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Moderate to Severe

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It was movie night in the mansion. It was a semi-regular Thursday night thing; provided the world wasn’t in danger, a majority of the Avengers were present at the time, and nobody had landed themselves in medical. Steve checked his watch and settled himself at the end of the long plush couch. All of the team was present this evening. This was rare as Thor often spent time with Jane at her place and Natasha and Clint had a habit of disappearing on super-spy SHIELD business that the others weren’t allowed to know about if they valued their lives. Clint had told them many times that if they told the other Avengers what they were up to he and Natasha would have to kill them. (Tony found this hilarious, for some reason. It sounded pretty serious to Steve.)

Clint and Bruce were arguing over which Star Wars movie to watch first. (Bruce wanted to go in order. Clint said there was no way he was watching the Prequels That Must Not Be Named. Even Steve could hear the capital letters when Clint said that.) Natasha had settled on one side of the short couch, bowl of popcorn in her lap and looking incredibly amused. Thor had already claimed one of the cushy lounge chairs. He had his own bowl of popcorn and scattered around his feet were two bags of chips and a bag of pork rinds. Steve checked his watch again.

“You’ll confuse Steve and Thor if you don’t start with The Phantom Menace,” Bruce was saying.

“Episodes 1 thru 3 are an abomination against humanity. They are better off never watching them. We’re starting with A New Hope and that’s it,” replied Clint. He was clutching the Star Wars box set against his chest, keeping it out of Bruce’s reach.

“Everyone knows that The Return of the Jedi is the best one,” announced Natasha, smirking.

“We could start with that one,” suggested Steve.

“No, then you really will be confused,” Clint said with a firm shake of his head.

“If we don’t want to confuse them then was should start with The Phantom Menace!” snapped Bruce.

“Perhaps now would be a good time to employ the Midgardian tradition of, what did you call it, flipping a coin?” asked Thor.

“Excellent idea, Thor,” Steve said quickly before this turned into a bareknuckle brawl like with the Indiana Jones movies. While Tony had replaced the large plasma TV they had broken, he hadn’t been happy about it. Steve pulled a quarter from his pocket. (People apparently didn’t carry change in the future. Tony said that electronic bank cards made carrying cash and coins unnecessary and could he really see Natasha or Clint jingling when they walked? Super ninja assassins did not jingle, no matter how many times Tony threatened to put bells on them.) “Call it Bruce,” Steve said as he flipping the coin in the air.


Steve caught the coin and slapped it over his wrist. He removed his hand and smiled regretfully at Bruce. “Tails. Looks like we’re starting with A New Hope.”

“Yes!” crowed Clint, taking a victory lap around the living room. Bruce collapsed into the other lounge chair with a pout on his face.

Natasha threw a piece of popcorn at Clint. “Will you just put on the movie!” she ordered. Steve looked at his watch for a third time and fought back a sigh. It looked like Tony wasn’t going to be joining them. He hadn’t come up out of his workshop for lunch either and the dark haired genius had looked strained during breakfast. Well, breakfast if you counted Tony appearing for the length of time it took him to fill his coffee cup and then disappear again back into the depths of his workshop. Tony was probably caught in one of those manic fits of creation that sometimes overtook him, resulting in some new improvement to the Captain America suit or a new arrow type for Clint and an exhausted and strung out Tony. Steve hoped he had at least slept some last night. Tony could often go for days before finally collapsing on one of the workbenches. Steve fiddled with his own bowl of popcorn and promised himself he would check on Tony after the movie. The genius could be, well, touchy if interrupted while he was working.

A few minutes later they were following Luke Skywalker around Tatooine when the movie paused by itself. “Hey!” cried Clint, reaching for the remote control. “What gives?”

“Forgive me for the interruption, Mr. Barton,” Jarvis said suddenly. They all looked at the ceiling, despite being told several times that that wasn’t necessary and they looked ridiculous when they did it.

“Steward!” cried Thor happily. “Have you come to inform us the Avengers are needed?”

“No, Thor,” replied Jarvis. “I merely wish to see if Captain Rogers would mind escorting Sir to bed.” Clint wolf-whistled and Natasha smacked him on the arm.

Steve frowned and set his popcorn aside. “Is Tony okay, Jarvis?”

“Sir is fine. I merely think Sir would be more comfortable resting in his own bed,” replied Jarvis. That was unusual. Jarvis normally had no problem with letting Tony face-plant wherever he ran out of steam at. Natasha titled her head and cocked an eyebrow at Steve. They all knew that Jarvis was a marvel of programing and Tony insisted that the AI could learn and adapt in a way never seen before. They were used to the AI’s dry humor and the exasperated tone Jarvis often used when dealing with his creator. But they couldn’t help but think that Jarvis sounded tense and slightly distracted at the moment.

“Alright,” replied Steve slowly as he stood. “If you are sure that Tony is fine and just needs to go to bed.”

“I assure you, Captain, Sir is completely fi…” Jarvis stopped speaking mid-word, something they didn’t think could actually happen.

Everyone tensed. “Jarvis?” snapped Bruce.

“Sir requires assistance,” the AI blurted. They were all on their feet and moving before the AI could finish speaking.

“What’s wrong, Jarvis? Is he injured?” demanded Steve as he fairly flew down the stairs.

“Not injured. It’s been some time since it’s been this bad,” Jarvis replied. Now the AI definitely sounded anxious. “I implored Sir to rest earlier but he ignored my advice. It’s been awhile since he has suffered one this severe. I believe he was caught off-guard.” He was babbling. The AI was babbling. That could not be good.

They all rounded the corner to the workshop to find the area behind the glass walls dark. Steve jumped the last few stairs and hurried to the door but when he touched the section where the key pad should have appeared it stayed blank. He pulled at the door but it didn’t as much as rattle. “Jarvis? What going on? Why are all the lights off?”

“One moment, please,” replied the AI. A few lights turned on in the fair corner, casting the workshop in muted greys. “It is inadvisable for me to turn on more lights than that but you should be able to see adequately with just those.” Steve gave the ceiling a confused look.

“Steward, you must allow us in so we may assist our friend,” demanded Thor impatiently. The glass wall that separated them from the workshop would not be a match for Mjolnir should the god become irritated.

Natasha was peering into the gloom and gave a displeased sound. She pointed to a nearby table they could just make out in the half-light. Clint cursed as he saw what she was pointing at. The distinctive orange medication bottle was on its side, yellow pills scattered across the tabletop. Steve gasped and felt his skin prickle with horror. He pounded his fist against the glass door. “Tony? Tony! Where are you?” he shouted.

“Stop that! You are making it worse!” Jarvis fairly growled. There was a sharp pop and Steve jumped back as the glass wall snapped with electricity, biting at his skin.

“What are they? How many did Tony take?” demanded Bruce, green gathering around his eyes. “If Tony has overdosed on something, then we must get to him as quickly as possible, Jarvis. You need to let us in.”

“I am very disappointed in all of you,” muttered the AI. And Jarvis did sound as if they had let him down somehow. “They are prescription migraine medication and Sir had taken two. The bottle was merely knocked over by accident.”

“Migraine?” echoed Bruce with a wince. “Then all our shouting and pounding is not helping matters, is it?”

“No, Dr. Banner, it is not,” replied Jarvis coldly. “If you are not going to be of assistance, then please leave.” The glass wall crackled with electricity again in warning.

“We’re sorry, Jarvis,” Steve said. “We thought…well um.”

“I am quite aware of what you thought, Captain Rogers. You are wrong. Sir has never abused drugs in all my time of operation.” The AI’s voice could have frozen air solid.

“You said it’s been some time since Tony has had a migraine this bad,” Bruce said, redirecting the conversation. “How bad are we talking?”

There was a short pause before Jarvis answered. “Quite bad, I believe. Migraines have often troubled Sir but not to a level that they incapacitate him as they have now. He was also rarely nauseous enough to become ill.”

“He’s thrown up then,” stated Bruce. “I assume that means he’s lost the pills he took.”

“Unfortunately,” answered the subdued AI.

“Where is he now?”

The AI paused again. “Sir is on the couch.” Jarvis sounded miserable.

“Please let us in, Jarvis. We’re sorry we didn’t understand before but we can help now,” pleaded Steve.

For a moment Jarvis did not respond. Then the AI gave a little sigh. “Please, be quiet as possible. Noise and light only make the pain worse.” The key pad appeared and blinked green. They heard the door unlock.

The workshop was dim and smelled of warm metal and oil like usual. But now there was the acidic smell of vomit and the harsh, measured breathing of someone in pain. They found Tony curled tight in the corner of the couch, twisted into a ball with his forehead pressed to the couch arm. “Tony?” muttered Steve, softly touching his arm. The dark haired man gave a little moan in response. Steve was at a loss. His friend was in pain but he didn’t know what to do to help him.

The others were quietly muttering in the background. Jarvis directed Clint to the trashcan Tony had been sick in and the archer disappeared with it into the bathroom with a look of distaste. There was the hiss of running water from the kitchenette and Bruce appeared with a couple of warm washcloths. He laid one on the back of Tony’s neck. “Tony?” whispered Bruce. He stroked the other man’s dark hair. “Can you sit up for me? Please?” Tony whimpered a little and curled more tightly. Bruce frowned and jerked his chin to couch. “Steve? If you could?”

Steve sat on the cushion behind Tony and gently grabbed his shoulders, slowly easing Tony back. “Come on, Tony. Let us help,” Steve muttered. He guided Tony back to rest against his chest.

Tony’s breathing quickened as the movement made his head give a vicious throb and he squinted his eyes open. “Wha…?” He swallowed quickly around rising nausea.

“No, none of that,” murmured Bruce. “Close your eyes. It’s just us.” Bruce used one of the washcloths to wipe the sweat and tears from Tony’s face and then laid another one across his eyes. “Just relax.” Bruce pushed Tony back to rest more fully against Steve and then picked up one of his hands. “Steve, squeeze here for me please.” Bruce moved Steve’s fingers until he was satisfied with their position between Tony’s thumb and forefinger. “Keep up a steady pressure,” he ordered. “It will help with the nausea.” Bruce got up to speak with Natasha and Thor. Both the assassin and the god of thunder quickly disappeared up the stairs.

Steve wrapped his free arm around Tony’s waist, keeping up the pressure on his hand. “We’ve got you, Tony. Just relax,” he muttered into Tony’s hair.

Bruce returned to the kitchenette. “Is there anything I can give him, Jarvis?” he asked softly.

“He won’t be able to keep anything down at this point. Sir will merely vomit anything you give him back up,” replied Jarvis.

“What about something injectable? I could get tramadol for him.”

“It will make him more nauseous. Synthetic pain medications tend to make him incredibly ill, enough that dehydration becomes a concern. Non-synthetic pain medication and narcotics tend to make his heart rate elevate,” replied Jarvis. “There is a ‘do not medicate’ order in his file because of this.”

“Damn,” muttered Bruce. He returned with a fresh warm washcloth and replaced the cooled one on Tony’s forehead. Bruce reached up and cradled Tony’s head between his palms, softly rubbing his thumbs against Tony’s temples. “Tony? I want to get you upstairs and into your own bed. Do you think you can do that?”

“Just leave me alone,” Tony slurred, weakly pulling away from their hands.

“That’s not going to happen,” said Steve softly, beginning to rub at Tony’s belly.

Bruce caught Steve’s hand. “Don’t. His stomach muscles have to hurt by now. Tony, we’re not going to leave you down here and Jarvis was right, you will be more comfortable in your own bed. I’ve sent Natasha up to get your room ready and Thor is filling some hot water bottles for you. Just relax. We’ll get you upstairs.”

Bruce returned to the sink and wet another washcloth in warm water. “Clint, could you grab a blanket from somewhere?” The archer didn’t reply but left the workshop and bolted up the stairs. Bruce returned to the couch and once again replaced the old washcloth, laying the new one over Tony’s eyes. The heat and weight would help ease the pain. “Good. You’re doing good Tony,” he soothed. Clint returned with the blue afghan that had been draped over a chair in the library. Bruce took it and wrapped Tony in its warm folds, cocooning him and hushing him when the genius wiggled. “Steve, can you carry him or should I get Thor?”

“No, I got him,” replied Steve. He shifted out from behind Tony, trying to jostle him as little possible, and slid his arms under Tony’s knees and behind his back.

“Slowly,” warned Bruce. “Lifting him will probably give him vertigo.” Steve nodded and stood slowly, easing his teammate up off the couch. Tony whimpered, tucking his chin down to his chest and swallowing rapidly. They all paused but after a moment Tony settled again. Bruce smoothed the washcloth back into place over Tony’s eyes and pulled the blanket close, creating a dark little carven for Tony to hide. “Alright. Jarvis, can you dim the lights for us?” he asked.

“Of course, Dr. Banner,” replied the AI. The lights out in the hallway dimmed to grey gloom. Bruce nodded and Steve carefully began to walk toward the door. Tony began to breathe in little hissing pants. Clint held the door open and the small group made their way slowly up the steps. As they walked the lights around them dimmed automatically.

They made it out of the basement and Steve carefully turned to head up the stairs toward the bedrooms. He moved slowly because every jostle made Tony flinch and moan. In the second floor hallway, Tony gave a little jerk and began to shudder. Steve looked down in concern, afraid he had somehow hurt him. “He’s gagging,” snapped Jarvis. Clint darted off into one of the bedrooms.

“Down,” ordered Bruce. Steve knelt, supporting Tony’s back with one of his knees. Bruce took the washcloth off of Tony’s eyes and turned his head to the side. Tony swallowed rapidly and pressed his lips together, stubborn to the last second. “No, Tony. Throw up if you have to,” scolded Bruce. Clint reappeared with another trashcan. Bruce wrapped Tony’s hands around it so he would know where it was and then laid his own hands over his as Tony finally became ill.

Steve rubbed his thumb over Tony’s shoulder as the other man jerked and heaved. “It’s okay, Tony. We’ve got you,” he muttered. There wasn’t much for Tony to expel now, just bile and thin liquid. Finally Tony’s shaking stopped and Bruce wiped at his mouth with the washcloth. To Steve’s utter surprise, Tony then turned toward him and wrapped his arms around Steve’s neck, burying his face against the other man’s shoulder with a moan.

“I think it best we finally get him to bed where he can rest,” said Bruce. Clint took the soiled washcloth and trashcan and left to dispose of them. Steve shifted his grip on Tony and slowly stood once more, careful not to upset his stomach again. Bruce went ahead and held the door to Tony’s bedroom open. Steve slipped inside, twisting to the side to keep Tony’s feet from hitting the doorway. Inside, a single lamp on the other side of the room was the only light on and the bed linens had been turned down.

Natasha appeared from the bathroom with a steaming bowl of water and a stack of washcloths as Steve was carefully lowering Tony onto his bed. The assassin set the things on the nightstand and pulled the blue blanket and Tony’s t-shirt off of him before helping Steve gently place his head on the pillow. “Shoes and pants off,” whispered Natasha. Bruce and Steve removed Tony’s shoes as Natasha wetted a washcloth and briskly began to wipe down Tony’s chest and arms, removing sweat and smudges of oil and grease from the workshop. Steve blushed and backed away as Bruce pulled Tony’s jeans down and off, leaving him in just his boxers. Natasha smirked and tossed Steve a towel. Steve gratefully went about his task of drying Tony off as Natasha started on his legs.

Tony wiggled weakly, muttering and cursing at them, eyes tightly closed and breathing through his teeth in little hisses and whimpers. Bruce wet another washcloth in the warm water and pressed it over Tony’s eyes, softly rubbing. Natasha finished washing Tony down and disappeared with the used washcloths. Steve dried him and then pulled up the bed linens. Thor arrived carrying several hot water bottles, walking as softly as any of them had ever seen him move. Bruce accepted one of the bottles with a nod of thanks and slipped it under the covers to rest on Tony’s belly. The dark haired man immediately tried to curl around it but Bruce pushed him flat again. “No, Tony. Stay still. You’ll make it worse.” Bruce tucked another of the bottles behind Tony’s neck and a couple more along his sides. “Try to sleep,” he muttered gently.

It was hard to think through the pain, except for the vague mental pleas for death so it would stop. He had waited too long, he knew that. But it had been so long since he’d had a really bad migraine. Years since Tony had suffered one that hit him this severely. He’d waited too long to take the meds and then he’d thrown them right back up. Because he was a moron. An utter moron. The signs had all been there; the gathering tension in his neck and shoulders, sending pain down his back and making the tips of his fingers tingle. The slowly intensifying pain of the headache as it gathered over Tony’s left eye and then mutated into stabbing pins and the roar of jackhammers. The slight buzzing in his ears that was so easy to ignore and the feeling that everything was gently rocking even though Tony was sitting still. By the time Tony had noticed that all the lights in the workshop were surrounded by a soft glow and that there was a fuzzy grey patch in the middle of his vision, he knew it was too late to do anything and he was in for a doozy of a migraine. The only thing he could do now was find a hole to crawl into and wait for the pain to subside on its own.

Then there had been people with their talking and noise and moving him and they were just lucky he wasn’t wearing any piece of the armor because he would gladly shoot all of them if they didn’t leave him alone. They were speaking to him, bright flashes of pain ripping across his head. Then there was warm wet pressure across his forehead and gentle rubbing and that was nice but then they were moving him again and it was ridiculously unfair that his teammates were so strong but whoever was carrying him was wonderfully warm too and smelled nice but the gentle rocking of their steps was causing Tony’s stomach to roll and, oh god, he did not want to throw up again. He hated throwing up. It made everything burn and the pain in his head escalate from a three piece ensemble into the full orchestra. Tony wanted to hide. Then there was a brisk rub down that made his skin tingle pleasantly and soft towels and cool sheets and a warmth on his sore stomach that he wanted to curl around but they wouldn’t let him, the fuckers. Warm wet pressure was back on his forehead after that, soothing the jabbing throbbing behind his eyes, and the rubbing returned and there may have been some hair stroking, Tony wasn’t sure, and then things got sleepy and fuzzy and dark.