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Title:For the Movies
Author:cowritten by empty_splendor and jazzypom
Rated: PG-13 for language and concepts.
Beta read: No.
Universe: Ultimates fic.
Summary: Tony Stark saves the world at great cost.
Disclaimer: Characters and situations are the property of Stan Lee and Marvel Comics. No profit is being made off this fan-written work.
Notes: Word count: 3500. This story doesn't end happily. One of our heroes will not make it out alive.




Tony Stark would be dead in a week.

He was willing to bet his fortune on that fact, judging by his gaunt reflection in the mirror. He sneered a bit at his mirror image as he inspected his face. Sunken cheeks,van dyke patchy from chemo treatments, his skin void of the olive hue he'd been so proud of, replaced by a pale green clammy tint. He didn't look like Tony Stark: Billionaire. He looked like Tony Stark: Sick dying guy. Tony splashed water on his face, then patted it dry with a towel.

Tony knew he should be in a hospital, and he might have done so, but for the fact that even hospitals for the rich and fabulous reeked of expelled bodily functions and harsh notes of bleach. He should probably be wasting away like any other dying person so close to the end, counting his blessings, signing his wills and waiting for the icy grip of Death to slide through his body and squeeze his heart with chilled fingers to a gradual halt like a morbid B-movie horror flick. Tony Stark was not going to tarry in a hospital at the mercy of his sickness.

"That's just not appropriate, Tony." he snarked to his reflection.


Pepper Potts noticed his failing health the minute he walked into his office. She said nothing, noting that his mood suggested he'd already had at least four other people inquire about why he was at work, let alone why he wasn't in a hospital bed. She knew from the minute he'd been diagnosed Tony wouldn't die quietly in a cloistered corner somewhere; best case scenario he'd let them bring the hospital to his penthouse... but since the Ultimates had been formed, she knew that was even less likely. Pepper knew Tony would probably die in the Iron Man suit.

With a stoicism that would do a statue proud, Pepper ignored the smell of medication poorly masked by the wash of his cologne as she handed him a file.

"There's a budget meeting in 45 minutes, I need you to look over this and pretend you know the budgets for departments this time." she smirked.

Tony gave Pepper a thoughtful look, rather than quickly skimming the file as was his wont.

"Scale of one to ten... ten being best I've ever looked, one being I look like I'm already dead..."

Pepper swallowed. "Being completely honest?"

"Of course." Tony studiously looked at the file.

"Two."


"You're not going, Stark. That's an order."

The budget meeting had been interrupted by the Ultimates needing to fight some aliens or something. Tony wasn't really sure. Captain America had apparently become a doctor in the past two days because he rattled off medical jargon with the ease of a med student, hot on Tony's heels, as Tony strolled to get himself suited up. He responded with handing Rogers his empty martini glass.

Steve glared at him, the delicate shell of the Martini glass incongruous in his big, red gloved hand.

"Listen here, Hogan's Heroes. You might be the figurehead but I'm the bankroll. I'm going, like it or not."

"You should be in a hospital, Stark. You're not looking... well."

Tony snorted. "I'm dying. I know. I'll be lucky to see out the end of the week. Don't humiliate me and make me die like an old man. Let me keep my dignity."

They were in the sub basement of Stark's Headquarters. Steve was surprised to see that Stark had more than one Iron Man lair for his robot suits. This one was the size of an aircraft hanger, and there was the impression of steel beams and grids and varying prototypes of the Iron Man suits as he still kept at Tony's heels. Happy Hogan applied the special green goo to his palms, and Tony smeared it over his hair, face and the rest of his body. Steve steadfastly kept his gaze on Tony's face and shoulders, since the goo tended to make his special unitard semi-transparent, and that was something he did not need to see.

Tony's tone had been jesting, even mocking, but Steve saw through it. He heard the slight quiver, the hidden fear, and it made him pause. Stark didn't want to go out weak and infirm, waiting for the reaper to claim him whenever. Stark was going to soldier on and take it down at the front lines like a trooper. There was a part of Steve that could respect that, even if he didn't agree with it. He looked over Stark for a long moment as he stood half armored and pounding back another martini. He looked tired. He looked sick. He looked frail. For the first time since they'd met Steve noticed that Tony Stark did, in fact, have an illness that was going to kill him.

If the Iron Man didn't get there first.

Maybe that's what Stark wanted.

Steve hesitated. "Alright but... just be careful. Don't pull any stupid stunts."

Tony tossed aside the empty glass and it exploded into shards as it hit the floor. Steve knew it was coming but he winced at the sound regardless. Tony finished armoring up and just as the helmet lowered, he gave Steve a jaunty salute.

"God Speed, Captain."

It was just their luck, Steve thought, as he dispatched two humanoid forms with a swift foot sweep on the threshold of the last flight of stairs, that the enemies were Alien, the race of Ruud. First Chituari, now this. Gail might have had a point way back when, after all, about the rewards of being ordinary. But there was nothing for it now, he thought, pushing distracting notions aside and focusing on the task at hand.

"What is that?" he shouted into his radio link, and Fury picked up. "Easy, captain, my captain," he said, and Steve heard the rustle of papers as Fury spoke. "According to this brief, they are akin to locusts, and we are their next meal."

"Like Independence Day? I've always wanted to be in a B movie." Steve heard another voice on the crackle of the line. A young male, late teens. Steve followed the conversation in his earpiece as he double timed it up the stairwell in the Triskelion building. The elevators were down, along with other electrics, but his eyes were keen, his muscles moved smoothly, due to the low lactic acid build up of his physiology.

"Get off this frequency now, Storm!" Fury snapped. "You're supposed to be running interference for Reed Richards, that is an order."

"Geez, okay already. Over and out."

The door gave way under the kick of Steve's heavy boot, as he automatically rolled into a crouch, holding the duffel bag to his person, immediately noting something amiss. The sky was dark. At 15:00 hours on a spring afternoon.

Something wasn't right.

"Are you on the roof yet, Captain?"

Steve might have answered if the sight before him hadn't momentarily stolen his breath. The sky was grey black with varying shapes, and great day in the morning, it seemed to ripple as all the ships advanced. Eerie, it reminded Steve of his sojourn in Poland during the war, as the tanks advanced, taking down trees and buildings in their path. But these tanks were in the air.

"I-" he swallowed, "yes sir."

"Good, Jocasta is hacking herself to the mainframes of the Pentagon and the rest of our allies. According to Richards, Banner and Stark, the ships' alloy is impervious to blasts and shields, but not sound waves."

"Oscillation, high vibrations. Shatter. Yes I know, General. It's supposed to be akin to hitting an over-sized champagne glass with a tong. Hit it hard enough -"

"Some one's been hanging around Stark too long, I see," Fury's laugh was grim. Steve appreciated the gallows humour.

"Not for much longer," Steve murmured, as he quickly unzipped the bag, and in short, efficient movements, he snapped together the pieces that seemed to look like an oversize walkie talkie, with a sixteen foot antenna to boot. But he pushed that thought away, and focused on the task at hand. He was on the highest building in Manhattan, which was - surprise, surprise -Stark Tower. On a clear day, Steve supposed he could see forever, but today was nothing but the thick smears of shadows on everywhere.

"What's our cue?"

"Stark says we'll know," Fury's voice was sombre, and Steve knew he was thinking about Tony Stark, and wondering...

"He'll come through," Steve murmured, his eyes scanning the sky, his gun ready for whatever. "He's too much of a glory hound not to."


Miles above earth, Tony Stark was moving into position, his body fastened in the suit, the dulcet metallic tones of Jocasta in his ear.

"This is major Tom to ground control, I'm stepping through the door, and I'm floating in the most peculiar way and the stars look very different today. Here I am sitting in a tin can," Tony sang loudly, and off key inside the armor. "Far above the world--"

"We're connected to everything, Tony," Jocasta interrupted, "every major city in earth is primed, I'm the ghost in the machines, now."

"More like a poltergeist, darling, if we've done this right."

Tony then looked outside, seeing nothing but the cold, dark blanket of space, the shadowy twinkle of stars and smears of the milky way as he charged his mecha sized Iron Man suit to the satellite which was two hundred miles above earth. It looked like one of those old fashioned swirly marbles, he thought, something old fashioned, rather like Steve.

"I wish Thor was here," Tony mused, "we'd have a drink, and he'd probably escort me to Valhalla."

"If there's such a thing beyond the human consciousness," Jocasta hummed, as she went through the sequences, and Tony noted her progress on the grid of screens from the corner of his eye. She was eighty-five percent done, with this first protocol with a minute to go, before the next one.

"Jan, darling -"

"Jocasta."

"Jocasta, darling," Tony took the correction smoothly. "For someone who's in the position that you are, you don't believe in an afterlife?"

"Energy never dissipates, it's just converted. On-line and primed in five seconds, then final preparations. Is this sound appropriate?"

"Everything's appropriate, darling. I'm Tony Sta-" his body rattled with a fit of coughing, and the ping of Jocasta 's alarm.

"You won't last through the second protocol, Tony, I will have to shut this down."

"No," Tony's voice was firm, as he started flicking switches for power. "I'm doing this now, darling."

"Survival at this conjecture is less than fifteen percent, Tony. Your shields won't be fully engaged - and-"

"Now, now, darling. I hate to tell a woman 'no', but needs must." Tony pulled the main control lever and he felt (not heard) the creak of the suit as it disengaged from the cinch of its satellite, and the shudder of its body as it surged to full power, siphoning energy from the satellite..

"You're doing this," Jocasta breathed, "even though -" she broke off in a sigh that sounded so wistful, so human, it almost gave Tony pause.

"If we must die, O let us nobly die, right?"

The conservation lulled as the armour got trapped in the grip of Earth's atmosphere, and nothing could be heard over the screams of g-forces as it pulled against the mecha's joints. They both knew the armour was too big, too clunky for earth's gravitational pull, and Jocasta's voice was a whisper in his ear.

If you see Hank, tell him... hello. That I've always loved him, and that thing with Steve...was a mistake. It's always been him. Always.

"No accounting for taste," Tony murmured.

What?

"It's show time, darling."


"Stark is in local airspace, Jocasta is online," Reed's voice was excited and so young over the headphones. Steve shook his head, the concept of "Hurry up and wait" almost an anathema to him, as the shadows crept forward, but not close enough for him to start picking off stragglers.

"And Stark?"

As if on cue, there was a BOOM of noise, a blur of words, as if someone turned the volume of a jukebox to infinity, because all was noise, and vibrations. The sound waves slammed into him so hard, Steve lost his footing.

"Turn it on, now, now!"

"What?"

"Your amplifier! NOW!"

Steve half scrabbled, half slid to the antenna, and with shaky fingers flipped the switches on, before curling into a ball, and pressing his hands to his ears, activating the nanotech sound proof ear shields, with only the feeds to Fury and co running at reduced sounds.

For a moment it was all madness, as the ships exploded into bits, like monsters in those new fangled TV games, and with each explosion, there was a splotch of light as the horizon started to clear.

"Find shelter, Rogers, now!"

"Affirmative, sir!" Steve scrambled towards the doorway, and found himself holding on to the door frame for shelter, and as the sky cleared, and the blur ebbed, Steve narrowed his eyes. "Is that," he said, voice ripe with tones of horror, "a show tune?"

He only heard the hoot of Fury's laughter over his earpiece, and saw the ships exploding to the beats of the music.

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Will you give all you can give
So that our banner may advance
Some will fall and some will live
Will you stand up and take your chance?
The blood of the martyrs
Will water the meadows of France!

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!



Despite all his best intentions, Tony Stark did end up in a hospital.

Well, not exactly, it was the Triskelion's sick bay. He insisted on going there, because all the hospitals would be rushed, all hands on deck.

"There's nothing we can do," the doctor shook her head, her eyes huge with sympathy. "He's too far gone, and it hasn't helped that he's chased medication with alcohol for the past six months."

Steve, Reed, Bruce (who had an IV drip of the Hulk antidote attatched to the vein of his hand), and Fury were in the hall, talking to Dr Fischer, if her name tag was anything to go by. She was a slip of a woman, her pale blonde hair pulled back into a queue at the nape of her neck, her body dwarfed in green scrubs. It was close to midnight, and the sick bay hall was quiet. Tony, Reed and Bruce figured out the best way to do the maximum damage with the minimum amount of armed personnel, so the halls were relatively quiet and empty, save for the bleeping of machines, and the squeak of rubber soles on tiles as staff went about their business.

"Can we see him?" Steve asked, because it seemed like the right thing to say.

Dr Fischer wrinkled her nose. "I'd rather it be one person representing the group of you," she said at last. "Mr Stark insisted on having his secretary earlier this morning to deal with some last minute business, despite all advice to the contrary."

There was a hushed silence at this, as the men looked everywhere but at each other. Banner, with his hangdog face and relatively mild manner, saved them all.

"Let it be Steve," he said, patting Steve's shoulder. "Out of all of us, he's known Stark the longest, and as a team-mate."

"Yeah," Reed agreed, "besides, Susan is waiting on me, so..."

"No worries, tell Monopoly Man I'll drop in as soon as he's ready. Gentlemen?"

At this, Fury gestured towards the hall's exit, and with a curt nod to Steve, he then strode away, the other men in tow.

Steve looked at the door, not wanting to step over the threshold to see what was on the other side. But duty he knew, was stronger than desire, and on a mental count of three, he took a breath, and pushed the door open.

When Tony came to, he winced against the florescent lights overhead. He turned to see Steve Rogers sitting beside him, with his face set in lines of concern. Figures, Tony thought, my own Florence Nightingale, but not as winsome. However, it was good to have company, Tony had to admit, as Steve moved his chair closer to Tony's bedside. Before he could finish that thought, his body convulsed with a bone jarring rattle of a cough, which caused him to lurch forward, pulling against the oxygen tubes that assisted his breathing.

"Damn. So much for the blaze of glory," his voice was hoarse.

"Was that all one big suicide mission?"

"No, I just find this place kinky. Wanted a sponge bath," Tony winked, as incorrigble as ever.

Steve felt the cold ball of guilt solidify in his stomach. Stark had deliberately done his stupid music space satellite stunt to kill himself--instead of the cancer. The realization was a like a blow he hadn't been braced for, and painfully, he swallowed the bolus of emotion in his throat, before giving Tony a weak grin.

"Don't cry for me, Argentina." Tony wheezed with a smirk.

When Steve was sure that his voice wouldn't tremble or otherwise betray him, he asked, "Is there anything I can do for you, Stark?"

"A shot of Jagger and gorgeous blonde..." Tony's voice trailed off to nothing when his breathing hitched, and for a second, their eyes caught, and held. Steve knew the answer the same time Tony spoke. "No time for that, you'll have to do, Precious."

Mute as a rock, Steve could only reach for Tony's hand and give him a small, reassuring smile. Tony looked touched, and for a moment Steve could have sworn he saw the fa├žade fade in Tony's eyes, and thought he saw fear there in its place. Fear of the unknown, of leaving the world behind and a fear that for the first time Steve was seeing the real Tony Stark. Tony was vulnerable, just like everyone else. Even with time enough to prepare for the inevitable, and seemingly so dismissive of his ailment from the moment they'd met, Steve learned this; that at this moment near the end, Tony was scared to die, just like every one else.

Instinctively, Steve stayed silent. This was not the time for the big speeches, or mealy mouthed pleasantries. To his surprise, he found that he had too much respect for Tony to say anything. The man had wanted to die with dignity after all.

Steve gave a sharp, short salute with his free hand.

"Good night, New York." Tony managed a smirk as his eyes drooped closed, his head dropping back into the pillows. His body was relaxed a bit more than Steve had expected to see.

There was a short blip in the machines, and Steve sat there, listening to the monitor as it relayed the status of Tony's heart. He was fading, Steve knew, as he felt the cold, frail weight of Tony's hand in his. Absently Steve stroked Tony's knuckles with his thumb, and wondered if he'd ever get used to fellow warriors falling in the line of duty. Steve then wondered if he wanted to, but that was a question for another time, he owed it to Tony to focus on the now.

"At ease, soldier," Steve whispered, knowing that there was nothing else he could do but be there for Tony's last breath. He looked past Tony's body out to the window and the views beyond. There was the curve of New York and its lights on the water. This was the city Tony loved, and literally laid his life down for.

Tony Stark did not live to see the dawn, and Steve could have sworn he heard a sob of emotion from the heart machine before its high pitched scream of the flatline.



Fin.

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The Triskelion - Everything Ultimates

August 2009

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