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, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.  Skip to 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 9


Bruce wriggled onto the floor, pushing cushions aside. The skirt bunched and tugged oddly as he moved. It didn't help that he was still wearing jeans underneath it, but he didn't feel like trying more than one new garment at a time. He liked the dress, and that itself made him uneasy, pulled in two directions at once. He could move in it, breathe in it, as if he had a little more room than usual. That was good, when the irrational panic wasn't choking him half to death. It wasn't so much a lessening of tension as ... shifting tension to another area that wasn't already sore from getting hit repeatedly. Maybe there was something valid about this crazy idea after all.

Quinn came back with a brush so new that Bruce could smell the lacquer on the handle. He perched on the edge of the mattress behind Bruce. "Lean back," Quinn said.

Bruce leaned back about an inch. Gentle fingers stroked through his hair, followed by the brush. He had to admit it was a lot more relaxing than yanking the tangles out himself. He shifted further back.

A plastic cap clicked and a faint woodsy fragrance filled the air. At the first moist touch, Bruce flinched away. "Quinn, what are you putting in my hair?" he demanded.

"Something to keep it from snarling up so much," Quinn said calmly, pulling Bruce back into place. "You didn't even put conditioner on it after you washed it. I can feel the difference."

Maybe that was a thing women did, or men who dressed up their hair as much as Quinn did. Bruce never bothered. Before the accident he'd used the same kind of all-in-one stuff that most of the army men did. After, he was lucky to have even soap to wash his hair with, let alone shampoo.

Quinn's fingers dabbed some kind of cream into the unruly curls, working one section at a time and then shifting to another. The brush was steady and soothing. The woodsy scent was ... nice, and blended with the mint shampoo surprisingly well. The combined effect smelled like a forest meadow after a rain.

Bruce found himself melting backward until he lay half-sprawled in Quinn's lap. Nobody ever just did things for him like this. Hadn't in years, anyway. A hazy memory of his mother flickered into his awareness and then out again. Bruce let it go. Those memories always made him cry if he tried to hold onto them. He snuggled into Quinn, only half-aware of what he was doing, wanting to remind himself where he was.

Quinn patted his shoulder, then returned to the grooming, both hands in Bruce's hair. That was wonderful, really it was. Quinn hummed under his breath, a lilting melody that rose and fell in time with the brush. Bruce leaned back against Quinn and just let himself drift with it.

"There now, that's much better," Quinn said after quite a while. Bruce stirred and sat up. "Have a look," Quinn added, fishing a palm-sized mirror out of his pocket.

Bruce took it, just to humor Quinn, because he didn't care how he looked. But what he saw almost made him drop the mirror.

He looked like himself, and yet ... not. Loose dark curls framed his face. The heather collar of the dress looped around his throat. His face looked a little softer this way, a little rounder. Relaxed. Comfortable. He couldn't ever recall having seen himself like this before, even prior to the accident. Some of it was already fading as the tension returned. Worry lines began to deepen as he watched. But just for a moment, he thought that he caught a glimpse of someone he might have been, other than Bruce, other than the Hulk.

Bruce sighed and handed the mirror back. "Thanks," he said quietly.

"You're welcome," Quinn said, "any time."

Bruce tugged at his dress. "Does this ever get any easier?"

"It gets more familiar," Quinn said. "If you take it slowly and carefully, you learn what feels right for you and what doesn't. You start putting together the pieces of who you really are. You throw out the old baggage that isn't you. It's not always straightforward -- you'll hit some rough spots, and maybe an unexpected jump ahead, now and then. The more time you spend being yourself, though, the more comfortable you become in your own skin. Then one day you realize, that's who you are now. It's nothing out of the ordinary anymore; it's just you."

"That's just it. I don't know who I am," Bruce said. He fluttered his hands. "Scientist? I fucked that up as much as you could imagine. Boyfriend? I probably sucked at that too; I don't know why Betty put up with me. My father always told me to be a man, but ... he wasn't a very good role model." Bruce slumped into Quinn's lap again. "There's so little of me that's really me, I guess. It's hard to hold that up against the Other Guy, because he's so strong. But I have to keep him contained, I have to, because nobody else can."

"You see him as someone who always needs to be contained?" Quinn asked.

"Yes," Bruce said, "because when he gets out, people get hurt." An unhappy rumble sounded inside him. He ignored it. The fragmented memories that Bruce got from the Other Guy tended to comprise moments of violence or pain, sharp flashes in the fog of sullen anger that always lurked in the back of his mind.

"From what little you've said, he only comes out when your life is in danger," Quinn said.

"Or when he thinks it is, or when I get really angry or scared for some other reason, or when my heartbeat rises too far, or ... whenever, really," Bruce said tiredly.

"If all of his experiences in the world are negative ones, no wonder he's hypervigilant," Quinn said. "Maybe if he had a wider range of experiences, he could develop a wider range of responses. As it is now, your sample pool is too small and too skewed to get a good grasp of his personality."

"Huh ... I hadn't thought of that," Bruce admitted. He should have. It was obvious enough now, looking at it that way. Maybe he should reconsider Kay's suggestion to let the Other Guy out under quieter circumstances.

"I'd like to meet him," Quinn added. "I'm curious about what he thinks of me."

"He thinks you're smart," Bruce said. "He told me to listen to you."

"Really? I'm surprised that he understood our conversation. You don't make him sound very sophisticated," Quinn said.

"He isn't. I don't know how much he really understood," Bruce said. "Well, he clearly thought you were trying to help." The Other Guy was as suspicious as Bruce was, most of the time. There were reasons for that. For anyone to break through that wariness was unusual. For the Other Guy to show interest in something other than fight-or-flight was even more so. Quinn was unique in so many ways. "You actually want to meet him?"

"He's part of you," Quinn said, "of course I want to meet him. I know almost nothing about him."


[To be continued in Part 10 ...]

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-03 09:37 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Huh, that's a point. The Hulk is a big green rage machine... thing is, how smart does anyone seem when they're overcome with anger?

Bruce might be seriously underestimating The Other Guys intelligence. And canonically, the Hulk was pretty smart at times, and Bruce's 'cousin' the She-Hulk was whip smart.. but then, she wasn't really an alternate personality of Jennifer, retaining her original personality etc. [hmm... maybe the Other Guy isn't a product of his gamma exposure, but it does let his alternate out.]

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2013-02-03 10:36 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Makes sense, Jennifer Walters was a 'mouse' physically, small and not conventionally pretty. But she had a commanding presence that made her attractive. Add Bruce's blood, and second-hand super-soldier serum, to her and she becomes a jade green goddess. It basically physically manifested her confidence, also amped her snarky sense of humour too I think...

Hmm, I wonder if Bruce and the Hulk are a sort of left-brain/right-brain kind of thing. The different hemisphere's have duplicated functions, but one side is usually dominant which means that the other sides neural architecture is under-developed. Hence why the 'sub-conscious' i.e the other hemisphere, is non-verbal, mostly anyway.

Hmmm.... now there's a thought. People like me, dyslexics, have a much more distributed pattern of brain function because our hemispheres are co-dominant or one side is only weakly dominant. There are those of us who can integrate this function as a whole, which has it's benefits because we can use our entire brain, with the duplicated sections operating in parallel.

If in Bruce's case, the split personalities function in different hemisphere's neurologically, then as he lets The other Guy out more, he should, in theory, become more integrated.... and possibly smarter!
Edited Date: 2013-02-03 10:41 pm (UTC)

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