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Heart Eyes, Motherfucker

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Tony Stark does not get crushes. He shows mild interest, maybe gives an appreciative glance when he sees someone interesting...but he's never had to go beyond that; his appreciative glances are always returned and, if he desires, something physical almost always follows. Tony had thought that crushes were myths, invented by Hollywood to trick kids into buying tickets to the latest teen dramedy in cinemas...But if crushes weren't real, then what could explain the way that Tony felt every time he looked at, hell, even thought about Jim Rhodes?

Jim is in Tony's robotics class, two years older than Tony, five shades darker, and about as dreamy as they come.  He's not a genius like Tony, but he's so smart, and he works his ass off, which is probably better. He doesn't ever write Tony off as a child, like half the student body does, and he doesn't suck up to him like he's a well funded god like the other half either. He treats Tony  just like he would any other classmate, with a genuine friendliness and respect that he can't help but reciprocate.

And of course Jim is well liked by students and teachers alike, because how could anyone not love a guy with a beautiful brain and deep brown eyes and a love for his country and dark curly hair that looks so soft Tony can only imagine how nice it would be to brush it and run his fingers through the springy curls and wow a smile that hits you and sets off a kaleidoscope of butterflies in your stomach like nothing you've experienced before...

Tony Stark has a massive crush.

"You alright, Tony?" Jim asks, his smile still in place, but a slightly concerned quirk to his brow. Tony is supposed to be listening to Jim's suggestions for their final project, but somewhere around the second sentence he'd gotten lost staring at the young man across from him.

"Yeah, no, I'm good!" he tells Jim, hoping to god he doesn't have drool on his face or heart shaped pupils or something. He wouldn't put it past himself. Who knows what these crush things do to you? "I'm just...tired of sitting in this library," he lies, quickly, uncharacteristically flustered. "It's bad for the creative process, all these bland white walls closing in on you."

Jim looks amused, probably because Tony is turning three shades of red right now, but doesn't question him on it. "You're right," he agrees, catching Tony by surprise. Jim seems perfectly at home in an academic setting. Jim asks, "What view would you prefer?"

You, on my California King sized bed, naked on white satin sheets.

"Something with windows, maybe?" he says instead of what he has in mind. "My apartment has got a great view of the Charles, if you want to come over and work on the project later?" After his freshman year, his folks had set him up in an off-campus apartment. It's roomy and well decorated and Tony hasn't felt at home there since the day he moved in.

Jim smiles at him, though, and Tony can't help but smile back. "Yeah,"  Jim says, "that sounds good. I'll come by in an hour or so." Tony writes his address out on the bottom edge of the page of Jim's notebook and then the older student is collecting his notes in his worn leather satchel and leaving with a last friendly glance in Tony's direction.

After a couple of minutes, Tony packs up as well and makes his way out of the building. Normally there would have been a car idling at the curb waiting to take him home, but after Tony's recent birthday he'd been able to convince his mom that he should be able to drive himself around, at least at school. He walks to the parking lot and gets into his Jaguar XJS to drive himself back to his apartment.

He'd offered to drop Jim off after his classes a few times before, but Jim insisted that his dorm was close enough that he really ought to walk. Did he even have a car? How would he get to Tony's apartment, which was definitely more than a small walk away? You idiot, Tony mentally admonishes himself, you should have offered to pick him up.

It's too late now, though, so Tony just heaves a sigh and pulls out of the lot to head for his place.

When he arrives, he doesn't actually know what he should be doing because he has no idea exactly how soon Jim will be arriving. He checks the kitchen and sees that there isn't any food in the refrigerator. Tony usually eats on the go, but having snacks is part of being a good host, Tony thinks, so he retrieves his mobile phone from his school bag and calls up the pizza joint a few blocks over. "I'd like to place an order for delivery," he states, when the teen on the other end of the line asks how she can help.

"What would you like, sir?"

Tony realizes that he has no idea what Jim likes on his pizza. "I'll, uh, have one of everything you've got, " he says. Better safe than sorry. The young lady taking his order, to her credit, doesn’t sound at all taken aback by the size of his order, just tells him what his total will be and takes down his address for the delivery.

After he finishes the call, Tony idles for a moment, unsure how to pass the time. He would clean, but the maid service keeps the place nearly spotless, and he already took care of food. He lays out his notes from class on the coffee table, then decides to hop into the shower because it can't hurt to look and smell his best when Jim arrives.

He goes into the bathroom and starts up the shower, hot water immediately making efforts to steam up the whole room. The spray feels excellent to Tony, and he maybe spends a little more time in there letting his muscles soak up the heat than he'd originally intended. When he hears the loud buzzer over the sounds of the shower, he hops out and grabs his towel off of the rack to wrap it around his waist. The pizzas had arrived a lot quicker than he'd been expecting.

Tony taps the button beside the door to temporarily unlock the downstairs entrance without bothering to inquire about who's there and wanders off to grab his wallet out of his pants so that he'll be ready to pay by the time the delivery guy makes it up the stairs to his door. A minute later the knock comes at the door and, cash in hand, hair dripping persistently into his eyes, Tony opens it.

"Uh, am I too early? I can hang out here in the hallway while you get dressed..?" Jim stands in the doorway with a helmet under his arm and a confused look on his face. Definitely not the pizza guy. He starts to edge back from the doorway.

Tony's unoccupied hand rises to stop him. "No, no! We can get dressed together!" The words fly from Tony's mouth before he has the chance to review them, and now Jim is going to think he's a perv who lured him here to make a move or something. Tony's eyes widen almost as much as Jim's do at the statement. But then Jim is letting out a shocked laugh and Tony is hastening to clarify, "What I meant was, you can come in and I'll get changed, alone, in my bedroom. No need to wait in the hall."

"Of course that's what you meant," Jim says, stepping into the apartment, almost brushing against Tony where he stands with his hand still grasping the open door. "I mean, you're the only one naked here. If we were going to get dressed together you'd have to get me out of my clothes first." Tony is sure this is Jim's way of joking with him, trying to alleviate some of the awkwardness Tony created, but he sure looks serious as he says it, crossing over the apartment's hardwood floor to set his messenger bag and helmet down on the bare end table next to Tony's couch.

"Ha ha, yeah," Tony says, shutting the door. He takes advantage of Jim's turned back to break a hasty retreat to his room, not wanting Jim to see the way Tony's blush had spread down to his shoulders at the older boy's joke. As he pulls on a pair of boxer shorts, he says loudly, "I hope it wasn't too much trouble getting here."

"Nah," Jim's light voice travels easily through Tony's closed bedroom door. "Traffic's not too bad right now, and it's pretty easy to maneuver on the bike in the city."

"Bike as in bicycle, or bike as in chopper?"

Jim chuckles in the other room. "Bike as in motorcycle." Right, the helmet. Of course Jim rides a motorcycle; it wouldn't be enough to be hot and smart and kind, he had to have the badass factor to top it off. Tony was fucked.

"That's cool," Tony says, trying to simultaneously pull an AC/DC t-shirt over his head and exit the room. Jim's standing closer to the doorway than he'd anticipated, and Tony nearly walks right into him on the way out. Jim steadies him with a hand on his shoulder when Tony tips backward.

"For those about to rock, huh?" Jim observes with a smile when he gets a look at him. Tony looks down at the album art on his chest and shrugs, unsure whether to be embarrassed or flattered by the teasing tone.

He's about to make a statement in defense of his music taste when he is saved by the sound of something thumping repeatedly against his front door. Jim releases his shoulder and Tony makes his way back to the door, wallet in hand. "I don't really have any food in the apartment, so I ordered a couple of pizzas."

He swings the door open to what is apparently a walking tower of pizza boxes. They are stacked so high that the poor delivery guy is completely obscured. "One of your neighbors let me in," says the teen, only visible from the legs down. He sounds strained, poor kid.

"That's a couple of pizzas?" Jim questions, dubiously.

Tony sends him a sheepish grin over his shoulder. "I wasn't sure what kind of pizza you liked it eat, so I ordered...all of them." He attempts to relieve the other teen of the mountain of pizzas, but his efforts seem doomed to fail when the tower begins to tip alarmingly far to the left. Shit, shit, SHIT. He's going to spend the rest of his life living with the embarrassment of having buried himself under his own weight in pizza in front of his first crush.

"Here, let me," Tony hears from his left, and then Jim's hands are beside his underneath the lowest pizza box and everything levels out as he takes the weight from Tony. Jim walks carefully but quickly sideways in the direction of the kitchen, and Tony isn't positive that he even told Jim where his kitchen was, but he's certainly not going to complain about Jim building a familiarity with his apartment.

He pays the delivery guy with a large tip added to compensate for what Tony is sure was an arduous climb up the stairs to his door with all those pizzas. It occurs to him that Jim might think that he's trying to flaunt his money with this huge order and hurries to pocket the rest of his cash, closing the door on the shocked delivery guy with a quick smile.

He finds Jim in his kitchen, searching the cabinets for plates to use. Tony, who usually eats out of take out containers, isn't much more certain of their location, so he joins the other teen in his cabinet search.

With an a-ha! of triumph, he locates them, tucked away in a high cabinet off to the side. He has to stand on the tips of his toes to reach them, and Tony hears the sound of soft laughter as he removes them from the cabinet.

"You see something funny, Rhodes?" he asks. He turns to eye the smirking boy beside him. "You're no taller than I am, dude, I'd like to see you sprout a few inches and top me." Tony pauses to blush as his accidental innuendo registers. He just barely stops himself from smacking his own forehead, because how many times in one day could he make his crush abhorrently clear before Jim decided to call him on it?

Jim's eyebrows rise attractively in acknowledgment, but he spares Tony the embarrassment of commenting. Thank god. Instead, he latches onto the intended meaning of the barb.

"You wound me, short stack," he teases, pressing a hand to his unnecessarily sculpted chest, above the heart. Jim steps closer to Tony, and they stand eye level to one another, in support of his earlier claim. The stack of plates held in front of Tony's stomach, alone, prevents them from meeting toe to toe as well. Tony glances from dark eyes to dark lips. It would be incredibly easy to drop the expensive porcelain  and kiss the boy in front of him. Tony even thinks he sees Jim eyeing his lips as well. Wishful thinking. He blinks a few times to clear his head and hopes that his momentary preoccupation didn't show on his face, that the heat of his gaze came across as cockiness.

"Yuck it up, Rhodes," he says, playing up the challenge. "See how much pizza it gets you."

"Too late," Jim grins. He backs away, toward the living room, the top four pizza boxes in hand, and Tony follows. "You already bought me the whole pizza parlor. No takesies-backsies."

Tony scoffs as he rounds the sofa and sets the plates down on his coffee table, but loads one up with pepperoni and offers it to Jim anyway. Jim accepts it happily, and Tony wishes he'd known how easy it was to please him before he freaked and ordered enough pizza to feed a championship football team.

At least, he thinks, they should be able to make a dent in the boxes, being two college aged guys. He throws a few slices on a plate for himself and digs in. They eat in silence for a time, going through the whole box of pepperoni and starting in on a Hawaiian before Jim begins clapping the crumbs from his fingers and fishes a thick folder from his messenger bag.

Tony watches as he removes a stack of blue papers that turns out to be one large piece of paper folded down to fit into the bag. Jim unfolds the blueprint and smooths it down onto the already paper-laden table with large hands. "Alright, Stark. You ready to build a robot butler?" he asks, glancing at Tony, hands splayed flat on the table.

"I was born ready," Tony answers. "Literally. Like, I could probably have done this on my first day home from the hospital." It's a stretch, even for him, but he mostly keeps a straight face. Jim doesn't buy it, and he shoves Tony lightly on the shoulder with a laugh.

"Well, don't let me slow you down, boy genius."

"Don't be silly, buttercup, if anyone in this class can keep me on my toes, it's you." The words are said before his crush-addled brain has the chance to edit out the completely fucking embarrassing bits. He does the casual nicknaming thing with some of his friends, but he had been taking care not to go calling Jim schnookums and scare him off.

Jim rolls his eyes, but Tony sees him smile just a little as he returns his gaze to the plans in front of them. So nicknames aren't off limits, Tony notes.

"Well," says Jim, "let's get to work, then." He starts back up where their discussion had left off in class, but with the blueprint in front of him, it's easier for Tony to tune out thoughts of his infatuation and focus on the science at hand. Jim's plans are really solid, now that Tony is actually listening to his explanation, but he is already seeing a few points in the diagram where he could improve the engineering. Tony grabs a pencil and notepad and begins to make calculations based on Jim's notes.

 They sink their teeth into the work and don't resurface for more than a bathroom break and another slice of pizza or two over the next few hours.

When Tony puts down his pencil and glances at the view through the window, he sees that night has fallen. Jim is still crunching numbers beside him, mumbling calculations around the pizza crust he's inexplicably holding between his teeth. It's cute, Tony thinks, like a Retriever with a stick in its mouth. He allows himself to watch his classmate at work for a moment.

His staring must get Jim's attention, though, because the other boy suddenly shifts as if he's caught a chill. He turns to Tony, then the windows, then back to Tony. "Mmnphmmf," he says, his words gibberish with the crust in his teeth. He pauses, nearly going cross-eyed looking down at the obstruction sticking out of his mouth, then spits the pizza crust dryly onto his plate. It makes a loud pinging sound in the quiet apartment when it hits the glass.

"How long has that been in my mouth?" Jim questions, and when Tony shrugs, he sighs, "Doesn’t matter." He scrubs a hand back through his curls and Tony has to force his eyes away from the flex of veins under the skin.

He clears his throat, turning his attention back to the papers strewn across his coffee table. "Well," he says, "I think we made great progress tonight. We might even be ready to start prototyping in the lab by the end of the week if we have a couple more solid brainstorming sessions..." Tony trails off when he looks back to find Jim stretching his arms behind his head, back arching off of the couch and shirt riding up to expose inches of Jim's stomach, supple and muscular and sprinkled with dark curls near his waistband. His spine makes an audible popping noise and Jim releases a near pornographic groan.

"Who gave you the right!?" Jim's eyes shoot open and he freezes mid-stretch. Tony realizes too late that he'd shouted that question, not thought it. There's no real point in trying to backtrack now; his charade has been blown. He continues, "I mean, you're already gorgeous, and smart, and unnecessarily likable--what's that about, anyway--but then you come over here, at my invitation, but still, you come over here and you tease me and you give me these looks and you let me call you pet names and then you-you do that obscene stretch right next to me, as if it hasn't already been the hardest afternoon of my life trying to keep this crush on the down low. WHO GAVE YOU THE RIGHT?"

Jim had slowly lowered his arms to his sides during Tony's tirade, cutting off the view of the abs that had broken Tony's resolve. He’s wearing a smile now, an infuriating grin that almost sets Tony off again, because how dare he? But then he leans forward on his knees and he says, "Finally." Just like that. Tony lets out a questioning squeak.

"Tony, I have been waiting weeks for you to admit that you have feelings for me. I mean, I didn't think you'd shout it at me, but I'll count that as a bonus." He looks smug.

"You've known for weeks?" Tony questions. A nod. "And you let me suffer? Do you know how hard I tried to act normal?"

"Well, you weren't that normal to begin with," admits Jim. At Tony's look of affront, he turns more fully on the couch to face him. "I mean that in a good way! You are terrible at keeping secrets, Tony, so I knew you'd fallen for me as soon as you did. It's what gave me the confidence to let myself fall for you, too...Sure, I'd always thought you were cute, but you were Tony Stark. I'd heard about your dating history, and how realistic would it have been to expect a guy who had dated teen pop sensations to be interested in me?"

"Only one teen pop sensation," Tony interrupted, "and she only liked me for the last name."

"Regardless, I'm just Jim Rhodes from Philly. Not that I'm ashamed of being that, but we're not exactly of the same caliber. So I played it cool. And then one day a few weeks ago things between us were just different, something in the way you looked at me, and I knew that somehow, miraculously, you liked me too."
The smile on Jim's face is genuine and bright, and Tony doesn’t understand how Jim could think it a miracle for someone like Tony to like him, but he hopes he gets the chance to explain in great detail why it isn't.

But then an earlier question reasserts itself in his brain. "Why didn't you put me out of my misery if you liked me too?" he asks.

Jim shrugs. "Eh, it was cute watching you fall all over yourself trying to be subtle. I've been dropping hints, but you never caught on until now." So all of those looks he'd thought he was imagining, the innuendos and the extra touching. They'd been real, and he'd psyched himself out of them all. What a fucking dope.

"Sooo, now that we're on the same page, does that mean we're a thing? I'd like for us to be a thing. Only if you want us to be a thing, too, of course."

Jim laughs and reaches out to grasp Tony's hand. His heart quite literally skips a beat, and if Tony was uncomfortable with the ramifications of having a crush, he doesn’t even want to know what falling in love will do to him. Except that he does, he really, really does.

"Yes," Jim tells him, using the hold he has on his hand to draw Tony toward him. He leans in close, so close that Tony can feel Jim's breath against his mouth, and it's the most anticipation he can remember experiencing in all his 17 years. "I want us to be a thing," Jim says, and then he leans in those last few inches to place a soft kiss on Tony's lips.

Tony closes his eyes and silently thanks whoever is listening for silly crushes and Jim Rhodes.