Chapter Nine: Loki's Birthday
Saturday morning: Natalie had wrapped Loki's presents, and told him Tony needed her for something and to stay put until she got back. Loki seemed a bit suspicious, but agreed.
Natalie went to Stark Tower with the ingredients she had bought for the cake and Loki's presents, since she fully intended to give them to him at the party. JARVIS let her in, and she went straight to the kitchen, where she found Tony, Steve, and Bruce eating breakfast still. "Morning guys," she said happily. "Natasha and Clint are working?"
"No, they're out buying party decorations," Tony said, smirking.
"Are you trying to play matchmaker or something?" Natalie asked, amused.
"They keep dancing around each other; it was the perfect opportunity to give them some alone time!" Tony said.
"Point taken," Natalie said. "I'm going to start the cake, but you don't have to do anything."
"Isn't it a little early?" Tony asked.
"No, because I have the make the batter, bake the cake for an hour, let it cool, and frost it," Natalie explained. "And I can cover it when it's done, so it'll stay fresh for the next few days."
"Suit yourself," Tony said.
Natalie got out a mixing bowl, and started making the batter. "Hey, where'd Thor go?" she asked.
"He went to see if Frigga wanted to come," Steve replied.
Natalie put the cake pans in the oven, and said, "That's nice of him, I hope she can come." She cleaned up and started making the ganache.
"What kind of cake is that?" Bruce asked.
"Chocolate with chocolate ganache," Natalie replied. "Loki is a chocoholic."
Tony snickered. "What did you get him for a present?" he asked.
"I got him a book that I saw him eyeing when I took him to a bookstore, and a pendant made of amber," Natalie said. "Amber supposedly helps ground and calm people if you wear it, and I thought Loki would like it."
"Considering Thor mentioned he's almost never gotten anything for his birthday, I'm sure he'll be very happy," Steve said. "Oh, and Bruce here had an idea that we thought we'd run by you before going through with it."
"What is it?" Natalie asked.
"I was thinking that you two might like a kitten," Bruce said. "Steve likes them a lot, and he says they're therapeutic, so I thought maybe we should get you and Loki a kitten. But we didn't know what the rules of your apartment building were, or whether or not that's something you'd be welcoming of."
"Loki seemed to really like my brother's pet cat," Natalie said thoughtfully. "And small animals are allowed at my building. It's just big pets like large dogs that aren't allowed. We should run this by Loki too though, so why don't we ask him at the party?"
"Sounds like a plan," Steve said. "Tony won't let me get a kitten…."
"Tony, do you have something against cats?" Natalie asked.
"I do not want a kitten in my lab," Tony grumbled. "And the Capsicle has this habit of carrying kittens everywhere."
"Capsicle?" Natalie asked. "That's even weirder than 'Reindeer Games'. Besides, can't you just have JARVIS warn you if Steve's kitten comes near your lab?"
"That's what I said, but he didn't listen," Steve said.
"I still don't want a kitten," Tony said.
"Even if Steve lets you choose the name?" Natalie asked.
"…..I'll consider it."
"Natalie, you're a miracle worker," Steve said.
"I don't understand how anyone could not like kittens- unless they're allergic," Natalie said.
"Mmph," Tony said grouchily as Natalie checked on the cake. She then took it out to cool. The ganache was cooling as well, and fifteen minutes later, Natalie started frosting the cake, which was a two-layer chocolate cake by the time she was done. She let the ganache set as she mixed up some green frosting and got her pastry bag, then carefully wrote on the cake, "Happy B-Day Loki!" in fancy letters. "What do you think?" she asked, showing the others.
"Looks great," Tony said. "You're pretty talented."
"Glad you think so," Natalie said with a smile. She covered the cake with a large pot and put it aside, then cleaned up as Natasha and Clint came back.
"What took you guys so long?" Tony asked. "It's been two hours!"
"We stopped for coffee on the way," Natasha said. "Hello Natalie."
"Hi!" Natalie said cheerfully. "I made the cake, so now we need pizza- unless I'm cooking something else."
"I'll order pizza," Tony said. "You guys start decorating." He took out his cell phone and left the room, dialing a number. Natasha reached into a bag she was carrying and took out green paper plates and black napkins. Natalie took them and started setting the table while Clint and Steve put up a Happy Birthday banner. Tony came back as they finished, and said, "Pizza's on the way; Natalie, you should call Loki and tell him to come over."
"Okay," Natalie said. She took out her cell phone and found Loki's number, then hit Send. He picked up after three rings, and Natalie said, "Loki, Tony wants you to come over, can you?"
"Yes," Loki said. "I will be there soon."
"Great," Natalie said, and hung up, just as JARVIS said, "Sir, Mr. Odinson and his mother have arrived."
Sure enough, Thor and Frigga came into the room, and Frigga said, "Thank you for inviting me. And Natalie, thank you for doing this for Loki."
"Sure," Natalie said.
The pizza had just come when JARVIS said, "Mr. Laufeyson is here."
"Send him up," Tony said.
Loki came in a few minutes later, and looked confused to see everyone there- until Natalie said, "Happy Birthday, Loki!" The others echoed her, and Loki seemed shocked. "You set up a party for my birthday?" he asked.
"Sure did, and it was all Natalie's idea," Tony said. "I just told the others that we were having a party here today."
Loki smiled. "Thank you," he said. He looked at Natalie, who smiled. "You told me you'd never had a real birthday party, so I figured it was high time you had one," she said. "Tony ordered pizza; do you want some?"
"I would like some," Loki said. They all converged on the pizza boxes, and soon everyone was eating happily.
"Natalie, when is your birthday?" Frigga asked as they were cleaning up.
"My birthday is June 5th," Natalie said. "So I've got a ways to go before I turn twenty-three. Why do you ask?"
"I was just curious," Frigga replied with a rather secretive smile.
"Mother, you are plotting something," Loki said flatly.
"Perhaps," Frigga said.
"Do you want to do cake or presents first, Loki?" Natalie asked. "We can figure out what Frigga might be plotting later."
"Cake?" Loki asked hopefully, attention diverted.
Natalie giggled and went to get the cake. She put the large '23' candle in the center, lit it, and carried the cake to the table, joining in as Tony started singing the happy birthday song. She had a feeling he was singing off-key on purpose, but didn't comment as she set the cake in front of Loki and said cheerfully, "Make a wish!"
Loki thought for a minute and then blew out the candle. Natalie took the candle out and got a cake knife, then started cutting slices for everyone. "His slice is bigger!" Tony complained, pointing to Loki.
"It's my birthday, Stark," Loki said, smirking. Tony started sulking as he ate his cake.
"I'll make a cake for your birthday too, Tony," Natalie said. "And then I'll let you cut the slices. The only reason I didn't let Loki cut the cake is because of his chocolate addiction. There wouldn't be any left for the rest of us."
"I cannot help being addicted to chocolate," Loki said. "But I don't understand why you keep making me put the packages of Oreos back on the shelf whenever we go shopping."
"Oreos are far more addictive than chocolate, and once you've had one, you get a compulsion to eat the entire package," Natalie said. "Also, they're really unhealthy."
"What is it with you and healthy?" Tony asked.
"If you eat a healthy diet, it's not only good for your body, it's good for your mental health as well," Natalie said. "By the way, do you know someone named Pepper?"
"She's the CEO of my company, if we're thinking of the same person," Tony said. "Why?"
"I got a text from your phone signed 'Pepper' yesterday, asking me to do something about your alcohol addiction," Natalie said. "I'll be by tomorrow to 'chat' with you."
Tony groaned. "How did she even know you existed?" he moaned.
"Miss Potts was asking me questions, and I mentioned I had a girlfriend who might be able to help with your addiction," Loki said. "I presume she found your phone and used it to ask Natalie for help."
Tony glared at Loki, who simply smirked back.
"So, are we watching Loki open presents?" Steve asked, trying to break the tension.
"Good idea," Natalie said. "I'll go get the ones in the living room." She got up, and went to the living room, where she found two other presents, one of which appeared to be from Natasha. Natalie took them all back to Loki, and said, "These two are from me, the one wrapped in blue is from Natasha, and I think this other one is from Frigga."
Loki looked a bit startled, but opened Natalie's presents first. He smirked when he saw the book she had gotten him; it was a novel titled Loki: Why I Began The End. The author was named Maia Jacomus. Loki had thought it would be interesting to read, and Natalie agreed, so she bought it for him.
He looked puzzled when he opened the amber pendant, which was on a black cord. "Amber?" he asked.
"Yep, it's supposedly meant to help ground people and calm them if they wear it," Natalie said. "And I think it'll go nicely with the amount of black and green you tend to wear."
"Thank you," Loki said, taking her hand and kissing the back of it. Natalie smiled as he then opened Natasha's present, which turned out to be a set of daggers. Loki looked at Natasha, startled, and she said, "I figured you might need a way to defend yourself if we have more problems."
"Thank you, that is very kind of you," Loki replied. He turned to Frigga's present, which appeared to be a small jewelry box. Loki looked at Frigga, who said, "Open it, and I'll explain."
Loki obeyed, and found two matching rings inside. Both were made of gold, with a silver overlay in the shape of a twisting vine. "Those are rings that I had specially made," Frigga said. "If you and Natalie ever decide you wish to marry, those rings are for you both. Even if you don't, I want you to keep them, and know that despite my mistakes, I love you and will support you no matter what. The rings have a protection spell on them as well."
"Thank you, Mother," Loki said, and it was clear he was very sincere.
The others smiled, and then Thor said, "I wanted to give you a sword, but Mother and Tony informed me that Lady Natalie would not take kindly to that."
"I don't know where we'd PUT a sword," Natalie said. "Not to mention what use we'd have for it."
"I prefer daggers in any case," Loki said. After a minute, he said as an afterthought, "But I thank you for the sentiment, Thor."
Thor beamed, clearly thrilled.
Steve cleared his throat after a minute, and as the others looked at him, he said, "Loki, Bruce suggested getting you and Natalie a kitten for your birthday; would you be interested in that?"
"I would be interested in that," Loki said. "Natalie?"
"I already told them yes, but that we should check with you," Natalie said. "When should we go?"
"Now?" Loki suggested.
"Sounds fine to me," Steve said. He looked at Tony, who shrugged and got up. "Where's the nearest cat shelter?" he asked.
"Centre Street, I believe," Steve said. "It's called Animal Haven."
"And you know this how?" Tony asked, lifting an eyebrow.
"I walked by it a few times," Steve said, shrugging. "Should we go?"
"Alright," Tony said. He didn't sound enthusiastic, but he called a cab. While they were waiting, Frigga and Thor went back to Asgard, after saying goodbye to Loki and Natalie. Natalie was surprised when Frigga hugged her as well as Loki.
The cab came a few minutes later, and Natalie, Loki, Steve, and Tony got in. "Stark, you do not look very happy," Loki commented as the driver drove.
"We're going to end up leaving with five kittens, I just know it," Tony said.
"Because of Steve?" Natalie asked. "I don't think even he can handle five kittens, Tony. And Steve, if Tony doesn't let you bring a kitten home, you're welcome to come play with ours anytime."
"Thanks for the offer," Steve said as they reached Animal Haven. Tony tipped the driver, and they all went into the shelter. One of the volunteers welcomed them, and said, "Let me know if you need help."
"Thanks," Natalie said. She spotted a black kitten, and went over. The kitten had very green eyes, and stuck a paw out of the cage when it saw her. Natalie smiled and called, "Loki, this one looks like you."
Loki, Tony, and Steve came over, and Tony said, "Jeez, it's the spitting image of Loki."
"You think I look like a cat?" Loki asked, amused.
"It's a female, and she's two months old," Natalie said, reading the sign. "Her name is Evergreen, apparently." Evergreen mewed cutely when she heard her name.
"Aww…." Steve said.
The young woman volunteering came up to them and said, "Evergreen is a real sweetie; I'm kind of surprised she's been here a month and no one's taken her."
"Do we have to go elsewhere to get her neutered?" Natalie asked.
"No, we do that here as part of taking a cat or kitten home," the woman said. "We also do vaccines, microchips, and give you a license. It's $150 for cats, and $175 for kittens, and the fee covers all that. Have you ever had a kitten?"
"No, but I've had a cat," Natalie said. "She lives with my parents, though."
"You know they require a lot of attention," the woman commented. "I'm not saying that you shouldn't get one, but if you're not home most of the time, it might be better to look into a cat. Kittens are kind of like toddlers; they need constant attention and are pretty hyper. I always wanted a kitten, but since I'm a student, I don't have the time for one."
"I'm a student too," Natalie said. "Loki, what do you think?"
"She may be right, an adult cat would be better if we're not home all the time," Loki said thoughtfully. "I am home more than you, but maybe we should try getting an adult cat before getting a kitten- or at least wait to get a kitten until you are finished with school."
"Which would you rather? It's your birthday," Natalie said.
"I would prefer to wait and get a kitten when you're done with school, so we can bond over something OTHER than anime," Loki said with a smirk.
Natalie lifted an eyebrow and asked, "You don't like anime?"
"Did I say that?" Loki asked, lifting an eyebrow in return.
"Uh, sorry to interrupt, but if you don't plan to take Evergreen, I think I will," Steve said.
Tony sighed, and Steve said, "I PROMISE I'll keep her out of your lab, Tony."
"You're responsible for the kitten, got it?" Tony asked.
"I understand," Steve said, and turned to the young woman, then said, "I'd like to adopt Evergreen."
"Sure," the young woman said happily. "I'll take her to the vet so she can get neutered and checked over, and then you can have her. It shouldn't take more than half an hour; do you have a cat carrier?"
"Uh…. oops," Steve said.
"I'll go get a cat carrier," Tony said. "And a litterbox. But you're buying the kitten and the food!"
"Got it," Steve said happily.
Evergreen mewed as the young woman took her out and took her to the back for a check-up. Tony left, and the young woman came back with some paperwork. Steve went over as Natalie and Loki wandered around, looking at different kittens and cats.
About half an hour later, Tony was back with a cat carrier, a litterbox, and an irritated expression. "What happened?" Natalie asked.
"I got mobbed by fan girls," Tony said. "This is why I don't like going to stores…"
Loki snickered, and Tony glared at him. The young woman came back holding Evergreen, and Tony handed Steve the cat carrier, which had a blanket inside it. The woman helped Steve settle his new kitten in the carrier, and said, "She's all yours; take good care of her!"
"I will, thank you," Steve said. He had a slightly goofy grin on his face as they walked out, and Tony got a cab for them.
When they got back to Stark Tower, they found the others watching some movie in the living room. Bruce hit Pause and asked, "How'd it go?"
"We decided to wait to get a kitten until we both have the time and energy to take care of one," Loki said. "Steve, however, has a new pet."
"What's the kitten's name?" Bruce asked.
"Evergreen," Steve said, letting the little kitten out. "She's cute."
"She also looks like Reindeer Games," Tony said. "She has the same eyes and her fur is black."
"Why do you call Loki 'Reindeer Games' all the time?" Natalie asked.
"The helmet he was wearing when he was attacking us made him look kind of like a reindeer," Tony said, shrugging.
"Somehow I can't imagine that, but okay," Natalie said. She looked at Loki, and asked, "Should we leave?"
"Sure," Loki said. "We still have to watch movies all night."
"And I still have to make popcorn," Natalie said. "Tony, thank you for hosting us and getting the pizza."
"Sure," Tony said. "That was good cake."
"Let me know when your birthday is so I can make your cake," Natalie said. "Oh, and I will be back tomorrow to chat with you about your alcohol problem, as per Pepper's request."
"Why is it a problem?" Tony grumbled.
Natalie looked at him and said, "My dad's dad had the same drinking problem, and he died when he was forty-five, shortly after his daughter, my dad's younger sister, was born. I don't want to see that happen to you, Tony Stark." She grabbed Loki's hand and dragged him off, leaving the Avengers, and Tony in particular, with a lot to think about.
When Natalie and Loki got home, Loki asked, "Are you alright?"
"I just don't understand why people don't realize that their drinking problems are actually a problem," Natalie said. "My dad lost his father when he was ten years old, all because he couldn't get over a drinking problem. It was an addiction that killed him, and I grew up hearing stories about how drinking was basically evil. My dad swore he'd never drink alcohol, and told me and Kevin that while it was our choice when we were old enough, he didn't want to see us drunk even once. My mom doesn't drink either, out of respect for my father's choices and because she doesn't particularly like it. Kevin and I both swore after hearing what alcohol did to our grandfather and his family that we would never drink. At some point in time, we actually went so far as to write a contract that we both signed, and gave to our dad as a birthday present. And though I'm legally old enough to drink, I have never once touched a drop of alcohol. My friends at school respect my decision, which is the only reason I never got dragged to a bar on my twenty-first birthday."
"I do not particularly like alcohol myself," Loki said. "However, there is little else on Asgard. I enjoy the variety here."
Natalie smiled. "I'm glad," she said. "So, ready to watch movies?"
"No popcorn?" Loki asked.
Natalie giggled, and went to make popcorn.