Day 12

Title: Day 12
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Supernatural
Rating: PG
Pairing: None
Disclaimer: Not my characters. I wish they were mine. I definitely don’t get paid for this.
Summary: This was the most important course in Sam Winchester's career as an undergraduate college student.
Notes: Written during my 12 Ficlets in 12 Days in 2014 project for Sexualoddity

This was the most important course in Sam Winchester's career as an undergraduate college student. It was the course that was going to prove to him if he truly should pursue a law degree or if he was better off somewhere else... like hotel and restaurant management. Or maybe just waiting on tables at a restaurant. Or seeing if the customer wanted fries with his BigMac. It all came down to this course and the thing that determined most of his grade in it: this presentation.

His group had been working on it for weeks now, analyzing the example case from every possible angle, poking holes in the defense, trying to see the evidence in new ways. At times, it seemed they had something interesting going, something that the professor might not have seen before. And at other times, it sounded like a badly written episode of Law & Order. Even now, as he walked down the stairs in the theater-style lecture hall, Sam wasn't sure he had complete faith in the presentation. But there was nothing more he could do about it now.

His study group consisted of three other people: Jack (a playboy type if ever there was one, but pretty smart when he bothered to stop flirting), Beth (usually the target of Jack's flirting and much better at taking notes than coming up with anything creative to contribute), and Viviana (easily the cleverest of all of them and their expert horticulturist).  Jack was the one carrying their visual aids up to the front of the room, though, samples of just about every tree and shrub native to the local state park where their case was to take place. Most of them were tiny, labeled leaves or twigs but there were a few actual potted plants mixed in as well with bright flowers or impressively large seed pods. Sam and Viv had managed to charm the samples out of the man at the local garden center, which hadn't looked like such a bad place to work; Sam wondered if they had any summer openings left. He would have to swing by there some time and see if he could fill out an application.

But right now, he had more important things to concentrate on than a part-time job. His job right now was the introduction. As he waited for the others to finish setting up, he looked around at the large lecture hall. There were more than two hundred students enrolled in this class, and attendance during group presentations was mandatory. Sam cleared his throat, put on a smile, and began to summarize the case study. “On January of last year, Bill Windsor, a California state park ranger, was arrested.” On that last word, his voice cracked.

Having not had his voice do that since puberty, Sam quickly cleared his throat and hoped that no one had noticed. Though that was unlikely in a room full of so many people, it wasn't entirely impossible either, given that most of them were probably asleep or sending texts to friends from behind books or under their desks. Sam continued, his voice as clear as ever again. “He was accused of selling… selling plants grown on land belonging to the federal government.”

He paused, feeling a tickle in his nose, which was strange, as he didn't feel sick. A little tired, yes, due to staying up all night working on this opening. A little driven: yes, in wanting to get through this before he forgot what he meant to say. A little anxious, yes, and worried about how Jack's part was going to go, he being the least rehearsed of them all. A little nervous, yes, but who wouldn't be in front of so many people? Maybe even a lot nervous, if he were honest with himself, because this grade was critical. But sick? No. Not sick. And, yet, there the tickle was, strong in the back of his nose like an urge just biding its time. Strange. Hoping it was nothing, Sam continued.  “Bill Windsor claimed the plants sold were his and... and... uhhhh-HIHSHHH!” He clapped a hand to his face. He'd known it was building, but somehow he hadn't believed the sneeze would actually strike if he just tried to keep talking. Ignoring it clearly hadn't worked, and the tickle in his nose was fiercer than ever. What is this?

“And that the ones grown on land belonging to the National Park Service were never meant for sale.” It wasn't just a tickle now, but a whole urge to sneeze. Strong. Insistent. Intense. As casually as possible, he lifted a hand and rubbed the side of his finger beneath his nose.  Suddenly the tickle flared up, burning and insistent, and he had only enough time to cup his hand over his nose and mouth. “uhhh-CHISH!” So strong, but it didn't feel like the sort of sneeze he sneezed when he had a cold or the flu. There were only a few things in this world that made him sneeze like this... and none of them were in front of him on this table, as far as he knew.

Through eyes that were starting to tear up, he blinked down at their visual aids. Sticks. Leaves. Flowers. Dean would be a mess right now. He could handle a hunt out in the woods or a spring meadow, but only with a hefty dose of antihistamines in his system first. Usually that sort of thing didn’t get to Sam.


uhh-CHSHHhhhh!” And now his nose was starting to run. Great. Just great. “Excuse me.” Sam sniffed hard and gave his nose a fierce rub with the side of his hand. He told himself to not wipe his hand on his slacks. College students who wanted to become successful lawyers did not wipe their hands on their pants. College students who wanted to become successful lawyers finished their class presentations. So Sam cleared his throat and went on. “Today we’ll outline several approaches to the case, but the one thing I want you to keep in mind is eh… is…” Sam rubbed his nose again, hoping that would look casual and natural and not like he was trying to rub a tickle out.

The technique wasn’t working, anyway. No matter how much he rubbed at it, the tickle just wouldn’t back down. This was the worst possible thing to have happen now, with everyone’s eyes on him like this. He couldn’t even just fade into the background or excuse himself while one of his fellow group members took over. This was his grade on the line; this was his ass on the line.

And, suddenly, his father’s voice came to him, loud and clear. It’s your own fault if you’re allergic to your own visual aids. Be a man, Sammy. Men don’t let themselves sneeze when they’re in tough situations. So man up, get in control, and finish your damn presentation.

That was easier thought than done. But Sam pursed his lips, flared his nostrils, held his breath in the middle of his sentence with hundreds of eyes on him, and gave his nose one more rub. And, this time, the tickle backed away. Finally. “The one thing I want you to keep in mind is intent. It’s the burden of the court to prove that Ranger Windsor intended to sell the plants he grew on federal lands just like he sold the ones he grew on his own. These plants you see here are examples of ones found out in the woods. What makes these plants the property of an agency? Does it matter more that they were grown on federal land or that they were grown by a certain man who was a federal employee at the time?” Puppy dog eyes. Sam flashed them all his puppy dog eyes.

 This was going better. The tickle was still there, deep and burning, but he didn’t have much left. He could do this. He knew he could. He could man up and get this done. There would be plenty of time to sneeze and figure out what damn allergy was acting up after the presentation. It would be like his own private trial as he examined each plaintiff for alleged injury. This intense tickle in his nose and the way his eyes were starting to itch were all the standing he needed.

“Today we’ll cover some related environmental law trials for precedent. We’ll also look at several actions brought by associations and other groups against-uh-uh-HITCHIXxxshhh!” Sam managed—just barely—to catch the sneeze in the crook of his arm. That had kept him from spraying the table in front of him, but now the sleeve of his button-up dress shirt was going to have a big wet spot on it. Fantastic. He lowered his arm, turning it and pressing it to his side to minimize the visibility.

There were too many things racing through his head now. There was the wet spot on his arm. There was the insanely strong tickle in the back of his nose. There was the need to power through and prove himself. Oh, and the presentation. Where had he left off? “Actions brought by associations and other groups against individuals. Sniff!

Had he actually just sniffed? Sniffed like a little kid with a runny nose? In front of a whole room of college students and a professor whose furry white eyebrows were knitted in concentration. He hadn’t been able to help it. It had just happened. Instinctively. His nose had felt runny, and so he’d sniffed. Sam had a strong feeling that if he didn’t finish quickly, a lot worse was going to happen than that.

So Sam cleared his throat and said the last little bit all in a rush. “Next, Jack will discuss the ripeness of the case and outline some of the headnotes.” Sam took a step back, pretty sure that they were screwed. He’d been chosen to do the introduction because of his charisma and charm. He was supposed to have given the facts while hinting at the need to be sympathetic toward the forest ranger and to present doubt so that when they slammed him later with everything it would be all the more powerful. Sam had only managed to flash his puppy dog eyes once.  

As Jack took over, Sam tried to pull back and put as much distance between himself and the visual aids. A sneeze here and there, smothered into the crook of his arm, he could handle. Maybe no one would even notice if he kept them all quiet enough. You have to learn how to stifle those sneezes, Sam heard John saying again. And he felt his cheeks go red at the memory of that time they’d ganked a ghost at a barn and Sam’s allergies had gotten so out of control it had nearly gotten them all killed. But Sam had never quite managed it successfully. Of course, there was always a first time for everything.

Sam hoped that was true, because his nose was acting up again, the tickle winding its way down to his nostrils, making his breath catch and his eyes flutter. Sam tried to concentrate on Jack, who was talking about Mason v. Forestry Institute now. But every time Sam gave an involuntary gasp, Jack glanced over at him. Not only had Sam screwed up his own section by sneezing, now he was ruining the next section as well. There was nothing he could do except stifle his sneezes and hope Jack wasn’t too distracted to get the details out. If Jack lost his train of thought, he’d never get it back; it had taken so much coaxing and patience from Beth over the past two weeks to get him to learn his bit in the first place.

And so Sam fought. He fought hard. He rubbed at his nose with his fist, and then he pinched his nostrils between thumb and forefinger. He held his breath. He concentrated. And out came an embarrassingly terrible attempt at a stifled sneeze that sounded more like he was blowing a raspberry. “ehptfffft!” It did nothing to quench the tickle in his nose. It did nothing to provide even a bit of relief. It did nothing at all except make his need to sneeze about a hundred times worse.

Sam’s breath caught immediately. He cupped a hand to his face and at least had the forethought to turn his back to the auditorium. They didn’t need to witness this head-on. “ehhh-IHSchhhh!” The sneeze, even smothered into his palm as it pressed hard against his nose, was far too strong and too loud. The problem was that it wasn’t enough. The tickly, itchy feeling persisted, burning the roof of his mouth at the back, filling his nose with an insatiable need, making it impossible to pull open his watering eyes. Tears leaked at the corners, but he didn’t dare take his hand away from his mouth and nose to wipe them away. In fact, he placed his other hand over the first, trying to quiet the sound as much as possible when the next sneeze struck. “eh-Hihktshhh! Eh-Hihshh! Ehy-IHitchhh! uhHEHShhh!” Louder they were getting louder. And stronger.

People had to be noticing this. He felt a hand on his back and shrugged it off. Maybe it was Beth’s or maybe Viviana’s, Sam wasn’t sure. He could hear Jack trying to be heard above the sounds of sneezing, talking about timely actions and jurisdictional issues still and Jack was too far away to have laid a hand on him. It was kind, but Sam didn’t want sympathy; he just wanted to be left alone. He wanted to be ignored.

Fat chance. The tickle raged in his nose, turning him from someone sneezing into someone about to sneeze more than anyone had ever sneezed in the history of sneezing. His breath hitched uncontrollably. “ih-hih-eh-ihhh-hihhh-ih-ih-ihh-uhh-ih-ehhh-ehh-ih-ih-ih!”Helplessly, he jerked his head back with one final “Hih!” before snapping forward. “EHPTshhhh! IhhShuhhh! ihhHushhh! HihYishhhh! ihhhKshhhh!” The tears at the corners of his eyes ran down his face leaving itchy, uncomfortable trails. But Sam barely noticed. “ihh-Hihh-Ihhh-Hihshhh! Ihhshhh!

Jack had stopped speaking. There was quiet in the auditorium. Quiet, of course, apart from the sneezes that absolutely refused to stop. “Ih-Kshhh! Ihshuhh! ehhShihh! Ihhkshhh! Eh-ehHishshhh!

Hundreds of people were doing nothing now except watching him sneeze. This was the ultimate humiliation. Worse than the first time he’d messed up drawing a salt circle. Worse than that time he’d missed the goal in soccer and lost the soccer championship for his team. Worse than any one of the thousands of times John Winchester had berated him in front of Dean for being useless as a hunter. Because now Sam was useless as a college student too. Useless as a human being, even, if Sam couldn’t figure out how to stop sneezing.

And then it was there in his mind, as clear and plain as if Sam’s big brother were standing right there in the room next to him. It was Dean’s voice, so soothing and reassuring saying It’s okay, kiddo. Sometimes you just gotta sneeze. It’s not going to get any better until you sneeze it all out.

Warmth flooded through Sam, and not just into his cheeks which were burning red by now. It was the kind of warmth he got from knowing that his brother would always make him feel better. Dean wouldn’t be cowering or hiding. Dean would find a way to laugh at the situation and make everyone else see the humor in it too. Dean could get himself out of any situation.

So Sam took his advice and turned back around, his breath hitching again already. With both hands cupped to his face and his eyes squeezed tightly shut, he just let the sneezes come. “ihhKShhhh! Hihkshh! Ih-ihhhTShhh! ehhhUschhh! Eh-eh-Huhkshhhh!”He gasped for breath, hoping it was over, and a fresh wave of sneeziness came over him at once. “EHGshhhh! Ih-ih-HebShoo! EhShuhh! Hih-Kshhhh! Sniff! hih-Shahh! hahShuhh! Ehshchhhhh!

Finally, the urge backed off again. He really needed to blow his nose, and of course he didn’t have a tissue on him, but when he opened his eyes he saw Viviana standing there, holding her purse in one hand and a small tissue pack in the other. He took the tissues gratefully and wiped his nose clean. When he opened his eyes again was when he saw it.

Right there in the front row, through watering eyes, he could make out the white and furry form that had to be responsible for this allergy attack; it wasn’t the plants they’d brought along after all. As the itches started through his nose again, Sam scrubbed hard with the tissue. He saw the thing twitch and jump in its cage and knew what he had to do.

After clearing his throat three times and keeping the tissue pressed to his nose, Sam put on his best charming smile. “I deed to get sub air,” he told the class. Then, with a hand gesturing with a pointed index finger toward the cage, he added, “Dext ub, we’ll discuss the classic case of Sab Widchester v. adorable buddy rabbit.”

While the class laughed, his teacher nodded amusedly, and the girl who’d brought the rabbit in as part of her group’s visual aids looked horrified, Sam headed straight for the classroom’s exit. He knew he wouldn’t be fine once he got some fresh air, but getting away from the rabbit would at least keep the sneezing to a minimum until he could find some Benadryl.