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Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful Boy

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The first time Jarvis holds little Anthony in his arms, he is overwhelmed by emotion that is surprising in its intensity. The child is not his own. Jarvis' relationship with Mr. Stark is hardly anything more than that appropriate between an employer and his employee. He feels a great deal of warmth for Miss Maria, but despite the formality and coldness he has experienced working for the Starks, when little Anthony's palm curves around his finger, Jarvis ducks his head to keep the others from seeing the wetness in his eyes.

"Hello Master Anthony," he whispers into the little ear, tugging the bundle of blankets closer to his heart.

*

Jarvis is surprised to be given as much responsibility caring for the child as he is. He is a butler, not a nanny. He had assumed that Mr. Stark will hire the finest child care providers, to support Miss Maria, especially after what has been a very painful delivery.

But less than three days after the birth, Jarvis finds himself responsible for changing diapers, feeding, burping and bathing the young Stark. He is stretched thin, between managing the household, the other staff, handling Mr. Stark’s schedule and commitments and waiting on Miss Maria. Two days later, Howard institutes half a dozen other hands to help around the house, a valet, a chef and a second nanny.

“I don’t like seeing you panicked, Jarvis. It is very unnerving to see you less than perfect.”

“Sir, really,” Jarvis replies, his expression offended, “I see no reason to stand here and be insulted.”

“Indeed, forgive me. I must be imagining things,” Mr. Stark smiles at him and walks away, dropping a kiss to Anthony’s baby curls.

*

Howard and Maria are very weird parents. When Anthony turns one, Howard begins a campaign to get his son to say his first words.

“Babies don’t start talking till eighteen months, Howard,” Maria repeats, in the tone of someone who has had this argument many times.

“My boy is a genius! He will be, how can he not be a genius?” Howard snaps back, before turning back to Anthony on the carpet. “Tony, say en-giiiiine. Engine. En-giiiiine.”

The toddler turns huge eyes to Jarvis, back to his father and unconcernedly continues playing with his toy train.

While Jarvis smiles at the insistence on the word ‘engine’, he wishes the child had a choice to say Mama, Dada or the dozen other baby words that are usual first word contenders. Maybe Anthony would grow up to be a dancer, an artist or a chef. Maybe Anthony would never have to know the components of a combustion engine.

He shrugs, trying to remember that his young charge is not actually his son. His parents have the right to raise him the way they want.

He doesn’t know it then, but at fifteen months, Tony’s first words will be “Jaawwis, up!”

*

At three years old, Tony builds his first combustion engine and a space walking toy robot. Jarvis helps him paint the little robot red and gold. When the child puts his inventions on display for his father, Howard points out areas of improvement for the engine, dismisses the toy robot and calls a press conference. He is “grooming the boy to take over SI”.

Later that night, Jarvis finds young Anthony taking apart his robot and throwing the parts at his bedroom wall. The butler wants to go in and hug the boy close, but he decides to set the example that his parents aren’t capable of setting.

“Anthony,” says Jarvis from the doorway. “We don’t treat our belongings this way. We treat our belongings with respect. What did the robot do to you?”

“It’s stuuupid,” comes the barely audible mutter.

“It certainly isn’t,” Jarvis enters, and straightens the sheets tucked into the boy’s mattress. “If it were, it would not give you as much happiness as it does. Everything that makes you happy is important. I want you to remember that, alright?”

“Dad doesn’t like it.”

“Your father is very happy with everything that you build. We all have our favorites, right? The engine is his favorite. When I make you chocolate cake and red velvet cake, you completely ignore the red velvet cake, don’t you? Does that mean you won’t eat the red velvet cake later?”

Tony shakes his head, his eyes huge.

“Your father likes the toy robot, too. But the engine is his favorite.”

“What’s your favowite, Jawwis?”

The boy’s lisp is prominent again, probably because he is upset. Jarvis makes a mental note to get the child to do his speech exercises before presenting him before Mr. Stark. The sight of a lisping son will not improve the elder man’s mood, another reminder of what he thinks is a less-than-perfect son.

“My favorite?” Jarvis sits on the bed and pulls the boy close, hugging him to his chest. “My favorite will always be you, my Anthony, with your piggy nose and dimple cheeks and spiky hair.”

Tony giggles into Jarvis’ neck, used to his routine. “I don’t haff piggy nose dimple cheeks spike haiw!”

“Yes, you do, beautiful boy. You will always be my favorite, even when you completely forget all the manners I have taught you and throw your belongings at the wall. Pick up this room, tidy your study desk and get in bed. I will help you fix your robot tomorrow.”

“Yes, Jawwis.”

*

Anthony gets chickenpox when he is four.

Both Howard and Maria are in Spain, on holiday and entirely unreachable. Jarvis stays up with Tony every night, washing his sores, dampening his warm skin and reading to him from his myriad science textbooks.

Early into the morning, for six days, Jarvis sings him his lullaby.

Close your eyes
Have no fear
The monster's gone
He's on the run and your daddy’s here

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy

*

At age five, Anthony bring home a stray puppy. It is a pitiful thing, with dark fur, curly hair and deep brown eyes. It is weak and hungry, thin and limping. Jarvis has no idea where Tony even found the creature.

Jarvis’ heart thuds in his chest. He knows Mr. Stark is about to lose his temper. Jarvis prays for a miracle, for just one time for Howard to make the right decision.

 “Jarvis, get rid of that thing. Call a shelter or something. I don’t care. Just get rid of it.”

“Sir, can I suggest getting another-“

“He needs to grow up, Jarvis. Don’t spoil the child. He has other things to learn. He does not need to be playing around with a wild animal.”

“Sir – “

“Jarvis! I am done talking about this!”

In that moment, Jarvis hates Howard more than ever. As always, the bastard has left him to break the child’s heart and deal with the consequences.

He finds Tony in the rose garden, explaining the laws of motion to the little puppy.

“Jawwis, come play with Maxwell!”

“Maxwell?”

“James Clark Maxwell. Physicist and inwentor.”

“It is a fine name for a puppy, Master Anthony. Did Sarah give you a bath?”

“Yes, and she washed Maxie too! And she put a lot of soap on my hands.”

“It’s so that you don’t catch an infection.”

“Like bac-bac-backekteria?”

“Have you been reading your new biology books?”

“Hmm,” the boy shrugs, his attention still focused on rubbing Maxwell’s neck and nose.

“Anthony,” Jarvis tries to begin, “Maxwell will have to go away.”

Tony suddenly inches closer to the puppy, hugging it close protectively and Jarvis’ heart breaks a little. The little boy’s eyes turn huge and watery, and his expression is full of betrayal.

“What? No, Jawwis, why?”

“I am sorry, Anthony. Your father does not like animals. He cannot stay here.”

“But, but, where will he go? It is so cold outside, Jawwis. He will need shoes and sweater and a jumper and a hat, and a nice house and bed – “

Jarvis smiles, and extends his arms out to the boy. The gesture is one of welcome, and almost always accepted. Tony would jump into his arms for a tight hug, but today, it doesn’t work its magic. Anthony actually moves away from the butler, Maxwell still clutched tight. Jarvis winces, unreasonably hurt.

“I promise he will be okay. I have some friends who are coming to take him away. They will take care of him and feed him biscuits and milk – “

“Will he have toys?”

“Yes, he will have plenty of toys,” replies Jarvis. Usually, he would add a reprimand about interrupting, but he decides to let it go today in favor of getting the boy to smile.

“Can I visit him?”

“We may not be able to – oh, fine, I will see what I can do. But you must be very good if we need to procure your father’s permission. Do you understand?”

Tony nods, committed to being as good as possible if it means he can visit Maxwell.

Jarvis feels like he has dodged a bullet temporarily, but he knows the boy will throw a massive tantrum when the puppy is actually removed from his presence. He plans to have the staff from the shelter pick up the dog after Anthony is asleep. It is the coward’s way out, but unfortunately, it is the kindest option available to him.

That night, Tony refuses to go to sleep for the longest time. Jarvis suspects that he is staying awake on purpose, aware that if he closes his eyes, his new best friend will be taken away. It hurts Jarvis too much to think about it, that his young charge trusts adults so little already. He remembers the plan he was about to execute and realizes that Anthony is perhaps right to not trust adults.

Around four am, the boy finally falls asleep over his building blocks and what appears to be a newly constructed model elevator. Jarvis carries him to his bed and stays by his bedside to watch him sleep. The boy is practically an angel, so well-behaved, quiet and affectionate. Jarvis tries not to think ill of his employer, but it is remarkably hard to do tonight. He can’t help but admit to himself that the boy deserves a greater commitment from his father.

Jarvis is a very self-aware man and he cannot ignore his own growing attachment to the child. At some point, Tony had stopped being the child he was supposed to care for and become the son he never had. Jarvis can’t bring himself to care too much about it.

Six months ago, Jarvis would not have even considered going behind his employer’s back, but he is a sucker for a little boy’s pout. So that night, instead of taking the puppy to the shelter as promised, he takes Maxwell to his own home and convinces his beautiful wife Anna to help raise him.

The next morning, no amount of chocolate or circuit boards are enough to soothe the sulking boy. Jarvis calls a time-out, gets Anthony to pick up his tools and then, as a late evening treat, takes him out for ice cream cones and a visit to see Anna and their new family member.

*

By age seven, young Tony has learned not to expect praise or attention from his father. He goes through what Jarvis calls the difficult teenage years, albeit five years too early. Maria and Howard have split, and the young woman has moved away to England, having given away all legal claims to her son.

During a really torrential time in the Stark household, Jarvis is the only voice of reason and stability. When Tony is overwhelmed by the dulcet tone of his father yelling at an engineer over the phone, Jarvis leans against his bedroom door completely unimpressed, demanding that Tony clean up his room NOW. When Tony is terrified of his father’s binge drinking, Jarvis draws his focus to his integral calculus, quietly challenging the boy and offering rewards.  Every time Tony misbehaves, it is Jarvis who disciplines the boy.

Very soon, Tony, who grew up shying away from disappointing his father would mature into the teenager who’d care about only Jarvis’ opinion. He could stand to hear his father’s constant disappointment in him, but one angry word from Jarvis would break down his stubbornness, humbling him.

When Tony’s principal calls the Starks for a meeting after the little boy angrily hurts a classmate with the sharp edge of a ruler, Howard mutters about idiotic school headmasters not understanding genius, barks at his son and leaves for the comfort of his workshop. It is Jarvis who yells at Tony till he is blue in the face, gives him the silent treatment for the next day or two and drives him to the classmate’s home for a sincere apology.

If Howard Stark built Anthony, the engineer, Edwin Jarvis built Tony, the man.

*

Tony is eight years old when he is kidnapped for the first time. Jarvis stands, knuckles clasped between his teeth, breath coming ragged through his nose, as Mr. Stark yells into the phone receiver about not paying anyone a goddamn penny.

The servants, in a display of uncharacteristic sensitivity, have called and brought Anna into the house. She holds Jarvis’ hand to stop him from biting on it, and rubs his back as he berates himself for being late to the school; he was supposed to pick Anthony up at five and he had not turned into the driveway till six fifteen, what with Mr. Stark’s late afternoon conference and the repairs going on to the back of the mansion.

Jarvis now stands, his heart thudding in his chest and the weight of his own guilt dragging him down. How is Mr. Stark standing? How do all the human beings on the planet handle parenting, handle this gut-wrenching worry and pain and anxiety? Jarvis cannot bring himself to think about never seeing Tony again, of having the little child sent in a body bag –

He stifles a sob and Anna wraps her arms around his middle, holding him close. In that moment, Jarvis feels capable of murder. If he gets his hands on the people who touched the boy, who as much as put a paper cut on his flesh, Jarvis was going to carve someone’s heart out with a knife. Painfully.

Two stressful days later, Tony turns up the driveway in a battered car that he hotwired. Mr. Stark laughs loudly about underestimating his little boy. Anthony revels in the temporary attention, as his father tells everyone who would listen about the way his son built a makeshift bomb out of the scrap in the warehouse he was being held, blew up the room and ran to nearest means of escape. When questioned on his newfound driving ability, Tony shrugs and says, a car is a machine and he can work any machine.

Jarvis cannot bring himself to share Mr. Stark’s elation. He has experienced terror, and if his hugs for Tony have gotten a few minutes longer, nobody need know about it.

*

Tony is ten the first time his father hits him.

Jarvis, who is in the kitchen at the time, comes running and throws himself between the boy and the leather belt before the second strike can hit the child.

For the first time in his life, Tony sees Jarvis in a serious rage. Jarvis doesn’t even flinch when the belt hits him when he gets in the way. Howard is too drunk, not even able to stand up straight, and when Jarvis lunges at him, pushing him back down on the sofa, he drops like his strings have been cut.

“NO!” Jarvis barks. “You may be the master of this house, and you may be his father, but you will NOT touch him again. You will not come near him if even a sip of drink has passed your lips.”

Howard grunts, eyes half-closed.

The other servants have found their way to the small den, and they take over from Jarvis, gently carrying Howard’s slumped weight to his bedroom.

Tony’s hands are shaking, and his right side is stinging from where the belt hit him. He’s trying to take big gulps of air, breathing in through his nose like Jarvis taught him to.

“You’re okay,” Jarvis says now, sitting on his haunches and holding his arms outstretched. “Master Anthony, hey, hey, no – look at me, Tony – you’re okay. Look at me. Come on.”

Tony lunges at him, collapsing into his arms and letting the tears fall freely now that he’s safe in Jarvis’ embrace.

“Shhhh,” Jarvis says comfortingly. “You’re okay. You’re safe now. I’ll take care of you. Come on, we will get that wound looked at.”

Tony clings to him for the rest of the week, and when Howard shame-facedly apologizes to him, he does it under Jarvis’ stern glare.

*

Tony is twelve when he leaves for MIT.

Jarvis loads up the car with three college trunks, Tony’s home computer and several boxes of books and drives him to Boston. Howard sends him money and leaves the responsibility of setting up an allowance account for Tony to Jarvis. The butler arranges everything, from screening Tony’s dormitory roommate (an eighteen year old James Rhodes, responsible, sensible and down-to-earth; Jarvis had liked him instantly) to stocking the mini-fridge with the boy’s favorite yoghurt.

At the end of the move-in, Jarvis sits next to Tony on the tiny curb off the pavement outside the dorm building. The bravado the boy had put on for his father’s benefit at the house in New York has dissipated now, and his palms are clammy from nerves. For the first time in his life, Tony will be living away from home.

“It’s alright to be nervous,” Jarvis points out, his shoulder brushing against Tony’s. “Everyone is, when moving away from home for the first time.”

“I am not a baby,” Tony says, all fake bravado. Jarvis sighs, and resists the urge to point out just how much of a child he is. He’s heart-breakingly young.

“I know,” Jarvis admits. “You’re doing very well. Your parents are very proud of you.”

“I don’t care,” he shrugs. “Doesn’t matter. I am not fucking trying to make them proud of me.”

“You know better than to speak like that, young man,” he scolds. “You do your best, you hear me? Try not to work till late in the night. Eat proper meals, yeah? Be good, Anthony.”

“For you, I will do my very best.”

Jarvis hides his face in Tony’s shoulder, trying blink away the moisture in his eyes, hugging him goodbye.

*

Tony is fifteen when he sobs on the phone to Jarvis over Henry, the smart boy in electrical engineering who broke his heart.

Jarvis listens to the story patiently, about blue eyes and cheek dimples, about his first time being intimate with someone, and about the said someone giving Tony the brush off.

“He won’t even look at me anymore, Jarvis,” Tony tells him. “He told Rhodey to tell me to stop calling him.”

“What did James say to that?”

“Rhodey punched him, and got written up for it, and he’s way too proud about it –“

“Tell young James I said well done,” Jarvis smiles.

“Jarvis!”

“What? Master Anthony,” he explains. “From what you’re telling me, this Henry person is unsuitable for you. You can do much better. Rhodes is a good fellow with a fine head on his shoulders. You should forget about this Henry and tell me all about the robot you’re building.”

Jarvis knows those are the magic words, and as predicted, Tony gushes to him about DUM-E, the demented little robotic arm that has been programmed to give high-fives.

*

During the four years Tony is at MIT, he comes to Jarvis and Anna’s humble home for Christmas. The Christmas before his graduation, he makes Jarvis his negotiator for an appropriate graduation present with Howard. Jarvis does not like this task.

“I want the robotics division,” Tony explains, sitting on Anna’s soft couch cushions and eating mince-meat pie with his hands. “He’s going to want me to take over weapons and manufacturing when I turn sixteen. You’ve gotta stall him, Jarvis. Make him see reason.”

“In this instance, you think reason is moving to California to oversee four engineers in a rundown lab?” Anna asks.

“Four engineers and Dummy,” Tony shrugs. “Please Jarvis? I can make it so good. Robotics is the future.  Robotics and computers. Dad does not see it yet, but I know the direction we must take the company.”

“What makes you think he will listen to me on this?”

“Are you kidding me? He has not made one decision about me without talking to you since the time I was in fifth grade. He’s frightened of you.”

“He is not,” Jarvis says, shaking his head at Tony getting crumbs all over the settee, eating pie with his hands. “For god’s sake, Anthony, please eat at the table with proper utensils like a civilized person.”

“I am sorry, Anna,” he says charmingly, shooting a smile full of dimples at her, who swats him off. “I will clean up, I promise.”

“Spare room for gravy and potatoes,” she says indulgently while Jarvis shakes his head at the pair of them, at this complete breakdown in discipline.

“You’re the best, Anna,” he smiles, and in that moment, Jarvis shares a look with his wife, both of them thinking of the same thing. This is how Christmas is supposed to be.

*

Tony is sixteen when he gets a phone call about a car-crash.

He gets off a plane from Malibu to land in New York, and he rushes to the hospital, his heart in his throat. Jarvis is waiting for him in the hallway outside the room in which they’re… keeping Howard Stark.

Jarvis is steeling himself to say the words, to somehow tell Anthony that he’s lost his only parent when the young man launches himself into his arms.

“Oh thank God,” he sobs into Jarvis’ shoulder. “You usually drive him to all of his events and Obie wouldn’t say on the phone if you were – oh thank God, thank God, thank God, Jarvis.”

“Anthony,” he says quietly, rubbing a hand down his back.

 “Is he -?” Tony asks, looking at Jarvis properly. His face crumples when Jarvis simply nods, somber and serious.

“I am so sorry, master Anthony,” he tells him, and Tony sags against Jarvis’ side, his breath hitching, loud sobs making their way past his throat again.

Two days later, Tony puts on a black suit and stands over his father’s grave, his expression stoic for the world’s cameras. Jarvis stands at his right shoulder, nudging him upright with a hand at the bottom of his back, silently present for whatever and whenever Tony may need him.

When Anthony returns to the mansion that night, he walks in with the quiet grace of a grown man. Jarvis doesn’t know when his charge grew up, but its sneaking up on him now. He feels light headed with the realization.

*

Tony is twenty five, and making waves in the business world. Everyone expected him to fail and put Stark Industries through a respectable downward spiral. After Howard’s death, nobody was prepared to see the young man take the company by the reigns and unify it under a new vision.

He’s being called a maverick.

He’s also driving Jarvis slowly insane.

“Jarvis,” he says. “I cannot find that quarterly report Obie wanted for the board of directors meeting.”

Jarvis looks up from stirring the pasta sauce, and finds Anthony standing by the counter, looking harassed, tie askew and shirt unbuttoned under a crumpled blazer. He shakes his head at the man.

“I am not your secretary, Anthony,” he tells him for the thousandth time that week. “Also, your blazer is unpressed. I cannot believe a boy I raised goes outside looking like that.”

“Then why don’t you find me one, Jarvis? A secretary, I mean. Not a blazer. Though it would be nice if you could find me a blazer, as well.”

Jarvis retrieves the dry-cleaners bag he’d stashed close by just for this occasion. “Here’s your suit. Unfortunately, there isn’t much I can do for your secretary situation because you keep driving away every nice young lady who comes along to help you.”

“I expect a certain degree of competence,” he explains, shrugging out of his shirt and blazer. “If they can’t take a little ribbing, and if they cannot do their jobs, I cannot be expected to entertain idiots.”

“That’s exactly why they cannot find you a secretary,” Rhodey who’s visiting, says from his seat at the counter, chopping tomatoes under Jarvis’ directions.

“No,” Tony explains. “That’s why Stark HR cannot find me a secretary. Jarvis can find me one who’s not stupid, can’t you Jay?”

“Somehow, I am not inclined put someone through that level of harassment.”

“Think of it this way,” Rhodes tells him. “If you find another person for him to harass, you can finally retire.”

“You traitor!” Tony exclaims, accusatory. “You complete treacherous bastard! Don’t you dare put ideas in his head. Jarvis, you can’t retire! You aren’t allowed to retire.”

Jarvis sighs. “I am getting old, master Anthony.”

“No you aren’t,” he tells him. “You’re a silver fox, like Anna says.”

“Do not call me that again,” Jarvis shakes his head. “Ever.”

“Jarvis,” Tony says. “If you go off to Lagerpond –“

“Liverpool.”

“- with Anna, how am I supposed to cope? Who will take care of me? I will be destitute and homeless and starving without you, Jay. I will have to drink instant coffee. Instant! You can’t stand for that, could you?”

“I would be weeping on the inside,” Jarvis says, entirely deadpan. “But somehow, I will live.”

“Rhodey, I blame you for this.”

“Yeah, I am not too bothered.”

The subject actually isn’t broached again for a long time, until Jarvis runs into a very dynamic young woman at the supermarket. He is impressed as he watches young Virginia Potts scold her toddler nephew into putting back the candy bar he sneaked into her basket. What’s more, she makes him think he wants to put the candy back. Jarvis figures she’s perfect to handle Anthony Stark.

He finds out more about her when she offers to help him carry the bags back to his car in the parking lot. Jarvis usually has the store deliver the bags to the tower, but this time, he accepts. She tells him she’s an MBA student at Columbia, and on the lookout for a summer internship opportunity.

“Virginia? What kind of a name is Virginia?” Tony says upon meeting her. “That’s a stupid name. Jarvis, send her back to the NYU sorority you found her in. You’re not retiring.”

“You have egg on your tie, Mr. Stark,” Virginia says, and Jarvis smiles behind her, face hidden in a newspaper. “You’d be lucky to get a NYU sorority girl to assist you with that tie and shirt. You have three meetings with the Board tomorrow, all of which I canceled or handled so that your schedule is clear to work on your AI application. Your clothes for the Japan trip have been sent to the dry cleaners, and I have installed an espresso machine in your workshop. Oh, and I sent Mrs. Jarvis a flower arrangement thanking her for the mince-meat pie.”

Tony gapes at her, stunned. Jarvis hides a chuckle behind pretense of a cough.

“Sometimes, I let people call me ‘Pepper’,” she grins. “But only if they’re very, very good.”

Tony chokes on air, but she’s already turned around, her red pony tail swinging behind her.

“Would that be all, Mr. Stark?”

“That’d be all,” he chokes out. “Thank you, Ms. Potts.”

Over the retreating click-click-click of her heels on the polished floor, he looks up at Jarvis who shrugs.

“What?” he asks. “You asked me to find you a secretary. I found you a secretary. Do not try to sleep with her. She will hurt you.”

“I am not stupid,” Tony shakes his head. “Fine. But you still can’t retire.”

Jarvis only laughs, the bastard.

*

Tony is twenty six when Jarvis retires. Anna’s health is too poor for Manhattan’s air pollution, and in the end, that makes the decision for them.

Jarvis makes arrangements for his childhood home in Liverpool to be cleaned and stocked, and he refuses to pay any heed to Tony’s offers of putting the both of them up in a mansion in Wales. He suspects that Tony paid off all of Anna’s medical bills. The insurance company staff was very tight-lipped when he called to get information about his outstanding payments.

Tony, of course, is heart-broken and hiding it poorly. He’s trying not to plead with Jarvis to stay, not when Anna’s health is in question, but he clearly wants to. Jarvis, who knows him better than anyone else, spends the night before their flight cooped up in Anthony’s workshop, listening to him rant about his artificial intelligence project.

“It’s the kind of thing that can change the world, Jay,” he tells him. “Imagine having technology that can predict your every whim, your every want and need before you voice it out. I am building the ultimate intelligence. Intelligence that can learn, that can grow, that can someday come close to being human.”

“Sounds amazing, master Anthony. If anyone could do it, it’d be you.”

Tony flushes, still a five year old at heart when Jarvis praises him.

“I can’t wait to hear all about it when you finish it.”

“Oh right,” Tony shakes his head. “You won’t be here to see it in person.”

There is silence, and both of them just look at each other, contemplating living without the other a stone’s throw away.

“I will visit,” Jarvis says finally.

“I know,” Tony nods. “It’s just – I’ll miss you.”

Jarvis knows how hard that admission must have been for the younger man. He swallows around the lump in his throat.

“I will miss you too.”

They stand looking at each other again, before Tony chuckles, shakes his head and comes forward with arms outstretched.

“We are being so stupid,” he smiles into Jarvis’s shoulder, pressing into the hug.

“You be good now,” Jarvis tells him, holding him at arm’s length. “Eat three meals a day. Tie your shoelaces before stepping outside. Do not trouble Ms. Potts. Call James once a week.”

“I promise.”

“Stay out of trouble. No getting kidnapped, alright?”

“Jeez, you’re such a parent, Jarvis. Fine. I promise, I won’t get kidnapped.”

Anthony keeps that promise for nearly ten years. When he breaks that one though, Jarvis is on the other side of the world, watching the news on telly with his heart beating too loud, too fast in his chest.

*

Jarvis flies out to New York when James calls him with the news that Anthony’s been found. He’s standing on the tarmac with Ms. Potts, waiting for the plane when Tony Stark returns to his country after weeks in captivity.

When he sees Jarvis waiting, he climbs down the stairs and rushes toward them. Jarvis lets out a deep breath when he finally hugs the man.

“Young man, you promised!” he lets out a watery chuckle. “You promised me you wouldn’t get kidnapped.”

“Sorry Jay,” Tony’s voice is raspy, like his throat is bruised or infected. Jarvis suspects it’s probably both. “It was a little beyond my control.”

“How did you break out?” It’s their standard question after each of his kidnappings. Tony enjoys this part, enjoys recounting whatever genius thing he did to break out.

This time, he simply says, “A very good man helped me.”

That’s when Jarvis knows the Tony who’s come back is not the same one who went away.

*

Jarvis has a mental record of the three worst days of his life.

The first was Anthony’s earliest kidnapping, when Jarvis had been late in getting to the school to pick him up on time. The second worst day of his life was when he heard news of Tony being lost in Afghanistan. The third was the day he found out about Anna's cancer.

He’d never imagined he’d be adding a fourth to that list, because he’d not anticipated this. He comes down to the workshop, carrying a tray of warm mac and cheese (a childhood favorite for Anthony, it has been a string of difficult days) for dinner when he stumbles upon the most horrific scene. Tony is white, paler than pale, with a big gaping hole at his chest, the arc reactor cavity empty, and Dummy hovering above him trying to reach the spare on the desk.

The tray of food crashes at his feet, and he rushes forward to grab the reactor and help Tony fit it inside.

“Tony!”

“Pep – Pepper – Jaawwis, Pepper is in danger! Call – Agent – Coulson, call Rhodey, I’ve got to go!”

Jarvis can hardly express a protest before Tony is gone, running toward the armor, his heart thudding in his chest.

For several minutes after Tony is gone, he sits there on the floor, broken remains of the tray on the workshop, pressing his hands to his heart, trying to forget, forget, forget the sight of his – child, son – almost dying in his arms.

He stays in New York till after the press conference, holding Tony through the nightmares and comforting Ms. Potts after her ordeal. While he’s there, he befriends Agent Coulson, who he relates to closely. The SHIELD agent is a respectable man. The scale of Anthony’s problems are becoming greater. Jarvis feels that the team of Rhodes, Potts and himself is no longer sufficient to watch over his favorite hero.

Over a full English breakfast (Coulson attended boarding school in Eton, and has picked up a few British tastes), he lends a patient ear to Coulson’s troubles with his cellist (with an actual bow, apparently; an ex-assassin archer sniper sharpshooter) and offers advice. In return, he wheedles a promise out of Phil to keep Tony safe.

It’s a win-win.

*

Tony is about to turn thirty-nine when he calls Jarvis in Liverpool.

“Hello,” he says into the phone.

“Hey Jay,” Tony croaks, and immediately, Jarvis knows something is wrong.

“Is everything alright, master Anthony?”

“Yes, I mean of course, why, it’s all great. Everything’s great. I called a senator an ass-clown, but then again, what else is new, right?”

“You called – what?”

“Really Jarvis, it’s too bad you don’t get C-SPAN there.”

“We do actually,” Jarvis shakes his head. “Listen, do you need me to come –“

“No!” Tony protests quickly, and crushing certainty settles in Jarvis’ chest about how wrong things are. “I mean, that’s not why I called you. Jeez, can’t I just make a phone call to you when I feel like it? Maybe I want to catch up on all the gossip in Lenderville.”

“Liverpool,” correct Jarvis absentmindedly, pulling up the airline information on his desktop computer. Tony would be flabbergasted if he knew Jarvis was still using a desktop computer. At least it’s a Stark computer. Jarvis would have gotten disowned if he’d dared to purchase an Apple one.

Or God forbid, a PC.

“Right,” Tony says. “How’s Anna?”

“Visiting her sister in Edinburgh,” Jarvis answers. “She’s doing much better. Don’t think I don’t know about the bills.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Tony laughs into the phone, but it is half hearted at best. Now Jarvis is really worried. “You are going senile in your old age.”

“I know, I’m ancient,” Jarvis agrees. “Soon I will be gone, and you’ll live out the rest of your years just missing me.”

“You don’t know that!” Tony snaps, and it comes out sharp and bitter. Jarvis selects the earliest flight out of Heathrow in the morning. “I am sorry – sorry, I am stressed.”

“What about?”

“Jay,” he says. “Do you know if dad kept any secret notes on his elemental chemistry work?”

Jarvis takes a deep breath, confused at the turn their conversation had taken.

“I only know of the books he had in the Park Avenue mansion. I cleared out his laboratory. They are all in storage.”

“Yeah, I have those,” Tony sighs. “It was worth a shot.”

“Stuck on a problem?” he asks, like Tony is eleven again and unable to sleep because of a stubborn quantum physics equation. “Want to talk it out?”

“Nah, I am okay,” Tony says. “It will come to me.”

After a minute’s silence, Jarvis asks, “How is Virginia?”

“Hmm? Fine, he’s fine,” Tony says. “Not talking to me at the moment. Very, very mad because I made her CEO and yelled at a senator, but otherwise, she’s awesome.”

“And James? Did the two of you make it to dinner?”

“I had to cancel.”

“Anthony.”

“You’re doing the disappointed face, aren’t you? Don’t do the disappointed face. I was busy, okay? I had things to do, and besides, Rhodey doesn’t need – Rhodey is fine. He has many nice men in the Air Force who can take him out to dinner. I don’t care.”

“Of course, what was I thinking.”

“It’s uncanny,” Tony laughs. “My Jarvis says that too. He says it exactly like you do.”

“You did model him after me.”

“He learned from observing you. I programmed him to base his parameters on you, but I never thought he would become a snappier version of you with a server farm.”

“Well, I dress better.”

“That you do, Jay, that you do.”       

*

Jarvis lands in Los Angeles and reaches the Malibu mansion just after Tony’s disaster of a birthday party.

When he enters the living quarters, he is stunned by the degree of destruction.

“Where is he, JARVIS?” he asks, instinctually bending to pick up various paraphernalia around the room. Somehow, the lesson about destroying belongings never stuck, no matter how many times Tony got grounded as a child.

“Workshop, Edwin,” his namesake tells him. “Sitting in the Maserati.”

“Sitting in the Maserati? Just – sitting?”

“Indeed.” It is amazing how worried his own disembodied AI voice can sound. Sometimes, Jarvis forgets how much of a genius Anthony really is.

“Has he eaten?”

“Nothing but whiskey and wine,” JARVIS says sounding disappointed.

“Order from Forzinelli’s please,” he requests. “Something comforting. Use your best judgement.”

“As you wish.”

Jarvis makes his way through the destroyed house, and keys in his code to enter the workshop. As informed, Tony is sitting inside the red Maserati. A holoscreen is floating in front of him, and on it, a video is playing. Jarvis pauses in the doorway behind Tony and silently just takes in the scene.

The video playing is familiar, and it is one of Jarvis’ fondest memories. Little year-old Tony on the screen is standing up, holding on to the edge of the sofa, his cherubic face in profile, smiling at Lady Maria standing past the back of the sofa.

“Come on Tony,” she laughs on screen. “Walk for me, baby.” Howard’s chuckles are audible from behind the camera. It was from the good days, from before the time Howard started drinking and their divorce. It was from a happier, simpler time.

Suddenly, his entire face beaming, little Anthony turns to the side to Jarvis, removes his tiny fists off the sofa cushions, and without support, takes five lopsided steps into Jarvis’ arms. Maria on screen bursts into applause, even as Jarvis hugs him close and gives him a kiss.

Nearly three decades later, a much elder Jarvis blinks away the wetness in his eyes, walking forward and placing a hand on the older Tony.

“Ja—arvis,” Tony croaks out, voice broken on a sob, and immediately, Jarvis presses his head close to his chest, hands running comfortingly through the younger man’s hair.

“What’s wrong, Tony? My boy, what happened to you?”

“Rhodey took my armor.”

“You let him take your armor,” Jarvis points out. “You can fool the world, but you know you cannot fool me.”

“Why did I walk towards you, Jarvis?”

“What?”

“My first steps,” Tony shrugs at the screen. “You. My first words. You. My first robot was a British butler with a bowtie. You. My first AI is you. The first person I call when I am in trouble is you. The first person I want to tell things to, is you. Why?”

“What are you really asking, Tony?”

“I have never told you how much you mean to me.”

Suddenly, Jarvis is terrified. His heart is too loud, his veins are too cold, because Tony’s words sound too much like goodbye.

“Don’t tell me now,” Jarvis says urgently. “Do not say a word. You’re not allowed to say goodbye. Master Anthony, tell me the truth. What has happened?”

“I am dying, Jarvis.”

*

Jarvis is certain that Nick Fury is manipulating Anthony, and Jarvis does not look favorably upon people who manipulate Anthony. He cannot help but feel that Fury was hanging on to Howard’s files, waiting for Tony at his most desperate before handing them out.

Fury wants Tony to be indebted to him. Jarvis does not like that, even if he is very grateful to Agent Coulson. After Phil leaves, Jarvis stays by Tony’s side, helping him move equipment and pipes to build his accelerator. When they make the element, Tony jokes that he should name it Jarvium just to pay him back for all his love.

Somehow, it comes out more sincere than humorous.

Jarvis has never breathed a more sincere sigh of relief.

He stays with Tony until the Hammer Expo. That night, on a rooftop, he stands to the side and watches Rhodes yell at Tony till he’s blue in the face.

“You were dying?!! What the hell, Tony?!”

“If you’d just let me explain –“

“You were dying!”

 It feels anti-climactic when Rhodes just grabs Tony by the front of his shirt and kisses him, Tony’s protests muffled before he slumps against the older man, the fight leaving him.

Jarvis loudly clears his throat after a few minutes and they spring apart.

“Right, sorry Edwin,” Rhodes says, shame-faced and goofish. Tony’s eyes are still widened in surprise, his mouth gaping like a fish.

“For goodness sakes,” Jarvis sighs. “Nearly a decade in the making and the two of you pick tonight to get your act together. Fly me home, let me tend to your wounds and then, you can retire for the night. Am I understood?”

Rhodes nods his assent, saying “Yes Jarvis,” just as Tony exclaims, “what do you mean ‘a decade in the making’?”

Jarvis only laughs in response, and gets on a plane to London the next morning, content in seeing Anthony safe in James’ arms.

*

Jarvis’ world comes crashing down at the speed of gravity, his heart plummeting with the falling figure on the television screen.

He is waiting at a gate in Heathrow, all flights into New York delayed, air traffic at a standstill, Jarvis huddling as close as possible to the television mounted on a box, showing the events happening live over the Manhattan skies. Jarvis feels his heart in his throat, panicked tears making their way down his cheeks.

“He’s not slowing down,” a kindly woman next to him is shrieking into her hands. “Oh my God! He’s falling! He’s not slowing down!”

Jarvis sees his entire life flashing in front of his eyes. He sees himself clutching at four year old Anthony, fixing a scraped knee from a fall from a bicycle. Every time Tony fell, Jarvis has been there to catch him.

This time, he is watching on a television set thousands of miles away.

When the Hulk reaches forward and pulls Tony out of the fall, Jarvis collapses to the floor and sobs into his hands, thanking every God there is for giving him this, for blessing him with this, for saving Tony’s life.

He’s too old to outlive his Anthony.

*

Jarvis is not impressed by Steve Rogers.

He’s aware that he’s biased. He spent a good portion of Tony’s early life protecting him from Howard’s obsession with Captain America. He watched his employer drown himself to the bottom of a bottle, unable to cope with the failure of losing his greatest creation. Steve Rogers, or at least his ghost, is responsible for many of the mistakes of Tony’s early twenties.

But none of that is Steve’s fault.

However, calling his son a coward, a worthless man who doesn’t know to make the sacrifice play? That is entirely Steve’s fault.

So Jarvis feels no guilt whatsoever at treating the man with an icy demeanor when Rogers arrives at Stark Tower three weeks after the battle of New York.

“Can I help you Captain?”

“Erm,” he says, very tall and awkward, as if he still hasn’t gotten used to maneuvering this big body through small places. “I am here to see Mr. Stark.”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“Er, no – I don’t,” he says, his ears red. “I can come back later if he’s busy.”

“I can put you on his calendar,” JARVIS, the AI says and Edwin takes a moment to feel betrayed. He thought he and the AI were together on this. “Mr. Stark has an opening five months from now.”

Edwin smiles, basking in the solidarity. AI JARVIS is the finest buddy one could hope for.

Rogers sighs and slumps forward, his shoulders drooping in disappointment. He gives off the impression of a very young man wearing an old man’s bones. After a moment’s pondering, Jarvis realizes that it’s true. Rogers is a very young man in an old man’s bones.

“I am here to apologize,” Rogers says, and Jarvis takes a moment to rethink his weighing of the young man. “I said some horrible things to him, and I misjudged him. I’d be very grateful if you pass on my message to him, that I requested an appointment.”

“Of course,” says JARVIS.

“Thanks. Have a good day, sir,” Rogers greets Edwin and makes his way back to the elevator.

“Captain Rogers!” Jarvis calls out. “Please accompany me. I will guide you to the workshop. Mr. Stark can see you now.”

Rogers turns around and grins at him, his gaze assessing.

“I thought he didn’t have an opening till three months from now.”

“JARVIS was probably mistaken.”

“JARVIS the world’s one and only artificial intelligence was mistaken?” Steve asks, his eyebrows rising with his grin. Edwin looks at him curiously.

“I have been reading up on modern technology,” Rogers shrugs. “Tony and his work comes up a lot. In fact, he’s all over modern technology.”

“He’s very proud of the fact.”

“Howard was like that too,” Rogers says, and Jarvis can’t help flinching. He wonders if Rogers will hang around in Tony’s life long enough to learn that comparing him to Howard Stark is not the way to friendship.

 

“I would not bring that up around him,” Jarvis says, throwing the man a bone.

“Noted,” Rogers nods. “I am sorry, sir, I don’t mean to be rude, but you are?”

“Of course. I am Edwin Jarvis. I used to work for the late Mr. Stark.”

“Jarvis,” Steve says, mouthing the word. “Tony named his AI after you.”

Edwin feels self-conscious, the way he does every time someone realizes the connection between him and the AI.

“Yes,” Jarvis says, waiting for the careful flattery that follows the realization. People usually start sweet talking him when they realize how close he is to Anthony. However, Rogers looks like he’s busy re-evaluating his impression of Tony.

“That’s very sweet of him,” Rogers says. “That he named his AI after someone close to him.”

It is now Jarvis’ turn to gape, because never in the last eight years has anyone reacted this way to finding out the AI is named after Tony’s childhood caretaker.

He shows Rogers to the workshop, and watches Tony beam at seeing Rogers. Jarvis stands behind the glass wall for a long time, watching Tony smile with his eyes crinkling, his entire attention focused on Rogers in a way he’s focused on few other things.

Jarvis smiles to himself when he goes to bed that night.

*

“I bought him a giant stuffed bunny,” Anthony tells Jarvis on a Starkvid call, two days after rescuing the President of the United States from death.

Why did you buy Rhodes a giant stuffed bunny?”

“He thinks bunnies are cute,” Tony shrugged. “How was I supposed to know the size freaked him out?”

“Why did you leave it outside, though?”

“It couldn’t fit in through the door.”

“Anthony,” Jarvis sighs, shaking his head.

“So anyway,” Tony grimaces, shrugging like it was a very light matter. “We’re broken up now. He said he cannot stand to watch me nearly die every time a villain comes after me.”

“Let’s not blame the villains on this one.”

“He told you, huh?”

“The international press corps told me,” Jarvis snaps. “You gave them your home address. What were you thinking?”

“I am sorry,” Tony says. “I am sorry I made you worry.”

“I will always worry,” Jarvis sighs. “Tell me the truth. Do you want me there for the surgery?”

“Pepper is here. I am not entirely helpless without you. Besides, I am sure Rhodey will come and see me in the hospital. He just needs some time to cool off.”

“Fine,” Jarvis smiles. “I will get a morning flight.”

“That’s not even close to what I just said.”

“I want to be there,” Jarvis tells him. “You are not getting your chest cut open without me. Again.”

“Fine,” Tony nods, but he’s smiling wide like he was expecting this outcome all along. He probably was. “At least Steve will get a chance to try your cooking while he’s here. His mother was Irish, and he says nobody can make mince-meat pie like old Sarah Rogers used to.”

“Steve, huh?”

“Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. All American apple pies and values? One for all and all for one? The star spangled man with a plan?”

“I know who he is, Anthony.”

“Right,” he says. “Steve stays here now. At the tower, I mean. All the avengers do. It’s horrible having housemates. Clint drinks all my coffee.”

“Why did you ask them to come stay with you if they are horrible?”

“Because of my big heart, Jarvis, keep up.”

“Of course. I should have known immediately. You are doing this out of the goodness of your heart.”

“Exactly.”

“How is Steve, then?” Jarvis prods.

“He is, you know, Steve. He’s Steve. He goes running every morning at four am. Every morning, Jarvis. You would like him. He’s your kind of boy. Says please and thank you, holds the door open for old ladies, eats with fork on the left, knife on the right.”

“I am sure.”

“What is that expression on your face? Explain that expression.”

“I am not having an expression.”

“You’re the worst, Jarvis.”

“Certainly, master Anthony.”

*

On Tony’s forty second birthday, reporters are lined outside the tower, waiting for the annual press release and statement. Jarvis, who is in the city for the celebration (Tony had begged him to come and bake a cake, in many ways, Anthony didn’t mature past the age of five) watches as the Stark PR liaison makes the statement about the charity Tony’s supporting this year.

A reporter in the front row is yelling increasingly offensive things about Tony’s virtue, character and integrity, speaking over the Stark PR staff. Jarvis is about to lose his temper and get the journalist thrown out by security when Steve reaches across the edge of the stage and punches the man.

Jarvis hadn’t even known that Steve had come down to the press conference.

Afterwards, when Phil is chewing Steve out in the kitchen for making the headlines again, Jarvis meets the man’s eye. There is an expression of solidarity in them, like he’s telling Jarvis that they’re in this together, that he gladly accepts the job of protect Tony Stark twenty four seven.

Jarvis simply smiles at him.

*

Anthony tells him six months later, shy and hesitant on the phone, that he’s “maybe sort of dating” Steve Rogers.

Jarvis’ total lack of surprise annoys him.

“This is unfair,” he whines. “You knew about me and Rhodey too.”

“You have many, many gifts of intelligence, my Anthony,” Jarvis laughs on the phone. “None of them involve matters of the heart.”

There’s a minute of silence before Tony says, “I think this might be it, Jay.”

“How are you feeling about that?”

“Scared shitless,” he admits. “Wanna know a secret? Steve says he loves me.”

“That’s not a secret, Anthony,” Jarvis laughs. “I don’t know how any man wouldn’t love you.”

“You are biased.”

“And very proud of it,” Jarvis tells him. “Are you happy?”

“Yes,” Tony admits. “I am. What I am saying is, we still have vicious fights, and Steve is still a stubborn, stuck-up son of a bitch sometimes, and he can be really mean. But I think – I think I love him too.”

“I am so thrilled, Anthony.”

“Me too, Jay. You like him, don’t you?”

“Of course,” Jarvis agrees. “We’re all in the same club, he and I. The Tony Stark protection squad.”

“Don’t need protecting.”

“Address. On. National. Television.”

“How many times are you going to pull that card?”

“As long as I need to.”

*

When Captain Rogers subtly contacts him for Anthony’s ring size, Jarvis is not surprised.

When Captain Rogers flies to England to show him the platinum with rubies band, Jarvis is not surprised.

But when Captain Rogers asks his permission to propose to Tony, he is stunned speechless.

“I am not –“ he takes a deep breath and starts over. “I am – it’s not – I couldn’t possibly –“

“You are his father,” Steve says, expression earnest. “He thinks of you as his father. His is the only opinion that counts on the subject, don’t you think?”

“I don’t know.”

“Ten bucks and one of your mince-meat pies says he asks you to give him away.”

Jarvis laughs.

“So?” Steve prompts, grinning.

“You know my answer, Captain Rogers,” he points out. “You wouldn’t have flown to England if you thought I would say no.”

“What would I have done in that case?”

“You would have just asked him, and made him tell me the news,” Jarvis shrugs. “You’re sneaky. You’re determined enough to know how to get what you want. And you want Tony.”

“I really do, Jarvis.”

“Make it nice,” Jarvis says, “Oh, he will say yes even if you ask him over pizza in his pigsty of a workshop. But make it nice. He doesn’t think he deserves good things. Prove him wrong.”

“I promise.”

“How are you going to ask?”

“I was actually going to hide the ring in between Dummy’s claws before a maintenance check.”

“He will love that.”

“You think so?”

Jarvis surveys him appraisingly, and then nods in a ‘you will do’ fashion. Steve feels like he just passed test.

“You two going out before?”

“The auto show,” Steve nods. “Classic cars from the 50s.”

“Oh, he will be unbearable.”

“I know,” Steve laughs. “But he will be relaxed, which is the point.”

“Well Captain Rogers,” Jarvis says finally, extending an arm. “Welcome to the family.”

“Thank you Jarvis,” Steve says, shaking his hand. “Honestly, I was expecting the shovel talk.”

“Oh,” Jarvis laughs. “Wait till after the engagement. Potts will corner you and Rhodes will provide a demonstration.”

“I look forward to it.”

“You’re a foolish brave man, Rogers. But that’s the characteristic skill set required to keep up with Tony.”

 

*

Jarvis has a mental record of the three best days of his life.

The first is the day Anna agreed to marry him. The second best day of his life is a memory from three decades ago, when he watched Anna hold baby Anthony for the first time, and his heart had tugged at his chest, waiting to burst and explode in giddiness. His third best day was when a year old Anthony had wrapped his hand around Jarvis’ fingers and said his first words, ‘Jawwis, up!’.

He feels so fortunate that he gets a fourth best day, and it is surely this one, this day when he gets to take Anthony’s – his son’s – arm and walk him down the aisle to marry Steve.

He cries. Tony doesn’t get to tease him over it because he’s weeping too, looking radiant and safe in Steve’s arms.

At the reception, he finds James sitting at a stool, holding a drink in hand, looking wistfully at Anthony and Steve dancing.

“Regretting the one that got away?” he asks, smiling at the happy couple.

“Ooooh no,” Rhodey laughs. “Grateful and beyond relieved that he now has another person to harass.”

“You will miss it. You will feel neglected if he doesn’t call you in the middle of the night to ask for some Ghiradelli.”

“That…. is probably true. God help us all.”

“Do you ever think – you and he?”

“I know you were rooting for us all along, Jarvis,” Rhodes says. “But we would have driven each other crazy. Steve balances him out. He’s happy. I am happy.”

“Yes, I heard,” Jarvis nods. “Good for you, James. If you hurt Ms. Potts, Tony will kill you.”

“I know,” James nods.

“Jarvis! Come dance with me!” Tony comes up behind them, bowtie undone and hanging off his collar, hair wild. Jarvis starts trying to fix the bowtie. The hair is hopeless without a brush and some product anyway.

“Oh come on Jarvis, it’s alright if I am not prim and proper. It’s a party!”

“I cannot dance, Anthony.”

“We will do a slow song,” Tony says, and when he sees Jarvis’ hesitation, he brings out the puppy dog eyes and uses his most powerful weapon. “Father-son dance. It’s a thing. Come on!”

Jarvis looks at Steve, who simply shrugs, “Hey, don’t look at me! The pretty man wants a dance. You should give it to him.”

“You’re a sneaky one, Captain. I cannot believe the world thinks you are virtuous and pure.”

“Oh, I can definitely attest to the fact that he’s neither virtuous nor pure. Jesus, how much wine have I had?” Tony says. “Ignore me, Jay, come on, dance with me.”

“A stand in for your AI, that’s all I am,” Jarvis chides, even as he allows being led by the hand.

“Yes, I only use you to model my amazing, ground-breaking creations after,” Tony laughs. “Woe is you and all that.”

As promised, a slow song begins and Tony spins Jarvis around, exactly like Jarvis used to spin him around at age five, dancing along to the radio.

Jarvis cannot hold back smiling wide. Tony beams at him, before looking away, suddenly shy.

“Jarvis?”

“Yes master Anthony?”

“Thank you for everything.”

“Don’t be silly,” Jarvis holds the man close. “Sons shouldn’t thank their fathers. Especially sons who make their fathers as proud as you do.”

Tony would like to deny that he didn’t cry like a baby at that, but Rogers gets it all on video for posterity.

*

~Epilogue~

He absolutely forbids them from naming their son Jarvis.

Besides, as he points out, Anthony’s already named one AI son after him. He shouldn’t do that to his flesh and blood sibling.

In the end, Steve’s good reason prevails, and their adopted bundle of joy is named James Edwin Stark-Rogers. Both Colonel Rhodes and Sergeant Barnes weep upon meeting their little namesake, but Jarvis is too giddy for tears.

He is already making plans to spoil the young master as much as he can.

If he grows up to be a little terror, then Anthony will entirely deserve it. Karma is a sweet, sweet thing, Jarvis thinks, holding the blanket wrapped child closer to his chest, murmuring words he spoke a really long time ago.

Close your eyes
Have no fear
The monster's gone
He's on the run and your daddy’s here

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy

*