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Tender Cures

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Bucky was sweating bullets. The only person who was sweating more than him was Tony and that was because Tony was ill with a fever.

Bucky rubbed Tony’s back as Tony puked into the toilet.

Bucky’s boyfriend sighed in bliss and smiled at Bucky, a hint of vomit on the corner of Tony’s mouth. Before Bucky could point out the vomit, Tony turned deathly pale, lurched forward, and hurled into the toilet again. His hands trembled on the porcelain bowl and tears formed in the corners of his eyes.

When Tony finished spewing his guts he winced. “That can’t be the three crackers I just ate.” Tony’s voice was hoarse, like someone had taken a cheese grater to his vocal chords. “It’s too much.”

The sound and sight of his sick boyfriend was just as frightening to Bucky as any enhanced individual out for blood and attacking a city full of innocents. Actually, it was worse. Bucky had been trained to handle such individuals—he could fight against them; he couldn’t fight a disease.

Tony smiled encouragingly at Bucky and patted him on the shoulder. “Chill, Casper, and help me back to bed. Legs are feeling like jelly.”

Bucky nodded. He slung Tony’s arm over his shoulder and helped his boyfriend stand. He practically carried Tony to bed with how much Tony leaned on him. Truthfully, Bucky would have been happy to carry Tony, but while Tony loved it whenever Bucky carried him for fun, Tony refused to be carried while sick. He insisted he could walk on his own. It wasn’t until Tony had been too slow to reach the bathroom during one of his vomiting fits that he finally allowed Bucky to help him.

Bucky tucked the covers around Tony and made sure that a Stark Pad was within reach. While Bucky did not approve of Tony doing anything while sick, Tony would not stay in bed if he didn’t at least have a tablet in armsreach.

Once Bucky was sure Tony could rest and heal in peace, Bucky shuffled out of the bedroom and headed toward the communal floor.

His stomach was in knots. He knew medicine had advanced and Tony should be fine, but he’d seen so many people die from less in his youth that he couldn’t rid himself of his fear completely.

When Bucky reached the communal floor he was relieved to see Sam and Vision there. It looked like Sam was trying to explain a video game to Vision, but Vision was just not getting it for whatever reason.

“But why would the game give me the illusion of choice if all routes lead to the same ending? Why go to all the effort to create different scenes that only vary slightly just too-”

“You’re overthinking it.” Sam shook his head. “It’s just supposed to be a game. Something recreational to take your mind off your daily life.”

“It doesn’t sound recreational when Clint plays,” Vision noted.

“We don’t talk about Clint and how he breaks video games.” Sam noticed Bucky just then and changed the conversation. “How is the resident tech genius?”

“He’ll live,” Bucky said.

Sam gave Bucky a studious look.

“That is fortunate to hear,” Vision said. “While Tony’s virus does appear mundane and easily treatable, with his physical background-”

“Vision, chill,” Sam interrupted.

The damage was done though. Bucky’s heart pounded in his chest as a chilling fear pierced his heart. His brain produced images of Tony dying.

Bucky’s vision fuzzed out and he felt something tugging at his mind. Something calm and demanding.

A hand on his shoulder snapped him out of his trance to see Sam standing in front of him. “You back? Or am I going to have to use Natasha’s form of mental recalibration?”

Bucky swallowed a lump in his throat. “Tony…” Bucky’s mouth dried out. Dread settled in his stomach.

“Tony is a fighter, and you’re an idiot if you don’t think he has one of the best doctors in the world. As long as he takes his medicine and rests then Tony will be fine.”

Bucky nodded, but he kept thinking about how many times Tony had vomited in one day already. Had Tony’s medicine even had a chance to enter his system before it was thrown up?

Sam huffed in annoyance. He picked up the game controller from the couch and thrust it at Bucky’s chest. “Here. Take this and help me educate Vision on video games. Take your mind off Tony for a little bit. If he needs you, he’ll have FRIDAY contact you.”

Bucky accepted the controller, but hesitated to join Vision and Sam. He glanced back at the elevator.

Tony had just settled down for a nap. Maybe a distraction would be a good thing?

After another razzing comment from Sam, Bucky joined Sam and Vision in a round of video games.

Tony was sprawled on the bathroom floor. His body was on fire. He knew he should get off the ground, but the floor was so cool. Also, he couldn’t move his arms.

FRIDAY had asked him twice now if she should call for Bucky, but Tony had told her not to. Even if Tony couldn’t see Bucky’s face—Bucky was just a smudge in his vision—he could hear the worry in his boyfriend’s voice every time he was near Tony. He wanted Bucky to have a few hours to himself to calm down.

Plus, his stomach felt like it bubbling with the next round of vomit and he still needed to brush his teeth after the latest round of-

Tony covered his mouth and curled into a ball as bile rose to his throat.

He trembled as he waited to see if he could keep down his stomach or if the feeling would pass.

“Tony?” Bucky called, his voice pitched with panic.

Tony opened his mouth to answer only to fall into a coughing fit.

The next thing Tony knew, there was a shadow crouched over him and a hand stroking his back.

Tony groaned as Bucky lifted him so his head was tucked against Bucky’s shoulder. He then moaned when he felt the coolness of Bucky’s metal arm against his forehead. He nuzzled the appendage and went pliant as Bucky maneuvered him so they were seated on the floor with Tony in Bucky’s lap. One arm held Tony close while the other rubbed his back gently.

Tony sighed. He still felt like he would throw up at any moment, but some of the aches and pains he’d felt seemed not as bad with Bucky around.

Lips pressed against Tony’s forehead.

“I love you,” Tony said on a sigh. Tony tilted his head back and sloppily kissed Bucky’s chin, his lips brushing against the hint of stubble there.

Bucky cradled Tony’s head and kissed his cheek.

Tony blinked in befuddlement. Why hadn’t Bucky said, ‘I love you too’ or some variant of that?

Tony craned his head back again and tried to make out Bucky’s face through his blurry vision.

Bucky cupped the back of Tony’s neck, saving Tony from toppling out of Bucky’s lap.

Tony locked onto two blue points that he thought were Bucky’s eyes, but every time he tried to focus on the details of Bucky’s face his head just swam.

Bucky nodded then leaned forward and kissed Tony’s forehead again. “It’s me,” he whispered, his voice just an octave lower than usual.

Tony froze, his mind working slower than usual to process the information. “Winter?”

Winter nodded.

Tony slumped against Winter, clinging to his shirt. “I really scared him?” Tony mumbled. Guilt churned his stomach, and suddenly Tony could no longer hold what was left of his stomach down. He launched himself at the toilet bowl and threw up. His throat burned and tears gathered in his eyes.

He was aware of Winter hovering behind him and massaging his back. Winter didn’t offer any words of comfort or encouragement. When Tony was done emptying his stomach for what felt like the tenth time that day, Winter hugged Tony from behind and peppered the back Tony’s neck with kisses.

“Stop that. I’m gross.”

Winter purposeful touched Tony’s chin and turned Tony’s head toward him. He kissed Tony just at the corner of his mouth. “I’ve experienced far worse.”

Tony wrinkled his nose. “That is disgusting. Brush your teeth, then help me brush mine.”

Winter nodded and swiftly did as instructed.

Tony relaxed as Winter brushed his teeth. The first time Winter had come out after Bucky had joined the avengers Tony had been terrified—he hadn’t known if the other persona would try to kill him or not. However, Winter hadn’t paid him any attention. Winter had been preoccupied with taking out the asshole trying to destroy New York to show any interest in anyone other than said asshole unless they got in his way.

After a few more appearances, the Avengers realized Winter only came out when Bucky was threatened then he’d leave shortly after. Tony had still been wary of Winter, but since the assassin had never come close to attacking him or any of the Avengers, he just kept a close watch on Bucky when the team agreed to keep Bucky around (with a few rules of course).

Then somewhere along the way Tony and Bucky had started dating, and whenever Tony was in danger Winter came out. Winter was hell bent on keeping Tony safe. There was no swaying Winter when it came to Tony’s safety. If Tony was overwhelmed in battle suddenly Winter was there to help him. If he was abducted Winter was either the one saving him or finding Tony after Tony freed himself from his captors.

Even after a year of experiencing Winter’s devotion and protection, Tony still had a hard time believing that Winter cared about him so much.

“Your turn.” Winter held up a toothbrush with toothpaste to Tony’s mouth.

Tony grimaced. “You are not brushing my teeth for me.”

“You commanded me to help.” Winter pushed the brush closer. “I follow all of your commands, as long as they are not stupid.”

Tony rolled his eyes and took the toothbrush. “You mean as long as I don’t put myself in danger.”

Winter hummed contemplatively. He mindlessly kneaded Tony’s thigh.

Tony sighed and brushed his teeth.

As Tony moved the brush around, Winter helped him stand. By the time Tony was on his feet and at the sink he was ready to spit out the paste. Once Tony finished rinsing out his mouth and cleaning his brush, he yelped as Winter scooped him into a bridal carry.

“Hey,” Tony said in protest even as he clung to Winter’s shoulders for balance.

Winter placed Tony on the bed then sat on the mattress himself. “When did you last have medication?”

“Three hours ago,” FRIDAY answered for Tony. “Mr. Stark must wait at least one more hour before another dosage.”

Winter nodded. He reached for the rag that had covered Tony’s head before he’d sneaked off to the bathroom again. Without a word, Winter took the rag to the bathroom, soaked it, and brought it back to place on Tony’s forehead.

“When did you last eat?”

“Right before I took my medication, I think.”

“Correct,” FRIDAY said.

Winter frowned. “I’ll make you soup.”

Tony groaned and curled into a ball. “Not now. I just emptied my stomach again. I don’t want to refuel it just yet.”

“It is recommended that Mr. Stark take his medication with food,” FRIDAY added.

Winter mulled over the information.

Winter yanked off his shirt then set to work taking off his jeans.

“What are you doing?” Tony grumbled, his coherency dropping.

Winter kicked his jeans off and rolled into bed with Tony. He wrapped his arms around Tony and encouraged Tony to snuggle his chest. “You sleep better when one of us is around.”

“I’m sick,” Tony weakly protested.

“And we’re super soldiers.We don’t get sick.” Winter squeezed Tony. “Now sleep. We don’t want you to die.”

“I won’t die,” Tony grumbled.

Winter kissed his cheek. “Prove it and sleep.”

An instinctual part of Tony cried out in rebellion, but Tony was so physically drained, and Winter/Bucky provided warmth, as well as something cool (the metal arm—although the coolness wouldn’t last long if they stayed cuddled together), so Tony closed his eyes. He told himself he’d sleep for just ten minutes, but as he drifted off, he knew he was lying to himself.

He’d probably sleep the rest of the day away in Winter/Bucky’s arms.