Jump to content
Sneeze Fetish Forum

Bullseye Blizzard - Secret Santa for Zneeze


Oolia

Recommended Posts

HELLO THERE Z!

I got you for Secret Santa, YAY! So, I went a liiiiittle crazy and wrote quite a bit because I was so into the story. Since it's fairly long, I'm gonna have to split it in parts, so you'll get your story over the next few days. PLOT TWISTS! CLIFFHANGERS! OTHER STUFF! Not really.

Hope you enjoy it! Merry Christmas! biggrin.png

----------------------------------------

Bullseye Blizzard

On a frigid Wednesday afternoon, Ariana pushed the heavy doors of her college building, bracing for the habitual gust of wind that would engulf her hair in a mini tornado. Although she appreciated the draft on humid days in the spring, she loathed it in winter, when it felt like receiving a bucket of ice water in the face. Thankfully, Ariana was in an especially good mood. She had just finished her final test and was officially off for the holidays.

She grinned through her thick scarf. Huddling under her coat, she made her way towards her apartment. The campus had been decorated for Christmas during the weekend. Beautiful red bows perched on pine trees. Twinkling lights wrapped around street lamps. A few snowmen peppered the landscape, lovingly crafted by students. Some would vanish soon enough as they were definitely NOT approved by the board. People had a way of misusing anything, including carrots and... Wait, was that a giant snow phallus near the road? Ariana chuckled and rolled her eyes. Some things never changed.

The only hitch in this otherwise perfect Christmas portrait, aside from the poor choice of snowmen shapes, were the ominous clouds looming over the city. Ariana and her childhood best friend, Katherine, had planned to drive home for the holidays later in the week, but a blizzard was threatening to ruin their plan. They had settled on leaving as soon as possible after their last school day, which was today. Last time Ariana checked, the snowstorm was supposed to roll in tomorrow night. But at the sight of those clouds, she wondered if the situation had changed. She picked up her pace, biting her lower lip.

As she rounded the corner out of the campus, she heard someone call her name. Glancing over her shoulder, she noticed Samuel, a boy from her group of friends, running towards her.

“Hey Sam,” she called when he was finally within earshot.

“Hah... Hey... Pfff...”

He bent forward, his hands on his knees. A string of white clouds escaped his mouth as he tried to catch his breath.

“Geez, did you run all the way from Australia or something?” She could never miss a chance to make fun of his origins.

“No... I just... Hah... I came from the tech building.”

“You mean the one right over there, champ?” Ariana asked, pointing at a building no more than 200 feet away. “Have you ever heard of something called ‘exercising’?”

Samuel shot her what should have been an annoyed look, but all Ariana saw was his adorable side smirk. He could never be angry with her.

She waited a few more beats for him to regain composure, but the wind was making its way through her ‘millions of layers’, as Katherine called them. She shivered and rubbed her gloved hands on her arms. “So what’s up? Came to say Merry Christmas before I leave?”

Surprise flashed through Samuel’s eyes. “Wait, you’re leaving today? I thought you guys were driving back on Friday?”

Ariana pointed towards the sky. “Plans changed. Haven’t you heard of Snowpocalypse 2014?”

She shifted from one foot to the other repeatedly. The inside of her nostrils froze every time she inhaled, making her nose run. She sniffed, hoping she wouldn’t have to blow her nose in front of Samuel. Gross.

“Aaah yeah, makes sense,” muttered Samuel. “Well, that’s a bummer, I was going to ask if you were coming to Nick’s party tonight. I guess not.”

He looked so disappointed that Ariana felt the urge to hug him. She knew he’d had a crush on her since the beginning of the semester, and frankly, she didn’t know what to do about it. She enjoyed hanging out with him and their mutual friends, but she had been so busy with school that she hadn’t had a chance to get to know him one on one. In fact, she’d turned him down so many times, she wondered why he was still trying.

“Sorry... We’ll be back for New Year’s Eve though. I’m sure there will be a party then, right?” She smiled at him, but was interrupted by a fierce tickle in her nose. She cursed under her breath and tried to bite her tongue. She’d heard it was a trick to stop a sneeze. But of course, all it did was hurt her tongue.

She inhaled sharply and bent away from Samuel, pulling her scarf over her mouth and nose to muffle the incoming sneezes.

“NTschhew! Ah’tsschhew!”

“Bless you!” Samuel said, his eyes wide. “I hope you’re not getting sick. Being sick on Christmas is the worst!”

Ariana sniffed wetly and laughed. “Come on, sneezing doesn’t necessarily means you’re sick.”

“Well, still, you better hurry up and go home. It’s freaking freezing out here.” He moved in and hugged her. “Merry Christmas! See you on New Year’s Eve!”

Ariana hugged him back, expecting to get a whiff of his habitual sharp, soapy scent.

Nothing.

She felt a tinge of panic when she realized a slight congestion had settled in, preventing her from smelling anything. Was she actually getting sick? She’d been having this annoying, dry palate feeling usually caused by dehydration... or the beginning of a cold. But she‘d figure she was just working too hard and forgetting basic human needs. Like drinking, eating and sleeping.

She waved goodbye to Samuel and headed back home. Images of the plethora of sick classmates she had interacted with during the past few days swirled in her head as she walked. All the sneezing and coughing, and all of the doorknobs she had touched. Dread was starting to worm its way in the pit of her stomach. She quickly closed her eyes and tried to imagine sandy beaches under the hot sun, fluffy kittens playing with balls of wool, a giant bowl of peanut butter and chocolate ice cream. She opened her eyes in time to avoid walking into a street lamp.

Of course she wasn’t getting sick. She was freaking out over nothing, as usual.

*****

Katherine pressed the “send” button with a huge sigh of relief. She had just finished her last essay of the semester. Yet another beast that siphoned countless hours of sleep for the past week. She stretched her arms over her head and contemplated taking a quick nap, but there was still so much to do. Like packing, she thought, noticing Ariana’s bags all ready to go next to her bed. Katherine figured she must have woken up earlier to prepare them before leaving for school. Probably to make her feel bad about being so disorganized in comparison.

Their tiny apartment was the perfect example of their differences. The studio they were renting together was only big enough to fit two single beds (more like two mattresses on the floor), a flat TV given to them by Katherine’s grandmother, a small kitchen table and a couple of dressers. Although the place wasn’t a mess per se, the only items out of place were Katherine’s. Her bed was permanently unmade. Her coffee-stained mug sunbathed on the windowsill. Her school bag was sprawled next to the door, its content spilling around a pair of worn shoes. As for Ariana’s things, they all had a place, and they all magically returned to it as soon as they were done being used.

Katherine found this contrast quite charming. Clearly, her laid back attitude was bringing life and warmth in their apartment, and Ariana was providing a sort of elegant structure that complemented it well. When she’d shared this observation with her best friend, it had been met with an eye roll and a “artsy fartsy much?” comment. But Katherine knew that deep down, Ariana loved it too.

The sound of rattling keys at the door woke Katherine from her daydream. She sprung up from her bed and ran to her luggage, then proceeded to throw a bunch of clothes in it. She slowed down to a “natural” speed when the door finally opened.

“Oh, hey Ari!” she shrieked. “Just finishing up here!”

Smooth, she thought, dumping another shirt on top of the pile of random clothes in her luggage. She was hoping she’d end up with whatever she really needed.

“That’s an interesting way of packing,” Ariana said while shedding her coat. “Are you sure that’s not your dirty laundry pile?”

Katherine scoffed and turned around to retort, but stopped when she noticed Ariana was fighting off a sneeze. The poor girl’s eyes were half-closed and her hand was hovering near her nose, her mouth agape. She seemed stuck in that position forever until she finally bent forward.

“Eh’tschheeew!”

“Bless you! That’s karma for making fun of me.”

“Karma’s getting pretty original with her punishments,” mumbled Ariana. A preoccupied look washed over her face for a split second. Katherine noticed it, of course.

“What’s wrong? Did you not do well on your test?”

“Oh... No... I did pretty well, I think.” She walked to the sink and poured herself a glass of water, looking out the patio window. “I’m just worried about the storm. Have you seen the clouds?”

Katherine got up and joined her in front of the window. The horizon was a scary blueish gray. The wind rocked the bare trees side to side, kicking up snow flurries from a previous storm.

“Don’t worry about it, I just checked weather.com and they still say it’ll start tomorrow night. Let me finish my luggage and we can go.” She looked at Ariana, who was taking big gulps of water as if she hadn’t had anything to drink for days. “Did you want to grab a bite on the way or... maybe stop by a lake to quench your infinite thirst?”

Ariana smiled at her and put her empty glass down. “I think I’m good now.”

Katherine folded her arms and cocked her head, observing her. They had been friends since the beginning of high school, when clumsy Katherine had slipped down a few stairs on her way to class and Ariana had asked if she needed “a hand, or maybe a new butt”. For some reason, it had made Katherine laugh so hard that she’d forgotten how humiliating the whole thing had been. They’d been inseparable ever since. Katherine knew Ariana like the palm of her hand, and she could tell something was bothering her. But she couldn’t quite place it. She also knew that if she prodded too much, Ariana would get annoyed and shut her out.

“Oh, did I tell you my cousin Jake would be at my parents’ house for the holidays?” Katherine suddenly remembered. “You should come by when you get a chance.”

Ariana sighed. “Kay...”

“What! He’s handsome and really funny! You guys would totally hit it off.”

“For the millionth time, I’m not looking for anything at the moment. And isn’t your cousin Jake married?!”

Katherine shrugged. “He’s got a fiancée, but that can be broken off... She’s awful anyway, and he’s too young to get married.”

“You are the worst cousin in the world,” Ariana replied, moving to her bed while rubbing her nose. “Now get to packing.”

“Alright, alright!” mumbled Katherine, going back to her messy luggage.

“And don’t forget to pack an iron,” Ariana said with a smirk.

******

Ariana was sitting in a booth at a diner they’d found near the highway. After driving for about two hours, Katherine’s whiny “hangry” attitude had reached an unbearable peak for both of them. The sun had set and they needed a break. They’d been lucky to find such a charming piece of Americana in the middle of nowhere.

The customary red and white decor from this 50’s throwback restaurant was quite seasonally appropriate, and Ariana found herself hypnotized by the glowing neon lights. She was sipping a hot coffee, her eyes following the glitchy movements of a pin-up waitress made out of neon tubes, bending forward, and backward, and forward...

Suddenly, she realized Katherine’s chatter had stopped. She was looking at her with concern, her half-eaten burger resting on a plate in front of her. Ariana attempted a smile, frantically trying to play back the last few seconds in her head. But she hadn’t been listening at all.

“Humm... What?” she muttered, blushing.

“Were you not listening again? ARI!” scolded Katherine. Her eyes softened quickly as she put her hand on her friend’s wrist. “I asked if you’re sure you don’t want anything to eat.”

Ariana shook her head, immediately regretting it. A headache had been growing behind her eyes, and her throat was now sore. She didn’t need her incoming biology diploma to figure out that she was getting sick, but it did help to know exactly what was happening in her body. Considering she was well on her way to misery town, it wasn’t a big consolation, but it did calm her. As if she had more control over it somehow. Knowing is half the battle, they say. The rest of the battle was hiding it from Katherine. She’d been so excited about this road trip, and Ariana didn’t want to ruin it for her.

“Oh, I’m good, I had a huge breakfast this morning,” she said. It was just a tiny white lie... Or at least that’s what she told herself. She hated lying to Katherine. “Maybe I’ll take something to go for the road though,” she added, getting up. She figured it would put Katherine’s mind to rest.

She approached the counter, waiting for the waitress to be done with a customer a few seats down. An older gentleman sitting to her right looked up from his plate of scrambled eggs and bacon as she flopped on a stool. She smiled and nodded at him, then looked away to avoid getting entangled in a conversation.

They sat in silence for a few seconds. The waitress giggled at something her customer said, then noted something on her pad, obviously not in a hurry to get to Ariana.

“Mighty storm rolling in.”

Ariana jumped at the sound of her neighbor’s sudden comment. His voice was low and grave, almost threateningly so.

Ariana’s blood ran cold. This was how horror movies started. Some weird old dude in a diner, in the middle of nowhere, being all foreshadowing. She glanced back at Katherine, who was looking at her cellphone, the rest of her burger in her other hand. At least they still had cell reception.

“Where ya heading?” the man asked, his eyes fixed on his plate. He was gathering a bite of eggs with his fork, piercing each poor little piece one by one. Ariana could almost hear them scream.

“W... We’re going north,” she stammered, not even knowing why she was answering. What next? Was she going to tell him her full address and social security number, too? Maybe offer to carry a tracker to make sure he could find them in whatever dank forest they’d end up lost in?

She was about to give him false information to cover her tracks, but her nose decided otherwise. All of a sudden, she was consumed by a tickle so sharp and fierce that she barely had time to inhale and turn to the other side to avoid spraying her future murderer.

“Eh’NTSCHEW! Heh... Ehtschhh!”

She turned back around, half-expecting the old man to be staring at her with a maniacal smile, targeting her weakened state and making future plans to use it to his advantage. But instead, the first thing she saw was his hand outstretched, offering a napkin.

“Bless you”, he said so gently that Ariana wondered if it was really the same person.

A little shocked at this turn of event, she mumbled a thank you and took the napkin, lightly wiping her nose with it. Although he still looked quite grumpy, his features were soft, and his eyes seemed kind. She scolded herself for always misjudging people.

“If you’re going north, you shouldn’t linger too much,” he said, looking straight at her. “This shit’s gonna hit the fan soon.”

Ariana laughed. What a weird mix of personality, she thought. Minutes ago, she was convinced he was going to tail them, capture them and make bear-style rugs out of their skin. And now all she wanted was to spend the evening chatting with him, wondering what sort of crazy stories he could tell.

“And you should do something about that cold of yours,” he added, going back to his plate for more bacon.

“That obvious huh?”

“Nah,” he replied, chewing. “I just guessed and you confirmed it.”

Ariana laughed. “Well done, sir. Well done.”

He gave her a smirk and turned to the waitress, who was still flirting with her customer. “Hey Lana! Why don’t you get this lady a bowl of soup to go. It’s on me.”

“Oh no, you don’t have to –“

“I know I don’t have to, but I want to,” he interrupted her. “I gotta go, but Lana’ll take care of it.”

Touched by such a sweet gesture, Ariana didn’t know what to say or do. She thanked him awkwardly as he got up, fished a few bills out of his pocket and threw them on the counter.

“Take care, will ya?”

Ariana nodded and watched him leave the restaurant. Behind her, Lana was pouring soup into a Styrofoam bowl.

“He looks like a big meanie, but he’s the nicest guy in town,” she said, as if she could tell Ariana was still trying to grasp what had happened. She handed her the soup with a wink and went back to her customer.

When Ariana returned to the booth, Katherine looked up from her phone, her eyebrows furrowed. She glanced at the bowl.

“You got soup? Kind of a weird choice for a road trip.”

“They were all out of jerky and whatever else is ‘road trip worthy’ in your world.”

“Oooh now I want jerky!” Katherine whined. “But we don’t have time. We need to go right now. I’ve been checking the weather alerts and the storm is coming faster than expected.”

When they stepped outside, Ariana looked up. The sun had abandoned them; it was now dark outside. The ominous clouds that had been following them since they’d left home were now impossible to see. But she knew they were still there. There were no stars, no moon. The only thing illuminating their path was the yellow-ish flood light in the parking lot.

She shivered. “How much lon... longer do... heh...”

The tickle was back, teasing deep in her sinuses. She trailed behind Katherine, trying to coax it out. Her eyes watered and her breath hitched torturously.

Katherine turned around. “How much what?” When she noticed Ariana’s face, she giggled. “Got a sneeze stuck?”

Ariana nodded, still frozen in a pre-sneeze expression, knowing full well how ridiculous she looked.

“Let me help,” Katherine said as she walked back to her. She leaned in towards Ariana’s face and blew forcefully towards her nose, as if blowing out a candle. The sudden rush of air sent Ariana over the edge, and she finally took a last deep breath before bending forward.

“AAH’ETSHEEEEW!”

She straightened up, trying to balance the bowl of soup in her hand. But she wasn’t done.

“Oh god... ah... again...heh... Ehh’NTSCHEW!”

She took yet another sharp breath, the tickle so powerful that the right corner of her upper lip shot up, wrinkling half of her nose. “Hah... AH’tschhh! Eh’TSCHEW!”

“Jebus, Ari. Bless you!” Katherine started laughing. “Sorry, I just wanted to help!”

Ariana sniffed wetly and smiled. “Well, it worked alright! And now I feel better.”

Which was a half-truth. Although the tickle was gone, her headache was worse, and her nose was stuffed up, making her sound congested. She hadn’t packed any cold medicine or tissues, too busy trying to convince herself that she wasn’t sick. Katherine would certainly catch on that she had caught a rotten cold. If she hadn’t already.

“How much longer do we have ‘til we get there?” asked Ariana.

“Another 3 hours I think. We better get going before it starts to snow.”

As if on cue, Ariana noticed a snowflake fall slowly through the air, almost teasingly so. Then another. And another.

“Hum... Kay...”

Soon, a flurry of big, round snowflakes were twirling in the wind, twinkling against the darkness, dampening all sounds around them but the rustling of the wind.

“Shit.”

Link to comment

Right, hi Azu, so this is perfect. I wish you could see me grinning right now.

I think it's important for everyone else reading to know my original prompt: "A young woman comes down with a cold and her female roommate/friend eagerly offers to take care of her. Not romantic, just friend-love." Very simple outline, and Azuralis has painted a rainbow between the lines. Such rich character development for part one of a fetish story, and so plot-driven - it's like you know just how I like my sneezefics. tonguesmiley.gif I didn't know who I was getting for this Secret Santa but I never expected my gift to be this good! Now I have to quote my favorite lines to cap this review off.

“Bless you! That’s karma for making fun of me.”

“Karma’s getting pretty original with her punishments,” mumbled Ariana.

Best post-sneeze exchange in the history of the sneeze fetish forum organization bar none.

“Let me help,” Katherine said as she walked back to her. She leaned in towards Ariana’s face and blew forcefully towards her nose, as if blowing out a candle. The sudden rush of air sent Ariana over the edge, and she finally took a last deep breath before bending forward.

Cute as hell??? Wtf? Love it to pieces.

Ariana pointed towards the sky. “Plans changed. Haven’t you heard of Snowpocalypse 2014?”

Non-fetish thing really quick - I just love this because every major weather event we've had since Katrina has become this big to-do in the media where we have to name it and give 100% of our coverage to it and I think "Snowpocalypse 2014" lampoons that perfectly and you would have had no idea I'd love that so much lmfao.gif

I eagerly await the rest of my present and I thank you from the bottom of my heart, Azu. smile.png

Link to comment

Great story - I especially liked the powerful sneezes at the end while trying to balance a bowl of soup. Looking forwards to reading some more - your Christmas has come early eh zneeze...? :lol:

Link to comment

I don't normally read female fics but this is so well written and the character development is astounding!! And it's funny too (funny is really hard!)I'll be following this to the end, and if you ever get an urge to write a male fic, consider me smitten!

Link to comment

Thank you so much for the compliments guys! :D

Z, I'm beyond happy that you like it! I loved seeing which parts you liked best, thank you for sharing! :heart:

I have 3 more parts coming, so you'll get one today (right now), one tomorrow, and the conclusion on Christmas Day.

OK less rambling, more posting.

-------------------------------------------------------

Katherine cursed under her breath as she hunched forward in an effort to see where she was going. The wipers were going at full speed, but it didn’t do much to free her vision from the relentless blizzard. Her beams were pretty much useless. The sheets of snow pouring from the sky reflected the light, blinding Katherine even more. Thankfully, she could still see faint red blotches somewhere in front of her, which she hoped were taillights from other cars in the same situation as herself; a sign that she was in the right lane. Or if she wasn’t, then at least she wouldn’t be the first to get hit by oncoming traffic.

She looked over the passenger seat for a split second. Ariana was still sleeping, snoring softly from congestion. Katherine had known for sure that she had caught a cold when she came back with that soup she didn’t even end up eating. Ariana never ate soup. “I don’t want to DRINK my food, I want to EAT it,” she’d whine whenever presented with a bowl of it.

Katherine had insisted on driving the rest of the way. None of them had mentioned the illness; Katherine because she wanted to respect Ariana’s decision not to tell her, and as for Ariana, Katherine had no clue. She suspected Ariana didn’t want to ruin their trip. Clearly, it was already ruined.

She tried to focus on the road. Her hands gripped the wheel so tightly that her knuckles were cramping up. She was pretty sure they were lost, and her stress level was dangerously high. Tears started welling up in her eyes.

Ariana had been asleep for about an hour. And for an hour, Katherine had driven along the dark highway, trying to find her exit. She had a feeling she’d missed it a good 45 minutes ago. She was losing her sense of time, space, direction... and her mind.

She took a deep breath through her narrowed throat and wiped away a tear that escaped. She was stronger than that! She’d simply take the next exit, find a place to sit down, maybe have a cup of coffee – or tea for Ariana – and check her phone for directions.

“Eh’tscheww!”

Katherine shrieked in surprise and almost hit her head on the rooftop.

“Oh my god Ari, bless you,” she said, laughing at herself.

Ariana looked around groggily, rubbing at her nose. “Where are we?”

“Frankly my dear, I have no idea.”

“What? Why didn’t you wake me up?” Ariana sat up and tried to look for road signs. “How long have I been out?”

“As long as you needed to be out! You were so tired.” She glanced at her. “Maybe you need a bit more.”

Ariana sniffed and shook her head. “No I’m fine. We need to find our way.” She looked out the window again. “I can’t see shit out there. How are you still driving?”

“The blind leading the blind,” she answered, pointing at the red taillights in front of her. “I’m looking for the next exit. I need a break.”

They drove for another minute or two without speaking. The swooshing sound of the snow hitting the glass and the steady beat of the windshield wipers filled the car.

“Oh, here’s an exit!”called Ariana. “Careful though, it doesn’t look like the snowplow went through here.”

Katherine maneuvered slowly through the exit ramp, following a dark road almost blindly until she finally came to a street light. She stopped and looked around.

“Do you see any kind of light anywhere? Restaurant, gas station... Lighthouse?”

Ariana shook her head. “Just keep going straight, maybe we’ll find something.”

“I can’t even tell if there’s still a street straight ahead,” mumbled Katherine. “This is crazy.”

They drove a few more feet, looking around for signs of life. Finally, what seemed to be a large parking lot with street lamps appeared on their left. Although it was covered in snow, there were a few cars parked around the lot. One of them was relatively free of accumulated snow. Maybe stranded drivers just like them that took refuge in this oasis of light?

Katherine drove around until she was close enough to the brick building entrance to see what it was. She gasped.

“A Target! Awesome!”

But as they approached, her heart sank. Most of the lights inside were turned off, save for a few dim ones. She looked at the time on the dashboard.

“11pm! How...” She had been so concentrated on not dying that she hadn’t noticed how much time had passed. She stopped the car in front of the entrance and rested her forehead on the wheel. “It must be closed.”

“It’s alright Kay, we’ll find another one.”

Katherine lifted her head to look at her. “EVERYTHING is closed at this time,” she cried. Tears started streaming down her face, all of the accumulated stress releasing at once. To her dismay, she started sobbing and shaking, unable to control herself.

Ariana quickly unbuckled her seatbelt and leaned in to hug her. She stroked her back, making soothing noises. “I’m so sorry Kay, I didn’t know you were so distraught.”

“It’s not your fault, I’m just tired I think,” Katherine hiccupped.

Suddenly, she felt Ariana’s chest heave against hers. Thinking she was crying too, Katherine was about to console her, but Ariana broke out of their embrace and quickly turned to her right, muffling a set of sneezes in her sleeve.

“EEH’TMPHHH! Heh... EH’TSCHH! AH’TMMPHH”

“Oh Ari... Bless you.” Katherine looked around for a napkin to offer her, but she didn’t have any. She wasn’t exactly the kind of person who carried useful stuff in her car. It was mostly filled with empty cans of 7UP, packs of gum, a few dirty shirts, random jewelry strewn about, and a lot of dust. Which was probably not helping with Ariana’s sinus problems. She sighed, frustrated at their predicament.

She looked at the Target entrance again. “Maybe they’re just running on a generator because of a power outage. Maybe they’re actually opened.”

Before she even finished her sentence, she was already out of the car, ignoring Ariana yelling for her to wait. Shivering, she crossed her arms over her chest. She had removed her coat and put it on the back seat while driving. She’d turn on the heat for Ariana, but it was way too hot for her.

She pushed forward, walking faster, until she finally reached the safety of the entrance alcove. Standing in front of the automatic door, she looked up to locate the motion detector and jumped up and down, hoping to trigger it. She heard a chuckle behind her.

“Kay, it’s closed,” Ariana said, walking up to the door. She pointed at the hours of operation notice. “Look, 9am to 9pm.”

“Ari, you should go back in the car, it’s too cold!”

“You’re one to talk, you’re not even wearing a coat!”

“Yeah, but I’m not...” She bit her lip, not wanting to finish her sentence.

“Not wh—“ Ariana started, but she was overcame by another fierce sneeze. “ET’SCHEWW!”

“Bless you,” Katherine said, looking at her worriedly. “Ari, are you sure you’re feeling OK?”

“I’m fine, it’s just—Heh... eh... EH’NTSHEW!” Ariana sniffed and rubbed her nose with the palm of her hand.

“You’re sick, sweetie.” Katherine said softly, knowing full-well her “mommy-side”, as Ariana called it, had been activated. Worry spread through her chest as she tried to assess just how sick her friend was. Probably just a cold, but she needed to be out of the freezing wind and into a place where she could rest comfortably. The middle of a blizzard was the exact opposite of that.

She looked around, her teeth chattering, trying to figure out their next step.

“I’m fine Kay. Promise.” Ariana winced at the sound of her own congested voice.

“Come on, let’s get back in the car and find a place to go.” She started walking back, but Ariana stopped her.

“Kay, it’s not safe to drive and you know it.”

Katherine turned around, ready to scold her and tell her to haul her ass in the car right know, but movement inside the store caught her attention. She rushed to the door and put her face against the glass, shielding her view from the overhead light.

And then she saw him.

An employee, some guy about their age, maybe younger, was filling up the aisle near the registers.

“Oh my god, there’s someone in there.”

She started banging on the door with her fists.

“Kay, careful, you’re going to break it! Or scare the shit out of that guy.”

“Don’t care. Too cold,” she replied, then started yelling, “OPEN UP PLEASE, WE’RE GONNA FREEZE TO DEATH.”

The guy finally turned around, his eyes wide and confused.

“HELP US! OPEN UP! WE’RE DYING!”

“A little dramatic don’t you think?” scoffed Ariana.

Katherine turned to her briefly, still banging on the door, “Technically we’re all slowly dying.”

The employee approached the door with his eyebrows furrowed, as if he was debating calling the cops or running away. Katherine stopped banging and exaggerated her “I’m cold” motions, shivering violently and rubbing her arms to make him understand that she was in danger of dying from hypothermia... or something. He finally quickened his pace and unlocked the door with his key.

“Oh my god, thank you so much! You’re my hero!” she said, grabbing him into a hug and jumping up and down. Once she let him go, he stood there, shell-shocked. “I promise we’re not going to touch anything, we just need a warm place to regroup until the snow stops.”

“Umm...” he finally said, smoothing out his Target shirt. “Yeah I guess you guys can stay.”

Katherine beamed at him and extended her hand. “I’m Katherine by the way. This is Ariana.”

The employee shook her hand, offering a timid “I’m Nicholas”. Katherine turned to Ariana, half-whispering “he’s cute, isn’t he?”, her hand over one side of her mouth as if it could magically prevent the sound from reaching their new friend’s ears.

Everyone blushed. Except for Katherine.

*****

Ariana looked around the small employee break room where Nicholas had parked them before going back to the store. He’d said something about being the only one here because of the storm, and how he had a lot to do before the morning. Ariana hadn’t paid much attention to him, battling with a deep tickle in her sinuses that wouldn’t quit. She’d been on the verge of sneezing for the past fifteen minutes and it was driving her crazy.

The room was quite sad. A few scratched-up lockers, a cheap table, an old couch and no windows. Everything just seemed... gray. Even the red and green poster about the company’s Christmas party looked washed out and depressing. The room was a soul-sucking, energy-neutralizing black hole, and Ariana empathized with poor Nicholas who had to spend his breaks here. She hoped he elected to go outside instead. Even taking a walk in this blizzard was a better option.

She sniffed, feeling the tickle grow again, only to subside after a few seconds. Her eyelids were heavy, her head was pounding and her throat was dry. She felt so tired, and yet she knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep. Especially not in this shrine of corporate desperation.

“How are you feeling?” asked Katherine, sitting next to her at the table.

She looked just as uncomfortable as Ariana, which was quite rare. Katherine was the kind of girl who could make any space her own in a matter of seconds, as if she’d always lived there. It was part of her big, confident personality. But now, she looked lost and small, which made Ariana’s heart sink.

“I’m alright,” she lied, trying a smile.

“You’ve always been a terrible liar, Ari.” Katherine got up and started rummaging through the lockers, opening the cupboards above the small sink and counter space. “They have some tea bags, but no kettle. And no honey. Or tissues.” She frowned. “This place is the worst.”

Ariana scoffed. “THAT’S why you think it’s the worst?”

“Well, no, it’s also the most depressing place on earth.” She turned to Ariana. “We gotta get out of here.”

“And go where? I’m still not letting you drive, Kay.”

“No, I know, but we’re in a TARGET store, for frack’s sake. It has everything you would ever need to fill an entire house.” She walked back to Ariana, looking a lot more animated and excited. “Let’s just spend the night here. Find some bedding and stuff, make a small nest somewhere.”

She stopped, looking down with her arms crossed. Ariana had seen this face so many times before. She was furiously thinking of some creative solution. Suddenly, her eyes lit up. “I bet you Nicholas doesn’t have to fill up the clothing department. Let’s go hide in there!”

“What makes you think that?”

Katherine gave her a scolding look. “Don’t you remember I worked at a Walmart in high school?”

“Yeah, for like three days before you stopped showing up.” Ariana sniffed, feeling a sneeze teasing her again. She tried to look up at the light, her eyes half-closed.

“Hey, it was an entire week, and I’ve learned a lot.”

“Like h-how to get fired aan... and... eh...” Ariana closed her eyes, her head snapping backward as she took in a breath. She launched forward in a set of itchy sneezes.

“EHT’SHEEEW! Ah... Ah’NTSCHEEWW! Crap... eh... iiiT’SHEWW!”

She groaned and sniffed to prevent her nose from dripping, then laid her head over her arms on the table.

“Sweetie, come on, we need to find you a better place to rest. You really don’t sound good.” Katherine kneeled down in front of Ariana and stroked her hair. “Trust me, it’ll be better than this,” she added, motioning towards the four gray walls.

“Won’t be hard to beat.”

The two girls walked down to the main floor, where Katherine would act as recon. Her mission? Locating Nicholas and finding the way to the women’s clothing section.

“Wait here,” Katherine whispered before sneaking clumsily to the next aisle like a noob spy.

“You’re enjoying this way too much,” mumbled Ariana, smiling to herself.

Katherine came back quickly, pointing towards their left frantically. From the exaggerated motions she was making, Ariana understood that Nicholas was a few aisles over on that side, and they needed to move north to their destination. Or whatever cardinal direction Katherine was pointing towards like a maniac.

Ariana nodded and started to follow her friend, but she immediately felt a sneeze incoming. Panicking, she pulled on Katherine’s shirt and pointed at her nose, her mouth half-opened, her nostrils flaring. Katherine’s eyes grew wide as she looked around for a solution. They were in the pen and paper section, which meant there was nothing to muffle the sound with. As Ariana’s head drew back, Katherine launched forward and hugged her so as to force her to bury her nose in her shoulder when she sneezed.

“EH’KNXXT... EH’KNXXTT!”

Katherine felt Ariana’s body rock against hers with each powerful stifled sneeze. She held on a bit longer, probably thinking there would be a third. But Ariana gently pushed away from the embrace, her face a deep red of embarrassment.

“I was gonna use my coat sleeve,” she whispered, mortified.

Katherine rolled her eyes up, as if to say “why didn’t I think of this” before biting her lip, on the verge of bursting in laughter. Ariana stifled a giggle too, and they both rushed forward, terrified that they would lose it and start laughing out loud right then and there.

Once they were far enough away that they could speak freely, Ariana turned to Katherine. “I’m so sorry I sneezed on you.”

“I’m so sorry I forced you to sneeze on me,” Katherine replied, laughing. “This day keeps getting weirder.”

Walking in an empty, half-lit Target was an eerie experience. Ariana felt like she was dreaming, no doubt exacerbated by her fatigue and the cotton-headed weirdness that accompanied her cold. It was like they were ghosts roaming in a different plane of life, parallel to the living world. She imagined all the customers walking around the aisles, picking up throw pillows and bathroom rugs, weaving their carts around the frenzy of Christmas shoppers. She could almost hear them and feel them as she let her vivid imagination take over.

Katherine broke the spell by pulling on her hand.

“Right there should be fine,” she said, pointing towards the corner section of the women’s clothing department. It was filled with winter coats, and a huge rack in the center offered the perfect cover behind which to hide. “Stay here, I’m gonna gather a bunch of stuff and I’ll be right there.”

Ariana watched her bolt away until she was out of view, then grabbed a thick down jacket from a hanger. She bunched it up and lied down on the floor, placing her head on the makeshift pillow. She sighed, feeling both relieved to be out of that break room and worried about spending the night in a huge store in the middle of nowhere.

She thought about her parents, wishing she’d be with them right now, in her old comfy bedroom. Thankfully, Katherine and Ariana had decided to surprise their respective family by not telling them they would be coming earlier than planned. Knowing that no one was worrying about them was a small consolation, but it was still one less thing to think about.

She closed her eyes, her mind swirling around briefly before she fell into a deep sleep.

*****

Katherine was pushing one of the massive Target carts through the pharmacy aisle. She had sneaked one out from the entrance, knowing Nicholas was at the other end of the store. Feeling on edge, she did her best to keep the noise level down, even if that meant going as slow as an old lady doing her Saturday morning shopping. Those cheap wheels always caused a ruckus at high speeds.

She reached the cold medicine shelf and searched for the Dayquil and Nyquil pill form, knowing full well Ariana wouldn’t touch the syrup kind. She grabbed a mixed pack that contained both the blue and orange pills, a packet of cherry-flavored throat lozenges and headed for the tissue aisle right around the corner.

She’d already gathered a few camping essentials such an inflatable mattress, pillows, some thick and fuzzy oversize blankets, and even an adorable stuffed sheep to cheer Ariana up. She felt bad taking all these items knowing they’d use them before paying, but she reminded herself that she was going to keep all the boxes and tags of whatever she wouldn’t or couldn’t return to the shelves and bring them up to the register as soon as the store opened.

She threw a few boxes of tissues in the cart and headed for the grocery department in search of food. She perused the cans of soup, the frozen meal options and the ice cream freezer, wondering what Ariana would agree to eat.

Looking at all this food made her stomach gurgle. They hadn’t had anything to eat since their early dinner at the restaurant, and she was starving. She grabbed a loaf of bread, some deli meat, cheese, and a Coke. As she passed by the boxes of instant oatmeal, she suddenly stopped, realizing she’d found the Holy Grail of food for Ariana.

She smiled as memories of the time they’d both gotten the flu in high school flooded her mind. Ariana had caught the illness from Katherine, caring for her while her mom was away during the day, skipping classes to make sure Katherine would be OK. In turn, Katherine had wanted to do the same for Ariana, but had still been too weak to do much except mope around with her best friend, watching TV and feeling sorry enough for both of them. Ariana had of course lost her appetite, like she always did when she was sick. Katherine had tried to list every kind of food imaginable to figure what didn’t sound gross to her at the moment.

“What about a grilled cheese, all toasty and warm and cheesy-gooey inside?”

“Eww, no.”

“What about a nice bowl of cold cereal?”

“Too rough, the cereals will hurt me,” she had said, her hand over her throat as if just thinking about it was painful.

“Maybe a piece of toast with honey on it?”

“Too sweet. Ugh.”

“Man, you’re so difficult... We have to get you to eat something. How are you ever going to get better?”

Ariana had shrugged, her cheeks rosy with fever, buried underneath her heavy down comforter. “Love?” she’d offered timidly. Only the flu could turn this sarcastic, hard-headed woman into a sweet, vulnerable little girl.

Katherine had jumped on the bed next to her, hugging her tight over the covers. “Awwww you know I love you bae! I LOVE YOU SOOOOO MUCH!”

“Too much,” had gasped Ariana, laughing before launching into a coughing fit.

Katherine had released her embrace, helping her friend sit up and stroking her back until the coughing stopped. “Sorry I got you sick, Ari.”

“Not your fault, I would have caught it eventually.”

After a small silence, Katherine had gotten out of bed, her stomach growling. “Well, I know you’re not hungry, but I’m starving. Do you have any oatmeal?”

Ariana’s eyes had widened. “Oatmeal! That actually sounds... good.”

“Oh my god. We got a winner!”

Shaking her head, Katherine blinked back to reality and grabbed a box of instant oatmeal. But how was she going to prepare it?

“What are you doing?!” boomed a voice behind her.

------------

SEE! CLIFFHANGER! I wasn't lying.

: evil :

Link to comment

AHHH SO GOOD! this is like reading an adventure story! I love all these little details you've included about the girls' personalities. And the flu flashback was really cute!!

Link to comment
“Love?” she’d offered timidly. Only the flu could turn this sarcastic, hard-headed woman into a sweet, vulnerable little girl.

Katherine had jumped on the bed next to her, hugging her tight over the covers. “Awwww you know I love you bae! I LOVE YOU SOOOOO MUCH!”

This is the cutest thing I've ever seen, I'm dying.

Link to comment

You know, I think this might just be the perfect story. Interesting characters, a cute little story, and more to it than just sneezing for the sake of it being a fetish story. Honestly, I'm so invested. I wish I could write this sort of thing. You have a nice little adventure going here; it's not about the fate of the world or anything super intense or epic, but it's still just so darn engrossing. And you have just the right amount of humor and cuteness injected in between. Seriously, the moment Garnet quoted is simply amazing.

I can't wait to see what happens next, so I'm really glad you're going to update every day! Maybe this is intended specifically for zneeze, but it's truly a gift to us all.

Link to comment

Thank you guys! biggrin.png And meepsy, I'm keeping in mind your request for a male fic. I don't normally do those, but I'd like to try my hand at it one day heh.gif

I wish I could write this sort of thing. You have a nice little adventure going here; it's not about the fate of the world or anything super intense or epic, but it's still just so darn engrossing. And you have just the right amount of humor and cuteness injected in between.

First, heart.gif Blah! Second, wat? heh.gif You are the king of fic adventures that are both funny and plot-driven! You definitely have nothing to be "envious" about; you already got it, AND your writing flows a lot better too smile.png Thank you for the awesomely nice comments, you guys make my day wub.png

And now, here's part 3!

---------------------------

“What are you doing?!” boomed a voice behind her.

Katherine shrieked and dropped the box. She turned around, her heart pounding in her ears. Nicholas was standing in front of her, pushing a pallet of large boxes marked with food brands. He looked both scared and angry, his face red, his lips forming a thin straight line.

“Nicholas, I promise I’m not stealing, I just...”

He sighed, rubbing his eyes with his thumb and index. “This was a bad idea, and I’m going to be in so much trouble.”

Katherine moved closer to him and touched his arms, wanting to convince him of her good nature. He flinched, and she retreated like she’d burned her fingers on his skin.

“We’re not bad people. I promise I’ll buy everything I use,” she pleaded.

He wasn’t even looking at her, probably wondering if he should call the cops or just kick them out right now. She felt her throat narrow as panic took over.

“We drove all day and we’re so hungry, and then this snow is just... it won’t stop and it’s freezing and...” She interrupted her rambling, trying to collect her thoughts and think of a plan B. Maybe they could sleep in the car. If they huddled, it might be warm enough.

“We just couldn’t stay in that horrible break room,” she mumbled, dejected.

After a few seconds of silence, Nicholas chuckled. “It’s pretty bad, isn’t it?”

She smiled back, hopeful. “Seriously, is it a torture room?”

“We call it the Dungeon, so yeah, pretty much.” He looked down at his shoes, reverting to the shy employee they had first met.

There was another moment of silence as they both stared at the ground, not knowing what to do.

Katherine pulled on her sweater and cleared her throat. “It’s just that... Ariana is sick, and I want her to be comfortable.”

Nicholas immediately looked up, worried. “Is she OK? Should we call someone?”

Katherine smiled at how adorably caring he was, which was probably the reason he’d let them in to begin with. She felt bad that she was causing him so much stress. “No, no, she just has a cold.”

“Man, that sucks.” He assessed her cart. “Did you get some medicine from the pharmacy department?”

She nodded, speechless at his about-face.

“Well, if you need to get her some tea, you could use the Starbucks counter,” he said, pointing towards the entrance. “They have all sorts of stuff and a hot water tap.”

Katherine’s eyes filled with tears, and she jumped forward to hug him again. “Thank you thank you thank you thank you,” she whispered, trying not to cry like a baby. Nicholas just stood there, uncomfortable. She stepped back, apologizing. “It’s just been a really rough day, and it’s nice to see there are still good people in this world.”

He blushed. “I bet you’d do the same.” He rubbed the back of his head, averting her gaze. “Now go take care of her. I still have a lot to finish here.”

Katherine nodded and pulled the cart away towards the Starbucks.

“Katherine,” he called when she was a few feet away.

She turned around.

“Is it OK if I get myself a mattress and camp with you tonight when I’m done?”

He pointed towards the entrance windows. The snowmaggedon was relentless, and their cars were now buried in snow. “I’m not sure I can make it home at the end of my shift, and it’s kind of eerie alone in here.”

“Of course you can!” she said, smiling from ear to ear.

********

“ET’sschew!”

Ariana stirred in her sleep, wriggling her nose. Still asleep, she rubbed at it with the palm of her hand and sniffed. Her nostrils flared again, the bridge of her nose wrinkling as she inhaled quickly.

“Ah’ETschew!”

This time, the sneeze was enough to wake her up, even though she usually slept like a rock. She opened her eyes and looked around, confused for a second as to where she was. She was cold and uncomfortable. All she could see were metal poles surrounding her, and then she remembered she was lying on the floor at Target, hidden behind a clothing rack. She sat up, holding her pounding head. She felt worse than before her nap.

“Oh good, you’re awake!” said Katherine hovering over her. “How are you feeling sweetie?”

“Um... not great but not too bad either.”

“I’ve figured out a way to make you feel a bit better,” Katherine said, her eyes twinkling. “Come on, get in the cart!”

Ariana looked at her like she was crazy. “What?”

“Just indulge me for a sec, come on!” she said while helping Ariana into the cart. She then pulled an adorable sheep plushy from a bag hanging on her shoulder and placed it next to her. “Here’s your co-pilot!”

Ariana smiled at the gift and touched its soft fur.

“Hang on tight!” warned Katherine before pushing the cart around the clothing racks to the main path. She then sped through the aisles, making car noises and fake honks.

“Kay, stop that, Nicholas will find us!” whispered Ariana.

“Oh no, don’t worry, I’ve talked to him and he’s on board with the camping.”

Ariana couldn’t help but laugh, wondering how she’d pulled that off. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the crazy moment, knowing that racing through an empty Target with her best friend definitely fell in the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” category.

They sped around the corner, the plastic cart dangerously leaning to the right as Katherine pulled with all her weight on the left to keep it from capsizing, giggling like a school girl. Ariana let out a shriek that tore through her painful throat, but as soon as she noticed where they were heading, she forgot all aches and pains.

They were in the Christmas section. The displays around them brimmed with colorful ornaments, twinkling lights and bright wrapping paper. A few bare artificial trees were on display in the center. Two Christmas-related food aisles stood on the far right like a fountain of various green-and-red candies that reminded Ariana of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

But what caught her eyes was the area at the crossroads of those two aisles and the decoration displays. Katherine had managed to clear a large zone and had set up a queen-size inflatable mattress, complete with warm, comfy bedding and lots of pillows. Two wooden boxes served as nightstands on each side. On one of them sat a steaming mug of tea, a bowl of oatmeal, a box of tissues and medication, as well as a huge bottle of water.

Finally, a large Christmas tree towered over the makeshift camp site. It was decorated with teal, purple, and pink ornaments of all kinds. Katherine had strung so many lights on the tree that the whole area, previously dimmed by the weak overhead night shift lamps, was now brightly lit, dotted by multicolor halos.

Ariana felt her eyes prickle as they filled with tears. “Oh, Kay... This is beautiful.”

Katherine stopped the kart a few feet in front of their new “bedroom” and helped Ariana out. “I thought this would cheer you up.” She marveled at her work. “Christmas decorations just make everything warm and cozy, don’t they?”

Ariana nodded. “They make us feel like little kids again.”

She took Katherine’s hand and held it tight as they both watched in silence, hypnotized by the soft, almost invisible wavering of the lights.

But a tickle in her nose broke the moment. She pressed her fist to the underside of her nose, trying to fight the sneeze, as if refusing to let it free would somehow cure her cold. She lost the battle almost immediately.

“Ahh’ETSscheww!”

“Bless you,” said Katherine. “Come on, let’s get you ready for bed, and then you can take some medicine.”

She handed her warm pajamas with little elves and wrapped gifts on them. Ariana looked around to make sure Nicholas wasn’t in line of sight before undressing. She shivered at the change of temperature and quickly put on the flannel pants and long-sleeve shirt. She then unhooked her bra and slipped it out from her sleeve, a little trick that Katherine had taught her in high school.

“Ta-daaa!” Katherine said, unable to stop herself. She’d always say that whenever they would slip their bra out this way, like it was the best magic trick in the world or something. It never failed to make Ariana laugh.

Once she was done, Ariana slid under the cover, still shivering from the clothing change. Katherine frowned and sat down next to her on the mattress.

“Do you have a fever sweetie?” She put her hand on Ariana’s forehead, then on her cheek. “You feel really warm...”

“I think I’m just really tired from the trip and it’s making this stupid cold worse,” Ariana said, wrapping herself in the comforter.

“Here, take some NyQuil, it’ll make you feel better.” Katherine popped the green gel pills from the foil and handed them to Ariana with the bottle of water. She pointed to the bowl of oatmeal. “You should also try to eat a bit before sleeping.”

Ariana nodded and swallowed the pills. “Thank you for doing all of this Kay. It’s incredible.” She took a spoonful of oatmeal, grateful that Katherine remembered her little sickie quirk.

When she leaned on the pillows, she was surprised that they didn’t slip off the mattress. She looked behind her. “What is this? You found a headboard?”

Katherine laughed. “No, it’s just a dresser that was on display. I put it on a blanket and pulled it over here.”

“Geez, how long was I out? Three days?”

Katherine arranged the pillows on her side and lied down as well. “You were out cold, I guess you needed to sleep really badly.”

Ariana nodded, swallowing another mouthful of oatmeal. It tasted like nothing, thanks to her congested nose. “I’ve been accruing quite the sleep debt, thanks to school.”

“I’m glad I went for an art major, unlike you.”

“I would have done very poorly in arts. Even my stick figures look like they were drawn by a brainless ostrich.”

Katherine laughed. “But that’s why we complete each other. You’ll be my doctor, and I’ll be decorating your 5,000 square foot mansion with my pieces.”

“Hah! As if. I’ll have school debts for the rest of my life and—“

Ariana was interrupted by a sharp tickle gnawing in the back of her sinus. She put down the oatmeal on her nightstand and cupped both her hand over her nose.

“EH’NTSCHEWW! Heh... AH’ETSCHEW!” She kept one hand over her face and felt around with the other to find the tissues. She pulled a bunch out of the box and buried her nose in it just as she took another shaky breath. “Heh... heeh... ET’scheeew! EH’Itschuu!”

“Aww poor sweetie,” Katherine said, looking at her with concern. “Bless you.”

Ariana blew her nose, realizing that she had now passed the ‘congested-dry’ stage of her cold to the more advanced ‘nose running like a faucet’ stage. She groaned. This was the second worst part of the illness, right after the ‘coughing all night’ one that usually followed after two days of wiping her nose raw.

She threw the used tissue in a small waste basket conveniently placed near her – Katherine had thought of everything of course – then flopped back on the pillows. She closed her eyes and thought of a fireplace and a good book, a warm summer day under the willow tree, cuddling with a boy on the couch.

Not that she even had a boy to cuddle with.

As if she’d been reading her mind, Katherine asked: “What do you think of Nicholas?”

Ariana kept her eyes closed. She could feel Katherine fiddling with the stuffed sheep next to her. “What do you mean?”

“He’s kind of cute, don’t you think?”

“Kay, don’t do this again. Not now.”

Katherine didn’t make a peep. Ariana opened her eyes and looked at her, anticipating her pout.

“I’ve told you before, I don’t need a boyfriend right now. Especially not when I’m looking like this,” she pointed at her red nose.

“I just want you to live the full college experience, Ari. You’re missing out on so many make out sessions, you have no idea. Now’s the time of your life. Seize it!”

Ariana sniffed. “I’m just too busy with homework and studying.”

Katherine opened her mouth, seemed to change her mind and closed it without saying a word.

“What?” asked Ariana with a sigh.

“Nothing.”

“Come on, I know that f—face... heh...”

She dug for another tissue, fishing one out just in time to cover her nose in the soft fabric.

“EH’TSCHEEW!” She gasped a second time, readying for another sneeze. “Eh’NTSCHH!”

She blew her nose briefly and threw away the tissue as Katherine blessed her. The tickle was still there, prickling in the back of her nose.

“I know that face Kay, you want to say something b—but you... Ugh... heh...”

Her face scrunched up again, the burning sensation traveling quickly to the tip of her nose. It came so fast that she didn’t have time to get another tissue. She buried her face in the comforter instead.

“EH’KNTXXX!”

Katherine reached over her friend to grab the box of tissues and passed one to Ariana, who took it gratefully and wiped her nose.

“Bless you,” Katherine said, putting the box between them. “We probably shouldn’t be talking about this right now. You’re sick! It was stupid of me to bring it up. You need to rest.” She pulled the blanket closer to Ariana’s chin, trying to get her to lie down fully.

Ariana pushed back. “No, no, I want to hear what you have to say! Plus, I’m not sleepy yet, and there’s nothing else to do here.” She looked around the store that sold basically everything you could want. “Well, nothing that I’d rather do, I guess.”

“You’re so stubborn,” mumbled Katherine. “Fine, I just wanted to say that... I don’t think it’s the homework that’s preventing you from dating.”

“Oh?”

“Please don’t get mad, but... I think you’re afraid.”

Ariana glared at her, not saying a word.

“You never have time for boys, but you always have time for me,” continued Katherine. “You hang out with me on Saturdays, you watch movies I rent sometimes. You do stuff with the whole gang, too.”

That was true. She could have used some of that free time to have dinner with Sam. Maybe even just lunch. Anything. But she’d always put it off. Ariana looked down at her hands, stunned. Was she afraid...? She shook her head. No way.

“That makes no sense, what would I be afraid of exactly? I’m not that type of girl.” Her tone was defensive, almost cold.

Katherine softened her voice. “Sweetie, you’re just afraid of... failing. We’ve talked about it before regarding school and your career. But it extends to your love life, too.”

She looked at Ariana, who just stared straight ahead, trying to process the information.

“I just want you to be happy Ari.” She took her hand. “Just give it a try at least. It’s ok if it doesn’t work out. It’s part of life.”

Ariana nodded, still shocked. She had never thought about it like that before. But it was true. Whenever a guy would ask her out, she’d feel anxious and uncomfortable. And of course, she always had a good reason to refuse: schoolwork at college was pretty much infinite. The only reason she’d feel better once she’d settle on studying instead of going out on a date wasn’t because she was making the right decision and being responsible. It was because she was avoiding a big stressor instead of tackling it head on and taking a risk.

She turned to Katherine, sniffling. “How long have you known this?”

Katherine shrugged. “I’ve known you have some kind of mental block since the beginning of college. In high school you had a couple of boyfriends, but nothing serious. When you just stopped dating completely after we moved, I knew something was up.”

Ariana’s eyes squinted as the bridge of her nose wrinkled. Katherine passed her the box of tissues, smiling at how adorable she was when in the throes of a sneeze.

“Eh’ntscheew!”

“Bless you.” She stroked Ariana’s back as she blew her nose. “I put two and two together about a week ago, when Sam asked me if you’d mentioned anything about him to me.”

Ariana turned around, her eyes wide, holding the tissue to her nose. “He wha... hah... Ah’NTSHEEW!”

“Bless you sweetie. He’s just confused. You’ve never said downright ‘no’, so he’s still hoping. He likes you a lot.”

Ariana blushed. Her head snapped backward as another sneeze took over.

“EH’TSCHEEW!”

“Geez, poor little sneezy head,” cooed Katherine.

“Please refrain from using that baby voice with me,” said Ariana with an embarrassed laugh.

“Fine! But one question remains.”

“What?”

“Do you like Sam?”

Ariana turned to throw away her crumpled tissue. How did she feel about Sam? He was a nice guy. Cute. Funny. Why not give it shot? She felt ripples of anxiety travel along her spine. Clearly, she’d have to work on this problem.

Before she could answer, Nicholas appeared from one of the aisle on their right, pulling a flat cart with a TV screen on it.

“Hey, you found us!” giggled Katherine, jumping up to help him.

“I followed the sneezes,” he said, blushing, before turning to Ariana. “Bless you, by the way. Sorry you’re not feeling well.”

“Thanks. Sorry we’ve taken over your store.”

He laughed. “That’s alright.” He pointed to the TV. “I brought something that should make you feel better.”

He positioned the cart in front of the mattress and plugged in a Blu-Ray player. Katherine noticed a pile of movies on the side.

“Oh my god, they are all Christmas movies!” she shrieked. She rifled through some of them. “Home Alone, Elf, Jingle All the Way, Scrooged...” She turned to Nicholas and hugged him. “You’re the best!”

“N—Not a problem,” he said. “I’m just going to set up my mattress over there if you don’t mind too much.”

Ariana laughed. His face was crimson red.

“Which one do you want to watch, Ari?” asked Katherine, grinning.

“Let’s do Jingle All the Way. Seems fitting.”

Link to comment

Whenever I think you can't make this any cuter, Azu, its cuteness just increases tenfold heh.gif You have got to be kidding me with how wonderful of a story this is! Ariana and Katherine's friendship is exactly how I hoped it would be; I'm glad you brought Sam back into the picture, and in an engaging way; and you're terrific at writing sneezes, both in spelling them and in the all-encompassing moments. And Katherine's responses.

“Aww poor sweetie,” Katherine said, looking at her with concern. “Bless you.”

“Bless you.” She stroked Ariana’s back as she blew her nose.

“Geez, poor little sneezy head,” cooed Katherine.

Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me!!! laughing.gif Finally, you wouldn't have known just how much I love "hard-working, busy with studying" types who catch colds. Ariana is everything I want from a sneezefic character, and I love how you've made her personality integral in the Sam plot, too. You're simply a terrific writer, Azu. smile.png

Oh, and one more thing:

“I’ve told you before, I don’t need a boyfriend right now. Especially not when I’m looking like this,” she pointed at her red nose.

I wept. I might still be weeping :laugh:

Link to comment

Wow, oh wow this is so engaging. Ariana and Katherine are such complex characters! I feel like i know them both. Nicholas is adorable -- I like that he's officially joined the party. And Katherine's analysis at the end is cute and interesting... I wonder if that's really the reason Ari is avoiding boys all the time???

As for a male fic, you can write whatever the heck you want. All though I would personally die if you wrote a male fic with this level of detail and characterization, I know the pressures of trying to write something you're not really that into, so no pressure! You are an awesome writer regardless :D Merry Christmas!!!

Link to comment

Aww you guys are so nice, thank you!! :blush:

And I'm glad I'm hitting a lot of your particular likes, Z! This is all thanks to Mint's amazing work; she totally knew we had the same preferences :lol: Best Secret Santa's matcher ever!

Here's the last part! It's shorter and probably not as exciting, but it had to end at some point :( Hope you'll enjoy the conclusion all the same!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

-------------------------------------

Katherine watched over Ariana as she slept, her face bathing in the soft glow of the Christmas tree, sometimes illuminated by brief flashes coming from the TV. She had fallen asleep a mere fifteen minutes after the beginning of the movie. She was out cold now.

Katherine touched the back of her hand on her friend’s forehead, checking her temperature.

“Is she OK?” whispered Nicholas.

Katherine nodded. “Yeah, she’s not as warm as before. I think the meds are kicking in.” She turned to the Target employee, who was now lying down on his own inflatable mattress next to them. “You don’t have to whisper by the way. She basically travels to another dimension when she’s asleep. Impossible to wake up.”

Nicholas laughed. “It can’t be that bad.”

“Oh yeah? Last year, she slept through the fire alarm in our apartment. I thought I would have to drag her out myself. Thankfully a glass of cold water did the trick.”

“Wow. That’s crazy.”

“She’s just stubborn, even in her sleep. But that’s what makes her so loveable.” She adjusted the comforter to cover Ariana’s shoulders and checked to make sure she had access to water and tissues.

“Are you sisters?”

“Not by blood, but honestly, she’s more important to me than my own sister.” She bit her lip. “Don’t tell my family. I mean I love my sister, but I’ve spent more time with Ariana than with my own mother.” She laughed. “OK that’s probably not true, but you know what I mean.”

Nicholas nodded. “I hope she’ll get better for Christmas at least.”

“I’ll make sure she does.”

They both turned their attention back to the movie, but were soon interrupted by Ariana.

“Heh... EH’NTSCHeew! AH’ETscheww!”

The sick girl sniffed and turned to her side, now facing Katherine. She was still sleeping deeply. Katherine watched as she wiggled her nose, then rubbed it with her knuckles. Her mouth opened slightly as her breath quivered, her nostrils flaring for what seemed like a long time, as if in slow motion. It was the most torturous buildup Katherine had ever seen. Good thing Ariana was asleep.

Finally, she took one big, shaky breath as she dug her face into her pillow, muffling a rapid fit.

“EH’MPHHH! AH’MMPHHH! MMPHHH!”

“Bless you,” Katherine said, wishing she could do something to make her feel better right away. “Why hasn’t anyone invented a vaccine against the cold virus.”

“Because then we wouldn’t know who our real friends are,” offered Nicholas.

**********

Ariana opened her eyes. Katherine was shaking her as gently as possible, but still hard enough to wake her up. She sat up, bleary-eyed, her nose completely stuffed up and her throat on fire.

“Hey,” she croaked, her voice thick and husky. “What time is it?”

“It’s 6am. We have to get ready to bounce before the first shift.” She touched Ariana’s forehead. “How are you feeling? The truth this time.”

“Like I got hit by a truck.”

“Here, take some more medicine.” She offered her the DayQuil dose. “I got you a toothbrush and some toothpaste, you should go freshen up while we finish cleaning up here.”

Ariana took the bag containing her clothes and stuff she’d need to clean up a bit, then headed to the restroom. Everything but the mattress had been put away. Ariana still marveled at how she could sleep through basically everything. It was kind of scary, but it did have its advantages.

She pushed the door to the ladies room, sniffing to test how badly her sinuses were blocked. No air even made it through. She splashed some cold water on her face and brushed her teeth quickly, breathing through her mouth. She could feel the minty air rush through her raw throat, aggravating the irritation. Brushing teeth when sick was the worst.

Once she was done, she took a quick glance at herself in the mirror and winced. She was kind of pale, but her nose was bright red and chapped. Her eyes were glassy, tired-looking. She combed through her hair with her fingers, hoping it would somehow make her look more... alive.

She quickly changed into her day clothes, her teeth chattering as the sudden temperature difference wreaked havoc on her body. She was such a wuss when she was sick. She’d get a fever at any opportunity, as if her immune system’s response was to drop the atomic bomb at the first sign of any little threat. Like a wimpy cold.

She dug for her phone in her jeans back pocket and checked the weather. The storm had finally passed overnight. No more snow to come today. She breathed a sigh of relief.

Then, she noticed she had received a text from Samuel the night before.

Sam: Hope you made it OK! Worried about you.

She smiled, warmth spreading through her stomach. Ignoring a pang of anxiety, she replied.

Me: Had to make an emergency stop at a “hotel”, but still in one piece. Should be at my parents’ in a couple of hours!

She was about to slip the phone back in her pocket, but remembered yesterday’s conversation with Katherine. Her heart pounding, she typed another message.

Me: By the way, when I come back, would you like to go see a movie sometimes?

She hovered her thumb over the “Send” button, hesitating. Was she ready? Was this really what she wanted? Maybe she should think about it a bit more before making a rush decision.

But before she could do anything, a sneeze came out of nowhere, giving her no chance to prepare. She snapped forward, the phone still in her hand.

“EH’TSCHEEEEW!”

She straightened up, sniffing wetly. At least it seemed to have cleared her congestion a bit.

Her heart took a tumble when she glanced at her phone. She had accidentally pressed the send button when she sneezed. There was no turning back.

She closed her eyes, imagining a warm bubble bath, a cup of tea after a day in the snow, a walk under the night sky... with Samuel. Holding hands.

Ariana smiled. Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.

When she came back, Katherine was rolling the mattress to put it back in the box, and Nicholas was taking a cart full of stuff to the back store.

“He’s going to put them in the return container, where they’ll repackage them.” She bit her lower lip, fighting with the mattress.

Ariana came to her help, holding the box as she slipped the thick rubber log in it. “Don’t worry about it Kay, it won’t make a difference for them, and nobody will even notice.”

“I’ve put together all the bar codes from the boxes and tags of what we can’t return, and I gave Nicholas enough to cover everything. He said he’d talk to one of the cashier he’s friends with and get everything sorted out.”

Katherine closed the box and stood up, wiping her forehead. She and Nicholas had worked so hard to clean up as fast as possible. Ariana felt a wave of love for her friend. She pulled her into a hug.

“Thank you so much for everything Kay. You truly are the best.”

Katherine hugged her back as tightly as she could. “Well, I also got something out of it.”

Ariana pulled away, giving her a puzzled look. Katherine took out her phone and flashed it in front of her eyes. Nicholas was smiling right at Ariana in his new contact photo on Katherine’s phone.

“You got his number, good work!”

“You didn’t seem interested in him, so I thought...”

Ariana laughed. “It’s perfect Kay. Trust me.”

Katherine handed her the sheep plushy. “Here’s your co-pilot back, a little souvenir of our ‘trip’. Now let’s go home and get you better before Christmas.” She grabbed Ariana’s hand and rushed towards the front door.

When they reached the lobby, Ariana gasped. Outside, an ocean of snow glittered in the sun. White mountains towered in the background. A few quaint houses lined the other side of the street, their roofs like cake frosting.

But the sun rays, bouncing on highly reflective snow, were so strong that they triggered Ariana’s overly sensitive nose. Her breath hitched as she cupped her hands over her nose.

“ET’SCHEEW!”

“Bless you,” whispered Katherine. “Actually...” She opened her arms wide, her voice booming and dramatic. ”God bless us everyone!”

“You’re so stupid,” muttered Ariana, trying not to laugh.

“That’s why you love me.”

“Pretty much.”

THE END.

Link to comment

This end was adorable!!! "God bless everyone was my favorite, and the text exchange with Sam was a very satisfying arc. I love theses girls, and your writing! Thanks so much for sharing!!

Link to comment
“Bless you,” Katherine said, wishing she could do something to make her feel better right away. “Why hasn’t anyone invented a vaccine against the cold virus.”

“Because then we wouldn’t know who our real friends are,” offered Nicholas.

GOOD ANSWER NICHOLAS.

Azuralis, you have written for me what I consider to be one of the best sneezefics ever written. It's that simple. Thank you, thank you, thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou. hug.gifxmas.gif

Link to comment

I'm so happy you guys liked it so much :blush:

Thanks again for all the compliments! This was my first real effort at writing in English (French being my native language), so what you guys said means A LOT to me and it's encouraging me to get better at it and practice even more! :D

:heart:

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...