what I’m going to do next.”

            Kaelin nodded and bit her lip, but she didn’t have a response. In a way, she had avoided the responsibility of growing up when she became a mouse. She didn’t have to learn how to interact with society, or how to make a living. She wasn’t sure what to say to help him.

            “For now, I’ll look around this village and see if anyone wants to hire me,” Geppetto decided, “Will you stay with me?”

            Kaelin looked up in amazement. She nodded again, this time eagerly. “There’s someone out there, watching over you,” she blurted out, “That person sent me to help you. Of course I’ll stay.”

            Geppetto’s expression darkened slightly, and Kaelin felt she had made a terrible mistake. She had said too much. For a few seconds, she expected him to drive her away, but then he muttered, “Thanks, Suzy. Let’s go.” He placed her on his shoulder and headed off down the street.

            Geppetto was polite and respectful to everyone he spoke to in town, so he gained a good reputation almost instantly. By evening, he came to the woodworker’s shop. The woodworker was an eccentric old man, and he studied Geppetto with keen, bright blue eyes which glimmered behind little spectacles. He took a particular interest in Kaelin, though Geppetto was protective of her.

            “My, my, my, a boy and his mouse,” he remarked the moment they stepped inside, “What’s her name?” He tugged on his thin, white beard.

            “Suzy,” Geppetto replied warily, though Kaelin had already attracted a lot of attention that day.

            “And what are you here for, hmm? Looking for a little house for her? Or maybe some puppets to entertain her?”

            Geppetto shuddered. “I hate puppets,” he muttered. He turned to go.            

            “Wait! You can’t leave without telling me what you came in for!” the old man exclaimed.

            “Just looking for a job,” Geppetto mumbled.

            “Well, what fortune! I’ve been looking for an apprentice lately! See, I’m old, and I’ll need someone to take over the shop for me before long. Come in. Show me what you know.”

            Geppetto turned reluctantly back, glancing with revulsion at a rack of puppets on the wall. The offer was too good to not at least explore. If he didn’t get help today, he would be sleeping in the streets.

            The woodworker brought out a small, dark block of wood and a whittling knife. He handed them to Geppetto. “Show me if you can carve…A starfish,” he said.

            Geppetto looked at him incredulously. “Not a star?”

            “We’re a coastal town!” the man replied, “If someone’s passing through, do you think they want to buy a star as a souvenir? No! They want to buy a starfish!”

            “Okay! I’m not stupid!” Geppetto snapped. The man wasn’t angry with him, but this was similar enough to the way the orphanage workers had talked to him to make him defensive.

            “We’ll see about that,” the man replied softly, raising his eyebrows. He pressed the block of wood and knife into Geppetto’s hands, “Now, sit down and show me what you can do.”

            Geppetto sat down in a wooden, straight-backed chair and tried to figure out how to hold the wood and knife. He had never had the materials to practice carving before, so he had never done it.

            The woodworker watched him helplessly. “Don’t you even know how to hold the knife, boy?”

            “I don’t know anything,” Geppetto admitted resentfully, “I’ve never had the chance.”

            “Then I doubt you’ll be getting a job here!” the old man scoffed, but as Geppetto stood up to leave, he added, “No! Wait wait wait! I’ll show you what to do first, and then see. And then decide.” He snatched the knife and wood from Geppetto’s hands, demonstrated how to hold them, and slowly shaved off a corner of the wood. He handed them back. “Now it’s your turn.”

            Kaelin hadn’t been able to make any sense out of that hurried demonstration, but as Geppetto took a seat once more, the knife and wood seemed to magically fall into place in his hands. Cautiously, almost reverently, he held the knife and used it to carve out another wood shaving.

            “Good,” the woodworker said, “Take all the time you need. I’ll be working in the other room when you’re done!” With that, he bounced off to the back room.

            Kaelin settled down on Geppetto’s shoulder and watched him carve. Geppetto worked steadily, rhythmically…gradually whittling down the wood until it began to take a star-like shape. The five points of the star he rounded off, and he also rounded the corners. A cricket’s chirp echoed through the silent room, and Kaelin contentedly thought that it was probably Jiminy. She had no doubt that Jiminy had followed them all that day, at a distance.

            After he had finished making the shape of a starfish, Geppetto tried to smooth out his work. Then he took the tip of the knife and made a few nicks in the top of the starfish to represent the bumps on the tops of real starfish. He eyed his handiwork apprehensively, then went to show it to the woodworker.

            The old man’s eyes almost popped out of his head. “You’ve been lying to me!” he cried, “Why would you lie to me?”

            “Sir, I don’t know what you…”

            “Look at this!” He shook the starfish in Geppetto’s face, “You told me you had never carved before, right?”

            “I-I hadn’t,” Geppetto stammered.

            The woodworker held the starfish in both hands, a light dawning in his eyes and a grin spreading across his face. “Really…” he muttered to himself, “Yes…yes, could use some work, but as your first attempt, marvelous!” He met Geppetto’s eyes. “Young man, you have potential to become a master woodworker!”

            Geppetto let out an incredulous laugh. “Me?”

            “Yes, you! Do you think I’m talking to the mouse?!” the old man shouted with a sharp gesture, “Come in here, boy! You got the job!” 

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