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Rick pulled his motorcycle up to the appropriate spot along the sidewalk to parallel park. Given the small nature of the vehicle compared to the cars around it, he managed this easily enough. Putting down the kickstand, he dismounted and took off his helmet, then reached into the basket having off the back, where he'd placed a crate of non-perishables. Pulling it out, he moved toward the building that was the reason he'd come here - one of Brooklyn's few remaining homeless shelters. Rick had spent several of his summers here in his youth, first at Aunt Polly's insistence and later because he had genuinely enjoyed the work.
Sure, it killed the social life, but that was the price you paid.
Every so often, he'd come back around and help out where he could. His job kept him busy, but he'd volunteer some time or some supplies whenever he could. Every little bit, after all, helped. He was greeted at the door by Clinton, the son of the couple who ran the shelter - Mr. and Mrs. Gause, or as Rick had come to know them, Jeff and Belle. Jeff had been one of Rick's friends in the neighborhood when he'd first moved in with Polly, having inherited the place from his own father. A nice way of following in his footsteps, Rick had always thought.
The place wasn't exactly lively at the moment, though a few people had wandered in here for a meal from the kitchens. His main focus, however, was in delivering some food for them to use.
"Ah, thanks again, my friend." Jeff took the crate from Rick as it was offered.
"No problem, Jeff. Just wish I could do more." Rick said to him.
"Oh, I think you do well enough." Belle commented, patting Rick's cheek. "If we asked any more of you, it'd probably cost you an arm and a leg."
"And Rick would give it to, wouldn't ya?" Jeff teased. "Takes all kinds, eh?" Rick just laughed along with them, as he slipped into his pocket the thumb drive that Jeff had passed him. Neither his wife or son knew that Jeff had become a member of the Brigade, doing just a little bit of surveillance work when he could.
Like he said, it took all kinds.
"Mr. Jones, are you gonna stay for dinner?" Clinton asked.
"Would that I could, buddy. But I have to get down to lower Manhattan. Got a promise to keep." Rick asked.
"To a lady friend?" Clinton asked with a shameless grin, Belle giving him a light smack in the shoulder. "I was just kiddin', Ma! Sheesh!"
"You watch that tongue of yours, boy!" His mother scolded him. Jeff just laughing. "And don't you encourage him!" She rounded on her husband.
"I didn't encourage a thing, my dear!" Jeff grinned a grin that was so very much an echo of his son's.
"Oh, don't you my dear me..." Belle said.
"Well, I should leave the three of you to it..." Rick said, gesturing back toward the door...and then hearing the door open. Seeing the look on Jeff and Belle's faces, he turned on his heel to witness. A group of five young men in ratty clothing...except for one in the lead who wore a cheap suit. The other four were armed...he was not.
"So...Mr. Gause." The man in the cream-colored suit spoke, pulling a toothpick from his mouth and dropping it to the floor, crushing it under the heel of his off-brown dress shoe. "Have you reconsidered my employer's very generous offer?"
"The answer is still no, Donovan." Jeff said. "Doesn't matter how much money he throws at us, we're not selling." The man in the suit rolled his eyes. "It's a matter of principal."
"Principals don't mean jack to me, pal." The man shook his head and sighed. "Ugh...I always hate this part of the job." He gestured, and one of the men went up to the door, turning the lock. One of the other four raised a gun. "Now...anybody who wants to stay breathing, don't say a goddamn thing."
"Whoa whoa whoa, hey...what?" Rick asked and got a gun barrel in his face for his trouble.
"Don't get involved, wise guy, if you know what's good for ya." Rick stared from the barrel of the gun to the man with the suit, who had been the one to speak.
"Do I look wise to you?" Rick asked, trying to seem braver than he felt at this exact moment.
"Oh, I was hoping you'd say that." The thug holding the gun said, his thumb clicking the safety to 'off'.
Even though he knew that he'd been gone a long time from the place he used to call home, from Brooklyn, still walking through what had used to been familiar streets came as a surprise. Certain things had remained the same, at least in the grander scheme of things. The streets were mostly the same as well as their names but the buildings had changed. Some of them were still the same shape and size but in another color. The building at the corner of St. Marks and Vanderbilt had used to have a shoe-maker at the bottom but when he passed it today, it was nothing like that. The sign out front read Ample Hills Creamery. He thought it was an odd name for a place that made ice cream--why wouldn't they just have it say Ample Hills Ice-cream?
Bucky wrote it off as one of the many things that he was still coming to terms with the modern age, plenty of it that he'd missed out on considering whenever he hadn't been kept on ice he was out killing and doing missions. His current mission seemed more arduous than he wanted to admit, which was having a day off, doing what he wanted. Trouble with that was of course him not knowing exactly what that was. It was how he'd ended up Brooklyn to begin with, had allowed his feet to just carry him through the city. In the crowds the NYC offered, it was easy to be anonymous.
Nothing lasted as long as you'd thought it would do, especially when it came to peace and considered quiet, at least not for Bucky. He noted the movements out of the corner of his eyes and would've noted them even if he hadn't wanted to. But he saw it, the flash of a knife and the barrel of a gun peaking out from underneath a coat. The weight in their steps screamed trouble long way. It wasn't until after he noted too, that the building that now was a shelter for homeless people, used to be the gym where he'd gone to practice wrestling.
Whether it was nostalgia or something else Bucky refused to acknowledge but he was moving towards the door moments before it closed. All it took was a peak through the window on the left the make the assessment he needed and as it was, just in time as he heard the safety click. A forceful kick tore the door from its hinges and landed on top of one of the four. "Get down!" With left arm raised to protect himself from the bullets that were inbound, he stepped across the door, the man under giving a pained grunt. The assailant with the gun feverishly started reload but was unable to finish before he was grabbed by the throat and flung across the room and into a shelf filled with porcelain. Upon impact some of it shattered but it also knocked some of the shelves off their hinges so by the time the man rag-dolled to the floor, a flood of plates and bows followed, breaking into a hundred pieces and more once they hit the floor.
So...several things happened at once from the moment that the thug put the gun up to Rick's head. First, Belle gasped and held little Clinton back by the scruff of his shirt. Jeff pulled them both back as Rick stood, unbowed...and hoping that he wasn't about to get his bluff called in the worst possible way. His salvation came when the front door was literally torn from its hinges and thrown against one of the men. The glass shattered on the man as he was collapsed under it. That was enough to distract the others, including the man in the cream-colored suit.
"You heard him! Down!" Rick only got a split second look at the man...with a metal arm. 'There is absolutely no way...' He thought, recognizing the man from both the leaked SHIELD files and from recent events. The Winter Soldier...was it possible? He wasn't questioning it, just thanking his lucky stars as the guy started making mincemeat out of the hoodlums.
"The dishes!" Belle protested as Jeff started to pull her and Clinton to the backroom.
"Go! Go!" Rick gestured for them to move quickly.
"Waste the freak!" One of the men pulled a knife, coming at the metal armed assailant. The one nearest Rick had a bat, and Rick sought to take advantage of that situation.
"Hey!" Rick said, getting the man's attention...and giving him a slug across the chops for that attentiveness. Rick grabbed the bat before it hit the ground. Two down, three left, and it seemed that Cream-Color Suit Guy - Donovan - was trying to circle strafe his way around to the exit that was suddenly much more open with the attack of James Buchanan Barnes.
'Oh, no you don't...' Rick thought as he moved to advance on the guy, only to be intercepted by one of the other guys, who flipped open a butterfly knife on him with a surprising amount of flourish and caused Rick to back up to avoid getting skewered. The guy took a few more stabs at him, Rick backing up each time until he came against the wall...and remembered he had a bat.
Rick slammed it down against the man's arm as he advanced with another stab, causing him to yelp in pain, and then slammed the bat into the side of his head, knocking him over. 'That was...embarrassingly easy.' He thought, and it was about then that he realized that the dude who had been impaled by shards of glass from the door that had been literally throw onto him was up again...and less than pleased as he ran right into Rick and tackled him over the soup line.
The bullets that had been fire had tore through his sweatshirt and leaving the blue-tinted vibranium beneath it partially exposed, but doing no damage. They clinked satisfyingly against the metallic limb only be rendered useless and drop to the ground, as if they'd had no momentum or force behind them at all. Bucky had pretty much gotten used to an extra limb that wasn't as the original one but given that he'd been using it for so many years, something that was different, he was so familiar with the feeling that it felt normal too him. He had to admit though, his current cybernetic limb was a step up from any other version he'd ever had. It was lighter and more durable as well as absorbent of vibration, as the name suggested.
"Waste the freak!"
It was an barely audible sigh under Bucky's breath. Of course they were rude too. Anyone who thought it was a good idea to talk during a fight usually had nothing good to say and if anything, it usually indicated they nearly weren't as good as insults might suggest. In this case, it mirrored perfectly the level of skill the man with the knife had. In a look that could've been misread for utter boredom, the Winter Soldier took the extra second to adjust the cap on his head before bring his arm up to hinder the assault with the knife. What happened next was worryingly fluent for anyone that might have watched. The impact between the arms was just at the right point to have the knife drop and Bucky caught it midair, twirled it between his fingers before pushing it back against the man in between two ribs. A wheezing sound was heard when some air escaped the lung. It was enough to have him stumbled backwards and topple back onto his rear.
The elderly couple had been his first priority but seeing as the other man was doing fairly alright, backing away from a sweeping knife, he turned and focused on the man in the suit. With one long step he blocked the exit, which caused Donovan to draw a pistol, which was fired straight into Bucky's palm. "What the..." The metal hand closed around the barrel of the pistol and turned it into scrap metal before flinging it over his shoulder and kicking forward. A howl of pain was heard the knee crunched. Bucky lifted his hand and wriggled a finger in to the hole of his glove. Great, another one gone. He was starting to get an annoyingly high amount of right-handed gloves gathering in the drawer under the bed.
With determination in his steps, he stepped around the soup line, brown eyes narrowing at whatever Rick and the guy from earlier was doing. It didn't look like any wrestling he was familiar with but then again, it usually didn't look right or decent when it came down to living or dying. "Get off him or I'll throw you again," he said simply, almost too simply, his voice indicating no threat but his posture saying something else entirely. He didn't think he needed to actual threat, the man's scattered allies around the room spoke volumes.
Rick's day was full of ups and downs.
Get a free bagel from that cute woman at the Starbucks? Up.
Get rained on and have to rush back to his apartment in it? Down.
Get to see some old friends and pick up some info the Brigade needed? Up.
Getting into a fist fight and then tackled over a soup line? Definite down.
Now, Rick was flat on his back. Remembering the self-defense classes he'd taken at the Y, Rick raised his arms and did his best to block as his opponent tried to pummel him into submission. If he could tire the guy out, then it was likely that he could turn the tables on him. He just had to endure and wait for the man to tire himself out. With luck, it seemed, that he didn't have to wait.
The towering figure of James Buchanan Barnes himself stood above and gave a very distinct ultimatum.
"Get off of him or I'll throw you again."
"I think he's got your best interests at heart. Really." Rick said to the man on top of him.
"Let's get the fuck out of here!"
Donovan was yelling, apparently not in a happy state. As the guy on top of him moved, Rick got up and saw the man reeling on the floor, looking like he was in quite a bit of pain. Rick didn't want to imagine what had befallen the man during the fight. The other men who were conscious were scrambling to get lost as well, apparently having learned their lesson. Two of them scooped up Donovan, who was swearing and spitting the whole time.
"Thanks." Rick said, as he stood up. It was impossible to keep the awe out of his eyes. He was standing next to a living legend, after all. For all the superpowered people he had helped, Rick never thought he'd be standing in the same room with someone like Sargent Barnes.
Unless it were in a prison cell somewhere, anyway.
"I owe you one for that." Rick said, wiping a bit of blood off of his bottom lip. He'd taken a nasty hit from that tumble over the soup line and probably would have a bruise or three...but it was better than the alternative.
"I, uh...I know this is gonna be a little direct...and I'm not trying to be ungrateful or complaining, because...yeah, you saved my bacon right there," Rick said, "But...what brought you here, exactly? I didn't exactly have time to put up the Bat-Signal. Again, definitely not complaining."
It was a little weird, though. World War II legends generally didn't make their way into soup kitchens to get into a brawl.
Bucky had planted his feet where he stood, but at the same time he was ready to spring at barely a second's notice if it was needed but as it was turning out, the man flopped on top of Rick seemed to consider his offer carefully and ended up starting to shift his weight, a second or so after being called by Donovan. He cast a glance at Bucky before stumbling past him, towards the exit. A pair of vaguely squinted eyes followed the criminal entourage as the exited through the broken door but not after having throw some threats their way.
"It's fine." The last thing he wanted, was for someone to owe him anything. If anything, Bucky felt that he owed a lot to the world around, had to start piling good actions, not to cover up the bad ones because that would never be possible, but to at least try and even the balance. Somehow. This, was a good start. It made him concerned however, about the possible fallout. A knife to the lung and a broken knee-cap might not have been the level of deterring needed. He could only hope but he knew that it would linger in his mind and have him drawn back at some point. "You're okay?"
Quietly he moved forward and bent down to lift up the broken door, pausing with it lifted up, with a frown. Bat-signal. The memory was vague, but it was there. A crinkled comic-book, one that he'd borrowed from a friend, droplets of water having fused some of the pages together but he remembered that. It had been the sixtieth issue. "I saw them walk in." He finished his work with the door, slanted it carefully against the door frame with a small grimace. He wasn't going to be able to fix it.
He started walking then again, crossed the open space and headed straight for the closed door that led to the backroom. A careful knock follow before he pulled it open and gestured for the elderly couple that it was safe for them to come out. "I'm sorry about the door," he said sincerely and cleared his throat. "I... I used to know your father," he said to Belle, after having seen her last name on a piece of paper behind the soup-line. Back then, it had been her grandfather that had run the gym and Robert had only been a young boy at the time.
"Well, I mean...it is now." Rick said as he still nursed his busted lip. If that was the worse he got from this, he'd be alright. He knew it would have been a lot worse if Sergeant Barnes hadn't shown up when he had. Well or not the man felt that he did, Rick owed him one. "If you hadn't shown up, that would have gone South way, way faster." He said, putting it plainly. AS if the man did not already know that. Likely, Rick would be a chalk outline on the floor when the cops finally showed up otherwise.
"You should see the other guy." Rick joked, but got the feeling that being a little more somber was a good idea. "Yeah, no. I'm fine." He said, nodding. "Again, thanks. Much." He said. Then, however, Rick's thoughts turned to Jeff, Belle, and little Clinton. They had ducked into the back room, and Rick followed Bucky as he headed that way. "Yeah, well. It's a good thing you came by when you did." It was fortunate enough that he'd shown up, much less had any inclination to help. It seemed like those old World War II stories that his Aunt Polly had told Rick in his youth (that her father had told her) were actually true.
Jeff and Belle were in the back, barricading themselves in the freezer with Clinton. Belle screamed as the door was opened, but was soon quieted by Jeff when he realized that the threat was gone. When she spoke to him, Belle blinked several times.
"But that's...that's impossible. You're too young to have known Pa, he-"
"He's telling the truth, Belle. Honest." Rick said, gesturing to the man.
"Oh, my god." Belle put a hand over her mouth.
"Don't worry about the door." Jeff said, walking up to Bucky and offering his hand for a shake. "But thank you for saving my family and me. We really owe you one." He gave a sideways look at Rick. "...and Rick does, too."
"I'm finding it hard to argue with that at this point." Rick said with a laugh.
"C'mon, let's get you some cold meat on that lip before it starts bruising." Belle said, gesturing Rick to come with her. "And you," She gestured to Bucky, "C'mon back in the kitchen yourself, you look like you could use a meal."
Rick knew enough of Belle that there would be no argument. She wasn't intimidated enough by anyone, not even a World War II legend, to refuse to show politeness. Particularly for someone who had saved her, her husband, and her song.
In the light of the events that had transpired in the soup-kitchen, Bucky wasn't so sure his meddling was for better or for worse. The thugs were gone, had left with their egos and bodies broken but nothing in them walking out of that door could guarantee they wouldn't be coming back. Rick was trying to put a positive spin on things, something that he could appreciate but he wasn't anywhere near the pacifistic tendencies that he'd been trying to embrace as of late. Only it was seemingly damn near impossible. He had thought himself to be reasonable, to hope for a fraction of that yet he couldn't seem to go even a day without finding himself in the fray.
"It's... it's no trouble." He looked around the room after having pushed the door back up. There was no way for him to fix it, not only because he lacked the tools but because fixing doors that you broke down in raw strength, somehow that hadn't been on the assassin learning index. He guess he could do evening classes.
"I'm a hundred and one," he admitted, with a small grimace. It sounded a lot worse out loud and also crazy. In that sense, he was grateful that the younger man recognized him, one of the few times he could admit to feeling that. Normally being recognized was a bad thing but he was making the exception now, before he'd even made the decision to do so. The hand offered hung in the air between him and Jeff for a moment, before he took it. It felt weird but good, like thanks offered that he didn't really deserve. Everything about this particular instance was out of order but maybe that was what he needed. "Like I said, it wasn't any trouble."
What followed, surprised him. He stood still for a moment, had been readying himself to leave but his dark gaze flickered between the door and Belle, a small crest appearing on his forehead. It was one out of concern, but not for himself. "I shouldn't, really." But Belle and Jeff had already moved on out towards the kitchen. Whether Belle had heard his answer or not, or simply just ignored it he didn't know but walking out now, somehow felt rude. He weight from one foot to another, before he quietly slipped into the kitchen, like a haunted shadow.
"Are they going to come back?"
"Well, for them maybe." Rick attempted to keep things light. It had been a deadly situation, after all, and the humor was a coping mechanism. It seemed that Barnes didn't see that that way, though...the man was as stern and chilled as a block of ice. Rick thought that oddly appropriate, all things considered. Rick had to lean in, just a bit, before they went to go and bring Jeff, Belle, and Clinton out of their small safe haven. "Are...are you here because of something with the Avengers?" Rick asked, quietly. "I'm with the Brigade." The Brigade had sent intel the way of Cap's team of 'Secret' Avengers, but Rick had no idea if the World War II veteran had any idea who the Brigade were.
Still, it was his best shot to earn at least a little trust.
But the two were soon with the others, and Belle's reveal about her grandfather and Jeff's gratitude translated into Bucky getting a meal and Rick getting a slab of meat to put on his lip. Rick had followed, knowing well that Belle wasn't going to take no for an answer even from a professional assassin, chilly demeanor or not. So, Rick was glad to see that the man with the metal arm had followed him as well.
"Ah, they probably will." Jeff said, shaking his head. "They've been coming every couple of days for the last few weeks. Wanting to buy us out."
Belle set a bowl of beef stew on a table with a spoon, gesturing for Bucky to sit. "Working for Cohagen, no doubt."
"Cohagen?" Rick asked, holding the meat to his lip.
"Some big real estate tycoon. One of the vultures who swooped in and started buying up properties from the City after Wilson Fisk got arrested." Jeff said. "Muscles into neighborhoods, buys things up and if people don't sell, they get 'convinced' to." Rick frowned a bit at that. The worst part, in his mind, was that it wasn't some crazed super villain out to rule the world or anything...just some man with a lot of money and loose morals. Rick shook his head at the thought.
When the younger man made a lean towards him, however small it was, Bucky lifted his chin ever so slight and a steely gaze shifted to eye Rick, despite his attempts to seem neutral and non-threatening. With actions like that though, he didn't react as much as he made notice and expression usually followed suit. The couple and their son proceeded through the door and into the kitchen, given the two of them remaining a brief moment alone, which seemed to be what Rick had desired, if Bucky had to guess.
Why he had no idea, but it soon enough made itself clear, after the young one had spoken up. What he hoped to achieve with his words, Bucky did not know, the only thing he really did feel was tense, jaws fitting together a little more. Paranoia, given his and the Secret Avengers disposition. So, in the light of that feeling, he just gave Rick a glance and proceeded towards the kitchen. At least, for now.
After a moment's hesitation, Bucky quietly slid into a seat but then eyed Jeff, with something that looked like an apology. He wanted to help but he wasn't sure how much he could do. There was a chance that interfering might've just made things worse. He did put the name to his memory though, in case he actually decided to do something about it. "I'm sorry if I gave you more trouble. It wasn't my intention." A nod was offered in thanks to the meal that was set in front of him. It was a simple meal yet much better than anything he'd eaten in weeks, given that it was, well, warm and home-cooked. "I'll look into it," he then finally promised, after having finished his bowl.
Gently, surprisingly so given his reputation, he pushed the bowl to the side and eyed Rick. "Can I talk to you? Outside." It wasn't really a question, but he did good on making it sound like one.
So the guy had no idea who the Brigade was. Or he was playing it very close to the chest. Or he had no idea who the Brigade was. Rick had no way of knowing, the guy was like trying to read a concrete wall. Without another word about it, Rick journeyed into the kitchen with him and Belle settled him with some meat to put against his lip while Bucky was treated to a home cooked meal. It was quite the treat, Belle's beef stew (her grandfather's recipe) was the best Rick had ever had in his life and he knew few people who would disagree with that assessment.
"Things woulda been a lot worse if you hadn't shown." Jeff said. "So you don't have to be sorry for anything."
"He's not wrong. We'll manage. We always do." Belle said, nodding in agreement with her husband.
Rick was a bit taken aback when Bucky directly addressed him, so much so that he almost jumped at the sound of the man's voice. It came very suddenly and jarred him a bit. After a second to register what he'd actually said, he nodded. Belle held up a tray for Rick to set the steak down on and, after thanking her, he moved to join Bucky outside.
"So, umm...again, thanks." Rick started to say, an unsettling thought settled into his mind. "Look, I'm not your enemy, I promise. I'm an ally. So are they, back in there. They won't say a word about you ever having been here and neither will I." He promised, hoping that would enough to smooth over any feelings of mistrust.
Then again, even Rick knew that pressing his luck was occasionally a more than bad idea...
Take no chances. Leave no loose ends.
Bucky had lived by those words for so long that it was hard to break the habit and routine, always taking one step and then another to ensure his own survival. These days though, it wasn't only about him, encompassed Steve as well and indirectly through everyone that he held dear, that were a part of that group. He did his best, put the effort in not only because he thought he had to, because he wanted to. It was a step closer to some form of redemption, however small that step was.
He savored the taste of the stew for as long as he could, didn't rush his meal and exchanged small pleasantries with Jeff and his wife, even surprised himself by sharing one of the few memories he had, one that he knew was real, namely Belle's father at the age of three hiding in a locker and getting stuck. Everyone that had been in the gym at that point had heard that angry scream when the door hadn't been able to swing open. Despite their claim that they would be fine and get by, Bucky made a mental note to check back sometime soon, if he could that was, without risking himself or them considering how highly sought he was by law enforcement. He was less worried about himself though. He could still be a ghost, if he needed to.
As he was stepping back outside, he was already scanning his surroundings, one sweeping glance before turning to Rick who was in making a valiant effort to dissuade any potential mistrust but it was a little too late for that. A quiet sigh, inaudible with head tilted forward before he unceremoniously reached out with his left arm and grabbed the front of Rick's shirt. His expression stern and glance in his eyes dark he lifted the young man up, not far but still enough that his feet wouldn't touch the ground, his arm bionic churning softly as he did so.
"Who do you work for?"
A part of his mind whispered to him, that he was better than this, that whatever he had used to be, wasn't him anymore. That everything could be forgiven or even partially revoked with enough right intentions and good deeds done. Bucky knew that voice well these days, had become a frequent one since he had emerged from his cryo-state. The voice was hope but belonged to a fool. There was no such thing as forgiveness for the things he'd done. He could claim mental disarray all he wanted, but at the end of the day, it had still been him, no matter what anyone said.
Another part of him, the more reasonable and louder one said that it was okay, that this was what he was and should be, the talent he should not waste. It could be used so others wouldn't have to. Given that this situation felt like a necessity, a ways to protect what needed to be protected, it didn't make him feel especially bad, if any at all.
There wasn't much of a reaction to Rick's first words, instead Bucky just watched him quietly and wondered if he should answer the question, despite it being theoretical. The answer was of course that everyone was that obvious, whether they wanted it or not. At least, to him. "I don't know Bruce Banner." He knew of the man, was aware of the connection to the Avengers and Steve, but in this case the supposed familiarity did the young man no favors. He hoisted him up a little higher, pressed him into the brick wall some.
"Kill you?" he echoed and one brow quirked up a little but he then almost immediately refocused back on Rick, something intense in his eyes. "Not this time. But if you compromise me or anyone else of of my associates, I will. Do you understand?"
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