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A Prosthetic Heart

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Tony stares at himself in the mirror, the palladium poisoning now slowly working it’s angular spider-like limbs up to his collar bones, and sighs your time’s running out, Stark, he thinks to himself as he buttons up his dress shirt. Tony reaches for his Blood Toxicity Meter sat on his dresser, pricking his finger with little to no thought as he’d done for the past few months, the prick hardly even registering to him anymore (the things a person can get used to, he muses to himself); BLOOD TOXICITY 53% and Tony can’t help the lump he feels forming in his throat at the red letters that are slowly sealing his fate. Make it count, tossing the device onto the dresser he mindlessly reaches for one of his watches from his collection, absently thinking he should gift them to Rhodey in his will - Rhodes always loved watches, maybe it was an army thing, always wanting to know the time; at least with Tony’s watches Rhodey could do it in style.

“Tony, you’d better be ready,” Loki warns from the doorway, he was the new head of his personal security detail and on-again-off-again PA, the billionaire grins at the man through his mirror.

“I am Loki, don’t worry,” Tony chuckles, turning to face him, “no more grey hairs because of me, not today anyway.”

Since making Pepper CEO of Stark Industries, he’d assigned Happy to Pepper’s detail as he was the only person Tony honestly trusted to look out for her - and if it meant those two love sick puppies got to spend more time together? Well, hooray to happy happenstances. The green eyed man looks Tony over, sharp eyes taking in his crimson dress shirt and fitted black slacks, Tony was no slouch and knew how to dress to impress (and if there was a specific someone he was trying to impress tonight, well, that was his business and his alone), and knew he’d succeeded if Loki’s appreciative gaze was anything to go by.

Loki and Tony had met when he’d been to Switzerland on a business trip for S.I. a while back, the man had impressed Tony right away, taking no shit from the genius and giving just as good as he got; when Tony had offered him a job, Loki’s only condition had been ‘I will shave off your horrid beard if you even attempt to make my job harder’; Tony knew a good deal when he heard one and hired him on the spot.

“I checked the guest list, you know,” Loki starts, openly grinning at the genius as he moves closer, “‘Barnes plus eight’? They couldn’t give their names? What did I tell you about making my job harder?”

“Trust me, Loki, the only mischief those kids’ll get up two is drinking too much, you know I’d never give you more than you could handle,” Tony teases with a chuckle, Loki rolls his eyes fondly (he knew if there was any real risk, the man would be tearing into him long before then, not teasing him; Thor must have told him about Bucky and his gang, he reasons), closing the distance between them the pale man snatches up his suit jacket from the foot of the bed and pats out the slight wrinkles before handing it to Tony.

“Lovely, just how I wanted to spend my evening, on babysitting duty,” Loki huffs and shakes his head, eyeing the ensemble critically before nodding - Loki may have been a bit of a fashionista at heart, but it’s likely why him and Pepper got along so well. “Your guests have arrived, and more are on the way, so why not use your charms on them instead of trying - and failing - to use them on me?”

Tony snorts, it’s an unattractive sound, but it’s worth the slight embarrassment for the way Loki smirks, “oh c’mon Loki, you know you love our little chats.”

Laufeyson rolls his eyes, slender arms folded over the barrel of his lithe chest, the gesture exasperated but ever so slightly fond, “ever the demanding brat, Stark.”

“You do know that I sign your paychecks, right?” Tony teasingly admonishes, his own grin undercutting any threat that might have been perceived - lord knows Loki probably had information to just about every bank account Tony owned.

“And you know that I have my eye on a rather blundering but adorable blond.”

Tony grins, brows flicking upward with interest, “how’s that going?”

Loki rolls his eyes once again, but this time his face softens far more than Tony’d ever seen it, the small grin that plays at his lips speaking volumes, “it seems Thor is far more oblivious than I originally through him to be.”

Reaching for the concealer on Tony’s dresser Loki pops off the cap, pouring a small dollop of the makeup onto his ring finger before dabbing it under the darkened skin of Tony’s eyes. It wasn’t the first time Loki played makeup artist, either; he’d done the same right before business meetings after Tony inevitably had to tell him about his little snafu with the druggie, but after a dressing down to be more careful in future - and minor freak out - the man kept the information to himself. However, it did result in Loki demanding Tony take self-defense lessons with Thor, and knowing Laufeyson, Tony’s pretty sure that was part of Thor’s punishment too - it’s been surprisingly fun for the duo, though they’d never admit as much, lest Loki believe his point hadn’t been made.

“Or maybe you just need to be more direct, some of us just suck at subtlety.”

Loki laughs, shaking his head, “yes, maybe a new ‘battle plan’ is needed, because that man understand subtlety as much as you understand proper decorum,” Loki moves back slightly, hands straightening out Tony’s jacket as he looks over his work on the engineer’s face, “though it seems you and Barnes have somehow managed to work things out, despite your horridness at ‘subtlety’.”

“How did you-”

“I’m the head of your security, Tony, and very good at my job,” the man cuts in with a sniff, “how could I not know? Plus, it’s not as though his visits to your penthouse are exactly subtle, and the goonish grins he always had on his face upon leaving left very little in way of imagination for what you two got up to.”

“Fair enough,” Tony chuckles, eyes flickering over to his reflection in the mirror, eyeing himself for a moment. “I’m going to screw this up, Lo, with him I mean…I know it.”

“Blaspheme,” Loki scoffs and sets a hand on Tony’s shoulder, forcing the genius to meet his eyes. “Tony, in the months I’ve known you, ‘failure’ has never been an option - or part of your vernacular, for that matter - and I won’t let one of the few men I respect talk down about himself in such a manner, whatever plan you have in your head with Barnes, it will work out.”

“But-”

“It will work, Tony,” Loki’s tone brooks no room for argument, but it…it helps, strangely enough; the man’s staunch belief in Tony (as surprising as it may be) is enough to have him straightening his shoulders and breathe deep, I can do this. “Good, tonight is no time for a midlife crises,” Tony can’t help but bark a laugh at that, but to be fair, Loki wasn’t entirely off the mark, “if you would, Mr. Stark, your guess are waiting on your arrival.”

Tony follows Loki out of his bedroom and into the private elevator, down to the Stark Tower event hall where he’s met with thumping club music blaring out through the hall’s speakers, guests already chatting and dancing with each other in different areas of the hall. Tony doesn’t waste time, snatching up a champagne flute from the tray of a passing waiter, and downs half it’s contents before walking further into the party, greeting and thanking the people who pause their conversations to wish him a happy birthday - most of which Tony can hardly remember ever meeting, he notes, but doesn’t miss a beat in making them feel welcome regardless.

I need something stronger, Tony thinks feeling his nerves amping up, making his way towards the bar, not really as immersed in his own birthday party as he should be, and decides getting a little tipsy would solve that problem - it never failed him in the past, after all. It didn’t help that the one person he wanted to see seemed to be nowhere in sight, he said he was coming, just…just give him a minute Tony, stop being so damn clingy. Downing a finger of whiskey, Tony orders another, and repeats the pattern until he’s holding his fourth glass, thinking he’s sufficiently warm enough to mingle (he didn’t want to face Bucky drunk, that would only lead to morose thoughts and Tony wasn’t about to let himself to be a downer on his final night with the man), when a hand claps him on the back.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” Dual voices bellow from behind him, making Tony jump and whip around only to burst into a fit of cackling laughter.

Right there are two of his best friends, to most they’d look completely normal (if a little underdressed for a party like this), until the person noticed their matching shirts. Rhodey and Carol’s otherwise plain shirts had a printed out photo on the front that immediately caught Tony’s eye; their first - horrifically - fun Mardi Gras as fresh-faced teens in their first year at university. Tony remembered that day like it was yesterday…well, to be fair it was a hard day to forget, no matter how hard they’d all tried at the time. He remembered that they’d drank every bottle of Ojen they could fined and scarfed down about half the offered donuts in the parade, Carol had nearly broken her leg trying to climb a ladder, Tony accidentally set fire to his mask but refused to take it off, and (after refusing to leave after getting a coconut to the face early on in the festivities) by the end of the parade Rhodey left with the title of ‘Beads Queen’ by his friends. However, for all the craziness, food poisoning, and horrid hangovers the morning after, it was one of the best days of Tony’s life; it was the day his first two friends at MIT turned into his best friends, and the picture showed just as much - they were covered in beads, confetti and other things they couldn’t name (even to this day), clutching donuts, doubloons, and each other while grinning wildly at the camera.

I can’t believe I almost forgot about that, Tony thinks, already feeling his chest well up with nostalgia for their crazy antics at university as friends.

“Can you say best birthday present or what?” Danvers laughs, holding out a matching shirt for Tony to take.

“I thought we burned all the evidence of that day!” He says jokingly, before taking off his jacket and pulling the shirt over his head (Loki and Pepper would be horrified, Tony was excited to show them). “I love it, thank you guys,” Stark laughs, pulling them in for a hug.

“Knew you’d like it! Carol dug up even more pictures, like the one you took the second that coconut cracked me in the nose,” Rhodey laughs and Carol nods excitedly, pulling away to whip out her phone to show Tony, before scrolling over to the next image; Tony making out with a parade marcher, and if Tony’s memory was correct (and it always was), it was about less than ten seconds later that his mask was accidentally set on fire.

“One: send me these right now, and two: that parade dancer was very nice an-”

“He set fire to your mask!” Rhodey cackles, electing guffaws from the other two.

“Fair, but it was a total accident, he even gave me his beads as an apology and helped put out the fire just in time, he’s the reason my eyebrows only got singed!

“That is true, what was his name again? Luke something? Howeling? Lor- wait, Logan! That’s it! Anyway, he was the one who helped us fined the Ojen, so I guess it was an even trade,” Carol chuckles, tapping away at her phone and Tony feels his own vibrate a few seconds later (several times, good lord what other bits of it-should-have-been-forgotten history did she find?), and claps a hand onto her friend’s back as she pockets the device. “We’re gonna try to find some food, see you in a bit?”

“Sounds good!” Tony calls out over the music, waving at his friends before turning back to the bar and pulling his jacket back on, picking up his drink he wades his way through the crowd of people but stops once he sees a familiar face. “Clint!”

The drummer seems to hear Tony’s call because he turns towards him (the aids are working better than expected if he could hear me over this cacophony, Stark notes happily), nudging someone at his side to get their attention before nodding over at Tony, and it’s Bucky  who turns to smile at him as he approaches their little group, “you guys made it!”

“Wouldn’t mist for the world man,” Sam chuckles, pulling Tony in for a hug, the rest following his lead (it still made Tony a little unsteady just how kind these people were, but it was nice, really nice; I’ll miss them when this is all over) with their own greetings until Tony reaches an unfamiliar brunette woman.

“Tony this is Margaret Carter,” Steve introduces, Tony taking the woman’s hand when she offers it.

“Please, call me Peggy, no one but my mother calls me Margaret,” the name is familiar for a reason Tony doesn’t understand, but it quickly clicks into place and he smiles at the beautiful woman - she’s the one Bucky said Steve has a crush on, and by the way Rogers seems to linger at her side, Tony knows it for a fact.

“I’ve heard a lot about you, I’m Tony Stark,” the woman’s blood-red lips twitch at his words, brow raising as she grins at Tony in a teasingly conspiratorial way, it’s an expression he doesn’t understand until he suddenly does and bites back a laugh - ‘she feels the same about him, but loves teasing the poor schmuck’, seeing the way Steve fidgets and flushes adorably, he sees exactly what Bucky meant. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you Peggy, please, call me Tony.”

“And I’ve heard a lot bout you, Tony,” she replies in a smooth teasing accent, Bucky immediately face-palms, but Tony can see his cheeks reddening and finds it absolutely endearing - but there’s no way he goes a little red in the face, nope, no way because he’s nearly forty for chrissakes. Nearly-forty year olds don’t blush. Nope. Okay, fine, maybe he blushes a little, and can’t help but think so Bucky talks about me, huh? with a grin.

“It’s an open bar and the food’s already been served, feel free to help yourselves,” Tony addresses to Peggy and the group, Clint and Darcy had whooped in unison and rushed off the second Tony mentioned the words ‘open’ and ‘bar’ in the same sentence (they were like children, and Tony kinda loved that about them), Natasha and Phil quickly chasing after them. The remaining people laugh, and Tony takes the moment to turn to Peggy to and stage-whispers, if only to get a reaction out of Steve (okay, and maybe Bucky, too), “but you and I should chat soon, share the stories we heard about each other, sound like a deal?”

Both Steve and Bucky meet each other’s eyes, red-faced and wide eyed, Tony bites back a laugh but a giggle slips through, and Peggy seems to catch their reactions as well because she barks a laugh of her own; it’s loud, brash, and Tony sees exactly why Steve likes her so much.

“Deal!”

Steve offers Peggy a dance, or at least he tries to, if that’s was his red-faced rambling was supposed to mean, but Peggy seems to take mercy on him and drags him out not the floor regardless - Bucky smirks at Tony in a way that says ‘see, I told you, we’re just friends’, and Tony, like the total mature adult that he is, sticks his tongue out at Bucky in response. Sam hangs back for a while to chat with Bucky and Tony about the trip to Monaco, at least until he too was dragged away to the dance floor by a beautiful woman leaving Bucky and Tony alone, and dear Einstein why does Tony suddenly feel like an awkward teenager? It helps that Bucky doesn’t look much better, the man shifting from foot to the foot and paws at the back of his neck, teeth worrying at his lower lip as his eyes flitting to the floor, their surroundings, to Tony, and repeat.

Though, for all of the awkwardness between them, Barnes looked good; the man was dressed in fitted black slacks and a cornflour blue dress shirt, the sleeves were rolled up to just before his elbows exposing Tony’s sleek tech and Bucky’s homegrown gold skin and muscled forearm. A tantalizing bit of his throat and collarbones where were shown off where the top few buttons of his shirt remain unbuttoned, not enough to be tacky, but enough to have Tony seriously wondering how has no one pounced on him yet is beyond me, because lord knew Tony was seconds away from doing that very thing. C’mon Stark, you can do this, ‘playboy’ is literally part of your tagline, buck up and speak to that handsome Adonis or so help me-

“You look good-”

“I like your-”

They blurt out at once and stop just as quick, eyes meeting for a few moments before they begin giggling, and Tony decides to try again, “I’m not usually this awkward, I swear.”

“Neither am I, but…if you are, is that a good or bad thing?” Bucky teases with a twitch of his lips, Tony can’t help but roll his eyes and grin, because it was such a corny thing to ask and Tony couldn’t believe that his heart skipped, like, three beats because it was so damn cliché - he’s lucky I love him, otherwise I would have probably laughed in his face that was so corny-… goddamnit I love him so damn much.

Stark takes Bucky’s hand in his own, the man seeming to relax at the contact, “I’d say it’s a good thing, I haven’t really had an awkward moment since I was…what? Twelve?”

“I like a guy who knows what he wants,” Bucky chuckles, gently tugging Tony to him, and the genius is helpless but to follow; Tony is about to lean up for a smooch but stops, the simple kiss becomes little more difficult what with the way Bucky’s jaw all but drops to the floor. “Is that RuPaul?!”

Tony barks a laugh and looks over his shoulder, sure enough, it is, “you wanna to go say hi, don’t you?”

Bucky looks about as excited as a kid in a candy store, he’s basically vibrating, Tony thinks with an amused huff, tugging the man through the crowed and towards his long time friend. From then it’s a blur of drinks, glitter, and Tony may have snapped a few pictures of Bucky, Steve and Darcy - who seemingly popped out of thin air - spazzing out over Ru. It was nice, though, seeing Bucky and his friends having actual fun, Pepper, Happy, Rhodey and Carol even join in on the little ragtag group’s antics before long - and if Pepper thinks Tony isn’t bringing up her doing shots with Carol, Matt and Natasha before the group brought down the house with their rendition of Hollaback Girl, she is sorely mistaken (who new Murdock could sing?). At some point Bucky had managed to coax Stark out onto the dance floor, but Tony wouldn’t exactly call what they were doing ‘dancing’ so much as foreplay, but he wasn’t about to complain.

“Who knew you had moves?” Tony teases, rolling his hips and gently scratches at the hair at the nap of Bucky’s neck, feeling the man’s heart beating in tandem with the song’s beats between his shoulder blades where he’s pressed flush against Tony’s back; somewhere along the way Tony’d lost his jacket, but he didn’t mind, all the more to feel you against me, he inwardly chuckles.

“I’d say the same thing, but I’m starting to realize there really isn’t anything you can’t do,” Bucky whispers against his neck hands as his hands flex on Stark’s hip, teeth nipping at the skin just below his ear and Tony shivers; Bucky secures the genius against them as they move to the rhythm that pounds through the event hall’s speakers, and doesn’t dare let them wander apart.

“Flattery will get you everywhere,” Tony purrs and turns around in the man’s arms to face Bucky, pressing himself against the taller man’s front, lazily hooking his arms around the singer’s broad shoulders and pulling Bucky down towards him ever so slightly.

“Everywhere, huh?” Barnes whispers, face close enough to run his nose along the slop of Tony’s, the smaller man preens under his attention, grinning widely and unabashed, about to lean up to press a kiss to Bucky’s deliriously distracting mouth when the lights dim further and the music fades slightly.

Can we get Mr. Stark to the podium please?” Loki’s familiar voice calls out over the speakers, is this payback? This has to be payback for something, Tony thinks with a whine, but does peck Bucky’s lips, finally.

“Cake time,” Tony sighs, for as much as he loves high-fructose corn syrup in the form of fluffy desserts he loves making out with Bucky more, but knows Thor will likely bodily drag him away under Loki’s orders if he doesn’t get a move on soon - cockblocking jerks, he thinks with a pout. “See you in a bit?”

“Of course,” Bucky ducks down for another quick peck, groping the swell of Tony’s ass as he does, grinning against the genius's lips when he yelps and laughs, “I’ll go hunt down the other Goonies, meet you at the bar afterwards?”

“Sounds like a plan,” Tony remains in Bucky’s arms for a little longer, eyes locked onto one another as neither move, “don’t let the Fratellis catch you until then, got it?” Tony warns as Barnes laughs, promising he’ll stay on his toes, and with another peck to Bucky’s lips (one last kiss for the road, Tony tells himself), he pulls himself away and heads to the little podium at the front of the hall where Pepper and Happy, Thor, Loki and Luke stand around his cake.

“Happy birthday, Mr. Stark,” Laufeyson whispers as he hands him the mic, Thor and Luke clapping him on the shoulders, each with a smile of their own that doesn’t fail to make Tony grin as well.

“Thanks guys,” he whispers, ducking his head to accept Pepper’s kiss on the cheek, and hugs the woman as tightly as he can without suffocating her, doing the same to Happy when the man pulls him in for a bear hug.

“Hello lovely humans,” Tony greets, finally turning towards the gathered crowed. “I think by now, you all know how fond I am of talking,” the crowd chuckles and so does Tony, keep it short and sweet, he tells himself,  “but I won’t keep you long, there’s a lot more partying to do and a world record to break,” a whoop! sounds from someone in the crowed, and Tony doesn’t even have to guess who that might be. “I want to thank all of you for coming today, this year has been, well, for lack of a more eloquent term; pretty shitty, but seeing you all here having fun and taking a break from the world with me definitely makes up for it…” Tony trails off, short and sweet, keep it short and- a particular set of diamond colored eyes meet his and Stark can’t find it in himself to look away, and instead finds himself speaking without much thought.

“This year has been an unexpected rollercoaster, but I wouldn’t change it for the world,” which is a odd thing to say, odder when he realized it was the absolute truth, “I’ve met amazing people this year who have changed my life for the better, and grew closer to those that have always been there for me, even when I didn’t realize it,” Pepper reaches out to take his free hand in hers, giving it a gentle squeeze in comfort, which Tony appreciates more than she’d probably ever know.

“I want to say I have regrets, but ultimately, I don’t; would I go back and change things? Of course, who wouldn’t? But as it stands…” Tony feels his throat tighten and tries clearing it as subtly as he can; he’ll lose this, all of this soon enough - it’s not something he hasn’t admitted to himself time and again already, after all. However, seeing Rhodey and Carol grinning up at him, feeling Pepper’s hand in his and Happy at his side; knowing he’s surrounded by friends new and old, and is staring at the first person who not only treated Tony as another human, but as more; the person Tony is in love with, how can he say he ‘regrets’ any of this?

As it stands, all I can say is thank you, to each and everyone of you,” Tony smiles at Bucky, the man grinning back at him, unabashed and warm, “and here’s to another amazing year, no matter how batshit it may be.”

Tony hold up his mic for a toast man it’s hot in here, he thinks while everyone raises their drinks and claps, moving Tony takes the knife from Thor and slices into the cake eliciting more cheers, and hands off the cutlery to Odinson and Cage to finish divvying up the cake for the guests - bodyguards that double-up as cake elves, Tony really does have the best team. Tony tells Loki to figure out why it’s so hot, waving off the man’s questioning look and hops off the podium, thanking the people that come over to wish him a happy birthday, but only has one goal in mind; find Bucky.

His little epiphany on stage made him realize something; he was dying, sure, what else was new? But he didn’t have to die unhappy, and so much of that not only had to do with those that surrounded him, but with Bucky. If this month with Barnes would be all he had, it was still something, and he’d cherish it no matter what - even if this ended with Bucky wanting nothing to do with him, he was thankful for the time they had together. I have to tell him, I owe him- goddamn it I owe myself that much! Stop hiding, Stark, stop hiding and do this! Tell him. Tony steels himself as he makes his way towards the bar, ordering a drink (water, this time, his mouth was little dry after all that) that he only just finishes when Bucky arrives with a piece of cake, setting the thick slice of fluffy gooey goodness beside him.

“Did you mean all that?” Stark turns to see the man leaning his elbow onto the bar, could-colored eyes on him searching for something, and Tony nods watching the barely-there smile turn into something blinding and gorgeous.

Tell him.

“I did,” Tony says with a smile of his own, turning to properly face the man he takes a deep breath, and presses on, “Bucky, can we go somewhere private? We really need to-" a wet finger against his lips halts Tony’s words, and what the hell- wait…that’s frosting.

“Bad luck for the birthday boy not to eat his cake,” Bucky says with a shiteating grin, Tony stares at him dumbfounded for a few seconds, before doubling over in laugher.

“I don’t think I ever heard that before,” Tony teases as he straightens up, fixing out his wrinkled shirt and tugs at the collar a little, why is it getting hotter?

“It’s totally a thing- holy shit Tony,” Bucky’s voice squeaks when Tony takes his hand and slips the digit into his mouth, tongue wrapping around his finger and works the frosting off with a little more…finesse than is probably warranted, but it’s totally worth it for the way Bucky’s eyes darken and his lips part. “You’re gonna be the death of me, you know that?” Tony chuckles after releasing him, wiping at the corners of his mouth.

Tell him.

“Trust me, I don’t think that’s an immediate risk for you right now,” Tony groans and pulls off the shirt Carol and Rhodey gifted him, it’s the layers, that’s why you’re so heated, “but on that point, we really need to talk, Bucky. I need to tell you some-” Tony stops, that’s notsomething’s not right.

“Tony? Tony are you okay? What do you need to tell me, doll?” Bucky straightens, about to reach out for Stark when the man jolts and stumble back, no, not now! Ohfucknononono! “Tony what’s-”

“I-I have to go,” is as much as he manages out before barreling through the crowed, the blood rushing to his head and the sudden searing pain in his chest makes apologizing for jostling his guests near impossible, his shortening breaths aren’t helping matters, either. “Work…shop, J,” he rasps after throwing himself into the elevator, my skin feels like it’s on fire, he only just catches a glimpse of Bucky breaking through the crowd before the doors close.

JARVIS runs through the statistics on his heart rate and blood pressure, giving him an estimate on how much longer the core will last before he goes into cardiac arrest, not now! Not now please not- the elevator seems to move fast enough to nearly knock Tony down onto his knees. Stark felt like his head was spinning, like it was about to whirl right off his damn shoulders. Breathe, for the love of Gods breathe, Tony! he yells at himself, trying to suck oxygen into his burning lungs through what feels like a fucking straw.

The doors rip open and Tony stumbles into his workshop, his own birthday responsibilities forgotten as his heart beats double time in his chest, his throat, but suddenly everything stops. He’s pretty sure he hears JARVIS calling out to him, the AI almost sounds like he’s begging him for something, which is strange- when was the floor this clo- oh, ow…that hurt. The palladium poisoning he feels crawling up his neck is a cold so bitter it burns, coating his tongue and molars in something acrid and nauseating, the desk is right there, just, just MOVE STARK!

Panic grabs hold him and pins him to the floor, throttling him with unforgiving anxiety, all of this far too similar - Stane ripping his arc reactor from his chest and laughing; the rough hands tearing into him, beating him, and holding his head under water in the cave - but this time he knows no one will be coming to save him, this time he can’t even save himself. Tony’s chest seizes, his body spasming on the cold floor of his workshop, and he wanted to scream because this wasn’t how it was supposed to happen! He was supposed to have more time! He sees the bots rushing over to him, he can’t remember the last time he wished so badly he could reach out to touch them, and can only just make out the blurry outline of Dum-E’s claw extending towards him through is dimming vision before everything goes black.

This can’t be how it happens, he hears the bots beeping in distress, knows they’re calling out to him and wishes he could tell them it’ll be okay, but he can’t, not now, not…not like this…please.