Chapter Two

Natasha was dimly aware of the sounds of dishes clattering and utensils scraping as she drifted awake. The smell of bacon and coffee was always pleasant first thing in the morning. She inhaled deep, reluctant to let go of sleep so soon, but also wondering why she felt so comfortable?

Then, the moments preceding her falling asleep last night came back to her. She'd never left the sofa, had she? There was a weight curving around her hips, her open palm pressed to solid muscle.

And she was not naïve—she recognized the feel of waking up in an embrace.

She opened her eyes as she lifted her head from his shoulder. His gaze—his rather confused gaze—was already on her face. As she watched him, waiting for what, she didn't know, he forced a gulp down his throat.

Realizing there was the oddest sense that being held by him like this was not new, Nat mirrored the action. "Is it just me, or does this . . . ?"

Bucky nodded. "Feel familiar? Yeah."

Tearing her gaze from his as she reminded herself to breathe, she sat up and gave her head a shake. For another few heartbeats, neither of them moved, but she could feel the weight of his attention on her, still, as they both tried to understand.

Clearing her throat, she decided maybe it was best not to think on this just now. Everything that surrounded the Winter Soldier was supremely complicated, and she could not imagine that any sense of familiarity with him, beyond trying to kill each other, could possibly be simple.

"I'm, um . . . I'm gonna go wash up," she said, nodding as she finally forced herself to stand and turned away.

He watched her take a few steps before he managed to find his voice, again. "Thank you."

Once more, there was something too familiar about the way she glanced at him over her shoulder, a brow arched as a curious half-smile curved her lips. "For what?"

Bucky nodded toward his arm, indicating the bandage.

"Ah." Her smile broadened just a bit. "You're welcome." As she turned her attention forward and started walking, again, she nearly collided with Steve entering the living room, two plates of eggs and bacon in his hands.

"Whoa, sorry," he said with a surprised chuckle. "Good morning."

Nat's brows shot up as she asked what she already knew was a stupid question, "One of those for me?"

She was all too aware of him looking past her at Bucky as he answered, "Yeah, um, well, you two were still asleep and nobody wanted to wake you."

Bucky couldn't help a snicker as he murmured, "Probably a good choice."

Nat bit her lip on a laugh, though she nodded—the idea of the Winter Soldier or the Black Widow being startled awake didn't seem like one that would bode well for the responsible party. Pointing to one of the plates, she said, "I'll be back for that."

Steve watched her walk away and then turned in time to catch Bucky, his head tipped to watch Natasha as she disappeared around a corner.

Painfully aware of his friend's attention on him, Bucky straightened up and sat back. "What?" he asked, frowning.

Shrugging, Steve huffed out a breath and brought the plates to the coffee table before the sofa. "So we're pretending I didn't just see that?"

Bucky dropped his gaze to his fingers as he gave a shrug of his own while his friend took a seat. "That was nothing," he said. He was aware he had a reputation for being something of a Ladies' Man in his previous life, but this was different. There was something about this that made him feel uncertain in a way he was pretty sure hadn't happened to him much, pre-HYDRA.

Steve's brows drew upward. Bracing his elbows on his knees, he clasped his hands before him. He could let it go, sure, but he could feel there was something about this bothering Bucky. "Listen, Buck . . . if you need to talk . . . ?"

Chewing on the inside of his lip, Bucky shook his head as he leaned forward and took his plate. He was acutely cognizant of Steve watching him as he shoveled a heaping forkful of scrambled eggs into his mouth.

He was reluctant to speak on whatever that had been—mostly because he had no idea what that had been—but then it occurred to him that maybe he could confide in Steve. They were friends, after all, and Steve was more than aware of the problematic holes in his memory.

Rolling his eyes, Bucky set down the plate and glanced about before he started—he wasn't sure he wanted anyone else in the room for this. He could only imagine the grief Sam would give him. "Okay, fine. Look, when we woke up together couple of minutes ago, it just . . . it just felt like . . . ."

Steve leaned back a bit, his brows drawing upward. "Like . . . ?"

"Like it's not the first time we've woken up together."

Steve's eyebrows somehow managed to climb higher, still. "Oh!"

His bottom lip poking out in a thoughtful expression, Bucky nodded. "The thing is, other than fighting her, I don't remember Natalya—"

"Whoa, wait," Steve said holding up his hands. "Did you just call her Natalya?"

Bucky's expression pinched, uncertain of why he'd done that—all he could recall hearing her referred to as was Natasha. "Seems so."

"She hasn't gone by that name since she left the KGB. Where did you—?"

"We were both assets for the KGB when they were being used by HYDRA." Bucky shrugged, a mystified scowl playing across his features. "I probably heard it before, or came across it on a mission. I was ordered to interfere with her objectives once or twice."

Steve nodded. That actually made sense. Though, Bucky seemed to recall his missions with no problem—it was his life before he'd been stolen by HYDRA he had trouble remembering. It was suspicious that he wouldn't know where he'd come across Natasha's birthname if it had been in the course of a mission.

But then, maybe he was reading too much into this.

Steve opened his mouth to say something, but completely lost his train of thought as Nat stepped back into the room. She must've borrowed some clothes from Sam, because she was clad in a simple white t-shirt and blue jeans that looked a little too big as she rubbed at her damp red hair with a hand towel.

She tried not to, but her gaze went back to Bucky's. And then traveled over him. Clearing her throat, she smirked. She thought to look away, but it was not that big a deal that he'd never put his shirt back on after removing it last night. . . and the view was nice.

"Am I interrupting something?" she asked, more than aware of a sudden tension in the room that had been triggered by her presence.

The men exchanged a glance before both shrugging and shaking their heads. Though, the way they both watched her as she crossed the living room to pick up her plate gave her pause.

Nat and Bucky ate quietly for a few minutes, all the while, Steve looked from one to the other, and back. He couldn't be sure if this was a comfortable silence between them, or if they were flat-out ignoring each other, and that bizarre sort of uncertainty was a mildly unsettling feeling.

After cleaning her plate, she set it back down and said, "Um, so Clint, Wanda, and I are going to go make a store run. Stock up on some stuff for everyone, some extra food and other basics we're going to need if we're going to be holed up here a few days."

Bucky and Steve nodded, again, both watching her as she strolled back across the room to the entryway.

"Oh." She glanced back at Bucky over her shoulder, giving him another once-over. "And I'll pick up some fresh clothes for you, Barnes."

From the corner of his eye, Steve noticed Bucky sit up a little straighter and swallow hard. Though, he wasn't sure if it was from the playful wink Nat had tossed before she disappeared from the living room, or the oddly affectionate note he swore he could hear in her voice as she'd called his best friend Barnes.

He could be imagining things. After all, he'd heard her refer to Bucky as Barnes before, but there seemed an entirely new context to the way she'd said it, now.

Just now, as she was speaking to Bucky, directly.

Steve frowned, aware he was definitely missing something. When she got back, he'd pull her aside to talk. Maybe she could shed some light on the things Bucky had to be struggling to remember at this moment.