You are Dave and you are two and you do not like the loud sound of water running.
Because when there is water running and it's hot and steamy just inside the bathroom door, it means one thing and one thing only: bath time. And you really, really, really hate baths. You detest them. You loathe them. Yes, even though absolutely none of these words are actually in your highly limited, two-year-old vocabulary, you also abhor them. You'll do anything to avoid getting in the tub, even if it means taking drastic measures. Drastic measures that include hiding behind the couch and eluding the watchful eye of your older brother. You almost never hide from him ever, but this is definitely a time where you need to make an exception. You absolutely cannot take a bath. You are pretty sure taking a bath will kill you.
Besides, you have a plan. It is a brilliant plan, you think, and you're definitely a genius for coming up with it. As a matter of fact, you're such a genius, you already know how everything is going to play out. Dale will come out of the bathroom after turning off the faucet and call out to you. When you don't answer, he will look high and low for you. But he won't find you, because (clearly) you are now invisible to the human eye. The hiding spot you've chosen is that good. Then, when he realizes he can't find you, Dale will collapse on his knees, crying out your name (very dramatically) and mourning his lost little brother. After this, you will emerge victoriously, and Dale will be so happy to see you he will promise to never make you take another bath forever and ever, amen. And you will accept his offer and he will buy you a lot of candy and maybe let you go outside again. It is going to turn out fantastic, because you are two and you simply know these things.
Suddenly, the faucet creaks and the water flow tapers to a stop. You picture the tub—ugly and orangey-peach, filled to the brim with warm, cloudy water—and shudder. There is no way you are dipping a single toe in that. Footsteps crunch on the ground, thumping into the living room and stopping there.
"Dave?" you hear your brother ask.
You clamp both hands over your mouth, scarcely daring to breathe.
"I've had enough with this unfaltering desire to elaborately corner yourself in a fucking dead-end," he tells you. "If you really wish to effectuate your little bids for freedom..." His footsteps approach the end of the couch where you are hidden, then stop. Hearing nothing, you slowly edge towards the open space, getting ready to run if need be. You peer out very slowly, knowing you've got only seconds before—
Two hands grab you under the arms and you squawk in surprise. Your brother lifts you up as you squirm to no avail. "... I would suggest not hiding in the same place every time."
"Leggo!" you order, kicking your feet. Flapping your tiny wings, you start smacking your hands in Dale's face in an attempt to be authoratative, but it doesn't work. Then again, it never does. He just tightens his grip, making you caw wheezily.
He carries you into the bathroom, but like any true rebellious spirit, you writhe the whole way there. He locks the door behind him as he sets you down, and your wings droop in disappointment. It would seem that your reckoning has arrived.
"Arms up," he instructs.
You stick your bottom lip out and shake your head.
"Up," he commands again.
Sighing heavily, you slowly start to obey, acting as if the action will kill you. Which it very well could. Granted, this hasn't happened yet, but if it does, Dale sure will be sorry. And then who will have been right? You. Even if you will be dead.
Dale slips your specially tailored shirt over your head and then, upon seeing your pout fixed firmly in place, pokes your stomach. You giggle, but push his hands away stubbornly. He is not allowed to make you laugh. You're mad at him. You let him tug the rest of your clothes off, anyway, then shiver. It may be warm right by the tub, but even few feet away from it the air is chilly. Dale says it's because you can't afford an apartment that heats itself up everywhere, so in some rooms it's colder than others. But he said it in an adult way with big words, so you barely understood.
You cross your arms over your chest and shove your shoulders up, the ruff on your neck bristling. "Code," you tell him.
"Yes, it's cold," he agrees. You nod once and turn around, clacking towards the tub. You try and get into it on your own, using your wings to propel yourself, but only succeed in getting one leg over. Dale picks you up and gently deposits you in the water. Once he does so, you jolt.
"Hot!" you shout, standing up.
"Sorry," he tells you, then gently presses on your shoulder to make you sit. You flop down, crouching rigidly, and start patting at the water grumpily. "I know," Dale assures. "But as soon as you get this unidentified amalgamation of filthy shit off your skin, you can shirk your abulation duties for another week." With that, he grabs a little red cup balancing on the shelf by the tub, sinks it into the water, and lifts it up so he can pour the contents over your head. You squawk and sputter, shoving at your brother's arm. He's already picked up some soap, though, and is now occupied with rubbing it into your scalp. You sit still and glower, thinking all sorts of terrible things about him that you don't mean and won't remember tomorrow.
Dale picks up the cup again and you reach for it, waving your arms. "Lemme!" you insist.
He raises his eyebrows but obliges, handing it to you. Stubbornly, you pour it over your head, intending to prove how independent you are, and how you don't need his help to take a bath or wash your hair or do anything. Instead you get soap in your eye and shriek. It hurts horribly, and your eye is throbbing as though it's been stung by a bee. You start to sob, reaching out blindly. Dale is already blurred through the soap and tears, and you can barely see what he's doing. Suddenly, he has a handful of cold, untainted water from the sink. He splashes it suddenly in your face, making you sob even louder out of shock. Then he's dabbing a dry towel on your face and making soothing noises. He keeps doing this till you're only hiccuping, and gently starts to lather soap between your wings.
Sniffling, you watch as he takes your hand and rubs the dirt out from between your fingers and under your sharp nails. He tells you to wash your arms and behind your ears, and you do, still exhaling in a traumatized way every now and then. He pats your back every once in a while, so you coo your thanks and do your best to wash the suds off by yourself. At last, Dale yanks the chord attaching the plug and the tub makes that horrible sucking sound that always leaves you positive a monster is drinking in all the bath water from somewhere just under your feet. You scurry towards the side of the tub, barely managing not to slip. Before you can try and climb out, Dale catches you with a towel and lifts you up. Since you were never really mad, you are able to wrap your arms around his neck and squish your face into his shoulder to show how grateful you are and also tell him he is a really good brother.
You stay in that position for a few minutes as Dale stands and waits for all the water to go down, because sometimes the pipes won't work right and he has to throw buckets of bath water out the window since it won't drain on its own. Eventually , you have to remind yourself you are definitely not tired even though Dale is really very cozy and you don't feel much like moving any time soon and your eyelids are feeling pretty heavy.
"Damn it," Dale groans, noticing this. He jostles you gently. "I have no tolerance for soporific tendencies taking place on my shoulder and you know it." You don't respond, so he jiggles you again. "No. No falling asleep." Unable to hold on any longer, your arms fall limp at your sides and you sag into him. "At least let me put you in your fucking pajamas," he sighs.
You do. He does all the work, of course. Mostly you stand there, arms moving sluggishly and at least half a minute behind the orders your brain sends at all times. Finally, he gets your red, button-up-hand-me-down shirt with the too-big sleeves and the ripped up wing-holes on you and picks you up again. But once he carries you into your room, you shake your head slowly.
"No?" he asks.
Your room may be the warmest in the house, but it's also the darkest and the emptiest, especially when you're in it. "No," you confirm.
"All right," he murmurs. He carries you into the living room and practically falls onto the sofa. Resting your head on his collar bone, you curl up tightly on his chest and close your eyes.
"Good night, Dave," he whispers.
You yawn and refold your wings. Dale's hand rests on the crown of your head, every once in a while giving your hair a rustling. Smiling, you grab a fistful of his shirt and mumble, "Goo' nye, Dawe."