Disclaimers: Fruits Basket and its characters do not belong to me and are not being used by me for any profitable ends.

Warnings: Angst, POV, spoilers


By Rapunzel

Kyo asked me once how I could stand being told all the time that I'm cute.

I guess that just goes to show how little he understands me. I shouldn't be surprised, really. In his eyes, I've probably never been more than a whiny brat who won't act his age. I wonder if most of the family sees me that way, or if they know better.

I think Hatsuharu knows better. That was why he stuck up for me when people at school picked on me for wearing a girl's uniform. He's never said so, but I think he understands why it's so important to me to look and act the way I do. Why I make sure everyone mistakes me for a child. In some ways, I want to be a child.

It doesn't bother me, being called cute. I know most guys would take offense at it, but I never do. I like it when people, especially women, tell me that I look cute or exclaim over how adorable I am. Yes, yes, look at the adorable little boy. Isn't he cute? Wouldn't you just love it if he were your child? Don't you just want to hug him and take him home with you and love him?

She didn't.

Ironic, isn't it? The one person in the world who supposedly should have been able to love me unconditionally, and she never felt that way. I was never cute in her eyes.

Kyo once made a remark to the effect that I must have been dropped on my head as a baby. For all I know, that's true. I wouldn't be surprised. After all, when you're holding something that is repulsive to you, your first instinct is to drop it. How many times did she try to hold me only to have me turn into a rabbit in her arms? Did she drop me, or did she fling me away with all of her strength? Or did she just scream? I don't know; by the time I was old enough to remember, she had stopped trying.

I still tried. It took me a while to learn. I would run to her, arms wide, begging to be picked up or even simply held. But the moment my arms would close around her, I would transform. And then the screaming would begin. She would stare at me with that look in her eyes and she would scream and scream until Papa came running to take me out of her sight. And then Papa would lecture me about how I mustn't hug Mama because it made her upset. He never blamed her for her reaction, and neither did I. After all, it was my fault. I was a monster. I must have been, because Mama looked at me like I was a monster.

For all that, I cried when Hatori took away her memory. I suppose it was selfish of me, seeing how unhappy she was, to wish that she could still remember me. After all, I was the source of her pain. That much was proven; once she forgot about me, she got better. I should have been happy to see my mother smile and be healthy again. But I still cried. Forgetting meant giving up the dream, not hers but mine. Some part of me always hoped that she would come around. Hoped that given time, she would grow accustomed to my curse and that once she did, she could smile at me and hug me and be the mother that I wanted.

But she couldn't. And so she forgot. Forgot that she ever had a cursed son named Momiji. A son that she despised. A son who wanted so desperately for her to love him.

She couldn't love me. And so I had to content myself with the distant adoration of strangers. I dressed and talked like a small child, even as I grew older, to arouse the maternal instincts of women I had never met. When they exclaimed over me, I could give them my brightest smile and pretend that it was her talking, cooing over me, complimenting me. But only to a point. After all, I couldn't let them get too close. What if they hugged me and discovered my secret? Then the screaming would begin. And I would be right back where I started.

And then you came. You knew things that nobody outside the family was supposed to know, but you weren't afraid. From the moment I heard about you, I wanted to meet you, the outsider who knew about our curse. I wanted to get to know you, wanted you to know me. I wanted you to fill the void she had left. You were too young to be a mother, but I was willing to settle for an older sister.

That was why I made a point of hugging you that first day. I had to test you. I had to be sure you could live up to the expectations I had for you. Well, that and I just wanted the contact.

I was a little afraid then, though I don't suppose you could tell. Afraid that you would act like she did and scream or push me away. It turns out I needn't have worried. You did freak out, but that was more because you were afraid of your classmates discovering my secret than because you were afraid of me. And it felt so nice to be hugged, to be held. I had forgotten just how nice. It had been such a long time since I had been hugged like that. I was of course forbidden to hug girls outside of those cursed like me, and most of the males I knew seemed to think that I was too old for something as trivial as a hug.

That's why I follow you around, seek out your company. That's why I like to be around you so much, even if it's just to hear you talk to me. That's why I always beam at you, save my brightest smiles for you. Because you know, but you're not afraid. Because you can hug me, but you won't scream. Because I'm still cute in your eyes.

Please, Tohru. Please don't ever look at me the way she did. That look of fear mingled with loathing. Please don't make me feel like a monster. Please don't cry and call me an abomination. Don't be afraid to hug me, to hold me.

Please, Tohru, just smile at me. Smile that smile that Kyo says makes you look foolish. I don't think you're foolish. You may not exactly be intelligent, but you're wise for all that. You understand things in a way other people don't. Please understand me. Smile at me, look at me, tell me that I'm cute, that you like me. Please treat me the way she could never bring herself to treat me.

Please, Tohru.

Please love me.