Chapter Seventeen: Coma
The next morning: Natalie and Loki walked into the kitchen and found it deserted. "JARVIS, where is everyone?" Natalie asked.
"They have been called to fight," JARVIS replied. "The Chitauri are apparently attacking downtown."
"What are the Chitauri doing here?" Natalie asked worriedly.
"They are most likely after me," Loki said grimly. "The one they work for wants me back, I know that much."
Before Natalie could respond, her cell phone rang. Picking up quickly when she saw it was Tony, she asked, "Tony, what's going on?"
"The Chitauri here aren't after Loki," Tony said. "They're after you, but they don't seem to know who you are. They just keep saying they've come for the Dream Walker. I don't think they even know what you look like."
"Great…." Natalie said. "I take it I'm supposed to stay here and hope you lot come back relatively unharmed?"
"Yep, and don't worry, we'll be fine," Tony said- right before the line went dead.
Natalie cursed, and Loki looked at her. "The Chitauri aren't after you, they're after me, but apparently they have no clue who I am or what I look like," she said.
"They are after the power you told us about, then?" Loki asked.
"Yes," Natalie said. "At least they're not interested in you anymore."
"I would rather they be interested in me than you," Loki said. "At least I have fighting skills, and my magic."
"Then help me get back up to speed with my martial arts," Natalie said. "I don't want to be helpless if they somehow capture me."
Loki looked uncertain, but finally said, "Let's go to the gym then."
Natalie followed him to the gym, and they faced each other in the sparring area. "Last one to hit the mat wins?" Loki suggested.
"Fair enough," Natalie said, sliding into a stance. She watched Loki do the same, and waited for him to make the first move. She didn't have to wait long; Loki threw a swift punch at her shoulder, and she smoothly blocked it, then kicked him in the chest. Startled, Loki skidded back a bit, but recovered and attempted to sweep her feet out from under her with one leg. Natalie jumped into the air, and did a flip, landing behind Loki, who spun and managed to land a hit on her shoulder. She dodged a follow-up swing, and attempted the same move Loki had used when he tried to knock her off her feet. Loki jumped over her leg, and tried to kick her. She quickly grabbed his ankle, and yanked it up, causing him to fall flat on his back. She looked at him, and asked, "Did I win?"
"Apparently," Loki said, sitting up. Natalie reached down and pulled him up as he continued, "You're good, but I think you need to build up some more speed and strength."
Before Natalie could respond, Steve came in looking grim. "Do I even want to know what happened?" Natalie asked warily.
"Tony is in a coma," Steve said. "And if either of you have ideas on what to do, it would be helpful."
"I don't know if I can do anything, but I'm willing to try," Natalie said. "How did this happen?"
"He got slammed into a building and buried in rubble," Steve said. "I dug him out, but he suffered a pretty bad blow to the head."
Natalie left the sparring area, and asked, "Where did they take him?"
"One of SHIELD's med-bays," Steve replied. "I can take you there."
"Alright, let's go," Natalie said.
Steve led her and Loki to the landing pad on the roof, where there was a quinjet waiting. They all got on board, and the pilot took them to the Helicarrier. When they got off, they found Fury waiting, and he lifted an eyebrow at Natalie. "Something I should know?" he asked.
"Not right now," Natalie said. "Maybe later."
Fury scowled, but before he could say anything, Steve cut in, saying, "Sir, can we focus on Tony rather than Natalie right now?"
"Fine, come with me," Fury said. He stalked off, and Steve, Natalie, and Loki followed him to the med-bay.
They came to a room, and found Tony lying in a bed, hooked up to various pieces of equipment. Natalie went over to the bed, and sat down in a nearby chair, dragging it closer. She put a hand on Tony's forehead, and said, "The rest of you should stay quiet."
Fury did not look thrilled with this, and opened his mouth, only to have Natalie say, "If I get distracted, things will get worse. MUCH worse."
Fury sighed and shut up. Natalie closed her eyes, and felt herself fall into Tony's subconscious. She opened her eyes when she landed, and saw darkness. "Tony?" she called out.
There was no response, but a small ball of blue-white light that reminded Natalie of the arc reactor in Tony's chest appeared in front of her. It bobbed up and down for a moment, then floated off, and Natalie followed it.
The ball of light led her to a small, windowless room, and she saw Tony curled up in the corner. The ball of light floated over to him, and he looked up as it vanished into his chest. "Tony?" Natalie asked.
Tony looked at her. "Natalie?" he asked. "Where is this?"
"We're deep in your subconscious," Natalie explained. "Your physical body is in a coma, and I came in to see if I could bring you out of it."
"This is my subconscious?" Tony asked, looking around. "I thought it'd be more interesting."
"Maybe it is when you're not in a coma," Natalie said. "Ready to get out of here?" She held out a hand, and Tony took it. She pulled him to his feet as he smiled and said, "Sure."
Natalie closed her eyes, and willed herself and Tony back to the real world. When she opened her eyes, she was back in the med-bay, and Tony was waking up. Natalie looked up to see Fury, Loki, and Steve still there, and got the sense that there were other people watching them. She looked back down at Tony as he opened his eyes, and said, "We have to stop meeting like this."
Tony laughed, then winced. "What happened?" he asked.
"You got thrown into a building and I dug you out of the rubble," Steve said, coming over. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I got run over by a semi," Tony said. "I don't think anything's broken, though. Just heavily bruised."
"The suit protected you for the most part, but your helmet was knocked off," Steve said. "I'm glad you're not in a coma anymore."
"Me too, that was boring," Tony said. He looked at Natalie as she yawned, and asked, "What time is it?"
"Not sure, but I'm exhausted," Natalie said. "That was harder than kicking that thing out of Loki's head." She yawned again, and Loki came over, then scooped her up bridal style. Natalie was too tired to care, and just leaned her head on his shoulder. She was out cold two seconds later.
"I take it I'm not getting an explanation on what that was about anytime soon?" Fury asked, keeping his voice down.
"It's up to Natalie if she wants to share," Tony said.
"I'm taking Natalie back to our room," Loki said quietly, and vanished.
"So…. can I leave too?" Tony asked after a minute.
"We'll see what the doctors say," Fury said.
Tony groaned. "I hate doctors," he moaned.
Fury ignored him and went to call a doctor in. A few minutes later, a woman came in and examined Tony, then finally said, "Aside from being bruised all over, you don't seem to have any problems. I see no problem with releasing you, but I'd keep physical activity to a minimum for a few days."
"Joy…." Tony said sarcastically.
"Look on the bright side, you don't have to stay in the hospital," Steve said.
Tony just sighed and got up. Steve handed him some clothes and left with Fury and the doctor.
Half an hour later: All the Avengers were back at the Tower, and noticed there was no sign of Loki or Natalie. "JARVIS, are Loki and Natalie still here?" Tony asked.
"Yes sir, they are in the room you gave them," JARVIS said.
Tony headed upstairs, leaving the others to their own devices. He went to Natalie and Loki's room, and knocked. The door was opened by Loki a minute later, and he said quietly, "Natalie is sleeping. If you want to come in, you have to be quiet."
"I'll be quiet," Tony said. Loki let him in, and the two men settled down to watch Natalie.
Several hours later: It was about eight at night when Natalie woke up, by which point Loki and Tony were kind of worried. They were relieved when she opened her eyes and asked, "Loki?"
"How are you feeling?" Loki asked her.
"Rested; how long was I asleep?" Natalie asked.
"Nine hours," Loki replied. "It's eight at night."
"Wow…." Natalie said, sitting up. She looked surprised to see Tony sitting on the end of the bed, and asked, "Tony?"
"Hey," Tony said. "Feeling better?"
"Yeah, thanks," Natalie said. "How are you?"
"Sore and bruised, but otherwise fine," Tony said. "Thanks for bringing me out of the coma."
"Sure," Natalie said. "How long have you been in here?"
"Nine hours," Tony said. "I notice you're not wearing pajamas."
"After the last time Loki changed my clothes with magic, I banned him," Natalie said dryly. "That THING was barely clothing. More like a bunch of strings or something. I don't even know where he came up with it; I'm fairly certain he's never been to a lingerie store. I think he's some kind of pervert."
"And yet you love me anyways," Loki said, smirking.
"You sleep with Loki and you don't want him to see you naked?" Tony asked.
"That's not it, it was cold in the apartment and Loki thought it would be funny to put me in something that barely qualifies as clothing," Natalie said. "But I'm kind of shy about being naked because I've never been in a relationship before."
"Seriously?" Tony asked. "I would think you'd have guys after you all the time."
"I was pretty much convinced I was a lesbian until I met Loki," Natalie admitted. "I never had a crush on a guy, and the only girl I ever had a crush on was from a religious family who were anti-gay and lesbian rights. She wasn't as much, but she didn't want her parents to disown her, and I respected that. I had guys after me, yes, but I wasn't interested in any of them. And I wanted to wait until I found the right person anyways. I didn't want my family history to get in the way, and anyone my age I dated would probably be into alcohol at some point. I'm glad I found Loki- though I'm still curious as to how exactly he ended up in my apartment of all places."
"I believe it was because I was thinking about being safe when I came to Earth," Loki said. "My magic may have taken over and decided where you were was safe."
"Your magic was right, apparently," Natalie said. "I don't think too many people would threaten to break down Tony Stark's front door after Thor broke their front window."
"You're right, you're the first person who's ever threatened to break my front door down- most people usually either just blast it or crash in through the windows," Tony commented. "At least you gave JARVIS warning."
"I try to be polite most of the time, but I was in a bad mood," Natalie said.
"Understandable," Loki said. "Thor did, after all, wake you up and broke your window."
"Is that why you seemed so grouchy when you came in?" Tony asked.
"Yeah, I woke up when the front window shattered, and after I couldn't stop Thor, I got dressed and ran here," Natalie said.
"So, what did that thing you mentioned as 'barely clothing' look like?" Tony asked at random.
Loki made an odd hand gesture, and Tony turned into a kitten. Then Loki looked at Natalie, who said, "Two days. That's it."
"Oh very well," Loki sighed. "I was hoping for a week."
Tony hissed at Loki, who just smirked at him. Then Natalie and Loki got up, and Natalie picked up Tony, setting him on the floor before following Loki out. Tony followed them, and they didn't notice till they were in the elevator. Natalie looked at him, and giggled. "Tony, you make an adorable kitten," she said. "Maybe Loki should do this more often."
Loki gave her a Look. "What? I can't help liking kittens," Natalie said. "Besides, maybe we can use this to get him to be nicer to Evergreen."
Loki looked thoughtful, and said, "Good point. Maybe he'll figure out kittens are a good thing if he is one."
Natalie smiled and picked Tony up, settling him on her shoulder as the elevator stopped at the communal floor.
They found the other Avengers gathered in the living room, watching a movie. They all looked up, and Bruce asked, "Natalie, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, I was just tired," Natalie said.
"Where's Tony?" Steve asked. "Wasn't he with you?"
"Stark was making inappropriate comments, so I turned him into a kitten," Loki said. "He's on Natalie's shoulder."
"And how long is this going to last?" Natasha asked.
"Two days," Loki said. "Natalie will not let me keep him like that for a week, but she agreed to two days."
Clint was the first to come over, and he poked Tony in the nose. "Sheesh, he actually looks cute like this," Clint said- and got bitten. "I take it back, he's a demon," Clint said, taking his finger away. Tony gave a kitten's version of a snicker, and Clint glared at him. "You want to be used as target practice?" he asked menacingly.
"You started it," Natalie pointed out. "Poking him like that was an open invitation to be bitten or clawed."
"Evergreen bit me too," Clint grumbled. "I think cats hate me."
"With good reason, you treat them like toys," Loki commented.
Tony mewed, and Thor, who was watching them, said, "He claims he wants to claw Fury."
"You speak cat?" Natalie asked. "I thought it was Loki who knew all the languages."
"Allspeak is an ability all Aesir have," Loki said. He made a face, and said, "Jotun, too."
"Lucky," Natalie said. "So, didn't Fury want to talk to me anyways?"
"Yes, I believe he did," Steve said. "You aren't really going to let Tony claw him, are you?"
"I think it would be funny, especially if we don't tell him the kitten is Tony," Natalie said innocently. "So, who has his phone number?"
"This sounds hilarious," Clint said, and got out his phone, ignoring Steve's look of disapproval. As the others watched, he called Fury and invited him over.
Soon after, Fury arrived, and asked, "So what is this about?"
"I was under the impression you wanted to speak with me, so Clint offered to call you," Natalie said. She saw Tony slip over to Fury and start clawing up his trench coat, and barely contained a grin as Fury said, "Right. What was that you did to Tony earlier?"
"I have the ability to go into another person's subconscious," Natalie said. "All I did was go deep into his subconscious, find him, and bring him out."
"Can you do this to anyone?" Fury asked.
"Yes, but it works better if the person trusts me," Natalie said. "And unless they trust me, if the person in question has any kind of mental shields, it's extremely hard and tiring to get into their subconscious."
Clint noticed that Tony was shredding Fury's trench coat, and snorted, then tried to cover it with a cough. "Do you find that amusing, Agent Barton?" Fury asked.
"No sir," Clint said, struggling to regain control.
"Then what are you laughing at?" Fury asked.
"I believe he is laughing at the kitten that is sharpening his claws on your coat, Director," Loki said smoothly.
Fury looked down, noticed the brown kitten sitting there looking totally innocent, and noticed the hem of his coat was in tatters. "Rogers, can't you train your pets better?" he snarled.
"That one actually isn't mine, sir," Steve said.
"Then is there another kitten-obsessed person here?" Fury asked.
"Loki and I like them," Natalie said. "That one is ours. Isn't he adorable?"
Fury snarled and stormed out. Tony, looking immensely pleased with himself, walked over to Natalie, who picked him up and cuddled him. "Good work, that was funny," she told him. Tony purred.
"Are you sure he doesn't have a crush on you?" Steve asked suddenly.
"I never asked," Natalie admitted. "I simply told him that I thought of him as family. He's never told me how he feels about me. Why do you ask?"
"Because if it turns out he does have a crush on you, it kind of looks like you're leading him on," Steve said.
"Oh," Natalie said softly. She set Tony down- and he went over to Steve and clawed his leg. "Loki, turn Tony back into a human," Natalie said.
Loki sighed and made a hand gesture. Tony changed back into a human, and got up. Then he looked at Steve, and said, "I admit I thought about what it would be like being with Natalie. I realized, though, that even if she wasn't with Loki, I don't really think it would work. And she's a lot younger than me anyways. If she thinks of me as family, then I'm fine with that. I know that when she plays with me every time Loki turns me into a kitten, she's not doing it because she's in love with me. I never thought she was leading me on, and I also didn't think a relationship between us would work out. I'm happy with having Natalie as a friend slash little sister figure."
Steve looked contrite, and said, "Okay." He looked at Natalie and said, "Sorry."
"Not a problem; you were just looking out for Tony, right?" Natalie asked. Steve nodded, and Natalie smiled- until Loki said, "Can I turn Stark back into a kitten now?"
"No, but didn't you say something about turning Clint into a bird or something the other day?" Natalie asked.
"I have since reconsidered; birds have sharp talons and can attack from above," Loki said. "If I turn Clint into something else, it will be something that can't attack me."
"Why not turn him into a hamster?" Tony suggested, snickering.
"I do not know what that is," Loki said.
"Why don't you just refrain from turning me into anything?" Clint grumbled.
"Oh, very well, I shall turn your hair pink instead," Loki said, and snapped his fingers. Natalie giggled and Tony burst out laughing when Clint's hair turned hot pink.
"That's an interesting look on you, Legolas," Tony gasped, still laughing.
"I'd rather have wings," Clint grumbled grouchily.
Loki got a positively evil grin on his face, and snapped his fingers. Clint was suddenly wearing a fluffy white angel costume, complete with wings and halo. Tony was the first to fall over laughing, but Natalie and Thor were right behind him. Natasha was snickering, Bruce was laughing, and Steve was trying and failing not to laugh. Loki was laughing rather evilly as Clint shouted, "You're going to pay for this!"
"Forgive me if I don't take you seriously," Loki snickered. "You look ridiculous."
"And whose fault is that?" Clint demanded.
"You asked for wings, you got wings," Loki said. "The rest was just extra."
"I'm going to go burn this stuff," Clint growled, and stalked off. It would have looked more intimidating if he hadn't tripped over the robes he was wearing. The others burst into fresh peals of laughter as Clint got up, now bright red, and left.
"You know he's going to use you as target practice now," Natasha commented to Loki.
"I'm sure I can handle him," Loki said calmly.