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Fan Fiction - Coming of Age 5/? [Tugger/Jemima]

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Jan. 12th, 2007 | 07:04 pm
music: You Are The Moon - The Hush Sound

Title: Coming of Age
Author: cooking_spray
Fandom: CATS
Pairing: Tugger/Jemima
Genre: Drama/Romance/General
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 9,060
Status: Ongoing
Summary: The kittens are growing up quickly, bringing about some changes in the Junkyard. This applies to Tugger's fan club as well. As he begins to lose the attentions of the Princesses, some facts must be faced. A certain soon-to-be Queen seems willing to aid the difficult process along, however. . .This chapter: Tantomile and Cassandra are disturbed by dreams while Demeter cannot sleep, Jemima shares a heart-to-heart with an unlikely young Tom, and Munkustrap both makes and receives an announcement.



Disclaimer: Highlight the phrase "fan fic". Read carefully. Consult dictionary if necessary.

First off, an apology! It took much longer than I would've liked to write this, and I'm sorry for the delay. . . I promised an update on my winter break, which clearly didn't happen. If you'll notice, though, each chapter seems to be getting progressively longer. This chapter, for instance, is double the size of the last two - almost 10,000 words! Kudos to those who stay awake. . . XD

Secondly (yes, I do love my generic adverbs), I saw CATS! I went in my Tugger costume, and had a lovely, lovely time. If you live in the US, and you get the chance to see the current tour, I recommend that you go. I was pleasantly surprised by the cast's collective talent, in most cases, and of course it was awesome just to see the show live. If you want an in-depth account, PM me and I'll be happy to send you a link to the post I made about it.

And now that that's out the way, happy reading to all of you.



~*~*~*~*~


Chapter Five:
Whispered Confessions, Shouted Secrets



~*~*~*~*~



In the brisk weeks of early winter, when shadows are long, days are short, and every breeze carries a nip, the Junkyard is often a place of desolation. Even those cats who hang their proverbial hat among the myriad of Human discard are often elusive, tempted to stay burrowed into the relative warmth of their dens rather than deal with the newly descended cold weather. If one were to pay a visit at this inopportune time, all that would be found is, well, junk - junk, the whistle of the wind, and the odd glimpse of fur, if you were lucky. Jellicles were, by nature, outdoor creatures, but the Everlasting Cat's most bitter season outfoxed the best of them at first - or rather, all but a select few, for whom even temperature was no object.

Tantomile was one of this number. Her twin enjoyed his daytime snoozes, but the dark calico Queen did not mind the weather or the lack of company. In fact, prowling around unseen and unhindered was one of her favorite pastimes. And at this time of year, the sun’s fickle rays tended to create a havoc of shadows that were perfect for her concealment. She did not consider herself a spy, but an observer - her pleasure came from watching, and knowing, even if she nearly always kept the things she saw to herself.

On this particular afternoon, she had stationed herself in the cool obscurity of two large junk heaps, her fur harmonizing with the sun’s inability to permeate. It was one of her favorite spots - from it, she could get a decent view of the Yard’s center, as well as the outer reaches where Jellicles with Human homes often filtered in from. So far, things were still, but her sixth sense indicated that they would not remain that way for long. There were a few good hours before the moon was due to rise, and it was underestimated just how much could transpire past noon on an early winter’s day.

Pollicle barks and howls echoed from some faraway alley or backyard, but Tantomile knew they were not the reason she was so alert. Whatever was going to happen would not be threatening or dangerous; she could divine that much. Still yet, it was an event that called for her undivided attention, which either meant it would be terribly interesting or greatly humorous. Today, she was hoping for the former - there had been a lot to chuckle over recently, despite all of the commotion over the approaching full moon, but only snippets of things that held true intrigue. Besides the obvious, that was, and Tantomile did not even want to exhaust herself with those premonitions at the moment.

As if in response, the form of Jellylorum presented itself, looking considerably less composed than usual. Tantomile knew that she had just come from taking care of her elderly Mate, as she did at the same time every day, without fail. It was only a guess, but Tantomile attributed the tortoise-coated Matron’s shift in mood to Gus’ decline in health. He was very old, even for a Jellicle, whose lives often stretched significantly longer than that of an average house cat’s. It would not be a surprise if he was selected to be the Jellicle Choice at this year’s Ball - in fact, it was safe to say that she had already been enlightened of the fact.

The dark calico Queen concentrated on the Yard’s newcomer. She did not head straight for the nursery, as she usually did - although, by now, she could probably afford to dawdle, as the kittens were quickly creeping up on adulthood, and no births had been witnessed for quite some time (but that could easily be remedied). The other reason for her hesitation probably involved her son. Admetus’ resemblance to his father was becoming more evident by the day, and at times, he even displayed the same jocund manner and energy that Gus had on stage. The time he wasted on practical jokes did not make his talent for acting any less apparent, either, as everyone could vividly recall his debut as the Rumpus Cat from last Ball.

Tantomile continued her critical examination. Jellylorum looked slightly distraught as she idled by the TSE 1, perhaps hoping that Jenny would let her boy scouts off early today and that she’d have someone to confide in. This, more than anything, made Tantomile’s sympathies go out to her. Jelly was entering the autumn of her years, but Gus had always been her senior by far. It had been one of those romances that had happened in spite of all conflicts and differences - Tantomile had been too young at the time to recall the details, but the older Jellicles spoke frequently of the courtship. Deuteronomy, back in the days when he was fitter and full of health, had been skeptical of their relationship, but as the story went, the Theatre Cat had completely won him over in time. Gus had since proven himself a very worthy induction into the tribe, and even in his later years, his storytelling gift had not deserted him. Tantomile would miss the vivacity he was able to inspire, regardless of all of the handicaps age had bestowed upon him.

While the dark calico Queen gazed at the grieving Matron, sharing in her existential sorrow, she felt a strong presence advancing on her. Turning, she heightened her senses, but by the time her eyes had swiveled in the direction of the intrusion, her body relaxed. The “strong presence” was only an Abyssinian Queen creeping around the bend, looking satisfied with her stealth.

Only half of the Dark Twins? Cassandra mused in the silky tones of her mind-voice, stretching her lanky form and allowing her question to taper off into a yawn. She sidled up to Tantomile with leisure, trying to share in her view.

The last time I checked, one and one made two. The rebuttal was not unfriendly - Tantomile considered Cassie a closer friend than most. Although she was content with the license for introversion her reputation among the tribe afforded her, it did not mean she was above being companionable. For her age, Cassie had already had a wealth of wisdom and talent - the extraordinary abilities that gave her the right to refer to herself as a Jellicle. She could play coy and come across as uppity, when her mood saw it fit, but in the end, she had what it took to back her airs up. In this respect, she and Alonzo were very well-suited for each other.

Forgive my arithmetic this early in the day. Cassie found a shadow accommodating to her tawny coat, and crouched down into it, one pale eye affixing itself to Jellylorum. Spying again, are we, Tantie?

I would’ve supposed you’d be home now. Won’t your Humans worry? The dark calico Queen ignored the sarcasm to maintain her examination of Jelly, as she knew Cassandra would only take the chagrin lightly. The Matron seemed to have gathered her wits about her, but there was an undeniable touch of sadness in her eyes. For as long as she had known her, Tantomile had never seen her wear a face quite like that.

Cassandra continued the joust, but her interests were now also primarily invested in the mystery of Jellylorum’s sorrow. They’re out of town for the week. I am free to come and go as I wish. . . and I prefer to do the latter rather than the former. The other Human woman looking after the house is liable to mistake me for a rug and try to suck me up in that awful machine of hers. She sniffed in distaste.

How very typical for a pampered house cat such as yourself to complain. The comment was accompanied with a wry smile, and no traces of true resentment. In the meantime, Jellylorum took it upon herself to disappear into the nursery, apparently considering herself recovered for the time being. Tantomile would not soon forget what she had witnessed, however. It reminded her of just how soon the next Ball actually was, and all that implied.

As soon as the audience to their conversation had departed, Tantomile slipped into a verbal pattern of speech again. “Why is it that you’re about so early? One would think that with such a fortunate arrangement, you would enjoy sleeping in. . .”

The Abyssinian Queen smirked, not lost on the insinuation. Her black-and-white Tom had looked rather provocative a moment ago, but there is only so much of a good thing one could have, and the memory of last night was enough to please her for the time being. “In truth, I was disturbed by a dream, and couldn’t quite fall back asleep. I have a hunch it might be one of the omens I sometimes receive, and since that is your specialty, I decided a discussion was in order.”

Tantomile looked grave at the announcement. “I had figured your dreams would not be peaceful, either. Mine have been quite vivid for weeks, but I cannot yet determine what it is they foreshadow.”

Cassandra nodded, diverting an unflinching stare to the sun, with eyes used to the swelter and glare of the desert. “They do not compel me, so I don’t believe whatever it is that awaits us poses a threat. I am sure that you also feel this. . . But still, the vision is unusually blurry.” A thought seemed to strike her. “Does Coricopat also See this?”

“He Sees all that I do. He is not as concerned with this premonition, however. It is different than the terrors that kept us on our toes last Ball.” Tantomile narrowed her dark eyes, now absorbed in the vision. It cautioned of change, and disruption, but these prospects left her with no feelings of anxiety, even though the causes for such powerful movements had not been revealed to her. It was as if a dark, impenetrable cloud was shrouding her clairvoyance. She had but a hazy and dim idea of what the vision was trying to tell her, and even so, it was illogical for any of the hunches she entertained to be deserving of dreams as deep and mysterious as the ones that plagued her sleep. The dark calico Queen was at an uncharacteristic impasse. She did not think it wise to mention anything to the Guardian or the Leader quite yet, though, until things cleared a bit. Munkustrap, especially, would worry, and the tribe was abuzz enough without the added burden.

“The Ball did teach us to be more careful, you must admit. I did not take those premonitions as seriously as I should’ve.” Cassandra’s features were set and serious. “Perhaps Mistoffelees could aid us. I know that he is a Medium, and not a Seer, but I have collaborated with him before - there is a reason why they refer to him as ‘magical’, and it is not just because the Tugger thought it went well with the rhyme and meter.”

Tantomile twisted a corner of her mouth. “We both know that the Tugger does not give such things much consideration, anyhow.”

“True, indeed.” Cassie smiled along, and then deadpanned again. “I will consult with the magician, and gain his opinion. If nothing else, we will have his services on standby, should we need them.”

“Best of luck finding him. He excels at that disappearing act of his all too well.” Tantomile rose to her full height, and placed her paw over the Abyssinian Queen’s. “I am off to consort with my brother, and perhaps join him in the remainder of his slumber.”

“Do not let your dreams overwhelm you, in any case.” Cassandra gave a stately bow, and her mentor responded in kind.

The dark calico Queen then retreated, and was again swallowed by the cove of shadows that led to her den. You too, Pharaohess.

With a small, slowly-spreading smile, and the echoing ring of Tantomile’s mind voice in her head, Cassandra slipped out of sight herself.

Her pharaoh was far from royalty, but he would do for the moment - premonitions could be dealt with later.


~*~*~*~*~



Demeter was tired.

Fatigue often plagued her these days - it could probably be accredited to the fact that she had only been able to sleep for an excess of a few fitful hours at a time lately. She feared her unceasing weariness was making her behave even more erratically than it was presumed she did already. Lack of rest did tend to make one prone to hallucinations, but now, in the dark enclave of her den, all she saw was red - in both the figurative and literal sense.

Bombalurina, the indomitable Scarlet Queen, was stretched out on her back, in as much a torpor as she was ever seen. Her eyes, unlike Demeter’s, were tranquilly fastened shut. Her tail twitched a rhythm against the black-gold Queen’s thigh, and from her larynx there radiated a contented purr, indicating a blithe state of undisturbed slumber. It was a slumber that her friend desperately wished she could partake in, but as was so often the case, the things that Bombalurina made appear effortless were those that she faltered in her mimicry of.

Don’t mistake her, Deme loved Bomba dearly. Ordinarily, she would’ve been the sort of Queen that shy, skittish Demeter was sure to avoid, but there are situations that cause the most inexorable bonds to form in the most unlikely of cats, and such was the case with the two of them. And Demeter had not always been so fragile. Even she could remember a time when she garnered just as much attention as the Scarlet Queen - of course, she had been much younger and much more naive then. But one was always tempted to dismiss bygone behaviors with such a description once they had well outgrown them. . . And “outgrown” was not really even the proper word.

Such things were history, however. In the past, with no need to be dwelled upon - except for the fact that it seemed all Demeter excelled at recently was this sort of angst-ridden introspection. She had so much to be thankful for. . . Why, then, could her mind only focus on the negative?

The black-gold Queen sighed. She owed everyone in the tribe nothing but gratitude; more gratitude than she could ever possibly express, even if she tried. And Bomba - Bomba! She had helped her find her way out of the wretched walls of that Hotels-damned Asylum (even if she had helped herself get caught between them in the in the first place. . .). If it had not been for her, she would’ve remained a shamble of a Queen, trapped with only those horrid echoes of laughter to balm her. She was still ruined, in any event - at least, in an effective comparison, as she had learned to think of it. But it was much better to be ruined and living in the Junkyard, rather than in that unspeakable place, where she would be ruined forever.

Even so, jealousy pricked at her fiercely every time she laid eyes upon her den mate these past moons. Bombalurina was Bombalurina, and always had been - sensual, fun-loving, witty, flirtatious. There was seldom a time that she hesitated to find her footing in any situation, which was another of the many things about her that Demeter had always envied. Bomba had suffered all of the same things she had, and seemed none the worse off for it; while she still cowered and shrunk, even all these years afterward. You could lay eyes upon the Scarlet Queen and never suspect that there existed a day of tragedy in her past - but with Demeter, you looked and you knew. She was marked, somehow. While Bomba’s self-confident beauty inspired appreciation, the look that Deme most often received was pity. Always a you poor thing, and never more.

The only cat who had never once dismissed her this way, besides Bomba herself, was Munkustrap. To this day, Demeter did not know why - despite her struggle to effervesce the pathetic image she seemed to project, she had also realistically accepted herself as a wreck of who she had formerly been (and that persona probably wouldn't have wanted the slightest thing to do with him). This had never been a matter of any importance to the Guardian, however. From the very first days that she had lived among the Jellicles, still afraid to utter a syllable to anyone and scarcely able to do anything more than curl insecurely into Bomba’s side, he had treated her with respect. Respect, and a gentleness she did not think she could’ve deserved, at that point. The silver tabby was one of the least judgmental felines she had ever encountered, and because he was so patient with her, and seemed so genuinely concerned with her well-being and intrigued by her company, she quickly warmed up to him. On the inside, at least - her experiences had made her mistrusting, and she had always been shy in the face of the affections of other Toms. . . at least, almost always. She had grown more attached than she had suspected she ever would, and while this frightened her, Munkustrap’s quietly insistent attentions could not help but endear her to him. He never pressed her, and gave her all the space and time she needed - he even tolerated her dark twists of mood and her quirky tendencies, when it was certain that any average male would turn away and give up.

Deme was secretly grateful for the allowances Munkus made for her difficulties. She was aware of her emotional complexity, and knew that this asset could be potentially burdensome, at times. She could not correct her instinctive peculiarities, but the fact that someone understood and accepted them. . . It was a feeling different than she had ever experienced, and could not properly illustrate in the arrangement of words.

Now, however, Bomba (who had everything already) was destroying this for her. She could not tell her dearest friend how much her latest romantic venture injured her, because really, Munkustrap was not hers, and she was admittedly inept at expressing any feelings that would lead to a contradictive impression. Still, she had thought Bomba might’ve at least had some inkling, and might’ve thought of her, even in passing. . . What a selfish wish. How was someone expected to know something that she purposely kept so well-hidden, out of terror that it might overwhelm her and that she might have to do something about it? The Scarlet Queen had just beaten her to the punch. It was not surprising. She had hesitated, like the coward she was, and she would pay the price.

The black-gold Queen’s entire posture took an anguished turn, eyes still lording over Bombalurina’s sleeping figure. If Bomba intended to make the Guardian her next conquest, couldn’t she at least understand that her own love, though hardly as obvious as her vulnerability, was no petty thing? And couldn’t Munkustrap? The way he had behaved toward Bomba a few nights past had stung, however unreasonably. Demeter would not deny her friend’s irresistibility herself, and did not wish her any discord, but she had not considered Munkus susceptible to Bomba’s style. The Scarlet Queen, much like the Tugger, thrived on the results her flirting and teasing afforded her, and the silver tabby was not a Tom you would come to with such an objective in mind. Why, then, had she managed to fluster him so? Was he finally tired of waiting for her?

Munkustrap, although it was by no means official, had generally been understood to be forbidden territory between she and Bomba. The Scarlet Queen would always have her pick of the Toms she so easily beguiled, but Demeter was not so fortunately endowed - she was immensely lucky just to have what she did, and no matter how she came across, she did not take it for granted. All things considered, how could she? If Bomba took that from her, she would not only lose one part of her delicate world, but the other, as well. . . And survivor though she was, the black-gold Queen did not know if she had it in her to rise from a second devastation, especially with no one at her side to help her to stand.

Again, she had allowed herself to get lost in another depressing train of thought. Her eyes ached even more fiercely, as a result, but as she attempted to put herself to much-needed rest, she saw that the light patterned on the den’s floor was tinged with the salmon of sunset - no matter how long she managed to shut her eyes, she would still awake feeling tired. Demeter cursed the moon’s ascent. In kittenhood, the days had always seemed longer, and she’d never had difficulty letting sleep claim her.

Bomba stirred, her Jellicle senses well-attuned to the lunar cycles. There was a smile on her face, as if in response to a pleasant dream. Demeter, feeling her most miserable, lay herself down and burrowed into the pristine white fur of the Scarlet Queen’s chest, hoping that just by being closer to her, she could be part of the whatever subconscious fantasy her friend was engaging in, too. Anything was preferable to her own thoughts.

With a sleepy sigh of content, Bomba accommodated the new warmth by purring loudly, making Demeter reminisce back to days when they had slept intertwined like this for hours on end. She had been so alone, and so frightened, but all it had taken was a familiar face and a caress to soothe her.

If only things were still so easy. . .

But that was the problem - she had too many ‘if only’s, and no ‘for sure’s.


~*~*~*~*~



Back in the center of the Yard, the sky was rapidly casting aside the mottled shades of sunset for the darker, more elegant colors of evening. The rumor going around was that the Protector was due to make a tribal announcement sometime after the moon had risen, presumably concerning the festivities that would take place on the upcoming full moon. As such, things were more crowded than usual - Victoria and Plato had set up camp near the oven, and Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, who had pranced into the Yard a short time earlier, making the trademark ruckus, were contentedly sifting through their new inventory around the tower of tire tread. Cassandra and Alonzo lounged a way off, with the Dark Twins nearby, and the elusive Mistoffelees was intriguingly wedged between the two pairs.

Of course, the Matrons were reigning over the youngsters from their standard outpost on the TSE 1’s rear bumper. There had already been an incident involving a scheming bulls-eyed Tom, an unsuspecting white tabby Princess, and a tin full of water. It was yet another attention-catching attempt gone awry, only proving just how well Etcetera could wail, if anyone had forgotten from the last Ball. Drowned and fuming, she had been escorted away from the scene by Jelly and Electra, and Pouncival was given another of Jenny’s famous rebukes, if he hadn't already had his fill. Currently, the sodden Princess was whispering at the base of the tire with her toffee-colored friend, and it was not hard to guess what about, judging from the glares they kept throwing over at the trio of Toms.

However wicked of her it was, though, Jemima was just glad to have some peace and quiet to herself. Ever since the shock of last night‘s admission, she had suffered through subsequent rounds of probing on the subject of her now-public feelings, leaving her weary and all the more aware of her hopelessness. In the tumult, she had escaped to seat herself on the big chair, seeing how its customary occupant was absent, and was attempting to focus her mind on something less destructive to her self-esteem than what she had been forced to concentrate on for the past twenty-four hours.

Just as she thought she might be having some success, a woosh and a thud startled her. She looked up to see one Pouncival leering over at her from a wooden arm, boyish features all alight with the joy of fresh gossip - clearly, Etcy could not resist running her mouth, and a little water hadn‘t changed anything. She braced herself for what she knew was going to happen next.

“So, Jemi, what’s this I hear about you developing a soft spot for the Tugger? Well, I mean, you’ve always had a soft spot. . . but, a softer spot, so to speak?” His eyebrows rose and fell with comical speed.

He certainly cut right to the chase. “It’s exactly what you’ve heard it is,” Jemima answered miserably, not even bothering with defenses she knew would fall on deaf ears. “Can we just leave it at that? It’s embarrassing enough as it is without being prodded and made to feel worse.”

“Aw, Jemi, I would never prod you. . .” She shot him a look that obviously expressed a differing opinion. “Okay, so maybe I would. But I can’t help it! I’m just curious, is all. Well, not that kind of curious - the kind you like, that is - but you must understand-”

Jemima was now looking at him with eyes so mournful and pleading that he actually, for once, shut up of his own accord without her ever having to say a word. “Er. . . sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I’ll be quiet now.”

The rust-black Princess sighed. “It’s okay. It’s not your fault, really.” And it wasn't. If anyone were to blame, it would be her two supposed best friends and their loose lips - that, and her own stupid feelings.

Pounce fidgeted awkwardly for a few moments, even though he had been absolved, and then chanced another question. "So. . . do you really like the Tugger?" He still couldn't contain his curiosity, which was rather ironic considering the subject at hand.

Jemima looked down, choosing to overlook the jokester Tom's transgressions. After all, she couldn't help herself, either. "Yes."

Pouncival seemed to consider this monosyllable for a few moments (which included a lot of squinting and flamboyant mouth twisting, presumably to aid the thought process along) before speaking again. "As in, like him, like him?"

She shrugged, slowly becoming nonplussed by all of the questioning. With as many times as she'd answered queries like these, she should've written a script for herself to save time in thinking of a reply. "Maybe. I suppose I'm too young to be sure yet, really." Actually, she was sure that the answer was the affirmative, but this topic was growing old fast.

"Well," Pounce began, improving his posture to give his statement a more imperious delivery, "if you ask me, I say you look just like Vicki did when she was hanging around Plato about a year ago. And they're Mates now, so you can't tell me that's not like like!"

Jemima smiled wanly. "I'm not sure whether or not I'm supposed to take that as a compliment, but thank you anyway." Following this, her face took on a musing expression. "And since it's only fair, now that you know a secret of mine. . . although it's really not such a secret any longer. . ." She cast an unkind look over at the tire, and then continued. "What is going on between you and Etcy?"

The young Tom's face lit up noticeably at the mention, but he realized his faux pas and arranged his expression into something more smug. "Well, of course she can't keep her eyes off of me." The memory of his earlier prank returned, though, and lowered both face and ears a notch. "Usually, that is."

His listener (who was thankful to for once not be doing the talking) smiled inwardly. Pouncival was too adorable. He tried to act bigger than who he was, but his calamitous inclinations always spoiled the rouse. Jemima had always thought that he and Etcy were a well-matched couple, so it wasn't a terrible surprise to have discovered that the two had come to terms with this theory themselves. In a manner of speaking, of course. . . but she bet that it was only a matter of time.

"Dousing someone with cold water isn't really a good way to get their attention," Jemima chastised.

Pounce continued to look glum. "I know that now. And what do you suggest would be a good way to impress her, eh?" Mischief crept into his features. "Should I start wiggling my hips and practicing my falsetto?"

Jemima sighed ruefully. There it was again. . . "I think Etcy, unlike me, has mostly moved on from that." She looked at him seriously. "You do really care for her, don't you? Well, what I mean to ask is: you aren't just leading her on, right?"

Solemnity overtook the young Tom, and actually managed not to make him appear like a caricature. "I dunno. Well, I guess I care for her, yeah. . . and I do think she's pretty cute. Don't tell her I said that, by the way." He grinned briefly, and then resumed his contemplation. "I just dunno. . ."

". . . if it's love?" the rust-black Princess finished knowingly.

Pounce looked slightly confounded by this new information. "Yeah, I guess that's it. It seems so weird to say it, though - I am a Tom and all."

"Well, my predicament and yours have something in common, it seems. Who would've thought?" She gave a flippant smile. "You may actually have a chance to find out, though, if you apologize."

The carelessness with which she phrased that last bit of self-depreciating advice inspired some sympathy in her listener. He was bad at this kind of thing, but he felt obligated to try. "Hey now, Jemi. . . Don't be so down on yourself, okay? Don't tell Etcy this, either, but I think you're very beautiful, and very smart. If that shifty Pollicle of a Tom doesn't want you, then he's the one who should be feeling bad about himself." He watched for a reaction.

"Thank you, Pounce." If only her heart longed for someone like him - Etcetera, no matter how vehement her anger at the moment, was lucky. The young Tom may've been unruly, and a bit slow on the uptake, but he always meant well in the end (well, with a few small exceptions). All were fine enough qualities for a potential Mate - it was no surprise that none of them appealed to her.

The petite Princess seemed momentarily cheered by his assurances, but her smile still did not reach her eyes, and soon faded. Pouncival didn't suppose it was anything that was in his power to remedy, though, despite how much it concerned him. That stupid Tugger. . . If he ever really hurt Jemi, he wouldn't hesitate in laying his claws into him. For now, though, he had his own (and hopefully less violent) amends to make.

"Well, I'm gonna go see if I can make it up to Etce." He leapt off the chair, rolling smoothly to his feet on the ground below, and gave her a long last look.

"Alright. Just remember to be nice. . . As you've proven to me, you can do that, when you're not trying to show off." If truth be told, Etcetera was more wounded emotionally by the practical joke than she was physically. She was probably still sulking, but Jemima knew that a humble apology would fit right in with her idealized notion of romance. They would make peace before the moon had risen, and things would be back to normal again. . . or mostly normal, that was.

“Gotcha, m'lady.” He mock-saluted, pleased to be the cause of another of Jemima’s smiles, and then bounded off. She watched the two of them, catching pieces of the conversation now and then, and was pleased to note that Etcetera seemed to accept the apology with only some amount of diffidence (most of which appeared to be manufactured purposefully for the occasion). After they’d finished their individual spiels, though, the two Princess made room in their adoptive seating chart in the young Toms’ honor - and while the arrangement was quieter than usual, it was clear that everyone had been forgiven.

As Fate would have it decreed, this was the exact moment that the Rum Tum Tugger decided to make his fashionably late debut onto the scene. One might swear that he calculated his entrances so that they would occur only during times of optimum attention-attracting potential, but that was only if they did not know how poorly the Tugger fared with logic of any kind. Nope, he was, frustratingly, a natural at making these sorts of waves, easy as that. It was quite the infuriation, especially if you happened to be one of these aforementioned logical cats - Macavity could stand to take a few notes.

The Maine Coon was not the least bit chafing to the eyes, but this was nothing out of the ordinary - and it's not usually your eyes you have to worry about, but your senses of self-assurance and propriety. His audience seemed unaccustomedly tepid, though - Victoria ventured a smile, and her Mate an exuberant pump of the fist, which the Tugger returned, and both Mungo and Rumple gave frantic waves, but everyone else remained un-phased. Even Misto and Cassie deigned to properly acknowledge him. The last part wasn't really such as shock, though, and seeing how, at the moment, she had her arms locked tightly around Alonzo's neck and the rest of her svelte body decisively positioned in his lap, it was quite possible that she was too comfortable to risk stirring any of her Mate's wrath. But Mistoffelees only offered up an aberrantly short nod, seeming deeply immersed in some likely foreign train of thought. For some reason, his inattention made the Curious Cat especially irked. He could always at least count on the magician for moral support. . .

Jemima had slipped down from the big chair and over to the virtual kitten collage at first sight of their new visitor, assuming that it was best to try and mimic the actions of her nursery mates and thus limit the chances of being singled out (or, rather, inadvertently singling herself out). As soon as the Tugger sauntered their direction, though, both Etcetera and Electra pushed her forward with them, wearing uncomfortably insinuative smiles. She wanted to shrink.

"Hi, Tugger," the two Princesses purred nostalgically, anointing their new subject with a variety of fur-on-fur salutations (the three abandoned young Toms did their best to avoid seething). Jemima hung back at first, but eventually was forced by all of the boring eyes (the worst of which were Tugger's own) to step forward and do likewise.

"Hello," she said in the faintest of timbres, affording a single brief nuzzle of the head to the center of the Maine Coon's chest and stepping to the side with her fellow groupies. He looked amused, and she wanted to crumple all over again.

Also, from this angle, she could see Jenny whispering something into Jelly's ear, eyes alternately settling on her and the rest of the posse, Tugger included. Even the Matrons knew, now? How much worse of a fix could she be condemned to?

Her question was answered when Etcetera and Electra demurred their usual seating arrangements ("seating" meaning that they preferred using the Tugger to drape themselves over rather than any of the less plushy surroundings), although the declination was also interspersed with copious amounts of giggling and darted looks at the odd rust-black Princess out. Instead, they resumed their seating across the central part of the Yard at the tire's base with the young Toms. The duo extended their invitation to Jemima (mostly for posterity), but she merely shook her head - she'd feel like a third wheel in their company, considering how little she had joined in their usual games as of recent. That, and she'd suffered quite enough teasing for the day, at least. . . Of course, this also left her alone with the Tugger, a prospect that, while not undesirable, also made her a little apprehensive.

"Well, Jemi, looks like it's just you and me for the night, again," the Maine Coon sniffed, watching the two younger Princesses skitter off in the direction of their new accommodations with much high-pitched laughter. His expression, if worn by anyone else, would've been described as a mild pout.

"It seems so," Jemima answered quietly, also watching the pair's retreat. She almost wished she would've joined them, now that the awkwardness of the current situation sunk in, but as she had contemplated before, she didn't really know whose company would be worse on her nerves. She was trapped. So far, if this was the life she'd have to get used to as a Queen, it didn't seem like very much fun. . .

He led her to his seat under the clock face then - it was still strangely familiar. Why, oh why, had she told him so much that night? For a while, she and the Tugger just remained side-by-side silently. Jemima seemed apprehensive to sit too closely to him, for a reason he had a slight hunch of. But after a while, she gradually allowed herself to relax enough for him to put a tentative arm around her shoulders, bringing her body so that it was resting against his side. It was nothing different than what they had done in the past, but without the rest of the appointed Tugger posse there, it seemed significantly more intimate. Accordingly, Jemima's pulse quickened, although it was much against her will. She tried to resist the temptation of making herself comfortable in the new position, but it was too favorable not too. Why did he have to be so loathsomely. . . Tugger?

Since nothing that concerned a Queen's (or almost-Queen's. . .) body usually went past the Tugger unnoticed, he was aware of each of these things as well. Ordinarily, having this effect on a female would've given him a great amount of self-satisfaction, but the feeling of the Princess' wildly beating heart against his ribcage only reminded him of the possible repercussions of the situation and what it could lead to. If he decided to pursue Jemima, he knew she would want something out of him that he wasn't sure he was prepared to give - something emotional. In all of his experiences with females (and there had been many), serious emotional attachment was never a major equation. Most of the Queens he had been with in the past had seemed to understand that the Tugger did not have any desire to be tethered, and the relationships were built from there, mainly culminations of lust and physical attraction, none of them lengthy - there was no need. Jemima, however, was a different case entirely, even ignoring her tender age in comparison to his own. He was so used to treating and thinking of her as a kitten that he didn't know if he had it in him to be so cruel to her. Correction - he did have it in him (he was the Tugger, what didn't he?), but there was this thing called "restraint" that Misto had seemed to like to impress upon him during their little chat last night, and he was trying to give it a spin.

Looking at the situation from a different perspective, there were also other non-ignorable factors to consider. Certainly, he found the rust-black Princess attractive - there was no mistaking that. He would be doing a discredit to his reputation to deny something so obvious. She was also unlike most other Queens he knew, which was perplexing - at the very least, he would like to get to know her, in a way that did not invite an accompanying waggle of the eyebrows (although he certainly wouldn't complain). She was a talented singer and dancer, already in a caliber with the older Queens, but there was an uncalculated element in her movements, a very free-flowing quality that seemed to come from some inborn, compulsive source within her. Even Victoria, as talented as she was at ballet, could not quite duplicate it. It was directly related to her keen observation, and her talent for correctly perceiving those things that went under everyone else's noses. This trait, more than anything, drew the Tugger to her, and he was sure he wasn't alone in his curiosity.

But was it worth it? Tugger was uncharacteristically hesitant, for one of the few times in his life thus far. Although he didn't generally make it a habit to become emotionally involved (read: always), as he consistently enjoyed re-emphasizing, his relationship with the Princesses, including Etcy and Electra, was the closest thing he had to actually caring. That wasn't to say that he didn't give a damn about any of the other tribe members, because he most assuredly did, in his way - but whether he had realized it before or not, he had spent so much time around the trio that he had almost considered them surrogate siblings, of sorts. Perhaps that was bit incestuous, admittedly - that wrung a mental chuckle - but one way or the other, he genuinely cared about their well-being, and wanted to see them go on to live long, happy lives. Well, maybe he wouldn't phrase it like that - given that it is the Tugger we are speaking of, maybe "get curvy and remember to shag like crazy" was more appropriate. His disciples had to preserve some of his philosophical integrity. It was a wish so utterly paternal it almost disgusted him, but the responsibility had developed unconsciously. He hated that about feelings - they crept up on you with little warning. And the Tugger did not like to be surprised.

Still, he found that this argument was only half-convincing, which was a bit of a shock to even himself. Was he, too, developing a fondness for the rust-black Princess curled against him? Her light purring, coupled with the embarrassed look on her face, urged him to say yes, but he knew those weren't very good reasons.

Thankfully, a glint of notorious silver fur was spotted slipping around the edge of the tire, and he was saved from his own ruminations for the moment. Especially since the new arrival had not one Queen, but two flanking him - now that was interesting. He'd have to thank good old Munkus later, and possibly offer him congratulations. Maybe he'd underestimated Bomba the other night. . . He smirked, and reminded himself to do the Scarlet Queen likewise. Mr. Twisty Knickers was a tough case to crack.

Letting the larger issue drop, the Tugger concentrated only on the warm softness of Jemima's lithe body against his own, and pricked his ears for whatever it was Munkustrap had to say. All thoughts could wait until later.

The Guardian took the tire, and Bombalurina flaunted herself around to sit near the Matrons, enjoying the looks that she was getting from the association. Tugger smirked. Demeter followed, giving no accentuation to her own walk - but of course, it was not surprising for her to have been with Munkus.

With the Princesses (well, what was left of them, anyway) running the gamut of welcoming intimations on his legs, Munkustrap addressed his adoring public. "Good evening, fellow Jellicles!"

The Tugger couldn't help but snort. "And he wonders why we make him the narrator. . ."

Oblivious to the insult, the silver tabby continued. "I have gathered you all together on this night for one reason, and that is to ready you for the night of the full moon a few days ahead. As you know, we are approaching the next Ball, as well. . . preparations, as well as precautions, must be made and taken. And during this interval, several of our number will also grow older - we will honor them accordingly. It is winter, but it is a busy time, and I ask that you all try to work together for the sake of our Leader. . ."

He droned on like that for quite some time, going into Full Authoritarian Mode. Tugger lost interest somewhere in the middle of the speech, and yawned, twirling the ends of Jemima's head fur to keep awake. He found that her coat was extremely touch-sensitive, and enjoyed the twitches she gave to his ministrations. Her expression fluctuated from being dazed to being mildly annoyed, and the fact that she seemed to know how devious he was being was strangely alluring.

Lazily lending some of his attention to the silver tabby again, he listened just long enough to hear that the focus of this month's festival would be duets. What a boring invitation for lovey-dovey pageantry. . . Munkus must've been getting soft in his old age. Every Mated Jellicle would probably prepare some sappy ballad to impress their undying love upon everyone. The Tugger thought about asking Misto if he'd be willing to collaborate with him in something more up-tempo, just so the whole occasion wouldn't be a complete waste of time, but he got the impression that the tuxedo cat was preoccupied. With what was a mystery, but he didn't seem to be showing any inclinations of wanting to share the limelight. Oh well. The Rum Tum Tugger could get along fine on his own, always had.

He wouldn't have been looking forward to the full moon at all, on that note, if there hadn't been Jemima to consider. The Maine Coon was extremely interested in seeing how she intended to celebrate her Queenhood. The last kitten to move up the ranks had opted for a painfully well-rehearsed ballet solo, and while the Tugger had nothing against the White Queen or her incredibly flexible legs, he could think of several better applications for her respective talents (not that Vicki would've probably considered any of them). Of course, nothing could overshadow the performance Bomba had treated them all to when he was a kitten. . . he was never going to forget that. She'd made the Matrons blush with the mere choreography, and Munkustrap had gotten so flustered by her provocation that he forgot his cue and cut her off early. It was hard to think of the now-Guardian as a gangly adolescent these days, but the Tugger wondered if he remembered that incident. . . It would explain a lot.

But, so long as Jemima crooned sweetly on about dew on sunflowers and other things that made no sense, he had conviction in her ability to impress him. Sopranos could get away with making all sorts of pretty nothings seem like evocative masterpieces. Some dancing couldn't hurt, though. . .

As Munkustrap continued his tirade and Jemima purred on at his side, the Tugger reveled in thought the stares they would get (and were getting. . .), and made an unconscious decision. There was a first time for everything.

And a second, and a third. . .


~*~*~*~*~



A significant number of hours later, the moon having chartered itself to peak altitude and down again, Munkustrap finally found himself a moment alone. When the care of an entire tribe weighs on your shoulders, it is a very rare commodity, and the silver tabby was making the most of it. Well, he supposed the average Jellicle wouldn't put sleep on their list of "Fun Things To Do After the Hour of Ten o' Clock", but being placed into a position of leadership tends to make you a bit backwards where entertainment preferences are concerned.

However, he hadn't gotten a chance to even close an eye when a timid rap was made on the door of the armoire. The very description of the rap gave him a good idea of who he could expect to find on the other side - and if his suspicions were correct, he would not mind postponing his nap for a while longer.

Just as he'd guessed, the caller was Demeter, gold patterning all a-shimmer in the moonlight. He gave her a warm smile and motioned her inside.

"Good evening," he said in a voice the same temperature as his smile, and brushed up against her. The black-gold Queen flinched, but he tried not to let it bother him - her shyness usually wore off after a while. "What did you think of the speech? I myself am of the opinion that I got a little carried away. . . I try not to prattle on, but sometimes it seems like I'll never run out of things to say." He chuckled.

"They don't think any less of you for it. . . It's who you are." Deme's answer was short and whispered, almost evasive. She remained silent afterwards, but the way her eyes flitted about and settled on everything but him gave the pause an air of pregnancy. Since she usually came to talk, her unwillingness to offer conversation was beginning to make him nervous. And her manner concerned him. . . In particular, her use of the word “they” in reference to the other Jellicles, something she had stopped doing for a while. He wanted to ask her point-blank what was troubling her, but her esteem of the situation seemed delicate enough already. He would give her time before making his move.

“Well, hopefully not,” Munkustrap continued, making a valiant effort to be seamless. “It wouldn’t do to lose my favor and have to hand over the post to Alonzo so soon.”

Deme seemed keen on memorizing the wood grain of the armoire, but all small talk was not exhausted. Her behavior was more worrisome than usual, so he decided to risk a different tact. He felt helpless in not knowing what she needed of him, since he had been so plainly sought out, but at the same time, he didn’t know if what he wanted to give her would be necessary. Still, especially in the case of Demeter, his hope was not soon abandoned.

“I appreciated the escort service you and Bombalurina provided for me this evening,” he teased lightly. “It seemed to leave an interesting impression on some of the tribe members, which I assume is what you had in mind.”

He had not meant for his words to be anything other than casual, but the instant they left his mouth, Demeter’s face, which had been decidedly verging on a wide range of emotions since she had entered, made a choice - and that was anguish. He quickly began to prepare an apology, although he did not yet know what for, but she was quicker. All the silver tabby was able to squeeze out was a few un-cohesive stutters before he was tackled to the floor with an amount of force that stunned him, a sobbing Queen burying her face in his ruff.

At first, everything was so sudden that he wasn’t sure which responsible course of action (and since he was Munkustrap, he knew several) was the best to settle upon, but in the end, just taking things as they were and going from there seemed best. Demeter had never, ever been so direct, or so unabashedly physical, and while her emotional openness was good news, it was more than apparent that this had only come about as a result of something unidentified and traumatizing. The thing was, he couldn’t think of what. . .

On the other more selfish and entirely un-objective paw, there was a distraught, needy Queen pinning him to the floor of his den who was obviously in search of consolation. That didn’t happen often. Additionally, it was not just any Queen, but Demeter, whom he had felt compelled to protect since the moment he met her. Despite the less-than-perfect terms, the situation was not unaccommodating.

The crying did not subside for a few more minutes, and the mere sound of it made Munkus miserable. He stroked her back and head fur as it was common to do in these types of scenarios, and whispered an assortment of meaningless things in a reassuring tone. In time, the flood began to dam, and soon the entire outburst had devolved into a few rogue sniffles. Her fierce grip on him remained, though - it almost gave the impression that she was afraid he’d try to get up and leave her at any moment.

To dispel this apparent fear, he whispered, “I’m not going anywhere, Deme.”

For the first time since her breakdown, the black-gold Queen met his gaze. Her eyes were still rimmed with tears, and the fur around them was wet and matted. But his eyes were kind, and filled with strength and seriousness - and most importantly, they were only seeing her.

“Neither am I.” Trembling but determined, she rolled off of him, only to plaster herself as closely to the silver tabby’s side as she could. Her paws had a vice on his arm so tight that it was certain to sever, but he was too dazed to be bothered about the health of his limbs.

In moments, her body went still and he breathing became shallow, and she was asleep - all that crying must have spent her.

The only semi-intelligible thought in the Guardian’s mind at that point was of how they were possibly going to be able to properly explain things to the Scarlet Queen in the morning. For some reason, he did not look forward to it, even if Demeter’s last words did not allude to something more permanent than that night. There were so many more questions that he did not have answers for, and so many blanks left unfilled. . .

Except for the one next to him, which, for a few hours more, at least, was no longer empty. And, for the time being, it was more than enough.


~*~*~*~*~



Okay, so that was epic. XD

And wow, am I ever fond of italics.

Writing Tugger reminds me of writing Han Solo, haha. I seriously had flashbacks from the time I worked on "More Than Money" while typing out his monologues. . . I have such a fondness for the ladies' men, yes. It's terrible.

And I'm sorry again for the massive amounts of angst I managed to stuff into this. I'm quite sure it's all believable, but uber angsty!Deme is going to be henceforth heavily closeted. I realize that 90 percent of all fic written about her is of the "woe, my life is so tragic!" variety, but I had to get this bit of characterization out of the way to make things work down the road.

I was happy to be able to properly introduce Tantie and Cassie this time around, too. Mysterious visions, OMG! Neither of them are very extensively featured in most of what I read, and I think they're interesting characters. Mungo and Rumple just keep randomly cropping up with loot, though. . . I've been desperately wanting to give them their own opening, but it never seems to work out.

Anyway, please tell me your thoughts, as always. (Especially about my Munkustrap. . . I feel tepid about him this time around. I fail at writing noble-intentioned characters. They're not neurosed and perverse enough for me.)

Next chapter will be shorter, I believe, if everything goes according to outline, and the Tugger does not cause anymore needless tangents. Until then. . . content yourself with this monstrous 15-paged excuse for a chapter!




Previous Chapters:

Chapter 1 - The Fragile Cusp of Queenhood
Chapter 2 - Girl Talk
Chapter 3 - All's Fair. . .
Chapter 4 - Hypocritical Cats

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Comments {1}

The Island of the Fay

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from: atraphoenix
date: Jan. 13th, 2007 01:52 pm (UTC)
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Hey, guess what, I stayed awake XD

Once again, that was excellent. I think you portrayed both Munkustrap and Demeter wonderfully. I'm such a sucker for angst, especially when its nicely written and I can hope for some happiness to balance it out in later chapters.

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