Prompt: Tony thought it was just a cold, but now he's pretty certain it's more like the flu, and he's sick and miserable when the Avengers are called out. Cue long and arduous battle in which Tony grows steadily sicker and weaker and struggles to hide it from the team - things like keeping the suit cooled against the fever, trying desperately to prevent the tiredness from showing in his voice, ruthlessly suppressing sneezes and coughs, turning the comms off when he can't hold them back any more.

He does an okay job of hiding it. But then he has to take off his helmet and gauntlets for debrief, and the first thing he does is have a miserable sneezing/coughing fit.



Pirates and Ninjas


Steve sighed deeply, knocking against the table. “This isn’t the first time we’ve run into him, though. If one villain on his own is too difficult for the Avengers to handle—”


“Whoa, whoa.” Clint waved his hand. “Who said that was too difficult?”


Natasha leaned to the side and bumped Clint, who hissed in pain. “You and your dislocated shoulder, for one.”


Bruce, who looked the most worn out of the bunch, pulled himself to his feet and made a half-circle around the table to Clint. When he touched the shoulder, Clint sucked in another sharp breath. Bruce clucked and repositioned his hands. Without warning, he pushed and Clint yelped. But then relaxed. “Take some Aspirin tonight, you’ll be fine.” He looked back at his fellow Avengers. “Which is more than I can say about one of us.”


They looked around the table at each other.


Nick Fury leaned forward at the table, not in the mood for guessing games. “Spit it out, Banner.”


Bruce nodded toward Iron Man. “Someone’d better wake Tony up.”


There was surprise, even shock. They were used to Tony walking around in his Iron Man armor whenever he felt like it. But this was the first time he’d ever worn it after battle to a debriefing. And so this was the first time he’d ever fallen asleep inside it at a debriefing. Bruce didn’t mention how he’d known, but Fury woke Tony up with a shout and a kick to his metal shin.


“Take off your mask, Tony.”


The glowing eyes turned toward Steve. He hesitated for a moment then he obeyed his leader’s command. He pulled off the gauntlets and let the face mask retract. There were dark circles under his eyes. His cheeks were bright red and his nose around the nostrils were halfway there.


Bruce noticed all this as well as the rest of the Avengers, but he was the one who walked over and slapped his hand on Tony’s forehead as he eased the rest of the helmet off him. “I’m guessing it’s the flu. Came on pretty sudden this morning, did it?”


Tony nodded. Then his head snapped down. “ihh-Ktchh! Heh-kshhh! K’htxxt! ehhKshhh!


Steve threw his hands up. “No wonder you were having trouble keeping up with us out there! Why didn’t you just tell us you were sick?”




“JARVIS, lower temperature in proportion to my body temperature increases.”


“Yes, Sir. Your temperature has just climbed to one hundred and one.”


“I don’t need the update. Restrict your commentary to… to-ih… ih-hxxttt!” Sneezing with his helmet on was a pain in the ass, but sometimes it just couldn’t be helped. Sometimes… when you had an awful cold and you just wanted to stretch out under the covers of your bed but a super villain chooses that moment to attack and Cap calls for the Avengers to assemble.  “Restrict comments to battle-specific alerts. Sniff! ihhh… hihh!” This time, he managed to hold the sneeze off successfully. “All right, resume communications with the team.”


He wished he could blow his nose, or even just rub it. It felt so tickly and itchy and he was sure any second now he would slip up and forget to cut communication before a sneeze or cough.


“—down the street. I can cover this corner on my own.” Thor’s voice boomed through their line of communication. It made Tony’s head ache. Or, no, it was already aching. All the conversation just made it worse.


So did the ninjas. There were six or seven hundred of them (or so it seemed to Tony). The more he fought off, the more came at him in waves. He used his repulsers to push them back, not wanting to kill them, just keep them from coming at him. At this point, he was willing to try anything. He was ten minutes from whipping out his credit card and bribing them.


Cap’s voice wasn’t quite as painful to endure as Thor’s, but Tony thought about muting them all just to get some peace. “Thor’s got the north quadrant. The Hulk—“


“Hulk Smash ship!”


“Yes, smash ship. Black Widow, you’ve got the pirates on the south side. Iron Man—”


“Fighting ninjas two blocks over.” Was that his voice? So rough and thick with congestion. How did the others not hear it?


Steve didn’t seem to have. “Right. And I’ve got the pirate king trapped in a convenience store. I’m going in after him.”


Pirates and ninjas. This was like a joke gone bad. Very, very bad. “End com… commun…” Tony pushed back another wave of a dozen ninjas then used all his energy to hold back his sneeze. “hehh-Nngt!” God, that hurt. Pain shot through his head from restraining the sneeze, but Tony fought it off. “JARVIS, did you cut communication?”


“Yes, sir. Just before you sneezed. Bless you.”


“That’s sniff, sniff, not battle-related. But thank you.” He managed to knock down another twenty ninjas, binding them with a cable just lying about. Why there was stray cable lying about, he didn’t know. How you even got so many ninjas, he also didn’t know. Was there a website for that? Some call through social media for a ninja flash mob? “Reestablish team communication.”


Several of the ninjas jumped him from behind. Coughing, he wheeled around, throwing them off him by throwing them at each other.


“Tony! Are you there?”


Shit. “Yeah, Cap. Just dealing with… something.”


“Well get out of it. I need help with the pirate king.”


“On my way.”


Tony turned. His head spun.


“Sir, your blood pressure just—“


“JARVIS, shut up!”


With his teammates on mute, he coughed the entire way there, letting the suit fly itself to the coordinates. He was tempted to tell the suit just to go straight to the tower. His head was killing him and he knew that without the suit he wouldn’t be able to stand. This wasn’t just a cold. It couldn’t be. It had to be worse. And it was coming into the convenience store with him.  Tony coughed, cleared his throat, and headed in.


Cap was fighting with the pirate king, whose cutlass sent out energy bursts. Cap was able to block them with his shield, but he wasn’t making much ground in defeating the villain. So Tony took a deep breath and charged. Isles of canned goods toppled over. A display of bottles crashed to the floor. But when Iron Man flew at the pirate king, he aimed right for the man’s middle and crashed in with full force.


Somewhere in there, he sneezed. Somewhere in there he was hit by an energy blast. But somewhere in there he also managed to knock the villain off his feet. The weapon went flying and Cap caught it expertly; it ceased glowing. Tony crashed to the floor with the villain, pinning him down with the suit. He would have liked the Hulk for backup just then, especially as his arms felt week. The armor locked into place, though, keeping him there until the others arrived.


“If I ever see another ninja again, it’ll be too soon!” Hawkeye complained over the comm.


“You didn’t even see the pirate ship!” Black Widow said.


Feeling another sneeze coming on, Tony closed his eyes. “Close communications again, JARVIS. And lock suit,” Tony said. A second passed. Maybe two. Then he sneezed. “heeee-IKShhh!” He’d tried to hold it back, but it’d been too strong and he was too exhausted. Luckily, it’d been quiet enough that no one had heard him over the noise in the store and in the city blocks outside.





ihhhh-Hixxtshh!” What Tony wouldn’t give for a…




At once, Tony gratefully took the tissue in Bruce’s hand and pressed it to his runny nose. “ih!” It was already tickling again. “ihhHngxxt!” Without telling the suit to keep him immobile, he snapped forward in his seat.


“Don’t think you can avoid the question.” Nick Fury didn’t sound pleased. Then again, he never sounded pleased.


Steve walked over to him. “Fighting when you’re already compromised? Not telling me? What the hell were you thinking, Tony?”


Tony rubbed at his nose. “I was thinking some pirate freak was trying to take over the world, and that I’m part of a team tasked with stopping him. I’m not letting you guys down just because I have a cold.”


“The flu.” Bruce pulled another tissue from his pocket.


Tony looked up at Bruce and nodded. “Does that mean I get to skip the rest of the debriefing?”