First and foremost, I just want to thank all of you for the outpouring of love and support from all of my followers. This has been a very difficult time in my life and it makes it easier that I know people are there for me, no matter what.

Have any of you had ideas and you wanted to write them so badly but you can't because you'll have to write like three more chapters before you get to the juicy stuff? That's what's happening to me. I have like three or four ideas that I really want to show you, but UGH I CAN'T BECAUSE THIS HAS TO MAKE SENSE AND I HAVE TO ACTUALLY WRITE CHRONOLOGICALLY AND TONY HAS TO COME HOM FROM THE HOSPITAL EVENTUALLY AND I QUIT.

Rant over. Speaking of rants, I have a lovely one at the bottom ;)

Remember when I promised y'all some angst from the Steve-taking-the-Reactor thingy? Well, HERE IT BE! (I swear to God, I don't actually talk like that. I was being facetious, I swear!)

Angsty Angst Angst. And it's beautiful.


Pepper brushed back the dark curls from Tony's forehead as he slept on. It had taken a while, with quite a few moments of frustration from all of them, but they were finally—finally!— back home.

The whole team watched as Pepper settled Tony down on the couch. He had walked to the elevator under his own power, and stood during the ride up to the penthouse, but he began to lean heavily against the wall abut halfway through, and he needed Clint to help guide him to the couch where he fell asleep almost immediately. Steve grabbed a throw blanket off an armchair nearby and tossed it over Tony's legs, just to feel like he was doing something.

Tony was sprawled out, still pale, but with the beginnings of a new beard on his face. His color wasn't quite as deathly as before. The harsh fluorescent lights in the hospital made him look waxy and gaunt, and just being back in the natural light streaming in from the huge windows made him appear more healthy and whole.

Bruce pulled a handful of orange, childproof bottles out of his pockets and set them down on the table next to the couch where Tony lay*. "Pepper, he'll need to start taking these in a few hours. These are Percocet, pain medicine. Every six hours he'll need some, so wake him up to give it to him, and stay ahead of the pain**, but don't give him any more than written. These," he held up another bottle of pills, "are called Soma, they're muscle relaxers and…they're three times a day, so give him one when he gets the pain pills, okay? And these are called Mobic. This can wait until tomorrow morning." He arranged the bottles on the table in a neat row.

Pepper smiled at Bruce thinly. "Thank you Bruce. Did you get that, JARVIS?"

"Indeed, Ms. Potts. Either you or Dr. Banner will be alerted when he needs a dose."

"Thanks, JARVIS." Pepper settled down in a chair near Tony's head, and stroked his hair. She seemed tired, older. Steve noticed hastily-covered bags under her eyes, and her normally pristine suit was a bit wrinkled.

Snagging his sketchpad and a box of pencils, Steve said, "Mr. Potts, you can go to sleep, if you'd like. We can watch him for a few minutes."

"I might just take you up on that, Captain. If you don't mind, I'll just take a nap here."

Natasha grabbed Pepper's briefcase from where Pepper had dropped it as they came in through the door. "Get some sleep, Pepper. I'll catch you up on some paperwork. We both know I can do your signature better than you can."

"You're a lifesaver, Tasha." Pepper yawned as she rested her head against the cushions behind her.


A few hours later, not much had changed. Pepper and Tony slept on, Steve had done about five new sketches, and decided to make a big project out of one of them, Bruce was eye deep into Nanorobotics Today, Natasha had caught Pepper up on most of her backlogged paperwork, and was now helping Clint teach Thor how to play chess. Thor was extremely good at strategy, but terrible at keeping said strategy from his opponent. His aptitude for the game really didn't surprise anyone though, with how much schooling he had in warfare back on Asgard.

Pepper stirred and groaned softly. Rubbing her eyes and pushing red hair out of her face, she blearily asked, "Wh-what time is it?"

"About six-thirty," Bruce supplied.

"Oh. Okay." She rested her face in her hands for a minute, and then announced, "I'm going to go take a shower. I still smell like hospital." And she stumbled off to the suite she shared with Tony.

Quietly, Thor celebrated as he captured Clint's knight with a well-made move from his queen, handicapping him and putting him into check. Clint grimaced at his mistake and observed the board for a while, hawklike eyes narrowed. He retaliated with a quick move from a castle that took out Thor's queen and threw the balance of power back in his favor. Steve struggled not to burst into loud laughter at the parade of emotions on Thor's expressive face.

A few moves and some quiet death threats later, Clint said fuming as he contemplated the board where his Kind was currently trapped by a pawn and a knight, while all of his other pieces were tied up elsewhere on the board. Grumbling, he flicked his king over as Thor basked in his win. Natasha gave Thor a high-five, just to make Clint irritated, but he eventually accepted the offer of another game, only if Thor would play on his own this time, without any help from Natasha.

Pepper came back into the room a few minutes later wearing some sweatpants and an old MIT T-shirt of Tony's. Bruce and Steve had long since given up attempting to focus on anything else, and they crowded around the heavy wooden chessboard where Clint's hands hesitated over an ebony pawn, contemplating whether to sacrifice it or not. Steve, being somewhat unfamiliar with the game, couldn't see the strategy behind the moves, and just enjoyed watching the reactions of his teammates, exaggerated because they were all trying to be quiet and not wake Tony.

Pulling her damp hair into a bun on the top of her head, she whispered to Bruce, "Has he woken up yet?"

"No," Bruce replied, "He hasn't even moved."

"Do we need to give him his medicine yet?"

Checking his watch, Bruce said, "Hmm…we can give him a few more minutes."

Satisfied, Pepper curled up in an armchair with a few of the files that Natasha couldn't finish while everyone else turned their attention back from Tony to Thor capturing the pawn Clint just sacrificed, playing right into Hawkeyes hands.

They should have known the peace couldn't last.

As Thor and Natasha set up the pieces for another game, (after two losses Clint felt it prudent to withdraw) and Steve began to smudge some charcoal onto his newest drawing, tony began to stir. Mumbling into the pillow, he flinched and thrashed, trying to fight off some unseen enemy.

Pepper flew to his side. She knelt by his head as he cried out wordlessly and she gasped "Tony! Tony, honey, wake up! Wake up, Tony, you're having a nightmare, Tony please wake up!"

When she captured Tony's face between her slender, manicured hands, his eyes flew open and he sat up quickly, gasping for breath. His eyes were wide and vacant, with hugely dilated pupils.

"Calm down, Tony, it's okay, baby, shh!"

Tony continued to struggle and gasp, his breathing edging toward hyperventilation as he began to claw at the steady blue light shining through hi T-shirt. "Gone!" he gasped, "It's gone!" He cried out as his frantic movements began to pain his still-healing ribs and arm.

"No, Tony, you're fine, it's okay, it's here see?" she captured his wrist and held his hand against the reactor.

The whole team were on their feet now, distractions forgotten as Tony's breathing grew even more labored. He pressed back against the couch cushions, eyes darting back and forth but not really seeing anything.

With his good hand still pressed between Pepper's and the Arc Reactor, he gasped, "He took it, Pepper!"

Pulling Tony's hand away, Pepper said, "No, Tony, it's right here, breathe Tony," but he just began to shake and gasp harder.

"No! No, please, Pepper, don't let him take it, Pepper!"

Tears fell down Pepper's face. "Obadiah's not here, Tony, he can't-"

"No, Steve! Steve took it, and I can't breathe, and he's—gonna, he's coming back—and I can't—breathe—Pepper, help!"

Every eye in the room was locked on Steve's bone-white face.

Horrified, Steve backed away, and when Tony dissolved into helpless gasps, Steve turned and fled from the room.


*All medications are real; my mommy is a pharmacist and my aunt is a doctor. They are the best resources ever.

**This isn't actual medical advice, at least, no doctor ever told me this, but my brother and I have had multiple broke bones and surgeries, so we've done the pain-meds dance. We found it to be easier if we took the meds on time, whether it hurt or not, but not the maximum dose. It kept us from ever maxing out on the medicine, and we were never really in pain. This way, we weren't tempted to take more than necessary, but we weren't ever in agony. If there's a doctor in the house, you're two cents would be most appreciated.

ATTENTION ALL JERKS AND FLAMERS. This is a fanfic. *gasp!* I know. That means I'm a 19 year old English Ed. Major from Mobile, Alabama. Not a doctor. I know, right? I do my homework, but I will get few things wrong every now and then. Feel free to throw up a red flag, and that is much appreciated, but please. I ain't got time to do a shit ton of research! Front page of Google and calling my aunt is about as in-depth as I can go. Artistic Liberty was created for a reason. And, besides, if you get huffy over my choice in prescriptions, but you're perfectly cool with the fact that I have a NORSE GOD SITTING ON THE COUCH PLAYING CHESS AND EATING POPTARTS YOU NEED TO GO HOME.

BloodFromTheThorn, that rant was for you, girl!