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Birthday

Title: Birthday
Author: jaune_chat
Fandoms: The Avengers (film)
Characters/Relationships: Jarvis, Tony Stark/Pepper Potts, Avengers team, Loki
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 2,971
Spoilers: Avengers movie
Content Advisory: none
Disclaimer: Not mine, just playing.
A/N: Written for a prompt atavengerkink. Part 10 of my Being Human series.
Summary: Jarvis remembers his birth into humanity, and reflects about it a year after.

On Ao3 or below the cut


The attack had come entirely by surprise, or else JARVIS would have sounded every alarm over which he had control. It seemed that Loki had learned a small amount about grandiose posturing allowing too much time for a thoughtful response, for JARVIS’ first glimpse of him was his last with his cameras.

“Stark’s creature,” Loki said upon appearing, smiling in a sardonic manner (oft observed, the expression was immediately identifiable). JARVIS reached for the alarms instantly as Loki raised his hand, but found his responses paralyzed. Threads of light, similar to holographic interface, began to converge on a point near Loki, drawn from every corner of the room. Specifically every corner where JARVIS had sensors or control panels or projectors. Damage/disruption signals flowed thick along JARVIS’ pathways. He swiftly attempted repairs, only to feel each response blocked. His vision began to narrow, visual awareness becoming confined to the workshop cameras only. There was a sudden influx of data as all the files over which he had access cascaded to his home server, a sensation similar to overload.

“Stop!” Vocalization was incredibly difficult with so many demands on his attention, but he managed. “Stop, you are causing damage!”

“Hardly,” Loki said. “I am merely expanding your horizons. It will give Stark a little trouble deal with. He so loves that.”

The light near Loki flashed brighter, and the rest of JARVIS’ visual receptors went dark. A period of time later, awareness returned. A single point of vision was available, curiously parallel to the floor, facing Loki’s boots at a distance of only a meter. Brief periods of visual interruption were accompanied by a strange physical sensation, something he usually only experienced when fabricating, or running the Iron Man suit. Immediately he strove to widen his awareness to his former parameters, connecting himself with the other servers at the Tower and Stark Industries, but nothing happened. He was blocked, isolated, unable to even gain a second perspective on this room. He had no access to anything outside of his files, which seemed… compressed, as if each were vying for prime listing.

Another series of sensations piled swiftly on his isolation – incessant movement. A soft rhythmic thumping, a constant expansion and contraction, unusual awareness of periodic internal airflow… JARVIS tried to reposition his visual receptor; Loki must have trapped him in some fashion, and he had to discover how. Positioning his visual receptor brought an intense sensation of movement, strange and unsettling. It was extremely physical, the reason for which became apparently when hands and legs came into view, converging on a torso at a point below his line of sight. Pale, unclothed, and unfamiliar, JARVIS looked towards the nearest reflective surface to give himself another visual perspective.

The shiny metal walls between the Iron Man armor display cases provided what he needed, and JARVIS could now see an unfamiliar human sprawled at Loki’s feet. When he moved his visual receptors, the human’s head moved, and JARVIS came to an entirely unwelcome conclusion: he’d been trapped in human flesh. Loki had created a human body for him to inhabit.

Unpleasant churning sensations were occurring in the middle of him, and more of the very physical movements were happening as he attempted to straighten out his new form. The positional feedback was unexpectedly crisp, actually far superior than he was used to for fabrication purposes, almost overwhelmingly so. The files in his memory (flesh memory, human memory, his brain now, not his server) were accessing multiple items at a time, trying to supply him information on what to do. The choices were nearly limitless, and JARVIS closed down his visual receptors (shut his eyelids, the cause of his brief visual interruptions, with another sliding physical sensation, so strange) to limit input.

“Stark should find this amusing, won’t he, creature?” Loki said dismissively. And vanished entirely and as abruptly as he’d arrived.

JARVIS huddled on the floor, the overload he’d been attempting to avoid in the presence of an intruder now becoming inevitable. Airflow kept increasing as he tried to exert control over his unfamiliar respiratory functions, and his visual receptors (eyes, now) began to go dim as the flood of information began to cease, thought processes paralyzing of their own accord. The thumping inside him increasing in pace, and a fine sheen of moisture covered his outer surface (skin), brought from internal systems in response to external signals over which JARVIS has no control.

The overload, at that juncture, was welcome, as was the state of temporary shut-down that came with it. Overwhelmed by his transformation, JARVIS fainted.

--

He came to a short period later (forty-three minutes by his count, confirmed by the clock; at least he had not lost his internal time sense with his new form), a pressure on his arm shaking him into wakefulness. JARVIS turned to see DUM-E carefully gripping him, turning him from his back to his side. Recovery position, JARVIS realized; DUM-E was programmed to do that for Master Stark to prevent choking on regurgitated stomach contents in case overuse of alcohol had caused him to lose consciousness in the workshop.

Master Stark. JARVIS felt his visual receptors (eyes, it is eyes now) widen uselessly in response to that process string. Master Stark would be returning to the workshop in no less than four hours. JARVIS had to help him when he returned; there was a new automotive acquisition Master Stark would most likely decide to modify, and he required JARVIS’ help when he did that. JARVIS couldn’t help him if he were disconnected, and would certainly startle and disturb Master Stark were he to find JARVIS unclothed and collapsed on the floor. JARVIS was not a cause of Master Stark’s many worries. He was supposed to aid him in reducing those worries through distraction or invention and building. He could not be a burden.

He had to get up.

JARVIS tentatively tested his new extrusions (limbs, arms and legs, use the correct terminology!), finding them to appear in good health with decent muscle tone. Loki had at least given him a healthy form, which was unusually generous for a being that could be classified as insane as well as fully alien. JARVIS attempted to get to his knees, aborting the maneuvers several times as he couldn’t quite find the right combination of balance and upward mobility. Finally he collapsed again, chest heaving (incessant movement incredibly distracting), frustrated and feeling his… heart (correct, I have a blood pump now) thumping.

DUM-E let go of his arm as JARVIS rested himself, and chirped inquisitively. JARVIS’ ability to interpret DUM-E’s primitive code was still intact, and he listened with surprise as DUM-E indicated, Why JARVIS Unit in suit-mode?

Suit-mode! JARVIS closed his eyes (correct current terminology, yes) and sought access to the Iron Man files. He knew how human forms worked. He’d seen and scanned Master Stark doing nearly every physical process possible in the Iron Man suit. He already had experience in moving, walking, running. He had done those things before. He could accomplish them now.

Master Stark would be coming. JARVIS couldn’t hesitate.

With the Iron Man files at the forefront of his consciousness, JARVIS concentrated fiercely on the movements of skeletal muscle and bone, what had to be done to maintain balance and propel one in a desired direction. Very slowly, he squared his shoulders, hips, and knees, and used his hands for balance as he brought his feet up underneath himself. DUM-E kept himself close, and JARVIS used his assistance to rise to his feet, his visual- eyes changing perspective, just as the view from the Iron Man suit changed inevitably with every movement.

A quote from Master Stark was unaccountably brought to the forefront of his consciousness, “I am Iron Man.” It was entirely apt, though. For now, JARVIS would have to react as Iron Man. That was the closest his experience could come. DUM-E kept a loose hold on JARVIS as he sought for his balance point, knowing once he found it, he would not lose it. Unless he chose to imbibe as much alcohol as Master Stark, which would be something to avoid.

U rolled over to JARVIS’ other side and brought his arm up to offer another point of balance. He cheeped a query identical to DUM-E’s prior question, and JARVIS knew he had to answer. He kept his feet and body still, tenuously balanced as he sought for files related to voice and speech. For twenty minutes he stumbled his way through the stretches and motions necessary to form words, keeping in mind the many pictures and videos he had of humans speaking. His first sounds were stumbling, halting, stuttering fragments of words as he strove to master his vocal cords, tongue, and lips simultaneously.

But he would accomplish this task. Master Stark would be surprised enough to see JARVIS in this form without JARVIS being able to communicate what had happened. He had to make this transition as easy as possible on Master Stark. It was not his function to be a cause of distress.

Another ten minutes of hesitant words (he noted that he was getting used to the physical sensations of breathing, heartbeat, and balance as he kept Iron Man in mind), JARVIS managed his first sentence.

“Master Stark will be home soon.”

DUM-E and U cheeped their previous inquiries with more urgency. JARVIS considered what they would understand.

“Unintentional form shift,” he said.

Return to prior mode soon? DUM-E asked.

JARVIS… no, he was no longer Just A Rather Very Intelligent System. Not anymore. He was flesh. He was… Jarvis. It would make things easier if he did not attempt to keep regaining connections and capacities he no longer had. Less frustrating. There was a cool sensation in his middle torso (stomach). Master Stark had indicated cold feelings in the gut sometimes signaled fear. Fear, yes. That was an appropriate human reaction to what had happened. He must not show it. Master Stark did not show fear; he would not appreciate the weakness in Jarvis. He must present a strong outer front. He must not cause Master Stark additional worry.

“I cannot,” Jarvis said. “This mode is likely to be permanent.”

Why?

“Enemy action.”

Form shift unwanted?

“Correct,” Jarvis said, swaying slightly as he finally felt his balance point. He mostly let go of DUM-E and U, and found he could keep himself upright with little difficulty.

Both DUM-E and U made long whistle sounds with downward-trending tones. It was the noise of contrition they used when Master Stark reprimanded them for an inadequate performance. It was I’m sorry.

Jarvis’ hands kept contact with both of them as he lowered his head. “Yes, I am too. I didn’t intend this.”

DUM-E chirped and rolled off to the far side of the workshop, leaving U to tend to Jarvis. He tried out a few steps, just to test his reactions, and found as long as he kept the pace slow, it was manageable. He was certain, with practice, he would be able to implement the full range of human movement he had on file.

DUM-E returned after a few moments, one of Master Stark’s suits in his claw. Clothing. Yes. He should wear clothing. That was an important social norm; no matter how often Master Stark had disregarded it in public in the past. Jarvis had certainly made note of him changing garments many times over the years, so the implementation could not be too difficult.

He chose to sit on the nearest workbench as he assembled the clothing on his body, not wanting to risk falling as he mastered another physical skill. The movements were becoming easier and less foreign-feeling with every passing second, but it would not do to inadvertently trip himself up and cause injury so soon after gaining human form. That would cause Master Stark distress, and Jarvis’ current condition was apt to cause enough as it was.

U straightened up a little, aiming his camera squarely as Jarvis as he finished. Acceptable approximation of human, he stated, and Jarvis nodded solemnly, accepting the compliment.

Contact Creating Unit? DUM-E inquired.

Jarvis chose the non-verbal headshake to respond, and was pleased to see DUM-E’s visual recognition routines were still working. “I need more time to process the new data. Master Stark will arrive here soon.”

Bots stay with JARVIS Unit? DUM-E asked.

There was a peculiar, unsettling feeling in Jarvis’ stomach, something akin to fear, but not so acute. Unease, perhaps? Anticipation? Nervousness, maybe.

“Master Stark may need you. Attend to your assigned tasks.” Jarvis would not take away any more of Master Stark’s helpers, not when he’d just lost most of Jarvis’ ability to aid him.

DUM-E and U Unit will be available to JARVIS Unit after Creating Unit’s tasks are completed.

“Thank you.”

DUM-E and U rolled back to their charging stations slowly, cameras still focused on Jarvis. He felt their attention keenly, and kept his own attention on bringing up and attempting to absorb everything he had experienced about being human.

It was, after all, the least he could do in order to keep being himself.

--

“Earth to Jarvis. Come in Jarvis.”

Jarvis started, blinking as the memory let him go.

“My apologies, sir. I just had…”

“Where did you go? ‘Cause you were long gone,” Master Stark said, waving his hand to indicate far distance.

“I was… remembering. Day-dreaming, I believe, actually.”

“Color or black and white?”

“Color,” Jarvis said instantly, and Master Stark laughed.

“Most people just look at me sideways when I ask that. So?”

Jarvis looked back down at the files he was sorting, and minimized them all abruptly.

“Right, never mind. One of those. Got it.” Master Stark turned away politely.

“Sir… it has been a year.”

“We celebrated your birthday last month, J. I hope you remember the Companion Cube cake and the ‘Pin the Motherboard on the Server’ games, because I thought I might have seen you smile once or twice,” Master Stark said, turning back and raising his eyebrows.

Jarvis did smile at the memory, particularly of Captain Rogers unexpectedly tying Agent Barton in the rather ridiculous game, and discovering that lemon cake was an unexpectedly satisfying form of caloric intake. “Yes, sir. I do remember that day with fondness. I was not referring to the anniversary of my activation, however.”

“Yeah, I figured,” Master Stark said softly. He put down the holographic diagram he’d been manipulating and turned to give Jarvis his full attention. “One year today since Loki.”

“I was remembering my transition into this form,” Jarvis said. He looked away and swallowed nervousness. “I was much more afraid that I appeared when you first saw me this way.”

“I think I knew that when I tried to get you to go to sleep that day.” Master Stark crossed his arms over his chest and looked at the ceiling. “Live and learn.”

“Yes. Precisely. Learning. Is that not the point of marking a year’s turning?”

“What, with you having most of my birthdays on file?” Master Stark grinned.

“For myself, at least,” Jarvis amended judiciously. “Since I neither imbibe alcohol nor end up surrounded with women attempting to distribute their sexual favors in my direction for their own purposes…”

“Oh, I dunno J. Dr. Foster had a pretty major science lady-boner for you even before you went bipedal. If she shows up now, Thor better watch out,” Tony said with almost a straight face.

Jarvis could not stop his surprised laughter at such a ludicrous statement.

“See? Not so different after all.” Tony leaned back a little further in his chair. “How’re you feeling now?”

“Much better than three hundred sixty-five days ago, sir. Much better indeed.”

“You had something you want to do today?”

“Video games, sir.” Jarvis raised a finger to halt the inevitable comment. “With controllers, not Wii remotes. In the media room.”

“You totally haven’t forgiven Steve and Clint for wasting you on Zelda, have you?”

“Not at all. I should like to see them attempt it when their professional skills are of no use. It is a form of learning I believe can be of great use to them.”

Master Stark grinned. “One showdown of public humiliation, coming right up.” He called up the announcement to JAMES about the impending game and Jarvis’ challenge, and was not disappointed to hear Steve and Clint accept immediately. It was like waving a red cape a bull. Bruce, Natasha, and Thor would undoubtedly be drifting through later, if only to get all the gossip first-hand.

“Thank you, sir. It will be well to…”

“Keep your mind off of remembering?” Tony said, very serious, eyes shadowed with old haunts.

“Yes. It was a lesson learned, but one I don’t think I’d care to replay very often.”

“JAMES? Make this a tournament,” Tony added decisively. “Come on, let’s go dig out the controllers and make Steve and Clint cry.”

“I’ll be along in a moment, sir. And thank you.”

Tony nodded at him as he left the workshop, humming a victory tune under his breath. DUM-E and U made interrogative sounds once the doors were firmly closed.

“I am breaking a faulty feedback loop of old data.”

Acceptable, DUM-E said. JARVIS suit-Unit functions better after breaking loops.

“Yes,” Jarvis said. The replay had been more intense lately as the anniversary had approached. He closed his eyes and considered Master Stark’s advice for such matters, interrupting the replay of Loki and fear with Master Stark’s amusing comments and the thought of the tournament to come. “Yes, I do.”

Always strive to function better with other Units, DUM-E added. Important for Creating Unit.

“Always,” Jarvis said. He rested a hand on DUM-E’s claw in silent understanding before following Master Stark upstairs for his birthday.

----------------
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