"A Few Kumquats Short"

TaleSpin Fan Fic

by Katie Sullivan


Chapter 3

Don Karnage sat on the small patio behind their suite, sipping a fruit drink (non-alcoholic, of course,) and watching the stars twinkle through the palm fronds. It was idyllic. A warm breeze ruffled his fur.

The sliding glass door opened and Scarlet emerged. He waited for her to say something, but she simply settled down in a chaise lounge beside him and sighed in contentment.

"¿Están durmiendo los niños?" he asked at length. ["Are the children sleeping?"]

"Mmm hmm. They played themselves out, I think."

"Ah."

Another few moments of silence passed.

"Well?" she prodded. "How are you feeling?"

Karnage hesitated. "There are good moments and bad moments."

"More good moments, or more bad ones?" She interpreted his silence to mean the former. "Well, it's a start."

"I did see him, you know."

"Who?"

"Cloudkicker, of course. My nerves may be on a ledge--"

"On edge," she said before remembering that she was trying to refrain from correcting his English until his head was clearer.

"--but I have never had hallucinations before. Not when I did not have the alcohol in myself." He peered contemplatively at the liquid in his glass.

"Querido, all I know is I didn't see him. But he could have been there. I'm not saying you were hallucinating," she said quietly.

"Even if..." He paused, sipped some fruit juice and sighed. "Even if I was hallucinating...the, er, paranoidedness is a bit less than before."

"You mean you don't think I'm trying to kill you anymore?" she said in a faintly teasing tone.

"Are you?"

"Of course not!"

"Good."

Scarlet chuckled. "Glad to hear it. Although you're right to be wary of me. I beat you in our first duel, and I could beat you again."

"Beat me?" he said with an indignant sniff, slamming his drink down on the table. "That was a lung fluke!" He stood, his dark eyes twinkling with mischief. "You could never be repeating such a deed, señora!"

She got to her feet and swaggered toward him with a grin. "You think so? You insult my honor, mi capitán."

"I also insult your swordsmanship...er...swordswomanmanship. And I demand a rematch!"

It was a relief to see him acting like his usual aggravating self, and Scarlet decided to humor him. "A rematch, hmm? Well, if you're eager to be defeated again, I won't stop you," she said with a wink.

He dashed into their suite and returned a moment later with a pair of swords. She had questioned the need for them on a vacation, but hadn't pressed the matter to avoid upsetting him. He tossed a blade carelessly in her direction, and she caught it with ease.

"En guarde!" he said with a wolfish grin, making a showy thrust which she easily blocked.

"Is that the best you can do, Felipito?" she taunted.

"The best? I am not even warméd up yet!" He made another pass, which she made a great show of fending off. Noisy clangs of metal on metal drowned out the hiss of the surf.

Eventually, she allowed him to trap her with her back to a railing. He tried to kiss her, but she laughed and shoved him back to begin the duel anew. He hopped up on a chair, posing like Darrel Flynn, and lunged at her. The playful exchange went on for quite some time, until they were out of breath and half-hearted insults.

At last, Scarlet allowed him to corner her, and let her sword fall to the tile floor of the patio. "I give up, I give up," she said breathlessly.

"But of course," he said smugly. He put down his sword, and they stood for a moment, catching their breath and laughing.

"You are magnificent, querida," he said with fond amusement. "You have no idea how much I needed that."

"Actually, I do," she said softly, stepping into his embrace. "Nothing like a good, friendly swordfight to clear the head."

"Well...perhaps there is one other thing..." He kissed her.


Room service delivered ham and eggs for breakfast. The children dug in with gusto while Karnage gloated. "I always knew I could beat you, Scarlet. I am the bestest swordsman in the world, am I not? No one can get the better of me and my superior skill! I am the best!"

Scarlet smiled calmly, a forkful of scrambled eggs halfway to her mouth. "I let you win, you know," she said matter-of-factly.

Karnage froze. "What?"

She grinned and chewed her eggs, not meeting his gaze.

"You did no such thing! I beat you fairly and squarely, you lying wench!" he sputtered. Juan giggled. She merely kept smiling and eating, pausing only to wipe some jelly off Victoria's cheek. "You could not have let me win! I really and truely beated you, all for one and once for all! You would never insult me like that! To let me win? Me, Don Karnage, the Prince of Pirates, the Scourge of the Skies, the--the--how dare you? You were thinking I was not up to my most best form because of my...badness in the head? Why you little...you, you, you wench!"

She finally made eye contact, her eyes shining with amusement.

"I want a rematch! Or a re-rematch! No, wait, a re-re-rematch! Or...maldito sea, just get your sword!" ["Dammit"]

"Can I finish eating first?"

"Well...yes. But chew fastly."

Juan piped up. "I'll play swords with you, Daddy!"

Karnage sighed. "Finish your breakfast, my son."

"On gourd!" Victoria squealed happily, grabbing her mother's butter knife and waving it in the air.

Scarlet snatched the knife away from her and laughed. "Not now, sweetie."

Victoria resumed squishing scrambled eggs between her fingers and then licking them off.

Scarlet stole a sidelong glance at her husband. He was frowning with fond exasperation, but no real anger. She nuzzled her bare feet against his, and he raised an eyebrow at her with a crooked smile. "You'll get your rematch, Felipe," she promised with a wink.

He coughed and took a swig of orange juice, and she stifled a giggle.

The hum of an airplane engine filled the suite, and Karnage's ears perked up. After a split second of contemplation, he dashed to the window. "Aha! Scarlet! Come look!"

"What is it?" she asked, following him.

"The Sea Duck!"

By the time she reached the window, the seaplane had disappeared beyond the palm trees. "Where?"

"You missed it! But, Scarlet, I swear on my dear brother's grave, I saw the Sea Duck! I would know that yellow paintjob anywhere!"

*SPLOOSH!*

"Mommy!" Juan called.

She winced and turned to see Victoria gleefully waving her arms, her juice glass spilled on the floor.

"Oh, dear," Scarlet fretted, rushing to get a towel.

"Naughty girl," Karnage chided, picking her up so she wouldn't worsen the mess while his wife sopped up the juice. He looked down at Scarlet's blonde head. "But you do believe me, yes? You heard the plane. Hallucinations do not make noises!"

"Yes, querido, I believe you," she said absently, wiping juice off the leg of Victoria's chair.

"Daddy, what are hey-loose-in-nations?" Juan asked.

He paused. "Er...they are like nightmares in the daytime, except you are not asleep."

Juan looked confused.

"It is nothing you need to be worrying about, son."

Scarlet stood and saw her daughter covered in jelly, juice, bits of scrambled eggs and bread crumbs. "Oh, for goodness' sake," she said, taking the child from his arms. "Felipe, can you get Juan ready while I find some clean clothes for Victoria?"

Karnage nodded despondently, his thoughts elsewhere.


Kit Cloudkicker paced along the deck as the mechanics worked on his beloved Cloudsurfer. He hated feeling so helpless, and he cast a jealous eye upward as the Sea Duck disappeared into the distance, ferrying more tourists back to Cape Suzette. In his mind's eye he could easily see Baloo in the cockpit, rejoicing in the pure exhilaration of flying, free as the proverbial bird.

"Are you done yet?" he snapped.

An otter's tail and feet were protruding from the engine of his plane. A muffled voice said, "Sorry, Mr. Cloudkicker. It'll be another hour, at least. Maybe two."

Kit kicked a rock into the water. "Drat and double drat!"

Rebecca was sitting on a barrel at the end of the pier, scribbling on a clipboard. She had consented to a vacation, but refused to neglect her paperwork.

"Hey, Kit?" Molly approached, holding a postcard. "Got a stamp?"

He half-hearedly patted the pockets of his leather flight jacket, then shrugged. "Nope. Writing to Oscar again?"

She gave an embarassed smile. "Yeah."

Kit shook his head. He thought Oscar was an okay guy and all, if a bit...unathletic...but he didn't understand what Molly saw in him. Well...besides money. She did most of the flirting, but Oscar seemed receptive. Kit just stood back and hoped that if they got married, their children would take after Molly.

She wandered off toward the post office while Kit resumed pacing. Finally, he decided that he was probably making the mechanic nervous, and therefore less productive, so he reluctantly meandered toward the café. Might as well grab some breakfast.

"Oh, Kit!" Rebecca called out behind him.

Or not...

He turned to see his boss approaching. "Yeah, Miz Cunningham?"

"Where did Molly go?"

"Uh...post office, I think."

"We were going to the kumquat carving demonstation at the museum."

"Oh. Er...I can't imagine why she'd want to miss that," Kit said with a faint smile.

"I know, I know, it sounds boring. But there's not really anything else to do until the carnival opens at noon. Besides, where else can you learn to carve kumquats?"

It was a rhetorical question, so Kit just shrugged indifferently.

"You're welcome to come along, of course."

"Uh, thanks, but I'll pass."

"Your loss," Rebecca teased.


As it turned out, Rebecca was right. There was absolutely nothing else to do on Fid Jiti that morning. After breakfast and another check on the sluggish mechanic, Kit wandered over to the museum. Surprisingly, over one hundred people were gathered on the lawn to watch the kumquat carving demonstration. He briefly considered joining Molly and Rebecca, but they were seated deep in the crowd, and he would have had to step on numerous toes to reach them. It hardly seemed worth the effort merely to watch an elderly hyena carving kumquats. Instead, he headed up the marble steps into the Fid Jiti Historical Museum.

A female crocodile with horn-rimmed glasses perched on the end of her sizable nose greeted him. "Welcome," she said with a toothy smile.

Kit pretended not to notice the donation box on the counter beside her and kept on walking. It was a rather small museum, but full of information about the island, from its earliest Polynesian inhabitants up to the present day. There were plenty of displays about kumquats, too, of course. He lingered in front of one diorama that depicted, as near as he could tell, a battle from World War I, acted out entirely with kumquats.

"What is the deal with kumquats, anyway?" Kit wondered aloud, shaking his head.


"What is the deal with the kumquats, anyway?" Don Karnage wondered aloud, shaking his head.

"I told you, querido, I have no idea. Victoria, don't touch that!" Scarlet rushed to keep Victoria from upsetting a porcelain vase. Small children and museums full of breakable objects didn't go well together, but there was nothing else to do on the island until the carnival opened.

"Ooh, lookie here," Karnage said, gazing into a glass display case filled with pearl jewelry.

Scarlet came up beside him, carrying a squirming Victoria at her hip.

"Oh my goodness," she said, her eyes lighting up with greed. "They're beautiful!"

"Marbles!" Juan said happily, smudging the glass with his nose and fingers.

Karnage leaned in close to the glass, practically drooling. "These must be worth many, many hundreds of thousands of dollars!" He rubbed his hands together gleefully.

Scarlet read the plaque on the side of the display case. "'These pearls were all taken from the waters around Fid Jiti, one of the richest pearl beds in the Pacific'. Oh my, my, my..."

"You did not know about this when you suggested we come here?" Karnage asked, straightening up to look her in the eye.

"No."

He raised an eyebrow. "Well? Shall we turn this into a, uh...working vacation?" he asked slyly.

She hesitated. "I don't know, querido, we're here to relax. You really shouldn't be..." Her voice trailed off. "Wow, those are big pearls, aren't they?"

"Yes, they are." He grinned. "Come, now, mi flor, you cannot resist any more than I." [mi flor=my flower]

"Well..." She gave an embarrassed smile. "I have to admit...that string in the back would go awfully well with my navy blue gown, and..." She hesitated, and he smirked. "No, you're right. I can't resist. But let's wait until we're ready to leave the island. Besides, we can't...er...you know...do anything about it with the kids here. It's not safe," she said quietly.

He grinned and slipped in a quick kiss. "I love it when you are greedy and dishonest, querida."

"Gee, thanks," she said wryly. "Now let's move on before someone gets suspicious."

He gasped suddenly and pointed. "Look!"

She turned around. "What?"

He growled in frustration. "I am telling you, Scarlet, I just saw Kit Cloudkicker in the fur, through that doorway! Just as plainly as I am seeing your beautiful self. I swear it!"

"S'not nice to swear," Juan said.

Karnage hurried off toward where he had seen the bear, but when he got there, the hall was empty. Just some old canoes, pottery and recreated huts.

"But--but--but--" he sputtered, looking around as if expecting Kit to materialize out of nowhere. "I saw him! He was here!"

Scarlet put a concerned hand on his shoulder. "Felipe, why don't we go find a nice, quiet spot and sit down for awhile?"

"No! He was here! I am sure of it! I saw him!" He began shaking. "I know what I saw! I am not...I am not..."

"I know you aren't, querido. Just calm down. Come on, we'll go get something to drink and sit on the beach or something."

"Ooh, beach!" Juan said eagerly.

"Yay!" Victoria cheered.

"But...I..." He looked around the room, which was still devoid of bears. He sighed and shakily touched his forehead. "All right. We go."

She kept a comforting hand on his back as they left the museum.


A three-quarters moon shone down on the Fid Jiti Historical Museum, compensating for the lack of street lights. A dark figure slid silently through the shadows, stealthily striding toward the--

"Mommy, I went potty!"

Karnage froze in his tracks and winced as Scarlet shushed Victoria.

"I'll change you in a minute, honey," Scarlet cooed, picking up her daughter. She turned to her husband with a cross look, but he was already busy with a lock pick at the back door of the museum. "This is exactly why I didn't want the kids along," she hissed.

"They will be fine," Karnage whispered. "Juan is always begging to come along on a plunder, anyway. Isn't that right, my son?"

Juan, under strict orders to remain silent, nodded so vigorously it seemed his head might fall off.

"Besides," his father continued, "if we are caught, we are just a family out for an evening stroll, yes-no?"

"At midnight, through the museum?" Scarlet scoffed.

"I did not say it was a good lie. Anyway, I am not intending to be caught, so shush up!" A moment later, the lock gave way to his experienced hands, and they slipped quietly through the door into the shadowy museum. Juan stayed close by his mother's side, not enthusiastic about the dark. The only illumination was the moonlight streaming through the tall windows on the front face of the building.

Scarlet nudged Juan alongside Karnage, then tiptoed off to find the ladies' room to change Victoria. By the time she returned, her son was so enrapt, observing his father in action, that he had forgotten his fear of the dark. The boy watched the pirate's every move intently, his dark eyes shining with admiration. For his part, Karnage was taking perhaps just a bit longer than necessary to break into the display case, basking in his son's idolization. Finally the lock yielded, and Karnage slowly slid back the glass panel, trying to cause as little noise as possible. Scarlet put down Victoria beside Juan and knelt by her husband with a large shopping bag that would serve as a loot sack. Pearl after shining pearl passed from his hands into the bag. When it was full, they put some in Victoria's diaper bag, too. Karnage worked quickly and methodically, and soon the display case was empty.

Karnage glanced at Scarlet with a look of pure glee. She grinned and stole a very brief kiss before handing him the loot sack. Juan spontaneously hugged his father, causing his smile to widen even more. He ruffled the boy's hair affectionately and began slinking back toward the door. Juan followed, attempting to mimic Karnage's movements. Scarlet took a sleepy Victoria in her arms and took up the rear.

Karnage carefully shut the door behind them, then led the way down the street. A flawless robbery, he gloated to himself. But what else was to be expected from the world's greatest pirate? This was the best he had felt in months!

They melted into the night, making their way toward the hotel.


Kit Cloudkicker tossed and turned and fidgeted, unable to sleep on the bunk in the back of the Cloudsurfer. It wasn't the narrow, lumpy cot. He had slept in far worse places. But, like a worried parent, he couldn't sleep knowing his "baby" was ailing. He finally got up and emerged from the plane, frowning morosely at the broken engine. Parts were sticking out of the panel like an open wound. Kit sighed. Tiny, middle-of-nowhere islands were fine for a vacation, but try finding a decent mechanic on one...

Finally resigning himself to insomnia, Kit threw on his leather flight jacket and wandered down the street, hoping to find an open restaurant. "If you can't sleep, you might as well eat," was the motto he had picked up from Baloo.

There was no one on the street at this late hour. Kit checked his pocket watch. Yep, well after midnight. Everyone in their right mind was snug in bed.

He shook his head and kept walking aimlessly down the street.


Don Karnage was immensely pleased with himself. His son adored him, his wife adored him, he had a sackful of fresh plunder, and his mind was clear as crystal now. No more paranoia, no more panic, no more hallucinations. As they rounded the corner in front of the hotel, he turned to his wife. "You know, Scarlet, I--"

*WHAM*!

He ran face-first into someone, and they both staggered back a step. "Hey! Watch where you are--" he began to say, then stopped, mouth agape. Standing right in front of him was his former protege, one by the name of Kit Cloudkicker. Stunned and groggy-looking, Kit just stood there, gawking. Karnage took a cautious step toward him, studying his face intently. "Are...are you real?" he asked in a hushed voice.

Kit frowned. "Huh?"

"Are you really there, or are you some pigment of my imagination?"

Kit was regarding him with wary confusion. "Uh, no, I'm really here..."

Karnage carefully reached out and touched Kit's shoulder to prove it. "You are! Hooray!" He suddenly seized the bear in a giant hug. "Oh, I am so glad to see and feel you really here! I thought you were a hallucination! But you are real! Oh, what a relievement!"

"What the--?" Kit sputtered, google-eyed. "What are you doing?" He shoved Karnage away.

"You are real!" Karnage said gleefully.

"Last I checked... What the heck is going on? Have you totally lost your mind?"

Karnage giggled. "No, my boy, once and for always, I know I have not!"

Kit looked to Scarlet, who shrugged helplessly and smiled. "Er...yeah...that's great. I'm just, er, gonna, go now, okay?" he said, edging away.

"Yes, yes, fine. Go about your boring, non-piratey life, now," Karnage said, shooing him away but still grinning from ear to scarred ear. Kit hurried off down the street, glancing over his shoulder occasionally to shake his head in confusion.

Karnage turned to Scarlet. "Come, my darling, let us get some donuts and celebrate our good fortune!"

Juan yawned, and Scarlet raised an eyebrow in motherly concern. "I'd love to, querido. But let's get the kids to bed, first." Victoria was already dozing in her arms.

"But of course." He gallantly opened the door for her, and Scarlet and Juan went into the hotel. Karnage followed them to their suite, whistling happily. Juan and Victoria were soon asleep in their room, and Scarlet joined her husband on the patio.

"Aren't you going to get some sleep? It's almost one o'clock in the morning," she said.

"Sleep? Who wants to sleep at a time like this?" Karnage exulted, turning his face into the trade wind and sniffing the briny air. "Life is wonderful!"

Scarlet smiled tolerantly and wound her arms around his waist. "So you're feeling better, I take it?"

"Better? Scarlet, mi amor, mi esposa, mi flor, reina de mi corazon, I have never felt more better in my entire life!" ["my love, my wife, my flower, queen of my heart"]

"Glad to hear it."

"And you know what else, querida mia?" ["my darling"] He turned to face her and put a hand under her chin to guide her eyes to meet his. "I realized something today. Tonight. This morning. Whenever," he faltered with a laugh. "I have everything I have ever wanted. I have a marvelous, beautiful, delightfully dangerous wife, wonderful children to follow in my footsteps, more plunder than I could spend in ten lifetimes, and a rrreptuation as a horrible, much-afeared pirate. What more could any man want?"

Scarlet smiled calmly and leaned into an embrace. "Well, you did mention donuts..." she teased.

"I did, didn't I? But that can wait. First..." He dipped her back like a dance partner and kissed her.

 



Epilogue
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This story and the characters Scarlet, Juan, Victoria, Vincenzo, Carlotta and Isabella and are (c) Katie Sullivan and may not be used without permission. Katarina, Wenna and Kai are (c) Kayleen Lium and shouldn't be used without permission, either. Don Karnage, the Iron Vulture, the Air Pirates, TaleSpin, Mad Dog, Dumptruck, Cape Suzette, Kit Cloudkicker, Baloo, Rebecca Cunningham, Molly, Wildcat and all related indica, etc, are (c) The Walt Disney Company and are used without permission for non-profit entertainment purposes only.