Steve walks past their bathroom, blinks, and steps back, peering in with a frown.
Tony stands before the mirror, towel wrapped around his waste, bare-chested, a medium-sized box at his side. He’s wearing rubber gloves and brushing something through the hair at his temple. After a moment, the chemical smell hits Steve, something astringent underneath a layer of men’s musk. Tony tilts his head, studying his hairline critically, and runs the tiny brush over his hair again, eyes sharp and narrowed. Steve waits until he’s lifted his hand away from his head before speaking.
“What are you doing?”
Tony jolts a little and glances sideways before smirking and turning back to the mirror. “Fighting the inevitable decay of the universe,” he says, tilting his head the other direction.
He starts in on the other side, and Steve steps closer, glancing down at the box. His eyebrows shoot up, and he looks at Tony’s profile. With the way his head is tilted, Tony can see Steve’s expression.
“Have I reminded you of our scandalous age gap?” he asks, tone teasing, but eyes just ever so slightly guarded.
“It’s not that,” Steve says, hesitantly stepping closer. “It’s just…I thought you’d have something like this professionally done.”
Tony hums and leans into the mirror, sharp eyes darting over his hairline. “Call it preserving my dignity,” he mumbles, mouth half closed in concentration.
“Wasn’t aware you had much dignity left to preserve,” Steve teases, inching closer and pinching Tony’s hip. The engineer yelps and gives Steve a fleeting look of incredulity. After a moment, he lowers the applicator and turns, leaning his hip against the counter and looking thoughtful.
“You know, after Stane, a few newspapers called me ‘the Invincible Iron Man’?”
Steve tilts his head and mimics Tony’s pose, leaning against the counter and crossing his arms. “Didn’t, actually.”
“Yeah, well. And for a long time, I kind of was. Right up until Vanko. What’s that thing? The gods are only gods until you see them bleed? Something like that. Anyway, I guess I kind of…latched on to the whole ‘invincible’ part.”
“Tony…” Steve begins, hands rising and reaching for Tony’s shoulders.
“I know, I know,” the inventor says, waving him off and looking away, back toward the mirror. “But the illusion is there. For America. For the world. As long as the Avengers are around to save the day, we’re invincible.”
Tony grounds to a halt, eyes growing distant. He reaches out and brings up a feed on the mirror, flicking through his email with a quick wave of his hand. Steve stays, sensing there’s still a thread hanging in the air, something Tony’s reluctant to pull.
He watches Tony’s quick gestures, the rapid fire of the feed, the speed of his reading, and it clicks. “You’re worried if they see you aging, you’re going to look less invincible to them?”
“Gods don’t grow old, either, you know,” Tony says shortly, eyes still on the mirror’s screen.
“You don’t believe in god,” Steve says after a moment, tone quiet and reserved.
Sighing, Tony flicks the feed away, dark eyes on his reflection in the mirror. Steve has only ever seen him as handsome, terribly charming, quick to smile, but now he sees what Tony might be seeing, lines gathered at the corners of his eyes and his mouth, like creases in a page of paper.
“So you dye it at home so no one knows?”
“Something like that,” Tony says, his smile self-deprecating.
“Five minutes, sir,” chimes JARVIS, and Tony reaches up with his gloved hands, massaging at the wet spots in his hair, working the dye down and in. Steve watches in silence, noting the way Tony’s eyes tighten, the way the tendons of his neck stand in stress.
“It’s ok to be human, you know,” Steve says finally, reaching out and pressing light fingers to Tony’s elbow. The inventor pauses ever so briefly and then keeps massaging. After a moment, he lowers his hands again, heels of his palms balanced on the edge of the sink.
“Easy for a super human to say.” Tony grouses, gaze down-turned and shoulder blades standing sharp against his back. Steve shifts behind Tony, leaning down so his chest is pressed to Tony’s spine.
“I like you human,” he says quietly, dropping a kiss to one shoulder blade and wrapping his arms around Tony’s middle.
“Do you now?” Tony says, inhaling and then letting it go in a sigh. They stay that way for a long time, it seems, Steve’s temple laid out on Tony’s spine, his breath warm across sweat-damp skin. “What if I don’t like me human?” Tony says finally, voice quiet and quivering.
“Well,” Steve says, shifting so that his mouth is pressed to Tony’s shoulder. “That’s something we’ll have to work on.”