So, awhile back (and when I say awhile, I mean like three days) Marr talked about a possible idea. An idea about a baby robot. And of course, the idea STUCK and now I have a new verse to play around with. Basically, this is kid!fic. I am writing kid!fic. But with robots. Ugh. Also this is a series. Because this is kid!fic. Ahhhh. Marr, this is for you.
It doesn’t happen with any real plan in mind, but because Tony’s coming off of a sixty two hour sleep fuckery high. His brains a little fuzzy and a lot manic and he just finished the final repairs for the Iron Man suit. And he’s sleep deprived. He is. But he’s hit his second wind and he wants to do something, his fingers itching and his mind scratchy. Before he can really think about what he’s doing, he’s staring at the code that gave birth to Dummy all those years ago. And wondering, silently, if he can miniaturize it.
He doesn’t think after that, just starts typing, starts moving code around like it’s simple. By the time he’s done, he blinks at the screen. Before him is a mini form of Dummy, just requiring assembly, and before Tony can talk himself out of it, before he can say sixty eight hours oh god go to bed what is wrong with you he starts working on the skeleton. He pads it, because the little guy is going to be tiny and will probably run into things worse than Dummy does. And considering how delicate the wiring is for this little body, extra padding can only be a good thing. He works on implementing the system, works on the little grasping fingers and the compartment for five screws and three nails, if his robot wants to carry things around. He works on the tiny wheels, salvaged from rollerblades he’ll never use, and works on the delicate arch of the robot’s arm. By the time he’s done detailing the last bit, the robot stands about a foot tall. Dummy and You are awake, curious beeping as they wheel over to him.
Tony steps back, lets them get a good look, and Dummy reaches out and picks up the new robot by its base, turning it this way and that. Tony brings up the holographic screens to start running tests on his AI system he tweaked, and Dummy puts down the robot as the sequence starts up. You crowds up beside Tony, shoving him toward the cot, and Tony smiles and does as he asks. Dummy brings him a blanket, and You brings him his wrench, and Tony passes out in his workshop, the whir of machines a comforting lullaby.
When he wakes up, it’s because Dummy is screeching, a god awful noise that Tony has never heard come from the robot before. He sits up fast, almost falls off the cot, and rushes over to Dummy. There’s nothing visibly wrong with him, nothing to explain that noise, and Tony has to duck under Dummy’s erratic arm. He tries to grab him, calling for him to stop, and Dummy ignores him, wailing and beeping and shrieking like nothing before. Tony hits something with his boot, and when he looks down the little robot has grabbed a bunch of Dummy’s wires and is tugging on them mercilessly.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Tony says, crouching down. The robot beeps at him when it registers his voice and turns, arm up high in a defensive position. Tony reaches out a hand and wiggles his fingers, drawing the robots attention away from Dummy’s circuitry. Dummy growl-clicks and wheels away, beeping for You. Tony continues to hold out his hand, and the robot wheels forward, arm still raised cautiously. It lashes out, a quick snap of its metal fingers against Tony’s palm, before wheeling away excitedly. Tony chuckles and sits down, keeping his hands out. The robot comes back again and again, each time to tap Tony on the palm before screech-clicking away. But Tony’s patient and soon, the robot is curled against his side, bending his fingers with his little hand.
“Note to self: sleep deprivation means tiny robots,” Tony says, and the robot whirs at him, picking at his ratty t-shirt. Tony strokes along the padded side and the robot practically coos. “You’re just like a baby.”
Tony stands, and Baby grabs at his pants, beep-beeping until Tony scoops him up. He puts him on the table, calling for Jarvis. “Jarvis, I need you to run some tests, tell me what exactly I mucked around with when I made him. Also, give me the footage from last night. I want to know how he got off the table without killing himself.”
“Of course, sir,” Jarvis says, amusement in his tone. Tony grabs for the hologram that skirts his vision and expands on it, rubbing tired hands over his eyes. The coding is all muddled in some spots, but he put in a definite algorithm for learning so that’s good. Baby bumps against him, clicking away excitedly as he reaches for Tony’s shirt and the glow of the arc reactor against his chest. Tony taps him on one of his fingers and Baby clutches at him with a chirp.
“Possible imprinting,” Tony says, scrolling through the code. “He’s of a younger mindset then Dummy, that’s for sure. Wait, stop, stop the code. There.” Tony grabs the piece, expands on it, and rubs at his chin. “Well, at least I managed to replicate many of Dummy’s modes. As well as his ability to interface. Jarvis?”
“I have uploaded the newly formed ‘Baby’ into my data mainstream, sir. A GPS locator has been programmed into his mainframe and uploaded to your personal server. Would you prefer me to run tests now or when he has powered down, sir?” Jarvis asks. The hologram changes and Baby makes a frightened squeal. Tony wiggles his fingers at him, effectively distracting him.
“Powered down would be better. He has a mindset that I didn’t initially program into Dummy. Seems when I made him smaller, I went for a broader term of personality. He has some of your ideologies. But he’s more childlike.” Tony picks Baby up, turning him this way and that. There’s a large dent on the central padding sector. Baby squirms and grabs at his shirt sleeve, chirping away in his own robotic language. Tony puts him down and bends until he’s eye level with Baby’s ‘head’. “I wonder at the mentality.”
“Sir, using the algorithms you implemented while severely sleep deprived, it should be calculated that Baby’s age in mind is that of a two year old child. Or a seven month year old puppy,” Jarvis explains, dragging up schematics and equations. Tony checks them against the ones in his head. They look sound. “His knowledge matrices have an unusually high learning curve, and he seems easily distractible. The concept of AI ADHD may have been created during your lack in cognitive functioning.”
“You know how I love it when you insult me,” Tony says, grinning. Baby reaches forward and clamps his little fingers over Tony’s nose. Tony sighs and pries them off. “Can you shut him down for scans?”
Jarvis clicks at him. “Of course, sir. I suggest retiring to your room and sleeping for a duration that will repair what little mental performance you have remaining?”
“I will dismantle you.”
“Your threat is duly noted, sir. Goodnight.”
Tony stands and picks Baby up. He shoves some of the tools to the side, creates a small cradle for Baby to rest in from old designs of Iron Man’s boot. Baby clings to his shirt until he suddenly beeps off, a low whine signalling his sleep. Tony rubs against his eyes. He’s beyond tired.
Dummy shoves up against his side and Tony jumps, looking down at him. Dummy whines, low in his circuitry, and Tony scratches behind his third finger. “You got a baby brother now, bud. You up for the challenge?”
Releasing a jet of steam toward the sleeping Baby, Dummy rolls off in a huff. But not before touching light on the arc reactor. You beeps from his sleeping station and Tony makes his way to the stairs.
There’s a knock on Tony’s door, three loud bangs, and Tony rolls over, shoving his head under the pillow. It feels like he hasn’t slept in weeks. The bangs come again. Groaning, Tony sits up and drags the sheet with him as he shuffles to the door. Opening it, he’s surprised to see Steve on the other side. Almost, apparently, as surprised as Steve is to see Tony wearing nothing but a sheet. That isn’t even properly tied around his waist.
Tony doesn’t care. He’s tired.
But he isn’t tired enough not to notice that Steve is only wearing sweats, and the dog tags around his neck shine in the half light of the hallway. He isn’t too tired to appreciate all that Steve is, standing just outside his door like a wet dream come true. And just as Tony is about to ask if that’s what Steve’s here to do, finally, he notices that Steve is struggling to contain a very squirming robot, the about shape and size of Baby.
“Baby?” Tony asks, and it’s definitely a trick of the light when Steve’s ears tinged red.
Tony shakes his head. Baby had reacted to his voice, curling around Steve’s big hand and trying to reach for Tony. “I mean. That. You’re holding. That’s my robot. Ba – Junior. Dummy Junior. Give him here.”
And Tony reaches out, unconsciously letting go of the sheet. Steve stares and Tony blinks and it’s awkward for everyone but Baby who is now clinging to Tony like he hasn’t seen him in eternity and why would Tony leave him downstairs with all the big robots and no Tony for him to cling to? The imaginary blush on Steve’s ears expands over to his cheeks and he looks away with a cough. Tony looks down at himself and he can’t right now. He’s so tired he’s pretty sure he’s listing to the left.
“Well, I haven’t – slept, yes, no, never mind, you don’t need to know that because lecture. I mean, thank you for grabbing him for me. And. Yes. Goodnight?” Tony says. Steve looks back at him, a short smile quirking his lips. Tony kind of wants to kiss him. Instead, he grabs up his sheet and Baby makes a strange hiss-click at Steve before snuggling into Tony’s chest.
Tony stares down at him in surprise and then there’s a touch against his cheek, just the whisper brush of fingers. Steve pulls his hand back with a definite flush, saying, “Just. Promise me you’ll take care of yourself?”
Before he can answer, before he can even comprehend what is going on, Baby screeches, just like Dummy had this morning. Steve stumbles back in shock and Tony almost throws him in the air. Baby screeches again, waving his little arm around like he’s about to launch himself at Steve in anger, and Tony folds him away in his sheet.
“I should – I mean, I have to. Yes. I’ll sleep? Thanks again,” Tony says hastily and slams the door shut on Steve’s stunned face. Baby chirps at him and touches against the arc reactor, a bundle of mischief and begotten loyalty. Tony rubs a hand through his hair. “What am I going to do with you?”
Baby coos and squirms in Tony’s arms as Tony sits on the bed. He taps Baby’s fingers before putting him on the bed, rearranging the sheets around him and the pillows that he had barely managed to dent. Baby’s little wheels can’t quite get enough traction on the silk sheets and he falls over, chirping erratically. Tony sighs and picks him up, tucking him against his chest. Baby whirs, tapping on the arc reactor before there’s a whine of him shutting down. The padding was a good idea.
“What am I going to do with you,” Tony repeats, Baby’s warmth strangely comforting. He passes out again.
The morning finds Tony with an incredibly enthusiastic Baby zipping around his bedroom and a disgruntled Jarvis.
“I am unsure how he was able to operate the elevator, sir. My logs state that he was shut down and performing under the final tests before I woke this morning,” Jarvis explains. Tony scrubs a tired hand through his hair.
“Well, he somehow made it. And Steve found him. Anyway, shower, food, we’ll figure out the rest of his apparent skill set after coffee,” Tony states. Jarvis clicks and Baby rams into the side of the bed, clutching a marble between his little fingers. He beeps at Tony and Tony can’t stop his smile. “Well, would you look at you. Is that a marble?”
Baby carefully drops it in Tony’s palm before zipping off again, worming his arm behind the dresser and ducking down under the bed. Tony sheds his sheet and walks to the bathroom, clicking his fingers for the water to start. As steam fills the bathroom, he hears a familiar screech.
“Hey, whoa, I’m in here, buddy,” Tony calls, and Baby pries open the door, skittering to a halt beside Tony. He makes a disgruntled chirp. “Yeah, I know, I know. You’re fine though, look at you all grown up and being brave. I need to shower now, all right? Find me some more marbles.”
There is a definite chiding retort from Baby before he backs out of the bathroom. Tony braces himself as he gets in the shower, gritting his teeth against the flashes behind his eyes. He breathes through it, lets the water rush over him. He’s shaking by the time he’s done but it’s fine, it’s all fine. Baby is waiting for him when he gets out. He’s collected nine more marbles, two screws, a riding crop, and what looks like handcuffs. Tony flushes as he scoops up the riding crop and handcuffs, chastising himself for leaving such things out for Baby to find. And then he realizes he’s reacting to Baby like he’s an actual child and that’s too weird for him to deal with right now.
Clothing comes next and Baby rolls the marbles around the room, chasing them as they skitter across the carpet and lodge under various furniture. Tony watches him for a few silent moments, tugging on his undershirt and a long sleeved hoodie before scooping up Baby. “All right, Baby, time for a checkup.”
Baby beeps and snuggles against Tony’s chest, touching Tony’s hair and the collar of his shirt. As Tony closes his door behind him, Steve is doing the same for his own room.
“Ah,” Tony says, and then clamps his mouth shut. Baby is making a strange growl-click. “Morning.”
“Tony!” Steve says, that strange flush on his cheeks again. He blinks at Baby. “Your robot stayed with you?”
Looking down, Tony tries to stop Baby’s strange aggression. “He – yes. He’s not quite up to speed yet, like Dummy and You. I’m assuming he woke you up last night?”
Steve is walking toward him, careful steps, and Baby is getting progressively louder. Tony snaps his fingers and Baby peers up at him, little fingers moving erratically. At least he’s stopped making noise. Steve says, “He was hitting your door pretty hard. And making this god-awful screeching noise. I heard Clint promise murder.” Steve fidgets for a second before gesturing toward the stairs. “Breakfast?”
“I just need coffee, actually. I need to run tests on Ba – Dummy Junior to make sure he’s stable. I made him under less than favourable circumstances and who knows what I fucked up in the process,” Tony says, and Steve smiles at him, that shy sixteen degree smile that sets something in Tony’s chest off. “I mean, I wouldn’t mind breakfast, but I don’t want there to be a problem I could’ve found early and you know how it is.”
“Of course,” Steve concedes and heads for the stairs. Tony follows, keeping Baby distracted with his fingers. It’s barely working. Baby has some obvious hostility coding. “Would you be up for lunch though? Natasha told me about this place near my old apartment that makes delicious pizza.”
There’s a split second where Tony’s unsure if he actually heard Steve right, but when Steve looks back at him, blue eyes strangely bright and that blush over his ears, Tony realizes he’s serious. Steve has never extended an invitation to food before. Not to say he hasn’t brought Tony food because Tony is bad at the food part of his life, especially when it comes to normal feeding times, but apparently that’s where Steve comes in. He blinks away the thoughts, and smiles. “Yeah. Yeah sure that would be. Yes. Come get me when you’re ready to go. I’ll be fiddling around with Dummy Junior here until then.”
They part ways in the kitchen, Tony clutching Baby and a cup of coffee, his heart light. Baby is poking curious fingers into Tony’s drink and Tony can’t really do anything to dissuade him. But. But he has what amounts to a date with Steve at noon. He smiles as he types in his code and Baby knocks over his coffee cup.
At least he’ll be plenty busy before said date.