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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
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," "What Little Boys Are Made Of," and "Rotten Fruit."

Fandom: The Avengers
Characters: Phil Coulson, Clint Barton, Bruce Banner, Bucky Barnes, JARVIS, Maria Hill, Daveed, Agent Smith, Agent Jones, Agent Sitwell, Dr. Samson, Rhodey, assorted new SHIELD recruits, Agent Morse, Steve Rogers, Betty Ross, Natasha Romanova, Tony Stark
Medium: Fiction
Warnings: Angst, survivor guilt, SHIELD, mental health care, facing the past, sexual harassment, uncomfortable body stuff, emotional overload, disability issues, graphic description of past torture, nightmares, nausea, amnesia, despair.
Summary: Several of the Avengers visit SHIELD for a variety of professional and personal reasons. It helps to have friends at your side while facing challenges.
Notes: Courage. Team as family. Competence. Friendship. Slow build. Emotional first aid. Nostalgia. New hobbies. Healing touch. Hurt/comfort. Games. #coulsonlives.

A note on feedback: While it's not necessary to comment on every post I make, remember that I don't know who reads/likes things if nobody says anything. Particularly on long stories, I've discovered that I get antsy if there's nothing but crickets chirping for several posts. So it helps to give me feedback at least once, even if it's just "I like this" or "This one doesn't grab me." First and last episodes are ideal if you rarely feel inspired to comment in the middle.

I also have a list of favorite photogenic scenes from the whole series for fanartists to consider, partly compiled from audience requests.

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


"Coming in from the Cold: Tuesday: Facing Fears: Part 1"

In the morning, Phil came into the common kitchen to find Clint already at the table with a bowl of Cookie Crunch. Bruce sat beside him, hands wrapped around a steaming cup of tea. Bucky stood over a covered skillet that smelled fragrantly of sausage and sauerkraut.

"Good morning," Phil said, listening to their lazy murmurs as he headed for the coffee machine. It already had a cup sitting in it, coffee trickling in as he approached. The laser pointer wrote PHIL across the cup in blue letters, then winked off, letting him know it was prepared according to his preferences. There were advantages to living with a technogenius and his electronic family.

Phil took an appreciative sip, the strong black coffee washing away the last of his sleepiness. "Thank you, JARVIS, this is perfect."

"Skillet's done, come and get it," Bucky said as he filled his plate.

Bruce and Phil each dished up some of the fluffy mass. "What is this?" Bruce asked. "It smells good."

"It's hofbrau hash. I learned to make it in Germany," Bucky said. "Potatoes, sauerkraut, meat if you have it -- I threw in some apples and other stuff too."

Phil looked at Clint eating nothing but heavily sugared cereal, then put a single spoonful of hash onto a small plate and took it to him. "Here, try this too. It sounds a lot like a breakfast version of shut-up-and-eat-it."

Bucky was already shoveling food into his mouth at a brisk pace. Bruce followed suit. Clint sampled the new dish more cautiously, then decided it was okay. Phil found it delicious. The quantity in the skillet diminished at speed as people took second helpings.

"I need to go in to SHIELD today," Phil said over breakfast. "Assistant Director Hill wants me to look over some new recruits so that I can advise about forming teams and assigning handlers. What are you guys planning to do?"

"I was thinking ... maybe ..." Bucky said slowly. "You sent me a message about services. Shellshock. Moral Injury. Mad Science Torture." His fork clinked against the plate as he poked at his food. "JARVIS said that it's not considered malingering anymore, if a soldier comes back from combat and maybe needs a little help wrapping his head around what happened to him."

"That's the ideal, although it's a work in progress," Phil said. "What did you have in mind?"

"I kinda want someone to talk with," Bucky said. "You guys have been great, don't get me wrong, but you've all got your own stuff to deal with. I thought it might help to have someone who's not so tangled up in the team dynamics, and not a civilian either, someone who can hear what I gotta say without getting messed up over it. What happened to me makes me feel frantic, what I did makes me feel dirty, it's all just a wreck inside," Bucky shrugged his left shoulder. "SHIELD, I don't really trust them, but the stuff in the message sounded good, you know?"

Phil had forwarded descriptions of the new counseling options on offer. "If you're talking about Dr. Samson's services, then yes, I've heard excellent feedback from other agents regarding his private and group sessions," Phil said. "We could certainly contact him and ask him to fit you into his schedule, if that's what you want."

"Guess I'm asking if I could come with you, if it's safe," Bucky said.

"I'll make sure it's safe," Phil promised. "Clint, Bruce, what about you two? Now might be a good opportunity for you to get back into the swing of things."

"I'll come with you for moral support, and protection if you need it," Clint said to Bucky. Then he looked at Bruce.

Bruce swallowed hard. "I could, uh, help with that too."

"Thanks, guys," said Bucky. He didn't know the full details of why Clint and Bruce tended to avoid SHIELD these days, but Phil did. Some people blamed Clint and Bruce for the near-destruction of the Helicarrier, despite Loki having set up the whole disaster. Neither of them really felt comfortable there, but they wouldn't let a teammate go without backup. Their latest trips to SHIELD had been on Bucky's behalf also.

They need to face their fears too, Phil decided. If they keep avoiding SHIELD, it will just get worse over time. People need to get used to seeing them around, preferably not during an emergency.

So Phil put in a call to SHIELD. He alerted Assistant Director Hill to their pending arrival, so she could assist with any necessary safeguards. Then he contacted Dr. Samson, who readily bumped one of his non-critical clients to a slot later in the week to make room for meeting Bucky. Soon everyone finished breakfast and got ready to leave.

The ride to SHIELD was a little tense. When they reached their destination, Phil could see the potential for trouble in the taut line of Clint's shoulders and the desperate clench of Bruce's fists in his pants pockets. Still they flanked Bucky in a protective stance. Between them, Bucky looked relaxed, almost lazy, but his eyes tracked every flicker of motion.

Assistant Director Hill met them on arrival. "Agent Coulson, Agent Barton, thank you for coming in today. We could use your eyes on the new recruits."

"Yes, ma'am." The archer's voice was crisp, only a slow blink betraying his surprise at being included in the official activities.

"Dr. Banner," Hill said, acknowledging him with a nod.

"Um. Just observing," he replied, sidling behind Phil.

"Sergeant Barnes." Hill turned to Bucky with a welcoming smile. "It's good to see you on your feet, soldier."

"Thank you, ma'am," he said. "It's good to be here."

"I believe we may still have some of your personal effects in storage, along with what we kept for Captain Rogers," said Hill. "He chose not to reclaim any of his. You might feel differently. Shall I check on the contents and bring you a list?"

"Please," Bucky said.

"All right, then," Hill said. "I'll see you all later." She strode away, her boots clicking briskly against the floor.

"Usual drill?" Phil said to Clint. "You flush the birds and I watch how they fly?"

"Sure thing," Clint said, more relaxed now than when he left the tower. "I can take them to a practice area, give them an hour or so to work off the excitement, then make things interesting."

"That sounds like a plan," Phil said.

Then Clint smirked. "Hey, Doc?" he said, and turned to Bruce. "You wanna help me out with the newbies? I got an idea."

"I, I'm not a soldier," Bruce said, wringing his hands. "I'm not a spy. I don't know about any of this stuff."

"Nah, I'm not talking about spy stuff," Clint assured him. "I'm thinking if I rig one of my marker arrows to explode when somebody touches it, we'll have red paint everywhere -- call it a medical emergency drill for the newbies. You can tell us what you think about their first aid skills, who'd be reliable under field conditions and who'd panic."

"Field conditions," Bruce murmured thoughtfully. "Wonder what they'd do if they couldn't find a first aid kit ..."

"Or it wasn't fully stocked," Clint said, playing along.

"Or it had crazy things in it like handkerchiefs, string, and a bottle of scotch," Bucky said with a grin. He'd heard stories about Bruce's improvisational skills, and shared some of his own from the Howling Commandos.

Phil gave a wicked little chuckle. "I like the way you boys think. Make it happen."

Then they went to the cafeteria to wait for Dr. Samson. Phil approved of his proposal to meet them all in neutral, public territory rather than bringing Bucky alone into his office. The ID card scanner had a sticker above it that read, Do not look directly into laser with remaining eye. One corner of it had been picked off -- Director Fury had little sense of humor -- but the rest would have to wait for a janitor with solvent and a razor blade.

Ahead of them in line stood a mousy young man with dark curls, who ducked his head shyly when they fell into step behind him. His nametag read Daveed. "It's good to see you again, sir," he murmured as they moved down the line. "Just so you know, there's a bug in the Helicarrier engine control routines, but we've just about got it fixed."

"Good job," said Phil.

Daveed gave him a bashful smile before ducking away to a corner table.

There was coffee in the cafeteria, although nowhere near as good as they enjoyed at home. I'm getting spoiled, Phil thought, taking a sip anyway.

Some of the people already seated got up and moved away from the Avengers' table. Phil glared at their departing backs, making a mental note of their names. Agent Smith and Agent Jones shared a silent look, then came over to say hello. They ranked high among the few who placed the blame wholly on Loki.

"It's good to have you back, Barton," said Smith.

"We missed you," Jones said. "It's not the same, only seeing you when we get called out to hold the perimeter for the Avengers."

"Thanks," Clint said softly.

"Smith and Jones here are two of our best linemen," Phil explained to Bucky, and then made introductions all around.

"Hard job," Bucky said. "I appreciate you watching the Captain's back."

"Somebody has to do it," Smith said with a philosophical shrug. "He gets around, chasing that shield of his, but he always completes the mission."

"Hulk now, he's harder to keep ahead of," Jones added. "That guy can jump. We always give him a few extra blocks. Anything you know that would make things easier, Dr. Banner?"

Bruce startled, not expecting anyone to address him directly. "Uh, no, not that I can think of."

"Well, let us know if you do," Jones said.

"Give our regards to Dr. Ross," Smith added.

"And just how would you know her?" Bruce said, leaning forward.

"She's training as handler for you and Hulk, so we're liaising with her about your support needs during and after combat," Smith explained. "It just seemed polite to come over and ask you too."

"Oh," Bruce said quietly. "That's um, thanks, I guess."

"You're welcome," Smith said. Then he and his partner went back to their own table.

"So SHIELD provides ground support for the Avengers?" Bucky asked Phil.

"Yes, and air support if needed," Phil said. "Usually it amounts to crowd control, extra eyes on the enemy, medical services, carrying supplies, that sort of thing. The Avengers do the heavy work."

"I like to stay eyes-high," Clint said, leaning forward. "Most of the time, I pick out a good perch and Iron Man drops me on a roof. From there I can shoot everything in range, and call targets for the rest of the team. It'll be nice to have someone else on my level so we could cover each other."

"Don't forget that I do more close-up work than you do," Bucky pointed out. "I'd rather shoot, but I can go hand-to-hand if necessary."

"Sure, but that's the point -- things heat up in the sky, you can drop down and draw 'em off while I stay in position," Clint said. "As it is now, when I get driven to street level, I'm less effective there and we lose our bird's eye view of the fight. Iron Man helps some, but he does not have a sniper's eye for trouble."

Agent Sitwell sidled up to their table and deposited a box of donuts. "I heard that you guys came in to test the recruits," he said. Like Phil, he was slim and unassuming, his dainty gold-rimmed glasses giving him the look of a harmless bureaucrat. It was a good cover. "Nice to hear that you're also planning to field your new sniper. It'd be a shame to let talent like that go to waste." He smiled at Bucky, then disappeared again.

Bucky opened the box and made a happy noise when he spied the vanilla-frosted donut covered in bubblegum sprinkles. "My favorite," he said, taking a large bite.

"He's totally courting you," Clint whispered to Bucky.

"What?" Bucky yelped. "Wait, no, I go for dames not fellas --"

"Not like that," Clint said. "I mean Sitwell wants you for an asset."

"I thought Phil was our handler ...?" Bucky said with a frown.

"I am," Phil assured him. "I handle the Avengers, and I've been fielding Barton and Romanova for years, singly or as a duo. I hope to add you whenever you're ready. However, that doesn't mean you're obligated to accept me as your handler. Agent Sitwell and I have covered for each other's assets before ... though 'courtship' may be a bit strong of a term."

"Well, what else would you call it?" Clint said. "I dunno what you handlers think you're doing when you pick out a new asset from the pool, but look at it from our end. You offer us spare ammo or dry clothes, and you remind us to sleep if we've stood watch too long. That shows you care about our survival and performance, so we know you won't make us run on empty." Clint helped himself to a chocolate-frosted donut with rainbow sprinkles. "You watch us. Then you bring us stuff that you think we'll like, so we know you've been paying attention. It lets us gauge how good you are at observation."

Phil couldn't help but think of the time he spent choosing pajamas for game night, so as to meet not just the physical need of context-appropriate clothing but also the social need of being understood as an individual. It gave him a way to demonstrate that he recognized everyone's personal tastes.

That brought to mind how JARVIS treated the Avengers. He feeds us, he keeps us warm and dry, and he reminds us to take care of ourselves. He's always watching and listening to keep us safe. He was courting us just like Clint said ... Phil thought, and had to chuckle. ... and we never realized it, but we ALL said yes. It was funny how easily Phil overlooked the handler aspects of what JARVIS did, but once Clint pointed out the pattern, other examples fell into place.

"All right, you win," Phil agreed. His hand hovered over the box, waffling between powdered sugar and chocolate-dipped donuts.

"Oh, not again," Clint said. He put one of each in front of Phil. "Just watch, Bucky. Next time there will be three or four of those bubblegum donuts in the box."

"Huh," Bucky said. He peered at the donuts, evidently memorizing the selection for future reference.

"Anyhow, Sitwell likes the strong, silent type," Clint said. "I know from what Steve has said that sometimes you're chatty and other times you clam up. Phil here doesn't do well with radio silence, but Sitwell does. So they could take you on completely different kinds of missions."

"Such as ...?" Bucky said gamely.

"Let me tell you about this time Sitwell took Black Widow to Istanbul," Clint said, waving his donut to illustrate. "You'd think the two of them would stick out like crazy there, wouldn't you? But no. They went in after this mutant-trafficking ring, and just fucking vanished. Three weeks later, they showed up in Ankara with Black Widow disguised as a man while Sitwell hid himself, two kilos of hashish, and three machine guns under a burqa ..."

Phil listened as Clint regaled Bucky with the not-too-classified portions of the tale. He also watched Bucky to gauge his interest in getting back into the field. While hesitant about his own reliability if approached directly, Bucky responded eagerly to stories and practice and anything that touched on combat in more oblique ways. He'll get there, Phil decided.

Dr. Samson arrived while Bucky was still engrossed in Clint's story. Instead of interrupting, he glanced over the rest of the group. Then he spied Bruce and broke into a wide smile. "Bruce! I mean, Dr. Banner, I'm delighted that I get to meet you finally, and you too, Hulk," Dr. Samson said, holding out a hand.

"Um," Bruce said lamely. He scrunched a little smaller in his chair. "Hi? Why would you even want to ..."

"Betty has told me so much about you," Dr. Samson said. He pulled his hand back without any sign of insult.

"I find that hard to imagine," Bruce said with a grimace.

"Did she mention why I broke up with her?" Dr. Samson asked gently.

"I didn't ask," Bruce said.

"Well, she talked about the two of you so much, I realized that she was still in love with you. So I shooed her away as carefully as I could, and told her to go find her men," Dr. Samson said.

"That's, uh, very generous of you," Bruce said. One hand plucked at the opposite cuff of his shirt.

"I owe you an apology, though," Dr. Samson said. "I am sincerely sorry for setting General Ross on your trail. I had no idea how dangerous he was -- Betty never warned me about him -- but by the time I met him in person and realized that, it was too late. I deeply regret the harm that resulted from it. I hope you can forgive me."

Phil knew that General Ross had first tried to dupe Betty into betraying Bruce, with no luck whatsoever, because she knew exactly how warped her father was. Failing that, General Ross had turned to someone less familiar and thus more susceptible to his lies. It hadn't turned out well for anyone. Dr. Samson had expressed his outrage with a couple of ruthlessly aimed nerve strikes to General Ross' ego.

And now Bruce was still sitting there staring at Dr. Samson, without giving any kind of response. Phil reached under the table and gave Bruce a very soft tap on the ankle.

"Thank you for the apology. It was very thoughtful," Bruce said with careful formality. "I'm not used to ... that is ... I don't really know what to make of it."

"That's perfectly understandable," Dr. Samson said. "I'd like for us to be friends, but if you don't feel comfortable around me, I won't bother you again."

"No, it's fine," Bruce said. He seemed bemused by the man's amiable approach, but willing to go along with it. "I don't have many people willing to be around me at all, so it's not like I can afford to throw any of them away." He closed his eyes for a moment, nibbling on his lip. Then he looked back at Dr. Samson and held out his hand. "So yeah, nice to meet you. I'm glad you were there for Betty, too."

"My pleasure," Dr. Samson said, shaking Bruce's hand.

By then, Clint had finished his story, so Bucky was free to introduce himself to Dr. Samson. Bucky's handshake was careful but confident. "I liked the list of services you offered," he said.

"That's good to hear. Did anything in particular catch your eye?" Dr. Samson asked.

"Mad Science Torture, but I can't go in a group, too much of what happened to me is still classified," Bucky said. "Same with Moral Injury."

HYDRA had been fooling around with variations on the super-soldier serum and with the Tesseract. Department X had different types of enhancements and the cryochamber. What a mess, Phil thought sadly. It's a good thing that Dr. Samson's level-headed response to the whole Hulk situation earned him a high clearance.

"No problem," Dr. Samson said easily. "We can cover the same topics in a private session. Would you like to take this to my office, or pick somewhere else? Some of the other agents prefer talking in the gym, and one even likes the sauna."

"Sauna? Gym? We can do that?" Bucky asked.

"Whatever makes you feel comfortable," Dr. Samson said. "We could walk while we talk, if you like. I can show you all the good places to hang out."

"Except the air vents," Clint said. "No offense, man, but you don't look fit enough to scramble up the kind of places Bucky and I can get into."

"Then I'll leave that part of the tour in your capable hands," Dr. Samson said.

Bucky chuckled. "Sure, whatever," he said, standing to follow Dr. Samson to the door.

"That was weird," Bruce said after they left.

"How so?" Phil asked.

"Just everything," Bruce said with a shrug. "Meeting my girlfriend's ex-boyfriend. Him being excited to meet me. Bucky feeling safe enough to go off with him after, what, five minutes?" Bruce frowned a little. "And I think ... the Other Guy finds him kind of ... intriguing. Not sure why."

"Well, Betty likes him," Clint pointed out. "Hulk tends to pay extra attention to things like that. Besides, Dr. Samson apologized for what happened with old Thunderbolt. Has anybody ever done that before?"

"No," Bruce said softly, looking down at his hands. His fingers twitched, weaving together.

"So maybe Hulk likes the idea of someone who's sorry for hurting him, instead of gloating over it," Clint said. Then he patted Bruce on the shoulder. "Come on, buddy, you're overthinking this. Let it go for now. We've got some newbies to go play with."

"Okay," Bruce said. He shook himself, then stood to go with Clint. "We'll see you later, Phil ... or sooner, I guess, if things go wrong again."

Phil brushed his fingertips over Bruce's wrist, a discreet touch of comfort. "I wouldn't have invited you here if I didn't trust you. We all need to get used to having a shield at our backs," he said. "Everything will be fine. I look forward to reviewing the tapes you and Clint get of the new recruits." Then Phil headed to his office. He had plenty of time to kill while Clint and Bruce set up the testing. He might as well get some paperwork done.

The office was quiet and clean, ever so faintly stuffy from disuse. Phil did most of his work from Avengers Tower these days. Still, there were some things that he left strictly within SHIELD jurisdiction, sensitive files in particular. Though to be sure, the more vulnerable material he kept on paper, filed amidst old manuals on food handling regulations. Phil's secure email overflowed with messages. Everyone wanted his help with something, it seemed.

An assortment of conduct complaints between handlers and assets marked a growing problem with discipline. The lower morale got, the worse people behaved. So many officers took their cues from Fury that his volatile temper spread its influence throughout the organization. At least Coulson had direct authority over the handlers and could reprimand them for mistreating their assets. To the handlers with problem assets, he sent notes reassuring them that such behavior was unacceptable, along with disciplinary suggestions and pointers to some of Dr. Samson's offerings that might help. Coulson hoped that would settle things down.

Assistant Director Hill had flagged several messages for his attention because they related to Stark intellectual property. When Coulson had discovered the extent of material retained from Howard Stark's tenure instead of turned over to his heir as legally required, it was appalling. He was still trying to figure out whether Fury had really coughed up all of it or not. Now this, hints and suspicions of someone sniffing around Tony's designs where they had no business going. So much of SHIELD ran on Starktech, they couldn't afford to offend Tony. Again. Coulson filed the additional materials as part of his ongoing investigation.

That reminded Phil of Sam Wilson, the counselor they had met at the VA in Washington, D.C. I wonder if we could entice him to come work here, Phil thought. He already has a high clearance because of his involvement with the EXO-7, and now he works with veterans. It can't hurt to try. He brought up the relevant forms and sent an invitation. Then he moved on.

The new Pope, Francis, had only held office for a few months but already managed to outrage villains and Church officials alike with his radical compassion. Fury's notation on the file read, "We like this guy. Word on the street is that he's made a couple of hardcore supervillains repent. Let's try to keep him alive, see if he can do more of that." Phil looked over the list of known assassins who had been contacted about killing the Pope, and sighed.

At least they no longer have the Winter Soldier, Black Widow, or Hawkeye to send after him, Phil thought. He jotted down ideas for countermeasures.

He continued to a message from Colonel Rhodes about coordinating War Machine with Iron Man. Tony had introduced them, but they still knew each other more by reputation than personal contact. It wasn't hard to read between the lines. Rhodey thinks that the Air Force might let him get back in touch with Tony if it means replacing the inferior Hammer weaponry with Starktech, Phil mused. He doesn't mention it directly, though. Let's see if we can work something out. Phil replied with a request for a video call.

Next came a cluster of incidents from troublemakers relatively new to the scene. The recent smackdown in Russia had left something of a power vacuum. AIM was underfunded, the Ten Rings squabbling, and Department X had gone ominously silent. It left the regional and national villains vying for a place on the global stage. Phil dutifully made recommendations for dealing with them.

He hesitated over the last one, a neo-Nazi anti-mutant (anti-everything, really) group trying to horn in on HYDRA turf. Finally Phil wrote, "Let Magneto and Professor X handle this one. It's their specialty, and if we get in the way, the collateral damage will just go higher." The offenders would have a slightly better chance of survival in SHIELD hands, but Magneto in particular held the shortest average start-to-finish on problems of this type, and the X-Men would minimize the risk to innocent bystanders. Phil was perfectly willing to trade off lower survival for the bad guys to get them off the street sooner and reduce civilian casualties.

The computer chimed, giving him updated personnel files on the new recruits. Hawkeye had run them through an obstacle course and posted the fresh scores. Hmm ... promising, adequate, adequate, probably hopeless, almost impressive ... Phil thought as he paged through the results. Out of the dozen candidates, one or two would probably fail out today. A few might stand out enough to merit special training. The rest would go into the general pool for use in whatever capacity SHIELD needed.

Phil's screen flashed a video call notification. He tapped in his acceptance, and a warm brown face appeared. "Colonel Rhodes, thank you for getting back to me so quickly. I'm pleased to find that Tony's descriptions of your reliability are right on the mark," Phil said.

"You're welcome, and call me Rhodey. I've heard some good things about you as well," he replied, with a faint emphasis on some that made Phil wonder how mixed the reports had been.

"I'd like to hear your ideas about War Machine and Iron Man," Phil said mildly. "Sometimes we could use better air support than we have. I imagine there are times when you could use some heavier boots on the ground. Now, according to Mr. Stark, the Air Force isn't too fond of him these days ..."

"If Tony has told you that much, then he's told you that the military is keeping us apart and probably why. After Afghanistan, and Vanko, I'm not the most popular guy either," Rhodey said. "I think Tony and I can clear the air between us, given a chance to talk. I also think War Machine would be a lot more effective with upgraded armor and weapons that don't shoot at the wrong side."

"Yet you chose to approach me with this, rather than Tony," said Phil.

Rhodey sighed. "I know that Tony wants to get back in touch with me. He sends me messages, and in the last few months they're not all dickbombs anymore. So he's easing up a bit. I send replies when I can." Rhodey fingered his tie, a wingman pattern printed in silver on navy blue. "He sent me this too."

"That's promising," Phil agreed.

"I don't want to ask him for weapons, although I'm not sure anything less would get the Air Force off our backs," Rhodey said. "I respect his decision -- don't agree with it, hate it in fact -- but it's his right and nobody else should take that away from him. People have robbed him enough already. Including me, since I stole the suit in the first place --"

"You must know that he let you take it," Phil pointed out. "You're a couple of inches taller than Tony, not to mention broader in the shoulders. Iron Man wouldn't fit you, and War Machine wouldn't fit him. That suit was made for you."

"That doesn't make me feel any better about how I got it," Rhodey said. "Tony's still pissed that I let Hammer hack it, and he's right to be. I fucked up. I know that. But this isn't just about me and Tony. We've got jobs to do, people depend on us, so we need to get our shit together." Rhodey rubbed a hand over the short ruff of his hair. "I don't know how to reopen contact, though. It's been so touch and go between us. I hoped maybe you could help with that."

"I can certainly speak with Tony about about giving War Machine a tuneup," said Phil. "If you want my advice ... ask him to upgrade the armor and the software. Once Tony gets that suit on the bench, I can't imagine him leaving anything from Hammer attached to it, nor would he leave you defenseless in the field. I think you stand a good chance of getting your weaponry fixed without having to ask for it. As you said, it should be Tony's choice."

"That might just work, if I can get the Air Force to go for it," Rhodey said.

"You could have had them off your back months ago, if you'd accepted any of the several offers of help," Phil said. Tony and JARVIS had both complained that Rhodey refused to let them intervene, and Phil had no better luck.

"I hoped it would wear off naturally," Rhodey said. "It usually does when I screw up. This time ... maybe not." His voice held a deep note of regret, like an echo lost in a well. Phil knew that Rhodey's steadfast searching was a key reason why Tony made it out of Afghanistan, but that loyalty nearly cost Rhodey his career.

* * *

Notes:

The ring theory of communication is "Comfort In, Dump Out." This explains why it is useful to have friends or counselors outside your immediate circle when you need to deal with shit, without dumping it on people who are facing the same challenges.

Moral injury
occurs when someone is forced to violate their own ethics. This kind of rupture is difficult to treat and rarely heals clean. You can see what a mess HYDRA has made of Bucky.

Skillet Hofbrau Hash is a tasty breakfast jumble.

This is Daveed. He's Jewish. In The Winter Soldier, he's the one who refused to launch the HYDRA helicarriers, even though he expected to be killed for it, reappearing in The Age of Ultron. Given the changes in LIFC, we have HYDRA nosing around but not controlling SHIELD.

Jasper Sitwell is another SHIELD agent, one of Coulson's friends. You can read more about Istanbul and burqas.

Pope Francis has made himself popular with many people, some of them quite unexpected.

Rhodey / War Machine is a friend of Tony Stark. As you can see here, Rhodey is bigger than Tony. Almost everyone is bigger than Tony when he's not in the suit. :D

This is the wingman tie that Rhodey wears.


[To be continued in Part 2 ...]

EEEEEEEEEEEEE

Date: 2016-11-01 04:26 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
SO EXCITE SO EXCITE SO EXCITE!

UPDAAAAAAATEEEEEEE!!!!!

Less HYDRA-y SHIELD? (IS IT LESS HYDRA-Y?!?!? SAY YES PLEASE!!!!!!)

Ugh Why is FURY SUCH A DICK?!

Re: EEEEEEEEEEEEE

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-11-01 04:48 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: EEEEEEEEEEEEE

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-11-02 01:19 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-01 07:37 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
ghastlyanarchy from ao3 here -- logging in on mobile is a pain;;
i'm really excited that lifc is updating again though..!! it's a really good feel-good series, especially with how well you handle the themes of recovery and age regression, and how good you are at writing systems is. so important aah;; it's hard to find fiction where we're not written as hollywood killers, and even just the little things like someone greeting hulk bc they're aware he's there and listening in is so well done!! i was kind of having a not-great night but reading this cheered me up so much thank you for writing such wonderful things!
heartsinger: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heartsinger
"EEEEEEEEE!" - literally my involuntary reaction upon opening your website for the however-manyeth time today (I don't really do RSS feeds, so I open my favorite websites a lot.) to find a LifC update! My favorite kind of update! I guess something cool is happening on Samhain this year after all. This is great!

I'm so glad Bucky is being offered the chance to get his stuff back. To be honest, I'm surprised Steve didn't insist on coming along, after how they treated Bucky when he was beginning his recovery. Or does he not know they're there? That'd go over like a lead balloon.

I love Daveed! I was so happy about him in the movie, and I'm glad to see him in fic. That was such an important moment and message, and we haven't honored it enough.

Oh, Bruce and Hulk! So confused by basic human decency. :( But at least there's some to be had now! I just want to give them a million hugs, but they'd probably just be freaked out. And there's the whole "separate universes" problem.

I'm glad Bucky is starting to adapt to modern psychological healthcare ideas. Does he know it's okay to be queer now? Because he's awful twitchy about it.

It's interesting that Phil isn't aware of the similarities between romantic courtship and asset cultivation. The parallels seem obvious. But I've always been a skeptic of the supposed inherent additional virtue of the romantic bond.

Oh, my dears! Sometimes people aren't terrible!

Why are the air vents human sized? That seems like a security risk.

I worry about lack of overlapping skill sets. Adding Sam is a start, but Dr. Samson needs more backup! And in general, more backup is good. I was reading a different story in which Darcy is hired as a SHIELD administrative agent and ends up being tapped as Phil's assistant, but the way she's trained, with the not sleeping and the never catching up, that's not a good idea. Training people to work sleep deprived is because: emergencies, but routinely doing so is an obviously terrible idea. Aligned with current "killing yourself working makes you a Worthy Human" nonsense, but a terrible idea. I think Phil needs assistants. (Or maybe more help from JARVIS? But Fury and the WSC would be unpleased to let a Stark have more data access, and it's probably not safe for them to understand JARVIS's sentience level.) Back up your data! And your people! With soups this isn't always possible for obvious reasons, but organizational knowledge is so important. (Hmm, thought: Pepper probably has assistants. Maybe she sits Phil down and is like "Phil, you have 24 hours per day, that isn't enough so plz assistant before you kill yourself. Again." [yeah, yeah, he was never technically dead in this universe, I know])

I love that Phil is coordinating all the things (Me? Love depiction of the paperwork human and things being coordinated? I know, everyone is super shocked. On a related note, how do you keep things from getting bogged down with details? Your stories are chock-full of details, but they aren't ever boring with them. I'm trying to write a longform fic set in nu!Trek. I'm stuck on the very first part, because I can't balance "enough detail to feel like I did it" and "so much detail everyone is bored to tears"...

Pope Francis is weird. He's definitely the best so far, but he still has some pretty disturbing positions.

Since you like to put the bottom rung on the ladder, it might be a good idea to have some stuff on IP and why it's a good idea sometimes.

Are any of the Netflix series stars slated to appear? I feel like Jessica Jones would be awesome, on account of Jessica Jones being awesome. And some interesting fic has been done on the topic of Daredevil meets the Avengers. Please, please, do not do the ridiculous thing where Stark Tower is not up to ADA code. It's ridiculous. I realize Tony doesn't always with details, but Pepper, contractors, and JARVIS himself would prevent it.

it would be super great if What Little Boys Are Made Of was on AO3 so I could get an EPUB of it. I made a text file manually, but it's not so nice and hard to access from my phone. No rush, though! I know you're super busy.

Re: THERE IS LIFC UPDATE *EXCITED WAVY FISTS AND TOES*

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-11-03 10:09 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-01 10:05 am (UTC)
gingicat: drawing of me based on wedding photo (Default)
From: [personal profile] gingicat
I like your AU very much. I was terribly disappointed by Sitwell's role in the movie disclosures.

Re: Thank you!

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-11-01 12:33 pm (UTC) - Expand

Re: Thank you!

From: [personal profile] peoriapeoriawhereart - Date: 2016-11-02 03:40 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-01 08:25 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Picture shows a red-winged angel staring at a distant blue star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Eeeeeeeeeeeeee! I adore this series. Thanks for updating it!

>> Bucky stood over a covered skillet that smelled fragrantly of sausage and sauerkraut.<<

Oh, yum. I'd imagine the higher availability of meat would be of interest to him...

>>Phil took an appreciative sip...<<

Only on rereading to comment did I catch that this foreshadows the later scene with Bucky and the donuts. :D

>>"Skillet's done, come and get it," Bucky said as he filled his plate.<<

And Bucky shows he's part of the community, too! I'm a big fan of the idea of feeding your group as a community bonding mechanism, and this story does that really well.

>>Between them, Bucky looked relaxed, almost lazy, but his eyes tracked every flicker of motion.<<

I have a headcanon that Bucky is one of those people who presents more and more casual as he's stressed. When it's really bad, he's the one lounging against a wall, picking his fingernails with a knife.

>>"Field conditions," Bruce murmured thoughtfully. "Wonder what they'd do if they couldn't find a first aid kit ..."<<

\o/ Bruce had an idea and actually volunteered it and then everyone else made it better! Love this!

Also, that's a wicked drill. I approve.

Daveed! <3 I'm glad he's showing up here. That guy was my surprise favorite in that movie.

>>"Anything you know that would make things easier, Dr. Banner?"<<

Yeeees. Address Bruce about Hulk and specifically about helping Hulk. Yes good.

>> However, that doesn't mean you're obligated to accept me as your handler.<<

And we hit the consent theme in a professional situation. I squish you so hard.

>> "You offer us spare ammo or dry clothes, and you remind us to sleep if we've stood watch too long. That shows you care about our survival and performance, so we know you won't make us run on empty."<<

N'aww. Good management skills make appreciative employees - particularly in situations where they're on the more-than-metaphorical line.

>>"I realized that she was still in love with you. So I shooed her away as carefully as I could, and told her to go find her men," Dr. Samson said.<<

Mweehehehe!
Poor Bruce, on the one hand. He's in the thick of a situation where literally everyone else is acting more accepting of Hulk than he does, and that's got to be a strain.

I love that he notices and passes through Hulk's reaction to this, too.

Sam! \o/

>>"Let Magneto and Professor X handle this one. It's their specialty, and if we get in the way, the collateral damage will just go higher."<<

*baleful laughter*
Oh that's right... they do share a universe. I like that Phil's suggestion is to stay out of Magneto's way. Dude has a cause and knows how to defend it.

Rhodey! \o/

>>"That doesn't make me feel any better about how I got it," Rhodey said.<<

Aw, Rhodey.
I do hope they can reconcile. Their dynamic is a thing of beauty. (And I'm also assuming you aren't going to do anything horrible to poor Rhodey! Unfortunately, I can trust MCU to do as much harm as they think they can get away with..)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-01 09:00 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Yay! New story! I'm so excited to see this!
I'm glad Bucky is taking steps to help take care of himself, it says a lot about how comfortable he's becoming.
I look forward to more Sam. I love the snippet we've seen of him in this verse, and I think he and Uncle Phil would get along really well. They both have the 'look after people' gene.
Beth

Re: Thank you!

From: [personal profile] peoriapeoriawhereart - Date: 2016-11-02 05:33 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-01 10:23 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Yay! I'm so glad that LIFC is being updated! I have been watching my way through the MCU TV shows and this series is what I wish it would be.

I love Dave! I headcannoned him as Jewish too, is it cannon?

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-01 10:30 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
*daveed Darn autocorrect. And darn posting before I was done typing. Sorry about that.

I also wanted to say that I love seeing Bruce, Clint & Bucky together. I love the smaller dynamics within the larger group. I am excited to see LIFC SHIELD! -Readera

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-02 12:36 am (UTC)
siberian_skys: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siberian_skys
I can't tell you how happy I was to see the return of this series. Yay. :-)

Re: Thank you!

From: [personal profile] siberian_skys - Date: 2016-11-02 05:16 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-02 09:41 pm (UTC)
susanreads: Julia set (detail, bright background) (fractal)
From: [personal profile] susanreads
Hurrah, Coming in from the Cold is back! \o/

Wow, this is a long chapter. And voluble commenters! (I skipped most of the comments when I was reading thru the archive.)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-02 11:54 pm (UTC)
dru_evilista: A purple swirl (Purple Swirl)
From: [personal profile] dru_evilista
I love this series so much! Always so happy to see more of it. I can't even pick out what part I love most, it's all so good. Starting with good old team taking care of each other casually, JARVIS carefully making sure Phil's coffee is perfect, Bucky cooking, Phil coaxing Clint into eating some actual nutritious food alone with his sugar coated sugar, Bruce and Clint ignoring their discomfort with SHEILD to support Bucky, and just every thing. I could literally just list every single line as being perfect. So, so, so good to finely see Rhodey and find out why he hasn't been around before now in the series. Hopefully Phil can help him and Tony get back together again.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-03 12:51 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
I love that you are rescuing Rhodey and Sitwell from the dung heap. They turned poor Rhodey into the comic relief, and it pissed me off. And I don't even want to start with Sitwell.

Love this so much.

Re: Thank you!

From: [personal profile] helgatwb - Date: 2016-11-03 04:37 am (UTC) - Expand

Tuesday, part 1

Date: 2016-11-14 12:49 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'm so happy you were able to upload another piece! I was getting kinda worried, wondering if you were having problems. I still am a little, but I at least know you're still alive now. I really like your courting idea, as well as how you're handling the problems everyone has.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-21 08:38 pm (UTC)
pinkrangerv: White Hispanic female, with brown hair, light skin, and green eyes, against a background of blue arcane symbols (Default)
From: [personal profile] pinkrangerv
THEY WORK WITH MAGNETO! You have NO IDEA how happy this makes me--Magneto's not evil, just very screwed up, and actually MAKING LIFE BETTER FOR MUTANTS would probably make him just go happily into retirement\join the ACLU. Having him do superhero stuff is GREAT.

Re: Yes...

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-11-22 03:26 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2017-04-09 04:19 pm (UTC)
weesta: (FF - Who Loves You? t-shirt)
From: [personal profile] weesta
I am so damn excited to find out that I missed SO MANY UPDATES to this 'verse...and at the same time distressed because my report cards, progress reports and lesson plans are due tomorrow so I cannot spend the whole day reading! But spring break is on the horizon and I have so much to look forward to!

So while there'll be more content-related comments in the future, there's just one for today: I love Clint and Bruce conspiring about messing with the first aid kit to see how the recruits will react. That's golden!

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