Tony is not getting old and whoever tells him so is trying to ruin his reputation, or they are jealous of his amazing looks and his rather ridiculous IQ and his general awesome self. It has nothing to do with the fact that he won’t look in the mirror, or that if he does, after the initial shock of seeing the arc reactor again, he might, might notice a few dots of grey in his hair. It has nothing to do with the fact that when he gets hurt, it takes him some number of weeks to recover, instead of just a few days. Granted, he is up against a Norse God, an ex-super soldier, the Hulk, Black Widow and, well, Clint. They are all superhuman in some way because it is getting ridiculous how easily they bounce back while Tony is left wallowing in misery because he threw his back.
No, he is not getting old.
And it certainly has nothing to do with the fact that he’s sleeping with Captain America, golden boy of the war, only super soldier in existence, and still at the ripe age of twenty six.
Tony feels so old.
He’s face down on the couch, bemoaning the fact that he is actually freaking out about this instead of hiding in his workshop and bashing apart something breakable. Because that would be much more conducive to his mental state then staying up in the living room, where anyone could enter, see his incredibly old ass lying on the couch, and mock him for his salt and pepper hair.
He can’t even handle this right now. He flops onto his back, grabs a pillow and ignores the calculations that state he will not be able to effectively suffocate himself with it. He tries anyway.
Tony mumbles angry words into the pillow for its betrayal and peeks out from under it. Steve is peering at him from over the side, beautiful and golden and young, oh, fuck, Steve is so much younger than Tony, so much fitter and smarter and just, he can’t deal right now. He goes back to trying to suffocate himself.
“Tony, I don’t think that’s a good idea. I mean, I don’t think you can actually suffocate yourself with a pillow, but knowing you, you might achieve it. Just.” Steve reaches down and wrestles the pillow from him and Tony tosses an arm over his face. Steve grabs his wrist, gentle, always so gentle with him, and Tony is beginning to realize that might be because Tony is old and brittle and his bones might break, God, and Steve tugs him into an upright position.
“Are you okay?” Steve asks, all worried tone and perfect syllables. Tony is beginning to put together the puzzle pieces now and he wonders if that’s why Steve won’t fuck him harder when he begs for it.
“Is that the reason?” Tony asks, staring wide eyed at Steve. “Oh my God, you think I’m old too, that I won’t be able to handle it and I can’t even get you to fuck me right because of how old I am. This is horrifying.” And Tony vaults himself up off the couch, wincing at the crunch of his hip, and then freaks out about that too. He needs to fix this. He’s good at fixing things.
“Wait, what? Tony!” Steve calls after him, but Tony is already out the door. He’s yelling for Jarvis the minute he hits the workshop, tugging on three different shirts and realizing that they bulge around the middle and he has an old man stomach.
“Jarvis, Jarvis, I need you to look up, immediately, all the possible protocols we can put into the training exercises for the team, but apply them to Iron Man – actually, no, wait, apply them to me, I can’t have the suit doing all the work – and then I need you to find me a stylist that is discreet and can dye my hair because my God, I have grey hair, Jarvis, and I can’t handle this right now.” Tony sits down on one of his cars, head in his hands. He can see liver spots on his arms, he can.
“Sir, your blood pressure has spiked and your pulse is erratic. Is there anything that can be done to help?” Jarvis says, worry clear in his tone. Tony’s hands are shaking.
“Just – stylist. Workout regime. Possible plastic surgery because I have liver spots, Jarvis, actual liver spots. I can feel my forehead sagging and my hair is falling out, oh, wait, is it receding? Jarvis, Jarvis, you need to help me.” Tony stands up and moves to the other end of the warehouse, catching his reflection in Iron Man’s casing. He bites his lip and presses at the corners of his eyes.
Jarvis whirs at him. “I have contacted Captain Rogers, sir. He will be here momentarily.”
“What?” Tony whirls. “No! Jarvis, no, you can’t, don’t you see.”
“I do not, sir. Which is why I am enlisting the help of Captain Rogers.”
“I need to leave. Now. Cancel the stylist, I’ll just pick up some random hair dye from the store, place, thing of styling.” Tony scrambles to the other side of the workshop, ignoring the catch in his breath and the shake in his fingers as he grabs up the keys to his Jaguar. He turns on his heel and wrestles open the door, ignoring Jarvis’ angry jabbering at him.
He’s starting up the engine, gunning it hard, when there’s a beep of the door opening and Tony looks up, catches Steve’s eye, and peels out. He doesn’t look in the mirror as he drives away. Maybe if he gets as good at lying to himself about not watching the look of utter confusion and devastation on Steve’s face, he can forget the fact that he’s far too old for him.
The stylist isn’t helping at all. Tony glares at her, at the seven types of dye lined up on the counter and he wants to throttle someone. He’s Tony fucking Stark, things shouldn’t be this complicated for him. His mind throws up variables of duration and complete coverage and possibility of fade out and he is going insane. Being old is horrible.
“Okay, no, you know what, you are being useless to me, and I’m sorry if that offends you – well, no, I’m not because this is bordering on ridiculous – and I need to find dye that will last longer than four months, like the seven of those dyes are advertising for, which, I will inform you, is actually impossible because of the chemicals and the binding agents in the dye verses the receptors in any person’s given natural hair. You’re looking at too many variables and too many chemicals and you know what, just give me all of them, right now.” Tony waves his hands and the girl scampers off, her features twisted in confusion and fear, and Tony taps at his phone, wondering just how he can balance the formula at home so it will last indefinitely.
She returns and tries to hand him the package, which he immediately blanches at, but he feels some semblance of guilt (is that another side effect of being old? Shit, shit, shit) and tips her something others would consider obscene. He leaves the store, feeling paranoid and suspicious and stops suddenly, in the middle of the street. There’s a lingerie shop across the way, advertising ‘Young New Trends!’ and ‘Bring the old you back!’ and Tony feels a pull. He knows it’s stupid, knows somewhere in the back of his mind where the numbers lurk something is actually cringing in fear that what he is about to do will probably end in him being mocked, but he’s beyond caring.
The shop itself is quite tasteful, a nice metallic colour on the walls and highly polished floors. The merchandise is spread out in only one design each, the rest hidden away behind the counter where a bored older woman lurks, her eyes immediately zeroing in on him. Tony squirms under her gaze, looks around the store again, and wonders if this was a mistake.
“Mr. Stark!” Old and Batty calls, making her way around the counter. Tony bites back a retort and instead notes the creak of her knees and the bend of her spine, makes room for variables like accidental death and suicide rates, and suddenly he doesn’t want to know how long this woman has left to live. He smiles at her, his best ‘I’m-not-panicking-what-are-you-talking-about’ smile and she cocks her head at him.
“Yeah, hi, well, I just wanted something special, you know, for me and for my possible partners that I might be taking to bed, not that I have any at the moment, what have you, but there is that possibility and is there anything that screams ‘fuck me’?” Tony asks. The woman’s eyes go wide and she stutters, blinking at him. Tony sighs. “I know, I know, I might be too old to actually pull anything like that off but it’s kind of important and, if we could have a variety of choices, that would be amazing.”
There’s a breath of air and Old and Batty shuffles away from him, and he wonders if she’s gone senile as well and wait, will he have to deal with that in his coming elderly age? Will Steve take care of him when he’s old and grey and can’t move and Steve’s still young and supple and God, this is so depressing.
The woman has gone back to the counter, shaking her head and muttering, so Tony browses around the shop, looking for something suitable and that will make his ass look fuckable. He gets caught staring at a lacy red thong and a pair of tight black boxer briefs, edged in red and white. He grins, grabs both, and brings them over to Old and Batty. There’s a selection of small books tucked away by the register and he picks up a rendition of the Kama Sutra. Flipping through, he muses at the possibility of using any of these moves on Steve, and, if he was wearing the underwear, would they end with Steve actually fucking him for real instead of this slow as you please bullshit. He looks through the other selection, shrugs, and adds it to his purchase.
Old and Batty stares down at his array of items, the bright thong contrasting against the black briefs and the bright pink of the Kama Sutra book, seems to have some kind of conniption, and Tony readjusts the formula for the variable of Death by Stark.
Driving home is a trial and a half. Tony avoids his reflection in the rear-view mirror but it’s difficult when you’re driving and Tony bites at the inside of his cheek every time he catches sight of his hair. He’ll have to readjust the formula as soon as he gets home, make it chemically sound and have Jarvis run simulations on the different possibilities.
Of course, when he pulls into the downstairs garage, Steve is waiting for him.
Tony defaults to panic, grabs up the dye and the books and the underwear and shoves them in the back, away from Steve, even though he bought half the stuff because of Steve and his reluctance to give Tony what he needed because Tony was old.
Exiting the car requires more grace then Tony has at the moment and Steve catches him when he falls, a twinge starting in his hip and he hates his body, hates his weaknesses, hates himself for thinking he deserved Steve. He bites down on the words, smiles up at Steve and tries to push him away. Steve tightens his arms, frowning down at him.
“What the hell is going on, Tony?” Steve asks, pulling Tony upright and Tony melts into his warmth, fighting with his need to get away. Steve jostles him. “You really scared me there. And what did you mean you’re too old?”
Tony can hear the clamouring of numbers in the back of his head, explaining away reasoning for Steve being with him, for Steve still finding him undeniably attractive, for the fact that Steve has put up with him for over six months already. But it doesn’t matter in the face of his imminent celibacy and subsequent demise because of his age.
He pushes away from Steve, grabs up his bags and looks at him over his shoulder. “Meet me in my bedroom in ten and I’ll show you.”
The bedroom is cold when he enters and he dumps everything out on the bed, staring at the lacy red thong and the too tight briefs. He looks down at his stomach, wonders if it’ll look more like he’s trying to stuff himself into something that was meant for someone sexier, younger, and much more robust. His mind spits up numbers and possible figures and he sits down on the edge of the bed and puts his head in his hands.
Steve finds him like that, ten minutes later like Tony had asked him to wait, and Tony kind of wants to cry. His hands are shaking and his eyes are blurry and he wants to curl up in the middle of their bed, bury himself in pillows and blankets and despair because he shouldn’t be deserving of any of this.
The bed dips beside him and Steve leans forward, wrapping his arms carefully around Tony, tugging him until Tony is sitting in his lap, face pressed against Steve’s throat. Steve hums, starts rocking him back and forth, and Tony knows he’s going to start babbling seconds before his mouth opens.
“It’s not that I think I’m really old, per se, it’s just I’m noticing it more. I mean, I take three times longer to heal then any of you, and I’m the one locked up in a suit of armour. And I have grey hairs, Steve, grey hairs growing like they’re mocking me and I never had to deal with that before. And then there’s you, with your youth and your amazing self and I just – Steve, I worry, okay, that I’m getting too old for you, that I’ll eventually be, God forbid, sixty, and you’ll still look like you just graduated from university, and I won’t be able to handle that. How you’re even here when I look like this now is baffling and doesn’t make sense and, shut up, I know the numbers line up correctly and always come to the same solution but I don’t understand it in human terms!” Tony breathes in, deep, takes in Steve’s scent, the familiar twist of leather polish, soap, and sweat. Steve tightens his arms and, because he doesn’t understand Tony’s pain, starts to laugh.
Tony scoffs, bites the expanse of skin in front of him, and then grumbles under his breath. “You are the worst person ever, mocking the elderly.”
“Tony, Tony, you are not elderly. You aren’t even close to elderly. You’re practically the poster child for young and hip and ridiculously immature and I love you for it. I’m sorry but you’re talking to someone who, really, is ninety-six years old. If anything, I should be having the mid-life crisis, not you.” Steve presses a kiss to his temple.
Tony huffs. “Then why are you always so gentle and nice and not rough with me?”
“Are you serious?” Steve blinks at him and Tony pulls back, frowning. “I’m not ‘rough’ with you because I could do some real damage. Do you have any idea how difficult it is holding back? How you just squirm and move and make those noises – how you make it so difficult to not just take you? I worry because I could honestly hurt you!”
There’s that complicated earnestness that always lurks in the undertones of Steve’s voice and Tony wants to smack him. “Okay, no, next time, when I beg, I’m not just doing it to be cute. I will be the judge of how much I can take.”
“Whatever you say, old timer.”
“Shut up,” Tony laughs. He pokes Steve’s cheek and Steve beams down at him, bright and young and not so frightening anymore. Steve readjusts him, moving Tony around until Tony is straddling his lap. Tony leans in for a kiss when Steve freezes, eyes finally catching on Tony’s random shopping spree. Mainly the bright red thong.
“Did you –” Steve starts, stops, swallows. Tony watches in fascination as Steve’s face flares up, cheeks bright pink. Tony grins.
“I did. Want me to put it on?” He squirms in Steve’s lap and Steve clamps down on his waist, fingers digging in enough that Tony can feel the bruises already forming.
Being old was awesome.