Of Stress and Cats

Stress. An unpleasant feeling that is caused by being exposed to unpleasant things such as an overbearing older sister who shows her love for you in obscure ways, a very strict mother who sees you as nothing but a spare tire, a very doting father who loves you very dearly but sometimes goes overboard with it (like treating you like you're still his little baby in front of your… friend), and dogs that are being, well, dogs.

The cause of stress may be different from one person to another. But the feeling that it gives should still be the same for all. And I am certain that nobody wants to deal with it on a daily basis. Stress is an unpleasant feeling. Only a masochist would enjoy it.

I've read from somewhere that stress is your body's way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing stress hormones which rouse the body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. [1]

I say that that article is pure bullocks. I don't feel any of that right now. My senses have not become any sharper. My muscles feel lethargic. I don't even know how fast my heart is beating right now. And my blood pressure? While I may not be qualified to give a diagnosis to myself, I can feel that I am a little bit anemic.

…or maybe what I'm feeling now is the aftermath of stress?

Whatever.

Ah yes. The great Yukinoshita Yukino is being stressed out. What an ominous day it is for humanity. And yes, I am very human. I am human no matter how many times Hikigaya-kun calls me a demon superwoman.

I am tired. I am grumpy. I need rest.

The fact that today is the first day of my period isn't helping.

And it doesn't end at that! For today and the next five days, there is no Yuigahama-san anywhere near to comfort me. She's spending a week at her relatives; something about a family reunion she said. Such misfortune!

If you're wondering why I'm so stressed out right now, it is because of the things that have transpired the past week. You see, ever since I have started my third year in high school, my parents have obliged me to stay at our 'home' for at least one week every month. I have protested of course, but they, or rather, mother threatened me that if I don't follow, I will have to be booted out of my apartment. So being the hopeless creature that I am in the presence of my mother, I had to comply.

It wasn't really that bad the first few times that I had to do it. But last week… last week just took its toll on me. And have I already mentioned that today is the first day of my monthly period? Whoever is up there who has designed our biological mechanism, can you please answer me this question: WHY DO OUR MONTHLY PERIODS HAVE TO BE PAINFUL?

I could really use a Yuigahama [2] right now.

And oh, if you're wondering why I didn't skip club activities and just went straight home, well, blame my competitive nature for that. I just can't stand the thought of Hikigaya-kun winning over me, be it something as petty as attendance or something as grand as grades.

Just imagining his smug smile over such a petty victory infuriates me!

"Oi Yukinoshita, you okay?"

"Huh?"

I was surprised by the sudden question of Hikigaya-kun. I mean, we've been silent for the past hour or so. Aside from the greeting that we shared a while ago, we really didn't speak to each other since. And no, we are not on bad terms right now. This is how things are always are whenever it's just the two of us. We both hate small talk. Yes, we may bicker from time to time, but I am obviously not in the mood for that right now.

Has he noticed that I'm stressed out? How though? Has he been staring at me for the past minutes?

Somehow, the thought of it makes me blush.

"You seem to be spacing out. You thinkin' about something?"

Should I tell him? Is it okay to tell him about my personal problems? Is it okay to burden him?

Maybe I shouldn't. I have already burdened him enough when I asked him to save me someday. It would be callous of me to bother him more.

"Ara? Since when have you been the type to care about other people's thoughts?" I teased him instead. "And how can you say that I'm spacing out? Have you been staring at me? Don't tell me that you've been thinking of perverted thoughts while-"

"Okay. Stop. Sheesh." Hikigaya protested while showing me the palm of his right hand.

"I was only asking you know? And no, I was not staring at you. I just happened to notice." he said.

Truth be told, I did not expect him to stare at me. I mean, why would he? Other than the fact that I am the holder of superior specs, what reason does he have to look at me?

I've only said what I said so that the topic would die down. I wouldn't want to lie and say that I am just fine. And yes, I technically have not lied. I may not have said the truth, but I have not lied either.

Thankfully, the conversation died at that. Hikigaya-kun could have pried further, but I just know that he isn't like that. He's not one to pry on anyone's personal business. I guess that's because he respects anyone's privacy?

But he always listens though when talked to. Sure, I could have told him of my predicament right now, and he would devote his ears to me. But as I've already said earlier, I shouldn't burden him any further.

"Oh, I have to leave club early today. Komachi just mailed me to go grocery shopping."

Has she? I don't recall seeing Hikigaya-kun reading mail on his phone though. But maybe that's because I have indeed been within my thoughts earlier for me to able notice anything.

Well, I guess I have no reason to doubt him. He always prioritizes his precious Komachi over anything. I wonder what his wife-to-be would say about that.

Pftt. As if he's ever going to get a wife.

"I see. Well, I guess that's fine. No one seems to be coming today."

"Yeah. You should leave early too. No point in staying here if no one's coming anyway."

Did he just?

Oh my Hikigaya-kun. You sure know how to show your concern in different ways. Now I wonder whether the tidbit of you being mailed by Komachi to go grocery shopping is just an excuse you made up so that you can convince me to go home early. My my.

He does care for me. I have always known that he does. Even if he doesn't really directly show it.

Maybe I was wrong for thinking that I shouldn't burden him further?

No no no Yukino. You're doing it again. You shouldn't. Even Hikigaya-kun has his own set of problems to deal with. You already know this.

"I suppose you're right. Tell me when you're about to leave. I'll leave with you."


"For the last time Isshiki, I am not calling you that." protested Hikigaya-kun as Isshiki-san once again told him of her demand.

"But Senpaiiiii! Whhyyyyyy nnnooooottt?"

"Because I don't want to. What reason do I have to? Heck, you don't even call me by my name!"

Hmm. Fair point. For some reason, among all of her acquaintances, Hikigaya-kun is the only one she calls senpai. And by senpai, I mean 'Senpai' and nothing more. Strange isn't it?

"But I call you by your name though Senpai."

"Uh-huh. Since when did Senpai become my name?"

"Since I made it my petname for you!"

Petname? What is that? Is that the name you give to your pets?

Oh my. Does Isshiki-san only see Hikigaya-kun as her pet? That's pretty cruel of her don't you think? While I constantly berate Hikigaya-kun and his existence, I have never gone as far as treating him as a pet.

But basing on how Isshiki-san has been treating Hikigaya-kun these days, I don't think she sees him as just a pet.

Could it be that I got the meaning wrong? I'll be sure to research on it whenever I can.

"Petname?" questioned Hikigaya-kun.

"Yep!" declared Isshiki-san with a tone that is like she had given the answer to the ultimate question of the universe.

Hikigaya-kun gave Isshiki-san a questioning look at that. After a few seconds, he returned to reading the light novel that he's been reading before Isshiki-san barged in, as if nothing ever happened.

And oh, if you're wondering why I haven't said anything to them yet, it is because as of the moment, I have decided to become just an observer. And I always find it entertaining whenever these two do whatever it is that they do. They may seem like they don't get along, but I know that they really do.

Is this how Yuigahama-san feels whenever I and Hikigaya-kun have our casual bickering?

Expectedly, Isshiki-san got annoyed. She pouted at Hikigaya-kun to express her annoyance at him but from what I see, it was all for naught. Hikigaya-kun just went on with his reading, which is understandable. If I were in his shoes, I would do the same.

There are many ways to deal with Isshiki-san's brattinnes, one of them being ignoring her. And I think that Hikigaya-kun found it the most appropriate way to deal with her for now. Most of the time though, he just gives in. Seriously, he spoils Isshiki-san too much.

Eventually, Isshiki-san seemed to have given up as she let out a sigh.

"Fine, if I call you by your name, would you do it?" Oh. I was wrong. She hasn't given up yet.

"Do what?"

"Oh come on Hachiman, don't tell me you've already forgotten?"

Hikigaya-kun froze at that. As I examined him further, I noticed the red dots on his cheeks.

What is with his reaction? I mean, I can understand it if the one who called him by his given name is someone whom he has a liking to… such as Totsuka-san.

Could it be that…

"What's wrong Hachiman? You don't want to me to call you Hachiman, Hachiman?"

"Okay. Please stop. Don't call me that."

Well, Isshiki-san is indeed cute. And she can be responsible when she wants to. And she's already close to him so it's not really that strange. And they seem to be flirting a lot more these days. And I can imagine that if they do get married, Hikigaya-kun can fulfill his dream of becoming a househusband.

"Why shouldn't I call you Hachi-"

"I said stop it. The way you say it reminds of a certain silver-haired angel. It's disturbing. Only that angel is allowed to call me that way. Aside from Komachi of course."

Somehow, the thought of Hikigaya-kun and Isshiki-san living a wedded life as husband and wife pains me.

"Silver-haired angel?"

"Yukino-senpai~"

"W-wha?"

I must have been deep within my thoughts because when I came to, Isshiki-san is already near to me. Since when has she been this close? It's pretty embarrassing to not notice when someone is approaching you.

"Yes Isshiki-san?" I asked her after I have recovered from the surprise.

"Do you know who Senpai is referring to when he said silver-haired angel?"

Silver-haired angel? Well I do know of a few silver-haired people, one a male who looks like a female; the other a female who sometimes acts like a male. So I atleast have trimmed down the possible answer to two people.

Wait, why I do I feel like I'm forgetting another silver-haired someone? [3]

Let's see. Which of those two does he refer to as angel? If we base on features alone, Kawasaki-san could be considered an angel. But I don't remember him referring to her as that. And I'm sure that he wouldn't dare call her that ever. So by process of elimination, he must be referring to him right?

"Hm? Oh. He must be talking about Totsuka Saika-san. You know him right? He's the one they call the prince of Sobu High."

Isshiki-san made a thinking face at that. Eventually, her face morphed into one of realization.

"Oh. So he's referring to that cute guy huh…"

Yes. Totsuka Saika-san. For some reason, Hikigaya-kun seems to have this weird admiration of him, to the point where I question his sexuality. I mean, come on. Totsuka-san may look like a girl but everyone knows that HE is not.

Don't get me wrong though. I have nothing against gay people. It's just disturbing to think of Hikigaya-kun being gay.

"Ew gross Senpai!" said Isshiki-san to Hikigaya-kun, a look of disgust on her face.

"W-what? I can admire anyone I want to you know?" protested Hikigaya-kun.

...

"Hmm… I suppose you're right Senpai. Still gross though."

"Oh bite me!"

"Well, how about Hachi-senpai?"

"…whatever."

"Now will you call me by my name?"

"Yes yes… I'll call you Iroha from now on."

"Grk-!"

Now it was Isshiki-san who was startled, with the expected red dots on her face. Now why would she? Don't tell me that she has a thing for him too?

Well when I think about it, it seems that Isshiki-san having a thing for Hikigaya-kun seems to be more obvious. Why would she be this clingy to him right? Add to the fact the she wants him to call her by her given name. And the reaction that she had just now. No matter how much she denies it, it's fairly obvious that she atleast likes Hikigaya-kun.

I am not comfortable with that.

I am no longer comfortable with what these two are doing.

I am no longer able to just observe. Now is the time to interrupt them. And interrupt them I will.

"Please, you two, if you're going to flirt like that the whole day, can you not do so in my presence?"

Oh my. That sounded way more bitchy than I've intended to.

It must be because of the stress.

Yes.

Stress.


As I took my seat at this clubroom for the third time this week, I ponder on whether how much longer I have to suffer. Oh you designer of the female biology, why must you make our monthly periods painful? Why couldn't you, you know, make it more pleasant?

Usually, it shouldn't be this excruciating by now. But because of the stress that I've been dealing with, along with the unpleasant feeling I get whenever I think of Isshiki-san and Hikigaya-kun being together (which, when I think about it, is a cause of stress too), I am not really surprised that I am still not in the best of states right now.

And there is still no Yuigahama-san anywhere near to comfort me. Oh why must I go the clubroom and not just go straight home?

"Oi Yukinoshita, you okay?"

Oh right. It's because of him.

"I'm fine." I spoke in low volume. I did so because what I just said was a lie. And I am uncomfortable with lying.

"What was that? I didn't hear you." replied Hikgaya-kun.

Of course you wouldn't hear. I intended it to be that way.

"Why do care Hikigaya-kun? What is your purpose in asking me if I'm okay? What would you gain if you know that I am not really okay? Why are you so concerned about my well-being? It is not like I'm your responsibility. I know that I may have asked of you to save me someday, but that didn't mean that you have to take care of me!" I lashed out at him. And I didn't mean to.

I am the worst. Why must I say such things to him? He was just showing his concern to me. He was just asking me if I'm okay. He was just being kind to me. Why must I lash out on him?

I may blame the stress for such, but wouldn't that be just me making excuses?

There was silence.

I stayed still, hugging my right arm tightly.

I want to know what he is thinking of me right. Does he hate me for what I just did to him? Why isn't he saying anything? Why isn't he scolding me right now?

"Okay, that does it." suddenly said Hikigaya-kun with a powerful voice as he approached me.

"H-huh? H-hikigaya-kun? What are you-"

"You're coming with me."

"What? What are-"

Before I could finish my sentence, Hikigaya-kun did something that I didn't expect that he would do. He forcibly grabbed me on one of my wrists and pulled me off my seat, and eventually out of the clubroom. I'm so shocked over the development of things that I wasn't able to fight back. But even if I did fight back, I doubt that things would go differently. The Hikigaya-kun of now seemed unstoppable.

Is he mad at me?

"Hikigaya-kun. Let go of me. This is embarrassing." I protested.

"Oh please, could you not insult me and my eyes just for once?" What? What about your eyes?

Oh my. He must've misunderstood.

"I didn't mean it like that! Please, it's not that."

"Uh-huh. And what of this is embarrassing you then?"

Well, the fact that you're so close to me. And that you're kind of holding to me. And that I appear to be weak when you're dragging me like this. And… it's embarrassing.

"…"

"…"

"…"

"Fine." Hikigaya-kun said after letting out a sigh. He then let go of his hold of me and put his hand in his pocket. I somehow felt disappointment when he did so.

"I'm sorry about that. That was insensitive and invasive of me. Won't happen again." Hikigaya-kun said as he turned around.

"…" I still said nothing. I am now hugging my right arm again.

"I just wanted to make sure that you'd come with me."

I see. But he didn't have to go through such drastic measures. He could've just told me.

But I kind of understand. I mean, I was being so guarded with him. Everytime he asks me, I find ways to not give him a direct answer. It's reasonable for him to think that I wouldn't heed him on his words.

I'm really being a brat right now huh? Oh how the great Yukinoshita Yukino has fallen.

"…where do you intend on taking me anyway?"

"…you'll just have to wait and see." he said as he looked away from me.

He then let out a sigh and said, "Let's just go. Be sure to follow me."

"You're not going to do anything to me right?" I asked him. It's not like I doubt him even though I always claim him to be a pervert. But considering on what he's capable of doing now, I just had to make sure.

He didn't give me a verbal response though. He instead just gave me a frown and went on with his way.

He really is mad at me.

I have to fix this. This is my fault afterall.

"W-wait." I called out onto him, hoping that it would reach him. He is somewhat far from me now.

Thankfully, he did. Hikigaya-kun stopped on his tracks and turned around to look at me. He had a questioning look on his face.

I walked towards him. When I was infront of him, I offered him my hand. My right hand to be exact.

I felt my cheeks warming up as I did so.

"Please take it." I said to him, facing away from him as I finished. This is embarrassing. But I had to do it.

I want to make up for what I did to him. I want him to know that I trust him.

After a while of receiving no response from him, I gathered what courage to once again look at him. What I saw from him was a mix of confusion and surprise.

I can understand him though. This is the first time I have done something like this. And to him of all people. I can only wonder what he's thinking right now.

"Uhm-"

"Ah, what the hell!" suddenly cried Hikigaya-kun as he went and grabbed my hand.

I was surprised by the sudden contact but I didn't show it. I don't want to cause any more misunderstandings.

We then went our way to wherever he planned on taking me.

Somehow, I felt more comfortable with him holding my hand.


"Wait here." said Hikigaya-kun as he went his way.

I am now alone, just outside of the school's forest. Nobody seems to be coming here. Must be because it takes a lot of walking before one could get here. I wonder why Hikigaya-kun took me here though?

Wait. It's just the two of us. Nobody seems to be coming here. It's sufficiently far from where most of the populace of Sobu High are.

Could it be that he's planning to…

No. No Yukino-chan. We already talked about this. You must not think of such things of him. Haven't you already established that you trust him? Or was it just for show?

He couldn't, could he?

"Meow." Huh?

I'm not just hearing things right? I really heard a cat's meow… right? I know that I may be going through a stressful predicament right now, but I don't think that's enough to make me delusional… right?

I might as well check whether I'm just hearing things or not.

I looked over that what I thought is the source of the cat's meow. What I saw was Hikigaya-kun holding what I concluded to be the source of the 'meow' that I've just heard earlier. To make it obvious, Hikigaya-kun is holding a cat.

Is this the reason why he brought me here?

"Here we go." Hikigaya-kun said as he let down the cat on the ground.

"You can pet him you know? He does not bite."

"Hm? Oh right." I went nearer to the cat and crouched down so that I can approach him better. I then gave it a pat on the head.

"Purr." Oh my. How cute! Can I pet you even further?

"Why do you know that there's a cat here?" I asked Hikigaya-kun. How does he really? And to think that this place isn't somewhere one would normally would go to.

Oh wait, this is Hikigaya-kun we're talking about. Since he have already sort-of complained to us about how his 'secret lunch spot' isn't so secret anymore, what with it being occupied by more students (first year students to be exact), I guess that he might have looked for a new lunch spot for his own.

So I expect his answer to be 'I just happened to find him here'.

However, his answer isn't what I expected to be.

"Well, I am sort of taking care of him."

"Hm? How?" I am genuinely curious. It's not like I doubt his ability to take care of cats. He is one of the owners of the glorious being that is Kamakura-san afterall. From what I see, Kamakura-san seems to be taken cared off well.

"… I just happen to see him about a month ago. It was on one of those mornings on my way to school." answered Hikigaya-kun while scratching his cheek.

Somehow, I feel that that's not entire truth.

"Uh-huh. Is that all?"

"…uhm well, could we discuss about it some other time? I brought you here because I want you to enjoy his presence."

Oh. Right.

"Is that the only reason why you brought me here?"

Hikigaya-kun let out a sigh before saying,

"Did you really think that I wouldn't notice?"

Ah well, I was hoping that you didn't. But who am I kidding? This is you we're talking about.

"I know that you're going through something right now. But I don't want to pry. You might take it the wrong way you know? And I know how hard it is for you to open up to people."

"It frustrated me though that I am unable to help you other than to ask you if you're ok. That explains my sudden outburst earlier. Sorry about that."

I-I see. I was so focused on myself on not wanting to burden him that I forgot to consider Hikigaya-kun on whether he wants to be burdened himself. And because of that, we both got frustrated.

I wonder if I wasn't being as stubborn as I was, would we be in this kind of situation still? I wonder if I should really have just open up to him more.

"I won't ask you to confide your problems with me from now on. Instead, whenever you're feeling down or a bit grumpy, I want you to know that you can always go here and see him. So you know, you can relax a little. I'm sure that he won't mind your company. I mean look at him. He only met you, but he already seems attached to you."

He really does care for me. I have always known. Why am I trying so hard to deny that?

"I might try someday. You know, opening up to you more."

"…"

"…"

We were covered in silence for a while after that. And I suppose that it is one of those comfortable kinds of silence that we both enjoy.

I continued on petting the cat. Which reminds me-

"Hey Hikigaya-kun. Does he already have a name?"

"Hmm? Ah no. It somehow slipped my mind."

I should have expected that. Ever since he introduced him to me, Hikigaya-kun has not mentioned a name.

My my. Such a wonderful creature must be given a name. Especially since he seems to be a permanent resident of this place now. He is no longer just a stray.

"That won't do. You've already been taking care of him for about a month now you know."

Seriously Hikigaya-kun, I know that you may not be the smartest, but how could you make such a mistake? That just won't do!

"I guess I'll be the one to give him his name."

"… yeah sure. Go ahead. It's not like I own him you know." But you practically do you know?

"Then, I will name him…"


We are now on our way back to our club room to retrieve our things. And to properly lock the room too. It is getting pretty late.

There is this itching feeling that I want to be let out. Something that I've been wanting to do ever since Hikigaya-kun proved his caring for me.

"Hey Hikigaya-kun." I called out to him.

"Hm?"

"Could you please close your eyes. Just for a little bit?" I asked of him.

Hikigaya-kun gave me a questioning look at that. Oh please, just do as what I requested of you. I bet that you'd thank me later.

I guess that it is only to be expected though. He's a cynic. If I were him, I would do so too.

"You're not planning on doing anything to me are you?" he asked.

Pfft. Don't make me laugh Hikigaya-kun! I would never ever dream of doing something to someone like you.

Well, actually, I do plan on doing something to him. But I bet that what he's thinking isn't anywhere near what I'm thinking.

"Geez Hikigaya-kun. Please don't lump me with you. Someone as beautiful as me cannot be identified amongst someone as crude as you. " I teased him.

"H-hey! What was that for?"

"Just please close your eyes." I asked him one more time.

"…fine." Finally. It would have been easier for the both of us if you just went with it the first time you know?

Wait.

Is it really okay for me to do this? I know that what I'm doing may not have his permission. But, it's not like I'm doing anything bad to him.

And I think that he deserves it too. He has always been running to my side whenever he feels that I am in distress. Sometimes he does it indirectly. Sometimes he does it directly. Of the many times that he has already save me (whether knowingly or unknowingly), just a simple expression of thanks isn't enough.

So I have to do this.

"Y-yukinoshita?" voiced Hikigaya-kun, the blush on his face being obvious.

I can also feel my own cheeks warming up.

"P-P-please don't misunderstand. I only did it as sign of gratitude."

"…for what?"

"For, you know…"

For being sweet and kind to me.

End – Of Stress and Cats

[1] - stress

[2] Reference to Chryshauzer's 'Or How Hikigaya Hachiman Learned to Like Pretty Girls'; I really liked it when Yukino said "I have a Yuigahama"

[3] Gi-fun!

A/N I guess this one's long overdue huh? Yes. I wrote this fluffy one-shot to make up for the tears that have been shed caused by my other HachiYuki fanfic. And there seems to be a surge of drama fics. Was it fluffy enough for you?

And oh yeah. Have you guessed what is it that Yukino did to Hachiman when she requested him to close his eyes? I hope that I wasn't being too subtle to the point of it being unsolvable.

As for my progress for 'Of Yellow Ribbons and Brown Eyes', I am ashamed to admit but I am currently a writer's block. That's why I've decided to settle down for one-shots or short series for now. I'll work back on it as soon as I can. I plan on releasing two chapters simultaneously when I do so.