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Little Steps

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Ethan’s head was poundings. He had gone to bed with a headache, hoping it would stop after he had slept. He woke up with a headache, and to his absolute surprise, he went to work with a headache. In all honesty, Ethan was done with the say, both emotionally and physically. His body felt heavy, his head made him dizzy, and he was sure that with one wrong move he would be sick. There was no other way to put it, Ethan felt icky.

So of course just to add to the big fat juicy red cherry on top of what was looking to be the worst day ever Ethan’s brain had to have an extra fuzz over it leaving him barely holding on to his ‘adult’ headspace as he’d grown to think of it. A few more hours, he kept telling himself. A few more hours than he can go home to his stuffed animals, and his blankie, and get his sippy with mile while he got all cuddled up for bed. He just had to hold himself together for a little bit longer, film a few more videos with Mark, then he was off scot-free.

Mark and Amy were not helping his cause. It wasn’t their fault, they knew Ethan wasn’t feeling good today. Any good friend would let them huddle on the couch with a blanket while the other two worked on setting the cameras up. They were just being nice. It wasn’t their fault that with each throb of his head Ethan found himself a step closer to slipping. They left him all alone, shut all the blinds to make sure as little daylight slipped into the room as possible, and Ethan wished they would have done anything else. He needed a distraction right now.

By the time Mark and Amy came back, Ethan was barely fighting off drowsiness, his eyes fluttering shut for just a few seconds too long each blink. As much as his body wanted to protest though, Ethan forced himself to sit up and stretch. He was a big boy- an adult he corrected- and he had a job he needed to do.

There were three videos Mark wanted to film today. Ethan zoned out almost immediately, going on autopilot throughout most of the filming. He cracked jokes and walked around even if he wasn’t thinking about what words came out of his mouth.

By the time Ethan found himself standing with a walkie talkie in hand, he was dead on his feet. Mark asked him a question. Ethan nodded on instinct.

Two cameras in two rooms. The walkie talkies screeched as they spoke to one another. This was not helping his head.

The video continued, Ethan was going into Mark’s basement. At least it would be dark down there, Ethan thoughts, desperate to find an upside to distract himself from the fact he was going to be in Mark’s scary basement all by himself.

“You going no light?” Mark asked.

Ethan glanced at him, he was big, he wasn’t going to be afraid. “I’m going no light I think, I’m going to be a big brave boy.”

The words didn’t hit him till a few seconds later. He didn’t think he sounded different from normal, Mark and Amy didn’t seem to look twice in his direction, but Ethan knew he was close to slipping. He had to get himself back under control. His brain felt fuzzy, and his body felt yucky but he only had a little longer until he could go home. He just had to finish the video.

He could stay big, he told himself. He was a b- an adult.

Ethan let the conversation continue without thinking too much as he slowly walked down the stairs into the dark. The trap door closed above him and Ethan could hear something moving above him.

The walkie beeped to and came to life. “What do you see down there Blue Eagle?” Mark asked through the static.

Ethan looked around. “Not a, uh, not a whole lot.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right. Alright, now I’m gonna-” The sound cut out leaving static screams.

Oh, that was horrible. Ethan hated that, even though he knew it had to just be Mark messing with him. That was terrifying.

He turned the camera towards himself. “Come in again Blue Eagle?” He asked.

The reply was much smoother this time around, Mark’s voice carrying through the static with ease. “Can you read me Blue Eagle?”

“Uh, I can read you loud and clear. Over.”

More demonic static noises.

Ethan reminded himself that it was a joke and pushed the fear that was jumping up to his chest back down. He refused to get scared right now if he got scared he would slip on camera and then Mark and Amy would know, and everyone would see and he would ruin the whole video.

“That is the most horrifying noise I’ve ever heard. Over.”

If you say your fears out loud then they aren’t as scary. Ethan was sure he’d heard that somewhere before, what better time to try it out.

The mission continued, Mark telling Ethan new information as they went. The basement was not enclosed. Ethan hated how the longer he was down here, the more he heard that horrible static, and the more Mark taunted him made his anxiety well up in his gut.

Light, Mark told him to turn the light on. Ethan followed through without a second thought. It helped to put him at ease, even if his eyes burned in protest at the sudden shift. Just as he felt a bit more comfortable though the slight shut off, sending him back into the darkness to wait for his eyes to adjust once more.

It just got worse and worse. Motion sensors. Ethan couldn’t remember if this was part of the script or not. His breath was shallow, he didn’t want to breathe too loud anymore. Mark wouldn’t leave him in danger, he was perfectly fine. It was just part of the bit, it had to be.

The light. Why did the light start flickering? Ethan wanted out. He wanted to go home. He wanted a hug. He didn’t care that he had to stay big, he just didn’t want to be afraid anymore.

The fuzzy feeling in his brain felt so strong, it would be so easy to just let it happen, but he couldn’t. There was too much happening right now. The walkie talkie screamed. Ethan forced his voice to come out steady, but the longer he talked with Mark the more he could hear his voice turn into a whine.

It wasn’t long before he came up. Mark was asking him how it was, the cameras were still on. Seeing the light and that both Mark and Amy were right there send a wave of calm over Ethan.

Ethan didn’t want to crawl around. He’d tried using his shirt as an excuse, it was new after all, but couldn’t fight when instead they’d just offered to hive him a hoodie to wear.
It took them a few minutes to get Ethan ready to head back down with his new tasks. He really didn’t want to go back at all, but he kept telling himself that the quicker the video was over the quicker he could go home, shower, and change into his comfiest pair of pajamas.

“Just be uh, careful down there- something…” Mark tried to tell him. “Somethings got the dogs spooked pretty bad up here.”

All he had to do was rush through the next ten minutes Ethan reminded himself. It was all for the video, none of it was real.

No matter how hard he tried Ethan’s mind wandered as he chatted with the camera. “People could definitely be living down here and they would never know it-” Ethan stopped, looking in the distance as he shifted the camera around. “Oh my god. Mark wasn’t lying.”

The camera focused on the small bit of light coming from outside. His anxiety flared back up tenfold as he rambled to the camera.

Something blurry was in the distance, he could see it but not quite make it out. Was it an animal? It could be a person. His heart was hammering against his ribcage. With perfect timing, the walkie talkie found a new noise.

He was so close to slipping, the only thing keeping Ethan remotely together was the camera in his hands, constantly reminding him why he couldn’t break now.

He wanted an excuse to come out. He needed to see Mark and get out of the creepy scary basement. He hated it. It wasn’t fair, he didn’t want to do the scary stuff any more.

He wanted to go home.

“Do you come in?” Ethan asked, “Just doing a general check. Over.” It wouldn’t get him out of the basement but at least it would get him some form of communication.

There was no answer.

He repeated his question. Mark would realize he was really scared, right? Mark would let him come out, he would-


Not funny. Ethan kept the camera on his face as he began to feel his panic taking over. If the camera was on him he couldn’t slip.

“This is Blue- uh- Big Papa to Blue Eagle. Giving a general check, how you doing down there?”

Mark was there, it was all just for the video. Ethan chastised himself, he was being silly. Mark wouldn’t let anything bad really happen.

“I just wanted to let you know that the proximity sensors have been tripped in all four corners of the house. Uh, I don’t know what that- It’s probably just you shuffling around down there, but, it’s just I’ve never had four signals at once.”

Ethan heard himself respond, but it was like he was far away in his thoughts. He was overwhelmed and-

“I heard a knocking noise was that you over?”

“I did not hear a knocking noise.”

“Okay great. There’s knocking.”

Ethan wanted out. He wanted out now. He couldn’t think anymore. Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew he was slipping deep into his headspace, but he couldn’t be bothered to care. He wanted out, and he wanted Mark and Amy and Chica and Spencer. Maybe Mark would let him stay to watch a movie, then Mark would never have to know because you don’t need to talk during a movie and his head hurt so maybe he could take a nap. That sounded like a really good plan to Ethan.

As if Mark could read his mind he finally spoke over the walkie talkie again, “You know, I think you’ve probably checked about all there is to check, uhm-” Bang!

Ethan wanted out now, but couldn’t seem to get his voice out just yet. He was in the middle of slipping and much so scared. Somehow he managed though, “Did you hear that? Over.”

“Yes I did.”

Ethan felt paralyzed. “That wasn’t you? Over?”

“No I was right here talking to you.”

Mark was going to check out the noise, Ethan felt utterly alone in the basement. It wasn’t fair, why didn’t Mark let him out first.

More thumping. There was more thumping. He needed to get out, talk to Mark, surely mark could hear the thumping too.

Screaming. That was the only response.

Ethan felt his eyes growing wet. He hated this. He wanted to come up. What if someone broke in and they were going to hurt them? He didn’t care about being big for the video anymore, Ethan wanted out and to see that everyone was safe.

“Oh no. Mark, I’m genuinely scared. I’m genuinely- fuck I’m genuinely scared can I please come up? Can I come up please?” He didn’t care about how his voice waivered with tears that he was barely keeping in. He didn’t want to be big anymore, he wanted Mark to hug him and tell him that everything was okay.

There were more noises just above the trap door. “Mark?” Ethan asked, his voice shaking as he begged for an answer.

Soft taps on the door. A knock.

“I don’t like that at all,” He whispered more to himself than the camera. “I don’t like the knocking at all. Oh god.”

More noises. The latch, it was opening.

Ethan screamed. Someone jumped down the stairs towards him, a terrifying person in a mask. Ethan felt himself stumble backward and drop the camera in the dirt as he fell on his ass.

Mark peeled the Mask off laughing. Ethan wasn’t listening to any of his giggle-filled comments though. “You should have seen your face! Your scream Ethan!” Instead he covered his face. He knew he had already slipped into his little space but still didn’t want Mark to see the warm tears dripping down his cheeks as he made fast to wipe them away.

A sob worked itself up in his chest, he didn’t have the will power it would take to calm himself down. It wasn’t his fault Mark was being mean. Ethan wanted to cling to someone, to Mark, even if e had just pulled that mean prank on him. Ethan didn’t try to push the sobs that bubbled their way up his chest down anymore. It wasn’t fair. Why was Mark being so mean?

The first sob made Mark pause.

The second made him look over in concern.

The third had him rushing over to Ethan’s side.

Ethan all but threw himself at Mark, nearly knocking them both over as soon as the older man was in arm’s length. Mark didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t expecting Ethan to be so affected by the bit. Sure he had seemed a bit more out of it than when they had first started filming that morning but he’d just assumed it was the headache medicine wearing off. It was all just a bit, they had even talked about it before. What was Ethan so freaked out? He’d never seen Ethan cry like this before, there had to be more to it. First though, Mark had to get Ethan to calm down.

Mark wrapped his arms around Ethan’s back, sitting down and letting the younger man crawl into his lap. He cringed a bit as Ethan stuck his face in Mark’s neck but fought back the cringe that normally would have come with the touch. One hand naturally made its way into Ethan’s hair, smoothing it back, while the other rubbed gentle circles on his back. In the stairway Mark could see Amy looking down at the pair before she quickly dashed away.

“Shh, hey buddy it’s alright.” Mark cooed, What was he supposed to say when he had no idea what was wrong in the first place? Mark had never been the best with words, but he had to at least make an attempt. “Just let it all out Eth, it’s going to be okay.”

Ethan didn’t know how to feel. He was overwhelmed and scared, but Mark was here now and Mark wouldn’t let anyone get him. He could feel a hand on his back and in his hair, they felt nice. It made Ethan feel secure. Mark would keep him safe. He could hear Mark talking to him, but it was hard to hear anything over his own crying. It was starting to make his eyes and throat itchy as well. He felt himself hiccup. No matter how hard he tried he couldn’t even start to calm himself down enough to form words, let alone a full-blown sentence.

Before he could find the power to voice his thoughts there was a loud creak of someone coming down the steps.

Ethan clawed at Mark’s shoulders, trying to drag himself both closer to Mark and away from the monster. Within seconds there was a hand on his shoulder.

Ethan peaked out from Mark’s neck to see her kneeling on the ground net to him. She gave him a soft, sad, smile. “Hey Ethan, I got you some water.” She told him, her voice as sweet as sugar and practically dripping honey. In her hand she had his water bottle, the straw already out for him. “Let’s have a drink real quick, okay.”

Ethan let Mark lean him up a bit more and took the bottle from Amy. It was cold on his sore and hot throat. He was still gasping for air between sips as he calmed down. His sobs slowed as well, it was hard to cry and drink and breathe all at the same time. His tears came to a stop as Mark and Amy sat with him, Amy rubbing his shoulder and Mark still on his back.

Ten minutes passed and Ethan was more whining than crying. He felt snotty and his throat hurt even after drinking most of his water. His head hurt even worse than before.

Ethan handed the bottle back to Amy and tucked himself back into Mark’s shoulder. The light was too bright from upstairs, and even the thought of moving seemed impossible. Mark’s voice was soft and quiet. Ethan knew he was probably asking him a question but his brain refused to focus on the words. He didn’t want to listen because then his head would start to hurt really really bad again.

He felt himself being shifted and flung tightly to Mark, wrapping his own arms around his neck and shaking his head in protest. His voice was raw from crying and there was still the ever-present warble of tears. “No.” Ethan refused to be separated.

“No what Ethan? You gotta talk to me.” Mark hummed and leaned back, trying to get Ethan to look at him. Ethan only followed through, face firmly planted into Mark’s neck and shook his head.

“Come on buddy, don’t you want to go upstairs?”

Yes, upstairs sounded really nice. Ethan wanted out of the basement. He nodded furiously. They couldn’t get out quickly enough in his opinion.

“Need you to stand up then Eth. Let’s go upstairs.”

No. Ethan didn’t want to let go. If he let go then maybe the bad guys would come back. No. No, no, no.

Amy rubbed his back when Ethan started to whine again. She felt absolutely horrible to have played a part in making Ethan so upset. She looked up to Mark only to find her own feelings reflected across his face. It was obvious that Ethan was in a vulnerable position right now, but she had an idea. “Do you think you could carry him Mark?”

Mark blinked, then his eyes brightened a bit. “Is that okay Eth, can I carry you out, and then you, me, and Amy can all go sit on the couch together?”

Mark felt more than saw Ethan nod once more. Carrying it was then.

Amy stood behind him, helping Mark get to his feet with Ethan still hooked on his front. She snatched the camera off the floor before turning off the light and following closely behind the duo, up the stairs, through the kitchen, and into the living room, grabbing a drink and some fruit as they passed.

Ethan refused to climb off Mark’s lap and sit next to him. Everything they’d asked got a no after that. “Do you want to watch some TV?” No. “Do you want another drink?” No. Anything to eat?” No. Until eventually the answers just stopped.

Mark looked over to Amy and carefully lifted his head enough for her to peak at Ethan’s face.

“Poor guy fell asleep.”