Two days later …
"Are you sure you're okay dude?"
Sam's concerned eyes twitched back and forth through the hazy morning sunlight toward Dean as the brothers strode purposefully along the cobbled quayside.
"I'm fine," snorted Dean; "quit y'fussin'."
Sam hesitated; "well, as long as you're okay; that got pretty serious for a while back there."
Dean rolled his eyes; he would rather have not dwelt on the day and a half he just spent practically locked in the bathroom while the evil seawater purged his digestive system like a gallon of prune juice could only dream of, and left him, whilst recovered, feeling weak and feeble like a limp cabbage.
"I mean," Sam just wasn't going to let it drop; "hell, man; it sounded like the Pearl Harbour in there at times!"
Dean sighed; it had felt like it too. The bracing sea air was just the tonic he craved, and the last thing he needed was Sam going all full-on gigantor nursemaid on his ass, and bundling him back up in some stuffy, rancid room again.
"Dude," he huffed, practically jogging on his weary legs to keep up with Sam's long stride; "I'm fine and dandy; I feel well and completely recovered. So can we please talk about something other than the workings of my freakin' innards."
"Yeah, sorry man," Sam sighed.
"Just as long as you're okay."
Sam never knew how close he came to taking a swan dive over the harbour wall.
They wandered in a companionable silence up and down the harbour looking across the water at the mass of boats which rocked and bobbed rhythmically on the gently lapping ocean. Huge, sleek motor cruisers, sat alongside small, brightly coloured RIBs, little wooden rowboats and elegant, slender yachts, their masts waving and swaying in the breeze like a living forest.
"Hey, It'll be cool if our boat's like one of those," grinned Dean, pointing out a massive luxury cruiser which powered smoothly past them; a glistening, white behemoth, slicing effortlessly through the water like a blade.
Sam grinned; "dude, even with a fake loan, we could never afford one of those; our boat's gonna be a lot more modest than that."
Suddenly Dean barked out a laugh. "Oh well, it could be worse; it could be like that crappy old tub over there."
He pointed out an ancient wooden boat lurking in a distant corner of the harbour; alone, like the kid with no friends, rocking quietly on the restless ocean.
Sam stared briefly at it and bust out laughing; "man, that is one ugly pile of crap; and it's ancient; look at the damn thing, I'm surprised it's even still floating."
Dean roared with laughter, brushing a tear from his cheek; "it's probably so friggin' ugly," he spluttered; "even the sea doesn't want it!"
The dismal little boat was a study in neglect. It clearly hadn't seen a lick of paint for years, and in many places, it's hull which had once been painted red, was weathered down to bare wood. It's flat topped wooden cabin was a popular meeting place for local gulls if the generous layer of guano that adorned it was anything to go by.
Sam's laughter faded into spasmodic giggles as he stared at the forlorn vessel; it's salt-caked portholes stared back at him like soulful eyes.
But it wasn't the portholes he was focussing on. There was something on the side of the hull that had caught his attention. A row of faded black paint smudges, all in a line. Those smudges were (or had once been) letters.
The little boat's name.
It was hard to read, given how much the combined onslaught of the sea and the weather had stripped the boat's paint back to almost nothing, but if he stared hard and squinted a bit, Sam could just make out an 'F', and then an 'L'.
His stomach lurched as he stared down at the paperwork which had been sent to him to confirm his purchase of their boat. It's name was printed across the top of the sheet.
"Uh dude," he interrupted, nudging his chuckling brother in the ribs.
"What?" Dean snorted, mid-snigger.
"Um, that boat," Sam cleared his throat; "the little ugly one that looks like it's about a million years old …"
"Yeah?" Dean replied absently.
"Uh, it's ours," he mumbled in the smallest voice he could manage.
Dean's face fell through a series of animated transformations, from eye-watering hilarity to curiosity, pebble-eyed horror, denial, and finally settling on disbelieving shock.
He stared at Sam, his mouth hanging open in a shocked gape; "you wasted a fake loan on that friggin' thing?" The little boat bobbed jauntily over the wash from a passing cruiser and seemed to nod in response.
Sam's mention of 'a motorboat' when he had first revealed his purchase to Dean had had the older Winchester salivating over something akin to Donald Campbell's Bluebird. This thing was more suited to Donald Duck.
"You said it was a motorboat," Dean stammered.
"Well it is," Sam countered; "it's got an engine."
"What's it powered by? Rubber band?" Dean snorted sulkily.
"Oh c'mon, let's give it a chance," Sam sighed; "I mean, I suppose it does look pretty solid, and it's not like we'll be going out far in it."
Dean was still glaring at the boat as if it had personally insulted him, and didn't look in any way convinced.
"Look," Sam coaxed; "even if we don't see any mermaids dude, it'll be a blast;" he checked Dean's reaction; and wilted when there were no promising inroads. "Just you and me chilling out on the ocean, away from all the usual crap; a few beers, and just the sea breeze and the sunshine for company. It'll be almost like a vacation!"
Dean's eyebrows twitched, as if he were actually considering the idea.
"And the best thing about sailing on this boat," Sam continued; "is that you won't have to look at it!"
There was a moment's silent hesitation before Dean caved in.
"Okay," he grunted; "but only if we're sure everything works." He waved his hand dismissively across at Florence. "I'm gonna service whatever pile of junk passes as an engine on this friggin' tub, and assuming it does have a radio, and not two goddamn tin cans on a bit of copper wire, I'm gonna test it."
"Great," Sam smiled; "while you're doing that, I can stock up on the provisions and the safety equipment, and try to smarten her up a bit."
Dean snorted; "better get it checked for woodworm too."
Sam huffed a hollow laugh.
"Oh yeah," added Dean; "an' I ain't hitting the high seas in a boat with a douchey stupid name like friggin' 'Florence'; we're gonna change it's name to 'Xena' or 'Buffy' or something cool like that."
Sam's eyes widened as he shook his head abruptly; "no, you can't do that dude, it's really bad luck to change a boat's name."
Dean stared at him; "says who?"
"Everyone, man;" Sam replied, "seafarers are real superstitious people and they reckon that changing a boat's name is the most unlucky thing anyone can do."
Dean shook his head in disbelief; "you don't really believe all that crap do you?"
Sam clearly did. "The Marie Celeste," he snapped, gesticulating wildly toward the little boat; "that was originally called The Amazon. It's name was changed and look what happened to it; it was found floating abandoned with all it's crew mysteriously vanished."
"They probably fell overboard laughing at this thing," Dean snorted pointing at Florence; "anyway, that's just one ship - it doesn't prove anything!"
Sam drew himself up to his full height and folded his arms across his chest; "we are NOT changing her name."
Dean threw up his hands in submission; "okay bitch, keep your freakin' boxers on," he sighed, his lip curling into a petulant scowl; "Florence it is."
The following morning dawned bright and refreshingly cool and saw the brothers standing on the newly-painted deck of their new acquisition staring at her engine.
Dean turned to Sam, wiping dirty hands on an oily rag. "I hate to say it," he remarked, swiping a grubby hand across his sweat-dampened brow, leaving a black smear; "that's a good little engine, can't find much wrong with it."
Sam grinned; "how's the radio?"
Dean shrugged, "yeah; good I guess. It's pretty basic, but it works fine."
"Looks like we're all set then, I've plotted our course," Sam smiled; "and stocked up on provisions, got sleeping bags for the cabin, a couple of fishing nets, oh, and lifejackets."
Dean squinted through the sunlight; "glad you cleaned all that seagull shit off the cabin," he remarked.
"I get all the nice jobs," Sam laughed; "so dude, do you want to do the honours?" He gestured toward the newly-serviced engine.
Dean didn't need asking twice. He tugged robustly on the engine's starter cord and it fired up first time with an agricultural grumble, leaving her passengers spluttering colourfully as the air suddenly filled with greasy diesel-laden smoke, which cleared just as quickly as the engine settled into a smooth, comfortable rhythm.
Dean stood and watched the results of his labours with satisfaction, flinching slightly as a tap on the shoulder jolted him out of his musings.
He turned to see a bottle of beer being waved in his face.
"We've got to launch our vessel properly," Sam announced.
"I'm not wastin' this pouring it over the side," Dean snorted; "I know exactly where this is going;" he grinned as he took a long draft on the cool amber liquid.
Sam raised his bottle; "Florence!"
"Florence," Dean echoed; "she's ravin' ugly, but she's ours, God help us."
"I assume you'll want to drive?" Sam gestured toward the wheel.
"Natch," Dean replied, nudging Sam aside. He took the wheel in confident hands and steered the little boat out of her lonely berth like a natural.
They had been at sea for around an hour. Florence bobbed and rocked merrily over the rolling ocean, as she ploughed onwards toward the remote point that Sam had marked on the map.
Knowing that Dean was as happy as a hog in in a waller, standing at the wheel of his new toy, Sam relaxed, sitting on the prow with his long legs hung over the side. He savoured the cool salt breeze on his face, and the comforting pitch and roll of their motion through the water, listening to the the whisper of the ocean around them, and the joyful phut-phut-phut of Florence's engine as she powered through the water, relishing her new lease of life.
He took a long, deep breath of the fresh air around him. This was the life. This was true freedom. The ocean was one place where a man could truly look within himself and find peace and contentment, and delicious, blessed solitude.
The shriek of a passing gull focussed his thoughts momentarily and he smiled. Free as a bird; that's what we are right now.
He pulled his shades down from his forehead to shield his eyes from the brilliantly sparkling reflections which played and danced on the moss-green water around him.
He could totally see why people wrote songs about the ocean.
It was just as he closed his eyes and lost himself once again in the ocean's soothing swell, he heard a voice behind him.
He turned lazily to look back at Dean, who still stood dutifully at the wheel.
There was a moment's hesitation before Dean spoke again.
"I feel sick."