Day 10

Title: Day 10
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: Sam's photic sneezing complicates a hunt.
Notes: Written during my 12 Ficlets in 12 Days in 2019-20 project project for Anonymous

He felt sorry for his brother. Really he did. But Dean had to admit that it was amusing to watch Sam struggle against the inevitable when it wasn’t a life or death situation. They’d faced down ghosts, monsters, demons, and angels. They’d died more times than Dean cared to count. That struggle wasn’t usually much fun. But this… this was freakin’ hilarious.

Every single time his eyes caught a bright burst of sunlight, Sam sneezed. He’d always been like that, even back when he’d been a little baby and Mom was taking them on a walk around the block with Sammy in the stroller and Dean hurrying to keep pace. It had been her way of tiring him out. He knew that much now. But whenever they turned a corner and the sun struck them head-on, little Sammy would sneeze. It had been cute and funny back then. It had taken them years and the eventual assistance of the internet to realize there was a name for it: a photic response.

Now, Sam sat beside him in an interview subject's living room, wearing his suit and trying to appear to be the professional government official he wasn’t. Tall floor-to-ceiling windows revealed everything going on outside, from the guy weeding the flowerbed to the guy up on the stepladder shaping a topiary. He and his giant pair of sheers were moving side to side, leaning backward and forward. As he did so, he either blocked the bright afternoon sunbeams or revealed them. Every time he moved away from blocking the sun, Sam’s reflex made him sneeze all over again. Honestly, it was the most entertainment Dean had gotten in months.

h'httchhh!” Sam sneezed into the crook of his arm. He lifted his head, blinking, and quickly asked, “Can you think of anything your uncle might have left unfinished?”

The woman narrowed her eyes. “Are you sure you're all right? If you're allergic to my dogs--”

“Not allergic,” Sam insisted for at least the fifth time since they'd come in. “Now, your uncle. Is there anything at all you can think of that...” Sun struck him right in the face again, and he winced as if he were a vampire. Then he raised his arm and nestled his nose against the suit jacket sleeve. “hutchhhh!

“I can put the dogs out back, if that would help.”

Sam raised his head and looked imploringly at Dean. Trying not to laugh, Dean shot him a 'you're on your own' look. In front of this woman, he couldn't exactly get away with calling his fellow Homeland Security officer a jerk. “I'm fine,” Sam insisted. Shade passed over his face again as the artist moved to the side to block the sun. “Could you please tell me about your uncle?”

The woman rubbed her hand up and down her arm, thinking. “I don't know of anything he would have thought of as unfinished.”

Once again, Dean had to work hard not to laugh. All this and they still had absolutely no clue who the ghost was or what the ghost was after. Some hunts were definitely easier than others. Problem was, this had been their best lead. Unexpected, sudden death. Niece moved into his house almost immediately. Weird phenomena starts happening less than a week after that and increases in frequency thereafter.

hhh!” Sam presses the side of his hand to his nose, and for a moment, Dean’s impressed he’s actually stopped one. That’s pretty rare for Sam. He’s always said that flash of light makes the urge to sneeze practically too sharp and quick to stop. Maybe it’s all the practice he’s had today. “h’ttchhhh!” Or maybe not. He sneezes into his hand, snapping forward almost violently.

“I’ll put the dogs out.”

“No!” Sam reached out with his other hand, the free one, the one not still pressed to his nose. “I love dogs, really, I’m not allergic. It’s just the sun.”

She narrowed her eyes. She didn’t believe him. Hell, Dean wouldn’t have either if he hadn’t grown up with Sammy sneezing every time they walked out of school, left a restaurant, or climbed out of the car. Dean had learned which way to turn the blinds in a motel room so the sunlight wouldn’t hit Sam’s bed. Dean had learned to let Sam walk out of a building first, so Dean didn’t have Sam sneezing on the back of his neck. And Dean had learned to always keep tissues in the car, even if they mostly used them to mop up fast food spills. There were a couple times they’d had colds and he’d been especially glad to have them at hand.

“He’s all right,” Dean finally intervened, weighing his amusement against his need to get on with the case. They weren’t getting much out of her right now, but they’d get even less out of her if she left the room to go wrangle her dogs. “Do you have any personal papers or correspondence from your uncle that you haven’t gone through yet? Something that might tell us a bit about his mental state in the time leading up to his death?”

She turned her suspicious look from Sam to Dean. “You want to go through my uncle’s things?”

“If we could please, ma’am.”

She nodded. “Well good luck with that. I threw everything of his out months ago. They’d be somewhere in a landfill by now.”

As the guy outside leaned to the side just then, sun struck Sam in the face. He brought his other hand up to his face. “huhhchihhh!

Her gaze turned toward Sam, and this time she frowned. “It’s time this conversation ended. I don’t think I can be of any help to you.”

Dean had the same train of thought in wanting to leave, though he wasn’t convinced she couldn’t help them. He’d interviewed enough people over the years to know when one was being cagey and withholding information. But his charm technique wasn’t going to work on her now. And Sammy’s puppy dog eyes surely weren’t going to work. So he got up, grabbed his brother by the arm, and hauled Sam up. Sam kept his hands steepled over his nose and mouth, though he gave a muffled, “Thank you.” Dean wasn’t sure if that was meant for the woman to thank her for her time or for Dean and the rescue. Maybe both, in the end.

“Close your eyes,” Dean muttered as he dragged Sam toward the front door. “It’s kinda sunny out.”

“I hadn’t noticed,” Sam grumbled. But he obediently closed his eyes as Dean reached for the door so that he could be guided blindly to the car and not get hit with another burst of sun. This wasn’t their first time doing this, either.

Before his hand could turn the knob, he felt a small prickle on the back of his neck. For one wild moment, Dean wondered if Sam had sneezed on him. But he realized he hadn’t heard Sam sneeze. And then he realized he was falling into blackness.


He wasn’t aware of hitting the floor, but he must have done so, because the back of his head throbbed with ache. As Dean came to, he could hear his father’s reprimand in his mind: never turn your back on a suspect. Okay, yeah, that was obvious now. But she hadn’t been a suspect until…

He reached for the back of his neck, sure she must have shot him up with something. But his hands were tied together behind his back. Hell, his feet were tied together to them as well. Dean opened his eyes to see Sam lying on the living room rug beside him, hogtied similarly. Around the perimeter of the room paced the woman’s dogs. Except they didn’t look like any dogs Dean had ever seen before, and Sammy’d made him watch his fair share of dog shows on TV over the years.

Their muzzles were filled with sharp teeth on display, and their eyes were completely black. They had strange, almost round ears and no tail. Their limbs were longer than they should have been and didn’t bend in quite the right ways. Because of this, they had strange gates, walking almost like a human would if down on all fours. And the sounds they were making… were definitely not canine, though they weren’t human either. They were haunting and otherworldly. They made Dean’s pulse quicken.

“Son of a bitch,” Dean muttered.

“Oh, good. This one’s finally awake.”

Dean tried to look in the direction of the woman’s voice, but his neck couldn’t quite turn the right way. He took a deep breath and tried to use his strength to turn or flip or contort himself so he could see, but he was tied tightly, and whatever she had pumped him with hadn’t quite made it out of his system yet. He felt a little bit shaky and weak still. The room started to spin. Or maybe that was the not-dogs stalking him in a circle? Nope. Definitely dizzy. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment to try to steady himself.


It seemed Sam was awake as well. “Sammy…” Dean whispered, needing to warn his brother. Except he didn’t know what he was warning about. He didn’t know what the dogs were, ‘cause they sure weren’t hellhounds. He didn’t know what the woman was, apart from not a witness any more. A witch? A sorcerer? A demon? An angel? All possibilities and then some were equally likely at this point.

“Keep your eyes closed, Dean.”

And before Dean even had a chance to process this, he felt Sam’s fingers graze his ankle and slide out the knife he kept there. There was a woosh of air against his cheek. There was a scream and a thud. And then wetness struck his front. Warm and sticky and thick and utterly disgusting. The stuff dripped down his face, and he was glad to have his eyes and his mouth closed. “Ermph?” He hoped he’d managed to make it sound enough like a question.

Sam untied his bindings and Dean straightened out. Instinctively, he made to wipe his face on his sleeve, but his sleeve was just as wet.

“Hold up.” Dean heard footsteps and then felt something soft wipe his cheek and nose. After Sam had cleaned his face, he dared open his eyes. What he thought must be blood was, instead, some blue-grayish goo. Sam was peeling off his suit jacket, which was covered in the stuff. Reaching for the throw blanket to wipe his neck, Dean looked around the living room. It was likewise covered in goo. But it also had a woman’s body with a dagger sticking out of her heart. “She didn’t tie me up right,” Sam told him. “I think I sneezed right as she was trying to get the knot right, or she might have figured I was helpless enough already that she didn’t have to make my restraints tight.”

Okay. That explained how Sam had gotten free, but it didn’t come close to explaining the rest.

“I encountered those before on a solo hunt in New Mexico,” Sam said, reading his mind. “Back when you were… anyway, the only way to stop grimlings—”

“Grimlings? Seriously?”

“The only way to stop them is to kill their creator. A knife to the heart did the trick. I should have guessed when she kept mentioning dogs and there was no barking. She was probably looking for an opportunity to go get them the whole time.” Sam looked around the room. “I assume one of them was her uncle. I wonder who the other one was?” Dean walked over toward the woman’s body, his foot sliding in a puddle of goo that nearly landed him on his ass. But he caught himself and made it across the room to a small table where the woman’s purse sat. He went through it. Gone were the days when people kept photos of their relatives in their wallets… at least, that was the case for most people. But he found her phone and tossed it over to Sam. “Let’s see what we can get off that. When we get back to the bunker, we’ll dig into her past and see if anyone else in her life died mysteriously or suddenly.”

“Going home sounds great.” Sam rubbed his nose.

Dean smirked. He bet it did.

Dean cleaned up in the bathroom to the point where he was relatively certain that he wouldn’t get grimling goo in his baby. Then they headed out, Dean leading the way.


Wincing, Dean wiped his white shirt cuff against the back of his neck. He sighed heavily and looked back over his shoulder at Sam. Sam gave him an apologetic look and a shrug, gesturing in the direction of the sun. He could take down grimlings and their controller with one shot, but he couldn’t do anything about the bright and evil day star. “Change your shoes before getting in the car,” Dean told him, heading to the trunk. Dean changed his shirt as well, swaying a little as he pulled the t-shirt over his head.

“You sure you’re okay to drive?” Sam asked, reaching out to steady him. “Not still woozy from the drug?”

Dean hesitated, clutching the keys in his hand. Much as he hated to let Sam drive the Impala, it was probably for the best. He’d much rather have Sammy drive her than end up in a wreck. After all they’d been through, to hell and back, they couldn’t go out crashing and dying in an auto accident. He tossed the keys over and they switched sides of the car without another word. It went without saying that Dean was going to take over the second he felt better.

Once they were on the open road, both Winchester men could breathe easy. There was something cathartic about being in their car, doing seventy-five on the highway. They were still half a day’s drive from the bunker, but to Dean this already felt like he was home.

He was just about to tell Sam to pull off at the next exit with a service station so they could refuel and switch out when Sam began to slow the car. For a moment, Dean thought Sam had read his mind, but then he spotted the brake lights up ahead. Dean scanned the road for options, but there were no exits in sight and no cutting across a median with guard rails on both sides. Sam continued to slow the car, apparently hopeful that it wouldn’t be so bad and would magically let up. But as he brought it to a complete stop behind an endless sea of stopped cars, he admitted defeat.

A few of the cars moved forward a tiny bit at a time, but Sam was wise to this. This was a game of patience, not a game of inches. There was nothing to do now but wait this congestion out and hope that whatever had caused it got dealt with quickly by the authorities. “I wonder how far ahead it is,” said Dean. “I don’t even see rescue vehicle lights.” The highway was pretty straight in this part of the country, so he should have at least been able to see those, if there were an accident close-by. But maybe this went on for miles and miles.

Sam sat up a little straighter and leaned to the side a little, as if a different vantage point might make the lights of an ambulance or fire truck suddenly appear to him. It didn’t. What it did do, however, was cause the slowly setting sun to shine right in his eyes. Instantly, he snapped forward with a sharp “Etchhihh!” followed by a “damn it!”

Dean sat back in his seat and chuckled. Sam’s sneezes were back to being freakin’ hilarious again. Instead of being caught in an interview, he was caught in traffic. “You wanna switch places?” Dean asked.

Sam looked over at Dean, bathed in sunlight, and shook his head. He put down the sun visor and adjusted it, leaned forward, adjusted it again, and leaned back. Dean just chuckled and watched Sam fuss.

He must have found a good position, because he didn’t sneeze again. At least, not until he had to move the car up. There was about ten feet of space between the Impala and the Civic in front of them. Leaving a gap any bigger meant some asshole in another lane might think swerving in was a good idea. So Sam abandoned his safe position and moved the car up. He hit the brakes after just a couple feet, however. “heh heh-IHShhh!

Dean retrieved the tissue box, nestled beside the box of cassette tapes in the foot well. Instead of handing one over to Sam, who sniffled, Dean reached over and wiped the steering wheel and part of the dashboard.

Sam gave him a look and lunged across to grab a tissue from the box for himself. As he sat back up, he got another eyeful of the sun’s rays and pitched forward again. “htttchhhh!” He groaned, keeping his eyes shut. But he couldn’t do that for long, not in the driver’s seat even during stop and go traffic.

To his side, a large semi pulled up, and what it was hauling completely blocked the sun from view. Sam sighed with relief. They looked over at the truck. Its logo read GO DELIVERY but only the first three letters could be seen because of the position of a flatbed with used cars in the middle lane. “Don’t you dare say it,” Sam said, giving his nose a final wipe with the tissue. He balled the tissue up and shoved it into his pocket to dispose of later.

“Wasn’t going to,” Dean said, trying to sound as innocent and truthful as he could while lying through his teeth to his baby brother. “But you’ve gotta admit—”

The semi pulled up again. Before Sam could move the car up or adjust his visor accordingly, another involuntary photic sneeze seized him. “heyittchhh!” He closed his eyes tight, sitting back again. Cautiously, he opened one eye. He was forced to close it again just as quickly. “hehhtchahh!

“Sam,” Dean started to point out that they really should switch places.

But Sam opened his eyes again. “ihhtchhhh!


And again. “heh-Ihhshhh!

“Sammy!” Dean put the car in park, grabbed his brother by the collar, and yanked him closer. “Slide over here. I’m driving.”

Sam slid, maneuvering his long legs. Dean got out of the car on his side, still chuckling, and sat behind the wheel. It felt good to be there again. And it felt better because it meant saving Sam. He could pretend this made them even for the day, though after all these years neither of them kept score. “Eyes closed until the sun sets, Sammy.”

Sam gave a final “hehh-Tishhhhh!” and bent over, grabbing another tissue from the box back in the foot well. When he sat up to rub his nose, his eyes stayed closed.