It was the morning after The Jellicle Ball, and life was returning to normal in the junkyard.
Rum Tum Tugger was walking along, winking and swaying his hips at every Queen he saw, every young Queen, that is, when he was suddenly tripped and fell flat on his face in the dirt.
Another jealous tom, probably Mungojerrie, "Listen, I was just flirting-"
"Shut it!" A paw kicked him hard in the backside even as he recognized the voice.
"Pouncival!? What the Hell!?" He jumped up scowling in rage, to see the young patched brown and white tom in a fighting stance, fury in his green eyes.
"This is for The Jellicle Ball you perverted kitten-chaser!" Pouncival hissed.
"Wha-?" Was all Tugger could think of.
"You knocked me and Tumble down, straddled me and touched my ass!"
Oh, yeah, that.
During his song he'd knocked over Pouncival and Tumblebrutus, jumped on Pouncival's back and slapped his bum a few times.
He didn't think Pouncival would be so upset. After all, he fell over on his own often enough.
"Do you have any idea how humiliating that is, pervert?" Pouncival's voice cracked slightly, but he motioned with his paws for Tugger to come on and fight. "What's the matter, Mr. Curious Cat? Or do you only touch kittens below the tail?"
Tugger hissed angrily at the tom-kit's insinuation. A crowd was gathering. Hopefully someone would drag this nuisance away before any fighting started.
He looked around frantically, but apparently they weren't concerned that either cat could get hurt if only the two of them were fighting.
Neither could be considered fighters. He'd seen Pouncival trip over air. Someone would get hurt. Possibly Tugger himself. And getting injured in a fight with the smallest, youngest tom in the tribe would look very bad to his fans.
So would fighting him.
And so would not fighting him.
Pouncival really had him by the tail this time.
He laughed nervously, "I was just playing around-"
"Nobody touches me there unless I say so!" The normally playful kit was ready to scrap, "And I don't want to be touched by someone like you!"
"What's that supposed to mean?!"
"You're disgusting. You flirt with every Queen you see, mated, kitten, you don't care... You even flirt with Plato and Quaxo! You stick your crotch in all the Queens' faces like a rutting Pollicle! And you knocked me down and touched me!" He looked around at the assembled Jellicles, "You all know I'm right! Everyone thinks it, but nobody's got the guts to say it! The Rum Tum Tugger is a pervert!"
Most of the toms nodded in agreement, tired of Tugger's antics. Plato and Quaxo were both glaring silently at Pounce, not to happy with being named in his little outburst.
Tugger looked to Munkustrap in a silent plea, but his brother just shook his head.
So they just stood there until, running out of patience, Pouncival crouched to spring.
Tumblebrutus walked over and whispered something to Pouncival, who seemed to consider it for a moment.
Pouncival grinned triumphantly, "When Macavity came, Tumble and I ran to fight him. I have the scratches to prove it. Which way did you run, Tugger?"
Etcetera shrieked like a Banshee and stormed into the street, and both tom-kits began an amusing attempt to hide behind each other, until Tumble finally held Pounce out as a sacrifice to save his own fur. They weren't afraid of Tugger, but an angry Queen was the most dangerous thing either tom-kit could conceive of.
"How dare you say those awful things about Tugger?! You're just jealous because all the Queens like him!" She shrieked loudly.
"It's the truth isn't it? You were there, right beside him, watching every single move he made! You can't say it didn't happen exactly like I said!" Pouncival countered angrily.
Etcetera blinked for a few moments, a blank look on her face.
"Well, you're still jealous!"
By now the crowd was laughing. Laughing at the tom who had to have a Queen-kit come to save his sorry fur from a kitten. Plato turned and walked over to Victoria, not looking in Tugger's direction. Quaxo just shook his head sadly.
"Stop laughing! I called this coward to fight and he won't!" Pouncival spit at his feet, "I can't believe I ever thought you were cool." He turned and started to walk away, Tumblebrutus beside him, then called back over his shoulder, "Try to touch me or Tumble like that again and I'll make you into a Queen!"
"He'd make a pretty ugly Queen!" Alonzo remarked, setting off a new wave of laughter.
Tugger brightened slightly as Bombalurina walked over to him.
"That's for dropping me at The Ball, you mangy Pollicle." She hissed before walking away with her head held high as he rubbed his burning cheek, "I can choose what I want, too. And Tugger, baby, it's not you." She turned and smiled, "Pounce was far better at The Mating Dance than you ever were."
Most of the crowd was dissipating now, feeling slightly awkward staring at the broken, humiliated tom. Even the Queen-kits scurried away, though Etcetera gave one last, long look before scampering home.
"Why didn't you do something, Munkustrap?" He said softly, as his brother put a comforting arm on his shoulder.
"I didn't think it would turn out this badly." He frowned, "I've never even seen Pouncival angry, much less angry enough to try to provoke a fight with a grown tom."
"He did it because he knew he would win. I'm not a fighter, Munkustrap, I never have been, and I never will be. I crossed a line with Pouncival, treating him like that. I thought he'd laugh it off, like he always does when someone knocks him over or tricks him. I didn't think he'd hold a grudge, certainly not like this. And now it's come back to bite me like a rabid Pollicle. Everyone knows now that I'm just a coward who gets by on his looks and personality."
"When have I ever helped defend this tribe, Munkustrap? Pouncival, Alonzo, Mungojerrie, even Jellylorum fought Macavity, and what did I do? I ran."
"You knew your limitations. Going into a fight with nothing doesn't help anyone."
Tugger smiled sadly, "That's right, Munk. I have nothing to give to this tribe."
"That's not what I meant. I meant that you don't know how to fight."
"I never bothered to learn, I was too busy chasing Queens. Queen-kits. And I don't know why I knocked them over and spanked him." He sighed heavily, "He's right. I am a pervert. Molesting kits, running from fights and all the while singing about how cool and wonderful I am."
"You shouldn't have done that to Pounce and Tumble, but it doesn't make you a kit-molester. You just played a stupid joke for laughs, not for the sick pleasure of touching a kitten where you shouldn't." Munkustrap looked into Tugger's eyes, "You're an important part of this tribe. You do your share. Everyone here who can does. Even Gus helps watch the kittens sometimes."
"Yeah, and Gus keeps his paws to himself." Tugger suddenly turned and walked away, toward his den.
Pouncival sat in his den, brooding.
His intention had not been to totally crush Tugger, just to make him understand that he did not want him to do something like that to him or Tumble ever again. It was humiliating and degrading. He'd put up with everyone's crap for so long, but he'd reached his breaking point. Once the high of The Jellicle Ball was over, and he started to think clearly, it really hit him.
He wasn't going to let The Rum Tum Tugger or anyone else step on him again.
He felt bad that things went further than he'd wanted, that most of the tribe had just walked away from the tom he'd once idolized. He'd succeeded too well in humiliating Tugger, he'd destroyed the community's respect for the flamboyant tom. From what Tumble had told him everyone but Munkustrap had just walked away without so much as a word.
Tugger had it coming. He treated everyone like old kitty litter, the way he played with the Queen-kit's hearts, the way he casually dropped Bombalurina on the ground like a bag of garbage, the way he lorded it over all the other toms. The way he humiliated him and knocked Tumblebrutus down. He deserved to be taken down to the level of all the other mere mortal cats. He deserved to get stepped on once in awhile.
But if he was somehow shunned, or worse, left in disgrace, Pouncival didn't know if he could live with himself. Sure, Tugger had a home and a human family, but he'd be miserable the rest of his life without The Jellicles.
He might even end up like Grizzabella.
He shivered at the thought.
Alonzo was on night patrol.
It was difficult work, at times. Not to mention dangerous. Roaming the junkyard looking for intruders instead of sleeping in his warm bed with Cassandra, but he was dedicated to his role as Protector, and proud of it as well. He would openly admit that he was a bit vain about his looks and sex appeal, not on Tugger's level of course, but vain nonetheless. He still bore cuts and scratches from his fight with Macavity, and it actually worried him more how it would affect his physical appearance than his health.
He noticed a figure making it's way from the junkyard, and, despite the lack of its usual swagger, recognized him immediately.
"Tugger, what are you doing?" He asked, rushing over to The Curious Cat. The tom shrugged. In the light of the moon Alonzo could see his fur looked uncombed. Tugger never went anywhere without looking his best.
"I'm doing this tribe a favor. I'm going home. To my human family." He looked into Alonzo's pale blue eyes, "Tell Munkustrap I'm sorry, I just couldn't face him. And dad, let him know I'll be okay."
"What in Heavyside are you talking about? Pouncival had his say, and we agreed that you were wrong. But you didn't intend anything. You haven't been banished or -"
"No, I'm not banished. It's worse than that, Alonzo. All my life the kits have looked up to me. Now some of them are afraid to go near me, thinking I'll try to do things to them-"
"That's life. Some mistakes just don't go away. Plato won't even look at me. Quaxo acts like I'm going to try to jump him and even Etcetera is keeping her distance. Bombalurina would rather mate with Pouncival than me. I can't even get that right. I know he didn't mean to, because he doesn't have it in him, but Pouncival has utterly ruined me. No," He looked away, toward the gates, "Pouncival didn't ruin me, I ruined myself when I decided to put my paws where they didn't belong. I hurt him, and in doing so I destroyed myself."
As Tugger went to open the gate he turned to look over the junkyard one last time.
"Have you tried just apologizing to Pouncival and Tumblebrutus?" Alonzo asked, "All you did when he brought it up was laugh and say you playing around. If you'd just apologize, they might actually forgive you."
"It's too late for that." Tugger put a paw on the gate.
"Tumble told me that Pounce hasn't left his lair since he heard what happened after he left. He hasn't come out to play with anyone, to talk, anything. He told me that they wanted to embarrass you in front of the tribe like you did to them, but that Pouncival was afraid he'd gone too far. He's afraid you'll end up like Grizzabella. Or Macavity." Alonzo paused, "He doesn't hate you, and he doesn't want to see you hurt. I think he just wants you to apologize. Now you have two choices, you can do what a lot of cats would expect of you and run away like a scared Pollicle with your tail between your legs. Or you can go back and apologize."
Pouncival looked up to see The Rum Tum Tugger and Tumblebrutus standing by the entrance to his den.
He glared at the latter.
Tugger looked horrible, his mane and coat was uncombed. Tugger never, ever went anywhere without making sure he looked his best. He may have imagined it, but Tugger's eyes looked a bit red.
"Tugger." He said curtly.
"Pouncival. I- You know me. It's not easy for me to admit I did anything wrong. Ever." He sucked in a lungfull of air, "I've always done as I pleased without thinking about it. I... I was wrong to do that to you. Cats shouldn't treat each other like that. I'm sorry."
Pouncival just stared at him in shock.
"All I am to this tribe is a flirt and a clown. I've never fought for us, I've never done anything worthwhile besides dance and sing a few songs at the balls. Now I know what the tribe thinks of me, really thinks of me. I've decided to leave, go to my human home and never come to The Junkyard again. Alonzo convinced me to apologize. I was sneaking away like a coward in the night. I didn't even have the guts tell Munkustrap I was leaving. You don't have to worry about me anymore."
"Are you crazy? I didn't want to drive you away! I just wanted to make you feel shame for once. To let you know how I didn't want you to ever do that to me or anyone else again."
"You think I've never felt shame?" Tugger laughed sadly, "Kit, I wake up everyday feeling shame. Shame at the knowledge that I'm the worthless one. I'm not needed here, I do nothing but harass the Queens and pick on tom-kits like you. I'm not smart, I'm not strong or magical or brave. I just take up space. I act like I do because my looks and charm are all I've got, I'm just a shell of a tom hiding behind my looks. I'm not needed here. I've never been needed here, I've never been needed anywhere."
"That's not true! You got Mr. Mistoffelees to bring Old Deuteronomy back!" Pouncival objected, "You're a Jellicle. We're family, even if we don't get along sometimes. I forgive you. Just never, ever do anything like that to me or Tumble again, or I'll throw you out myself."
"You really mean that?"
"Tugger, The Junkyard wouldn't be the same without you. You're so annoying that the Queens all come running to respectable toms like me! How would I get Queens like Bombalurina without you to drive them into my arms?"
Tugger grinned, "Watch it, kit. Or I might just have to beat you up."
"Like you could."
Tugger held up his paws, "Probably not. But I intend to learn. Someone has to protect all the Queens from Macavity."
"You mean other than me, Tumble, Munkus, Alonzo and Mungo?"
"Don't forget Jellylorum." Tugger added "She's a real Hell-cat when she's angry."
"How can we forget? She's always on our tails, especially Pounce's" Tumblebrutus remarked.
Pouncival nodded, "And for the record, I do dry between my toes!"
Pouncival may seem over-sensitive, but if someone knocked you on your face, pushed you down, straddled you and started spanking you, most of you would either call the police or beat the Hell out of them. Yes, both Bustopher and Munkustrap caused Pounce to fall, too. But they didn't do anything else. Legally, (I assume human laws apply to cats as Macavity has 'broken every human law' and is wanted by authorities) that's sexual assault. At least under Florida law, I'm not familiar with The British legal system, so I can't speak for that. Either way, it's a definite physical assault, and in much of America a sexual assault as well. It's also one of the main reasons I dislike Rum Tum Tugger, the others' being that he's obnoxious, crude, oversexed and apparently cowardly. I just don't like his personality. If you like him, that's fine. I just personally dislike him.
I just want to make it clear that I'm talking about the 'Rock and Roll' version of Rum Tum Tugger, the one from the film, not the 'Hip-Hop version', whom I've never seen and have no opinion on as yet.
In the song that starts The Jellicle Ball, Jellylorum notes rather chidingly that 'Jellicles dry between their toes' (I assume after bathing) while staring at Pouncival accusingly.