He paused in front of the door to her quarters before knocking once. "Hey!" She smiled happily as she pulled him inside. "Did you get everything you needed?" She asked.

He nodded. "I did."

"Great. Let's make a report," she said.

He shook his head, reaching out to pull her close against him. "Later," he murmured.

She returned his embrace. "Well, you must have done something right. Tarasova has confessed to stealing and destroying the S.H.I.E.L.D. satellite. They're moving her to the Raft tomorrow." She paused for a moment. "Are you listening to me? James!" she squealed as he playfully nuzzled her neck. "What's gotten into you?"

"I must be crazy about you," he said with a wink as his mouth engulfed her ear.

She laughed as she tilted his head back to press her mouth firmly against his, her arms encircling his neck. She pressed her body closer into his when she felt his eager arms around her waist and she sighed softly into his mouth.

"Nat," he said, gathering all her hair into his right hand and using his metal fingers to comb gently through the tangles. "Are you happy?"

She smiled, tracing the outline of his lips with one finger. "Of course. I have you, don't I?"

"Always," he whispered shakily, placing his forehead against hers and squeezing his eyes shut against the tears that threatened to fall. "Always," he said more firmly.

"Then I'm ecstatic," she replied, leaning in against his chest.

He pressed his lips to her hair, breathing in deeply as he pulled her more tightly against his chest.

"I love you, James Buchanan Barnes," she whispered into his shirt.

"God, I love you," he answered, his lips seeking another hungry kiss. "So much."


He tossed and turned in his bed, caught somewhere in an unsettling place between sleep and no sleep. He rolled over, his arm brushing against something soft and he jolted upright in alarm.

"Hello, James."

"Tesla? What the hell?!" He shouted.

She smiled wordlessly.

"Wait… I'm not dreaming. You're really here," he said. "And not in your cell. How did you-?"

She reached out, her hand brushing against his hair and cheek. "You won't tell on me, will you?" She asked with a slight wink.

He shook his head.

"I just wanted to check up on you one last time," she murmured. "But I see you're doing well, since…"

He sighed. "This is the way it's supposed to be. I can't change that, and neither can you."

She nodded once, watching him curiously. "You've already moved on. I'm impressed."

"You're leaving," he said flatly.

"Yes," she confirmed. "And you won't stop me."

"No," he agreed. "But… I don't want you to go."

"I know, dear James," she said, moving an ungloved hand down his neck to caress his shoulder. "I told you not to feel anything for me," she said sadly, her voice almost a whisper.

"And I told you…. it's too late," he whispered back, his heart pounding embarrassingly fast in his chest as he mentally processed the possibilities and attempted to make a coherent decision.

She kept her hands steady on his shoulders as she leaned forward to kiss him slowly. After a moment, he began to kiss her back, and she smiled against his mouth.

"Um, Tess…" he started, reluctantly pulling away. "Your hand… it's heating up."

"Hmm? Oh," she said, releasing her grip on his right shoulder. "It's a currant. Creates a warming sensation wherever I touch," she explained.

He nodded. "That's, um, interesting."

She laughed. "You know, your thoughts are far more entertaining when you're relaxed," she told him. "And I might be tempted to come back and entertain them."

"Is that how you healed me?" He asked, ignoring the suggestion in her tone. "The currant?"

She nodded. "My father gave me my abilities when I was really young."

His mouth dropped open. "You mean your dad… experimented on you when you were young?"

She shrugged. "The sun will be up soon. I supposed I should…"

"Tess…" His voice was almost pleading.

"Easy, James," she said, putting her mouth close to his ear as she she slowly pushed him down against the pillows. "You're not a little lost soldier anymore."

He was silent as he lay back.

"Besides," she whispered, placing a tender kiss on the side of his neck. "If you really need me, or I you… we'll know how to find each other," she promised.

"Where will you go?" he asked.

"I suppose I'll head back home. See what I can rebuild," she said, tracing small circles with her finger in his hair.

He nodded. "I think that's a great idea," he said quietly.

"How about you?"

He shrugged. "I guess I'll just do what I always do. What I know best. And figure out the rest as I go."

She placed a warm hand on his forehead. "Sleep, now, my Winter Soldier," she said softly, and despite the fact that he hadn't been able to fall under easily in over a month, he found it hard to resist.


It was late morning when his eyelids fluttered open and he pulled himself out of bed easily, reaching for his phone. "Hello, Agent Coulson? Yeah, James Barnes here. I was hoping we could have lunch today…" He looked over his shoulder out the round window over his bed. He was certain he saw a blue light shining in the distance out of the corner of his eye, but he blinked and it was gone.