|The Restless Mind of Banner
Author: DarthWario PM
Post-Avengers film story exploring the relationship between Bruce Banner and The Hulk.Rated: Fiction K - English - Friendship/Sci-Fi - Hulk/Bruce B. & Iron Man/Anthony S. - Words: 2,581 - Favs: 7 - Follows: 1 - Published: 09-07-12 - id: 8504222
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Electricity crackled and fizzled in the clouds above, occasionally striking down at the giant unfinished lightning rod that was Stark Tower.
"I thought it was the Avengers Tower now."
"I'm keeping my name on it until the repairs are finished. I have to wait until I can build a third one now until I get my name on it again."
"Yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing the Potts Tower."
"If you like it so much, maybe you should go live there, Bruce."
The two looked out over New York from the penthouse suite-come-lab situated at the top of the giant vanity project that they both could now call home. Tony was more or less stuck there until at least the top and bottom floors were renovated for use by the Avengers, although he was still given far more freedom than his new housemate.
"I can't do that, Tony. You know, unless you want to deal with Fury."
"Why would I have to deal with him? You're the one who's moving."
"Well, the guardians got to sign the release forms. I'd love to do it myself, but Fury doesn't think that letting me any closer to the rest of New York is a good idea."
"Can you blame the Cyclops?"
Lightning struck the top of the tower again, with a great explosion of sound and light for the briefest of seconds. Tony was the first to move, heading from the window back to the bar, and Bruce moved very swiftly behind him. He placed his glass down and began to pour another drink.
"What is it you want to say, Bruce?" He asked, not looking up from his pouring.
"Wh-how do you know I need to say something? Maybe I like the awkward silence we share. It, er… it reminds me of work."
"You fiddle with your hands when you're nervous or you have something to say. I'd like to think you didn't need to be nervous around me anymore." Tony gave an intermittent smile between sips.
Bruce was now too aware of his tic but, like so much, he could never really control it. He put his hands in his pockets, and attempted an awkward lean on the bar to make up for his stance. "Well, I'm just thinking of…" He started out slowly, but with another lightning strike he speeded up his point. "I'm going down below, I can't stay up here. I'm not… not good with lightning." He glanced towards the window and Tony dutifully followed his gaze.
"Alright, well, I'm gonna stay up here. Partially 'cause I need to make sure that-" He pointed outside and, because the world always seems to act this way around Tony Stark, another bolt of lightning struck on cue. "-is getting converted properly into powering this place until we can get that arc reactor dealing with the extra workload. But mostly because I'm not a sissy."
"Being a sissy has little to do with it, I just don't want to mess up your pretty building any more than is necessary. Goodnight, Tony."
"G'night, sissy." Tony gave an over-elaborate wave as Bruce entered the express elevator, and maintained it until the doors closed. The moment the metal doors touched each other, Tony downed the rest of his drink and practically ran over to the couch that was positioned in the centre of the room. "Finally," he muttered under his breath, swiping his hand in the air to move away all the plans he was working on with Banner for the tower (as well as a few crudely drawn comics involving the rest of the team. For a moment Tony considered that the one starring Thor may have been the reason that they'd been caught in a lightning storm, but he reasoned that if they had annoyed the god of Thunder they'd be dealing with a hammer rather than petty lightning strikes), and bringing up his video chat.
"Jarvis, be a dear and bring up Pepper, will you?"
The call was sent out and answered in a few seconds. When it was connected, Tony sat up straight from his slouched position.
"That's not Pepper."
"Oh, you noticed, did you?" The voice was much deeper than it should have been. And the figure was a lot more masculine. And had one too few eyes.
"Fury, what are you doing on this line?"
"Well, I thought before you settled in with a nice chat with your other boss, I thought I'd like to get in there first. I just want an update on the situation."
"Do you really have to check? I'd tell you if there was a problem, no worries." Tony was fiddling with the laptop in front of him while maintaining eye contact with the the looming face of Nick Fury on the large screen on his wall.
"Don't try to cut me off, Stark." Tony stopped fiddling and decided to slouch back. "I want a report. So, report."
"Fine. Progress on the upper parts of the tower today was slow due to the oncoming storm, and me and Bruce continued work on planning the more nifty features of the clubhouse. Or, if you want to hear what you actually intercepted me for, Bruce is still in the tower and hasn't gone all Jolly Green Giant on us."
"You're sure there's no problem with Banner? I don't want slip ups."
"Oh, yeah," he waved his arm dismissively, "The guys fine, far as I can see."
Bruce sat with his arms hugging his knees as close to himself as possible for the entire ride down. He breathed slowly and methodically, keeping a rigorous eye on the heart monitor on his arm. It was nowhere near danger levels, it never was these days, but being in a confined space kept Bruce paranoid. He was under control of his transformations, that much was clear from the battle in New York not long back and when he was in control it was more Bruce than… Him. There was still something about lightning, though, something that brought him back to his past. The mistakes he made. His lack of control.
It was that stormy night in the cave. That was one of his best moments, but he was still out of control. It was just lucky that she was able to calm Him, and let the Bruce side slide back into the driving seat.
Even Bruce was unsure of how it all worked, the two of them in the same body. Sometimes they were the same people, sometimes they weren't. Bruce always reasoned that they were one and the same, it was just that He was a different part of them. The Other Guy, in the same body. And he was becoming weaker. Soon there wouldn't even be another guy, and the Hulk would be the same as Banner. He wouldn't ever get out of control like he did on the Helicarrier.
Bruce sighed into his legs. He just needed to get down to his room and sleep. After a long day the regrets and bad thoughts always creep in, as though they were jealous of the attention that the good thought got.
NOT ROOM. CAGE.
Bruce lifted his head from his legs and muttered to himself. "Not this again… I don't need this. I don't need you while I'm here."
YOU NEED. YOU KNOW.
"When I need to fight! But not here. Not when I need to survive. When I need to not hurt people…" Bruce caught his rising voice and began to quiet down.
I AM SURVIVE. NO ME, NO YOU.
"What?" It was practically a whisper. Bruce caught the floor number out of the corner of his eye – it was a long trip, but he was there. He stood up just as the doors opened again to the underground corridors, sparsely populated with the occasional construction crew and SHIELD Agent. Bruce scanned around and saw them armed at every corner. A short walk away was his room. Other than the reinforced and incredibly thick walls. Bruce had heard they were made from all sorts of stuff. Titanium, Adamantium and even Vibranium. Deep down something told him that Stark would want the walls to be made out of something easy for Him to smash through. He was getting out eventually, and if it was an emergency he wouldn't want Him slowed down.
EVEN METAL MAN KNOW ME NEEDED.
"Stark doesn't know anything," Bruce was talking freely again. There was no point in being quiet with walls this thick – no one could hear him. "He can only see surface damage, nothing about what's inside."
"Inside me!" Bruce often caught himself shouting like this these days. Conversations with yourself were never a good sign, but nor was being able to break a man's spine with a flick of a finger, so it was all relative. "You have destroyed my life. You're a maddening cancer and I wish you'd just… go…"
NO. I MAKE YOU STRONG.
"No! You make me weak! You weaken me every day! It's about more than just muscles!"
WITHOUT ME, YOU WEAK. NO RESOLVE. NO WILL. NO LOVE.
Part of Bruce had somehow managed to shock him into silence. "What?"
THINK. NO ANGER, NO PASSION. NO BETTY. EARTH DEAD. YOU DEAD.
"You think if I lost you I'd lose my will? I'm more than you, you… monster."
I SPIT OUT BULLET. I SAVE YOU.
"You…saved me? No, you saved yourself."
SAME. YOU NEED ME. YOU WEAK.
"I don't even know what you're saying… it's like talking to a child in my head. Trying to disguise selfishness as…as…concern." Bruce was pacing madly in his small room, staring almost exclusively at himself in the mirror that ran the length of the room.
ME AM CONCERN. YOU NO SURVIVE. ME NO SURVIVE. ME NO FEEL.
"You no feel? I really wish you'd just talk in a sentence sometimes… if I die then you die because you're a part of me. That's it. You make me suffer because you want to survive.
ME SUFFER BECAUSE YOU WANT DIE.
"What? I don't want to die, you're crazy…" He was practically a whisper.
YOU WANT DIE. ME SEE IN HEAD. THOUGHTS. BAD THOUGHTS. BEAT YOURSELF UP. MAKE YOU BAD GUY. I DESTROY. ME BECOME BAD GUY. BAD THOUGHTS CHANGE.
Bruce stood staring at his figure in the mirror. In his mind his body was changing. It was no longer a reflection of his small body in the figure, but the green body that haunted him. The lips now moved with the booming words, incoherent but… making sense. The Hulk spoke in broken English, but with clarity of mind.
YOU NO SEE WHAT I SEE. DESTRUCTION IN HEAD. YOU HATE SELF. WITH BETTY, HATE SELF. WITH TEAM, HATE SELF. ALONE, HATE SELF. WITH HULK, HATE HULK. ME KEEP YOU ALIVE.
"So my own mind is trying to save me…"
NO. ME TRYING TO SAVE YOU. YOU MIND TRY KILL.
"But you're part of me, you are me! You were always there, my subconscious, lashing out at me and the world and now you have form. Just because you have the Hulk to reside in doesn't make you any less of me. Any less of the anger that was poisoning me from day one."
ME TAKE ANGER. CHANGE FROM YOU TO WORLD. ME TRY AND SAVE YOU.
"The world doesn't deserve my anger, I do!" A tear began to form in his eye. "I was the one who messed up. Ruined my life, ruined Betty's life, ruined most of New York for gods… I'd rather destroy myself than anyone else. You think that just because we saved this place you don't still torture me?"
"How in the hell can you say that?"
YOU SACRIFICE WORLD TO HURT SELF. YOU HURT SELF, HURT BETTY, HURT ME.
"A different kind of hurt with you and Betty, can't you see that? She'd be happier without me anyway. The burden…"
"I'm sorry, what?"
SAME HURT. ME CARE.
"Oh god, what." The tears had stopped, but Bruce was left with a horrified face. "That is so wrong."
ME YOU. ME PART OF YOU THAT CARE. ME ONLY PART OF YOU THAT CARE.
"That's not true, I care abou-"
NO. YOU DON'T. ALL ME. ME RAGE AND PASSION AND CARING. ME ANGRY BECAUSE YOU SAD. YOU HATE SELF. ME SAVE YOU.
"I…I do care about myself…"
YOU USE TO. SINCE ACCIDENT, ONLY ME.
Bruce broke his gaze with the Hulk figure in the mirror and sat on the bed in the corner. "How can that…"
YOU START HURT PEOPLE. START HURT SELF. YOU TURN TO HATE OF SELF. ME TRY SAVE YOU. ME HOLD ONLY LOVE.
"Please don't say love, it sounds so goddamn wrong…"
WHY WRONG TO LOVE SELF.
"Don't play dumb. You may have speaking problem, but you're just as smart as me, don't try that."
CAN'T BLAME HULK FOR TRYING.
Bruce cracked a smirk and instantly broke down into tears. "I do care about myself… I must do…"
ME PART THAT CARES. BUT ME OTHER GUY. YOU STARTING TO FORGET HATE, BUT SLOW. ME HELP. ME CARE.
"How can I feel so good around them…the guys, Betty…when I hate myself as much as you say?" Bruce's voice was accusing of the air around him, as though it wasn't him at fault for this.
THAT ME. ME REMIND YOU OF LIFE. OF HAPPINESS. HULK MAKE YOU SURVIVE. FOR ME. FOR YOU.
There were no more coherent words out of Bruce. He broke down. Visions of every attempted suicide rained down upon him like hailstones in his head, breaking him down bit by bit. The realisation was too much to bear. There was no love for himself.
He was dying again. Alone. Sat there on the bed by himself, and he was dying.
Before he could recognise what was happening, Bruce's arms began to move on their own. One found itself around Bruce's chest, and another haphazardly attempted to wipe the tears from his face. They poked him in the eye at least once in their noble venture.
SORRY. HULK NO GOOD WITH CARE.
Bruce gave a small chuckle. "You care about me, huh?"
UNTIL YOU DO. COULD BE SOME TIME.
"Yeah…" Bruce spoke softly, barely speaking at all. "It may be…"
Bruce lay down on the bed, his arms hugging him with His will. For a short while there was peace in the head of Bruce Banner.
Alternate special ending:
HULK HELP SLEEP WITH HAPPY ENDING?
"Don't tell me that's you. Don't ruin that for me, please."
ME NO SAY ANYTHING.
"Damn it. Now it'll feel wrong."
IT FEEL RIGHT TO HULK.
"Now it's weird. Great." Bruce stood up and walked out of the room, internalising his own argument once again. The peace that was in the head of Bruce Banner was gone. Now there was just a bickering couple.