by: nico | Complete Story | Last updated Jul 23, 2014

A collaboration between nico ("Honeyed Memories," "Wiggle") and Retero ("Lickies," "Let it Go"). Look deeply. What do you see?

Chapter 1

The mirror, Jacob reminds himself, is a liar. Just because it shows him as a six-year-old boy doesn’t make it true.

Still, it’s confronting to see the bright blue eyes of a child peering back at him through it. Well, the child isn’t peering so much as glaring, but that’s only because Jacob is glaring. Everything Jacob does, the child does, because Jacob is the child. This is his body now. His body is six, not twenty-four. The way he sets his jaw makes him look petulant, not austere. The freckles across his pale cheeks and nose, the way his ears stick out, softens the severity of his expression. He’d be able to take himself seriously if he still had an adult’s face, but instead he just looks cute. It isn’t fair.

But Jacob can’t afford to think about what’s fair. He narrows his eyes so his boyish face looks as stern as possible. He can see cold intelligence there, even if his features look innocent and childlike. He needs to focus… or else, he’s going to forget how old he really is.

That’s what happens when regressed children look into a mirror for too long. The brain associates itself with the juvenile appearance it sees. It doesn’t see an adult, but a kid, and so the thought of being older becomes less and less real. Everyone remembers, deep down, how normal it was to see such a young face in the mirror. Every adult knows how to think like a kid, because everybody used to be one. Soon enough those thoughts become natural. And that’s where the regression begins. It overwhelms the adult self with immature needs, ideas and memories. Until at last, just as the body in the mirror is a child’s body, so too is the identity a child’s identity.

Jacob knows this because he helped design the experiment that proves it.

He also knows the same thing will happen even without a mirror, but over the course of days. The familiar proprioception of a younger, lighter form. The piping voice. The simple knowledge that the outside world sees only a small child. All these things slowly ease a person into the idea that they must, in fact, be as little as they seem.

Treating them like children - talking down to them or disciplining them or structuring their lives around childish routines - makes it go faster. But the mirror treatment can cause full regression within minutes.

Jacob has helped document this with over a dozen subjects. Right now, each one is growing up again, unaware of their former adult lives. It’s what’s going to happen to him, too… unless he can outwit the experiment.

And he will. He’s worked too hard, for too long, climbed too damn high, to even entertain the possibility that he might have to start over again in the first grade. Not happening. He’s a grown man, damnit, not a snot-nosed little brat who doesn’t even know his times tables! He’s independent, he has a degree and a job, and he’s not going to end up sitting cross-legged on the carpet, listening like a good boy as some teacher trills the big block letters of a picture book to the class! Jacob can hardly believe he ever used to be that babyish. The thought that he might end up that way again seems unreal. It makes him squirm where he sits.

He’s on the carpet of his own bedroom, which is still full of adult belongings. Psychology textbooks on the shelves that he won’t be able to understand once he’s regressed. Grown-up novels that won’t hold his distractible attention span. A diploma hung above his double bed that he won’t know is his. It’s unthinkable.

Yet the very fact that he’s looking at his own six-year-old visage in the mirror makes the prospect of it impossible to dismiss. He is not an adult right now, he is a child. Even his clothes rob him of status, making him feel like a boy instead of a man. Jacob is wearing a blue Pikachu t-shirt over his skinny frame. He’s in boy’s shorts with boy’s Pokemon briefs underneath, and he’s wearing boy’s sneakers and boy’s socks, the cosy cotton around his small feet also adorned with Pikachu. It all fits, and it suits his body better than adult clothes would. His brown hair is combed and parted. As a man, it looked neat and professional. Now it just makes him feel like a little choirboy.

Jacob shifts on his stinging bottom. The little choirboy in the mirror shifts with him. It makes him light-headed to think of himself as an adult, because he can’t see his adult reflection right now. Just the kid he used to be, years ago… the kid he presently is. Jacob isn’t used to his face not having a beard, yet it all seems natural. His angular chin looks years and years away from being able to support one. His arms and legs are void of muscle and of all but the finest of hairs. He can’t ignore these things, can’t pretend he’s an adult when every feature of his body says otherwise.

But he also can’t - mustn’t - let it affect him. Jacob has to overcome the illusion all while regarding his own first-grader’s reflection.

Because of Chris.

Chris - the man who looms behind him, whose strong, weathered palm his bottom so recently became acquainted with - is not his friend. Chris is his co-worker, the constant thorn in his side whose presence the young man tolerated for the good of the project… and, more importantly, for the good of his career. Opportunities to conduct research of this magnitude don’t come along often, especially not to young men fresh out of graduate school, no matter how deserving and hardworking they might be. Were it just any other job, Jacob would’ve had no qualms with telling Chris off the first time he had treated the young man like a child.

But this was different. This was biological age regression. This was the technology to make people younger.

As fascinating as the physical transformation may be, it paled in comparison to what Jacob and his colleagues were researching - the effects it had on the minds of those regressed all the way to childhood. This project would revolutionise the planet, alter the course of human history. And Jacob’s name was in the citations, and he was only in his mid-twenties. It didn’t bother Jacob that the governmental nature of their funding meant getting patted down by an MP every time he so much as stepped out to take a piss, or that he’d be charged with treason if he broke the tome of a non-disclosure agreement they’d all signed. He’d endure hell itself to stay on the team.

And so he deigned to work at his colleague’s side, comforting himself with the knowledge that he must be annoying Chris every bit as much as Chris annoyed him. The condescending manner with which his co-worker addressed him, he reasoned, was nothing more than a pathetic defense mechanism, a way for Chris to cope with knowing that a man fifteen years his junior would inevitably climb over his spot on the totem pole through sheer dedication and intelligence. Jacob almost pitied the poor guy. Chris was still pretty handsome for a bloke on the verge of forty, but the tiny wrinkles that appeared whenever he let loose that maddening smirk of his served only to prove that the best days of his life were behind him; that Jacob had time itself on his side; that the young man’s defeat of his rival was as inevitable as the changing of the seasons.

Jacob’s confidence in his eventual victory was shaken somewhat by being regressed, stretched across Chris’s lap, and unable to do anything but grit his teeth and squeeze tears onto his burning cheeks as the man whapped his bare bottom for no other reason than because he could.

He held strong, though. He didn’t cry out. He kept his mouth shut when Chris dressed him in kid’s clothes and told him it was barely a step down from the way he acted as a grown-up. He showed no fear when Chris made him sit in front of the mirror on the threat of another spanking. Jacob may look like a little boy, but he proved himself to be the bigger man.

“Of course you’d be the one to try and do this to me,” the regressed child grumbles, sounding more petulant than he’d like. “You’re the only person on the team who’s dumb and stubborn enough to think you can make this work on someone who knows the process inside and out.”

“You’ve got a good point - from a purely logical standing, that is. A subject should be able to defend themselves more effectively if they know what’s coming.” Chris shrugs. “Of, course, that didn’t help Thomas or Caleb any.”

Jacob goes cold. He stares at the smiling adult through the mirror.

“No way,” the boy murmurs. “You’re full of shit.”

“‘Fraid not, kiddo. In fact, if you listen really close, I bet you can hear them playing in the front yard.”

Jacob goes still. For a moment there’s nothing but the deep quiet of his room… and then he catches the barest hint of a laugh, his dopey oversized ears attuning themselves to the shouting and laughter of two young boys at play. Jacob trembles and closes his eyes. Their high, ringing voices come through at barely more than a whisper - but they impact him so deeply that they might as well be screams within his skull.

“That’s not them. Those are just… some random kids. You’re trying to trick me.”

“No such luck, buddy,” Chris chuckles. “They knew the process ‘inside and out’ and all that did was make them realize what was going to happen the second they woke up in their silly little six-year-old bodies. Can’t wait for you to meet them - Caleb’s a handsome little fella and Thomas is just about the most adorable little boy you could ever hope to meet.”

Jacob’s throat tightens. His stomach churns.

“At first, they were just like a certain little grumpypants I could mention,” he grins. “But by the time we were done both of them were just as sweet as sugar.”

“Shut up.” Jacob digs his teeth into his lower lip. He balls up his tiny fists.

“Cutest part of the whole thing? When Tommy and CJ - that’s what they like to be called now - when they met they recognized each other right off. Not as adults that had been turned into children… as little boys happy to see their friend. Isn’t that just the sweetest thing you ever heard? They just knew that they were friends. I’d say that I wish you had been there to see the way their little faces lit up when they saw each other, but it won’t be long before you’ll be grinning your own goofy little-kid grin at being reunited with your adorable little friends.”

Jacob’s face goes red. His nails dig into his palms. He would very much like to leap to his feet and scream at the adult, to bash his hands against the monstrous grown-up. But he knows that with the strength of a first-grader, he’d do nothing more than amuse his tormentor. He has to sit still. So he closes his eyes, takes a deep, shaky breath, and reminds himself that losing himself to instinct is what Chris wants. He wants the little boy to be swallowed whole by such a base and childish emotion. He probably used the same trick on Thomas and Caleb. Poor guys lacked the kind of resolve Jacob has. They would’ve never stood a chance.

He mourns his friends’ lost maturity but he does not dwell on it, does not entertain any thoughts of how horrific that final mindwiping moment must have been. Nor does he allow himself to be discouraged by the fact that Chris managed to triumph over his colleagues. On the contrary - he lets himself be heartened by it. He knows Chris thinks he’ll be similarly easy prey, which will just make it all the more easy for the shrunken psychologist to resist his tricks. Caleb and Thomas were solid researchers and good guys, but their minds were flawed and vulnerable. Jacob’s is a steel trap. It is an impenetrable fortress.

He won’t let himself get tricked into a new life as a first-grader. He’ll hold out until Chris gives up on regressing him with the mirror. That’ll give him room to think about the next step. He knows for sure there’s at least one person on the team who won’t stand for him being regressed. There’s a way out.

“Keep those eyes open, little boy,” Chris warns him.

When Jacob opens his eyes, far from pouting at Chris’s order, he gives his reflection a lopsided grin. He is going to prove he’s more than they bargained for.

His expression makes him feel sure of himself. The youthfulness of his appearance is familiar, comfortable. It feels indelibly him, and he knows, after all, how smart he is, how unstoppable. Everything’s going to be fine, he can trust in his capabilities. He can see the maturity hiding in his young eyes, and when he focuses on that, his six-year-old face doesn’t seem that babyish anymore. Even the top incisor missing from his milk teeth doesn’t bother him. In a certain light it makes him look capable, confident and adventurous, like the first time he was six.

For an instant, he’s so sure he’s above every trick Chris could think to pull.

And then, the scales drop so hard that the smile fades from his face. Fear floods his mind, waking him up to what he’s doing. Jacob suddenly notices that he doesn’t look any different from any other silly little boy proudly showing off the loss of his first baby tooth. Grinning like that doesn’t make him look like an adult trapped in a child’s body. It makes him look - and feel - like any six-year-old who’s proud he’s finally old enough for a visit from the tooth fairy.

Memories of his first grade classroom appear in his head. That cutesy art-and-craft smell, the tiny seats and desks and the plaques with students’ names written in color pencil. Toys and safety scissors and friendly cartoon signs with the class rules on the wall. He hasn’t thought about this in years, but all of a sudden it’s as vivid as if he was there yesterday, and he’s going to go back there tomorrow. No… no! He’s an adult, he’s already done all that, ages ago, been way further, he can’t do it all again! He can’t, he can’t let Chris regress his mind back to childhood! It’s too humiliating to even think about! Jacob swallows, his lips have gone dry. Out of nowhere, the image of his second childhood seems so real, and so inevitable.

Jacob shakes himself and gives the mirror a more serious expression. He can’t afford to think like that, now… he has to be aware that he’s on a razor’s edge, and his thoughts will determine whether he can keep his balance. The regressed boy shifts on his stinging bottom, trying not to let his sudden loss of nerves show on his face. He gets an urge to tongue the gap in his teeth. It would be a nice distraction, and it would feel familiar. He resists it.

Staring at that gap, that missing tooth that either makes him look either endearingly childish or like a big kid depending on how he thinks about it, another memory hits him. His first baby tooth hadn’t been lost naturally; it didn’t fall out of his mouth or even concede to the constant prodding of a small finger eager to free that gleaming little indicator of imminent maturity. It was an apple. A bite, a yank, a yelp - and there it was, embedded in the flesh of the fruit, embedded in the center of a spreading dot of watery crimson.

Mom and Dad had told him if it didn’t come out soon, they would have to tie string around it, attach the string to a doorknob and slam the door. His fear had turned to relief, then excitement at the thought of proving to Mom and Dad he was more grown-up than they treated him, and of waking up next morning to find two dollars mysteriously tucked under his pillow. He’d felt so mature in that moment, enough to distract him from the pain and shock of losing the tooth. He’d felt like he was finally getting what he wanted, like being six was the first step into a wider world. Such a silly memory - why is it so vivid? Why can’t he make all these feelings from his childhood stop?

As long as I don’t forget how old I am, he thinks as he fixes on his eyes with a look of determination.

Jacob takes a deep breath, and pumps his shoulders. It’s his adult life he has to remember here, his job, and his life, and his thoughts.

He thinks about his colleague Alyssa, her wavy black hair, the dangerous glint she gets in her eyes when one of the higher-ups are on her back. She surely doesn’t know Jacob has been regressed. There’s no way she’d stand for it; she’s very bright and Jacob’s made sure she’s seen that he’s a valuable member of the team.

He thinks about mapping out the stats from the initial trials in the experiment. It always was a boring part of the profession, but it’s something an adult would do. At college he reminded himself of that constantly as he slogged through the textbooks and science journals.

Sometimes though his thoughts would drift, and he’d daydream about being a rock star. Standing in front of a crowd, tens of thousands in the audience cheering, hard rock blaring through the speakers while his voice soared across the whole stadium. While he gazes at his face, Jacob thinks about how he’d like to grow up to be a rock star. He’ll sell millions of records and have fire and light displays when he’s onstage. He could even hire famous actors to do battles in the middle of the show.

This is much better. These are more adult thoughts.

… aren’t they?

Well… how realistic are they? It’s not like he’s fantasizing about having dragons and spaceships at the show, like a little kid would. An adult is only supposed to think about things that could happen, he’s pretty sure. Jacob keeps his attention on the conviction in his eyes.

Almost as though it’s morphing, his six-year-old face starts to look normal.

Nothing about it actually changes. But Jacob loses the ability to see his button nose, his freckles or his smooth, inexperienced features as juvenile. Instead they seem like ordinary parts of him. Uninteresting, even. Having a different face, an adult face perhaps, is what would feel weird. After all, this is him, this is what he looks like… this six-year-old boy is Jacob. He’s just a kid…

… no, no, NO, the mirror is a LIAR!

Jacob takes a staggered breath. How does he know he isn’t already thinking like a six-year-old? Would he even notice the difference? It surely isn’t right that his face doesn’t look the slightest bit immature to him. That can’t be good. He squints to try and see how his face might look overly young, but it’s as though he doesn’t know what details to look for anymore. That information is gone from his mind. Cold dread washes through his entire body. What else has he forgotten? Somehow, the experiment must have made it past his defenses. He’s regressing right now. He can feel the mode of his mind shifting into the fresher, less sophisticated thought patterns of middle childhood.

And Chris is sitting there behind him, watching every moment and smiling gleefully.

“I bet you’re wondering why this is happening,” the adult says, his voice low and even. “You may have a ridiculously inflated sense of self-worth, but even I have to admit that you’ve been an integral part of the team, whereas Tommy and CJ - well, let’s just say that they’ll probably be of more use to the project as subjects.”

“...it was you,” he whispers, his voice trembling. He swallows and starts breathing deeply, needing to center himself, doing everything he can to gather and focus his thoughts. “You...you didn’t like me and you didn’t want me around anymore.”

Chris chuckles.

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Falls right in line with that puffed-up ego of yours. Much as I’d love to take credit for this, the truth about who wanted you to be a silly little six-year-old is even better than me finally figuring out how to get the Boy Wonder out of my hair.”

He leans forward and grins.

“It was Alyssa.”

Jacob chokes on a sob.

“No...she wouldn’t… Lyssa wouldn’ -”

“Would and did, kiddo. You wouldn’t believe how hard she fought for this. Nearly got herself fired butting heads with the higher-ups, and all because she wanted nothing more than to turn you into a sweet little boy.”


Tears start leaking onto Jacob’s round, burning cheeks when Chris merely laughs at his fiery outburst, partly because the boy realizes the childishness of his declaration and partly because a growing part of him realizes that the man is telling the truth.

“It’s so cute that you thought none of us - least of all Alyssa herself - knew about the crush you have on her. She caught you stealing looks the first day you came on the job, and she knew full well why you told her and no one else all that personal stuff about yourself. The whole sob story about having to break away from your lousy parents when you were seventeen just to prove to them you could, and how you had to hold down a job and go to school at the same time and blah blah blah oh my God who cares. Is that why you got so timid after your spanking, little boy? Did it remind you of when Daddy would take you over his knee for the slightest transgression?”

Jacob squeezes his overflowing his eyes shut as his bottom burns as though it had been spanked seconds instead of minutes ago. Even if he could bring himself to speak, he wouldn’t dare admit to Chris that that’s exactly what happened, that the feeling of utter helplessness that seized the boy when the adult pinned him over his lap was nearly identical to how he felt towards the arbitrary and unfair punishments his father would dole out when he was six the first time - nearly only in that now he feels it a magnitude more strongly, feels practically choked by the sensation, feels overwhelmed because of how hard he worked to ensure that he would never ever feel that way again.

“She picked out that outfit for you herself, you know. Thought you’d especially appreciate the Pokemon undies given that you somehow still like that ridiculous show despite being a twenty-four-year-old with a master’s. You should’ve seen the way she bit her lip to keep herself from laughing when she told us about all the silly kiddy stuff you enjoy. Bet you thought that secret was going to stay between the two of you, huh? Bet you only let her in on all of that because you were hoping she’d think you were cute. Well, don’t you worry, buddy - she thinks you’re adorable.”

“Shut up!” the little boy sobs and glares at him through the mirror; the bastard is being cruel just for the sake of it. “Just shut up!”

The thought that Alyssa was the one behind this - the thought that she’s the one ultimately responsible for making him a whimpering, sore-bottomed little boy - gives Jacob’s humiliation new depths to plumb. He had known, of course, that fraternizing with a co-worker - and with his direct supervisor, no less - was perhaps the single dumbest thing he could’ve done, the quickest way for him to get himself booted off the project and lose the flawless reputation he had worked so hard to craft. But Alyssa was just… she was just so… it fascinated him that she was even smarter than he was, and that her intelligence showed itself not only through her work but through the biting wit she would use to disarm those who would dare to imply that it was her flowing dark hair and flawless caramel complexion that had won her the job as opposed to a mind that was several orders of magnitude more impressive than even her most enchanting of physical features. And he had been too blind to see that she had used that exact same wit to fend off his clumsy advances, too dazzled by that perfect gleaming smile of hers to see that she had no interest in him as a man… that to her he was just another… just another subject.

“It really was just so embarrassing to see the lengths you went to to try and impress her. Wouldn’t join us even once for after-work karaoke… until you learned that Alyssa was gonna be there. All of a sudden you couldn’t wait to get up on that stage and sing your little heart out. Gotta admit that you’re quite the performer, kiddo. Even you didn’t admit to Alyssa that what you really wanted to do with your life was to be a singer - not that she wasn’t able to figure that out before you even put the microphone back in its cradle. She really is a remarkable woman, Jake… it’s no wonder why you were attracted to her. And I think she’s just the perfect person to help you along in your second go at achieving your dreams.”

Even though Jacob’s mind has been all but overwhelmed with the strain of each new humiliating revelation - a strain amplified by the effort he’s expending at maintaining his white-knuckled grip on his slipping adult maturity - the implications of this latest taunt are not lost on him.

“No…” Nausea ripples through the boy. His head spins. “There’s… there’s no way…”

“Aw, and here I thought that it’d cheer you up to hear just how much time you and Alyssa are going to be spending together. She must really like you. Either that or she thinks it’s just the cutest thing in the world that the man who fawned over her so brazenly is going to be calling her ‘mommy’ for the next few years.”

Jacob groans as he bites his lip and grabs at the carpet. His lightheadedness threatens to overcome him at any moment and send him toppling to the ground, send him sailing into a sweet slumber from which he knows he will not return. The slight chest of the boy in the mirror heaves with shallow breaths as his cheeks go pale. Jacob can’t stand the sight of that terrified, pitiful child for a second longer, but the pull of obedience and the threat of reprisal is too great for him to resist, too great for him to do anything but stare into those overflowing eyes and hold on for dear life.

“I tried to tell her that you’d be even more of a brat at six than you were at twenty-four, but she was just dead set on doing this to you. Tommy and CJ’s parents jumped at the chance to get their sweet little boys back but Alyssa wouldn’t even let us get in touch with your folks - said she couldn’t stand the thought of you having to spend another decade or more with those monsters. She wanted you all to herself, buddy. She wanted to be the one to pick out your clothes in the morning and give you your bath when you get home from school and put you in your jammies when it’s time for sleepy-bye. Which reminds me…”

Chris leans forward and widens his grin. Jacob sniffles and shivers.

“How old were you when you stopped wetting the bed, Jake?”

It’s just a trick, the boy assures himself as he clutches the fringe of the carpet in the iron grip of his tiny fingers. Nothing but a trick. Do not listen. Do not. You can beat this. You can beat him. You can -

“Doesn’t matter, I suppose - the next time somebody asks you that, your answer is going to be ‘eight’.”

Chris leans to the side to pluck an item from his back pocket, to pull out a single pair of crinkly underwear and hold it up for Jacob to see. The boy gapes, unable to focus on anything other than the babyish undergarment in the grown-up’s hands, on the cartoon rocketships that adorn the padding, on the crashing horror that accompanies the thought of being forced into something so utterly infantile for years to come.

“This is it, buddy.” Chris’ grin stays frozen on his lips as he turns the Pull-Up over in his hands. “This is the first cushy little training diaper Alyssa’s going to wrap you up in. The first one you’re going to helplessly soak in the middle of the night. The first one she’ll tenderly take off come morning so she can clean your bottom and your adorable little pee-pee. Probably not how you imagined being naked in front of her, but I guess we can’t always get everything we want, right kiddo?”

This can’t be happening. It can’t. Jacob squeezes his eyes shut and sobs, unable to watch his own descent any longer. He retreats within himself as the onslaught becomes too much to bear, scrambling to fortify walls battered by the relentless imagery of the endlessly humiliating childhood that Chris is intent on trapping him into.

“You know, one of the most remarkable things about this whole process is just how vulnerable and malleable the mind becomes,” the adult muses. “I could plant just about any idea in that noggin of yours and you wouldn’t be able to do a thing to stop it from taking root. So I suggest you open your eyes before I see to it that you’re the only kid in high school that still goes to bed with a padded bottom.”

Jacob is not the sort of to balk at threats, or humiliate himself by pleading to an enemy. But this, this image of being in diapers into his teens… “Chris... come on,” he says, trying to keep control of his wavering young voice. He looks at the adult through the glass, trying to keep the tears from rolling over the tips of his eyelids. “That’s too far, you know it is.”

“Struck a nerve, did I? Eyes forward on that mirror, young man.”

Jacob takes a sobbing, hiccuping breath. “I wanna a break!” he cries, sounding far too much like a hysterical child.

“No breaks. This is your last warning.”

“Please Chris,” Jacob whimpers, even as he does as he’s told.

Chris stands up. “All right. You want something else to do?”

Taking this as permission to look away, Jacob does so, and regards the grown man standing over him, hardly daring to hope. He nods.

“Hm, let’s see… oh! How about you sing me a song?”

Jacob groans. He underestimated him before - Chris isn’t just petty, he’s evil. “Can’t you just be nice to me?” he asks, then cringes at his choice of words.

“I am being nice to you. I’m giving you a break from the mirror to do something else. Now which song should it be? Oh, now that’s easy -” Chris kneels next to Jacob and pokes him on his T-shirt. “Pokemon!”

“Chris, no…” Jacob shakes his head, lowers his eyes to the floor, submissive and imploring the man to give him just the slightest reprieve.

Chris puts a big hand on his shoulder, and indicates to the mirror. “Or, you can keep looking. Up to you!” His smile hides none of his glee, none of his savagery. Then he stands and drops back on the bed, waiting to see what Jacob will do.

Jacob takes one more glance in the mirror. It makes the thought that he’s an adult feel like a fantasy, like a silly game he’s getting too worked up about. Part of him wants to drop it and get on with normal life, and to that part of him, normal life absolutely means being a kid. If he doesn’t get space to collect his thoughts, he’ll be obliviously playing cops and robbers with Tommy and CJ on the lawn within the hour. He knows Chris is doing this to milk him for as much humiliation as possible. But he doesn’t have a choice.

Jacob steels himself, having to take three goes at it before he can muster the courage to stand up. Then he turns towards Chris, who’s the same height seated as Jacob is standing. The room feels spacious to his 3’9 form and Chris seems like a giant.

He takes a quick nervous breath and squints his eyes closed, trying to fight past the crushing humiliation. Taking in a shallow breath Jacob starts to sing, his voice as tiny as he can make it in the silence, and he sounds all the more piping and shy for it.

“I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was

To catch them is my real test, to train them is my cause...”

“Hold on.” Chris flips open his phone and points it at the glowering boy. “What do you reckon? Should we put this on YouTube? Keep going.”

Jacob’s rage is almost beyond his control, the all-consuming indignation and righteous anger of a six-year-old spiraling up through his stomach and into every furious, high-pitched breath through his nose. Chris is doing this to upset him. And in being upset he’s going to regress faster. It’s all a trick, he warns himself, but narrows his eyebrows as he thinks, Well I don’t even care! Chris is stupid! He’s horrible! I hate him! He shouldn’t even be allowed to do this to me!

He takes another deep breath… he has to just get through this… and so he keeps going, all too aware he’s being filmed.

“I will travel across the land, searching far and wide

These Pokemon, to understand, the power that’s inside...”

“Louder, Jake, we can barely hear you!” Chris chuckles, and leans forward. “And I think you might want to get moving for this next part - show us a little dance, yeah?”

Jacob sings the chorus. He sways and moves his arms around half-heartedly, all the while looking at his little feet. This is surely his lowest moment. Being forced to act like a six-year-old in front of his worst enemy. Knowing even as it happens that his thoughts are slipping, and in a few minutes he’ll probably be six for good. He has to think of something he can do while he has the chance, even if his reasoning skills are well on their way regressing to first-grade level.

As he sings, Jacob doesn’t notice the sound of his internal monologue subtly shifting from the deep tone of a man to the soft tenor of a boy. His maturity is disappearing not just from his body, but also from his very thoughts.

“Pokemon, gotta catch ’em all

Our courage will pull us through...”

By the time Jake finishes, the sound of his own singing voice has lulled the thoughts in his head back to the high pitch and inquisitive pattern he recognises from his childhood. Such a familiar mode of introspection is making his thoughts dreamy and childlike to match, though he’s too angry and humiliated to pay much attention.

Chris laughs and flips his phone closed. “I’ll treasure that one,” he says.

Jake stands very stiff with his fists clenched. It’s taking all the self-control he has left not to shout some very childish things at Chris’s face. Instead he says, “Now you said I could have a break,” through clenched teeth.

Chris blinks at him. “But I just gave you a break. Now sit back down in front of the mirror.”

Jake gapes at him. “But - but -”

“Sit back down, Jake. Right now.” Chris gives him a very serious look.

“You lied! You said if I sang that stupid song, you’d give me a break!”

“I meant you could take a break so you could sing it. Now your break is over, and you have to go back to the mirror. Or do I have to give you another spanking?”

Jake sputters. Every muscle in his body is rigid from anger. It makes him feel like he’s locking himself tighter and tighter into his six-year-old body. All he can think about is how much he HATES Chris. He spins around pointedly and sits down and crosses his arms and glares a death stare into the mirror. Seeing how furious he looks, he chokes back a sob. He takes no notice that he’s a little kid, he’s too lost in the storm. His breath rattles from fury, and he lets the feeling cloud his mind, making all thoughts of being an adult irrelevant. His emotions are welling up inside him, making it impossible to think rationally. It no longer seems important that if he can’t get a grip, Chris wins. All that matters is the powerlessness and frustration, boiling over to breaking point. Jake feels it well up inside him, taking control of him, making him just want to cry. So he does.

And so Jake, who used to be a grown man, and a very proud, restrained, responsible one at that, now sits cross-legged on the carpet as a young child again and acts his age: he bawls his eyes out.

He looks in the mirror and sees his reddened face twisted with grief, hears himself whimper and sob, the tone of his indignation clear through the miserable sounds. It’s getting hard to remember how to behave like a grown-up, and that makes him even more upset. Yet the more he sniffles and cries, the harder it becomes to stop. He just… he just wants someone to make it better. It crashes over him in waves. He’s failed! He’s going to have to go all the way back to first grade, after all this work! It JUST, ISN’T, FAIR!

Gradually, as he’s forced to watch his irredeemably immature display in the mirror, Jake loses any inclination that expressing these emotions is inappropriate. Every last tiny bit of his fury and frustration and fear floods out of him in great sobs that shake his young body to the core, in glimmering droplets that streak down his cheeks and dribble from his quivering chin and splash onto his bare rounded knees and his tiny shorts and his goofy Pikachu t-shirt.

At the sensation of tears against his bare skin, Jake looks down, wipes his blurry eyes with his forearm and sniffs, and regards his body. The thought that these clothes belong to him, that this body is his own, seems perfectly natural, even as a desperate, niggling thought in the back of his mind tries to remind him he’s really a grown-up. Remembering this brings on another wave of despair, as he realises the person he was counting on to save him, Alyssa, is actually responsible for his regression. He lets out a pitiful wail, knowing beyond all doubt that he really will finish regressing, he really will have to grow up all over again.

Rage turns to fear. He doesn’t want to let go of the awareness in the corner of his mind that he’s already done all this, proved he can be a grown-up just like everyone else. But he knows he will. He’s going to forget, just like those other children he watched sit in front of the mirror. He has no control over how childishly he’s going to think and behave from now on. His adult reasoning won’t be there anymore to stop him from running about on the playground with other kids under adult supervision. Or from dashing around the house without so much as a cartoony pair of undies on his short, prepubescent body, nor a hint of shame that Alyssa will see him. Or from being proud when she puts his school drawings up on the fridge - Jake, 6. All those things are going to happen. There’s nothing he can do to stop it. He can’t help but cry, letting out all his hurt feelings, as emotion permanently takes over his ability to reason and helps his mind regress back to the magical thinking of childhood.

The boy seems on the verge of being swallowed whole by his grief when two big, strong hands take hold of his shoulders, when Chris takes the slight, bony little things in his palms and gives them an affectionate squeeze. Jake glares into the mirror and sees the grown-up kneeling down behind him, kneeling down and using his size and strength and presence to anchor the child, to keep him in the moment, to prevent him from being entirely overwhelmed. Chris’ eyes are kind. His smile is tender. When he speaks his words are soft and comforting.

“What’s the matter, buddy?” One hand stays on the boy’s shoulder while the other gently rubs his back.

That little voice in the corner of his mind - the one that seems to be growing more and more distant with each passing second - screams at Jake to wrench himself out of Chris’ grasp, that the only thing the grown-up can offer with his sweet words and gentle touch is more lies, more trickery, more embarrassment and heartbreak. Jake knows that he wouldn’t be crying if it weren’t for Chris, knows that it’s his fault that the tears keep flowing with the boy unable to do anything to so much as slow the flood. He hates that he can’t stop crying in front of the grown-up. Hates that the thought of how little control he has over himself only gets him crying harder. And so it’s of no small consequence to the boy that Chris’ presence brings him back from the brink in a matter of moments, that just hearing his voice and having that big hand on his back - just being there - keeps him from breaking down bawling again.

“S-stop it… you’re just m-making fun of me,” Jake whimpers as he sobs and wipes his eyes. In spite of everything that’s occurred, the gentleness of Chris’ expression makes the boy feel as though he has a sympathetic audience - which explains why the next words he speaks come out in one great desperate gush. “You just wanna laugh at me some more for being a dumb little kid but I’m not and it’s not fair ‘cause I’m supposta be a grown-up but - but - you -”

Jake’s cheeks flush anew when Chris laughs and ruffles the boy’s hair.

“Where’d you get a crazy idea like that?” he asks, giving the boy a cockeyed look. Jake pouts and plays with his fingers. With his emotional state regressed to childhood, it’s very hard to get past Chris’s influence over his feelings, even if he did make him sing a song when he didn’t want to, and spank him, and tell him he was going to wet the bed. (Which isn’t even his fault, and he’s been trying super hard not to.) Jake tries to stay angry but the truth is, he just wants to feel better, and Chris is being nice to him now. His sobbing has reduced to a shaky breath and the occasional sniffle. “Let me show you something.”

“No. I still don’t wanna be your friend,” Jake says, meaning to hurt him, to rebuff his attempt at reconciliation.

But Chris gently takes Jake’s quivering chin in his hand and directs the boy’s gaze back to the mirror. The boy squirms and sniffles but lets the grown-up guide him all the same.

“What do you see, Jake?”

What does he see?

A freckled, teary-eyed six-year-old with a trimmed mop of fine brown hair, his face void of experience, smooth with tender features that tell the older members of the species at a glance that he is young, knows nothing, and needs their protection. He sees his Pikachu t-shirt over his small, undeveloped, hairless frame, he sees the gap in his front teeth again, and most pressingly he sees his own eyes looking back at him, the child looking into him. There is a moment where he squints his soft brown eyebrows, confused…

He knows he’s supposed to be an adult. But that thought is so, so far away it might as well be make-believe. He doesn’t remember how to be one. All Jake can see is a boy. The only man in the mirror is Chris. Jake himself is a child; feels like a child, looks like a child, and he knows all too well he’s acting like a child. He is his body, and his body is six.

Jake shrugs diffidently and looks back at his fingers again, as Chris has released his chin. He feels less upset, though he doesn’t want to admit it. “Me,” he mumbles.

“That’s right,” Chris coaches him gently. “And how old are you, Jake?”

He looks back up at himself as if to help answer the grown-up’s question. All he sees is himself. Nothing out of the ordinary.

“I’m six,” Jake says.

“Okay. Well, six-year-olds aren’t babies, are they? They go to school, and not with the little kindy kids either - six means you’re in first grade. Why do you think I’d make fun of you, huh?” Chris keeps rubbing his back, and it feels so nice that Jake almost misses the twinkle in his eye.

Almost. But he’s much too sharp for that. He shrugs Chris off. “But I used ta be… older,” he says, though he can’t remember quite how much older. “I know you’re only making fun of me!”

“Hey. I’m not making fun of you. We were just playing a game, remember, where you pretended you used to be older. I’m sorry you got upset, Jake. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

“Noo…” Jake whines, trying to pull away, to stand up, but Chris presses him back down to the floor, gently but firmly. “You’re confusing me!” he says. “It wasn’t a game!” This is very upsetting and he fights the urge to cry again.

“Here. Look in the mirror again,” Chris says, pointing him to it, and Jake does, reluctantly. “Do you see an adult there?”

“No,” Jake admits, shuffling uncomfortably.

“Can you actually remember being an adult?”

Jake would like to lie at this point, but he knows Chris is too clever to trick. “... No,” he says, looking down at his lap.

“There. Then it must have been make believe. See? It’s all okay, isn’t it?”

“I guess,” Jake concedes.

Chris sits cross-legged beside him. “Can you look at me for a moment, please?”

Jake turns his head, curious. It’s here that Chris takes his chin again and looks directly into his eyes. Deeply and intently. In fact it’s quite confronting. Jake fidgets, and he wants to look away but doesn’t feel as if he’s allowed. Chris is scrutinising him, searching for something.

Jake no longer knows it, but Chris is searching for any hint of his adult lucidity. When he doesn’t find it, triumph lights up in the man’s eyes. A smile breaks across his face.

“That’s a good boy,” he says, patting Jake on the head and standing up. He holds out his hand.

The boy allows himself a tiny smile of his own. He feels much better after crying. His head feels clear and though he gives a single sniffle, and wipes the last of the moisture from his eyes, by the time he stands up and takes the grown-up’s hand, everything feels fine again. He looks up at Chris, accepting the adult’s power and authority over him without question. Jake and Chris each know their place, there’s nothing to fight over anymore.

“Now, I’m not going to catch you in here again, am I?” Chris asks.

Jake blinks. “Huh?”

“Well, you weren’t supposed to be in here. This is a grown-up’s room.”

Jake looks around, puzzlement on his young face. “But this is my room.”

“No, Jake. Don’t lie to me, please. If this is your room then where are your toys? How come the clothes in the wardrobe aren’t for a little boy?”

Jake bristles at being called a little boy, but he has to admit Chris has a point. He’s forgotten about how suggestible the mind becomes during regression, how the victim fits things into a narrative in which he is a child. He’s seen it happen before, and now it’s happening to him - he’s forgetting, his memories transforming to make him ever more completely a little kid. Still, something doesn’t feel right about this.

“Remember I had to give you a spanking because you went somewhere you’re not allowed?” Chris asks - and this Jake does remember, because it happens, and he feels an awning of fear in his stomach because he doesn’t it want to happen again. This proves more important than his confusion, and he shrinks away slightly from his caretaker, who subtly tightens his grip on the boy’s small hand. “I won’t have to do that again, will I?” Chris asks.

Jake shakes his head. He knows it was naughty to come in here. He’ll show Chris he can be obedient from now on, he can be a good boy.

“That’s what I like to hear. C’mon, kiddo.” He leads the boy out into the corridor. “I’ve got some people who are just dying to meet you.”

Jake’s eyes widen with quiet curiosity at the the thought of getting to meet new people. Are they here just for him? The idea makes him a little bit anxious, and so he’s glad that he’s got Chris’s big warm hand to hold onto.

As they walk, there’s a look of deep concentration about him. He’s mulling things over. He… really did used to be an adult, he’s sure of it, even though it all feels like pretend now. A very, very small part of him still remembers how to behave like one, and is still watching in the background, unable to truly make an impact on his childish thoughts, feelings and actions. Jake’s adult self, his pride, is mortified to know he really is almost finished being absorbed back into the life he had as a little six-year-old boy. He’s also mutely fascinated to feel the last vestiges of his adult awareness being pressed snugly into his small, cute six-year-old body, with all the boyish wonder and fantasies and immaturity that come with it. This part of him is helpless to control any of the things he does over the following hours, and can only watch as he settles comfortably into his new life as a young child.

“Hey everyone!” the grown-up calls as they enter the living room. “Heeeeeere’s Jakey!”

Jake scowls at that. He’s six, not four. He still harbours a sneaking suspicion that Chris is treating him this way on purpose.

The dozen or so adults stop their conversations to turn and look at the little boy, who suddenly feels very self-conscious indeed. Though most of them are smiling at him, he can’t help but squirm at the way they’re whispering amongst themselves, at the way they almost seem afraid to approach the child. He recognises some of them as friends of his mommy, but doesn’t know them very well.

Jake tightens his grip around Chris’ hand. He’s about to ask the grown-up why everyone’s staring at him when the front door opens, and two laughing, shouting little boys come barreling into the room, too engaged in their play to take notice of the other child in their presence. A moment later their shepherd steps through the door, chuckling and gently imploring the kids to behave themselves. She stops and looks across the room, her eyes meeting Jake’s. The little boy’s breath catches in his throat. There’s a moment’s pause, and then...


Jake dashes across the room as Alyssa lowers herself to one knee and gives the child the warmest smile he’s ever seen - and there’s a hint of something else there, a touch of awe. The boy takes no notice, beaming as he throws his arms around the woman and gives her as big a hug as his little self can muster. He closes his eyes and giggles as Alyssa holds him close, as she strokes his soft hair and rubs her cheek against his.

“It’s good to see you too, kiddo!” She pulls back so she can look the little boy over. Jake doesn’t know what it is she’s searching for, but he wants to be good for his mommy and as such only squirms a little while Alyssa examines him from head to toe. Everyone else has gone quiet and is watching too, which makes him shuffle closer to Mommy. The adult in him knows it’s because they’ve won, and he can do nothing but stand there in submission, being a little boy… and loving the attention he’s getting from Alyssa.

“Wow.” The woman breathes after a moment. She grins and gives the boy’s chin a playful nudge. “Look at you. I had forgotten just how adorable you are, sweetheart.”

The boy blushes at the compliment but doesn’t really feel embarrassed until he hears the giggling of the other two little boys in the room. Out of the corner of his eye he can see them grinning at him as they whisper to each other behind small cupped hands. The adults have started talking again too, and Jake catches his own name being thrown around. It’s all rather confronting and he’s trying not to get flustered.

When he looks at the rosy-cheeked tyke with the shining emerald eyes and the fine blond hair, he does not see the jovial research assistant with the big laugh and the fondness for puns. And when he looks at the child with the cinnamon skin and the piercing amber gaze, he does not see the serious-looking statistician whose severe facade hid a daring playfulness that kept the whole lab on its toes.

He does not see Thomas and Caleb.

He sees Tommy and CJ.

He sees his friends.

“Mommy,” the boy whines, squirming as Alyssa hugs him again and showers his cheeks with kisses in front of his buddies. “I’m not adorable.”

“Hm.” Alyssa gives the child another appraising look. “On second thought, you’re right. I can’t believe I never realized I’ve got a stinky gross mud monster for a kid.”

Tommy and CJ’s giggles become full-on howls of laughter, laughter that continues even when Jake pounces on his friends and drags them into an impromptu wrestling match. The other adults have returned to their conversations over wine and finger food, with only the occasional, amused, sidelong glance at the kids playfighting on the carpet. Jake’s own voice joins the din of the party, the squeals and cries of the tussling little cubs filling the room over the adult conversation.

“Alright, alright. Can’t have you getting your mud muck all over your friends.” Alyssa laughs as she breaks up the contest by plucking Jake from the pile and standing him to his feet. “You know, Uncle Chris was nice enough to send me a video of you singing Pokemon for him. You think you could sing for all of us, too?”

“Nooo,” Jake giggles, blushing anew as he retreats into his mommy’s embrace. He would love to show her and his friends and all the grown-ups how good he is at singing, but the only thing he can remember about singing for Uncle Chris was how embarrassing it was.

“Aw, c’mon.” Alyssa turns Jake around. Their eyes meet. She smiles and runs a hand through his parted hair. “I think it’d be so cool if you showed everyone what a fantastic singer you are. Could you do it for me, Jake? Please?”

Jake bites his lip and digs a sneakered toe into the carpet. There isn’t anything in the world he wants more than to make his mommy happy. On top of that he knows that everyone would be impressed if they saw that he knows all the words to the Pokemon song, that he memorized them all by himself and can sing them just as good as the man on the cartoon. After a moment, he doesn’t even remember what he has to be humiliated about - and so the little boy steps into the center of the room, clearing his throat and offering his audience a shy smile as he takes center stage.

“I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was…” At first his voice is small and unsure, the boy a little nervous about everyone’s eyes being set on him. As he continues, a gray-haired lady (who he remembers telling off about a misprint on some stats?) calls out “Go Jake!” and a couple of the guys join in and a woman at the back whose cheeks are rosy red for some reason pumps her fist. Jake starts to smile, feeling his inhibitions disappear. It’s not long before he’s belting out each line with more energy than the last. He laughs and jumps and pumps his little fists in the air in time with the guitar riffs he contributes to his vocals. He puts on a show any aspiring rock star would be proud of.

“...gotta catch ‘em alllllll, Pokemon!”

Jake can’t keep the goofy little-kid grin off his lips when his audience whistles and applauds, when his mommy wraps her arms around him from behind and plucks him into the air.

“That was so cool,” she says as she kisses him on the cheek. “I’m so proud of you.”

Jake kicks his little sneakered feet in the air. He laughs out of pure joy.

He feels like he could fly.

The afternoon moves apace after the performance, the three little boys contained to the living room so the adults can keep an eye on them while they talk about boring grown-up stuff. Though somewhat antsy at being limited to such a small space, the bucket of Legos Chris pulls out proves to be enough of a medium for their limitless energy, and sufficient distraction from the talk of how adorable the newly-minted children are and how happy they seem. The boys become so involved in their attempts to one-up each other with increasingly ridiculous and fantastic creations that the evening arrives without them being aware of it.

“You gotta build a support here or else it’ll keep falling over,” Jake tells Tommy, trying to be helpful after one of his towers of doom collapses for the third time.

On his hands and knees playing, any awareness Jake has left of being an adult has become wordless. He’s feeling more and more comfortable in his kid body. After all it’s heaps of fun getting to mess around with his friends. The unburdened clearness of his mind, the way he only has to think about their game and not his work or obligations, is a relief to Jake on a very deep level. It’s a much-needed salve for any indignity that remains at the afternoon’s events, at knowing deep down that the little boy’s clothes he’s wearing fit him just fine and that they’re the sort of thing he will choose to wear from now on. This knowledge is bothering the disappearing lucid part of him less and less.

“Here comes the dinosaur tank, raar!” CJ declares as he rams Tommy’s fledgling structure with his own unit.

“Hey, no fair!” Tommy protests, standing up.

CJ shrugs. “You didn’t even build it that high yet.”

“You still shoulda asked before you blowed up his building though, CJ,” Jake scolds his friend. Where once they had brainstormed together on groundbreaking psychological research, the three boys are now relearning the tenuous ropes of first-grader politics over Lego.

“Okay, kids,” Alyssa says, swooping in to defuse the fight before it can start. “Come on, it’s bathtime.”

The trio whines in symphony for more playtime but drop the issue with little fuss when they’re rebuffed and scooted down the hall. Any thoughts of the brewing argument already gone, they’re suddenly more concerned with who can get to the tub first; and once that’s decided, it immediately becomes very important to determine which of them can get undressed the quickest.

“I win!” Jake cries when he kicks off his Pikachu undies, hands on his hips as he stands naked on the bathmat without a shred of shame. He’s far too proud of himself to notice the glance that passes between Uncle Chris and his mommy or to think much of the way they’re biting back laughter on their lips as they look down on the boy.

The adult in him notices, though. The adult in him is watching on in horror, knowing Alyssa is about to bathe him and there’s nothing he can do about it. It feels like the final humiliating key to his regression is turning, and his grown-up awareness goes dormant knowing that this is how things will be from now on.

“If only it had been that easy to get them on you,” Alyssa chuckles as she plucks the tiny Pikachu briefs from the vanity they landed on. “Okay you little monsters, into the tub. Let’s go, let’s go.”

Jake defends himself from accusations of cheating (it’s not fair to say he won because he got there first!) as he and his friends climb into the soapy water. In the end he resolves the conflict by splashing the other two, and soon enough they’re in a splashing contest and laughing their little heads off. For a while Alyssa and Chris just sit back and watch the former grown-ups play, the man taking out his phone and capturing the image of Tommy making a bubble beard for himself; of CJ guiding a colorful plastic boat through foamy canyons; of Jake sticking his tongue through the gap in his front teeth as his friends recoil in mock disgust.

“I had a suspicion that he wouldn’t last as long as the others, but I didn’t think he’d go this quickly.” Chris grins as he puts his phone away. “Guess you were right all along. Humiliation does wonders to speed up the process.”

“The prouder they are, the harder they fall.” Alyssa smiles. “It’s just too bad that he doesn’t know how valuable to the project he ended up being.”

Jake looks up at the adults as Tommy and CJ smash a pair of action figures together. The boy’s brows furrow. Are they talking about him? The words go right over his head.

Then Alyssa starts scrubbing her son down with a soapy washcloth. And Jacob re-emerges from the rhythm of childhood thoughts. He’s still unable to do anything except blush mentally as his young body is thoroughly cleaned while he sits there compliantly in the tub. But in a moment of clarity, he’s fully aware again of everything that’s happened, and the adult life he used to have.

Though it’s taken him until bathtime to realize it, he knows now that he really needn’t be upset at himself for losing at the mirror experiment. His efforts, valiant as they were, had been misguided, and he knows that he would’ve easily emerged victorious had his focus been where it should’ve. Having a front-row seat to the thought processes of his six-year-old self has helped him to understand that he’d been foolish in concentrating on trying to maintain his intelligence. His intelligence, after all, came through loud and clear in the manner with which he deftly constructed skyscrapers and secret bases much more architecturally sound than those of his friends. And though it might not have been the most respectable song, when Jake performed he did so with a grasp of tone and meter well beyond what one would expect out of a six-year-old boy.

Experience, Jacob thinks, as each stroke of the washcloth against his thighs lulls him deeper and deeper back into blissful childhood, pressing his consciousness deeper into his own body. That’s what set me apart from who I was at six. My intelligence was always there and will always be there - but now everything that made me who I was at twenty-four might as well have never happened.

Indeed, as his mommy lifts up his skinny little arm to scrub his hairless armpit, and he lets her without thinking to protest, it occurs to him that all the things he’s thinking and feeling are just like when he was six the first time. His memories of childhood are no longer memories. They’ve become his reality.

He wants to ask Mommy to stop cleaning him for a second so he can think. But then she’s scrubbing his back and chest and tummy, and he can’t help but just smile at her affection. As she washes his tiny privates and bottom, he knows he’s about to become his kid self for good this time. All his adult awareness is fading.

But even as it becomes less and less lucid, it makes Jacob feel better to know that he only really lost on a technicality, and he surprises himself when he realizes that he’s not that upset anymore. Even through the mortification of the evening’s events he was still able to enjoy the warmth of Alyssa’s body against his… the rush of pride he felt at being lauded for his performance… that satisfaction of working out architectural riddles with his elbows dug in the carpet and his feet kicking above him… the freedom of being able to stand bare and unashamed before the woman he loves.

The boy sputters and giggles as Alyssa pours a basin of water over his shampooed hair. He looks up at her. From deep within his mind Jacob gazes into the woman’s eyes. The man studies the person he respects and admires more than anyone else in the world. He thinks of the way she helped him along in his work, how she fought for him when he butted heads with Chris and the higher-ups. How she was there for him from the first day he joined the team. How she’ll be there for him from then on. How he’ll wake up in the morning and know - know it more deeply than he’s ever known anything - that his mommy’s got him.

She kisses him on the forehead. Wet brown hair draped over his eyebrows, Jake smiles. Jacob disappears.

After that there’s no grown-up in the bathtub, just three cheeky little schoolkids. Three naked six-year-old boys playing with each other joyously and paying no mind as the adults wash their bodies down. Innocent children, as they will be from this moment on.



End Chapter 1


by: nico | Complete Story | Last updated Jul 23, 2014


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