A/N: A prompt fill from over on fic_promptly on Dreamwidth. The prompt was: "Fantastic Four, Johnny Storm & any, it was a cold that's all, but it was really messing with him now." My first F4 story, so I hope I did okay!
"A tissue? Really? Come on!" Johnny pinched his nose tight as he glared at Ben. "Seriously, guys, I really have to sneeze!"
Reed rushed forward and grabbed Johnny's arms, steering him to the lab. "Fire chamber."
"Right," Johnny agreed, releasing himself from Reed's grasp and sprinting to the metal box he hadn't been inside of since they had first been studying his new abilities. He barely got the door slammed shut behind him before he let loose the ball of flame that accompanied his sneeze, three of which had already incinerated most everything in his room and the bathroom before he called for help.
"Wow, that's hot," Reed said as he looked at the heat signature readings on his console.
Sue glanced from her husband to the computer to the box that her brother was in. "What do we do? We can't just keep him in there."
"Why not?" Ben said with a slight chuckle. "It'd save the house, and he wouldn't be spreading his germs everywhere."
"Hey, the speakers are on, you know," Johnny informed them. "I'm not sitting in a tin can until my cold goes away. Think of something else."
"Technically it's not tin," Reed started, but trailed off when he caught Sue's glare. "Uh…okay…we just have to think of a way to keep you from sneezing. Maybe try Sudafed?"
There was a pause before Johnny asked, "You think that'll work?"
Reed was met with unsure looks from both Ben and Sue. He answered them with a shrug. "It's worth a shot."
Ten minutes later, Ben approached the box and knocked on the door, making certain to shoot a glare over his shoulder at Reed and Sue. They had volunteered him to be the one to hand over the pills with the logic that their bodies wouldn't be able to withstand the heat should Johnny accidentally let loose his chaotic flame thrower.
"You sneeze on me, kid, I swear-"
The door flew open, revealing an irate-looking Johnny. "What are you gonna do, Ben? Break my stuff? News flash: I burned it all. Hit me? Please, go right ahead. At least if I'm unconscious it won't feel like your heavy ass is sitting on my chest."
He grabbed the pills and glass of water before barricading himself back inside his chamber, slamming the chamber shut in Ben's surprised face. "You really feel that bad, kid?" the Thing asked with actual concern in his voice this time.
"Like a big, steaming pile of elephant-" He sneezed again, lighting up the entire chamber, and followed it with a groan. "I hope that glass wasn't expensive."
"Kmart china," Ben informed him, giving the side of the box a little pat before heading back to where Reed was frowning at the new readouts. "What's up, Reed?"
"He's too hot," Reed mumbled more to himself than to the others.
Sue furled her brows. "If he's sick, it'd be normal for his temperature to be up, right?"
Reed shook his head. "No, I mean he's always too hot. Johnny shouldn't ever get sick. A typical virus or bacteria wouldn't be able to withstand his average core temperature, and his symptoms are coming on too fast to be a common cold."
"So what's going on with him?" Ben asked.
"An allergic reaction, maybe?" Reed speculated.
"I don't have any allergies," Johnny said, sounding more worn down than he had just moments before.
"Wait…" Sue muttered, lost in thought. She turned away from the computers and began pacing back and forth, one finger tapping on her lip as she tried to drudge up some distant memory. "He was too young to remember… There was a plant, one that grew white flowers. Dad got it for Mom, and she kept it in a pot in the corner of the kitchen. Johnny got really sick that winter…just after the plant bloomed. We were in and out of the hospital for months, but no one could figure out what was wrong with him – all the allergy tests were coming up negative. He started getting better on his own in late Spring, after the flowers died. Mom got rid of the plant after that."
Another sneeze came through the speakers along with a blinding flare of light. "Does that mean we should've gone with Benedryl instead of Sudafed?" Johnny moaned.
"The antihistamines didn't really work last time," Sue informed him apologetically.
Reed touched her shoulder to get her attention. "Do you remember what the flower was called, or what it looked like?"
She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to picture it. "It was a long time ago… Um…solid white…I think it only had three big petals…" Snapping her eyes open, she said quickly, "An orchid, it was some kind of orchid, and I remember Mom scolding Dad after she got rid of it. She told him it was Karma because we were never supposed to have it in the first place."
"Hey, Reed? Can you jack up the oxygen? I'm dying in here." His voice was tired, strained, and the three outside the chamber shared worried looks.
"Yeah, just a second, Johnny," Reed responded as he adjusted the air levels inside the box. "Is that better?" There was no answer. "Johnny?"
Sue waited just a beat to see if her brother would respond before racing down the steps, ignoring Reed's frantic call telling her to stay back. She flung the door open to see Johnny crumbled on the floor of the chamber, his pleading, frightened blue eyes staring up at her as he struggled to breathe.
"Oh god, Johnny, hang on." She turned to Ben. "Help me get him out of here!"
As Ben rushed down to pull a wheezing Johnny from the box, Reed demanded a scan from his computer. "Show me any foreign particles in the air," he ordered his system, keeping on eye on the happenings downstairs. "Sue, the scuba gear," he called down. "The tanks are clean."
She nodded, and took just long enough to press her hand to her brother's forehead, telling him he'd be all right, before she ran off.
"Slow and easy, kid," Ben instructed, trying to get past Johnny's panic. "Small breaths, you can do it."
His eyes staying clamped tightly shut, Johnny nodded sharply and did his best to even out his pace, still sucking in much too little air each time he tried, but growing more calm as he kept his mind focused on keeping to a steady rhythm. Sue was back within a minute, dropping to her knees heavily as she fumbled with the tube of the oxygen tank.
"Here, Johnny, put this in your mouth," she ordered, holding the mouthpiece up to her brother's face. He complied eagerly, biting down on the rubber as he tried desperately to suck in the much-needed air. "You're okay," she whispered, a tear trickling down her face. "Just keep breathing, okay?"
He cracked his eyes half open and gave her a weak nod as he reached his hand up to squeeze hers. His lips turned up around the edges of the mouthpiece in a reassuring smile as he gave her a 'thumb's up' sign with his other hand.
"We need to get him out of here," Reed suddenly announced as he came down the stairs. "White Nun Orchid. There's traces of it in the air system throughout the whole building. He might as well be an asthmatic trying to breath in carbon dioxide."
"Alright, pal, up we go," Ben said as he gently scooped Johnny into his arms, careful not to jostle the tentative hold the kid had on the oxygen mask. He looked to Reed for direction. "Where do we take him?"
"Just get him to the car – the car. Fly him out with you. Sue and I'll follow," Reed instructed.
They moved quickly and quietly, settling Johnny in the back of the main vehicle while Reed and Sue took the sidecars. In a matter of minutes, Ben was zipping out of the city with the other two sticking close behind, looking for a safe place to land where a sneeze from the Human Torch wouldn't result in a fire hazard for the world at large. From the occasional worried glance Ben would shoot at his charge, however, he didn't think the kid would have the strength to sneeze for a while. It seemed like he was still barely able to draw the precious oxygen into his lungs.
"Ben, put it down over there," Reed requested, pointing down to a plateau near the top of the mountain they were flying over. It was a good pick, high enough where there was no vegetation to catch a spark, and wide enough where the more vulnerable members of their party could back up to a safe distance should the flames begin to fly again.
Sue was racing to the car almost the second she touched her rig to the ground. "How is he?" she asked, already leaning over the side of the vehicle and ignoring any response from Ben. "Johnny, are you okay?"
His nod was slow, weak, and he kept his face turned towards the back of the seat. Ben got out and put his hand on Sue's shoulder. "Poor kid's exhausted. Hey, Reed, he'll be okay now, won't he?"
Reed fumbled with something in the front console of his car before heading over, revealing a syringe held in his grasp. "He will be once I get this into him." He answered the unasked question he caught in their eyes. "Had the computer whip up a little White Nun Orchid anti-allergen on the way over here. Between this and the fresh air, he should be fine in no time." Carefully, he inserted the needle into Johnny's arm just seconds before the kid lost his struggling hold on consciousness.
"Johnny? Can you hear me?"
Johnny blinked his eyes open to the blurred image of his sister hovering over him. "Sue?" He scrunched up his face for a second. "You should move."
Her eyes went wide in alarm as she realized what he was saying, and backpedaled away from him in time to escape the fire that billowed from his mouth and nose as he sneezed into the ground in the opposite direction. He gasped and pressed his face into the scorched earth, bringing a hand up to his chest. Ben's rocky foot appeared in his line of sight as the hulking man crouched beside him.
"Doin' okay, kid?" he rumbled out.
"Chest hurts," Johnny replied through clenched teeth.
"Yeah, you kinda strained your lungs a little bit. Reed says it's normal. You should be fine in a few days."
"Peachy," Johnny mumbled as he rolled onto his back again. "What happened?"
"Good intentions," Reed said as he cautiously stepped up to join the conversation. "Someone got suckered into buying an illegal air purifier that was supposed to bring 'calm and peace' to anyone in the building."
Johnny started to laugh, but cut it short with a wince as his lungs protested the action. Sue was by his side again, running a hand through his hair in a soothing manner. "Don't laugh, doofus," she teased lightly.
"Yeah, got that," he answered with a tight smile before turning back to Reed. "Illegal?"
"White Nun Orchid is an endangered flower and was banned from being commercialized. The guy selling the stuff smuggled the flowers out of Guatemala, and trust me, their government was all too happy to take the matter into their own hands. Apparently this wasn't his first offense."
"Well, then I'm glad my almost dying put a dangerous flower poacher in the hands of the proper authorities," Johnny quipped, then added thoughtfully, "Hey, you don't think someone knew about my secret kryptonite, do you? I mean, what are the odds that this guy would use the one weirdo thing that even I didn't know I was allergic to in our building?"
Sue shook her head. "It's got to be a coincidence. No one knew Mom and Dad had the plant. They would've have gotten in trouble if someone found out."
"You sure?" Johnny asked.
The unsteady looks that passed between the other members was answer enough for him. The notion of some villain out there knowing about this newly discovered weakness of his was unnerving, and it would have to be dealt with as soon as they got back home. In the meantime, he was just going to enjoy the simple act of breathing, let his family worry over him for a bit, and try his best not to sneeze on anyone.
Except for maybe Ben.
The End! (…or is it?...)