The tiny coastal town of Ocean Halt clung precariously to a rugged promontory, the way centuries-worth of grey lichen clung to it's ramshackle huddle of stone buildings.
Forever at the mercy of the most savage anger the Atlantic could hurl it's way, the town had never thrived, spread or grown: it simply existed; happy to ignore the outside world except where practicality demanded and equally happy to be ignored.
When it wasn't being assaulted from above and around by the fury of the ocean and the storms wrought by it, the town also suffered threats from below; subsidence from the labyrinth of tunnels and caves that millenia of encroaching seawater had carved through the limestone upon which it stood.
Little could Ocean Halt have known, as a sleek black car rumbled slowly along the pot-holed road into town, that another more localised tempest was heading it's way.
That tempest went by the name of the Winchesters.
"Heck Sam, where is this crap-hole you're sending us?" Dean grumbled, irritably kneading the back of his neck; "talk about the ass-end of beyond!"
Sam rolled his eyes, and continued staring out of the passenger window at the rocky wilderness that unfolded before them.
"You wanted to find a mermaid to hunt, and by the research - that I had to do, I might add," Sam emphasised; "this looks like the most likely place we're going to find one."
Dean muttered under his breath, his eyes scanning the barren moonscape that closed around the Impala as she rocked and rattled along the neglected road. "Why couldn't you have found me a friggin' mermaid somewhere awesome, like Las Vegas?"
"Because mermaids live in the sea and Vegas is in a desert a thousand miles inland, you moron," snapped Sam; "the only mermaid you're gonna find there'll be a dead one half eaten by buzzards."
Dean sighed. It had been a long, tiring drive; ten hours in the car had left the brothers stiff, cranky and just about ready to slaughter each other.
They needed food, a cold beer and, above all, sleep.
Having checked into Ocean Halt's only accommodation, a grim rambling pile which bore an unnerving resemblance to the Bates Motel, the Winchesters were buoyed to find the little town's only watering hole; the Mermaid Tavern.
Despite the fact that it looked like it was constructed five hundred years ago by someone with serious co-ordination issues using only a bucket and spade, the bar and the welcome were warm, the beer was cold and the clam chowder was to die for.
They ate ravenously, and eventually settled back in a companionable silence, sated and content with each others' company, savouring full bellies and full glasses.
"So," Dean finally broke the silence on the back of a softly stifled burp; "you gonna tell me why we've hauled our asses all the way out here to the end of the friggin' Earth."
Sam took a long mouthful of his beer, relishing the icy bite before swallowing; "I already told you, Dean," he replied; "once last night and twice again in the car on the way here."
"Yeah well, I forgot, tell me again."
"You weren't listening you mean!"
He was treated to the patented Dean Winchester eye-roll; "whatever, are you gonna tell me again, or am I gonna keep asking?"
Sam took a deep breath which tailed off into a sigh.
"We are here at the 'end of the friggin' Earth' because of what my research into mermaids showed me," he began; "firstly, mermaids nest in sea caves, and this place is riddled with limestone caves which have been excavated by the sea."
Dean nodded non-committally and took another slug of his beer.
Sam continued; "mermaids are shy, they like quiet, secluded places well away from humans; and I don't know if you've noticed, but this place isn't exactly throbbing with activity."
Dean glanced over his shoulder at the bar's only other patrons, standing in listless silence beside the bar; two stocky, leather-faced men, old beyond their years and smelling faintly of fish. He turned back to Sam.
"You don't say," he remarked quietly.
"But most of all," Sam added; "this stretch of the Atlantic is steeped in mermaid lore, and a lot of it seems to be centred around this town. It's got a long fishing history and there are countless anecdotes of fishermen encountering mermaids, sometimes catching them by mistake."
He was interrupted by a snigger; "hey Sammy, that'd be cool, mermaid chowder - I wonder what that tastes like?"
On the basis that he felt it was best not to encourage Dean, Sam ignored him, ploughing on regardless.
"Some fisherman claim to have been rescued by mermaids when their boats got into trouble in storms, others say they have been threatened by mermaids trying to rescue their fish …"
"I wonder if it's best accompanied by red or white wine?" Dean pondered, clearly lost in his own facetious little world; "I mean, it's meat and fish - kinda surf and turf all in one creature."
Sam glared silently at his brother.
"Dean, if you ask me later on to explain what we're doing here again, I will hurt you."
Dean grinned; "oh, unknot your boxers Samantha, I get it; mermaids like wet, rocky holes in the ground, and this town likes mermaids."
Sam nodded wearily, and kneaded his temples; he could feel a headache coming on.
"The town trades on it's mermaid lore - apart from fish, it's all they have," Sam continued; "their civic emblem is a mermaid."
"An' this is the Mermaid Tavern," Dean piped up enthusiastically.
"Exactly," replied Sam, "so in answer to your question, that's why we're here."
Dean nodded mutely in appreciation; "good work, Sherlock; so what now?"
Sam sat back and briefly basked in the praise, knowing that was as close to gushing thanks as was ever likely to come out of Dean's mouth. "Well," he replied; "I thought first of all, we'll go tomorrow and check out those caves, and see if we can find any evidence of mermaid occupation."
"But Sam, I thought this was going to be an adventure on the high seas," moaned Dean, "I don't want the same old crap as we always gotta deal with; I spend my entire life pokin' around in dark, damp holes."
Sam stared at Dean.
"There's really no decent way to answer that, is there?"
Dean huffed sulkily.
"Look," Sam countered with self-preservation firmly in mind - he didn't want to spend a day dragging a bored, unwilling brother around a potentially hazardous cave system; "we'll check out these caves, and if we find any clues or any signs of mermaid life that make us think it's worth going on, we'll charter a boat and then we can go out looking for our lovely ladies."
Dean nodded reluctantly.
"I mean, we wouldn't go blundering into any other hunt without checking out the background first," Sam added, seizing his advantage, "would we?"
Dean drained his beer, and jerked to a quiet hiccup. The tip of his tongue casually explored his lips, seeking out the last lingering taste of his beer.
"Would we?" Sam persisted.
"No!" Dean finally snorted in response, "but I'm warning you Sammy, if I've got to go grubbin' around in friggin' caves, you'd better find me one seriously hot mermaid." His glare darkened as he continued; "if we end up with some gruesome old heifer with a face like a smacked ass, I'm gonna throw you back in with her!"
Sam smiled and relaxed. He finally had Dean on-side.