Playgrounds of the Mind

Chapter Twelve: Zoological Mayhem

Kagome stirred uneasily as she heard a muffled bang coming from the vicinity of her door. She listened intently for a split second and then buried her head further into her pillow, trying to block out the noise.

"Kagome?" Came Sango's subdued call; the rapping on the door increased.

Groaning, Kagome made her way off the bed and stumbled to the door, opening it only a crack so as to limit the harsh light from the hallway. Not that it mattered, as Sango pushed the door open fully and barged in at full speed.

"Kagome, what's wrong? You look terrible," she stated, matter-of-factly. "I thought I heard Inuyasha yelling last night," she peered into Kagome's face, studying her dark circles. "What did he say this time?"

"Oh Sango, what does it matter? You know, I haven't known Inuyasha as long as you have, but I'm beginning to see a pattern here." She sighed heavily, "Basically, if I make one wrong move, it's as if I've attempted to sabotage him."

"Yeah," Sango agreed, pulling out Kagome's desk chair and plopping down. "He's got some major abandonment issues, but he isn't actually possessive." Sango looked thoughtful for a moment. "Well, he's not that possessive," she finally qualified.

"Gee, how reassuring," Kagome muttered, going back to her bed and lying face down on top of the covers.

Sango twirled in the chair and came to a stop regarding the prone figure. "So what'd he say, anyway?"

"Oh, he won't 'save me from Kouga', and, oh yeah, I'm in 'love' with him."

"Inuyasha said you were in love with him?"

"No, he said I was in love with Kouga-or rather, he implied it, in that supercilious, mean way he says half the things he says," Kagome muttered, picking at her bedspread.

"You certainly lead a complicated life, Kagome," Sango smirked. "So, are you going to get up, or do I have to drag you out of there?"

"Huh?" Kagome offered intelligently. "Getting up? Why?"

"Our school's trip is to the zoo today, don't you remember? I read you the entire schedule on Friday."

"Oh, Sango, I can't go anywhere today, I feel so miserable, and I don't want to run into Inuyasha!" She wailed and covered her head with a pillow.

Sango sighed and grabbed one of Kagome's ankles, yanking her half way out of bed. The other girl wailed and clung to the sheets.

"Kagome, you are not going to feel sorry for yourself and sulk!"

"Yes I am."

"Well, I won't let you. Now get up, go take a shower, try to make yourself look presentable, and we'll go enjoy a nice day at the zoo. Look at the furry little creatures."

Kagome didn't budge.

"Besides, Inuyasha isn't going."

"He isn't?" Kagome asked, looking up.

"No, he and Miroku are off doing something else, can't remember what." Sango gave Kagome's ankle another pull. "Now get up-I'm giving you twenty minutes!"

"Alright, I'm going," Kagome staggered to the closet to locate her robe.

Sango tried to suppress a smile as she made her way over to her room.

"I hate the zoo, everything smells," Inuyasha grumbled to Miroku, as he bent down to re-tie his shoes.

"Aw, you always complain about everything, man. What ever happened to your cheery outlook?"

"My what?"

"Never mind. So, how was your 'date' with Kagome? Anything happen that's worth mentioning?" Miroku had an evil glint to his eyes.

"Nothing happened, just drop it." Inuyasha's words were coated in ice. Miroku took note of it and steered off the subject.

"Well, Sango just made me clean her room last night. She would do something like that. Look at this," he gestured to his hands, "I have blisters!"

Inuyasha simply stared and turned away, uninterested. Great, Miroku thought, whenever Inuyasha got into a mood like this, it usually lasted for days. He wondered what had happened between Inuyasha and Kagome to make the former so angry. Maybe he should ask Sango later.

More people gathered as the bus was brought around and parked. The trip seemed to be very popular. Miroku spotted Sango's head in the crowd, and he waved her over. Only Kagome seemed to hold her back.

"You said they weren't coming!" Kagome hissed in Sango's ear.

"Sorry, I guess they changed their minds. Kagome, come on, you can't let your life be dictated by Inuyasha's movements. This is ridiculous-I bet by the time we reach the zoo, he'll come over to you and apologize for being so stupid."

"Really?" Kagome asked hopefully, sneaking a look in Inuyasha's direction.

"Of course," Sango nodded, making a note to somehow get Miroku to force Inuyasha to do such a thing.

A teacher took down names and everyone clambered onto the bus. Seeing Miroku and Inuyasha head to the back of the bus, Sango steered Kagome to a seat near the front; this way, he would be out of sight, and hopefully out of mind. With an internal groan, Sango noticed Kouga getting on. He walked down the aisle and stopped at the two girls' seats.

"Hey Kagome," he smiled, leaning in.

"Er, hi Kouga," she said nervously.

"So, did you and Inuyasha have a nice time?" he asked, almost spiting Inuyasha's name out.

"Uh, yeah."

"Well, since we never had a chance for our date, Kagome, I figured we could spend the day together," he smiled charmingly.

Kagome panicked. "Uh, sorry Kouga, but I promised Sango we'd see the exhibits together."

Sango smiled sweetly at him. "Sorry Wolfgang-Puck."

He narrowed his eyes slightly. "Well, Kagome, maybe we can meet up some time for lunch, instead? Hey, I'll find you, don't worry." And he was off, with a wave.

"Great," Kagome muttered under her breath.

"Don't worry, Kagome, we'll lose him. And if not, I have Ayame's number- I'll just give her a ring and let her know where her precious Kouga is."

Kagome giggled appreciatively. "Thanks Sango. Well, maybe this trip will be fun after all."

Inuyasha sniffed the air and made a face. "It smells, just like I said."

Miroku sighed. "Okay, so what do you want to see first?" He pulled a zoo map out of his pocket and studied it. After a few moments he turned the map upside down and looked some more. Giving up, he shoved the map back and tugged on Inuyasha's sleeve. "Let's just walk down this way." Inuyasha shrugged and followed.

Meanwhile, Kagome and Sango were desperately trying to put as much distance between themselves and the bus, so that Kouga would have a harder time 'finding' them, as he had promised. Stopping to catch their breath, the girls noticed the penguin house and decided to go in.

"Aw, they're so cute," Kagome crooned, wiggling her pinky at the baby penguins. Sango smiled, glad to see that the other girl's mood had improved. Although she knew what she had to do.

"Kagome," she started, and stopped.

"Yes, Sango?" Kagome asked, looking over at her, her head at a quizzical angle.

"We need to have a talk. Come on, let's take a walk."

Miroku was snapping pictures of some grazing giraffes, while Inuyasha did what he did best: sulked, and kicked the sidewalk.

"Can't we go already?" he whined. "We've been here for ten minutes!"

Miroku regarded him coolly. "Sango happens to like giraffes, so I'm taking some photos for her room." He grinned suddenly. "Hey, you could take some for Kagome-I'll bet she'll forgive you for whatever you said last night."

"WHAT?" Inuyasha barked. "I did not say anything wrong! She's the one who's all over Kouga, so I just don't care anymore."

Miroku rolled his eyes, "yeah, it's so obvious how over her you are."

"I was never 'in' to her to begin with."

"Oh, that's just a lie! Really, Inuyasha, no girl is ever going to willingly accept your jealous streak." He ducked just in time to miss being hit.

"I am not jealous! I'm just . . ." he trailed off.

"Exactly. Let's review, shall we? Kagome sat in Kouga's box by accident-- "

"Or so she claims."

Miroku squeezed his eyes together in pain. "Inuyasha, I doubt she's ever been to a kendo match before that, she didn't know."

"Fine," Inuyasha muttered.

"Next, Kagome accidentally bids on Kouga in the auction." Miroku stopped and contemplated that statement. "Wow, she sure is accident prone."

Inuyasha snorted. "You forgot, she went to dinner with him."

"Yeah, and you forgot she dumped wine over his head and went home with you."

Inuyasha grinned at this. "That was funny."

"Look, man, I've been your friend for a long time, and I've never seen you act this way, so you must really like her. And I'm happy for you-now we can all double date." He smiled wistfully, thinking of Sango.

Inuyasha cocked an eye at him. "So this is going to be the year, huh? It's about time, I've known you've had a crush on that girl since day one."

The two friends stood there for a moment, looking like two love-struck idiots. Finally Miroku came to his senses. "Alright, so will you just go to Kagome and say you're sorry? It won't hurt, you know."

"Okay, okay, I'll do it," the blonde sighed dramatically.

"In that case, let's head to the gift shop. You can buy Kagome a stuffed Koala or something."

Sango and Kagome walked along quietly for a few moments. Kagome kept looking over at her friend, wondering what all this was about.

Sango stopped at a bench and sat down. Kagome joined her, looking at her face intently.

"Kagome, how do you feel about Inuyasha? I mean, besides being angry or mystified, after all, all guys make us feel that way, I mean before? In the beginning, when you first met him?"

Kagome bit her lip and stared at her boots. "Maybe you'll think I'm crazy, but I liked him a lot when I first met him. And, well, I still do." Kagome looked at Sango and took a deep breath. "So I know you want to talk me out of it, but--"

"No way, Kagome! I mean, I think you guys would be really great together." Sango beamed at her. "So, now, all I have to do is give you a little warning-Inuyasha is going to do something like this again. God, maybe even more times than I'd like to imagine. But," she reached over and pressed Kagome's hand, "you know he only does it because he cares." Kagome felt warmth spread through her body at those words. "Plus, he hates Kouga," Sango added helpfully. Kagome burst out laughing.

"I know, Sango. The minute I laid eyes on him I knew he'd be trouble. But I've lived a straight-laced life, so it's time for me to get into some trouble," she stated as she stood up and dragged Sango down the street. "So, what do you say we go find that moron?"

After walking in circles Inuyasha and Miroku finally found the gift shop.

"You have no sense of direction! That's the last time we follow your lead," Inuyasha grumbled, walking up and down the shelves, looking for something appropriate.

"Like you could do better. Besides, it's a faulty map."

"Don't blame your insufficiencies on the map," Inuyasha snapped back, and halted suddenly. Miroku slammed into him.

"Ow," he rubbed his nose, "what--"

Inuyasha yanked him behind a shelf. Up at the register, Kouga was buying exotic flowers.

"Are these for someone special?" The salesgirl asked, in a flirtatious manner.

"Yep," Kouga puffed out his chest. "I'm going to meet up with her later, so I thought I'd surprise her while I was at it."

Inuyasha gripped Miroku's arm, causing the boy to whimper slightly. As Kouga left the store, Inuyasha tore after him, almost blowing the door off its hinges. Miroku could barely get out the doorway before Inuyasha reached Kouga.

"Kouga!"

He turned and regarded his classmates with a smirk. "Well, Inuyasha, as wonderful as it is to see your face outside of class, I'm late for my date."

Oh god, Miroku's mind raced, he said the 'D' word.

"You? A date?"

"Yes, since you so rudely monopolized my time with Kagome yesterday, we're making it up today." Kouga sneered at Inuyasha, "you know she looked so tired, I don't think she had such a good time last night."

Inuyasha growled and advanced. "You bastard, if she looks tired, it's only because she's sick of you pestering her every damn second!"

While the boys argued, Kouga had begun walking and Inuyasha and Miroku followed. All three of them stopped near a fence.

Kouga glared balefully. He extended his index finger and pointed right at Inuyasha's nose. "Listen, you--" Suddenly he was jerked from behind and almost fell. Turning around Kouga was face to face with a goat that was busily munching on the flowers he had bought. "Hey," he protested, pulling at the bouquet.

Inuyasha was howling with laughter, almost rolling on the ground. Gasping for breath, he stood up. "Your date really likes the flowers, Kouga. I think she's a keeper!"

"She's a perfect match for you," Miroku joined in. The two friends laughed some more.

"Shut up!" Kouga commanded, urgently pulling at the flowers. The goat bleated and pulled as well. Caught off guard, Kouga fell right over the fence and into the pen.

Inuyasha grabbed Miroku's camera and began snapping away. "Now this is a photo op for Kagome's room! Did you hear that, Kouga? This is the only picture Kagome will ever have of you, with your goat!"

Kouga leapt over the fence, and Inuyasha pocketed the camera and took off running. Miroku followed, and shortly, so did the goat.

"Is he answering?" Kagome asked, licking her chocolate cone.

"Nope," Sango replied, trying to redial on her cell phone while not dropping her ice cream. "I wonder where Miroku is? I'll try Inuyasha's next."

But she never had to because three large figures and a smaller one rushed around the corner and down the street.

Kagome blinked. "Was that Miroku and Inuyasha?"

Sango stared back at her. "Was that a goat?"

"Oh my god, I have to see this," Kagome squealed, as she started jogging in the direction the boys had gone.

"I'll be with you in a second, Kagome," Sango yelled, "I've just got to make a quick phone call. Kagome waved and ran down the path. Sango waited patiently for the ringing to stop. "Hello, Ayame?"

Inuyasha made a mistake and took a wrong turn and ended up in a dead end. He stopped and waited as Kouga and Miroku caught up.

"Hey Inuyasha, what's up?"

Inuyasha looked to the side, spotting an underclassman. "Shippou? Uh, nothing much."

Shippou was holding a skateboard in one hand and a hotdog in the other. "Oh, are you and Kouga going to fight again?"

"Looks that way, kid."

Kouga arrived first, stomping his foot and pointing at Inuyasha. "Alright jackass, let's finish this once and for all, and then I have to find Kagome."

Inuyasha laughed and pushed up his sleeves. "Of course, Kouga, I wouldn't want you to keep the goat waiting."

"I said Kagome!"

"What's that? You've named the goat Kagome? Gee, I don't think she'd like that."

"What goat?" Shippou asked, confused.

"Get the hell out of here, freshman," Kouga spat.

"Oh, that goat." Shippou nodded.

"What?" Kouga spun around to see Miroku walking over, with the goat a few paces behind.

"Hey, why's that thing following me?"

"She's jealous, Kouga, you shouldn't ignore her that way," Inuyasha reproached, as Shippou and Miroku laughed. "Hey," he yelled, looking up the path, "there's Kagome now! You can tell her the good news, Kouga."

"Hey Sango! Kagome!" Shippou hollered.

"Kagome, come meet Kouga's--" but Inuyasha never finished his sentence as Kouga lunged at him and clasped his throat in both hands. The two rivals struggled to get the upper hand, although both were pretty winded after running. The chain link fence sagged a bit under their combined weight, and suddenly they were sliding out. Realizing their position, Inuyasha and Kouga tried to grab the fence by the top pole, but it snapped out of place and they soon found themselves tumbling to the ground below.

"Inuyasha!" Kagome shrieked, running over and peering over the side. The others rushed to her side.

Inuyasha and Kouga were stirring, slowly getting up and testing for any injuries.

"Half-demon."

"Wimpy wolf."

"Well, they've exchanged insults, so they can't be too badly hurt," Shippou exclaimed.

"What lives down there, anyway?" Sango asked. "Hey Kagome, move you're leaning on the sign."

Kagome stepped back and a hush fell over the group. The sign read "Siberian Tiger".

"Uh oh," Miroku murmured, turning to Sango. "We should do something. Quickly."

"We'll call the zoo security! They'll know what to do," she said desperately searching for her cell phone.

"Inuyasha!" Kagome screamed, completely freaking out.

The goat bleated, upset at being ignored.

"Do you even know the number?" Shippou asked, more calmly than the others.

"Oh, no, I don't!" Hysteria crept into Sango's voice. Then she spotted Shippou's skateboard. "Shippou, get on that thing and go for help-get the zoo park rangers, or whatever."

"I can't, skating isn't allowed in the park."

Everyone blinked. "Then why do you have it with you?" Miroku ventured.

Shippou rolled his eyes. "Because I didn't know that before I got here."

Sango tugged at her hair. "This is an emergency, just get on it and go for help!"

"I'm not going to break the law! My family owns a law-firm what would people think if I had a record?" Shippou pouted, crossing his arms.

"Inuyasha!" Kagome yelled again.

"Uh, Kagome, that's not helping," Miroku motioned for her to be quiet. "If anything, it might lure the tiger out."

"What??" Inuyasha yelled back. "What the hell is all the commotion about, I said I was fine!"

A low growl suddenly caused everyone to freeze in mid-sentence. Inuyasha and Kouga turned around slowly, meeting the steel glare of a tiger only fifteen feet away.

"Oh, crap," Kouga muttered.

"This is your fault, Kouga," Inuyasha hissed.

Up above, Kagome and Sango were going nuts, running about in little circles, aimlessly trying to come up with a solution. Sango bumped into someone, almost falling down.

"Well, where is he? I don't see Kouga anywhere," Ayame demanded, glaring at Sango. Then she noticed Kagome and glared even more. She walked over to Miroku. "Where is he?"

Miroku looked at Sango and shrugged. He pointed down to the pit. Ayame walked over and peered into the jungle setting and saw the tiger staring the boys down. She backed away, horrified.

"Why isn't anyone doing anything?" She cried out.

"We've been debating what to do," Miroku tried to explain.

"Well, obviously you idiots haven't got a clue, so just step back and let a professional handle this."

Sango raised an eyebrow. "And what exactly makes you an expert in this, Ayame?"

"As a matter of fact, Kouga used to get into all sorts of scrapes as a child, so I learned to pack appropriately for whenever I had a rendezvous with him." Ayame proudly displayed a large picnic basket.

Sango stared at it dubiously. "I don't think chicken salad is the answer."

The goat sniffed the basket and wagged its tail.

Down in the pit, the tiger was watching the boys with evident distaste and annoyance.

"Try not to show any fear," Inuyasha stated, keeping his voice level.

"I'm not," Kouga complained.

"Yes you are, you keep taking a step back."

"I'm getting into a fighting stance, dumbass."

"This isn't kendo, moron!"

Meanwhile, a crowd had gathered around the little group, curious as to what was causing all the commotion. Ayame was remarkably calm, sifting through her basket. She pulled out a rope ladder. Miroku whistled approvingly. "You sure are prepared, Ayame," he noted.

"Will it hold?" Kagome asked worriedly, looking over the edge.

Ayame and Miroku secured the rope ladder as tightly as possible to what remained of the chain fence and lowered it. Fighting was heard below and then the ladder snapped and fell away. Sango grimaced but Ayame seemed calm enough. She walked to her basket and rummaged some more.

"Inuyasha, Kouga, stop fighting!" Sango screamed, "or else neither one of you is ever going to get out of there!" The two classmates were struggling; it appeared they hadn't heard one word. Kagome went back to biting her nails.

"Okay, the ladder's gone, but how about this steak?" Ayame offered the rib eye to Miroku who simply stared at it. "You know, it might distract the tiger while we find another exit."

"Yeah, or it could just whet the tiger's appetite, so that it decides to eat Inuyasha and Kouga that much faster," Shippou answered sarcastically.

Ayame glared at him. "If you have a better idea, I'd like to hear it."

Shippou put his skateboard on the ground and bent down to look through the basket's contents. "Hmm," he mumbled, taking out a bicycle horn, a jar of pate, and superglue.

"What is that going to do?" questioned Kagome.

"We can scare him with the horn, and un, if that doesn't work we can superglue the jar to his forehead so he can't see?" Shippou faltered.

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," Ayame countered and reached into the basket.

While the classmates argued and other bystanders stared, the goat walked up to the skateboard and tentatively stood on it, sniffing and licking the surface.

"Alright, I've had enough, steak it is," Ayame declared, grabbing the meat and walking to the edge of the broken fence.

"Let me," Miroku demanded. "I can throw farther."

"Oh yeah? Well it's my steak, and my Kouga, and I'm going to save him!" She elbowed Miroku in the solar plexus and as she arched her arm back, slammed him in the face with the raw meat. Miroku stumbled backwards and fell hard on Shippou's skateboard. As Miroku's end of the skateboard came down, the other end came up, lifting the poor goat into the air and launching it across the fence and into the jungle below.

Kagome gaped in horror as the tiger took off into the thicket. Once the predator had taken its eyes off of the humans, they ran like hell to the opposite side of the enclosure, where together they were able to wrestle open the zookeeper's door and get out of the pit. The students of Aureate Winters rushed around to meet them.

"Oh Kouga!" Ayame cried, throwing herself about his neck, almost strangling him in the process.

"Inuyasha!" Kagome called, rushing over to hug him fiercely.

Suddenly both girls let go. "Ugh, you smell Kouga!" Ayame wrinkled her nose daintily.

Inuyasha sniffed his shirt and grimaced. "Oh gross, Kouga you ass! I do smell, thanks to you! That's it, I'm suing you, I'm suing the zoo, in fact, I'm suing everyone within ten miles of here!"

With that comment, all the bystanders started to scatter. Finally, the gang was alone.

"Oh, that poor goat," Kagome sniffed.

"Yeah, now Kouga will have to find a new girlfriend," Inuyasha snickered.

"What? What do you mean 'new'?" Ayame glared at Kagome. "You're not his girlfriend, are you?"

"NO!" Kagome and Inuyasha simultaneously yelled.

"Well good," Ayame chirped sweetly, "I guess that means you and I can officially start dating now, Kouga." With those words, the socialite dragged him off, crooning in his ear.

Sango shook her head. "Why do I get the impression Kouga would have preferred the tiger to that girl?"

"Well, you know for some it's 'The Lady or the Tiger', but I guess Kouga got both!" Inuyasha crowed, barely able to contain himself. "And he got a goat, too!"

Miroku sighed. At least Inuyasha was in a better mood; there was something to be thankful for.

Challenge: 1) "Is that a goat?"-what line is this movie from? 2) The plot of this chapter is based on an episode from which TV show?

All right, reviewers, give me some feedback. ^_^