"I ab Batroc ze Leapair!" He kicked out at Captain America and the Falcon. "Atchoum!" he sneezed, with a French accent.
"Yes, we've met." Falcon ducked Batroc's kick.
"Are you okay?" Cap caught his shield. "You should take care of that cold. If you're willing to give up, we'll let you see a doctor...."
"Non! Once he has given his word, Batroc never *atchoum* gives up! Not for le Captitaine d'Amerique and certainement not for un rhume!"
"Of course you won't. You couldn't take us down even if you were healthy; at least this way you can infect your enemies! Go for him, Redwing!"
Batroc's savate left him more vulnerable to attack from above; Redwing's attack from the left was joined by Cap's shield from the right. "Salaude espèce de l'oiseau!" he swore in mangled French.
Falc laughed. "Your cold makes your accent even funnier."
What Batroc said next was almost incomprehensible, but probably very rude.
"Look on the bright side," said Cap. "In jail he should be able to get some rest and chicken soup."
"Batroc does not need your *atchoum* soupe de poulet!" His cold had, however, taken a lot out of his fighting skill, and he was already tied up and on the way to prison.
"I didn't realize a guy like you could get a common cold," said Sam Wilson, back at his office three days after the encounter with Batroc.
"I ab huban like--*achoo!*--the rest of you," said Steve. "Although I did't get bady codes back during the War. Doctor *achoo!* Blake told me that my ibune systeb was probably cobprobised a bit from all the time on ice."
Steve wiped his nose on a large white handkerchief he'd pulled from his pocket. Sam was relieved to discover that it was not, in fact, red, white, and blue, although on second thought that would probably be disrespectful.
"Lie down," Sam said. "I'm going to get you some medicine and make you some soup."
"It's bot what I'b here for." He shook his head angrily. "There's a case..."
"Lie down then and tell me all about it. Redwing and I'll take care of it for you." Both man and bird gestured at the bed Sam kept in his office for the occasional use of his clients and often his friend as well.
"I cab't have people getting hurt just because I've got a code. I cab't have you getting hurt." Steve put an arm on Sam's shoulder and didn't budge. "I'm used to fighting in all sorts of situations. During the War...."
"I'm your partner, Steve. Trust me." Sam stared him down. Equality had always been a sticking point in their relationship, and Sam wasn't going to fail to take advantage of it when necessary. "Let me take care of you for once."
"All right, Sam." Steve sat down, suddenly letting himself look tired. "Just let me tell you what's going on. You have the Avengers' number if you need back-up."
Unfortunately, Steve's acquiescence was somewhat temporary. He did let Sam tuck him into bed, full of cold medicine and chicken soup, but he also managed to talk Sam into bringing a comlink along.
And used it.
Sam was pretty much used to the fact that Steve was the worst backseat driver on the face of the planet; it was part of his charm, and anyway, Steve was usually right.
And even under the circumstances, Steve did have useful advice; even long-distance, his sense of tactics were justly famed, and he had valuable information from the original reconnaissance and SHIELD files.
But it was distracting, especially when every "I think he bight have cobtacts with Joe's boys" or "Go to the right here!" came with sneezes and coughs and reminders that Cap was not well. He risked his cover a few times to tell him to quiet down and rest, damnit, but was just worried enough about Cap deciding to come follow him and help not to actually turn the damn thing off.
For a relatively simple round-up, it was a very long night. By the time Sam got back to his office, he was ready for some rest--and starting to be stuffed up himself.
"How're you doing?" asked Sam softly, as he climbed through the window, Redwing flying in beside him. "Great. Now he falls asleep."
"Sab?" Steve jumped up and looked around. "Is everythig okay? Did you get hurt? Is Redwig okay?"
"Yes, everything went fine, Steve. Go back to sleep." Somewhat undermining his attempt to be reassuring, Sam sneezed violently.
"I seeb to have infected you. Is there anything I can do?"
"No. Just rest. I'm going to bed. Redwing? If he tries to get up and fight crime, peck him for me."
Redwing squawked in agreement and settled on the corner of Cap's bed.
"Looks like you've got be. Partner." It looked for a second like Cap was going to drift off to sleep. "Just take care of yourself!" He finally yielded.
"Of course," said Sam. "I will or you'll do it for me."
In the morning, Steve was feeling much better. He pulled himself out of bed and, verifying that he was in Sam's office and Sam wasn't, went to find him.
His throat was still sore and he coughed a few times on the way over to his friend's apartment, but the fatigue and most of the sneezing seemed to be gone. Just a cold; at least Batroc hadn't given them the flu.
He knocked on the door. "Sam? Are you in there? It's Steve."
When he came to the door, Sam looked exactly like Steve had felt the other day. "Hey. You look better." Sam sneezed. "Cobe in."
"I wanted to see how you were doing. And get a report on the drug-runners from yesterday, but if you're not up to that...."
"No, no, I can at least manage that. Have a seat."
"Let me at least make you some tea, then you can tell me."
Sam was just finishing when Cap's Avengers call signal went off. "I should go."
"You're sure you're well enough?" Sam eyed him doubtfully.
"I have to at least see how urgent it is."
"All right. I'm not healthy enough myself to stop you. Go."
At Headquarters, Cap was met by Vision. "It is good that you are here," he said, his artificial voice edged by relief. "Most of my organic colleagues are...not healthy."
"Oh dear! I'm afraid I may have infected them. We fought Power Man and the Swordsman just two days ago and I was in bed all the next day...."
"Well. It is good that you are better and I am immune. You are better, yes?"
"Well enough! What is the emergency?"
"It's Kang again. Or possibly before, or so I'm told. Let's go to the meeting room with the others...." They walked in. "Wanda!" said Vision. "You're supposed to be in bed."
"That's what I keep telling her," said Pietro, probably the healthiest of the assembled Avengers save Cap and Vision.
Which was not saying much. Jan hovered at the end of the table near her husband, blowing her nose on tissues the size of her body; Hank looked equally bad next to her. Goliath was, for once, not showing off his large size; he was sulkily sniffling, perched on the edge of his seat.
Wanda looked possibly the worst, although perhaps not quite enough the worst to justify Vision and Pietro's concern. "I'm no worse than the rest of us," she said.
"Yes, but you lose control of your hexes sometimes when you sneeze," said Pietro.
"I haven't done that in years."
"Still. You should be in bed."
"We should all be in bed."
"Quiet down, you two," said Cap. "Let's look at the situation, and then we can try to figure out how to use the available resources. Any word from Iron Man, Thor or Black Panther?"
"No; I gather Thor and T'Challa are tied up in private business," said Vision.
"And I think Iron Man doesn't want to be sneezing into his helmet," commented Clint, snorting and then sneezing.
"Well, then. Vision. The situation?"
"Kang wants the Avengers, and he says he'll blow up New York if we don't surrender ourselves to him, to be transported into the 40th Century, within twenty-four hours. Twenty-three by now."
"Did he specify which Avengers?"
"Well, then. Pietro, Vision and I will go to him. The rest of you can stay and try to recover; if it becomes necessary for you to intervene, you'll still have hours until the deadline."
"No, no, no, I want the OTHER Avengers!" Kang ranted from a chronological window. "None of you will do, not at all."
"We three are the only Avengers on active duty currently," said Cap. "If you wanted other Avengers, you should have made your threat in a different time period."
"The delicate chronological balance of that situation makes that impossible! I need your comrades, Avengers, or my future Earth will die--but not before I destroy your present."
"What's wrong with us anyway?" asked Pietro.
Kang sighed impatiently. "There are only three of you and you don't have--the right powers to defend my Earth from being overrun by alien invaders."
"Then who do you need?"
"My instruments show that Goliath, Scarlet Witch, Yellowjacket, and the Wasp are also available in this time period. Bring the four of them with you, and you will have a chance of saving Earth's future and New York's past."
"Avengers--let's discuss this," Cap called Pietro and Vision over to him.
"I don't trust him," said Pietro.
"Me neither, but Kang is a villain of his word. And he is powerful," said Cap.
"But we shouldn't put the team in danger when they're ill," said Vision.
"Heroes don't have sick days, I'm afraid," said Cap. "At least we can ask them."
"All right. I just don't want my sister hurt."
Cap turned to Kang. "If we help you, will you release us to the 20th century unharmed and remove the threat to our city?"
"Of course. Any danger to you in my century will be from my enemies, not me. And Kang always keeps his word."
"Then we will talk to our teammates."
"Avengers," Cap's face showed up on the viewscreen. "Kang's demand requires the four of you specifically, not just us three."
"Well then," said Goliath, pulling himself up several feet of height. "What are we waiting for!" He sneezed, thunderously.
"If duty calls," said Jan, keeping well away from Clint's sneezes. "Are you okay, Wanda? Hank, honey?"
"I am well if I need to be." Wanda blew her nose one more time and tucked some tissues into her costume.
"Likewise," said Hank.
"With your consent," said Kang, "I will transport you all straight to the battlefield."
"Then hurry up with it!" said Pietro.
The next few hours were full of battling, sneezing Avengers and little green men.
At first, the Avengers, with half the team still sick, barely held their own; Kang's own forces had withdrawn from the field, leaving their 20th century allies to defend them. "The coward," said Pietro, and the others rather agreed.
But they gradually warmed to the fight, even if they were sneezing all over their adversaries. And as the fight progressed, their enemies seemed to weaken out of all proportion to their actual attacks; some of them, especially nearby the four sicker Avengers, just lay down their arms and curled on the ground asleep; it was soon quite a feat to avoid the fallen but still living bodies of the enemy. Others started displaying violent cold symptoms of their own, coughing and sneezing in pink and purple.
All too soon the field was won; those aliens still on their feet abandoned their stricken fellows and fled to spaceships and took off.
The Avengers did not pursue them, but rather looked down on the battlefield, sickened.
"What happened to them all?" asked Goliath.
"It looks like," Hank said grimly, examining one of them, "they fell victim to the common cold."
"Oh my God," said Captain America. "We've been fighting the Martians from War of the Worlds."
Wanda and Pietro looked slightly confused by the reference. Vision looked sadder and angrier than he thought he could be. Jan looked shocked.
"We've WHAT?" said Clint. He coughed, covering his mouth in horror with a giant hand. "KANG!"
Kang's image appeared, but not, alas, the real Kang; neither Pietro's impetuous attack nor Clint's touched him. "I see you've done your job. Thank you, you may return home now as promised."
All seven Avengers vanished, leaving behind a field of sick aliens.
Clint shook his fist. "Next time!"
"I can't stop remembering their faces, with them all curled up like that," said Jan.
All the Avengers looked sick, mentally as well as physically.
"Making us privy to biological warfare, just because some of us had the common cold. The depths some men will go to to protect their ambitions." Healthy or not, Cap looked very tired. "Well. No more assembling until all of you are well."
"Meanwhile," Jarvis entered the meeting room with a tray. "Madame Wasp, Madame Scarlet Witch, gentlemen. May I offer you all chicken soup? You look like you need it."
A few hours later, Cap cycled back to Harlem with a large tupperware of chicken soup from Jarvis for his sick partner.
"Sam, how are you doing?" he asked. "Oh good, I'm glad you're still at your apartment."
"Most of my clients as Sam Wilson know where to find me anyway." Sam sniffled. "And, well, I don't have to make it easy for them to catch my cold."
"No, no." Steve looked sad. "Contagious disease is never a good thing."
"Oh dear. Did the Avengers have it too? What happened?"
"Let me heat up some of Jarvis' chicken soup and I'll tell you the story..."
"Batroc ze Leapair is free at last!" Batroc said to himself (once at a good distance from pursuit). "Free from prison and that rhume. Which is more than can be said for most of my jailers! How ironic that the very cold that allowed Batroc to be captured let him get free, n'est-ce pas!
"Too bad anyone Batroc tried to recruit for his brigade got sick. C'est la vie, and they will be better soon."