Hello! This is my first foray into the Misto/Tugger pairing. I've always been a fan but hadn't had the inspiration to write about it until now.
This story is a standalone fic and is not intended to fit in with any of my other stories. Takes place before the events of the musical. Going to be a slow burn, multiple chapters. We'll see where it goes!
Once again he was in the storm. A storm that, inherently, he knew he was the cause of. A terrible rainstorm of magnificent proportions, called forth from his own inclinations, a storm that threatened to consume not only him but everything around him. Lightning crashed down all around, each bolt blasting a permanent scar into the earth. It was too much to contain, too much to control, and too much to begin to reign in.
So he didn't. He threw caution to the wind and let the magical energy flow through him, igniting every fiber of his being with a wild electricity that made him feel so alive, so free, so himself. He danced freely between the raindrops, fur alight with the white hot magic running along his skin. This was how he was meant to be. No more hiding what he was. No more restraint. Now it was just the magic and the storm and himself. And it was electrifying.
A very familiar face was watching him through it all, careful to stay out of harm's way but brave enough to stand in the potential line of fire. The cat's very presence was enough to curb the literal storm around them, offering a loving shelter among the chaos.
Hungrily he reached for it. This was all he wanted, all he craved, and without a second's thought he was in his lover's arms. This is where he belonged, their bodies pressed up against one another, holding each other so tightly it was impossible to tell where one being ended and the other began, he was losing himself, losing his hold on the electric emotions that surged between them, there was no-
"Mistoffelees." A voice purred in his ear, soothing the wild magic and sending a calming tingle through his burning limbs. "I'm here."
It was too much. He opened his eyes.
Back to reality. Back to consciousness and reluctant wakefulness. The dream, since it was always just a dream and nothing more, faded away, leaving him to stare at the small interior of his den. Compared to the electric, magical world of his dreams this was a cold, boring reality. But it was real. And he was alone.
With a great deal of effort he managed to center himself, mind edging away from the restless energy rolling around inside him. Every time he had the dream he found it more difficult to bring his mind back to the present, to push the excitement down, and with a degree of regret he was beginning to realize that some day he wouldn't be able to resist what his dreams were offering him.
Someday he was going to wake up and not be Quaxo anymore.
Today was not that day, however, and with considerable determination Quaxo put on a smile and stepped out to face whatever the day had in store for him, trying to ignore the aching in his head.
It was a little known fact that the Rum Tum Tugger was quite skilled at going unnoticed when he wanted to be. Stealth was not something anyone would normally associate with Tugger on the account that he was routinely one of the most noticeable cats in the tribe, but, on the rare occasion, Tugger could exhibit an ability to hide that would even baffle the most observant of cats.
It had something to do with everyone expecting him to always command attention, so if he wasn't commanding the attention then it was assumed that he simply wasn't in the area. It was amazing how the various hues of his fur could blend in with the surrounding junkyard when people weren't expecting him to be there. And, despite his inclination to be wild, loud and commanding, he could be silent when necessary.
Munkustrap was one of the few cats that could attest to such a talent, having spent many frustrated hours trying to find his younger brother while babysitting, only to discover that Tugger was, in fact, a pro at hide and seek. It was a subject the tabby wasn't keen on discussing.
As it was in this moment, Tugger wasn't necessarily hiding, but had overheard a conversation and decided to hang back and listen for a bit before announcing his presence. Just in case it was a conversation worth listening in on. Judging from the voices it was two cats hanging out in a private corner of the junkyard and they had been talking for a while.
"You should be stretching." The first voice, a young queen, said.
"Nah, I've still got time." The second voice belonged to a young tom.
"He's going to want to get started right away, you know that."
"Well, if he showed up when he said he was going to then maybe I'd be ready. I had to skip out on breakfast to be here."
"You did not, I saw you eating that mouse Jenny told you to leave alone."
"Uh, that wasn't me, that was Tumble." A pause. "I'll start stretching."
There was a long silence and some shuffling. The queen sighed. "Maybe I should go check on him, it's not like him to be late."
"Eh." Somehow Tugger could hear the shrug. "I bet he saw Tugger and took the long way around again."
"That's not very nice to say."
"'m not saying it to be mean. But it's true."
Another silence. Tugger tried to puzzle out just who they were talking about.
"He doesn't hate Tugger, you know." The queen said, voice quiet. "In fact, it's just about the opposite."
"Coulda fooled me. If he doesn't hate him then why's he always rolling his eyes and staring at him and making sure that Tugger sees him leave all the time? Like, he goes out of his way to make sure Tugger's looking at him before turning his back on him and strutting off. Kinda makes it seem like he doesn't like him."
"Well, sometimes…." The next part was almost a whisper, too quiet for Tugger to hear.
"Nah. That doesn't make any sense at all." The second voice was dismissive. Both went silent.
That was enough for now. Whoever it was that supposedly hated him would have to wait. For now Tugger was curious enough to see who he had been eavesdropping on enough to come out of the shadows.
To his surprise he found Victoria and Pouncival sitting in the clearing, the former primly seated on a cushion while the latter slouched his way through some warm up stretches. It was an odd pairing. Not that the two hated each other, far from it, but generally Quaxo or Plato were part of the group. What was odd was the fact that this time they had only each other for company.
"Pounce, would you please straighten up and focus- Tugger!" Victoria's plea quickly turned into a smile as she spotted the cat. Hurriedly she smoothed down her already pristine fur.
"Hey, Tugger!" Pounce made an effort to sit up into less of a slouch.
"Now this is an interesting sight." Tugger remarked, casually leaning up against a rusted bed frame. "What are you two waiting for?"
"Quaxo." Pounce replied.
"He's practicing his newest routine." Victoria added. "We're here to help him out."
"You giving advice I can understand." Tugger nodded at her. "But Pounce, why are you here?"
"I'm overlooking him." Pounce announced.
"Understudy, Pounce, you're his understudy." Victoria sighed. Clearly this was a subject they had gone over before and would have to go over again.
"Yeah, that. Understudying." Pounce nodded.
"You, Pouncival, are Quaxo's understudy." Tugger was not one to openly gape but settled for raising an eyebrow.
The thought that this scruffy tom had enough focus and poise to fill in for a cat as precise and graceful as Quaxo was difficult to comprehend. Sure, Pounce was athletic and possessed a never ending amount of energy, but even getting him to sit still long enough to take instructions was a bit of a trial. Although physically they were roughly the same size and shape, maturity wise they were on different levels.
"Yeah, that's right. I'm understudying him." Pounce frowned, seeming to pick up on Tugger's inner doubts. "Why's that so hard to believe?"
"Well, you're not really of the same… stock as Quaxo." It was difficult to be truthful without being insulting. "Who's idea was this? Munk finally go off the deep end?"
"It was my idea." A new voice announced. Everyone turned to see Quaxo perched on top of the bed frame Tugger was leaning up against. Just how long he had been watching them was anyone's guess.
"Your idea." Tugger repeated, leaning out of the way as Quaxo slid effortlessly to the ground.
"Yes. Pounce has a lot of potential." The answer was intentionally vague. "Now, if you don't mind, we have a lot of practicing to do."
"Go ahead, I don't mind at all." Tugger made a show of making himself comfortable.
"Private practice, Tugger."
"Come on, you'll need an audience eventually."
"That's why Victoria is here." Quaxo was giving him a very familiar exasperated look. It was also a look that, as far as he knew, Quaxo only gave to him. It was a look that only made Tugger more inclined to stick around.
"Oh, don't be that way. Victoria and Pounce don't mind if I stick around, do you?"
"Oh, no, I don't." Victoria giggled while Pounce shook his head. "Not at all."
"See? I'll even sit quietly and watch. You won't even know I'm here."
All three cats stared at him.
"Okay, so maybe I might be a distraction." Tugger admitted. "Can you blame me?"
"I can blame you for a couple of things, yes." Quaxo muttered.
"Maybe I can help out."
"Oh? And how do you suppose you could help? You're not suggesting you be an understudy-"
"Hey, that's my job!" Pounce interrupted.
"I'm no one's understudy." Tugger clarified. "But you do that magical stuff, right?"
At the mention of magic Quaxo's face turned an interesting shade of red. It was a well known fact throughout the junkyard that Quaxo fancied himself as a bit of a stage magician, doing sleight of hand and card tricks to mainly entertain the other Jellicles. Even Tugger himself had to admit that Quaxo was pretty good at it, even if it meant taking the attention away from himself from time to time.
"Yes." Quaxo eventually said after he composed himself. "I do that 'magical stuff'."
"Well, you wanted advice-"
"Not from you-"
"If you're asking me the act could use an attractive assistant." Tugger watched the expressive array of emotions cross Quaxo's face. It sure was easy to fluster him. At this point he wasn't even trying.
"Really?" Quaxo huffed. "And just who might that be? You?"
"Quaxo, please, if I were an assistant all the attention would be on me and I'd end up the star of the show. It comes with the territory of being me."
Victoria giggled as Quaxo rolled his eyes.
"Oh, pardon me for the assumption." The tuxedo flicked his tail back and forth impatiently. "But we're wasting time. If you insist on staying, Tugger, then please be seated and keep quiet."
Much to Victoria's excitement Tugger obliged and sat down next to her, giving Quaxo one of his most charming smiles. As expected he received another eye roll. That only further cemented his need to stay and watch.
"Pounce, let's get started." Quaxo gestured to his friend. "From the top."
And thus the rehearsal began. Tugger settled back to watch. He had to admit that Quaxo was good. Better than good. This was the first time Tugger had seen the tom performing in his own space, been in a private audience, and he couldn't help but wonder just why he hadn't watched Quaxo dance before. Of course, he was usually preoccupied with his adoring fans (and who wouldn't, really), but still, it was odd that Tugger hadn't at least been aware of Quaxo's talent.
But now, in this moment, Quaxo commanded the space. He shone in the spotlight, quietly demanding everyone's attention without uttering a sound. While both toms were dancing and putting on an entertaining performance, Tugger only had eyes for Quaxo. His very presence seemed to sparkle.
Wait. No, the cat was literally sparkling. Tugger looked over at Victoria, who didn't seem to be perturbed that Quaxo's fur was spontaneously glittery. Pounce was too busy trying to follow the routine to comment.
"Uh, Quaxo-" Tugger was cut off by Pounce enthusiastically leaping into the air and landing hard enough to shake the ground. A cloud of dust enveloped them all.
"That's good, Pounce." Quaxo coughed, waving dust out of his face. "Try to land a little more softly next time."
"I'm trying but it's hard." Pounce complained. "I can't just float around and ignore gravity like y- mmph!"
Abruptly the tabby's mouth was occupied by Quaxo's paw. The strange sparkle vanished from his fur.
"What was that?" Tugger asked.
"Nothing." Quaxo hurriedly said, trying to assume the perfect picture of nonchalance.
"That was definitely something." Tugger stood, brushing the dust off of his fur. "I saw-"
"You saw nothing." Quaxo's voice was becoming insistent. The fur on the back of his neck was beginning to stand on end. Pounce quickly backed away from the increasingly agitated cat.
"I'm not blind." Tugger crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm not saying it was bad, I'm just curious."
"Tugger, I mean it, I-" Abruptly Quaxo winced and clutched at his head, curling in on himself in obvious pain.
"Quaxo?" Immediately Tugger's curiosity was replaced with concern. Before he knew it he was crouched next to the tom, unsure if he should touch him or not. The tuxedo's eyes were tightly shut and an odd heat radiated off of him.
Before he could puzzle it out Victoria quickly stepped in, putting an arm around Quaxo and guiding him to his feet. Her fur was standing on end.
"It's alright, Tugger. Just a- just a headache. We're going to go see Munk- I mean, Jenny." Victoria quickly clarified. "Don't worry. Just- Just go about your day."
Quaxo, still clutching his head, didn't even acknowledge her excuse, groaning quietly to himself as the white queen led him away. That left Tugger and Pounce both staring after them.
"What was that all about?" Tugger turned to Pounce, who was unusually still.
"Um, dunno." Pounce shrugged, eyes fixed on the ground. "He gets headaches sometimes."
"Yeah, I heard that. I meant the sparkling." Tugger watched the kitten carefully. Pounce had a tendency to fib when he thought he was in trouble but he had a very obvious tell.
"Huh? What sparkling? I didn't see any sparkling." Immediately Pounce grabbed his tail and started pulling at the fur. There it was.
"Pounce, you're not in trouble. I'm just curious."
"Um." Pounce shifted from one foot to the other. "He just… does that sometimes."
"He just spontaneously sparkles."
"Yeah. Don't tell him I said that."
"Why does he want to keep this a secret?" Tugger asked.
Pounce shrugged. If there was anything else he wanted to add to the conversation he was, for once, keeping quiet about it. Time to try a different approach.
"Look, Pounce, you know me, I'm a curious cat." Tugger gestured to himself. "And this is a very curious event. You wouldn't deny me the pleasure of satisfying my curiosity, would you?"
"You know what I'm like when I set my mind to something, right?" Tugger slung an arm around Pounce's shoulders. "It's just easier to tell me the truth instead of dragging it out. I can keep a secret. No one will ever know you told me."
"I'm not worried about that." Pounce muttered.
"What's there to worry about? It's just sparkles."
"No, it's not just…." Pounce trailed off.
"Not just…?" Tugger looked down at the tabby. "Pounce, buddy, you okay?"
Pounce was trembling, clutching his tail tightly to himself. Gone was the hesitation. Now there was only fear in his eyes.
"There you are!" A new voice interrupted. Bombalurina strolled into view. "I've been looking for you all over the junkyard."
"Oh thank the Everlasting Cat!" Pounce shouted, using the distraction as an opportunity to make his escape. He ducked out from under Tugger's arm and took off.
"What was that about? Usually he's happy to see me." Bomba raised an eyebrow as they watched Pounce zip over the nearest pile of junk and disappear from sight.
"Beats me. I nearly had it out of him before you showed up." Tugger grumbled.
"Well excuse me for wanting to know where you disappeared off to." Bomba cast her gaze around the abandoned rehearsal space. "What were the two of you doing anyways?"
"It wasn't just us. Quaxo and Victoria were here too." Tugger quickly filled her in on the rest as the two of them made their way to the main part of the junkyard to indulge in some well earned sunbathing.
"Sounds like quite a rehearsal. I'm surprised Quaxo let you stay." Bomba commented as she stretched out in the sun.
"He didn't 'let' me do anything." Tugger corrected her. "I do what I want when I please."
"Sure. Maybe I'm more surprised that he didn't try to chase you out."
"Why would you say that?"
"I've noticed that he's… how do I put it, not your biggest fan?" Bomba said. "Judging by how every time you arrive on the scene he makes himself scarce I'd say he prefers the company of others."
"Wow, thank you for that observation." Tugger rolled his eyes. "I suppose you know who he does prefer the company of."
"Maybe. But let's not dwell on him." Bomba purred, trailing her tail up his thigh. "There are plenty of other things we could be talking about. Or be doing."
As tantalizing as the suggestion was Tugger couldn't help but press the issue. "But how could he hate me?"
"Quaxo. I don't get it." Tugger sat up and rested his chin in a paw. "I haven't done anything to him that I haven't done to anyone else."
Bomba sighed. "This really bothers you, doesn't it?"
"No. I just want to know why he doesn't appreciate my company."
"Tugger, there are plenty of cats in the junkyard that appreciate you. Myself included, although I'm becoming less appreciative the longer we have this discussion."
"Maybe he's intimidated. I can see how he'd be unprepared to handle my charm."
Bomba let out a very unladylike snort. "Yes, that has to be it."
"You are not helping me figure this out."
"Look, all I know is that Quaxo's more reserved. More, ah, what's the word-"
"Yes. And you're the opposite of that. So what works for you might not work for him."
"Then what would work for him?" Tugger muttered to himself.
"Wow. You really do care about what he thinks, don't you?" Bomba gave him an incredulous look.
"I want him to look at me without rolling his eyes. It's not too much to ask." It really wasn't.
Now the hardest part would be convincing Bomba that he wasn't obsessing over the fact. Judging by the pitying look she was giving him, she had already decided that he was hopelessly disturbed by Quaxo's dismissal.
Not that he was disturbed. Just… perturbed. There was a difference.
"Look, if this is going to bother you so much then maybe you should talk with Victoria. She might be able to help you figure out how to talk to him without driving him crazy."
"Maybe." The thought of asking Victoria for advice on how to approach any cat, let alone her brother, did not sit right with him. Tugger was the most confident, suave, self assured cat in the tribe. There was no reason he couldn't figure out the tom on his own.
So why was it so difficult to put Quaxo out of his mind?
"Great, so much for the sunbathing." Bomba said, gesturing up at the sky.
Dark clouds were rolling in fast. The sunny afternoon was quickly turning into a stormy one.
"I'd better go find Demeter." The queen said, sauntering off towards the nearest tunnel. "Try not to obsess too much about Quaxo, okay?"
She was gone before Tugger could defend himself.
"I'm not obsessing." Tugger muttered as it started to rain. Time to leave before he got too wet.
Unfortunately the rain had other plans. In an instant the sky darkened, releasing a torrential downpour that threatened to sweep even the most sturdy cats off their feet. Various yowls of dismay and alarm were heard all over the junkyard as everyone scrambled to find shelter. Tugger scaled a nearby pile of junk and ducked under a bent umbrella. Admittedly not the best place to be but it was better than sitting in the mud.
"Tugger!" Munkustrap's voice carried easily through the increasing roar of the rain hitting the ground. The silver tabby ducked under the umbrella with him. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." Tugger replied, shaking water out of his mane. "Is everyone else okay?"
"Lonz and I are trying to corral the kittens into Jenny's den. Will you help?"
Running out in the rain was the last thing he wanted to do, especially since it would take ages for him to properly dry off, but the thought of one of the kittens being lost out in the storm was even more distressing.
"Yeah, of course." Tugger said.
"Thank you. Be careful, this storm's going to be a terrible one." And with that Munk ran back out into the rain. Something about his brother's words didn't sit right with him but Tugger didn't have time to dwell on it. He had a job to do.
Of course, wrangling kittens in the middle of an unexpected rainstorm was easier said than done, and by the time he had ushered the last wayward kitten into Jenny's den Tugger was well and truly soaked. It would take forever to dry off and resume his well groomed appearance. Right now he felt and probably looked like a drowned rat.
"Speaking of drowned rat." Tugger said to himself as he ducked back under the bent umbrella, huddling in close to a white and black cat that was just as soaked as he was. "Hey, Alonzo! Enjoying the weather?"
"Oh, yes, this is exactly what I wanted to be doing today!" Alonzo yelled to be heard over the howling winds. "Did we get everyone?"
"I think so!" Tugger yelled back. "Etcetera was the last one."
Most of the kittens had been corralled into Jenny's den, with some of the older cats hunkering down with Munkustrap to wait out the deluge. Etcetera had been the last to be ushered to safety, although it had been a bit of a trial to get her unstuck from his leg.
"I'll let Munk know, he was doing one last sweep." Alonzo turned back towards the rain. "Are you staying with us or-"
"I'm headed back to my place. It's sturdy enough." Tugger would have preferred to have been in a nice, warm, dry house, but he wasn't about to travel much further in the rain if he could help it. And being stuffed into a den with other wet cats would do nothing for his already frazzled fur.
"Suit yourself." Alonzo darted back out into the rain, leaving Tugger alone.
"Might as well get going." The sooner he made it to his den the sooner he could start the laborious process of drying himself off. He had barely made it across the junkyard when movement caught his attention. Ducking under the nearest shelter, Tugger strained his eyes through the increasing darkness and pouring rain to see what it was.
They hadn't accounted for everyone after all. A small silhouette was huddled up against the tire. A silhouette that was roughly the same size and shape as a certain tuxedo tom.
"Hey! Quaxo!" Tugger stepped out into the open just as the sky lit up in a flash of blinding white light.
It took a moment for his eyes to adjust. When he was able to see again whoever it was by the tire was gone.
"Quaxo?" The rain was momentarily forgotten as his gaze drifted towards a new sight.
Munkustrap had been right. It was a terrible storm. Shadows jumped over the sharp edges of the junkyard, moving with a life of their own as lightning crashed through the clouds. The rain was almost a solid curtain, parted only by the howling winds that buffeted anyone who dared to be out in the open, threatening to blow everything away. No one in their right mind would be out in such awful weather.
Except Tugger. And someone else.
In the midst of it all was a small tuxedo tom, dancing all alone in the rain, completely at ease with the chaos whirling around him. There wasn't anything that Tugger could say that would do his thoughts justice. For the first time in his life he was completely speechless.
Quaxo turned in a circle, face turned up towards the sky. Thunder rolled ominously overhead. Electricity charged the air, causing Tugger's soaked fur to spark and stand on end. Only now did Tugger realize that, despite being in the middle of the downpour, Quaxo's fur was completely dry.
Lightning arced across the sky, lighting up the junkyard in another flash of brilliant white. Suddenly everything went quiet. The rain stopped. Quaxo stood in the middle of the clearing, eyes wide and trained up towards the sky. Every inch of him seemed to be waiting.
Tugger could hardly breathe. Then Quaxo started to dance.
If it could be called something as simple as dancing. Never had Tugger seen anyone move like this, as if pushed by the very nature of the universe in a language all of their own. Like a beacon in the night he shimmered and sparkled with each movement. Beautiful. Otherworldly. The cat was transforming into something else, something… dangerous. A being that knew no boundaries.
Reverently the being lifted a paw. Electricity flashed into existence over his fur, tracing paths along his body and leaving glittering trails in its wake. His eyes flashed white, dazzling with energy from within, gaze lifted towards the sky.
Briefly Tugger remembered to breathe. The sound was enough to catch the being's attention.
The being's gaze drifted down. Down towards Tugger's. The two of them stared at one another, neither able to move, neither wanting to.
Whoever this being was, it was not Quaxo. And yet somehow Tugger knew his name.
"Mistoffelees." Tugger breathed.
The name broke the spell. Suddenly the reality of the situation slammed into place along with the rain, bringing Tugger to his knees. The cat, now Quaxo once more, was drenched in the downpour. Instead of seeking shelter with Tugger, however, he turned and disappeared into the shadows, leaving the other to fend for himself.
There wasn't time to think about what he had just witnessed. Struggling to pull himself out of the mud, Tugger darted off towards his den, intent on cleaning himself up and trying to figure out what the hell he just saw.
The image of bright, burning eyes would not leave him, even when he finally fell into a restless sleep.