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, Part 5.  Skip to 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 6


"This is part of who I am," Quinn said. "The scars tell about the journeys I've taken in my life. Some are a little more exciting than others." He thumbed another one, low down on the left hip, a curling twist of pink. Bruce followed, tracing the puckered skin. "I got this knocking Alex out of the way of some sabertoothed alien wolf-thing."

Bruce chuckled, startled by the image. "That must have been quite an adventure," he said. He pulled his hand back. Quinn buttoned the shirt again.

"That it was," Quinn said. "You've had a few of your own, I think, and the pressure seems to be building up. You might consider letting some of that out."

"When I do that, people get hurt," Bruce said with a grimace. His spine curled at the thought of it, seeking to hold everything in.

"A different method might give different results," Quinn said.

"Do you have any suggestions?" Bruce asked. He'd tried all kinds of things. The yoga helped marginally. Drugs were useless, or worse than useless. Herbal tea ... well, maybe the Other Guy found the flavor soothing. Sometimes it helped. Other times, not so much.

"You could try exploring your feminine side instead of hiding from yourself," Quinn said.

"No thanks, I'm already too sensitive," Bruce said. It just made people more inclined to take advantage of him. Then Quinn's words clicked against what Ash had said, earlier, and that made his whole world tilt giddily to the side. "Wait, no, I'm not into that gender-bending stuff if that's what you're thinking. I'm 100% male. Hulk is most definitely male. What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking you've had to be," Quinn said. "Someone convinced you that your survival depends on being a man -- so much that your subconscious manifests as hypermasculine. Equal and opposite reaction, non?"

"No, hell no," Bruce said, shaking his head. He clung fiercely to his identity, to the Bruce-ness of him that was all the shield he had against the Hulk. It always felt flimsy in his mental grasp, such a frail thing to hold up against so powerful a monster.

"If you keep doing that to yourself, you will keep getting the same results, which are no good for you or anyone around you," Quinn said.

Bruce listen, the Other Guy said abruptly. Quinn smart.

This is nonsense, Bruce said. Instinctively he pulled away from the topic. It's, it's superstition and delusion and --

The Other Guy shoved him. Bruce stumbled a bit, losing his mental balance for a moment. The Other Guy shoved again, shoved forward for once. Bruce could feel a huge hand spread over his shoulderblades, pressing him relentlessly against the front of his mind. It was like being squashed against a picture window. He could barely breathe beneath the weight.

Bruce listen! Hulk insisted.

Quinn had paused. "Problem?" he asked.

Bruce gave a wild laugh. "You know what they say, crazy is when you have an argument with yourself and lose," he said.

"Well, look on the bright side," Quinn said. "At least Hulk is arguing instead of just smashing things. That's an improvement, right?"

Bruce blinked; he hadn't thought of it like that before. In his mind, anything that led to less smashing was an improvement. "Yeah," he said. "That's a good thing. Thanks for pointing it out." Quinn might not be a scientist but he had an uncanny knack for spotting things that Bruce missed. That ... could be useful.

The inner pressure eased. The hand lifted from Bruce's back as the Other Guy stepped away. Bruce gasped his breath back.

Bruce stay, Hulk said firmly. Listen.

"Okay," Bruce said. "I'm listening."

"You're finding it hard to believe, though," Quinn said.

"Your claims don't match my experience," Bruce said.

"Ah, but I'm not the only one making this particular observation," Quinn said. "Ash and I -- in both dimensions, I believe -- noticed this about you. Then you went into town, and a total stranger clocked you." He spread his hands. "Once is chance, twice is coincidence ..."

"... three times is a trend," Bruce grumbled. "But what do you see that makes you think I'm not a real man?"

Quinn sighed. "Your body is male. Your courage is unquestionable. The issue of being a 'real man' is ... a cultural tar pit we'd do better to avoid for the moment," he said. "Let's start with your body, though: you wear it like it doesn't belong to you."

"Well, it doesn't," Bruce muttered.

"Neither did mine, once," Quinn said.

Bruce could not help remembering the trails of scar tissue marking how far Quinn had gone to change that. He rubbed his fingers together. "You know what I mean," he said.

"Of course, and that's another thing," Quinn said. "Your Hulk, he is like a mirror image of you -- large where you are small, instinct instead of intellect."

"Masculine instead of feminine," Bruce said, automatically following the pattern. He shook his head again, harder. His back tightened, muscles twinging. "No. I just can't believe it."

"There's another thing," Quinn said. "It runs all through your body language. Look at how you're sitting."

Bruce lifted his chin from his chest. The tension had nearly wadded him into a ball. "What about it?"

"You duck down, making yourself smaller, less of a target," Quinn observed. "You hunch forward, protecting your belly. Most people who have survived getting knocked around will do those things." He reached out and traced along Bruce's upper arms, very lightly. "You also curl your shoulders inward toward your chest, as if to hide breasts or the lack thereof. That motion very rarely appears in people who aren't some sort of genderqueer."

"Whatever," Bruce said. He tried to uncurl, but his body had wound itself up like a watch spring. Usually when that happened, the Other Guy wasn't far away. This time ... felt different, he had to admit. Hulk was still barring the way, trapping Bruce in the front.

* * *

Notes:

non -- French for "no."


[To be continued in Part 7 ...]

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-04 08:06 pm (UTC)
brushwolf: Icon created by ScaperDeage on DeviantArt (Default)
From: [personal profile] brushwolf
"You hunch forward, protecting your belly. Most people who have survived getting knocked around will do those things."

Is that true though? I'd always assumed Bruce's body type as ectomorph and I know that ectomorphs tend to slouch just through habit. I know personally that he's going to keep his eyes down and fold forwards thanks to the abuse, but isn't his normal state sort of hunched just thanks to build?

Wandered over from Hide and Seek

Date: 2013-12-02 06:14 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Library Geek, here:

While rereading Hide and Seek, I saw the earlier story referenced and followed it. I just LOVE the Other Guy telling Bruce, "Bruce listen. Quinn smart." I want to send Hulk a kiss and a big Hulk sized cup of cocoa, right now. And a rubber duckie. ;) This made me laugh and was perfect characterization to me.

Re: Wandered over from Hide and Seek

Date: 2014-03-07 05:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] labelleizzy.livejournal.com
You do a splendid job at a) breaking my brain and b) bringing completely logical extrapolations of canon events to unexpected and fascinating points.

Thank you for breaking my brain! =D

a colorful mosaic

Date: 2016-11-09 10:22 am (UTC)
callibr8: icon courtesy of Wyld_Dandelyon (Default)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
>> >> Thank you for breaking my brain! =D <<

>> You're welcome! Now you can make a colorful mosaic with the pieces. <<

**SQUISH**

<3 that line sooooo much!

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