October 10th, 2010
Gabe somehow managed to extricate himself from the tangle of arms around him that was the Council. It took a good ten minutes of awkward but genuine farewells and promises to return eventually, but he was eventually able to leave once more. He slipped back out through the black-and-white marble halls. He was distracted as he swam; he felt both lighter as a result of finally getting all of his frustrations with the Council off his chest, and somehow melancholy at having to leave again.
He didn’t regret his choice – far from it, actually. Being back in the colony made him appreciate everything that he’d accomplished back in Edlund’s Cove even more. But just because he didn’t regret his choice didn’t mean it was any easier to make.
He swam past a number of other merrows as he left. Most of them were high ranking members of each caste, the lieutenants and right-hands of the Council members. In addition, there were a number of the older scholars heading off in the direction of the Hall of Records. There, a number of stone tablets and sculptures were housed, which together told the history of both the merrow species as a whole and this colony in particular.
“Why do I have to learn this?”
Gabe froze at the voice; it was much too high-pitched, too youthful, to be any of the elder scholars. He turned, wide-eyed, and saw a young merrow, probably only five or six years old, being ushered into the Hall of Records. He had swirly sandy-blonde hair, just like Gabe’s own, and his tail was pale yellow with little pale blue spots.
His eyes were gold.
“It is the duty of the scholars to learn and remember the history of our people,” one of the older scholars explained patiently. “One day, you will add to these tablets, telling future generations of the time that came before them.”
“But why do I have to?” the gold-eyed youngling asked again. He was met with a chorus of weary sighs from the scholars around him.
Gabe, still staring in shock, pushed towards their group on autopilot. He gently nudged two of the scholars aside so that he could slip between them. They grumbled a bit as they were jostled, then stopped abruptly when they saw him. He didn’t pay them a second thought.
Instead, he sunk down on his tail in front of the little gold-eyes.
“Hey, buddy,” he said softly. He watched the youngling’s eyes flick up to his, uncertain and perhaps a little embarrassed. He gasped as soon as his eyes locked on Gabe’s. “What’s your name?”
The little guy hesitated for a moment. One of the scholars gently nudged his shoulder, prompting him to speak.
“Bubbles on the Surface at Break of Day,” he said softly. Gabe smiled softly.
“Bubbles, huh? That’s a pretty good name – way better than Sunrise,” he said. That startled a tiny, bright laugh from Bubbles, a sound like a glockenspiel.
“You’re already sick of history class, huh?” Gabe asked. He knew that feeling well; no merrow at the age that either of them had started their training would enjoy sitting around and listening to the scholars drone on about stuff that happened centuries ago, not when they could be playing with their clutch.
“You have gold eyes too,” Bubbles said, in a voice that sounded awfully close to awestruck. If it was anybody else, Gabe would have hated hearing that tone directed at him. But he was just a youngling, and one that had the weight of not one, but two High Scholars that had abandoned him on his shoulders. Gabe sighed, a little chagrined.
“Yeah, I do. You know what that means, don’t you?”
Bubbles nodded solemnly. “It means you’re like me.”
“Yeah, I am, kiddo,” Gabe replied, proud and sorrowful at the same time. “There was a time when I was exactly like you – being forced into these stupid lessons, and having all these expectations to live up to, and being bossed around by these guys,” he said, and jerked his head towards the scholars. He heard an indignant huff or two from them, but they didn’t interrupt.
“But you know what?” he said, and placed his hands on Bubbles’ shoulders. “This stuff is important, even if you don’t get it just yet. I know I didn’t get it at your age.” He reached up and ruffled Bubbles’ hair. “But maybe I wasn’t the right guy for the job. Maybe we were all just waiting for someone better suited to be the High Scholar.”
“Me?” Bubbles asked, the squeak of the word coming out even shriller than it was supposed to.
“Yeah you,” Gabe said indulgently. “I bet you’ll do great, kiddo. That does mean you’re gonna have to listen to these guys –” he indicated the scholars with his head once more – “if you’re gonna do that, though. I know they’re boring,” he said as he cut off Bubbles’ pouting, “but sometimes boring things are important.”
“And,” he said as he straightened up, “I talked with Blood and Salt.” He glanced around at the other scholars, addressing them just as much as he was Bubbles. “I think things are going to be a little different soon. For one thing, you’re gonna have a better balance of work and play. Get to spend a bit more time with your clutch. Stuff like that.”
Bubbles’ eyes lit up, sparkling like sunlight. “Really?”
Gabe couldn’t help but grin. “Really. And I’ll come visit in a little while and help teach you, too.” He bent down to ruffle his hair one more time.
“You’re gonna be just fine, kiddo.”
As Gabe swam out of the Council chambers, he nearly ran into Crowley. The cecaelia was leaning against the outer wall right next to the entryway, his tentacles lazily curling around one another. He raised an eyebrow at Gabe.
“Well? You boys all finished with your little gossip session? Braided each other’s hair, talked about cute boys?”
Gabe’s eyes flickered over his face as he studied him, conflicted. He gnawed his lip and tipped his head to the side, deliberately not making eye contact with Crowley. He heaved a put-upon sigh.
“Look, I’m… I’m sorry about, y’know, everything back there,” he said begrudgingly, grimacing as he twirled his hand around in the direction of the chambers.
Crowley raised his other brow. “Oh?”
“I may not be thrilled at the idea of cecaeliae in this colony, but I don’t really get a say in how things go here anymore.” Gabe shrugged, somewhat off-kilter. “And I guess… if you’ve been here for a few years now, and none of your faction have done anything to harm us, then you probably aren’t going to do anything to harm us.” He rubbed his arm and gritted his teeth. “I…may have judged you too harshly,” he muttered.
“Oh, please, don’t be so emotional, it’s unbecoming,” Crowley replied, his voice breathtakingly dry. He smirked. “Feel free to drop by our district anytime.”
Gabe shuddered. “Nope, no way – you guys might be mostly okay, but I am never gonna get used to cecaeliae and merrows co-habitating.” He shook his head as he started to swim away. He waved over his shoulder. “Take care, Crowley.”
The cecaelia’s low, raspy chuckling chased him out over the colony. Gabe swam leisurely back to where he and Moon had decided to meet up after their respective conversations. He glanced around, and after a moment he spotted Moon a fair distance away, hovering in the water. As he got closer, he noticed his clutchmate looked… guilty?
“Moon, wha- WHOOF!” Gabe went flying backwards, the breath knocked out of him as he was tackled by all five other members of his clutch. They were shrieking and giggling and demanding details of what had happened to him and what he had done in the past ten years. Anemone and Kelp were squabbling and slapping each other’s tails away to try to wrap them around his; Magma managed to sneak his tail in in the midst of the chaos.
“One at a time, one at a time!” Gabe laughed, trying to wrap his arms and tail around everybody at once. The rest of the clutch immediately quieted, nuzzling up against him and letting out happy little trills. Moon swam over, chuckling softly.
“I tried to stop them from ambushing you,” he said, sounding embarrassed. Gabe waved him off from over somebody’s shoulder.
“Pfft, don’t worry about it – I can take these guppies.”
“Who’re you calling a guppy?” Kelp retorted. The effect was kind of lost, considering he was snuggling into Gabe’s shoulder as he said it. Gabe snorted.
“Well since you asked, I’m talking about you, specifically.” A tail, which he could only assume was Kelp’s, swung around and smacked him on the back of the head. He just laughed again. God, it was so good to see his clutch again!
They spent the next hour or so together, laughing and chatting easily between them. Gabe caught them up on where he had been for the past ten years, and the rest of the clutch told him about what had been happening in the colony in that time. He could almost feel the lingering grief over his situation in the colony leave him, like draining poison from a wound. Confronting the rest of the Council was the purging of the toxin, but being with his clutch again was the medicine that he really needed in order to heal.
Eventually, he and Moon – and Ripple, much to his surprise – managed to pull themselves away. Hugs and farewells and promises to return were exchanged, much more freely than they were with Blood and Salt, and then the three merrows swam back up to the boat.
They broke through the surface and came up to the stern of the boat. Gabe could see that the whole crew was assembled on the outer deck, watching and waiting with varying degrees of patience and concern. Dean immediately leaped up from his seat and stalked towards them, then seemed to realize how eager he looked and slowed down.
“Hey, uh, everything okay down there?” He asked, one hand scratching the back of his head self-consciously. Moon smiled brightly as he hauled himself onto the deck.
“Everything is fine; even better than I had hoped, actually.” The two stopped talking, but they continued to stare into each other’s eyes, seemingly oblivious to everyone else around them.
“Are they always that bad?” Gabe asked. Sam chuckled and knelt down, extending a hand to Gabe. While he was more that capable of pulling himself up, he knew that Sam was offering more than just physical support with the gesture. He took his hand gladly, along with everything else he was offering.
“Pretty much; it’s worse living in close quarters with them.” Sam rolled his eyes. “It’s amazing, really – they’ve been together for like, two weeks, and they’re already insufferable.”
“We can still hear you, Sammy,” Dean retorted. He shot Sam a look that would give his infamous bitchface a run for its money. “And it’s what you deserve, with how sickeningly mushy you and Gabe are all the time.”
“Yeah, ‘cause I only get to see him once a month or so, jerk,” Sam shot back. Dean grinned.
Ripple had pulled herself up onto the deck as they spoke. Charlie, unsurprisingly, was the first to notice her. She walked quickly over to her and fell to her knees in front of her on the deck.
“Ripple! Hey,” she said breathlessly, almost like a teenager with a crush. “What are you doing here? I thought you were gonna be going home?”
Ripple tilted her head as she looked at Charlie. “That was my original plan; however, I realized that I wanted to spend more time with you.” She hesitated. “Only if you’re okay with it, that is. I wouldn’t want to make you uncomfortable.”
Charlie reeled back and blinked rapidly for a second, then launched herself at Ripple, throwing her arms around her.
“What are you talking about? Of course it’s okay with me!”
Charlie pressed a firm kiss to Ripple’s cheek. A slow, bright smile spread over Ripple’s face. She bumped her forehead against Charlie’s and started trilling.
“Oh, that’s a happy sound!” Charlie chuckled. Ripple pulled back, startled. Her face flushed deep indigo and she buried her head in her hands. Gabe and Moon both laughed, gently slapping her tail with theirs and clicking at her. She turned her head to glare at Moon and tackled him to the deck. He squirmed in a half-hearted attempt to get away from her, but he was too busy laughing to do much more. The rest of the crew joined in, and a moment later Ripple gave up all pretence of offence and giggled, too.
It took a while for everyone to get control of themselves again. When they finally did, Dean broke the moment with a clap of his hands.
“Alright, everybody – let’s go home.”
October 11th-13th, 2010
The trip back to Edlund’s Cove was a stark contrast to the journey to the colony. The atmosphere was just as light and breezy on Ramble On as it was around them on the open ocean. Conversation and laughter flowed easily between every person on board.
Moon spent most of his time up at the helm with Dean, but did occasionally come down to join the rest of them, mostly at meals. Charlie was holed up in her cabin, working furiously on something. She’d pop out for ten minutes at meals and then immediately turn around and get right back to work. If anyone tried to ask her what she was doing, she’d just tell them “It’s a surprise” and wink.
Gabe sat out on the back deck, his head tipped back as he let the wind and the sun wash over him. Sam sat beside him on the bench, scribbling away in his grimoire. He’d told Gabe about the hunts they’d taken on on their last circuit, so Gabe knew all about the undine that had given him another grimoire as a thank you for freeing her. Now, he worked to copy over every useful spell that he didn’t already know into his own book.
It was impressive that he’d gotten as much done as he did, considering he only had access to one of his hands. The other was intertwined with Gabe’s, resting between them on the bench. Every now and then, Gabe would trace his thumb over the scale bracelet, and he’d glance over and see Sam smile softly from the corner of his eye.
He realized there was one more thing he needed to take care of. He slipped his phone from his pocket and tapped out a text, which was surprisingly difficult to do one-handed. Sam kissed his cheek as he put it away again.
“What was that?” Sam asked. Gabe hummed.
“Just making sure everyone’s on the same page,” he said mildly. Sam kissed him again, this time on his temple, then turned back to his book.
Ramble On pulled back in to the docks in the late afternoon of October 13th. Everybody slowly clambered off of the boat one-by-one while Dean tied her off. Waiting for them on the docks were Ruby and Kali, with Bones sitting between them, wagging his tail. Kali was as impassive as ever; Ruby, on the other hand, had her arms crossed and a sour expression on her face.
“Hello ladies,” Gabe called as he walked off the boat, Sam close behind him. Bones barked and took off towards his owners. Gabe bent down to scratch behind his ears as soon as he got on the pier. He looked back up at the two women. “What’s shakin’, bacon?”
Ruby arched an eyebrow as she fixed Gabe with a truly unimpressed glare. She chewed her gum as she pulled her phone out and held it out dramatically in front of her to read from it.
“’Hey Rubes – I’ll be gone for a bit. Tell K she’s in charge.’” She looked back up at Gabe. “You sent me that in the middle of my shift, six days ago. And then, yesterday –” she scrolled to the next message – “‘I told him everything.’” She popped her gum. “Care to explain?”
Sam stepped around Gabe to stand face to face with her. “Hey, Ruby,” he said softly. He hadn’t ever been totally comfortable thinking about their time together, but he had a new perspective on it now. He would feel sad for her, being in a self-imposed exile from her people and struggling to appear human all the time, if he didn’t know without a doubt that she’d hate his pity.
She searched his face. He wasn’t sure what she was looking for, if anything, but after a moment or two her expression relaxed.
“Just don’t go blabbing about it, Winchester,” she said; her voice was firm, but it lacked the usual venom that it carried.
“Of course not.” He paused for a second, gathering his thoughts. “I just wanted to say… I don’t blame you for what happened with us; I never did. And you… being who you are… that doesn’t change that.”
Ruby gave him a wry smirk. “We’re both just a couple of disasters, huh?”
He chuckled softly. “Yeah, something like that.”
“Everything is well at the colony?” Kali asked Gabe. “You don’t need to return there?”
“Nah, everything’s good,” he said, now moving on to scratch Bone’s belly. “You can’t get rid of me that easy, Kali.”
“If I could, I would have done so long before now,” she replied blandly. She lifted her chin pointedly as she watched Moon and Ripple step off of the boat with a calculating look, then turned that look back at Gabe. She arched an eyebrow.
“They’re fine,” he said, placating her. “They’re family.”
“Hm.” She continued to watch them, her gaze impassive.
Gabe stood up from where he was crouched, stretching out his back as he did so. “You know what? We should do Thanksgiving with all of us this year. Turkey, pie, the whole nine yards.”
Sam chuckled. “We missed it by almost a week, babe.”
Gabe waved him off with a *pshaw*. “Who cares about the actual day? We’ve got everybody here in one place for once, everybody’s happy, no one’s dead, I can cook, Lafitte I swear to God if you start trying to boss me around in my own kitchen again I won’t be held accountable for my actions,” he listed.
Benny laughed. “Maybe I wouldn’t hafta tell you what to do if you just did it right in the first place, brother.”
“Excuse me?” Gabe retorted indignantly. Everyone laughed as Gabe and Benny continued to snark at each other all the way down the docks.
October 17th, 2010
Several days later, Gabe closed the Crab Shack down for the day. All ten of them piled into the restaurant for their Thanksgiving get together. Gabe was like a drill sergeant in the kitchen. Ruby and Kali were used to his particular tendencies as head chef, but Dean and Benny both bristled under his command – Dean because he hated taking orders, especially from Gabe, and Benny because he stubbornly refused to do anything Gabe’s way.
Despite the chaos in the kitchen, they managed to put together a fantastic Thanksgiving feast; they had turkey and ham and several lobsters, four kinds of potatoes and one more of sweet potatoes, garlic & bacon Brussels sprouts, Bhatkali biryani with prawns, fried calamari, and kundapura koli saaru. Gabe and Dean had somehow managed to make eight pies between the two of them, and Kali also brought out a couple of trays covered in rava kesari and chiroti.
They talked and laughed and lovingly teased each other for hours. Dean was pretty sure that they all stuffed themselves well past full, and everybody took a tower of Tupperware full of leftovers with them. Gabe and Ruby and Kali all set about cleaning up; Gabe had practically shoved everyone else out the doors, insisting that “you don’t make your guests clean up”. In spite of his proclamation, Sam still stayed behind with them to help.
Dean and Moon strolled down the street towards Sam and Gabe’s house. They were staying in their guest room, since the cabins in Ramble On weren’t nearly as comfortable as a memory foam mattress, or having an entire room to move around in. The evening air was cool, but not yet too cold. Once they reached the house, Dean unlocked the door, looking wistfully up at the beautiful building. He knew that Sam and Gabe were too nice to kick them out at any point, but he also knew they were intruding in their space. It’d be nice to get a place for themselves in town, at the very least for during the winter when they couldn’t do their usual hunting route.
They kicked off their shoes as they stepped in the door. He and Moon walked quietly down the hall to their room, content not to speak and just to be with each other. Moon walked in first, and Dean pulled the door shut behind them with a soft *click* with one hand and flicked the light on with the other.
“I had a good time tonight,” Moon said. He pulled his button-down off and replaced it with one of Dean’s well-worn band t-shirts.
Dean turned around and leaned against the door. He watched Moon fondly for a moment, letting his eyes wander over his gorgeous boyfriend as he got ready for bed. Moon turned back to him with wide eyes.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had that much to eat in my life! Do all your holidays involve that much food?”
Dean chuckled. “Pretty much, although we did kinda go overboard tonight.” He pushed himself up from the door and sauntered over to Moon. He slipped his arms loosely around his hips. “Just wait until Christmas – you won’t be able to move for days after that meal.”
“I look forward to it,” Moon said. Dean leaned in and brushed his lips against Moon’s. The two of them stayed like that for a while, exchanging soft kisses and finding solace in each other’s company.
Dean abruptly pulled back. “Oh, right! I can’t believe I almost forgot.” He saw Moon’s confused look out of the corner of his eye as he started digging around in his jacket pocket. He pulled out a stack of papers and cards and leather wallets and held them out to Moon. “These are for you.”
Moon tentatively took them. While he started poking through them, Dean kept talking. “Charlie did most of the actual work on these, but they were my idea. She’s probably giving Ripple hers right now.” He paused.
Moon held up the card on top – a Nova Scotia driver’s license – and stared at it with unabashed awe. His photo looked back at him, and the name “Cas Seaver” imprinted beside it. He looked up at Dean, his eyes still huge.
“I hope the name’s okay – I just went with what I thought sounded right for you.” Dean motioned to the rest of the pile. “You’ve got a debit card, FBI and CSIS ID cards, Canadian and American passports, the whole works. That way you can also do some of the legwork on hunts with us.” He looked up nervously when he realized Moon still hadn’t said anything. Suddenly, this whole idea seemed a little stupid. “Is that…is that okay?”
Moon’s face split into a giant smile. “Thank you, Dean,” he said, voice choked with unshed tears. Dean relaxed, relieved that Moon didn't hate them.
“Hey, come on, no need for the waterworks,” Dean said gently. He cupped Moon’s cheek with one hand, brushing away the few tears that had started to fall with his thumb.
“No, I know – these are happy tears, I swear,” Moon said, laughing wetly. He looked down at the card again. “Cas Seaver,” he said, testing out the name. “I like it.”
Dean planted a kiss on his temple. “Good, ‘cause it’s a hell of a lot of work, and I’d hate to make Charlie do all these all over again.”
Moon laughed again. He set the bundle of IDs down on the bedside table and wrapped his arms around Dean.
“I love you, Dean,” he murmured into his neck.
“Love you too, sweetheart.” Dean rubbed his hands up and down Moon’s back. “Come on – let’s go to bed.”
The two of them curled around each other in the soft embrace of cotton and memory foam and each other’s arms. The soothing rhythm of the ocean tide that whispered in from the cracked open window sang them to sleep.