It was the last little box sitting in the display on the counter. The small, rectangular package was red and pink and covered in hearts, no doubt a leftover from Valentine's Day. He was not usually a big chocolate fan, but Lars felt bad for the lone survivor.
Glancing up, the girl working the counter was as goth as possible while wearing an apron and the same bright pink shirt as the other staff. She also looked exhausted--and not just because she was working the overnight either. Lars was willing to bet she had declined to be someone's Valentine quite a few times since her shift had started.
"Twenty on two and these things," he said to the cashier as he handed over the box, a drink, and a couple other snacks.
"Sure thing." She rang him up with a wan smile but no further conversation. He simply nodded in return and handed her a pair of crisp-from-ATM twenties. He felt a yawn coming on and shook his head. He could not afford to be tired, he still had five more hours to drive to reach the con.
"You know," she began, handing him the bag. "Sad as it is, you're the first guy who hasn't acted like they're buying their box of chocolates for me."
"Oof, I bet this evening was creeptastic."
"That's putting it lightly," she replied with a sigh. "You'd have thought I had a sign over m'head saying 'ask me out' based on how many times guys tried to pick me up while standing there."
"No women?" he asked, half joking.
"Hah! I wish, but hell'd freeze over before a girl'd ask me out. Anyway, thanks. Have a good night!"
"Sure thing. You, too."
Out at his car, Lars set the pump and then thought about the girl working the counter. Had they met at the con, would he have tried to make himself flirt with her? Would she have been there cosplaying? Had they met at work, would they have conversations about that season's anime over lunch? Did she even know what anime was? Would she be interested?
Ruminating on the internality of strangers, Lars slid his nail under the box's lid to break the plastic foil. There were four bell-shaped morsels nestled within. He picked one out and popped it in his mouth. The cheap chocolate was very sweet, and the taste was not much to write home about, however, he still found himself downing another piece the moment his mouth was empty.
And so it went. In quick order, Lars had eaten all four pieces and a feeling of contentment was spreading through him. Then the pump clicked off and he headed back inside to get his change. Just as he got in line behind a few others, his stomach gurgled and demanded his attention.
Slipping into the bathroom, Lars caught his reflection in the mirror. The circles under his eyes were even more noticeable than usual and they would be worse, come Sunday evening. Then there was a flicker, a glimmer. For a second, he could have sworn his eyes were glowing from the darkness of his eye sockets.
It had to be a hallucination, he was just that damn tired. Right? However, the longer he stared at his image in the mirror the more it warped. His muscles were starting to throb. It felt like his hoodie was getting smaller. All of a sudden, the room was tilting out from under him. Just what was happening?
The door opened behind him and some trucker yelled about being in the wrong bathroom. Sure, he was slender and wore women's skinny jeans, but that was going a bit... far? Wait, did he have tits under his hoodie now? Yes, he did. Big ones even.
Lars stammered an apology and ran from the bathroom, only to crash into the cashier from earlier. She seemed shocked to see him as her gaze flicked up and down his new body.
"Aren't you the--"
"Guy who got gas on two? Yeah. Something... weird happened. I don't feel..." his knees buckled and the floor rushed up at him. He was prepared to hit the cement until her arms caught him and he collided with her chest instead. To say she was busty would have been an understatement. Lavender and vanilla flooded his nostrils. All told, it was like he had fallen into a pile of a soft bed with fresh sheets.
"You, um, you okay?"
"Yeah," Lars replied, putting his hand on the wall to steady himself. "What was in those chocolates?"
"The chocolates I just bought. I ate them and now..." he cupped his chest to punctuate his point.
"What? You tellin' me you're a woman now?" She sounded like she thought he was crazy, but it was hard to miss that she kept checking him out. Apparently, he was her type now. "Look, um..."
"Lars," he supplied. Though maybe something else might be a better fit if this was going to be his body now. No, he'd figure out what had happened and change back. How would he go to work Monday otherwise? None of his button downs would fit over these and his polos would probably be like a second skin, too. At least his jeans still fit, albeit in completely different ways.
"Right," she said with a nod. She was rocking back and forth on her feet as if trying to work herself up to her next statement. "Well, Lars, how much further were you driving tonight?"
"To National Harbor--about five hours."
"I think you might want to nix that for now," she said in a hurry. "How 'bout you crash on my couch and we figure this out t'morrow?"
That seemed awfully forward coming from the girl upset she had been propositioned all evening. Then again, a couch sounded loads better than sleeping in his car until he could check in to his room sometime Friday. "Why? I don't follow..."
She looked away, her face turning red. She clasped her hands behind her back. "I think I--I might've caused this--by mistake, I swear!--and I want to make it right."
"You--what?" What? Was she a witch? Had she cast some spell on him to make him her perfect Valentine or something? That was--what? Crazy? So what? He had been turned into a woman in an instant, everything was on the table.
"It's a long story, one best told over a beer or four. The name's Kaylee, by the way. Sorry if this is all too much for you."
"No no--I mean, yeah, it's way too much, but I appreciate you trying to help me."
It turned out Kaylee was off work in a short while so Lars drove across the highway to a waffle house to wait. Supposing she was unable to fix this, what would he call himself now? Luna was kind of the same. Maybe he would ask Kaylee to call him that to see how it felt. No, that was ridiculous, right?
Soon enough, Kaylee joined him. "This feels kind of like a scene from a RomCom, yeah?" she asked, taking a seat.
"Not a big fan," Lars replied. "Is this the part where the heroine and her love interest confess?"
Kaylee laughed. "Maybe--if that's what you want t'do."
Both of them froze and blushed. Lars looked away and focused on the guy making hashbrowns on the other side of the kitchen partition. It was far too early to even consider that kind of statement, but it was hard to deny the growing desire to see if they were compatible. Now that he knew he was at least superficially what Kaylee was looking for in a partner, there was potential for things to head in that direction.
"N-not yet," he finally stammered. "I'm a bit of a slow burn if you get me."
"Ah, so you need a bit more investment to make the leap? I can get that. Besides," she added, "why get your hopes up? Not like I'm going to be into you once you change back."
"Harsh, but fair."
"Hey, I just call 'em like I see 'em."
"So, tell me, why'm I a woman now?"
"Ah, yes, well... therein lies the story."