TinySprite: I'm alive and back! Anyway, this little bunny wouldn't leave me alone so I finally wrote it out, enjoy! Many thanks to Karama9 for looking this over!
Disclaimer: TinySprite owns nothing of the Avengers, Marvel does.
Bruce Banner knew he was a smart man, Hulk or no Hulk.
He knew his intelligence was something to be reckoned with, as well as the very thing that was helping him stay alive as it was. So, one night when he was depressed, sick of everything and barely awake, Bruce made a decision.
He had already found out that he couldn't die, at least not by his own terms. So...why not try to live with it? Why should he be afraid of something that was essentially part of himself? And that had been a bitter pill to swallow, to acknowledge that the Hulk was in fact part of himself even on the most basic level.
It had taken him weeks, thinking on it during snatched time between running from one place to the next, constantly with an eye on everyone around him, suspicious of everything, before Bruce finally came to terms with having the Hulk as part of him.
Oddly, things got easier after that. Sure, he still referred to Hulk as 'the other guy', but that was more to differentiate the two, not a rejection of his less...friendly persona. But his depression lightened, some weight on his chest and shoulders vanished, and he even started to smile a little more.
Still, he put his brilliant brain to work on the Hulk issue, trying to think of a way to ease if not somehow control his other self. When a way finally came to light, Bruce actually had to hide himself in an alleyway until his laughter and tears stopped, almost blowing his cover even then.
Since the Hulk couldn't be controlled, why not control the very thing Big Green fed on?
It was easy enough to start with; Bruce had plenty to be angry about after all. Who wouldn't be, having been chased from home and country, from friends and family, labeled a horrific monster the world over? From there he'd been forced to fine tune it, to find out how angry he could get himself before the Hulk came roaring.
Bruce had made a mistake then, thinking he was set. Having been a calm man previously (oh how he missed that, that near forgotten luxury), he hadn't realized how tiring consistent anger was, how draining it could be or worse, how easy it was to get used to. It wasn't long before Bruce found himself having to work at consistently being mad, to struggle at staying at a level he could safely control.
It was hard at first, trying to find new angles to old sore spots to keep his anger going. It had been easiest to dig up past grudges, starting from old coworkers he'd been certain had plagiarized and even profited from his work and working backwards from there, until Bruce found himself remembering old high and middle school bullies and broke down laughing again at the odd irony of it all.
He, Bruce Banner, one of the most brilliant men alive and yes, one of the most dangerous too, was angry at teens from long ago, for petty things like forcing him to drop his books in the hallways or copying off his work so they wouldn't fail yet another class. It was a cosmic joke, he knew it, it had to be. There really couldn't be any other way as to why he was reduced to this.
At last though, he ran out of material and to his own surprise, found his anger turning to the present, to his very patients. People that were desperate enough to beg him for help, some of them even knowing who he was but not caring, needing help that badly that they'd even go to a monster. More than once someone he'd helped had turned around and reported him, hoping to earn some money in the process.
Before, he'd tried to not blame them, having seen their living conditions and knowing the money would have been more sorely needed than his own help. But now? It was too easy to hate them for it, to equate them with vipers for doing this, for coming to him in tears only to later send him running from their greedy eyes and the now tell-tale signs of armed men approaching.
Kids still somehow found a soft spot in his bitter heart though. For all the monster that he was now, even Bruce couldn't turn away a crying child, much to the imagined grumbling of the Hulk in his head.
Finally, his brilliance paid off again, giving him a system to work with for a consistent anger level. He began to use something old, tempered with something new. It worked surprisingly well. For every old memory that lost its edge, he found something new to be angry about, whether it was not getting his promised payment or having to flee yet another town, barely a step ahead of soldiers intent on bringing him in. For every new thing that faded, he thought of something old, with plenty of memories for him to choose from for that.
It worked, for now at least, and Bruce found himself oddly happy with it all. Sure, Hulk would come tearing out on occasion, but that didn't happen as much anymore. Bruce even thought he could control how long the Hulk was out for by forcibly soothing his own anger so as to make the big guy return to wherever it was he'd come from.
For the first time in a long time, Bruce Banner was in control again and he wasn't going to give that up for anything in the world.