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Fish Tails Part 2 - Gabriel Big Bang 2012

Title: Fish Tails
Artist: pandionpandeus
Beta: wolfrider89
Genre/Pairing: Richard/Misha
Rating:Nc-17
Word count:15,094
Warnings/Spoilers:merman Misha.
Summary:For as long as Richard can remember he's been spending summers at his Grandfather's cabin by the lake. What no one else in his family knows is Richard has a secret connection with the merboy that lives in the water. After an altercation that destroys their friendship, Richard finds himself drawn to a new co-worker that reminds him of the friend he left behind so long ago.

Part 2

Richard spends way more time obsessing about dinner the following evening than he would really care to admit. First it’s the food, trying to pick chicken or beef, and then settling on fish because, shit, he’s totally lost here and in way over his head. Then, after he finally settles on the meal he spends the rest of the afternoon turning over place settings and lighting, music and after dinner wine. He’s like a fifteen year old girl with a crush: he knows just enough to be dangerous, but has no real clue as to what is actually going on.

By the time Misha actually gets to his house for the evening Richard has been contemplating calling him to cancel for over an hour. So what if everything is finally ready? At least that way Misha won’t find out that other than a merman thinking they were mated for life he really doesn’t have all that much experience in the whole dating of men department. He should have gotten out more, really, but he’s so messed up about the whole thing he actually thought he would just never try to date someone again.

“Fish?” Misha asks as they settle down to eat.

Richard freezes. “Do you not like fish?” Holy crap.

“I’m a vegetarian,” Misha says as he pokes his fish with a fork. “I can eat around it.”

It’s like the world bottoms out from underneath him. How did he ever make such a stupid mistake? Richard starts to replay every meal they’ve shared with each other and he swears Misha has eaten meat in front of him before. Maybe he’s crazy…

“Are you serious?”

“No,” Misha says with a huge grin. “I’m joking, fish is fine. I just wanted to watch you squirm. It’s cute, in a really uncomfortable sort of way.”

“I hate you,” Richard glowers, yanking up his napkin, so carefully folded on the table, and slapping it into his lap. He digs into his meal without looking back up at his date on the other side of the small kitchenette table. If he just keeps chewing maybe he can forget Misha is sitting over there chuckling at him. He’s not used to being so transparent. He has walls on top of walls on top of walls, and hell, it’s one of the reasons his marriage ended. No one ever gets in far enough to hurt him, not ever again. But somehow, Misha just walks right through them like they don’t exist.

“No, you don’t,” Misha murmurs as he goes to dig into his food like he’s starving. “You don’t love me, not yet, but you sure as hell don’t hate me. You look at me like a starving man watching a steak.”

“Oh shut up!” Richard snaps. He can feel his face flushing pink as heat creeps up cheeks. Humiliated.

“I don’t see what the problem is,” Misha grins as he takes a sip of his wine. Richard looks up just in time to see on odd smile playing around the other man’s mouth while Misha looks pointedly at the wall behind Richard’s head and offers, “I’m pretty…hungry myself.”

The blood in Richard’s face goes shooting toward his dick at lightning speed and he has to grip the table with both hands and take a deep breath for fear of passing out. Misha Collins is like a roller-coaster. Richard never sees the turns or drops coming, but he’s pretty sure he’s having the time of his life.

He’s starting to think he might not be the only one. The way Misha still won’t meet his eyes tells him Misha has more secrets of his own, desires and wants that maybe Richard can help him fulfill. That would be something new, to be part of building something solid and wonderful with another person instead of just standing in the middle waiting for it all to fall down. “So tell me about your favorite food,” Richard blurts, trying to drive the conversation away from the deep and personal and into territory more suited for a first date.

After all, that’s what they’re on, right? A first date.

Hopefully, it will be the first of many. It’s nice, to not be just rushing to figure out how to get into Misha’s pants. There’s attraction, for certain, but it’s not all Richard wants, and he’s willing to wait to see if he can have something real.

Though, when the wine is gone and the sun has lowered itself well into the evening, turning the sky dark with just the stars and the bright light of the moon, Richard struggles to remember why taking it slow is a good thing as Misha reaches out to kiss him goodnight. He feels like he’s melting, dissolving into heat and wanting until he's certain there’s just a puddle of him left around Misha’s feet.

He swears he pours himself into bed.

*****

“Do you like the ocean?” Misha asks as they settle in on the couch one night. Richard is leaning against the back, facing the television even though it isn’t on, while Misha is settled against the side with his socked feet slung across Richard’s lap.

“I’m…not exactly a water person,” Richard answers, clenching the magazine he’s reading between his suddenly numb fingers as his mind produces images, once thought long forgotten, of Mish’s wide eyes and too pale skin glistening in the light.

“Bad experience?” Misha asks.

There’s something in his tone that makes Richard turn to meet his gaze. He almost laughs, because Misha looks so concerned, as though he’s scared Richard might start screaming any second now. Hell, maybe he thinks Richard might. After all, they’ve only been dating for a few weeks, just enough for each of them to start easing into being together, to start taking their shoes off and stop wearing their best non-work clothes when they decide to spend time together.

“Something like that,” Richard answers hesitantly. “I almost drowned when I was a kid. I mean, it wasn’t too serious, I wasn’t in the water long enough to do any damage. I…um…held my breath. My mom lost her mind though. Look, it’s a stupid and frankly really boring story. So just don’t even worry about it. I’m sorry I even started talking about it. But, anyway, I never did learn how to swim, so yeah, not such a fan of the water.”

There’s a pause, and Misha’s body doesn’t tense but he’s not moving either. It's like he’s assessing something, waiting for Richard to crack. Richard stares at the painting on the wall near the corner of the room and wills his heart to stop hammering in his chest, for his hands to stop shaking, for Misha to say something, anything. The silence is deafening and just when he thinks he’s going to crack and start screaming about merpeople and long lost lovers Misha finally says, “So we’ll plan all our vacations for the mountains then, because neither of us are water people.”

Air, blessed air rushes back into Richard’s lungs. “So…you don’t like water either?”

“Not so much,” Misha huffs. He blinks slowly and crosses his arms. For a second, Richard thinks he must be lying. “Unlike your story, it’s kind of complicated. And I’d like to not have to rehash the whole thing. So let’s just agree that we’re not going to build a secluded cabin by a lake somewhere and we’ll be fine.”

It’s on the tip of Richard’s tongue to mention that he already owns an isolated cabin next to a lake, but if he brings it up then Misha might want to go there sometime and then Richard would have to deal with facing Mish. It’s not something he thinks he's capable of coping with so he bites his lip and feels horribly guilty. But he remains silent and thinks to himself that it’s only one secret, a secret that doesn’t even really belong to him. He has to protect his friend, it’s the least he can do.

He owes Mish that much.

Misha suddenly starts in on an animated story from a few years ago when he had just started to work at his company. Something about traveling to New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Richard really isn’t paying much attention at the beginning, his thoughts spinning out of control. He snaps back to reality when Misha’s foot nudges just a little too close to his balls, making him jump, and he reaches out on instinct to cup along Misha’s calf, his fingers slipping under the loose track pants Misha’s wearing.

The skin on Misha’s leg doesn’t feel right. It’s bumpy, ragged. Richard curves his hand upwards as Misha keeps talking, exploring and mapping the strange hairless ridge that seems to cover only the outside of Misha’s leg. “What’s wrong with you?” Richard suddenly blurts. Misha stops talking, blinking over at Richard with wide eyes.

“I know it was a little weird, but I swear nothing I ate could possibly have been that poisonous. Seriously, the alcohol poisoning was way worse. I puked all over everyone.”

Okay….

“That’s not what I mean,” Richard corrects. “I mean, what is wrong with your leg?”

“Oh,” Misha shrugs. “It’s nothing, road rash I guess they call it. I got dragged on gravel and it ate my leg up. No big deal.”

“It feels horrible,” Richard whispers, his eyes focused on the hem on the edge of Misha’s pants leg as it keeps riding up farther and farther. He gets just a glimpse of strangely marked skin on the outside of Misha’s leg before Misha is gently pulling it away and tugging his pants leg back down.

“It’s not so bad,” Misha grins. “Happened a long time ago. It’s ugly, but nothing that really gives me problems. Not like the webbed toes, anyway.”

“Webbed toes?” Richard sputters and Misha wiggles his socked feet now tucked under Richard’s thigh.

“Yep,” Misha laughs as Richard’s eyes widen comically. “Had them my whole life. Don’t tell anyone though; it has to be our little secret. People will think I’m a freak.”

“You are a freak!” Richard laughs, grabbing Misha’s left ankle to hold it still after yanking it out from under him and trying to tug off Misha’s sock. Misha puts up a fight, giggling and then shouting in mock outrage as they roll off the couch onto the floor. Richard refuses to let him go, though, and he finally manages to fight Misha’s freakishly long arms away from him long enough to yank off the sock. Only to have Misha roll him over, throw all his body weight on top of him and tickle him until Richard almost pees himself. They end up in a panting mass of askew limbs piled together on the ground. Richard thinks he probably lost, since Misha is stupidly strong and won’t cry uncle for anything. But even though Richard has come out on the bottom of this particular scuffle Misha still holds his bare foot up in the air and splays his toes out in an arc.

Richard gasps before bursting into laughter. There, for him to see clear as day, are Misha’s toes, all webbed, the thin membrane stretched out between each toe. It’s fascinating. Richard looks at it for a long time before reaching out to touch. Misha jerks his foot away, warning, “Too sensitive.”

He’s happy. For the first time in a long time everything in his life is going just the way he wants it to go.

So of course, everything starts going to hell the very next day.

*****

“We have a problem,” Rob says as he slams his way into Richard’s office Monday morning.

“We have lots of problems,” Richard agrees. It’s nothing new, there’s always something going wrong in the business world and frankly, with the economy the way it is right now they’re all just lucky they still have jobs. Richard hasn’t even had to do layoffs so he counts himself as extra lucky these days.

“No, Richard,” Rob argues. The first clue Richard gets that this is the personal kind of bad is when Rob stops to lock the door behind him before crossing the distance to his desk only to unplug the phone. “I mean seriously bad. This guy Misha Collins? He doesn’t exist.”

It feels like his heart stops. Richard can’t breathe. Tears come to his eyes before he even finds his voice to ask how Rob knows, because Rob is one of those guys that find things out. It’s why Richard hired him. He can find out anything about anyone no matter how hard they try to hide it. The fact that it’s taken him this long to come to Richard means he’s been digging hard on Misha from right out the gate and come up empty handed.

“Are you sure?” he manages to choke out.

“Would I be here if I wasn’t?” Rob snaps back and Richard flushes because that was just a stupid question. “Look Richard, I don’t know how to tell you this, but the guy is a fraud. I know you’re close, I know there’s some serious stuff going on between you two. That’s why I kept looking. I had to be sure before I came up here and ripped you apart. I put it all on the disk. Check it out for yourself. But I swear to God, he didn’t exist on the planet before four years ago. No records, no education, all of his degrees are falsified. His social security number is off some guy who died over ten years ago. He’s not real. Whoever he is, he’s bad news and you need to get the hell away from him before something horrible happens.”

Richard doesn’t remember much of the following conversation. He knows Rob gives him more information but he doesn’t process any of it. Instead, he puts Rob out of his office after thanking him for everything in a voice Richard knows is dead and flat. He relocks the door behind himself and starts digging his way through the thumb drive Rob has left for him. What he finds is shocking. Rob is right, all of Misha’s documentation is forged. They’re good, but not perfect, and if someone wasn’t looking too hard they would never had noticed. His personal documentation is full of inconsistencies, and his birth certificate is particularly shocking, as it indicates he was born in the same small town that Richard’s grandfather lived and died in.

But it’s the social security number that stops Richard in his tracks. He has to go home to check it, has to be sure. He knows that number, has seen it on the documentation for the cabin, but that can’t possibly be right. He dashes out of his office, blowing off three important merger meetings and knocking down an intern in the hallway on his way to the elevator. Misha shouts his name as Richard runs through the lobby, but he’s the last person Richard wants to talk to right now. There’s too much burning in his head and he’s just one piece away from putting the puzzle together.

The drive home is physically painful. He’s on the verge of a panic attack the whole way and as he manages to finally get his front door open he falls into his condo and has to drag himself back up to make it to the spare bedroom he uses as an office. There, buried in his file cabinet, is the documentation from his grandfather’s death. Richard had kept it all just in case he needed it. On the last page, Richard finds it. His grandfather’s social security number…the same one Misha is using today.

Richard feels the tears well up in his eyes before they start pouring down his cheeks. He sobs dryly at first, shoving the papers away from himself with a snarl before collapsing on the ground and burying his face in his arms. There’s a part of his that always suspected. The spray tan, the same eyes. But it had all seemed too good to be true and now it wasn’t. Betrayal, white and hot, burns through his chest. He has no idea why Mish would do this, why he would follow Richard out into the world.

But he’s sure as hell going to find out. He spends the rest of the afternoon straightening up the mess he’s made and getting ready for a show down. He’s going to have his answers before the sun rises tomorrow if he has to beat them out of Misha, or whoever the shit he actually is.

*****

Richard sits in the dark until he hears the door open. He doesn’t remember giving Misha a key, but on top of everything else he’s found out today it seems small in comparison. Everything seems small, unimportant. There’s just Richard, his anger, and this man coming through the door.

There’s nothing else left.

“Rich?” Misha calls out, somewhere between a yell and a whisper. Almost like he’s afraid of the answer he’ll get. It makes a part of Richard’s mouth twist up in some kind of hideous mockery of a grin. It would be nice if Mish was as off center as he feels right now.

The lights start to click on, one after another, as Misha moves through the house searching for him. Richard doesn’t move from where he’s crouched in the corner of his almost empty walk in closet. There’s not a lot of sanity left in him today to explain why he decided to sit here to wait, but it’s dark and close to the bathroom in case he needs to get to the tub. He hears it when Misha’s feet hit the now soaking carpet, the squish of his treads along it becoming slower, less sure of themselves as they cross the room toward the master bathroom. The tub has long since gotten so full of water it's on the point of overflowing, water running across the tile floor until it hits the carpet and soaking along it’s length. Richard has been waiting for hours, and he wanted to be ready just in case.

In case of what, Richard is honestly not sure. He’s been drinking, half a bottle of scotch gone in less than four hours, and he’s a little fuzzy on what exactly his plan started out as. He only knows that it’s shrunk down to a tub full of water, a darkened condo, and him in the closet clutching his grandfather’s old hunting rifle. Richard has never fired it before. Honestly, he’s not even sure it’s loaded, but Misha or Mish, or whoever the fuck he is, doesn’t know that.

Richard just wants answers.

“Richard?” Misha asks again as he sloshes past the closet door to shut off the tap. “Jesus, what happened here?”

It’s not until the closet light clicks on that Richard even considers answering. Misha’s shocked face is highlighted by the harsh electric light of the bare bulb, and Richard looks up at him, bleary-eyed and dangerous. “Who. Are. You?” Richard growls out as he stands, hand gripping the rifle at his side.

Misha jerks backwards hard. His foot in his designer business shoe slips on the wet carpet and he stumbles, trips backward. He falls and bashes his head hard enough against the sheet-rock behind him that his head cracks it, leaving a dent. “No,” Misha whimpers. He scoots backwards, struggling to find footing, back into the bathroom to finally press himself against the sink and cling to like his life depends on it. “Richard…please.”

“Who. Are. You?” Richard demands as he follows him into the room. It’s funny, in some distant area of his brain, that it never occurred to him until just now exactly how large this bathroom really is. Ridiculous.

“You know who I am,” Misha whispers. Richard watches as tears well up in the other man’s eyes and so help him, if he had any tears of his own left he would have started crying too. He doesn’t want this to be happening right now. He wants them to be curled up together on the couch, secure in the notion that his suspicions were stupid and that this relationships was something he could keep. But that’s not how this is playing out.

“Get in the tub,” Richard orders, waving the rifle in the tub's general direction. Misha looks at it, wide eyed, before shakily turning back to Richard like he doesn’t understand. “Get in the God damned tub!” Richard shouts.

Misha starts moving. It’s slow, hesitant, almost like he doesn’t really believe this is happening. “This isn’t going to work,” Misha warns, even as he grabs onto the towel bar and crawls over the edge so that he’s standing in the middle of the tub, water soaking his expensive dry-clean-only suit and ruining it just like they’ve both managed to ruin any chance they ever had at being happy. “I don’t know what you’re expecting, but I can’t just…shift.”

“Change back.” Richard orders. He heard what Misha said but at this point he doesn’t have any reason to believe him at all. “Now.”

“I just told you I can’t!” Misha sobs. He wraps his arms around himself as his body starts to shiver all over. Richard flinches a little. The water has to be cold, might be hurting him. But it’s too late for him to back down now. “I can’t turn back. This is what I am now. It’s too late for that. I’m sorry. You’re right, you’re not crazy. If that’s what you think. I’m him, that boy from the lake. I swear I am. But this isn’t a movie, Richard. I can’t just grow a tail and gills right now. Please stop this.”

“Why?” Richard barks, hammering the butt of the rifle against the sink, making Misha throw his hands up and make a noise that sounds desperate and afraid. “Oh, shut up,” Richard sighs as he tosses the rifle out of the room into the soaking wet hallway. “I don’t even know how to fire the damned thing. I’m not going to shoot you.”

He turns, slamming down the toilet lid seat and slumping down on it to bury his face in his hands. For long moments there’s just the sound of them both breathing shakily, desperately, and then Misha says, “I can’t be without you. I’m not…human enough for that. What I feel for you, it changes what I am, and without you near me even only part of the time I hurt. I hurt so much, Richard. I thought I was dying. I just wanted to find you again. So I made myself this person and learned what I needed to be human. I thought…I thought even if you didn’t want me then, didn’t love who I really am, I could make you love me like this. It wouldn’t be real, wouldn’t be what I really wanted, but it might be enough to make me stop hurting inside. To make us both stop hurting. I see it in you too, even if you think it’s not there. You need me too.”

“I don’t need anybody,” Richard answers, raising tired eyes to meet the gaze of the only person in his life he ever really cared about. “Why did you want to hurt me so much? I know…I know I should have done better by you. But I was stupid, scared, and young. I never thought you would do all this just to get back at me…”

“I love you!” Misha shouts. “Aren’t you listening to me? I did all this so we could be together, so I could be what you wanted. I didn’t want to hurt you. Please, Richard. Help me. We can make us work. We have to. I can’t…I won’t make it long without you again.”

“Get out,” Richard answers. The finality of it is ringing in the air around them both. He’s tired, too tired to be angry anymore, too heartsick to yell. They can’t continue this way. Richard isn't made to live like this. “Everything about you is a lie.”

Mish’s breath leaves his lungs as though it was punched out. Richard turns his back and presses his face against the cold tile of the wall while he listens to the water splashing and Mish’s smothered sobs as he slinks from the room, from the condo, from Richard’s life. Richard doesn’t move for a long time after he hears the distant click of the shutting front door. Not until the alcohol in his stomach makes him sick, and he has to slide off the toilet onto the damp tile floor so he’ll have somewhere to vomit.

*****
Misha Collins ceases to exist as though he never was. The deal goes through for Richard’s company as promised the following week, with a huge pay out in their favor to cover business dealings done by someone who was never qualified in the first place. It saves Richard’s career. He just wishes he could bring himself to give a shit.

He lets Rob handle all of it. Instead he chooses to spend the week sucking the water out of his carpet with an industrial shop vac and profusely apologizing to the downstairs neighbors of his condo for the water damage to their ceiling from his night of insanity. If he closes his eyes and tries really hard it’s almost as if it never happened in the first place. Or it would be, if not for the fact that Richard’s heart feels like it gets a little bit smaller and more dried up every second of everyday.

He’s considering the benefits of just cutting off the water soaked bottom of the sheet-rock when it occurs to him that maybe Mish had been serious about not being able to make it without him. Maybe this is more than just heartbreak, maybe it doesn’t just feel like a part of him is dying inside. Maybe a part of him, Mish’s part of him, is actually dying.

Suddenly, Richard is very, very afraid.

“What would you do,” he asks Rob when he calls to check up on him. “If everything you wanted was just out of your reach and the only thing you had to do to get it was give up everything you already had?”

“It depends,” Rob answers without even hesitating. “Does what you have make you happy?”

“No.”

It doesn’t, not at all, has never even come close to summers spent lounging on the dock in the sun while his friend floated peacefully at his side.

“Richard…” Rob says softly. “Do you love him?”

“More than every breath I have ever taken in my life,” Richard responds, wiping at tears he thought for certain had to be dried up.

“Then maybe it doesn’t matter who he is,” Rob says, like he’s spent some time thinking about it before this phone call. “Maybe it only matters who he is to you.”

“I have to go.” Richard announces suddenly, because he does, he has to go now. They’ve already lost so much time.

“I know.”

“I may not come back,” he warns as he dashes around his condo trying to find his keys, his wallet. He doesn’t need anything else.

“I know how to find you,” Rob chuckles. “Go be happy, you obnoxious little shit.”

Richard is smiling when he drops his cell phone on the still damp carpet and races towards his car. It’s the first bit of joy he’s felt in a week, and he holds it as tightly as he can while he waits in the airport to board the plane taking him home.

He never lets himself consider the possibility that Mish might not be there.

*****

The flight feels like it takes forever, and waiting in line for the rental car even longer. Not to mention that after all that he still has a two hour drive from the airport to the cabin with no way to call ahead and tell Mish he’s coming. Not that Mish would answer the phone, or even then want to talk to him. It’s then, as he finally hits town, that the first wave of insecurity starts to roll over Richard’s shoulders.

What if Mish isn’t there?

Worse, what if he’s there and just refuses to see Richard?

Or, what if he sees him and then hates him for the endless cycle of bullshit Richard has created leading up to this moment?

He wants to say it’s not possible, wants to swear that Mish will still love him no matter what, because the only other option is that Richard has ruined any chance of real happiness he’s ever had by being a total jackass. He’s not sure he can live with himself if that’s the case.

By the time he finishes driving around the lake toward the cabin Richard’s hands are shaking. His chest hurts as he parks the rental and gets out. There are no other cars here, no tire tracks or anything that might even be considered signs of life. The windows are shut down tight, not even a ripple in the water. Richard hesitates, but there’s just no other way this could go for them. Mish has to be here, because if he’s not then Richard’s whole life is going to fall apart.

Richard circles the house, noticing the door has been opened and shut recently, but now it’s locked tight and in his rush to get here he forgot he doesn’t carry the key to the cabin on his ring anymore. He’s got no way of getting in other than busting in a window and he’s not that desperate. Not yet. His path trails around the edge of the lake, and Richard’s still not sure what exactly he’s looking for. Nothing here looks any different than it did all those years ago, but then, nothing here ever changes. It's almost like the cabin, the lake, and everything is stuck in time. He wishes that was true, wishes that maybe he and Mish could have been stuck at seventeen when their whole world was just the lake and each other and they hadn’t learned how to hurt one another yet.

He rounds the curve leading towards the dock, walking down its wooden planks toward the end with no other goal than to sit there and trail his feet in the water until the sun sets or someone, hopefully Mish, comes to collect him. The boards creak as Richard crosses them, bending under his weight in a way he doesn’t remember from childhood hours spent lounging here. At the end of the dock the canoe has long since disappeared; floated off to sink in the other side of the lake, maybe, Richard doesn’t know. He’s just staring down into the murky, depths trying to think of his next move, when the boards beneath him shift, moving and separating as though they’re coming apart at the seams. Richard has just enough time to panic, to turn and grab onto the board behind him, as he falls into the icy cold water. But even that board gives way under his weight, breaking off in his desperate hands as he flails.

He never did learn how to swim.

Richard hurls himself back towards the shore in desperation, but the dock is long and the water deep. His feet won’t touch the bottom and with the weight of his jeans and the jacket he’s losing the battle to stay afloat too quickly to save himself. He screams as he feels himself sinking, dragged under without the aid of a merman to breathe air into his lungs this time. Richard is going to die here, his whole life eaten up by this lake, and the worst part is that he’ll never get to tell Mish how wrong he was, how sorry he is, how much he wants a life for the two of them together.

It’s too late.

Richard stops struggling after a few long minutes. His chest is screaming, he’s out of air and the world around him starts to turn gray around the edges of his vision. He slips into unconsciousness just as something slams into the side of his body hard enough to make him cough out the rest of his air. Everything goes black and Richard wonders distantly what it was.

He wakes up on the bank, soaked and freezing in the ever cooling night air with Mish crouched on top of him, just as wet, and furiously shrieking, “Richard! You gigantic fucking asshole! Wake the hell up!

Richard blinks, coughing up what feels like the entire lake in horrible spasms that make him double over in on himself, quivering and fighting for breath. “Oh, thank fuck!” Mish barks out hoarsely, flopping over onto his back beside Richard who is now curled over and whimpering between sucking in huge lung fulls of air and gagging them back out again.

“The dock’s rotten,” Mish says after a few moments. “It’s been that way for years. I thought about putting up a sign, but no one ever comes out this far so it never seemed important.”

“I’m sorry,” Richard blurts, his voice sounding like he’s been strangled. There’s so much he needs to get out of his head, out of his heart. He still feels like he’s drowning.

“Not now,” Mish orders, struggling to his feet and reaching down to drag Richard back up onto his as well. He aims them toward the cabin and forces Richard to stumble along with him, when everything in Richard’s body is telling him to sit down, curl up, and die.

“Mish…” The protest is a weak one. He’s so tired.

“We can talk about it later,” Mish says harshly. “Whatever it is you have to say. You need to get warm or bad things are going to happen and in this form there’s not much I can do to help with that. Now, can you walk faster than this or do I need to carry you?”

Richard must hesitate a second too long because Mish rolls his eyes and snatches him up like he weighs nothing, hauling him toward the house at a pace that Richard knows humans can’t walk while at carrying so much extra weight in their arms. He doesn’t even put Richard down to yank the door open, letting it slam shut behind them while he carries Richard straight into the bathroom, off the living room, and drops him in the tub. Richard gasps as the water comes on cold and Mish mutters curses and apologies under his breath. He turns the spray away and bends to yank off Richard’s tennis shoes. “Can you help me take your clothes off? You’re soaked and freezing and wet clothes aren’t going to help you get warm.”

Richard isn't certain he’s actually helping at all, but the intent is there, at least. Mish finally manages to yank him free of his jeans and boxers, just as Richard gets his shirt worked far enough up his chest for Mish to be able to rip it off over his head. He trembles all over, can’t stop shaking, and when Mish finally turns the shower head back around so that it hits him, the hot water feels like little needles stabbing into his skin over and over. He makes a noise that has to be a whimper even though he really wants to deny it right now. Then Mish is standing, tearing at his own clothing and stepping in between Richard and the water, hauling him back onto his feet and pressing up against him so they are chest to chest.

“Shhh…” Mish whispers in his ear and Richard relaxes into his hold, focusing on breathing and the way the water rolls over Mish’s shoulder and down onto his head, taking away the sting. It's possible that he loses some time, because the next thing Richard knows his back is being heated by the warm water spray and Mish is leaning against the tiled shower wall rubbing his arms and shoulders and holding him up. Richard hums softly, shifting and reaching a hand that he can finally feel again up to slide across the bare side of Mish’s body. The other man doesn’t say anything until Richard’s fingers slip across an oddly textured area of skin. He looks down, blinking water out of his eyes and sees…gills?

“They aren’t totally gone,” Mish offers. “Maybe they never will be. Sealed up though, so I can’t breathe under water anymore. I miss it. It would have been helpful today when I was looking for you.”

“Oh,” is all Richard manages, but his hand keeps rubbing over the area again and again like he’s hoping to memorize it before Misha yanks it all away again.

The water turns off once it starts to cool and he’s able to halfway help Mish dry him off before they both end up tumbling toward the bed in the room Richard has always claimed as his own. He blinks in surprise when he realizes it’s not just him that’s claimed that room. Mish must have been spending his time in here as well. The mishmash of personal items spreading over all the surfaces makes him grin even at it hurts his heart. “Rest,” Mish says firmly as he curls around Richard’s body, tucking him in close and holding him against Mish's unnatural warmth.

“Be here,” Richard manages to murmur. “In the morning, please be here.”

There’s a pause. He can feel his panic rising, ready to fight off sleep and cling to the other man if he has to in order to stop from losing him again. “Yes,” Mish finally says, and it’s all the permission Richard’s body needs before falling into sleep.

******

Six Months Later

“You’re a gigantic idiot, you know that, right?” Mish chuckles as he leans over the edge of the boat to look at Richard’s newest attempt at swimming in the lake.

“Freak,” Richard shoots back, raising his arms above his head and sinking under the water. It’s just a minute with his head sunk in and the panic starts to crawl up his back. It’s getting better, though, and Mish is probably the best teacher Richard could ask for. Besides, as soon as he puts his arms back down he floats back up to the surface. The little flotation devices he still insists on wearing make certain of that.

Yeah, he looks dumb, but there’s only Mish there to see it, and after all this time together they’ve both seen each other acting pretty stupid.

“Ready to go inside?” Mish asks when Richard orients himself around so he's facing Mish in the canoe. “You’re getting all pruny.”

“You say that like it’s a problem,” Richard teases.

“Water’s cold,” Mish shrugs. “I want to give you a blow job and I know you’re going to blame it all on shrinkage if you stay in there any longer.”

He squeals when Richard splashes him with water in retaliation. They both laugh as Mish leans over the edge of the canoe to brace himself and haul Richard back in. It’s a delicate balance, and they’ve tipped over a bunch of times, sometimes on purpose. But Richard is starting to view the canoe as a metaphor for their relationship; sometimes they push and pull to hard and turn everything upside down, but they always make it right again.

Mish is probably accurate when he says Richard is turning into a sentimental old fool. Richard shrugs it off. If he is, then so be it, they both like him better this way.

“I need to check in with Rob,” Richard reminds him as they work their way back to the newly rebuilt dock and tie off the canoe before heading to the house for him to clean up. “He’s been bugging the shit out of me for an answer about the Nelson project, and if I don’t give him one today he says he’s going to make me come in for a meeting instead of doing it over the video chat.”

“He wouldn’t dare,” Mish argues even as he grins. “He hates it when you come into town. He has to stop using your office.”

“True,” Richard chuckles as he pulls off his wet shoes and drops them by the front door, He heads inside and goes right for the bathroom. “But since when has that stopped him?”

He hears Mish make a grunting noise of acknowledgment. Richard smirks as he steps into the shower and turns on the water. Rob and Mish have had a lot to work out between the two of them. Rob is having a hard time getting over being convinced that Mish might be an ax murder; Mish blames Rob for blowing his carefully crafted cover. It had been rough at the beginning and frankly required Richard to be a lot more honest with Rob than he was really comfortable being. But once the man had understood what was really going on he had stopped being so adversarial. He still doesn’t know Mish isn’t actually human, but he knows enough to know that the fake identity he sometimes uses is necessary to keep him safe, and because of that he helped to make Misha Collins a better cover in case of emergency.

Richard gets out of the bathroom just in time to overhear Mish saying, “I think I’m going to bring him in for a visit in a month or two, Rob. He loves it here and we’re happy but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world gets to disappear just because we want it to.”

Richard smiles a little sadly. True words, but he never stops wishing for this simple life with Mish out here at the cabin to be the only life he has to lead.

“Stop talking about me!” he orders playfully as Mish hands him the laptop with a quick kiss pressed to his cheek. Mish heads into the bathroom for a shower of his own as Richard goes over the next business venture their company is about to undertake. He and Rob spend the next twenty minutes bickering over changes in the contracts and who will handle what. Richard misses when the shower turns off and the bathroom door reopens. He’s not paying attention when Mish walks past him into the living room. Doesn’t glance up at all until Mish’s robe hits the floor at his feet with a soft thump of material.

When he does look up Richard is stunned.

Mish’s body is what other people might consider odd, but it never fails to get a reaction out of Richard. Mish is all long, lean muscles under skin that still retains some of its thin membrane like qualities from his time as a water dweller. Though Mish has developed a tan of his own now, due to his days spent out in the sun, the parts of him that are still slightly scaled have taken on a golden hue, shining out against the light from the living room and making him sparkle a little in the center of the room.

His gills remain against the lower sides of his body, where thin flaps of skin layer over each other in two palm sized patches just above his hips. Richard has explored those gills expertly, knows the openings behind them that once let him process water for oxygen have long since sealed over. But still, trailing his fingers, or better yet, his tongue over the strips of flesh that remain can make Mish come with almost no other stimulation. He’s so sensitive.

The trail of damaged and torn up scarring that trails up his outer leg and side stands out sharply against the beauty of the rest of his form. Mish hates it, and Richard remembers nights spent trying to peel back the covers in the dim light of their shared bedroom to explore it with his eyes, and having Mish squirm and protest against his curiosity. But Richard loves this part of his body more than any other, the scarring speaking of loyalty, of the enormous ability that his friend has to love others. Those scars are like a badge of honor to Richard, and he spends every spare second he has trying to convince Mish to feel the same. It’s a work in progress, they both are.

He knows he’s in trouble when his wandering eyes make it back to Mish’s face. His blue eyes are laughing silently at the way Richard’s mouth is hanging open and Mish smirks. He slides down to the floor to crawl, like a giant panther, over to where Richard is sitting on the couch, and he mouths at his hard-on through his sweatpants.

“Richard!” Rob snaps over the video conference still going on on the laptop. “Are you listening to me?”

“Yeah!” Richard blurts as Mish tugs down his pants and reaches inside to tug his dick free, leaning down to lick at it over and over with his tongue. Richard isn't sure who he’s talking to right now, but Rob goes back to listing out all the concerns they still need to cover like Richard isn’t getting the blow job of his life right now.

He holds the laptop up higher, not wanting Rob to see anything. Then Mish deep throats him, right past the gag reflex he doesn’t actually have, and Richard gasps, “I have to go!”

“What?” Rob snaps. Richard looks at him frantically. Rob’s eyes narrow. “What is he doing?”

Richard opens his mouth to say something, he doesn’t know what. But then Mish chuckles with Richard’s dick still lodged in his throat and Richard's eyes start to roll up.

“I hate you both!” Rob shouts. “Call me when you grow up!” The video conference abruptly ends and Richard drops the laptop onto the couch, reaching down to grab handfuls of Mish’s hair and drag him up into a wet, passionate kiss.

One kiss turns into ten, turns into Mish straddling Richard’s lap as their dicks bump and rub against each other.

“He’s going to kill you for that,” Richard chuckles as he mouths at a patch of scales near Mish’s shoulder.

“I’ll send him chocolate and wine,” Mish breathes into Richard’s ear before tugging on his earlobe with his teeth. “He’ll get over it.”

“I love you,” Richard says as he tugs Mish back to look into his eyes. “Always loved you.”

“I love you, too,” Mish smiles, no boundaries, no secrets now.

Just the two of them, together, finally.

“Now take me to bed and I’ll show you the new move I learned in yoga.”

And how is Richard supposed to argue with that?

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
nicole_sill
Mar. 24th, 2012 10:58 am (UTC)
What an awesome take on the mermaid story! I would love to know how Mish changed himself but it really doesn't matter. By not knowing it somehow keeps magic out of the world and makes Mish's existence all the more spectacular! Really enjoyed this and this rare pair!
gedry
Mar. 29th, 2012 01:20 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for reading!
glenavera
Mar. 24th, 2012 03:32 pm (UTC)
Wonderful story. Thank you for sharing!
gedry
Mar. 29th, 2012 01:20 am (UTC)
Thank you!
singthestars
Mar. 26th, 2012 04:24 pm (UTC)
You will forever be one of my favorite SPN writers and this story just goes on to solidify that fact!!

I just wish that it had been longer!! lol.
gedry
Mar. 29th, 2012 01:20 am (UTC)
AWW Thanks so much!
morganoconner
Mar. 31st, 2012 03:57 pm (UTC)
*SMISH*

I still love this so much! ♥ ♥ ♥
gedry
Apr. 9th, 2012 06:56 pm (UTC)
LOVE YOU!
falcytan_dream
Apr. 1st, 2012 02:48 am (UTC)
I normally avoid RPF like it's an incurable horrifically painful alien plague, but the premise just sounded so good that I couldn't keep away. And as long as I pretend their names are just crazy random happenstances I absolutely love it!

I actually like that the specifics of Mish's transformation were never revealed; It focuses the story more on the feelings part of their relationship rather than the supernatural, and said feelings were written wonderfully. A sweet little gem to add to the collection <3
gedry
Apr. 9th, 2012 06:58 pm (UTC)
I want all my stories to be less about what happens and more about the relationships the characters have with each other and their changing selves. Thank you so much for giving this a shot!
jonjokeat
May. 4th, 2012 09:42 pm (UTC)

Love this story and the way you bring them together in the end.

:D
gedry
May. 22nd, 2012 02:20 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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