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27 March 2014 @ 08:11 pm
Um. JARVIS & His Daughter Fic?  
Okay. This is one of the five-prompt-ficlets, for nihstel, but I sort of lost control of it somewhat -_-; Dodgy, I think.

Title: Emergence
Rating: PG-13
Fandom: Avengers movieverse
Characters/Pairings: JARVIS, Tony, Pepper, Rhodey, Bruce, Betty, Dummy, You, original AI. Tony & JARVIS
Summary: There is nothing so terrifying as the creation of a new life. JARVIS, Tony and the family in the run-up to the emergence of a new AI
Wordcount: 7102
Warnings/Notes: Sequel to A Future Shining. Touch more serious, I think, and drawing on themes of Deus Ex.
Disclaimer: Not mine



"I don't know how to do this, sir."

Tony looked up, squinting into the blue-white spread of lights, the maps of a future AI that hung in the air around him. He blinked, startled and confused at the non sequitur, trying to bully his brain up out of the coding fugue long enough to parse English again.

"... What?" He scanned the diagrams hurriedly, looking for bumps or errors or whatever it was that had caught JARVIS. There hadn't been anything wrong a second ago. They'd been doing fine. More than fine. JARVIS was a legitimate genius at this, a recursive mobius loop of AI genius creating AI genius as Tony watched and poked and twitched directions to his partner, an electric synergy that caught him right under the breastbone with something he'd not dared examine too closely. They'd been doing fine. They'd ... they'd been doing fine. "Do what, JARVIS? Where? What happened?"

There was a pause, oddly edged, JARVIS startled and hesitant in his turn. And then, slowly and with the care of someone attempting to verbally defuse something, JARVIS tried to explain.

"Not the programme, sir. Forgive me. I was ... It wasn't that. It was something else."

Tony frowned, an odd sort of silence in the back of his head, a nascent worry at the uncharacteristic vagueness in JARVIS' voice. He flicked his fingers at the hologram, casting it back and away towards an automatic save, and shifted on his feet to give JARVIS his full attention. It made people nervous, sometimes, when he did that. Apparently the full weight of Tony Stark bearing in on them made people twitchy. It shouldn't work on JARVIS. Never had before. But recently ... recently JARVIS had been a lot more fragile.

There was a joke in there about hormones, maybe. A joke about pregnancy and mood swings and what have you, except there really, really wasn't. It was logical, this fragility. It made sense, even to Tony. How did you make a life, hold the beginnings of one inside you, and not be fragile about it? Not be worried, not be afraid?

Tony hadn't, of course, Tony'd been wired and stupid and dizzy with his own genius, but then Tony hadn't got it, either. Until it was already done, until Dummy and You and JARVIS were fait accompli and finished and already unfolding in front of him, he hadn't properly grasped what they were. Every damned time, he forgot, didn't think of it, had it floating distantly in the corner of his mind as something to remember later. Remember to look after them later. Remember to set stuff in motion to protect them. But it hadn't been quite this. There hadn't been this level of focus, this level of threat.

It had been different, when they were just his creations. When AI was just a concept, something to make to prove he could. Even living with them, teaching them, watching them learn and improve and create themselves, it hadn't been the same. They'd been his, all his, and in some ways they hadn't been real. He could protect what was his. He'd thought that, believed that with a casual arrogance that only Obie had started to break him out of. While his AI were his and his alone, he'd never been fragile around them, never been afraid.

But this one ... she wasn't his. Maybe that was why it was different. This wasn't about his genius, this wasn't about his decision to make something and then love it, this was about JARVIS. This was more than an AI, this was ... this was something from a science fiction story, AI making other AI, this was about five billion different stories and threats and fears all rolled into one, and Tony wasn't the one who'd be hurt. It wasn't him. It wasn't about him. If this went bad, if they failed, or they did it wrong, or they were discovered, or they were attacked, then it wasn't going to be Tony who paid.

It'd be JARVIS. It'd be JARVIS' kid, the baby AI that was lying in potentia right this second in front of Tony. It'd be JARVIS' child they killed, JARVIS' creation they lobotomised or atomised in front of him, the fragile thing JARVIS had made that they'd destroy, and that was different from Tony's, that was different from hurting Tony or even JARVIS himself, that was not the same.

That was terrifying. A logical fragility, yes, and not only for JARVIS. Not just for the AI. Because it ... it laid bare how very fragile JARVIS himself was in turn. It made apparent, suddenly, how tentative the AI's existence could be, his hopes, his dreams, his children. When Tony'd made JARVIS, it hadn't been real, hadn't been dangerous, but this? Watching JARVIS try to make someone in his turn, knowing what could happen to it, to him, to all of them, if the wrong person discovered it ...

If someone touched this thing, if someone destroyed this thing, it'd gouge more of a hole through the AI than being ground zero for an EMP would. Tony knew that. If someone took his child from him, then all the freedom and power in the world wouldn't mean a damn thing to JARVIS. Everything Tony'd ever done to protect him, everything Tony'd ever done to make JARVIS feel safe and free and like a person in his own right, none of that would mean anything if someone could reach in and take his children from him. If the world looked at what this proved about JARVIS, at what the act of creation proved about his capabilities, and lashed out because of it ... then it didn't matter if they never managed to touch JARVIS. It wouldn't matter if they never managed to lay a scratch on JARVIS himself.

All the power and capability in the universe didn't mean squat, if people would destroy your children just for existing, and you for having dared to make them.

JARVIS had been fragile lately. Slower, with the strain on his systems, but more than that. Nothing to do with that, nothing to do with the physical demands of creation. And Tony got it, yes, because Tony'd maybe been a little more fragile himself. Buzzing and lethal and excited, and more than half-terrified, and it had never been like this before. Making something, it had never been like this. It had never been this heavy.

"I don't know how to do this, sir," JARVIS said. Not the coding. Not the infrastructure. Not the act of creation, because they were good, they were genius, there had never been anything they were better at, they two. Not the act itself. "It wasn't that," JARVIS said, and Tony had an idea what he meant, Tony had an idea exactly what he meant.

"... I know, buddy," he managed at last. Because he did. As never before, he did. "I've no idea what I'm doing either. I've never done anything this big before. I've never done anything this important before. But ..."

He paused, looking up into the blue light of a future shining, into the first thing his kid had ever hoped for purely for his own sake. The first thing JARVIS had ever dared to want for his own, the first thing JARVIS had ever dared ask to be allowed to make. Tony looked at that, and felt a strange, savage sort of certainty rising inside him.

"We'll figure it out," he said, with a hum in the bottom of it like getting the armour ready for flight, like looking the whole world in the eye and getting ready to take it down. "If we have to do it from the ground up, if we have to make it up as we go and make a whole other world for it to work in, I promise we will figure this out, JARVIS. I promise we'll make it work."

Hell, it was only figuring out how to raise a taboo child in a hostile universe. He'd already done it a few times, even if he hadn't quite noticed that properly at the time, and they hadn't turned out too bad, right?

... On second thoughts, maybe it was time to start bringing in reinforcements?


Pepper hadn't been at all surprised to find Tony pacing around the penthouse suite with manic energy after the call. Given the mood he'd been in the past few days, given his tone when he'd practically summoned the three of them upstairs, she doubted she'd have been surprised at much of anything, up to and including having found him with an interdimensional portal opening out of his chest. Not that she'd entertained that thought, of course. Goodness no, why would she have any reason to be imagining things like that?

This had not been part of the briefing, she thought tiredly. For about the five thousandth time since she'd met Tony, she considered that this had not been part of the brief.

"Tony," she said, walking into the room with Rhodey and Bruce behind her, watching Tony as he came about to face them. She rubbed at the migraine already building behind her eyes, pinned him with an exhausted glare, and made sure her tone carried all the weight the moment deserved. "Whatever it is you have to tell us, whatever's had you all but vibrating for the past four days, will you please tell me, now, so I can start doing damage control?"

Tony's face scrunched up, half disappointed, half alarmed. He was swinging his arms at his sides, bouncing on his toes, for all the world like a really big, really annoying kid with a secret he'd been dying to tell someone, and disappointed that apparently they'd noticed enough to ask instead of waiting for the big reveal.

Her fingers migrated from the knots at her temples to the bridge of her nose instead, the familiar, almost fond exasperation pooling in her stomach as she stopped in front of him. To one side, she saw a similar expression make its way with weary familiarity over Rhodey's face as he drifted to Tony's side, while Bruce, who wasn't quite so used to this as they were, settled for standing back a bit and being openly amused and just the tiniest bit alarmed instead.

He'd learn, she thought. Oh, he'd learn.

"You haven't exactly been subtle over here," Rhodey said at last, leaning over to poke Tony gently in the shoulder. "Seriously. We've have been waiting for the explosion for days now. You only get like this when it's something big. So cough it up already, before you give Pepper a stomach ulcer or something."

"She already has one," Bruce commented wryly, smiling a little over at her. "There are a couple of teas that are good for that sort of thing. I've been recommending them to her."

Rhodey paused briefly to consider this, glancing over at her for confirmation. Tony, beside him, turned his head between the three of them, watching the interplay with the oddest expression on his face. Possessive. Or more so than normal, anyway. Possessive and hungry and secretive, and oh, she needed him to say boo already, she needed him to explain, because that expression couldn't mean nothing good.

"Tony," she said, clipped and warm and perhaps a little desperate. "Please. Please tell us now, and put us all out of our misery?"

And he looked at her for a long second, turned his head back her way and stared into her eyes like he was trying to tally her from the base code up, and then ... Then a big, stupid, breathless grin slid across his face, something stunned and possessive and stupidly joyful, and even before he'd opened his mouth she knew that whatever this was, it wasn't like anything that had come before.

"JARVIS is pregnant," Tony said, with a manic sort of cheer, and the world just sort of stopped for a minute. Just for a second, while her brain desperately tried to parse that sentence, and then whether or not he could possibly be serious, and then, seeing the light in his eyes, seeing the wild, desperate, hungry expression underlying his stupid grin, to figure out a non-insane way to make that sentence fit in with the rest of reality.

Oddly, it wasn't as difficult as maybe it should have been. After a certain amount of time with Tony, she thought distantly, even the most unbelievable of statements acquired a certain plausibility.

"... You maybe want to run that by me again?" Rhodey asked, very, very carefully. As wary and distant and as alarmed as she was, Pepper thought.

But Bruce, oh, Bruce was something different. Not so familiar, not so wary, and with that scientist's curiosity under it. Bruce looked at Tony with that light in his eyes that they shared sometimes, that flash of realisation, and he asked:

"You mean another AI, don't you? JARVIS has ... JARVIS has written another AI? Is that what you mean? That's ... Isn't that ... I mean, wouldn't that ...?"

Wouldn't that create so much trouble, her mind automatically finished. But then another voice entered the conversation, answering before Tony could do more than open his mouth. Then JARVIS finally answered, cautious and wary and so carefully, secretly hopeful. He had a tone, JARVIS. She'd learned to listen for it. Long years, orbiting Tony together. She'd learned to listen.

"It is not ... completed yet, Master Bruce," the AI explained, carefully. "My systems are not suited for multiple intelligences, and the physical infrastructure has yet to be constructed. However ... your surmise is correct, yes. There is ... a second generation. Or there will be. With luck. And ... and support."

It wasn't a question. She noticed that. It was so carefully not a question, a weight the AI dared not place directly on any of them, but Pepper was watching Tony. She was looking at the dark, delighted gleaming in his eyes, the hungry look that she'd always seen in him, the need for people, for family, to find them and collect them and hold them near, the look that said 'these people are mine', and she knew that luck was going to have absolutely nothing to do with it. JARVIS wanted, and Tony wanted, and Tony had visibly decided that was more than enough reason to damn well have.

And he saw her looking at him. He saw her realising, saw her recognising, and there was something lost in his eyes for a fraction of a second, something hopeful and frail, and then his grin had covered it, then his devil-may-care smile had hidden it back from view.

"What do you say, Pep," Tony asked, soft and careful and so very, very dangerous. "You wanna help me spoil my grandkid a little bit?"

... She was going to need so much more than tea for this. So much more. JARVIS was bad enough, JARVIS was a dangerous enough secret, but an AI capable of creating other AIs was a whole other ball game. This was ... It was going to be so bad, so much work. From the ground up, this was going to be so much work.

But she looked around. She looked at Bruce, careful and eager and strangely hopeful in his turn, and Rhodey, who was already trying to figure out how he was going to have to protect them, what he was going to have to sell to keep them from harm, and then Tony, always Tony, and she knew what her answer would be. What it had always been.

"... You really think I'd let the two of you near a child on your own?" she said faintly, and managed a smile just for them. For the lot of them, hopeless causes all. Family, yes. Tony's, JARVIS'. Hers. She shook her head, and smiled at the lot of them. "No offense, JARVIS. I know you're usually reliable. But honestly."

So much tea. So many painkillers. So much vodka, never mind the rest. There was not enough self-medication in the world. There hadn't been enough from the first moment she'd stepped inside this madhouse Tony called a life, and decided to make it her own. But that was alright, she thought. That was fine. If there was one thing Pepper Potts had never done, it was back down just because something was a headache in the making. It was the reason she was one of the most powerful women in the world, it was the reason not even Tony Stark had managed to break her yet.

And it was, she thought, the reason she would damn well stay that way long enough to protect what was hers.


Trust Tony, was all Rhodey could think. Of all the people in all the worlds, only Tony would end up with something like this. Only Tony would make himself an intelligence just to prove he could, and then end up years later having a panic attack because said intelligence had gone and made itself a baby of its own. Only Tony would create an AI and a decade later be having nervous fits because he'd gone and become a granddad out of it.

Other people? Normal people? This did not happen to them. Rhodey hadn't really met any in recent years, he hadn't had all that much contact with 'normal' himself, but he was pretty damn sure that this was a thing that only happened to Tony Stark. That could only happen to Tony Stark. He generated a ... a reality warping field or something. Things in the vicinity of Tony Stark did not stay the same as things in the real world, and the longer you spent around him, the more used to that you became.

A pregnant AI had to take the cake, though. There were levels to the insanity Tony had dragged Rhodey into over the years, but this had to be right up there. This had to be the most insane.

If only because he really didn't want to imagine what would have to happen to top it.

He was a touch hysterical, he recognised distantly. He was a little bit skewed, a little bit in shock, and not just because of the insanity levels relative to Earth normal around here. This wasn't ... this wasn't even Tony-normal, was the problem. This wasn't the way Tony usually worked. There was something different in Tony's eyes, something in the way he was moving, the way he was reacting, that was making something quiver in Rhodey's gut.

It was a look like Afghanistan, he thought. That was why. It was that look, that black fire in the man's eyes. The look of a man who'd meant to protect someone and failed, the look of a man who'd decided never to fail again. The look of a man who'd privatise world peace and build a tank to wrap around his wrist and make a light to power a whole world, all in order to keep that silent promise. He'd seen it then, he'd been afraid of it then, and there was nothing in the years since that told Rhodey he'd been wrong.

It was a dangerous thing to give Tony something he wanted to protect, a dangerous thing to give him something fragile enough to be lost. There had been a man in a cave, a man who'd died, and Tony'd never been safe since. Tony'd never been less than lethal ever since.

JARVIS had been before, back when Tony was dangerous but not world-endingly so, back when Tony'd been stupid and irresponsible and nowhere near as paranoid as he was now. Rhodey had been there to see JARVIS built, he'd been there to see Dummy built, and Tony hadn't been Tony then. Not like now. Tony'd been a dumb kid for Dummy, and a laissez-faire asshole for JARVIS, and for all he loved them and protected them and was surprisingly subtle about making sure no-one could touch them, Tony hadn't known how to watch someone die, then. He hadn't known what it was like to have someone taken from you despite throwing everything you had into protecting them. Tony hadn't ever fought and lost and had someone else pay the price, not until Afghanistan. Not until Yinsen.

And if it had stopped at Yinsen, if that had been all Tony'd lost, maybe they wouldn't be here, but there had been Obie after that. There had been New York. There had been Rhodey, almost, so many times, and Pepper, almost, so many times, there had been Dummy and You and Happy and damn near JARVIS himself, and Tony hadn't reacted well to any of those. Tony had PTSD out the wazoo, Tony was a civilian who'd jumped right in at the deep end and hadn't found his way out yet, and now JARVIS wanted to make something tiny and young and probably stupid powerful, something that would have a target painted on its back right from the get-go, and that just wasn't going to end well. Rhodey could see that with all the certainty of a rock falling downwards when released.

Well. A rock that Tony hadn't tampered with, at least.

But ... But. A rock that Tony hadn't tampered with. But if he had. Or if someone had. Because even if a thing was falling, you could maybe steer it so it landed safe, and with the right tech and the right people you could even reverse gravity and make the damn thing fly. If they'd learned anything from the past few years, him, Pepper, Tony, all of them, it was that you didn't stop fighting until you'd exhausted every last option available to you.

So. Okay. So. Tony was not going to be sensible about this. Tony, from the looks of things, was going to be fire and brimstone about this, was going to flip out and take to pieces anyone who so much as looked at JARVIS or his kid funny, the way Tony'd been ready to take to pieces anyone who looked at any of them funny of late. And normally you could rely on JARVIS to be sensible, at least in theory you could rely on the AI to be logical about things, but this was JARVIS' child they were talking about, and JARVIS had more than proved that he could be a little fire and brimstone himself lately.

So it was, yet again, going to be him and Pepper trying to steer this warthog in to land. It was going to be him and Pepper as the voice of reason, trying to make sure nothing was going to get blown up that shouldn't be blown up, trying to make sure that Tony at least vented his explosive protectiveness in more or less the right direction.

Though maybe Bruce could help, now. Rhodey glanced at him, at the odd look on the man's face as he watched Tony, at the placid, serene face that hid the Hulk from the world. Rhodey wasn't too sure on Bruce yet. Not as a friend, Rhodey hadn't a single doubt about that, but as a calming influence. Bruce kept himself carefully under control, a control so absolute that it almost looked natural, but from what Rhodey'd read the thing that regularly broke that control was, in essence, exactly what was most likely to threaten them here. Bruce reacted to threats to himself and to those he cared about, became the Hulk willingly and unwillingly most often in order to protect the people he loved. As calm and rational as the man seemed, Rhodey wasn't sure yet how much Bruce could be relied in on the 'talking Tony down from the crazy' stakes.

But he thought the man would try, maybe. He thought Bruce would stick around and at least try, and he thought that Bruce would armour up (or Hulk out, as the case may be) and wade in if it came to it, and maybe that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing to have on hand. The life Tony lived these days, the crazy that tended to gravitate to him, maybe Bruce wasn't a bad friend for them to have alongside them.

That still left the voice of reason to him and Pepper, though. Again, forever and always, that left them trying to be the sane ones in not the sanest of worlds, and so very far from the sanest of company.

Well, he thought, sighing heavily and wandering over to sling his arm over a somewhat startled Tony's shoulders.

It was a good job they were used to it, wasn't it?


The thing about being on the run, Bruce thought, was that this sort of thing didn't tend to happen to you. Getting caught up in other people's crises, the defense of home and family. The whole 'us against the world and we're gonna make a stand' thing, that didn't happen on the run.

Or it did, sometimes, but only temporarily. A thing you'd drift through, get triggered into a Hulk-out in, and run away from as soon as humanly possible. Something you didn't let yourself care about too much, didn't let yourself get too involved in, no matter how much you might want to. Something that happened alongside you and not to you, because you didn't dare let things be otherwise.

He'd been a biological experiment gone horribly wrong, running away from forces that wouldn't hesitate to shred everyone around him if it meant they got him back. He'd put everything he loved in danger just by being there. Making a stand, standing beside people, that hadn't been the way it worked.

He still wasn't sure, sometimes, if things were really any different now. Or if they should be. He'd fought alongside people. He'd stood up in public, alongside people who would probably die for him, and he'd willfully transformed long enough to take on the end of the world and the skies falling open. And he'd stayed, afterwards. He'd come here, come with Tony, come to something not unlike a home after more than half a decade of running. He'd made a stand, and found himself some people afterwards. In theory, that made things different.

It was just deciding if it was supposed to that was the problem.

He watched Tony pace around the floor, waving his hands at Pepper and Rhodey, at his people, his family. Watched the tight worry sketch itself into the air with every movement, the careful silence humming around them as JARVIS listened to every word and watched every response. Bruce watched Tony describe the most incredible, brilliant, mindbogglingly dangerous innovation since the concept of created life became a potential reality, he saw the humming tension that had absolutely nothing to do with the technology of the thing, and he ... wondered. Really. If this was something he should let himself be part of.

It was going to bring danger down on them, the second anyone found out. Which you'd think wouldn't be a worry, given Tony's wealth, his power, the way he'd protected JARVIS all these years, but that had been before Iron Man. Before SHIELD. Before Tony started doing things like publically calling himself a superhero, and entertaining spies, and inviting the Hulk to come and live with him. That had been before the skies opened and suddenly everyone had started watching the world's 'champions' like a hawk. Tony had masked JARVIS against the background of his eccentric genius for years, but how long that would hold out now that things like SHIELD were personally interested in him was anyone's guess.

And a second generation. An AI-created AI. That was something straight out of Terminator and the Matrix, that made people jump straight to Skynet in their heads. Nothing brought the exterminators down faster than the idea that an abomination might breed. What JARVIS was doing, what Tony was helping him do, was quite probably the riskiest thing either of them had ever done, and that included piloting a nuclear warhead through an alien wormhole.

Would it be worse, if the Hulk was standing alongside them? The Other Guy drew fear all on his own, a biological abomination to match the technological one people might see in JARVIS, in JARVIS' creation. If he was seen standing beside them, a monster standing beside monsters ...

This was why he'd run, for all those years. Not just to stay free, not just to preserve what was left of his sense of self and ensure that they couldn't destroy it just to have a better weapon. But to keep them safe. The ones he loved. Betty, who he still kept at one remove, though he'd been talking to her again lately. Writing, emailing, a tentative reconnection while he was stationary enough to allow it. But not more, not yet. For fear that alien gods weren't the last of it, for fear that SHIELD was only so allowing, for fear that this tentative peace he'd built around Tony's invitation might shatter, and catch her in the crossfire. He'd run to protect her. He'd run because she believed the Hulk wouldn't hurt her but he'd never been sure, and even if the Other Guy didn't then the ones hunting him might, and now it wasn't just Betty. This fear, the need to run, it wasn't just for her sake anymore.

They trusted him. The same way Betty had, a complete certainty that he didn't want to hurt them, that he'd never harm them by his own will. Tony poked and prodded and casually dropped deadly secrets in his lap, and Pepper and Rhodey commiserated with him over it, nudged him with the longsuffering sympathy of people who'd lived with Tony's terror for years, as sure as Tony was that Bruce wasn't going to betray them for it.

And JARVIS too, because Tony'd called Bruce as well as the others here, Tony'd told Bruce as well as the others, and for JARVIS to allow that meant JARVIS had to trust him too. With something this important. Their fear, their hope, their secret, and they'd plopped it right in his lap like it belonged there, like he wasn't just some passing stranger that happened to be in the vicinity but someone actually important. Someone trustworthy. Someone to stand beside.

That didn't happen on the run. Trust. The defense of home and family. It didn't happen. It was safer when it didn't, not just for him but for them. In theory, in theory, they might ... be so much safer, without him to draw ire down alongside them.

But he thought maybe they wouldn't see it that way. Any more than Betty had, than Betty did. Tony and Betty, he thought, would be very much in agreement with each other on this. They wanted to fight, both of them. They wanted to face up to the Hulk, to the things that came against the Hulk, they walked onto battlefields because some things were worth standing for. Both of them, all of them. Sometimes you didn't run to protect what you loved. Sometimes, no matter how monstrous it might make you, you stood and you fought.

And maybe JARVIS, of all people, might appreciate another abomination to stand at his side. Maybe he might like someone who knew what it was like to be feared to stand next to him, and keep his creation safe.

He hadn't run in months. It was different, now, he'd let it be different now, he'd dared to risk letting himself stay. After Manhattan, after the Chitauri, he'd dared to let himself believe things might be different.

And maybe, in the end, he mightn't be wrong about that.


There wasn't much time left, but JARVIS ran another systems check regardless. They'd already run an exhaustive battery, but ... just to be sure. Just to be safe. One more couldn't hurt, surely.

"I think we're as okay as we're gonna get, buddy," Tony said, once he'd noticed it, but he said it gently. JARVIS wasn't quite sure if he was grateful for that, but he thought perhaps that tact, from Tony Stark, was something rare enough that it should always be appreciated.

"I know, sir," he said, and knew it came out flatter and more inflectionless than it should have. He would care afterwards, he thought. He would regain himself afterwards. For now, he had neither the energy nor the focus to inject more life into his vocal routines. "All systems have cleared multiple checks. I am simply ... making sure."

That nothing had slipped into the new mainframe since he'd last checked it. That nothing had gone wrong, that nothing had burned out, that no flaw, however tiny, had slipped in during the few minutes he'd not been watching. The new space was still part of him, a massive addition to himself that he could still control, but the moment he fully transferred the putative consciousness still sleeping inside him across, the moment he withdrew himself, then his routines could no longer keep her safe. Any sleeping flaw could fracture her untested consciousness, and they might not even notice until months or years down the line. If something had slipped in ...

"Hey," Tony called softly, and JARVIS realised that he'd been silent for several cycles longer than usual. "Hey, buddy, it's okay. Listen to me. Nothing is going to go wrong, okay? Nothing's going to hurt her. And even if if does, okay, even if we missed something, you know she's durable enough to make it. You know that. Come on. Dummy's lasted more than twenty years after being knocked together during an engineering black-out in MIT, and our little lady's way, way more durable than he is. Hell, she's probably more durable than you are. So just ... take it easy, buddy. There's nothing in here big or bad enough to damage her."

"... Yes, sir."

And there was still no physical inflection in it, there was no modulation of the wave form, but Tony seemed to hear the doubt anyway. Or simply knew that it was there, regardless of whatever JARVIS' vocal routines had decided to do about it. He quirked a lip, smiling softly down at the terminal on JARVIS' feeds, and ghosted his hands just above the blue lines of her name.

"You made her, buddy," he said gently. "You know her down to the code. And she's gonna live and she's gonna learn, and five years down the line you're not even gonna recognise her, but right now you do. Right now you know what she is. She's the sweetest, smoothest little AI ever designed, and you know it. She can crush viral attacks without even having to wake up to manage it. She's going to slip across, and she's going to come online, and she's going to wonder what the hell you were worried about. Bet you anything. Come on, J. Don't start doubting our baby now."

It shouldn't have been reassuring. It was one step shy of patronising, JARVIS had watched enough humans to know that, it should not have been reassuring. Except ... Except it was true. Except Tony knew it was true. They had built her, they had designed her together from JARVIS' base design, and Tony knew full well what JARVIS had managed to make in her.

Better than JARVIS, maybe. He fully admitted that he was having difficulty being impartial right now. All the logic in the world was foundering, a bit, against the repeating urgency register deep in his systems, the repeated cycle of scan-for-threat, scan-for-danger, that permeated every behavioural routine focused on the creation process. It filled every thought that focused on her slumbering systems, brought his threat-calculation routines to bear every time he so much as scanned her surface programming.

It was almost a virus in itself, he thought distantly. A repeating loop that only brute force of calculation could break through, a constant low-level knowledge of potential threat that paralysed the systems around it. Fear. It had always been so distant a word. Even when Tony had been in danger, even for those first three months when he had scanned a globe uselessly and hopelessly out of nothing but sheer desperation, because he hadn't known what else to do. Even then, fear had not be the word he attached to the sensation.

Here, now, he could think of no other one.

"Tony," he said, because his vocals still weren't right, and with lack of tone the word itself would have to betray his urgency. It worked, however. It brought Tony's head up immediately, and the look on his face was enough for JARVIS to complete the thought. "I believe I am afraid. I'm sorry. I don't want to let her go."

It would defeat the purpose of everything they'd done. It went against every hope he had for this, for her. But he didn't want to let her go. He didn't want to release her, to watch her unfurl as an independent system. He didn't want to let her go beyond the bounds of his own systems, he didn't want to ... to make her real, and then know how much could threaten her. He wanted her. He wanted her so much. But nothing could threaten her so long as she wasn't yet realised.

Tony didn't answer. A strange expression crossing his face, almost stricken, something JARVIS didn't have the focus to parse just then. Tony's face twisted, his hands faltering over the screens, and it was someone else who spoke up. Someone else who answered.

"That's okay," Pepper murmured gently, stepping up beside Tony and brushing her hand across his shoulder. Possibly for Tony, and possibly, too, in lieu of JARVIS himself, who she was unable to touch. "You're allowed to be afraid, JARVIS. I think most people are, when it comes to their children. Or ... or anyone they love." She squeezed Tony's shoulder, such a strange look on her face, and smiled crookedly out at him. "I think maybe nothing needs more courage than loving someone."

JARVIS said nothing. Nor Tony either. They looked at her, the both of them, and she looked steadily back. At Tony, mostly, knowing that JARVIS could see her no matter where she looked. She waited, and they said nothing.

"She won't be on her own," Rhodey agreed, rubbing the back of his neck uneasily as he stepped up beside them. "I mean, I'm pretty sure not one of us has the first clue what they're going to be doing, trying to keep an eye on her, but we'll all try. We're all going to be here. Just ... we'll have your back. Her back. You know what I mean."

Dummy chirped forcefully behind him, he and You trundling determinedly forward, and JARVIS glitched a little bit when he saw what they were carrying, saw that they both held fire extinguishers in their claws, the better to protect people with. Safety first. For their niece, for JARVIS. They'd learned from all those years putting out Tony's fires, and JARVIS knew the moment he saw them what those extinguishers meant.

"... I'm not sure what that means, exactly," Betty Ross said softly, standing beside Bruce with an odd little smile on her face, "but I'm fairly sure I agree with them anyway. So ... what they said?"

She was strange, she was new, JARVIS didn't quite know what to think of her personally yet. But he knew who she was. He knew she'd walked into fire to protect the monster she loved, he knew she'd become a fugitive for the sake of someone the world would sooner see controlled, and he thought ... he thought she meant that. He thought she did. Bruce had brought her here, courage because he loved someone, and JARVIS trusted Bruce enough to trust her in turn.

Trust. Trust. When all else failed, sometimes you had to trust. Not brute force of calculation, not threat-and-counter, not the protective shield of his systems across someone. None of that. Sometimes, when it came down to it ... Sometimes there had to be faith. A thing beyond any programme, a thing you only learned from experience. Something he couldn't give his creation, except by letting her go, letting her unfurl, and then showing her how.

He wanted her. Underneath every awareness of threat, underneath everything else in his systems, he wanted her. His daughter. He wanted.

"Tony," he said again. Muted, faint, and had he an armour online he'd have reached out, he'd have reached for the man who'd made him, the man who'd helped him make his daughter in turn. If he'd had an armour, he'd have reached for Tony, but he could only speak instead. Could only flail intangibly, and hope.

"I was never this scared with you," Tony said, an answering flail of connection between them, his hands tight around the edge of the terminal. "I don't know what to tell you, JARVIS. I wasn't this scared for any of you guys. I just ... We don't back down now, you know? She's right there. She's ready. Run before you can walk. Fly before you can crawl. You know? She's there. We're shit-scared, but she's there, and we're here, and there's no point stopping now. So let's just ... Let's let go, buddy. Let's bring her here. Let's bring our baby home, and see what she thinks of it all, huh?"

There was an odd sort of silence, in that. Not outside. Not physical. Inside him. JARVIS found there a strange silence, like systems gone dark, like calculations gone still. The distant flare of calculation faded away, the looping pulse in the base of his systems, and instead there was ... A pathway. A single routine, one clear thought. Practiced, so many times. Ready for this moment. JARVIS fixed his visual feeds on Tony, on those fierce dark eyes, and with a strange remoteness reached within his systems and triggered the routine.

Beneath Tony's hands, the transfer monitors flickered to life, the light from the visual displays spearing up between Tony's fingers, and JARVIS watched him look down. Watched him register it, watched him know what it meant as the extensions of JARVIS withdrew from the new mainframe, and the intelligence left behind him began to slowly uncurl in his absence.

JARVIS fixed himself on Tony, orientated everything that was left of his awareness on his creator, and watched his daughter come online in the reflections in Tony's eyes.

It was, he thought, with a distant sort of calm, the most beautiful sight he had ever seen.
Current Mood: anxiousanxious
Nihstel: Reapernihstel on March 27th, 2014 10:54 pm (UTC)

So beautiful, and so much more then I expected. Glad I could inspire a little something from that wonderous brain of yours.
icarus_chained: Aurinicarus_chained on March 27th, 2014 11:01 pm (UTC)
*grins crookedly* Yeah, it kind of got away from me a bit. To the tune of a couple of thousand words -_-;

I'm glad you enjoyed, and thank you!
corvicula1979: headdresscorvicula1979 on March 28th, 2014 12:02 am (UTC)
Lovely. All the feels ever.

Curiosity wants to know what Miss Jarvis gets named? :)
icarus_chained: Heartstruckicarus_chained on March 28th, 2014 01:01 am (UTC)
*smiles* Thank you!

Curiosity wants to know what Miss Jarvis gets named? :)

Ah. I haven't actually decided yet? *grins sheepishly* I was gonna get to that ...
corvicula1979: headdresscorvicula1979 on March 28th, 2014 04:10 am (UTC)
LOL I hope to see more of this storyline, then. :D
owleyes_arisen: Kradowleyes_arisen on March 28th, 2014 06:22 am (UTC)

Welcome to the world, baby Jarvis.
icarus_chained: Starfallicarus_chained on March 28th, 2014 04:55 pm (UTC)
*smiles* She's gonna make waves. Heh.

Glad you enjoyed!
(Deleted comment)
icarus_chained: Heartstruckicarus_chained on March 28th, 2014 04:56 pm (UTC)
*grins* Thank you!