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You're A Catch

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Kim Seokjin was the bastard child of the deceased chairman of Kim Medical Group. He was beloved by his paternal grandmother but greatly hated by everyone else in the Kim house. It was a curious thing why she took to him, but Seokjin supposed he had been a very adorable boy, one that charmed elders who looked upon him with great affection before they knew it.  Raised by her, he grew up without a single want in the world, having the finest clothes and food in a splendid side mansion. It was all fine and dandy until his biological father died, leaving behind the problem of inheritance. To Seokjin, it made no difference — he had absolutely zero interest in the hospitals the family owned. Yet, his father’s legal wife was wary of him. After multiple failed assassination attempts and much harassment, his grandmother sent him off to the countryside to be far away from it all. He just had to bear with it until Kim Taehyung, the official heir of the family, succeeded everything officially. 

 

It wasn’t so bad, however. It had been three months since he had been sent to the villa in Chuncheon, and he had fully acclimated to the surroundings. As a chef, he took it as a fun little challenge to cook with local produce and flavours. On weekdays, he would work in a small restaurant with very little customers (it was a town filled with elderly, dwindling in numbers as people left for the city). On weekends, he would fish leisurely and rest.

 

Today, too, he was on his yacht, drifting lazily along the ocean. The fish weren’t biting, his fishing rod painfully still, and Seokjin was terribly bored. There was no one his age here, and although he had enjoyed being sent here for a while, feeling like it was a vacation, the lack of friends his age did make it rather lonely at times.

 

“Maybe the fishnet would have caught some,” he murmured to himself. 

 

He reeled back his fishing rods and steered the yacht to where he had laid the traps. If there was one thing good about this place, it would be how kind and helpful the community was, teaching Seokjin how to properly fish, how to cultivate his little patch of vegetables and herbs, how to repair broken fences and the like. As Seokjin dragged the net back in, he was surprised by the sheer weight.

 

“Hang on… did it get caught at the bottom again? Ugh!”

 

Seokjin grunted as he dragged in the net with his full strength. The veins in his arms bulged from the sheer effort, and soon enough, the whole haul was pulled on board. Other than a few stray little fishes around the size of his palm, there was a large black thing, almost as big as Seokjin himself. It was jet black, lumpy at the top, but smooth below like a giant fishtail. 

 

“What kind of strange fish is this? I've never seen something like this in my life," Seokjin hummed, poking the mysterious thing with a stick. The large marine creature shuddered and backed away from his touch, finally sitting up to reveal a human face—but even that was difficult to see, given the seaweed hair that dangled in its face.

 

And, when the creature's outraged arm grabbed its own hair and flung it away— oh, Seokjin realized that had been actual seaweed. Before him was a young man with a head of inky black hair, incredibly attractive, but tremendously furious. With hands full of sharp claws, he tugged at the net surrounding him, snarling. 

 

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"Hey! I'm not a fucking fish! Let me go, you stinky human! I'm going to curse you! I'm going to curse all 9 generations of your family! I'll curse you to have fishbones stuck in your throat!" 

 

It was a rather cute threat. Seokjin snorted, not even the slightest bit afraid. “Oh no, I’m so afraid. How can I let you out of the net if I’m afraid of you? What if you hurt me after I release you?”

 

The strange creature paused, suddenly looking very docile. With his doe-like eyes, he peered at Seokjin — there was something within them that sparkled like stars, something… not quite human. Seokjin stared, enraptured, wondering just who this person was. The tips of his ears looked webbed, and the way the large tail was thumping agitatedly against the wooden floor looked way too realistic. It made Seokjin think of the mermaids he used to read of in fairytales. How curious. Such a large tail could probably provide a lot of servings at a restaurant.

 


"You have a tail? It looks like it would be delicious. Like if I made it into sashimi." 

 

The fish-man screeched in outrage and fear, backing away. 

 

“It’s a joke,” Seokjin chortled, the only one laughing. The laughter died off as he realized just how pale this guy was. Even his lips were purple, and there were cuts across his torso, varying in length and depth. Beads of blood slid down, mixing with the water from the ocean and pooling on the floor in a diluted, murky mixture.


Immediately, a furrow formed between Seokjin’s brow. “You’re hurt.” 

 

A wary look crossed the man’s face as Seokjin crouched down to take a closer look. It must have hurt so much to be in the water with such wounds… not to mention the high risk of infection. Seokjin might not be the nicest person in the world, but he still had enough of a conscience to not leave this youth here to bleed out and die from an infection. He came to a quick decision.

 

“Come home with me, I’ll treat your wounds.”

 

“But-”

 

“Nope! No buts,” Seokjin wagged his finger sternly. “I am going to help you and collect good karma. After your wounds are dressed, you can do whatever you want. I don’t know your circumstances, and I won’t force you to go home if you ran away or something. Hell, I’ll even lend you a guest room. How’s that sound?”

 

The young man was silent. Wide-eyed. Contemplative and confused. But it wasn’t a no, so Seokjin steered the yacht back towards home. 

 

“Anyway, what’s your name? How old are you? What are you? I’m Kim Seokjin. 22 years old. A human being.”

 

Kim Seokjin fully expected a ridiculous name. Maybe an English name, or nonsensical syllables, maybe even one made by clicks and trills — a language beyond human comprehension. He expected the mermaid(?) to perhaps be ageless, or centuries old. Instead, what the youth said is this:

 

“Jeon Jungkook. 18. Mermaid.”

 

Excuse me?!

 

Seokjin’s eyes bulged as he regarded the grumpy mermaid with Korean features, a Korean name, and young age.

 

“O-oh, yeah sure, then you can call me hyung.”

 

The mermaid hesitated. His lips opened and closed as he struggled to say something. Seokjin paid close attention to him, repeatedly looking back to make sure he was alright.

 

“...Hyung,” Jungkook finally said, pink blossoming on his entire face.

 

“Why are you hurt, anyway?”

 

The mermaid hissed, and Seokjin looked back at the water. Oh. Sensitive topic, maybe. Unexpectedly though, Jungkook went on a rant.

 

“You nasty humans... Oil spills! Toxic waste dumps! Marine litter! You filthy beings throw so much trash into our great ocean, polluting our waters and hurting marine biology!”

 

“What? Plastic bottles and trash bags cut you that badly?”

 

Jungkook snorted and shook his head. With a petulant frown and a lifted nose, he said haughtily, “No. These are from fighting sharks .”

 

Seokjin did not believe him.

 


 

“Oh… for an injured fish? Were your fishes fighting? I’ve told you some species don’t get along, haven’t I? Isolate it in a separate tank, make sure the water quality is good. Most wounds will heal on their own, but you can administer antibiotics.”

 

“Hmm, okay. Yeah, I got it. Thanks, Namjoon!”

 

Seokjin hung up and continued to dump aquarium salt into his bathtub. It was certainly useful to have a cousin (and friend) who was a vet. Seokjin had no fish tank big enough to house Jungkook, thank you very much. Plus, he wouldn’t want to crowd his lovely babies with someone like Jungkook. He swirled a hand in the water, making sure everything was fine.

 

When the bathtub was set up, Seokjin carried Jungkook into the house, net included, and unrolled him into the bathtub. Jungkook spun and fell in with a gentle splash, looking mildly disoriented.

 

“This is where you’ll stay as you recover. Being injured and bleeding in open waters isn’t the best idea when you ‘fight sharks’. Or, when sharks try to kill you.” 

 

“Killer whales too.”

 

“Or killer whales.”

 

“And octopuses.”

 

“Them too,” Seokjin acknowledged with a grimace. Mermaids had more predators than he thought — life in the sea sounded dangerous. It only proved his decision to bring Jungkook home correct. “So um, do you need anything? What do mermaids do for entertainment? It’s going to be boring cooped up here.”

 

“Mermaids scare pufferfish into puffing up, and then we smack them around. There are those who like to string seashells or zip between corals but mermaids like me, we fight sharks.” Jungkook said this with a very straight face, and Seokjin almost believed him.

 

“Yeah, yeah.” Not the shark thing again. “Here’s my IPad. I’ll teach you how to use it.”

 

In fear of Jungkook being bored, Seokjin visited him often throughout the day, telling him about his life before he came here, about his day, about new dishes he came up with. The mermaid always listened with rapt attention, curious about the human world. In return, he told Seokjin about deep-sea creatures, about mermaid traditions and cultures. They spent many hours every day talking, listening.

 

When Seokjin went off to work, Jungkook could use his IPad to play games (the mermaid’s favourite activity) or watch YouTube. With Seokjin’s bath time proclivities, Jungkook could use the IPad without an issue since it was decked out with a water-resistant cover, and he could drink juice from a wine glass, among many things. The mermaid also liked to Kakaotalk him, which Seokjin would reply to during breaks. They would talk about inane things, like how Jungkook leveled up in a game, and Seokjin would congratulate him. Even in such simple things, they found joy in sharing it with someone who would listen.

 

Jeon Jungkook stayed in his bathtub, and Kim Seokjin gained a peculiar roommate. 

 


 

At first, Seokjin wasn’t sure what to feed Jungkook. He gave Jungkook sashimi (it was devoured), then gave him an entire fish. At first, he thought Jungkook might reject it, but...

 

“Wow. You’re really going at it. Aren’t they your friends?” That was what Seokjin read in fairy tales. Mermaids had fun swimming with fishes and seahorses, didn’t they?

 

“Friends?” Jungkook sneered, lips stained with fish blood. “It’s the survival of the fittest in the ocean. There are no friends, only food and to-be food.”

 

The ocean wasn’t an easy place, huh.

 

After that, Seokjin tried feeding him other things. It was fun watching Jungkook eat with gusto no matter what he offered the boy. Although his elderly customers in the small village had light, traditional palates, Jungkook had no limits. As a voracious eater, he ate each and every international creation Seokjin made with delight, licking plates clean. While Jungkook wasn’t good with his words, his facial expressions told Seokjin everything he thought about the dishes. It was like watching his own personal mukbang. His little food taster of sorts.

 

“Aigoo, Jungkook-ah, look at you… having sauce all over your face.” 

 

Seokjin wiped Jungkook’s lips with fond exasperation. Jungkook blinked owlishly at him, cheeks stuffed full like a hamster hoarding treats. Instead of saying thanks, what he said was,

 

“It’s delicious, hyung. I want more.”

 

It was painfully cute. How could a chef not love such a boy? 

 

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“I’ll be going back tomorrow, Jin hyung.”

 

“...Okay.”

 

Seokjin knew this moment would come, but knowing didn’t make farewells any easier. It wasn’t possible to have Jungkook live in his bathtub forever. Jungkook was a mermaid, and he deserved to swim with freedom. 

 

“Why did you bring me to your nest?” Jungkook asked quietly. There was a touch of vulnerability in his eyes, like a child who had been hurt and abandoned too many times. It made Seokjin want to be careful with his words, and yet, there wasn’t really a clear explanation for his actions. Something about Jungkook tugged at his heartstrings, made him want to protect the younger boy and shield him from the vast, vast ocean out there. He enjoyed sharing this small, safe bubble with Jungkook the past month. They had gotten along, so naturally, like they were soulmates. 

 

“Just because,” Seokjin said cheekily, ruffling Jungkook’s hair with a grin. 

 

Jungkook huffed, puffing his cheeks. He grabbed Seokjin’s hand, stopping him. With great care, he shifted his fingers so his claws wouldn’t hurt Seokjin, intertwining their fingers together. His palm was cold, but Seokjin’s was warm. Slowly, the warmth seeped over, until their hands were the same temperature. 

 

Jungkook was a mysterious person (fish?). He was full of sharp edges and defensiveness, yet full of childlike innocence and softness. Sometimes he spat words full of moody cynicism, at other times, he laughed brightly and joked around like a spoilt brat. Right now, he was but a lonely boy reaching out for affection, and Seokjin wanted to give it to him wholeheartedly. To prove Jungkook had a trusted friend in him.

 

That night, Seokjin stayed for a long, long time. 

 


After Jungkook returned to the deep ocean, life for Seokjin was difficult to adjust to. He had no one to talk to about his day. He had to go back to cooking for one, but even after half a year, sometimes he still cooked Jungkook’s share. He was lonely. He kept thinking of Jungkook, especially when he was back on his yacht. He hoped the boy was doing well in the deep blue sea.

 

...The fish net was strangely heavy again. 

 

No way.

 

Traitorous hope fluttered in his chest. He desperately tried to tamper it down. It might not be. Maybe it got caught on the ocean floor. It could even be another mermaid. Or a shark. He had to lower his expectations before he fell even further in disappointment. 

 

The black lump he fished up looked frighteningly familiar. Seokjin held his breath as the creature sat up, crawling out of the net. 

 

Jeon Jungkook. 

 

He was much more handsome now, looking more like a man than a boy. The baby fat could no longer be found in his sharp, angular cheekbones. Although Jungkook had been attractive before, now he was deadly handsome and mesmerizing as he smiled sweetly at Seokjin. His eyes sparkled like they held the entire universe in them, and Seokjin lost his ability to think momentarily as he drowned in that magnetic gaze.

 

“Jin hyung,” Jungkook said, voice deep and warm, a compelling sound, like a siren’s song. The corners of his eyes crinkled with happiness, and words spilled from Seokjin’s mouth before he realized it, months and months of things he wanted to tell Jungkook. Seokjin mentioned how the original heir (Kim Taehyung) decided to go against the family and become a farmer, angering his father’s legal wife to the point of fainting. He talked about the new cuisines he invented.

 

As he rambled, Jungkook grabbed Seokjin’s wrist a little too tight and scratched him with his mermaid claws. Seokjin paid it no mind, mindlessly exhilarated from being able to meet each other again. He laughed and said his cousin was taking over the hospitals. "Kim Namjoon, remember? The vet who told me how to treat fish? Turns out the bastard has multiple degrees, and he's cool with taking over the family business."

 

Finally, Seokjin looked down at the death grip Jungkook had on him. He wasn’t even angry about it. In fact, thinking about it, he realized the reason why Jungkook had done so.

 

"Aigoo, look at you. Were you afraid of me going back to Seoul to inherit the business? Hm, Jeon Jungkook? Such a cute little thing you ar—" Jungkook licked the claw marks and Seokjin yelped. "—you are a slippery, stinky fish! Bad! That's unhygienic!"

 

Jungkook laughed, unrepentant. 

 

“I’m glad you’re still here, hyung.”

 

“Well, I like this place. I get to grow my own vegetables for cheap, the air is fresh, and I only need to cook for a small number of customers. I’m not the kind of guy who likes to work super hard. I like living day by day in a carefree manner — don’t look at me like that. Fine.”

 

Those weren’t the only reasons.

 

“I stayed because I wanted to see you again, you brat,” Seokjin huffed, tapping Jungkook’s nose.

 

Jungkook scrunched his nose and grinned. “I came back because I missed you too. This time, I’m staying.”

 

“Staying?”

 

“Jin hyung. There was something I lied to you about.”

 

Slowly and seriously, Jungkook explained why he had been hurt that day. He had been the smallest and ugliest of five brothers (at this point, Seokjin was incredulous, because Jungkook was the most gorgeous creature he had ever seen). Mermaids were supposed to have beautiful, colourful tails. Because his was black, he had been ostracized and bullied since he was young. That day, the hazing had gotten especially bad, and he ran away from home. Seokjin remembered how bad those cuts had been — he couldn’t believe how Jungkook’s tribe had done that to their own member.

 

“I went back this time to find the sea witch. So she could give me this.”

 

Just like in The Little Mermaid, Jungkook’s tail morphed into two very naked human legs.

 

“Woah!” Seokjin tossed his coat onto Jungkook’s lower half immediately, blushing like a tomato. “Jeon Jungkook! You can’t just do that without warning!”

 

Jungkook laughed again, bright and happy, and with soft, human fingers, he cupped Seokjin’s face and kissed him.

 

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