Title: A Place to Start
Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Marvel MCU
Rating: PG
Pairing: Steve/Tony

Notes: Written in honor of the launch of the Alphabet Soup discord group!
Written as a follow-up to “The Histories of Alphabet Soup” based on cowboyguy’s comment.



ihggiihhhh!” Tony looks wildly around the room and, apparently judging the tissue box to be too far away all the way over on his nightstand, opts to pull the covers right over his head instead. The Tony-shaped bulge beneath the blankets rears back for a second before shaking and pitching forward. “hihggtschhoooo!


“Bless you,” Steve says calmly, sitting on the edge of Tony’s bed and rubbing Tony’s side through the covers. “Come on out, darlin’.”


Angry and frustrated and hating every pet name Steve has ever given him, Tony shoves the covers down to his chin. “Go. Away,” he states so clearly and emphatically, Steve wonders if maybe Tony might actually mean it. It’s a thought he entertains for just a few seconds before his certainty of the situation settles back into place.


“I’m not going anywhere until you feel better.”


“Then I fee… fee-ihhh… feel fine ihhhh-HPTshhhh!” He sneezes into his shoulder. Then, realizing what he’s done, he scrambles across the giant King-sized bed. He grabs a tissue out of the box and presses it to his nose. With his other hand, he grabs a Lysol disinfectant spray and gives the room a light misting with it. He coughs and blinks, the strong scent stinging his tired eyes.


Steve waves his hand across his own face; it doesn’t seem to bother him. He wouldn’t be much of a super soldier if he could get taken down by lemon scented air freshener. “It’s no good, Tony. You’re already sick.”


Tony mumbles something as he settles back against his pillows and tries to pull the covers up over his head again.


Steve grabs hold. Without his Iron Man gauntlets, Tony stands no match against Steve’s strength and quickly gives up. “What was that you said?”


With a deep breath and a defiant expression, he repeats himself with a little less mumble and a little more hurt. “It’s so you don’t get sick.”


Sam releases his grip on the covers, and Tony doesn’t make a move to hide beneath them again. “Aw, that’s kind of you. But I’m tougher than I look.”


Sniff! I mean, do you have any idea how many germs are in me right now?”


“No,” Steve says. “How many?”


Tony opens his mouth and closes it. “Well, a lot. A whole lot. And my body’s trying to fight them, so it’s making mucus and that tickles my nose and throat and just wants out and…” He flops over, face-down in his pillows and yells loud enough for it to be heard through his pillows. “I’m disgusting!”


Steve strokes his head. Tony flinches the moment Steve’s hand makes contact, and Steve reprimands himself. Even sick, Tony could have snapped and broken his wrist for startling him like that. You can’t just surprise someone who’s been hurt the way Tony has. Steve puts one hand on Tony’s back, warm and present. He rubs little circles into the man’s red pajama top, not breaking physical contact until Tony gets used to it. When Tony’s stiff shoulders sag and the tension drains from him, that’s when Steve puts his other hand back on Tony’s head and pets again. This time, Tony doesn’t react apart from giving a small but happy sigh. He’s boneless, relaxed. He’s practically enjoying the touching now.


“You’re not disgusting,” Steve whispers. Tony starts to tense back up, but Steve keeps rubbing, and Tony relaxes again almost immediately. “You’re not even close. You look great like this.”


At these words, Tony pushes himself up on his forearms and looks over his shoulder at Steve with an incredulous ‘you have got to be kidding’ sort of expression on his face. His eyes are bloodshot and have dark circles beneath them. His hair is sticking out in all different directions. And his beard is scruffy from going two days without a proper grooming. He looks worse than he does when he goes on a bender.


And, yet, he still looks handsome. He’s still loveable Tony, harsh edges and attitude and ego and all that. Nothing could make him look unattractive to Steve’s eyes. “You gotta trust me on this one, Tony.” He leans in, feeling that a kiss is imminent.


But Tony pulls back, rolling onto his side, coughing and sniffling. Quickly, Steve pretends to be moving in to adjust the covers instead. He tucks then around Tony and smooths out the wrinkles in the expensive gold and white comforter that’s on top of Egyptian cotton sheets. Tony waits for him to finish. Then he rolls over onto his other side, his back to Steve.


Steve sighs to himself but tucks and smooths out again. He doesn’t mind. Really, he kind of loves it. Tony hasn’t thrown him off the bed yet, so he’s got that going for him at least. “You know, there are three kinds of people in this world.”


Tony turns his head slightly, interested but trying not to show it.


“There are people who like to be babied and cared for when they get sick. There are people who want to be left alone to suffer in silence when they’re sick.” Steve pauses, sure Tony’s going to say right now that he’s that kind. But they both know he’s the third one. “And there are people who like to be cared for but have been let down by others so many times in the past that they don’t believe they can be.”


“I’m definitely that second one.” Tony says quickly. Then his head snaps toward his chest. “hihh-TChtchhhh!


“Bless you.” Steve gets a few tissues from the box on the nightstand—right next to the bowl of alphabet soup that Tony absolutely refused to touch. Steve holds the tissues up to Tony’s face. “Right,” he says softly. As Tony takes hold of the tissues, Steve strokes his head again. “If you say so.”


“I do,” Tony says sleepily. “I know a lot of things. I’m a genius, you know.”


“Mmm,” Steve just keeps stroking as Tony closes his eyes.


“A sneeze can travel at about a hundred miles an hour. Sniff! Sniff!


Steve wipes Tony’s nose for him. Tony doesn’t pull away.


“There are over two hundred types of viruses that cause colds.” 


Steve pulls back the covers on one side of the big bed. Slowly. Tony doesn’t stop him.


“A sneeze starts in the nervous system.”


Steve slides under the covers, right up against Tony’s back. Tony doesn’t move a muscle.


 “Because a cold takes days to incubate, you’re more likely to catch a cold from someone who isn’t showing symptoms yet than from someone who’s obviously sick and ihh sneezing ihh-hih-IHPTshhhhh!


“Bless you. And that’s good to know.” Steve puts his arm around Tony and pulls him in close. Tony lets him. And then he puts his probably germ-covered hand on Steve’s and hugs Steve’s arm to his chest. Steve makes the hug as tight as he thinks Tony can stand.


“Tighter,” Tony whispers. Steve wants to hear more. He wants to hear that followed with ‘and never let go’ or ‘and don’t leave me.’ But those words don’t come now. It’s just the sound of sniffling and the warmth of their hug in this bedroom now. But Steve thinks this is a fine place to start.