A/N: Sorry for writing random one-shots when I should be updating my ongoing fics. But I spent a good fifteen minutes trying to find a good Kakeru/Yuki friendship fic that wasn't utter crack, and was completely unsuccessful, so I did what any responsible fanfic writer would do—I wrote one myself. This is pretty much just a fic about how Kakeru feels about Yuki, or, at least, my take on it. Depending on how you see Kakeru's character, this could be considered OOC. By the way, if any of you know of any other semi-serious Kakeru/Yuki friendship fics, (I seriously couldn't find any…maybe I was using the wrong search terms?) a review with a link would be appreciated. Anyhow, on with the legal stuff. Fruits Basket belongs to Takaya-sensei, not me. This is a fanfic site, after all, and besides, I'm pretty sure Takaya-sensei wouldn't be writing in English. Enjoy!

Playing the Fool

It started out as a way of rebelling against his parents and the expectations that they'd had for him. They'd wanted him to be serious, polite, and studious. So he turned everything into a joke, mocked teachers, and blew off his homework. He ticked people off just to see them blow up, strung words together in ways that made no sense because he liked the way they sounded. After years of being "the perfect heir", it was an exhilarating, giddy feeling to break rules, just for the sake of breaking them. He imagined it was what flying must be like.

But as junior high became high school, he calmed down a bit and realized that he did have to take some things seriously. The novelty wore off. He probably would have stopped if not for Yuki.

After all the heck he'd raised in the last few years, he had no idea how he'd ended up on the student council. Machi was the only reason he agreed to it, really. But then, he met Yuki.

He'd heard of him, of course; who hadn't heard of grey-haired, violet-eyed Prince Yuki, whose beauty far surpassed that of mortal men. He'd heard stories, too, of a boy able to silence anyone with a single glare, a boy who thought himself so superior that he even pushed away a girl when she tried to hug him. If he was honest, he was expecting to hate the guy.

What actually happened was nothing like he expected. Yuki looked like a prince, but he didn't act like one; if anything, he reminded Kakeru of a lost child. One lost child in particular, actually. Looking at Yuki was like looking in a mirror and seeing his past self, still chasing after his father's approval. Just thinking about it made him act even goofier, just to banish the phantom of his childhood self that he saw in the student council president. He might have stopped that after that first day if not for Yuki's reaction.

It was priceless. Absolutely priceless. He couldn't have reacted any better if Kakeru had gone up to him and asked him to react exactly the way he wanted to. He took everything so dang seriously! The littlest things got under his skin. Part of him thought he should cut the poor guy a break, but it was just so fun!

And then, he caught Yuki staring out of one of the windows. Or, at least, that's what it looked like he was doing. But Kakeru knew better. He saw the boy's pale face reflected in the window, and watched at the boy's eyes wavered between determination and abject terror. It was then that he realized that there was more to Yuki than met the eye.

Though he never said it aloud, he agreed with Machi. Yuki wasn't a prince. Or if he was, he was some sort of warrior-prince, and he was locked in constant combat with himself. Kakeru wondered if any of those Pri-Yuki fangirls ever noticed the struggles that played out in the so-called prince's eyes.

It was those struggles that made Kakeru wonder what Yuki's life had been like up until this point. Yuki never actually told him…not in so many words, anyway. The grey-haired boy was always carefully general about his past, especially the parts that had to do with his family.

Kakeru had always been good at puzzles, though. And Yuki gave him a lot of pieces to work with, often without realizing it. Every odd outburst, every strange look, all of the things about Yuki Sohma that were just plain off, Kakeru collected them all and pieced them together until he had an image of what had made the student council president what he was.

It wasn't a pretty picture. Yuki didn't get along with his parents any more than Kakeru did, but it seemed as though Yuki was barely even in contact with his, and hadn't been for a while. The fact that he'd looked at a perfectly available, nice-looking girl like Tohru Honda and seen a mother rather than a girlfriend was a testament to that. His relationship with his brother seemed a little better—they didn't seem close, but they at least acknowledged each other. Still, there was something about it that was incredibly strained, and Kakeru guessed it probably had to do with whatever had happened to Yuki as a child.

The gray-haired boy had told Kakeru that he was "isolated because of an illness" as a child, but the shadows in his eyes whenever he mentioned the subject indicated that whatever he'd gone through had been a lot more serious than spending some time alone or in a hospital. Kakeru was paying enough attention during the incident with Yuki getting locked in the supply closet to realize that his friend hadn't just thrown up from the paint fumes. The heck if he knew what or who, but Kakeru knew, beyond any doubt, that something or someone specific had messed up the Sohma boy.

As he got closer to Yuki, and started trying to understand him, there was a part of him that was terrified of the responsibility he'd taken on. Yuki was terrifically messed up, and sometimes he seemed dangerously close to losing it completely. Kakeru was a little cracked himself, and hadn't had the most normal childhood either; what made him think he could deal with all of Yuki's baggage?

But then, he had a breakthrough. Well, maybe that was a putting it a little overdramaticly, but Kakeru was, after all, an overdramatic person. He realized one thing, so simple, and yet so brilliant, that it should have been obvious. It was this: As long as Yuki was ticked off at Kakeru, he wasn't thinking about whatever had caused the shadows in his eyes. When he was arguing with Kakeru, that was where his focus was. Not on his past, or on his shaky self-confidence.

And that was why, long after he actually felt the need to goof off as much as he did, Kakeru kept it up. Because someone needed to distract Yuki from the battle raging inside of him. Yes, someday Yuki was going to have to figure out how to win it, and get his act together, but sometimes, Kakeru figured, even the workaholic president needed a break.

And that was how it began. Being Yuki Sohma's friend wasn't easy. In fact, it was danged difficult. He couldn't count how many times he screwed up. Again and again, he pushed things just a little too far, and wondered, for a paralyzing moment, if he'd finally made Yuki hate him. But he never did. Somehow, what had started as simple curiosity became the closest friendship he'd ever had. And then, one day, to his complete surprise he realized that he thought of Yuki as a brother, almost more than he thought of Machi as a sister.

No matter what Yuki said, or how much self-loathing he said it with, Kakeru knew that he was a good guy. And he was slowly, but surely, winning that internal battle of his. But every once in a while, he would falter, and get lost in the conflict in his mind once again. And that was why Kakeru was there. To forcibly drag Yuki out of his despair, to tick him off so badly that he forgot whatever trauma was haunting him. To make him laugh when he was on the verge of breaking down. And Kakeru had to make an idiot out of himself in the process, why should it matter? For Yuki's sake, Kakeru was willing to play the fool.