It had been dark. He had never seen this coming.

It was still dark. And he was cold. Maybe that was because he was losing blood so fast. His breathing was thick and blood poured out of him, the liquid getting colder as it mixed with the air. He choked and spat out a disgusting, reddish blob.

Tasted like coconut.

The light in his chest flickered anxiously and he leaned his head back against the cold floor. He closed his eyes for a moment.

That was a mistake.

His mind swam and he felt as his thoughts slipped between cracks in his fingers as he tried to grasp onto them. He forced his eyes back open.

His killer was gone. He had escaped. Tall, dark, and psychotic, he had been the cliche killer. And he had killed him with a knife. Forced into the thick skin covering vital organs in his chest, causing his own blood to splatter his killer's shirt and the paint the walls. And now it smelled awful in the room.

This wasn't how he was supposed to go. Never. He was supposed to die in some blaze of glory, falling from the sky in a burning metal suit.

Or die of old age. Lying in a bed. Eyes closed. Holding her hand. That would have been nice, he realized.

And suddenly he realized something.

He hadn't talked to her in so long. He had hardly said anything to her recently. She was on some mission in... Where was it? Oh, god, he didn't even know that.

With a groan of pain, he forced his hand into his pocket, moving so that the the gaping hole in his chest widened, and for a moment, he thought he was going to lose his little grasp on life right then.

But after a moment, his fingers closed around the slim metal of his cell phone. He took it out of his pocket, just barely suppressing a scream of agony.

He calmed himself, forcing his breathing to be normal. He waited for the hotness in his eyes to die down.

"Jarvis," he breathed. "Natasha. Get me... dial Nat."

"Yes sir. Shall I call an ambulance as well?" the smooth, robotic voice asked.

"I th-think it's a little late for that, now, Jarvis. J-just call Tash." he managed

"Dialing Miss Romanoff, sir."

He waited. It rang for a long time. Panic leapt into his chest, and his heart beat painfully fast. He'd leave a message. But it wouldn't be the same.

An instant before it went to voice message, she picked up.

"Stark!" she hissed. "What are you calling me for? I'm on a mission!"

"Sorry, sorry. Couldn't help it." he forced his tone to be light, and erased the rough rasp from his voice.

"What are you even doing? I could be sneaking through a compound right now, and your call would have given me away." she snapped.

"Yeah, but I doubt you'd leave your cell on, or even take it with you if you were doing that." he replied, a small chuckle escaping his lips.

She sighed. "Touche. No, we're waiting for our group to get back. They found an 0-8-4. What are you doing?"

"Oh," he paused, trying to ignore the unnatural warmth that was suddenly spreading across his chest. "You know, a bit of this. Bit of that."

"Tinkering again?" he could almost see the smirk on her lips.

"I suppose you could call it that. Anyways, I haven't seen you in forever, Nat." he managed.

"That's because I'm on a mission, idiot."

"No, I mean before that, too. You're always at SHIELD. With all those muscly agents."

She laughed. "What are you saying, Stark?"

"You don't have to call me Stark, you know."

"What would you rather I call you? Idiot?"

"I don't know. Maybe."

"Alright, then. Idiot it is." she said.

He grinned, closing his eyes again for just a moment. God, he loved her voice.

"So, we should see each other again soon. Is that what you're saying?" she asked. "We could have dinner when I get back. I'm supposed to be back in California on Tuesday, if you're interested."

"Oh, I... I think I'm all booked up for the week, but... I do miss you."

She paused. "I miss you too." her voice was slightly softer.

"I love you, baby. You know that, right?"

" 'Course I do." she said. "I love you too, idiot."

He laughed, barely suppressing a cough.

He didn't know what else to say. He desperately racked his mind for something - anything else he could talk to her about, but-

"I've got to go." she said suddenly. "The group's back, and they look a little shaken. I'll see you soon, 'kay? Don't blow yourself up. Don't destroy the house too much."

"Love you," he mumbled.

"Love you too, Tony."

The phone clicked as she hung up.

He stayed there for a moment, listening to the sudden hard silence. It enveloped him and he stared at the ceiling, phone still held up to his ear. His breathing was raspy again.

"Jarvis..." he breathed.


"I-it was a pleasure working with you."

"The pleasure is all mine, sir." the ai replied.

"I'm sure..." an odd laugh left his lips. "L-listen... Remember to give Nat her suit, since I w-won't be there for her birthday. B-but take the ring out of it, okay? D-don't want this any worse than it already is. A-and-"

"You can count on me, sir."

He closed his eyes. Lips parted slightly.

He meant to say thank you. He really did. But... His voice had left him. And the ai didn't care. He was an artificial intelligence, after all. Artificial. That meant not-real. Even if he had been the mechanic's closest friend at times. Programmed to be snarky, just like his creator.

And then it happened so fast, he didn't even realize what was happening.

His eyes snapped open as his heart skipped a beat. The only light in the room was the dull, bluish glow coming from what was left of his shredded chest. And it was flickering and fading.

He forced air into his lungs, breathing as deeply as he could, feeling his lungs fill up with a liquid.

He coughed.

He choked.

His heart skipped another beat, faltered, and died entirely.

A final breath traced up his throat, left his lips, and mixed with the chilled air around him.

The light in his chest flickered again, and then went out, like a candle being snuffed.