ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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This story belongs to the series Love Is For Children which includes "Love Is for Children," "Hairpins," "Blended," "Am I Not," "Eggshells," "Dolls and Guys,""Saudades," "Querencia," "Turnabout Is Fair Play," "Touching Moments," "Splash," "Coming Around," "Birthday Girl," "No Winter Lasts Forever," "Hide and Seek," "Kernel Error," "Happy Hour," "Green Eggs and Hulk,""kintsukuroi," "Little and Broken, but Still Good," "Byzantine Perplexities," "Up the Water Spout," "The Life of the Dead," "If They Could Just Stay Little," "Anahata," "When the Wheels Come Off," "Against His Own Shield," "Coming in from the Cold: Saturday: Building Towers," "Coming in from the Cold: Sunday: Shaking Foundations," "Coming in from the Cold: Monday: Memorial Day," "Coming in from the Cold: Tuesday: Facing Fears," "What Little Boys Are Made Of," "Rotten Fruit," "Keep the Homefires Burning," and "Their Old Familiar Carols Play."

Fandom: The Avengers
Characters: Phil Coulson, Clint Barton, Bruce Banner, Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers, Betty Ross, Natasha Romanova, Tony Stark, JARVIS, Agent Sitwell, assorted new SHIELD recruits, Sean O'Toole, Pepper Potts, Dr. Samson
Medium: Fiction
Warnings: Indecision, PTSD, nightmares, food issues, boundary issues, teamwork, SHIELD, rude humor, mental health care, facing the past, interpersonal dynamics, intrapersonal dynamics, emotional challenges, memory issues, frustration, and other angst.
Summary: The Avengers help each other cope with challenges, including Steve's nightmares, Tony's new sleep dynamics, and Bruce-and-Hulk attempting to get along.
Notes: Team as family. Competence. Friendship. Comfort food. Emotional first aid. Nostalgia. New hobbies. Hurt/comfort. Science. Music. #coulsonlives.

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5


Story: "Coming in from the Cold: Wednesday: Coping Techniques" Part 6

Tony arrived, fizzing with energy. He wrapped himself around Bruce in a full-body hug. "I love you so much. That idea, sleep as defragging, it really worked! I feel great. Don't think I'd need it every night, because wow, what a time sink, but maybe once or twice a month?" Tony burbled. "You know, I think this is the first time that talking to a doctor has ever actually helped anything that wasn't a visible injury or illness with a single obvious solution. So thanks."

Bruce's smile glowed brighter than the vaseline glass when he held it. "You're welcome," he said.

Maybe if Tony realizes how much Bruce can do for him, he'll become more willing to ask for help, or at least admit to problems, Phil thought. It will take time to develop new habits, but this is wonderful progress.

Tony peeled away from Bruce to go for his usual coffee. While waiting for that, Tony found the letter in the post basket. "I wonder what this is," he said as he slit the envelope with a pocket tool. "Oh."

"What?" asked Phil.

"It's um ..." Tony held up a card that said Thank You above a red-white-and-blue ribbon with a shiny gold #1 medal. "There must be like two dozen signatures in here from the VA in Washington."

"It sounds like everyone appreciates the new office furniture," Phil said.

Tony tucked the card into his breast pocket and patted it. Then he poured his coffee into a sixteen-ounce travel mug with a red-and-gold Mickey Mouse design. Bruce finished refilling his tea and returned to the table. "So what's the news?" Tony asked, humming a little under his breath. He leaned over the chair beside Bruce.

"Clint likes your new idea for the archery harness," Bruce said. "I think you need more support webbing or it'll mess up his back again. It has to adapt to the way he moves, redistribute the weight on the fly."

"So like a smart harness, yeah, I think I can do that. Some of my ideas for a prehensile suit haven't panned out but might work on a smaller scale," Tony said as he took a long pull from his coffee. "It's hard for JARVIS to see exactly where I am, hence the bracelets. Maybe I can articulate parts of Clint's rig to adapt as he moves ..."

That got Clint and Bruce to continuing what was evidently a long-standing argument about the feasibility of attaching handles to Clint that would make it easier to grab him when he fell -- or more often jumped -- from high places. "As often as you take a dive, I really think handles are called for. You make the Other Guy nervous, Clint, that's not a good thing," Bruce said.

"But if I have handles on me then bad guys can grab them," Clint protested. "Why do you think I keep my hair so short?" He rubbed a hand through his brief scruff.

"I'm with you there," Bucky said with a vigorous nod.

"Guys, cut the whining. I can work on making handles that will only deploy on command, or only for other Avengers, or something," Tony said. He guzzled more coffee. Then he picked up Bruce's bowl. "Wow, this is an ugly shade of green, what junk heap did this fall out of?"

"Tony, be polite," Phil murmured. He finished the end of his sandwich and passed the paper to Steve for disposal.

"Hulk likes it, so don't diss his taste in glassware," Clint said firmly, taking the bowl away from Tony. He handed it back to Bruce. It lit up.

"Oh! It's the gamma!" Tony exclaimed. "No wonder Hulk likes uranium glass. Hey, I wonder if I could make glass with some other radioactive material that would glow a different color. Radium shines blue."

"It's also really dangerous, Tony, I don't think that's something you should put in dishes," Steve said. He folded the paper from Phil's sandwich and added it to the stack. Then he picked up another half-sandwich for himself.

"Doesn't take much to make glass light up, though, and Hulk is pretty much immune to radiation," Tony said, drinking again. "It's worth a try. Hmm, I wonder if I could make a visual-cue Geiger counter instead of the clicker kind ..."

"Oh, that could be useful," Bruce said. "Those things can get really hard to interpret under noisy conditions, even when they have a dial. If you could do that with light somehow, yeah, lots of applications there. In fact if you could make it more sensitive to ambient rather than contact radiation, you could just put little squares of the stuff on walls."

Tony pulled out his Starkphone and made rapid notes with one hand while chugging coffee with the other. Then he frowned at his half-full mug. "What's wrong with my coffee?"

"Give me that," Bruce said, lifting the mug from his hand. He sipped. "This is the Gesha, right? Dark rum, dark chocolate, layered fruit emphasizing pineapple, and the floral note is narcissus. It tastes fine to me."

"That is the Gesha blend, and according to everything I can find, it is unaltered," JARVIS added.

Phil used his Starkphone to check the results that JARVIS got. In his line of work, you could never be too careful about kitchen supplies. No anomalies, Phil thought, looking at the display.

"Tony, can you tell me anything more? What's different?" Bruce asked.

"I don't know. It just ... doesn't taste good anymore. Almost like it's gone stale or something," Tony said.

"Hmm. Here, try this," Bruce said, holding out his cup of green tea.

"I hate tea," Tony protested.

"I know. Humor me anyway," Bruce said.

Tony took a grudging sip and then made a face. "Bleah, that's even worse that usual," he said.

"Okay," Bruce said. He boosted Steve's half-full glass of orange juice. "Now this one."

"What am I, your guinea pig?" Tony said.

"If you want me to figure out what's going on, then yes. Squeak for me, Little Fuzzy." Bruce poked a playful finger into Tony's ribs.

Tony squeaked and sidled away. Then he sampled the orange juice. "Huh. Perfectly normal. I don't get it," Tony said.

"You probably don't need as much caffeine as usual," Bruce said. "Think about it, you're already wide awake and
humming away. Too much caffeine would be like leaving the jumper cables on after the car starts. So you shouldn't knock back mass quantities of coffee the way you usually do."

Tony gave a mournful little whimper. "But I like coffee. I love coffee! It is the oldest and most stable relationship in my life."

I'm glad Tony's relationship skills are improving, Phil thought. Tony's playboy antics were legendary. At least now he has teammates for stability.

"You're coming out way ahead on fuel efficiency," Bruce pointed out.

"I guess that's a fair trade, if regrettable for my loss of coffee capacity," Tony said, peering at the substantial amount of liquid remaining in his mug. "Here, Steve, you have this. I know you hate wasting things."

Steve accepted the travel mug, poured in a lot of heavy cream, and then drained it. "Thanks, Tony," he said.

"Come to my lab later and let me run a few tests," Bruce said to Tony. "I can probably confirm the caffeine theory."

"Not a guinea pig," Tony grumbled.

"If you let me test the theory in the lab, I'll give you another episode of Kitchen Chemistry with Dr. Banner for the Starklings. I'll even let you pick the topic; I know the kids have given you a wishlist," Bruce bargained.

"Done," Tony said, pouncing on the rare offer before Bruce could back out. He hugged all over Bruce again and then scampered away. Bruce looked quietly, deeply pleased at Tony's response to his problem-solving skills.

"JARVIS, make sure Tony has noncaffeinated beverages in his lab and garage," Bruce said. Tony had a tendency to stock artisan soft drinks, but he brought them down in small cartons so it wasn't rare for him to run out. The bots knew how to make smoothies because he was too lazy to do it for himself every time, only when he really wanted one. "If not, send somebody down to restock. I don't want him forgetting and drinking more coffee or cola out of sheer habit. He could make himself sick."

"Yeah, caffeine overdose is not fun," Bucky said.

"Routing delivery of one case Joia blackberry-pomegranate-ginger soda to the lab and one case GuS Meyer lemon soda to the garage," JARVIS said. "Those rely on genuine fruit juice for flavor, containing less sugar and no caffeine."

Phil perked up. "Oh, is there any more of that lemon?"

"Yeah, that sounds really good," Bucky said. "Wait, does it have the good sugar or the bad sugar?"

"GuS soda is sweetened with pure cane sugar," JARVIS said at the same time Bruce said, "It's the good sugar."

"I will direct another case of Meyer lemon soda to the common floor for you to distribute as you wish," JARVIS said.

Phil reached for the pile of used wrappers, only to have Bucky sweep them out of reach. "I've got this," Bucky said. "I know you're busy, Phil, you don't have to clean up after us."

So Phil headed to his office after lunch. "JARVIS, log me as unavailable for the next four hours, unless something important comes up," he said as he turned on the screen. "I really should take care of some SHIELD work."

"Done," JARVIS said. "I have taken the liberty of sorting your messages by the priority of their contents. If you can address the top three this afternoon, that should suffice, as the rest are more or less ordinary concerns." Three folders appeared on the screen.

The first featured a dozen reports on possible HYDRA actions. "Cut off one head, two more grow in its place," Phil muttered. These were the most likely recursions following the major damage the Avengers had done to the organization. The problem was, HYDRA actually had designed its infrastructure so that if a ranking officer went down, two subordinates assumed that rank and split off in different directions to pursue the same goal. They didn't always survive or succeed, but they could cause a lot of trouble. It was a variation on the cell structure used by subversives.

This left Phil to wade through the reports in hopes of identifying the worst threats. It took him an hour to read them all, cross-reference the contents to other files, and pin down which of the HYDRA operatives had belonged to each of the "severed heads." Then he spent another half hour sorting them by threat level and writing suggestions to deal with them.

The second folder featured an urgent request from Jasper Sitwell to look into a situation in Distractions. One of the handlers there had made a bad call regarding his asset, Sean O'Toole, a truly beautiful young man who looked like a male version of Pepper Potts and was the leading choice of honeytrap for homosexual targets. Agent O'Toole had gotten captured and sexually assaulted as a result, and now threatened to resign if not separated from his handler immediately. That usually took time to process, so Sitwell was appealing to the Senior Handler to expedite the process.

Phil spent an hour filing the Emergency Separation forms. Then he took Agent O'Toole off active duty and referred him to Dr. Samson. Hopefully the counselor could repair the damage enough to salvage a skilled asset.

The third folder concerned the SHIELD member being sent to the Iceland justice system for his part in their economic trouble. That contained a small mountain of paperwork. It took Phil forty-five minutes on the phone with various officials in Iceland to clarify some missing details, and then another half hour to fill out all the forms. He filed the last one with a sigh of relief.

* * *

Notes:

Defragging is a type of computer maintenance that should be done periodically.

See Tony's Mickey Mouse Travel Mug (16 oz.).

Coffee comes in a variety of gourmet flavors. Enjoy a review of the Gesha. Yirgacheffe is another.

Little Fuzzy is the titular character of a series of science fiction novels. Read the first one online.

Gourmet soda flavors include GuS Meyer Lemon and Joia Blackberry-Pomegranate-Ginger.

Read about the cell structure of subversives. It's just a pattern; it can be used for good or evil.


[To be continued in Part 7 ...]
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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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