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Illusions

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Seokjin has always thought there was something that made Jimin the cutest in little space, even cuter than his four adorable playmates.

Maybe it was the way he stared at the soft cookie dough covering his fingers while Seokjin wiped the sticky countertops, looking up with big eyes and asking with such a tender voice it was almost unhearable: “Can Jiminie have choco, Jinnie hyung?”, his finger pointing at the bowl of chocolate drops sitting beside the stove.

Jimin’s tone was like this in little space. A delicate whisper, as gentle as a summer breeze and very different from Taehyung’s and Hoseok’s howling and laughing. In fact, there was not a single little as quiet as Jimin and Seokjin cared for a bunch of them - five, to be exact.

It was not a secret that he had a soft spot for the short boy with the shy voice, the breathed questions and giggles bringing his heart to swell.
So also now.

Jin stopped cleaning and turned towards Jimin, a smile on his lips. “But it’s dark chocolate, sweetheart, isn’t that too bitter for my Minnie?”, he cooed, drying his fingers off by rubbing them on his apron.
Jimin pulled his shoulders in, clenching his messy hands. “Minnie wants sweets, hyungie”, he sighed, squeezing his palms together. “Choco’s not s’pposed to be bitter.”

An amused giggle escaped Seokjin, his heart tightened. He was more than glad little Jimin allowed himself to grab some candy when he craved to, not caring about calories, abs or puffy cheeks.

This was the exact reason Jimin slipped into his little space. To escape the harsh demands he put on his behaviour and body, instead letting his caregiver decide what was best for him when he couldn’t. Didn’t wish to.
Right now, Seokjin eyed Jimin’s skinny thighs and slim neck and decided the best for him was to eat something yummy.

“I know, baby”, he said, taking a step closer to Jimin and pulling him against his chest with gentle care, wrapping his arms around Jiminie’s back. “But you heard why we buy the dark chocolate, right?”

“Yea. The icky choco’s healthier”, Jimin mumbled, hiding his face in Seokjin’s sweatshirt.

“You’re such a good boy, Jiminie.” Seokjin sighed, stroking his hair. “I might have hidden something specifically for good boys, mh?”

With sparkling eyes, Jimin looked up to his hyung. “H-Hidden?”

“That’s right. Some sweet chocolate, just for the bestest boys.”

It was beautiful how Jimin responded to praise. His eyes lit up, a delighted smile spreading on his face while his cheeks bloomed red.

Winking, Seokjin detached himself from Jimin, grasping his wrists. “Come one, we’ll wash those sticky hands of yours, and then hyung will show you what he’s got. All right?”

Nodding, Jimin let himself be dragged into the bathroom. He was still tired, his movements slow and wobbly. No wonder, it was 8 am on a Sunday morning. Usually, everybody besides Seokjin would be sound asleep.
But from time to time, Jimin enjoyed slipping into little space when he was alone with Seokjin, the dorm quiet. The caregiver would open all windows, keeping a refreshing breeze around, and prepare breakfast with a daydreaming Jiminie at his side.

Today they had decided it would be more fun to make some cookies (and Seokjin wanted to sabotage their latest diets), so that’s what they did instead.

“We put the icky choco in the cookies”, Jimin murmured while Seokjin carefully cleaned his hands, cooing at his cute fingers. “Will the cookies be icky too?”

The pout on Jiminie’s face broke Seokjin’s heart. “No, baby, the chocolate will taste better after melting in the oven. And the cookie dough is very sweet, I promise”, he said. “Did Jinnie hyung ever cook something icky?”

Jimin shook his head, and Jin tried to not let his chest swell with too much pride. Smirking, he dried Jimin’s hands and pecked his forehead. “See? No reason to worry.”

He laced his fingers with Jimin’s and left the bathroom, dragging him along. The chocolate he had promised waited in one of their storage rooms, hidden behind crates of water bottles. The sweets were stored up especially for little Jimin (and to calm Seokjin’s nerves if little Tae and little Hobi tore down the apartment – again).

Seokjin was on the brick of tugging Jimin back into the kitchen that smelled of warm cookies and melting chocolate, murmuring gentle reassurances, as a faint squeak echoed through the dorm. Surprised, he turned to check who woke up so early. Everybody slept at least till 10 am on their free Sundays. Well, apart from Seokjin and Jimin.

It was Jungkook who broke with their routine, standing in the doorframe and clinging to his favourite rabbit plushie, the door to his room open. First, he spotted Jimin, his sleepy gaze gliding over the little’s pastel rainbow sweater and messy hair. Then, he realised Seokjin stood right behind him.

Jungkook’s doe eyes turned attentive, tiredness melting out of his expression. “A-Appa”, he whined, hugging his plushie tightly.

Seokjin’s heart stumbled, a small “oh” escaping his lips. It was so rare for their maknae to slip into his headspace, it caught Jin off guard.

The caregiver has been telling Jungkook he shouldn’t fight age regression since the moment he had confessed to being a little. But Jungkook wanted to prove how mature he was. He had grown up and was an adult now, like his hyungs. Regressing upset him when he was back to big Kook. He would curse at himself and lock himself away - away from the members’ emotional support. Seokjin's support.

It didn’t help that Jungkook usually regressed to the youngest age out of all of them. Sometimes he could barely talk, cuddling up with his pacifier and watching cartoons. Seokjin had stored away some diapers and toys without anyone knowing to be prepared if Jungkook were to regress to an even younger age - that has never happened before, thank god. Seokjin couldn’t imagine how awful Jungkook would feel if he’d ever come to realise that Jin would’ve had to put him in a diaper.

Of course, the maknae would throw his pacifier in the trash as soon as he slipped out of his headspace, tearing up and yelling “I told you to keep those things away from me, hyung!”. Seokjin always got him new ones. As a caregiver, it was his duty to comfort little Kook just as well as big Kook.

Jungkook was also the only one who called Seokjin “appa”, and the oldest hyung would lie if he’d say it wouldn’t make his heart swell with contentment every single time.

Smiling, Seokjin squeezed Jimin’s hand as he hid behind his back. He seemed to be extra shy today, the sudden arrival of little Kook irritating him.

“Look who’s there, Jiminie. It’s just Kookie, darling. See?”, he tried to lure Jimin out of his hiding spot, which comprised Seokjin’s broad shoulders.

But Jimin only grasped Jin’s sweatshirt tighter. “...Will big Kook shout again, hyungie?”, he whispered. Jin felt how he trembled. “Minnie doesn’t want Jungkookie to be angry. Don’t like it.”

Seokjin’s heart picked up speed. He forced a sincere smile on his face, turning around and embracing Jimin in his arms. What was he supposed to say? It was impossible to promise that Jungkook wouldn’t be upset. The maknae likely would be, in fact.

“I don’t like it either, Minnie. But remember, big Kook doesn’t yell because he’s angry with you. He’s angry at himself. An evil monster lives in his chest, eating him up. Do you know what it’s called?”

Whimpering faintly, Jimin shook his head.

“It’s called guilt, Jiminie. Jungkookie feels very guilty, and that’s why he shouts sometimes. The monster within him screams, nothing that comes out of his mouth is something he means. Okay, sweetheart? Kookie loves you.”

Engaged in his explanation and preparing himself to deal with two littles plus Jungkook’s inevitably following tantrum, Seokjin didn’t hear the metallic rattle of keys. The front door opened. Suddenly, Namjoon stumbled into the hallway, wearing clothing from the previous day, now all wrinkled.

Seokjin scrunched up his nose. He’d almost forgotten that Namjoon and Yoongi had pulled an all-nighter, again.

Yoongi entered right after Namjoon, the dark rings under his eyes visible on his rather pale skin. Despite his obvious exhaustion, a bright smile lit his features up as soon as he spotted little Jiminie. Yoongi was a little himself, but he loved to help Seokjin out while he wasn’t in his headspace. And he especially loved Minnie.

“This hallway’s getting a little crowded”, Seokjin mumbled, mourning after his peaceful Sunday morning, just as Jimin realised Yoongi was home.

“Yoongi! Yoongi!”, he squeaked unusually loudly, squirming free of Seokjin’s embrace and throwing himself at his favourite hyung.

Yoongi pulled him into a warm hug, kissing his forehead. “Oh my, I’m attacked by a rainbow! Where’s my baby, you cruel monster? You didn’t eat him, did you? Well, I want him back!”, Yoongi mocked and began to tickle Jimin through his colourful sweatshirt.

Giggling, Jimin tried to free himself, squirming in Yoongi’s big hands. “H-Hyung! Hyungie, stop!”, he laughed, cheeks already red. “It’s me! Just wearing my rainbow sweatshirt, silly.”

It warmed Seokjin’s heart how both of them acted around each other. Especially how Jimin brought out Yoongi’s goofy side with such ease. Something Jin just couldn’t accomplish, no matter how many hilarious jokes he told. It almost hurt his pride. ...Almost.

Chuckling faintly, Jin turned towards Jungkook to take proper care of the little. The maknae stared at Namjoon, blushing, hiding behind his plushie - and Namjoon stared back, frozen.

Seokjin gulped. Right. There was this issue.

It was not that Namjoon hated littles. It was not like he didn’t accept the age regressors for who they truly were. He was just, like he’d told Seokjin, “not comfortable around them and I’m so sorry, hyung, I’m not sure what it is, I wish I could change it”.

Seokjin had asked if it irritated him to see his boyfriend act as a caregiver. Perhaps he was jealous of the connection Jin shared with the littles, maybe he was angry at them for taking Seokjin away from him - but Namjoon swore that wasn’t the problem. Which was expectable. Seokjin and Joon had talked about Jin being Bangtang’s caregiver before they had started a romantic relationship four months ago. Namjoon had known what he’d gotten himself into.

Anyway, the consequence was that Namjoon couldn’t care for the littles. He felt uncomfortable for some mysterious reason, and nobody wanted to pressure him.

Seokjin would’ve been all right with it. Yes, sometimes it was stressful to care for five littles, especially if all of them were in their headspace at once. But that happened almost never. Even if, half of them were angels who never troubled him.
The issue came along with the adorable, childish crush little Kook had on Namjoon. He would get all shy around Joon, drawing him cute pictures or writing him notes with wax crayons. Big Kook looked up to Namjoon, little Kook was the same.

But Namjoon couldn’t take care of the littles. He didn’t cuddle with Jungkook when he was in his headspace, didn’t appreciate his gifts. It broke little Kookie’s heart, just as it affected Jungkook negatively.

Seokjin knew the way Jungkook acted around Namjoon when he regressed embarrassed him. Sometimes he wouldn’t look Namjoon in the eyes for days. An issue they couldn’t afford, not as a band.

If Namjoon would only tell him it was all right, that Jungkook didn’t need to be ashamed. That he wasn’t angry or worse, repulsed. But he couldn’t. That was what he had told Seokjin and the reason for the caregiver to be slightly angry at his boyfriend. Okay, more than slightly. Jungkook’s well-being depended on Namjoon’s approval. Was a simple “it’s fine, Kook, nobody judges you for your headspace” too much to ask for?

Apparently, yes.

Like always, Namjoon tensed, clenched his hands to fists and jogged past Seokjin to escape into their shared bedroom. To escape Jungkook.

Jungkook’s face fell. Jin sighed, staring at the door their leader had closed two seconds ago, a bit too forcefully.

“Oh, Joonie”, he hummed, pulling Jungkook into a heartfelt hug. “What are you so scared of, mh?”

Chapter Text

"I hate you! I hate you- fuck, why don't you- please punch this sickness out of me! Normal- Normal people would beat the shit out of me, so why don't you-"

"If you want to be spanked, Kookie, you could just ask for it."

"Why- you don't take me seriously, hyung! You never-"

"I take you more than seriously, Jeon Jungkook! I sit here for hours, allowing you to curse at me, disrespect me and blame all your self-hatred on me! Do you think I do this for fun? I'm worried sick! I'm close to making you visit a therapist or something. We can't go on like that. It's not- It's not healthy. Not at all. Not for you, not for Bangtan."

"Finally a good idea- maybe a damn shrink can fix me!"

"You don't need to be fixed, you need to be told you're alright! I hope you believe someone else since you refuse every single word that comes out of my mouth for some reason-"

They've been raising their voices again.

Seokjin's and Jungkook's loud arguing echoed through the dorm, their words crashing over Namjoon's head.

Jungkook sounded desperate, angry, hurt. Like he was suffering, and no one offered any valuable help, pain giving rise to the insults he spat out. Seokjin's voice was soaked in concernment. It was obvious he was at his wit's end, knowing every curse directed towards him was a weapon Jungkook used to punish himself.

Namjoon sat at his desk, the notebook he used to write down rough lyric drafts resting on the tabletop in front of him. It was unnaturally quiet, solely the clock's rhythmic tick and muffled shouts echoing in his ears.

He'd planned to work on a few songs, just by himself. It wasn't easy lately, doing his job. Inspiration and creativity weren't things one could enforce, especially if the mind constantly drifted elsewhere.

Now, Namjoon sat there, staring into space and listening to the nearby arguing, so tense his shoulders protested ached. The pen in his hand flicked rhythmically against the notebook, set into motion by Namjoon's twitching fingers.

The idea to get some work done was absurd now, wiped out by the heated discussion next door. All he could imagine were Jungkook's teary eyes and burning cheeks, the vein on his throat throbbing while he screamed. While he used Jin to punish himself.

Namjoon's heart pounded with guilt, and every shouted word worsened the pain. He felt powerless.

As a leader, he should've ended Seokjin's and Jungkook's fighting an hour ago, at least. But he did nothing, letting it happen and torturing himself by listening closely. In a way, he was mirroring Jungkook's behaviour.

Yoongi and Jimin had left the apartment some time ago, Yoongi gently coaxing him out. Jimin couldn't deal with Jungkook's self-hatred, he couldn't stand being helpless when his friend suffered that much, so Yoongi tried to keep him away as far as possible.

Taehyung presumably lay in bed, buried under tons of blankets, his headphones silencing the pained shouts of his best friend.

Sighing deeply, Namjoon threw the annoying pen away and buried his face in his palms, holding his breath in a weak attempt to calm his heartbeat. Why? Just why was he so... stuck? He couldn't move, even if he'd want to. It felt like he was frozen.

He wished he could talk to Seokjin like he always had, but now that he was his boyfriend, things have been changing.

Love was a strange thing. Once it settled down in your heart, it began to erase your rationality. Emotions infiltrated your ability to make sensible decisions. Love had the power to shape and change people, forming them to its will.

With love, other feelings came along. Passion, desire, joy. Fear, too. Fear of being abandoned, fear of being not good enough. Fear you're only loved for your mask, an illusion the world perceives, not for the actual you.

The truth was, not even Namjoon knew everything about himself. His thoughts and emotions have been restless ever since, obscuring the core of his character.

He more than often over thought things, was undecided and lost. It was easier for Namjoon to figure out what was good for the group (or his boyfriend) than what he needed himself. What do you prefer, Namjoon? His brain didn't seem able to ask this question. Even if he figured out what he enjoyed, he often ignored his preferences for the sake of others.

His overly selfless behaviour has been getting in his way more than once. With Seokjin at his side, it only became worse. Namjoon feared once Seokjin would take a look behind the mask he unintentionally wore, he would leave him.

So, Namjoon had sworn to himself he would be the perfect partner for Seokjin, the prince out of his wildest dreams. He knew it wouldn't be easy. But who has ever claimed love was easy? Maybe Namjoon couldn't change his character and true desires, but he could live with the mask Seokjin had fallen in love with. No matter if it hurt.

He loved Seokjin. He loved him with all his heart, with his whole being and for him, all that mattered was that Jin got what he needed.

Namjoon couldn't lose him, he couldn't - and Seokjin only deserved the best. As a result, he learned to become the strong shoulder Seokjin saw in him. He hugged him tight, kissed his knuckles, massaged his tense muscles, called him baby and fucked him hard.

It felt wrong.

It wasn't like he didn't enjoy the sex or caring for Jin. Seokjin was beautiful, and Namjoon loved touching him and seeing him happy. But if he was being honest with himself, never in his life had he thought he'd play the dominant part in their relationship. It made sense, too. Seokjin was the caregiver of Bangtan and Namjoon had never seen him act submissively before. Ever.

Namjoon guessed he was some sort of compensation for Seokjin, the only person he didn't have to be dominant with, and Namjoon didn't want to take that away from his boyfriend.

So, he couldn't go back in time to tell Seokjin he didn't want it that way - before Jin would assume Namjoon was okay with being dominant. He also couldn't tell him how sad he got when he saw how Jin cared for the others, always reminding himself he would never be treated likewise.

Most importantly, he couldn't tell Jin which thoughts and feelings bubbled up in him when he was stressed, anxious or tired. How badly he wanted to hide amongst his Ryan plushies, shove a pacifier between his teeth and cuddle Seokjin until they would fall asleep. How he coped exactly like every other member of Bangtan. Or, wished to do so, since he didn't allow himself to experience the comfort of little space.

Resumed, Namjoon couldn't go back nor forwards. He was stuck. Frozen by his mask and anxious mind, loaded with more fear than he could deal with.

And not only did his constant worrying hurt himself but also the other littles, especially Jungkook.

If it only were Namjoon himself who got hurt, he wouldn't struggle as much with his secret. He was used to favouring the others' well-being, putting BTS first, always. But Jungkook liked him, and he wanted to be with him - gosh, what even was there about him that was likeable? Namjoon chuckled against his palms.

His pessimism slowly turned into pure self-hatred, and he knew how horribly such feelings could affect a person. The thought made his heart stumble in fear.

Caught up in his troubled situation and dark thoughts, Namjoon didn't notice how the shouting was replaced by a heavy silence, pervading the whole dorm. The abrupt opening of the room's door was what jolted him out of his mind, pulling him back into the not much brighter reality.

Jin entered their bedroom, closing the door without saying a word.

Namjoon didn't look, but he knew it had to be Seokjin. Only he entered their shared room without knocking beforehand. They didn't keep any secrets from each other anyway, right?

His boyfriend's sudden presence made Namjoon's heart pound forcefully against his ribcage. He didn't dare to move, his face still concealed by his hands.

Exhaustion and concernment radiated from Seokjin, draining Namjoon's throat. He couldn't speak. All his secrets and worries bubbled right underneath the surface, waiting for Seokjin to ask what was wrong. If Namjoon wanted to tell him why he's been acting like an idiot.

The issue was he yearned to tell him, he wanted to explain how he felt, what he wished for. What he needed.

It shouldn't be so difficult, really, it wasn't like Seokjin was disgusted by littles, not at all. Namjoon had less to fear than most people, rationally seen. But the fear locking his throat as soon as he dared to open his mouth wasn't rational at all.

You could lose him, whispered a sinister, hated part of his brain. You could lose him or, you would hurt him.

A shudder went through Namjoon's stiff body, his breath hitching.

He listened to Seokjin's steps as he crossed the room and settled down on their bed, waiting for Jin to speak- for something to happen.

Seokjin looked at him. His eyes lay heavily on Namjoon's back, he could feel him stare.

Namjoon forced himself to breathe while his heart steadily picked up speed. He hated the silence, he hated how uncomfortable he was around Seokjin. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

"You look", Seokjin eventually began to speak, making Namjoon flinch ever so slightly, "like you're two seconds away from running."

Panic rose within Namjoon. Usually, Seokjin was too tired to confront him after arguing with Jungkook, and Namjoon had been secretly glad. He couldn't do this. Seokjin was right, he was two seconds away from running.

"Joon-ah."

The bed creaked, Seokjin stood up again.

"I'm not angry if that's what you're afraid of- I'm not blaming you for anything. I know you already do that yourself", Seokjin said, his smooth voice quiet and gentle.

His breath escaped Namjoon in a quivering sigh. Part of him was relieved, and part of him wanted Seokjin to be furious at him. That would be easier than dealing with his attempt to help.

"How's- How's Kookie doing?" Namjoon quickly tried to distract from himself, flinching at how rough his voice sounded. The melody of his anxiety.

Now it was Seokjin's turn to sigh. "What do you think, Joon-ah? He's tired, just like me. I know you are too. If you'd only tell me what pains you so much, what you need to feel better, Joonie-"

Namjoon jumped to his feet, his heart pounding violently. "I'm going to the studio. I need to fix that one song, you know, and Hobi's surely waiting for me so we can-"

Rambling, he tried to push past Seokjin, going for the door. The two seconds were up, leaving him with the urgent drive to flee. He couldn't handle Seokjin's calm approach, he was on the brink of telling him everything. Run, or you'll lose him, Namjoon's brain screamed, flashing red flags which weren't necessary. Rationally seen. Not that it mattered.

Seokjin had other plans than Namjoon's panicking brain, though.

A warm hand grasped Namjoon's upper arm, gently holding him in place, almost bringing his heart to stop.

"Kim Namjoon."

His name sounded harsh in Jin's mouth, way harsher than usual and Namjoon whimpered. He actually whimpered, a high, whiny noise escaping his throat.

He was a disappointment.

Seokjin froze. "Joonie..."

"I'm sorry, hyung." The apology burst out of Namjoon, slipping through his lips. "I'm fine. I'll- I'll talk to Jungkook, I promise. I know how stressed you are and how bad Kookie must feel, it's all my fault. I'll be a better leader, and I'll fix this, it's fine. Promise."

He knew he didn't sound convincing, spitting out promise after promise, and he knew Seokjin wouldn't buy it. He did it to calm his own nerves, to feel like he was in control, even if it wasn't true at all.

"Joon-ah", Jin interrupted his rambling, now grasping his other arm too, holding him close as if he'd drag a freezing man closer to a warming fireplace. "Calm down, baby. I'm here."

The echo of Seokjin calling him 'baby' tingled through his body like waves of electricity. Jin pulled Namjoon into a hug, embracing him tightly, Seokjin's fingers combing through his hair.

Namjoon buried his face in Seokjin's neck, taking a deep, shaky breath. He smelled of home; of Christmas dinner, freshly laundered cloth, scented candles, warm chocolate cookies. It was familiar, soothing. Like a safe place.

"I won't force you to tell me", Seokjin said quietly, still stroking Namjoon's hair. "Maybe you're not ready. I understand - sometimes it's the hardest to confess to people you care for. Just know I'm always right here, ready to catch you."

-

With his head resting on Seokjin's raising and falling chest, Namjoon felt himself calming down at a slow pace, clinging to his warmth. Namjoon listened to the steady thumping of Jin's heart against his cheek, his own pulse adjusting with time.

After his minor emotional breakdown, Seokjin had held him for a long time, just stroking his head and whispering reassurances into his ear, before he'd finally pulled him onto their bed.

It was peaceful and quiet, oh so easy to close his eyes and allow himself to relax. Jin was, after all, his favourite pillow.

"Hyung?", Namjoon whispered eventually, disturbing the calm silence surrounding them. He felt brave, at the moment. Safe.

"Joon-ah?"

"Can I ask how... how this all started? You know, you being the other's caregiver? I have a vague idea, but. Yeah."

He felt himself blushing as he stumbled over the word caregiver, biting his tongue and avoiding Seokjin's eyes.

"Sure", Seokjin responded, playing with Namjoon's hair. "It all began with Yoongi, two years ago, I think. Around the time he constantly overworked himself, to the point he forgot to eat properly.

"Yoongi forbade me to visit him in his studio, said he needed to concentrate in order to work. So I wasn't only worried but angry too.

"I packed up the leftovers after dinner and went to visit him, furious. My plan was to force the meal down his throat and explain in very detail why he should move his ass home.

"But Yoongi, well. He'd fallen asleep in his chair with his headphones on, the latest song playing on repeat. I decided to have mercy.

"Terribly nice as I am, I put the food aside and leaned over to turn Yoongi's computer and stuff off. You know how much he hates it when someone forgets to do so.

"I closed the mixing program, folders, saved everything, of course. The browser was open too.

"I'm admittedly pretty curious - by nature, not my fault! So I opened the tabs and scanned them. An online forum for age regressors came to light.

"I was surprised, but not shocked. Age regression is something I'm familiar with, something I know about. Something I'm into, even, especially on an emotional level. I simply enjoy caring for others.

"Long story short - Yoongi woke up and caught me looking at his profile.

"He tensed immediately, cold radiating from him, stating that this is what he did and he didn't care if I thought he was disgusting. I interrupted his defensive rambling quickly and made clear that he wasn't disgusting, not at all.

"Yoongi uses age regression as a coping mechanism, in an utterly non-sexual way. He's done so since he was in an unhealthy mental place as a teenager. He's much better now but still regresses if the stress becomes too much."

Namjoon nodded slightly, signalling he was listening. "Jimin... Jimin was next, right?"

"Yes. You surely remember the time- the time he was on the brink of becoming terribly sick?"

Gulping, Namjoon nodded a second time against Jin's chest. It wasn't a topic they liked talking about, a topic that still haunted them in their dreams. No wonder Seokjin's voice broke.

"Back then, Yoongi made a decision and tried to give Jimin what had helped himself to get better. He explained age regression to Jimin since nothing seemed to help him."

The memory was painful. Jimin, torturing himself, wanting to be the best. He hadn't understood that he already was perfect, no matter how often they had told him.

"After some time, Jimin told us he wanted to try. So he allowed himself to be babied by Yoongi and me, let himself go - it worked.

"Maybe he was just tired, wanted it all to stop. Doesn't matter, it worked, Jimin could breathe again, smile again, laugh, eat, sleep. It was a miracle, Joon.

"Yoongs saved him."

Jin's voice grew warm, and Namjoon's heart melted a little. He was so thankful that Yoongi had done what he couldn't.

"After that, you told the rest of us about what you do, right? About- age regression, caregivers...", Namjoon asked quietly, his heart picking up speed.

Seokjin stroked his neck soothingly. "Yes, Joon. We told everyone, and it was the right decision. You were all so understanding, so gentle.

"The next member approaching me was Hobi, and it took him a rather long time. He was ashamed.

"Different from Yoongi and Jimin, it's sexual for him, at least partial, and he didn't want to admit it. He was afraid I'd think he's weird or something, so he didn't tell me.

"The thing is, Hobi uses his little space to express emotions, especially those he usually doesn't allow himself to feel; like sadness, tiredness, frustration, being in a sexual mood and that's totally fine. It doesn't make me uncomfortable." Seokjin hesitated. "Does it make you uncomfortable?"

No, it didn't. They talked about Hobi and Taehyung before they had started going out with each other. Both of them were sexual with Jin in one way or another.

Namjoon shook his head. Maybe he was weird for his lack of jealousy, but he didn't really mind. All he wanted was for his family to be happy. He trusted them.

"And Taehyung and Jungkook?", Namjoon asked curiously.

"There's not much to say. I found them one day, regressed and crying. It just happened", Seokjin explained, shrugging. "Taehyung is completely fine with it. ...Jungkook- well, you know."

Gulping, Namjoon tensed and hid his face in Jin's sweater. He didn't care that he acted childishly. Namjoon was hurt by hurting Jungkook, and it sucked.

Why did everything have to be so complicated?

He should open his mouth, tell Seokjin he was a little but incredibly scared of regressing and speak with Jungkook to make clear he loved him just how he was.

It shouldn't be difficult, but it was.

Namjoon felt his eyes getting wet and a tingly sensation in the back of his head. "So sorry, Jinnie."

'm so sorry, daddy.

Chapter Text

After witnessing how badly Namjoon had reacted as Seokjin tried to get him to talk, the oldest hyung decided he needed help in order to get through to his boyfriend.

To this day, Seokjin thought that he knew everything about Namjoon - what went on in his head, what to do to comfort him. Maybe he was not completely right though. Maybe he had to talk to someone Namjoon spent a lot of his precious time with, someone he shared his passion and work with. Someone who could be considered his best friend, even.

So, Seokjin turned to Min Yoongi and approached him a few days after Namjoon's breakdown. With their busy schedules, he didn't manage to seek him out for advice earlier, no matter how badly he felt due to that.

Yoongi was often tired out after work and Jin didn't want to defraud him of his well-deserved rest. It was true, Yoongi loved to sleep. Especially because rest was a rare good in their business.

It was three days after his talk with Namjoon when Seokjin went to visit Yoongi in his studio.

Yes, Yoongi also hated to be interrupted while he was lost in his own world of rhythms, melodies and lyrics, but that way Jin would at least not steal his free time and cause him any more stress. Which was by far better for Yoongi's health - one of the most important things to Seokjin. The others' health.

With this thought in mind, Seokjin beard with the rapper's sullen nagging as he knocked on his door.

"Be quiet", Yoongi grumbled while Jin entered. "Jimin's asleep. Don't wake him up with your squealing."

Snorting, Jin peaked around the corner and spotted the calmly breathing shape of Jimin, lying on the studio's worn sofa. He was buried under Yoongi's favourite woollen blanket, the layer of cloth covering his mouth and nose. It presumably smelled of Yoongi, his scent woven into the soft fabric.

Jimin loved to be embraced by the familiar scents of his bandmates, especially those of Yoongi and Seokjin, the warm smell reminding him of home making him feel safe. Seokjin silently cooed at the sight, his heart melting like candle-wax.

He still shot a poisonous gaze at Yoongi. "I'd never wake him up. And I don't squeal, Min Yoongi!"

Yoongi simply rolled his eyes, putting Seokjin's protest off with a wave of his hand.

Sighing, Seokjin decided to ignore his attitude. "Why's he sleeping in here and not at home?"

"He slipped after his training and was completely tired out. I would've called you, but he was out like a light in a few minutes. Thought I'd let him rest for now", Yoongi explained, his eyes glued to the screen in front of him.

Nodding, Seokjin watched Yoongi as he continued to work. A faint frown was placed between his eyebrows, his jaw clenched in concentration; a familiar expression.

Seokjin remembered why he had disturbed Yoongi in the first place. "Yoongiyah, could you listen to me for a second? I need to talk to you."

Yoongi stopped clicking the mouse in his right hand, the silence filling the room heavier than Jin would’ve thought. His forced casual tone of voice seemed to pull Yoongi out of his working headspace in an instance.

It wasn't too often that Seokjin came up with an actual serious conversation since Namjoon was their leader and tended to handle any issues. If Jin struck a more serious note, the situation was either terribly out of hand - or Namjoon was involved.

Yoongi looked up and examined Seokjin's face before he turned in his office chair. "Did something happen?"

Carefully, Seokjin shook his head, holding Yoongi's gaze. "It's complicated", he said. "It's about Joon-ah."

That got Yoongi to straighten himself. "...Shouldn't you and Joonie be on cloud nine right now, actually? Chirping with the songbirds, getting lost in each others' eyes and what not?"

Gosh, sometimes Seokjin forgot what a pain in the ass Yoongi could be. What a shame the rapper could be actually helpful if he merely wanted to (and patient, soft, funny - but they didn't talk about that).

"Yes. Right. Unfortunately, Namjoon currently acts like I'm a high explosive bomb around me."

"Well, to be fair, you are a high explosive bomb most of the time, Seok."

"That's so not true!", Jin complained as quietly as he could. "If I was, our house would've burst a long time ago."

"Yea, yea, I get it", Yoongi snorted. "But seriously, is Joon-ah alright? I didn't notice anything off."

"Mh. I guess that's because your brain function is often pretty restricted when he has one of his fits", Seokjin said off-handedly and turned towards Jimin.

Even if he didn't let it show, his heart was beating unpleasantly heavy in his chest and worry constricted his throat. It was hard to think about Namjoon, running from his friends. Namjoon, shaking in his arms, breath just slightly speedy but fast enough to tighten Jin's gut with concern.

"Pretty please?"

Seokjin snapped out of it as Yoongi responded. "You're little. You're little when he-"

When he what? Unsure, Seokjin stumbled upon his words and began to gently stroke Jimin's hair, playing with the individual strands to calm himself.

"I don't know", he claimed eventually, sighing. "He told me he was uncomfortable around littles. Which is... Well, I would be angry if he wouldn't have sounded as - guilty. He blames himself constantly. Maybe that's why he can't look into my eyes but- I don't know. I have no idea, Yoongs."

That's why I ask you, Seokjin added mentally.

For some time, a thoughtful silence spread between them, Yoongi's frown deepening.

"You're saying Namjoon doesn't like it when we slip into little space?", he murmured after a while.

Seokjin nodded.

"He doesn't like to see us coping with our issues in a healthy way. He doesn't want to spend time with us, doesn't want to cuddle Kookie, doesn't think... Jiminie is cute?"

Slowly, Jin repeated the movement of his head.

Yoongi looked at him, his eyes shining with disbelieve. "But it's... Namjoon."

His answer was kind of lame, but Seokjin exactly knew what Yoongi wanted to point out. Usually, Namjoon loved it to take care of Bangtan - he wasn't leader for nothing - and it seemed extremely out of character for him to act in such a way. If anything, Seokjin would've bet Namjoon would gladly take on the role as a caregiver.

"I know", Jin agreed. "I know. It doesn't suit him and to be honest, it feels like he hates himself for it. For abandoning Jungkook, especially. I just - don't know what his problem is and he doesn't want to tell me. I honestly hoped he spoke to you, but..."

Yoongi shook his head, absently fiddling with his fingers. His eyes were filled with worry - and something dark, shiny. Like a certain intuitiveness.

"Mh. Tell me more, hyung."

So Seokjin did. He explained how quickly Namjoon vanished as soon as high pitched giggles filled the dorm, how his facial expressions were torn with pain and panic. How he refused to talk to Seokjin and tensed ever so often.

How Seokjin had found him sitting at his desk, blankly staring into space, his headphones on but unplugged.

Yoongi listened, only interrupting Jin to calmly ask if Namjoon's hands had been clenched, if Seokjin ever saw him cry or if he seemed to sleep poorly.

"Is it better or worse since you have been dating?", Yoongi asked at the end, watching Seokjin.

His breath trembled. "...Worse."

The confession hurt, physically burned his throat. Maybe Namjoon really was uncomfortable with their relationship and didn't want to hurt Seokjin?

"He loves you. Trust me", Yoongi inserted, probably sensing Jin's doubts.

A sad smile formed on Seokjin's lips. "If he does, why won't he talk to me?"

"Because you are important to him. He's most likely afraid of losing you."

"But...", Seokjin protested automatically, chewing on his lip. "I don't understand. He should know I wouldn't leave him without a substantial reason like- like him cheating, or doing something horrible-"

"Hyung", Yoongi ended his confused rambling, his eyes piercing Seokjin's gaze with weightiness. "Do you even realise what an anxious person Namjoon truly is?"

"What an-"

As soon as the question got to Jin, it successfully caused all the air to leave his lungs. The answer died on his tongue, and he stared at Yoongi, stunned.

What an anxious person Namjoon truly was?

Namjoon wasn't anxious at all. Never was, never had been. He was their leader, the one talking in all the interviews they had to take. No, he wasn't only their leader, he was their voice, too. If not a single one of them knew what to do and the situation was too much to handle, more than often Namjoon had an idea that saved the day.

Namjoon was their protector.

"What- what are you talking about?", Seokjin frowned, confused. "Namjoon- he's our leader, always speaking up for us, shielding us. How could he possibly be anxious?"

Yoongi's expression softened ever so slightly. Now he looked at Seokjin as if he was a kid, simply not able to grasp the truth. The sour feeling of hurt pride deepened Jin's frown.

"There’s more than one form of anxiety, hyung."

The words sounded heavy as they left Yoongi's tongue. Maybe the fact that he had suffered from anxiety himself was what made Seokjin gulp and listen closely, his anger fading as fast as it had come up.

"He's not afraid of people and performance, right. But there might be other demons haunting him, Jin. A person can be afraid of many different things", Yoongi continued. "I've always known Namjoon tends to over think his actions, but I haven’t believed it's that bad. If it has come to a point where it really burdens him, it certainly is."

There was nothing Seokjin could've said against Yoongi's words. It was true that Namjoon was a deeply thoughtful person, sometimes lost in his own mind. But until now, similar to Yoongi, Seokjin had never looked at it as a bad quality, or a harming one even.

Afraid. What could Namjoon possibly worry his pretty head over? Before Seokjin could open his mouth to ask for his opinion, Yoongi shook his head-

"I don't know what his problem is. Many things could make him anxious. Don't assume, hyung. If you confront him with a wrong idea in your head it could lead to an irreparable damage. Coax him into talking, patiently. Comfort, don't confront", Yoongi stressed and raised the desire to roll his eyes within Seokjin.

Great. He has never been the most patient person and watching Namjoon suffer on his own when things didn't have to be as complicated caused him an upset stomach.

"Alright, I won't assume anything. I get it, I get it", Seokjin sighed (and ignored Yoongi's doubtful look). "But Namjoon's anxious behaviour has something to do with littles, and that's a fact. I thought - maybe we could introduce him to little Chim? He's a real sweetheart. If Namjoon gets that, he might calm down."

Something. There had to be something Seokjin could do.

He eyed the peacefully sleeping little who seemed a lot smaller in his unconscious state, his muscles relaxed and knees drawn in.

Nothing to hurt you, Joonie, Seokjin thought. Nothing at all.

"Not without Jimin's clear permission", Yoongi replied sharply, tensing in his chair. "You know how vulnerable-"

"Yah! Yoongi, I would never exploit him in any way, and I'm sure you know that. At least I hope you do."

Relieving his breath like a stabbed balloon, Yoongi sunk back to his usual slack posture, closing his eyes for a second.

"Yea. Of course, hyung. I'm sorry, it's just- I don't want him to get hurt. Ever." He smiled, his lips curling into a tired smirk.

Nodding, Jin caressed Jimin's head, stroking his soft hair once more and pulling the blanket back over his shoulders where it had slipped down.

He felt the same way about Namjoon, about them all, so he understood. Even though it was annoying to no end when Yoongi went all alpha on him in order to 'protect Jiminie'. Seokjin asked himself frequently why Yoongi and Jimin didn't seem to get a hang of their own feelings, the situation becoming kind of ridiculous. They were so oblivious it hurt him physically. A blind person could see how in love they were.

Well, everyone at their own pace, Seokjin thought - hopefully they would get to it before their deaths.

Smirking, Jin pulled his phone out to take a brief look at the time. It had already been late as he arrived at the studio and he didn't like to be separated from the others for too long, especially in rather stressful times. It was probably the caregiver inside of him, he wasn't sure, but a feeling in his gut signalised him it was time to go home.

The relief of having talked to Yoongi and the smile on his lips were erased instantly as his phone screen lit up under his touch. The first message greeting him read 'hyung help me'.

It was from Namjoon.

For a second, Jin felt nothing, oxygen freezing in his lungs.

Then, a cold wave of worry washed over him, draining all colour from his face. Without him thinking, his thumb unlocked his phone and opened the messenger. Seokjin drew in a sharp breath.

'Hyung, I think Hobi isn't feeling well, please come home.'

'I'm alone with him, where are you?'

'Hyung'

'Jin, please. I don't know what to do.'

'Hyung he needs you, Jin please please come back'

'He's his little-self and he's screaming'

'I'm scared'

'hyung help me'

"Yoongi." His lips were numb as they formed the other's name. "I need to go."

-

It had been hard to convince Yoongi to stay at the studio, but they both knew they couldn't leave Jimin alone - and to allow two littles around Namjoon in his current state would've been an irresponsible decision. So, Yoongi's blank face disappeared as Seokjin slammed the door behind him, leaving the studio with large steps. He had no time to deal with Yoongi's worry.

His heart beat quicker than the rhythm of his march, and his throat was dry as he called Namjoon, impatient to hear his voice.

'I'm scared'

The ringing against his ear was a cruel torture. It chimed one time, two times. Three times. Nobody picked up. The air around Seokjin thickened like honey, making it hard to get ahead.

"I'm coming, Joonie. My strong, strong Joonie." Please be strong.

The rest of the way fused into a blurred race against the time, Seokjin fighting for every second. Every second he won meant one moment less suffering for Namjoon.

Why had it to be Hobi, out of all? Why not Jimin, Jungkook, Yoongi? Someone who was a bit easier to handle, anyone.

Clenching his jaw, Namjoon ripped the phone from his ear - not for a moment had he stopped to call Namjoon - and quickly changed the number he was dialling.

The relief was only faint as someone actually picked up.

"Hey, hyung, what-"

"Where the hell are you, Taehyung?", Seokjin hissed.

He knew this wasn't Tae's fault, not at all, but his nerves were non-existing at the moment.

"Um, at the gym?"

"Since when do you spontaneously visit the gym?", Jin groaned, closing his eyes for a second.

"Ah, Jungkook wanted to go, and I was pretty bored, so I thought I'd come along?" A pause. "Is something wrong, hyung?"

So, Jungkook indeed left the house voluntary and did something else than sulking. Seokjin would've been happy if his boyfriend wasn't possibly frightened to death in the same exact second.

"Listen, I need you to come home. Right now", he stressed, hoping Taehyung would just do as he was told, for once. "Hoseok slipped, he's alone with Joon-ah."

"Oh shit."

"You have to keep Hobi in check while I try to calm Namjoon, he’s freaked out. I'm on my way. I know you're normally not comfortable to be alone with someone in little space, but-"

"No problem, hyung", Taehyung quickly reassured. "I'll tire Hobi hyung out quickly. Gonna leave Kookie at the gym though, don't think you need him to lose it on top of it all - I'll be there in ten minutes, max."

Nodding automatically, Seokjin responded with a short "hurry" before he ended the call, having reached their dorm.

He took a deep breath, trying to calm his furious heart. As the caregiver, he had to be a pillar of strength, a safe haven.

And a firm hand, he thought as he heard Hoseok screams seep through their sturdy front door.

Seokjin braced himself as he entered.

Chapter Text

Bangtan's dorm no longer resembled a flat or any sort of housing a human being could tolerate. It was, in fact, akin to the coast after a merciless hurricane buried the land under tons and tons of water, tearing everything in its way apart.

And torn apart was the dorm.

The sight temporary took Seokjin's ability to think away while he tried to comprehend the damage one step at a time.

He hadn't even thought of taking off his shoes. There was no point anyway. The floor was coated with a continuous layer of water, chocolate milk and small crumbs crunching under Jin's feet.

The red, yellow and blue stains of finger paint smudging any and all pieces of furniture along Seokjin's way hurt him physically. He decided bitterly not to buy any liquid paint ever again, no matter how much little Tae loved them.

Jin already pictured himself scrubbing the wooden cabinets, shelves and doorframes furiously.

The best part of the mess welcoming him, however, was the hundreds and hundreds of soft down feathers floating through the air, slowly sinking down and sticking to the tacky ground, making Jin sneeze violently.

He momentary had to remind himself that he didn't exactly come home to kill Hoseok.

It wasn't difficult to find the little. Seokjin simply followed the trace of destruction and immensely loud screaming leading him to their living room.

There he was, shouting and giggling in delight, jumping up and down on their creme coloured sofa, the springs protesting loudly under his weight.

Wouldn't one of their most expensive items of furniture be on the brink of turning into trash, Seokjin would've maybe admitted that the sight was adorable; an honest, wide grin lighting Hoseok's face up.

To the little's luck, Seokjin was in the right mood to simply put the chaos around him off. He was still worried, his heart beating heavily and making him sick.

He couldn't deal with this right now, he needed to find Namjoon, or he would combust.

Hoseok jumped and jumped, flying especially high right before Seokjin would've called him; he spun in the air and met his caregiver's tight gaze.

Naturally, Hobi was completely oblivious to the seriousness of the situation.

Gasping, the little inhaled deeply, his chest swelling with air and eyes sparkling, before screaming at the very top of his voice: "Seokjinnieee!"

Seokjin flinched, instantly covering his ears with a press of his palms. He could've sworn he'd saw the roof raising for a moment. "Aish, Hobi-"

"Jinnie! Jinnie! Jinnie!" With a loud thump, Hoseok landed stomach first on the sofa, immediately lifting himself up and crawling towards Seokjin.

In a matter of seconds, Hoseok was kneeling on the floor in front of him, hugging Jin tightly and burying his face in his sweater, sighing contentedly.

Seokjin closed his eyes. Finally, finally, it was quiet.

The caregiver's hands slid into Hobi's hair on their own, he gently fixed the entangled and off-standing strands up without thinking about it. Hobi only nuzzled Seokjin harder, pulling him as close as he possibly could.

"Hello there, young man", Seokjin sighed after he took some time to pull himself together.

He was mad at this situation, mad at the chaos, mad at himself, but he couldn't bring himself to be mad at Hoseok. Not genuinely. It wasn't his fault for slipping at such an inconvenient time.

He also couldn't ignore the little for Namjoon's sake. Hobi always required maximum attention since he tended to think he didn't deserve any kind of love and was more than often in a bad mood when he slipped. It would be irresponsible to rob him of his deeply needed care.

"What did you do, all on your own, mh?", Jin eventually asked while playing with the younger one's hair.

Hoseok immediately tensed, his grip tightening-

"Shh, Hobi, Jinnie isn't angry. I know you must have been lonely, nobody here to play with you. It's alright. Help me clean the dorm later, and you're not in trouble, not one bit. My little prince", Seokjin quickly soothed while Hoseok's arms hugged him harder and harder, almost bending him in half.

Sometimes he forgot how strong his babies were, taking his breath away with ease. Quite literally.

"No twouble?", little Hoseok asked, stumbling over his words like he always did, his eyebrows drawn together in an adorable serious frown.

"No, Hoseokkie." Smiling tiredly, Seokjin poked the wrinkled skin above his nose with the tip of his finger.

"But 'm wasn't alone, hyungie", the little confessed worriedly, concerned he would be punished now. Then he added with a deadly seriousness: "There's a monster in the dorm."

Seokjin's heart tightened painfully. "A monster? Do you- Do you mean Joonie, sweetheart?"

Hoseok's face lit up once more. "Ya! Joonie!" He nodded his head fiercely against Seokjin's stomach, knocking the air out of his caregiver, before he suddenly frowned again. "But..."

"But, Hoseokkie? What happened?" Carefully, Jin loosened Hoseok's death grip and sunk to his knees to be face to face with the little.

"Nothin'", he mumbled, dropping his forehead on Seokjin's shoulder. "Joonie just don' want to play. He run 'way a-and", Hobi babbled, sighing. Hesitantly, he met Seokjin's calm gaze. "Will hyungie run 'way too? Know I'm no good boy. No' like Chim 'n Yoons. Sworry, Jinnie."

Seokjin pulled Hoseok into a tight hug, keeping him close and kissing his forehead gently. "No, Hobi, no. You are good, baby, so good. I'm proud of you, little prince, you know that, right? I love you, and I love you just the way you are, mh?"

The caregiver hated the way Hoseok beat himself down, always has been hating it. Yes, he mayhaps was a bit more demanding than the rest of Jin's precious babies, but he still deserved love. He deserved the world.

Besides, it was not like Hoseok could've helped himself. He expressed all his bottled up feelings when he slipped, and usually, Seokjin was there to help him through it. Things just went wrong today.

"I'm never going to leave you, sweetheart, and I'm so, so sorry that I wasn't here. I love you- and Joonie loves you too. He just doesn't feel well today", Seokjin promised, stroking Hoseok's back from his neck down. "That's the reason why I have to find him now, as quickly as I can. Do you know where he went, Seokkie?"

Hoseok nodded slowly against Jin's shoulder, clawing at his pullover. "But I don' wanna tell."

Seokjin suppressed a distressed groan, frustration rising in his chest. "Why not?", he asked sweetly, praying that little Hobi wouldn't notice how fake he sounded.

He grew more and more impatient, wanting nothing more than to find Joon and calm him down. Why, why had Hoseok decided that today was a good day to-

Seokjin stopped this train of thought immediately. He most likely had just slipped into little space, being stressed out and tired. It wasn't his fault, Seokjin reminded himself.

"You gonna leave Hobi alone. I need Jinnie more than meanie monster", Hoseok responded, raising his chin and pouting stubbornly.

With the corners of his mouth pointing down and his cheeks puffed out, Hobi's appearance really matched his headspace.

Jin raised an eyebrow. "So you're not feeling well too, little prince? Mh, what a shame. I'll fetch some medicine and call the doctor, hold on-"

Like every kid, little Hobi hated nothing more than icky medicine (and he was afraid of doctors), so when Seokjin began to get up, he quickly pulled him down again and captivated him in an iron grip. "No! No, Hobi's fine!"

Sighing, Jin grasped his wrists and gently pecked the crook of his neck.

"Listen, Seokkie", he said, now more serious. "Namjoon needs my help right now. He's feeling really, really bad. I need you to be a brave boy and tell me where he is. I promise you won't be alone for long, Taehyung is on his way to keep you company and if you need help with anything, just shout."

Gasping, Hoseok let go and beamed at Seokjin. "Tae's coming? TaeTae hyung or Taehyungie?"

"TaeTae hyung, little prince." Seokjin could only imagine the chaos that would flood the dorm if Taehyung would slip too without the caregiver keeping both of them in check. He could only pray for it not to happen. Little Hobi and little Tae combined could cause more chaos than a hurricane (naturally, they loved each other).

"Okay", Hoseok responded, his excitement slightly less prominent. Of course, he'd like a playmate better, but they couldn't do this today. "Will Tae hyungie still play with me?"

"Of course, Seokkie", Jin promised gently, ruffling the younger one's hair. "Now, be a good boy for your hyungie and tell me where Joon is, mh?"

Nodding fiercely, Hoseok leaned forward to whisper loudly into Seokjin's ear. "Joonie's where hyungie washes me and blows hot air on my hair to make me fluffy 'n warm."

The bathroom.

With his heart stumbling in his chest, Jin kissed Hoseok's head while he got up. "Thank you, little prince. Will you behave for me and wait here until Tae arrives? Hyung is sorry that he can't play with you right now. I owe you, sweetheart."

"Wanna watch cartoons, Jinnie. Can I?", Hoseok asked, crawling back to their mess of a sofa and innocently settling down between ripped pillows.

"Sure." Seokjin was almost relieved by the little's question. He would at least not trash the dorm if he was watching TV.

Satisfied, Hoseok grabbed the remote and curled into himself, yawning with his mouth open wide.

No wonder he was tired.

Detaching his eyes from Hobi, Jin turned and headed towards the dorm's bathroom. Compared to his earlier rushing to their flat, he now walked almost in slow motion.

Fear had him transfixed, paralysing his legs and draining his throat. What if Namjoon wasn't there, what if he wouldn't respond, what if he wouldn't let Seokjin in - into the bathroom and his worried mind?

'I'm scared; hyung help me'

Inhaling shakily, Seokjin squared his shoulders and picked up speed. If Joon refused
to open the door, Jin would break it down. It was as simple as that. Namjoon needed him right now, no matter how anxious he was and if Namjoon couldn't fight, Seokjin would take over for him.

As Jin gently knocked at the door, he did it with Yoongi's words on his mind.

'Coax him into talking, patiently. Comfort, don't confront.'

He took one last deep breath.

"Joon-ah, it's me, hun", he spoke calmly, just loud enough so his voice would get through to the younger one. "I'm home now."

Patiently, Seokjin awaited an answer that never came.

"Everything's alright, love. Everything's alright. Would you please let me in, Namjoonie?"

Nothing. Jin carefully pressed his ear against the wooden door, listening closely, aching to know if Namjoon was really in there. If he was conscious.

The thought of Namjoon lying on the hard floor, out cold, made his stomach twist - but there it was, a faint sob, silent crying.

Relief washed over Seokjin. He found him.

"Oh, Joonie", Jin cooed, sliding down against the door, sitting down. "I'm here, take your time. It's fine, baby."

The crying suddenly stopped. Seokjin held his breath.

He usually didn't call Namjoon 'baby'. Since his boyfriend seemed utterly repulsed by any form of cg/l, Jin avoided everything that could remind Namjoon of his caregiver side or perhaps make him believe Seokjin saw him as a little.

But having just dealt with little Hobi and now finding his boyfriend locked away crying made it harder for Seokjin to differ. He was still in his caregiver headspace.

Just as Seokjin internally cursed at himself, believing he made a terrible mistake, the doorlock clicked.

He immediately jumped to his feet.

The doorhandle moved agonisingly slow, centimetre by centimetre until the door creaked a gap wide open.

"Joon-ah?" Seokjin carefully glimpsed into the room. "I'm coming in."

Namjoon sat on the floor, his knees pulled in, leaning against the bathtub, huddled up in his favourite yellow sweater. His hair was messed up, his eyes red and swollen, tears had been wetting the sleeves of his pullover. He was shaking, looking at Seokjin almost panicked. It seemed like he tried to say something, but the words couldn't leave his throat.

Seokjin closed the door behind himself and took a step forward. He knelt down in front of Namjoon, trying to ignore his own racing heart.

What to say to make Namjoon feel better? It would be so easy to break him right now. The right things had to be said - otherwise, Jin could easily lose Namjoon's trust.

"... Hey, Baby", Seokjin tried silently and reached out to Namjoon, gently brushing his messy hair away from his forehead. "I'm here now, ah? You're safe."

A violent sob broke free from deep within Namjoon, shaking his whole frame which seemed to be so small right now. He was tiny in his anxiety, looking like he wanted to disappear.

"Jinnie-" Namjoon drew a deep breath, gulping down air as soon as his tears didn't choke him. "I can't... I'm so sorry- but..."

Seokjin couldn't endure it any longer. Without hesitation, he slid as close as possible to Namjoon and pulled him into his arms. "It's okay, darling. Calm down, I'm here."

For quite some time, Namjoon just sat there; embraced by Jin's strong arms, listening to his whispered reassurances while crying.

Most of all crying. He cried his heart out, and when he had no tears left, dry sobs run through him.

Seokjin held him close, losing his track of time completely. Every tear Namjoon cried hurt him equally bad, but he also knew that sometimes, one had to get it all out.

Maybe these tears predicted a new beginning. Maybe they helped Namjoon to overcome his fear. Maybe he finally gave up the fight.

Seokjin turned out to be right.

It was silent eventually. Namjoon rested exhausted against Jin's shoulder, his breathing finally settled. He was surely dehydrated and tired out, his eyes hurting, but Seokjin didn't dare to say anything.

The only noise was the slowly dripping water tap.

Then, Namjoon inhaled shakily and parted his lips. "I can't do this anymore. I'm sorry, hyung. I can't."

Seokjin nodded, his heart stumbling. "It's okay."

"You don't know what-"

"I don't need to", Jin interrupted calmly. "Not to know if it's okay. Because it is, no matter what. I want you to be happy again, Namjoon-ah."

Despite him speaking the truth, Jin was also scared. Scared for Namjoon to leave him.

Yes, Yoongi had told him he was sure Namjoon loved him deeply. But Yoongi wasn't Namjoon, and he could be wrong about him too. Besides, why would Namjoon constantly apologise when he wouldn't hurt him?

Maybe the pressure of keeping their relationship a secret was too painful, in the end. Sometimes, love wasn't enough.

Seokjin closed his eyes. He would manage, somehow. He always did. "It's fine, Joon."

Namjoon gripped the back of Seokjin's hoody, hugging him closer. "Okay."

"Okay", Jin echoed, waiting.

The tense silence returned once more, then: "But I don't know how to say it. I'm just- I'm afraid to disappoint you."

"Ya, Joonie. How could you ever disappoint me?", Jin huffed, rolling his eyes. "You're perfect, darling. Perfect as you are."

"'Am not", Namjoon murmured sadly into Jin's sweater.

"You are. I love you."

"Love you too."

Slowly, Seokjin relaxed again. Maybe this wouldn't be as horrible as he imagined, in the end. What had Yoongi explained? Anxiety wasn't rational.

Namjoon sighed. "Why is this so hard, I should just- I should just tell you. I know you won't leave me or hate me because of-"

"Because of what, baby?", Jin asked gently, playing with Namjoon's hair.

He tensed immediately. "Because I'm- I'm a coward. Yoongi, Jimin, Hoseok, Tae and Kook are so much braver than me. They can do it but I can't. I have to be what you need", Namjoon babbled.

With every word, Jin's frown deepened. "What are you talking about?"

"I'm a little."

I'm a little.

The words hung in the air between them, one sentence, a well-kept secret broke loose. It took its time before it reached Seokjin.

And Namjoon - he panicked. A few seconds after the words had left his mouth, he whimpered miserably and began to writhe, trying to free himself from Jin, trying to run away once more.

Only this time, Seokjin wouldn't let him. He held onto Namjoon's thrashing limps while his mind tried to catch up.

I'm a little.

Warmth washed over Seokjin like a gentle summer breeze, an ocean's tide. His heart swell and relief unknotted his gut. His lips stretched into a wide smile.

Suddenly, the past months made sense, and Seokjin understood.

Namjoon didn't hate littles, he was one himself. He was one, but his anxiety didn't allow him to admit it, made him believe Jin would be angry, disappointed.

Oh, how wrong his anxiety had been. How terribly, terribly wrong.

"Baby", Jin cooed, trying to calm Namjoon, hinder him from running away. "Joonie, Shh, it's alright. I love you. I love you so much, and I'm not disappointed. I'm not angry. Look at me."

Gently, he took Namjoon's face in his hands, guiding it so he would see Jin's smile.

"Look at me. I'm happy."

Namjoon stared at him, his emotions playing on his features. First, he was afraid, then confused. Then relieved.

The relief came slowly, seeping through his concern.

"My brave Joon-ah", Jin whispered, his heart swollen and warm. "My wonderful, perfect, brave love. I'm so proud."

He leaned forward and placed a faint kiss on Namjoon's mouth, just a slight brushing of lips, a promise.

"You're safe with me. I'm so happy, baby."

With a tired sigh, Namjoon closed his watering eyes and leaned against Seokjin, the tenseness of months leaving his body.

Chapter Text

When they left the bathroom, the most prominent traces of destruction were already fixed up, no feathers floating through the air and no cookie crumbs crunching under their feet.

In spite of that, Namjoon placed his steps as if he was walking on dry leaves, slowly sneaking after Jin, anxious to make any noise. His shoulders were pulled in, his head bowed, the chin almost glued to his chest. He was shaking slightly, wrapped up in his sweater like he had to protect himself from icy wind biting at his skin.

The muffled voices coming from Hoseok's room seemed to scare him badly, making him flinch whenever they swelled up. Namjoon acted like he wanted to disappear. Like everyone was out to get him, utterly trapped in discomfort.

It made Seokjin's heart pound painfully. Part of him wished Yoongi would be home, his calm presence on its own comforting and reassuring.

But Yoongi wasn't there, and so Seokjin kept Namjoon close as they walked, the younger one's hand securely wrapped in his warm fingers, his thumb drawing calming circles on Joon's knuckles, praying that he did the right things.

After Namjoon had told him his secret, they had been sitting on the bathroom floor for a long time, Jin murmuring sweet reassurances in the beginning and remaining silent in the end.

Namjoon had kept quiet all along. He had, in fact, not spoken a single word since he had confessed to being a little.

I'm a little.

The relief of Namjoon's secret being unveiled was still more than vivid within Jin. He was filled with hope from head to toe, keeping him warm and jittery all over. His heart beat contentedly and without worry for the first time in months, urging him to sigh in gratefulness over and over again.

Seokjin felt invincible like he could do everything and every problem he was having shrunk in the distance.

A part of him wanted to scream at Namjoon regardless; or rather at his stupid, anxious, over-thinking brain. Namjoon’s whole pain had been more than preventable, and it was frustrating. More than frustrating.

To not tell a man, a loved one, a damn caregiver about being a little; Seokjin couldn't envision to which extent his anxiety had controlled Namjoon's thinking. It tore at Jin's heart to know how easily he could've helped Namjoon all along. He wanted to punch his boyfriend for not reaching out to him (very gently of course, preferably with his lips).

Of course, Seokjin knew the whole thing wasn't Joon's fault, and he didn’t blame him, not in the slightest. It’d be probably for the best to just try and accept the difficulties of the past anyway. Instead, Jin focused on how proud he was that Namjoon told him altogether.

One thing, however, stubbornly refused to leave Seokjin's thoughts as he dragged his trembling boyfriend into their kitchen. A sentence which had escaped Namjoon earlier.

I have to be what you need.

Sighing, Jin pushed him into a chair and closed the kitchen door to shut Hobi’s and Tae’s voices out. There was a lot to catch up on, he realised.

The question was only if the time was right. Seokjin wanted by no means to overwhelm Namjoon.

Carefully, he eyed the younger one, trying to figure out how he was feeling and what went on in his head.

Being all huddled up in his tear-stained, over-sized sweater; his hair messy and off-standing, eyes reddened and snuffling every now and then, Namjoon still looked a little beaten, but he seemed to be better nonetheless. He wasn’t shaking, his hands weren’t clenched violently, and he didn’t cry.

Maybe it was because he couldn’t hear the others’ voices anymore. Probably.

“So, Joon-ah”, Jin began, smiling when Namjoon actually looked up to meet his eyes. “I’m generous enough to give you a few choices for what will happen next, but there is one thing I’m gonna do if you want or not. Two, really.”

Sniffling, Namjoon glimpsed at him. “Y-Yea?”

His voice was small and rough from all the crying, but it was there. Jin tried his best to not show how relieved he was to hear him talk as he slowly approached the chair next to Namjoon.

“Yes”, he answered, keeping his own voice gentle and quiet, and sat down. “First, I’m going to kiss you.”

That being said, he deliberately leaned forward, never detaching his gaze from Namjoon’s, seeking permission in his eyes.

A moment passed by. Namjoon didn’t move, Jin’s heart skipped a beat; he paused mid-air insecurely, sitting bent over awkwardly. Just as he started to pull back, afraid he’d unwantedly asked too much of Namjoon, he moved forward himself, carefully pecking Seokjin's lips.

Sighing, Seokjin smiled against Joon’s mouth and slid one hand up his neck and into his soft hair, combing it carefully with his fingers. The kiss stayed as innocent as it could be, just the tender touch of their lips, but it felt as if a weight was lifted from Seokjin's shoulders.

He’d been missing this, so much.

“I love you, Joonie”, Jin murmured, briefly kissing the corner of his mouth. “You can tell me everything, always, that’s not going to change, hun.”

Nodding slightly, Namjoon brushed their noses together. “I’m sorry. For being afraid- still being afraid, kind off.”

“Don’t be.” With a last, firm kiss, Seokjin pulled away and got up, walking towards the kitchen counter.

“The next thing I’m gonna do”, he spoke up after clearing his throat, “is making you a sweet hot chocolate with cream and sprinkles. And then you have to decide.”

“Decide what, exactly?”

Patiently, Seokjin looked at him over his shoulder. “You have to choose if you want to talk now, or later. Note that I’m not going to be angry, no matter what you want. I can understand if this conversation is too much right now - if you rather want to wash your face and enjoy your hot chocolate together in our bed, that’s fine with me.” More than fine, actually. “However, also note that there is no reason to put this talk off. I don’t want you to feel awkward around me, ever.”

Silence.

Seokjin began to make the promised drink, digging through various cupboards (maybe a little longer than necessary) and heating up milk in a pot, determined not to push Namjoon and give him time to consider. No matter how hard it was to remain quiet. Jin bit his tongue, suppressing a sigh.

It took a while for Namjoon to speak and Seokjin nearly broke his silence more than once, always shushing himself in the very nick of time.

When Namjoon finally cleared his throat, the sound almost got lost in the noisy boiling of the hot milk. “Now. I… As much as I want to curl up in bed and just sleep, that would be extremely unwise. I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to bring this up ever again, so – now.”

Humming, Seokjin turned the stove off and sat the pot aside before he turned around, leaning against the counter, relaxed and at ease. He’d done this before. First with Yoongi, then Jimin. Hobi, Taehyung.

Not Jungkook, though. The maknae was always too busy with shouting to sit down and have a serious talk about his boundaries and preferences. Which was not good, not at all, but Jin was thoroughly clueless by now.

“Alright, Joonie. Relax. This is nothing new to me, you’re safe. You’re always safe with me, and I want you to remember that”, Seokjin mentioned, smiling warmly.

Gulping, Namjoon nodded and lowered his gaze. “I’m – I’m sorry, but I don’t… I don’t think I can look at you, right now.”

Practically cooing, Jin’s smile grew wider, his heart constricting almost painfully. “That’s okay, Joonie. Baby. Whatever makes you comfortable.”

Namjoon's cheeks coloured magnificently at the pet name. He drew in a deep, wavering breath.

Seokjin wanted nothing more than to cuddle his clumsy, long-legged, blushing mess of a boyfriend. Breath in his familiar scent and hug him tight. Cute.

“So. I’m going to ask you a few things, explain one thing or two. If it gets too much, speak up. I don’t want to see you cry once more today, ah?”

Namjoon nodded a second time.

“Good boy.”

Wincing fiercely, the younger one looked up promptly and glared at Jin, whining. “Hyung, stop it!”

It was physically impossible for Seokjin not to laugh. He snickered happily, ruffled Joon’s hair and turned back to his hot chocolate in progress, glad that he’d been at least successful at lightening the mood.

“How long have you been knowing that you’re a little, Joon-ah?”, Seokjin asked while mixing chocolate powder with the steaming milk, the sweet scent of sugar treats filling the kitchen.

“I guess, um- I guess since I saw you interacting with Jimin when he was- you know. He seemed so relaxed, carefree, happy and I- I realised, shocked, that I was jealous.”

“When he was little? You can say it, hun, the word won’t bite you.”

Seokjin noticed how Namjoon was really trying. He spoke carefully, slowly, his voice softer than usual and he was frowning concentrated. It was evident that this conversation wasn’t easy for him, but he answered every question Seokjin asked and even looked him in the eyes every now and then.

And if he was silent for a few minutes, Seokjin let him be, adding a few more sprinkles to his hot chocolate and keeping himself busy somehow.

When the drink was finally ready to be consumed, and the milk had cooled down a bit, he placed the big cup on the table in front of Namjoon before he sat down next to him.

At this point, they’ve been talking for a pretty long time, and Namjoon became visibly more exhausted by the minute. Luckily, Jin had almost no questions left.

Has Namjoon ever slipped before? No, he was afraid he’d feel uncomfortable and then wouldn’t be able to get out of his headspace by himself. He couldn't do it alone.

Does he want Seokjin as his caregiver? Of course (naturally, he blushed deeply, avoiding Jin’s eyes).

Is there anything Namjoon would like to call him, like Jungkook referred to him as appa when he was regressed? No valid answer. Seokjin didn’t buy the stuttered ‘no’, not for a second, but he dropped the subject for now.

Are the others allowed to know? Only Yoongi, for now - maybe Taehyung? He’ll tell everybody after some time.

“There’s one last thing I have to explain before we can go to sleep”, Seokjin stated eventually, watching Namjoon take a sip from the cup he’s been clutching the whole time long. “All littles are different and so are the bonds between them and their caregivers.

“Some people use regression solely as a coping mechanism to help them deal with stress or mental illnesses, even. Like Yoongi and Jimin. Having a caregiver isn’t essential to them, and they don’t care about power dynamics, it’s just about the carefree headspace. There are no punishments, no rules, nothing sexual, I just protect them.

“Then there’s ddlb, daddy dom/little boy, which is a term to describe a specific bdsm relationship.”

There it was again, a pretty red blush colouring Namjoon’s cheeks.

“Of course, such relationships differ from couple to couple all the same. Hoseok and Taehyung, for example, are not really comparable, and I treat them unlike each other, even though both of them enjoy the power dynamic.

“There are individual rules, punishments, rewards - and it’s sexual. Which is, again, not necessarily the case for every ddlb relationship. Non-sexual kinks are a thing and entirely valid. A bdsm relationship is very intimate with or without sexual activities.”

Namjoon was staring at him by now, his eyes wide and his face reddened. He seemed, however, the most calm since they’ve been starting to talk. Sex has never been something Namjoon was especially uncomfortable about, so Seokjin wasn’t worried.

He seemed more surprised than uneasy. “I- I didn’t know your relationship with Hoseok and Taehyung is like this. I thought- well...”

“You thought I ruffle their hair, sing them to sleep and occasionally jack them off in the shower? Well, it’s a little deeper and more complicated, Joonie”, Seokjin chuckled and eyed his baffled boyfriend bemusedly. “The question I have now is; what do you want, Namjoon? How do you picture our relationship, as a little and a caregiver; how would you like this to be?”

Blinking, Namjoon returned Seokjin's curiously glistening look. “What I want?”

Chapter Text

This night, Seokjin and Namjoon slept better than in months.

Namjoon was not curled up into a tense ball until he fell asleep, and he actually initiated some shy cuddling with Jin all by himself. Everything seemed to be back to normal, as it had been and should be between them - save that now, Namjoon was the little spoon and no longer the big one.

When they’d gone to sleep after their talk, Namjoon had stood insecurely beside their bed before lying down, looking at Seokjin like he had no idea where to put himself. It had been quite obvious he wanted to change something about their common sleep-arrangement but didn’t dare to, so Jin had simply pulled him into his arms, tugged him close against his chest and pressed a gentle kiss on his neck. After some time and reassurances from Seokjin that he was absolutely fine with holding Namjoon like this, he’d fallen into a deep, restful sleep, every bit of tension leaving him.

Admittedly, it was a little strange at first. Not bad, of course, just different. Seokjin kinda missed Namjoon's long limbs wrapped securely around him, trapping him at night and absently pushing him away in the morning.

But on a good note, he no longer was suffocated by Namjoon's intense body heat – the man could literally burn like an oven running at full blast - and it was noteworthy nice to bury his nose in Namjoon's neck and fall asleep with his familiar, earthy scent slowly filling his lungs.

Seokjin was actually surprised they hadn't tried switching before. It was comfortable, and being the one holding his partner felt quite natural to him, in the end. Then again, he was surprised by a lot of things, most of all by his own lack of empathy and communication skills (which were definitely not things he should bear in mind when he was trying to rest and shut his brain down).

So, both of them fell asleep eventually and for hours, they were complete knocked out of consciousness. Not even Namjoon’s obnoxious snoring bothered Seokjin, and he had at no point the urge to slap him with his pillow, which was kind of a first. The night was utterly quiet and peaceful, as if an underlying threat had finally dissolved, the air around them now easier to breathe. Seokjin was filled with contentment muffling his mind, and sleeping Namjoon in his arms kept his body pleasantly warm.

That was until something touched Seokjin's shoulder, patting and pushing him gently, then not as gently, trying to draw him from his source of heat. Someone whispered inaudibly beside him, like a voice infusing deep water, and a broad streak of orangy, bright light suddenly hit Jin's face.

The first thing coming to Seokjin's mind was morning. It was already morning, and the time to rest was used up again. Already indeed – Seokjin felt as if he had slept only for a few hours.

He couldn't cling to his slumber for long, the light being merciless and harsh. Unwillingly, Jin drifted out of his dreams, his forehead scrunching up into a distressed frown. "Mh- Joonie", he groaned, turning around to avoid the ray hitting his face full on.

"…. Seokjin. Hyung- wake up, please?"

The person’s voice slowly cleared up as Jin awoke. Sighing, he let his eyelids flutter open, blinking against the sudden brightness. That wasn't Namjoon's voice - couldn't be, since Joon was unscrupulously snoring beside him, unbothered by movement and light. Of course. "What-"

He turned a second time, trying to orient himself somehow, still half trapped in his dreams. A dark, blurred silhouette stood in his room, cautiously crouching over him.

Suddenly, he managed to match the voice to a face, and he recognised the man standing beside him.

“-Hoseok?” Instant worry overcame Seokjin and he sat up, blinking to see clearer. “Is everything okay? Why aren’t you asleep?”

Now, it was pretty evident that it wasn’t actually morning, the dorm being quiet and dark except for the hall’s ceiling light.

Hoseok didn’t answer straight away. He just stood there, clutching his hands, looking at Seokjin hesitantly. His eyes were faintly reddened, but irritated enough to be noticeable, and his bottom lip was quivering.

“I’m- I’m so sorry for waking you up, hyung.” As he spoke, his voice was small and rough.

He sounded like he suppressed tons of tears, so Seokjin immediately threw his cover back and got up, gently cupping Hoseok's cheeks with his hands, having a close look at his tense face. There was definitely something dark seething underneath the surface, and Seokjin for sure didn’t want it to explode right in his bedroom next to his peacefully sleeping boyfriend. Not again.

Seokjin had truly seen enough crying for one day.

“Mh. Let’s get you out of here, Hoseokie”, he whispered, determined to not wake Namjoon up, and took Hoseok's hand to escort him out of the bedroom, closing the door behind them.

“I-I really tried”, Hoseok promised eagerly, squeezing his eyes in an attempt to maintain his composure and keep himself from leaking salt water. “But I couldn't- I couldn’t sleep and I swear I wouldn’t have woken you up, it’s just that tomorrow’s gonna be really stressful. I want to give my very best for- for Bangtan, you know that, but I can’t if I don’t… don’t...”

“If you don’t rest, Hobi.” Swiftly, Seokjin switched the lamp with the warmest and faintest light on, infiltrating the living room with a cosy, homey feeling. “You don’t have to apologise, I know. Besides, didn’t I tell you that you should wake me up if you have any trouble falling asleep? Because I’m pretty sure I did, honeybee.”

Honeybee, little prince; Seokjin had tons of pet names just for Hoseok. They made him feel safe, loved and took the edge off Jin’s words when needed. They were especially vital at times when Hoseok felt insecure, just like right now.

Hoseok nodded reluctantly as Seokjin pushed him onto their sofa, gently urging him to sit down. “Words, Hobi. Hyung doesn’t like you closemouthed like this, you know that.”

Gulping, Hoseok hesitated, his brows furrowed. His hands were clenched and pressed tightly to the sides of his thighs. “...Yes, hyung. You told me I can always wake you up if something’s wrong.”

This was bad – but to be honest, Seokjin should’ve seen it coming. Namjoon wasn’t the only one who has had a rough day, not at all.

“Thank you. And thank you for seeking me out, little prince.” That one was still Hoseok’s favourite, working magic to calm him down and pull him straight out of the self-loathing mindset he sometimes took on. Instead, the pet name pushed him deep into a different headspace, one in which he knew how loved and appreciated he was - not only by Seokjin but by all his friends, fans and family.

His shoulders instantly slumped down a little, air trapped in his lungs releasing freely. Hoseok took in a deep breath, closing his eyes for a moment; he was tired. Seokjin could almost feel the echo of him tossing and turning in bed, arguing with himself whether he should wake his caregiver or not. Whether he was worth it or not.

It was more than a delight that he’d chose to come to him, in the end. There had been a time where something like that would’ve been close to a miracle.

Sitting down next to Hoseok, Jin grasped one of his tense fists, lifting it into his lap and beginning to carefully massage the younger man’s white knuckles. “Now, darling, you have to tell me what’s bothering you, ah? Tell me, Hoseokie. Hyung’s right here.”

Hoseok hesitated, he almost always did. That was because he wanted to make people happy, not to ‘drag them down’, as he’d explained to Seokjin one time. Clearly, he still had to understand that Seokjin enjoyed caring for him and how he wasn’t a burden to anyone.

Averting his eyes, Hoseok finally began to talk, his voice glumly and slow. It sounded as if he was carrying a heavy weight on his shoulders, stealing his breath, and Seokjin wanted nothing more than to take it off him.

“It’s… about today.” No surprise there. “I… Was I-”

“Yes?”

“I was a bad boy, hyung, right?”

Sighing quietly, Seokjin squeezed Hoseok's hand reassuringly. “No, Hobi, this isn’t about me. Tell me what you think, darling.”

Because that was the only thing mattering right now.

Seokjin himself didn’t think Hoseok had been bad in any way. Yes, he’d turned their flat into a huge mess, tearing up the dorm while being regressed, but neither the first nor the second mishap had been intentionally caused by him. He’d been alone, by himself, upset. Seokjin was actually very glad the only thing that had happened was a few torn pillows.

But he knew Hoseok wasn’t going to listen if he believed he’d misbehaved and disappointed his caregiver. He wouldn’t let it go for quite some time, and he certainly wouldn’t find any sleep this night. A situation Seokjin couldn’t allow to emerge in the first place since Hoseok was right, they’d have a rather big recording session the next day and all of them had to rest.

Patiently, Seokjin waited for Hoseok's answer. If he thought he’d been a bad boy and needed Seokjin's forgiveness to calm down, the caregiver would listen and play along. It wouldn’t be the first time that Hoseok managed to find peace only after a few spanks or a short timeout. A punishment for show was enough punishment in such a case, just something to give Hoseok the feeling he made up for his mistakes. To give him repose.

It wasn’t too bad, really – if that was what Hoseok needed, it was absolutely fine.

So Seokjin just nodded as Hoseok stuttered a shameful “I was bad hyung, I’m sorry” and pulled him gently on his lap.

Shivering, Hoseok hid his slightly coloured face in the crook of Jin’s neck. Seokjin could feel how he breathed in deeply, drowning himself in his caregiver’s warm scent to calm his nerves.

“Good, Hoseokie. Really good. If you feel like you’ve been bad, I give you an opportunity to make it up to me, and then you’ll let go of that guilt inside your chest. Sounds good?”

Hoseok nodded eagerly, but caught himself before Seokjin could voice a warning; he added a whispered “yes”, and after a moment of fragile hesitation, “please punish me, hyung”.

And how could Seokjin deny such a sweet request anyway? “Then come on, little prince, get over my lap.”

Already, the tension began to melt from Hoseok's muscles as he detached himself from Seokjin's chest to lie down on his belly, ass right over Jin’s thighs, head rested on his crossed arms and eyes closed. He breathed calmly, his expression reflecting relief, eyelashes shimmering in the faint, warm light.

Hoseok was so pretty, Seokjin couldn’t suppress a proud smile, and his palms tingled with anticipation. He’d make his sweet baby boy even more beautiful, decorating his body with all kinds of red (or pink, rather).

The slight tremble rushing from Hoseok's tailbone through his legs as Jin gently stroked over the thin pyjama-material covering his bottom didn’t go unnoticed. Seokjin kept his caressing feathery and promising, deeply enjoying the firm feel to Hoseok’s butt. There was barely a part of Hoseok's body that wasn’t trained and solid – just another thing proving how hard he really worked.

It wasn’t necessary to pull Hoseok's pants down and expose him since Seokjin didn’t plan to inflict a significant amount of pain in the first place. He used his free hand to tenderly comb the younger one’s soft hair, play with the individual strands and massage his scalp, keeping him as relaxed as possible.

Hoseok's head has always been incredibly sensitive, and the goosebumps blooming on his arms made Seokjin smile in satisfaction.

“How many do you think you deserve, Hoseokie?”

A faint frown appeared on Hoseok's forehead, accompanied by a few seconds of thoughtful silence.

“...Fifteen?”

Fifteen. Now it was Jin’s turn to frown, and he was glad Hoseok couldn’t see him right now.

If he demanded fifteen, he must seriously feel bad about what happened, for Hoseok didn’t even like pain in the slightest (different from Taehyung). Usually, he went for five, or ten. Fifteen was rare and sometimes ended in tears.

Now, Seokjin would be even gentler than originally planned. He didn’t want to make Hoseok cry, or push him into subspace.

“Alright. Do you remember our rules for spanking?”

“Yes, hyung. I have to say stop immediately if I feel bad, you want me to count aloud and… and good boys thank their c-caregivers after every strike.”

While explaining their agreement, Hoseok's voice got sweeter and quieter. It was obvious that he was on the brink of slipping; Seokjin couldn’t resist, he pressed a quick kiss into Hobi’s hair before he gave his bottom a reassuring squeeze and continued to give both cheeks a rather flimsy slap.

Although the first two spanks weren’t firm at all and verged on lovingly patting, the mood shifted instantly.

And Hoseok still gasped; an adorable, surprised noise slipping out of his mouth. He gasped, flinched and parted his lips: “O-One. Two. Thank you, Seokjin-hyung.”

Full name, huh? Maybe he wasn’t as close to slipping as Jin had thought, after all. He smirked and run his hand over Hoseok's whole ass in one, firm motion, pressing him further into his lap. Then-

“Three! T-Thank you, hyung.” A little harder, a little more serious. Light, but not flimsy.

Four, five, followed by Hoseok whispering a sweet thanks. After six, he began to squirm, wiggling as if he couldn’t decide whether he wanted to press his ass against Seokjin's palms, or escape them by pushing down into his lap.

Seokjin saw that as the signal to intensify the impact of his spanks just a bit more, just so that they would leave a delicate, rose colour on his skin and a warm, tingling sensation.

“Seven, eight, n-nine… ten! Ten- thank you, thank you so much, hyung.”

Eleven, and his breath left Hoseok, pouring out of his lungs and leaving him empty, all his muscles relaxing as he exhaled. Seokjin felt his own shoulders slacking off. Finally, Hoseok had let go.

“Are you still okay, little prince? Do you want to stop?”

Usually, it would’ve been enough, but Hoseok was shaking his head. “No, please. Just four more, Jinnie. Can- Can we do that?”

“Of course we can. Of course.” Thirteen- light, gentle. A kiss of his palm, a reassurance.

Seokjin was so completely immersed in the task to spank his little prince, pet his hair and whisper praise, that he didn’t hear the creaking of the opening door. He didn’t hear the creaking, or the clicking of a light switch being pressed, or the sound of naked feet walking on tiles.

He didn’t even see the door to their living room being pushed open, now standing ajar, and the pair of eyes lurking into the room.

Unaware of the lingering gaze, Seokjin completed his task and brought the last two spanks down firmly, watching Hoseok flinch in his lap.

“F-Four- Fifteen!” Held breath, then a deep sigh. “Thank you, hyung.”

By now, Hoseok sounded exactly as tired as he should be (and as Seokjin felt). He wasn’t hard, he wasn’t in subspace and he wasn’t little. Which was good, since Seokjin honestly didn’t know if he had the energy to deal with any of those things right now. Probably not. Jin only wanted to crawl back under his warm blanket, pulling his personal oven close and shutting the world out for the remaining three or four hours of the night.

“You’re welcome, Hoseokie. You’re very welcome.” Jin cracked an exhausted smile, flopping on top of Hoseok and embracing him, echoing his sigh. “Do you think you can sleep now?”

A wholehearted yawn gripped Hoseok, he pressed his face into the sofa cushioning, subconsciously rubbing his nose against the soft fabric. Adorable.

“Yea. Yes. I’m- thank you. Really, I mean it.”

“I know, Hobi”, Seokjin chuckled, reluctantly getting up. He couldn't fall asleep on their sofa, he needed his back cramp-free. “Let’s go to bed then.”

Chatting quietly, they approached the door.

Two eyes and a head of messy hair quickly stepped back into the dark, scurrying away.

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

“And you’re absolutely sure you want to do this without telling the others?”

Subconsciously worrying his bottom lip, Namjoon alternated between shooting nervy looks at Seokjin and skeptically eyeing the items spread out on their bed; a fresh pacifier and sippy cup Seokjin had originally put aside for Jimin or Jungkook, one of their softest blankies, a few colouring books, thigh-highs, an over-sized shirt from Seokjin and lastly a blue onesie Seokjin had borrowed (stolen) from Taehyung.

Five days after Seokjin and Namjoon have had their talk, it was Sunday and the dorm was abandoned by the other members of Bangtan, giving Namjoon the opportunity to test the waters. Jimin and Yoongi had left early, without an explanation (Jin hoped they were finally going on a date); Taehyung had followed Jungkook to the gym and Hoseok was busy dancing to a song by some random American artists.

Therefore, Seokjin had fetched a few things he thought Namjoon might be interested in, spread them on their bed and pulled him gently into their shared room. Now, he inspected the different items sharply, obviously insecure and a little lost too.

But he still managed to nod affirmatively as an answer to Seokjin’s question, stepping closer and burring his slightly reddened face in Jin’s neck.

Closing his eyes, Seokjin slid a hand into Namjoon’s soft hair and the other one to his waist. Namjoon seeking physical contact was a good sign. It meant he trusted Seokjin and turned towards him when he felt unstable, rather than running away and suppressing all his emotions. He acted like Seokjin's boyfriend again, and Seokjin’s heart stumbled with love.

“I don’t want them to know if I haven’t even tried it yet”, Namjoon explained muttered against Jin’s skin, making him shiver faintly. “Maybe I just think I’d like it and freak out in reality. They wouldn’t let that go, hyung.”

Clicking his tongue disapprovingly, Seokjin leaned back to look Namjoon in the eyes. He knew Namjoon thought telling their friends about his urge to experiment was somehow troublesome to them. In reality, they’d be more than happy to be a part of Namjoon’s little test and Namjoon would probably feel safer with all his friends around him too. But there was no point in trying to pressure Namjoon to open up, so Seokjin’s response was worded mildly. “You know that’s not true. It’s natural to try things out, and they very well know that. I won’t, however, push you to tell anyone, and if you need time, you need time. We’ll do this your way, okay?”

As Seokjin gently squeezed his upper arms, Namjoon gave a short nod, smiling hesitantly.

“Good”, Seokjin praised smirking, pressing a quick kiss to Namjoon's forehead. “Alright. Well, you see I gathered a few things which could help you to feel smaller, baby.”

Considered how Namjoon reacted to an innocent, widely used pet name, Seokjin didn’t doubt he would enjoy this for even one second. As soon as the word ‘baby’ slipped off Jin’s tongue, Namjoon's face coloured bashfully, his fingers becoming tightly wedged.

“I want you to put the items you don’t like to the side and leave the ones you gravitate towards, Joonie. It’s, of course, completely fine if you dislike everything I spread out for you. Please be honest with me, can you do that?”

It was almost funny, how Namjoon eyed the covered bed as if it could come to life at any moment, uncontrollably throwing colourful crayons and plushies at his head.

Smirking, Seokjin stepped forward and sat down on the mattress. If Namjoon needed an anchor of familiarity between all these new things, Jin would gladly sacrifice himself. “Come, sit with me. Nothing on here will bite you, love.”

Warily, Namjoon came closer, crossing his arms in defence. When he settled down, he did it as close to Seokjin as possible.

“So...” He cleared his throat, looking down and avoiding Seokjin's eyes. “I just- pick what I think is worth a try?”

Humming affirmingly, Seokjin put his arm around Namjoon's waist, keeping him secure and warm. He was pretty sure little Joon was going to love hot chocolate just as much as big Joon.

Jin’s heart fluttered with excitement as he watched how Namjoon inspected the objects around him; hesitantly reaching out and feeling the blue onesie’s soft fabric with the tips of his fingers, slowly flipping through colouring book’s pages, eyeing the thigh-highs suspiciously (he threw them to the side pretty quickly, and Seokjin couldn't help his grin as he thought of how offended Yoongi and Hoseok would be).

It was fascinating to study Namjoon’s changing expressions, the language of his body and the different looks in his eyes.

In the beginning, he seemed almost as if he was watching a documentary or reading complicated specialised literature. He had that concentrated look on his face he always wore when he came across something new, something interesting.

It was a mature curiosity mirrored by his countenance, though infused by a certain shyness. It caused Namjoon's always present self-assurance and professionalism to slowly crumble and melt away with every object Namjoon examined, just as the tenseness in his shoulders. Seokjin watched how the frown on his forehead faded away and every bit of hardly learned guardedness disappeared. His lips parted slightly, mouth relaxed, his eyes wide and radiant.

It didn’t take long for Namjoon to let go, his face open and free.

Seokjin smiled, taking one of Namjoon aimlessly roaming hands into his own, squeezing it gently. “You alright there, Joonie? Are you still with me?”

He was confused for a second, pulled out of his wafting state by his boyfriend’s voice and blinked a few times. Then, he looked at Seokjin, with his attentive and honest eyes. “Mh.”

Biting his lip, Jin chuckled quietly, pulling Namjoon even closer. He was slipping so easily, so beautifully, and Seokjin couldn’t properly process how precious he already was. “Mh?”

More blinking. Shifting around, leaning against Jin’s side. “Don’t know.”

“That’s fine, baby. That’s fine.” Seokjin couldn’t stop smiling, he just couldn’t. This man was definitely going to be the death of him. “How are you feeling?”

That one took him a while. Namjoon sighed into Jin’s sweatshirt, frowning thoughtfully. Still, his expression was so different from before. Relaxed, natural. Without any hint of tenseness.

“Vulner...able. Vulnerable.” He shrunk down into himself, and Seokjin embraced him with his arms protectively, building a small, cosy cave for his lowered face and upper body. Immediately, Namjoon nuzzled his sleeves, almost skittering on his lap.

“I’m here, Joon. You’re safe.”

Namjoon’s head against his chest, Seokjin patiently listened to the quiet breathing of the younger one, closing his eyes. He was so, so warm.

It was silent, but that wasn’t unpleasant. With the lives they all lived, silence was something to appreciate. Especially this kind of silence – content and mutual. Not a heavy, loud silence, how it had been for so long between Seokjin and Namjoon.

“...Hyung?”

“Yes, love?”

Three heartbeats of hesitation. “You won’t leave, right? I can- I can just. Do this. You won’t leave me alone.”

“Of course not.” The answer came like a natural reflex. It wasn’t even Seokjin's mind speaking, it was his body, his stumbling heart. “I won’t leave you, ever. I’m here, and I’ll stay. Hyung loves you so much, Joonie, and you’re safe. You’re always safe with me.”

Namjoon breathed out, warm air soaking through the fabric of Jin’s cloth, and the caregiver knew he’d said the right things. His words were what Namjoon had needed to sink underneath the surface and be assured that he wouldn’t drown.

“Hyungie. Love you too.”

Chapter Text

Seokjin would’ve never taken Namjoon for a little with a prominent oral fixation, but here he was.

Little Joonie sat at his desk like a big boy, the colouring book full of friendly sea creatures Seokjin had bought opened up in front of him, one of his many pencils (the light green one) poking the corner of his mouth. It kept slipping closer to his slightly parted lips, almost in slow-motion, until the cheap eraser on top finally began to disappear between them.

His chin braced with the palm of his hand and legs crossed casually, Seokjin sat on the edge of their shared bed, steadily keeping Namjoon in sight. Jin’s cheeks hurt from the gentle smile refusing to leave his face, but he couldn’t help himself.

Namjoonie was just too cute, staring at the outlined octopus waving one of his tentacles in concentration, grabbing different pencils to compare their colours closely. He seemed to be a perfectionist no matter the headspace he was in, and it was a delight to watch him being so serious over something as trivial as a child’s colouring book. He had to make sure to paint Mr. octopus just right.

“Mhh Namjoonie”, Seokjin hummed, warmly, and Namjoon immediately turned to look at him with big eyes. “Don’t chew on your pencil, sweetie.”

He blinked before his gaze wandered down, staring at the hand pressing the pencil to his mouth in astonishment. “Oh.” As he lifted his head again, the eraser left his lips, hanging in the air uselessly. “M’ sorry, h-hyungie.”

Hyungie. Something the other littles enjoyed to call Seokjin, but a term Namjoon always seemed to stumble upon, his voice becoming quiet and unsure whenever he said it. Maybe even a bit sad.

“Aigoo, it’s alright, darling”, Seokjin cooed as he got up to get closer and kneel beside Namjoonie. “Do you want me to get you a soother, mh?”

There it was again, the adorable frown which made Seokjin's heart skip a beat. “S-Soother?”

“Mhm. Do you know what a pacifier is, hun?”, he asked, raising a hand to cup Namjoon's warm cheek. Watching his boyfriend so carefree and relaxed made him want to kiss him, it really did. They haven’t talked about doing something like that though, so Seokjin wouldn’t actually act on it. He could wait.
“Ah!” Namjoon nodded, now rolling the pencil between his hands. “But I’m no baby, hyungie.”

Stubborn.

At first, Namjoonie had been incredibly shy, not daring to look at Seokjin for ten minutes straight. Right as Seokjin had begun to worry, however, he’d managed to coax Namjoon into raising his head a little, carefully glancing at his hyungie, half of his face still pressed into Seokjin’s sweater.

It reminded Jin a lot of Jiminie, who always was shy right after slipping, needing physical contact and gentle words to be coaxed out of his shell.

“Of course you are, Joonie!”, Seokjin smirked, wrapping his arms around Namjoon's waist and snuggled into the man’s tummy, inhaling his familiar scent. “My pretty, pretty baby. And you’re so warm.”

“Da… Hyungie… Stop.” Fidgeting, Namjoon pet Jin’s head, fluffing up his hair. “Wanna colour. Please?”

For a moment, Seokjin paused, squinting up to Namjoon's face. Da, huh? Maybe it wouldn’t take much to bring Joon to drop ‘hyungie’, after all.

“Nuh”, Seokjin pouted, moving his arms higher, pressing tiny kisses into the crook of the little’s neck. “I want to cuddle.”

“But- But I’m no finished!”, Namjoon protested, struggling a little harder. He sighed, trembling and disappointed, and tried to push Seokjin’s head away with both of his hands. “Hyungie, you’re silly.”

Such a bossy kid. Chuckling, Jin decided it was time to really attack. “Maybe”, he chanted innocently. “My baby’s just too soft, you know? Makes me wanna-”

With that, Seokjin started to tickle Namjoonie, fingers pocking his sides, moving swiftly across his body without pausing for a second. Namjoonie squealed, voice unexpected high, and tried to catch Jin’s deftly hands; laughs bubbled out of his mouth, loud and warm, echoing through their bedroom. It was the prettiest sound, and Seokjin decided right then that he heard it way to rarely.

“No! D-Da, no!” But his protest fell on deaf ears and Seokjin only tickled him more, now terrorizing the sensitive skin under his arms, forcing Namjoon’s body to tense up. He pressed the arms to his sides with a shocked gasp, as if Seokjin crossed the thin line between teasing and being a downright traitor. “Daddy!”

There it was.

Namjoon's eyes widened, his mouth snapping shut, and Seokjin smiled. The sudden swelling of his heart led him to stop, hands resting at Namjoon's side. Carefully, he tightened his grasp, holding Namjoonie upright and close.

A thin layer of saltwater began to veil Joon’s open gaze. “Hyungie”, he hiccuped, his bottom lip trembling slightly. “H-Hyungie, Hyungie, I’m sorry. I’m- I’m sowy-”

“Gosh, no, sweetheart, don’t cry.” Seokjin gently got Namjoon to switch their positions, sitting down on the chair and pulling Joonie in his lap. “Don’t cry. You don’t have to call me hyungie if you don’t want to. I’d love to be your daddy.”

Breathing out all shakily, Namjoon rested his forehead on Jin’s shoulder, pressing against him in need of warmth and safety. “But...” His voice was so small, Seokjin almost didn’t catch it.

“But what, darling?”, he asked, rubbing Namjoon's back firmly and slow, trying to relax him through his touch.

“But… the others jus’ call Jinnie hyungie”, Joonie whispered, tensing up again.

The others, always the others. For a moment, Seokjin wanted to groan in frustration. Of course even little Joon worried about his friends and if his actions could come across as unappropriated in any way, worried about making Seokjin uncomfortable.

Naturally, instead of groaning, Jin leaned back and cupped Namjoon's face with his hands, bringing him to return his serious look. “Listen, Joonie. Most of the others call me hyungie because they like to do so, and for no different reason. If I’m daddy to you, not hyungie, that’s fine. Completely fine. You're allowed to call me everything you want to, baby.”

Suspiciously, Namjoon peaked at Seokjin with one eye, the rest of his face still squashed into the older one's sweater. “Everythin'?”

Biting his lower-lip, Jin nodded. “Absolutely everything.”

“Even...” He paused, probably searching for a good comeback. Seokjin braced himself. “Even... Even Mister Crabbes?”

He hadn't braced himself enough. Chuckling, he swang his arms around Namjoon, hugging him close.

“It's because I like you so much, hyung- da-...”, the little added helplessly, sighing in defeat.

Still smiling, Seokjin pressed a kiss into Joon's hair, nuzzling him thoroughly. “Thank you, baby”, he whispered. “That means a lot to daddy.”

It wasn't easy. Namjoon was new to this, and Seokjin too, kind of. No little, no age regressor, was like the other - it was a new learning process all over again. So it wasn't easy, and Namjoon was still shy, unsure, not one hundred percent trusting this new thing. He didn't know what was allowed, what he was ready to allow himself, what Seokjin was okay with. There were still some worries, somewhere in the back of his mind, Seokjin could see.

But for now, maybe the back of his mind was enough to try again. And again. Until they would know each other, and being together like this would be as easy as breathing.

Because it would be, Jin knew as much.

Namjoon eased his face out of Seokjin's sweater and smiled with slightly coloured cheeks. “Thank you, daddy.”