Tony stared at the swing dance poster for a long time. He could partner dance. His mom and Aunt Peggy had made sure of that. By the time he was five, he and Peg were waltzing around the piano while his mom played the keys. So in that way it was nice. But when he got older he had to dance with the wives of donors who pinched his cheeks, and one memorable time, his ass. Merida, what the hell. You’re eighty. It makes him dread going home for the holidays.
He wasn’t able to fly back one year and spent Thanksgiving with Rhodey’s family. Tony felt embarrassed about how surprised he was by the experience. Dinner was fun, conversation wasn’t stilted with a thousand past transgressions floating in the air.
Mrs. Rhodes made the dinner, but she had everyone as her assistant. It was like cooking with Ana and Jarvis, only five conversations were happening at once. It was perfect. He didn’t have to make small talk with strangers, and he didn’t have to be touched by them.
It’s one of the many reasons Tony was still collecting doctorates at eighteen, even after dad’s near drunken run-in with a tree. He got the excuse of not being able to come home for those stupid parties, and he got to spend more time with his awesome roommate.
Said roommate was less awesome for shoving him into this. Tony didn’t need a hobby. He had his work! So what if he’s a little hermity. Hermity is productive. God, he’s starting to sound like his father.
“You really need to pick something.” Rhodey said. He pointed at a different poster. “There’s a chess club.”
“Reed’s the president and I’ve already beaten him. Chess just isn’t fun anymore. There’s no challenge, and most college kids aren’t master players, even if this is MIT.”
Tony looked over the collage of posters again. There had to be something better than the dance club. That one wasn’t even on campus. It was probably full of old people and stuck up hipsters. Just because Tony missed dancing with his aunt and mom doesn’t mean he’d have a good time there.
“You know I hear taking a picture lasts longer.” Rhodey said.
Tony tried to glare at him, but he couldn’t hold it. “ We could just have more movie nights.”
Rhodey pulled out his phone and snapped a picture of the dance poster. “Look, I know you don’t want to think of me going off to officer school. But if you keep wanting to get every degree under the sun, you gotta have a support system for you here.”
“What about you? Who’s gonna look after you once you ship out?” Tony said.
“I have the whole Air Force behind me. I’ll be fine.” Rhodey slung an arm around Tony’s neck. “Now what do you say to pizza?”
The swing club met only twice a week in a rented out ballroom. It was a bit shady in this part of town, but there was no going back after the taxi peeled off into the street. He and Rhodey had dressed up with button downs and slacks: something Tony had not worn in months. He absently tugged at his stiff collar as they climbed the steps.
“I’m giving it five minutes to impress me.” Tony said.
Rhodey just smirked at him. That was rude. Tony did not want to be here! There just… wasn’t a better choice.
They could hear the brass band through the door, but neither of them were prepared for the blast of sound to hit them when they opened the door.
“This impressive enough for you?” Rhodey asked.
“What?” Tony asked, but Rhodey called his bluff and punched his arm.
Swing was a lot more popular than Tony remembered, apparently. The room was full of people moving so fast Tony had a hard time watching it. There were a few tables on the edges of the dance floor where clusters of people were snacking and chatting. It was a lot at once, and Tony wasn’t a fan.
“I’m going to get drinks!” He yelled as he moved toward the pile of snacks.
Rhodey was getting caught up in the nearest table with people, and only threw him a thumbs up.
After getting himself a glass of punch and a cookie, Tony was in a better place to assess. The crowd was skewed to a younger group, but there were a few middle aged couples. Damn, did everyone come with a dance partner? Maybe Rhodey would give him a chance or two on the floor.
There was also a fair amount of people in vintage clothes. So more history buff than hipster crowd. The live band at the back of the room was called ‘The Howling Commando’s’, which was kinda fun.
A boisterous laugh broke Tony’s concentration, as a man around his age sauntered off the dance floor. A smile lit up his entire face, drawing Tony in. He was devastatingly gorgeous. He was sweating through one of those dated outfits, but he had the sleeves rolled up to show his toned arms. Mystery Man had short stylish brown hair and icy blue eyes. Tony wasn’t too ashamed to admit he almost dropped his glass. He took a drink to try and hide his admiring.
Mystery man brushed up against his side to pour himself a glass. “Having fun?”
Tony nodded. “It’s interesting enough. You come here a lot?”
“Every time.” He pointed his thumb to a group of people on the floor. “I got some friends if you’re new here. Being in a group is always more fun.”
“I’ll come say hi later. Can’t leave my friend to the wolves.” Tony said. He looked over to see Rhodey surrounded by a group. He’s probably telling them that ROTC story from last week.
“Well he’s welcome too. We’re always looking for new friends.” MM winked at Tony, and in a flash he had disappeared back into the crowd.
“Oh, he is going to ruin me.” Tony said to himself.
“Sharon?!” Tony turned. Lo and behold there was his cousin in one of Aunt Peggy’s old uniforms. Tonight was feeling more and more like a fever dream. “What are you doing in Boston?”
“That’s classified information.” Which, coming from her, meant ‘I’ll tell you all the interesting stuff later.’ “So I take it you met Bucky?” Sharon asked.
“Is Bucky stupidly beautiful?”
“I’ve met Bucky, and I’m mad about it.” Tony glanced around before grabbing Sharon’s arm and moving them to the edge of the room. “Is he single?”
Sharon laughed. “A flirt like that? Always. He’s always dating someone new. I’m friends with his pal Steve, and he says Bucky is never with the same person for long.”
Tony really wished he didn’t take words like that as an immediate challenge. Maybe when he’s older he’ll learn. “So, what’s it take to get a dance?” But probably not.
“Just ask. Bucky loves dancing more than anybody here.” Sharon’s eyes seemed to catch someone else’s across the room. “I’ve got to go. Natasha doesn’t have a dance partner, and I’m not missing that.” She pulled Tony into a bear hug. “Good luck Tony.”
She disappeared into the throng, and so Tony grabbed Rhodey and headed into the fray. Tony was going to get a date from Bucky even if it took all night. As soon as they entered the dance floor a pretty redhead spirited his wingman away, but it’s fine. Tony has asked countless people out. Sure there weren’t a lot of second dates, but there were plenty of firsts. So Tony kept going until he hit Bucky’s little friend group.
Sharon was dancing with another red head who was smoking and must have been Natasha. Go cuz. Tony remembered when they were high school age and Sharon was too scared to even say hi to a pretty girl. He hopes she gets Nat’s number.
Tony found Bucky dancing solo next to an extremely buff blonde and his dance partner who wore a pilot’s jacket.
“Hey Sam!” Bucky called over the live band. “Let me know if you get tired of Steve stepping on your toes.”
“Please.” Jacket guy replied. “Like I need your ugly mug that close to me.”
Steve sighed, but Bucky just laughed. Tony saw his moment and made his way over to his side.
“Mind if I take up your generous offer?” Tony asked, holding out his hand.
Bucky impossibly smiled wider at the sight of him. “Not at all, sweetheart.” He took Tony’s hand in his and said over his shoulder. “You have way nicer breath than Sam anyway.”
“Oh so that’s how it is.” Sam grumbled, but Tony didn’t hear the rest.
In between heartbeats Bucky had pulled Tony to his broad chest and his free hand settled on Tony’s hip. “Let me know if you get lightheaded okay? Lindy hopping can get kind of intense for beginners.”
Too late for that. Tony got lightheaded every time he looked into Bucky’s eyes. But he’d rather die than say something so corny, so he just nodded.
The dance is chaotic. Bucky is an amazing leader, the moves are smooth, and Tony isn’t afraid of falling over at all. Which is good, because he barely knows what’s going on. He doesn’t know the dance, and they’re moving so fast it’s hard to follow, but it doesn’t matter. Bucky’s warm hands and beautiful eyes on him are all Tony needs.
All too soon the song changed into an old soulful jazz song, and everything slowed down. Tony was worried Bucky would move on to another partner, but he just pulled Tony close. They swayed to the beat, and after a few moments of deliberation Tony rested his head against Bucky’s steady shoulder.
“So Tony, Sharon said you like vintage cars.” Bucky said.
“She is correct.” Tony answered coyly. “Did my lovely cousin tell you anything else?”
“She said you’re up at M.I.T. for engineering.” Bucky admitted. “That’s amazing, Tony. I’ve always liked fixing cars and working on things, but what y’all get up to there, that’s the real stuff.”
“So my cousin’s talked me up.” Tony really hoped she hadn’t dropped a last name.
Bucky’s eyes softened. “She’s really proud of you.”
Tony hid his face against Bucky’s chest. “Vintage cars?”
“Right.” Bucky readjusted his grip on Tony’s hand. “There’s a car show later this week, and I was gonna drag Steve there, but he doesn’t appreciate stuff like that. Besides you’re a way better looking date. So what do you say?”
“I’d like that.” Tony said. “As long as it doesn’t conflict with my PhD defense I should be good.”
Bucky looked absolutely stunned before shaking it off with a smile. “You’re gonna have to tell me all about that later, doll. Damn, she said you were smart and she was right. Just wish she said you were cute too. Then I could have planned you a real date.”
“Hey! Cars are the date I’ve been dreaming of. I can’t count how many stupid fancy restaurants I’ve had to go to.” Tony leaned more of his weight on Bucky. “Don’t you dare change your mind.”
“Or what, you’ll crush me?” Bucky asked.
“Yes!” To prove his conviction, Tony left all his weight on Bucky, but the bastard just picked him off the ground and spun around. “Stop that!” Tony sputtered between giggles.
“He said yes!” Bucky whisper shouted to their friends on the sideline. Tony must have been really out of it to not notice them gathering around them like a pack of nosy vultures.
Tony stuck his tongue out at his cousin, but she just played innocent. Little wanna-be matchmaker. He’ll get her later for that. Especially if she hasn’t Cartered up and asked Nat out.
As the song wound down, couples started gathering their coats and walking out. Tony and Bucky kept swaying for as long as they could, but soon the band started to pack up and Rhodey brought over Tony’s coat. “Come on man. Let the pretty boy go home.”
Tony’s “I don’t wanna” was muffled by Bucky’s chest, but Bucky let go of him and brought up Tony’s hand to his lips.
“See you soon okay, gorgeous?” Bucky kissed his hand and let go.
“You might want this.” Rhodey handed Bucky a scrap of paper. “Nobody can read his chicken scratch. The teachers make him type everything.”
“Hey!” Tony was going to protest. Not all the teachers made him type.
“Thanks. Have a nice night Rhodes.” Bucky gave him a casual two-finger salute, and turned to Tony. “I’ll text you later okay?”
“You better.” Tony grabbed Bucky’s shoulder and planted a kiss on his cheek. “I’ll give you a real one after the date.”
Bucky wore the goofiest smile as he walked Tony and Rhodey outside. Tony really hoped he could see it again. After the two of them piled into a cab, Tony glared at Rhodey.
“How long has she been planning this?” Tony asked.
“It’s been months. She’s a real strategist. Had me meet him and everything so I could see if he was good enough for you. Was planning on staging a meet cute at a coffee shop or something. You going to their swing club was just a coincidence.” Rhodey said. “By the way, you owe me coffee for tipping the band so they’d play one more song for you two.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll buy. How did it go with the redhead?” Tony asked.
“Pepper was lovely and gave me her number.” Rhodey pulled out a slip of paper.
“Nice, double date!” Tony cheered.
“I love you Tones, but no.”