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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, Part 6

Story: "Coming in from the Cold: Wednesday: Coping Techniques" Part 7

Then Phil looked at the clock. He still had fifteen minutes left. That should be enough time to address one of the less-urgent messages. He rubbed his eyes and stretched. Paperwork might enhance his sense of control but he still got tired of dealing with tedious people sometimes. He tapped the screen to bring up his email.

It appeared, but the list was hazed out. "You have completed three major tasks, Phil," said JARVIS. "Please consider taking a break."

Phil hesitated for a moment. On the one hand, he felt lazy for skipping out early. On the other hand, he completed the top priority tasks, and it wasn't like SHIELD work could ever be all the way done.

"You may find the company in the common room more agreeable than SHIELD coworkers," JARVIS hinted.

"Well, I can't argue with that one," Phil said with a chuckle. JARVIS had a way of putting Phil in the path of pleasant or useful social interactions. "Save and close, please."

When Phil went to the common room, he found Steve and Bucky snuggled into opposite corners of the couch, their long legs entwined. Each had his own Starkpad, softly glowing. "Oh, hi Phil," said Steve, looking up. "We were just studying. Did you want to watch a movie or something?"

"No, I just finished my afternoon work and felt like some company. What are you studying?" Phil asked. He settled into a nearby chair.

"Lady scientists. Betty gave me a list," said Steve.

"Urban planning," said Bucky. "Steve mentioned some stuff that got destroyed in a recent fight, and how much work it is to rebuild everything. That made me wonder how cities are planned and whether it might be possible to design them with fighting spaces. You know, like parks for nature, or how the highways have straight parts so you can land planes on them in an emergency."

"I never really thought of that," Phil said.

"Yeah, I'm no architect, but the mechanical stuff -- fire hydrants, gas mains, maybe there's a way to protect that better," said Bucky.

"Tony and Pepper are architects," Phil pointed out. "You could copy them on your notes if you think of anything potentially helpful. Look for concepts, and let them worry about the functional details."

"Sure," Bucky said. "JARVIS, make a folder for combat-ready urban planning. Put in the articles I'm reading and whatever notes I make. Set the folder to open for Tony and Pepper."

"Make your notes in blue, then," JARVIS advised. "Sir often makes his in red, and Ms. Potts prefers green."

Tony came into the common room with a package under one arm. "Here, this is for you two," he said, offering it to Steve and Bucky.

"Okay ... what is it?" Steve said, making no move to investigate. He still wasn't really used to people just giving him things.

"Open it and find out," Tony said with an impish grin.

"If you won't, I will," Bucky said, peeling away the brown paper wrapping with far less consideration than Steve usually showed. Underneath lay a traditional science kit, the simple kind that used springs to hold the wires, judging from the picture on the box.

That's an interesting choice, Phil thought. I wonder where Tony is going with this. He felt certain that the engineer had a plan.

"So what do you think?" Tony asked.

"It seems to run on some form of electricity," Steve said with a smile.

"I thought this would make a good approach for introducing you guys to modern technology," Tony said. "We can start with the basics and work our way through the projects together. You'll learn how to recognize parts, read schematics, and wire things according to a diagram. Anything you already know, we can skip over --"

Bucky shook his head. "No, I need the refresher. Just because I can fix a skillet doesn't mean I really know what I'm doing. My memory is Swiss cheese these days," he said. "You won't mind repeating things if I forget?"

"I won't mind," Tony said. "In fact, I planned for it. After we go through this model, we can get a fancier one with more parts and projects. Start wherever you remember how to do things, and move forward from there." He drummed his fingers on the box.

"Okay," Bucky said, and unpacked the science kit.

Phil picked up the instruction booklet and leafed through it. "This looks promising," he said.

Steve brushed a fingertip delicately over the springs. "Thanks, Tony. I felt so lost on the Helicarrier ..."

"You weren't lost. You did great. I was just jerking your chain because I was a dick that day," Tony said.

Steve frowned. "You don't have to flatter me, Tony."

"I'm not," Tony said. "You jumped over seventy years of technology, popped open a panel on a bleeding-edge ship, and took less than two seconds to identify its power source. That's pretty impressive."

"Nah, I didn't have the first idea what I was doing," Steve said.

Phil frowned. Steve had a bad habit of putting himself down when it came to applied education. He'd always been smart, he was smarter now, but the army had neglected to support his intellectual as well as physical development. What a waste, Phil thought. We can do better.

"Well, what did you think when you saw it?" Tony said.

"I just saw a bunch of wires, and they were going into things, so I figured there had to be circuits," Steve said. "Then you asked me about the stat and I just said what I was thinking right then, that it was powered by electricity."

Tony grinned. "See, you figured it out. You're smart, Steve. Never let anyone tell you differently, even if it's me on one of my regularly scheduled be-a-dick days." He put the science kit in Steve's lap. "Take a look at this and tell me what you make of it.

"Um. Well. The springs hold the wires? I think. I never had one of these. There was one in the science class at school but we all had to share it and I was short so I never really got a good look ..." Steve said. His words inched forward, like a rabbit peeking out of a hole.

"You have a good look now. Yes, the springs hold the wires. What else?" Tony said as he guided Steve through an exploration of the simple device.

Meanwhile Bucky was investigating the spare parts -- mostly a handful of color-coded wires plus a few extras such as lightbulbs. Phil passed him the booklet. "These instructions are pretty clear," Bucky said. "A lot of this stuff looks familiar."

"Good," Tony said. "I hoped that starting with a simple set like this would work that way for you two. Later on I'll show you the one I designed for the Starklings -- the kids of Stark Industries employees -- that introduces the basics of SI technology."

Phil couldn't help chuckling at that. Steve and Bucky looked at him. "Victor Von Doom captured one of those. Somehow he crashed his entire secret lab supercomputer with it. There is a security video of this on YouTube," Phil explained.

"Yeah, Reed will never let him live that down. I still haven't figured out how Victor managed to do it, though. I built the thing to be genius-proof," Tony said.

Just then Bruce wandered in from the kitchen. "Oh hey, a science kit!" Bruce said. "Have you shown them how to make a potato battery?"

"We just got this," Steve said.

"Be right back," Bruce said, heading for the kitchen again.

"Do we even have all the components for that experiment?" Phil asked.

"You would not believe the things I have used to make batteries," Bruce said over his shoulder.

"Yeah, he could make batteries in Baghdad with clay jars and some copper," Tony joked.

In the kitchen, Bruce howled with laughter. Steve and Bucky shared a confused look.

"The Baghdad Battery is a type of archaeological artifact made with those components," JARVIS explained.

Bruce came back from the kitchen with a potato, a tomato, and a lemon. "Here, we'll need these," he said.

"I thought you said potato battery?" Steve said.

"I did, but other vegetables and fruits can work too," Bruce said. "Some work better than others, so with a set, you can compare results."

"Do we have paperwork for that?" Bucky asked. "I'll never remember it just in my head."

"I have various forms for recording simple experiments," JARVIS said. Bucky's Starkpad chirped for attention. Bucky looked at it and nodded.

Meanwhile Bruce had set up the potato battery, getting the lightbulb to go on. "Your turn -- try one of the other power sources," he said.

Steve tried with the tomato, but couldn't get more than a weak flicker. Bucky had better results with the lemon. That led into a discussion of the juice, its acidity, and other variables that differed among the choices.

"Now to tie this into our day job, these are the kinds of things that are easy to scrounge if you get trapped somewhere with very little technology," Tony said. "Wherever there are people, there will be food. You can use it to make a battery, and use the battery to recharge or operate important equipment. On the other hand, if you need to sabotage your enemy's gear, food that can light a battery can often do more damage to electronics than food that can't light a battery. Spill water on a keyboard and it might still work after it dries out. Spill lemon juice and chances are, adios amigos."

"That's useful to know," Clint said as he came into the common room. "What are we doing, making supper on the coffee table?"

Bruce chuckled. "No, we're helping Steve and Bucky catch up on electronics. Tony bought them a science kit -- and then decided to diverge into sabotage techniques."

"Honey, pancake syrup, or bacon grease," Clint said seriously. "Pour those over wires and mice will chew them to bits. Great way to start a fire if you want a delay longer than a fuse or timer will give you."

Phil had seen him do exactly that, sometimes with startling accuracy. "I rather like peanut butter for packing into places you can reach, but don't want a leak to show the way liquid materials can drip out," he said.

"Now you're making me hungry. What's for supper?" Clint asked.

"How about baked potatoes?" Bruce said. "Cut off the parts where we poked it, and most of this one is still good. Loaded baked potatoes can make a complete meal if you put the right things on them."

"Tater bar, yay!" Clint exclaimed, bouncing on his toes. "Does anyone else like chili on theirs? I usually make mine overnight, but I can shortcut with canned beans and have it ready in an hour or so."

"I like chili," said Bruce and Bucky, while Steve said, "I like pretty much everything." Bruce headed for the kitchen to prepare the potatoes for baking.

"Okay, I'll get started," said Clint. He went to get a pot.

Phil helped him gather ingredients. "I like your topper chili."

"Yeah, but it's going to be a lot sloppier this time, since it won't have time to cook down all the way," Clint said.

Bruce ambled over and peeked into the pot. "I have some einkorn wheat berries if you want them."

"Wheat in chili?" Clint asked.

"The gluten helps things stick together more. I use wheat berries in sloppy joe mix," Bruce said.

"Sure, why not," Clint said. "I don't really know what to do with it, though, so you'll have to help."

Bruce got out a canister of wheat and a skillet. "Ideally, you want to soak this overnight in water with a splash of vinegar, to improve the nutrition. But if you forget or you're in a hurry, you can quick-cook it for a few minutes and then put it into your recipe." He demonstrated.

When the wheat berries started to get tender, Clint stirred them into the chili. Then he tasted it. "Huh. That is pretty good."

* * *


Many types of science kit are available. Tony is starting with a pretty basic, classic-style kit so that it will be more familiar and understandable for Steve and Bucky.

"It seems to run on some form of electricity." Enjoy the movie clip. While it was played for laughs, astute observers will recognize this as a sign of Steve's brilliance.
-- Steve in The Avengers

The potato battery is a famous science experiment for kids. This can also be done with fruit. It is most engaging when you have a variety of items to choose from, so that participants can predict which will work better and then test their hypothesis. The Baghdad Battery is a historic artifact believed to produce electricity, although its exact purpose is difficult to pin down.

Einkorn wheat is an archaic variety with much less gluten than modern wheat, although still enough to bind chili or sloppy joe filling very effectively. People with various types of gluten sensitivity can often eat archaic low-gluten wheats safely, but people with celiac disease cannot.

[To be continued in Part 8 ...]
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