Title: The Histories of Alphabet Soup
Fandom: Marvel MCU
Notes: Written in honor of the launch of the Alphabet Soup discord group!
Tony sets a bowl down in front of Steve and starts to walk away while it’s still steaming.
Steve looks down at it and sees soft pasta shaped as letters bobbing in the distinctly red-orange broth. “What is this?”
“It’s soup. S’good for colds. Jarvis said so. Eat up before it gets cold.” He waves a hand in Steve’s direction, trying to spur him into action from a distance.
Quickly delivering soup is the closest Tony’s gotten to him physically sine Steve came down with the sniffles. And now that his job is done, he’s not sticking around to catch whatever Steve’s got. Steve really wishes he would. He can hold his hands against the base of the bowl to feel its warmth, but that’s about all the comfort he’s had since he started feeling sick. What he wants is someone’s arms around him in bed, someone to soothe him when he recovers from a sneezing fit. And he wants that someone to be Tony. But he knows about the thing Tony has about germs, so he’d never ask for that. He does, however, have an outstanding question. “Right, I see it’s soup. But why did you… why does it… oh… I think I need to…” Steve skips the Kleenex box on his nightstand and goes for his handkerchief again, on instinct. “huh-IPTSchphhhh!” He wipes his nose and opens his eyes, seeing that Tony’s already at his bedroom door. “Tony!” he calls out, making the man pause in the threshold and turn around.
Steve waves his hand, handkerchief and all, at the bowl. “What is this?”
“Soup. It’s just Campbell’s, straight out of the can. No big deal.” He shrugs, hands in the pockets of his suit pants.
And that’s the problem, Steve thinks. It used to take hours of convincing to get Bucky up and out of bed to get Steve soup when Steve was feeling poorly. Bucky would just attach himself, his arm around Steve, never wanting to let go. Peggy, on the other hand, wouldn’t stop cooking and baking. She would constantly bring Steve things like toast with jam and chicken soup, of course, and feed it to him, bite by bite. She always seemed to know exactly what would make Steve feel better. Tony, on the other hand, popped in, dropped a bowl of soup in front of him, and raced out just as quickly.
But Steve had the impression that if he could build a robot butler to deliver soup, he’d sooner do that than be around Steve right now. That doesn’t explain the soup itself, though. “Right, but what is this?”
“Alphabet soup. Didn’t they have alphabet soup back in your day?”
Steve nods and rubs his nose. “It’s been around since before the 1900s, sure. It was still kind of a novelty back in my day. I could never afford it. There were comics and jokes and…” He trails off. This isn’t the point at all. But he sees Tony recoil a little, bracing himself, expecting Steve broke off because he needs to sneeze. Steve sighs. “You really don’t care, do you?”
Tony looks uncomfortable, shifts from one foot to the other. “I need to get back to my lab.”
Sighing to himself, Steve nods. “Thanks for the alphabet soup, Tony.”
Tony nods and disappears down the hallway, closing the door to Steve’s room behind him.
Steve eats before it has a chance to get cold, thinking the whole time about Howard. Howard had brought him alphabet soup on more than one occasion. He always called it the best cure, because it made you smile while you were eating it. He had to have brought it to his son over the years. Steve wondered if Tony even realized why, out of the dozens of different cans of soup in the fully stocked panty, he had chosen this one.
Because this isn’t just a bowl of alphabet soup. It’s the closest Tony gets to caregiving, because it’s the closest he ever got to being cared for. And even though Steve would much prefer being able to have Tony’s arms around him or be waited on by Tony hand and foot until he recovers, this bowl of soup means everything to him.
He tries his best not to sneeze into it while he eats.