It was a day like any other, and Tugger sat at the Jellicle tire, looking morose and staring at some point in front of him. To any cat he looked as if he was simply pondering his third name, and thus the rest of the tribe left him alone. But Mistoffelees knew Tugger and almost seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to his feelings. The tuxedo cat jumped up on the tire next to his friend and stared at him until Tugger snapped out of his silent reverie.
"What is it, Misto?"
"I was just about to ask you the same question, Tug. You've been out of it ever since you got changed back. Didn't you have fun at the dance?"
"The dance was okay. But afterwards... it didn't go so well."
"I kind of noticed that when you showed up in all your feline glory. Thanks for not bringing back the car, too. That was a nice bit of teleportation I had to do to get it back here." Mistoffelees looked at Tugger, hoping that he would make the maned cat laugh again. When that didn't work he sighed. "Okay, what is it?"
Tugger rolled on his back. "Paige has done nothing but cry ever since the dance. She won't even leave her room. Andy is calling her a lot, I hear Paige's mother speaking to him on the phone, but she won't talk to him herself. All she does in lying on bed, staring into the wall and cries."
"Not really what you had in mind, then."
Tugger sighed. "No." His eyes glinted with a sudden idea. "Hey, Misto, can I ask you a favour?"
"Sure. What do you want to be turned into this time? A hedgehog? A badger, perhaps? I'm sure you'd make a very handsome badger."
"It's nothing like that."
"I draw the line at Pollicles."
"Knock it off, Misto, I don't want to transform again!"
Mistoffelees yawned and stretched out. "Fine. What is it, then?"
"Can you do something so that Paige can hear what I'm saying?"
The magician paused in mid-stretch and stared at him. "You're going to talk to her?"
"I have to explain a few things."
"Are you completely nuts? I mean, you've always been somewhat stupid, and I thought you'd learned some things from your experiences as a human, but now that you're a Jellicle again you're obviously back to your old ways." Mistoffelees started pacing the tire, gracefully keeping his balance with his tail. "You can't talk to her. She'd think she'd gone mad and she wouldn't believe a word."
"She'd recognize my voice. She'd know."
"She's human! You're a cat! Can't you get through your thick skull that it's over? Her kin is not a magical specie, not like us. She wouldn't believe it."
"You're underestimating her. She's a strange girl. She would believe, I know she would."
Mistoffelees stopped his pacing and looked over his shoulder at Tugger. "Even if she did, what would you hope to accomplish? You are her friend now. You're her pet. What do you want?"
Tugger rolled back onto his belly and looked at the filthy ground. He was silent for a while before he replied.
"I am... not really sure what I want, Misto," he sighed. "Closure, I guess. I want to repair what I broke. I want to get her out of that bed and stop being sad."
"She's a teenage girl. You have to let her mourn her first love. She'll come around, if you just give her some time." There was something pleading in Mistoffelees' voice.
The magician sighed. "What?"
"I'm thinking of asking Bombalurina to be my official mate. If she accepts, we'll be joined at the next Jellicle Ball."
Mistoffelees' mouth fell open, and he seemed to be gasping for air. He stared at Tugger as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"That's... that's great, Tug," he said softly after a moment. "Congratulations, and all that. Have you talked to her at all?"
Tugger shook his head. "No, I haven't. I figured I would once she shows up. She hasn't been happy about this whole thing with Paige. Please, Misto, I have to put an end to it. For Bomba's sake."
Mistoffelees groaned. "You'll be the death of me, Rum Tum Tugger. Fine. I'll give you some herbs. They'll make you able to walk into Paige's dreams. It's much better that trying to talk with her while she's awake."
As the moon shone through her window, Paige Talbot lay in her bed. She was dreaming. Her subconscious picked up a scratching sound as the cat-flap in her window opened and let Tiggery in, but she did not wake up.
She was wearing her best dress again, the white one that she had worn to the dance. She knew she was pretty in it. But there was something wrong. She was not on her way to the dance at all, for mum and dad had been home when she had gotten ready, and they were gone now. She was alone in the house, and everything was eerily silent. She decided to leave.
The street outside her house was crowded with strange, faceless people, who passed her without noticing her presence. She didn't care about them. She was looking for someone in particular, like she looked for him everywhere, on every street and on every corner.
She walked, calling his name and trying to stand on her tip-toes to spot him, until she reached the café where they had had their first date. Through the window she could see a dark figure sitting by the table where they had sat, and she hurried inside, her heart beating wildly in her chest.
It was him. He sat there, turned against her, and he was smiling. His face seemed a little stiff and his eyes were a little glassed over, but it was absolutely him. On the table in front of him lay a cat, and it was silently allowing itself to be stroked by his rather mechanical hand.
"Tom?" she whispered.
"Paige," he said, and his voice sounded in a way quieter than it usually did. She could hardly see his lips moving. "There you are."
"I was looking for you."
"You found me."
Oddly enough, she could not really focus on his face. Her eyes were repeatedly drawn towards the cat in front of him. With a sudden pang of realization, she recognized the cat. It was her own, her Tiggery.
"Tiggery, what are you doing here?"
She sat down on the opposite chair and tenderly began petting her cat. She had been so worried about him when he'd been gone, and was so relieved now that he was back.
"I am here because Tom Tugger is here, Paige," said Tiggery calmly.
It was no wonder that he was speaking. She had always known he could speak. She just hadn't been able to hear it before. She blinked.
"Oh? Do you know Tom?"
"I am Tom. Look at my face."
His statement was no shock either. She saw, and she knew, as if she had always known. Tom's eyes and Tiggery's eyes were one and the same, and it was strange that she had not even noticed it earlier.
"I took human form to help you, Paige," continued Tiggery. "I wanted to make that night special. I'm sorry for what happened."
"That's all right," she whispered.
Tiggery purred and got to his feet. Tom's hand that had been stroking him, fell and hit the table with a smack. Tom did not seem to notice. He was barely moving, but she was hardy aware of it. He was not important. He was just a shell. All the things that had made him Tom was now in Tiggery, and her cat's eyes sparkled just like Tom's had done.
She scratched his chin, and he butted her while purring softly.
This is a good dream, she thought. It all makes sense. He didn't want to leave, really. He wanted to stay. This makes it fine. This makes it bearable.
Tiggery climbed into her lap and curled up in a furry ball. He seemed so relaxed.
She knew it was a dream. But it was such a good dream. Everything was as it should be. It was her and her cat, and that was okay. She would make it through this, even though a part of her hurt, she would make it through.
Suddenly Tiggery stood up, and he looked her right in the eyes. She had never seen wiser eyes, eyes that had seen so much that she would never take a part of.
"It's better this way," he said. "For us both. You should not grieve so much. I'm not worth it." He nuzzled her one last time. "It was nice talking to you, Paige. It was nice that you heard me, for once."
Then he leaned forward and gave her one affectionate lick on the nose.
Paige woke up. It was dark outside, but the sky was slowly turning orange, a sign of the impending new day. A shadow stood out sharply in silhouette to the light, and first Paige was afraid, but then she noticed who it was.
"Hi, Tiggery," she murmured sleepily. "You know you shouldn't be in my bed. Mum doesn't like it. Down with you."
She shooed at him, and to her slight surprise, he actually obeyed. That was very unlike Tiggery. She frowned, grasping after something that had happened just recently, but the memory was quickly fading and went away the second she thought she'd caught it.
"You know, Tiggery," she yawned. "I think I had a dream about you. But I'm not sure. Maybe it wasn't about you, just about someone who was a lot like you."
He gave her a long look, and then he returned to his comfy chair. Paige shrugged and placed her head on her pillow again.
She couldn't quite put her finger on why, but she was suddenly feeling cheerier. It was as if the past days were getting blurred, and she didn't feel like crying anymore. Other things about the dance were coming back to her. She remembered that Andy had been talking to her. He had even driven her home that night. In her despair at Tom's disappearance, she had completely forgotten about that. The bare thought of it now made her smile into her pillow.
A new time was beginning. Maybe the next time Andy phoned, she would answer it herself. Maybe she'd go out with him. Maybe she wouldn't. The world was a lot more exciting now than it had been just a few days ago. It made butterflies fly around in her stomach, and she had to giggle silently to make them go away.
Paige blinked a few times and stretched out underneath the covers. She felt... good. Still sleepy, but good. Perhaps she would try and sleep some more. Crying for days really took it out of you.
She stared out into the darkness for a moment before she closed her eyes. Tiggery was still awake, and he was looking at her with glimmering yellow eyes. Paige thought there was something familiar about it, but the idea vanished from her mind almost immediately.
She closed her eyes and fell asleep again.
This time, there were no dreams, and in his chair sat the Rum Tum Tugger, watching over her, like he always did. Like he always would.
A/N: A hearty thank you to all you people who reviewed this story. I never thought it'd be this popular. Thank you very much!