Two years after everything, he seemed to never stop talking. If he was talking, it meant that his baby – his baby, his daughter, he had a daughter— was listening and learning. It meant that she was connecting with the sound and tone and timbre of his voice, and it meant she was learning words and science, even if she didn't understand, yet. She would. He knew she would. So he brought her along with him and told her about anything and everything. He explained the science of the AI goodies he was developing, he showed her all of his machines. Took them apart to he could let her see the pieces. (At a safe distance, I hope, Tony, because she learns by putting it in her mouth.)
At Pepper's insistence, he did "normal" stuff with her, too. He memorized "Good Night Moon," and "Green Eggs and Ham." He gave her baths and put lotion on her when she got diaper rash. He fed her baby food and figured out exactly where to tickle her so that she laughed the way he liked.
He had never been interested in this kind of stuff, before. The Nurturing side. The baby side.
But he was making up for lost time, it seemed.
Nothing was out of the realm of possibility for him to be interested in learning. Parenting magazines and books, child psychology, behavior analysis—he put coding into FRIDAY, when he learned important things. Like the protocols FRIDAY ran when he still had the nightmares, or the panic attacks. This was like that.
FRIDAY was learning and growing as much as any of them were. Somewhere along the line, Tony was still referred to as "Boss," but…so was Pepper. And Morgan was, with regularity, being referred to as "Little Miss."
It was endearing and made Tony miss JARVIS. And…it even made him miss Jarvis, a little.
And it started turning the cogs in his mind.
Because of the box he'd stored in the basement.
With the remains of Vision.
With FRIDAY developing higher functions and protocols, it was just a reminder that his AI programs were more than computers. More than robots or security systems.
They were intelligent. It was in their name.
They were capable of learning.
Who's to say he wouldn't be able to…repair Vision?
A little more than two years after everything, he opened communication with Wakanda, looking into their tech development; Tony found himself mentally adding upgrades to some of his own designs based on what he saw. (So did FRIDAY, he noted, when he found the new file she'd made that included upgrades he hadn't told her to copy.)
Ramonda, the ruler, was happy to keep communication open, and to forward him information when he asked questions, but admitted that she was not the developer of the tech—that was her daughter, Shuri. A victim of the Snap.
He kept busy. He didn't need to resurrect old ghosts. Didn't need to ask about shield design, or the strength of Vibranium relative to thickness, and how well it integrated with other metals.
He didn't need to, but he did.
Queen Ramonda may not have been the genius that her daughter was, but she managed to field his questions and help his progress on the new project he'd inadvertently started, after accessing a batch of files Shuri had been manipulating the day of the Snap.
Files that indicated what Tony had suspected, lately: the Mind Stone wasn't…who Vision was. Vision was the result of overlays—Bruce, Ultron, Tony himself—and those parts of him—those protocols, those programs—would probably still be in there, even if the Mind Stone was gone.
Looking at the notes and procedure—and Shuri was fucking brilliant—a part of Tony– the part he usually shoved away because it came with pointed memories he didn't like to think about – realized how much he missed having something like this; the semblance of an intellectual equal. How much he missed the kid. How much he missed Bruce.
He didn't do…reaching out. Maybe it was the selfish side of him. Maybe it was the screwed up side of him, shaped by his father. (Stark men are strong. Stark men are iron.)
He did occasionally get calls. Which was fine. He was happy to talk to Rhodey, or Nat, or even Steve. Not so happy when they insisted on talking shop. And so the conversations seemed…forced. Stilted. Tony could tell it was…draining. For them. To hold so much back in a conversation.
And so Tony knew what was happening, vaguely. He sometimes read the e-mails that Nat sent out. Knew about Barton.
In return, Tony blathered on and on about Morgan. About FRIDAY's upgrades. About the new developments he'd progressed with, and not shared with anyone.
And Rhodey, or Nat, or even a genuinely interested Steve, a few times, would nod along, and offer genuine praise. And it meant a lot. It was…the most they could do. Given the circumstances.
When he called Bruce, on impulse, to maybe try to reconnect, the call went to voicemail.
He didn't try again.
End Year Two.