Tony knew that he'd promised upgrades to everyone's shit; he KNEW that. The consistent reminders were doing nothing but pissing him off.
Two days ago, he'd woken up with some kind of cold from hell, which had yesterday mutated into what he was pretty sure was the flu. Still, he made promises to his friends. If fifteen or twenty minutes of work was all he could get done before he felt like he was going to pass out and had to nap for an hour, then that's the system he'd work with.
"Boss," FRIDAY came over the speakers quietly, "your temperature is spiking again. It's been four hours since you've had anything to drink. I suggest getting water."
"Nghh," he replied eloquently, "later, FRI. Everything hurts."
"That's because your temperature has hit 103, sir," she explained. "Water will lessen the dehydration headache."
Tony sighed and sat up. "You're not going to leave me alone until I do, are you?"
"Nope," she said, popping the 'p' obnoxiously.
He huffed a sigh and stood, steadying himself against the couch when he swayed. From the elevator, he could hear that there were people in the tower, but he wasn't sure which of the Avengers, all of whom of course had standing invitations to visit and stay, were currently loitering.
Peter Quill was the first to jump him when he emerged from the basement.
"Tony!" he greeted cheerfully, grabbing Tony's shoulders and pulling him in fo a tight side hug that made Tony nearly gasp in pain, "you've been down there for so long; we thought you were dead!"
"Working on it," Tony snarked back, pushing off Quill. "I just came up for water."
Natasha, nearest to the refrigerator, tossed a bottle to him, but his reflexes were dulled by fever, and it just bounced off his shoulder and hit the ground.
"Maybe we should work on some reflex training after you give me my new arrows," Clint teased, glancing expectantly at him.
"Yeah, still not done with that," Tony admitted.
Clint pouted. "Why not? You've been down there for three days."
Tony was about to explain that he'd been sick, still WAS sick, and that frankly they should have noticed that sooner, but Quill cut him off.
"He's probably working on my element guns," he beamed. "One of 'em got busted."
"That's why we don't leave weapons under couch cushions," Wanda rolled her eyes. "You're just lucky it was Drax and not Hulk who sat on it."
Tony was starting to get light headed from standing. "I, uh, don't have that done, either," he admitted. "Like I said, I'm just--water, and then..."
"Then you're going to show me the renovations to my suit?" Peter Parker asked, flashing his bigm puppy eyes at Tony.
"Enough!" Tony bit, coughing when the outburst tore at his throat. Everyone in the kitchen jumped. "No, I don't have your suit, and I don't have your guns, and I don't have your arrows," he snapped, pointing to the owner of each weapon as he listed them. "I'm WORKING on it, so just," he wiped sweat from his forehead despite the fact that he could feel himself shivering, "everyone just fuck off, okay?"
Quill gasped loudly and covered Peter Parker's ears. "There are children present!" he exclaimed, but Tony didn't laugh, or apologize, or do anything, really, except snatch his water bottle off the counter and stumble back toward the elevator.
Less than half an hour later, Stephen Strange walked through the door and followed the noise of the still-chatting Avengers, assuming that's where Tony would be, too.
"Hey, Stephen," Quill greeted, "long time no see!"
"Indeed," he brushed him off. He was here for a reason, after all. "Is Tony Stark around?"
"Oh," Wanda grimaced, "you don't want to mess with him right now. He's in a mood."
Stephen quirked an eyebrow. "What do you mean, 'a mood?'"
Clint set his cup of coffee down with vigor. "He came upstairs for a drink and we were just trying to make conversation with him, but he got all pissy and stormed off."
"He even said the fuck word in front of THE BOY!" Quill added.
"I can say fuck, too!" Peter added sheepishly, "if... if I wanted to."
Stephen paid them no mind. "Well, what's got him so upset?"
Natasha shrugged. "I've got no idea. He's probably frustrated about something not working. You know how he gets."
Stephen nodded. It didn't sit right with him. Usually, when Tony's work wasn't going well, his reaction was to hole himself up and make sure no one knew that everything wasn't perfect, not to throw a fit about it. He was a secretive, proud man that way. Additionally, even if Parker didn't care, Tony was careful how he spoke around him.
"I'm going to check on him," Stephen decided. Quill and Clint hummed Taps as he headed straight to the elevator and down to Tony's workshop.
Unsurprisingly, at least to Stephen, Tony wasn't working on any of the tasks he'd been given.
Instead, he was curled up on the couch, Dum-E hovering nervously and piling blankets over his shivery, sweating body.
"Stark?" Strange called, and upon getting no response, he took a few steps toward him. "Stark, are you okay?" Tony was moaning in his sleep, the kind of near-awake-but-not-quite, desperately afraid moan that could only mean a trauma nightmare. Stephen sighed, reaching out and shaking Tony lightly by the shoulder.
"Come on, Stark," he said gently, "wake up."
Tony sat up with a barely-repressed scream, which turned quickly into a harsh cough. Stephen winced.
"Woah, hey. Calm down. You're in your lab in Manhattan. The Avengers are in the kitchen, eating all your food. It's 73 degrees outside and sunny."
Tony swiped defensively at his eyes and Stephen pretended not to notice.
"Strange?" Tony asked confusedly, "what're you doing here?" His voice sounded like hell--how had the others not noticed this? Stephen pressed a hand to Tony's forehead and winced.
"Never mind that," Stephen replied, his own request forgotten, "what are you doing down here with a fever of... erm, ceiling voice?"
"Boss' temperature is 103.5, Dr. Strange," FRIDAY offered.
Stephen's eyes widened. "Why are you alone with a fever like that?"
Tony averted his eyes. "I'm not done with... with anything," he admitted. "They'll be mad."
Stephen sighed. "I'll be back," he promised. "I'm going to get you medical supplies, and have a word with the Avengers."
When the elevator dinged and Stephen stepped out, the general consensus of faces in the room said "I told you so," and Stephen was NOT happy.
"So," Quill began, did he bit your head off?"
"Or tear you a new asshole?" Clint finished.
Stephen glared. "You said he was upstairs earlier, talking to you all?"
Peter Parker's face fell. "Yeah," he agreed, "is he okay?"
"Not exactly," Strange said. "He's running a very high fever, and I'm frankly disappointed that none of you caught on.
Peter cursed. "I knew it!" he despaired, "dang it; I asked him yesterday if he was coming down with something, but he told me to leave it alone, so I just... did..."
"It's not your fault," Strange caved. He could see why Tony had a soft spot for the kid. "Stark would go to great lengths to hide illness from you. The rest of you, however," he continued, eyeing the rest of the room's occupants, "might do well to apologize. You know, when Stark is coherent again."
Strange left the room in an awkward, guilty silence, then beckoned for Parker to show him where the medical supplies were kept--of all the people he could call on to help, Tony was likely not to mind the presence of Peter. Stephen thought the spider boy might be his favorite, too, as he watched Peter fret to make Tony comfortable even as he slept.