Daily, from Mondays to Fridays, Connie Springer and Sasha Blouse unerringly came by to rap at your desk on their way out.
“Clock out time,” Connie whistled, everyday the same grin, the same reminder, the same comic antic of letting his lower body proceed towards the exit while his upper half hung back, clutching your cubicle wall for balance.
It never failed to make you smile.
You closed your browser tab - the same, too, every day: baby names, baby clothes, the daintiest baby paraphernalia - shut down your computer, and prepared to leave.
By all accounts, at early twenty-something, you were much too young to be having children. You were practically fresh out of college, on a brand-new job with decent hours and decent pay, smart, and passably pretty. By all accounts, you ought to be spending your time looking to brighten your already promising future, finding yourself and, on the side, a nice young man to complete your picture perfect life.
So it was quite unfortunate that at early twenty-something, you burned with a singular, all consuming desire for children that no amount of denial or avoidance could eradicate. No soujourns to the most graphic chatrooms could scare you out of what you told yourself was a phase. Apart from the brief ripple of unease at all the horror stories you devoured, your stubborn baby fever remained, and raged stronger than ever.
“Thought you were going to put in overtime on a Friday night,” Connie said, heaving an exaggerated sigh and making a huge show of wiping his dry brow as you gathered your things and pushed your seat into your desk.
“I might just consider it. There’s nothing better to do anywhere anyway.”
Sasha looked appalled. She had been jogging in place by one corner of your desk, as was her weekday five o’clock habit, believing it would subconsciously urge you to hurry up, get out of the office, and get on with your off hours.
“You did not just say that.”
You shrugged, shooting her a bland smile as you shouldered your bag. Connie looked most serious, and terribly concerned.
“You need an intervention.”
“No crime in liking my job.”
“You desperately need an inter -”
Sasha’s hand shot up, interrupted him with waggling fingers. “No, no, no,” she breathed, eyes fluttering shut like she was summoning a great, otherworldly idea. “She needs a treat.”
“Sasha, not all problems can be solved with food -”
“This one can!” Her eyes blazed open, fists thumping, spittle flying from her vehemence.. “You know what you need?” she barked at you, the question sounding more like a demand. “A good, long, after work coffee. Because that is relaxation. And you know where to get it?”
Haltingly, you looked to Connie for unhelpful help, “At a…coffee shop?”
Sasha smacked the back of her hand loudly against her palm. “Not just any coffee shop!” She startled poor Connie, who was still stuck in his unnatural position. He jumped, thought the better of it, and walked himself backwards and upright again, all the while vehemently nodding agreement with everything Sasha said.
“If you’re going to relax, there’s only one place to be!”
“I bet it’s far from here,” you interjected, subtly trying to inch your way out your cubicle. There might not be much to do on your regular Friday evenings, but you’d much rather do nothing in the comfort of your own home than be stuck here in this emptying office, debating coffee shops.
Sasha halted your progress with a firm grip around your arm. Her leer was a hairsbreadth away from terrifying.
“It’s walking distance from here. Trost Cafe is what it’s called, and this is the perfect time to go because Eren’s on duty!”
Connie nodded so fast you were afraid he was going to give himself whiplash.
Who’s Eren? , you meant to ask, and needn’t have bothered because Sasha was already going off on a lecture about this mythical barista’s mastery of coffee, his gift for picking the perfect beans, for knowing exactly how long to steep each cup, and his latte’s perfect milk-to-coffee ratio and so on and so forth.
“That’s why you have to go while Eren’s on duty. Do yourself a favour. He’ll hook you up so good you won’t regret it.”
That was how you found yourself reluctantly walking two blocks and around one corner out of the way of your usual route.
In fairness to Sasha, the change of pace was refreshing. You straightened your shoulders and took a whiff of the cold, dry air.
Maybe you were looking forward to unwinding with a cup of coffee, after all.
Eren was not the bright, bubbly barista you envisioned. But he did make damn good coffee, probably even the best you ever tasted in your life. He looked amused when you took that first sip and involuntarily moaned with delight, loving it even more when your eyes flew open and your hand immediately shot up over your mouth. Your eyes were huge with mortification.
“I get that a lot,” he teased, sea foam eyes merry as he wiped down his work space. He was, of course, referring to his coffee. Privately, you thought he just as easily might have been referring to himself.
Eren was beautiful, and playful with just the right sprinkling of bad boy energy to make your one-track mind wonder what it would be like to bed him and have his babies. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up to the elbows, exposing the intricate sleeve tattoos inked down the whole of his forearms. The whisper of a long vein shaded the underside of the toned limb sweeping back and forth across the granite.
The mental image of those same arms cradling a sweet little baby - your baby, ideally newborn, still red in the face and snivelling in its hospital linens - made your mouth go dry. You just knew his large hands would feel so good smoothing over your round belly, following the tracks of his baby’s kicks and tracing the curve of your baby bump all the way down to your aching pussy - because your pussy would ache at such display of tenderness. You were sure of it because it ached now, even though you only gawped at the motions of Eren going about his mundane tasks.
“I’m not surprised,” you mumbled from your bar stool, rousing youself and fixing your attention now on the piercings studding the shell of his ears and glinting between the silky stands of chocolate brown hair he kept knotted in a tumbling bun.
Surreptitiously, even though you knew he couldn’t see and probably wouldn’t notice, you crossed your legs tightly together. “This really is good coffee,” you went on, doing your best to sound nonchalant. “I should listen to Sasha more.”
One of his graceful eyebrows rose. “You don’t mean Sasha Blouse, by any chance?”
“Oh, I do!” Perhaps you were laying the perky act a little too thickly, but the combination of Eren and your raging baby fever did things to you. In a voice that you hoped wasn’t too shrill, or too eager, you eked out, “You know her?”
Did he. They went to college together. Lotta fun, that Sasha. Nicknamed potato girl. Brought a grown man, a competitive eater by profession, to his knees. Her abyss of a stomach was the stuff campus legends were made of. He was surprised she chose to hold down a corporate job after graduation.
“I tried it for a while at my brother’s company.” His nose wrinkled adorably. “Couldn’t stand it and left to do something I like better.”
That something turned out to be tattooing. He co-owned a shop with a guy named Jean. (“Pain in the ass but does good work.” Grudgingly admitted.) Now that the ice was broken, you openly ogled the art on his forearms. He was only too happy to give you a closer look.
“I designed it myself. Inked most of it myself, too. The rest Jean finished.”
They also did piercings. On the side, he hustled as a barista. It was an odd combination, but it suited Eren well. Almost too well, now that you found out he made interesting conversation and shared mutual friends with you.
It ought to be illegal how he gave you so many reasons to keep coming back.
Trost Cafe and its good-looking barista were quickly integrated into your daily routine. Mondays to Fridays, straight from the office, you went to the shop for your daily dose of Eren and caffeine, sitting at the same place every time and always ordering Eren’s ever-changing special of the day.
Slowly but surely, you became a regular among regulars.
One evening, it poured buckets during your visit. The streets were awash with so much rainwater little streams rushed down the asphalt. Without a shadow of a doubt, you would be soaked the instant you stepped out.
That was all the excuse you needed to stick around and carry on the conversation with Eren. Eventually, the topic veered to ordinary things like work, and you mentioned your newest obsession/temptation - Petra Ral’s brand new baby.
“They smell sooooo good,” you gushed, remembering the feeling of hugging that soft little bundle and sticking your nose over its head of downy hair. “Like milk and happiness.”
Eren laughed. “I’m not sure what happiness smells like.”
“Like babies,” you sighed, looking wistfully down into your nearly empty cup and your hands wrapped around it. “I wish I had my own.”
The clinking sounds of Eren at work stopped. He paused to give you a queer look. When you glanced up, he mustered a tiny smile, shook his head, and returned to stacking coffee cups.
“Nothing.” The little smile still danced around his lips, though this time, a touch of something less than innocent coloured it. “Just…babies, I guess. It’s not something I hear people your - our -” he corrected with a brief flick of his eyes back at you, “- age wish for.”
Elbow on the table, chin in palm, you sighed. “I know. But it’s really all I ever wanted.”
From there on out, it was a dangerous downhill slide. You didn’t find too many sympathetic ears for your favourite dilemma, but Eren listened and seemed genuinely interested in hearing you out. You told him too much, too quickly.
“What does your boyfriend have to say about that?” he asked during a lull in your tirade, halting his endless circuit of work to lean on the counter next to you. Piercing eyes searched yours. You had to look away.
“I haven’t got one. That’s the whole trouble,” you griped. “If I did, I’d have asked him for a baby already.”
He made an understanding face. “Sperm donors are a thing.”
You shook your head. “Too expensive. And people lie on those forms.”
“One night stand?”
“I’d like to know my baby daddy.”
“Vetting the candidates, huh?”
Was it just you or did he seem just a little bit too invested in the topic? You glanced at him to be sure and thought his stare had become a smidge more intent. The muscles of his forearms were tightly strung, the bit of knuckles peeking out from the crooks of his elbows white with tension.
“You might say that,” you said at last, and shook your last thoughts out of your mind. You were imagining things, that’s all. This was nothing more than friendly conversation between…well, friends.
“Sometimes,” you admitted, “I feel like a choosing beggar.”
He scoffed. “As you should be if you’re going to go through all the trouble of having and raising a kid.”
“As if I have candidates to choose from.” You laughed hollowly, and weren’t sure if Eren heard. He had returned to his myriad tasks and your sad little pity party drowned in the racket of beans clanking on tin containers.
You occupied yourself once more with stirring your cooling drink. While the coffee grinder whirred in the background, you wondered for how much longer the rain would last. So lost were you in your thoughts that you nearly missed Eren clearing his throat and, as the machine whined down into silence, tentatively saying,
“I know several candidates.”
Your head whipped up. “What?”
Brows knotted, he occupied himself with emptying the grinder. Quite unable to meet your eyes, he moved closer to you and under his breath muttered, “I know several reputable men who would kill for a chance to breed you.”
Your breath hissed. That was not your pussy clenching.
Eren nailed you with his blue green stare. Looking and sounding dead serious, “They’re Zeke’s business associates. Decent people, clean. Looking for a bit of extreme fun.”
You swallowed. Unbidden, your palm drifted over your womb and lingered. Your racing thoughts saw yourself already beginning to bloat with child, the skin you were caressing tightening over the gentle thumps of tiny, kicking feet.
You wet your lips. Lashes fluttered but kept Eren’s gaze. Your pulse thrummed from the closeness of your dearest, longest dream now within reach.
“Are you serious?” Your voice was no louder than a breathless whisper. “Tell me you’re serious, Eren.”
He nodded. Once, brisk. “I am. You only need to give the word and I’ll call them and set something up. If you want to take a week more to think about it -”
A week more of delaying what you’d hoped for all of your life?
You cracked a dazed, disbelieving smile. Before Eren could even finish speaking, you were already frantically nodding.
The impulsiveness of your decision was almost embarrassing.
You met them over dinner. They were all blond, all decent, like Eren promised, and all just as gorgeous as he was.
Perhaps birds of the same feather really did flock together.
There were five of them: Eren’s own older brother, Zeke, mostly quiet with a wicked sense of humour, the gentle giant Reiner, reticent Porco, gentlemanly Erwin, and mellow Mike.
They didn’t talk about The Arrangement at all during dinner, opting instead to speak of light topics just as if you were on a date. More than once, curiosity bade you bluntly mention wanting babies, and wanting them desperately. The men exchanged silent looks and at least once, you thought you caught Porco’s tongue darting out between his lips. But then cool and collected Erwin cleared his throat and the conversation once more veered towards neutral ground.
At the end of the night, you’d almost forgotten why you were going out to dinner with them in the first place, remembering only when, after dessert and coffee, the men produced their cards and slid them across the table towards you.
“You don’t have to decide now,” kind Reiner assured you. One look at him and you were trundling down the imaginary lane where that same gentle smile beamed down upon you as its owner held on to the toddler astride his shoulders with one hand while the other rubbed the still small swell of your stomach heralding another little one on the way.
“Once you’ve made up your mind, you can call any one of us,” Zeke chimed in. Even though he looked nothing like his brother, you knew that fatherhood - specifically, fatherhood over a plump, gurgling infant boy, would suit the older Jaeger remarkably well, too.
You stared at the cards in your hands.
Five men, all yours for the picking.
Five men, all of whom would make perfect fathers, who would give you beautiful, perfect babies.
Their names and contact numbers were all crisply printed on thick, creamy cardstock and neatly laid out before you. The longer you thought it over, the more certain you became of one thing: it would be a sinful waste to choose between them.
So you swept the cards together, stacking them in a little pile and tucking them all into your purse. Still riding the waves of gluttony that consumed you all evening as you watched and fantasized about each man in turn, you rushed headlong into your second impulsive decision.
“I’d like all of you, please.”