Having said his piece, he fell silent again, staring down at his hands, and loosely clenched and unclenched his bare fist, testing to see if he could still feel the pain from the cramp anymore, but it seemed to have all but disappeared. “It makes sense, I guess,” he finally spoke up again. “That he would… you know. That he would hate me. For that.” The industrialist massaged his palm for another moment, and then, letting out a heavy sigh, he leaned back against the back-rest of the chair, folding his strong arms across his chest, and his blue gaze lifted to meet with Steve’s once more, brutal and honest.
“I betrayed you,” he said, his voice flat, as if he could not bring himself to show any of the emotions he was feeling lest he lose all composure. “You can’t deny that. I deceived you. Lied to you. …Killed you.”
“You didn’t kill me,” Steve replied, giving a soft sigh.
Stark arched his dark brows, pressing them together into a look of incredulity that caused the lines of his forehead to bunch together, and gave another scoff of disbelief. “Are you saying that because you mean it?” he asked. “Or are you saying that because you think it’s what I want to hear?”
Steve paused a moment, considering this question, the expression on his strong face unwavering. Then, leaning forward in his chair, the crusader rested his elbows against his thighs, lacing his fingers together between his knees in a peaceful act of contemplation. The pads of his red-clad thumbs tapped together, the tough, stitched gloves giving off a soft scuffing noise as he did so, one that Stark would normally have found to be annoying but which now seemed oddly comforting. “Is it what you want to hear?” Steve asked.
Stark hesitated, a bit taken aback by the Captain’s response, and then gave a light, almost contemptuous breath of a humourless laugh as he looked down at his hands again. “Honestly?” he responded. “I don’t even know anymore. Part of me thinks it is, but… part of me knows it’s not true. Part of me… part of me wishes I had been the one to die on those courthouse steps, not you.”