Yesterday Mungojerrie's life was set out in front of him. Now he had no idea what would happen next. He was a young tom, still in early adolescence but no longer a kitten by the standards of his now former tribe. He had seen more in his young life than most Jellicle's saw in a long lifetime, but that's what it is like under Macavity's rule.
Mungojerrie had been abandoned there as a kitten and he couldn't remember his real parents. He would sometimes get the whiff of a memory, white fur that smelled of human powder, the sound of the sea, but nothing he could use to put together a picture of the parents who didn't want him. All he had ever known was life with Macavity.
The Hidden Paw had taken a special interest in the tiger tom from a young age but Mungojerrie had never been able to figure out why. Sure he was the best damn thief in the tribe but was that really enough? He was also a decent fighter, often dubbed scrappy by his tutors, but not top of his class, he got distracted far too easily for that.
Mungojerrie was the youngest in his group of…associates; you couldn't really call them friends. They grew up and trained together but really held no more than a begrudging respect for each other. More than one had been lost since they started being sent on jobs for Macavity, in fact the reason they were sent out in groups at first was so the weakest could be used as scape goats, ensuring only the best survived to stay in Macavity's service. Mungojerrie had no doubt in his mind that he could be one of the best but it wasn't until yesterday that he wondered if he really wanted to be. Before he only had himself to look after but now there was her.
Just over three months ago Mungojerrie had been pressured into losing his virginity to one of the queens Macavity kept. The queen was willing and pretty enough. The experience had been awkward, but Mungojerrie hadn't thought much of it since. No-one in the tribe was considered an adult until they had done it but it wasn't considered a special occasion. He carried on with his life, stealing, threatening, fighting and doing whatever he was told.
The previous day Mungojerrie and his group were wondering around the abandoned buildings that made up Macavity's lair. They were being boisterous and congratulating themselves on another job well done. A trader had tried to con Macavity by providing him with fakes so the group had been sent to relieve the con-tom of his real stock. Suddenly Trident, a tall muscular brown tom and eldest of the group changed the subject.
"I went to see Lumkin yesterday" Lumkin was Tridents favourite queen, "and she told me something interesting." Before the usual round of rude jokes could start he pushed on. "Marry gave birth to a kitten with orange and black stripes this week." Mungojerrie stopped dead in his tracks. "That was the queen you did wasn't it 'Go?" Mungojerrie nodded. "You pollicle, knocking a queen up on the first try." Jerrie tried to get his head around this new information. He wasn't surprised that he hadn't been told earlier, families weren't exactly encouraged around here.
"Is the kitten ok?" He asked dreading the answer.
"How would I know, Lumkin thinks she's a bit small, Marry doesn't want her so you won't have to worry about it." Jerrie knew this meant the kitten would probably be killed, Macavity didn't waste resources raising queens when it was much easier to pick them off the street once they'd been raised by someone else. He turned and ran away from the group in a panic, he could hear the guys jeering and laughing at him.
He didn't stop running until he was outside. It was night time, the moon was shining brightly in the sky. Without looking at it Jerrie knew they were just days away from the night of the Jellicle moon. He took some deep breaths to try and calm himself down.
The idealistic side of Mungojerrie had always pictured a family at some point in his future, him his mate and a whole litter of kittens, but he always pictured it when he was much older. Even if he was considered an adult in the tribe he knew he wasn't really. He'd seen normal Jellicle families when out on jobs where Jellicle's of his age were still playing and having fun, maybe flirting with the idea of holding a queens paw and stealing a swift kiss, deep down he wanted to be like them. But the realistic side of him reminded him he was one of Macavity's cats, normal doesn't come into it.
The thought of what would happen to his kitten was too much to bear. At the very best she'd be raised in a neglectful environment and grow up to be as dead inside as most of the queens there. At worst she'd be dead before the night of the Jellicle moon. Mungojerrie had always been impulsive but this was the quickest decision he'd ever made, he was going to run away with his kitten. They'd find somewhere safe, maybe with a new tribe and if it came to it then he would accept whatever fate had in store for him. Very few jellicles ever got out of Macavity's control alive so Jerrie was well aware of the consequences if he got caught, but it wouldn't matter as long as she was safe and knew she hadn't been abandoned.
Mungojerrie made his way over to the queens infirmary. He'd never been there before so he'd have to play this by ear. He circled the area first and was pleased to see a hole in the wall about half way up. He climbed up and gingerly edged through it not really sure what to expect on the other side. He found himself in the rafters of a small but clean area. The building had once possibly been some kind of human shed but the jellicles had gutted it and made it much more jellicle friendly. Below him Mungojerrie saw a few queens sleeping; he could see various bandages on them giving away the reason they were here. He couldn't see any kittens in this room and for a brief moment wondered if he was too late.
He saw a small door on the far side of the room and carefully made his way over to it. Once there he dropped soundlessly to the floor and opened the door slowly. A quick scan of the room told him the only cat in there was the kitten wrapped in a blanket and lying in a small basket. He saw the bundle move and released a breath he wasn't aware he was holding. He walked slowly over to the kitten, pausing briefly when he saw a tiny orange and black paw wave in the air.
Before he could get all the way to the basket Mungojerrie heard someone coming so he hid behind a cabinet that looked like it has been thrown into the room and forgotten about. A queen entered, she was white once but now her fur was grey with age and dirt. She locked the door behind her and headed towards the kitten. Mungojerrie didn't know what she was going to do but he wasn't going to risk this being his kittens last moment. He leapt out, his claws bared.
"Don't lay a paw on that kitten!" The queen spun, she looked stunned to see the young tom.
"…Mungojerrie?" Jerrie didn't recognise the queen at all so this confused him.
"How do you know my name?" He demanded, she looked unsure about how to reply.
"I'm...I knew your parents, I'd recognise you anywhere." His glare didn't falter so she changed the subject. "What are you doing here? Macavity doesn't usually send one of the toms to dispose of a kitten." She made sure she was positioned directly between Mungojerrie and the kitten.
"I'm not here to kill her, I'm here to save her, she's mine." The queen gasped.
"But you're so young."
"I'm old enough to take care of myself."
"But are you old enough to take care of someone else?"
"I can learn." He edged closer to the queen who took a step back. "I'm not going to let you kill her, no matter what I have to do." Jerrie hadn't killed anyone yet but he was willing to do whatever it took.
"You silly boy, I'm not going to kill her either. I was going to take her away and leave her with a human vet. I do that for all the unwanted kittens." Mungojerrie relaxed his stance slightly. "Where are you going to take her?"
"I don't know yet, away from here. We'll settle somewhere and I'll bring her up away from Macavity's world." The queen smiled.
"Your parents would be proud of you Mungojerrie." His stance stiffened again.
"I don't give a damn what they would think, they're the ones that abandoned me here in the first place!"
"They had their reasons..."
"I don't care, now get out of my way." The queen stepped aside and Mungojerrie saw his kitten properly for the first time. She had orange and black stripes like him but she seemed have more white. Her eyes were closed; she had somehow managed to fall asleep during the brief confrontation. Mungojerrie knew he would never be able to describe the feeling that washed over him, he had never experienced love before. He reached forwards and picked her up gently. She fidgeted for a moment before settling in a new position in his arms. Jerrie wondered if he'd ever be able to stop looking at her perfect little face. He used his free arm to reach up and stroke her paw, the tiny little fingers wrapped around his.
"You're going to need some things if you're going to look after her. I don't have much so you'll have to find a way to get more supplies where ever you settle. But I imagine you've been trained as a thief so that won't be a problem." The queen noticed he wasn't paying attention. "Mungojerrie!" His head snapped up. "This stuff is important." She started putting things into a bag explaining what everything was for as she did. Mungojerrie watched closely and memorised everything she said; how the kitten needed to be kept warm, how to clean her, how much to feed her and how often. It was a lot of information in a short space of time.
"...And lastly you need to name her." The queen tied up the bag and placed it in front of Mungojerrie. "I don't suppose you've had time to think of a name have you?" Jerrie shook his head. The queen looked at the kitten and thought for a moment. "I've always liked the name Rumpleteazer. It was my mother's name." Jerrie looked at the kitten and tested the name.
"Rumpleteazer?" He stroked her paw. "I like it. Thank you." He smiled at the queen, picked up the bag and started to turn towards the door.
"Wait, you won't get very far holding her if you go that way." The queen walked towards the cabinet, she pushed it towards the wall and revealed a tunnel. It was clearly old and just big enough for Mungojerrie to walk through with only a slight crouch. "Just follow the tunnel, it will take you out near the docks. There's no light once you leave here so be careful. Macavity has contacts at the docks so you'll need to get away from there quickly." Jerrie was about to leave the lair for the last time but realised he didn't know who this queen was.
"Wait, what's your name?" She hesitated for a moment.
"I'm Griddlebone." There was no reaction to the name. "I wish you both the best of luck, it won't be easy raising her alone." Mungojerrie looked down at his daughter again.
"We'll cope, thank you Griddlebone." He turned away and stepped into the tunnel. It was pitch black ahead so he went slowly, the last thing he wanted to crash into a wall with Rumpleteazer in his arms.
It had been five days since Mungojerrie had left Macavity's lair with Rumpleteazer. He knew by now they would have realised he'd gone so he was getting worried. Apart from a couple of power naps he hadn't really slept since he left. Rumpleteazer had cried a lot.
One thing that astounded Mungojerrie was how much personality Rumpleteazer had considering he was barely a fortnight old. By now he already knew he would fight the Everlasting Cat himself to protect her, she was the most precious thing he would ever come across.
He found himself at a human train station. He would have considered getting on a train to get some distance but a brief trip in the back of a truck had told him Rumpleteazer didn't like being on a moving vehicle. Instead he decided to try and find somewhere here to hide for a bit so he could get another nap. Rumpleteazer was fidgeting, she hadn't settled all day.
A storage room was the most inviting space. Among other things it had blankets in piles, Mungojerrie climbed up one of the piles holding Rumpleteazer firmly with one paw, and settled on the top. He rewrapped Rumpleteazer's blanket to make sure she stayed warm and lay down next to her with one arm protectively around her so she couldn't roll away, something she was very good at.
Less than five minutes later he heard the storage room door open. His keen sense of smell told him it was another jellicle. He stayed perfectly still and prayed to the Everlasting Cat that Rumpleteazer didn't pick this moment to start crying again.
"I saw you come in here lad. The humans that run this place won't appreciate a street cat dirtying up their laundry." Jerrie still didn't move, he was weighing up his options. "Come down, I'm not going to hurt you. You have my word." Still nothing. "I can help you find somewhere to stay, somewhere safe." Mungojerrie cursed himself for not making sure there was another exit before settling in this room, that was rule one when entering an unknown area. He blamed his lack of sleep for the mistake. His only option was to confront this tom. He picked Rumpleteazer up and climbed down. The tom was standing in front of the doorway but didn't look like he was looking for a confrontation. "Hello there son. My name is Skimbleshanks, care to tell me yours?"
"…Mungojerrie." He mumbled.
"Mungojerrie did you say?" Skimbleshanks walked towards him. "And who's this little one?" He gestured to the kitten.
"This is Rumpleteazer." Mungojerrie pulled her closer to him. Skimbleshanks smiled at Jerrie and leant in to talk to Teazer.
"Hello there Rumpleteazer. Aren't you a pretty little thing?" Teazer looked at him quizzically. "What's your brother doing hiding you in here?"
"I'm not her brother, I'm her Dad." Skimbleshanks gave him a confused but concerned look.
"How old are you Mungojerrie?"
"Old enough." Mungojerrie took a step back, he was prepared to push Skimbleshanks down and run if he needed to. Skimbleshanks also took a step back and put his paws up to show he wasn't a threat.
"It's ok, I want to help you. How are you coping with her? She can't be older than a fortnight am I right?" Mungojerrie nodded his head.
"We're doing ok. But I'm so tired; do you know how much kittens cry?" Skimble couldn't help but laugh.
"Aye I've raised a few in my time. Where's her mother?"
"She didn't want to know."
"I see." Skimble paused "If you come with me I can take you both somewhere safe." Mungojerrie raised a quizzical eye brow at the ginger tom. "The tribe I belong to has taken in its fair share of runaways, I'm sure you'd both be more than welcome." Jerrie looked uneasy. "At the very least we can provide you with clean blankets, food and a chance to sleep until you want to move on." Jerrie gave in, the promise of sleep was very tempting. He nodded his head. "Wonderful, shall we?" Skimble stepped aside and gestured towards the door.
Skimbleshanks lead Mungojerrie to a junkyard. Jerrie made sure to memorise the route so he knew how to get away if he needed to. At the entrance he noticed two identical cats watching them approach. They stared at Mungojerrie for a few seconds more than was comfortable then turned towards a silver tabby, their movements completely in sync, and nodded. The tabby, who looked like a young adult, not long out of adolescence, acknowledged their nod but still watched Mungojerrie closely as he entered. Skimble lead them to an opening. There were quite a few cats around, including a couple of kittens playing some form of tag. It was completely different to Macavity's lair. Back there playing wasn't encouraged and the sound of laughter was unheard of.
Skimble waved at a ginger, black and white queen and headed in her direction. She was noticeably pregnant. She waved back and came to greet him with a kiss.
"Skimble my love, I thought you were meant to be on your way to Manchester by now." He returned the kiss and touched her belly affectionately.
"Change of plan." He gestured towards the new arrivals. "This is Mungojerrie and his daughter Rumpleteazer." Jenny looked shocked at the situation but to her credit didn't comment and went straight into mothering mode. "I found them hiding at the train station, they're homeless. Mungojerrie this is my mate Jennyanydots." The queen gave Mungojerrie a warm smile, he smiled nervously b ack.
"Hello Mungojerrie," She spoke to him in a motherly tone he had never heard growing up. "How is Rumpleteazer? I know your first kitten can be tricky."
"She's ok…" He was reluctant to admit there were any problems but he knew he needed help. He started talking very fast. "She cries a lot, I think she's hungry. I ran out of the milk I was given and I've been stealing milk from the humans for her but I don't think she likes it." He looked down at Rumpleteazer who looked back at him with green eyes. "I don't know what to do."
"We can sort that out, if a kittens not getting her mother's milk she needs a special type of milk, luckily the humans have figured out how to make it." Jenny placed a reassuring paw on Mungojerrie's shoulder before calling over another tom. "Tugger!" A black and gold maine coon sauntered over. He gave Jenny a cocky smile.
"Oh talk properly Tugger. Could you please go and tell Jellylorum we need some kitten formula. She should be at home."
"Not a problem." Tugger winked at her and ran off. Jenny turned back to Jerrie.
"Now, why don't we get inside and give Rumpleteazer here a check over." She led Jerrie towards an abandoned car. They all climbed in the back. Skimbleshanks arranged some pillows for Jenny and helped her sit down. "Pass her to me dear." Jenny held her paws out for Jerrie to pass the kitten over. Jerrie did so reluctantly then sat down. "How old is she?"
"Erm, I don't know exactly, between a week and two."
Jenny nodded and unwrapped Rumpleteazer's blanket. She gently tickled her stomach while making cooing noises. Teazer smiled at the attention. "You've kept her very clean, that's good." She picked up the kitten to judge her weight. "Maybe a bit underweight but that will be because of the milk." She did various other checks and summarised that Mungojerrie had done a good job so far. She passed the kitten back to her father, sat back and rested a paw on her belly.
Skimbleshanks asked the question Mungojerrie didn't want to answer.
"Where have you come from Mungojerrie?" Jerrie looked away nervously; he wasn't naive to Macavity's reputation. "We've had all sorts here. I know you noticed the twins on the way in, they're psychic." Mungojerrie started to panic slightly. "If they thought you were a danger to any of us you wouldn't have made it inside. Wherever you've come from its ok." Jerrie looked at the two jellicles, their faces showed nothing but concern.
"I…I worked for Macavity…" Despite his expectations their expressions didn't change so he carried on. "I was abandoned there as a kitten brought up in his tribe. But as soon as I found out about Rumpleteazer I took her and left, they would have killed her if I hadn't!" Both Skimble and Jenny gasped. They had heard rumours about what happened in Macavity's tribe but neither had heard about kittens being killed.
"That's awful, why were they going to kill her?" Jenny asked.
"Because Macavity doesn't waste resources on raising queens." Mungojerrie said bitterly "I couldn't let that happen."
"You were very brave Mungojerrie." Skimble said reassuringly. "Very few jellicles make it out of Macavity's alive." Rumpleteazer chose this point to give a large yawn signalling she was ready for a nap. She made herself comfortable in Mungojerrie's arms. Jenny smiled at the sight
"May I ask how you got out? It can't have been easy to sneak out of there carrying a new-born."
"A queen called Griddlebone helped me." Jenny gasped again.
Mungojerrie looked confused.
"I don't know, whose The Griddlebone?"
"You've never been told the stories of Growltiger and Griddlebone? Well, we'll let Gus tell you them, he'd never forgive us if we took away a chance to tell it." Both Jenny and Skimble chuckled slightly. "If it is then I'm glad to hear she's alive." Before Jenny could go on they heard Tugger outside.
"Knock knock!" Tugger came in carrying a couple of tins of formula. Jellylorum followed carrying another tin and a bottle. "Kitten formula as requested." He put the tins down at the side of the area.
"Care to explain what's going on?" Jellylorum asked Jenny. "When Tugger came rushing in I thought you'd gone into labour or something."
"Still got a way to go yet Jelly. This is Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer. Rumpleteazer needs the formula because her mother isn't around." Jelly smiled at Jerrie.
"It's good to meet you Mungojerrie, I'm Jellylorum, and this cocky tom is the Rum Tum Tugger." She put a paw on Tugger's shoulder.
"You're a bit young to be a dad aren't you Jerrie?" That comment earned a slap round the back of the head for Tugger "Well he is! Dude's younger than me." Mungojerrie blushed under his fur and looked down.
"I don't really want to talk about it" He stifled a yawn.
"Fair enough, no pressure." Tugger paused. "I'm off now lads and ladies, my humans will be cooking dinner about now, time for me to work my magic." Without even waiting for a goodbye Tugger bounded out the door and headed home. Jenny couldn't help but tut.
"That boy, far too confident by half." Jenny had noticed Mungojerrie trying not to yawn. "When did you last get any sleep Mungojerrie?"
"I had a nap a couple of days ago." Now he was thinking about how tired he was he couldn't stop another yawn. "She doesn't sleep long enough for me to get a proper kip, plus it was easier to keep going when she was sleeping."
Jellylorum crouched down next to him.
"Why don't you let us hold her while you get some sleep?" Mungojerrie clung on to Rumpleteazer protectively. "You can trust us, between us we've raised almost all the young jellicles in this tribe. Most of them were runaways or orphans when they came here." Before she could continue there was a commotion outside. A queen shouted for Jellylorum. Jelly rushed to the doorway to see what the matter was. A red queen pushed past her, she was tall and probably the most beautiful queen Mungojerrie had ever seen. She also had blood dripping down her arm.
"Bombalurina, what on earth happened?" Jellylorum asked. Bomby plonked herself down on the cushions next to Jenny. The name was familiar to Mungojerrie.
"That damn Tugger. He comes bounding into the clearing and knocks me clean off the tyre, I don't know what I landed on but it bloody hurts." She huffed loudly. "He didn't even stop to see if I was ok!" The tone in her voice suggested Bombalurina was more upset about this than the cut. While she was talking Jellylorum was getting some bandages out of a small box tucked under the front car seat.
"I'll have words with him next time he's here." She passed Jennyanydots a bandage. "I'll just go get some water so we can clean that up for you." Jelly picked up a small cup from the box and headed out of the car. Jenny held Bomby's arm and examined the cut.
"It's not too deep dear, you'll just have to wear a bandage for a few days."
"Thanks Jenny." It wasn't until this point that Bombalurina noticed the new tom. "Who's this? New tribe member?" She looked Mungojerrie up and down with a scrutinising eye.
"He hasn't decided yet." Skimbleshanks replied. He introduced the jellicles to each other.
"Wait," Jerrie interrupted, "I knew I recognised the name. You're The Bombalurina, Macavity was pissed when you and your friend got away." Bomby's facial expression turned from one of kindness to one of anger .
"You worked for Macavity?" Mungojerrie knew he'd made a mistake.
"Erm…yes…not willingly! I was raised there." Mungojerrie wanted to run but he was so tired, and Rumpleteazer needed that milk. "I'm sorry!"
Bombalurina continued to glare at him, Jerrie didn't know what to do. He looked desperately at Skimbleshanks who reached out for Bombalurina's paw. Her head snapped round and she glared at him.
"Bomby, look at him, Mungojerrie's too young to have done anything to you or Demeter while you were there. The twins let him through which is a good enough sign for me that we should give him a second chance. We gave you a second chance didn't we?" Her expression clamed slightly. She turned and looked closely at Mungojerrie.
"Well I don't recognise you, or the name." She continued to stare at him. Jerrie knew he'd never met her before but he looked away in shame anyway. Bombalurina then took the bandages from Jenny and stood up. "I'm going to find Jelly and get bandaged up." She pointed a claw at Mungojerrie, "If Demeter recognises you or if you take one step out of line I will personally escort you back to Macavity's lair, and we both know what he does to runways." Jerrie nodded nervously. The queen stormed out of the car with her tail flicking angrily behind her.
"Maybe I shouldn't stay." Jerrie said as he went to stand up despite the protests from various limbs. "I don't want to cause trouble." Jenny grabbed his arm to stop him standing.
"Now now, we won't have any of that. Bomby's just hot headed, she'll calm down. She and Demeter both came here straight from Macavity's and I can tell you she was no angel before. Like Skimble said, she got a second chance, and so will you." Jerrie looked unsure. He looked down at Rumpleteazer who had yet again slept through a confrontation and thought hard.
Granted they'd only been here a very very short time but already the jellicles here were the nicest he'd ever meant. They seemed so friendly and willing to help him and Teazer when they really knew nothing about them. Jerrie knew as Teazer grew it would become harder and harder to keep moving around, the past five days had been tough enough. And he knew he would need help raising her, he was under no false impressions about how unusual it was to be a father at his age and the struggles he would face. And if they were a member of a tribe and something did end up happening to him as a consequence of running away at least he would know Teazer would be looked after.
He looked up at Skimble and Jenny again.
"Ok, we'll stay, for now." Teazer tried to roll over in her sleep and almost fell out of Jerrie's arms. "If she doesn't roll away first." Jerrie chuckled and realised it was the first time he had done that in living memory, that was a new sensation. Skimble and Jenny also chuckled lightly. "If it's ok I'll have that nap now."
"Of course you can dear, we'll introduce you to the rest of the tribe later." Skimble helped Jenny up, wisely neither of them suggested taking Rumpleteazer this time. "Help yourself to the cushions." She gestured to them. "I'll be out in the clearing if you need anything." Mungojerrie nodded his thanks and let loose a loud yawn. The older jellicles turned and left. Jerrie arranged the cushions almost into a fort to stop Teazer rolling away but he still put a protective arm around her. He snuggled down next to her and before he'd even had a chance to thank the Everlasting Cat for bringing them here he was asleep.