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Cursed or Not

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Dean stretched out on the motel bed, tucking his hands behind his head and wiggling his socked feet, sore from walking around all day interviewing witnesses for their current case. He closed his eyes and allowed himself a moment of relaxation. He heard the tumblers clicking in the lock of the door but didn’t bother to open his eyes- only one person had the key. Unless it was housekeeping, and he wouldn’t say no to some extra towels, either. Quiet footsteps entered the room, the door closing with a snick behind them, and the smell of fast food filled the stagnant motel air. “Heya, Cas,” Dean said, his eyes still closed. “Sammy coming?”

“Yes,” came Cas’ gritty voice from across the room, followed by the sound of paper bags and carriers being set down on the small table. “He said he wanted to take a shower first. Though why he’d shower before a hunt is beyond me. He’s just going to get covered in blood, possibly entrails, and have to do it again later. Seems like a waste of water. Sam is usually more environmentally conscious than that.”

Dean finally cracks open his eyes to find Cas towering over him, looking hesitant. Dean smiles up at him in what he hopes is more sleepy-charming than disoriented-stroke-victim. “Ooo, entrails? Environmentalism? Talk dirty to me, baby.” Castiel frowns and cocks his head to the side.

“The wasting of natural resources is not a joke, Dean,” he chides, and Dean flops back against the pillows, sighing loudly and closing his eyes again. This thing with Cas and him is still new enough to be awkward, their segues between moments that they are just friends and co-workers and the times that they’re something more are still clumsy and often leave Dean floundering for his footing. Not that Dean would admit it out loud, but for him, the entire affair is just a bit terrifying. He’s never been one for long-term relationships, never mind one where there’s so much at stake. He knows he deflects with humor too much, and that if he’d be a little more genuine perhaps Castiel would catch on to some of his deep-seeded fears and be able to alleviate them. It wasn’t Castiel’s fault that Dean was leaving him in the dark. And yet, Dean couldn’t quite bring himself to admit that they’d crossed that line from “casually hooking up” to “relationship” when he wasn’t even paying attention. Regardless, that hasn’t stopped Castiel from continuing to leave, and Dean hasn’t stopped pretending he’s fine with it.

The bed dipping and Castiel’s hand sliding up the inside of his thigh drags Dean’s attention back to the present. “Regardless, I think you missed the point, Dean,” Castiel says quietly. Dean opens his eyes to see Cas sitting to his left, his hand still on Dean’s leg. “I should think we have at least… twenty minutes before Sam is knocking on the door. Unless you’re too tired,” he adds innocently, the hint of a smirk revealing itself in the corner of his lips.

“Hell no,” Dean says, sitting up immediately and pulling his shirt over his head as he talks. He kneels up to pulls his pants and boxers down, kicking his socks off with them and is stark naked in about thirty seconds. Castiel is full on smirking at him as he takes off his white button-down unhurriedly, which he gets to do for all of 5 long seconds before Dean pounces, shoving the man backward and pinning him to the bed with his body. “Tick tock, Cas,” Dean breathes into his mouth, kissing him hard and straddling his abdomen. He tugs off Castiel’s clothes roughly, only bothering to push his pants down to mid-thigh. When Castiel’s exposed enough for Dean’s liking, he sits back on his heels, his buttocks brushing the angel’s thickening length, and winks. “I think we should try something new tonight,” he says, “You know, since we’re short on time and all.”

Castiel holds Dean’s gaze and runs his fingers gently up Dean’s stomach and ribs, trailing one finger down the side of his jaw. “Anything you want, Dean.”

Dean swallows and pushes aside the intimacy of the moment, in favor of turning around and shuffling backward so that he’s straddling Castiel’s face, lowering his own to the man’s crotch and sucking him down without pretense. Castiel groans and arches up under him, unprepared for Dean’s aggression. Castiel is usually excellent at maintaining control of himself in bed, not wanting to hurt Dean with his extra-human strength, but Dean secretly lives for moments like this where he can cause the angel to lose it, just a little bit. He gags a bit and places his hand on Castiel’s hip to regain some control but manages to swallow and breathe around the cock filling his mouth until Castiel relaxes down again. Dean sets a deep, moderately-paced rhythm and Castiel catches on to what he’s supposed to be doing without further need for talk. 

Dean moans around Castiel’s cock when he feels wet heat surround his own, Castiel adding his own style in, pulling off to tongue and suck at Dean’s balls, slipping a finger between his cheeks to tease at his entrance. Dean can’t help but marvel at how quickly Cas has picked up on what he likes, how much he cares about making things good for Dean, every time, even when Dean tries to relegate their sexual sessions to simply getting off as quickly as possible.

Again, he pushes those unwanted, sappy thoughts down and starts pulling out all his good tricks. He hums, he sucks Castiel in deep and swallows a few time in succession, he uses his hand to squeeze Castiel’s balls and press on his perineum and within minutes Castiel’s own rhythm on Dean’s dick is faltering until he’s squeezing Dean’s thigh in warning. Dean doesn’t let up, just squeezes Cas’ own thigh back and sucks hard as he spills hot into Dean’s mouth. He swallows as he sits up, wiping his face and turning around so that he’s straddling Castiel’s chest. Dean bites his lip as he looks down at his wrecked angel, blue eyes glazed and blinking dazedly. He resists when Castiel tries to wrap a hand around Dean’s cock, batting it away and stroking himself until he comes all over Cas’ chest. He gives himself exactly five seconds to enjoy Castiel’s wide-eyed, hungry look at Dean’s come on his chest, and then forces himself to get up and get dressed, grabbing a wet cloth for Cas on his way back to the bed. Castiel looks like he always does when Dean doesn’t lay with him after, and Dean ignores it. They should talk, but they won’t. He should tell Castiel how he feels, but he won’t.

Castiel is just finishing buttoning up his shirt when Sam knocks on the door. When Dean answers, he’s holding his laptop and a couple of file folders. He starts to enter the room but then crinkles his nose. “Oh, no way. Nope. Grab the food and meet me in my room. I’m not spending an hour trying to ignore the fact that it reeks of sex in here while we try to discuss this case.”

He turns on his heel and Dean calls after him, “Don’t be a prude, Sammy!” Sam shoots a bitchface over his shoulder but doesn’t stop walking. Dean turns back into the room. “Alright, come on, you heard the man. Grab the stuff.” Dean studiously ignores Cas’ questioning look at Dean’s obviously forced cavalier attitude, as he does Cas’ eyes on Dean’s back as they walk to Sam’s room. He’s not talking about it.

***

They spend the rest of the early evening going over the case together, which seems pretty straightforward, even if completely bizarre. A witch of some kind is turning people into creatures. Random, magical creatures. So far they’ve encountered or heard of a mermaid, a centaur, and a Sirin (which was apparently a half-woman, half-bird). They’re pretty sure they’ve narrowed down and connected the common threads between victims to identify the witch and plan to use the cover of darkness to ambush her at her home. When the plan has been reviewed and agreed upon three times over, they load up their witch-killing bullets and spells, pocket their hex bags and head out.

The hunt goes sideways pretty quickly. First of all, the girl is just that, a girl. Can’t be more than, what? Sixteen?  Dean thinks to himself the first time he sees her. She’s obviously on the run and squatting in an abandoned house. When she realizes she’s cornered, she screams at them to leave her alone, and then confuses them by curling into a ball on the floor and adding, “Before something happens!” Ignoring her panicked warning, they edged closer with Cas taking the lead. Sam is actually doing a decent job of attempting to talk her down until she lifts her head from where it’s tucked into her knees and sees Castiel less than three feet from her. In an instant, a bright pink sphere erupts around her, pushing outward like a bomb and sending Cas flying through the wall into the next room. “CAS!” Dean hollers, diverting his attention for a moment to the brand new hole in the wall. When he turns back, the girl is gone, and the back door of the house is swinging wide open.

Castiel doesn’t answer his call, and Dean is torn between checking on him and going after the girl. He starts towards the door but is stopped by Sam’s hand on his shoulder. “We should probably regroup first, don’t you think? Something’s not right here. She didn’t even seem like she was in control of what she was doing. Do you think we should maybe be trying to, I dunno, subdue her and see what she is before we gank her?”  

Dean reluctantly nods. “I hate to say this but, maybe we should hit up Rowena. If we want to take her alive, we’re gonna need more than some dollar store hex bags.” Sam looks affronted at Dean’s dig at his work, but he lets it go. “Come on,” Dean sighs, “Let’s grab Mook from the Incredible Hulk and get out of here.”

They make their way into the other room and pick their way through the rubble, but Castiel is nowhere in sight. “Cas?” Dean calls out for him, trying to keep the concern out of his voice and failing miserably. “Cas, man, where are you? Shit Sammy, you don’t think she exploded him? Or shrank him? Oh fuck, what if we stepped on him?” Dean frantically alternates between checking under his shoes and trying to gingerly clear rubble.

“Hey- hang on, shut up,” Sam holds a hand up to silence his brother, who freezes in place.

“What?” Dean whispers, and Sam flaps his hand at him, shushing him again. There’s a vague slapping sound coming from the hallway, and Sam looks sideways at Dean.

“What the hell is that??” Sam whispers, and Dean shrugs, eyes wide. Sam clears his throat. “Um, Cas?” He pauses for a moment, and the slapping stops. “Cas, is that you?”

There’s another short silence and then a muffled, dragging sound before a small, light brown animal head pokes around the corner of the doorway.

Though he’ll deny it to his dying day, Dean shrieks and jumps about three feet in the air. “What the fuck is THAT?!” The thing shuffles further into the room and puts its head down, flopping one front fin over its face. Dean backs up a few steps, pulling his gun out and cocking it. “What’s it doing now??”

Sam glares at Dean. “Put that away, Dean. I think it’s a… a seal?”

Dean gapes. “Well, how did a fucking seal get inside this house, Sam? We’re not even near water.”

Sam shrugs and elects to ignore Dean’s outbursts, instead edging closer to the creature. His fur is shiny and clean, and almost has a reddish, or maybe even tan tint to it. “Hey,” Sam says softly. “Hey guy, we’re not gonna hurt you…” He casts a warning glance at Dean, who rolls his eyes and releases his grip on his gun, throwing his hands up in surrender.

“Fine, but don’t come cryin’ to me when it eats your face off.”

Sam casts his eyes to the ceiling and opens his mouth to reply, but thinks better of it, shaking his head and turning his attention back to the creature in front of him. The seal slowly allows his fin to fall off of his face, and it’s only then that Sam notices his eyes are a deep, ocean blue. Sam cocks his head to the side, obviously thinking hard. It’s silent in the room for a few moments before Sam speaks, and when he does, it’s only one word. “...Cas?”

Dean’s eyebrows go through the roof and the seal looks at Sam mournfully, ducking his head back under his fin.

“Holy crap. Cas, if that’s really you, you gotta give me a sign. Slap your fin twice or something.” Without taking the fin off of his face, the seal slaps his other front fin on the ground twice. “Whoa,” Sam says. “Well, this is… uncharted territory.”

“Hang on a damn minute, Sherlock Holmes,” Dean says, wiping the sides of his mouth with his hand and finally venturing closer. “You’re trying to tell me you think this… thing is Castiel, Angel of the Lord? Okay, I have just one question,” he pauses, “Are you out of your freaking gourd?”

At that, the seal drops the fin that was plastered over his face to the floor with a loud thump and turns the full might of his stare onto Dean. He cocks his head to the side and lets out one sharp bark. Dean looks surprised but holsters his gun immediately. “Yea, okay,” he says. “That’s Cas. He’s the only person in the world that could look that annoyed with me while dressed as a seal.” He hesitates and then turns back to the seal. “Sorry, man. It’s just,” he gestures up and down, “...Yea, you get it.” Castiel huffs and looks pointedly at Sam. “So what do we do now?” Dean asks, dropping his hands to his side in frustration. “The witch is gone and he’s got the angel mojo,” he adds, waving at Castiel.

“Hmm,” Sam says, studying Castiel. “Have you tried reversing it with your mojo, Cas? I mean… what are you in there? An angel in a seal vessel? Full on seal?” In response, Castiel closes his eyes tightly and seems to be concentrating. Just like that, he stands up and steps out of the seal skin, and he’s completely naked.

“Jesus Christ!” Dean hollers, scooping up the pelt and shoving it roughly at Cas’ groin. “Cover yourself up, man. And how did you do that??”

Castiel stands there holding the pelt over his groin. “My clothes seem to have disappeared,” he says awkwardly. “But I believe if I put this pelt back on, I may change back into a seal.” He shoves the pelt back into Dean’s hands and demands, “Give me your coat, Dean.”

Dean moves to give the pelt back, saying, “I don’t want this -” but he’s stopped by a yell from Sam.

“Stop! Dean stop, you can’t give him that back! I think... I think he’s a selkie. And that would make you two... mates.”

Chapter Text

Sam had managed to convince everyone to press “pause” on evaluating (panicking) or discussing (yelling about) the situation until they could get somewhere safe and with access to the lore. He’d also managed to convince Dean to hang onto Castiel’s pelt just long enough to lock it safely in the trunk of Baby. Dean was annoyed, demonstrating so by casting frequent suspicious glances in the rearview mirror at the trunk as if he thought the pelt might burst through the seats and attack them at any moment. Castiel was annoyed that Dean was annoyed, and spent the short ride to the hotel sulking in the backseat with his arms folded over his chest, glaring out the window and huffing pointedly, while wrapped in Sam’s flannel and Dean’s (hard-won) boxers in lieu of clothing. Apparently also bitter about that, Dean repeatedly shifted in his seat, mumbling under his breath about “sensitive areas” and “chafing.”

Sam had a bad feeling about all of this.

Once they were tucked back safely in Dean and Cas’ motel room and Castiel had been outfitted with some better clothes (which Sam notes Dean is a lot more interested in sharing, going so far as to tug one of his worn-in t-shirts down over Castiel’s torso, in a surprisingly gentle action that belied his irritable facade), Dean sat forcefully down at the table, and smacked his hand expectantly. “Alright, we did this your way, now explain, Sammy. From the top,” he said, his finger making a whirling motion in the air.

Sam nodded, and sat down at the table, opening his laptop and performing a search as he started talking. “So, as I said, I think that Cas is a selkie. It fits with the witch’s M.O.; turning someone who approaches her into a mythical creature of questionable existence.” He turns his attention to Castiel, who is seated on the edge of the bed with his arms crossed again as if protecting himself. Dean suddenly realizes that he looks a lot smaller, almost vulnerable.

“Wait,” Dean interrupts. “Just to clarify - you’re a selkie, fine, I can buy that, though we’re coming back to the seal thing later - but what about right now? Are you an angel? Human? Something else?”

Castiel slowly lets his arms drop, his hands landing palm-up in his lap. Castiel stares at them as if they might hold all the answers. “I believe that I’m human,” he says finally, after several moments of silence. “I have… urges,” he adds, and Dean’s eyes snap to his. “I’m thirsty,” he amends then, squinting in Dean’s direction, and Dean flushes a little before happily turning his back to grab Castiel a water from the mini fridge. He tosses it over and Castiel catches it somewhat clumsily.  He takes a long sip and then adds, “I don’t think it was my ‘angel mojo’ that allowed me to transition back to this form. After Sam suggested it, I realized that it just felt like something I could do.” He looks between the brothers’ blank faces and shrugs. “The same way that I just know if I put the pelt back on, I’d turn back into a seal.”

Sam nods slowly, returning to his computer screen and scrolling for a minutes or two. “Yea, that checks out, Cas,” he agrees and then lifts his eyes to Dean. “Although you… you can’t put the pelt back on again… right now.” Dean raises his eyebrows and motions for Sam to continue. Sam takes a deep breath and tips his head to the side, bracing for Dean’s reaction. “Yea so, this is where things get tricky. A selkie can don and remove their pelt at will, and they frequently do. Unless… it’s taken by a human, in which case they become the human’s slave, essentially.” At this, Dean looks like he’s about to protest, and Sam holds up a hand.

“Hang on, hear me out. So, the selkie is bound to the human who has their pelt, right? But if the human chooses to give the pelt back, the selkie is freed. They can then choose to gift the pelt back to the human, in a show of trust. If the human accepts, the pair is considered mated, or married, according to Selkie culture. The problem is, Selkies aren’t meant to be kept from the sea forever. In choosing a human mate, the Selkie still isn’t free to return to the sea at will. They gift their human mate their pelt in a show of not just faith, but sacrifice. And if the human returns the pelt…” Sam clicks his trackpad a few times and then continues, “The selkie will be irrevocably drawn back to the ocean where they must remain for seven years. After seven years, they may return to land again, if they so choose.

Dean stares at Sam and then lifts one hand off the table in a “So what?” gesture. “Okay...? What does that got to do with Cas and me? I never kept him enslaved, and he never gifted me his pelt or whatever, and we are certainly not fucking magical-creature married.”

Sam shook his head. “I’m not so sure, Dean. I wanted to get the specifics before I laid it all out there, but the lore is pretty much as I remembered it. The thing is Dean, you did do those things. You may not have realized that’s what you were doing, but magical creatures aren’t always big on consent. You picked up Cas’ pelt and returned it to him when you told him to cover up. He gave it back to you when he asked for your coat, and you took it - whether you wanted to or not. I was worried… I am worried, that if you return it again, it’ll fulfill the last part of the myth.”

Dean bit his lip. “Umm… remind me what that was again?”

Sam sighed and rolled his eyes. “The part where Cas gets pulled back to the ocean for seven years .” Castiel’s eyes go wide, as he realizes how close he might have come to being, essentially, banished almost permanently to an unfamiliar realm.

“Yikes,” is all Dean says, uncharacteristically quiet for once. They all sit there for a moment, contemplating the situation. It’s Dean who finally breaks the silence. “But… why a Selkie? Is there any rhyme or reason to this, or is it just random? And can we reverse it, or do we need the witch?”

Sam rubs his chin thoughtfully. “The last question is one I really don’t have an answer to yet. I have a call out to Rowena and hopefully, she can help. Obviously, the best case scenario is she reverses it and we owe her one. I think we can all agree that’d be worth it.” Castiel shakes his head no and opens his mouth, but Dean puts a hand up.

“Don’t even say it,” he warns, and though Castiel glares at him, he lets the subject drop, at least for now.

“The other stuff,” Sam continues, “I have a theory, I think. I thought about it before, with the other cases, but it was too nebulous to really pin down.” He opens one of the file folders in front of him and separates some papers out onto the table. “So get this. In ancient Assyria, they believed that the goddess Atargatis transformed herself into a mermaid out of shame for accidentally killing her human lover. The first victim was a woman whose husband had died a few years ago. The witnesses we spoke to all said they had a rocky relationship, but she was never formally charged with his death. She was turned into a mermaid.” Sam shuffles the papers and brings another stack to the top. “The second vic, the one that was turned into a centaur, his wife said she caught him cheating on her multiple times during their marriage. She said he always defended it by saying he needed to “sow his wild oats. In Greek myths, Centaurs are sometimes portrayed as being totally wild- like untamed horses. Myths about them typically revolve around the Centaurs’ struggle to between civilized living and barbarism. And lastly, the third vic, the one that was turned into a…” He checks his notes, “A Harpy…”

Sam shakes his head. “She was more of an enabler. According to her kids’ schools and the local child protective services, multiple complaints were made and investigated regarding her husband potentially abusing their kids. She always defended and made excuses for him that got him off the hook. One of the kids was in the hospital last year, pretty beat up. They removed her from the home then, but it should have happened way before that.” Sam pauses and makes a face at the pictures in his hand. “Sick. Anyway, Harpies were agents of punishment… They abducted people and tortured them on their way to Tartarus. They were vicious, cruel and violent, and they delivered people to ‘hell’.” 

Sam looks between Castiel and Dean to see what they’re taking in, and Dean motions for him to continue. “So…” he scratches his head. “I mean, first of all, I think it was clear from what we saw today that she doesn’t have a lot of control over what she’s doing. The victims also had in common that they didn’t approach her intentionally but seemed to surprise her or catch her off-guard. But regardless, whatever the spell or reaction she’s having is, it seems to manifest via revealing the impacted person’s true nature in the form of a magical or mythological creature that shares those qualities. It also may take into account the person’s romantic partner, if they are nearby, which in all two out of three of the previous victims, and you guys, they were.”

Dean nods and summaries, “Alright, so we keep Cas away from his pelt-thing, we find Rowena and the girl, we un-whammy Cas, Cas and me get magically divorced, everyone lives happily ever after.” Castiel narrows his eyes at Dean, and Dean ignores him.

“I don’t know if it’s exactly that simple, Dean but-”

“K, well, that’s all my brain can take tonight, Sammy. So if you don’t mind,” Dean shoves his chair back from the table and opens the room to their door, “Me and Cas wanna have some freaky seal sex now, so you should probably leave.”

Sam makes a disgusted face and gathers his things from where they’re strewn across the table. “Gross, Dean,” he sighs, but it’s quieter than usual, and there’s no heat behind it. As he exits the room, he leans in to whisper in Dean’s ear. “You should talk to him, Dean. He needs you.”

Dean just shrugs to the side and slams the door in Sam’s face. “Night, Sam!” he calls through the wood, and Sam can be heard complaining about Dean’s crappy manners as he stomps away.

Dean turns back to where Castiel is still seated on the edge of the bed, worrying the edge of the bedspread anxiously with his fingers. He keeps his eyes averted from Dean’s. “Do you really want to -”

“No,” Dean cuts him off, swiftly pulling him to his feet by his hand. “I don’t want to do anything but sleep. Next to you,” he amends, when he sees Castiel’s unsure look. They undress each other quickly but gently, and Dean flips the light as they crawl into bed.

“Dean?” Castiel ventures somewhat hesitantly, from his place tucked into Dean’s chest.

“Don’t,” Dean replies shortly. “It’s all going to be fine. Just gotta find Rowena, reverse the whammy, angel you up again, and boom, happily… ever… after…” His voice gets heavy with sleep as he trails off. Castiel doesn’t push any further, but he lies awake for a long time, thinking about what’s inevitably coming next, and what the future may or may not bring. From his position cuddled into Dean’s side, he can’t help but smell the other man’s natural scent. It’s different than Castiel remembers from the last time he was human, and even from this morning when he was still an angel. Now, Dean smells like “safe,” and “home," though how he knows what those particular things should smell like, he has no idea, but it's as obvious as breathing. Castiel tries not to think too hard about the implications of that, and he blatantly ignores the scratch in his throat and the ache in his stomach that remind him how painfully human at least part of his form really is. 

Chapter Text

On the ride back to the bunker, Dean waits until Castiel has been lulled to sleep by the motion of the car, mouth slightly open and drooling onto the backseat window, before turning to Sam. “Alright man, you gotta level with me. Everything you said last night-  what’s that got to do with Cas? And, you know, by proxy, me?”

Sam gives him a sideways look. “Shouldn’t we include Cas in this conversation?”

Dean rolls his neck. “Come on, man.”

Sam turns slightly in his seat, pulling his knee up a little so that he’s facing Dean, as much as his giant frame is able to in the car. “Is this why you sent me out of the room last night? Dean, what is going on? I thought you and Cas were like, good, now? You’re… boyfriends or whatever, aren’t you?”

Dean scrunches up his face and scowls, keeping his eyes fixed on the road. “You don’t have to make it sound so… gay. And yea, we’re good. I just…” He wipes his mouth and throws up a hand in frustration. “Listen, I don’t want to hurt the guy. I wasn’t sure I could handle whatever it was you were gonna tell me about that spell with him sitting right there, giving me the puppy-seal eyes. So you tell me now, and… by the time we get back to the bunker maybe I’ll have had time to adjust.”

Sam sits there staring at Dean for a moment before a slow grin spreads across his face. “That’s actually… a lot more mature than I thought you’d be about this,” Sam says. “There’s hope for you yet.”  

“Yea, yea,” Dean waves him off. “Can we talk monsters, now?”

“He’s not a monster, Dean. He’s a selkie.”

“What’s the difference?”

“A lot, actually. That’s not a bad place to start.” Sam pulls his files out of his bag and flips through them. “So, everything I told you last night about the other victims and the spell manifesting pieces of someone’s true nature smushed in with parts of their romantic history? Selkies are one of the most gentle mythological creatures. They’re extremely loyal and protective when they choose a human mate, voluntarily giving up their home and family to be with them. They also constantly feel the pull of the ocean, even after giving up their pelt, so you could say they’re at war with their true nature even when they’re found happiness. They also…” Sam clears his throat and steals a glance at Dean, “...tend to be drawn to lonely humans, people who need them, who can’t make relationships work with other humans… I mean Dean, do I need to continue? All of this could be written about Cas, and about you and Cas. You’re terrified that he keeps leaving, and now he literally can’t leave. He’s a selkie because his nature fits, but he’s also a selkie because of you, Dean.”

“Fuck,” Dean replies. “What the hell am I supposed to do with that?”

Sam shrugs. “Um… use your words, maybe? Even if we get this case solved, those issues aren’t going to go away, Dean.”

Dean scoffs. “No, but once Cinderella over there isn’t in danger of turning back into a pumpkin for seven years, there’s no reason to even bring the rest up. It’s not like he’s ever going to change, Sam.”

Sam sighs. “It’s not like you’ve ever asked him to, Dean.” Dean’s jaw twitches, but he doesn’t say anything more.  

Castiel sleeps through the rest of the ride.

***

Things are relatively normal for the next few weeks around the bunker. Dean stores Castiel’s pelt in his closet and tries not to feel weird about it. Sam makes contact with Rowena, and after some negotiating and the relinquishment of a few magical objects from the MOL stash, she comes to stay at the bunker. They spend most days huddled over books and in front of Sam’s computer in the library, trying to create a reversal spell for an enchantment that Rowena says doesn’t even exist. Sam has automatic alerts set up on his computer to try and locate the magical girl whose trail of creatures started this whole mess, but nothing turns up. Dean spends his days avoiding being roped into book research and marathoning Star Wars with Castiel. He discusses the ranking system he has for all the movies and goes into detail about the varying storylines - all to avoid having to talk about anything more serious. But Castiel doesn’t push.

Castiel is… different. He mentions several times that even without access to his pelt, he wishes he could swim, or at least feel the water on his skin. He takes baths instead of showers and stays in there for extended periods of time. Dean starts to feel concerned, but then he has an idea. While he still adamantly refuses to have any kind of “feelings” talk, even Dean knows that Castiel needs support right now. So, without telling anyone, Dean works on restoring the abandoned swimming pool in the sub-basement of the bunker. He even consults a local pool business for help and gets advice on converting the filtration system to a saltwater one. With only a few minor electrocutions, he manages to also upgrade the room’s lighting, and what he can’t fix he supplements with battery powered lanterns. Dean comes to like it down there and thinks the end result with the soft lighting reflecting off of the pool and the exposed brick actually feels pretty homey.

When it’s time to show Castiel, Dean makes sure Sam and Rowena expect to be sufficiently occupied for the foreseeable future. He brings down towels, drinks, and an assortment of other necessities just in case. When he’s ready, he locates Castiel and leads him down, covering his eyes as they hit the last set of the multi-level stone steps. He guides Castiel’s hand to the wrought-iron rail for balance. When they get to the bottom, Dean turns him towards the pool and releases his hands.

“Oh… Dean,” Castiel says breathlessly, eyes darting around the room to take it all in. “This is… this is extraordinary, how did you do this on your own?!”

Dean just shrugs and smiles. “Wanted you to be comfortable. Besides… after we turn you back, it’ll still be a cool place to relax in.”

Distractedly, Castiel nods, dipping his toes in the water after already having kicked off his shoes and socks. He glances back at Dean. “I don’t have a suit.”

Dean’s grin widens. “It’s just the two of us. Sam doesn’t even know this is here yet. You’re good.” Castiel’s eyes light up, and he’s stripped naked and diving in before Dean can raise his eyebrows. “Okay, then. Don’t have to tell you twice.”

“Unnggghh,” Castiel moans, pushing through the water with wide, powerful strokes. He dives down to the bottom of the pool, swims along it, and comes up to the side where Dean is standing. He rests his arms on the side of the pool and sighs happily. “It’s wonderful, Dean, thank you,” he says sincerely, looking up at Dean through his dark, wet lashes, and Dean swallows hard. He wants to give Castiel some time to swim, but all those wet, glistening muscles are making it really hard to remember why. Castiel doesn’t miss his reaction and smiles widely. “Aren’t you going to join me?”

Dean gets his clothes off maybe even faster than Castiel. He sits on the side and splashes down, the water warm on his skin and the concrete cool and smooth on his feet. He’s at once glad he (well, Samuel K. Smith’s Visa, anyway) sprung for the water heater. Dean wades into the deeper section where Castiel has sunk down so that the water covers his shoulders and does the same. Castiel swims forward and twines his arms around Dean’s neck, his legs around Dean’s waist. He kisses Dean’s neck and smells it, something he’s been doing lately that he won’t explain when Dean asks about it. “Thank you,” he breathes into Dean’s skin, licking a line up his neck to his jaw. “This was… unbelievably thoughtful. And it’s even more pleasant with you in here with me.”

Dean’s cock was already half ready to party just at the sight of a wet Castiel, so having the man’ naked body sliding against Dean’s own takes him from there to fully hard embarrassingly quickly. He supposes it would be worse if he couldn’t feel Castiel’s cock doing the same as it moves against his belly. Despite sleeping in the same bed almost every night, they haven’t done this since the evening before the hunt that created this mess. Dean tips his head down and catches Castiel’s lips, wrapping his arms tightly around the other man’s back and tugging him closer. They kiss for a while, floating weightlessly in the pool and letting their hands roam over slick skin, tongues brushing together occasionally. 

It’s an intoxicating feeling for Dean, a kind of intimacy he’s never shared during sexual encounters in his past. In the back of his mind, he’s able to admit that he’s glad to be experiencing it for the first time with Castiel. They drift over to the side of the pool and rest against a small built-in seat, continuing to kiss but not escalating the physical contact. Dean pulls back for a moment, eyes hooded and only for Cas, lifting his hand to drag his thumb across Castiel’s lower lip. “Missed you, Cas,” he says quietly.

Castiel looks back, his stare as intense as it ever was. “I haven’t gone anywhere,” he replies, ghosting his fingertips down Dean’s back. Dean ducks his head and nods. “I thought… I was afraid you were disgusted by me,” Castiel admits.

Dean’s head snaps back up at that. “Fuck, Cas. No way,” he says, shaking his head adamantly. He grabs Castiel’s chin and holds his gaze. “Look, Cas. I know I’m not perfect. And fuck knows you deserve better than me. But don’t you ever think that I don’t want you. Got it?”

Castiel smiles and leans up to give Dean a soft kiss. “Alright,” he says. “In that case, may I?”  Dean’s head tips back reflexively as his lips part around a small moan when Castiel takes them both in hand, and he reaches down to wrap his own around them too. Their mouths come back together, hot and messy now, and as the tension mounts Dean can’t help but flex his hips, fucking in and out of the circle of their fists and sliding against Castiel’s hot length as he does. As he fills a familiar heat coiling at the base of his spine, Dean realizes what’s about to happen and releases their cocks to manhandle Cas up onto the side of the pool, swallowing him down immediately and going hard until Castiel starts to shake under him shortly after. 

He moves Cas’ hand to his hair, encouraging him to take control and fuck his mouth, and Castiel does, coming hard as Dean takes most of his length in and swallows repeatedly. Unexpectedly rock-hard from Castiel’s manhandling, Dean wraps a hand around his own cock and can’t stop himself from coming into the pool. “Shit,” he says, wiping his mouth as he pulls off of Castiel’s softening dick. “Was trying to avoid that.” He shrugs and flops down on his back with his legs dangling into the pool. “Oh well.”

Castiel lays next to him in the same position, still breathing heavy. “That was so good, Dean.” He kicks his feet, splashing the water a little. “Dean?”

“Hmm,” Dean replies, eyes closed.

“Would you think it was odd if I told you that I’d like to swim in my pelt?” Dean cracks an eye to find Castiel regarding him seriously.

“Umm…” he says slowly. “No, I guess not. I mean, it’s like your nature or whatever, right? Doubt you can even help it.” A thought occurs to him. “Well, why don’t you? I mean, Sam said couldn’t give you your pelt back, he didn’t say anything about you taking it. Selkies are meant to swim, right? As long as I don’t give the pelt to you, it should be okay.”

Castiel tilts his head, thoughtful. “I suppose you’re right. I admit I don’t know much about Selkie lore, besides the basics. The information Sam provided was far more than I’ve ever been aware of.” He hesitates, looking away from Dean. “You won’t… think less of me?”

Dean props himself up on an elbow and uses his finger to turn Castiel’s face towards him by his chin. He kisses him gently. “Nope,” he replies, with a soft smile. “Go get it, if you want it. S’in my closet.” He flops backward. “I’ll stay here so I’m nowhere near you when you touch it. No possible interpretation of me giving it back. Hurry back, though,” he says cheekily and slaps Castiel’s ass as he stands up. Castiel smiles at him over his shoulder and jogs off, stepping into his pants before he ascends the stairs to the rest of the bunker.  

Dean closes his eyes while he waits and accidentally falls asleep. When he wakes, it’s by the feeling that something is terribly wrong. He pulls his feet out from where they hung in the water and sees that they’re incredibly pruney. There’s a tugging feeling in his belly, almost like something inside him is trying to escape, or possibly lead him somewhere. He throws on his clothes and takes the stairs two at a time, bursting out into the bunker hallway near his room. “Cas?!” He calls his name repeatedly, moving quickly throughout the bunker and checking rooms along the way. No Cas. He blows into the library, still calling Castiel’s name.

Sam looks up. “Dean? What’s going on?”

“Have you seen Cas?”

“Yea, man,” Sam replies, “I saw him like… twenty minutes ago? Ran out of the bunker like a bat out of hell. I called for him, but he didn't stop. I just figured you guys had a fight or something, and he needed some space.”

“FUCK,” Dean yells, fisting both of his hands in his hair. “He went to get his pelt.” Dean takes in the change in Sam’s face as it melts from confusion into fear, and turns on his heel, sprinting up the bunker’s steps and out the door. “CAS!” He turns in a circle once he’s outside, looking for any sign of the man (or seal). “CAS!” Going purely on instinct, he follows the tugging in his stomach, ignoring the fact that he’s still barefoot and crunching wildly through the brush. Distantly, he can hear Sam calling his name from somewhere behind him, but he can’t stop. He can’t lose Cas, not like this. He runs long after his breath runs short and his muscles cramp. He’s just about to consider that the tugging in his core is his imagination, some kind of physical symptom of guilt when he bursts through a tree line and comes upon a swiftly flowing river. The tugging wants him to head downstream. Dean’s about to dive in when Sam catches his arm and refuses to let go.

“Dean, stop! Stop!”

“Sam, I have to go after him! He’s getting farther away by the minute! This is all my fault, it’s my fault, he’s alone out there. Let me go,” he cries, attempting to twist out of Sam’s grip, but Sam doesn’t let go.

“Dean, this is crazy. He’s probably in seal form by now, you’ll never catch him. You’re human - swimming a river with rapids like this one has isn’t safe! You could die,” Sam reasons, and Dean turns to him with wild eyes.

“What else am I supposed to do, Sam? What am I supposed to do?” He’s screaming in Sam’s face now, completely panicked. He moves again to dive into the river, so Sam does the only thing he can think of. He cold-cocks him across the back of his head and knocks him out.

Chapter Text

Hundreds of years before the first forms of what’s now known as humanity walked the planet, Castiel had come to earth and taken a whale as a vessel. While it wasn’t frowned upon exactly, it wasn’t encouraged either. The only person Castiel ever told about this experience was Gabriel, who had laughed and agreed that whales are pretty cool to ride around in because of course, he had. But Castiel remembers the way the whale’s body cut through the water, the exhilaration of swimming, and the cool stillness of the dark depths. He remembers the peaceful, serene feeling of watching the sun’s rays fractalize as they penetrated the shallower layers of the ocean. He remembers the strange satisfaction of seeing the sun from what felt like the wrong side. The whale he rode was very intelligent and had no problem sharing its body with Castiel for awhile. On the contrary, he would make suggestions on where they should go and what they should do, and Castiel felt wonder at his easygoing disposition, his surprising satisfaction at the most simple pleasures.

When he’d left, they’d parted as friends and Castiel had thought at the time that all creatures acting as vessels would feel the same way. Castiel knows now how this experience and others affected his approach towards Jimmy Novak, unaware as he was how different possessing a human vessel would be. The loss the vessel and his family would experience, what they’d all be giving up in service to “God’s Plan”, and so that Castiel could have a meatsuit. Castiel can’t help but reflect on all of those things now, as he swims once again as though he belongs in the water, this time in what has become his own body. He wonders what Jimmy would have thought about all this.

And he thinks about Dean. Dean, who had tried so hard to show him acceptance. Who loved him, Castiel was sure of it, even if Dean had never managed to say so. He hadn’t been able to even say goodbye, the magical pull of the ocean taking control of his limbs as soon as he’d touched his fingers to his pelt. He wasn’t in control as he ran, or as he dove into the rushing river, or as he frantically tried to fight back, to hold on, to refuse to be taken away. He knows now that he must have run due south, and considering that he hasn’t had to exit the water since he started swimming, he must have entered a tributary for the Arkansas River. Considering time and distance, Castiel thinks he must have entered the Mississippi River a short time ago and anticipates he will shortly be dumped unceremoniously into the Gulf of Mexico.

He wonders when the pullpullpull will stop, whether there’s a specific place he’s been dragged towards or whether it’ll just stop at a certain point. He wonders where he will go, and what he will do. He misses Dean, and wants nothing more than to be dry, and curled up in bed at his side. He swears he would watch every episode of that stupid Star Trek show Dean likes without complaint if he could only be back there again. He wonders if Dean will even consider waiting seven years for him to be able to return. He’s afraid of the answer.

***

The temperature of the water increases significantly for a while as Castiel swims unwillingly into the Gulf. The magical pull shows no sign of letting up, and so Castiel has no choice but to go along for the ride- swimming tirelessly away from shore, from civilization, from everything he’s ever known. He thinks briefly about praying, but doesn’t know who he’d even pray to that would listen or care. He thinks most likely he’d end up the butt of a joke, and still on his own. Still, he sends up a prayer to his Father, not that he thinks Chuck has been listening any time recently.

Since the spell apparently keeps him from tiring, Castiel tries to enjoy himself. The feel of the water on his skin is similar to what he remembers feeling as a whale. Comforting, right. Like home in a way that air never feels to land-dwelling creatures. He sees fish, some dolphins, one tiger shark. The other animals pay Castiel no mind, skittering away from him even, as if they know that he doesn’t truly belong. Great, Castiel thinks.This bodes well.

Long after any sign of land has disappeared from the horizon and the water has turned dark, choppy, and cool, Castiel spots an island in the distance, the same direction that he’s speeding towards. It’s rocky, and small, maybe a mile long from what he can see, but there’s a small forest, which means fresh water. What looks like a few rudimentary shanties have been constructed some hundred yards back from the waterline. And as he swims closer, he sees people. And seals. The pull forcing him to keep swimming stops when he wiggles out of the water and up onto the sand. People and seals both are coming towards him, and as he stands to shed his pelt, he sees a few other seals do the same. 

It’s an island of Selkies.

Chapter Text

Dean comes to lying on his bed with a splitting headache. He blinks, but the light hurts his eyes so he squeezes them shut again. He groans and attempts to sit up but is met by a female voice shushing him and a small hand pushing his shoulder back down.

“No,” Dean groans. “I have to go. Have to find Cas… before he gets to the ocean…”

“There, there now,” the voice soothes, ignoring his protests, and Dean recognizes the familiar Scottish lilt. “We’ll get your wee husband back. You just rest up that pretty head and give your brother and myself some time.” 

Dean growls and pushes to sitting, despite the hand on his chest. “First of all, Castiel is not my husband.”

Rowena shrugs, “Whatever you say dearie, though you should know that your aura disagrees with that assessment.”

Dean ignores her, yanking on his boots as he talks. “Second, you two have been researching for weeks and found diddly squat. I’m not sitting around here with my thumb up my ass waiting for a computer alert or magical breakthrough that’s never going to come while Cas is out there afraid and alone.”

“Admirable plan, I’m sure. And how do you plan to find the handsome ex-angel?” 

Dean hesitates. “I can feel him. It’s like a… pulling in my stomach.” He puts a hand over his abdomen. “S’what led me to that river. I’m gonna follow it, and hope like Hell it’s not really bad chronic indigestion.”

Rowena leans forward, resting her elbows on knees and her chin in her hands. “And what, pray tell, will you do with lover boy when you find him? He can’t come back to shore for seven years. I doubt those skinny bowlegs could tread water for quite that long.” She pauses, and Dean glares. “I suppose you could buy a boat, live on the water like some sort of nautical nomads. I had an ex-husband with a yacht once- very romantic. You’d just have to give up hunting, and seeing your brother, of course. But I’m sure you’ve figured it all out.”

“What’s your point, Rowena?” Dean grabs a fresh flannel and pulls it on over his t-shirt. Sam must have stripped his old one off. “It doesn’t matter where he is, what he can or can’t do. He’s… he needs me.” Dean pauses and takes a deep breath “And I need him, so. Whatever it takes, whatever he needs, I’ll make it happen. I owe him that much.”

Dean moves towards the door to his room but is stopped by Rowena’s voice. When he turns back around, she’s swiveled her chair to face him again, and the glint in her eyes is mischievous.  

“If you’re absolutely certain about that, Dean Winchester, then I may have a solution to your problem.”

***

Three hours later finds Dean, Sam, and Rowena speeding towards Louisiana in Baby. It’s almost a sixteen hour drive from Kansas, and Dean is determined to shave at least a third of that off. Between the strange “pull” Dean feels, and maps of the local rivers and tributaries, Sam feels pretty confident that Castiel must have entered the Arkansas river in South Kansas, and is likely following it to where it meets the Atlantic Ocean via the Gulf of Mexico. There’s no telling where he may have gone from there, though, and Sam is becoming increasingly concerned about heading out onto the wide open sea with nothing to guide them save for Dean’s magical mate intuition. 

Dean clears his throat and his eyes flick to Rowena’s in the mirror. “So… when do we do the thing?”

Sam answers him first. “My vote is right before we set sail. It’s hard to predict what it’ll be like for you… we should be as close to Cas as possible with everything in order. But, it also might help us track him on the ocean, so I don’t think we should hold off any longer than that.” 

Rowena nods. “Agreed.”

 Dean doesn’t reply, just nods tersely. “You don’t have to do this, you know that, right Dean?” Sam’s gaze is unrelenting. “We can find a different way. Or we can try to track Cas just like this.”

 Dean looks sideways at his brother. “And then what? We turn around and leave him there?” Silence fills the car. “We’ve been through this Sam. There is no other plan. Not one that ends with Cas coming home where he belongs.” He pauses, and Sam thinks he’s done but Dean carefully adds, “Plus I… I want to.” He catches Sam’s eye, notes his small smile, and scowls. “Don’t make a big thing of it, man.” He flexes his hand on the steering wheel and turns up the radio making his position clear - conversation over.

 ***

Dean has to admit, much as he hates witches (and never more so than after all of this), having Rowena on their side definitely has its perks. When they arrived in New Orleans, they drove straight past the rows of motels they usually would have considered crashing in. They bypassed all the boat rental stores and head directly to a sprawling marina, some place Sam found on the internet using Rowena’s search criteria. Sam and Dean trail behind the glamorous redhead as she saunters confidently down the pier, knowing full well how out of place they look with their worn flannels and their beat duffel bags slung over shoulders. When they’re stopped by marina security, Rowena’s eyes glow briefly and the man waves them through with a smile. Once on the docks, she heads directly for a row of mid-sized yachts like she belongs there, zeroing in pretty quickly on a sleek beauty with a middle-aged man standing on its stern.

“Is this your beautiful ship?” Rowena coos at the man, who is instantly taken with her. “She’s stunning… you’re clearly a man of impeccable taste. I’d just love a tour. Show me everything .” Dean rolls his eyes as she slips her arm through the enchanted man’s elbow and sets off with him into the yacht.

“Is this ethical?” Sam whispers in Dean’s ear as they follow behind the duo, attempting to keep a safe distance as buffer, though there’s probably no need since the guy hasn’t given them a single look.

Dean shrugs. “No? But since when is that an issue for us? It’s this or a credit card scam and, I gotta say,” he turns in place, eyeing the main living room which is decorated in rich cherry wood, Italian leather, and gold accents, and giving Sam the “OK” sign, “I don’t think we have any cards with a limit this high. We’re hitting the open ocean, for who knows how long. What we’re riding has to be solid and safe.” Sam nods reluctantly in agreement, sliding his duffel off of his shoulder and letting it initially drop onto a couch, then eyeing it sitting there and moving it to the floor.

“I feel like I’m going to break something,” he says, stuffing his hands into his pockets.

Dean laughs, the first real one Sam’s heard in days. “Just keep your Moose body under control and we won’t have a problem,” he grins. “Where’d Rowena go?”

***

They make their way through most of the rest of the boat looking for the little witch, and are unsurprised to find it just as beautiful and lavish as the first room. Sam loses a little of his apprehension when he sees the hot tub on the top deck, raving about how good it would feel on his muscles after a run. “Where the hell do you think you’re going to be running out at sea, Sam?” The ship isn’t that big,” Dean snorts. 

“There’s a treadmill downstairs,” Sam gushes. “This ship is incredible.”

“Okay, Rocky, try and focus on the mission,” Dean reprimands gently, and Sam looks instantly guilty as hell, flashing Dean the puppy dog eyes. Dean puts him in a headlock and noogies his head. “Come on bitch, let’s keep going.”

“Jerk,” Sam replies with a smile.

 ***

When they finally locate Rowena, she’s bidding the nameless yacht owner goodbye down on the stern of the boat again. Sam and Dean stand on the balcony above her, watching the exchange. The keys dangling from Rowena’s hand glint in the sunlight, and she looks back and up at the brother’s with a devious smile. “Man. I’m glad she’s on our side,” Sam says quietly, and Rowena’s smile widens as if she could hear him. Dean and Sam exchange a glance. “I hope you know what you’re doing, man.” 

“I don’t,” Dean replies, turning to head back inside.

***

Two hours later sees the yacht moved out to anchor in the harbor for privacy, the boys and Rowena crowded around a bowl of spell ingredients balanced atop the covered Jacuzzi on the top deck. “Samuel,” Rowena says smoothly, her eyes locked on Dean. “You’ll want to move that studly body to the side. And you should probably pull up the anchor, I’ve enchanted the boat to sail itself at my command, so no need to worry about that.” With a last look at his brother, Sam disappears into the bridge while Dean closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He doesn’t let it out until Rowena’s incantation is over, the blast of pink energy engulfing him and quickly dissipating.

He doesn’t feel any different until he does. 

When his body hits the water, he wonders how Castiel fought seeking it out for as long as he did. Dean decides it must have had something to do with Cas giving away his pelt, because as he is, the pull to be in the ocean is simply the deepest, strongest, purest craving he’s ever experienced. Probably the purest thing he’s known since Purgatory. So he swims. Hard and fast and smooth in the direction the feeling in his gut drags him towards. Cas. He knows the boat with Sam and Rowena on it is keeping pace with him, and wonders if he’s slowing them down, if they could get there faster with him on board instead of in the water. He swims for a little longer, unable to resist, before slowing down and circling back around as the boat slows with him. Once they’re both fully stopped and bobbing in place Dean swims around to the stern. He slides up onto the wide running board and Sam is waiting for him, looking a little wide-eyed but calm enough, considering. Rowena is looking down from above, leaning on the rail with a glass of champagne in her hand. She’s watching him with an air of amusement and a smirk on her face.

“What?” Dean tries to scoff at her, but it comes out as a sharp, wordless bark. Frustrated, he closes his eyes and thinks about being human, the way Castiel had described to him. When he opens them, he’s standing much closer to eye level with Sam, and his pelt is on the ground. He scoops it up and wraps it around his waist, eyes flickering to Rowena in embarrassment.

“Oh, don’t feel the need to cover up on my account,” Rowena purrs.

Dean replies with a warning glare and turns his attention to Sam. “I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t slowing us down. Thought it might be faster if I was on board.”

Sam’s eyes go even wider. “Dean… you were hauling ass. You were going like, thirty five knots.” Dean looks at him blankly, which prompts Sam to clarify. “That’s like… forty miles per hour. No way seals can swim that fast. How were you doing that?”

Dean shakes his head. “I dunno, Sammy. After I changed, the pulling feeling… it’s different now. It’s stronger. Almost feels like if I gave myself over to it, it’d take over. I don’t know, man. I feel it now, though. The longer we sit still, the stronger it gets. I wanna stay on board for now, but we should get moving.”

***

Dean’s sitting on the tip of the bow, making sure the boat’s direction matches the pull in his gut. The sun has started to go down over the horizon, streaking the sky with a beautiful pink-red that reflects off of the ocean. Dean’s admiring the view when he sees it. At first, he has to squint, thinking his eyes are playing a trick on him. But no - it’s an island, small but definitely there, still a ways off in the distance. He hurries up to the wheelhouse, taking the stairs two at a time and bursts in to find Sam and Rowena “navigating,” which apparently means finishing off another bottle of champagne while looking weirdly cozy. Dean files that away for another time. 

“Cut the motor,” he says.

“Why? You getting a vibe or something?” Sam looks at him curiously as Rowena waves her hand. Dean feels the boat start to slow under his feet as he heads up to the steering wheel and points forward out the window. By the time Sam extricates himself from Rowena and the chair he was folded in, they’re probably only a quarter of a mile away. Sam squints out where he’s pointing. “Um… what exactly am I looking at?”

Dean raises his eyebrows and gestures emphatically. “The island, dude. That’s it. That’s where Cas is. I don’t know how I know, I just… know.”

Sam looks at him strangely. “Dean… what island? I don’t see anything.”

“What? It’s right there, dude.” Dean drags Sam a few feet to the left. “Was the sun in your eyes? You see it now?”

Sam shakes his head. “I’m sorry, Dean,” he says, obviously confused. “I don’t see anything.” By this time Rowena’s joined them, but she spends a moment staring narrow-eyed at the horizon.

“Hmm. Very curious,” she says slowly, using her hand to block some of the sun and going silent again. Dean raises his hands in an impatient gesture, and she shoots him a look that clearly reads, patience. “I don’t see an island… but I do sense a disturbance. There is something there, you’re not wrong about that. I think that if you see an island, and you sense your handsome angel is on it, then you can trust that.”

“Alright,” Sam starts, “how are we going to dock on an island we can’t see? What if the boat can’t… um, see it, either?”

“You’re not coming,” Dean states firmly, unwrapping his pelt from his waist. “You wait here, I’ll bring him back.”

Sam looks like he wants to protest, but Rowena puts a gentle hand on his arm. “Whatever that place is,” she says, “It isn’t for us to know, Sam. Unless you’d like me to turn you into a Selkie, too.” Sam’s head whips around and he violently shakes his head ‘no’. Rowena laughs lightly. “Thank the goddesses for that.” She fluffs her hair, “This mane and salt water are not friends.”

Dean leaves the two of them to whatever weirdness is developing between them and heads straight for the back of the boat. Even though he’s never done it before, slipping back into his seal skin is second nature. He glides into the water gracefully, hardly disturbing the surface, and heads for the island, the pull in his gut as strong as it ever was. Except now that he’s close, it’s accompanied by a multitude of other feelings. His heart, his arms, his everything aches for Cas, and it’s like he can’t swim fast enough. Any regret or second guessing he might have done regarding his rash decision to let Rowena transform him, any anxiety or anticipation he might have felt about approaching this strange, mystical island is completely overridden, completely washed out by his need to be with Cas. Dean knows what’s happening - Rowena explained it, but he’s still surprised with how not freaked out he is. He doesn’t spare a thought for the knowledge that he’s about to do the one thing he swore he’d never do again. Almost losing someone changes you, and for once, Dean is determined to learn from his stupid mistakes. Castiel deserves it. Hell, maybe even he deserves it.

Maybe.

***

The itch under Castiel’s skin has amped up slowly over the past day. At first he thought it must be some kind of selkie thing, perhaps he needed more exercise, or something to eat. He had fished, swam like a lunatic, and napped in his corner of the lean-to a kind female Selkie had offered to share with him. Besides missing his family like crazy, especially Dean, Castiel does feel lucky. The selkies had accepted him as one of their own, even when he’d explained who he really was and how he came to be there. They’d confirmed that the island was magical, visible only to Selkie kin and acts as a homing device for those Selkies who were called back to the sea. They’d also explained what Castiel had suspected, that Dean’s admittance of where he’d hidden Castiel’s pelt and Castiel’s subsequent retrieval of it was close enough to a rejection as far as the rules of their kind were concerned. They also told him that the curse would allow him to swim only so far away from the island, and if his thoughts drifted toward returning to land, he’d be pulled back immediately.  For a day or so, Castiel had tried to simply settle in and be thankful for having food, water, shelter, and friendly company.

But then the itch started. He couldn’t explain it, and he couldn’t make it go away, but it felt like there was somewhere he needed to be, something he should have been doing. He briefly considered that Dean might try to come looking for him, but dismissed the thought almost immediately. Even if Dean wanted to, where would he even begin? And then there was the fact that if by some crazy miracle he managed to track Castiel to his location, he wouldn’t even be able to see the island. No, as devastating as it was, Castiel knew that he needed to come to terms with the fact that he wouldn’t see Dean again for at least seven years, and with the way the Winchesters lived their lives, maybe not ever. With those thoughts heavy on his mind, Castiel had allowed himself one good cry where he wept into the ocean, his tears disappearing into the vast blueness as quickly as they dripped off of his face.

But what then was this feeling, this crawling underneath his skin? Frustrated, Castiel had asked his... roommate, he supposes is the most accurate term, and she’d looked at him strangely. “I’ve only ever heard that happening to Selkie mates who are separated,” she said.

Castiel shook his head. “I don’t have a mate,” he replies, scratching at his skin and looking longingly out over the ocean.

She tips her head to the side and regards him searchingly. “Hmm,” is all she says.

***

Castiel is the first of the selkies to notice the boat, somehow drawn to it like a magnet. He’d swim to it if he could, but doubts he can get that far away from the island. What would be the point, anyway? What would he do? Bark at the people on board and get harpooned? Clearly, the safe choice is to stay on the island. But the boat doesn’t leave. It gets closer, and closer and then it stops. It drops anchor. And it sits there. And the itch starts to drive Castiel crazy, so much so that he drops to his knees in the sand, clutching his arms around himself tightly, flexing his muscles in an effort to drive away the almost painful sensation. The other selkies crowd around him, worried and confused. No one seems to know what to make of it, but he does hear the words “mate” and “separated” thrown around in careless whispers.

In his agony, Castiel doesn’t see the other seal at first, not until he flops up onto the beach, light brown fur and warm green eyes and Castiel knowsimmediately. His senses are locked onto the other creature, and he can feel the discomfort and tension radiating off of him as well. As he staggers to his feet, the new seal sheds his skin and there he is-  Dean, looking more perfectly beautiful than Castiel’s memory recalls. “ Dean ,” he whispers, and his voice is full of so much need, so much joy, and Castiel crashes into the other man, wrapping his arms around him and holding on tight. Dean’s arms come around him right away as well, and suddenly the itch is gone. The absolute rightness of being in Dean’s arms is indescribable, like nothing he’s ever felt before. Castiel cries out with relief, and Dean makes a groaning sound into his neck. They stand there like that for an unknown amount of time, just rocking side to side and holding each other, until Castiel notices Dean scenting him enthusiastically.

“Fuck Cas, have you always smelled like this?!” Dean doesn’t lift his face from where it’s buried in Castiel’s neck, instead continuing to sniff along it and leave open mouthed kisses in his wake. Castiel smiles and reminds Dean of how much he had enjoyed scenting him. Dean shakes his head, still snug against Cas. “I didn’t know, Cas. Fuck. I didn’t know.”

Castiel reaches a hand up and threads his fingers through the hair on the back of Dean’s head, holding him close. “You were human,” he says simply. “You couldn’t have known.” He tightens his grasp slightly and tugs Dean up, but gently. “And speaking of which, it’s you who owes me some explanation. What did you do, Dean?” Castiel tries to sound disapproving, to sound worried or at least chastising, but he knows he fails miserably. He sounds incredulous, and happy, and when Dean smiles, Castiel can’t help but smile back.

“Found a loophole. Came to bring you home,” Dean says with a shrug, obviously going for casual which he doesn’t pull off either, and that makes Castiel feel a bit better. “There’s something else we gotta do, but… I’m here so you can come home.”

A furrow appears in Castiel’s brow, and he squints at Dean, tilting his head to the side in a familiar motion that makes Dean feel so much relief he has to pull him a little closer. “Does this mean you’ve found the reversal spell? I assume you wouldn’t do this,” he waves at Dean’s pelt, still lying on the ground, “without an exit plan?”

Dean goes quiet and looks at the ground, digging his toes into the sand. “Yea, well… you’d assume wrong.”

“Dean, what-”

“I love you, Cas,” Dean blurts out. “And I’m sorry I didn’t say it before. I can’t lose you, I just… I need you,” he finishes lamely. “And if being a half-seal or whatever is the price I gotta pay to have you, then it’s not even a question. I told you already. Way back when. Cursed or not. I just hope that you feel the same cuz otherwise this is gonna be really embarrassing.” Dean’s chest, neck and cheeks are flushed prettily with his shame, and Castiel leans in to kiss it away.

“I love you. I want to come home with you. Tell me what we need to do.” 

***

“What they need to do” is actually not that complicated. According to Rowena, they simply need to mate, and “mate” would be defined by sex followed by mating bites. She had seemed pretty sure that their scent hormones and incomplete bond that existed already would guide them to know what to do. “Follow your instincts, they won’t steer you wrong,” she had told Dean, further explaining that completing their mating as two selkies should negate Dean’s ‘human’ part in enacting the curse, thus breaking it and setting Castiel free. They’d then be truly mated, while both remaining free. Rowena had gone on to assure Dean that she and Sam would continue to work tirelessly to find a reversal spell that would put them back to normal, and to find the girl who had originally cursed Cas. Dean had nodded, grateful for her help, but had secretly felt conflicted at the idea of restoration. He figured he’d cross that bridge when he came to it. When he explains this all to Castiel, the man looks shaken. 

“Dean, I don’t want you to give up your humanity for me.”

Dean shrugs. “We don’t have to decide right now. In fact, we can’t, not until there’s something to decide. But Cas, you gotta know - this isn’t a punishment for me. I don’t regret it. Even if we’re stuck this way forever, I never will.” Dean knows he’s said the right thing when he sees Castiel’s face staring up at him with wonderment and love. He deflects by asking if he’s ready to go.

***

Castiel said his thank yous and goodbyes to his new friends pretty quickly, all who seemed to innately understand what was going on between him and Dean, even if they’d never seen it transpire before. He’d slipped back into his pelt only to find Dean already waiting for him in the water. Even being only a few feet apart had caused the itch to start up again, though it was relieved quickly with the briefest of contact. And so they swam close together, bodies brushing, flippers touching, diving and spinning and reveling in the feel of the cool water, the joy of stretching and swimming, and the pure pleasure of being close to each other. Dean had never been more thankful that he was unable to speak, because he was extremely sure something disgustingly sappy and cliche would have come out had he been able to.

Back on the boat, Sam and Rowena are nowhere in sight, and Dean waves off Castiel’s questions about that particular topic. He leads Castiel down winding, hand-carved cherry stairs into a master bedroom that’s nothing short of luxurious.

“Do I want to know how you have a boat like this?” Castiel eyes Dean warily, but there’s an amused glimmer in his eye.

Dean shakes his head. “Really don’t,” he says and takes Castiel in his arms. “We done talking?

***

When Dean is finally moving inside him, Castiel has a hard time holding back his emotions. He tips his head back and blinks rapidly, trying to hide the tears but Dean notices, smiles and kisses him through it, tipping his own head back to guide Cas’ face into the crook of his neck. Castiel inhales, and feels the calming, safelovematehome essence that is Dean fill his soul. He tightens his thighs around Dean’s hips then, grabbing onto one of Dean’s shoulders with one hand and taking a handful of his ass with the other. The mood shifts as he encourages Dean to fuck harder, faster. Castiel moans loudly when Dean hits his prostate, and Dean pulls his hips up into his lap to give him what he wants.

“Fuck, Cas,” Dean murmurs, and before Castiel can process what’s happening, strong arms are sliding between his back and the bed, scooping him up and pulling him in close to a warm, hard chest damp with sweat. Dean’s hips have stopped thrusting in favor of gyrating in a circular motion, and he’s rocking them back and forth gently at the same time. He lets the tension build slowly, slipping a hand down between them to stroke Castiel, alternating between kissing his mouth hotly and scenting his neck. Dean nips at Cas’ lower lip when he pulls away the next time, and a thrill goes down Castiel’s spine. He tips his head to the side, fully presenting his neck in submission to Dean. For the first time he realizes that he’s not just okay with Dean biting him, he wants it … and he wants to bite Dean too.

“May I?” His breath is coming in short gasps now, but he manages to punch out the words as he rocks back onto Dean’s cock. His fingers are on the side of Dean’s neck, indicating the context for his question. Dean bares his own neck, mirroring what Castiel had done for him, and at the same time he gives Cas’ cock a squeeze and twist that surprises him enough to send him over the edge. As he comes, he finds himself having an almost out of body experience. He sees himself, writhing in Dean’s lap, legs locked around his back, arms gripping Dean’s shoulders. He watches as he leans forward with his teeth bared, sinking them into the skin at the crook of Dean’s neck, in the soft spot just above his collarbone. He sees Dean’s eyes close, not in pain but with overwhelming pleasure, the steady-slow circles of his hips turning to jerking, desperate thrusts as he comes with Castiel’s teeth in him. As soon as Castiel lets go, Dean leans forward to bite him in return, still working through his orgasm.

After, they collapse down to the bed beside each other, Dean slipping out of Cas unceremoniously, and it takes more than a moment for their breathing to calm and for them to come back to their senses. In his post-orgasm fog, Castiel hazily notes that the expensive bed linens are ruined… besides the obvious bodily fluids, there’s blood everywhere. He pushes on Dean, who grumpily turns into him and buries his head in Castiel’s neck. “I’ll never get tired of this,” his muffled voice says, and Castiel smiles, but gently slides out from under him. Dean actually whines, but stops when Castiel returns with a soapy washcloth. He convinces a reluctant Dean to let him clean up the bite at least, and then lets himself be pulled down and held tightly in strong arms.

***

The next time Castiel wakes, Dean is nowhere to be seen, and he can feel the engine of the boat droning soothingly beneath him. He finds a set of clothes on the bed and a note that explains Dean has both of their pelts with him upstairs. Castiel rolls his eyes but guesses he can’t blame Dean for being extra cautious, after everything.

He dons the clothes and ascends the spiral wooden stairs, following the vaguest scent of Dean as he steps out on the top deck. Dean turns around, his face highlighted by the late-morning sun and the dazzling smile that breaks out when he sees Castiel. They gravitate towards each other and their fingers intertwine automatically. Dean leans in to kiss him softly and follows that with a light sniff to his neck, which Castiel happily returns.

“Adorable,” Sam smirks from a nearby chair.

“You shut your face, or I’ll ask you about those hickies on your neck, bitch,” Dean warns, not tearing his eyes away from his mate. Sam, to his credit, sinks down in his chair and hides behind his coffee cup.

“It’s good to see you Cas,” Sam mumbles into his drink.

Castiel tears his eyes away from Dean’s and looks over to Sam. “And you as well, Sam. Thank you for coming to my rescue.”

“Hey,” Dean pouts with what Castiel hopes is mock annoyance. “Don’t be handing out so much credit to all the people who aren’t currently part-seal.”

“I thought you said you didn’t mind being a Selkie, Dean,” Castiel says teasingly as he steps closer, their bodies almost pressed together now, and Dean darts a glance at Sam, flushing as he does.

He clears his throat and attempts a subject change. “So, Cas, have you checked out the view?” Dean guides him towards the back of the deck, and waves towards the ocean behind them. The island is nowhere in sight.

Castiel’s eyes go wide, and he turns to Dean excitedly. “There’s no pull… your plan actually worked,” he says, unable to keep the relief from his voice.

Dean slips his arm around his waist and tugs him close. “You’re stuck with me now, sunshine,” he says with a cheeky grin, pecking Castiel on the cheek.

Castiel just smiles, and leans against Dean’s chest, nosing gently at the newly-scabbed bite mark. The two of them rest like that for a while, just enjoying each other, until Castiel senses Dean start to become restless. He pulls back slightly and raises his eyebrows. “Race you home?"

Dean looks for a moment like he’s going to say no, but he's faking Castiel out, using the opportunity to shove Castiel back so he can get a head start running for the side of the boat. He drops Castiel’s pelt on the floor as he grabs his own, and giggles like a maniac as Castiel struggles with getting his own shirt off. He’s still laughing as he sits on the outermost railing, sliding his pelt on and diving headfirst into the water. Castiel shakes his head and follows close behind him, his only thought about how lucky he is to be going home. With his mate. Dean is his mate and they’re going home. 

Even under the water and swimming at a ridiculous speed, Castiel swears he can see Dean’s seal-face break into a smile at his thoughts, and knows it’s true when he feels a pulse of happiness come from the man. Castiel wonders what else their bond might be able to do, and discovers he’s excited to find out. He’s most surprised to discover though, that he’s not just accepting of this current situation. Like Dean had alluded to yesterday, he’s actually happy. He’s in no rush to be turned back, no longer sure if that’s even what he wants. But he does know one thing for sure. Whatever the future holds, whatever it may or may not bring, he and Dean will face it together. As a team. As mates. When Dean looks at him over his shoulder, his green eyes shining bright and clear, Castiel knows in his soul that he feels the same. 

They’re already home.