The Therapist

Chapter 15

The Therapist

Chapter Fifteen: Craziness

The next morning: Natalie got to Stark Tower at around ten. Loki was at their apartment reading, and had said he'd pack some of their stuff since they'd be moving out soon. When Natalie went in, she met Bruce and Steve, who both looked concerned. "Let me guess, Tony hasn't come out of his room and you want me to go find out what's wrong, right?" she asked.

The two men stared at her, and finally Bruce said, "I don't know how you do that, but yes. I don't think it's serious like last time, so try not to kick the door down."

"Okay," Natalie said. She went up to the top floor, and followed JARVIS's directions to Tony's room. When she got there, she knocked and called, "Tony?"

She heard what sounded like a groan, and then nothing. Sighing, she tried the door, and found it was open. She went in, and saw Tony still in bed. Going over, she put a hand on his forehead, and was surprised that he didn't seem to be sick. He didn't wake up when she put her hand on his forehead, but instead he leaned into her hand, which was kind of puzzling to Natalie. She took her hand away, and Tony sleepily opened his eyes. "Natalie?" he asked, yawning.

"Hi," Natalie said. "Bruce and Steve said you weren't up yet, so I came to check on you. Are you okay?"

"Tired…." Tony said, yawning. Natalie noticed the way he stretched reminded her of Lucky, but shrugged it off and said, "Okay. You can go back to sleep; I'll let the others know you're fine."

Tony curled up again and went back to sleep in about two seconds, which was kind of worrying to Natalie. She left, and went to find Bruce and Steve. She found Steve in the living room watching TV, and he asked, "How's Tony?"

"He said he was tired, so I decided to just let him sleep," Natalie said. "I imagine it's from sleeping in the lab and not getting enough sleep in the first place. He was bound to crash at some point. Where's Bruce?"

"I think he's in his room, why?" Steve asked.

"I had an idea about the other guy that I wanted to run by him," Natalie said. "Fury thought it was a good idea."

"Okay," Steve said. "You know where Bruce's room is, right?"

"The floor below Tony's?" Natalie said.

"Yup," Steve said, and went back to whatever he was watching. Natalie headed off.

She found Bruce's room, and knocked on the door. Bruce opened it a minute later, and said, "Hi Natalie, what's up?"

"I had an idea that I wanted to run by you, and I figured since Tony's sleeping and Steve's watching TV, maybe we could start talking about what you want to get out of therapy with me," Natalie said.

"Sure, but is Tony okay?" Bruce asked.

"He's not sick, so I assume so," Natalie said. "I don't think he's been getting enough sleep lately."

"Probably true," Bruce said. "Where do you want to talk?"

"Wherever you want is fine," Natalie said. "Pick wherever you're most comfortable."

"I like my room, so come in," Bruce said.

Natalie went in, and Bruce motioned to a fluffy armchair near the bed. He sat on the bed as Natalie sat down, and asked, "So what was your idea?"

"I was thinking about your problems with the other guy, and wondered if you had ever tried to form a symbiotic relationship with him, rather than just suppressing him," Natalie said. "I ran this idea by Fury as well, and he claims no one has ever suggested that before."

"How would you go about doing that?" Bruce asked.

"I think meditation might help," Natalie said. "Personally, I don't know a whole lot about it, but from what I understand, meditation helps you not only calm your mind, but get in touch with your inner self. Since your inner self, or part of it, seems to be pretty angry, calming your mind to get in touch with him might help."

"How come you don't know much about it?" Bruce asked, looking thoughtful.

"I chose the alternative- martial arts," Natalie said. "However, I think meditation would work better for you, because martial arts involves physical fighting, and I don't think I'd be a very good teacher anyways."

"So you think meditating to get in touch with the other guy would help me?" Bruce asked.

"I think so," Natalie said. "I think it would be good if you and the other guy could work together instead of you trying to control him all the time."

"Okay," Bruce said. "I'll see what I can find on meditation. Anything else?"

"Yes, I wanted to know what you want to get out of therapy with me," Natalie said. "It's my job to set up treatment plans, but first I want to know your thoughts on this, since apparently you've never been to therapy?"

"Yeah, I never went to any kind of therapy," Bruce said. "I guess what I want from this is just someone I can talk to about anything, without worrying about them judging me."

"I'd be happy to fulfill that role," Natalie said. "Just know that you can tell me anything, and I won't judge you for it. I'm simply here to help you and the others here. And nothing you tell me has to leave this room unless you specifically tell me you want someone else to know. Normally I would give you paperwork that we'd both sign, but I need to find a PDF of the forms I need."

"Paperwork?" Bruce asked.

"Yes, it's an agreement between a therapist and their client that everything the therapist hears is confidential, and therefore it's illegal for said therapist to tell anyone else," Natalie said. "The only exceptions are if you tell me you're going to do something illegal, or if you tell me you're planning on hurting yourself or someone else. Then I'm required by law to inform the appropriate authorities, since while I can try to talk you out of it, I'm not allowed to stop you myself if you go through with whatever it is outside of our sessions. I don't anticipate something like that happening, but I figured I'd tell you before finding a form for you to sign."

"Thanks," Bruce said. "Does it strike you as odd that Tony hasn't come barging in here yet? It's almost two in the afternoon."

"That is odd, and I don't think it's normal for him to still be asleep," Natalie admitted. "Do you want to go check on him?"

"Yeah, I think it's a good idea," Bruce said. He got up, and Natalie did the same, following him to Tony's room. Bruce knocked, and called, "Tony?"

There was no response, and Natalie and Bruce exchanged a glance. Natalie sighed and opened the door. Tony was curled up in bed, sleeping. Natalie went over and felt his forehead, then said, "No fever; I wonder what's wrong."

Bruce came over, but before he could say anything, Tony started nuzzling Natalie's hand in his sleep. "That's not normal," Bruce commented.

"He's acting like a cat," Natalie said thoughtfully.

"Weird," Bruce said. "Do you think Loki did something?"

"Maybe," Natalie said. "I'll call him." She took out her cell phone and called Loki. Two rings later, she heard, "Natalie?"

"You wouldn't happen to know anything about why Tony is acting like a cat today, would you?" Natalie asked.

Loki snickered and asked, "Has he asked you to pet him yet?"

"I'll take that as a yes," Natalie sighed. "What was the reason this time?"

"I was bored," Loki said. "Stark acting like a cat seemed amusing, so I turned his brain into that of a kitten's."

"Are you planning on fixing this?" Natalie asked wearily.

"I set the spell to wear off by tomorrow morning," Loki said casually. "I see no reason to take it off sooner. Have fun!" He hung up.

"He is SO sleeping on the couch tonight," Natalie growled.

"What happened?" Bruce asked.

"Loki decided that he would turn Tony's mind into that of a cat's," Natalie said. "Apparently he'll be back to normal tomorrow morning. Though I do wonder why Loki asked if Tony had asked ME to pet him yet."

"Tony's more comfortable around you than anyone else; that's probably why," Bruce said.

"I guess I'll be staying here tonight; he'll probably follow me home if I don't," Natalie said. She looked at Tony, who was waking up, and said, "Tuna."

Tony immediately woke up and looked at her hopefully. "Tuna?" he asked.

"There's some in the kitchen, and you've been asleep long enough," Natalie said. "Let's go find tuna."

Tony got up and followed her out, leaving Bruce to bring up the rear. Steve was in the kitchen with Thor when they got there, and they looked up. "Uh…. why does it look like Tony just woke up?" Steve asked.

"Loki turned his mind into that of a cat's, so he slept basically all day," Natalie sighed. "Hi Thor."

"Hello Natalie," Thor said happily. "How are you?"

"Aside from the fact that Tony's probably going to follow me around all day? I'm pretty good," Natalie said. "Loki, on the other hand, is going to be sleeping on the couch for a week."

"Tuna?" Tony asked hopefully, nudging her.

Natalie sighed and went to the pantry, then pulled out a can of tuna. She got a can opener and opened the can, then drained the water and asked, "Would you like a tuna sandwich, Tony?"

"No, just tuna," Tony said.

Natalie sighed and dumped the can into a bowl, then handed Tony a spoon and the bowl, and said, "Here's the tuna."

Tony perked up and started eating the tuna while standing up. He finished it in about three minutes, and looked at Natalie hopefully. "More food?" he asked hopefully.

Before Natalie could respond, she felt Evergreen rubbing her legs, and Tony actually hissed at the kitten. Then he pulled Natalie away from Evergreen and said, "Mine."

"I think I just entered the Twilight Zone," Clint commented. He had come in in the middle of this, and continued, "Why does Tony think Natalie is his?"

"According to Loki, he has the mind of a kitten," Bruce said. "Loki's spell is supposed to wear off by tomorrow morning."

"This should be amusing," Clint commented.

"I don't particularly find Tony nuzzling me amusing," Natalie said. "Clint, you just moved up the list."

"List?" Clint asked.

"Of people who are going to pay for this," Natalie said. "Loki is currently Number One, and he's going to be sleeping on the couch for the rest of this month. You just got the Number Two slot."

"So what are you going to do to me?" Clint asked.

"That would be telling," Natalie smirked- then grimaced when Tony started nuzzling her again. "Tony, why are you doing that?" she asked wearily.

"Pet me!" Tony pleaded.

Natalie turned dark red as Clint fell off his chair laughing. "Thor," she said through gritted teeth.

"Yes?" Thor asked.

"Please go to my apartment and drag your brother here so I can tell him EXACTLY how I feel about this," Natalie said. "I don't care if you have to knock him out with Mjolnir or something."

"I can bring Mjolnir?" Thor asked.

"If you get Loki, yes," Natalie said.

"I shall return!" Thor said, and left.

"Natalieeee! Pet meeeee!" Tony whined.

Natalie held back a groan and said, "Let's go sit on the couch."

Tony immediately went to the living room, dragging Natalie with him. She sat on the couch, and he curled up, putting his head on her lap and snuggling against her. Natalie sighed when he looked at her pleadingly, and started petting his hair. He settled down and started making a noise that was halfway between humming and purring as she petted him.

Half an hour later, Tony had fallen asleep when Thor returned dragging Loki, who was struggling to get free. He stopped when he saw Natalie, and smirked, then asked, "Having fun?"

"NO," Natalie said grimly. "WHY would you put a spell on Tony that makes him follow me everywhere and ask to be petted?"

"You took my chocolate away," Loki said, shrugging.

"If you don't take this spell off, I will NEVER buy chocolate again, and YOU will be sleeping on the couch for a MONTH," Natalie hissed.

"Oh, very well," Loki said sulkily. He waved a hand over Tony's head, and Tony started to wake up as Loki asked Natalie, "It would not happen to be what women refer to as 'that time of the month,' would it?"

"NO, it's not that time of the month, I just don't particularly enjoy Tony begging me to pet him," Natalie said.

She heard a yelp from her lap, and Tony abruptly sat up, looking around. He spotted Loki, and growled, "There'd better be a good reason for this, Reindeer Games."

"Natalie took my chocolate away; I simply got her back," Loki said. As an afterthought he added, "And I was bored. This seemed amusing- until Thor dragged me off while applauding my taste in women."

"Neither of those were good reasons," Tony grumbled. "Did you ever wonder what would happen if Natalie actually liked the attention?"

"No, because I knew it would make her uncomfortable," Loki said. "I would not have done it if I thought she might start seeing you rather than me."

"That's another week with no chocolate," Natalie said dryly. "You can have chocolate the week after next. Honestly, you're just digging yourself in deeper."

"I have to wait another whole WEEK!?" Loki shouted.

"Punishment for making Tony act like that," Natalie said. "Unless you'd prefer to sleep on the couch for a week instead?"

"I will take the couch idea if it means I get chocolate sooner," Loki said.

"Fine, I'll buy some chocolate on Monday," Natalie said.

"What is it with you and chocolate?" Tony asked.

"I enjoy it," Loki said simply.

"More like you worship it," Natalie snorted. "Remember that time I told you that you had eaten all the chocolate already?"

"What happened?" Tony asked before Loki could respond.

"He got this look of utter horror on his face and went running off to see if there was any left," Natalie giggled. "I was just joking, but he totally fell for it!"

"That was evil," Loki grumbled.

"More evil than turning Tony into a human kitten?" Natalie asked, lifting an eyebrow.

"That was a harmless prank," Loki said.

"So was what I did," Natalie replied calmly.

"No it wasn't, it was traumatizing!" Loki said indignantly.

Tony promptly fell off the sofa laughing his head off. Natalie was having trouble holding it together as she said in a strangled voice, "You were traumatized by a lack of CHOCOLATE?"

"Yes," Loki said. "Your voice sounds strange, are you alright?"

Natalie gave up the fight and started laughing. She laughed so hard tears ran down her face as she gasped, "That's the funniest thing I've heard all year!"

Steve and Bruce came in, hearing the laughter, and Bruce asked, "Do I want to know why Tony is rolling around on the floor laughing and Natalie is crying?"

"They apparently find my chocolate addiction highly amusing," Loki said sourly.

"It's not… the addiction…. It's the fact you were traumatized by a lack of that addiction," Natalie gasped. "Seriously, who gets traumatized by a lack of CHOCOLATE? And why aren't you catatonic if you've gone a week without it?"

"He hasn't gone a week without chocolate," Steve said. "Every time you're not looking, he sneaks stuff out of the kitchen."

Natalie groaned. "I give up," she moaned. "There's just no stopping you, is there Loki?"

"Not a chance," Loki said, smirking. "By the way, Thor's birthday is tomorrow."

Natalie perked up. "We should wrap his present then," she said.

"You got me a present?" Thor asked.

"Yup," Natalie said cheerfully. "What kind of cake do you want?"

"I enjoyed the cake you baked for Loki's birthday," Thor said.

"So another chocolate cake with ganache," Natalie said. "I can do that. How old will you be?"

Thor looked like he was trying to figure something out, and Loki rolled his eyes. "In human years, he'll be twenty-five," he said. "Thor cannot do math."

"Should have guessed," Natalie said. "I'll make that tomorrow."

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