Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit from anything you recognize, especially not the characters. I could go all day with the titles stolen from songs. This one is from "Jumpin' Jack" by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
Written by someone who's never been to a dance lesson in her life. Thank you to everyone who reviewed "The Chassis" and encouraged me to write this sequel. I hope you enjoy it!
"You know this means you're gonna have to touch me, right?" Darcy teased.
He rolled his eyes. An eyeroll from Cap was like a bitchslap from anyone else. "It's just dancing. It's innocent."
"Not when you look like this it isn't." She shimmied, hips wiggling. This earned a sigh.
"Do we have to go over the rules again?"
"Fine. In no particular order, they are: Minimal cursing—"
"No cursing, Darcy, it's not ladylike."
"We have to set achievable goals, Steve. Besides, I won't be able to hold my tongue if you stomp on my toes with your massive feet. Which brings me to the next point: no innuendo, subtle or otherwise. Why is 'subtle' even in there? You don't catch the subtle ones anyway. It should be 'No obvious innuendo or single entendres.'"
"Consider it changed. Next."
"Hands above the waist at all times. You do know I'm not the one who's going to be sexually harassing you tonight, right?"
Steve frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"You are so cute when you're clueless! Just wait and see. What's next?"
Still frowning, he prompted, "Drinking."
"I don't get why I can't drink."
"Because you're uncoordinated enough as it is. And it's physical activity, and alcohol dehydrates you. You wouldn't drink while you were working out, would you?"
She snorted. "Hell yes I would, just to get through it. Does Tony have this many rules when you go out?"
"I don't know, ask Pepper."
"Touché. So no drinking, and lastly, I'm not supposed to give away your secret identity. In summary, no embarrassing Captain America."
He immediately looked contrite, and reached out to touch her arm. "Darcy, I didn't mean—you wouldn't—I'm not—"
Darcy smiled fondly. "It's okay, Steve. I get you."
Which is what it all boiled down to. Steve thought those three words were the sweetest he'd heard in quite a while.
Although she wasn't a big shopper—she was just getting used to having a regular paycheck from an actual job—Darcy had decided she needed to buy some new clothes for the dance lesson. She had an outfit or two suitable for clubbing, but nothing for, like, real dancing. Though The Internet had said pants were acceptable for swing, she knew that Steve would prefer it if she wore a skirt. And it just seemed to fit better; if they were doing the '40s thing, she might as well make an effort to dress the part.
She'd ended up getting an inexpensive plain black skirt that she hoped would go with her red and cream striped shirt. That meant she had some leftover cash to get some fancy underwear, too, just in case she wiped out. Even if Steve had already seen them, she didn't want everyone else in the class to see her old chonies.
Steve, on the other hand, didn't have to wear anything different than what he normally did: khaki pants and a short-sleeved plaid shirt. It made Darcy wonder where he found new clothes that hadn't been in fashion for over half a century. SHIELD probably had an ancient haberdasher somewhere on speed dial, using a foot-pedaled sewing machine and antique patterns. But it was Steve's thing, and, somehow, it worked for him; she couldn't really imagine him in skinny jeans and a hoodie.
Darcy had never before been the reason a room fell silent when she entered, and if she had been now, it was only by way of entering next to the blond bombshell that was Steve Rogers. He, of course, didn't seem to notice. One woman actually licked her lips as he walked by. When he helped Darcy out of her coat, half the room sighed over his manners; when he shrugged off his leather jacket, the other half swooned over his physique.
"If it turns out you're a natural, these people will make you their king," Darcy muttered.
It turned out he was not a natural. Steve seemed to view dancing as a series of maneuvers to be attacked with focus and force. This was to the detriment of Darcy's person, right from the start, after the instructors showed them the basic hold and where each partner's hands should be.
"Whoa there, soldier," she said, wrenching her hand from his grip with a grimace. "You don't have to hold on so tight. I'm not gonna run away."
"I'm sorry. Guess I forgot that this isn't training." He smiled ruefully.
"The last person this close to you was probably trying to kill you or had muscles on top of their muscles. Or both. You have to be careful with me. I'm just a normal, squishy person."
The fingers at her waist moved slightly. "Squishy? You're perfect!" he blurted, then turned red.
Darcy couldn't dwell on the fact that he really meant it when he said things like that. If she did, then she'd start blushing. She settled for saying, "You're not so bad yourself," and squeezing his shoulder. "Look—when you draw, you don't use a kung-fu grip on your pencil, right? You hold it firmly but gently, so you can feel how it moves. You don't drag, you lead."
She placed her hand in his, and he held it just right.
"Great! Now all we have to do is—"
It really was endearing how hard he tried. It was like if he was going to dance, then by golly he would do it right. He was counting under his breath and watching his feet; he couldn't be concentrating any more if he had his tongue sticking out. The thought made Darcy wonder if there were any pictures of Steve as a kid anywhere, and she resolved to look for some later.
For now, she had other things to deal with, like making sure Steve didn't stress himself out. "This is supposed to be fun, you know."
He paused mid-step. Predictably, she collided with his chest. "Aren't you having fun?"
"Aren't you? You look like you're taking a test. You need to loosen up."
"I am loose," he grumbled. She laughed in his face, and he didn't mind, because even if it was startlingly loud, her laughter made him feel real, and normal. He felt like the Steve he'd always wanted to be. So he lifted their hands and spun Darcy and she shrieked with laughter.
During a break, Darcy went to the bathroom while Steve got a drink. She wrinkled her nose at her reflection, her face unusually flushed and sweat prickling at the back of her neck. Meanwhile, stupid Steve was all supersoldiery and fit and hadn't broken a sweat and probably still smelled as good as he had at the beginning of the lesson, while Darcy knew she didn't. Why had he had to suggest something involving physical activity? More importantly, why had she agreed? It was all her own fault, she lamented.
When she came back Darcy noticed a lithe peroxide blonde approaching Steve. It'd serve him right to get hit on. Darcy changed course and sat down near the refreshment table to enjoy the show.
The blonde stopped just short of invading Steve's personal space. "Hi. I'm Jenni." She offered her hand with a smile and a coy tilt of her head.
"Nice to meet you, Jenni. I'm Steve."
"Is this your first lesson?"
He made a face. "Is it that obvious?" Jenni giggled.
"What made you want to learn to swing?" She looked up at him through her eyelashes and Darcy laughed to herself. It was fun watching girls try to flirt with someone who had an immunity to innuendo and an allergy to forwardness.
How would he answer that? Darcy willed him not to give in to the ever-lurking sadness. "I always wanted to learn. Just never had the chance until now," he said truthfully. Darcy nearly sighed in relief.
"I'm awful glad you got the chance," Jenni simpered. Really? "Awful glad"?
She put her hand on his arm, and even from a distance Darcy could see Steve tense up a bit. If Jenni noticed, she wasn't deterred. Her voice dropped to almost a purr. "I didn't come here with anyone, just some girlfriends. Maybe after the break we could dance together?"
Steve smiled a very polite, official smile down at Jenni. "Thank you, but I can't. My girl wouldn't appreciate it if I stepped on someone else's toes."
Darcy wanted to hug him. She wouldn't, but she didn't try to stop the triumphant laugh that bubbled out of her. With a much less pleasant expression than she'd previously worn, Jenni excused herself abruptly and walked away to rejoin her girlfriends. They huddled together, staring daggers at the man who dared to reject their friend. Darcy couldn't help it; she stood up, straightened her skirt, fluffed her hair, and sauntered up to Steve, making sure the Plastics saw her. Yeah, he's with me. Eat it.
She was grinning as she walked up to him. "Damn straight you're not allowed to step on anyone else's toes. I don't think SHIELD's insurance covers extracurricular activities."
"Language," he scolded. "You heard all that?"
Darcy nodded. "If you recall, I did tell you that you'd be harassed tonight."
"Thanks for the warning." Even with Darcy and Tony's influence, the poor guy still couldn't manage sarcasm with the proper withering dryness.
Darcy was going to let it go, but her curiosity got the better of her. "So…your girl, huh."
He blushed, just a little. "Sorry. That is, I didn't mean…" He trailed off and ended with a sigh. "I've always wanted to say that. And I wanted her to go away, and it came out before I could stop myself."
"That's what she said," she said under her breath. "No big deal. I've been called worse."
Once the lesson was over, the dance started and the room began to fill with people who actually knew how to dance. Steve seemed surprised at first when women asked him to dance instead of waiting for him to ask, and Darcy mouthing "I told you so" at him didn't help. When it became clear that Steve was kind of a danger to shoes and pedicures, he got asked less. Darcy got enough offers so that she didn't feel like a loser. Between dances, they sat together at a small table, where Darcy fanned herself and drank deeply from a bottle of water. She noticed Steve smirking at her.
"What?" she demanded.
He seemed absolutely delighted to say, "I told you so." She stuck her tongue out and refused to admit that he was right.
A guy wearing a tight white t-shirt and dark jeans with his hair slicked back oozed up to them. Ignoring Steve completely, he leered down at Darcy.
"Hey, baby, ditch the square and I'll show you how a real man dances with a honey like you."
Steve moved to get up, but Darcy needed no help. "There are so many things wrong here, I don't know where to begin," she said. "Needless to say, there is no way in hell I'm your, or anyone else's, baby, nor honey. My friend here may not be the best dancer, but believe me, he's got all the right moves." Her tone was sultry at that, and even Steve understood what she was implying. She paused to let it sink in; then, sounding like her usual self, she added, "Besides, you look like a reject from Grease. Get lost, Zuko."
After the wannabe had slunk off, Steve stared at Darcy. "What?"
She cocked her head to one side. "What for?"
"Defending me, and making me seem much, um…more experienced than I really am."
"Listen here, Steve Rogers," Darcy said with sudden intensity, leaning across the table. "There is not a thing wrong with you. So you can't dance and you do kinda dress like a dork and you're not up on current events. We both know what you can do. And more than that, you're a good man. How could I not defend you, when I know you'll always defend me?"
Her attention was caught by a couple executing a particularly impressive aerial. "That's amazing!" Darcy cried. "Hate to break it to you, chief, but no matter how strong you are, I don't think we're ever going to be able to put that off."
"Aw, come on. Have some faith. What's stopping us?" Steve looked happy. That was all she could have asked for out of the night.
Darcy pointed at her chest with both hands. "This. I don't want to smother you."
He groaned, covering his face. "You were doing so well." She merely smirked in response, and they fell into silence again.
After a few minutes he said quietly, "This is what I remember. Sitting and watching other people dance. Wishing I could be like that."
The song ended and one with a less frenetic beat started. Darcy stood up and took his hand. "Then it's time for new memories."
They'd taken a taxi there, and would eventually have to find another one, but for the moment they walked. He had his jacket on—he had an aversion to cold that he hadn't had before—and carried Darcy's, since she was still trying to cool off.
"Can I make a suggestion?" Darcy asked, holding her hair off the back of her neck. "Maybe next time we do something a little less sweaty?"
"I was thinking of something a little more sweaty, actually."
Darcy stopped in her tracks, mouth hanging open and eyebrows raised, wondering what had happened to the no innuendo rule and why the rules only applied to her and what the shit did he mean because he couldn't possibly mean what it sounded like he meant. Steve thought she looked like a starlet he vaguely remembered, frozen as she was in the odd glow of streetlights tinged with neon, her red lips in an O and an arm suspended over her head, hand tangled in her dark hair.
"I'm going to teach you to box. Just in case you ever meet a man that you can't talk into submission."
Darcy dropped her hand and closed her mouth. She wasn't used to needing processing time in a conversation. It was a weird feeling. "If that happens, there is no man can stand against my taser," she declared.
He laughed then, golden head thrown back. "All right, Odinsdottir. I'll teach you in the event your taser runs out of juice and you have laryngitis." He stuck out his elbow, and Darcy put her arm in his.
"Boxing," she murmured, shaking her head.
"Why," Steve asked, "what did you think I had in mind?"
When she saw the sly smile on his lips, it was Darcy's turn to laugh.