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Fisherman's... Friend?

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It had been a stupid, impulsive, thoughtless action, but most of all it ended up being painful. 

He saw the little flutter of movement out of the corner of his eye, and the stupid little predator in the back of his mind had said "EAT IT!" with such sudden insistence that Ogata turned and bit down without thinking.  He was baffled enough for the briefest moment at the hard object in his mouth (decidedly NOT a minnow) that the sudden jerk of the object, and the accompanying pain in his cheek, came as that much more of surprise. 

He thrashed instinctively, trying to kick with his lower half away from whatever this threat was, before yelling out a curse as the pain ripping into his face increased.  He tried to lean in the direction the object was pulling in, but this simply increased the pressure until it felt like it would flay the skin off his face as it tried to pull away from him.  Ogata quickly snapped his hands up to try and claw at whatever was gouging his face, but his fingers met only a thin string.  Still, he grasped it to take the tension off the weak skin of his cheek and tried to kick off again in the opposite direction.  He managed a few meters before the string, absurdly, began to tug with a ridiculous amount of force and Ogata felt himself slowly get dragged along by it. 

He tried in vain to swim against the pull but it just kept dragging him, and now he could feel the change in angle that signified it was pulling him towards the surface.  Wonderful.  He would get slammed headfirst into the sheet ice and die, just like those fools back home hoped. 

Almost too fast to process, Ogata spotted an orb of light punching through the ice directly above him, and as soon as that observation sunk in, he was yanked through it. 

Emerging from the sea was honestly kind of anticlimactic. The air felt too empty compared with the pressure of the water, and his hair was plastered down over his face.  He brought his left hand up to slick it out of his eyes, while his right remained clutched to the string to relieve the tension still pulling at his cheek. Everything was much too bright, and he squinted and blinked furiously for several moments before being able to actually see anything.  He followed the line from his hand to a long black rod several meters away, held by a young, confused human adult, surrounded by 3 other older humans wearing similar faces of disbelief and confusion.  Ah.  Fishermen. That explained it. 

Ogata scowled at the thought that he'd been bested by a fishing lure of all things, then levelled his glare at the younger human still holding the rod.  He gave a soft tug on the line to try and convey his displeasure, and this seemed to snap the other out of his shock because the next moment the line went slack as the rod fell to the ice.  Ogata gave a small sigh of relief while letting go of the fishing line to examine the puncture with both hands.  However, before he could prod at it, it seemed that the fisherman who had caught him had lost his mind completely, because he began babbling at Ogata and made a few quick steps towards the hole in the ice.  Ogata ducked down at the movement but forced himself to stillness to observe the situation in full.  It wouldn't do to act impulsively and injure himself any further.

The fisherman was looking at him with an expression of... unhappiness?  anger?  guilt? and slowly sank into a crouch an arms length away from the water.  He said something too garbled for Ogata to catch, before seeing Ogata's confusion and switching to a strange kind of miming.  Which was honestly not much better.  The man brought his hands to his chest, before bringing them up to wipe at his scruffy face and then pointing at Ogata.  What?  He wanted to... groom him? What?  Ogata gave an exaggerated frown in hopes of shaming some sense into the man, who looked around himself in frustration before picking up a loose metal piece from a box next to him.

He brought it up to eye level where Ogata could see it was a slim hook.  The fisherman tapped it and pointed to the wound on Ogata's cheek, before miming sticking it in his own mouth and removing it, then pointing from himself to Ogata.  Ogata could only squint in distaste, as the man was clearly delusional if he thought Ogata would let him anywhere near him.  The fisherman sighed and cast his gaze around again, before settling on a white box behind him, where he reached in and drew out a fish.  Ogata perked up at that, as it was a local one that was quite tasty and watched as the fisherman slid his spare hook through the fish's cheek, then removed it with a smooth, clean gesture.  This gave Ogata pause as that was... much more convincing than the miming, really, and glanced from the fish to the man as he considered it. 

The fisherman was looking up at him again with a face that shouted Frustrated Regret at deafening volumes as he set the fish aside and tentatively held an open hand toward Ogata.  His nose and cheeks were reddened from the wind that Ogata could barely feel, and he looked miserably pitiful and honestly Ogata couldn't be blamed for indulging him, it really was pathetic. 

He rolled his eyes and brought his hands to the edge of the hole before giving a push of his tail that launched him up a little way into the air.  He twisted quickly to land with a wet slap, sitting on the lip of the ice with the lower half of his fin still dipped in the water.  It felt odd to switch from gill breathing to auxiliary lung, as always, but he pushed down the minor discomfort in favour of getting this over with.  He couldn’t see the hook and the man seemed appropriately wary of him to not cause trouble.

The fisherman had flinched at his movement and was staring at him with a slack jaw at this point, pale eyes darting around Ogata's scaled torso.  Really. It's like he'd never seen an aquatic person before.  Ogata huffed a breath through his nose before poking the man in the knee with a clawed finger.  He wanted to help, didn't he?  Better get on with it.   

The fisherman jerked in place and almost scowled at Ogata's attitude, but his expression settled back into guilt again with a glance back at his cheek.  He shuffled closer to kneel next to Ogata and slowly brought his gloved left hand up to hold his face still. He started to reach for the hook with the other hand, before frowning and bringing it to his mouth to bite off the offending leather covering.  The glove currently touching his chin was such a strange texture, rough and dry against his more sensitive scales that Ogata didn't even react when the smoother fingertips glanced his injury.  In fact, he was so distracted when the gloved hand shifted slightly to tilt his face more towards the other that he didn't even realize the hook had been grabbed and eased out of his skin.  The feeling of such an alien texture against the sensory line of his jaw was so bizarre that he sat stock still without realizing there was even any pain at all. 

He unfroze when the hand retreated and looked over in confusion before seeing the fisherman holding the bloody hook in his bare hand.  Well.  At least he was a more effective nurse than hunter.  They both sat still for a moment longer before Ogata brought a hand up to examine the wound and frowned slightly as he felt along the wide gash that had been ripped into his cheek.  He scowled at the blood on his fingers and at the thought of how annoying it would be to swim with an openly bleeding wound back to where he had (foolishly) left his supplies behind.  Carnivorous fish were delicious, yes, but he wasn't particularly in the mood to take down the larger game that would follow his bloody trail.

However, before he could make move to leave, the fisherman made some kind of "Ahp!" noise (which really, what was Ogata supposed to do with that?) before quickly turning and getting up to stumble over to a larger black box several steps away.  Ogata raised his eyebrows and gave the man a flat look as his fumbling revealed a RED box this time.  (Again, what was Ogata to do with this box game?  This human had better be going somewhere with this or he was leaving.)  The fisherman came back with the new red box and settled next to Ogata again, before reaching into it and rustling around with many smaller white packages.  He gave a short (triumphant?) sound before removing one of them and ripping it open to show more string and a tiny metal spike.  Ogata tensed at the sharp object and scooted slightly further away, managing to suppress a snarl, if barely.

The fisherman gave another agonized look at realizing his glaring mistake (which Ogata did not feel remotely bad about, he should have known showing a weapon would negate his efforts) before dropping the packet on the ice and lifting his empty hands to placate him.  They sat in a stalemate as Ogata glared at the human with slowly receding hostility and scrutinized the fisherman's face.  He really did look quite young, compared with the others he'd seen in his travels.  His ashy hair was sneaking out in all directions from under a black hat, and humans really were quite fuzzy, weren't they, as he had short bristly hair covering most of his cheeks and jawline as well.  He was staring at Ogata with his creepy light-coloured eyes now, and looking pathetic again.  Ugh. Why did Ogata have to feel so indulgent for these weirdos.  He should just stick to the deep waters entirely, even if his bastard father's kind resided there.

Almost as if the fisherman could read his mind and faltering resolve (was that something Ogata should be worrying about? he really had not studied humans that deeply), he broke eye contact to look around again and picked up the discarded fish once more.  He took the hook and made a shallow cut in its side, before picking up the packet with the spike and string and removing them from the packaging entirely.  Ogata was wary at him holding the metal again, but the human ignored him to pinch the fish's cut together with one hand and dip the metal and string across the wound several times with his other.  Ogata realized with a start that this was the human equivalent in wound closure methods and settled slightly as the fisherman looked up again to confirm his own understanding. He didn't necessarily want more metal piercing his flesh, but it did seem better than leaving it to bleed freely for a few days until it closed over (and even more effective than his own doctoring methods of micro claw staples).  He cautiously met the eyes of the fisherman before swallowing his caution and nodding. 

The other nodded emphatically in reply before scooting closer again.  He pulled the metal and string free from the fish and brought it up, before grimacing at a second thought and setting it aside.  He pulled another packet from the red box, which revealed a similar metal spike and string, and tied a knot at the end of the string before he slowly reached for Ogata's left cheek. He leaned in and Ogata kept a close eye on him as the fisherman rested the metal lightly beside the wound.  He was squinting and grimacing again but glancing back and forth between the injury and Ogata's eyes.  He frowned (more with his eyebrows than anything else) before tapping Ogata's chin lightly and bringing his hand to his own chin and opening his mouth slightly.  Ogata considered this but warily indulged his request and gently opened his mouth as wide as was comfortable at present.  The fisherman looked troubled for a moment before finally removing his glove from the non-metal wielding hand and brought it up to Ogata's mouth. 

He pressed the metal point gently into the skin above one end of his cut, and Ogata was briefly grateful that this metal seemed to be made specifically to easily move in and out of flesh, because it didn't hurt nearly as much as the hook.  Then, oddly, the fisherman gently lifted his left hand higher to stick his fingers entirely into Ogata's open mouth. He scrunched his eyebrows and side-eyed the man in confusion as he brought down his teeth to touch lightly on the intruding digits.  They tasted... bad.  So, he hoped he wouldn't have to bite in earnest.

The fisherman froze in clear nervousness at the sharp points digging into his delicate skin before meeting his eyes.  He gently moved one finger to help guide the intruding metal back out of his cheek below the open wound.

Ogata cleared his expression and stared at the man for a moment, letting the tense atmosphere linger.  He pressed a light warning bite into the fingers below before opening his mouth wider to allow him to continue.  The fisherman let out a soft breath (also... bad, which had Ogata cursing his elevated sense of smell out of water) before repeating the process of 'metal in- guide out' several more times, tightening the string softly every pass.  It was a strange sensation, stinging and sharp, but oddly satisfying as he felt the skin on his cheek fuse back into a single piece of flesh once more. 

They stayed tense, but after a few more repetitions, the fisherman met his eyes again before slowly drawing his hand out of Ogata's mouth with held breath.  Ogata smirked slightly at the reaction, (Good. Served him right.) then schooled his features into neutrality once again as the fisherman reached up to fiddle with the string on the end of the now closed gash.

With a soft tug on the suture, the fisherman slowly reached into a belt pocket and brought a knife up to cut the string, then nodded solemnly at his work.  Ogata reached up to assess the repair, feeling along the ridged line that swiped horizontally across his cheek.  He prodded lightly at it with his tongue from inside his mouth as well.  It seemed solid enough. He gave a look under his lashes at the fisherman kneeling beside him before giving a nod of his own and leaning forward to wash his bloodied fingers in the water below. The fisherman exhaled a heavy sigh and bowed his head slightly as he began to mumble again, which was an easy excuse to do what Ogata wanted to do from the beginning of this nonsensical exchange.  He brought a dripping, freezing hand up to touch the fisherman's cheek in the same spot he had been so diligently working,

And gave him a sharp slap.  Then brought up his other hand and did the same on the other side.  Then threw in a few more alternating slaps with both hands for good measure. Finally, with a huff that hopefully conveyed all of his displeasure, Ogata snuck a hand out to grab the fish from earlier that was lying forgotten behind the fisherman before turning and tipping himself back into the water.  It felt immensely good to sink back into the cool pressure surrounding him, even with the sting in his cheek at the change in environment.  He simply floated for a moment with his eyes closed to enjoy the relief of being back in the water before opening them to reorient himself and kick off.  He swiped softly at his cheek to get any lingering blood off of the wound, and tried to focus on what he had been doing prior to being dragged around like a tuna.  This bizarre experience had been a scheduling detour that meant he'd need to swim slightly faster than he liked heading back towards the shelf drop off in order to meet with his annoying travel companions on time, but at least he had a snack now.

Ogata made it a few strokes away, and idly opened his mouth to take a bite of the fish before scowling darkly.  Opening his jaw fully pulled at the stitches in a painful way, so he sullenly ripped a small chunk off with his claws before popping it in his mouth.  He wondered if starting a fight with the orca-oaf Sugimoto would make himself feel better.

But sudden inspiration struck, and he looked up at the hole in the ice to see a shadow still looming over it.  He darted back up to the hole in the ice to give one last remark to the fisherman.

---

Vasily continued kneeling by the fishing hole in shock. His cheeks were absolutely freezing in the wind, and felt oddly... slimy? 

He heard Ilya shuffle around to come up behind him, stuttering something about "What just?...  How in the world?... Vasya how did you?" but Vasily had no answers because this situation was simply just too odd.  (He may have also forgotten that Ilya and Dima and Antoine were there the entire time, but who could blame him?)

He had caught... a mermaid?  Mer... man?? A merfolk? Of some kind? Who had the decorative scales of a movie monster, but the undercut of a particularly douchey hockey player.  Amazing. Life really was full of mysteries. 

He knelt and couldn't really process what he should do next because apparently merpeople were both A) real and B) susceptible to trout lures improperly used for ocean ice fishing.

He kept looking at the spot where the creature had slipped back under the water, feeling like this was living some strange dream.  No trace of the merman remained but the dots of blood on the ice next to the removed fishhook, and the absence of one fish from the catch cooler. Vasily could almost convince himself that it had been a hallucination, really.

Until a tail fin reached up through the fishing hole and splashed approximately a bucket's worth of freezing water in his face, before disappearing once more. 

 

Well. 

 

Fair's fair, he supposed.