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, Part 10.

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 11


Bruce veered away from that uncomfortable topic toward a previous one. "I don't suppose you could recommend anything to explain this whole gender thing any better, could you?" he said. "I'm feeling rather lost."

"I do have plenty of books. Will you promise to read whatever I give you with an open mind, and think about all of it before jumping to conclusions?" Quinn asked.

"I'll try," Bruce said.

"Fair enough," Quinn said. "I'll start you off with Transgender 101, Physician's Guide to Transgendered Medicine, and Two-Spirit People. That's one basic guide, one science manual, and one piece of alternative culture with a spiritual perspective. It should give you enough diversity for a three-dimensional view of the topic, and some familiar ground to build on."

"Okay," Bruce said. He rubbed his hands over his face. "Do you really think this will help? I mean, I'm dealing with the Other Guy, and a whole new dimension, and you want to add this too? On top of the steaming pile that is my life in general?"

"Think about physics for a moment," Quinn said. "If you want to stop one object from hitting another object, it's a lot harder to stop it in place than to deflect it off to one side. So this way, if your mind tries to lock onto one particular problem and go into a panic loop, you can break the cycle by focusing on something else. You've always got something else genuinely major and important that you can switch to, deflect the force, and use as a buffer. Keep them all moving around your center and you won't get smashed flat as often. As you work on each problem in turn, they'll lose momentum, and their ability to knock you down will diminish."

"I don't think most people use the laws of physics in psychology," Bruce said.

"Maybe that's why so much of psychology doesn't work," Quinn said sourly.

"It sounds like you don't have much respect for the field," Bruce said.

"I've seen it fail a lot," Quinn said. "I've also cleaned up after numerous different couselors and other care providers. I've heard that stuff works for some people; I just don't seem to meet many of those. If you want a regular therapist, I'm sure Alex would be happy to find one for you --"

Bruce shook his head. "I don't think it would work for me. Us. I wouldn't be able to talk about what's really going on in my head. That would kind of defeat the purpose," he said. "At least with you I can be honest, so you know what you're working with."

"What I do is different, and compiled from a lot of different sources," Quinn pointed out. "I'll use anything that works. You're a scientist, so to keep you from tearing yourself apart, I'll talk science to you."

"Does that always work?" Bruce asked.

"Not the same exact words or techniques, but matching people's personal style, that works pretty consistently," Quinn said. "When it's Morgan, he likes to drown his sorrows, so we go out drinking and I make sure he doesn't give himself alcohol poisoning or stumble into traffic. Most people would say that it's not healthy to play along with that kind of behavior, but I'd rather he drink in company than drink alone, and I can handle it. He's not ready to give it up yet. When he is, I'll be there for that too; until then, I'll be there at the bar. So. Whatever works. I've done weirder shit. I've done New Orleans."

Bruce chuckled. "Agreed. New Orleans is some seriously weird shit," he said. Then he smiled. "I made it to Mardi Gras once. I woke up hungover in somebody else's hotel room, stark naked except for a purple, green, and yellow feather boa wrapped around my neck."

"Santé," Quinn said. "Mardi Gras always brings the weirdness to new heights."

"Oh, that's not the weird part. That's normal for New Orleans," said Bruce. "The weird part is that I found the solution to a problem I'd been trying to solve for six months, written on my arm in permanent marker, and I couldn't remember even mentioning it to anyone."

Quinn laughed. "You're lucky it was just marker and not a tattoo."

"I was acutely aware of that, yes," Bruce said. He rested his head on Quinn's knee. Quinn stroked a hand through Bruce's hair, down his neck and over his shoulder, stirring the fabric of the heather dress. It felt good having someone touch him in a nonsexual, nonthreatening way. Bruce never had gotten much of that. Only a few trusted friends had ever made it into his personal space. After the accident, his intensely negative experiences had left him (not to mention the Other Guy) so twitchy that he avoided contact most of the time. It made him lonely, but then he'd been lonely most of his life. He could cope. At least, he had thought he could cope. Quinn's gentle touch was unraveling his defenses with alarming speed. Bruce sat up again. Quinn let go.

Bruce had lost his entire universe coming here, and found -- what? People who would do things like this for him. Not just Alex, this new Alex who had never known him but welcomed him as if she had, but also everyone who worked with her. Ash with her superstitions and eerily precise command of computers. Quinn with his whimsical hair and utter equanimity in the face of all chaos. Morgan and Tim the Tentacle Monster, fellow refugees across the dimensions. Friends.

Family, said the Other Guy.

The word caught Bruce like a knife the back, making him gasp from the pain of it. I don't HAVE any family! he snapped. His father had murdered his mother, and then -- well, Bruce didn't want to think about that. Betty, his Betty, was forever out of reach across the cosmos. Bruce was in no shape to inflict himself on the Betty of this world. All he had left of his past was the Other Guy, the two of them so twisted around each other they could never get free. Bruce and Hulk didn't even know how to untangle themselves enough to stop hurting each other all the time. That bothered Bruce more than he wanted to consider for long.

Family, insisted the Other Guy. Good people.

Bruce hitched a breath. Where had he even gotten that idea of family, after the drunken disaster of a childhood?

Quinn was petting him again, smoothing a hand over his chest in slow circles. "Breathe," Quinn murmured.

Bruce struggled to remember the bits of yoga breathing that he'd learned. Yam-something. No. Pranayama. That was it. The air seemed like a tight fit in his lungs. He wished urgently that he could be somewhere else, be someone else. But then the Other Guy might get out. That would be bad.

* * *

Notes:

Santé --
French for "cheers," what you say when drinking; or in this case, a response to a story about drunken shenanigans.


[To be concluded in Part 12 ...]

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-05 07:33 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] adeliej
Yay, one more part than planned! I'm really enjoying reading these - though I don't know much about The Avengers, I know just enough to follow your story and it grabs me nonetheless.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2013-02-05 12:16 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Sorry, read & liked it all, just didn't comment. I always read your stuff, more often than not I like...I only comment if I feel there's something I can add or want to query.

Still, noted, I'll leave a comment once I've read something in future.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-04-27 04:41 am (UTC)
kitrona: A white cat, its back to the viewer, on a variable red background (Default)
From: [personal profile] kitrona
\"Think about physics for a moment," Quinn said. "If you want to stop one object from hitting another object, it's a lot harder to stop it in place than to deflect it off to one side. So this way, if your mind tries to lock onto one particular problem and go into a panic loop, you can break the cycle by focusing on something else. You've always got something else genuinely major and important that you can switch to, deflect the force, and use as a buffer. Keep them all moving around your center and you won't get smashed flat as often. As you work on each problem in turn, they'll lose momentum, and their ability to knock you down will diminish."

You have put into words how I've been dealing with my disaster of a life for the past month and a half. Thank you.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-07 10:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] labelleizzy.livejournal.com
This is basically how I've been managing my life for the last six years. It works.

*sigh* sometimes though, not all the problems/ issues/ difficulties get equal time onstage, and then one problem hits crisis level... Juggling lessons would be good at this point, seriously.

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