Are people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them? Are they molded by circumstance, or an unexpected twist of fate? What makes someone wicked? And what, more importantly, makes them good?
Quaxo fidgeted restlessly with the cuff of his sleeve. He kept his head down as he strode straight for the center of the Shiz commons, trying not to draw any unwanted attention to himself while doing so.
As he'd been reminded several times, he was only here because of Victoria. His sister would need him by her side, as her dance partner, and Quaxo was determined to blend into her shadow. He was determined not to make a spectacle of himself during his time here at the famed school.
His father was speaking with said sister some ways behind him, but Quaxo wasn't really listening. He was eager to arrive and get the initial splash of negative attention over with.
For a moment he'd thought he might have gotten through the crowd without it, however unlikely or impossible that might have seemed, but just as quickly he realized his fellow students had fallen into a hushed silence upon his abrupt arrival.
Other cats had begun to arrive, like him, and had already seemed to form little packs with one another. Pairing off into friend groups, and sorting into traditional social circles.
The popular cats, the loners, the troublemakers… all of whom were now staring at him with various shades of confusion, revulsion, and abject curiosity.
Quaxo would've thought he'd be used to the gaping by now, but that was far from the case.
A hush had fallen over the modest crowd of arriving students, and Quaxo's neck burned under the weight of their stares.
You could hear the sound of a pin drop… until his sister caught up, at any rate.
"What? What are you all looking at?"
Clothed in a white dress that fell to her knees, and a pink vest to complete the look, his sister Victoria was a vision in the two colors. The dress simultaneously contrasted with her brothers black blazer and trousers, and set her apart from the crowd. All the while blending near perfectly with her creamy white fur.
She was soft, seemingly meek at first glance, but make no mistake… his little sister was a firecracker.
Quaxo liked to think she balanced him out in that regard. Under most circumstances he was much more eager to blend into the background than cause a scene.
Unfortunately for the black and white tuxedo cat, causing a scene was just about all he was ever able to do whether he wanted to or not.
"Vic…" he started as he reached to grab hold of his sister's hand in an effort to hold her back as their father caught up as well.
There'd be enough of a fuss already without his sister's volatile nature causing an even bigger one.
Their father glared at him, however, and Quaxo shrank back.
"Does he have something in his teeth?" His sister continued, completely undeterred. She stepped toward a group of students as if she meant to attack them. The group scattered, and Quaxo couldn't blame them. His sister may be small, but she could be terrifying if provoked.
It was their father's turn to intervene now. He grabbed hold of Victoria's arm, trying to win over the crowd with an equally winning smile in a vain attempt to excuse his daughters actions.
Victoria was fiercely protective of her brother, especially during occasions such as these. Had been ever since she'd been old enough to understand why she should be in the first place.
It was her who'd insisted Quaxo be enrolled along with her, after all. Victoria loved her brother with everything she had. Even in spite of what he was.
"You'd think his fur was green with the way you're all carrying on," she continued, and another group dispersed. Covering their mouths and giggling, they passed by Quaxo close enough that he flinched as one or two of them hit his shoulders with their own.
Some unlucky queen spoke out among the rest, and by the horror in her eyes and the way she tried to cover her mouth, as if asking herself to stay quiet, Quaxo knew what she was going to say before a sound left her mouth. "He… he looks like Mistoffelees!"
The air in the commons went dead for a moment.
Mistoffelees. That name name hung over Quaxo like a hawk ready to strike. The name of a long ago Wizard, one that Quaxo bore a striking resemblance to.
This is how it always went. First the realization, and next would come the rumors. No doubt the other cats were already wondering, holding Quaxo against the atrocities attributed to the name Mistoffelees. Was Quaxo capable of committing them too? Then they'd start asking the real questions.
Were Quaxo and Mistoffelees… one and the same? Had a cat as vile as the infamous Mr. Mistoffelees been given a chance to ascend to the Heaviside layer, and come back anew?
Those were the questions that sent Quaxo's tail-tip twitching, for he almost certainly knew the answer.
How had such a thing happened? Had the current Wizard, the great Macavity, made a mistake all those years ago? When he vanquished the great evil of his former friend, Mistoffelees, had he somehow twisted fate in such a way that he came back? Or had Mr. Mistoffelees been more powerful than anyone had ever realized?
That, Quaxo didn't know. Nor, he thought, did any other cat. Though, they didn't seem to need to know why; enough puzzle pieces had already clicked. They knew who he was, and hated it.
Victoria, it seemed, wouldn't stand for that. She narrowed her eyes, and started lunging toward the queen who had drummed up this mess, and it took their father to hold her back.
"Darling, not on your first day," their father spoke in a hushed whisper. Seemingly hoping to distract Victoria, he reached into his bag to procure the present he'd been carrying around since they'd arrived in the city.
Mercifully it worked, though by this point the crowd had thinned and the novelty of Quaxo's face had subsided. That, and of course the fact that his sister was easily distracted by her newly gifted pair of shoes.
Ballet shoes, to be exact, because if there was anything in this world Victoria loved more than anything else, it was dancing. That was why they were here, after all.
For as long as Quaxo could remember he'd been his sister's partner for almost everything. Dancing had just been the natural extension of that. They knew each other better than anyone else, which was why Quaxo was here with her at Shiz. A school known for its prestigious dance academy.
Smiling a little, despite the eyes he could still feel burning a hole through his dark, near black hand-me-down clothes, he congratulated his sister on her new acquisition. Fawning with her over the perfectly pristine pair of white shoes, and ignoring the weight of his own thrice patched up pair tucked safely in the bag at his hip.
"Now Quaxo listen to me," his father was saying. He used that tone of voice he always used when talking to his eldest child. The one that was somehow both condescending and resigned. It was as if he'd already decided Quaxo was a disappointment and was simply saving himself the trouble of being disappointed further. "You're to stay out of trouble, not draw attention to yourself, and-"
"Look after Victoria, I know," Quaxo finished the instructions he knew almost by heart. After all, he'd been told a variation of them almost all his life.
His father pursed his lips, but didn't scold Quaxo on his interruption. Instead he turned to Victoria, his youngest and most precious child, and began a long and rather sappy farewell speech.
Quaxo knew that Victoria, despite her desire to stick up for her older brother in most instances, truly did cherish the spotlight of their fathers affection. She craved it, and really Quaxo couldn't blame her.
He'd crave it too, if he'd ever gotten a taste.
Letting his mind and gaze wander, Quaxo found himself taking in the courtyard of the school with somewhat curious eyes.
Most of the other cats had already arrived, it seemed, milling about the concrete walkways and freshly cut patches of grass. Most had said goodbye to their parents, or were old enough to have arrived alone in the first place.
He and Victoria were old enough to be on their own as well, but there had been no way their father would have let Victoria go without saying goodbye in person. And, equally as important, he was there to ensure that Quaxo didn't cause too much of a scene.
Continuing to look around, Quaxo began to notice just how tall everyone around him was. Which had his ears pressing flat against his head as nerves got the better of him.
He would have thought that years of being the shortest tom in the room would have prepared him for this, but even some of the queens seemed to tower over him at a distance.
It was intimidating, and made Quaxo inordinately grateful that his sister was somehow even smaller than he was, though admittedly not by much.
There'd be no worry he'd be assigned a dance partner he didn't know if he was far too short to be a convincing partner for anyone but Victoria, so that at least brought some relief.
He didn't know what he'd do without his sister.
As his eyes continued to wander, they caught those of a remaining group of cats by the door that led to the dormitories.
They were part of the crowd that had noticed him earlier, and seemed to be the only ones paying him any attention now after the hype had died down.
Five pairs of eyes were less than what felt like hundreds before, but as far as Quaxo was concerned it was still five pairs too many.
Two queens, one red and one yellow, giggled and whispered to one another, all the while casting glances Quaxo's way. Two of the toms were a little more subtle about it, but the gray tabby and the black and white bicolor cat cast him uneasy glances and seemed to be discussing him amongst themselves nonetheless.
But the fifth cat? The fifth cat stared at him with an expression Quaxo couldn't place. Didn't want to place, considering how it made his skin crawl under the intensity of it.
The tom was clearly their ringleader, given how he sat slightly higher than the others on the set of stairs leading up into the main dormitory. That, and simply the way he carried himself.
His mane was wild, and yet at the same time seemed meticulously groomed even from this distance. Everything about him from the way he sat, to the way he smiled at something the red queen said screamed that he was far more confident than Quaxo could ever be. That he was so far above the tuxedo cat in the proverbial food chain that Quaxo may as well just roll over and play dead now.
Humiliatingly enough, the cat even seemed at least a year or two younger than Quaxo. Closer in age to Victoria, at the very least.
His neck burned, and he could only hope his hackles were smooth by the time their father let them go with a final hug to his daughter.
Following Victoria, Quaxo was surprised his tail wasn't between his legs as they passed by the group of cats on their way inside. All the while he could still feel the tom's gaze lingering on him, and Quaxo could only hope he never saw the maine coon again.
Walking inside, he was relieved to find the halls mostly devoid of other cats. It was just him and his sister for now, and with a slight bounce to his step Quaxo quickly followed behind her down the narrow hall, his eyes scanning the numbers on the doors for their own.
As they walked, his sister's bag was jostled by a passing student. All seemed fine, until Quaxo spotted his sister's ivory water bottle teetering precariously on the edge of falling out.
It was without thought that he reached forward and performed a slight of hand to keep it in place, his sister remaining none the wiser.
Casual magic had been something he'd done ever since he'd been a kitten. Despite his and his family's modest fear of it, it was just second nature.
As a kitten Quaxo could recall playing in the garden; chasing a butterfly, if his fuzzy memory of the incident served correctly. One second he'd been there, and the next he'd been gone. Only to be found several hours later laying out on the lawn as if nothing had ever happened. With absolutely no memory of where he'd been or why.
What he did know, however, was that when Quaxo had returned he'd never quite been the same.
His once normal coat of black sparkled under the light of the Jellicle moon, and his fingers always seemed to buzz with a hidden energy. Like a bolt of lightning just waiting to be unleashed.
He hid his magic for fear of frightening others, and his family never spoke of it, but even so it was almost second nature for him to use it even if he had no real idea how.
As they found their room, it was with another subtle display of casual magic that Quaxo opened the door. Holding it for his sister as she crossed the threshold into what would be their home for the next two years at the very least.
Claiming the bed by the window, Victoria dropped her bag on the floor and flopped on top of the mattress with a soft groan.
"That could have gone better," she spoke as she lifted her head enough to shoot her brother a wry smile.
Quaxo's own smile was a little more reserved as he set his suitcase down gingerly on his own bed and began to unpack. Taking out his shoes first, and then his clothes, he folded them all in neat little piles in the corner of the closet they'd now be sharing.
"No one assaulted either of us, so I think it went alright," he replied, sitting down on the edge of his bed and bouncing on it lightly to test it's firmness.
Arching her back, his sister stretched her arms above her head as she sat upright once more. "There's that, at least," she agreed, but her smile told Quaxo she was teasing him just as much as he was her.
Standing, Quaxo moved across the room and sat on his sister's bed. Wrapping an arm around her shoulders, he pulled her into a side hug. She rested her cheek on his shoulder and both cats took a deep breath as they let themselves try to relax.
"We're gonna be alright, right?" Victoria asked softly, glancing up at him after a few moments.
"We're gonna be alright," Quaxo confirmed as he turned his head and kissed the top of his sister's.
And, for the first few weeks, they were.
"Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch! Again!"
Breathing heavily through the strain in his limbs, Quaxo followed through each movement as best he was able under the watchful eyes of one of their three dance instructors.
Each one, of course, approached dancing and therefore teaching in different ways. Grizabella apparently approached it by pushing her students as hard as she possibly could, drilling them on simple but physically challenging routines until one or more of them simply couldn't take it anymore.
Today that someone was Quaxo.
He'd spent too much of the previous day putting in extra hours with Victoria. Helping her sister nail a fouette in her routine that had been giving her trouble.
All that extra time had made his usually toned muscles feel weak, and Quaxo was struggling to keep up with the rest of the class.
He wasn't the only one struggling, however, as the red queen he'd noticed on his very first day kicked when she should have lept, causing her to fall behind and briefly abandon the routine only to jump in a few moves later.
Mercifully for Quaxo, Grizabella bid them to stop with a wave of her hand and he gratefully stepped over to his dance bag to grab something to drink and maybe loosen up his overworked muscles with a few uncomplicated stretches while the teacher took a moment to speak to the queen about what she'd done wrong.
It was very like Grizabella to bring the class to a halt to focus on one student. It had used to grate on Quaxo, but at least she'd never done it to him.
Letting his eyes roam the room, Quaxo spotted his sister talking with a pair of queens about her own age. Jemima and Etcetera, he thought he recalled from what his sister had told him about her new friends.
He was happy for her, really, but that didn't make him feel any less lonely as he stood by himself at the side of the room.
"Again!" Grizabella called out, clapping her hands together and gesturing for her students to get back into place. "Let's do it one more time, and then we're going to pair into partners and work on lifts."
When Victoria automatically took her place by his side, Quaxo was just glad the older cat hadn't insisted they be paired with someone they didn't already know.
Lifts. He could do a few lifts, right? No problem.
"You got me?" Victoria asked.
"I got you," Quaxo promised. And he kept that promise, just not exactly in the most subtle way.
They'd moved on from the routine and had started practicing lifts in earnest when Quaxo caught his sister in a jump that hadn't felt right from the start.
It was no fault of hers, but Quaxo could feel her falling before her body had even started to slip out of his hands.
Reacting on instinct, he caught her. Only he hadn't touched her at all, and had instead somehow managed to suspend her in midair with a burst of magic he hadn't even known he had in him.
The room fell silent, and Victoria was having trouble looking him in the eyes after he'd settled her back down on the floor and she'd righted herself.
The silence was broken by Grizabella, who all of a sudden had a strange but haunting look in her eyes. "Alright that's enough! No more gawking. Class is dismissed."
Quaxo had tried to grab his bag and leave as quickly as possible, but of course Grizabella stopped him before he'd even begun to move toward the door.
"Not you, Quaxo. I need to speak with you."
Waiting as everyone else was allowed to leave was torture at its finest, not at all helped by the fact that his sister seemed inclined to barely acknowledge him as she passed.
He'd done magic in front of her before, and it had never bothered her then, but for some reason the very public display had clearly rattled her as much if not more than the near fall, and for now he couldn't even apologize.
Ears pressed flat against his head, the second the door latched and the last student had left he turned toward Grizabella and began to speak.
"I'm so sorry," he started with, because he was. He'd disrupted the class, made a spectacle of himself, probably frightened someone. "I lost control for a moment but it won't happen again, I swear."
"Has something like this happened before?" the grizzled older queen asked. Her eyebrows raised.
"I-I mean, yes. Yes ma'am it has, but I-" Quaxo began, lowering his head as he looked down toward the floor. Preparing to be expelled, or worse, because that was clearly where this was heading.
His father was going to be furious with him, not to mention poor Victoria who'd be left high and dry without a partner she could trust, and-
"My dear boy, with a gift like that you could find yourself meeting the Wizard!"
Quaxo flinched, opening his mouth to apologize again before what she'd actually said finally sunk in.
Him? Meet the Wizard? Why would a cat as grand as the Wizard ever want to meet someone as ordinary as him?
Because you've got the soul of a magician in you, a small voice supplied. The magic that flowed through his veins was the same magic that flowed through Macavity's, after all. The same magic that Mr Mistoffelees before him had possessed.
It made him special, some would say it made him dangerous, but more than that it made him different. Different, but maybe with the approval of the Wizard 'different' might be okay.
Not to mention the fact that if the Wizard even considered meeting him, Quaxo might finally get answers to the questions that had often haunted him. Maybe he could even find a kindred spirit in the Wizard.
Maybe the Wizard could find one in him in return, if he was so inclined.
After all, Macavity had been friends with Mr Mistoffelees before everything had gone so horribly wrong. Maybe there was something to be said about two souls destined to interact despite time and circumstance pulling them apart.
But Quaxo? Meeting the Wizard? It made him feel dizzy. Elated, even. Like he was floating on a cloud. "The Wizard? Me?"
"Yes of course you, you silly boy," Grizabella replied as if he was crazy for even asking. As if anything about this turn of events was normal.
A disbelieving laugh forced its way past Quaxo's lips, and all of the sudden he was certain life was never going to be the same.