An old woman holding her small terrier-type dog leave a building in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday. She rummages in her purse one handed, looking for something, when she is interrupted by her little dog suddenly barking up a storm. Looking up, she blinks in confusion, and has just enough time to spot the young man staggering towards her, a pet carrier in his grasp, and shuffle out of the way before she is almost run over.
“Sorry,” Kageyama pants over his shoulder, as he barrels past and into the reception area of the local veterinary office, his hair a mess and his clothes rumpled. He stumbles over to the desk and aims his next question at the bewildered receptionist. “I have an appointment? Two thirty?”
He has no idea what the current time is, but the clock on the inside of his car had been ticking dangerously close to his appointment time when he’d finally managed to snag a parking space. Though he had left with plenty of time, the traffic had been atrocious. As he stands there, still panting for breath, he hopes that he won’t be turned away if he really is late.
There’s a small, pitiful mrrraaaaowww from the carrier bumping against Kageyama’s calves and he glances down, just about making out the big, sorrowful eyes peering up at him from between the slats in the plastic. With a grunt, he shifts the heavy weight from one hand to the other. Yeah, he’s really hoping he doesn’t have to make this trip twice.
“Don’t worry.” The receptionist smiles at him, and she points with a pen to one of the doors that leads away from the waiting room. “Room 2. The vet said to send you in when you arrive.”
“Oh,” Kageyama dithers and switches his poor cat from hand to hand again. “Thank you.”
As he turns to walk to the indicated door, he has to grasp the carrier handle with both hands to support the weight. It really did swing too much… he didn’t like the thought of his cat sliding around in there… he should get a better carrier.
Both hands occupied, he taps his shoe against the door in a crude version of knocking until there’s a muffled ‘come in!’ echoing from inside. Using his elbow to lever the handle down, Kageyama shoves his way into the room and stumbles inside, staggering forwards until he can heft his cat carrier up onto the examination table in the middle of the room with a loud grunt.
“Hi!” Comes a chirpy voice from the vague vicinity of the computer in the room and Kageyama looks up through his slightly sweaty fringe to see… someone he’s never seen before.
“Where’s Ukai?” he demands, brows knitting tightly. He always sees Ukai. He likes Ukai; his cat likes Ukai; nothing ever goes wrong-
“Threw his back out,” the stranger says, slipping off his stool to walk over to the table. “So you’ve got me instead.”
He’s a young man, about Kageyama’s age he guesses, kind of short and stocky, in pastel green scrubs and with the brightest, most orange hair he’s ever seen on a living thing.
Well, apart from-
“Hey buddy!” The vet is cooing suddenly, bending forward to open the carrier door. Another small, bright orange head pops into view as Kageyama’s beloved cat starts to inch from the carrier, pink nose twitching.
Kageyama opens his mouth to protest his vet of choice being replaced by someone distinctly younger and not as experienced, when his cat starts shuffling out to bump her forehead against the vet’s with a happy little chirp.
Oh. She normally only does that with him…
“We match!” says the vet – Hinata, apparently, according to his nametag – as the ginger cat tumbles out from her carrier to mraow in greeting at the equally ginger vet.
“Hello Carrot,” Hinata says softly, running his hand over her head and across her back.
Carrot raises her rump briefly when he reaches her tail, and then settles back down on the table, a soft purr starting to rumble out.
Kageyama stares. Carrot never purrs at the vet. She’s always perfectly well behaved, but she also continues to stare at him with huge, sad eyes the entire time that plead ‘take me home now.’ But today she’s acting like she’s in the middle of her living room.
“So,” Hinata says, jolting Kageyama from his thoughts, “Carrot’s just in for her annual check, is that right? How has she been during the last year?”
“Fine…” Kageyama says slowly, still watching with muted awe as Hinata checks her eyes and ears, then opens her mouth, which she opens obligingly for him. She even lets him tickle her under the chin as he reaches for the stethoscope looped around his neck.
A quick listen to her heart, and then the stethoscope is set aside, as Hinata palms his hands down her sides firmly. Carrot wiggles a little bit but doesn’t protest. The vets hums under his breath, presses a button on a set of scales to the side of the examination table, and then lifts her quickly to plonk her on it, taking note of the number.
A small crease appears between those bright orange eyebrows.
“What?” Kageyama demands, when Hinata turns back to his computer with a slight frown. “What is it?”
“Well… when Carrot was about a year old, she was around four kilograms,” Hinata says, as he reaches for a small glass vial already on the workstation side by the computer and rummages around in a drawer. He shoves a needle onto a syringe and removes the cap with his teeth. “That was two years ago, and now she weighs six and a half.”
“So?” Kageyama pouts, placing a protective hand on his cat’s back. She chirrups happily and wiggles beneath his palm, her purrs increasing briefly. “She got bigger.”
“She got fatter,” Hinata corrects, his voice slightly muffled with the needle cap still in his teeth, giving Kageyama a short look.
Kageyama is so taken aback by the sudden flash of stern gold in his eyes that he completely misses Hinata giving his cat her shot. Normally, he has to cuddle her for reassurance.
Carrot doesn’t even blink.
“Good girl, Carrot,” Hinata coos, rubbing an index finger behind her ear. Carrot purrs at him, delighted. “But maybe we should change your name to Pumpkin.”
“Hey!” Kageyama protests, brain now back in gear and infuriated. “She isn’t fat!”
Hinata straightens and dumps his needle in a nearby bin. “She is,” he says firmly, “and she’s going to start getting problems if you don’t get her on a diet.”
Kageyama balls his hands into fists and fumes. Carrot might be a little… round – okay, quite a lot round – but that was okay! She could jump just fine! She might not do it often but she could. And she’s happy, always purring and asking for attention and she always looks so sad when her bowl is empty…
Carrot makes a little rumbly noise next to him and rubs her head along his forearm. Kageyama releases a fist with a snap and strokes her absentmindedly, glaring at the vet viciously. The stupid vet, who looks more like an upside down carrot than Carrot herself does.
Hinata meets Kageyama’s glare with his own, albeit a little more professional one. He folds his arms across his chest, mashing the stethoscope around his neck against his scrubs. He actually looks a little intimidating, despite the overall vegetable vibe.
“She really needs to lose some weight,” Hinata repeats, voice like steel. “She’s only young, but being that weight is not healthy – she’ll get early onset arthritis, it’s highly likely that she’ll develop diab-“
He doesn’t get to finish before Kageyama loses his temper. Carrot is fine. This new guy was just trying to scare him. Plenty of cats look like Carrot, he sees them on the internet all the time. He turns his back on Hinata, effectively cutting him off, before gathering up the pet carrier and showing the opening to Carrot.
“Come on,” he says softly to his cat, fighting to keep his voice gentle despite his incredibly high blood pressure. “Let’s go home.”
Carrot flicks her ear and then ambles inside, and Kageyama does his best to hide the grunt he makes when his arms are forced to take her heft.
Wordlessly, he thrusts Carrot’s vaccination card at Hinata, who takes it, equally silent, to sign and jot down her vaccination details for that year.
“Think about it,” Hinata says, some of his steel gone but his eyes no less fiery, as he hands back the card. “Call me if you change your mind and want to listen.”
Not likely, Kageyama thinks to himself viciously. He takes the card and mutters out a thank-you between the grit of his teeth. Securing his hands around the pet carrier’s handle and ensuring Carrot is comfortable inside, he staggers from the room and back into reception.
“When is Ukai back?” He asks the receptionist as he pays, still scowling with anger boiling his blood.
“We’re not sure,” the lady behind the desk responds, looking sad. “He hurt himself pretty badly. We’re not expecting him for another month, at least.”
Kageyama frowns harder, accepting the credit card receipt that is handed to him. He’s only ever had to come here so far for Carrot’s vaccinations and neutering, but… it was comforting to know Ukai was here, should there be an emergency. Now he wasn’t. And there was an orange idiot in his place.
Hopefully there would be no repeat visits for the next twelve months.
When Kageyama gets back home, he is still fuming.
He flings open his front door - once he wrestles it open with a heavy carrier still in his grip - kicks his way inside, flings his keys somewhere in the vague direction of the kitchen and gently places Carrot back down onto the ground. She lets out a happy little noise when he opens the door to her carrier, and some part of his fury is smothered slightly when she leaves her plastic prison. He watches her, still frowning, as she immediately waddles over to her food bowl.
Which only makes sense! She missed lunch! Of course she was hungry.
Kageyama kicks the now empty carrier moodily down through the hallway until his anger simmers low enough that he can stomp into the kitchen after his cat without feeling like the vein in his temple might burst.
Sure, Ukai had, on occasion, mentioned that Carrot was a little overweight, but nothing bad, he doesn't think. The new vet was just wrong, that's all.
Kageyama flicks on his kettle, rummages around in the cupboards and fridge, and slams his way around the kitchen while he makes a cup of milky tea with Carrot's biscuit crunching echoing in the background. He's probably being a little too loud, but all Carrot does is flick her ear and ignore him, so he makes no effort to temper himself.
By the time he's wrapped his hands around his mug, comfortingly warm, most of his anger has burnt away. Taking long, slow sips of his tea (probably more milk than he should have added... he's been trying to cut back) he looks down and over at Carrot, who has seemingly finished her lunch, sitting back on her haunches and swiping her tongue across her lips.
He watches her wash herself - across her face and behind her ears - and then his eyes drift down to her... substantial tummy. It is a little round, he supposes, tilting his head as he takes another sip from his mug. Her fur does cover almost all of her back paws where her belly sits and she is definitely a lot more spherical than she was when he first took her home - a small orange scrap of a thing, quiet and nervous.
Kageyama glares down into his milky tea. He hates the thought of being wrong, that the stupid, new vet was actually right, but... he squints harder into his tea. Being a little bit overweight couldn't be that bad, surely? She was fine. The vet had even said so. But then, he was going to mention all those other things...
Kageyama huffs, drains the rest of his drink, sloppily rinses out the mug and dunks it on the draining board before sulking off to his office. The day is officially free, booked off specially to take Carrot in for her check-up with plenty of time - just in case there was anything wrong. But now that that was over and she was fine, there really wasn't much else to do. He never was the best at just kicking back and relaxing.
Carrot trots after him, her tail held high in a little loop above her back as she wobbles in his wake. As Kageyama eases himself into his desk chair, she crawls into a nearby cat bed, large and soft and round, and flops onto her side. Kageyama glances down at her with a smile as she settles, reaching out blindly to start his computer back up. It buzzes and hums, the screen flickering on, but he ignores it as it boots up. He plonks his elbow on his desk and his chin on his hand and watches Carrot drift off to sleep.
It had been a while since he had seen her truly curl up into a little ball... normally she just flopped over sideways, burying her nose into whatever comfy spot she had found.
The computer sings its welcoming tune as it finishes booting and Kageyama drags his attention back towards it, opening up his e-mails on autopilot, his mind elsewhere.
He stares at the first one on the list for a solid ten minutes, re-reading the opening line over and over, his head full of distractions before he sighs sharply and rummages around in his pocket for his phone. Stabbing at the screen until he finds the veterinary practice’s number, he dials and then presses his phone to his ear, drumming his fingers against his desk.
“Good afternoon, Karasuno Veterinary Surgery, how may I help-“
“Yeah, hi, is the orange vet there?” Kageyama interrupts as soon as the line connects. He taps his fingers against his mouse idly. “Please,” he adds, in afterthought, regretting his impatience a little. The receptionists really were very nice.
“Orange…?” The woman on the other end the line repeats, and there’s a short pause before she tentatively asks, “Do you mean Hinata?”
“Probably,” Kageyama grunts, shrugging a shoulder even though he couldn’t be seen. He couldn’t remember the vet’s name, but that sounded vaguely familiar.
“I can see if he’s free. Who’s calling?”
Kageyama relays his information and taps his fingers a little harder against his mouse when the receptionist murmurs “just a moment,” and then the hold music starts playing over the line. It chimes for long enough that he starts to get antsy, swivelling in his seat and kicking his feet idly, leaning his head over the back of his chair.
“Hello, Hinata speaking.”
The sound of a young man’s voice in his ear is so abrupt that Kageyama almost gives himself a neck sprain from sitting up straight again so fast.
“What were those things you were listing?” He demands, once he’s upright and paying attention. “Those things that can happen to fat cats. Even though my cat is not fat.”
Not that fat, anyway…
There’s a slight pause on the other end of the line, so Kageyama adds, just to be clear, “It’s Kageyama Tobio. With Carrot.”
“I remember,” Hinata says easily, and there’s a lilt to his voice that suggests amusement. It makes Kageyama’s brow twitch.
There’s a rustle over the phone, and then a small whoosh of air, like the vet is sighing. “Alright. So one of the biggest concerns is diabetes, which cats can also get just like humans. Then there would be joint problems, increased risk of arthritis, which affects her mobility. And, of course, issues such as blood pressure, which would…”
Kageyama starts to tune him out, his mind whirling with all of these things. It’s not like he didn’t know they existed, it’s just… it never occurred to him they could be things that cats could get too. Looking back over Carrot, still snoring in her bed, as Hinata continues to babble in his ears, he feels his heart twinge. He doesn’t know what he would do if she became unwell.
“I don’t want her to get ill,” he pipes up suddenly, voicing the thought unwittingly just as it pops into his brain.
There’s quiet on the other end of the line, and then Hinata is saying, “Well, why don’t you bring her back, and I’ll help you get her on a diet.”
“Can’t I do that at home?” Kageyama protests, frowning. It’s not that he can’t go back – his job is flexible enough to allow him the time; it’s not like he ever takes all his annual leave anyway. But surely he could just… cut back her food a bit. Just a little bit.
“You could,” Hinata says, “but it’s easier with a special diet food. I wouldn’t be charging you, I just want to get her measurements and form the right plan, so it’s easier if she’s here.”
Kageyama hums in thought, gnawing on his cheek as he watches Carrot attempt to roll over in her sleep and then give up. His heart twinges a little harder. “Alright,” he agrees, reluctantly.
He’s half expecting to be passed back over to the receptionist, but surprisingly Hinata stays on the line, booking him in himself.
“I’ll see you and Carrot then, Kageyama,” he says, all perky and professional, and then the line clicks dead.
Kageyama tosses his phone idly back down onto his desk with a little huff, feeling torn. He wants to do his best by Carrot, obviously, but also… this feels like losing, like he’s admitting the vet was right all along.
He allows himself a few more minutes more of brooding silently before actively shaking himself and focusing back on his e-mails. Working from home was always a little harder when he couldn’t be at the studio, but it’s not as though he couldn’t get anything done.
In the corner, Carrot stretches out her stumpy legs and continues to snore.
In the days that follow and leading up to his second appointment at the vet, Kageyama tries to go about business as usual. He gets up; he feeds Carrot; he goes to work; he comes home and feeds Carrot some more, then he sits in the living room and idly strums the strings on his guitar and hums melodies. Occasionally he writes them down, if he likes them enough.
His job is… okay, all things considered. He gets to go to a studio and be alone, unbothered by anybody unless it was through a scheduled phone call, and make music. It’s not really the music he wants to create – but the stuff that sold. And that’s fine. It’s almost easy for him really, to sit in front of a soundboard and a computer with some instruments to hand and come up with a song. Spin the tune together and then sell it off to whoever was willing to buy it.
There are a few pop songs in the charts written by Kageyama Tobio, though nobody would ever know about it.
Which suits Kageyama just fine, honestly. It makes him enough money that he can afford to kick back and write his own music at his leisure. Which is not to be sold, or sung by someone else, or heard by anybody outside of his flat. His only audience would only ever be Carrot.
Kageyama hums a tune that has been rattling around in his head for a couple of days as he bends down and fills up Carrot’s food bowl. Tomorrow they will head back to the veterinary office to see the vet again and discuss her diet. Today, he thinks he might try and write this tune down, to see if he can get it to work for him…
As Carrot’s bowl fills, he tilts his head in thought, the humming trailing off into silence, as he considers the small mound of biscuits. There isn’t really much time to think too deeply, however, before Carrot is waddling over and sticking her head into the pile. Her tail sweeps over the floor behind her in quiet contentment and Kageyama snorts, running his fingers over her back briefly.
Hopefully she won’t mind whatever fancy diet the vet has in mind… she isn’t the fussiest of cats, but she does like her biscuits…
Which is handy, because it made Kageyama feel a little better – knowing that he can leave her a big bowl of food that won’t go off while he was at work all day.
And, considering it’s the last day before she gets her new food… Kageyama clucks his tongue, before nudging Carrot to the side gently. She makes a muffled, displeased noise, her claws skittering over the floor tiles as she’s slid away from her bowl. But then her eyes go big and shiny as Kageyama tips more biscuits in front of her.
Might as well let her have a little bit more, as a treat.
The sounds of Carrot’s contented purring follow him as he leaves the flat, and Kageyama’s stomach flips just a little in guilt. Hopefully she won’t be too mad at him.
The next morning, when Kageyama lets Carrot finish her first round of breakfast before bringing out her carrier again, he quietly crosses his fingers behind his back and hopes she won’t try waddling away. He really doesn’t like grabbing her. But Carrot just blinks at the big plastic box, flicks the end of her tail, and then shuffles inside.
“Oh,” Kageyama murmurs, surprised. “Good girl.” He swings the door shut and stands, grunting as he lifts. He’s already starting to regret agreeing to go back to the practice – even regular weight lifting wasn’t enough to prepare him for this.
Carrot squints him a little as they make the journey from the flat to the car, her carrier smashing against several walls, each collision followed by Kageyama swearing and then apologising profusely. While his flat is fairly spacious, the stairways certainly aren’t, and he finds himself cursing once again that he didn’t pick a building with a lift as he staggers down the stairs to the parking lot.
He can feel sweat starting to dribble down his neck by the time he actually makes it back into the veterinary practice waiting room, the drive down from his building not enough to cool him down sufficiently, even with air conditioning and the windows down.
The receptionist smiles at him when he enters and invites him to head on through into the same room as last time before he can manage to pant out his name.
Relieved, Kageyama staggers across the waiting area, stumbles around a curious labrador and all but falls into the room. The vet isn’t there when he arrives, which gives him some reprieve to stand there and catch his breath. The bag of food he was asked to bring with him almost slips from his slick palm, and he grips it tighter, blowing air at his damp fringe. At least the room was air conditioned.
Then the room’s second door cracks open and the vet steps inside. Kageyama straightens, composing himself, and also squints at the nametag on the vet’s scrub top for good measure, just to remind himself of his name – Hinata, that’s right.
“Okay!” Hinata says, all bright and cheerful. “Hello again. Let’s have a look at Carrot and get started. Did you bring her normal food?”
“Obviously?” Kageyama replies, with a sardonic raise to his brow. He’s only holding two things after all – Carrot’s carrier and the bag of pet food; it was pretty obvious.
Hinata doesn’t seem to be particularly bothered however. He gestures for Kageyama to place Carrot on the examination table and starts rummaging around in the drawers by his computer.
Kageyama hefts Carrot up with a grunt, dumping the bag of food beside her and releasing the latches on her carrier door. She starts nosing out immediately, spotting her food bag and becoming entranced. Rubbing her head against the plastic, she lets out little excited chirrups, her tail shaking behind her.
“Not right now,” Kageyama murmurs to her apologetically, running a hand down her back.
“Hello Carrot!” Hinata greets as he steps up close, some bits of paper in his hands, along with what looks like a roll of measuring tape.
Kageyama, fully expecting her to ignore him, especially since she had been poked with a needle on her last visit (and called fat) gawks a little when she gives him her immediate, full attention. She twists under Kageyama’s palm, even abandoning her bag of food to gaze up at Hinata with wide, happy eyes, a rumbling purr starting to blossom in her throat.
“Who’s a happy girl?” Hinata coos, dropping the items in his arms onto the table and tickling her under the chin.
Carrot’s purrs increase, her eyes sliding shut with bliss.
Kageyama is dumbfounded. He has no idea how Hinata is managing this. Carrot normally hates strangers. It had taken her weeks to get used to him, and he was her favourite person in the world. And here Hinata was, getting head butts and happy purrs out of her within minutes.
“Alright then, stand up for me sweetheart,” Hinata encourages, using his hands to palm up her sides until she stands obediently. Then, swiftly, he grabs his measuring tape, wrapping it around several points along her body, muttering to himself as he goes. Kageyama watches with a little frown as Hinata writes down his findings in a little booklet, which he then passes over to him.
“What’s this?” Kageyama grunts, flipping the little paper booklet around in his fingers. It has an overly cheerful picture of a woman with a cat and a dog on the front, and what looks like a grid inside. The first row has already been filled in by Hinata – a selection of numbers he does not understand.
“Progress chart!” Hinata chirps, walking back over to his computer. “Her weight and measurements. We’ll take them every visit, and make sure they’re going down. Now, what food are you currently feeding her?”
Kageyama looks up from squinting at the weight loss progress booklet in his hands and grabs at the pet food bag on the table, thrusting it at Hinata vaguely. Carrot follows his every movement with wide, hopeful eyes.
Hinata mumbles out a thanks, taking the bag and flipping it around, apparently checking the nutrition chart on the back.
He can’t help it – Kageyama bristles immediately. “It’s good food,” he protests, feeling the need to justify himself. And it is good food. It is expensive and fancy and the shop assistant at the pet store had assured him it was the best quality and Kageyama had double checked this with reviews online. He would never feed Carrot bad food.
“It is!” Hinata agrees, unexpectedly. “So I think where you’ve been tripping up is just feeding her too much. It’s not really your fault – they don’t make it clear how much to feed most of the time so people go over. You don’t need that much at all with dry food like this, and a lot of people go by how the full the bowl looks and don’t weigh it out.”
“Weigh it… out…” Kageyama says slowly, his brow knitting. He was supposed to weigh it? Like he was cooking?
“Yep!” Hinata confirms, pointing at the chart on the back. “It does say how much, but these charts are always so vague… but anyway! How much are you feeding her, would you say?”
“I… fill up the bowl?”
“Okay… how big is the bowl?”
Kageyama’s frown deepens at these nonsensical questions. Wordlessly, he mimes roughly how big the food bowl is, and then mimes a little mound that goes on top. Carrot’s food did normally make a little mountain peak. She likes it that way – when she can stuff her whole face into the biscuits. It makes her purr very loudly.
Hinata stares at him silently for a moment. “And… how many of these bags do you go through a month?”
“Four?” Kageyama shrugs. “About one a week.”
“One a week-“ Hinata repeats, and then cuts himself off. Seems to visibly collect himself before starting again. “Well,” he says, mostly to Carrot, who is still staring at the bag of food in Hinata’s hands in hopeful rapture. “No wonder you’re fat sweetheart.”
“She isn’t fat!” Kageyama protests again, feeling deeply insulted on behalf of his beloved cat and himself. He may be overfeeding just a little, okay, and she is a little too round, but the stupid vet is acting like he’s doing this on purpose!
“She is,” Hinata says, in that stern voice again. He hands Kageyama back the bag of food, taps at his computer for a moment, before striding back over the examination table. Running one hand over Carrot’s head idly – who raises up on her feet to get more attention – he grabs one of the bits of paper he had left there and turns to show it to Kageyama.
It’s a chart of some kind, featuring several drawings of cats from skinny all the way up to how… Carrot… kind of looked.
“This is a body condition chart,” Hinata says, still stroking Carrot. “Now she should be somewhere in the middle – still with a waist, but not too skinny. You don’t want to be able to see her ribs, but you do want to be able to feel them. But she hasn’t got a waist, and it’s very hard to find her ribs. On the scale, she’s all the way over on the far end. Can you see?”
He then turns to Carrot herself and twists the chart around to show her. “Can you see Pumpkin?” Hinata asks, his voice going all soft and silly, “Where are you?” Carrot seems to huddle down on the table, almost as though she was embarrassed, her little pink nose twitching as she regards the chart in Hinata’s hands.
Unamused, Kageyama snatches the chart away from Hinata to squint at it himself. And, indeed, the drawing of the cat under the number 9 that was labelled ‘obese’ does in fact, resemble Carrot a little too closely. Some of the anger simmering in his chest burns away a little the longer he stares at it, something resembling shame quickly taking its place.
“Hey, don’t worry.”
Kageyama’s gaze flicks up from the chart back to the vet, who is looking back at him with a much softer expression.
“As I said, it’s not really your fault. You didn’t know. Now, you could just drop her food down to what she should be eating and see how that goes, but in my experience that’s kind of hard in the long term. It’s like crash dieting, but for cats.”
Kageyama nods along vaguely, flicking the chart between his fingers. “She’ll lose it quickly and then put it all back on?” He guesses. If that’s the same as for people it is.
Hinata beams widely. “Bingo! So we want her to lose weight slowly. It’s normally easier with diet food. The fibre content is really high, so it takes longer to digest. You can get away with feeding less and she’ll still feel full. That way she loses weight nice and slowly and once she’s back down to a healthy weight she can go back onto her old food. Slowly.”
“I see…” Kageyama looks back down at the chart and then back over at Carrot, who is quietly nuzzling Hinata’s elbow for more attention. He looks at her round, chubby body, and thinks about all the things Hinata had listed over the phone. Then he sighs, deeply, and nods. It’s fine. It’s just a diet, they can do this. Carrot will still love him even if she doesn’t get all the food she wants, he’s sure.
He’s… pretty sure, at least.
Hinata smiles even wider, if that’s possible. Then he’s bustling about, darting out of the room and coming back in with a bag of food from a brand Kageyama does not recognise. He shoves that into Kageyama’s arms, then grabs the weight loss booklet and starts scribbling feeding instructions in there. When he’s done he shoves that into Kageyama’s arms as well, babbling all the while.
“Okay, I’ve worked out how much she needs to be fed and you can split it into two meals or just feed her once a day, whichever you both find easier. I want you to try her on this diet for two weeks and then come back and see me and I’ll re-weigh her and take her measurements. Then in about a month or so I’ll have a look at the plan, see if I need to change anything-“
Kageyama only just about follows this incessant stream of chattering, nodding along vaguely. He’s mostly just preoccupied with how he’s supposed to carry Carrot in her carrier plus two bags food and his little booklet thing home with only two arms. He doesn’t live very far away – just a short drive – but right now it feels like a trek.
He’s going to lose weight before Carrot does, at this rate.
He exchanges a look with his cat, who tilts her head at him curiously, while Hinata taps away at his computer and gets him booked in for two weeks’ time. “Sorry,” Kageyama says to Carrot, earnestly, shrugging his shoulders hopelessly.
Looks like they’re in it properly now.
Kageyama looks at the bowl of pet food on his kitchen weighing scales, then back at the little weight progress booklet. Then back at the scales.
“That can’t be right,” he mumbles to himself, squinting at the vet’s handwriting. It is, infuriatingly, not even that messy, so it’s not like he was mistaken in reading it. But it can’t be right – the amount of food in Carrot’s bowl was far too small. The vet said it would be a smaller amount but this was just ridiculous.
Carrot wails by his feet, butting her head insistently against his shins. She’s hungry, and wants breakfast now.
“Just a minute, Pumpkin,” Kageyama mutters at her, distracted.
Then glares into space once he realises that’s what the vet had called her.
(Whatever his name is. He’s forgotten again.)
“Okay, no, this definitely isn’t right,” Kageyama decides, and he moves to locate his phone, almost tripping over Carrot in the process. Insistent, unhappy meows follow him as he finally unearths it in the office, and immediately starts dialling the vets.
This time, he allows the perky receptionist to finish her welcoming spiel before, once again, asking for the orange vet.
“Of course. Kageyama right?” The woman says, a smile in her voice.
Great. Now he’s going to be known for this, Kageyama thinks to himself savagely. And it wasn’t even his fault! The vet kept being annoying!
“Kageyama,” the vet’s voice echoes over the line after a moment, sounding almost exasperated. Kageyama has no idea why.
“Yeah, hi – what’s your name again? – This is too little food. I think you got that calculation wrong.”
“Hinata,” comes the reply, now sounding amused. “And no, I didn’t. You really were feeding her way too much. The calculation came to a little less than what I told you to feed her, actually, but I was being nice. It’s hard going straight to a low amount after all.”
Kageyama grits his teeth and stomps from his office, nearly trips over Carrot again, and heads back into the kitchen. He picks up the bowl of food from the scales when he reaches it and shakes it, watching the biscuits skitter around the bottom. He can still see the porcelain underneath!
“She’ll starve,” he protests. “This can’t possibly last her all day.”
Carrot plants her two front feet on his leg and does her best to climb up, wailing loudly.
“Is that her?” Hinata laughs over the line. “Hello Pumpkin!” he calls, even though she couldn’t possibly hear him.
Kageyama’s stomach twists up horribly for some unfathomable reason.
“Anyway,” Hinata continues, “she won’t starve. That’s plenty fine until you get home from work later and can give her some more. Just the other half of what I told you! There’s enough there; she’s just being greedy.”
Kageyama nearly drops the food bowl in indignant fury.
“She’s not greedy!” He protests, insulted. “She just…” he flicks his gaze over to Carrot, who is looking up at him with big, sorrowful eyes. “… likes her food,” he finishes, a little lamely.
“Mmhm,” Hinata hums.
Kageyama gets the feeling he is being indulged. “I’m hanging up now,” he announces. Hinata probably does have other things to be doing, after all. “And the diet sucks.”
He thinks he hears a distant burst of laughter before he cuts the call with a jab of his thumb, stuffing his phone into his pocket angrily.
Glaring down at the bowl of food in his hands, Kageyama contemplates. Technically, he doesn’t have to offer Carrot this. Hinata did say he could just cut down her regular food; it would just be harder. And well, it would still be more food than this.
Decided, he tosses the diet food back into its bag and takes out Carrot’s regular food, filling up the bowl properly. He makes sure not to make a little mound like he normally does, skimming the biscuits off the top so they lay in parallel with the rim of the bowl. There. That had to be at least half of what he normally gave her.
Satisfied, he bends down to place the bowl on her feeding mat, smiling softly when Carrot chirrups happily, immediately waddling over to stuff her face into her breakfast.
“Good girl,” he coos, running his fingers over the soft fur on her back before straightening, and going about the rest of his morning routine.
Halfway through his working day, Kageyama stares at his soundboard, and then his computer, and then at the sheets of paper he has littered over his work surface, and sighs. This song is nearly there, but it’s just not quite right. Stuffing his hands into his hair, he ruffles the strands irritably. Pop songs could be like this sometimes. Usually they came to him easily – they were a fairly simple formula, but sometimes he just gets a little stuck.
It was always harder writing to sell rather than writing for himself, after all.
Stabbing at a button on his soundboard, he lets the melody play through one more time before he growls, shutting it off and throwing his headphones off for good measure.
Now that he’s exposed to the rest of the world’s outside noises, he becomes just a little more aware of his own stomach, rumbling at him insistently. Surprised, he swivels in his seat to glance at the clock, eyebrows ticking at the time. Great, he’s been here for hours already and he’s still no further forward. Huffing in annoyance, he throws himself to his feet, slamming his way out of his work station.
It’s probably best to go out, get some fresh air, grab a coffee and some lunch, and then hopefully when he gets back he can finally get this melody finalised.
Halfway down the street on his return from his preferred coffee shop – a small, independent place that had good pastries and didn’t judge him for wanting copious amounts of milk in his coffee – he spots an advert.
Kageyama stops walking, coffee in a to-go-cup halfway to his mouth, and stares at the poster on the bus station, happily advertising some kind of new slimming pill.
Great. Diets. They were following him everywhere.
Scowling, he sips viciously from his coffee cup, stuffs his sandwich into his mouth for a bite, and stomps the rest of the way back to his work building.
He’s still fuming about it when he falls back into his seat, inhaling the rest of his sandwich and draining his coffee cup. Crunching both the cup and the food wrapper between his palms, he flings them into the rubbish bin in the corner, only the smallest bit satisfied when his aim lands true. Sighing, he taps his fingers against his chair’s armrests, and tries his hardest to get the image of diets out of his mind and focus on the song that’s eluding him.
He gives up after five minutes.
Frustrated beyond belief, he swivels back to his computer and brings up Google, stabbing ‘cat diabetes’ into the search bar.
It’s not that he’s… changing his mind, he tells himself, as he scrolls through the results. He’ll still get Carrot to lose some weight, he just... wants to reassure himself it’s not that bad. That the vet was just scaring him. He can just cut down Carrot’s food and see how they go. No problem.
He clicks on a link and then immediately regrets all of his choices.
After spending the rest of the afternoon fighting the urge to fling himself from his chair and run home to change Carrot’s food immediately, and bringing up a new song file to start writing something suitably angsty and full of despair, Kageyama feels a splitting headache start to rage in his skull by the time the clock strikes six. He gives his – now two songs – one last listen each, marks them as almost complete and to be looked at again tomorrow, switches off his machinery and stumbles to his feet.
Carrot looks her usual self when he throws himself through his front door, chirpy and happy to see him, winding her way between his legs and shooting hopeful glances and her once again empty bowl.
“I’m so sorry,” Kageyama blurts, getting to his knees and running his hands over her little head. Carrot blinks at him, nonplussed. “I’ll get you on the diet, I promise you won’t have to have two needles every day okay? I promise. No diabetes for you.”
He hopes he can keep this promise. Two needles a day is enough to make him want to faint, yet alone poor Carrot.
Carrot purrs at him, blinking slowly.
Kageyama’s heart cracks and he gives his sweet cat a little kiss on her head before climbing to his feet and finally shedding his outerwear. Carrot waits for him patiently in the kitchen, dancing a little on her feet.
Her tail flicks up in a hopeful arc when Kageyama reaches – still somewhat reluctantly – for the bag of diet food on the counter. Grabbing her bowl, he weighs the food, puts it in, and then deposits it on her mat with a flourish, trying to pretend everything is normal.
Carrot sniffs at her bowl. Sticks her paw inside and skitters the biscuits around. Sits down on her haunches and looks up at him with big eyes. Then she opens her little mouth and meows, plaintively.
Kageyama wonders if it’s possible for a heart to break twice within ten minutes.
“It’s okay, it’s just different,” he soothes, scratching her behind her ears. “Just try it.”
Carrot wiggles a little under his touch but then turns her attention back to her bowl, sniffing the biscuits inside again.
Hoping her hunger will outdo her fussiness, Kageyama grabs a glass of milk from the fridge – he deserves one after today – and shuffles off to the living room. He just needs a bit of a sit down with his guitar to unwind before he can start to think about preparing any dinner.
He’s only just sat down on the sofa and pulled his guitar onto his lap when a… noise starts echoing down the hall.
“What in the-“ Kageyama mutters, sitting still and craning an ear.
It sounds like rumbling. Muffled, angry noises that are disrupted by the occasional crunch.
Baffled, Kageyama sets his guitar on the cushions next to him and gets to his feet, following the mysterious noise down the hallway until he reaches the kitchen.
And there he finds Carrot, making an alarming sound.
She’s eating – taking her time crunching each individual biscuit with a miserable, scrunched up look on her face, ears flat to her skull. And between every bite she emits some sort of horrible, deep gurgling sound. Not quite purring, but… angrier.
“What the hell is this food?” Kageyama hisses to the universe at large, instantly rummaging around in his pocket for his phone and, once more, ringing the vets.
He really should just put them on speed dial at this point.
After the brief, usual exchange with the receptionist, Hinata’s voice sounds over the line, this time a little faster than normal. Perhaps it was the panic in Kageyama’s voice that had summoned him quicker.
“Hinata,” Kageyama bites out, distantly impressed with himself that he managed to remember his name this time, “you’ve poisoned my cat.”
But Hinata doesn’t get to finish before Kageyama is bending down and waving his phone by Carrot so that her strange noises can be heard over the phone.
“Hear that?” He asks, pressing his phone by his ear again. “She’s-“
“-Growling,” Hinata finishes, a strange quality to his voice. It sounds an awful lot like he’s trying not to laugh. “Wow, I haven’t ever heard a cat growl at home like that before.”
“She’s… growling?” Kageyama repeats, in disbelief. “She hates it!”
“Apparently,” Hinata replies, still sounding far too amused for what the situation warrants. “Try adding in a couple biscuits of her old food – just a couple! Sometimes they need a bit of mixing before they get used to it.”
“She hates it,” Kageyama says again, even when he dutifully stands to fetch the food in question.
“She’s eating it,” Hinata points out. “She doesn’t hate it that much. She’s just… protesting. Couple of days, she’ll get used to it.”
Kageyama scowls so hard his forehead hurts as he crouches beside Carrot again, her growls still echoing around her bowl while she chews, tail thumping against the floor. He sprinkles the tiny handful of her old biscuits into her meal and watches, hopeful, as slowly her grumbles diminish, until eventually she’s just crunching.
“There you go,” Hinata says, once again sounding like he was indulging Kageyama. “Just do that for the next couple of meals until it’s just the diet stuff, she’ll get used to it.”
The vet clicks off the line before Kageyama can reply beyond a grunt, and it’s only when Kageyama pockets his phone it occurs to him that Hinata really did… give him a fair amount of time, considering. Maybe he wasn’t all that bad.
Even so, Kageyama still kind of feels like he’s losing when, not three days later, Carrot is munching her way through her new breakfast without any complaints at all.
(She did still look at him with big, hopeful eyes when she finished, but… she always did that. So Kageyama tries to fight down the feeling that he was letting her down, and resists the urge to call Hinata.)
Two weeks after his last visit to vets, Kageyama once more finds himself hefting Carrot’s carrier up onto the examination table. He’s been here more in the last month than he has in a year, this is kind of ridiculous. This weigh-in had better be worth it.
“Alright!” Hinata exclaims, wearing deep blue scrubs today instead of his usual green. Kageyama kind of misses the other ones. They reminded him of Carrot. “Let’s see how we did!”
He switches on the scales and opens Carrot’s door, encouraging her to emerge. She does so happily, excitedly bashing her head against Hinata’s forehead, who coos happily.
“Hello Pumpkin,” he says warmly. “Have you been good?” With a grunt (that Kageyama privately thinks is entirely unnecessary) he lifts her up and places her gently on the weighing scales.
Kageyama squints at the reading. What was she before again..?
“200 grams!” Hinata cheers, apparently thrilled. “Good girl Carrot!”
Carrot purrs at the praise, oblivious.
“Wait… 200 grams?” Kageyama repeats, his eyebrows knotting. “Is that it?”
“Yep,” Hinata chirps, waving at the booklet Kageyama was holding until it was handed over to him. “That’s a good start!”
“Is it?” Kageyama argues, disbelieving. “I thought you wanted her to lose two kilos? This is nothing! I knew that diet was-“
“Working,” Hinata interrupts, back in his stern voice. He’s not looking at Kageyama though, instead bending over to write numbers down in the booklet. His tape measure sits beside him. When he had managed to measure Carrot as well, Kageyama does not know. “The weight loss is supposed to be slow, remember?”
“How slow?” Kageyama grumps, mostly to just be contrary. He’s glad she’s lost weight, he supposes, but he also hates her sad face when she looks at her pitiful rations and her plaintive meows in the evenings as she asks for more. He knows he can never go back to feeding her what he had before, but… even just having her on a smaller amount of her old food would be better than the tiny diet portions.
“As slow as it takes,” Hinata replies. “Ideally, we like them to lose between two and point five percent of their bodyweight a week. More than that is like crash dieting and less is hardly any progress. It’s best to do this healthily! That way, she’s more likely to keep the weight off in the long term. I know it’s hard, but several months of dieting is worth it for several more years with her, don’t you think?”
Kageyama falls silent, suitably chastened. He watches as Hinata finishes writing in the booklet and pockets his pen, turning his attention to Carrot instead. She has bumbled her way off of the weighing scales and is now sitting comfortably on the table in front of him, rubbing her face happily over his forehead where it was still bent near to her level.
“Thank you,” Hinata says earnestly.
Kageyama reaches out silently and takes the booklet from where it was sitting on the table, fiddling with the pages. He had thought, privately in the back of his mind, that he would put up with this until he had a handle on Carrot’s diet. Once he knew what he was doing, he would ask to see Ukai again – Ukai’s bad back permitting – and go back to the familiar.
Hinata was only temporary.
But as he stands there and watches his beloved cat start to groom the orange hairs sitting over Hinata’s forehead, swiping her tongue over them repeatedly as he giggles, he feels that resolve start to waver.
He doesn’t like the dieting, but Carrot does seem to be absolutely smitten with Hinata. And that’s… that’s something, he supposes.
And he really would do just about anything to keep Carrot happy.