I wrote this originally for the avengerkink meme along the lines of: What is JARVIS were originally built to help Tony deal with the abuse Howard put him through as a child? Bruce comes across bits of code that make him suspicious and he finds out about it.
WARNING: Re-enactments of child abuse, talk/memories of child abuse & non-sexual daddy!kink roleplay
This is something Tony needs.
He doesn't care if the logical side is telling him its wrong, how horrible it is to need to be pained. He doesn't care if JARVIS can be used for so much more good than . . . this. But this is the one thing which calms him down completely so he can function throughout the day. He doesn't need it every day - hell, not even once a week - but there comes a time when Tony has to go into the room he specifically built for this.
No one has been inside. It's not anything spectacular, if Pepper or a wanderer was to come across it. There's a dresser drawer shoved into the upper left corner. The walls are painted a wonderful sky blue. At the top for corners sit small but sufficiently loud speakers.
You can't tell by being inside this room but it's sound proof. It has to be.
Today is one of those days. Tony excuses himself from everything planned (Pepper doesn't need much persuading seeing as how uptight he is) and heads to the floor with his room.
Stepping inside he locks the door and sits in the middle of the floor. He knows JARVIS has been alerted.
"JARVIS," Tony says with an edge.
"What do you have in mind for today, sir?"
This always takes him a few moments. He always morbidly compares this to some kind of buffet. Pick and choose, take control, feel better while feeling like absolutely nothing.
Tony is already beginning to breath heavily as all lights flicker out. Complete darkness. Nothing but words now.
"Tony." The AI takes on a deeper, angrier tone. Something he specifically programmed. "How many times do I need to tell you not to screw up? You're going to make me look like I'm incompetent."
"Sorry." His voice is small. He's back in that place. Being a young boy, having next to no control. Utter fear at what his father is going to do in retaliation for his perceived idiocy. "I tried my best, dad. I did."
"Don't give me lip, boy. I'll tell you what to say and when to say it. You make a bad image for me and things will go to shit!"
Heavy automated sigh. "I'm trying to help you, Tony. You may be too wrapped up in your own little world to see it but I'm trying to make you a better man."
"Yelling at me isn't-"
The sound affect of glass breaking. Tony is suddenly pushed backwards. He's too much in the mindset right now to remember he had these hands built in. They're coming from the dresser. But to him it's as though his father is beginning his attack all over again.
To an outsider this may appear as insanity. But to Tony it's the only thing that can calm him. He doesn't specifically know why, he doesn't know why he needs this, and he damn well already feel hate for himself for allowing it to get this bad. But JARVIS is a machine. A machine can't do anything without his command.
Tony is in control now, and Howard is six feet under.
Bruce is in what is now his designated lab at Stark Tower. He's still uncomfortable being around so many people but it's been quite a while since an incident. As long as there isn't any sudden triggers he's been able to use his "trick" and The Other Guy stays stored away.
At the moment he's going through JARVIS's digital records (paper is all but lost to Tony) trying to see what's almost used up and if Tony needs anything ordered. He knows Pepper often keeps track of these things but Bruce likes to help out where he can. Besides, for the past few days Tony has been in a more bitter mood than usual. His sarcasm has a bit more caustic feel to it where usually it's playful. He's not sure where Tony's disappeared to but it's a pattern none of the Avengers appear to be paying much mind to. Bruce sometimes wonders if he's the only one who's noticed.
Going through the records he sees a glitch. Miscellaneous words appear between multiple paragraphs. There's no rhyme or reason to them or why they should be there.
"Bad"/"stay down"/"go"/"what did"/"clean"/"blood"
Okay now Bruce is becoming a bit freaked out. He starts breaking into these bits of code but there's a strong firewall that will take much effort to break through. Tony must have specially put this up himself. Either that or his system is somehow being over ridden (which seems impossible Tony puts too much pride into his tech).
Concerned, Bruce says, "JARVIS? Where's Tony?"
"I thought he's taking a break."
Bruce sighs. He'll try to get to him later. Obviously Tony doesn't wish to be found.
"Are there any bruises anyone can see?"
Tony overlooks himself. Short-sleeved T-shirt, denim jeans. Nothing out of the ordinary showing up on the uncovered areas. Good to go.
"Appreciate your services, JARVIS."
"Sir, I do have something to tell you. While we were performing this exercise Dr. Banner appears to have stumbled across coding concerning this function. I believe he intends to speak to you about it at some point."
"Ah, the good old 'why-is-your-AI-beating-you' conversation. I hope it's a heart-to-heart, I love having those."
"I don't think he has gotten so far as that conclusion. Some choice words appeared making him suspicious. Of what I do not know."
"He's a smart guy. I'm sure he'll think its someone hacking into the system," Tony remarks as he does some stretches. His back strains underneath the pain but he doesn't show it. "I'll let him think that."
"Can you allow your ego to be jarred enough to make believe someone hacked me?" JARVIS playfully responds. Nothing like the JARVIS from ten minutes ago.
Tony smirks. "What, acting? Haven't I displayed my skills enough already?"
"Point taken, sir."
Tony decides to find Bruce before Bruce finds him. Of course Dr. Banner is in his lab and when he sees Tony he sits up a little straighter and takes off his glasses.
"Create anything fun lately? Nuclear bombs, C4, a puppy who is programmed to bite all who oppose you?"
Bruce chuckles. "I'm glad to see you're feeling better."
"Better?" Tony echoes, apparently amused. He takes a seat on a stool across from the Dr. "I'm like every ones personal ball of sunshine. Probably why so few people can be around me longer than ten minutes, though I'm told it's for other reasons."
"Imagine that." Bruce fiddles with the documents again trying to make the same code pop up as before, so he has actual evidence, but it isn't happening.
Tony tents his fingers underneath his chin, trying to seem bored. "What are you looking for?"
"Well earlier I was looking at supplies-"
"I didn't know I was talking to Pepper. Did you get a hair cut?"
"-And some weird words were popping up. I did write them down but I wanted actually to show you. Here." Bruce grabs the piece of paper and pushes it across the table.
They say a person reacts even before the emotions hits. It's sudden in Tony's expression but there's a clench in his jaw and an upset flashing in his eyes. But as quick as it materialized, it's gone.
"I don't know what it means," Tony says with a shrug, pushing it back just a little too quickly. Seeing those words have rattled him but he's not going to go into that mindset. Bruce is here. Bruce is here. He can't think about this, those words, his fathers voice telling him-
"Tony, hey," Bruce breaks through. "What's going on?"
He quirks an eyebrow at his friend. "Nothing much on my end. Tell me more about what you found. I should know if people are breaking into my tech."
"You sound like you're discussing what you want for lunch."
"Preferably Scotch but I could do with some whiskey right now."
"You get angry over your tech being compromised, Tony."
"Maybe I've become a Zen master."
"Oh, is that what you've been doing? Yoga? If that's your only mystery it's not worth all of the secrecy you go through."
Tony can tell Bruce is agitated at his secrecy. They've become pretty close after all of this time. Tony doesn't treat Bruce like he's going to explode at any second by walking on eggshells and in return Bruce is a good friend while doing science-y things.
Tony taps his fingers on the desk with a devious smirk. "There are secrets, yes, but they're my secrets."
Bruce becomes solemn. "Hopefully they're not destructive secrets."
"We all have secrets, don't we Bruce? I'm sure you've got more than a few."
Tony is surprised when his friend immediately replies, "There's not much I wouldn't share with you."
"As flattered as I am you're more wound up than any one else here. You'd run away to Antarctica to help sick penguins if given the chance."
"You're missing the point," Bruce sighs. He looks pained as he adds, "I could at least get far enough to see the code wasn't coming from outside Stark Tower. Someone inside was doing it."
"Maybe Steve mistook the keyboard for a typewriter. He is old enough to be getting senile."
"Bruce it's complicated. I don't need you butting in and things are fine."
"What happened to you? You can tell me."
"I'll be the last one to judge, I swear."
"What makes you so sure there's anything to judge?" Tony's voice is low.
"Because those words reminded me of my dad."
This is the first time Bruce has ever seen Tony avert his eyes.
"So I'd be the last person to judge," Bruce says, making busy with crumbling up the paper and throwing it out. He's facing the garbage bin with his back to Tony so he can't see his reaction as he adds, "I'm sorry."
"You're going to think I'm screwed up if I tell you. Just a fair warning."
Dr. Banner goes back to his seat. He shakes his head. "I don't think so."
"Okay fine," Tony sits back with his arms crossed, either determined to shock Bruce into thinking he's unstable or freak him out with his decision to do this. "I created JARVIS originally not to help me with my tech. He was designed to beat and berate me."
Bruce's stays calmly reclined his chair as though he's hearing the sounds of nature.
"Just like my dad did." It pains Tony to verbalize this . . . abuse? Yes, abuse. He's never talked about it before and now that he's started the words flow out, "JARVIS is a machine so he follows what I've programmed him to do. He never beats me outside of areas I can't cover and never injures me to the point of medical attention, although I suppose it'd be more realistic if he did. Calls me names, says I'm worthless, whatever. It's a relief. Hell, I don't know why but it is. If I get too stressed I go into a room I created on a floor I've always said is a reserve and get the shit beat out of me until I feel fine."
None of this seems to make Bruce flinch. They sit there staring at each other for a good fifteen seconds.
"So, you want to have a nice dinner over discussing my evident masochism or are you satisfied?"
"You're looking for control and that's what you're getting," Bruce responds. "But I don't see why you turned to technology to accomplish this. Couldn't you find someone . . . ?" His question trails off.
"I could but I can't trust anyone to keep it under wraps and not go out of bounds."
"But machines could mal-function."
"I guess but JARVIS is my creation. He's not about to break."
"Code leaked out," reminds Bruce. "I just don't want you to get hurt by accident. I can see why you do it and I'm not judging you."
"So what do you want me to do? Hire someone who doesn't know who Tony Stark is? Oh wait, pretty much everyone in the world knows who I am. It's a burden really."
The other man hesitates for a moment before inquiring, "Would you trust me?"
Tony actually laughs. "What, you? I don't know if you could be threatening and I'm not looking for The Other Guy to smash me."
"I can control my anger well enough to channel it. And I have enough anger that I can unleash it. Maybe it can even help with my anger problem," he suggests. "We don't know until we give it a try."
"You would actually do this? Call me names, hurt me, do what I ask?"
This time there's no hesitation. "Yes."
It's a few weeks later and Tony has had an pretty unpleasant day. More horrible than unpleasant, really. Things have been building up inside, never relenting, and he can tell he's becoming more snappy than normal. Pepper rightfully doesn't want to put up with his bullshit and tells him to take a break.
He thinks about his room. Then this thought ultimately leads to Bruce, his offer of helping out so there'd be no risk. Tony has no doubt he can trust him not to leak this information to the press or any of the Avengers. But Bruce, for the most part, is such an unassuming, passive guy. Tony does have doubts about how threatening he can be. And a tiny part of him wonders if this would be triggering to him, considering his own father was of the same breed as Tony's.
Fuck it, Tony figures. He'll try it. He needs this. It's horrible to ask him to do it and Tony hates that someone who isn't artificial intelligence knows but fuck it all.
He marches into Bruce's lab and says, "Bruce", in such a away it stops the scientist from doing what he's doing and nod at him. Tony doesn't need to signal for him to follow. He does.
Bruce can see how tense Tony is from his shoulders hunched up and his hands balled into fists in his pockets. As they enter "the room" he has to say he expected a lot more.
"Sky blue," remarks Tony. "Just like my room was."
"So how far do you usually take it."
"Push me around. Throw me on the dresser. Don't hit anywhere outside my t-shirt. Humiliate me, call me every name in the book. I'm a failure, never going to run the company right, all that bullshit. There's some sticks in the dresser that you can hit me with. Just hate me for fifteen minutes."
"'Shawarma'," he says with a smirk.
Bruce takes in a deep breath as Tony sits in the middle of the floor, directing JARVIS not to interfere.
"You think you're smarter than me?"
Tony suddenly looks up, caught offguard by the tone in Bruce's voice. Demanding. Furious. So real. It's as though something has switched on in Bruce, something long waited to be released. When he catches the harsh look in the other mans eyes - noting no green, too - he looks back to the floor saying nothing in return. His pulse beats faster as Bruce closes in.
"I can tell you the answer to that. You're not. I don't know who the hells kid you are but you sure aren't mine." Still, nothing in reply. "Stand up." Tony closes his eyes and stands up obediently. "Oh so you do know what words mean. Sit back down."
"Growing a pair now isn't going to save you from getting the shit beat out of you."
"Dad I don't know what's going on but if you come near me I'll-"
Bruce gets in his face, putting his hands on Tony's shoulders. He gives him a slight push. "You'll what? Fight back? I'm bigger, stronger, and I've got the whole world on my side." Bruce pushes him onto the ground and grips his shoulder, holding him in his place. "You're a nothing, Tony."
"Fuck off." The rage in Tony's voice is true.
His grip tightens to a painful point. He's hitting a nerve but Tony feels horrible in the most relieving way. Bruce forces him to stand back up and drags him towards the dresser. Opening the top drawer reveals a few plain, wooden sticks. Some longer than others. Bruce picks up a medium sized one and holds it in front of Tony.
Tony gulps, excited yet horrified at the pain to come. He does as commanded and he can feel the stick hit him multiple times across his shoulder blades and lower back. He gasps at each strike. There's always a few seconds among each one, and Tony knows Bruce is trying to be careful, not wanting to hurt him too much in one time.
"You had enough?"
Tony only hisses, "I hate you."
His back throbs in protest of the injuries. God, why did his dad have to use those sticks? They're small in diameter but with a flick of the wrist they can cause some damage.
"I'll beat some more sense into you if I have to."
"Is that a threat or a promise?" he sneers.
"Consider it something you deserve."
This strikes a cord with Tony and he actually flinches. Bruce wonders if he's over stepped the boundaries and waits for him to say something but Tony doesn't break out of character.
"You're an embarrassment to my family and more importantly my company. How you'll ever succeed is beyond me."
Tony can feel an overwhelming urge to scream rise in his throat. God, he hates that bastard so much still. Hearing these words from a human beings mouth again brings back a flood of memories. He's crippled by them and the only thing now escaping his mouth is "Shawarma."
Understanding how overwhelming this all must be - after all, a real human can't really compare to A.I. - Bruce asks, "Are you going to be okay?"
"I thought I was over hating him and hating me." Tony gives a bitter laugh. "Guess I was wrong."
"I don't think it ever really goes away," he empathizes. It's strange to see him switch again from domineering 'father' to hand-wringing Bruce. "The best you can do is try to control it."
There's a minute of silence as Tony gingerly reaches behind him to touch his back. It stings horribly and he knows bruises are forming. He could have taken a beating a lot worse than this but the situation called for a quicker end than most times.
"Thanks for doing that by the way. I think I can trust you not to go to the papers screaming how Howard Stark was a child beater."
"If it didn't ruin your reputation I probably would."
"I have to ask though," Tony admits, "why would you do this? Why aren't you telling me to stop? Any sane person probably would."
Bruce smiles at the 'sane person' bit. "I understand your need, Tony. You had no control as a child and now you're taking back that control by doing this as an adult. You were the one who was able to stop me from hurting you further with one word, right? That's the power you never had."
"Thanks a lot for the psycho-analysis, Dr. Phil."
"Dr. Banner actually."
As they exit the room Tony remarks, "So yeah, um, this isn't awkward at all. You just having played my dad and beat me. I think that door leads to the Twilight Zone."
"Don't worry I'm not going to ever say anything about it."
"How about we go for some actual Shawarma?" the playboy suggests, hitting the first floor button the elevator. It's a signal to Bruce he doesn't have much choice in it. "Although I may never look at it the same way."