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First Steps

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“Remind me again why I let you talk me into this?” Steve asked Bucky as they entered The Stork Club.

“You were the one who wanted to check this place out,” his friend responded.

“I just said I noticed this new place on my walk home the other day. I never said we had to check it out.”

“Stop being such a buzzkill, Stevie. It’s about time you learned how to dance.”

Steve narrowed his eyes, but his retort died in his mouth as they walked past the coat check and into the club proper. He had done enough research about the place to know that it was supposed to be the hottest new swing club in Brooklyn that was styled after a club in the 40’s, and featured live music every night.

However, the pictures hadn’t done the place nearly enough justice. Everything was immaculately decorated to a tee, with the current band filling the club with vibrant music. For a moment, Steve couldn’t be sure that they actually hadn’t stepped into a time machine that had transported them back to the mid-40’s. There was a sizeable bar to his right, with table and booth seating on his left. Walking a bit further, Steve saw the dance floor was moderately full with people dancing along to the band’s music. At the very back was a sizeable stage that currently housed a full band.

Bucky whistled loudly beside him. 

“Swanky doesn’t begin to cover this place,” he heard his friend mutter, and Steve couldn’t help but hum his agreement.

They managed to find two seats at the bar that had a decent view of the stage and dance floor. After receiving their drinks, Steve began deflecting Bucky’s attempts at getting both of them dance partners for the evening, standing firm that if his awkwardness didn’t scare them away, his lack of dancing abilities certainly would.

As the owner of the club – Howard Stark - announced the next act, Bucky scoffed when Steve told him that he actually wouldn’t mind if Bucky found a girl and left him in this place.

At least he could genuinely enjoy the music. 

Bucky made a snarky comment about him finally finding a place whose style was as old as his soul as the new band began playing.

Then he heard her voice.

Her voice was rich and silky, and had every quality that Steve had always loved about swing-era singers.

Steve craned his neck slightly to take a proper look at the stage. The woman in question was standing front and centre, her hands gingerly holding the standing microphone. She had soft brown curls that stopped right at her shoulders. She was wearing a 40’s style dress. Her lips and nails were painted a crimson red - the same shade as her dress.

Her voice lured him in like a siren song, and in combination with her physical features, seemed to be keeping his eyes hostage to her form.

Then she locked eyes with him.

The song she was singing was coy enough, but Steve felt like he had been punched in the gut, unable to bring himself to look away from her warm brown eyes. Her lips slowly curled up in a smile, and she winked at him before telling the moustached drummer - Dugan - to pick up the tempo before going into the bridge.

Steve could have sworn that she swung her hips a bit more than necessary as she began dancing along onstage by herself, the band bopping along while playing their instruments around her. 

“Holy shit.”

Steve’s gaze snapped to Bucky, who was wearing a shit-eating grin.

“What?” Steve asked.

“What do you mean what? I should be asking you what the hell that was! Did she seriously wink at you?”

“I - uh - yeah I guess.”

“You guess? For fuck’s sake, she was practically undressing you with her eyes. If you don't find a way to get her number after this, I’m officially labeling you a lost cause.”

Steve rolled his eyes. Bucky was being dramatic. 

Turning his attention back to the singer, Steve couldn’t help but be enraptured by how she was using the microphone stand as a pseudo dance partner, flawlessly maneuvering herself around it while never compromising the integrity of her voice.

Her gaze caught his again and she moved her fingers up and down the microphone stand, as though caressing it. He shivered involuntarily.

When the first song was over, the crowd clapped loudly. Steve joined then and even let out a cheer.

The woman thanked the crowd, and Steve felt his heart stutter at her crisp English accent. She introduced the next song that she would be singing with the piano player, Gabe Jones.

Steve hardly noticed Bucky leaving for the dance floor with a redhead who had come up to him a few minutes earlier. He half-heartedly waved at his friend, but kept his attention focused on the angel onstage.

It went like this for the rest of the band’s set. Steve gave her his undivided attention, ordering another drink as she sang for the next hour.

“How about an old favourite to close us out?” the woman asked her band.

The crowd cheered again and she signalled to the moustached man playing the drums to begin the song.

Steve grinned and found himself slightly bopping his head along, feeling more than content to just watch the woman as she lost herself in the song.

He was even more content every time she threw him a flirtatious look.

She sang out the last note, and the club was cheering before she even finished. At the end, she grinned widely, obviously very pleased.

“Thank you all so much! I suggest you take this time to refresh your drinks at the bar. The Griffith will be up next in just a few short moments. My name is Peggy Carter, and we are The 107th.”

Peggy looked in his direction and blew him a kiss. Steve was certain that he was scarlet by now by the amused look on her face as she exited the stage with the rest of the men of her band.

Steve took a long swig of his drink, not being able to help the fact that he still felt rather heated just from the looks the woman - Peggy Carter - had been giving him during her set.

Then he saw her walking toward him. Steve shook his head, thinking that he must be imagining it. However, she was still approaching him, and he suddenly didn’t know what to do with himself. He hardly had time to stand before she was right in front of him.

“Hello,” she said.

“Hi,” he said, feeling absolutely stunned that she was standing in front of him - let alone talking to him.

“I’m Peggy,” she introduced herself.

“Steve,” he reciprocated, pausing before practically blurting. “You’re an incredible singer.”

Her mouth curled up into a smile, and Steve felt his heart stutter. He felt like a damn teenager with how this woman was making him feel, and she’d only said three words to him.

“Thank you, Steve. Though I wouldn’t say it’s incredible.”

“It is,” he said immediately, beginning to ramble. “It’s the most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard. And your band is incredible. Really it’s some of my favourite music that I’ve ever heard – and I like swing music and jazz so-”

“Well if my voice is so beautiful and my band so incredibly talented, why haven’t you been dancing?” she interrupted, raising her eyebrow, but there was no malice in her voice. 

“Well I uh - I can’t,” he stuttered.

“Can’t?”

“Dance,” he clarified.

If he hadn’t been blushing before, Steve was certain that he was now. He looked away from her intense gaze.

“Can’t or won’t?” she asked.

“Can’t,” he confirmed. “I’ve never really done it before.”

“Surely you must have danced,” she said, surprising him with the softness of her voice.

“I guess I’ve just been waiting,” he shrugged.

“For what?”

“The right partner,” he answered, finally daring to meet her eyes.

“Well, if you don’t mind settling for me, I’d love to show you how.”

His eyes widened slightly, finding that she was serious on all accounts.

“I’ll probably step on your feet,” he warned her.

“Lesson one: dancing isn’t about perfection. It’s about partnership, and enjoying the company.”

She offered him her hand. After a beat, he found himself accepting it.

“We should probably wait for a slow song,” he thought out loud.

“Well lucky for you, I have an in with the band,” she winked.

Steve found himself letting out a laugh, causing Peggy to grin. She led him to the dance floor, and made eye contact with the lead singer of the band, sending her some sort of signal. The woman grinned at Peggy and winked, counting her band in.

Peggy guided his hands and led them in an easy, slow style of dance that perfectly matched the joyful song. Steve tried to follow her diligently, but still ended up stepping on her toes far too often for his liking.

“Relax,” she told him gently. “You can’t dance properly when you’re this stiff.”

“Sorry,” he murmured, already feeling like this entire thing had been a huge mistake.

“You hear the music, yes?” she asked.

He frowned.

“Yes of course.”

“Let it in,” she told him. “Let your guard down. Stop trying to be perfect, and let yourself have fun. I promise you won’t scare me off.”

Steve bit his lip and nodded before taking a deep breath and focused on the music. Slowly but surely, he allowed his focus to shift solely to the music - and to Peggy’s warm and encouraging gaze.

“There you go,” she beamed at him.

By the start of the second song, he finally started letting himself truly enjoy himself. Seeing his excitement for dancing grow, Peggy’s smile grew, and she led him through the next few minutes with ease.

She laughed every time he stepped on her feet, or spun her a bit too forcefully, making him laugh in return. He never thought that he could have so much fun dancing, especially when he was rather bad at it, and let alone with someone he had just met.

They danced to the next song, and most of the next song after that before they heard someone call out her name. She looked over and rolled her eyes at the man - the Stark guy, Steve recognized - before pulling Steve down so she could whisper in his ear.

“Wait for me at the bar.”

The next instant, she was gone.

He took a moment to process what the hell had just happened, before finally walking over to the bar, planning to get his head to stop spinning. Instead, however, he found Bucky.

“Hey punk,” Steve said.

“I thought you ditched out,” Bucky said, clearly surprised at Steve’s presence.

“Nah I was-”

“Coming from the dance floor,” Bucky realized out loud. “No way.”

Steve felt his face heat up, but he smiled, feeling very pleased.

“Yeah…”

“Well it’s about damn time!” Bucky said, clapping him on the back. “Now tell me, who’s the lucky lady who had to deal with your two left feet tonight?”

“Gee thanks. And I’ll have you know, she’s-”

“Right here.”

Steve whipped around, coming face to face with a smiling Peggy.

“Peggy,” he breathed out. “You’re back. I uh -”

She laughed softly and put her hand on his arm to silence him.

“Of course I’m back,” she said sincerely. “I told you to wait for me, didn’t I?”

“Can I buy you a drink?” he asked, her hand on his arm filling him with a surge of confidence.

She shook her head.

“I appreciate the offer, but being a performer here comes with some perks. Ones that I would be more than happy to extend to you and your friend,” she said, finally glancing over at Bucky, who was looking at her far too intensely for Steve’s liking.

“Bucky Barnes,” he said, flashing her a smile.

A familiar pit formed in Steve’s stomach. Even though he didn’t mean to, Bucky had a way of making women melt with just a smile. Not that he blamed them. Bucky was a million times better at this sort of thing than he was.

Peggy, however, surprised him for what felt like the millionth time that night when she raised her eyebrow incredulously.

“Did your mother actually give you that name or is this a deliberate choice?”

Steve couldn’t help but let out a pleased laugh at Bucky’s frown.

“Call it sentimental attachment,” he retorted.

“Well then what else can I call you? Because I certainly will not be calling you that.”

“It’s Bucky or hey you,” he said firmly.

“Well, hey you, in the spirit of friendship,” she joked before turning to the bar and flagging down the bartender.

“Angie?” 

“Another whiskey, English?” the brunette asked, smiling.

“Yes please. And if you could please add that and whatever these two gentlemen are having to the 107th’s tab as well.”

“Anything for you,” Angie winked at her.

“You’re a peach,” Peggy said kindly.

When they all had their drinks in hand, Peggy began chatting casually with them as they managed to find an empty booth. For a moment, Steve thought Bucky would return to whatever girl he had been with earlier, but instead sat across from the two of them. Steve couldn’t help but notice that Peggy kept bringing the conversation back to him any chance she got, her eyes almost never leaving his. It was the easiest conversation he ever had - and he surprised himself by managing to make her laugh on more than one occasion.

“I love this song!” he and Peggy both suddenly exclaimed when the band started playing a new tune.

They looked at each other at laughed joyfully.

“What do you say to some more dancing?” Peggy asked him.

“I’d love to,” Steve said earnestly.

Peggy’s bright smile filled him with so much happiness, it was hard to believe that his heart hadn’t already burst. She went out of the booth and beckoned him to follow her. 

“I can’t believe it,” Bucky said, clearly in shock that she hadn’t even bothered to wave goodbye. “It’s like I’m invisible. Oh my God I’m turning into you.”

“Don’t take it personally. Maybe she’s got a friend,” Steve winked.

“Jerk,” Bucky said, though he looked proud of Steve.

“Punk,” Steve grinned.

Steve caught up the few steps that he had lagged behind Peggy, grinning from ear to ear as she accepted his offered hand.

They danced for countless more songs, laughing together whenever they fumbled. However, Peggy’s delighted squeak when he perfectly managed to lift her off her feet and then spin her around the second her feet hit the ground again was beyond priceless.

At last, another slow song came on, and he went to dance just as they had the first time, but Peggy had other plans. She pulled him flush against her, one hand on his back, the other holding his hand to her chest. Steve’s breath caught and he held her close, his hand splayed on the small of her back.

He rested his cheek against her temple as they swayed together, taking a moment to breathe. He still wasn’t sure that this wasn’t a dream. Looking over at the crowd, Steve saw Bucky dancing with what he assumed was the same redhead from earlier. He caught his eyes, and Bucky’s widened in amazement. He gave him a discreet thumbs up, and Steve rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help but smile widely.

After a few more songs, the club was closing down for the night, and some of Peggy’s band members began calling her over. Steve felt slightly panicked, not wanting this night to end, but not knowing how to keep it going.

“You should walk me home,” she told him decidedly.

“Really?” he asked hopefully.

She smiled kindly at him.

“Only if you want to.”

“I do,” he said immediately. 

“Then how about you go get both of our coats while I bid my friends goodnight?” she asked, handing him her coat check chip.

He grinned and nodded enthusiastically. She winked at him and walked over to her band members. Steve watched her for a moment as she joked around with them before heading to the coat check.

Upon her return, Steve held up her jacket, and she grinned as he helped her put it on before handing Peggy her purse.

The chill of the night air hit them full force. Though it wasn’t freezing, it was still early March, which meant the nights could still be very brisk. Noticing Peggy’s shiver, Steve took off his jacket and put it on her shoulders. She grinned up at him before lacing their fingers together.

“You’re not cold?” she asked.

“I run warm,” he reassured her.

Steve was still amazed at how easy it was to talk to Peggy, and even more amazed by her brazen behaviour to remain close to him all night. He felt as though he was walking on a cloud, but her hand in his was a firm reminder that this wasn’t a dream, and Steve was counting his lucky stars.

They unfortunately reached her apartment building far too soon for his liking.

“You know, I’m all the way up on the 14th floor,” she mentioned casually.

“That’s pretty far away,” he said.

“Precisely, and at this time at night, one never knows what they might encounter.”

“In that case, I should walk you to your door. In the interest of your safety,” he said firmly.

Peggy’s face lit up, and Steve grinned as they walked hand in hand inside the building.

“Can I ask you something?” he said as they arrived at her door.

“Of course.”

“Why me?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why did you choose to dance with me? You coulda had your pick of anyone in there.”

“I don’t know about that. But I suppose that… Well,” she said, and Steve hadn’t seen her even remotely flustered all night, but right now she was blushing profusely. “When I saw you, I thought - and still think - that you were an incredibly attractive man. I was very intrigued. And after speaking to you, I just found you so endearing I couldn’t find it in myself to leave. I hope that’s not terribly forward.”

She bit her lip at her own admission, looking up at him, and Steve finally realized just how close they were standing.

“It’s not,” he said, his voice coming out slightly husky as his eyes flicked to her lips.

“Good,” she whispered, licking her lips unconsciously.

Steve took a leap of faith and leaned forward, kissing her gently. Peggy’s hands came up to cup his face, and Steve wrapped his arms around her waist. He didn’t know if it was minutes or hours when they pulled away, but he knew that he couldn’t wait to kiss her again.

He didn’t have to wait long, since Peggy pulled him down by his shirt to kiss him again almost immediately. The second kiss was more hungry, and he leaned her against the door, his entire body lighting on fire as their tongues met.

They eventually pulled away, both breathless, but grinning widely. Peggy’s lipstick was smeared on around her mouth and chin, her hair was slightly mussed, and her eyes were sparkling.

“I’ve had the most wonderful night Steve,” she whispered.

“Me too,” he said, still out of breath.

“But I um,” he continued. “I should maybe go.”

Peggy sighed softly and stood on the tips of her toes, kissing him for only a moment before lowering herself back down.

“I suppose that’s for the best. Although, I think I’ll keep this. Just for now,” she said, pulling his jacket tighter around her shoulders.

“Is that so?” he asked, though he couldn’t deny that she was wearing it much better than it looked on him.

“Because then you’ll definitely have to see me again just to get it back,” she winked.

Steve grinned widely.

“I’m free for breakfast.”