Title: Not Recommended
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: Iron Man & The Avengers (MCU)
Timeline: post The Avengers
Rating: T / FRT
Characters: J.A.R.V.I.S., Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Tony Stark (Iron Man). Mentioned: Nick Fury.
Summary: Once upon a time, Natasha Romanoff concluded her evaluation with ‘Tony Stark: not recommended’ and rejected him from the Avengers Initiative. Tony’s still a consultant for S.H.I.E.L.D., though, and everyone is fairly content with that arrangement.
Complete. Part of “Genius, AI & Bots” series.
Written for: My card on Hurt/Comfort Bingo’s Round 4 (square: “rejection”).
Disclaimer: Iron Man, Avengers and Marvel Cinematic Universe, including characters and everything else, belong to Marvel, Marvel Studios, Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. In short: I own nothing; this is pure fiction created to entertain likeminded fans for no profit whatsoever.
Beta: Mythra (mythras-fire)
Story and status: Below you see the writing process of the story. If there is no text after the title, then it is finished and checked. Possible updates shall be marked after the title.
It’s the first time he’s come face to face with Natasha since New York and instantly the room is filled with static – which has little to do with Tony’s current experiment although it could be contributing to the actual physical sensation.
“Hello, J.A.R.V.I.S.,” she greets as the door opens to let her in.
“Miss Rushman,” the AI replies and Tony knows it isn’t an accidental slip or that J.A.R.V.I.S. doesn’t know the Rushman identity was just a cover-up for Natasha to worm her way into Tony’s life.
The red-head purses her lips just so, sensing the passive-aggressive environment.
“What can I do for you?” Tony asks, knowing she’s here for a reason.
“You’re not answering Fury’s calls,” she says, casually leaning against one of Tony’s cars; her body language suggests she isn’t dangerous but Tony knows better so she might as well drop the act.
“You run Fury’s errands now?”
“There’s something urgent we need you to look at,” she dismisses his weak jibe.
“If it was that important it would have been on the news – or I would have gotten the call from someone higher up.” It’s not bragging, exactly, but he does have the Vice President’s number and all that…
“It’s not Iron Man that we need,” Natasha presses.
Tony stills, gesturing for J.A.R.V.I.S. to put the current experiment on hold; he’s afraid that a prolonged charge might actually blow something up. The AI initiates a controlled hibernation process so that they won’t have to start from scratch once he’s ready to continue. “Let me get this straight,” Tony wheels his chair around to look at Natasha. “You don’t need Iron Man – but you do need Tony Stark.” Fighting the grin is very hard. “Did you do something to piss Fury off? I mean, coming from a person who wrote ‘not recommended’ right there by my name…”
“It isn’t about that,” she denies. “I was available to come and snap you out of this,” she nods as the clutter in the workshop, “or to strong-arm you into paying attention. Whichever was necessary,” she concludes.
Tony isn’t sure he buys it because things are never that easy. Fury knows how Tony feels about Natasha’s evaluation – and they all know that Tony’s still a consultant for S.H.I.E.L.D.
New York didn’t change that much…
“I’m sure if you give it a glance, you’ll find it a challenge,” Natasha goes on, pulling a palm-sized external drive from her pocket. “Although I’m sure it won’t take you long to get on top of it if you put your mind to it,” she adds, to caress his ego in just the right way.
Tony’s too old to fall for it but she did come all this way and the drive is almost taunting him, laying there on the palm of her hand, innocently pretending to not be a problem only Tony Stark can solve in the time S.H.I.E.L.D. has. After all, Fury wouldn’t have tried to call him and Natasha Romanoff wouldn’t be standing in his workshop if there were someone else S.H.I.E.L.D. could utilize in their allotted time.
“Process it,” Tony murmurs and J.A.R.V.I.S. proceeds to remotely scan the drive. A holographic screen opens at Tony’s right, showing the progress of sorting out the encrypted files, and at first glance Tony can tell he’ll be spending a few hours on this – but not more than that. He might also have to release some processing space on J.A.R.V.I.S.’s hard-drives for this, seeing as the AI’s been recently busy with armor-related endeavors.
Natasha moves in Tony’s peripheral vision, setting down the external drive on a table and walking towards the door. “You know, that evaluation never carried any weight in Fury’s decision.”
“Yeah?” Tony muses distractedly. “Then why am I not an official Avenger?”
“Because someone needs to draw a line between Iron Man and Tony Stark; the world needs the superhero but they easily forget it is the man who reshapes their tomorrow.” The vague answer sounds almost like she doesn’t really want to answer him – or she’s trying to but there’s no simple way to put it.
What Tony knows already is that S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to liaise with him. Iron Man is the backup they need for a bad day – or a really fucking bad day – but most days they’re interested in Tony Stark, unlike most people.
Natasha leaves, knowing she’s done her part.
Tony eyes the screen, sticking his fingers in it and pulling several file clusters to a separate screen, starting to go over them. The data seems to be bits and pieces taken from a third party and Tony assumes that by the time he’s sorted it all out, he’ll know who. Whether S.H.I.E.L.D. wants him to go after whoever it is once he’s done, he doesn’t know, but he assumes that Fury knows how poor Tony’s restraint is when it comes to beating up bad guys.
“Preparing for data reconstruction,” J.A.R.V.I.S. notifies him.
“Small fractions, it seems – and a few corrupted files most likely resulting from a forced extraction,” the AI tells him and highlights a few lines of code.
“Compile potential substitutions for the missing pieces,” Tony nods absently. He could do it all himself, of course, but J.A.R.V.I.S. was built for this kind of thing and the AI is particularly fond of the puzzles that have a few missing ingredients. Most people would grow frustrated with that kind of thing but J.A.R.V.I.S. delights and excels in forcing himself to think outside the box – which is why Tony’s AI should be the only AI worth mentioning in the history books. Most of the inferior AIs he’s seen would blow a circuit and slide right into a catastrophic system failure if they had to get creative the way J.A.R.V.I.S. does on a daily basis.
“You seem to have let go of some of the resentment towards Agent Romanoff,” J.A.R.V.I.S. muses while he works on sorting the data.
“It’s not every day a lady rejects me; turns me on a little,” Tony jokes although he knows it’s not necessary with J.A.R.V.I.S. “Her evaluation was based on a few crappy weeks that in no way reflect my true character.”
“Of course not, sir.” It sounds like maybe J.A.R.V.I.S. doesn’t completely agree with him. The fact that Tony can hear that – and that the AI lets him hear it – is another reason why J.A.R.V.I.S. is so much better than any other AI; he understands and he dares to disagree with the person who created him.
“I’m a freelancer,” Tony decides. While that is all well and true, he knows that one day the Avengers will be needed again – and perhaps that day they’ll offer him a real place on the team.
He might even accept.