Sometimes Steve asks Tony questions. Simple things, like which mug of coffee is it? or have you seen Iron Man? Sometimes when he knows Tony's been up all night fixing the armour, in the morning he asks Iron Man, have you rested? We all deserved a good sleep after that battle.
Tony smiles at him in both of his identities, and lies.
First? Maybe second.
Yes, he was on his way out.
I slept like a baby, Winghead, stop worrying about me.
He lies and lies, and Steve's heart breaks even more.
He still answers Tony's questions truthfully. He doesn't have a choice. No, I don't feel okay. Yes, I worry about you. Yes, there is someone, pleasestopasking.
(Tony looks a bit hurt at that, and never asks again. Steve is grateful.)
At some point, Steve stops asking. It hurts too much. Sometimes he has to, are you fine? after a fight, and it almost physically pains Steve when Tony winces and still says yes, don't worry.
He loves Tony. If Tony doesn't love him back, well. Steve trusts him anyway. And it's not like Tony lies about big things, is it?
He's Steve's best friend. Steve doesn't need more. That's another thing what being soulmates can mean, right.
(He wants more. But it's fine.)
When he faces Tony in the ruins of Avengers Mansion and still can't lie to him, he wants to scream. To cry. To hit something.
He doesn't know.
It's—this war they're fighting, it's so stupid, why can't Tony just stop, just listen? Steve doesn't want to fight him.
Then why is he here, beating up an unarmoured Tony?
He drops his hands and Tony's punch catches him in the jaw. Steve stumbles back, surprised; he didn't see that coming. He's unfocused. He wants it all to stop.
“Damn you, Tony,” he says. “Why do you always have to be this way?”
Tony drops his position too and huffs a disbelieving laugh. “Are you really asking me this?”
There's a bruise forming on Tony's cheek, but Steve knows it'll heal soon enough. Much as he hates it, Extremis has its advantages. He can't deny that.
“I don't want to fight you,” Steve whispers.
Tony looks exhausted. “Don't lie to me,” he asks. “Just—don't.”
“I can't lie to you,” Steve says, the words escaping his throat before he can stop himself.
Tony glances up, his eyes wide with shock. “You what,” he says. He doesn't pretend to misunderstand Steve's meaning and for that Steve is grateful.
That doesn't mean he doesn't want to run away and never face Tony again.
Ten years, he'd kept it a secret for ten years, and now, when they're fighting . . .
“Funny, isn't it,” Steve says. He keeps his gaze off Tony's face. There are pieces of armour lying behind him, like discarded toys.
“Steve, you—” Tony's voice is strained.
Steve shrugs. He forces himself to sound casual. He thinks he fails. “Does it even matter now?” he asks. “I can't lie to you,” he repeats, and then meets Tony's eyes. “I won't join you, Tony.”
Tony takes a step back as if hit. “I'm—”
“No.” Steve shakes his head. Over the years, he'd imagined, a handful of times, telling Tony the truth. It never looked like this in his dreams. Tony was supposed to say, neither can I. Not stare at him as if Steve had two heads now. As if it was so impossible he would have never entertained the thought to begin with. “It's killing me to fight you,” Steve admits. The truth feels weirdly good even as what he's saying hurts. “But you're wrong. I can't stand for that.”
Tony takes another step back, and another. His back hits the wall. “No,” he says. “No. I don't believe you. You're not—it's impossible, you can't, why have you never said anything?”
“You can lie to me,” Steve notes very carefully.
“That doesn't mean I don't lo—” Tony stops himself.
Steve doesn't let himself finish the sentence Tony almost uttered. There's no point to it, not now.
And it's not as if Tony's telling the truth, is it? He's trying to spin it, he's trying to use Steve, to make him change his mind—
(He's not, Steve knows, but thinking about that hurts too much. Ten years.)
Tony laughs, sounding hysterical. “So that's it? You're my—you can't lie to me, and tomorrow we're going to be back to fighting, like nothing happened, like it's okay, like . . .”
“It's not okay,” Steve snaps. “But you won't change my mind and I won't change mine, Tony, and if that's how it is, then so be it!” He's tired. He shouldn't have come here. It's not as if he believed they could change anything. He just wanted to see Tony.
“Right,” Tony says. He sounds defeated. “So we're going to walk away from here and pretend nothing happened.”
“Nothing did,” Steve says heavily.
Tony doesn't say another word. His armour surrounds him, and Steve doesn't stop him leaving.
It doesn't change anything. Why would it?
It's only when Steve stops with his shield raised high above him, Tony asking him to finish it, that he thinks he should've fought harder—not to win, because there were no winners here. But to keep Tony on his side.
Steve drops the shield.
Tony visits him in the cell.
Steve doesn't want to talk to him. There's nothing to fix anymore.
“Tell me, Director Stark,” he spits out, pretending not to see Tony flinch minutely. “Was it worth it?”
Tony's silent for a beat too long. “Well . . . You're a sore loser, Captain America,” he says.
How did they come to this?
Steve is walking down the street. The crowd isn't cheering for him. His hands are in power-dampening cuffs, courtesy of Stark Industries.
Responsibility. Isn't that what Tony wanted?
There are hundreds of people around, but the only one Steve can see is Tony, standing next to the courthouse steps. He's out of his armour, and he looks like he's the one walking to his trial.
Steve doesn't care. He can lie to himself at least.
He walks slowly, following the agents in front of him. He passes Tony and turns away to avoid facing him, and then something catches his sight.
A reflection of light in one of the windows—a sniper rifle. Damn.
The shot sounds, and he's lunging forward to push the agent out of the way when someone crashes into him and knocks him down. For a second he doesn't know what's happening, and then someone screams. Steve rolls over.
No, he's not seeing this, he's not—
Tony's lying on the steps, his shirt stained red, going very pale very quickly. Steve crawls to him, suddenly furious his hands are bound behind him.
“Tony,” he says, and he stops. He's not sure what he can say, there are agents around them, why is no one getting him medical attention yet? “Where's your armour, can Extremis fix this, Tony, talk to me.” Steve's babbling and he doesn't care. He can't press onto Tony's wound, he can't touch his cheek, he can only look at him bleeding out—
But Tony isn't bleeding out, is he? He'll be fine.
Tony's eyes lock on his. “On the helicarrier,” he whispers and coughs. “When you asked—”
“No,” Steve says. Not now. It doesn't matter.
“I tried to say, yes,” Tony continues. His breath is ragged. “I tried to—it must've been worth it, but it wasn't, and I couldn't say it was, I—”
Someone pulls Steve away. EMTs crouch over Tony.
It's too late. Steve sees Tony's blue eyes go unfocused, his head fall to the side.