Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: The Aristocats
Character/Pairing: Thomas/Duchess, Madame
Challenge/Prompt: tamingthemuse #553: Pettifogger
Word Count: 1,509
Date Written: 3 March 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Disney, not the author, and are used without permission.
"What is it, Thomas?" Duchess queries softly, looking at her mate through steadfast, baby blue eyes.
"I . . . " He shakes his head. "I don't get it," he admits, nodding to her human. "Madame's a smart dame. How on Earth did she ever get suckered in by a pettifogger like Edgar?"
Duchess follows his gaze to her oldest and dearest friend. "She's lonely, Thomas," she says softly, remembering how she felt before he entered her life. "She's only ever had the kittens and myself for company."
"A woman like that ought to have men calling from around the block."
"She used to, when I was real little, just a kitten myself. But every one of them eventually broke her heart. She gave up trying to find what we have."
"What about that lawyer friend of hers?"
"Georges?" Duchess' long, fluffy white swishes. "Oh, she'd never look at him that way. They're just friends."
"Friends," Thomas says, suggestively waggling the ginger fur above his green eyes, "can always grow into something more."
"Yes, but not with Georges. She knows him too well to ever let him close."
"What does that mean?" Thomas asks. He sits down and curls his tail around his rear haunches, still watching Madame but not with an expression that's almost a frown. He never realized the old girl was so lonely.
"He's out with a new and younger woman every night, or so I've heard her lament."
"Maybe he just hasn't found the right one. You know, I was a bachelor for the longest time. I still would be if you and the kittens hadn't come along."
"Purrhaps," Duchess replies, her soft breath hovering near a purr. "I admit I had quite well given up myself."
"And you thought I was a cad -- "
"Were you not?"
Thomas holds a paw up to the white fur on his chest, but before he can act out any further, he sees the way Duchess is watching him knowingly and relents. "Yes. Yeah, I was. Very much so. But you were worth changing my ways for. There's bound to be a guy out there somewhere who thinks the same of your Madame."
"I'm afraid not. They came and went far too often when I was young, sometimes waltzing out of our lives two or three during a week."
Thomas' jaw goes slack at that fact. His eyes widen a little as they return to Madame's figure. The old woman still makes a pretty picture, but it's hard to imagine her having so many suitors in a single week.
"You know, sometimes it's the female who's not cut out for the long relationships."
"Sometimes," Duchess acknowledges, "but I doubt that's the case with Madame." She sighs softly. "She's just so lonely. I wish I could do something to cheer her, something that would keep her from feeling quite so lonely."
"Of course you can," Thomas returns.
Duchess blinks at him in surprise. "What?" she questions.
"Just watch." Thomas sashays from around the far corner of the table where they've been watching Madame and approaches her on cool, calm feet. He prowls around her ankles, circling her a few times before leaning in closer and rubbing himself against the old girl's stockinged feet. He pushes against her thin ankles, purring loudly, until he's rewarded with gentle laughter and a bright, wide smile. He looks back at Duchess and winks just before Madame picks him up.
"Oh, you are a cad, aren't you?" she chuckles, scratching the spot underneath his chin that always itches. She carries him over to the piano and lets him jump down from her arms onto the smooth, black surface. Her wrinkled hands don't feel old or leathery at all as they stroke him in long pets over his head and down his arching back. His purr grows in volume and depth. He bats his head against her palms, bringing more laughter and strokes.
"What's wrong?" Madame puzzles over him. "Did you think I needed cheering?" Madame glances over at where Duchess is only now padding up to them and winks. "You can't sneak up an old woman. I know you two have been watching me. Whatever for?" She clucks her tongue at herself. "As though you can answer me in my language. Heaven knows I've spent years enough with you Aristocats to know that, with all the things you do learn, you'll never be able to pronounce English."
She frowns down at him. "If only I could learn Catinese!" She throws her regal head back and laughs as though she's made a joke. Thomas looks down at Duchess and gives her the feline equivalent of a shrug, rolling his muscular shoulders while Madame is not looking.
Duchess leaps on to the piano next to Thomas and gently pushes her furry head against Madame's other hand. "Ah, yes, you two, my dear girl." Madame beams at them and strokes them both in unison. "I know you've been watching me. What? Are you afraid the old woman's lonely? Never! Not with you cheerful lot in my life!"
The kittens suddenly race through the parlor, Berlioz and Toulouse close on Marie's little, white tail. "KITTENS!" Duchess mewls out at them. She springs elegantly from the top of the piano and chases after them, intent on reminding them of their manners.
Madame watches them go as Thomas watches the sight in her fading, old eyes turn wistful. "I'm not lonely," she tells him, "no matter what she might have told you." She laughs again, her lips lifting into another grin. "Don't think I don't know you two talk about me, as all you felines talk about all us humans! But, really, you needn't worry about me."
Thomas peers closer into her eyes as she continues rubbing his fur. "Truly, you need not. I'm not at all lonely. Our little family there," she tells him, indicating Duchess and the three kittens she's now bathing, "are all the accompaniment I need, but I did used to wonder what would become of them after I pass. You see, I may not be lonely, but I also do not wish to leave them lonely. That is the true reason why I succumbed to that cad, Edgar's, charm. But now that you're here, I need not worry about them, had I?" she asks, briskly and fondly scratching his head until he purrs.
"I have Georges to make certain my will is fulfilled and you to make certain their lives are full." She leans down and kisses Thomas' forehead, her breath making his ears twitch. She smiles into his eyes as though they're sharing a secret. "I know you'll do a fantastic job of keeping them happy and safe after I'm gone, and that's all I can ever really ask for. Thank you, Thomas," she says and resumes petting him as Duchess prepares her kittens for their morning practice.
Thomas purrs, leaning into her hand's embrace. His eyes meet hers again. They stare into each other's gaze for a long time. Then he winks as though to tell her not to worry and assure her that he does indeed have this, this being watching over their family for the rest of his life and, as she said, making certain they're safe and happy. Nothing could make him happier himself than spending the rest of his days making certain Duchess and their kittens are happy, loved, and safe, although he does hope Madame will not be leaving them any time soon.
He'll miss the old girl when she goes to wherever the souls of humans go when their bodies become cold and stiff. He wonders, not for the first time, if it's the same place cats go to that great Milk Saucer in the Sky, but surely he'll see her again somewhere up there. Surely they'll all be together again somewhere when they've outlived the usefulness of their bodies, not, he assures himself, watching the rest of their family, that that time is coming any time soon. For just a second, he feels tiredness in the fingers stroking his fur. Quickly, he rubs against them, drawing Madame's mind back away from the inevitable.
He looks up at her and winks again, wishing that he could tell her in her own language that she's right. She has no need to worry for he will always take care of their family. Duchess and their kittens will never again be lonely while he still lives, and neither, he vows, bumping his head harder against her palm, will this elegant, old lady who's as much a mother to his beloved Duchess as any mother can be to a child. Madame throws her head back and laughs, the beautiful sound resonating like music throughout the room.
"Oh, you are a cad, aren't you?" she teases. Thomas denies nothing. He only purrs, looks over at Duchess, and winks again. He'll keep his ladies, and his sons too, happy for as long as they're in his life, and that, in turn, will keep him happy for the rest of his own days.