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A Rhapsody of Guilty Pleasures

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The lights in the room were bright, unbelievably so, seeming all the more blinding by the stark white walls. It was the perfect lighting for Jimin to have his make-up done, the soft bristles of his make-up artist’s brush stroking across his face almost soothingly (Yeri was always incredibly careful not to irritate his skin, which he was immensely thankful for). The room looked rather chaotic around the calm man in the chair, clothes strewn about the floor as his wardrobe coordinator had a mental breakdown over a missing dress shirt, one of his shoes was peeking out from under the black leather sofa, and a camera man was hovering around everyone silently as he filmed behind the scenes footage that could one day be used to appease Jimin’s bored fans when he was inactive for a while. All this chaos rampaged around his still person, and yet Jimin felt none of the panic that his staff did, focusing on his breathing while running through his lyrics in his head.

Jimin was a self-assured person when it came to his performances. While he was generally pretty shy in real life, choosing to hide behind staff in various videos for the fans, when it came to actually being on stage and getting to sing… well, Jimin couldn’t bring himself to waste a second worrying when he could be appreciating the opportunity instead. He was an up-and-coming singer with a small fan base, but somehow his agent had managed to land him this gig, performing his own music in this upscale restaurant – not something most singers did, but Jimin knew this would be good for his career, and that he wasn’t famous enough yet to be so picky. It was a Friday evening, the restaurant would be full of rich and famous people who, if even one of them shared a video or tweet about Jimin’s performance, would be the road to more people hearing his art. Jimin was almost buzzing with adrenaline as he opened his eyes once he heard Yeri put away the setting spray that had just been spritzed on his face.

He looked into the mirror and admired the skill of the people he was blessed to be able to work with once again. Yeri had done an amazing job with his make-up. His eyes had soft gold eyeshadow dusted over the lids and under his lash line, to give him an angelic look, that was completely matched by his honey blond hair and soft features. He definitely approved. Highlighter was dusted on the apexes of his cheeks, his lips a seductive pink, his eyes seeming to shine with excitement. Even his outfit, coordinated by the wonderful Ken, made him look incredibly cute.

Shaking his limbs lightly as he got up, Jimin thanked Yeri for her hard work, slipping on the velvet waistcoat that was hanging on the door knob, before following his manager out of the room. He knew when he was getting closer to the main seating area of the restaurant as he heard the symphony of babbling voices get louder, and he felt his own heartbeat increase with excitement. He felt like this would be the changing point in his life.

Giving his manager a thumbs up, reassuring Sejin that the shaky hands didn’t mean anything, Jimin looked out into the warm lighting of the stage.

‘….ext up we have the newly popular Pop-RnB singer. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give a warm welcome to Rhapsody!’ the usher introduced.

There was a light smattering of applause as the audience politely clapped for Jimin as he walked onto the stage, a smile on his face as he aligned himself with the microphone stand. He could see the décor of the restaurant clearly from his spot, centre of the restaurant, see the obviously expensive chandeliers and the more expensive clientele, and had to hold back a shiver. The rich and elite of Seoul looked incredibly intimidating to Jimin just then, who felt smaller than ever under their curious eyes, but he forced himself not to cower away. If he couldn’t handle performing in front of people just because they were wealthy, then he would never be able to hold a concert in front of thousands of people (which he really did hope was a part of his future). Steadying himself, he smiled warmly at the audience.

‘Hello everyone, I hope the evening is treating you well, and that my performance may make it even just a bit better’ he uttered into the mic, keeping his mouth at a good distance so that his words were soft to match the ambience, instead of loud and jarring – his first performance at a bar had been incredibly embarrassing as he had almost deafened everyone with the loudness of his voice up against a mic due to his rookie ignorance. He couldn’t afford to make mistakes like that tonight. He had to impress.

The instrumental for the song began to play and Jimin allowed himself to sway. He was so proud of this song, the idea for it coming to him when he had visited his parents back in Busan a couple years back. He had sat on the sandy beach, the waves crashing far in front of him, the sky dark around him and the stars twinkling infinitely above. He had felt so small yet so warm in that moment, had felt a sense of completion but also a sense of emptiness, and wished in that moment that he had someone to share his wonder with. His tumultuous emotions then had been soothed by the knowing that one day, when he felt ready, he would love someone with his entire being and hopefully they would love him back with equal vigour. His eyes crinkled as he looked out at anyone in the restaurant that may have been looking at him instead of their dinner partners as he began to sing. ‘All this is no coincidence, just… just… I could feel that’, he sung, voice slightly breathy to sound more enthralling. He could feel eyes on him as he began to sing, his posture straightening as he preened under the attention – his music always drew interest, his voice being unique in the market, his stage presence always commandeering attention. ‘The whole world is different from yesterday, just… just…  with your joy’, he continued, channelling the feelings, the need inside him, to pour all the love he had to offer towards someone. He walked forward, towards the steps of the stage, and perched on the edge of them, inwardly smiling as he saw people shift in their seats to keep an eye on him.

‘When you called me, I became your flower’, he sang sweetly, making eye contact with a young boy that was sat at the closest table to him, ‘as if we were waiting, we bloom until we ache’. He smiled outwardly this time as a blush bloomed on the boy’s face, almost following Jimin’s lyrics. The purity of the boy’s reaction pleased Jimin, who had had his own fair share of bashful moments when star-struck by a singer. Taking a breath to sing the next line, Jimin instead found himself yelping into the microphone as he flinched back, a loud crash ringing through the restaurant and interrupting his performance.

He jumped up to see what had happened, worried that someone may have been hurt, and froze. The door had been flung open and in had swarmed a group of thuggish men dressed in dark colours and upending tables. Jimin felt his limbs lock in place in panic as the people in the restaurant screamed in fear, trying to run from the brutes that were pushing people to the floor and shouting god knows what in their faces. His ears seemed to ring as he watched the carnage, flinching violently when one of the only sounds that his brain managed to process was the sound of gunshots, one of the men shooting bullets into the ceiling to capture everyone’s attention.

Jimin jerked his head around to watch as the man sauntered forward. Jimin assumed that the man was the leader of the group from the way the other men immediately stopped their motions at his raised hand, and shivered. The man was tall, lean yet broad and seeming to hold power in every movement. His hair was fairly long, tied back into a messy bun, a dirty blond colour that belied his delinquent status. His eyes shook Jimin to the core, incredibly sharp and seeming to be analysing everything that was occurring in the room. His skin had a warm tone and a tan that told Jimin that the man spent a lot of time in the sun. He would have been in awe of the man’s charismatic aura at any other time but he couldn’t bring himself to coo over someone who was currently scanning the room for what Jimin assumed would be his victims.

A screech was heard behind him, and the next thing Jimin knew was pain as a hand gripped into his hair and yanked him backwards. Instinct taking over, he elbowed his attacker from behind, and pulled himself away, tripping over his own feet and stumbling down the rest of the stairs of the stage. He looked back to see the owner of the restaurant clutching his stomach in pain as he jumped off the stage and loomed over Jimin, grabbing the singer by his arm and forcing him to stand. Jimin’s mind raced, confusion evident on his face, as the owner dragged Jimin to stand in front of him.

His confusion was erased however when he looked up, to see the blond man staring at the pair, head cocked to the side like a puppy, and gun trained on them. Jimin whimpered in fear, the grip the owner had on his arm unrelenting and all the eyes in the restaurant trained on them in a way that Jimin did not enjoy.

‘S-stay back!’, Jimin heard the owner bellow from behind him, cringing slightly as he felt spittle shower the nape of his neck. He could feel the other man trembling as he held Jimin in front of him like a shield, slowly inching backwards and pulling Jimin with him. To be honest Jimin didn’t know why the man was bothering. He could tell, from the way that the blond man slowly took off the safety of the gun without moving his eyes from the retreating pair, that they would shoot through Jimin to get to the other man without a hint of regret.

The blond laughed, the sound harsh. ‘Stay back from what Hyungbin? Hmmm? From you?’, the man taunted, lithely stepping forward, gun steady in front of him. He faux-gasped, left hands coming out of his pocket to cover his mask-covered mouth, eyes widening behind his hair. ‘What are you gonna do bud, I stepped forward!’, he mocked, his laugh sounding entirely fake at Hyungbin’s spluttering. ‘You shouldn’t have tried to sell him out Hyungbin, you know we have eyes and ears everywhere’, the man scolded, and Jimin swallowed the bile that was rising up his throat. He didn’t envision making it out of the restaurant alive, not while being a body shield for someone who had apparently tried to rat out someone in a gang. An actual gang. He didn’t even know gangs were actually a real thing, not outside of movies.

He winced when he felt Hyungbin wind his fingers into his hair again and jerk his head back, forcing Jimin’s face up so that he was more visible to the blond man. He could feel the restaurant owner panting in fear and desperation behind him, and felt the bile rise again and Hyungbin began to bargain. ‘Look, the police chief was on my case, he knew that he likes to eat here. I had to tell him about his next reservation or I would have lost my restaurant… I knew that he’d would make it out alive, after all he’s the ‘best’ at making it out of tricky situations, right?’ Hyungbin babbled, tone getting a little scathing by the end.

The blond cocked his head to the side again, seeming perplexed by Hyungbin’s tone of voice. He was clearly unhappy with the disrespectful way in which the restaurant owner was speaking about him, whoever this mysterious ‘he’ was… Jimin felt shivers begin to run up and down his spine as he considered who this unnamed man was, that had such a large group under his rule, that had the man in front of him (that terrified so many people with his presence) loyal to him.

A scream tore its way out of Jimin’s mouth as a shot rang through the air, and he had to brace himself to stop from falling as Hyungbin buckled behind him, pulling on Jimin’s hair and arm as he almost fell. It took Jimin a second to realise that he wasn’t the only one screaming, the man behind holding him hostage screaming in agony.

‘Now now V, was there really any need for that’, the blond man chuckled, no actual disappointment in his voice. Jimin glanced at the man in question, who was lowering his gun to the floor, and watched him shrug. This man, V, was just as tall as the blond gangster, but definitely less rugged. He had longish silver hair that was framing his face, bottom half covered by a mask that was eerily similar to Kaneki’s from Tokyo Ghoul, and a long silver earring dangling from his left ear. From what Jimin could see behind the long fringe, V had large expressive eyes and a skin tone similar to the blond gangster.

‘The stupid bastard was shooting himself in the foot by running his mouth anyway, so I figured he didn’t need to be standing’, V explained, rubbing the back of his neck in an almost sheepish manner. Jimin jerked his head away from Hyungbin’s now weaker hold and stared down in horror at the blood that was pooling around his feet, blood that was seeping from the bullet wound in Hyungbin’s thigh. He felt the acrid burn of vomit rising in his throat as he whimpered in fear again, and swallowed back from puking on himself, not wanting to draw attention to how weak he was feeling – these men would not look upon weakness with respect.

The blond man shook his head almost fondly. ‘You’re too trigger-happy kid’, he chuckled, ‘you know he told you to be more careful when we go out… I don’t wanna get lectured again’. Jimin could hardly pay attention to the man’s words as he watched V run his hand through the hair of a boy that was on his knees in front of him. He felt his stomach lurch as he realised that the boy was the one he had been singing to earlier, his face contorted with terror as he looked up at the gangster, tear tracks marking his skin. The boy looked like he was ready to faint, and Jimin felt a ridiculous sense of relief and kinship knowing that he wasn’t the only person that was scared witless.

V looked up at the blond man and caressed the face of the crying boy in his clutches, index finger running almost lovingly up the boy’s cheek. ‘This one is pretty boss, can I take him? I know Kookie would love to play with him a bit before he dies’, the silver-haired man said nonchalantly, an innocent sounding giggle escaping his mouth at the thought and his large eyes crinkling into a sweet eye-smile that made Jimin second guess what he had heard, just for a second. His disorientated brain snapped to attention, however, when the captured boy wailed in fear and begged to be released, promising V various riches in return for his safety. Jimin winced in horror as V backhanded the boy across the face, sending him crashing to the floor, with a hissed ‘shut the fuck up, you spoilt little brat’.

The blond man allowed V to compose himself, before nodding at the man. ‘Collect up the people that you want to take along with us kid. I’ll see about getting Hyungbin to one of the warehouses, I’m sure Kookie would have the most fun… playing with him’, he said, measuring up the man behind Jimin.

‘F-fuck please’, Hyungbin groaned. ‘Please, don’t kill me please. I’ll give you anything’, he cried from behind Jimin. The singer could see the other people in the restaurant perk up, some pleading and crying the same thing to whichever man held them down on the floor, and felt like he was detached from his body. He didn’t know what was happening, everything seemed surreal. There was no way right? No way he was stuck in a restaurant with a gang threatening people’s lives… he was probably still in bed having a really vivid dream. He felt almost muggy, like he was seeing everything through a hazy filter, as he watched the blond man lift his hand to his chin, a speculative hum coming from him that seemed to vibrate in Jimin’s ear. Goosebumps rose on his skin at the look the man was giving him, shudders beginning to wrack his body, and only by sheer force of his will was he able to keep the tears in his eyes from spilling over.

The blond man leaned forward slightly. ‘What do you have to offer huh Hyungbin? We could buy anything in this restaurant ten times over’, he said softly.

‘B-but’, Hyungbin gasped behind Jimin, breath hitting his ear as the man grasped at straws, his mind trying to figure out a solution, when Jimin heard another shot burst through the air. The shock and volume of the shot made Jimin’s ears ring, the left side of his face splattered with blood, as Hyungbin’s body fell limp to the floor. The singer looked down almost dumbly at Hyungbin’s dead body, not comprehending the sight of the bullet hole in the other man’s forehead, nor what it would mean for him. He watched as blood spread around the man’s head, his glassy eyes reflecting the light of the chandelier above him, and tried to understand what was happening.

He jumped in shock when he felt a large palm cup his cheek, hot against his clammy skin, and looked up to see the blond man’s masked face just inches away from Jimin’s pale one.

‘You’re a cute little thing aren’t you’, the man murmured, ‘I think I’ll take you too’.