Title: The Robot Butler
Summary: Tony built an android for Jarvis to control. Coulson is only mildly concerned. Jarvis, on the other hand, is god damned thrilled.
Ironically, the first one to see Tony’s new and possibly ill-advised brainchild is Coulson.
Tony’s living in New York now, so Pepper can’t be the one to come harass him out of his workshop every few days since Pepper still lives in Malibu and doesn’t have the time for a transcontinental plane flight every time Tony gets in the zone. Clint and Natasha both called ‘not it’, and Bruce might enjoy working in the lab with Tony but he’s not exactly a confrontational guy. Besides, Bruce is on his side; “leave me the fuck alone, I’m trying Science” is a thing for them.
Thor has no patience for trying to make Tony do anything; he likes the guy but doesn’t see why he should be his babysitter. Steve…well, they fight like a team when Tony’s in the suit and Cap’s in the cowl, but otherwise they stay out of each others’ way. It’s the old SHIELD story: Iron Man is fine, but Tony is someone to beware of. Coulson is well aware that Tony isn’t exactly fond of SHIELD either.
So because nobody else will, it’s Coulson who looks after him, more or less. At least, it’s Coulson who makes him eat regularly and once in a while rediscover what natural light looks like. Coulson is indifferent to this duty; he’s neither annoyed by nor pleased by it. He just does it and goes away again.
(Tony’s decided he likes Coulson. There’s a man with his head on straight.)
At the moment, the man in front of Tony does not have his head on straight, but Tony’s working on the issue. He reaches around and snaps the head into place with a violent crack just as Coulson walks into the room and if Coulson is confused, horrified, or unsurprised to find a limp body hanging by wires in Tony’s workshop, he doesn’t show it.
“Coulson,” Tony says, waving him over. “Come meet the newest toy.”
Coulson peers at the body. “Am I now an accessory to murder?” he asks pleasantly.
“What you do in your spare time is your business. Okay, Jarvis, you ready?” Tony asks.
“Shall I initiate the potentially disastrous upload, sir?” Jarvis asks over the workshop loudspeakers. The New York Jarvis is a little saltier than the Malibu Jarvis; they were both installed around the same time and they sync once a week, but they have variations in personality that Tony is going to write a paper about just as soon as he finds someone intelligent enough to read and understand it.
“You do that,” Tony says, and Jarvis replies, “Upload commencing” and Coulson says, “Mr. Stark, I really do need to ask what you’re doing with a dead body in your workshop.”
“Android,” Tony replies.
“I see.” Coulson draws close enough to study the limp human facsimile in front of Tony.
Tony knows it’s not perfect, but it’s just a trial-run model. The fake skin has no texture except for what’s necessary for traction on the hands and feet; no hair except the head, and there it’s just a bush of clipped gold wire, fashionably styled but obviously not human if you see it from less than ten feet away. The eyes are normal-sized but the pupils are eerily large because of the cameras that have to see though them.
“Upload fifteen percent complete,” the disembodied Jarvis voice says.
“Upload twenty percent complete. Vocal synthesizer operational,” the android says a few seconds later. Its lips move in vague sync.
“Upload thirty percent complete,” and the eyes begin to move. “Visual acuity underperforming.”
“Sorry, we’ll fix that in patch.”
“Very good sir,” the android says. “Upload fifty percent complete. Gross motor control activating.”
The body twitches, spine slowly straightening, head coming up. It looks like someone waking.
“Upload fifty-five percent complete. Facial recognition activated. Hello, Agent Coulson,” the robot says, and looks at Coulson, and Coulson peers back. The robot’s head swings around and he nearly overbalances; Tony catches his shoulder to hold him up, and Coulson murmurs It’s aliiiiive! under his breath.
“Hello, sir,” and a robot shouldn’t be able to sound breathless, but he does. There’s an expression on his face of wonder.
“Hi, Jarvis,” Tony replies, his expression more like love.
“Upload sixty-five percent complete. Balance algorithms interfacing with gyros,” Jarvis says, and straightens himself.
“And what do we say?” Tony prompts.
“Go fuck yourself, Asimo,” Jarvis answers, as if he learned the lesson by rote.
“Upload seventy-five percent complete. Fine motor control initiating.” Jarvis wiggles each of his fingers; his toes curl and then relax. He makes a face. “Epidermal sensors are at sixty percent projected performance.”
“We’ll fix that in patch too.” Tony touches the robot’s shoulder. “Can you feel my hand?”
“Yes, sir.” And then the lips quirk. “Would you like me to calculate pressure?”
Tony grins back. “Not necessary.”
“Upload ninety percent complete. Fine motor control fully established.”
At which point Jarvis reaches out and grasps Coulson’s tie. Coulson very carefully makes no sudden moves.
“Am I going to have to tase your robot?” he asks Tony, lifting his chin slightly.
“Jarvis, do you have a problem with Agent Coulson?” Tony asks.
“Upload one hundred percent complete,” Jarvis says, and then turns — perfectly balanced, deft, graceful, to fully face Coulson.
“Jarvis…” Tony looks only slightly worried that he has in fact created the first sentient robot sociopathic serial killer.
“Agent Coulson,” Jarvis says, and smiles. “I like your tie.”
He lets go of it, then, and smooths it down. Coulson peers at him. Jarvis peers back.
“May I bring you a coffee, Agent Coulson?” Jarvis asks finally. Over his shoulder, Tony mouths, Say yes.
“Yes, thank you, Jarvis,” Coulson says. Jarvis leans back a little, turns, and walks with perfect balance to the coffee machine in the corner.
“You ever see that Disney cartoon when you were a kid, the one with the robot butler?” Tony asks, crossing his arms, watching as Jarvis pours two cups of coffee with exaggerated care.
“I believe so, yes.”
“I always wanted one.”
Coulson glances at Tony. “Do you remember what happened in the cartoon? The robot butler tried to murder Donald Duck.”
“Well, every design can be improved on,” Tony answers. “In six months nobody will be able to tell that man from a biological human being.”
“Is this supposed to reassure me that you’re not two bad decisions away from becoming a super-villain?” Coulson asks. Jarvis is returning, two coffee mugs cradled in one hand; in his other he has a plate, which has some elderly-looking cookies on it.
“I had cookies down here?” Tony asks.
“Miss Potts brought them on her last visit,” Jarvis says. “I did remind you, sir.”
Tony shoves a cookie in his mouth and grins at Jarvis. “This is gonna be awesome.”
“I’ll take my coffee upstairs,” Coulson says. “Try not to debauch him until you’ve fixed the epidermal sensors.”
“Please call if you need anything,” Jarvis says politely, but there’s a small smile playing around his artificial mouth. As Coulson leaves, he hears Jarvis say, “When you’ve finished your coffee, sir, I believe you should go up to the kitchen and eat a meal, as it’s been eighteen hours since your last significant caloric intake.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll — hey!”
Coulson turns at the top of the stairs to see Jarvis hauling Tony towards the door, one of Tony’s ears clenched in his implacable robotic hand.
“This presence in physical space is very satisfying,” Jarvis says, as Tony staggers along with him. “I look forward to testing my fine motor skills by cooking a meal in the kitchen.”
Coulson’s job has probably just gotten a lot easier.
(Insert the rest of the fanfic here where Jarvis is like the most adorably sheltered child in existence, because he’s seen people interacting in Tony’s house and his intelligence is based on a model of Tony’s brain but he’s never actually done stuff like shake peoples’ hands or walk down a street so he’s constantly staring-at-or-touching things he shouldn’t and he does shit like walk into a store, send a payment directly to the store’s accounting office wirelessly, and walk out with whatever it was he just “bought” without explaining anything to the cashiers, because he’s only ever transacted e-payments before.
And then Tony rebuilds him to look more human but be more indestructible and he becomes an Avenger and likes to hang out with Coulson, the end.)
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