Fandom: Iron Man (Movie-verse)
Characters: Tony/Rhodey (one-sided pre-slash)
Summary: Rhodey's attempts to act casual were only fooling himself.
Author's Notes: For schmoop_bingo ("Love at first sight"), and writers_choice ("Next").
Hell yes, Rhodey noticed Tony Stark the first time he saw him. It was in Chemistry Lab, the remixing and distillation of multiple Freshman Chemistry classes at M.I.T. Tony was front and center, he was larger than life, and Jim Rhodes was neither blind nor stupid.
He tried to act casual, try to play the part of a man who'd never heard of Stark Industries and who wasn't bubbling over with five years of questions about schematics and thrust and dynamically upgradeable trajectory.
"Jim Rhodes," he said, offering his hand while unleashing a stream of mental reminders to himself not to geek out or cling. "Got a partner yet?"
Tony looked at him, giving nothing away. "Is that required?"
An independent thinker, Rhodey thought, with no real surprise. All he said was, "I'm afraid so."
That was how it began.
Rhodey didn't learn until later that Tony was the kind of partner you probably didn't want. Tony generally operated at one of two extremes: dragging his feet on things that didn't interest him until last-minute all-nighters were the only choices left, or chasing an idea to its conclusion and running down all the tangents along the way until his eyes were red and the room was an explosion of half-scribbled-on pieces of paper.
Either way, it guaranteed that no one would be getting a lot of sleep.
It was worth it, though. Rhodey didn't always think so, not when the distance to an unmet deadline could be measured in hours, or when Tony would miss one of their lab sessions and Rhodey would search for him only to find him at the million-dollar Stark bachelor pad with a half-naked girl hanging on each arm. Those moments were filled with curses and new-found resolutions to let Tony drown in the consequences of his arrogance and bad choices. Rhodey had already been down that road all too often.
But that wasn't always how it went. Sometimes the two of them worked side-by-side, bouncing ideas off of each other that led to late-night prototypes of machines and gadgets with no foundation in anything that would even earn them a grade. Other times, they drank beer and told each other stories until they were sprawled on the floor with laughter.
Rarest of all were the times when Tony spoke quietly about his dreams or his personal demons. Rhodey knew that he alone was trusted with those secrets, those things that really mattered to Tony. Maybe that was why those moments were the ones Rhodey thought about most.
Tony had those amazing eyes (not that Rhodey had noticed), and that wit that could either start a riot or charm the panties off a preacher's wife. It was compelling just to watch him, but utterly breathtaking when he turned that attention to you.
A guy could get addicted to that, Rhodey thought, or maybe he already had.
There was no telling just how far he would go to chase the promise of whatever it was that Tony might choose to offer.
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