Things Work Out
Jem finished the stitching on his latest creation: A blue bunny stuffie that was going to a good home. He’d add on button eyes and few other finishing touches so that it looked nice and clean that afternoon and then ship it off. He took a moment to take a picture at the almost completed work, and then sent a message to his client to inform them of the progress. Standard operating procedure. Jem was careful to keep any part of his body or clothes out of frame; along with any environmental clues that would give away that the person making Mr. Bun Bun was a Little. Also standard operating procedure.
Like most average Littles, Jem’s life tended towards the quiet, cautious, and cloistered. He had what he felt was a solid network of friends, mostly other Littles and a token Tweener, but they never went anywhere; opting to just visit each other’s homes. There were larger Little communities where people of his stature knew how to get the most out of their size using society’s scraps; but they were almost always on the move and skittish to boot, like the old stories of circus workers and carnies.
Spending one’s whole life looking over their shoulder, afraid of giants, was no way to live, or so Jem reasoned. If Adoption was the death of self that so many Littles seemed to think it was, then Jem would do what most people did and just live his life with that knowledge and not think about it. With black medium length hair, hazel eyes, and a rather unremarkable build, Jem might or might not have been adopted. A giant Mommy might not take any interest in him or she might see a blank slate upon which to paint; a real coinflip. What tilted the odds towards Adoption were the light freckles on his cheeks that had never fully faded from childhood. A mad giant could certainly see that and jump to conclusions.
The Little craftsman caught his reflection in an empty glass of water and shrugged at the thought. He was only twenty. Unless he was extremely cautious, he wouldn’t make it to thirty outside of a crib. But why worry? Like most Littles, he was ambitious, happy, and had found a niche to excel in. To be fair, how ‘most Littles’ felt depended on one’s search radius. There were neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties, states, regions, and countries where the majority of people Jem’s size had had their potty privileges permanently revoked and the only dates they went on were playdates arranged by their massive adoptive parents.
Jem saw no reason to dwell too much on it. He’d seen more than enough people his age and older being pushed around in strollers or getting their butts wiped for them in the back of somebody’s minivan. Most of them seemed to like it; like it or had at least learned to live with it.
‘Jeremy Meadows’s Joyful Mementos’ was something of a mouthful, but the Artsy account was paying Jem’s rent and putting groceries in his refrigerator. Jem had unusually dexterous fingers, even for a Little, and good spatial awareness and fine motor control. He’d applied those skills and created an at home custom baby clothes and stuffed animal business.
Jeremy Meadows was his real name; very professional sounding. His mother lovingly called him Jem, however, and the name had grown with him. He was Jeremy Meadows according to the banks and online customers. Jem was for his friends and his own inner monologue.
Standing up and stretching Jem went to get his shoes. “Laundry time.” A few times a week, Jem would run some of his creations through the apartment complex’s coin operated washers and dryers (on low of course) just to give them that comfortable worn in feeling before shipping them off to his customers. It was a nice touch that many reviews noted and praised him for.
More than a few of his creations and alterations were going to babied Littles, Jem knew. He had one customer who had ordered eight different onesies or rompers in as many months, and the measurements always stayed the same. Real children grew faster than that, and the shipping address wasn’t listed as a daycare.
Jem just did another mental shrug. At least he knew whatever Little was wearing his outfits would be comfortable. Sometimes, he tried his creations on for himself in the privacy of his own room to see how they moved and felt in different positions. No diaper of course, but he’d experimented with layering every pair of briefs on top of one another or using a pillow and a belt. Not quite the same he was sure, but he figured it gave him the right gait. Close enough to simulate a dry diaper.
Sometimes Amazon Mommies and Daddies would send him pictures of their ‘babies’ playing with or cuddling the plushies he’d sewn. They all seemed genuinely happy, cuddling the stuffie or mid giggle. Jem made sure not to put any mind control tracks into the stuffies; not even those bells that threw off a Little’s inner ear while stimulating their pleasure response. He tested each bell ordered from a craft supply site himself, just in case. His conscience was clear.
Every now and then, a satisfied customer would send a picture of their Little one cuddling the stuffie, and their Mommy or Daddy would be cuddling them in their laps; a regular nesting doll effect of laps. Those bothered Jem for some reason and yet he lingered on those photos longer than he felt was proper before deletion.
Jem got his shoes on and grabbed his keys, a mesh laundry bag, and a laundry card before heading out of his apartment. It was an Amazon sized space, with Amazon sized doors that needed to be retrofitted to accommodate Littles. It was nothing that a pull rope on the inside and a step ladder bolted into the cement on the outside didn’t fix.
He whistled tunelessly and boldly walked to the public laundry room, sounding everything like the chipper birds in the trees above. His whistling seemed to get louder in the laundry room. All the machines were at rest and so there was only concrete, tile, and metal to dull the high pitched air moving out of his lips. Other Littles would have avoided making unnecessary noises, fearful that it might attract attention. Others might put such boldness as a strategic risk to blend in. Jem had no such forethought or motivations. He just didn’t like the sound of silence.
The room was divided into two halves. Washers on one side, driers on the other. Both were side loaders, so there was no having to climb and dive in to fetch anything. Jem didn’t know how he would have managed otherwise.
A button push unlatched the lowest dryer near the back. “Timed it perfect,” Jem complimented himself upon feeling the blast of hot hair from the comparatively massive porthole. There were few things as simple and satisfying as nice hot laundry fresh from the dryer.
Opening his white mesh laundry bag he started putting the latest batch in, being careful to check each shirt, onesie, romper, and sundress, to make sure that it wasn’t damp. His friends in real life and the ones he kept in contact with on the net wouldn’t approve of the idea of him handling Little sized baby clothes in public. Too great a risk. To Jem’s mind, there was no risk. If an Amazon wanted him as their baby boy they’d find or invent a reason. Paranoid precautions that interfered with life were pointless.
In lieu of coins, every appliance had a card swipe that only accepted a special kind of card given to tenants. Jem kept a hefty balance on his because he always made sure that his products were completely dry before ironing, folding, and packaging for shipment. Hot and damp was not a great combination.
Trouble was the heat could sometimes disguise the dampness, and a romper that needed another ten to twenty minutes would end up a wrinkled mess. It was always a gamble with these metal behemoths. Jem took one such romper, a tie-dye alteration that when it was done would say “Mommy’s Little Crinkle Butt” up to his face and towards an open window, hoping that the sunlight would illuminate any patches of moisture.
“Oh! Hey there buddy!” An unfamiliar voice rang out. “What are you doing here? Where’s your Mommy?”
Time slowed down for Jem. He’d read about this sort of thing on MistuhGwiffin.web. An Amazon would see a Little in a potentially compromising position- a rattle picked up off the ground, a headband or other clothing accessory that was a bit too ‘immature’, just really bad gas-and things would escalate from there if the Little wasn’t quick.
Jem calmly lowered the romper away from his face and started neatly folding it. His pulse barely picked up speed as he gently placed it in the sack and then looked way up at the intruding Amazon like he had barely registered the deep booming masculine voice. “Hm?”
As soon as he made eye contact with the newcomer, Jem felt his pulse start to pick up. All Amazons are giant compared to their Little counterparts: Bigger, stronger, faster, the works. The man in front of Jem with his short brown hair and day old stubble, looked like an Amazon among Amazons. It’s not that he was any more massive than your average amazon- not a whale among elephants- but he was decidedly more physically fit than the average pram pusher.
With that physique and definition, Jem could tell that this stranger pushed more than strollers. Probably did more cardio than just slow paced leisurely strolls through a park or pushing a shopping cart aisle after aisle at the supermarket.
An errant, uninvited thought jumped into Jem’s mind: A shame
The Amazon took Jem in: Jem’s jeans weren’t the most professional looking, but the black collared polo shirt should have done the trick. He was certainly more ‘mature’ looking than Mr-Basketball-Shorts-No-Shirt-So-You-Could-See-His-Abs-Beneath-The-Laundry-Basket.
The bigger man puckered his lips a moment and then looked ashamed. “Oh. My bad. Sorry dude. I thought. It’s just I saw the…and you’re…” He placed the basket full of dirty clothes down and scratched the back of his head. “You know what. My bad. Sorry. Carry on and ignore me. I’ll just mind my own business.”
He looked older to Jem, but not by much; late twenties, maaaaaaaybe early thirties. It was the subtle difference of a few years that only young adults really noticed, regardless of physical size. High school was filled with baby teenagers. Anybody over thirty was old. Anybody older than twenty five was somehow mature but accessible. Or perhaps that was just how Jem’s brain worked. At the moment, this mature yet accessible looking Amazon had all the awkward mannerisms of an adorable puppy who’d just been caught tearing at a slipper.
Good, Jem thought. Sensible. An Amazon that admits when he made a mistake. “It’s cool.” Jem heard himself say. “Honest mistake.”
“Awesome. Appreciate it.”
And so the two occupied the otherwise desolate space for a few more uncomfortable minutes. It should have been over more quickly, Jem had figured. It didn’t take very long to dump in dirty clothes, throw in a laundry pod and then bounce. But things took longer, because the stranger was also picking up a load of laundry from the drier. Like Jem, he seemed determined to fold every single article of clothing, underwear included.
“Can I ask you a question?” the giant said, breaking the silence.
Jem looked up from a pair of shortalls that he’d stitched a smiley sun onto the front and an adorably frowny raincloud to the seat. His work was holding up well. Were he being honest with himself, Jem would admit that he was only paying such close attention because of how nervous he was. “Yes sir?”, he responded
“Are those baby clothes?” The man asked.
“Yes sir,” Jem said kindly enough. “They are.”
Another twitch of self-consciousness flashed over the man’s gorgeous blue eyes. “Are they…your baby clothes?”
“They’re mine in that I made them and I’m selling them. But they’re not for me.”
“Ooooh!” The man said, a wave of relief and realization falling right over him. “That makes so much sense! I just…I saw…and I thought…” He searched for the right phrase but finally gave up. ”Do you make them yourself from scratch or by hand or machine?”
Jem’s cheeks turned rosey and he felt like stuttering, but the words came out of him like flowing water. “A bit of everything, really. Sometimes I make them from a pattern. Other times I’ll take a plain outfit and modify it with decorations. You can turn a t-shirt into a onesie if you buy them bigger than usual and then alter it a bit.”
The giant man nodded his understanding, those dreamy blue eyes never blinking. “Okay. Yeah. I get it. So you do custom orders.”
The Little allowed himself a faint smirk. “Pretty much. It costs more, but lots of parents”- Jem was careful not to say Mommies and Daddies- “want their baby to stand out, so it’s worth it to them to pay the extra cost. I also do stuffies.”
“Yeah,” the man said. “Okay. Makes sense. I’d pay extra for fancy baby clothes. Especially if my baby wasn’t gonna to grow up.”
A chill danced its way up Jem’s back. “Beg pardon?”
The Amazon looked shocked and embarrassed all over again. “No wait. Not like…I didn’t mean.” He looked down at himself as if for the first time. “Shit!” he hissed. “I mean ‘crud’!” He reached into the dryer and dug out a t-shirt. “You’re here taking care of business, and I’m practically in my skivvies. Sorry!”
He pulled the maroon colored t-shirt over him, hiding his physique, but making him seem dressed more appropriately if still casually. In faded but still legible black letters were the words. “Carmen’s Gym”
“Let me start over. Hi, my name’s Nate,” he said. He leaned over and reached out a massive hand towards Jem.
Boldly and seemingly unafraid, Jem reciprocated and allowed his tiny hands to be engulfed. “Jeremy Meadows, of ‘Jeremy Meadows Joyful Memories’.” Jem resisted the urge to fish around in his pocket for a business card, but only because he knew he didn’t have any on him.
“Nice to meet you Mr. Meadows,” Nate said and released his hand. Astonishment buzzed behind Jem’s eyes. He’d never known one of the big people to deliberately call a Little ‘Mr.” or “Miss’ without prompting. Nate looked down at his t–shirt. “Oh uh…Nathan Quinn. Carmen’s Gym.” He slid his hand across his pecs, underlining the words. “I’m a personal trainer. Workout coach and stuff.”
This was all so terribly, wonderfully awkward that Jem didn’t know how to feel about it in the moment. His brain and mouth just decided to start going on autopilot. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Quinn”
“Oh, you don’t have to call me that, Little dude. Nate’s fine.” His smile became easier, more relaxed. “It’s what my friends call me.”
“Friends call me Jem.” Oh yikes! Why did he say that? Jem instantly wanted to regret that.
“Cool. Jem.” Nate said, like he was trying the word out in his head. The thin smile on his lips might have meant he liked it. “So yeah. Total transparency, I don’t know many Littles. Most of my friends don’t have kids and haven’t decided to Adopt, so if I say something messed up, I promise it’s not on purpose and I’m trying to learn.”
Like implying the only way an Amazon might know a Little is if one was Adopted? That kind of messed up? Jem didn’t speak the thought out loud, however.
As it turns out, he didn’t need to. The Amazon caught himself and smacked himself on the forehead. “Fuck, I did it again!” He slapped himself on the forehead. “I mean, ‘man’. Man, I did it again! Da…darn it!”
Jem had stopped folding his clothes and was just now slowly placing them in the bag on top of the folded ones. He’d definitely have to iron them all later. He could only focus on so much at one time and this intriguing Cerbernard puppy given Amazon form had his full attention. “You can swear around me, you know,” Jem said. “It’s nothing I haven’t heard before. Or said.”
“Hm?” Nate said. “Oh, no. That. Sorry. The cursing thing isn’t you. It’s just a bad habit of mine I’m trying to break. My boss doesn’t like swearing and I’m trying to break myself of the habit.” That might have been true, Jem thought, but it had the flavor of a lie of omission. This guy was definitely monitoring his words more closely because of Jem’s stature.
“Why?” Jem probed.
Nate shrugged and flopped his hands by his side. “Oh you know. Gym culture is kinda toxic. We get better business and better customers if we keep ourselves polite and professional and stuff. That and my boss also owns the daycare next…”
And the hits just kept on coming. “Uh…huh.”
“Okay,” the charming idiot deflated. “Full disclosure. My parents were pretty conservative growing up. Said all Littles were immature babies that never grew up. I don’t believe that. And I had some gal pal’s back in college who were studying about Maturesis or whatever it’s called…like that some Littles are adults and then just one day snap into kids or whatever. I don’t know about that, either.” He quickly tacked on. “Unless you say that’s a thing, I mean. I’ll listen if it is.”
“It’s not.” Jem shook his head.
“Okay. Cool. Just like. I got some bad habits all around that I’m trying to break.” He held out his palm. “Not that it’s your job to help me or anything. I’m explaining, not excusing.”
This himbo just kept on digging, and the worst part was Jem wanted him to dig more and he was pretty sure it had nothing to do with wanting to watch the big man squirm. “Sure…”
“My point is I’m sorry if I offended you. I know that Littles have some physical difficulties and need help reaching stuff sometimes, or can’t run as fast or lift as much, but that doesn’t make you children.” Those sky blue eyes were practically begging for affirmation.
“Yeah. We agree.” Jem nodded. What could he say, he was starting to feel sorry for the big lug. Amazons tended to be crazy and thoughtless, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t also be nice, well meaning people. This Nate was kind of proving that point.
“Cool. Sorry. Next time I’ll be better.”
Jem didn’t consciously realize he’d cocked an eyebrow. “Next time?”
“If we ever see…each other…in the laundry…?” Nate was definitely realizing how stupid he was sounding. “Okaaaaaaaay,” he course corrected. “Let me try it this way. If we see each other again, I’m not gonna make the same mistakes.” There was no talking as each measured the other up. “If you ever want a free workout, come on by to the gym and ask for me. I’m not great at talking, but I’m good at coaching and spotting.”
The Little felt his head lightly bobble. “Okay,” Jem said. “Sure. I’ll think about it.” Why did he say that?!
Nate’s smile lit up. “Great! Hope to see you.”
That was as good a time as any for Jem to seal up the bag and calmly walk out of the laundry room. “Me too.” What?! “See you around, Nate.”
“Yeah. You too. Later, Jem. Nice to meet you!”
Though his feet were calm, Jem’s mind was racing thirty paces ahead of him. Why had he done that? Why had he told this giant his name? Formal or otherwise? Why had he taken it easy on him when the guy was clearly uncomfortable. Making Amazons uncomfortable was what Littles did, especially when it came to Adoption.
Why hadn’t he run or…or…or done literally anything else? What was Jem thinking?
In truth, Jem didn’t know what he was thinking. He didn’t have the words for it.
Among Amazon parlance, cossetting means a desire to love and protect a smaller person and treat them like they’re a child. On the spectrum of emotions, a cosset is between a schoolyard crush or ‘puppy love’ and the rush of dopey platonic love that some get when they see a baby and quietly feel the need to have a child of their own. Jem didn’t have the words for what he was experiencing, because in the slang of Little culture, there is no equal opposite attraction of a Little to an Amazon. And if there is, the word has never been spread far enough because those Littles don’t live as adults long enough for it to catch on.
In a more fair world, a gym next to a daycare, owned by the same person no less, would seem quirky at best. In a world ruled by Amazons it made a great deal of practical and fiscal sense. A quick web search for Carmen’s Gym and C.G. Daycare confirmed what Nate had slipped. The two establishments, one school bus yellow and the other brick dust red, fed into each other. Virtual tours confirmed that they shared a doorway, and the sites for each establishment linked to each other as well. Amazons with captured Littles, Tweeners, and actual babies (which the sites simply referred to as ‘children’) could be checked in at both hourly and daily rates with discounts given to gym members.
Giant Gym rats could check in their diapered brats while they ran on a treadmill and pumped iron. Just as likely, they could drop them off for an entire day, go to work, come back tired and promise themselves that ‘next time’ they’d start that exercise routine they promised themselves several months prior.
It wasn’t super common, but it wasn’t unheard of. One business more than likely propped up the other and the smart money was on the one that had an upcharge for ‘emergency diapers’ in the event that the parent didn’t supply enough or that the ‘baby’ was ‘new’ enough to only be in their first or second diaper in several decades.
“I shouldn’t be doing this,” Jem said to himself crossing the street. His feet carried him through the crosswalk anyways. He regarded the bright yellow daycare. Its windows were reflective, but Jem knew there’d be at least a dozen Littles crinkling around on the floor on the other side.
He paced left and caught his reflection in the low reflective glass. The daycare was probably a proper storefront at another time in its history. He looked at his reflection and pictured himself in one of his own custom onesies, a non-inflatable pacifier between his lips. He felt nothing, not even dread. Then he imagined a certain Amazon coming up behind him and giving him two pats- one on the head and one on his (hypothetically) padded bottom- and Jem forgot to breathe for a second.
“This is a bad idea…” he whispered. He would never admit it to himself, but if Nate had told Jem that he worked in the daycare section, Jem would have likely found a reason to visit the yellow building over the red. Possibly to protest; possibly to shoot his mouth off until one particular Grown-Up saw no reason not to take away the Little’s big kid pants forever. Jem got the luxury of pacing right and going into the faded red building, instead.
He couldn’t reach the door handle, but a stroke of luck in the form of an exiting customer saved him the trouble.
’The sound of high powered air conditioning droned on over the rhythmic thumping of big feet thundering down on treadmills and the steady strained grunting of even bigger arms lifting weights. It was a relatively small gym; a single clean floor with enough room for a row of treadmills, several rows of weight machines, and free weights by a mirrored wall so that the dudest of dudebros could properly primp themselves and pretend that everyone was secretly looking at them. Small by Amazonian standards was still mammoth when scaled to a Little.
No Nate though…
Shit, was it the guy’s day off? He should have called ahead, or at least done more reconnaissance. Figured out which car belonged to the Amazon and checked the parking lot. Something!
An oblong shiny black countertop closed off a good chunk wall that the gym shared with the daycare. Bright white lettering marked it as the Service Desk. As good as any place to look, Jem supposed. Feeling strangely timid he walked up to the counter and knocked on wood with a shave-and-a-haircut cadence so that he could bang loudly without seeming forceful.
“Hello?” a blonde Amazon woman close to Jem’s age called out from the other side. Her face betrayed confusion until Jem repeated the cadence for her sake. “Oh! Hel-lo!” She chirped, poking her head over the barrier and her voice about an octave higher. “How did you get over…?” she blinked and frowned at his plain white sneakers with actual laces and his jeans that required a belt. “Wait a second. Stay right there.” She disappeared from sight and Jem had to back away to see her retreat through the adjoining door.
The sounds of infantile giggling and fussy crying leaked into the echoey chamber just before the door closed. Jem waited. A small eternity that lasted two minutes later, the door opened again, and the sounds of giggles and screams (good or bad?) bled in before being suddenly cut off. This time, the young woman crouched underneath the partition separating the counter from the main floor.
“Sorry about that, sir.” She said. “I thought one of our charges had toddled off or something.” She seemed nice enough, but far less self-conscious that she was actively referring to Littles as if they were children. All of the giggles and screams had sounded like post pubescent Littles to Jem’s ears. “The motion sensor we have by the door must be too high.”
Jem inhaled and caught a whiff of baby powder coming from off his giant peer. “That’s fine. I came in when someone was just leaving.” He thought it would be polite to give her an out.
The woman neither took nor seemed to care about the explanation. “How can we help you, friend? Do you need to use our phone? Is your scooter broken down? Do you need directions somewhere? Are you lost?”
Yes. Yes he was lost. He’d made a mistake in coming here and he’d need someone to take him home. Maybe someone who lived in the same apartment complex as him could help. Someone big and strong with dreamy blue eyes.
“I’m interested in working out,” Jem lied instead.
The young woman frowned. For all intents and purposes she’d just heard a cat bark. “Okay…” she said in a way that signaled that it really wasn’t. “Let me go get someone for you.”
On long striding legs, she power walked around the other side of the counter and through another door with an “Office” sign hanging from it.
“Nate!” Jem called after her, but his voice fell quiet. It was only the rough approximation of a shout, not even close to the real thing. The door shut and closed him out. “Damn,” he hissed.
The LIttle sniffed the air and wrinkled his nose. The sweet aroma of baby powder just wouldn’t get out of his nostrils. The lady just trailed it in with her. Which was odd, considering that the gym didn’t reek of sweat. It wasn’t worrying, or even surprising; just telling about where priorities lay.
The raven haired Little rose up to his tippy toes in surprise. He forced his arms and the hairs on the back of his neck down before he turned around to face the wonderful voice.
“Hey dude,” Nate greeted. “What are you doing here? The Amazon’s hair was neatly brushed. His face was cleanly shaved. He wore a neat maroon polo tucked into khaki pants. In his muscular arms, he carried a clipboard. He didn’t have the relaxed but scruffy look from yesterday. Now he looked so…so…so Grown-Up. Jem sealed his lips to prevent himself from drooling. “Did you decide to take me up on my offer?”
Dumbly, Jem nodded. “Yeah,” he mumbled. “Uh-huh.”
The office door opened up and the woman from before followed out a second Amazon woman. This lady was older, but far from old, mid thirties at most. With her dirty blonde hair tied back in a pony tail and a maroon sweat suit she could have been the first one’s older sister; maybe even her mother, and the air of confident authority that said she was in charge.
Nate, as well as the other staff Jem saw walking around the place, looked like a corporatized version of a life coach; a personal assistant but with weights. They clapped and encouraged people to go the extra mile in between cleaning up sweat, but that was it. If Nate worked out here (and he did work out) it certainly wasn’t dressed like this.
Carmen, and she had to be Carmen, dressed like she was ready to start sprinting and pumping iron at a moment’s notice. If she made it another fifty years and kept the wardrobe, she might resemble the crusty but loveable trainer in a boxing movie. When she crossed the threshold, Jem thought he caught the slightest sigh of relief from the woman.
“Hi there,” Carmen said. “What can I do for you Mister…?”
Two Amazons leading with proper titles in as many days. Would unasked for wonders never cease? “Jem,” he stuttered. “I mean Jeremy Meadows.” Awkward handshakes were exchanged.
“What can I do for you Mr. Meadows,” she repeated.
Shaking and trembling more than he should, Jem thumbed to the gorgeous man behind him. “Nate is my…” he stuttered. “I mean I want him to be my…uh…” What the fuck was he trying to say? Friend? Daddy? Trainer? Yes please?! Jem couldn’t force himself to finish the sentence with anything.
The giant of his infatuations filled in the blanks. “We live in the same apartment complex, Miss Carmen.” Nate said. “We got to talking and I offered him a complimentary session.” It was all the truth but not quite the words Jem was craving. Jem looked between the two remaining giants; the original one had taken her place back behind the counter. Nate stood with his clipboard folded in front of his lap. No winks were exchanged or secret signals or intonations.
To Jem’s inexplicable disappointment, Nate was talking straight. How did other Littles provoke the ‘correct’ response from Amazons without even trying?
The tilted her head forward appraisingly at Jem and placed her hands behind her. “Mr. Meadows, are you aware that my facility does not have any adaptive equipment for Tweeners or Littles?”
Jem straightened up like a private at boot camp. “Yes ma’am.”
“For safety reasons, you’ll have to have a spotter at all times. You realize that?”
“You realize that if you become a member, you’ll be required to either have another member accompany you or purchase a session with one of our trainers so that they can ensure your safety?”
Out of habit, Jem feigned interest. “Do members get a discount?”
Carmen cocked her head to the side like a cat who’d seen a mouse do an amusing trick. “Yes. Yes they do.”
“That’s acceptable, then.” Jem said. “Do I get to pick the trainer?”
“Assuming they’re available that day, yes.”.
“Is Nate available?”
The owner chuckled dryly through her nose. “Yes. Yes he is.” She walked past Jem and placed her hand on Nate’s shoulder. “Nicely done, Nathan.”
At the sound of that, Jem felt a faint feeling of…something…connected to the brief idea that he’d end up in a car seat before the day was out.
A few hours later…
“Push dude!” Nate ordered.
“I can’t!” Jem groaned, every phoneme a strain.
“Don’t give me that talk, my guy! You can do it!”
“No. I. Can’t.”
“Do it for you!”
He didn’t want to do it for him. “I don’t wanna do it for me!” Jem was straining so much that even his inner monologue wasn’t being filtered. This could end poorly.
“Then do it for me!” Nate said. “Can you do it for me, my guy?!”
For Nate? To impress him? He could do anything. Jem took a deep breath and pushed up with every fiber of his being… “Yes. I. Can!” The giant metal bar that had been crushing Jem’s chest lifted up for the final time. The second his elbows fully extended, Nate bent over and relieved the Little of his burden, putting the massive weight back on the bar.
Panting and drenched in his own sweat, Jem sat up from the bench. He would have mopped his forehead with his shirt sleeve, but that was equally sopping. Jem had never sweat so much in his life.
For his trial run he’d been given a baby blue jumpsuit with teddy bear ears on the hoodie and extra room in the back for a diaper Jem wasn’t wearing. It had Carmen’s Gym in italic font on the chest, but other than that it was basically footed pajamas from the daycare. “Sorry,” Nate apologized all too sincerely, “It’s the only thing we’ve got in your size. You can still slip these in your sneakers.”
Jem had hoped that would be the first step in the right direction. He was terribly mistaken. There weren’t even any Amazon strength snaps anywhere, just a front facing zipper. This getup was very escapable if slightly inconvenient.
He looked back at the heavy leaden bar that he’d been balancing and pressing at the same time, resting serenely back on its perch… “Nice?” Jem panted. “Nice? That’s…just…the bar. I didn’t…even…get any weights on.”
“It’s not about where you start, Little man.” The trainer started mopping up the sweaty outline Jem had left behind. “It’s where you end up. A couple months of this and some nutritional supplements and you’ll be able to give a Tweener a run for their money.”
A couple of months?! Jem knew he couldn’t take this kind of torture for a couple of months. He didn’t want to beat up a Tweener either. He couldn’t say it out loud just yet, but he knew what he wanted, and it involved being cradled in someone else’s massive arms. He wanted to cry, but the sound that came out was more of a tired bark. Jem wasn’t sure if he could properly shed tears just then. That would have required fluids he didn’t possess at the moment.
“Okay, bro,” Nate said, slapping him on the back. “I think that’s enough for one day. Good workout. Do you want to sign up for the full membership?
No. No he didn’t. Not at all. Jem wanted nothing more than to crawl home into his bed and die a mummified corpse. “Yeah.” He said. “Sure.”
Dragging his feet and feeling like a ragdoll, Jem followed Nate back over to the counter where he was handed a clipboard. Maybe this was part of the gym’s standard operating procedure for Adopting out Littles. Push them to the brink of exhaustion and then have them wake up in a playpen. Imagine his disappointment when he read through the lengthy gym membership contract line by line and found it to be just a lengthy gym membership contract. No maturity clauses. No loopholes. Nothing even close to a double entendre that meant if he couldn’t pay his monthly dues he’d be dragged back into the nursery like the irresponsible Little boy he clearly was…
So much for the easy way. He signed his name on the dotted line and handed it back up to Nate.
“Welcome to the club,” Nate said. “See you tomorrow?”
“Yeah,” Jem sighed. “Sure.”
The rhythmic beating sound smacking in Jem’s ears the next day had nothing to do with anything he’d been fantasizing about. They weren’t from him loudly suckling on a pacifier that Nate had shoved between his lips. They weren’t Nate’s wonderfully massive hands patting him on the back in an attempt to burp the Little. In a weird, almost perverse way, Jem was even disappointed that the beat wasn’t the result of a spanking. Spankings held a strange kind of primal terror for Littles, Jem included, but having his bottom smacked by a giant palm, hairbrush, or paddle, would stil mean things were going in the right direction for Jem’s deluded brain.
In actuality the muted rhythmic sounds were just the pitter patter of Jem’s feet dashing on a treadmill capable of supporting an Amazon in full sprint.
“That’s right!” Nate cheered him on from the side. “Widen that stride. Make your gait as long as possible!” He clapped lightly in time with Jem’s increasingly ragged footsteps. “You’re doing great, sir!”
Great is not how Jem would have described how he was feeling just then. Every muscle in his body was screaming at him. As for his gait, last night he’d imagined himself having a slightly more awkward, toddling gait. He’d even gone so far as to re-layer his briefs over each other again and went to sleep. He kept waking up out of some bizarre paranoia that he’d wet the bed, but otherwise it was decently comfortable, if a tad snug for his liking.
He shouldn’t be doing this, Jem knew. He should have been holed up in his apartment, finishing another custom stuffie or clothing modification. One customer wanted this yellow ruffled onesie and equally frilly pink dress Frank N. Stined together into one outfit instead of layering them together. This membership was expensive, too. More than Jem could afford long term unless he was working full time to pay for it off. It gave him a chance, however, to be close to his Amazon himbo crush.
It’s not that Jem wanted to be a baby again, per se, it’s that he wanted to be Nate’s baby. A strange and conflicted fantasy to be sure, and one he didn’t dare talk or type about over on MistuhGwiffin.web. The people there would not be sympathetic to this impulse. Best case scenario he’d be piled on with accusations of being mindfucked or some Amazon sock puppet account.
Yesterday had been weight day, Nate declared. Every weight machine was powerful enough to lift Jem out of the recommended seating position or impossible to move, so Jem had been forced to work with every free weight light enough. Fortunately (fortunately?) Nate knew multiple exercises that could be used with the same spider-web covered dumbbells, left neglected because the usual gym rats skipped right over them for something more challenging.
Today was all about cardio. “Get your heart buff and the rest will follow. Gotta get that blood pumping to the muscles so that they can grow!”
So they’d done cardio. None of the exercise bikes were small enough so that Jem could reach the pedals, so Nate made do by putting Jem through lots of stretches and poses that tangled the Little’s body up in knots. According to Nate, stretching and poses could be good for cardio, too, because it forced the heart to pump blood to the specific muscles being stretched at any given time, increasing the heart rate. Jem had no idea if that was true or complete bullshit, and the not knowing- the feeling of learning and being guided by someone who knew more than him- gave Jem the best kind of tingles.
Nate was still kind of socially awkward and had the vocabulary and speaking mannerisms of someone from a corny beachbum movie but he genuinely seemed to be passionate and know what he was talking about in this field. If only, Jem fantasized, one of these yoga positions involved him being on his back with his legs crossed and up over his head.
No amount of stretching in the world could compete with good old fashioned running, though. So that’s how Jem was ending this session. Also agony. Jem was also ending this session in agony.
“Come on! Just one more mile, Jem!” Nate cheered. “You can do it, bro!”
Stop. Calling me. Bro. Little dude is okay. Jem is great. Baby boy. Is preferred. But not. Bro. Jem wanted to say all of this, but he was too busy panting to vocalize. Even his thoughts were panting, somehow.
“PLease D-…Nate!” Jem forced himself to say. “I’m…at my limit.”
“No way! You got this!” Nate positioned himself behind Jem, straddling the treadmill so that Jem couldn’t escape. This was not the sort of penned in that the Little boy found himself idly fantasizing about. “Just a little fur-!”
Jem’s knees buckled and the conveyor belt rushed up to meet him. He thumped on the treadmill and the two massive steel pillars that most of the customers were able to grab onto for pacing sped away from him. His brain processed the fall and the oncoming impact far faster than his body would have been able to. It would take less than a second for his frame to be ragdolled all over the floor. At least the footed sleeper he’d stuffed himself into would prevent any kind of road rash outside of his face.
Nate’s big strong arms snatched him up instantly. Jem didn’t have time to register the rapid blur of upward motion and being held to a certain hunk’s chest. “Whoah! Jem!” Nate yelped. “Are you okay?”
Panting and more exhausted than terrified, Jem looked up into those dreamy blue eyes and resisted the urge to suck his thumb. That’d be too obvious. “Yeah,” he said when he found his voice. “Yeah. I am. You saved me. Thanks.”
”I am so sorry!” Nate gushed. “I shouldn’t have pushed you that hard. I should have listened to you. I am sooooo so sorry my guy!” He didn’t let go or put Jem back down. Jem was in Heaven, looking past Nate and seeing the ceiling tiles move. He was being more than held. He was being carried; cradled even. He’d done it. He’d accidentally done it!
“No.” Jem said. “It’s fine. I…I think I kinda like it.” The biggest dopiest smile plastered itself on Jem’s mug.
Nate grinned like a puppy dug that had just been scritched behind the ears. “Sounds like you got that runner’s high, my dude. Careful. It’s addictive” The Amazon had no idea how right he was about the wrong stimulus. His grin faded into a concerned frown. “Either that or it’s dehydration and heat exhaustion. I think we’re done for the day.”
Gently, he propped Jem up on the service counter, keeping his wonderful hands on Jem’s chest and back until he was sure that the Little could sit under his own power. “Done?” Jem whined. “Done? But it feels like we just got started!”
“Your limit is your limit, my guy.” Nate lectured. “We can move it and push it over time, but you gotta respect it in the here and now. Listen to your body.”
Jem hadn’t heard the phrase ‘listen to your body’ since potty training. “I don’t know how.”
Another gentle clap on the back. “You’ll learn.” Would he though? Would he? The acknowledgement of his competence was almost a slap in the face to Jem. “Here. Let me buy you a sports drink. Electrolytes and stuff. Lots of sugar too. You like sweet stuff right?”
Jem was on the verge of crazy happy tears. Nate was buying something for him. Something yummy and sweet. “Yeah,” Jem said. “Sure.”
Nate started to wander around to a glass doored refrigerator filled with protein shakes, bottled waters, and lemon-lime flavored sports drinks. Despite Amazons’ preference for bitter and spicy flavors being so prevalent as to be sociological if not biological fact, the bottles filled with sugar water were on the fridge’s top shelf far out of Little reach. “Deal.”
An idea! “Wait!” Jem called out. Nate turned back around and faced his client. “I want to pick it out myself.” Nate was in the process of formulating a non-condescending variation of ‘but you’re too Little to reach’, and part of Jem just wished that he would. “Please,” Jem said. “I…I kinda need this after what just happened.” The truth, but also a lie of omission. Jem daren’t say why he needed it.
Nate considered it for a moment and walked back up to the Little. “Okay. I get it.” Jem hoped but doubted it. “Deal.” He picked Jem up and planted the twenty-year old on his hip like he was twenty months instead and walked him over to the cooler. He slid open the glass door and then stepped back so that he could lift Jem by the waist and thrust him forward. Uppies! He was getting uppies! Uppies from Daddy! Jem’s mind was buzzing. He took his sweet time reaching out and lifting the massive bottle with both hands.
The magic was over too soon. Jem was back to resting on the countertop, his feet dangling, but otherwise unsupported. Nate cracked open the bottle with a single twist and gave it back to the physically exhausted Little. “We should start weight training with those,” Nate joked. “Those things are massive on you!”
An accurate statement. Jem had to use both hands to sip from the rim of the sports bottle and he’d have to be part anaconda to fit the entire rim in his mouth. “Yeah,” he said between sips. “Maybe we could do some Kung-Pow Kid stuff. Non-conventional training.”
“Heh,” Nate chuckled. “Good one. Polish on. Polish off.” The impression was kind of racist, but it was almost impossible to quote that line without putting on a faux Yamatoan accent. Jem let it slide. He was enjoying it. “Real talk. Those might taste good to you, but you’re gonna want to pregame and follow up with good old fashioned water. No calories, and after a certain point the cost benefit of all those vitamins and nutrients stops evening out with the sugar. Unless you’re doing this kind of workout every day, you might as well be sipping on a soda.”
If it got him this kind of attention, Jem just might find time to do it more often. But that was a different kind of cost benefit analysis. He realized he was falling in love with the way Nate talked about nutrition and exercise. “Kay.”
Nate grimaced slightly. “Speaking of water, I gotta go let some out. Be right back. You keep cooling down and then we’ll review and strategize before you get back in clean clothes.” Nate power walked to the locker room and rest room. Jem’s heart sank a little bit watching the giant man go. Daddies didn’t leave their LIttle boys unattended. Some were so comfortable that they might take their baby boys to the potty with them so as to not be out of their sight. Most any other Little would be dreading the talk of clean clothes foreshadowing a nasty surprise, but Jem was oddly hoping for it, despite knowing that Nate was just referring to clothes Jem walked in with today.
The big lug just wouldn’t take the bait. Jem had briefly hoped that saving him and toting him around like a toddler might have awakened something in Nate. All Amazons, men and women, were supposed to be kinda baby crazy, right? It was supposed to be practically an instinct that they never aged out of. That’s why so many Littles ended up treated like kids, right? He swallowed his bizarre desires and nursed on lemon-lime flavored sugar water.
A big muscle bound Amazon in his forties strolled up to the counter. He stank of sweat and had a big fuck-off beard. He definitely hit the weights more than Nate, but didn’t seem to be into cardio from the looks of it. A steroid junkie, Jem thought. Much older too. His dark black hair was more dye than natural. From the way he was smiling, Jem imagined he’d be the type of creep that wanted to be a mall Santa so that squirming Littles would be placed on his knee.
“Hey, Little guy,” the stranger said, his voice sounding like he smoked and his breath reeking of beef jerky. “Noticed you were having some trouble with the weights the other day, and that you wiped out on the treadmill just now. Those trainers can get expensive real quick. Maybe it’d be better if you found someone to spot you for free. Give you some tips. If you want…”
“Back off, Randal” came a stern voice from behind the big man. Carmen, the gym owner, leered up behind him and gave the big Amazon a withering glare. It was a more feminine pink than yesterday’s sweatsuit, but she was still ready to work out (and throwdown?) at a moment’s notice.
“Oh,” the massive muscle man said. “I’m sorry Miss Carmen. I didn’t mean to intrude. I was just being friendly to the new kid is all.”
“New kid?” Carmen said. “Excuse me?”
“What? It’s just a figure of speech.”
Carmen pointed right at Jem. “That customer belongs to Nathan. Until one of them says otherwise, he’s Nathan’s project. Got it?”
The mountain-that-creeped was smart enough to slink away. “Got it.”
Carmen paused long enough to give Jem a curt yet approving nod. Jem had the distinct idea that Carmen could see right through him. More depressingly, it seemed that the only person not getting the hints he was throwing out was Nate.
Jem knew he’d need to up his game tomorrow.
“You okay, bud?” Nate asked.
“Yeah,” Jem said, glugging back the water.
“You’re drinking a lot of water is all.” Nate looked genuinely worried. “Really taking yesterday’s advice to heart, yeah?”
Jem finished glugging down the massive water bottle. His second in as many hours. “Yeah.” Nate had no idea how right he was. Jem hadn’t used the bathroom since he’d first gotten up this morning. His bladder was screaming at him in silent agony. This was on purpose.
“You know there’s such a thing as too much water, right?” Nate asked. “You’ve been taking a big drink after every exercise today.”
Jem exhaled, trying to maintain his composure. “Thanks. I’m trying.” No potty dance or hint. He needed to appear completely unaware of what he was about to do, like the Little baby he needed Nate to see him as. “Can I hit the weights next?”
“I just can’t believe you’re not sloshing. Where do you put it all?”
Jem bit into his lip and walked over to the mirrored wall with all the free weights. He’d be putting it all in his pants soon. Lacking a diaper, there’d be no hiding it, either. No excuses. The gym was pretty full too. Carmen was working the punching bag and most of the treadmills were occupied. No escaping it. Just getting what he wanted. What he needed.
“Okay,” Nate said. “Let’s just start as light as we can. I don’t want to push you so hard that you puke, okay?”
Jem stared at his reflection. Showing how weak he was hadn’t worked. Getting saved and carried around didn’t tempt him. This was the last straw; the final gambit. This would be the last time that he wouldn’t have an obviously padded bulge between his legs. Nate leaned over and placed his hand on his shoulder. “Okay, Jem?” Worth it.
The warmth and strength Jem felt in his crush’s hand was enough to give him courage. He relaxed his bladder and felt the terrible violating feeling of urine splashing around in his pants and then dripping down his legs.
For half a second, Jem worried that it would be too subtle, that the extra thickness of the pajama-like material would hide his purposeful accident. He needn’t have worried. A dark spot formed and spread right where his penis was and traveled down his thighs making a dark blue roadmap all the way into his ankles. The only downside was that the material wicked away just enough pee quickly enough so that it started pooling in his shoes instead of on the floor.
He needn’t have worried, however. It was literally impossible for Nate to have missed it. Both sets of eyes widened in shock. Jem’s horrified expression was just a mask however, covering up his excited anticipation.
“You’re cramping up!” Nate half-yelled. “Cramp! Cramp!” In another blur, Jem found himself lifted up pressed to Nate’s chest, snugly up against the Daddy of his dreams. Nate started carrying his new Little boy to the locker room. There, he knew, he’d be stripped, wiped, powdered, and diapered by a deliriously baby crazy Nate, and things would progress naturally from there. “Cramp! Cramp!”
Jem opened his eyes. “Cramp?” Why was Nate saying Cramp?
“Don’t worry Little dude,” Nate’s voice sounded off the locker room. It was almost like how they met. “I’ve got just the thing. Anybody here?!” He called. “Good.”
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” Jem cried out in shock, if not pain. Freezing, ice cold water poured over Nate, soaking him from head to toe. “WHAT? AAAAAAAAAH!”
“Cramp!” Nate yelled over Jem’s cries. “Just a cramp!” he pried Jem off of him and turned him to face the icy chilled stream. “This’ll get rid of it! No need to call an ambulance! It’s cool”
The water switched off and Jem was placed sopping wet onto his feet. From the tip of his hoodie to the toes of his booties, all of the fabric was the same dark sodden dark blue. No trace of his accident remained.
“Oh man!” Nate said. “That was close! Uh…I mean, I was worried for a second. I saw your legs spasming so I knew I had to ice you down.” Nate sounded like a bad soap opera actor. “Too bad we both got completely drenched.” He threw Jem a wink.
“What?’ Jem whispered, completely baffled.
Nate leaned in extra close, close enough for Jem to guess what brand of toothpaste he used. “Don’t worry. Nobody will know.” He lightly punched Jem in the shoulder. “I told you not to push yourself and drink that much water all at once,” Nate hissed. “Like, I get it. That could’ve happened to anybody. But you can’t risk that happening again. Anybody else here would have Adopted you right on the spot.”.
All the muscles in Jem’s face ached. “Anybody else?”
“:Literally anybody else.”
That was the moment Jem felt his heart break. “Thanks,” Jem said, holding back sobs. “You’re a really good friend.”
“Don’t mention it, LIttle dude.”
Ten minutes later, Jem trudged out of the locker room wearing the clothes he’d come in with. Carmen stopped laying into the bag and looked particularly confused. Disturbed even. Jem paid her no mind.
“Alright,” Nate instructed. “We’re just gonna hang here in plank for a second. Then we’re gonna go down for a three count, hold for a three count, and push back up for a three count.”
Jem nodded. “Uh-huh.” Beads of sweat were running down his face. They’d been at this for close to an hour.
“Ready? One…two…three…and hold….one…two…three…back up…one…two…three…”
They were doing slow push-ups, stretches, and other strength building exercises that even a Little could do in a land of giants. Nate was doing everything with Jem, and not even breaking a sweat.
“Down again…one…two…three…and hold…one…two…three…aaaaand lower all the way down to your belly.”
Jem had no idea why he was doing this anymore. He was torturing himself, physically and mentally, looking and wishing for himself. He didn’t want to be a baby, he wanted to be Nate’s. But literally anybody else would want him…anybody but Nate. He supposed he came back due to sunk cost fallacy and wanting to keep up appearances.
He’d finish out the week, he’d decided, then maybe put in another week, and then fade away like most sporadic gym members. The only thing that would happen is his membership would be revoked. Being here also gave him an excuse to spend just a few more days with the Daddy that wasn’t meant to be. He’d get over it in time, but he was allowed to enjoy the fantasy for a few more days. Somehow it hurt less now that he knew his unexpected dream was off the table.
“Inhale into cobra,” the pair arched their backs up from the mat. “Exhale into downward facing dog.” In unison they arched their backs and rocked themselves onto their hands and feet while sticking their tailbones into the air. “Aaaaand lower down to safety zone!”
They collapsed into what most yoga practitioners would call ‘The Child’s Pose’. Nate had a different name for it, just in case anybody get the wrong idea about his Little friend.
“Okay,” Jem said from the resting and recovery position. “I think that’s enough for me today.”
Nate picked himself up. “I agree. You really worked hard today, my dude. Super focused.”
Jem was still so tired that he hadn’t moved yet. “Yeah. I guess I am.”
“You’re doing a good job. Listening to your body and paying attention to your limits. I’m proud of you.”
Jem sighed. His heart fluttered but his face didn’t flush. What would have been the point? “Yeah. Awesome.”
Nate offered his hand down. “Want help up?”
Jem picked his head up and accepted the help. “Yeah.” It was a quick trip up to his feet. “Thanks, Daddy.”
Nate looked horrified. “What did you say?”
Jem frowned. “Thanks, Nate?”
“No…” Nate said. “You didn’t.”
The Little played back what he’d said in his head. The blood drained all the way down to the soles of his feet in pure unadulterated embarrassment.
Jem dashed out of the building at a dead sprint. He didn’t even think about going back for his clothes or wallet or the key to his apartment. He was still in the blue teddy jammies that had been substituted as gym clothes.
It was a miracle he made it back home.
Nate found Jem in the Laundry room later that day, with Jem leaned up against his favorite dryer. “Hey,” said.
Jem closed his eyes and exhaled. “Hey.”
“You left without your stuff.”
“Yeah,” Jem said. “ I know.” He’d accidentally locked himself out of his apartment. Going to the manager’s office dressed like this was a surefire way to get snatched up by the landlord or the property manager. Jem wouldn’t have cared so much a couple days ago. The laundry room was the only safe place to hide.
“I had a talk with my boss,” Nate said. “She thinks you’ve got Maturosis or something.” Jem waited for a question. “Is Maturosis real?”
“No?” Jem said. “Yes? I don’t know!” He was so utterly humiliated having to talk about this that he was on the verge of turning into a sobbing mess. Knowing that no one would be there to comfort him was the only thing that was holding him together.
“Right,” Nate replied as if Jem’s cracking voice and indecision were legitimate answers. “Do you wanna talk to me about it? I can make you a protein shake or something. I brought your stuff back to my place.”
Jem blinked away the tears. Might as well get this over with. “Sure. Yeah.”
They walked side by side to Nate’s apartment on the other end of the complex from Jem’s. Any lingering hopes that some crazy paternal instinct had been activated inside the dudebro were dashed when they walked in. “Sorry about the mess.”
Jem had seen messier. His own apartment in fact. Yeah, there were dishes in the sink, and another laundry basket full of clothes on the couch, but other than that it wasn’t terrible. No baby powder scent. No highchair in the kitchen. Nothing resembling a playpen or parts of a crib that had yet to be assembled.
Amazons were supposed to be really good at setting up that sort of thing…when they wanted to.
Nate leaned up against his own beige couch, and pretended to be interested in the ceiling. “So…”
“So…” Jem echoed.
“Did I do this to you?”
Yes! Yes, yes, yes! “What do you mean?”
“Like…did I do something or say something that made you pee your pants yesterday?” His face scrunched up. “Or like, manipulate you into getting carried around?”
How could this wonderful idiot not look in the mirror or hear the sound of his own gentle voice and not know? “Not technically, no.”
Jem shook his head and rattled his brains. “I mean ‘no’. Nevermind. What else?”
“So you wanted to have an accident? And get picked up? And call me…y’know…Daddy? You did all that on purpose?”
Could such things really be called acts of free will when the alternative seemed so much the worse? Did a man shooting himself in the foot really have the choice if it felt like there was another gun to his heart? “The Daddy thing was the only accident. Sorry.”
“Why?” Jem’s face contorted. “If I knew why, it wouldn’t be an accident.” A beat. “Sorry.”
“No. Other ‘why’. Why did you do that stuff?”
“Sorry,” Jem said again. “I wanted you to…” it was so much harder now that he was saying it out loud. “I wanted you to be my Daddy. Sorry.”
“You know how some Amazons look at a Little and just wanna…you know?”
Nate stopped looking at the ceiling. “Cossetting, yeah.”
Without realizing it, Jem had pulled his sleeves over his hands and was twisting them up. “I think I got like…the opposite…for you. Sorry.”
The himbo looked confused. “That’s a thing?”
“It is for me,” Jem whispered. “But only for you. Sorry.”
Nate bobbed his head and moved his lips but no sound came out. He was clearly talking to himself. “Why do you keep saying you’re sorry?”
Jem’s face scrunched up like a toddler. His throat closed up and the next words came out squeaky as the tears dripped down his face “Because you…don’t…want…!”
“I kinda do, though.”
The Little’s heart leapt up into his throat. “You what?”
“Dude, I kinda wanted to take you home and rock you to sleep the second I saw you. I was just trying to respect you. You know, as a person, instead of a baby. Not that babies aren’t people, but…”
The nature of the tears was turning from one emotion to another. “Yeah,” Jem sniffed. “I…I get it.”
“Thing is,” Nate huffed. “If I Adopt you, I don’t know how I’m gonna afford you. Babies can get expensive. Like I bet I could get free daycare, but even diapers can get expensive.”
“I could…” Jem ventured…”I could still make and sew baby clothes and stuff. None of my customers know I’m a Little.” He thought about it. “Knowing I’m a Little might help, actually.”
Jem hung his head, bracing himself for the incoming rejection. It was a dumb idea, anyways.
“Dude! That’s genius!”
Jem met the Amazon man’s gaze. “Please don’t call me ‘Dude’.”
The dudebro blushed. “Oh. Right. Bad nickname. Bud? Bud.” Bud? Yeah. Better. Jem gave a weak but approving smile.
Nate walked around to his couch and sat down next to the laundry basket… Unbidden Jem followed him around. He waited for Nate to pat his lap. He was relieved that he didn’t have to wait long. He climbed all the way up and sat himself on the big man’s knee, feeling strangely euphoric.
“Tell you what, Bud,” Nate said. “Why don’t we try this out? I’ll take a week off from work. We’ll try it out. If we both like it. We’ll Adopt.”
“We’ll…?” Jem looked into his maybe-Daddy’s beautiful blue eyes filled with questions. Nate hadn’t mentioned anyone else. Was he going to have to share?
“Yeah,” Nate smiled. “You and me, Jem. You and me. We found each other. Baby boy and Daddy.”
Jem lost it in the best way.“Oh Daddy!” he cried out, loving the sound of it coming from his lips. “Daddy, Daddy Daddy Daddy Daddy Daddy Daddy!” He cried and stood up on his Daddy’s lap, giving him the biggest hug, even though there was no way he’d be able to wrap his arms around the giant. That was Daddy’s job! He peppered Nate’s chest and neck and chin with tiny kisses, squeezing him so tight he’d sooner become a tattoo than let go.
“Whoah! Bud!” Nate laughed. He threw in a few pecks on Jem’s forehead, anwyas. It was unsurprisingly easy for him to peel the manic Little off his chest. “Jem, what are you doing, baby?”
Jem stood balanced on one giant knee. “Huh?” Was he already doing something wrong?
“You can’t get that excited, Little boy.” Nate reached over into the laundry basket. From out of it he produced a package of Monkeez. It was a convenience pack, something sold at a convenience store, but it was a start. The Little on the front looked incredibly happy. Jem was about to top it. “Not without getting properly dressed.”
“Good morning, Nathan,” Carmen said a week later. “Welcome back. How was your week off?”
Nate stood in the doorway of her office. Her best personal trainer was combed and crisp and clean for work, and had an extra sparkle in his eye. The Little baby on his hip had darker hair and eyes, but there was a distinct matching twinkle.
The teddy bear version of her sweat suit line she favored looked good on the forever child. It somehow looked more appropriate without the sneakers covering up the footie parts. A keen eye would reveal that more was different beyond a lack of pretense. Someone had altered the bottom half so that there were snaps along the inseam and up along the crotch, to give caregivers and daycare workers easier access to the Little’s diaper. This Little was diapered, too. Either that or he’d gained the lower equivalent of a beer belly.
More interestingly, the zippered front had been redone in snaps, too. If they were Amazonian grade, the Little wouldn’t be strong enough to dress or undress himself without adult help. Most peculiar and fascinating of all, the faded black logo that said ‘Carmen’s Gym’ had been completely replaced with the bright yellow block font of her other business and now the outfit read ‘C.G. Daycare.’
Carmen decided right then that she liked it, and would figure out how to get more. She had an entire back room filled with those things in both pink and blue. The only reason she hadn’t decided to use them as uniforms was because the Little dickenses kept stripping down to their diapers.
Nate grinned like the proud papa he’d become and looked over “Pretty good, boss. Pretty good.”
“Good. Glad you don’t need paternity leave. Get that cutie checked in next door, and you can show me all the baby pictures you want later.”
“Yes ma’am,” the Daddy and his new Little boy accidentally said in unison. They looked at each other and the Little giggled while his Daddy cooed at him.
Their enthusiasm and love for each other made Carmen smile as she watched the adorable duo head next door, happy for the both of them.