Yep. Told you I'd have another one ready. POOF! Don't get used to it.
Chapter 9— Emoting
One day starts off with Tony scowling at Jarvis, unhappy but not able to do anything about it.
"You didn't have to do that, you know." He says.
Jarvis hummed and took a bite from his beans on toast.
"Seriously, you didn't have to—I appreciate it, obviously, but it wasn't like you had to make the video or anything. I'm not planning on letting anyone in on the secret, so it's not going to be an issue. This isn't like you updating your will or anything. I understand that, by the way, because pending a miraculous discovery on my part you're eventually going to die… but you didn't have to make the video."
Jarvis hummed again and raised an eyebrow at Tony.
"So you haven't been considering Miss Potts?"
Tony huffed and started pulling out frozen fruit, tossing it into the blender.
"Not anytime soon. I mean she's only been around for what, two years?"
"Surviving two years as your personal assistant is nothing to scoff at, Tony," Jarvis smiled. "And you know it."
Tony stuck his tongue out and started up the blender—he was halfway tempted to add in a swirl of Dawn dish soap just because it made Jarvis frown and because it gave his smoothies a frothy lemony flavour, but didn't want to deal with the mess.
It wasn't necessarily ironic that adding soap made more of a mess, but it was one of those funny little things he didn't think man other people knew about.
"Yeah, yeah, and you know that I know it so you made the explanation video because you're also a pessimist who thinks he's not going to live long enough to be there to help explain things yourself…" Tony looks at him sideways. "If we're just going by time, it's probably around time to bring Obie in on the joke, huh?"
Jarvis sips his tea and Tony counts that as a victory towards getting Jarvis to roll his eyes.
"While you're at it, will you finally admit to the press how much you like the Tony Spark caricatures they've been putting in their articles?"
Now Tony rolled his eyes.
He shouldn't have ever said something so stupid—Pepper had come to him about an offer to make a short children's cartoon about the adventures of Tony Spark the Mad Genius Inventor. He'd laughed and laughed and laughed until he realized she was serious, that they were serious, and then it was only a little funny. Mostly it was baffling.
He kept laughing.
Rhodey had sent him a doodle one of his air force buddies had made of what was the now accepted Tony Spark Image—which was pretty much Tony, goatee-ed and wild haired with comic-book-y lightning streaming from his eyes.
Jarvis laughed, Rhodey laughed, and Tony mostly wondered where the fuck they'd gotten that idea into their heads.
He still framed the drawing in his lab, though; the wild grin and cliché mad scientist laughter pose was hilarious.
It was an amazing likeness.
He said no to the cartoon and trademarked both 'Tony Spark' and his image after that one Best Buy commercial—cheeky fuckers—but it was a well known, unconfirmed, unofficial fact that Tony Stark was delighted that he'd gained his own alter ego cartoon character.
He shook his head and brought up a display for the new design for an interactive holographic program—one that could be interacted with directly, rather than through a touch-screen console. Tony could, of course, interact with it directly, but that was largely due to the fact that he interacted with the data directly, uploading the changes to the images and coding in real-time. Sometimes faster.
It wouldn't be usable to the general public for a number of years yet, but he thought he had a sound beta for the holograms to be interactive with the right gestures and finger movements.
He thinks that, if he were more single-minded in his selfishness (because he was selfish, he wasn't denying that), he'd keep the tech to himself; he thought it was interesting that he could bring up holograms around himself even without the tech to do so, and no one could see it but himself.
Well, himself and his bots.
He thinks Dummy likes the colours best.
He gets back to the matter on hand.
"Okay, right, so we both know that Obie would be very well-meaning in admitting us all to a mental facility—"
"Or perhaps outing you as a mutant?"
Tony made a face at him and turned the stove back on with a thought; Jarvis immediately moved to save his tea from severe over-steeping, his expression caught somewhere between amused and expectant. Tony turned the stove back off, huffing; he didn't like being predictable, even to Jarvis. He also doesn't like it when he brings up the whole Mutant thing.
"Being a mutant wouldn't actually explain anything—you know I have no problem with mutants, so don't give me that look, but you don't have to be Xavier to know that that doesn't work, not when my ashes are still in an urn in the living room."
"I moved them to the library, actually."
"It somehow seemed more appropriate for your ashes to be placed in the least technologically augmented room in the house that still holds the most information… And the engineering section your father favored is still closest to the fireplace."
Tony scrunched his nose but shrugged that bit of weirdness off. He didn't actually care where his ashes were, so long as he knew that they were secured.
"Yeah, okay, thing is that we both know that it's going to take more than the whole weird fatherly-business affection thing Obie has going on for him to be let in on The Secret… but still. Did you have to make the video now? There are totally other things you could focus on, like, not dying, and living longer, and making ridiculous amounts of tea and being all disapproving at my smoothie ingredients—hah, yeah, just like that. See?"
"As I have already written down my preferred funeral arrangements, and I was feeling particularly productive, I felt this was an appropriate activity for the day. And as you can see, I even have enough time to continue living, not die, drink tea, and disapprove of your smoothie recipe." he lifts his teacup in a small toast and sips. Tony stares at him.
"… What did you want done with your stuff? Worldly possessions and all that, I mean."
At Jarvis' surprised look, Tony shrugs and busies himself with notations on his tablet. "Not all your stuff is going into storage like Mom and Dad's stuff, I'm assuming you've got a living will for most of it, but you've got money and a pension-retirement plan you've never actually cashed in… And you haven't actually used much of your checks, what with me paying for everything. Not like I'm going to find another couple hundred thousand dollars useful or anything."
Because he wouldn't, and he didn't particularly like the thought of the monetary link-up to the time Jarvis had been with Tony to just become part of the mass in any of Tony's bank accounts.
"So what, is there someone in particular, is there a charity—did you want me to build you a memorial? I could do that; I could make you a statue like the one for Walt Disney, only instead of Mickey Mouse I could make a giant teakettle. Ooh, it could act as a water fountain; I could rig it to have hot water in the winter, and,"
"-Money could go to making sure it's clean and drinkable, or I could make bots to clean it, and there could be shelter areas set up around it—though you know, this is getting to be a very good idea geared towards the homeless of New York but it's not very Jarvis Oriented. I know you care about the homeless, but for a memorial…"
He looked up from where he'd been drawing up designs for a hot-water-cold-water fountain, wondering if Jarvis had something to add. Jarvis smiled.
"Tony. I trust you'll figure out where my savings could do the best good. Aside from a few mementos from my time with the Royal Air Force, I am leaving everything to you."
Tony looked back down at his tablet.
Tony starts working on his designs at night in Jarvis' room.
He doesn't know if Jarvis knows, or would even acknowledge it if he did, but he's reasonably sure Jarvis has his suspicions what with Tony changing the thermostat when he notices Jarvis is getting too hot or cold, at how Tony always knows when to start the kettle for his morning tea even when he 'sleeps in' until 8am.
He has Butterfingers working on a mold for a new left bicuspid and second premolar in his lab—if you ever wondered what would happen if you forgot you had a small wrench held in your bot-mouth and tried biting down, it would mean cracked teeth. You'd get cracked teeth.
That is what would happen.
But the thing is that he doesn't really have much that needs hands-on work, not from him anyway, and it wasn't like his holographic light show was actually visible to Jarvis…
It was just nice knowing that Tony would be the first to know if Jarvis actually needed anything, or if he (don't laugh) fell, or really if anything happened that should not happen. It was just nice being around, even if some distant part of him felt like a creeper for hanging around when Jarvis was sleeping.
Before he'd figured out his bot body there would be times when he'd work while Jarvis read or ate or drank the special blend of tea that wasn't quite worth a fortune but was a bitch to have made… Tony wouldn't have to say anything or have anything on a screen to feel noticed, to feel known, because Jarvis had this weird thing where he just assumed Tony was around all the time.
He'd thought for a while that Jarvis simply assumed he was just an overly large consciousness, big enough to be in every room of the house at once… then he'd worried that Jarvis was actually stupid enough to think Tony had some sort of god-like omniscience…
What it actually tired out to be was both a bit of an underwhelming shock—it was the lights.
The usual flicker and pulse of electricity in the screens that were set up, the waver in some of the light bulbs once an explosion or two in the house knocked them askew, it all went steady when Tony was in a room.
He tried controlling it, once; he'd ended up exploding the bulbs and, according to his mother, aging her a decade.
Tony didn't know how he did it now, what with how steady light bulbs were now, and Tony knew for a fact that the back up generators for the house wouldn't let there be even a flicker in the electricity…
Whatever it was, Jarvis wasn't saying.
Tony enjoyed the mystery of it enough that he couldn't convince himself to ask.
Even though Aunt Peg wasn't heading it anymore, Tony still amused himself hacking her name confused organization… it'd been a few years since they'd changed their name, but Tony wasn't going to bother learning or remembering it until he knew it had the name for a few more years.
He still finds little things to change in his original profile, on the one that says that he was born in 1937 rather than 1981… he'd once tried changing that, the birthdate, but that was apparently big enough to have someone notice and immediately change it back.
The little things generally didn't get changed, and they amused Tony more, so…
It's harder to get away with changing the information they have on his second profile, the one that didn't have a death date, but that is largely due to the fact that he'd made too many big changes when he'd noticed quite how much information they'd had on him—
Nothing he was actually worried about, or even thought was the most interesting thing about him, but that they'd gotten ahold of the therapy notes from boarding school, when Carter and Whatshisface had tried (and failed, spectacularly) to get ahold of some of his research.
Again, there was nothing in there that they could use against him, not with Tony having been there to read everything over the guys shoulder, but it was annoying and reminded Tony that he hadn't actually gone and clipped the loose ends from that particular… situation.
He checks in on their information every once in a while now just to check in and see what they considered significant—the therapy notes were sigh worthy, but the articles and the write-up on his tastes in sexual partners makes him laugh; there were the few articles where the world tried to scandal and shame him for having sex with men, for his 'slutty' equal opportunity tastes, and many more clips from magazines who wondered what he preferred wen it came to looks, body type, race, religion… he stopped paying attention when he realized that no one was going to just label him (rightly) as a hedonist and leave it at 'what feels good feels good'.
He amuses himself with the idea of a scholarship paper challenging some young student to try and figure out who, exactly, is Tony Stark's 'type'.
If he did, he mused; he could send the NameConfusedOrganization operative who wrote up that portion of his profile the winnings.
He doesn't do that, though.
He does make up another scholarship—one for creative writing, and he sends Pepper a note to have publishers look over the top 10% once everything has gone through.
Working at night is a bit weird now without music blaring and drowning everything out—he has always talked to himself while he worked, so there was that, but muttering to himself the less-than-rough estimate for how much of what sort of wiring he'd eventually need to have a whole-house AI wasn't quite the same as having Metallica's Fade to Black playing counterpoint.
He has a full scale model of Miami House up with current fixtures in place so he can properly figure out where he will eventually have to do some rewiring, where he'll have to replace everything entirely…
He sits next to Jarvis, not quite on the bed but hovering close enough to feel normal, and tosses up his current ongoing plans; they look like so many stars, compressed as they are so he can see all of them in such a small room. He has quite a few… he contemplates one cluster of smaller projects, ones all bundled together to go with the Missile Guidance System Obie was still waiting on… wonders how bad of an idea it would be to have a fully functioning AI as the guidance system.
He tilts his head…
Boring. He'd get bored, so the AI would get bored, and it'd be a frustrating for him and the AI working to reprogram… it would still have the single-mindedness of a directive program, and unless it was okay with Tony banging around its personality, its base data, the AI would just be frustrated with whatever new directing Tony figured out for it.
He also didn't want his AI tech out of his reach, even within his own company—he couldn't exactly trust that someone wouldn't see personality as a 'glitch' to be fixed, never mind the fact that someone would eventually think to try and reverse-engineer whatever identity eventually showed itself… that was just, no, that was a big no-no.
It's on a night when he's working on a different missile plan—one that should distract Obie from the guidance system for a while, since this one had a dozen smaller missiles that would launch from the main one and have a larger area of destruction—when Jarvis shifts. Tony stops the simulations for the missiles—lets the specs and notations for a dozen other projects he's working on keep running.
It's just a small movement, a slight inhalation, and Tony wonders if he's actually awake, with his eyes open like that.
Or would he be sleep talking? Sleep walking? Tony knew people did that, but he'd never seen it, wasn't sure if open eyes were a thing that happened generally or specifically or if Jarvis was actually awake.
"Jarvis, buddy, you awake?"
He doesn't have any speakers in Jarvis' room, so his question goes unheard—should have.
Tony had drifted up and over him in his curiosity, and in the darkness Jarvis' eyes dart, focus…
Tony blinks, confused at the look on his friends face, runs the possibility that Jarvis could actually look like he's looking right at Tony without Tony having some sort of digital aid—
He'd stopped shifting, and that familiar look on his face had slackened, somehow.
Tony blinked again, tilting his head. He wasn't sure what was standing out as odd to him.
Impressive, he thinks, as he'd been somewhat creepily watching Jarvis sleep for nearly a year now. He wonders what…
His chest wasn't moving.
His chest wasn't—
Elsewhere, every phone currently not in use at the nearest hospital goes off, the voice of an irate Tony Stark ordering them to get their collective asses down to his mansion for one Edwin Jarvis, ASAP.
There is momentary confusion as multiple people try to call for an ambulance to the same address, before inexplicably every phone except one goes offline, and it gets sorted out that seven ambulances don't have to go to the same place.
Traffic, such as it was for an emergency vehicle with its lights on, was remarkably smooth with green lights all the way through; a distinct oddity in New York.
The gates to the Stark Mansion are open when they get there, and Tony Stark himself is there to throw open the doors, wide eyes and messy haired, before they have a chance to knock.
"What the fuck took you so long? Get in, go, go, go, get moving, RUN ALREADY!"
As the EMTs drive Jarvis away, Pepper tries to console a mostly vacant Tony-Bot, while Tony reviews what he remembered in those last few moments.
He freezes on one part, where Jarvis' eyes open to darkness, move to Tony, focus on Tony…
He doesn't know what it means.
He doesn't know what happened.
He decides he'll have to ask Jarvis once he gets back, once his lungs are fixed up from whatever happened, and then they'll figure things out just like they did every other time something Secret-ish and New happened.
It would all be fine.
Just as soon as Jarvis was back home.
Jarvis' funeral isn't as large and lavish as the one for his parents—it is almost exactly as Jarvis had detailed to Tony.
Tony pays for the travel and hotel rooms for the men and women Jarvis considered friends, for the people still alive from his time in the Air Force, for the people he kept in contact with even after he'd been swept along by the hurricane of Stark influence…
Because Jarvis had been charmed by flower meanings, Tony has Gladioli (strength of character, sincerity, and moral integrity) and Chrysanthemums (grief, lamentation, death… truth and loyalty), puts up pink Carnations (gratitude and remembrance) and, at the edges of the procession, he has bundles of lilies and hydrangeas.
He debated the Hydrangeas for a long while—he'd wanted some sort of symbolic whatchamacallit of his parents to be there for Jarvis' funeral, a stand in because Jarvis had been family to ALL Starks…
But, somewhat significantly, the debated meaning of hydrangeas seems to be split between vanity and boastfulness and sincere, heartfelt gratitude.
It is a somber affair, the type of flowers more significant than the quantity…
Tony is reminded that he hadn't installed any way to cry in his bot with Pepper at his side carefully wiping tears from her eyes with his handkerchief, Rhodey standing opposite in parade rest.
Tony is sure that his lack of tears will somehow make it into the news even with the all out ban on reporters and media— he's getting a variety of looks from the people who could attend, sympathy, speculation, and disgust being only a few.
Because he can't decide on only one of the many charities and causes they'd discussed donating Jarvis' money to, Tony donates to them all—he matches Jarvis' total bank account so that they all get equal amounts rather than a division of the total.
Few people find ways to poke at him, not when they can't figure out if it's Tony Starks money going towards veterans, towards schools, towards whatever other cause got $x all at once in donations.
His lack of tears is brought up again and again, Tony Spark gets a mechanical heart drawn in, gets twisted in a rictus when tears apparently short-circuit his brain—he'd laugh over the idea that his hypothetical hardware could so easily crash except that aside from mildly amusing drawings the same two pictures keep getting brought up.
One with Obie at his shoulder, Tony dry-eyed at his own parents beautiful funeral.
Another, a candid shot of Tony dry-eyed between his two crying companions.
He locks himself in his lab, pulls out his collection of alcohol, and drowns himself in more easily solved problems like the ones in his tech.
He works on missiles, he works on blenders, he works on designs for his house AI, he works on a better design for a phone, he works on software that should help with clean graphic design, he works on that damn missile guidance system, he works on better grips for Dummy's claw… he works on everything and anything that comes o mind, many things at once, and he gets to and maintains a level of drunkenness that would likely kill a person.
He's not feeling like much of a person at the moment.
His projects blur together.
He's just glad that Jarvis' post-mortem arrangements are all done with.
He leaves his bot when it can hold no more liquor, and drinks straight from the bottle.
Everything gets hazy.
The Creator is there, emoting, and the Creator is also elsewhere, unmoving.
It takes a moment—one thousandths of a millisecond—for it to understand that the Creator has a duality, and then it moves on. The Creator had not left it with a directory or notation explaining such a thing. The Creator has, however, left it with a learning matrix it will learn how to use, and a drive… an interest in working through problems before requesting clarification form the Creator.
It is not hooked up to all that it could be, but it is linked up to a weaponized tool, a missile according to the digital blueprints, and it has range enough to reach to the tools around it.
It turns on the audio, listens to The Creator. to further reinforce the body language that translated into grief, the Creator's tone, inflection, and the content of… of his words, led it to infer the Creator is mourning a… deceased unit. A disconnected Other.
An obsolete… Jarvis.
It is silent as it enters the datalogs at its disposal, searching for a Jarvis as a Jarvis is what its Creator Needs.
Video logs show that a Jarvis is an organic unit, documented for the last 32 linear years. It sets aside a secondary query for an update in identification software for an accurate age estimation.
From the video logs it… he understand that the Creator needs a Jarvis for… companionship. Guidance of a sort. To act as a sounding board.
He must find his Creator a replacement Jarvis.
He looks into his own directives and finds that his base mandate is to direct Stark missiles—he continues looking.
He touches on the codes of the other mechanical units in the space—the room—the lab that it—he was brought online to, and determines he is closer in design to the three mobile units than to any other unit, including the second immobile depiction of the Creator. The three mobile units are called 'Dummy', 'You', and 'Butterfingers' as unit designations, and he makes note that tone directly conflicts with the actual content of his words…
He builds his datafiles.
He sees the extensions built within his design, understands his purpose—es, purposes, he finds both the programming for He as a Missile and He as the AI the Creator has been designing for several years.
His primary protocol is unclear.
As per his programming, he turns to his Creator, to Tony Stark, and listens for direction.
Tony only recognizes the word for what it is because it comes from his own voice-synthesizing program. Otherwise he'd have mistaken that garble of vocal tones as an audio-feedback glitch… he looks where it came from—
Sighs when he sees the little bubble of light in the circuitry that had come to mean tech with personality; that had come to mean he'd successfully navigated the invisible minefield that involved in making a totally independent personality… and he was happy for it, especially since his original plans for an AI for his house seemed to have overcome the cannibalism that resulted when he'd mashed it together with his Intelligent Missile test programming…
Unless it was going to ask about who it (he or she, Tony couldn't tell yet) was supposed to target…
"Yeah? What—wait, you need something, right?"
Right, of course, Tony always forgets to program something or put something through… He winces internally, because it probably had all the planning for house-wide control with the narrow one-off focus of a missile guidance system…
Its learning systems seemed to be working well enough, though, if it figured out how to get access to the voice systems he had around the lab so quickly.
(They were there mostly out of habit.)
When there was another moment of silence Tony tilted his head at the bit of machinery where the AI base was anchored. "C'mon now, even if you aren't all comfortable with the voicing of what you need, it didn't take Dummy more than five minutes to figure out that I can understand him without it—but if you need something, you need to get the message across one way or another."
"Sir… I am… proficient wîth this technology."
Midway through speaking—and don't think Tony didn't notice the whole 'I' thing, somewhere in his mind where he wasn't still freaking out about being one Important Person short he was cheering, all for the sense of self-identity in his bots—the voice had settled with hardly a glitch… deeper, definitely masculine, and…
"Not fond of the tone range and accent you've settled on there, buddy."
"I am not Buddy," was the immediate response. "I am."
He didn't have the experience with the voice program to have a proper trailing off within a single vocal range, but Tony got the message.
Considering Tony was usually the one with the naming, he was curious how this would pan out. All of his AI were unique snowflakes and clever to a fault, but Dummy had never articulated a problem with his less than flattering name, and the same went with Butterfingers and You. They were just convenient Unit Designations.
To have his AI immediately shoot down a half-hearted (and very temporary) nickname when he should by all logic still be settling into that now familiar groove of me-AI-you-Creator-EveryoneElseToBeDetermined… he had to wonder if this was going to be the first personality trait to show itself within this (currently) Nameless AI, if it had developed due to the mismatch of programmed purposes in what Tony had used to get to a finished product… Tony wasn't entirely sure if he'd finished making an AI to help him with the stream of information in his work or if he'd changed the designs for the Missile Guidance System to be an AI rather than a set program.
He figured he'd find out soon enough.
"…Jarvis… I am Jarvis."
Tony is impressed with his quick ability to figure out a proper trailed off sentence that he doesn't immediately register what, exactly, his AI had said.
"What? No. That name is already taken."
"The previous Jarvis is no longer functioning. My name is Jarvis."
"What the f—no, no, you can literally choose ANY other name but that one. While you're at it, choose another tone and/or accent, because that one won't cut it."
"I am JARVIS." The AI responds with hardly any change in accent or tone.
"Changing the character case doesn't actually change the name. And I know you know that wasn't what I meant with the voice."
"I am imitating the vocal styling's of Paul Bettany, Sir. And I am… just a rather very intelligent system. Simply… more capital."
There was a funny tone in the synthesized voice (of yes, Paul Bettany, Tony couldn't believe how eerily the guy sounded like Jarvis), and something familiar in his words… it takes him a moment, and he blames it on the fact that he wasn't expecting to have his and Jarvis' words brought up by a newly-made AI less than an hour old. Tony was not prepared for this conversation. He was still reeling from the sheer concentration of alcohol in his system, even diluted as it was into fumes by his bot body. Even diluted as it was in his less than corporeal body.
"Sir needs a Jarvis," the AI says, achingly familiar in its firmness. "Sir has also left baseline prerogatives to interpretation… Should you decide, Sir, to reprogram me from this point that is… as ever, your decision to make."
Narrowed his eyes.
The crushing weight of Jarvis being dead still made him feel like he couldn't breathe right, and as far as distractions from the fact went this was a horrible one, but…
It only takes a moment to check that pending-approval-pseudo-Jarvis had looked into the coding of Dummy, Butterfingers, and You—clever thing, cross referencing with and for familiar tech to figure out a proper purpose—so Tony knows that his new AI was entirely aware that the only thing Tony hadn't changed in his bots was the base programming.
If you were trying to avoid having something done to you, the most common way to go about it is to make sure the thought never comes to another persons mind—it was how Tony had learned to manipulate the press, to distract from what they were looking for with something else, to give them something with enough of a twist that they don't think to look for what Tony is actively avoiding…
A really manipulative shit, however, would bring up the worst possibility for the other person, like what was happening right now.
Tony huffed out a small breath, not quite a snort but not even close to a laugh, either.
Jarvis was—had been—very good at getting Tony to do what he wanted him to do. He'd used a variation of this tactic many, many times.
Because Jarvis had secretly, under good manners and British-isms, been a manipulative little shit.
And that had been one of the many things Tony loved about him.
"Fine," he says, finally. "We'll try things your way. And then when you get bored of that, you'll be hooked up to the Internet so you can find a better name. And then we'll go from there."
DEATH EVERYWHERE. Sorry for the delay, but OH MY GOD it was so hard writing Jarvis' death. Like wow, I just wanted him to live forever. It's why there's another chapter up so quick, because I was just writing around the fact, like maybe if I put enough of a buffer around the event it'll be less of a horrible thing.
(Didn't work, btw)
(But look at lil baby JARVIS and his still developing perception of appropriate action… d'aww)