In the aftermath of what would become known in Avenger lore as "The Prancing Targ Mead-Drinking Disaster", everybody involved (except Sir Steven Rogers, whose flesh-tempered substance was immune to hangovers from conventional alcohol, and Jarvis, who was Fae-born) woke up sometime around dawn, roused each other with agonized groans and loud complaints, and staggered off to their respective rooms at the inn, clutching their heads and bellies while cursing whatever Gods they happened to honour. Lord Stark had an advantage in that he had Jarvis to support him back to the inn's most expensive quarters and his luxurious bed, which he promptly collapsed into and lay upon like a dead thing until sometime around mid-morning, when he rolled over onto his back and threw an arm over his eyes as if the light of the rainy day outside his window was going through his head like a mace — which it almost certainly was.

A wincing moan: "Jarvis…!"

"Sir?" He'd been sitting at the table by the window drinking mint tea and watching the rain, mentally composing the melodic structure for a ballad he was writing, but he rose and crossed at once to the bedside, looking down at Lord Stark with more than human senses and perceiving at once that his master was in terrible shape around the esoric artifact that glowed with steady blue energy in his breastbone. A note, then: next time, stop him before he drank ten glasses of mead at one sitting.

"Oh, God." Lord Stark rubbed at his face with one hand and evidently found that painful if his louder groan was any indication. "My head… are we alone?"

"For the moment, yes."

"J'har'vi —" He tried to sing it with the proper intonation, complete with both Fae'li click consonants. Given how hungover he was, he of course failed miserably. Nevertheless —

"Sir!" Jarvis cried, appalled eyes widening.

A weathered brown right hand fumbled up to close around his left wrist and fondly squeeze it while Lord Stark chuckled and winced again. "When I'm suffering this much, si'har'lin, you get to call me Tony. All right?"

The romantic Fae'li endearment mollified Jarvis only slightly. He sat down on the very edge of the broad mattress to fix Stark with a stern look from beneath lowered blond eyebrows. "Suffering is no excuse for pronouncing that name where anybody might overhear it!"

Even as sick as he was, that smile still managed to be remarkably charming. "You told me we're alone. I only spoke three syllables of it, which was all I intended to speak. I didn't even try to get the pronunciation exactly right. And it got your attention, didn't it, leman mine?"

Jarvis straightened his spine and put on his best supercilious expression, reminded himself that the human had gotten himself into this mess, and started to rise to his feet. "You really should get some —"

Tony's fingers remained locked around his wrist. "Jarvis."

He paused. "M'Lord?"

The Iosian's full lips quirked wryly as he closed his eyes again briefly. "Heh. Speaking of endearments… listen, I know you're the most beautiful thing in this whole wretched city and that I paid for you with ten years of my life," and his expression and his gaze grew grim in a way that made the strongest men scramble to do his bidding immediately, "but by Parta's Testicles, if you don't take away this hangover yesterday I will strip you naked, paint you bright blue and ship you back to your father's court in a gunnysack."

It didn't impress Jarvis much. "I see. So threats are supposed to move me when flattery cannot?"

A hideous grin. "I could throw up on you instead. Would that help?"

Looking down into the human's ghastly-pale face, Jarvis sighed and reached down to lay his left hand on his master's forehead, running gently glowing fingers slowly over his clammy cheek and panting chest and tight belly before withdrawing them. A moment's concentration and a few notes softly sung the while brought sparkle back to those pain-dulled brown eyes and colour back to those ashen cheeks, and this time Tony's smile was radiant with relief.

"Best ten years I ever spent," he said fondly, breathing much more easily now, and reached up to slide his right arm around Jarvis's slender waist and draw the Fae-born down beside him. Jarvis permitted himself to be drawn. Really, that smile had a positive talent for overcoming one's annoyance and devastating one's defences…

… and as he settled into his lover's embrace, warming to the tender kiss Tony pressed to his forehead and the one considerably less chaste he pressed to his mouth, Jarvis reflected that after all the Lord of Newarl had bought the mead for his Fae-born servant in the first place — and that, certainly, must be counted as a mitigating factor in his favour.

They made slow thorough love, and when the team departed the inn early that afternoon wearing unpleasant scowls Lord Stark was the only one singing as he rode his bay warhorse merrily out of the yard, his pale servant calmly astride a snow-white palfrey at his side and providing harmonic counterpoint crafted not only to enhance his master's voice but also to ease the various sufferings of the rest of the Avengers. Jarvis felt it was the least he could do to make amends for Lord Stark getting his shieldmates into such lamentable condition in the first place.

THE END