Everywhere I Look You're All I See

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Kissing James is a little strange. She keeps being reminded of the last time it happened, which has been replaced by implanted memories of Alexei. She doesn't know how close she really was to the man she married when she was just leaving the Red Room, the man she subsequently killed. She suspects it wasn't anything like she thought. Because this feels right. Familiar. She doesn't have any memories of missions with Alexei, and working with James is so easy. It fits.

Eventually, he breaks away and rests his forehead against hers and she closes her eyes, slightly uncomfortable at the thought of how meaningful this is for him. And whether or not it's the same for her.

"Well, someone might want the elevator," she teases. Distancing herself.

He smiles and presses a kiss to her forehead. "I've missed you," he whispers.

She takes his hand in her right and pushes the button for the elevator to keep moving with her left. He's watching her silently, as though memorizing her features. Feeling inexplicably shy, she supposes it's more like when she knew him before than any of her more recent relationships. The elevator opens on her floor silently and she shifts her weight uncertainly. His fingers tighten around hers and she hides a smile.

"Do you want to ... come over?" she suggests haltingly.

"Sure," he replies.

Moving forward with purpose, she leads him through the entryway, the kitchen, the living room, to her bedroom. His feet slow a little as they get closer and she wonders what he expects. Her room isn't small, including a sitting area near the window, where she heads. That seems to relax him some, and he sits down across from her, still holding her hand.

He's studying her face and she fights the urge to look away. "How long have you been sure?" she asks.

Turning his attention to her hand, he runs his fingers across her skin slowly. "A few weeks."

"And you were content to keep it to yourself? Not bring it up again?"

He blinks up at her. "What do you mean?"

Moving slowly forward, she settles into his lap, his arms automatically wrapping around her. "You didn't think that we get along so well that I might be... interested with or without a shared history?"

Instead of answering, he kisses her, first gently then more insistent. The gesture is eloquent enough and it's some time before they speak again.

His left arm is under her pillow, his right loosely around her waist as she lies on her back, looking at the ceiling and smiling faintly. He presses a kiss to her shoulder sleepily. "What is it?" he murmurs.

"I was just thinking how... unlikely this is."

Waking up a little, he looks at her with a serious expression and she turns to face him. "Nothing done to either of us was likely," he says darkly.

Gently, she brushes his hair out of his face. "I suppose. It's fortunate we have each other, then," she offers. He nods, gaze directed past her, clearly elsewhere. "James."

His attention returns to her immediately, and she hides a smile. "Natalia," he responds, questioningly.

"What do you remember about me? About us?" she adds when he hesitates.

The way his arm draws her closer to him protectively makes her ache. "Once, when the training got rough, your friend Yelena tried to run away. You came to me and explained the situation and asked for my help in finding her before your superiors did. It was the first time anyone had talked to me like I was a person in decades."

She runs her fingers across his chest, tracing the scarring around his left arm. That memory must have been erased instead of replaced. "Did we find her?" she asks.

"I did. She was terrified of me, but you convinced her not to be, that I wasn't someone to fear. That I wasn't there to kill her. I didn't... I didn't understand why you put such faith in me. I tried to live up to it, after that," he explains slowly, distantly. Then his eyes flicker to hers and he leans in for a kiss.

Obliging, she smiles at him. "And how did you do that?"

He shrugs. "I worked harder to give you the skills you would need to survive this kind of life. Because... because I didn't want you to have everything burned away. I thought maybe they wouldn't, if you were good enough."

Gently, she runs her fingers through his hair. "I think I love you, James Buchanan Barnes," she tells him quietly, happy to have something to call him. She remembers, vaguely, being uncomfortable with only being able to refer to him as the Soldier or the American before. It's a nice name. It suits him.

"I love you, Natalia Romanova." On his lips, her real name is pretty suitable, too.

-end-

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