i'll leave a trail of fire across this desert just to see the desperation in your eyes
Steve recognises him instantly.
He shouldn't. It's been a long time. Too long. But the eyes behind the domino mask are more familiar than his own, and while the hair is longer than he remembers, caught in the hot, dusty breeze that gusts across the desert, he can't mistake who this is.
He would know. In a pitch black room he would know.
And his voice cracks when he says "Bucky," but the man--no, not Bucky anymore, Winter Soldier--doesn't respond. Of course he doesn't. In one hand he holds a dead man's switch, in the other a pistol aimed right at Steve's face and Steve knows he won't hesitate to use either.
Winter Soldier tenses, head jerking up. Listening. On the restless breeze is the distant sound of rotors; in the distance behind, in the ripple of dying heat haze, is a small village.
Steve should press this moment of hesitation, an advantage barely gleaned, but in a movement so quick he doesn't anticipate it (can't, because he's distracted by this man, perhaps fatally so), the muzzle of the gun drops. The crack echoes off the nearby rock face, reflecting back the shot and Steve's cry of pain as heat scythes through his leg, worse than it should be, god, Steve has been shot before and it's never hurt like this. He drops to his knee. The second bullet tears through his shoulder in another sick splash of heat. He nearly drops the shield.
His arm is crippled, numb and even with his good hand he can't move the shield quick enough, not like he needs to, to protect himself. Except Winter Soldier doesn't press his advantage, doesn't take Steve--Captain America--down like he should.
Like he could.
Instead his mouth curves up slightly at the corner in a too familiar way and he turns, hurling the dead man's switch behind him, towards the village Steve knows is riddled with explosives. Steve shouts "No--!" and using the shield as a prop, lurches to his feet. He makes one step, two, then falls again. Ten seconds and he knows he isn't going to make it, won't be able to get to the switch before--
The explosion rocks the earth and lights up the sunset desert around them in reds and oranges and yellows, vicious colours barely tempered by the dust and the smoke. Winter Soldier is little more than a silhouette against the inferno, a black outline mockery as he moves towards Steve. And Steve--there was something, those bullets, something about them because he's too weak to get up, to fight, to fight back as Winter Soldier reaches down and wrenches the shield from his arm (and oh god the pain, the pain), sets his heel against Steve's bleeding shoulder and shoves him backwards to sprawl in the dirt.
(Later, only minutes or maybe hours, the chopper circles before it lands, Steve a splash of red, white and blue against the sand, barely conscious. "It was him," he says, delirious. "Bucky. It was him."
They find the shield only metres away, and a pistol is next to it, muzzle down in the sand.)
and stop the bleeding before it starts