"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.
Quick Author's Note: I apologize for the delay, but so much has happened to me since the last update, it's just not worth going into here. Trust me that I would not have taken so much time off writing if I didn't think it absolutely necessary to deal with my own demons. Fortunately, the worst is behind me now, and I hope to have this story finished before the end of the year. Feel free to poke and prod at me to make sure. To all those that are still reading, Happy Reading!
Chapter 5: Making it (look) real
Bright morning sunlight streamed through the eastern facing window of the bedroom that Rebecca Cunningham currently found herself in. Unlike the fashionable outfits she usually insisted on wearing, sometimes to the point of being useless, she was dressed in an old, discolored blouse and a pair of faded jeans she'd found in the back of her closet. Her hair was carelessly tied back in a ponytail and covered in a tattered bandanna. Anyone she knew would be surprised to see her like this until they noticed her laying drop cloths all around the floor of the room.
She straightened up and stretched out her back, rubbing at a stubborn knot just above her waist that refused to release. It was slow work, but it was all really starting to come together. The same could be said for this whole facade, she realized. So many different pieces in play, some of it beyond her control. But somehow it was still holding together.
A prime example of this was the surprise Baloo sprung on her just one week ago, the same night this whole situation got started. When he came by to pick up Kit, he had an old friend of his in tow by the name of Plane Jane and introduced her as prime maid-of-honor material. Rebecca had been naturally skeptical, knowing Baloo's usual choice in of friends. But Baloo had insisted and Rebecca didn't exactly have many options.
So much of her life was devoted to running her business, raising her daughter, and keeping Baloo in line that there was no time to make friends. Business contacts, clients, and suppliers sure! Friends...no. Until that moment, she hadn't really felt like she'd been missing anything. But now that her attention had been called to it, how could she not have known of this void in her life?
So she had agreed to speak with Jane, and from the first word out of the hippo's mouth she'd just known they were going to be fast friends. She said what she thought without holding back for people's sensibilities. If there was one thing that Rebecca learned quickly, she could count on Plane Jane to speak her mind. And that was something that Rebecca could come to appreciate.
Not that there hadn't been snags along the way. Jane had taken one look at Rebecca's apartment and quickly pronounced it unsuitable for raising a family. "Oh it's nice and all," she said when she'd noticed Rebecca's frown of distaste, "but can you really see a lumbering oaf like Baloo not wrecking this place inside a week? And how do you think Kit will react to having to share a room with Molly?"
Even now, Rebecca thought it wouldn't be such a bad idea as a way to foster more of a sibling relationship between the two. But a growing boy like Kit needed his own space to express himself and not be confronted by Molly's affection for bright colors at every turn. It was no surprise that Kit had chosen a shade of bright green for his walls, with the trim being almost the same color as the sweater he loved to wear.
Her eyes drifted over to her fiancé, though it still made her shudder to call Baloo that. Still, it was something she'd have to get used to if they were going to make this work. Especially since they'd have to... No, this was not the time to think about that. Quite honestly, there never would be a time to think about that. Best to just focus on what she was doing here and now and let everything else fall into place.
She'd gone househunting the day after meeting Jane and found a nice two story fixer-upper with a spacious attic for sale. Her mind immediately had pointed out that it had plenty of room for all four of them and that the attic could be converted to a nice home office space for her. It did need a lot of work, but it was solidly made and had so much potential that Rebecca could not help but agree to purchase it. The large front and back yards only added to her love for the place.
Her next stop had been the bank to find a way to finance the purchase. Higher for Hire provided her with a decent amount of capital, as did the Sea Duck. Baloo had said that he was willing to do anything to keep Kit with them; and she took him at his word. With her negotiating skills, she was able to secure a mortgage for ninety percent of the cost of the house with payments she could easily make as long as they didn't lose any business.
The only problem was that she had only enough cash on hand to pay the down payment of ten percent or to fix and furnish the place. No matter which way she'd turned the numbers, it always came up the same: they just could not make it work. It had been one of the hardest things she'd done in a long time to tell Baloo about her failure, made only worse by how close she had come to pulling it off.
Instead of the expected anger or disappointment, Baloo had just walked out of the office and over toward one of the storage buildings in the back of the property. Curious, she had followed him to see what he was up to. By the time she'd gotten there, he was pulling a metal strongbox out from under a couple of loose floorboards.
Nothing could have prepared her for what she had seen in that box. Money, and a lot of it! She had been able to tell just from the first look that Baloo had saved up more than enough to buy back the Sea Duck, so why hadn't he? "Where are we going to go after this?" he'd asked, reading her look perfectly. "If I just bought back the Duck, it wouldn't be long till we were in debt all over again. I wanted to be sure Kit had something to look forward to once we left is all. So don't read nothing into this that ain't there!"
Despite his warning, Becky had known just what he was talking about. Baloo may not like being ordered about on a daily basis, but Higher for Hire was his home. He didn't want to leave it just as much as she didn't want him to leave. Of course, he would never admit to it if she said it, so she simply leaned up and kissed his cheek in gratitude. Her lips lingered for just a moment longer than was absolutely necessary, drawing an embarrassed blush from the both of them.
After counting through it, Rebecca had found that Baloo not only had enough saved up for the down payment, but that they could fix and furnish every room of the house. This was a huge relief to her; she could save the cash on hand for the first few mortgage payments, giving them a much needed safety net.
Then Baloo had surprised her again by insisting that he fix up the house himself. There were certain things he couldn't do of course, like the plumbing and the wiring, but Baloo's efforts saved them so much money that Rebecca had been able to splurge a little and get the best contractor in the Cape Suzette. Between the work Baloo did and the high quality of the workers she had been able to employ, the main work had been done.
Which was what brought her to the here and now. Baloo had done his best to fix up the house; now it was time to make it a home. The furniture had all been ordered; both Kit and Molly had taken an active part in decorating their rooms.
Baloo had been almost apathetic about the whole thing, only caring that he had a place to sleep and a place to eat. So she had set about choosing the decor, finally settling on dark-stained oak. She had to admit, it did remind her of him: unusual, but always dependable. But that wasn't why she had picked it out. No, of course it wasn't. Of course.
"OK Beckers," Baloo said, startling her out of her thoughts. "The paint's all mixed up and ready to go."
Rebecca nodded and adjusted the dropcloths, making sure that the whole floor was covered. "OK Baloo," she said, shaking off her daydreams as he poured the paint into the waiting pans. "Grab a roller and get to work buster!" she ordered, feeling more comfortable slipping back into her boss role
Painting was not a favorite activity for either of them. Anytime they had been forced into it in the past it had been dull and tedious at best. But today, buoyed by good conversation and better company, it was more fun than work.
As the afternoon approached, Rebecca had finished the wall she was working on and was focusing on the trim near the floor. She had chosen a smaller brush to avoid messing up the paint still drying on the wall. It was taking longer to do this little bit than it had the rest of the wall, but she knew the finished product would be worth it.
She was so intent on her work that she almost didn't notice the feel of something wet hitting her hair right where it peeked out from under her bandanna. She looked up, hoping it wasn't a leak that would ruin all their work, and ended up catching a drop of paint right on her nose. "Baloo!" she squealed, crawling out from under the paint roller he was using on the ceiling.
Baloo noticed the green in her hair and on her nose and laughed so hard his considerable belly shook. Aww, what's the problem Becky?" he teased, reaching out to smear the pain across the fur of her muzzle. "Green is such a good color on you!"
Rebecca almost growled as she stared cross-eyed at the streak of green just under her eyes. Acerbic and angry words rose to her lips, but she bit them back as a wonderful idea occurred to her. Before Baloo even saw it coming, she swiped her brushup, giving Baloo a dark green beard. "I don't know Baloo," she giggled, rubbing her chin as if she were contemplating a work of art. "I think it looks much better on you!"
He let out a growl souding very similar to hers, only he also dropped down into a four-point stance. "Don't you dare!" she yelped between nervous laughter. She tried to use her fully loaded brush to keep him at bay, but he didn't even consider stopping. He got a face full of paint, but she still got tackled into one of the paint pans.
An all out paint war broke out, getting both them and the whole room covered in varying shades of green. But more than that, the room rang with their laughter and their playful promises of retribution. A few of the neighbors, overhearing things as they passed by the front of the house, just smiled at the happy sounds and remarked on how nice it would be to have such a loving family in their neighborhood.
After about fifteen minutes, Rebecca managed to jump onto top of a supine Baloo, straddling his large stomach with a full can of paint in her hands. "Give up Baloo!" she said, laughing as she held it over his face. "Or do you want to be spitting green for a month?"
Instead of rising to her taunts, Baloo reached up and smacked the can of paint over to the other side of the room. Before she could grab something else, he wrapped his large arms around her and pulled her down on him, ignoring the slaps she aimed at his paint-covered shirt. He had only done it to stop her from doing any more damage to his fur, but the longer he held her the more he didn't know if he wanted to let her go.
Rebecca's breath caught as she saw the laughter in his eyes be replaced by something else, something that made the fur on her neck stand on end. She was no stranger to this look; her husband and the ghost captain had both worn it around her often enough. With a lurch of her stomach, she realized that Baloo was about to kiss her. What was even more shocking as his face neared hers, was the realization that she wanted him to.
"Umm, excuse me!"
At the familiar and rather unwelcome voice, Rebecca squirmed out of Baloo's embrace to face the source. "Mr. Sripe!" she greeted with a fake smile plastered on her face. "What brings you to our home?"
The wolverine smiled indulgently, recognizing the frustration hidden in Rebecca's voice. "Well, I had heard about you purchasing this house, and I just had to see it for myself. I admit, when I first heard about it, I had my doubts to how real it was."
"Well, as you can see it's certainly not," Rebecca said tightly, feeling her heart race slightly as Baloo came to stand behind her. "If you'd like I could take you on a little tour and show you around."
"That won't be necessary," Mr. Sripe insisted, cleaning his glasses with a handkerchief he produced from his back pocket. "As I said, I had my doubts. Right now, I no longer do. Good day."
An awkward silence followed his departure, one where neither Baloo nor Rebecca could really look at each other. "We'd...better fix this mess," Baloo mumbled, picking up his roller and almost attacking the walls with it.
Rebecca knew that he was frustrated, but she was afraid to know just why, and that frustrated her in turn, making the silence grow. She watched the back of her fiancé for a moment, feeling herself shake at the thought again. But where just a little while ago it had been a disturbing shudder, now it felt more like a pleasurable shiver.
Despite some setbacks, including the new awkwardness that had sprung up between the engaged couple, it only took a week to get the house fully ready to move into. They wanted nothing more than to rest for the remaining forty- eight hours until the wedding, but the rest of the wedding party did not share that sentiment. Without any warning, Baloo was commandeered one night by Louie and a bunch of regulars from his bar. Which of course left Rebecca open to be kidnapped by Plane Jane and her friends.
And that was how she found herself surrounded by a bunch of female pilots, having the time of her life. It didn't take her long to learn two things about them. Number one, they loved to drink and could probably hold their own with any man. Number two, they all had embarrassing stories about Baloo, which they were all too happy to share with her. Each and every one was carefully tucked away in her memory for future use.
After one particularly funny story, in which Baloo and Louie had somehow ended up being used as shark bait by a tribe of water-worshipping pygmy shrews, Rebecca felt an elbow nudge her gently in her side. "Hey, are you OK?" Plane Jane asked her softly, just so Rebecca could hear her.
"I'm having a great time," she answered, tilting her head to the side curiously. "Why, does it not look like I am?"
"Well, no," Jane said slowly, "but you're still nursing the same drink I gave you when we got here."
Rebecca gazed down at the brightly colored cocktail in her hands and shrugged. "I just want to remember this night. I'm afraid if I drink too much I won't remember a thing."
That set everyone off laughing, much to Rebecca's consternation. "Oh lighten up hun!" a panther who bore an undeniable resemblance to the many pilots of Shere Khan told her except that she was very obviously female. "This is one night you're supposed to not worry about anything like that!"
"And besides," Jane chimed in, holding up a brand new Puma Special 127 camera. "That's what pictures are for! Trust me Becky, even if you don't remember, there's no way we'd let you forget it!"
Rebecca looked from the drink in her hands, to the camera Jane held, around the room at all the encouraging smiles, and then back down at her drink. "Well, in that case," she said, screwing up her courage and downing the fruity drink in one gulp, "let's get this party really started!"
TO BE CONTINUED