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Great Theoretical Ideas That Are Lousy in Execution

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If anyone asked - and thankfully no one would - Tony Stark was absolutely completely and totally not sitting on his bed rereading the latest email he'd gotten from Anya Lehnsherr. He'd learned the rules quickly enough. He could expect one email every school day, usually around 2:30-3:00 pm, and no matter how quickly (or slowly) he responded there would not be another email until the next school day. She missed a day on occasion, and Tony didn't respond every day at first, but it had gotten to be a particularly nice habit.

Today's email was apparently about how annoying her history teacher was, getting ready for Rosh Hashanah - Tony had had to wikipedia that, wishing she could go out more with friends, helping her brother and sister with their homework, and desperately wanting to buy some books called Hunger Games. Tony was feeling a bit at a loss, because some days Anya was brilliant and full of spark and it was impossible to believe she was still in high school because she was so fucking brilliant, and other days he was reminded that they had the whole of college between them and that whether he'd realized it or not he'd done a lot of growing in the last three years. Today it was a mix.

He was slowly working through a response, mostly focusing on how to deal with annoying teachers who were way dumber than you - a topic that Tony had a good bit of experience in, when there was a mechanical whir of an inserted keycard and then the opening of the lock to his dorm room. A moment later the door was nudged open and one Charles Xavier rolled in at least two hours before Tony had expected him.

"No dinner?" The glanced at the clock. It was barely six, and Charles was still gross and sweaty from his exercising.

"Yeah." Oh dear. Charles looked beyond morose. Tony shoved aside his laptop and walked over to Charles and wrapped his arms tight around his friend's shoulders.

Charles responded by grabbing Tony and letting out a deep, shuddering sigh into his chest.

"Well, we can stop worrying about how Erik's going to respond when he finds out I'm bi!" Charles said, voice entirely too cheerful.

Tony's hands fisted into the back of Charles' sweatshirt, hard. "Do I have to kill him and make it look like an accident? Because you know I will, Charles."

"No," Charles' response was glum, and he slumped back into his chair, carefully repositioning himself. "It wasn't... bad... he just... was awkward with me all through our workout, didn't seem to want to touch me for sit ups, and then bailed completely on going to dinner together."

Tony hissed in a mix of anger and sympathy.

"I said something off hand, you know, about loving you, and he took it the wrong way and asked if I was gay, and then I said I was bi, and then I said that I had a crush on this girl in my psychology class."

Tony completely ignored the declaration of affection, which was sweet, but not the point. "You have a crush on a girl in psychology class? Since when?!" Tony was usually the first to hear about these crushes and, fairly or unfairly, Tony would have encouraged this because it would have been a good break from the more hopeless crush on Erik.

"I don't actually! I just said it because Erik seemed to be taking the whole thing poorly!"

"Oh, Charles." Sometimes Tony had a hard time believing the boy was a genius. He kissed Charles on the forehead and then gently wheeled him over next to Tony's bed. He hopped up on the bed itself and then rested his feet on either side of Charles' knees. "So you made up a fake crush so you could be a little more heterosexual for him?"

Charles nodded, miserable. "I know it's dumb but... you know... I can nurse the crush for a few months, maybe get rejected, nurse a bruised ego for a few months... I might make it to Easter before I have to be all heterosexual near him again." Charles wrapped his arms around Tony's leg and leaned against his shin. "I mean I didn't expect him to say 'me too!' but..."

"But you had been hoping, I know." Tony felt miserable on Charles' behalf, but he was glad that his friend was relatively whole and that he'd managed to at least uncover the latent hopelessness of the crush before he was completely and totally irredeemably in love with Erik instead of just viciously smitten as he was now. "Why don't you take a shower and we'll get some food."

Charles kissed Tony's shin, more a press of lips against denim, and then headed back out to his room. Tony glowered at his computer a little, even though it was hardly Anya's fault that her brother had lousy taste and no idea how great a guy Charles was and how much of a fantastic boyfriend Charles could be. Charles tended to fall hard and fast, and the fall for Erik had been particularly precipitous; Tony couldn't blame him, really, Tony trended pretty heavily towards women and even he would have tapped that if Erik was on offer - well, not since Charles had dibs, but a very generalized tapping of that ass. Really thinking about having sex with Erik felt incredibly awkward for reasons that Tony wasn't prepared to think about at the moment.

He puttered around his room for a little while longer, prodded at his email - and left a note to himself to ask after Erik in his next email because if he was going to be e-pen-pals with his sister the least he could do was figure out when Charles might have to expect his hopeless crush to return to their circle of friends, if at all. At this point, Tony wasn't certain which one would be better. If Erik just left then maybe Charles could get over it sooner, but if Erik did leave then Charles would be crushed and he would have no decent excuse to continue to talk with Anya, both of these things would suck.

So, apparently he was rooting for a quick return.

Dinner ended up being soup and sandwiches from The Underground, the two of them curled up in a corner and Charles feeling particularly sorry for himself and Tony feeling like TPing the Lehnsherr house. Unfortunately the X-Mobile was really noticeable so he didn't think he would get away with that. Tony reminded Charles that he was very awesome, as is, and anyone who didn't love his adorable self wasn't worth it, but the message was not well received at the moment.

So there was sugary soda and soup and moping, and then (very manly) snuggling in Charles' bed for the night, because Charles had asked and Tony was man enough to snuggle his BFF when he really needed it. It was one of the benefits of having a friend who had known you since you were in diapers; you had previously snuggled enough that by the time you were old enough to consider snuggling weird you'd already snuggled sufficiently that you couldn't really take-backsies and decide it was too weird after the fact.

Charles had seemed mostly better by the morning, although Tony knew from experience that was a dirty lie.

He shot off his email to Anya just a few minutes before two, where he had some words of non-wisdom about just saying fuck it and going out with her friends because what were her parents going to do about it anyway. It had been decidedly irresponsible, but no one had ever claimed that Tony Stark was a model of responsible behavior. Despite this, he was still surprised when Anya arrived at the Robotics Institute around three that afternoon wearing a skirt that fell just below the knees and a woman's button down that needed a starch and a bleach but still looked very cute on her. He wasn't entirely certain how she had found him in the middle of the Institute, either, but hey, she was brilliant.

"Tony?" She was standing in the door of his tiny little workshop, arms crossed over her chest, but she had a little quirky smile on her lips. She looked... sweet.

"A--Anya? Hey!" He hopped down off the bench he was on. "Let me show you around. That's why you're here, right?"

"Yeah..." She didn't sound completely enthusiastic though, but she was here, finally accepting his standing invitation, so he'd just have to sell her on it.

"Come on." He took her wrist and gave her a gentle tug and they were off to the races. He started by introducing her to his robot - who was currently sporting the moniker 'Butterfingers' because he wasn't nearly as good as the more articulate robots that they had on campus, but he still had a soft spot for the guy.

"You made this?"

"Sure, when I was working on my undergraduate." He pressed a hand to the small of her back and maneuvered her over towards the edge of Butterfingers' range. "He can shake, he can wave, he could pick you a flower if we weren't all horrible boys who wouldn't know an attractive living thing if it bit us on the nose."

Anya waved at it, and he watched it respond by waving back. "You made it to that!"

"Sure, but not by remote, just preprogrammed interactions." Tony walked over to the base. "He's got some cameras, and a few mics, and he does simple commands. Hold your finger out to him."

She did, and the grip stretched out and poked her finger carefully. Anya laughed at that before spinning around to look at him. "Really? Just with a computer?"

He nodded, and then Anya was prodded on the shoulder and she spun, only for the robot to wave at her again. She waved back.

"Your robot is silly."

"Well he was programmed by a very silly person, so yes, I think it's safe to say he's silly." He wrapped an arm around her waist and then steered her back out of the room. "Go to sleep, Dummy."

He then introduced her to Keepon - one of the old student projects that was frankly a huge hit and Tony would have claimed credit but he'd been about fourteen at the time, and although he was brilliant he was not quite that brilliant. Still the little yellow blob with two eyes and a nose was rather a hit. Tony loaded up one of the interactive programs and watched as Anya moved around in delight as the robot's face tracked around to her. She ducked down, and Keepon slowly looked lower and lower until Tony came too close and its head snapped around to him.

"Does he do anything else?"

"He can dance."

"Nu-uh!"

He loaded up the music program, grabbed some of the sample music and piped it in to the room. A few beats in, Keepon was bobbing up and around in time to the music and Anya was enthralled, bobbing in response slightly off beat. She looked... adorable.

A few moments later, on a whim, he put out a hand for her and she looked up, took his hand, and then the two of them were dancing horribly and uncoordinatedly to music with a beat but still unable to keep time. It didn't matter to Tony one bit, his and Anya's hands locked together as they did their best not to get out danced by a little yellow blob and failed horribly. They danced through one song, and then another, before something slow came on to the playlist and Keepon just gently swayed back and forth and Anya...

Anya wrapped her arms up around Tony's neck and Tony - conditioned by too many years of bad behavior - slid his arms around her waist and the two of them ended up pressed very close together, his fingers splayed across her back. A few more seconds in and Anya pressed her forehead to his chest, and then rested her cheek there, and Tony's arms tightened around her even more.

"Did you... um... like the robots?"

"Yeah," her voice was distant and dreamy. "You really could take over the world, one adorable robot at a time."

"I... I'll have you know that Dummy is not adorable, he's... very tough and rugged."

"Mmmhmmmmm," she made a dubious, disbelieving noise against his chest. "You just don't like admitting he's adorable."

"He's a little adorable. Just a little though. Mostly he's badass."

The sample playlist finished and the two of them continued to sway together for too long for Tony to count, his fingers brushed against her neck, very softly, and then Anya was... looking at him, bright blue-green eyes right into his.

"I..." He found himself at a loss for words, but eventually pressed a thumb against her jaw. "Let me take you to dinner."

"Ok." Anya's voice was breathy and... nice, and Tony felt unaccountably warm.

His phone buzzed. Charles, probably. Tony frowned and pulled out his phone. Erik and I are going to dinner at Union Grill. Oh good... so he wasn't taking Anya there, then.

"Would you like Italian? We could go into Oakland."

"Are you sure? I mean we could just..."

"Positive."

She nodded, grinning at him brightly, and the two of them headed down Forbes and into Oakland. Tony used the opportunity to talk about classes, about TAing, and about some of the research he was working on. Anya complained about history again, and then she was cheerfully discussing how she'd talked her mother into letting her take an advanced chemistry course at the local community college.

"I'd have to pay for it myself, and it's all the way downtown, but if I could..."

"That's a couple hundred dollars maybe?"

Anya took a deep breath and sighed. "Yeah."

"I guess a course at CMU would be more convenient though."

"Two thousand dollars more convenient." Anya was frowning again.

That wasn't too bad, then. It seemed like Anya had that under control and that was... brilliant. He was glad she was thinking about college, although he was going to have words with whoever put the idea of community college into her head. That was ridiculous for a girl as smart as Anya was.

The two of them finally slid into a booth at the Italian restaurant that Erik had told him about. It was... decent, he would need to figure out where Pittsburgh was hiding its fine dining, though, because he'd been hoping for something a little more upscale. Anya didn't seem to mind, though, happily browsing the menu. "Anything you'd like, my treat."

She just ordered pasta.

"How long... are you going to be here?"

"At CMU?" He shrugged. "Five, seven years I'd say at least. After seven they start to try to get you out, although really they should be thrilled to get my genius for such a bargain basement price."

"And then?"

"Back to New York, I guess, maybe I'll go live in Malibu when I'm bored. I do all my best work in a little lab anyway, all silence and innovation." He was certain he could create something brilliant to match his father's skills and talents. "Charles and I will probably both head back to New York, things to do, you know?"

Anya nodded, and Tony recognized that as the nod of someone who didn't actually 'you know' but he didn't quite feel like explaining that he and Charles really should get back to their fathers' corporate empires and actually run them. He wasn't used to people not knowing who he was and it was actually sort of fun. He had a damn wikipedia page, after all. Dinner passed slowly, over stories of D&D games that Anya played after school with boys that Tony found himself irrationally annoyed with on general principle. Tony told a few choice anecdotes about his younger self and his high school days. He'd been about thirteen when he was a sophomore, and... well he hadn't been in the best frame of mind what with...

Everything...

All he'd had then was school and Charles, fighting every day to get out of that damn bed and...

"Tony?"

"Sorry. I was somewhere else." He took a deep, shaky breath. "Really, life gets better after high school."

"I'm sure." She didn't sound sure.

They were still all giggles and laughter walking back to campus, through UPitt and past the museum and a few other landmarks before arriving back at CMU and Tony realized he didn't have a dorm to deposit her at and he looked blankly around for a moment.

"I should go wait for the bus."

She reached out, squeezed his hand, and then started to walk slowly over to the bus shelter and Tony jogged a few steps before he touched her shoulder. "Let me drive you home. I know it's not cool but the X-Mobile is more than capable."

"You don't have to, Tony."

It was well past dark, and while he had this general idea that her neighborhood wasn't that dangerous, there was still something deep seated in his mind that said it was just not right to let Anya take a bus and then walk the rest of the way home. "I want to."

"I mean if you want..." She bit her lip, fingers playing with the hair just behind her ears, tentative.

"I do."

They made their way over to the Morewood lot and Anya slid into the passenger seat and buckled up and they were underway. The trip was - uncharacteristically - silent, with Anya playing nervously with her skirt and Tony mostly paying attention to the GPS to try to navigate the twisty back roads to get to the Lehnsherr house.

"Here's good." They were still a block and a half from where he thought the house was, but he pulled over anyway. "I... today was really great, Tony."

"Definitely." He couldn't remember the last time he'd had so much fun, getting a chance to show off with someone who was smart enough to follow along and just spend time talking with someone he didn't know as well was a treat - and that it was someone as cute and compelling as Anya didn't hurt at all.

"Would you like to do it again some time?"

"I would love to."

Anya turned towards him, slightly awkward, and Tony was feeling particularly slow because he finally recognized that face, that was the 'I've been totally seduced by you, Tony Stark' face. He... didn't remember trying to seduce anyone though. Did that mean he'd gotten seduced? He really wasn't sure of the mechanics, but it didn't matter because then there were soft lips on his and he knew what to do with that. His hand went to the back of her head and he held Anya close, warm lips and breath mingling there and... it was surprisingly hot.

He tilted his head, yeah... still hot. Anya surged forward, her arms went around his chest and his free hand went around her waist. The gear shift was sort of in the way, but he stumbled out the driver's seat and then over to Anya, one kick of the foot and he had her seat reclining and Anya was grabbing him closer and then there was some moaning.

He wasn't certain whose.

High pitched, probably Anya. She had a good idea though and he pressed his lips to her neck and then they were both panting and Tony decided, very suddenly, that Anya was very brilliant and she had all of the best plans, so he went back to kissing her properly. She tasted warm and electric and Tony slid his tongue against her bottom lip and she opened her mouth immediately. The kiss was sloppy and inexperienced, but Tony didn't care because it was brilliant, everything Anya did was brilliant. He broke their kissed and they both whimpered at the loss, so Tony leaned in and kissed her again, and that was even better, especially when Anya tilted her head just so and her hand grabbed at his back and pulled him closer.

Tony could barely breathe he was panting so hard, and he broke away long enough to pepper her neck with kisses again and then oh god hand on his crotch!

He pulled away entirely, which was... strange, he could admit, usually that would have been a good thing, a very good thing, and Anya sprawled against the seat of the X-Mobile, shirt half rucked up, lips kiss stung, chest heaving, was about the most beautiful thing that Tony had ever seen in his life, easily top five. "Hey..."

Anya looked to the side, hands tugging her shirt back into order.

"Hey..." He repeated, and he leaned down, fingers brushing against her jaw and he kissed her there, and then at the corner of her mouth, and then the crazed franticness was gone and it was all the slow slide of tongues and the lazy sweep of fingers over sides and backs and jaws. At some point Anya wound up on top and they continued like that, lazy kissing and light touches, before Tony finally stopped them with a thumb pressed to Anya's lips.

"Save some for next time, right?"

She nodded, and then hesitantly and awkwardly hopped out of the van. Tony joined her a moment later, fingers sweeping through her hair to brush it back into order, hands slightly unprofessionally tugging at the hem of her shirt and watching as she tucked it back into her skirt. The lips were a lost cause, though, so Tony felt no guilt in leaning down to peck her on the lips one last time.

Anya was in her house and Tony was back in his car when he realized, belatedly, that he had just not slept with someone.

He could honestly say that had never happened to him.

Then he realized that he'd just not-slept-with Erik's little sister.

It seemed perfectly reasonable that he should now fear for his life.

But what a way to go.