A silken chestnut head smoothly broke the water, just far enough away not to be seen, and glimmering blue eyes scanned the rippling surface of the ocean, coolly regarding the little red boat that she had been following since it left harbour.
The two men who had taken her things were on that boat, and she had watched them closely; they clearly felt no remorse about their theft from her.
They had talked and laughed together, drinking beer and relaxing as their vessel carried them and their plunder out to sea and on to whoever knew where?
She watched as the tall one sitting at the front of the boat had leapt to his feet in alarm, then the other one had suddenly lurched across the deck and emptied his stomach over the side of the boat into the sea. Her home.
She was liking these men less and less.
"I feel sick."
Three words that hit Sam like a punch to the gut. He scrambled to his feet just in time to see Dean abandon the wheel and stumble, rubber-legged, across the swaying deck before hurling violently over the rails which lined the edges of Florence's deck.
Sam made his way urgently to be beside Dean, and place to a flat palm over his heaving back; partly for comfort and partly in an effort to stop him from toppling overboard.
"It's okay, let it out dude," he muttered mindlessly, as if Dean had any choice in the matter.
Dean groaned, gasping for breath as he slumped miserably against the rails.
"Did you take your Dramamine?" Sam asked, still rubbing Dean's back in time with the boat's rhythmic rolling pitch.
Dean managed a miniscule shake of the head before another violent lurch forward had Sam grabbing his brother's shoulder harder, to keep him safe on board.
"S'okay, Dean, I gotcha, you're okay" Sam repeated the words helplessly; "you're okay Dean, take it easy bro".
Dean fell bonelessly against the rails, panting harshly.
"Why didn't you take them?" Sam asked.
"D-din't think I'd need 'em," Dean croaked breathlessly, swallowing back the lingering nausea, "I don' get car sick, so why shoul' I get sea sick?"
He turned to glance up at Sam, watery eyes blinking out of a face as pale as death. The tiny shift in his equilibrium caused by that slight movement was enough to spark the nausea again, and Sam's grip on his brother's shoulder tightened as he felt Dean's body begin to convulse once again. Dean gripped the rail, heaving desperately until his legs gave way and Sam was left practically holding him upright.
Sam knew that it was over, at least temporarily, when Dean went limp in his arms. He was utterly spent, panting hoarsely, each breath sounding like a strained sob.
"Let's turn back," Sam announced sympathetically, "you'll be fine when we get on dry land." He knew Dean would kick his ass into next week for abandoning the hunt on his account, but really; the man looked so sick it was heartbreaking. Plus, he didn't like to admit that, even allowing for the meds he'd taken to avoid such an eventuality, Dean's suffering was starting to make him feel more than a little queasy.
"No," Dean ground out through clenched teeth; "never wussed out of a hunt, ain't gonna start now. Gimme the pills."
"Dean …" Sam began, his brow furrowing in concern.
"Gimme," Dean swallowed back another wave of nausea; " the … freakin' … pills …"
Sam shook his head in exasperation, it was starting to throb.
"At least go and lie down in the cabin while the pills kick in, you might feel a bit better if you're horizontal," Sam pleaded, hoping to be able to talk some sense into the stubborn ass.
"Horizontal always works for me," Dean croaked, even managing a weary smirk.
"Jerk," Sam replied, hooking his arm around Dean's sweat-soaked back, and helping him down the narrow staircase into the cabin.
The term, 'couldn't swing a cat' could quite adequately have been applied to the boat's tiny cabin; a situation which didn't help the two tall, long-limbed bodies that were currently trying to manoeuvre within it. Sam stooped uncomfortably as he passed Dean the box of tablets and a bottle of water, watching as he swallowed cautiously, kneading his fractious midriff. Dean sat motionless and uncharacteristically silent for a while, talking, long, gulping breaths and swallowing convulsively as he tried to calm the rising bile.
Sam cringed; Dean's pallor had shifted from creamily pale to grey, a faint green patina had settled over him and he looked just about as sick as Sam had ever seen him look.
They would turn back. Sam had decided. He would bear the brunt of Dean's ire and bear it gladly; anything was better than seeing him like this. Unaware of Sam's decision, Dean slowly and stiffly eased himself down to lie on the small, narrow cot he had been sitting on, clumsily arranging his legs into the uncomfortably cramped position necessary to fit his long frame into the tiny space, and watched through heavy lidded eyes as Sam placed a bucket on the floor beside him.
The eyes narrowed as he looked up at Sam.
"Appreciate the optimism, thanks."
Sam shrugged apologetically; "sorry dude, I've already had to wade through seagull shit on this hunt, I don't think my stomach can deal with cleaning up your puke as well."
There was a few minutes silence in the cabin as Dean drowsed, willing his seething belly to settle. Sam sat across the cramped space watching him, and pretending not to.
After a few minutes of strained silence, Dean spoke up.
"Sam, is the engine still running, or is that just my freakin' blood-pressure I can hear?"
Sam thought for a moment, "I didn't turn it off, it must be still running."
Dean hauled himself up onto one elbow, "we're still going? Why didn't you cut the engine?"
Sam bristled; "well I'm sorry, dude; I was a bit preoccupied with the fact that you were hurling your guts down the side of the boat, and that I was trying to stop you from following them overboard into the drink."
Dean sighed; "Sammy, what I mean is we're still moving, and there's no-one at the wheel." He took a shuddering breath to steady himself; "which means we have no idea what direction we're travelling in, which means therefore, we no longer know where we are."
Sam's eyes widened in horror along with the realisation of their situation, and he leapt to his feet, charging up the steps onto the deck to cut the engine.
When he returned his face was almost as pale as Dean's; "we've lost sight of land," he muttered in a small voice.
"I checked the compass," he added, scraping a shaking hand through his hair; "I think we were … are … I don't goddamn know … heading east."
"Out to sea," observed Dean, "awesome."
The words had barely left his lips before he lurched sideways, almost tumbling off the cot, and painfully heaved the remaining meagre contents of his abused stomach into the bucket.
It seemed like the longest time before he was able to pull in a deep, shaky breath as he looked up at Sam's devastated face through a haze of tears.
"There goes the Dramamine," he gasped.
Sam pinched the bridge of his nose, and swallowed hard. The sour odour of nausea hung heavy in the cabin's confined space and Sam knew he was one deep breath away from puking himself.
He stood up; "right Dean, we're going back. No arguments."
"Don' know where we are," murmured Dean thickly; "don' know where 'back' is."
"We can't be that far off course," Sam reflected; "we only left the wheel unattended for, what, ten minutes?"
He thought for a moment. "And," he added,"we're pointing east, out to sea; you said so yourself, so let's think logically about this, if we turn back round and point west, we'll hit land sooner or later."
He hesitated, staring at Dean, silently asking for his approval.
"Even if we don't land at Ocean Halt, we can find our way back there once we've hit land."
Dean rubbed the back of his neck, and huffed out another shaky breath.
"Smartass," he grunted.
Cutting through the water like a shaft of light, she swam under the keel of the boat, wrinkling her nose at the thick layer of barnacles that pocked it's weathered surface.
Hers was a proud race; she would not soil her soul by hurting these men, she would not lower herself to their level. But she had the ability to make life very uncomfortable for them … very uncomfortable indeed.
A satisfied smile played across her pretty face as she plunged deep into a drifting bed of floating kelp.
Sam headed up the steps; "I'm turning us round," he announced smartly, brooking no argument from his brother; "stay where you are; I'll drive us back."
Dean laboured clumsily into a sitting position, a look of outrage plastered across his pallid features; "d'you know how to drive this thing?"
Sam sighed; "Dean, I'm not an imbecile, it's an engine and a steering wheel; I'm sure I can manage!"
"I'll believe that when I see it," Dean huffed contemptuously; "I'm comin' up."
Sam reached down, and gently pushed Dean back down on the bed; "why don't you stay down here and rest?" He cajoled, "it's not like I'm gonna have a rear-ender with a truck or get stuck in traffic or anything!"
"Don' wanna stay down here," Dean moaned; "it stinks."
Sam had to admit he had no valid argument on that point as he made his wobbly way up the narrow wooden steps onto the gently rocking deck.
He turned and watched in frustrated resignation as Dean followed him, hauling himself wearily up the steps on legs like water, parchment-white face set in a pained grimace of determination.
Dean closed his eyes, leaning heavily against the wooden wall of the cabin, willing the tilt-o-whirl in his belly to give it a rest. He was sick of, well, feeling sick.
And anyway, it was an unwritten rule; little brother did not operate moving machinery, not when the master was around, even when the master was a hopeless pile of jello, as sick as death warmed over.
He opened his eyes again on hearing the engine splutter into life, as Sam yanked on the starter cord. It gave a couple of painful, grinding coughs, then ground into a defeated silence.
Sam glanced across at Dean, a flicker of concern tightening his face.
He pulled the starter again.
Another screeching growl as the engine struggled and whined, before dying again, a metallic odour of burning machinery floated across the deck.
Dean gagged as his nausea began a happy dance around his innards at the acrid smell.
"C'mon you goddamn sonofabitch," growled Sam, putting his entire strength into a third furious attempt at starting the struggling engine.
He was rewarded for his efforts by a loud bang, and a terminal snort of blue smoke.
The brothers recoiled, coughing through the thick, oil-laden smoke that curled around Florence's swaying deck.
Dean blinked up at his shocked brother through teary eyes, and coughed through the drifting haze of smoke.
"This is why I never let you freakin' drive," he spluttered.