Jexote whistled a tune as he strolled down the street. Ducking behind humans' feet, and dodging out of the way of bicycles with a casual ease, it was obvious that the black and white tom was both agile and experienced at this. He ceased his meowing whistle as he reached his destination -- a long, rarely used alley with garbage cans galore.
"A stray's dream," he murmured to himself, smiling, as he leapt to the top of one can and began digging around in the trash. He soon found an empty tuna can that someone had thrown away, and began licking it. Two fish bones and another can later, the young tuxedo decided to take a short nap....
"Mistoffelees? What in Bast's name are you doing here?" said a surprised voice. Jexote yawned, licking his whiskers, and opened his eyes. Standing over him were four cats - kittens, actually, and all female. The speaker was the tallest, with pure white fur and big blue eyes. "Huh?" said Jexote intelligently.
The smallest kitten, a cute calico with wild red-brown fur, shook her head, laughing. "That's a nice thing to ask, Vic! You sound like you don't want him here." She turned to Jex. "But what are you doing here? We thought you'd be gone until Tuesday!" Jexote sat up, confused. "What in the name of the Seventh are you talking about?"
Now it was the kittens' turn to look confused, and they did so - cutely. The third kitten, an amber-eyed grey furred little thing, scratched her ear. "Misto? Why are you out here in the alley, and not in the 'Yard?" Jexote shook his head. "I think you've got me mixed up with someone else, my name's not Misto or Mistoffelees, it's Jexote, and I don't think I've ever met you before. I just came here to get some food, and now I'll be going, thanks...."
"Going where? And how come we've never met you?" the white one asked. Jexote noticed that the fourth kitten, a brown-furred, amber-eyed cat, stayed silent, but she was watching him with a curious air. "Met me? I just came to this city, that could be why." The grey-furred cat clapped her paws, delighted. "Oh, goody! You must come and be introduced to Munkustrap, and Old Deutereonomy!"
"Old Deuter-which?" Jexote asked. He was starting to be annoyed - these kittens obviously had no idea that he was terribly confused, knew no one in this city, and just wanted to go back to sleep. All the kittens except for the silent one looked scandalised. "You mean to say you've never even heard of Old Deuteronomy? The Jellicle Leader?" "Oh! Are you Jellicles then?" Now they looked horrified. "What else would we be?"
A few explanations later, Jexote found himself introduced to Old Deuteronomy (an elderly, majestic grey-brown tom), Munkustrap (a stern silver tabby) and the rest of the Jellicles of the Junkyard. He now knew the names of the four kittens, too - the white one was Victoria, the calico was Jemima, the grey kitten was Etcetera ("What a name!" he thought) and the silent cat was called Electra.
Jex decided he liked Electra best - she didn't plague him with questions, as nearly all the other cats did. They said that he reminded them of their friend Mistoffelees, a magical black and white tom, and they wanted to know if he could do magic too. Jexote was forced to say "No, not at all!" at least a hundred times before he was allowed to lie down in a nest of trash and just go... to... sleep....
"MACAVITY!!!!!" a scream sounded through the Junkyard, waking each and every cat there. Chaos and confusion reigned for a few minutes, and Jexote found himself as scared and confused as the rest of them. From his hidden nest, he could see the Jellicles fighting what looked to be -- rats? "Since when do rodents fight with felines?" he murmured, and clambered out, preparing to help in the battle. Suddenl;y, a tall ginger tom with extrodinairily long fur appeared right in front of Jexote, who yelped in shock. The ginger tom smiled. "Going somewhere, Misto?"
Jexote groaned. Not again! This Misto seemed to have a lot of friends - and enemies. "My name is Jexote, not Misto," he explained patiently. "And who are you?" The ginger tom looked annoyed. "Honestly, Misto, do you really expect me to believe that silly story? Jexote indeed."
He snorted, then snapped his claws. Three rats came up beside him out of the whirlwind battle. "Garash! Delith! Canch! Tie this tom up, and bring him back to the lair. Keep him there until I return." Jexote hardly had time to register what he was hearing before the rat addressed as Delith hit him on the head with something heavy, and Jexote blacked out.
"He said something about magic..." "D'you think this cat will be able to get what the boss wants?" "I hope so... the Hidden Paw's getting grouchy lately...." "Look, he's waking up!" Jexote groaned. He had a killer of a headache - and his stomach growled. Blinking his eyes against the light shining at him, he tried to make out the shapes standing before him. They seemed to be feline... "Who are you?" he croaked, amazed by the sound of his voice.
One of the shapes came closer - and pulled away the torch that was directly in front of Jexote's eyes, blinding him. "Thanks," Jex said, coughing. "Now, who are you - and where am I?" The cat who had taken away the torch stared at him. He was a burly brown tabby with a scar running down his face and a bite taken out of his left ear. "We are the Hidden Paw's guards," the tabby said in a low, growling voice. "The Hidden Paw?" Jex asked.
"Macavity," the tom explained. "The ginger cat who led the raid at your home, Mistoffelees." The last word was spat at him, and Jex sighed. "For the millionth time, I am not --" "Mistoffelees," said a silky voice from the doorway. "So you've awakened." The ginger tom - Macavity, the Hidden Paw - slid into the dim room, looking as though he were floating a few inches off the ground. "I have something to ask you to do for me...."
Jexote sat up. "If it has anything to do with raiding the Junkyard -- forget it," he growled. Macavity shook his head, smiling slyly. "No no, you mistake me. Not raiding... not raiding exactly...." Jexote narrowed his eyes. He was liking this cat less and less. Macavity continued. "All I want you to do for me is use your magic to get Old Deuteronomy."
"I haven't got any magic! I told you that! And even if I did, I wouldn't use it to help you! Old Deuteronomy is a nice old tom, and the Jellicles are nice too!" Jexote spat scornfully at Macavity's feet. "I doubt you would help your own mother. But they helped me, and they didn't need to!"
Macavity raised his eyebrow. "No magic, hmm? I thought you would have changed your mind by now...." He turned to the burly tom. "Turdon, put him in one of the high-security cells. Two guards on him always. And no food or water until he decides to admit that he is Mistoffelees." Macavity left as suddenly as he had come in.
Jexote was not only angry now, but very hungry and thirsty, and the headache hadn't left yet. It had now been two days, with no light, no food, no water, and the only company was the pair of guards stationed outside his cell. They certaintly didn't have very good conversational skills.
The only other cat he had even seen since his arrival at this dark, filthy place -- which he could now tell was an abandoned human warehouse -- was Macavity himself, who came a few times a day to eat his meal right outside Jexote's door and try to persuade him to admit to being Mistoffelees. "I've never even met this cat, and I already hate his very name," Jex muttered, thinking about the magical tom that everyone thought he was. He sighed, and lay back on the slimy, cold stones, preparing himself for another starving, restless night....
"Fourth day," Jexote mumbled to himself, not even bothering to open his eyes. He could tell it was day because of the clanking of the keys on the guards' belts as they changed shifts. Jex hadn't slept at all that night, and his stomach had given up grumbling. Pawsteps sounded on the dank hallway, heading toward Jex's cell. Jexote knew it would be Macavity, come with his breakfast to taunt and torture Jex.... "But I can't give in, I can't! Literally, anyway, since I don't have magic."
"Psst! Jex!" Jexote raised his eyebrow, still lying on the ground, eyes still closed. "That sounds an awful lot like Victoria," he murmured. "Jexote!" the voice said again. Jexote sat bolt upright, squinting his eyes to see very nearly the same scene as he had seen that first time he'd ever met a Jellicle - Victoria, Electra, and Jemima were standing in front of the door to his cell, Jemima holding a torch, Victoria a ring of keys, and Electra a heavy looking bag of sand. At their feet lay a pair of knocked-out cats....
Victoria laughed. "We got 'em good!" she crowed. "At least, Lecti did." The white kitten shoved a large silver key into the lock, and opened the door. "C'mon!" Jexote staggered to his feet, and stumbled out the door. "How -- wha?" Jemima was grinning from ear to ear, Victoria was still giggling, and Electra looked rather pleased herself.
"Lectra knocked out those stupid toms from up there," Jemima said, pointing to the rafters, which had easily enough room for a small kitten to crawl round in. "Etcy's creating a diversion of sorts. Then Vicky and I came in, and Vic got the keys. Anyway, we haven't got much time - come on!"
Victoria and Jemima turned to go - Jexote stumbled, and Electra caught him, but she dropped the torch in a puddle of slimy, algae-ridden water. The flame sputtered, and went out. In the darkness, Electra's quiet voice -- the first Jex had heard of it -- said "Oops.""Oops is quite right, my friends," said the silky voice that Jexote knew quite well to be -- "Macavity," he growled.
A light flared. Macavity, holding a torch, stood in front of the kittens' route of escape, blocking the hallway with a pack of ten or so rats. Trudon, the burly brown tom, flanked him. Etcetera hung over his shoulder, limp and still. "Cettie!" Victoria gasped, and she stepped forward -- Electra grabbed her tail, and pulled her back. Macavity smiled cruelly. "Indeed," he said.
Jexote wasted no time in thinking. He turned and ran backwards, yelling as loud as his parched throat could manage "Follow me!" Victoria, Electra, and Jemima did just that. Macavity let out a snarl, and snapped out "After them!" but it was pretty hard for ten rats and two large toms to get through a narrow, slimy, and very dark corridor. Trudon managed to get through, still holding Etcetera as though he had forgotten the grey kitten was there.
Trudon chased after the Jellicles and Jexote, Macavity close behind, and the rats after him. Electra suddenly stopped running, and ducked into a shadow. Jexote followed her, but Victoria and Jemima kept running forward. Trudon dropped Etcetera, and he, Macavity, and the rats chased after the white and calico kittens.
Jexote glanced curiously at his companion, who was gasping heavily. "Old... kitten trick," she panted. "If an adult is chasing you... to give a bath..." Jexote had to grin, despite the peril of their situation. "It's a good trick. Now what?" Electra gave a furtive glance down the hallway, then reached out and snatched Etcetera from the ground where she had fallen.
With a few slaps across the face, the kitten soon regained consciousness with a moan. "Etcy! Can you run?" Cettie blinked. "Run? I guess... I can always run." "Then run!" Electra, Etcetera, and Jexote dashed after the crowd of rats and felines....
It didn't take long for the chase to lead them towards the Junkyard. Here Electra paused again, and Jexote was a bit annoyed that they had secretive smiles on their faces. "Pipe?" Etcy asked. Electra nodded. Cettie slid down a sewage pipe that Jexote hadn't noticed, and Electra grabbed his paw. "This way!" she called, pulling him after her. He had no choice but to follow.
They were running through a deserted alley, much like the one where the kittens and Jexote had first met, but much less amiable, especially late at night -- it seemed they had been running all day, and Jexote certaintly felt it. He was hungry, thirsty, exhausted, and now his head was hurting again. But Electra didn't seem to be tiring - so Jexote continued after her.
They soon reached a place where they were in front of the crowd of creatures. Victoria and Jemima were still in front, running ragged. As Jexote and Electra watched, catching their breath, Jemima stumbled, and went down. A few rats stopped and grabbed her....
"We have to do something!" Etcetera's voice cried behind them. Before Jexote could ask how she got there, she had dashed straight into the fray, and was soon beating a rat's head against the ground and having her tail bitten. Electra looked annoyed and frightened for her friends -- "Oh, no, no...." She moaned, and she, too, jumped out and took part in the battle.
"Well I can hardly just sit here," Jexote muttered, and joined in. He managed to knock out a couple of cats, when suddenly -- a scream ripped through the air, and Jexote was astonished to see a group of burly toms fighting with them! He recognized one as the silver tabby called Munkustrap.... "The Jellicles have arrived," smiled Jemima, who turned up on his left side. Jexote looked around wildly. "Where's Electra?" he asked.
Victoria, who seemed to have a habit of turning up suddenly, gave Jexote a sorrowful look and stepped aside from the limp body she'd been carrying....
Electra was a mess, with blood soaking every inch of her dark fur, and claw-marks slashed across her small form -- but she was still alive, as evidenced by the low moan she gave as Victoria lowered her to the ground. Jexote felt a strange rage boiling within him.... "Those murdering bastards," he muttered. Victoria gaped. "Jexote?" she said in a small voice. "What's happening to your paws?" Jexote looked down. Across his white paws black lightning glittered....
"Magic!" Jemima whispered in nothing short of awe. Jexote didn't hear her. All he knew was that here was a chance to avenge Electra.....
Turning towards the fight, he raised his paws high over his head, and brought them down again, throwing the crackling lightning among the battlers. "An electric revenge for Electra," he whispered as the food and water deprivation of the past few days caught up with him, and he fainted.
"He did something to do with magic..." "It was amazing, and no Jellicles were hurt by it!" "Electra's hurt though! Killed." "Look, he's waking up!" For a moment, Jexote thought he was back in Macavity's warehouse, but as he squinted at the morning sun, he realized he was back at the Jellicle Junkyard, and their was an orange tabby queen bending over him, looking worried. "Electra?" he gasped. The queen sighed, and shook her head sadly, tears evident in her eyes.
Jexote sat watching from a high perch as Electra's body was laid on the huge old tire, and as Old Deuteronomy, in a tired, sad voice, recited the words customary to the funereal ceremony. The tire rose, seemingly by magic, into the air, into a low cloud, and when it came back down, Electra was gone. Jexote closed his eyes. He didn't want to see....
"So you're the cat who everyone thinks is me," said a rather amused voice behind him. Jexote opened his eyes and turned around to see an exact duplicate of himself. "You're Mistoffelees." It was a statement more than a question. The other cat nodded. "And you are Jexote."
Mistoffelees sat down beside Jexote. "You're the one who thought he had no magic.... and then turned out to, saving the lives of half our Jellicles." "Not Electra's life, though." Jexote sounded bitter even to himself, and he winced, but he was in no mood to be reminded of failing to save Electra. Mistoffelees bowed his head. "Not Electra," he agreed.
He was silent for a moment, then spoke: "Did you know that all tuxedos have magic? It's called Black and White Magic." He grinned. "Fitting, no?" Jexote refused to answer. Mistoffelees went on. "I've been talking with Old Deuteronomy, and we both feel it'd be better to have two magical cats in the tribe...." He cast a quick glance to Jexote. "In case something like my humans going on vacation happens again. Also, you should really be trained."
"What are you saying?" Jexote asked. "Would you care to be my apprentice?" Jexote's eyes gleamed. "And learn magic that can save the lives of injured cats so they won't die?" Mistoffelees nodded. Jexote stood up. "You got it."
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