Characters:Tony Stark, Pepper Potts [Stark], Bruce Banner, AU!J.A.R.V.I.S
Pairing: Tony/Pepper (due to Victorian AU setting, they’re married instead of boyfriend/girlfriend)
Warnings/Triggers: Some mentions of wounds and missing limbs, nothing graphic.
Spoilers: Generalized MCU spoilers.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, I just like to take them out to play.
Word Count: 1972
Summary: Avengers Manor is full of clicks and whirs. And that suits Tony Stark just fine.
Author's notes: This was written for a prompt from a few years ago, I think, which was steampunk Avengers. I didn’t get the chance to write it at the time, but with the open prompts this year, I thought I’d give it a go. Please be warned my steampunk knowledge is a bit limited, but I’ve done my best to conform to the genre. Science may be questionable.
A few notes I couldn’t work into the narrative, due to the word limit:
-- It seemed to make the most sense for Captain America to have fought during the American Revolution, so I’ve made him that sort of patriot. Also, from what reading I did, it seemed America had a lot of conflict with Mexico during the 1800s, so I’ve put Tony as having been held captive there, in some unnamed conflict.
-- This is probably set around 1890, give or take a couple of years.
-- SPIDOR is an acronym for Simply Productive Item for Demolition or Repair. They look kind of like replicators from Stargate, in my head. Only not evil. Just adorable.
Tony always awoke to clicking. Avengers Manor was alive with clicks and creaks and whirs and ticks. It was one of the things Rogers commented on—how loud it was. Evidently, 1783 was less noisy, even though there had been a war on then.
Jarvis clicked into the bedroom in the mornings, the gears of his limbs whirring about. For as long as Tony had been alive, there had been a Jarvis serving the Stark family, though this one was the grandson of the one Tony had grown up with. Edwin Jarvis was gone, and Tony missed him dearly. Henry Jarvis wasn’t the same, but that was good. Tony didn’t want an identical copy. Henry Jarvis was his own man—more cutting, more inclined to joke if joked with. He’d been in an airship accident as a young man and badly hurt, but that had never slowed him down in service. Tony’s father had built him a new leg and arm and part of his jaw was metal, too. He was half-machine, really, but so was Tony, since the cave in Mexico. They were both human where it counted. Jarvis possibly more so than him, despite having more clockwork in him.
“Sounds like you need some oil, Jarvis,” Tony said, as he rolled away from Pepper and sat up in bed. She slept soundly, and he and Jarvis rarely bothered to keep the noise down for her. She claimed to have become immune to noise since beginning work with him.
“That joke gets so much wittier with each retelling, sir,” Jarvis responded.
“I’m extremely witty, you know that,” Tony said.
“Yes, sir, it’s the first trait that comes to mind when I think of you,” Jarvis said. He placed the breakfast tray down and poured a cup of coffee for Tony. The look of focus to get the metal fingers to close around the cup was intense.
“How are you finding the upgrade?” Tony asked.
Jarvis didn’t respond directly, too busy biting his lip in concentration as he made the fingers open again. “I believe I’ll work it out in time,” he said, once the cup was poured. “It’s a bit tiring. I’m certainly more agile, but my brain is sore.”
“You won’t notice it after a while,” Tony said. “And eventually I’m going to work out how to stop the delay from your brain telling your synthetic muscles to move and them actually moving.”
Jarvis handed him the cup with his good hand. “I’ve no doubt, sir.”
“Any news I should be apprised of?” Tony asked.
“Captain Rogers and Miss Romanoff have been in the gymnasium, sparring,” Jarvis said. “Dr. Banner is in the laboratory in the lower levels. He seems to have recovered from his last incident. The SPIDORs are working on repairing the damage done. Everyone else is still abed.”
“Nothing pressing on the world-saving front?” Tony asked.
“Not that I’ve heard,” Jarvis said.
“Sounds like a good day for lab work, then,” Tony said.
“I’ll put your work clothes out for you.”
Tony took the stairs down to the foyer and then joined a SPIDOR in the elevator to the lower levels. It had a brick in its front legs that it was holding like a treasure, bringing it across the house to the damaged area.
“Is the job going well?” Tony inquired.
The SPIDOR didn’t respond, but he still liked to talk to his creations and get their opinions on matters. His father had always told him machines spoke if you knew how to listen. Tony might have taken that in more of a literal fashion than it was intended.
He and the SPIDOR exited on the lab level, and he followed to see how the work was getting on. Bruce had had what Tony liked to call a ‘bad spell’. The Other Fellow had knocked out a wall. Miss Romanoff had done her lullaby to calm him down before he’d done much further damage, but the poor man had locked himself away in reproof nonetheless. The SPIDORs had cleared the rubble and were now stacking bricks for the wall to be rebuilt. There was a lot of clicking going on there.
“Well done, boys,” Tony told them, and went on to the lab where U and DUM-E were whirring about Bruce’s feet; U accomplishing something, DUM-E accomplishing nothing. “Good morning.”
“Good morning,” Bruce said, looking, as he often did, as though he were waiting for someone to ask him to leave. Tony wished he wouldn’t, as having such a good friend there to work with was a delight. Bruce could never believe himself to be a delight, unfortunately.
“Glad to see you out in the light of day again,” Tony said. “Or the dark, musty basement, as it were.”
Bruce gave a half-smile. “Jarvis told me he wasn’t serving any more meals in my room,” he said. “I’m being ‘quite ridiculous, Dr. Banner’, and ‘Mr. Stark has done far more damage to this place than The Other Fellow possibly could in six lifetimes’.”
“That is…” Tony began. “Entirely accurate. On all counts.”
“I took it to mean I was forgiven,” Bruce said.
“You were never in a state where forgiveness was required,” Tony said.
Bruce added the other half to his smile and nodded a thank you. “I was thinking...”
“I always get hopeful when you say that,” Tony said. “Carry on.”
“I have a few ideas for the armor,” he said. “I think I might be able to add more power without your heart being at risk.”
They’d been at that problem for months now. Tony’s heart only beat due to some work done in that cave, first by Yinsen’s engineering, and then Tony’s more polished design. It relied on clockwork, gears, crystals, and magnets, and too much energy caused the mechanisms to jam. The Iron Man suit was powerful, but Tony risked stopping the ARC clock if he exerted himself too much.
“You would have to take the whole thing apart and rebuild it, however,” Bruce added.
Tony grinned. “I have a whole day clear and boundless enthusiasm,” he said. “Let’s begin right away.”
“Tony. Tony. Anthony Stark!”
The shrill tone of the last call of his name brought Tony back to the present. It was a tone used by angry mothers and wives, and it was the latter calling him.
“It’s midnight,” Pepper said.
“It is not!” Tony said. “It’s only…” he looked to the grandfather on the wall. “12:03...that could be construed as midnight, I admit.” Bruce had gone to bed an hour earlier. Tony had intended to work only a few more minutes. He seemed to have exceeded that.
“You’ve been down here all day. I could hear you upstairs,” Pepper said. She looked around at the mess of the lab. “I thought the SPIDORs were fixing the damage done?”
“Despite appearance, this isn’t where the damage was,” Tony said. “But behold, Mark XI.” He showed off the gleaming armor with a sweeping gesture. “It’s five times as powerful and has better stability in flight. And it’s highly unlikely to stop my heart.”
“Please raise the risk to ‘impossible’ before you try to use it,” Pepper said. Tony looked away. “You’ve already tried to use it.”
“Briefly,” he said. He held out his wrist. “But I still have a pulse, so there’s nothing to worry about.”
Pepper sighed. “You’re impossible. Why did I ever agree to marry you?”
“I imagine because of my rugged good looks, charm, high intelligence, large house, and vast amounts of money,” Tony said. “And also because you have some degree of affection for me?” He raised a hopeful eyebrow.
“I do,” she said, giving his cheek a light pat. “And that’s a terrible comment on my character.”
“You’re cross,” Tony said. “You should go to bed. Why aren’t you asleep if it’s so late?”
“I was waiting for you,” she said. Tony was about to make a comment as to why, one that would have made Rogers blush to his Revolutionary roots, but she cut him off: “I need to wind your heart.”
“Is that today?”
“It is today.”
“I would have remembered.”
“You haven’t remembered.”
“It’s not really my heart, anyway. That is inacc—”
“For all intents and purposes, it is, and it’s quite important to me that I—”
“It’s a cage near my heart keeping shrapnel from entering it. To be accurate.”
“That’s too long to say. Hush and take your shirt off.”
Tony hushed and undid his waistcoat and shirt, revealing the panel that sat in his chest. Pepper pulled a necklace out, which had two keys on it—one that opened the panel and one that wound the ARC clock within it. There were three sets. He had one. Another was locked in a vault that Jarvis had access to if an emergency arose. And the third she wore around her neck. The keys to his heart, as it were. If one were to look at it poetically, anyway. Tony, of course, never did.
“I’ve told you that a delay in winding won’t make it stop,” he said. “I wind it more than it needs. I could go for another week or more without incident.”
“But you won’t,” Pepper said. “Because I am going to do it now.”
She opened the panel, where the piezoelectric crystal (the only one in the world quite like this) thrummed and hummed. More clicks, but not ones Tony noticed much anymore. Pepper put the other key in the winding mechanism and began her careful turning of it—24 rotations precisely. It didn’t need to be precisely, for the same reason it didn’t need to be wound every Thursday as she insisted. But 24 rotations was what he’d asked her for, the day in the lab when she was the only one there to help him install it. Back when she was still his secretary, not his wife. Since then, that’s what she always did, counting to herself with each click of the key.
“...21.” Click. “22.” Click. “23.” Click. “24.”
She retrieved her book, the one with all her dates and appointments and meetings as the head of Stark Industries. She drew her finger down the page to that day’s date and crossed out ‘wind T.S heart’. She shut the panel and locked it with another click then put the keys back around her neck. Tony played with them as she buttoned his shirt back up for him.
“Thank you, darling,” he said.
“You’re welcome,” she said, knocking her forehead to his. “Now, come to bed.”
She helped him turn off the gaslights, and he bid goodnight to the SPIDORs, who were finished gathering bricks and had put themselves to bed. It was surely time for sleep when even the machines were tired. Even poor DUM-E had given up trying to be helpful and had gone to sleep.
Jarvis was waiting in the foyer.
“You should be in bed,” Tony said.
“Yes, I should,” he said, pointedly. “But I prefer to see the house at rest first. Do you need help with your toilet?”
“No, I’m fine, thank you,” Tony said. “Go to bed.”
“Yes, sir,” he said. “Goodnight, ma’am.”
“Goodnight, Jarvis,” Pepper said.
Jarvis clanked off toward his quarters, and Tony and Pepper went to their room. The rest of the house was quiet, or as quiet as it ever was. It still creaked, and moaned, and clicked. And lived.
The man with the clockwork limbs, the woman with Tony’s heart in her hands, and the motley crew of friends and creatures that crawled, and ticked, and broke down walls, and rebuilt them, they were part of the lifeblood of the place. And whatever the noise, that suited Tony just fine.