ysabetwordsmith: (Schrodinger's Heroes)
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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, Part 6.  Skip to 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 7


"Then there's the way you dress," Quinn went on.

"It doesn't matter how I dress," Bruce said. "Clothes don't last long enough on me to matter. Besides, I can't afford anything better and I need to leave extra room in case of ... incidents."

"All partly true," Quinn agreed. "However, you could afford clothes that fit you precisely, and nice new ones too, if you wanted them now."

"I'm not a charity case," Bruce said.

"You wouldn't have to be," Quinn said. "You could easily have traded on your scientific skills. I know you've been offered a job here; Morgan still has to bite his tongue to avoid hero-worshipping you every time he opens his mouth. But you didn't make that move."

"Well ... Ash just gave me a petty cash card. I didn't want to seem greedy," Bruce said. She had indeed mentioned a job offer, which appealed to him more than plain charity, although he had yet to see a contract or any other official terms.
Quinn quirked a smile. "I'm guessing Ash didn't mention that you could've bought a house and not put a dent in that account."

"Yeah, no," Bruce said slowly. "That didn't come up."

"So here you are, dressed by choice in baggy clothes that conceal the shape of your body and give you something to hide in, cheap clothes that don't take up much in the way of resources because you feel like you don't deserve much," Quinn said. "Did you notice that you're wearing a women's style t-shirt, though?"

"What?" Bruce yelped. He scrabbled at the collar of the shirt, dragging it forward to read the tag. Women's XXL 100% Cotton ... "This is not good." His heart was galloping again. His breath quickened. He wanted to peel off the shirt and change into something safer...

Safer. Now why would he think that? It was just a shirt. Yet the thought of it filled him with inexplicable gasping panic, as if someone were watching him, just waiting for him to make a mistake like this so --

"You are safe here, mon amie," said Quinn. "Here, let us try something else." He shifted around on the voluminous featherbed so that he sat back-to-back with Bruce.

That felt better. With his back covered, Bruce felt less threatened. Not having to look Quinn in the face made things easier too. "Thanks. That helps," Bruce said. He tried to calm his breathing. He could feel Quinn's ribcage against his own, warm through layers of fabric, expanding and contracting as Bruce sought to match the slower rhythm. "For some reason, the idea of wearing women's clothes just terrified me. I can't imagine why. It's completely irrational."

"If it happened when you were young enough, you might not have conscious memories of why," Quinn said in a darker tone, "or you might have repressed them."

"Yeah, kind of ... a lot of memories get lost, between me and the Other Guy," Bruce admitted. He had always possessed an excellent memory for facts and figures, but a patchier memory of events. The lab accident had just made the latter problem worse. "It's a thing."

"State-dependent memory can play strange tricks," Quinn agreed. "Sometimes it's almost like being a whole different person."

"Yeah," Bruce said, a world of regret in his voice, roughened with an inward rumble as the Other Guy agreed with him. "That is not fun."

"So if you're always pushing and pulling at yourself, always fighting or arguing with each other, that's hard on you. It's bound to wear you out," Quinn said.

"You sounded like you had some ideas," Bruce said. He leaned back against Quinn, feeling the flex of ribs with each slow breath. Quinn was a calming influence, somehow, even if his topics tended toward the hair-raising at times.

"Kay suggested letting the Other Guy out in a safe place," Quinn said.

Instantly Bruce shook his head. "There are no safe places where the Other Guy is concerned."

"You haven't seen our Playground yet. Alex bought us a place for weapons testing and combat practice. Saving the world isn't a low-risk occupation," Quinn said. "That's just in this dimension. We could take you somewhere there aren't any people or anything else to endanger. You can't get much safer than that."

"I don't know," Bruce said. It was tempting, and that worried him.

"I think you do know what happens when you put a sealed pot on a hot stove," Quinn said.

"Point," Bruce said with a wince. He felt like that all too often. It suddenly occurred to him to wonder if the Other Guy ever felt the same way.

Yes, Hulk replied.

"Okay," Bruce said. "Okay, I concede. You're right on that one. I just, I don't think I'm ready to ... just let go like that. Any other ideas?"

"One more, I thought, but after seeing your reaction to the t-shirt, now I'm thinking maybe not," Quinn said.

"If it's less risky than letting the Other Guy out, it's still worth considering," Bruce said.

"You could try wearing women's clothes," Quinn said.

Bruce twitched so hard that his back spasmed. "It's not as crazy as letting him out," he said, trying to convince himself. "It has to be safer, nobody else would get hurt ..."

"You don't have to try it, if you don't feel comfortable with it," Quinn said. "For that matter, nobody else even has to know. You could simply lock the door and keep your choices to yourself."

That was another one of those very tempting things that probably wasn't a good idea after all. "I don't think I should be alone with this," Bruce admitted. "Well, not that I'm ever really alone, but ... you seem to know a lot more about this stuff than I do."

* * *

Notes:

mon amie -- French for "my friend," with the feminine ending.


[To be continued in Part 8 ...]

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-07 06:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] labelleizzy.livejournal.com
Brain.
Broken.
Again.

But of course Brian Banner would have picked on Bruce for any effeminate behavior. A convenient fucking excuse.

God. Poor Bruce. If anyone needed reparenting, it's Bruce-&-Hulk.

BTW, don't know if I have mentioned but your Love Is For Children series is headcanon for me. Just... It needs to be. It gives me hope.

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