Still thinking about these two. Also now thinking about Jelly/Jenny thanks to some friends so this chapter will have some Jellydots going on.
Another day without Tumble. Pounce was getting sick of this. Getting sick of missing Tumble because of his dumb feelings. Feelings that he was increasingly getting sick and tired of, feelings that didn't do anything but make him cranky and sad and excited and scared and crazy.
He really missed Tumble. The tom had been gone for several days now. Several long, boring, lonely days. Of course Tumble had said when he'd come back but Pounce hadn't been listening, been too occupied at the time with memorizing every detail of Tumble's face so he could remember it while he was gone….
"Ugh." Pounce rolled around in the dirt to clear his mind of such mushy thoughts. At this rate he was going to turn into one of those lovestruck queens from those romance novels Etcetera and Electra liked to pass around.
"Pouncival." Jennyanydots's voice interrupted his impromptu dirt bath. "What on earth are you doing?"
"Um." Honestly he didn't really know how to explain that he was trying to rub romance off of himself.
"Well, if you aren't busy I could use your help." She stared down at him with the usual amused exasperation.
"Sure." Not like he had anything better to do.
"Come along." She led him back to her den, giving him a thorough wipe down before she allowed him inside.
Sullenly he let her do it mainly because it saved him from having to do it himself later, even if he was getting a little old to be treated like a kitten. Although in her eyes everyone was a kitten, including Munkustrap and perhaps Old Deuteronomy himself. Once he was presentable she steered him over to a cushion by the window and sat him down.
"Sit right here and hold your arms up." Jenny said, pulling a basket of yarn towards him.
"Like this." Jenny maneuvered his arms until they were shoulder width apart with his elbows on his knees.
"There you go." As soon as he was arranged to her liking she draped a hank of yarn over his arms, effectively trapping him in place, and began to wind it into a ball.
"What are you- I don't wanna be your yarn prisoner again!" Pounce complained.
"If you sit still I will give you once of the cookies I've made for Jelly."
It was a promise he could not pass up. Resignedly he slouched as much as he could without disturbing the yarn and watched the Gumbie Cat work.
"What're you gonna do with all this yarn?" He eyed the large basket of unwound yarn at her side.
"I'm going to wind it up so it doesn't get tangled and then make Jelly a sweater for her birthday." Jenny gave him a stern look. "You will not tell her about this surprise."
"No, I won't, I promise." The look in her eye spoke of untold punishments that he did not want to experience.
"Good. So." Jenny said. "Anything you would like to discuss?"
"There's nothing to worry about, dear, I can tell that you have something on your mind. You've been very quiet today."
Pounce fidgeted in his seat. The fact that him being quiet for a single day was enough to catch Jenny's attention was vaguely disturbing. Did she keep an eye on him at all times? What about Jelly? Were they always watching him? Did they see him and Tumble together talking about mushy stuff? Did they know?
"Uh." Pounce blinked. He had been staring at the yarn as if it were a cobra about to strike. "'m fine."
"Hmm." Jenny adjusted the yarn on his arms and continued to wind. "So Etcetera came in here yesterday."
Something about the casual way she spoke made his words freeze in his throat. Instinct was telling him to run but his brain couldn't figure out why. So far as he could tell they were just sitting and doing stuff with yarn, yet the fur on the back of his neck was slowly starting to rise.
"And she was very interested in how Jelly and I became a couple."
"Okay?" Pounce squeaked out.
"Would you like to hear it?"
"Um." Did he really have a choice?
Jenny had a whole basket of yarn next to her and, despite his rapidly working brain, he couldn't think of a good enough excuse to leave. Having Tumble gone from the junkyard left him without much of a purpose and feeling somewhat aimless, a fact that really did not sit right with him. Being lonely was the last thing he wanted to be because it implied that he was a slave to his feelings which he certainly was not, no sir, he was much too tough for that kind of mushy stuff-
"Pounce, dear, you need to blink, you're going to hurt your eyes."
Once again he was staring at the yarn. Jenny finished up with the current ball and started to drape another hank over his arms.
"Hey, where's my cookie?" He whined.
"You can have one when Jelly comes home."
"I'm gonna starve to death."
"I know for a fact you had breakfast this morning, nice try."
Sure, he had breakfast, but not much. Since Tumble wasn't there to fight with for the best parts he didn't have much interest in the food. There he went again, missing Tumble. It had only been a day or so and it was getting old, how was he going to deal with the tom being gone for longer?
"Um, Jenny?" Maybe it wouldn't hurt to ask. If he phrased it in a certain way maybe she wouldn't be able to tell that he was talking about himself. "Can I ask you something?"
"Yes, of course."
"Do you… do you ever, uh, miss anybody?"
"Do I ever miss anybody?"
"Like those that have passed on?"
"No, like someone who's alive."
"I don't understand. Are you asking me if I'm missing someone? Are they lost?"
"No!" Pounce sighed, just barely catching himself from throwing his arms up in the air in exasperation. "I haven't lost him, I know where he is!"
"Where who is?" Jenny put down the yarn and gave him a scrutinizing look.
Well there went that pretense right out the window. Pounce's only defense was to remain silent and hope that Jenny spontaneously forgot his question. Too bad Jenny's mind was a steel trap and once she got a notion in her head woe betide any cat who tried to avoid it.
"Pounce, are you missing somebody?"
He shook his head.
"Would you like to talk to me about something?"
Again he shook his head.
She got him. To be honest he wasn't really surprised, he never was one for subtlety. He settled for a shrug.
"Hmm." Jenny resumed her yarn winding. "It's a silly thing but I miss Jelly whenever she's gone, even if she's just out for the day."
"Yes. It just doesn't feel quite right not having her nearby." Jenny absently stared out the window. "I've grown so used to having her by my side that it feels like a part of me is… well, to sound incredibly dramatic, it feels like something's missing."
"Wow." Pounce scrunched up his nose, trying to ignore the fact that her words were striking a chord within himself. "That's kinda a lot to feel."
"It is. But it makes it so much more sweeter when she returns."
"How… um, how do you deal with it?"
"Oh, it's not something I necessarily feel I need to deal with, dear, it just is. But I know Jelly has her own business and I have mine, and we'll see each other soon enough." Jenny smiled. "And if we spent all of our time together then I'm afraid I'd drive her up the wall."
"Huh." Briefly Pounce wondered if Tumble missed him at all or if he was glad to have some space.
He did spend a lot of his time trying to annoy Tumble as much as possible, but then again Tumble did exactly the same, so he always thought it balanced out. What if he had been wrong and Tumble really didn't want to come back and was just using the trip with Skimble as an excuse to get away from him? The thought made him curl in on himself.
"Mind the yarn, dear." Jenny gently tugged his arms apart.
"Sorry." Pounce sniffed and wiped his nose on his shoulder. "Just… what if Jelly didn't want to come back? What would you do?"
"Nonsense, she's not going anywhere."
"But what if?"
Jenny sighed. "I suppose I would want to go find her and talk to her, since I wouldn't know why she would suddenly leave."
"What if she didn't want to come back?"
"Pounce, you're starting to worry me with these questions. Do you or someone you know need help?"
"No." At least he didn't think he did.
There was a lot he didn't know regarding himself or Tumble at the moment. It was tiring trying to puzzle everything out, and even more tiring trying to think about what to do about it. Why did he have to like Tumble of all cats? Why couldn't it have been a queen or someone he didn't care about? And why did it hurt so much to try and figure out what he was going to do about it?
Absently he wiped his eyes on his other shoulder. Must be a lot of dust in the air all of a sudden. There was no other reason for his eyes to be watering.
"Jenny, where are you?" Jellylorum's voice echoed through the front door. "You would not believe what I just saw- oh, hello Pounce, how are you?"
"Hi Jelly." Pounce gave her a wave of his tail.
"Oh, has Jenny got you on yarn duty again?" Jelly smiled and pet the top of his head, stopping to kiss Jenny's cheek as she passed.
"Excuse me, dearest, but you can't just leave it at that." Jenny pulled her in for a proper kiss.
Pounce gagged, mostly to keep up appearances. Suddenly he was wondering what he would do when he saw Tumble again and it was making him restless. Sure, he knew that he liked Tumble more than the normal amount, but would he go so far as to kiss him?
Yes. Yes he would. The thought made him blush.
"Oh, Pounce, don't be silly." Jelly patted his head again. "When you get to be our age-"
"Excuse me, what is all this nonsense about 'our age'? You make it sound like we're a pair of old queens who have no life left within them!" Jenny put down the yarn and gave Jelly her best look of outrage. It was spoiled by the fact that she still was staring at the queen with unashamed adoration in her eyes.
"Oh, you know I don't think of us that way." Jelly laughed. "You'll always be the young queen who told me my tap dancing was a right mess."
"Well it was." Jenny picked up the yarn again. "And you needed straightening up."
"Yes, it had nothing to do with getting me alone for some 'private lessons' under the moonlight."
Both queens burst into laughter as Pounce slid down in his seat, face burning. He was going to die of embarrassment, he just knew it. Of course he knew that the older cats were mated and did… mate stuff… but he didn't need to know about it. He certainly didn't need to see it.
"Dearest, I believe we've traumatized Pounce enough for the time being." Jenny bit back another wave of laughter. "Would you be a love and hold this for me for a moment?"
"Yes, of course." Jelly took the yarn and sat down in Jenny's spot as the Gumbie Cat disappeared off into a back room. "How are you, Pounce?"
"I've noticed that you seem to be a little misty eyed."
Jelly scooted a little closer. "You know who I saw earlier?"
"Skimble and Tumble returning early from their trip. Tumble seemed to be a little misty eyed too."
"He what?" The thought of Tumble being so upset that he prematurely ended a trip with Skimbleshanks was distressing. "Did he break his leg or something?"
"No, he didn't break his leg." Jelly assured him. "I didn't get a chance to speak with either of them."
"But I think it's safe to assume that Skimble will figure it out so there's no need to worry."
"'m not worried." Pounce was extremely worried but if Tumble was upset about him then he couldn't just show up and make things worse. Besides, Skimble was the cat who drove a train, he knew everything.
"Now, why don't you tell me what's going on in your life." Jenny took the yarn off of his arms and placed it aside. "I think you've done enough yarn duty for now."
"Nothing's going on." Pounce insisted.
"There has to be something. You're usually a very busy tom."
"Um, since Tumble hasn't been around I… I haven't done much. Talked to Cettie and Plato for a bit yesterday." He did not mention the numerous hours spent in contemplation atop the highest reaches of the junkyard. It was only a matter of time before Munkustrap found out and banished him from climbing.
"Yes, Cettie did come in here yesterday. She was very excited about having someone new to gossip about."
"Wh… who did she talk about?" Oh, it was over, he knew he shouldn't have said anything, he should have just thrown Plato at her and made a run for it, now she was going to figure it out and tell everyone that he had a crush on Tumble, why did he get so easily trapped into conversations, especially with Cettie who could never keep her mouth shut-
"She didn't say."
Bless her for her silence. Pounce let out a sigh of relief. He never doubted Cettie for a minute.
"But it sounded like the cat in question was seriously in love."
"You… you don't say."
"Who's in love?" Jenny returned with a plate of cookies. "Besides you when you find out I made your favorite cookies."
"You spoil me." Jelly gently placed the yarn down on her seat and gave Jenny an affectionate nuzzle. "But I was telling Pounce about when Cettie stopped by."
"Oh, yes, I was telling him about that." Jenny put the cookies down and gestured for Pounce to take one. "Here, I did promise you a cookie if you sat still long enough."
"Thanks." Prize won, he shoveled the whole thing in his mouth before Jenny could rescind her offer.
"Here, have another." Jelly held another cookie out to him as she sat down on a large cushion.
"Fanks." He sat down next to her. The cookies really were good, carrying a butterscotch and cinnamon flavor that only Jenny could blend together.
"Now." Jenny sat down on his other side, effectively pinning him between them. "We are going to have a little talk about your crush."
"Wh- urk!" Immediately he choked. They had set up a trap and he walked right into it.
"Try not to die, dear, it wouldn't be good for your health." Jenny said as Jelly whacked him on the back. "And it's perfectly healthy to have feelings for someone, as I'm sure Cettie told you with as much enthusiasm as she could muster."
"I dunno what you're talking about."
"Let me tell you how Jelly and I wound up being a couple." Jenny handed him a glass of milk as he continued to sputter. "Maybe it will help you put some things into perspective."
"Oh, Jenny, you're not going to tell him about… certain parts?" Jelly trailed off, voice tinged with amusement. "I'm not sure he's ready to hear about all of our… er, wilder escapades."
Pounce buried his face in his paws as the queens on either side of them fell into another fit of giggles. Why, why did he have to get relationship advice from his moms?
"Right. Perhaps you should tell him then." Jenny said once she composed herself once more.
"I think I should." Jelly agreed. "Otherwise you're going to scar the poor boy."
Slowly Pounce slid down in his seat, splaying his legs out onto the floor. If Old Deuteronomy could just ascend him to the Heaviside Layer right now he'd really appreciate it. Tumble would understand why he suddenly had to leave this earth.
"Of course, now that I think of it, I'm not sure when we first started officially declaring ourselves as a couple." Jelly mused as she nibbled on a cookie. "It seems we've always been together."
"Since we were young queens, that's for certain." Jenny said, grabbing Pounce by the shoulders and hauling him upright. "Sit up straight, slouching isn't good for your back."
"I think I first noticed you when you tried to stop the Jellicle Ball and lecture us on how the mice and roaches deserved to be part of the festivities. Remember that? You climbed right up there on the tire and declared that this was the year you would perform your cockroach routine."
"I thought you had completely forgotten that. I still believe that they should be included, but Deuteronomy wasn't having any of it. I'm surprised I didn't get banished from the tribe for that stunt."
"Skimble and I were trying so hard not to laugh-"
"Jellylorum, you were not laughing at me, you wouldn't dare-"
"I couldn't help it, you just were so passionate, you still are-"
"You would be too if you just listened to me-"
Pounce snagged another cookie as the two queens bickered over the top of him. In a roundabout way their arguing reminded him of Tumble, namely how he and Tumble mainly communicated through arguments and wrestling, and once again he felt himself missing the tom. Why couldn't he just get a grip? Tumble wasn't gone. In fact, according to Jelly he was back in the junkyard, so why was he feeling all this lonely stuff? And why did thinking about seeing Tumble hurt him so much?
Why did he tell Tumble about his crush on him? That was the whole reason he was feeling awful about everything. Pounce put the cookie back, feeling oddly hollow. Suddenly he wasn't hungry anymore. Suddenly he was very alone and very upset that his stupid feelings were yanking him all over the place without his permission. With a whimper he buried his face in his paws, trying to press all of his emotions back before they came flooding out.
"Pounce, dear, what's the matter?" Both queens were upon him, Jenny asking him the question while Jelly rubbed his back.
"Don't feel good." Was all he could say.
"No. Feeling stupid." He could feel the look Jenny and Jelly were exchanging with one another behind his back.
"You know, when I first started falling for Jelly, I was very confused." Jenny said. "I didn't know what to think. Honestly I thought I had lost my mind."
"Glad to hear how sentimental you were back then." Jelly said dryly.
"Shush. I knew she was special to me but couldn't figure out why, and any time she was away from the tribe with Gus I felt so out of sorts. It was difficult to put into words. Poor Skimble and Asparagus got quite an earful when they tried to ask me what was wrong."
"Mm." Pounce murmured. "'s hard."
"It is. But eventually I told her how I felt."
"And what a night that was." Jelly sighed.
"You know what she said when I told her?" Jenny asked him.
"Hm?" Pounce raised his head a little.
"I said I'd think about it." Jelly answered.
"You said what?" Now she had Pounce's attention, for this was similar to what Tumble had said to him.
"I wasn't sure what to think. I was involved with Asparagus at the time but he was also seeing Skimble and, well, I knew Jenny was my best friend but… it's still so surprising when your best friend confesses that they have feelings for you."
"And I wasn't exactly subtle about it." Jenny added. "I marched myself right up to her and told her how I felt."
"I've always loved how direct you are." Jelly said. "But it took some thinking on my own to finally realize that I felt the same way in return."
"How'd you figure it out?" Pounce asked. Part of him was amazed to hear such similarities to his and Tumble's situation. The other was wondering if there was still hope for him.
"It wasn't easy, but I talked a lot with Skimble and Asparagus." Jelly said. "And… well, it was a bit awkward for a while."
"You avoided me for a whole week. Nearly broke my heart." Jenny's voice was gentle. "But I knew I had to give you time."
"Then I realized how much I missed her and decided to see what happened." Jelly sighed. "And, well… eventually we became a couple."
"After a bit of trial and error."
"And some long conversations."
"And some… eventful nights."
"Jenny!" Once again the two queens started laughing again.
Pounce rolled his eyes and reached for the abandoned cookie. Avoiding Tumble didn't seem like the best idea, not if he was feeling this lonely after already being apart from him, but sitting down and talking about their feelings didn't seem like a good choice either, especially if Tumble was already upset about something. He really wished that Jelly had talked to Skimble and Tumble and found out what was going on with them.
"Pounce, I know it's awkward and uncomfortable talking about your feelings, but you really will feel better if you do." Jelly told him.
"Yeah." The words were all a jumble in his head and no matter how hard he tried to arrange them he couldn't. "I know."
Jenny sighed. "Well, whenever you're ready to talk we are ready to listen. Cettie didn't specifically mention that you were the cat she was excited about but it's plain to see that you do have something on your mind."
"And once you do become serious with your special someone we'll need to sit down with you two and have 'the talk'." Jelly said.
Her words were colder than a bucket of ice water, the implications washing over him with a chilling promise. Jelly and Jenny's talks of 'safe mating practices' were legendary among the tribe, young and old cats alike. Couples who walked in with hope and wonder in their eyes left with a hollow, dark look as the knowledge pushed all innocence from their souls.
At least that's what Pounce heard about it. He had not yet had 'the talk' and had no interest in it whatsoever. The thought of sitting through such a thing with Tumble at his side made him downright nauseous.
"Well, I think I need to be going now." Pounce slid out from between Jelly and Jenny, nearly knocking over the plate of cookies in his haste. "Thanks for all the stuff but I got a place to do. Uh, thing to be."
"Just know you can always talk to us!" Jelly called after him.
"And wash behind your ears!" Jenny reminded him.
Pounce hightailed it out of there. Once again he had a lot of thinking to do and not all of it good. Hopefully he could figure stuff out before he and Tumble grew into old toms, although it was comforting to see that Jelly and Jenny were still happy together. A small flicker of hope sparked inside him. Maybe things could still work out.