AN: For anyone that may be wondering, yes, the Ball described in the prologue was meant to be the one that takes place in the musical. I figure that if the Ball is supposed to last all night and the musical lasts only two hours, there have to be some things they don't show us, right?
So, here we go. Be aware that this doesn't exemplify my best work by any means – I just wanted to get this chapter done. I hope you enjoy it anyway!
It was approaching noon the next day before the Jellicles, tired after the long night of merriment and celebration, began to emerge from their dens to mingle in the center clearing. From where he lay sprawled out in his pipe, Misto groggily forced his eyes open and squinted against the bright light outside. For a moment, he debated going right back to sleep, but the murmur of the familiar voices of his friends and tribemates enticed him to come outside. He slowly emerged from the pipe, rubbing his eyes, and then bent over and stretched, taking in the feeling of the warm sun on his black fur. That accomplished, he sat down and allowed his jaws to gape open in a wide yawn, and his mouth curled into a smile as he closed it with a sigh. Memories of the previous night danced around in his mind as he gazed out across the clearing. There seemed to be an extra kind of energy buzzing around that morning, and Misto was no more immune to it than anyone else. He had thwarted Macavity and saved the Jellicle Leader, yes, but there was only one thing occupying his mind at that moment: Victoria.
Victoria. The mere thought of the name alone was enough to send a shiver of exhilaration down the tuxedo tom's spine in spite of the warmth of the sun. Whatever suspicions about his feelings for her had existed before the Ball, the previous night had more than confirmed them. When he remembered the thrill of dancing with her, the feeling of her paws in his own, the jolt that coursed through him each time their eyes met, a purr slipped out of his throat and his little smile grew into a wide, silly grin. Mister Mistoffelees was in love. He was sure of it. And today he was going to tell her, and Plato wasn't going to stop him.
"Well, well . . . if it isn't the magical, the marvelous, Mister Mistoffelees!" It was the Rum Tum Tugger, of course, who brought Misto out of his fantasy with a start. The maned tom plopped down right next to the magical cat with that smirkish grin he always seemed to have.
"Hi, Tugger," Misto greeted him absently, hardly even glancing at him and instead scanning the clearing for one silky white pelt.
Tugger tried to follow his gaze, but, quickly giving up on that, leaned back against the opening of the pipe and nudged Misto with his elbow. "What'cha thinkin' about, little buddy? Your moment of glory last night, hmm?"
Frowning a bit as he didn't see Victoria anywhere, Misto shook his head. "No . . ."
Tugger paused, obviously waiting for him to say something else. But he didn't, and Tugger frowned too. "Okay . . . you're thinking about your kickass dance solo?"
"No . . ." Misto repeated, the tone of his voice completely flat.
". . . My show-stopping number?" Tugger tried hopefully.
"No . . ."
Tugger huffed and crossed his arms over his chest. "You're gonna have to help me out here, little buddy. All this thinking is hurting my brain. What is it?"
A moment of silence. And then: "Victoria . . ."
Tugger blinked. Then, sagging a bit, he turned away from Misto, discouraged. "Oh," he grumbled with a pointed flick of his tail. "Well . . . alrighty, then."
Misto ignored him completely and rose to his paws without a single word. If Victoria wasn't in the main clearing, he was going to find her.
At the sound of his movement, Tugger's ears swiveled and he glanced over his shoulder in time to see the tuxedo tom beginning to walk away. "What—hey!" he yelped, and sprang to his paws as well, intercepting Misto's path. "Where're you going?"
Misto scowled up at him and pushed him out of the way. "Victoria . . ." he repeated absently in the same tone of voice.
"Whoa, don't touch the mane, m'kay?" Tugger chided. "I just groomed it." But Misto was ignoring him again, and he was gone before Tugger could stall any longer.
Another figure approached Tugger from behind. It heaved a sigh and shook its head, and folded its tabby-striped arms across its chest. "Poor guy," Munkustrap murmured, watching Misto as he progressed across the clearing.
Tugger looked at his brother with a guilty expression on his face. "Should I have told him?" he asked.
"I thought that was what you were going to do," Munku answered, lifting one eyebrow at the maned tom.
"Well . . . I was getting there," Tugger tried to defend himself, his proud ego obviously wounded by the condescending note in the tabby's voice. "He just kind of . . . walked away first."
Munku frowned, but dismissed his brother with a simple roll of his eyes. "Well, now he'll just have to find out the hard way, I suppose," he decided. "Just try not to do or say anything too stupid when he does."
Relieved to be away from Tugger, Misto stood in the middle of the clearing, where he and Victoria had danced the previous night. There was a slight frown on his face as he looked all around, unable to detect a trace of the white queen. The words that he wanted – nay, needed to say to her pranced on the tip of his tongue, and he knew that he couldn't hold them in much longer. And yet she was nowhere to be seen. A thought then came to him, however – perhaps she was still in her den. After all, it had been just as exhausting a night for her as it had been for anyone else, most likely more so. All of the Jellicles needed their rest, and Victoria was sure to be no different. Ears perking with newfound determination, Misto gave a nod and the grin returned to his face as he ducked between two piles of junk. Victoria's den lay tucked away from the main clearing in a quieter part of the junkyard, and Misto knew the route well, having walked it many times. His paws seemed lighter than normal this time, and he quickly reached his destination: a clothing hamper turned on its side that still had some old clothes in it, with a sheet draped over the opening to form a door. Not expecting the white queen to have any guests over at the early hour, Misto brushed right past the sheet and into the den.
The sight that greeted him immediately made him wish he hadn't.
There was Victoria, sure enough. She lay on her back, sprawled out on the clothes that she used as her bedding. And crouching over her on all fours, his mouth sealed over hers, was none other than Plato. There was a soft and rather sultry purr flowing from both of them, and their two mingled scents, overlaid by a third scent Misto didn't care to try to identify, practically smacked the tuxedo tom in the face. Eyes wide with dismay, he tried to force himself right back outside, but somehow his legs seemed to have forgotten how to move.
Fortunately for Misto, the sight didn't last long. Once he entered the den, Plato and Victoria both quickly sensed his presence and terminated their activity to look up and stare directly at him, making him take a startled step backward.
"Misto!" Victoria squeaked, her eyes opening wide and a pink tint beginning to color her face.
"V-Vicky?" Misto managed. He tried to force more words out, but none came – shock had snatched the voice right out of him.
"You know," Plato growled, breaking the silence, "there comes a time when you really need to learn to mind your own—"
"Plato, please," Victoria pleaded softly. "He didn't know . . ."
"Didn't know what?" When Misto did find his voice again, it sounded like a kitten's.
Victoria's black-tipped ears ducked apologetically. She glanced up at Plato and eased her way out from under him, and then brushed out of the den with a hurried, "Come out here."
Ignoring Plato's glare, Misto turned and stumbled out after her, his head spinning with questions and the unspoken words that had been temporarily swallowed up by the moment. But in spite of what he had seen, when he looked at Victoria, he couldn't help the dreamy look that took over his eyes. She stopped and turned to him, and the goofy little smile crawled back onto his face. For a moment, the image of her and Plato evanesced right out of his mind; all he could think of was her dazzling white fur under the glaring spotlight, her unrivaled grace and elegance, and those captivating eyes that were gazing right back at him.
His thought process not exactly at its peak at that moment, Misto decided that now was as good a time for what he had to say as any. "Vicky, I—"
"No, no," Victoria interrupted. "I'm sorry."
The smile dropped like a stone from Misto's face. She thought he was trying to apologize!
"I'm sorry that you had to see that," Victoria continued. With a sigh, she amended, "Well, I suppose I should say I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier. You just . . . seemed so happy last night, and I didn't want to ruin it for you. And, anyway, I was sure that somebody else was going to tell you, even if I didn't . . ."
"Tell me what?" Misto whined impatiently, a glimmer of worry overtaking the glow in his eyes.
Victoria sighed. She was clearly trying to avoid his gaze as she softly explained, "Plato and I . . . we're mates now. He asked me after the Ball, but I guess you'd already gone back to your den and didn't stay around to see it."
In that moment, Misto felt his heart drop into his stomach. If it was possible for a white face to turn pale, his did. "M . . . mates?" he croaked. "But . . . I thought you said the dance didn't mean anything."
"The Mating Dance?" The white queen blushed. "Well . . . I thought it didn't. I guess Plato thought otherwise. He's had his eye on me for quite a while, you know, and this was probably just the opportunity he was looking for."
Misto stared at her. "But what about me?" he finally blurted.
The silence that followed was almost painful, but the tuxedo tom would have preferred the silence to the next words that issued from the queen. "Misto . . . I like you. Please don't think I don't. But it just wouldn't work out between us. I love Plato. I know you don't want to hear that from me, but it's the truth."
Misto bit his lower lip, trying to ignore the feeling of his heart tearing in two. "But . . . but why?" he asked pleadingly. "Why wouldn't we work out? Last night was perfect, Vicky. What on earth does Plato have that I don't?"
"About two inches, I'd say." Plato had appeared leaning against the inside of the hamper, peeking out from behind the sheet with a smirk on his face. Of the three of them, only he seemed pleased about what was going on.
Misto turned around, startled, and his face suddenly flushed red. "Now who needs to mind his own business?" he growled, folding his arms over his chest.
Plato just chuckled. "You heard what she said," he replied. "She's mine now. You had your chance, so kindly put a sock in it." His gaze shifted to Victoria. "And as for you . . . come back to bed. I wasn't finished with you yet." His voice was practically dripping with lust.
The white queen heaved a sigh and let her ears droop. She nodded, but then looked at Misto. "I'm sorry . . ." she repeated softly, and then leaned forward and planted a kiss on the tuxedo tom's cheek. She gazed sadly at him for one moment more, and then turned and disappeared into her den behind a veil of white.
"But I . . ." Misto started to call after her, but she was gone before he could finish. He stared blankly in the direction of the den, his eyes, which only minutes ago had been alive with energy, now dull and unfocused. His tail hung limply behind him, and the warm and life-giving glow of the sun suddenly felt cold. So quietly that he knew only he could hear it, he finished, each word feeling like a claw-scratch on his heart, "I . . . love . . . you . . ."