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Puppy with Cat Ears

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Being an idol is harder than some people may think (with all the bullshit haters can say on social medias, they surely don’t have any idea of how hard it is or they would shut their mouth and get a job). However, Kim Mingyu struggles with something most idols don’t even know about. Even the other Seventeen members aren’t aware of his problem, they probably never heard about it.

         That’s about to change, but not in the way Mingyu would have liked it to.

         “Hyungs, I’m tired,” he whines as he sits in the car bringing them back to their dorms.

         “I know,” Joshua smiles at him, soft and kind. “We’ll be home soon.”

         Nothing wrong with that. It’s actually Jeonghan who starts the whole thing:

         “Just imagine it. Think about being in your bed, under your blankets and wearing comfortable clothes, like… a big sweater that gives you these cute paws. Or a hoodie, so you can hide your face and be completely wrapped in warmth.”

         Mingyu’s breath stops for a moment before he remembers humans can’t live without oxygen and forces himself to inspire, expire and repeat. It sounds really good, maybe a bit too much. That’s the problem.

         “Yeah, cuddling with all your plushies,” Junhui laughs.

         He loves Junhui’s laugh. Junhui never sounds like he’s laughing at him, making fun of him, it’s more like laughing with him. The boy’s mind is clean of any malicious thoughts and that’s one of the reasons why, without being that close, Mingyu appreciates him and would definitely spend at least a century or two – he’s barely exaggerating – crying in a corner if Junhui ever decided to leave them.

         Breathing while focusing on not doing the weird thing he still doesn’t understand is becoming harder and harder. Mingyu closes his eyes and hopes they’ll be home soon.

 

Jeonghan seems to be in one of his “problematic” – Mingyu isn’t sure it’s the best word to describe it, it’s mostly just his hyung being in the mood to fool around and tease the other members – nights. He takes one of the plastic bags with the fansite’s stuff, searches in it and puts it aside, trying to find something that isn’t in this one. Mingyu doesn’t give him much attention, struggling to keep his eyes open and his mind focused on not going there.

         Then, Jeonghan grins and puts the headband with black cat ears on his head, throwing everything by the window.

         “Aw, look at our adorable kitten,” he says in a voice Mingyu often heard from their Carats when one of the boys had to do aegyo. “Our baby is the cutest, isn’t he?”

         Seungcheol sighs, but he’s smiling. It’s a little smile though, not a big, proud grin like the one on Jeonghan’s face.

         “Stop teasing the kid, Hannie. He said he was tired, let him go to bed.”

         “He’s not protesting though,” Jeonghan protests and Mingyu has no idea when his hyung put his arms around his waist, but they’re there and he doesn’t want them to move. “Angel is so obedient for me, am I right?”

         At this point, Mingyu doesn’t know if Jeonghan really only does it to be annoying or if he knows about the thing. He starts panicking, which only makes him go further in the place he wants to avoid when he’s not alone.

         “Yes.”

         Fuck. When Mingyu doesn’t feel so tired he could find the floor comfortable enough for a nap (spoiler: it really isn’t and his back hurt like a bitch when he tried it), he doesn’t react like that. An embarrassed blush, probably. Asking Jeonghan to stop or bringing up any weird things he did earlier that day, maybe. Playing along, except that he’s being serious and not playful? Nope, never.

         Even if he doubts he’s that lucky, Mingyu hopes no one noticed. Of course, everyone did and they’re all staring at him. It’s too late to pretend he was only joking, his strangled voice and the way he leaned against Jeonghan without even realizing it – now that he does, he quickly takes a step back and whines at the loss of human contact and warmth – make it pretty obvious he was being serious.

         “Mingyu?”

         Soonyoung’s voice is small and worried. He shouldn’t worry about Mingyu, everything is fine – except it’s not – and he’s not sick, but being reminded that Soonyoung cares makes him feel warm even if he doesn’t have Jeonghan’s arms wrapped around him anymore.

         When he tries to tell him all of that, it’s harder than it should be. Mingyu trips on his words like he trips on his own feet when he walks or tries to learn a new choreography, he gets confused and has to start over. It’s as humiliating as it’s frustrating and his distress is evident.

         “Hey, calm down, it’s okay,” Seokmin tries as he puts his arm on Mingyu’s shoulder. “Breathe, Gyu.”

         Mingyu puts his forehead against his friend’s and breathes. It’s easy, he can do that. Breathing is good. He’s being good. He can do that.

         He thinks someone’s calling him, but he’s not sure. His ears are weird, it’s like being underwater. Everything became too complicated for him, too hard to understand. He’s leaving.

         “Kitten?” Junhui suddenly says and takes Mingyu’s hand. “Can you hear us?”

         Talking is too tiring. Mingyu is tired. It’s not a good match, so he only nods and closes his eyes. He wants to sleep.

         Junhui softly pets his hair.

         “Okay, kitty. How are you feeling?”

         Mingyu really doesn’t want to talk, but he also doesn’t want to make his friend angry. He whimpers, not knowing how to react, not knowing what to say.

         Junhui keeps petting his hair and takes his hand, playing with his fingers.

         “You don’t want to talk. That’s okay, we’ll work on that later.”

         “What the fuck, Junhui,” Minghao says what’s on everyone’s mind. “What’s… that.”

         The other Chinese hesitates and lets go of Mingyu’s hand. With how fast he takes it back when Mingyu whines, he probably didn’t do it on purpose.

         “I don’t really know? We need Mingyu to tell us, but he’s not ready to talk yet… I’m sure he’ll explain everything when he’ll be back.”

         “Back? But he’s just there.”

         “Not exactly…”

 

Mingyu blinks and oh, oh fuck. That wasn’t supposed to happen, not like that, not with them. This time, he’s the one who lets go of Junhui’s hand. He needs to leave, he needs to go to NCT’s dorms. Even if it’s late, even if Jaehyun is probably sleeping, he knows he can, they all promised and said it was okay.

         With Jeonghan jumping on him, Mingyu didn’t have time to get rid of his shoes. He takes his jacket and his keys.

         “Mingyu, wait!” Junhui follows him. “Please don’t leave, it’s okay! There’s nothing wrong with what happened, just… just let us know what it was and what we can do!”

         “It’s not okay, everything’s wrong and there’s nothing you guys can do. I probably won’t be back tonight, don’t search for me.”

         Tomorrow – well, it’s now today – is a free day for them, a perfect occasion for Mingyu to evacuate all the stress and negative feelings he accumulated while they were practicing and recording all week. It will also help him avoid the other members since he won’t have to be back for any recording, dance practice or anything. For once, he guesses he can say he’s a bit lucky.

         (Only a bit though. Luck wouldn’t have let him be like that in front of them.)

         He closes the door behind him and runs. No one follows him, he just feels like running. When his mind gets too messy for him, he runs. His tired legs protest, but he ignores the pain. Running is simple.

         Even as an idol used to dance choreographies as hard as Soonyoung’s, Mingyu gets tired, too much to keep running. It doesn’t matter, NCT’s dorm is close now. Phone in his hand, he searches for Jaehyun’s name in his contacts. He could text him, but he needs to hear his voice. So, even if he risks waking up whoever is Jaehyun’s roommate, he calls his friend. It doesn’t take him long before hearing Jaehyun’s “you just woke me up but I’m willing to stay up if it can help you feel better” voice.

         “Gyu?”

         “Yeah. Sorry for bothering you.”

         “Nonsense, you’re not.”

         Mingyu can hear him getting out of bed.

         “I have fluffy blankets and I’m making hot cocoa.”

         “I love you.”

         “No homo,” Jaehyun laughs, which is ironic since Mingyu’s pretty sure there’s something going on between him and Taeyong, NCT’s leader.

         When Mingyu opens the door, said leader welcomes him. He looks confused and as tired as him, but he doesn’t say anything and just lets him in. It’s not the first time Mingyu comes in the middle of the night and it won’t be the last.

         “Sorry. I tried to stop him,” Jaehyun apologizes in the background.

         Not that Mingyu minds the other’s presence. It’s NCT’s dorm, Taeyong has every right to be there and do whatever he wants.

         Mingyu’s expression must be sad as hell since Taeyong gently leads him to the couch and plays with his hair.

         “Bad night?”

         “They know,” he simply says.

         Jaehyun makes a noise of understatement and “oh shit that’s bad” while Taeyong gets up and goes in the kitchen. It takes him a few seconds to find a white bag. Without a word, he puts pastel marshmallows in three mugs before coming back to the others, handing Mingyu the mug Jaehyun bought him after he realized hot cocoa helped his friend when he was feeling upset or in there.

         “Netflix?”

         “And cuddles.”

         Jaehyun chooses a movie and Taeyong goes upstairs, coming back with one of Johnny’s hoodies, one that is too big even for NCT’s giant.

         “I washed it before you came.”

         That explains the smell, fresh and comforting. Mingyu doesn’t even bother leaving the room to change. After all, it’s not like he’s the first shirtless boy the others ever saw, being a male idol makes you used to shirtless – or naked, if you live with someone like Wen Junhui – men walking around.

         “You’ll be fine?” Jaehyun asks, but not to him.

         Taeyong rolls his eyes.

         “Yeah, of course. I wouldn’t have offered to stay if I thought there was a chance I’d go in that space too.”

         “You forced your presence more than you offered it.”

         Taeyong playfully slaps Jaehyun’s arm.

         “Do you want me to leave? I could go back to bed, get some beauty sleep y’know.”

         “Not that you need it.”

         They’re adorable and Mingyu would be happy for his friend, but now isn’t the time for flirting and he feels left out.

         “Jae.”

         Three seconds later, he’s squished between Jaehyun and Taeyong, head against the first one’s chest and the latter almost squeezing him to death. There’s a movie playing in front of them and he’s under what must be one of the fluffiest blankets in the whole universe, a mug full of hot cocoa with pastel marshmallows in his hands.

         He doesn’t think about what’ll happen when he’ll have to go back to his group. For now, he lets go.

 

“Boys, we need to talk.”

         “That’s an understatement,” Seungkwan comments. “I’m still confused about what happened.”

         Seungcheol glares at him and the blonde shuts up.

         “Junhui, we can’t wait for Mingyu to come back. He won’t say anything anyway, we have to figure this out by ourselves.”

         “It doesn’t surprise me that much,” Vernon stops him. “Hey, don’t look at me like that! It’s not like something like this never happened before.”

         “I get what you mean… Mingyu likes when I call him pup,” Minghao frowns. “I never really thought about it.”

         “And he loves being the little spoon,” Chan adds. “Even if he’s so big.”

         “Talking about him being big, he often tries to seem smaller?” Soonyoung sounds like it’s a question more than a statement. “I don’t even think he does it on purpose… he’s probably not aware of it.”

         “He’s willing to do everything I ask him to when I say he’s cute. Once, I called him a good boy and he tripped,” Jihoon remembers. “It was weird, but I assumed it was because he was surprised or a bit offended.”

         “There’s nothing wrong with Mingyu tripping.”

         “He was sitting on the couch.”

         Chan can’t argue about it being weird, even for someone as clumsy as Mingyu.

         Joshua sits on the floor, ripping off a paper sheet from Jihoon’s notebook.

         “Alright. For now, we have the pet names and by pet names, I really mean pet names. Puppy, kitten… the cute ones, but also other pet names without anything related to animals.”

         “As long as it’s cute and sweet. There’s also his reaction when we say he’s cute or when we praise him,” Wonwoo adds, taking the pen from Joshua’s hands to write it down himself.

         “And the clothes! Big hoodies, sweater paws, anything soft. Fluffy blankets, pastel colours, childish patterns…”

         “Childish,” Junhui repeats. “I’d say it’s something like age play, without being age play.”

         “I thought that stuff was sexual? Mingyu never got hard because of that, though.”

         “Seungkwan, you can’t just say things like that!” Jeonghan jumps over the couch, steps on Vernon’s feet and puts his hands over Chan’s ears. He’s too late, but better late than never.

         “Wikipedia says it doesn’t have to be sexual,” Seokmin scrolls down a bit. “If I try to find more about non sexual age play on Google, all I get is Archive of our Own links and I’m too scared to read any of those.”

         “You should be,” Minghao chuckles before showing them his phone. “Apparently, it’s called C-G-L-R-E and not a single one of these websites tells me what these letters stand fore. It’s the non sexual type of age play.”

         A few moments later, they delete their browser history and will never see horses the same way they used to.

         “Age play, pet play and sub space,” Joshua reads. “With Mingyu, nothing is sexual.”

         “It still doesn’t tell us how to deal with that. Junhui, you’re the one who understood how to get Mingyu’s attention when he… he did the thing, I don’t know how to call it,” Seungcheol groans, frustrated.

         One of his boys felt so uncomfortable he left and, as Seventeen’s leader, Seungcheol is anything but happy about it.

         “It’s not my first time dealing with that stuff, but that’s not the problem. For now, we should try to get our Mingyu back.”

 

Turns out it’s easier said than done. You’d think it’s easy to find a handsome 6’something man running in the middle of the night, but nope.

         (Actually, it doesn’t even sound easy. Everyone is asleep, like they should be, so no one can tell them about seeing someone fitting their description.)

         “He’s not at McDonald's.”

         “Why the fuck would he be at McDonald's? No, forget that. Just… keep searching, and please, not with your stomach.”

         At least, Seokmin has the decency to look ashamed.

         When he leaves, Seungcheol hides his face in his hands and takes a deep breathe. Someone needs to stay in the apartment so Mingyu won’t be alone if he comes back. He hates being stuck inside with the silence and his thoughts, all far from positive, but someone had to do it and, as the leader, he had to be this someone.

         (He lost the rock-paper-scissors games they played to pick a member.)

         Joshua is the first to come back. A Carat noticed him and he was forced to run back to their dorms – after making sure the fan wasn’t following him anymore, of course – which was the reason for his scowl and the ice cream in his hands.

         “Get a bowl, don’t eat it like that.”

         “Mingyu bought it with my money, I’ll eat it like I want to. Any news?”

         Seeing Seungcheol shaking his head, Joshua stabs the ice cream with his spoon.

         “I really don’t want to call anyone out of the group, but it seems like I don’t have the choice… Mingyu shouldn’t be outside on his own, especially not when it’s so late. It’s harder to be seen by fans, but he’s so clumsy I wouldn’t be surprised if something bad happens.”

         Joshua freeze, spoon half way to his mouth. He blinks and drops the ice cream.

         “Out of the group, Cheol! He’s probably with a friend, call Minghao or Seokmin!”

         “He’s not with them,” Seungcheol replies before understanding what the other means. “Oh, the 97 liners group chat?”

         “Yes! I don’t know how many friends Mingyu has – I swear this boy is trying to befriend the whole kpop industry – but he seems pretty close with the group chat’s members. Wait, I think I have Taehyung-sunbaenim’s number somewhere!”

         “You don’t need to, we know where Mingyu is. Minghao already thought about it, he’s on his way to NCT’s dorm.”

 

When Mingyu steps in the apartment, everyone else is already there and it’s fucking awkward. You’d think an idol would be used to people staring at them, but Mingyu still wants to jump by the window and run away.

         “For fuck sake, this really isn’t that big of a deal, stop being so tense!”

         “Minghao, watch your fuckin’ language, the baby is here!” Jeonghan turns his head so fast Mingyu can almost hear his neck snap. “Chan, why the fuck are you still there? It’s way past your bedtime.”

         “Now is not the time,” Seungcheol sounds like he’s about to kill everyone with his bare hands and Mingyu would be glad to let him do so. “Minghao’s right, it’s nothing deep. If you want to be babied, then so be it, we’ll baby you. It’s not like Jeonghan doesn’t already treat half of you like you were his own children.”

         “We only have to review our lyrics tomorrow and we already did that tod– yesterday. Let’s try some things and we’ll see if it works. If not… we’ll talk about it when it’ll fail.”

         Wonwoo’s suggestion seems to satisfy everyone, Junhui being the most excited about the idea. After a few games of rock-paper-scissors, they finally have some kind of schedule: they’ll take turns by line from youngest to oldest since Chan won. Mingyu tries to keep a blank face, but it’s hard to not blush at the idea that his friends are literally fighting – it’s true, sweet innocent Junhui almost choked Seungkwan to death – to get to spend time cuddling with him.

         “Wonderful. Now, I’m going to bed, good night.”

         (Jihoon may seem uninterested, but he was the one yelling the loudest when they were arguing about who would go first. He really is an adorable teddy bear, not that Mingyu will ever say it out loud.)

 

Mingyu is still asleep when Chan joins him in his bed. Being the maknae, Chan is the little spoon most of the nights he spends with one of his hyungs. Now is the perfect occasion to change that.

         After a game of rock-paper-scissors, it was decided the members would take turns at taking care of Mingyu by lines, from the youngest to oldest. For once, Chan gets to be first.

         “What,” Mingyu mumbles in his pillow when the maknae moves too much and wakes him up.

         “Ah, I didn’t mean to wake you up, I’m really sorry. Go back to sleep, Mingyu.”

         There’s something nice about calling his hyung by his name without using any honorifics. Despite being half asleep, Mingyu notices it and the mood changes. He gets all soft, pliant in Chan’s arms, curling up so he’s smaller than he really is.

         “M’kay. Love you.”

         “Love you too, Mingyu.”

         Mingyu closes his eyes and falls asleep. Chan doesn’t. Not because he’s uncomfortable, far from it! Mingyu’s the perfect teddy bear, he fits perfectly in Chan’s arms despite the height difference – which doesn’t matter much now that they’re laying down – and the younger would only need a few seconds to go back to sleep. However, he doesn’t want to, not yet. He squeezes a bit, smiling when Mingyu curls around the arms on his stomach.

         Chan gets an arm out of his friend’s embrace and pets his hair. Mingyu has a thing for that, they all know it. Now that they’re free to touch his hair as much as they want to, he won’t let this opportunity go. Despite being asleep, the tallest of the two sighs happily and Chan’s heart does this weird thing.

         Miscommunication is a bitch and Chan is happy everything is well. He doesn’t know why Mingyu was too scared to talk to them – come on, he’s asking for cuddles and pet names, Chan is always ready to show his older brothers how much he loves and appreciates them – and he won’t ask. If Mingyu wants to talk, he’ll talk.

         For now, they’ll stay there. Without anything to bother them, it’s peaceful. Once Mingyu will be back to “normal”, Chan will ask him if they can sleep like that more often. He likes to have him in his arms and, as creepy as it sounds, it’s nice to watch Mingyu sleep, a cheek adorably squished against the pillow.

         Chan wouldn’t mind waking up to this view every morning.

 

Mingyu wakes up a second time, alone. That’s not good, that’s not what he wants, he doesn’t want to be alone.

         “Oh, Mingyu! It’s our turn now.”

         Talking is too difficult for him, who just woke up and feels a bit dizzy. He stares at Seungkwan and Vernon without moving. The blankets are too comfortable, he doesn’t want to leave, but he also doesn’t want to be alone.

         Vernon understands before Seungkwan.

         “Baby Gyu, we have a surprise for you. Do you want it?”

         He nods. Vernon shows him a plastic bag.

         “You’ll have it, but only if you get out of bed. Can you do that for us?”

         Mingyu can do that. He needs help to dress up though, head stuck in his shirt’s collar. Seungkwan helps him, patting his head once he’s done.

         “Good job, baby Gyu. We’ll give you your surprise now.”

         Bear.

         Their surprise… Mingyu loves it. He remembers seeing the cute bear ears somewhere in a shop, but none of the members bought them that day.

         “I saw how you looked at these and, with what happened yesterday, I thought you’d like them…”

         “He made me go with him to the shop, you’re lucky it was close to the apartment,” Vernon laughs before stepping closer to Mingyu so he can put the ears on him.

         Unlike the cat ears, these one are like hair clips. He has to sit on the bed so Vernon can reach the top of his head and it takes a moment before they’re finally straight and stop falling when Mingyu moves.

         “The hyungs are making breakfast, we still have some time to ourselves. You seem sleepy, let’s go sit on the couch.”

         They tell him before doing anything – “I’m going to hold your hand, do you want that?” – and he appreciates that. His brain is still asleep, too slow to fully understand what’s going on. Seungkwan and Vernon seem to plan to wake him up with cuddles and that’s honestly one of the best things that could happen to him in a day.

         This one just started and he already has been cuddled twice (well, once and the second time to come). He should have talked to his friends sooner, he honestly doesn’t know how he could have thought they would make fun of him. His life without them seems so far away, it’s weird to think about being unable to trust them for something as silly as this. He’d trust them with his life, to be honest.

         Which is why he agreed to do this. It took Jaehyun months before Mingyu was comfortable enough to slip into this space with him, but that time wasn’t needed with Seventeen. He doesn’t have any problem with being so vulnerable in their presence.

         Having them taking care of him sounds wonderful and he loves the thought that it’s (possibly) not a one time thing. He hopes everything will go well, he want this to happen more than once.

         He sits on the couch and lets his two friends wrap themselves around him.

 

“You were supposed to wake him up, not make him fall asleep again.”

         “Don’t worry about that, he’s not sleeping. Right, baby Gyu? Show Seokmin you’re awake.”

         Mingyu opens his eyes and yawns, head still on Vernon’s shoulder. Minghao touches the bear ears.

         “That’s cute. You’re cuter, pup.”

         Minghao is always soft, but somehow, he manages to be even softer when he kisses Mingyu’s nose. When he steps back, Mingyu gets on his feet and follows him. He likes when they kiss his nose, he wants more.

         Seokmin gives him more. A kiss on the nose, two on his forehead, another one on the nose. He’s not sleepy anymore.

         “Time to dress up, pup,” the oldest of the three announces, taking his hand as they walk to the room he shares with Jihoon. “Want to choose your clothes?”

         It’s too much responsibility for him. He shakes his head and Minghao’s smile makes everything worth it.

         “Awesome! You have that cute hoodie, but you never wear it. It’s a shame, red suits you.”

         Mingyu lets Minghao choose for him. Seokmin stays with him, drawing patterns on the back of his hand. A sun, a heart, a star, cute things. He raises Mingyu’s hand, turns it to see the palm and kisses it before going back to his drawings as if nothing happened.

         Mingyu likes the clothes Minghao chose him, but the hoodie is problematic. He doesn’t know how to put it on without making the bear ears fall. He keeps his eyes on the floor, hoodie in his hands.

         “Pup, is there something wrong? Are you okay?”

         “One question at a time, Seokmin.”

         Minghao understands that more than one question could get confusing. He’s good at understanding Mingyu and the latter is glad to know this hadn’t changed, even when he’s in this “Gyu space”.

         “What’s wrong, pup?”

         He points at his bear ears.

         “It’s okay. We’ll put them back on your head when you’ll have your hoodie on. Okay, pup?”

         He nods once and Seokmin’s hands are in his hair. Two minutes later, he has both his hoodie and his ears on and he’s out of the room.

         “Do you like the clothes, pup?”

         He smiles at Minghao and kisses his cheeks as a silent, but sincere thank you. Seokmin gets one too, for the drawings, the kisses and the help with the ears. Of course, Mingyu likes every member of Seventeen and he would feel like a part of him is missing without one of them, but at the moment, he doesn’t think about anyone who isn’t Seokmin or Minghao. The others are still in his mind, just overshadowed by the other 97 liners.

         He giggles when he gets another kiss on the nose. He can feel Vernon’s eyes on him, but it’s not intimidating and Seokmin’s next kiss attack distracts him. Standing in the middle of the hallway, fingers entwined with Minghao’s, Seokmin’s lips on his face, big boy in an even bigger hoodie, he feels at home.

 

Saying that Junhui is proud of the breakfast he cooked would be an understatement. A smile as big as possible on his face, he bounces on his feet, clearly excited about the idea of making Mingyu eat his food. Junhui may be one of the “oldest yet youngest” members of the group, but it doesn’t stop him from being more than good at taking care of the others.

         “Hi, kitten.”

         Wonwoo hands him the headband with black cat ears and pastel pink ribbons, the one that started everything. Mingyu accepts to get rid of the bear ears, getting a new accessory as soon as the other is on the counter. Soonyoung leads him to a chair between Wonwoo and Jihoon so he can face him and Junhui.

         Apparently, the others ate before or will eat after so they can have their moment with Mingyu. Some of them thought it was unfair since they have the opportunity to feed him, but no one argued, knowing they would have their chance soon.

         It’s quite late in the morning and lunch would be more appropriated than breakfast. However, breakfast is breakfast and Junhui made pancakes, the recipe from the book they bought on one of their trips to America. They have maple syrup – real one, from Canada, not the sad imitation that doesn’t taste half as good – and melted chocolate. If it weren’t for their idol lifestyle, they’d probably have melted caramel and marshmallows too. Since he’s sitting and can’t reach Junhui’s face, Mingyu kisses his arm instead. When Soonyoung whines about how he didn’t get anything, Mingyu leans towards him and opens his mouth.

         (So they can feed him, of course. Don’t get any weird ideas, silly!)

         “There you go, pumpkin.”

         Soonyoung gives him a mouthful of a pancake dipped in maple syrup and melted chocolate, but what makes him smile is the nickname.

         “How are the pum– pancakes, doll?”

         How to answer without talking? Mingyu smiles and gives him the thumbs-up. Junhui isn’t stupid, he should get the message.

         He gets it and leaves a kiss on the top of his head before sitting down next to Soonyoung, who raises his fork for Mingyu again.

         “Hey, you already fed him! It’s my turn now,” Jihoon protests.

         “Guys, let’s not fight in front of the baby, okay? Jihoon will go after Soonyoung, Junhui will be next and I’ll be the last. Are you okay with that, kitten?”

         Mingyu turns so he can face Jihoon, which is as close to a “yes” as they’ll get. They all take turns feeding him until he’s full. He manages to get a few more bites, but they know him as much as they know themselves – being his best friend, Wonwoo probably knows him more than he knows himself – and stops before he makes himself sick by eating too much food.

         Out of habit, he follows the others to wash the dishes. Soonyoung stops him, laughing.

         “Oh, not you, pumpkin! You’re always doing so much for us, always cleaning our mess and cooking lots of food. Now is the perfect time to rest, go wait for us on the couch.”

         The couch is great, but it gets obvious it’s too small to fit the five of them so they move to the floor. Mingyu steps on Jihoon’s foot and Wonwoo accidently slaps Junhui, a big mess that makes them laugh. No one is seriously hurt and Wonwoo’s expression when he realizes what he has done is hilarious.

         “Be careful, we can’t hurt ourselves so close to our comeback! Think about our Carats and their poor hearts,” Soonyoung warns them, trying to make Junhui sit properly even if the older boy suddenly goes as limp as one of those weird cats when you pick them up.

         “Don’t be so serious, Soonyoung, it’s not like you,” the childish boy happily says, running his fingers through Mingyu’s hair with special care to make sure he doesn’t touch the cat headband. “We’re just having fun.”

         “You can have fun while still being careful,” the choreographer protests weakly, distracted by the reason of his presence. “We’re supposed to take care of him, it won’t do him good if one of us hurts himself…”

         “Mingyu seems pretty okay for now. Come on, we even made him laugh!”

         “I just, I’m just a bit nervous, I guess. I really don’t want to accidently hurt him or make him more stressed than the whole mess that happened yesterday already made him.”

         Soonyoung’s blush is adorable. Probably upset that Soonyoung has Mingyu’s attention, Jihoon pinches their baby’s cheek, earning giggles and red cheeks (not only from the pinching). Wonwoo seems satisfied with watching them, ready to step in if Mingyu gets uncomfortable.

It’s funny how small they all make Mingyu feel, even with Jihoon by his side.

 

After breakfast, Mingyu expects Seungcheol, Jeonghan and Joshua to jump on him as soon as the others were done with him. That’s what happened with everyone else and, despite being Seventeen’s oldest members, they aren’t the most patient ones.

         At the end of the afternoon, he’s still waiting for them and nothing happened yet. He can’t help but think about what he did with the others. What if the hyungs got offended by something? Maybe they just thought about it and decided to not participate anymore. Mingyu still wants to know what he did wrong so he can apologize and gets his hugs and pet names.

         Something tells him Jeonghan is really good at giving pet names and his curiosity is dying to know what will be his.

         “Is anything wrong, pup?”

         Seokmin’s smile makes him feel a bit better. He’s still upset, but not enough to not smile back (Seokmin’s smiles always do that).

         “Hyungs.”

         With this word being the only one he has in mind, it’s easier to talk and say it. Seokmin doesn’t get it and asks how the hyungs made him so upset, but that question needs an answer with too many words and Mingyu frowns.

         “Don’t make that face, pup! I’m sure they’ll be there soon. Let’s go eat dinner, okay?”

         Technically, it’s not Seokmin’s turn so he’s not supposed to baby Mingyu, but that’s the only way to make him think about something else and Seokmin isn’t one to leave a friend sad when he can change that. It’s for Mingyu’s sake anyway, the others will understand.

         Dinner goes well, but Seungcheol, Jeonghan and Joshua don’t do anything except welcoming him when he sat down. He touches his cat ears, hesitating. Maybe they don’t make him cute enough and that’s why they’re not taking care of him, maybe he should get them off.

         “Stop playing with it or it’ll fall off,” Jeonghan finally talks to him, but Mingyu isn’t sure he likes it since it’s to scold him.

         “If you’re going to ignore him for the rest of the day, just say it and we’ll take your turn,” Jihoon literally growls.

         Joshua raises an eyebrow.

         “We aren’t ignoring him, Jihoonie,” he sounds genuinely confused, like he has no idea what the other is talking about. “We’re just saving our moment for bedtime. We planned to read him a bedtime story…”

         He’s about to add something, but Mingyu’s relief expresses itself with a “oh” when he finally understands they weren’t ignoring him. Seungcheol gives him a worried look with a touch of “whoops we kind of fucked up and now I feel guilty”.

         “I’m sorry, baby. We should have talked to you.”

         Vernon gets up to put his plate in the sink and hugs his baby Gyu before leaving the kitchen, probably to go in his room to listen to some music for the rest of the evening. Now that he can stop stressing about having done something wrong, Mingyu finishes his meal and quickly showers. He can’t wait to see what the hyungs have planned for him.

         “Ready to go to bed, sweet pea?”

         Joshua ends his question with something in English and Mingyu doesn’t fully understands, but “sweet” is nice and he guesses it’s a nickname. Even if he doesn’t know what is a “sweet pea”, Joshua’s fond tone is enough to satisfy his need to be loved.

         “Follow us, angel.”

         It’s weird when Seventeen’s angel calls someone else an angel, but it’s a good kind of weird.

         Seungcheol already put Mingyu’s plushies under the blankets. He counts them to make sure no one is missing – they’re like his babies – and sits against the pillows once he’s finished.

         “Before we start the story, can we talk a bit? We need to make sure everything went well.”

         “Yes.”

         He’s comfortable and his heart is warm. He’s okay with a small talk.

         “How was it?”

         “Good,” Mingyu hesitates before choosing to stop at that. Seungcheol’s sixth sense – the leader one – wakes up.

         “Baby boy, we need to know. No one will get mad at you.”

         He plays with his sleeves, trying to avoid the conversation. It’s impossible.

         “You didn’t want me,” he whispers, ashamed.

         “Oh, buttercup, of course we want you! Is that what you thought because we didn’t take care of you as soon as the others were done?”

         Like Seungcheol promised, Jeonghan doesn’t sound mad, not at all. Somehow, it doesn’t help Mingyu. Thinking such a thing is dumb and seeing how comprehensive and nice the others are only make him feel guilty.

         “Don’t cry, shh.” Joshua wipes a tear, making sure it doesn’t have a sibling following it. “I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, darling.”

         The silence doesn’t last long enough to become awkward.

         “Okay, that’s enough for tonight. We’ll talk later, darling. Joshuji, can you go get the book, please?”

         “You were supposed to bring it with you,” Seungcheol frowns.

         Jeonghan’s embarrassed laugh is adorable and they all forgive him for forgetting it. Mingyu falls asleep after three pages, but he’s still conscious enough to feel the kisses on his forehead before the three devils leave.

         God, he loves his friends.

Chapter Text

Idols are busy (yes, even EXO and Blackpink), but Seventeen are on another level. As soon as the promotions are over, they start working on their next album. Mingyu even suspects Jihoon of starting before.

         Mingyu doesn’t have a problem with their schedule, really. He loves learning new choreographies (well, some moves make him want to throw Soonyoung by the window, but it’s something every member felt at some point), writing lyrics and recording. He’d like to make another song like Beautiful – or maybe something completely different, he doesn’t know – but he’s been way too stressed to even think about producing. He has no idea how Jihoon manages to do all that stuff while learning choreographies.

         The thing is… everyone has been too busy to take care of him. He didn’t have time to go to any of the 97 squad members. He doesn’t get hugs before going to bed, everyone wanting nothing more than take a shower before sleeping. Mingyu trusts the others, he really does, but an ugly, insecure part of him wonders if the other day was a one time thing.

         Of course, being the big baby he is, he gets upset over it. It’s silly, the others have things to do and it’s perfectly understandable that they prefer to get the sleep they need so much.

         But Mingyu needs hugs more than he needs sleep.

         He can’t get the choreography right. He steps on someone’s foot, falls, hits someone with his arm, forgets his part, forgets the chorus, forgets the beginning, forgets everything except his stupid need for affection. Soonyoung doesn’t get angry, but Mingyu can feel him trying to keep his cool. Soon, he’ll have to deal with angry, disappointed hyungs and the thought of not being good enough makes him sick.

         Mingyu never talked about it to anyone, but sometimes, he feels like he doesn’t deserve his ring – like the others think he doesn’t deserve it.

         He’s being stupid – of course they never even thought about Seventeen without Mingyu – but when he gets touch-deprived, his brain assumes the worst.

 

“Mingyu.”

         Minghao’s face doesn’t show anything, but his eyes are worried. Mingyu would feel guilty if he didn’t know it means he’ll finally get some attention for something that doesn’t have anything to do with their new album.

         “What.”

         He didn’t mean to sound so harsh. Before he can apologize, Minghao takes his hand.

         “It’s been a while, want to go shopping? If I have to hear Seungkwan practising his lines one more time, I’m gonna kill someone.”

         Shopping sounds good. Mingyu misses spending time shopping with his best friend, maybe even more than he misses hugs.

         (Both often come together anyway.)

         “We have to go to the studio,” he argues. “And there’s the choreography, I still can’t get it right.”

         “Soonyoung said it was okay. You’re not learning anything, maybe some fun time will help.”

         “Jihoon?”

         “Doesn’t have a problem with that. He said you needed it. He has to help the others for the recording, but he wanted to come with us.”

         “Nah, Jihoon doesn’t like shopping and we know that.”

         Minghao laughs and Mingyu understands. It’s nice of Jihoon to offer to go shopping – God knows how much he hates shopping when it’s not needed – with them.

         “Alright, let’s do that.”

         They skip breakfast despite Joshua nearly sitting on them to make sure they eat and only letting them go when they promise to buy muffins or something. Mingyu wishes Minghao would have let him sleep a bit more, but coffee will probably make the sleepiness go away.

         (It doesn’t, but Minghao finds him cute when he yawns so it’s okay.)

         “I’m hungry.”

         “Mingyu, you ate three muffins and a croissant thirty minutes ago, can it wait?”

         “No,” he whines. “Please, Hao?”

         His puppy eyes would get him the moon if he asked for it. Minghao buys him ice cream instead.

 

They spend the day at the mall, taking photos more than they buy clothes. Not being as famous as groups like EXO and BTS is an advantage when they have to go out and they all enjoy it, knowing it won’t last. Even if he feels tired, Mingyu doesn’t want to ask Minghao if they can go back to the dorm. He’s with his best friend and, with their new album getting released soon, they won’t have another occasion to spend a day having fun together like this.

         (Well, not openly. What the managers don’t know can’t hurt them.)

         “I’m tired.”

         “You didn’t buy anything, we can’t go back like that!” Minghao protests, going back with an orange sweater. “You’d look good in this one, it really compliments your skin!”

         “What’s the point, our stylists will make me look like Voldemort and Edward Cullen’s love child anyway.”

         Minghao hits him and Mingyu stops complaining.

         Sweater on, he lets out a contented sigh. He’s tired and the sweater is as soft as his softest blanket, warm and perfect for cuddles. It’s more than easy to imagine sitting on the couch in the dorm and letting Minghao hug all the stress out of him… maybe a bit too easy.

         “Mingyu? You’re okay?”

         He doesn’t want his name, he wants the nickname Minghao gave him. He gets out of the fitting room and Minghao frowns.

         “Well, it’s a bit too big, but it still looks good. Do you want to look for a smaller size or are you okay with that? God, I can’t believe you still manage to find clothes too big for you, you’re a giant.”

         Mingyu pouts.

         “Not a giant,” he whispers as he looks away, hands playing with his sleeves. “Don’t want to.”

         His friend freezes.

         “Wait.. Pup?” Minghao is as quiet as Mingyu, not wanting anyone to hear the nickname.

         Mingyu nods and yawns, rubbing his eyes with his sweater paws.

         “Sleepy.”

         Minghao looks like he’s about to throw up.

         “Great. Exactly what we needed.”

         Mingyu doesn’t like how he sounds. He’s upset, Mingyu made him upset.

         He’s upset, but not enough to miss the way Mingyu’s eyes suddenly lose their sparkles.

         “Don’t, don’t worry pup, it’s okay, we’ll just, uh, call the hyungs. Yes, let’s call the hyungs, they’ll know what to do.”

 

The hyungs don’t know what to do.

         (To quote Jeonghan, they “have no fucking idea, fuck, Minghao, bring him back”.)

         “Alright, I’m putting you on speakers, stop yelling so much!”

         “The fuck you mean, Mingyu’s in Gyu space?!” Seungcheol yells in the background. “Joshua, give me the phone!”

         “I’m already on it, Cheol!” Joshua sounds like he’s fighting Seungcheol to keep the phone. “Hao, everything is okay?”

         “Oh, yeah, perfectly okay, except that Mingyu is in Gyu space in public!”

         “I need you to tell me what’s Gyu space, I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s the problem.”

         “Well, he’s… like what happened the other day, cuddles, soft nicknames and all that stuff. It’s a mix of pet play, sub space and age play so I called it Gyu space. Gyu play sounded too weird,” Minghao sounds embarrassed so Mingyu takes his hand to make him feel better. “How do I deal with that? We’re in public, hyung!”

         “Minghao, calm down. Mingyu needs you. Make sure he’s okay, we’ll take care of the managers so you can bring him back without them learning about this.”

         Minghao frowns again.

         “You’re sure you can do that?”

         “Please, they’re against Jeonghan and Joshua,” Seungcheol yells, probably too far from the phone to reach it. “They don’t stand a chance.”

         That makes Minghao laugh. He keeps talking to the 95 line for a moment, but Mingyu stops caring. Their conversation is too boring for him, it feels like when he was a kid and his parents were having grown-up talks, boring and too hard for him to understand. He prefers playing with Minghao’s hand that doesn’t hold the phone.

         “Yeah, I have my key. Don’t come back too late! Yes, I know we’re about to have a comeback and we can’t get as much sleep as we’d want to, but still. Shut up, Seokmin! I’ll bring him back safely!”

         Minghao finally puts his phone back in his pocket and smiles at Mingyu. He’s not tense anymore.

         “Sorry for that, pup. Everything’s good? Okay, perfect. You’re being so good for me, such a good pup,” he praises him, whispering in his ear so no one else hears him. “Let’s go back now. You’ll tell me why you’re in Gyu space when we’ll be alone.”

         Mingyu would rather not tell him anything and keep quiet like he did last time, but Minghao would be happy to get an explanation and he deserves it. He can handle a bit of talking.

         They hold hands the whole time and Minghao doesn’t let go, even when he pays for Mingyu’s sweater. He helps him put it on as soon as they leave the store.

         Seungcheol calls a few minutes later. They’re still at the studio and Seventeen’s devils plan to be as annoying as possible. The managers usually go with them to the dorms – once, Chan fell asleep on the floor and his back hurt so much he couldn’t practice… they really don’t need this problem now, so the managers make sure they all go to bed – and they can’t see Mingyu like that. Their hyungs plan to make them too tired for their usual routine, hoping they’ll just drop them and leave without even getting out of the car.

         Really, it shouldn’t be that complicated. Mingyu only wants hugs, it’s not that deep.

         (Korean netizens love to make a scandal out of everything though. With a comeback so soon, they don’t need to attract negative attention, even if they could probably get a bad reputation and lose their career for dropping an ice cream cone on the floor. Thank you, K-netz!)

         “I’m glad I’m not one of our managers,” Minghao chuckles. “Are you still hungry? We didn’t have time to eat before leaving the mall… I don’t think you want to cook, am I right?”

         He’s right and Mingyu feels like he wants to be, Hao not doing a great job at hiding the hope in his voice.

         “Good, we can buy something at the shop. I miss their panini, it’s been a while since we ate some!”

         Out of Gyu space, Mingyu would tease him and ask him if he’s doing it for him or himself. For now, he only cares about the hugs and pet names he’ll get when they’ll be back home.

 

The cashier is the same as always, a young girl who looks bored, but still smiles at them.

         “You dyed your hair,” she comments as soon as she sees them.

         Minghao’s black hair isn’t new, but it’s the first time in a few months he enters the small shop.

         “You too. You look good in pink and blue.”

         She rolls her eyes.

         “My parents were pissed off, it was funny. Panini?”

         “I’m surprised you remember.”

         “It’s a small place, we don’t have a lot of customers and you both used to come often. You’re my favourite customers y’know, the others never talk to me.”

         Mingyu doesn’t remember her name and it’s too late to ask for it, it would be awkward. She has a nametag, but whoever wrote her name on it would make Soonyoung jealous and he can only read the first three letters, Car. The fourth looks like another A, but he can’t tell what the fifth one is supposed to be.

         Anyway, he doesn’t feel like talking to someone who isn’t one of his members. He smiles at her without saying anything. Surprisingly, she notices something is off.

         “Hey, is everything okay? You usually talk more than your friend…”

         “Ah, he’s a bit sick, throat problems and all that stuff. He can’t talk, sorry.”

         “It’s okay. It’s none of my business anyway, I’m sorry for asking.”

         “Don’t be, it’s okay to care for people.”

         They keep chatting while she makes their panini and Mingyu starts feeling a bit jealous. Minghao is giving most of his attention to someone else now and it bothers him. As sweet as the girl is, Mingyu is craving his friend’s hugs and she’s stopping him from getting what he needs.

         He eats his panini faster than he ever did and nearly chokes on his last bite. Minghao laughs, but he quickly understands what’s wrong.

         “Here’s the money, I’m sorry for forgetting to pay before getting our food.”

         “No need to apologize, I know you aren’t assholes. you would never leave without paying.”

         “Chatting with you was nice, but we went out to have some time to ourselves and I’m pretty much leaving him for you.”

         “Ah, I know how it is! Don’t worry, I understand. Have a good night!”

         Minghao hugs Mingyu for a second, pretending he’s searching something in the other’s coat. He’s not subtle at all, but the cashier doesn’t say anything.

 

“Shower?” Minghao offers, untying his shoes, then Mingyu’s.

         Mingyu shakes his head. He’d rather take a bath, they even bought some cute bath bombs not long ago. It would be a shame not to use them.

         “Bath.”

         Minghao smiles and almost runs to the bathroom. They both love to use bath bombs and watch the water turn coloured, but they’ve been too busy to take time for anything else than a shower, so it’s been a while. Being an idol is fun and Mingyu can’t imagine not being in Seventeen, he just wishes they could have more time for themselves. Maybe Pledis could give Pristin or After School a comeback so they could finally take a break. He usually isn’t one to complain about their schedule, but the girls have been in the dungeon for too long and, with their Japanese debut, Ideal Cut and You Make My Day, he really needs some rest. They all need it, even if Jihoon refuses to admit it.

         (But when he looks at Pristin and, even worse, After School, he shuts his mouth and doesn’t say anything. He’s lucky to have things to do, some Pledis artists can’t relate and he doesn’t want to be ungrateful for what he has.)

         “They’re all so cute, I really can’t pick one…” Minghao sighs, opening bag after bag. “Oh, this one smells good!”

         He passes it to Mingyu, who agrees. It does smell good, but he doesn’t like the colour… who wants to take a bath in green water? Not him.

         “Mixing them would give a weird colour, so we can’t pick more than one.”

         It’s cute to see Minghao so focused on the bath bombs. It’s even cuter to know he’s doing this so he can give Mingyu the best one.

         “Oh, I should probably let you choose!” Minghao’s red cheeks are adorable, so Mingyu pinches them and giggles when his friend returns the favor.

         “Both!”

         “Mingyu, I just said we can’t pick more than one.”

         It’s amazing how Mingyu can make a judgemental face even when he’s being a soft baby.

         “You mean… you, me, the bath. Okay.”

         It’s not like it’s the first time they see each other naked after all. They even showered together. Having thirteen boys and only two showers does that and they’re not uncomfortable with seeing a bit too much skin. They’re all used to Junhui walking naked in the apartment, it says a lot about how comfortable they are with the other members.

         (Of course, some of them aren’t like Junhui and prefer to shower alone, but it’s okay. Not everyone is comfortable with all that skin and no one gets offended, understanding that they all have different limits.)

         Mingyu finally chooses a bath bomb, smelling like its colour.

         (Orange, but that’s only because they ran out of his favourite smell.)

 

After the bath, Minghao helps his friend putting his clothes on. Mingyu asks for his new sweater and hugs him as a thank you once he’s wrapped in the comfortable warmth. The youngest of the two notices how he keeps yanking him down to try to hide his shorts and suggests a bit of shopping online. They went outside to buy some things for Mingyu, but not for his pup. Now is the best occasion to buy something that will comfort and satisfy him when he’s in Gyu space.

         “Alright, time for some cuddles.”

         Minghao can almost see the ears on Mingyu’s fa– oh, he forgot about the headband. He runs to Mingyu’s room, gets the dog ears and trips on the carpet when he sees the way Mingyu’s eyes light up as soon as they fall on the headband.

         “Sorry pup, I totally forgot about this.”

         Mingyu waits for Mingyu to sit between his legs. Once his friend is more laying on his chest than sitting on the floor, he gets a blanket and wraps it around them. Mingyu seems more than happy to be turned into a burrito.

         “Want to start with clothes, accessories or something else?”

         He shrugs, not really caring about it as long as Minghao keeps his arms around him.

         “Okay, we’ll start with clothes and next time, we’ll buy you things to make you a safe space in your room or somewhere in the dorm. You’re okay with that?”

         He kisses the top of Mingyu’s head, right between the two fluffy ears, and calls him his good boy when he gets his answer.

         Surprisingly, most of Mingyu’s clothes aren’t pastel. Of course, some of them are – they even found an adorable baby pink hoodie with dog ears and tail – but most of them are a vibrant red. He falls asleep before they pay for all his new stuff, but Minghao doesn’t wake him up.

         Chan really wasn’t exaggerating. Mingyu is always beautiful, but when he’s sleeping, he looks nothing less than ethereal.

         (Then, he opens his mouth and kicks Minghao’s left thigh. Well, at least he’s still adorable.)

 

When Mingyu opens his eyes, he’s in his room, Minghao still hugging him. His friend probably waited for the others so Seungcheol could carry their big baby to his bed, he doubts Minghao is strong enough to do it himself.

         “Hao?” he whispers, trying not to wake up Jihoon.

         His friend doesn’t answer him so he pokes him in the cheek. Still nothing. Pouting, he puts his hands on both sides of Minghao’s face. Before he can squish his cheeks and laughs at the Chinese’s funny face, he gets pinched.

         “Leave me alone,” he whines, curling up into a ball.

         “Funny how I could tell you the same thing. You’re still in Gyu space?”

         “Can’t you tell?”

         “You’re always cuddly when you wake up,” Minghao points out, still not moving.

         “Fair enough.”

         It takes a while for any of them to talk again, but Mingyu has to thank his friend. Really, he doesn’t know what he would be without Xu Minghao.

         “Thanks, by the way.”

         “You’re welcome. You’re okay?”

         “Yeah, we just didn’t have a lot of time for cuddles.”

         “You’re such a baby,” Minghao chuckles.

         It doesn’t sound as teasing as it normally would. Minghao’s voice is fond and he looks at Mingyu… Mingyu doesn’t know enough words to describe it, but it makes him feel safe and loved.

         “Your baby,” he mumbles, head under Minghao’s chin to hide his blush.

         “Go back to sleep, it’s too early to get up.”

         Minghao closes his eyes, but Mingyu doesn’t. He can’t fall asleep, he has things to do.

         Minghao’s birthday is coming soon and he has to make he'll get the birthday gift he deserves.

 

Chapter Text

“Wait, I think there’s something wrong with my hair. Fix it, I don’t want any weird photo.”

         “I would, but it says we’re not allowed to touch… shoot, I forgot the rest.”

         “Art, Mingyu. You forgot the last word, you dumbass.”

         For Minghao’s birthday, Mingyu decided to bring him to a museum. They both like painting and art, so he thought it would be even better than buying him something.

         (Also, with all the planning to make his friend’s birthday the best birthday he ever celebrated, he kind of forgot to buy a gift. At least, he knows Minghao will like the wine he chose for their dinner.)

         After admiring the paintings for about an hour, they’re turning their visit into their own photoshoot – of course, they’re only doing it in places they’re allowed to, going to jail would ruin the day. Mingyu knows their Carats are waiting for an update about Minghao’s birthday on his Instagram and he wants to make sure he has at least one good photo for that. It would be even better to have a funny photo, like one taken when Minghao wasn’t looking,  but he still feels like he owns him for taking care of him.

         “You’re such a loser,” Minghao laughs and hits his arm. “Fix it now, I don’t want to look ugly on my birthday photos.”

         “Alright, don’t move.”

         Mingyu gives him his phone, Minghao scrolling through the photos. He can’t see his expression, but with the sounds he makes, it’s pretty easy to guess what he thinks.

         “Is it that bad?”

         “Honestly, no, not at all. It just could be better, much better.”

         “I know how to take photos...”

         “Of course you do. Look, the angle here is a bit weird, the light is really bad from there so just… I’ll show you, it’ll be easier than explaining it. Your turn, go stand there.”

         Mingyu doesn’t need him to say it twice, he loves when Minghao offers to be his photograph. Well, he forgets to credit him more often than not, but it quickly became a joke between the two of them – and all their Carats – so he keeps “forgetting”.

         Minghao barely takes ten seconds before he has a good photo. Mingyu doesn’t feel like pouting at all, thank you very much.

         “I still don’t understand how you did it.”

         Maybe Mingyu sounds a bit too upset since Minghao starts praising his photography skills as soon as he closes his mouth.

         “This place doesn’t have good lighting, that’s why it’s hard for you… you’re good at taking photos, you’re just not used to this.”

         “Oh, hi guys! It’s nice to see you again. I think it’s the first time I meet you out of work.”

         Cara’s friend chokes and the girl starts hitting her back before Minghao stops her.

         “You have to let her cough, hitting her will only make it worse!”

         “Yeah,” the friend laughs, “fucking dumbass.”

         “I was trying to save your life!” Cara steps on her foot, but she only laughs harder. “Next time, I’ll just let you die!”

         “I think I’ll have more chances to live if you do that.”

         Even if they’re teasing each other, they’re still holding hands. Cara’s light skin makes her friend’s looks even darker and Mingyu quickly takes a photo before they move. The contrast before the skin, Cara’s blue eyes shining as they look into the other girl’s – as brown as chocolate – and the way they smile at each other… it’s as beautiful as the paintings, maybe even more.

         “Yes, it’s great to see you here, Cara and…”

         “Where the fuck are your manners, are you trying to be rude? Not that your pure, precious, perfect self ever could,” the friend – Mingyu feels like there’s a girl to add before this word – teases her in a very heterosexual way.

         “Sorry. Boys, here’s my friend, Momo. Bebe, they’re the boys I told you about.”

         That nickname really makes her seem like nothing more than her friend, but one look at Minghao is enough to know that both of them won’t say anything about their relationship. It’s none of their business and, as idols, they know how uncomfortable it is when someone puts their nose into their love life.

         “Oh, the annoying ones, right?”

         “Shut up. She’s joking.”

         “Of course I am,” Momo chuckles. “She’s the sweetest girl ever, she only told me good things about you two. Thanks for making her time at work less boring.”

         They keep giggling. Mingyu knows this kind of giggling, it’s the one you can’t stop when you share a joke with your best friend and said joke’s victim is right in front of you.

         “We need models so I can show Mingyu how to take a good photo with this lighting. He’s still a newbie, but his photos are already pretty good.”

         Even if Minghao always teases him, he seems to love praising Mingyu and bragging about everything he can do when they talk to someone out of the group.

         “Sounds cool, I’m in!” Cara accepts, followed by her friend.

         Well, this day was supposed to be an occasion for Minghao and Mingyu to spend time together without anyone disturbing them, but Mingyu can’t complain. The girls are nice and Minghao’s hands on him as he corrects his posture and angle make him feel all warm inside.

 

When Mingyu tells Cara it’s Minghao’s birthday, she offers to buy them panini as a gift, but they refuse. They already have something waiting for them at home.

         “I bought your favourite wine,” Mingyu announces as they close the door behind them.

         The other members accepted to spend the night at the other apartment. It made Mingyu feel guilty until he realized that most of them would probably go to their friends out of the group – Seokmin to Jaehyun, Junhui to Yanan, Joshua to pretty much anyone since no one in the kpop industry would let this sweet boy alone on the streets, Jeonghan and Seungcheol to whoever Joshua goes to… they’ll be fine.

         “It’s almost done, I just have to add the final touch to your birthday cake.”

         “Mingyu, I’m too hungry to care about how it looks, I’m sure it’s good.”

         “Hao, I bought cute stuff for your cake and I want to make it pretty! I can’t let you eat something that looks like trash for your birthday,” Mingyu protests, already on his way to the kitchen.

         The cake smells heavenly, especially for someone as hungry as Minghao. He sits on the counter and does his best to imitate Mingyu’s puppy eyes. He’s doing a great job, but Mingyu refuses to waste the icing after spending half an hour on it – perfection is important, y’know.

         “Do you think it would look better with the candles in the middle or–”

         “Mingyu, I really don’t care about your fucking candles!” Minghao seems to remember Mingyu doesn’t like – hates – being yelled at. “Sorry, Gyu. It already looks awesome and I’m sure it’ll be the best cake I’ve ever had. Stop worrying about it.”

         “Sorry.”

Mingyu has to admit he feels bad when Minghao starts eating so fast he almost chokes on his food. He really didn’t mean to make him wait for so long, he just wanted to make sure his best friend would only get perfection for his birthday.

         “So, how was your birthday? Fun? Original? Not something you did last year?”

         Minghao laughs and makes him wait before answering. Mingyu feels like it’s payback.

         “Of course it was fun, Gyu. You worked so hard to give me the best birthday ever, it couldn’t not be fun.”

         “Ah, I’m glad. I wasn’t sure about the museum, we went there before and it wasn’t something new…”

         “For a birthday, yes. And I don’t really care about my birthday being something big and special, I think there’s something more important.”

         Mingyu knows he’ll get a cheesy answer, but he still asks:

         “What’s more important?”

         Minghao smiles and looks away. His smile is soft and makes his cheeks look round, Mingyu wants to pinch them.

         “Spending the day with people I care about.”

         He can’t say he didn’t expect an answer like that, but it doesn’t stop his cheeks for getting as red as Minghao. Everyone knows it’s easy to make Mingyu blush, his ears turning red at even the smallest praise. It makes the ambiance less awkward after Minghao’s confession, the Chinese laughing at his friend – Mingyu feels like that’s all he did today, laugh at him.

         “Aw, are you saying you care about me? You love me, Hao?”

         “Of course I love you. I mean, who wouldn’t?”

         Mingyu chokes on his wine.

 

There’s absolutely nothing sexual about taking a bath with Minghao. Yes, they’re both naked. Yes, Mingyu put candles pretty much everywhere around the bath. Yes, there’s wine. Yes, Minghao chose the “sex bomb” bath bomb.

         But because of said bath bomb, they’re surrounded by bubbles and Mingyu can’t think about anything else than Minghao’s Santa Claus imitation. His stomach hurts too much and he’s a child, laughing at something as simple as a fake beard made of bubbles.

         “Bet that’s not what our fans write when ‘we’ take a bath together in their fanfictions,” Minghao jokes and softly blows some bubbles on his hands, sending them flying to Mingyu.

         “You can’t say things like that! Also, what makes you think they can’t write sexy and soft things? They can probably do both.”

         “Sounds like someone knows a bit too much about fanfictions.”

         The water seems to be the most interesting thing in the room to Mingyu until he remembers Minghao is in front of him – naked, mind you – and his eyes down could make his friend think he’s looking at… something he normally shouldn’t look at.

         (Okay, they’re boys and already looked at each other’s dick to see who had the biggest one, but not in that context.)

         “Stop making this so awkward! My sister writes some, that’s all.”

         “Not a week goes by without seeing a naked Junhui imitate a worm on the floor at least once. We shower two or three members at once. This isn’t awkward at all, we even have bubbles to protect your innocent eyes.”

         “Yeah, but these things don’t happen with one of us talking about fanfictions.”

         Minghao shrugs and raises a leg. Mingyu dodges it before he can bop his nose.

         “Keep your ugly toes away from my face, thank you,” he mumbles, not doing a so great job at making a beard like Minghao’s.

         “Did you just call my toes ugly? Have you seen Seokmin’s?”

         “It doesn’t make yours any less ugly.”

         This time, Minghao goes for his throat.

         “It’s my birthday, take it back!”

         “Alright, alright, your toes aren’t ugly!”

         Satisfied, Minghao pats his head.

         “That’s my good boy.”

         Well, there goes Mingyu’s plan of spending the day without going in Gyu space.

 

As soon as they get out, Mingyu runs to the room, wrapped in a towel. Seungcheol’s hoodie is giving him the bedroom eyes – not the sexy kind, the “I’m tired and I want to sleep” one – on the floor. He suspects his leader of buying hoodies and sweaters one size too big so he can wear them once to make them smell like him before letting the younger “steal” them. Whatever. If Seungcheol doesn’t say anything, then neither will Mingyu.

         He puts the hoodie on before quickly getting it off. Minghao, who has Jihoon’s permission to sleep in his bed so he can be in the same room as his best friend, raises an eyebrow.

         “What’s the problem with your hoodie?”

         “Technically, it’s Seungcheol, but that’s not the problem. It’s too soft, too warm.”

         “I don’t understand, you usually love this kind of clothes.”

         “I just, I don’t want to go in Gyu space on your birthday,” Mingyu admits. “It’s your day, you shouldn’t spend time taking care of me. It should be the other way around.”

         Minghao stops him, hand on his mouth. He’s so close Mingyu can’t focus on anything except his nose, which probably makes him look weird since he has to squint.

         “Gyu, pup,” his voice is fond and soft, “I’m sorry you feel like this. You’re not a burden.”

         The nickname almost made Mingyu slip, but the last sentence ruins everything.

         “I never said I was! That’s now what I mean!”

         “Shh, pup. Calm down, everything is okay. Don’t talk, I know you hate talking when you’re so tired.”

         It’s amazing how good Minghao is at taking care of him even if it’s the third time he goes into Gyu space with the other there. Amazing, but not surprising. They’re best friends, The8 and Min9yu, knowing each other probably more than they know themselves.

         “I love taking care of you, pup. Hugging you, kissing you, telling you how good you are… you deserve to feel loved, baby.”

         Mingyu is weak for this voice and with these words? He doesn’t stand a chance.

         “But, your birthday…”

         “It would be the perfect birthday gift. I love it so much, please? Be a good boy for me.”

         And who’s Mingyu to refuse?

 

Hoodie back on, Mingyu waits. Minghao seems to have lost his favourite headband, the dog ones. They all have favourite nicknames and “concepts” for him. Minghao can’t hide his love for the puppy “theme”.

         (Mingyu really doesn’t know which words he should use. Concept and theme make him think of comebacks and he can’t – doesn’t want to – imagine a comeback with a soft Gyu space concept… not that their Carats would be against him, the soft little shits. He loves them so much.)

         Sitting on the bed, he hears a weird noise, but Mingyu doesn’t get up. Minghao is a grown-up after all, if something is wrong, he’ll take care of it.

         “Sorry, I forgot to open the door.”

         It sounds like something Mingyu would do. In fact, he does it more often than not. It’s not that he’s stupid, he just wants to be fast and forgets to open the door. Sometimes, his body is too fast for his mind. He hates it, hates wiping off the blood under his nose, hates having to hear the other members laughing, making fun of him. They’re not mean, of course not. He likes making the others laugh and he’ll start laughing immediately after falling or breaking something, but even Mingyu has his limits.

         Sometimes, what hurts him the most isn’t his bleeding nose, it’s the “Mingyu, you’re so dumb” that follows. So he doesn’t say anything and hug Minghao, waiting for him to put the headband on his head.

         “Ah, it’s still a bit wet,” Minghao sighs. “Let’s just hope you won’t catch a cold.”

         Mingyu doesn’t get sick easily and it’s hard to catch a cold when it’s still warm outside, but Minghao says it because he cares.

         “Thanks.”

         “You’re welcome, baby. I should be the one thanking you.” Mingyu’s eyes must look confused as shit since Minghao doesn’t make him wait for more than three seconds before explaining himself. “You’re the one who made this day so perfect.”

         Minghao liked his birthday present. Minghao liked his birthday present. Minghao liked his birthday present. Mingyu can’t think about anything else and immediately relaxes.

         “Aw, were you worried? Poor pup. You really don’t have to stress yourself like that for me, okay? Don’t do it again. I’ll like everything you’ll do.”

         Minghao keeps talking about how perfect his birthday was. It’s a bit redundant, but feeling appreciated never gets old so Mingyu lets him talk. He yawns a few times and Minghao offers to tuck him into bed. He gets a no.

         “Alright, not now, but if you get too tired, you’re sleeping and that’s it. You’ve been such a good boy for me, now isn’t the time to be disobedient.”

         And Mingyu won’t be disobedient, of course not. He’s a good boy, he’ll make Minghao happy and his friend will take care of him in return.

         “Is there something you’d like to do, pup?” Minghao asks as he adjusts the ears, which were about to fall off Mingyu’s head after he shook it when the youngest of the two talked about sleeping.

         His pup nods and walks to the living room, pointing at the box where they keep a few movies (they watch a lot of movies and series, but mostly on television or Netflix). Minghao frowns.

         “It’s too late, pup. If we start a movie, you’ll probably fall asleep three minutes after the beginning. Would you prefer some cuddles on the couch?”

         Mingyu raises a hand and shows him two fingers.

         “Both? No, it’s too late, you know Seungcheol doesn’t want us to stay up until shit o’clock when we don’t have schedules.”

         Minghao takes his pup’s hand and guides him back to his room. Mingyu sits on his bed, crosses his arms, pouts and turns away from the other, who chuckles.

         “Pup, are you sulking? We can watch a movie tomorrow if you’re good.”

         He doesn’t move.

         “Mingyu, you’re not being good right now. Please, look at me.”

         It takes Minghao ten seconds to lose his patience. He climbs up to Mingyu’s bed, wraps his arms around his waist and forces him to lay on his chest.

         “That’s it. You’re being a bad boy, you need to sleep.”

         “Don’t wanna!”

         “Are you sure?” Minghao whispers in his ear as his hands go under Mingyu’s hoodie to rub his back.

         If Mingyu gets closer and lets out a whine when Minghao stops, he’ll blame his lack of sleep for it. Under the blankets, wrapped in an oversized hoodie that smells like Seungcheol – smells like home and safety – and with Minghao’s hands on him, he quickly falls asleep.

         When he wakes up, he sees his friend and sighs. Really, he should stop sleeping with them. One day, he’ll be unable to fall asleep without one of them wrapped around him.

         Honestly, he wouldn’t mind, not at all.

Chapter Text

For someone who can brag about winning martial arts competitions, Wen Junhui is totally harmless, really. He screams when he sees a spider, but cries when Jihoon kills it. He’s like a kitten, childish, playful and innocent.

         However, when he gets bored, Mingyu fears him as much as an angry Jihoon with a guitar.

         (Even if Jihoon will never admit it, hugs can calm him down. When Junhui gets seriously bored, you can only hope you’ll still be alive at the end of the day.)

         “What are you doing? I thought you wanted to get some sleep.”

         “Junhui is bored,” Seungkwan replies, eyes wide open and terrified, before running away from the apartment, not wanting to be anywhere near the Chinese boy.

         This time, Mingyu doesn’t follow him. He’s bored too and he wants to be in Gyu space. Minghao’s birthday wasn’t that long ago, barely a few days if he’s being honest, but award shows always make him stressed and he feel like he needs some Gyu time.

         That thought in mind, he opens the door, ready to face the beast.

 

“Cupcakes?”

         After Junhui jumped on him to whine about how bored he was, Mingyu proposed to cook. They’re both pretty good at it and it’s been a while since the last time they cooked together.

         “Yes. I’m hungry and I want to eat something sweet, y’know. Don’t you?” Mingyu doesn’t need to ask to know the answer, Junhui is always ready for cupcakes or any other sweet dessert. “But this time, it’ll be different.”

         “That’s nice, different is great. Less boring.”

         “Do you think you could, like… it’s a bit embarrassing to ask, uh, cook with your doll?”

         Junhui frowns and scrunches his nose, like Wonwoo when he laughs.

         “But I don’t have a doll… oh, you’re talking about you? Doll is the nickname I gave you the other day, when you were in Gyu space, right?”

         “Yeah, I want to go in Gyu space but I really don’t want to bother you, it’s fine if you don’t think you can manage.”

         In his excitement, Junhui slips, misses Mingyu and hits the wall. Maybe wearing those socks wasn’t a good idea.

         “That’s so cool, let’s do that!” he almost yells after getting back on his feet. “I never cooked with you in Gyu space!”

         He runs to the kitchen, so fast Mingyu worries about him falling and hitting his head on the floor (it wouldn’t be the first time and certainly won’t be the last). They agree on strawberries and lemon cupcakes before remembering about the special thing.

         “Right, Gyu space,” Junhui says as he puts the book on the counter. “What am I supposed to do? I don’t want to offend you, but I don’t know how it works. Is it like a superpower or something? Do you decide when you, uh, become your other you?”

         “It’s not a superpower or another personality, hyung. I’m still me, just… I’m just focused on letting you guys have all the control so I can relax. It’s not another personality, it’s like when you wake up, you don’t react the way you usually would. Take Jihoon, he lets us hug him without complaining or running away when he gets out of bed.”

         Not that they take advantage of that. Jihoon is a bit uncomfortable with skinship and they understand that. Everyone has their limit and they respect his. It’s not like he refuses everything, he appreciates hugs on some days and is okay with holding hands. Mingyu didn’t really try to hug him in Gyu space, so he’s curious about it. Honestly, if Jihoon is uncomfortable with it and doesn’t want to take care of him, it’s okay and he doesn’t mind, really. His friend’s comfort is important too, he wants those moments to be enjoyable for both sides and not just for him.

         “I don’t understand,” Junhui admits, “but I know that you like hugs and that you’re still you, so… that should be enough.”

         “Honestly, even I don’t fully understand it,” Mingyu chuckles, fingers playing with the end of his sleeves. “Thanks for trying, though.”

         “You’re welcome. For the cupcakes, I don’t think we have everything we need…”

         The sparkles in Junhui’s eyes would be cute if they didn’t come with a smile so wide Mingyu is scared for his poor cheeks.

         “Okay, cuddle me. Make me go soft before we go.”

         “What happened to the no-Gyu-space-in-public rule?”

         Mingyu’s smile could make Junhui’s jealous.

         “Rules are boring, you’re bored, I’m in need of some good old cuddles. What the others don’t know can’t hurt them, right?”

         “And we’ll go to the small shop to buy our things, it’s pretty much impossible to run into a Carat or a sasaeng there… sounds fun, let’s do that.”

         Junhui is scary when he’s bored, but Mingyu is terrifying (and careless) when he wants hugs.

 

What happens when you let a toddler and a puppy in a shop together? A big mess.

         Cara watching them with an expression that tries to be exasperated (but fails), they run in the alleys. Junhui stops as soon as his eyes fall on the cart.

         “Doll, come here! Look at this!”

         For such a small place, it’s surprising to see a cart, but Cara sighs and gives them her permission when Junhui asks if they can use it. He doesn’t really explain what they’ll do with it, but to his defense, it doesn’t take more than three brain cells to know that they won’t use it for groceries.

         Well, yes, but not only for that.

         “Is the carriage comfortable enough for my prince?”

         Mingyu giggles, hands on his cheeks to hide his blush. Junhui can still see his ears though.

         “I’ll take that as a yes!”

         He runs and Mingyu now knows the time his hyung spent at the gym wasn’t wasted. Even if – let’s be honest – he’s heavy, Junhui pushes the cart like it’s nothing, letting Mingyu get the things they need on the way. When he misses an ingredient, he turns to the oldest and points at it so they can go back. Cara watches them without a word.

         (Mingyu hopes she won’t get fired for this. That would suck.)

         “Faster, faster, faster!”

         Junhui does the opposite.

         “No, we can’t go too fast, it would be dangerous. Sorry, doll.”

         Mingyu would sulk, but Junhui is faster than Minghao and quickly finds a way to get his attention on something else. The teddy bear is adorable.

         “Look at it, do you want it?”

         “Bong Bong,” he mumbles, trying to hide how much he wants the teddy bear.

         “I’m sure your plushies won’t mind if you get a new one. Maybe they’ll even like having a new friend! Making new friends is fun, don’t you think?”

         “I hate minding someone else’s business – don’t listen to Bebe, she’s a liar – but you guys are so loud it’s impossible not to hear you… so I thought I could help,” Cara rants, clearly embarrassed, but not by the two boys’ conversation. “When I was younger, I had a lot of plushies and stuffed toys and, like, I used to love buying new ones so they could have more friends, you know…”

         “Let’s buy your Bongies a new friend! You want a gift? I’ll buy it for you.”

         Yes, Junhui also likes to spend money when he’s bored. To be honest, there isn’t a lot of things he doesn’t like to do when he’s bored, but what did you expect from someone who doesn’t bother putting clothes on in an apartment he shares with his friends?

         “Cool! I’ll take it with me so you won’t… kill it or something.”

         “I don’t see what you’re talking about,” Junhui frowns. “Let him have the teddy bear, we’ll be careful.”

         Less than ten seconds later, Junhui’s running and he almost kills Mingyu, who seems pretty happy for someone who’s flirting with Death. Teddy bear against his chest, the youngest of the two is laughing.

         “If one of you dies, I’m not responsible for that.”

         “We’re fine, Cara, don’t worry about– aw.”

         Of course, Junhui had to forget to look in front of him. As a result, Mingyu is on the floor with food everywhere around him. The teddy bear is okay though.

         Mingyu? His forehead is a bit red, but Junhui kisses the pain away. Cara doesn’t say anything about it and hands him a box of cute Cinderella bandages.

         “Don’t you dare laugh at me, they’re not even mine anyway.”

         “I wasn’t about to laugh,” Junhui defends himself after thanking her, smile pure and genuine but probably mistaken as mocking. “Doll– I mean, Mingyu will probably like them anyway. Forget what I said. Mingyu. That’s what I said.”

         “I feel like I should ask, but I honestly don’t want to know,” the girl sighs, pinching her nose. “What do you guys need?”

         “Oh, we already have everything we need. We want to bake cupcakes!”

         Then, he realizes the big mess he made and quickly drops to his knees, putting the food back where it was and apologizing so many times in such a short time he could probably give the hip hop unit a run for their money.

         (Yeah, rap isn’t all about being fast, but now isn’t the time for details.)

 

Surprisingly, Cara doesn’t kick them out and waves at them with a huge smile once they leave. From what her friend said when he was at the museum with Minghao, Mingyu guesses they’ll be her only clients of the day. If not, then they’ll at least have the right to brag about being the less boring ones.

         “I can’t believe it took us more than an hour,” Junhui groans, carrying the bags with only one hand so the other can hold Mingyu’s.

         They run all the way back to the apartment, which isn’t really long anyway. Surprisingly, they’re not as good as they thought they would be: there’s dough everywhere and Mingyu’s nose is as white as Dispatch wants it to be.

         “Stop throwing flour at me, I already apologized!” Junhui whines, trying to protect himself with a spoon.

         Mingyu laughs and tries to run away from his friend. Tries to because he slips on something – an egg? – and falls. Junhui joins him soon, but not before trying to stop his fall by gripping the counter and accidentally taking the bowl with him. Luckily, most of it is already in the oven… but it doesn’t mean they don’t get dirty when what’s left gets on their clothes, faces and hair.

         “Urgh, it’s so sticky! Disgusting,” Junhui groans and searches for a towel. “Sorry for that, doll.”

         Thumb in his mouth, Mingyu can’t reply.

         “Wait, doll, don’t do that, it’s bad for your teeth! We’ll buy you a pacifier if you want one!”

         The youngest licks his other fingers, ignoring him.

         “Doll, that’s nasty, what are you– oh, the dough. Is it good?”

         Mingyu nods and gets up, like babies do: hands on the floor to support his weight before he lets his legs take it.  Junhui has to stop himself from crying and rolling on the floor because oh my fucking God his doll is just too precious and he doesn’t think his heart can’t take it.

         The floor being slippery, Mingyu slowly walks to the table to point at the icing they made for the cupcakes. Junhui is almost too busy sobbing – he was almost waddling who the fuck allowed him to be this adorable – to understand what he wants.

         “The cupcakes aren’t ready yet, doll.”

         Mingyu doesn’t want to wait, but Junhui makes sure to distract him with hugs and kisses on his forehead, tasting a bit of flour. Why does he have flour on the forehead? Probably because Junhui got bored while cooking and decided to throw some food at him. They made a mess, but they’re happy, so Seungcheol won’t be that mad… right?

         When the cupcakes are out of the oven, Junhui has to use all his martial arts knowledge to keep Mingyu away from them because no, they’re still too hot, the icing will melt, please just wait for a bit.

         “Poor baby,” he sighs when he sees his baby struggle with the icing. “Want me to do it for you?”

         Mingyu accepts to let him help and they work without a word. Silence can be comfortable and the ambiance definitely isn’t awkward, but Junhui and Mingyu just aren’t the quiet type. Even if the latter doesn’t want to talk if he can avoid it, he doesn’t like when it’s silent, especially when Junhui is there. Of course, Junhui has his moments of silence, but they also come when he’s upset… in short, a quiet Junhui isn’t good and Mingyu doesn’t like it.

         “Doll, would you want some music? It’s a bit too quiet.”

         No, Mingyu doesn’t want music. Music fills the silence, it doesn’t make Junhui talk. For now, he wants to hear his voice.

         “Okay. This is fun, but I miss the others. I didn’t even get to hug Wonwoo before he left!” Junhui complains.

         Mingyu nods and puts pink sprinkles on his cupcake. He’s focused on his task, probably more than he was for every song he wrote, but he’s still listening to Junhui and nodding or shaking his head when the other asks him something.

         “Aw, they’re adorable, almost as adorable as you!”

         “Gyu’s cuter.”

         “Of course you’re cuter, cupcake. What do you want to do now? We can’t eat all those cupcakes on our own in a few hours… we made way too many.”

         “Staff! Prisin!”

         “Pristin,” Junhui corrects him without even thinking about it. “You forgot the T, cupcake.”

         Correct pronunciation or not, Mingyu’s idea is good and that’s what they decide to do. Giving cupcakes to the other artists and to the staff is a great idea, even if the youngest refused to let the CEO have even one. Apparently, he doesn’t deserve it because of the way he treats the girls and Junhui has to agree with him on this one.

         He finds small containers for the cupcakes and spends a few minutes drawing on them. Mingyu may be in charge of making the cupcakes look pretty, but it doesn’t mean Junhui can’t help! Once he’s done with the containers, he takes a cupcake and some candies. Decorating cupcakes is nice and relaxing. Maybe they could do it again, but with the others. They probably need to relax too.

         “I’m done!” Junhui happily shouts, putting his last cupcake in a container and closing it.

         Mingyu shows him the three containers full of his cupcakes with a proud smile. After giving him a thumbs up and a pat on the head with a praise, he calls their manager. There’s no way he’d let Mingyu get behind the wheel when he’s in Gyu space.

         “Junhui, I have things to do.”

         “And we have cupcakes.”

         When the manager hang up, Junhui knows he won.

         “Yay, he’s coming! Shotgun for Kyulkyung, I want to give her my purple cupcake!”

         In the car, they talk and decide who will get which cupcake. As silly as it sounds, it’s actually as important as their new album (because yes, they just finished Ideal Cut and You Make My Day wasn’t released that long ago, but Pledis needs to get that bread and it seems like the CEO forgot about their talented girl groups stuck in the dungeon).

         Junhui’s brain cell forgot that Kyulkyung left for China a while ago and is still there, so he pouts until Mingyu accepts to eat the purple cupcake. He even lets his hyung feed him said cupcake and kisses his cheek when he’s done.

         “Thanks, boys. I really needed it,” Nayoung thanks them before they leave.

         She smiles, but her smile is sad. Mingyu doesn’t want her to be sad. Nayoung doesn’t suit sadness, she was born to smile and shine on stage, leading her girls to fame and success.

         Instead, she has to wait. It’s unfair and even being in Gyu space can’t make Mingyu soft enough to forgive Pledis’ CEO. With this in mind, he angrily chomps on another cupcake.

         Gaeun’s smile is purely happy when they greet her and, honestly, it’s probably worse. Mingyu and Junhui don’t have time to talk about it, but the first one wishes he could hug it out. She didn’t give up on her dream, but she seems like she… accepted the unfair treatment her CEO is giving her, the one Koreans also gave her by letting her end 14th in Produce 48.

         (When he looks at After School and Pristin, Mingyu feels ashamed. They shouldn’t have so many comebacks when the girls can’t even have one. He wonders if they really deserve it or if they’re only getting promoted because they’re boys and not because of their talent.)

         It takes them about two hours to find everyone and give the last cupcake, but making someone smile is always worth it. When they go back to the apartment, they’re tired and happy.

         Well, mostly happy. Mingyu is quiet, he can’t stop thinking about Gaeun. She’s like the older sister he never had.

         “Doll, is everything okay?”

         He doesn’t say anything and Junhui understands he doesn’t want to talk, so he squeezes his hand and walks faster. They’re in the middle of the street, he can’t hug Mingyu like he wants to, but the second they close the door behind them, he throws his shoes somewhere and goes to the couch. Mingyu follows him.

         “Cupcake.”

         “Pristin, After School… deserve better,” he mumbles, chin on Junhui’s shoulder as the Chinese rubs his back. “I’m sad.”

         “Awn, poor baby, I forgot you were so sensible to those things. It’s sad, but there’s nothing we can do.”

         Mingyu wants to say there’s something they could do. After all, they’re the reason why the girls can’t have a comeback, right? With all their albums, there isn’t any place for Pristin or After School. They’re taking this chance away from them.

         “Doll, I don’t know what you’re thinking, please use your words… or don’t, if it would make you uncomfortable.”

         “Feel like stealing.”

         That’s all he’s willing to say. He wants to go back to the laughers, the happiness and the mess they made in the kitchen. Like Nayoung, Mingyu doesn’t go well with sadness. Junhui seems to share this thought as he puts his fingers in Mingyu’s mouth to force a smile.

         “You’re not, we’re not stealing anything. Let’s not blame ourselves for something we can’t control, okay? Next time, we’ll give a bigger cupcake to the girls. What about giving them a drawing? You’re so talented at drawing, I’m sure they’ll love it. Maybe they’ll even put it on the fridge.”

         Junhui is only half joking. Jeonghan almost ripped his hand off when he tried to get rid of Chan’s drawings on their fridge, maybe it runs in the Pledis family.

         It makes Mingyu smile.

         “Thanks, Junnie.”

         Junhui keeps rubbing his back and he goes soft, pliant in his arms. When he feels like his friend is about to fall asleep, the oldest holds him tight.

          “There’s nothing we wouldn’t do to make you happy, I hope you know that.”

         Oh, Mingyu knows. It’s not one-sided.

         “Good night, cupcake.”

         Good night, Junnie.

Chapter Text

Even for an idol, the time Jihoon spends in his studio is impressive. Honestly, he’d spend his whole life in it if his friends weren’t there to make sure he gets enough fresh air, food and sleep (even though he never gets enough of the last one). He doesn’t regret becoming an idol instead of a producer, though.

         “Jihoon-hyung, do you ever feel lonely there? I know you like to have some time to yourself, but still…”

         Jihoon never feels lonely in his studio. It’s his home, the place he goes to when he wants to escape his loud friends and all the trouble that comes with them. He loves being in Seventeen, he’s just… a bit of an introvert or something like that.

         But, now that Mingyu is giving him the puppy eyes, he doesn’t know how to say it without hurting him. Mingyu is sensible, he doesn’t want to hurt him.

         “No, not really? I never thought about it,” he admits. “You guys are loud, I need some time when I don’t fear for my ears.”

         Nailed it.

         “Oh. But, if I promise to be quiet, can I come with you? Please? I won’t say a word, promise!”

         Mingyu is offering him his pinky. Everyone in Seventeen knows it, Mingyu never broke and will never break a pinky promise. Jihoon has no idea why the younger boy suddenly wants to spend time at his studio, but it must be important and he’s too tired to argue and refuse.

         “Only if you don’t say a word,” he sighs as he wraps his pinky around Mingyu’s.

         His canines are adorable. Jihoon doubts he’ll really keep his promise – Mingyu tends to forget about things and he’ll probably start talking if he gets excited – but he appreciates the fact that he’s serious enough to try and make a pinky promise for this.

         (Also, he knows Minghao and Junhui babied him. He wants to have this chance too, because no matter how annoying Mingyu can be, he’s still their Mingyu and he wants to make sure his friend knows he loves him even if he doesn’t say it often.)

 

Mingyu doesn’t start the night Jihoon gives him his permission. He actually waits for a few days before joining him and he doesn’t stay for long. He knocks, opens the door when Jihoon answers, gives him a cup of coffee, smiles and leaves, hiding red cheeks behind a scarf (it’s a bit cold outside). Jihoon is so surprised he doesn’t thank him under the next day, but Mingyu doesn’t seem to mind. Now that he knows the other likes it, he comes once a night to give him coffee or snacks.

         Then, he starts bringing real food with him. Jihoon waits way too long before going to bed, so Mingyu really shouldn’t stay up at shit o’clock to cook him a hot, delicious meal, but he’s not going to complain, not as long as it doesn’t affect the other’s health. He’s well aware that Mingyu has been reading some hateful comments and lost a bit of his self-confidence (he’s this close to delete the damn Twitter application and steal his phone if he keeps reading such things), which makes him doubt himself and have “do I really deserve this” moments. These small gifts are probably his way of thanking him for making their songs and working so hard for the group.

         They’ll have to work on this. Jihoon isn’t the best with words (well, he’s good with lyrics, but it’s not the same thing), but he’ll tell one of the 95 hyungs. Even if he says he’s not really close to Mingyu, which isn’t true anyway, Jeonghan will know what to do. For now, Jihoon accepts what Mingyu brings him with a smile and a pat on the head.

 

One night, Mingyu is fighting sleep and he’s doing a terrible job at trying to hide it. Jihoon wishes he would just go to the apartment and sleep, but he asked him to do exactly that twice and the oversized baby is still there.

         “Mingyu, go home, you’re tired,” he says when he hears him yawning again.

         “No.”

         “Mingyu. Please.”

         Jihoon swears he can feel Mingyu’s eyes becoming twice as big as they were. He’s not that rude, isn’t he? A simple “please” shouldn’t make him so shocked.

         “Why do you care so much about me going home? I’m not talking!”

         “It doesn’t have anything to do with that, you’re tired and it’s unhealthy. You’ll regret it tomorrow.”

         Mingyu didn’t expect Jihoon to say something like that, it’s almost too easy.

         “Only if you take a break, hyung,” he replies with a grin.

         “I can’t.”

         “Yes, you can. It’s not like you’re late or anything, you’re just doing this because you want to… like me refusing to go to bed because I want to be here. I’ll sleep a bit if you’re with me. The couch is pretty comfortable, you know.”

         Jihoon would argue – should argue – but he’s too tired. Sleep sounds nice, especially with Mingyu. The boy is hot as fuck and he’s not talking about visuals.

         “Alright, but only for half an hour.”

         Half an hour later, Mingyu is sleeping. Trapped between his arms, Jihoon can’t get up – well, he could, but not without waking him and he doesn’t feel like having to deal with a whiny baby – so he’s basically forced to sleep. Next morning, he buys Mingyu chocolate. It’ll give him bad skin.

         (If he stops being delusional, Jihoon knows he’s doing it to thank him, but he’ll rather die than say it out loud. Mingyu would never let him go if he did.)

 

It quickly becomes a daily thing. Jihoon locks himself in his studio and only opens the door for Mingyu when he joins him a few hours later. He eats what the other brings him and works on his songs until Mingyu gets too tired. After a week, Jihoon buys a blanket, pillows and a new couch, more comfortable than the previous one.

         He didn’t expect to like it so much, but when Mingyu asks him to be honest, he really can’t lie and say he doesn’t. Once, Mingyu was sick and he fell asleep in their room. Jihoon never thought he’d suddenly feel so lonely in his studio. This night, he’s the one who brings food (chicken soup and ice cream).

         It also made their bond stronger than before. They’re both easier to read for the other and Mingyu feels comfortable enough to talk, knowing Jihoon won’t kick him out even if he said so. He gets to listen to some of the demos. Mingyu loves it, loves how his hyung is changing his attitude towards him. Jihoon isn’t the cold guy some Carats say he is, he just doesn’t like to talk about his feelings as often as some other members.

        

Of course, what had to happen happens: one night, Mingyu feels warm, comfortable and soft. He doesn’t know if Jihoon is okay with Gyu space and he doesn’t want to risk it. Well, Jihoon was more than okay with it when it first happened at the apartment, but they weren’t alone. Maybe it’s too stressful for him to handle on his own.

         Mingyu decides to push the insecurities away. He’ll never forgive himself if he makes Jihoon uncomfortable in the room he loves more than anything, but if there’s something the other Seventeen members have, it’s his trust. He trusts them, Jihoon can and will take care of him like he did before.

         “Gyu space,” he yawns.

         Jihoon freezes, hands on the keyboard. Mingyu doesn’t notice it and rubs his eyes with his sweater paws.

         “Don’t do that, you’ll hurt your eyes,” Jihoon finally says after being quiet just long enough for it to become awkward if Mingyu paid him attention.

         “Sleepy,” he mumbles and puts his head on Jihoon’s.

         “Okay, baby. You’re sure you want to be in Gyu space here? We don’t have any of your stuff, you would probably be more comfortable at the apartment.”

         Jihoon gets up, slowly so he doesn’t hurt Mingyu, and gets his jacket. He planned to spend the night in the studio – he still needs to finish that demo – but Mingyu is more important and his well-being is his priority for now.

         “No, ’m okay… Hoonie, cuddles?”

         Mingyu’s lisp is even worse when he’s tired and he has trouble articulating. Somehow, Jihoon finds it incredibly cute.

         (At this point, everything Mingyu does is cute, so his opinion doesn’t really matter. He’s not being objective.)

         “Okay, bub.”

         Mingyu seems surprised to see him leave his computer so easily. Jihoon has a feeling he should get offended by how the other thought he’d consider his work more important than him, but honestly, if this happened a few days ago, he would have refused to stop working on their new album (not because he wouldn’t have cared, he simply wouldn’t have cared as much as he does now). Now… they’re considerably closer and it just feels incredibly wrong to ignore Mingyu’s need for attention and love when it would be so easy to give him what he’s asking for.

         “Get on the couch, I’m just going to save my work to make sure I don’t lose anything. You can wait for me, right?”

         From what he remembers, there was this constant need to ask Mingyu before doing anything. First, they had to tell him what they wanted to do. Then, they asked him about it to make sure he was listening and understood.

         If Soonyoung can do it, then so can I. It can’t be that complicated.

 

Mingyu is an adult. Mingyu is tall. Mingyu is strong.

         Mingyu is fragile and needs someone to hold him and tell him how loved he is. His height being anything but cute (Jihoon gets the hugs, Mingyu doesn’t, because Mingyu is tall and hot and very not cute), he wants to be small. When he’s standing next to Jihoon, he seems even taller and he doesn’t like it.

         However, it can go both ways. If standing next to Jihoon makes him feel taller, Jihoon calling him “tiny” and “small” helps him feel smaller, more than the others could. It could be compared to Chan calling him by his name, the contrast is so big he’s reminded that this isn’t like his usual, out of Gyu space self and he easily slips more into Gyu space. He doesn’t even need the headbands and soft sweaters. This time, he’s sleepy and already warm so Jihoon doesn’t even have to wait before he relaxes, all soft and ready for cuddles. It’s a bit chilling though and the oldest of the two isn’t sure the blanket will be enough.

         “Pup, I’m going outside to buy hot cocoa, do you want a cup?”

         There’s a coffee shop on the street, it would take less than five minutes to go and buy something, especially when it’s so late and no one else will be there. Mingyu still whines and reaches for Jihoon, pouting. Combined with his puppy eyes, his pout is way too powerful and the producer can’t ignore it. He kisses the other boy’s forehead and looks him in the eyes.

         “Pup, calm down, I’m not leaving if you don’t want me to. I can ask someone to go buy hot cocoa for you, do you want a cup?”

         Mingyu doesn’t listen to him, arms now wrapped around his hyung and his head on his shoulder even if said shoulder is a bit too high – Jihoon is standing and the couch is pretty low – for that position to be comfortable.

         “Pup, I’m talking to you,” Jihoon sighs and lets him take his hands. “I need an answer.”

         He doesn’t want to sound too harsh, but he really needs an answer. Now that his fingers are interlaced with Mingyu, he can feel the other boy shaking. It’s not obvious, but what if it gets worse and he catches a cold?

         “That’s what you get for going outside before drying your hair,” he mumbles before taking his phone out of his pocket. “I’m calling Soonyoung, he’ll bring you hot cocoa if you want it.”

         Mingyu still refuses to even open his mouth and Jihoon gets an idea. He hates playing the annoying sibling, but it’s not like he has much of a choice:

         “Mingyu, if you don’t answer me now, I’m calling Seungcheol and he’ll bring you back to the apartment. Is that what you want?”

         “Nooooo! Pup wanna stay with Hoonie, please!”

         “Then stop being so stubborn! You want hot cocoa, yes or no?”

         All that trouble for hot cocoa. If Mingyu doesn’t want one, Jihoon doesn’t know what he’ll do, but it won’t be fun.

         (The worst he’ll ever do to Mingyu is giving him lines that he’ll struggle to pronounce with his lisp, so don’t worry, he’ll be fine.)

         “Hi, Soonyoung? I need hot cocoa. Yeah, I know it’s late as hell but Mingyu is in Gyu space and it’s cold in the studio… that joke wasn’t funny, it has nothing to do with my heart.”

         Soonyoung sounds like he wants to keep talking, but Jihoon doesn’t have time. He has to babysit a 186cm toddler, he can’t stay on the phone for too long.

         “Shut up and bring me hot cocoa, the baby needs it. Oh, and a towel. The idiot went outside without drying his hair.”

         “Aw, you’re worried,” Soonyoung laughs.

         Jihoon hangs up. So what if he cares, it’s not like it’s a secret or something.

         “Soonyoung’s coming.”

         Mingyu doesn’t mind having one more person in the room, but Soonyoung and Jihoon are close and he doesn’t want their choreographer to steal all of Jihoon’s attention. These moments when they’re in the studio belong to them, not to Soonyoung.

         “Pup, get under the blanket,” Jihoon demands, putting his phone in the desk so it doesn’t fall when he lays down next to Mingyu.

         Mingyu turns around so he can face Jihoon. After a few nights of the smaller boy falling off the couch, there’s now a new one big enough for the two of them. Since Jihoon doesn’t react to Mingyu’s face suddenly being so close to his, Mingyu takes it as his permission to stay there.

         Apparently, he also has his permission to do more. Jihoon initiates the hug by wrapping his arms around him. With the other being the big spoon, Mingyu feels small.

         “You can’t spend the night here, pup. It would be better for you to go back to the apartment after a nap, what do you think?”

         “No, pup wants to stay with Hoonie…”

         “Okay, sorry for making you talk.”

         They’re interrupted by someone knocking at the door. It’s unlocked and Soonyoung opens it after Jihoon screams at him to do so, hands on Mingyu’s ears so his scream doesn’t hurt the baby.

         “Thanks, you can leave now.”

         Soonyoung doesn’t complain. He leaves the cup on the floor so Jihoon can take it without getting up, kisses Mingyu’s forehead and leaves after wishing them a good night.

         Mingyu has to remember to thank him for that, maybe by cooking him something.

         “Here’s your hot cocoa, drink it all before sleeping, okay? Sit up, you can’t drink it like that.”

         They move and Mingyu’s back is against Jihoon’s chest. As he drinks the hot beverage, Jihoon’s hands go under his shirt to softly pat his tummy. Mingyu may be a puppy, but at the moment, he’d purr if he could.

         “Done? Okay, give it to me.”

         Mingyu hands him his cup and Jihoon throws it in the trash can, too lazy to get up… and because he doesn’t want to leave Mingyu. At this point, maybe he should start assuming it.

         “Time to sleep, pup. Good night.”

         He closes the light by throwing a shoe at the switch. Mingyu doesn’t even seem to notice the noise it makes when it hits the wall. Actually, he does, but he couldn’t care less. His hyung around him, he won’t wake up sweating and shaking because of the same nightmares.

         “Night, Hoonie. Love you.”

         The “love you too” never comes out loud, but Jihoon keeps patting his tummy until he falls asleep.

 

Jihoon looks at the clock on the wall. It’s been thirty minutes, he guesses Mingyu won’t wake up if he leaves him for a bit… he’ll come back once he’s done with his new project. With all that inspiration, it shouldn’t take him a while.

         He sits at his desk, opens his laptop and starts a new song. He knows what the song will sound like and he has an idea for the lyrics, but he’ll keep it to himself. Jihoon only gets back under the blanket five hours later.

         The next morning, when Mingyu wakes up, the other is already awake and sitting at his desk, what’s probably coffee in his hand.

         “Ah, you’re finally awake,” he says before finishing his drink. “Come here, you big baby.”

         “I’m out of Gyu space.”

         “I know, it was an insult.”

         Before Mingyu can pout and whine about how he’s not a baby, a new song starts playing. He loves it, loves how beautiful it is even by being so simple. It’s happy and energetic, he can’t wait to work on it.

         “Is that for our new album? It’s amazing, my favourite yet!”

         Jihoon’s eyes don’t leave the screen when he replies.

         “No, not really. I made it last night, it’s for something else.”

         Mingyu frowns, disappointed. He really wants to start working on it as soon as possible, he already started thinking about what the lyrics for his part could be.

         “But Jihoon, it’s so good… why isn’t it on our new album?”

         “Like I already said, it’s for something else. You should listen.”

         Mingyu is too surprised by the unusual red of Jihoon’s ears to protest. Instead, he asks about the song, what it’s for.

         “Well, Junhui has a solo song… I thought that maybe you’d want to have one too.”

         “It’s mine?”

         No, it’s not really Mingyu’s. It’s Mingyu, childish and happy. It’ll make people smile, it’ll remind them of their favourite person hugging them, of their favourite comfort food. It may not be Jihoon’s favourite song, but it’s in his top ten.

         “Yeah, it’s yours.”

Chapter Text

Jihoon loves Seventeen, he really does, but stress and lack of sleep can be quite problematic.

         In the morning, he left his studio, went to the apartment, didn’t even pretend to be surprised by the members (they already knew it wouldn’t work) and let them sing that annoying happy birthday song four times.

         Four times. Four. If that’s not love, he doesn’t know what it is.

         “Jihoon-hyung, we should totally do something to celebrate your birthday,” Mingyu tells him, bouncing around him.

         “Stop jumping, you’re going to give me a headache.”

         “Hyung, are you listening? We should do something, like I did with Gyuhao!”

         “I’m not taking a bath with you, Mingyu.”

         The giant boy chokes on his saliva, trips and falls to the floor. Jihoon doesn’t look at him, but the noises he made were quite worrying. However, for someone as clumsy as Mingyu, it’s nothing.

         “You’re okay?” he asks three seconds later because he’s weak for him.

         “Yeah, yes, nothing broken I think.”

         “You think?”

         Mingyu shrugs. “Well, there’s no blood.”

         This time, Jihoon is the one who chokes and (almost) falls. “Why are you so dumb, you can perfectly break your fucking arm without bleeding, idiot!”

         “You’re so cute when you show how much you care for us,” Mingyu mumbles under his breath, awkwardly smiling when Jihoon glares at his adorable face. “What? I didn’t say anything, hyung!”

         Said hyung starts feeling a bit bad for keeping him waiting for an answer. It’s not that he doesn’t want to celebrate his birthday, he’s just tired and he wants nothing more than to stay at home and relax. Maybe sleep a bit, it would be nice to take a break and stop working 25/8.

         (Jihoon likes to pretend he won’t write lyrics. Well, it’s relaxing, so maybe it’s not considered work?)

         “Look, Mingyu, that’s great, but I don’t want to go out. Sorry, maybe next year.”

         “That’s what you said last year!” Mingyu whines.

         “And that’s probably what I’ll say next year, whoops.”

         Teasing Mingyu is funny, but he feels bad for refusing. He now has three options: keep saying no, accepting to go out or running away.

         He chooses the latter and goes back to his studio. Jihoon will just buy Mingyu dinner or something like that a few days later, he’ll get over it.

         He guesses he underestimated Mingyu’s perseverance and absolute need for celebrating birthdays. Seriously, why did the kid follow him?

         An hour – a whole hour! – later, Mingyu is still trying to kill what’s left of Jihoon’s patience.

         “Come on, hyung, it’s your birthday! You should try to have some fun!”

         Well, that wasn’t the good thing to say. Maybe Mingyu sees fun as visiting museums, eating at some fancy restaurants and going out, but it’s Jihoon’s birthday and he wants to relax. He knows the other means well, but it’s a bit annoying how he simply forgets about what he likes.

         “You know what would be fun? Silence! Peace! Not having you here! You not being so fucking annoying! I said no, Gyu, so drop it!” Jihoon swears he didn’t mean to be so harsh, he’s just… tired. It doesn’t make him feel better when he sees the way Mingyu flinches and steps back. Even if it’s all he was asking for, Jihoon suddenly doesn’t want it anymore. “Fuck, Gyu, I’m sorry. I just, I just don’t feel like it, okay?”

         “Okay. Sorry for being annoying.” Mingyu’s voice is small and Jihoon wants to punch himself.

         Too busy thinking about running into a wall in hope that the physical pain will make him forget about the tears shining in Mingyu’s eyes, Jihoon doesn’t have time to properly apologize before the other leaves the studio. He did want to be alone, but not like that, not by hurting Mingyu’s feelings.

         He decides to try and work on his new songs to forget, but it’s hard to think about anything else than Mingyu’s strained voice and his shining eyes. With a sigh, he turns his laptop off and gets his coat. He can’t stay there, not when his friend is probably crying in their room.

 

Everyone tend to forget how scary Soonyoung is when he’s mad. Even if he’ll never admit it, Jihoon can confirm it. Now, his friend looks pissed off and it doesn’t look good (well, an angry Soonyoung looks kind of hot, but Jihoon is almost fearing for his life at the moment).

         “Jihoon, what the fuck happened?”

         “How’s the kid?”

         “I asked you first…” Soonyoung quickly gives up, seeming to think answering Jihoon’s question would be a better punishment than ignoring it. “The kid is hidden under his blankets and refuses to get out.”

         “Is he, is he crying?”

         “No, but he was. He stopped, no thanks to you.”

         Jihoon can’t say he didn’t deserve the way Soonyoung’s eyes glare at him. “I’m sorry.” And it’s true, he really is.

         Soonyoung’s expression softens. “I’m not the one you should apologize to. Keep that for Jeonghan-hyung and Mingyu.”

         “Jeonghan-hyung?”

         “Why do you think Mingyu stopped crying? Someone had to take care of him and you know how hyung is.”

         “Okay, I’ll talk to him later.”

         Before he can leave, Soonyoung stops him. “I know you’re blaming yourself and you’re right to, but don’t be too mad at yourself, okay? Things happen. He’ll forgive you, just… be sincere and hug it out.”

         Jihoon doesn’t need to hear that, he already knows what to do.

 

 

It might be harder than he thought. Mingyu took Vernon’s headphones and ignores him. Jihoon loves EXO – Chanyeol is an amazing producer to work with – but, with how loud Mingyu is playing their new album, he’s fearing for the other’s ears.

         “Mingyu, stop that. You’re hurting yourself.”

         Mingyu doesn’t say anything. At this point, Jihoon can’t tell if it’s because he’s ignoring it or if it’s because the music is too loud.

         “Mingyu. Please.”

         Jihoon can’t bring himself to hug him, not like that. It’s too awkward, he doesn’t want to touch him when he’s so mad. What if he doesn’t hug him back? God, Jihoon is too tired to deal with all this awkwardness. He doesn’t even want to consider Mingyu not returning a hug, the kid was made for hugs and cuddles.

         “Okay. I’ll be back. Sorry again.” Mingyu probably can’t hear him, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

 

“You fucked up.”

         “I know, hyung. You already said it twice.”

         “You fucked up.”

         Jeonghan is being incredibly difficult. Jihoon didn’t know he was so protective of Mingyu when both of them used to pretend they weren’t close.

         (They weren’t really pretending, they just… never realized how close they were.)

         “Hyung, you’re not helping, please stop.”

         “Okay.” Jeonghan looks over his shoulder. “Shua, be a sweetheart and say it for me.”

         “You fucked up,” Joshua immediately says, eyes not leaving his book.

         Jihoon doesn’t fear a lot of things, but if he had to make a top ten, Jeonghan and Joshua plotting together would be at least half of it. Together, Seventeen’s devils are more than scary.

         “Yeah, I know. It’s been three times.”

         “Do I have to repeat it?” Joshua asks, but Jihoon knows he’s not talking to him.

         Jeonghan shrugs. “I don’t know, maybe.”

         “I came here to get some tips on how to deal with Mingyu but you’re just being immature and annoying!” Jihoon finally snaps before realizing that it probably won’t help him.

         (He’s stressed and worried about Mingyu, have some mercy.)

         “Oh, is it what you said to Mingyu?” Joshua quickly takes his words back when he sees Jihoon’s reaction. “Oh, Jihoonie, I’m sorry.”

         “I’m sorry for what I said, I know it was mean and unnecessary, but I was tired and he just wouldn’t give up!”

         Joshua and Jeonghan look at each other. For a minute, they don’t say a word. Then, Joshua nods and they seem like they have a plan. Jihoon can’t decide if it was cool or creepy.

         “Okay, go back to your room.”

         “Mingyu is already there.”

         “Exactly. You already apologized, right? Apologize again. It’s Mingyu we’re talking about, he won’t stay mad for long. Just… don’t take him for granted, okay?” Joshua’s voice is softer, like he doesn’t know how to say it without hurting Jihoon’s feelings, but doesn’t want to keep it quiet. “Just because he’ll forgive you doesn’t mean he’s not hurt.”

         “I know, I’d never take advantage of it.”

         Mingyu’s big heart is truly amazing and even a whole week without sleep wouldn’t make Jihoon so insensible he would hurt him on purpose just because he’ll be forgiven at the end of the day.

         “Of course you wouldn’t, it’s just a reminder,” Joshua laughs. “Now, go fix your mess!”

         “Talk to him, it was wrong of you to snap at him like that, but he was also in the wrong for being so stubborn when you told him more than once that you didn’t want to go out.”

         They both kindly pat his back when he leaves the room. Somehow, it warms his heavy heart.

 

Mingyu still refuses to look at him. At least, the headphones are back to their owner, so Jihoon guesses it means he’s willing to talk or listen.

         “Hey, Gyu. I’m really sorry, I shouldn’t have said these things. I didn’t think, I was too mad… I just wanted you to leave, I’m sorry.”

         Jihoon keeps his mouth shut about how Mingyu shouldn’t have followed him. Now is the time for apologies, he’ll talk about it once he’ll be forgiven.

         “Are you really? Sorry, I mean.”

         “Of course I am. It was wrong and I apologize.” Jihoon hesitates. Mingyu really looks sad. “You’re not annoying, Mingyu. I’m sorry.”

         Mingyu smiles. For a moment, the other wishes he could stop forgiving so easily. He’s not as naïve as Seokmin – kind, precious Seokmin – but it’s still worrying.

         (Of course, Mingyu can be quite petty when he wants to be, but not with them, never for too long. When Minghao supports his bitchy attitude, it’s another story.)

         “Okay! I’m glad you apologized. I’m sorry too.”

         “For what?”

         Mingyu rolls his eyes. “For being annoying. I know I was, don’t lie just to make me feel better. Jeonghan-hyung already talked to me, I’m sorry for being selfish. I should have thought about what you wanted, it’s not my birthday.” He hides his face under the blankets, suddenly shy. “Well, I did think about you, but I got so excited I refused to give up when you said you didn’t want to leave.”

         Jihoon has to admit he’s curious. Mingyu isn’t selfish, he just tends to get a bit too excited over things he really cares about. If he put as much work in Jihoon’s birthday as he did for Minghao’s, he probably had a plan full of things Jihoon would enjoy.

         So he asks him about his birthday. Mingyu’s eyes shine – a good kind of shining now, without tears – and Jihoon is glad he asked. It’s too late to celebrate, but next year, he’ll accept.

         “Oh, I thought we could go buy these Black Panther things you wanted… I even bought popcorn and chocolate so we could watch the movie when we’d be back, but it’s fine, you can still have it. I bought it for your birthday after all, it’s yours!”

         Jihoon can’t wait for next year. He watched the movie so many times he already knows all the lines, but he still loves it.

         “Baby,” the nickname slips and Mingyu stops breathing, “you’re so great, so good. I’m sorry, but I really don’t feel like getting out. We’ll buy things online, but maybe we can watch the movie tonight. Would you want that?”

         “Can we, can I go into Gyu space?”

         “Yeah. It won’t always be like that, though.”

         Mingyu jumps off his bed – Jihoon nearly dies from a heart attack – to get his things. Watching movies with the others is fun, but Jihoon can’t handle constantly being treated like a pillow or a teddy bear. Mingyu understands that, so it makes him even happier to know that his friend will hug him for a whole Marvel movie.

         “I’ll start the movie! Living room?”

         “Nah, let’s watch it in bed. Yours.”

         A few minutes later, Mingyu is wearing a baby blue sweater and black pants. He’s floating in these clothes. It’s probably what he wants, but Jihoon still feeds him more popcorn and chocolate than he eats himself, just in case. He doesn’t want Mingyu to lose his cute tummy.

         Mingyu moves and the ears on top of his head hit Jihoon’s chin. It doesn’t hurt, so he keeps quiet.

         “Thank you, pup. This is the best birthday ever.”

         Jihoon starts leaving kisses on his nose, than his forehead. Mingyu giggles and gets even closer. His sweater is soft on Jihoon’s bare skin. When he starts kissing the other’s eyelids, he almost forgets about the movie.

         It’s still his favourite, so he doesn’t, but Mingyu is his favourite too. They’ll share his attention, he can keep an eye on both.

         When the movie is over, Jihoon notices Mingyu’s red and puffy eyes. It’s too early to sleep, they really can’t afford to skip a meal, so he brings him to the bathroom. Mingyu’s leaning most of his weight on him. He’s not that heavy and Jihoon tells Minghao to get lost when he offers to help him.

         Nothing against Minghao, but he had his time with Mingyu. Now, it’s Jihoon’s, everyone else can fuck off.

         He slowly washes his pup’s face, delicately so he doesn’t hurt him. He sucks when it’s time to get rid of makeup, but washing Mingyu’s face is simple and not as long. He even takes the new soap, the one that smells like marshmallows and the spices they use for pumpkin pies. It takes him a while (three minutes), but he finally finds the hydrated cream from the same place and puts some on Mingyu’s shoulders – so he can smell like cupcakes and dreams – and hands.

         “No, don’t touch it. Pup, I said no.”

         Mingyu pouts, but stops trying to get rid of the cream. Now, Jihoon doesn’t know what to do. He can’t let him go back to sleep, but he also doesn’t feel like watching another movie.

         “Pup, I finished a few demos for our albums. Do you want me to sing them for you?” Jihoon tries not to blush too much. Ah, the things he does for his pup…

         Mingyu nods way too hard and way too fast for it to be healthy. Before he can kill his neck, Jihoon takes his hand and brings him to the living room. Then, he runs to their room and comes back with blankets and his phone. He wants to sing, so he’ll show him the instrumental versions.

         “Love you, pup.”

         Then, Mingyu smirks and Jihoon knows. It was way too easy, he should have known that even Mingyu wouldn’t forgive him like that.

         “Wuv you too, Hoonie-hyung.”

         Less than a second later, he slips back into Gyu space and Jihoon can’t even get mad at him for making fun of him with that annoying “cute” Twitter thing.

         “Why are you like this.”

Chapter Text

Even as a ball of sunshine and happiness (and everything good in this cruel world), Mingyu likes to complain. He doesn’t do it often, but sometimes, it’s nice (as long as it’s not too annoying, of course).

         Today, the theme: he’s alone to bake these fucking cookies.

         It may not seem that bad, but he’s alone and he has to cook for thirteen people. Well, they say thirteen, but they all know that the managers and the other artists will probably ask for some too. So, in short, he has to cook for about thirty people, which makes at least ninety cookies for each recipe. This year, he got asked for about a dozen recipes and the window never seemed so appealing. Maybe he could jump and run away. Canada may be cold as hell, but they certainly don’t have to suffer like that.

         (Also, their maple syrup is nice and they have moose, which is always a plus.)

         “Are you done?” Soonyoung groans, not sharing his opinion on how great it is to complain.

         “Almost. You know, hyung, it’s your fault if I have to do this on my own, you should let me complain as much as I want.”

         “No, it’s annoying as fuck… I could help you bake those cookies!”

         Well, that was unexpected. At the moment, Mingyu’s face wouldn’t need any whitewashing. Fansites found jobless!

         “Uh, hyung, you really don’t have to. I’m fine, I just like being a drama queen.”

         “Nah, I’ll help you. It can’t be that hard anyway.”

         “Hyung, please don’t.”

         “You were crying about not having anyone to help you and now that you’re not on your own, you’re still not satisfied? It’s my fault if Junhui is too busy to help you, the least I can do is do it for him.”

         At this point, he’s practically begging for it and Mingyu can’t refuse. “Okay, I guess you can help…”

 

Mingyu should have refused.

         “Hyung, please.”

         Soonyoung shakes his head. “No, I can do it!”

         “Just give me the eggs… aaaand there we go,” he sighs as the other drops the eggs on the book.

         “Whoops. Sorry, Gyu.”

         “I’m sorry, but you should probably let me do it on my own.”

         “Gyu, I can do it. It’s easy, you tell me what you need and I get it!”

         Mingyu looks at the eggs on one of his favourite books and sighs. Yeah, it should be simple, but Soonyoung is… Soonyoung.

         “Okay. Give me a towel so I can take care of this mess.”

         “You should probably be more careful with your books, Mingyu. It’s gonna be hard to read anything if it gets too dirty.”

         He doesn’t know if he’s about to cry or to punch a wall. Probably both.

         “Never mind,” Soonyoung quickly adds when he sees Mingyu’s face, “forget it. It doesn’t matter.”

         “Right. Please just let me read the recipe first, don’t move.” Soonyoung nods and sits on the counter before Mingyu slaps his thigh. “Get down. That’s, like, super not hygienic.”

         “Coming from Germgyu, that’s pretty ironic,” the other mumbles and, fuck, that’s kind of annoying. Just a bit, but still. He’s not that bad, is he? Could Soonyoung please just stay there for a second so Mingyu can focus on reading the damn recipe? Instead of helping, he’s trying too hard and he gets offended when the youngest of the two tells him that he’s probably the worst helper ever.

         (Not that Mingyu ever said that, Soonyoung is just getting tired and easier to offend.)

         “How is the choreography going?” Mingyu asks, trying to make the atmosphere lighter. They’re just cooking, it shouldn’t be that awkward.

         As expected, Soonyoung can’t stop his smile. “Great! I’ll show you a few moves later, we weren’t sure of how it would look with your height. Well, we have Junhui, but he’s more experienced than you and… okay, you’re both clumsy, but he’s a little bit less clumsy than you. Sorry.”

         “Don’t be sorry, I know how I am, hyung.” Mingyu means it, he really isn’t hurt. Okay, sometimes, he can’t help but feel like the others should stop making fun of him too often, but they’re his best friends and he knows they don’t mean it in a hurtful way. He has to admit that the award they gave him wasn’t something he’d like to win, though.

         (However, he once read something from a fan about the other members being inconsiderate and he nearly exposed himself by replying to her post. Seriously, it’s not that bad, they’re just being friends. He loves to make them laugh.)

         He finishes reading the recipe. It’s pretty simple, even Soonyoung can’t ruin it. Mingyu just hopes they’ll be able to finish before the others get back, the cookies take quite a long time to bake and they have to decorate them, which would be difficult with the others constantly going in the kitchen to try to steal some. Apparently, the smell alone isn’t enough to satisfy them.

         “We’ll make the icing while the cookies are in the oven,” he decides before closing his book.

         Soonyoung takes it. “What are you doing? We need it!”

         “No, we don’t, it’s not the first time I make these cookies and the recipe is easy. I don’t need the book.”

         After the eggs on his book, Mingyu prefers to put it away. He doesn’t mind getting his recipe books dirty (it’s kind of impossible to keep them like they were when he bought them), but he still doesn’t want to risk losing one to a milk attack or whatever Soonyoung could do.

         Mingyu finishes reading the recipe without any new sudden need of throwing himself by the window. Good. “Hyung, can you please pass me the brown sugar?”

         Soonyoung’s eyes light up when he finally has something to do and Mingyu almost – almost – feels bad. Soonyoung may not be the best cook, but he just wants to help and he’s trying. Of course, the other makes sure he regrets the short moment of guilt.

         “Soonyoung-hyung, what the fuck is that.”

         “You asked for brown sugar.”

         “Hyung, that’s not even brown.”

         Soonyoung shrugs and takes the flour back. “To my defense, it looks like sugar.”

         It’s not labelled, Mingyu prefers to put the flour in a Tupperware kind of thing instead of leaving it in a bag. He’d like to avoid another White Junhui incident. So, he guesses he can’t really blame Soonyoung for bringing him something else. They’ll need flour anyway.

         “Okay, it’s not that bad, we’ll need it. Just… put it somewhere on the counter. Seriously, you don’t even know what brown sugar looks like, you must be the worst cook ever!” Mingyu laughs, playfully hitting his friend’s shoulder.

         However, Soonyoung doesn’t tease him back by talking about his clumsiness like he expected him to. Instead, he pauses, smirks and gets up.

         (Soonyoung may be smaller than him, but he can be intimidating when he wants to and Mingyu feels like he should run. He’s dumb, so he doesn’t.)

         “Yeah, let’s see how good of a cook you are when you’re in Gyu space.”

         Mingyu never thought it was possible to be cuddled in such an aggressive way, but he likes to learn new things. When the other starts kissing his nose, he gives up.

         “That sounds like a challenge, let’s do that. Bring me a headband and one of Seokmin’s hoodies.”

         This time, Soonyoung gets it right.

 

Now wearing a headband with tiger ears (Soonyoung bought it a few days ago and hid it so he could be the first and only one to make Mingyu wear it) and a black hoodie, Mingyu looks softer than soft. Seeing him with the headband he got him makes Soonyoung feel a bit weird. As much as the members don’t want to admit it, there’s something like a competition between them. Well, as long as Mingyu doesn’t start running to other groups – again, these NCT boys be damned – Soonyoung doesn’t mind.

         “That hoodie is so big, I don’t think Seokmin is tall enough for it… oh,” he mumbles, suddenly understanding. It’s brilliant how Seokmin and Seungcheol buy clothes bigger than the ones they usually wear and make sure to wear them once so Mingyu can be surrounded by their scent when he wears them. Soonyoung would do the same, but sadly, he’s way too small. If a hoodie is too big for even Mingyu, then Soonyoung would probably get lost in it.

         They won this round, he thinks as he fixes Mingyu’s hair, but I’ll win the next one.

         “All good, pumpkin. Ready for these cookies?”

         Mingyu gives him a thumbs-up.

 

The boys were ready for the cookies, but the cookies – and the kitchen – weren’t ready for the boys. With Mingyu in Gyu space, he’s easily distracted, even easier than usually. Soonyoung isn’t helping.

         Right now, he’s gently putting floor on Mingyu’s nose. “I know a fansite who would love to see you like that on a daily basis,” he jokes before swiping it off. “There, all better. Your skin is beautiful, pumpkin. My cute prince of bronze.”

         Even if they didn’t mention it, they know what happened a few days ago. The issue didn’t have time to get big, but it wasn’t the first joke about Mingyu’s dark skin. If the boy doesn’t address it, they won’t. They’ll just make sure he knows how gorgeous his natural skin tone is.

         “What do we have to do now, pumpkin? What’s the next step?”

         Mingyu freezes and blinks. “Oh, right, the cookies. We should stop messing around.”

         “Wait, that’s not what I wanted.” Soonyoung didn’t expect Mingyu to get out of Gyu space just because he asked him something. It makes sense though, Mingyu likes to have orders to follow so he can stop stressing so much about doing things right, which is kind of the point of the Gyu space thing. By asking him something that requires too much thinking – after all, Mingyu has to take the lead and make sure Soonyoung doesn’t mess up – for it to be relaxing enough, Soonyoung got him back to normal. It’s okay, it’s easy to make the boy slip in Mingyu space, he just needs to find a way to ask him about the recipe without giving him too many responsibilities. As ironic as it is, Mingyu likes when he has things to do in Gyu space, exactly like a child. Soonyoung has to find something in-between.

         “Never mind, forget about that. I’ll be the one reading the recipe and you’ll be the one doing the things, okay? You don’t have to look after me, I’ll manage. It’s not like I can set the kitchen on fire or anything.”

         “Well… I honestly can’t be sure about that.”

         “Okay, this was totally uncalled for. Shut up and go soft.”

         Mingyu snorts. “Yeah, that’s exactly how you make me go soft.”

         Soonyoung rolls his eyes. Three minutes later, his pumpkin is back. He hugs him for absolutely no reason – except that Mingyu is soft and just really comfortable to hug – and gets ready to go back to work. He already knows their cookies will never be as good as they would be if Mingyu cooked them without Soonyoung’s “help” and out of Gyu space, but would it be as fun? No, of course not. Really, Soonyoung is doing him a favour. Without him, his pumpkin’s afternoon would be more than boring.

         With this in mind, he chooses another recipe. Just because they probably won’t succeed doesn’t mean they shouldn’t at least try! He remembers his mother making gingerbread cookies. They were pretty easy to make and he’s sure they have all the ingredients needed. Ignoring the little voice in his head that tells him it was easy because his mother was doing most of the job, he gives Mingyu his first task. Soonyoung hopes being in Gyu space didn’t make the other forget what the fuck is gingerbread cookies mix because he has no idea.

         While Mingyu gets the ingredients wherever he put them, Soonyoung cleans the mess they did when they tried their first recipe. It doesn’t seem so bad, maybe they could end their day with two batches of cookies… slowly, he dips his pinky in the dough and tastes it.

         Yeah, no. It’s awful, he didn’t even know cookies could be that disgusting.

         “Soonie?”

         “Sorry, pumpkin? You said something?”

         Mingyu proudly shows the result of his treasure hunt. Soonyoung can almost see the puppy ears – real ones, nothing to do with the tiger headband he’s wearing – standing on his head and the cute tail wagging behind him. Really, Carats aren’t wrong when they compare him to a puppy.

         (People probably find it weird to use such a cute nickname for an adult as tall as Mingyu, but his pumpkin likes it. He even said so himself, so fuck anyone who dares tell them to stop. If Soonyoung’s pumpkin likes that nickname, then it’s his, period.)

 

“I don’t understand, I think we made it even worse than the first recipe!”

         Soonyoung reads the recipe for what seems like the thousandth time. Seriously, they take the ingredients, put them in a bowl and stir. Somehow, they managed to make a mess again. He almost feels proud for achieving something so difficult.

         He groans. Bless Mingyu for cooking so often, he never could have imagined that it was so difficult.

         “I give up,” he sighs, throwing his spoon in the sink. “Sorry, baby boy. I guess you’ll have to try again when you’ll be out of Gyu space, I’m sorry for wasting your day like that…”

         “Soonie’s sad?” Mingyu asks, voice so small he’s almost whispering even if it’s only the two of them. “Please don’t be sad.”

         He wraps his arms around Soonyoung’s neck (which sounds a bit weird now that I think about it). The oldest of the two swears he can feel his heart melt, Mingyu is that cute.

         “Aw, pumpkin, are you sad? No? Then I’m not. Let’s just hope you’ll still feel that way once you’ll be out of Gyu space.”

         “Not now,” Mingyu whines, imaginary puppy eyes flat against his head. “Please, Soonie. Being big is stressful.”

         Soonyoung manages to keep his sudden need of telling everyone to go fuck themselves and let his baby boy be in Gyu space forever inside. Honestly, he deserves a medal for this.

         But now isn’t the time to lose himself in random thoughts, he has a baby to take care of. If his Mingyu wants to be tiny for a bit longer, then he’ll make it his job to make sure his baby is happy and feels as small as he needs.

         “Okay, pup. Being big is scary,” he whispers with wide eyes, like he’s telling him a secret.

         He takes some of the dough and gives him a mustache. Mingyu looks ridiculous, but he giggles and that’s exactly what Soonyoung wants to hear.

         “My pumpkin is such a big boy now,” he teases him. “Aren’t you, pup? My big baby, only mine.”

         Mingyu laughs and shakes his head. Soonyoung gasps, hand on his chest. Of course, he’s not really offended, he’s just exaggerating everything to keep hearing his friend’s high-pitched giggles. It’s one of the most adorable sounds he ever heard. Maybe he should try to record it with his phone once so he could put it as his alarm, it’d be a nice sound to wake up to.

         “You brat, how dare you disrespect your hyung like that?” Soonyoung pouts and throws some dough at his baby. He misses. Oh well, they’ll clean it before the others come back, it’s no big deal.

         Mingyu starts fighting back and there’s suddenly food flying everywhere. They’re making a mess, but they’re happy. Soonyoung couldn’t ask for more

 

However, Seungcheol doesn’t share his opinion.

         When the leader comes back, they’re still throwing food at each other. With his luck, Soonyoung misses again and hits him. Seungcheol looks at the mess, sighs and leaves. About ten minutes later, they hear the door and he joins them in the kitchen, cookies from the supermarket in his hands.

         “Look, it’s really cute and I’m glad you’re more comfortable with us, but you can’t make such a mess all the time.” Seungcheol bites his lips, unsure of how to say what needs to be said without hurting Mingyu’s feelings. “Soonyoung, I know the kid can be adorable, but please try to control yourself. We really don’t need something like that every time he wants to go in Gyu space.”

         “Actually, I was the one who suggested it… Mingyu didn’t do anything wrong,” he admits, embarrassed. He has to say it definitely wasn’t his best idea, but he still doesn’t regret it. They both had fun and that’s all that matters, even if they’ll probably spend the next hour cleaning the kitchen.

         “Nah, it was also my fault, I shouldn’t have accepted. Let’s just start cleaning now, we already know we shouldn’t do it again. You really don’t need to go all angry dad mode on us, Cheol-hyung,” Mingyu adds, playing with his fingers and obviously trying to run from the talk he knows is coming.

         Another day, it wouldn’t work, but Seungcheol is too tired. With a grunt, he leaves the kitchen and goes to the bathroom.

         “Do you think you could use your puppy eyes to get us out of here?”

         “Nah, even my puppy eyes aren’t that powerful.”

         (Mingyu still tries and, while they’re not entirely free from cleaning duties, they now have Seungcheol and Wonwoo – who got back from the studios a few minutes after Seungcheol – helping them. It could be worse, he guesses.)

 

When they’re done, Soonyoung and Mingyu hide under a blanket. Hide may not be the right word since it’s pretty easy to find them, sitting in the middle of the leaving room, but it feels more intimate that way. After Junhui promised to help Mingyu make cookies – for real this time – and Soonyoung apologized again, Seungcheol accepted to let his two messy boys eat the cookies he bought. They eat them under the blanket, giggling when they think about the face their leader made when he saw the kitchen.

         Seungcheol knows why they laugh, but they’re way too cute to be stopped.

Chapter Text

Award shows are pretty cool. If you’re an idol, you’re literally getting paid to watch other artists on the stage. However, they can also be incredibly stressful: your company expects you to win something, preferably a daesang, and you have to perform in front of a lot of people. Unlike what you’d think, rookies aren’t the only ones who find it hard.

         Mingyu usually knows how to deal with stress, it’s not his first MAMA – and hopefully not the last one, they all really want to win at least one daesang in their career – and he should be used to concerts. This time, it’s different. Seventeen is about to show their first performance with a dark concept and new things can be as scary as exciting. Mingyu can’t tell if he shakes because he’s excited or if it’s fear.

         “Mingyu, you’re okay?”

         They’re sitting in front of cameras, thousands of people watching them. He can’t show how worried he is.

         He smiles at Jeonghan, hoping he looks like he’s saying something about another group’s performance. “Hyung, Gyu space.”

         Jeonghan understands and chuckles, putting his mouth against his ear. “You think you can make it? It’s not like having to go to the bathroom, right?”

         Mingyu shakes his head, but the last sentence makes him laugh. Because of all the time spent to work on Getting Closer, it’s been a while since the last time he went into Gyu space. His NCT 127 friends were too busy and he didn’t want to bother his members. He knows they don’t see him as a burden, but there’s a limit and Soonyoung falling asleep while untying his shoes made it clear that they were as exhausted as him. Still, he doesn’t regret anything: Getting Closer’s choreography is amazing and he’s expecting it to get Carats’ approval. A lot of them were asking for a dark concept, Mingyu can’t wait to see their reaction.

         “Mingyu? Are you with me?”

         He blinks, confused. Spacing out isn’t good. “Sorry, hyung. I’m, it’s warm, I’m stressed, I’m, what do I do?”

         Jeonghan looks at Seungcheol and points at Mingyu. The other understands and switches places so he can be next to him. Seungkwan, next to Jeonghan, looks at him with worry in his eyes.

         “Everything’s okay?”

         “I’m sorry.”

         “Don’t apologize, Mingyu, let’s just… how do we deal with this?”

         No one says anything for a moment and Mingyu wants to cry. He feels so bad for making them so stressed, but he’s gonna explode if he doesn’t go in Gyu space soon and he really doesn’t want to have a breakdown in the middle of the show. What if it happens on the stage? The media would destroy the group’s reputation and if, for some reason, they leave them alone, k-netizens would have fun tearing them down. Even after years, an idol can suffer from extreme stress before going on stage and Mingyu’s only way of dealing with it is Gyu space.

         “Okay, we still have time before going on stage. If we win something, you can get up and follow us even if you’re in Gyu space, right?”

         Mingyu nods, but he’s not sure he understands. Jeonghan can’t possibly say he should go in Gyu space in the middle of an award show, right?

         Seungcheol doesn’t question it. “Yes, he can. We’ll be with him, he won’t have to say anything. Let’s put him in Gyu space and we’ll tell the others so they can take care of him if we can’t.”

         Seungkwan gets up. “Gyu, we’re going to the bathroom, we’ll come back when you’ll be… the other you.”

         When they speak, their lips barely move. That way, it’s nearly impossible for the audience and the cameras to know what they’re talking about. They’re surprisingly good at dealing with this once they’re over their surprise.

 

“Fuck SM’s boycotting, I wish we could have Taeyong and Jaehyun with us. Do you know how to, like, satisfy you quickly?”

         Mingyu blushes and looks around. “Don’t say it like that!”

         “Yeah, it sounds weird,” another voice, more cheerful than worried, declares. “Don’t let anyone hear you saying something like that, you’d have to deal with a scandal and we all know how annoying k-netizens can be.”

         BTS’ Jungkook washes his hands, humming like he doesn’t know he almost gave them a heart attack.

         “Jungkook?”

         “Sorry, I didn’t mean to listen, but it’s not like I had a choice,” the other chuckles. “Don’t worry Mingyu, I won’t say anything. I won’t even ask what you’re talking about, it’s none of my business after all. But,” Jungkook hesitates for a second, “if you need someone, I’m here. I’m sure the hyungs would be happy to help to.”

         Mingyu wonders if he should tell him about Gyu space – Jungkook is his friend, he deserves to know – but Seungkwan takes the decision for him by thanking the younger idol and almost kicking him out of the bathroom. At least, he’s not doing it in a rude way and Jungkook seems more amused than offended.

         “You’re right, I should be more careful,” Seungkwan sighs. “We need pet ears, headbands, anything like that… your harness definitely doesn’t fit the cute Gyu space thing. Should we get it off?”

         Mingyu shakes his head. It was so hard to put it on, he doesn’t need to struggle against this demonic leather thing twice in a day.

         “Which group has a concept that could help us… Seventeen is the only group I can think of, but our dark concept ruins it all. We can’t ask Monsta X, Astro isn’t here, Pristin is still in the dungeon – wait, Pristin!”

         “Like you said, they’re in the dungeon, hyung. They can’t help us.”

         Seungkwan’s smile is proud. “No, but I’m sure fromis_9 would gladly help us!”

 

Not gonna lie, the fromis_9 girls are cute (and talented). Mingyu doesn’t know them well, but when Seungkwan asks them for help, they don’t even ask him why he needs cute accessories and they immediately leave to get what he asked for. Apparently, the solidarity between girl groups is strong as hell and they manage to get stuff from almost every other female artist.

         “That’s adorable,” Seungkwan comments, picking something from the little treasure that the girls gave them. “I think it’s from IZ*ONE.”

         It’s a black headband with purple and white ribbons. It does fit IZ*ONE’s outfits of the night and the first thing Mingyu will do when he’ll have some free time will be to buy three copies (maybe Minseo and Cara would like one) of every version of their debut album as a thank you. He’ll also let his phone stream their MV on Youtube all night, their international fans consider it one of the most important things about a kpop comeback so it probably matters a lot to them too since they’re an international group. It’s not much, but the girls will probably appreciate it.

         (Or he could simply go to them and thank them once the show is over, but he’s too shy. Maybe another time.)

         “It’s on. What do you think about it, baby Gyu?”

         Seungkwan lets go of the last ribbon and Mingyu shudders. Even wearing black clothes and a harness, he looks cute and soft with his new headband. Still… something is missing. The bathroom is way too unfamiliar, he doesn’t feel safe enough to slip in Gyu space.

         (Being in unfamiliar places makes him want to go in Gyu space, but he needs to feel safe to do so. Mingyu wishes his two last brain cells would stop fighting each other like that and agree on something.)

         “You like it, baby?”

         He nods and lets Seungkwan hug him. It’s okay, Seungkwan is with him, he’s not alone. He can do it, he’ll slip in Gyu space, get the love and attention he craves for and he’ll go back to normal once they have to perform on the stage. The others will be there to make sure he doesn’t do anything that could harm his or the group’s reputation. Simple and easy.

         Seungkwan squeezes his waist, almost like he’s trying to squeeze the worry away. Mingyu doesn’t mind it at all.

         “You’re so soft, so comfortable to hug,” the boy with blue hair whispers in his ear. “You’re like my big warm teddy bear.”

         They stay in the bathroom for five minutes before Mingyu finally lets go.

         “Boo,” he mumbles, his cheek squished against Seungkwan’s shoulder.

         “Baby, you have to take your headband off. I’m really sorry, I promise we’ll try to find you one when we’ll be back home.”

         Mingyu’s bottom lip starts wobbling. He feels pretty with the headband, he wants to keep it. Seungkwan shushes him and kisses his fingers – he went for the face, but realized that with all that makeup, it wasn’t a good idea – to calm him down.

         “Bear, you can do it. You’re my little prince, with or without the headband. You’re still handsome without it.”

         “I ‘on’t wanna be ‘ndsome,” he mumbles, too fast to take time to properly pronounce the words. “I’m pretty.”

         “Of course you are, my pretty prince! But now, you have to be a big boy for me.” Seungkwan stops, cursing his choice of words. Mingyu goes in Gyu space because he doesn’t want to be big. “I’m sorry, baby. That’s not what I mean, you don’t have to be big. You can stay small for now… you’re like, a tiny, teddy bear. Soft. All that stuff.”

         “If I’m a big boy, you’ll be happy?”

         “Thank you for using your words, bear, you’re doing a great job,” Seungkwan praises him before answering his question. “Yes, I’ll be happy, but also really proud of my baby bear.”

         Without a word, Mingyu takes the headband off himself, his eyes not leaving it as he gives it to Seungkwan. His friend notices it and chuckles.

         “I guess we can ask the IZ*ONE girls if we can keep it. Would you like that? Would you like to bring this home?”

         Mingyu nods with so much enthusiasm that the other fears for his neck. But his bear deserves nothing but the best and if he wants that headband, Seungkwan will do everything he can to persuade the IZ*ONE girls to let them leave with it.

         “Bub, I love cuddling you and all, but it’s really awkward and unsanitary to do it in a bathroom… just think of all the germs, it’s disgusting. Are you ready to join the others?”

         Mingyu shakes his head and whines, hands clinging to Seungkwan’s suit. He knows he won’t be able to cuddle Seungkwan like that, to be so close to his friend. He’s not ready to leave that feeling of safety yet.

         In case another idol needs to go to the bathroom too, Seungkwan gently pushes Mingyu in one of the cabins and closes the door behind them. He can only hope that, if someone comes, he won’t look at the two pairs of shoes. That would be suspicious and hard to explain.

         “Bear, look at me,” he demands after another five minutes of cuddling. “We have to go now. We can’t stay here all night, the others are waiting for us.”

         He knows Mingyu doesn’t like it, but time is against them now. Hands on his cheeks, he forces his friend to look at him in the eyes. Seungkwan really can’t deal with tears right now, so he uses his softest voice. His bear being in Gyu space won’t stop him from understanding they have to go back to their seats soon, he just needs someone to explain it to him. Seungkwan can do it with patience and kindness.

         “Baby boy, I need you to be brave for me. Can you do that?” he asks before changing his question. “Can you do that for me? The others would be so proud of you.”

         Mingyu’s voice is shy, exactly like a child who’s getting scolded and doesn’t know if he’s allowed to talk. “You?”

         Seungkwan smiles and pets his hair. “Of course I’d be proud, bear. I’m always proud of my baby when he obeys his caregivers even if he doesn’t like what they’re asking him to do.”

         Mingyu sighs and puffs his cheeks. He takes a look at the headband around Seungkwan’s neck – he put it there when he needed to get Mingyu’s attention – before opening the door himself. It makes Seungkwan think he’s out of Gyu space, but that thought quickly goes away when the tall boy waits for him to take his hand before walking out of the bathroom.

         Well, they still have some time left before their performance. It’ll be okay.

 

In Gyu space, Mingyu is too busy looking at the lights to listen to what’s being said. To his defense, he’s bored and can’t wait to go home so he can play with his friends. Award shows are boring when there’s no one performing on the stage.

         That’s how he misses their name being called from the main stage. The other members get up, Seungkwan noticing how distracted he is and taking his hand to bring him with them. Even though a few members only sang the OST, they simply couldn’t imagine going on the stage to receive an award if their brothers weren’t with them. Seungkwan would be touched if he wasn’t too busy worrying about making sure Mingyu doesn’t do anything too weird with the cameras on them.

         In front of them, Joshua and Jeonghan walk while holding hands, probably so Seungkwan and Mingyu aren’t the only ones. As soon as they get behind the mics, they let go. Seungkwan imitates them so he can take advantage of the members around them to pat Mingyu’s thigh and trace random lines on his hand and arm. It makes the other boy smile and Seungkwan starts drawing members. By the time they’re finished with the speech, he’s almost done with Junhui’s face. Of course, he didn’t use a pen or anything so he can’t see the result, but he guesses it’s not as bad as it could be.

         Later, they’re called again. Mingyu is still staring at lights, but this time, his eyes are on lightsticks and not on the spotlights above the stage. It’s good, Seungkwan won’t have to worry too much about him ruining his eyes by looking at something too bright.

                  He’s glad he didn’t say it out loud, he doesn’t think he has the patience for a joke about how he should make sure Mingyu doesn’t look at Seokmin’s smile.

         “Gyu, we’re going again,” he whispers, not sure if he needs to hold his hand again. “You have to come with us.”

         “It went well,” Jeonghan whispers once they’re back to their seats. “Honestly, I didn’t expect it to go so well.”

         “Me neither,” Seungkwan admits.

         His hand is finally free from Mingyu’s, but it feels a bit empty now. He uses his freedom to steal a snack from Jeonghan and gives it to his bear. Maybe food will be enough to occupy him.

         When Mingyu needs help to open the bag, Seungkwan does it for him. It can pass as stress making his hands slippery and clumsy, so he doesn’t worry about people seeing Mingyu struggle with a small bag of chips for five minutes, but he’s not the most patient when he’s in Gyu space – not even when he’s out of it – and Seungkwan doesn’t know how they could justify one of their members starting crying over something as simple as a snack.

         He doesn’t see how they could explain anything related to their situation, to be honest. Being an idol really shouldn’t be so complicated, but he can’t imagine his life without these twelve dumbasses (read: kind, talented, amazing people).

 

When they have to go backstage to get ready, Seungkwan sees it as a curse disguised as a blessing. Yes, they don’t have to worry about the cameras and the audience anymore, but it means they’re about go perform and Mingyu is still in Gyu space. At least, he doesn’t complain when he has to change or when the stylists make him sit still for what probably seems like forever to him. He’s used to it, Gyu space or not, it’s a routine and routines are easy to follow. Mingyu likes them, he doesn’t have to worry too much about what he should do.

         “Okay, we only have a few minutes left,” Jeonghan tells him as soon as the stylists leave. “What the fuck are we going to do?”

         “Mingyu-hyung is in Gyu space, right?” Chan asks, chewing on his bottom lip – Jeonghan slaps his shoulder and tells him to stop ruining his stylist’s good work – when he gets an answer. “This is bad.”

         “Thank you, Captain Obvious,” Seungkwan mumbles under his breath, faking a cough when the maknae looks at him.

         He doesn’t have time for shade or jokes anyway, he has something more important to do. He’s not sure if it’s possible to cuddle Mingyu out of Gyu space – he tried all night yet the other still refuses to get back to normal – but it’s the only option they have. He doesn’t think anything else could make him feel safe and relaxed.

         “I’ll try to sit down a bit with him, maybe we can… hug while I sing some of his favourite bedtime songs,” he suggests.

         Seokmin frowns. “If you sing lullabies, he could fall asleep.”

         “Yeah, but we almost never sing him to sleep with lullabies.”

         Wonwoo turns to Jeonghan, puzzled. “You say that like you often put him to sleep yet you only spent one night with him in Gyu space…”

         The other pats his cheek. “Keep believing that, Nonu.”

         With the way Wonwoo’s eyebrows go down, Seungkwan can tell he didn’t like it. He doesn’t know if it is Jeonghan’s hand on his cheek or what he just learned, but it doesn’t really matter at the moment.

         “He likes one of NCT’s new song, something to do with a playground…” Seungkwan groans when he realizes he forgot the title. “Okay, I forgot the title, but I remember the lyrics. It’s cheerful and calm enough to make him relax.”

         “Sing the damn national anthem if it can help,” Jihoon stops him, tense. “We don’t have a lot of time left! Hurry!”

         Seungkwan definitely didn’t need to be reminded of that. Fuck Mnet and their stupid award show.

 

“Seventeen, you’re next.”

         Seungcheol nods and thanks the staff member before turning to Seungkwan and Mingyu. “Fuck, is he still in it?”

         Seungkwan nods, something in his throat stopping him from talking. It’s a good thing that Mingyu is the only one who deals with stress by going into Gyu space because they would all suddenly slip in it with all the stress he gives them. He wishes they knew more about Gyu space, they didn’t really talk about it to try to find more about it so none of them knows how to get him out of it except for waiting for him to be ready and do it by himself. They have no idea if it’s even possible.

         Seungcheol sighs. “Okay, we don’t have much of a choice… he can’t stay here, but we can’t bring him on stage like that.”

         “We could say something, lie, pretend that he’s, sick or hurt or anything that could stop him from going on stage,” Soonyoung suggests, sounding as hopeless as they all feel.

         “It won’t work, the fans, the audience, they expect us to go there as thirteen and not twelve,” Joshua refuses. “They saw him earlier, he looked fine, normal. They won’t understand.”

         Jeonghan nods. “We can’t disappoint them like that, but we also can’t bring him on stage if he’ll act out of place.”

         They all sit on the floor to think and talk about it, but when the staff member is back, everything is the same as before. Following the group, Seungkwan doesn’t feel any of the usual excitement that motivates them before their performances.

         When the song starts, Mingyu is still in Gyu space.

Chapter Text

Oh my indeed, Jeonghan thinks as the song starts.

         But Mingyu adjusts his mic with hands that show he’s used to it and smiles for the cameras, waving at the audience. Jeonghan has no idea if he’s still in Gyu space, but he goes through the choreography without any trouble. After Oh My, he gets out of the stage and Jeonghan can only hope he’s okay as he gets in his position for Flower.

         He sees him again when Jihoon and Soonyoung perform Bring It.

         “Mingyu, you’re back?” he asks as soon as he can.

         “No, he’s not,” Joshua answers for him. “For some reason, he’s okay with performing even in Gyu space. It’s probably because, y’know, if we think about it, going on stage is something we’re used to. We practiced and performed our songs so often that Soonyoung dances in his sleep if we play one of them,” he chuckles. “His body remembers the choreographies and it became nearly impossible to dance to Getting Closer without saying our lines. We’ll be fine, Hannie.”

         Jeonghan groans. He doesn’t know if he should be relieved that everything went fine or annoyed that they all stressed so much for nothing.

         It’s amazing how his soft baby dances to Getting Closer, eyes burning with fire that wasn’t there two seconds ago. He’s dancing like his life is depending on it and his charisma is impressive. Even Jeonghan has to say he’s a bit intimidating by his smirk, which is amazing knowing Mingyu is still in Gyu space. Maybe the fans aren’t so far from the truth when they say an idol on stage isn’t the same person as they are when they’re not performing.

         But as soon as they get off the stage, he goes back to being Jeonghan’s tiny puppy, his little boy. Mingyu blinks rapidly, turning his head to look everywhere around him. His curious baby is in a room full of people he doesn’t know, after all. Jeonghan takes his hand and helps him change in more comfortable clothes. Mingyu whines a bit, but he has to wear a suit. He can’t go back to his seat in jogging pants, it would be weird.

         “Come on, baby, we have to move,” he encourages him and pets his hair, hoping it’ll distract him from the big bad suit.

         Seungkwan kisses Mingyu’s cheek, softly so he doesn’t ruin his makeup. Even Seungkwan’s help isn’t enough to get the boy to stop sulking and Seungcheol has to use his leader voice, as they like to call it.

         “Mingyu, be a good boy and stop acting like a brat. Make us proud, kiddo.”

         Mingyu whines again and looks at the floor, fingers playing with his sleeves.

         Jeonghan sighs. “Mingyu, baby, we’ll be home soon and we’ll put you in better clothes, I promise.

         “Pinky?”

         (Minghao turns his head, probably wondering why the fuck they’re suddenly talking about Jieqiong, before seeing Mingyu’s finger. Weird. He looks at Joshua, who shrugs and explains that it’s a cute English word so he’s not really surprised to hear Mingyu use it even in Gyu space.

         “So you’re telling me he’s saying the English word instead of the Korean one just because it’s cute?”

         “It’s Mingyu,” Joshua replies. “Does it really surprise you?”

         Well, he has a point.)

         The oldest of the two boys laugh and gives him his pinky. “Yes, pinky promise.”

         He watches with a fond smile as his baby boy links their pinkies together.

         “I love you,” Seungkwan suddenly says for no reason except that Mingyu is being adorable.

         “Same, we love you so much, baby boy,” Jeonghan whispers in Mingyu’s ear (standing on his tiptoes because hey, his little baby isn’t so little). “You’re making us so proud of our baby. Thank you for always doing your best for us, puppy.”

 

In the van, Mingyu is still in Gyu space. He seems pretty happy and sings with Seokmin, both of them holding hands and Mingyu curling himself against Seokmin’s side when he randomly starts giggling. Sitting next to him, Minghao is pouting and keeps tapping his shoulder to get his attention.

         Any other day, Jeonghan would have no problem with them playing together like that, but today is different.

         Today, Mingyu is his. He’s his to take care of and he wants to make sure he doesn’t go in Gyu space at another event like an award show. One is already way too much, way too stressful.

         Jeonghan also wants to make sure that his Mingyu is okay and, as soon as he gets out of his little Gyu zone, that he doesn’t blame himself too much for what happened.)

         “Help the kid,” Seungcheol tells them before getting out of the van.

         Before Jeonghan can do it, Seokmin unbuckles Mingyu’s seat belt. Since he’s not a certain someone, he doesn’t get jealous, not at all.

         (He kind of understands how Wonwoo feels now. It’s not a good feeling, especially knowing he feels that way because of one of his boys. He loves all of Seventeen, all of his boys, he really shouldn’t envy any of them like that.)

         “Let’s take a bath, Gyu.”

         His baby needs to wash himself and he wants to watch over him, so a bath is the best option. Also from what Minghao told him, baby Mingyu loves bubbles. Maybe they still have a few bath bombs…

         “Jeonghan, wait.” He turns around, facing Seungcheol, who looks a bit uncomfortable. “I need to talk to him, we can’t have that happening again.”

         “Yes, I understand, but… Seungcheollie, the kid is in Gyu space, is it a good idea? He probably won’t remember or understand what you scold him for and he might even start crying. We’re all tired, I don’t think we can handle a crying Mingyu.”

         “Okay, I… just, please take care of him and get our Mingyu back so we can have a talk.”

         Jeonghan smiles. “He’s still our Mingyu, Seungcheol.”

         Seungcheol looks like he just punched him in the face and broke his nose. “Fuck, of course he is, that’s, that, I swear that’s not what I mean.”

         Watching their leader so panicked is funny, but Jeonghan quickly gets bored and stops him after a few seconds. “It’s fine, Cheol, I was joking. I know what you meant.”

         Seungcheol opens his mouth, but stays quiet, trying to find a way to say what he wants to say even if he doesn’t really know what he wants to say. Jeonghan waits for him, but Seungkwan doesn’t have his patience and stops them because hey, this conversation is important and they need to talk about it, but their baby is waiting and it’s getting late.

         “Mingyu is tired, he should be under the blankets but someone is making him wait,” he finishes and he may be younger than both of them, but Jeonghan and Seungcheol feel too intimidated to argue with him.

         They know better than to argue with Seungkwan about something related to Mingyu’s well being, especially when he’s in Gyu space. Seungkwan tease him more often than anyone else in the group, but his love for him is sincere and he doesn’t joke around with his baby’s health.

         Also, it is indeed getting late and Mingyu is in Gyu space, which means he’s like a child. Children shouldn’t up at this hour.

         “You’re right. Sorry, Seungcheol, but I have to go take care of the kid.”

         Seungcheol nods and, without makeup, Jeonghan can see the dark circles under his eyes. He’s young, he shouldn’t seem so old. Jeonghan wishes he could take the burden of being the leader off his shoulders, even if it’s just for a day.

         “Okay, I’m… I’m just stressed. A lot. Please tell him I love him and kiss him goodnight for me.”

         “You’re not doing it yourself?”

         He shakes his head. “I’m too tired, I’m going to bed. Do you think he’ll be okay if I don’t kiss him myself?”

         “He’ll understand. Seungcheol, please do as you said and go to bed, you look sick,” Jeonghan adds because it’s true, the other looks about to faint and he doesn’t want to have to catch him. To be honest, he doesn’t think he has the strength to do so. Reminded of his own tiredness, he groans and goes to the bathroom after following Seungcheol to his bedroom to make sure he doesn’t stay up, blaming himself for failing as a leader or any other dumb thought that could come from his dead tired brain.

         “You did quite a mess today, angel,” Jeonghan sighs as he enters the bathroom.

         Thanks to Seungkwan, Mingyu is sitting in the bath, happily playing with bubbles. He smiles at Jeonghan, who smiles back. Really, he can’t get mad at his angel (not that he sees a reason to, it wasn’t really Mingyu’s fault after all).

         He washes the boy and helps him get out before drying his wet skin with the fluffiest towel he can find. Mingyu giggles at the attention, yawns and almost falls asleep on him when he starts washing his face.

         (And if Jeonghan doesn’t have the strength to catch Seungcheol, he surely doesn’t have enough of it for Mingyu. If the kid falls asleep, he’ll spend the night on the floor and Jeonghan can’t have that, it would be terribly painful for his back.)

         When they’re finally in bed, Jeonghan’s hand playing with Mingyu’s hair to help him fall asleep, Chan knocks at the bedroom’s door. Pillow in his arms and tears on his cheek, he starts talking about a nightmare and being scared of sleeping alone. Jeonghan sighs and lets the kid leave with Mingyu. Another night, he would have told their maknae to sleep in his bed – Mingyu is his baby, but he didn’t forget about Chan – but it was pretty clear he wanted to have Mingyu with him.

         “Urgh, the things I do for these kids… being a single parent is hard.”

         (In another room, Seungcheol opens his eyes.)

 

The morning after, Mingyu is out of Gyu space. After breakfast, Jeonghan takes him to his room, notebook and pen in his hands.

         “Alright, Mingyu, we have to talk. At the MAMAs, you went in Gyu space and we had no way to get you out of it before the performance. Everything went well, as you know, but it was a lot of stress for us and we’d like to, y’know, never have to feel that much pressure again. Please, just, just tell us when you need to go in Gyu space. We’ll always find time for you, you should know that.”

         Mingyu refuses to look him in the eyes. Sitting cross-legged on the bed, he plays with his fingers. It’s incredible how small he looks and it makes Jeonghan upset. Mingyu only gets that small when he gets scolded and that’s not what Jeonghan is doing, he shouldn’t feel the need to seem smaller than he is.

         (Mingyu always makes himself look smaller than he is, but it gets even more intense when he feels like someone is about to yell at him. From what he knows about him, Jeonghan can tell it’s because he’ll look less intimidating, which can help make it better. He saw him getting scolded by a manager once, and the yelling turned to talking in a few seconds. With Mingyu looking so tiny, yelling at him feels like yelling at a puppy and, even if most people don’t realize it, people change their tone and attitude once they see how vulnerable he is.)

         “Gyu, I’m not mad,” he says, keeping his voice as soft as possible and petting his hair. “We need to find a way to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Please, Mingyu, I just want to help.”

         Mingyu finally looks up. His eyes aren’t red or glassy, but they’re filled with regret. Of course, he’s feeling guilty. “I honestly don’t know, hyung,” he whispers as if they weren’t alone. “It never happened before, Taeyong-hyung usually made sure I was okay… I’m not used to having to deal with this on my own.”

         These words shouldn’t hurt Jeonghan like they do. Oh how he would like to take all of his boys’ worries instead of watching them suffer like this…

         “Mingyu, baby, angel, sweetheart, you’re not alone.” His throat hurts, like when he’s trying not to cry, because that’s pretty much what’s happening. “You don’t have to deal with this on your own. I’m so sorry you felt that way.”

         With how much they pamper him, Jeonghan thought that Mingyu was aware of their love for him, but it seems like he shouldn’t have assumed that. They’ll have to work on his insecurities and his constant worry of being a burden, because that’s something he’s not and should never think of himself as one.

         Jeonghan feels about to cry. It’s way too early for that, he should have waited a bit. Now, he’s tired and… oh, he can’t even find a good excuse for his tears except that he’s worried about Mingyu and feels pretty useless.

         “Please don’t be sad, hyung. I’m really sorry, I promise I’ll do my best so it doesn’t happen again.”

         Mingyu’s voice shouldn’t be that small, like he’s about to cry too. Jeonghan hugs him, taking his little boy in his arms.

         “I’m not sad, Mingyu, I’m just, I wish I could have done something.”

         They stay like that, hugging each other and trying not to cry, because they’re finally calm enough to talk. Jeonghan rubs his forehead, a bit ashamed of getting so emotional over something like that. Really, it’s not like him, it must be the stress of the previous night getting to him.

         “We could try to find ways to help you,” he suggests. “Like, so you could, uh, not… succumb to the urge? God, that sounds so weird, I have no idea how to say it.”

         He stops talking when Mingyu giggles.

         “It’s okay, Hannie-hyung, I know what you meant. Yeah, it would be nice.”

         He nods. “Cool. Could you explain your Gyu space thing to me? It’s still a bit confusing… I understand the basics, but not all of it.”

         Mingyu shrugs, tells him he doesn’t mind and starts talking. Truth to be told, he himself doesn’t fully understand it, probably because he never really thought about it. He knows it’s a place he goes to – not literally – when he needs to stop feeling so much pressure, when he’s feeling insecure about something or unloved. In Gyu space, all he’s thinking about it how to make the others happy. He gets love and attention, he doesn’t have to think a lot or make choices by himself, it’s his safe place in the world they live in.

         So when he was at the MAMAs, on the verge of having a panic attack because of all the stress he accumulated over the week, he just gave up and went into Gyu space as a way to “protect” himself. Mingyu stops at that part, trying to find a better word to say it. Jeonghan tells him that it doesn’t really matter, so he goes on.

         “And, since it’s mostly so I can relax and feel safe, I don’t go out of it just by snapping my fingers or anything, I have to be at ease, you can’t force me out of Gyu space… well, I think you can’t? I never really tried it, Taeyong-hyung and Jaehyun never had to try.”

         Jeonghan loves to be reminded that Taeyong and Jaehyun, two members of another group, are doing a better job at taking care of Mingyu than he does. Really, it’s amazing to be reminded of it nearly every single day Mingyu goes in Gyu space.

         Seungcheol knocks at the wall, Soonyoung half hiding behind him. “Uh, Mingyu, we need to talk to you…”

         “I’m already taking care of that,” Jeonghan stops him. “And why is Soonyoung here?”

         “As the choreographer and one of Seventeen’s leaders, it’s my job to make sure Mingyu can perform on stage… or something like that,” he mumbles, probably repeating what Seungcheol or one of the managers told him.

         “Don’t you think that three people at once would be a bit overwhelming? I don’t want him to feel like he’s in trouble.”

         “Well, I guess you could… go?”

         “Good fucking luck with that, my ass is staying on that bed and Mingyu’s too.”

         Strangely, Seungcheol doesn’t insists and leaves. Soonyoung? The second Jeonghan cursed, he ran to the kitchen. No one wants to argue against a Jeonghan who ran out of patience.

         Mingyu doesn’t seem too affected by the scene. In fact, he seems more grateful than intimidated. “Thanks, hyung. I’m sorry you had to get mad because of me.”

         “Stop saying that bullshit, Min. It wasn’t your fault. Now, we can work on helping you.”

         Jeonghan turns Joshua’s laptop on and Mingyu keeps talking. Based on what the younger boy is saying, he struggles with panic attacks and anxiety (but Jeonghan already knew that). Before working on the Gyu space thing, he’ll help with something he knows better. Also, it’s much easier to find stuff about panic attacks than anything about Gyu space – well, considering it’s Mingyu’s own little thing, pet play, little space and sub space mixed together – without seeing something… weird.

         (Seokmin still turns as white as the fansites want him to look when he looks at a horse. It’s hilarious, but only because Jeonghan didn’t see what he saw.)

         He finds something supposed to help with grounding, going back to reality and focusing on something else than whatever is giving him a panic attack. He supposes it’s a good one, so he decides to try it and explain it to Mingyu.

         “Find five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and something you can taste. At an award show, it’ll probably be hard to find the last ones, but just trying could be enough to calm you. It’s a distraction, I guess…”

         As he talks, Jeonghan’s voice gets softer. He knows more about panic attacks than he knows about Gyu space, but he’s not an expert. Maybe what he found is actually stupid. It’s embarrassing.

         But Mingyu nods and closes his eyes for a moment, breathing like Jeonghan showed him. Then, he opens them.

 

At first, it’s so easy that it’s hard. Jeonghan asks him to name five things he can see and there are so many he just doesn’t know which ones to choose.

         “It’s okay, Mingyu. Eyes on me, you can do this.”

         And it helps, really. Jeonghan’s voice sounds familiar and comforting, like wrapping himself in warm, soft blankets.

         He can see Jeonghan’s hair. Almost yellow, reminding him of Don’t Wanna Cry (and Jihoon). He looks even more angelic, but Mingyu is well aware how evil he can be. It’s nice, to be honest. With Joshua’s help, Jeonghan could destroy anything and anyone. He’s on Mingyu’s side. He won’t let anything happen to him.

         Jeonghan’s eyes don’t leave him and Mingyu stares at him for a few seconds to check if he’s even blinking. He suddenly notices how beautiful they are. It’s not because of the colour or the shape, it’s the love, worry and fondness in them that make him unable to look away. Then, Jeonghan blinks (oh, turns out he does blink) and waves his hand, helping his boy.

         Third thing, Jeonghan’s hands. The fingers he loves to feel laced with his, the hands he loves to hold. Fourth, his lips, that kiss him before he goes to bed, that smile at him when he does something great. Fifth, Jeonghan himself, who would do anything to protect him and make sure he’s okay.

         “I think it’s a good way to stop panic attacks, I’m sure it’ll work.”

         Jeonghan smiles, but shakes his head. “Sweetheart, I need you to do the whole thing. Four things you can touch.”

         “Your hands,” Mingyu immediately says, reaching for them. “Can I hold them?”

         “Only if it doesn’t distract you. My fingers count as my hands, by the way.”

         “Uh, your lips? I can, could feel them?”

         “Okay, something you can feel now, not that you could feel.”

         Mingyu pouts. “If you kiss me, I’ll feel your lips, hyung.”

         Jeonghan chuckles and kisses his hand. “Now, name me two other things you can feel. Do it seriously, doll.”

         He can feel his clothes, soft and warm like Jeonghan’s hands. Under him, the bed is comfortable, but there’s not much he can say about this.

         Before Jeonghan can ask him, Mingyu tells him about his voice, familiar and full of love. He can hear Soonyoung and Seokmin singing in the kitchen, with Seungcheol asking them to stop being so loud. Cars are passing by, beeping.

         It’s hard to describe sounds, though. Jeonghan caresses one of his hands. “You’re doing great, baby boy. This is supposed to be relaxing, you should stop if it gets stressful.”

         At first, Mingyu is a bit annoyed. Something as simple can’t stress him, he thinks before realizing that it wouldn’t be the first time he has a panic attack because of something someone else would find easy, normal or even boring.

         “I’m okay,” he says because Jeonghan needs to be reassured as much as he does. “Uh, what’s the last one?”

         “There are two left, Min. Two things you can smell, one you can taste.”

         Mingyu groans. There’s no way he’ll remember to do all of this if he has a panic attack, his thoughts always get messy.

         When he says it out loud, Jeonghan pats his head. “We’ll have to practice, then. It’ll be okay, and it’s only to prevent a panic attack, not to stop one if you’re already in the middle of the big… hyperventilating and panicked stuff.”

         Mingyu still doesn’t look convinced, but he trusts Jeonghan. If he says it’ll help, it’ll help. Being positive can’t hurt.

         “You’ll be fine, baby boy.”

         When the exercise is over, Mingyu knows he took way too long, but it’s something and he’s proud of himself.

         Jeonghan’s eyes are fond and he starts clapping his hands, Mingyu’s still in his.

         “See? It’s a good start, doll. You’ll do great.”

         Jeonghan isn’t an expert and Mingyu is pretty sure there’s a better way to prevent panic attacks, but he’s trying his best so he can help him.

         “Thanks, Hannie-hyung.”

         Hannie-hyung bites his bottom lip. “Should we call Taeyong? I’m sure he’s better than me.”

         Well, yeah, he is, but Mingyu won’t say that. He’s not as dumb as the others think he is, he knows they struggle with thoughts of not being good enough like he does.

         “Only if it happens again,” he says before adding something as soon as he sees Jeonghan’s expression. “But it won’t. Promise.”

         “When you really mean it, you–”

         Without a word, Mingyu shows him his pinky and waits for his. When they’re laced, he nods with a serious face, Jeonghan having to stop himself from laughing at how dramatic he is.

         “Pinky promise.”

         (Later, Mingyu does call Taeyong, but he makes sure no one knows about this. To his surprise, Taeyong tells him how alike they are, little space excluded. That explains a lot of things, like why Taeyong is so good at taking care of him.)

         “Thanks for always taking care of me, hyung, but… I didn’t think you would be so insistent about it. Sorry if I sound rude or anything, but I didn’t expect you to be, like, so… uh, kind of protective? Like, I expected you to let the others handle, like, me? Like, you–”

         “I get it, doll,” Jeonghan laughs. “It surprised me a bit at first, but… you know, this whole thing happened because of me. Well, I’m not really talking about the Gyu zone – space, sorry – but I’m the reason why we learned about it. You’re my responsibility now, angel.”

         Jeonghan stands up to join him, so they can be on the same bed. Mingyu leans on him, head on his shoulder. The other wraps an arm around his waist.

         “I’m glad you’re the one who did it,” he confesses, cheek squished against Jeonghan’s shoulder. “We weren’t really close before. I mean, we were close, but not that close.”

         No one says a word for a minute that feels like an hour. It’s comfortable and they would have spent the whole morning in the room without Seungcheol, yelling at them to get out to eat dinner.

         “Seeing it that way, I’m really happy we kept that headband, pup.”

 

As they eat, they make a list of the things Mingyu likes to have in Gyu space. Even if he started one with Minghao, they didn’t really work on it and Jeonghan guesses it can’t be bad to update what they already have.

         (Also, Minghao lost the list.)

         “Honestly, it’s nothing you guys don’t already know.”

         Jeonghan shrugs and asks him again. If they have it written down on paper, maybe they could let others take care of Mingyu like NCT do when Seventeen are too busy or when he wants to avoid them. Nayoung would probably love to, and the list could tell her what to do even if she’s not as experienced as them.

         Headbands with pet names (literally pet names, like puppy and baby bear), oversized clothes that still smell like the one who wore them before (except if it smells like sweat, Mingyu already gets enough of it when they practice), plushies… Jeonghan adds a few things, and Mingyu pouts when he realizes that most of the things on the list came from his friend.

         “Was my help necessary? You’re doing most of it on your own, I feel useless!”

         “Well, I know how you could help…”

         When Jeonghan’s eyes start shining with the sparkles that usually only appear when he’s planning something with Joshua so they can annoy Seungcheol, Mingyu fears for his life.

         Turns out it’s actually something good.

Seungcheol freezes when he steps in the living room. Jeonghan and Mingyu are sleeping on the couch, legs intertwined. It’s not unusual to see Jeonghan take a nap, but his heart melts at the sight of his boys cuddling and he’s almost sure he’s so soft that he’ll have to punch a bear to go back to normal.

         (He likes Seungkwan too much for that, though.)

         “Seungcheol-hyung, have you–”

         He puts his hand on Junhui’s mouth before he can wake the others up. It’s too late, or maybe Jeonghan actually wasn’t sleeping, but he opens his eyes and shushes Mingyu when the boy starts whining and turning around.

         “Shh doll, sleep. Everything is fine.”

         Seungcheol takes a photo and posts it on his private Instagram. Three minutes later, he’s pretty sure everyone in the Pledis family – all of them who follow him on Instagram – saw it and left thousands of hearts in the comments.

 

(“What the fuck, Jeonghan-hyung.”

         Junhui doesn’t curse often and almost never with a voice so angry. Jeonghan subtly moves closer to the door, keeping his eyes on his friend.

         “Is there a problem, Jun?”

         “Doll. Really, hyung? That’s my nickname, you’re not allowed to steal it from me! Like, when I say it, there’s a little trademark emoji with it, because it’s my nickname for Mingyu and not yours.”

         Jeonghan rolls his eyes and leaves the room. He doesn’t have time for that.

         As a vengeance, Junhui leaves an egg – really, what the fuck, Wen Junhui – under his blankets.)

Chapter Text

Mingyu closes the door as silently as possible. Seungcheol would probably be okay with him going outside, but he would offer to go with him and that’s exactly what Mingyu doesn’t want. He fought with the other boys again – a big fight, this time, but he just needs to go away for a few hours for their relationship to be back to normal – and he really wants to spend some time alone, away from Seventeen. It’s almost sure that Seungcheol would understand, but he would feel guilty and Mingyu doesn’t want him to feel bad for something he didn’t do.

         So he leaves the apartment and goes to Cara’s shop. Buying things always make him feel better when he’s upset after a fight.

         (Well, he only has a few dollars, but it’ll probably be enough for chips or stuff like that.)

         The small bell rings as he opens the door. Cara greets him, but her voice is softer than it usually is, lacking her cheerfulness that makes her so loud. He understands why when he notices her client sitting at the panini counter, shoulders slumped.

         Then, said client turns around and Mingyu forgets the reason why he came.

         “Nayoung-noona?”

         “That’s me,” she laughs, but her voice is empty and cold.

         His eyes find Cara’s and the young girl smiles before announcing that she’s going to do some cleaning. When she takes her earphones, she makes sure to show him so he knows she’s not listening to their conversation.

         “What’s going on?” Mingyu asks as soon as the teen can’t hear him. “Is this… about the hiatus?”

         “It’s about a lot of things, Mingyu, but I don’t want to talk about it. I’m, there’s, Iz*One debuted,” she says, struggling to find the words.

         Mingyu blinks, confused. He doesn’t understand what she means. Then, it hits him: Iz*One, a group created after Produce, one of Mnet’s survival shows… like I.O.I was.

         “You miss them?” He doesn’t want to say who, because if he’s wrong, he’ll probably make it worse by reminding her of her other girls.

         She nods, eyes on the counter, and his heart breaks. Strong, fierce Nayoung shouldn’t look like that. She should be on stage, shining like she used to, like she can.

         “I’m sorry,” he whispers and puts an arm around her shoulders, not really sure if she’ll accept the hug or not.

         She does and leans into his touch, so he brings her closer. Then, his stomach decides to ruin the moment.

         “Let me guess, you fought with the other boys and left before you had a chance to eat something,” Nayoung chuckles, and it almost sounds sincere.

         “It’s not my fault, Minghao was being mean!” Mingyu protests, more to make her laugh than because he’s offended.

         “Shut up, you big baby. I’m buying you a panini,” she decides with a grin when his stomach growls again.

         When she calls Cara, she gives the young girl a smile that doesn’t look fake and it’s obvious that the teen is happy to see she’s better. Even if they don’t know each other, Cara’s face lights up once Nayoung smiles at her. Mingyu notices her red cheeks and doesn’t miss her dropping a slice of cheese because she can’t take her eyes off the young woman, but he’ll wait when it’ll only be the two of them to tease her.

         “I’ll leave you alone, just call if you, if you need anything else,” she stutters before going back to what she calls cleaning, tripping on her own feet when Nayoung thanks her. Mingyu can relate.

         “I’m a bad leader,” Nayoung sighs out of nowhere.

         It’s so unexpected that Mingyu chokes on his panini. Nayoung immediately gets a bottle out of her bag – Seungcheol always carries water with him too, Mingyu thinks with what would be a fond smile if he could stop choking on his food – and helps him drink from it.

         “What the fuck, Nayoung? Nayoung-noona, I mean” he corrects himself.

         “I miss my I.O.I girls,” she confesses, crossing her arms on the counter. “We didn’t even have a whole year together as a group… I know we’ll probably put the group back together in a few years, but I hate waiting and, you know, there’s Pristin too now. I can’t be in both, I’ll have to choose, which will make me a bad leader no matter who I choose.”

         “I really don’t want you to feel offended, but that’s dumb. You can be in both, like… like BooSeokSoon and Pristin V! You can see it as a sub-unit, or as both groups being a unit if you don’t want to have to choose your ‘main’ group.”

         “Pristin V is different,” she whines, letting her forehead fall on her hands. “It happened because the bitch supposed to take care of Pristin refuse to let us leave the dungeon.”

         Her words are hard, but Mingyu can’t help but agree with her. She deserves better, they all do. He feels awful for complaining about the lack of rest and free days. At least, they have things to do, he should be grateful.

         “I can hear you thinking and you’re being a dumbass,” Nayoung groans. “You’re so predictable, Mingyu. Just so you know, people struggling doesn’t mean you shouldn’t complain about your own struggles, idiot.”

         Mingyu doesn’t really know what to say. He’s usually good with feelings and he loves to comfort people, but for now, he has no idea what to do.

         “You’re being mean too,” he whines because he really is an idiot and his brain somehow decided to ruin his life.

         Nayoung stares at him and blinks. Yeah, that wasn’t the best reply. Then, she starts laughing and Mingyu almost joins her, but the laugh quickly turns into tears and hiccups.

         “I feel so empty,” she sobs. “I miss my I.O.I girls.”

         From the corner of his eye, Mingyu notices Cara. The girl looks about to leave and bring her the other I.O.I members even if it means having to break into several dorms. With how the girl didn’t react when she saw them, Mingyu doubts she even knows about kpop idols and I.O.I (and Pristin and Seventeen), but he can see how much she wants to comfort the other girl. Bless her big heart.

         The bell rings again and a little girl enters the shop, freezing as soon as she sees Nayoung.

         “Why is the lady crying?”

         “Shut up and go home, Hye,” Cara spits out through her clenched teeth. “I don’t need you annoying me.”

         “Mom said I could stay here for the afternoon,” ‘Hye’ replies before sitting next to Nayoung.

         Great. Even a kid has more guts than Mingyu when it comes to approaching an upset Lim Nayoung.

         Hi gives her a sheet. It’s a drawing, something that looks like a flower with rainbows and suns around it, but it’s honestly hard to tell. It could also be a dog and both things are pretty different, so Mingyu doesn’t risk complimenting it and accidentally comparing it to the wrong thing.

         “Here. Pretty ladies like you shouldn’t be sad. I’m here for you if you need someone to talk to.”

         She says it with a face so serious that Nayoung smile through her tears. “Thank you, sweetheart.”

         “Hye, you can’t go and say things like that to strangers!” Cara groans with the voice of someone who’s used to deal with younger siblings.

         “But that’s what you always say to people!” Hye protests. “You want me to be nice!”

         Cara pinches her nose and mutters something about giving up and needing ‘Lolo’ to deal with this instead of her because she’s not getting paid for babysitting annoying little sisters. Mingyu would laugh, but Nayoung is still sad and she needs a bit of space, which is hard to have when there’s a hyperactive child in the room. Hye is running in the alleys, Cara chasing after her and trying to get her to sit down.

         “Do you want to come to the dorms? It’s not really quiet, but we can go to my room.”

         Nayoung nods and gets up, wiping her tears off her cheeks. Mingyu takes her hand, because he’s almost certain she needs someone to remind her she’s not alone.

         She doesn’t let him go, not even when they get to the dorms.

 

As soon as she steps in, someone (Seokmin) notices her wet cheeks and red eyes and calls for Seungcheol. Three seconds later, the three oldest members bring her to the kitchen, which, strangely, in the room in which Seventeen have most of their meetings when one of them has a mental breakdown.

         “Are you hungry?” Joshua asks, voice as soft as possible.

         “No.”

         She doesn’t start crying, but her expression is enough to have the three boys around her, Jeonghan hugging her, Seungcheol petting her hair and Joshua whispering sweet things in hope it’ll comfort her.

 

“Take care of her.”

         Jihoon doesn’t ask what happened, because he knows how to mind his business, or if she’s okay, because it’s obvious she’s not. However, he cares and shows it by hugging Mingyu and telling her to hug their friend for him when she’ll join him.

         “I will, don’t worry.”

         “I’m not.”

         Jihoon leaves the room, keeping the door open. They don’t even mention how Nayoung is closer to the 95 line, they both know they’ll probably send her to him because he won’t be able to rest while she’s sad. The second Mingyu found her in Cara’s shop, he made it his responsibility to bring her smile back.

         And of course, a few minutes later, Joshua knocks at the door.

         “Mingyu? We’re leaving, we have to practice.” A lie. They’re leaving him alone with Nayoung. “Call us if you need anything.” Call them if Nayoung needs them. “Can Nayoung stay with you?”

         “Yeah, no problem, hyung.”

         Mingyu takes a shirt out of his closet. The smell of cheese and meat on him is bothering him and he wants to be as comfortable as possible if he’s going to spend the rest of the afternoon cuddling with Nayoung.

         He doesn’t know if she’s gonna be comfortable enough with him for that, but he hopes so. He’s not good with words.

         At first, it’s a bit awkward. No one says a thing.

         “Uh, do you want… hot cocoa? I can make you cookies and I think we still have some ice cream,” Mingyu offers.

         Nothing’s as great as food when it comes to making someone feel at ease. That’s what he tells himself, and she bought him a panini so it would only be fair to pay her back by giving her food.

         “No, don’t bother baking me anything. I’m not saying no to the ice cream though, I’ll gladly drown my sadness in sugar.”

         “Can I join you?”

         What was about to be a smile turns into a frown as soon as the words leave Mingyu’s lips. “Why? Are you sad too?”

         It’s cute, how she’s ready to forget about her own feelings because of his even if they’re not really close.

         “No, I’m just hungry.”

         “You just ate a panini,” she scoffs, already about to scold him because it can’t be good to eat so much food, especially not as an idol about to have a comeback.

         “Ice cream is ice cream!”

         She can’t really argue with that. Because he’s nice, Mingyu lets her have the strawberry ice cream, the one with chocolate chips in it. Because he’s nice, she asks him to take a spoon so they can share. They sit on the couch and he hopes they won’t drop any ice cream on it, there’s no doubt he’ll be the one cleaning it and he doesn’t feel like getting up to get a towel.

         Finally, Mingyu’s magic starts working – Seungcheol once said it was because of her aura, something like that – and she lets go. Being a leader is stressful, the constant reminder of I.O.I is stressful, her life is stressful, everything in her life seems to turn into a mess and there’s nothing she can do.

         “That’s the thing,” Mingyu comments when she stops to breathe. “There’s nothing you can do, you shouldn’t feel like a failure for doing what you can. Well, that’s a bit hypocrite of me to say that, but you know… do as I say, not as I do.”

         Nayoung stares at the wall in front of her. Mingyu sends a short message to Seungcheol to ask for something he can do. The reply is weird. What the fuck is a “GS”?

         “Oh,” he lets out when he finally understands. “Nayoung-noona? Did Seungcheol-hyung talk to you about Gyu space?”

         “The fuck is that?”

         Okay, so no, she doesn’t know what it is and it’s a bit embarrassing to explain. Nayoung is nice, but still, there’s a possibility she finds it weird and he doesn’t want to be judged for what he is. It would be extremely awkward to go to Pledis’ building and see her almost every single day.

         Nah, she wouldn’t, and Seungcheol wouldn’t have suggested Gyu space without being sure it would help her.

         “It’s just something about cuddles, nothing big or embarrassing.”

         Nayoung raises an eyebrow. “Are you talking to me or to yourself?”

         “Kind of… both? So, are you okay with cuddles? We’re not really close but that’s how I help others when they’re dealing with bad stuff. I can call Seungcheol if you prefer to have the hyungs’ company,” he offers with an awkward, embarrassed smile.

         It feels like he jumped in a hole and keeps trying to go lower.

         “You didn’t seem to have something against cuddles when we were at that shop.”

         Mingyu almost falls of the couch in his hurry to put some distance between them. His cheeks aren’t that red (yet), but his ears definitely are enough to make him want the floor to swallow him and she pinches one of them with a teasing smile. He curls up into a ball, whining because she’s being unfairly mean to him.

         “That was different! We weren’t alone, and we weren’t at the dorms, and it really wasn’t the same thing!”

         “Mingyu, I don’t care. A hug is a hug, and I know you. You’re making this weirder than it has to be.”

         He tells her more about how he is in Gyu space and her face lights up when he compares it to Little space.

         “Oh, that’s nice! I know stuff about Little space, we’ll be fine. Just, just tell me if something is wrong or if you need me to do something.”

         Mingyu has to admit he’s curious and would like to know why she knows about that (to be honest, he didn’t know what it was before he met Taeyong, who learned about it by reading fanfictions… as embarrassing as it sounds). Nayoung doesn’t leave him enough time to ask and gets up to throw the now empty ice cream tub in the trash can. He leaves their spoons in the sink, not wanting to waste water and time with that when there’s something much more important they could do.

 

“Will they be okay?”

         When Mingyu gets out of the shower, Nayoung is sitting on her bed, her phone in her hands and a sweatshirt covering her all the way down to her knees. She borrowed one of Seungcheol’s hoodies – Mingyu swears he won’t have any left if they keep stealing them – for the night.

         “Of course they will. My girls aren’t that young, they can take care of themselves.”

         She thinks he didn’t notice, so he doesn’t say he heard her asking them to call her before going to bed and as soon as they wake up. If she’s like Seungcheol – and she is –, she’ll keep her phone by her side all night.

         “Do you need help with your hair? I can dry it for you.”

         Mingyu brings her a towel. Using a hairdryer would be better for his hair and wouldn’t take as much time, but he likes the feeling of the towel on his head.

         “Could you like, play with my hair…? I like that a lot.”

         They’re now both sitting on the bed, Mingyu’s back against her chest and her hands softly patting the towel on his hair. It makes him whine. It’s comfortable, but he can’t feel her touch enough to be satisfied.

         “What’s wrong?”

         He pouts and turns around, curling up against her. Nayoung coos at him and stops drying his hair so she can hug him.

         “Mingyu, what’s wrong?” she tries again. “I can’t know if you don’t tell me.”

         Yeah, it was pretty dumb of him not to tell her about the nicknames, the touching and all the stuff his friends usually do. His members would know what he needs without having to ask him, but Nayoung isn’t one of the boys. Still, he doesn’t regret being with her.

         “Touch me,” he whispers, slurring his words. “More.”

         “Why are you talking like that, it’s… oh, sorry baby. Tell me if I’m hurting you.”

         And of course, she’s not. Her hands are still gentle, but he can feel them enough to concentrate on them. People may compare him to a puppy, but at the moment, he would start purring like the cats Wonwoo loves so much.

         “I just wanna, wanna love you,” Nayoung sings, her voice so soft she probably doesn’t know she’s singing the words out loud. She’s a good singer though, so Mingyu doesn’t complain and closes his eyes.

         His body goes pliant against Nayoung’s and without the wall against her back to support her, there’s no doubt they would have fell. She quickly checks on him to make sure he’s not asleep – she doesn’t want him to go to bed with wet hair and catch a cold – and pats his cheek.

         “Sorry, Gyu, let me finish this and then we can go to bed.”

         “Sing!”

         “Do you have a favourite lullaby?”

         He goes on his knees – still taller than her, she notices with a grin – to face her and starts humming the song she was singing a few seconds earlier. Her eyes widen.

         “Oh, it’s stuck in my head since this morning, I didn’t even realize I was singing it. Do you like it?”

         He nods enthusiastically. Nayoung is using a baby voice, exaggerating her movements and facial expressions. She’s glad no one except Mingyu is there to watch her, she must look pretty dumb… but Mingyu’s bright smile makes it worth it.

         Hands in Mingyu’s hair, she finally judges it dry enough. After turning the lights off, she throws the towel somewhere in the room, not really looking where it’ll land, and joins Mingyu under the blankets. To be honest, it’s a bit awkward at first, with them facing each other in silence, Mingyu about ten feet away from her because he’s a shy baby even when he’s in Gyu space. Then, he giggles and she follows.

         “This is so weird,” she whispers even if they’re alone. “Come closer, baby. I won’t eat you.”

         It takes a while and she has to sing a few songs, but he finally falls asleep. Then, his head under her chin (his breath on her neck is kind of annoying, but he’s too cute for her to move him and risk waking him up), she takes her phone and calls her girls. If she also sends something to Chungha about her song Love U, it doesn’t have anything to do with Mingyu, really.

 

“So? How was it? Not too bad, I hope.”

         “They literally slept together – as in, sleeping in the same bed – Seungcheol, I think it went okay,” Joshua laughs, hands on his leader’s shoulders to calm him.

         Nayoung smiles and takes a sip of her coffee. When she came out of Mingyu’s room, no one seemed surprised to see her. Jeonghan even had a cup of coffee ready for her, bless that man.

         “I really enjoyed it. He’s nice to cuddle.”

         “Yeah, Mingyu is a nice boy,” Seungcheol nods and he looks so much like a proud father she chokes on her coffee. “People on Twitter call him an emotional support kpop boy.”

         “That’s one of the best ways to describe Mingyu I’ve ever heard,” Jeonghan comments, yawning.

         They hear someone sneezing. A few seconds later, Mingyu joins them in the kitchen – after, of course, running into the wall – and almost trips on his own feet.

         “Ouch,” he mumbles after hitting the table’s corner.

         “Oh my, he’s gonna die,” Vernon comments before going back to his food.

         Nayoung’s worried expression is hard to miss. Joshua chuckles and tells her that hey, it’s Mingyu, their clumsy puppy. It’s nothing new, he tends to forget about how tall he is when he just woke up and often hits things. As long as he doesn’t get seriously hurt, they just laugh about it (and take photos or videos when he’s being too funny or adorable to let it go).

         “Goo’ morning, ‘ayoung,” Mingyu mumbles before sitting on a chair.

         He literally drops his body on it and Nayoung fears for his life when she sees it almost falling, but Wonwoo is quick to push him and makes sure it doesn’t move.

         “Thanks for yesterday, Mingyu. It was fun, but I have to go, my girls need me.”

         The boys all look at her, offering her to go with her if she needs help. It’s nothing serious, she just has to help one of her members find her shoes. Still, Seungcheol walks her to Pledis’ building.

         On the doorstep, she turns her back to him, but doesn’t open the door.

         “I’m, I,” she begins, not knowing how to say it.

         Somehow, Seungcheol manages to guess what she wants to ask him. She swears she can hear him smiling. “You’d like to spend more time with Mingyu, am I right?”

         “Who wouldn’t?”

         Seungcheol chuckles before his voice turns a bit more serious. “You don’t need to ask me, Nayoung. Call him when you need to cuddle someone, he’s always down for cuddles.”

         She nods. “Alright, thanks for, for everything. Love you!”

         Nayoung opens the door and leaves him outside before he has time to reply, but she knows he said it back. He always does.

Chapter Text

“What do you like the most about Christmas?”

         Mingyu blinks. He can’t just shrug and get away with it, it’s a video for an important project and they – Minghao, Junhui and him – have to give an answer to every question.

         “Uh, can we do it again? I’m sorry, I froze.”

         “It’s not an unexpected question though,” Cara comments. “Come on, let’s do it again.”

         She repeats her question. This time, Mingyu is ready. “I don’t really know, I guess it’s family… yeah, it’s family. I love the whole Christmas spirit thing, everyone is happy and kind to each other, it’s amazing.”

         “Aw, that’s so cute!” Momo cooes as she enters the room, a plate with five mugs in her hands. “I made hot cocoa. Anyone wants marshmallows?”

         Junhui raises his hand so fast he accidentally slaps Minghao. He immediately apologizes, the other trying to get away from him before he gets hit a second time, and Mingyu guesses he should try to stop the mess. He doesn’t. Honestly, it’s fun to watch, so he just looks at them with an amused smile.

         “Are they always like that?”

         “Pretty much, yes. I wouldn’t change that for anything, though.”

         “Exactly like Cara’s clumsiness.”

         Cara takes a book to hit her friend and changes her mind when she sees Momo still has the mugs. “Stop teasing me, I’m not that bad!”

         “If it can make you feel better, I’m sure you’re not as clumsy as Mingyu,” Junhui yells to be heard over Minghao’s hand, the other Chinese boy tired of hearing him apologizing.

         Mingyu hesitates between finding it amusing or embarrassing. They’re lucky Cara and Momo are comprehensive, he doubts someone else would let them be so loud in their shop.

         “Indoor voice, hyung. We don’t want to ruin their ears on Christmas Eve.”

         “I’d like if you could not ruin our ears at all,” Cara laughs before handing Mingyu her phone. “There, I’m done. How does it look?”

         Mingyu waits for his two friends to sit beside him and presses play. Cara and Momo write for their school’s online newspaper and, for their Christmas special, they decided to add a video to the article. As an idol, Mingyu knows a few things about articles and the girls’ is good. Of course, it won’t make them big or anything – their school is small and not really known and the girls didn’t tell him about wanting to be journalists once they’ll be done with school – but it’ll get the okay from their teacher.

         “Nice. Hey, I know it’s random and I should probably ask the others first, but I’m sure they’ll be okay with that,” he rambles, eyes refusing to meet the girls’. “We’re doing something for Christmas and we already invited a few friends, so I guess two more wouldn’t bother the hyungs…”

         “Ah, that’s really nice of you to offer to invite us, but we can’t,” Momo refuses when she understands what Mingyu wants to ask. “We already have things to do tonight, I’m sorry.”

         “Aren’t you ashamed to hit on them?” Minghao laughs.

         Mingyu is too offended to blush. Seriously? They’re children, he would never do such a thing! They remind him of his sister, that’s all.

         When he says that, Cara laughs and waves it off. “It’s okay, we knew it was a joke, you wouldn’t hit on teenagers.”

         “They’re almost as young as Minseo, hyung, don’t say things like that.”

         Minghao blushes and apologizes, embarrassed. Apparently, he didn’t know they were so young. It’s understandable, Momo does look mature for her age. In the background, Junhui happily mouths a “Seventeeeeeen!” with the hand gesture. So much for being subtle. Luckily, the girls seem to have missed it.

         Mingyu is a bit disappointed by the girls’ refusal, but he understands. It’s just that he likes to make new friends who don’t have anything to do with the kpop industry. Once, one of his classmates befriended him just so she could get Wonwoo’s autograph. Wonwoo is good looking and perfect boyfriend material, Mingyu will give her that, but it doesn’t mean he’ll gladly let people use him to get stuff from his best friend.

         (Well, one of his best friends. There’s Minghao too, you know.)

         “It’s getting late, we have to go,” Cara announces as she puts her things in her bags, smiling at Mingyu in an apologetic way. “I’m really sorry, guys. Maybe we could try again for New Year?”

         “Sure, don’t worry about that.”

         The three boys wish the girls a Merry Christmas and leave. After the Junhui incident, they still needed to make some cookies. Mingyu cooked some, but they didn’t have all the ingredients needed for one of their recipes and, with all the special stages they had to prepare for, he forgot to buy them. However, they simply can’t celebrate Christmas without these specific cookies – they’re his favourites – and he’s lucky enough to know someone who has the keys to a shop even if the closest are supposed to be close (what a weird thing to say).

         “Can we put you in Gyu space?” Junhui asks when they’re almost at the dorms.

         “Nope, Seungcheol told me to stop you two from making a mess like last time.”

         “What if we make the cookies before? Do you think the girls would be okay with that?”

         Mingyu looks at Minghao, unsure. “Well, Nayoung already knows, but I don’t think she’s coming… I don’t know if she told the others. I don’t think she would hide it from them, but that’s not something you talk about, like, randomly.”

         They plan to spend Christmas together. There’s a festival on Christmas day, they won’t have time to go spend the night with their family from blood, so might as well spend it with the one they made when they came to Pledis. The Pledis girls being on hiatus – Pristin V won’t even perform Get It at any award shows from what Mingyu knows – they have plenty of free time for Christmas. For a reason Mingyu doesn’t know and will not ask for, some of them accepted Jeonghan’s invitation.

         “Oh my god, my ass is vibrating.”

         “That’s your phone,” Minghao replies without even looking at Junhui.

         On the sidewalk, Mingyu’s trying to stop choking on oxygen. “Junhui-hyung, please, please never say something like that again. Never again.”

         Junhui’s cheeks are almost as red as Mingyu’s. “Sorry, I just forgot I had it with me… you know, with Christmas and all, I completely forgot about it.”

         “How do you forget about your phone?” Mingyu whines. “I feel like I’ll die if I don’t know where he is.”

         “You really need to spend more time without it.”

         “You sound like a mom, Minghao,” Junhui giggles, hands in his pockets to try to keep them warm.

 

When they decided to spend Christmas together, it took them about three minutes. For a group like Seventeen, full of people who seem to think the world will end if they don’t talk, it’s a record.

         Seungcheol sat on the couch, nearly crushing Joshua’s hand in the process. “Okay boys, we need to talk.”

         (Now that they think about it, it really wasn’t the best way to start the group meeting. It made it seem way too dramatic.)

         “What’s going on? Is it about the new dance break for Thanks?” Soonyoung got up, already on his way to the practice room. “I can make a new one if it’s not good enough.”

         “No, the one we have is perfect, don’t worry about it. It’s not that, it’s… about Christmas.”

         “What’s the problem with Christmas?” Chan asked with a frown.

         “We have something scheduled so we won’t be able to come home…”

         “That’s it? We already knew, Seungcheol,” Jeonghan shrugged. “I already planned to spend the day here with Joshua anyway, Junhui and Minghao are a nice bonus. Some of you probably have time to go eat with your family though.”

         “What if we all stayed here?” Wonwoo proposed. “We could invite the Pristin girls too, I know some of them won’t go home.”

         Junhui jumped on the couch, excited. “Does this mean we’ll spend Christmas with baby Mingyu?”

         “Baby Mingyu? Oh, when I’m in Gyu space,” Mingyu realized. “Can we wait before talking about it? I don’t know yet.”

         Soonyoung smiled at him. “Sure. Also, I’m spending Christmas here.”

         Three seconds later, they all promised to stay in the dorms for Christmas. Not having anything else to say, Seungcheol got up and went to the kitchen to search for some Cheetos.

         (Only to find they didn’t have any left. When Junhui and Jihoon got bored, they decided to find Jihoon’s height in Cheetos after reading a meme from a Carat. They refused to share the results of their very important experiment.)

 

Joshua slaps Mingyu’s arm. “Hey, what are you thinking about? I need your full attention, Mingyu.”

         “Sorry, hyung, I was…” Mingyu isn’t sure if he really wants the other to know he was thinking about Jihoon’s height in Cheetos. “I was thinking about stuff.”

         “Sounds fun. Now, if you could think about what you’re doing, it would help.”

         Joshua smiles at him to make sure he knows he isn’t mad or anything, but it’s unnecessary. It’s Christmas, how could someone get mad? How could Joshua Hong get mad? Mingyu would probably choose him as the most patient member of the group. Well, Joshua gave him a few chocolates half an hour ago, he’s not being impartial.

         “Sorry,” Mingyu repeats before giving his full attention to the food in front of him.

         Seungcheol steps in the kitchen, eyes on his phone. “Boys, Jieqiong just texted me, the girls are on their way. She’s with Eunwoo, Minkyung, Yewon and Nayoung.”

         Joshua raises an eyebrow, surprised. “Nayoung? I thought she already had something planned with her family?”

         “She decided to join us for a moment, but she’ll probably leave soon.”

         Mingyu nods to show that he’s listening and bites his bottom lip. He’s happy to learn that Nayoung will come, but he has cookies to decorate and kimchi to cook.

         “Shua, we’re leaving,” Jeonghan yells from the door, causing Joshua to drop his cookie – awn, the gingerbread man loses his head – and run. “Mingyu, you need anything?”

         “No, I’m good, we went to Cara’s shop this afternoon… you know what, I think it would be nice to eat Bulgogi.”

         Seungcheol comes back to say that the girls will bring Bulgogi and leaves as soon as he came, Chan screaming for help as he fights Seungkwan for the remote.

         “Oh, never mind then. Have fun, hyung!”

         “Try to stop the kids from fighting too much,” Joshua jokes before running to the car.

         Jeonghan follows him and Mingyu can hear him say that Shua, Gyu is a kid too, he should have said this to Seungcheol. Considering Seungcheol is currently fighting Chan and Seungkwan, Mingyu decides to keep quiet.

 

As soon as the Pristin girls close the door behind them, everything turns into a mess, the good, funny kind. To their defense, the boys were already loud before they joined them, but it’s not like they’re helping.

         “It’s nice to have you with us, Nayoung-noona.”

         Nayoung’s smile would make Mingyu jump off a bridge if she asked him to. “It feels nice to be with you, Mingyu. You know, I talked to the girls about the Gyu space, I hope you don’t mind? I only thought that maybe you would be uncomfortable with it after I told them, I’m sorry I didn’t ask you.”

         “What’s done is done, not that I mind. It’s okay, I trust you. You’re our friends, I’m sure you won’t talk about it to others, even if that’s kind of what you did,” Mingyu laughs.

         She scoffs and hits him with the Tupperware containing the beef for the Bulgogi. “You just told me you didn’t mind, stop trying to make me feel guilty!”

         “I’m not! Stop hitting me, I was joking!”

         They’re interrupted by someone knocking at the door. One of the advantages of having a lot of people in the same place? When someone has to go get the door, it doesn’t take long. However, with how fast Soonyoung went from the living room to the door, Mingyu is almost suspecting him of being able to teleport himself.

         (He’s joking, he saw the dancer trip on the couch.)

         “Kihyun-hyung?”

         The older idol’s smile is a bit awkward, but Soonyoung doesn’t say anything (he probably doesn’t even notice it). “Hi, I hope I’m not interrupting anything…”

         “Nah, nothing important. Come in, sorry for the mess… oh, hi, Changkyun. I didn’t see you.”

         Kihyun refuses to take his coat off, insisting that they won’t stay for long, they really don’t want to be a bother. Ignoring Soonyoung who tells him that it’s a pleasure to have them – really, Mingyu feels like when he was a kid and her mom was welcoming a friend passing by – he points at the box in Changkyun’s hands. Wrapped in red paper with white snowflakes, it’s obviously a gift.

         Great. Now, Mingyu feels bad for not having anything to give them. He hopes it’s not for him, he only has cookies to offer as a thank you.

         “Is Jeonghan here?”

         Soonyoung shakes his head. “No, he’s at the church with Joshua, but I can get Seungcheol if you need one of the hyungs.”

         “It’s okay, I have this gift for Mingyu. After what happened at the MAMA, I thought he’d like some tips on little space. You guys seem to handle Gyu space pretty well from what I saw, but you seem clueless for the age part. Seungkwan couldn’t even tell me what was Mingyu’s age when he slipped in Gyu space at the MAMA.”

         “Oh, I can get you Seungkwan if you want to talk to him. I don’t know much about what happened. For Mingyu’s age, we just know he feels like a kid, isn’t it enough?”

         Changkyun shakes his head, but lets the other Monsta X member talk. “No, not really… I mean, it can be enough, but it’ll be better to know exactly what’s his age. You don’t treat kids of different ages the same way. Our Kyun likes pacifiers, it helps when he’s stressed.”

         “Pacifiers? Like, for babies?”

         “He’s usually around four when he’s in little space, don’t be an ass. As long as it makes him comfortable, I don’t see the problem.”

         Kihyun’s change of tone surprises Mingyu, who decides to put the knife away for a moment. The other is really protective of their maknae, but he can’t be blamed. Mingyu knows his friends would have the same reaction if someone dared to insinuate that it’s weird to like to wear animal headbands – it makes him sound like a furry, to be honest – and to pretend to be younger than the maknae.

         Soonyoung probably has the same thoughts as him as he takes a step back, apologizing. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound like I was judging you. You’re right, the priority is to make them feel good, period. Thanks for thinking about our Mingyu.”

         “You’re welcome!” Kihyun’s voice is back to normal and Mingyu can hear him smiling. “I hope you’ll appreciate our gift! I’m sorry, we really can’t stay, the others are waiting for us in the car… Merry Christmas, boys! And girls,” he adds as soon as his eyes fall on a Pristin member.

         They leave without waiting for Mingyu to open their gift.

         “Fuck,” he whispers as he realizes what happened.

         “What? Are you okay?”

         He didn’t mean to worry Nayoung. “Yes, but… I didn’t even have time to offer them a cookie as a thank you.”

         She hits him again.

 

“So, you all know about Gyu space?”

         Sitting everywhere in the living room, everyone nods. The girls look like they’re almost as excited as Junhui, who’s cuddling Wonwoo as an apology from stealing his place beside Mingyu. Unlike the other Chinese member, Minghao doesn’t seem to care, letting Soonyoung pout as much as he wants to.

         (Mingyu pretends he didn’t see him steal cookies for their choreographer.)

         “Is everyone okay with Mingyu being in Gyu space tonight? It’s okay if you’re uncomfortable with it, just say it. We’ll understand.”

         Junhui’s expression would make anyone feel guilty for refusing. Everyone keeps quiet for about five seconds before Seungcheol decides that it’s okay.

         “Well, let’s say everyone is fine with that.”

 

It’s almost time to eat. Nayoung kicked Junhui out of the kitchen and asked for her fellow 95 liners instead. They’re not the best at cooking, but they’ll do. With her watching them, there’s no way they can mess the meal so badly they won’t be able to eat it anyway.

         Laying on the living room’s floor, Mingyu, Chan, Junhui, Eunwoo and Jieqiong are playing a game of Trouble. Since it only has four colours, Mingyu only taps the Pop-O-Matic. Everyone is fine with letting him do it – his giggles when the die jumps are too adorable – and he gets hugs every five seconds. It’s amazing, probably the best game he ever played.

         “How old are you, doll?” Junhui asks him, remembering Kihyun’s words, as he kills one of Jieqiong’s pieces.

         Mingyu shows him four fingers before putting one of them in his mouth, biting his nail. Junhui doesn’t know if he can blame it on Gyu space, it seems to be something Mingyu does even out of it.

         “Don’t do that, you’ll hurt yourself. Do you have anything for him?”

         “That’s when it’d be useful to have a pacifier… also, he’d look adorable.”

         “Don’t you think it’d look a bit weird?” Eunwoo asks before adding that no, she wouldn’t be uncomfortable with it, she just doesn’t know if it would be cute to see an adult – especially one as tall as Mingyu – with a pacifier in their mouth.

         Junhui shrugs. “Honestly, I’m a kpop idol, it would be hard for me to consider something weird.”

         “Nah, that’s just you being open-minded.”

         “Aaaand I just killed your only piece, Junhui-hyung! Sorry,” Chan laughs. “I’m kidding, I’m not really sorry.”

         “Awn, but I can’t play until I get a six, move another piece please!”

         “Nuh-huh, hyung, you’re dead and that’s final!”

         Mingyu giggles and repeats Chan’s words, laughing harder for every “nuh-huh” he says. Jieqiong looks like she wants to punch a wall.

         “Can we leave with him? Please.”

         Junhui crawls to Mingyu, hitting the board on his way to his friend’s lap, and wraps himself around the other. “Over my dead body.”

         “I second this.”

         “You boys are no fun,” Jieqiong pouts before putting Mingyu’s hand on the Pop-O-Matic.

         “We didn’t write No F.U.N only for you to realize that years later.”

         Eunwoo drops her piece and declares that she doesn’t want to play anymore.

 

Despite Eunwoo’s sudden lack of motivation (Chan’s pun wasn’t even that bad, come on), they finish the game and start a new one after running to the kitchen to see if the food was ready (no, it wasn’t, but Nayoung couldn’t stand her girls’ disappointed faces and let them taste what she was cooking). When Minkyung, Yewon and Seokmin ask if they can join the next game, Joshua finally calls them. Jieqiong promises to let them play when everyone will be done with the supper.

         “Let’s play in teams!” Chan suggests. “That way, everyone can play even if we only have five colours.”

         “You want us to play Trouble? That’s, like, the best way to make sure we’ll disband before our contracts are even over.”

         “Shhh Joshua, we don’t say the D word in this house… I mean, wait. No. That’s not what I mean. Not that we should say the other D word, but… you know what I mean, right?”

         “Wrong choice of words, Cheol,” Jeonghan mumbles over Minghao, who happily shouts another D word just to annoy their leader. “Mingyu, angel, you have to wash your hands, don’t forget!”

         “He said he’s four years old… or five, I forgot.” Junhui looks at Chan, only to find that they both forgot. “Anyway, is he old enough to do it on his own or does he need help?”

         “It’s okay, I’ll take care of him, but thanks for offering!”

         Jeonghan takes Mingyu’s hand. If he lets Junhui do all the things he wants to do with Mingyu, he’ll never have time with him. It would be totally unfair, Mingyu is his baby too! Unfortunately, some members – cough, China line, cough – seem to forget the simple concept of sharing is caring when it comes to Mingyu in Gyu space. The bad thing about it? It’s understandable and Jeonghan can’t blame them. Really, if he didn’t have to spend so much time with Joshua and Seungcheol (not that he’s complaining, he just wishes a day would have more than twenty-four hours), he’d always try to get the other boy to himself and himself only.

         Maybe he could offer Mingyu to take naps with him. Yeah, it sounds great, Seungcheol would be unable to scold him for sleeping so much if he’s doing it for their soft baby. Or they could play soccer. Soccer is nice and kids usually like this sport, right? Kicking a ball shouldn’t be too complicated for Mingyu, even if he’s in Gyu space.

         “Han?” Lost in his mind, Jeonghan feels like Mingyu’s voice just slapped him back to reality.

         “Yes, sorry baby, I was thinking about grown-up stuff. It’s boring, you don’t want to know what it is.”

         Mingyu nods with a serious pout that Jeonghan wants to kiss away, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t know if Mingyu would be comfortable with it… there’s nothing sexual in kissing a child (because that’s what Mingyu is now, a child), but maybe the girls who aren’t used to the Gyu space would see it as something else. Jeonghan definitely does not need to be constantly teased over a crush that isn’t one.

         (Don’t worry; as soon as they’re alone, he will kiss all the sadness and other negative emotions away from his angel.)

         Jeonghan lets Mingyu choose which soap he wants to use. It takes him longer than it should, but his serious face is too cute for Jeonghan to interrupt him, so he patiently waits and helps him when he struggles with a bottle. He finally chooses one, more because of the unicorn on the bottle than because of the fragrance, and shows his hands to Jeonghan.

         “No, bubbles, you forgot the water… there you go, butterfly. You’re doing great!”

         Jeonghan feels like his heart is about to explode. The people at Pledis choosing their roles were so wrong when they tried to make Mingyu one of the cool members with a bad boy image, they should stop sleeping on his cute baby boy potential. The sexy and dark concept is overrated anyway.

         “Time to eat, bear!”

         “No,” Mingyu whines, “tha’s, that’s Boo’s!”

         “Sorry, I didn’t mean to steal a nickname, I’ll let Seungkwan be the only one who calls you that,” Jeonghan chuckles before kissing his nose.

 

Much to Junhui’s disappointment, Mingyu sits between Minghao and Jeonghan. The Chinese boy sulks for about four seconds before Jieqiong tries and succeeds at getting his attention.

         “Sorry, angel, I didn’t hear you well, can you repeat please? You forgot the magic word.”

         Mingyu puffs his cheeks, but Jeonghan and Minghao don’t move. Eyes on him, they wait to see who will give up first. Of course, being against members as stubborn as these two, Mingyu is the first one to sigh.

         “Please.”

         “See, it wasn’t that hard, puppy. Oh, I’m sorry we forgot about your headband, do you want me to go get it?”

         “Stay where you are, Xu Minghao. We have guests, it would be impolite to leave,” Jeonghan scolds him.

         Yewon chokes on her water when she sees him throw a slice of bread at his friend. “Because throwing food is polite?”

         “I made the food, I make the rules.”

         “You only made the sauce, you only have control over those who take some and Minghao isn’t one of them,” Nayoung argues, voice and expression as serious as they can be.

         “Whatever. Doll, open your mouth.”

         Having decided that letting Mingyu use utensils in Gyu space would lead to a disaster, Jeonghan and Minghao accepted to sacrifice themselves and feed the boy. It’s not like it’s a lot different from their other meals, the Seventeen members usually all share food and feed each other.

         “I’m done!” Seungkwan announces after a few minutes of what seemed like an interesting conversation with Seokmin and Minkyung. “Since I feel nice tonight, I’ll wash the dishes… with some help, of course.”

         Everyone keeps quiet before Nayoung sighs and raises her hand. “I’ll help, but let’s choose two other volunteers. I don’t feel like spending the night here, no thanks.”

         “Weren’t you supposed to leave? Not that I don’t want your help, you just don’t have to stay here just because they’re too lazy. You’re actually one of the two people who have a good reason not to wash the dishes.”

         “Who’s the other person?” Chan asks, eyes full of hope.

         Seungkwan glares at him. “Mingyu. He breaks glasses when he’s not in Gyu space, imagine the mess we would get now!”

         Nayoung laughs and gets up, stretching her legs. “It’s okay, a little dinosaur told me about Mingyu’s special gift for me, I can’t leave before getting it.”

         At that, Mingyu swallows his last bite of cake, shakes his head when Jeonghan offers him another spoonful and runs to his room. Minghao follows him.

         “What are you doing, pup?”

         He doesn’t get an answer. It’s okay, he wasn’t expecting one. He lets Mingyu search for whatever it is that he suddenly needs, probably Nayoung’s gift, and looks at his friend’s clothes. He loves playing the stylists, especially when Mingyu is in Gyu space.

         Minghao takes a green sweater from Mingyu’s closet and puts it in front of his friend, clicking his tongue in disapproval. “That won’t do,” he mumbles.

         Seungcheol’s red hoodie would be perfect, but it’s not new and Mingyu wore it nearly every time he was in Gyu space. It’s Christmas, he should wear something special…

         “Pup, do you know if we still have these reindeer headbands? You don’t know where they are? It’s okay, I don’t feel like searching for them. We’ll just go for the good old puppy look, I guess.”

         Minghao helps Mingyu change, leaving jeans for the shorts he uses as pajamas and putting the red hoodie on. It doesn’t scream Christmas, but it has red so it should be good.

         “You found what you needed?” Minghao asks and Mingyu happily nods, showing him a sheet. “Good job, pup! Let’s go back to the kitchen now, Nayoung-noona is waiting for your super gift.”

         They race to the kitchen. If Minghao let Mingyu win, he’ll never admit it (but it’s pretty obvious anyway).

 

When Mingyu puts his plate and utensils in the sink, Seungkwan claps for him and Wonwoo awkwardly pats his back. Jeonghan watches them with a pained smile. Wonwoo and Mingyu’s friendship is amazing, but, for some reason, Wonwoo seems to be awkward around Mingyu when he’s in Gyu space. Jeonghan knows it’s not because he’s uncomfortable though. Wonwoo treats him like he’s made of glass and is the first one to get up if Mingyu needs anything, maybe it’s just too much skinship for him. It’s not Jeonghan’s business though and, as long as it doesn’t bother Mingyu, he’ll let them deal with it on their own.

         Vernon finally succeeds at convincing Seungkwan that the dishes can wait – Seungkwan didn’t insist a lot, to be honest – and they all go to the living room to exchange presents. When you live with your friends, it’s hard to hide something from them, but they’re all surprisingly good at hiding Christmas and birthday presents when they have to. Well, there’s an exception and Chan helped Mingyu with the gifts he made in Gyu space.

         “Who’s first?”

         “Mingyu should be first,” Seungcheol decides. “Nayoung will leave as soon as she gets her gift, so let’s not make her wait more than she already did.”

         She shakes her head, embarrassed. “Oh, I didn’t mind at all! Really guys, it was great, I loved spending Christmas Eve with you all. Please don’t feel like a burden, you really aren’t one.”

         Always polite, Vernon lets her sit on the couch and chooses to sit next to Seungkwan instead. Nayoung pats the place at her right before making grabby hands towards Mingyu. The only reason why he doesn’t run for her is that Jihoon’s arm around his waist is stopping him from going too fast and possibly stepping on Seokmin.

         “So, where’s that gift?” Nayoung asks, eyes wide as she looks around her as if it would suddenly jump out of the closet.

         Mingyu gives her what Chan helped him wrap up in shiny wrapping paper, green with adorable snowmen. She thanks him for the chocolate box, that she’s pretty certain he bought when he wasn’t in Gyu space, and gets emotional when he hands her a sheet. Nayoung really shouldn’t feel that way, it’s only a drawing, and not Mingyu’s best, she tells herself.

         But Mingyu probably spent so much time on it and the meaning behind it makes it more precious than anything he could have gave her. It means that he loves her enough to think about her even when he’s in Gyu space and surrounded by other people – she noticed that it’s more than easy to get his attention away from something with cuddles. It may be messy and very much like what she drew when she was a kid, but it’s also colourful and has this nice vibe of happiness and love that warms her heart. Nayoung bites her bottom lip. For some reason, she feels about to cry. She can’t even get offended at how Mingyu forgot to draw her with arms.

         “Nayoung, are you okay?” It’s amazing how Seungcheol manages to tease her while sounding so fond.

         “Shut up. It’s Christmas, I’m allowed to be emotional,” she chuckles.

         Jihoon throws a box of tissues in her direction, wincing and apologizing when it almost hits her.

         “This is so gonna be on the wall for like forever,” Yewon laughs, the other Pristin girls teasing Nayoung about how real it is.

         “I can’t believe Nayoung is getting a drawing and not us,” Jeonghan groans and tries to imitate Mingyu’s puppy eyes while looking at his angel. “You didn’t love us as much as Nayoung, doll?”

         Joshua hits him with a pillow from the couch. “Stop trying to make him feel guilty!”

         “We all have a drawing anyway, hyungs… I helped Mingyu, it’s a gift from both of us.”

         “Oh, so you didn’t want to spend money for us?”

         Chan’s whole face turns red and it spreads to his neck and his ears. Flustered, he starts defending himself before realizing that Soonyoung was joking.

         Drawings in hands, they all see how tiny Mingyu drew himself compared to them. Even Jihoon is almost twice his height! It’s cute that they can finally have an idea of how Mingyu sees them in Gyu space.

         (Seungcheol can only hope that Gyu-Mingyu doesn’t really him as a bald giant.)

         The gang decides to wait for Mingyu to be out of space to give him his gifts, but Soonyoung remembers about Kihyun’s. Nayoung accepts to stay to see him open the present and doesn’t regret her decision when she sees his smile. She’s totally, completely whipped for this giant toddler.

         In the box – like a small treasure chest, they’ll definitely keep it – there’s a white headband with red ribbons, Crayola pens, a dog plushie and a pacifier assorted to the headband. The boys gave themselves a mental pat in the back for choosing to wait to give Mingyu his presents, nothing will be able to top this tonight and they’re not delusional enough to try to deny it.

         (Jeonghan doesn’t miss Wonwoo’s pout… someone is jealous!)

 

Junhui puts a few cookies on a plate and jumps on the counter to take a glass. Mingyu watches him with big eyes, hugging his new plushie.

         “Junnie,” he whispers loudly. “What you do?”

         “Well, we don’t want Santa to be hungry, do we? These cookies are for him.”

         “Santa!”

         Jeonghan frowns when he finally finds Mingyu, in the kitchen and talking to Junhui. “Junnie, he needs to go to bed. It’s getting late, I don’t think a four-years-old should be up at this hour.”

         “Hyung, it’s Christmas, let him stay up.”

         Junhui’s begging fails to change Jeonghan’s mind. Hey, at least, he gets to lay beside Mingyu while their hyung sings them to sleep. They both fall asleep and Jeonghan is neither strong or motivated enough to take Junhui to his bed, so he just sighs and decides to lay down next to them. The bed isn’t made for three adults, but somehow, they make it work.

 

Joshua feels like the naughtiest boy ever. To his defense, he’s not the one who woke Mingyu up, Jeonghan moved in his sleep and pushed him off the bed. Knowing that Mingyu was in the middle of said bed, Joshua has no idea how it happened, but he learned to never underestimate Yoon Jeonghan.

         So, of course, Joshua couldn’t let the poor kid suffer from such a painful fall, especially not when Mingyu is still in Gyu space. Santa Claus visits a lot of houses, he can eat cookies somewhere else, right?

         “Go on, buttercup, I’m sure Santa Claus won’t be too sad about it.”

         Mingyu stares at the cookies in front of him and it’s easy to imagine the puppy ears flat against his head. “What if you don’t get gifts,” he mumbles even if it’s obvious he wants to eat.

         Joshua’s heart grows twice its original size (okay, not that much, it would be way too big… let’s just say Mingyu makes him really happy). What did he do to deserve such a good boy? “Don’t worry about it, Santa is my friend! He won’t get mad, he wants everyone to be happy tonight. If eating those cookies will make you happy, Santa will be okay with it. Besides, he gets food everywhere, it won’t make much of a difference.”

         Mingyu still hesitates. Joshua isn’t surprised, it’s very Gyu-like to care about Santa Claus’ feelings even if, you know – there’s a child reading this, let’s not say more. So he takes a cookie and waves it around like he remembers his mother doing.

         “Open your mouth, the plane is comiiiiing!”

         He gently puts it against Mingyu’s mouth, not wanting him to choke on it. It would be an awful Christmas Eve night. After taking a bite, the other finally accepts his fate.

         “You want milk with that? If you want, I can make you warm milk with honey. My mom used to make some for me when I couldn’t sleep. I remember crying one year because I was so excited I couldn’t sleep,” Joshua shakes his head, a fond smile on his face. “That was something.”

         Mingyu laughs and Joshua hurries to give him another cookie. As cute as he is, the others won’t be happy if he wakes them up.

         He asks again about the warm milk and takes a small saucepan when he gets a positive answer. Five minutes later, he adds honey in the two mugs. After giving one to Mingyu, he writes honey on the little board on the fridge. They don’t use honey often, it’s understandable that the boys forgot to buy some at the shop.

         “Don’t drink too fast,” he warns Mingyu as he takes his own mug, “it’s hot.”

         They drink in silence. When they’re done, Joshua leaves their mugs and the saucepan in the sink. It’s late, he’s way too tired to properly wash them. Jeonghan and Junhui take too much room in Mingyu’s bed, so he decides to let him sleep with him. It’s Christmas after all, he can’t let him sleep on the couch.

         (He could simply make him sleep in Junhui’s or Jeonghan’s bed, but… he really wants some cuddles. For once, he’ll allow himself to be a bit selfish.)

         “Do you want a bedtime story, sweetheart?”

         Joshua doesn’t know a lot of bedtime stories, so when Mingyu accepts, he takes his phone and searches for one. He remembers his friend sending him some kind of Google document with a short story. Being an idol, he never found the time – or the motivation – to read it, but now would be the time.

         “Let’s just hope it’s not sad,” he whispers, more to himself than for Mingyu, before starting to read it out loud.

         It’s nice. Like Mingyu, Joshua can’t stop smiling when the velveteen rabbit turns Real, but he frowns as he realizes that he still has six pages left. Oh no, he’s so gonna die.

         (He doesn’t.)

         “Thanks, hyung.”

         “You’re welcome, and out of Gyu space?”

         Mingyu nods, but still snuggles into his arms. Joshua expected him to do that, being out of Gyu space doesn’t take away his love for cuddles. With a waist like that, it’s almost like he was born for hugs.

         “Not to sound like a creep, but it’s really comfortable to hug you. I mean, your body shape is really nice for hugs.”

         “Thanks!”

         And Mingyu looks genuinely flattered. For someone who basically lives for cuddles, Joshua guesses it’s one of the best compliments he can get.

         They keep quiet for a moment, but none of them is trying to fall asleep. Joshua can tell Mingyu’s eyes are open and he’s struggling to stop a laugh because of the younger boy’s hair against his chin or his breath on his neck.

         “You have something to say, Gyu? Say it, it’s okay.”

         Mingyu gets even closer. “You know, I was talking to a friend this afternoon and she asked me what I like the most about Christmas. I was a bit surprised and she had to ask me again, but I chose family and I think I made the right decision.”

         “Oh, I’m sorry you couldn’t spend Christmas with your family then.” Joshua really is sorry. Mingyu deserves nothing but the best, all of his Seventeen brothers do.

         Mingyu turns around, flustered. “I want to say something, but it’s cheesy…”

         “I won’t laugh, promise.” Joshua raises his pinky, hoping that Mingyu can see it even if it’s quite dark.

         Mingyu does and takes it. “Okay… well, I did.”

         Joshua blinks. “I’m sorry?”

         Mingyu’s back is now against the wall again so he can face Joshua. “I did spend Christmas with my family.”

         Oh. Joshua understands how Nayoung felt. “You’re my family too, Mingyu.”

         “Are you crying?”

         “Good night, Gyu.”

Chapter Text

After the mess that happened at the MAMA, Seungcheol decided to let Mingyu spend the day before in Gyu space. Since it wasn’t their first time performing Getting Closer, he didn’t really need to relax, but better to be safe than sorry. The Golden Disk Awards will be better than the MAMA.

         Everything goes well. They perform – and break the floor, but no one gets mad at them – and win a bonsang for their album. It’s not as prestigious as a daesang and they all hope they’ll win one in 2019.

         Then, of course, Mingyu fucks up.

         In front of the cameras, he gets too excited, drops the award… and breaks it. Alone with Seventeen, they would be disappointed without getting too mad at him, but a staff member seems to be in a bad mood and scolds him before turning to Seungcheol. He can only watch as their leader gets blamed for letting him hold the award. It’s not Seungcheol’s fault if he’s clumsy, his leader doesn’t deserve this.

         It puts Seungcheol in a bad mood and Mingyu can’t really blame him. It was humiliating to get scolded in front of staff members and other artists. When they leave, he tries to take his hand, but Seungcheol walks faster to get away from him. He knows it’s only because he’s mad and doesn’t want to say something he’ll have to apologize for later, but it still hurts.

         Trying not to think too much about it, he sits next to Soonyoung. Being one of the leaders, he tried to apologize to the staff member and stop them from scolding Seungcheol, but it was useless and he got scolded too. His ears are still red from the embarrassment.

         “I’m sorry, hyung,” Mingyu says as soon as the van leaves the parking.

         “You really had to drop it, didn’t you? It was too much to ask you to attend an award show without fucking up?”

         Mingyu forgets how to breathe. He knows Soonyoung has a bad temper, but he doesn’t think he deserves that. “Hyung, I’m sorry, but I already apologized for what happened at MAMA, it would be nice if you could forget about it… I don’t want you to use it against me. I’m really sorry for all the stress I gave you.”

         Soonyoung clenches his teeth. “Mingyu, I don’t want to talk to you right now. Leave me alone.”

         Realizing he’ll probably get the same reaction from the others, Mingyu apologizes and takes his phone. His left earphone lets him down too.

 

At the dorm, the manager and Seungcheol go in the kitchen to talk. Knowing how clumsy Mingyu is, their manager prefers to blame the leader for trusting him with the trophy. Mingyu stays in the hallway and sits against a wall to listen, but with how loud they are, he could probably hear them from his room.

         “Hyung.” He gets up as soon as he sees him. “I’m really–”

         “Sorry?” Seungcheol interrupts him. “We don’t win tons of awards and you had to break one of them. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we were alone, but you dropped it in front of the staff. There were cameras, Mingyu. We looked like irresponsible idiots.”

         “Even if only one of us acted like one,” he hears Jihoon saying from the couch in the living room.

         Mingyu flinches and Seungcheol sighs. He doesn’t want to hurt the youngest, he’s just… humiliated and mad. Not really at Mingyu, he knows how clumsy he can be, he’s mad at their situation. He doesn’t trust himself enough to keep talking to Mingyu without saying something hurtful, so he prefers to leave him alone. He’d like it if the other could understand that, but Mingyu seems to think he’ll forgive him faster if they hug or something. Honestly, Seungcheol loves Mingyu’s hugs, that’s not the problem.

         “Mingyu, everyone is tired, just go to sleep.”

         Mingyu opens his mouth before closing it not even two seconds later. He won’t even bother asking about one of the hyungs singing him to sleep, he knows he’ll get a negative answer. He can’t blame them for that, everyone is mad at him and he kind of deserved it.

         Like in a dream, he walks to the room he shares with Jihoon and gets his pajamas. If the bathroom is free, he’ll take a shower. Showers are nice, they help him relax.

         He has no idea how he got to the bathroom, but he’s now under the water… with his clothes still on. Something that would have made him smile the day before turns to his worst nightmare and he just gives up, falling to his knees. His hyungs are mad at him, he humiliated himself in front of total strangers, his clothes are wet as hell and he’s an idiot for forgetting to take them off… it’s a bad day and he fails at stopping his tears from falling.

         Fifteen minutes later, he’s still sobbing in the shower, clothes on. On a normal day, someone would have came to check if he was okay, but he’s still alone and it only makes him cry harder. He wants his friends.

 

Wrapped in a towel, he can’t bring himself to leave the bathroom. He stayed in the shower for a while and Jihoon is probably in their room by now, but it’s too early for him to be sleeping. Mingyu wipes his tears and puts his chin on his knees, closing his eyes. It’s pathetic, he shouldn’t turn into such a mess after what happened. He messed up, it was his fault and he has no right to cry. He can’t tell if he’d rather have them talking to him, even if it’s to evacuate their frustration by yelling at him, or if he prefers them ignoring him.

         They hate him. They don’t hate him. They’re ignoring him because they hate him. They’re ignoring him because they don’t want to lose what’s left of their patience and insult him. He’s fighting himself, his insecurities, the constant fear of being too clingy and annoying the other members so much they’ll leave him alone.

         Like now, sitting on the cold floor of the bathroom, too dejected to even think about drying his hair. With his luck, he’ll probably catch a cold. And he won’t have anyone to take care of him.

         Tired and lonely, Mingyu can’t stop the spiral of negative thoughts he accidentally just started. They’re all mad at him, it’ll take him weeks to be forgiven, the medias and k-netizens will destroy his reputation’s, everything will go from bad to worse.

         He coughs, sobbing so hard he’s struggling to breathe. Hands on his mouth, he tries to silence himself. Tears won’t fix the trophy, they won’t fix what he did. Not only did he humiliate Seungcheol in front of complete strangers, but he also ruined what represented hours, days, months of work. Now, they don’t have anything to brag about.

         Well, not that they would brag about winning the award – if you search the word humble in the dictionary, the rumors say you’ll find a photo of Seventeen – but they still lost that chance.

         Mingyu can’t breathe, can’t think about anything else than what he did. He’s always so clumsy, he ruins everything. He can’t even do something as simple as holding a trophy.

         Someone knocks at the door, startling him. “Mingyu? Are you okay?”

         He gets up, slips on the towel on the floor and catches himself on the counter. Great. “Yes, I’m sorry, I’ll get out.”

         Seungkwan opens the door, face softening when he sees Mingyu’s red eyes. It’s obvious that his cheeks aren’t wet because of the shower.

         “I’m sorry I took so long,” Mingyu apologizes, because it seems like that’s all he can do for now. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.”

         He can’t tell if he’s talking about staying in the bathroom or dropping the trophy, but it doesn’t matter. Seungkwan takes another towel and starts drying his hair. After years together, they need more than a bit – a lot – of nudity to be uncomfortable.

         “It’s okay, Mingyu. I know you didn’t mean to. I forgive you.”

         He starts crying again, but this time, he can hide in someone’s arms. Seungkwan helps him get dressed, and even if he doesn’t go in Gyu space, it feels amazing. Gyu space or not, the feeling of being loved and taken care of will always be welcomed.

         “I’m sorry we reacted that way, we shouldn’t… we shouldn’t have done that.”

         Seungkwan isn’t really sorry they ignored him, they’re both aware that it was the best they could do. He’s sorry it hurt Mingyu though, and that’s all that matters.

         “You don’t have to apologize,” he whispers, his mouth against Seungkwan’s neck as he hides from his eyes, refusing to look at him. “I fucked up. I broke the trophy.”

         “It’s a trophy, Mingyu. You’re our friend, our bandmate, our… you’re part of our family. I’ll be okay without it, but my life would be empty without you,” Seungkwan confesses, hand rubbing his back to comfort him. “I’m sure the others feel the same way, but I won’t say it for them. They need to get over it and talk to you.”

         They stay like that, Seungkwan wrapped around Mingyu, until Junhui shows up. He’s holding a mug so tightly Mingyu is afraid it’ll break and he keeps blinking and licking his lips.

         “Uh, I’m sorry to interrupt… whatever was going on, but, uh, I made… hot cocoa…”

         He’s almost whispering the last part, embarrassed. Seeing his friend like that, uncomfortable and without a doubt blaming himself, Mingyu doesn’t think about what happened. He gets up and hugs the older boy after taking the mug away. Seungkwan watches them with a fond smile.

         “I’m sorry, Mingyu.”

         “It’s okay, you didn’t do anything.” And it’s true. Junhui went straight to the living room, so Mingyu didn’t have time to talk to him.

         When he tells him that, Junhui blushes. “Yeah, but… I was planning to ignore you if you came to me.”

         Seungkwan snorts. “Oh, let’s be realistic, hyung. You would have talked to him after ignoring him for two seconds.”

         Mingyu laughs. It wasn’t that funny, but it’s nice to have two of his friends with him.

         “No, I would have ignored him,” Junhui mumbles, looking away but putting his hand on Mingyu’s waist and his cheek on his shoulder.

         “Yeah, sure. Don’t lie, hyung, you’re a big baby, you can’t stay mad at us for long.”

         “I’m not a baby!”

         “Junnie-hyung, when you whine like that, it doesn’t help,” Mingyu chuckles, happily rubbing his cheek against Junhui’s hair. “Seungkwan is right, you’re a big baby.”

         “You can’t call me a baby if you’re a biggest baby than me, and I’m not talking about height,” Junhui complains and kisses his bare shoulder. “It’s illegal. The cops will arrest you and I won’t have my baby anymore. I’ll be babyless.”

         “That’s not a word, hyung.”

         “Well, it should be.”

         Clothes on, he takes a sip of his hot cocoa and realizes how cold he is.

         “Be careful, you could choke.”

         Seungkwan rolls his eyes and mumbles something about how Carats are wrong when they say Jeonghan is the mother of the group.

         Mingyu puts his mug down and yawns. The floor isn’t really comfortable, he needs to get up… but the thought of Jihoon in their room makes him frown. The others don’t miss it and, of course, offer him to sleep in one of their beds instead.

         “I’ll be fine.”

         “It wouldn’t bother me, I promise,” Seungkwan insists. “Come on, it’s not like it would be the first time.”

         Mingyu smiles. “Thanks, but I don’t want to avoid Jihoon… we’re in the same group, it would get awkward. I’ll sleep in my bed and I’ll try to talk to him tomorrow. Maybe he’ll be ready to forgive me after a night of sleep.”

         Junhui and Seungkwan don’t look convinced, but he leaves the bathroom before they can try something else.

         “Mingyu,” Junhui calls him. “Who’s gonna read you your bedtime story?”

         Mingyu stops and shrugs, turning away to look at him. “I’ll be fine without one. It’s just for a night, I’ll be okay.”

 

It’s not like Mingyu expected Jihoon to punch him in the nose and call him a bitch, but the way he jumps on him – for a hug, not for a fight – as soon as he enters the room is still a shock. What makes it even more shocking is Jihoon’s runny nose.

         “Mingyu, Gyu, I’m so sorry,” he cries and they fall, Mingyu being too surprised to support the other’s weight. “I didn’t mean to hurt you like that, I swear!”

         “Hyung? Were you crying?”

         “No! I’m not crying… okay, yes,” he admits, “but it doesn’t matter. I’m sorry, Mingyu, I really am.”

         “Hyung, you’re crying,” is all Mingyu can say. It’s not everyday he sees him like that.

         “Look, it was a rollercoaster of emotions, I felt happy, embarrassed, mad, guilty and sad in a few hours and I definitely did not drink enough coffee for this.”

         Mingyu wants to say something, but he changes his mind. Jihoon did his best to put his pride and anger aside to apologize and admit he was wrong, he wants to make him stop being so uncomfortable. Really, they shouldn’t be so awkward when they apologize to him, they should know he could never tell them to fuck off.

         “Aw, Hoonie-hyung, are you sure it’s your lack of sleep and not your love for me?”

         “Shut up. Do you… I know you prefer to have Junhui or Joshua reading you your bedtime story, but… do you want me to read it?”

         Jihoon’s voice is as calming as Joshua. Mingyu loves it, though he would say the same for the others too. He’s whipped for his members and he doesn’t even try to hide it.

         “Yes, please. It would be nice. I love you all anyway, any of you would be fine.”

         Jihoon turns away from him to look at the closet. “You heard that? Come out, he’s okay with it.”

         Soonyoung opens the door with a grin. “You asked us, two boys in the closet, to come out? That’s a good choice of words, Jihoon.”

         “Two?” Mingyu repeats, confused.

         “Yes, two.” Wonwoo gets out of the closet – as in, he steps outside of it, not in the “I’m gay” way. “Junhui planned this. He expected you to refuse their offer to sleep with them… sleep in their bed.”

         “You guys are struggling so much with your words, it’s not even funny at this point,” Soonyoung sounds half amused and half exasperated. “Seungkwan was sincere though, he didn’t know.”

         “Junhui, the mastermind behind such a good plan,” Wonwoo jokes with an awkward smile. “Jeonghan would be proud.”

         “Yeah.”

         The two best friends look at each other with forced smiles. Rolling his eyes, Jihoon whispers something to Wonwoo, who blushes and takes a step forward, all awkwardness now gone.

         “I should have stopped them when they were being rude to you. Shut up, Mingyu,” he stops him when he sees him open his mouth to complain. “I’m your best friend, it’s my job to do that kind of stuff.”

         “Is someone going to tell him about Minghao or…” Soonyoung mumbles, making sure Wonwoo can’t hear him. Jihoon snorts and hides it by pretending to cough. Mingyu doesn’t understand, but he’s not sure he wants to.

         Someone knocks at the door. Joshua blinks when he sees the four boys.

         “I didn’t expect you to apologize so soon and at the same time, I’d thought I’d have Mingyu to myself,” he chuckles as he kisses his baby’s forehead. “You’re not in Gyu space, are you?”

         Mingyu shakes his head. He can enjoy cuddles and kisses without going in Gyu space. For now, he doesn’t feel like it, but he’ll still let them baby him. After all, he’ll forever be a big baby.

         “Alright. You forgot one of your Bong plushies in my bed and I wanted to read you this story… but I guess I’ll let the others do that.”

         “No, you can read it if you want to,” Wonwoo says, but he sounds a bit… disappointed? Mingyu isn’t sure.

         Joshua puts the things on one of the beds and smiles at them. “It’s okay, you need it more than me. I do it often, I don’t think you ever read him a bedtime story though. Am I wrong?”

         No one answers, so he wishes them a good night and leaves. Before Soonyoung closes the door, Mingyu hears Seokmin asking Joshua if he should have chosen another story, but the older boy reassures him and promises they’ll go apologize in the morning, when they won’t be as tired as they are right now.

         “Under the blankets, Mingyu, it’s cold.”

         “No it’s not,” Soonyoung argues, “you’re just half naked.”

         Wonwoo shrugs and Mingyu finally realizes he’s topless. “Oh, your abs got really nice.”

         “Thanks, I’m not working on them at all.”

         Mingyu starts whining about how unfair it is, but he’s stopped by Soonyoung kissing him. It’s not a romantic kiss, just a quick peck on the lips like parents do to their child. “Bed, Mingyu. It’s late, go get your beauty sleep.”

         “Not that you need it.” Wonwoo smiles at Mingyu and he feels like whatever awkward thing that was between them in the past days is slowly starting to disappear.

         Jihoon slaps Wonwoo’s arm. “We get it, you’re whipped for him. Now, everyone go to bed.”

         “I’m calling dibs for Mingyu!” Soonyoung immediately shouts before getting slapped too.

         “It was my idea, you dumbass! You two can stay for the story, but when we’re done, you’ll sleep in the other bed.”

         Mingyu has a feeling they’ll argue for an hour if he lets it happen, so he whines and pouts, showing them his best puppy eyes.

         “You win this round,” Wonwoo sighs before hitting Soonyoung when he pretends to snore.

         On the other bed, Jihoon watches Mingyu sleeping next to him. “No, I think he’s the one who won.”

 

A few hours later, Chan wakes them up by jumping on the bed – nearly hitting his head on the ceiling in the process – with so much excitement Mingyu feels like it’s Christmas.

         “Wha’s ha’ning,” Jihoon mumbles, still half asleep.

         “Nothing hyung, go back to sleep,” Chan shushes him. “I’m just taking Mingyu.”

         “Chan, it’s, like, five in the morning,” Mingyu whines, hiding his head under a pillow.

         Stubborn, the other takes said pillow away. “Not yet, but that’s not important. I had a nightmare, you have to sleep with me or I’ll cry!”

         Mingyu stares at him, dumbfounded. “Chan, is that the best you could come with?”

         “I don’t know what you mean, Mingyu.”

         The lack of suffix makes him raise an eyebrow, that gets down not even a second later. Chan is trying to put him in Gyu space.

         He sighs. “We both know you didn’t really have a nightmare, you just didn’t know how to come to me. You didn’t have to find a reason, Chan.”

         “I thought about this all night,” the younger idol complains as he yanks on the blankets to stop him from going back to sleep. “Please pretend it worked so we can cuddle and sleep. In my bed. In my room. You and me. Please, baby.”

         Saying that the nickname isn’t affecting him would be a lie, but it’s not enough to put Mingyu in Gyu space. Still, he likes sleeping with Chan and Chan loves being the big spoon – only to him, Mingyu learned after seeing him sleep with Soonyoung – so it’s a win for both.

         He gives up. He’ll blame the need to sleep if Jihoon gets grumpy in the morning after waking up alone.

 

When he wakes up again to Seokmin announcing he made him breakfast, Mingyu wants to pretend to be dead, but his friend’s proud smile is too cute to be ignored. He groans and gets up, ready to have to clean a mess.

         Seokmin is smart, smarter than him. His breakfast came from the restaurant and Mingyu almost kisses him. It smells amazing.

         “I paid half of it,” Vernon says, rubbing his neck. “I should have said something, I knew you weren’t feeling well… I was a bit out of it, I didn’t really notice it until I stopped to think about what happened.”

         Mingyu nods. He understands, really. He breaks things twice a day, Vernon probably thought it was the usual and didn’t think about it twice. When they came back to the dorms, he was on his phone, earphones on. It doesn’t surprise him that he didn’t see anything, knowing how distracted he can get.

         “Apologies accepted, even though you really didn’t need to apologize for anything.”

         “I did my best to cheer Seungcheol up, but I didn’t do anything for you,” Seokmin confesses, seeming to find the table extremely interesting. “Sorry.”

         “I was with the hyungs, you weren’t needed,” Mingyu tries to comfort him before realizing what he said. “Shit, that’s not how I meant it. It’s not that you weren’t needed, I was fine without you, that’s all. It doesn’t sound better, does it?”

         The more he says, the worse it gets. At least, he made the duet laughs, which is always worth it.

         “MINGYU!” Someone yells before jumping on him like Jihoon did, except that Mingyu is sitting and trying to eat.

         He nearly chokes on his donut – because Cara couldn’t get more perfect and sell donuts she cooked with Momo, of course they do that kind of stuff – but Minghao is hugging him and covering his face with kisses. He’ll gladly die like that.

         “I’m so sorry, you were already sleeping when I came in your room to comfort you!”

         “It’s okay, Hao, let me eat.”

         Jeonghan comes in the kitchen, dragging Seungcheol by the ear even though it’s probably unnecessary. It’s not the first time Seungcheol, as Seventeen’s leader, gets mad at a member and he never had trouble apologizing and admitting he was wrong. If they want the group to last for as long as possible, they can’t stay mad at each other for too long.

         “Here, I think you have a little something to tell Mingyu.”

         “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have–”

         Mingyu interrupts him before he can finish his sentence. “Cheol-hyung, you’re not the first one to apologize, it’s getting a bit boring. Just hearing you saying you’re sorry is okay, I’m sure you know what you did wrong. We both did something wrong anyway, it’s not like I’m completely innocent.”

         Jeonghan pats his hair, satisfied. “Aw, my butterfly is so mature! I’m proud of you, bubbles.”

         “He’s not in Gyu space, maybe you shouldn’t call him by those nicknames…”

         “Nah, he’s fine with it. I kissed him yesterday and he was fine, he’s just a big baby,” Soonyoung laughs.

         Minghao chokes on his coffee. “I’m sorry, you did what?”

         Wonwoo doesn’t look too pleased either, but he’s better at controlling his emotions. He’s still not good enough to hide it from Mingyu, who tries to calm them down.

         “It was a platonic kiss, nothing too big.”

         “Then, is it okay for us to kiss you too?”

         All eyes on him, Mingyu gulps nervously. The whole scene seems so dramatic, but he can’t stop thinking about how funny it is that he suddenly feels like a deer surrounded by wolves. Vernon leans towards him. “I think you should run.”

         That’s what he does, but he’s not fast enough – probably because he doesn’t try hard enough – to escape them. Seungcheol lying on him, he begs for freedom, but they all know he doesn’t want them to stop and let him go. He feels kind of relieved to know that, even when he’s not in Gyu space, they’re comfortable with babying him and showering him with their love.

         Minghao pecks his lips and smile at him, his face so close to him that Mingyu can feel his hair on his cheeks. “I love you, Mingyu.”

         He giggles and kisses his adorable botton nose. Really, his friends are the best.

Chapter Text

“Are they fighting again?”

         “What do you mean, again? They never stopped,” Seungcheol groans. “If one of them doesn’t kill the other, I swear I’ll kill them both in five fucking minutes if they’re still fighting.”

         Joshua forces him to sit on the couch. “Okay, let’s take a deep breath… no one will kill anyone!”

         “Yeah, it would be a pity to get in jail because of them,” Jeonghan mumbles.

         “Hannie, sweetie, that wasn’t what I meant. Let’s just… let them deal with whatever issue is between them on their own. Mingyu hates fights and Seungkwan is such a kind soul, they won’t stay mad at each other for too long.”

         Even with the two boys being in another room, they can hear them yelling.

         “Still, I don’t like letting them fight like that,” Junhui whines, fingers laced with Minghao’s. “What if they say something that’ll hurt the other?”

         “It won’t go that far,” Wonwoo reassures him. “It’s not like them, they like to tease each other, but they wouldn’t hurt–”

         “You’re not even interesting, people only find you funny when you make fun of me! You’re welcome, by the way!”

         Joshua’s face turns as white as the wall. “Kim Mingyu–”

         “Yeah? Well, people only think you’re interesting because we make fun of you! You’re interesting because even Carats see you as a fucking joke! I went viral without you, dumbass!”

         Joshua gets up and Seungcheol fears for their lives. “BOO FUCKING SEUNGKWAN!”

         “Please, people couldn’t care less about your vocals anyway! They just think THAT video was funny, it’s not like it helped our sales or anything.”

         “It’s getting ugly,” Junhui comments, eyes shining with tears. He hates when people fight, especially when said people are his friends and he doesn’t know what to do except stand there to hear them hurting each other.

         “Not just getting ugly, it’s been a whole hour,” Minghao snorts, trying to hide how worried he is. “They’ll be fine… eventually. But I feel like Mingyu is about to drop something bad again.”

         “People wouldn’t even care if you suddenly left the group, we’d be fine with Seokmin!”

         Everything stops. Wonwoo drops his book, Junhui starts crying, Joshua freezes and Minghao looks ready to fight – except that he doesn’t really know what or who to fight. With a sweet, worrying smile on his face, Joshua turns to Seungcheol.

         “Cheol, I need your handcuffs.”

         No one says anything when Seungcheol comes back with said handcuffs, but he can feel them silently judging him.

         “It was for one of the team’s performances,” he tries to justify himself, even knowing it’s a lost cause.

         Joshua pats his back. “It’s okay, we’ve all seen worse. For now, this is going to save us all.”

 

Seungkwan slams the door behind him. Vernon blinks, but doesn’t look surprised at all.

         “Was it that bad?”

         Seungkwan throws a pillow at the wall. “You heard us.”

         Vernon shrugs and puts his earphones on his bed. Seungkwan knows he now has his entire attention. “Yeah, but I don’t really know what was said. It was a lot of screaming, but I couldn’t hear well enough to recognize words.”

         The blue haired boy sighs and sits next to him, head on his shoulder. He doesn’t want to explain what happened, it would be boring (and hurtful). Now, he regrets what he said, but he doesn’t want to apologize. It’s petty, but Mingyu hurt him too. He deserves apologies and he’s not sure he’ll get them if he’s the first one to apologize.

         Vernon takes his earphones back and offers him one. “You don’t feel like talking about it, I guess. Don’t worry, it’ll get better soon, I doubt you’ll still be mad at each other when you’ll go to bed tonight. You’ll probably decide to share a bed, it wouldn’t be the first time.”

         Vernon’s tone makes him sound like he’s making fun of them, but Seungkwan guesses they deserved it for fighting so loudly the whole dorm could hear them. It’s true though, they usually share a bed after their fights, because sleeping next to someone, in their arms or with them in yours, is intimate and shows how comfortable you are with this person.

         (Also, Mingyu is soft and warm, the perfect little spoon.)

         “I know.”

         He doesn’t cry, even if he feels like it. Mingyu acted like an asshole – they both did, he thinks – he doesn’t deserve his tears of frustration.

 

“I fucked up. Again,” Mingyu whines.

         Wonwoo nods. “You did.”

         After Joshua left to get Seungkwan, Wonwoo joined Mingyu in his room, knowing he’d like to have someone to talk to. Surprisingly, he doesn’t talk much, preferring to roll on the floor while complaining about Seungkwan or the things he told him.

         “It was so mean, I really don’t think that of him.”

         Wonwoo can hear Mingyu’s pout, but he can’t get soft, not now. He has an issue to fix and no idea how to do so.

         “Uh, have you tried texting him?”

         “Nah, we blocked each other this morning. Carats haven’t noticed yet, we really do share the same brain cell.”

         Wonwoo glares at him. “Don’t say that about our Carats, Gyu.”

         Mingyu defends himself by saying it’s a joke, but keeps quiet when Wonwoo goes on to tease him more. It feels so wrong, to see him giving up and not adding to the joke.

         “Hey, you’ll get over it,” he tells him, voice as soft as his hands as he pets his friend’s hair.

         “Are you sure?” Mingyu’s voice is small. “I was mean. Rude. Disrespectful. The worst friend ever. I shouldn’t have let him make me so angry with such a harmless joke.”

         “It’s not entirely your fault, Mingyu,” Wonwoo reminds him. “You do need to apologize though. But don’t worry too much about your friendship, your bond is stronger than that! Nothing could break it, Gyu.”

         It kind of hurts to think about someone sharing such an amazing bond with HIS best friend, but what hurts more is the thought that, in another dimension maybe, Mingyu doesn’t have Seungkwan by his side. Seungkwan, who brings him oranges and tangerines. Seungkwan, who sings him to sleep and reads him a bedtime story when Joshua is busy. Seungkwan, who makes fun of Mingyu, but would fight anyone who would dare to make the exact same joke, because that’s his friend privilege and no one else can use it.

         (Except for Minghao and Wonwoo, who has the superior best friend privilege, but Seungkwan is on his way to get it too. They’re just too stubborn to admit he already has it.)

         “Stay here for now, I don’t think you’re calm enough to apologize… and I don’t think he’s calm enough to accept to forgive you. We can think about how you’ll apologize if you want.”

         “Thanks, I feel like I’ll need all the help I can get.”

         Mingyu smiles at him and Wonwoo forgets everything about Seungkwan, everything about their fight, everything that isn’t about his friend’s perfect smile and shiny eyes and–

         “Yes, but not for what you think,” he hears as the door is suddenly slammed open.

         “What the fuck?”

         Before they can understand what’s happening, Joshua is putting something around Mingyu’s wrist. Seungkwan looks as horrified as him.

         “Handcuffs, seriously?”

         Wonwoo glares at Joshua, but he looks more disappointed than angry. “It’s dumb and you know it. Let them get over whatever happened by themselves.”

         “It’s their fifth big fight in three days, Wonwoo, I’m done with their bullshit.”

         “We all are,” Jeonghan adds, rolling his eyes. “Waiting for them to solve it on their own isn’t working.”

         “They’re gonna kill each other.”

         Joshua shrugs. “Natural selection.”

         Probably too tired to clean the mess Seungkwan would make (because, let’s be honest, Mingyu wouldn’t last three seconds against him), Seungcheol kicks them out of the apartment. If they die, he won’t be responsible for their (Mingyu’s) death.

         “Well, fuck me,” Mingyu sighs, his right arm already turning red since he can’t hide it from the cold.

         “I guess we’re stuck together now…”

         No one says a thing for a moment, both of them feeling guilty for what they said earlier and not knowing how to apologize.

         “We should go inside,” Seungkwan says instead of the apology he knows Mingyu deserves.

         Mingyu suggests the nice coffee shop a few houses away from their apartment. It’s a small place, but it feels homey and it’s warm. What makes them go to this place so often is the lack of publicity, almost no one knows about this café, making it the perfect place for idols who want to relax without fans bothering them. In short, it’s the coffee shop version of Cara’s shop.

         Seungkwan accepts and they start walking, arms pressed together so no one will notice the handcuffs.

         (But with how empty the streets are, it’s mostly so they can comfort each other without a word. None of them having apologized yet, they lie to themselves.)

 

Of course, Mingyu forgot to bring money. To his defense, it’s not everyday he gets kicked out of the apartment. Seungkwan doesn’t react like he expected him to.

         “You’re such an idiot,” he grumbles before buying him a medium french vanilla, even asking for the special caramel fudge one. Mingyu is surprised he’s not getting something like a glass of water – and with how mad Seungkwan is (was?), the water would still be a surprise – but the drink seems good so he doesn’t say anything.

         “I’m, I, thanks,” he stutters when Seungkwan gives him his cup.

         “You’re freezing,” the other explains even if he didn’t ask him to. “I’m not heartless. You’re, you’re still my friend, Mingyu.”

         Mingyu blinks furiously. For some reason, he really wants to cry. “I said… I’m sorry, Seungkwan. I don’t think that, you’re only funny when you make fun of me or, or you’re not really talented or anything like that…”

         His voice gets smaller and smaller. He’s embarrassed, but not because he’s apologizing. There’s nothing wrong with admitting being in the wrong. However, he shouldn’t need to apologize, he shouldn’t have said such things and the thought of how hurt Seungkwan must have been because of him hurts him more than what Seungkwan told him. With the face the other makes, he guesses he can say it’s not just him.

         “It’s okay, Mingyu. I mean, not really, please don’t say things like that again, but I understand and I forgive you if you accept to forgive me. I love you, Gyu, I didn’t mean it.”

         “That you love me?” Mingyu teases him, puppy eyes wide and lips wobbling.

         Seungkwan panics and apologizes again, telling him that he was talking about the insults and not that part, before he realizes that Mingyu is joking. It’s unusual for Seungkwan to fall for Mingyu’s traps – he has to admit he’s not the smartest boy ever when it comes to that, it’s mostly him falling for others’ – and it means a lot to have him so panicked at the idea of hurting Mingyu (again).

         “Don’t do that again, I was scared!” Seungkwan scolds him.

         Mingyu laughs. They’re okay. Seungkwan buys him a chocolate chips cookie and they share a muffin on their way home.

         Seungkwan stops before they can turn the street’s corner. “Mingyu, wait.”

         “Why? We’re almost there.”

         “I know, but I just, I just don’t want to give them the satisfaction of knowing their plan worked.”

         Mingyu gets it. He smiles, excited. “Should we do something, then?”

         Seungkwan smiles back. “Of course.”

 

Seungkwan slams the door behind him, dragging a crying Mingyu behind him.

         “Oh my, what happened?” Jeonghan asks, jumping off the couch as soon as he hears Mingyu’s sobs.

         “Not of your damn business, hyung,” Seungkwan snarls, walking to his bedroom like he’s about to kill someone (probably Mingyu). “It’s not my fault he can’t handle a bit of pain.”

         Jeonghan throws a pillow at Joshua. “It was your idea!”

         “Well, you supported it!”

         They hear a loud thud, like something just hit the wall, and a cry. Joshua immediately recognizes Mingyu’s voice and gets up, running to Seungcheol’s room to get the handcuffs’ key.

         “Seungkwan is trying to kill him,” Wonwoo comments when they hear another thud, the boy keeping his eyes on his book and a bored tone even if his clenched firsts show how he really feels. “Maybe you should hurry, Joshua. We’re about to have to change our name for Sixteen and I’d hate to have to get rid of most of our merch.”

         When Joshua opens the door, Mingyu is a small ball on the floor, arms protecting his head and sleeves hiding his fingers. In such a big sweater, he looks tiny, even more with Seungkwan on top of him. It surprises him, because Seungkwan may be savage, but he is anything but physically violent. Mingyu doesn’t even try to stop crying though, so Joshua guesses it’s bad.

         “Alright, it didn’t work,” he sighs. “Come here, I’ll take those back…”

         He briefly wonders if they should send Mingyu to the hospital, but he seems okay once they got rid of the handcuffs. Too busy thanking God and everything he knows for the silence, he doesn’t think much about it and goes back to Jeonghan.

         As soon as Seungkwan leaves, Mingyu takes his phone. They decided to pretend to be mad at each other for three days before letting the fake anger fade away, which means that they can’t just talk about it in the dorms like Vernon asking Junhui where he put his underwear, they have to be discreet, subtle. For someone as clumsy as Mingyu, it’s usually hard, especially since he has to keep a secret from his best friends, brothers and… well, it’s usually hard, but with Seungkwan, it’s too funny and excited to mess up like he usually would.

 

Ten hours later, they’re alone in the apartment, Seungkwan having left the studios earlier than supposed to after pretending to have a headache. He doesn’t have one, he just knew that Mingyu was alone and he wanted to have some time together, just the both of them. He shyly kisses Mingyu’s lips, like he did a few days ago, and he can feel him smiling.

         “Sorry, bear,” he’ll apologize. “We won’t be able to hug and cuddle like that for three days.”

         Mingyu shrugs, finding the idea of pranking his caretakers worth it. Seungkwan sighs, but it’s a happy sigh.

         “Ah, I love you,” he laughs as Mingyu finds his lips for another peck. “So much, baby bear. Thanks for making this day better than I thought it’d be.”

         “You’re wel… come,” Mingyu says, yawning.

         Seungkwan holds him against his chest. God, it feels so good to be Mingyu’s big spoon. “Go to sleep, I’ll wake you up if we need to go back to pretending to hate each other.”

         Mingyu falls asleep rather quickly and Seungkwan is left alone with his thoughts and Mingyu snoring. Still, it’s one of his best birthdays.

 

(They manage to fake being mad for four days before “forgiving” each other. No one doubts how real it is and Mingyu feels incredibly proud of his acting skills.)

Chapter Text

For someone like Mingyu, a few days without seeing someone is enough to make him feel like it’s been months. Both NCT and Seventeen were busy with comebacks, too busy to hang out with each other. With their schedules, it became nearly impossible to even talk. Mingyu knows it, he’s been staring at his phone for at least half an hour and he’s still waiting for a reply.

         “It’s been a while,” Seokmin laughs when he sees him on the couch, pouting at his phone. “How are they doing?”

         “I don’t know,” he whines. “Jaehyun isn’t answering my messages…”

         He keeps pouting at his phone and angrily kicks a pillow. Seungcheol, who just got back from the kitchen, laughs at him. Mingyu pretends to be offended, but he can’t stop himself from leaning into Seungcheol’s hand when he caresses his cheek.

         “What’s bothering my little boy?”

         Mingyu makes a noise strangely similar to a squirrel getting crushed by a door. Well, he doesn’t know what kind of noise it would make, but he guesses it would probably sound like that. Seokmin pinches his cheek.

         “That’s such a cute nickname, hyung!”

         “Don’t call me that,” Mingyu protests. “I love it, but I’m feeling needy for attention and love and I’ll go in Gyu space if you keep calling me that… it’s adorable, Cheollie-hyung.”

         Seungcheol grins. “It’s still not even half as adorable as you, little boy. Also, that sounds like a good reason to keep calling you that… my little baby.”

         “No, Cheollie-hyung! I want to talk to NCT, I miss them lots.”

         “Call Taeyong,” Seungcheol suggests. “He’ll answer.”

         “They’re too busy, Cheol-hyung, it won’t work.”

         Hs hyung chuckles and sits next to him. Mingyu leans into him, cheek squished against his shoulder as he pouts and puts his arms around his knees. Of course, Seokmin takes a photo. They’re so cute together and, even if Mingyu is taller than Seungcheol, he looks tiny and soft. Seungcheol asks to get the photo and makes it his lockscreen.

         “He’s a leader, Gyu. As leaders, we’re almost always ready to answer our phone. We don’t know when the agency or a member will need to contact us.”

         It makes sense and Mingyu has nothing to lose at this point, so he calls Taeyong. It feels a bit weird, they’re not exactly that close. Well, they do like each other and appreciate the time spent together, but Jaehyun is always with them. He hopes Taeyong won’t mind, he really misses his NCT friends.

         Like Seungcheol said, Taeyong answers, and it only takes him a few seconds. He sounds tired and Mingyu feels guilty, but he cheers up as soon as he hears Mingyu.

         “Oh, Gyu! I’m sorry, Jaehyun lost his phone and can’t answer your messages. Is that why you called?”

         “Wow, how did you know? Wait, never mind, it’s not that important. Yeah, that’s why I called you. That’s a bit embarrassing to say and I’m sorry to bother you for that, but I really miss you guys…”

         When he hears a lot of yelling, he understands Taeyong put him on speakers and blushes. Seokmin and Seungcheol coo at him.

         “Oh sweetheart, we miss you too,” Taeyong chuckles, the screams in the background getting louder as the other members agree with him. “We’re celebrating Lucas’ birthday, do you want to join us?”

         “It’s okay, I don’t want to be a bother.”

         “Kim Mingyu, you’re not bothering us at all!”

         Mingyu feels like he’s being scolded by his mom. He can understand why everyone in NCT (and in SM) likes and respects Taeyong so much, the boy acts like he’s on Earth to spread love.

         “Hyung, I know I’m on speakers, so… I hope none of you will get offended, but I’ve never talked to Lucas, wouldn’t it be awkward to join you for his birthday?”

         He hears Taeyong talking to someone else, probably Lucas. Mingyu’s proven right when the birthday boy greets him.

         “Hi, Mingyu! It would be a pleasure to have you here, you seem really nice and I love your songs!”

         Any praise is enough to make Mingyu want to give his whole heart to the one who just praised him, so of course, he starts talking about WayV’s debut, Boss and Lucas’ rap in Black on Black. Seungcheol whines and tells him he can just leave Seventeen to debut in NCT’s future unit. Mingyu has to hug him to make him stop, but he’s not complaining. Honestly, Seungcheol’s hugs are the best.

         “Cheollie-hyung, can I go?”

         Mingyu usually uses this nickname when he’s in Gyu space. Seungcheol frowns, not knowing if he should keep it home to take care of him or let him leave. He choses the second option. After all, Taeyong and Jaehyun know how to deal with a Mingyu in Gyu space, he’ll be safe and Seungcheol knows the others will give hm all the love and attention he’ll ask for even if it’s Lucas’ birthday.

         (And when Mingyu looks at him with so much hope in his eyes, he can’t refuse him anything.)

         “Of course you can, little boy. Give me a minute to get ready.”

         “You don’t have to come with me, hyung! NCT’s dorm is, like, five minutes away, I can go there on my own!”

         “Aw, our baby is growing up, what a big boy you are!”

         “Stop talking like you’re older than me by more than a few months.”

         They all know he loves it. Seokmin winks at him and he sighs, realizing there’s no way he’ll take him seriously. Honestly, he doesn’t even take himself seriously, the baby in him loves the way they treats him.

         In the end, both Seokmin and Seungcheol walk him to NCT’s dorms, Seungcheol carrying a bag full of his baby things (his softest blanket, Seungcheol’s red hoodie, his puppy headband and such). They step in the dorm just long enough to kiss him – cute pecks on the lips – before leaving. After all, it seemed a bit unsafe to kiss him where a sasaeng could have seen them. Explaining how it’s nothing romantic would have been hard.

         “Thanks for coming, Mingyu! What’s your number?”

         Lucas isn’t subtle, but without being rude. Mingyu loves it. There isn’t any risk of misunderstanding and he doesn’t have to be careful or think too much.

         They trade numbers and he takes his hand to lead him to the leaving room, where everyone is sitting (either on the couch, the floor or someone’s lap). They all welcome him like he’s part of the group. Seeing them being so kind makes him feel bad for not knowing all of them.

         “I’m sorry, I don’t know everyone’s name…” Mingyu apologizes with a tiny voice, eyes on the floor and fingers playing with his bag. Would it be too weird to take his things out so soon?

         “Don’t worry, honey, we understand. I’m Doyoung, by the way.”

         He blushes at the nickname and hides his face behind his bag. Taeyong pats his head, smiling.

         “It’s okay, don’t be shy. I’m sorry, meeting so many people at the same time must be a bit overwhelming.”

         Mingyu nods. He loves making new friends, but everyone is looking at him and he can’t help but feels shy. Even if most of them weren’t in this dorm when Taeyong and Jaehyun were taking car of him, they probably know a bit about Gyu space, it makes it a lot weirder.

         Luckily, it doesn’t take more than a few severe looks from Taeyong – with those eyes and that face, it’s pretty intimidating – to make them stop staring and they go back to talking. At least, they don’t ignore him and try to include him.

         “Is that your stuff?” Jaehyun asks him, eyes on his bag.

         Mingyu nods. Taeyong takes it from his hands and gives him his hoodie.

         “Oh, that’s new,” he comments, showing him a pacifier, but keeping it in the bag so the others don’t see it. “Are you comfortable with it even if my other babies are here?”

         Even if he’s a bit embarrassed, Mingyu can’t help but smile at the way Taeyong talk about his other members. His voice becomes incredibly proud and fond whenever he talks about NCT, his boys, his babies. Seungcheol is like that too… must be a leader thing.

         “Well, are they?”

         Jaehyun grins and pats his hair. Mingyu leans into the touch, closing his eyes. “Of course they are, we don’t judge easily.”

         “Yeah, Taeyong-hyung told us about Gyu space and I don’t fully understand it, but whatever makes you comfortable is good, man!”

         Lucas’ voice tastes like chocolate with salted caramel. It makes Mingyu feel safe and he doesn’t open his eyes, not even when another hand – bigger than Jaehyun’s – starts petting him too.

         So, he takes his hoodie and his pacifier. No one says anything, but it’s not awkward. He gets the same reaction someone would get if they, let’s say, took their phone out of their pocket.

         He wasn’t planning on going into Gyu space, but seeing everyone taking it so well makes him want to. There’s only one thing stopping him. It’s someone’s birthday, he doesn’t know said someone so well and his heart would get crushed by the thought of stealing everyone’s attention from the birthday boy just because he got too selfish and asked for cuddles.

         When he whispers this to Taeyong’s ear, he gets a hug, but not any hug. Taeyong’s hugs are amazing, he may be small, but the way he basically melts into Mingyu and put him close to his body would make everyone feel small and protected.

         (Mingyu still prefers Seungcheol’s hugs, but that’s because he’s being biased. His leader is the best at everything he does, hugs included, and not even Lee Taeyong is powerful enough to change his mind.)

         “You can go into Gyu space, no one will bother you!”

         One of them, a tall teenager with pink hair, stands up and almost throws himself at Mingyu as soon as he hears two words way too familiar to the Seventeen member.

         “Hi, I’m Jaemin, but you can call me Nana! Can I hug you?”

         Another teenager throws a pillow at him, scowling and talking about respecting his hyungs, before Mingyu mumbles that he doesn’t really want to be seen as a hyung when he’s in Gyu space. He lets Nana search in his bag and take whatever he likes out of it. So far, the boy has found his blanket, a plushie and his bear hears. He puts the latter back in the bag with the puppy headband he stole from Taeyong’s hands and chooses the cat headband, one with ribbons.

         “Is there a nickname you like?”

         Honestly, Mingyu has no idea who this Nana is. Probably one of the Dreamies, but he knows nothing else. However, the boy’s eyes are shining and he looks like he’ll literally die if he doesn’t shower Mingyu with love.

         “Well… my leader started calling me his little boy… I know I’m not little at all, but I like it.”

         Johnny – Mingyu knows the 127 members… except for the new one, Jungoo or something like that – snorts. “When you’re standing, maybe, but right now, you look as small as Taeyong.”

         Mingyu likes that.

         “So, uh, can I put it on you? Please, you’d be so pretty!”

         The other teenagers join him. The smallest one frowns. “The dog headband was cuter. He looks more like a puppy.”

         “But he’s cuddly like a teddy bear! Look!” And, just like that, Mingyu gets a hug from a stranger.

         (Said stranger is really good at giving hugs though, so he won’t complain.)

         “Guys, please don’t hug him without asking first,” Taeyong sighs. “You’re still strangers to him.”

         “Hi, I’m Jeno! We’re not strangers anymore, hyung!”

         Taeyong laughs and gets up, announcing he’s gonna prepare the cake. Jaehyun offers to help and most of the adults follow them out of the living room, either to help them or to do something else so Mingyu and his new caretakers can have a bit of privacy.

         Of course, Lucas stays. He takes Taeyong’s place and wraps his big, strong arms around Mingyu. Shit, that’s almost enough to make him go in Gyu space, but he gets stopped.

         “You’re not talking a lot, are you okay?” Lucas asks, worried.

         “Yeah, I, I don’ like talkin’ when I’m Gyu space.”

         His brain is slowly turning to Jello, articulating is becoming way harder than it usually is. Lucas nods in understanding and hugs him tighter.

 

When the Dreamies start fighting over Mingyu (who, even in Gyu space, quickly understands how happy they are to finally have the right to turn the tables around and treat a hyung like theirs treat them), Lucas uses his Birthday Rights to get him to himself. The kids run to Taeyong to complain, but he refuses to make Lucas change his mind and promises them Mingyu will come back soon to play with them and them only. They sulk a bit, but it seems enough, so they don’t insist. It would be useless anyway.

         Johnny comes to get them from the living room so they can eat the cake. Lucas insists to have Mingyu cut it, but Doyoung refuses. Having a child holding a knife would be too dangerous. Instead, Lucas takes Mingyu’s hand and helps him cut the cake.

         “You did well, little boy,” he says and Mingyu’s heart grows twice his size. “I’m proud of you!”

         The cake looks so fluffy, all Mingyu wants is to play with it. Knowing it’d come, Jaehyun quickly takes his plate away and gives it to Lucas, who starts feeding the Seventeen member before he has time to cry over a meanie stealing his dessert.

         Mingyu didn’t expect to get along with Lucas in a few hours only, especially not so well. He loves it, it’s like coming back to a childhood friend.

         He didn’t bring enough things for a sleepover, but it’s okay. He gets Johnny’s pants, someone’s underwear (none of them knows who it is, which makes Mingyu smile with how much they sound like Seventeen) and Lucas’ bed. It’s not really Lucas’ bed, they’re in NCT 127’s dorm after all, but whoever has it decided to either sleep in someone’s bed, on the couch or on the floor in a futon. Mingyu doesn’t care. He’ll fall asleep with someone holding him and he’ll get sleepy cuddles in the morning. Everything is perfect.

         With Lucas’ warmth surrounding him, he gets closer and hides his face in his new friend’s chest, bringing his hoodie up so he can smell it. Seungcheol’s smell mixes with Lucas’ and he knows it won’t take him more than a few minutes to fall asleep.

         It almost feels like it’s his birthday, so with a sleepy voice, he thanks the other. In Gyu space, his tongue is as clumsy as his feet and being tired doesn’t help, but Lucas understands and pets his hair. They fall asleep like that, Mingyu’s hands against Lucas’ chest while the other has one in his friend’s hair and the other on his back.

Chapter Text

Chan is one of the smallest members of Seventeen, but he’s also Mingyu’s favourite big spoon when it’s time for sleepy cuddles.

 

“Hyung?”

         Chan’s voice is small, afraid. He’s in the doorway, hands clutching a pillow. He looks so vulnerable that Mingyu wants nothing more than to roll him in a blanket and hug the fear out of his burrito maknae.

         “What’s wrong, Channie?”

         “I had a nightmare.”

         Mingyu gets the milk out of their fridge. His friend sits on the counter and watches him as he makes him some hot milk before putting it in his favourite mug – blue with a green dinosaur – with a bit of honey.

         “Thanks,” the maknae mumbles and takes the mug, but doesn’t drink.

         He’s shaking so hard Mingyu fears for the mug’s life. He stands in front of him, towering over the small boy, who relaxes. Mingyu doesn’t like being tall, but it can be quite useful when he wants to make his friends feel safe.

         “Do you want to talk about it?”

         “No, but I’d like a hug.”

         Mingyu coos and pets his hair. Chan leans forward, forehead against Mingyu’s chest, and closes his eyes. He’s struggling to breathe, which worries Mingyu. It’s been a few nights since Chan started having those nightmares that wake him up in the middle of the night, screaming like he’s being murdered (they’re lucky most of them can sleep through pretty much anything, but it also has his negative side as it means Chan is on his own when he wakes up). He told them that he doesn’t remember what the dreams are about and Mingyu isn’t sure he’s telling the truth, but he doesn’t question it. If their maknae has to talk, he’ll do it when he’ll feel comfortable enough to do so, he doesn’t want to force him.

         “Of course, you can have all the hugs you want.”

         “Can I sleep in your bed tonight? Please, I’ll stay close to the wall,” Chan asks, nose running down. “I just don’t want to be alone.”

         And the way he looks at him breaks his heart. Of course he wouldn’t let his little brother go back to his room to try to find sleep on his own after having such a terrifying nightmare.

         “Don’t worry about that, we’ll share. We can also cuddle if you want to, maybe it would help?” Mingyu suggests before noticing the mug, almost as full as it was when he gave it. “Finish your milk and we’ll go to bed.”

         Mingyu’s bed isn’t special, but Chan’s face lights up when he sees it (though it’s probably the thought of sleeping and cuddling with Mingyu). He puts his pillow on top of one of Mingyu’s.

         “Come here,” the tallest of the two says, opening his arms to wrap him in his love.

         But Chan blushes and shakes his head. “Can I be the big spoon?”

         “I can’t go in Gyu space right now, Chan, it’s way too late and you don’t have the energy to read me three bedtime stories.”

         “Not Gyu space, just cuddles. I want to hold something and my pillow isn’t as warm as you. Please,” he adds, and tries to imitate Mingyu’s puppy eyes.

         While it’s not as good as the original, it’s still good enough to make Mingyu accept. He probably would have accepted even without that, Chan doesn’t think Mingyu ever refused cuddles (not from them, at least).

         “Well, I can’t deny I’m way better than your pillow,” Mingyu grins and gets closer to him, happily humming once his cheek is squished against Chan’s shoulder. “Should I sing something? Joshua-hyung always does that when I’m too scared to sleep, it helps a lot.”

         “If you want to.”

         Chan yawns and brings the blanket to his chin, laughing when Mingyu whines he’ll be too hot if he’s completely under the blanket.

         “Stop laughing, Chan,” he pouts, head going out so he can show his puppy eyes to his friend. “What if I suffocate and die?”

         “Then you die,” Chan replies before throwing his arm on the pillows so Mingyu can’t use them against him.

         There’s no one stopping Jihoon from taking his pillows though, which is why they get hit by one of them.

         “Shut up and go to sleep!”

 

To Mingyu, thunderstorms are almost as scary as heights. He doesn’t really know why; it’s loud, lightning bolts are dangerous, all that stuff. It seems weird though, like he’s making a big issue out of nothing.

         But the others do their best to comfort him without making him feel like he’s just being dramatic. The vocal unit members sing for him, the others make him laugh, watch movies with him, read him stories (though Wonwoo is the only one who does that), hug him... Mingyu loves them and they love him.

         However, it’s not that simple when it’s late at night and almost everyone is already sleeping. He was sleeping too, before the thunder and the sound of rain hitting his windows woke him up. He’s the only one affected by it, so he’s all alone, sitting on the couch and hiccupping.

         “Min-hyung?”

         “Channie,” he hiccups, flinching after another rumble of thunder. “Channie, ’m scared.”

         “Shh, it’s okay, I’m here,” he coos, kneeling in front of him.

         Chan softly wipes Mingyu’s wet cheeks and kisses them. To be honest, he’s not really sure if Mingyu is in Gyu space, but the boy has always loved to get showered with love so he guess it can’t hurt him.

         “Scared, scared,” Mingyu keeps saying like it’s the only word he can think of (with how terrified he is, it probably is).

         He chokes on a sob and finally starts crying. Chan hates it, but he knows his baby has to cry, has to evacuate all his fear so he can feel better. He stands up so Mingyu can feel safe, almost smiling when he realizes that’s what Mingyu did that one time they met in the kitchen after a nightmare.

         “Channie.”

         “Shh, baby, I’m there.” Chan starts rubbing his back. “It’ll be over soon.”

         Truth to be told, he has no idea of how long the storm will last, but he hopes it’ll be over soon. Mingyu is violently shaking, probably more scared than he ever was because of a thunderstorm.

         “Baby, what’s going on? It never got that bad before. Is there something else?”

         “Alone.” Mingyu takes his hands. “Left me.”

         “Oh, Mingyu, we wouldn’t leave you.”

         “You did.” He snuggles closer and his grip on Chan’s hands tightens, like he’s scared he’ll leave if he lets go.

         “It was just a nightmare, baby, we wouldn’t leave you. Promise.” And Chan shows him his pinky finger, keeping his other hand on Mingyu’s back.

         Mingyu takes it and calms down. Chan hears him hiccupping, but at least he stopped sobbing.

         “Let’s go to bed now, okay? Do you want to sleep in my bed?”

         Mingyu nods, so Chan leads him to his bedroom. He has to share it with Junhui and Seungkwan, but Junhui likes to sleep in Minghao’s bed – he misses him a lot when he’s not with them, so he tries to spend as much time as possible with Seventeen’s other Chinese member – and Seungkwan won’t have anything against Mingyu joining them for the night (not that Junhui would have minded, but that’s one least person to possibly bother).

         Mingyu safely tucked under the blanket, Chan pets his hair for a few minutes, reminding him how to breathe when it seems like he’s so panicked he forgot how. He’s (a lot) smaller than Mingyu, but somehow, it’s enough to make the other boy feel safe.

         Mingyu falls asleep and doesn’t wake up before morning, even though the thunderstorm lasts for two more hours.

 

Home got ten wins. They got ten wins. Wins, triple crowns, Seventeen got what they never had before and broke Don’t Wanna Cry’s record. It’s more than enough to be so happy Mingyu fears his cheeks are gonna hurt forever with how wide his smile is.

         His happiness seems like it’ll last forever. He even sings in the shower and, for once, no one tells him to shut up. Seungkwan and Seokmin join him – as in, they’re singing too, not in the “they join him in the shower” way – and it makes Jihoon laugh. When he lays down in his bed, he’s way too excited to fall asleep. It becomes clear he won’t be able to go to sleep before calming down first, so he gets out of bed and leaves. Jihoon is as happy as them, but his constant giggles would annoy anyone trying to fall asleep and he doesn’t want to get his ass kicked tonight.

         So Mingyu leaves the room they share and goes to Chan’s. As expected, the boy is still full of energy. He’s not really surprised when he opens the door to see him jumping on his bed.

         “Mingyu!” Chan greets him without stopping. “We got ten wins!”

         “I know, Channie, I was there!” Mingyu replies with as much enthusiasm as the other.

         He’d start jumping on the bed too, but he doesn’t think Seungcheol would like to have to buy a third bed… or a fourth. Mingyu forgot how many beds he broke.

         (When he mentioned that to Eunwoo, the other boy whistled and asked him how many numbers his sandwiches had.)

         Chan lets himself fall backwards, bouncing for two seconds before giggling and kicking the air. That, Mingyu can do it too.

         When they stop, Chan takes his hands. His eyes are shining with happiness and hope. “Do you think there’s a chance we get a daesang this year?”

         “And 2019 just started! Maybe our next comeback will do even better!” Mingyu happily sighs. “Ah, that would be awesome.”

         Chan squeezes his hand and smiles at him. “To our 2019 daesang.”

         “To our 2019 daesang,” Mingyu repeats.

         They pretend to raise a glass. When he looks at Mingyu’s shining eyes, Chan feels his heart skip a beat.

         Then, Mingyu rolls over so his body is against Chan’s. It’s not their first time, he knows how the youngest of them prefers to sleep and takes his other hand to let the other go. That way, Chan can finally put an arm around him without the position being painful or uncomfortable.

         They fall asleep like that, dreaming of a daesang shining as much as their eyes.

 

In a few hours, Chan will turn 20 in international age. It feels weird. Their baby is growing up and Mingyu doesn’t like it.

         “Stop getting older,” he whines, kicking the bed. “You’re already an adult, what do you want more?”

         “I can’t stop hyung, that’s not how it works,” Chan replies, amused. “If I could decide how I age, I would be older than all of you and you would probably be our youngest member… you or Seungcheol-hyung.”

         “And Minghao would be one of the hyungs…” Mingyu giggles. It seems like some of Seventeen’s members should switch places. “But let’s be honest, you love being our baby, especially Jeonghan-hyung’s.”

         “No I don’t… okay, maybe I do. But don’t tell him that, I don’t want to go through another ‘who’s baby are you’ phase. It got annoying.”

         “Yeah, like you didn’t watch one of those compilations. I’m pretty sure you even downloaded it.”

         “Shut up!”

         Chan grabs a pillow and hits him. He curls up into a ball the second Mingyu takes one to fight back – he’s a baby too, but he’s strong as hell and breaking a leg (literally) doesn’t seem like a nice way to start a new year of his life –, giggling.

         “Okay, okay, I like it! Just not all the time! Not everyone is a baby like you, Gyu.”

         “And soon, you’ll be too old to be our baby… just kidding, you’ll always be our baby.”

         Chan gets on his knees and takes his pillow back. “That’s it, I’m making you eat this pillow!”

         They hear a door opening and immediately shut up, hurrying to hide under the blanket so they can pretend to be asleep if someone comes in. Whoever it is leaves them alone, but they don’t move. It’s comfortable and Mingyu would fall asleep if they hadn’t planned to stay up all night.

         “Urgh, can’t your birthday come sooner? I’m tired.”

         “If I remember well, that’s not what you were saying sooner,” Chan teases him and punches his shoulder. “But you know, you can go to sleep if you want to. We don’t have to do this if you’re too tired.”

         Mingyu rolls over, not laying on his stomach, chin on his crossed arms. “But I want to. It’s not everyday you turn twenty-one.”

         So they talk, they watch videos on Mingyu’s phone, they play Superstar Pledis (with Mingyu violently flinching when he hears the weird sound the app makes when he misses), they do what they can to keep their eyes open. But they’re promoting, so it’s hard not to fall asleep when your body is screaming at you to let it get the rest it deserves.

         Midnight finally comes, a blessing for their tired brains. Mingyu closes his eyes and sighs, putting his head under Chan’s chin.

         “Happy birthday, Channie.”

         He’s so tired Chan is pretty sure he fell asleep half a second after his nickname left his mouth, but he still replies.

         “Thanks, pup.”

Chapter Text

Even if it’s Jaehyun’s birthday, Mingyu calls Taeyong. Why? That’s a good question.

         “Mingyu?”

         “You know what, I’m not even going to ask how you knew it was me,” Mingyu begins. “Your parental instincts are just, wow.”

         “Yeah, that, and your contact name on my phone’s screen,” Taeyong laughs, and Mingyu feels stupid. It seems like the boy’s said parental instincts scream at him to change the subject and Mingyu will forever be grateful for them. “Anyway, why are you calling me?”

         “Ah, I just wanted to wish Jaehyun a happy birthday.”

         “He has his own phone, bub… but I think it’s a good thing you called me. You should tell him in real life. You’re not too busy, right?”

         “No… well, the hyungs want to do something to celebrate Valentine’s day, but I’m free for a few hours.”

         Taeyong’s voice sounds so excited Mingyu almost wonders if he’s the birthday boy. “Great! Do you want to come?”

         And maybe that’s the reason why Mingyu called him, Taeyong being almost physically unable to talk to Mingyu without offering him to come at their dorms.

         “If that’s okay with you, hyung,” he answers.

         “Oh, Lucas will be so mad when I’ll tell him you passed by when he wasn’t here,” Taeyong giggles – Mingyu finds it adorable, by the way – before hanging up.

         He runs to the door and tries to put his shoes on. In his excitement, his clumsiness seems to get even worse and he struggles with the shoelaces. Seeing that mess, Jeonghan sighs.

         “I guess you’re going to NCT’s dorms to celebrate your friend’s birthday.”

         “Yes! Is that okay?” Mingyu asks, biting his lower lip. “I’m sorry I didn’t ask before accepting Taeyong-hyung’s offer.”

         “Oh, shut it, you’re not our dog, you’re free to hang out with your friends if you want to.” Jeonghan kneels next to him and takes his shoelaces. “Just make sure to be back for the night. We won’t start the first movie without you, so don’t worry about that.”

         Mingyu beams. “Thank hyung, you’re the best!”

         But before he can even open a door, he’s stopped by a hand. Jeonghan’s looking at him, eyebrows raised. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

         “A gift? Oh, right, I don’t have one… no, I sent him his gift a few days ago. I already have– oh.” He kisses Jeonghan’s cheek – softly, gently – and lets him do the same before leaving, promising he’ll be back for the night.

         (Of course, he leaves the door open. Jeonghan yells at him to be careful and calls him his little Cinderella. It makes him smile.)

         Mingyu doesn’t even have time to knock before NCT’s door opens to let him enter the dorm. Behind it, five Dreamies are watching him with wide smiles.

         “He’s here, hyung!”

         “Thank you, Nana, but please give him some space, the poor boy needs to breathe. Mingyu, be a darling and come help me with those chocolates.”

         Cooking is nice, especially with Taeyong. Mingyu could drop an egg on the floor and the other boy would still find a way to praise him. He always cooks interesting stuff, something fun to cook, and there’s often one or two (or three or four or Ten, pun intended) boys who join them. Sometimes, it’s to help, but more often than not, they really just come for the food.

         “Hi,” he says to the teenagers, because he never really knows how to act around them.

         They’re usually to NCT Dream’s dorm when he comes over. Taeyong says it’s because they’re too loud and excited for baby Mingyu, especially since he often calls him because he’s tired and needs to rest. Taeyong always makes sure he’s well fed and hydrated and makes him take a nap if he finds him a bit too tired for his liking. Even if they don’t talk a lot out of Gyu space stuff, Mingyu considers him one of his best friends (after Seventeen, of course) and loves him lots.

         “Hi hyung!! Are you in Gyu space? Johnny-hyung bought me a nice blanket, I’m sure it’s big enough for you!” Jaemin (Mingyu knows it’s him because of his hair and his smile, he’s one of the prettiest idols he has ever seen) tells him, hands clutching and unclutching like he wants to take his hand, but isn’t sure if we can.

         “We could try!” Renjun (small height and cute teeth) suggests.

         “Babies, he’s here for Jae’s birthday,” Taeyong laughs before taking him to the kitchen.

         The Dreamies complain, but they shut up as soon as Taeyong promises Mingyu will spend some time with them if they leave him with Jaehyun for a moment.

         “We’re making chocolates,” Jaehyun says as a greeting when he sees him (that’s before he hugs him). “And by that, I mean we’re just melting chocolate chips so we can give them heart shapes.”

         “That’s adorable… it’s for Valentine’s day, right?”

         “Yeah, and also so we can put it on Jae’s birthday cake,” Johnny adds.

         Mingyu almost jumps. Even if Johnny is far from small, Mingyu didn’t notice him, standing in the corner and waiting for Taeyong before doing anything.

         “Hi, hello hyung,” he stutters, blushing from the embarrassment of stuttering and (probably) sounding stupid.

         “Hi, Mingyu,” Johnny replies with the same tone, but it’s more to laugh with him than at him. “We’re almost done, but it would be great if you could help us.”

         And he does. It’s fun and simple, easy to do. He puts the chocolate chips in a bowl, something that doesn’t require much concentration and lets him talk and laugh with the others. Mingyu likes Johnny a lot, he looks like his hugs would be amazing (which is the vibe he gets from pretty much everyone in NCT, if he’s being honest).

         “Let’s call the Dreamies,” Taeyong decides when they’re done. “We need to put the chocolate in moulds, but we have to choose colours before that. I’m sure they’d love to help, especially with Mingyu being here.”

         He learns the Dreamies love him and kept asking for him after Lucas’ birthday party. They all seem to be sweet kids. They remind him of Chan when Seventeen just debuted.

         After melting coloured chocolate (Mingyu chose a vibrant red and a pastel blue, which he’ll share with Jaemin and Donghyuck), they use it to paint the moulds. It feels like he’s back in high school, in the art class. Everyone is chatting and laughing and he loves it.

         “I’m sure your chocolates will be adorable, hyung.” At this point, Mingyu is almost certain Jaemin would praise him for breathing. He does the same for everyone else, but it still warms his heart. It’s like he’s part of the group.

         (That’s a nice feeling, to belong, but Mingyu would never leave Seventeen. In his opinion, there will never be a group as amazing as his.)

 

Johnny and Taeyong put their chocolates outside since their fridge isn’t big enough. The Dreamies finally get to spend time with Mingyu, sitting on the floor with paper, scissors, stickers and pens all around them.

         “Don’t tell Johnny-hyung, but we’re planning to give him a card,” Jeno tells him. “We didn’t have time to finish it before his birthday party, so we’ll give it tonight. It’s not done yet though.”

         “It would be nice to have your help,” Jisung adds (asks) with big eyes (that giant kid is adorable). “Taeyong-hyung says you’re good at drawing.”

         “If you help us, we’ll let you add your name to the card,” Donghyuck offers him with the most serious expression he ever saw on one of them.

         Mingyu laughs at that. “Well, that’s one of the best offers I ever got, uh… Donghyuck, sorry, I swear I know your name.”

         “It’s fine, don’t worry about it. The hyungs still use the wrong name sometimes, it’s not like we’re not used to it.”

         Oh, Mingyu knows how that feels. “I’m sure your hyung would rather have a card from his members.”

         Jaemin nearly throws himself at him, crawling on the paper sheets and Donghyuck’s lap. “Don’t say that! Johnny-hyung would love to have one more name in his card, it would make him really happy!”

         Jisung awkwardly raises his hand like he’s at school. “Uh, I’m sorry if I sound rude, but… will you go in Gyu space, hyung?”

         They all shut up. No one except Jisung is looking at him, but the sudden silence makes it obvious they’re all waiting for his answer.

         “I think it would be nice? You were great last time and Taeyong-hyung and Jae are here to take care of me if something happens and you don’t know what to do.”

         “That’s exactly what I told Taeyong-hyung when I asked him!” Donghyuck tells Jeno with a satisfied grin, like they argued over it before.

         “But don’t force yourself if you don’t want to,” Renjun quickly adds, Chenle aggressively nodding behind him.

         “It’s not forcing myself if it’s something I enjoy, Renjunnie.” The nickname slips from his mouth before he can think about it. It feels weird to call the kid by his name. “But shouldn’t we finish the card first? I get even clumsier when I’m in Gyu space, I’m like a kid. My drawings wouldn’t be as nice.”

         Donghyuck rolls his eyes. They don’t care, Johnny will like the card no matter what, and Mingyu’s drawings while he’s in Gyu space will only make it cuter.

         They all seem so excited about it, Mingyu doesn’t want to tell them no. “If you’re okay with it, it sounds nice.”

         They show him their prettiest, biggest smiles, smiles that stay even when his baby hands draw a weird circle with the yellow pen. No one yells at him or accuses him of ruining the card. Donghyuck even suggests other shapes while Chenle gives him pens and glitter. When he gets tired of drawing, Renjun does it for him and lets him colour what he draws.

         “Why is he using blue for the bear, shouldn’t he use brown?” Jeno asks when he looks at what he’s doing.

         If looks could kill, Jeno would be dead. “Shut the fuck up and let him have fun.” Jeno manages to dodge the pen Renjun throws at him.

         “Renjun, you shouldn’t do that stuff in front of Mingyu when he’s in Gyu space… if he starts cursing and throwing things, it’ll be our fault.”

         Renjun shrugs and tells Jaemin not to worry. If anything like that happens, they’ll just blame another member of NCT… or Seventeen. With so many people, they’ll probably believe them if they say it was one of the hyungs.

         Also, they’re used to people babying them. Seventeen don’t know them well, they probably see them as innocent babies unable to do anything bad.

         “That’s a really pretty bear, Gyu,” Chenle comments on his drawing. “Do you have a teddy bear like that at home?”

         Mingyu nods. That’s what he’s drawing, the teddy bear Seokmin gave him when he cried because of (another) thunderstorm. He’ll have to ask someone to take a photo of it so he can show it to his friend.

         “Look, he’s even better than Jeno and he’s a child right now,” Jaemin teases his friend, pointing at Mingyu’s drawing with a smile (he never stops smiling). “You should take notes.”

         “Shut your mouth. I mean, please stop talking, dear friend.”

         Donghyuck chokes on oxygen, probably faking choking on Jeno’s words, and Chenle just stares at him with a judgemental pout.

         Mingyu whines, not liking how the attention is now on someone else. Jisung pats his head.

         “This is so awkward, I feel like I’m too disrespectful if I don’t call him hyung,” he mumbles before clearing his throat. “Uh, be kind and don’t be jealous… please?”

         Jaemin signs the card and closes his pen. “You’re amazing with kids, Jisungie.” Now that he’s done with the card, he gets closer to Mingyu, close enough to put his head on his shoulder. Even with their age difference, he’s not that smaller and it feels like cuddling with one of his Seventeen friends.

         “That’s unfair,” Donghyuck protests, throwing his pen somewhere on the floor. “You can’t cuddle him more than us, we have to share! Weren’t you the one talking about showing him good manners or some sh… something?”

         When Jaehyun comes to ask for help for the cake, he finds a card on the floor next to a pile of seven small boys. Mingyu is snoring, but it doesn’t seem to bother the Dreamies since they’re sleeping too.

         It’s his birthday, but they’re really cute, so he smiles and closes the door.

 

“Happy birthday!”

         With all the people he knows, he celebrates a lot of birthdays, Gyu space or not. The words are easy to pronounce, a familiar choreography on his tongue. At this point, he could probably sing the birthday song in his sleep.

         (According to Soonyoung, it happened once, but Mingyu knows better than to believe everything that comes from that mouth.)

         “Thanks, Gyu. Your chocolates look great by the way, you did a great job.”

         Taeyong put Mingyu’s hearts on top of the cake, around the candles. He can’t take his eyes away from it, from the red icing and the dancing flames. After the third time he tried to play with the candles, Jaehyun and Johnny decided to hold his hands.

         “Who wants a slice of cake?”

         As the birthday boy, Jaehyun gets the first slice, but Mingyu is a guest so he gets his right after him. They all take turns feeding him, which doesn’t go well since NCT is a big group (even with half of them missing) and he’s done before the Dreamies can have their turn.

         “I should be the one complaining,” Jaehyun tells them. “It’s my birthday, but you spent more time with him than I did.”

         Mingyu rubs his nose against Jaehyun’s shoulder and lets go of Johnny’s hand to replace it with Jaehyun’s. Jaehyun’s hands feel nice against his.

         After helping Taeyong with the cake, he smells like sugar and vanilla, but there’s still a bit of Jaehyun under that. It’s not as comforting as Seungcheol, but Mingyu likes it.

         (Really, he should stop comparing his friends to his other group of friends, NCT will never be Seventeen and it’s pointless to put one of them against the other.)

         “Before we get to the gifts, it’s time for the Valentine’s cards,” Doyoung announces (because Taeyong’s mouth is full of cake).

         Mingyu is in Gyu space, but out of it, he’d instantly send a text to Seungcheol to ask him why the fuck they don’t do this because it sounds awesome and really cute. Also, he could take great photos for his Instagram.

         But Mingyu is in Gyu space, his hands in someone else’s and his cheeks smeared with red icing. He doesn’t think about this stuff.

         To his surprise, Johnny hands him a card with a smile (the card surprises him, but not the smile). “Thanks for the card by the way. I love your drawings.”

         The Dreamies share a smile.

         Taeyong notices his confused expression – like a puppy, he tilts his head to the side and blinks, they can all perfectly see the puppy ears on top of his head even without the headband – and explains that they didn’t want to share cards without giving him one, so Johnny decided to make him one. He already knew he would help with the not so secret card the Dreamies were making, so it’s not like he owes him anything.

         It’s a bit difficult to understand for a child, but Taeyong knows how to deal with Gyu space and uses words he knows will make it easier for him to understand at least half of it. With the smile Mingyu shows when he looks at Johnny and the way he’s literally beaming when he opens his card, full of pastel and vibrant colours and cute stickers, he can say he did a pretty good job.

         Then, it’s time for gifts and Mingyu refuses to let go of Jaehyun’s hands, but he also wants to keep his card. Johnny puts it in his hoodie’s pocket – the card is kind of small, smaller than Mingyu’s hands, so it fits – and pats his head with fond eyes.

         Because of the lack of room, Jaehyun leaves the couch to the others and sits on the floor. Mingyu sits between his crossed legs, head against his chest, and falls asleep in a few minutes. Even if he took a nap earlier, all these people around him are overwhelming and it’s tiring.

         This year, Jaehyun opens his gifts with smiles only, keeping the screams for another year. Even the Dreamies aren’t as loud as they usually are. There’s a sleeping baby in the room and no one is heartless enough to wake him up.

         (They know they’ll have to, because Seungcheol watches over his boys like Taeyong does and he’ll want to get Mingyu back for the night or to at least talk to him before going to bed, but for now, they let him rest.)