The mermaid was tangled in the fishing net. At first, Jungkook wouldn't even notice it, the dirty greyish brown of its skin dissolving into the dark, long tail twisted inside the net making him almost invisible.
The creature isn't moving except occasional flinches of its fin, the almost human torso turned away from the young man. Its back is covered vertically with long spines, from the end of its neck down to the middle of the lower back. The skin looks smooth, but the tail is rough, dark and knobbly, without any scales.
Jungkook's fingers twitch with the need to touch. His legs are buzzing with suppressed adrenaline and he makes a step forwards, watching the creature in front of him carefully, catching on every little move it does.
He notices its chest rising in little, unsteady jerks and Jungkook panics for a second, thinking that the creature can't breathe. But it would probably toss around a lot more if it didn't have oxygen.
Its hair is long, dark brown, with a hint of copper in it, dowdy and unkempt and jungkook swears he can see something moving in it when he comes close enough. Hovering above the creature, he examines its human face.
Its eyes are open.
Jungkook almost jumps in his place.
The creature doesn't move an inch as it keeps staring with its big, almost silver pupils into nothing in front of them.
The smooth skin of its cheeks looks almost like jelly and has three dark brown, wide scars across it, its lips are chapped, slightly open and leaving shaky breaths.
Its pupils dart towards Jungkook.
He lets out a startled yelp, stumbling away and the mermaid lunches around, its hand grabbing Jungkook's ankle, claw-like nails digging into his skin. The contact is sticky and the pain sharp. The creature opens its mouth, ready to bite and Jungkook is being pulled away from its grasp by one of the fishermen, the creature's nails leaving long, bleeding wounds on his skin. The man lowers Jungkook on the ground a few metres away from the creature, moving in front of him and asking something.
But Jungkook doesn't see or hear him. His eyes are trained at the merman in front of him, who now reaches out again, its hand searching for him on the wooden floor, inhuman screech coming from its lips, grey eyes wide open, staring somewhere behind Jungkook.
The scream of the creature is piercing his ears, again and again as the merman scraps with its nails against the deck, arms moving convulsively around. Its jaws open way too much to Jungkook's comfortability, the smooth skin of its cheeks stretching widely. Its teeth are long, thin and almost translucent.
Violently it tosses around in the fishing net and few other fishermen jump closer with y-shaped poles, pinning the creature down on its stomach by its neck, arms, waist and tail. It struggles against the metal bars which keep it on the wooden floor but doesn't have enough power to shake them off, especially when it's still tangled in the rough fishing net.
Jungkook's heart is beating loudly, echoing in his ears as he stares in front of him, still sitting on his ass on the deck like a small child.
This is wrong.
Mermaids were supposed to be beautiful, mesmerizing, their tails covered with shiny, multicoloured scales, their skin smooth and tanned, their faces like dolls', like the ones of gods and angels.
This creature in front of him is nothing like the beauties from fairy tales and it's nothing like the seductive sirens from myths.
This thing was wrong.
Too dirty, too ugly, too violent.
It takes Jungkook a few seconds to focus on the man, who is wrapping his calf in a bandage. There is a smell of disinfection and Jungkook waits for his heart to calm down.
"We should take you to the hospital, sir. We don't know what... that thing could infect you with."
"I don't want to."
"Is the tank still here?"
"It is, sir, but-"
"I don't want to hear anything from you. Get the mermaid in the tank and move it to my place. Then I will give you the money and your job will be done here."
"... Yes, sir."
Now, when the merman can't move, Jungkook stands up, dusts off his shorts and walks closer to the creature. It whips its head at the sounds of wood creaking under his boots, and its grey eyes are darting around as if searching for something.
Jungkook feels a freeze going down his spine. The creature strains its neck, staring at Jungkook's feet, its hands clenching and unclenching by each side of its head, tail flinching with each of the man's steps. Jungkook watches the exposed side of its face, gaze continuing down the toned light brown back and to the dark fin.
Jungkook scrunches his nose up in disgust.
But it's better than nothing.
~ . ~
Jungkook has been planning this, for years. Ever since he learned how to read and searched through his dad's giant library for fairy tales.
He knew mermaids were real.
He knew it.
A few years later, Jungkook told his parents he's going to catch a mermaid. They laughed it off as a fantasy of a ten years old and continued to talk about the plans for Jungkook's future, what high school should they choose for him, what college will he have to apply to before he takes over his dad's business. And Jungkook continued to munch on his meal, sealing out the noises and thinking about the red-haired lady from his favourite tale.
Twelve years old Jungkook got yet another home teacher when the last one showed too much interest in Jungkook's rants about the beautiful mere people. His parents didn't say anything about why they fired the man, but the boy didn't have to think about it for long. His new teacher was strict, and no fun for a curious boy who would rather spend his afternoon at the beach, then by learning about Europe and its countries.
Fifteen years old Jungkook showed yet no interest in girls or cared about his peers in general. He preferred to occupy one of the painfully slow computers in the local library, reading tales, myths, watching videos with click bait titles that left him always so unsatisfied and incomplete, when all the 'mermaids' were visibly fake, just like his grandmother's pearl white teeth.
Then Jungkook started high school and loads of study material kept him completely distracted from his beloved merpeople. Jungkook almost forgot about his obsession for the hard, busy four years of high school. By the time he graduated with perfects grades, just how his parents wanted, Jungkook demanded to live alone. And his parents were happy to grant his wish. His study result made them proud and since his childlike theories were all gone by now, they had nothing to worry about when they hired a few architects, who, under Jungkook's delicate command, designed a perfect villa they started immediately working on.
Yes. Jungkook's family was rich.
They could afford to build an own house for their only son, near the beach just an hour away from their family house. It took half a year before Jungkook packed most of his things and bid goodbyes to his parents.
His house was big. All white, floors made of marble. Living room spread through two floors, beautiful chandelier hanging above a low coffee table in the middle of the room. There was a wide leather sofa facing it. But the most dominating thing in the room was the large fish tank built into the wall across the sofa.
It was empty, so far, except a layer of sand and few rocks.
Jungkook hired a professional fishing boat in the harbour by the beach, giving easy instructions.
"Find me a mermaid."
He paid for the most expensive equipment and gave a rather high salary with hopes, that they'll be able to find something.
Jungkook spent another four years of his life studying at college. Perfect grades, few slip ups with beautiful girls whose calls Jungkook never picked up after.
His parents were satisfied and let him live his life until his dad gets into a state, where there will be a need for a new head of the company.
And Jungkook spent two years travelling around the world, collecting myths and tales. Beginning with giant fish with human's face from Japan, following by "water spirit" called Mami Wata from Africa or Brazil's green-eyed Iara who enjoys lurking sailors under the water so they can become her lovers. Jungkook was collecting folklore, writing down stories that had been passed generation to generation for how many years and he would never public any of them. Instead, he hoarded all of those books up in his personal library in the first floor of his big, empty white house.
It was Jungkook's passion. He knew that this, all of his research had a purpose. And now, today, he finally saw that his endless belief in those creatures paid off.
The young man sat at his large sofa and with his elbows against his knees and fingertips joined under his chin, he watched the enormous fish tank in front of him being filled with water. It was at least 22 feet tall, the glass unbreakable and perfectly clean and Jungkook could see every little bubble in the clear water.
His merman was currently in a smaller tank by the right side of his sofa and Jungkook had yet to make some choices before he let the workers move the merman into the large tank. He had many hours before the tank would be full. Everything had to be perfect.
Jungkook refocused on the merman, that was literally squeezed in the small tank, long tail wrapped around its body. The fishermen had to shoot it a sleeping syringe to calm it down. Nobody wanted to let go of it and embrace their innocent legs to the merman's deadly teeth.
Now, the creature was lying calmly in the water on its side, hands pushed under his cheek as if he was a sleeping child. It looked harmless like this, with none of his teeth visible, with the long claws hidden under his head. Jungkook stands up from the sofa and walks to the tank, ducking down next to it.
The merman is ugly. Jungkook knew that already and when he sees the creature up close like this with a face almost glued to the glass, nothing changes. Its skin stays the dirty brown colour, full of scars of various sizes and shapes. Its left ear is pierced with a rustic wire.
The human torso is perfectly toned thought maybe a little too skinny to be healthy and Jungkook almost feels ashamed for the barely visible abs under his shirt. There are gills on the merman's hips, opening and closing softly, his chest with the ribs sticking out unmoving. Its arms look strong, its waist is slim, hips a little wider, the smooth skin transforming into a rough looking tail. The large fin at the end looks like the traditional Japanese fan and is vertical, not horizontal like the mermaid in fairy tales had.
Moving his eyes back to the creature's human face, Jungkook almost gets a heart attack when he sees its grey eyes staring at him silently. But the merman isn't watching him. Its hands are moving, feeling the glass block around him and its pupils don't even flinch towards Jungkook when the man lifts his hand and waves in front of the merman's face.
The creature is blind.
To confirm Jungkook's theory, the man taps softly the top of the tank and the merman inside harshly flinches, head turning towards the source of the sound, hands coming up to grab on it. And now Jungkook notices the thin thing growing out of the merman's nape which ends with a small bulb.
It's an angler fish. The merman is an angler fish.
Now, it makes sense why is the merman so ugly. But it doesn't change the fact, that Jungkook really hates to look at it for more than few seconds. The merman starts scraping against the glass, its claws leaving tiny marks and Jungkook rests his palm against the top of the tank, caressing the glass.
"Don't worry. I will have someone to make you pretty."
Now the merman jerks its head again, straight to Jungkook's face this time. And even when Jungkook just made sure that the creature can't see him, he feels like the grey eyes are staring right into his soul.
The male stands up, his knees cracking and the merman visibly panics inside the little tank, banging against the glass with its open palms. Jungkook doesn't know if mermaids can feel emotions like people, but he read some studies that demonstrated that fish can feel emotional pain. Jungkook wonders, if the creature looks scared, or if it's just his mind playing tricks on him.
Jungkook withdraws his smartphone from the pocket of his shorts and dials the only number, that he calls more often than his mother's.
"Ah, Jungkookie, how are you? Still on your mermaid hunt?"
Jungkook isn't surprised by the lack of greetings. Kim Taehyung wasn't the politest person when talking to his friends. He and Jungkook met in the Germany. Jungkook found the older man annoying and wanted to get rid of him, but Taehyung thought it was a fate that brought two Korean men together in a European country and refused to let go of him even for a split of a second.
"Not anymore. Are you in Korea?"
"Ooh? How so? You were so obsessed with your merpeople for how long, twenty years? But I am in Korea, for a few days. Want me to stop by?"
"Yeah. Come to see me, Taetae-hyung, you can stay at my house for a few days. And bring your magic briefcase."
"Do you want a makeover? Will you finally let me cut that horrible hair of yours?"
"No and no. But I have an interesting job for you to do. When can you come?"
A shuffling of paper, probably Taehyung's notebook.
"Wait a minute," Taehyung probably sits behind his laptop, his typing on the keyboard audible in the phone. Jungkook darts with his gaze towards the merman. It's staring at him with those dull eyes, both of its hands pressed against the glass.
"Mm, is it urgent?"
"Pretty much, yes," Jungkook looks away from the merman. Its gaze is making him nervous.
"I can be there in four hours."
Jungkook lets out a frustrated huff: "That's too long. Pack your things, I will have my driver pick you up. Send me your address. See you later, hyung."
The man cancels the call, walking back to the tank. He sends a text with Taehyung's address to his driver, telling him to pick up a really weird guy with some crazy ass coloured hair.
An hour passes by slowly. Jungkook is staring into his phone, the only sounds in the silent room the water pouring into the giant tank in front of him. Until the merman starts banging on the glass. Jungkook ignores it at first, but then he hears a strangled scream. The man's eyes snap to the side and see the merman hitting the inside of the tank, mouth opening as if was gasping for air.
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Jungkook jumps over the tank on the other side of it (his calf protests at that action), falling down on his knees to the opening of the tank. He is probably going to die because the merman bites his head off (which is highly possible to the fact that the scars on its cheek weren't scars, but things that let him open his mouth really wide).
The man unlocks the heavy metal lock and the cover swings open in the next second with another of the merman's push. His body lunges up in almost sitting position, but his skeleton isn't made for sitting on his tail which results in falling under the water again.
Jungkook's head is a mess. The merman doesn't know anything about people or their things or the fact that he should grab on the sides of the tank to hold himself up and he can't even see and so the man reaches inside the tank without a second thought, grabbing the merman under his arms and pulling him up so his head leans against the edge of the tank, letting him breathe freely.
The heart is hammering against Jungkook's chest, pumping adrenaline through his veins. The body he tries to hold up is slick and begins to slip from Jungkook's hold and he wants to let go of the creature, the weird cold wetness rising goose bumps along his skin. Instinctively, he pulls his hands away, but the merman pushes its tail against the corners of the tank and moves his body up, its hands coming to grab Jungkook's wrist to not fall under the water again.
The young man is terrified beyond belief. The merman's face is too close to his, the salty smell wrapping around Jungkook, sharp teeth just inches away from his too fragile human skin. Now Jungkook notices the small hermit crabs shuffling in the brown locks and few of them fall to the marble flooring and on Jungkook's shorts. But that's the smallest of his problems right now.
Shit, he should've thought about this sooner. Of course, the oxygen would run out in the small, cramped tank. The man just didn't think it would be this soon. But what does he do in this moment, when the creature is holding onto him for its dear life and even if Jungkook wanted to pull away, he would risk the merman would bite him, or slash his veins with its nails.
The merman snaps its head to the left, towards the entrance door. Jungkook tenses at first, praying to all gods to not die so horribly by having his arm torn off, then notices the muffled voices coming from the hallway. His driver. And Taehyung. Taehyung and his loud greeting that could cost Jungkook his life now.
Jungkook closes his eyes tightly for a second before he takes a deep breath and opens his mouth.
The merman flinches in his hold but doesn't look like he wants to attack the human, who glances at it shortly, then turns his head towards the door again. The steps in the hallway increase its speed before the door slams open.
"Pleasedon'tscream," Jungkook whimpers weakly and the fear probably showed on his face too, because Taehyung's wide smile falters, mouth hung open without a word.
"What the- what the fuckity fuck-" Taehyung looks almost funny, standing in the door way, eyes wide as golf balls as he stares at Jungkook, then glances at the merman in the tank and back at Jungkook.
"Don't scream and close the door. Quietly," the man tries really hard to keep his voice calm as if he wasn't holding up a timed bomb in his arms. Taehyung, surprisingly, does just as he is said and shuffles closer to Jungkook and his tank, eyes trained on the merman, who's gaze follows his feet with every step he takes.
"Yes, it is what you think and I think it might kill me if I make it angry, so don't do any crazy shit like you always do."
Taehyung doesn't even look offended as he comes closer, stopping six feet away.
"Ugly?" Jungkook asks and Taehyung frowns.
"I wanted to say it's scary, but yeah, you're right."
"It's an angler fish. You know, those fish that live deep in the ocean and has the light bulb."
"The one from Finding Nemo?"
"Why are you hugging it?"
"I am not hugging it. I am holding it up because it has no ass to sit on and the oxygen is not in the wat-"
Taehyung's eyes suddenly widen and he points below Jungkook and the younger man turns his head towards the merman again. And if its face was close before, now Jungkook has his teeth almost in his face. Its mouth was slightly open, the whole body tensed, prepared to bite his head off as if it was just waiting for the right moment, tail searching support on the other side of the glass tank.
Jungkook lets go of the creature with an unmanly scream, falling on his ass on the floor and crawling away from the tank. The merman turns around, using its tail to push himself out of the tank and chase after Jungkook with its slippery arms, nails clacking against the marble. The upper half of the merman's body is now out of the tank, the glass wall of it digging into the creature's stomach. It tries to crawl out and Jungkook is still sitting, frozen to place with fear.
"Jungkook, I think it's hungry."
The younger male and the merman both turn their heads towards Taehyung, who stays in his safe distance away from the tank. Jungkook uses the merman's short distraction to peel himself off the floor and run towards his friend, his legs unusually weak under his body.
"What does it eat?" Taehyung asks, surprisingly calm about the whole situation, watching the merman struggle to move his body, its slick hands sliding against the marble floor.
"I mean, it's a fish? So it eats other fish?"
"What about a pizza?"
"You just want a pizza for yourself."
Taehyung narrows his eyes: "Maybe."
The merman lets out a pained mewl when it falls against the glass wall again. And Taehyung gives the creature a pitying look and makes a step forward. Jungkook grabs his wrist, pulling him back: "What are you doing?! You know it can bite your head off, right? Angler fish can eat animals twice their size because their mouth does this thing when it stretches really wide and-"
"But he's in pain."
"Yes, I know. But none of us will go closer to it until it downs a carp or two. Let's go find something in the kitchen."
"Won't he run away?" Taehyung asks and Jungkook bursts out laughing: "Yeah, hyung, it will totally run away."
The merman is watching them with those grey eyes of his and if Jungkook wasn't still in shock from their previous encounter where he was supposed to be the merman's dinner, he would feel sorry for it. The merman stops moving, hands somehow secured against the floor, shaky breaths leaving its full lips as it lets its head hang limply.
Jungkook starts thinking about helping the creature back in the tank, but instead, he grabs Taehyung's forearm and drags him out of the living room.
Walking through the white hallway, Taehyung looks around himself curiously: "You have a really nice house, Jungkook-ah."
"Yeah. It was a present from parents for graduating high school with straight A's. I needed some space for the tank."
"How long have you been planning this?"
Jungkook opens the door to a large kitchen which looked as unused and empty as the rest of the big house.
"Since I was fifteen I think. I will look in the pantry, you search through the fridge."
After ten minutes, Jungkook finds some pre-cooked Salmons and decides to take them all, since he doesn't really know, how hungry that thing in his living room is. Taehyung microwaves a pizza he found in the freezer.
When they return to the living room, the merman is laying on the marble floor. His whole body, tail included. It's softly whimpering against the flooring and Jungkook is scandalized for a second. Taking a few steps towards the merman, it doesn't snap its head to the side like it usually does, it keeps laying on the marble, tail swinging from side to side, sliding across the flooring in a puddles of water.
"What- What do we do with him? I don't want to touch him, my fingers are very much my job, can't afford to lose them," Taehyung is staring at the creature with the same frown Jungkook has on his face.
"Um, let's try to feed it?"
Jungkook feels like if he was ten again and was scared to open his palm and let the goat in the zoo eat from his hand.
"We should name him. Or do you want to call him Mr Merman or something?"
"Taehyung, now it's not the right time. Your job here is to make that thing look representative. Not to moralize about its names."
"But you can't call him 'that thing'. Especially when he's going to live in a tank in your living room."
"Okay, okay, let's talk about this when we get our tea after we feed it and after you do your job."
Jungkook sounds more confident than he feels when he walks around the merman to see its face.
"Okay, Mr Merman, please don't freak out. I've got some damn good juicy fish for you here," Jungkook ducks down in front of the creature, whose eyes dart up to him, but his cheek stays pressed against the marble. So the man takes one of the fish and nudges it against the merman's lips.
"C'mon, take it. I really have no idea what else to feed you if you won't like fish."
The merman doesn't move an inch. Its pupils are darting around and another almost pained moan comes from its mouth. Then it shuffles its tail again, moving it just a few inches to the side, as well as it moves its arms and face.
Something looks wrong in the creature's face. Jungkook could swear its skin was ashy brown just fifteen minutes ago. Not reddish.
It's a Deep-sea Angler fish.
Those fish live deep in the ocean.
"Taehyung, was there ice in the freezer?"
The older male is munching on the pizza and looks up with raised eyebrow: "Yeah, I think there was. Why?"
"Bring it. A lot of it." Taehyung darts out of the room without another word.
"Sorry, I am stupid. First, I nearly let you drown and now I didn't think about the temperature," Jungkook lets go of the fish in his hand and it falls on the floor with a dull splosh. Jungkook scoffs at the sound like a small kid, then gets creeped out again when the merman looks at him.
Taehyung comes back in a second and the men spread the bags of ice around the merman's body and tail. After few minutes, its temperature reduces to normal and Jungkook wants to punch himself for being so stupid. In his defence, he never read about Angler mermaids. He saw a few art pieces that showed mermaids with the light-bulb-like lures, but there wasn't a single mention about the mermaids being so sensitive to temperature.
But Jungkook wouldn't be happily dancing either if someone locked him up in a stove.
Something like a satisfied grunt escapes from the creature's lips and Jungkook looks up at the merman, seeing his friend trying to feed it a piece of a ham and cheese pizza.
"Taehyung! What if it can't digest stuff like that?"
"Nah, I think it's all right- AH!
Taehyung springs up on his legs, his left hand gripping on the right one and holding it up in the air, with the merman's fingers wrapped around his wrist as well, pulling himself up with its mouth wide open.
"Oh my god, what are you doing?"
The merman's wails and it sounds painfully similar to a sound a child would do.
"I wanted him to take a bite but he wants to chomp my whole hand, DO SOMETHING."
Jungkook grabs the pizza from Taehyung's hand and lets the piece fall right into the merman's open mouth. Its teeth still looked scary as fuck and the older man scoops few feet away when it lets go of his hand.
"Have you even seen Finding Nemo?" Jungkook asks, taking a Salmon fish and dropping it into the merman's mouth too. Watching it eat was just as creepy as its dull stares. Seeing the whole fish sliding down the creatures neck and into the flat stomach sends a freeze down the man's spine.
"Of course I did."
"Did that fish look like it was ever chewing its meal?"
"No. More like it just down right swallowed it and- ooooh..."
The merman opens its mouth again and Jungkook feeds it another fish. It's laying on its side now, the spikes on its spine making it impossible for it to lay on its back. When Taehyung comes back to duck next to Jungkook again, he is frowning, while watching the merman.
"What do you want to do with him?"
Jungkook gives his friend a funny look: "Obviously have it in the large tank over there."
"That's mean, Jungkook. It's... he's is almost like a human."
"No, Taehyung, it's a fish. A unique fish, for which I've been searching for a very, very long time."