Chapter Three: Fury
With Natalie: Natalie left the elevator and ran down the hall, then opened the door to Loki's and her bedroom, slipping in and shutting it behind her. Loki was lying in the bed, and he looked up as she came over. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"You were gone for a long time," Loki said.
"I'm sorry," Natalie said, sitting down on the bed with him. "They had questions for me."
"About me?" Loki asked.
"Mainly, yes," Natalie said. "I think they just wanted to know if they could trust both of us."
"What was your response?" Loki asked.
"I told them that I trust you," Natalie said. "You've never given me any reason not to trust you- and I am scarily good at seeing through lies and masks."
"So what do those skills tell you about me now?" Loki asked.
"That you're putting up a brave front when the truth is that you feel awful," Natalie said. "And you're mainly doing it because you've been told multiple times that showing weakness is a bad thing."
Loki gaped at her again, only snapping out of it when she said, "You know, letting other people in isn't considered weakness here. It's considered strength. I saw a slogan on a poster that was for people who need help with mental problems, like PTSD. It said, "It takes the courage of a warrior to ask for help." And I agree. As long as you maintain the idea that asking for help is weakness, you won't recover. Asking for help is hard, especially for people who have been taught not to ask for help. But it's also the only way you'll get better. And I mean from your inner demons, not from the flu you've got right now."
"Inner demons?" Loki asked.
"It means problems that you hold inside," Natalie said. "The longer you hold stuff inside, the worse it gets."
Loki looked like he wanted to respond, but started coughing again before he could. Natalie quickly pulled him into a sitting position, and held him until the coughing fit ended. She noticed a glass of water on the nightstand, and picked it up, supporting Loki with her free arm and putting the glass to his lips. He drank some, and then said quietly, "Thank you."
"Sure," Natalie said. "We can talk more later, if you want; right now you should try to get some rest."
"I am surprised that Thor is not barging in," Loki commented.
"He apparently went back to Asgard to inform Odin that you were under my protection and they'd have to wait until you recovered to do anything else to you," Natalie said. "That's what Clint said, anyways." She helped Loki lie back down, and tucked him back in, then slightly hesitantly smoothed his hair back. Loki looked tired as she stroked his hair, and soon enough he was asleep again.
About three hours later, Natalie heard a knock on the door, and called, "Come in."
Tony came in as Loki stirred, and said, "We have a problem."
"If it's Odin, I fully plan to castrate him for what he's done to Loki," Natalie said.
Tony winced and said, "It's not Odin, though that could be temporary. Fury's here, and he's not happy that we're harboring Reindeer Games there."
"Tell him to go screw himself," Natalie said bluntly.
Tony snickered and said, "I can just imagine what he's going to say to that."
"What WHO is going to say to what?" an unfamiliar voice said behind Tony. Natalie tensed as a man with an eye-patch came into the room, looking angry. "Would you care to explain why you were harboring a war criminal and why you decided to drag Stark and the others into this mess?" he asked.
"For starters, I didn't know Loki was a war criminal when I found him on my floor, I thought he was a cosplayer," Natalie said coldly. "And I would like to point out that if Thor hadn't broken into my apartment and dragged Loki out my now-smashed window, I wouldn't have decided to try to break Tony's door down and these people would have no idea that Loki was even here. I can assure you that Loki is not plotting world domination, and on top of that, he's got the flu. There is not a chance in HELL of me letting you take him, and if you choose not to leave us alone, I will use you as a dummy so I know how to castrate people if I ever meet Odin."
"….May I ask why you want to castrate Odin?" Fury asked.
"Because he's an abusive jackass with serious issues, and if he hadn't been such a jerk, Loki probably wouldn't have had any issues at all," Natalie replied. "Besides, Loki was under mind control while he was attacking New York, so it's really not his fault at all. Are you leaving now?"
"If he does anything, I'm holding YOU responsible," Fury said.
"And if you do anything, I'll castrate you," Natalie replied calmly.
Fury just stalked out. Tony came in a minute later, and said, "That was impressive."
"I was just warming up," Natalie said. She heard a soft noise from behind her, and turned to see Loki shaking. She immediately went over, and noticed his eyes were blank again. She carefully put a hand on his cheek, and said softly, "Loki. Loki, wake up, you're safe here."
Loki's blank look slowly faded as Natalie whispered reassurances, and finally he said, "They were torturing me…."
"They can't get you here," Natalie said, even though she didn't know who 'they' were. "You're safe now, Loki." She gently pulled him into her arms, hugging him. After a few minutes, she felt Loki hug back hesitantly. She tightened her grip a bit, and started stroking his hair again. A while later, his grip loosened, and Natalie felt his breathing even out. She gently set him down, tucking him back in and sitting next to him on the bed. She gently started stroking Loki's hair again, and for once he relaxed completely. A small smile tugged at Natalie's lips.
Four hours or so later, Natalie was still sitting with Loki when there was another knock on the door. She sighed softly and got up to see who was bugging them this time.
It turned out to be Tony, and he said, "We're having dinner, I came to see if you wanted to join us."
"That would be nice, thanks," Natalie said. She got up carefully, and left with Tony. Loki was still asleep.
Dinner turned out to be Chinese take-out, and afterwards, Natalie took some fruit and toast up to Loki, leaving the Avengers to talk.
"Natalie's sure getting attached to Loki," Tony commented.
"I'm kind of worried about that," Bruce admitted. "Eventually he'll get better, and then we all know Odin will want to throw him in a cell or something equally pleasant."
"That's if Natalie doesn't go through with castrating Odin first," Tony said. "She threatened to use Fury as practice, did I mention that?"
"No, but that takes guts," Clint said. "And he just left?"
"He told her she was responsible if Loki did anything, and she replied that if he did anything, she'd castrate him, and then he left," Tony said. "I wouldn't put it past her to find some way of going to Asgard and actually castrating Odin. She really hates the guy."
"Considering he was apparently abusing someone she considers a friend, I'm not surprised," Steve said. "She's kind of overprotective of Loki."
"'Kind of' is an understatement," Tony said. "You should have seen her when she was talking to Fury. He was in full intimidation mode and she wasn't even fazed when she told him that she was going to castrate him if he did anything to Reindeer Games."
"Do you think she's in love with him?" Natasha asked.
"I think if she's not already, it's only a matter of time," Tony said.
"What's only a matter of time?" Natalie asked as she came back into the room carrying a plate. She didn't miss the way Tony flinched a bit, and asked, "I take it you were talking about me?"
"How do you DO that?" Tony asked.
Natalie started collecting the dishes as she said, "It's a talent. I just happen to be very perceptive, and the way you flinched when I asked what you were talking about told me that it wasn't something you wanted me to hear. And that would mean either you're talking about me, some kind of secret that you don't want me to know, or Loki. I had a feeling you were talking about me, and you proved it."
"How's Loki doing?" Tony asked, attempting to change the subject.
Natalie gave him a look that clearly said she knew what he was doing, but said, "His fever went down, and he's not coughing as much as he was earlier. He's healing much faster than I expected, so I'd say he'll be fine by tomorrow or the next day. Unlike a human, apparently he doesn't need weeks to get over the flu." She paused in thought, and then said, "You and he are a lot alike."
"How does THAT work?" Tony asked.
"You both choose to hide behind masks, rather than showing your true feelings to the world," Natalie said. "You've both been through more pain than anyone should have to go through, and neither of you came out unscathed. The main difference between you and Loki, however, is how you choose to handle things. Loki is often wary and bitter towards others, not letting anyone in no matter what they do. You, on the other hand, act happy and carefree almost all the time, using the arrogant playboy act to hide your true feelings. I also think that deep down, you want someone who understands you and what you've been through. Unlike Loki, you have friends who are there for you no matter what. Loki had no one before I came along; even Thor never tried to understand him, no matter how much he claims he cares about Loki. At least you have friends."
Tony looked somewhat shaken. Then he abruptly stood up and left without a word. Natalie sighed softly and finished washing the dishes, then dried her hands and looked at the others. "I'll apologize after he has some time to himself," she said. "I don't think going after him right away is a good idea. I'm going back to Loki; I hope you don't mind."
"We don't mind," Steve said.
Natalie gave him a small, grateful smile before leaving. She went straight back to the room she was sharing with Loki, and found him sleeping again. Deciding to do the same, she went to change in the bathroom, and came out in pajamas a few minutes later. She curled up with some blankets on the sofa, and slowly fell asleep.
The next morning: Natalie got up early, and checked on Loki, who was also waking up. "How are you feeling?" she asked him.
"I feel much better," Loki said. "Are you going to allow me to get out of bed soon?"
Natalie felt his forehead and said, "Your fever's gone; I don't see why not. I'm going to shower, and I was planning on making breakfast for everyone. I brought your clothes with me when I got some stuff from my house yesterday; do you mind waiting to shower?"
"I will wait for you to be done," Loki said.
"Thanks," Natalie said, and went to get clothes. She took them to the bathroom, and took a quick shower. After pulling her hair back and brushing her teeth, she left the bathroom and told Loki, "Your turn, I'm headed downstairs."
"Thank you," Loki said. He got up, and Natalie gave him his clothes, then left. Going to the kitchen, she found that the coffee was already almost done, and there was no one in there. Shrugging, she started looking around, and found a bunch of pancake mix in one of the cabinets. She started mixing it up, and found a griddle, then started cooking the pancakes. By the time she was out of batter, both Steve and Bruce had come in. Tony came in a few minutes later, still half-asleep, and Natalie put the pancakes on the table, which she had already set. She watched Tony get some coffee, and then Loki came in. Natalie smiled at him and then asked Steve, "Where are Clint and Natasha?"
"They had to go into work early," Steve replied. "Thanks for cooking breakfast."
"Sure," Natalie said. She looked at Tony, who was looking more awake. He noticed her looking at him, and she said, "I'm sorry for last night. I should remember that not everyone appreciates being analyzed."
"Eh, it's fine," Tony said unconcernedly. "These are good pancakes."
"It's just a mix," Natalie said, amused. She sat down to eat with the others. Loki was eyeing the pancakes with distrust. "Loki, they're not poisoned," Natalie said. "And they'll get cold if you just stare at them."
Loki sighed and took a bite- then proceeded to eat the rest in about a minute. Natalie giggled at his enthusiasm. Tony snickered too, and said, "Jeez Reindeer Games, you must really like pancakes."
"They are good," Loki said.
"I guess us Midgardians aren't all bad," Tony snickered.
Loki chose to ignore him. Tony asked Natalie, "So are you a good cook?"
"I like what I make," Natalie said. "I wouldn't call myself a world-class chef or anything, but I like cooking. Not to mention I live alone, so I had to learn."
"The soup you made two days ago was good," Loki commented.
"The miso soup? Glad you liked it," Natalie said. "Hopefully it'll still be good when we get back."
"We?" Loki asked.
"I did invite you to live with me," Natalie pointed out.
Tony started snickering at this point, and Loki asked, "May I ask what you find amusing in that statement, Stark?"
"Oh, nothing," Tony snickered. "Don't mind me."
Loki lifted an eyebrow, and said, "You are clearly lying."
"You're one to talk," Tony snarked back.
Before Natalie could tell them to stop, JARVIS said, "Sir, Mr. Odinson is back."
"Good," Tony said, as Thor came in. "What happened?" Tony asked him.
"Father wishes to meet Lady Natalie," Thor said. He paused, then said, "And I have been ordered to bring Loki back as well."
"This means I get to tell him what I think of his parenting methods, right?" Natalie asked.
"I would not recommend it," Thor said.
"The worst that'll happen is that he'll kill me, and then I can haunt him," Natalie said. Tony snorted.
"Please do not joke about that," Loki said. "I do not wish to see you killed."
"Sorry," Natalie said. She looked at Thor and asked, "I suppose we're going now?"
"Yes," Thor said.
Natalie looked at Loki, who was obviously (to her) nervous. "It'll be fine," she told him softly. "I won't let them harm you or lock you up again."
Loki still looked uncertain, but stood up. Natalie did the same, and they went over to Thor as a beam of light hit them.