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, Part 48. Skip to Part 51Part 52Part 53Part 54.


"Hide and Seek" Part 49


The bag of tokens rattled as Phil set it aside. "This is for the auction versions of the game, which work better with several people. I think we'll start with something simpler."

"Just playing with the blocks?" Tony asked.

"No, there's an easy two-person version of Bausack towers," Phil said. He poured out the blocks.

"Those are some seriously weird blocks, Uncle Phil," said Tony. The floor was littered with the usual cubes, rectangular solids, and cylinders. There were also notched blocks, L and X shapes, donuts, and rings. Then came the truly unusual things such as spheres, cones, knobs, chess-like pieces, and even less recognizable shapes. Tony twirled a Christmas tree in his nimble fingers.

Phil chuckled. "Well, that's what makes it challenging. I give you a block, and you have to fit it on your tower. Then you give me one, and I put it on mine. The winner is the person whose tower stays up the longest." He picked up one of the largest rectangles and offered it to Tony.

Tony dropped the Christmas tree and skittered backwards, putting his hands behind his back. "I, I don't like being handed things," he stammered.

"I'm sorry, Tony. You told me that before; I should have remembered," Phil said. This wasn't the first time that had come up, but it wasn't consistent. Tony had asked Phil to hand him a shield to prop up part of the particle accelerator, while working on the new core for the arc reactor. Then later, when Phil tried to give him information about the Tesseract, Tony had resisted. Tony had sent Phil to bring him the Starkbars, and then balked over the blocks. It was harder to remember an erratic quirk than a consistent one.

Tony shrugged. "Most people don't. I can remind them."

Maybe Tony feels safer about taking things if he asks than if the other person offers, Phil mused, or maybe he's more comfortable with things that already belong to him than things that come from someone else. I just don't have enough information to understand this completely.

"I don't want to ignore something that's important to you," Phil said. "I'd like to hear more about this, if you feel like sharing."

"People hand me things that hurt," Tony said, his lower lip trembling. "Sometimes. On accident. Or on purpose. Or they hit."

"We have rules about no hitting, and no being mean," Phil reminded him. He wondered if the chevron scars on Tony's hands came from a ruler after all.

Tony paused, breath a little ragged, then continued. "In a workshop, things can be ... hot, or sharp, in places and ... not everyone notices."

Especially not Howard Stark in a fit of drunk engineering, Phil suspected bitterly.

"Well, that's not good," Phil said. "People should be more careful."

"I learned to be really really careful," Tony said earnestly. "I wanted to be good, but ... it's not always enough." He rubbed his left thumb over the palm of his right hand. "Sometimes people mean it. This one time, in college, my girlfriend Sunset handed me a gadget. I scratched my hand on the case and woke up in Taiwan chained to a chair." His age presentation wavered a bit, as it sometimes did when he sorted through issues that spanned years.

That was a devastatingly clever way of drugging Tony -- appeal to his curiosity, Phil thought.

"No wonder you're so cautious," Phil said. "I've seen you take things from Pepper, though." She had passed Tony the Tesseract data, in fact.

"Pepper's smart and careful. She would never hand me anything dangerous," Tony said at once.

The knot in Phil's chest eased a little at that. At least he's had someone he could trust that way, Phil thought. His fingers stirred the pile of blocks.

"Can we just ... go back to playing? Please?" Tony said softly.

"Of course. Here, I've got an idea," Phil said. He began picking up the square blocks, rubbing thoroughly over each and then setting it aside. "Let's sort these first. I'll make sure they're all safe."

Tony scooted closer, but he still wouldn't meet Phil's eyes. "You don't have to ..."

"I want to. These are wooden blocks; splinters aren't impossible," Phil said. He reached out, very gently, and tilted Tony's chin up. The beard rasped against Phil's fingers. "Tony, it's just as important for other people to be careful with you as it is for you to be careful about handling things safely. I want you to see that I take this seriously. I promise never to hand you anything harmful. Okay?"

"... 'kay," Tony said, his brown eyes swimming with unshed tears.

Phil sorted through the entire pile of blocks one at a time, looking carefully at each and smoothing his hands over them. He went through the easy, ordinary shapes first. Then he checked the more elaborate ones.

And damned if he didn't actually find a splinter, on one Christmas tree.

"See, if it weren't for your hard-learned caution, that splinter could have ended up in somebody's finger," Phil said to Tony. Phil set the block on the coffee table. "I'll file that smooth later. Meanwhile, we've got all these other blocks to play with. You want to build something with me?"

"We could still play towers," Tony said. He nudged one of the base rectangles toward Phil.

"That sounds like fun," Phil said as he set the block in front of himself. Then he picked up a similar piece and put it in front of Tony.

Tony positioned the block with care. Then he rolled a long thin cylinder to Phil.

Phil set it up on one end of his rectangle. He rolled a short fat cylinder to Tony.

Tony put the cylinder atop his base. He started to smile as he looked over the other pieces. Then he gave Phil one of the spindles.

Phil placed it on the other end of his block. It would be ideal for holding the pieces that had holes through them, and worse than useless for anything else. He picked up a cube --

-- and Tony slipped his fingers under Phil's, delicately taking the block from his hand.

Best. Game. Ever.

* * *

Notes:

Bausack towers is a stacking block game. Sac Noir is another edition. Here is how Tony's tower looks, and this is Phil's tower. Rules for various games may be found online; these are really sets of game pieces that can be used in many different ways.

Tony Doesn't Like Being Handed Things is actually a searchable tag on AO3. People have posited various headcanons why Tony has this quirk. Given that Tony had a lot of crap happen to him even before he became Iron Man, and he doesn't dent easily, I figured that people must have hurt him that way often enough to make him wary of it. Child abuse shatters trust in childhood, which can linger into adulthood. Tony's erratic behavior is a sign of that, but it does vary because he has a few people whom he tries to trust. Here's a reference for the shield-as-prop scene in Iron Man 2, where Tony asked for Phil's help. There are ways to regain trust after emotional abuse and work through trust issues.

Sunset Bain is one of Tony's many girlfriends. She is specified as an undergraduate girlfriend in canon. Tony went to MIT at 15, so unless she waited until late in his undergraduate term, she was molesting a minor. Given that Tony was impatient and horny at that age, and Sunset was evil, I'm presenting her as one of the women who had sex with him before he reached legal age of consent.

Trustworthiness is a crucial aspect of parenting, important for raising trustworthy kids. Phil wants to do better for Tony than people have in the past. There are simple and complex steps to earn someone's trust. I was intrigued to see that "strength of conviction" forms part of the second stage support structure, the values on which trust rests. Remember what Phil said about Loki lacking conviction -- without a solid structure, Loki couldn't field effective plans -- and Phil read that straight from his bearing without knowing in detail that Loki neither trusted himself nor had his family's trust at that point in time. Phil is a great spy because he sees whatever is there.

Toy safety includes such things as checking for splinters or other minor hazards. That said, wood is actually a great material for toys.


[To be continued in Part 50 ...]

This chapter

Date: 2013-12-02 12:56 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I loved this chapter so much! People often mention Tony doesn't like being handed things, but seldom do they explore why. And they certainly don't do such a well-written job of it! I love this series and I hope you keep up your great work!!!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-02 01:01 pm (UTC)
yamx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yamx
Aw, I love this chapter. I always wondered if Tony's problem with being handed things comes from literal bad experiences being handed things, or if it's a wider cause about trust and the personal bubble.

(I especially noted the scene in Avengers you point out, where Tony won't take the file from Phil but immediately accepts the exact same file from Pepper seconds later, even though it's still not something he *wants* to deal with (and she's had no chance to examine it closely or anything). Clearly he wasn't just being obstinate before, but there's a real issue there with Phil that isn't with Pepper.)

So, Phil decided to play an engineering game with Tony Stark. *grins* Do I detect an intention to help Tony's self confidence by making sure he wins without having to *let* him win?

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-03 12:17 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Yay Phil. We all want more cuddle time with Tony. And this is a great game Tony Carter to play with his Mighty Uncle :)

Thank you for addressing Tony's age with his college age 'girlfriends'
That is one of the things that gets to me, you have a vulnerable teenager with no sort of supervision or support socializing with young women who are not at an age to make the best decisions. And seriously, I know teen-tony had to be adorkable, but he was still JAILBAIT

However instead of letting Phil have her, I'd let Pepper, Tasha and Betty have a crack at her

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-03 12:19 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
aaaand Syx needs to remember to sign in occasionally

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-03 05:30 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Love Phil working with Tony's issues, and little Tony trusting Phil there at the end. Cute. :)

~shadynaiad

Re: Yay!

Date: 2013-12-04 03:09 pm (UTC)
peoriapeoriawhereart: blond and brunet men peer intently (Napoleon & Illya peer)
From: [personal profile] peoriapeoriawhereart
Spring-loaded Steve and Natasha?

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-03 11:31 pm (UTC)
thnidu: glowing light bulb. tinyurl.com/33j2v8h (light bulb)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Long ago I made a wooden Soma cube. That's a "weird blocks" toy that Tony & others might like. Comments here don't support pictures, so I posted it on Facebook, here.
Edited Date: 2013-12-05 05:25 am (UTC)

Re: Wow!

Date: 2013-12-13 10:38 pm (UTC)
thnidu: glowing light bulb. tinyurl.com/33j2v8h (light bulb)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

Not as a puzzle for Tony, but maybe in finding new shapes he can build with it.

Ah ha. Thorleif's SOMA page, one of the external links on the wikipage, has enormous amounts of material about the cube, including figures that can (and cannot) be built with it, and lots and lots of theoretical and mathematical analysis that I think Tony would love. For example, http://www.fam-bundgaard.dk/SOMA/FIGURES/D001025.HTM; scroll down for the mathiness.

And actually there are some challenges. On that page, for example:

(There's an illustration of this in the top part of the page. I tried to put it in Google photos so i could link from here, but I haven't figured that one out and I'm too tired to spend more time on it now.)

/SOMA008
;The Five square
;Not proved possible
;It seem to be impossible, because the only way
;to make the flat sides are
;422  411  322  311      422  422  311  311
;442  441  332  331  OR  442  442  331  331
; 42   4   3 2  3         42   42  3    3
; OR
;411  411  322  322
;441  441  332  332
; 4    4   3 2  3 2
;Which leaves 5,5,6,6,7,7 to make the center box
;with the right sort of tab's, and that dont seem
;to be possible.
;An IMPOSSIBILITY proof would be welcome
/........./...111...
/........./...111...
/........./...111...
/...111.../111111111
/...111.../111111111
/...111.../111111111
/........./...111...
/........./...111...
/........./...111...

I'm also trying to imagine JARVIS's reactions to the SOMA cube. He might analyze and solve everything about it in seconds—or not—but I'm thinking of him and (especially) Tony, talking about it and spinning hypotheses and displays faster than (almost?) anyone else there can follow. And JARVIS on game night with, say, Bucky: "I think you might enjoy building this shape."

Edited Date: 2013-12-13 10:54 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-06 02:32 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I went back and read this today and it sort of got to me. I could have used Phil today...a collague totally laughed off my discomfort with derogatory language regarding mental illness (in front of the entire staff meeting) as being "oversensitive" instead of doing the courteous thing, which would have been to ask for clarification or understanding so myself or other wouldn't be hurt. What Phil does is perfect. I wish he could come train certain people around here...

-songspinner9

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-06 05:06 pm (UTC)
natalief: (pixelasleep)
From: [personal profile] natalief
Yeah, me too. Last night, online, a new guild-mate (player in World of Warcraft) said that he had not intended to be disrespectful and that I was too touchy after I asked him to stop dissing women/girls after he had been talking about bitches, hos and wenches in guild chat for about 20 mins. I told him that those words were disrespecful even if they were not intended as such and he left the guild. Apparently I had disrespected him. Whatever.

Re: 0_o

Date: 2013-12-14 01:17 am (UTC)
natalief: (Default)
From: [personal profile] natalief
Thanks for agreeing about that temporary guildy.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-14 12:17 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Your guild is better off without him.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-14 01:17 am (UTC)
natalief: (Default)
From: [personal profile] natalief
Thank you. I do wonder, though, if I am a complexity for the guild because the other two people online were the guild-leader and his partner and they were not at all bothered by this guy's speech…
Edited Date: 2013-12-14 01:18 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-14 02:20 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Urrr.... what are they like in person?

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-14 10:47 am (UTC)
natalief: (Default)
From: [personal profile] natalief
No idea. I only know them in game, on FaceBorg and on Skype (audio-only).

P.S. I should have added rhetorical-tags to my ponderings. ;-p
Edited Date: 2013-12-14 10:48 am (UTC)

Re: Well...

Date: 2013-12-14 10:49 am (UTC)
natalief: (Default)
From: [personal profile] natalief
True, and thank you.

P.S. I should have added rhetorical-tags to my ponderings. ;-p

(no subject)

Date: 2013-12-06 01:08 pm (UTC)
natalief: (Default)
From: [personal profile] natalief
I love this series and it always triggers a wide smile in me when a new episode (to me) appears in my feedly. I also enjoy the after-episode links and write-up that you do almost more than the story.

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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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