Falling was always an unusual sensation. The world was speeding past, wind whipping the body this way and that, and then, the sudden, hard stop at the end. Of course, in a normal person, that stop would shatter every bone and kill them instantly. What else would happen? It just didn’t make sense for someone to drop from around thirty thousand feet or so, hit concrete and leave a crater, then stand up. Of course not. Most people would have thought that was true in New York before there was an alien invasion by a Norse god repelled by another Norse god, a super soldier, a man in a flying suit of armor, two assassins, and a rage beast.
It wasn’t any wonder when a falling man came crashing down in the middle of New York and left a hole at least fifteen feet wide and five feet deep, no one was all that surprised. People gathered around curious and looked down, not sure what it was, but it was covered with rubble and smoking from the impact. The figure, however, wasn’t getting up. An ambulance showed up a few moments later, but considering the strangeness of the situation, they didn’t want to go down to see what it was. A few more minutes later, a helicopter came down and hovered over the gaping opening in the street and a couple men rappelled down. Soon after, a backboard came down, and those watching saw what looked like a person being put onto the backboard and lifted up, followed by then two men. The helicopter went up where it rendezvoused with the SHIELD helicarrier above them.
Street maintenance came out and began fixing the crater, and the people of New York went about their lives once more. There was a small blurb on the evening news, and that was all that was heard about the man that fell from the sky. At least, by the public at large.
On the helicarrier, it was another story all together. Everyone was bustling and Fury had already put a call in to the Avengers to get to helicarrier immediately. They had no idea what they had, but they had something that had managed to survive a fall from around thirty thousand feet and looked perfectly fine other than being unconscious and having shredded clothing. Fury now stood outside the med bay as the man, boy really, by the look, was put through multiple scans. Already, Fury was working out the possibilities. The obvious was that he was another attempt at the super soldier project. There were alien possibilities as well, though he did not appear to be alien in origin. Of course, the biggest question was what the individual’s intent would be. Concepts of good and evil were popularized in the media, but Fury knew better.
He watched as the doctors and nurses worked around the body. He hadn’t moved the slightest bit since they pulled him out of the crater. He already knew that he was going to have an argument on the team. Stark would want to investigate before making a conclusion. Rogers would want to take a better safe than sorry approach. He would have to decide before they arrived or else the bickering between those two would drive him out of his mind. He tapped thoughtfully against his lip as he watched. The doctor came out a second later.
“Director, sir, the scans reveal him as human. Mostly human, I should say. I can’t pin down an actual DNA sequence. He has blood, but the elements are off, I can’t explain it. It may be my instruments aren’t sensitive enough for this,” the dark haired man said sadly.
“You’re betting that Stark would have better luck,” Fury said, looking at him.
“Sir, I hate to tell you what to do, but Mr. Stark tends to solve problems like this easily. He was the closest to understanding Asgardian magic, and no one else can replicate the things that he does, like the arc reactor for example,” the meek doctor said nervously.
Fury nodded. “Thank you,” he said, dismissing him. Always back to Tony Stark. It seemed like he would have to lean toward siding with Tony to get what he needed. He’d need Tony to use his unique talents to understand what this being actually was and if he started off on the wrong foot when they arrived, he’d decide to disagree with everything Fury said. Tony had been unusually accommodating with everything since they started hunting up Hydra in efforts to locate the Staff Loki had brought to Earth.
“Director?” came another voice behind him. Fury turned to see one of the female scientists that had been assigned to look over the weapon the boy had been found with. “We’ve secured the weapon we found with him in the next bay. We are having no luck with analysis.”
Fury nodded. Again, the only one who would be able to figure out how to even test the weapon would be Stark. Sometimes he hated his job, having to figure out how to not only assess the threat this unknown person posed, but figure out how to manipulate Stark into doing what he wanted without the brilliant man realizing that he was being manipulated. He sighed and watched. A few minutes later Fury felt a presence and turned to see Bruce, Tony and Steve had all arrived. Clint and Natasha were doing recon on a suspected Hydra base, and Thor was at Avengers Tower ready to come at a moment’s notice should Fury need him.
“So, we’ve got a mystery,” Fury said as they strapped the figure’s legs and arms down to the bed. “He landed in the middle of Manhattan. Left a fifteen foot crater, good five or six feet deep in the asphalt. As you can see, his clothes were shredded, but he seems to be fine other than being unconscious, not a wound on his body now, though when he was found, he was bruised and cut. His body seems to have healed completely in the last five hours since he was picked up.”
Steve looked through the window of the medbay as the doctors and nurses walked around taking readings. “What’s he wearing?” he said, glancing at the remains of the black, wide legged pants that were tied on with some sort of white sash. He wore a black cloak style jacket that had bands over his chest with black gloves.
“Some sort of ancient Japanese style dress, from what the boys in research can tell, authentic, and not made of any material we’ve ever seen. However, there is no record of something that looks exactly like what he’s wearing. Whatever it is, it seems to be mending itself,” Fury said with a nod at the places that a moment ago had been ripped. “And other than that, he has a modern haircut,” he said as the nurse picked up the back of the bed to reveal that he had a head full of spiked, short hair that was an obnoxiously loud orange color. There was something like a high collar or something on his neck.
“And he had a sword,” Fury said, taking them to where the next room was secured with a guard outside. Inside, on the table was a long, thin sword that had a very unusual shape and a pitch black blade. “The sword is very real, but there are no forging marks. So we don’t get what exactly made that sword. We honesty can’t do any measurements on it to even begin to tell what the thing is made of.”
They stepped back in front of the medbay where the boy was still laying quietly unconscious. Bruce looked at Fury who nodded at him. “Go ahead, see what you can make of him,” Fury said. Bruce went and headed into the room to look him over.
Tony stepped up beside Fury and looked into the room. “So, any idea at all?” he asked.
Fury shook his head. “We’ve got nothing. He just appeared, from what we got from area radar, about thirty thousand feet up. He hit terminal velocity. His teeth should be powdered with that impact.”
Steve nodded. “I probably could survive that kind of fall,” he said, looking at him.
Fury nodded. “That’s what worries me. What if we’re dealing with another super soldier experiment? We know Hydra has the scepter and we don’t really know what abilities it might infuse into someone. Hydra is only one of many who would try. And there are other possibilities. He’s not Asgardian, we already compared his readings to both Thor’s and Loki’s, so there isn’t a match there. He isn’t Kree, we’ve compared the readings to what we know of that race. The truth is we can’t get a good idea with our instruments.”
“Well, we could move him to the tower when he wakes up if he doesn’t have need of medical care,” Tony said with a nod, already reading where Fury was headed.
Steve put a hand up and shook his head. “No, Stark, we need to put him in a secure cell.”
Tony glared at him. “There’s no reason to think there’s any reason to put him in a cell. You’re the one that wants to find Bucky and reform him, why aren’t you all on trying to get this guy on our side?” Tony said, knowing that it would incite the old argument.
Steve bristled. “Bucky is different. I know him underneath what Hydra did to him.”
Tony snorted. “Well, you’re willing to try and reform someone completely reprogrammed to kill you, but not take fifteen minutes to do an assessment on this kid?”
Steve started to argue and Fury put his hand up. “No, Steve, he’s got a point. Better to keep him in an area where we’ve got eyes on him all the time and can access exactly what his potential for danger is right now without ruining any chance at gaining allegiance.”
Tony turned to Fury and scowled. “Is that all you see in there? An ally or an enemy?”
Fury looked at him and sighed. He already knew that was coming, just like the argument between Stark and Rogers. It seemed like no matter what over the last month, if one of those two said something, the other would argue it. He was beginning to wonder if Rogers said the sky was blue if Tony was going to argue it was an off color of cerulean. Knowing Stark, he probably would. The good news was, they seemed fine in the field. For some reason Tony refused to argue with Steve on missions, and became rather passive when he was in the suit, even bantering back and forth with him.
Inside the med bay, Bruce was turned away in the room when the boy’s eyes fluttered open and closed. He frowned and rolled his head. Tony stood up and started to knock on the window but the kid’s eyes shot open. It looked like he realized that he was somewhere unfamiliar and he was restrained. His eyes darted from one arm to the other but he otherwise didn’t move. He couldn’t see outside the window, so he had no idea anyone else besides Bruce was there. Fury put his hand on Tony to hold him back so they could see what he did. Fury wasn’t worried. The room was equipped with a suppression field that would take out three hulks. From the kid’s regenerative capability, he had an idea he could take that kind of suppression.
The boy scowled, and yanked both arms up at the same time, efficiently snapping the bindings off his arm, and getting Bruce’s attention with the sound.
He was reaching for the bindings on his ankle when Bruce turned toward him, and Tony went around into the room, followed quickly by Steve. Tony and Steve were both going into the room for different reasons. Steve was wary and ready to react, though a part of him was curious to see if this was a possibly successful super soldier. Tony wanted to find out who and what the kid was, his curiosity of finding something completely and totally new and interesting overriding his better judgment.
“Hey there, kid,” Tony said, sliding up beside him and grabbing his hands before he could snatch the leg restraints off of himself, surprising him. Tony smiled as he turned to stare at him. “Hey, you’re okay?”
The young man frowned and tipped his head to the side. “English?” he said softly.
Tony exchanged glances with Bruce. “Um, yeah, we speak English, do you?”
He licked his lips and frowned. “Hai, I do, I don’t often speak it, so I may not be fluent.”
Tony nodded, pulling his hands away from the ankle restraints. “I’m guessing you speak Japanese, by the look,” Tony said, letting his hands go and picking at the leg of the boy’s pants. “You got a name?”
“K-Kurosaki Ichigo,” he said, looking around the room. “I…how…I was in…and there was a blast…and…”
Tony nodded, sitting down beside him on the bed, more to keep him talking than anything. Bruce was working behind him, running some detailed brain scans now that he was awake, and Steve stood to the side. Tony could tell that Steve was set to attack if need be. Fury was still outside, Tony guessed, watching beyond the glass.
“Kurosaki, that’s your family name, right?” Tony asked. “Ichigo is your given name?”
Ichigo nodded. “Yeah,” he said, looking around the room still.
“Okay, well, I’m Tony Stark, that’s Dr. Bruce Banner, and Captain Steve Rogers. You’re on a helicarrier owned by SHIELD, a military type thing that we work for,” Tony said, watching his eyes. He was alert. “We kind of found you in the middle of New York where you fell from about thirty thousand feet in the air.”
Ichigo frowned and nodded. “Yeah, I remember falling. I was fighting, and the garganta, an opening between worlds, opened behind me, and someone, one of the arrancar, the guys we were fighting, they pushed me through, and then I was falling. I’ve never seen one open so high. I couldn’t stop, usually I can use my reiatsu to stop myself from falling, but it wasn’t working, and my shihakuso was shredded, so I knew something was wrong with my reiatsu…” he said, looking around still.
“What’s that? Reiatsu?” Bruce said, looking at him over a tablet he was making notes in.
“Um, spiritual pressure, I…wait, you can see me?” he said, suddenly realizing that they were all looking at him. “Ah, damn I wish my kido was better,” he muttered, not able to sense reiatsu was such a detriment sometimes.
Tony was watching him closely. His eyes were definitely Asian, almond shaped and deep brown, but his hair was such an odd color. He’d met quite a few Japanese businessmen in his time, and spoke conversational Japanese, though he was nowhere near fluent in the language, well not quite yet. The Asian languages were complex, and while given a little time he’d know them…he wasn’t in the position to do that now. Tony saw some things he recognized. The calculating gaze of a fighter if Tony didn’t miss his guess, the alertness of someone who had been in battle many times, and the tightly wound nature of someone used to reacting to things were all present.
“So, you know how to use that sword you had with you?” Tony asked, pointing to the sword.
Ichigo’s head whipped to the side. “Zangetsu!” he said. “Where is he? Give him back to me,” he said, eyes narrowing at Tony and then Bruce and Steve.
“Him?” Bruce asked, frowning at him as he unfrosted the glass into the next bay where the sword was held. They had wanted to keep the sword in close proximity to test if he had any effect on the sword outside of touching it.
Ichigo grit his teeth and glared at them each again. He could see that the sword was fine and still in bankai, like his clothes. “He’s fine,” he said softly with a sigh. “Good, whatever happened didn’t hurt him. Kami, thank you,” he muttered. “I was so afraid, Ojiisan,” he said, looking through the window at the strange, solid black sword.
“Ojiisan?” Tony said. He thought that meant grandfather or something.
“Well, I have to make sure he’s still there!” Ichigo said, closing his eyes and sensing Zangetsu vividly. It was actually much different, he could hear him and Shiro very faintly even without entering the inner world. He frowned as Zangetsu related what had happened to him. “He’s upset, of course, we’re not…we’re not in the right place,” he said, looking around. “This…this isn’t my home, this isn’t…wait, seriously?” he said, eyes still closed and head tilted to the side. He wasn’t completely slipping into his world, just brushing the spirit’s consciousness. How do I get home, Zangetsu? he asked him concerned. Ichigo, there may not be a way to get home.
“Rest, Zangetsu,” he said softly, closing his eyes and the thin blade in the next room, becoming much larger and looked to nearly be as long as he was tall, and broad with only a thin black wrapping to cover the metal of the hilt. His clothes changed, too, shifting from the long coat in red and black into a simpler black tied tunic, but there were still black bands on his neck, as though the very pattern was a part of his body.
“Oh, maybe that was a bad idea,” he muttered, his eyes rolling up. “Seems bankai was keeping me awake,” he said as he fell back into the bed unconscious again.
Tony frowned and looked up at Bruce. Bruce shook his head. “I can’t explain this at all, the readings are impossible.”
Tony sighed, rubbing his face. What in the world was going on?
Ichigo Kurosaki had no idea why he’d agreed to it so soon after Soul Society had given him his powers back. He should have told them to leave him the hell alone after what they’d done to him. Ichigo couldn’t help the anger that had welled up inside of him. After almost a year, leaving him on his own and assumingly powerless, they come back with these claims that they wanted to help him. Help him, indeed. Yes, they’d helped him handle the Xcution situation, but almost immediately, he was asked to help them by going to Hueco Mundo again. It was obvious that they helped him to help themselves. He’d gone in with Uryuu, Rukia, Renji, Chad and Orhime, of course, they had the most experience with Hueco Mundo. It seemed that they couldn’t spare anyone else from Soul Society. It didn’t matter. Ichigo just wanted to destroy hollows and vent some of the frustration he was feeling.
He and Uryuu had been together when a quadrupedal hollow charged him. It was as though the thing had a homing signal on him directly. Ichigo had no idea why, but it wasn’t that much of an issue. He swung down, releasing a getsuga only to see the thing sonido, and that’s when he realized it wasn’t an adjunca class hollow, it was an arrancar. Not only was it an arrancar but it was in full ressureccion.
“Ichigo! Back up!” yelled Uryuu, pulling the glowing blue bow into existence and taking aim at the arrancar.
“I can’t!” Ichigo yelled, tumbling head over foot with the creature that had pounced him.
He’d managed to hold to Zangetsu, somehow, and was pushing the creature’s snarling teeth away from him with the blade. The blade wasn’t cutting it. The blade was no more than a blunt implement to this creature. He managed to get his feet up and kicked the thing in the underbelly only to have both feet go into it and become trapped. This was quickly going from bad to worse. An arrancar he couldn’t cut. An arrancar that could trap someone’s limb when they attacked it. This was really bad. Uryuu couldn’t take a shot either, if he did, there was a very good chance his Quincy arrow would go through him as well.
He heard Rukia’s voice. “Uryuu, what’s that? Ichigo!”
“Don’t attack it!” Ichigo screamed, turning his head from the pointed snout. It kind of looked like a fox, come to think of it. The Arrancar took after beasts and other creatures, so why not a fox? Grimmjow had been a panther in resurreccion. “It has me trapped under it, I can’t get free…it has my feet inside it…”
Rukia froze. She knew hollows with that power. She had seen a hollow consume and become Kaien before she had to kill her friend and lieutenant. She couldn’t watch Ichigo die that way…not after all they’d done to get his power back to him.
“Renji!” she yelled at the tattooed red-head behind her. “Can your bankai do something?”
Renji stopped. “It might take Ichigo out as well. Maybe Orihime?”
Ichigo felt the world warping around him and there was emptiness under his back. The arrancar stopped snarling and smiled. Well, it smiled as well as something with a fox snout could smile. The world titled and he saw a vivid red string wrapping around the arrancar and going into his chest.
“The hell is that?” he muttered, feeling something pulling on him from below.
He turned his head and saw the thick red string running down through something like a garganta below him. It wasn’t a spirit ribbon. This…this was different. And it was suddenly gone from the arrancar above him and it shrieked. Then, he looked up to see it explode from one of Uryuu’s arrows where before they had glanced off the creature’s skin. Had the red strings been protecting it? He glanced to his chest and the string now flowed out and down into the darkness.
He saw Rukia’s face and the horror on it. What was she seeing? He arched backward and screamed because it felt like he was being ripped apart. The only part of him that felt like it wasn’t pulled to pieces was his chest where the red string had entered him, and now, he was being pulled by the string through nothingness, pure blackness, deeper than the Dangai. Everything and nothing was happening at once, and he knew that something was happening that was irreversible. Something inside of him told him that this, unlike his many trips across the worlds, was a one way trip.
Then, suddenly, he was staring into a blue sky. He blinked, his head still spinning violently and he was falling. He could hear the wind whipping his Shihakuso back and forth. He could hear the sounds of traffic below him. Before the world blanked out, he heard manic giggling in his head.
He awoke with a start and a gasp the second time. He was still restrained, but he was more than capable of breaking them again. However, he was alone in this place. Zangetsu said that they were in the “wrong world” and that he didn’t know how to get back. He looked around the darkened room to see the dark haired guy from before; Tony Stark was his name, sitting in the corner with a tablet. Ichigo was quiet for a moment and assessed what he’d seen before.
Tony Stark seemed to be the one in charge in some ways, and earlier he’d been wearing a suit and tie like some sort of businessman, yet he had on converse sneakers with it. The blond, Captain Rogers Tony had called him, wore slacks and a button up shirt and looked vaguely like half the old men who played mahjong down at the tea house in the afternoon. The Doctor, Bruce Banner, looked somewhat meek, with messy brown hair and a white lab coat over a simple polo shirt and a pair of relatively new looking slacks. Both the Captain and the Doctor wore dress shoes. Tony, however, seemed to be the one that while the most well dressed, also was the most comfortable. He adjusted and saw that Tony had taken off the suit jacket and button up shirt and sat in a black tank shirt and his black slacks. He was still wearing the dark blue converse sneakers. He seemed immersed in the tablet at the moment.
Ichigo cleared his throat and Tony looked up from the dim glow of the tablet. Ichigo could see that the glow in the room wasn’t coming from the tablet, but from a blue glowing circle in his chest.
“You’re up again,” Tony said and stood, putting the tablet down on the table beside him. “Feeling any better?”
Ichigo swallowed and nodded. “My shihakuso, my clothes, is mended, so my reiatsu is back to normal,” he said, feeling his kusodo and his hakama thoughtfully and looking around. “Where am I again? I know you told me once but I’m still having trouble believing this.”
“New York,” Tony said, coming and sitting on the side of the bed and untying his hands. “Bruce was worried because you passed out and we didn’t know why, and Fury’s over the top with the security, so they put the restraints on you. I told them that it was useless since you busted them before. He didn’t want to give you back the blade either.”
Ichigo nodded and rubbed his wrists and looked around at the sparsely decorated room. It wasn’t like a hospital room. “So…I feel really odd,” he said, rubbing his head. “Like I’m different than before I fell though that garganta or whatever it was,” he said softly.
Tony looked at him. “Garganta, isn’t that Spanish for throat?”
Ichigo nodded. “Yes, it is a pōtaru…” He paused trying to figure out the right English word for it. “Ōpuningu, opening?”
Tony nodded. “A portal then.” He thought for another minute. “How old are you?” he asked.
“Seventeen-ish,” Ichigo said, not really looking at him, instead trying to focus inward to figure out what had happened. “Wait…” he muttered and looked at Tony. “Something’s different with me…but this isn’t my human body, so maybe that has something to do with it.”
Tony nodded. So the kid had some sort of intuition, and said he had a human body, meaning he wasn’t human in this body. “Yeah, Bruce said you were easily between sixteen and twenty or even older, but he couldn’t tell for sure. You could be ten years old for all he can tell with his instruments, and since I invented them; that’s saying something. You had talked about that opening, the portal, and we think it may have been something that took you across space and time. We’ve had some run ins with those kind of objects, perhaps whatever you were fighting had one of them.”
“Yes, it happened when I went through the portal. I felt my body being pushed and pulled apart and by the time I was on the other side, in the sky here; all my spiritual energy was drained. Perhaps whatever that portal was supposed to do, my spiritual energy protected me,” he said thoughtfully. “The backlash then recoiled into my form and gave me a form but doing so changed me to reflect my soul form’s age rather than my human body’s age and made me a corporeal visage. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to see me without a gigai or my human body, and this is most definitely not a gigai or human body. It is possible if I could get back, I’d be normal again, but I’m not sure,” he said thoughtfully.
“You’re pretty smart, huh?” Tony said, looking him over. Tony had no idea what some of those strange words meant, but right now was more about rapport with him than understanding everything he said.
Ichigo shrugged. “About some things,” he said. “Actually even about this I’m pretty dumb. Others know more about it than I do. I sort of stumbled into doing what I do.”
“Well, I’m a genius, so I notice things,” Tony said, eyes scanning Ichigo’s face again.
Ichigo looked up and smirked. “Not very humble, are you?”
“Hell no, I’m a billionaire too, so I don’t have to be,” he said, smirking in return. “I’m also Iron Man.” He was obviously quite proud of this fact.
“Iron Man?” Ichigo asked, frowning. He had no idea what that was supposed to mean.
Tony’s face fell. “Man, really? That blows. I can’t even impress you because you don’t know who I am,” he said, falling into the chair and crossing his arms in an almost childlike sulk.
“Why do you need to impress me?” Ichigo asked, laughing a little.
“I like to impress people,” Tony said, shrugging.
“Well, I’m impressed at how easily you’re handling this whole thing, Tony,” Ichigo said looking a long time at the other man. Ichigo couldn’t explain it. For some reason, he trusted him, and had since he first met him. Despite the fact he knew nothing about him; he felt this need to make sure nothing happened to him. He supposed if he didn’t have anyone else to protect, he’d have to pick someone who didn’t really need it. What would someone like him need to be protected from?
Tony grinned at him. “Oh, at least that’s something. You should rest; I’ll be here if you wake up.”
Ichigo’s brows knitted in a scowl. “Aren’t you going to sleep?” The man looked tired, honestly. He had circles under his eyes and looked rather exhausted.
Tony waved his hand at him as he sat down with the tablet. “Don’t you start that, too. Got enough mother hens around here,” he muttered and looked up. “I don’t sleep much, but you should rest. Never know what tomorrow brings.”
Ichigo nodded and laid his head back, closing his eyes to appear to fall into a deep sleep. He didn’t need it anymore, to be honest. He felt fully rested and his reiatsu was back to normal. It was a strange sensation. He felt like he was in soul form still, but he apparently had gained a physical body similar to a gigai. However, it was as though that body had been made as a part of his spiritual form. He sighed and wondered about this new place. Mostly, he was curious about his saviors/jailers. He hadn’t decided which they were just yet. He turned to his side so he could keep an eye on this Tony Stark. As much as he tried, though, he couldn’t seem to build mistrust in him. The others, he had no reason to trust, and he really had no reason to trust Tony. Yet, he found himself doing just that.
A few minutes later, the tall blond man came into the room. Tony seemed to refuse onerously to look up. “Stark,” he said after a few long minutes with a sigh. “You untied his restraints. We talked about this. Next you’ll disobey Fury and give him his weapon.”
Ichigo didn’t miss the involuntary twitch in Tony’s head at the other man’s words. They irritated Ichigo, too, because it almost sounded like he was scolding an errant child, not discussing something with a man his own age, or perhaps older by the look. Ichigo found his jaw clenching.
Tony looked up at him then. “Cap, he’s more than capable of breaking them; you saw how strong he was. He might even be stronger than you. Besides, he’s much more comfortable with them off. I know I would be. In case you missed it, Fury agreed with me.”
“You have to stop going against what the director decides, though, Stark,” Steve said with a sigh, running a hand over his head. “You’re going to do something that’s going to cause us a lot of trouble one of these days. We have no idea what his capabilities are. For all we know, he could be weaker than you without the suit and the show of strength was a fluke.”
Tony rolled his eyes dramatically and looked back down at his tablet, fingers flying across the surface as he spoke. “Look, captain tight-pants, I know what I’m doing, even if you people don’t understand it. Anyway, he’s a good kid, I know this. I did this amazing thing, called talking to him. Works wonders on getting to know someone, Capsicle.”
“We don’t know anything about him, Stark. Every word he says could be a lie. We don’t know if he’s Hydra. If he’s another super soldier experiment, who knows what the results could be? We could be dealing with another Bucky or Bruce. We can’t take those chances. He should be put into one of the secure cells until we figure out where he came from and what his intentions are,” Steve said, glancing over at Ichigo’s not-sleeping form. Ichigo bristled at the words. He was not about to be locked in a cell.
“He’s a kid. He’s not dangerous,” Tony said. “You all worry too much. Fury already agreed to let me take him to the tower and keep an eye on him there. He’s safer there than anywhere else if someone’s looking for him, and there’s no way he can get out if he’s a danger. Plus he can have a decent room, and JARVIS can let us know if anything is wrong. Fury knows that my security is better than any secure cell SHIELD has to offer. That’s why he agreed.”
Steve shook his head, crossing his arms over his chest. “Stark, I think it’s a bad idea. I think…”
“Look, I don’t need to know what you think, I already know. You made that clear, and you’re just sore that Fury agreed with me and not you. We’re not just locking him in a cell because he might be a threat, or do you only believe that to be true for your friends? Fury agreed with me about that, remember? I’m not stupid, Spangles. I know very well that he could be a new ally or enemy. I sure as hell don’t want to turn a potential ally into an enemy because we tossed him into a cell instead of showing him some common courtesy,” Tony muttered, not looking up from his tablet now. It was obvious that he was trying to will the larger man away.
Steve snorted. “I hope you’re right, Stark. I really do.”
“I’m always right,” Tony muttered as the blond man walked out of the room.
Ichigo watched silently as he stopped tapping on the tablet and put it down on his knees, dropping his head into his hands. Ichigo could see the tremors in his hands and he wondered what it was about this Steve person that made him so nervous. Tony sat up straight and took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a long moment. Finally he opened them and looked down to realize his hands were shaking still.
“Dammit,” he muttered, reaching into the tablet case and pulling out a bottle of pills. He shook out one and swallowed it without any water. “Screw him, stupid star spangled ass. Just keep his out of date mouth shut…”
Ichigo frowned and wondered just what that was about. He sensed a great deal of tension between the two men, and it was more than just simple pecking order of a captain and a lower ranking officer. Actually, this Stark didn’t seem like a military type at all. He mused until about a half an hour passed and Ichigo was startled by a thunk. He looked to see that Tony had fallen asleep, his tablet sliding off his lap onto the floor. He had leaned back in the chair and while he wasn’t snoring he was most definitely out.
Ichigo got up quietly and knelt down and grabbed the tablet. He tapped a couple things and found it wasn’t locked. He didn’t understand half of the things on it. Perhaps he wasn’t exaggerating when he said he was a genius. He was curious, though, about the glow in his chest. He’d never seen something like that before. So he put the tablet down on the small table and leaned over to pull the front of his black tank style shirt down to get a look at whatever it was. He frowned to realize it was embedded into his chest, and deeply by the look. He looked around it and it seemed to be some sort of power source or something. He let the shirt go and stepped back and sighed. He didn’t know enough about biology or engineering to figure that out. He glanced at the tablet and nodded to himself. He wondered if he could get online with that.
He picked it back up and sat back down on the bed and looked for anything that looked like a browser when a voice spoke quietly from the tablet.
“May I be of assistance?” came a smooth, English accented voice.
Ichigo almost dropped the thing. “Um, oh, who are you?” he said quietly.
“I am JARVIS. Sir’s Artificial Intelligence interface.”
“Oh, okay, I’m sorry, he fell asleep, and I was just going to see if I could get online with this,” he said quietly. “I want to see who these people are, you know.”
“Of course, Mr. Kurosaki,” the voice, quiet Ichigo realized, as though it knew Tony was asleep. On the screen a browser popped up in Japanese. “I have pulled up an appropriate browser for your usage. If you require more assistance, please ask.”
“Um, yeah, thanks,” he said, feeling weird talking to a tablet. So this Tony Stark had created an artificial intelligence, he thought to himself.
He spent the next few hours researching the people he just met, starting with this Tony Stark, SHIELD and the Avengers. What he found made quite an impact on him. For one, this wasn’t his world at all. There were similarities; actually, things were almost identical history-wise, up until recently when Ichigo’s knowledge of world events and this world’s diverged. Ichigo’s world had not suffered an earth shaking alien invasion in recent years. His world didn’t have a lot of the things that had happened here, Hydra, this Mandarin guy, a second alien incursion. He’d never heard the names of this Iron Man, Captain America, or any of these people. Of course, he had no knowledge of American history, but from what he could tell, the news of what had happened reached all the major Japanese news outlets. He also had no knowledge of this Stark Industries which Tony was the head of. In this world, Stark’s inventions and products were used worldwide, and a great many of them were in Japanese ads he came across. He would have seen them in his world if Stark existed there. He failed to notice the camera watching him and following him when he moved around the room silently.
Ichigo found it all completely fascinating. This universe almost seemed bigger than his own. Sure, his world had Soul Society and random hollow attacks that were often blamed on gas leaks. It seemed here they had random seeming attacks blamed on gas explosions too, only they were these powered people and enhanced people. There was an entry for something called inhumans. Apparently, aliens called the Kree had tampered with humans a long time ago, triggering these natural powers. So he would be what they called inhuman? People who came by their power naturally? He supposed that made sense. He was very curious to see exactly how much power he had retained. He honestly didn’t know for sure what, if anything he could do here. He knew he had more strength than a human form, and unlike regular soul form he was experiencing hunger as though he were in his human body.
A little more research explained the Captain Steve Rogers and his odd attitude and strange dress, and Tony’s amusing reference to him as a “capsicle” was about him being frozen in ice for a long time. The doctor was actually a huge beast creature called the Hulk, but only when he got really angry. Sounded somewhat like Zaraki. He shook his head and kept looking. SHIELD. A new window popped open, but it wasn’t a browser window. Curious he investigated and found it was the database of this SHIELD organization. He wondered how that got on there, but he continued to read and see what he could find.
The current information was sporadic. Apparently, this SHIELD bunch was fighting this evil organization called Hydra that had tried to take them apart from the inside. No doubt that’s why the taichou Rogers was hesitant about Ichigo. They couldn’t trust their own people, let alone new people who came falling from the sky. They were searching for a scepter that this Loki had brought to earth that was able to control those it touched. They believed that this Hydra had it and was using it to do all sorts of dangerous and nefarious things to people.
It was getting on toward dawn when he put the tablet down beside him and stretched his arms above his head. A whine from Tony’s direction got his attention.
In his sleep, Tony had moved to curl in on himself in the chair. Ichigo realized that he was muttering under his breath and starting to thrash. At first it was minor, hands twitching and shaking his head, then he threw his hand over his head and almost fell out of the seat he was in. Ichigo got up and saw he was covered in a sheen of sweat and his face was locked into a grimace. He knew that look, he’d worn it himself after his mother died. It was the look of someone locked into a nightmarish hell of their own making.
Ichigo kneeled beside him and put a hand on his knee. Tony woke up with a start and nearly kicked Ichigo in the face, but of course, the shinigami’s superior reflexes caught his leg before he could. Tony was panting for breath and obviously had been in some sort of nightmare. He swallowed and looked around, then glanced at where Ichigo was holding his thigh where he’d tried to kick him.
“Damn, I fell asleep, that doesn’t happen much,” he muttered, pulling himself up to sit in the seat as Ichigo let go of him and stood up.
Ichigo picked up the water bottle they’d left for him and handed it to Tony as he knelt back down beside him. “You alright?” he asked softly.
Tony drank the water quickly, and nodded as he sat it down. “Bad dream, that’s all.”
Ichigo arched one orange brow. “That was one hell of bad dream,” he said finally.
“Yeah, nothing I’m not used to,” he said, blinking drowsily. “I knew that was going to happen after I took…” he stopped and shook his head. “Never mind. Why are you even awake?”
“I don’t need that much sleep in this form. If I was in my human body, sure, but this is my soul form, I think, or something like it,” he said with a slight smile. “You sure you’re okay?” he asked, again, growing more concerned. Tony’s face was still pale.
Tony nodded, wiping a hand over his forehead. “Yeah, yeah, just fine. Um, so, what time is it, JARVIS?” he asked.
“Five twenty three am, Sir,” the tablet replied from the bed where Ichigo had left it.
Ichigo handed it back. “Sorry, I borrowed it to do some research,” he said with a smile. “Is that okay?”
Tony nodded. “Yeah, JARVIS let you in, so that’s fine,” he said, looking at the tablet. “What do you say that you come to my tower today? More comfortable than this helicarrier. I’d like to run some real tests on your abilities and figure out just what you are.” Ichigo could easily see he wasn’t telling all the reasons he wanted to return to his home.
Ichigo nodded and stood, stumbling a bit. “What the hell,” he muttered and looked around. “I’m not too stable,” he said, confused. Granted, it was the first time he’d stood up in this “body”.
Tony shrugged. “You did fall out of the sky, remember? Come on, we’ll head out,” Tony said with a sigh, getting to his own feet.
“Shouldn’t we ask that director or whatever?” Ichigo asked. Now that he was standing, he realized he was a few inches taller than Tony. That was strange, of course, a lot of the shinigami where overly tall. “And what about Zangetsu?” he said, looking over at the next bay. “I can’t leave this place without him. He’s a part of me.”
Tony shrugged. “Nah, I do what I want most the time,” he said, shoving both hands into his pockets and going to the next bay and overriding the lock.
He was pretty sure he set off a silent alarm though, but he didn’t care. Tony honestly just wanted out of the helicarrier right now more than anything, but he didn’t want to leave this Ichigo by himself with the rest of SHIELD. He’d seen what kind of tests SHIELD had run on “powered” people and “enhanced” people when he had JARVIS hack the system before he came back for this round of Avengers Adventures as he called it.
Ichigo stepped in and grabbed the sword and put it onto his back. Tony smiled and led Ichigo down the empty halls of the helicarrier to the bay his armor was kept in. “So, do you like, fly?” he asked, stepping back into the open armor. Ichigo watched, fascinated as the armor seemed to encase his body completely. It added height to his form. He wondered if it was a constant issue for him. He knew before he gained his last couple inches over the last year; he was constantly annoyed at people that towered over him.
Ichigo shook his head. “I don’t fly, I shunpo…er, flash step. See, watch,” he said, and flashed to the other side of the bay and back.
Tony blinked as the armor finished encasing him. “Damn, so is it like a teleportation or something?”
“No, I just move really fast,” Ichigo said with a shrug. “And I can used my reiatsu to stabilize myself in the air should I need to. So I guess, I don’t fly but I can walk in the air if I need to.”
“Well, I fly, so follow me,” he said, his voice changing after the mask came down. He punched some buttons on his arm and the platform he was on began to rise. Ichigo jumped on it deftly and rode it up with him to the outside of the helicarrier.
Ichigo looked around and smiled. “So this is New York,” he said, looking around as the lights completely lit up the darkness around and below them. It was like being in Tokyo at night. It was always astonishing. Even the brightest night in Karakura Town wasn’t this vivid.
Tony nodded. “Sure, give you a tour later. Want to race back to my tower?”
“I don’t know where it is,” Ichigo said, looking at him with a scowl.
Tony pointed toward a series of tall buildings. “That one there, with the huge A on the side of it. That’s my tower. Avengers Tower, I’m sure you saw that in the stuff you were reading while I was asleep. There’s a landing platform at the top. Think you can get there without me helping you?” he said, and Ichigo could hear the smirk in his voice.
“Oh yeah,” Ichigo said, tracing the path. There were plenty places to launch off of without a problem on his way.
Behind them, someone was yelling at them. Tony turned back and looked at Ichigo. “Better go before papa Fury gets here to give us a verbal thrashing.”
Ichigo snorted and launched through the air in shunpo. He touched down a few times, glancing back to see he was well ahead of his companion. Tony could move quickly, but nothing compared to his flash steps. So it seemed that he had retained the ability to flash step at the same rate. He had doubted it when he tried it the first time. So did that mean he had retained his other abilities as well?
Finally, he landed about ten minutes before Tony on the platform. He supposed he could have taken off, but what point was there to it? He wouldn’t figure out anything without help. His best choice right now was to stay with this genius and the people he worked for. They had resources and maybe could get him back home. Tony touched down and walked down a ramp as robotic arms removed the armor. Again, Ichigo was fascinated by the mechanical marvels this man had.
“Damn, that was fan-freaking-tastic,” Tony said, putting his hand on the palm reading lock as he stared in disbelief at Ichigo. “I’ve never seen anything move so fast.”
They came in. “Welcome home, Sir, and Mr. Kurosaki,” JARVIS piped up from the room around them. “Director Fury and Captain Rogers are in the living area.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “Of course they are,” he muttered, leading Ichigo into the room where Fury and the blond man stood looking rather stern. Ichigo walked several paces behind him and picked up on the subtle tremor to Tony’s shoulders when he entered. What was it about this Steve Rogers that set Tony’s nerves on edge?
“What are you thinking, Stark?” the tall, dark skinned man with an eye patch said, turning toward him. “You freaked out half the helicarrier with that stunt. I know we discussed this, but I wanted it to be a controlled transfer, not you jetting off with him all of a sudden at five thirty in the morning! And I did not agree to give him his weapon back.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “It’s a sword! It’s not like Loki’s mind control stick, it doesn’t do anything but stab people, and there are all sorts of pointy things around to do that with.”
Ichigo crossed his arms and glared from under his brows at the man as Tony spoke. This was the Director Fury he’d read about. “No one jetted off with me, I got here on my own, thank you,” he said and leaned against the wall. For some reason these two and the way they talked to Tony were bothering him. He had no reason to be bothered, because they were right. If they’d followed procedure, it would have been better. He had all too readily agreed to Tony’s plan to leave like that. He was confused by this need to both agree with and defend Tony.
Both Steve and Fury stared at him. “What?” Steve said with a shocked expression.
“I said, I got here on my own. I shunpoed. Beat him by ten minutes, and I stopped to look around on the way.”
Ichigo was not particularly liking these two at the moment. So far, Tony had shown him consideration and was trying to help him out. These two were treating him like he was some sort of dangerous monster; granted, he was a dangerous monster but considering their hulk monster, they should really tone it down some. He stopped that thinking though. What the hell was happening in his head? He wanted to beat these people within an inch of their lives for being mean to Tony. He shook it away.
“Really?” Tony said, frowning. “You stopped along the way and you still beat me?”
Ichigo smirked. “Yeah, the top of that skyscraper halfway between here, and the building across from here. Really a lovely view.”
“How the hell did you move that fast?” Steve asked, glaring at Tony as he spoke, as though somehow Tony was at fault for everything that had occurred.
“Hey, I am not from here, so I don’t know what the hell your problem is other than what JARVIS showed me on Tony’s tablet. And what I found out I’m not sure what it is I think about you people or this place yet. I do know one thing; I don’t want to hurt you, and maybe I can help you,” Ichigo glanced at Tony who was watching him closely. Ichigo was actively fighting the irrational anger at the way they were speaking to Tony. He had no idea where this sudden flood of emotion was coming from.
“I’m not in this world because I want to be. I do not want to mess with your world. I would like to go back to my own, but I am not an idiot. I know that may not be possible. Look, I’m trying to figure out exactly what happened, and I have no intention of doing a thing around here to harm anyone.”
Fury stared at him for a long moment then looked at Tony. “You don’t know the full abilities of SHIELD.” Fury kept it quiet that he knew everything that had gone on in the room, having watched from his office on the hellicarrier. He wanted to see how far this trust of Tony went with this kid. There was something about Tony that was sucking this kid in to him.
“I think I do,” Ichigo said, flash stepping behind Fury. He winced though as the two men turned around. Great, now he was antagonizing him. He had to get this whatever it was under control. This wasn’t like him. This was completely erratic behavior even for him.
“Seems JARVIS likes me or something because he let me into a lot of files. I’ve seen the things that you do to people with powers and what you call enhanced people like the Hulk. I’m tired of fighting, too. I’ve been fighting nonstop for the last few years, and I’ve spent more time than I can count in battles that would make you cringe. Yeah, by human count, I guess I’m nearly eighteen in my world. That doesn’t count the time I’ve spent outside of my body in different worlds. Maybe a few months, maybe years for all I know. Time doesn’t flow the same there.”
Fury and Steve turned around. “What the hell was that? Do you have magic?” Steve said, gasping at seeing the flash step for the first time.
“I’m not magic. I’m a shinigami. A Soul Reaper. A Death God. Whatever you want to call me in English. I reap the souls of the dead and send them across to Soul Society to be put through the rebirth cycle again. I fight and purify the hollows that try and consume souls before I get to them. They’re spirits that are lost in the world of the living and they’re dangerous,” he paused and looked around. “However, I don’t know if they exist in your world like mine. I guess I’ll find out. My reiatsu will draw them because I suck at controlling it. I am just a kid, after all.” Ichigo paused and touched Zangetsu’s hilt. “And as for my sword, you won’t remove it from me again. This is not metal; it is forged from my soul, just like my clothes. I would have had no problem getting it back from you in that helicarrier but I didn’t want to harm anyone. I waited until Tony offered to get it. To be honest, I would have waited longer, but I needed to have it back again to feel complete. I do apologize for acting rashly when presented with the opportunity. Zangetsu is the only thing I have left of my old life.”
Steve and Fury stared for a moment and Ichigo flash stepped back to his original position near Tony. “Now, if we have that taken care of, Tony was going to show me to a room I could stay in. I understand that he has good security, and you were planning to bring me here anyway. It may not have happened as you desired, but it happened nonetheless.”
Ichigo reached out and offered Tony his hand. He smiled and nodded when Tony took it, frowning. “If you don’t mind, Tony?”
Tony nodded, very confused. “Um, yeah, this way,” he said, leading him off and down a hallway to the guest rooms. He had no idea why his heart was pounding in his ears at the moment.