ysabetwordsmith: (Schrodinger's Heroes)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This story fills a square on my card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This fest encourages the creation of boundary-pushing material that explores what happens when things go horribly wrong and people actually care about each other. Remember, things always go wrong; what matters is how you deal with that. Some of the content may be NSFW. Read the FAQ and rules here. The signup post is here. I'm hoping to attract some new readers.

The following story belongs to Schrodinger's Heroes, featuring an apocryphal television show supported by an imaginary fandom. It's science fiction about quantum physics and saving the world from alternate dimensions. It features a very mixed cast in terms of ethnicity and sexual orientation. This project developed with input from multiple people, and it's open for everyone to play in. You can read more about the background, the characters, and a bunch of assorted content on the menu page.

This is a crossover with the Hulk from The Avengers. So it doesn't match up exactly with the various Hulk movies, and Bruce Banner is played by Mark Ruffalo. The storyline goes into alternate-universe mode after the lab accident while Bruce is running from General Ross but before Bruce meets any of the Avengers. Read the beginning of the Schrodinger's Hulk storyline in "Safe Keeping."

Begin with Part 1.  Skip to Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12.

Fandom: Hulk / The Avengers / Original (Schrodinger's Heroes)
Prompt: Nervous Breakdown
Medium: Fiction
Wordcount: 13,000
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: References to child/domestic abuse in Bruce's childhood and further mistreatment by General Ross later. Reference to minor character death, in that Bruce's father murdered Bruce's mother. No other standard warnings apply.
Summary: Bruce struggles to adapt to a new dimension that is almost like his home dimension. The trouble is, no matter where you go, there you are with yourself; and when your key problems are internal rather than external, there's no way to run away from them. Unexpected aspects of Bruce's identity shake things up for him. Ash and Quinn help Bruce start figuring out how to untangle the whole mess.
Notes: Angst. Fractured identity. Dealing with loss. Coping mechanisms (functional and dysfunctional). Trust issues. Survival issues. Control issues. Paranoia (justified and otherwise). Friendship. Family of choice. Sex/gender crisis. Safe places. Comfort food. Nonsexual intimacy.

"Two Spirits, One Past" Part 2

Near the edge of town lay the thrift store. The sign said "Heads and Tails" with an Indian-head coin and a tailed shirt bracketing the words. The parking lot held only one other vehicle, an ancient car so covered in rust that Bruce could not make out the original color. Thick strips of gray tape held the hood down. The building was tidy, though, its door a cheerful sunflower yellow.

The cashier had long black hair and skin a lighter shade of copper than Ash, and looked about a decade older. He grinned broadly when she came in. "Howdy, Ash!" he said. "It's good to see you again, cousin."

She smiled back with an easy fellowship that Bruce envied. "You too, Dakota," she said. "Figured I'd show Bruce here where to find all the best bargains in town."

Dakota waved a hand at the racks of clothing. "Check out the south wall. I know you like flannels, and we had some truckers dump off a load just last week," he said to Ash.

Bruce couldn't help perking up at that. He loved flannel shirts for their tough fabric and fuzzy comfort. Plus it was easy to find them in roomy sizes. He drifted toward the south wall of the store. Soon he had several plaid shirts in hand, along with a couple each of short and long-sleeved shirts in lightweight cotton.

Ash lifted them gently out of his grasp and tucked them into a small shopping cart. "Good start," she said. "You might consider knits as well as flat weaves, though; they'll stretch more."

That was true. Bruce grabbed a couple of plain navy t-shirts and an ash-grey one with a peace symbol made of rainbow flowers. He could use a sweater, too; desert nights got cold. One particularly soft woolen cableknit snagged his attention, but it was a vivid shade of purple. He shook his head and put it back.

Want this, the Other Guy rumbled in the back of his mind. Soft. Pretty.

Bruce stuffed the purple sweater into the cart. He was learning to pick his battles.

Moving on to pants, Bruce picked out jeans and khakis. Remember Ash's advice about knits, he also took a pair of pants in maroon velour. He found a gray jogging suit for workouts. Then he added socks, underwear, and a few other items. Shoes were always a challenge as they rarely survived an incident. He managed to find a pair of loafers that he could kick off quickly, and sneakers that could be fitted with breakaway laces.

"Done," he said softly to Ash, trying not to feel guilty as he looked at her own -- much smaller -- bundle of clothes in the basket.

"Okay," she said.

Bruce stacked his purchases on the counter. The cashier flipped through the pile of clothes, adding up the prices. "Nothing for your other half today, cousin?" Dakota asked casually, smiling at Bruce.

Bruce went from calm to panic in a split second. How could he know that? Bruce gibbered internally. Nobody here KNOWS THAT except -- He looked at Ash, feeling the cold slash of betrayal.

Bruce scared? the Other Guy asked. Hulk come out?

No no no! Bruce thought. He bolted out of the store.

Ash caught up to him in the parking lot -- she had legs like a gazelle -- and scooped him gently out his headlong rush. She tucked him against the side of the truck, spreading herself over him as a barrier against the world. "Calm down," she murmured. "You're safe."

"How can it be safe when you told him about me?!" Bruce snapped. Rage flared, poisonous green light hazing his vision.

"I didn't tell Dakota anything; you were right there listening," Ash said. She cupped a hand against his cheek and looked at Bruce closely, a worried frown creasing her face, but she made no remark about his eyes changing color. "He simply noticed that you have two spirits, Bruce. He has no idea what your other half looks like."

That didn't help restore any semblance of calm. As if summoned by her words, the Other Guy poked at his control. Blunt fingers prodded him roughly, finding the tender places in Bruce's mind. He winced. "Let me go," he said. "I need to get out of here."

"Let's go home," Ash said. She opened the door a crack and Bruce eeled away from her into the truck. Then she climbed in beside him. "It will be safer there, with fewer people. There's plenty of room to run and places to hide, whatever you want. Just don't panic on me and go streaking across the desert, because that is not safe." The engine started.

Run, the Other Guy urged.

No, Bruce replied. He fumbled his glasses off and shoved them into the glove compartment, just in case he lost his shit. He might lose it. His chest felt tight. He whimpered, curling himself into a tiny ball on the seat. He clung to his control with an iron grip. Inside, the Other Guy growled and paced. It hurt to keep him contained, but Bruce was not about to let him loose without a direct physical threat, not willingly.

"You're doing fine, Bruce." Ash's voice was a tranquil counterpoint to the hum of the engine as they drove.  Bruce clung desperately to her words.  "Everything will be all right."

Fight, the Other Guy tried next. He really only had two modes.

NO, Bruce insisted. He was shaking, now, fine tremors that built up to whole-body shudders. Bruce tried to muffle his sobs. It was hard to breathe. He was terrified that someone would find out what a monster he was, that the Other Guy would break loose and hurt people, that his tenuous new friends would sensibly decide he was too much trouble and toss him out in the street. Then he'd be right back where he started, a fugitive, only in this world he didn't have his little network of contacts and hideouts.

Ash kept both hands on the wheel, feet in the driver's side well where the pedals lay. Yet she also kept her attention on him, offering reassurances. "It's not far now. We'll be home soon," she said. "You'll be okay."

Her voice was somehow soothing. That was strange. Usually people screamed and ran when Bruce started losing his grip. Only Betty had ever stayed with him, both of him. But that was different. The Other Guy had a certain ... awareness of Betty.

My woman, came the possessive grumble.

Bruce tried not to think of how they were never going to see their Betty again. He had no idea how to explain a new Betty to the simple creature inside himself.

"Here's our turnoff. We're on a private road now," Ash said quietly. "See how deserted it is? Look, there goes a jackrabbit. He's not scared of us at all; he just stopped to watch."

Sure enough, the occasional sound of traffic had stopped. There was only the truck's steady drone. Bruce looked up. The green haze was starting to fade from his vision. Everything looked rusty and feverish in comparison. Sweat trickled down his skin.

[To be continued in Part 3 ...]


Date: 2016-11-03 08:21 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-09 10:02 am (UTC)
callibr8: icon courtesy of Wyld_Dandelyon (Default)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
Dakota's "other half" remark, and the panic thus sparked, have me thinking that someone needs to take a minute and explain to him about what should/n't be "ethically read aloud".

Re: Well...

Date: 2016-11-09 10:24 am (UTC)
callibr8: icon courtesy of Wyld_Dandelyon (Default)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
>> Wait until you see Dakota's response. <<

Looking forward to it!!


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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