A/N: Written in ten minutes for a creative writing club challenge. Enjoy. ^^ (Oh yes, and I don't own it, so don't sue me. ;D)

"Hey, Shanti."

The too-casual voice came from right behind Shanti as she knelt to fill her jar with water. She sighed and rolled her eyes. "Yes, Mowgli?"

The jungle boy squatted easily next to her on the river bank. "Have you heard?"

"Heard what?"

Mowgli glanced around and leaned closer. "Shere Khan has been spotted near the village." He uttered the words in a conspiratorial whisper.

Drawn in against her will, Shanti almost believed him...but then she noticed the corner of his mouth twitching, as if he were trying to suppress a smile. "Yeah, right. Go bother someone else, jungle-boy." She picked up the jar full of water and balanced it on her head, turning to take the short path back to the village gate. Stupid boys, always making stuff -


Something small and round shot out of the bushes and knocked her over, and Shanti screamed. Her water jar fell to the ground, emptying its contents over her head. Mowgli collapsed laughing, rolling in the dust like a wolf.

"Rajah!" She pushed the small boy off of her stomach and scrambled to her feet. Water dripped from her black hair and the hem of her colorful skirt. "Mowgli! You - ugh, never mind." Shanti knelt and licked her thumb, turning her back on Mowgli. "You shouldn't listen to Mowgli so much, Rajah." Rubbing at Rajah's chubby cheeks, she managed to erase the black stripes. "Even though he's your "older" brother, he doesn't know how to behave like anything but a jungle animal."

Standing, Shanti grabbed the small boy's hand and towed him back into the village. The sound of a third set of footsteps told her that Mowgli was following them.

"What's wrong wiv a jungle animal, Shanti?" Rajah asked as Shanti set him on a protruding root of a mango tree.

She sighed and picked up a woven basket. "They're dangerous, and - and dirty, and -"

"Fascinating." Mowgli set the full water jar next to Shanti with a wink and crouched next to Rajah. "But, it's not just the animals that make the jungle great. Watch this." He bounded up and snatched a banana from a nearby basket. A quick squeeze sent the curved fruit arrowing into Rajah's mouth. "I learned that in the jungle."

Mowgli's satisfied smirk irritated Shanti, and she hefted a ripe mango. "'Jungle tricks,'" she said derisively, "may be showy, but this village trick" - with a flick of her wrist, the girl sent the mango spiraling into the branches above - "is far more practical." A juicy plop sounded as she caught the naked fruit. Its slick, red-and-yellow skin hung from a sharp twig above.

"Wow, that's awesome!" Rajah's eyes were wide as Shanti handed him the mango. Beat that, jungle-boy, her eyes challenged over the toddler's head.

"It is a pretty cool trick," Mowgli admitted, "but tricks aren't the only thing out there in the jungle." and he began to sing.

"That morning sun peeps over the mountains

And all the rhinos rub their eyes

When they hear..."

"Hear what?" Rajah interjected around a mouthful of mango.

"Hear the jungle rhythm." With a wink at Shanti, Mowgli drew Rajah to his feet. Shanti scowled and looked away.

"Those birds are tap-tap-tappin' the treetops

The busy bee hums as he flies

Loud and clear...

To the jungle rhythm!"

Shanti nearly lost her balance as the other village children scampered around her to join the stomping, whirling boys. She folded her arms, resolutely ignoring the catchy beat.

"Now you can hightail it out of the jungle

But it never leaves your heart

First you hear the beat start bubbling under

Then you hear the tom-toms loud as thunder!"

Suddenly, her hands were snatched from their places, and Shanti was whirled into the chaotic dance. Angry, she tried to yank her hands free, but Mowgli's grip was too strong.

"Come on, Shanti!" The jungle boy leaned in close, whispered in her ear, "Feel the jungle rhythm."

Shanti reluctantly let herself be drawn over to a polished tin mirror hanging from a stall, as the village children adorned themselves with various trinkets. A trio of boys, rope tied around their waists, swung overhead, chattering like monkeys. Lita, another girl from the village, draped a speckled cloth over her head and snarled like a leopard. Rajah had a pair of leaves stuffed into a headband and looked like no jungle beast Shanti'd ever seen as Mowgli dropped a headband onto her black hair.

She gave him an incredulous look around the elephant-esque grey cloth that hung between her eyes. He shrugged, grinned, and replaced it with a swaying fringe of green, then a narrow circlet of peacock feathers.

"Perfect." They were swept back into the dance, laughing as the beat thrummed through the air.

"Can't do without rhythm

And when it fills the air

Animals everywhere

Join in the dance..."

A/N: I wasn't looking at a script, and hadn't recently watched the movie when I wrote this, so it's not word-perfect same for the movie. .