Chapter Nineteen: Coulson's Return
As Natalie and Loki were setting out breakfast, a man who Natalie assumed was Agent Coulson came in and looked startled. "Agent Coulson, I presume?" Natalie asked.
"Yes…" Coulson said. "And you are?"
"Natalie McKenzie," Natalie said. "Fury didn't tell you I was hired as the team therapist?"
"No, he neglected to mention that," Coulson said.
"He probably didn't want to admit that I threatened to castrate him when I first met him," Natalie said flippantly. "Can you please tell the others that breakfast is ready?"
"Uh… sure," Coulson said, and left. He came back ten minutes later with the Avengers, and they all sat down and started eating. "These are even better than the last ones," Tony said.
"That's because the last batch of pancakes wasn't homemade, it was a mix," Natalie said. "I made these from scratch. And Loki finally got the hang of cooking bacon."
"Exactly how many times has he set off the smoke alarm now?" Steve asked.
"Too many times to count," Natalie said dryly.
"It's not my fault I never had the chance to learn how to cook," Loki said sulkily.
"I know, but it is your fault that you never listen when I tell you that you have to watch the bacon so it doesn't burn," Natalie said. She looked at Clint, who was grabbing another pancake, and said, "Clint, there's a fork on the platter for a reason."
Coulson stared as Clint sighed and used the fork to grab more pancakes. Before Clint could hop back on top of the fridge, Natalie said, "And for heaven's sake, eat at the table. You can be so uncivilized."
"Why do I need to be civilized?" Clint moaned as he sat next to Coulson.
"Because contrary to your belief, you are not actually a bird," Natalie said. "Hate to break it to you, but you're a human, and humans eat at the table, not on top of the fridge."
Clint sulked as he ate his pancakes. Coulson stared at Natalie, who asked, "What?"
"How do you DO that?" Coulson asked. "Agent Barton never listens to me about this, and yet you just got him to behave normally for a change!"
"He knows he'll lose his chocolate cream pie privileges if he makes me mad," Natalie said, shrugging. "Clint has a serious weakness for chocolate cream pie."
"Actually it's because we all trust Natalie with our pasts," Natasha said. "I doubt Clint's attitude has much to do with pie at all. Though it does make a nice bribe."
"Oh, and just so you know, drinking alcohol is something you'll have to do at a bar, not here," Tony said.
"What the fuck happened to you people while I was gone?" Coulson asked incredulously.
"Natalie," the Avengers and Loki chorused.
Tony elaborated, saying, "Natalie came into our lives and broke down all the walls between us. Loki had somehow managed to end up in her apartment when he came back here, and she came after him when Thor brought him here. The first night she was here, she saw right through my walls. We started getting along better because she came here, and proved to us that she was trustworthy. When I got alcohol poisoning, she was the one who found out and called 911, and convinced me to stop drinking altogether. After that, Steve decided we should ask Fury to hire her as the team therapist, and we all agreed. She agreed too, and when she got her doctorate, she became a permanent fixture here- along with Loki, since they're together."
"She's also the youngest Doctor of Psychology in ten years, and suggested a solution to my problems with the other guy," Bruce said.
"A solution?" Coulson asked.
"I suggested that Bruce and the other guy might be better off if they tried working together to form a more symbiotic relationship, rather than Bruce suppressing the other guy all the time," Natalie replied. "I haven't met with him since I suggested that and meditation, since first Loki decided it would be amusing to give Tony the mind of a kitten, and the next day I believe he turned Tony into an actual kitten. I plan to start my therapy schedule tomorrow, actually."
"Who's first again?" Steve asked.
"I decided to go with alphabetical order by last name, so Bruce is first," Natalie replied.
"Just out of curiosity, why is there no drinking allowed here?" Coulson asked. "I don't mind, but it seems a bit strange considering Tony's addiction."
"I quit, and we don't drink because Natalie is afraid of alcohol and drunk people," Tony said. "And before you ask, I quit drinking because I nearly died from it and because I scared Natalie."
"Drunk people I get, but a fear of the drink itself?" Coulson asked.
"Bad family history," Natalie said simply. "I grew up hearing horror stories about what alcohol does to people."
"Ah," Coulson said, and tactfully dropped the subject, instead saying, "Well, I'm glad to see you're all finally getting along."
"Are you moving in too?" Tony asked.
"Fury asked me to, yes," Coulson said.
"It's good to have you back, Phil," Clint said. "I take it you're still our handler?"
"Yes, but it looks like I won't have as much trouble this time around," Coulson said.
"What was it like before I came?" Natalie asked.
"They were all trying to kill each other- quite literally," Coulson said dryly. "And when they weren't doing that, they were ignoring each other and all attempts to get them to cooperate. Frankly, you've worked a miracle."
"Natalie is quite talented," Loki said.
"Thanks Loki," Natalie said happily. "So how many chocolate cream pies am I making?"
"Two should be enough, right?" Steve asked.
"One for Loki and Clint to split and one for the rest of us, I guess," Natalie said. "And Clint?"
"Yes?" Clint asked.
"You WILL be splitting the pie," Natalie said. "And to make sure it's fair, I'll cut it. Who's on dishes this morning? I'd kind of like to take a shower."
"I'll do them," Tony said. Coulson looked at him like he had a second head. "What? Got a problem with that?" Tony asked.
"Uh…. no, I've just never seen you actually OFFER to help out," Coulson said.
"Mmph," Tony said. He got up and went to wash his dishes as the others got the message and put their dishes on the counter nearby.
Later that day: "Clint, leave Loki's share of the pie alone, and for heaven's sake, can you sit at the table?" Natalie asked in exasperation. "If you drop pie on the floor, I will make you clean the floor instead of Dummy."
"I LIKE high places," Clint grumbled.
"That's going to be our first topic on Tuesday then," Natalie said dryly.
"What if I don't WANT to go to therapy?" Clint asked sulkily.
"You're acting like a child," Natalie commented. "And sleeping in the air vents can't be very comfortable, so I'd like to know more about your little quirk. According to your file you've gotten multiple warnings for jumping out of vents at people."
"It's good for them!" Clint protested. "We're talking about spies and assassins here; they need to be paranoid!"
"Do they need to be paranoid about a guy who thinks he's a bird all the time?" Natalie asked. "Like it or not, we WILL be talking about this. I have several requests for someone to do something about you scaring the living daylights out of everyone- some of which came from Fury. If it makes you feel better, you can have a prank war with Loki after our chat."
"Really?" Clint asked. "YES! I will get my revenge at last!"
This was about when Coulson walked in, and he looked at Clint, then at Natalie, and asked, "What happened NOW?"
"A few days ago, Loki turned Clint's hair pink and dressed him up as an angel," Natalie said. "Therefore, Clint wants revenge on Loki. So when I'm done with him on Tuesday, you might want to watch out, since he'll be starting a prank war with Loki."
"I'm surprised you didn't shoot Loki full of arrows, Barton," Coulson commented.
"I tried, but he kept teleporting and bending in ways that NO ONE should be capable of- or he'd just catch the arrows," Clint said irritably. "And then we had to call it off, because I almost hit Bruce, who would have Hulked out if it wasn't for Natalie."
"You almost hit Bruce," Coulson deadpanned.
"He was coming up behind Loki, and Loki decided to teleport," Clint said defensively.
Natalie suddenly had an idea for the next day, and asked, "Do either of you know a good way to get Bruce to lose control?"
Loki, Clint, and Coulson stared at her like she had grown a second head. Finally Coulson said, "Why do you want Bruce to lose control? He'll turn into the Hulk, and that could be dangerous for you."
"Not if the Hulk doesn't see me as a threat," Natalie said. "And I want to talk to both of them, so I figured I'd ask if anyone knew a way to get Bruce to lose control. The other option for talking to the other guy doesn't really appeal to me."
"What is the other option?" Loki asked.
"Going into his subconscious and hoping the other guy doesn't take offense," Natalie said. "If I were to get knocked out in someone's subconscious, I could get stuck in there, and that's the last thing Bruce needs."
"But why do you want to talk to the other guy?" Clint asked, puzzled.
"I want to know what his feelings are too," Natalie said. "Something tells me the other guy isn't just a mindless beast. If that were true, he wouldn't differentiate between friend and foe, and I've heard that he won't harm at least Tony. And if I can talk to him, maybe I can help him and Bruce become a better team."
"What was that bit about going into someone's subconscious?" Coulson asked.
"That's my ability," Natalie said. "I can go into someone's subconscious. I brought Tony out of a coma with my power, and when Loki was trapped in his mind, I kicked Thanos out and brought Loki back."
Coulson looked a bit confused, but then Natalie's cell phone rang. Seeing that it was her mother, she picked up and said, "Hi Mom, what's up?"
"I just wanted to check up on you," Mrs. McKenzie said. "How are things going?"
"It's crazy over here, but fun, and I officially start sessions tomorrow," Natalie said. "I need to tell Dad something, though; is he around?"
"Yes, I'll get him, but first, can you tell Mr. Stark that you, he, and Loki are all invited for dinner tonight?" Mrs. McKenzie asked.
"Sure," Natalie said. She took the phone away from her ear, and said, "Loki, can you tell Tony the three of us have been invited to my parents' place for dinner tonight?"
"Sure," Loki said, and vanished. Natalie picked up the phone and said, "Loki's going to find him; I'll let you know when I know if he can come, but Loki and I can definitely come."
"Good, I'll get your dad," Mrs. McKenzie said.
A minute later, Natalie heard, "Hey sweetheart, what's up?"
"The Dream Walker comes again; Heaven help those who stand in her way," Natalie said in a dead serious tone of voice.
"You're sure?" Mr. McKenzie asked, his tone heavy.
"Positive, and my powers have come full circle," Natalie said. "There is something after me, and I don't want you, Mom, and Kevin to get caught up in this. After dinner tonight, I may have to stay away from you guys, and I want you to be careful."
"I understand," her father said solemnly. "Do your friends know?"
"I had to tell them when I used my abilities the first time; the one after me attempted to break Loki, and I kicked him out," Natalie said. "I later stripped him of his mind-walking powers, but he is still alive. Oh, and I can apparently bring people out of comas now."
"Who else knows?" Mr. McKenzie asked.
"Besides the Avengers and Loki? Fury and an agent named Phil Coulson- but they don't know the full extent, and it's better that they don't find out," Natalie said. "I don't need to put more people in danger."
"Good thinking," Mr. McKenzie said. "Is there anything else I need to know?"
"No, but if I think of anything I'll let you know tonight," Natalie said. "Thanks Dad."
"Of course," Mr. McKenzie said. "Be careful."
"I will, see you tonight," Natalie said, and hung up.
Loki came back soon after, and said, "Stark said he'd be happy to come."
"Good, we should be there by six then," Natalie said.