The sound is so loud and high-pitched that the rest of the team actually laughs when it interrupts what is supposed to be a very touching moment during the romantic comedy – Thor’s choice – they have gathered to watch.
If all the air hadn’t just been punched out of his lungs, Tony may have informed the team that hiccups are not something to laugh about. At least, not when it’s Tony suffering from them. Because that is precisely what Tony does. He suffers. See, when you have something like the arc reactor lodged in your chest and your diaphragm suddenly tries to push your lungs into space that doesn’t exist, hiccups abruptly jump out of the 'annoyingly amusing' category and right into the 'really fucking painful' one.
He’s had hiccups before. The first time After that he got them had been so shockingly painful that Tony had curled up into a ball on the floor of his lab and sent all his AI’s into a state of panic. It took five minutes for the hiccups to subside and fifteen minutes for Tony to compile a file of information on how to avoid getting hiccups at all costs.
When he remembers to eat, he chews slowly. He avoids spicy foods. He has stopped drinking carbonated drinks. He’s cut down on alcohol consumption. And, because there is no way to avoid getting hiccups completely, he has also read up on all possible cures for hiccups, including both medically sound cures and home-remedies.
So yes, Tony has had hiccups before, and he is unfortunately familiar with how agonizing they are, but this is the first time he’s been afflicted by them since the Avengers moved into the tower.
“Hold your breath,” Clint suggests and Tony kind of wants to laugh at the absurdity. Holding his breath is the one remedy he usually can’t employ because he’s a little too busy struggling to make his lungs work again, thank you very much.
“Hic!!” His whole body jerks as his lungs are punched upwards and they collide with the very solid casing of the arc reactor. Tony clenches his fingers into the couch cushion as his severely pissed off diaphragm pummels his poor lungs repeatedly.
“Tony?” Steve asks, low and concerned. Tony glances to the side and sees Steve studying his face. “Are you okay?”
Tony jerks his head back and forth as he shakily sucks in air. His chest aches and each breath is a struggle. There isn’t enough time for his lungs to begin functioning properly before they are assaulted once more.
“Hic!” Fucking ow…
“Tony, what’s wrong?” Steve asks, his voice urgent and tinted with panic. The rest of the team turns their attention to the engineer and Tony tries to answer but another jolt from his diaphragm has him hissing in pain. So instead of using words, Tony taps his knuckles against his chest and the team is on their feet in an instant.
“The reactor?!” Steve is in full on panic-mode now and Tony shakes his head urgently. Yes, hiccups hurt, but as long as Tony focuses on breathing during the intermittent moments of peace, then they aren’t life threatening.
“Lungs…” Tony rasps and then grunts when his diaphragm spasms again. “…no room…” he grits out.
Tony can see the moment Bruce realizes what’s happening by the way his eyes widen. “Oh god…”
“What?” Steve’s eyes briefly flicker towards the doctor. “What’s happening?”
“Tony,” Bruce ignores the question and moves into now vacated spot next to the engineer. “I’m going to try massaging your carotid sinus, okay?”
Tony nods his head and leans into the touch when Bruce wraps a strong hand around his neck. Tony closes his eyes and staunchly ignores the way pain lances through his chest.
“Someone go get some water,” Bruce orders. “JARVIS, is there any Baclofen or some other type of muscle relaxant anywhere?”
“Baclofen is located in the bathroom, second drawer down on the right,” the AI answers promptly.
“I got it,” Natasha swiftly exits.
“I’ll get the water,” Clint offers as he bolts out of the room.
"Hic!" Tony hisses out another breath as his lungs get crushed again and silently pleads that the hiccups go away soon. He is equal parts warmed and humiliated by the current events. On one hand, it means a lot to him that the team seems so concerned. On the other hand, he hates being weak in front of them. And what’s more pathetic than being brought to near-tears by freaking hiccups?
“Bruce, what’s going on?” Steve asks once more, kneeling down in front of the genius duo and watching them with concerned blue eyes.
“It’s his lungs,” Bruce explains, eyes never straying from Tony’s face as he continues to massage his friend’s neck. “Each time his diaphragm spasms, it pushes his lungs into the arc reactor casing.”
“Oh…” Steve pales slightly. “I didn’t realize it went that…deep,” he finishes weakly as he stares at the arc reactor.
“Hey,” Tony waves a hand in front of the Super Soldier’s face. “ ‘M up here,” he tries to joke.
Steve gives him a fleeting smile and reaches out to take Tony’s hand when another hiccup jolts the engineer’s lungs. Tony latches on and squeezes Steve’s hand to distract himself from the pain.
“Look! A Bilgesnipe!”
Steve, Tony, and Bruce all turn to stare stupidly at Thor who is wildly waving his hammer around.
The god gives them all a wide grin. “Miss Darcy once told me you can frighten The Hiccups away. Are they now gone?” He asks bright-eyed and earnest.
There’s a moment of hopeful silence and then… “Hic!” They all flinch – Tony because of the pain, and the guys because they can tell that Tony is hurting.
“ ‘A’ for effort,” Tony rasps once his lungs start working again.
“Water!” Clint reappears, carrying a glass of water in each hand and balancing another glass atop his head. “I’ve got the water.”
Tony bites his bottom lip to stop from laughing – air is too precious to waste on laughing – and accepts one of the glasses.
“Here,” Natasha pops up beside them and hands off the Baclofen to Bruce.
“No,” Tony shakes his head. “Give it…a few minutes.” He doesn’t want to resort to any type of drug until its absolutely necessary.
“Tony,” Bruce squeezes his neck a little harder. “You sure?”
“Hic!” Tony whines in pain and leans further into Bruce’s comforting grasp.
“Yeah…” Tony confirms before the next bout of pain can sway his opinion.
The next few minutes are tense. All the Avengers gather around Tony as he suffers through each jarring spasm, as he gasps for breath, as he writhes in pain. Bruce keeps up the constant massage of Tony’s neck. Clint settles down next to Steve at Tony’s feet, ready to offer up another glass of water if Tony finishes the one clutched in his hand. Steve has laid claim to Tony’s free hand and let’s the genius squeeze it as a source of distraction and comfort. Natasha curls up against Tony’s side and rubs soothing circles into his back. And Thor randomly shouts out the names of terrifying monsters from Asgard in an attempt to scare The Hiccups away.
After what seems like forever, the hiccups finally cease and Tony slouches back into the couch. He feels as if he’s just finished sparring with Clint, Natasha, and Steve combined; his muscles are achy and his breathing harsh. He closes his eyes and takes a minute to make sure that the hiccups are gone.
“Oh thank god,” he groans out and rubs a hand over his chest to try and alleviate some of the throbbing pain. He cracks an eye open and sees his team watching him expectantly so he flashes them a bright grin. “I think they’re gone.”
There’s silence for a moment and then Clint flops back onto the floor. “What the actual fuck, Tony?!” The archer runs a hand through his hair in agitation. “You can’t scare us like that! I can seriously feel the grey hair sprouting out of my skull.”
“I think what he means to say,” Natasha throws a pillow at Clint’s face. “Is that we’re glad you’re okay.” She throws an arm over Tony’s shoulder and draws the engineer in against her side. Tony goes willingly and rests his head against her shoulder. The rest of the team begins shuffling around, resettling themselves so they can finish movie night.
“You are okay, right?” Natasha asks lowly, fingers curling into Tony’s hair.
The engineer notices the guys go still; they're awaiting his answer. “Yeah,” Tony smiles tiredly. “Yeah, I’m good now.”
Tony knows that as long as he has the team at his side, he can win against any foe – even a foe as seemingly innocent as The Hiccups.