Disclaimer: There are many things that belong to me, but the Avengers are not one of them.
Spoilers: None if you've seen the movie
Summary: In which Natasha learns that weakness may be tolerated.
Author's Note: I hate when my verb tenses get mixed up, and I had some trouble with this. So, sorry for any mistakes!
Natasha Romanoff has very few weaknesses. In fact, she's widely considered to be all but invincible in some circles. She is not: she has migraines.
They appear once a month, like clockwork, have since she was a teenager. She gets auras, though, and can take her medication in plenty of time. It's the ones that hit her like a sledgehammer out of nowhere that are the major problem.
Fury knows, of course, but doesn't care as long as missions aren't affected. Phil, as her handler, had access to her medical files and had always made sure her medication was close at hand.
Clint found out in the most embarrassing way possible.
They were on a mission, of course, when a slight pounding started on the right side of her head. She quickly dry swallowed a pill, but she knew it was too late. She continued on as best she could, not willing to show any weakness in front of her very new partner, but then there was the dizziness that made the ground refused to stay still and the steadily increasing nausea and the pain, so much pain, like someone was stabbing a knife into her head over and over.
"You okay, Romanoff? You look pale," Barton had said just before she threw up on his boots.
It had been awhile since she'd passed out from a migraine, but she'd woken up in a dark room in a soft bed. She tried to get up, but a combination of pain and a gentle push on her shoulder sent her back down.
"Easy, Romanoff," Barton said quietly. "Just me."
"You didn't leave."
"Of course not. I'm your partner. And Phil told me about the migraines after I got you here; you could've said something."
There was something almost like-hurt?-in his voice.
"Sorry?" she thought was the right thing to say.
He didn't answer, but helped her swallow a few pills Coulson must've packed and then laid a cool, damp cloth over her forehead with a tenderness the likes of which she'd never experienced.
"Sleep, Romanoff," he said quietly.
"Natasha," she mumbled as she let the pills pull her under.
She went on a regular daily medicine after that, and her migraines nearly disappeared. As a result, her first migraine in front of the Avengers is at least three months after they move into the repaired Tower.
It's movie night when the pain starts, and she shifts irritably on the off chance changing the position of her head will help. It doesn't. She could ask Clint to get her out of the room, but things are still too new. If she can make it through the movie, she can stumble off to bed and hole up until the pain goes away.
But the couch starts rocking and someone keeps raising the volume. She takes deep breaths to quell the rising nausea, short ones when that doesn't work. It's probably the change in breathing that tips Clint off.
"Off," she mumbles. "Please. Off."
He immediately turns the movie off to the protest of everyone else. His question cuts them off. "Can you walk?"
"Can she what?" Steve asks, sounding horrified.
"Shh!" Clint snaps. "Nat?"
"Mmhmm," comes out when she tries to say yes. She will not be carried.
He seems skeptical, but helps her up anyway. She stumbles when the floor drops out from under her. The nausea becomes unbearable no matter how many times she swallows it down.
She throws up, but there's a trash can in front of her and Tony's quiet, almost concerned voice, "She looked green and it is expensive to get-" before someone shuts him up.
She doesn't pass out this time, but isn't quite sure how she ends up in her bed. A cool cloth is on her forehead, and she flushes at the thought of everyone knowing her weakness.
To her great surprise, nobody cares.
In fact, they go out of their way to help her.
Bruce brings her tea from India, and helps her drink it. The pain does lessen for awhile as he sits with her in silence, occasionally touching pressure points on her wrists to help with the nausea.
Steve comes in with a hairbrush. "My mother used to have migraines," he whispers. "Brushing her hair always helped. Can I?"
She swears she meant to say no, but it comes out as yes. He gently brushes her tangled hair, and the steady motion lulls her to sleep.
Tony brings a cooling pad which he promises will stay cold for at least 24 hours. "I made it for Pepper, but-" and he sounds almost embarrassed, "I can make another one."
Pepper comes bearing chocolate. Magic chocolate, Natasha will later swear. "It costs an ungodly amount of money," Pepper confesses softly. "But I tell Tony it's a choice between money and crankiness."
Natasha manages a weak chuckle.
Thor does his part by staying out of the room and refraining from speaking loudly in the rest of the Tower. He sends odd-sounding well wishes with the others, though, and Natasha will thank him later.
Whenever no one else is there, and sometimes when somebody else is, Clint sits with her. His body is a solid presence on her bed, pressed up against hers. He moves Tony's cooling pad around and helps her drink Bruce's tea and eat Pepper's magic chocolate and moves Steve's brush through her hair in steady strokes. He massages her head lightly and reads to her in a soft voice when she can stand it.
When she can finally stand without her stomach threatening to evacuate and the world no longer spins, she manages to make her way into the kitchen for breakfast. They all greet her cheerfully, if quietly, and Clint makes her eggs exactly the way she likes them without being prompted.
"I'm sorry," she says.
Steve looks genuinely confused. "For what?"
Tony scoffs at her. "Sorry my ass. Get over yourself."
"I think what he means," says Bruce, "is that you're allowed to have a few moments of weakness every once in awhile."
"Tony has them all the time, and we don't think any less of him," Clint says innocently.
Natasha already knows that Clint doesn't think any less of her. She never thought there would be other people in the world who feel exactly the same way.
"Thank you," she says, and means it.
And life just goes on.