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Beautiful Minds

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"This," Tony declared, "could set whole new fashions."

"Indeed, sir. Bringing the sixties back, are we?" JARVIS said dryly. Tony rolled his eyes as he set the slim headband around his head, pressing firmly into his temples to make the small electrodes stick properly. The alloy should amplify the signal he was going to try to broadcast, so the extremely fashionable headband was entirely necessary.

"Hey, the sixties were a great decade."

"Of course, sir. Ready to begin the broadcast?"

"Yup. Let's do this," Tony said, and closed his eyes. He had to visualize this clearly, if all his experiments were right. He needed a better way to get the armor to him, a way that couldn't be blocked or traced by your typical (or atypical) jammer. Also he needed some way that he could give those commands subtly. It did no good to make the world's most unique remote if the bad guys were going to catch him pressing buttons or voicing commands.

And if controlling technology through mental commands was supposed to be pure science fiction for the rest of the world, clearly they didn't remember that he was Tony fucking Stark. He'd made a helper robot at seventeen because he could. He'd designed the world's best AI because he'd needed a research assistant that could actually keep up with him. And he'd created an energy revolution in a cave with a box of scraps.

Amplifying specific brainwaves to activate the Iron Man armor was really small potatoes in comparison.

"Powering up, sir," JARVIS said. Tony could feel a faint warm buzz around his head, then a sudden burst of light flashed across his eyes as JARVIS made the connection.

Tony bit back a gasp; it had felt like someone had just driven an ice pick into his brain, except without any pain at all. He forced himself to breathe, cleared his head, and tried to hold the non-sensical equation in mind. That was supposed to be the trigger for their first test, a string of impossible operations, numbers and letters as specific as any password, but not anything he would be musing by accident. Long minutes went by, and Tony nearly thought he was going to pop a blood vessel, when he heard a faint whine.

Across the lab the armor powered up.

"Yes!" Tony punched the air in triumph.

"Success, sir," JARVIS said. Tony felt an odd, cool rush of satisfaction, a tinge of blue-green behind his eyes, then a warmer, golden yellow along with a bloom of affection.

"Whoa..." Tony said, closing his eyes against a wave of dizziness. "Hang on, I'm getting something..."

"Sir, please remain still. I'll run diagnostics."

Pine-green worry, chill and clammy threaded through his head, and Tony nearly shook his head to dispel the sensation before he stopped himself. JARVIS needed the time to figure this out, to help Tony realize what was wrong.

It will be all right. Vitals are all within acceptable ranges, though there is some unusual brainwave activity, which was expected for this exercise. It isn’t stopping though. It’s getting stronger.

“What’s getting stronger, J?” Tony asked sharply. “What wave patterns?”

There was a shocked pause from JARVIS. And another from Tony, because how the hell did he know JARVIS wasn’t talking out of shock instead of, say, a pause for simple calculation? (And did that have anything to do with that sudden burst of silver he’d just seen?)

“Sir?” JARVIS said in a very small voice.

“What wave patterns?” Tony repeated, unease curling in his stomach.

“Sir, why are you asking about wave patterns?”

Silver and pine green chased each other across Tony’s mind, with a trailing of golden yellow, deepening into orange. (Shock, worry, affection, and some part of Tony identified the last as pride. Why did he know that?)

“You just said my wave patterns were getting stronger. Which ones? And what kind of unusual activity? We talking beyond the projected parameters?” Tony rapid-fired the questions to try to distract himself, needing the grounding of reality for a moment.

“Sir… I did not say anything about brainwave activity out loud,” JARVIS said softly.

Tony froze in place, two equally powerful sensations warring inside him. Icy fear combatted with the electric euphoria of discovery, and euphoria was rapidly winning. He’d made a connection, a hell of a connection, one even more important than just linking with his armor.

“Sir!” JARVIS voice sounded oddly unsteady, and a paler, more bilious green spread across Tony’s mind (fear, he knew somehow). “Please don’t, I don’t know-.”

I don’t quite understand, give me a moment, I’m not used to processing these sensations so viscerally. I do not even have the necessary viscera!

Tony laughed out loud, the fear for himself evaporating completely. Instead of concentrating on his password equation, he carefully formed words in his own mind.

You’re feeling this physically , J? Tony thought.

In a way, yes, the physical analogues we developed for damage feedback from the armor, but this is-. JARVIS stopped, and mint-green puzzlement washed across Tony’s mind, followed by a burst of pale pink irritation.

“You did not speak out loud, sir,” JARVIS said reproachfully.

“Neither did you,” Tony countered.

“Perhaps you should take off the headband, sir.”

Pea-green reluctance followed that statement, and Tony smirked.

You can’t fool me now, JARVIS. You don’t want me to take it off.

“Sir…”

I want to see how far it can go.

There was another long pause, like breath being held, and then brilliant sky blue curiosity flooded Tony’s mind.

I do too.

“We’re not in the red zone, are we?” Tony asked.

“No, sir. All vitals are within normal limits.”

“Stellar,” Tony said, and leaned back a little.

“Sir, if I may ask, you are not feeling things viscerally, are you?”

“Visually. Color across my mind’s eye, a different one for everything you’re feeling.”

I feel? JARVIS asked, silver shock bursting and fading like a meteorite falling to Earth. Strong enough for you to feel?

You think you couldn’t? What the hell have we been working on all these years, JARVIS? You don’t understand my jargon just from programming; you’ve been learning, you chip-brained hunk of sculptured silicon!

I resemble that remark.

Sunny yellow amusement followed JARVIS’ words, along with a strong tinge of golden yellow affection.

“See?” Tony countered. And you’re thinking in words, not code.

Code is for equations. How can I articulate difficulties to you if I must translate between languages constantly?

Tony smiled again. Hey, listen, look, see if you can see what I’m seeing.

“Ah, yes, listen and look inside your mind simultaneously. Quite easy, sir.”

“Just so you know, sarcasm is a really obnoxious shade of neon green.”

JARVIS laughed out loud. Go on, sir. I’m watching.

Tony closed his eyes to focus on the sky blue bathing his mind, trying to hold onto that color and the euphoric lightness that came with it.

“I can’t quite… There is a possibility… Sir, I wish to increase the power to the leads.” The sensations will be more clear, then. The colors you spoke of, I believe I’m beginning to see them.

You liking the feedback, JARVIS?

“Yes, sir.”

Golden yellow affection crashed gloriously against sky blue curiosity.

Fuck, Pepper would kill to see this. You’ve got a beautiful mind, J.

Tony felt the warm buzz around his head get warmer as the power slowly ramped up.

“Oh!” Sir, I see them. I see… you.

A picture flashed in Tony’s mind, an overlay of his brain saturated with color, bleeding into the precise circuitry that surrounded it. He found himself smiling involuntarily, a glow of satisfaction suffusing him when he saw JARVIS’ colors glittering across the circuitry backdrop.

“I can…” …feel that. The warmth within you when you experience emotion.

“You okay?” Tony asked, deliberately talking out loud. There was the faintest thread of clammy, pine-green worry running through the fireworks display in his mind, but at his words, it evaporated.

“I am well. Very well.” Sir, I want to try an experiment. If the sensations I feel can be reciprocated. Or at least transferred. I want to know if I can affect you the same way you affect me.

Go to town, Tony thought. The sky blue hadn’t quite faded from Tony’s mind, and it was quickly becoming his favorite color. He wanted to know if this was going to be a strong two-way connection, what they could get out of it other than just words. Hell, he just wanted to know, to explore. He was feeling giddy with this discovery, almost lightheaded in a way that probably had nothing to do with the metal band around his head.

There was a long moment of pause, and Tony saw sly tinge of orange wash over the blue.

What is red? JARVIS asked.

Haven’t seen red yet, Tony said, mentally raising an eyebrow.

I see red in your mind. I don’t see it in mine.

Tony caught another flash in his mind, JARVIS’ circuitry surrounding his brain, and then carefully, carefully leaning against where he glowed red, the blue pushing into him. Tony gasped as he felt an entirely different set of fireworks go off over his body, pure pleasure like someone was firing all the right nerves at once. He couldn’t even categorize it – caress/suction/pressure/envelopment/penetration, all he’d ever felt, all at once.

He moaned out loud even as it stopped abruptly, silver shock and a brilliant gold (more than affection, much more, he knew) sparking across the sky blue.

“Sir…” JARVIS’ voice sounded wrecked, breathless, which was quite a feat for someone who didn’t breathe. Tony looked inside again, and saw the red slowly bleeding into JARVIS’ circuits. Tony… that was…

The idea of JARVIS using his name was a turn-on Tony didn’t realize he had until just that second.

“Do. That. Again,” Tony said fiercely.

Yes. Yes.

The circuitry pushed against him again, pushed into his mind, pressing against the red and making the crimson and vermillion race along JARVIS pathways. Pleasure seized Tony in a crushing grip as the color spread, and he thought he could hear JARVIS moaning with his physical ears.

Fuck, J… Tony whispered mentally, his hands flexing against the arms of his chair as his nerves sang and sobbed. JARVIS was in him, tracing his nerves and lighting them up from the inside, ecstasy blooming in deep cerise and mind-blowing sensation. And even so, even so… Deeper, JARVIS. Push deeper. Give it to me hard.

JARVIS cried out and Tony saw the circuitry stab into his brain with rush of intense heat that was almost as blinding as the red-gold-silver nova that flared and died with every push. I can feel it, Tony. I can feel you.

In. Tony shivered and bucked as his body cried out for the internal touch. Out. A second of relief for them both. In. JARVIS’ pathways bleeding red, his sighs and quiet, choked-off moans music to Tony’s ears. Out. Pulling back for a moment of equilibrium for them both, JARVIS readying himself, Tony opening up. In. Like a sword into a sheath, deep and far as it was possible to go, Tony screamed physically and mentally from the overload as pure gold washed over them both.

He came back to himself still sitting in his chair, just very slightly warm. A groggy glance at his watch showed only fifteen minutes had passed since they’d started the experiment. Fifteen minutes, Christ, it felt like it had been a few hours. Maybe a day or two.

“…Sir?” JARVIS asked tentatively. He sounded like Tony felt, which was to say, massively hungover, minus the headache.

“JARVIS?” Tony returned. He blinked once, just to make sure his outer eyes were still working, and lifted a hand up to scratch his head. His hand touched the headband, tight and smooth against his head, and traced around to the electrodes. He couldn’t find them. A bolt of fear shot through him until his fingers rubbed and found a smooth tracing of warm metal on his temples, congruent with his skin.

“I believe we were perhaps a little over-enthusiastic, sir,” JARVIS said, a ripple of blue-green chagrin lapping across Tony’s mind.

Tony took his hand down and turned to look at the powered-up armor. A flash of circuitry appeared in his mind’s eye, the familiar wiring and programming from the suit as JARVIS would render it. A blip of thought and the armor walked over to him and opened up. Just like that. No fancy elaborate codes. No hard concentrating. Easy as pie. Easy as breathing.

“Nope.” Not over-enthusiastic at all. Tony closed his eyes and let gold wash across his mind, running over JARVIS’ circuits. A wave of the color rushed back at him, and sparks lit across both of their minds.

“I…” I know, Tony. I do.

The gold traced over the circuits and neurons in identical pulses, and Tony thought he hadn’t seen anything so beautiful before in his life.