Mark smiled up at Ethan as he watched the man twirl and dance along to the movie. Ethan had been adamant about watching Shrek before bed, though it seemed like the little had only gotten more and more wound up as they watched.
Ethan was running around the living room, spinning and jumping, as he made his own dance moves along with the characters. It really was quite a funny scene to watch. Amy would have been dancing with Ethan if she’d been there, but she was away for a few weeks. Mark decided to do the next best thing and send her a video of their ‘Eef’. Ethan was none the wiser to the recording but when the song ended Ethan made his way over to his friend.
“Did ya’ see? I danced the whole song Marky.”
Ethan was just too cute when he regressed, Mark decided as he pulled the little into his lap. “Mhm,” Mark told him, his voice like a proud dad when their son came to show them something. “Yeah, you were dancing so well bub, I even sent a video to Amy cause you know she would have wanted to dance with you. When she gets back do you think we’ll have to have a dance party with Amy?”
Ethan nodded his head excitedly. He knew Amy wasn’t going to be back for a long time but Amy was super fun to dance with. Mark didn’t always like to get up and jump around with Ethan but Amy would! She would spin him around and jump across the living room like a ballerina when they had dance parties. The memories of their last dance party made him giggle to himself, “Yeah, Me and Amy gonna have a big dance party when she gets back an’ you can be the DJ an’, an’ then we’ll have lights too!”
Mark rocked the kid in his lap and hummed in response, letting Ethan continue to explain all the details of what they would need to have ready for the party when Amy got back. Ethan wasn’t paying attention to the movie credits, though Mark watched them roll past and geared himself up for what he was going to have to do next.
The last few names faded away and the movie screen loaded back up to the selections.
Mark sighed a bit, Ethan was still filled to the brim with energy. Not only was he fidgeting with his sleeves and talking with his hands but he’d also been kicking his feet since they didn’t quite touch the floor when he was in Mark’s lap. “Hey, buddy?” Mark asked once the conversation has slowed down enough for him to intervene. “Y’know it’s getting really late. Do you remember what we were going to do after the movie was over?”
Ethan thought for a minute, his face twisting a bit as he tried to pull at the memories from only a few hours earlier. “Said we were gonna get a bath then bedtime.”
His tone was a bit put out. Mark knew tonight it was going to be a fight to get Ethan to settle down, but they were already pushing nine o’clock and if they stayed up any later than ten then Ethan would be fussy tomorrow.
“Mhm,” Mark nodded, “So how about we get the water started and you can go pick out your jammies for tonight while I get some of your bath toys?
Ethan didn’t look too happy about it but trudged off to his room anyway. Mark straightened up the pillows and blankets that had been thrown on the floor a bit before making his way into the bathroom. He could hear Ethan singing to himself about which pair of pajamas he should wear and found his heart once again melt at the boy. He started the water and turned under the sink, he had to be careful with what he chose here. He really wanted a bit more of a lowkey bath time, less splashing and yelling if he could pull it off, but that idea seemed less and less likely as he heard Ethan start dancing through the hall on his way back to Mark.
Mark could go with the toy boats or the few mermaid dolls they had, though all of those would end in a soaked floor and an even more hyper Ethan. Mark dug around a bit more before he struck gold. Bath markers. Ethan could color and make up his own stories on the walls of the bath which was sure to keep his attention, and it would be easy to clean up for Mark who could just wash it off in the shower or with a wet washcloth later on.
Mark managed to pull them out and close the cabinet door just as Ethan made his way into the bathroom. It looked like Ethan wanted to wear his Christmas pajamas today, a Rudolf onesie he’d picked out a few weeks ago.
It was only a few more minutes before Mark had Ethan in the tub with the four markers drawing a seascape.
Mark wanted to let him have his fun before the boy needed to get washed off but was pulled away from his phone when he heard the water splashing in the tub. Ethan had washed half of his picture away but seemed to have gotten distracted with watching the water, watching the ripples spread out as he slapped the surface. It was no surprise to Mark when the water began to splash over the side of the tub as well.
“Hey! Careful buddy, no splashing okay. We don’t want to make a mess on the floor, just be gentle with it okay.” Mark said though Ethan didn’t seem to pay attention. He was too deep in his imagination to hear Mark.
“Ethan!” he tried again, standing up as the next wave came down with a crash, splashing against his leg as it flew across the room. “Ethan, no splashing.”
Mark made his way over to Ethan before the little could bring his hands back down and set off another mini tsunami. Ethan looked shocked when Mark grabbed his wrists. They sat there for a moment, waiting for the other to act as the water slowly calmed back down to a manageable wave.
Ethan whined and pulled at his hands. He was having fun, he’d gotten bored of coloring. Mark didn’t let him go though, which only made him whine louder.
“No splashing Ethan, you know the rules. If you aren’t going to be good then we’ll just wash you off not and I’ll put you in bed.”
“Okay, then behave. You can play for five more minutes while I clean up the water, then we have to get cleaned up okay.”
Ethan didn’t really like that, he didn’t want to have to get out. He wanted to play. Another whine built up in his throat, longer and louder than the others. With that Mark let go of his wrists and turned to go find a towel to wipe up the floor with, leaving Ethan to play for the next few minutes.
Mark knew it was just signs of Ethan started to get tired but he wasn’t going to let Ethan make a mess either. He never liked having to put his foot down but Amy didn’t have the heart for it so he’s taken the role on in their little family. He laid down one of their older towels in front of the tub, letting it collect the water as he waited for Ethan to finish up playing.
Mark sat back down for a few minutes before reached to grab the shampoo and soaps they used for Ethan. The boy frowned and screwed his face up as he watched Mark come nearer with them but let Mark settle down on the side of the tub.
They made it through most of washing Ethan without issue, but the boy still didn’t want to leave the tub.
“I’m all washed though, so I can play more now.”
“No Ethan, we have to get out now. It’s bedtime.” Mark explained, pulling the plug for the water to start draining. He wasn’t up for a full-blown tantrum right now, he was tired and so was Ethan. If he was lucky he might be able to get through it without the fit he already could see building, but that was more hopeful than realistic.
Ethan seemed to be teetering on the verge of a fit. It was a dangerous territory to traverse but Mark had a few tricks up his sleeve as well. “We don’t want to leave Mr.Bubba waiting do we? I’m sure Mr. Bubba wants some cuddles too.”
Mr. Bubba was a sure-fire way to get Ethan to listen, he was Ethan's favorite stuffed animal after all. The little dog was soft and squishy, though it had needed a few surgeries every once in a while.
The name alone had Ethan standing up to get out. Mark dried Ethan off and got him in his onesie as quick as possible, letting the boy pout to himself for a few more minutes.
Once his hair and teeth had been brushed Ethan’s exhaustion seemed to have hit him full force. The poor little was barely able to stay awake as Mark held Ethan’s hand on their way to his bedroom. Ethan was quick to grab Mr. Bubba off the bed, though he didn’t let go of Mark’s hand.
Mark managed to get Ethan into bed and tucked in without a fight. He bent down to plug Ethan’s night light and was almost to the door when he heard Ethan whine behind him.
“Yeah, buddy?” Mark asked, turning around to look at the little boy he’d just tucked into bed. Mark felt dead on his feet, but he’d stay awake for hours if Ethan wanted him to. Ethan was barely keeping his eyes open, not even having the energy to lift his head off his pillow when he reached out for Mark with little grabby hands.
“You want me to stay in here tonight Bub?”
Ethan hummed and made room for Mark to climb into the bed next to him. How was he supposed to say no?
Mark reached for the light switch and made his way over to the bed, sliding under the covers and holding his arms out for Ethan to climb into. Ethan settled against his chest, letting out a content sigh as he sunk into Mark’s warmth. Mark could feel Ethan’s breathing even out and smiled.
This was his life, his friend, and his little.
He let his eyes fall shut with the thought that he couldn’t be happier.