"I feel closer to Friday every day. I still limit myself so I won't completely take over her job, but... I miss it. Not being so... aware. My body heals so much faster due to the nanites. Friday said they're slowly replacing my inner organs. I think... I think they might be even starting to undo my aging process."
Stephen didn't say anything.
"I don't know why I'm talking to you about this," Tony admitted. "I just feel that my friends wouldn't understand and I don't want to burden them with this. They'd try to comfort me, realize they can't, then feel bad about it, which would make me feel bad." He shook his head, then ran both hands through his hair. "I'm sorry. You must be busy." He stood up.
"Tony." The call was gentle, full of pity.
"I'm not looking for pity."
"No, you're looking for understanding," Stephen replied evenly. He sighed and stood up as well. "You're looking for someone who's been through something similar, who feels equally disconnected from the world... should I say 'the normal world'?"
The engineer could only nod, gulping.
"Will it help if I tell you I understand?" He offered a weak smile. "It wouldn't help me, but I can offer it."
"No. You still look human. Well... most of the time." Until his eyes turned orange and he floated, bringing certain death upon their enemies.
Stephen picked up the knife Tony had been using to chop his meat while he ate. The sorcerer had refused any food, as per usual, but Tony felt that he still needed to bring it. Wong appreciated it, at least.
"I can't eat normal food. I eat acidic sludge and semi-sentient tentacle beings from other dimensions because they are rich in mystical energy." Tony's eyes widened, then landed on the package on the other table. "Which is why I avoid eating with audience. My predecessor only died because she wanted to, having lived hundreds, if not thousands of years. And..." He closed his eyes for a moment, then lifted his other arm and made a cut, blood pooling out. But was it blood? The liquid was orange, a similar shade to the magic Stephen wielded. He didn't bother bandage himself, just waited until the bleeding stopped and wiped it with a napkin. It didn't gather all the blood, but it showed how quickly the cut was healing. Stephen picked up a rag to wipe himself clean. By the time he was done, there was no trace of the cut, not even a scar. "I no longer have to actively use healing spells on myself."
A steady hand covered the place where the cut had been. Tony was silent and, for a few moments, they just stared into each other's eyes, offering and finding understanding.
"Does it get better?" the engineer finally whispered, already dreading the answer.
"She thought not. We'll watch everyone we'll ever know grow old and die."
Tony's eyes filled with tears at that. Pepper. Rhodey. Happy. To be fair, the adults he could imagine burying, but the kids? Oh, God, the kids! Peter. Morgan. Harley. He couldn't even picture them old.
"We'll meet new people."
"And watch them die too."
"Tony, you can stop," Stephen assured him. "Wait until Morgan is old enough or Harley or whoever you think your successor will be and..." he shrugged. Tony could simply command the nanites to leave his body, as far as the sorcerer understood.
"Yeah, see... that's the thing. I don't think I want to stop. I want to see the world evolve and transform through the ages. I want to keep inventing things and I want to meet my great-grandchildren. I want to be Iron Man and not force anyone else into my place. I enjoy not having to sleep," he confessed. Was he a bad person for wanting to live past his natural expiration date?
"Sure you do," Stephen smirked. "It's ok." He lifted his hands. Still shaking. "I enjoy not feeling the pain anymore. I enjoy the multitasking that comes from clones. I enjoy a lot of my spells and the joy of learning them."
"But none of that makes up for companionship," Tony noticed.
The shorter man nodded, as if to himself, then took a deep breath, standing tall.
"Then we should keep in touch. You know, us and Thor. Maybe Bruce, we'll see. Form the Immortal Bros."
Stephen was a rather stoic individual, so Tony knew he had to look for the little things. Like the small twitch of his eyebrow.
"I will be demanding democratic elections for the name, but I concur."
200 years later, he kicked the sanctum door open, Bruce and Thor in tow.
"Do not hide, Wizard of Midgard!" Thor boomed. "You owe us our once in a decade game night!"
Stephen floated down the stairs with a deadpan. Did they have to yell?
"Fine, but I am not playing Jenga!"
The others followed him, chatting. Tony's eyes were constantly blue now and he had made Friday a body, further muddling the edges between them. He grinned when Stephen's Cloak brought Monopoly over. Thor was his usual jovial self. Bruce, well, he had aged some, but he worried that Hulk would never let him truly die. Stephen himself looked as good as ever.
The shadows of all the funerals he had attended still haunted Tony. He had kept recordings of all the important moments of all his important people, too afraid that one night he would forget Pepper's voice or Morgan's laugh or Rhodey's eye colour... Thor shared his misery, having buried Jane decades ago. So did Bruce. They'd watched the Avengers Initiative end together.
"Oh, I just remembered!" Thor suddenly said. "The King says you can move into New Asgard, Anthony."
And wasn't that something? A new home.
Tony grinned, looking around this table. They all met at least once a year under various pretenses, from movie night to pasta night, but they still sought each other in private. Stephen usually came to him and Thor and Bruce were totally dating. It was ok. Tony worked with Bruce and occasionally bumped into the other two when the villain of the week got more interesting. He also visited the sanctum when his lab felt too lifeless. Stephen wasn't always happy to see him, but he always let him in. Over the years, Tony had learned when the other man needed silence, a hug or a drink and when he was available for a chat.
They weren't as close as he'd been with his first family, but they had his back.