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, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.  Skip to 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 5


"You seem to be enjoying yourself," Ash observed.

"It's really good," Bruce said. "Thanks for bringing breakfast, Quinn."

"You're welcome," Quinn said. "I'm glad you like it."

More? the Other Guy asked wistfully.

Bruce eyed the maple syrup. Ash was using the darker version on a trio of sausages. Slowly, so that anyone could stop him if he was being presumptuous, Bruce reached toward the golden bottle again. Quinn pushed the syrup into his grasp. Bruce took a deep breath and poured a generous stream over his pancakes.

The next bite was dripping with liquid sunlight.

So good.

On that, the two halves of himself were in perfect agreement.

They ate quietly, no one feeling compelled to fill the air with constant chatter. Now and again, Quinn offered a tidbit of news. Once Ash pointed out a sparrow picking up blades of grass, presumably for a nest. Bruce let their words flow over him and said nothing.

Finally Ash stacked the empty plates back onto the tray. "I need a shower and some clean clothes," she said. "I'll just leave this in the kitchen on my way." With that she slipped out the door.

Bruce supposed that he ought to wash and change too. He flinched away from the idea of leaving the soft room, though. He was so not ready to face everyone else and the inevitable barrage of questions.

"There's a shower in the bathroom here, if you want to clean up," Quinn said, tipping his head at the inner door. "I could bring you some fresh clothes."

"Fine," Bruce said, because it was easier just to go along.

The bathroom door had no knob, only a slot to grip while sliding it into its pocket in the wall: nothing to stumble against and raise bruises. The fixtures inside were similarly designed with a careful eye toward maximum safety. The shelves held a selection of soap and shampoo, little ones like hotels used. Bruce washed in a hurry as he always did, touching his body as little as possible. He dried himself with an enormous mauve towel.

As his hand touched the door, Bruce hesitated. There was no way to know if the soft room was empty, not with the moist air thick with the smell of mint shampoo and the sound of water still dripping in the shower. He didn't want to put his grimy clothes over clean skin. Instead he wrapped the damp towel around his waist. Then he took a deep breath and slid the door open.

The soft room was indeed empty. A stack of clothes lay neatly folded on the edge of the nest. Bruce yanked them on as fast as he could, grateful that the faded jeans and the ash-gray shirt fit as intended. His fingers trailed over the flowery shape of the peace symbol. It was a silly thing to wish for, really, but he couldn't help it. Bruce shook his head.

Under the clothes lay a slim metal case. Curious, he popped it open and found his glasses inside, smelling of lens cleaner and nestled snugly into some kind of cushiony foam padding. He put his glasses on, grateful for the added clarity. Then he tapped a thoughtful fingernail against the outside of the case. Titanium, maybe. Even the Other Guy would have a hard time breaking that by accident, unless he sat on it. That was a very useful gadget indeed. Bruce tucked it into his pocket. He hoped they'd let him keep it, at least for as long as he stayed here. Toward that end he could at least try not to make a nuisance of himself. With that thought, he went back into the bathroom and hung up the used towel.

The outer door clicked open. Bruce spun around, heartbeat already speeding.

"Sorry if I startled you," Quinn said, spreading his empty hands. "I just thought company might be a good idea."

Best not to leave the crazy man alone, Bruce thought sourly.

"If I'm wrong -- if you need some time to yourself -- I can leave," Quinn offered.

Bruce wondered if he had misjudged Quinn. He sighed and sat down, featherbed and memory foam sinking underneath him. "I don't know what I need," Bruce admitted, "except maybe a new life."

"We can work on that," Quinn said.

"Ash brought me back here," Bruce said. "I almost lost my shit in town. I could've killed someone."

"You didn't," Quinn pointed out. "From the looks of it, you exhausted yourself holding onto your control."

"Why would Ash even bother with me?" Bruce went on. "I mean, I'm just a dried-up fringe scientist with scars inside and out, the worst accident record in the history of OSHA, and delusions of relevance."

Quinn unbuttoned his shirt and opened the pale blue cloth. "You're not the only one with scars," he said quietly.

Bruce's jaw dropped. Instinctively he reached forward, curious in a clinical way because he hadn't seen anything like this in person before. Then he jerked back, catching himself just in time. "You -- I -- um, sorry," he stammered. "Sorry."

"It's all right," Quinn said. "Feel free to touch." He lifted Bruce's right hand and settled it against his chest.

The top surgery had not gone very well. Thick crescent scars traced the underside of each nipple. Longer straight scars reached back toward the armpits. The lines showed white through the soft golden down of chest hair. Bruce trailed his fingers very lightly over the marks, reading suggestions of an inexperienced surgeon and possibly an infection, glimpses of history left embedded in skin and muscle.


[To be continued in Part 6 ...]

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-04 08:11 pm (UTC)
brushwolf: Icon created by ScaperDeage on DeviantArt (Default)
From: [personal profile] brushwolf
Question, how much is comic book canon likely to surface in this? Or does having the Schrödinger's-verse basically keep things simpler than trying to untangle that stuff?

Re: Hmm...

Date: 2013-02-05 09:34 pm (UTC)
brushwolf: Icon created by ScaperDeage on DeviantArt (Default)
From: [personal profile] brushwolf
Okay! I know that the last few years were really ridiculously eventful in the world of Hulk canon - that there was a story arc that went through Planet Hulk to World War Hulk and some other stuff, the tail end of which I'm only just now catching up on. But before then there's other canon about Red Hulk which - because there's such a big chunk of angst invested in Ross' personal grudges - I figured might surface.

Re: Hmm...

Date: 2014-06-02 11:52 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chordatesrock
I find what you said about iterative characterisation interesting and would love to hear more on that topic.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-07 05:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] labelleizzy.livejournal.com
"glimpses of history left embedded in skin and muscle."

So many times we forget how much the body is our memory...

This line is striking in deep with me today. Is chewy.
Thanks.

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