ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This story is a sequel to "Love Is for Children," "Eggshells," "Dolls and Guys," "Turnabout Is Fair Play," and "Touching Moments," "Splash," "Coming Around," "Birthday Girl," and "No Winter Lasts Forever."

Fandom: The Avengers
Characters: Phil Coulson, Clint Barton, Natasha Romanova, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Steve Rogers, Betty Ross, JARVIS, Bucky Barnes, Virginia "Pepper" Potts.
Medium: Fiction
Warnings: Inferences of past child abuse, mind control, and other torture. Current environment is supportive.
Summary: Bucky has a bad day when his memory won't boot up quite right. This makes other people stressed out too. Attempts to help are partially successful, but then the team dynamics go severely pear-shaped.
Notes: Asexual character (Clint). Aromantic character (Natasha). Asexual relationship. Sibling relationships. Fix-it. Teamwork. Vulgar language. Flangst. Hurt/Comfort. Fear of loss. Friendship. Confusion. Memory loss. Nonsexual ageplay. Making up for lost time. Self-harm. Tony!whump. Tony Stark has a heart. Tony doesn't like being handed things. Howard Stark's A+ parenting. Games. Trust issues. Consent. Safety and security. Artificial intelligence. Food issues. Multiplicity/Plurality. Non-sexual touching and intimacy. Yoga. Communication. Personal growth. Cooking. Americana. Family of choice. Feels. #coulsonlives.

Begin with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44, Part 45, Part 46, Part 47. Skip to Part 50, Part 51Part 52Part 53.

"Hide and Seek" Part 48

"I didn't do so well with the Stark part, if you recall," Phil said with a sad smile. "It was the Tony part that really got my attention, once I saw it."

"Like what?" Tony asked.

Phil paused to put some serious thought into his response. "Why did I start thinking of you as a friend, and not just a teammate?" he said. "Hospitality. You opened your home to us, just because some members of the team didn't have anywhere to go. Honesty. You started telling us things, showing us things, that you haven't shared with many other people -- if at all." Tony stirred slightly at that. Phil soothed him with a gentle touch, and then continued. "Courage. Compassion. You're smart and you're funny and you make people interact with the world even if they're trying to curl up and ignore it. When you relax a little, and you're not trying to impress people or push everyone away, you're actually rather sweet."

Tony sighed, his breath warm against Phil's thigh. "Nice of you to say it."

"Nice of you to listen." Phil knew that Tony didn't really believe him -- couldn't, yet. He'd gone too long without ever hearing honest appreciation. It would take time and repetition for any of this to sink in.

"Thanks for looking," Tony whispered. "It feels weird but ... I'm glad you kept looking until you found me, even if it blew up then because stuff always blows up around me, and I know I shouldn't drag people into the mess that is my life but sometimes I really want to and, and ..."

"Tony," Phil said gently, "you are not dragging us, we are looking for you."

"Oh. Right. Okay," Tony said. It was still so strange to him that he could barely track it when looking right at it.

"I could use a cuddle after that talk. What about you?" Phil said. He wanted to encourage Tony to make up with safe touch rather than less safe disclosures.

Tony crawled up onto the couch without letting go of Phil. He kicked off his shoes and curled against Phil's side. Phil wrapped an arm around him. They stayed like that for a while, not talking, just holding each other.

Phil suspected that comfort contact was something else that Tony had largely missed during his childhood. While he didn't show the same kind of skin-hunger that Clint or Bruce did, there were other clues. His tendency to get drunk and hang all over people, and his reputation for picking up random lovers with great frequency, both hinted at a desire for closeness without the skills needed to achieve real intimacy.

We shouldn't have been surprised that Tony finds genuine friendship baffling. He's never gotten much opportunity to practice it before, and the few friendships he had before were all ... complicated by other factors, Phil thought. Now that I'm here, I'll do everything I can to help Tony learn how to make closer connections with people.

Eventually Tony stirred and said, "Do you think people will forgive me?"

"Of course," Phil assured him. "You might want to turn your recent discovery to a more concrete set of apologies, though. That way everyone will understand what you've learned from this little misadventure."

"But when I try to buy stuff for people, you keep telling me not to go overboard," Tony said.

"That's because too much can make people uncomfortable, and because you tend to throw money at problems without necessarily thinking them through first," Phil said. "I'm not talking about just buying stuff, although you're allowed to spend money if you want to. Your mistake cost us a chunk of fun time. So making up should involve ...?"

Tony's forehead crinkled as he thought it over. "...me spending time with people?" he said tentatively.

"Exactly right. You don't have to work it all out immediately. Just think about what people enjoy doing, and see where that takes you," Phil said.

"Okay. Is that why you wanted extra playtime with me?" Tony asked.

"That's one reason, and I'm certainly willing to count this as your apology to me," Phil agreed. "As I said before, though, I really think you need more attention than you've been getting from me lately."

Tony plucked at his ratty jeans. "I'm not dressed for it ..."

"That's okay. I have spare jammies here," Phil said. He got up to get them, then handed Tony the neatly folded bundle. "You can go change in the bathroom."

Tony went to put on his jammies. Phil opened the closet to check his supply of new toys and games. He didn't want to introduce too many things at once. That made Bruce, Steve, and Bucky feel edgy, so he spaced them out one at a time. It left him a selection to consider for Tony.

Arms wrapped around Phil's knees. He looked down to find Tony sitting on the floor. "I'm sorry I scared you, Uncle Phil," said Tony. "Can I make it up to you?"

"You sure can," said Uncle Phil. "Everybody makes mistakes sometimes. Let's play a game and remember how much fun we can have together."

"What are we playing?" Tony asked, without making any effort to reach for the goodies in the closet.

"I thought we could break in the Bausack tower game," said Phil.

"That looks like a box of blocks," Tony said as Phil sat down on the floor next to him.

"Well, it is, but it's a box of blocks with some nifty rules." Phil opened the box and pulled out the little rulebook. "Theoretically this game can have up to ten players. I don't like seeing one person left out during game night. It's one thing if somebody wants to sit out because they dislike a certain game or they need some space. It's another if somebody has to sit out because there's not enough room. So I'm searching for games that allow more people to play. Maybe you could help me with that some time."

"Sure," Tony said. "I like looking at games."

* * *


Likability spans many different traits and techniques. It affects personal and professional relationships, especially leadership. Tony easily attracts groupies on a shallow level, but annoys people professionally and has difficulty crossing into deep personal territory. Once attached to someone, however, he is fiercely loyal. Likable people share some common habits, such as making mistakes that reveal them as human. There are ways to make yourself more likable, such as learning negotiation. Tony is just starting to explore this, now that he's got people who will neither kiss his ass nor dump him, but give him actual learning opportunities and feedback.

Self-esteem is a vital part of likability, and there are ways to improve yours. If you don't like yourself, other people probably won't either. Positive self-talk is a good start, but not enough by itself. Help from other people, such as repeated compliments, gradually outweighs the backlog of negative ideas. (This is something the Avengers do for each other a lot.) Meanwhile work on feeling better about yourself too.

Cuddling is one excellent way to make up from a fight or relax after a difficult conversation. It has many other benefits, and helps support a committed relationship (sexual or nonsexual).

Making amends involves doing something practical to compensate for a mistake. This is an important step in some substance abuse recovery processes. It also paves the way for self-forgiveness, something that Tony finds elusive.
How to Make Amends

Toy overload poses a challenge, especially for very young children. There are ways to avoid it, and Phil is already using some like limiting the toys in the common room and rotating the cache. They're still adding new things as they explore what will work for this group, though, and large team needs more and different playthings than a small family. This is related to general feelings of stress and overload. Know how to avoid feeling overwhelmed by life and how to prevent overstimulation in children. Use the drill-down technique to divide a large overwhelming problem into a small soluble one. Phil introduces one new game at a time to help Bruce get used to having nice things and Steve get used to the modern world.

[To be continued in Part 49 ...]

(no subject)

Date: 2013-11-29 08:20 am (UTC)
trollsdottir: (Default)
From: [personal profile] trollsdottir
Sometimes I can't believe that Phis is this good with understanding. I wish some people was like him.
Also - I want to cuddle with Tony too.

As always, your works smooths something in the reader. Thanks, Elisabeth

(no subject)

Date: 2013-11-29 12:47 pm (UTC)
yamx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yamx
Tony really needs some special attention after all this. I can't wait to see what he comes up with to make it up to people. If only he can keep in mind that they really want to spend time with him, the amends could be an extremely valuable experience for him.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-11-29 06:42 pm (UTC)
chordatesrock: Katara waterbending (Default)
From: [personal profile] chordatesrock
Isn't it a bad idea to teach Tony that playtime is atonement?

(no subject)

Date: 2013-11-29 10:12 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'm a little confused by Phil's reasoning here, too. Making amends should involve apologizing to the team for worrying them, and maybe a few words about why Tony didn't realize they'd be so worried. The way Phil's phrased it, it sounds like they begrudge Tony the time they spent looking for him. It seems like the sort of thing you say to the bratty little kid who hid just because he thought it was funny to watch people hunt for him- not when the kid needs convincing that he's worth looking for.

I understand him needing to spend time with the team/the team spending time with him, but surely that's more to get him to see that he's worth spending time on, not because he needs to make amends?


Re: Thoughts

Date: 2013-12-01 04:52 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I think it's just a matter of terminology. I get the reasoning behind Tony planning a fun game night, but "making amends", to me, carries a sense of wrongdoing.


Re: Thoughts

Date: 2013-12-02 11:24 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
It does, actually. Thank you for that. It's funny how one little word can make all the difference. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-29 11:24 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I have a game suggestion, if you want. I'm not sure how well it would work in this situation, but you should check out 'The Game of Things.' It needs at least four people to play, with no upper limit and is a lot of fun.


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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