“DUM-E, watch where you...and there goes the vase. Why do we even have a vase on a table in the middle of the hallway?” Tony said, staring at the shattered remains of the vase on the floor and raising an eyebrow at a sheepish DUM-E. He backed up and tried to hide behind YOU who was just spinning in circles because he couldn’t find a broom. “YOU, leave it, I’ll clean it up later. Come on. Butterfingers, please watch where you’re going? I don’t know how I’m supposed to explain a bot shaped dent in the wall.”
“BARF has finished setting up Boss, it's ready for the simulation.” FRIDAY spoke up, a slight hint of disapproval in her voice. “It took some time to power on, since most people shouldn’t be using it at 3 am anyway.”
“I get your point FRI.” Tony said, opening the door. “Promise I’ll go to sleep after this.”
“Sure Boss.” FRIDAY said sarcastically. He’s lying and she knows it, but thankfully she doesn’t press the issue. Tony stiffened when there was an almighty crash from behind it but only sighed and pressed his forehead against the wall.
“That would be the table Butterfingers knocked over right Fri?” he said, not turning around. Hello denial.
“Yes Boss.” FRIDAY said apologetically as he walked further into the BARF hall. DUM-E and YOU got into a bit of a tussle over who got into the room and he let them sort it out as he picked up the glasses and settled against the wall.
“Should I start Boss?” FRIDAY said when all the bots come in and huddle around him. He leaned forward and pressed his palms against his eyes, a wave of tiredness abruptly sweeping over him. “Boss? Are you okay? Should I call Colonel Rhodes?”
“No it’s alright FRI.” he croaked out, warmed by her concern. “Fire it up.”
The scene started to form, himself sitting in the lab watching the television.
JARVIS, we get an invite for that
he watched himself say.
“ I have no record of an invitation, sir. ” the voice of JARVIS is like a punch to the gut. The familiar tones, present in Vision but always... wrong somehow come with a wave of grief.
It never gets any easier.
There was a soft whir as DUM-E lowered his arm and rested his arm on Tony’s shoulder. He blinked back tears, patting the robot on the arm, watching the holograms being pulled up and letting his own voice and JARVIS’ voice wash over him. DUM-E chirped sadly, turning his camera towards the scene, looking to where Tony had installed the speakers in his old lab.
“Yeah, I miss him too bud.” he said hoarsely. DUM-E moved closer as the first sob made his breathing hitch, sandwiching him between his and Butterfingers’ frame. “I guess I got the Stark trait of fucking up kids on a massive scale. Got you three plunged into the ocean because of my stupidity and then I got J killed .”
“ JARVIS, you up? ” he heard his younger self say.
“ For you sir, always, ” JARVIS said and everything froze as Tony paused the simulation. DUM-E let out a comforting whirr, scooching closer and Tony pressed his face to his cold frame, letting DUM-E cool the hot burn of tears. They stayed that way, bot and human pressed together until he dropped off to sleep, curled on the floor of the BARF hall. Until he needed to get up and get on with his day because the world wouldn’t stop for his grief. It didn’t when JARVIS first died, and it wouldn’t stop for him now.
Not even on the anniversary of when he died.