"For Kit's Sake"
Authors: Robert Brown
Disclaimer: This story uses characters created and copyrighted by Disney (except where noted, in which case they were created and copyrighted by us or by another and we have permission to use them). The authors hereby give permission for this story to be downloaded and/or printed at 1 copy per user as long as (1) no changes to the story are made without our express written(not e-mailed) permission and (2) no attempt is made to profit from this story. If either or both rules are violated, it will be considered a violation of copyright law.
Author's Note: Hello everyone. That's right, it's another oneshot! I do apologize to all the fans waiting for Francis and I to produce another story in one of the major three storylines(Sonic, Rescue Rangers, and Pokémon), but doing these oneshots gets some of the clutter out of my brain so it can focus on the other stuff. At least my oneshots have been mostly well-received. We shall not talk about the Biker Mice from Mars one. Ever. Till next time everyone, Happy Reading!
Chapter 1: A Bad Break
A nervous bead of sweat ran down the back of Kit's neck. The decision he was about to make could very well decide his fate for the next few years. If he chose right he would guarantee himself the cheers and adulations of his peers. If he chose wrong, he would face their scorn. The time was now, his choice was made!
He casually trotted back to second base as the pitcher delivered his pitch, a high fastball. His instincts had served him well again. That was the worst possible pitch to steal on, especially if you were trying to steal third. He didn't set a new mark for base stealing at the school by making mistakes like that.
He adjusted his cap to block out the sun's glare and re-checked the scoreboard. Bottom of the ninth, one out, tie game. His team had begun their half of the inning with a solo home run, tying the game and giving them a chance. The next batter had struck out looking. Kit had hit the ball solidly when it was his turn to bat, lining it just inside the foul line. He had made it to second base standing up, but a strong throw from the right fielder quickly stopped him from trying for a triple.
Kit sighed as the current batter called for time, stepping out of the batter's box. He was a big kid, a lion known for hitting the ball hard but also for aiming right at an outfielder. With him, it was either homerun or long fly out. But if Kit could get to third base, either one would win his team the game.
He narrowed his eyes, watching as the pitcher gripped and regripped the baseball. Kit was in the perfect position to see that he was holding the ball off the seams, a sure sign he was going to throw his change-up. Kit smiled to himself, taking a bigger lead than normal but leaning back toward second base as if he were not committed to the steal. The pitcher checked back at him, obviously worried about the potential steal. But when he saw how Kit was, he turned back to home plate and began his windup.
Kit took off right at that moment, running toward third base as hard as he could. He didn't know where the ball was or even if they'd seen him move. His full attention was focused on the battered and dusty white bag in his sights. He slid feet first when he was a yard away, only now looking up.
The kid on third base, a panther with a reputation of playing dirty, leapt to grab the ball fired at him from the catcher. There was no way he'd be able to tag Kit now. And with his speed, the game was as good as over. Unless.... It took only a split second for the feline to make his decision. After all, he did have a reputation to uphold.
Kit signalled to the teacher acting as umpire for time after he'd been called safe. He was already planning the best way to win this game for his class when his world suddenly exploded in white-hot pain. The panther had come down awkwardly, his cleated sneaker stomping down on Kit's extended leg. When he was able to think about it later, he would not be able to tell what happened first: the searing pain or hearing two distinct, sickening cracks. The only thing he was sure of was the satisfied smirk on the panther's lips before unconsciousness claimed him.
Some distance away, at a small little wooden building on the edge of the city that overlooked the massive cliffs that protected the city, two bears were engaged in one of their favorite pastimes: arguing. "You're being crazy Becky!" Baloo howled, slamming his fists down on his boss' desk. "There's no way I can keep to this cockamamie schedule of yours."
Rebecca leaned back in her chair, crossed her arms under her chest. "You can and you will Baloo," she said matter-of-factly with a self-satisfied smirk. "I've worked with you too long now to not know what you and my plane are capable of."
Baloo twisted his cap angrily in his hands. "You just had to get that dig in, didn't ya Beckers?" he growled, resisting the urge to launch her desk into the wall with one kick. In fact, the only thing that stopped him was her backhanded acknowledgment of his abilities.
Her smirk faded into a frown as she sat forward, placing her hands slowly on the desk. "Now look here Buster," she snapped, picking up the schedule and holding it in front of his face, "It is perfectly reasonable to expect you to make all three deliveries today and get back here by eight o'clock. It shouldn't even take you that long, but I'm giving you a little leeway since you don't have Kit here to navigate for you."
"Leeway?" he barked with a laugh. "C'mon now! There ain't enough time ta sneeze much less make a stop at Louie's--"
"Ah ha!" she crowed, shooting to her feet and shoving her finger in Baloo's nose. "That's what this is really about, isn't it? You just want to sneak away to Louie's while the cargo sits and rots! I'm on to you Baloo; there'll be no slacking off for you today." Baloo spluttered a bit, trying to figure out a comeback. When he couldn't, he smacked her hand away irritably and stomped off to load the Sea Duck.
Becky opened her mouth to take a parting shot at him, just to cement her victory further, but the phone rang. "Higher for Hire!" she sang into the receiver. "How may we help you?"
"Is Mr. Cloudkicker there?" a voice asked that Rebecca did not recognize.
"Mister...Cloudkicker?" she repeated, confused.
"Yes, this is Cape Suzette Elementary School calling about his son, Kit. We were given this number as his emergency contact information. Do I have the correct number?"
A cold pit opened up in Rebecca's stomach, but she covered it well with her professional demeanor. "Forgive me," she said, picking up a paperweight and throwing it at the back of Baloo's head to get his attention, "we are very informal here and I'm not used to referring to my best employee by his last name. Here is Baloo."
Baloo snatched the phone out of her hands and turned his back so he didn't have to see her mouthing off at him. "This is Baloo," he said, reaching under his hat to get at a spot that had been itching him all day. "What can I do ya fer?"
Rebecca had to grip her chair to keep from snatching the phone back and beating him over the head with it, but she knew that this was important. She could only hear Baloo's side of the conversation, and what she heard didn't sound good. When Baloo wasn't screaming into the phone for an explanation, his voice was soft and scared, something she had never heard from him before. But when she heard Baloo say the word "hospital", she knew right then that something bad had happened to Kit.
Despite the blossoming worry for Kit's well being, another emotion was fighting to come to the forefront. No matter how much she detested his work habits, Baloo was her friend and a good one at that. If someone had asked her when she first met him if this great oaf of a bear would become so near and dear to her, she would have recommended an immediate psychiatric evaluation. But now? Now she couldn't imagine her life without the big lug.
Her heart ached in sympathy for the pain he must be feeling. She wanted to do something to show him that she was there for him. But as she reached for his arm, he dropped the phone onto the floor and took off at a dead sprint. "Baloo!" she called, picking up the receiver and placing it in its cradle. "Baloo wait!"
"No time Beckers!" Baloo yelled, pausing as he got to the sidewalk to get his bearings. "Kit's in the hospital an' I gotta go!" "Wait a minute!" she repeated, hurrying after him but not before closing and locking the door behind her. "Baloo stop!"
Baloo rounded on her as she ran up to him, his large hands clenched into even larger fists. "If you even think about telling me that cargo's more important than my boy--" he growled at her before being cut off by a sharp slap across his face.
She stood there, her hand still extended, tears welling in the corners of her eyes as she looked at him. "How could you even accuse me of something like that?" she whispered, her voice laced with cold fury. "Don't you ever, ever do that again, do you hear me? It will be the last thing you ever do."
Even as blinded by anger and worry as he was, Baloo knew he had just crossed a very dangerous line. Sure he'd gotten her angry at him before, but he had never heard the raw pain and hate that was now present in her voice. "Sorry Becky," he mumbled, turning his face away in shame.
"I know you're worried about Kit," she said softly, absentmindedly rubbing the red mark she had left on his cheek, "but remember that I'm here to help you. Now come on," she added, surprising Baloo as she grabbed his arm, "let's grab a cab and get to the hospital."
"I ain't got no money to use on a cab," he grumbled, rubbing his face as his irritation returned.
"That's why I'm paying for it," she said, holding out her finger to hail a taxi. "But don't get used to this," she teased. Then, after thinking about it, she whispered almost too softly for him to hear, "unless it's for Kit."
Her words, both the teasing and the heartfelt, brought a wan smile to the pilot's face. "Aww, you ain't doing it right," he said gruffly, hiding a suspicious sniffle by rubbing his nose. "You just don't have the height to get the job done."
The ride to the hospital was among the longest in Baloo's life, ranking right up there with his mad flight from Louie's to Cape Suzette to save Kit from Don Karnage. Back then, it was all on him and his plane to get there in time; if he hadn't made it he'd had no one to blame but himself. But now the situation was out of his control. The damage was already done; there was nothing he could do.
To make matters worse, the school had been intentionally vague, only telling him that there had been some kind of incident involving Kit and that he was in the hospital. They said they were dealing with it, whatever "it" was. But not knowing was only making things worse on him. Rebecca sighed as Baloo fidgeted yet again. It was a tight enough fit to squeeze her petite body alongside his bulk into the back seat, but he seemed to be taking up more and more room with every squirm. If he didn't stop soon she'd be squished against the door! But he was too far gone to notice, his thoughts solely on their destination and the young bear who needed him. She reached out and placed a hand on his leg, hoping the contact would soothe him. It worked, relaxing Baloo without him even realizing it. Smiling, she left her hand where it was and turned to look out the cab's window, letting the familiar scenery flow by without even seeing it.
When the taxi pulled into the hospital driveway, Baloo nearly jumped out before it even stopped. The only thing that prevented him was Rebecca's grip on his leg fur, one that promised a lot of pain should he move before she released him. She calmly paid the driver the indicated fare, including a reasonable tip for getting them there quickly. Only after she opened her door did she let him go, but it was enough to let her block him from running into the hospital at full speed. "Outta my way Becky."
"Look Baloo," she said, still barring his way, "if you go running in there like an out-of-control gorilla-bird, they're gonna shove your furry butt in jail and I don't have the money to bail you out."
Baloo slammed his fist into the nearest wall but Rebecca didn't flinch. He knew she was right, he knew it. But knowing it didn't make it any easier to deal with. At least his mini-outburst had released enough of his anger to rein in his temper a little. "All right, fine," he muttered. "Now let me do all the talking," she said, turning around and pushing her way through the swinging doors. She marched up to the nurse's station where a middle-aged rabbit sat working her way through a stack of paperwork and folders. "Excuse me," Rebecca said politely, but loud enough to be heard over the general din of the waiting room, "could you help us please?" The rabbit paid Rebecca no mind, continuing about her task mindlessly. "Excuse me," Rebecca repeated more firmly, "we're looking for someone who was brought in earlier. Could you please help us find him?" Again, no response was forthcoming. Rebecca was becoming annoyed but wanted to try this nicely one more time.
Baloo didn't give her that chance. "Hey!" he yelled so loud that the entire room grew silent.
The rabbit was so startled by the unexpected outburst that she jumped straight out of her chair, sending folders and files all over the place. "What do you want?" she gasped, pressing her hand over her chest while her pink nose twitched in time to her heartbeast.
Rebecca could hear Baloo's teeth gnashing together so she hurriedly spoke up. "We were told that Kit Cloudkicker was brought here," she said, enunciating Kit's name clearly.
The rabbit glanced at them warily before picking up a sheet of paper and looking through it. "Cloudkicker was it?" she asked, more to give herself a chance to recover her senses than because she hadn't heard correctly. She was afraid to ask the next question, but she was more afraid of losing her job if she didn't. "And you are...?"
"I'm his Papa Bear," Baloo said loudly, daring the receptionist to challenge him.
But she didn't; she'd seen worried parents nearly every day she worked this desk. If anything, she could now understand his actions, even if she didn't excuse them. "Your son is still in the Emergency Room," she said, her professional demeanor once more intact. "Down this hall, follow the grey arrows. You can't miss it."
"Thank you very--" Rebecca started, but couldn't finish what she was saying as Baloo grabbed her hand and started dragging her down the hallway. "Baloo!"
Baloo didn't stop until they had reached the Emergency Room. "Hey you," he said, grabbing the first doctor he saw by the arm. "Where's my boy?"
The doctor, a frazzled looking jaguar who was nearing the end of a grueling triple shift, pulled his arm away irritably. "Does this boy of yours have a name?" he growled, baring his teeth in a decidedly unfriendly way. Rebecca took a step back, but Baloo just drew himself up to his full height, towering over the doctor. "His name's Kit."
Recognition lit up the doctor's amber eyes and his demeanor relaxed considerably. "Ahh, you must be Baloo then," he said with a much calmer tone of voice. "Yes, your boy told us you might come tearing through here...now what was the term he used...?"
"An out-of-control gorilla-bird?" Rebecca supplied helpfully. "I believe the adjective he used was deranged, but I got the idea," the doctor answered through a chuckle. "No need to worry," he added, seeing Baloo's ears turn red in either embarrassment or anger. "Your young lad is doing just fine. All things considered, that is."
"All things...considered?" Baloo asked, suddenly feeling a little woozy as all the things that might be wrong with Kit flooded his mind.
The doctor reached into his coat and produced a smelling salts tablet, waving it under Baloo's nose as Rebecca tried to keep the big bear upright. "Sorry about that," the doctor said as Baloo regained his senses. "Didn't mean to worry you overmuch. I should've said that Kit is as fine as anyone could be with a broken leg."
With everything that had been going through his brain, Baloo was greatly relieved to hear that, slumping against a straining Rebecca who just shoved him against the wall. "He's gonna be all right, right Doc?"
"The break was clean, and closed, so as long as he follows orders and gets enough rest. He's in room 5 and I believe the nurse should just be finishing up with his cast now."
"Thanks," Baloo said, saying more in that one heartfelt word than he could in a hundred. He lumbered toward the indicated room but stopped, making Rebecca crash into his back from the sudden stop. "Umm, hey Doc," he began, looking over his shoulder sheepishly.
The doctor waves his paw, stifling a yawn with the other. "Don't worry about it," he said. "Just go see to your boy."
"Ya don't have to tell me twice!"
Rebecca had just regained her balance when she found herself being pulled along again. "Baloo!" she yelled as soon as he stopped. "What do you think you're--"
"Excuse me ma'am," a different nurse said from where she stood in the doorway to Kit's room, this one a very attractive female wolf barely out of her teens with a clipboard in her arms. "I must ask you to remember that this is a hospital and there are a lot of seriously ill patients here. They need to relax in order to heal, and they need quiet in order to relax. So could you please keep your voice down?"
Under any other circumstances, Rebecca would've been offended at being chastised by someone more than a decade younger than her. But she was very clearly in the wrong here, and she knew it. Though she could only nod, it got her message across very easily. The wolf smiled and stepped backward, allowing them to step in the room.
Kit sat up and greeted them with a smile when he saw them, his eyes lighting up. "Hey there Miz Cunningham," he said as she pulled a chair up next to his bed. "You didn't have to come down here too; I know how important the business is to you."
"Not more important than you Kit," she said, her smile dimming a bit at his words. Did he really think that about her? She knew she sometimes got focused on her work, occasionally to the exclusion of everything else, but she would never put anyone's life ahead of Higher for Hire. It had been one thing to hear it from Baloo; she knew how he felt about her work ethic. But for Kit to echo the sentiment really made her want to think about it when she had time to. She pushed it aside for the moment and glanced down at the cast on his leg. "What happened?" she asked, letting her fingers trace the rough plaster.
Kit grimaced, more from the memory than from any pain. "Just some idiot at school who couldn't play fair. He couldn't stop me from stealing third so he took me out of the game."
"That's horrible!" she gasped. "Baloo, did you hear...?" It was only then that she noticed that Baloo was not at Kit's bedside and she looked around for him.
She could almost feel her eyes go red when they settled on him talking with the nurse who had chastised her earlier in hushed tones. He had his back to her, but Rebecca could see that the nurse had an appraising and inviting look on her face. Of all the times to flirt! And here she thought that he was concerned about Kit! Well he had a funny way of showing it. Hospital or no hospital, there was no way he was escaping her wrath this time. She stood up and marched over to him, ready to give him a piece of her mind and fist.
She hadn't taken more than two steps when their conversation reached her ears. "And you're sure this'll do it?" Baloo was asking her, his voice intense in its low tones.
The lupine nurse nodded, cocking her hips just a bit to the side as her long tail swayed behind her. "Don't worry," she said softly, rolling her r's slightly. "As long as you make sure he gets his rest and doesn't reinjure himself, your son will be just fine. We can take the cast off in six weeks, depending on his progress. But with how strong he is, I'm sure it won't be a problem."
Baloo relaxed slightly; Rebecca could see the tension draining from his stance. "Strong huh?" he asked with a weak smile.
"Oh yes," the nurse assured him. "He was unconscious when he was brought in, but he woke up as soon as the doctor began poking at his leg. I thought we might have to sedate him to keep him from screaming. But he surprised us all; he didn't even let out a whimper. I've seen adults with less serious injuries crying like babies. But not your boy." A look of pure pride came across Baloo's face, one that only a parent could have for their child. "Yeah, that's my boy all right," he said, his smile growing wider.
"Well, I have more rounds to make," the nurse said, pulling two sheets of paper off her clipboard. "The one on top is a list of everything I told you to help him heal. Fill out the second and you can take him home whenever you're ready, just drop it off with the nurse at the front desk. I'll arrange for a wheelchair to be brought around for him. This though," she added, handing him a small scrap of paper, "is for you. Call me sometime."
Baloo looked at the paper in his hand as she walked away and frowned, actually frowned! Rebecca slunk back to her seat before he turned around, her face burning in shame. She couldn't believe she had assumed the worst about Baloo, especially after slapping him earlier for doing the same thing. She was a hypocrite, and that was not a nice feeling to have. "You OK Miz Cunningham?" Kit asked, even though he had a knowing smile on his face.
She had the grace to look sheepish, but held up a finger to her lips as she heard Baloo approach behind her. "Hey there Kit," he said, ruffling the young bear's hair affectionately. "Ready to get outta here?"
"Been ready Papa Bear," he answered with a laugh. "Hospitals give me the creeps."
"Well, not everything about hospitals is bad," Baloo said, reaching into his shirt pocket. "'Specially when you got a pretty nurse wanting to give you her number."
When Baloo put that piece of paper in Kit's hand, the boy's eyes opened so wide that Rebecca worried they were going to pop out of his skull. He looked from the paper, to the door, and back to the paper in disbelief. When a blush broke out on his cheeks, Rebecca just knew she was seeing the beginning of the teenager's first crush.
Rebecca herself was feeling a little flushed. Even though he hadn't been flirting with that admittedly attractive nurse, he had still gotten her number. She'd expected Baloo to hold onto it until he could use it; she could even say she'd have understood. But to hand it off to Kit like he had was unheard of! She had to admit two things to herself: Baloo made a great father, and she liked what she saw.
"Even so, I'm ready to get back to school," Kit said, tucking the paper carefully away in his pocket.
"Now hold on there Li'l Britches," he said, his voice turning hard, "the nurse says you gotta rest up till they take the cast offa you. That means no school for six weeks. No flying neither," he added, seeing the hopeful look on Kit's face and sorry he had to ruin it.
Kit let his head fall back, wincing a bit as it hit the uncomfortable and scratchy hospital pillow. "Man, I'm gonna go crazy staying in bed for six weeks," he grumbled. Then he brightened as something occurred to him. "Well, at least I'll have six weeks without homework!"
"That's my boy! Always looking on the bright side."
"Nice try Busters," Rebecca said with a smirk. "I'm sure I can take Molly to Kit's school between Baloo's runs to bring home your schoolwork. Besides, she'll be starting first grade there in the fall; it'll be good for her to meet the teachers there and get familiar with the layout of the school." Both Baloo and Kit groaned at the idea, getting a small giggle out of her.
"All ready to go?" the she-wolf asked, pushing a wheelchair through the door. "Just don't forget to hand off the paperwork at the desk." Baloo smacked his forehead. "I was so busy with my boy I forgot all about it." He put the papers down on the small desk by the bed and looked them over. "Aww, why do these things always have so many tiny words?" he muttered, rubbing his eyes. "Hey Becky, do you think you could fill this out for me?"
"Huh?" she asked, more than a bit surprised. "Oh, sure Baloo." The nurse handed her a pen, which Rebecca thanked her for gratefully. She had filled out enough of these forms in her time that she could do so without thinking about it. By the time she was done, Baloo had already carefully lifted Kit from the bed and placed him in the wheelchair. "OK boys," she said, handing the pen back, "let's get out of here."
About an hour after they'd left, the doctor that Baloo had grabbed was on his own way home, and not a second too soon. He was so tired he couldn't even risk driving home or he might end up roadkill. Fortunately he was on good terms with a cab driver who always came to pick him up after a multiple shift. "Good night Sally," he muttered, stumbling past the desk.
"Excuse me doctor," she said timidly, making him nearly fall as he stopped. "I'm sorry, I know you're very tired. This can wait till morning."
"No, that's all right," he said with a tired smile. "If it was important enough to make you speak up, then it's important enough for me to answer you."
"Well, it's not exactly important," she demurred. "I'm just a little unclear about hospital regulations in this instance."
"Hospital...? Sally, you know more about hospital regulations than I do!"
The leporine nurse winced slightly. "Well, I've never come across a situation like this. This file...what letter should I file it under?"
"What makes it any different from the dozens of others you filed today?"
"Well...do I file it under the father's name or the son's?"
That deceptively simple question made the doctor's sleep-addled mind regain some clarity. "May I see that please?" he asked, holding out his hand. He'd hoped it was a mistake of some kind, but the writing was clear. Patient: Kit Cloudkicker. Parent: Baloo von Bruinwald. Their names did not match. "Looks like may day isn't over yet," he sighed, trudging back to his office to make some phone calls to get to the bottom of this.
TO BE CONTINUED