incrediblebanner: (Default)
Although she has, technically, been in Stark Tower for a few weeks now, Bryce hasn't ventured outside a certain set of places: her room, the labs, and the path between them. Tony's basically given her carte blanche to research whatever she wants - when she asked if she was supposed to be working for him, he got JARVIS to put her on a call with the CEO of his company, Pepper Potts, who explained that, while Stark Industries would be thrilled to have her, no one felt it would be reasonable to force her to sign an employment contract right then, and she should consider Tony's offer as a kind of personal invitation.

Just a couple days ago, the military finally released their hold on the rest of the belongings she'd managed to amass while in their custody - mostly the notebooks she'd used for writing in. There's actual boxes of them now, scattered around her apartment of the Tower, and she's started going over them herself, tearing out the pages with worthwhile musings on them and tossing out the rest. There had been a habit she'd gotten into while she was in military custody of filling up the books with about 1/3 logical thought and research and 2/3 nonsense, so anyone looking at it would either find it indecipherable entirely or assume she'd been starting to lose her ability to focus.

She has a large section of the floor in her living room filled up with the pages she's painstakingly putting back into some semblance of order when JARVIS interrupts her. "Dr. Banner, Captain Rogers is requesting entry to your quarters."

Automatically, she starts gathering up pages, trying to figure out how to tuck them all out of sight before Steve makes it inside. "Thank you for warning me, JARVIS."

"Dr. Banner - " There's the slightest pause in his speech, like a person might get when trying to decide how to say something. Of course, because JARVIS is an AI who would likely be able to run through the best ways to approach a topic in a fraction of a fraction of a second, she assumes this is a trait he puts on to make the humans under his care more comfortable. The way she thinks his voice might soften a little is also probably either put on by him or something she imagines. "My privacy protocols are such that no one is allowed in your personal quarters without your express permission, with the exception of emergencies. If you would prefer, I will inform Captain Rogers that you would rather not be disturbed at this time."

She sits back, suddenly, a weird lump in her throat at the idea that she, that she has a say in who enters her room. "I don't - I mean, just ask him to wait a couple minutes, please?"

"Of course, Dr. Banner."

A few minutes later, she's managed to stack up the papers in such a way that they're more out of the way but she hasn't lost any of the work she's done in organizing them, and she feels... well, a little more suited for company. "Okay, JARVIS, let him in."
incrediblebanner: (Default)
Waking up as herself again after was always hard on her. Worse when she was on the run on her own, waking up alone in unfamiliar places with scraps of cloth that used to be her clothes. She prayed not to wake up and find someone's blood on her during those times.

Now, it's... well, nowhere near pleasant. She'd solved the clothing problem, however, with the help of Reed Richards, and the two of them managed to put together a material that would stretch reasonably well with the Hulk and shrink enough for her afterwards. She still lost part of her wardrobe to the Hulk when she hadn't expected a change, but most of the time, they have enough warning.

She doesn't even wake up alone that often anymore. Usually at least one Avenger goes on retrieve Banner duty whenever the Hulk feels the need to wander off before shrinking back down. She wakes up with someone nearby more often than not.

There's a certain predictability to what will happen when she does wake up. Regardless of how long it takes, where it happens, or what kind of state she's in, the first question is always the same.

She blinks her eyes open - god, she feels like she's been hit by a truck - and finds Steve. "Did I hurt anyone?"
incrediblebanner: (Default)
Setting herself and Steve up actually turned out to be easier than usual. As a fugitive on the run from the US military, she didn't often have the luxury of picking locations that would be friendly to a woman traveling alone. Before she'd been on the run too long, she managed to pick up a ring that would pass as a wedding ring if needed. With Steve, she didn't just have a ring, she had a fake husband - which, for once, made it somewhat easier to find a place to stay.

It took barely a week for their current home to gain a set of jury-rigged laboratory equipment to continue her research into ways to cure - or, failing that, destroy - it. At the moment, she was mostly playing catch-up, adding newer findings to the worn notebook that served as a repository of information, something that she could visualize. When Steve entered the room, she smiled and quickly shut the book before he could see the heading of the section she was updating (termination(?)). "Morning."
incrediblebanner: (if the clouds are gathering)
Although a transformation into the Hulk should essentially rebuild her body back to the way it was, actually transforming is still a physically and psychologically exhausting event. Not only does she not feel ready for dealing with that, but she's also going to need somewhere secluded, because she's not all that sure the Hulk is going to be willing to take directions on what it's okay to destroy and what isn't.

Unfortunately, that doesn't leave her with a whole lot of options if she wants to be mobile in the meantime. Tony takes one look at the wheelchair and informs her he's going to design something much better and stalks off, muttering about how he can streamline the design and make it easier to control and maybe throw in a smart interface for the hell of it. Which leaves her to stare at it, wondering if maybe she made the wrong choice, deciding to wait. She's still staring at it, feeling ridiculously resentful of it, when Steve comes back. "Hey."
incrediblebanner: (if the clouds are gathering)
It's not that she hasn't woken up on her own before. But she hasn't for a while; even when she's recovering from the Hulk, Steve is more often than not at least nearby. It's... a little concerning, waking up in the Avengers Tower without him, especially when the last thing she remembers is going to bed with him at their home.

"Good morning, Dr. Banner. It is 8:23 AM, and the current temperature is 65 degrees with a projected high of 72. I've taken the liberty of starting the coffee, which should be available in four minutes."

Dr. Banner. Not Dr. Rogers. She frowns; it's not like JARVIS to slip like that. "JARVIS, where's Steve?"

A pause. "Captain Rogers is not in the building. I am not privy to his current location, but I can place a call for you, should you wish to speak to him."

"Please." She pulls herself out of bed and stretches. There's no tell-tale ache to indicate she'd recently come back down from the Hulk. It doesn't take long for JARVIS to get her on the line, and then she has to figure out what to say. "Steve? Did we... have a fight?"
incrediblebanner: (have filled this void with things unreal)
For someone with a near-indestructible alter-ego, Bryce Banner is not as untouchable as some might think. She has a good protector, and she's hard to capture without massive amounts of collateral damage, but it's not impossible. It can even be done quietly, if planned right. The trick is to grab her when she's unconscious and somewhat vulnerable, such as after she's changed back from the Hulk. Of course, she's hardly ever alone for long then, but it's possible to create a distraction big enough that none of her team members will be able to reach her in time.

The trick is to sedate her when she's still unconscious. In the absence of physical harm, she won't know she's in danger. It's not easy to pull off, but when you're a general with a lot of pull who's taking back a stolen military project, you find the resources.

long thing is long )
incrediblebanner: (Default)
She's vaguely aware that there's someone new flying - literally - with them this time, but as usual, the Hulk has the majority of her involvement and memories. The Avengers try not to send anyone to pick her up that she doesn't know already, but the area surrounding Hulk's battlefield is completely devastated. It would take far too long to pull her out on foot; she needs an airlift.

Bryce is already awake and covered in the remains of her clothing. Making fabric that stretches out for the Hulk, as it turns out, is the easy part; making it shrink again is the trick, and she finds herself wrapped in absurdly large amounts of Hulk-clothing when she comes to more often than not. It's better than nothing.

It's also clear to her that there is no way she is walking out of this on her own - Jesus, did she bring a building down on top of herself? - so she settles for trying to climb out of the rubble into a more visible area, taking care not to step on anything sharp.
incrediblebanner: (Default)
SHIELD actually calls on her for her talents in radiation much more than she would have expected, given that she's also a near-indestructible force of fury. Which is more or less how she finds herself shuttled off to another continent to have a look at some identified piece of something that's leaking gamma radiation at an alarming rate. Of course, it's not until she reaches the site (or, more accurately, a semi-safe distance away from the site) that she's informed that it's also, coincidentally, too dangerous for anyone who can't handle being exposed to generally-lethal doses of radiation to work with.

So they do need the freak, after all. Bryce lets out a resigned sigh at the SHIELD agent - of course they tell her after she gets off the plane, not before or during the flight. "You realize exposure to that much radiation might trigger an involuntary change."

The agent clears her throat uncomfortably. "Director Fury has assigned someone to... accompany you in your work."

Of course. Someone to put her down if she gets out of control. "And who does he think can stop... it?"
incrediblebanner: (Default)
She supposes she should have been angry. Finding out that your allies (for lack of a better word) are developing a viral weapon that can be used against you should be the kind of thing that pisses you off (of course, things pissing her off are a different story entirely). Instead, she's... intrigued. The idea of something that could, theoretically, prevent the Hulk from coming out was an undeniably useful idea. Instead of feeling hurt or betrayed, she focuses her energies on obtaining a sample of the virus to experiment with on her own time.

Of course, she has her own lab (courtesy of Stark Industries), but it comes with an all-seeing artificial intelligence that likely won't let her experimentation go unnoticed. So rather than try to duck around security protocols, she packs up for a trip to an unknown destination, citing restlessness and a need to go out and do some good in the world as her reason.

(It's not a lie. Stopping the Hulk is doing good in the world.)

It takes a lot of experimentation to make it work. The virus has to be powerful enough to get past the Hulk's defenses but not so contagious that it's a danger to anyone else. Luckily, SHIELD has already thought of that; what really concerns her is sustainability. Eventually, her immune system will be able to defend itself. She'll have to figure out a way to prevent that in the long term, but for the moment, immuno-suppressants seem like the best idea.

It's not until several months later that she has a balance worked out well enough that she can risk going back to the Tower. Even now, it's still risky. Finding a strength that's enough to sap the strength she needs to turn into the Hulk but not make her a complete invalid. And while she's used to downplaying her own aches and pains, it's going to be hard to hide the unhealthy pallor her skin's taken on or the slight fever and dizziness that are almost constant on this particular strain.

She's not an idiot. No one's going to think this is a good idea. Which is why she purposefully schedules her flight in to arrive in the middle of the night, so she can wave off extended interaction until the morning and blame any off-ness on jet lag.
incrediblebanner: (Default)

That 'playlist on random' writing meme, part one. Because my playlist is apparently depressed. Content warnings for child abuse and death.


 

1. There's a ghost in my lungs, and it sighs in my sleep -
Wraps itself around my tongue as it softly speaks
Then it walks, then it walks with my legs.

Bryce doesn’t remember the Hulk. At least, not consciously. Something in her, something that runs on pure emotion, remembers. She looks at the broken-down buildings and the smashed structures and something stirs in her – pride, an aftertaste of satisfaction. Anger. She pushes it away, tells herself she blacks out completely when she’s the Other.

(Anger has always been the Other. Ever since she was old enough to understand what emotions made her father strike out the way he did, she’s handled her own anger delicately, like a beast that would hurt the ones she loved if it slipped out. As a result, she internalized it and redirected it at herself. One of the therapists she saw while working on her undergrad made her do exercises, practice feeling it without shying away. She dutifully looked at charts of activities she could engage in to constructively handle her rage without letting it take over. But when the time came, she clenched her jaw and quietly hated without a word.

 

2. Benedicta tu in mulieribus.
(Blessed art thou among women.)

Her mother was always gentle with her. Never cruel, never angry. Where Bryce came to expect pain from her father, her mother helped her believe in kindness. Her mother would soothe her bruises and murmur softly that her father would be nice again, really, he just had a bad day or his job was too stressful or he had one of his headaches.

“See,” she would say, holding up a picture of her and her husband on their wedding day like some holy relic of a paradise gone by. “See, he loves you. He loves both of us. He just has trouble showing it sometimes.”

And later, when she finally decided that Brian had wasted all his chances to come around, she doesn’t bother packing, just rushes Bryce out to the car in the early afternoon. She’s hugging Bryce, telling her everything’s going to be okay now and she was sorry, so sorry she didn’t have the strength to do this before, when he found them.

There was so much blood. Bryce remembers staring stupidly at the rapidly-growing pool of it from the car, thinking about how red it was, how vividly it stood out against her mother’s green sweater. Like Christmas. Like rage.

 

3. You can hear those distant bells, and you know they'll never leave.
It's like your church is crying out, like the wolf calls to her young.

There’s years, blessed years, when her life is at peace. She’s granted a full scholarship to MIT and distributes her time between rocketing through higher education and an intense regimen of therapy. By the time she moves on to graduate school, she feels almost normal.

She meets Betty in one of her classes; they’re the only two women taking the course, and they band together out of necessity, for protection. But something beautiful happens, and they continue to spend time together, even without mutual education binding them together. They become friends. And later, tentatively, lovers.

In a way, the accident could almost be a relief. Her life was so perfect, so happy, so fragile, up until then. At least when it all goes to hell, she doesn’t have to wonder anymore when it will shatter, by whose hand will it be destroyed.

 

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