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, Part 9.  Skip to 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 10

It had been weird enough when Alex asked about that, but well, Alex. Bruce could understand Kay wanting to gauge the security risk. But Quinn? He seemed to have no reason for meeting the Hulk beyond personal curiosity. Then Bruce realized that his left hand was petting Quinn's knee, and he wasn't doing that on purpose. "I think he's left-handed," Bruce said abruptly.

Quinn covered Bruce's hand with his own. "All right. Why?"

"Sometimes if I'm not paying attention, my left hand does things on its own," Bruce said. A memory rose up from his last minutes in his home dimension. "Before I came here, my Alex proposed to vote General Ross off the planet. I really wanted to stay out of that. But the next thing I knew, my left hand was in the air, voting in favor. I think ... it was his hand. Ash counted the vote like it was perfectly normal and then asked me how I wanted to vote. She said, I had two spirits so I should get two votes. I abstained."

"So alter!Ash did clock you," Quinn said. "I thought she would have, since core!Ash has."

"It is really that obvious?" Bruce asked plaintively. His left hand twitched, curling around Quinn's fingers. Irritated, Bruce pulled it away and clenched both hands in his lap.

"There, things like that," Quinn said. "That's what I mean when I say that you move like your body doesn't belong to you. You'll be perfectly comfortable doing something, then suddenly realize what you're doing and stop. Or you'll start to do something and stop yourself halfway. Or you'll put something down and then pick it up again. Other times, you reach for things and knock them over, or you trip over them, and it's not like you're just careless. It's like your body doesn't fit you quite right, or doesn't always move the way you expect it to."

"Like I'm fighting with myself," Bruce said in a soft voice.

"That too," Quinn said. "Most people wouldn't see it, probably. You'd be amazed how oblivious people can be. But you're not keeping company with average citizens now. We know a lot of unusual things. We're more alert -- we have to be -- and some of the folks we know are also the same way. So it's not as easy to hide things around here. Is that going to be a problem for you?"

Bruce crossed his arms over his chest, then uncrossed them. People knowing things about him ... hadn't turned out well in the past, more often than not. But these were different people. "I don't know," he said finally.

"That's okay," Quinn said. He stroked his hands along the top of Bruce's shoulders and gave a comforting squeeze.

"You're okay with the fact that I'm sexually confused and could without warning turn into a massive green monster smashing everything in sight?" Bruce said, tipping his head back to look up at Quinn sitting behind him.

Quinn smiled gently. "Sexuality is confusing, gender identity is more so -- those are not the same, by the way -- and if you do shift form then I trust it will be for a very good reason," he said.

"You're really not afraid that he could kill you," Bruce said wonderingly.

"Kay could kill me. She doesn't," Quinn said. "So no, I'm not afraid."

Bruce shivered and tucked his chin back onto his chest, suddenly feeling exposed. "I'm afraid," he said. "I'm always afraid, always angry. When I lose control, people get hurt, and I hate that. So I have to stay in control. It's why I like science so much. Science is all about control." He gave an unhappy little huff. "Only now nothing is under control, not really. Everything is confusing. I don't know who I am or what I'm doing. I'm so far from home, I'm in a whole different world. And you think I'm a girl. And the crazy thing is, I'm starting to wonder if you might be right."

Quinn remained a reassuring presence at Bruce's back. "It's all right, Bruce," he said. "Nobody can stay in control all the time. We figured you'd probably snap sooner or later, so we kept an eye out to make sure somebody would be there to catch you."

"Because I was so obviously unstable, of course I was going to snap," Bruce grumbled.

"Because you gave up your whole world to come here, and that hurts," Quinn said. "It would make most people snap. Morgan did, a couple weeks after he arrived. I think a nervous breakdown is only to be expected after that deep a loss."

"My Morgan said that the Dr. Banner in his world finished a paper that I abandoned, and won a Nobel Prize for it. That was sweet, and a little scary, getting news from another universe," Bruce said. He remembered the man's advice about leaving one dimension for another. It hurts, leaving your home dimension and everyone you ever knew, but sometimes it's better than the alternatives. Maybe Quinn was right, and a nervous breakdown was a perfectly natural response to that, the way broken bones were an obvious result of getting hit by a truck. That was a worrisome thought.

"Is your Morgan ... okay?" Bruce asked.

"For the most part, yes," Quinn said. "He has bad days sometimes. You don't come through something like that without picking up a few bumps along the way. Morgan and Tim have that much in common; I think it's part of why they became such close friends."

Tim the Tentacle Monster looked even more horrifying than the Hulk -- a tall pile of chromatically gifted tentacles -- yet he had the elegant mind of a scientist and the gentle heart of a romantic. Bruce still had trouble wrapping his mind around that. He tried to treat Tim with kindness, though. Maybe if people had been nicer to the Other Guy instead of trying to shoot him all the time then he wouldn't have turned out so destructive. "Our past shapes us more than we realize," Bruce said.

"So it does," Quinn said. "You and Hulk have that in common. Two spirits, one past."

It was painfully true. Bruce wished that it were otherwise. He wondered how much that common background influenced not just himself and the Other Guy as individual personalities, but also how the two of them interacted with each other. That hurt even more.

* * * 


A nervous breakdown is a colloquial description rather than a medical diagnosis.  It is described as "an acute, time-limited phase of a specific disorder that manifests primarily with features of depression or anxiety."  Symptoms can include panic, diminished concentration, feeling overwhelmed, rapid mood fluctuation, sleep disturbances, etc.  Things that appear with other mental stress disorders, but not so much with a nervous breakdown, include re-experiencing prior trauma, dissociation, avoidance, unresponsiveness, and emtional flatlining.  However, those may still occur as carryover if another condition causing them is also present.

Such an event customarily includes being unable to function in an ordinary manner for a period of hours or days.  This is distinct from PTSD and depression in being short-term rather than long-term, although some of the symptoms may be the same.  It customarily has an external stress event as the cause, often a "straw that broke the camel's back" effect when piled atop ongoing difficulties.  

A nervous breakdown, thus, may be an episode occuring within the context of other mental difficulties.  In particular, the nervous breakdown typically resolves itself after removal of the stress factor.  (This is a problem if some or all of the stress is not, or cannot be, removed.)  So an effective response is to get the victim somewhere safe and to relieve expectations or responsibilities as much as possible.  Since this kind of episode is acute by nature, it tends to fade fairly soon, so further steps can be discussed after the victim has returned to a more rational state of mind.

[To be continued in Part 11 ...]

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-04 07:31 pm (UTC)
brushwolf: Icon created by ScaperDeage on DeviantArt (Default)
From: [personal profile] brushwolf
But science also isn't about control. That's what makes it so compelling as a concept. I'd imagine that a physicist would have a pretty heavy dose of that - look at Oppenheimer and Feynman and those guys for instance - so is this something Bruce kinda blurts out because it's sort of how he thinks sometimes, not all the time?

The other weird thing is the ! as signifier makes sense, but I keep wanting to parse it as a "not" (as in SimpleMU coding) or as a click (as in !Kung).

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2013-02-05 06:02 am (UTC)
thnidu: Tom Baker's Dr. Who, as an anthropomorphic hamster, in front of the Tardis. ©C.T.D'Alessio http://tinyurl.com/9q2gkko (Dr. Whomster)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Tsk, tsk ;-)

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2013-05-11 07:48 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I thought the modifier!noun construction got its start in online text rpgs back in the '90s. My sister used to MUD or MUCK or whatever, and IIRC, they were using it there.


Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-03-07 09:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] labelleizzy.livejournal.com
I had heard that the (modifier)!(noun) construct developed in the fanfiction communities. Not sure if that is data or anecdote, though.


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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