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Coming of Age 8/? [Tugger/Jemima, CATS]

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Jun. 19th, 2007 | 11:23 am

Title: Coming of Age
Author: cooking_spray
Fandom: CATS
Pairing: Tugger/Jemima
Genre: Drama/Romance/General
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 6030
Status: Ongoing
Summary: Adolescence is coming to an end for the kittens. With Jemima as the oldest of the group, she feels her affections for the Tugger metamorphosing. . . And she isn‘t the only one struggling with her emotions, as well as the complexities of life itself. Now 100% more existential! This chapter: Jenny plays mother, Tugger and Munkustrap have a conversation, and the Guardian becomes confused on where he stands with a Scarlet Queen.



Coming of Age
by Cooking Spray



~*~*~*~*~



. . . And this be-eth the point at which I do the dance of summer break! Come, rejoice with me!

Also, I've suddenly rediscovered why it was I was so in love with this fic, so with ample time on my hands again and nothing better to use it on, you can guarantee that there will no longer be an interim of several months between updates anymore. Yes, I suck with promises and commitments. . . Hm, I'm a little like Tugger in that respect. XD But I'm being honest this time, I think!

Anyway, I really love what I got to write about this chapter, so I'm excited to get some feedback (that doesn't say "hinthint" at all. . . I am shameless, so shameless). It's weird to write about winter when temperatures are now currently in the "hot and humid" range again, but that's what procrastination does for you.

A special thanks also goes out to hyper-health-critic, for her lovely review and continued inspiration. I appreciate every word you give me. :)

Enjoy!



~*~*~*~*~


Chapter 8:
Actions and Words



~*~*~*~*~



Last night's gale-force windstorm, which had sprung up suddenly out of Mother Nature's fickleness and discontent to allow peaceful weather, had left the Junkyard and its inhabitants a bit frazzled. Those who were stubborn enough to brave the cold conditions beforehand had been blown back into their dens, shivering and fur in disarray - a slight snag for the Tugger, who always liked to be well-groomed if he could help it. And more than that, the quick turnabout in climate had cost him his so-called "date" with Jemima. He'd been frowning when they both had to stumble back to the nursery (although not because of the number of times a particularly strong gust had caused her to fall into him). Any other time, the proper protocol would've been to suggest that she come back to his place so that they could "cozy up", but he had to keep remembering her age. He'd be glad when the next moon was risen and gone.

For this night, however, Jemima was being kept under strict Matron supervision. Jenny had scowled disapprovingly to the best of her considerable ability last night, when their popular charge was put back in their care again by an advantageous and wind-mussed Maine Coon at nearly an hour until dawn. With only two days left until her "big day", they decided it was best that the Princess concentrated on preparations, rather than let herself get distracted by Toms. Her nursery mates already had the last part quite taken care of for her, anyhow.

With a few very adamant and well-placed warnings about who had Jemi's custody (the sternest of which was directed at Tugger, who chose to look off studiously in another direction), Jenny and Jelly made their intentions clear. Jemi was, ever-so-slightly in her heart of hearts, disappointed, but she knew the discipline was deserved. Just replaying the scenes from last night was enough to content her in the interim.

At sunset, Etcetera had already awoken from her nap in the slatted sun, and gone to preen near the gathering of young Toms for Pouncival. It didn't take much to gain his attention - several licks into a very provocative bath, Pounce had tiptoed over to "assist" her, and now the pair were shyly darting their tongues at each other's head fur and giggling. The bulls-eyed Tom now sported a mohawk, and Etcy several oddly-placed tufts that could've passed for pigtails. Ever since the apology Pounce had made for the water-dumping incident, he and Etcy had seemed to grow closer. And indeed, the white tabby Princess now spent most of her spare time rollicking around with him, instead of with Electra and Jemima. It was part of a trend that the Matrons had observed with many a litter of kittens - adolescence.

With the kitten-love also came the moodiness and the self-indecision, however. Jemima certainly fit the last bill well, although she'd been self-indecisive perhaps her entire life, given to long, solitary perches on a variety of ledges. And Admetus certainly fit the first - if ever a Tom had a face moodier than the one he was wearing that evening, Jennyanydots would've marched right up to Macavity's front door and invited him over for a spot of afternoon tea.

His unpleasant expression probably had something to do with the fact that Electra was currently talking animatedly with Tumble, in-between mouthfuls of a mouse they'd caught together earlier that afternoon. Not only was Addy put out about not being invited, and the fact that his spot-coated friend was encroaching on his territory; there was also the health of his father to consider, with whom he and his mother had spent the entire night. Although he was at an age where most Toms prefer to distance themselves as far from familial dependency as possible, there was no denying that Admetus and Gus had always been close. To suffer from all of these things at once was quite a burden, and the long face was more than justified.

Mother Jenny watched all of her adoptive kits with fondness from atop the boot of the TSE1, a square of cross-stitch in her lap and a thimbleful of thread at her side. Tonight, she was needlepointing something very special - it was intended to be a gift for Jemima in celebration of her coming of age. Each time one of her number graduated from the nursery, she made it a point to give them something, even though her love and attention was more than gift enough. Despite all they put her through, she loved all the little dears as a mother would, having never been able to have any of her own.

This design was going to be very complicated, and her arthritic paws were already protesting the demands it was putting them through in its completion. Jenny had had her mice specifically pilfer this shade of blue from the sewing cabinet - she had seen it one day while her Mistress was gathering embroidery materials for a baby blanket of a quite lovely description, and thought it matched the exact shade of little Jemi's eyes. She'd instructed the mice only to take a little, however, because her Mistress was good to her, and she didn't want to deprive the Human kitten of its own beautiful blanket on her account.

The Matron made her stitches efficiently and with great preciseness, adding just a little of the special blue thread here and there. She was a bit saddened that she didn't have Jelly's company to make the time go faster, but she knew her friend had more important things to deal with - that, and it was probably for the best that time didn't go faster for her at this age, because there wasn't enough left as it stood.

With a chuckle, she wove in a topaz strand, looking to the Princess to whom the gift-in-progress would be presented for inspiration. Surely enough, her face was tipped towards the rising moon in an exaggerative pose of expectancy, although Jenny had been a Princess a short enough time ago to remember that the thoughts in her head were considerably less elegant.

Holding the fabric up, she positioned the square so that it aligned with Jemima's face, examining her handiwork. Even though her paws shook slightly, the full effect was still enough to make her smile, and she threaded her needle again with satisfaction, with the richest blue in the palette.

This would be her best work yet.


~*~*~*~*~



It was an hour past nightfall, at the Junkyard's highest point, and there keeping the usual post was Munkustrap, in place on the busted old contraption of a lorry that served as a watchtower. Under usual circumstances, he didn't mind his duties - he took pride in his position as Guardian, and the solitude gave him time to think. However, right now, thinking was exactly the thing he did not want to do. For the first time in his life, there was beautiful Queen waiting for him in his den. . . And also for the first time, there was a terrible deed of his that needed reconciliation. It didn't help that the Queen and the deed were nearly one and the same.

Far removed from his life on the ground, his thoughts were tumbling toward the range of despair again. The thing that he thought would complete him, and make him his happiest, had just occurred, and his couldn't even be happy about it! The fact that life was ultimately a string of consequences and complications that were to be unraveled was never something that he ignored, but he supposed that he had gotten overly comfortable in his systematic ways, thinking that as long as he did everything justly and step-by-step, he could avoid the snags that seemed to plague all those around him in abundance. For the love of Heaviside, he was the cat who was appointed to mend those snags! And what had he done but, in his zeal to seal things neatly and nicely, ignore the largest one of all. It felt terrible. It was a failure. And more than that, it had hurt someone.

In the midst of this mental berating, he hadn't heard his latest visitor come up - so when he heard the crush of metal beneath a pair of feet, the silver tabby was sent into panic, expecting another Scarlet Queen.

It was thankful that the figure that next appeared was of a tall, lanky, and proudly long-haired Maine Coon, then - and while Munkustrap's first reaction upon the identification of these characteristics was usually not to breathe a sigh of relief, that is just what he did.

Placing a paw to his chest, the silver tabby gave proper greeting: "Oh, thank the Heaviside, it's just you."

The Tugger looked comically aghast. "Just me? That's not very nice to hear, Munk - especially when it's not everyday the Tugger comes to call." He frowned. "Who else were you expecting, eh? Deme? Is she seeing you on duty as well as off already? I know those night shifts can be long, but I never thought-"

"Tugger. I hate to say so this early into the conversation, but. . . Shut. up." As soon as his relief had washed over him, it had evaporated. The Curious Cat had only spoken a few sentences, and he was already tired of him - it was going to be a longer night than he had expected. Didn't he have Queens to chase, or something? Or, more specifically, Princesses?

Tugger took the rebuke with an expression of delight, and also interpreted Munkustrap's lack of further instruction as an invitation to sit himself down. "Ah, just like old times. So, Munk, how're you hanging in there? By the way, although I kind of gave it away earlier, I heard about you and the Space Case - my congratulations on finally getting some action. Maybe now you'll stop lecturing me, eh?" He socked the Guardian in the shoulder, playfully, jostling him to the side and furthering his look of displeasure. "That's probably just my wishful thinking, though. I'm good at that, right?"

The silver tabby craned his head towards his obnoxious new watch partner, already irritated. Even his own inner turmoil had to be preferable to listen to than this. "If either one of us has the right to rib the other, shouldn't this conversation be taking place the other way around? Because rumor has it that you've been spending time with a certain Princess named Jemima, and technically, I should be lecturing you."

"Aw, thanks for sparing me the guilt trip - I won't forget your kindness." He patted Munkus on the back. The Guardian twitched.

As if the retort was a prompt, the Tugger went on. "She has a crush on me," he announced, with great satisfaction, and cockily adjusted his mane. "It's cute." It was a phenomena similar in Human high school hierarchies across the globe - popular guy is doted upon by legions of females, younger female develops obvious affections for popular guy, and popular guy consequently plays it up (because all of the older ones would've smacked him a good one long before). Textbook, really.

Munkustrap looked exasperated, but Munkustrap often looked exasperated when talking with the Tugger. "There are less harmful ways to improve one's sense of self worth, Tugger."

The Maine Coon snorted. "My self-worth? C'mon, Munk."

The silver tabby sighed. Tugger had a point - he hated it when that happened. "Yes, what was I thinking? The Rum Tum Tugger doesn't have doubts. I beg my pardon."

"You're pardoned. I can see where you got the impression - sometimes I wake up, and I don't even believe I'm me." He patted the Guardian on the back in mock-consolation, ignoring both the intended sarcasm and the subsequent eye-roll.

"And anyway," Tugger continued on, "how can it be harmful? Jemi likes me, so I make it a point to hang around her, and make her feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And I get to spend time with a fine-looking almost-Queen. It's a win-win situation." Clearly, he'd thought this over.

". . . Except for the part where she decides that the reason you're hanging around her is because you like her, too, and all of that inevitable heart-shatter-y business that will follow when she discovers otherwise." It always perplexed Munkustrap as to how someone who spent as much time around females as the Tugger could misunderstand them so completely.

"Ah, Jemi's smart - she knows the reputation I have to uphold. And I do like her, just, y'know, not on a permanent 'stay-with-you-forever, love-you-for-always'-type basis. You get me?" He looked over at Munkus to verify this understanding.

"Do you ever like a Queen on a 'stay-with-you-forever, love-you-for-always'-type basis?" the silver tabby questioned dryly.

"Nope." The Curious Cat's answer came not even a beat later, with a fresh grin. "I'm a restless spirit - can't make promises I won't keep. You have to be realistic and allow some room for boredom." He clapped a paw on Munkustrap's shoulder. "You're a Tom in a position of power. Don't you ever get the urge to play the field?"

"I don't think 'realistic' is the word I would've chosen, and no, I don't. Demeter is quite enough for me."

The Tugger chuckled. "I'm sure she is." The silver tabby's eyes pierced him with a stern warning glare, but he went on anyway. "It's okay not to act all noble every now and then, you know. I like to give her a rough time about it, but I see how your authoritative air slips a little in front of our Scarlet Queen." He smirked, obviously thinking that he had Munkus pinned.

"Bombalurina has that effect on everyone - the only Tom I know who wouldn't act unsure of her would be you." The silver tabby seemed dismissive, but the rebuttal was still too hasty for him to have been completely unbothered by the accusation. Immediately, Tugger knew he had him by the tail.

Irritably, Munkustrap continued. "Come to think of it, you sound just like her - perhaps you two should go off together, and leave the sane, monogamous majority of us alone. And weren't we discussing your love life, not mine?"

"It's a conversation, not a discussion - besides, I started it, so I get to make the ground rules." He smiled again, and they both knew he had won, which was another aspect of talking with the Tugger that Munkustrap did not particularly enjoy. Not only was he annoyingly egotistical, he was manipulative, too.

"Anyway, Bomby and I had our try years ago, if you'll remember back that far, and we decided to go solo and start crushing hearts instead of each other. It's you she's crying over, not me. Actually, I'm a little jealous that you can make her go all soft like that, because I sure haven't ever been able to do it for her."

Munkustrap's first, unmasked reaction to this news was of instant guilt - the Tugger liked to exaggerate, but the silver tabby still couldn't forget the brief conversation that he and Bomba had had a couple of nights ago, in that very same spot. She was more hurt by the news than he has assumed she would be, and she'd run off so abruptly afterwards. The only thing he had ever considered her being upset about, when hypothesizing his and Deme's eventual getting-together, was that he taken off with her best friend - not that the best friend had taken off with him. Now, it seemed extremely unfeeling and shortsighted on his part to have not taken the Scarlet Queen's affections more seriously, even if she'd never given an indication that she was any more dedicated to him than the other Toms she put moves on. He thought he should've known, somehow; it was his duty to be aware of the effects his actions might have on the members of the tribe.

Instead, he had been careless and had overlooked what was right in front of him, concentrated on only Demeter's happiness. Although he didn't regret the fact that this had resulted in her becoming his Intended, he did regret the manner in which he had allowed it to happen. Since then, Bomba had not spoken to either of them, nor had he seen hide or tail of her. If the Scarlet Queen lost what made her so inimitable, he would feel responsible - and not only would this sadden the silver tabby greatly (secretly, he had admired and respected her vivacity), it would mean that he had also damaged the friendship between her and Demeter. And theirs was a bond older and stronger than the one that the black-gold Queen shared with him. If one of the two had to be left in disrepair, it should not be that one - it should be his.

The Tugger watched this internal struggle take place, and smirked. "You sneaky Pollicle," he said in disbelief, smacking the hard surface of the car hood beneath them with his fist. "Trying to lecture me when you're in over your head with two Queens! And trust me, Jemi's not half the homewrecker those two are. You've got it in for yourself, Munk."

The Guardian scowled, agitated by Tugger's typical misconstruction of the situation. "Please, this is me we're discussing - Narrator, Mr. Twisty Knickers, Grand Poobah of the Jellicle Tribe? You know it's not like that."

The Tugger seemed very impressed that Munkus knew and was able to list all of the colorful nicknames he had assigned to him over the years. "Really? 'Cause that's not what it sounds like."

"Yes, well, your selective hearing can be very well documented. A Queen might say she's looking for romance, and you'd interpret this as 'have your way with me'."

Another grin. "What, you're saying the two aren't interchangeable?"

Munkustrap sighed and rubbed at his temples. "You never give up, do you?"

"Aw, Munk, you know the answer to that." Tugger crossed his arms behind his head and leaned fluidly back into the windshield. "Of course I don't give up - I'm curious, is all. Can't help myself."

"Isn't that the truth." The silver tabby crinkled his brow, giving the Maine Coon a critical once-over. "And you don't realize it, but you have things more than cut out for you, once you decide you've had enough of your current young fling, so don't lecture me. Although I'm a bit appalled that you haven't realized this by now, Queens don't think the way that you do."

While he could think of several situations in which the rule most certainly did not apply, the Tugger took this opportune time to yawn. "Yeah, yeah. Jemi's not most Queens - aims high, though." A smirk. "And I did say she was cute. . . maybe I'll keep her around for a while. Who knows?"

"Let's hope she's not, for her sake." The Guardian regarded him seriously. "She is still a Princess at heart, no matter how far away the next moon is. Don't ruin her opinion of all Toms before she even makes it to Queenhood."

"I'm almost offended." The Curious Cat leered at him with one squinted eyed before making a proclamation. "You're getting soft in your old age, Munk. You really think your pep talks are going to work any better on me now than they did before?"

Munkustrap looked mildly entertained, and lowered himself to the level of the Tugger on the windshield (not in maturity), supporting himself upright with his palms and quirking an eyebrow. "Old age? May I remind you that you're actually an entire moon older than me?"

Tugger shut both his eyes again. "You could, but it wouldn't do you any good. A cat's only as old as he acts, Munk - age means nothing." He said this matter-of-factly, as if he were actually dispensing some truth of life. The silver tabby would've laughed if it wasn't done with tongue-in-cheek.

"This applies to almost-Queens, too, I'm guessing?"

Tugger smiled lazily, close-lidded. "Yup. For a crumbly old codger, you catch on quickly."

"It's nice to know I'm still good at something."

They sat there in comfortable silence, slight wintry breeze ruffling the ends of their fur. Munkustrap looked over the Yard, where, once again, the nightlife consisted only of the kittens. His duties would almost become obsolete when they all came of age, and he certainly couldn't get accustomed to the visitations he'd been receiving at his post recently. Tugger was a nuisance, but a halfway-engaging nuisance. And Bomba. . . thinking of her made the guilt assail him anew. He couldn't get the look in her eyes that she had worn when he last saw her out of his head. It confused him more and more, each time he tried to sort it out. . . And it irked him that his sense of professionalism, and of "the right thing" didn't seem to apply in this situation. This time, he was the one who had done something wrong, and he didn't even know how to begin to apologize. What could he say without acknowledging everything in the most discomfiting light possible? Bringing everything out in the open might just exacerbate the problem further.

The Tugger peeked an eye at the troubled silver tabby again, and then heaved himself upright, sighing and placing another paw on his shoulder. "Okay, here's the deal, Munk. Even though I never listened to those pep talks you gave me, and this really isn't my territory, I'll just say this - it's not as bad as you think it is. Bomby's tough stuff. Honestly, I don't know what a Queen like her sees in a straight-edge like you, but trust me, she doesn't give up that easily. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. . . or whatever it is they say."

Munkustrap paused, and then looked back at Tugger, who seemed nearly serious - a sight worthy of a chuckle. "My, Tugger. That was almost. . . eloquent." His expression turned sly. "You know, you're really not as bad as they say you are."

The Maine Coon slipped back into his standard smirk. "Don't tell that to the ladies. They'll get ideas."

"Your secret's safe with me."

At that, the Tugger stood to go, straightening his ruff and shaking his fur in a thoroughly practiced mannerism. "Well, Munk, it's been fun, but I've got to be off. If you ever need company, though, just say the word - it's a busy schedule, but I think I could fit you in somewhere."

The Guardian gave the charade of being touched by the words. "I feel honored to be allowed even a moment of your time. So giving of you." And, as if the remark reminded him of something, his expression turned to that of interest. "Say, what important item do you have on your agenda next that causes you to want to run away so quickly? Jemima's untouchable tonight, you know. Perhaps you've just tired of my company?" He sighed ruefully. "Maybe I have aged more than I realize. . ."

Tugger's grin renewed itself, a semi-permanent fixture that took up his entire face and made him both hateful and impossible to hate simultaneously. "Aw, nothing like that, Munk. All high-strung Toms are good for a tease, but you know you'll always be my favorite."

"Once again, I'm touched. Really. Do you smile like that when you tell a Queen you've had enough of her, too? I'd imagine she might walk away all pleased, like you'd given her a compliment."

The grin deepened itself, slightly devilish. "That's classified information, Guardian." He dusted off his shoulders again, purposefully, and he and the silver tabby both grinned at each other, in mutual recognition of their differences, and their ability to harmlessly joke about them without raising claws to one another's throats. In spite of how often their philosophies on life put them at odds, they somehow were always able to maintain their friendship.

"To really answer your question, though. . . I've got myself a song to practice." He looked at Munkustrap, his gaze smug and meaningful.

Munkustrap looked honestly surprised. "No. . . there's no way in the Hotels."

The smugness remained. "You'd better watch that language. There are kittens around, you know."

"You're participating in the duets?"

Tugger put a paw on his hip and looked thoughtful. "Well, I haven't exactly found a partner yet. . . But I've got something in mind, yes." He looked at the silver tabby's stricken expression and laughed. "Don't tie yourself in knots, Munk. Trust me, the Tugger's not getting sentimental on you - this'll be the hardest-rocking duet you'll ever hear."

Munkustrap still didn't look convinced. "While the style wasn't really my main concern. . . From you, I wouldn't expect anything less. But a duet, Tugger? Even when you performed with Mistoffelees last year, you wouldn't let him get a word in edgewise."

"Like I said, I'm working on it. I don't have anything lined out yet. . . But since I figure everyone else is going to make me gag with their frilly little numbers, I have to bring at least some life to the party." He was all confidence - but then again, this was also the case in every scenario, whether or not the results actually ended up in his favor.

The Guardian was dubious. "And have you alerted your partner to this development, whoever they may be? Your ego doesn't count as a separate entity, I'm afraid, no matter how much larger than you it may be."

"You're funny."

A curt smile. "I do try."

The Curious Cat began to lope off. "Funny or not, you're burning moonlight, and great lyrics don't write themselves." He smirked back, patronizing. "She doesn't know yet - but she will, when the time comes. You'll see."

With a casual wave, he sauntered off into the night, leaving Munkustrap to himself, shaking his head. Just when he though no behavior of the Rum Tum Tugger's could phase him, and that he had seen it all, he managed to do things like this.

"Oh, Cat," he moaned to himself.

Not only did he owe Bombalurina an apology, he suspected he might owe her something in recompense for that bet, too.

The moon winked at him from behind a cloud, unpleasantly full and teasing, and he ran his paw miserably across his forehead. Sometimes, he really didn't like his job at all.


~*~*~*~*~



Though there were many things that the Scarlet Queen was, "easily discouraged" wasn't one of them.

Her feelings had been trampled, yes - but it wasn't the first time. Perhaps more was on the line, but it was nothing that couldn't be dealt with. She'd been hurt and confused (a lady's bound to be, every now and then), but she'd had time to think, and now everything had come back into focus. Her best friend had moved in with the Tom whose affections she also sought, and he had returned them. These were her certainties.

And now, she was crouched behind the oven, waiting for pawsteps that she knew could only belong to the Guardian. This was her course of action.

She scented him before she ever heard him, which was no surprise - the silver tabby was the stealthiest cat she knew, aside from the Twins; his role demanded it of him (and of course, he never failed to live up to his expectations). But she was stealthy, too, and she was pleased to notice that her hiding place was well-chosen. His mind was already off duty, and he would never suspect her - just how she had planned it.

At the exact moment Munkustrap tiptoed around the corner of the oven, Bombalurina stood up and revealed herself, trying to look as casual as possible. The expression on his face was quite priceless.

The Scarlet Queen was all smiles - clearly, not what Munkus was expecting. This part, too, was according to plan. The Guardian, having the protective complex that she knew he did, had prepared himself for a meeting with a Bomba who was still licking her wounds, still resentful of him. Maybe she'd allowed this supposition of his to manifest itself for her own benefit, but whatever the case, she was still ahead of the game, and not down yet. That was most important.

Still grinning, she further shocked the silver tabby with an offhanded greeting. "Hey there, Guardian. . . fancy meeting you wandering about at such an hour." They both knew there was nothing ironic about it at all, however.

Munkustrap looked as if he very much wanted to say something, as the obvious signs of struggle now showed in his features. But, her manner had thrown him off, and now he seemed unsure of whether he even wanted to broach the topic - had the entire matter just been in his head?

Inwardly pleased, the grin broadened. She hadn't lost her touch just yet. "Anyhow, I wanted to stop and offer my proper congratulations to you and that minx of a best friend I have. You've fought it off for far too long, and so has she - you'll both be perfect together."

Now appearing decidedly unsettled, Munkustrap seemed to fumble for a response. "Ah. . . thank you. I was worried about your approval of the arrangement. . . I do apologize for unprofessional handling of the situation; you both deserved better." He paused, and swallowed visibly. "I promise on my honor to give her the care and attention she needs. I want to give it to her."

Bomba waved a paw at him dismissively, amused by his bumbling alibi - the guilt was slightly vindicating. "Oh, there was no doubt in my mind. If ever a girl needs looking after, there's no one more capable than you." She winked, and swore that the Guardian flushed at her compliment - what with the fur, however, she would never get true confirmation.

"Anyhow, do tell that friend of mine to visit. . . While I certainly understand that she must be enjoying her cozy new rooming, and I can't say that I blame her, it'd be nice if she could still find time for little ol' Bomby. Got it?"

Munkustrap nodded mutely, and tried to smile - it looked more like a grimace, however. "I won't get in the way of your friendship. When it all comes down to it. . . I think you know her better than I do." This was a lie, and once again, they both knew it.

"Knowing someone is only the half of it, Munk." She brushed past him, and smiled insinuatingly. "Remember it."

He did know - and the fact that she was so easily able to pinpoint his insecurities disconcerted him more than he let on. Or thought he let on.

Still grinning in that special way of hers that, for some reason, always had the ability to ruffle the silver tabby’s fur like nothing else, she gave her goodbye. “Well, I’ll let you get back to Deme. If I still know her at all, she’ll be up waiting for you, and wondering what kept you so long.”

She turned and walked away without a backwards glance. “Goodnight, Guardian.”

Munkustrap followed her cue, and went his own way as well. . . But the truth was, he was more confused now than ever. He physically shook his head, as if to rid himself of the thoughts, but they seemed keen on staying.

Demeter, he thought. She’s waiting. You love her.

Why did he need these reassurances, and why did he still feel at so much unease, even when Bombalurina had just confirmed to him that it was all his misunderstanding?

And why was it that he hadn’t wanted her to go?

It was best not thought about. What was best thought about was the queen that he had committed himself to, that had waited all night and day to see again. . .

. . . Even if she wasn’t the one who seemed to consume his thoughts.


~*~*~*~*~



Demeter jumped as scratching sounded on the door to the armoire - she’d been expecting company, of course, but it had still managed to shock her when it finally came to call. She was unused to living with someone in this way, and although she was definitely not adverse to it, she had yet to conquer some of the challenges it presented for her. Still, this was what she wanted, and she was making her best effort accordingly.

The black-gold Queen opened the door for Munkustrap (it was much easier to do so from the inside), who gratefully climbed in and shut it behind him, smiling at her warmly. Demeter shyly smiled back, and allowed herself to relax into the rub that he bestowed against her cheek, even if she wasn’t yet ready to return it. She was still timid about displaying and receiving physical affections - she didn’t mind the ones that the Guardian awarded her (in truth, they contented her a great deal), but once again, she was out of practice. Her Intended’s patience never seemed to wear thin with her, though, and Demeter gathered strength from it, day by day. If he believed in her, then she would, too.

“Hello.” His voice was slightly husky, and she blushed behind her cheek-fur. This was another thing that intimidated the black-gold Queen - Munkustrap’s attraction to her. Again, she didn’t mind it, but his straightforwardness contrasted greatly with all that she had learned, from time and experience, to hide.

“Hi,” she returned, in her detestable shrinking-violet voice. “How was watch duty?”

Normally, a simple answer would follow, but this time, the silver tabby wavered. Demeter tilted her head, and mustered the courage to sit closer to him (she had really wanted to, all along).

“Did something happen?”

And that was when she scented it - the familiar perfume of the Scarlet Queen that unavoidably clung to the Guardian’s fur. “Bomba,” she whispered, eyes going wide. She didn’t know what she should feel first. Jealous? Fearful? Protective? Guilty? These past three nights, Deme’s feelings toward her friend had vacillated. She had been too afraid to face her, for fear of her temper, but it seemed Bomba was avoiding her as well. But now, she was talking to Munkustrap again? She was more unsure than ever.

She looked up at Munkus, and hesitantly began again. He seemed. . . distracted. “Did she-”

That snapped him out of it. “No,” he responded shortly, and with more apparent force than he intended, because Deme jumped back a trifle, pupils dilating again.

He cleared his throat, and tried again. “Forgive me. I thought ahead of you.” He pulled the black-gold Queen closer to him, and she dazedly complied with the new position, head resting in the hollow of his shoulder. “I was going to say that nothing worrisome happened. She offered her congratulations to us, albeit in her unique way-” he tried to smile, “-and asked after you.”

This was the truth. . . and it was also a lie; a lie that the silver tabby felt terrible telling. He knew that Demeter was willing to believe him, too - she trusted him. Would he disappoint her, too? But then again, what else could he say? Those were the Scarlet Queen's words, verbatim. It just wasn't how she meant them.

“Hm. Maybe I should’ve. . . should’ve give her more credit,” Deme mused softly. She looked upwards, making eye contact. “Are you sure that’s all she said?”

“As sure as I know I love you.” He said this without a second thought, and kissed her, until she went limp in his arms, and he knew she would believe him.

On the list of things the Guardian didn’t want to think about, he added another item:

How much did he love her, if his love was as sure as a lie?


~*~*~*~*~



I think this chapter needs a resounding "dun dun DUN" at the end. XD It got a bit. . . soap opera-y? Heh, it's all Bomby's fault.

This was a filler chapter, of sorts. Plot-wise, the only thing that went on was Munkustrap being angsty and woefully indecisive, and the Scarlet Queen getting her groove back. Otherwise, Tugger and Munk played word-tennis and the kittens rolled around all cutesy-like, being. . . kitten-y.

Interesting stuff is ahead, however! I have the next few installments all planned out.

. . . Also, if anyone has any inclination to join a literate CATS role play, feel free to PM me. I can hook you up.

That's all I've got. Until the ever-indefinite next time!




Previous Chapters:

1 || 2 || 3 || 4 || 5 || 6 || 7

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Comments {10}

The Island of the Fay

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from: atraphoenix
date: Jun. 19th, 2007 08:41 pm (UTC)
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*does the rejoicing dance* YAY!

The bulls-eyed Tom now sported a mohawk, and Etcy several oddly-placed tufts that could've passed for pigtails. Loved that whole exchange. Adorable!

And o.O at the ending. Poor Munkustrap. And I've never actually liked Bombalurina. This is another reason why. I heart Munkustrap/Demeter!

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The Girl Whose Metaphors All Involve Breakfast

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from: cooking_spray
date: Jun. 21st, 2007 02:25 am (UTC)
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I like Bomby. She's shameless, but fun - and no matter how conniving she can be, you have to admire the determination. Munkus/Deme is sweet, too, of course. . . but I have some alternative theories on matchmaking possibilities for our silver tabby, too. You'll see. ^_~

And thanks for reading, again! You've been a very faithful follower and reviewer of this fic, and I appreciate it. ♥

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The Girl Whose Metaphors All Involve Breakfast

Re: AAHH!! Amazing!

from: cooking_spray
date: Jun. 21st, 2007 01:42 am (UTC)
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I'm pretty sure angels don't use some of the vocabularly I do, though. . . XD But thanks for the sentiment. It's probably good that I'm not allowed to guide people, because I can't even save myself!

Glad you liked it, though. Bomby is another fun character to write. She knows what she wants, and she goes for it with her all - this time, though, it's really more than a game to her, despite how it seems. Just the opposite of Deme. Juxtaposition!

I had quite a lot of fun writing the banter. XD Conversations with the Tugger seem to come out rife with snark.

And you so deserve the recognition! It's hard to be noticed as an author online, and since you're one of the good ones, the least I can do is hope that the small fan-following I have could also be persuaded by my influence. Sharing is caring! =]

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brigitte

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from: scullyish
date: Jun. 20th, 2007 03:14 pm (UTC)
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This is awesome as always - but is there really such thing as a literate CATS rp? I'm intensely curious!

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The Girl Whose Metaphors All Involve Breakfast

(no subject)

from: cooking_spray
date: Jun. 21st, 2007 01:32 am (UTC)
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=]

And yes there is, actually - if I'm qualified to say so, since I moderate it. XD

One of These Nights

And this is another RP that I'm involved with that is equally literate:

Our Jellicles

We'd love new members!

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The Mother Of The Dog Messiah

(no subject)

from: ultra_lilac
date: Jun. 20th, 2007 03:28 pm (UTC)
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Awesome stuff, as usual!

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The Girl Whose Metaphors All Involve Breakfast

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from: cooking_spray
date: Jun. 21st, 2007 01:28 am (UTC)
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I love your icon. XD I saw it one day on cats_musical, and died. Win!

And thank you. I didn't know you followed this fic!

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(no subject)

from: i_are_moofin
date: Jun. 3rd, 2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
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Woah... I am SO glad my friend introduced me to this! ;3; I've only started reading a few days ago, but damn! This is gooood...

Poor Munkustrap, I've always been a MunkuDeme shipper but Bomba confusing him like this is so painful; I'm terrified for them all! Bomba's definately a character I like, so I don't blame her exactly, I just fear for Munkustrap and Demeter ;-;

Then the talk between Munkustrap and Tugger was so much fun to read! They both just... Guh, I can't think of words Dx But I love what you're doing with this!

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The Girl Whose Metaphors All Involve Breakfast

(no subject)

from: cooking_spray
date: Jun. 4th, 2008 02:51 am (UTC)
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Who is the friend, if I may ask? I'm very flattered that someone would rec this story, since it is in such sore need of updating.

And I'm beyond glad that you've enjoyed the story thus far. =] The bit with Tugger and Munkus had to be one of my favorite moments to write. As for Bomba, Deme, and Munkus. . . well, I'm afraid there are stormier seas ahead of them still yet. You'll just have to read and see!

I'm finally able to write the chapter I've been postponing or otherwise too busy to complete for almost an entire year now, so you tune in at a good time. This is one piece I will never discontinue, so don't let the entry date worry you.

Thanks for commenting! I appreciate it. <3

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(no subject)

from: i_are_moofin
date: Jun. 7th, 2008 09:00 am (UTC)
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Ah yis, Jampotlina recommended it :3 (http://jampotlina.livejournal.com/profile) She also loves this story, although she prefers not to comment, as she's only able to think of saying a sentence such as, 'this is SO awesome!' and such ^^;

And stormier seas for the three will make me shiver! Very exciting and worrying at the same time for Munkus, Deme and Bomba. I can only hope Munkustrap and Demeter are together in the end!

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