Hi everyone! This is just one big excuse to have Alonzo and Munkustrap dance around their feelings for one another and for Tugger to interrogate them both. Enjoy!


The Rum Tum Tugger was a curious cat. There was even a whole song about it. And thus, being a curious cat, Tugger was usually one of the first cats to notice when something wasn't quite right in the junkyard. The only other cat that shared his curious streak but was too humble to boast about it was his brother, Munkustrap.

Come to think of it, Tugger hadn't seen his brother since the day before yesterday. While Munkustrap wasn't required to be on watch for every second of every day it was almost a guarantee that he would at least make an appearance in the junkyard for an hour or two before going off to do whatever he had planned for the day. On the rare occasion that Munk had to leave for longer than a day he always made sure that at least Alonzo or Tugger himself was aware of it.

Checking around the usual hangouts yielded nothing. Eventually Tugger found himself outside of his brother's den tucked away in a private corner of the junkyard. If Munk wasn't here then there really wasn't any other place in the junkyard he could be.

Tugger made to barge in as he usually was wont to do but something stopped him. He sniffed the air. There was the scent of Munkustrap, as expected, but there was something else. Something unidentifiable that made him slightly recoil. It wasn't enough to scare him away but it did drive him to be a little cautious.

For one of the few times in his life Tugger knocked on the outside of the den, leaning back and trying to look more casual than he felt.

"Yes?" Munkustrap's voice called out from inside the den, quiet and quick.

"Hey, Munk, it's me." Tugger said, giving his brother a minute to come out. There was a rustling, a faint whisper, then Munk's voice was a little closer to the door.

"What is it?" Still the door remained closed.

"Haven't seen you around the junkyard since day before yesterday. Wanted to make sure you were alright."

Something definitely wasn't alright. Munkustrap was not a cat to have a conversation through closed doors. Sure, his den was his one sanctuary away from the general chaos of the junkyard, but Munk would have at least opened the door to tell Tugger to go away face to face.

"I'm fine, Tugger." More rustling. More silence. Munk was obviously waiting for him to leave.

"You know, when you say it like that I'm not inclined to believe you." Tugger let his voice default to a lazy drawl, one that managed to sound uninterested and incredibly stubborn at the same time. "And when I don't believe you I'm even less inclined to go away."

That got the reaction Tugger wanted. The door cracked open, just wide enough for Munk to get his head through.

"I'm. Fine." Munk said through partially gritted teeth.

Tugger could clearly see he was not. The silver tabby's fur had lost some of its luster and was much more rumpled than usual, like he hadn't taken time to sleep or groom himself. Anxiety tightened the corners of his eyes, made him hold himself stiffly, and every bit of his expression and posture screamed to be left alone.

Above all that, there was a definite smell of illness that lingered about him.

"Are you sick?" Tugger wrinkled his nose and backed away.

Munk sighed. "No, Tugger, I'm not sick. I promise everything is fine."

"If you're not sick, then why does it smell like it?"

"It's nothing." Munk said quickly, turning an ear away from their conversation to listen behind him. "I have to go. Please just go home and don't worry."

With that the door was shut in his face. Clearly there was something going on. Someone was ill, there was no mistaking that smell, and Munk was either hiding the fact that it was him or there was someone else in there that he was taking care of.

That in itself was both surprising and not at the same time. Even without being the Jellicle Protector Munk was, inherently, a caring and protective soul, and any injured or ill cat could find comfort in knowing that he would ensure that they were well taken care of. Usually that meant taking the cat to Jennyanydots, who had the largest den in the junkyard and was very knowledgeable about treating the various illnesses and injuries that occasionally befell the members of the tribe.

What really piqued Tugger's curiosity was the fact that Munk was taking care of this by himself to the point of hiding away from the rest of the junkyard. And once Tugger was curious about something there wasn't anything anyone could do to stop him from pursuing it.

Munk had moved away from the door. Tugger tested it. It opened easily. With just a little less than his usual amount of swagger he stepped inside, flinching at the powerful smell of sickness that emanated from the back of Munk's den. Normally Munk was a tidy cat, ensuring that the space was neat and welcoming, but everything was in a disarray, mirroring the disheveled appearance of the cat who lived there.

Carefully Tugger stepped forward. Munkustrap was stretched out on his bed with back to the room. His quiet purring filled the space. The silver tabby was arranged rather oddly on the bed, perched almost on the edge, leaving the rest of the bed empty except for a large mound of blankets.

Tugger hesitated in the doorway, drawn forward by the curiosity of the scene but repulsed by the overwhelming smell of sick cat. Munk turned his head slightly and rolled his eyes.

"Tugger, go home." He sighed. "Now is really not a good time."

"I can see that. What's going on?"

A cough. Munk immediately turned his attention back to the blankets.

"Look, if you're not going to leave, will you at least bring me some water?" Munk pointed to a cup that was half full of liquid.

"I-"

More coughing. Coughing that was definitely not coming from Munkustrap. Tugger did as he was requested, eyes unashamedly roving over Munk's bed and whoever else was in it. Any other time and this would have been a perfect opportunity to rib his brother about finally getting a queen into his bed. Still might be depending on who it was.

"Thank you." Munk said, shooting Tugger a warning look as his brother made no move to leave.

"Look, Munk, if you need help or something, you can ask."

"As I have told you several times now I'm fine-"

Munk was interrupted by another bought of harsh coughing that made both Tugger and Munk cringe. The blanket shuddered and rolled over, revealing a very distinctive black and white face.

"Alonzo?" Tugger asked incredulously. "What's he doing here?"

"Please, Tugger. Not now." Munk seemed to have given up in persuading Tugger to leave, focusing his efforts on helping Alonzo sit up so he could have some water.

With a little coaxing Munk pulled Alonzo up against him, propping the cat up and holding the cup up to his face so he could drink. Alonzo managed to drink a mouthful before shaking his head and pushing the cup away, squeezing his eyes shut and curling up again under the blanket. If he noticed Tugger's presence he didn't acknowledge it.

"Seriously, Munk, what happened? Why isn't Jenny taking care of him?" Tugger was torn between wanting to stay and figure out what was going on and leaving before he caught whatever it was that Alonzo had.

"He unexpectedly fell ill. I'm taking care of him." Munk placed the cup down. "Jenny's already been by. There's not much more to do besides manage the symptoms."

"How long's he been like this?" Tugger angled his head to get a better look at Alonzo.

The black and white cat was shivering, trying simultaneously to pull the blankets around him while burrowing up against Munkustrap's side. His fur was dull and stuck up all over the place. It was a rather pathetic sight for the usually poised cat.

"Since yesterday morning." Munk said quietly.

To punctuate Munk's statement Alonzo let out an impressive sneeze. Thankfully the blanket took the brunt of the blow. With a quiet moan Alonzo buried his face against Munk's leg, pulling the blankets back up over his head.

Tugger recoiled. Munk gently pet the back of Alonzo's head under the blanket.

"You're not worried about getting it?" Tugger asked.

Munk shrugged. "It's a bit late now to worry about that. And I can't just leave him alone like this."

"How long until he gets better?"

"Jenny said mild cases can take a couple days, more severe cases can last longer than a week."

"I take it he's not one of the 'mild cases'." Tugger leaned up against the wall to study the scene before him.

Despite Alonzo being clearly ill and Munkustrap obviously stressed, there was an odd familiarity between them that Tugger couldn't place. He seriously doubted that either tom had been in this position before, yet the natural intimacy between them spoke of a deeper, underlying trust that wasn't earned overnight. There was something definitely there between them, something that remained unspoken.

Tugger couldn't help but feel like a third wheel. And the cause was something he wanted to learn more about.

"Hey, if you want, I could watch him for you." Tugger offered, trying to seem nonchalant.

Munk squinted at him. "What?"

"Don't act surprised. So long as Lonz doesn't sneeze in my face or try to cuddle me, I don't mind."

"I know you're up to something but I can't figure out what." Munk rubbed his paws over his face. "But I do need to go and see if Jenny has any more supplies. And get another blanket. And-"

"And get some rest for yourself." Tugger interrupted. "No offense, but you look terrible."

"Thanks. Truly appreciate it." Munk said dryly.

"Look, Lonz wouldn't want you to neglect yourself. Take a break while you're out there."

"And when did you suddenly become an expert on what Lonz wants and doesn't want?"

"Are you gonna go or do I have to kick you out of your own den?" Tugger crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow.

"Fine. But if he wakes up try to get him to drink some water. And get him to eat if he can."

"I'll try."

"And he'll need some of this for his fever in about an hour." Munk picked up a small syringe of liquid.

"I'm not going to stick him while you're gone!"

"Relax, it's not a needle." Munk assured him. "It's medication. Just get him to take it when he's awake."

"Fine. Is there anything else?"

Munk shook his head. "No. Hopefully he'll just sleep for the rest of the day."

"Yeah, hope so." Tugger muttered.

Munk bent down and whispered something to Alonzo, who had slung an arm over Munk's legs and was feebly trying to keep the silver tabby seated. Whatever he said was kept Alonzo placated long enough for him to free himself. As Munk tucked the arm back under the blanket he gave Alonzo a look that made Tugger feel like a third wheel yet again, and with that he was gone.

Tugger shifted from one foot to the other, feeling like he had just intruded on something private but unable to reason exactly why. Instead of puzzling over it he found a chair and draped himself in it, waiting for Alonzo to either fall back asleep or do something interesting.

It didn't take long for the coughing to start again. Tugger winced at the sound, watching as Alonzo curled in on himself as he tried to get his breath back. Finally the cat straightened, panting a little and licking his dry lips.

"Thirsty?" Tugger asked.

Alonzo, eyes still shut, nodded, lethargically pushing the blankets away so he could sit up.

"Here." Tugger was not about to cradle Alonzo like his brother did but he shoved some pillows behind the cat so he could sit up easier. When it looked like he was secure Tugger nudged the cup into Alonzo's paws.

Alonzo took the offered cup, cracking an eye open as he drank. He stiffened.

"You're not Munk." Alonzo croaked.

"At least you have enough sense about you to realize that." Tugger huffed. "How are you feeling?"

"Where is he?"

"Out to get some more medicine. And to get some fresh air."

Alonzo's fevered eyes darted towards the door.

"Oh no, you're not going anywhere." Tugger said, moving to block the exit. "Munk told me to keep an eye on you and you are going to stay put until he gets back."

"I'm- I'm fine-" The sharp hacking coughs that interrupted him proved otherwise. With a stuttered sigh Alonzo laid back down, closing his eyes miserably.

"You know, the more you and Munk try to assure me that things are fine, the more I think they aren't." Tugger took pity on his shaking form and pulled the blanket over him.

Alonzo whimpered. "When's he coming back?"

"Probably not for a while. The junkyard hasn't seen him for a day so I'm sure everyone will try to interrupt him with something or other."

This elicited another pitiful whimper from Alonzo. He pulled the blankets over his head and curled up into a ball, making a noise that Tugger had never heard the cat utter before in his life.

"Are you… are you crying?" Tugger felt a flash of panic surge through him. Alonzo was, in no uncertain terms, a confident, composed cat. To see him so vulnerable was disturbing.

No response. Just small, sad little sounds under the blanket.

"Hey, Munk'll be back soon. I'll stay here with you until he comes back." Tugger, having no better idea, sat down on the bed and awkwardly patted the blanket where he thought Alonzo's shoulder was. He could feel the unusual warmth of the fever through the blanket.

Right. Fever. The medication. Tugger hunted around for the syringe. Triumphantly he held it aloft and turned to Alonzo.

"Hey, so, you have to take this." He tugged on the blanket.

Alonzo had definitely been crying. And he looked even worse than before. Tugger picked up the tissues and awkwardly placed them near Alonzo's face. The cat slowly took the edge of the blanket and tried to pull it back up again, groaning when Tugger easily pulled it away.

"No, you have to take this medicine." Tugger waved it in front of Alonzo's unfocused eyes. "Munk told me to give this to you."

"Munk? Where is he?" Alonzo asked again, clearly not tracking the conversation well.

"He'll be right back. Just stepped out for a minute." Tugger lied, not wanting to upset him again.

"Oh." Alonzo closed his eyes again, curling in on himself since Tugger held the blanket hostage.

"Hey, come on." Tugger gently shook the cat's shoulder, wincing at the heat. "Munk wants you to take this."

"He does?" There was the motivation. It was a difficult operation since Alonzo was caught between lucidity and a fever induced delirium and Tugger wasn't thrilled to be touching the sick cat, but between the two of them Alonzo was finally properly medicated.

"Uh, well done. Munk'll be very happy." Tugger pulled the blanket back over him. "You think you can eat something?"

Alonzo shook his head, rolling away from Tugger again. Within minutes he was fast asleep.

"Not much for conversation today." Tugger remarked to himself. He'd have to interrogate Alonzo later when he could stay awake for more than a couple of sentences.

...

The next day Tugger was just as surprised to find himself at Munk's den as his brother was.

"Can I help you?" Munk asked, looking a little more put together than yesterday but still just as anxious as before.

"Well, uh, I thought that since I'm not busy I'd see how you and Alonzo were doing. I assume he's still here." He had spent the better part of the night alone, replaying the events of the day before in his mind. There was something going on between his brother and Alonzo. And he was going to figure it out.

"Yes. And he's better. Not as feverish as yesterday. He's sleeping." Munk took a look over his shoulder before continuing. "Actually, if you don't mind, I do need to step out for a while. But I don't want to leave him alone-"

"Say no more, I'll watch him." Tugger waved a paw lazily through the air.

"Thank you." There was that suspicious look again. "I am curious to know why you are suddenly so interested in hanging out with Alonzo."

"Well, you know me, I'm a curious cat. And I'm very curious as to why Lonz is here and not comfortably in his own den."

That statement made Munk stiffen and adopt a very peculiar closed off expression.

"I told you, I'm taking care of him." Munk said, voice carefully controlled. "It's easier if he's here."

"Sure, sure. Forget I said anything. Go and do your thing, I'll babysit."

Normally aggravating his brother was one of Tugger's favorite past times, but with Munk already so stressed and exhausted it wasn't much fun to push him. Better wait for Alonzo to recover and then resume the pestering.

Munk gave Tugger a long, calculating look, then softened his expression. "Thank you. It is a help. I… I don't think Lonz would want anyone else to see him like this."

"My lips are sealed. Besides, it doesn't make for very alluring conversation if I go on about how terrible Lonz looks. I'd rather talk about myself."

Munk rolled his eyes, looking a little more like his usual self. Nevertheless he let Tugger inside. Things were a little more tidy than yesterday and it was clear that Munk had tried to air out the place as best he could. It still smelled of illness but not nearly as powerful as before. On the bed Alonzo was still curled up in the blankets, face tucked into a pillow and looking rather peaceful.

"He seems to be faring better than yesterday." Tugger remarked, taking up his spot in the chair and propping his feet up on the bed like he had done the day before.

"He is. The fever has gone down thanks to the medicine Jenny had. We both got some actual sleep last night." Munk unnecessarily arranged the blankets in an obvious attempt to delay his departure.

Idly Tugger wondered where exactly his brother had slept if Alonzo was occupying the bed. Unfortunately he did not get a chance to pursue that line of questioning because Munk finally took his leave, not before pointing out where the food, water and medicine was if it was needed.

Now left to his own devices, Tugger took the opportunity to unashamedly stare at Alonzo as he slept, as if simply staring at the cat would solve the half formed questions rolling around in his brain. Unfortunately the novelty wore off quickly and boredom set in. Since there was nothing better to do Tugger took it upon himself to go through Munk's things, hopefully finding anything that might give a hint towards the questionable relationship he and Alonzo had going on between them.

A violent sneeze brought Tugger out of his investigations. Alonzo had evidently sneezed himself awake, sitting upright in the bed with wide, startled eyes.

"Morning, princess." Tugger smirked as Alonzo took notice of him and froze.

"What are you doing here?" Alonzo's attempt at sounding intimidating was ruined by the congested rasp of his voice.

"Taking care of you."

"No you're not." It was incredible how adamant Alonzo could be while barely being able to sit up on his own.

"I believe I am." Tugger shoved the pillows behind him so he wouldn't fall over. "Otherwise why would I be here?"

"I don't… where's Munk?"

"Seriously, not even a thanks?" Tugger shoved a glass of water in Alonzo's paws and sat back down in his chair. "Munk's out doing some stuff he had to do. Asked me to watch you."

"Oh." Alonzo busied himself with the water. He looked disappointed but not like he was going to cry, which Tugger was immensely grateful for.

"So. How are you feeling? You look better than yesterday at least."

"Better." Alonzo paused with the cup halfway to his mouth. "Wait, yesterday?"

"Yeah. You looked like death warmed over." Tugger decided not to mention the crying.

"You were here yesterday?"

"Wow, you really don't remember what happened, do you?"

"What happened?" Alonzo asked worriedly. "Tugger, what did you do?"

"Hey, I didn't do anything."

Again with the suspicious look. First Munk, now Alonzo. And he hadn't even done anything to warrant suspicion. Yet. But Alonzo seemed much more coherent and awake than the day before, so now was a good a time as any to start asking questions.

"So, I'm curious." Tugger said, hooking his thumbs in his belt and smiling.

Alonzo groaned and sank back into the pillows. "Please. Please don't. I don't have enough energy to deal with you."

"How come you're over here and not at your own den?" Tugger continued. "Seems like an odd place to lay low until you're better."

Alonzo mumbled something.

"What was that?"

"I wasn't sick when I got here."

"What d'you mean?"

"I was-" Alonzo coughed, wincing and rubbing his chest. "I didn't come here because I was sick."

"Well, of course not. Kind of a jerk thing to do to a friend, coming over and making them take care of you."

"When I came here I was fine. When I woke up I was sick. I wouldn't-" Alonzo swallowed thickly. "- I wouldn't have stayed the night if I knew I'd wake up like this."

Tugger squinted. Alonzo was clearly not feeling well enough to put much effort into lying. The cat could barely keep his eyes open. And clearly he hadn't realized just what he admitted to doing.

"You spent the night here?" Tugger's brain was moving very quickly and in a direction he wasn't sure he wanted to go towards. "Why?"

Alonzo groaned, giving him a displeased stare that rivaled Munkustrap's. "Forget I said that. It doesn't matter."

"I think it does. And I want to know what you and my brother are up to."

"You don't."

"Oh, but I do." Tugger grinned.

"It's not important."

"It's important enough for my brother to neglect his Jellicle Protector duties and to risk his health to take care of you."

To Tugger's disappointment he did not receive a response. Might as well push the conversation in another direction.

"Munk's been awfully cozy with you. Seems pretty determined to keep you in his bed."

That got an interesting reaction. Alonzo cleared his throat and averted his eyes, face flushing more than it already was.

"It's not what it looks like." Alonzo finally said. "It's not like that."

"And what does it look like, exactly?"

"Don't you have anything better to do? Like find some queens and seduce them?"

"I don't spend all my time seducing queens. And you're not going to distract me that easily."

"I didn't come here just to sleep with Munk. Not all of us are interested in having sex with anything that's pretty and moves." Alonzo said, shooting Tugger his best haughty look. It ended up looking more like he was constipated.

"Those are your words, not mine. But I have to say that you're not being very convincing." Sure, it wasn't nice to tease the cat while he was down, but Tugger felt like Alonzo was on the verge of confessing something big. Something that he might not have said if he hadn't been knocked down a peg or two due to his illness.

Alonzo took another pointed drink of water. Tugger let the silence fall between them. Then something that Alonzo had said earlier took hold of Tugger's brain.

"Hey, did you just say that you think Munk is pretty?" Tugger asked.

Alonzo choked. It took several minutes of coughing and hacking to regain his breath, but his dignity was lost.

"And you said that you didn't 'just' come here to sleep with Munk." Tugger realized. "Which implies that you would be open to the idea if it were on the table."

"Everlasting Cat, you are insufferable."

"Can't help but be curious. If you'd just come out and say it straight then I'd leave you alone."

"You would not and you know it." Alonzo glowered at him.

"That's true." Tugger shrugged. "But I still want to know."

It was clear that Alonzo was worn down. Both in health and in patience. With a long suffering sigh Alonzo rubbed his temples, trying to regain any shreds of dignity he had left.

"Fine. I… I wanted to talk to him. Privately. Alone."

"You're not… you're not going to tell me that you wanted to spend the night with Munk to talk about Protector business, are you." Tugger said slowly.

"Please." Alonzo groaned again, burying his face in a pillow. "I feel terrible. I don't want to have this discussion with you."

"So you-"

"Tugger. Stop."

"Look, Munk is my brother. I need to know what's going on in his life. Especially the parts he doesn't think I should know about. Because every time I ask him if he's got his eye on someone he finds irritating ways of changing the subject."

Alonzo rolled over so his back was to Tugger, sending him into another coughing fit. Tugger took pity on him and arranged the blankets so they covered him better.

When Alonzo was able to breathe again he said, "It doesn't matter."

"I think it very much does matter." Tugger sat down on the bed and leaned over so Alonzo had to look at him.

"I wish I was nauseous so I could throw up on you."

"You're not very pleasant when you're ill, you know that?"

"When is Munk coming back?" The black and white cat asked desperately.

"Not until later tonight." Tugger said.

"And why are you here again?"

"Because I care?"

"You do not."

"Excuse me, I'll have you know that despite your clear distaste of me and my general state of being, I happen to think that you're an okay cat." Tugger protested, standing up and pacing the room. "Especially if my brother seems to think so highly of you."

"I… I don't find you distasteful." Alonzo said quietly.

"Oh? Then how come every time I walk into the junkyard you seem to find every excuse to be somewhere else? And don't think I don't see those faces you make during my performances."

"Just because I don't want to be part of your fan club while you strut around and pelvic thrust in their faces doesn't mean I hate you."

"I don't always strut around pelvic thrusting." Tugger paused in his pacing. "There's dancing involved. Sometimes."

Alonzo snorted, then sneezed. Wearily he rolled back over to face Tugger, pointing wordlessly at the tissues that were out of reach. Tugger obliged him.

"Thanks." Alonzo said thickly as he painfully blew his nose. "I hate this."

"I can't say I envy you." Tugger leaned back a little.

"This is not how I wanted things to go."

"And how did you want them to go?"

"Tugger." Alonzo groaned exasperatedly.

"Please. You're giving me cryptic answers and I'm drawing conclusions that, while they are very interesting, are not conclusions I want to come to unless they are correct." Tugger sat back down in the chair.

Alonzo narrowed his eyes at him. "What conclusions are you coming to?"

"So we're going to play this game? Very well." Tugger crossed his arms behind his head and leaned back in his seat. "I can play. But if I guess correctly you have to tell me the truth."

Silence. Alonzo looked annoyed but also… anxious? Tugger soldered on.

"First, I think- no, I know- that you and my brother are very close. Naturally this is expected since you're both friends and you're his second in command. Correct?"

A small nod.

"And, also naturally, because you spend a lot of your time together, you find comfort in Munkustrap's presence."

Slow nod.

"So… you obviously came over here to talk to Munk about something important. Something private. Something that you couldn't talk to him while out in the open. But what would that be?"

"You're enjoying yourself too much. I'm going to sleep." Alonzo closed his eyes but looked anything but relaxed.

"You know, I've noticed something." Tugger kicked his feet up on the edge of the bed and leaned back further to stare at the ceiling.

"What could you have possibly noticed?"

"My brother, Everlasting Cat bless him, is a busy cat. He doesn't have much time to find himself a mate or even throw himself into a casual fling. Of course, he's never been one to do anything casual anyways, no matter how much I try to persuade him relax and let loose."

"Does this have a point?"

"I'm getting there. Anyways, as the Jellicle Protector, Munk doesn't have much time to find a mate and isn't very interested in casual hookups. And that's accepted of him." Tugger slid his eyes over to Alonzo, who was now watching him with a closely guarded look. "You, on the other hand, aren't nearly as busy. And so far as I can tell, don't seem interested in any cats except for one."

To his complete surprise Alonzo pinned his ears back and growled. "Don't."

"And yet, as soon as I bring up the subject, you seem to get increasingly agitated. Especially when I talk about you and Munk together. It's almost like every time I suggest that maybe you see my brother as something more than just a friend you-"

"Don't!" Alonzo shouted, immediately falling into a coughing fit. It took several minutes for him to recover, leaving him winded and wheezing.

"Hey, hey, I'm sorry. Didn't mean to push you that far." Tugger offered the water but it was pushed away.

"Fine." Alonzo squeezed his eyes shut. "You're right. About how I feel about Munk."

"I am?"

"Yes."

"How long?" Tugger asked quietly.

"Long time." Alonzo ran a paw over his face. "Too long."

"And you haven't said anything?"

"I can't." The words came out in a pained whisper. "I tried the night before I got sick. But I couldn't do it."

"So that's why you wanted to talk to Munk privately. So you could tell him you liked him more than a friend."

"When you say it like that it seems so juvenile."

"Why don't you just tell him?"

"It's not as easy for me as it is for you, Tugger." Alonzo said quietly. "It's different."

It was hard for Tugger to get his head around it. Whenever he saw a cat he wanted to get to know on a more intimate level he just went for it. No sense wasting time. Either the other cat would be interested or not. Sure, rejection stung, but it didn't hurt for long. And there was always someone new to get to know. It wasn't as if telling someone you liked them was as serious or as difficult as asking them to be your mate.

Wait. Tugger stared at Alonzo. The black and white cat looked absolutely miserable, and not because he was ill. He was also staring longingly at the door as if waiting for Munk to return. It was the same look Munk had given Alonzo just before he left.

"You love him." Tugger realized, words coming out before his brain could fully process the thought.

"Yes." Alonzo whispered.

"Lonz."

"What?"

"You love Munk."

"Yes, Tugger. I do."

"Seriously? You want to be mates with him?"

"What else do you want me to say?"

"I just… it's a big deal."

"Yes, and that's why I can't just go out there and say it and then deal with the inevitable."

"The inevitable?"

"You said yourself that Munk is too busy to look for a mate. He doesn't have time for me. Or for anyone."

"Hang on, I said he was busy, but not that he didn't have time for you. Look where you are right now. The logical thing for Munk to have done was to drag you off to Jenny's so she could treat you, but he didn't. Munk would have stayed here with you for forever if I didn't kick him out. And, believe me, it is very clear to see that you are his priority."

Alonzo didn't look convinced, but he also didn't argue.

"Hey, want to try and eat something?" Tugger started to rummage around for something suitable to eat. "Munk'll kill me if he finds out we spent all this time having a heart to heart and I didn't try and force food down your throat."

"You will not tell Munkustrap anything about this."

"What, about the food? I'm sure he won't mind if you eat his stuff."

"You know what about."

"Oh. Well, as much as I would enjoy telling him that you love him and see the look on his face, I am a decent enough cat to refrain from doing so. But I strongly suggest that you just tell him yourself." He found a container and sniffed it. "Here, try some of this."

"What is it?" Alonzo turned his apprehension towards the container that Tugger was shoving at him.

"Rice pudding. Munk must have told Jenny you were really ill."

"I am."

"If you are lucid enough to confess your feelings for Munk to me then you're well enough to eat."

Alonzo shot him a look but complied, managing a bite or two before pausing thoughtfully. "You know, you're awfully casual about this."

"About what?" Tugger paused in his now obvious snooping around through Munk's things.

"About how I feel about Munk."

"Oh. Well, I dunno, it's surprising but also… not really? You and Munk are together all of the time. It's not a stretch to think of you two as mates." Tugger shrugged. "And, honestly, Munk could probably stand to get laid now and then. Might be good for the both of you if you get together and have a good-"

"Okay, I'm done with this conversation." Alonzo put down the pudding, looking vaguely nauseous.

"What? You honestly can't tell me that you spent the night here, in my brother's bed, planning on confessing your undying love to him, and haven't imagined-"

"Please. Just stop." Alonzo was turning a very interesting shade of red.

"You have!" Tugger grinned.

"I'm going to sleep now." To Alonzo's dismay Tugger suddenly looked dangerously thoughtful.

"You know, I just realized something."

"I don't want to know."

"So, every year at the Jellicle Ball I do my bit. You know, the dancing, the singing, how everyone joins in to bask in my glory?"

Alonzo pointedly turned his back to the room. Tugger did not take the hint.

"I've already mentioned how I noticed that you never participate with the other cats and kittens, instead opting to sit with the stuffy elders and stare disapprovingly from a distance while trying to ignore me. Which you are doing right now."

"I'm sleeping."

"Well, I just realized that you're not the only one who takes a back seat during my song. Munk doesn't participate either."

"Munk doesn't join in because one, you're his brother, and two, he doesn't approve of you derailing the Jellicle Ball to flaunt yourself and rile everyone up." Alonzo rolled back over to give Tugger a pointed look.

"Did he really say that?" Tugger paused in his revelations.

"Yes."

"Huh." Tugger shrugged. "Nevertheless, that's not the point. My point is that maybe you aren't ignoring me specifically because you disapprove, but instead taking the opportunity during my song to openly ogle Munk without anyone else noticing."

Alonzo let out a long suffering sigh. "I regret telling you anything."

"You're not denying what I'm saying."

Alonzo pulled the blanket up over his head.

"You know, I can see the appeal. If he wasn't my stuffy older brother I could see how you could have a thing for stripes. You look good together."

"Really?" Alonzo sounded hopeful as he pulled the blanket back down.

"Sure. Both of you walk about all high and mighty with sticks up your-"

Sadly Tugger's statement and Alonzo's retort were interrupted by Munkustrap's return. Immediately the silver tabby dropped the bag he was holding and practically threw himself on the bed at seeing Alonzo's murderous look.

Apparently Munk mistook Alonzo's outrage for pain, holding him close and all but nuzzling him to death. Tugger raised an eyebrow over Munk's shoulder. Alonzo gave him a very rude gesture in return.

"Are you alright? What can I do for you?" Munk asked.

"I'm fine. Tugger made sure I didn't die while you were gone." Alonzo said, face softening as Munk checked his forehead.

"He even ate something. Must have been my stimulating conversation skills." Tugger said, smiling all too innocently at the two.

"Sure. That was it." Alonzo shot Tugger another warning look.

Tugger smirked suggestively in return. Alonzo rolled his eyes and decided to look at Munk, who had turned his attention to the bag he had brought. This ended up with Alonzo looking directly at Munk's backside, sending the black and white cat blushing and Tugger cackling with laughter.

Munk turned around again, holding another syringe of medicine, and gave Tugger a stern look. "I don't know what you were up to while I was gone but I can tell that it probably wasn't good for Lonz's health."

"Oh, Munk, it was fine. Lonz and I just caught up with each other. We rarely get a moment where it's just the two of us since you and Lonz are practically joined at the hip." Tugger grinned, looking past Munk to stare directly at a mortified Alonzo. "Might as well just be mates already."

"Tugger, I appreciate all of your help, but I think it's time you go." Munk said, looking altogether too composed for what his brother was insinuating.

"Ah, don't be like that. I was leaving anyways. Don't want to intrude on whatever you have going on here." Tugger made a show of standing and stretching his limbs before sauntering over to the door.

Munk didn't even wait for him to leave before speaking to Alonzo. Tugger ducked out of sight to listen because, hey, he had learned a lot of interesting things about the two of them and wanted to see if there was anything else he could glean about them.

"How are you?" Munk's voice was soft.

"Better. Really. Especially now that you're here."

"Was Tugger really that bad? Because I can tell him to leave you alone."

"No, no, he's fine." Alonzo sighed. There was a shuffling sound as if he were making more room on the bed. "Actually it was nice to talk to someone. Helped clear my head a little."

"I'm sorry I wasn't here." Munk said regretfully.

"You have important things you have to do, Munk. More important things than taking care of a sick cat."

"Alonzo, you are the most important thing to me." The seriousness in Munk's voice was enough to stun both Tugger and Alonzo into silence. "Don't ever think otherwise."

"Then I… I guess I won't suggest that I go back to my den and recover." Alonzo finally said after a while.

"You better not. You're not leaving until you're well again." Munk said. Another shuffling on the bed. "Speaking of which, here's your next dose."

"Great." Alonzo sounded less than enthused.

"I'm glad you're feeling better." Munk said.

"Mmm." More shuffling. "Largely in part thanks to you."

Munkustrap's purring filled his den again. Tugger chanced a peek back around the corner. Both Munk and Alonzo were curled up under the blanket, Alonzo's face pressed into Munk's neck as the silver tabby held him close. Munk's eyes were closed. They looked as natural as any other pair of mates.


So there's most likely going to be a part two, so stay tuned!