It is three in the morning and Tony Stark is very definitely not obsessively checking the marks for his latest class assignment. He is reading, or partying, or sleeping, or whatever it is that people normally do at three o’clock on a Sunda- wait, no, on a Monday morning. Tony Stark is not the kind of man who would spend what precious little free time he had checking the class website to see if he has once again come a close second to the mysterious ‘L.L.’ What kind of initials are ‘L.L.’ anyway, who has the initials L.L.? They’re absurd, Tony thinks to himself, as he absolutely does not log in with his student ID and password.
Tony Stark has definitely not imbued the initials L.L. with a kind of galactic malevolence, as though the letters themselves were twirling a tiny moustache at him while cackling evilly. The page Tony Stark is absolutely not refreshing for the sixteenth time resolves and Tony’s eyes snap to the top of the list. Initials, followed by score. There they (hypothetically, since Tony’s not looking at them) are again, taunting him from their alliterative pedestal: ‘L.L. - 98. TS. - 96.5’.
“God fucking damn it,” Tony exhales, mashing his finger on the mouse to close the tab. He takes a quick sip out of his beer and pouts at his monitor, as if it was going to offer him condolences for coming runner-up to a nemesis he has largely invented in his own head.
Tony had been sure this time he’d top the class. He’d put in shitloads of effort. Sure, he had skipped a few classes, but who needs to actually attend tutorials when you’re a genius billionaire playboy...mechanic? He’d read the assignment outline. He’d vaguely followed the instructions. And yet still the inscrutable L.L. had managed to beat him.
“This aggression will not stand, man,” he says to himself, picking up his beer and heading to bed. Sulkily he resolves to attend the next lecture. Tony drains the last of the beer, dumps the bottle on the floor beside his king-size bed and crawls into the dark blue sheets. I’ll figure out when the lecture is, uncover who this L.L. asshole is, find out how he keeps beating me in this piece of shit architecture subject I give no shits about, and then I’ll kick his shitting ass, he sleepily thinks to himself. Tony falls asleep feeling buoyed by his clearly superior planning skills, and does not focus on the way “second place” carves a hole in his insides, leaving him feeling empty and white-hot with shame.
The next morning Tony is wondering whose brilliant fucking idea it was to attend a lecture at ten in the morning, as he has been wondering for the past hour and a half, after he dragged himself and his hangover out of bed. Who do you think, genius? Comes the answer and Tony is scanning the lecture hall from behind his sunglasses, scrutinising every face for telltale signs it belongs to the dreaded L.L. None of the people assembled around him look enough like the scheming bastard prick who keeps beating Tony, as they all shuffle into their seats, fiddling with pens or pecking listlessly at hilariously outdated laptops.
Tony pushes his sunglasses down the bridge of his nose just slightly and that is when he spots him. Entering via the hall’s side door is the only person who could possibly contain enough pure, unadulterated evil to be the living embodiment of the hated L.L. initials. It takes Tony an instant to take in the guy, impeccably dressed in a pair of black bootleg slacks, a dark green short sleeved shirt and a grey vest. He has taken an extra moment to appreciate the guy’s black lace-up oxfords before looking up to his face. Mistake! Danger! Warning, Tony Robinson, danger danger! screams in his head but outwardly he simply pushes his sunglasses up again, covering his eyes. The guy narrows his green eyes slightly as they turn in Tony’s direction but continues sauntering into a seat. Tony’s supposed to be the only guy in this class who gets to saunter! Who does this fucking gorgeous hipster think he is?!
Tony spends the next 60 minutes ignoring everything about the lecture in favour of attempting to burn a hole into the back of the guy’s neck, using only the power of Tony’s intense and totally justified rage. He can’t really articulate why he is so sure this guy is the same person who keeps beating him every week, he just knows that everything about him is screaming “I fucked your day, I’m going to keep fucking it, and there’s nothing you can do about it”, from the way his hair curls up at the ends at his nape, to the way his shoulder blades pull at the fabric of his clothes.
Tony is so intensely sure he has the right guy, in fact, that the lecture ends without him realising it, and he is abruptly brought out of his thoughts of who the fuck does he think he is, nobody out-scores Tony Stark, I can’t believe I’m going to have to put in more effort for a fucking architecture class, I wonder what he’d look like without a shirt on, when’s the next assignment due, I need to beat this fucker by the sounds and movements of people packing up around him. Chairs scraping, papers shuffling, backpacks being filled, the lecturer ending the recording and murmuring to the small group of irritatingly engaged students who have gathered to ask questions.
Alarmed, Tony hastily packs his things into his backpack and turns back to the guy’s seat. It’s empty. Fucking typical, Tony inwardly snarls, and heads outside to get more coffee.
“Back again?” the coffee cart girl is blond and wearing an ill-fitting pair of jeans, along with a plain black t-shirt and a small apron. Her face is freckled and pleasing, and Tony flashes her his third best smile.
“Yep. I’ve never been good at the whole ‘moderation’ thing.” She chuckles and hands him his coffee. He asks if she is doing anything that night, and she says she has plans, and flicks a glance behind Tony. He turns and spots the guy from the lecture, lounging in the park opposite the cart, impossibly long legs stretched out and crossed at the ankle. His back is against a tree trunk and he’s reading a book. A book! Tony scowls.
So apparently class marks aren’t the only area in which L. L. scores ahead of Tony. Tony pays for the coffee and downgrades the smile to a polite twitch of the lips and heads home.
That Friday night Tony has submitted that week’s task and is absolutely, 100%, fiercely sure that he will top the class this time. He refuses to affix ‘if it’s the last thing I do’ to that sentence, because what kind of last thing is ‘top architecture class assignment for week nine’? Rubbish, that’s what. Tony takes a moment to hope that the last thing he does is ‘flip switch on machine that takes my consciousness and puts it in the body of a twenty four year old figure skater immune to aging and all disease’ before taking a quick shower and searching his apartment for a decent shirt to wear out.
An hour or so later, Tony is working on a buzz and thinking about approaching at least three girls and definitely one dude, should the girls prove a bust. A few drinks later, he discovers that the first two girls have boyfriends, the third is very uninterested, and when the dude says he’s already gotten a better offer, Tony rolls his eyes but says “okay, no problem, big guy,” and catches a glimpse of dark hair and green eyes before they are gone, and the hand that isn’t clenched around a beer glass makes a fist by Tony’s side.
He goes home alone, and plods through about two thirds of a bottle of scotch before going to bed.