It had burned. He doesn't remember why, but he remembers the metal crashing and building, the glass falling from the sky, the way the flames had spun in the air. Twisting and falling as the explosions overtook it all. The building next, the fuel on the water dancing in harsh colours as it came down in crashing flames.
He pulled the man from the flames. Dove into the water and fire and pulled him out, left him on the river back with his shield in his arms and the feeling like it was his skull burning now. When he thought of the man's face, barely moving, looking dead if his hair wasn't blowing in the exhale of his lips, his thoughts burned and twisted. He knew the face. He didn't know the face. He hated the face. He loved the man.
He lets the fire burn away as he slips back into the city, hiding in alleys and stealing clothes to pull over his body armour, ducks his head and keeps quiet.
The ashes fall.
He sees his face on televisions and the man's face as well, and other faces. Faces he knows and faces that only make his thoughts turn to the burning feeling again. So he hides from the televisions as well. Ducks his head and keeps it down. Carries three guns in his belt, two more in the pockets of his oversized jacket, and looks away from cops carefully. The shadows grow smaller, the rings around the city tighten until he can feel the fire licking at his skin again.
They're getting closer, searching the city, and maybe it's not for him, maybe it just for all those others who escaped the burning fall of SHIELD and Hydra, but the searches are coming too close to him to be tolerated.
A cop finds him in the alley cleaning his guns.
Another body to the Winter Captain's list.
It's been three weeks since he pulled the man from the river, and while the city scrambles under the ashes, he picks the lock of a car and drives south. Memories of a safe house tickle at his mind, someplace new to lie low, another place to hide from the fires in the ruins of Hydra.
He has a gun in his hand as he picks the lock on the door.