I've been wanting to explore Macavity's character for a really long time, and I finally got around to trying! This story is going to jump around a bit, spanning from Macavity's kittenhood to the Jellicle Ball all of us fans were witness to. There's also going to be a lot of background information on ancient magical cats. I'm not sure where this is going, to be honest, but I think I'll be able to get a decent story out of it.
Disclaimer: Props to TSE! (And Al Dubs, I guess...)
The long blades of grass tickled her chin as Demeter sat in the middle of the field, a dandelion between her teeth. Her canines had bitten small holes in the electric green stem. She felt only slightly guilty as she felt the juicy insides of the stem give under her pressure and tasted the tangy insides of the yellow plant.
This treat was not for her, after all.
Her tongue tingling with the forbidden plant's taste, Demeter raised herself into a standing position. Throwing caution to the wind (which was, ironically, rather strong today), she leapt through the green grass, careening almost haphazardly down a hillside.
The appearance of a young gray tabby made her stop in her tracks. She gasped. The dandelion fell from her mouth and fell limply to the ground as she lost her footing. She threw out her arms to catch herself – how embarrassing would it be for a cat to fall on her face? – but something got in her way.
Two fiery red paws caught her around the torso before she had so much as comprehended her situation. She blinked, trying to adjust to her new position. She felt the red paws hug her sides gently, tickling her slightly. The arms her torso was resting on were extremely furry and stick-thin.
"Mac!" she giggled in protest as she recognized the cat who had caught her. Demeter tried to turn over to look him in the face, but he lowered her to the ground and stretched himself over her before she could turn her head.
His slow breathing was pressing his stomach against her back, their bodies forming a plus sign in the grass. Feeling slightly uncomfortable – for he was a few ounces heavier – she curved her spine, mewing to show discomfort.
Macavity was off her within seconds. Turning over, finally, to lie on her back, Demeter smiled up into Macavity's black eyes.
"You scared me for a second there, Mac," she admitted, pawing nervously at her ear. Then, remembering what (who, rather) had caused her to trip, she sat up quickly and turned her gaze to a spot further down the hill. There was no sign of the gray tom.
"Where'd Munkustrap go?" Demeter's voice was a bit higher pitched. She turned to look back at Macavity, who fidgeted uncomfortably, avoiding her eye and pawing the ground.
"He, um, had to leave," Macavity's voice was low, a growl playing around in his lower throat. Demeter could see his Adam's apple pulsing unpleasantly, pushing his fur-covered skin forward.
"Oh," Demeter's voice was soft. Her eyes sank to the ground and she let out a small sigh, which she quickly took back in as she spotted a familiar yellow plant on the ground.
"This was supposed to be for you," she bent low and nudged the flower closer to Macavity with her nose. She avoided looking directly at him as he took the flower between his teeth, one of his canines – somewhat larger than hers – sinking into the small dent hers had made. "I hope you don't mind I dropped it."
She looked at Macavity's face and immediately wished she hadn't. He was smiling, but it somehow didn't quite meet his eyes. With the dandelion still between his teeth, he asked,
"What do I do with it?"
"You eat it," Demeter touched his ear fondly, barely letting her paw brush his fur. "Mom's always telling me not to eat them, because she says Jellicles don't eat weeds. But I've seen your dad eat them before, so they can't be bad, can they?"
"I guess not," Macavity's tongue wrestled with the thick stem as he spoke. Demeter watched eagerly as Macavity curled his tongue around the dandelion's stem, pulling it further into his mouth. The stem folded neatly in two. He began chewing, parts of the yellow head peeking out from his lips. The pollen collected above his upper lip, giving it a golden hue. His lips curved back over his teeth as he tried to pull the rest of the flower head into his mouth. A few tiny yellow petals escaped and fell to the ground, mingling with the hard earth.
Demeter's eyes searched Macavity's face as he chewed the tangy plant. He stuck his tongue out as he chewed with his mouth open, shifting the dandelion back towards his throat. Usually Demeter did not watch other cats when they were eating, but she was somehow entranced by the way Macavity brushed the tip of his tongue against the back of his front teeth with each successive bite.
Her heart sank as he swallowed, grimacing.
"Maybe they're an acquired taste," she said, looking at his paws. His claws were out, she noticed, leaving small imprints in the ground as he tensed his arms.
"Well I'm certainly not going to acquire the taste," Macavity's voice was laced with sarcasm. It stole the breath from Demeter's chest, and she closed her eyes. She had thought – more like hoped – that Macavity would have appreciated her gift. Hadn't she learned by now how hard the tom was to please?
Just last week, she had persuaded Macavity to join the race Munkustrap and Rum Tum Tugger were having around a course she and Bombalurina had set up. She had thought it would be fun for him, win or lose, but she had been wrong. Macavity had not only lost to his older brother but to Rum Tum Tugger as well, who was his junior (if only by a few minutes). The ginger tom had retreated to one of his favorite haunts, snapping at her when she had come near.
And just days before that, hadn't he turned up his nose to a half-eaten can of cat food she had saved specially for him? She felt sorry for him, having no owner to look after him like the rest of his siblings. He hadn't even thanked her for thinking of him before herself – it had been her breakfast, after all – and instead upended the can with a vicious swipe.
So it came as no surprise that he was now shoving pawfuls of grass into his mouth, groaning obnoxiously. Feeling the fur on her back prickle, Demeter turned away from her ungrateful friend, her tail brushing lightly against his nose.
She began walking, slowly this time, down the hillside, thin blades of grass sneaking underneath her to tickle her stomach. Maybe she would find another dandelion and give it to Bombalurina instead. Yes, that was a good idea. Her sister liked the yellow flowers more than she, Demeter, did.
Or maybe she would give one to Munkustrap. The gray tom was her senior by only two moons, but he was already so much smarter and matured than she was. He would accept any gift with gratitude, even if it wasn't to his fancy.
Smiling at this prospect, Demeter began to search for another one of those elusive yellow plants.
"What happened next, Uncle Skimble?"
Bombalurina was laughing at the way Rum Tum Tugger was bouncing in his seat, looking up at the Railway Cat expectantly. Demeter allowed herself a small smile at Tugger's antics, but she was also deeply interested in the story.
Skimbleshanks was not, admittedly, Rum Tum Tugger's uncle, nor was he the uncle of any of the cats present. He was older than the group of kittens by a few balls, just getting ready to choose a mate and father his own litter, but they all fondly called him 'Uncle Skimble' anyway. He was always sharing stories with them and watching them while their parents were away.
"Well, you kits will never believe this one, but there actually wasn't a turkey living in her hat!" Skimbleshanks began chuckling as he related his story. "So you'll imagine how foolish I felt, wrestling on the floor with a bunch of feathers. Now this lady was particularly kind, and instead of complaining to the stationmaster, (he's got a temper none can match!) she scoops me up in her arms, see, and says in this sing-song voice, 'Aw, isn't he the fiercest little protector you ever did see!'
"You see, kits, she had six cats of her own back at her house, and every one of them had done the same thing, some more than once!"
Rum Tum Tugger collapsed on the ground, holding his stomach as he laughed uncontrollably.
"You'll make a great father, Uncle Skimble," Munkustrap told the older tom. "Your stories are the best."
"Thank you, Munkus," Skimble said affectionately, nuzzling the smaller cat. Then, catching sight of Alonzo making to tackle Tugger, who was still laughing, he held out his arm, catching the black and white cat mid-pounce. "Alonzo," his eyes narrowed slightly, "what exactly are you doing?"
"Nothing," the tom – the youngest of the group – mumbled.
"That's what I thought."
"Will you tell us another?" Cassandra, usually the silent observer of the group, spoke up.
"Yeah, tell us the story about Vainamoinen!" Bombalurina chimed in, pronouncing the legendary name perfectly.
"That one again?" Skimble gestured for Alonzo to take a spot away from Tugger as the latter sat up, his eyes shining with excitement. Demeter involuntarily moved closer to Bombalurina, for this tale of Skimble's frightened her every single time he told it. Her sister noticed her discomfort and put a paw on Demeter's arm for support. Feeling grateful she was nestled snugly in the middle of the group, Demeter tried to relax.
"Are you sure you want to hear that one?" Skimbleshanks was just teasing them now, for his voice was sing-songy and he had cocked his head in a comical manner. "I wouldn't want to give you nightmares."
"That's not what he said the first time," Munkustrap whispered to Alonzo. "He told it to us at the end of our first Jellicle Ball, right before bedtime."
"Alright, kits, gather together–" All the kittens huddled together at Skimble's words, and Demeter tried to make herself smaller as Bombalurina and Cassandra both drew in closer. "–and prepare to hear the tale of Vainamoinen, the first of the thaumaturgists."
As Skimbleshanks began his story, his voice deepened and grew soft, so he was whispering to the kittens. They all sat silent, eyes glassed over, as they lost themselves into the tragic story of the legendary cat.
"Vainamoinen was born centuries ago, to the parents Nneka and Abram. He was the first of their litter of five, and the only tom. The two parents were thrilled to welcome their own kittens into the world, vowing to ensure that each of their offspring would live a full and joyful life.
"From an early age, Vainamoinen had been particularly special to his father. Not only was he the firstborn, but he was the only son. Thus, Abram was very firm with his little tom. Vainamoinen was constantly at his father's side, receiving criticism on everything from his posture to his elocution. Nneka assured Vainamoinen that his father did everything out of love, but the little tom was not able to understand this.
"Vainamoinen began to seek refuge from his father's critical eye. He found it among the 'rough crowd,' a group of cats that were Jellicles, admittedly, but had since abandoned the Ball and other such meetings, desiring instead to seek out more pleasing activities. These activities included thievery, gambling, and thoroughly beating any unfortunate Jellicle or Pollicle that interfered.
"It was at one of these encounters that Vainamoinen discovered his hidden talents. You see, kits, he had been dared by his group of friends to attack the first Pollicle to cross his path that night. Unfortunately for him, the first Pollicle he saw was a absolutely humongous piece of dog. He was the size of six Old Deuteronomys and at least six times as strong.
"But when Vainamoinen tried to back down, his friends pushed him into it, nagging him and swiping at his feet. So, to the pleasure of his friends, he advanced on the Pol, claws out and teeth bared.
"The fight started out normal enough. The Pollicle took an early lead, hitting Vainamoinen on the nose with a powerful whack. But Vainamoinen picked himself up and went right back for the Pollicle. When he was able to get a strike in, the Pollicle staggered backwards, coughing up blood.
"Only minutes later the Pol was dead. Vainamoinen and his friends couldn't understand what had happened. He hadn't pushed the Pol very hard at all!
"Vainamoinen went to Abram to try and get some advice. When he heard of his son's encounter with the Pollicle, he was disappointed in his son's actions, but he vowed to help him. The two discovered together that Vainamoinen had been gifted with magical powers."
There was a collective gasp from Bombalurina, Rum Tum Tugger, and Alonzo. Demeter, although a bit frightened, rolled her eyes. They knew what happened; they just gasped to humor Skimble.
"The two kept Vainamoinen's powers secret for as long as they could, for they were not sure how the others would react. Vainamoinen continued with his life as normal, even taking a mate when he came of age. He fathered a sizeable little of kittens and decided to settle down as a father before anyone noticed something was different.
"You see, kits, one of Vainamoinen's kittens had been given the same gift. It appeared in this little one at a very young age, scaring his mother half to death. Vainamoinen chose that as the time to confess.
"However, his mate was frightened by this knowledge. One night, when Vainamoinen returned from a meeting with some other Jellicles, he found his mate and kittens missing. The only thing left in his den was the one little kitten that had shown magical ability.
"Now Vainamoinen was very upset at this, for he had hoped that his mate would accept him for who he was. He was a bit rough around the edges, as everyone knew, but he wasn't a bad tom.
"But it seemed that a new reputation proceeded him next time he joined the Jellicles for the yearly Ball. Whispers followed him everywhere, the kittens shrieked and skittered when he came near, and the queens wouldn't so much as look at him. (This was a particularly hard blow, for he had once been quite a queen's tom.)"
"Like me!" Tugger piped up, fluffing his scant mane importantly. Bombalurina giggled while Munkustrap pushed Tugger over with a paw.
"Eventually, the tension grew to be so great that it was impossible for Vainamoinen to remain with the Jellicles. He tried to leave peacefully enough, but in the end he was forced out violently by some of the older toms. When he asked why, they recounted a completely false version of his fight with the large Pollicle so many Balls ago.
"It seemed that the other cats were under the impression that he had hunted that Pollicle down and mercilessly slaughtered it with magic for fun.
"So Vainamoinen and his son were exiled and they lived in solitude for the remainder of Vainamoinen's Balls. It is said that in their exile the two honed their magic abilities and experimented with unfortunate creatures that crossed their paths, giving themselves quite a bad reputation. Eventually Vainamoinen died, and his son emerged from exile. Nobody recognized him as the timid little kitten from many Balls ago.
"But Vainamoinen's son, Rhet, was not so understanding as his father before him. He built on his father's reputation as a thaumaturgist and lured queens to his den by invading their minds. He vowed vengeance on the cats that had been so cruel to him and his father.
"Nobody knows who was the next thaumaturgist after Rhet, but the rumors say it was a kitten born to two non-magical cats. Some say Rhet kidnapped the cat as a kitten and raised him to follow in his footsteps.
"It has become impossible to track the different thaumaturgists over the years. All anyone knows is that one is born to every generation, and that it is always a tom. This tom is normally the eldest, but this is not one hundred percent true. But one thing that is known for certain is that the tom will always look almost completely like his mother and have a very rough demeanor about him."
With that, Skimble ended his story. Demeter and Cassandra had thrown their arms around each other in fright and Munkustrap looked like he wanted to join in but was too afraid of how it would look. Tugger and Alonzo seemed unfazed and Bombalurina looked like she was trying to put on a brave face.
"That one gets me every time too, kits," Skimble chuckled, beginning to leave. "But you know, that last part is one hundred percent true."
After Skimble's departure, Tugger and Alonzo began discussing who they thought the thaumaturgist of their generation was. Demeter only half-listened, for she had no desire to figure it out. As far as she knew, none of the toms she had ever seen looked like their mothers.
"Well, it can't be me or you," Tugger said, stating the obvious. "Dad tells me I look exactly like he did when he was a kitten, and I've seen your mom. You look nothing like her." The toms turned their heads as one to look at Munkustrap.
"What?" the tabby asked innocently, not catching on.
"So, Munkus, what did your mom look like?"
"What? I'm just asking!"
"But you're my brother! You know I'm not a thaumat… thauma-whatever."
"Gosh, Munkus, I was kidding!"
Bombalurina let out a squeal when Munkustrap pounced on Rum Tum Tugger, his mouth fastening on the small mane Tug was so proud of. He pulled on it playfully, and the two brothers began rolling on the ground, Tugger reaching for Munkus's ear with his teeth.
"Where's Macavity?" Demeter wondered aloud, suddenly noticing the ginger tom's absence. She looked around her, wondering if he was hiding. Had he really not come to hear Skimble's stories? It was a tradition all of the kittens always kept to, so what could he be doing?