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Little Steps

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The next few hours go smoothly, the two friends watching cartoons and nearly finishing one of Ethan’s Star Wars coloring books. Not long after Mark had gotten Ethan situated he’d pulled out his phone. He hadn’t had time to explain what was happening to Amy before, she hadn’t even been home when Mark had gotten Ethan’s call. 

 

With a promise to explain everything in detail later he filled her in on how Ethan had been upset and slipped, so he had come over without much planning. She asked if she should come over but Mark wasn’t too sure. Ethan- well, he just seemed different. More fragile than before. 

 

Mark shook his head, doing his best to dispel the thought. He’d never been around Ethan at this age, and he’d only found out about Ethan’s little space a few weeks ago. He shouldn’t think he knows how Ethan would be acting right now, even if he did do research. 

 

What he did know, however, was that Ethan was deep into his regression. He would be willing to place his bets that the little felt younger now than when he had asked. The teether seemed to be a catalyst for that and just so happened to also have the side effect of making Ethan a mostly non-verbal and incomprehensible babbling baby. 

 

Currently, Ethan was laying across the floor, Bubba in one hand and the other being used as a pillow so he could watch Blues Clues. The older kid’s cartoons had started to get a bit intense after Ethan had slipped even smaller than when Mark had first got there, forcing Mark to try to remember some of his favorite shows from when he was young. Luckily Ethan seemed to take to the show immediately, giving it his undivided attention which was a feat in and of itself. Occasionally he would mumble or hum out an answer but other than that the boy kept quiet.

 

Mark spent most of the time on his phone. Blues Clues was great and all but it could only keep his focus for so long. 

 

Just as he was getting bored of the endless scrolling he got a message from Amy asking if he wanted her to grab them some take-out so Mark wouldn’t have to worry about cooking while taking care of Ethan. 

 

Dinner. Mark hadn’t really been thinking about that, though it was starting to get late. His body seemed to come to life at the realization that it had been a good chunk of day since either of them had eaten. Hell, he didn’t even know if Ethan had eaten anything before he slipped into his headspace.

 

Mark thought about maybe taking Ethan back home with him, but the thought of having to get Ethan up and ready to leave made him shut that thought process down as soon as it came up. He didn’t want to think of trying to get Ethan out the door. Even if taking him back to his and Amy’s house was out of the question, it wasn’t like he could just leave him there either. No, he’d just spend the night over here. Amy was another question entirely. He didn’t think Ethan would be upset if he asked Amy to come over, but Ethan wasn’t in the best place to really understand the situation either. Ethan was slowly and surely letting them both in, and Amy had made sure to ask if she would be a welcome presence to try to respect Ethan’s privacy which he was sure Ethan would appreciate. Mark hadn’t told her everything, though she did know that Ethan was doing much better now than earlier. It was hard to know what was okay and what would be taking advantage of Ethan’s headspace. 

 

Mark cleared his throat, breaking the comfortable silence between him and Ethan. There was only one thing he really could do right now, and he just had to hope it was the right call. “Hey bud, it’s about dinner time. Is it okay if Amy comes over with something yummy for us to eat?”

 

Ethan’s head turned to look at Mark, blinking up at him with innocent eyes. He knew Amy. She was always really nice to him. If he hadn’t been sold on that alone the fact that she would be bringing food would have tied him over. He hadn’t had an appetite earlier and he had been so distracted that he didn’t realize he was getting hungrier and hungrier throughout the day. 

 

Ethan mumbled something around his Chew with his head bobbing up and down with his nods. He was all smiles after that while they waited for Amy to make her appearance.

 

Time passed quickly and before they knew it Amy was walking through the front door. 

 

Before Mark could even call out that they were in the living room Ethan was on his feet making a fast and wobbly dash to the door.

 

“‘My! ‘My, here!” He yelled, chew still firmly between his lips. “Need help? Eef help.”

 

Mark stood, making his way towards the duo. Amy was handing a bag over to Ethan, balancing the drinks and another bag in her other hand. Mark reached over to take the drinks, not missing the opportunity to press a kiss against her temple.

 

“Thank you boys, I don’t know what I would do without you.” Amy praised. She couldn’t help but smile, Ethan had run over to her so excited, and though Mark had seemed a bit more tired she was really happy to see them both doing okay. 

 

She’d been scared when she’d gotten Mark’s messages, and honestly was glad that Ethan was alright with her coming over. She had been on edge, worried that the boy wouldn’t want her there. She would never do anything to make him uncomfortable, especially since he had only just recently started to feel more comfortable talking about his headspace with them, but the thought that he didn’t want her around hurt.

 

Shaking the thought from her mind she focused on the moment. Now was a time to be happy, not worrying about things that already, or didn’t, happen. “I hope Italian was okay. It was the only thing that didn’t have an hour-long wait.”

 

Mark just smiled, pulling her in for a side hug. Together the trio made their way to the kitchen table and set everything down. 

 

It was only when they were sitting down at the table that Mark realized Amy hadn’t blinked twice at the teether he had. Both he and Ethan seemed to forget about it entirely until Ethan was picking up a breadstick and had to take it out. 

 

For a second Mark was afraid that the realization of someone else seeing him have the teether would cause Ethan to go back to being shy, but the boy was going purely off of his instincts at this point. The orange piece of rubber was set on the table next to Ethan’s plate without much thought. Mark caught Amy’s eye, but being the amazing woman she is, she just sent him a smile as sweet as sugar and sipped on her drink.

 

The entire rest of their evening had that effortless feel to it, not that anyone was complaining. 

 

The conversation flows easily, Amy is sure to ask what she missed out on while she was away, and Ethan is more than content to fill her in. He stumbles a bit on his words, sometimes forgetting to use words at all, but neither Amy nor Mark mind. It’s cute to see how Ethan’s eyes go wide, or how his hands wave with emphasis to his babbles. 

 

There are tales of coloring, cartoons, drinks, and cuddles. Ethan promises that they can all cuddle later, and is upset once he realizes that they had left her out of the entire days’ activities. Amy laughs it off though, promising that he can make it up to her next time. The promise of a next time is enough to make the boy in question bounce with excitement. He walks her through each task and how they would have to redo it next time until he’d gone into what happened before Mark showed up.

 

“An’ eat breakfast with juice. And then we can play superheroes and Legos. Oh! An’, an’ you can help me take Spencer to the park! We couldn’t go to the doggie park ‘cause I was too little, but we played ball in the front yard and we ran around. We had fun, right Spencer?” Ethan asked, looking around to where Spencer was laying on the couch. 

 

Mark wasn’t sure how he felt about Ethan having gone outside by himself, though that did explain why the door had already been unlocked when he got there. The thought of anyone being able to come in when Ethan was vulnerable like this made him lose his appetite. Anyone could have walked into Ethan’s home and he wouldn’t have been in any position to defend himself.

 

Looking over to Amy, Mark knew she was having similar thoughts. Her eyebrows creased above her nose, though she managed to keep a smile on her face for Ethan. No more regressing alone , the two agreed silently. That would have to be a rule, the moment Ethan felt his regression coming on he needed to tell someone, whether it be Mark and Amy, or Kathryn. As long as someone knew, and someone would be able to be with him, especially when he was feeling that young. 

 

Ethan finished up his tale of the days’ events, a bit out of order and more than a bit incoherent, which left the conversation up in the air. Amy and Mark would need to talk about what their plan for the night would be, Mark knew he was probably going to stay over, and Amy would likely head back home to make sure Henry and Chica were alright. He’d be sure to keep her posted on if anything were happening here, but now that dinner was done and the sun was getting close to setting they knew they were working on borrowed time. 

 

When Amy told Ethan she wouldn’t be able to have a sleepover tonight Mark was afraid Ethan was going to cry. He just looked so sad it really wasn’t fair. She promised to facetime when they were getting ready for bed, which kept the waterworks away, but Ethan seemed a bit more subdued for the remainder of their time together. 

 

When Ethan went back over to his toys Mark pulled Amy aside.

 

“Amy, I- Well, I think we can both agree that all three of us need to talk about this when Ethan is feeling bigger. During dinner, that’s the first time he even mentioned regressing earlier in the day to me. I don’t like the idea of him doing that alone, and I know you didn’t either. I just- It doesn’t sit right, anyone could have come in. What would have happened if I hadn’t picked up the phone? If he would have been here all alone the entire time? What if-”

 

Amy put a hand on Mark’s shoulder and Mark took a deep breath. Panicking right now wouldn’t do any good for anyone. 

 

“I don’t like the idea of him being alone either, but that’s why you’re going to stay with him tonight. I know you’ll feel better being here. I’ll do some more research on safety and whether or not littles should be left alone tonight, and I’ll send you anything I think is useful. Try not to worry about it too much though Mark, there isn’t anything we can do to change what’s already happened, so just make the best of what we have.” Amy pauses in thought and Mark lets her find the right words. “I’ll message Kathryn, she’s known about it longer than us so she might have some insight we can’t get just from finding stuff online. I- I think she would also like to know what happened. Ethan said he’d never regressed by choice, but he made it seem like he chose to this morning. I- you’re right, we should just wait to talk about it in the morning. I’ll send that message to Kathryn tonight, and maybe all four of us can talk when she gets back.”

 

Mark nodded, she was right. It was better for them to talk this out later, and he was sure that Kathryn would be able to explain things in a way that might be easier for him and Amy to understand. It wasn’t that Ethan’s explanations weren’t good enough, just that the difference in perspective might help them out a bit more when it came to understanding what role they were taking on. 

 

Ethan yelled for them from the other room. 

 

Amy’s hand slid down Mark’s arm. Before he could pull away to go see what Ethan wanted she leaned in with a smile. “Also, I’ll order some more chew things. I know we saw that some people used pacifiers, I’ll look into those and a few other recommendations tonight. Do you think he has any color preferences?”

 

Mark scoffed. He had a feeling she was holding back earlier, and while neither of them were shocked to find that he had teething-type toys, it hadn’t been something they were expecting right after he’d shown them his toys and tools. The curious thought of what else Ethan might have been holding back on cropped back up, but Mark squished it down hard. 

 

“Blue obviously.”

 

“But his one thing is orange, do you think I should try to get something to match, or maybe patterned?”

 

“Oh, he’d probably like patterned ones. If you see anything nice, go for it. If anything we return it if he doesn’t like it, but if we ask him before he’ll never let us get it to start with.”

 

Mark thought that he wasn’t quite playing fair by telling Amy to get stuff without asking Ethan before, but he was right. If they asked him, he doubted that Ethan would admit to wanting to use anything. 

 

Ethan called out again, drawing out the end of both of their names, though they could barely be identified as names with how muffled they were. It must be hard for him to talk around the toy, Mark thought to himself. Together he and Amy walked into the living room. They had a few more minutes before Amy would need to leave, and Ethan had every intention of spending as much time as possible with her before she went home. 

 

 

Long after the sun had set, and Ethan had been coerced into his own bed, Amy sat on their couch searching website after website for adult-sized chew things. She had a few recommendations she’d found in the forums, but a lot of those were non-returnable, and she and Mark had both decided that they would want to return something if Ethan protested against it after a bit of time had passed. 

 

Ethan was stubborn, and Amy was sure that he would tell them he didn’t need the things she was looking at, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t be nice to have around.

 

She had already added a few pacifiers to her cart, two to be exact. One of them was a light blue, and the other one was just plain white. They didn’t have any design on them, but she had more than enough supplies at home to do anything that Ethan would want. Besides, he’d probably be more willing to use them if she were the one who customized it.

 

She was looking at a chewy necklace shaped like a game controller and sent a screenshot to Mark wondering if it was too much. There really was a lot to look at, though a lot of the toys seemed like they would be a bit young for how Ethan normally felt. 

 

She put the controller in her cart, deciding if anything it would be one of the things they returned. There were a few stuffed animals that had silicone ears or paws that she clicked on as well. Ethan had a tendency to put anything in his mouth, and she was sure that was likely to include toys, but after messaging with Mark for a little bit decided it was better to hold off on them for now. They didn’t want to overwhelm Ethan after all, he would just reject everything if they shoved it at him all at once. 

 

With the notification that her order had been submitted Amy let out a sigh, reaching over to pet Henry who had curled up a cushion away from her. “Mhm, what do you think Henry? You think he’ll like them?”

 

Henry’s head perked and tilted to the side. That was about as good of an answer as she was going to get, Amy guessed. 

 

Next came the part she had been dreading. How exactly was she supposed to send a message to Kathryn when she wasn’t even sure how comfortable Kathryn was with her and Mark knowing? 

 

 

To Kat 

 

Hey, sorry this is a bit out of the blue, but me and Mark were wondering if you’d be able to talk to us with Ethan about his thing, you know the one I think. I hope Ethan told you that me and Mark found out, I’m pretty sure he did at least, and while me and Mark are fully down with it we know you’ve been helping him out longer and wanted to make sure we weren’t going to do anything wrong. 

 

It kind of happened today out of the blue, Ethan was home alone but he ended up calling Mark. We weren’t sure if he normally is alone when it happens, but both of us were a bit thrown by the thought of him being alone during it. I know you’re currently out and about, so don’t let this stop you from having fun. Mark’s with him right now, and I went home with the doggos, but I figured either way you’d want to be kept updated. Have some fun, I expect you to tell me stories about your adventures when you get back, and maybe we can talk about the Ethan situation as well if thats okay. :D

 

 

Was it a bit rambly, yes, but it was sent and that was what mattered. 

 

Amy stood up with a heavy sigh. She felt better knowing that Kathryn had been told, and even though she wasn’t over there with Mark she felt better knowing that he wouldn’t let anything bad happen to Ethan, big or little. 

 

The day seemed to wash over her, and it was as if her bed was calling to her. 

 

Ethan had gone to bed a while ago, and she knew Mark was likely to be heading there himself soon. 

 

Tomorrow would be better, Amy decided. They’d deal with everything tomorrow, and everything would get better.