Disclaimer – I do not own or profit from Fruits Basket. So stop pretending you think I do. It's annoying.

Rated M for things in later chapters (including slash). Trust the rating – I would know.

I know 'kickout' is supposed to be two words. However, the title of the story and this chapter is from a song called "Kickout" by The Exies, so I left the spelling. And no, this is not a songfic, nor will I be quoting the song. I just like it, and thought it fit with the theme of this story, this chapter in particular...

This story contains SPOILERS. Do not read if you don't want to know why Kyo is always trying to beat Yuki – that's kinda central to the plot. Also, I know the Akito spoiler, but as the main characters in this are ignorant of it, I'm not referencing it yet... I don't know if I will later or not, so if you don't want to know it, you shouldn't read this. Just to be safe.

Anyway, enjoy. Peace, all.

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Kickout

Part One – Before You Cage Me

by Ghost Helwig

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Yuki was staring up at him, and for a full minute Kyo did not understand. Yuki never ended their fights on the ground. He always ended them by ending them, kicking Kyo's ass without one drop of sweat daring to mar that perfect pale skin.

But now Yuki was looking down, messy hair obscuring his eyes yet somehow not managing to hide the purple bruise forming on one cheek, and Kyo felt a soaring triumph fill his being, eclipsing even Shigure's startled exclamation and Tohru's continuous babble of worry. He'd won. The cat had finally beaten that damn rat.

Akito must keep his word. And that meant he was free.

Actually, Akito didn't have to keep it, Akito didn't have to do a damn thing, but that didn't matter. He'd won.

He didn't notice Yuki calmly get up and begin to dust himself off, only seeing the defeated rat again when Yuki was heading back into the house.

"Off to lick your wounds, rat-boy?" he half-heartedly gloated, smiling for once – hell, he could smile for the rat now, because now he was free. Yuki stopped, and a brief flicker of a smile ghosted over his lips (though it didn't even touch his dark, haunted eyes). He continued into the house, wordlessly brushing past the worried Tohru, who knew better than to follow him and instead ran out to check on the victorious cat.

Only Shigure's eyes, strangely troubled, followed Yuki's slow steps up the stairs. And once he was out of sight, Shigure stood, straightened his robes-

And went to make what would prove to be a very fateful phone call.

--00--

Akito had agreed to keep his word. The cat would remain free.

Kyo floated the last few weeks to graduation, an event he'd once dreaded suddenly seeming like the perfect time for a party. After all, why not party? He was free.

If Yuki got more withdrawn and cold these last weeks, Kyo never noticed.

After the long, drawn-out ritual of school graduation came the Sohma family after-part of sorts. In order for Kyo to attend, Shigure had decided that, rather than hold the event in the compound, they would bring the celebration to his place.

Yet somehow, he had the temerity to act surprised when both Yuki and Kyo subsequently became furious with him.

All of which boiled down to – Akito would be making his first ever visit to Yuki's (relatively new) home.

This vaguely alarmed everyone, even Kyo, though he'd never admit it.

But sitting at the party, munching on riceballs he and Tohru had made together just that morning, Kyo couldn't help thinking that they'd all been worried for nothing. Akito was on his very best behavior. Smiling, not turning up his nose every time he caught sight of Kyo, not invading Yuki's personal space – one could almost pretend that their fearless god was indeed utterly sane.

That Yuki seemed more put off by Akito's unusual behavior than he would be normally should've been a cause for concern in and of itself.

And if asked, Yuki would have said that Kyo's arguably naive belief that Akito's behavior was something to trust and not to fear was part of the reason Yuki had always been able to physically best him before – Kyo believed what he saw with his own eyes, always. Lying, even a fake out during a fight, was beyond him.

Which Yuki might have said was charming, had Kyo been anyone but the cat.

Akito, today, was charming. Like that smile he was wearing as he stood and clapped his hands to gather everyone's attention – if you didn't know him, it could almost be charming instead of feral...

"A congratulations," he said in his smooth, silky voice, "to the graduates."

A cheer went up, traveled its way through the raucous crowd. When Akito moved to speak again, the whole crowd fell obediently silent once more.

"As some of you know," he went on, "the cat and I had a bet." Kyo was so distracted by the venom dripping from the word 'cat' that it took him a minute to realize – Akito was spilling their secret, and despite Akito's words, no one besides them had known...

He looked up just in time to see Yuki bend his head and face the ground.

Before Kyo could say or do anything, could react at all, Akito was speaking again.

"If the cat successfully defeated the rat, his fate of being locked away would be averted. All he had to do was beat Yuki once. Which, for a very long time, he failed to do."

Even now, rage began to burn in Kyo, to throb viciously in his stomach. Akito was far from him, but still he saw Akito smile when their eyes met.

"But just a few weeks ago, Kyo finally accomplished his goal, and won the bet. The cat will finally have his revenge on the deceitful, traitorous rat."

Wait a minute. Revenge?

...will?

"Yuki," Akito practically purred. "Come here."

Wordlessly Yuki moved to his side, not flinching when Akito grabbed his arm and roughly pulled him around, not looking up from glum contemplation of the apparently fascinating ground.

"As of today," Akito said smoothly, "the rat will take the cat's punishment, and remain caged for the rest of his life."

Tohru, naturally, shrieked. Haru and Ayame seemed to be competing for who could protest the most loudly (though both were defeated by the shrill complaints of Momiji). Hatori silently stood back and put his face in his hands.

But while all this was going on, Kyo stared at Yuki. He was too in shock to process what he felt; but he wanted, desperately, illogically, to know what Yuki felt.

As if he knew, Yuki looked up at him, met his gaze with sad but tearless violet eyes, eyes that looked hollow in his face. Whatever Yuki really felt, it was, as ever, hidden from him.

Yuki lowered his gaze. And for some obscure, unknowable reason (a reason he didn't want to know), Kyo was absurdly grateful.

--End Part One--