* Takes place before Season 1, Episode 1. Constructive criticism is welcomed.
Warnings: swearing, canon-typical violence
Genres: angst, drama, eventual romance, humor
Edited by: PrintingPisces
As You Are - Part 1
Dean got into the front seat with a heavy sigh and closed the door a little harder than needed.
Another dead-end cryptid case, one that his dad had given him. John had been adamant that there was something going on. It turned out to be nothing more than just frightened locals blowing shit out of proportion. It had felt like a wild goose chase from start to finish.
He fished his phone out of his pocket, half-wondering if he should give his dad an earful. Not that it'd matter given that he rarely answered the phone these days.
All the same, Dean dialed his number. "If people would just stop selling bigfoot costumes to the local dumbasses," he grumbled to himself as he waited for it go to voicemail. "…Then no hunter would feel like shooting said dumbasses."
His irritation quelled when he heard a voice on the other end. "Dean? How's the case going?"
Dean's shoulders sagged and he managed a smile. "Dad. Hey." He cleared his throat, not only to stop a relieved exhale, but also to answer his question. "Um, yeah, it's all good. This one turned out to be bullshit."
His dad hummed thoughtfully. "Well, at least no one's dead."
"Yeah, about that. Why did you think this was even a job to begin with?"
"I dunno," he responded vaguely, distractedly. "I had a hunch, but I guess it turned out wrong. What do you want me to say?"
Dean opened and closed his jaw, his mouth forming a hard line.
"…You still there, son?"
"Yeah," he answered instantly, scrubbing his hand down his face to briefly rub at his eyes. "Yeah, I'm still here. You, uh, you ready to meet up again?" There was silence on the other end. "Dad?"
His father sighed. "It's not gonna happen right now. I'm…still a couple states away from you, and with a million things on my plate-"
"Well, lemme help you," Dean insisted. "We're a team, it's what we do. I got no problems driving through the night." He paused. "Can any of those 'million things' help us with yellow-eyes," he asked this with a bit of hopefulness in his voice.
"Dean, don't…" There was a long exhale. "Look. I got this handled. Besides, you're busy."
His brows came together. "With what?"
"With another job. A town in Maine. Crops suddenly died overnight."
Dean shook his head as he yanked a map out of the glove box. "What town?"
"Camden. Shouldn't be too far from you."
"No, not far," he agreed as he scanned his eyes over the page. "I can be there in less than two days." He put the map away. "So…I take it I won't see you there anytime soon." It wasn't a question.
"Like I said," his dad replied evenly. "A million things."
"Yeah, and I get that," Dean said, and he willed his voice not to waver. "But…" He patted the steering wheel once, resisting the urge to slam his hand down on it, and he took his cell away for a moment. There was more that needed said. He wanted to give his dad a whirlwind of opinions. He wanted to urge him to meet up again.
Dean put the phone back to his ear. "Never mind. Camden it is." He chuckled a little. "Run of the mill demon omens? Hell, I haven't had a milk run in a while."
When John spoke again, there was a sigh in his voice, as if relieved. "Now, the reason why I have you going there is because I don't think it actually is demonic omens. No freak storms or cattle deaths to go along with it. But there have been spontaneous drownings."
He went on to explain that while there was some farmland, Camden was mainly a seaside community. It'd been happening, on clear sunny days, that the calm and peaceful shoreline would suddenly turn choppy and deadly within seconds. A few people drowned as a result.
Dean frowned. "Okay," he conceded. "Not normal demon stuff."
"I don't know of too many things that can control ocean waves in an instant. I have theories, but none of them concrete." Dean heard pages flipping in the background. "I've double-checked the journal, but it's not giving me anything." He grumbled irately. "This isn't the first time I wish I'd given you this thing. I already have most of it memorized anyway. You'd get more use out of it than me at this point."
"Nah, it's your journal, not mine. And besides, reading stuff like that was more-" Dean immediately shut his mouth, his chest tightening at the thought of bringing him up.
If his dad noticed that almost-slip-up, he didn't let it on, just continued. "It's definitely been a while since I've come across an odd combination of things like this. There's a hunter I know, just got off the phone with her. She told me she wasn't that far from Camden and wants to help out."
Dean scowled. "We don't work with other hunters too often."
"I know. But she's saved my ass on occasion and she's yet to give me a reason not to trust her." He gave Dean a rough estimate on where to find the hunter. "Also, she might know what's going on. She's knowledgeable, and she tends to handle weird stuff pretty easily."
Dean scoffed. "You make is sound like she deals with weirder stuff than we do."
"I don't know. You can tell she's seen a thing or two." There was a sharp noise on the other end. "Hey, Dean, I gotta go. Stay safe, alright? Kick it in the ass."
"Damn right I will." He managed a grin. Then, he said something, and it was a concern that he'd yet to voice aloud. "Just…Don't go radio silent again. Okay, dad?"
He heard his father mutter something noncommittal, and then a click.
Dean stared at the phone for many seconds, and then tossed it into the empty passenger seat. "Stay safe," he muttered softly, and he put the Impala in drive.
The directions for this Riley chick were vague as hell. His father told him which highway she'd be on and…that was it! Nothing else. And there were dense woodlands on either side of the road. As Dean drove, he tapped the steering wheel impatiently, hoping that this wouldn't be a needle in a haystack.
Movement caught his eye.
He glanced up at the rearview mirror and saw that a motorcyclist was keeping pace behind him.
"Finally," he said as he slowed to pull over to the shoulder.
As he got out of the car, the woman was toeing the kickstand down and taking off her helmet "You must be Riley," he said as he walked over to her. "I'm Dean." He extended his hand and gave her a onceover.
She had dark hair, was scrawny and didn't seem to have a lot of a muscle for a hunter, and was wearing worn motorcycle leathers. What really struck him, though, was the right side of her face. An old, long, deep mark ran all the way from her hairline, down her cheek, and curved under her chin. The scar also touched her eyelid, as if whatever had done it had intended to blind her. That said, her eyes were bright as she looked at him with a curt but polite smile.
When she dismounted her bike, she shook the hand he was offering with a firm grip. He thought she was going to vocalize a greeting in return, but instead the smile slipped from her face as she regarded him, tilting her head and staring directly into his eyes. For the first time in, well, ever, Dean suddenly felt very self-conscious.
Then, with a shrug, she took off her backpack and started rummaging through it, taking inventory of whatever she had in there.
Dean made a startled face, not understanding what kind of whiplash he just felt. Jeeze, he thought to himself. What a weirdo.
When she was done checking the chamber of her revolver, she put it away, swung her pack back over her shoulders, and sauntered past him. Dean cleared his throat. "So, uh, my dad gave you the rundown, right?"
She nodded once while closely observing the Impala. "More or less," she said. "Doesn't seem like demon stuff to me."
Dean scoffed lightly. "She speaks!"
"Shut up," she drawled, rolling her eyes.
"What're you looking for anyway?"
"Just checking her out," she said, taking a step back from the car as he approached. "How's she running these days? Last time I worked a job with your father, he was having cylinder issues with her."
"Nah, she's purrin' like a kitten. Here." He sat sideways in the driver's seat and started the ignition. He tapped the pedal a few times, listening to the car rev. She grinned approvingly at the sound, bringing a smile to his face as well.
The Impala was old and always received odd looks by passersby, even by other hunters. It was refreshing to meet someone who remembered a small detail like the cylinders, who actually asked how the car was doing.
When Riley realized he was still smiling at her, she tilted her head again, as if waiting for something. His brows came together as he once again found himself being scrutinized by her. "What? Do I got something on my face?"
Riley shook her head. "No," was her only response.
Dean watched her walk away, heavily confused. Yeah. Definitely weird. But if his father trusted her…
And if Dean were being honest, she'd definitely caught his attention. The way she looked at him was definitely peculiar, but he couldn't deny how interesting she was. Maybe it was the concern she'd shown for the Impala, or the story that was behind her scar, or the way her wind-swept hair trailed down her upper back.
Or maybe it was the snarky way she'd told him to shut up.
He couldn't help but smile again as he got out and followed her. "Nice dual-sport," he mentioned. The motorcycle's plastic was worn and covered in mud from off-roading, but not beat up. She seemed to take good care of it. "What is that, custom-made?"
"Pretty much," she nodded modestly. "It gets me from point A to point B. All-terrain. That's all I need."
He patted the trunk of the Impala. "Same. Minus the all-terrain part, that is. Not that that's ever needed."
"No, not with a classic like that. I'd be terrified to get even a speck of dust on her." Then, she smirked. "You know, I still think a manual transmission would be perfect."
"Hey, you try shifting gears when making a quick getaway."
"Yeah, it's called 'getting away faster'."
He rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah. Whatever." Riley shook her head to hide her laughter. Dean tossed his keys up in the air once, feeling strangely light. "Come on. Let's get to Camden."
He hopped in, closed the door, and started the ignition again. He waited, feeling oddly patient as he watched her through the rearview. She didn't waste much time putting her helmet back on and kick-starting the bike in a practiced, almost graceful motion.
He'd worked with other hunters in the past, but none as of late. Certainly not one around his own age, and none with her…vibe. Plus, when he wasn't working with his father, he usually preferred working alone. These next few days were sure to be interesting.
They arrived at a motel in Camden not too long after midnight. They speculated getting separate rooms due to being strangers still, but ultimately decided that it'd be more practical to share one. Dean wasn't complaining about that one bit. However, it was hard to get to know someone when they hardly said anything!
He routinely double-checked that their door was locked before settling in. As they unpacked, he attempted to make small talk, like how tacky the seashell décor was and how it looked like the ocean had vomited all over everything. She only chuckled at that, and brought out her revolver to field strip it.
Dean let out an awkward exhale. Okay, then.
He sat down beside her at the table. Grabbing one of the rags she wasn't using, he brought out his handgun. After complimenting the model of her revolver, he went on to talk about his. It was one of the first guns he'd owned, its age showing with the wear along the grip. Hell, it was one of the first guns he'd ever held, when his father and Bobby were teaching him how to shoot.
Riley had stopped cleaning, setting down the revolver to listen intently to him. When Dean was done talking, he put his down, too. And he opened his mouth say something else…When she quietly started to reassemble her weapon.
Well, now he was just plain annoyed. He didn't know how to be social with someone who couldn't carry a conversation. Sighing, he got back to work, silently trying to figure how to talk to his hunting partner.
What he'd failed to realize was that Riley was still looking at him. As she flicked the tab to close a bottle of gun oil, she said, "You and your father seem close. John told me a little bit about you."
Dean immediately perked up. And he donned one of his signature smirks. "Well, do I live up to the hype?"
She rolled her eyes. "That and then some."
"Oh? Do tell," he urged with a wink.
She merely shrugged as she continued, multitasking while talking. Dean faltered at that. He was expecting a giggle, maybe even a blush. Most women didn't react to his attempts at flirting with such nonchalance.
"Well, let's see," she mused. "I think he said something about…you being an overly-confident, stubborn ox."
He barked out a laugh. "Yeah, that does sound like me," he said with a haughty grin.
"And a dash of arrogance." When he scoffed lightly at that, she grinned back at him. "No, he didn't say those things. I mean it when he said very little, no doubt because he was still trying to figure out whether he could trust me at the time." She passed the oil to him. "He said you were doing well. Nothing else really."
Dean fell silent at that, letting those words sink in, but with no expression on his face. Riley flexed her jaw, trying to get a grapple on his reaction. "Did I say something wrong?"
He shook his head at that, whether to clear his thoughts or to assure her that she hadn't said anything wrong was anyone's guess. "Alright," he grunted, moving on. "Your turn."
"My turn for what?"
"I've already told you a story. You're up."
Her brows came together, guardedly. "What do you even wanna know?"
"I dunno. Anything."
"That's pretty vague. I wouldn't even know where to start."
He pointed at her face. "How about your scar? How does something gnarly like that even happen?"
Riley's jaw clenched for the briefest of seconds. "Certain psychic attacks pack one hell of a punch."
He grinned, knowing he was in for a good story. "That fight musta been insane. Hate to see the other guy."
"Yeah, well, I'm the dumbass who didn't know how to patch myself up afterwards, at the time. Had to figure it out before I bled out." She shrugged. "It never quite healed right as a result."
"You're kidding, right," he commented. "It's one of the most badass scars I've ever seen."
She chuckled a little as she brought out a notebook from her backpack. "If you say so." With that, she started flipping through the pages, as if Dean wasn't even there.
After he put his gun back together, he drummed his fingers over the table a few times. Then, he got up without a word. He was on the verge of feeling offended, when she spoke again.
"I'm not good at it."
He turned to look at her.
She had her arms folded over the notebook to keep the page. She gestured between her and Dean with vague hand movements. "Talking, I mean. I'm no social butterfly." She shrugged again. "Most people don't bother carrying a conversation with me. They'd much prefer I'd figure out what monster we're up against, or use me as just another gun." She moved her arms so as to flip to another page. "I usually work alone."
Dean pursed his lips. He once again found his interest piqued. She wasn't necessarily berating him for his ignorance, or berating herself for her shortcoming. She said it all with a calm directness that, for whatever reason, made him feel at ease.
"Yeah, well," he said. "Screw all of 'em. They sound like dicks."
"You have no idea," she said. She jotted a couple things down in the margins. "Speaking of which, I am trying to figure this out. I have a couple ideas, but I think I'll need to talk to some of the locals."
"After breakfast, we'll head out." He plopped himself down on one of the beds, inspecting the coin-operated massager with interested. "In the meantime, let's chill out and catch some Z's."
"Go right ahead," she said. "I'm gonna do a little more digging first."
Dean sat up then, thinking back to her previous words. "It can wait 'til morning, if you want." She looked at him sharply. "You look about as exhausted as I feel. That notebook of yours isn't going anywhere."
She peered down at her notebook, and then back to him. Wordlessly, she closed it and put it away. She then got up and climbed into her bed, throwing the covers over herself and staring contemplatively at the ceiling. "Night, Dean."
"Night, Ri," he said.
For a while, he enjoyed the loud massage of the Magic Fingers. But when the timer on that ran out and the motel room fell silent, they simply laid there. Both stayed up for quite a while, soaking in the silence.
This was foreign to Dean. He thrived off of interaction and conversation. It was a first for him, to be in someone else's company without an obligation for interaction. It was a stillness that Dean was attempting to grasp.
He glanced over at Riley, just to get a gauge on her. She was still staring at the ceiling, her eyes searching for something in the darkness, something that Dean couldn't see. He observed her for a while, taking note of her calm, quiet energy, and just absorbing it.
Yeah. This type of peacefulness didn't feel half bad, he decided. It still presented a problem, though.
How could someone as shy and quiet as her actually be a good hunter? He hoped like hell she wouldn't turn into a liability.
Not now that he realized he was beginning to like her.
Morning rolled around. After grabbing some cheap breakfast, courtesy of the motel, they both hopped into the Impala, knowing it made more sense to take one vehicle rather than two.
Riley looked down and noticed a battered box on the floor. She picked it up and placed it on her lap to look through the numerous cassette tapes. When Dean noticed this, he said, "Hey, while you're at it, why don't you pass me some AC/DC?"
"Back in Black," she asked as she set the box back down.
As Hells Bells began playing through the speakers, Riley nodded her head to the drumbeat.
"You like this music," Dean asked.
"Yup," she said. "I used to have an iPod loaded with AC/DC, Aerosmith, Skynyrd…And then a werewolf crushed it when he stepped on my backpack."
"That blows." An idea came to mind. "If you want, I can help you hook up some sorta stereo to your bike."
"Oh, I've definitely thought of that," she said wistfully. "But…It's far more fun to just listen to the engine, and the sound of the gears." She waved dismissively. "I'll find another iPod one of these days."
As they drove, they put in cassettes at their leisure, enjoying the music and the seaside breeze coming in through the windows.
Camden was a sizable but quaint community. With all of the shops on every block, they could tell this place was beginning to cater towards tourism. Luckily for them, it wasn't summer, which meant less tourism and less people they'd have to interview.
They traveled around, talking with a few of the farmers, all lamenting over their dead crops and nothing to show for the farmer's markets. It was even more of an issue given that some supplied the local restaurants with fresh produce.
Though Dean and Riley gave their sympathies to the farmers, they unfortunately walked away with little to show. So, they moved onto the marinas to ask about the freak ocean patterns. Most of the sailors hadn't seen much, but one of them knew of something bizarre. All of the boats in the area hadn't been affected by the random choppy waves, except for one. A pontoon, owned by some guy named Harv, had been wrecked beyond repair after suddenly colliding with some rocks.
Dean and Riley went to investigate what remained of it. The cabin of the pontoon was still intact, and still looked very much lived in. But they applied what little knowledge they had of boats to conclude that it wasn't going to set sail anytime soon. There was damage all along the sides, visible holes that had taken on water and making it list towards the beach.
"The only boat for miles that actually took a beating from all this," Dean wondered aloud. He turned to Riley. "Let's go talk to Harv."
Harv worked at a bar not too far from the beach. They decided to stop there, and get some lunch while they were at it. Dean ordered loaded fries and Riley ordered a pulled-pork sandwich. They mainly ate in silence. Dean had to admit it. Riley wasn't good at holding a conversation, but she was good at manipulating one.
At first, she didn't say much, just listening to whatever civilian they were talking with. Then, she surprised him by asking them very specific questions, little psychological tricks to pick their brains. All while staring directly into their eyes. It was how they'd learned about Harv's boat. The last sailor they'd talked to gave up the info after Riley saw how fidgety he was, and he left rather quickly after bringing up the pontoon and description of Harv.
Dean peered around the bar. "Where is he," he wondered as he bit down on another fry. "That twitchy little shit better not have lied."
"No," Riley shook her head as she brought her notebook back out. "Lying to us wouldn't work in his favor, and he knew that."
He jutted his chin down at the table. "What's written in there, anyway?"
"It's just for note-taking," she explained as she snagged a fry from his plate. "Mostly monster stuff, places I've been to, certain contacts, stuff like that."
"Anything about what we're supposed to be hunting right now?"
"Actually, yeah," she said hopefully. "I think it's a rusalka."
Riley grinned. "A rusalka," she repeated. "Never seen one myself. They're kind of in the same family tree as sirens. It's all strange, though. They're not as malicious as the lore makes them out to be. They prefer bringing rainy weather to crops. They live in large bodies of water in their downtime." She closed her notebook. "They're powerful, and they can kill, but they don't normally throw their weight around."
"Maybe this one's gone rogue," he speculated. "How do we kill it?"
"From what I've heard, you have to confine it to dry land for seven days straight." She gave him a deadpanned look. "Which is damn near impossible because they can transform into water or sea foam when necessary."
"So," Dean huffed. "Aside from the fact that we don't even know where it is…we also have to figure out how to trap water, essentially."
She grinned again. "Just another Tuesday for me."
"Yeah, I'll drink to that," Dean said, looking around for someone to serve him that drink. "Ooh, speaking of..." Dean pointed to one of the bartenders. The guy had sandy-colored hair, was a couple inches taller than Dean, and had extremely muscular arms.
Dean looked at Riley, who nodded once in agreement. They got up from their table to go sit down at the bar. "Two beers, please…" Dean made a show of squinting his eyes at the bartender's nametag. "…Harv."
"No problem," the guy nodded as he removed two glasses from a high shelf.
"So, Harv," Dean started. "You live in this town?"
"Born and raised."
"Do a lot of boating recently?"
His browns knitted together for the briefest of moments. "Well, technically, yeah. I live in my boat."
"Oof, the housing market's bullshit, huh," Dean commented.
He chuckled. "You can say that again. I got no mortgage, no rent, no other place I'd rather live."
Dean nodded. "Shame that it took a beating, huh?"
As Harv set the drinks down in front of them, he grabbed a rag and started casually cleaning behind the bar, all while no longer making eye contact with them. "What took a beating?"
The crease between Riley's brows smoothed at his response. She crossed her arms on top of the bar. "Don't be modest," she urged calmly. "It wasn't hard to miss."
Harv stopped then. He looked up, his eyes darting between them. "I don't understand."
"Hey, neither do we," Riley said, nudging Dean with her elbow. "That's why we're trying to figure out what happened to it. Help us out, will yah?"
"How…Why did you wanna find my pontoon?"
"We chase the weather on occasion," she answered.
"See anything weird lately," Dean asked.
Harv didn't respond at first, looking more and more confused by the second, or at least that's how it looked to the untrained eye. Dean hid his smirk, knowing this guy looked more cornered than anything.
"I…Nothing too weird," Harv stuttered. "Well – I dunno – There've been one or two freak storms or something. That's why my boat's wrecked." He flung the rag down into a dirty laundry basket. "'m still pissed about that," he muttered.
Riley and Dean exchanged glances. Harv noticed this, and he ran his hands down his face. "I'm sorry, it's just…That pontoon is one of the only things I have. I don't like people snooping around it, is all. Now if you guys don't mind, I need to get back to work before my boss gives me another earful."
"Don't worry," one of the waitresses said as she walked past him. "You know I won't let you get fired."
Harv smirked at her, his eyes trailing up and down her figure. "What would I do without you?"
She giggled and flashed him a wink.
Riley leaned in close to Dean. "He's definitely hiding something. I'm just not sure what."
He nodded. "I don't know about you, but I think he definitely pissed off a rusalka at some point."
In all honesty, Riley and Dean still didn't have much to go off of. The only thing they knew was that Harv's boat had been the victim of a potential rusalka. They decided that'd be a good place to continue their case.
Breaking into the cabin of the pontoon wasn't hard. Just a swift kick from Dean's boot had the door swinging wide open. According to a waitress Dean had chatted with, Harv was working the late shift tonight, and shouldn't be back for another few hours.
The cabin was as shabby as the outside. Its interior was scuffed and had holes in a few places, the countertops were chipped, and the stainless steel sink was rusting. It was livable, but only just.
The pontoon had listed quiet dramatically, almost giving the floor a funhouse effect. That was jarring, and it gave Dean the opportunity to crack a few jokes. Riley let his voice fade into the background as she took everything in.
The floor didn't bother her, but the stillness did. It was eerily silent. Or it was for many minutes, until she heard a few sharp creaks. She snapped her gaze to Dean, but he carried on with his wise-cracks, mostly about how it felt like they were in a discount Goonies production.
So, he hadn't heard what she'd heard. Not surprising.
The creaks echoed faintly around her, disjointed and drowning out Dean's voice every few moments. She turned towards the tiny bathroom, where the creaks seemed to be the loudest. She walked over, reached her hand towards the door handle, and gave it a jiggle.
The creaking stopped. All was silent for her now. Too silent. She hid a sly grin.
She took her fingers off the handle, spun on her heels, and started walking to a different part of the cabin, keeping the bathroom in her peripheral. Suddenly, Dean got in her path. He was staring down at her, brows knitted together.
"You okay," he asked. "You seem a little out of it."
She shrugged. "I'm just quiet. You know that."
He made a face, shook his head at her, but ultimately went back to rifling through the cupboards and cabinets, searching for any clue that would hint at a rusalka or how Harv got involved with one. Dean's questioning had distracted her, taken her attention away from what she should be focusing on.
At the back of her mind, there was another creak. Clear as day.
Riley spun around as Harv's hand shot out to grab her. She blocked, and snapped her heel towards his gut. She missed, which wasn't her intention, but he did stumble a little to get a away from the kick. She pivoted sideways, jammed her forearm against his chest, and shoved him against the wall next to the opened bathroom. In his shock, Harv dropped the crowbar he he'd been holding. He gasped and struggled against her.
It happened so quickly that by the time Riley had him pinned was when Dean whipped out his gun. He stood right beside Riley, the barrel inches from Harv's face. She was mainly using gravity from the boat's listing as leverage to keep him where she wanted him. Dean noticed this and was thoroughly impressed.
"What do you assholes want with me," Harv grunted.
"We're tryin' to stop anyone else from drowning," Dean growled. "Wanna tell us what that's about?"
"I dunno what you're talking about."
Riley's eyes narrowed. "You expect us to believe that? Oh, by the way, shouldn't you be at work," she added nonchalantly.
"Got off early," he said. "Was gonna take one of the waitresses home with me. I've had my eye on her for a while. Thanks for ruining my night."
That's when he flashed a fillet knife.
Riley and Dean jumped back as he slashed at them, his wrist connecting with Dean's arm and sending his gun flying. Before Dean could get a chance to grab for it, Harv was in front of him, the knife raised threateningly. There was a click of another gun.
It was a stalemate.
Harv was prepared to slice into Dean, Dean was ready to fight, and Riley had her revolver trained on Harv. No one moved, waiting for someone to blink.
"They didn't ruin your night, Harvey."
Everyone's gazes whipped towards the door, where a tall, blonde, gorgeous woman was standing. "I did," she added. Dean recognized her as the waitress he'd talked to, the one who'd let him know that Harv supposedly wasn't going to be here tonight.
Harv's eyes went wide, and the knife slid from his fingers. "Cora," he breathed. He started to shake his head rapidly. "No. No, no, n-n-no. You stay back. You stay the hell away from me!"
Riley tightened her grip on her revolver as she cautiously stepped past Harv. She picked Dean's gun off the floor and handed it to him. She scrutinized the woman. "You're the rusalka," she realized. Out the corner of her eye, she saw Dean raising his gun in Cora's direction.
Cora didn't confirm nor deny, just kept her sights on Harv. "This needs to stop."
His eyes narrowed. "Damn right it does, you jealous bitch."
"Both of us need to stop!"
Dean pulled the hammer back. "Hey, why don't I save us all the trouble and put a stop to it myself?"
Cora didn't even so much as look at him. "You two are hunters. It's what you do. I can't fault you for that. But I didn't do any of this because I wanted to." She strode closer to Harv, making Riley and Dean glance apprehensively at each other, readying themselves.
Cora stared Harv right in the eye. "I did it because I was angry," she told him. "I had every right to be jealous after you cheated on me."
He sneered at her. "Cheated-"
"You said you loved me!"
"I said a lot of things. We were just having fun at the time."
"You played me," she shouted, loud enough for the nearby lamps to pop and shatter, shrouding them in foreboding darkness. "You deliberately flaunted any new lover, knowing I would see it from the shore." Her eyes were desperate, imploring. All the while, Harv remained stone-faced.
Then, she blinked and proudly straightened her back. "I was angry. I wanted to take it out on you." She looked around. "Your precious little skiff isn't looking too good, is it?"
Rage twisted on Harv's face. He almost surged forward at her, but Riley stopped him by loudly pulling the hammer back on her revolver. "Nu-uh," she said. "Stay right where you are."
"Both of you," Dean added towards Cora.
Harv stayed put, but words flew from his mouth. "You did this on purpose?!"
Cora nodded serenely. "It was the only thing I did on purpose. What better way to make you pay, to make you feel the anger that I felt." She shook her head slowly. "But that was all. Everything else…" Her expression fell, being replaced with humility. "Everything else was an accident. My job is to bring prosperity to crops, and I was too distracted to do it. And those people that drowned…" She smiled sadly at Riley and Dean. "Would you believe me if I told you that I wasn't a killer?"
"Yeah, lady," Dean cringed dramatically. "Nothing's really helping your case right now."
"No," she exhaled. "I suppose not." She turned her attention to Harv once more, who remained on his side of the cabin. "Nothing more was supposed to happen, and yet I allowed for it. Though, I'm not sorry for what's happened to you, and I never will be."
Cora raised her fingers, and she snapped them loudly.
The pontoon suddenly shook as if an earthquake had hit, causing everyone except Cora to scramble for purchase.
Riley struggled to keep her focus on the rusalka, her mind going a mile a minute trying to figure out what was happening. She almost slammed into some cabinets, but Dean yanked her towards him, quick as a shot. He hooked an arm around her middle, and he braced the both of them against the counter, steadying against the jostling.
Another snapping of fingers, and everything abruptly stopped.
Everyone was gasping, startled. Dean's grip around Riley's waist slackened, but he didn't let go yet, just in case the rusalka did anything else.
Cora lowered her hand. "Your pontoon doesn't have long, about thirty minutes before she sinks to the bottom of the bay." She gave him a withering look, her mouth a tight line. "You may want to leave."
Once Harv noticed the water leaking in, he sank to his knees, the color draining from his face.
Cora put her attention on the hunters. "What's your next move," she asked them expectantly.
Dean raised his gun again while Riley simply gripped hers.
She shook her head. "That won't work on me, unfortunately."
Through the darkness, they could see Cora's form beginning to tremble, her outline becoming distorted. She started to shrink, flowing further and further towards the floor. Within seconds, the rusalka had faded into seawater, and what was left of her trickled through the cracks and holes of the pontoon to return to the ocean.
Harv didn't react to this, just stared at the floor of his sinking boat with dry, stoic eyes.
Riley tucked her revolver into the small of her back. Dean's arm fell away from her as she walked away from him.
She approached Harv, clapped a hand on his shoulder, and said, "Try not to fuck up again. You hear me?" On the surface, her voice was casual, but her words were spoken clearly. Very clearly.
He merely shrugged her hand away.
"Nah, she's got a point, Harv," Dean remarked as he put his own gun away. "This was all you." He waltzed over to stand in front of the man. "Don't give us a reason to come back here again." He looked at Riley. "You ready to get outa here?"
Only a few hours later, the bright morning sun reflected over the surface of the bay. Dean and Riley sat on a bench near the edge of the shore, coffee in hand and watching the water lap against the sand.
"So," Dean said. "Do we look for her, or…?"
Riley snorted. "Unless you can come up with a way to track down water in the freakin' ocean, I got no clue." She took a sip. "Plus, it wouldn't be worth our time anyway. Aside from the fact that she's probably long gone…" She paused, donning a conflicted frown. "…She also could've been a lot worse. She got her revenge, victims got in her way, so she figured out when to stop."
"Yeah." He cringed. "Man, I did not wanna play couples counselor today, but here we are."
She laughed once. "We're shitty counselors."
"Pfft! Speak for yourself. I'm great with people."
"Gee, thanks. I feel thoroughly complimented right now."
He laughed. "Okay, okay, fine…You suck at being social, but-" He quickly added at her mild indignation. "-You're not half bad with people." He took a swig of his coffee. "Seriously. I watched people yesterday answer any question you threw at 'em. The way they all reacted to you was priceless. And then Harv…" He shook his head with a harsh frown. "Damn, what a bastard. You had no problems handing his ass to him."
He turned his body slightly on the bench to face her, a questioning look on his face. "Look, you tell me if I'm going crazy here, but…Did you know he was there?"
Riley's only reaction was a steady blink. "It felt like someone was watching us, that's all."
Dean shook his head. "You were looking around, staring at random spots in the cabin. It's like you were seeing something that I wasn't."
"I'm not lying to you," she affirmed. "It's just…different for me. I can pick up on those things better than most."
"What does that mean?"
That's when Riley stood up and threw what remained of her drink into a nearby garbage bin. "Don't worry about it. It's my business." On that note, she walked towards the Impala.
Dean stared after her, thoroughly confused, and even hurt. Throughout the last couple of days, he'd gotten used to her quietness, her calm. She'd taken his social nature in stride, mostly listening, sometimes talking. She'd yet to actually push him away. His hurt fell away, though, when he noticed the subtle tension in her neck and shoulders.
He got up and followed her, only stopping when she stopped. "Ri, hang on-"
"Just tell me what's going on."
Her eyes narrowed. "Why?"
He looked at her incredulously. "What do you mean, why?! You were awesome on this case. I wanna know how you did the things that you did. You know how to turn a conversation in your favor, you somehow knew that Harv was in that cabin, and you guessed that Cora was the rusalka." He shrugged so exaggeratedly that his hands briefly flew up. "You wanna fill me in here?"
She flexed her jaw. Her eyes searched his, and Dean was used to this from her by now. He no longer felt intimidated by it.
Eventually, she let out a long exhale. "I sometimes see things and people for what they are. Who they are." At his confused silence, she explained further. "I'm second-sighted. Uh, psychic lingo, I guess you could say."
His brows shot to his hairline. "You mean to tell me you're psychic, and that you failed to mention that?"
"Why would I have," she asked calmly. "I was just getting to know you. Why would I tell this to someone I didn't know?"
He looked away, but only briefly. "Okay, fine. Fair enough. Damn, that explains a lot. Hey, wait. Couldn't you just read Harv's mind to figure out what the hell was going on?"
She shook her head. "Telepathy is a whole different field. I'm only second-sighted, and it's not an exact science. I can catch personality quirks on the surface, spikes in anxiety when someone's lying, and sometimes I can tell when someone's nearby."
Dean blew out a puff of air. "That's…wow. I haven't met too many psychics."
She chuckled a little. "I'm hardly a full psychic. What I am only scratches the surface. If you really wanna nutshell it, I just perceive things differently than most. It's like how some people claim to have a 'sixth sense'. Except, I actually do have that."
"So, in other words, you're psychic, but also not psychic."
She chuckled again, this time at the playful sarcasm behind his words. "Sure. Whatever works, I guess."
"Wait a minute," he remembered. "You said you got your scar from a psychic attack."
Her expression turned grim. "Yeah. I was born into a family of psychics. Real prideful bastards." She leaned her back against the car door. "I couldn't do the things they could, like have visions and premonitions, and things like that. And I guess they didn't want a freak in the family." She idly traced her finger down the right side of her face. "This was a parting gift from my siblings."
Dean blinked, and he felt anger tightening his chest. "So they just kicked you out?"
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Pity doesn't interest me."
"I don't pity you," he shot back. "I pity them if I ever meet them."
At that, she managed a grin. "Why do you look ready to track them down and kick their asses?"
"Don't temp me."
A chuckle bubbled from her throat. "Yeah, well, they're not worth the trouble. Believe me." She let out a breath she didn't know she was holding. "I dodged a bullet with them. I truly did." She searched his eyes reflexively. "Tell me what you're thinking. You don't seem too offended by any of this."
He shifted to lean next to her. "Can't you sense that?"
"I told you, it's not an exact science. It's not like I'm an empath."
He exhaled. "Alright, cards on the table. Yeah, this is…weird. All of it. But what's wild is that everything makes sense now." He paused. "I just…I wish…You couldn't sense that you could trust me sooner?"
"I can't just look at somebody and know if I can trust them," she countered. "Trust has to be earned. Over time. The first time I tried to get a gauge on you, I only felt that you were a determined, stubborn hunter. That doesn't tell me whether I can or can't trust you."
She paused to take a breath. "I've come across people who've found out about me, one way or another. They either wanna get far away from me, or they wanna have a go at me." She leveled him with a stare. "Which option will you choose?"
Dean's brows slowly rose. Her stare was a challenge, a hint that she would defend herself if need be. Something twisted in his gut.
The trust and partnership that had been built between them these past three days were dwindling, now, within moments. All because she was readying herself for what she assumed was inevitable. She thought she needed to defend herself. No wonder she preferred being alone. Her crossed arms, unwavering gaze, and steady posture not only told him she was ready to fight like hell…
…But it also told him that she wouldn't back down. Not from him, not from anything. She knew who and what she was, was proud of it, and she wasn't about to let anyone stand in her way.
Dean stared right back at her. "You wanna know what I choose?"
Her response was a clenched jaw.
He smiled at her. "I choose weird."
Her jaw unclenched, a thoroughly confused expression washing over her, smothering her tension.
Just as Dean had done on the pontoon, his hand came up to snag her, steadying her. Then, he crushed her to his chest, wrapping his arms securely around her middle and upper back. She tensed again, but only for a split second before sagging. Awkwardly, she brought a hand up to grasp one of his arms, admittedly unsure of how to reciprocate.
"It's fine," he murmured into her hair. Then, he pulled back to look her in the eyes, taking note of the lingering confusion there. "I've had three days to get used to the weirdness, I'll…" He scratched the back of his neck. "I'll keep getting used to it."
She scoffed a little, but a smile stretched her face nonetheless. "Y-You don't have to get used to anything. Case is done. We're gonna be doing our own things anyway."
"Yeah, about that," he said. "Um, I saw some obits in a newspaper the motel offered. It's got one or two cases I wanna look into. Could be nothing, could be something." He dropped his arms to scratch the back of his neck yet again. "You, uh, you in?" He half-grinned. "Once on the highway, we can see if that bike of yours out-speeds the Impala."
Riley chuckled at the proposition. She looked at the Impala, and then back to Dean. Her smile relaxed. "Why not?"
Dean took his keys out of his pocket and gave them a flourishing toss. "How do you feel about some Styx?"
"Please tell me you have the unabridged version of Come Sail Away," she said as she got in.
"See for yourself," he said with a wide grin.
As he walked over to his side of the car, he felt lighter than he could even describe. That feeling persisted when he sat down at the wheel. Riley was sifting through the cassettes with her usual quiet air. When she glanced over at him, she nodded once, assuredly, and went back to searching.
When she found the tape she was looking for, he took it from her, and they both allowed their fingers to touch each other for a few lingering seconds before he popped the cassette in.
For the first time in a long time, both Dean and Riley didn't feel so alone.