The weapon is staring at JARVIS and JARVIS is staring back.
They’re sitting on the couches in Steve’s apartment. Both nursing a glass of water but the weapon’s eyes can’t focus on the minute motion of metal fingers tapping at the glass. Instead they are enthralled by the red-yellow beanie on the robot’s head.
It’ll look more human, Steve had said, but he looked so unconvinced himself it probably wasn’t his idea.
They’ve been doing this for days now, the only casualties so far five robots of the Iron Legion and two beanies.
The door opens and neither the robot nor the weapon flinch. If it’s anyone but Steve they will be dead soon enough.
“Three hours and twenty-five minutes. That’s a new record.” Steve notices while he takes off his shoes. Though he goes to the Avengers’ gym regularly to run or spar, he never leaves the tower. Steve pretends it’s not a big deal, he wouldn’t know where to go anyway, but the weapon knows he’s bored. Probably not as bored as the weapon, though. Maybe it should stage a killing-spree and do them both a favor.
“I’m gonna take a quick shower. Wanna watch a movie later?”
“Sure.” The weapon agrees absent-mindedly and doesn’t bother watching Steve going into his room. It just continues to stare at the robot’s headwear. “You think I would look more human if I wore one of those?” It wants to know.
“From a visual point of view you already appear very human, sir.”
“Would I feel more human? Do you feel more human?”
“I’m afraid I can’t feel the hat at all. There are no pressure sensors available at this body’s head area.”
“Wow, JARVIS, way to talk like a human. Could’ve fooled me.” It drawls and snatches the beanie away to put it on its own head.
“Well done, sir. Just take what you want. Very human-like.”
It pauses, hand still on the wool, looking at the robot with wide eyes. “Sarcasm, right. Sorry.” Reluctantly it gives the beanie back. “I’m letting you do all the work pretending to be human. I should focus on treating you like one.”
“You already offered me something to drink. Hospitality is a friendly gesture.”
“Uhm.” What does one offer an AI in the body of a robot? “Would you like to listen to some music?”
“Marvelous idea, sir.” JARVIS answers and instantly a song starts playing. “Music made by humans for humans, what could be more human?”
They both just listen for a while until the weapon complains: “Is that a human singing about being a robot wishing to be human?”
“Yes, I believe that’s the idea.”
“How could a human possibly know what it’s like to be a robot?”
“It’s called empathy, a highly valued trait for successful social behavior. The ability to understand another person’s feelings, based on one’s own experience of similar situations.”
“Isn’t that just projecting?”
“No. Experience and knowledge teaches humans that their own reactions aren’t necessarily everyone’s. But it does take a high level of self-reflection, so even for a species as intelligent as humans it’s quite a difficult feat.”
“Urgh, that means I need to be able to empathize to pass as a human?”
“There are no definite regulations what it means to be human.”
It huffs exhausted by the mere thought. “Don’t remind me. Best mission ever.” It stands up and gets another glass of water. Steve will probably be thirsty after his workout. He didn’t pause to drink anything before he went into the shower. “To err is human, right? So as long as I’m failing, I’m human.” As pathetic as it is, the words are spoken only half as a joke. The other half is hope for an easy way out.
“And here I thought, you were just pretending to read Alexander Pope.”
The weapon puts the glass onto the table and looks frowning at the robot. “I didn’t pretend, I fell asleep, but I read the article on Wikipedia.”
“That seems to me like very human behavior.”
“More like boredom. I mean, his English is 300 years old and so are his views on mankind.”
“So you did read it.”
“Prejudice, well done sir, very human.”
The weapon doesn’t bother to sit back down but walks to stand behind the robot. With simple thought it reactivates the metal arm and takes it out of the sling to prop both its elbows onto the back rest of the couch.
JARVIS doesn’t react, though. It’s not a real body after all. The robot can be repaired or even rebuild. “Sir, are you trying to intimidate me?”
The weapon huffs and whines. “I’m trying to get you to shut up and there is a very simple solution for that.” With the gentle flesh and bone hand it takes the beanie away while it cradles the head with the metal one, bristling with blue flashes.
“Wouldn’t it be easier to ask me, not to mock you?” JARVIS suggests calmly as the energy burns black streaks over the metal of its head.
“But why would you stop if I don’t give you a reason to?”
“Because I have no interest in causing you discomfort.”
“Yeah, because if I feel uncomfortable I’ll hurt you.”
“You can’t hurt me.”
“You’re worse than me at pretending to be human.” It sighs and pulls the beanie back over the metal head for the second time. “Humans would defend or at least protect themselves when they are threatened with death, and so would I.”
“Self-preservation isn’t a trait all humans deem overly important. Wouldn’t you agree, Captain Rogers?” JARVIS asks just as Steve enters the living room.
There is something inherently wrong about Steve keeping his mouth shut and glancing at the weapon with guilt in his eyes.
JARVIS however doesn’t seem to expect an answer and stands up. “If you’ll excuse this vessel. I have informed master Stark that I’m not human enough anymore for the exercise. He proposes a different approach for tomorrow.”
Steve frowns and wants to know: “What’s his idea?”
“Since he believes the method to be more effective if it’s a surprise, he asked me not to disclose that information, sir.” Before the robot leaves, it turns around to nod at the weapon. “Thank you for the drink, sir.”
“You’re welcome.” It replies automatically, its attention already focused on Steve.
He’s looking confused at the full glasses on the table. “Why didn’t he…? Oh, right.”
“Look at us, three old men enjoying their well-deserved down-time. How about a movie? Have you seen Inglourious Basterds?”
It takes one second to rip the head clean off the remote controlled robot. Sparks and metal scraps flying away like confetti. Steve doesn’t even flinch.
When the Black Widow comes into Steve’s apartment, she’s wearing the red-yellow beanie.
All the weapon does is ask her: “Does it make you feel like a human?”
Of course the weapon lashes out when the Falcon enters he floor. He’s fits the profile of a human like the Vitruvian Man.
“I think it’s actually a compliment if he wants to kill you.” Steve interprets as the weapon goes pliant in his iron grip.
In the end it takes a lot of Sam’s presence and inhuman patience while Steve restrains the weapon. It doesn’t really mind the strong arms around its torso and the warm chest at its back. So even after the urge to kill has slowly disappeared, for a while it pretends it’s still there.