She floated languidly in the gently rocking waves, studying her reflection in her delicate, pearl-handled mirror.
Having combed her beautiful chestnut hair, she placed her dainty circlet around it, but today the diamond-bright sunlight glinting off those polished shells gave her no pleasure.
The image of those two terrified men scrambling frantically up to the back of their crippled boat burned in her mind. Now they were adrift, bereft in an alien world; the great empty expanse of the ocean. Her ocean.
She couldn't bring herself to think how scared she would be if she was stranded and helpless in the dry world.
They were bad men for taking her nice things, very bad, but did they deserve to die? And even if they did, was it her decision to make?
She knew her ocean was an unforgiving place; hungry and wild, uncontrollable. Even her people, who considered themselves kings over all in the ocean, knew to bow to it's power.
What if the men were already dead?
If they were, didn't that make her worse than them?
Looking back into her mirror, she saw not her own pretty face; her soft, ivory pale skin with eyes as deep and blue as her home, she saw the hard, twisted features of a bad, wicked person.
And it was at that point she made a decision.
She would help them.
She didn't want to make herself known to them; a scared man fighting for his life was even more dangerous than a calm one. She would ask some special friends to do the work for her.
A smile played on her lips as she lifted her flute to her mouth and began to play a lilting trill.
Within minutes, a small gathering of gulls had congregated around her, some hanging motionless on the warm air above her; others sitting, calmly rocking on the ocean surface. They regarded her with jet black eyes, bright as beads and listened intently while she told them what she wanted them to do.
Dean had been cold before. He'd been wet before. He'd been exposed to danger before.
But this was something like neither brother had ever experienced.
Even though it wasn't a cold day, the bone-cold, aching chill of the ocean had slowly seeped into every atom in their bodies. Dean could feel the weight of his soaked jeans dragging him down, and if he was feeling it, he knew Sam would be feeling it too. Only their lifejackets stood between them and the end of everything.
Both brothers had been sick; a toxic combination of the ocean's constant motion, the cold, and the crushing fear and disorientation of their predicament had taken it's toll, leaving them weakened and giddy. Dean, hardly recovered from his earlier bout of seasickness, was barely functioning.
He licked his parched, salt-burned lips. His thirst was relentless; burning him up and wringing his body out from the inside. He was stranded in water; billions of gallons of the stuff, and not a drop of it drinkable. It was like the punch line to a bad joke.
Still clinging to his brother to ensure they didn't drift apart, Dean scanned the field of his sun-blurred vision, and saw the same depressing sight as he had been seeing ever since that stupid boat had disappeared over the horizon all those hours ago ; flat, featureless blue, for miles and miles and miles.
Whoever would have thought that 'nothing' could be so goddamn terrifying. Dean would have taken a crumbling, haunted rat infested cellar any day of the week.
The failure of the trawler to see them had completely broken Sam's spirit. He brooded in fearful despair; now he could see no way out other than the final one. All that was uncertain now was the manner of that conclusion; drowning, dehydration, shark attack … he felt his bile rise again. He knew sharks were attracted to the smell of blood; was the same true for puke? He sure hoped not.
The sun was going down and soon it would be dark. He wondered if either of them would ever see another dawn.
He clung grimly to Dean; remaining silent, unable to look his brother in the eye.
This was all his fault. It all started as a stupid joke, a stunt, because Dean was bored, and yet he couldn't deny the change of scenery had been appealing to him too.
He should have known better than to underestimate the power of the ocean, how could he have been so stupid?
He glanced furtively across to Dean, and could see his brother's hooded eyes staring vacantly into the distance, his sunburned face half obscured by the ungainly blocks of his lifejacket rising higher as Dean's weakening body sank lower.
He wasn't sure if the tears in Dean's eyes were there because of the glare of the low, evening sunlight, or for any other reason.
The Winchesters were jolted out of their melancholy thoughts by the shriek of a gull above them.
It swooped low, circling the two men, banking away from Dean's waving arm as he angrily swatted it away.
Far from leaving them alone, it homed in again, letting out another raucous screech, but this time it was accompanied by another gull.
Wheeling around the stranded figures, the gulls swooped and soared, occasionally so low that the Winchesters could feel the draught of their powerful wings against their raw, salt-stung faces.
"Take a hike, you freakin' noisy sonsofbitches," Dean snapped, waving his arms in unco-ordinated circles to try to shoo the annoying birds away, frowning as three more joined them, one dropping down to land on the ocean's surface.
It sat, riding softly across the ocean's restless movement like a boat on a lake, regarding the Winchesters through curious, beetle-black eyes.
"I bet they're like buzzards," Sam gripped Dean's sleeve, looking at him through haunted eyes; "they're waiting for us to die."
Dean scowled and lashed out at the gull that was sitting on the water beside them, "well, they can freakin' wait a bit longer, 'cos I ain't goin' nowhere, an' neither are you;" he snorted, voice cracking hoarsely with the strain. The gull squawked indignantly, fluttering it's wings to regain it's balance as it retreated.
More and more gulls had joined the throng above their heads and the sheer cacophony of them was overwhelming.
Suddenly, there were more birds than either brother could count; a massive wheeling, seething white chaos of hundreds of living bodies bearing down upon the helpless figures below them.
The Trawler, Pegasus was ready to head back to the harbour at the end of a long day's work. Her harvest had been adequate but hardly exceptional; there was plenty of room for more.
As her captain began to chart their course back to Ocean Halt, he was distracted by a shout from one of his crew.
"Hey, boss? Come an' take a look at this."
Nate Harper was a lifelong seaman; the family joke was that he'd been born on the ocean; and that was, without a doubt, the place where he felt most comfortable.
A giant, weathered bear of a man, he'd seen everything the sea had to offer and, so answered his helmsman's call with a weary sigh; he wasn't expecting to see anything that might concern him.
As he walked to the back of the boat, his brow furrowed in thought as he squinted through the low sunlight. He could see the curious sight just on the cusp of the horizon on the starboard bow without the need of the binoculars his helmsman offered him; a huge congregation of seabirds, wheeling and lingering low in the sky over one particular spot in the ocean.
A smile spread over his leathery features. All those seabirds in one place could only mean one thing; a big catch.
"You thinkin' what I'm thinkin' boss?"
Harper smiled; "let's go an' join the party!"
The crew of the Pegasus weren't sure whether to be astounded or disappointed when they found not a massive shoal of herring, not even a small shoal of herring, but two, exhausted, chilled, starving and sunburned, figures, floundering lost and helpless in the cruel emptiness of the ocean.
Disappointed or not, the crew sprung into action admirably, and the rescue was swift and efficient; it was mere moments before the brothers found themselves stripped of their wet clothes and bundled into dry and supposedly clean coveralls (which nevertheless still stunk of fish), wrapped in blankets and slumped with bottles of water amongst piles of catch baskets and stray fish entrails the on the busily cluttered deck of the Pegasus.
Sam managed a weak smile as Dean subsided against him, he didn't know what had happened, how the trawler had found them, where the gulls had come from or how far they were from land.
All he knew was that he had never been so happy to see twenty thousand kilos of dead fish in his life.