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Monday, July 20th, 2009 10:53 am
Title Five Days; Still Breathing
Author [personal profile] autolobotomysuicide and [personal profile] therobotmuse
Rating R
Fandom Marvel - 616
Pairing? Henry Hellrung/Tony Stark subtext
Word Count 3160
Genre Angst
Warnings Depictions of withdrawal
Disclaimer I own none of these characters
Summary Tony finally realizes he needs to sober up and returns to an old friend for help.
Thanks Thanks to our beta [ profile] pandanoai


Henry Hellrung was surprised to see Tony Stark on the other side of his door, disheveled and tired looking with an over grown beard and a wrinkled dirty suit. Tony looked at him with a pathetic gaze, and Henry wasn't all that sure Tony was going to stay there or just walk away - or run, more likely; Tony looked ready to bolt at any moment.

"I uh..." he started, then trailed off, his voice rough and sounding stuck in his throat, "I need help. Rhodey's not... talking to me and I don't know where else to go." Tony swallowed. "You've done this before..."

"Done what?" Henry asked, even though he already knew the answer.

"I'm... I've got to get sober..."

Henry didn't know what had happened between Tony and Rhodey, but Tony said it was probably best that they kept their distance at the moment. Henry had offered him a room, of course, and Tony had taken it, looking grateful, tired, and a little ill.

When Henry invited him in, Tony immediately sat down on the couch, shoulders slumped, scrubbing his face with his hands. He let out a sigh before looking up at Henry. He was not the Tony that Henry was used to. All the bravado, the confidence, the care-free nonchalance... there was no trace of it. It made him ache a little to see Tony this way.

He sat down beside Tony and smiled kindly.

"I could go for some Chinese, if you're in."

"Yeah... that sounds good. I... thanks, Henry."

Henry smiled, "Yeah, of course." He got up to get the menu for his favorite place so Tony could take a look at it. He came back and handed it to him. "You know, I mean it. I'm more than happy to help."

Tony looked down at the menu a long, silent moment. Henry could see him swallow hard before looking up, "There's...there's nothing I can ever do to repay you, Henry. I...I honestly-"

Henry held up a hand, silencing him, "We're just going in circles. Let's just...accept it, all right?"

Tony laughed a little, though it sounded choked and his eyes were wet. He looked back down at the menu with a nod, "Yeah, we can do that."

Henry took Tony's order, then started to look around for where he had put his keys.

"Um, you're welcome to anything," he said, rubbing the back of his neck as he searched. "My stuff will probably fit you if you want to take a shower. The green towel is clean."

Tony nodded, "Thanks. A hot shower sounds really, really good right about now."

Henry gave a nod and a soft smile, "Okay. Don't burn the place down while I'm gone."

"Hey, that was once, and it's not going to be a problem because you don't have any booze in the house."

Henry rolled his eyes, but headed towards the keys he had finally spotted, "I'll be back in twenty. And trust me, this place is too good to wait for delivery."

Tony simply waved a hand over his shoulder as he headed off into the back rooms of the cozy, little (by LA standards) apartment. Henry watched him go and felt a deep breath escape his chest. He clenched his jaw, knowing this would be the last peaceful night they'd get in a while if Henry's own withdrawal was anything to go by. Tony was already shaking and looked about ready to get sick all over Henry's new rug, and it hadn't even been twenty-four hours since his last drink. He made a mental list of supplies they would be needing over the next few days because once this started, there was no way Henry could leave Tony alone.

It started with the shakes. After the shakes came the headache that felt like someone was twisting a screw into his skull with the strength of the Hulk. Within an hour, Tony found himself doubled over in front of the toilet, emptying the contents of his stomach into the bowl. He clung to the cold receptacle, knowing that he was probably running a fever from the way his skin seemed utterly unbearable in its warmth. He retched again, and sobbed at the end as it tore his throat.

Henry heard the commotion from his room. He'd been expecting Tony to start showing more withdrawal symptoms when he'd first given him that pitiful look. He knew that Tony was going to fall apart in the next few hours because Henry had once been in the same position. He sighed, entering the bathroom, visions of himself on Kate Kildare's bathroom floor flooding his memory. He passed Tony, going to the sink and getting a cloth soaked in cold water. He placed it on the back of Tony's neck before sitting down to rub his back gently. He didn't know if Tony had more vomit to emit, but it was likely he'd begin dry heaving.

"Don't... don't touch me... please? I'm disgusting." Tony sobbed a bit.

Tony was sweating and his skin was considerably pale. He looked lost and uncertain of where he was. Henry didn't move away. He carefully moved the towel along Tony's face to clean up some of the sweat, but knew if he moved too fast it might spook Tony.

"I'm here to help you, don't worry," Henry said, gently.

Tony shook his head, but seemed to regret that choice. He leaned forward and rested his head on the toilet seat. Henry was immensely glad that he'd cleaned his bathroom the day before.

"I might throw up on you," Tony mumbled weakly.

"Wouldn't be the first time." Henry smiled softly in reply, and stood to re-wet the cloth.

When Tony was certain he'd finished vomiting for the time being, Henry helped him back to bed. Tony wasn't even trying to appear coherent at this point, but Henry didn't mind as long as he could assist and make the process a little more tolerable. Tony curled up under the blankets and mumbled something about someone calling him a jerk.

"I didn't call you a jerk, Tony..."

"Not you. Them."

Henry didn't question the reply, but it concerned him. He sat down on the edge of the bed and nodded as he moved some of Tony's wet hair away from his forehead to get a better feel for if Tony was running a fever. He was burning up, in fact. Henry swallowed and went back to the bathroom to grab a thermometer before returning to the bedroom and retaking his seat on the bed.

"Tony... could you put this under your tongue for a minute? I think you have a fever."

Tony opened his eyes and Henry hoped that his expression didn't give away the worry on his mind. Tony's pupils were dilated, his blue eyes nearly gray and murky. When Tony opened his mouth, he slipped the thermometer under Tony's tongue.

"It's hot... I want to take my shirt off..."

"I know it's hot, but you can't right now... let me get your temperature okay?"

He nodded and closed his eyes again, relaxing back against the mattress. Henry gently placed a hand on Tony's chest as they waited for the thermometer to work. He swallowed a little bit. Tony's withdrawal was much worse than his had been and it was only the first night.

Tony looked like he might have fallen asleep, but Henry wasn't sure how long it would last. He could feel how hard and fast Tony's heart was racing just by having his hand there and he wasn't sure if the palpitations were from the withdrawal or Tony's previous problems.

Tony opened his eyes again and mumbled something unintelligible before Henry leaned forward and pulled out the thermometer.

"100... so not too high, but still a fever."

"Gross..." Tony mumbled.

Henry smiled a little, though more as an attempt to make it appear he was calm, then went to get another cold cloth for Tony's forehead.

It was when Tony started yelling that Henry thought about calling someone else to help, maybe try to find Rhodey. Tony had knocked away Henry's hand, sat up in bed and yelled obscenities at nothing. Henry just swallowed hard, watching him for a moment. He had heard of people hallucinating when they went through withdrawal, but he didn't know anyone who actually had, much less seen it first hand. It terrified him.

"Tony..." Henry said quietly, trying to calm him. He put a hand on his shoulder, trying to make him lay down.

Without warning, Tony turned on him, yelling something Henry didn't catch because Tony's elbow collided with Henry's temple. Henry went down, bouncing some when he hit the mattress. His vision went black for an instant, but he was pretty sure he didn't lose consciousness. He let out a groan, trying to clear his mind, but the sharp pain at the side of his head persisted.

The bed bounced and weaved and did nothing for the ache in his head, but he could tell that Tony was kneeling next to him again without having to open his eyes.

"Oh, God, Henry, I'm sorry, I-I-I'm so sorry..."

Henry raised a hand and opened an eye - specks of white still popped in his vision. He offered Tony a smile, "I'm okay, I'm okay. Just...stop wiggling the bed."

At that, Tony froze, wide-eyed and frightened, like Henry might die if he moved the bed just a little. Henry laughed some, trying to show the other man he was all right.

"It's okay, lay back down, all right?" Before you hurt yourself, Henry thought.

Tony nodded, laying down slowly. He was shivering and sweating and looking completely terrified. Henry felt around for the wet washcloth he had been holding before. When he found it, he lifted it to Tony's forehead and did his best to clean him up.

Henry managed to get Tony to try and sleep. Once he actually had, Henry left the room to check the damage on his face. He was given only a moment before he jumped at the sound of Tony screaming again. He cursed and made a note that this time he should stand clear of any flailing. He went back to the room to see that Tony was still asleep, tossing and turning in the bed with the occasional yelp or scream. Nightmares. Henry had had a few of his own when getting sober.

He sat down on the bed and woke Tony gently. Tony woke fast, with a start, shooting up in bed, panting and looking around the room.

"Hey... wherever you were... it's okay. You're safe here."

Tony looked Henry over, wincing when his eyes found the mark on the side of Henry's head from where he'd nailed him with his elbow.

"I don't think I can do this anymore..."

Henry pulled him into a hug, rubbing his back and making reassuring noises, holding him tight, as Tony began to sob.

Four days passed slowly. Four days filled with Tony trying to eat, but then ultimately throwing up. Tony unable to sleep. Tony sweating, crying, wanting to give up. Henry stayed by his side the whole time, encouraging him that if he could just make it through this, the worst would be over. Finally, somewhere around three AM on the fifth day, Tony went to sleep.

Henry woke around nine AM and found that Tony was still asleep. Well... he hoped. More out of paranoia than real fear, he gently reached out and placed a hand under Tony's nose to see if he felt his exhale. He wasn't sure if he actually thought Tony was dead, or if he'd just seen Less Than Zero too many times, but he did relax when he felt Tony's breath against his palm.

After a shower and a change of clothes, Henry made his way to the kitchen to make something to eat. He figured he could make something for Tony too, and give him just a little bit of something to sustain him. He was about to crack the first egg when Tony shuffled into the kitchen, bleary eyed but upright.

Tony looked... better. Strikingly more coherent, some of the color had returned to his cheeks. His eyes were more blue than gray. He looked, at best, exhausted but he wasn't shaking and he appeared rather sheepish.

"Could I have some coffee?" Tony asked quietly.

"Food first. You haven't eaten in almost a week."

Tony nodded a little and took a seat at the table, groaning. His face read like his headache was still there, like a bad hangover, and that his body ached. He looked less green, his fever had seemed to have subsided, and he no longer appeared sweaty and clammy. Henry smiled a little at that.

He set a plate of eggs and juice in front of Tony. Tony gave him a grateful look. Henry absently touched his shoulder.

"How do you feel? You look better."

Tony shoveled some of the eggs into his mouth and swallowed before answering.

"I don't feel like I'm going to die. Just like I had too much to drink."

Henry smiled. "You haven't had a drink in four days."

Tony nodded. "Think I'm over the worst of it?"

Henry nodded a little before rubbing Tony's back, trying to sooth him some. He'd made it through the withdrawal - the worst withdrawal Henry had ever seen - and there was only one thing left for him to do so he could truly start on the road towards his recovery. Well, maybe there were two things...

"You should probably shower when you're done. You smell like BO and vomit."

Tony laughed - it was a legitimate, hearty laugh. "Yeah. I think I'll shave too, so I stop giving Logan a run for his money in the hairy beast department."

Henry didn't really know what he was talking about, he was just happy to hear Tony joke. While he had the chance, he reached down and gently rested his fingers on Tony's neck to feel his pulse, thankful to find that Tony's heart had seemed to regain a normal pace. With all of Tony's history, he'd been worried about that the most. Tony didn't seem to notice, as he worked on his food.

When he finished eating. Tony got up and cleaned the dishes before going to take a long, much needed shower. He spent a good amount of time in the bathroom while Henry got some fresh clothes for Tony to put on. He'd washed the dirty suit that Tony had arrived in and hung it up on the closet door.

Tony emerged with a towel around his waist. He'd shaved off the beard and in its place was his usual crisp lined van-dyke. Henry smiled.

"Feel better?"

"I feel human again," Tony said, softly.

"My name is Henry, and I'm an alcoholic."

Henry looked out at the small group of gathered beatniks, businessmen, housewives, and celebrities in big sunglasses as they greeted him. Each of them had a story, some of them would share it, most would stay quiet, listening, perhaps trying to build the courage to stand up and admit what Henry just had.

"Today is my fifth soberversary and I'm here to share my experience, strength, and hope with you guys, but first..." His eyes locked on one person in particular - head hung, staring into his coffee, looking ready to bolt at the drop of a hat. It had been difficult to get him there in the first place, in the sense that it took years for him to have his realization. He had to keep him there.

"I want to introduce my sponsee," at this, the man's head shot up. He gave Henry a wide-eyed, fearful and almost furious look. But Henry knew this was what he needed right now, "It's his fifth day sober and he's in LA for business for a bit. It might be my birthday, but you're the most important person in the room tonight. Would you like to introduce yourself to the group?"

Of course he didn't want to introduce himself - no one ever wanted to introduce themselves, Henry sure has hell hadn't. It took him a moment to stand and Henry was certain he was going to walk out for the briefest of moments, but he stayed.

"My name is Tony..." there was a pause, like the words had caught in his throat, "...And I'm an alcoholic."

Tony swallowed and felt himself wince at the droning response from the group as they greeted him like some cliche joke. He gave Henry a glance before sitting back down in his chair. He threw another quick look toward the door. He could leave. This was a choice, no one would be able to stop him, and he could just... find wherever Rhodey was staying. It'd be easy.

The easy way out.

Nothing he had done up to this point had been easy.

Henry looked happy and supportive. It was his fault Henry was here in the first place. Henry had told him on repeat occasions that 'there's no one to blame but yourself,' but Tony still carried the guilt of Henry's addiction, his disease, the memories of long nights of partying and drinking still lingering on his mind, on his tongue... Tony swallowed hard. He needed a drink.

He scoffed at himself. He couldn't even make it through the meeting. He gulped down his coffee, scorching his throat. This couldn't end soon enough.

Henry knew Tony was uncomfortable. He knew the way Tony behaved when he was unsettled, because that wasn't a normal emotion for Tony Stark. With slumped shoulders and a stare that seemed to be attracted with magnetic force to the coffee or the floor or his shoes or anything that would keep his face down, Tony sat as if he could will himself to vanish into thin air. Henry wondered if Tony had invented something to do just that...

He finished talking, and left the window open for someone else to speak. He knew it wouldn't be Tony, but for now it was just enough to have him there. It was enough of a triumph that Tony had made it so far through the meeting. He took his seat beside his friend and placed a hand on his shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. Tony looked over at him and nearly broke Henry's heart with that nervous, uncertain stare.

"Hey... the first step is the hardest one. You've already done that."

Tony laughed some, but more out of pity for himself than out of humor. Tony swallowed and looked over his shoulder and then down at the empty Styrofoam cup in his hand.

"And if I just get up and walk out?"

Henry smiled a little. "You won't."

Tony didn't argue.