"Sweetie, wake up. You with us?" Dean blinked up at the waitress taking in her grayish hair and hard, but kind, smile. Miranda, her name was Miranda. The floor beneath him felt cool and sticky. His eyes went wide. What the hell? Had he passed out? "Shhh…Just rest, darlin'. We called an ambulance." Oh, hell no. Dean struggled up. Damn Miranda and her damn babying. He was twenty-eight and a grown man.
He brushed the diner fettuccini off his shirt. Dammit to hell, it had spilled all over him. And Italian was Sam's favorite. His brother would be all bitchy Dean didn't bring pasta back to the room, but he didn't need to stick around for the added attention that went with a paramedic visit. He'd stop for some Taco Hell after he got out of here. Sam would have to deal. He gave the half full container a remorseful sniff and tossed it on the table. Shame, it smelled good; parmesan cheese, garlic, and was that nutmeg? Shit. He felt the pressure build in his head. He was allergic to nutmeg.
"Aaa-aa-achoo." The room spun. He opened his eyes. Son of a bitch. He was back on the floor. Miranda rubbed his forehead.
"You just stay down, now. Help's coming." Again. Hell. No. His brow knitted in concentration and he stumbled up. "Sweetie, that's twice you've fainted in five minutes. Just relax now." Dean glared at the kindly woman. One, he didn't need to relax. Two, he was fine. And, three, it wasn't fainting. This was a manly passing out, quick and hard and covered in food.
"Move it." Dean pushed the small group of gawkers away from him. Miranda tried to grab his arm, but he snapped it out of her reach and moved towards the door. He caught a hurt expression morph into anger on her aged features.
"Face of the angel, but shitty, ungrateful attitude," she said, loudly, behind him. "Never can tell what crap lies beneath the pretty packaging." Ouch. Miranda had a temper.
"Sorry," he mumbled. "But I gotta go." Dean got to his car and sped out of the lot trying to ignore the unease that pried its way into his head.
He pulled into the Lumberjack Inn, clutching a bag of fast food tacos. This was just friggin' fantastic. It was unnerving to lose consciousness. He'd be a little scared, if, you know, he got scared. These two episodes made the fourth and fifth time it had happened since that effed-up hunt in Orlando two weeks ago. Shit.
And why did it happen after sneezing. It was downright embarrassing. Not to mention dangerous in his line of work. He sighed. It was a curse. Had to be. Great. Now he would have to tell Sam, and that meant hearing the long lecture about not pissing so many people off. Hell, Dean had that Sammy sermon memorized. Damn hypocrite. It's not like Sam had never been cursed. He had. Once. Although, it had kinda been Dean's fault so he didn't really bring it up that often.
"Hey." Dean tossed his brother the food. Sam took in his ruffled appearance and focused in on the large pasta stain on his front. His lips pulled into a frown. He opened up the taco bag and didn't ask.
"Hey. I think I found some info on the case while you were out." Sam crunched into a taco and threw a file towards him. "Four more people dead in the last ten years. All mauled horrifically. All missing their livers." He paused to grab another taco. "These things are foul man." He indicated the taco and proceeded to shove it into his mouth. "Anyway, no connection with the victims except - I did some digging, and three of them had been seen in or near Gabon Park close to their deaths. I'm thinking possible monster hunting grounds."
"Maybe. Let's scope it out tonight. We still don't know what's doing it." Sam nodded and grabbed a third taco. He scrunched his nose up like it was horse manure and then stuffed it into his mouth. Like Dean said. Hypocrite. Dean inhaled a deep breath. "Um. Sammy. You think anything strange happened on the Orlando hunt?" Sam regarded him pensively.
"Other than you getting beat to high hell. No. Why?" Sam said. Dean fidgeted under his brother's scrutiny.
"Dude. I think I'm cursed." Sam's eyes went wide and he stood up, taco juice dribbling from his chin. It would have been damn hilarious if Dean wasn't ninety-nine percent sure his brother would move from concerned to pissed to hell in about two minutes.
"Why? What's wrong?" Sam strode across the room and started patting him down. Dean slapped him away.
"Stop it. Since that hunt…" He paused. Getting cursed was so fucking embarrassing. "Every time I sneeze, I black out." Sam looked confused. "Not for long. I just sneeze and wake up on the ground." He shrugged.
"What? That sounds like a stupid curse, Dean." Sam paused. "How many times?"
"Five. Once while you were in the bathroom. Twice while we were separated in that field and twice at the diner today."
"Huh. Dude, I know you can be a jerk sometimes, but why would someone have cursed you in Orlando. That family was ready to adopt you. And fainting after sneezing – what kinda weak shit is that?" Sam shook his head. Not pissed, but with a 'this makes no sense' exasperation in his voice.
"Well, it could be damn inconvenient on the job…"
"Not really." Sam cut in. "Don't sneeze. Problem solved." Like it was that simple.
"Besides, anyone could have done it. I piss off people all the time. You know, with my candy coating and dark insides. I just managed to anger some hex-throwing revenge monger this time." Dean shrugged. Sam rolled his eyes.
"That doesn't even make sense. You're not cursed, Dean."
Bullshit. It was a curse. Dean sighed and watched as his brother's expression light up with knowledge.
"It's medical." Sam said, like he knew everything. "Has to be. And you got banged in the head about eight times in Orlando. I knew I should have taken you to the ER then." Dean opened his mouth to complain, but Sam cut him off. "Look, you seem mostly okay, so we'll check out the park this tonight, but you're going to the doctor tomorrow."
And then they were at the park. It was bright with lawns of green grass serving as make-shift soccer fields. There was a walking path and a small playground and people everywhere. Laughter filled the expanse. It was peaceful. Deceptive, Dean's instincts shouted. He got out of the car, content to wait on a bench before going to work. Sam unfolded himself as well and came over to lounge beside him.
"You really think there's a monster here?" Sam asked. For a moment, sitting there beside him, he looked to Dean like he had when he was eight, innocent and concerned. He missed that side of his brother.
"Yeah." Dean said irritation suddenly pricking inside him. He was angry at Sam. Sam who sat next to him looking all sweet, but didn't give a rat's ass that dean was fucking passing the hell out. He scooted away from him. Sure, he mentioned taking him to a doctor, but he'd forget about that by tomorrow. Sam was like Dad in that respect.
"Dean?" Sam seemed to sense his irritation. "Dude, you alright?" He sounded far away for some reason.
"Fine." Dean hissed out. There was more venom in the response than was warranted and Sam's face fell a bit, but whatever. Dean couldn't always hide his rotten core. He sighed. Shit. Now he felt guilty. Sometimes, Sammy really deserved a better brother.
"Dude, you're acting weird." Sam moved over closer to him – his voice loud and clear again. "You look fine, man. You worried about the fainting? Pretty pansy-ass, Dean."
"Passing out. And I'm not worried, Sam." And neither are you.
"Look, we'll get you checked out tomorrow if you're still scared. Just to be sure. In the meanwhile, just relax."
Right. Problem solved. And no sneezing. Dean didn't know what he had expected. He thought Sam would be angry or concerned or maybe both. But, apparently, he was treating the whole thing the detached way he'd treat a calculus problem and treating Dean like some ridiculous pussy.
They sat for a quiet moment. Dean felt drained. His mind kept wandering back to that Orlando job. Damn. They'd hunted that clawed bitch in a park too. How many times had that thing hit him in the head? Had Sam cared? He didn't remember him even patching him up.
"Dean, you listening to me?" Sam said. Dean blinked over at him. Now he sounded frantic.
"Sammy?" Oh hell. Now Sam was upset. Why couldn't Dean get over his issues and be the strong brother Sam needed.
"You'll be okay. Just don't sneeze. Don't leave me." Now Sam was making no sense, sounding far away again. Dean sighed. God this was giving him a headache.
"Whatever, Sam. Maybe we should walk around some, check for clues, mingle with the masses." Wow, that sounded familiar. De ja vu'. Like Orlando. Dean hoped this job ended better than that one.
He peered around the park. There were bugs, pollen, and spring everywhere. Great. He didn't remember ever having many allergies, but the air now made his nose itch. He sneezed and before he could think was on the ground.
Dean blinked up. He felt grass below him and saw a blurry sky above. Dammit, this crap was making his head hurt. And where was Sam? He does a nose dive and his brother doesn't bother to have his back. What the hell was up with that? A figure moved over him.
"Sam?" He croaked, his voice sounding hoarser than he remembered. No. It was a female face, gentle, gray and hard. "Miranda?" Her lips curled at him. His back felt sticky and cool.
"You need to rest, Dean. Stay with me. You can't leave me this time." The park had gone quiet and dark. When had that happened? His heart began to race. Her smile looked hard, and had lost its kindness. Oh, yeah, he had pissed her off when he pulled away from her to go back to Sam. His mind felt cloudy. This was wrong. Like that thing in Orlando.
"Why are you here? Where's Sam?" God, his head hurt. "Grass is sticky?" He slurred. Miranda pulled her hand across his cheek, sharp nails breaking the skin on his face.
"Sam…" He gasped. She crinkled her eyes, letting her graying hair fall on him as she moved over him. Her tongue came out, burning like acid as she licked the blood off his face.
"You've fought hard, Dean. Normally, I keep them under while I feast, but you just keep fighting back to the surface. I'll give you the honor of feeling your death. I'm going to eat you from the inside out." She dug her hand into his side. Dean groaned in pain.
Shit. Miranda was a bitch.
"I'm still…in Orlando. Sam?" She forced his head to the side and bent down to bite at his shoulder. She lifted her head back up, her mouth now red and feral, and motioned towards the dark playground.
"Out cold. He tried to take you from me, but I knocked him out. I'll let him lie there, unconscious, while I rip into you. And when I'm done, I'm not even going to try to put him under. I'll devour him right next to your carcass. Let him see what I did to you. Let him know what I am going to do to him."
No. Sam needed to be protected. That was his job. God, he was such a screw up. He gazed at her harder, his focus failing. Another form loamed over them.
"I don't think so, bitch." Sam said. Dean felt skin rip as she was pulled off of him. His eyes fell shut. He heard scuffling and cursing, and then a horrific shriek. Footfalls ran up to him.
"Dean. Dean. Stay with me. I'm calling for help." Dean meant to say alright, be a good brother, but he felt himself drift away.
He awoke a day later in the hospital with his brother talking and fussing around him.
"So, the monster's venom made you think you had a sneezing syncope – and you kept blacking out whenever you sneezed…and you actually believed I would let you hunt like that?" Sam sounded offended. "That's…well that's weird, dude." Sam paused for a moment and Dean saw his thinking face fall on before he continued.
"All the research indicated the poison gave victims feelings of depression, not odd delusions about tacos and fainting." Sam fluffed his pillow. He then moved up towards his face, smoothing Dean's short hairs off his forehead. It took Dean a moment to remember to swat him away. "The important thing is you're okay and it's dead…and hopefully rotting in hell." He added, sounding like he would love nothing more than to kill the clawed bitch again.
"Yeah." Dean pushed out. "Sammy, you should go home, get some rest." The kid looked like hell. Not that he was looking much better.
"Dean, I'm not leaving." Sam sunk down into his chair shutting his eyes. "You're stuck with me. Get used to it. And if you ever start passing out, for any reason, I'll drag your stubborn ass to the doctor, faith healer, whatever, and get you better. You understand?"
Yeah. Dean nodded, sleepily. Sam cared. He understood.