The two cats appeared as suddenly as they had dissapeared. Tugger looked around for a moment, a bit disoriented from the sudden burst of magic. Mistoffelees had transported them to Tugger's den, which was across the Junkyard from where they had been. Then he looked down to see Mistoffelees breathing heavily. The larger tom quickly caught the smaller in his arms to prevent him from falling. "You alright?" he asked, worried. Somewhat surprisingly, Mistoffelees looked up with a tired smile on his face.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine Tugger... We made it?" he asked wearily.
Tugger nodded. "If you were aiming for my place, then yes." Then it was his turn to smile. Picking Mistoffelees up in his arms, he carried the young tom over to his bed and lay him down as carefully as if he were made of glass. Sitting down next to him, Tugger placed one hand on Mistoffelees' head. "You trying to kill yourself, or just trying to give me a heart attack?"
Mistoffelees shook his head. "No, I just like being waited on." he grinned and nuzzled his head up into Tugger's palm.
Tugger smiled and shook his head. "This another one of your new tricks?" he asked. Mistoffelees nodded.
"First time with another cat though." he said, his breathing normal now. "I've been practicing conjuring little things for the last week. I've been able to conjure myself for a while, though."
Suddenly getting to his feet, Tugger moved to a corner of his den. "Guess I should offer you something. Hungry? Thirsty?" he asked. "I've got some Argentine joint that I got from 'Jerrie and 'Teazer in return for not reporting them to Munk for swiping it." Mistoffelees nodded.
"Sounds wonderful." he said, rolling onto his stomach before sliding off the bed and over to Tugger's side. Tugger noticed the small black cat and was once again struck by how absolutely wonderful he was in every respect.
Mistoffelees was standing just off to Tugger's side, with both of his hands behind his back as he leaned forwards to watch his spotted companion. His blue eyes were as expressive as ever, hinting at more life than Tugger had ever seen behind them. "Food can't be this exciting, can it?" he asked with an amused smile. Mistoffelees just shrugged, deftly slipping a piece of joint and quickly popping it into his mouth.
"Good though." he grinned, cleaning his fingers. Tugger ambled back to the bed and nodded in agreement.
"I'll say. Folks in Victoria Grove sure know how to live."
Mistoffelees' face then turned thoughtful. "Tugger?" he asked quietly, his hand winding itself in the short fur of his partner's tail, "Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure." Tugger replied, sitting up to give Mistoffelees his full attention. "What do you want to know?"
The small tom sighed softly. "I... I was just wondering what you think might have happened if things had gone differently that night. What if I hadn't run off? What if you'd gotten the others instead of looking for me on your own?" He looked up at Tugger with his bright blue eyes. "If you think about it, we're only together like this now because of chance. I mean, would either of us have admitted anything if we hadn't been in that shelter, me scared out of my fur almost literally and you taking care of me?" Tugger was put-off slightly by the question. Mistoffelees must have sensed it, and his nimble fingers slipped quickly out of Tugger's fur and back towards his own body.
You really haven't changed all that much. Tugger thought to himself, a little sadly. There's still the same Quaxo there, under all that magic, still wondering if there is anyone who really cares. Then something occured to Tugger.
Mistoffelees/Quaxo was an orphan. He had been brought to the Jellicle tribe by Old Deuteronomy from another Jellicle tribe. From what he had been told, Quaxo (since he hadn't become Mistoffelees yet) had been one of the sole survivors of a battle between the tribe and a pack of Pekes. The others in his tribe had either not been able to care for him, or didn't want to take on the added responsibility. So Quaxo had become a communal kitten in this Jellicle tribe, being constantly shuttled from Jellylorum to Jennyanydots, and even occasionally to Bustopher Jones or Skimbleshakes. The idea of some cat wanting Quaxo to be around them was almost foreign to him. No wonder he was still a little wary.
"Yes?" he answered softly, almost timidly.
"Uh-huh. Change. Right now."
Mistoffelees looked a little confused, but did what he was told. A second later Mistoffelees was gone and Quaxo was sitting quietly next to him. Tugger reached out and pulled the smaller tom close to him, gently stroking the back of his head. Quaxo didn't look like he knew what to do, but Tugger heard a soft sigh as Quaxo nestled into his ruff. "I don't really belive in thinking too much about the past like that." Tugger purred quietly. "Sure, it might not have happened. Of course, it might have, just maybe some other way. But it did happen that way, and what passed between us did happen, so I'm not going to think about anything but that." Smiling, Tugger looked down at Quaxo. "You're stuck with me, Quaxo - Mistoffelees. No matter which one you are, I love you completely."
"THAT TOM IS SO INFURIATING!!!"
Demeter practically jumped into Munkustrap's arms. She turned around to see a fuming Bombalurina stalking towards her and Munkustrap. The two cats could almost see the black cloud hanging over the scarlett queen's head. "Bomby, what's wrong?" Demeter asked. Bomby having tom trouble was almost completely unheard of. And when she did, it could only be over one tom... Rum Tum Tugger, the one tom who wouldn't fall over himself to get in good with her.
"What's my littermate done this time?" Munkustrap groaned. Everytime Tugger managed to get Bomby in this state, he was usually the one who caught flack over it.
Bombalurina flopped down on the mattress next to the tire and cupped her chin in her hands. "You mean what hasn't he done..." she growled. "The Jellicle Ball is tomorrow and the jerk hasn't even practiced with me once!"
Demeter ventured to try and cheer her sister up. "Well, Bomby, it's not like you really need the practice..."
"And I'm sure there's plenty of other toms who'd be more than happy to practice with you." Munkustrap added. "Alonzo, Coricopat, Admetus, Victor, just to name a few."
Bombalurina hissed. "That's not the point. He's been outright avoiding me for weeks." She glowered in the direction of Tugger's den. "He's up to something, I just know it."
"Bomby, I think you're over-reacting just a little." Demeter laughed. "Tugger's hardly the conspiritorial kind."
Munkustrap followed Bombalurina's gaze. He wasn't so sure. Remembering the day after Tugger had rescued Quaxo, the Jellicle Protector couldn't help but think that there might be something to Bombalurina's words, probably more than she knew. Tugger had talked to Old Deuteronomy, and Munkustrap knew that the Jellicle Leader had been defenitely unsatisfied with the conversation...
It was the morning of the Jellicle Ball. Old Deuteronomy lay on the Vicarage wall, soaking in the sunlight. A sunny day was rare this time of year in England. But, dispite the weather, Deuteronomy couldn't help but feel uneasy. Was something going to happen at the Ball?
Quaxo sat on top of the pipe that led into his den. His tail twitched nervously. "What's wrong?" Tugger asked softly.
"Something's wrong." Quaxo replied quietly, not wanting any of the nearby kittens to hear him. "It feels like something terrible is going to happen soon." Tugger frowned. He didn't want to worry the smaller tom any more, but he had heard Coricopat and Tantomile quietly talking to each other earlier in the day. Their conversation had been along the exact lines.
"Think we should tell Munk?"
Quaxo sighed and shook his head helplessly. "I don't know." he replied. "I don't know if it's me just being nervous about being asked to dance the Invitation with Victoria or if it's something really serious."
Tugger sat down next to Quaxo and wrapped an arm over his shoulders. "We'll just keep our eyes open." he tried to reassure Quaxo. "I don't see how anything could happen with the whole tribe together on our own turf."
He sat deep within his sanctum. Tonight was the night. The Jellicles would be at their most vunerable now. There would be no peremeter guards as all of the cats would be at the Jellicle Ball. The kittens would be with the cats, causing the priorities of protection to change. As he thought of the plan, his mouth twisted into a cruel smile, lips parting to display lethal fangs. His claws unknowingly drummed a long forgotten rythem, the beat to a past existance.
In front of him stood three others. Two small and black, almost more like rats than their true form. The third was almost unrecognisible as he was draped in a mask and cloak that would have looked comedic were it not for the purpose for which it had been crafted.
"Ready yourselves." he said in a wickedly soft voice. "Tonight we shall destroy the Jellicles."
Okay guys, next chapter is the grand finale! First couple of reviews on this chapter might help dictate the direction this story goes!