Chapter Twenty-Eight: Gymnastics
She left, and went upstairs, then went to her and Loki's room. Outside the door she heard Loki cackling rather evilly, and called, "Loki, what are you doing in there?"
She just heard more cackling, and sighed, then went in. Loki was sitting on their bed, reading something. One look at the book, and Natalie groaned; Loki had discovered her collection of Garfield comics. Without looking up, he asked, "Did you know cats have good ideas for world domination?"
"Loki…. Are you feeling okay?" Natalie asked warily. "I thought you didn't want to dominate the world anymore."
"What if I got everyone to believe that cats were behind it?" Loki asked.
Natalie went over to him and yanked the book out of his hands, then held it out of reach when he tried to grab it back. "That's enough Garfield for YOU," she said sternly. "I will not let you stage a world take-over using cats- or any other method, for that matter."
Loki pouted at her, and Natalie just raised an eyebrow, unmoved. Finally Loki sighed. "It was fun to think about….." he said.
"Okay, I'm getting rid of my Garfield stash," Natalie said. "If this is how you react to those comics, they're better off gone."
"Aww…." Loki said. "I LIKE them."
"That kind of reaction isn't normal, and I don't want the others to think you're going on another 'take over Earth' kick," Natalie said firmly. She took the book she was holding and went to the bookshelf, then took all the Garfield books off the shelves. She put them in a bag, and then noticed Loki was giving her puppy dog eyes. "NO, Loki," she said wearily. "Thor's greatest weapon doesn't work on me, remember?"
"Mjolnir is his greatest weapon," Loki said, confused.
"No it's not; his greatest weapon is that puppy dog face he gives people," Natalie said. "Though I bet he'll be proud that you learned from him."
Loki burst out laughing. "I have to tell him that!" he laughed. When he had calmed down somewhat, Loki got up and left. Natalie followed, curious to see Thor's reaction. She didn't get far; halfway out the door, JARVIS said, "Miss McKenzie, Colonel Rhodes requires your assistance. He is with Sir in Sir's lab."
Natalie changed direction quickly and took the elevator to Tony's lab, then went in. She found Tony on the floor, unconscious, and Rhodey sitting on a nearby work bench. "What happened?" Natalie asked warily.
"Tony was trying to take his arc reactor out, and I knocked him out before he got that far," Rhodey said. "I don't know what the hell he was thinking, but you seem to have at least some influence on him, so I told JARVIS to get you so you'd be here when Tony wakes up."
Natalie knelt next to Tony and put a hand on his forehead, telling Rhodey, "Stay quiet." Then she closed her eyes, and went into Tony's subconscious, looking around. For some reason everything seemed blurry, and Natalie concentrated, trying to make the blurriness go away. Finally the blurriness dissipated, and Natalie felt Tony waking up, so she extracted herself from his mind.
Opening her eyes, she noticed Tony was staring at her, and then he asked, "What happened?"
"Rhodey claims you were trying to take your arc reactor out, so he knocked you out before you got that far," Natalie said. "Why was your mind blurred?"
"I breathed something in by accident; it must have messed with my mind," Tony said, sitting up. "Sorry to interrupt your time with Reindeer Games."
"He's currently telling Thor that I said Thor's greatest weapon isn't Mjolnir, but his puppy dog face," Natalie said.
Tony and Rhodey both started laughing. "JARVIS, please tell me you recorded Thor's reaction," Tony said.
"I did indeed; would you like me to put it onscreen?" JARVIS asked.
"Yes," Tony said.
A holographic screen popped up in front of them, and Tony, Natalie, and Rhodey gathered around it.
They watched as Loki walked into Thor's room, and Thor looked up. "Brother, is something wrong?" he asked.
"No, it's just that Natalie says your greatest weapon isn't Mjolnir," Loki said, snickering.
"What does she think my greatest weapon is, then?" Thor asked, confused.
"Your puppy dog face," Loki said. "I must admit, you using that face is nearly as effective as my persuasion techniques."
"Natalie believes I look like a puppy?" Thor asked despairingly.
"You do when you make that face, and let's face it; you act like a giant puppy most of the time," Loki said.
Thor dropped his head into his hands with a moan of despair. "I do not want to be thought of as a puppy…." he moaned.
"I'm fairly certain it's only the humans who think of you that way," Loki said.
This did not reassure Thor in the least, and in the lab, while Tony and Rhodey were laughing their heads off, Natalie was feeling a little guilty. "I'm kind of regretting telling Loki that Thor's greatest weapon was his puppy dog eyes," she said. "Thor looks pretty unhappy."
"Do you really think that?" Tony asked.
"Unfortunately, yes," Natalie sighed. "And I agree with Loki; when Thor's not fighting, he's like a giant puppy." Suddenly she realized something, and said, "Dammit."
"What's wrong?" Tony asked.
"I left the Garfield books in my room," Natalie said. "Loki had a rather creepy reaction to them, so I was going to get rid of them."
"What was his reaction?" Tony asked.
"He was doing his evil laugh and talking about using cats to take over the world," Natalie said.
Tony shuddered and said, "Yeah, definitely get rid of your collection."
Natalie went back upstairs and did just that, grabbing the bag of Garfield books and hiding them. Loki came back soon after, and they got ready for bed, climbing in together.
The next morning: Natalie sleepily got up and went to take a shower. When she got out and looked in the mirror, she noticed her hair had turned sky blue. "LOKI!" she shrieked angrily.
"Like it?" Loki asked, walking into the bathroom uninvited.
"NO, I do NOT," Natalie snarled. "Why did you turn my hair sky blue?"
"You took away the comics," Loki said. "You do realize I was only joking, right?"
"Considering your history, I'd recommend not joking about taking over the world," Natalie said dryly. "If I give you the books back, will you turn my hair back to normal?"
"Fine…." Loki said sulkily.
"I hid the books in our closet," Natalie said.
Loki perked up and snapped his fingers. Natalie looked in the mirror as Loki left, and was relieved to find that her hair was reddish brown again. She put it into a ponytail and left the bathroom. Loki was dragging the bag of Garfield books out of the closet, and Natalie sighed and said, "I'm going to go make breakfast; come down when you're ready."
Loki just nodded, and Natalie left, heading to the kitchen. To her surprise, she found not only Thor and Steve, but also Sif and three other men in there. "Hi Sif," Natalie said. "Please don't tell me Odin sent Frigga to Jotunheim again."
"No, but we have news that both Thor and Loki should hear; where is Loki?" Sif asked.
"Still upstairs; I got up before him," Natalie said. "He's probably in the shower. Who are your friends?"
"These are the Warriors Three; Hogun, Fandral, and Volstagg," Thor said proudly.
Natalie tilted her head to the side a bit, and said, "I thought Sif was part of that group. Why isn't it the Warriors Four, or something like that?"
"Sif joined our group after we had taken on that name," Fandral explained.
"Oh…." Natalie said, trailing off as she went and got a mixing bowl and the griddle. She got out the ingredients for pancakes, and a bag of chocolate chips, then started making a large amount of batter, due to the extra guests. "Steve, can you make some bacon if we have any?" she asked over her shoulder.
"Sure," Steve said. He dug two packages of bacon out of the fridge, and got out a pan, then started the bacon. Natalie, meanwhile, had finished the batter, and was putting the first batch of pancakes on the griddle. She got out a larger platter for the pancakes, and a plate for the bacon, which she handed to Steve. Flipping the pancakes, she said over her shoulder, "Thor, instead of standing there watching us, can you set the table?"
"Certainly," Thor said.
Tony, Bruce, and Loki came in as Natalie was flipping the second batch of pancakes. Rhodey had left the night before. Loki immediately looked wary. "Thor, what are your friends doing here, and why are they staring at you like you have two heads?" Loki asked warily.
"We come bearing news from Asgard," Volstagg said.
"What did Odin do this time?" Loki asked wearily.
"I am not clear on the details, but I believe he was attempting to perform the renouncement ritual to make Baldur next in line," Volstagg said. "In any case, Frigga banished him and took over as Queen. This was met with no opposition, as Odin's decisions have been questioned quite a bit lately. We were told Odin will not be back, and that we should come here and tell all of you the news."
"Finally," Natalie said. "You can tell Frigga I said congratulations on getting rid of the one-eyed bastard."
Loki snickered and said, "Good riddance."
"She has also rescinded your banishment, Loki, but she did not seem to think you would want to come back," Volstagg said.
"She would be correct in that assumption; my home now is where Natalie is," Loki said.
Natalie smiled softly at that, as she put a full platter of pancakes on the table. Loki immediately came over and asked, "Do I smell chocolate?"
Natalie rolled her eyes. "Yes, they're chocolate chip pancakes," she said with fond exasperation.
Loki promptly kissed her and then said, "I love you."
"I hope it's not just because I provide you with chocolate," Natalie said.
"Don't worry, I have many more reasons- but I don't really want the others to hear this, so I'll tell you later," Loki said.
Natalie smiled and kissed his cheek before starting in on her pancakes and bacon. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Volstagg was eating like a pig, and snapped, "Volstagg, if you don't start eating like a person, I'm taking that away. Your eating habits are disgusting."
Volstagg slowed down, and the other Asgardians looked at Natalie in awe. She looked at them and said, "If this is a recurring problem, just threaten to take the food away if he doesn't start eating normally."
"Volstagg ALWAYS eats like that," Loki said, sounding disgusted. "Thankfully Thor's other friends are not as crude, or I would never have been able to eat in their presence."
"Yikes," Natalie said.
"Are you going to the training room after breakfast?" Loki asked.
"Yup," Natalie said. "Why?"
"I like watching you do gymnastics," Loki said. "You get this look like there's nowhere else you'd rather be."
"I do enjoy it," Natalie said. "Gymnastics makes me feel free, especially moves that are done in midair. For a while, however brief, it's like I can fly."
"It certainly looked like you were flying when I went in a few days ago," Tony commented. "I can see why Loki enjoys watching you."
"What is gymnastics?" Sif asked.
"It's a kind of sport that requires you to be very flexible and graceful," Natalie said. "It might be easier to understand if I showed you, though."
"You'll show us?" Tony asked hopefully.
"Sure, let me just change into my gym clothes," Natalie said. "I'll meet you all in the training room." She got up and left for her and Loki's room. Once there, she pulled out a pair of black leggings that went to just above her ankles, and a loose white T-shirt. Taking off her jeans and shirt, she pulled on the other clothes, and started her stretches. When she finished stretching, she left the room and went back down to the training room.
She found the others already in the training room, and smiled slightly at their eager looks. Walking over to the balance beam (she was still amazed by how much gymnastics equipment Tony had), she leapt onto it and said, "JARVIS, can you put on the usual?"
"Of course, Miss McKenzie," JARVIS said. A moment later, Celtic music filled the air, and Natalie started the routine she had worked out. She did two front handsprings on the balance beam, then did a split. Effortlessly lifting herself out of the split, she put both hands on the beam, and did a handstand, then flipped back onto her feet. The music was ending, so she launched herself gracefully into midair, did a flip, and landed perfectly, bowing to the group watching her. The music ended as she straightened.
Tony was the first to start clapping, but the others quickly followed suit. "That was incredible," Bruce said.
"Thanks," Natalie said. "It's been a long time since I've performed, but I still practice my moves. And I managed to base my fighting style off of gymnastics while still keeping the martial arts moves intact."
"That was very impressive," Sif said. "I have never seen someone that flexible, much less someone doing those moves on such a small surface."
"Thank you," Natalie said. "It took a lot of practice, though."
"Hey Natalie, can we chat?" Tony asked. "I've got an idea I want to run by you."
"Sure," Natalie said. "Do you want to go to your room?"
"Sure thing," Tony said. Natalie followed him out, and up to his floor. They settled down in Tony's living room, and Natalie asked, "So what's your idea?"
"I was thinking about how happy Loki seems with you living with him, and decided that since Thor also has a human girlfriend, that I should hire her too, and then they can be together," Tony said.
"That sounds like a great idea, but you might want to ask Jane first," Natalie commented.
"Oh, fine," Tony said.
"You were going to hire her and then tell her after the fact, right?" Natalie asked dryly.
"I think you know me a little too well," Tony grumbled. "Fine, I'll ask her."
"I'll leave you to it; I need a shower," Natalie said, and left.