Chapter Two: The Avengers
8:00 the next morning: Natalie woke up to what sounded like shattering glass, and ran for the living room, only to see Loki being dragged out the window by some guy with long blond hair and a red cape- who she vaguely recognized from the news reports about the destruction in New York City a few months ago. "STOP IT!" Natalie screamed. "What the hell are you doing, and why did you smash my window!? Better yet, why are you trying to kidnap Loki?"
Both men turned to her as she stormed over- and then the blonde man leaped out the window, Loki in tow. Natalie raced to the window, and saw them FLYING towards Avengers Tower- which wasn't that far away. Natalie didn't waste any time; she went straight back to her room, got dressed and pulled her hair back quickly, then grabbed her purse and shoved in her keys and cell phone. She pulled on a pair of sneakers, left and locked her apartment, and started running for Stark Tower.
At Avengers Tower: Thor had brought Loki to Avengers Tower, where they found the other Avengers waiting for them. Before they could discuss what exactly they were going to do next, JARVIS said, "Sir, there is a young woman outside your tower demanding to know what 'the blonde idiot' did with Mr. Laufeyson, and why he had to smash her window."
Tony looked at Thor for an explanation, and he said, "I may have smashed her window, yes."
Bruce sighed. "Are we letting her in?" he asked.
JARVIS took that moment to say, "She asks me to inform you that if someone does not let her in and explain, she is going to break the front door down."
"Fine, let her in," Tony said. "Though I doubt she'd be able to break it down…."
"Tony, is this a good idea?" Clint asked.
Tony just shrugged as a young woman who looked absolutely furious stormed into the room. "Just out of curiosity, how did you know Loki was here?" Tony asked.
"I saw Blondie flying in this direction, and watched him land on the roof," Natalie said shortly. "I don't live too far away, so I ran here. Do I get an explanation?"
"Can we get your name first?" Bruce asked.
"Natalie McKenzie," Natalie said.
"Is there a reason you had Loki at your house?" Natasha asked.
"I found him on my living room floor, and he had no clue what he was doing there, so since he also had a cold or something, I decided I'd let him stay," Natalie said. "I don't understand why that is such a problem, or why Blondie decided it was necessary to drag Loki out my now-broken window. I do have a front door, you realize."
"Something tells me Thor was not aware of that," Loki said dryly.
Natalie went over to him, ignoring the others, and asked, "Are you okay?"
"I am fine," Loki said.
Natalie felt his forehead, and said flatly, "No, you're not. After I figure out why these people are into kidnapping, I'm taking you back to my place, and helping you get better."
"That may not be an option, Miss McKenzie," Clint said. "Thor took Loki here because he escaped from Asgard and is required back."
"Asgard is the home of the Norse gods," Natalie said slowly. The others waited as her eyes widened, and finally she turned to Loki and said softly, "You're the real Loki; it's not just a name."
"Yes," Loki said.
"He's also the one who destroyed New York a few months ago, which is why he can't stay," Clint said gruffly.
Natalie looked back at Loki, and noticed something in his eyes. "Loki, did you destroy New York of your own free will?" she asked. "Because that look in your eyes doesn't look like you enjoyed destroying the city."
"You are correct," Loki said. "I was not doing that of my own free will, nor did I particularly enjoy destroying the city. I do not necessarily like humans- but I also do not like wanton killing for the sake of killing."
"Why should we trust anything you say?" Clint asked.
"I did not ask you to," Loki replied. "I would, however, recommend listening to Natalie's views, as she is unusually perceptive."
Everyone else looked at Natalie. "I'm two months away from getting my doctorate to become a therapist," she said. "And I have an innate talent for psychoanalysis. It took me about ten minutes to analyze Loki- and judging by the look he gave me, I was spot on. And yes, I am very perceptive. It's part of the job description."
"T-ten minutes!?" Tony sputtered. "We spent months trying to figure him out, and you did it in ten MINUTES!?"
"Yes," Natalie said calmly. "And since he was being controlled when he attacked the city, I didn't need to analyze that."
"Anything else we need to know?" Clint asked, rubbing his forehead wearily.
"Loki has PTSD," Natalie said. "Which means that if you put him in jail, you'll end up with far more problems than you'll be able to deal with later on. If you HAVE to punish him for something that wasn't his fault, you'd be better off sending him to therapy."
Before the others could respond, Loki started coughing, and then he collapsed. Natalie caught him, and noticed he was unconscious. She felt his forehead and gasped slightly. "What is wrong?" Thor asked.
"Loki's burning up," Natalie said. "I'd suggest taking him back to my place, but with the living room window smashed in, I'd have to clean up first. I guess I could give him my room till he's better though."
"Do you have medicine?" Tony asked.
"I have basic fever medicine, but I don't have anything for the flu," Natalie admitted.
"Then he'd be better off here; I have plenty of spare rooms and I can get medicine," Tony said. "Are you staying with him?"
"Is that okay?" Natalie asked. "I don't mind sleeping on the couch or something, but I feel like I should be here for Loki."
"I'm fine with it," Tony said, looking at the others, who shrugged.
"I think it is a fine idea," Thor said. "Friend Stark, will you give these two a room?"
"Sure, there's a nice room on the third floor," Tony said.
"How many floors do you have, anyways?" Natalie asked, curious. She handed Loki to Tony, and he carried him off. Natalie followed as Tony said, "Ninety-three floors."
"That's a LOT," Natalie said. She stepped into the elevator with Tony, and said somewhat sheepishly, "I apologize for threatening to break your door down earlier."
"It's reinforced metal, I doubt you'd succeed," Tony said. The elevator stopped, and they got out as Tony asked, "You care about Loki, don't you?"
"Yes," Natalie said. "Something about him makes me want to help him. I can't really explain why, though."
Tony made a non-committal noise and said, "Here's the room I mentioned."
The door slid open as they approached it, and Natalie went in first. It was an enormous room, with a green theme to it. There was a huge bed, a fluffy-looking couch, a nightstand with a lamp on it next to the bed, a wooden dresser, what appeared to be a walk-in closet, a desk with a chair, and a bathroom at the back. Natalie went over to the bed and pulled the blankets back. Tony came over and set Loki down on the bed, and Natalie tucked him in. He stirred as Natalie pulled the blankets over him, and opened his eyes blearily. "Loki?" Natalie asked softly.
"What…. happened?" Loki asked, his voice scratchy.
"You passed out," Natalie said. "You're really sick; I think you caught the flu. And it looks like we're both staying here until you've recovered."
Loki became tense, and then asked, "And after I recover?"
"You can move in with me if you want to," Natalie said. "And if your abusive family tries to stop you, I'll just take them down."
Loki looked at her dubiously. "I sincerely doubt you would stand a chance against Thor, much less Odin," he said.
"I'll just insult them until they get so mad they start making mistakes," Natalie said casually. "That usually works."
"You know how to fight?" Loki asked, sounding slightly startled.
"I'm a black belt in karate, and I took gymnastics for over ten years on top of that, so yes, I can fight, and I'm very flexible," Natalie said.
"I hate to break you two up," Tony began in a voice that said he wasn't sorry at all, "But Natalie, do you need anything from your house?"
"Oh right," Natalie said. "None of you are going to harm Loki while I'm gone, right?"
"Overprotective much?" Tony snickered, earning himself a death glare from Natalie. He just snickered and said, "I promise none of us will harm Reindeer Games."
Natalie looked at him oddly, and finally said, "Fine. I don't really want to know where that nickname came from, so I'll just go pack some stuff and come back." She looked at Loki, and asked, "Will you be alright on your own for a while?"
"I will be fine," Loki said.
Natalie smiled and started to leave, then noticed Tony wasn't going anywhere. "Mr. Stark, you'd better not talk Loki's ear off if you're staying," she warned Tony.
"It's Tony, and I won't," Tony said.
Natalie sighed and left. She figured out quickly how to get downstairs, and left the building, then walked home at a brisk pace, not wanting to be gone too long. She found that her apartment building had a bunch of police cars surrounding it, and groaned. One of the officers noticed her, and asked, "Miss, is that your apartment?"
"Yep," Natalie said. "I came back to get my stuff; I'm sleeping at a friend's house for now."
"What happened?" the officer asked. "We got a very strange report of a man throwing a hammer through your window and dragging someone out of it- but the person described doesn't match your appearance."
"My roommate got dragged out, and I found him and took him to my friend's place because he has the flu," Natalie said. "I don't know why the other guy dragged him off, but he's safe, and I need to get back to him. Can I go now?"
"Fine…" the officer said, letting her through. Natalie went upstairs and went to her room, packed a bag, and headed out again, back to Avengers Tower. JARVIS let her in, and she went back to the room she was sharing with Loki. On her way, she saw Tony coming out of the room, and he waved at her. "Hey, I think we should have a meeting with the others," he said. "Meet us in the kitchen, we'll have breakfast ready."
"Thanks," Natalie said. She took the bag to the bedroom, and set it on the sofa. Loki looked at her as she came over, and she said, "Apparently I'm meeting with the others. Do you need anything before I go?"
"Sleep," Loki said dryly. "Stark ignored your warning and talked the entire time you were gone."
"I'll have a word with him," Natalie said, and left again. She got to the kitchen, and found all the others assembled there, eating waffles. Tony handed her a plate, and she nodded in thanks before sitting down. The others eyed her for a minute, and she noticed Thor wasn't there anymore. "Where'd the blonde idiot go?" she asked.
"Thor went back to Asgard to tell Odin that Loki was under your protection and to leave him alone at least until he recovers," Clint said. "You didn't tell anyone where you were going, right?"
"I simply told the police who asked that I was staying with friends," Natalie replied. "They didn't question me much, and I didn't say anything about any of you or Loki. Unless they followed me, they won't know I'm here. I suppose you all are planning on questioning me?"
"Reindeer Games was right, you are perceptive," Tony muttered.
Clint glared at Tony and then said to Natalie, "Yes, that was the plan. We simply need to know if we can trust you."
"I have no intention of betraying you," Natalie said. "I simply want to help Loki. I'll answer any questions you have for me, if that makes you feel better."
"I guess we'll start with the basics, then," Clint said. "Full name?"
"Natalie Allison McKenzie."
"What's your relationship to Loki?"
"Despite the fact I've known him for less than two days, I'd say he's a friend."
"Do you trust him?"
"Even though he's commonly known as the God of Lies?"
"He hasn't lied to me so far- except to tell me he was fine when he quite obviously wasn't. I think that's a guy thing." Natalie smirked when the guys at the table all twitched.
"Does it bother you that he nearly destroyed the city a few months ago?"
"Considering he wasn't in control of himself at the time, not particularly. I'm not thrilled the city was almost destroyed, but I don't blame Loki for something he did under mind control."
"How do you know he wasn't lying about that?"
"I saw the look in his eyes and his body language. He wasn't lying when he said he was under mind control. I've heard that people's eyes look different when they're under mind control; did anyone notice anything about his eyes during that battle?"
"They were blue," Bruce said. "Other than that, no."
"Loki has green eyes," Natalie said. "His eyes aren't blue, and they haven't been since I met him. I'd say that there's your answer."
"Clint's eyes were blue when Loki was controlling him," Natasha said thoughtfully.
"Well, I guess that settles that question," Tony said.
Clint sighed and asked Natalie, "Do you swear not to reveal anything you may learn while staying here?"
"Yes," Natalie said. "I won't even tell anyone I was staying here if you don't want me to. I have plenty of friends in the area who I might be staying with. And I don't have a landline, so it's not like anyone's going to be asking me where I am."
"If you were to describe Loki, what would you say?" Steve asked.
"Broken," Natalie said without hesitation, causing the others to look at her.
"Broken?" Tony repeated.
"He has PTSD, abandonment issues, a serious inferiority complex, and he and Thor have the worst case of sibling rivalry I've ever seen- which is saying something," Natalie said. "And at least one of his parents was SERIOUSLY abusive- I'm guessing Odin. Loki literally believes he's worthless, and that he deserves to be abused. I get the sense that it goes beyond just Odin's abuse and both his parents' blatant favoritism of Thor, but I can't confirm that. He hides it behind lies and masks, and he does a damn good job of it, but I've always been able to read people better than my peers. Loki is the single most broken person I've ever met, and to be quite honest, I'm not sure he will ever fully recover from what he's gone through. That may be why I'm so drawn to him; I've always been determined to help people with their problems, and if anyone needs help with problems, it's Loki- no matter what he may have to say about the matter."
The others were silent for a few minutes, and then the silence was broken by JARVIS saying, "Miss McKenzie, Mr. Laufeyson is asking for you."
"He found out I told these guys, right?" Natalie asked as she headed to the nearest elevator.
"Not to my knowledge; he is simply asking for you," JARVIS said.
"Thanks," Natalie said. She reached the elevator, and stepped in, saying, "Third floor please, JARVIS."
The elevator doors closed, leaving the Avengers sitting at the table to talk. "Why do you think Loki was asking for Natalie?" Tony asked.
"Maybe because he needs something and doesn't trust the rest of us enough to ask," Bruce said.
"I'm just puzzled as to why he trusts anyone, much less a girl he met not even two days ago," Tony said. "Makes me wonder what she said when she analyzed him yesterday."