On thing that was guaranteed to get the Rogers family up and out of the house by 7am was the need to take Thor out for a walk and get him some playtime off-leash. Prospect Park was the only place Martin would even consider going to with his beloved dog, and thus, everyone had to be up and out by 7am if they were going to get an hour or so of off-leash fun for the Husky before the rules stated he had to be attached to an owner again. It had become something of a ritual that happened every morning without fail, even during times like this, when Steve was needed elsewhere.
Lucy was quite happy to sit on a bench with Jamie and whatever toy he had brought with him, watching as Martin and Lianne took it in turns to throw the ball or frisbee for Thor to go chasing after wildly. She'd never been very at home with early mornings, but she'd had to adapt after having children. The addition of Thor and Cherie to their household almost a year ago hadn't really altered the routine much at all. Still, it felt strange to be here without Steve. He'd volunteered, through S.H.I.E.L.D., to go and help with the aid efforts following the path of Hurricane Matthew, too good a man in his heart to allow himself not to do something to help.
She missed him; they all missed him. But thankfully the children understood that he was doing something important, and were capable of putting up with only having Mama for a couple of weeks or so. She was lucky, she knew; if things got out of hand, or if she needed a break, she could always invite her little family to visit Rhy'Din, and let Johnny and Liv help with the parenting while she rebooted. But she was strangely determined to prove to herself that she was capable of being the only parent in the house for a short time without melting down.
She barely noticed when another dog-walker sat down on the bench with them, just giving Jamie a tug closer to make sure he didn't crowd the newcomer. Strangers at dog-time in Prospect Park didn't stay strangers for long. There was an odd camaraderie between people who had to get up at godawful hours to exercise their canine companions. It wasn't unusual to see dogs sharing balls and toys while their owners sat down and tried to pretend they were still warm in bed. Most people up at this time in the morning only did it because they had to, after all.
It took a moment to realize that her phone was ringing, shaking her out of her contemplation of Martin and Lianne seriously introducing themselves to another dogwalker to pull the device out of her pocket and hold it to her ear.
"Hey, you got me, I'm awake," was her greeting, but she was surprised that it didn't get a laugh.
"Lucy, it's Nat," the familiar drawl of a good friend made itself known on the line. "We just picked up intel that you're being shadowed. You need to take the kids home, right now. S.H.I.E.L.D. is sending a car."
Lucy blinked, and sighed. "I'm not even going to ask how you know where we are," she said resignedly. "All right, we're coming."
"Hang tight, so am I."
Hanging up the phone, Lucy raised her voice as she rose to her feet. "Martin! Lianne! Home time!"
But that, it seemed, was a signal of a very different kind.
As the two children turned toward her, the dogwalker talking to them snatched Lianne off her feet, holding the struggling little girl under one arm as his hand gripped Martin's wrist. The woman sitting on the bench with Lucy grabbed at Jamie, pulling him away from his mother even as he screamed at the unwanted attention. Another pair of hands landed on Lucy's arms from behind, intent upon keeping her from interfering. But Steve had been training his wife for the last three years. She wasn't as easy a target as most had been lead to believe.
Reacting without thinking, she thrust her elbow high into the face of the man holding her, hearing a satisfying crack when she made contact. The hands let go even as she screamed for Thor to protect his young owners, and she reached into the back of her pants for the gun she hated but always carried. One shot went into the thigh of the man behind her, and as the panic began across the park, she turned to aim at the woman trying to bear her struggling toddler away from her.
Thirty feet away, the man attempting to take Martin and Lianne was having trouble of his own. Martin's personal talents might not seem, at first, to be worth much in a fight, but when you attack an animal-telepath in a park filled with dogs, the response isn't exactly unexpected. It wasn't only Thor, their Husky, that responded to Martin's silent cry for help. Dogs were running in from every corner of Prospect Park, big and small, and no agent, however well trained, is capable of defending themselves against that many furious canines. He abandoned the children, and went down with a yell as furred bodies knocked him off his feet, and sharp teeth held him at bay.
Lucy, on the other hand, was not having as much success. The woman who had grabbed Jamie was not a run-of-the-mill agent. She was a fighter, and Lucy definitely was not. Lucy was a mother, though, and it was her children under threat. She might not have technique, but she certainly didn't lack for anger and motivation. Still, she just didn't have the training to protect herself against blows to her face and ribs, from the roundhouse kick that sent her sprawling in the grass with blood trickling from her nose and mouth. Groaning, she pushed herself onto her knees, raising her hands rather feebly to try and prevent the next kick.
Which never came. She heard a feminine grunt, and the surprisingly familiar sound of stun sticks crackling into life, together with other feminine sounds of pain. Little hands grabbed her jacket, and she hefted a sobbing Jamie up onto her hip as she stood, ignoring the stabbing pain that told her she had at least one broken rib. Ribs could be fixed, after all. Turning her head toward the park, she found Martin and Lianne running to join her, horrified by the fact that their mama was bleeding at all, and the familiar black-clad shapes of S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives moving to contain the two men already down.
"Tell the dogs to go back to their owners, Martin," she whispered to her elder son, letting both her older children hug close to her as they were surrounded by the agents she trusted. As Martin released his friends, Lucy's eyes turned to the sounds of fierce fighting closer to, and almost felt herself smile. Nat really had been on her way when she'd called, it seemed. And thank God she had been. Judging by the ferocity of that fight, there was no way Lucy could have held her own against the woman who had tried to take her youngest son.
She glanced the other way, into the concerned face of Agent Croft. He was gesturing toward the car park.
"This way, please," he said urgently. "We have orders to take you to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. Your house is already under guard, with no sign of intrusion. Captain Rogers is being informed, and transport made available to him."
Reassured, and if she was honest, incredibly sore after the minor beating she had just been given, Lucy nodded, sparing a last glance over her shoulder to see Nat deliver a very satisfying blow to her opponent before the little family was ushered away under armed escort. Even the dog had an armed escort holding his leash. S.H.I.E.L.D. might think they had dropped the ball on this one, but they'd risen to the challenge. As much as she didn't like them, Lucy knew they had just saved her family.
Maybe she should rethink her attitude when it came to them asking for her help in future.