The Price of Freedom

Oneshot! (3/19/12 !UPDATE! Chapter 2 can either be taken as it's own oneshot or can be considerated a 'happy ending' to this oneshot)

Summary: Kyo beat Yuki the day of graduation, but didn't tell Akito when he had the chance. Why? Yuki thought he would have boasted to everyone about finally besting the rat. What changed his mind? And where has he disappeared to?

Note: I am basing this fanfic on the anime and what I have found out about the plot. I don't know all the details of the plot, and I started writing this when I had only read the first of the manga (T.T), so… sorry if something doesn't make sense or doesn't go along with the true plot. (and I also had just found out that the manga goes further than the anime goes… I felt reeeeeeally stupid at the time… but… hey… at least I'm not a blonde! (laugh)) oh and (jumps for joy) the manga is getting continued! YAY!

Okay… I have now read through # 18… yeah… I started this with only the knowledge of the anime… so… that's how it will be plotted around… sorry… I didn't feel like changing the plot… Also, I reeeeeeally didn't want Yuki or Tohru to know about Kyo being locked up at the end of high school.

Warning: Not a happy ending. You have been warned. MUAH HA HA HA HA! (But damnit I want to make this a happy ending sooo bad… T.T WHAAHHH!)

Disclaimer: I do not own FruBa… If I did, Yuki and Kyo would be a couple (if a violent couple) and 'Gure, 'Tori, and Ayaa would be coupled in threesomes… alas, they are not… therefore you can tell that I don't own Fruba… I only own the handcuffs and the strawberry syrup… teehee… and the pocky…


-Yuki's POV-

-
Flashback
-

Yuki Sohma, the revered prince of Kaibara High, staggered backwards as the left hook knocked him full force in the jaw.

"You still have no idea… do you?" Kyo Sohma, his cousin, asked softly. Yuki blinked, confusion etched into his face.

"What are you talking about you stupid cat?" He was unnerved.

Kyo was never this calm when he was fighting Yuki.

Ever.

"You damn rat…" coolly stated for once, it sent a nervous shiver down Yuki's back.

Yuki wiped the blood from his lip and stared at it. He glanced back at Kyo right as he came in for another punch. This time, Yuki was knocked backwards into a tree, his feet almost leaving the ground from the impact. He had barely had enough time to block, let alone counter the attack.

'Damnit… how is he so fast all of a sudden?'

Kyo shifted his foot and moved in, nearly disappearing he was moving so fast, and clipped the rat across the cheek as he tried to dodge his fist, leaving a thin cut along his cheekbone, and then uppercut him up under the ribs, knocking the wind from Yuki's lungs and sending him to one knee, gasping to fill his asthmatic lungs.

"Stupid cat" he squeaked.

'This is impossible.' Yuki gritted his teeth and tried to stand, but the crushing weight of Kyo's elbow on the back of his head sent Yuki sprawling across the ground, black spots dancing in his vision.

Fuzzy grayness threatened to take control of his mind and put him out cold, but he fought it with everything he had. He finally regained control of his breathing again and stood up, using one knee and leverage. He swayed when he got upright, and took inventory of the situation.

'Damn him. That stupid cat did this on purpose. He wanted to humiliate me this way. The very last day he could be accepted into the family, and he beats me nearly with one hand tied behind his back! How is this possible?' he raged inside his head. His normally cool exterior had taken Kyo's usual appearance, twisted from all his anger.

Yuki lunged at Kyo, but he was much too slow, and Kyo had him by one wrist, feet dangling just above the ground, within a moment's thought. Yuki's angry scowl deepened, glaring into Kyo's eyes. Kyo had been acting strange for the past 3 months. Now this.

He's been so calm and collected lately. He's actually doing extra credit for school… he has been helping Tohru with the laundry and the chores around the house. Even going to the extent to hang out with Momiji and give Shigure some tips for a novel (-a clean one for once, not that smut he's been writing for the past who knows how long-) he's been writing about a man that imminently had to spend the last half of his life in a cage. Why the sudden change in Kyo?

Kyo lowered Yuki until he was on his feet and then walked away. Nothing more.

He could have won…

But… he just…

Left…

'Come to think of it. This is the first time we've fought for the past few months. He's been avoiding me,' Yuki realized. 'But why?' Yuki turned towards the main house to get ready for graduation ceremonies.


Yuki tugged at the traditional robes he had over his clothes. The stuffy ceremony was over. He had typically received the most awards and scholarships out of anybody (even though he was financially set) and the most acceptance letters. Tohru had to physically keep herself away, lest she hug everyone, crying like she was. She was always so cheerful.

Yuki smiled. 'Love you, little sister…' he thought silently. A pair of arms grabbed him from behind and hugged him close around his waist.

"Let go of me Haru" he said quietly, but forcefully.

"I was just congratulating you. I'm glad you made it."

"Well… next year is you and Momiji, so we'll all have to come and sit through this again." Yuki sat down in one of the lobby chairs and took note of who came, for thank you reference later. He noticed the Kyo over by the wall, looking out the window into the sky.

'I would have thought he would have told everyone already… stupid cat. He's just doing it to annoy me… He'll probably announce it over dinner at the…' an unwanted chill rushed over his body, but he quieted it at once… 'at the main house tonight. The banquet for the graduates is there tonight.'

"Yuki? Why… are you looking so gloomy?"

The cause of his earlier chill had sidled up to his chair, unnoticed. Yuki clenched his hands, digging them into the chair's fabric, noticing that Haru had already left.

'Damnit.'

He straightened his back and gritted his teeth as Akito sat on the arm of the chair and elegantly placed a hand on Yuki's shoulder.

The chill was back.

"What do you want, Akito?" Yuki managed. He could feel his throat tighten up, similar to one of his asthma attacks.

"Why, nothing more than to congratulate you." Akito ran his fingers through Yuki's silvery hair, savoring it's silkiness.

The contact made Yuki flinch.

"I also wanted to ask you why you never visit anymore? That last… unfortunate episode with the young Ms. Honda was the last time I saw you… That is a very… long… time… Yuki" he whispered in the rat's ear. Each word was a bite to Yuki's confidence. "I-." He felt it quiver.

"Oh… Akito!"

'Thank the stars for Shigure…' Yuki thought with relief. Akito snatched his hand away as if burned, turning his head slowly toward the dog.

"I didn't know you would be gracing us with your presence today!" Shigure grinned broadly, not taking notice of the look of annoyance from Akito. "Come now! I'll show you around Yuki's school! I'm fairly sure you haven't been here before, am I right?"

"Actually… I have-" Yuki listened to their voices trail off as they walked down the hallway, away from Yuki and the group.

Yuki sighed deeply in relief and suppressed another shiver. 'Shigure… if you ate dog biscuits I would buy you a truckload…' Yuki let his head relax against the back of the chair and relaxed his arms, bringing one up to fix a fold in his robe that was bothering him. It brushed something on his lap. Yuki froze, but then unwillingly opened his eyes and looked at his lap.

A plain white envelope was resting in the middle of his lap, his and Kyo's names written in Akito's ornate script. He slipped his finger under the sides of the back flap, breaking the red wax seal and slipping the single piece of paper out of the envelope.


Come to my quarters after the dinner. Do not inform anyone else where you are going.

Akito


'Not again… I didn't think he meant this soon… wait… it was for Kyo too… Kyo must have told him that he had news… stupid cat. If Akito does anything, I swear he will pay for this no matter what happens to me…'

"You… cat… this is for you." Kyo took the envelope from him, said a quiet "thank you" and then read it dispassionately. Not looking at Yuki, he handed it back.

"I don't want it… either keep it or throw it out…" Yuki replied just as monotonously. Kyo shrugged and walked over to the garbage to dispose of it instead of trying to make a basket by throwing it.

'This is really getting to be too much…'


Throughout dinner, Yuki fidgeted and cursed silently. He could always just slip out the door… run into the woods and disappear for a really long time… he sighed again, causing Haru to glance at him.

"You've been acting weird… you okay?" he asked. Yuki nodded, but looked everywhere but him. "You know, Kyo's been acting weird too. I wonder why. He was summoned after dinner with you too, right?" Yuki stared at him, realizing that he probably saw what had taken place between him and Akito earlier, putting two and two together. "You do realize that if you took off, no one would blame you? It's not like you would be letting us down or anything. He can't hurt any of us more than he already has… the only one of us that he doesn't have a leash on won't have much more…" Haru trailed off, seemingly realizing what he was about to say. "Never mind… it's not important to you anyways… you'll never see the situation any different, just how it 'should be'… that way, no one gets hurt…" Haru sighed, wanting to add something, but afraid to speak it.

"Haru… quit talking in riddles. If you want to confess your love, know that I already know about it. I've already told you that I was sorry, but I can't return the feelings. I just don't feel anything more than friendship for you." Yuki, amazed at his quiet outburst of thoughts, quieted and started twirling his chopsticks in his food, feeling distinctly ill.

"No… not me…" Haru's gaze bored into him, but he ignored it. Haru went back to eating his dinner, not adding anything more. If he wasn't going to say it, Yuki wasn't going to waste the time getting it out of him.

'What will Akito do when he finds out that Kyo beat me? Will he make me move back into the main house? What else can he do worse than that? It's almost worse, not knowing my fate, than knowing exactly what will transpire… Of course I could always state that Kyo didn't beat me… he didn't actually anyways… he could have, but he never knocked me out. I could bring that up… maybe it will be enough…'

Yuki glanced up, his gaze roaming over the table. He realized then, that Kyo, for the first time since Yuki can remember, and probably the first time in Kyo's life, he was eating dinner at the table with everyone else at the celebration table.

They had gone to another Zodiac's graduation before, but he hadn't been allowed to eat with everyone. He had to eat out in the hall and then come back in for the speech after the dinner was finished. It was meant to be humiliating for him to have to come into the room, everyone watching him enter, but he always took it in stride, never looking down, meeting everyone's gazes as if he had been there the whole time, but had left on purpose and had to come back in. That was always how he acted. Kyo directed his anger at the world, but he still enjoyed life, like every single moment was precious.

'No… he could have beaten me long ago, but chose not to. I will do as Kyo would do and take my fate head on. I won't let him see my weakness. And I won't let Akito best me.'

It seemed like he understood on some impossible note, how short life really was, and took it upon himself to make the most of it, not letting everyone trod all over him. He was so strong. He never gave up, even against impossible odds. The fire in his eyes never dimmed, like his love of life shone through, burning in determination.

His fire dimmed not too long ago.

It was like someone suddenly threw his world into darkness.

And it wasn't even the episode when his bracelet was stolen by his master. He was still happy back then. He still wanted to live. Still had the will to live.

Three months ago, the light dimmed. Enough to think it had died altogether. The ones that didn't know him well… those that never looked into his eyes… they only thought Kyo had finally 'seen the light.' Had finally seen how little purpose there was to having a bad attitude, and had started helping people out instead of making a big deal over everything. Yuki had looked in his eyes every time he had thrown a punch. Every time he had knocked Kyo to the ground. Every time he had bruised his smooth cheek. Drew blood from his knuckles.

Ever since Kyo had moved in with Shigure, that was what Yuki knew would be waiting for him at home. It was a normalcy that never changed, unlike everything else in life. He saw that determination every time he had beaten Kyo. Kyo was the strong one that never gave up. Yuki could always count on that to be true. Reality. It never changed. Day to day.

Three months ago, it did change; throwing Yuki's world into spin dry. How could the one stable pillar in the world, collapse so suddenly? People change… but not like he had. People only change like that when they have nothing to live for. No reason to go on. No reason to hope. No future.

Akito clasped his hands together, signaling the end of the speech that Yuki hadn't even realized he was making. He froze, but then saw Kyo smoothly getting up. Kyo's spark was there, but just barely this time.

'Bastard is happy…' Yuki glared at him, determined not to show the fear that threatened to consume him. He will be the strong one. Ever since Kyo had lost himself, Yuki had had to be the one to make sure that Tohru wasn't getting mugged or anything. He had to keep her from getting depressed from Kyo's sudden change in character. It was worrying her to no end. After today, Yuki unfortunately probably wouldn't be able to do that for her anymore, if Akito believed Kyo.

He had been told not to let Kyo beat him. And he had failed at that. Now he would pay the price. Hopefully, Tohru could find it in her enormous heart to forgive him for loosing. For making her suffer not being able to help him in his fate. Hopefully, Kyo would come around and help her. Stupid cat might be able to heal her after he was gone. Life just wasn't the same without their wacky household together, though. It was colder somehow; like the snow had come early and refused to melt.

Yuki stood in the doorway for a moment, but followed Kyo when he slipped past him out into the hall. He didn't shoulder past him or anything, didn't even touch him, let alone look at him.

Yuki felt his temper rise, like it had been for the past three months, just below the surface. It was becoming harder and harder to suppress the rage nowadays. Becoming harder to control.

And it was all centered around Kyo.

Yuki followed three steps behind Kyo, numbness washing away his bitterness that Kyo could be so selfish and so happy at betraying him to Akito, just to become part of the family.

'Arrogant bastard.'

Akito, having left the room beforehand, was seated in the center of the nearly empty room. Kyo kneeled on a mat placed in front of him, Yuki following suit and kneeling on the second one placed beside Kyo. Akito clasped his hands in front of him, his gaze following Yuki as he sank to his knees.

"So… graduation day already. A time for celebration. A time for joy and happiness. A time for most to finally move on to the next part of their lives." He laughed softly, his hand pushing his hair out of his face. Yuki could feel the blood draining from his face as the demented man's gaze shot through him.

Yuki, looking anywhere but at Akito, noticed two separate shadows under the second of three sets of doors in the room, but then focused on Akito, gritting his teeth.

"So… Kyo…-" his voice ghosted over Yuki, causing him to yet again shiver. "-have you any news? I realize that you, of all people… no… I can't classify you as that… of all things… would have informed me right away had you gained a victory against your enemy. Unless it happened this morning, you failed to do as you were told." Akito smirked, the corners of his mouth curling wickedly. "And you shall face your fate. But I will give you one chance to inform me otherwise. Have you defeated your superior? Have you beaten the rat?" His voiced echoed throughout the room, ringing in Yuki's ears. He expected Kyo's voice to sound in triumph. For him to proudly declare his victory over the hated rat… his… superior. His despised enemy… Yuki swallowed the moisture in his mouth, clenching his fists, refusing to look at either presence in the room.

Yuki could tell when Kyo glanced at him. He could tell when Akito's smirk grew larger. He could even tell when his heart stopped… in surprise.

"I couldn't do it. I tried, but it was too fucking hard." Kyo snapped, showing more emotion than he had the past three months. Yuki was right about one thing. Kyo's voice was laced with triumph, even if Akito chose to ignore it. Yuki whipped his head around, searching Kyo's eyes as he stared point blank, right back at him. The animosity was gone, but Yuki couldn't place what was there for the life of him. "I couldn't beat him."

Yuki felt faint. 'What the hell is he doing? This is his chance to become a part of the family, at my expense… yet he isn't taking it. Is he doing this for me? Or did he just not truly care if he was part of the family after all?' He could feel his head spinning, but then every thing crashed. 'Or is he using this as blackmail?' Yuki felt like there was lead in his stomach. 'Would he be as underhanded as that?' The lead dissipated. 'No… that's just not his style. He has too much pride for that.'

Kyo finally stopped staring at Yuki with that unnerving gaze, and turned his attention to Akito, who had been quiet while they had stared at each other. Akito blinked slowly.

"I don't believe you, Kyo. I've come to a strange conclusion from this last three months. You want to save your love the pain of what would happen to him if you were to beat him. Am I right?"

Kyo's lips parted in surprise, as did Yuki's, but he quickly shut his mouth. Yuki looked straight at him, pleading that it wasn't true, that Kyo wasn't in love with his enemy… but Kyo didn't meet his gaze. The lead in his stomach thickened again and the room spun dangerously. Yuki put a hand on the floor to keep his balance.

'He loves me?'

"I don't care what twisted lies your sick mind has come up with, Akito, but the point of the matter is, I didn't beat him. It doesn't matter what my motives were. I. did. not. beat. him!" he raged, fist clenched.

'Twisted lies? Is he just trying to cover it up? Has he loved me this whole time, possibly longer… and I didn't even realize it? Did he do this to save me from pain? He actually sacrificed his seat in the family… for me?'

"Tell him Yuki! Tell him that I didn't ever beat you!" Yuki didn't look at him. The sound of Kyo's voice, the fear in it, was causing Yuki's eyes to moisten.

He blinked rapidly a few times, breathing deeply, but kept silent.

Kyo glared at him and then grabbed him by the collar, bringing his face towards him. "Tell him damn you!" Kyo yelled. Yuki's eyes widened at the now murderous glint in Kyo's fiery, red eyes. Yuki gritted his teeth, but kept silent, looking away.

"Yes Yuki, tell me. Did the cat beat you? Truthfully now. If I find that you are not telling the truth, then you both shall be punished," he murmured. Yuki's breath came faster, unhinged from the sound of Akito's annoyance with him.

"No." Yuki finally whispered. Akito smiled at him.

"Now, was that so hard, my pet?" Another tremor ran down Yuki's back at the sound of the name Akito had long ago branded him with. Kyo let go of his collar finally, allowing Yuki to sit straight on his mat.

"No he didn't beat me… but he could have. Easily. Many times." Yuki was determined that Akito know this. He wasn't sure what else was taking place, but it wasn't good. He had a feeling that Kyo knew exactly what was going on, though, and it made him even more pissed off.

"Is that so?" Akito murmured softly, tapping his finger against his chin thoughtfully. "Kyo… I want you to fight… right now."

Kyo glared at him.

"I don't have to do jack shit for you! I have nothing to lose now, so why should I?" As soon as Kyo finished, Yuki knew he had made a mistake. Kyo had just given Akito his weakness… and a reason for him to fight. Kyo may not be as underhanded to take to blackmail, but Akito had no qualms about it.

"Really… are you positive? You know… I'm not so sure… and I'm not so sure that Yuki wants to deal with the consequences of your disobedience. He, unlike you, still has a chance. If you do not fight, you both shall suffer the same fate. And Kyo… if you think that you wouldn't mind it, think about how Yuki would feel about you being the cause for his suffering."

'What the hell are they even talking about. How bad could Kyo's punishment be? Not becoming part of the family? Being an outcast? Does Akito really think that I care whether I was a part of this family or not?' Yuki stood up, but he could feel his legs trembling. "What the hell are you even talking about, Akito? This is stupid. If you are talking about being a part of this family or not, I couldn't care less! I'd be happy to not to kiss your ass and bow anymore!" Yuki's chest heaved as he regained his breath after his short little tirade. He could feel his heart racing, terrified, but he refused to back down.

Not again.

"Yuki, Yuki, Yuki… You still have no idea… do you?" Akito chuckled cruelly.

'I've heard someone say that before…'

"Kyo… fight… Fight now or I will tell him the deal you made with me. Do you really think he would love you back if he knew what you had done? What you had planned on sacrificing? Oh and Yuki…" Akito added offhand, "you really didn't think you could get away with that little outburst did you?" Yuki paled, his fists, already clenched, quivered. Kyo stared at him strangely. "You have earned yourself three hours. Any more, and you get a whole night, and I can assure you, that is not a bluff."

Yuki sank to the floor, breath coming in short bursts with his panic. He could feel his whole body trembling, but he couldn't figure out how to stop it. The chills raced up and down his back and to the tips of his hands and feet, up his neck and back down. He lowered his gaze, staring at his knees.

'I can't stop. I can't go against him. How did it come to this. How can I be so damn trained? Why can't I stop him?' Yuki felt his breath coming in gasps, his chest tightening. He couldn't get a full breath. His lungs couldn't get enough air. The walls felt like they were crumbling in on him. He couldn't breathe.

He couldn't breathe. Hands grabbed his shoulders as he swayed on his knees. His head was pounding something fierce. He couldn't breathe.

'I need air!'

His vision suddenly went orange and red. Kyo's forehead was pressed up against his, telling him to breathe. His hands were on either side of his face, noses touching. Yuki realized he had never been so close to his cousin without punching him. He liked not having to fight, but he was fighting.

Yuki fought to breathe. He wanted Kyo to lose that look of fear on his face. He hated to see him in such a state. Especially because of him. Yuki forced himself to just concentrate on Kyo's panic-ridden eyes. He pulled in a breath.

"Breathe, damn you!" Yuki pulled in air again. Kyo's eyes softened as he leaned backwards. Yuki felt his chest tighten again, but he could still breathe. His head felt light still, but at least he could breathe again.

Because of Kyo.

Yuki looked down in embarrassment. Kyo clenched his jaw, but he didn't let go until Yuki's shoulders had relaxed and he was breathing normally. They both turned to Akito at the same time.

"I'm done with-"

"Quiet." Akito interrupted. "That was sickening. Both of you turn my stomach. I want you gone Kyo. You have until midnight, then you must be back here. If you aren't, you know what will happen. " Yuki heard the door with the shadows open. Two men Yuki didn't know entered the room and each grabbed Kyo by the arms. As they fought to keep him under control, Akito addressed Yuki.

"Yuki… you have earned yourself until midnight. You are lucky. If I didn't have to deal with Kyo, you wouldn't leave here for a week." Yuki licked his dry lips as the two men finally bodily dragged Kyo from the room, struggling and yelling like a demon. Akito left the room through another door that lead to his personal bedroom. Yuki glanced at his wristwatch.

Seven o'clock. His face went ghost white.

Five hours.

I have five hours alone with him.

Akito reentered the room, holding something long in his left hand, and something shiny in his right. Yuki stood up. It was better to go along.

Fighting only made him angry.

Yuki walked toward the hidden fourth, small door, stripping off his shirt and pants and discarding them in a corner of the dark room and grabbing the stained rug from the chest just inside the door, dragging it to the center of the room and spreading it out. He stood directly under the low ceiling beam that ran the length of the middle of the room, making sure he was in the center of the beam. He knew it was just high enough that, hanging from it, his toes would just barely brush the ground. High enough that he wouldn't be able to move, fight back. High enough to render him almost completely helpless to the pain.

Akito snapped one cuff tightly on his wrist and then told him to stand up tall on the tips of his toes so that he could cuff his other wrist over the beam. The bite of the familiar steel into his wrists from dangling helped him forget the day. Erased it all for the moment, so he wouldn't have anything on his mind but the pain. That was how Akito liked it. And how he could keep Akito from tainting his life outside of the main house. Akito walked in front of him and smirked, looking like nothing except the devil himself.

Five hours.


Yuki tried to stand tall as he left the small, dark room. He had toweled enough of the blood off and hoped it had stopped bleeding, but he knew that if he moved wrong, all of the stripes on his back and chest would open up and then they would drench his shirt. He winced when he bent over to pick up his shirt.

'Damn. I knew I should have left it on the chest. Though, dragging the rug over to it and putting it in did the same thing as bending over.' Yuki suppressed a whimper as he straightened. He put his pants on and then gently wiped off the wounds that he had just opened as best he could. He slid his shirt on gingerly, and then closed the door and the top of the wooden chest.

It was ten minutes to midnight. Akito had shown 'mercy' and gave him time to clean up and wipe away the traces of blood in the small room. As far as Yuki knew, Kyo hadn't been back yet, but he knew it was only a matter of time. No one could disobey for long.

No one.

Yuki slid open the door leading out of Akito's rooms. Akito had already left to clean up and change his clothes. Yuki had to stop a shudder for Kyo's sake lest he open his barely closed wounds.

He didn't see anyone, so he quietly slipped out and headed for the front door. He managed to keep his shoulders and back straight, but he limped with pain slightly. As soon as he opened the front door, he sighed in relief, drinking in the fresh air.

He still smelled the blood from his back, but it was nowhere near as nauseating as the room had been. The fresh blood adding to the old smell of blood had nearly caused him to puke up what little dinner he had eaten. He slid the door closed behind him and walked out the front gate, keeping the pain from his face in case Akito was watching. He had already gotten enough pleasure from Yuki's suffering, he wasn't going to get any more. At least for tonight.

Yuki walked down the road. He knew he wouldn't make it the whole way back, not with the blood loss, but he knew he could make it far enough. There was a small shrine on the way back to Shigure's that always had fresh food and water for offerings that he could stay at for the night. He knew it was asking for trouble to take from the god, but he figured doubling the offering the next time he visited it, when he was healthy, would make up for it. He would stay there until morning and then walk the rest of the ten miles to the house.

Yuki saw headlights up ahead, so he moved off the road and into the trees to the left, where he couldn't be seen. As soon as they passed him, he poked his head out to make sure there weren't others coming. Movement to his left startled him backwards into a tree. He could feel his heart racing.

"Is there anyone there?" he called out. 'Stupid… I can't take on a little old lady like this, let alone a mugger… real fucking smart…' Yuki saw a person walking towards him. A man.

'Actually… now that I think of it… it kinda looks like…

"Yuki?" Yuki grimaced, not wanting Kyo to see him like this. The cat looked him up and down, as if to evaluate his health. Yuki stood a little straighter.

"You okay?" he grunted unenthusiastically. Yuki made a noncommittal noise. If he didn't actually state he was okay, he wasn't lying, right?

"Is Akito still pissed?" Yuki shrugged.

"He was in a pretty good mood when I left…"

"So, I take it that you are a damn good suck-up?" Kyo gave him a little smile, but Yuki didn't return it.

"You know… fuck you. You have no fucking clue." Yuki spat, enjoying the look of surprise on Kyo's face as they stared each other down in the dark.

"I have no clue? Then what don't I know, huh?" Kyo growled. Yuki sighed, not meeting his eyes.

"Never mind. Have fun at the main house." Yuki turned to go, but Kyo grabbed his arm.

"What happened Yuki? You never used to turn away from a challenge. You never used to let me get away with pissing you off. What the fuck changed you?" Yuki stopped.

"You've never avoided me for three months straight. You never used to back away from a fight. You never used to give up. You… you never used to love me like a damn fag." Kyo let go, biting back a curt reply. Yuki knew it had stung, but he needed to get away before he collapsed. His vision blurred for a moment, but he blinked it away.

"You know… you really are going to regret not using this time to talk this out. I… Is… is that blood that I smell?" Kyo lifted his nose in the air, searching for the source of the smell. Yuki backed away.

'Fuck! I knew I should have gotten away faster…' "What are you talking about, you stupid cat?" Kyo's eyes grew round.

"What did he do to you?" he demanded softly.

"Absolutely nothing… You have to get going. You don't want to make Akito mad…"Yuki muttered. Kyo stood there as Yuki walked down the street, trying not to limp. He heard Kyo curse as he left, hoping Kyo had left, too.

Yuki was suddenly thrown to the ground. Kyo flipped him over, straddling him, and then tenderly unbuttoned his shirt, noting Yuki's agony as the gravel ground into the wounds on his back. Kyo opened he front of his shirt, nearly biting through his upper lip when he saw the dried blood from the lash marks crisscrossing Yuki's chest.

"That bastard… They're worse on your back aren't they?" he questioned softly. He slowly stood up, then grabbed Yuki's forearm and helped him up. Yuki pulled on the back of his shirt, but the blood had started to soak his shirt again and the material stuck to his back. Kyo stared at him, and then spun on his heel and started walking. His fast pace was too fast for Yuki to catch up, so he could only hope that Kyo wouldn't do anything stupid for him.

'Stupid cat…' he whispered at the retreating form.


Yuki wiped the sleep from his eyes. The night had been torture. The pure agony of laying down, especially on the hard floor, had nearly caused him to pass out, but he finally got to sleep on his side.

He had to restrain himself from stretching, he had yet to completely wake, and then realized that, even though he had rinsed his shirt as thoroughly as he could, with the blood staining most of his light-colored shirt, he wouldn't be able to travel the road without someone noticing. He bit his lip and then got to his feet.

Yuki grimaced as he looked back down at the floor. Sometime during the night he had started bleeding more, and there were blood streaks on the floor where he had thrashed before finding a comfortable position. He had only managed a crude bandage the night before, and his shirt was too hard to rip up for bandages, not to mention a bad choice for one. The fabric was too thin and wouldn't absorb the blood. Yuki slowly knelt and used part of another rag to wipe up the blood, using water to help the process.

Finished, he debated whether he should sneak back into the main house for clothes, or to call Shigure to come and pick him up. The last, and best option would be to wait until dark and then finish the walk home. It would mean another day of worry for Miss Honda, but at least he would hopefully be able to sneak in and change before anyone knew he was there.

It would also mean staying at the shrine all day though… risking the possibility of discovery, and therefore the possible anger of whoever gave offerings to the shrine god. That would be very unfortunate. Yuki usually only gave general offerings to the gods, to appease Akito when there was a family gathering and such was required, but he knew the offense some people took if someone were to defile or steal from a shrine. It was a horrible crime. And it would be worse if the person were to contact Akito about the transgression.

On the other hand, Yuki had yet to be punished for taking refuge with the god of safety and travel. He always appeased him to avoid his wrath, and figured that the reason the shrine just so happened to be on the most direct route home from the Sohma house was a sign of favor… hopefully.


Once darkness fell, Yuki stood up gingerly and started walking towards Shigure's house. He managed to make it back alright, but as he was sneaking up the stairs, he heard a voice behind him.

"Yuki?"

The rat grimaced and then turned around to face the dog. Shigure was wide-eyed, staring at the blood stains covering Yuki's ruined shirt. Before now, Yuki had always been able to cover up what Akito did to him when he was alone with him. Of course, he had never been held there for more than two hours before. Everyone knew that Akito was a violent man and he took it out on Yuki, but no one really knew how.

Shigure slumped his shoulder against the wall, still staring.

"So… this… this is why…" He couldn't even finish the sentence. Yuki looked away. "I never… never realized he would go this far… Yuki, I'm… I'm so sorry…"

A horrible silence followed until Shigure spoke up again.

"Do you want me to get Hatori over here?"

Yuki shook his head. "I'll manage…"

Shigure rushed up the stairs to follow him to the bathroom and then helped him peel off his shirt, nausea threatening to overcome him. He helped Yuki scrub the gashes clean and then rub ointment and bandage them. It wasn't as good as Hatori could have done, but it would suffice.

The dog helped Yuki to his bedroom and then to lay down. Before he left, he asked the question that would haunt Yuki nightmares for a long time to come.

"Yuki… Have you seen Kyo?"

-
End Flashback
-

"Four months tomorrow" Tohru sighed sadly, looking out the window.

Yuki sighed too, elbows resting on the table. He and the rest of the Zodiac had gone to Akito to find out where Kyo was, but Akito either didn't know, or he was never going to tell them what had happened to the cat. Whatever it was, he seemed in a lot better health since that night. Not once since then had he asked Yuki back to the house, either.

Footsteps outside the door caused Tohru to look up expectantly, hopefully, but it was Shigure that opened the door and entered. She looked back out the window, greeting Shigure without looking at him. Nothing had been the same since he disappeared.

A thud resounded off the table when Shigure dropped a parcel on it in front of Yuki.

"You got another package in the mail, Yuki."

Yuki sighed and wondered if it was another sick attempt at winning his love from a fangirl. There were some very disturbing things that he had received through the mail from them.

Very disturbing.

But it didn't look like anything he had gotten yet, nor did it have a return address like the other parcels did. It was a very old, faded journal. It looked like it was just a bunch of thoughts on paper when Yuki flipped through it instead of the usual 'Dear Diary, I hate such and such. She put gum in my hair today! Etc, etc.'

He closed it and then opened to the first page. Startlingly, it read "If anyone but myself is reading this, it is because I want you to. Otherwise there is no way you could have found this. Please, for my sake, read it privately. Front to back. I want you to know my thoughts before you know whose journal this is."

The rat sighs, thinking his first thoughts were correct, but decides to humor the author, no matter how tempting it was to see who it was from first. He picked up the journal and heads upstairs to his room, grabbing a few rice balls on his way up. He paused and took a moment, like he always did, to stare at Kyo's bedroom door, entranced. He sighed again and then opened the door to his room and shut it quietly behind him. The journal wasn't huge, but would take him most of the night, so he settled himself comfortably against the wall.

He had been right. It was a collection of feelings, not specific events, although he could have pictured what was going on that the author was writing about. The odd thing, is that he felt like most of the events were familiar.

Yuki's eyes burned with exhaustion, but he refused to turn out the light. Whoever had written this had poured out their heart and soul into the tidy scrawl in the homely journal. It was so in depth that he felt himself blushing with the intensity of the feelings that were being shared. He felt his heart going into his throat every time the person felt betrayed or sad and felt their abounding joy when they were writing about a person they had deep feelings for.

Yuki felt close to the person, having shared all these emotions, yet not knowing who was writing it was killing him with suspense.

The last dozen pages were full of guilt, worry and a horrible sadness that had been invading his thoughts every now and then throughout the whole journal. They were magnified ten fold in the latest entries and Yuki couldn't believe how horrible it must have been, living with all these feelings, alone, yet surrounded with the people the author loved. The very last few pages were completely void of emotions though. It was horribly disturbing how they had gone from so full of bursting emotions to merely summing up their feelings in what could have only been described as a monotone. It was so devoid of everything the rest of the journal was so full of that Yuki could feel his gut wrenching in horror at what could have changed the author's love of life so much. The last entry was probably the hardest to write, Yuki realized, and was completely devastating to Yuki, who had followed the person through the trials of the author's life and love.

"I have concluded from all I have written, that I was stupid to think my love, unreturned, unnoticed, would be worth more than my freedom, my life."

The last entry was squeezed on the bottom line and then the writer ran out of room. It was the very last page.

Yuki stared in amazement at the small, orange paw print in the center of the back cover. A tiny paper fluttered down to the floor and Yuki could just barely make out words on it through his tears.

"But I would only be lying to myself by thinking that was how I truly feel."

"Kyo…" he whispered.