Sleight of Hand @babykitsune_9
Chapter 33

Stepping through the...portal that Ichigo had created for them to travel with- was strange. Not painful or ticklish like other portals that any of them had ever encountered. Just strange. Though they didn't know what to expect on the other side- weirdly enough, they each trusted the girl enough to have their best interests at heart.

Or at least enough to not lead them into a trap of some kind that would end with them being captured by the US military or something.

Luckily enough, they were right in that regard. The girl obviously didn't care much for tricking people. Much less care much about the events that led to their falling out with her uncle.

Which was a huge relief.

Tony was vindictive enough.

So they didn't really want to have to deal with a mini him plotting their untimely demises too. However the second that they finished stepping through the portal, they all looked around to get their bearings.

Absently noting that they seemed to be located in a desolate looking place.

There weren't a lot of plants with the exception of some dried and dead looking tree's here and there. It was mostly rocks and dirt for as far as the eye could see with the exception of what looked like thousands of people in uniforms of some kind, milling around the area doing this or that.

Ichigo and Natasha were within their line of sight, looking as if they were checking something out when a blond man with a cane walked up to them and said something to the girl that had her looking vaguely concerned.

Steve's hackles rose automatically.

Especially when the guy reached out and grabbed Ichigo's upper arm and then tried to haul the startled/confused girl away which caused Natasha to intervene by hitting the man hard enough to double him over.

After that the woman wrapped her arms around the girl and stood there glaring daggers at the guy. At that point, Steve started to move closer to them to see what was going on.

He wasn't the only one either. Bucky, Sam, Clint, Wanda, and even T'Challa...began to follow him. Upon reaching Nat and Ichigo, the lot of them took up protective positions around the two as the blond finally stopped wheezing and slowly straightened his spine.

"It's not very nice of you to strike a friend, Miss Romanoff," He said as he cast a brief glance at the rest of them before dismissing them. Steve's hackles rose again at this. "I'm not trying to be a jerk here, kid. But you need to call off your new friends so that we can talk. It's urgent."

Ichigo blinked, but didn't say anything at first. So blond sighed and then gave her an aggrieved look and then said, "It's about the Hogyoku-"

The second that the guy mentioned the Hog-yo thingy, the girl went pale as a ghost. And tried to back away from the man, but couldn't really go far since Natasha still had her arms around her. But she'd backed herself into Clint who's hands came up automatically to grasp her shoulders as she finally said.


Her voice was shaky, and nearly inaudible.

But Steve and the others all managed to hear her anyways as the guy put one hand out in s placating gesture and started talking again.

"Ichigo, I know that you don't want to hear anything about the Hogyoku. Especially after everything that it's caused but-"

Ichigo pointed at him and said in a slightly panicked tone. "No."

"You really need to know. Chizuru came to me after Aizen's defeat. Once you had flat out turned down having it placed inside of you to keep it safe. And she offered to carry it-"

Ichigo's blue eyes got impossibly wide at hearing the man's words and she started shaking and chanting. "No! No! No! Kisuke tell me that you didn't!"

The blond guy moved so fast then that none of them could track him. One moment he was several feet away from all of them and the next, he had the girl by the shoulders and had knocked the lot of them down.

He could hear Sam and Bucky both bitching about the constant abuse they were getting from hanging out with him as they all pushed themselves up to see where the man was.

"She carried it inside of her so that you wouldn't have too!" The guy practically shouted at Ichigo while he shook her. The girl pushed at him, twisted her body this way and that in an effort to escape his grasp.

When he finally said in a much quieter, but determined tone, "Because of that we have to go and steal her body from the morgue. We have to bring it here and retrieve the Hogyoku and put it inside of it's new guardian. Ichigo!" His voice rose sharply as he gave the girl one last shake to make her listen to him. "We don't have a choice in this. None of us. We can't let someone else have it."

Ichigo went utterly still after that. Her eyes wide, shining with unshed tears and something that viciously twisted Steve's insides into knots.

He'd only ever seen expressions like that on Bucky after he'd had a really bad PTSD episode or a horrible nightmare about Hydra that he feared that he'd never wake from.

Steve hated seeing that expression on a kid regardless of the reason. His hatred of that expression was only compounded by the fact that Ichigo was the only living blood kin of Tony.

He slowly got to his feet, though he kept his eyes focused entirely on the blond man and the girl. Watching how Ichigo seemed to fold in on herself as if she couldn't hold herself up anymore, it was something that Steve had seen many times. A physical expression of pain and defeat that actually had him flinching while his mind raced.

Just what inhuman horrors had the girl seen? Felt?

Sure he and the others knew about the dying thing. Or the non-dying thing. Whatever the case may be.

Still, he couldn't help but wonder just what the hell the girl had been through to make her break down like that at the mere mention of a name.

As he stared at the man while he wrapped his arms around her and tried to comfort her as best as he could until she finally pushed him away and wiped her eyes and face of any traces of the tears that she'd just cried and muttered darkly, "I really hate you sometimes Kisuke."

"I know, kid. I hate me too sometimes," The man said back with a slightly strained looking smile as he reluctantly let his arms drop to his sides and then turned to them and said politely, "Avenger's, welcome to our gathering. I'm Kisuke Urahara, a shopkeeper...and friend of young Ichigo's. You have questions?"

"You're damn right we have questions. Especially after that little episode we just saw." Steve said coldly as he stared the man down as Clint blurted out.

"What's the Hog-yo-ki thingy that you were talking about before? Why'd it upset the kid so much?"

The man merely stared at them for a moment before his eyes started to glow menacingly, sending chills racing down each of their spines while he simply replied, "If I told you, I'd have to kill you."

Which seemed to prompt Ichigo into smacking him.

The guy looked so startled by the blow from her that he completely lost any menacing feel that he'd been projecting at them as he absently started to rub his cheek and shouted, "OW!"

"You had that coming. So stop threatening our guests." Ichigo hissed at him before then tacking on, "You simply could have said that it was something that they didn't have clearance for."

"That doesn't mean that you needed to smack me!" The man groused at her.

"Again, you had that coming for dumping this on me out of the blue like this." Ichigo said as she crossed her arms over her chest and merely stared at him, hard. "Besides, if the Hogyoku was inside of Chizuru when she died; then shouldn't you have brought that up before now?"

The man suddenly found the ground underneath his feet interesting before slowly saying, "When you called, and told me to activate the code The Substitute, then I was kind of shocked. I hadn't realized that Chizuru was even dead until you mentioned her. So I kind of got distracted implementing the code, doing a headcount, and checking to make sure that Chizuru was actually deceased and not just missing. So I...sort of forgot all about the Hogoyku until a little while ago."

The totally incredulous look on the girls face was telling. So was the fact that she opened her mouth, shut it. And then repeated the process another few times before finally screaming, "What the hell Kisuke?! The Hogyoku is capable of destroying everything! And you just...forgot?"

Loki was the first to know that Ichigo had returned.

Aside from her little group of friends, that is.

There was simply something about the girl's presence whenever she was nearby that could be felt. Almost like a physical caress. He'd noticed it when they had been back at the Avenger's...home?

When she had been attempting to calm everyone down and talk to them about him remaining with them.

It had been an odd thing for him to notice. But being as he was a god as well as a being of magic. He figured that whatever he was feeling was coming from elsewhere at first.

Perhaps a new Avenger who wielded magic their self?

However the more he spent time in her close proximity, the more easily it was to place as something that stemmed from Ichigo.

Perhaps it was some latent ability that she may/may not know of but used to check on others? Or even to announce herself to them without being in the same immediate vicinity?

Whatever the case, he was the first to take notice. Though it was overhearing several of her friends speaking that confirmed his suspicions.

And of course since she was back from...wherever she had traveled, he felt the need to get up from where he'd been sitting for the past few hours and go in search of her. With his brother following close behind him with Bruce tucked underneath one of his arms, he didn't have to feel self conscious about walking around such a large group of unknown people and possibly being attacked by someone.

It took several minutes of walking. But they finally found the girl surrounded by people- the former Avengers no less- with her hands over her face and chanting, "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my fucking god!" Every few seconds while her friend...Kisuke? Talked to her about something that seemed to be distressing her.

The fact the the former Avenger's were present gave Loki pause. Though it wasn't because he was afraid of them. It didn't however stop Thor from calling out happily.

"Lady Ichigo! It's good that you have returned to us!"

Loki slowly turned his head to look at his grinning brother as the girl and everyone else turned their heads to look at them. Their expressions were a mixture of anger, hatred, and of course, pure confusion when one took in Thor walking towards them with Bruce tossed over his shoulder, snoring.

"This isn't going to be good." Loki muttered to himself before sighing and then decided to fall into step behind his brother with the hopes that he would at least be able to shield him a bit from some of the brewing chaos that was about to erupt around them.

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