Namjoon went fishing. That was something he did at least once a week, being particularly fond of fresh dinners. What was fresher than catching your own food?
The day was cold, and dark gray clouds covered the sky – that was also something that occurred very often. He lived by himself in a lighthouse on some godforsaken beach, where every day was foggy and the ocean was always freezing. But at least he had a house and a job.
His day started uneventful, with his usual morning walk with Gyeong. He did his tasks around the lighthouse, making sure everything was working properly. He wouldn’t want any accidents because he couldn’t do his job right. It was late afternoon when he decided to go fishing, putting down his new book after only reading the first chapter.
In his small boat, huddled under two coats and a thick scarf, he kept wondering how he’d cook his fish later, barely paying attention to the sea. Perhaps if he wasn’t so distracted he’d have been able to notice the movement around the boat before being dragged out of it. The water felt as cold as it looked, and at first Namjoon was too confused to even attempt to struggle.
But in no time he noticed the hands grabbing him, pulling him down by his clothing – which were getting heavier by the second, as saltwater soaked through them. Something was wrapped tight around one of his legs, his skin stung and his lungs were burning. He struggled to break free, hitting whatever was holding him wherever he could reach.
Namjoon heard a sound after a particularly good punch and the… thing let him go. He swam to the surface, but couldn’t help taking a look over his shoulder. The only thing he could see was the blur of movement of something pale as a ghost and dark blue scales.
As he broke the surface he thanked a higher power for getting away alive. That was a big fish. He climbed back on his boat, gasping for air, and started shaking before hitting the wood. He’d only feel the scratches and bruises when he got back home.
The next morning Namjoon woke up to a sore body. His muscles ached after the underwater struggle, and his legs were covered in bruises. He dragged himself out of bed, the wounds on his arms stinging and his whole body screaming protests.
He took his morning walk with Gyeong despite his pain. The sun shone behind thick gray clouds and the wind was chilly. It was a nice day out. Gyeong went around exploring, sniffing the things washed ashore during the night. He let her out of his sight for only a moment before the barking began. Curious, Namjoon went on to investigate the reason for such a fuss.
Gyeong had found a person. From afar Namjoon thought it was a boy who got caught in the storm. He was moving, making halfhearted attempts to get away from Gyeong’s excited licks.
But he had no legs. A big fish tail took their place, long and covered in dark scales.
Pale as a ghost and dark blue scales.
Namjoon got closer to get a better look, and made Gyeong back off. The thing looked male, with dark hair tangled in seaweed. He was struggling to breathe, the gills on his neck and ribs flapping with the effort, tail uselessly splashing the shallow water. His pale scaly skin was drying out and flaking – Namjoon wondered how long he was stuck there. And he was wounded; nasty, deep scratches all over his body.
“You really thought you could drown anyone like that?” Namjoon asked, and by the look the mermaid gave him he was sure he couldn’t understand a word.
He would die if Namjoon left him there.
Well. Maybe he could sell him or something.
He put mermaid boy in his bathtub, which was barely big enough to fit his long tail. Namjoon filled the tub with tap water praying he wouldn’t drown in it – killing him in the process of trying to help would be terrible. He twisted her nose in disgust, but looked fine enough.
The mermaid had struggled to get free the whole way to the bathroom, and Namjoon couldn’t really blame him. He did try to kill him the day before, and likely thought Namjoon would try the same. But he was weak, and Namjoon could carry him without much trouble despite being injured himself.
Namjoon took one long look at him, not quite believing there was a mermaid in his bathtub. A very wounded and probably starved mermaid, who could manage to look beautiful despite it all. He looked better underwater, breathing properly again, but his wounds were still bleeding – and only then Namjoon noticed some of the scales on his tail were torn off.
“I should treat your wounds— Do you want to eat first?” He asked, and in return there was another look of clear confusion and suspicion. Of course he wouldn’t understand Korean. Because that would make things that much easier.
With a sigh he left the room, going to the kitchen to find something he could feed his unexpected guest. But what did mermaids eat? “Fish? Seaweed? Men?”
Namjoon made him a sandwich. An honest-to-God grilled cheese and he hoped mermaids had nothing against cheese. He could get some fish, some meat, but that would have to wait.
Mermaid boy eyed the food for some moments after it was offered, probably considering if the hunger was worth the risk. It didn’t take long for him to take the sandwich, though. He looked surprised by something – the warmth maybe? – and that was when Namjoon, horrified, realized he most likely had never tasted cooked food before.
The sandwich was gone in the blink of an eye, and Namjoon considered that success.
“Okay, you need a name.”
“A name. My name is Namjoon. Namjoon.”
“Ah, that will do. What’s your name?”
“I’m Namjoon. You are?”
He answered in a series of clicking noises Namjoon sure as hell couldn’t reproduce. He’d have to use something close enough.
“Uuuh. Okay. Jin, then. We can work with that.”
Jin looked happy enough.
Namjoon was surprised that Jin kept still while he tended to his wounds. He had no idea how to proceed with injuries that would stay underwater; any kind of dressings or bandages would get wet and uncomfortable and he could bet Jin would end up tearing them off. Would water wash off the medicine, though? Mermaids were complicated.
There was sand in his wounds, as expected, and Namjoon cleaned them while trying to figure out what to do next. He was impressed by the bite marks left on Jin’s shoulder, and he wondered what kind of creature would leave wounds like those – he never wanted to meet one. Only then Namjoon realized he was only alive because Jin had been too weak to put up with his struggling.
He certainly ended up hitting one of Jin’s wounds in the process of trying to get away. Namjoon tried not to feel guilty. It was a matter of survival, after all.
Jin would flinch and let out pained hisses when Namjoon got to the worse of his wounds, but he never tried to get away or attack. Apparently, Jin understood Namjoon was helping him. Not that he’d question Jin’s intelligence.
It was a slow work, cleaning and disinfecting the wounds, applying ointment on sunburnt skin. Namjoon cleaned the whole bathtub after being done, refilling it with warm, fresh water. It wouldn’t make sense, leaving Jin sitting in gross, bloody water after all the clean up done. Even if he probably dealt with worse things in the ocean.
The mermaid, Jin, looked grateful and relieved, if still somewhat suspicious. Namjoon supposed that maybe he was doing a good job so far, taking care of a mermaid.
The next day, Namjoon gave Jin a hairbrush. His hair was still tangled with seaweed, and even if it wasn’t that long Namjoon thought maybe it was better to brush it. Jin held the hairbrush in his webbed hands and looked at Namjoon like he had absolutely no idea what to do with it. It seemed mermaids didn’t need to brush their hair underwater.
So Namjoon took the job upon himself and sat down beside the bathtub, awkwardly gesturing what he intended to do.
Jin was much less patient than the day before, hissing and glaring at Namjoon whenever he got to a particularly bad knot. He kept still, though, and Namjoon could untangle the locks and take out the seaweed stuck in them. It was a blessing Jin didn’t have longer hair – Namjoon wasn’t sure he’d survive that.
When everything was done Jin seemed to marvel at how nice and soft his hair felt, running his hands through it over and over. It looked nice, too. The wonders a hairbrush could do.
“Ah, I think I have something to put there.” Namjoon said, putting the brush aside and getting up. Jin looked up at him, oblivious.
Namjoon always found random stuff at the beach after a storm, and he kept a small collection of such things. He was sure he had a hairclip somewhere – he always wondered how it ended up at the beach when he found it. It was a small thing, sparkly and pink. It must have belonged to a child in the past.
He brought it to the bathroom and carefully put it in Jin’s hair. It stayed in place, despite the water, and Namjoon showed it to Jin in the mirror. Jin seemed to like it, and kept it where it was even thought he probably didn’t know what it was.
“You look pretty.”
From Jin’s look, Namjoon knew he still didn’t understand what was said. But he liked to think Jin looked a little happier with the compliment.
A week later, Namjoon decided to teach Jin Korean. He figured the mermaid would stay around for a while, waiting for the wounds to heal properly, so it seemed the sensible thing to do. Didn’t they say communication was the key? Namjoon even considered learning Jin’s language, but he had serious doubts about making the kind of sounds Jin produced.
He had no idea where to begin, though. It was hard, trying to figure out what Jin needed to learn first. He seemed to already understand some of the things Namjoon said, which was incredible. But every try at speaking ended up overwhelmed by his strong mermaid accent. Namjoon supposed it was harder learning a new language if you were from a different species.
“Well, at least you can understand me now. Sort of.” He sighed, sitting on the floor and leaning against the bathtub.
Jin nodded, as if agreeing with him. Namjoon turned to look at him, and he was happy to noticed the wounds held a much better appearance. The sunburn was almost gone, but everything else would take some time to heal and scar properly, and Jin still had a long way to go before returning to full strength. But it was nice, seeing him a little happier, not so suspicious all the time.
“I’m gonna read to you. Would you like that?” Namjoon asked. Jin frowned, but ended up nodding again. Namjoon supposed they could figure out pronouncing along the way.
“…When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.” Namjoon closed the book and looked at Jin.
Jin’s eyes were glued on Namjoon, and he could bet his attention was hanging on every word he read.
“How can you pay so much attention if you don’t understand half of it?” He asked, at a loss.
His only answer was a long look and a blink.
Jin seemed intrigued by something, and Namjoon had no idea what it was. He would ask him, but Jin couldn’t really answer. It was pointless. Namjoon was getting dressed in the bathroom, without any shame of being watched, and Jin was frowning so hard it was distressing. Almost.
“What is it? Do you want food? Do your wounds hurt?” Honestly, it was like taking care of a baby. An overgrown, half fish baby.
Jin reached out, and Namjoon stepped closer to the bathtub. Not being very graceful, Jin grabbed him by the shirt and for a split second Namjoon thought he’d pull him into the tub. And try to drown him again, maybe.
But Jin just seemed… curious about the fabric covering Namjoon. He never gave the mermaid any clothing because Jin didn’t seem bothered by the lack of them and Namjoon honestly thought it was a little pointless (and he honestly didn’t mind Jin’s bare chest – at all).
“Do you want me to get you clothes?” Jin didn’t seem to completely understand the question, so Namjoon pointed at his shirt. “Clothes. Do you want them?”
It was obvious Jin was excited about it by the way he nodded his agreement, and that was the first time Namjoon saw him truly smile. Namjoon shed the very shirt he was wearing, because why the hell not. He helped Jin put it on, as mermaids obviously would have no idea how to do it.
The shirt fit nicely enough, and it was only then Namjoon truly noticed how broad his shoulders were, straining a little against the cloth. The rest of the fabric hang around his body, and the water soon soaked through it. Jin looked honestly cute wearing Namjoon’s shirt and that little hairclip still in his hair.
Namjoon guessed he lost that shirt forever now, but he didn’t really mind the perspective.
Namjoon heard Jin sing for the first time when he came back to the lighthouse after his morning walk with Gyeong. He didn’t leave the comfort and warmth that often anymore – partly because Jin couldn’t get out of the bathtub to get food or anything he needed and mostly because the winter was very close and the cold arrived early.
So Namjoon spent most of his time inside, keeping company to a mermaid he had in his bathtub. But Gyeong would whine if she spent too much time without seeing and sniffing the outside world, so that morning he took her for a walk. It was amazing how terribly oblivious to the cold Gyeong seemed to be, as she trotted around the sand sniffing everything on her way.
And when Namjoon got back to his gloriously warm house, Jin was singing. He couldn’t understand a single word of the song; the noises Jin made that usually sounded so harsh this time were flowing. He sounded morose, but beautiful without a doubt, and Namjoon wished he could understand what he was singing about. It sounded like a sad song.
As silently as he could he got closer to the bathroom, Jin’s voice sounding clearer with each step. Gyeong for once didn’t stumble her way in to greet the mermaid. Namjoon stopped by the door, drinking in the gorgeous voice, and he was sure mermaids could sing someone to their death.
Jin stopped singing as soon as he saw him, and greeted him with a splash of his tail and a smile. Gyeong barged in and climbed on the edge of the tub to lick at Jin’s face in a greeting, and Jin giggled his mermaid laugh. He stroked the dog’s fur, not skittish about it anymore. In his time there, he probably realized Gyeong was pretty much harmless.
Namjoon stood quietly watching them. Later, he could tell that was the moment he fell in love with Jin.
Jin and Gyeong became best friends. That was bound to happen, Namjoon knew, and he wasn’t the least surprised about it. He figured it was better than if both of them growled and hissed nonstop at each other.
Gyeong adored the mermaid, and maybe Namjoon was a tiny bit surprised the mermaid adored Gyeong right back. He knew Jin was used to much less friendly animals, if her wounds were any indication. Were dolphins friendly?
Namjoon thought it was funny, even adorable, how Gyeong took upon herself the task of being Jin’s guardian. Not that Jin needed one, but Namjoon could bet he appreciated the company. Gyeong would sleep by the bathtub in such a persistent way Namjoon just gave up on trying to coerce her out, and just made a dog bed for her there.
Jin would talk to Gyeong in his weird mermaid language, and Gyeong would bark back as if she understood everything. Namjoon wondered if she did understand. But it’d be a little unfair if his dog could communicate with the mermaid while he couldn’t.
But he could tell Jin was improving his Korean understanding. He could easily answer yes or no questions, and his confused look wasn’t seem as often anymore. He’d drink every word Namjoon read to him, and he seemed to be really enjoying Gatsby’s story. Namjoon was only glad Jin at least could understand what was going on in the book.
Maybe he should have picked a happier story, though.
Jin had been living in his bathroom for almost a month. At night he’d forget Jin was there. More than once he’d stood beside the bathtub, watching Jin for as long as he could, not caring about the cold tiles against his feet.
Jin always slept curled up on the bottom of the tub, and Namjoon could see little bubbles rise as he breathed peacefully. It was funny, watching his gills working the way they did. Strands of his dark hair would float in the water, always untangled now that it was brushed every day. His hands looked human enough, but they had this light webbing between the fingers and his nails were the sharpest Namjoon has ever seen.
The wounds he carried looked much better, though Namjoon supposed the water made it harder for them to scar. He couldn’t see much of Jin’s body as often as in the first few days, as he was constantly wearing Namjoon’s shirt. Jin looked pretty in it. Then again he probably would look pretty no matter what he was wearing.
And every time Namjoon forgot Jin wasn’t human, his tail was there to remind him. He wondered if the missing scales would ever grow back.
Jin never complained about anything, not even once. Be it the food, the water or the boredom he sure felt often. Not even about missing the ocean and wanting to go back to it. He would hiss when he was in pain and that was it.
Namjoon supposed Jin couldn’t really complain, as he wouldn’t be understood anyway.
One day, though, Namjoon caught Jin looking obviously upset, staring at the nasty wounds where the lost scales used to be. Half of his tail was out of water, but Namjoon didn’t mind the mess it caused. Jin was rubbing his tail where the scales were missing and wincing because – they were still open wounds. For some reason, Namjoon guessed those scales wouldn’t grow back again, after all – or it would take long enough for Jin to look distressed about losing them.
“Hey.” As soon as Jin heard his voice, he tucked his tail in the tub again – and seriously, how flexible was that thing? – as if trying to hide what he was doing before. He pulled the shirt he was wearing as far down as it’d go, almost tearing the fabric in the process. “You don’t have to hide, you know.”
Jin looked down, and he came closer to the bathtub. Namjoon sat down beside it, took one of Jin’s hands in his and studied it quietly. That was the first time he touched Jin without having his wounds as a reason.
“You’re still beautiful. Even with some of those scales missing.” Namjoon looked up, and Jin was close to crying. Oh, no. Mermaids were not supposed to cry. “As beautiful as you’d look crying, I’d still rather see you smile.” He knew Jin understood that. He could swear Jin was blushing.
Namjoon should take upon himself the task of making that happen more often.
Jin would eat any and everything Namjoon put in front of him.
Namjoon knew he was far from being the best cook, but Jin didn’t seem to mind at all. He’d gladly eat what Namjoon offered, sometimes burning his tongue as he still couldn’t get used to warm, cooked food. When Namjoon got the chance to see them again, Jin’s belly and hips looked rounder, fuller than when he was first brought in. It was unlikely Jin could eat three full meals plus snacks everyday out in the ocean, so the weight gained made sense.
Jin liked fish, of course, and if Namjoon was feeling lazy enough Jin would eat it raw. He felt guilty about giving Jin raw food, though – it seemed like he wasn’t taking proper care of his guest. Jin liked cheese, which was funny for some reason. And Jin really, really liked anything sweet. Strawberries were his favorite.
Namjoon found out Jin could stay out of the water for a few minutes at a time without trouble, and he carried the mermaid around the house so he could stretch his tail. Namjoon didn’t mind in the slightest getting water everywhere. Jin giggled the entire time, holding on to Namjoon and flipping his tail just to make it hard for him to walk.
Namjoon was just used to having Jin there. Singing in his bathroom, splashing water everywhere and giggling when Gyeong licked his face. He got used to cooking for two, tending to Jin’s wounds and brushing his hair, even though Jin could brush it by himself by now. Jin looked healthier day by day, and Namjoon knew he’d have to let him go.
But what if Jin got too used to the domestic life? The water was cold and the ocean was merciless. He could get hurt again, and maybe this time Namjoon wouldn’t be there to help him.
It took a while, but Namjoon decided to let Jin go once winter was over. No matter what, he didn’t have the heart to drag Jin outside in the snow and throw him in ice cold water.
And after all, Namjoon had to tell him the end of Gatsby’s story.
Maybe Namjoon was cheating when he started reading short stories for Jin, in between Gatsby chapters. Maybe, just maybe, he wanted that book to last longer. He didn’t really need to stall the reading, though, as he wouldn’t let Jin go before the winter was over and his wounds healed properly.
But Namjoon thought reading different books would make Jin’s vocabulary broaden, so he picked out other things to read aloud. Horror stories, fantasy stories, science fiction stories, and Namjoon hoped Jin would like those as much as he seemed to like Fitzgerald’s story.
Jin seemed fine with the change at first, still hanging on every word, and that was what made Namjoon wonder how much of it Jin could actually understand. Why would he seem so interested if he couldn’t follow the story being told? Namjoon tried not to worry about that, as the only way to find out was to ask – and he knew Jin wouldn’t be able to really answer.
Namjoon soon found out he didn’t think his book choices through, though, when one night he decided to read H. P. Lovecraft. It proved to be a very bad idea when Jin shut down and let out a distressed sound so loud it echoed in the bathroom – making Gyeong wake up with a startle and Namjoon wince and drop the book. He looked at Jin and saw him curled up on the far edge of the bathtub, hands smoothing over the places his torn scales used to be.
The creature from the book certainly wasn’t the same one that attacked Jin – at least Namjoon sure hoped so –, but apparently it was a close enough thing to make Jin remember the attack. Namjoon felt very, very stupid then.
“Sorry.” He said quietly. What else could he say after that, really? “It’s okay. You’re safe here.” Jin looked up at the word “safe”, and slowly nodded.
Namjoon was glad Jin agreed with him on that matter.
There was more touching, eventually, and a certain sense of intimacy. Namjoon’s touch would linger when he checked Jin’s wounds – now scarring properly and looking much better – or when he brushed Jin’s hair. Jin would touch him full of curiosity, holding his hand and checking the web-free fingers Namjoon had. He had no problem indulging Jin, as he liked the touches and found the whole thing more than a little endearing.
Jin would hold Namjoon’s face and brush his hands through Namjoon’s hair, touching the sides of his neck where gills would be, looking surprised to find only smooth skin. His touch was soft and careful – so very careful – and Namjoon wasn’t afraid of letting Jin’s dangerously sharp nails near his throat.
Maybe he was just getting reckless.
Jin was pretty and there was not denying that. Namjoon supposed mermaids were beautiful by standard but he had yet to meet another one to confirm the theory. Jin was honestly, truly beautiful. With his big eyes and dark hair, the ever present pink hairclip holding his bangs.
He kept wondering how old Jin was. It was a silly thing, Namjoon knew, but he couldn’t help it. If Jin were a regular two legged boy Namjoon would guess he couldn’t be that much older than himself. But maybe mermaid aging worked differently.
After weeks of living together Jin obviously trusted him a lot more. He’d smile often, and he was a lot more relaxed around Namjoon. Namjoon thought it was a nice progress.
Namjoon was also glad Jin decided to keep wearing shirts most of the time. It’d be difficult to stifle his own body’s response to his growing interest. He really wasn’t sure if he should be disturbed by said interest, Jin being from a different species and all, but Namjoon tried not to think about it.
It felt wrong, like he’d take advantage of Jin if he tried anything at all. Jin wasn’t human and he didn’t completely understand Namjoon’s language. Maybe Namjoon was making assumptions on his innocence, but he wouldn’t take any chances.
So Namjoon was more than a little surprised when one morning, while he was dutifully brushing Jin’s hair, Jin turned around and stared at him for a long moment, only to kiss him in the next. It was clumsy and far from experienced on Jin’s end, and in the full second Namjoon needed to understand what the hell was happening Jin pulled away.
“Well, that was unexpected.” He said to himself when Jin let go of the grip he had on Namjoon’s shirt. Jin seemed hesitant and almost shy; like he was afraid he’d done something wrong. “Hey, it’s okay. You just… caught me off guard.” Jin still looked uncertain, so Namjoon reached out and brushed a strand of his hair back. “Let’s try that again, shall we?”
And this time the kiss was as close to perfection as he’d ever get.
Christmas was coming, so Namjoon decided to go to the nearest town to buy the things he needed for it. He gave up on having a decent Christmas a long time ago; it was just an excuse to give Gyeong a new toy and buy a new, warmer coat. But this year he had a guest; an unexpected guest who knew nearly nothing about human culture. Namjoon thought it would be nice to give Jin a proper first Christmas.
Namjoon left food at Jin’s reach and Gyeong to keep him company, and went on his 45 minute trip to civilization. Jin seemed confused when Namjoon told him he’d go out and leave Gyeong. It was unusual in the little routine they had going. But explaining the concept of Christmas would be too hard, so he just told Jin he’d be back soon. Ish.
At the small grocery store, the only one in town, while sorting potatoes and choosing between turkey and ham, Namjoon kept thinking what kind of gift he should get for Jin. Jewelry was out of the question – necklaces would probably hurt his gills, and he couldn’t wear rings. He didn’t really need clothing, either. Stuffed animals or toys seemed like a really silly thing to give a mermaid. But then again, the whole idea of buying Jin something seemed silly.
Namjoon settled for hairclips. Several different kinds of hairclips, since Jin was so fond of that first one Namjoon gave him when he first arrived. He even chose a nice hair band as well, with a pretty bow. The store clerk, a nice chubby lady, gave him an odd look; he was known in town, and everyone knew he lived alone. But she didn’t question him and just wrapped everything in a colorful package, complete with a pink ribbon. Jin would like it. At least Namjoon hoped he would.
When he got home, precariously holding the groceries and gifts, Jin was singing. It was muffled by the door, but Namjoon could tell he was singing one of his sad songs. Jin stopped as soon as Gyeong went to greet Namjoon, almost making Namjoon drop everything. He managed, though; leaving the bags on the kitchen table, he went to the bathroom to check on Jin.
The mermaid smiled brightly when he saw him, and Namjoon wondered if Jin thought he wouldn’t come back home.
On Christmas Eve, Namjoon spent most of his time cooking. He set the small Christmas tree with its humble ornaments in the bathroom, where Jin could see it. Jin seemed really fond of it, and more than once Namjoon found the golden star, supposed to be at the top of the tree, in the tub with him. The first time Namjoon lit up the tree Jin actually gasped, full of wonder.
Namjoon put the colorful packages underneath it – one for him, one for Gyeong and one for Jin – and he could see how curious Jin was about them, but he never tried to get one. It was somewhat endearing.
Namjoon gave his best to make a decent Christmas dinner. Roast turkey, potatoes and carrots, peas and sausages, sauce and eggnog. He thought about making some Christmas pudding, when shopping for groceries and considering what dessert was best; he just gave up and bought one instead, hoping it’d at least taste good.
Jin was very curious about all the commotion, Namjoon could tell. He kept trying to look past the bathroom door to see what Namjoon was doing, and he felt a little guilty he didn’t stop and explain until everything was set up. Namjoon gave him a cup of eggnog, sat beside de tub and tried to tell him in simple words how Christmas worked. Jin was clearly confused by the concept, but seemed to like the idea.
“We eat nice food and spend time together and exchange gifts, basically.” Namjoon said, drinking his own eggnog. He tried to tone down on the alcohol, having no idea what kind of effect it’d have on a mermaid. It tasted good, though.
“G’ft?” Jin frowned. He could speak the entirety of three words – Jooni’, Gy’on and G’tsby, and he clearly had trouble with some vowels – but now and then he’d try to say new words, if only to mispronounce them terribly.
“You know, when you give something you think they’d like.” Namjoon wasn’t very sure of his explanation, but Jin didn’t ask any more questions and didn’t look too confused.
They had dinner in the bathroom, and even Gyeong had her own portion in her food bowl. The food was good after all, and Namjoon was proud of his accomplishment. Jin ate like a small Viking, which was both terrifying and amusing.
When Namjoon got the packages from under the tree Jin was more than a little tipsy from the eggnog. He kept looking at Namjoon with unabashed interest, and Namjoon wasn’t really sure if that was directed at him or the Christmas gifts. He didn’t quite know what to do with this yet, so he distracted Jin by giving him the package.
Jin blinked up at him, not knowing what to do with it. Namjoon chuckled, and after he gave Gyeong her own gift – a gigantic bone –, he helped Jin unwrap his gift. He insisted on keeping the pink ribbon, tying it around his wrist like a bracelet.
“I thought you’d like more options.” He said, handing Jin the new colorful hairclips and expecting a reaction. Jin ran his fingers through the gifts, tentative. “Do you want me to help you put some on?” Jin nodded, and Namjoon exchanged the old hairclip for at least three new ones.
Jin smiled when he looked at himself in the mirror; Namjoon would dare say he liked them. But then the mermaid looked a little sad, and Namjoon was a little desperate with the sudden change. Did he do something wrong?
“G’ft. Jooni’” Jin said, looking down at the remaining hairclips. Namjoon didn’t understand exactly what Jin meant, and had no idea what to do. Then Jin perked up again and looked at him. “G’ft!”
That didn’t make things any clearer, but in the next moment Jin was singing. It was a happy song this time, from what Namjoon could tell, and his voice sounded even better up close. Jin was singing to him. Looking at him with a smile on his flushed face, three hairclips on his hair; he couldn’t possibly look more beautiful. It was a nice gift, Namjoon decided.
Namjoon slept in the bathroom that night, after lots of kisses that tasted like eggnog.
On New Year’s Eve, ten minutes to midnight, Namjoon wrapped Jin in one of his coats and wrapped a towel, soaked with warm water, around his neck. Jin looked confused and a little surprised but offered no resistance when Namjoon picked him up, only putting his arms around Namjoon’s neck for support.
It wasn’t hard to carry Jin to the top of the lighthouse, even with the biting cold wind. Namjoon was very glad for his decision to wear his warmest coat – and to give Jin one, too. Gyeong trotted ahead of them, clad in her own winter gear. There was snow all around when they got to the railing, but the blanket Namjoon put there earlier looked dry enough.
Namjoon sat down and didn’t bother putting Jin on the blanket, keeping him on his lap and hugging him tight against his body; the cold was a great excuse for it. Jin didn’t seem to mind, marveling at the height and how he was breathing well out of the water and how he could see the ocean because of the lighthouse’s lamp doing its job.
The fireworks started, then.
Jin stared at the explosions of light, wide-eyed. Namjoon assumed mermaids wouldn’t really care about the years coming and going, and thought it was a good idea to show Jin the fireworks. From his reaction it was his first time seeing them. They were very pretty this year, Namjoon thought. Even though he was busy watching Jin’s face, not the fireworks.
He almost felt guilty when, with a soft touch, he turned Jin’s face from the sight and kissed him.
Jin seemed to be waiting for something to happen, and Namjoon had absolutely no idea what it was – or what caused the change, for that matter.
After Christmas, Jin was a lot less hesitant when touching Namjoon, and while Namjoon didn’t completely understand what happened he thought it was a nice turn of events. Jin would be always giving him kisses out of nowhere, touching whatever part of Namjoon’s body he could reach whenever he was close enough. His newfound boldness wasn’t unwelcome, just… Unexpected. Namjoon felt like he missed something important.
He wouldn’t deny any physical contact Jin wished to have, mostly because it was all very tame. Namjoon was well aware of his own feelings and longings, but never intended to act on them as he couldn’t be sure Jin would understand the whole thing.
But it did seem like Jin was waiting for Namjoon to do something, as he was constantly looking at Namjoon with a frown, flapping his tail in a clearly impatient way. Namjoon wondered if he should ask Jin what he needed. Maybe he’d give an answer Namjoon would understand.
One morning, when Jin was curled under the shower spray while Namjoon cleaned the tub, Jin reached out and pulled him closer by the wrist, interrupting his chore. That was an usual thing by then, and Jin was always careful when touching Namjoon, but that one morning maybe the angle was awkward or maybe he tugged a little too hard. Namjoon felt the sting when Jin’s nails dug into his skin, and he saw the small trickle of blood they caused.
Jin let go like the touch burned him, letting out a distressed little sound when he saw the wound his nails opened on Namjoon’s skin. Namjoon couldn’t even say anything before Jin started crying, full body sobs and fat tears running down his cheeks along with the water. He was sure he never saw something as painfully heartbreaking as a mermaid crying.
It took a while to calm Jin down and convince him everything was okay – “Shh, I’m okay, see? Everything’s okay, I know you didn’t mean it…” –, even though the cuts were small and wouldn’t even leave scars.
Still, Jin refused to touch him for two whole days.
Jin went back at being tentative after the incident, but Namjoon didn’t miss the way he still seemed to wait for something. He did try to ask, and the answer he got was a small, shy gesture encompassing them both. Namjoon spent a lot of time thinking about that, trying to figure out what Jin meant; he wasn’t sure if he even wanted to find out.
But he did find out, days later.
It was morning, they’d just had breakfast together and Namjoon was brushing Jin’s hair. It was their routine by then, so he thought it was weird when Jin didn’t let him finish the task. Jin turned, touching Namjoon’s face with the most careful touch, kissing him very, very softly. When he let go, Jin stared at him like he was searching for something in Namjoon’s eyes.
Then Jin started to tug at the shirt he was wearing, like he always did when asking for help to take it off. Namjoon, still a little dumbfounded, helped him without question. Maybe it was getting too hard for Jin to breathe with clothes on. But Jin, as soon as he found himself free of clothing, started tugging at Namjoon’s shirt in the very same way. At first he thought Jin just wanted him to get closer; he didn’t stop when Namjoon got as close as he could, though.
“What do you want, Jin?” Namjoon asked, at a loss.
“You want me?” And maybe he let out a laugh in disbelief.
But Jin’s answer was a very firm nod and an even harder tug. His shirt wouldn’t survive the day if he didn’t move.
Namjoon got in the tub with Jin, as crammed as it was, and Jin moved to make room for him. He didn’t have time to think about the warm water flooding his bathroom or how the little cuts in his arm stung, as Jin started tugging his now wet shirt again.
“What do yo– oh. You want me to take it off?” Jin nodded. Namjoon thought for a moment maybe it was a bad idea.
When Namjoon’s shirt was off, Jin touched him with the same care as before. He was obviously very curious about it all, and Namjoon wondered if he knew what he was doing.
“Do you understand what you’re doing?” Namjoon asked very quietly. Jin nodded. “Have you ever done it before?” That got him a no. “Not even with another mer… person?” Another no. He thought for a moment about his next question. “You want to do it with me?” A nod. “Are you sure?” A huff. A nod.
Namjoon kissed Jin, then, without holding anything back.
It took them a while to maneuver in the tub, in what little room they had for it, but they managed with more splashes of water. Jin ended up on top of Namjoon, and he tried hard not to get lost of Jin’s body against him – the skin so different, completely hairless and not quite the right texture to be human, but not quite like the scales on his tail either. Namjoon could hear Jin’s labored breath, and his last rational thought was to turn on the shower spray.
There was a lot of fumbling from both parts; a lot of touching, kissing and exploration. Namjoon held Jin tighly against him, and Jin distracted him with licks and kisses and little nips on his uncovered skin – when Namjoon did the same, he was rewarded with breathless gasps as beautiful as everything related to Jin.
Jin said something in his mermaid language, and even though Namjoon couldn’t understand it he was pretty sure what Jin meant. He answered in his own words, with his own language, and he was sure Jin would understand as well.
Afterwards, with Jin curled up on top of him, Namjoon certainly didn’t care how much of a flooded mess his bathroom was.
Namjoon spent a lot more time in his bathtub, then. Jin was a shameless cuddler, and he’d curl up beside Namjoon – or on Namjoon’s lap – whenever he had the chance. Jin was still careful with his touches, more than he probably needed to be, but it was easier now that they were on the same page about their relationship. And he was so far gone he didn’t even think it was a big deal to have a relationship with a mermaid.
Because there was no denying it anymore.
The nightly reading sessions would be done with Namjoon now in the water with Jin glued to his side, listening intently, and Gyeong napping on her bed by the tub. He had to be extra careful not to get his books wet, but he liked the new way much better. Even if he finally got to The Great Gatsby’s last chapter.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” He closed the book and placed it as far away from the water as he could without actually getting up. “I’m sorry it took me so long to finish it.” He sighed, kissing Jin’s forehead. Jin looked up at him for a moment, and kissed him lightly.
“I’ll have to let you go…” He said, quieter, more to himself than to Jin. He understood, though, as his hug got tighter.
They stayed there for a long time that night, long after the water had gone cold. Namjoon idly tracing the scars on Jin’s hips – the angry red from before now faded into light pink –, Jin moving his tail now and then, sharing little kisses with each other. Namjoon didn’t mind the cold water or the uncomfortable position, and he wouldn’t have gotten up if he didn’t need to change the water for Jin to breathe properly.
Namjoon slept in the bathroom that night, and every night after.
He woke up when Jin’s body hit the ground.
It was the noise that did it, not the water splashing everywhere. Gyeong woke up with a bark, and Namjoon, still half asleep, tried to look around the dark bathroom to understand what was going on.
Then he saw Jin on the floor, trying to get closer to his makeshift bed and having little success. It wasn’t even a very long distance to cover, but his tail was completely useless and his breath already started to get labored with the effort. It took Namjoon another moment to fully realize what was happening.
“Oh, God. Jin!” He was by Jin’s side in the blink of an eye, and Jin clung to him.
“Jooni’.” Jin’s chest was heaving, and the word was barely there. Namjoon picked him up and put him back in the water, but Jin didn’t let him go.
“I’m right here. Okay? I’m here.” The grip Jin had on him loosened and he pulled away just enough to see Jin’s face. Jin looked better already, even if he was crying. “Don’t ever do that again. Please? I’m here, I’ll always be here.” Namjoon was frantic and scared and only wanted to make sure Jin was fine. Jin nodded, tearful; if Namjoon could guess, he’d say Jin was as scared as he was, even though he didn’t know why.
They held each other close for the rest of the night.
Namjoon should have known falling in love with a mermaid was a bad idea. He couldn’t possibly keep Jin in his bathroom, the tub too small for him. The ocean was his home, and he certainly missed it. Namjoon wondered if he had a family, friends worried about him, looking for him after all those months.
The snow was melting and the weather was getting warmer – as warm as it could get where he lived –, and he had no more excuses left. Jin was healthy, wounds healed and a good extra pounds heavier. He would be okay in the ocean, Namjoon was certain. He’d miss Jin terribly.
“You know you can always come back here, right?” He told Jin, holding his hand the last night he’d spend in the bathtub. Jin nodded, and Namjoon hoped he would come by to say hi. He hoped Jin wouldn’t forget about him.
It was raining when Namjoon took Jin back to the beach. The morning was foggy and cold; it felt like a lie saying it was spring. Namjoon almost convinced himself to take Jin another day – but the rain wasn’t much of a downpour, and it would help Jin breathe properly along the way. Jin couldn’t possibly wait for the summer.
Jin said his tearful goodbyes to Gyeong, petting the dog’s fur and having his face licked. When Namjoon picked him up, Jin hugged him more tightly then absolutely necessary. He didn’t mind. He squeezed Jin’s body and kissed his forehead.
The sand was soggy and the rain was cold, and walking while carrying a mermaid was a much harder task this time. But Namjoon wasn’t paying enough attention to be bothered by any of it. He could barely see his way through, and for a second he wondered if he shouldn’t have waited for another day after all.
They made it to the pier, Namjoon’s clothes soaking wet and uncomfortable. The old, rotting wood creaked under the weight, loud enough to be heard even with the rain and the ocean. Namjoon kneeled when he reached the far end, and he lowered Jin into the water so very, very gently.
Jin dived the moment he let go, and for a moment Namjoon worried he wouldn’t come back and say goodbye. But he emerged again, bright smile on his face. He swam away and around the pier; Namjoon couldn’t help but smile. Letting Jin go was the right decision.
“Jooni’!” Jin leaped, and in a flurry of movement held Namjoon’s face between his hands and kissed him soundly.
It didn’t last long, and Jin was out of his reach too soon. Jin untied the pink ribbon from around his wrist, pulling Namjoon’s arm down to tie it around his wrist instead. Jin smiled, said something in his own mermaid language and let Namjoon go.
“I love you too.” Namjoon answered, very quietly. He watched Jin hesitate for a moment, and watched as he swam away. Jin looked back once before diving again. This time, he didn’t come back.
Namjoon looked down at his wrist, the wet pink ribbon tied around it.
It felt good.
It felt like a promise.