Another day, another round of bloodshed. The three that lived with them had long since stopped trying to clean up the stains, and while Tony hated how filthy it made the house look, he really couldn't blame them. It was a waste of time to keep things neat and tidy when it would last only a few minutes before the next blow painted the walls once more.
They'd been doing this for years, ever since they'd first met. She'd started it, had ruined his scheduled lesson for the three with her creative ideas, and then she'd had the gall to call him uptight. His patience had already been stretched thin, but her last remark, and he could remember her words exactly, had been the one to set him off.
"What's the big deal? There's no point to doing everything on time, anyway."
Before he'd even realized what he was doing, he'd pulled his sword from its sheath and rammed it through her stomach. He must have cut through the organ itself because as she stared at him with wide, stunned eyes a trickle of blood dripped from her mouth. Then he'd pulled the blade out, the crooked clock hand ripping her apart as he yanked it back through her flesh. The shock of her being impaled so suddenly probably kept her from feeling any pain before her heart stopped, but he didn't care, just as long as she shut up.
Of course she had to be like him. Of course she had to come back not ten minutes later. One moment he'd been trying to get her blood from his suit, the next he'd found himself with her pen sinking through his eye and into his brain.
So on it went. Oh, how he'd hated her. Nearly every fight since he'd taken the time and effort to make sure she felt every blow, every cut, every tiny little twinge. He'd hoped that if he couldn't kill her he could at least dissuade her from bothering him all the time, but she didn't appear to care how much pain she was in. Indeed, she'd seen it as a competition, a game, and she'd reacted in kind. He had to give her some credit, she'd always managed to kill him creatively, three long years and he'd never died the same way twice.
He didn't know when exactly it happened, and perhaps there wasn't even a definite line, but one day he'd realized that the malice had simply faded. He blocked her attack, his sword clashing with her pen, and found that he was meeting her wide eyed grin with a smirk of his own. Somehow, she'd pulled him into her game.
The fighting became routine, part of his daily schedule, If one of them didn't kill the other after a certin span of time, he was thrown off, and would have to seek her out or else be forced to replan his entire day. He never told her this, by then he'd known her enough to realize that if she knew that their matches were scheduled she would immeadiately stop. Working around a plan wasn't creative, after all.
He lost their latest battle. The memories swam murkily through his head as he opened his eyes to find her hovering over him, a inky hand held between them. He'd hesitated, his gloves would have to be replaced again, but he was already drenched with both their life fluids and thus it didn't even matter. He took her hand, the dripping liquid somehow solid under his fingers, and let her help him up.
She giggled, and he felt a warmth in his chest at the sound. This time there was a distinctive line. It was 8:34:28 AM, and he loved her. On impulse, something he was sure she'd enjoy, he pulled her toward him and folded her into a tight embrace. She was warm, her body heat seeping sweetly through his clothes, as did the ink when she wrapped her own arms around him.
He pulled away from her, only to lightly grab on to her chin, angle her head back, and press his lips against hers. She was soft under his touch, her mouth molding into his own perfectly. Everything was silent save for the continuous ticking that was his heartbeat..
Which was why when she gave that squeak of hers, the high pitched sound she made that came when she'd just felt only the strongest of shocks, it seemed to pierce his eardrums. He was already pulling away when he felt her tense under his hands, and as soon as his gaze met hers he immediately knew why.
Her flawless, pale white skin had taken on a dull, yellow hue. There were what looked to be little cracks at the edges of her eyes, and the ink was flowing much slower from her arms, as if it had thickened.
"Tony..?" her voice was uncharacteristically small, nearly childlike as the beginnings of panic crossed her face, "Tony what's happening?"
He was frozen, his stomach turning as her skin darkened before his eyes, aging like a sheet of paper that had been left forgotten.
"Tony!" her tone turned desperate, and without thinking he'd pulled her back into him. The damage was done, he could run out of the house, get as far from her as possible, and what was about to happen would still happen. All this time, all the fighting and witty banter, and he'd never told her why he always wore gloves, why he kept as much of his body covered at all times.
"It's alright, my dear," he murmured, his voice low to keep it from wavering. He pressed his face into the crook of her neck and lightly bit the steadily hardening flesh, anything to distract her from what her body was doing, "Just a part of our game, I thought I'd be creative with this one. You'll be back in ten minutes tops."
No, she wouldn't. After watching her return to life again and again, it wasn't any wonder that he'd let his guard down. He'd assumed that because she was like him, because she could have a blade slice into her lungs and be back in perfect shape within the hour, that she couldn't die permanently. In the moment he'd felt her tense up, he'd known he was wrong. She healed from injury, that didn't mean she wasn't aging. She might have had a few thousand years in her, but she wasn't immortal.
"I.. I don't feel.." she trailed off, and he felt her raise an arm above his back, knew that she was looking at the husk of an ink well run dry. There was a crackling sound, like someone wadding a piece of paper up into a ball, and she was falling. He followed, catching her so as to lower her down gently. Less than a minute ago he'd touched her, and holes were already starting to rot in her skin. There was no blood, just as there was no ink, both having evaporated from her still living body. It probably didn't even hurt, which was why, he thought, it had frightened her so. All those agonizing deaths he'd dealt her, it simply wasn't normal for him to kill her and not give her pain.
"It's alright," he soothed, his hands shaking as he cradled her head, tears blurring his vision as he looked into her eyes. They were covered in cracks now, like glass that had almost but not quite shattered. "Don't worry, you'll be fine."
He was only a clock, he couldn't undo this. All he could do was hold her and try to keep her from concentrating long enough to realize that her body was dissolving and there would be nothing left of it for her to come back with. His mouth met hers once again. It wasn't long before she was kissing him back, though her movements were weakened, strong muscle dulled over the course of what could have been eons flooding past in a manner of seconds.
"But.. everyone runs out of time." she half mumbled into him, her breath cool against his lips. Before he could stop them his tears fell onto her cheeks, dripping down into her faded rainbow hair as if she'd cried them herself. He just barely managed to hold the sob back, because he couldn't even protect her from the knowledge that she was dying.
A hand ran through his hair, and he shuddered as he felt bits of it crumble away, leaving dry bits of ink clinging to his scalp. "I'm sorry."
She spoke again, the fear she'd initially felt missing from her voice as she repeated what he'd said back to him, "It's alright."
Her eyes closed, and her arm fell away, turning to powder upon contact with the floor. The rest of her followed, the simple pressure of her head supported in his hands vanished as she flowed through his fingers like sand. Her chest and lungs collapsed in the middle of her final breath, and all that was left was dust and the empty dress she'd always worn.
It was hours before the three found him, kneeling with her remains. They had no idea what had happened, but by then they knew better, and left him be.