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Caught Out

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Smiling brightly as they all came together in soft, nuzzling farewells, Mistoffelees held himself very still and straight, tail curled near his ankles. At least, he thought, it likely wouldn’t stand out too much, if anyone even noticed; he always tried to hold himself with poise, after all. He was simply . . . so very tired. He dipped his head and relaxed just slightly as Munkustrap sniffed him and then gently rubbed his cheek against Misto’s brow.

Then he was moving away, with his mate falling in gracefully at his side, and Misto slunk away himself, trying not to attract attention. The sparkles in his coat had died away much earlier, even the little magic they took far beyond him now, his magic exhausted. They’d been pretty and eye-catching and he’d planned to light them for his song - he purred softly at the remembered praise from Tugger - and then wear them a bit duller for the rest of the night, but he wasn’t actually sure when he’d lost them, now.

Misto slowed, then came to a stop, panting, his tail curling up and back in a jerky flick. He wasn’t sure he could make it all the way back to the den he occasionally used here in the junkyard, let alone to his humans’ home. He was drained not only magically but physically, the spells he had used tonight. . .

Well, keeping Macavity’s magic from causing harm across the junkyard and the gathered Ball hadn’t been flashy and noticeable but it had been difficult. Bringing Deuteronomy back had been easier - Misto moved things from place to place all the time - but . . . usually they were inanimate things, or himself. And not so close to another magical cat. One who did not want the switch to happen.

Misto had needed to pour a lot more of himself into his magic than he ever had before, and it had cost him more than he would let show, if he could conceal it. He rose, wavered, then took a few steps, legs threatening shakily to give way with each careful placement of a paw, each shift of his weight.

At least, he thought as he looked for a comfortable spot to curl up, the junkyard was safe. It might not be the most comfortable night he had spent - and Misto knew he was a bit of a hedonist, even for a cat, and very spoilt, never having to remain anywhere he didn’t like or wish to be - but he’d be fine. It was only one day, anyway.

He curled up in the base of a large, overturned flowerpot with a cracked side that let the half-shredded foam of a seat cushion spill into it from beneath. At least it was sheltered, and a bit soft. He sighed, tried to knead, and found he was too weak even to pull his claws free when they got stuck. He stifled a tiny sound of pain from sheer exhaustion and closed his eyes, putting his head down.

. . .his entire body ached. Misto didn’t think he’d ever been so tired and sore. His tail hurt. His claws hurt. Everlasting Cat he thought even his fur might hurt. It certainly felt like it, however unreasonable that was.

Misto twitched and tried not to cry out. Every tremor made him hurt worse, but he couldn’t stop now he’d started. He curled his tail more tightly around himself, tucked his chin in tight to his shoulder, and . . . braced himself.

His magic would come back, his body would recover, the pain would ease.

Eventually.

Misto just didn’t know how long it would take.

He settled himself for a long, miserable time of it, waiting, struggling to rest as best he could.

He wasn’t sure how long it had been - he certainly hadn’t gotten any sleep, but time itself felt . . . foggy - when he heard pawsteps approaching. Misto squeezed his eyes more tightly closed and didn’t move. He was hardly in easy sight, whoever it was would pass by without even noticing, he was sure, and he could go back to trying not to think.

“There you are.”

Misto winced. The Rum Tum Tugger. Of course.

“What are you doing in a flower pot?” Tugger questioned, and Misto sighed as he lifted his head, ears low, looking at the big tom all but filling the open space beyond the rim of the flowerpot. “This isn’t cushy enough to suit you at all.”

Misto sniffed, but he couldn’t exactly argue that point. “I’m trying to sleep, Tug.” Misto said, and didn’t realise until he had spoken how very shaky his voice was.

“In here?” Tugger scoffed. “Come on, if you’ve nowhere else to den down you can share with me today.”

Misto startled at the easy offer, then yowled softly in pain as his body twitched.

“It’s not that bad- Eh . . . Mistoffelees?” Tugger pushed his head a little inside. “You’re hurting! What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Misto said firmly. As firmly as he could. His tail tried to lash and he shifted his hips and winced. He was stiff, too.

“Not nothing.” Tugger said with a low growl. “Did you get hurt? And didn’t tell anyone? I can get-”

“No!” Misto protested, stiffening. “No I’m not hurt, Tugger, please. . .” Tugger just looked at him, eyes narrowed. Misto sighed miserably. “I’m just . . . exhausted. Magic isn’t- It isn’t so easy as you think. I used a lot.” He closed his eyes.

“You’ll be okay?” Tugger asked, with an upset little sound.

“I think so.” Misto said, too-honestly, offering more than he’d meant, and then flinched as he realised. “I’ve never. . . I should be okay.” he said, trying to sound more confident. “I just need to rest.”

Tugger rumbled quietly and Misto shifted a tiny bit, biting back a cry. He might be a bit bruised up from the henchcats’ attacks as well, and being thrown back by Macavity when he had interrupted the lightning that flashed across the junkyard. . .

“Mistoffelees?” Tugger called, and Misto opened his eyes again. “Handsome, I can’t get to you in there.”

Misto’s ears flicked, eyes widening. Tugger was wedged as far into the pot as he could reach, his bigger frame and broad shoulders not able to get inside. And. . .

“Can you come out?” Tugger asked, examining Misto, eyes running down his body.

“I told you, I’ll be fine.” Misto assured him.

Tugger grumbled, one ear flicking dismissively. “Not in here you’re not.” he said, and as casual as he sounded, Misto knew he wasn’t going to be argued down. Tugger was like that when he actually got something stuck in his head. “Come on, can you come out to me?”

Misto opened his mouth to protest, but he couldn’t bring himself to admit he wasn’t sure he could walk. And he didn’t have the energy to argue with Tugger in a mood.

Misto grumbled and hauled himself up, shaking so badly he could barely stay on his paws, and slunk out to Tugger as he drew backwards. He wobbled and fell, but rather than collapse in a sprawl on the battered car door beneath his paws, he fell against a warm, solid bulwark of fluff. Tugger nuzzled him gently, keeping him up with seeming ease.

Misto sagged against him and startled when Tugger picked him up. “Tugger!”

“Mm?” Tugger’s ear flicked and he glanced down at Misto.

“I’m not-!”

Tugger paused to resituate Misto and nuzzled his cheek as he wavered on his paws when set down. “Gonna walk?” he asked, not cruel but blunt, and Misto ducked his head, tail curling tight about himself with embarrassment as Tugger picked him up once more. He wasn’t one of the kittens, damn it.

Tugger carried him as easily as if he were, however, through the blessedly quiet junkyard. It looked like everyone else was already tucked up in their dens or back to their humans’ homes, resting after the long night of the Jellicle Ball.

He was only a little surprised to be carried along right up and into the base of a big old record player, filled with plush cushions and a riot of fabric, sparkling bits and bobs affixed to the walls in scattered constellations. Tugger let him down in the nest, gently licking across his ears and nudging him into the cosy bed, and Misto gave a soft purr as he relaxed.

Tugger stretched and yawned and slunk about the edges of the nest, pawing at it and rearranging little bits here and there, claws flashing. Misto watched him sleepily, beginning to doze off, his aching body bothering him rather less in the comfortable nest, though every shake that ran through him jolted him unpleasantly.

His breath caught and his eyes snapped open, his tail lashing, as Tugger - big and warm and broad, thick fur ruffling against Misto’s thin, sleek coat - settled down right against him. Tugger mewed gently, a soft, not quite tentative sound Misto never could have guessed could come from the big tom’s throat, then curled about Misto almost protectively.

He was. . .

He was warm and comfortable, and his body pressed against Misto’s just enough to ease some of the strain he felt. The heat of him soaked into Misto’s aching frame hardly seeming impeded by his thick fur, and it felt so good that Misto couldn’t even try to wonder at the depth of care - rather more than he’d have expected from Tugger, no matter how friendly they were - being offered to, even pressed upon him.

Tucked safe within the curve of Tugger’s body, hidden away in the cushy, quiet den, Misto finally drifted into a proper sleep under the gentle sensation of a tongue almost proprietarily running over his head and ears.