Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: Iron Man (MCU)
Timeline: December 1986
Rating: T / FRT
Characters: Edwin Jarvis, Tony Stark, Tony’s bots (DUM-E & U). Mentioned: Howard Stark.
Summary: After another fight with his father, Tony feels a bit insecure about his life and where it’s headed. Good thing Edwin Jarvis is there to comfort him in his time of need.
Complete. Part of “Genius, AI & Bots” series. Takes place immediately after “Propinquity”.
Written for: My card on Hurt/Comfort Bingo’s (hc_bingo) Round 4 (square: insecurity)
Warnings: Implied domestic violence (involving a minor), language.
Disclaimer: Iron Man and Marvel Cinematic Universe, including characters and everything else, belong to Marvel, Marvel Studios, Jon Favreau and Paramount Pictures. In short: I own nothing; this is pure fiction created to entertain likeminded fans for no profit whatsoever.
Beta: Mythra (mythras_fire)
Feedback: Welcomed with open arms.
Story and status: Below you see the writing process of the story. If there is no text after the title, then it is finished and checked. Possible updates shall be marked after the title.
Written for my card on Hurt/Comfort Bingo’s Round 4 (square: “insecurity”).
Tony frowned, unwillingly dragged out of his sleep.
“Anthony,” the voice persisted.
He would rather have kept on sleeping, his body feeling heavy, but then the noises from the bots pierced the fog in his mind and that was odd…
“Tony,” the person talking to him was getting impatient, and Tony opened his eyes – instantly regretting it as the right side of his face broke out in a flash of hot, deep-seated pain that the sleep hadn’t washed away.
He looked up anyway, knowing that he had to, and found Edwin Jarvis, the family butler, standing a fair distance from the car Tony was curled up in, his bots – Dummy and You – between the older man and the vehicle.
“What’s up?” Tony asked, sitting up properly, still wrapped in the blanket he had found last night when he decided to sleep in one of his father’s cars instead of going up to his room.
“You had a fight with your father last night,” Jarvis observed.
Tony shrugged one shoulder and gingerly touched his face. Perhaps he should have sneaked into the kitchen to get some ice before crashing in the car, but his father had been drunk and angry – never a good combination – and Tony had accidentally slashed at his arm with a screwdriver, which ended with Tony getting punched in the face and his father screaming at him to get out of his house.
“Tony,” Jarvis tried again, forcing Tony’s eyes to gaze at him. “Would you please ask your pet robots to let me through?”
“They’re not pets,” Tony argued, but snapped his fingers at the bots. “Dummy, You: move. He’s a friend.”
Jarvis didn’t comment on any of that, moving over and bowing forward into the car in order to gently take a hold of Tony’s chin and look at the bruises that had to be there, considering how much it hurt. “Master Stark was in a foul mood last night,” the old man observed needlessly.
“You don’t say. I must have failed to notice that,” Tony rolled his eyes, then cringed as Jarvis pointedly twisted his head to the side.
“He is still your father.”
“I wish he weren’t.”
Jarvis stopped, sighed, and drew back to stand straight. Not that he was taller than Tony anymore. Temporarily, though, he towered over Tony as Tony sat inside the car. “One day, you may think differently.”
“I doubt it.”
“Let’s get inside and I’ll take a better look at your face,” Jarvis ordered.
“I think I’ll stay here,” Tony suggested instead.
“Hiding in your father’s garage?”
“Until I find a way to get back to MIT ahead of schedule, that sounds like a plan,” Tony nodded resolutely.
Jarvis’ face was hard to read for a few seconds. “Pity. I was going to make one of your favorite foods for dinner, and dessert…”
“I’m too old to be bribed with food, Jarvis,” Tony smiled at him, then cringed as his face hurt at the change of expression.
“Shall I ask one of the drivers to take you back to MIT, then?”
Tony hesitated. That had been the plan – a plan he wanted to stick to, but now that the chance was offered to him… Jarvis always managed to mess him up a little, in a good way. He also had eternal optimism when it came to the crap between Howard and Tony. Why that was, Tony wasn’t sure. Certainly he wasn’t paid enough to do that, but perhaps all those years looking after Tony had left their mark and he still felt like he needed to bring Tony back into the fold when he was ready to leave all this behind.
Reaching a decision, Tony finally extracted himself from the car, his joints cracking. The bots looked at him curiously and Tony wondered what to do with them. “Stay here, out of sight,” he ordered finally. “I’ll be back later.” When they left to go back to Massachusetts, he told himself.
Jarvis led the way to the kitchen where he proceeded to clean the dried blood from Tony’s face – something he hadn’t even noticed last night – and then piled up food in front of Tony that didn’t require a whole lot of chewing.
“What do you think of the bots?” Tony asked.
“They seem exceptional,” Jarvis replied diplomatically.
“They’ll get a lot smarter,” Tony promised. “They just need time to learn. Some things you can’t – shouldn’t – program.”
Jarvis glanced at him. “I think they’re already doing very well.” Whether he meant something specific – like the bots stopping Jarvis from getting close to Tony this morning – Tony wasn’t sure.
Tony licked his lips, played with his spoon and tried to figure out what to do next. He wouldn’t be able to relax as long as he remained in this house, but Jarvis was good at making Tony feel like he was letting the old butler down.
“I know that your relationship with your father is tenuous at best, but not a day goes by when Master Stark isn’t reminded of how proud he can be of you, Anthony,” Jarvis told him. “I know it feels easier distancing yourself and filling your life with artificial love –”
“It isn’t about that,” Tony snapped. “Well, not entirely about that,” he amended, because he wasn’t smart enough to realize when the bots filled a void in his life. “After last night, it’s hard to believe anything you’re saying. I get it, though, because you work for him…”
“I work for this family,” Jarvis snapped. “I’ve taken care of you since you were a babe. I watched you grow into the brilliant young man you are now. My only regret is not being able to get rid of all those insecurities that seem to run too deep to gouge out anymore.” He sounded truly apologetic, like it was his fault. Tony knew it wasn’t, even though he didn’t like to dwell on his own shortcomings.
“You aren’t either of my parents,” Tony told him. “It isn’t your job to fill their shoes just because they’re not good at their own roles. Good thing is, I don’t need them to play at being a mom and dad anymore. Soon I’ll be old enough to decide about my own life.”
“Maybe so, but until then you aren’t…”
“You’ll be here for me, J, I know.”
Jarvis pursed his lips because he had never liked Tony taking liberties with his name. “Shall I ask for one of the drivers to get a car ready for you?”
“Yes,” Tony decided. He didn’t want to be here when his dad woke up from his stupor, nor did he want his mother to see his bruised face and force her to act like she was horrified by it all when she really wasn’t.
Jarvis nodded and left the room, and Tony finished his breakfast in silence. As he sat there, alone, he felt insecure once more, like that small boy who couldn’t see past the depression of his current life. Tony was old enough now to envision what would be, and he could strive towards it, despite all this.
Knowing that didn’t take away the fears. He didn’t know if he really had it in him, despite having done very well for himself at MIT. He was smarter than everyone around him, and yet, sometimes, that wasn’t enough.
Not if someone asked his father.
Tony wasn’t sure why he still cared what his father thought – he didn’t, he told himself. He didn’t.
Jarvis returned a little while later and took away the dirty dishes. Tony seized that moment to go to his room, pack the few things he had unpacked upon his arrival, and then went back down to the garage.
One of the small company trucks was now parked there, and Tony whistled for the bots to come out and then instructed them to move up the ramp to the bed of the truck. It went a lot smoother than the first time they had attempted this, when Tony actually had to climb up as well to show them how it was done.
After making sure Dummy and You were secured, Tony shut the hatch and turned to find Jarvis standing behind him.
“Merry Christmas, Mr. Stark,” the butler told him.
“Merry Christmas, Jarvis,” Tony replied and stepped over a bit uncertainly, then moved to hug the older man. “I don’t know what I would do without you.”
“I’m sure you would find your way,” the old man informed him, smiling fondly as Tony pulled back, then waved as Tony got into the car and the driver drove out of the garage and onto the street, heading north.
A few hours from now Tony would be back at his dorm room, or at the electrical engineering labs with the bots, and he could push this miserable trip home out of his mind. And if no one happened to be on campus – no one he cared to hang out with, anyway – he could just show the bots how a proper Christmas was celebrated, Tony Stark style. It was time they learned that anyway.