Welcome back to chapter 2! I sincerely appreciate all of you who are taking the time to read this. It's a lot of fun to write and even more fun to hear what you think!
Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, through their many elaborate adventures and schemes, knew the neighborhood better than any other cat, making them the best choice to go searching in the area for any wayward cats that had escaped the fires in the junkyard. So far they found exactly zero cats.
Something shuffled behind a dumpster. Ignoring the smells, Mungojerrie poked his head around the side and squinted into the darkness. Two wide eyes stared back at him. The face had a distinctive brown patch over the left eye.
"Hey, it's Pouncival! I've found him!" Jerrie turned away to call to his mate.
As soon as he looked away the kitten exploded out of the corner, running right over the top of the cat and disappearing into the alley. Jerrie stood just in time to see the tip of Pouncival's tail disappear around the corner.
"Blimey, he's fast when he wants to be." Jerrie said to himself, bewildered at the sudden turn of events.
Rumpleteazer shrieked, no doubt running into Pouncival. Another shriek. Then silence. Jerrie rounded the corner to find Teazer sprawled on the pavement, looking shocked.
"You okay?" Jerrie helped her to her feet.
"Yeah, yeah. Didn't expect the kid to come flyin' outta there like a bat outta hell." Teazer said, clutching the pearls around her neck. "What'd you do to him?"
"Nothin', I swear!" Jerrie protested. "Somethin' spooked him good."
"Despite our finely honed skills in the 'runnin' rapidly away from the scene of the crime' department, I don't think we're gonna be able to catch him on our own." Teazer said.
"Reckon we should go tell Munk and Lonz?" Jerrie asked.
"Yeah." With that the two set off at a run, hoping to bring back reinforcements before it was too late.
By the time the notorious couple of cats made it back to the junkyard everyone but Pouncival was accounted for. This did not put Tumblebrutus in a good mood. He became increasingly agitated at the fact that his brother was the only one missing, demanding that he be let out to search for him. Of course, this was not going to happen. Unfortunately Tumble did not see it that way.
"For the last time, Tumble, we're going to go look for him, but you have to stay here." Alonzo said, trying to calm the kitten down. Jerrie and Teazer looked on, both wearing identical pitying expressions.
"No! I have to go look! You don't understand, he could be hurt or- or- or worse!" Tumble was yelling, a rare sight for the normally good natured cat. Generally he was the one to calm Pounce down when he was upset, and vice versa. Now that Pounce was gone there was no one to balance his temper.
"Easy there, Tumble. We'll get your brother back." Teazer said, going in for a hug.
Tumble let her embrace him, looking for all the world like he was about to cry but stubbornly refusing to do so. "He has to come back. I- I don't know what I'd do if he was gone or- or- or worse-"
"Shhh, don't think of that. Just think about what you're gonna do when he gets back. He'll need you just as much as you need him." Teazer soothed, flicking her tail towards Alonzo and Jerrie to shoo them away.
Jerrie saw his cue. He took Alonzo by the elbow and led him away before Tumble could hold them back any longer.
"Teazer'll keep an eye on him. I can show you where we last saw Pounce." Jerrie said.
"Thank you. The sooner those two are reunited the better." Alonzo said.
"Yeah. I don't like seein' either of them upset." Jerrie recalled his conversation he had with Tumble in the rain and shuddered. Nope, it was definitely better to have a happy Tumble around. He never wanted to talk to miserable in the rain Tumble ever again.
Munkustrap met them at the entrance to the junkyard and the three of them set off, Jerrie leading the way.
"How's Plato?" Alonzo asked as they hurried along to where Jerrie first saw Pouncival.
"Better. Jenny's bandaged him up and he's sleeping instead of being unconscious." Munk said. "He should be fine if he can survive her lecture."
"Ah, that's a rite of passage for any tom his age." Jerrie said cheerfully.
"You're really not much older than he is." Alonzo pointed out.
"Yeah, but I've had much more life experience than he has." Jerrie said, leaving the other two to wonder exactly what he meant by that. They stopped at the end of the alley. "Here's where Teazer and I last saw him."
"Thanks, Jerrie." Munk said, immediately sniffing the air and searching the surrounding area.
"Hey, no problem. But if it's all the same to you, I don't think I should be stickin' around. Seein' as the sight of me was enough to spook him and make him run off, I don't think I'd be much help." Jerrie said, looking slightly put out.
"You're probably right." Alonzo said. "Munk and I'll take it from here."
"Cheers and good luck. I'll make sure Tumble's kept in the 'yard." With a wave of his tail Jerrie was off.
"Should we split up?" Alonzo asked. Munk shook his head, crouching low to the ground. "Munk, do you smell him?"
Munk nodded. "I smell something. This way."
Carefully they crept around the corner and back down the alley where Jerrie had first seen the kitten. There, back behind the dumpster, was a familiar shape.
Slowly Munkustrap approached the kitten, making sure that Pouncival could see him fully. Pounce shivered, pupils wide, gaze fixed on him. This was not the confident, goofy, mischievous kitten from before. This kitten was shy, timid, and above all, terrified of everyone that had been trying to help him.
"Pounce, there's no need to be scared anymore. You're safe now." Munk murmured, crouching down so he wasn't towering over the cowering kitten.
Something was odd with Pounce's gaze. His eyes didn't lower to follow the striped tabby when he crouched down, instead remaining fixed above his head and slightly to the right. Munk chanced a glance over his shoulder.
Behind him Alonzo remained outwardly calm and collected, though his ears were constantly swiveling as he listened for any unwanted disturbances. Beyond the black and white cat there was nothing out of the ordinary. What had captured Pounce's attention?
"Pounce, we're here to take you back to the junkyard. You're going to be alright." Munk said, still advancing.
Pounce's eyes finally snapped to him, seeming to just now notice the cat in front of him. With a strangled yelp he bolted, shooting straight between Munk's legs and nearly knocking him over. Munk tried to grab the kitten but ended up grasping the air. Alonzo didn't have time to dodge as Pounce took a flying leap at him, sending them both crashing into the ground.
Immediately Munk was upon them, trying to find the best angle to swoop in and take Alonzo's unexpected attacker off of him-
"Hey, Pounce, take it easy!" Alonzo said, voice slightly muffled as Pounce did his best to climb up under Alonzo's chin. The kitten had firmly attached himself to Alonzo's front, arms and legs wound around his torso in a full body hug, face buried in his throat. Alonzo could only sprawl on the ground under Pounce's weight.
Pounce whimpered as Munk hovered nearby, trying to hide from the Jellicle Protector in Alonzo's fur. Alonzo was not amused.
"Pounce, you're fine, it's just Munk. Please." Alonzo wheezed. "You need to- argh- need to ease up a little-"
Pounce took one look at Munkustrap and resumed his attempts. Despite being much smaller than the black and white cat his grip was shockingly strong. The white fur on his back bristled as Munk approached.
"Munk, maybe- maybe it's best if you- step away-" Alonzo managed to say before Pounce's head bumped up into his chin, slamming his mouth shut.
Munk nodded, carefully retreating a couple feet away, still at the ready in case Pounce's strange affections turned aggressive. Slowly Alonzo put his arms around Pounce, maneuvering them both so that they were sitting up at a more agreeable angle. Immediately the kitten was huddled in his lap, arms still locked around his torso as if the older cat were going to disappear at any moment.
"At least I can breathe now." Alonzo muttered, giving Munk a helpless look over Pounce's head.
Munk shook his head. "Let's go back to the junkyard and sort this out. We're too exposed out here."
"Agreed." Alonzo said. "Ready to go, Pounce?"
Pounce mumbled something into Alonzo's fur.
"What was that?" Alonzo asked.
Again with the mumbling.
"Munk's not going to do anything to you. You're not in trouble."
"Pounce, we're here to take you home." Munk said, approaching and gently stroking the kitten's back.
Wrong move. Alonzo let out a slightly strangled gasp as Pounce sunk all of his claws into the black and white cat's fur.
Munk immediately backed off. "Sorry."
"No, no, it's fine." Alonzo said through gritted teeth. Gingerly he freed himself from Pounce's grasp. "Okay, you have to climb off. We can't go anywhere like this."
Pounce whined again, but Alonzo remained firm. Eventually the two rearranged themselves into a more agreeable position, ending up with Alonzo standing and Pounce slightly hunched over behind him, Alonzo's right arm held tightly in his grip. It wasn't the most comfortable pose for Alonzo to be in but at least he could move and, more importantly, breathe.
"Alright. Let's go." Alonzo said, gently pulling Pounce along with him. The kitten clung to him like a leech.
Munk stayed up ahead, scouting the area and giving Pounce some space. They would deal with Pounce's sudden aversion to him later. Thankfully it was an uneventful trip.
To their surprise Skimbleshanks met them at the entrance to the junkyard.
"Oh, thank Heaviside, you've found the lad!" The ginger tom exclaimed, extending a paw towards the kitten.
"Wait, Skimble-" Munk was too late. Pounce nearly pulled Alonzo over in his attempts to get away. When the cat refused to move Pounce did the next best thing.
"Ow! Watch it!" Skimble pulled his paw back, nursing a fresh scratch, courtesy of Pouncival.
"Pounce, that's Skimble!" Alonzo said as he moved Pounce back.
"Sk-Skim-ble?" Pouncival whispered, voice raspy and hesitant.
"Yes, lad." Skimble rubbed his paw, looking more worried than upset.
"Skim-ble." Pounce turned his gaze from the ginger tom to the ground. "Skimble."
"We should get him to Jenny's." Munk said.
"Good idea. Jelly and Asparagus have taken the other kittens to their den for the time being. Just Jenny and Plato will be there now." Skimble said as the four of them made their way to Jenny's den.
"Plato?" Pounce asked, ears perking up at the name.
"Oh, yes, don't worry about him. Just a couple of scratches and a bump on the head, nothing Jenny can't fix." Skimble said, keeping his distance from the agitated kitten. "We were all much more concerned about your disappearance, and here you are."
Pounce flinched as Skimble addressed him, trying to hide his face in Alonzo's side. Alonzo exchanged another look with Munk, both silently making a note to discuss the strange behavior later. The four of them painstakingly made their way across the junkyard, Munk and Skimble heading off any approaches made by curious onlookers. Most of the cats had retreated to their dens, leaving only a couple cats hanging about to keep an eye on things.
Jenny's den, as Skimble had mentioned earlier, was empty save for Jenny herself and Plato, who looked rather sheepish as the queen checked his breathing. The queen was in the middle of a long lecture that, by the sound of it, had been going on for quite a while.
"- honestly, you could have lost a lot more than a sizable patch of fur on your ribs, I don't know why Munkustrap insists on recruiting youngsters such as yourself, yes, you're definitely big enough in body but are you mature enough in mind to-"
Skimble cleared his throat. Plato's eyes widened.
"Skimble, dear, could you please-" Jenny didn't so much as look up from her task.
"Jenny, we found him." Munk said. This made her take pause and notice the rest of the group.
"Oh, Heaviside above, Pouncival!" Jenny stopped mid lecture and hurried over.
"Hold on, Jenny, he's a mite scared." Skimble gently stopped her approach.
Alonzo winced as Pouncival tightened his grip. Why the kitten had latched on to him was anyone's guess, but he was growing tired of being the outlet for the kitten's rapidly rising anxiety. Pounce's eyes were roaming around the room, nose sniffing at the air uneasily. Plato looked uncomfortable.
"Here, Pounce, let's go have a seat on the bed. Come on, Jenny needs to take a look at you." Alonzo stepped into the den, half coaxing, half dragging Pouncival with him.
"Jen-ny." Pounce whispered, seeming to find the name perplexing. He shuffled behind Alonzo like a second shadow.
"Here we go. Right here. Up you go." Alonzo easily lifted Pouncival to sit on the bed. Then, with a resigned sigh, also sat on the bed when the kitten reattached himself to his arm.
"The poor thing. Let me take a good look at you." Jenny slowly came closer.
Alonzo felt the claws in his arm again. "Pounce, take a deep breath. She's not going to hurt you. I promise."
"Promise?" Pounce whispered, ears pinned back.
"Yes. We all promise. You're safe." Alonzo said.
"Let's see what happened to you. Plato, you can go." Jenny turned to the bandaged tom. "Just don't let me catch you doing anything strenuous for the next couple of days. And I expect you to be back here tomorrow morning."
"Yes, Jenny." Plato said hoarsely, slowly sliding off the bed he was sitting on and slinking out the door. Skimble followed him out, mainly to reduce the number of cats in the den and to keep an eye on the tom.
Pouncival's eyes followed the cats out the door. "Plato?"
"Yes, Plato will be fine." Jenny said. "Now, let's focus on you."
Behind her Munkustrap settled into a corner, sitting conveniently out of the way and also out of Pounce's line of sight. Jenny laid a gentle hand on Pouncival's arm. The kitten flinched but let her take his paw, the other still clutching Alonzo. The queen kept holding his paw as she used her other paw to tilt his head back so she could check his eyes and ears.
Silently Munk and Alonzo watched her check Pouncival over, neither saying anything for fear of spooking the kitten even more. The exam was a thorough one but eventually Jenny nodded and let go of Pouncival's paw. She wrote down some notes and sat down on a small stool.
"There, see? That didn't hurt, now did it?" Jenny asked.
"N-no." Pouncival said, idly swinging his feet back and forth over the edge of the bed. He seemed much more at ease than before. Still, there was something about his demeanor that was setting off alarm bells in the older cat's heads.
"Pounce, can you tell me what happened to you?" Munk finally asked, not moving from his corner.
Pounce immediately stopped swinging his feet, eyes widening. "Huh?"
"You were gone for a while after the fire. Where were you?"
"The fire?" Pounce's expression quickly turned to bewilderment.
"Yes. Do you remember anything?" Munk leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.
Pouncival tilted his head to the side. "I was here."
"And then I wasn't. But now I'm back." Pounce said, looking pleased.
"But what happened when you weren't here? Why were you hiding?" Alonzo asked.
Pounce tilted his head to the other side, staring up at Alonzo like he had asked an impossible question. "I've always been here."
Jenny stepped forward again, gently parting the fur on Pounce's head. The kitten wiggled a little but let her check his head again. She hummed to herself and motioned for Munk to follow her outside. Alonzo was left to continue his duties as an impromptu teddy bear.
"Munk, something's not quite right with him." Jenny said once she was sure Pounce couldn't hear them.
"That's a bit of an understatement." Munk said. "He can be… difficult sometimes, but not when it's about something important like this."
"There's no outward sign of any trauma to his head, but his answers aren't… well, they aren't right."
"And not to mention he's terrified of me and Skimble." Munk said. "I don't know why he's so attached to Lonz."
"Maybe… well, it's a little silly, but maybe he's comfortable with Alonzo because he looks similar to Tumble? You know, the eyepatch markings and all." Jenny gestured to her face. "Pounce's mind is clearly unstable. It's uncertain as to what might make sense to him and what might not right now. He could very well have amnesia."
"What could be the cause of this?" Munk asked.
Jenny shrugged. "Could be trauma from the fire. Plato was also a little muddled. He can't remember anything about his attacker or what happened after he first saw the smoke. Of course, he has a noticeable head injury."
"Is it a good idea for Plato to be alone right now?"
"Please, Munk, give me a little credit. Skimble's going to stay with him and keep an eye on him. If there's any trouble he'll bring the boy back." Jenny's gaze softened. "I thought it would be best if Pounce didn't have one of his friends see him traumatized."
"What can we do to help him? We don't even know what happened to him during the fire." Munk chanced a look inside.
Pouncival had curled up next to Alonzo, resting his head in the older cat's lap and dozing peacefully. Alonzo used his free arm to gently pet the kitten's head. Upon seeing Munk he gave a small shrug. Munk turned his attention back to Jenny, who rested a paw on his shoulder.
"There's not much we can do but treat him gently and see if any of his memories come back to him. It could be a couple of hours, could be a couple of days." She said gently. "But I'll be here to help. And I know you'll do everything you can to figure this out."
"I can only hope that he recovers." The tiniest bit of doubt crept into his voice.
"Pounce and Plato are both strong. They'll make it through this." Jenny gave him a fond pat on the arm. "Now, let's see if we can put Pounce to bed. I think we could all use a good rest."
"I should bring Tumble over here. He was nearly hysterical when we left to go look for Pounce."
"Go ahead and fetch him. He and Pounce can stay here for the night." Jenny yawned. "Hopefully we can all get some sleep."
As expected Tumble had not gone to sleep in Asparagus and Jellylorum's den with the rest of the kittens. The patch tabby had sat outside with Jelly, anxiously waiting for any news of his brother. Upon seeing Munk he leapt to his feet, shrugging off Jelly's attempt to hold him back.
"Well? Did you find him?" It was Tumble's respect for the older tom that kept him from outright demanding an answer.
"Yes, we found him." Munk said.
"Thank goodness." Jelly said, letting Tumble lean against her as he sagged in relief.
"He's at Jenny's right now. I'm here to take you to him." Munk tried to keep his voice neutral, but Tumble and Jelly picked up on his apprehension.
"What's wrong? Is he okay?" Tumble asked.
"He's fine. Just scared. And a little confused. Lonz is with him now." Munk said, trying to smile reassuringly. "But I think he would prefer you."
"Why are we still standing around? Let's go!" Tumble started off in the direction of Jenny's den.
"Thanks for taking care of the kittens, Jelly." Munk gave her shoulder a quick rub of his head before heading off after the kitten. It would not do well to have Pounce back just in time to lose his brother.
Lost in thought, Munk nearly ran over Tumble, who had stopped in the doorway of Jenny's den, suddenly hesitant.
"Come in, he won't bite." Jenny coaxed Tumble inside.
Hesitantly Tumble stepped over the threshold. Pounce was still dozing, this time in a bed and without keeping Alonzo hostage. The black and white cat had taken up residence in the corner Munkustrap had previously claimed, far enough so Pounce couldn't latch on to him but close in case things took an unexpected turn. Munk settled next to him, watching as Tumble approached his brother.
"Is he okay?" Tumble whispered, turning to Jenny uncertainly.
"Yes, dear, he's alright. Just a little scared." She put an arm around his shoulder and guided him closer. "I do have to warn you that he's a little confused and might not recognize you."
"Might not recognize me? But why?"
"Tumble, it's going to be okay. Sometimes when you're really scared you can forget things. What's important is to keep treating him the same. His memories will come back with time."
"But- but I don't want to scare him." Tumble paused at Pounce's bedside, wringing his paws together nervously.
The adults didn't have time to respond. Pounce let out a little sigh and rolled over, opening his eyes and staring straight up at Tumble. Everyone held their breath.
"It's you!" The biggest grin they had ever seen spread across Pounce's face. Immediately he had Tumble in an excited bear hug. Tumble fiercely returned the embrace.
Munk, Alonzo and Jenny let out the breath they had been holding.
"At least one thing's remained the same." Alonzo muttered, leaning tiredly against Munk.
"You two can go to bed. I'll handle it from here." Jenny said, starting to shoo the two out the door even though they were both much bigger than she was.
"Let me know if-" Munk started to speak but was cut off.
"Yes, yes, I'll let you know if something goes wrong. Now shoo. I don't want to see either of you for at least a full eight hours."
"Yes, Jenny." Munk and Alonzo said automatically, a reflex learned from when they were kittens.
Munkustrap had every intention of telling Alonzo about Jenny's diagnosis of Pouncival having amnesia, but as soon as he laid down he was practically unconscious. There would be time to talk tomorrow.
His leg burned. He could hardly walk. But he had to keep going, had to get out of his home- no, he needed to be realistic, it was a cell, never a home- if only so he could clear his head. The plan hadn't gone well. Obviously he hadn't intended to half cripple himself or get taken away, or get stuck right back where he started, or-
No. Couldn't panic. Had to stay calm. At least one thing went right. At least he had that one thing to be thankful for. And now he could deal with the aftermath of what went wrong. Things could still go according to plan, just in a slightly different way, and after it was all said and done then the two of them could still escape. Their lives could finally get started. Just had to deal with his leg first.
With a hiss he sat down in his usual spot outside, stretching out his leg in front of him. The fur was scorched and the skin badly burned, making every step agonizingly difficult. Pain shot up his leg, straight up into his head, making it difficult to breathe, he had to do something about this or he'd never be able to make it back to his brother-
Tumble awoke to something slowly trying to smother him. With a gasp he opened his eyes, looking down at his attacker. Pouncival had wrapped his arms around him in a crushing bear hug, face completely serene as he slept, unaware that he was strangling his brother in his sleep.
His dreams had been… odd. It was hard to recall what they had been about, exactly, but he was left with a slightly painful itch across his leg that he currently could not scratch. It was enough to keep him from falling back asleep. That and Pounce's death grip on his rib cage. When had his brother gotten so strong? And clingy?
The events of last night came flooding back to him. The fire. Pounce had gone missing. Something about possible amnesia. Funny how he'd forgotten about the amnesia.
A polite cough got his attention. Tumble turned his head, the only part of his body that he could easily move. Right. He and Pounce were in Jenny's den. Jenny herself was missing, presumably out doing her rounds of the junkyard, leaving her current charges alone for the time being.
Plato sat on the other bed, looking a little sheepish. In his paws was a steaming mug of tea.
"Sorry." He whispered, voice raspy. "Didn't mean to wake you."
"No, it's okay." Tumble struggled to sit up. He managed to move Pounce's arms to his waist. The kitten slept on, completely dead to the world.
"How are you feeling?" Plato asked, an odd question coming from the heavily bandaged cat.
"I'm fine. Just got a little dirty from the smoke. What about you? You look… well, terrible."
Plato frowned a little, giving Tumble a good once over. He didn't seem totally convinced but let it go. "It looks worse than it is."
"Guess I should have seen the other guy." Tumble joked.
Plato stared at him. "Did you?"
"Did I what?" Tumble asked.
"See the other guy."
"I don't understand."
"Nevermind." Plato busied himself with his tea. The next time he spoke his voice was a little clearer. "How's Pounce doing?"
"He's alright." Tumble looked down at the kitten in question. In his sleep he looked totally normal, as if the events of the day before had never happened. "Jenny said he might have some trouble remembering things."
"I can understand that. I don't remember anything after smelling smoke." Plato admitted. "It's coming back in weird bits and pieces, but nothing's clear enough to be useful."
"I'm so sorry Plato, I shouldn't have run off when Pounce and Cettie started fighting. I figured I'd have time to go grab some food for us, but by the time I got here I could already smell the smoke." Tumble shivered. "All I could think about was how I left you and Pounce and Jem and Cettie behind."
Plato stared at him for a long time, face screwed up in concentration. "You weren't there?"
"Not when the fire started. Jelly and Asparagus grabbed me and Victoria and got us out of junkyard."
"But… I thought you… you and Pounce were trapped… and your leg..." Plato clutched the bandages covering his head. "It's all so hard to remember."
"My leg's fine, Plato, see?" Tumble showed him his legs. "They kinda fell asleep 'cause Pounce's sleep hugging cut off circulation in the lower half of my body, but I'll be fine."
Plato slightly smiled at the joke but he still looked troubled.
"Have you had all of your tea?" Jenny reappeared. "I can still smell it, so I think you haven't."
Plato hastily downed the rest of the tea Jenny had given him, yelping slightly as he almost burned his mouth. The queen noticed Tumble and brought him some breakfast. The smell was enough to wake up Pounce, who huddled behind his brother and stared at the other two cats, torn between the prospect of food and having to interact with the other cats.
"Hey, Pounce, you okay? Do you… do you remember these two?" Tumble asked.
Pounce slowly nodded. "Plato. And- and Jenny."
"That's right, dear." Jenny handed him some food. "How are you feeling?"
Pouncival wiggled a bit under her gaze, nibbling at his breakfast. "Good."
"Yes." Everyone was relieved when he suddenly shoved the rest of the food into his mouth. At least his appetite was normal. Pouncival without an appetite was just not Pouncival at all.
"Glad to hear. After you two are done you may go. Might do you some good to get some fresh air." Jenny affectionately patted both Tumble and Pounce on the head. "I'll check in with you both later tonight, but you know where to find me."
"Yes, Jenny. And I'll keep him out of trouble." Tumble joked. Pounce laughed.
Things were already better than they were before. Hopefully Pounce would continue to remember himself as the day progressed. Plato took it upon himself to join Tumble and Pounce as soon as they were all free to leave, the three heading off to find somewhere in the junkyard to spend the day helping Pounce remember who he was in relative peace and quiet.
Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer were out on patrol. This was a rare occasion but times were strange enough as it was. Besides, when Munkustrap asked a favor it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Do a favor for someone and there would always be a future chance to ask for a favor in return, such as asking for forgiveness if said silver tabby caught them doing something they maybe shouldn't have been doing in the first place.
Besides, Munkustrap looked more stressed than ever before, what with the fire, briefly missing Pouncival, and the Jellicle Ball still coming up. It was impossible to tell him no when he asked Jerrie and Teazer to do an extra lap or two around the junkyard to check for anything suspicious.
Their wanderings took them further out from the junkyard than anticipated, mainly because Jerrie recognized the area as the same place where he had encountered Tumble in the rain and wanted to show Teazer. The conversation he had with Tumble still lingered uncomfortably in his mind.
"I swear, Teaze, if you had seen him and talked to him you'd think that somethin' was wrong too. I've never seen him like that. All cold and quiet." Jerrie shivered as they approached the wall he and Tumble had sat upon the previous morning.
"Jer, he's going through a tough time. You remember that age. Mood swings, trying to find where you belong, the age between kitten and adult sucks." Teazer sighed.
"You never had that problem, Teaze. You've always known who you were and what you were gonna do in life."
"Well, yeah, but sometimes you just gotta have some angsty moments. Sittin' in the rain and being miserable is just somethin' a young cat has to do to- to cope with all the changes life brings. Makes you feel alive." Teazer insisted.
"You've been hangin' around Bomba and Demi too much." Jerrie rolled his eyes.
"I'll have you know that-" Whatever Teazer was going to say was lost as their eyes fell upon a very familiar cat leaning up against the brick wall.
"Tumble, what happened?" Jerrie asked.
"Oh, Tumble, look at your leg!" Teazer gasped.
Tumble turned around from his spot up against the wall, eyes wide. His whole body shook as he tried to hide his badly burned leg from them. It was no use. The injury was too painful to conceal.
"Everlasting Cat, you need to have that looked at. Was this from the fire?" Teazer knelt down next to him, trying to lean forward to see the extent of the damage. "When did this happen?"
"Yes." Tumble said through gritted teeth. "But it's- it's fine. I can handle it."
"You most certainly can not." Jerrie said, kneeling down on Tumble's other side. "The fire was yesterday. What in the hell are you doin' all the way out here? Have you been here all night?"
Tumble let out a humorless laugh. "No. Just got out here this morning. Thought it'd… thought it'd be better in the fresh air. Help me think. But I'm leaving now."
"You have to come back with us. Jenny has to look at this. She can fix you up." Teazer bit her lip. "Tumble, you're really hurt."
"No, I can't. I can't go there. Please." Tumble tried to stand. "I can't be seen. Not like this."
"Tumble, you don't have to be ashamed. Everlasting's sake, there was a big bloody fire!" Teazer put a hand on his shoulder. "It's a miracle that none of us burned up."
"A miracle." Tumble sighed, looking miserable. "Sometimes I wonder if everything that's happened is more of a joke."
"Now, none of that talk." Jerrie rubbed his shoulder against the kitten to comfort him. "How about this. We can get you to Jenny's without anyone else seein' you."
"You can?" This seemed to get Tumble's attention.
"Oh, sure, it'll be a piece of cake." Teazer rubbed up against his other side. "You forget you're dealing with two remarkably smart cats here."
"Yes, I forgot." Tumble murmured.
"Don't you worry. Jen'll understand why you tried to hide." Jerrie said.
Tumble let out that odd laugh again, wincing as it jostled his leg. "Somehow I don't think she will. But… what have I got to lose at this point?"
"C'mon, Tumble, where's that cheery spirit of yours?" Teazer asked as she and Jerrie carefully helped Tumble to stand.
The kitten remained quiet, trying to keep a brave face in front of the two older cats. Once he was settled between them they set off, helping him keep the weight off of his bad leg. They were an odd trio but luckily no one else was around to see them.
"So, how's Pounce?" Teazer asked, trying to help Tumble keep his mind off the pain.
"Fine. Sleeping." Tumble said, eyes closed with the effort of trying to walk.
"Seemed pretty scared yesterday." Jerrie said. "Ran away from me when I tried to bring him back to the 'yard."
Tumble opened his eyes and glanced at him. "You tried to- to what? Where?"
"After the fire I found Pounce hiding outside the 'yard behind a dumpster. Poor kid was terrified. But Munk and Lonz got him back in one piece. At least, I assume so, since I wasn't actually around to see that part. Didn't want to scare him further."
Tumble shut his eyes again, falling silent once more. Teazer and Jerrie exchanged a worried glance over the top of his head.
"Tumble, when did you hurt your leg?" Teazer asked. "You were just fine last night when I saw you."
"I… I don't want to talk about it. Please." Tumble shook his head. "It hurts too much to think."
"Okay, okay, I'll stop." The three fell silent.
When they reached the outskirts of the junkyard they took a slightly convoluted way around to Jenny's den, both Jerrie and Teazer keeping an eye out for any unwanted observers. Yesterday's fire had put everyone in a tense mood, sending a lot of the cats with humans to temporarily leave the junkyard and spend the day at their human homes. The others had retreated into their dens, leaving the junkyard nice and empty.
"Right. This way'll be the easiest." Jerrie helped Tumble crawl through a hastily made tunnel concealed by a sheet. "Haven't been this way in a while."
"Haven't needed to break into Jenny's for any, ah, contraband in a good long time. Uh, Tumble, you didn't hear that part." Teazer giggled.
Tumble remained silently grim through the conversation. It seemed he was devoting all of his energy to keeping himself moving forward. When Jenny's den was finally in reach, however, he hung back, oddly hesitant.
"Come on, the coast is clear." Teazer coaxed him forward. "Jen won't bite."
Slowly Tumble followed her inside, ears pinned back and eyes darting all around. As promised they were alone. Jerrie took up a spot next to the entrance in case anyone wandered by and tried to peek inside.
"Why, hello Teazer. And Tumble, what are you doing back so soon- sweet Heaviside, what happened?" Jenny had been putting away one of the makeshift beds when she caught sight of her new guests. "Have a seat, you poor dear."
Tumble was hustled over to the remaining bed and rather unceremoniously forced to lie down. Teazer sat down with him, taking his paw in her own. If he noticed he didn't react, completely focused on Jenny as she examined him.
"I just saw you this morning and you were fine. What happened?" Jenny's paws hovered over the injury.
Tumble's eyes remained fixed on her. "Got burned."
"Well, yes, I can see that clear as day. But how did you get burned?"
"It was an accident." Tumble mumbled.
"And when did this accident happen?" Jenny left his side for a moment to gather her supplies.
Tumble looked like he was about to bolt, but upon seeing Jerrie at the door and Teazer sitting at his side he settled back down.
"Tumble, you're not in trouble." Jenny sighed. "I just want to have all the information so I can help you."
Tumble remained silent.
"Fine, but you will tell me what happened eventually." Jenny placed a basin of cool water next to his leg, handing him a mug of lukewarm tea. "Here. This will help with the pain."
Hesitantly Tumble sniffed it, taking a sip. Immediately he drained the whole thing.
"It'll take a moment to kick in. But I'll need to clean your leg to see the extent of the damage." Jenny explained.
Tumble nodded, squeezing Teazer's paw in his own. This prompted her to start purring, nuzzling his head with her own. It looked like Tumble was trying not to cry.
"Feel any better?" Jenny asked after a few minutes of waiting.
"Yeah." Tumble said, visibly relaxed. Hazily he took another look around the room, wiping his eyes with the back of his arm.
"Alright. If it hurts too much you need to tell me." Jenny took a clean cloth and dipped it in the water, carefully wiping at his leg to clean it.
Tumble didn't even flinch. Occasionally his eyes narrowed and his ears twitched. Teazer continued her purring. Little by little the injury was cleaned, revealing a bruised and burned patch of skin on his leg that was quickly and easily bandaged, all thanks to Jenny's skills as a healer.
When she was done Jenny sat back and smiled. "That wasn't as bad as it looked. You'll be right as rain in no time."
"Good." Tumble finally said.
"You're a lucky kitten." Jenny patted him on the shoulder. "So long as you keep the bandage clean and dry I see no reason for you to worry."
"Thank you." Tumble said, wiping his eyes again. "For… for helping me."
"Why, Tumble, of course I'd help you. Why would you think I wouldn't?" Jenny leaned forward, concerned.
"I… I don't know why I said that. Forget it." Tumble pushed himself up and away from both Jenny and Teazer. "I- I'm leaving now."
"You need to rest." Jenny insisted. "If you walk around too much you'll only aggravate it further."
"You said I'd be fine."
"Yes, but only if you take it easy. I'm good at what I do but I'm not a miracle worker."
"I- I-" Tumble's eyes roamed around the room again, searching for something unseen. "I don't want anyone to see."
"He's been worried about that since the start." Teazer murmured to Jenny.
"Oh, Heaviside, no one's going to think less of you for being hurt, especially if it was an accident." Jenny said. Seeing the look on Tumble's face, she sighed and added, "You can sleep in my bed. Just for the afternoon. And then you may go home."
"I'll keep watch if you want." Teazer offered.
There was a tense silence as Tumble thought it over. Then, slowly, he nodded.
"It's settled then. Come on, up you get." With Teazer and Jenny's help Tumble hobbled his way further into Jenny's den, climbing into her bed and settling down as much as he could. As promised, Teazer sat at the doorway to keep watch.
"Comfy in there?" Teazer asked.
Tumble rolled over, throwing the blanket up over his head. Silence.
"Sleep tight, Tumble." Teazer whispered. "Things'll be better after a good sleep."
Stay tuned for chapter 3!