He couldn't believe he was still doing this. Eli Bradley looked across the wide city landscape. It was nowhere near as large as New York, but that didn't matter. He stood atop the roof of some restaurant. A place he never learned the name of.
Of course, that was the same for everything in this city.
After their battle with the Scarlet Witch, after Eli had stopped her from restoring mutant kind, after…Cassie's death…
He hitched his breath. He felt the wind blow against his skin, he heard the night settle into a dangerous slumber. He had hung up his uniform. He swore he'd never wear it again.
And he kept to that promise…sort of.
Every day he found himself decked out in blue and white and red. There were moment when he stopped and stared at the American flag for minutes, just looking at it sway in the breeze.
He didn't know whether to be proud or ashamed. To people like him, the marginalized and forgotten, that flag meant nothing. But to others like him, those whose blood had been spilt protecting it, people like his grandfather, that flag meant everything.
Belief in the dream that flag stood for…
And here he was now, on top of a restaurant roof top, covered in the colors of that flag. Blue jeans that were ripped at the knees, a white shirt that stuck too closely to his chest, and a red jacket he had received a few years back and promised he never wear.
Another broken vow to add to his list.
Well…it wasn't exactly his uniform, right? He reached into his jacket and pulled out an old red domino mask.
He took a deep breath. "Here we go."
Eli kept to the shadows. He lurked behind dumpsters and garbage cans; he sprinted across roof tops so quickly that he was only a shadow. He was looking for anything that was wrong. In all his time as a Young Avenger, he had learned to look for what was hidden. Broken glass, trucks parked with their headlights on, just anything…
"Help! Someone help me!"
…or a cry in the darkness like that.
Without even thinking Eli bolted towards the noise. He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate. The voice was male…possibly late teens, early twenties, about three feet south.
He chuckled, either he had been watching too many movies, or he was really getting the hang of this vigilante thing.
The voice was getting louder, everything was coming into focus. There in the distance stood a man…a young man who looked as pale as a sheet of paper, surrounded by three well built guys who almost towered over him.
Jesus, did they really need three guys? Were these cowards really that scared of one dude? At least in New York the thugs had some kind of honor, but here, honor was just a word. Eli hid in the shadows, and surveyed the situation. Three men, one was armed with a knife, while the others had their hands in their jackets…there could be anything in there. He had to look closely and think. The easiest guy would be the one on the left, the man who stood with his back out and his legs bent. No balance in his stance…he'd be easy.
The guy with the knife was the biggest threat. Not for him, but for the victim. The safest bet would be to get between them as soon as possible. But he had to wait for the right opening…one wrong move and it could be…
He shook his head. He had to concentrate. There was too much at stake here.
He had to act fast…or this guy could…
"Alright fucker, hand over your wallet." The brute with the knife stepped closer.
"I-I don't have one."
"Bullshit!" One of his partners moved in and grabbed the victim by his jacket. The man with the knife was thrown back to the far side of the alley. "You've got until I count to three."
In a flash Eli ran to the towards the armed man, grabbed his hand and disarmed him in one quick motion. Before he even knew what had transpired…he was on the ground with a nose that gushed blood onto the street.
The second guy was easy. He wasn't even paying attention. In no time he was on the ground with a knot in his head. Hell, the thugs in New York not only had a code of honor, they were tougher as well.
The thug reared his hand back. "Three."
And he tried to launch a punch to his victim's face…but his arm wouldn't move. He turned his shoulders to see some freak in a mask, covered in red, white and blue.
He scoffed. "And who are you supposed to be? Some kind a Captain America rip off? A secret patriot or some shit?"
Eli smirked. "Yeah."
And before the guy could open his mouth, Eli's fist connected with his jaw, and he was on the ground like a rag doll. Eli sighed, he didn't even hit them that hard!
He looked to the victim, his body still shaking.
"Are you alright sir?" Eli asked.
He backed away, "I don't have any money. I-if that's what you're after."
Eli smiled. In his younger years he would have taken offense. He had just saved this guy and now he was seen as a thug, but he didn't let it bother him.
"You should get home. There streets aren't safe at night."
He turned around and ran off into the shadows. It didn't bother him because he knew what he was.
A secret patriot or some shit?
His grandfather never allowed anyone's opinions to stop him from doing the right thing. Same thing with Captain America, and Bucky, and Jeff Mace, and all of those men and women who fought for the colors he now wore.
Red. White. Blue.
He was no longer Patriot, that was the vow he made.
But that didn't stop him from being a hero.