by Lywinis

There was just one.

He'd held them before, but this one was significant. A .44 caliber, small and bronze and worn smooth by the passage of his fingers. He'd held this one for a long time, running the whorls and ridges of his fingertips over the metal of the casing and across the blunted tip. He kept it in his shirt pocket - for luck, he told the villagers when they saw it. Soon, it became part of him, just as his worn workshirt and thrice mended trousers were a part of him, well-loved and well-worn. He knelt in the jungle, in the damp earth of the rainforest, and breathed in the heavy scent of life all around him.

He didn't know where he was, just that he was far enough into the Cambodian jungle that should something go wrong, no one would be hurt this time. In the vast corporate corkboard of his life, there existed a poster. An OSHA-style workplace safety poster, complete with cartoon mascot holding a counter. The cartoon worker with his shiny yellow hard hat looked back at him, and its eyes held a sinister gleam as the numbers made their slow crawl upwards.

It has been fifty accident-free days in the workplace. Safety first!

The look from under the hard hat was knowing; it was only a matter of time.

He rolled the bullet between his palms. It was small and hard and warm, bigger than most bullets, but still comfortable for him to use. He was afraid to use anything smaller. Anything smaller and Harlem would look like a sideshow in the three-ring circus that was his life.

"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right, boy," his father's voice whispered in his head. He'd found his mother, bleeding with a split lip on the floor, his father standing over her. The buckle of the belt in his father's hands dripped red onto the pale carpet in the living room.

How very appropriate that he take his father's advice now, of all times. His smile would have been fragile had he not been concentrating on chambering the bullet into his pistol. Roll the chamber out, slide it in, listen for the click as it slides home.

His brow furrowed as he knelt in the damp earth, the screeches and howls of the life around him. It had come to this, of all things. Of all the things he abhorred, the taking of human life was the vilest. The bomb had been meant to wipe the field clean without pain, without suffering. The snuffing of multiple candles in a single irradiated breath.

It has been fifty accident-free days in the workplace. Safety first!

He rolled the gun over in his hands, warm from the heat of his body where it had nestled against the skin of his stomach. He had carried it for months until he had arrived here. Here was his final resting place. Here would be where it ended.

The hammer of the pistol clicked back into position, and he looked at it, this marvelous mechanical machine designed for one thing and one thing only. Give man technology and it always turned to war. Of course, if a thing was worth doing, it was worth doing right. Of course it was.

Metal, gunmetal and the scent of oil reached his nose and mingled with the scent of his sweat and exhaustion and fear. He slid the barrel over his teeth. He caressed it with his tongue as he pressed it against the soft palate in the roof of his mouth. It was awkward, but doable. He was right to stick to the pistol. Anything else would have been too much.

He looked around him once more, at all the life around him. It was beautiful; wild and free, it was a good place to die. His thumb rasped against the trigger, and his world flashed white.

He awoke in a burning field, his hand clenched around something small and pebbled. He was drenched in ash, the remnants of his trousers flapping flayed around his legs like a pair of broken wings. His head ached, his body screamed as he sat up and opened his fist. Twisted metal melted into a blob of unrecognizable shape tumbled from his hand, bounced against his bare thigh, and was lost amongst the charr of the wreckage. The counter in his head ratcheted back as he looked around at the destruction.

It has been zero accident-free days in the workplace. Safety first!

It was then that he closed his eyes and wept.

A/N: I opened a vein, and something came pouring out, for good or ill. This line struck me the most in the movie. I've been where Bruce was. I know what the barrel of a gun tastes like. I've tasted it more than once. So when Bruce brings it up, letting it tumble from his lips in a rush because he doesn't realize what he's saying, I was lost.

It was then that I understood. I love them all, but the Hulk has taken my heart.

Bruce is me, at my lowest.