He remembered his father holding his mother close and dancing her around their tiny kitchen. The small radio, a subject of an earlier disagreement between Steve's parents (because Steve's mother was right — they really couldn't afford it) played loudly enough that Mrs. Johnson would sometimes bang angrily on the wall from the apartment next door, telling them to turn that racket down.
Steve had known, even as a child, that this dance had to be something special, because Steve's mother always taught him to be respectful of the neighbors and she always told him to mind his manners anytime she caught him making "smart" comments about Mrs. Johnson's crankiness.
But on this night, neither of his parents seemed to care about the old lady's crankiness, nor did they care about the tiredness in their bones, or the money they didn't have, or his father's inability to stop letting alcohol consume him.
The only cares they had in the world was the feel of each other in their arms and Steve remembered sitting at that kitchen table and trying to capture the happiness on their faces as he drew.
For a lot of years, Natasha told people she had always dreamed of being a ballerina.
That story, of course, had been false. A simple concocted story that people had believed as easily as they believed anything else Natasha told them. She was, after all, the very best at her job, and Natasha knew better than most that her job was to sell lies coddled in enough sweetness that the bitter would go unnoticed until it was too late.
But although the ballerina dream had never been hers, learning about it had been part of her job. She'd sat in countless theaters and observed private performances from Russia's best.
There was no technical part of a ballet performance that Natasha couldn't explain to anyone. And, since she'd charmed dancers, male and female, she'd had a pretty good idea about the practical applications those dancing muscles could perform up close and personal.
Bucky's teenage memories were full of gunfire, bombing, slipping in and out of tents … and dancing. It would seem strange to anyone who wasn't there, fighting at his side, the way his dreams summoned forth memories of sweat, dirt, blood, sharp blue lines and soft, warm skin — often all part of the same memory that forced Bucky out of his dreams and back into the harsh, dark reality of his bedroom.
It didn't seem strange to Bucky, though. It didn't seem any stranger than his memories of crouching in a cramped plane, between a man who smelled like fish on one side and a man who smelled like ash on the other. There was every reason to believe that watching Tom try to fumble his way into dancing with girls belonged right next to his memories of Steve helping Bucky out of his costume, fingers tracing along each and every scar that marred Bucky's skin along the way.
There were sharper memories of dances that came later; those dances were just as hidden, just as secret, though the muscles were smaller and accentuated by softer curves.
But regardless of whether he was moving with Steve or Natasha, every dance Bucky had ever been to was punctuated by the feel of a gun at his side.
For the twelve and three-quarter years of Sharon's life, she had been a tom-boy. It had been one of many lines that had divided Sharon and her parents. They'd never wanted children at all, as it had never really fit into to the whole globe-trotting lifestyle they'd established for themselves.
It took Sharon a few years to understand that, but with the life she had now, she had a greater deal of sympathy for her parents for the way they handled the surprise that had been dropped into their lap all those years ago. And just in case she ever forgot, there was a scar across Sharon's stomach that reminded her each and every time she got dressed, just how much a child would never fit into her current lifestyle.
Still, Sharon suspected that if she'd been the girly-feminine child that her mother had been, perhaps the bonding between her parents and herself might have been less strenuous. Maybe they could have bonded over nail polish and pretty shoes and lipstick.
But if that had happened, maybe Sharon never would have been as close to Aunt Peggy as she was, because Aunt Peggy, who wore bright red lipstick long after her hair had turned to gray, never gave a damn whether Sharon liked it or not.
"In some ways, we are very much alike, Sharon," Aunt Peggy would say.
But while Aunt Peggy generally approved of Sharon doing whatever she pleased, in the fall before Sharon's first Sadie Hawkins dance, she had one point that she would not let go of.
"Always do what you want and never let anyone tell you any differently," Aunt Peggy told her, "but knowing how to dance is important."
Somehow, Aunt Peggy never minded that Sharon wore boots during her dance lessons.
Steve thought of his mother and father, as he shook the last of the hands of the soldiers at the army ball. This soldier was a woman, and on her arm another woman, and Steve smiled brightly at them, as his thoughts turned from his parents to his partners.
Natasha considered the ballet dancers of her past, as she sank into the bathtub. Her legs were swollen and sore from a day of fighting, and at least a half an hour of pampering was necessary, so that they would be properly prepared for the night ahead.
Bucky could hear the sound of Natasha running a bath by the time he made it to the apartment. He probably needed a bath himself, but he didn't even bother to change his costume before starting dinner.
Sharon stopped by the kitchen and gave Bucky a quick kiss, congratulating him on the progress he'd made on the potatoes before making her way to the bathroom. She didn't really need Natasha's help in dressing her own wound, but she likes the way Natasha's fingers felt, so Sharon allowed it.
When Steve arrived home, he stood outside the door to the apartment for a moment, closed his eyes and listened to music drifting through the walls. He didn't have to strain to hear the deep warm tones of Bucky's voice mingling with the lighter voices of Sharon and Natasha.
Entering the apartment, Steve saw a table full of food waiting for him, and an empty vase to contain the flowers he was carrying.
"You used to hate this music when I put it on," Steve said to Sharon as he put the flowers into their vase.
"I was outvoted," Sharon proclaimed. "You have other old people on your side now, with equally atrocious taste in music."
"Old, am I?" Natasha asked.
"If you answer that question, there will officially be no doubt that Sharon Carter is braver than I am," Bucky said with a low whistle.
"There's doubt about that now?" Sharon rejoined, but there was no harshness in her voice, and the grin Bucky tossed in her direction demonstrated as much.
"No, ma'am," Bucky answered, throwing in a mock salute.
"There's also not any doubt about the fact that this music is perfect for dancing," Steve said as he sat down. "Though I can't make any promise about not stepping on your toes."
"You never can," Sharon answered, "Why do you think I always wear boots when we dance?"
"Because you like them," Natasha answered, and Steve chuckled at her bluntness.
"You can wear any boots you want when you dance with me, Sharon," Steve promised.
"But first there will be dinner," Bucky informed them. "Because I didn't peel all these potatoes for them to go to waste."
Steve laughed as he accepted the salad bowl from Natasha. "It's been a while since I've seen you peel a pile of potatoes, Buck."
"Poor Private Barnes get stuck with KP duty a lot?" Sharon asked.
"Yup. Somethings never change," Bucky said dramatically.
Steve glanced around the table at his partners, content and happy and together. "And sometimes, things get better."
"Sap," Sharon said affectionately. "Eat so we can dance."
Let it never be said that Captain America couldn't follow an order — eat he did. Later they danced, with the sounds of boots tapping against the floor and loud music filling the apartment.
Later still, the boots came off and the music was turned down, but the dancing remained.