They all must think he’s mad.
Hoseok’s been working in the lab since the orphanage abandoned him, penniless and mute, and with no one to take care of him. It was sheer luck that led him to Seokjin-hyung, who taught him how to speak without words, who listened patiently when he couldn’t find the signs to express himself.
Not that anyone’s been particularly patient with him, or with his secret lover Taehyung.
But at least he had connections. A professor from his old University came to visit, check in on him, and when Kim Namjoon met Hoseok he didn’t take offense to the silence. “Where did you come from?” he asked, and Seokjin translated Hoseok’s response of I don’t know, I don’t remember.
He does remember, a little, the warmth of sun upon his skin. The sand between his toes. The salt against his lips. It feels like no more than a dream, but maybe he did come from the sea. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s a dream of where he’ll be.
Namjoon called Yoongi right away, made him hire Hoseok as a cleaner at the lab. The University is famous for its studies, if only the ones they’ll release. The others remain safely under wraps, fantastical experiments no one would believe unless they saw them. Hoseok’s seen so many wild things now he couldn’t count them: a lynx born with butterfly wings, a bar of gold that grows like a succulent, a boy who sings to seagulls, who can tell them where to fly, seems to understand what they sing back to him.
The boy, Jungkook, talks to Hoseok like he understands him, too. “You know we’re not allowed in the tanks, hyung,” he grumbles when Hoseok eyes the lab door, both knowing full well what (or who) lies beyond a key code.
The algae wrecks the circuit breaker, Hoseok signs, and Jungkook begrudgingly punches in 061313 (Yoongi can’t seem to keep secrets from the boy, lets him roam the facility freely, pretends to take more interest in his ability than his sweet doe eyes).
He’s there under the pretense of cleaning, mop in hand and towels slung over his shoulder, but they all know the truth. Yoongi caught him, once, ear pressed against the glass of the tank and mouthing something while scales danced to his silence.
“It can hear you,” he’d marveled, staring at the creature in the water.
His name is Jimin, Hoseok signed back, and Yoongi didn’t need to understand to recognize they hear each other. Turns a blind when Hoseok visits his ocean friend. Is helping plan a coup to free him.
Here, Jimin waves his webbed fingers out the top of the tank, dives back down through a tube Yoongi helped install that leads him to a shallow pool. He can’t quite leave the water yet, not completely, but he’s got gills in his ankles that allow him to breathe when he lifts his head out of the water, orange hair plastered against his tan skin.
You were gone a while, he says, black eyes meeting Hoseok’s as he sits by the edge of the pool.
They want to move you, Hoseok explains, to a facility up North. He doesn’t say how far, but there’s a deal in the works, a financial win the University wants more than credit for their discovery.
Jimin frowns, scaly lips pressed tight together. We must leave before then.
I know. Taehyungie wants to install wheels on a bathtub, roll you out like groceries.
Taehyungie is a genius, but something tells me that won’t work.
Hoseok shakes his head. It was a funny thing, realizing they could speak without noise, without Hoseok signing. He tried, at first, chatting with the creature in the tank when he got bored of mopping floors. Jimin hated it, swirling around the tube in fury, his distrust of humans so powerful from when they captured him. It was only when Hoseok touched the tank- leaned his forehead against it and let Jimin come to him- that the (maybe) merman reached out against the glass as well, and…
Something happened, instantly. The waves that called to Hoseok’s memory overflowed into his heart, and images of fish and sand and rapids became a cry of JIMIN JIMIN JIMIN and the howling of a conch.
It’s you, the merman hummed, trying desperately to break the glass. He explained later, when the explosion of joy subsided, that they don’t speak the same language. That their souls are communicating without words, that the translation exists only in Hoseok’s mind. He’ll learn, soon, to feel Jimin’s intentions without the framing of Korean. When we reach the ocean, Jimin promises.
Maybe he’s a siren, Hoseok wonders sometimes, when Jimin sings above the water. His lilting voice reminds Hoseok of the angels from the Bible, otherworldly creatures the orphanage tried to beat into his mind as truth. Maybe they’re real, too, just like all the other magical things he’s seen inside the lab.
He’ll find out soon enough.
Want to dance with me? Jimin asks, leaning into Hoseok’s touch while the human strokes his hair.
He’s not supposed to be in there at all, definitely not supposed to get into the water… but it’s after midnight, and the University is almost silent, and it’s not like Jungkook’s going to tell.
So, Hoseok pulls off his sweater, folds it on top of his abandoned cleaning supplies. Undresses completely because he likes how Jimin stares, likes the flush in his almost-human cheeks. He dangles his toes into the water first, testing out how cold it is, but Jimin doesn’t wait long before dragging him under, gripping his body tight.
It’s scary, for a second, and then Jimin’s lips find his and a burst of air fills his lungs. Dance with me, Jimin sings, and they waltz beneath a false green sea, dreaming of the ocean.