She doesn't remember everything.
“Hello, legs,” he'd said once. It was the mid-1960s; she was wearing a spangly mini-dress with bright boots that rode up and up, and still left an eye-catching amount of thigh bare.
She can't remember what she said in reply – something tart, probably, then something about getting back to work. What she remembers happened later, when her dress was lying in a crumpled heap on the floor next to his equally 60s clothes. She'd kept the boots on, crossed her legs at the ankles around his back, hauled him close, closer, closer. Someone had banged the wall for them to shut up, and he'd just started laughing into her neck.
She has had to teach herself not to go hunting after her lost memories. Either they'll come back, or she'll make something up to replace them without being aware of it. She has to be patient, infer the order and context by logic and instinct.
The Boots incident wasn't the first time; it'd been too comfortable for that. The start is elusive, and she's spent too many hours in her therapy sessions failing to articulate why it bothers her.
It's important, is what she says. He was important.
“Fuck, fuck, ow,” she remembers hissing once. “No, wait, just, careful...”
“If we have to cut your hair, you're probably not going to forgive me, are you,” he had said. At least, she thinks she remembers him saying that. She'd probably glared, ordered him to hold still as she tried to untangle her hair from the sliding plates of his metal arm.
Given what she remembers, she really hopes her past self was sensible enough to braid her rescued hair and drag him back down onto the sheets. God, but he'd been a beautiful man.
She's made up a name for him; not what she actually called him, almost certainly nothing to do with his original one. It keeps things...simpler, not having it down on any record that she remembers the way the Winter Soldier held her face in his hands, the way he looked like she was someone precious to him.
It keeps things safer.
She is pretty sure this happened:
An overnight train, the pair of them somehow managing to fit on a single bunk. She had her head on his chest; he had his arms around her, was stroking her hair with his right hand. His metallic left thumb was brushing back and forth along her hip. In other circumstances, the gesture would have been a sensual tease. Now, it was comfort.
“It's just a book,” she remembers muttering. His soft laugh vibrated through his ribs.
“Sweetheart, I'm not sure there's any such thing.”
Maybe he said something else, but it was something like that. Something that it made safe to cry over the ending of a novel that hit too close to home, without the fear of being reported or thought less of.
As it turns out, his name is James.
James Buchanan Barnes.
She remembers being kissed for hours in apartments, in trains, places where they wouldn't be caught. She remembers once being pulled into a storage room as she laughed into his mouth, told him to be careful of her uniform.
(“Of course, Comrade Captain, very careful,” he'd replied, an answer that would have almost sounded sincere if he hadn't been pressing his leg between hers as he undid the buttons of her jacket.)
She's had decades of memories, of imagined realities; having him close in the present is almost overwhelming.
“James,” she says, still getting used to the name.
“Hey,” he says. He brings his hands up to cradle her jaw, and she can feel both hands trembling. He, James, grins quickly. Not that he explains why. He just says, “Natasha,” and kisses her. Carefully, just a brush of his mouth over hers, as if he's not sure that she's anything other than a memory.
In retrospect, maybe the Avengers Tower wasn't the best place for this.
On the other hand, she's fairly certain she's going to remember Stark's startled confusion when they stumbled into him for a long, long time.
Natasha's door shuts behind them, and James is pushing her up against it, mouth greedy and hands careful.
She can understand the careful; for all their memories, they haven't done this for decades. Bodies need to be relearned, habits re-established so his cybernetic arm doesn't damage anything (furniture, clothes, her). She understands, and she cares, and she really wants his shirt off so she can lick her way down his body.
“- Agent Romanoff?” It takes her a moment to place the concerned English voice. James has slipped from laughter to alert, and she feels her mouth flatten.
“Shall I turn off the cameras?”
“Yes. Thank you, JARVIS. Please maintain outside sensors.”
“Of course. Any inquires as to your and Mr Barnes' whereabouts...”
James only emerges from the Winter Soldier’s cool wariness when she lets herself slump. He shakes his head, then moves back in, placing a kiss to her forehead. Natasha makes a small sound of frustration, and rests her arms around his waist, tucking her head under his chin.
“You know,” James says, voice thoughtful, “I remember being worried about a lot of things before. With us. But being observed by an AI was not one of them.”
“Welcome to the future, darling.” Then she looks up at him. “Is it a problem?”
“Well...he's probably more benign than our old bosses, and we're not in a communal apartment. I think I can manage. Besides,” he adds, voice teasing, “at least your hair is short.”
She'd cut it to pixie-length after everything went down; that's not why she blinks at him. “You...remember? My hair getting caught in your arm?”
“I remember lots of things.” Then James smiles, slow and wicked. “Having you actually here is far better.”
Charming, ridiculous man. She moves her hands to hook her fingers through his belt-loops, arches her eyebrows at him.
She doesn't remember everything, and neither does he.
But they remember enough.