Crouching in front of the slumped wet figure of his brother, Sam gently scraped back the soaked bangs which were plastered against Dean's forehead, dripping seawater into his shock-glazed eyes.
"I'm gonna go radio for help," he murmured as calmly as possible, squeezing Dean's shoulder; "you gonna be okay for a moment?"
Dean looked up at his brother's forced smile through watering eyes; "uh … yeah, peachy," he grunted, trying to manoeuvre himself into a position that didn't involve anything resembling sitting, as Sam stood beside him and reluctantly broke the touch.
He turned reluctantly, leaving Dean, and headed urgently toward the swaying foredeck, stumbling down the stairs into the cabin two at a time, clattering his forehead on the low doorframe in his haste.
Beneath the ancient hull, she drifted lazily through the gentle current and pondered.
Had she punished these men enough? She had been having her satisfaction; of that there was no doubt, but she still didn't have her things back. These thieves still had her possessions.
She wanted to get her nice things back; but how?
She wasn't able to get up onto the boat to reclaim her effects, and she had no words to make herself understood to the men; besides, how did she know they wouldn't hurt her? She knew that some of the men of the dry world were quite harmless. But many were not. These men were thieves and surely, therefore, could not be trusted.
She decided that there was only one course of action available to her.
If she couldn't get to her things, she would have to make her things come to her.
Sam sprinted back up the rickety staircase, this time remembering to duck, and returned to find Dean kneeling in the same spreading pool of water.
"There are a couple of fishing boats a little way away," he gasped breathlessly, scraping damp fingers through his hair; "they answered my mayday and one of those is going to come and pick us up."
Dean nodded wearily; "'kay Sammy," he hissed through clenched teeth, his face tightening in pain.
"I used the GPS on the phone to give our location. Hope that works," Sam sighed, crouching down beside Dean again.
Dean looked beat. Completely drenched, he hunched against Sam, boneless from a combination of exhaustion and pain. A crimson glow of sunburn from their hours on the sea was beginning to colour his cheeks.
"How you feelin' dude?" Sam asked cautiously; more for the purpose of getting a coherent response than wanting to know what the answer was.
"Freakin' wet an' freakin sore an' freakin' goddamn hacked off," Dean groaned, miserably arching his shoulders. His exertions in the water, as well as getting him stung, had reopened the grazes across his back, and he was painfully aware of the salt water burning against the raw wounds.
Swallowing back his own growing nausea and discomfort, Sam mentally kicked himself; he hadn't even thought to consider the possibility of getting stung out on the open ocean. Emphasis, of course, being on the words 'on the ocean'. Getting 'in' it hadn't been on his to-do list.
Dean shook his head, swallowing harshly. "S'not so bad now."
Sam tried not to spoil the moment by mentioning that he felt like he might hurl at any moment, and settled instead for shrugging nonchalently, knowing that he would have to believe Dean; he knew he wouldn't be getting any more clues unless Dean actually yakked there and then over his feet.
A brief and awkward silence passed between the two men.
Sam eventually spoke; "can I take a look?" he asked hesitantly.
"No," Dean shuffled back away from Sam, protectively hiding his rear end against the side of the boat.
"C'mon man," pleaded Sam; "it's not like I actually want to look at your ass, I just wanna see if there's any spines in it or serious swelling or anything else we should be worried about."
Dean's frown deepened as his mind tried to formulate a valid argument against the sheer crashing logic of Sam's statement, and failed parlously. He sighed theatrically as he reluctantly manoeuvred himself back round onto his hands and knees, cringing as the salt breeze ghosted across his exposed buttocks.
Sam sucked in a sharp breath as he looked at the long, narrow welt bisecting Dean's left cheek. "It looks real sore."
"Yeah, thanks Doctor Crippen," grunted Dean; "that's 'cause it freakin' is."
Sam was torn; every fibre of his being was screaming at him to radio for a medical emergency. At this very moment, there could be a deadly toxin coursing around Dean's system. But he also knew that to call the emergency services out here in the middle of the goddamn ocean would require an airlift. Dean would murder Sam in his sleep if he scrambled the air ambulance just for the benefit of Dean and his tiger-striped ass.
He pushed the notion to the back of his mind temporarily as Dean didn't look like a man who was about to keel over in an anaphylactic coma anytime soon, but refused to discount it.
Below them, Florence rocked gently in the ocean's cool embrace as the drama played out upon her deck.
"Um, there is one thing that's supposed to help these sea creature stings," Sam tailed off weakly as Dean shifted with a pained grunt.
"Well," Sam hesitated, swallowing deeply as he groped for words that would minimise the chances of Dean punching his lights out; "apparently, they reckon that … if you're stung by one of those sea things and you're in a place where you don't have any, like, antiseptic or anything, then if you, um …" his blush rose, deepening the pink flush of his sunburned cheeks.
Dean's eyes widened in horror; "NO FREAKIN' WAY!"
"They reckon it helps," Sam continued with a shrug.
"I don't friggin' care what 'they' reckon," Dean snarled; "Sam I warn you, if you pee over my ass, I swear I'll jump over the side and drown myself."
"It might help," Sam shrugged.
"It absolutely will not help in any way shape or form," snorted Dean, "if anyone's gonna hafta pee on my ass, I'll do it myself."
Sam folded his arms in resigned frustration; "how exactly are you going to manage that?"
"Shaddup, and help me up," snorted Dean; "no one is peeing on anyone's ass. Get it?"
Sam sighed, "got it."
"Good!" Dean snapped, "I'm gonna go an' lie down in the cabin, until our help arrives."
Sam knew better than to argue further, given that was the first sensible thing Dean had said since his swan dive into the sea. Reaching out, he took Dean's hand, and carefully pulled him to his feet.
Her busily nimble fingers patiently worked the coral pins she had removed from her billowing chestnut hair into the myriad fraying cracks in the weathered, rotting planks that lined the old boat's hull.
Decades of seawater had done it's destructive work on the old boat, and her wooden skin, neglected and unprotected over the years, was gutless and spongey. Under the mermaid's persistant probing, crumbling nails composed only of rust slipped easily from their disintegrating beds in the fibrous wood and it was in just moments that one rotted, deformed plank fell slowly away from the decrepid hull, and drifted down into the chilling darkness beneath to be reclaimed by the ocean.
Florence lurched sideways as the sea surged into the gap like an invading Army.
Dean had just managed to stagger to his feet, as Florence gave a violent lurch, overbalancing the brothers, sending them both sprawling backwards across the nauseously tilting deck.
Sam was quite sure that Dean's pained and highly colourful howl as his ass made heavy contact with the deck was enough to alert every coastguard from Cancun to Baffin Island that the boys were in trouble.
Rolling over onto his belly, Dean groaned; "what the hell was that?"
"Don't know," gasped Sam, leaning heavily on Dean's shoulder as he scrambled to his feet. He stood and froze, suddenly disoriented by the listing deck.
Sam knew he was no sailor, but he didn't have to know squat about boats to know that whatever this was, it wasn't good.
"Something's wrong dude," he blurted; "just gonna go and check it out."
Dean managed a tight-lipped, bug-eyed nod.
Sam staggered woozily over to the grotesquely listing cabin and descended the stairs only to find himself ankle-deep in a frothing well of gushing seawater.
"Dude, don't wanna worry you or nothin'," he yelled as he scrambled back up the stairs, managing to make a desperate grab for the lifejackets as he went.
"What? Dean snapped, staggering back to his feet.
Sam gave a weak smile as he tossed Dean a lifejacket. He tried to arrange his features into an expression that radiated reassurance, but only managed somewhere in the region of shit-scared.
"Uh, well," he croaked; "the boat's sinking!"