Alonzo could see the tension in Munk's body from clear on the other side of the junkyard. The way he held himself was unusually stiff, body completely still except for the constant twitch at the end of his tail. Sure, Munk had held himself this way before and nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but there was one telltale sign that the cat was headed for a breakdown.
Munk was not smiling. There wasn't even a glint of positivity in his eyes, not a trace of a faint upturn around his mouth. Even when Munk's face was in a neutral expression he still gave off the impression that he was about to smile. Such was his reputation as a friendly, kind, good natured cat.
But now Munk's expression was entirely closed off, eyes taking on a faraway look that set off alarm bells in Alonzo's head. When Munk was upset he would be upfront about it, perhaps frown like a disappointed father, even occasionally roll his eyes. Never would he simply shut down. Not like this.
As Alonzo drew closer he could better hear just what Munk was being subjected to. Several cats surrounded him on all sides, boxing him in and bombarding him with questions and concerns.
"Skimble's train is delayed, he's not going to make it back to the junkyard in time-"
"Skimble's fine, did you hear the latest rumors about Macavity?"
"Is the perimeter of the junkyard secure?
"What about the upcoming Jellicle Ball, when are we starting rehearsals for that?"
"What are you going to do about-"
"Remember, you promised to teach the kittens how to sing-"
Of course, as Jellicle Protector, Munk seemed to think that it was solely his job to deal with it all. And for some reason everyone was fine with letting him think that. Well, here was one cat that wasn't going to sit idly by.
"Thank you, but we have to go now." Alonzo wound his way into the conversation, draping himself over Munk and physically steering him away from the others.
"We are not done with our conversation." Munk's voice was flat.
Alonzo was not deterred. "It will have to wait. Something more urgent has come up."
The other cats fell silent at Alonzo's steely stare. To his surprise Munk nodded and let Alonzo lead him away from the others. Perhaps it was due to the fact that Alonzo had never bothered to interrupt Munk before in such a way, let alone proclaim that he had something urgent for Munk to attend to. Or maybe the sheer amount of stress Munk was under just left him too overwhelmed to protest.
"This way." Alonzo placed a gentle paw on Munk's back to encourage him to walk. Or stumble. The silver tabby's usual elegant, precise gait was more of a shuffle, as if every step was more effort than it was worth. It took a while but they made it to their destination.
"What's so urgent that you had to interrupt me?" Munk didn't seem to realize that they were at his den.
"You." Alonzo said, steering Munk inside.
"I don't understand." Munk locked his legs, becoming an immovable object just shy of the bed.
Really, it wasn't fair just how strong Munk's legs were. There was no moving him unless he wanted to move. So why did he let Alonzo herd him all the way back to his den only to hesitate now?
"Just humor me and lay down." Instead of shoving his dear friend face first onto the bed Alonzo went for a gentle nudge. "Please."
A moment passed. For a minute Alonzo was sure that he was going to have to be more forceful about it. Eventually Munk let out a long sigh and curled up on his side, covering his eyes with an arm.
"When was the last time you took a break?" Alonzo murmured, trying to keep his voice level. Inside he wanted nothing more than to cuddle the silver tabby into oblivion.
"I…." The uncertainty was enough of an answer.
"If you will allow me, I'm going to help you calm down and relax. Then you are going to take the rest of the day off." Alonzo caught the sudden tension in Munk's face and added, "Everyone will be just fine. You already took care of most of the problems for today, and if anything else comes up I will take care of it. Otherwise they can handle themselves for a while."
Munk was silent.
"You deserve a rest. Heaviside above you deserve it more than most." Alonzo said.
No response. Munkustrap stayed curled up in the sad little ball of silver fur, completely and utterly silent. It would be so easy to simply cover the cat with a blanket and leave him to fall asleep, but of course Alonzo wasn't going to do that. Even if he didn't find himself overly invested in Munkustrap he still wouldn't have been able to just walk away from the sight before him.
"Just... breathe." Alonzo looked around for somewhere to sit. "And don't worry about it."
Munk snorted. "Easier said than done."
"I know." Alonzo settled for sitting on the floor. "But I had to try."
That seemed to be enough for a while. It was difficult not to stare at Munk so Alonzo occupied himself with grooming away minuscule faults in his own fur. It didn't take long for Munk to shift around a bit before opening his eyes and staring down at him.
"Why are you sitting down there?"
"I just told you not to worry about everything." Alonzo told him. "That includes me."
"I don't know if I can do that." Munk scooted back on the bed, arranging his long limbs so he took up less space. "Please, come sit here at least."
"You sure?" Alonzo felt his heart skip a beat. Before Munk could change his mind he carefully perched on the side of the bed, trying not to appear inappropriately excited about being invited into such a private space.
"Yes. I promise I won't change my mind." There wasn't a smile, not yet, but at least his voice was more relaxed.
"Good." Now he was, technically, in Munk's bed. With Munkustrap himself. It would be a lie if Alonzo tried to say he hadn't imagined this moment before. Of course, in his imaginings, Munk wasn't a stressed out ball of fur, but one step at a time.
"Please, make yourself comfortable." There Munk went, trying to make sure that everyone but himself was relaxed.
Slowly Alonzo stretched out until he covered the full length of the bed, careful not to disturb the other cat. To his consternation Munk stared at him, eyes losing their faraway look and focusing sharply on his every movement.
"At least try to close your eyes for a while." Alonzo suggested, trying not to shiver under such an intense stare.
"Good idea." Promptly Munk shut his eyes but his body remained rigid.
Alonzo edged a little closer, still careful to keep space between them.
"This is about as relaxed as I can get for now, I'm afraid." Munk sighed, rolling over to try and get more comfortable. "If you need to leave don't feel like you need to hang around."
"I'm not going anywhere." As if to prove his point Alonzo edged closer and ran a paw over the silver fur.
Munk sighed again. It was a sad, overwhelmed sound. The muscles in his back slowly began to relax. Idly Alonzo hummed the first tune that came to mind, becoming more comfortable by the minute, and busied himself with smoothing down the rumpled fur. Normally he'd be feeling very hot and bothered by the sight before him but for now his full attention was on making Munk as comfortable as possible.
In no time at all soft, slow breathing met his ears. Munk was finally asleep, face relaxed and peaceful. Well, there was no use trying to leave and potentially waking him. Might as well get comfortable.
The next thing Alonzo knew he was waking from a very restful sleep. Something incredibly soft was clutched between his paws. Slowly he opened his eyes to find that he had claimed Munk's fluffy tail as his own while he was sleeping, holding it tight to himself. The owner of said tail was also awake and staring at him. Reluctantly Alonzo released the tail.
"Hello." Really it wasn't the most suave thing to say, but his mind was still trying to process the fact that he was, in fact, in bed with the secret love of his life.
"Good morning." Munk greeted him, eyes bright with amusement.
"Morning?" Alonzo peered around to see the light of the early morning sun streaming in through the doorway.
"Yes." Munk took the opportunity to slip off the bed and stretch his silver limbs in the sun.
Oh, now there was a sight that Alonzo would gladly see over and over again.
"Thank you for yesterday." Munk looked over his shoulder at him, unaware of how flustered he was making the other cat.
"Huh?" Really, he needed to get a grip on himself or he'd start sounding like a dumbstruck kitten.
"For making me take a break. I didn't realize how much I needed one."
"Oh, yes, of course." Back to business. He could do this. "I could see the tension in your shoulders from clear across the junkyard."
"You seem to be the only one who realized it."
"Well, I'm sure someone else would have stepped in if I hadn't."
Munk hummed to himself. "Thank you all the same. I owe you one."
"No, you don't-"
"Want to get some breakfast together?" Munk quickly suggested, looking hopeful. "I could spare a little more time before returning to my duties."
There was the smile. Alonzo couldn't help but melt a little. Maybe Munk wouldn't be able to fully relax all the time, but Alonzo would be there to ensure that he took a break once in a while. With a smile of his own Alonzo nodded, accompanying Munk out into the morning sun.