A/N: promptfic: "It's a tug of war"

I just love the 'bots.

Whistles and chirps in the background are fairly commonplace – nothing to really get concerned about, or enough of a reason to lift his head from the detailed soldering work he's focused on, the hard plastic handle of a precision screwdriver clenched lightly between his teeth. The brief squeak-squeal of small rubber tires on polished concrete isn't really a surprise either, though when more than one set sounds in close succession, it makes him wonder just what's going on up there, above his current eye level. It's not until a loud protesting electronic whistle-squeal immediately proceeds the clanging crash of falling-scattering metal, though, that Tony finally pops his head up, placing the soldering iron back in its holder with an uncommon force.

"What the hell? Jarvis!" he barks, glaring across the workshop that his Malibu basement garage has long-since been turned into. The immediate source of the last, loudest noise is, thankfully, fairly harmless – a pile of components and unevenly shaped metal sheets that he's deemed 'scrap' and not yet gotten around to actually getting rid of. The culprits, still standing guiltily beside the now floor-scattered debris, turn their camera-and-claw endowed 'heads' toward their creator. Silence falls for a second – just a second – before one of the robots gives a small, hopeful-sounding chirp.

"I believe," and it sounds, it really sounds, like the AI is trying not to laugh, although Tony didn't program him with that capability (although there are lots of things that Jarvis does that Tony didn't program him for, and how did that happen again?) "that they were playing... tug of war."

Tony looks back at his misbehaving 'bots with something very close to (but not quite) disbelief. Dummy whistles low, a few casual notes, rolling back and forth a few inches. You drops his arm toward the floor, head tilting up not unlike a hopeful-submissive dog... only after a moment more seeming to realize he's still holding a piece of metal in his claws and immediately dropping the evidence with a muffled clang. Tony groans, eyes closing a moment, rubbing his forehead. A low chirrup, questioning, pops his eyes open again, and an index finger points sharply at the sheepish pair. "I don't – no, I really don't even want to know why. Just – clean it up. Clean it all up, as a matter of fact, take it all to the dumpster out by the driveway, yeah that'll keep you out of trouble for a little while." There's a moment of stillness from the 'bots, and his tone sharpens as he snaps his fingers, once. "Hey! Dummy, You! I'm talkin' to you! Go, clean that up!"

The pair leaps into sudden action, spinning around, briefly getting in one anothers' way and jockeying for position before each grabbing up a single piece of scrap and rolling toward the garage entry ramp. Tony sighs deeply, rubbing two fingers between his eyes again, then flicking a dark gaze up and around the workshop for the missing third of his trio. Butterfingers is half-hiding behind a fabrication machine, as far out of the way of trouble as he can seem to put himself; he whistles softly as he notices the human's unwanted attention, drooping his head just slightly and tilting it a few inches. Tony bites back a groan; when did his mechanical helpers grow to be so... so alive? Sometimes he wonders. He really, really wonders.

"Hey." Wonderings about the source of the 'bots' personalities aside, he still has to deal with them (and seriously, can he honestly tell himself he'd prefer them any other way?). "Butterfingers, it's okay, you're not in trouble. Look – c'mere." He waits the requisite minute or so it takes the robot arm on wheels to manuever carefully around the equipment and come over to him with the patience Tony Stark only shows mechanical things – especially his own creations – and reaches out to allow Butterfingers to press his head briefly against his own work-scarred fingers. It's brief, because this is probably the least physically affectionate of the three, but reassuring nonetheless apparently, as the 'bot straightens slightly afterwards with a careful-hopeful chirp. "Good boy. Look – why don't you hold this for me? No, like this... there. Hold steady. Don't drop it." The warning is not casual; Butterfingers came by his name honestly. There's a reason Tony usually gives him the least potentially disastrous of jobs. Holding onto a smartglass tablet carefully designed not to shatter if dropped will at least make him feel useful. With a tap and swirl of his fingers, the inventor brings up a set of blueprints for the propulsion unit he's working on, then nods once, slightly.

Well, he can't ever say his life is dull. Good thing that's the way he likes it. Hiding a smile for a moment... then giving up on that and allowing himself a low chuckle... Tony picks up the soldering iron, wipes the hot tip twice against the sponge to clean it, then returns to his work.