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, Part 11.

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 12


Then Bruce remembered what Quinn had said earlier in the looping ramble of conversation. Something about deflecting one issue with another to keep from panicking. Bruce scrabbled for ideas. "Name," he managed.

"What about a name?" Quinn said, leaning close to hear Bruce's faint voice.

"Name, my name. Do I need a new one?" Bruce said. "People do that. Don't they? Was yours always Quinn?"

"Yes, I've always been Quinn," came the reply. "You mean how people change their names when they change their gender, or other aspects of identity? Some do, some don't. It's up to you. Do you feel like a Bruce inside?"

"I don't know," Bruce said.

Keep Hulk, said the Other Guy.

Bruce couldn't help chuckling a bit at that. "Hulk seems to like his name."

"And you? Is there a name you like, or something that makes you feel safe and happy that you could use for inspiration?" Quinn asked.

Bruce thought about that. There wasn't much that did make him feel safe, after everything that had happened to him. Even as a child he wound up running and hiding more often than not. He had known every nook and cranny in the tired little house on the army base. Behind it there had been a tiny, spring-fed creek with big boulders that also made a good hiding place.

That sparked another memory. One time after an incident, Bruce had woken up not in a barren ditch but deep in a forest beside a clear brook bubbling over smooth stones. It had been so beautiful and so peaceful that he didn't want to leave. Even the Other Guy had stayed quiet instead of disturbing the fragile interlude.

"Creek, brook," he said, and then, "Brooke -- that's a girl's name, right? I could use that." He liked that image. Something about it resonated with him, that moment in the forest when everything seemed at peace and he wasn't fighting with himself for once.

"Whatever you like," Quinn said. "It's your choice."

Bruce tried on the name in his mind, tried to imagine being her, being Brooke. It pulled uncomfortably, left him feeling exposed. "Maybe not yet," he decided. "Maybe someday ... just in here, in private."

"Of course," Quinn said, "whenever you're ready."

Bruce wrapped himself around the idea, tucking it away deep within like the memory of that hidden runnel of water under the trees. It would be there when he needed it.

His stomach growled. Bruce looked down, startled. Hadn't they just eaten breakfast? Had they been talking that long?
Hungry, the Other Guy said.

"Is it really time to eat already?" Bruce asked. He still wasn't used to regular meals again. On the run, he'd been lucky to eat even once a day.

Quinn flicked his wrist to read his watch. Bruce flinched from the quick motion. "Sorry, didn't mean to startle you," Quinn said. "Yes, it's lunchtime."

Bruce's stomach growled. If he was hungry, Quinn probably was too. "You can go," Bruce said quietly. "You don't have to stay in here and babysit me."

"Would you like me to bring your lunch in here, or would you rather go pick out your own?" Quinn asked.

He couldn't hide in here forever. Bruce plucked at his lavender dress, then eyed the discarded t-shirt. "People will bug me if I go out," he said.

"No, they won't," Quinn said firmly. "I could bring you one of your other shirts, though, if that would make you feel more comfortable."

"Yes, please," Bruce said with relief. He marveled at Quinn's ability to cope with Bruce's erratic conversational patterns and warped worldview. Quinn could leap from one topic to another as easily as Alex or Betty. Bruce suspected that his fellow scientists were doing it the same way he did, thinking at speed and brachiating across wide gaps between facts on the strength of extrapolation. Quinn simply seemed to follow whatever the people around him were doing, with a kind of mental flexibility that made professional contortionists look rigid in comparison. Quinn took the world as it came and the people in it likewise, and if that happened to be bizarre then it didn't faze him. Bruce admired that kind equanimity.

Quinn gladly fetched one of the navy-blue shirts that Bruce had selected at the thrift store. Bruce changed into it. He hesitated at the door, then made himself open it. He had to start getting used to this world, his world now, because it was all he had. So he'd make the effort, even if he had to do it in little baby steps.

Food, the Other Guy said, and there was a happy note in his deep voice again. Maybe this wouldn't be a complete disaster after all.

Bruce inhaled and caught the savory aroma of roast beef along with something brighter and fruitier. Some kind of sauce? Berries?

"It smells like Pat is making sandwiches," Quinn said.

There were, indeed, sandwiches underway. Bruce's mouth watered over the spread of thinly-sliced roast beef, ham, and several kinds of cheese and bread. Instead of lettuce there were alfalfa sprouts and tiny spinach leaves. Cranberry sauce and other condiments sat to one side.

Chris had already assembled an enormous Dagwood out of, evidently, everything on the table. It was so thick that he could barely get his mouth around it even with both hands compacting it. Chris waved at Bruce with one pinky finger, not to be distracted from eating. Bruce chuckled.

Alex and Morgan were opening mail at the far end of the table. Morgan beckoned to Bruce and pushed two padded envelopes at him. "We bought ourselves some new t-shirts, and we weren't sure what you'd like so we just made an educated guess," Morgan said. He was sporting a dark t-shirt with a complicated diagram of gravitational microlensing by a black hole. Alex wore a brown one with a wireframe illustration of a wormhole and "Einstein 1879" underneath, which still smelled sharply of vinegar.

Bruce peeled open his envelopes. Both shirts were unisex and large enough to fit the way he liked. The one from Morgan was black with a gamma ray burst on the front. He chuckled over that.

Joke? the Other Guy asked.

Truth in advertising, Bruce replied silently. Gamma rays -- what I study, what made you. The shirt from Alex was the same brown as hers, but with a radiation symbol and "Curie 1867" on it. Only one shirt, so she was respecting his conservative approach to clothes-shopping despite Ash's earlier warning to Bruce.

"We like to wear t-shirts that relate to what we do," Alex said. "You can pick something else if you prefer, though. Or plain, but don't blame me if you fall asleep in the common room and somebody writes equations on you with a white gel pen. You look like a blackboard in that shirt."

Bruce looked down at the unbroken expanse of navy blue and suddenly wondered if Alex had ever gone to Mardi Gras. "Guess I'm a little underdressed," he said amiably. "I can go change --"

"After lunch," Pat interrupted, plucking the new shirts from Bruce's grasp and setting them down on the table. Then the big black man put a hand on Bruce's back, steering him gently but firmly toward the sandwich assembly line. "You need to eat first."

"Okay," Bruce said. He took a plate and two slices of honey-wheat bread. He shamelessly piled alfalfa sprouts on one slice and baby spinach on the other, because there was obviously plenty to go around, then roast beef and provolone with a coating of cranberry sauce. There was a trick to putting the halves together, if he could just remember it -- a single spinach leaf managed to escape, but the rest of the sandwich came together perfectly.

Bruce was just thinking about asking for silverware, because he'd never quite mastered the compacting maneuver that Chris was demonstrating so deftly. Then he found his hands -- both of them -- fitting around the sandwich as if he'd always known the secret of where to hold his fingers and how hard to squeeze.

So good, the Other Guy said happily while chewing.

Bruce couldn't help but agree.

* * *

Notes:

A Dagwood is a large sandwich, usually made with multiple layers of bread, meat, cheese, condiments, and other ingredients.


~ END ~

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-06 03:48 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
This feels like a natural break point... but definitely also feels like there should be a 'to be continued...' at the end.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2013-02-06 08:03 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Thing is with fan-fic, especially this one, if you file the names and identifying marks off, you can make into something original. Worked for Fifty Shades of Grey after all.

Try this thought experiment... swap out the Hulk with an original character with similar problems... now how does this affect the story and does it matter enough? If the answer is no, then what you have is the potential for an original story.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-07 01:34 am (UTC)
chanter_greenie: paratroopers walk across Carentan, with fire burning in the background (Default)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
This whole story has left me with the urge to a) hug Bruce/Hulk (I'd end up squashed if I hugged Hulk, I expect, oops?) and b) hug Quinn, if for vastly different reasons. Quinn, you marvelous, effortlessly adaptable scamp! :) Warm fuzzies for mother hen!Pat too.

Don't be surprised if the first orange!ficlet shows up tonight. I've had ideas percolating the last couple days, and I think tonight might be the night one of them solidifies enough to write. Is that weird, knowing on a rough timeline when something's germinating in your own brain?

Re: Yay!

Date: 2013-02-08 03:05 am (UTC)
chanter_greenie: paratroopers walk across Carentan, with fire burning in the background (Default)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
I love silkies! If I ever have a place suitable for the keeping of city chickens, I'm pretty sure they'll be silkies. I once saw them described as the lap kitty of the chicken world, and that was enough to bias me toward them forever. Pat losing his shit over something, though? Uh-oh. Look out, folks.

Quinn is absolutely social silly putty, but he strikes me as conscious of and utterly fine with the fact, which makes all the difference. On a not entirely unrelated subject, I'm guessing he was referencing a conversation he and Morgan had already had re: going out and getting plastered, or the giving up thereof, when he told Bruce about being there for the astronomer. Do you think they'd already talked about it, or was Quinn guessing at an eventuality? The latter is a lot harder to see, I admit.

Re: orenge!verse fic: I'm being extra careful writing this particular story, as it's from Pat's point of view. I'm trying to get the best possible handle on his thought patterns before I post anything. *scribbles, reads, scribbles some more*

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-07 06:28 am (UTC)
thnidu: A propellor beanie with an icebag. Smoffing the Filkers, http://bit.ly/eNgQ0T (fanac)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I love this image: "thinking at speed and brachiating across wide gaps between facts on the strength of extrapolation". Well, and the word, too.

In Zelazny's Doorways in the Sand, we first meet our human narrator as he's climbing over a roof, or something like that: he likes to travel overhead and does a lot of it. At one point, when he has just been badly and intentionally startled by an applied psychologist who looks very much like a large potted plant with mobile leaves and stems, another alien says to him something like "Look, we all evolved from some other form, and we're not our ancestors. He's sapient, and ... Well, yes, you do brachiate. But most of your species don't."
Edited Date: 2013-02-07 06:29 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-04-27 04:48 am (UTC)
kitrona: A white cat, its back to the viewer, on a variable red background (Default)
From: [personal profile] kitrona
I think you may have gotten me interested in SH, which is AWESOME. :) And this Bruce, and this fic, are very very interesting. I never thought of the balancing feminine in Bruce, but it makes a lot of sense. I do hope you write more of him, because this kind of thoughtful, exploratory fic absolutely engrosses me.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-21 11:14 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
So this fic and the one before it were awesome and I just read them both in one sitting. But inquiring minds want to know - is there any sort of master post or reading guide or anything for Schrodinger's Heroes? I'm intimidated by the amount of content in the tag and I don't really know how to sort through it.

Sorry if you get this question a lot or I've missed the link somewhere. I have trouble parsing the layouts of most LJ-type sites. Silly disabled brain. XD

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-07 10:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] labelleizzy.livejournal.com
Ohhhh. Momentarily-integrated!Bruce. Wow. That's nice to see.

This was fun. Also liked the first story with the crossover between SH and Sherlock. Makes me want to read more, I'm having to prevent myself from mainlining fic all day.

:) BTW I enjoy very much that you are meticulously replying to everyone's comments. It's a commitment to communication and explanation that is rare so far in my fandom experience.

So thank you, once again, for sharing your skills at building a window into your tasty tasty brain.

P.s. brachiating as a metaphor for cognitive leaps is awesome and feels like how I think and speak when I get enthusiastic. *grin*

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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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