Disclaimer: I do not own CATS.


He knew that he was falling, yet he did not seem to feel the impact with that he knew should have happened. He just felt empty. Empty, and cold, and so, so tired.

The sky was light and grey above him, calm and peaceful. He felt that this was somehow appropriate, though for what he could not really tell. It did not matter, though, to him. Nothing really seemed to matter now.

It was a nice feeling.

Yet somewhere in his reverie of emptiness and cold, he could dimly sense a panicked presence, something that was drawing his train of thought to a figure near him. His gaze was drawn to his right, and observed the sight in front of him calmly, quietly. In his subconscious, he could tell that this was not normal, not natural for him. He shouldn't be so calm. But nothing like that did matter now.

"Tumble?"

The call was choked with tears, and Tumblebrutus was suddenly jolted into his brother's perspective on his situation. What had happened to him even he knew not, but it had to be bad. Very bad, for only that would ever evoke tears from his brother.

"It'll be alright, Pouncival." His voice was unfamiliar, strained and soft, and his words were strange to his own ears, not only in existence but in meaning, and yet he could tell that he was right. That his instincts were right.

His brother was kneeling beside him, one paw gently caressing his face, whilst he could feel the other on his abdomen. He was not even trying to control his tears, and dimly Tumblebrutus became aware of a faint pain under Pouncival's paw.

Is this hurting you? I'm so sorry. I'm so, so sorry.

"No… Tumble, you won't die, you can't!" Pouncival sounded desperate, so desperate that Tumblebrutus found himself wishing that he could believe him.

"Agápi, you cannot do anything," he said gently, staring directly into his brother's eyes. "I'm not afraid."

"It shouldn't be like this," Pouncival sobbed, taking Tumblebrutus' paw in his own. "It isn't going to be… I won't let you die!"

"It will not hurt me, I promise. I think that it's my time now." His vision was starting to blur, and he felt even colder.

"No… no…"

"Shh, love, shh. Look at me," Tumblebrutus said quietly. "Agápi? Look at me." Hesitantly, Pouncival complied.

"We cannot change the will of the Everlasting Cat. She has come to take me with her, and I must go now. I promise – Pouncival, I promise I will wait for you. I will always wait for you."

"No, Tumble…"

"It isn't going to hurt anymore, Pounce." And he once again felt the truth in his words, for already he could feel himself slipping away – and the pain was getting less, as he drew in his last moments of life. "Love?"

He could feel the grip tighten on his paw. "Yes?"

Tumblebrutus was silent a moment more before answering. It was becoming harder for him to breathe. "Remember what we promised? When we were younger, do you remember what we said we would do?"

Pouncival's eyes widened, and his tears fell ever faster even as he answered. "If – if either of us were – were…"

"Were to die, and were suffering,"Tumblebrutus prompted. I'm so sorry that it has to be this way. I wouldn't do this…

But you can't save me now.

"Then – then – we should kiss once more…"

"And take my breath away one last time," Tumblebrutus finished, barely hearing his own words, and suddenly feeling his eyes prick with tears of his own. "Please, love? Please, Pouncival."

At the sound of his name, the younger twin closed his eyes, head bowed for just a moment. And then he nodded. Tumblebrutus heard a gasp catch in Pouncival's throat, and his twin's breaths came quicker. Yet still he leaned over Tumblebrutus, and pressed their lips together gently. And with a sigh of thanks, Tumblebrutus released his last breath into his brother's mouth, then relaxed, eyes closed.

They never opened again.


Pouncival drew back slowly, his tears falling hard and fast now. His brother – his beautiful, happy, sweet Tumblebrutus – lay still. Completely still. The movement of his chest as he drew breath – not just a sight, but a feeling so familiar to Pouncival, drawn from countless nights spent lying together – had ceased.

And Pouncival knew that it would never occur again so long as he lived.

He bent over his twin's body, tears landing now on the fatal wound drawn deep into Tumblebrutus' stomach. His body heaved with sobs he could not bring himself to contain, for there seemed to be no point. There was no point to anything now.

Tumblebrutus was dead. His twin – his brother, his lover, his soul-mate – was gone. It was simply too much for him to take.

The only living being in a clearing of dead, he wept for the sole cat there whom he had known, the one who had taken down so many by himself, but had had to pay the terrible price.

Why must Fate be so cruel to us? Why did I have to lose another brother to battle's bloody grasp?


Admetus' breath caught in his throat as he rounded the corner, seeing his youngest brother on the ground and shaking with sobs. Not another one, he thought desperately. Not after… not now. Swallowing hard to try and rid himself of impending tears, he made his way over towards his little brother.

"Pounce?" he called shakily. "Who… who is it?"

When no answer came, he quickened his pace. Who could it be? I've seen Xen and Misto… Plato's around here somewhere… but I haven't seen Lonz since we were separated… oh Vivat, please don't let it be Lonz…

His train of thought was broken, however, when he saw the one his little brother was kneeling over. The last one, the very last one he would want it to be.

His other little brother.

"Oh no," he whispered, sinking down beside Pouncival. "Oh Heaviside, no. He's – he's – he's not…"

But one look at Pouncival's face told him all he needed to know, and at last triggered the tears that had been threatening to spill since discovering the other fallen among them.

"Tumble…"


"Munk?"

Munkustrap looked up to see his brother standing in the doorway of his den. "What is it, Tugger?"

Tugger came in, a slight frown on his face. "Something's bothering you."

Munkustrap sighed, but made no attempt either to deny or confirm the statement, choosing instead to let his gaze wander again.

"It's Xen and Vi again, isn't it?"

"They're so young," Munkustrap said quietly. "Too young."

"Munk –"

"Maybe I should have gone…"

"Okay, hold it right there," Tugger interrupted, cocking an eyebrow. "We've been through this before. You're the leader here now, Munkus, and we sort of need you alive more than they need you fighting and possibly dead." He huffed a laugh. "So ironic, isn't it? You're the best fighter in this entire tribe and you can't even go out fighting."

"I shouldn't have let them go, Tugger," Munkustrap continued, as if he had not heard his brother's previous words. "They don't have the experience, and –"

"They're damn good fighters, and you wouldn't have let them go otherwise," Tugger said firmly. "And you know that they wouldn't be going if Alonzo didn't think they were up to it either." And they're the only ones old enough anyway were the unspoken words that hung in the air between them.

Munkustrap made no answer to that comment immediately. He got up, and started to walk towards the entrance of his den, stopping before he was outside. He stared into the sky, trying to get his thoughts together before responding.

"I've been getting this feeling in my stomach all morning."

He heard nothing from behind him, so decided to continue. "It's –" He faltered. "Something bad's happened to them, Tugger."

"To who?"

Munkustrap sighed. "I don't know. But some of them… some of them…"

"The toms? Or your sons?"

There was a long pause.

"I don't know."


The clearing was ringing with a mixture of excitement and relief, courtesy of a note that had appeared that morning – slightly singed and sparkling a little, so presumed to have been flashed in by Mistoffelees.

We'll be back sometime in the late afternoon. Alonzo.

All those present were eagerly anticipating the impending arrival of the toms, last seen more than three weeks previously, but more than that, there seemed to be a weight lifted off the Junkyard inhabitants. For all the time that the company of toms had been gone, there had been an immense fear – little spoken of but felt by most – that some, or indeed all, would not return. Alonzo's brief note had given them hope – not least because they had been assured that at least two of them were coming back.

And, as if that were not enough to pique excitement levels, Rumpleteaser, lacking in patience and desperate for information on the welfare of her brother and her mate, had been sitting watching the alleyways near the Junkyard for the better part of the day, and had returned mere minutes earlier saying that she had definitely seen some of the toms – and they were not too far away, by her reckoning. Munkustrap did note, upon hearing her news – also noting a slightly tense note to her voice – that she had neglected to mention how many she had seen. Or what condition they were in.

Please let it not be too bad.

He could barely oppress his own eagerness to see them again – to talk with Alonzo and Admetus, to hold his sons to him and futilely swear never to let them out of his sight again – and indeed his own daughter, Athene, had gone to a spot closer to the entrance of the Junkyard to await them. But the part of him that was the leader of the Jellicles, that held responsibility over affection, told him that he needed to wait with the others, and be the sign to the returning toms that they were home.

And safe.

And, of course, he thought, he would be able to see them all in one place for himself. Know that they were all back.

A great weight lifted itself off of Munkustrap's chest when Alonzo entered the clearing, though it was replaced quickly by concern when he saw that his closest friend was leaning heavily on Mistoffelees, who somehow seemed little troubled by the bigger tom's weight. He hurried forwards, and could see Cassandra doing the same out of the corner of his eye. Between the two of them, they relieved Mistoffelees of Alonzo, and helped the latter to sit down. Alonzo looked up at them, and when a small smile appeared on his face Munkustrap was none too quick about embracing him tightly.

"Thank Heaviside you're back," he whispered, and was comforted when he felt a returning squeeze, feeling some form of courage return to him, and released Alonzo to his waiting mate. He turned towards Mistoffelees, who – to Munkustrap's surprise – had tears streaming down his cheeks as he held Victoria. Munkustrap would have asked what was going on, and if he was alright, when he caught sight of more of the toms entering the clearing, and his heart stopped in his throat.

Admetus was coming into the clearing slowly, holding a sobbing Pouncival close to him, and looking close to tears himself. As Jemima and Exotica went to their respective mates, concern written on both their faces, Munkustrap heard Tugger call from behind him.

"Metus? What's happened?"

Admetus looked up at Tugger, and opened his mouth as if to respond. No words came out. He tried again, but words seemed to be beyond him, and Munkustrap suddenly felt a heaviness take hold of his heart.

And indeed, no answer was necessary when Plato entered the clearing behind his younger brothers, with an unmoving Tumblebrutus in his arms, the wound on his stomach plain to see.

Oh no. Oh, no. Munkustrap closed his eyes, a wave of grief washing over him. Everlasting Cat, help him… August, help him.

He slowly backed away as several of the Jellicles advanced towards the quartet – if it could be called a quartet anymore – and moved to Alonzo once more.

"Do you – how – oh, Everlast," he murmured, hardly able to take his eyes off Tumblebrutus' body.

"He – he took down ten, fifteen by himself, Pouncival said," Alonzo replied quietly, voice shaking. "And then… He… he went peacefully, I think. Munk –" He cut off his sentence, suddenly looking even more drawn than he had been.

"Yes?"

"There's…" Alonzo drew in a shaky breath and began again. "There's something you need to know, Munk…"

But his words were cut off by a scream.

"NO! No, no, oh Heaviside, NO!"

Munkustrap froze. That wasn't just anyone screaming. Somehow, through his shock, his mind processed through all the cats in the tribe and came to rest on one who would see it first. The only queen now outside the clearing.

Athene wouldn't scream if it was just anyone.

And in a haze, his own harsh breathing the only sound in his ears, Munkustrap saw the final four toms enter the clearing. Coricopat was in front, clearly consoling a red-eyed Xenon, and behind them –

Munkustrap forgot everything at that moment. Forgot his position, his mate, every other cat in the tribe, as all his senses refocused on the young tom in Mungojerrie's arms, and the cut still evident, never to heal, at his throat.

Xenon had never seen his father move so quickly before, or with such reckless abandon. He broke through the cats in front of him, stopping only once he was behind Xenon, where Mungojerrie cradled his younger brother. He froze as his father fell to his knees, taking the small body – so much smaller in death – into his arms.

I promised I would look out for him. I promised I would keep him safe.

And his heart seemed to break into an infinite number of irreparable pieces, as, for the first time in his life, he heard his father cry.


Author's note

Oh my god. Damn.

WHY?

Sorry. I just… I didn't think it would be this angsty. But it sort of is. And there is more angst to come. So much more.

Hello, by the way. Sorry for my prolonged absence… I can't really say much more than that. I lost my muse and my plot bunny for my previous fic, and have been spending the past five months writing other things, one of which I am going to try and start posting within the next couple of weeks.

It's just that this came to me on Saturday night, and I wrote things. And then came up with the story. And wrote more things. So yes. And if things are moving too quickly for you, or if you're confused, don't worry. There will be explanations (and a lot of time skipping around) to come. So bear with me.

Side note: this takes place about three and a half years after the musical; and I can imagine you can figure out the OCs and who they are related to.

~JV