Sleight of Hand @babykitsune_9
Chapter 12

Ichigo managed to sleep on the couch for a solid five hours. Giving Pepper and Happy enough time to return from their work for the day before she finally woke up.

Which was both nice and a little bit weird since she woke up just in time to zombie-shuffle herself over to the dinner table and flop down in a chair and make herself a plate of food and then spent a good hour in a half alternating between nodding off and eating it.

Happy found it hilariously funny. Pepper found it a little bit funny/concerning. And even at one point took Ichigo's plate away from her before she could doze off again and face plant in it.

And Rhodey- well, all he could manage to do was snigger and shake his head as he watched the kid. He sat there the whole time thinking, Wow, that's all Tony right there. After all, how many times over the years had he seen Tony work himself into the ground and do the same exact stuff? Zombie-shuffle and all.

Honestly, in those moments the resemblance between his best friend and the kid were beyond uncanny.

He'd been wondering up till now if they even had the right kid. He simply hadn't said anything because if he had Pepper would have maimed him.

Everyone knew that the Supreme Ruler didn't make mistakes after all. Mistakes were for normal people like himself. Still...

Even so, Ichigo seemed...pretty damned put together for just a sixteen year old girl. Especially given the fact that she had a confirmed former military career where she'd not only seen actual combat but killed people too.

Didn't soldiers who fought some really bad battles tend to have PTSD and stuff?

He kept wondering if maybe they should have Friday monitor her at night to see if she woke up from night terrors and stuff. For safety's sake. That way if the girl needed a good therapist- or even a whole slew of them like her dad usually did- then they could take care of that.

After all, the last thing that he wanted was for the girl to suffer a decline in her sanity or even struggle with PTSD and mental illness like Tony sometimes did. His friend would never forgive him if he left his little girl to suffer alone and without the proper medical care.

"Ichigo. Hon, do you think that you can make up your mind between whether you want sleep or food?" Pepper asked in amusement as the kid literally face planted on the table, snorted, and did a funny full body twitch that Rhodey liked to call the 'meth' twitch.

Tony did that pretty often too. Though it had been a while since he'd seen someone face plant onto the table quite as hard as Ichigo's just had- and not wake up or even stir immediately afterward.

"No." The kid said as she turned her head to the side and gave Pepper a sleepy one eyed look from under her bangs for a moment as her hand reached out across the table to her dinner plate and hooked a finger on it and slowly began to drag it back towards her.

Totally ignoring the fact that Pepper tried to stop her by smacking the back of her hand before letting out a frustrated growl and letting the kid have it back.

Happy and Rhodey both snorted in quiet laughter as Ichigo slid her plate close to her head and then moved it ever so slightly to rest her chin on the edge of it in an undignified manner and started to finger feed herself. Slowly.

Even he could tell by now that the kid was deliberately antagonizing Pepper by her actions. Which was shocking to him since people generally went out of their way in an attempt not to antagonize the woman. But if the woman realized what the girl was doing, she didn't show it any. Nor did she rise to the bait any either.

Instead she simply rolled her eyes at the girl but laughed softly anyways when Ichigo accidentally missed her mouth and wound up smearing mashed potato's on her face when her eyes drifted closed again and stayed closed this time.

She stayed like that even after dinner ended and Pepper managed to wrestle the plate away from her again without spilling anything or dropping it.


Despite having been left to sleep at the table all night, Ichigo didn't seem the least bit bothered at all by any soreness/stiffness in her neck, shoulders, or back.

In fact after managing to pop them all rather painfully loud- causing himself and Happy to literally cringe- at the sound of her bones popping...she seemed to be good to go for the day. And had meandered off to take a shower before she even bothered with anything remotely breakfast related.

Once she was done, and dressed- she returned to the common room to re seat herself in the chair that she'd slept in and asked Pepper, "What's on my agenda today?"

Pepper picked up the Stark phone that she always kept on her and looked up Ichigo's schedule to check it before then saying, "You have at least four more days of freedom before I get to take you to SI with me. Which is good... Especially the board of directors and a lot of others are demanding to meet the new boss-"

"So I'm free today."

It wasn't really a question. Merely a need to be totally sure that she was free for the time being. Pepper made a humming sound as she took a bite of her breakfast and nodded her head as she shut down her phone and then put it away again.

"Did you have something that you wanted to do?" Happy asked curiously. "If so then I can drive you wherever you want to go."

"I have no real set destination in mind," Ichigo said after a moment or so of thought. "I woke up this morning and just realized that I haven't been seen doing anything out in public since the press conference..."

"So you were thinking of going out and being seen." Pepper finished for her. Ichigo didn't really say anything as she reached across the table and grabbed one of the orange cranberry muffins from the plate between them.

"Yeah. Something like that. But the truth of the matter is, I have no friends to hang out with. I could try simply doing something that kids my age do-"

"Like walk around a mall, shop, get hit on by boys-" Pepper said.

"Boys suck." Rhodey deadpanned almost absently. Barely listening to the conversation since he had been the last to awaken and had only had one cup of coffee so far. Thus deeming it too damned early to pay attention to anything at all. Yet wanting to add his two cents to the conversation anyways so that everyone would remember that he was in the room to veto all of their ridiculous ideas.

Despite the fact that they could still see him and didn't really need the reminder.

Both Ichigo and Pepper looked at the still slightly asleep man and shared a knowing grin before Ichigo uttered.

"Yes. Boy's suck." Which got her a somewhat unhappy look from Happy who was already worried about where she was going with this. She gave him an apologetic look and then decided to plow onward. "So I was thinking, that since boys suck and all- Maybe I could do something else. How do you guys feel about animals?"

"Love em." Rhodey said as he set his coffee cup down, looking just slightly more aware of what was going on now. Happy looked...marginally less upset about where the conversation was going and perked up a little bit in his seat.

"I adore animals." Pepper said before quickly tacking on. "But if you get any, then you're taking care of them. Your sixteen, not six. So don't expect us to clean up after your pets."

"That's fine." Ichigo said easily before she then started asking questions about what kind of pet they would prefer that she get. Rhodey and Happy seemed to like the idea of a dog being around.

Which was understandable since they could train it to be a guard dog for her. But she didn't exactly like the idea of putting an animal in any sort of danger if she could help it. So she began to wonder if she should just get something small.

Pepper liked the idea of a cat or two or even ten. Whatever.

Though she pretty much suspected that much before the woman even spoke. She sort of liked the idea of having a couple of cats for companions too. But worried that if their home was attacked then there chances of them being injured or killed was substantially higher.

Depending on their size, age, over all health and so on.

Getting specially trained animals- while nice- wouldn't help any that might already be looking at certain death at an local animal shelter. And while no kill shelters held mostly the surrendered, abandoned, or even lost and suffering from injury and abuse...

If she had to get an animal- she preferred to save a life.

But she also knew that rescue animals had it almost just as bad given how cramped and overwhelmed no kill shelters tended to be. And she couldn't really exclude any animals from them from any prospective adoptions either.

It would be cruel to deny any of them a home if she found what she wanted at either of the places.

I'll have to check out all of them I guess. She thought to herself as she made a mental note to see about helping some of the local animal shelters avoid killing some of their charges by fixing up a place for them and seeing if she could find them homes.

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