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Misunderstanding

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Steve has taken to sketching in the corner of Tony’s workshop exclusively because after a few minutes Tony forgets he’s there and so doesn’t make conversation.

Granted, Natasha doesn’t tend to make conversation either, but if she’s in one of the communal rooms in StarkTower then Clint will tend to be there too.

Clint likes conversation.

Thor also likes conversation.

Clint and Thor both like to peer over Steve’s shoulder to see what he’s drawing.

And, ok, Bruce is quiet, but Steve gets the feeling Bruce finds his presence in his lab distracting.

So here he is; on a ragged sofa in the corner of Tony’s lab. His sketchbook has a lot more robots in it now.

Steve has been sitting down quietly for about half an hour now and as he’s mostly convinced that Tony can only see things if they’re shiny, moving or loud (preferably all three) it’s safe to say he’s invisible to the resident genius.

When Tony speaks Steve almost jumps.

‘Jarvis have you finished unscrambling my music yet?’

‘I am afraid not, sir,’ comes the disembodied voice. ‘If, in the future, you could avoid setting off explosions…’

‘Yes yes,’ Tony waves a hand around. ‘EMPs in the building are bad. Never again. I get it, I’m very sorry for inconveniencing you.’

‘I forgive you, sir.’

‘Ha ha.’

‘Talking to yourself is a sign of madness,’ Steve points out, making Tony jolt in surprise, ‘Clint told me.’

‘I’m not talking to myself,’ Tony scowls through his obvious confusion at finding Steve in the room. ‘I’m talking to Jarvis.’

‘Yes,’ Steve smiles in amusement, ‘but as he’s not real then it basically counts as talking to yourself.’

Tony continues to look confused,

‘How long have you been sitting there, by the way? Also, of course he’s real. Do you think I’d have put that much effort into programming a simulation that argues with me at every possible turn?’

‘He’s a program,’ Steve scowls, ‘that’s what Pepper said.’

Tony shakes his head,

‘He’s an AI. Artificial Intelligence. He started out life as a program but now he’s completely sentient.’

Steve looks up at the ceiling uncomfortably,

‘That’s…’

‘No,’ Tony snaps now. ‘You don’t get to freak out about that. You get along with him perfectly well; I’ve heard you talking to him.’

‘Well, yes but…’

Tony slams whatever he’s holding down onto the workbench,

‘What? What could you possibly be upset about?’

‘I’m really not…’ Steve keeps glancing at the ceiling.

‘Get out!’ Tony snaps. ‘I don’t know what the hell you’re doing down here anyway. This is my workspace and I don’t need or want any extra company.’

‘What?’ Steve stares at Tony in surprise.

‘I said get out,’ Tony repeats with a snarl. ‘You can’t just… It’s disrespectful, alright? That’s a thing they had in the 40s right?’

‘I don’t… I’m sorry, Tony, I don’t know what…’

‘Out!’ Tony points at the door as Steve clutches his sketchbook up and heads to the door quickly. ‘I’d kick you out of the damn tower except I’d probably crash my stocks and I’ve done that enough recently! Just… keep away from me.’

‘Tony, I…’ Steve stops and turns as he steps out the door.

‘Jarvis, lockdown the workshop.’

‘Certainly, sir.’

Large metal shutters, at least a foot thick, come down from the ceiling and completely block any view of the lab.

*                                  *                                  *

Steve walks back upstairs feeling somewhat crushed but mostly confused. Sitting down on one of the large sofas he doesn’t immediately notice Pepper is round.

‘Steve?’ he jumps.

‘Ma’am! I’m sorry, Pepper, I didn’t see you there.’

‘What’s wrong, Steve?’

‘I don’t… Tony threw me out of his workshop…’

She blinks in surprise,

‘He what? Why? Did you break something?’

‘What? No! I just… I didn’t know… something and when I said so he got really angry with me.’

‘You didn’t make him explain?’

‘He was really angry,’ Steve ducks his head and realises his eyes are brimming. His bottom lip trembles.

‘Oh, honey,’ Pepper rubs his back. ‘Jarvis, tell Tony to get up here.’

‘Oh, no don’t…’ Steve starts.

‘I am sorry, Ms. Potts,’ Jarvis interrupts. ‘Mr. Stark is currently unavailable and has demanded no interruptions. He has put his workshop in lockdown.’

Pepper blinks in surprise,

‘Did you say it was me?’

‘Yes, Ms. Potts.’

‘What did you do?’ she turns a baffled look to Steve, his face crumples. ‘No, sweetie, I believe you, I do, but Tony’s clearly upset about something. It’s certainly a misunderstanding.’

‘How do I fix it?’ Steve swallows and straightens his shoulders gamely.

‘He’s in lockdown,’ Pepper scowls. ‘Unless you can convince Jarvis to let you in you’ll have to wait for Tony to come out.’

‘That could be days!’ Steve objects.

‘Welcome to my world,’ she pats him on the shoulder.

*                                  *                                  *

Two days later and Tony hasn’t emerged.

‘Jarvis,’ Steve begs, ‘you can get a message to Tony?’

‘Yes, Mr. Rogers.’

‘Tell him, I’m sorry, ok? Tell him whatever it was I said that upset him; I’m sorry. Tell him that he needs to come out and eat something, please? And tell me what he says, please.’

‘I shall pass the message on to Mr. Stark, Mr. Rogers.’

‘Thanks Jarvis,’ Steve sighs.

There’s several minutes pause before Jarvis speaks again. Steve tried not to gnaw through his lip.

‘I shall paraphrase Mr. Stark’s response,’ the AI announces finally. ‘He requests you leave him alone, as he previously requested. He points out he has food in his workroom and that it is not your responsibility to look after him even if he were to allow it. And he says that apologising to him when you don’t know what it is for nullifies the apology.’

‘Right,’ Steve drops him head into his hands. ‘Right, thank you Jarvis.’

‘Jarvis,’ Steve finally lifts his head again, ‘do you know why Tony’s angry with me?’

‘Yes,’ Jarvis responds promptly. Steve wonders if it’s his imagination or if the AI is actually being short with him.

‘Can you tell me?’

‘Yes.’

Steve waits several long seconds,

‘Will you? Please?’ he asks, concluding the AI truly is a creation of Tony’s.

‘No.’

Steve blinks in surprise and moves his mouth silently as he tries to think of what to say.

He sits up straight suddenly, realisation in his eyes,

‘Oh. Oh! Jarvis, are you upset with me too? Because of my reaction to you being… you when I was downstairs?’

The AI stays silent but Steve barely notices,

‘But… I was only surprised! And a bit put out for you that Tony never said anything! I’m sorry, Jarvis, if you thought I was… unhappy about you.’

‘That is fine, Captain,’ Jarvis does sound… happier now? ‘Would you like me to grant you access to the workshop?’

Steve lets out a breath,

‘No, Tony’s still angry with me. Can you… summarise this for him? Let him know I would love to be invited down?’

‘Certainly, sir.’

‘Jarvis,’ Tony’s voice from the doorway makes Steve jolt violently to his feet, ‘did the good Captain just graduate from Mr. Rogers to Captain to sir all in one conversation?’

‘Tony…’ Steve breaths.

‘Yes, sir,’ Jarvis responds.

‘Figures,’ Tony snorts and scowls at Steve.

‘I’m sorry!’ Steve blurts in case Tony doesn’t already know. ‘I’m sorry for making you think I was… I’m sorry I offended Jarvis. And you.’

‘No worries,’ Tony shrugs. ‘Jarvis is already good with you; I can’t stand my ground without him.’

And just like that Tony turns away.

‘Tony?’

‘Yeah!’ Tony turns back with a very fake smile on his lips.

‘He’s your best friend, isn’t he?’

Tony just looks baffled,

‘Of course he is.’