Title: Need to Know
Fandom: Avengers (movies)
Author: MusicalLuna
Rating: G
Characters/Pairings: Steve Rogers, JARVIS
Genre: Gen
Warnings: None
Complete: Yes
Summary: “Captain Rogers, you and I need to have a conversation,” JARVIS says, two evenings after Steve has moved into Stark Tower.
Disclaimer: Do not own.

“Captain Rogers, you and I need to have a conversation,” JARVIS says, two evenings after Steve has moved into Stark Tower.

Tony had offered them all a space in the Tower after shawarma and since it was so close and they were all so exhausted, they'd taken him up on that offer. They'd done basic first aid, which, thankfully, was all that had really had to be done, and then they had each found a bed to collapse into. In the morning they'd gone to be debriefed and when that special hell had concluded, Tony had paused outside the conference room, already wearing his sunglasses, and said to the wall, “You can have a floor, if you want.”

Steve had cocked his head to the side, his brow furrowing. “A floor of what?”

Tony's eyes had flicked over to him, too dark to read behind the glasses. “Stark Tower. I know you've got a place here in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s funland, and that place in Brooklyn, but if you wanted, I can leave a floor open for you.”

Steve blinked at him, bewildered. “A floor?”

One eyebrow rose over the frame of Tony's sunglasses. “What? You want two?”

“No,” Steve said. “I just—we don't get along all that great, Mister Stark. I'm...surprised.”

Tony shrugged. “Well, it looks like we're going to be working together a lot now and I think we can manage civility at the very least. Consider this team bonding, or whatever. I don't know, whatever floats your boat. You don't have to live there, you can use it for storage for all I care, I'm just saying that there's one there for you, if you want it. Everybody else has already taken one—not that I'm trying to peer pressure you, you can live where you want, nobody cares. I mean. Dammit.”

“I'll take it,” Steve had said, raising his voice to keep Tony from carrying on.

Tony had blinked at him. “Oh. You will? Great. Okay then. Super. Just, ah—JARVIS will let you in when you decide to come back. And do me a favor; stop calling me Mister Stark, mkay.”

Steve doesn't really need another place to live, but it just seemed right to agree if the whole team was going to have a space there. They really are a mess, and maybe this is the first step toward becoming brothers like the ones he'd had in the army. Besides, being there means ready access to the areas of Manhattan that need the most help with reconstruction, which Steve has been volunteering to help out with in every way he can find.

He's still getting comfortable, trying to figure out how to make a place as ostentatious as Stark Tower feel like home, when the swankiest thing he's ever known has been electricity and running water.

He's also trying to get used to talking to a voice that has no body. “Uh,” Steve says, his eyes searching the ceiling even though he knows there's nothing to find. “A conversation, JARVIS?”

“Yes, sir,” JARVIS replies calmly. “From what I understand, Director Fury showed you a file containing footage of Mister Stark.”

“Yes, that's true,” Steve says, wary. He's not sure where this is going.

“I also understand that said footage has caused you to cast aspersions on Mister Stark.” Steve's not sure how the disembodied voice of a machine can sound stiff and reproving, but JARVIS is managing it just fine.

He straightens his spine and frowns. “The stuff Tony did—”

“Was out of context,” JARVIS cuts in.

“Pardon me for saying so, JARVIS, but I don't think any context can excuse the kind of behavior—”

“I am not making excuses for Mister Stark.” It's only been two days, but Steve's never heard JARVIS be anything but unfailingly polite to anyone that wasn't Tony and being interrupted twice in a row stops Steve in his tracks. “He has made a great deal of incredibly foolish decisions, many of which I have disagreed wholeheartedly with. But what Director Fury allowed you to see is only a small percentage of what Mister Stark has done. You were not given the opportunity to see everything.”

And that makes perfect sense after the Phase Two mess on the helicarrier. Suddenly Steve feels uneasy, remembering the footage he'd watched and then seeing that same man take a nuclear weapon in his arms to fly straight into the mouth of death. “You're going to give me that opportunity?” he says.

“I am.” There's no glossy pad like there had been on the jet with Coulson, the images merely appear in front of him, a little bit transparent. “If I am going to permit you to work with Mister Stark, you must understand that he is more than the footage Director Fury showed you. He is so much more.”

Steve blinks. “You're protecting him from me?”

“Yes,” JARVIS says simply.

Steve's mouth works silently for a second. He's surprised how much it hurts to hear. “I...I take care of my men, JARVIS. I wouldn't...”

“I know, sir,” JARVIS says gently. “I know you would do everything in your power to keep him safe. But Mister Stark's greatest weaknesses...they are not physical.”

“JARVIS...” Steve says, uncertain, “shouldn't Tony be the one to—”

JARVIS sighs. “Were Mister Stark emotionally mature enough to have a conversation such as this, certainly. But he is not, and I cannot permit him to be hurt by your ignorance.”

“Maybe we should do this somewhere more private, then,” Steve says, eyeing the door.

“Oh, no, we are perfectly alone here, I have made sure of it.” And, well, that's a little bit terrifying, but Steve's curious now. “Are you ready, Mister Rogers?”

Steve drags his eyes back to the...screen, he supposes is an all right word, his stomach fluttering. “Yeah,” he says. “Go ahead.”

A video begins, showing Tony, wounded, tied up, and surrounded by men with guns.

“You have an idea, of course, of how Mister Stark came to have the arc reactor,” JARVIS says.

“He was hit by shrapnel when he was abroad doing a weapons demonstration. He invented it to keep the shrapnel from entering his heart,” Steve says, frowning as he watches. He doesn't know what the men are saying, it's not a language he's familiar with, but it's clear they're not friendlies.

“Those are the essential facts,” JARVIS agrees.

“But not all of them,” Steve gathers from his tone.

“No.” The video changes, this time showing Tony lying unconscious in a murky puddle of light. He wakes abruptly and fumbles around, starts tearing at the bandages covering his chest. Underneath it all something black mars the spot where the reactor now sits. There are wires, which Tony follows with his hands to a dark box.

Steve's stomach writhes. “That's— what is that?”

“A car battery, sir,” JARVIS says.

“My God,” Steve mutters. The video is frozen on Tony in the midst of his horrifying discovery.

“Mister Stark was in an envoy on the way back after his presentation and they were attacked. Mister Stark was hit by shrapnel during the ambush and that man you see in the corner used spare parts to keep him alive. Mister Stark then created the first arc reactor out of parts salvaged from his own weaponry. He spent three months in captivity pretending to recreate his latest weapon for his captors while instead creating the first Iron Man suit to free himself and Doctor Yinsen. Doctor Yinsen was killed sacrificing himself so that Mister Stark could power up the suit and escape.”

Now the video changes to show Tony in a living room that can only be his, based on its lavishness. He drops onto the couch and he looks sick and worn out and Steve starts, sitting up sharply when a man materializes out of the shadows and glides up behind Tony. He never sees it coming.

For a long moment, the man blocks Tony from view. When he finally pulls back he's holding the arc reactor and the hole in Tony's chest gapes, empty and awful.

“That,” JARVIS says quietly, “is Obadiah Stane. He was Mister Stark's mentor, his only role-model growing up. This is from Mister Stark's Malibu home, a matter of months after he returned from Afghanistan.”

“How—how... Tony is still...how did he—?”

“It would take perhaps a week for the shrapnel to work its way into Mister Stark's heart. He dragged himself into the workshop and replaced the arc reactor with his original model.

Six months after killing Obadiah Stane, Mister Stark ran out of options. He was on the verge of death yet again, because the palladium core of his arc reactor was slowly poisoning him and he could not find a solution. Mister Stark believes that his life was saved in Afghanistan for a purpose, so that he might do good where he had not before. That he should be dying this soon after being reborn, I think, took its toll. It was a very bleak period for him and much of what he did during this time was ill-advised at best. He had no one he felt he could turn to and thus had begun to plan for his own death, alone.

Captain, I do not tell you this that you might pity Mister Stark or 'take it easy' on him. I simply want you to understand that he is more than the man Director Fury likely led you to believe. He is deeply, deeply flawed, but he is more than those flaws, and I cannot permit you to lead him without this understanding.”

Steve shifts, his hands knotted together in his lap. “JARVIS, I don't know if Tony and I will ever be... We don't really see eye to eye on, well, anything.”

“You have much more in common than you think.” Somehow, Steve can hear the faintest smile in his voice when JARVIS says, “Mister Stark is a difficult man, Captain Rogers. I do not expect miracles, only patience.”

Steve nods and his eyes drift back to the image of Tony sprawled on the couch, a bleak black hole in his chest. “I...can do patience.” He hesitates and then says, “Do you have any more footage, JARVIS? Stuff you think better represents him?”

He's sure he can hear warmth when JARVIS says, “Certainly, sir.”
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February 2014


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