A/N: I dedicate this chapter to my childhood goldfish Nigel, as he was a good and friendly fish that only had the best of intentions. I am sorry about the Windex incident, Nigel. I felt very terrible when we flushed your dead body away. RIP.
They had yet to meet a friendly fish.
This irked Sam for numerous reasons, the most pressing being that he felt like a bit of a fraud. What kind of a merman was he, that fish weren't even interested in talking to him? The Yellowtail grunts were somewhat less than cordial, murmuring collective curses and fleeing as quickly as they could. The angelfish, butterfly fish, and Opaleye perches were equally distant. Sam did manage to get a hasty hello from a very pretty pink fish, but he could have sworn its fishy eyes looked cagey.
Dean flat-out refused to speak with sea creatures of any kind, although he did seem to enjoy the fact that he could converse with Sam underwater. Neck-gills came in handy.
"Check it out!" he said now, and Sam turned away from the interesting plant he was attempting to classify to watch as Dean did a quick loop-de-loop next to the coral.
Apparently, his brother was also fond of underwater tricks. "Wonderful, Dean," Sam said, trying to sound enthusiastic. "Very nice."
"Nice and impressive?" Dean did his trick again, back arching in the water.
Sam sighed. "Nice and impressive," he agreed, and hoped Dean would leave it at that. This curse had been decidedly less fun than he'd anticipated. With no fish friends and few plants left to classify, Sam found himself missing his legs and footwear. He had no idea how they were still alive, but it seemed like they didn't need to eat. He hadn't expected to miss the feel of masticated food between his molars, but he longed for a nice salad. Maybe a full glass of Chardonnay. Bite-sized Oreos.
He hadn't told these secret dreams to Dean, though; curse or no curse, Sam was not about to give himself up for teasing and belittlement.
When he heard a near-giggle, Sam turned around to spot Dean picking up a rather hefty-looking shell. "Look, Sammy!" he called. "This thing is heavy, dude. And shiny! Think we can sell it when we get our legs back?"
"Dean!" Sam cried, alarmed. "That shell is likely inhabited!" Horrible images flashed through his mind: Dean bitten by an angry shell-dwelling creature, frantic swimming to the nearest beach because hospitals were not built in the ocean, interviews by trashy magazines and an eventual 60 Minute special about The Mermen Brothers: Telling their Tail and it would all be so overwhelming and his heart pounded harder with the stress. "Put it down, put it down!"
"Ease up," Dean said, although he did put down the shell. "Jesus. You're too tense."
"Am not!" Sam yelled, bubbles floating up towards the surface as a result. He flailed his arms as best as arms could be flailed 11 feet underwater. "You're far too grabby!"
"Grabby?" Dean swam over to him, close enough to poke at Sam's chest. "You're the one who's constantly sticking his face into plants!"
"Faces don't have hands, Dean!" Sam said, and felt like he was losing his mind. "Therefore my face cannot be grabby!"
"What are you on?"
"No grabby faces!" Sam felt as if he needed to make this clear. "I was investigating!"
"I don't care what you call it. S'just as non-dangerous as it is for me to pick up a shell. And, dude? You can ease up on the crankiness whenever you'd like."
"I'm not cranky!"
Dean laughed at that. "Cranky and lonely. Just because no fish will talk to you."
That hit a nerve. Sam had tried his best, he really had. He thought he was being polite and friendly, waving to them as he had. He'd even smiled. And yeah, maybe it stung a little that fish routinely swam up to Dean in a somewhat curious fashion, even though Dean ignored them and continued to pick up dangerous shells.
It all fell down on him, then: the realization that he was without a single nautical friend. He also couldn't remember the last time he'd talked to someone from Stanford, and a sharp and bitter loneliness settled in his bones. Sam thought he smelled nice. He had a wealth of information in his brain that he was eager to share; he had an excellent smile. His bench-pressing skills were rather impressive, and he had very soft hands and forearms. Jergens had seen to that. And yet, he repelled fish.
More than anything, he wanted his legs back. He wanted a really big, really fluffy towel and he wanted to march into the nearest seafood restaurant and eat plate after plate of fish with angry chomps and he wanted to do this now.
"Aw, c'mon." Dean sounded contrite and a little hesitant. He patted Sam's shoulder awkwardly. "Don't…not again, Sam."
"It's all so much!" Sam wailed, hiding his face in his hands. "I w-want my l-l-legs back. I-I haven't even s-seen a dolphin!"
Just when he thought he couldn't bear it a second longer, a tingly sensation started to spread up his scales. They itched, just like his legs had itched when they'd been fused together in the first place. Breathing was suddenly harder, and a quick feel of his neck confirmed that his gills were shrinking. He tried shouting something to Dean, but he couldn't even understand himself: it all came out in bubbles, unintelligble warbles of sound.
Dean was going through the same process: slapping at his neck, trying to say something to Sam. In the next instant, both of them swam towards the surface, scales falling off as they went. They broke the surface of the water gasping for air, and immediately started paddling over to the nearest rock. Thank goodness they hadn't gone too far, or they would have been in big trouble: Sam had never mastered the art of floating.
"Dude," Dean gasped when they arrived at the rock. "I'm starving."
"Me too," Sam agreed, because he was. "Let's go back to the Impala and find something tasty to eat."
"Best idea you've had in ages." Sam felt a happy slap on his shoulder as Dean spoke.
Sam smiled back, pleased that things were starting to get back to normal.