Calicos and Curtains
By Siadea Kanche

The vetrinarian spoke quietly to Mungojerrie's human. The calico watched the white-coated human suspiciously. "You know he was a very sick cat when you first got him---"

Mungojerrie's slender, aggressive human interrupted him. "Just because I'm nineteen doesn't mean I'm stupid. I've studied genetics, and I know that th' gene that gave him the tri-colored coat also gave him too many damn health problems to count." Her hands rested on top of the cat carrier, shaking a little as she asked the vital question. "Is he dying?"


Mungojerrie stared blankly at the wall outside the carrier, hearing nothing but that syllable that echoed through his mind. I'm dying.

Collectedly, the female asked another question. "How long is he going to live?"

"Probably not until Christmas."

Mungojerrie whimpered. I don't want to die...

"It may be more merciful to put him down..." the vet suggested.

"Is he in pain?" she asked, still detached.

"No, he's just very tired."

"In which case, he'll live as long as he can," the female said decisively.

She took him home again, but Mungojerrie was instantly out through the cat-door, even before he saw Rumpleteazer, his sister.

I can't let--- no---- can't let anyone know--- don't want pity--- yes I do--- no I don't--- Mungojerrie's burst of speed, powered by adrinaline and will, soon gave out. He slowed to a careful walk.

Mungojerrie walked, slowly and almost steadily, toward the last place he wanted to go on the entire wide earth. He leaned against the "door" of the "threshold," breathing heavily. I hate this... Can't even die quick, no, they wanted to try and make me live. I don't want to. I'd rather die happy than live miserable. And it's just--- just a few months my human was trying to save for me. I don't care about that time; I know what would happen. Rumple, the Jellicles, they'd all watch me die; die so slowly, and not be able to help me at all. The calico stared blankly at the entrance. So why am I here? I don't want him to see me die, either... Mungojerrie's tail feebly thrashed. He refused to even tell himself the reason he would come to the cat he hadn't seen in years, come to him to die when he wouldn't allow his own family to watch.

The calico didn't feel as if he could raise a paw to tap at the wood. So he called, instead. "Macav'ty?" His voice sounded strange to himself; weak, hollow, and dying. Well, isn't that the truth? Mungojerrie asked himself bitterly.

"Who---?" a deeply resonant bass began, annoyed, before the speaker appeared. "Mungojerrie? Who the hell did that to you?" A paw that could unsheath five deadly claws reached out and steadied the calico as he staggered away from the wall.

"It 'asn't any'an," the calico tom returned, his voice thick with Cockney. "It's joist moi own 'ody d'ciding oit 'idn't loike moi n'more."

"How---? Never mind. Get in here: it's cold even to me." The wild-furred Persian gently pulled the unresisting calico inside of the abandoned movie theatre where he lived. It held in the heat much better than most of the other buildings; that was why he lived there.

Even though Mungojerrie wanted to stop and rest instantly, Macavity led him to one of the amphitheatres, where an old velvet curtain had finally fallen against the wall.

"Humans heat the building next door on this side," the ginger tom explained. "It's the warmest place in here." Mungojerrie gratefully curled up in a fold of the curtain, shuddering at the unaccustomed warmth.

Macavity, clearly without even thinking, curled up around the calico enfolded in the velvet drape. "But... Why were---are--- you so sick? How did it happen? Three years ago, you were fine..."

"Oi n'ver was foine. Oi 'ust... didn' tell any'an Oi 'asn't foine. An' Oi just 'at worse a few days aga."

"Why, though?" the ginger tom asked.

"It's just 'ow Oi am. Loike... loike..." Mungojerrie thought for a few moments. "Loike just 'ow yoir fur's coilored. Just loike that. Oi 'eard th' vet soiy 'at 'as why oit 'appened in th' first place." The calico seemed to change the subject. "'Ave you 'ver seen any 'ther toms 'at are coilica?"

"Calicos... Oh no..." The ginger cat's mind made a connection. "Some human wrote that calico toms--- Oh, Heavyside. He wrote that calico toms aren't healthy: that they--- die quicker than other toms--- But--- you always acted like you were fine---"

Mungojerrie huddled further into the velvet, warmth and concern by a friend loosening his tongue more than he would have wanted otherwise. "Oi wasn't. Oi hurt, Maccy... Oit hurt when Oi had ta leave Teazah an' th' Jellicles... Oit hurt when th' vet soid Oi was gonna doie... Oi a'roidy knew oit, but oit hurt!" he sobbed. He collapsed into the drape. "Oi hurt..." Mungojerrie whimpered softly.

Macavity rubbed his chin against Mungojerrie's ears. "Shh... I know it hurt..." he murmered. "I'm sorry..."

Tentatively, the dying calico rubbed his cheek against the ginger tom's face, even daring to begin to wash it. He instantly drew back. "Oi--- Oi 'iddn't 'ean ta---" he stuttered, almost terrified for reasons he knew he couldn't identify even if he'd tried to.

Macavity felt memories flung back into his face; memories of himself and Mungojerrie, seemingly healthy, doing all sorts of crazy stunts and acrobatics, almost like--- almost like a young couple playfully courting. No--- he thought first. But right after that, Yes... I was so blind... I should have known... No day but today... Why should I even try to deny something we both want so badly? He allowed a soft rumbling purr to escape his chest. "Yes, you did."

Flippantly, even with tear-tracks still streaking his face, Mungojerrie retorted, "Oi 'annot toill a loie."

Much later, Mungojerrie reflected that that solitary month, just that one, had been the high point of his entire life. He'd even, against every prediction of the vet, gotten better. Better enough to convince Macavity that his earlier ill health wasn't a constant thing; that it had just been a fluke.

The two of them had pulled off the same insane hijinks that left the Secret Service and Scotland Yard baffled; switching documents from one place to another, making sure to leave shreds of paper on the staircases that they hadn't used, shredding and replacing the Foriegn Office's files, all the things that had given Mungojerrie the trickster reputation and Macavity the criminal one. This time around, though, the both of them laughed together over their stunts, and the confusion that had arisen from them.

Not to mention little pranks pulled on the Jellicles. They weren't as mean-hearted as Macavity's older pranks, just little things to show the Jellicles that there were two trickster cats in the area. (The Rum Tum Tugger hadn't even noticed that his collar was gone until it fell at his feet from midair a day later.)

But lately, Mungojerrie'd gotten worse again. Much worse, and this time... this time he knew that there wasn't a miracle to save him. Macavity'd noticed the calico lagging instantly, even though Mungojerrie had attempted to hide it. But nothing seemed to stop the slow encroaching of death, much as the two of them had tried.

Now that it was so close, Mungojerrie didn't fear death. He'd had his final wish, and there wasn't much of anything else that he'd ever really wanted. The dying calico worried for Macavity, though. He's already lost me once, and I don't know what he'll do when he loses me again. Mungojerrie knew that, for all his intelligence, Macavity's emotions sometimes overrode his brain. He'd seen it happen more than a few times, over incidents infintely more trivial that this.

Mungojerrie snuggled closer to the longhaired cat, feeling a wave of tiredness overwhelm him. So tired...

Macavity woke up with the calico's movement. "'Jerrie...?" he asked, blinking away sleep from his eyes. Mungojerrie merely slit an eye open. "Oi'm toired... So toired..." he slurred.

Macavity shook him. "Don't go to sleep," he begged. "You'll die if you go to sleep!"

Mungojerrie curled up closer to Macavity. "Oi'm goin' ta doie soon oiny'ay... Thois's a' good 'ay ta goi ois oiny..."

Macavity accepted the inevitable and cradled the dying calico against him. He felt each slowing breath as if it were his own. "I... I love you, Mungojerrie..."

The calico's lips curved into a weak smile. "Oi 'uve ya, too, Macav'ty..." he whispered with his last breath.

Macavity stared at the cooling body of his lover, unable to think or react for a very long time.

A fragmented thought penetrated his mind. Should... take... him back... to his family... The Jellicles don't know he's dead... The ginger cat carefully stood, lifting the body gently.

Macavity slowly, carefully walked to the Junkyard, focused on nothing but the faint smile still on Mungojerrie's face. No one bothered him. Everyone recognized the scent of death, and most also recognized the Hidden Paw's mate.

The part of Macavity's mind that remained functioning felt for certain the Jellicles would blame him, somehow, for Mungojerrie's death. Possibly they'd even kill him. The ginger tom couldn't much care.

But when he entered the Junkyard with his burden, Macavity was unchallenged. Munkustrap made as if to step forward, but Rumpleteazer's hand shot out and grabbed his arm, and the tabby ceased.

Mistofflees and a few others had already abandoned the now-silent Junkyard. Tantomile and Coricopat clutched each other's arms as if their lives depended on it, Cassandra turned away, and Jemima looked on, eyes wide and slowly filling with tears. Rumpleteazer had dropped Munkustrap's arm and clung to Alonzo. Her muffled sobs were the only sound in the Junkyard.

Macavity took no notice of any of them. He walked, slowly, toward the tire. He felt as if his body were made of lead and weighed a hundred pounds. I always thought I'd see you again... he thought to Mungojerrie's body. And... I will. Reverently, Macavity laid his mate's corpse onto the tire. Bending over the body, he placed a careful kiss on the smiling lips, and closed the calico's eyes, for the last time.

He turned away, spinning slowly to face each Jellicle that would look him in the eyes.

Coricopat's soft voice broke the silence as he broke away from his sister and reached out a hand. "Don't---" he began, but Macavity's level stare silenced him.

"Why not?" he asked reasonably. "Have I got anything else to live for?"

The streaked tom fell back, breaking eye contact. "No," he replied softly. "You don't, do you?"

Macavity didn't reply, continuing to stare at each Jellicle in turn. Jemima broke away from the huddled group as well, but she fled past the ginger cat, sobbing. Rumpleteazer's eyes were too full of tears for her to focus on him, and the twins' eyes were full of sorrow and the beginnings of acceptance. Munkustrap's eyes betrayed nothing, and Alonzo was bent over Rumpleteazer.

Still too slowly, Macavity climbed to the same place that held the jumper cables. He kicked away the gloves that had protected him from electrocution the last time he had used them.

Tantomile and Coricopat turned away. Rumpleteazer whispered something unintelligable, and buried her face in Alonzo's shoulder.

I'll be seeing you soon, 'Jerrie... Macavity thought, and activated the jumper cables.

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