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I'll Swear It's a Lie (And I'll Still Believe It)

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The worst thing about surviving is being alive afterwards.

It's not like Tony hasn't survived a bunch of things that were supposed to kill him. Brain cancer. Twice. Getting up and suiting up and joining the Ultimates and punching aliens and terrorists in the face. Being vivisected by Reed Richards.

Okay, technically that one did kill him.

But he's standing here, at Steve's funeral, tears in his eyes, toasting the New Ultimates or the Young Ultimates or whatever the fuck the kids are calling themselves these days -- he's a role model for the youth, isn't that a laugh? -- and it just hits him: he doesn't know how to do this alone. He doesn't know how to do this without Steve, without Thor, and hell, they've had personnel losses, of course they have, but he always thought both of them would be there, always, and now neither of them are.

They traded Valkyrie for Thor, once. Tony resurrected himself, once. He'd meant what he said in the eulogy: he was hoping for another miracle.

But Steve had already had his miracle, hadn't he? Everyone had thought he'd died, and he'd woken up in the future. You don't get two of those chances.

Steve had taken his second life, his charmed life, and he'd flown a fighter jet into the mouth of a fucking planet-devouring purple monstrosity from another dimension. It's like he died for bad science fiction. To buy them time. Had he only been worth a couple of minutes, in the end?

Tony wonders if, in the dimension that purple bastard came from, people deal with planet-eating monsters all the time. If this is just another Wednesday to them. Apparently they have a Reed Richards on that Earth. He knows there's another Tony Stark. He thinks there's probably another Steve Rogers. He wonders if that Steve died too, if that Tony ever stood up and gave a eulogy like this one. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. Maybe they hated each other. Maybe they loved each other. Maybe it was Tony who died.

It would have been better, that way.

He can't do this. He can't be here anymore. God, he's still crying.

"I have to," he says, vaguely, waving his glass in the direction of Ben or Sue or the goddamn New Ultimates or whoever that is over there, because it's getting too blurry to see. "I have to be alone. Excuse me."

He heads inside the tower, up to the penthouse suite, working his tie loose as he goes, dropping it behind him. He passes his glass, still half-full, from hand to hand in a dance of well-practiced motions as he shrugs out of one coat sleeve, then the other, without needing to put the drink down.

He wonders if his liver will do him in. He's pretty sure he won't live that long.

The airy space is quiet, silent except for his footfalls and the slither of fabric as his jacket hits the floor. He pads into the bedroom alcove, actually sets the drink down -- albeit on the bedside table -- and falls backward onto the bed, arms outstretched, staring at the ceiling high above him and the light slanting in from the floor-to-ceiling windows. It's a beautiful day.

"Fuck," he says, and he shuts his eyes.

He misses Steve. He misses Thor too. Hell, he misses everyone they've lost -- okay, maybe not Hank, because Hank was a wife-beating son of a bitch -- but he really misses Steve.

They hadn't been friends, really, not the way most people used the word. Sure, he'd had Steve over for dinner. Sure, Steve had sat next to him as he vomited his way through chemo. But, more importantly, they'd been Ultimates, comrades in the unending war Steve had signed up for decades ago. They'd trusted each other with their lives. And now it's only him left. Steve's gone.

Jesus Christ, but he misses him. He should have told him, Tony thinks, and then he kind of wants to hit himself in the face because there's no call to be that maudlin about it.

There was no reason to ever tell Steve Rogers that he wanted him. So he hadn't.

Absolutely no good would have come of it. It's not like Steve hadn't been one hundred percent heterosexual, a man's man through and through. Still, he'd always been one of Tony's go-to fantasies, and it wasn't like he'd been any less handsome in person. So it wasn't like it had been a surprise, exactly, the time after a mission that he'd been in bed with -- Natasha, maybe? -- her legs around his waist, him fucking into her deep and sure and practiced, two fingers on her clit, his mouth bent down to her breast, because he knew damn well to get her off first, and he was good, he was patient, he could wait. Then the thought drifted through his head -- fuck, I bet Cap looks amazing, fucking Wasp -- and he could picture Steve's gorgeous ass rippling as he thrust, and that was it, Tony choked and swore and came hard.

He'd apologized to Natasha, afterwards. She'd been reasonably mad. And as it turned out she hadn't really been a great person anyway, so he's not really torn up about it.

After that, Steve had begun to feature a little more heavily in Tony's private fantasizing, once again. Sure, he worked with the guy and, sure, that was kind of weird, to say hi to Steve in the morning when the previous night he might have been pondering coming on Steve's face, but it's not like Tony's ever bothered cultivating a sense of personal shame. It wasn't like he was going to tell him. Everything was good.

That's not really true anymore.

Tony realizes he's getting hard.

He wonders if he's fucked up enough to lie here and jerk off thinking about a guy whose eulogy he delivered five minutes ago.

He reaches down and undoes his fly.

Yeah. Yeah, he is that fucked up. Big surprise.

He palms his cock through the fabric of his underwear, runs his fingers along the hardening length of it, and he can't quite help but groan a little at the familiar, expected pleasure. He's always been loud in bed, even if there's no one to show off for. He wonders if Steve would have liked that, if he would have liked Tony gasping and moaning and telling him how fucking amazing his cock was. Yeah, probably. Everyone likes to hear that.

Right. How does this one go? He eases his cock out of his pants, strokes gently up the shaft and over the head, and ponders. Maybe they've just finished some kind of Ultimates meeting, him and Steve -- Steve's in the uniform, of course. No, wait, Steve's just come from training or working out, a little bit mussed, maybe a bit sweaty. Half-hard from the adrenaline, and so... maybe Tony looks. Fantasy Tony definitely looks. Real Tony's done his share of looking, discreetly; he's surprised Steve never figured out exactly how queer he is, but then, he'd always gotten the impression Steve thought his camp was just a row of tents.

So then Tony's looking, and Steve sees him looking, and Steve looks back -- Tony squeezes a little harder and shivers -- and Tony smiles at him, says something awful and cliche like see something you like, darling? and Steve--

Well, okay, Steve probably punches him in the jaw and calls him a faggot.

Tony sighs and his hand slows. Right. Fantasy. Dammit. Fantasy Steve wants this. Fantasy Steve wants whatever Tony wants him to want. He's nice like that. He skips ahead, fast-forwards. They're upstairs -- hell, maybe they're on this bed -- and he's peeling Steve out of his uniform and Steve smells like leather and sweat and arousal. It's slow going because Steve keeps trying to rub up against him, sliding up and down on Tony's thigh, but eventually Tony gets the uniform off and he gets to slide his hands over Steve's perfect ass. And Steve just moans, like it surprises him, like he didn't know how this felt. And he looks up at Tony, and his eyes are dark, and his cock sliding between them is getting harder, slicker, the closer Tony holds him.

This isn't real. The thought is like a knife-stab, harsh and fast and Tony shuts his eyes and pushes it away, because here in his head Steve is alive. Just a little longer. Steve's grinning at him, and it's Steve's hand on his cock, not his own, and Steve's stroking him a few times like it's an experiment, like he's never tried this on anyone else.

Tony gasps and thumbs at the head of his cock just where he likes it, and in his mind Steve smiles and breathes fuck me, and Christ, that's good, that's the way, and he knows Steve would never but he doesn't fucking care.

Steve's on his hands and knees, panting, as Tony slides three fingers in and watches him take it, watches him come from just that, spurting onto the sheets, onto his thighs, because of course Steve can get it up again, can't he? He's perfect. Sometimes Tony thinks about just riding him all night, riding him as he comes again and again, riding him until he cries.

Alone in his bed, Tony shudders, fucks up into his own fist, then backs off. He doesn't want to come yet, not yet. This isn't quite the right part of the fantasy; he wants to get to the really good part. God, fuck, he's almost there anyway. He's so close, and he can't hold off much longer.

In his head Steve smiles at him again and turns to look at him, over his shoulder, a little nervous, but trusting, bright-eyed, determined and Tony's staring back at him, looking down the long beautiful line of Steve's spine, and he presses forward and in, fuck, fuck, Steve, he's really going to come, any fucking second, and Steve moans, Steve says--

How much time do you need?

Steve's face is grim, set, and the helicarrier emergency lights are flashing red against his skin, and Tony means to say I don't know, but we'll take whatever we can get but he doesn't get more than halfway through the sentence before Steve is gone, jet streaking through the sky--

And Tony rolls onto his side, and he's gasping, eyes open, and he's still hard, and he thinks maybe he's crying, and Jesus fucking Christ he never wants to touch his dick ever again what the fuck is wrong with him. But he can't seem to stop moving his hand, stroking himself.

The fantasy in his head shifts, changes, and it's one he's never really had before: the afterglow. He never really thought Steve would be a cuddling kind of guy, but Steve is big and warm and nestled up to him. The smile on his face is a little goofy, and he says thank you and I love you. Steve kisses him gently, and alone in the bed Tony shuts his eyes and orgasm rolls over him, this one sweet and easy, a slow and blissful wave, a blanket of contentment.

He was in love with Steve, he realizes. He was in love with him and he never told him and he didn't even know and that is so much worse that there aren't even words for the enormity of it. Maybe he could have stuck to getting off while thinking about Steve dying. That would have been less fucked up.

Tony's got a habit of falling for the wrong people. People who use him. People who betray him. Steve... Steve would have had his back. Always.

Steve would never have wanted him.

"I miss you," he says, to the empty room, and when he rolls over he knocks his drink to the floor. He doesn't care. "Come back."