No Time Like the Present

part 1

TaleSpin and its characters are property of Disney. All other characters are mine and cannot be used without permission.

I'd like to dedicate this story to all Spinners everywhere, especially the many devoted Kit Cloudkicker fans. :D

Higher for Hire
June 1938
Tuesday

Mellow late afternoon sunshine streamed through the windows of the room that doubled as an office and living room at Higher for Hire. Everything - from the steadily ticking grandfather clock to the neat stack of unopened mail on the desk - seemed to be anxiously waiting for Baloo and Rebecca to return from their honeymoon.

No one was more anxious than Kit and Molly. They were sitting cross-legged on the rug in front of the couch, playing Candy Cane Land to pass the time.

Neither of the cubs was truly interested in the board game, especially Molly, who kept rushing outside hoping to see a yellow Conwing L-16 seaplane soaring through the cliff opening. Finally, Kit, to keep her from wearing herself out, said that he would tell her when the Sea Duck arrived.

"When's Wildcat coming back with the groceries?" Molly asked, choosing a card from the top of the pile.

Kit glanced at his wristwatch. "Hmm...he left three hours ago. He should have been back by now."

"Maybe he got lost in the grocery store again." She moved her red gingerbread man game piece ahead to a yellow space.

"Maybe."

Their ears pricked up at the sound of a plane propeller.

"Is that the Sea Duck?" Molly asked, ready to spring to her feet.

Without a second thought, Kit said, "No." As Baloo's navigator, he knew the powerful roar of the Sea Duck's twin Superflight-100s well. That high-pitched, whining engine was not even close.

"Aw..." Disappointed, the seven-year-old slouched against the couch and watched as Kit took his turn.

Moving his green gingerbread man piece to a purple square had landed him in the Taffy Trap; consequently, he had to move back three spaces. The thirteen-year-old smiled at the little yellow bearess across from him, saying, "Your turn."

Molly forgot to look at the card she had just chosen from the top of the pile when another plane flew overhead, its engine coughing and sputtering. "Is that the Sea Duck?"

Kit thought that plane needed a serious tune-up. He knew Baloo would never let 'his baby' fall into a such a deplorable state of disrepair. "Nope."

Just as Molly picked up her red gingerbread man to move it, a plane buzzed low over Higher for Hire, shaking it on its foundation.

"That's the Sea Duck," Kit said with a grin.

Molly dropped her gingerbread man, scrambled to her feet, and ran out the door, shouting, "Mommy and Daddy are home! Mommy and Daddy are home!"

Kit scooped the game pieces and board into the box and followed her, his feelings badly mixed. On the one hand, he was as excited as Molly at seeing Baloo and Rebecca. Higher for Hire had seemed strangely quiet without them the past three days.

Yet, their return meant changes.

Big changes.

Perhaps the most important changes Kit had ever encountered in his young, yet eventful, life.

Changes such as being adopted and having a place he could truly call his own among loving, caring people whom he loved and cared for in return. These were things that this orphan had dreamed of ever since he could remember.

And now, after years of loneliness and longing and looking, his dream had come true.

Ironically, he wasn't quite as ecstatic as he thought he should have been. Deep, deep down in his heart there was a vague, niggling doubt that threatened to ruin his happiness.

Kit hastily dismissed it as he jogged down to the edge of the dock to join Molly. She was literally jumping up and down with excitement. If he hadn't have been thirteen, he might have done the same. Instead, he just grinned from ear to ear as the Sea Duck slowly pulled up to the dock.

When the cockpit door flung open, the children chorused, "Welcome back!"

"Well, hey, strangers!" Baloo said jovially, stepping out of the plane. He tousled both cubs' hair, then swung Rebecca to the dock and kissed her with a tender, "Welcome home, honey."

"It's amazing we still have a home after that stunt you just pulled, flyboy," the petite brown bearess mock-scolded, poking him in the chest with every syllable.

"Hey, it was just a little buzz off the top," Baloo said, holding up his hands in self-defense. "No harm done."

Kit smiled to himself. From the glints of fun in Baloo and Rebecca's eyes, he knew that they were enjoying their sparring match.

"You didn't have to try to scalp it." Her face softened when she saw the cubs smiling up at her. She protectively pulled them into her arms. "Why, you could have hurt Kit and Molly."

"They look fine to ol' Papa Bear." He tousled their hair again, grinning. "We gonna stand out here all day, or are we gonna let the kids see what we got 'em?"

"Presents?" Molly's ears perked up. She broke free of her mother's embrace and started to skip all over the dock with seemingly boundless energy. "Presents! Presents! Presents!" she sang.

"Aw, I bet they don't want 'em." Baloo winked at Rebecca.

Rebecca, her arm around Kit's shoulder, suppressed an amused smile. "Probably not."

"Sure we do!" Molly eagerly tugged on the hem of Baloo's shirt. "Can we see 'em? Please, Daddy? Pleeeease?"

Baloo sighed, as if giving the cubs their presents was a big hassle. "I guess..." he said reluctantly, "if ya really, really want to."

Molly whooped with joy.

"Come on, Molly," Rebecca said, holding out a hand to her daughter. "We'll go in the house while Daddy and Kit get the bags." She flashed a mischievous smile at Baloo over her shoulder.

"Been home two minutes an' she's already got me workin'," Baloo grumbled, trudging into the plane.

Despite Baloo's complaining, Kit could tell from the broad smile on the big bear's face that he was more than willing to comply with his wife's orders.

"You went shopping?" Kit said, trotting behind Baloo. "I thought you were going camping."

"Well, you know Becky," Baloo chuckled as he pulled the topmost sack off of a small mound of shopping bags that was piled in one corner of the cargo hold and rummaged through it. Not finding what he wanted, he put it aside and reached for the next one. "I guess it was kinda a fair trade." He put that sack aside and looked in a third. "I got to catch some fish, an' she got to catch some sales." He plunged his hand into a fourth. "Only we did more shoppin' an' sight-seein' than fishin'. Can't ya tell?"

"Yeah," Kit said with a weak laugh. There were still a few boxes lining the perimeter of the Higher for Hire's walls from when Rebecca and Molly had moved in last week and here was more stuff; he didn't know how it was all going to fit. One thing was for certain: it wasn't going to get from the plane to the house by itself. With a resigned sigh, he picked up a bulging suitcase and started for the door.

"Leave that, Li'l Britches. We can get the rest of this stuff later. Ah-ha!" From inside a big brown paper sack, he pulled out two smaller, identical white sacks. "There ya go, kiddo," he said, giving one to Kit.

Kit curiously glanced inside the sack as he and Baloo walked towards Higher for Hire, but all he saw were several colorfully-wrapped packages. Whatever they were, they were sure heavy.

Inside the office, Baloo gave Molly her sack and sank into his favorite well-worn easy chair with a contented sigh. "Ah, it's good to be back." He watched with amusement as Molly, sitting on the floor at his feet, tore into her first present.

Rebecca patted the couch, gesturing for Kit to sit beside her. "Go ahead, open your presents, sweetie," she told him. "See if you can guess where we went."

With a grin, Kit plopped down beside her, pulled out the topmost package, and started to unwrap it.

Before he could get it opened, Molly let out a squeal of delight. She held a black beret of soft merino. "Where'd ya get this?"

"Bought 'em at the top of the Eyeful Tower offa a genuine monsewer," Baloo replied.

"The view was beautiful," Rebecca added.

"Yeah, it was," Baloo said, grinning at her. "The scenery wasn't half bad neither."

Rebecca blushed with pleasure.

Molly stuck the oversized beret on her head, one side drooping over her left eye, and eagerly delved into her sack for more. With a grin, Kit stuck his matching beret on his head atop his baseball cap.

He had barely taken out a large, rectangular-shaped package when Molly whooped for joy. She took the lid off of a two pound box of assorted Swizz Mizz Chocolates. Her eyes grew very wide as she surveyed the luscious, mouth-watering bonbons.

"You can have one piece now, then I'll put it up so you can have one piece every day for a long time," Rebecca told her.

"What about Kit? Are you gonna put his box up, too?" Molly asked, wondering which piece of candy looked the yummiest.

"Kit's old enough to regulate his own chocolate consumption." Rebecca leaned towards, murmuring, "I trust you won't eat it all today."

Shaking his head, Kit quipped, "Nah, I'll save half for tomorrow."

Baloo and Rebecca chuckled.

Frowning, Molly said indignantly, "I'm seven. That's old enough to reg'late my own chocolate consumption."

"Molly, I said no," Rebecca said in a firm tone that meant that further arguing was useless.

"Aw..." Her frown disappeared when she saw a colorfully-painted, wooden, gondola-shaped bank on Kit's lap. "Neato! Did I get one of those, too? Did you ride in one of these boats?"

"Yup an' yup," Baloo replied.

Looking at the gondola, Rebecca smiled dreamily. "Remember that, Baloo?"

"How could I forget?"

"The moon, the stars, the romance..." She sighed.

"The gondola guy who kept goin' 'round in confused circles. We musta seen that same block fifteen times. I told you we shouldn't have picked the cheapest guy." His scowl softened into a smile. "It was one of the best nights of my life." He blew a kiss at Rebecca, who 'caught' it with a giggle.

"Do you have a penny, Daddy?" Molly said. "I wanna try my bank boat out."

"Penny...penny..." Baloo said, rummaging around in his shirt pocket. "Yup, here's one."

Molly took the coin from his palm, put it in the mouth of the miniature gondolier, and 'rowed' the oar that he held, causing the tiny man to swallow the penny. She waited breathlessly as the penny clinked its way down into the bottom of the ship. "Neato!" she cried, clapping her hands.

"Pretty nifty, huh?" Baloo poked around in his pocket again, but all he came up with was his pilot's license and a piece of lint. "Sorry, Kit-boy," he said with an apologetic shrug. "I'm all tapped out."

"That's okay," Kit said, smiling wanly. Even though he wasn't surprised at Baloo's lack of cash, he still felt slightly excluded. He silently chided himself. What did one penny matter? After all, Molly was a little kid and he was a teenager. He had lots of pennies in his room with which to try out his new coin bank. He shouldn't be so selfish by denying Molly her enjoyment.

But the penny wasn't the problem. It was something else. Something about the way Baloo and Rebecca were exchanging intimate glances while Molly chattered about what had happened during their absence made him feel as if he was missing out on something.

He told himself that that was ridiculous. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that Baloo and Rebecca loved him. Why, didn't the fact that they were going to adopt him tomorrow prove that?

However, no matter how hard he tried to push that 'left out' feeling aside, it persisted in encroaching onto and ruining his happiness.

Just then, Baloo's booming, "Well, don't that beat all!" broke into his train of thought.

Half-heartedly, Kit joined in on the laughter over the amusing anecdote that he had missed during his musings.

Looking at Baloo, Rebecca, and Molly, he wondered: if he had gained the family he had always wanted, then why did he feel as if he had lost something very special?

End of part 1