A/N: I've had the first few paragraphs of this sitting in my laptop for a few years now. I had absolutely no idea what to do with it. Finally I was struck with inspiration and am so glad to finally be able to share it. I hope you like.

It was a rare warm March day in South Park and the three first grade classrooms were gathered in the cafeteria, a good bustle around the fifty plus kids and the adults inside. Today was an exciting day; it was the field trip to the zoo that the students were unable to go on when they were in kindergarten last year due to bad weather. Now the kids were finally able to go on one of the biggest field trips they would ever go on during elementary school. One thing was certain, no one was looking forward to this trip more than a particular little boy in Mrs. Hillgry's class.

"-and there's supposed to be both reg'ler tigers and white tigers!" Stan Marsh was explaining to his group of friends, hands on a brochure of the Wildlife Zoo in Bailey.

"For the last time no one cares!" Cartman rolled his eyes.

Stan glared. "If you didn't care you wouln't've begged your mom to buy your ticket weeks ago."

Kyle laughed. "I knew it! Fat boy."

Stan looked around at the adults. "God, I wish they'd hurry and put us in our groups so we can go!"

"I hope we're in the same group dude," Kyle expressed to Stan.

"Dude, we will, Miss Hillgry knows we're best friends."

As if on cue, their teacher came forward with a sheet in her hands and a handful of nametags in the other. "Okay class, listen up! I'm about to put you into your groups. Now there will be five groups with four students each and one chaperone for each group. You will be given a special nametag shaped like an animal that has your name on it. You must wear it at all times in case someone gets lost. Listen now- the Monkey group will have Kenny, Heidi, Wendy, and Allison and Wendy's mom as chaperone. Group Giraffe will have Blaire, Mark, Token, and Kimmy with me as the chaperone. Group Elephant will have Eric, Emma, Bradley, and Kyle with Bradley's mom as chaperone."

Stan and Kyle looked at each other and then at Cartman in horror.

"Group four is the Lion group with Stanley, Red, Bebe, and Butters with Bebe's mom as chaperone."

The boys didn't even hear the final four students placed in the Parrot group. The news they just received was a big blow.

"Dude! We won't be in the same group!" Stan cried.

"And I have to be with fatass!" Kyle complained.

"Hey! I'm not too jolly about it either," Cartman crossed his arms as their teacher gave them their nametags.

"We should switch," Stan spoke as he held out his lion nametag.

Kyle frowned. "We can't. Look- they have our names and phone number lamatated on the nametags already."

Stan looked at the lion cutout in his hands. Sure enough Stanley Marsh and his house phone were on printed paper between sheets of film. They couldn't simply trade their group animal names with someone else.

"Man, it's not gonna be as much fun without you there to tell me all about the animals," Kyle sighed.

"It won't be as much fun for me to not tell you about all the aminals," Stan expressed.

Soon enough the chaperones began gathering their kids for the day together and with one last sad wave Stan turned to the other three kids in the Lion Group.

Butters gave off a small smile and rubbed his hands together. "Wow-wee, looks like we're in the same group. This is gonna be pretty fun h-huh Stanley?"

Stan sighed. "Call me Stan. And I doubt it, Kyle's my best friend and I won't be with him."

"Well hey um, I- I like amminals too. I can't wait to see a giant tortoise or- or some meerkats."

Stan's eyes lit up. "You know what a meerkat is?"

"Why yeah! I love those little guys. I wish they had 'em in pet stores," Butters said just as nervous.

"Me too! Wow, I thought I was the only one that knew what they were."

The two were following behind their chaperone to get onto the bus.

"I- I know 'em from the movie 'The Lion King'."

"I love that movie!" Stan cried.

Butters smiled, happy to be having a conversation with someone in class. He always did like Stan and his friends. The ride to the Bailey Wildlife Zoo took forty minutes and Stan and Kyle were thankfully able to sit next to each other on the bus. However they went back into their groups when they arrived at the zoo. The adults talked about which path they were going to take so they didn't run into each other and how they were all to meet in the large refreshments area for lunch at twelve. Stan was once again upset he wasn't with Kyle that he stopped caring what Butters had to say and was back at thinking he was lame.

The first stop Group Lion came to was The Bird Sanctuary which held many different breeds of bird, big and small, some flying, some standing on ledges inside a wire-frame enclosure. Stan saw an employee placing a macaw on a little girl's shoulder.

"Missus Bebe's mom, can I hold a bird too?" Stan spoke.

"What? I'm sorry dear but I can't allow you kids to handle any animals. You might get hurt," spoke their chaperone.

"But I won't. I'm good with aminals," Stan insisted.

Mrs. Stevens was already leading the kids off to the next exhibit. Stan crossed his arms but followed. An hour had passed and they had seen several animals but Stan wanted to see a particularly interesting animal- an okapi. The kids were now watching a leopard bat a bowling ball around the ground.

"What a pretty tiger," Mrs. Stevens smiled.

"It's a leopard, it says right there"- Stan pointed at the sign. He hated when people confused tigers and leopards! They were obviously very different. One had stripes, one had spots.

"Whatever it is, it's pretty."

Stan watched the leopard for a couple more minutes before voicing a question. "Mrs. Stevens, when will we see an okapi?"

"A what?" she turned to the little boy behind her.

"An okapi. They said they had 'em"- Stan held out his brochure.

"Is that some magical animal? I've never heard it. We should go down to the lunch area soon. I think I heard there was a butterfly room nearby."

"Ohh! I love butterflies!" Bebe smiled at her mother.

"Can we see an okapi after?" Stan hurried to catch up to the group.

"I've never heard of an okpee. We need to be at the bus by 2:30 Stanley. I think we all want to see an animal we all know about."

"I want to see elephants," Red said.

"Of course, we can't go to the zoo and miss those can we?" Mrs. Stevens smiled.

"You can see elephants any ol' time, but not every place hasa okapi!" Stan whined.

"Stanley, we don't need any arguing on this special trip. This place is too big to see everything. Now keep up, I'm sure everyone is hungry."

Stan was in a sour mood by lunchtime. He had little interest in the butterflies and the lunch area was so crowed he couldn't sit next to Kyle and had to be squeezed next to Butters on a chair as they ate the hotdogs that was included in the class zoo admission.

"Gee whiz St-Stan, you seem pretty sore about something," Butters looked to his right.

"Mrs. Stevens won't let me see an okapi! We keep going to aminals everyone has seen before," Stan said as he played with his hotdog bun.

"What- what's an okipee?"

"Oh-ka-pi. It's a real cool animal from the Rain Forest and looks kinda like a zebra but it's brown. It's actually part of the giraffe family," Stan informed the blond boy next to him.

"And they exist?"

"Duh. Why would I make it up? It's just not a well-known amimal that's why I want to see it."

"Well uhh, it's up to Miss Stevens Stan. I'd kinda like to see it too but um, it's not up to us to- to decide."

Stan frowned and took a long drink from his chocolate milk; he was going to find an okapi with or without the chaperone. Mrs. Stevens took the kids up to see some monkeys after lunch. Stan had to admit it was fun to watch them climb great heights and make all kinds of sounds but he still pestered Mrs. Stevens about the okapis.

"Okay Stanley," she exasperated finally. "If you can show me where this creature is and it's on the way of the path towards the entrance we can see this okepee."

Stan frowned as he looked at his map. Truthfully he never gave much thought as to where the animal was located. "Umm, I dunno where it is really…"

Mrs. Stevens shook her head. "Kids, why don't we see the polar bears okay? They're close to the entrance so we can meet up with everyone else after. Come on, if we hurry we can make it."

Stan hung his head as the kids began walking down the hill again. This zoo visit turned out to be a bust. How was that possible? He looked behind him then in front a few times, hanging behind his group before an idea struck him. He smiled and stopped Butters who was ahead of him.

"What is it Stan?"

"Butters, I just had an idea! Let's go find the okapi right now!"

"But Stan, we're going to- to leave after the polar bears."

Stan waved a hand to show he wasn't worried. "We'll be real quick. Wif Miss Stevens away I can look at the map more better."

"But S-Stan, the group is already ahead! What if we miss the bus?" Butters pointed ahead of them.

"We won't. Miss Hillgry said everyone hasta be up front by 2:30. I'm getting better at telling time so I know what that looks like so we can be up front by then!"

"But you don't know where to go. I don't wanna get in trouble…"

"Do you want to see an okapi or not?" Stan gave him a mean look.

Butters nodded, scared.

"Good. It's… one o'clock now"- Stan pointed to a large clock that showed the time by the lion's pen. He did some counting to himself. "Forty-five… forty-six…fifty…five… we still have an hour to find the animal then get on the bus!"

"Well uhh- okay, if you know what you're sayin' Stan."

"I do, trust me."

He hurriedly found a good spot in the sun to see the map better. He traced a finger around, trying to find a clue as to where it would be. When he looked up the zoo's website with his dad the night before it did list okapis as one of the animals there. But where was it? He tried to remember sitting at the computer with his daddy as he clicked around, telling him what the zoo had to offer. He then remembered! He looked back at the map and sure enough saw an icon of a tree with the caption: Rainforest Exhibit. Of course he couldn't make out those words. But he did know the word 'rain' so it had to be it.

"It's right here," Stan pointed to the area to Butters.

"Is it close?"

Stan frowned, tongue between teeth as he studied the map yet again. "Let's see…. we are…by the lions… which is across from the reptile house…so the Rainforest area is… up this path and around this way… okay, let's go Butters."

"Are you s-sure it's close by Stan?" Butters frowned.

"Yes, just c'mon. We'll be quick; we still have an hour of minutes until we have to be at the buses again."

"What if Miss Stevens finds out we're not in the group?"

"We'll be fine Butters! Now let's go!" Stan ordered.

Gulping, Butters hurried off after Stan. Of course they went by unnoticed by other zoo patrons and within fifteen minutes had reached the Rainforest Exhibit. They walked a little while more before Stan exclaimed and pointed ahead.

"There! They're there!" he and Butters ran over to the enclosure with the okapis. Sure enough, a few brown animals with zebra-like stripes on their legs were going about their business.

"Oh cool! Look at 'em!" Butters smiled.

"See? See? I told you they were real!" Stan said proudly.

"You sure did Stan. They look so… what's the word? Exotic."

Stan turned to the blond boy. "What does 'exotic' mean?"

"Why uhh, it just means something is extra fancy. Something looks ex-extra nice," Butters gave a nervous grin.

Stan smiled back before turning to the okapi. Now that he had finally seen what he wanted to, he felt the day was a success after all. Five minutes later he sighed and turned away.

"Well, guess we should be heading to the bus now."

Butters nodded. "We better hurry. They- they might leave without us."

Stan rolled his eyes as they began to walk away. "They wouldn't leave without us. If they see we aren't on the bus yet they'll wait."

Butters rubbed his hands nervously. "Are you sure Stan?"

"Duh. Miss Hillgry knows we're in her class. If everyone really is on the bus and we aren't… well, she'll know. And prob'ly have someone go out and look for us."

"Well I don't want to keep them waitin' too long either way. If Miss Hillgry is waiting forever she'll tell my parents and they'll ground me."

Stan rolled his eyes again as they continued to walk. He didn't want to purposefully stall time but it was always difficult to leave the zoo after a visit. There were simply too many animals to see. The two boys crossed a path behind another school group when something caught his eye. A large area chained off to the left.

"Hey Butters, look!" he pointed.

"What is it?"

Stan hurried over to the fences blocking off that section of the zoo. On one fence was a sign reading: FUTURE ZOOTOPOLIS PLAYGROUND DEVELOPMENT. OPENS IN 30 DAYS. Stan peaked between a couple of the looser fence posts to see what looked to be a playground of some sort in the distance. He suddenly gasped.

"This must be where that new playground is being built! I 'member hearing about it."

"Really? That's pretty cool I guess," Butters looked over his shoulder, clearly wanting to leave.

Stan looked at the large sign before going back to the fence for another look. He couldn't make out the words on the sign but the very last part made sense: 30 days. 30 days meant a month. A month wasn't very long of time. He went back and forth from the sign to the gap in the fence one more time before a small smile spread on his face.

"Hey Butters, wouldn't it be cool if we got to be the first ones to see the new playground?"

"I- I guess so. But why are you asking Stan?"

Stan rubbed his hands happily. "I just had the bestest idea: let's sneak into the new playground, just to see it."

"Now? But we have to get back to the bus," Butters looked increasingly worried.

"We're just going to look. And, well, it's a playground. It's not as if it's dangerous."

"I don't know Stan. I don't think they want anyone seeing the playground yet. That's why it's closed off…"

"What's really going to happen?" Stan rolled his eyes. "The sign says it opens in 30 days. How different is it really going to be in that month? 'Sides, I told you already that our class wouldn't leave without us. So what if it takes a little longer to get back to the school? We'll be fine."

"But my parents will ground me if I'm late to school!" Butters protested. "They were told the bus will be back at the school at- at 4 o'clock."

"Butters, you have to break a rule or two now and again. That's the only way you can ever have any fun," Stan pointed out.

"But there's- there's rules there for a reason Stan. We have to follow them."

Stan sighed. "See Butters, this is why other kids at school don't like to play wif you. You're lame."

Butters frowned as he kicked at a small rock. "I am not lame Stan. Why would you say something like that?"

"You are lame. You always follow the rules and never want to risk anything. That's why I know me and my friends don't like playing with you."

Butters looked down, trying hard not to look too upset at this revelation. He did want to play with Stan and his friends. Was this really the reason why they never allowed him to? Maybe if he did do something a little daring then he'd be allowed in…

"How would we get in anyway?" Butters nodded to the closed-off playground.

Stan stuck a hand between the gap of the fencing he had been looking into the past five minutes. "I think we can fit in here."

Butters stood back and watched as Stan wedged himself between the fences to the other side. He glanced back.

"C'mon Butters! Are you scared?" Stan taunted.

Butters jumped and went between the fence posts to join the black-haired boy.

"Oh wow," Stan gasped as they stepped into the light.

"This- this looks pretty neat Stan," Butters couldn't help but state.

There were a few large climbing structures in the shape of animals: a gorilla, lion, and zebra. There was also an empty pit which Stan guessed would soon be filled with sand. Off to one side looked to be a sprinkler system where kids could get sprayed with water (the structures were shaped like flamingos), and what looked to be best of all- a large climbing structure furthest down that had a cool slide coming out of a fake tree.

"Happy we snuck in now?" Stan turned to Butters.

Butters nodded, rubbing his hands in excitement. "This place really does look fun. And we're the first kids who'll get to see it."

Stan hurried to the lion structure. "I'm going to pretend I'm Mufasa from The Lion King!" Stan cleared his throat to speak in a deeper tone. "Simba, everything the light touches is our kingdom!"

Butters ran towards the other boy. "Can- can I play The Lion King with you Stan?"

"Sure, you can be Simba."

"Oh boy!" Butters danced around, happy at the thought to be allowed to play with Stan for once.

Stan continued to speak in a makeshift Mufasa voice. "Simba, you be a good boy and do everything I tell you! Never go to the shadowy place!"

"Why not Dad? What's there?" Butters pipped up.

"It's too scary to ever mention! And don't ask your uncle Scar 'cause he's real ugly and mean so never listen to anything he says!"

"He seems nice enough to me. He lets me practice my roar and everything!"

"Ha! I bet his roar is lame!" Stan crossed his arms. "I'm king so I have the best roar!"

"I wanna hear Dad," Butters smiled, looking up at Stan on the lion structure.

Stan drew in a breath and let out a roar, as loud as a six-year-old could produce anyhow. Butters mimicked him after. And so the two boys happily played The Lion King around the animal structure for the next ten minutes before running towards the treehouse-like play structure several feet away. There were bars to climb and tunnels to crawl in and slides to go down on. They played and ran around for thirty minutes, not having a care at all that they might be making their entire class late to go back home.

What neither boy noticed was a zoo employee walking down the section where the playground was, whistling to himself. He glanced to his left to see a gap in the fencing of the playground.

"Whoops! Don't know how this got left open. Better make sure to close it back up, don't want anyone getting a peek inside yet," the man said to himself and pushed the fence back to its original position, albeit even tighter than before. He left and returned with a bolt and chain for extra measure. Smiling that no one would be able to sneak in now, he left, continuing to whistle a happy tune.

During that same time Miss Hillgry was rushing her class onto the school bus to go back home, no bothering to count the kids that climbed onto it.

"Hurry children! Hurry! We are already running behind!"

"Do we still have to sit with our groups?" Kyle asked his teacher.

"What? No, I don't care, just get on," the teacher spoke, looking at her watch.

Kyle wasted no time getting away from Cartman and getting into the bus, eager to sit next to his best friend again and talk all about what he had done at the zoo. Finally the bus was loaded with the majority of the children and the chaperones and it started up and out the parking lot. Kyle frowned as he tried to look over all the heads around him. He turned to Kenny, who he was sitting next to.

"Dude, Kenny, have you seen Stan yet?"


"Stan. I didn't see him get on the bus yet."

"He must be somewhere. There's too many kids on the bus, it's hard to tell."

"I'm sure he'd want to sit next to me back home…"

Kenny shrugged and yawned. "There was other classes going to the zoo today. He could have gotten on the wrong bus."

Kyle frowned but nodded. "Makes sense. Well I hope he shows up when we get back home."

At that same time Stan and Butters were still enjoying themselves in the enclosed playground. Butters decided to chase Stan up into the treehouse play structure for the third time. Stan looked behind every-so-often, dodging the blond boy. He ran across the wiggly bridge in a jiffy. He hopped onto the next level up and scooted across the rolling walkway on his hands and knees.

"You're- you're going too fast Stan!" Butters whined.

"Not my fault you're slow! I'm gonna run all around the world before you get to me!" Stan boasted and went up one more level. Butters was coming for him. Stan glanced behind to see a knotted rope hanging. He grasped in in a second and swung down and out of the other boy's reach- he swung down so fast that he couldn't get a grip on his bearings and ran straight into a wooden sign that was on its side right below the rope with a crash.

"Oh geez, oh no," Butters gulped and ran down and out of the play structure over to where Stan was. "Are-are you okay Stan?" he asked.

Stan moaned as he laid on his front, on top a broken hippo sign that had the word: Drinking Fountain on it with an arrow. He slowly got to his hands and knees before sitting on his bottom. "I- I think I'm okay…"

At that moment Butters gasped and pointed at Stan's head. "Stan! Stan! You're bleedin'!"

"I am?" Stan cried.

Butters nodded and pointed to the left side of the boy's forehead. "Right there. Above your eye."

Stan slowly brought a hand to the spot and brought the hand back to his eyes. Blood covered his first two fingers. Only then could he feel blood drip slowly down his face and a searing pain right in his forehead. "Ahh! Ahh! I'm bleeding! Butters! I'm bleeding!"

Butters ran a hand over his face, scared as all heck now. "Oh no, we are in big trouble!"

Stan was already crying now from the pain and sight of blood on his hand.

"Stan, shhh, you're okay. You're- you're okay."

"My head is broken! I'm n-not okay!"

Butters knew this, the cut on his head seemed to be a good size and the blood was not slowing. But he didn't want to hear his new friend cry either. He pat Stan's back comfortingly.

"Shhh, you'll be oh-okay Stanley. You'll be okay."

"It h-hurts! (sniff) I wanna- wanna go home," Stan sniffed.

Butters nodded. "So do I Stan." He looked up and gripped the other boy's shoulder. "I'm going to go and find a grown-up, okay? I'll crawl back out where we got in and find someone. Okay?"

Stan drew in a deep shuddered breath. "We're gonna be so deep in- in trouble."

Butters sighed sadly. "I know. I don't think there's nothin' we can do to get out of it. But you're bleeding so I gotta find help."

"I'll go wif you."

"N-no Stan. You could lose more blood if you walk too much."

"I can?"

Butters nodded. "I- I think I saw it on a TV show before. Billy Bloof hit- hit his head and started to run around and it was squirting outta him and everything."

Stan gasped. "No! I don't wanna s-squirt out all my blood!"

Butters frowned but began to walk towards the entrance gate. "I'll be back soon Stan. You just stay here."

Stan looked up, still sniveling, wiping his eyes. "Hurry, it looks like it could rain soon."

"I'll run like the wind!" And Butters did just that. He ran all the way to the front gate- to find it shut. He tried pushing against the gate but it wouldn't budge. He tried again. And again. He bent down to look for any other gaps or openings but couldn't find any.

"Oh no, this isn't good…" he cleared his throat and yelled out, "Hello? Any-anyone over there?" he waited. No one answered back. Biting his lip, he slowly made his way back to Stan.

"Well?" Stan asked.

"Bad news Stan. I couldn't find no one."

"You couldn't? You were b-barely gone," Stan pointed out.

"The gate's closed up tight. I can't even get out."


"I tried pushing and pulling and calling out but couldn't open it up."

"You mean… we're trapped here?"

Butters didn't say anything; he just looked at the ground.

"I'm stuck and- and my head's broken! Oh no!" Stan said miserably, wiping at the blood that ran all down the left side of his face now.

Butters looked around. "We should get something for your head Stan. Until we can get help."

"Wh-what?" Stan rubbed his nose.

Butters peered around before spotting the bathroom sign that Stan had run into. He went off to find the actual bathroom; it had to be around here somewhere. He finally found it and hurried inside the first stall, expecting to find toilet paper, but found nothing. Frowning, he checked the one next to it but also found nothing. The bathroom only had the two stalls and unfortunately, with the play area still a month away from opening day, it was not stocked with paper items. But Butters didn't give up yet; he opened a storage drawer under the sink to find rags. Sure they looked a little dirty but it would have to do. He ran back to Stan, hands full of the few rags he had found.

"I- I don't think there's any water here Stan so I can't clean your face up. But um, I hope this h-helps…" Butters rolled up a rag and gently pressed it to Stan's wound.

"Oww! Be careful!" Stan winced.

"Sorry. But hold it there for now. Hopefully it'll stop soon."

The two sat next to the lion structure they had been playing on an hour ago. A cool breeze made Stan shiver. He looked up to see the clouds above darken.

"I really think it's going to rain soon. We gotta move."

They got up and went into the boy's bathroom just as the first drops of rain hit the ground.

"Someone has to know soon that we aren't back on the bus," Stan said miserably.

Butters could only nod in response.

It was now 5:30 and parents were lining up at the back of the elementary school where the bus drop off was. Sharon made sure to get out of work at an early time to pick up her son from his field trip. She got word that the bus was running a little late but would soon be pulling in. She sighed in satisfaction when she saw the yellow vehicle pull in and stop. Soon kids began pouring out, happily walking to their awaiting parents. Sharon was slightly surprised her son wasn't one of the first ones out; no doubt he would want to tell her everything he saw at the zoo today. Only when she saw Stan's first grade teacher step out and say something to the bus driver did she step forward.

"Um, Miss Hillgry?"

"Yes? Oh, hello Mrs. Marsh."

Sharon looked behind the woman. "Was that all the students that were on the bus?"

Miss Hillgry looked around. "Has Stanley not shown up yet?"

"No… of course he could be talking with Kyle. Let me see…" Sharon looked around to see the little boy in the green hat talking with his mother. "Kyle honey? Did you see Stan recently?"

Kyle looked around in confusion. "No… in fact, I don't think I seen him on the bus back home. May-maybe he got on the wrong bus home."

At that moment Sharon felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Mrs. Stotch standing there, worry on her face as well.

"Stanley hasn't shown up? Neither has my Butters."

"He hasn't?"

Kyle's eyes went wide and he walked up to the two mothers. "I just 'membered! Stan and Butters were both in the same group on the field trip!"

Hearing this, both Sharon and Linda went to seek out answers from the first grade teacher and find out just where their boys were.

Back at the zoo in Bailey, the rain was coming down harder. It was evident the place would have to close down early that evening. As the zoo employees went around to shoo the guests out, two little boys went unnoticed by everyone. Butters had tried to call out again by the playground's entrance but to no avail. He could only sit next to Stan in the bathroom as they both shivered in the cold rainy air.

"It's- it's gonna get real dark soon," Stan noted.

Since the playground wasn't open to the public yet there was no reason for the area to be lit. Both boys didn't want to admit to the other that they were afraid of the dark and both boys still slept with a nightlight. The only thing they could do was hope that someone would find them soon. Surely someone went around the entire zoo and checked all areas out after the place closed each night. Meanwhile Sharon demanded that Principal Victoria call up all the other schools in the area that had also taken field trips to the Bailey Zoo that day to find out if Stan or Butters had gotten on the wrong bus. The zoo had also been notified to be on the lookout for the boys as well. Only then did Sharon yell over the phone to Mrs. Stevens for not doing her job as a chaperone and allowing the boys to slip past her so easily. Randy and Stephen had joined their wives at the school by then, doing all they could to find out just where their boys went off to.

It was now seven in the evening. Stan and Butters were still huddled in the bathroom, both scared and miserable.

"Butters… I'm kind of sorry about today," Stan suddenly spoke.


"I got us in lots of trouble today." Stan sniffed and winced as he put pressure to his cut forehead. "I wanted to so badly see an okapi that well; I led us to this mess."

Butters frowned. "Now don't go sayin' stuff like that Stan. I mean us seeing the okapi didn't lead to this. Not really…"

Stan wiped his stinging eyes. "If we just stayed with everyone else we'd be home. I wanted to go off and do something else. I wanted to see the new playground before it opened. We'd be home now if I didn't break all these rules."

"We'll be home soon Stan, someone has to know we're lost by now. I'm sure our mommies know we're gone."

Stan thought for a moment then nodded. "They have to. My mommy or daddy has to be at the school, they said they'd try to get off early today to pick me up. Maybe they're on their way now."

Butters hoped his parents were on their way too; he knew his mother would be worried but would she or his daddy feel up to driving out almost an hour away to get him? Even so, they would blame him for getting into this mess then ground him. He might not be allowed to go on another field trip ever again! Yes he wanted to go home, he was just afraid of how things would transpire when he got there.

At this point several zoo employees were scavenging the area of the park, on the lookout for two little boys that might still be there. It wasn't official but it was still high of a possibility. Perhaps the boys were separated from their class earlier on that day and were still trying to find a way out, even if the employees were certain they had gotten all the guests out once the sudden rain had begun. So far it had not relented so it would be a little more difficult to find the kids through the pouring raindrops and the sound of it hitting every surface.

Security officers Barry and Hank were walking down the trails where the bird sanctuary was, flashlights out, calling out for the boys. Barry glanced over to the closed-off playground development.

"Say Hank, why is there an extra set of chains and whatnot on the enclosure?"

"Huh? Oh, Mort closed it up properly earlier. Told me there was a small opening in the fence right here. Didn't want anyone seeing the unfinished playground yet. Don't know how we managed to forget to close it up last night," Hank shrugged, shining his flashlight at the fence.

Barry rubbed his chin in thought.


"You said it was opened earlier? But you're sure it was closed last night?"

"Yeah, why?"

Barry rubbed his chin, still thinking hard. "This might sound crazy but hear me out: what if the space was opened just enough that two little boys could squeeze into? Sneak off inside when no one was looking, then unbeknownst to anyone else, have someone close it back up, with the boys still inside?"

"You think?" Hank looked surprised.

Barry turned to the fence and rattled it a little. "Hello? Boys? Hello? Anyone in there?" No answer. He took out a key ring which held a hundred different rings on it and unlocked the chain. He and Hank went about the play area, shining their flashlights about.

Butters was sitting near the front of the bathroom and his eyes then lit up- he saw the beams of flashlights bouncing off the walls! He rushed out.

"Hello? Any-anyone there?"

"Barry! Look!" Hank exclaimed and he and his partner hurried to the little blond boy. "Boy! Are we sure glad to see you kid! Your parents have been so worried!"

"You have to help my friend- he's hurt."

Butters led the two zoo security guards to Stan.

"Stan! Look! Someone came for us!"

"Hey there little boy, what happened?" Barry bent down to Stan, noticing the bloody rag he held to his head.

"I broke my head open, it hurts," Stan whined.

The two guards scooped up the boys in their arms and hurried out of the area, eager to get them to the security office up in the front. The two boys were greeted by a few other people in the security office before their parents were phoned, with the good news that their boys were found relatively safe and sound. Sharon and Linda were both relieved and said they were on their way to Bailey. Meanwhile Stan had the dried blood on the left side of his face washed off and a thick wad of gauze taped to it. He and Butters were given animal crackers to snack on until their parents arrived. It was around nine when the Marshes and Stotches arrived at the zoo. The zoo director opened the entrance gate so they could meet up with their children at the security office.

"Stanley!" Sharon gasped when she saw her son.

"Mommy!" Stan cried and ran into her arms.

"Butters! Oh baby, thank goodness," Linda sighed and hugged her son tight.

"Butters, what in the hell happened? Why the hell were you not on the bus back home?" Stephen raised an accusing hand about.

Butters and Stan shared a guilty look.


"Um, well sir I uhh, I just wanted to um…"

"And Stanley, what in the heck happened to your head?" Randy pointed out.

Stan felt cornered now, he had to explain what happened, maybe if he didn't get hurt he could lie about it but there was only one way about this…

"Stan please, we have to know," Sharon said heavily.

"We- we snuck out. To see the new playground. But it was closed off. It's not open yet. But we thought- we thought it would be cool to see anyway. Before anyone else did," Stan confessed.

"What?" Stephen gasped.

"I knew you'd be sore Daddy. I'm sorry. I know we shouldn't have done so," Butters frowned.

"But I don't understand how you got hurt," Randy pointed out to his son.

At this Stan felt his forehead pulse in pain. Tears burned his eyes and buried his face in his mother's chest. "I- I got hurt on the playground. I went down and hit my head."

"Went down what?" Randy asked.

Stan sniffed. "A- a rope. And hit a big wood sign."

Sharon was still sitting down with her son in her lap. "Sweetie, can Mommy see your owie?"

The zoo director sighed and stepped forward. "Just a fair warning Mrs. Marsh, the wound looks fairly serious. I suggest getting him to an E.R. tonight."

Sharon carefully peeled back the dressing on her son's head. Stan cried out so she placed it back on. She thanked the zoo staff before getting to her feet, her son still in her arms. She didn't say anything to the Stotch family but as soon as she stepped back on the zoo pathway she whispered something to her husband. He nodded, sighing heavily.

"Stanley, son, I think we have to go to the hospital before we go back home," Randy spoke.

"What? Why?" Stan cried.

"Sweetie, the cut on your head is pretty deep. It has to be looked at by a doctor in case something happened," Sharon explained.

"No! Nooo! I don't wanna go!" Stan whined.

"We have to go son, if we don't it could get infected," Randy pointed out, a serious look to his face.

"I only need a- a Band-Aid," Stan argued, squeezing his mother's neck as they walked towards the car. But his parents paid no attention to his complaints.

"Where do you think we should go?" Sharon asked after everyone was buckled in.

Randy pulled out his phone and typed into his GPS. "Closest hospital is… North Bailey Medical Center six miles away."

Randy drove off to the hospital as Stan whined in the backseat. When they arrived Randy took a hold of Stan in his arms as the three crossed the threshold of the bright lit building.

"Daddy, I don't wanna go," Stan continued to cry.

The three waited for almost twenty minutes before they were led to an exam room in the back. The nurse there had difficulty taking in Stan's vitals but it was nothing compared to when the doctor came in.

"Now what happened to you sport?" the man, Dr. Milner, smiled at the six-year-old.

Sharon quickly explained that Stan had run into a wood sign from a playground incident, cutting his head.

"Wood sign at a playground? Isn't it kind of late to be playing?" the doctor continued to smile at the boy. Stan shrank back and buried his face in his father's chest.

"He- well it's a long story," Sharon sighed. "He snuck off to an enclosed playground at the zoo and hurt himself there."

"Oh dear. Well let's take a look shall we?"

Stan cried and wiggled about as the doctor looked at the wound on his forehead.

"You say the sign was made of wood? Hmm… do you mind if I ask whether or not your son has received his DTaP vaccine recently? Normally it's given around the age of six."

"Daddy, no shots, okay?" Stan whispered.

"Shut it Stanley," Randy bit back. "Umm, he got some kind of shot a few months ago, right Sharon?"

Sharon nodded. "It was the DTaP. I'm not sure the actual date but that was the most recent one…"

Dr. Milner nodded, snapping off his gloves. "Good. You can't be too safe when it comes to wood or metal or other material when it comes to injuries. Anything to lessen the risk of getting Tetanus, am I right? Well, as long as he's up-to-date on his immunizations I feel it's safe to proceed. The cut here is just deep enough that I feel a few stitches should fix it right up."

"Oh dear," Sharon rubbed her eyes.

"You uhh, might need some earplugs for yourself. And a strait jacket for him," Randy nodded to Stan, seeing the doctor's confused expression.

"What's- what's stitches?" Stan's eyes were wide, rubbing his dripping nose.

And so the difficult process of getting the little boy to cooperate began. The doctor had made the mistake of laying out all the supplies in full view of Stan and seeing that a needle was involved, he became inconsolable. They tried getting him to lie down on the flat table with Sharon holding his hands but as soon as a bright light clicked on his face he leapt up. They tried again, with Sharon holding his hands and Randy holding his legs down but he still moved around too much for anything to be done. Finally, Randy sat on the exam table as he held onto his son tightly in his lap while Sharon faced Stan, phone in hand, a video of puppies playing to try and distract him.

"Nooo! No shots Daddy! Tell him no Daddy!" Stan pleaded.

"Stan, it's your fault you're in this mess," Randy scolded. "If you had just stuck with your group at the zoo today then you'd be home! Home and in bed! But you had to go off and break into an enclosed area and hurt yourself. Now you have to pay the price."

His daddy's anger stung horribly, more so than the needle prick to his forehead the doctor used to numb the spot up. Stan felt exhausted at this point and softly let his tears fall as the doctor cleaned the wound at his hairline before applying three stitches to the area. Dr. Milner wiped off any remaining dried blood from his face before placing a large red Band-Aid over it. The doctor explained that the boy could have the stitched removed in a week back home by his pediatrician and that it might leave a thin scar but it could fade over time. Stan didn't think he cared if it did or not, the spot was at his hairline so his bangs would cover it up most times. Finally the doctor offered Stan a lollipop before allowing the family to leave.

"My poor baby. You've had a rough night. You should get a special treat," Sharon said as they walked out the hospital.

"He already has a lollipop," Randy looked annoyed.

Sharon ignored him. "Do you want to go out for ice cream sweetie?"

"At this time? Are you insane?" Randy exclaimed.

"I- I just wanna go home," Stan rubbed his eyes.

Sharon handed him his red poofball hat, which had to be taken off while he was getting stitches. Stan placed it on his head where it covered his wound.

"How about we go out for ice cream tomorrow. Okay Stan? I promise."

Stan nodded, a small smile on his lips. It was close to midnight by the time the family came home. Sharon tucked Stan in bed immediately before stepping into her and Randy's bedroom. She sighed heavily as she slowly started to undress.

"Crazy night. I cannot believe it. Can you?"

Randy looked angry and he scoffed at his wife' remark. "Shit like this always happens Sharon. Stan loves to go off and break the rules and push the limit to just about anything."

"You make it sound as if he's a troubled child on the path to juvie or something."

"Well he's certainly not on the list for 'best behavior' in the classroom is he? I mean really? Sneaking off to a playground that wasn't even open to the public yet? How stupid can he be?" Randy waved his arms around wildly.

"Oh, like you've never done something just as stupid when you were young?" Sharon bit, pulling her usual nightdress on.

"I know that if I saw a sign that read an area was still under construction I wouldn't sneak off to it!"

Sharon rolled her eyes. "Stan can barely read, he probably didn't know what the sign meant."

"Oh, but the fences and whatnot didn't give him any clues?"

Sharon shook her head and went into the bathroom to take out her toothbrush. "What do you want to argue about right now Randy?"

"What Stan did was stupid. Very stupid yet he's acting like he shouldn't be punished! You're acting like he shouldn't be punished! Offering ice cream. For what?"

Sharon frowned and faced her husband. "Stanley had to get three stitches tonight Randy. That was punishment enough I'd say."

"Oh whatever," Randy rolled his eyes.

"We both know how he can be when it comes to hospitals. Since he had to face his fears tonight he deserves a treat. Now can I please get ready for bed?"

Randy still looked miffed about something. After Sharon had climbed into bed he followed suit, although spoke his mind as soon as he got in.

"You know, we could sue the zoo for this."

"What?" Sharon shot up.

"Look at it from a concerned parent's viewpoint! The zoo did not properly close the fence. Of course a kid as curious as our own would find a way in!"

Sharon shook her head and rolled her eyes. "Randy that is ridiculous."

"Is it Sharon? Is it? The fact that Stan cut his head on a wood sign means that there are not adequate safety measures in place. At a playground! Think of how much money we could get back from this case!" randy said, looking excited.

"What case? Five minutes ago you were going on a rant on how this was all Stan's fault!"

"But if we present this case to a lawyer he could see it as I do. We do. We could even fabricate the story just enough and I dunno, say our son suffered a concussion from the fall as well," Randy shrugged.

Sharon was sitting up now and rubbing her eyes in frustration. "We are not going to lie. The simple fact is that Stan broke a few rules, got hurt, and now has a cut on his forehead to remind him of that fact. He snuck off to an area of the zoo not open to the public yet. Of course things are going to be up-to-code yet. Our son said he was sorry. And that's that." With that, she reached over and turned off her lamp.

Randy crossed his arms as he sat up in bed mumbling even if his wife's back was towards him. "We could get a hell a lot of money if we sued…"

Friday before school Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny were waiting around outside of Miss Hillgry's first grade classroom. Kyle looked relieved when he saw Stan walking their way.

"Stan! Dude! What the hell happened yesterday?" he rushed to him.

Stan looked up. "Huh? Oh, um, long story…"

"Tell us," Kenny ordered.

Stan sighed before recounting how he and Butters snuck off to see the okapi, then into the enclosed playground where he hurt his head and was trapped inside, before having to go to the hospital to get his cut fixed.

"Wow dude, I can't believe you actually snuck off. Just to see some animal," Kyle looked at his friend with disbelieving eyes.

"It wasn't just 'some animal'!" Stan said furiously. "It's an okapi! An animal native to the Rain Forest in Africa!"

"Whatever dude. But was it worth it? Did your parents ground you?"

Stan shrugged. "Not yet. My dad says he's still mad it happened but my mom said that me getting stitches was punishment enough."

"Oh. What are stitches anyway?" Kyle frowned.

"It's just like when our moms sew a hole together in our clothes or something. The doctor sewed my skin up with a thread n' needle," Stan explained.

"Wow, how strange," Kyle looked interested.

Just at that moment Stan turned around to see Butters walking their direction.

"Butters!" Stan caught up with him.

"Oh, hey-a Stan. How… how's your head?"

Stan touched his wound. "Better. The doctor fixed it up. Um, there's- there's something I wanted to say to you..." he turned around to see his friends behind him. He looked back at the blond boy. "Um, I'd rather say it in private. Meet me by the trashcans during recess, okay?"

Butters nodded, confused. The first two and a half hours of class went by before it was time for lunch. A fifteen minute recess was held right after and Stan managed to shake off his friends to meet up with Butters by the trashcans at the play area outside.

"What's this about Stan?" Butters asked.

Stan drew in a deep breath. "I just wanted to say…thanks. Thanks for what you did yesterday."

Butters smiled slightly and shook his head. "You're welcome Stan. But I didn't really do nothing."

"Yeah you did. You found rags in the bathroom to help my bleeding head. You kept me calm. You kept getting up and calling for help. You found the security people and led them to me. You did a lot. It was pretty cool. You were great," Stan said, cheeks turning a little pink.

Butters looked touched as he smiled back. He put his hands behind his back and dug his foot in the ground. "Well shucks Stan, I was just trying to do what- what I'd want someone to do for me. I couldn't just let you sit there and cry."

Stan dug his toes in the dirt too before looking up. "Say, I was just wondering Butters… if you don't have plans after school today… did you want to come over?"

Butters eyes lit up as if Christmas had come early. Another boy in class wanted to play with him?

"My mom is going to take me out for ice cream. If you wanted to come you can. I'm sure she'll say yes. Then we could play cops and robbers or The Lion King again at my house."

"Why sure Stan! I'd love to come over!"

"Oh, wait, you're not grounded are you?" Stan frowned.

Butters sighed. "Not yet. I managed to convince my parents that sneaking in the playground wasn't part of- of my plans. Plus I was just grounded a couple weeks ago for staying up past my bedtime by five minutes. I don't think my mommy wants to ground me again so soon."

"Well if they still want to punish you then I'll tell them what really happened," Stan said earnestly.

Butters could only smile back in return. After school that day Stan hurried over to his mother to ask her if his friend Butters could join them for ice cream. She looked a little surprised to see the boy and not Kyle but she said that of course he was invited along. Butters had a great time with Stan that afternoon. After the yummy ice cream the two went over to Stan's and played The Lion King as well as Pet Store Owners. Butters had had the best playdate in all his young life and couldn't wait to play with Stan again. Maybe next time he'd be invited to play with not only Stan, but with Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman too! Then he'd really be on could nine.

Monday morning. Stan followed after Shelley as the two walked to the bus stop for school. She had left the house a full two minutes before him and of course did not stop to wait for him to catch up. When he did catch up to her at the bus stop she stepped away from him and his friends as if they were harboring deadly germs.

"So how was your gay playdate with Butters? Was it gay?" Cartman sneered.

Stan sighed. "It could have gone better."

"Really?" Kyle raised a suspicious brow.

"I don't know what I was thinking, asking him to hang out. I thought that maybe if we got to know each other, play together then he'd be cool. But he's not. He's just, well"-

"Lame?" Kyle finished.

"Yes," Stan said heavily. "And I'm gonna have to break it to him today."

"What exactly happened anyway?" Kyle asked.

"Nothing, that's the problem. He's just not fun to play with. He says yes to everything. Doesn't come up with any actual ideas. Get this: he called my mom ma'am! And my dad 'sir'!"

"Hahaha!" Cartman laughed. "What a dork!"

"Well good luck Stan. The sooner you stop a friendship with Butters the better," Kyle placed a hand on his shoulder.

Lunch. Stan had just sat down with his friends and had opened his lunch bag before he felt someone sit next to his left.

"Hi-ya Stan! Boy, that was a hard social studies lesson today wasn't it? I couldn't wait for- for it to end. Boy, looks like your mommy made a pretty swell lunch Stan. My mommy allowed me to buy lunch today. I'm happy, I sure do love uhh, chicken nuggets," Butters smiled, looking around.

Stan sighed as his friends gave him a hard look. "Butters, can we talk over there real quick?" Stan pointed to a corner of the cafeteria.

"Well sure. But if it's to schedule another playdate then you can tell the other guys, can't you? They know I went to your house on Friday," Butters was still beaming wide.

Stan just dragged him to the corner and had the boy face him. "Butters, it's not working out."

"Uhh, what's not working out?"

"Our friendship."

"How… how do you mean?"

"I just can't play with you anymore. You're not a good fit for me," Stan said clearly.

"But… but we had fun Friday. Eatin' ice cream and playing. I played all the aminals you wanted me to when we played pet store. We had fun… didn't we?" Butters frowned.

"No Butters. You're how should I put this…? Lame. You're not fun to play with. I think you should look for another friend somewhere else," Stan said in a sincere manner.

"But… Stan… we had fun. If you didn't like how I was playin' we could try again."

"No Butters. I want variety. Some adventure when I play. Someone who makes things exciting! Not someone who smiles and waves 'hello' ever'time you see my mean older stister!" Stan screwed his face up tight.

Butters looked sadly into the eyes of the boy in the red poofball hat before looking down.

"Thanks for understanding Butters. Now if you don't mind, I gotta get back to lunch. You're right, my mommy did pack me a good one today," Stan smiled brightly and went over to sit next to Kyle again.

And that was that. The thanks Butters received for being brave and daring for the first time in his life. To help out a classmate until the two could be found. Whether or not Stan really did have any fun didn't matter now. Once again Butters did not measure up to the level of 'fun' or 'cool' by Stan and his friends. Maybe he'd try again some other time. Maybe he just had to study what the others did for fun, then they would like him. Whatever it was, he was not looking forward to going home. His parents would ask him when his next playdate with Stan would be and he would confess that there wasn't going to be one. They would be angry and might even ground him for not being a kid others wanted to play with. Stan had told him that sometimes one had to break the rules in order to have any fun. Butters couldn't see how that was true now. He had lost another potential friendship and got in trouble. He just had to put his foot down and say no the next time someone wanted to break the rules with him. Or at least act like a better potential friend. Whichever came first.

Poor Butters. But he's just unlucky with pretty much anything, and I'm sure at age six the boy would not want to be around him for too long. Even if it seems like he and Stan both seem to share a love for animals like they do in the show. Another factoid that helped me finally complete this story: in a few other stories of mine, I mention that Stan received a cut on his head when he was six. I decided to finally work that into this. Anywhoo, please come back for more. As always, please leave a review. Thanks.

Lots of love: Rose, April 26, 2019