What Jimin didn’t expect from Ramyeon & Co was certainly this.He made sure to call the jam-packed restaurant yesterday afternoon to book a table for today and avoid the hassle of being turned down once he’d arrived because of too many customers and not enough space. Therefore, when he showed up about half an hour ago to a surprisingly empty restaurant only to be told by the hostess that it won’t be possible for him to get a table, Jimin’s first reaction had been to laugh. Really, there’s no way this isn’t a prank Jin put in place to make them both snicker. He probably thought that making him come to his empty restaurant and telling him that “unfortunately, there won’t be any table available for today, maybe try and come back tomorrow” would be a nice way to mock his never-ending habit of making reservations. He gets it, Jin’s always been a little more on the “young, wild and free” side thus not quite understanding why someone would even bother to plan or try to somehow organize having a meal at a friend’s place. Especially, he said, when that someone is as lovingly cute as Jimin.
Yes, Jimin’s face may be as irresistible as baby Ponyo’s, making the most cold-hearted strangers just wanna pinch his adorable cheeks and baby him and coo at how softy-mushy he looks like, his rosy lips and tiny button nose hardly indicating he’s, in fact, a fully independent and grown adult, perfectly able to take care of himself. “My little toodly doodly mochi, no one could ever say no to your precious little chubby cheeks and pouty face, you could ask for just about anything anywhere and there would be a horde of smitten people right at your feet in a matter of seconds, all ready to grant you a lifetime of wishes. You and me are unstoppable, he’d conclude with a wise nod of handsome features. The power of those faces, boy, it ain’t a joke. ” Except that Jimin isn’t a boy, thank you very much, he’s a 23 years old student majoring in art and a successful mukbang eater whose lives on AfreecaTV usually gather a few ten thousands viewers.
So yeah, even if these chubby cheeks of his might have played an (important) role in the building of his community, he still likes to pride himself in thinking that he wouldn’t be where he’s now without a little bit of organization and punctuality. But this time around apparently, booking and planning won’t be a help at all. The hostess, still looking awfully sorry, is trying her best in scheduling a new reservation later this week. Unfortunately for her, Jimin promised his viewers a live now and a live here and he isn’t keen on deceiving anyone, especially his ever-patient and loving supporters who buy his meals and cheer him up. Addressing a small bow to the young woman, he excuses himself and takes out his phone, tapping lightly on the lit screen before tucking it between his ear and shoulder.
“Jin-hyung, hi ! It’s Jimin. ”
“Oh, hey Jiminie darling, where are you ?”
“I’m at your restaurant.”
“Well, what are you waiting for ? Go in, don’t wait for me ! ”
“Well, that’s the thing. I’m already inside but your hostess told me that there wasn’t any table available for today. ”
“What do you mean ? It can’t be that packed already, it’s not even noon ye… Oh, crap ! Shit ! ”
“What, what, what happened ?”
“Fuck, I forgot it was today. Hold on, let me speak to her for a sec’. ”
“Yeah okay, just a minute…”
He approaches the desk once more, gesturing to his phone and bowing again before extending it to her.
“Sorry miss, Jin-hyung wanted to speak to you very quickly.”
Her eyes go wide for a while before she’s scrambling to reach for the phone, bowing profusely, suddenly worried she might have done something wrong. Jimin winces internally; it never was his intention to put the woman into trouble in the first place, even if he doesn’t know for sure she’s going to get scolded.
“Yeoboseyo ? Yes, Kim-ssi… What day we’re today ? The 28th, sir… Yes, it is today… No, everything’s ready like you ordered two weeks ago… No, I didn’t let any customers in; you specified it would be better if… Yes… No, they haven’t arrived yet… They’ve mentioned twelve o’clock, sir, they should be here soon… Yes, okay, I understand. ” Her gaze flickers towards Jimin’s back, staring at the frames clutched on the walls. “ Alright sir, we will prepare a table for him. Have a nice day, yes, good bye. ”
She hangs up and turns to face him, features composed and smile inviting him inside. Jimin quickly takes back the device and carry his small backpack along with him, stopping in front of the empty dining room, the shine of clean glasses and silver chopsticks reverberating into the darkness. The windows are covered with half-downed stores, dimming the chairs in an early dusk-like atmosphere, enhancing the stillness of the deserted place. He’s so enthralled by the oddly fascinating view in front of him that he doesn’t hear the hostess approaching and jumps when she closes a hand around his elbow.
“Excuse me sir. Your table will be ready upstairs, she announces, signalling him to follow her. ”
The hostess, whose name he still didn’t get, leads him towards a small staircase hidden behind a yellowish and heavy curtain, seemingly soft but very rug at the touch he discovers. The air permeating the fly of stairs is almost stale, contrasting with the aura of cleanliness running everywhere around the ground floor of the restaurant.
“You must forgive us Park-ssi, the young woman begins, it has been quite some time since we’ve received any special guests upstairs. The food will certainly be delicious, but the rooms may need some fresh air. I hope you won’t hold it against us and enjoy your meal all the same, she finishes, small smile plastered on her lips. ”
Jimin, still unused to someone so close to his own age calling him “Park-ssi”, acknowledges the hostess’s words with a reassuring dip of his head and diverts his attention back on the narrow and old stairs beneath his feet. Who knew such a modern-looking place as Ramyeon & Co, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, could house an entire century-old like wing behind its irreproachable service and stronger-than-steel reputation. Hm. Not him obviously.
The first floor of Jin’s restaurant reveals itself to be a long and slim corridor shadowed by what appears to be traditional private booths on both sides. Each room can only be entered by a sliding door made of a double layer of rice paper, each layer divided by thin stretches of light-toned wood. There are at least, Jimin notes, seven rooms on each side of the corridor which makes, if he’s not mistaken, fourteen rooms in total on this floor. Swinging his head to the right, he notices the staircase going on, its steps climbing onto one another in order to reach a second floor. It looked like Jin almost owned an entire building on his own and the thought alone made his spirit erupts in strange shivers. Since when did his restaurant expand that much ? The man was full of secrets.
The woman stops in front of the third room on the right, kneeling on the floor to slide the fluttering door open, then proceeding to gesture for Jimin to come in, polite smile still etched on her features. Clutching his Totoro key-ring tightly in his round and plump fist, the chubby boy marches into the room, allowing himself a few moments to take in the inside. The place is more spacious than he made it to be while outside, sober design adorning the wallpaper and comfortable cushions spread on the floor, all around a sleek-looking table made of a lacquered-black wood. He glances around, just enough to notice the lack of window and the smoothly repetitive movement of a fan hanging from the ceiling.
“Please make yourself comfortable, Park-ssi, I will bring you tea right away, says the hostess. Kim-ssi already informed me that you’ve ordered a challenge-ramyeon menu, it should be ready in about twenty minutes. If you need anything, just ring the small bell on your left and I will come up right away; there’s also a bathroom on this floor, so you don’t have to bother coming down if you need to go. Oh, there is also one last thing, Kim-ssi told me to recommend you not to turn on the lights in the room, says he will explain to you once he gets here. ”
“Really ?” What kind of funky request is that ? “Did he maybe mention when he would arrive ?” Jimin asks, a puzzled look invading his usual pout.
“I’m sorry Park-ssi but he hasn’t. However, I’m sure he won’t be too long, so you don’t have to worry too much. Now please excuse me. I will bring you tea. ”
The woman retreats from the room, closing quietly the rice-paper panels. In the absolute silence of the first level, Jimin can hear the padding sound of her feet walking away. An unsettling feeling begins to creep in the air surrounding him. Jimin won’t lie to himself; this whole situation is weird. First of all, what kind of guest is special enough for Jin to shut down the entirety of his restaurant (which is coincidentally, one of the most well-known and busiest restaurants of all Daegu) on a week-day? At this point, Jimin isn’t even mad anymore that Jin forgot to tell him beforehand things were going to get a bit spooky today, he’s just real fucking curious. What kind of special guest needs a restaurant-sized shut-down just to eat in the dirtiest, most unkempt part of said restaurant (and apparently force him to eat there too) ? What kind of logic is that ? And the fact that he can’t even turn on the lights… Sure, the bulb in the corridor is enough to keep things somewhat clear in the room but still… The more he thinks about it, the more it creeps him out.
See, his imagination has always ran a little on the wild side so it’s almost easy for him now to envision the worst-case scenarios happening ; to quote a few (only the best he’s came up with until now, of course), it involves being kidnapped by the restaurant’s cook who’d also be an infamous serial killer, trying to open the door only to discover he’d been locked up and that his room is, in fact, just an enormous squared-sized box that’s being moved and shipped on a pirate vessel, and let’s not forget the latest fantasy his mind seems to take a peculiar fancy in, being held hostage by a blood-thirsty group of hitmen. He’s day-dreaming (or more likely day-nighmaring) about the best way to escape his barbarous abductors when the woman returns, a trail of jasmine tea hot in her hands.
“Here is your tea, sir. The dishes will be up in about fifteen minutes. ”
Her voice is clear and she’s keeping the informative to a strict minimum, like any professional should. Nothing in her tone or posture indicates anything about a potential kidnapping or hostage taking.
Jimin returns her smile, albeit more tightly, still thinking about those hitmen, and brew himself a cup of the hot beverage before beginning to unpack the content of his backpack. His grey Totoro bag he bought when he went to Japan a few months ago to watch the cherry tree blossom, contains exactly what he needs in order to record live sessions outside his apartment. A hand-sized camera in a baby blue pouch with its camera holder and battery, his favourite set of chopsticks which he, by now, almost considers as his personal favourite lucky-charm, his earphones, and a half-eaten bag of Reese's just because. After setting up his camera and adjusting the last details before having to press on the “play live” button, the uneasiness he felt slowly start to drift away, familiar concerns that go on about the quality of the lighting (which is almost inexistent), the angling of the camera, and so on and so forth, taking over any other preoccupations that have been bugging his mind during the last ten minutes.
Just as he’s greeting his first viewers, a solar grin lighting his face, a small sound makes him momentarily pause, head whipping to the side.
Someone’s climbing the rusty old stairs leading to his floor, and he’d bet his bottom dollar that’s the special guest the hostess talked about. Speaking of which, it’s already been twenty minutes and she’s nowhere to be found. Call him paranoid but the anxiety is sneaking back on him.
Hasn’t she said she’d be here in fifteen ? And… is that a group of men I’m hearing ? Oh my God. Don’t tell me the hitmen were real after all. God, I can’t even pretend I’m not here, I’ve already started the live, they’ll hear me for sure… Is that why Jin told me to keep the light out ? Jesus Christ- okay, let’s not loose it up to panic here. Deep breaths… Everything’s going to be fine. The hostess will be back, with my challenge meal ; Jin will arrive soon, and those men are probably here for the same thing as me, meaning the food. They certainly aren’t some type of coordinated hitmen set here to hunt you, they don’t even know you for God’s sake, plus you probably haven’t ever done anything remotely worth of their interest in your whole life and anterior lives combined. Hear me ? You’re safe, YOU’RE SAFE, you stupidly anxious chubby-cheeked idiot.
Turns out, he isn’t.
He believed he was for a little while. Five minutes after his intern-panicking session, the hostess came back with his dishes and the timer. Twenty minutes to finish a giant bowl of ramyeon with extra toppings and a portion of kimchi-fried rice to down it all. In Jiminie language, it means easily doable. The newly-found confidence prompts him to continue on with his live, answer a few of his viewers’ questions while waiting for the ramyeon broth to cool down a little, a mere precaution taken before scarfing down a pound and a half of noodles and meat. Which he does. Or well, he did, now that the two bowls are empty and the timer flashes him four red angry numbers, clearly pissed off he managed to finish it all within ten minutes. Jimin sighs contentedly. He can’t really help it ; he was blessed with one clear ability at birth, and that is engulfing whatever amount of food available nearby in the shortest span of time. He’s a king in this field. No one’s ever beaten him, no one, not even Jin and the guy has a pretty decent stomach. Needless to say, his never-ending love and desire for anything edible is his and his chubby cheeks’ pride. Their own little baby.
He ends up wrapping up the live, promising his viewers to be back quickly before waving at the camera and turning it off. The live was quite productive, ten or fifteen of his followers dropping virtual balloon packages which he estimates will pay about half of his rent this month. The money is decent and the viewers were lovely, as usual, complimenting him on his work, praising his looks. No matter how many times he’d hear about how squishy his little body and cheeks seem, how adorable his smile is, how peculiarly cute he looks like, Jimin will never get enough of it. Call him a praise sucker, but for someone who grew up being completely ignored or worse, bullied because of his chubbiness, every nice word wakes in him an eternity of gratefulness and love he never got to show before. Jin always told him he was a hidden gem puberty managed to dig out. Like many before, that certain period of life transformed him into a final product whose charm no one ever suspected. Puberty didn’t shed any of his original weight, just gave him that little push, that small sparkle which ignited his own unique attractiveness, effectively shutting down the bad-mouthing and bullying for a while. At least, until they discovered Jimin liked boys and everything threaten to go back the way it was before. Unless, he decided to move first for once and forestall all those fuckers.
He was going to turn eighteen and he left Busan without a single regret in mind. He started college in Daegu, mingled with sane people who didn’t give a fuck about his weight or his sexuality for the simple reason that it was his own personal business, met Jin at his uni’s coffee shop and to prevent them from falling into cliché some more, they didn’t fall in love like they probably would have done if they were the starring characters in some dopey romantic story, nor did they ever hid the mutual attraction they felt towards one another. “That’s because we’re soulmates, darling”. And soulmates they really were.
Jin found him first, praised him first, sticked with him first. He brought out the sass buried deep in the core of his personality, gave him confidence in his looks, in his desires, in his beliefs.
Jin was his first kiss and his first heartbreak, but most importantly he held him through it all, made him see, made him understand that it’s okay sometimes when everything isn’t all black or all white, all pink or all blue, and that the purple blending out of it is just a proof of their love, of their affection and doesn’t need any label whatsoever.
Jin is his best friend, his unrequited love, the missing part of his soul. And Jimin learned to let it flow, to let it come, mostly to let it go, to let himself have what strangely tasted like life and what he never encountered in eighteen years of surviving. Five years later and he’s still as grateful and awed as he was the first time he saw Jin’s smile, behind the little counter of the coffee shop, when he thought it was the stars aligning together and the romantic fate of every moving scenario he ever cried on and all that stuff he believed was never coming for him that let them meet so perfectly.
Jin left Jimin in college, opened his own restaurant because he was getting tired of his boss who would always know better than everyone how to make coffee, even if his own coffee tasted like shit ; he wanted the independence, the feeling of freedom, a bit scary, a gram dizzying, that came with the knowledge of being his own master. He wanted ramyeon for his place because of a private joke he shared with Jimin, never expected people to actually like it that much, to like it more than his jokes. Jimin went to the opening night, when the word hasn't spread out on the streets yet, when the place was still quiet, peaceful. He’s never gone back until today, and it seems that everytime Jimin sets foot in Jin’s restaurant, the tranquillity remains, bringing him back to that first night when Jin was still free enough to lean over the counter and talk to him, to send him small texts that would make him bark out a laugh around a mouthful of noodles, when he still had time for them.
Jimin started his channel when it began clear he wasn’t anyone’s priority anymore. Instead of moping around and resenting the one he loved most because of it, he simply shrugged and decided to come up with his own. “If you can’t lessen the pain, at least lessen the time wasted because of it” is what became his motto, and his motto helped him build what he’s most proud about. His first mukbangs were exclusively sugar-based; dessert mukbangs were quite rare at the time and his popularity grew rather fast because of this. He tried his best in coordinating the whole aesthetic of his channel with the little experience he’s got from running the official journal in high school. Something sweet, preferably as sweet as what he’s eating, with loads and loads of cute emojis and sky pictures that somehow always manage to make him nostalgic.
“mochimoshi” made his debuts on October the 4th 2015 with exactly two uploaded videos, zero following, zero followers. On November the 4th, the channel already showed ten uploaded videos, zero following, two hundred and thirty-four followers. By the time snow fell that year, he’d long since reached the thousand of subscribers. That Christmas had been the first one he’d spend without his family and the familiar outline of Busan landscape ; in fact, it would be the first one he’d spend alone ; Jin was busy with his restaurant ; he made a special live ; filmed himself gulping down a five-course Christmas dinner for two, thanked his viewers, sent his greetings for the new year with a blinding smile and eyes so crunched he could see stars, put on The Notebook and pretended it was the movie that made him cry.
2019 and he still put on The Notebook everytime he tries to convince himself he’s fine and his eyes just won’t cooperate.
2019 and the most crucial parts of his body won’t cooperate.
2019 and his fucking bladder still won’t cooperate. Which explains why he ends up looming in the corridor, flicking bulb on the ceiling not helping at all in his search for the restroom. He just drank a pint or two of broth in a ten-minutes span, the soup being salty also meaning he’s downed half a litre of jasmine tea to quench his thirst afterwards. Don’t get him wrong, the broth was delicious, probably one of the best he’d get to savour during all his time in Daegu, but the bladder wasn’t ready for this, clearly panicked because it’s his bladder and of course it has to get anxious everytime something remotely unplanned happens, just like him, and therefore, he’s now definitely prancing around the narrow space looking for relief because she said there was a toilet on this floor. Spoiler alert : he doesn’t find any. Which is infuriating because at this point he’d be ready to pee into anything that vaguely resembles a toilet bowl. Now now, everyone, our Jiminie stays a civilized human-being and he will pee in a restroom, where he has access to a flush, toilet paper, and dignity, and that is the reason why he’s standing on the stairs leading to the second floor, internally conflicted by his choice because he’s practically sure the hitmen are all located there, he heard them go up not twenty minutes prior, but then his frightening imagination also makes him wanna pee twice as more.
Which is bad.
It’s real bad, he thinks because there’s no way he’s going to get away with a bladder that full. That does the trick and prompts him forward.
He waddles up the stairs, head and hands securely tucked inside his over-sized lilac sweater from where he scans the remaining steps warily, small downturned pout decidedly more cautious and bringing out the roundness of his cheeks even more. Jiminie, event in his worst moments, couldn’t be close to anything less than adorable, and that’s a fact. The seemingly never-ending stairs do end however, and the first thing his eyes are blessed with when they merge from behind the fluffiness of his sweater are the holy and miraculous sign : RESTROOM. He never believed in God, but he might reconsider after all.
With a little huff, he makes his way down on the right and opens the wooden door… only to discover there’s already someone occupying a urinal. Well… That’s okay, Jimin can manage, they’re between men after all. It’s not like he’s caught the other in some compromising position (that has happened before that’s why he has to clarify) so, really, everything’s fine. Everything should be fine.
Except that the other is ogling him like his presence in the restroom is the weirdest freaking thing he’s ever seen all day, and oh ! also, the face of the stranger appears somehow familiar. Where the fuck did he see him ? It can’t be in another restroom can it ? ‘Cause that would make them restroom buddies or something ? Looks like restroom buddy is pretty well-off. Dear Lord, is that a freaking Rolex on his wrist ? He’s going to have to interrogate Jin about that. He can already see how it’s gonna go. Hey Jin ! Is anyone of your special customers a weird, loaded as fuck dude who won’t stop staring at strangers taking a pee in restaurants’ bathrooms ? Yeah ? OK, cool man. No, just wondering if it’s a common thing for your guests to eye every stranger like they’ve just came out of their chimney naked.
So yeah, pretty quickly, the atmosphere between them turns awfully awkward what with a blatant staring from the man who’s, by the way, still doing his business while scanning Jimin like he grew a second nose or whatever, and sneaky embarrassed glances from Jimin, because why the heck does he has the persistent impression he’s already seen the man somewhere ? The air turns quite stiff. They’re peeing at opposite ends and Jimin’s trying not to get bothered by the incredulous gawking, but hey ! he’s not gonna pretend it doesn’t bother him and ends up shaking his head at the stranger in a “what the fuck do you want” manner, making the man look away for a second with a quizzical look before looking back at him like he can’t believe what he’s seeing, and the nerve of this dude, Jimin can’t believe it. Is his presence really that shocking ? Man, he can’t deal with guys like this.
With an irritated sigh, Jimin hastily washes his hands and dry them with a paper towel before throwing it into the bin and making his way out towards the door. He’s turning the doorknob when the stranger finally speaks up, making him pause in his steps.
“Wait ! … You can’t go out. ”
The tone is low, smooth and melodious, and Jimin is a hundred-percent sure he’s already heard it somewhere, but then the words sink in along with the irritation that’s been bubbling for the past five minutes and he levels the man with an unimpressed glare.
“And why the fuck is that ?”
“You just… can’t. ”
Wow. Pleasant and smart.
“Huh. Watch me. ” And just to prove his point, he twists the knob and sends the door flying in front of him.
The first thing his brain registers is the insanely hot individual marching towards him, or well towards the bathroom, but he’s in the way.
He’s gonna drop those pants.
His voice isn’t velvety, silky or whatever smoothie you make out of voices which belong to men like the one he left in the bathroom. His voice is gritty, coarse, harsh, looks like rough love, smells like nasty pinning, and feels like raw sex. The type that would make Jimin feel weak in the knees while simultaneously buffing up his rebellious side. The type that would make you wanna scream Yes ! and fight against it with all your will, the one you’ll want to beg for more but end up provoking just to taste the feeling of your own limits. In one word, everyone’s wet dream and Jimin’s ideal type. For freak sake, Jimin, get a grip !
The second thing his hazy mind takes note of, is the gun clutched between the long, pale hands of Hot Guy, waved around like it was the sixth finger of his palm and not at all a deathly instrument made for the sole purpose of murdering people.
The last thing Jimin remarks before everything stills around him is the corpse peaking out from behind the rice panel of one of the rooms. Said rice panel is drenched with blood. At the exact moment his eyes widen from realization (Dear Jesus, there’s a dead guy not twenty meters away from him !), Hot Guy, now said The Dangerous One, finally notices Jimin’s frame in front of him, and stops dead in his tracks, gun still fuming from his previous activities.
There’s a pause.
It’s almost comical, the way Hot Guy’s eyes expand until his eyebrows disappear behind his fringe. Jimin can relate to these eyebrows ; he kinda wanna disappear too. His mind stops functioning but luckily for him, he’s got excellent prey instincts.
The second he lurches for the steps ( no no, dear reader, there’s no terrified screams, no dramatic crying over how he got wind up in this situation (he saves it for later) just pure survival impulse), everything falls back into motion. He hears Hot Guy barking some orders to Toilet Dude who finally got it together it seems, both beginning to course poor Jiminie in the old cramped stinky staircase, the absolutely panicked tapping of Jimin’s trainers hunted by the furious clacking of the two men’s boots. What’s even worse is that Hot Guy seems to gather every single one of the men he brought with him, shouting things like “Don’t let him get out of this place alive ! ” that frankly is diminishing his life expectancy by entire years just hearing it. He’s sliding down the railing, almost falling on his knees as he reaches the first floor, glance flicking towards the booth where he’s eaten and Shit ! His stuff ! He’s never going to get it back, but he’s got no time, not when Toilet Dude almost grabbed him by the hood of his sweater, and Oh my God, why is there so many hitmen gathered in one place !
He can see Toilet Dude reaching out in the pocket of his blue suit, pulling out a… Is that a gun ?! But the guy doesn’t shoot, the staircase far too narrow for this, not even large enough for two men to stand in front. They’re all filing down the stairs, Jimin on top with a dangerously close Toilet Dude just behind and the crisp black suit of Hot Guy lining after them, guiding the rest of his super-trained, murderous-looking men in their steps. The whole thing is a mess, shoulders bumping into the wall, feet just kicking each other at this point and hands frantically clutching the railing while coming down to avoid tripping in the stairs and cracking his skull on the bottom of the steps. He’s still trying to get out of this alive and in one piece. Toilet Dude nearly yanked his hair back while simultaneously trying to knock the life out of him with the grip of his gun. Okay, so just alive is fine.
You may wonder how little Jiminie here who always scored last in all his P.E tests at school managed to escape the hands of Death with legs as small as his, but let me tell you that fear’s got our man flying. He’s never run so fast ; hell, he even jumped down the last steps leading to ground floor, quarter of seconds before the hitmen troop barged through the yellow curtain, hot on his trail.
“Jungkook ! You go get him ! ”
Footsteps quicken even more. Jimin’s vision is practically blurred by sweat, his lungs contracting painfully under the sudden effort, and his legs… His thighs are burning, no kidding, but finally, here it is, the front door. He’s almost there, he can brush the knob, just twist it and…
The man in the black suit stops abruptly, his feet swiftly halting in the middle of the hall. His men behind freeze as well.