There's a tiny bit of a plot happening in my brain so there will still be updates to this story, but it's mainly an excuse to write cute stuff for fun.
Another day passed. Another day without Tumble. This was getting real old real quick. What made it worse was that Tumble was around, he just wasn't around anywhere that was conveniently accessible. Wherever Tumble was hiding he was doing an incredibly good job of staying out of sight.
After an hour of roaming the junkyard Pounce gave up, slumping face down in the dirt and wondering if everything he had done so far had been one giant mistake.
Why did he have to go and have big stupid complicated feelings about his friend?
Why couldn't he keep his big fat mouth shut?
Why'd he tell Tumble he liked him?
And why on earth did he tell Tumble he loved him?
The guy probably thought he was going to try and kiss him to death next time they saw each other, that's probably why he was hiding. Pounce didn't blame Tumble for thinking that way. Nowadays romance kept creeping into his brain like an unwanted parasite. There was no telling what he'd do if he started feeling sappy.
Although the thought of kissing Tumble didn't quite seem as outrageous now that he considered it. In fact the more he thought about it the more it sounded like a good idea. What would it be like?
"Argh!" Pounce rolled around in the dirt a bit. "This is stupid!"
"I don't think it's entirely stupid." A new voice observed. "I myself find that an occasional dirt bath is beneficial to the soul. Although let's keep this sentiment between you and me, otherwise Jenny will be after me for encouraging you."
"Waugh!" Pounce flailed around in surprise until he could properly face whoever was intruding upon his pity party.
"Having a bit of trouble?" Skimbleshanks was watching him with an amused glint in his eye.
"I see." Skimble sat down on a handy plank of wood to watch. "Then carry on, don't stop on my account."
Now that he had an audience Pounce felt less inclined to wallow about. It also did not escape his notice that he was talking to the one cat in the junkyard that might actually know where Tumble was. This would be an opportunity to find out, but he'd have to be subtle. Didn't want Skimble to know that there had been some romantic confessions going on before Tumble left to go with Skimble to… wherever they were supposed to go.
"Hey, I thought you out on a trip or something." There. That was a good place to start.
"I was." Skimble was still giving him an amused look.
"Well why aren't you still on it?"
"Had to cut it a bit short, I'm afraid."
"Oh." All this not-elaborating was really making it hard to subtly interrogate the tom. Pounce bought himself some time to think of a new question by pretending to check himself for fleas.
"I notice you seem a bit out of sorts." Skimble observed. "Feeling a little lost without Tumble around?"
Alarm bells started to go off in Pounce's head. Skimble, master of trains, was trying to direct his own train of thought straight into confession station. It wasn't going to work.
"Nah. He's busy. 'm fine. Don't need him around." Just saying the words made his heart ache. "Ugh."
"I notice that you seem to be rolling around in the dirt again." Skimble pointed out.
So he was. Pounce stood and shook himself. "'s nothing. Got fleas."
"Hmm." Skimble hummed to himself. "Seems to be going around these days."
Skimble ignored the question in favor of jumping off his perch and indulging himself in a deep stretch, ginger fur flashing in the sun.
"Would you like to go for a walk?" Skimble asked. "Might make you feel a little less… itchy if you stretch your legs awhile."
"I guess." Not like he had anything better to do, and it was rare to get one on one time with Skimble.
When the cat wasn't away from the junkyard with the trains he was always swarmed by other cats and kittens anxious to hear about his travels. Of course Pounce was one of them, but more often than not he ended up watching from the sidelines, simply content to be part of the action than be the cause of it.
Tumble joked that Skimble was the only cat in the entire world that Pounce listened to, pointing out that during Skimble's visits Pounce was the only one sitting quietly and attentively while everyone chattered and bounced around him. Sure, it may have been true, but Tumble didn't have to be so excited about it. Skimble was an interesting cat and Pounce didn't want to miss out on any cool train stories, that was all.
"So." Skimble said, ambling his way through the junkyard at a pace Pounce could easily follow. "What's been on your mind lately?"
"What do you mean?" Everyone sure was suddenly interested in what he was thinking about these days.
"Jenny and Jelly told me you visited them. They said you were a little down about something."
"First, Jenny kidnapped me to be her yarn slave. I had no choice." Pounce huffed. "Also it's nothing. 'm fine. Dunno what they're talking about."
"I see. How long has nothing been going on?"
"Um, couple days." Since Tumble left, really, but Skimble didn't need to know that.
"And what brought that on, I wonder?"
"Wonder what brought what on?"
"All this nothing that's going on."
"Oh. Uh, dunno." Pounce shrugged. "Not much happening. Just… trying to do stuff."
"Want to talk about it?"
"Very well." Surprisingly Skimble dropped the subject. "Have you been out to the fields on the outskirts of the junkyard?"
"No. Uh, I haven't actually left the junkyard much."
"Then I will show you. Come along."
Together they walked in silence, Skimble enjoying the stroll in the sun and Pounce trying to shove aside all of the thoughts crowding his brain. When did he start thinking so much? It was getting really inconvenient having to think all the time. Normally he could just chatter at Tumble until all the words were out but now… now just thinking of talking to Tumble made him forget what it was he wanted to say.
"Dumb ideas." Pounce muttered.
"What was that?"
"Hmm." Skimble pushed aside a battered plank of wood that had been carefully leaned up against the fence, revealing a hole just large enough for a cat to fit through.
They were at the very edge of the junkyard, far off in an area where Pounce hadn't bothered to roam. The piles of junk here weren't very high so he hadn't the motivation to go climbing around. Now Skimble was ushering him through the gap in the fence and suddenly he was crossing the dirt into a large, grassy field full of flowers.
"Whoa." There was so much green.
A butterfly tried to land on his nose, prompting him to bat at it with his paws. Some would have called it kitten behavior but, really, how could someone not take it as a challenge? Also he was hungry and there was nothing else around to eat. Tumble gave him a hard time for eating bugs but he just hadn't eaten the right bug, someday he would see what it was all about.
Pounce sat down in the grass and sullenly watched the butterfly flutter off. Suddenly he was no longer hungry.
"It has been a while since I've come this way." Skimble sat down next to him and took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of the flowers. "Last time I took Asparagus here to do a bit of stargazing."
"Huh." Pounce stared up at the clouds. The sky was a lot bigger when there weren't piles of junk blocking the view. It seemed to stretch on and on forever. Maybe it did. Maybe that's why Plato was always staring up at the sky, he was just trying to figure out how far it went.
"It's a wonderful view." Skimble continued. "The lights from the houses and buildings don't reach this far, so at night it's just the moon and the stars illuminating the sky."
"That's nice." It really was. Already he was itching to come back when it was dark. Hopefully there would be fireflies too.
"And the flowers are quite lovely this time of year. Very aromatic."
"I guess." He wasn't much one for flowers (unless they were edible) but the colors were interesting enough. And it smelled a lot better than some of the dingier parts of the junkyard.
"Not a lot of cats come out here so you have plenty of privacy to think. It's a great spot for figuring out the mysteries of life. Or just for daydreaming."
"Mmm." He could already imagine what Tumble would say if he saw this place. Plenty of room to practice his acrobatic stuff, and they could really wrestle without having to worry about knocking over a pile of junk. The mental image of Tumble cartwheeling through the fields was a pleasant one. Tumble could do some of his crazy flips, Pounce could chase bugs, then they could collapse in a pile together and bask in the sun.
"Also an ideal place to bring someone special." Skimble said. "Very romantic."
"Yeah." Pounce sighed happily, then froze. "Wait, no-"
"It's alright, Pounce." Skimble assured him. "You don't need to be embarrassed."
"I'm not." Pounce met the tom's questioning gaze. "Okay I am. I'm not a sappy person, I'm just… I got brainwashed by Etcetera or something. She's always going on about that stuff and I just sank into my brain."
"You know, you remind me of someone." Skimble said as he made himself comfortable in the grass. "Of course, he was stubborn as hell and didn't want anyone to know he was struggling with his feelings. Thought it was better to just try and carry on as normal and deny everything when asked if he was alright. Nearly drove him mad."
"Who?" Pounce couldn't imagine anyone that was that specifically similar to himself. "Who are you talking about?"
"Me." Skimble winked at him. "You remind me of myself when I was a young lad."
"Yes. When I was your age I too had my eye on someone. I spent an eternity trying to figure out what to do, wondering if I was doing something wrong, always second guessing myself." Skimble said. "I thought Jenny was going to murder me when I kept telling her that I was fine and nothing was going on. She always was an astute individual."
"Did you tell her you liked her?"
"Oh, at the time it wasn't Jenny I had set my eye on, that would come later."
"Well who was it?"
"It was Asparagus." Skimble sighed.
"Asparagus?" Pounce scrunched up his nose in disbelief. The mental image of the master of the railway train pining after anyone wasn't fitting in his brain. "Why?"
"I have always cherished him as a friend, and then one day I realized that I cherished him a little more deeply than that. Once I figured out what was happening and did something about it I stopped fretting so much." Skimble gave him a sympathetic smile. "I could spend the rest of the afternoon telling you why I love him so, but I have the feeling you would rather talk about someone else."
Pounce cringed, trying not to gag. "No, I mean, I'm glad you like him, I just… it's a lot of romance to take in."
Skimble laughed. "Tell me, Pounce, have you ever been in love?"
"No. Er, well, I dunno."
"Is it safe to assume that you do have your eye on someone?"
"I don't want others to know." Although it seemed that everyone he had talked to lately knew about it. Maybe now was time to just admit it.
"I promise not to tell. And I promise not to pry if you'd rather not-"
"ItoldTumbleIlovedhimandnowhethinksIwannakisshimbutIdon'tbutkindadobutIjustmisshimandwanttoseehim." The dam had broke, the words rushing out in a nonstop stream of unfiltered dialog. "ButIthinkhehatesmenowandishidingfrommeandIcan'tfindhimand- and- and-"
"Hold on, Pounce, take a moment to breathe." Skimble said, alarmed. "Not all at once."
Pounce hyperventilated a bit, inhaled a bug, choked, then flopped on the grass to collect himself. He had officially arrived into confession station, full stop, and there was no telling who was the conductor of the crazy train, but he knew he wanted off.
"I was dumb enough to tell Tumble I loved him. I didn't even say liked, Skimble, I said love." Pounce groaned. "It was gross but I liked saying it."
"That was a very bold thing to do."
"It was dumb, because now Tumble's gonna think I want to kiss him all the time or worse, try to romance him or something."
"Do you want to do those things?"
"Um." Suddenly it was very important to stare at the sky and not look at Skimble. The cat was far too knowing. "Kinda. But I just started thinking about it. 's not like I just lay around dreaming about kissing Tumble or touching his butt or whatever. 'm not gonna bring him a bunch of flowers and try and, ugh, romance him."
Skimble laughed. "I promise I won't tell anyone that you might be thinking of trying to 'romance' Tumble. And I don't think Tumble's thinking that either."
"How do you know?"
"Tumble was with me on the trip, remember? We had plenty of time to discuss some very important things."
"What kind of things?" Pounce sat up, flicking grass off of his ears. "Skimble, what'd he say? Did he say stuff about me? Did he tell you what I said?"
"Hold on, one question at a time." Skimble held up a paw. "Just as I promised not to speak of your thoughts I promised Tumble I wouldn't talk about his."
"That's not fair, I need to know."
"You do, but not from me. You need to talk to Tumble."
"Ugh." Once more Pounce flopped onto the grass. "How'd I know you were gonna say that?"
"Because you're a smart lad." Skimble patted him on the head.
"Don't feel smart."
"Try not to overthink it. Just do what you think is best." None too subtly the tom wiped his paw in the grass. "Perhaps you should clean yourself up just a bit before you go talking to him though."
"You said dirt baths were good for the soul or something."
"I said an occasional one was beneficial." Skimble patted his back hard enough to send dust clouds into the air. "You have gone far beyond occasional."
"Fine, I'll bathe and stuff. And then… then I'll talk to Tumble." Pounce coughed. "Do you know where I can find him?"
So it turned out that Tumble had been closer than he thought. The tom was hiding in Skimble's den the whole time, making himself at home and lounging around while Pounce was trying to find him, what a turd. Well, Pounce was done with pining. He was going to march on over there and… and….
Pounce fidgeted outside of Skimble's den as all the possibilities raced through his brain. Maybe Skimble was right, he was overthinking it. Better to just jump in and figure it out as he went.
"Hey, Tumble?" Pounce called, edging his way into the dark den. "You alive in there?"
"Hey, Pounce." Tumble replied. He was curled up under a blanket with just his ears poking out.
"Um, you feeling okay?" Slowly Pounce edged closer. Subdued Tumble was not a Tumble he was used to.
"Oh. Um. Do you… do you want to hang out?"
"I dunno. I'm not feeling so good."
"Oh." This was not how things were supposed to go. Tumble was at least supposed to keep up his end of the conversation. Pounce floundered a bit before settling on the first topic that came to mind. "How was your trip?"
"Fine." Tumble curled up tighter under the blanket.
"Er, you didn't miss a lot while you were gone." Pounce tried his best to keep the conversation going. "Although Skimble showed me a cool place outside the junkyard today."
"You talked with Skimble?" Tumble's head shot up so fast the blanket flew off of him. "What did he say?"
"He said that not a lot of cats go out to this place, dunno why, but he thought I'd like it. And I did. So, um, I wanna show you." Pounce kicked at the edge of the blanket. "Also I guess he had a thing for Asparagus. I didn't ask him because, well, 's gross."
"Asparagus?" Tumble was staring at him now. "What does that have to do with the place Skimble showed you?"
"Dunno. It just came up. But this place is really cool. Lots of space to run around. Lots of bugs."
"Bet you already ate some." Tumble snorted.
"Hey, I only ate one and that was an accident." This wasn't fair, Tumble wasn't allowed to slander him if he wasn't feeling good.
"Yeah, sure." Tumble sighed and stretched. "Fine. I'll come see this place with the bugs. But can we go later? I got some stuff I want to do."
"Uh, sure." Pounce moved out of the way. "Tonight?"
"Sounds good." Without so much as a backwards glance Tumble left the den, leaving Pounce alone once more.
"Uh, bye, I guess." Here came the melancholy feelings again. At least Tumble was going to meet with him later, maybe he really did have stuff to do. Important stuff. Stuff more important than his friend sitting right in front of him trying to have a decent conversation.
Somehow Pounce had a hard time believing himself, and this was certainly one of those times. With a small sigh he set off to go find a good patch of dirt to roll around in. Might as well try to soothe his soul or whatever Skimble called it. He had a feeling that his meeting with Tumble later that night was going to be a tough one and he needed all the soothing he could get.
"It'll be worth it, air promise."
Tumble sighed. "I'm not really feeling up to it."
"Please? I wanna show you something Skimble showed me."
"I'm sorry if I made things weird."
"No, Pounce, you didn't. I… I made things weird. I've been avoiding you. Well, trying to. You're really hard to get away from."
"Listen to me for a minute. Don't interrupt-"
"Fine, I won't, but you gotta tell me why-"
"You are literally interrupting me to tell me you aren't going to interrupt me." Tumble pinched the bridge of his nose. "How can you be like this?"
"You know you love me." As soon as he said it he wished he could take it back. After confessing to actually love Tumble the once innocent phrase now had deeper implications.
"Sometimes I wonder." Tumble snorted, not seeming to realize the extra connotations. "Now shut up, I'm trying to be serious."
"After you told me you liked me I got all confused. I tried to think about what you said and that just made me more confused, so the. I asked Skimble if he could take me with him when he went on his next trip. I thought maybe if I could get away from the junkyard for a while I could figure things out."
"Like if I liked you back. Like, in a more than friends way. And if I still liked Jemima."
"I went with Skimble into town for a while, but the more I thought about you the more I missed you. I couldn't- I didn't want to- I- argh!" Tumble picked at the flowers and smashed them between his paws. "I don't know. I just… I had to come home. I missed you too much."
"I… I missed you too."
"I was afraid that you had figured out that I was avoiding you and that you would be upset, so I hid in Skimble and Asparagus's den for a while. But then I felt bad about you thinking that I hated you."
"I don't think you hate me."