Before a long day in the coffee shop, Jungkook liked to go to the beach. Something about the ocean always calmed him; even stormy days would give him a chance to kick out the cobwebs. He liked his job well enough. It just about paid the rent on his tiny flat. He got meals at work when he did late shifts, and every Thursday night he had a gig singing at a local club. Sometimes he got enough tips from that to take a few singing lessons. It was okay. It wouldn't be forever. One day his dream would come true. One of the demos he'd work on into the small hours would win him a recording contract, or he'd meet the right band or the right manager, or something. One day.
But on days like today, when his dreams seemed impossible and his shifts interminable, he'd come to the ocean. He'd sing to the waves, to the sand, to the rocks and boulders scattered carelessly around the beach. Today the sun was bright and he still had a while before his shift started. He sat on a big, flat rock and sang some more, until he'd sung out his frustration and his voice turned mellow. Waves lapped soothingly at the rock. He lay back and closed his eyes, humming quietly to himself.
Jungkook woke with a start. The first thing he noticed was that there was water all around him and his rock. He'd fallen asleep, and the tide had come in. The second thing he realised, when he tried to jump to his feet, was that he didn't have any feet.
He flailed, arms windmilling, and then sat down hard on his backside. His scales rustled against the rock.
Jungkook looked down at where his feet should be. And his legs. His groin. His ass. All gone. His heart beat so fast and hard he could swear they'd be able to hear it in the coffee shop. He had a scaly, blue tail. He'd turned into a fish. Half a fish. There was a name for half-fish... Things. Mermaids? No, he was a boy-half-fish. Merman. That's it. He'd turned into a merman.
Jungkook stared at the - his - tail, panic rendering him thoughtless. He sat frozen on the rock.
Then he heard splashing. There was singing, in a soft, soothing register. He liked that voice instantly; it slowed his heart and helped him to catch his breath. He looked around.
There was a boy swimming in the water a few feet away. His hair was pale pink and his skin glowed in the early morning light. He was just swimming back and forth, his tail making little splashes, wavelets dancing around him...
Tail. He had a tail, too.
This had to be a dream. He'd fallen asleep on the rock and he was dreaming about mermen.
Jungkook let out a long, heartfelt sigh of relief.
He jumped: the boy was suddenly right there, next to Jungkook's rock, and he was smiling at him.
Jungkook couldn't help but smile back.
"This is a really nice dream," he said.
The boy tipped his head on one side. "Dream?"
"It's okay. You wouldn't understand. You're not in the dream."
"But, if I am, it would be my dream. And I'm sure I'm awake. Here." He offered Jungkook one long, pale arm. It was rounded with muscles; not the bulk of a bodybuilder but the strong, lean muscles of an athlete. Or a dancer. The boy waggled his arm. "Go on. Pinch me."
Jungkook realised he was staring, and his cheeks went hot. He gave the boy the lightest of pinches on his arm.
"See! I didn't wake up. So it mustn't be a dream." The boy smiled at him. He had dimples. His smile was like the sun coming out. Oh God.
"What happened to me?" said Jungkook, weakly.
"What do you mean?"
"I have a tail." It sounded so ridiculous, Jungkook was seriously reconsidering the dream theory.
"Oh, that. Um. I dunno. Are you sure it wasn't there before?"
"I have a tail, too." The boy flicked it out of the water by way of demonstration. It was feathery and, on closer inspection, the same colour as his hair.
"You do," murmured Jungkook.
"My name's Jimin." He stuck his hand out for Jungkook to shake.
Jungkook shook it. "Jungkook."
"That's a pretty name!"
"Do you want to play?"
"What? No, I'm supposed to..." Jungkook looked forlornly at the beach, and the town beyond. "Go to work."
Jimin pouted at him.
"I can't go to work like this," Jungkook said, and the panic must have sounded in his voice, because Jimin looked really concerned. "I don't know what's happening to me, and if I can't work I won't get any money and if I don't get any money-"
"Shhhh." Jimin patted him on the arm. "You should be breathing better."
"Down to your scale line. Like this. Watch me."
Jimin put a hand on his stomach, just under the water, where his scales started. He breathed in deeply, so Jungkook could see his ribcage expand, his belly round with the air. Then he very slowly let his breath out. He did it again, and Jungkook found himself joining in, matching him breath for breath. Things calmed down and came back into focus.
"Thank you," Jungkook said.
"No problem." Jimin beamed another of those heart-stopping smiles at him. "You'll be all right, you know. You can still go on land. Although I've no idea why you would want to."
"I'm a fish. How can I just get up and walk onto the beach?"
"Well, I'd advise you to swim to the beach. Not underwater, though. Gills can take a while to get used to. When you get to the beach you can walk. And you're not a fish. You're still warm blooded, like me." Jimin took Jungkook's hand and pulled it to his chest. It was true. He was very warm indeed.
"Are you saying I can get my legs back?"
Jimin scrunched up his nose. "If youwantto, yes."
"And the rest of me?" Jungkook glanced at his groin, without meaning to, and blushed.
Jimin giggled, and pulled himself up on his elbows on Jungkook's rock to whisper, "It's still there. There's an opening in your scales."
Jungkook looked a little closer at his groin, and blushed a little harder.
"Want me to show you?" Jimin asked.
He didn't have to. The mere suggestion was enough to make Jungkook's cock stiffen up and twitch, which made it poke shyly out from between his scales. He squeaked and rolled off the rock so Jimin couldn't see. He tried to tread water but it just made his tail thrash about, so he grabbed a hold of the rock and did his best not to burst into tears.
Jimin was laughing so hard his splashes were making waves in the water, but as soon as he noticed Jungkook's distress, he stopped. His arms went around Jungkook's shoulders for a wet, warm hug. "It's okay, Jungkookie."
"It's really not."
"I wasn't lying. If you go onto the shore, your legs will come back."
"Sometimes. They will today. Then, not tomorrow. Not until the moon is fully round again."
"You're a were-merman?"
"No, that's just how it works, for me. I don't have any fangs, I promise you." He shrugged his beautiful, sculpted, wet shoulders. "I'm just Jimin."
Jungkook was pretty sure that he wasn't 'just' anything, but he didn't say it out loud.
Then Jimin kissed him.
It was a very wet kiss, and tasted of salt; it was gentle but not at all tentative; and during the course of it, Jungkook discovered that he wasn't the only one who had something hard hidden in his scales. When it ended, Jungkook found himself leaning in for more.
"You like me," said Jimin. He sounded delighted.
"You're, um, lovely." Jungkook was back to the dream theory. This kind of dream was more familiar territory, although the people concerned usually had more legs and less scales. Or fins. Or tails.
Jimin was winding his tail around Jungkook's at that precise moment, and it felt very nice.
"But you want to go back." Jimin cast a sad look at the shore.
"I have to. I have a job. A life. And things."
Jimin thought for a moment, while Jungkook stroked his very lovely arm, and then he said, "All right then. I'll come with you. If there's anything better than here, I'd like to see it. May I?"
"You want to come to work with me?"
"I want to see what could make you happier than this." Jimin spread his arms to indicate the whole of the ocean they were floating in. (Well, Jimin was floating. Jungkook was mostly hanging on.)
Jungkook didn't know where to start. TV? Video games? Running on the beach with two legs? The smell of freshly ground coffee, the taste of chocolate or pizza. Movies. Music. There was lots to show Jimin. But that wasn't the main reason he wanted to say yes. He mostly wanted to say yes because the idea of leaving Jimin here in the ocean and never seeing him again did something very unpleasant to his belly.
"Well, all right. If you want," he said, trying to keep it casual.
Jimin treated him to another of those dimpled smiles, and flicked his tail.
"Wait!" said Jungkook.
"What is it?"
"I, um. I can't swim."
Jimin's eyes went wide.
"Like this, I mean. I can swim normally, with legs. But I have no idea what to do with a tail, or any of this."
"Oh, I see. Don't worry. Just copy me."
Jimin took his hand, and pulled him gently away from the rock. Jungkook thrashed about helplessly, so Jimin put his arm around Jungkook's waist, holding him steady with surprising strength. "Now," Jimin said. "Pretend you're a dolphin."
"Or a seal. Let the wave ripple through your body. Like this."
Jimin performed an undulating move that would have been something like a body roll, if they'd been on land. And had legs.
Jungkook copied him. Okay. That felt better.
"You're a better singer than a swimmer," Jimin noted. "Come on, put your whole heart into it."
Jungkook frowned. It suddenly mattered that he get good at this. To show Jimin. Or impress Jimin. Or something. He frowned in concentration, picturing in his imagination what he wanted his body to do. How Jimin did it, like he was at one with the waves, sleek and effortless as he cut through the water.
"Yes!" Jimin exclaimed in delight. "You're doing it, Kookie! You're doing it!"
Suddenly, it was easy. Like breathing. Jimin took Jungkook's hand, no longer needing to hold him up in the water, and they swam together for the shore.
Growing legs again was really strange, a bit like when your foot goes to sleep because you sat on it wrong; the whole lower half of Jungkook's body went numb as he lay there on the sand, flapping helplessly like a beached fish. Then everything came back to life in a burst of pins and needles, a unique agony. Jimin squealed and flapped his arms about. Jungkook watched him, because it took his mind off what was happening to his own body. Jimin's scales faded and in their place was sleek, golden skin; muscular legs and small, perfect feet. Jungkook tried not to look at anywhere more private but it was irresistible; even soft, Jimin's cock had Jungkook licking his lips and imagining all sorts of things he'd like to do with it. Jimin stood, a little unsteady at first, but he quickly caught his balance. He twirled in the sand like a ballet dancer, everything about him graceful. Jungkook finally dared look down at himself: his legs were there. His legs. At last! He rubbed his knees, marvelling at every dip and hollow. He'd never, ever take legs for granted again. He staggered to his own feet - he had feet, and was suddenly aware that they were both naked. And any minute now they might suddenly not be alone. Even if, by some miracle, they met nobody on the way, the coffee shop would most definitely frown upon nudity at work.
"My clothes," Jungkook said.
Jimin stopped spinning. "Oh, sorry! Wait here. I'll be back in a moment."
He dived back into the ocean and swam away so fast Jungkook lost sight of him.
He sat down in the sand, and waited. And waited.
He was already late for work. What if Jimin never came back?
He really wanted Jimin to come back.
It occurred to Jungkook that if this was a dream, it was a really odd one. And he should wake up, because he'd be late for work if he was just sleeping on that rock, or if he'd never made it out of bed. Could you sleep in dreams?
He was thrown out of his thoughts by a loud splashing noise. To his delight Jimin had, indeed, returned. He pulled himself out of the water and threw a bundle of something at Jungkook.
It was a bag, kind of like a messenger bag. It smelled of seaweed and it was covered in a layer of pink-tinged golden scales. He peeked inside and there was a familiar looking t-shirt with the coffee shop logo on it. Amazingly, it was perfectly dry. So were the rest of his clothes, all neatly rolled up inside, along with some things he didn't recognise as his: a pair of blue jeans and a silky white shirt.
"Is everything all right?" Jimin had legs again, and he was standing next to Jungkook. "You were just staring out to sea. Were you daydreaming?"
"Sort of. Are these yours?"
"Yes. I haven't worn them for a while, I hope they still fit."
"Here." Jungkook handed him his things, trying not to look too obviously at his cock, or his lovely rounded bottom, or his peach-fuzzed balls. Which he wanted to lick. Oh God.
Jungkook quickly threw his body into as many clothes as he could. "The bag matches your scales,' he noted.
"They are my scales. When I shed my scales, Igbith collects them up to make things. They're waterproof, you see."
"Igbith looks after us."
"There's more than one of them?"
"Just not a he. Or a she, really. Don't worry about it."
"Are they a mer... Um, a merperson?"
"More like a... What do you call it... Oh, yes. An octopus."
"Octopus. With many tentacles." Jimin wiggled his fingers and smiled his big, miraculous smile. Jungkook felt a little lightheaded. "Just as well. They have a lot to do, looking after us. Hurry up. I want to see what I'm missing, outside of the ocean. Show me around, Jungkookie?"
The way Jimin said his name made it sound beautiful. Everything Jimin said sounded beautiful; like the whisper of the ocean as it tickled the sand. Like the roar of the waves that pounded rocks. Like a salt breeze on a warm day.
"Come on, then," said Jungkook, taking Jimin by the hand. "I'll show you."
About half way through the lunchtime rush, Jungkook finally accepted that he wasn't dreaming. No dream was this sequential, or included this much mundane, ordinary stuff. Well, mundane except for Jimin. Even legged and dressed, there was absolutely nothing mundane about Jimin. And, well, Jungkook could believe in merpeople. It wasn't so far fetched. He'd always had an active imagination.
Right then, as he served yet another latte to yet another bored, tired, irritable office worker, he was imagining the coffee shop as Jimin might see it. Noisy. Chilly, because the door was always open and the heater was on the blink again. And while Jungkook knew he looked pretty hot in his barista apron with his shirt sleeves rolled up, nobody much noticed him. They came in, gave him their order; he made the coffee, snapped the plastic lid on the cups as only a pro could, took money, gave them change. That was pretty much it. Over and over again. Nonetheless, Jimin sat in the corner and took it all in as if it was fascinating. When they got busy he welcomed people to his table and chatted amiably to them. He had a habit of making people laugh, Jungkook noticed. And he was very kind. He'd run after a woman who dropped her pen on the floor, and it was only a cheap biro. He bought a hot chocolate for a woman who came in and promptly burst into tears because her boyfriend had dumped her.
He seemed just as at ease in the coffee shop as he had in the ocean. Obviously he wasn't a stranger to the land: he'd had money tucked away in that bag of his, and nothing had freaked him out so far.
Every now and then, Jimin would catch Jungkook's eye across the shop, and Jungkook's tummy would get butterflies, and they'd sneak a smile at each other. When break time came around, Jungkook went straight to Jimin. He barely paused to tuck his apron in his locker first. He led Jimin around the outside of the coffee shop to the cliff path, and his favourite bench, which had a fantastic view of the bay. But before they sat down, he pulled Jimin close, and kissed him. He'd been wanting to for hours. Jimin hummed happily and wound his arms around Jungkook's waist. "You work very hard," he said, as they sat down. They stayed close, holding hands and pressing their thighs together as if they hadn't only met that morning.
"I suppose," said Jungkook. "It's always busy on a Thursday, for some reason."
"You do a good thing. People want coffee. You provide it for them, with a handsome smile. Even when people are unkind to you."
Jungkook's cheeks went warm. He knew Jimin was trying to see Jungkook's job in the most positive light possible, because that's what Jimin did. But he'd guess it was stretching even Jimin's powers of optimism.
"It's okay. But it's not what I want to do forever."
"What do you want to do?"
Jungkook swallowed. It was hard to say it out loud. He was always afraid people would laugh. But he trusted Jimin. "I want to be a singer."
"But you are a singer. I heard you. You have a beautiful voice, Jungkook. It called to me."
"Really? I mean, I wasn't really trying."
"In that case I would love to hear you when you are trying." Jimin gave him a dimply smile.
"How long are you going to stay on land? I have a gig tonight." On land. God. What even was today?
"I can stay until the moon sets tomorrow morning. You can choose to come with me then, if you like. But if your life here is what you truly want, you will choose to stay. And in time, you will lose your tail, and be human again."
Jimin looked sad about that. And it would be sad, he knew, to say goodbye to this beautiful creature in the morning. Perhaps they could meet up once a month, whenever the moon was full or whatever it was that meant Jimin could have legs.
"May I come to hear you sing tonight?" Jimin asked. "I'd really like that."
"'Course. I have another couple of hours at the coffee shop, and then we could get some dinner. Do you eat, um, human food?"
"When I'm mostly human," said Jimin, teasing. "Can we have pizza?"
"Pizza? Yeah. I love pizza."
"Me too," said Jimin, and nestled into Jungkook's side.
Eating out with Jimin was, Jungkook found, a unique experience. He had been worried that the food in the diner might not suit him, compared to whatever it was he ate at sea. But Jimin ordered a seafood pizza, and his eyes lit up when it arrived. Jungkook tried not to stare. Watching Jimin eat was captivating. He mmmed and smiled and obviously appreciated every bite. Eventually, he caught Jungkook staring.
"Is your food all right, Kookie?"
He wasn't sure when Jimin had started to call him Kookie, but he found he liked it. He looked down at his untouched plate (carbonara, fries and salad) as if he hadn't even known it was there.
"Here, try this."
Jimin thrust a scallop at Jungkook's face; he automatically opened his mouth to accept it. It was nice enough.
He tentatively picked up one of his fries and offered it. Jimin opened his mouth obediently, and chewed happily when Jungkook popped it in. It was one of the most sensual moments of Jungkook's life.
"Don't you eat when you're, you know. In your other form?"
"Of course I eat." A frown passed Jimin's face. "Do I look too thin?"
"No, no, you look great. I'm not sure how it all works, that's all."
"The sea is full of food."
"Unless we cook it, yes. Usually we cook it."
"How do you cook underwater?"
"We don't cook in the water. Although there are places where you can. But it's best not to go there. Lava isn't fun."
"Um, no. Lava? Seriously?"
Jimin nodded and stuffed another bit of pizza in his mouth.
"So, what, you come out once a month for a beach barbecue?"
"No, but that's a great idea! We should do that. The cave where we live has some dry places where you can build a fire. That's mostly where we hang out, if we're not swimming."
"You live with your family?"
Jimin smiled his sweet, generous smile. "I'm very lucky. Who do you live with?"
"No-one. My family's a long way away. I had to move away to find work."
Jimin put his hand on top of Jungkook's, and gave it a gentle squeeze. Jungkook was startled to find he had tears in his eyes; when he looked up, Jimin's expression was full of concern, and that made it even worse. He hadn't thought of home for a long time. He Facetimed his parents every weekend, but it was more than a year since he'd seen them. It was easier to seem upbeat on a phone screen over a crappy mobile signal.
"Poor Kookie," murmured Jimin, stroking his hand.
Jungkook turned his hand the other way up, so they touched palm to palm, and curled his fingers around Jimin's. He didn't know what to say, and if he opened his mouth he might properly cry.
Jimin stole a fry and ate it. Jungkook laughed, despite himself. Jimin grabbed another, and this time he dipped it in carbonara sauce and fed it to Jungkook. Jungkook snuck a quick lick at Jimin's finger. Jimin didn't say anything, but his hand squeezed Jungkook's a bit tighter.
At least the club was something Jungkook was pretty sure Jimin wouldn't experience in the ocean, for all that they seemed to have cooking facilities and money and uncannily waterproof bags made of merperson scales. It was pretty busy for a Thursday, but Jungkook got a seat for Jimin with a couple of regulars. Well, they were kind of fans; they only came on Thursdays and they knew all the words to the songs Jungkook sang. They would probably have slept with him if he'd asked, but they were both girls, so that wasn't going to happen.
He felt unaccountably nervous as he took to the tiny stage in the corner of the room, microphone in hand. He'd done this countless times. But knowing Jimin was watching made his heart race and his belly do flips. For some reason, it was very important that Jimin liked his voice.
The backing track started, and Jungkook took a deep breath. Then he started to sing.
He dare not spare Jimin more than a glance throughout his set, for fear he'd forget the words. But he snuck a look during the last song, because there was a line he particularly wanted Jimin to hear.
Your smile is sunshine
Your eyes are the sea
Why would you look at someone like me?
He saw Jimin's expression change, a little frown between his brows. And then he raised his hands above his head and made a heart shape with his fingers.
Jungkook sang the chorus without even noticing the words.
I beg the moon, I beg the stars
To let me be right where you are...
Jimin got to his feet, and danced. Jimin danced like he swam, like he breathed, like he smiled.
It made Jungkook want to dance with him.
Jungkook hopped down from the stage and joined Jimin and the girls at their table.
"You sing as beautifully on stage as you do on the beach," Jimin said, and gave Jungkook a hug. "Amy and Ro think so too."
Jungkook took a moment to realise he meant the girls. Jungkook's small but enthusiastic fanbase. "Thank you," he said to them, blushing a bit.
One of them - she had an 'A' on a necklace around her neck, so he assumed she must be Amy - made a squeaking noise. Ro told him he was wonderful. It was nice, but awkward, and really, Jungkook wanted to be alone with Jimin.
Jimin showed no signs of wanting to leave, though, so Jungkook bought them all drinks with the last of his wages, and tried to relax.
They left after midnight, when the club closed. Jungkook wondered how he'd get up in time for the early shift in the morning; he was exhausted enough to sleep for a week. But Jimin took his hand as they walked through the streets to Jungkook's apartment, and for some reason that made anything seem possible. He could survive on four hours sleep. Or, maybe - he snuck a glance at Jimin, and his heart skipped - none at all.
He held the door of his flat open and Jimin walked through ahead of him. "This is it." Jungkook tossed his backpack on the floor and toed off his Converse. Jimin surveyed the room with his usual curiosity, humming to himself as he wandered around, touching things at random. It was a very small apartment. There was a tiny kitchenette at one end, a door that led to a bathroom. A bed and a chair and a TV hooked up to two games consoles. What should have been a dining table was shoved against a wall, covered in recording equipment. Jungkook stood by the door, helplessly staring at Jimin. It seemed to be all he was capable of, staring at Jimin.
"I'll take the chair, you can have the bed," Jungkook said, eventually.
Jimin looked at him, head on one side. "Do you not wish to...." He winked. It was devastating.
Jungkook licked his lips nervously. "Oh, yes, I do. Very, very much. Yes. Um. I just didn't want to take anything for granted."
"You are so sweet, Jungkookie. Come here."
Jungkook joined him by the bed. His hands were trembling. Jimin gently held Jungkook's chin, and kissed him. He tasted of beer and, under the beer, the inevitable salt-tang of the sea. Jungkook's body relaxed. This was something he understood, something he'd done before, something he really, really wanted. He brought his hands to Jimin's face. Touched his skin, his hair. Cradled his skull. They pressed their hips together, and he could feel how hard Jimin was, how much he wanted this. Wanted him.
"Is there anything I should know?" he whispered. He kissed Jimin's neck.
"What do you like to do? Is there anything I should touch, or shouldn't, or-"
"No touch you could give me would be wrong, Kookie."
Jimin's shirt slipped off his shoulder. Jungkook kissed him there, Jimin's skin just as soft and silky as the shirt. "But what do you-"
Jimin put a finger to Jungkook's lips. "You'll figure it out. Promise."
Jungkook eased Jimin back on the bed. He looked so good there, his hair the pink of a sunrise against Jungkook's snow white pillow. He gently took Jimin's shirt all the way off. Then his jeans. His socks. There wasn't anything else. He kissed his way up from the arch of one foot, up firm calves and powerful thighs. He nuzzled into Jimin's hip, his cheek grazing Jimin's hard, pink cock. It has an unusual curve to it, an extra little ridge around the head. Jungkook teased it with his tongue, looking up to check Jimin was okay with it.
Jimin was more than okay with it. He bit his lower lip, his cheeks flushed, eyelashes fluttering. He reached down and stroked Jungkook's hair.
Apart from the extra ridge it seemed perfectly like a human cock. Eager, warm, a pleasant heft in Jungkook's hand. The fluid that beaded at the tip tasted a little saltier, perhaps. Jungkook noticed these details in an abstract kind of way alongside the ache of his own cock and a deeper need in his heart. Eventually pleasure overtook him, and all he could think was how good it felt to make love to Jimin; to suck and kiss and touch him. He never wanted to stop touching him: the idea of being in so much as a different room filled him with panic in that moment. He wanted to spend every day with this strange, beautiful creature who danced and made love with his whole heart and soul. He wanted to give Jimin knowing looks across crowded rooms; looks that said things like, you're mine, and I love you, and I'm going to fuck you senseless the minute we're alone.
Jimin came in a slick-salt rush down Jungkook's throat, and when Jungkook lay down beside him to catch his breath, Jimin said, "Take me, please, I want everything, Kookie, I want all of you." And Jungkook did. He sank inside Jimin's tight, hot body and showered his face with kisses; Jimin held Jungkook's shoulders and arched his back and hummed and gasped and smiled, and Jungkook came entirely, absolutely undone.
Jungkook's legs were like jelly, but he made it to the kitchen for glasses of water and to the bathroom for a damp cloth and a warm towel. Jimin wiped them both down so tenderly and carefully that Jungkook's dick started to twitch back to life. But he'd come three times in not much more than an hour, and he really wasn't sure he'd cope if he tried again just yet. He batted Jimin off him. Jimin laughed.
Jungkook flopped down at his side, and took Jimin's hand. Laced their fingers together.
"I don't know what the fuck happened to me on that rock today," he said.
"You met me," said Jimin, happily.
"Well, yes. That part was great. I still wish I knew how it happened. You know, I'm very keen on consent."
"I noticed." Jimin brought Jungkook's hand to his lips, and kissed his knuckles.
"If you hadn't been there when I woke up, I could have drowned. I honestly thought my legs were gone forever. I panicked so hard."
"But now you are okay."
"Well, yes. I suppose."
"How did it happen? Do you know?"
Jungkook was very sleepy, and it was so nice, lying in bed with Jimin next to him, soft and warm and smelling so... Jimin. "I'm just glad I'm back to normal. I like legs. Legs are..."
And then Jungkook fell fast asleep.
Jungkook woke suddenly, with the sense that there had been a noise, but he couldn't work out what. He frowned for the three heartbeats it took before his brain caught up with his fear. The bed was empty. Jimin was gone. The door. That's what he'd heard in his sleep. The door. He glanced out of the window. The moon was still high, even though the sun was coming up. They should have had a few more hours. He'd wanted to say goodbye properly, not have Jimin slip out of his life like a lost button. Shit.
Jungkook threw himself out of bed and pulled on yesterday's jeans and t-shirt. He shoved his feet into his Converse without worrying about socks, slammed the apartment door behind him, and he ran. Down the stairs, out of his building and down the zig-zag path to the beach. His feet pounded on the sand. He caught his breath to see Jimin at the water's edge. He was folding his clothes and putting them into his pink-scaled bag. To Jungkook's horror, Jimin was crying.
Jungkook pushed his burning lungs back into action and sprinted the final stretch of sand between them. "Jimin, baby, Jimin, what's wrong? Did I do something?"
Jimin pressed his lips together and looked up at the lightening sky, shaking his head.
"Look, I know this is going to be weird, and I'm sorry I didn't say it last night, but I want to see you again. Even if it's only once a month. We can do that. Can't we?"
"Do you hate the idea of going to the sea so much?"
"Well, I..." He remembered how it felt, swimming with Jimin, their tails twined together, blue and pink shimmering through the water. "I have work, bills, rent-"
"It was me."
"What?" Jungkook felt so lost. He wanted to rewind to last night, when he'd held Jimin warm and safe in his arms, and everything felt so right.
"You called to me, Kookie." Tears ran down Jimin's face like rain; he sounded completely distraught. "You sang to me, and I answered."
"I thought you'd like it. I thought if you were like me, we could swim together. That we would be mates."
"You don't mean friends, do you?" said Jungkook, weakly. Stupidly, because it's all his stupid brain could come up with in that moment.
Jimin's tearstained cheeks blushed pink. "My kind are different. In time, if you'd wanted to, perhaps we could have..."
"You didn't ask," Jungkook's stupid brain offered.
"I didn't know I had to!" Jimin wailed. "I'd seen you so many times on the beach; you were so unhappy, and you sang to me. You sang to me!"
"I don't understand." Jungkook felt wretched. He couldn't just give it all up to go to sea, and Jimin had no right turning anyone into merpeople without permission. But he hated to see Jimin cry. Jimin should cry at beautiful sunsets or sad songs, not because someone had hurt him, and especially not because Jungkook had hurt him.
"It will be all right, Kookie." Jimin sniffed. "You will be all right. It will fade in time. You will keep your legs. I hope all your dreams come true."
And with that, before Jungkook could stop him, Jimin jumped. He leapt into the air as a human and hit the sea beyond the shoreline with a splash and a flick of his beautiful, rose-tinted tail. Just like that, he was gone. Jungkook didn't think. He kicked off his Converse and swam after Jimin as fast as he possibly could. His legs went numb; he realised he was changing and he was glad of it. He couldn't possibly catch up with Jimin as a man - he might just stand a chance with his tail.
But he was deluding himself. He swam and he swam, until his tail ached and his head hurt, and there was no sign of Jimin. He'd gone. And Jungkook had no idea where.
He let the sea drift him back to the rock he'd fallen asleep on the day before, and clung to the side. His arms were too tired to pull himself up, but he couldn't bear going back to the shore, to the coffee shop, to his tiny flat with nothing of Jimin in it but a dip in his pillow. Jungkook rested his forehead on the cool, hard rock, and cried.
A calm came over him when he was out of tears. He floated, still clinging to his rock. He considered letting go and floating away, let the ocean do with him what he would. He couldn't think of anything of his old life he wanted to go back to. Except singing.
Jungkook drew a long, deep breath right down to his scale line, and sang.
Your smile is sunshine
Your eyes are the sea
Why would you look at someone like me?
He looked around, searching every wave, every glitter of light on the sea for a hint of pink tail.
I beg the moon, I beg the stars
To let me be right where you are...
There. There! That was a tail. He was sure of it.
He sang as boldly and sweetly as he could.
I beg the moon, I beg the stars
To let me be right where you are...
Jimin streaked through the water faster than any boat, any fish. He caught Jungkook in his strong, wet arms, and Jungkook let go of the rock and held on to Jimin, Jimin, his Jimin. They spun through the water, kissing and laughing, and Jungkook decided that he'd never, ever let him go.
This Thursday, like most Thursdays, Jimin packed Jungkook some clothes into a bag covered in blue scales, and swam with him to the shore. They kissed by the big flat rock, and Jungkook waved goodbye, then let the sea take him the rest of the way. He found his land legs, dressed and went to his apartment. He paid his rent and bills with the money Igbith gave him every week, and Facetimed his parents. Igbith promised Jungkook it would be a simple matter in the spring to follow the tide to his hometown to see his human family, but he hadn't told them that yet. It wasn't the kind of thing you could spring on people over the Internet.
He spent the rest of the day working on his song recordings and a film he'd been making about the bay. Well, it was supposed to be about the bay. Most of the shots seemed to have Jimin in them, but Jungkook couldn't find it in him to care. Jimin was more beautiful than the prettiest beach in the world, anyway.
In the evening he locked up the apartment for another week, and went to the club. Amy and Ro and their increasing group of friends were waiting for him. They always asked after Jimin, when he couldn't be there. But on nights like this one, when the moon was full, Jimin would be with Amy and Ro, waiting for him. When Jungkook did his set Jimin would dance, and he'd join Jungkook on the stage for the final song, lifting his voice in sweet, high harmonies wrapped around Jungkook's mellow vocals. They left the club hand in hand and walked back to the beach, where the rest of the guys were waiting for them, moonlight bathing the sand in soft light.
Jin and Suga were looking after the barbecue, grilling something that smelled absolutely delicious. Tae and Hoseok were decorating a sandcastle with shells and seaweed. Namjoon sat cross-legged on the sand, playing his ukulele. They greeted Jungkook and Jimin with smiles and hugs and shoulder nudges. After dinner they sat around a driftwood fire and sang together.
Jungkook felt he had everything he'd ever wanted. His new sea family had welcomed him so warmly, cared for him in their snug little cave, taught him how to live and breathe under the water so they could all sing and swim together.
Jimin squeezed Jungkook's hand, and gave him a perfect, sunrise smile.
Life was golden.