Title: Dust Busters
Prompt: From a prompt by the lovely and talented pkwench: This is a bit silly, but ... Sam and Dean go undercover as Manly!Maids to investigate a haunting. Sadly, Sam has a dust allergy and just keeps sneezing. Gen, pls! Also written for the Sam-centered h/c comment-fic meme.
Spoilers: None. It's kind of generic in terms of setting. :)
Word Count: 2,740
Warnings: None. It's pretty light-hearted. It starts out a bit cracky, then gets serious, as is my wont, but compared to what I've been producing lately? It's cotton candy. Really, really fluffy. ;)
Disclaimer: Kripke is mean and won't let me have his toys. He says I keep breaking them.
Neurotic Authorial Disclaimer: I stand by what I said before. pkwench needs to stop prompting things. At this rate I'll be writing comment-fics for the rest of my life.
Neurotic Authorial Disclaimer #2: Uh, this is possibly the fluffiest fluff that ever fluffed. If you're looking for angst, try some of my other entries. I dunno, Sneezy!Sam just got awfully cute in my head.
Dean's not exactly sure how he and Sam have ended up here, but he's learned to roll with the punches after fifteen or so years of being on the job. Hunting is all about improvisation, after all, expecting the unexpected, whether it comes from the monsters or the witnesses. So when he finds himself confronted with a harried-looking woman in a very expensive suit, he simply smiles agreeably and tries not to look too shocked when she assumes they're the help.
"It's about damned time they sent replacements," she snaps, tossing him a set of house keys with a cheap yellow key ring. "Your colleagues left all their supplies in the middle of the kitchen floor, and let me tell you, I am not impressed with the level of service offered by Manly Maids. Don't expect repeat business after this job is done."
"Uh, right, right," he gives her his most winning smile, all teeth and mischievous sparkle, "we're, uh, really sorry about the misunderstanding, Ms., uh—"
"Barrister. And I wouldn't call it a misunderstanding when your company bails in the middle of a project. God knows I'm paying enough to get this house in good enough shape to show, and your deadline has gotten a whole hell of a lot tighter. Here's my cell number. Don't call it unless the house is on fire."
And with that she's gone in an angry clicking of expensive heels. Sam is gaping.
"What was that?"
Dean shrugs. "I dunno. Maybe she had a run in her really expensive pantyhose this morning. Who cares? She just basically gave us the run of the house."
He heads into the house, and almost gags on the smell of stale air and dust. Sam starts coughing a few seconds later. The job comes with its fair share of dusty, decrepit, filthy homes, of course —ghosts aren't exactly known for their housekeeping skills— but this one really takes the cake.
"I swear to God, if I find an old woman in a rotting wedding dress..." Sam mutters behind him.
"Never mind. You ought to read more." Sam whips his head to the side and stifles a sneeze into his elbow.
"Gesundheit. I'll read when I'm dead."
"That makes no sense."
They find a pile of cleaning supplies in the middle of the kitchen floor, and Sam heaves an exasperated sigh. "Figures there wouldn't be a vacuum cleaner. This place is huge, Dean, and I didn't exactly sign up to be a cleaning lady."
Dean rummages in the pile and comes up with a feather duster, grins at Sam and twirls it in his face, sending up a small cloud of dust. "Aw, c'mon, Sammy. I bet you'd look really sexy in a French maid's outfit. I'll even spring for the frilly apron."
Sam stifles another sneeze into his hand, and glares at him. "Quit that."
Dean rolls his eyes. "Killjoy. And don't stifle —you're killing billions of brain cells, and even you can't afford to lose all that many. They don't come back, you know."
"Actually, there've been studies that show—"
"Sam, can you please focus on the job?"
Sam scrubs at his nose with the back of his wrist, sniffling. "Fine. So what are we looking for? The body was cremated, so... what? Locks of hair? A trinket?"
"Dunno, exactly. I figure we hang out, do some exploring, see what we can see. Either there's some kind of remains left in the house, which would explain the haunting, or maybe an object of some kind that the woman was attached to." He bends down, hefts a bucket by the handle. "Grab yourself a dust rag, and let's get to it."
Okay, so cleaning house is just about last on Dean's list of things he wants to be doing right about now, but it's something to do while they're looking for whatever is anchoring the local ghost to the house. As an added bonus, he's enjoying watching Sam trying to be stoic about all the dust, and failing miserably. He'd forgotten about Sam's little dust allergy, but now that he's been reminded of it —and so has Sam, forcefully— it's pretty damned funny. He smirks to himself and goes about his business as though he hasn't noticed anything, except to call "Gesundheit" over his shoulder every so often, as Sam curses under his breath and stifles sneeze after sneeze. He's always found it hilarious the way Sam can't quite let himself sneeze like a normal person, and especially not in public. Kid has control issues like you wouldn't believe, and he treats his dust allergy like it's a personal affront. Dean keeps expecting him to rupture an important blood vessel in his brain one of these days, but no amount of teasing or cajoling can get the kid to just let go already —Sam is too damned self-conscious and hates attracting attention to himself— so he just sits back and enjoys the show.
Sam shuffles to the far end of the bedroom they're currently ransacking, avoiding the huge canopy bed as best he can, and catches yet another sneeze in the crook of his elbow. There are cobwebs hanging from every conceivable surface, and the layers of dust on the bed are so thick Dean can't even tell what colour the bedspread is supposed to be. He starts rummaging in the bedside table just as Sam dissolves into what's likely the first of many sneezing fits to come, hands cupped over his nose and mouth, shoulders hunched as far forward as he can manage without quite bending in half. Dean almost feels sorry for him.
"Gesundheit. Find anything?"
"Doh," Sam sniffs and directs a glare at him. "Too busy sdeezig here." As if to illustrate his point his face goes slack and he turns aside to sneeze into his cupped hands again, deliberately turning his back out of a misplaced sense of embarrassment. He groans melodramatically and sniffles wetly into his sleeve. "This sugcks."
"The sooner we find whatever it is that's holding her here, the sooner we'll be done."
"You're all heart."
"Yeah, well, at least you're not stifling anymore there, Sneezy."
"Bite be," Sam moves aside a sheaf of papers, dislodges more dust, and chokes and coughs convulsively, fanning a hand uselessly in front of him in a futile attempt to dissipate it a bit. "God!"
"You're pathetic. Shove aside and let the professionals handle this," Dean informs him, and hip-checks him none too gently, catching him off balance and forcing him back onto the bed in a cloud of dust that leaves them both choking for a minute.
Predictably, Sam lets go with a volley of sneezes, punctuating each one with a desperate gasp, eyes and nose streaming. Dean rolls his eyes, rummages in his pockets until he comes up with a crumpled but clean tissue, but his brother is too far gone to notice the peace offering. So Dean drops to squat on his heels and waits for the fit to pass, grinning incredulously.
"... thirteen... fourteen... God, Sammy, you going for a Guinness record?"
"S-top —ishoo! Stop c-counting... j-jerk. Heh-ishoo! 'S dot fu... hih! Dot fuddy."
"Sixteen. Pretty funny from where I'm standing. Seventeen. Jesus." He waits until Sam's mostly got the fit under control, hands him the tissue. "Here, blow your nose."
"I'b dot four years old," Sam complains, but accepts the tissue anyway. Dean reaches out and pokes him in the temple, earning himself another bleary-eyed glare. "What?"
"Just making sure your head hasn't exploded," Dean grins.
"I hate you."
It doesn't get any better after that. Whatever semblance of control Sam had before is long gone, and between them they don't have a single antihistamine to their name. Well, they might have some in the first aid kit in the Impala, but at this point Dean just wants to waste this stupid spirit and get out. It was funny before, but the situation is kind of losing its charm at this point. They've been searching for hours and turned up nothing except several metric tons of dust, more junk than you can shake a stick at, and not a single trinket that could be construed as being important to the freaking ghost.
Sam is still sneezing, his nose bright red, scrubbing at his eyes with the sleeve of his jeans jacket to very little effect, and in the last half hour Dean has heard him start to wheeze. It's subtle at first, almost imperceptible, but it's definitely getting worse. He tries to remember if they've even bothered to stock up on Sam's asthma meds —as far as Dean knows, he hasn't needed them in years, not since he was a teenager.
"You okay?" he calls out after Sam starts coughing, kneeling behind a roll-top desk in the living room. There's no answer for long enough that he starts to worry, then Sam draws in a shaky breath.
"It's gotta be around here somewhere," he says in what he hopes is an encouraging manner. Sam just sneezes again and keeps searching.
"Hey," Sam calls out after another few minutes have gone by, and Dean winces at how hoarse his voice sounds. "I think I got it." He straightens up with a triumphant smile, holding a gilded cigarette case. He flips it open, revealing two long locks of differently-coloured hair that have been lovingly braided together.
Dean returns the grin. "Attaboy, Sammy! Now let's torch the thing and—"
He's not sure why he's surprised when the spirit picks that precise moment to send him flying into the opposite wall. He hears another crash seconds later, and assumes that Sam is being subjected to the same treatment. When his vision clears he sees Sam sprawled on the floor, scrabbling to get to his feet, the cigarette case lying open and empty several feet away, with no sign of the hair. He curses, scrambles upright, scanning the room for the ghost, but she's disappeared, probably getting ready for Round 2. Sam groans and sits up, and promptly succumbs to another fit of sneezing.
"Worst timing ever," Dean rolls his eyes, but whatever else he has to say is cut off as the spirit makes a reappearance, shrieking hysterically and tearing at him with both hands. He's always felt it was damned unfair that incorporeal beings get to hurt him whenever they want, but he can't punch them back. Sometimes the universe just sucks.
He hits the wall with a jolt, feels something pressing painfully against his windpipe, and his vision greys out, heels kicking against the wall, scrabbling futilely for purchase. He claws at his throat, but there's nothing to hold onto, and he can feel the world slipping away with his air, and wasn't this supposed to be an easy job?
He barely manages to croak Sam's name before everything goes dark.
Just as suddenly as it started the onslaught stops, and he lands hard on the floor, sending spikes of pain from his tailbone up into his spine. His vision clears as oxygen reaches his brain again, and it only takes a second to register that the spirit is gone. He grits his teeth against the pain, clambers to his feet with a choice curse or three, and gives a thumbs-up to Sam, who's propped up against the far wall, Zippo lighter in one hand and the charred remains of a ribbon in the other.
Sam nods, coughing. There are angry splotches of colour on his cheeks, but the rest of his face has gone white and pinched, and Dean feels his heart stutter in his chest in a wild flutter of anxiety. He hurries over, crouches next to Sam, puts a hand on his shoulder. Sam's obviously struggling, each breath whistling painfully between bouts of coughing.
"Sam?" Dean squeezes his shoulder. "Sam, you got a rescue inhaler anywhere?"
Sam shakes his head, but a moment later he manages to rasp out "Car."
"First aid kit?"
Another shake of the head. "D-duff..." he coughs too hard to finish the word, but it's enough.
"Okay, let's get you up. I'm not leaving you in here to choke on this stuff. Come on, up you come, Sasquatch," he hauls Sam to his feet and pulls his arm over his shoulders when his knees buckle. "God, you're heavy. Maybe it's a good thing you only eat salad. I might not be able to carry you otherwise," he keeps up the steady stream of chatter as he gets them out of the house and to the car, as much to keep himself calm as for Sam's benefit.
Sam leans against the Impala, lets himself slide down until he's sitting on the ground, knees drawn up to his chest, eyes screwed shut in a mix of pain and concentration, trying to force air through bronchial tubes that have resigned in a fit of pique from their official functions.
"Easy does it, Sammy. Just focus on breathing, in and out, and we'll have you back to your normal, bitchy, emo self in a second."
Dean is going through the duffel bag with the same ruthless efficiency with which he tackles any other project, and just about drops the inhaler, he's so relieved to find it. Sam's head has fallen back against the car, fingers digging weakly into the asphalt as though he's trying to anchor himself there. If he was wheezing before, now he's in serious goddamn respiratory distress, coughing and choking, groaning audibly with each failed breath in a way that makes Dean's chest ache in sympathy. He clutches reflexively at Dean's arm, heels scraping for purchase on the ground as he fights to stay conscious.
"Shit," Dean mutters, fumbling with the cap on the inhaler. "Easy, Sammy. Come on, focus on me. Here we go," he doesn't bother trying to put the inhaler in Sam's hand, just forces the mouthpiece past his lips. "You know the drill. Take as deep a breath as you can. That's it," he prays the angle of the spray is about right as he presses down on the pump, "now hold it —as long as you can. Easy does it."
He places his free hand against Sam's chest, trying to even out the stuttering rhythm by sheer force of will. He can feel Sam's breathing even out a bit as his brother forces himself to be calm, to keep his breaths even. He's still got a death grip on the sleeve of Dean's jacket, his knuckles turning white.
"Good job," Dean says encouragingly, but after a few minutes Sam is still struggling and coughing, still not pulling in enough air. "One more hit, okay Sammy? One more, and then I'll buy you the biggest damn cup of coffee we can find. That always helps, right?"
It's uphill from there, and he almost cries with relief. Sam keeps coughing, but the horrible desperate wheezing has stopped, and colour is coming back to his face slowly, the hectic spots in his cheeks fading, and eventually he lets go of Dean's arm, nodding to indicate that he's just fine, thanks. Dean rolls his eyes to show exactly what he thinks of that, but pulls him up to sit in the front passenger seat, and thumps him on the shoulder.
"Okay. Coffee, and we'll pick up some Benadryl —the stuff in the kit's expired. Then we'll head back to the motel and stick you in a hot shower. How does that sound?"
"Awesome," Sam rasps, one hand pressed to his sternum, leaning back against the seat. He pulls in a careful breath, as though he expects not to be able to at any moment. "Dean?"
"You... even think of... buying a frilly apron... I'll feed it to you."
Dean snorts, and switches on the ignition. "In your dreams. C'mon, let's hit the road. I don't want to have to explain to that shrieking harpy why her damned house isn't clean."