Chapter Eighteen: Revelations
The next day: "Well, this is amusing," Natasha commented, sitting on the sofa while sharing a bowl of popcorn with Natalie.
"Yeah," Natalie agreed.
They were watching Loki dodge arrows from Clint's bow, and he was obviously taunting the archer. Loki would wait till the arrow was about to hit him, and then he'd dodge- or simply vanish into thin air, only to reappear behind Clint. Clint was getting infuriated, and Loki had a relaxed smirk on his face as he caught one of Clint's arrows. "Quite amusing," he commented to Clint, who growled at him. Loki grinned and dodged another arrow as he said, "You really should be more careful; you might hit someone with one of those."
"That's the idea," Clint snarled. He shot another arrow, and Loki dodged it- but this one nearly hit Bruce, who had been walking in, unaware of what was going on. Bruce glared at Clint, who started backing away as Bruce struggled to control himself.
Natalie noticed a faint tinge of green on Bruce's skin, and went over, then said, "Bruce, focus on my voice. Can you take a deep breath?"
Bruce was still struggling, but he took a deep breath, and Natalie lowered her voice, adopting a calmer tone as she said, "Good. Try holding your breath to a count of five, and letting it out."
Bruce did so, closing his eyes, and the green color started to recede as he repeated the action. When he opened his eyes five minutes later, he was much calmer. "Did that work?" Natalie asked.
"Yeah," Bruce said. "Thanks."
"Sure," Natalie said. She turned to Clint and said, "Target practice is officially over, unless you're doing it in the gym away from the rest of us."
"Fine…." Clint said sulkily.
Steve came in at this point, and asked, "Has anyone seen Tony?"
"Not yet," Clint said.
"Is he in his lab or his room?" Natalie asked. "I don't mind getting him."
"Last I checked he was in his room," Bruce said.
"Guess I'll go see if he's okay then," Natalie said.
Before she could leave, though, JARVIS said, "Miss McKenzie, Sir is asking for you- but he is acting odd."
"Thought I felt something weird earlier," Natalie grumbled. "JARVIS, what color are Tony's eyes right now?"
There was a pause, and then JARVIS said, "They appear to be yellow."
"Shit," Natalie said, and ran for the elevator. Steve quickly followed her, and they went up to Tony's floor. As soon as the elevator doors opened, Natalie ran for Tony's room, and went in. Tony turned to her, and Natalie immediately noticed his eyes had turned yellow. Then he said, "You fell for it, I see."
Natalie recognized the voice, and snarled, "Thanos, get out of Tony."
"Why should I do that?" Thanos asked, sounding amused. "You can't force me out if you're not touching him."
Steve came in just then, and Natalie said, "Steve, the THING that took over Loki did it to Tony as well. Can you keep him busy? I've got an idea."
"Yes," Steve said. Natalie nodded, closed her eyes, and clasped her hands together. Her physical body fell to the floor, seemingly unconscious, and her mental self dived into Tony's subconscious. When she landed, she noticed she was somehow taller, and her hair was loose. She was also wearing a floaty dress made of blue-white silk, and she was barefoot. Ignoring the upgrade, she looked around. She was in a cave of some sort, and going further in, she found Tony shackled to a wall, with a smaller version of Thanos in front of him. They both looked up as she said, "So, what was that about me not being able to force you out without physically touching Tony?"
"How did you get in here?" Thanos shrieked.
"Not important," Natalie said coolly. "The only thing that matters is that I intend to insure this never happens again." She gestured, and Thanos seemed to freeze in place. Then Natalie formed a cross sign with her fingers, and said, "Koj lub hwj chim tsis yog. Los ntawm qhov kev txiav txim ntawm lub Npau Suav Yamntxwv, kuv thim koj muav peev xwm tswj tau lub hlwb. Kuv tso pov koj tawm. Yog li ntawd mote nws yuav!"
Thanos screamed and exploded into a shower of dust. The shackles binding Tony vanished, and he came over to her. "Thanks," he said. "Where'd the dress come from?"
"It was part of the upgrade I got," Natalie said. "It means that I've fully come into my powers, so anytime I go into someone's subconscious, this is what I'll look like. My physical body is currently dressed in jeans and a T-shirt."
"Ah," Tony said.
"Let's get out of here," Natalie said, holding out a hand. Tony took it, and she took them both back to the real world.
Natalie opened her eyes to see Steve standing in front of her, and Tony on the floor. He was waking up, and Natalie asked, "Tony?"
Tony opened his eyes, and they were brown again. He sat up, and looked startled. "What's Steve doing here?" he asked.
"I was worried when JARVIS informed us you were acting oddly, so I came with Natalie," Steve said. "Are you okay?"
"I think so," Tony said, getting up. "Natalie, what exactly did you do?"
"I stripped Thanos of his ability to control minds," Natalie said. "And I brought you out of your subconscious. I'm hoping that you don't have any other enemies who have that ability."
"I don't think we do," Tony said. "Are you okay?"
"I'm tired," Natalie said. She was still sitting on the floor, and realized she could barely keep her eyes open.
Tony seemed to notice, because he came over and picked her up. Natalie leaned her head on his shoulder and was out like a light. Tony put her in his bed, and said quietly, "Steve, you should let Reindeer Games know what happened."
"Sure Tony," Steve said, keeping his voice down as he left. Tony settled down to watch over Natalie.
With Steve: Steve found Loki down in the kitchen, and Clint sneaking up on him. Before Steve could stop him, Loki said, "Hello Clint; would you care to explain why you're crawling around on the floor?"
"DAMN YOU!" Clint yelled. "How did you even know I was in here?"
"I heard you follow me," Loki said nonchalantly. He looked over at Steve, and said, "Captain, how did it go upstairs?"
"Natalie apparently stripped Thanos of his power to control minds, and she's asleep in Tony's room," Steve said. "He sent me to tell you."
"Why didn't he bring her back to our room?" Loki asked.
"He's lazy, that's why," Clint grumbled.
"Ah," Loki said, and vanished. Clint growled. "I hate it when he does that."
Loki, meanwhile, had appeared in Tony's room, and found Natalie asleep and Tony sitting next to her, reading something. He wordlessly settled down on Natalie's other side and started stroking her hair.
By midnight, both Loki and Tony had fallen asleep, though at some point Tony had migrated to a large armchair.
The next morning: Loki was the first one up, and he noticed that Natalie was stirring as well. "Natalie?" he asked softly.
"Hi," Natalie said, opening her eyes sleepily. "How long was I out this time?"
"All day and all night," Loki said.
"Is Tony okay?" Natalie asked.
"He's asleep, but he was fine yesterday," Loki replied. "We're in his room, by the way."
Natalie sat up, and spotted Tony curled up in the armchair. She got up and went over to him, just as he started to wake up. "Morning Tony," Natalie said.
"Morning, how are you feeling?" Tony asked, yawning.
"I'm fine, thanks," Natalie said. "Sorry for making you sleep in the armchair."
"It's fine," Tony said. Suddenly it looked like a thought occurred to him, and he said, "I didn't have nightmares last night."
"Might have something to do with sleeping in the same room as Natalie," Loki said, coming over.
Before Tony could respond, JARVIS said, "Sir, Queen Frigga just arrived and wishes to speak to you, Miss McKenzie, and Mr. Laufeyson."
"We'll be right there," Tony said, getting up.
They went down to the living room, where they found the other Avengers and Frigga waiting. "So what's up?" Tony asked. "I get the sense this isn't a social call."
"You are correct, Man of Iron," Frigga said. "I have come because Odin received a visit from the Titan Thanos yesterday. He claimed that the Dream Walker has returned and that we are in danger. I sensed that he was not telling the complete truth, and offered to come to Midgard and see what was going on."
"Your people know of the Dream Walker?" Natalie asked.
"Yes," Frigga said. "The first Dream Walker was actually one of our people, who had been banished to Midgard. They obviously made the most of their situation, and used the abilities they were given to help the humans here. I am aware that most humans these days do not believe in magic as they once did, but any help you can give would be welcome."
"I can tell you, Mother, that the people on Asgard have nothing to fear from the Dream Walker," Loki said. "Thanos is the only one who should be watching his back. My guess is that he was attempting to gain Odin's help in destroying the Dream Walker."
Frigga raised an eyebrow delicately. "And where did you come by this information?" she asked.
"From me," Natalie said. "I am the Dream Walker."
Frigga looked confused, and said, "We had been informed that this generation's Dream Walker was male; was that incorrect?"
"My cousin passed the power to me upon his untimely death, as I was the most important person in his family to him," Natalie said. "I reached full potential for power yesterday, when I stripped Thanos of his ability to control minds. He had the nerve to hijack Tony, so I went in and stripped him of the power he used to get into Tony's mind. I got tired of kicking him out of people's heads, and decided to just cut straight to the root of the problem."
"That may be why he seemed so desperate," Frigga said thoughtfully. "Have you any idea of what he wanted when he took over your friends?"
"He wants me," Natalie said. "I don't know why, unless he just wants to control me. But I can't understand why he'd want to control me in the first place; as far as I know, the power I have can only be used to go inside someone's subconscious. I can't do anything outside of a person's subconscious, and it's extremely tiring to go into someone's subconscious when I'm not physically touching them."
"I would say it's more likely he wants you dead," Loki said grimly. "The power you have wouldn't be of much use to him, since up until yesterday, he had the ability to control minds. Now he doesn't, and he probably went to Odin for help in killing you. Judging by the last time you were in Asgard, it wouldn't surprise me if he agreed to help."
"Yeah, I didn't exactly give Odin any reason to like me," Natalie said.
"So…. what do we do about this guy?" Tony asked. "I think we're all in agreement that we don't want him to kill Natalie, right?"
There were nods all around, and Frigga said, "I will convince Odin not to help Thanos. I do not believe it will be hard, since he never trusted Thanos in the first place. However, we will still need to deal with Thanos."
"Any suggestions for that?" Steve asked. "I don't think we know anything about the guy, except that he used to have the ability to control people."
"As far as I know, he's a technological genius with superhuman strength and a major crush on my daughter," Loki said dryly.
"He wants to crush Hela?" Frigga asked, confused.
"No, I meant he desires her," Loki said. "Natalie may be corrupting my speech patterns."
"You're the one who wanted to fit in," Natalie said, amused. "So what's this about Thanos desiring your daughter?"
"Hela apparently told him if he wiped out half the sentient life in the universe, she would accept him as her consort," Loki said. "So far, he is failing miserably. I don't think she really wants to accept him, which is probably why she set such an impossible task."
"Hela is the ruler of Helheim, correct?" Natalie asked.
"Yes," Loki said, sounding startled.
"If she's your daughter, then why doesn't she live with you?" Natalie asked, confused.
Loki's face darkened, and he said, "Odin. I have four children, and he took all of them from me when they attempted to defend me after a prank I played. And to think, the prank I played was an attempt to get Thor out of an unwanted marriage- yet he did not protest when my children were ripped from my side. Neither did Frigga, for that matter. And the only thing I did was turn Sif's hair black and spread a few rumors that she was cursed."
Natalie was horrified. Two seconds later, horror turned to unbridled rage, and her eyes turned ice blue as she asked, "Is everyone besides you on Asgard scum, or is it just your so-called family?"
Thor and Frigga both flinched at how cold she sounded. "It's everyone," Loki replied. "No one besides you has ever seen me for who I am and loved what they saw."
"Brother…." Thor started, but before Loki could tell him not to call him that, Natalie beat him to the punch.
"What makes you think it's okay to call him that after you sat by and watched as his children were taken away from him?" she snarled coldly. "My mother told me there is no worse pain than losing a child- did ANY of you take that into account? Did you even care that Loki had just saved you a loveless marriage, Thor? Why the fuck didn't you DO anything? That goes way beyond cruel- it's downright immoral! What the fuck is wrong with you people!?"
Thor and Frigga both looked deeply ashamed, and then Thor said, "I was afraid of what of what my father would do if I defended Br-Loki's actions. I should have stood up for my niece and my nephews, I realized that too late. I love Loki's children, and I should have stood up for them when I had the chance, and not acted like a coward. I know it is too late now, but I would not make the same mistake twice, not after seeing how much it hurt Loki." He looked at Loki, and said, "Lady Natalie is right, I do not deserve to call you brother, even though I think of you that way. I cannot speak for why Mother did not defend you that day, but I would like you to know that I fully acknowledge that I was wrong in not coming to your defense and that of your children's."
Loki looked shocked, and didn't say anything. Frigga sighed and said, "I did try to tell Odin that he should reconsider. But I did not find out why Loki had done what he did until after Odin ignored my warnings and banished Loki's children. I admit I had thought he turned Sif's hair black because she looked down on him, and that he was attempting to get back at her. I did not realize that he had done it because Thor asked him to get him out of a marriage with her. Had I known that, I would have pushed for Thor to be punished along with Loki, and the outcome may have been better. Loki, I can only ask for your forgiveness, and let you know what I told you on your birthday- that I will always love you despite my mistakes, and I will always support you. I have made many mistakes in being your mother, and some of them do not deserve forgiveness. But I still love you, and I always will. And I'm very happy that you finally found someone who loves you for everything you are- and hasn't made the mistakes that I did."
"Thank you," Loki said. "I will never forgive Odin, but perhaps I can try to understand the two of you."
Frigga and Thor smiled, and Natalie's eyes returned to their normal brown. Tony seemed to have noticed, because he said, "Natalie, your eyes are brown again."
"My eyes turn ice blue when I get really angry, and I can't control it," Natalie said. "Consequently, I try not to get really angry very often, because I don't want to have to explain to people why my eyes change color."
"You were acting kind of off when you started yelling," Clint commented.
"I don't like children being taken away from their parents too soon, unless their parents are abusive- which was clearly not the case here," Natalie said.
"I get the sense there's a backstory to this," Tony said.
"There is," Natalie said. "But I'd appreciate it if you never told my family I told you this."
"Okay," Tony said. "I don't really talk to your family anyways."
"When I was four years old, my mom gave birth to a baby girl, and named her Anna," Natalie said softly. "Anna was born with an incurable heart condition, though, and died when she was two months old. I only got to hold her once, and she was so tiny and cute. Quiet, too. She never cried. When she died…. I've never seen my parents that devastated. It scared me, because I was little and seeing my mom sobbing was like a blow to the heart for me. At that age, I was still under the impression my parents could do anything, and they were really grateful to Andrew, because he took time off to come help out at our house. He spent a whole week taking care of me until my parents could pull themselves together. When Kevin was born two years later, you have no idea how happy and relieved we were that he was healthy and strong. Of course, then Andrew died and everything came crashing down again, but that's another story."
The others were silent, and Loki wordlessly pulled Natalie into his arms, hugging her tightly. She hugged back without hesitation.
When Natalie calmed down, she let go of Loki, but he kept an arm around her shoulders as she said, "Sorry for getting so worked up."
"With how much you've gone through, I'm impressed you don't break down more often," Tony said.
"I used to break down a lot, but I got past it," Natalie said. "I had a good support system. I'm just lucky I was never diagnosed with PTSD, because that might have hurt my chances of becoming a therapist. My parents were worried that I had PTSD after Andrew died, but eventually the doctors and therapists decided I didn't. And later on it turned out that my abilities kept the nightmares from overwhelming me anyways."
"My nightmares are completely gone thanks to you," Loki said.
"Glad to hear it," Natalie said with a smile. "I seem to have that effect on people."
"I didn't have any nightmares last night," Tony said. "I actually got real sleep for once."
Steve looked at Tony, and asked, "You didn't have nightmares?"
"No," Tony said. "Loki said it was because I was sleeping in the same room as Natalie."
"My powers apparently keep people from having nightmares when they're asleep nearby," Natalie said. "Loki's nightmares started getting much better within a week of the first time we slept in the same bed. Considering Tony was sleeping in an armchair nearby while I was sleeping last night, I'm not too surprised he didn't have nightmares."
"That's incredible," Steve said.
"How did we get from Thanos to nightmares?" Natasha asked suddenly.
"I have no clue," Clint said. "What should we do about Thanos, though?"
"I must get back and tell Odin that Thanos is attempting to trick us into a battle that has nothing to do with us," Frigga said. "I will come back when I know his response. Until then, I am afraid there is little you can do."
She stood, and a portal opened up, swallowing her. Tony sighed, and said, "Well, if that's all, I need coffee. See ya." He started off for the kitchen, but stopped when JARVIS said, "There is an incoming call from Director Fury, sir."
"I'll take it," Steve said.
A holographic screen with Fury's face on it popped up, and Steve said, "Good morning sir, is there a problem?"
"No, I just thought you should know Coulson is back," Fury said.
This got a collective shout of "WHAT!?" from everyone except Loki and Natalie.
"What do you mean, he's 'back'?" Steve asked. "Loki killed him!"
"He was still alive when I left," Loki commented. "All I did was stab him in the back."
Steve and everyone else in the room glared at Fury. "Care to explain why you told us he was dead, Director?" Clint asked menacingly.
"It originally would have been good incentive to get rid of Loki, since he came back, but after that became out of the question, I sent him on vacation," Fury said. "He asked me to let you know he's headed over there now."
"Why didn't you let us know he was alive sooner?" Tony asked irritably.
"Didn't cross my mind," Fury said.
"You're lying," Natalie said flatly. "What was the real reason?"
Fury gave her a one-eyed glare, and Natalie lifted an eyebrow, unimpressed. "You know, the more you try to intimidate me, the less respect you'll get from me," she said. "The first time we met should have been proof of that."
"I wanted to have a back-up in case Loki did something," Fury growled. "If the Avengers thought Coulson was dead, there'd be a better chance of them actually getting rid of Loki."
"So basically your paranoia kicked in when Reindeer Games started living on Earth, and you wanted a way to keep us under your thumb?" Tony asked bluntly. "If you're that paranoid, you might want to consider seeing someone for that."
"I'm not going to dignify that with an answer," Fury growled. "Coulson will be over soon." The call ended.
"Well, I'm glad Phil is alive, but Fury really could have told us sooner," Clint said. "We all know that all you have to do to get Loki to behave is threaten him with no chocolate."
"I resent that remark," Loki said.
"Too bad," Clint grumbled. "I still haven't shot you for turning my hair pink, by the way."
"That reminds me, why isn't it pink anymore?" Tony asked.
"I had to dye it back," Clint growled. "And Loki's chocolate supply now belongs to me."
"No it doesn't, unless you're asking for another fight," Loki said.
"That's right, last time we didn't have a winner because Tony and Natalie stopped us," Clint said with a predatory smirk. "Care to go again?"
"If I find the two of you rolling around on the floor again, Clint, I'll give the whole chocolate cream pie I was going to make today to Tony," Natalie said. "And then it'll be up to him who he shares it with."
"What makes you think I'll share?" Tony asked.
"Exactly," Natalie said.
"You're making chocolate cream pie today?" Clint and Loki asked at the same time.
"Yep, and since there's so many of us, I may make two," Natalie said. "But you two won't get any if you start fighting again."
"Fine," Clint and Loki groused.
"I think I'll go make breakfast," Natalie said. "Anybody have problems with pancakes?"
"Not me," Tony said.
"Is there any bacon?" Loki asked.
"I don't know, why don't you come help?" Natalie suggested. Loki perked up and followed her to the kitchen.