Author's Note: This is just a tiny story that I thought up. It may be a bit confusing if you haven't read "Future Imperfect" One and Two or "What Savage Beast," since I kind of merged the two stories together. But, anyways, here it be. Enjoy.
Bruce had his eyes closed when he jumped for the portal, and even though he knew that he was safe and back amongst friends, back in the present-day, he kept them closed still. The things he saw in the future… the things that were potentially in store for all of his friends, for Betty…
He couldn't believe it. He refused to.
He sat on his folded legs, the cold of the linoleum floor not even phasing him through his thick, green hide.
"Bruce?" Leonard asked, coming up to his side. "Bruce, are you all right?"
It took Bruce a moment, but he managed to lift his head up towards Leonard, his longtime friend and therapist. The man knew Banner, inside and out, and probably in ways that went beyond that.
"Yes, Leonard. I'm fine."
Leonard looked his friend straight in the eyes, and saw what could only be described as helplessness and defeat. He knew for a fact that Bruce was not fine. He also knew for a fact that he wasn't up to talking about it, either.
He watched wordlessly as Bruce walked out the door. Doctor Strange had closed the portal up by the time he looked back at him.
The future was the past, and the past was the future.
He just let it go. He would find out what happened in time.
When Bruce got back home, Betty was up and asking questions. She sounded very concerned, but he just didn't have the strength to look directly at her.
Funny. The Incredible Hulk, one of the strongest creatures on the planet, didn't have the strength to look a mortal female in the face.
He walked passed her, completely ignoring her questions. He continued to walk.
Bruce had seen the future. He'd seen what he… The Maestro… had done to the entire world.
Everything was in ruins, so many people were dead and many more were on their way there from starvation and disease.
And the only one to blame was Bruce.
Bruce got to the end of the hallway and closed their bedroom door right in Betty's face. He felt like a jerk right now, but he just couldn't be near Betty at this moment. He was wracked with the pangs of guilt.
Bruce parked his mean, green self in front of the door and put his face in one of his massive hands. He breathed out slowly.
"Bruce!" Betty pounded on the door. "Bruce, goddammit, let me in!"
He felt like she meant that in more ways than one.
Bruce didn't respond. He just sat there, looking grim and feeling so much worse.
It was true that Bruce wasn't very open and caring towards Betty, especially since his permanent transformation into the Hulk. It was a difficult adjustment for both of them, that was for sure. They couldn't exactly go out and do the things that a "normal" couple would do. If the wrong person saw him, the government would show themselves, and…
How did Betty put up with all of this? It must be hell on her; always having to worry. Having to relocate at least once a year, never really being able to put her roots down. Having to put up with the government chasing them down.
Having to put up with Bruce.
She was stronger emotionally than what Banner was physically, hands down.
To think he could ever hate her, whether it be now or five billion years in the future was an oddity in itself.
Bruce had just now realized that Betty had still been knocking and yelling at him this whole time. She sounded really mad, which actually scared him a little. She intimidated him when she was angry.
He took in a breath, stood up and opened the door. She looked up at him, face a little red.
"Do you plan on telling me what happened or not?" She demanded.
It still hurt him to look at her, but he managed.
He sighed and walked over to their bed. She followed, and Bruce gently pulled her onto the bed beside him. It surprised Betty, and it showed on her face. That was about as physical as they'd gotten since his transformation.
"Betty," He said quietly. "I don't know if I'll ever be able to tell you what happened."
She looked at him, at the faraway look in his emerald green eyes, and she understood, however defiantly. She wanted to know what happened while he was in the portal, but she could tell that he had good reason for not telling her. That was going to have to be good enough for now. Bruce could be more stubborn than her at times.
His mind went back to the girl the Maestro had sent in to… "help" him. His "favorite."
"Tell me…" The Maestro had said. "Does she remind you of anyone?"
"If you're referring to her passing resemblance to Betty, I noticed it, yes, but… she lives to please. She has no mind of her own."
The Maestro had laughed at this. "'A mind' was Betty's major drawback. Did what she wanted instead of what I wanted. Always prattling about her 'feelings.' Wasn't always that way, though. Remember when we first saw her? She adored us unreservedly. It was only later that she developed her more annoying traits… I prefer the modern Betty. The slave."
Bruce had to fight his disgust. He couldn't fathom why he would ever see Betty in his light.
"Sorry. My taste runs towards women who are less vacuous… and with more guts."
Bruce didn't like the grin that The Maestro had donned. "Don't worry. You'll change your mind, in time…"
He snapped out of his reverie and saw Betty giving him a worried stare.
"Just…" He lifted his hand up, and paused for a moment. He continued his motion and placed his hand on her waist. "Just know that I love you. I love everything about you, and if you were any different than you are right now, it would break me. You do know that, right?"
Betty looked at him for a moment. They hadn't really exchanged "I love you's" in a long time, but that didn't mean that the love was no longer there.
"Yes, Bruce…" She said in a quiet voice. "I do know that. And I love you, too."
He carefully placed his head on her shoulder and inhaled the sweet, clean aroma of her hair.
Bruce made a silent vow just then. A vow to be more open with Betty. A vow to love her more, and let her know that she is loved. A vow to treat her better, and make more time for her.
This woman was his entire world, and without her, there would be nothing.
Who knew? Perhaps just from him making this vow, there would be no Maestro, no Dystopia to worry about.
Maybe Bruce had just saved the entire world.