His college years are a time of his life they don't talk about.
Not because they're bad, or horrendous, or just so incredibly traumatising to be referred to as 'The Dark Ages', but simply because they just don't. At all. They get drunk together, they eat out together, they fight crime together, but they don't reminisce about the past.
That is, until the Avengers become an actual thing.
See, mostly, Rhodey never talked about those years in college to anyone because there was no one to talk too. He was the first, in the very most important of ways, and everything else had come after him. He'd been there for when Tony lost his virginity, had his first taste of alcohol, his first actual crush, his first heartbreak, everything and anything under the sun.
He'd been there when Tony met Happy - not there there, but there as in Tony called him up immediately and chatted his ear off for about an hour about the boxer he'd just hired as his bodyguard slash driver. He'd been there (actually there there) when Pepper nervously but confidently stalked into the room with a piece of paper wrongfully signed that could have lost the company thousands of dollars.
But they don't talk about how Pepper had walked in on them arm wrestling, or how Happy and Rhodey hated each other at first but when they actually met pretty much fell in love, or the plethora of other things that they've witnessed, side by side and together.
Rhodey never thought about it, and he's sure as hell that neither has Tony.
But then, Afghanistan. Then, the crazy Russian guy who's name Rhodey always forgot for some reason. Then, aliens.
Actual, honest to God, aliens.
And it suddenly hit him, a single, innocent, thought; 'Tony always said he was going to find aliens.'
It hit him then, that the reason why they'd never spoken about the past wasn't because they were keeping it to themselves like precious gem stones, wasn't because they were ashamed off it, or just never had the time or inclination - it was because there was nobody to hear it.
Pepper had been Virginia for so long that by the time she became Pepper she'd already been with them for years; they had their own history with her now, Tony with her, Rhodey with her, Happy with her, and all four of them with each other. They were a unit, and the same went for Happy.
But the Avengers, Captain America and Black Widow and Hawkeye and the Hulk and Thor, the actual god of thunder... They'd suddenly gone from zero to hero in that way being thrust into a life or death situation could, and suddenly, they were here to stay. He wasn't stupid enough to think Tony hadn't clocked on to the single A left of his name on the tower, or the fact that a base was needed in the off chance case shit hit the fan again, and if Tony hadn't already clocked on then he would. Soon, anyway.
So now, as Rhodey lands down on the broken roof and walks down the disassembly line, he thinks about all the things of back then, of the pranks and the all-nighters and the exam panics and the coffee. He thinks about the alarm JARVIS blasted through is ear piece as he was doing a drill back at base, about immediately jetting out and climbing into War Machine, about leaving without telling everyone and blasting off to New York. He remembers JARVIS throwing up screen after screen after screen of Tony, red and gold, flying a nuke into a goddamn hole in the blue, clear, sky.
He thinks about Tony dropping. Getting caught. Standing. Alive. And he thinks 'Mr. Jarvis is going to kill me. Again.'
Which, okay, he's really only thinking about all this because he needs to get revenge on Tony for scaring the living shit out of him, but whatever.
Finally pulled out of his armour, Rhodey casually strolls into the messed up living room of the penthouse, calm as fuck, and nods his greeting at the Avengers scattered around looking five minutes short of passing out. There's a strange dent on the usually pristine floor which Rhodey isn't going to question - for all he knows, it could've been there before the whole alien invasion thing, Tony's a danger to society after all. Instead, he folds his arms across his chest, his uniform (missing the jacket) crinkling a little, and gives Tony a bright, maybe-a-bit-too-happy, look.
Immediately, Tony groans.
"No, I know that face, oh god Rhodey whatever you're going to do just don't," the engineer begs, throwing an arm over his face. "Honey bear, snookiepums, darlin', what do I have to do to get you to derail whatever evil plan you've got in there as revenge? It's not like I planned this!"
Captain America sits up, looking a bit alarmed but also curious, and the rest of the Avengers equally perk up. Pepper's in Rome, flying back as soon as she can, and Happy's with her because he's only just realised the huge crush he has on her and doesn't want to be anywhere else, but they should be here in an hour or two, tops.
Good. They'll be back in time just for the good part.
"So," Rhodey starts cheerfully, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "You guys have gone through hell and high water, and apparently are sticking around for some more."
The red head - what's her name again? Natalie? Oh no, apparently she was a spy or something and was working with the pirate guy that irritated the shit out of Tony - gives him an assessing look, probably wondering how he knows that the whole Avengers thing was to stay, but Rhodey ignores her.
The arrow guy - Hawkeye - kicks his feet up on a ruined coffee table, and goes, "Yup. Now who the hell're you?"
Oh. Oh. Rhodey's gonna like that one.
"James Rhodes," he introduces himself, deciding to drop the title of his rank since it does make him sound like a pompous prick. "But more importantly, I am a guy that has had the unfortunate luck of having no one to tell embarrassing stories too about this idiot here."
Tony lurches upwards, winces and groans as whatever aches and pains make themselves known, and wilts down into his sofa besides a dark haired guy with glasses. The Hulk! 'Wow', Rhodey thinks somewhat hysterically, 'that's a lot of mass to just disappear'. "No, Rhodey, you are not doing what I think you're doing." Tony hisses, even as he sinks further into the cushions of his sofa. "No! I forbid you!"
Rhodey snorts. Looks around at the heightened curiosity of everyone's faces (except the spy girl - she still looks like she's not sure whether to eat him or just kill him), and grins. "College," he announces dramatically, dimly wondering who was dealing with the alien carcass still littering the New York streets. "Guesses, anyone?"
The Hawkeye guy immediately answers with, "Loud, partying, drinks and girls. Maybe even bribing the teachers into giving him passes for assignments and stuff."
"I am not certain as to what this 'college' is, my friends," the big blonde guy apologetically says, even as peers over at Tony with interest. "But I am rather fascinated, regardless."
The little guy - oops, the Hulk man, he means - smiles a little, nervously adjusting the big sweater he's wearing that Rhodey knows Tony stole from him a few years back. "Ditching classes to submit articles the world would go insane over. Did you say your name was James Rhodes? You were a co-author of almost all of his published articles."
Right, because the little guy was a scientist that made a mistake and suddenly turned big. Rhodey had just thought Tony'd been drunk when he'd told him that. No doubt knowing exactly what he was thinking, Tony stick up the middle finger in his direction.
"Charmed everyone," the red haired woman suddenly speaks up, her voice a lot more smokey than Rhodey had actually expected. "Partied hard but kept his workload up. Fed the rumour mills with both his genius and his immorality."
"Close," Rhodey relents, cocking his fingers in her direction. "But no cigar. How 'bout you, Captain?"
Captain America jumps a little, looking surprised to be called on, but then adopts an extremely thoughtful face. Slowly, halting, reluctantly, as if he's afraid to say the wrong thing, he says, "Hard working, but quick to hide it. Did all his work and assignments and got top marks, but probably gave them in late or wrinkled badly - maybe even coffee stains. I agree with Natasha in that he would've charmed everyone."
Rhodey doesn't miss the way Tony goes still as the captain starts speaking, or the way he suddenly goes relaxed as the he finishes.
Surprisingly, Thor - the big blonde guy, who else? - slaps his knees and happily says, "Ah! I believe I understand! We are speaking of friend Tony in his youth, yes?" At 'Natasha's nod, Thor grins widely. "I cannot say I know my shield brothers well besides the eye of Hawk and the son of Coul, but I too think friend Tony would be a man of hard work! And impeccable tastes. This tower of his is quite magnificent. It pains me that it has taken such beatings."
Oh, oh, a smooth talker, Rhodey's going to have to watch out for that one. Tony sits up, a ridiculously pleased look on his face, and he replies with, "You, my thunder-y friend, are going to have your floor done first!"
Then Tony's eyes glance over at Captain America, and quickly glance away.
... Holy shit, Tony has a thing for the captains of captain. Pepper was going to lose her shit.
Throwing himself onto the seat besides Tony, Rhodey yawns even as he shakes his head. Flying all the way here was exhausting, but he had revenge to exact, and revenge waited for no one.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he drawles, cocking an eyebrow at Captain America and telling himself to keep a close eye on the blonde haired man. "Allow me to tell you about a fifteen year old Tony Stark venturing into the madhouse that is MIT."
"Oh my god," Hawkeye suddenly yells gleefully, sitting up and leaning in closer. "Jailbait."
Rhodey grins slowly, even as Tony groans in despair. "You don't know a damn thing. Ain't that right, Tony?"