-spreads arms- Well. Here it is; the much awaited sequel to Papabear. I hope I did it justice, and I apologize so much for the wait. Silly Pepper refused to get kidnapped correctly. Rude, right?

It's as simple as "Pepper hasn't shown up for work."

A simple sentence delivered in Rhodey's hard, unflinching tone, and his entire world shifts.

Tony can feel it, feel the world tilt under his feet until he's standing at an angle, feel the hum of the arc reactor keep his heart going on, the air push and pull his lungs. It almost feels wrong, how everything keeps on going, how his thoughts-his thoughts that he can never stop, nothing could ever stop his mind-slow down to an aching crawl.

Rhodey's in front of him, blocking his way out of the Tower. Rogers and Barton were behind him, hesitant, awkward, uncomprehending. Thor, somewhere, booming his questions at anyone listening, sounding confused and commanding like the prince he was as he demanded answers... Then they're all talking, first at him, then at Rhodey when he doesn't-can't-respond.

They don't know for absolute certain something's happened. There's been no phonecalls, nothing to suggest that Pepper hadn't just taken an impromptu day off or slept in or had the flu and just forgot to give someone a heads up.

Except that this is Pepper.

Even if it wasn't common knowledge that she was associated with not only Tony Stark, billionaire and philanthropist extraordinaire, also more than occasionally Ironman, but the Avengers as well. This was on top of being CEO of one of the most successful companies of the century.

Anything, anyone, could be after her, could want her-

Something presses against his back, another curling over his bicep, and he can see Natasha's fiery curls peeking over his shoulder, catches the glint of light off of Bruces' glasses at his side, and it's like taking a breath of air-like coming up after being underwater for so long-and his thoughts are racing again, faster than ever; he's had three hours of sleep the last four days, and he's never felt more alert.

It still takes him a moment to realize it's Natasha at his back, Bruce's hand curling over his arm.

"JARVIS," Tony snaps harshly, and all conversation halts. "Active the GPS in Pepper's Starkphone, and give me a last known visual confirmation, ASAP." He's moving, heading back to his workshop with Bruce trailing purposefully after him.

Rhodey's voice stops him, hard and unyielding as a soldier waiting for an order. "What can I do?"

He smiled, sharp and mean and full of cold, cold promise. "Skies clear?"

"They will be."

Natasha's nowhere to be seen after he turns away from Rhodey's only half deprecating salute, but JARVIS is already confirming last known visual location and Tony can't afford to worry.

If he's angry, he's focused. He can keep his hands steady and damaged heart calm, even if his mind buzzes and hisses like an angry hive, working in a single-minded intensity reserved for upgrades on the suit and his teammates equipment and gear when it fails them.

When they reach the workshop, Tony is already across the room with his arms elbow deep in holograms before the door has fully slid closed behind them.

"Last visual is the corner of Broadway, Sir. A bus drove by into the line of sight of the camera. When it passed, Miss Potts was gone." JARVIS' calming tones washed over the shop, silent and free of the usual heavy rock that would normally be playing at full volume.

"Last visual is the corner of Broadway, Sir. A bus drove by into the line of sight of the camera. When it passed, Miss Potts was gone." JARVIS' calming tones washed over the shop, silent and free of the usual heavy rock that would normally be playing at full volume.

"Pull up the feed for me. No other angles?" Tony demanded, hands and eyes flying over the bright blue of the hologram screen.

"No, Sir."

He watched, eyes burning when he refused to blink them so he could catch each detail the video had to offer, keeping it on repeat as it played again and again, the sight of a relaxed Pepper stepping out of her favorite little cafe and toward the street, waiting at the crosswalk with her phone pressed to her ear fraying his nerves more than when moments later, she was gone.

Bruce's hand, heavy and grounding on his shoulder, brought him back. He squeezed lightly.

"JARVIS, pull me Pepper's phone record. She was talking on the phone-I want to know who she was talking to. Get me... Hell, get me the records from the last three months, too, while you're at it. Recordings as well."

"Of course, Sir."

"What can I do?" Bruce asked quietly, earnest and fierce in a way he so rarely allowed, and Tony felt a surge of pride and gratitude well up to rival the fear and carefully capped rage he hadn't realized was threatening to choke him.

"Listen?" He replied, just as quiet, already throwing the audio recordings onto Bruce's screen. He didn't say anything, only adjusted his glasses and settled down in front of them, expression intent.

Pepper's phone, the GPS map tells him, was discarded in a nearby gutter only a few blocks from where she disappeared.

His eyesight go a little blurry around the edges at that, and he only realizes he's trembling when the words on the hologram whirl and spin and won't stop until he takes his hands away.

Steve comes down sometime later, silent and solemn; Tony doesn't even know what time it is. Every time he looks at a clock, all he can think about is Pepper gone, Pepper taken and being held and Pepper in Afghanistan, blouse bleeding red-

When he looks, Bruce has shoved a sandwich into his hand and is quietly sitting back in his seat, eating with his eyes closed and head tilted as he concentrates. He's wearing headphones.

Tony eats.

He's judging the distance they could have gotten in the time frame of three hours when Clint contacts him with the secretaries account of everything. Pepper left the cafe at seven ten, already on her way to work where she didn't show up at the usual seven thirty. The woman hadn't even thought anything of it even after an hour of Pepper still not having shown up, shrugging it off with what Tony knows must have been a 'Well she works with Stark she's allowed to be a little late once in a while' attitude.

Well, fuck her. Fuck her and her way of thinking, then, which wouldn't be so absolutely fucking wrong if it wasn't Pepper they were talking about-Pepper, the woman who came in early on her birthday for a board meeting Tony refused to go to, who never let the possibility of her arriving to anything late pass without a called in warning ahead of time, or text, at the very least even an email.

Fuck the woman, her shitty secretary skills, and fuck her for not knowing Pepper.

"Sir?" JARVIS murmurs, and Tony jolts harshly, scattering times and dates and names.

"What? Yeah, yeah, what is it, buddy?"

"Agent Romanov is requesting entrance. She says she has important information regarding-"

"Let her in," he says quickly, standing up and already making his way to the glass door when it whooshes open and Natasha strides in. Dummy, behind him, whirrs warily. There's a creak, a faint chirrup of relief and happiness in which Bruce must have ran a palm down the joints of the 'bot, just the way that he likes and never fails to calm.


"Tony." The assassins head tilts in greeting, eyes bright and sharp on his face. "You look terrible."

He barks out a harsh laugh. "Got anything nice to tell me?"

She holds up a folder at her side, one he didn't see when she walked in, and offers it to him. His hand is steady when he takes it, only catching her appraising head tilt from the corner of his eye as he's already scanning the contents of the folder.

It's not a very big file. It takes him less than a minute to go through the entire thing, but he goes through it three more times because there's no way any of it could be right.

"Sources?" He says, sharper than he intended. She snorted.

"You know I can't tell you that. Even if I could, you know I'm good. You know I'm good for it."

The file is carefully snatched from his hands before he can reply, Bruce's shoulder brushing against his arm as he flicked it open and began to read. A line almost immediately formed across the scientists forehead, lips pursing as, like Tony, he flipped back to the beginning and reread.

"I've heard of this name before," he said thoughtfully, slipping his glasses from his face and tapping them against the folder. He catches Natasha's arched eyebrow, and offers a wry half smile. "I was in India, not deaf and blind."

"I thought that overbearing prick was in jail." Tony interrupted, mouth twisted in cold displeasure. Natasha glanced at him.

"The last I heard, he'd been outed as a prison snitch." She inclined her head, one shoulder lifting and falling gracefully. "Stabbed to death in the cafeteria."

"Obviously not," Bruce said thoughtfully, tapping absently against the paper with his glasses as he squinted down at it. "This says Hammer's been spotted four times since he was supposedly killed."

"All by various shady organizations." Natasha nodded. "Nothing big time, but they've all made a recognizable name for themselves. Just enough to show up on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s radar, but not enough to warrant any real attention. My sources say he's looking for a partnership, but no one wanted to touch him since he's associated with Ironman. The only thing I've managed to get on him is a low-level group who actually listened to whatever he was spouting, but that's it."

Tony straightened, a small smile that had Bruce inhaling audibly on his face. "And now," he fairly purred, teeth flashing as he squared his shoulders and took a step back to his computer, fingers stretching and curling. "They're going to find out why they shouldn't have."

He's got the name of the group-The Rebellions, really, you uncreative fucks, really-and that's all he needs.

It takes him less than a day to get through the ranks. Each hour that ticks by sets his teeth on edge, makes the humming going on in his brain just that much louder, and his anger run colder. There's not that many members, fewer even for those that supposedly run it, but they're thorough in scrambling their data and leading to dead ends.

And Tony cannot find it in himself to be distantly, abstractly impressed by their forethought, because every name is being saved, every little detail copied and they will be remembered, every photo, every birthday, every favorite food-Tony will stare at them until they are burned on the backs of his eyelids, until he goes to bed at night and all he dreams about is them.

Until all he dreams about is finding them.

It's just two days after Pepper is taken, two days and he hasn't gotten a message berating him about missing another meeting, or forgetting a gala he promised to attend, or reminding him to eat.

If Bruce wasn't a constant reassurance, a constant presence in the background that, frankly, kept him sane. Absent brushes across his shoulders, his hand, the back of his neck; it grounds him, keeps him in the present, keeps Pepper's voice from completely digging into his mind and tearing it apart with all the possibilities.

When he finally reaches the very scantily documented M.C.H. in the Rebellions scrambled database, a new member, Tony knows he's found exactly who he was looking for, so pathetically easy.

"Bruce." He says, and his voice is low, a little hoarse from disuse, but so pleased that Bruce's head snaps up, his eyes instantly focusing on him. "Got'em."

He can see the war the man is having with himself over this, the internal argument, so when Bruce says, "I'll tell the others." it's the first time in days that Tony feels like the arc reactor is missing.

He breathes out something, it might have been Be back in five or it might have been Thank you, but either way, Bruce's eyes warm when he does. He has a split second to enjoy it before he's spinning around and ordering JARVIS to get the suit ready.

He's in the sky in ten minutes.

Flying through New York in seven.

Making his way into Jersey in three.

There were three major buildings the Rebellions used most; an abandoned fishing factory, a small cafe with an underground cellar big enough to smuggle at least half a football field worth of people in, and a strip joint.

No points for creativity. None.

And Hammer-well, as subtle as he likes to think he is, the man has an innate need to wave his stick, show the other kids on the playground that he can keep up with their games, too.

So. Biggest, swankiest building first. The play ground where all the big kids are at.

Hammer wouldn't have been able to resist.

It's pitifully easy to take out the two guards on the east side. He's not feeling particularly merciful; their unconscious status does not come quickly.

"JARVIS, give me heat signatures." He orders, and wordlessly the AI did as told. The stretch of land beside the water lit up like Christmas, warm bodies milling about, some men by the docks standing around and smoking, others doing less than wholesome, moral things in the upper levels of the fish factory, many of the goons hanging around on the ground floor, sitting around tables and shifting restlessly, drinking, smoking-


In the back, in the freezer. There was no power going to it, but there were bodies in there-five, total, two near the back, leaning against the wall and looking as if they were talking. Another two were in front, outside of the freezer, standing on either side of the door.

Near the center of the room, one of the bodies(slim, tall, Pepper) was sitting, arms angled weirdly in a way that told Tony her wrists were tied behind her. The body beside her, short, stout, it could only be fucking Hammer he would bet his entire fortune, all of it, on it, bent over close, face pressed near, and Pepper turned away, he could see it as the suit zoomed in.

Hammer reached over, jerking Peppers chin so they were facing each other.

He has no audio, can hear nothing but his own damaged heart thudding hard and restless in his chest, arc reactor nearly whining with effort, but he knows Pepper has just said something by the way Hammer straightens up, posture tensing for a moment before purposefully going lax.

Hammer rears back a hand and hits her.

And that's it, that's the end, that's fucking it, he is going to ruin him.

Tony doesn't even bother with a door or window; he charges the repulsors and blows the wall in front of him to crumbling concrete bits, and he's in there before the men around him have finished their alarmed yells.

His own personally adjusted tear gas fixes this, and the sound of bodies hitting the floor, choking and gasping, doesn't even give him a pause.

The freezer is easily accessed, pitifully so, the goons in the back taken care of with no effort thanks to well placed portable tasers shot from his upper forearms.

He shut the door.

"Stark," Hammer says, and it's terrified, hateful and almost calculating, as if he could somehow talk his way out of this, preen and smile and dazzle. The one thing he was good at, bullshitting cameras and people and tabloids, the one thing he actually succeeded at, and Tony was still better at it than him.

He smiles at the thought.

"Tony." Pepper's voice is hoarse and so wary, but he can't think about that now. If he does, he'll snap; there's only so far a man can be pushed, a Merchant of Death, and he doesn't want Pepper to see that.

He's done such a wonderful fucking job of protecting her so far, but he will shield her from that.

"Are you okay, Pep?" He asks carefully. From the corner of his eye, he sees her head bob in a way bordering on frantic before she catches herself.

"Yes." She says, and her voice is so much stronger now. Thatta girl. That's his Pep; taking no bullshit and no prisoners.

Which reminds him...

Tony advances on Hammer, who nearly trips over himself trying to back up.

"You can't hurt me." He says, but he doesn't sound too sure. Tony bares his teeth in a vicious smile.

"Oh, yes, yes I can, Hammer. In fact, you're going to get a front row seat on how absolutely I can hurt you."

"You... You can't do this. You're a superhero. You're a good guy! You can't hurt me!"

"Now," he purred, and it was vacant, utterly emotionless even for the suits usual robotic tone. "Who told you that?"

Besides the vivid blossoming bruise that Bruce himself looks over spreading across the side of her face, Pepper is safe, which is what matters. She's exhausted, a little dehydrated, but safe.

She stays at the Tower for a few days-or a week or three, no one is counting-and doesn't mention a damn thing about the whole affair except when she cupped his face in her hands when the S.H.I.E.L.D. Quinjet finally arrived and his helmet was off, raising up(though not that far, damn, those heels) to press her lips to the high arches of his cheekbones, murmuring, just once, "It's not you're fault, I don't blame you. You found me, I'm here, you're here, this is what matters, okay?"

S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't find Hammer, but then again, they don't exactly look in a little bumfuck prison in the wrong country in a less than moral town that takes 'assassination' attempts on their mayor-and resident drug dealer king-very well.

Tony Stark has money, and there is a not so surprising amount of things that can be done for the right price. Framing someone for something as simple as an assassination attempt doesn't even raise an eyebrow for his bank account.

Happy is more than happy to assist in the delivery.