STORIES : Love at First Sneeze:

The city bus finally came to a halt at his stop and Jack stepped off it along with a small crowd of harried people, delighting in the feeling of the cool evening breeze hitting his face. As his feet hit the pavement, he looked up briefly at the striking indigo sky overhead. He was struck for a fleeting moment by its unusual beauty, a perfect complement to the cool, satisfying feeling that suddenly engulfed him. A wash of contentment and relief, of coming alive again after another challenging day's end, a momentary forgetting of tomorrow which made him want to hold his shoulders back and cast his eyes upwards. It put a spring in his step that allowed his shadow to travel back in time until it looked like it belonged to a strapping twenty-year-old lad as Jack began walking, putting one foot in front of the other, heading home at last... even if "home" was, in fact, a small one-room apartment unit on the sixth floor of an industrial apartment complex about two blocks away. Sadly, it looked as though a post-occupation Russian construction crew had hastily put it together.

Another rough day at work had finally come to an end. As Jack mulled that over, he felt singularly at peace with himself. As a matter of fact, the only little thing that would have made him happier at that particular moment would have been that grease-stained, lard-bellied, son-of-a-bitch mechanic who was presently charging him a fortune finally finishing the repairs on his car's transmission, so he wouldn't have to take the bus any more. Come to think of it, finding himself another job might be nice, while he was working on the 'big life improvements,' department.

Jack saw himself as the Typically Average Office-Working Guy. He didn't have much choice in this particular self-image without entering the realms of outright delusion. He was the epitome of the disgruntled, clockwatching all-American employee, and when he thought of himself in this role, Jack wanted nothing more in life than the simplest pleasures, the kind of company daydreams that even the most dedicated worker could aspire to. Like the completely commonplace pleasure of punching out his boss and emasculating him with a blunt letter opener in order to hang his redundant sack above the fireplace as a trophy- that was, of course, before revelling in the sheer satisfaction of tossing the prick out of the thirtieth-floor window. And then, maybe, just maybe, when he was feeling seriously in need of a pick-me-up, Jack would add the coda to this particular fantasy- the untold-of pleasures of pissing on the son of a bitch's corpse. Now THAT would really make his day, Jack thought, not bothering to dwell on what harbouring such uplifting fantasies might signify for his mental balance.

How else could a guy's thoughts run when in a situation such as his- It was already bad enough that he didn't get out of work until 7:00 PM because that jerk of a boss of his decided to make him stay and work late today, but walking around after dark in this particular section of New York City was foolhardy, if not downright dangerous. It was only natural that his thoughts should run to truly gruesome homicide.

Up ahead, he heard a sudden noise that had cheered him right up: "Huh-hitchoo!" A cute little sneeze from the woman in front of him; a willowy girl of around 23, two years younger than Jack was, with long chestnut brown hair that fluttered as she bent her head forward with the onset of the sudden sneeze. She sniffed, blushing a little, and then sneezed again, rather loudly: "Hashoo!"

"Bless you," Jack said, hoping that his sudden arousal over her sneezes hadn't shown in his voice.

"Thanks," she said, smiling at him with radiant blue eyes.

Jack caught sight of her small nose twitching, and thought: "Oh boy, here comes number three!"

"Ah-CHOO!" she sneezed a third time.

"Bless you again."

She giggled timidly. "Thanks," she said. "These allergies are driving me absolutely insane today." She sighed. "Guess that's what I get for not taking my medicine this morning."

Jack nodded sympathetically, while replying: "Yeah, the city's murder on allergies, isn't it? Heh heh..."

"Oh yeah!" Lisa chimed into his laughter, sounding slightly embarrassed, before remembering her mother had told her years ago not to talk to strangers in dodgy areas of the Big Apple. "By the way, I'm Lisa," she introduced herself, alleviating the "stranger" factor somewhat - at least in her own mind.

Then, before Jack could introduce himself, he watched as Lisa's head was thrown back again before it thrust forward for three more blissful sneezes: "ATCHoo! AH-CHOO! huh-HAAACHOOOO!"

She was bent all the way forward with the staggering force of the sneezes, her entire body seeming to convulse with the mad reflexive urge to expel whatever was bothering her nose. And as she did so, Jack felt a jolt of pleasure surging through his penis. Had it been even remotely socially acceptable to contemplate such a course of action, he would have grabbed this woman and made love to her right on the pavement as the uncomprehending crowd stared.

In truth, she was a magnificent being. She had breasts that just made you want to run your fingers across them, delicate facial features (which crumpled with a rather startling sharpness when she sneezed) and legs to rival Julia Roberts'. And here she was, this heavenly creature, unknowingly doing something that was bringing him such pleasure it felt almost overwhelming. He was in heaven right now, and hoped dearly that she would sneeze just a couple more times.

She sniffled, now getting embarrassed for she felt everyone must be staring directly at her. In truth, Jack was the only one ostentatiously staring; only a couple of people had turned to look quickly at her impressive display and then turned around again, one of them sniggering.

"Excuse me," she murmured softly and then continued to walk on with Jack, trying to act as though nothing at all had happened. Which it hadn't really.

"Bless you again," he said, smiling reassuringly. "I've got a spot of hay fever myself; I know what it's like when you feel like you just have to sneeze. Oh, and by the way, my name's Jack."

"Right," she smiled. "Nice to meet you. And thanks."

Jack, satisfied that he had put her at ease, hoped she didn't get a good look at his crotch area. Either that, or he hoped that she would mistake the bulge that was pitched like a tent between his legs for something else. Like, um, a very big and maladroitly positioned mobile phone or something. It was like stainless steel in there, and he didn't want for her to catch on to what it meant.

As they chattered on, walking towards their respective destinations together, Jack realised he was really starting to like Lisa. She was extremely attractive, nice, and on top of it, she had produced (and was continuing to intermittently produce) some of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring sneezes he had ever heard. But he couldn't really let on about what her sneezes were doing for him, could he? What if she thought he was a pervert or something?

The thought made him smile.

He stopped at a crossroad, one arm of which led to the road he had to take to get to his house. She looked at him perplexed, as the rest of the walking crowd passed them without a second glance. "What's wrong? Why are you stopping?"

"Nothing," he answered. "It's just that my apartment is down that way," he pointed toward the dark alley he would be walking through, a shortcut to where he lived.

"Oh, yeah, silly me. Of course it is. I was just being paranoid, you know, thinking maybe you'd had enough of me. I mean, maybe you were totally put off by my sneezing and you'd decided it might be a good idea to run away, y'know." She laughed softly at this small joke, not really meaning it.

"No, 'course not! I really live here, honestly," he said, smiling, as he secretly thought: "I'd walk along with you for quite a while yet, especially if you kept on sneezing like that. I'm actually really, totally, amazingly aroused by it!"

"You sure? I was really starting to draw attention back there."

"Don't worry about it, Lisa. This is New York. It'll take more than a sneezing fit to engage the attention of that crowd for very long. Even if your sneezes were as loud as gunshots, no one would bat an eyelid."

"Yeah, I guess you're right," she agreed, laughing again and meaning it this time.

"Besides, you're not the only one who's ever sneezed before. We all do it. Take me, for example: I'm a photic sneezer. I sneeze three times every time the sun first hits my face in the morning when I leave my apartment for work. And sometimes, I find that a bit embarrassing."

"Really?"

"Yes," he said truthfully.

She turned away from him, and sneezed three more times, quietly, into her cupped hands. Jack couldn't resist blessing her again, feeling what now felt like a perpetual erection give a slow, torturous twitch. Then, as people sometimes do when they meet by chance and hit it off, they exchanged phone numbers.

"You sure you wanna head on off into that scary looking alley?" Lisa asked, handing him a scrap of paper adorned with her loopy handwriting whilst accepting the wrinkled receipt where Jack had scribbled his number. "It looks kind of dangerous."

"Yeah, but it's the shortest way home, and I'm not a big fan of walking to places," he told her. "Once my car's outta the garage, it won't be an issue anymore. Don't worry about it. Done it loads of times before - I'll be fine," he reassured her.

"Okay then," she said uneasily.

"Oh, and feel free to give me a call later tonight or tomorrow if you want," he invited her, wondering if he was being too forward.

"Oh, I probably will," she said, beaming at him. Lisa was a country girl at heart, and had only recently moved to the City. People were generally so cold here, so self-absorbed and difficult to approach, that it was nice to have an open invitation to friendship for once.

"Looking forward to it," he told her, and they both went on their separate ways; Lisa, into that all-hour, perpetual crowd of anonymous New Yorkers, sneezing a few more times and most likely feeling awkward about it, and Jack, alone, into the dark alleyway's waiting maw.

A cold wave of fear washed over him as he ventured further and further into the alley, and farther away from the crowd of people. Farther away, too, from the unexpected light that had been Lisa. He was alone now, in a dark alley at night. It was perhaps not even eleven o'clock yet, but in this part of New York, it was always "late enough" for something to happen. Like running into a violent psychopath escaped from prison that carried with him an impressively big, rusty switchblade... or something like that.

Jack was always reading about such scary events in the papers and, ever the optimist, he just knew that someday, somewhere, something like that would happen to him.

A full moon hovered, ominously bright in the dark sky above him. Apart from the perpetual buzz emerging from the city's cold cosmopolitan heart, it was as silent as could be in this remote New York alley. In fact, everything seemed a little bit too still, unnaturally quiet, as if maybe something was lying in wait for him there, shrouded in shadows. Or maybe, just maybe, he had read too many Stephen King novels on dark and lonely nights, and his mind was engaging in paranoiac overdrive. Jack began to whistle softly as he walked, shaking his head to clear away the last cobwebs of fear, and even managed to smile at his own jumpiness.

On either side of him were two brick walls facing each other, the sides of two ten-story buildings, each wall with enough graffiti smeared and scribbled all over it to obscure the original colour of the brick. The ground was littered with scraps of garbage, old newspapers, Coke and Pepsi cans crushed and strewn about all over the place. A grey rat scurried past him, and he nearly jumped out of his skin as it squeezed through a tiny hole in the brick wall to his left. His heart was racing; sweat running down his face as he gasped fearfully, giving up his previously attempt at whistling.

He wondered now if perhaps he should have just gone with Lisa. Surely he was safer with her, and with all of those other people. She was so very, very attractive, and as an added bonus, her nose was bound to produce a few more wonderful sneezes for his enjoyment. But he had been getting a little too excited as she had produced each magnificent sneeze. He didn't want her to think he was too weird or anything, did he? Still, he had been in situations like that before, around a beautiful woman in the midst of a massive sneezing fit, and had always been able to keep himself under control, to compose himself and hide the fact that he was really, really getting turned on by it. Perhaps would have been better off taking the long way home after all. Lisa might have even been able to give him a ride home, if he was lucky - that would have meant even more time with Lisa and her great sneezes, the thing that had attracted Jack to her in the first place.

But he was dead tired, and as he'd frankly told her, he wasn't one to enjoy long walks. He could call Lisa tomorrow, first thing in the morning. Right now, he just wanted to get home, collapse onto his bed and get a good 40 hours of much needed slumber.

"Eh buddy, gimme a dollar!" called a bum, unexpectedly leaping up from his sitting position beside a garbage dumpster to Jack's left. Jack gave a startled shout, his hands flying automatically up in a protective gesture before he realized what was going on. Then, his heartbeat racing, he looked at this man. He was dressed in old, faded jeans, filthy work boots whose soles were beginning to peal off, a grey jacket covered in mud and garbage juice. Then, his eyes rested on the crowbar the bum held in his right hand and slapped lightly against the palm of his left hand. Was that a patch of skin disease he saw, slowly eating a hole into his left cheek, or was it only another shadow?

"I'm sorry, but I'm flat broke 'til Friday man," he said, which was a lie of course.

This might not be the wisest thing to say to a scary looking man with a crowbar, but Jack couldn't help but think that reaching for his wallet in such a daunting locale would be an even bigger mistake. The biggest error Jack made, however, was turning away from the bum and quickly walked off further into the dark reaches of the murky alley.

By the time he saw the bum coming from behind, it was too late to do anything about it. He had just enough time to see the crowbar swinging toward his head, and then his entire world greyed out as he felt cold metal slapping him across the temple. His entire body went numb, his hands and feet tingling sharply from that sudden blow as he went down and felt his back slap against the pavement below. And then, he was lying motionless on the ground, feeling a few small shards of broken glass pricking against the nape of his neck. He felt his warm, thick blood leaking out of the newly opened wound over his left brow, running down his face, stinging his eyes. A red-hot, searing wave of pain washed over him, jack hammering against his skull as if a huge eighteen-wheeler were repeatedly running over his brain. The sudden distinctive clambering of metal hitting pavement as the bum threw away the crowbar then exacerbated his explosive headache.

Jack was now at the man's mercy, and his blurred shadow darkened his world as the bum stood over him. He felt the bum reaching into his pocket, swiftly pulling something out. His wallet.

"Well, well, well, looky what we got here," the bum said, his voice sounding unnaturally loud as Jack's senses became distorted. "Shit, man, I thought ya said ya ain't got no money!" the bum exclaimed, delighted and cynical. "I count at least fifty bucks in here."

His consciousness beginning to waver, Jack heard the bum rifling through his wallet. Oily black waves that felt suspiciously like a spreading pool of blood were lapping at the edges of his mind, threatening to drag him under.

"Hey, look at all these credit cards. Let's see, we got Visa, Mastercard, American Express--don't leave home without it--and Discover, the card that pays ya back, right?"

And then, cold laughter colliding with his eardrums. The metallic ringing therein was real, a rushing roar that battled against the encroaching darkness. Why was everything so dark?

"Gonna have a whole lotta fun maxing these out, let me tell ya, Jack, Mr Jack Bundy! Your credit any good?"

Jack groaned both from the physical pain and from that brought on by the implications of what the bum was saying. He sounded far away suddenly, as if his voice was coming from deep inside a tunnel, a shadow within shadows, so many shadows...

"Got a whole bunch of old receipts here, huh. Hey, here's one for a milkshake ya got at McDonalds five years ago. Well, I don't need these--you can keep 'em."

The bum threw the whole thick stack over Jack's semi-conscious form, but Jack didn't really feel them as they plopped down onto his stomach. More black within the darkness, a drop in the ocean, a calm ocean where the pain was mercifully receding, lapped away by the black waves.

"Now let's see what's in the other pocket, shall we? Ooh, a cell phone. You know, I must be the only American these days over the age of eighteen that doesn't own one. Well, looks like that's gonna change as of right now, huh, Jackie boy? Been meaning to call my friend in San Fran for a while now."

More laughter. Another groan. Why was everything looking so dark? Where was he? At least, the pain was fading out. Come to think of it, so was everything else. The world was small and Jack was huge, a black hole retreating into itself, into its own darkness, taking everything with it. So vast, so dark, the blackness tugged at the edge of his consciousness, impossible to resist. He was going to go under, he was going to drown in it. At that moment, he felt an overwhelming sense of panic and then, something else: relief.

"Boy, ya shoulda just given me the dollar like I asked ya to, you cheap prick. I don't take 'no' very well. Shoulda just given me the fucking buck or stayed the fuck outta this 'ere alleyway, ya cheap-ass bastard! Got what ya deserved!"

And then, from an impossible distance deep inside a dark tunnel's hollow, he heard fleeting footsteps and more oily chuckles that quickly began to taper off as the bum walked away. He vanished into the darkness, into the black hole, and that's right about the time that Jack managed to curl himself into a foetal position before finally passing out.

* * *

"GET THE MEDICS! Oh my God, SOMEBODY GET THE MEDICS! Oh shit, he's hurt real bad... bleeding from the head... losing blood fast... PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WON'T SOMEONE CALL THE FUCKING MEDICS ALREADY, PLEASE!"

He felt a hand slap him lightly across the face, and as he saw a blurred face standing over him, emerging like a vision from the darkness of the shadows. He felt warm tears sliding down onto his face and seeping through his lips. And then, as he stuck out a tongue that felt cracked, dry and metallic, he heard another shrill scream: "Come on, Jack! Wake up, dammit!"

It was Lisa. He recognised her after a few seconds, as he felt the cloudiness begin to recede temporarily from his head and winced as the pain came back to fill the void. She had found him in the alley somehow and was now trying to revive him. Lisa, whose wonderful allergies had attracted him earlier this night; who had now found him that ambush and mugging he had been subjected to.

As if to confirm that it was indeed Lisa, Jack had felt a sudden gust of air as Lisa sneezed quietly into his face: "Ah-choo!"

She was probably in such a state of hysteria right now that she might not have even been aware that she had done it. Had he been able to do so, he would have smiled. But suddenly, as he felt that light sneeze breeze over his face, Jack felt an instant sensation pleasure envelop him. He felt his penis begin to harden for but a single instant.

And then he went under once again.

* * *

When he came to, he found himself lying on a strange bed, in a strange bedroom, and hadn't a clue as to how he could have possibly gotten there. "Where am I?" he asked the wall in front of him, bewildered at having lost consciousness and now awakening in such an unsettlingly unfamiliar setting.

Was it a hospital room? It sure didn't look like any hospital room he knew of. It was nothing like those he saw on television: there was no life support system hooked up to him, no tubes up his nose or sticking out of his arms or anything like that, nor was there an oxygen tank. He looked over at the plush light brown carpeting, the winter white walls and the wide, thick-curtained windows, all of which reeked of classy comfort.

Across from him was a Samsung TV sitting on a stand, with a Panasonic VCR and Sony DVD player and Philips CD player. Next to his bed was a nightstand, with a small cordless phone and an alarm clock, which had 11:49 glowing in red digital numbers on its face. Perhaps this wasn't exactly living the lives of the rich and famous, but it was certainly better equipped on the entertainment front than any hospital room he'd ever seen.

Then there was the bed he lay on. It wasn't a hospital bed; it was a Queen Sized, with a soft red quilt over about three or four other blankets, keeping Jack nice, warm, and cosy... and there weren't those metal railings on both sides of it which he had long since come to associate with hospital beds.

But wherever he was, he felt at peace here. Except for the pounding, jack-hammering headache he was currently suffering from. But then, he remembered that would be a given, considering the blow to the head he suddenly remembered having.  He was comfortable in this room, and would have relaxed would it not have been for the pain. The surroundings here in this room certainly looked a lot better than that claustrophobic box of an apartment he called home.

The only thing missing was his computer.

And when he thought of that, he was overcome with a sudden irrational melancholy. No computer meant no surfing the Internet, which in turn meant he couldn't further explore his latest passion. He couldn't visit any of his newfound yet already precious websites, the ones he had just discovered the previous week, and to which he had very rapidly become addicted. These were fetish websites, dealing specifically with sneezing. No listening to any of the .wavs, nor looking fixedly at the sneezy pictures as he felt his heart race and excited warmth well up inside him. Nor could he read any of the erotic sneezing fiction that he had so come to appreciate over the course of the week, and of which he had so much left to read.

Then, the smile that had begun to play on Jack lips died. He sighed, realizing that he probably wasn't in any condition to have sex on the brain anyway. He rubbed his hand lightly over his forehead, bringing a surge of pain in that area, and also feeling the rough texture of what felt like white tape.

"Well, I'm glad that whoever found me went to the trouble of bandaging my head wound," he thought wearily.

He raised his head an inch into the air, and the pain that assailed him felt as if someone were clamping a vice to his head, crushing his brain inside his skull.

And then, as if following from what he'd been considering just seconds before his attempted movement, Jack was startled into a pleasurable jolt of arousal as he heard sudden footsteps heading this way, and the execution of a soft, feminine sneeze: "Hashoo!"

He heard someone twisting the doorknob outside; the door swung inward, and in came someone, a young woman. A closer look revealed her to be Lisa, the girl he had met earlier tonight, or was it last night?  He had lost all track of time since his injury.

"God, these allergies are-... Ah-CHOO!"

And then she smiled at Jack, her beautiful face seeming to glow with the light of the sun that hit it. "Jack, how are you feeling today?"

"Like shit, Lisa, like total shit," he replied, laughing, and thought: "But if you could only sneeze just a few more times, I'm sure I'd feel a whole lot better!"

And as if on cue, Lisa began to sneeze again: "Huh-CHOO! *sniff* TchOO! Ah-CHOO! Aw... gonna snuh-heeze... sneeze again... huh-CHOO! huh-huh-choo! Wow!... excuse me!"

"Bless you," he said, smiling, and reflexively putting his left hand around his hardening member, giving it a friendly squeeze. "That was some sneezing fit!" he exclaimed vivaciously, trying perhaps in vain to hide just how aroused he had suddenly become.

"I know," Lisa groaned. "I've been sneezing my head off all morning; it's been really terrible. But never mind that - here, let me change those... Ah-ahh-CHOO! those bandages for you *sniff*. Whoever hit you, they got you pretty bad."

"Thanks," he said, groaning as she peeled off the bandages, and then barely holding back a blood-curdling shriek of pain as she applied the disinfectant on the wound. The burning he felt was indescribable as the chemical stung the raw, exposed tissue of his forehead, killing both germs and nerve endings in one efficient swoop.

"Sorry," she apologized, wincing in empathic pain when she saw Jack's expression, "but we definitely don't want it getting *sniff* getting infected, now do we?"

"No, I... certainly wouldn't want that," he agreed, hissing through clenched teeth because of the pain.

He suddenly saw her face contort into a pre-sneeze expression, eyes squeezing shut, the tip of her cute little nose twitching.  "Uh... gonna... snuh-heeeze now... huh-huh-ISHOOO! Hitchooo! Huh-huh-HACHOO! *sniff* excuse me." She giggled, blushing prettily. "God, these allergies are driving me nuts!" she exclaimed, and Jack could have sworn he was seeing a deeper meaning in the grin that was plastered on her face at that moment. In fact, it was exactly as though she were flirting with him the way the girls in the .wavs he loved to listen to always seemed to be flirting with him while in the midst of their sneezing fits.

"New York smog can be hell on an allergy sufferer," Jack commented, grinning in turn, hoping she wouldn't notice the hard-as-iron bulge peaking beneath the blankets around his crotch.

The erection she was giving him as she hovered over him, putting on a fresh bandage on his head as she sneezed, was impressive to say the least.

"Tell me about it," she replied, laughing. "But we're not in New York City right now."

"We're not?"

"No... but we're still in the state. I commute there to work every day."

"But you said your apartment was... so how come your bus gets off in the inner city? I mean, you certainly aren't saving any money on parking, that's for sure."

She shrugged. "Who knows why we do any of the things that we do? *Sniff* Ah-CHOO! Excuse me."

"Bless you."

"Thanks," she said, smiling gently at him. "Anyway, I got you here in my car last night; I must say you look a lot better now. I've brought you back to my house in the woods. I love the quiet here - there isn't anyone around here for miles."

The same mysterious grin, that flirtatious, almost devilish grin, crept over her features once again, making Jack wonder. Just exactly what was going on here?

"You know, for some weird reason, this reminds me of something I read a while back... Are you by any chance familiar with Stephen King's 'Misery'?"

"Oh yeah! I'm a big fan of his, and that's my all-time favourite book by him!" That grin, wider than ever, made her eyes shine. "But don't worry; I'm not here to torture you or force you practically at gunpoint to write any kind of a story. I just want to nurse you back to health and fulfill all of your desires any way I can. Now, just hold still for a second while I remove those chopping boards from underneath your feet..."

"Well that's a relief," said Jack, who hadn't even noticed they were there until Lisa drew attention to them.

She removed the blocks, finishing off with two wonderfully erotic sneezes, and then said: "My God these allergies..." She sniffed and then sneezed another six times, each more thrilling than the last: "Huh-huh-choo! Ah-CHoo! Huh-Hashoo! Hachoo! T-tchoo! ATCHOO!"

"God bless you."

"Thank you," she said, sniffed, and then sneezed again. "I hope my little sneezing attacks aren't bothering you too much," she said timidly.

He shrugged, a gesture meant to give the illusion that he wasn't really much bothered about her sneezing, while at the same time secretly clamping his hand tightly over his rock-hard penis. "Not at all."

"Oh good, because I was sort of afraid you'd... ah... ah... that you'd be... huh-ah..." her eyes squeezed shut as she gently placed a finger under her nose "that you'd be put off... ah... oh God... huh-huh... put off by it... ah..."

Her eyebrows were rising in alarm and Jack could quite clearly see her nose twitching despite the finger she'd pre-emptively placed under it. As far as Jack was concerned, it was impossible for a woman to look more beautiful than Lisa did then. She was completely on edge, her whole body speaking of expectation as her bosom heaved, taking in shaky breaths, preparing for what seemed a most promising explosion.

"I don't mind at all," he said, loving it. "Hey, are you all right?"

"Gotta sneeze, but... guh-huh... huh... the snuh-huh-heeze doesn't seem to wanna come out... *sniffle*... oh..."

She held her finger beneath her nose, now stroking it lightly in an attempt to force the sneeze out or suppress it entirely. Anything to rid herself of that horrible burning tickle in her nose! This was torture - it was driving her insane with its intensity, and she moaned despite the fact that her face frozen in that stunning pre-sneeze expression, until finally she took in a massive breath and they exploded out of her:

"Huh-ah-CHOOOOOOOOO! ATCHOO! Huh-ATCHOOOOOO!"

Lisa paused for a moment, rubbing her rather red nose as she recovered. They seemed to have surprised even her with their powerful intensity.

"Oh God *sniff* I definitely needed that!"

Jack had felt the spray of that last sneeze at it squirted through the gaps of her fingers, splashing over his cheek like warm nectar, a healing medicine that would do him more good than any bandage or ointment. He began stroking his penis, hoping she didn't notice what he was doing.

"Oh God," she cried, embarrassed when she noticed she had sprayed him, "I didn't mean to do that!" She grabbed a tissue from the nightstand and wiped his rather flushed cheek with it. "I'm so sorry, Jack. I didn't mean to spray you like that!"

"Hey, don't worry about it. No harm done," he said, and silently added: "Actually, Lisa, I kind of LIKED it."

"Well, maybe I'd better go now, so I won't sneeze on you again. If you need anything, Jack, don't hesitate to ask."

"Okay, I will," he replied, and thought: "Oh man, I definitely died in that alley there... yeah, I've died and gone straight to heaven!"

On impulse, he looked toward one of the windows, blocked off by dark drapes. The latter fluttered open for a second, allowing a sharp dart of sunlight to break through the windowpane and hit Jack's face straight on. He felt an instance of heat drift over his face, a fine burning sensation originating from behind his eyelids that lasted for but a few seconds. Before he could hold back, his face contorted into a fierce pre-sneeze expression, his eyes squeezing tightly shut, his head thrusting forward for three rather harsh sneezes: "Huh-Ah-CHOO! ATCHOO! HASHOO!"

"Whoa, bless you!" exclaimed Lisa.

"*Sniff* thanks."

"Boy, I must say, you are quite the sneezer yourself, you know that?" she commented with a devilish grin over her face.

"Thanks... I'm flattered," he replied, and strangely enough, he was.

"So, do you always sneeze when the sun hits you?"

He nodded. "Yeah, especially if I've been in the dark for a while. I've had this condition all my life; but up until about a week ago, I never knew that anybody ever bothered to give it a name or anything."

"Photic sneezing?"

"Yup, that's what they call it. How do you know that?"

"I'm a nurse, sweetheart," Lisa replied. "We learn all kinds of interesting things about the human body in school. I think it has something to do with the nerves in your face. I don't know. It's not harmful in any way, just some genetic thing that affects about 25 percent of the entire human race."

Jack was amazed, even if he knew already knew everything Lisa was telling him. He was tempted to add his knowledge to her own, but didn't want to mention that he had come across this information over the Internet, that he had found all of this out when he had found out about the sneeze fetish sites.

And as Jack's thoughts turned once again towards the Internet, he saw Lisa's face contorting dramatically once more and knew instantly what was about to come next.

"Huh-uh-hah-Hashoo! Oh *sniff* excuse me." She giggled again, "Boy, seems like all this talk about sneezing's really making me sneeze, huh?" Another pause, another winding up. "Hitchoo! *sniff* that and all the pollen in the air."

They both burst out laughing.

"Bless you," Jack said.

"Thanks. Boy, you must be getting tired of saying that, huh?"

He laughed again. "It's probably the one phrase I never could get tired of saying."

"Oh good, because... Ah-CHOO! *Sniff* No, don't say it again, that's okay," she quickly said as she saw Jack's smiling lips opening, presumably to bless her again. "Probably getting tired of listening to me sneezing all the time, though." She blushed.

"Hell no." And he burst out laughing all over again. "As a matter of fact, I'm GLAD you're sneezing. Your sneezes are really stunning... and if you don't mind my saying so, they're really turning me on, too."

He was startled by what had just come out of his mouth. Did he really just say that?

"Oh... huh-huh-ISHOO! Quit teasing me you cheeky thing," she said, her wide grin never faltering, except for those two or three seconds it had taken her to sneeze in between.

"Seriously, it's giving me a hard-on like you wouldn't believe!" he exclaimed, squeezing his member even tighter.

He was amazed at the ease with which he was now able to admit his fetish, perhaps the most hidden aspect of his personality. And even more amazed that he had come forward with the effect it was having on him. Would she smile or would she pop him one?

"Wow!" she exclaimed, sounding legitimately fascinated. "Never thought anything good would ever come out of these damn allergies of mine *sniff*. You're really turned on by my sneezing? Not kidding me or anything?"

Jack nodded. Denying it at this point would be futile, especially as Lisa's eyes were now focused on his crotch where the impressive tent he was pitching was now completely visible.

"Actually, that's really cool."

Jack realised he'd been holding his breath and released it after Lisa delivered her verdict on his unusual turn-on.

"You don't think that's freaky or anything?"

"Yes, it's completely freaky! And incredibly cool. I love it! All fetishes are kind of freaky, but that's what makes them interesting. And this," she placed a finger against his cheek, "is definitely the coolest fetish I've ever heard of. And if you're really turned on by my allergies, well, maybe later we can experiment with that fetish of yours. Once you're feeling a little better, that is."

Jack was reeling, not only from his confession and her acceptance of his fetish, but also because of her open and enthusiastic proposition. "I'll be looking forward to it, Lisa."

"Oh me, too." She said, and left him alone.

Jack used his hands productively to release his pent-up frustration, replaying Lisa's sneezing fits over and over in his mind. Her shaky intakes of breath, the way her face had scrunched up, how her nostrils had flared and hitched. With every vision of Lisa's head snapping forward, of Lisa's lips forming that loose sneezy O-shape, or Lisa bringing her cupped hands to her nose as she sneezed, his pleasure increased. And just as in his mind, Lisa was engaged in an incredible never-ending loop of a sneezing fit, he came.

Not being able to drift off to sleep after that, despite the relaxed drowsiness that flooded his senses, he settled in to watch movies on HBO. Hour after hour, his headache began to get better, to diminish in its raw intensity, until it became nothing more than a dull throb, little more than an annoyance compared to what it had once been. When he woke again, Jack found himself astonished at the rapid onset of his recovery, but also, not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he was grateful, and decided it was probably better not question what was going on.

He also found himself overcome with a feeling of melancholy over being away from Lisa and her sexy sneezes. He yearned for her presence, for her to put on yet another show for him with her spectacular allergies. He liked to listen to .wav files of women sneezing on the Internet, but having a real woman sneezing in front of him was in an entirely different league. Being there, actually seeing the sneezer in all her glory was in Jack's opinion an extraordinary experience, and he wanted more. He desperately longed for an encore.

"I wonder what she's doing right now," he thought wistfully, conjuring up the image of Lisa overcome in a massive fit of sneezing.

And then, he heard sniffles coming from outside this room, distant but coming closer, and he knew without a doubt that Lisa was coming back at last.

"So, how've you been feeling?" she asked as she came into the room.

She'd asked the question with genuine interest, but didn't wait for an answer. A more pressing need had taken a hold of her and forced her to stop and stand waiting near the entrance to his room.

Jack saw Lisa's movements as though they were happening in slow motion, like something out the fantasies he'd been entertaining all afternoon. She stopped and stood still, her features going unnaturally blank. Her slender hands came up to her nose as her blue eyes fluttered, a soft gasp coming from her throat as she prepared to sneeze. Then, her head reared back and her mouth dropped open, barely showing a small, even row of teeth as her upper lip curled in what Jack thought was a most appealing matter. He took all of this in and was almost - but not quite - disappointed when at last, the build-up was over and Lisa's stillness dissolved and her chestnut waves flew forward, her rather watery blue eyes closing definitively as she sneezed thrice:

"Huh... HASHooo! AH-choo! huh-HACHoo!"

"God bless you," Jack said, his tone infused with admiration.

"Thanks," she said, and they smiled at each other. Had a third party been present, they would most probably have thought that Jack and Lisa were long-time lovers.

Lisa sniffled again, sneezing twice more in Jack's general direction as she made her way to him. Then, without further ado, she pulled her woolly white sweater off and unfastened her bra, letting it fall to the floor as she drew the straps over her arms. Then, she pushed down her short white skirt and fishnet stockings - did women really still wear those? - after having kicked off her Birkenstocks. Jack was watching fixedly as she came even closer, his penis becoming rock-hard once again.

"So about what you were saying when I left you to rest earlier... *sniff* ah-hah... ASSHOOOO! *sniff*" Lisa rubbed at her nose, which was a bit red and seemed to be still itchy despite the sneeze. "You really like it when I sneeze? You weren't just messing with me?"

Jack smiled at her wistfully, struggling to put what he was feeling into words and not quite succeeding. "Oh God no! Your sneezes are... I mean... They're really, uh... It's very..."

"Good," Lisa butted in, smiling at his floundering. "Because I really, really like sneezing for you... and it looks like I'm gonna snuh-snuh-heeeze again, rih-right now... huh-huh-ah-huh-HIIESSSSHHHHHOOOOO!!... Whoa!" she giggled, "Excuse me *sniff*. That was huge!"

She was naked now, crawling slowly and seductively on Jack's bed, pulling all the blankets away to reveal Jack's almost-naked form. Jack swiftly pulled off the pair of powder-blue Hanes briefs he was wearing as Lisa nestled closer to him, her hardened nipples highlighted by the stray rays of sunlight filtering through the window. Her arms wrapped around his body, and she began French-kissing him with surprising warmth and vigour. Then she pulled her lips away, her arms still around him and his around her.

Her nostrils began twitching just as he shifted so that his penis was aligned with her sex, and he knew right away that she was going to sneeze. Her eyes were slowly squeezing tightly shut, her mouth open and her head reared back in a way that was increasingly familiar. She then placed a finger beneath her nose, trying to hold the sneeze back, struggling to keep it in as long as possible.

"If I huh-hold it in... it'll come... huh... c-come out..." but she could say no more, her effort as speech thwarted by the intensifying tickle that was insiduously growing in her twitching nose.

"Oh," Jack sighed, as he slowly slipped into her warmth, burying himself torturously slowly into her, revelling in her luxuriously slickness as he did so. "Oh yes, try to hold it back, please..."

She wrapped her thighs around his, locking him in and thrusting her hips against him, loving the feeling of having him inside her as she struggled not to give in and sneeze.

"Ah... ahhh.huh-ahhh... oh God... can't... huh-ahh-ahhh... can't take much... much more..." she breathed as Jack began thrusting in and out of her. Jack was delighted as how aroused she already was, and wondered what exactly she had been doing before she came into his room. "Huh-huh... oh God... please... please let me sneeze... can't hold it in anymore... ahh..."

More thrusting, more heavy breathing. Lisa was wonderfully responsive, driving him on as his pleasure increased in time with hers. He looked at her tortured expression, amazed and delighted at what was ostensibly a fantasy come true. The gorgeous woman he was having sex with was obviously torn between indulgence and restraint, between the pleasure she was feeling from having him inside her and the torturous tickle that was slowly and inexorably wearing down her resistance.

"Do it, Lisa," he said, a devilish grin on his own face. "Sneeze."

And sneeze she did; her head snapped sharply forward with the force of the sneeze: "Huh... Haaah... HAAASHOO! Huh... Hatchoo! Haashooo! Haiiissshhooo!"

He felt the sudden gust of wind that accompanied them and the wet spray that landed on his face was like a soft, cooling mist. Her body convulsed with each sneeze, forcing his member deeper into her as her muscles tightened spasmodically around him. She sneezed again and again, blissful tremors cursing throughout her body and increasing the sexual intensity.

"Huh-huh-HUSHooo! Huh-ashoo! HatCHOO! Hah-ATCHOO!"

He cupped his hands over her breasts as her head reared back and then thrust forward for sneeze after sneeze, copious spray jetting from her delicate nostrils to land luxuriously all over his face, his shoulders and his chest.

She reached orgasm only seconds before he did, and he felt her trembling against his arching form from the intensity of it. He ejaculated inside her, feeling the hot spurts coursing along his urethra as he did, and they both cried out, to resounding exclamations of pleasure reverberating within the room's bright white walls.

And then, Lisa disintegrated in his arms, one second there and gone the next, vanished into thin air. She made an odd popping sound as she left, as though air was rushing in to feel the vacuum where her previously very tangible and curvaceous form had been.

"Lisa!" he gasped, at first flabbergasted at her sudden disappearance, before becoming very, very scared. "LISA!!!"

His headache rushed back all of a sudden, a throbbing crimson wave of pain ten times worse than it had previously been, making him feel as though his brain were being crushed inside his skull. He heard a faint buzzing in the air as the room began to break up before his eyes.

"What the Hell's going on?" he asked himself as he began to grey out, once more feeling oily black waves lapping at the edges of his consciousness, dragging him under.

There was no answer, nothing but static emerging from the shadows that rushed upon him to carry him into their darkness. His entire body went completely numb, and within mere seconds, he faded out entirely.

* * *

Jack groaned in agony as he finally emerged from his unconscious state, groggy but slowly regaining his senses. This time, though, there was no casting about and wondering where he was. He quickly realized that he was in a standard hospital room, lying on a bed with tubes up his nose and an intravenous link slowly dripping fluid into his receptive veins. He looked at the puffy purplish puncture wound near his elbow, clearly visible despite the shadows in the room, and winced.

Dragging his eyes away from this unsettling sight and wondering what the rest of him must look like, he focused on the woolly blanket covering him. He found that he was no longer naked nor sporting his powder blue Hanes briefs, but that someone had 'dressed' him in one of those generic blue hospital gowns. And attached a classy white nametag onto it, no less, with JACK BUNDY printed across it in bold black characters as a means of providing him with an identity.

The lights were out in his hospital room; murky shadows were cast over every object in the room, making them appear unnaturally sinister. He closed his eyes as his mind became overrun with questions, making him wish he had a paper bag to breathe into to help and alleviate what he felt must be the onset of a panic attack. How long had he been here? And where was he? He had no way of knowing. Had he been unconscious for a few hours? A day? Months? What had happened to his job - had he been fired during the time he had missed? Surely they would have been able to identify him by his driver's license. Or had the bum taken that? Oh God, the bum! Where was he now? Did he have Jack's address, from the cards he'd stolen? Had his apartment been taken over and made into a soup kitchen?

And then, strangely enough, a peculiar calm stole over him. None of it really mattered: he was alive, he was safe, and Lisa would... Wait, what had happened to Lisa? She'd vanished, hadn't she? Or - and the thought made Jack pause - had she never even existed outside his mind?

He raised his head slightly to have a better look at his surroundings, and then had to bite off a scream from the agony the effort had caused. The sheer force of the pressure it had put on his already pounding headache was truly atrocious. Slowly, with infinite care to avoid more unnecessary pain, he brought his head back down and rested it against the pillow. He lay there, completely still and staring off into the darkness, feeling oddly hollow and uncharacteristically helpless.

Then he heard two sets of echoing footsteps clacking on the tile floor outside. His ears almost straining in the direction of the sounds, he heard a soft, feminine sneeze from out in the hall, and somehow Jack knew, he just knew, who his visitor would be.

"Well, well, look who's here," he thought. And then, a strange wash of relief as his thoughts coalesced against an emotion so strong and bright that he was stunned for a moment: relief. "She's real!" he whispered aloud

He realized then that everything that had happened, his winding up at her place in the woods, his rapid convalescence, their fantastic sneezy sex, all of it had happened entirely in his mind. "Nothing more than a dream," he thought wistfully. But what was strange about it was its vividness - he could remember it in such detail, almost from beginning to end. "Perhaps I remember it because it was the type of thing I would never have wanted to forget," he considered briefly. "But it doesn't really matter, does it?"

He heard voices outside:

"Really, miss, it's like I said before, he'll be fine once he wakes up. It really wasn't quite as bad as we initially feared." A man's voice, rather squeaky - Jack knew this was probably a doctor.

"I know, Doctor Berube, but I just want to check on him."

Jack felt traces of moisture well up in his eyes at the sound of that voice. It was Lisa - it was really her!

"He probably hasn't even awakened yet; why don't you go and get some rest? It's really getting very late, and we're not allowed to admit visitors at this time. Even when they work here." The doctor's voice was kind, but its placating attempt was unmistakeable.

He heard the door creaking open, and someone flipped on the light switch. Bright darts of light from overhead assailed his eyes, and he felt that familiar sensation of heat over his face as it contorted in the usual pre-sneeze expression. That tickle in his nose - dammit! He couldn't sneeze now, not like this...

"Gah!... Ah-CHOO! Huh-ha-CHOO! ISHOO! *sniff* ugh-... shit."

The force of his sneezes had jolted his headache to even more excruciating levels, the likes of which Jack had never before experienced. "Welcome to the next level," he muttered under his breath, wincing.

"Oh my, God bless you!" Lisa exclaimed, before sneezing twice herself. She sniffed, and then asked Jack how he had been feeling.

"Like shit, Lisa," Jack croaked, experiencing serious deja-vu, "like total shit."

"I told you you shouldn't have gone into that dark, scary alley," she said, frowning though her voice was sweetened by concern and compassion. "Oh God, Jack, you have no idea how scared I was! I was working the night shift, and I when I saw you coming in, blood all over you, in that ambulance..."

"Yeah, definitely should've stayed with you; looking back on it now, a choice between enjoying your wonderful sneezing fits and getting my head bashed in, I think I should have picked the first one," Jack thought, but of course, did not say it out loud. Instead, he said:

"You're right. Too late now, though... It's funny how we're meeting up again, in any case. Do you come here often?" he asked, grinning, making a joke of this time-honoured pick-up line as he eyed her nurse's uniform. How on earth has his subconscious mind known Lisa would be a nurse? At least, this time, she wasn't wearing fishnets.

"Silly Jack, I work here. I... *sniff* ah-ahhh-CHOO! Excuse me. *sniff*. I just had to keep a special lookout for you when you came here. It might sound silly, but we just got along so well when we met, I just felt like we were old friends or something. I- I don't know-... I can't explain it."

"Yeah," Jack agreed. "It does sort of feel like that, doesn't it?"

They looked into each other's eyes, seeing a spark of something much more all encompassing than friendship already burning there. Without saying a word, Lisa bent over Jack and both fell into an embrace and a kiss that seemed to last forever.

Jack felt an irrational compulsion to re-enact what he had just been dreaming about, though he sternly told himself to hold back. He wanted to tell Lisa about his deepest secret, but though he'd found himself easily able to so in his dream, his lips were tightly sealed for the moment. The mental block had been firmly rebuilt, all the hatches sealed off - his secret was safely locked away and unable to escape no matter how badly he now wanted to disclose it. And perhaps, when he thought about it, it was just as well.

"Now isn't this a touching scene," Doctor Berube interjected dryly, walking into the room as he returned from checking another patient. "Nurse Harris, do I really need to tell you that kissing and hugging patients is not a part of your duties?"

Jack looked toward him, a bald man with thick glasses in a white jacket. His physical appearance perfectly fit perfectly his nasal, squeaky voice. He quickly defended Lisa, who'd promptly pulled away, looking fairly mortified.

"Don't worry Doctor, Lisa and I have been dating for a while now, so I think I'm entitled to a bit more affection from her than her other patients. Hopefully she doesn't do that with all her other patients," he added, giving the grateful Lisa an accomplice's grin. Then, he asked, "But tell me, Doc, what's the prognosis?"

"Well, you've only been here for about twenty-four hours. We were a bit concerned about you at first. You'd lost a lot of blood and have sustained quite a nasty gash on your forehead, which we were luckily able to stitch up. The man who found you yesterday night reported that had been hit by a crowbar, and whoever it was did a pretty good job of it. Had your skull been any softer, you probably would have sustained a fracture as well. At this point, you are listed as being in a stable condition and are expected to make a full recovery. However, the injury will leave behind a scar over your forehead that will never fully heal - unless you'd like to consider some plastic surgery? Doctor Valmont, a colleague of mine, is really wonderful-"

"I think I can live with scar," Jack cut in. "I'm afraid I probably don't have the funds to have Doctor Valmont get me back in shape to enter any beauty pageants. What do you think, Lisa? Will you still like me even if I don't win the Miss America title this year?"

She nodded happily. "Of course I will; looks aren't everything! As long as you're okay, Jack." And then she kissed him again. Jack was delighted at the thought that his glib fabrication about them having been an item would perhaps not long remain fiction.

"Come now," Doctor Berube said, "he needs his rest."

The doctor gently took Lisa's hand and escorted her out of the room.

On her way out, as if to bid Jack a special, secret farewell, Lisa's head thrust forward with the force of yet another allergic outburst: "Ahh-CHOO! *sniff* Ah-ahh-CHOO!"

The doctor flipped off the lights in his room and they both left for good, closing the door behind them.

Jack was alone once again, but he was now content. From the looks of things, everything would be okay. In fact, things would be much more than okay!

Love at first sight.

Jack had never before believed in such a thing, and wasn't sure if he did even now. But regardless, it would appear that Lisa's interest in him mirrored his own feelings toward her. Love at first sight... Or love at first sneeze, maybe? Well, in any case, they would definitely be spending more time together, her with her allergies, and him greatly enjoying them. He wondered what she would think, how she would REALLY react if she knew his secret. Someday, he knew, he would find a way to tell her. And then, together, they would perhaps turn the dream into a reality.