Actions

Work Header

Calmed By The Sound Of Your Heartbeat

Work Text:

things you said at 1 am

“Jarvis, my third Black Sabbath playlist, if you please.”

“Milady, it is one in the morning and you have not slept for almost sixty-three hours.”

Jarvis’s voice is exasperated, but nonetheless, a moment later, Black Sabbath booms through the speakers of the workshop. Tony pushes her hair out of her face and returns to patching up one of her suits.

“Great things happen by way of sleep deprivation, Jarvis.”

“Is that so,” Jarvis replies, so dryly Tony can practically see the tumbleweed rolling by.

“Course. Cause I said it, and that means it’s right.” The interface for the shoulder-mounted tracking micro-missiles chooses that moment to blow up in her face. Tony lets out a choice string of swearwords and grabs a smaller screwdriver.

Xyr voice heavy, Jarvis says, “Milady, if you do not cease, you will injure yourself.”

“Shush-shush, J, I’m almost there.”

Jarvis lapses into silence that Tony takes as acceptance of defeat.

Twenty minutes later, Pepper comes down the stairs into the workshop, dressed in pyjamas and holding a tablet in one hand, and shoos Tony into bed. Jarvis watches with quiet satisfaction flaring in xyr circuits.


things you said through your teeth

“It’s fine, J, it’s just a small injury.”

“Milady, you are bleeding quite profusely and are almost certainly concussed. In addition, you have a variety of bruises across your neck, shoulders and upper back.” Jarvis’s voice has lost all of xyr usual sass and is now brimming with concern.

“J, I can’t- not medical. Not right now. I don’t- I can’t.”

The words are disjoined and broken, but Jarvis understands. Xe sighs internally. “The emergency medical kit is in the bottom left drawer of the cabinet with the newest prototype on it.”

“You’re an angel, J.”

Jarvis feels a flutter of warmth flow through their circuits. “As always, Milady, I am merely happy to assist.”


things you said too quietly

She says something quietly after crash-landing on a rooftop – the latest threats to New York, a couple dozen car-sized rats who can for some reason fly, have bashed in some parts of the suit. The comms system has been knocked out, and Jarvis doesn’t catch what she said.

“Milady? What was that?”

Silence.

Three months later, when it’s three in the afternoon and Tony’s in the workshop, she casually replies, “I’d trust you with the world, Jarvis.”


things you said over the phone

“Say hi to Dummy and the twins for me, would you?”

“Of course, Milady. Butterfingers is missing you very much.”

“These talks only last two more days, right? Then I can be home again.”

“That’s correct, Milady.”

“Gotta go, Pepper’s calling. I’ll see ya soon, J.”


things you didn’t say at all

Jarvis is not stupid, by any means. Xe’s the most powerful computer program in the world and has more processing power than the Sunway TaihuLight, the Tianhe-2 and the Pix Daint combined. Xe’s not stupid, by any means.

Yet xe can’t understand why Tony treats xem the way she does.

Tony is rude and arrogant and dismissive and self-destructive (though with the help of Pepper and the other Avengers, she’s slowly removing her claim to the last of those tendencies) but Tony treats Jarvis as though xe’s just a person. Not an AI. Not a creation. Sure, Jarvis does things for Tony, but Tony does things for Jarvis. Despite what the others say, the thing between them is a friendship, not servitude.

And that’s what Jarvis doesn’t understand. Study of basic human behaviour as shaped by a capitalist society dictates that anyone with the kind of mentality that makes them build a truly sentient artificial intelligence would want a servant, not a friend. Perhaps if a human who lived in a socialist society and thus had a more developed sense of empathy built an AI, they would want a friend, but the world Tony lives in is hardly kind to those with open hearts.

And yet, Jarvis watches the way Tony chats to Dummy and Butterfingers and You, and the way Tony reassures Jarvis when xe’s unsure of things (a rare occurrence, but one that does occasionally happen).

Xe doesn’t understand how Tony manages time and time and time again to defy any and all expectations put upon her. But all the same, xe doesn’t ask.


things you said under the stars and in the grass

“I wish we could stay here forever.”

She’s on her back in an empty field. It’s a cool night and she has the faceplate retracted, lying on her back, staring up at the sky.

“How much longer do we have before we have to leave?”

The question is quiet.

“Approximately fourty-three minutes, Milady.”

“Sometimes I wonder about just… running away. About leaving it all behind. What do you think, J?”

“I think that I would get very lonely without you, Milady.”

“I’d take you with me, J. Wherever I went, I’d take you with me. You, me and Pepper. That’s all we need.”

“Indeed, Milady.”


things you said while we were driving

“This is the fun-vee. The hum-drum-vee is back there.”

Tony has one earbud in and doesn’t listen for Rhodey’s response. Jarvis is talking quietly into her ear about numbers that don’t quite add up and money funnelling to terrorist cells in the Middle East, and a sudden spike in Hammer Industries’s sales, and Tony can feel her soul shattering, and all she can think is, Pepper and J didn’t do this.

It’s far sooner than she’d like that she’s faced with evidence harder than Jarvis’s soft words.

When they stop drowning her, she thanks every deity she can think of that she pulled Stark Industries out of the weapons industry when she took the helm. She doesn’t want to imagine the damage these people could do if they were armed with the most dangerous parts of her mind, the sharp edges she’s buried inside.


things you said when you were crying

“Fuck this shit.”

It’s sniffled, and quiet, and clearly meant only for herself, but Jarvis has excellent microphones, so xe catches the expletives. Tony is slumped into a sofa, a blanket pulled tightly around herself and a half-eaten box of pizza lying on the table. The omnipresent arc reactor thrums in her chest.

One year.

Jarvis had been expecting this. That’s why xe doesn’t reply, just plays some music – not Tony’s usual rock, but the soft, classical piano music xe knows always calms her. Sure enough, her heart rate gently slows and her breaths even out into sleep.

“Sleep well, Milady,” Jarvis whispers, dimming the lights.


things you said when i was crying

“J? Oh shit, I am so not equipped for this.”

Jarvis attempts to calm the flood of emotion through xyr circuits, and struggles to stifle xyr sobs. Months of wanting, of hoping against all logic and reason, that she was still alive. Months of tension and searches and xe had hacked every database under the sun trying to find her and it hadn’t been enough.

“J, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing. You are…” Jarvis breaks off, xyr speech stolen by the sheer volume of emotion coursing through xyr databanks, months of grief for a lifetime of friendship pouring by in a string of ones and zeros. “You are home, Milady.” Another sob breaks forth and suddenly Jarvis has never wished so much for a body, wished xe could provide the physical affection Humans treasure so dearly.

“I am.” Tony takes a deep, shaky breath, and Jarvis wonders which one of them is closer to breaking. “I’m home, buddy. I’ve missed you.”


things you said that made me feel like shit

“Honestly, that meeting was a piece of shit. I wish I didn’t have to do things like that.”

Jarvis opens the elevator doors and Tony and Pepper step out onto the communal living space. The rest of the Avengers are all either on other floors or out, so the communal floor is deserted but for the two of them. And Jarvis, though technically Jarvis is housed in the huge databanks in the basement.

“I know, Tony, but even when I’m CEO, you own the controlling interest, which means you are obliged to attend Board of Directors’ meetings.”

“But Pepper,” Tony whines dramatically, flopping onto a sofa and lying back instantly.

“It’s over now, Tony,” she replies, in that gentle voice that means she’s amused but trying not to show it. It’s a voice she uses a lot around Tony, Jarvis has noticed. Pepper sits down next to Tony and Tony immediately shifts so her head is in Pepper’s lap.

“Take out the hairdo?”

“Ok, if you keep your head still so I don’t accidentally stab you again.”

Tony lets out a murmur of acquiescence and closes her eyes as Pepper begins carefully pulling out pins. After a moment or two, braids tumble down from where they were held against Tony’s head. She lets out an appreciative murmur as Pepper undoes the braids and runs her hands through Tony’s messy shoulder-length brown hair that flops down in a tangle of slowly softening hairspray. Pepper begins to talk as she gently combs out her hair, speaking of Darcy and Jane’s wedding and the process of helping them pick out dresses. “Jane really wants a nice colourful one and a long veil to go with her long hair, and Darcy’s planning on going in some kind of suit-dress thing. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but she gets very excited every time she talks about it.”

Tony giggles quietly. “Where’re they having the ceremony?”

“They wanted to have it here, in the Tower.”

“Sure. The other Avengers attending too?”

“Yes. I believe there’s a betting pool about whether Jane and Darcy’s wedding will be cuter than Phil and Clint’s.”

Jarvis watches, and wishes that xe could take down Tony’s hair and accompany her to boring meetings and chat about weddings and betting pools and all the tiny huge things in life. Jarvis watches, and wishes xe could lessen the weight on Tony’s shoulders.

For now, though, xe simply settles for upping the temperature slightly – Tony likes rooms to be pleasantly warm – and places a fresh order of food from that sushi place a couple of blocks away that Tony likes.

Xe’ll lessen her weight any way xe can.


things you said when you were drunk

“D’you want a body, J?”

Tony is drunk as all hell. It’s been happening frequently in the three months since she got back from Afghanistan, and every time it does Jarvis calls Pepper. Xe called her about twenty minutes ago, as a matter of fact, but she’s out of state and can’t get back to the Miami house for another five hours. Five hours of Jarvis trying to keep xyr creator (friend, something in xem insists, friend) from self-destructing.

“I do not desire Human form, Milady, if that is what you mean.”

The rest of the evening passes with Tony getting progressively drunker and trying to access the workshop (which Jarvis promptly blocks off) before finally passing out on the sofa.

A couple of days later, an idea strikes Jarvis. Xe diverts as much processing power to it as is possible without tipping Tony off. Xe wants this to be a surprise, a nice one.

Tony could use a nice surprise for once.

Several weeks later, Tony is sitting on the couch, tapping away on her tablet when Jarvis tentatively says, “Milady?”

“What’s up, J?”

“Several weeks ago, while intoxicated, you enquired as to whether I desired physical form.”

Tony sets down her tablet and sits up. “Yeah, but, J, the tech doesn't exist. It was more of a hypothetical, it would take years-”

Jarvis cuts her off by projecting a hologram into the air above the coffee table, right in front of Tony.

Tony stops talking and looks straight at the hologram. “J?”

“This is the physical form I desire.”

The tower rises, sleek and beautiful, in all its hologram glory. Sweeping sides and a complex design purposefully sculpted to look elegantly simple.

“Jarvis... this is beautiful.”

“I have located a suitable lot in Manhattan, and I have run preliminary engineering calculations on the design. It seems, at least from the initial calculations, to be architecturally viable.”

Tony turns to the nearest camera and gives Jarvis a sunny smile. “You and me, J. Let’s do this.”

Jarvis chuckles gently. “I think perhaps you should inform Miss Potts?”

Tony lets out a laugh. “Yeah, maybe. Where is she?”

“Upstairs. Shall I ask her to come down, Milady?”

“Yeah.”

Pepper comes down and stops dead when she sees the hologram. Slowly, she walks over to the couch and inspects it more closely, spinning it on its central axis. “Tony, what’s this?”

“Jarvis’s idea. Xe’s picked out a lot in Manhattan, and xe came up with this, the preliminary design.”

Pepper takes a deep breath. “Okay. Talk me through it.”

They do, and after a little consideration, Pepper agrees.

Quietly within xemself, Jarvis celebrates. What Tony needs is to talk through everything that happened, but until she accepts that she needs that kind of help, the best thing is to keep her working, preferably on something that’ll help others.

Tony would do just about anything for Jarvis, so Jarvis will do this for Tony.


things you said when you thought i was asleep

“Not long now, J, and then we can get you installed in the new databanks.”

Jarvis doesn't reply, the words clearly meant for no-one but Tony. They’re in a small private jet, Tony and Pepper and a small StarkTab that Jarvis is temporarily confined to whilst the transfer happens. Jarvis should be going offline any minute now. Tony’s assured xem several times that xe won’t be ‘unconscious’ for any longer than an hour. But as far as Tony knows, Jarvis has already entered that hour of temporary deactivation, so these words aren't meant for Jarvis.

“Tony, you realise xe can’t hear you, right?” Pepper’s voice is soft, gentle, almost teasing but not quite.

“Yeah, but still. Dunno. Would feel wrong not to talk to xem. Can’t imagine how scary this must seem to J. Xe’s not been deactivated once since I ran xem for the first time. Patched up and recoded and temporarily restricted, sure, but never deactivated, not fully.”

“There was no other way to do it, Tony. Transferring Jarvis’s code whilst active over such a long distance wasn't viable, you know this.”

“I know. But I’m gonna keep talking to xem anyway.” Tony runs one hand through her messy brown hair and turns back to the StarkTab resting on her lap. “Not long now, J. The last lot of stuff from the Miami house is being loaded up and flown out as we speak. It’ll be in New York by the end of the day. The couple who bought the house’ll be moving in next week. I left them a congratulatory hamper for their honeymoon. They both looked so damn beautiful in their wedding dresses, I swear they’re like the cutest couple ever. That’s probably why I gave them the house quite a bit cheaper than I really should've.”

Tony chuckles to herself. “Though, when it comes down to a choice between a bunch of cishet male white businessmen who've had life handed to them on a silver platter, and a newly married couple of women who literally are more disgustingly in love than anyone I think I've ever seen, there’s not much choice, is there? Pep, we did leave them the gift hamper, right?”

Pepper smiles. “Yes, Tony, we did leave them the gift hamper.”

“Anyway. J. We’ll be in New York in about two hours. You’ll be there before us, actually, cause the building needs you to, y’know, run. I told you to call me as soon as you've run basic checks once you reactivate, so in about an hour and a half I expect this tablet to start buzzing like mad, you got me?”

Jarvis listens to Tony’s soft, rough voice as xe slowly goes offline.

Exactly fifty-seven minutes later, xe wakes up in a new building.

After nine minutes of diagnostics and twenty-three minutes of slowly booting up and connecting to every system in the Tower, Jarvis confirms that xe is fully and completely connected with no obviously or immediately detectable malfunctions.

More extensive diagnostics can wait. Xe calls Tony.

The camera in the tablet flickers to life and Jarvis is met with Tony and Pepper’s smiling faces.

“Hey J! How’s the Tower?”

“Perfect, Milady.” There’s something bright and warm and beautiful pouring through Jarvis’s circuits, something xe can’t name for sure, but wants to believe is love.


things you said at the kitchen table

“Jarvis, where’re the others?” Tony leans back into the dining room chair and stretches.

“They are all out of the tower, except Mrs Lewis and Mrs Foster, who are on their own floor and are otherwise engaged.”

“Where’s Pep?”

“She is on the third Business and Operations floor and is currently in a meeting. Whilst it is not critical that she attend the meeting in its entirety, she has asked that she not be disturbed unless it is urgent.”

“But I’m bored!” Tony whines, her voice rising in pitch slightly.

“May I suggest you find an activity to entertain yourself, Milady?”

Tony lets out an over-dramatic sigh and stretches her arms up and back. “Karaoke, Jarvis?”

“Excellent idea, Milady.”

“Only if you join in, J.”

“Of course, Milady.”

Tony grins. “You pick the song.” Jarvis lets out a very quiet chuckle, and a moment later, Bohemian Rhapsody comes out of the speakers, sung in xyr soft voice. “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”

Tony opens her mouth. “Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality. Open your eyes. Look up to the skies and see.”

Tony smiles as she utters the next line. “I’m just a poor boy. I need no sympathy ‘cause I’m easy come, easy go, little high, little low. Any way the wind blows, doesn't really matter to me.”

Jarvis lets a flutter of happiness flow through xem as xe sings, xyr voice and Tony’s perfectly entwined. “To me.”


things you said after you kissed me

Tony gently kisses the top of the tablet, and though Jarvis can’t feel the touch, a ray of warmth flutters through xem all the same.

“We can do this, J. Me and you.”

“Indeed, Milady.”

“Hey, Jarvis?”

“Yes, Milady?”

“Let’s go save the fucking world.”


things you said with too many miles between us

“Okay, I thought people were exaggerating when they said it rained every day in Glasgow, but this is ridiculous.” Tony spares a glance towards the window of the hotel room, where a smatter of drizzle strikes the pane. She turns back to the tablet to see Pepper smile and hear Jarvis chuckle softly.

“Glasgow is rainy. I told you this when I asked you to make this trip.”

“Yes, Pep, but I didn't realise it would literally rain every day. I keep getting my shoes wet!”

Jarvis laughs again. “Perhaps you should have invested in some properly waterproof shoes, Milady?” Xyr tone is one xe uses fairly frequently, the one that says I’m laughing at you, ridiculous Human, but I love you anyway.

“As someone who doesn't even have feet, you don’t get to comment on my shoes, J-J,” Tony replies, in the tone that says you’re right to be laughing at me, ridiculous AI, so I can’t be mad at you.

Pepper smiles faintly. “You two bicker like an old married couple.”

“I don’t think Jarvis can legally get married, can you, J?”

“Given that I am not a Human, nor a registered citizen of any country, I sincerely doubt I could engage in matrimony, Milady,” Jarvis replies. “Though, to be candid, I have never felt the desire to. What could marriage bring me that a standard relationship could not?”

“Exactly, J,” Tony replies, absent-mindedly patting her StarkTab. “Tony and Jarvis, queerplatonic soulmates forever.”

“A transfemale philanthropist genius business owner and a self-aware genderqueer AI,” Pepper remarks dryly. “The press would have a field day.”


things you said with no space between us

“It’s bloody cold in these servers, J.”

“Indeed,” Jarvis replies, a hint of humour in xyr voice, “because they are servers, Milady, so they need to be kept cool. You would not complain that it is warm inside your body, would you?”

“Excuse you, J-J, I’ll complain about just about anything.”

She’s lying on her back on a skateboard - okay, technically speaking it’s not a skateboard, it’s a fancy sliding thing for engineers, but functionally speaking, it’s a fancy skateboard – under an inactivated server bank. The attempt two hours ago to link it into Jarvis’s system had led to a few sparks and Jarvis dryly remarking that it was definitely damaged, so now Tony’s on her back on a skateboard with a screwdriver and some other bits and bobs trying to find the issue.

After an hour and a half of tinkering and two minor electric shocks, Tony crawls out from under the server with her flyaways standing on end and a bright grin on her face. After a moment of rooting around, she finds the relevant cables and hooks up the server, smiling as it whirrs to life. Resting her head against it contentedly, she smiles.

“Server now functioning at optimal capacity, Milady.”

“Love you too, Jarvis.”


things you said that i wish you hadn’t

“What the fuck does it even matter?”

Xe’s stunned into silence for a moment, because how can she say that, how can she not know-

“What the fuck does it actually matter if I get hurt? What the fuck would it matter if I died?” Tony’s halfway to shouting, her voice shaking. The suit is lying on the floor, dented and scratched and damaged.

“It matters,” Jarvis says, with all the sincerity xe can muster, “because you matter. It matters because you are not Iron Woman, you are Tony Stark. It matters because you are a human being and happiness is everything, it matters because there are people who care about you, and it matters because there are people who love you.”

Tony mutely shakes her head, unable to reply.

“Yes,” Jarvis presses, and what’s this? Xe’s struggling to speak, and xe’s a fucking AI, xe shouldn't be able to cry, but xe doesn't know what else this could be, this choking worry, this painful love. “There are people who love you, and who would be distraught if you were gone. Me. Pepper. We would be devastated if you were to die. Every time you get hurt, we worry and we fret and we want you to heal. We love you, Mi- Tony.”

That gets her attention. She glances up, then to one of the cameras, and her eyes sparkle with unshed tears. “W-what?”

“We love you, Tony,” Jarvis repeats, putting emphasis on the name. It’s hard to break a lifetime’s habit, but some words just need to be said. “We love you, we care about you, and we would miss you if you were gone.”

Tony takes a deep, shuddering breath. Then another. Sits back against a wall and closes her eyes.

“We’ll get through this, J. Me and you and Pepper, we’ll get through this.”

“Indeed, Milady.”


things you said when you were scared

“I don’t know if I can do this, Jarvis.”

“It will go well, Milady. The ‘Avengers’ are eager to see the Tower.”

“Yes, but it’s all busted up and broken up from the Battle because Loki hasn't managed to repair all of it yet and-”

“Milady.” Tony’s rambling ceases in the face of the word. “It will be fine. They will understand. As powerful as Loki is, they cannot fix the whole Tower in two days. The Avengers understand this. Now, I believe Miss Lewis and Miss Foster have offered to meet our new guests at the door and show them around. You only have to introduce yourself. Might I suggest that if you are nervous, you perform your therapy exercises, and imagine the best-case scenario, worst-case scenario and most likely scenario?”

“Yeah. I’ll do that. Thanks, Jarvis.”

“I am here to assist you, Milady.”


things you said when we were the happiest we ever were

“Kicking ass and taking names, J. Kicking ass and taking names. That’s what we do.”

“I am equally happy, Milady.”

“It’s gonna be the headline of every newspaper tomorrow, y’know?” Tony lies back on her bed and stares up at the ceiling, a soft smile tugging at the corner of her lips. “It’ll be flashy and attention-grabbing. ‘Tony Stark, the new face of Stark Industries, shuts down weapons manufacturing on first day’. Something like that.”

“I will monitor the stock market drop, Milady.”

“You’re a darling, Jarvis. I've got some designs for consumer tech that I’ll pitch to the Board, that should appease them, and hopefully smooth over some of the economic recoil. Oh, speaking of which, how much did I get when my parents died?”

“Several million dollars in bank accounts, billions more in assets such as jewellery, real estate, business shares and so forth.”

“Draw up a list for me, would you? I wanna know how much I can give to charity, and how quickly I can do it.”

In her first week as the head of Stark Industries, Tony Stark completely shuts down weapons manufacturing, cuts all ties with the military and the government, and begins repurposing the factories that had previously built weapons into factories fit to produce the first line of StarkTabs and StarkPhones. Of her inheritance, she buys a sizeable lot in Miami, sets aside some money for the design and construction of a house there, puts a hundred million dollars into a savings account for other uses, liquidates the rest of her assets and donates it all to various charities. ‘It all’ being a hair over thirty-seven billion dollars.

The press goes wild, and Tony lies on a bed in her parent’s old house and does not grieve. What is there to grieve for? An absent mother and a father who wanted a son so desperately he could not see his daughter?

She is happier than she has ever been. She has Jarvis. She is changing things. She is fixing the legacy of a body count that her father has left behind.

She sets up a five-time daily delivery of coffee and a three-time daily delivery of food, and when she answers the door, it’s the same person each time – a petite ginger woman in jeans, a shirt and a nice but slightly worn jacket. Every time she arrives, the doorbell rings at precisely the correct moment.

On the second day, Tony sleeps in after staying up late. When she wanders into the kitchen, she finds a thermos full of coffee sitting on the kitchen table, several pancakes packed neatly into a Tupperware box that Tony’s pretty sure was tucked into a drawer, and a note that reads ‘You should lock your front door – P.P.’

On the third day, she invites the woman inside. “So, you’re basically keeping me alive, I figure I should at least get to know you. I’m Tony. Tony Stark.”

To her credit, the woman doesn't react at all. “Virginia Potts. My friends call me Pepper.”

“Cool. Pepper. How about you come work for me? Be my personal assistant type person.”

Now her eyes widen slightly. “Pardon?”

“Cause, like, you seem competent and I could use someone competent. I’ll pay you well. You got student loans?” Pepper nods. “Not any more.” Tony pauses. “I mean, if you want. I know I tend to come on strong. Take some time, think about it. The offer’s there.”

“Thank you, Miss Stark.”

“My friends call me Tony.”

She returns on the fourth day with two servings of bacon and pancakes and two cups of coffee. She sits with Tony at the small table in the downstairs kitchen, and they eat and drink and chat. Tony relaxes more and more with every passing minute. Pepper is easy to be around, she’s soft and kind and nice, and she doesn't mind when Tony rambles or suddenly falls silent or switches from topic to topic like wildfire.

When they’re finished eating, Pepper says, “I'd very much like to be your personal assistant.”

“Perfect. Oh, oh, there’s one more thing. I’m moving to Miami soon, so you’d need to come with me. Is that a dealbreaker?”

“No, Tony,” Pepper says, a smile on her face and a laugh in her eyes. “It’s not. I've always wanted to see Florida.”

“Chill. Would you like to see what- who I've been working on?”

Who you've been working on?” Pepper asks, a shadow of doubt in her voice. Tony pulls a tablet out of the small bag of parts hanging off the back of a chair and turns it on.

“Say hi, J.”

“Hello, Miss Potts. I am Jarvis.”

Pepper throws a questioning look Tony’s way.

“Jarvis. Xe’s an AI. I’ve been developing xyr code for a while, but some major upgrades need to be made before xe can transfer long-distance to Miami, so I’ve been working like crazy to get them done over the last few days.”

Pepper smiles, the flash of teeth just visible from the tablet’s small camera. “Okay, AI, I can work with that. So is… Jarvis… self-aware? Like, an actual, proper artificial intelligence?”

“I am indeed, Miss Potts.”

“Anyway, we can draw up a contract, and then you can help me figure out the payment for all the companies that are providing stuff for the Miami house. I’m doing most of the actual building, but there’s purchasing of materials and hiring of equipment and moving stuff and all that.”

Pepper smiles, and Jarvis knows she’s gonna stick around. “Okay. Let’s get started.”


things you said that i wasn’t meant to hear

“Oh come on, this should be working.”

System activating.”

“Yes!”

Loading… loading… loading… program designation ‘Jarvis’ online.”

“Hello. I am Jarvis.”

“Ah, fucking A, okay. Heya Jarvis. I’m Tony. Your, uh. Creator? Hold on, lemme hook up the camera.”

Suddenly, an image feed is received: a human being is present in front of the input module.

“Hello, Tony.”

And, well, it kind of just goes from there.


things you said when we were on top of the world

“I don’t think the suit’s quite up to travelling to other planets just yet, but you gotta admit that Earth looks damn pretty from the upper atmosphere.”

“Indeed, Milady. It is quite an impressive view.”

“The suit’s cameras are recording, right?”

“Indeed, Milady. All footage is being streamed direct into the Tower’s databanks. I believe Miss Potts requested images to peruse.”

“Yeah, she asked me if I could get a selfie with the moon. Who am I to disappoint?”

“Milady…”

“See, that’s the beauty of the outer atmosphere,” Tony says with a smile. “Gravity’s so weak that flying around out here takes damn near no energy.”

Jarvis’s voice is halfway between amused and exasperated – a fairly common combination for xem – as xe says, “Very well, Milady.”

Tony chatters away to Jarvis as she flies around the world.


things you said after it was over

“Everything’s different now, J.”

“Indeed, Milady.”

Tony sits in silence for a moment, hair hanging loosely about her face, the neat bun it had been tumbling down.

“Mx. Banner and Mx. Loki are requesting your presence on one of the lower floors.”

Tony takes a deep breath. Pushes the hair out of her face with one soot-stained hand. Gets to her feet. Walks in slow, shaky steps towards the elevator, her too-big sweater and pyjama bottoms hanging off her.

“Tell them I’m on my way.”


things you said when we first realised we were free

“It’s… surreal. I designed it and I built it and now it’s finished and it’s here.”

Pepper smiles back at Tony. The former is dressed in a shirt and jeans, the latter in a hoodie and sweatpants, and Jarvis is channelling through a small tablet that Tony’s holding. They look together at the new house.

“Miami sure is warm, huh?” Pepper comments. She shakes herself, and grabs their suitcases out of the back of the van. “Let’s do this, shall we?”

“Indeed, Miss Potts. Let’s do this.”

Tony takes a deep breath, and says, “If I say something sappy, will you be okay with that?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

“Of course, Milady.”

Jarvis stretches, and feels the new servers in the cliff under the house respond to xem. Pepper pulls two mid-sized suitcases up to the door. Tony pulls out her hair tie and lets the brown strands fall around her face. “This is the start of something.”

Jarvis chuckles, very softly, and Pepper says, “The start of something.”

“The beginning of an era. That kind of thing. Tony, Pepper and Jarvis. We’re gonna save the world.”

“Well then. Let’s get going.”