Contains: instant weight gain
Several times through writing this story, I almost deleted it all, thinking it was stupid. Then I realized that was probably my depression telling me it was stupid. And that, at the end of the day, it’s you folks who get to decide whether a story of mine is stupid or not, not me. So I wrote the short, self-indigent comfort fic I needed tonight.
Dan sat on the bench by the bus stop, waiting for the last bus of the night to take him home. It was a cold night, the kind that chilled him to his bones no matter how many layers he wore. Not that the cold had to put up much of a fight to reach his bones. Dan was thin, the only rolls on his body appearing when he sat down and his stomach compressed. There was scarcely enough muscle or fat to help him maintain any of his body heat.
And so Dan shivered as he sat on that bench, the lone lamppost illuminating his breath as it left his shaking body. His arms were crossed in front of him as he huddled over, trying and mostly failing to hold on to whatever warmth he had left. When he got home, he planned to sit near the space heater for at least a half hour.
“Pardon me.” Looking up, Dan saw a middle-aged man with a middle-aged man’s body standing in front of him. He wore only a single coat, with a scarf wrapped loosely around his neck for style rather than insulation. It seemed even that modest amount of pudge was enough to make him feel a lot warmer than Dan. “Is this the stop for the 143 bus?”
“Oh, good. I was afraid I’d miss it.” His voice was deep yet gentle, a perfect voice for radio or podcasts. “Do you mind if I sit next to you?”
“There’s plenty of room for both of us,” Dan said flatly.
The man sat on the other side of the bench, relieving Dan of the fear that he was one of those “bus people” who didn’t know what personal space is. Unfortunately, he turned out to be the kind of “bus person” who made small talk when Dan clearly wasn’t into it. “How’s your day been?”
“Been better,” Dan answer, not having the energy for pleasantries.
“Oh? What’s on your mind?”
Letting out a sigh, Dan replied, “Just… a lot.”
“It might lessen the load if you talk about it.”
Staring straight ahead, Dan felt mildly annoyed by how much this stranger was prodding him. But he seemed to mean well. Maybe if he shared a little bit, it would be enough to satisfy the stranger’s curiosity. “Work stress, I guess. I started a new job a couple of months ago, and I feel like I’m still getting used to it. Just waking up in the morning is hard after I spent a few months unemployed and able to sleep in as much as I liked.”
“Change can definitely be a challenge. And adjusting takes time.”
“I know. I just feel feel bad because it’s a good job, and I know I should be grateful–”
“If I may interrupt, young man: what you “should” do is allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel. How you act on your feelings is your responsibility. What you feel is not.”
“I… hadn’t thought of it that way. It’s not just that, though.”
“What else?” the man asked with a friendly tone.
Dan felt like he’d already shared more than he wanted to with the man. But he also felt surprisingly comfortable answering. “I feel like all my friends are drifting away.”
“Why is that?”
“It feels like they don’t reach out to me as much as they used to. And it’s probably because I’ve been so stressed, and made no secret of the fact that I’m not doing well mentally. They’re probably tired of hearing about it.”
“Or they want you to feel better, but don’t know how to help. And they’d rather say nothing than the wrong thing.”
“That… makes sense.”
“So many in your generation are so busy. Friendship can become an afterthought. It takes someone reaching out to another to change that. Might as well be you.”
“Yeah… hey,” Dan said, looking at the stranger as he turned to face him. “Thanks. This helped.”
The stranger smiled at Dan for a moment, before lifting his arms up, offering him a hug. Dan wasn’t usually the hugging type, but after the moment they’d just shared, it felt right. With a smile of his own, he opened his arms and leaned into the man’s embrace.
Once the man’s arms had come to rest around Dan’s shoulders, he slowly pulled him in more tightly, allowing Dan to settle into the coziness of his hug. He wrapped his own arms around the man’s chest a bit tighter, to show his appreciation for the embrace. As the warmth from the man’s arms and torso seeped through Dan’s jackets, he let out another sigh, this one of relief.
Strangely, the man seemed to be tightening his hug ever so slightly as they embraced. Dan could feel more pressure around him as they hugged, never a suffocating amount, but a noticeable one. Even the man’s torso seemed to be pushing more back against his own. It was a sensation Dan had never quite felt before, but not one unpleasant enough to make him call off the hug. Rather, it was the stranger who did that, letting go of Dan and sitting up straight again.
But the strangeness didn’t even there. For even though they’d just been side by side, the man seemed to be sitting a distance away from Dan that would have been impossible without them scooting apart from each other at least a little. And he could feel the side of the man’s hips against his own. But the slight distance between them caused him to look down, as if he doubted his own senses.
But neither his sight nor his touch were deceiving him. Their hips were touching; his just happened to be wider than they’d been before.
Dan stood up instinctively, though he found it more difficult than usual. Once he was standing, he looked down and realized he looked about 300 pounds heavier, his lanky body now no more than a distant memory. Perhaps not distant in time, but very much so in contrast.
Dan held up his flabby hands as he looked at them in disbelief. Looking down, he saw his arms were much brawnier to match. It seemed he’d now be able to give hugs as good as the one he’d just gotten. Looking down further, he saw a massive belly where previously he would have seen the ground. Patting it on the sides, he rubbed it over as if trying to convince himself it was real. Though his several jackets–which had somehow grown with him, along with the rest of his clothes–concealed much of his silhouette, he could make out the two lobes of his check that now stuck out over his belly.
“Did you do this?”
The man nodded calmly. Dan figured this kind of thing must be commonplace for him, given how little surprise he showed. “Do you feel better?”
“Yeah… a lot better,” Dan said contentedly. “A lot warmer too,” he continued, his tone not quite as pleased with that fact. He took off the jacket that he wore over his sweatshirt, before unzipping his sweatshirt partway to let out some heat. “That’s better.”
“Good. Well,” the man grunted as he got up from the bench. “I should be on my way.”
“On your way? What about the bus?”
“I don’t need the bus,” the man said, before he walked slowly down the sidewalk.
Dan had plenty of questions, but as he watched the man go, he saw his bus driving toward him. Given the choice between answers and a ride home, he chose the latter.
As Dan got on the bus and walked to an empty seat, he could feel himself leaning back to account for his new weight. Though his belly didn’t wobble much as he moved, it did bounce every time his foot hit the floor. He held onto the bars as he walked, since he wasn’t quite yet accustomed his new heft. Finding an empty pair of seats toward the back, he slid in to sit by the window, taking up a good share of the seat next to him as well.
Sitting upright in his chair, Dan looked down at the massive gut that now sat in his lap. As the bus drove over the uneven streets, he could feel it bouncing along. It would become suspended right above his thighs, before coming back down with an impact that he could feel. After looking around to ensure no one was looking his way, he stuck his hands under the bottom of his sweatshirt and shirt. Feeling the soft flab underneath his fingertips made him lose his breath. Once he regained his composure, he sunk his hands into his flab, amazed at how deep they could sink. Soon his hands felt warmer, like he was his own heat pack.
With a smile, Dan pulled his hands out and let his arms fall beside him. Looking out at the passing houses, he wondered about the stranger he’d hugged that night. Did his hugs always have that effect? Had other folks been changed by his hugs? And how did he manage to cross paths with Dan at just the right time?
Dan realized he might never get answers. But as he looked down as his globular gut, he smiled again, knowing he now had something better.