Originally published January 3, 2017.
Contains: long-term weight gain, supernatural encouraging.
To give credit where credit is due, this story was initially inspired by this piece by TCW on FurAffinity. It gave me the idea for a story revolving around a guy trying to fit into an oversized sweater, perhaps one that once belonged to someone he looked up to. It was also where I got the design for the sweater in my story
So yes, this is technically another Christmas story involving a sweater that’s way too big for our protagonist, albeit with very different stakes and motivations from my last one. It’s also another entry in my proud tradition of writing holiday-based stories after the holiday they center around has passed. But c’est la vie. The story linked in the word “proud” is one of my most popular ever judging by number of favorites, so I don’t think people mind.
Synopsis: It’s Eric’s first Christmas with his new daughter Chloe and without his dad. Intimidated by fatherhood, he feels like he’ll never be half the man his dad was, both as a father and in that he’ll never fit his father’s old Christmas sweater. When he absconds to his attic to try the oversized garment on anyway, his dad’s ghost appears to give him some sage words and a few extra pounds to boot, making him feel a bit closer to being the man his dad was. Six years later, Eric tries the sweater on again, and is surprised to find he’s closer to being the man his father was than he realizes…
It was Eric’s first Christmas with his new daughter Chloe and his first Christmas without his dad. He was faring better than he expected, with his husband, Pete, keeping on top of plans that year and making sure he always had something to keep his mind off things. That night, it had been decorating gingerbread cookies and watching The Muppet Christmas Carol with Chloe. Eric was also thankful that Pete’s parents had invited them over for Christmas dinner, as Pete’s family felt nearly as much like family as his own.
But with Chloe and Pete both having gone to bed and Eric promising he’d be there soon, he’d been left to dwell on the fact that it was his first Christmas without his dad. That dwelling had lead him to the attic, where in a box of his father’s old things lay his dad’s Christmas sweater. It was a red garment with white trim around the collar, the bottom hem, and the cuffs, and the words, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” written in white diagonally across the stomach.
As Eric held the sweater in his hands, even he had to admit it looked pretty dorky. But somehow his dad, with all the confidence he possessed, managed to pull it off. And even if he couldn’t, he was too nice of a guy for anyone to say anything about it. So genuinely warm and kind, always knowing how to cheer Eric and his siblings up, always having the right thing to say. His memories made Eric feel bittersweet as he looked down at the sweater in his hands. With fatherhood now ahead of him, he felt like he’d never be half the man his own father was.
And he wasn’t just thinking he’d never be half the father his dad was. There was a part of Eric that wanted to bring the sweater out again, try to pull it off and keep his dad’s legacy alive. The only problem was, it was way too big for him. He couldn’t find a tag on the inside that would reveal its size, but knowing that it fit his dad while he was alive, there was no way it could fit him now. For Eric was of average figure, with his stomach fat only really showing itself when he sat down.
His dad, on the other hand, had sported a colossal belly that could fill out sweaters as huge as the one Eric held in his hand. It was big enough that as kids, he and his siblings could barely sit on his knees when he sat down. But it was worth the struggle to try, for that meant they could snuggle up against it. And when their dad wore something as soft and warm as that sweater, there was no better place to be during the cold winter months.
It was like his belly was a part of his comforting disposition, a part of what made him such a great dad. And as Eric held the giant sweater in his hands, it only made him feel more assured that he could never be half the man his dad was, not even by continuing the tradition of bringing the sweater out on Christmas.
But something told him to try it on anyway, silly as it was. Even though it clearly didn’t fit him, even though it looked big enough that he wouldn’t even have to take off his current sweater to slip it on, something told him to try. So he turned it around, let out a sigh, and slipped it over his head. His only difficulty was in finding the arms in all the fabric, but once he slipped them in, his head pulled through the top without issue.
The sweater looked exactly as silly as Eric knew it would, falling well past his waist and over his hips while hanging loosely around him. The “Ho! Ho! Ho!” in front was illegible as it weaved in and out of the folds of fabric. He nearly took it off before he heard an all-too-familiar voice chuckle and tell him, “I was wondering if you’d try it on.”
When Eric looked up and saw the translucent, luminescent, blue-tinted figure of his father standing across from him, he didn’t feel startled or surprised in the slightest. He’d never believed in ghosts, but seeing the spectral figure of his father now just made sense, in the way that walking into the living room and seeing him reading in his favorite chair would have made sense a year ago. As was to be expected, his dad was wearing the sweater, looking smart as ever even in a garment as silly as that one.
“I can’t pull it off as well as you can.”
“That’s to be expected,” he told Eric in his comforting baritone. “You’re not there yet. It would be like me trying to pull off your grade school church clothes,” he said with a chuckle, at which Eric couldn’t help but laugh. “But you’ll get there. I know you will. You’re going to be such a good dad to Chloe.”
“How can you be so sure?” Eric asked, head down and eyes tilted up to look in his dad’s.
“I was just as nervous as you when your oldest sister was born. But your mom and I, we figured it out. And you and Pete have so much more at your disposal now. Cell phones would have made coordinating things so much easier.”
When Eric’s head remained tilted down, he saw the ghostly figure of his dad come closer, until his incorporeal belly was nearly up against Eric’s own stomach. When Eric looked up, his dad had that warm smile on his face that could make him feel better even from beyond the grave. With a sigh, his dad brought his hands up and put them on the side of Eric’s torso, where the sweater lay folded like a curtain. “There’s a lot for you to grow into, kiddo. But you’ll get there. Fatherhood ain’t easy, but it’s worth it, I promise you.”
With another smile, Eric’s dad leaned down over his spherical belly, brought his spectral arms around his son’s shoulders, and pulled himself close. Eric couldn’t feel the warmth or comforting embrace of his dad’s hugs as he remembered them; instead, he feel a cool moistness in the air as his dad’s ghostly form touched him. Without thinking, he brought his own arms up to wrap around his dad, only to find them landing on his chest. At that, Eric kept his eyes closed, as if he were sure the image of his dad was all in his head, and he didn’t want to open his eyes to confirm it.
“Things are going to be different from here on, kiddo,” he heard, prompting him to open his eyes. His dad was still there, this time with his hands resting on Eric’s shoulders. “Now that you’re a dad, now that you don’t have me… things are going to be different. There’s no way to change that. But you’re more capable than you know. You’ll find your way through.”
All Eric could do was sigh, but this time he looked up back into his dad’s now-blue eyes and tried to put on his best smile. “If I do, it’ll be because I learned from the best.”
With a chuckle, his dad looked down before looking back up into Eric’s eyes. “When you do, kiddo,” he corrected as he patted the side of Eric’s stomach. “When you do.”
With a genuine smile this time, Eric asked, “Will I see you again?”
“I expect so,” his dad said more matter-of-factly. “But hey, if you need me, you know where to find me,” he said, pulling at his own sweater until he saw the click of understanding in Eric’s face.
With one last smile to match his Dad’s, Eric pulled the sweater off. Once his vision was clear, he found his dad had vanished back into the nothingness. With a sigh, he folded the sweater up and put it back in the box, finally feeling ready to go to bed. He felt more assured, more comfortable in his new circumstances. Perhaps as a result of wearing another sweater on top of his own, his brown sweater even felt warmer and cozier.
But when he brought his hand down on his stomach, he found that the new cozy feeling had nothing to do with wearing two sweaters. It seemed his own sweater was indeed tighter, for he filled out the space in it more fully. Whereas his stomach fat previously only became apparent when he sat down, he could now feel a noticeable pillow of it under his hands. At least, it was noticeable when he touched it; it probably wouldn’t show up noticeably to anyone who looked at him. But it still made him smile, for he was now a little bit closer to being the man his dad had been.
It was another Christmas Eve in Eric and Pete’s house. Chloe was now six, and was coloring downstairs as How the Grinch Stole Christmas played in the background. Their two-year-old son, Ryan, was already asleep. As he always did on Christmas Eve, Eric snuck away to the attic where he kept his dad’s old sweater. Most of his dad’s old stuff had been cleared out, either donated or given away to relatives who were more sentimental about it. But Eric insisted he and Pete keep the sweater, and with the rest of the items given away, Pete was more than happy to let Eric have that one keepsake.
It had become something of a personal tradition for Eric to sneak into the attic, slip the sweater on over his clothes, and get a little pep talk from his dad that he’d do fine as a father. Though it wasn’t the same as it used to be, his dad would give him a hug and a pat on the stomach. And once he took the sweater off, his own clothes would feel noticeably more snug, and he would feel a little bit closer to being the man his dad was.
Eric hadn’t been sure how Pete would take to the change, but it never brought out any sort of animosity between them. If anything, Pete seemed to find Eric’s newfound heft as comforting as Eric has found his dad’s. He didn’t seem to notice at first, paying Eric’s midsection as little mind as he’d paid it before. But after the first couple of years, Pete took to rubbing Eric’s belly as casually as he’d rub his cheeks or run his fingers through his hair, all of the standard ways they showed affection.
His kids certainly didn’t mind. Especially in the previous couple of years, they had taken to nestling up against his belly when they all sat on the couch. “You’re so comfy now, daddy,” Chloe had told him more than once. Whereas another man might have been self-conscious about it, Eric saw it as him giving his kids the same comfort his dad had given him.
And they weren’t the only ones; once Ryan and Chloe had gone to bed, Pete would often nuzzle up Eric’s against belly too. “Chloe has a point,” he once told Eric one night after Chloe had called him “comfy”. And the sleepier Pete got, the more comfortable he got with Eric’s gut. While he’d often start the night leaning against Eric’s side, as he got more tired, he’d inch down until he was nuzzling against his belly like a pillow. The whole time, Eric would lay his burly arm across Pete’s back, happy to give his husband some comfort.
Yes, Eric was quite happy with the man he’d become. Still, he told himself, it couldn’t hurt to get some encouragement from good ol’ dad. And just like the Christmas Eves before, that had brought him back to his attic, back to the box where he kept his dad’s old Christmas sweater.
With a grunt, Eric bent down to lift the lid off the box. Now that he had a formidable belly of his own, bending down had become something of a challenge. But after a bit of struggle, he had the lid off and pulled the sweater out. With a sigh of relief, he stood up straight and held the sweater in front of him. He was thankful that the years had been kind to it, and it looked no worse for wear than it had the year he first put it on.
Out of habit, Eric tried to slip the sweater on over his own green and red garment, but he found it more difficult to do than in years past. Whereas his dad’s sweater had previously been loose enough that he could slip it over his own outfit with no issue, now he struggled to pull it over what he was wearing. Having a big, round belly in the way certainly didn’t help, but he remembered that just the previous year, he could still slip the sweater on fine. He hadn’t been much smaller then.
With a perplexed expression, Eric pulled off his dad’s sweater and put it on one of the nearby shelves. He then removed his own sweater and exchanged it for his dad’s, leaving the green and red one on the shelf and his dad’s in his hand. Before putting it on, he held it in front of himself, needing to stick his arms out straight so it didn’t drape over his gut. Even though he had trouble fitting the sweater over his own, it still looked like it was too big for him. Maybe, he told himself, it was just the feeling that he could never measure up to his dad that made the sweater seem bigger. But the attic air was rather cool against his bare belly, and he now had a lot of belly that was left exposed to the cold. Once he felt a chill go through his rounded gut and down his spine, he stopped stalling and slipped the sweater on.
Without another sweater to drag on, Eric’s dad’s sweater slipped on as easily as his own. But to his surprise, it wasn’t baggy once it reached his belly. Instead, he pulled down the bottom hem and found it slipping comfortably yet snugly over his gut. Against all his expectations, it fit.
“I told you you’d get there,” he heard a familiar voice say. Looking up, Eric saw the ghost of his dad, wearing the same sweater the way he always did. But this time, it fit the two of them equally well. He saw his dad’s warm eyes crinkle above a beaming smile that shone even more brightly than his luminescent form.
“Thanks to you,” Eric insisted.
“Aw, I only helped a bit,” his dad said as he patted the side of the sweater. At that, Eric could feel the sweater turn a bit tighter as his gut grew within it. The bottom of his stomach peeked out just enough that he could feel the cool air grazing the soft bottom of his belly. If he were going to wear the sweater now, he reasoned, he’d have to wear an undershirt.
“Won’t that stretch it out?”
“That’s the idea,” his dad said confidently. “You want to give the next generation bigger goals to strive for. You’ll be an even better father than me, and Ryan will be an even better father than you. It’s the natural cycle of things.”
Eric looked down for a while before he could look back up at his dad. “You know, a few years ago, maybe even just last year, I wouldn’t have believed you. But… you were right. I found my way.”
With eyes beaming, his dad patted his shoulder and said, “Of course you did.” After pulling away, he asked, “How’s Pete taken to the change?”
“You know, he doesn’t seem to mind. I think when he met you, he understand what he was getting himself into by promising to spend the rest of his life with me.”
“It always sneaks up on us Michaelson men,” his dad chuckled. “We start out with fast metabolisms, get a bit too cocky with how much we can eat, then once they slow down, it all catches up with us,” he said as he gave his own belly a few thumps.
“I don’t think it was just my metabolism,” Eric teased as he contentedly patted his own belly.
“If you didn’t have that, anything I gave you wouldn’t have stuck.”
“I suppose,” Eric conceded. His hand remained on his sweater-wrapped gut as he ran his fingers over the soft material. This time, it wasn’t out of fascination with his size, but rather to try to convince himself that his dad’s sweater was as tight on him as it seemed. “I still can’t believe it fits.”
“You’ve earned that. Chloe’s doing great, and you wouldn’t have adopted Ryan unless you felt confident about being a dad.”
“You sound awfully sure of that,” Eric joked with a smirk on his face.
“Well, I know you didn’t have him by accident,” his dad chuckled before giving Eric a nudge on the shoulder. Like his pat before, Eric couldn’t feel the impact, but it still brought a smile to his face.
“You know… I think I’m going to bring this sweater out of storage. Start wearing it on holidays again. If that’s okay with you.”
With a wide smile on his wider face, Eric’s dad said, “I would love nothing more.”
With a grin, Eric grabbed his sweater off the shelf and waved goodbye to his dad as he left the attic. His dad stood in place, waving and watching Eric go as he faded away. Somehow, Eric had a feeling that was the last he’d see of his dad. But as he walked down the steps, he realized he was okay with that. Giving his hefty belly a firm rub through the cloth of the sweater, he finally felt like he was all the man his dad was, if not more.