Chapter 1: My Mother, Always
Munkustrap laid his head gently onto his paws. Everything was whacked out in his mind at the moment. The attack by Macavity, Grizabella returning to the tribe, Old Deuteronomy being kidnapped, it was almost too overwhelming for him. Memories of his past flew through his head as tears sprang into his eyes. He let not a single drop loose, though, because that was not the way he wanted to show himself. He took a deep breath, and sorted out the events that had transpired at the most recent Jellicle Ball.
After Grizabella had ascended to the Heaviside Layer, Deuteronomy and Munkustrap had closed the Jellicle Ball in style. Everything was running through his head, but Munkustrap managed to push it to the back of his mind and finish up a Jellicle Ball no one would forget. Afterwards, he thanked everyone for coming and came to where he lay now, in an upholstery hole on a broken couch, to sort out his thoughts. Demeter had been nice enough to leave him for a while to sort his mind out.
Munk lifted his head and saw Demeter padding her way up to him. He pushed himself into an upright position as she scrambled up beside him. She sat next to him, and rubbed her head down his neck and back. He smiled and rubbed her back.
"Are you better now, dear?" Demeter asked.
Munk nodded, "Just needed a moment, Dem."
Demeter looked him in the eyes, "I know this is hard. You just need a day or two to pull yourself together. I understand how much stress you're under."
"Thanks," Munk purred.
Dem smiled, "You should spend some time with your daughters, Victoria and Jemima. You could stand to spend some time with Quaxo and Tugger as well. Really, you could do with time around anyone."
Munk smiled back, "You understand me better than anyone, Dem. Even Tugger or Old D."
Demeter licked his nose lightly, "Some one on one time with a couple people would do you a world of good."
"Maybe you're right," Munkustrap agreed. "In fact, I know you're right. I need to pull myself together if I'm going to be the next leader of the Jellicles. I can't be like this if I'm going to lead."
Dem tilted her head to the side, "Everyone has the right to have emotions, Munk. That includes you. Don't beat yourself up, because no one will criticize you for it. Every cat has tough times in their lives, and you're no different."
Munk nodded without a word. He needed some fresh air to clear his head. Munkustrap stood and made his way down the junk pile, his mind overflowing with thoughts and memories. He left Demeter at the sofa. After he had gone, Dem made her way down and made a sharp turn, heading for her house, and hoping Munk would be himself in a few days time.
Munk looked deep into his brother's eyes, pushing against his instincts and trying not to blink. Mac gazed back lazily at him, barely twitching a whisker. Munk felt water welling up in them, but he refused to blink. Mac seemed to just be waiting out the time. Munk couldn't stand it any longer and shut his eyes tight, opening them back up after they stopped burning. Mac smiled in at him, an edge of gloating in the slight expression.
Munk was Mac's younger brother, and always felt small next to him. Munk looked up to Mac immensely, and Mac was kind to him. Mac never shot down a chance to dominate him, though. The only one Munk could dominate was his and Mac's youngest brother, Tug. Tug was smaller than the both of them, and always wanted to be involved in everything. He was the cutest thing you would ever see, though.
Munk stretched his tiny muscles and looked around the box they called home. They had only been allowed outside about two kitten springs from the box. Their mother had gone out to a friend's for a moment, and Mac had challenged Munk to a staring contest.
As Munk recovered from his dry eyes, Tug challenged Mac to a staring contest. Tug lasted about three tail flicks and quit. Munk smiled and licked his little brother on the head. A rustle from the front flaps froze the boys in their tracks. The flaps parted and their mother entered the box.
She smiled quietly and licked them each roughly on the head. Tug rubbed his side along his mother's leg, and she gave him an extra lick on the ear. Tug smiled happily. Their mother smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes.
"Kittens," she meowed, corralling a rebellious Tug with her tail, "I have to tell you something." The boys promptly sat down and looked at their mother with wide, innocent eyes. She sighed and got right to the point. "I'm going to go on a trip for a while. I'm not sure how long I'll be gone, but believe I will be back. I love you with all my heart, and never forget that."
"Why are you going, Ma?" Mac asked, standing up.
She nuzzled him with her nose, "I just have to go on a little trip, my sweet. I'll be back, though." Mac nodded and sat back down. "Now, I'm going to talk to your father, stay here, okay? Can I trust you?" All three of them nodded. She smiled, "I knew I could."
She turned and pushed her way out of the box. Mac pushed Tug to the ground and into a corner to try to put him to sleep. When Tug protested, Mac began to try to sing in his high pitched, squealing kitten voice. Munk pushed his ears against his head, and made his way out of the box. He saw his mother's tail disappear around the corner of junk, and Munk hurried to catch up with her. He stopped as he came up to the tent where his father stayed. Munk pressed himself against the side of a wooden box and listened to what they were saying.
"Why have you come to tell me this?" his father rumbling voice had a slight edge to it.
"Because I need you to take care of the kits," his mother's voice murmured sweetly.
"You're not taking them with you?"
"I need to go alone, D. I settled down too early, and I want to see the world!"
His father's voice was flat, "So you would leave your growing family, just so you can see the world? That's not the Bella I fell in love with."
"Maybe that's changed," her voice grew hard. "I can't be held back by these kits! I need to live, and be recognized."
"These kits!" D's voice was satiated with anger, "They're your kits, Grizabella. You're going to leave them, as kits, and go off gallivanting on your own?" D's voice rose to a fever pitch.
Grizabella sniffed, "I can do better than live in a junkyard with a bunch of street cats."
"They are not street cats! Many of them have good homes, and you are one of them, Grizabella!"
Her voice grew quiet, "We have nothing more to say to each other. Take care of the kits, Deuteronomy." She swept out of the tent, and Munk pressed himself closer to the box. He dared to move only when she was gone, and he heard a heavy sigh come from where his father was.
Munk turned tail and raced back to the nest. Munk pushed through the flaps, and curled up into the corner opposite of a sleeping Tug. Dry sobs came from Munk's throat, and he tried to muffle them against the side of the box. Mac came over and laid a paw on Munk's side, "Are you okay?"
Munk didn't have the strength to answer. He felt completely drained of energy. He didn't understand much of what his parents had fought about, but he picked up as much as he thought was important. Their mother was leaving them, and she didn't want anything to do with her kittens. Tears sprang into Munk's eyes, and he quietly cried himself to sleep. In between sobs he could hear Mac softly muttering to Tug, and Mac himself uttering quick fits of crying in between helping out Tug. Munk felt more alone than he ever had before.