Tony hums AC/DC in the shower and has an encyclopedic knowledge of his own musical history, starting from the seventies and working his way up. He can remember a time before the internet , or at least before it became a household thing, but he can't remember when music wasn't at least as loud and brash as he is.
Steve can remember a world pre-internet too, but it's not the same. When Steve sings in the shower, he sings things like Goodnight Sweetheart and Nat King Cole – he actually met Frank Sinatra, back in the day. For Steve, the past seventy years have passed in one prolonged blink; he has yet to understand the slow grind of time as it progresses, each day like a layer of gloss to hardening clay, rendering it stiff and cracked and, at last, breakable. When Tony looks at him, he doesn't just see someone who has triumphed over physical impossibilities and become strong; he sees a man who has beaten age itself to become timeless.
Steve is – there's no other word for it – young . His age is just a technicality; where it counts, he's only in his mid-twenties, and it's no stretch of the imagination to suppose he'd be better off with someone with less mileage under the hood. But when Tony brings this up, Steve just looks at him.
“I don't think of you as old,” he says.
“Well, I think you're old. How many times have I told you that hunt-and-peck is not an acceptable typing style in this day and age?”
“A dozen? I lost count.” But Steve's still watching him, his fingers motionless on the keyboard. “Does it really bother you that much?”
“Maybe. Not really. I don't know. Doesn't it bother you that you type like someone's grandpa?”
“Tony. You know what I mean.”
“Yeah,” he says. “I know what you mean.”
And that's the thing, really. It doesn't bother him, even though it should. Tony teases Steve for his taste in music, which never manages to leave the 1940s, and Steve retaliates by suggesting that the reason they get along so well is because Tony has all the emotional maturity of a twelve-year-old. At night he touches Tony's wrinkles (there aren't many, okay, just a couple around his eyes and maybe his mouth too) and kisses Tony's scars with his palm over the arc reactor like it's Tony's heart. And if sometimes there are downsides – old bones heal slowest, old scars are hardest to mend – they're outweighed by the fact that, whatever else he may be, Steve isn't a child and he certainly knows his own mind, something he reminds Tony of daily. Somehow, they balance each other out.
Pepper jokes with him sometimes that the Iron Man suit is Tony's mid-life crisis, his crise de la quarantaine .
“If you were anyone else,” she says. “I'd be looking into therapy options. Impulsive behaviour, sudden career change, lack of sleep, lack of appetite, an obsession with your own mortality...All the symptoms are there.”
“I'm not anyone else,” Tony says.
“No. Which is why this is just par for the course. But it's something to think about, Tony.” She fixes him with her Serious Gaze, which is one step up from her Disapproving Gaze, but not by much. “Try not to do something stupid, okay?”
“Okay,” he says obediently. It's pointless to point out that it's already too late.