Chapter Twenty-Two: Disappearance
Late that night: Natalie felt Loki get up, but ignored it and went back to sleep, figuring he needed the bathroom or something.
The next morning, however: Natalie woke up and found Loki gone. Sitting up, she looked around, puzzled, then got up and looked at the bathroom door. It was open and the lights were off. Maybe he got up before me, Natalie thought, and went to take a shower. When she was dressed, she left and went down to the kitchen. The others were all already there, but Tony and Loki weren't. "Natalie, have you seen Tony?" Bruce asked.
"No, and Loki's missing too," Natalie said. "I thought he'd be down here; do you know what happened?"
"We don't have a clue, and according to JARVIS, Tony just disappeared," Steve said grimly. "There was no sign of a struggle or someone else being here, either."
"I didn't hear anything resembling a struggle either," Natalie said. "I can try to contact them, though."
"How?" Steve asked.
"Telepathy," Natalie said. "How do you think I found Kevin yesterday?"
"Go for it," Steve said.
Natalie concentrated, and called telepathically, Tony? Tony, can you hear me?
She waited for nearly five minutes, fists clenching, until she heard, Natalie?
Yes, Natalie said. What happened, and do you know where you are?
I'm in some kind of prison cell, and there are a bunch of Chitauri around, Tony replied.
Are you injured at all? Natalie asked. And have you seen Loki?
They broke my ankle, and I haven't seen Loki, Tony said grimly. If they have him, he's nowhere near me, and I doubt they'll put us together. And I have no clue what these guys are plotting; I don't understand their language.
I'll talk to the others and we'll figure out a plan; try to stay alive, Natalie said.
I'll do my best, Tony said.
Natalie opened her eyes, and told the others, "The Chitauri have Tony. He doesn't know if Loki is there or not, and he's got a broken ankle. I can try to contact Loki, but there's a good chance he won't respond if they're torturing him."
"Try it anyways," Steve said.
Natalie nodded and called telepathically, Loki?
She immediately knew something was wrong when she didn't even feel a connection. "There's no connection," she said after a minute. "That either means he's unconscious, being mind-controlled- or it means he's dead."
"He is not dead; I would feel it," Thor said firmly.
"So we have two people to rescue, and they're both on another planet," Steve said, rubbing his forehead.
Just as Steve finished speaking, there was a loud BOOM in the living room, and Natalie and the Avengers ran to see what was going on. They found a large crater near the window, which was shattered. "What the hell?" Natalie said. The dust cleared after a minute, revealing Loki and Tony, both of whom were unconscious. Steve ran over, followed by Natalie. Natalie went to Loki, and checking for a pulse, was relieved to find him alive. He was pretty beaten up, though, and his left arm looked broken. Natalie looked over at Steve, who looked relieved, and asked, "How's Tony?"
"Aside from the broken ankle, he's uninjured," Steve said. "How's Loki?"
"He's pretty beat up, and I think his left arm is broken," Natalie said. She gently put a hand on Loki's forehead, and winced. "He's got a fever, too," she said.
Steve felt Tony's forehead, and said, "Not good; Tony's burning up. We need to put them both to bed."
Before he could say more, Tony woke up with a scream, causing Steve to jump back. Natalie quickly went over to Tony and put a hand on his shoulder. "Tony, what happened?" she asked softly.
Tony looked at her, obviously panicked. "Where's Steve?" he asked frantically.
"I'm right here," Steve said. "What happened, Tony?"
"You-you were dead," Tony said, staring at him. He tried to sit up, but ended up having to settle back down. "I'm dizzy…." Tony mumbled.
Bruce came over, and Natalie moved back as he said, "Tony, I need to set your ankle, so I'm giving you some morphine, okay?"
"Sure…." Tony said. Bruce came over with some morphine, and helped Tony take it. Natalie went to check on Loki while Bruce waited for the morphine to take effect.
Natalie wasn't surprised to see that most of Loki's injuries were already healing. She felt his forehead again, and noticed his fever had gone down. As she took her hand away, Loki slowly opened his eyes. "Loki?" Natalie asked softly.
Loki looked at her. "Natalie?" he asked. "What happened?"
"The Chitauri kidnapped you and Tony, and for some reason the two of you just crashed through the window," Natalie replied. "I have no clue how you got back, but it looks like your injuries are starting to heal. How are you feeling?"
"I feel dizzy," Loki said. "My injuries are nearly healed, however."
"You've got a bit of a fever, though it's not as bad as it was when you first got here," Natalie said. "Do you think you can walk? You should go to bed."
Loki slowly sat up, and pushed himself to his feet, stumbling a bit. Natalie immediately stood up and steadied him. She noticed he was shaking, and then his knees buckled. Natalie caught him, and was about to lower him back to the floor when Thor came over and picked Loki up. "I will take Loki to your room," he told Natalie. "Did you not have a meeting with Clint?"
"Yes," Natalie said. "Loki, will you be okay with Thor?"
"I will be fine," Loki said.
"Alright," Natalie said. "Thor, if you talk the whole time, I will confiscate Mjolnir."
Thor sighed and carried Loki off, sulking. Natalie turned to the others, noticing Steve carrying Tony away, and noticed Clint wasn't there anymore. "He ran for it the minute Thor mentioned your meeting," Natasha said blandly.
Natalie sighed, and focusing on Clint, called telepathically, Clint, get out here NOW!
She didn't get a response, but she did get a sense of nervousness that seemed to be coming from the ceiling. Concentrating on that feeling, she walked over to a spot under a vent, and listened. She heard Clint quietly crawling away, and called into the vent, "You can run, but you can't hide!"
She heard a quiet, "Fuck…." and then an idea occurred to her. "JARVIS, are you able to track Clint?" she asked.
"He appears to be heading for the training room, Miss McKenzie," JARVIS said.
"Thanks," Natalie said. "Clint, if you don't get your ass out here, I am going to MAKE you get out."
"NO!" Clint said.
Coulson came over and said, "Agent Barton, I order you to get out of the vents."
"Why?" Clint growled.
"Because you're supposed to be in therapy right now, and you're disobeying orders," Coulson said flatly. "Do NOT make me taze you."
There was a bunch of grumbling and swearing, but Clint finally came out of the vents and asked grouchily, "Where are we going?"
"Somewhere you're comfortable- that isn't the vents," Natalie said. "Anywhere else is fine."
"Can we go to the roof?" Clint asked.
"Fine, but no escaping," Natalie said dryly. She turned to Coulson and said, "Thanks for the help, Agent."
"You're welcome, and please call me Phil," Coulson said.
Natalie smiled, and then noticed Clint looking bored. "Alright, let's go Clint," she said, leading the way to the elevator. Clint didn't move, and Natalie sighed, went back, grabbed his hand, and dragged him off. Once they were headed to the roof, Natalie asked, "So what's up with you, anyways?"
"Can you see into my mind?" Clint asked.
"Not without physically touching you, and even then, I would get your permission," Natalie replied. "If you tried to shield your mind against me, and I tried to get in anyways, it would cause me intense migraines. I would never go into someone's subconscious without their permission or a spectacularly good reason. As long as you're not in a coma or under mind control, I have no desire to go into your mind. That's not what I do. I'm a therapist, not a mind-reader or a psychic."
They reached the roof, and got off the elevator, then settled down. "So, what's up with your thing with heights?" Natalie asked.
Clint sighed. "I feel safer when I'm high up," he said. "Not many people look up when they're looking for someone. And vents are a great hiding place slash getaway from everything else."
"And the jumping out at people on your side?" Natalie asked. "I can understand doing that to scare the shit out of an enemy, but according to your colleagues and your boss, they've all been on the receiving end of you jumping out of a vent right on top of them."
"It's funny," Clint grumbled.
"Maybe for you, but did you ever consider that not everyone shares your unique brand of insanity?" Natalie asked. "Judging by all the complaints I saw on your file, I'd say no one else finds you scaring them 'funny.'"
"Are there really that many?" Clint asked.
"Last I checked there were two hundred complaints for that very act, forty of which came from Fury, who personally asked me to get it through your head that jumping out of a vent at someone who is not your enemy is not allowed," Natalie said dryly. "That's not a harmless prank, it's a way to give your paranoid colleagues a heart attack or a good excuse to kill you. What do you think's going to happen when one day someone thinks they're actually being attacked and shoots you? You could be severely injured or even killed simply because you're addicted to scaring the living crap out of people. If you were working for a less dangerous organization in an office building, I would probably be egging you on, but as it is, it's not okay for you to scare your colleagues."
Clint started sulking and didn't say anything until Natalie giggled. "What?" he asked.
"You're sulking," Natalie said. "We can talk about something else now if you want, just think over what I've told you."
"I don't like talking about myself," Clint grumbled.
"Is it that you don't trust me?" Natalie asked.
"It's not that, I just don't like talking about my experiences period," Clint said. "Trusting someone doesn't have anything to do with it. I don't even really talk to Tasha or Tony."
"So talking about yourself brings you out of your comfort zone?" Natalie asked.
"Yeah, pretty much," Clint said.
"You do realize that part of my job is to help get you to leave your comfort zone once in a while, right?" Natalie asked. "I'm not going to tell you to tell me your life story, and we don't have to get into anything too heavy yet, since this is only the first meeting, but I want you to think over what I've told you, both about your scaring people habits, and one of the main purposes of therapy. If you don't want to continue today, that's fine, but I don't want to have to drag you out here every Tuesday, got it?"
"Got it," Clint said. "Can I go back to my vents now?"
"Technically they're Tony's- but yes, fine, go back to your vents," Natalie said, getting up. "Next time I should have the modified agreement I'm working on for you and Natasha."
"Agreement?" Clint asked.
"Confidentiality agreement; I had to modify the standard one for you and Natasha because of your jobs," Natalie said.
"Okay," Clint said as they went back inside.
They reached the rec floor just as a loud, "TONY!" came from upstairs.
"That sounds like Steve," Phil commented, coming over. "I wonder what Stark did?"
"Captain Rogers has apparently found the little 'gift' Sir left on his desk," JARVIS said.
"I thought he was leaving that thing on Steve's bed," Natalie said.
"Apparently he reconsidered," JARVIS said. "Sir asks if you would like to see Captain Rogers' reaction?"
"I'd love to," Natalie said.
Clint and Phil came over as a holographic screen came up, and they watched Steve walk over to his desk, where he found a pair of women's panties with his face on the crotch. The shocked, horrified and somewhat disgusted look on his face was priceless- and then he turned toward the door and yelled, "TONY!"
Clint was doubled up laughing, and Natalie was laughing pretty hard too as Phil asked, "Where did Stark even get that thing?"
"Hot Topic," Natalie giggled. "Apparently he and Loki got bored and hired a fashion designer some time ago, and those underwear are the result. According to Sadie, who works there, they're pretty popular."
"Sadie?" Clint asked.
"She's a childhood friend of mine, but she changed schools right before junior high," Natalie said. "I hadn't seen her in nearly fifteen years; I'm amazed she recognized me."
Before the others could respond, JARVIS said, "Miss McKenzie, Mr. Odinson is asking for you."
"I'll be right there," Natalie said, and headed for the nearest elevator. JARVIS took her up two floors, and she went to her and Loki's room, going in. Thor looked up as she asked softly, "What's wrong?"
"Loki's fever has gone down, but he was having a nightmare, and would not wake," Thor replied, keeping his voice down.
Natalie came over, and noticed Loki looked like he was trying to calm down. She gently put a hand on his cheek, and he leaned into her touch, calming down completely. Natalie settled down on the bed, and started stroking Loki's hair gently. His fever had gone down significantly; in fact it was almost gone, and his injuries appeared healed. He relaxed as she stroked his hair, and Natalie smiled.