He’s going to die.
He knows this, he’s known for months, but this isn’t months, this is right the fuck now.
His heart judders, kicking his stomach up into his throat and he coughs in shock, eyes blown wide.
No, he hasn’t– he has to sign the, the, sign the papers, the company has to – Pepper, P-pepper, not the shareholders, the- he can’t die here, he never meant to die here, Dummy shouldn’t have to see– he doesn’t want JARVIS to watch him die, JARVIS will live forever, he doesn’t need that memory playing over and over and over every time he closes his eyes, blood leaking out onto an american flag and staining the rice black–
His lungs are filling up with water– did, did the shrapnel move? Shit, he has to check the, check he’s not bleeding, not drowning, that would– he could fix that, chest t-t-t-tube, EMT’s would–
Something clatters to the floor and he goes down after it, the world swimming like he’s in microgravity. His lips tingle, go numb but keep tingling, and his ears– that noise, it’s his blood, roaring in his ears.
It was a wrench, he d-d-dropped the wrench, hah. It lies there on the concrete, half a foot from his face, and he reaches out to touch it, but it’s too far. His fingers won’t move, because he’s dying, and andand– someone will find him dead and no one – He’s not ready, he’s got things to do, this wasn’t in his plans, he doesn’t know what this is but his heart is straining and faltering and no one-
-should have to watch someone die-
“Mr Stark, what happened, are you okay?” Sensible little flats scamper over scattered tools and projects like they’re combat boots, and then she’s there, turning him onto his back. The reactor shifts in his chest as his ribcage flexes and he gasps in a raw, shallow breath. It fucking hurts, and his heartbeat just–
And then hits him like a humvee, jolting through him and ow, ow, fuck, making him smack his head onto concrete. He can’t get enough air in a single gasp, so he gulps, feeling the reactor drag on his ribs, compress his lungs in his chest and only stopping when he can feel his aorta pressing against the casing, the ache shooting all down his left arm, turning his fingers into nerveless meat.
Natalie is talking, rummaging frantically in her bag for something, lipstick and a very tiny gun spilling across the floor while she curses in half-recognized Cantonese.
His vision grays out again; there’s no EMT who could get here quick enough, and he feels gut-wrenchingly selfish that at least JARVIS isn’t alone watching him-
He meant to give Rhodey the suit– he hadn’t worked out how, but he’d built it, all silver and modified to be self-powered, repairable by Rhodey’s own two hands– it’s right there, in the corner of his eye, brilliant and shining as everything else swims around him.
“Tony, open your mouth, please, come on,”
She pries at his jaw and he lets her, because that’s a prescription bottle, and he doesn’t want to die, this is too fucking soon, god–
She shoves her fingers under his tongue and sprays something icy cold under there, then pops a pill in his mouth and tells him to chew, damnit, while I call the EMTs.
He crunches the asprin weakly, shoving the powder under his tongue with the… nitro? She’s been raiding his bathroom cupboard if she has that in her purse, he never expected to need it, but his heart is going like gangbusters, he’s fucking terrified, he just wants to live through this–
“I’m gonna dose you with a sedative, okay, Mr. Stark? It’ll keep you safe, slow your heart right down.”
He jolts, fumbling for her wrist, he’s gotta tell her, he can’t–
“No narcs, Rushman, don’t–” He coughs, his heart feeling to huge for his chest, pressing up against his throat with each miss-beat, and thumping against the back to the reactor.
“I know, Tony, I’ve got you, you’re going to be just fine, okay? We’re gonna look after you.”
He gulps and closes his eyes against the spinning dizziness that’s replaced the airless pain.
Yeah. He’ll sign the papers, as soon as he gets back up. They’ll – He’s supposed to have a couple more weeks, yeah. He’ll– he can live that long.
He falls asleep without noticing Agent Romanov’s familiarity with the syrette, and sleeps through his check up with the SHIELD medic they have on call for him.
Fury steps up his plan to get hold of Howard’s old files; they don’t have any time left.