Disclaimer: Fruits Basket belongs to Natsuki Takaya, and not to penniless fanfic authors like me.
Author's Note: Believe me, I love Kyou and Tohru. I just don't know when I started seeing Furuba things through Yuki's eyes.
There was a knock on his door, and Yuki opened it.
There were tears in her eyes when he saw her. He had been just about ready to go to bed, to sleep away the day's disappointments, but the sight of her stopped him. He wondered why she had this ability to move him so, to make him want to give the world just to take her pain away.
"Oh, Souma-kun, I'm really worried about Kyou-kun," she confessed without preamble, tugging urgently on his sleeves.
And the world stood still.
She went on. "He's supposed to be home by now. It's nearly midnight and I can't imagine any place he'd be at this time. What if something happened to him? He could be lost, or hurt, or..."
Honestly, Yuki couldn't have cared less what happened to his idiotic cousin. Maybe he was on his way to his Shishou's to train there for the rest of the year. Maybe he got waylaid by Kagura. Maybe he fell into a field of leeks and was too weak to get up. Whatever. Kyou was already a grown boy, and unfortunately, he could already take care of himself. Yet there she was, on the verge of crying, and it was all because of that damn cat. Yuki was angry with Kyou for putting Tohru in such a position. And yet, deep down, he couldn't deny the twinge of bitterness that unexpectedly rose in him, that she should care for his cousin this much.
Suddenly, it became very evident what he had to do next.
He gently smoothed the top of her head, trembling slightly as he did. "Don't worry. We'll look for him."
Shigure had gone for a five-day conference, and that left the three of them on their own. Not that it mattered to Yuki that Shigure wasn't around -- it wasn't as if he acted very adult-like most of the time. They could have managed fine without their older cousin. Well, at least, he and Tohru could. The damn cat was another story.
Yuki had gotten home after a student council meeting to an empty house, and for a moment he wondered where Kyou was. Tohru still had her part-time job, so he expected the cat to be home heating up dinner. But he dismissed it with a shrug. Kyou could go beat up bears or stand under waterfalls for all he cared.
Even when Tohru came home and still no sign of Kyou, Yuki hadn't batted an eyelash. It was almost a miracle to him -- an evening alone with Tohru and no cats in sight. But she had been worried about Kyou, he knew, only she didn't let it show at first.
"What do you say to chocolate pudding, Souma-kun?" she had asked brightly. "They taught us to make one in Home Economics, and since I also made Hana-chan's and Uo-chan's, I think I'm ready to let you have a taste."
"Honda-san is too nice," he had replied, wryly referring to the fact that she had been suckered yet again into doing things for other people. Not that she minded, really, that was just how she was built.
She had shaken her head vehemently, two splotches of pink tingeing her cheeks. "No, not at all!" she had protested. Then, to change the subject, she had begun bustling about the kitchen. "What do you want for dinner? I can fix you anything you like."
He had been content to watch her come alive, just the two of them.
And the world was perfect, like this.
But obviously her mind had not been on dinner. She had burned the rice, oversalted the fish, and appeared to have forgotten about the chocolate pudding she had promised. Yuki remembered the days when he tried his hand at cooking, so much that he and Shigure had given up eating at home.
He knew what bothered her so. He pretended not to know.
"Thank you for dinner, Honda-san," he had told her. "I'll be up in my room, should you need me."
Minutes later, she had knocked.
Yuki was grateful for the mice that gave him an extra edge in the dark. Beside him, Tohru tried valiantly to keep up, now and then touching his arm for support that he was always ready to give. They were near the edge of the property now, punctuated by rocks and slopes and loose soil.
Then they found him.
He was a pathetic sight. His shirt was torn in a dozen places, and his right leg was caught awkwardly between two rocks.
"Kyou-kun!" Tohru exclaimed, dropping to his side, trying to extract his leg from its painful position.
"Ouch!" Kyou cried out. "Be careful!"
Tohru looked immediately apologetic. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Yuki interjected. "It's not your fault he's stuck there."
"It was another of those damn landslides," Kyou corrected.
"Aren't you supposed to have good reflexes?" He sighed. With a mighty heave, he bent down and pulled Kyou's leg free.
Kyou wiped his chin with the back of his hand, refusing to meet his eyes. He placed his weight on his left foot. "I didn't ask you to come."
"No," Yuki said curtly. "She did."
The silence that descended among them was thick and almost palpable. Yuki felt that his words had said it all -- a declaration of his devotion, a promise to do anything she asked for and more, a challenge to any one -- especially his cousin -- to come and try to take that away.
Tohru was the first to speak, although he didn't know if it was because she felt uncomfortable or because she wanted to focus on the situation at hand. In any case, Yuki was somehow relieved that she did. "I think you sprained it."
Kyou tried moving his leg and winced. Yuki could see that his cousin was about to mouth off another wise-ass retort, but thought better of it. "Of all the things..."
"Here," Tohru jumped up, offering her shoulder to him. For a moment, Kyou hesitated before propping his arm against her to help him walk.
Yuki watched them take two steps. They looked good together, something whispered in him, and something inside shattered.
"I'll do it, Honda-san," he said. "I don't think you can carry that much dead weight."
When they got home, he dumped Kyou unceremoniously on his bed. Tohru fussed over the stupid cat, fluffing his pillows and tucking him in despite protests. Yuki watched the scene with a pang. He would have given everything to be in his cousin. This was how he had imagined his nights to end -- she, bent over him with that gentle smile, the comfort of her hands warm on his skin. And although he wanted to keep an eye on Tohru inside Kyou's room, it was just too much to ask to make him stay and see the love of his life worried sick over someone else.
He slipped out of the room. She didn't even look up.
His room that had always been a place of refuge now painfully reminded him of the cold and isolated life he led. How empty it was without her. How empty he was without her.
Then there was a knock on his door. He froze. It had all begun with this seemingly harmless knock, when she came rushing to him looking for Kyou. Yuki hesitated. His ego was badly bruised and beaten -- not by that arrogant cat, but by the smile of an innocent girl when she made her decision.
The knock was more insistent now, traveling through wood to pound at his heart.
He let her in. A thousand thoughts raced through his mind. Did she come here because Kyou was sleeping? Was he only second choice?
She stood there with a bowl of chocolate pudding in one hand. "I'm sorry, Souma-kun," she began. "It was the only thing that I made right all night and I nearly forgot about it. I know it's late, but I promised you, so…"
He managed a smile. "Thank you very much, Honda-san."
She bowed. "Please try it."
Yuki shoved the first spoonful into his mouth. The sweet chocolate flavor rolled around his tongue, and he smiled. "It's sweet."
To his surprise, Tohru rose on her tiptoes and gently wiped at the corner of his mouth, probably a smudge of chocolate that had lost its way. And her touch stayed with him long after she had said good night, long after he had buried himself under his blanket.
Maybe the world wasn't perfect, but this, this was good enough.