I promised this story to several roleplay friends back in...July or something...and today I was hit with the inspiration to finally write it out. xD It was triggered by lots of joking about how totally awkward Kass had to be through puberty, and well...it had to be done. ENJOY!


Dammit all! Why did he always have to be so awkward?

It was bad enough that young Ritsu Kasanoda had such a sullen, intimidating appearance even as a child, and that he knew only how to act as such, but did he really have to go through puberty at the age of ten? Nothing seemed to ever go right for him, and it felt like his body was only reinforcing that these days. As if he weren't already awkward enough.

He'd managed to get through another day at school without making a sound, so at least he'd accomplished that. Most days he'd forget his resolve and accidentally let an embarrassed shout or growl slip through, only causing him to grow more frustrated and upset when his voice cracked and made him sound like a tortured animal. A two-toned "mah" hardly sounded appropriate for anyone.

Very few boys his age were experiencing this same horrible transition into physical maturity, so he felt even more alone than he already did before as a awkward, friendless boy with no social grace to speak of. No one could relate to his situation, or so it felt, and no one would offer him comfort even if they did. After all, who would? Ritsu's outward personality made it difficult for anyone to try.

Not that he'd even know what to do if he received such comfort anyway. That's why it was easier to just avoid everyone and keep to himself. Hopefully this puberty thing would blow over soon.

He'd gone home and gotten to his bedroom without having to make a sound in front of the guys either. The many men of the house at least seemed to understand his need for privacy, though they never mentioned anything. He was grateful for that, because it would be unbearable if he had to deal with awkward conversations at home too.

Today he was feeling particularly exhausted and moody however, so he'd gone straight to bed, pulling up the covers and rolling over so he faced the wall only a few inches away. Here he could block out the world, and no one could see him if he wanted to do something that would be embarrassing around others.

Kasanoda reached over to his bedside table to grab his remote, turning on the television to some uninteresting commercial. There wasn't anything on yet that he wanted to watch, he just needed to put on some background noise to disguise what he was about to do in case someone could hear through the walls of the house.

Then he turned over onto his stomach and pulled his pillow over his head, hiding the messy red tufts of hair that covered it. That's when he began to shout. Not out of anger or sorrow, though it did help relieve a little tension that had built up over the day. Just shouting, coupled with random words or sentences that had no meaning, all muffled by his pillow and sheets and drowned out by inconsequential advertisements. He didn't know if it would work, but if actually using his vocal chords helped speed along the process of his voice change, he was going to do it daily until that higher pitch of his utterances disappeared. He didn't care if he looked ridiculous…a gangly, red-haired, mean-faced ten-year-old with a deep voice…he just wished his throat would make up its mind already, dammit!

When he grew dizzy from lack of breathing properly, Kasanoda rolled over to his side and set his pillow where it belonged - beneath his head - and tried to focus on the screen across the room. A few minutes later, miracle of miracles, an animated American film began to play in Japanese dub. Disney, wasn't it? And it wasn't just any Disney movie either…it was his favorite.

He turned the volume down, not wanting the guys to hear that he was enjoying a guilty pleasure. Humming along with the songs, his voice switched octaves and got the notes wrong half the time, but it wasn't so bad if no one could hear it and he had something else to give his attention to. Beauty and the Beast was the best animated movie ever, hands down.

Kasanoda enjoyed the bright beginning, with its upbeat songs and colorful backgrounds. Though girls were an uncomfortable subject right now, he'd admitted to himself that Belle was an attractive character, not simply because she was cute, but there was something about the way she spoke and acted that just seemed to make her complete. She was herself, and didn't care that everyone around her wanted her to be different than she was.

But it wasn't until the film's atmosphere grew dark that his attention was fixed, almost unblinking, to the screen as the events played out. He'd seen this before, he knew what was coming up…and then the Beast was introduced to the viewers, seeming like the villain of the story. Everything about him was scary in the beginning…the way he looked, spoke, acted…and even the castle seemed dark with him around. If this was all you ever saw of the movie, your opinion of the Beast would be that he was a terrifying, unpleasant monster that imprisoned Belle's father. There wasn't a single likable thing about him. Not until you watched further.

The Beast wasn't evil. He wasn't heartless. He just…didn't know how to act as he should or treat others properly. He turned out to be the prince of this story, the hero, and yet he wasn't handsome or charming, and he definitely wasn't perfect. It was different than pretty much any other movie he'd ever watched, and it had a main character that he could relate to. He liked it.

As the story progressed, the Beast turned out to be a pretty nice guy. He and Belle began to fall for each other, but that's when the plot kicked in and the jerk from the beginning of the movie began to mess things up. The dramatic climax of the tale came and went, and then it looked like it was all over. It was dark and raining, the Beast had fallen, and Belle was crying…but upon her confession of love, the Beast's transformation back to his princely form was triggered, light exploding out of everywhere. It stopped raining and the curse was lifted from him, the servants, and even the whole castle, and everything was beautiful. It was a perfect fairy tale ending.

Ten-year-old Ritsu recalled that when he watched this the first time, he wished that could happen with him. Winning the big fight, getting the girl and transforming into the prince who has a happily ever after. Sure, the monster form was so much cooler looking, but no one in the movie thought that, and he assumed the same thing was true in the real world.

But anyway, that was a stupid wish. He'd wished that probably…three years ago? That was forever ago. He was just a kid then! He knew so much more about life now, and everyone knew there was no such thing as magic spells or enchanted castles. And there was definitely no such thing as transformations. This was always how he was gonna look…actually, it would probably get worse with age. If he was scary looking now, what would he be like another ten years from now, when he was a full-grown man? An image of himself as the Beast flashed through his young mind and it terrified him as he took it half-seriously. It really wasn't making puberty seem any more appealing.

He turned off the television and sat up, back against the wall and arms resting on his knees. His limbs were getting longer. And they'd only keep getting longer, if the growing pains were any indication. Sometimes he was glad for it, because maybe then his features and outward attitude would fit a little better. But other times it frightened him, like now. Wouldn't he scare people? Nobody really seemed to like him now, but what if he scared off the brothers of the house too when he got older? He didn't want to be alone.

Never mind the fact that he'd probably never have his own "Belle". He pretty much had no hope for that in the first place. Girls didn't talk to him. Ever. Teachers did, but only when they had to.

And damn all that too! He wanted to bury his face in his pillow again with mortification when he recalled those painfully embarrassing moments at school when he'd accidentally gotten a hard-on and had to excuse himself from certain situations. He hardly ever thought about that stuff yet and it was happening anyway. It was frustrating and humiliating and he hated his body for it. But at least he knew it wasn't just him…apparently things like this happened to boys in their growing up process.

He'd gotten "the talk" from his father a year ago. The guys didn't want to talk about it, and it had turned out to be a really embarrassing topic…but Dad hadn't seemed to have a problem with it at all, and had laid it all out very seriously and in a straightforward manner…Ritsu just wondered if he'd really needed so much detail. It felt like there was a lot in there that wasn't absolutely necessary just yet, but the elder Kasanoda was a thorough man, and wanted to prepare the boy all at once. After all, the strong son of a Kasanoda could handle it.

He shuddered at the memory.

Then cursed out loud when his body began to react to those mental images again.

The redhead sighed heavily, miserably, and flopped over to his side again. Life wasn't fair, and nothing ever went the way you wanted it to.

But he could dream, right? Even if everything got worse as he got older, he could always hope that maybe things wouldn't be so bad. Maybe he'd have friends. And, if he were pushing it, maybe even a girlfriend. Maybe people would like him, and maybe he wouldn't always feel so isolated.

Ha, yeah right. And maybe he'd start up a garden in the backyard and go to Host Clubs as a hobby. Like any of that would ever happen.