Characters: Tony/Rhodey (Slash)
Summary (College-era): Tony Stark was the smartest, cockiest guy Jim Rhodes had ever met…
Author's Notes: For tentinyfandoms, this is "Spark." The setting fits with the movie (where the characters are of similar age), but not within Iron Man comic canon.
The first few days at M.I.T. were sheer intimidation for Jim Rhodes, intimidation and awe.
The place was money—a legacy of grants and funding, and a future rooted in research and the talents of its students.
What the Hell am I doing here? he found himself wondering, with his mother's voice rising from his memory to answer, You belong here as much as anyone. You've earned it.
What he'd earned was a scholarship, because they'd never have been able to afford sending him there otherwise. That made him different—that and the shortage of other people who looked like him. But he was used to that already, after high school and all the years before. Hardly anyone took to math and science like he did, so the brothers (a subgroup of a subgroup) had numbered only him. That had exactly matched how many girls were part of that same like-minded group, which led a person to conclude that it was lonely out there for a nerd.
He had the grades, the drive, and the same burning curiosity that fueled half the students on the M.I.T. campus. In that sense, he was right at home. In later years, he came to think of college as one of the best times of his life.
College was where he met Tony Stark.
They were both freshmen, both enrolled in Differential Equations. Jim was testing the waters toward a Civil Engineering major, and Tony was probably just looking for new ways to blow shit up that would let him make sarcastic faces behind the professor's back in the meantime.
Tony was the smartest, cockiest guy Jim had ever met, the most aggravating and most fascinating all in one. Some days Jim just wanted to throw him out the nearest window, and others they'd stay up talking about artificial intelligence and electromagnetic forces until Jim fell asleep wherever he was sitting and Tony kept working on sketches or new programming until dawn.
Being with Tony was like being off-balance. Jim never knew where Tony was headed next, whether it was an idea or some kind of adventure. Most of Tony's adventures came close to getting him expelled, but there were times when simply talking to him seemed dangerous—especially when Tony was close enough that Jim could feel the heat rising off his skin, or when Tony was all wound up about something and his eyes were boring right down inside Jim's soul.
They made Jim restless, those looks—left him feeling energized and unsettled and almost giddy. It wasn't just that he had secrets he wanted to hide from Tony, it was the secrets he was keeping from himself that were making him crazy.
No-one else had ever had such a strong effect on him, and Jim's upbringing told him other men never should.
There wasn't a single box anyone could fit Tony Stark into, and he wouldn't have stayed in it if they'd tried. Knowing that didn't help Jim even for a second.
"Let's go for a drive," Tony said one evening, and that meant his fancy-ass Jaguar XK-E convertible, because Tony's dad was richer than God. Tony lived in the dorms, just like Jim, except he had a room to himself and enough equipment in it to rival some of the campus labs.
And he had a car that was like an automotive wet-dream, so no way Jim would ever turn that offer down.
They sped off on route 1A, out of the city. Tony preferred the winding roads, putting the car through its paces as they hugged the curves along the white-tipped edges of the sea. It was both nerve-wracking and exhilarating, every bit as addictive as Tony himself.
After a while, Tony turned inland, away from the highway and the lights from the nearby towns. He took a couple of back roads, heading left and then right. Only his headlights broke the surrounding darkness, and when he pulled off and parked in a clearing, the sky overhead was blanketed with stars.
He turned off the headlights, and leaned over, resting his elbow on the side of Jim's seat. "Still breathing?" he asked with mock-seriousness, like he was immune to the effects of racecar driving on the highway, and maybe he was.
"Barely," Jim gasped on a laugh. Tony hadn't killed them yet, but it was always a near thing.
He turned to needle Tony about it, and found their faces closer than he'd expected. Tony was watching him in that fascinated, teasing way he knew so well, where Tony’s eyes—his every thought—seemed filled with Jim. It was startling, being the focus of all that interest and attention, and it always made Jim's stomach spin and flip.
Just like now.
Jim knew he shouldn’t, knew he was risking everything, but the electricity between them was overwhelming, the pull so forceful it outweighed common sense. He leaned in and kissed Tony with months of pent-up longing, sure and strong and hard.
Oh God, he couldn’t stop if he wanted to, and Tony was responding to him just as eagerly. Tony moaned, and slanted his mouth over Jim’s to kiss him deeper, and the sound—the feel of him, all of it—catapulted Jim to a state of intense arousal. His skin burned with need as he pulled Tony closer, wanting every inch of him under his fingertips. Tony leaned, shifted his weight forward and back, and then he was straddling Jim’s lap, rolling across and up against him. The shock of it sent a jolt straight to Jim’s groin.
He drew a shuddering breath and gripped Tony's waist, his hands schoolboy-clumsy with urgency. Tony lifted Jim's shirt off and then his own, his body moving in symmetry with the sweet torture of his kiss. Unbuckling them both, Tony lined the two of them up and worked them to a finish that had Jim digging his fingers in hard enough to mark Tony's back while the stars broke and scattered all around them.
They leaned together for a moment afterward, Tony's breathing as uneven as Jim's. "How—" Jim started.
"It was on your face," Tony answered.
"It was broadcasting movie previews of you and me getting naked. Like the way your mom calling makes you homesick, or you daydream about strapping Leittner to a rocket launcher."
"The man says everything at least five times, for God's sake, and now is definitely not the time to bring up my mother," Jim pointed out, because Tony could be utterly clueless that way.
"Yeah," Tony laughed, absently stroking the back of Jim's neck. He looked up and searched the sky for a moment, his body beginning to vibrate with nervous energy. "So what now? I mean after we get back—got any plans?"
Jim ran his hands over Tony's skin, thinking, feeling. "There's a test on Thursday I could be studying for."
"And you probably finished memorizing the material two days ago already."
"So?" Jim leaned his head back to look Tony in the eye.
"So," Tony continued, "I got the prototype of the robot butler running. Want to see it?"
"What do you think?"
The next five minutes were a scramble of cleaning up and getting dressed and back on the highway again.
They sped back toward campus, with the moon shimmering off the blackness of the water and Tony handling the stick shift with a smooth certainty that made Jim hard all over again, remembering everything he and Tony had done less than half an hour ago.
Jim had no idea where this thing between them was headed, whether it was a one-time event or whether the two of them were starting something new.
Tony kicked up the speed a notch, roaring around the curves so fast that it left Jim's stomach a good quarter-mile behind them. It was breathtaking and dangerous, like flying at low altitude, and it was the most alive Jim had ever felt.
They rounded a corner and headed into a straightaway, where Tony turned a blinding grin on him and slapped his leg.
Just like that, Jim knew he didn't care what lay ahead of them. Being along for the ride that was Tony Stark was thrilling and impossibly captivating, and Jim was ready to get drunk on however much of it he was offered.
-------- fin --------