A/N: An eventual update is better than no update. Happy Holidays, folks.


"Have more humility. Remember you don't know the limits of your own abilities. Successful or not, if you keep pushing beyond yourself, you will enrich your own life—and maybe even please a few strangers."

—A.L. Kennedy


[Audio recorded from outgoing call from [number unidentified] [location unspecified] December 14th 1995, 07:03 PM.]


"Hey kiddo. Planes are b-oring. Who even decided flying would be a good idea, period? There's, what, an hour left in the air? Pep's suffocating me, and I I'm not talking with her about another college speech."

"Who is this?"

"You forgot about me already, the infamous Tony Stark?"

"How did you get my—"

"God, MIT's next. Apparently I can't have a hangover during it either. Doctor's orders."

"Why are—"

"Less questions, more babble. We could talk about bikes; kids have bikes still, right?"

"This is my dorm—"

"Not a question; a step in the right direction. But kid—"

"Reid."

"Yeah, kid, you told me, and I'm about to have to fight Pep off with a stick so I don't care—don't glare; I'm telling the kid the truth."

"I just got back—"

"Do you know the history of rocket engines?"

"What."

"History of rocket engines. The things that store rocket propellant mass, which a reaction engine ignites. Liftoff."

"Rocket engines."

"They shoot flames? Flames that light things on fire? You know, rocket engines."

"You called me—"

"Yes, I called you."

"—to talk about rocket engines—"

"They're neat. Neat things, and I'm sure you know too much about rocket engines. It's nearly a Caltec acceptance requirement."

"—because you were bored."

"And the stringbean gets a medal. Mh. Oh, babe, we should make that a requirement for employees. Know about rocket engines. Medals for the tryhards. Fu— Shit, Pep. Kissing shuts people up. Not slapping."

"Why are you calling a twelve year old—"

"You sound you're five and dress like you're fifty."

"I— I don't have to respond to that."

"You know you want to. Who could resist me?"

"Are you sure that you're not five?"

"I'd be dead if alcohol poisoning if I was five. Where did all that respect go?"

"You never had it."

"Harsh."

"True."

"Harsh. I need a drink to deal with you. Maybe more than one. How old were you? Twelve? Twelve shots sound good. Miss? Miss? Yes, could I have—Pep, are you trying to leave a bruise?"

"Mr. Stark—"

"How quickly the young forget."

"Tony, why?"

"I thought you were eloquent; last time we spoke, you didn't have the conversational aptitude of Steven Hawking. And I told you: I'm bored."

"I know."

"God, you're tame."

"Excuse me?"

"Is that your answer to everything I say? You're t-a-m-e tame."

"Um—"

"That spunk just dries up without the hand of the God Stark in it. Like what? The god of all things shiny and modern lends you his number and you just ignore it?"

"I didn't want to be a burden, sir."

"Seriously, kid. If I had to hunt you down in that castle of a building and tattoo my number into your wrist, I would. Fifty flights of stairs, kid. I'd walk up fifty flights of stairs, with a tattoo gun, just to make sure you'd remember to call. I'm getting too old for that."

"Mr. Stark—Sir, I mean—I need to get to class."

"Sir. So stuffy. Come'on kid, you left me hanging. Well, I left you hanging, but it's all relative and I refuse to take the blame, so you left me hanging. You're supposed to follow up, right? Basic business relations. Card implies interest. Interest implies calling."

"Didn't have time to call."

"Really? You, kid sans social life, didn't have time. I'm gagging over here. Gagging."

"I'm a math major."

"So?"

"So—"

"Mhm. Busy math kid doesn't have time to call. Oh, relevant—you know there's a new scholarship; have you heard about it? The Stark's Spunky Student Scholarship—Pep tried to ix-nay the alliteration, but what's life without tongue twisters? Got to screw with the Caltec English majors somehow; god, why would anyone attend Caltec to write?"

"Sir—"

"'I'm a poor math major so I can't do formalities so please let me call you 'Sir', Sir.' Kid. It's Tony, and the scholarship is for general mathematics and engineering students; there's a nice chunk of cash poured into it, more than enough to cover the board and education of starving geniuses."

"According to the Food Pyramid, my meals are balanced enough to sustain my lifestyle. And I have a house. It's called a dormitory."

"Who would even let a ten year old stay in a college—"

"I wasn't aware you had the memory of a single-cell bacterium. I'm twelve."

"And the kid's back in town."

"And I'm not a kid."

"If I'm not a sir."

"Sure, sir."

"Spunk. You have to love it."

"Tony, I've really got to go. Prof. will kill me if I'm late."

"You promise to call back?"

"Reid, and no."

"No?"

"I don't make promises to pedophiles."

"Oh, kid, you know you love me. Or at least love my status."

"You wish. Call you later, Tony."

"Kid."

"Yeah?"

"Seriously. Call. I'll drop anything to respond. The line's open anytime."

"Sir, I don't even know you that well—"

"Did I ask for you to call me Tony?"

"You told me not to call you sir, so yeah."

"I love suck-ups. I'm asking you to not be a suck-up. Got it?"

"I'm not sure I do—"

"That's my kid. Pep, stop pinching me, you're ruining the moment. You better call, got me?"

"I—"

"Talk to you tomorrow, stringbean, okay?"

"Yeah. Talk to you tomorrow, Tony."

"You better."

"I will. Promise."

"You sound like a fifteen year old girl."

"Night, Tony."


[Recording ended December 14th, 1995, 7:10 PM]