Chapter Twenty-Three: Uh-Oh
Late that night: Natalie finally climbed in with Loki, seeing as he hadn't woken up yet. She fell asleep quickly, feeling Loki curl up against her.
The next morning: Natalie and Loki woke up around the same time, and Natalie asked, "Loki, how are you feeling?"
"I think I'm fine," Loki said. "Should we get up?"
"Good idea," Natalie said. "Do you want to shower first?"
"That would be nice," Loki said.
"Go ahead," Natalie said with a smile.
When they were both showered and dressed, they went downstairs, and found the others in the kitchen, talking about something. "Morning, what's going on?" Natalie asked.
"Steve's trying to convince Thor that Pop-Tarts don't constitute a healthy breakfast, and the rest of us are watching the show," Tony said.
"How's your ankle feeling?" Natalie asked.
"I can't really feel it because of the morphine," Tony said.
"I can probably fix it," Loki offered.
"That would be great, since we've still got enemies on the loose," Tony replied.
Loki laid a hand on Tony's splinted ankle, and concentrated, tendrils of green magic wrapping around Tony's ankle.
Natalie watched with interest as Loki healed Tony's ankle, and when he was done, said, "That was cool, Loki."
"Thanks," Loki said. "I wonder if the others realize we're actually out of Pop-Tarts?"
"I guess I'd better go to the store," Natalie said. "I'll be back soon."
"You don't have to go," Tony said.
"It'll be nice to get outside," Natalie said. "Don't worry about it."
"Okay," Tony said. "Hey Thor, what kind of Pop-Tarts do you want?"
"Not helping, Tony," Steve said dryly.
"I would like strawberry!" Thor said excitedly.
"I'll go get those," Natalie said. She went and grabbed her purse, and left the Tower. It was a nice day out, and Natalie enjoyed the walk to the grocery store. Once there, she grabbed three boxes of strawberry Pop-Tarts, and went to the check-out counters. After paying, she took the bag, and left the store. Just outside the store, however, her cell phone rang, and she picked up, seeing it was Tony. To her surprise, when she picked up, Natalie heard JARVIS's voice say, "Miss McKenzie, there is a situation here, and I require your assistance."
"Be right back," Natalie said, and hung up, then ran back to the Tower. JARVIS let her in, and as she took the elevator, she asked, "What happened?"
"Sir and everyone else has been turned into a child or a toddler," JARVIS said.
"Phil too?" Natalie asked.
"Agent Coulson is currently at SHIELD headquarters, so I assume not," JARVIS replied. "I have already contacted him, Director Fury, and Miss Potts with the situation, and Miss Potts is already there."
"Thanks," Natalie said. "Do you have any idea how this happened?"
"Security footage does not show anything, however my scanners detected something similar to Mr. Laufeyson's magic right before everyone turned into children," JARVIS replied. "However, the energy signature was not the same as his."
"So probably another sorcerer," Natalie said, getting off the elevator and going to the kitchen.
She found utter chaos in there, along with Pepper, who looked hugely relieved when she saw Natalie. "Thank heaven you're back," Pepper said. She was surrounded by all the kids save Loki and Thor, both of whom looked worried.
"So, total chaos today, huh?" Natalie asked wryly.
"Yes, and Loki and Thor are refusing to come anywhere near me for some reason," Pepper said.
"Miss Pepper, who's this?" a six-year-old who was obviously Steve asked.
"This is Natalie, she was taking a walk and now she's here to help me take care of all of you," Pepper said gently.
Natalie smiled when all the kids looked at her. She noticed Natasha, who appeared to be about five, looked intrigued, and then she asked, "ваше имя Наталья тоже?" Is your name Natalia too?
"As I'm sure you can see, Natasha doesn't speak English yet," Pepper said.
"нет, просто Натали," (No, I'm just Natalie.) Natalie said to Natasha, then in English, "I'm fluent in Russian, and she says her name's Natalia. She was asking if that was my name too, but I'm just Natalie."
"You're fluent in Russian?" Pepper asked, interested.
"The high school didn't teach Japanese, so I chose Russian," Natalie said.
Suddenly JARVIS said, "Miss McKenzie, Miss Potts, Director Fury and Agent Coulson have arrived and are on their way down."
Thor and Loki both jumped a bit, but the other kids didn't. Noticing Natalie's surprised look, Pepper said, "I explained JARVIS to them while I was waiting for you."
"I see," Natalie said as Fury and Phil came in. Fury looked harried, and Phil nearly stopped dead. "How exactly did this happen?" Fury asked, looking around at the kids.
"According to JARVIS, another sorcerer snuck in and did this," Natalie said.
"It wasn't Loki?" Fury asked, eyeing the five-year-old, who tried to hide behind Thor.
"Not according to my scanners, Director," JARVIS said. "There was definitely another energy signature involved in this, and not one that I recognize."
Before Fury could respond, a four-year-old Tony toddled over and tugged on his coat. "Pirate!" he said gleefully. Bruce, who was six, tugged him away, looking at Fury warily. "Pirates are dangerous, Tony," he said. "Stay away from him."
Natasha went over to Natalie, and asked, "Что Тони сказать?" What did Tony say?
"Он назвал Фьюри пират, и Брюс сказал ему, чтобы держаться подальше от пиратов," Natalie replied. He called Fury a pirate, and Bruce told him to stay away from pirates.
Natasha giggled a bit. "Он выглядит как пират," she said. He does look like a pirate.
"Miss McKenzie, I was unaware you spoke Russian," Fury commented.
"I'm fluent," Natalie said. "They didn't offer Japanese, so I took the next most interesting language."
"What are we going to do about this mess?" Phil asked. "If something comes up, the Avengers can't fight."
"I'll see if Dr. Foster can pinpoint when this new sorcerer came and where they might be now, so hopefully we can capture this person, and I'll see if there's a way to contact Asgard and Frigga, since Odin's not too likely to help," Fury said. "Agent Coulson, you, Miss Potts, and Miss McKenzie are on babysitting duty. Miss McKenzie, do you have something to say?"
"I was wondering if since there's three of us and seven kids, if we could ask my mom to help out," Natalie said. "She works from home, so it wouldn't be a problem for her to come stay here for a while, I don't think."
"Call her," Fury said.
Natalie got out her cell phone and dialed her home number. When her mother picked up, she asked, "Natalie, how are things going?"
"Everyone except me and Agent Coulson are now children," Natalie said. "Are you available? There's three adults and seven kids, and we could use the extra help."
"How long are we talking?" Mrs. McKenzie asked.
"I'm not sure, but SHIELD is going to be working on figuring out how to fix this," Natalie said.
"Let me tell your father and pack some stuff, and I'll be there soon," Mrs. McKenzie said.
"Thanks Mom," Natalie said.
"Sure sweetie," Mrs. McKenzie said, and hung up.
Natalie looked at the others and said, "She'll be here soon."
"Then I'll be leaving," Fury said. "Good luck."
"Thanks," Natalie said. Fury turned and left, and Phil sighed, then looked around. "Why are there only six kids?" he asked.
"Who's missing?" Natalie asked.
Pepper looked around, and said, "Clint's missing."
"How old is he?" Phil asked.
"Two," Pepper said.
"Then he couldn't have gotten too far," Phil said. "I'll go find him; you two stay with the others."
"Okay," Natalie said. She looked around at the other kids, and then went over to Thor and Loki, who were still looking wary. She knelt in front of Loki, who looked more nervous than Thor, and said, "It's okay, no one will hurt either of you here."
"Where are we?" Loki asked timidly. "This doesn't look like anywhere on Asgard."
"You're right," Natalie said. "You're on Midgard right now, though the people here call it Earth."
"Are we in the sky?" Loki asked, pointing to the window.
"No, we're in a very tall building," Natalie said. "It certainly looks like we're in the sky though, doesn't it?"
Loki nodded shyly. Natasha came over and eyed the two brothers, then said, "Ваша одежда странно." Your clothes are strange.
"Наталья, это не очень приятно," (Natalia, that's not very nice.) Natalie said. "Они из другого мира. Это только естественно, что они одеваются по-разному." They're from a different world. It's only natural that they dress differently.
"Мне жаль," Natasha said, looking down. I'm sorry.
"Can you teach me to speak that language?" Loki asked hopefully. "I would like to learn another language."
"Loki, it is better if you focus on your warrior training than learning a secret language," Thor said.
Loki looked somewhat sad, and Natalie said, "Thor, learning about other languages and cultures is just as important as learning how to fight. Did you know that another in another language called Chinese, you could deeply insult someone if you said a word or phrase the wrong way? You two are princes where you come from, right?"
"Yes," Thor said proudly.
"It's important for royalty to understand other cultures and their people, since at some point, you'll have to deal with them, and if you insult the wrong person, you might start a fight- or even a war," Natalie said. "Being polite is essential to being in a position of power. Didn't your parents ever tell you that?"
"Mother reminds us of that a lot," Loki said. "Are you royalty too?"
Natalie giggled. "No, I'm not," she said. "I've studied history, though, and I know diplomacy is a very important skill for royalty to have. Otherwise, they tend to get overthrown- or end up in bad situations they can't get out of."
Thor looked like he was thinking as Phil came back in carrying a squirming two-year-old Clint. "He was under the sofa," Phil said. "I guess we'll have to keep a close eye on him."
"Probably," Natalie agreed. "Should we make breakfast?"
"More like lunch at this point, but good plan," Pepper said. "Do you think peanut butter and jelly will work?"
"Most likely," Natalie said. She looked at Natasha and asked, "Арахисовое масло и желе хорошо для обеда?" Is peanut butter and jelly okay for lunch?
"Есть абрикосового джема?" Natasha asked. Is there apricot jam?
"Pepper, is there any apricot jam?" Natalie asked.
Pepper looked and said, "There's plenty, is that what Natalia wants?"
"Да, вы хотели бы что?" Natalie asked. Yes, would you like that?
"Да, пожалуйста," Natasha said. Yes, please.
Natalie looked at Pepper and said, "She says yes please. What other kinds of jam do we have?"
"Strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry," Pepper said.
Natalie nodded and turned back to Thor and Loki. "Do either of you have a preference of those jams?" she said.
"I'd like strawberry, please," Loki said shyly.
"Apricot, please," Thor said.
"Okay," Natalie said. "Pepper, did you get that?"
"Yup," Pepper said. "I think we'll need to buy more bread after this though. Will you get out some grapes for all the kids?"
"Sure," Natalie said. She got up and went to the fridge, getting out a bag of grapes and putting some on each of the plates Pepper had gotten out after washing them. "I've heard giving two-year-olds whole grapes increases a risk of choking; should I do apple slices for Clint instead?" Natalie asked.
"Good idea, I didn't even think of that," Pepper said. "Have you babysat before?"
"Yeah, I took a course on it when I was twelve, so I could spend time with kids and earn a bit of cash," Natalie said. "The biggest challenge I ever had was a pair of four-year-old twins, and even they were pretty well-behaved- for four-year-olds. I'm glad it's not just me today, because I'm fairly certain I can't handle seven little kids."
"Why not?" Steve asked her, having listened to the conversation.
"I can't keep an eye on all seven of you at the same time, especially if you're all doing something different, so it's good that Pepper and Phil are here, and that my mother is coming, because that means there will be plenty of people to look after all of you," Natalie explained as she cut up an apple and put a few slices on a plate for Clint.
"Oh," Steve said.
JARVIS broke into the conversation at that point, saying, "Miss McKenzie, your mother is outside."
"Visual?" Natalie said. A screen popped up, showing her mother, and she smiled. "Let her in, and tell her where the kitchen is, please," she said.
The screen vanished as JARVIS said, "Already done, Miss McKenzie."
Sure enough, Mrs. McKenzie came into the kitchen carrying a duffel bag over her shoulder, and said, "Hi everyone, I'm Eve McKenzie, Natalie's mother."
"Hi Mrs. McKenzie," said all the children, save Natasha. Natalie smiled at her mother and said, "Hi Mom, thanks for coming. We're just setting out lunch for the kids, but you can set your bag down in the living room if you want."
"Alright," Mrs. McKenzie said. She set the bag down on the sofa, and then came back. Natasha looked up at Natalie, who said, "Это моя мать, Ева МакКензи." This is my mother, Eve McKenzie.
"Привет миссис Маккензи," Natasha said. "Я Наталья." Hi Mrs. McKenzie. I'm Natalia.
Mrs. McKenzie looked at Natalie, who said, "Natalia here doesn't speak English, but she says hi. I am SO glad I took Russian now, by the way."
"You're certainly doing a good job of it," Phil said. "I'm fluent too, and you've got a really good grasp of the language."
"Thanks Phil," Natalie said. "I guess I should do introductions. Mom, this is Agent Phil Coulson, and Pepper Potts."
"It's nice to meet you both; please call me Eve," Mrs. McKenzie said.
"Nice to meet you too, Eve," Pepper said.
"Same here," Phil said. "Thanks for coming to help us."
"Sure," Mrs. McKenzie said. "It's actually good timing, since my husband wanted some father-son bonding time with our son Kevin, and I needed a vacation anyways."
"I wouldn't call this a 'vacation', but it's good you could come," Natalie said dryly.
"Okay kids, come have a seat; lunch is ready!" Pepper called.
The kids all came over and found seats, after Natalie repeated the message in Russian to Natasha. Pepper started setting out sandwiches, and finally she was left with Clint's cut-up sandwich and apple slices. "We should have gotten a high chair," Phil sighed. "I guess for now Clint can sit on my lap."
Pepper handed him Clint's plate, and he settled the two year old on his lap, putting the plate within easy reach. Clint made a happy noise and grabbed an apple slice, then started gnawing on it. The others were happily eating too, and Loki said, "Lady Natalie, this is really good."
"I'm glad you like it, but Pepper is the one who made these sandwiches, not me," Natalie said.
"Thank you Lady Pepper," Loki said.
"You're welcome Loki," Pepper said, smiling.
"Pepper's awesome!" Tony chirped happily. Pepper laughed and ruffled his hair. "I'm glad you think so, Tony," she said.
"I'm finished, what are we doing next?" Steve asked.
"What would you like to do?" Natalie asked.
"I like drawing," Steve said.
"Okay, does anyone else want to draw?" Natalie asked.
"I would," Bruce said quietly.
"Can I draw too?" Loki asked timidly.
"I wanna draw too!" Tony said.
"I will try it…." Thor said.
"Наталья, остальные все заинтересованы в розыгрыше; ты?" Natalie asked. Natalia, the others are all interested in drawing; are you?
"Я люблю рисовать," Natasha said. I like to draw.
Natalie nodded and said, "Alright, looks like that's everyone except Clint, but he might need a nap soon, he looks kind of tired."
Clint was looking a bit tired, and snuggling against Phil. "I'll put him to bed for a bit; can you ladies handle the others?" Phil asked.
"Of course, we'll be fine," Mrs. McKenzie said. "We do, however, need art supplies."
"Young Mr. Rogers has plenty in his room," JARVIS said, causing Mrs. McKenzie to start.
"I have lots of art supplies here?" Steve asked.
"Yes," JARVIS said.
"Would you mind sharing?" Natalie asked Steve.
"I don't mind; but can you come too, Miss Natalie?" Steve asked.
"Sure, I'll come," Natalie said. She got up and walked with Steve to the elevator, and they went up to his room. Natalie smiled when Steve's eyes lit up at all the art supplies, and he immediately grabbed some. Natalie helped him carry a bunch of paper, markers, and colored pencils back to the kitchen, where Mrs. McKenzie was clearing the table. Natalie and Steve put all the art supplies on the table, and Natalie started passing them out. The kids started drawing, and Natalie went to get herself something to eat.
As she was finishing a sandwich, having been joined by Pepper and Mrs. McKenzie, JARVIS said, "Miss McKenzie, there is an incoming call from Director Fury for you."
"Okay," Natalie said. She went into the living room and said, "Put him through, please."
A holographic screen popped up, and Fury's face came up. "Miss McKenzie, how are things going?" he asked.
"All the kids are drawing except Clint; he's taking a nap and Phil is with him," Natalie said. "What about on your end?"
"We managed to contact Frigga through a device that Dr. Foster had, and she said she'll come as soon as she can," Fury said. "And she says the most likely culprit is a sorceress named Amora, who apparently has some kind of grudge against Loki. It's a possibility that this Amora joined forces with the Chitauri, but we don't know that for sure. According to Frigga, this woman's insane, so be careful."
"I will," Natalie said. Before she could say more, she felt a tug on her pants leg, and looked down to see Tony looking at her. "Are you talking to the pirate guy again?" he asked. "Bruce said to be careful if you are; he might try to kill you."
Natalie bent down and lifted Tony onto her hip, then said, "I'm sure Fury won't kill me, Tony. Besides, he's not really a pirate; he's the leader of a spying organization."
"No talking parrots?" Tony asked.
"No," Fury said dryly. "But I have no intention of killing Miss McKenzie, so you don't have to worry." He looked back at Natalie and said, "I'll be in touch." Then he hung up, and Natalie sighed. Tony wiggled in her arms, and said, "Come see my drawing!"
Natalie smiled. "Okay," she said. She set Tony down, and he ran back to the kitchen, Natalie following. Tony showed her a drawing that appeared to be her and maybe Pepper playing with him. "Is that you, me, and Pepper?" she asked.
"Yep!" Tony said. "Do you like it?"
"I love it," Natalie said, smiling. "Should we hang it up?"
"Yeah!" Tony said happily. "Can we put it on the fridge?"
"Sure," Natalie said. "Let's find something to hang it up with."
"There are magnets in the drawer to the right of the sink," Pepper said.
"Great, thanks," Natalie said. She looked in the drawer, and took out a pack of refrigerator magnets. Taking two out, she hung Tony's drawing on the fridge.
Phil came in as the other kids were showing off their drawings, carrying Clint, and asked, "Should I make a trip to the mall? We're going to need clothes for them, and food, and we could use a high chair too."
"That's a good idea," Mrs. McKenzie said. "I was thinking we could take all the kids to the library to get some books, since I doubt there are any children's books here."
"I think it's better if they stay here, considering who they are- and the fact that we don't know exactly when Frigga is coming," Phil said. "I can pick up some books on my way back; maybe they could watch a movie in the meantime?"
"What is a movie?" Loki asked.
"It's a bunch of moving pictures on a screen that tell a story," Pepper said.
"I think I would rather go to the library," Loki said. "I like books."
Natalie felt a tug on her shirt, and looked at Natasha, who looked confused. "О чем они говорят?" she asked. What are they talking about?
"Другие, возможно, смотрит кино, но Локи хочет идти в библиотеку вместо этого. Есть ли у вас предпочтения?" Natalie asked. The others might be watching a movie, but Loki wants to go to the library. Do you have a preference?
"Если фильм на английском языке, я бы предпочел библиотеку," Natasha said. If the movie is in English, I would prefer the library.
Natalie turned to the others and said, "Natalia says if the movie's in English, she'd prefer the library. I don't mind taking her and Loki; or Phil could drop us off on the way to the mall."
"Can you and Eve handle the others, Pepper?" Phil asked.
"We'll be fine; you go ahead," Mrs. McKenzie said. "Natalie, don't forget your cell phone."