Chapter Twenty-One: Feelings and a Kidnapping
Half an hour later: Tony came into the room looking utterly miserable, and flopped down next to Natalie on the couch. "I was right, he is homophobic, and now apparently he thinks I'm worthless and disgusting," Tony said gloomily.
"Did he actually say worthless and disgusting?" Natalie asked.
"No…. but I could tell from the tone of his voice he was thinking it," Tony said glumly.
Natalie gently shooed Loki off her lap and pulled Tony into her arms gently. The next thing she knew, Tony was hugging her back, his face buried in her shoulder. She felt him shaking, and rubbed Tony's back gently, still hugging him. "I'm sorry you had to go through that, Tony," Natalie said softly.
"I wanted to be like Steve when I was a kid," Tony said, his voice muffled by Natalie's shoulder. "I hoped if I could be like him, my dad would love me too. Then when I was older, I didn't like him at all, especially right after I actually met him. And now that I've gotten to know him, I found out that I'm in love with him, and he's probably going to hate me for eternity because I told him that."
Natalie heard footsteps, and looked up to see Steve hesitantly coming over. Tony didn't even look up, and Natalie asked Steve, "Well?"
"I don't hate you, Tony," Steve said. "I just grew up in a time when what you said would have gotten you thrown in jail, and I kind of panicked out of habit."
"Out of habit?" Tony asked, lifting his head to look at Steve. "Does that mean you're NOT a straight homophobe?"
"I'm bi," Steve said. "And it's not something I advertise, because I grew up hearing it was a crime against nature. It's hard to rewrite a lifetime of belief, but I'm going to try, because I don't want to hurt you anymore than I already have."
"Does that mean you would like to go out with me?" Tony asked.
Steve glanced at Natalie as he said, "Sure Tony, I'd like that a lot."
Natalie got the picture, and let go of Tony, then got up and said, "I'll let you two work this out; good luck."
"Thanks," Steve said as Natalie left.
As Natalie walked to her room, her cell phone rang, and seeing it was her dad, she picked up. "Dad, is something wrong?" she asked.
"Your brother is missing," Mr. McKenzie said grimly.
Cold fear settled in Natalie's stomach as she asked, "What happened?"
"He never came home from school; we called the school and his friends, and finally we called the police," Mr. McKenzie said. "They've had no luck finding him either. Can you try telepathy?"
"Sure, I'll call you back when I've got news," Natalie said. She hung up, then sat down on her bed and concentrated on her brother, calling telepathically, Kevin?
She waited for a few minutes, hands clenching, before she heard, Nat? Is that you?
Yes. Do you know where you are? Natalie asked.
No, but the guy who captured me looks vaguely familiar- like I've seen a picture of him before, Kevin said.
Describe him, Natalie said, trying to keep calm.
Huge guy with long white hair and an eye-patch, and he has a spear, Kevin replied. The guy who's outside my cell called him 'Allfather'. This place is weird….
Natalie really had to clamp down on her anger before saying, I've got a pretty good idea of where you are, and after I tell Dad what happened, I'm coming to get you, okay?
Be careful, these guys all look like warriors, Kevin said.
Don't worry, Natalie said, and cut the connection. She grabbed her cell phone and dialed her home number. Her dad picked up after two rings, and asked, "Did you contact him?"
"I've got an idea of where he is, and Loki and I will handle this- it's not something the police can do," Natalie said.
"Be careful, and I'll want a full explanation when you get back," Mr. McKenzie replied, and hung up.
Natalie grabbed a pair of sneakers and put them on while asking, "JARVIS, is Thor still here?"
"Yes, he is in the kitchen," JARVIS said.
"Thanks," Natalie said, and ran to the elevator, taking it to the rec floor where the kitchen was. She ran to the kitchen and found Thor eating Pop-Tarts. He looked up as she came in, and asked, "What has happened? Your eyes are blue again."
"Odin apparently captured my brother and I need you to take me to Asgard, since Loki will probably get killed if he goes," Natalie said.
"My father has captured your brother?" Thor asked, confused.
"Yes, and I need to get him back, so can you please take me to Asgard so I can get my brother back and kill your idiotic father?" Natalie said.
Thor sighed. "I will take you, but please do not kill my father; it will mean that I will have to take the throne and Loki claims I am not ready," Thor said.
"Fine, I won't kill him," Natalie said. "Can we go?"
Thor abandoned his Pop-Tarts and laid a hand on Natalie's shoulder before looking up at the ceiling and calling, "Heimdall, I am ready."
They vanished into a portal, and a moment later found themselves on the Bifrost, with a tall man with golden eyes looking at them. "The boy you seek is in the dungeons under guard," Heimdall said.
"Thank you, Heimdall," Thor said, and motioned to Natalie. She followed him as he asked, "Shall we get my mother in on this?"
"Sure, she'll probably be furious and therefore less likely to hate me if I stab Odin in the balls with something sharp and pointy," Natalie said.
"You seem to enjoy thinking up ways to cause my father harm," Thor commented as they reached the palace.
"You only just noticed that?" Natalie asked.
"No, I am simply not good at remaining silent for long periods of time," Thor replied. He led her to a different entrance to the palace, and they went in. A woman spotted them, and came over, then said, "Prince Thor, I would avoid the throne room- the king and queen are fighting."
"I'm guessing Queen Frigga found out Odin captured my brother for no apparent reason?" Natalie asked.
"I heard one of the guards mention the boy was captured for someone else as a peace offering," the woman said. "I don't know any more than that."
"Thank you," said Thor. The woman bowed and hurried off, and Thor led the way through the palace and down to the dungeons. The cell closest to the staircase was guarded by two warriors, and they looked up, then bowed. "Prince Thor, to what do we owe this honor?" one of them asked.
"I have come for the boy Odin captured," Thor said.
"I still do not know what that's about, but you can have him- we were only given orders not to let him escape," the guard said. He took a key off his belt, and opened the door, then went in and came back out with Kevin. Kevin looked at Thor and said, "Thanks for getting me out; did Nat send you?"
"Actually, I came too, I just thought getting you out would go better if the guards didn't notice me," Natalie said, stepping out from behind Thor. Kevin threw himself at her, and she hugged back tightly. "I'm glad you're safe," she said. "We should get out of here, though; Mom and Dad are worried about you. And I kind of forgot to tell Loki that I was leaving."
"He is going to lecture me on caution again…." Thor moaned.
"I'll take the blame; let's just go before your evil dad finds out we're here," Natalie said.
Thor sighed and led the way out. They got out of the palace with no interference, and went back to the Bifrost. Heimdall was there, and he gave them a look of approval before sending them back to Tony's tower.
They landed in the living room, where they found the other Avengers and Loki having a meeting. They all looked up, and looked relieved. "What happened?" Loki asked. "I came into the kitchen just as you and Thor vanished, and we had no idea what happened! And why is Kevin here?"
"I got a call from my dad saying Kevin had disappeared, and I used telepathy to contact Kevin," Natalie said. "When he described his captor, I knew it was Odin, so I convinced Thor to take me to Asgard and we got Kevin back. Sorry I didn't tell anyone first."
"Why did Odin kidnap Kevin?" Steve asked, puzzled. "I would think it would be Thanos."
"One of the maids said that she had heard a guard say Kevin was being held for someone else," Thor replied. "I believe the reason Father kidnapped young Kevin was as a peace offering to Thanos."
"The woman mentioned Odin and Frigga were fighting," Natalie said. "My guess is Frigga found out about this. I need to get Kevin home now, though."
"I'll drive you," Tony said.
"Thanks," Natalie said. "Kevin, are you ready?"
"Yeah," Kevin said. He looked at Thor, and said, "Thanks, Thor."
"You are most welcome," Thor said with a broad grin. Kevin smiled back, and he and Natalie went to get in one of Tony's cars.
Tony drove them to the McKenzie's house, and they got out, Natalie going up to the door and ringing the bell. They heard running footsteps a minute later, and the door was yanked open by Mrs. McKenzie, who was followed quickly by her husband. They looked utterly relieved when they saw Kevin, and Mrs. McKenzie started hugging the life out of him while Mr. McKenzie said to Natalie and Tony, "Thank you both."
"I didn't do anything besides drive them here," Tony said. "Natalie and Thor were the ones who went to Asgard and got Kevin back."
"What exactly happened?" Mr. McKenzie asked.
"I was walking home from the bus stop, and then suddenly I was on some kind of bridge," Kevin said. "The guy who brought me there handed me over to Odin, who threw me in his dungeon, and I was there until Thor and Nat came. We didn't have any trouble getting out after that."
"Why did Odin kidnap you?" Mrs. McKenzie asked.
"We think he might have been planning to use Kevin as a peace offering for Thanos, who is after Natalie," Tony said. "And Natalie and I should probably go before we draw any more attention to you guys."
"Alright," Mr. McKenzie said. "Thank you for bringing Kevin home."
"Sure," Tony said. Natalie waved goodbye to her family and followed Tony back to the car. After a few minutes driving, Natalie noticed something and asked, "Where are we going?"
"You need more professional clothing, so I'm taking you shopping!" Tony said gleefully.
"You sound waaaaay too happy about that- and I thought you hated stores," Natalie said dryly. "And how do you know I don't have more professional clothing?"
"Loki told me," Tony said nonchalantly. "Come on, it'll be fun!"
Natalie got a sense of impending doom as they pulled into the parking lot of a large mall, and reluctantly got out of the car, following an unusually gleeful Tony into the building. She wasn't sure she wanted to know why he was so happy, and her suspicions of impending doom were proven correct when Tony made a beeline for Hot Topic. "Seriously?" she asked him, eyeing the shop warily. "I thought you said we were shopping for professional clothing."
"We are, I just wanted to show you mine and Loki's latest genius idea to mortify Steve," Tony said.
"What did you do?" Natalie sighed.
"You'll see," Tony said happily, and dragged her into the store. Natalie sighed when she got a few odd looks, and tried to ignore them as Tony asked a salesgirl, "Do you sell Captain America themed clothing?"
"All the Avengers stuff is over in the corner there," the young woman said, pointing. She blinked when she saw Natalie, and asked, "Natalie? Natalie McKenzie?"
"Yeah… Sadie?" Natalie asked, surprised. "Jeez, I haven't seen you since sixth grade!"
"Well, I did switch schools," Sadie said. "How's it going?"
"Very good, I just got my doctorate in psychology," Natalie said. "Are you in school?"
"Yep, I'm going to a school that teaches people to be chefs," Sadie said. "I work here part-time to help pay the bills. So where are you working?"
"I'm working as a therapist for five pretty insane people," Natalie said. "Never a dull moment, that's for sure."
"Oi, I'm not as insane as Barton," Tony said, offended.
"You don't seem to be denying that you are insane, however," Natalie commented dryly.
Tony wandered off, sulking, and Sadie asked, "Is that your boyfriend?"
"No, Tony's a friend and one of my clients," Natalie said. "And I think he's trying to prank a friend of his with something, which means I need to keep an eye on him."
"Hey Natalie, they do have them here, come see!" Tony called.
Natalie went over, followed by a curious Sadie, and Tony showed her a pair of women's panties with Steve's face printed on the crotch. "Let me guess, you and Loki got bored and hired a fashion designer to design this, right?" Natalie asked.
"Yup!" Tony said gleefully.
"Those are the hottest Avengers item so far," Sadie said. "You're behind that?"
"Yep," Tony said. "I figured I'd leave a pair on Steve's bed, record his reaction to them, and frame Loki if he comes after me."
"He's still going to know it's you," Natalie commented. "But his initial reaction would be highly amusing to see."
"Okay!" Tony said gleefully. "This is going to be so fun!"
"Take it up to the counter then; I'm NOT paying for that," Natalie said.
Tony just shrugged and went to the counter, where Sadie was waiting. She took the money Tony gave her and put the pair of panties in a bag, then said, "Here you go, have fun."
"Thanks," Tony said. He had a totally evil grin on his face, and Natalie said, "Where to now?"
"We're getting you more professional clothing," Tony said as they left.
"You do realize I have a reason for dressing the way I do, right?" Natalie asked.
"What is it?" Tony asked.
"I want you guys to be more comfortable around me, and if I'm dressed more professionally, that won't work as well," Natalie explained. "The more comfortable I can make you guys, the better."
"I guess I didn't think of that," Tony said.
"I have enough professional clothes in case I need to meet with someone like Fury, but for meeting with you guys, I feel like I should dress in a way that makes you comfortable enough to actually talk to me," Natalie said. "Should we go put those on Steve's bed?"
Tony perked up and all but dragged her back to the parking lot. They got in Tony's car, and Tony drove them back to Avengers Tower.
They found the others watching a movie when they got back, and Loki asked, "What took you so long?"
"We took a detour," Tony said. "And I've got something to do in the lab, so I'll be leaving now."
"I'll come get you when dinner's ready," Natalie said. "I was thinking pasta with meat sauce- is that okay with everyone?"
"Sounds fine to me," Tony said. The others nodded, and as Tony left, Natalie asked, "Loki, would you make the salad?"
"Sure," Loki said, and followed her into the kitchen, watching as she washed her hands and started getting out ingredients for the meat sauce. "Loki, why don't you go see if we have any baguette," Natalie suggested. "The salad is kind of a last-minute thing."
Loki headed to the bread cabinet, and Natalie started making the sauce. "I found two loaves; what do you want me to do with them?" Loki asked her.
"Cut the loaves into slices, they'll make a nice side dish, and set out some butter," Natalie said, stirring the sauce.
Twenty minutes later, the sauce was done and simmering, and Natalie had started the pasta, which was rigatoni. "You can make the salad now, Loki," Natalie said over her shoulder. "We're almost ready."
"Should I tell Tony as well?" Loki asked.
"Probably a good idea, and let the others know," Natalie said. Loki left, and Natalie stirred the pasta. Ten minutes later, she drained it and put the three pounds of rigatoni in a large bowl, then did the same with the sauce. Loki had come back and made the salad, and he had set out the bread and butter as well as set the table. Natalie set the main course on the table, and looked up as everyone else came in. "That smells like heaven," Clint said.
"Glad you think so, I hope it tastes like heaven too," Natalie said. "Have a seat, I'll get the parmesan cheese out of the fridge." She went to the fridge and got out a container of shredded parmesan, then got a spoon for it, and set it in the middle of the table before sitting down next to Loki. They started passing the food around, and everyone dug in.
"This is heaven," Tony said after a few bites. "Where did you learn to cook this well?"
"My mom taught me before I left home," Natalie said. "I'm glad you like it; I like cooking and baking."
The rest of dinner was fun; they talked about different things, and afterwards, they went to watch a movie. After the movie was over, Natalie told Clint, "Clint, you've got therapy with me tomorrow."
"Mmph," Clint said. Natalie gave him a stern look, and he sighed. "Fine…" he said gloomily.