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I Get By (With a Little Help From my Friends)

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            “SHE’S FUCKING GONE, STEVE!” Bucky raged, kicking angrily at the front door, hanging open. A spot of blood on the carpet, barely noticeable, had given them all the answer they needed. Nat stood behind them, lips pursed. “I want to know who got her, so I can kill them. Slowly. Painfully. Rip them apart piece by piece.” His eyes darkened with every word until they were black, gloved hands clenched angrily at his sides.

            “She couldn’t have gotten far.” Natasha replied, glancing around. “I’ll go do some recon. See if I can find anything, ask around. You guys check out the apartment. See if this person left anything.” She commanded, taking point when she realized Steve wouldn’t. Or couldn’t. The two nodded as Natasha strode down the stairs hurriedly.

            Bucky stalked through her apartment, eyes darting around as he searched for anything out of place. When he entered her bedroom, he saw the bed ruffled where she’d probably been sitting. He halted in his tracks, clenching his teeth and closing his eyes slowly. He needed to get a grip if he was going to be of any help, and he knew that.

            “Buck.” Steve’s voice came from in front of him. He opened his eyes to see Steve kneeling at the window. “They came in through the window the first time. Looks like they were rifling around in her stuff.” He glanced at the drawers of her dresser with clothing poking out of them. Ari was a fairly organized person, she wasn’t the type to have unfolded clothing shoved into her drawer. “There’s the little bugger.” He reached under her bedside table and yanked, removing a tiny device, no bigger than the tip of his finger. A bug. Bucky’s eyes went wide as he realized what it was. He’d planted bugs just like that for years. Steve met his eyes, realization dawning in them.

            “If Hydra has her, she won’t last long.” Bucky’s voice cracked, and he closed his eyes in self-deprecation. “This is all my fault. They saw her with me. They might be trying to use her to lure me back.”

            “This is no time for self-pity, Buck. She’s not dead yet.” Steve snapped, standing and taking on his Captain’s stance.

            “I’ll take that.” Tony strode into the bedroom in a pair of dark slacks and an Aerosmith shirt. He plucked the bug off of Steve’s finger and examined it closely. “It’s not active anymore. Whoever put this here shut it down as soon as they realized we were coming.” He glanced between the two. “I can take it back to the lab, see if I can locate where this thing’s home server is. If I can do that, it might narrow our search field.” He explained.

            “Get it done.” Steve nodded. Tony nodded back abruptly and stepped out of the room. A few seconds later, they heard his armor power up in the living room, and then a shatter as he burst from her living room window.

            “He couldn’t take the door like a normal goddamn human?” Bucky muttered. Steve smiled despite the situation they found themselves in.

            “Some people down here said they saw a black SUV pull up in the alley out back and then leave a few seconds later.” Nat’s voice came through their ears on the secure com channel.

            “Sounds like our guys.” Bucky huffed as the two of them left the apartment, closing the door behind them. Bucky and Steve strode down the stairs, taking them two at a time and passing a few concerned citizens as they did so before bursting out the back door. There were tread marks on the ground and the trash cans in the alley had all been knocked over. All the regular signs of a hasty retreat.

            “This was a crack job, Steve. They weren’t trying to take her.” Natasha stated as she joined them.

            “How do you figure?” Steve asked, turning to look at the widow. She was looking down at the tire tracks thoughtfully, head cocked to the side.

            “Come on. This is Hydra, a major terrorist organization. They’ve been kidnapping and killing people for decades right under our noses. Right under Shield’s nose. This was a rush. This was a move it or lose it kind of mission. They were watching her, but they weren’t trying to take her.” She explained, glancing at them.

            “It was too messy.” Bucky agreed, nodding his head. “Hydra plans their missions to every minute detail. Their kidnappings are meticulous, so it sometimes doesn’t even look like the person is gone. They forge plane tickets, text messages, even phone calls sometimes. Make the family and friends believe whoever they’re taking is on vacation or a business trip.” He continued Nat’s explanation.

            “And we’re sure this was Hydra?” Steve questioned unsurely.

            “It was definitely Hydra, cap.” Tony’s voice came over the comms. “It didn’t take long for me to crack their bug open. This is definitely Hydra tech.” He explained.

            “Did you find a home server?” Steve asked. Tony sighed heavily.

            “The signal is being traced through about a thousand different servers all over the world. It’ll take some time for me to figure it out. This is some professional work.” He replied.

            “Friday can’t track it?” Bucky demanded, itching to find his girl.

            “This work is high and tight. It’ll take Friday a bit to do it. Jarvis couldn’t even crack this thing quickly. They’re advancing their tech, that’s for sure.” Tony replied, just as frustrated about it as the others.

            “So, we’re sitting ducks for the time being.” Natasha concluded.

            “I’m afraid so, femme fatale.” Tony replied darkly. “Let’s regroup at the tower, call the rest of the squad in and see if we can’t find another way to track her.” He made the call.

            “Sure. That’s a good idea.” Steve agreed, no matter how much he wished he could run around New York until he found her. She was probably terrified, and God knows what they were going to do to her. The thought made him sick and he pressed down his dinner, swallowing dryly.

            The tower was too empty. They’d retreated to their quarters, agreeing to meet again in the morning and see if Tony could get any headway with the bug they’d planted. Bucky stood in the middle of their apartment, stripped of his tac gear and wearing a gray t-shirt with the Captain America symbol on the front, a gag gift that Steve had gotten him for his birthday, and a pair of loose sweatpants. With a sudden roar of anger, Bucky had upturned the sofa and the coffee table.

            “Buck.” Steve spoke softly from the hallway but didn’t approach. When Bucky got like this, when his anger got the best of him, it was easiest to just let him get it out. Bucky didn’t turn, head ducked to the ground with his chest heaving, fists balled at his side and shoulders around his ears. “We’ll find her.” He promised.

            “Yeah? In a fucking body bag?” Bucky roared, finally turning on Steve with a hateful gaze that Steve had rarely ever seen. The blond shook his head sharply.

            “No.” He spoke strongly, the one word conveying everything. I won’t let that happen. I’ll find her alive, okay, in one piece. I have to. We have to. She has to be ok.