Prompt: Character insists he's sick. Other character doesn't believe it/thinks he is exaggerating... until the job/mission/whatever is over. And then the other character realizes how bad the other one is and is amazed he made it through at all.



This is Not a Head Cold


“Did you have to use a putty arrow on this one, Agent Barton?” Coulson took his hand off the perp’s sticky shoulder and wiped it off with his handkerchief. Two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents set to work digging the guy out.


“You’re lucky I can still aim.” Clint leaned back against the building and coughed. He dropped his voice to an almost whisper. “Gaahhh… I feel like shit.”


Coulson patted his arm. “You’re fine. Go hop in the car. I’m driving back to the city. I’ll drop you off.”


Clint almost fell asleep in the car. Almost, but not quite.


After taking the turn around the building a little faster than he probably should have, Coulson looked over at Clint. “Hey, you. No ralphing in Lola.”


Clint grimaced. He had a plan and that wasn’t part of it. “Just set this thing down and drive like a normal person and I won’t.” He rubbed absentmindedly at his stomach, though his stomach wasn’t really the problem. His head pounded. His throat stung. His nose fucking ran. “You’re always prepared. Can’t believe you don’t have a box of tissues in this thing.”


Coulson patted the dashboard affectionately. “It’s never been a problem before. I don’t get sick.”


Clint, with his nose stuffed up, snorted with laughter then rubbed the back of his hand at his nose. “eh-ehh-Hitchhh! Snrff! Could you put the top up at least?”


“We’re almost there. Stop complaining, you big baby.”


“You’d be complaining too if you had this heh-Itchhh! head cold.”


“Yeah, well, I don’t. And you’re a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. So suck it up.”


Clint stared out the window, trying not to look like he was pouting. Because he wasn’t pouting. He was just sick. And exhausted. And pretty sure Coulson was torturing him just for the fun of it now. If he had to hear one more time about how Coulson never got sick, Clint was pretty sure he would ralph in Coulson’s precious collectible car.


Coulson landed the car before they hit the city, and Clint zoned out while Coulson maneuvered through the busy streets. He had to be nudged and told to get out when they were in front of Clint’s apartment building. “You’re not planning on staying in the car all night, are you?”


Clint shook his head and threw the door open, throwing himself out right after. His plan was to get up to his apartment and crash hard there. He coughed on his way to the door. He sniffled as he sorted out his keys. And he leaned gratefully into Coulson when the agent’s arm slid around him. “ehhh-Ihhchhh!” He sneezed into his fist as Coulson walked him up the stairs. He coughed into a couch pillow as soon as Coulson deposited him there. “You need me to help you blow your nose, Barton?”


“Fuck you,” Clint muttered, but it was so muffled into a pillow it sounded more like “fuhhkew” and Coulson completely ignored it. Coulson was rummaging around in the bathroom, from the sound of it.


When Coulson returned, it was with a hooded sweatshirt and a thermometer. He tugged at Clint to sit up. “C’mon. Sit up. I looked around your place. You’re sniffling like a two-year-old. Don’t you have any tissue boxes?”


Clint shrugged. He’d bought one… a while back… probably used it all up and forgot to get another. Before he could answer, the thermometer was shoved into his mouth. He waited it out, rubbing repeatedly at his nose.


Coulson pulled it out and stared at it. He sat down on the couch, not taking his eyes off the thermometer. “I don’t think I checked it before putting it under your tongue.” He shook it for a minute while Clint sniffled into the sleeve of the sweatshirt. “Try again.” Coulson put it under Clint’s tongue. And then they both sat and waited. Clint felt dizzy as he tried to stare, cross-eyed, at the thermometer, so he just closed his eyes and tried to not sneeze.


It seemed like forever when Coulson pulled the thermometer out, frowning. “I think it’s broken.” He wiped it on his front then stuck it under his tongue to test it.


“What’s it… ehhh-eh-Hitchhh! What’s it say?” Clint asked. “Does it say I don’t have a fever?” He felt his forehead, fingers running against the moist heat there, sure he was burning up.


Coulson pulled the thermometer out of his mouth and gave it a look. “Damn it. It’s not broken. You’ve actually got a fever of almost one hundred and four.”


Clint nodded. “Sounds about right.” He toppled to the side, pulled the couch cushion closer, and rubbed his cheek into it. He needed sleep. The mission had been a hard one, but all he needed now was sleep. He closed his eyes. “Thanks for the ride. Lock the door on your way out, Sir.” Because he had a plan. He’d sleep for three days minimum, blow his nose a couple times, and then down a carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream in front of a marathon of Dog Cops.


Coulson’s fingers drew across Clint’s brow, stroked his hair, pet the back of his head. He said something that just didn’t register. Then Clint heard the door click closed. Sleep enveloped him.


But he didn’t sleep for three days. He didn’t even sleep for half an hour. Because Coulson came back. With tissues. And pills to swallow. And something cool and damp on his forehead. And a fleece blanket Clint clung to. And more tissues, clumped to his face to wipe and then dropped into a paper bag on the floor next to the couch. Clint opened his eyes, half-expecting to see Kate or even Nat. But it wasn’t any of his ‘wives.’


“You should have told me you were so sick.” Coulson looked like a worried mother hen. In a suit and tie.


“Thought I did.”


“You said you had a head cold. This is not a head cold.”


“It’s not? Ehhh-Hitchhhh!


“Bless you. No. It’s worse.”


Clint’s brow furrowed. “Worse?”


“Well, it’s not a little cold. One-oh-four, Agent Barton. I should throw you in the car and take you right to the hospital.”


Clint closed his eyes. “Instead you’re going to wipe my nose for me and hold a cool cloth to my forehead? You’re going to catch this from me, Sir.”


“I don’t get sick.” Which was the line Coulson held about a dozen other times over the next two days until he started sneezing. And then Clint passed him tissues and half of the blanket. They still had half a season of Dog Cops left to watch.