labcoatgirl: (come home with me)
[from here, an AU where Betty has died but Bruce can't let her go]

Bruce was only ever allowed to work on the custom somnacin mixes under the most strict supervision. He was always frisked before leaving the lab, they knew his years on the run made him both extremely valuable, and dangerous. Dangerous to himself, mostly. No one wanted the man who could become the Hulk to dream, which was why they always let him work himself practically unconscious, always falling into such a deep sleep that there was hardly ever a chance he would dream. Not properly, at least, not the way that scared them. Especially since he'd received the news barely a month ago.

He'd gone numb, stopped eating, stopped sleeping, stopped being more than a shade of himself that just sat in his room until finally, they had to do something. They brought him to the lab and turned him loose, letting him work until they had to drag him back unconscious.

They had been so careful, but so had Bruce. His body chemistry made it difficult to find the right combination and potency, but at last he was willing to try. He'd feigned unconsciousness again, been brought back to his room and then when no one had been around he'd injected himself with a perfectly crafted chemical mixture that sent him back, back into his dream world. Another place he'd been running from for so long, and here he was, drawn back to it, like he'd always been drawn back to home, to her.

It was a bright sunny day at Culver. Students were milling around, back and forth...though in the dream it was less purposeful than real life.

There's enough of a gap between them to see the park bench under the tree...and as the crowd thins, there she sits. As if she never left, just sitting and reading a scientific journal on her lunch break. Betty Ross, from her pulled back ponytail to her brown loafers.

She hadn't seen Bruce. Maybe he wasn't wanting her to just yet.

There was no real reason to stay back, stay hidden as he just watched her sitting there. He kept trying to tell himself she was little more than a mirage, but knew he was only kidding himself, trying to convince himself otherwise. He wanted her to be real so badly, he was willing to let his mind go and follow the ritual of hiding, pretending to be living in fear. It helped in a way, it gave him something to distract his distressed mind at the sight of her. He was risking everyone's safety, being here. Whether here was Culver, or the real world he didn't see a need to make the distinction in his mind.

He takes a haggard breath, and closes his eyes as his pulse pounds in his ears. He was hurting, and that other self wanted the hurting to stop. It thought it coud solve everything for him but this time there was nothing it could do and that rage at everything just screamed in the back of his head, powerless to do anything. That had been another part of Bruce's special cocktail, something to put his instincts, his rage to sleep, far enough in the back where it wouldn't destroy this world, before moving to the waking one. For once it really was just Bruce and Betty, and all he could do was stand rooted in place and stare.

She looks up suddenly, a worried expression. As if she knew he was nearby. Her eyes hunt through the crowds of students, Bruce likely remembering how she had told him after he disappeared, she would see him where he wasn't. She never stopped looking....

And her eyes find him behind a tree. Betty's face lights up in a smile, one that was only for Bruce. She doesn't move yet from where she's sitting, letting him decide and make the first move.

There's that smile, that one where he knows without any shadow of a doubt that she sees him. Immediately he shies from it, hiding only partially behind the tree that's really too small to cover even his scrawny form. He hesitates, afraid and then reminds himself that his time is short, but rather than Ross on his trail, it was his own waking conscious. The waking world should leave him alone as long as they didn't discover he'd dosed himself, which meant he was his own worse enemy today, and it felt oddly fitting.

He wants to be sick and he wants to fly. Dumbly his plods his feet one in front of the next and blinks. He shouldn't have moved so fast but time always felt relative in a dream.

"H-hi." He barely speaks in an audible tone, before finding his shoes so very interesting.

She's meeting him almost halfway, the moment he starts moving she abandons her bench and comes towards him. Wrapping her arms around him once he was close enough. Even Bruce's subconscious knows he needs this hug badly.

Betty practically sinks her face into his shoulder, not letting go. "Hi." Her voice is the same. Nothing to distinguish her from the real article.

The moment she holds him he just wraps his arms around her tightly, tangling his hand in her hair and doing everything he could not to let his knees drop under him.

Every single detail about her, the smell of her shampoo the the texture of her shirt is in his memories. Even back then he'd made a point to store them all in the most intricate details, and now they naturally came to life, making her as perfect as the real thing.

He held her tight, probably a little too tight but he didn't care. No one around seemed to notice that look in his eyes, as he worked so very hard to keep in control of himself. He couldn't trust the Hulk to keep out of this dream, sedated or not. His entire body was tense, but he was not going to let go as he mumbled into her hair.

"I'm sorry."

"Shhh, it's okay," she says, letting him hold her as tight as he needs to. The others blur into the background quietly as if giving the two of them their space. "It's okay...you're here now." Betty's voice is soothing, trying to calm him.

Finally he starts to let out some of the tension, it's not relaxing, but he's working to at least hold her a little more gently.

"I-I can't..." He can't stay long, but he can't stand to go back to that place where she isn't anymore. Everything feels so wrong without that light in the sky, ready to guide him home at a moment's notice.

She puts her hands on his face as he's trying to speak, her smile almost sad now. As if she knows. Knows that she's not real, that he can't stay here with her. "I've missed you," she says, her own voice wavering with emotion as she blinks her wet eyes a few times.

With so little time, there was no needing to wait. Betty leans in and kisses him, her hands up around the back of his head. The memory of when he was going to leave her out of a helicopter bleeding into the kiss.

For that moment he forgets and moves both hands as if they were shackled together, setting them on either side of her face as he just drinks in that contact. It's real enough to him, then and there. He still hesitates to close his eyes, as if terrified he might wake up, but eventually gives in. It's something he'll never have again when he wakes up, not in that waking world.

In the back of his mind a thought sparks, a dangerous thought, one that his 'keepers' had been terrified of since delivering the news to him. He could never have her awake again, but he could have her here always, and never be on the run. Perhaps, just perhaps, all those people who spent their lives dreaming had something right...

Her hands drop to his chest over his heart as he holds her close for the kiss. It's as if time slows to a stop around them in that moment. It's moments like those where nothing seems wrong with the world.

But the kiss has to end eventually.

Her bright smile up at him starts to fade, Betty's eyes searching his face. "....you aren't doing well, are you?" Leave it to her to still be his conscience. Literally this time. "Bruce...I don't want to lose you."

He makes a choking noise, trying to articulate himself. She's just a part of his mind, but he's given himself so completely to the illusion, he couldn't tell the difference anymore. Nor, to a point, did he care to.

"I don't..." He swallows hard, desperation written all over his face and he remembers why he's here. "But I lost you." He tries so hard to keep control, but all his walls, crafted so tall and strong over the years are just crumbling to dust. His eyes glaze over, he can't cry, if he does, he doesn't know what kind of flood gates they will open. He blinks the tears back and even asleep, he feels his pulse pounding.

She smiles softly. "You haven't lost me entirely." This illusion itself was so complete from years of being together. "I will always be here. You saw to that." It was near impossible for him to forget her now.

Betty takes a deep breath, turning his face so she can look him in the eyes. "Listen to me, okay? If you stay here forever, you won't be yourself anymore. I don't want you to give up because of me." Even his subconscious knows that Betty wouldn't want him to abandon reality itself.

He sets his face in stone, though it still threatens to crumble at any moment as he looks right back at her, determination trying desperately to stay in his gaze. He was a chemist, one of the best there was, he could put himself and the Hulk to sleep forever. He could never have to leave, and the Hulk would never hurt anyone again.

"No. No, maybe this is the way it should have been. I can't find a cure, but maybe I can find a way to, to..." His knees suddenly give way as he feels his heart kick against his chest. Eyes going wide he tries to reach out for Betty as he drops with a yelp. "Oh no..." He stares at his hands, watching as the green color tries to trace its way through his veins lethargically and he drops his head with a pained sound. "No, not yet." In the dreamscape the transformation was going to be longer, more drawn out from the time difference but it certainly put a real limit on the time he had left with Betty.

She's not able to hold him up this time as he slips to his knees. Her hand still stays interlaced with one of his, the other fingering through the top of his hair sadly. "Oh Bruce..." Betty knows what's coming, of course. Their time cut short. She couldn't say there wasn't a part of her that wanted him to stay here forever with her.

The ground quivers slightly with the thump of large footsteps coming their way. Betty watches quietly as a large dark shadow is lumbering towards them...the sunny day fading into a dark, stormy sky as the students scatter to save themselves...

Hulk stops a few feet shy of them, watching Betty too. He cares for her just as much as Bruce does. But as his large green hand reaches for her, she dissolves into nothing....and he roars angrily, grabbing Bruce instead to shake him awake roughly. FIND BETTY!!

He holds on to her waist as she laces her fingers in his hair, as if she can help anchor him there and he can pretend there's a chance he'll fight it off this time. The thought itself is a pipe dream though as he can feel the ground shake with each lethargic step and he looks up, helpless to stop the approach of the Hulk.

Then he's reaching out and Betty's disappearing right in Bruce's arms. When he's picked up he just rag-dolls in the Titan's grip, thunder booming somewhere off in the distance.

There's almost not enough time for Bruce to adjust when he jolts awake with a gasp, the whole world suddenly speeding up almost faster than he can comprehend. He's far past that point where he has any hope of stopping the chain of events to come, but as the Hulk bellows for Betty, he tries to impart one thought. One last effort before the Hulk ties to tear apart the world looking for the one person it won't ever find again.

Betty's dead.

NO!

It's not so much a word as an incoherent yell but the Hulk isn't listening to that. He's too angry to listen. Betty was not dead, he saw her and Bruce was WRONG.

And he was going to tear apart this world before he gave up on finding her.

Date: 2012-07-26 04:48 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] mas-stretchy.livejournal.com
When Bruce wakes up again, it takes him a moment to remember he's even awake as he stares at the writing etched on the stone he's leaning against. It's still dark and raining, and he has no idea it's been literally days. Days of anger and rage and pain, surprisingly limited destruction, but the Hulk had been too busy trying to find Betty, any sign of her at all. He blinks the rain from his eyes and then suddenly sits up, as if burned. He feels his stomach rebel but there's nothing for him to do but dry heave. Then he runs. He can't stay, staring at that fresh dirt stuck under his nails, but at least thanking whatever force there was in the universe that the Hulk had not exhumed her grave.

He has a mission again, a purpose, one that for once leaves the Hulk conflicted and uncertain. It takes weeks of work, careful preparation and then finally, he's ready. He's found a quiet room he can call his own for however long he lasts. The nature of the chemicals he's needed to acquire means it's in a city, but the room is quiet, and cool. For once he's allowed himself the comfort of air conditioning, figuring he might as well be able to relax. He uncaps the syringe and goes to push the plunger, finding his own hand rebelling against him.

Oh god no, not now. Please, just, please, let me see her again. Let us see her again. It's the only way we can now... He fights, and at last the tension in his hand eases up just barely enough to let him inject the possibly lethal mixture into his blood, and soon he's laying back, drifting off...

<3<3<3

Date: 2012-07-26 04:55 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] labcoatgirl.livejournal.com
ext_1359443: (hello Bruce)
She's running her fingers through his hair slowly, from his forehead back, a soft smile as he's looking up at her.

They're on a picnic blanket somewhere on a meadow's hillside overlooking the city. But the noise is far away down there, they're quite alone up here. Bruce laying on his back and Betty sitting next to him, leaning on her elbow.

"Hi."

Date: 2012-07-26 05:04 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] mas-stretchy.livejournal.com
It's almost as if being comfortable was going to break the illusion on its own, but he surrenders to it again and closes his eyes, feeling her fingers in his hair. It is bliss. Was, but he pushes that thought away as he hears her voice and turns his head so he can just look at her, and smile sadly.

"Hi."

Date: 2012-07-26 05:22 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] labcoatgirl.livejournal.com
ext_1359443: (Default)
Her hand slides down to pull mischievously on his ear. "Couldn't stay away, huh?" Betty still smiling at him fondly.

Date: 2012-07-26 05:29 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] mas-stretchy.livejournal.com
He closes his eyes at that tug, just happy to have her there, before he nods.

"Never have been very good at that."

Date: 2012-07-26 05:34 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] labcoatgirl.livejournal.com
ext_1359443: (hugging Bruce)
"I'm glad..." She was a little different now. No more arguments about going back or losing him. He was here now to stay and she longed to keep his company.

Her gaze flicks over to a shadowy tree nearby, the Hulk standing behind it. Just watching them quietly.

"I'm sorry," Betty says, her expression sad as she puts a hand to his cheek. "I'm sorry that I left you like this."

Date: 2012-07-26 05:39 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] mas-stretchy.livejournal.com
Bruce is very pointedly being selfish, and completely ignoring that shadow even as he feels its presence behind him. He knows it's there, he always knows it's there, but right now he only wants Betty, and he wants what he feels he deserves.

"No, no don't be sorry." He's trying to ignore that those words can just as easily come from him. He left her, he left her alone, and now he's not certain he can really ever forgive himself for that. No matter how necessary it seemed, it's going to be one of his biggest regrets, worse than that decision that turned his world upside down in the first place. He puts his hand on top of hers, rubbing the knuckles with a thumb. "I'm just glad to see you again."

Date: 2012-07-26 05:44 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] labcoatgirl.livejournal.com
ext_1359443: (hugging Bruce)
Her smile softens, her hand lacing with his and pulling it close to her own cheek, happy that he was happy for the moment. Their moments never get to last very long, now it would seem they had all the time in the world.

Hulk keeps to himself, sitting down and looking....surprisingly content for the first time in his life.

"I'm glad to see you too. It's been lonely without you." It's possible those aren't Betty's words but Bruce's own said back to him.

Date: 2012-07-26 06:09 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] mas-stretchy.livejournal.com
The logical part of Bruce is telling him that he's only hearing what he wants to hear, but he's ignoring that as well. Bruce is ignoring everything except this beautiful shade of Betty, what feels like his last refuge, a siren's song to a sailor lost a sea.

"It has." He leans forward, giving her a timid kiss to the cheek. It's almost comically tragic, how even in his unconscious he's afraid that at any moment he'll be torn away from her. He's lived in so much fear for so long now, he doesn't know how to be a free man.

Date: 2012-07-26 06:15 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] labcoatgirl.livejournal.com
ext_1359443: (hello Bruce)
Betty shifts to lay on her side, leaning on her hand, her other hand still teasing at his hair. "I wondered sometimes...where you were while I was here. You must have traveled so far." Betty would have wanted to hear everything since he left. Even if he didn't talk much, she was always a good listener.

Date: 2012-08-01 06:32 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] mas-stretchy.livejournal.com
"Kind of all over, really." He smiles shyly, a little unwilling to part with details, since nearly all moves ended with the Hulk, or her father. At the moment he wanted to forget both. "I just wish I could have spent more time here."

Date: 2012-08-02 06:12 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] labcoatgirl.livejournal.com
ext_1359443: (hello Bruce)
"You were so scared to stay..." Betty says quietly. She knew how hard it was for him out there. Afraid of hurting her and other people. "Are you sure you can stay now?"

Date: 2012-08-03 05:04 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] mas-stretchy.livejournal.com
At that, Bruce nods with certainty.

"Yes. I can stay." The words, finally uttered, cause a hitch in his breathing and that shadow behind him stirs. He can't see it, but he feels it. He sets his jaw, choking down a small lump in his throat. "We have all the time we want now." There's something both freeing and terrifying in those words, and he takes a deep breath, reaching out and setting his hand on the side of her face. She's his anchor, his stability, and that contact gives him the strength he needs to continue in his convictions.

Date: 2012-08-03 07:15 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] labcoatgirl.livejournal.com
ext_1359443: (goodbye kiss)
Her smile is soft back at him as he puts a hand to her face. "You say that like you mean it this time." Betty leans in to kiss him once on the lips briefly, then the nose. "I might have to get used to that."

Date: 2012-08-03 07:32 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] mas-stretchy.livejournal.com
Bruce curls up under her affections, as contented as a cat and finally, at last, he starts to relax.

"I mean every." He kisses her forehead gently. "Word of it." It will take him some getting used-to as well, but he might be able to adjust to it, eventually.

Date: 2012-08-03 07:54 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] labcoatgirl.livejournal.com
ext_1359443: (come home with me)
She settles in under his arm, slipping her own arms around his waist and leaning into his chest. "Don't ever go then." Her hair is likely in his face but he shouldn't mind too much.

Date: 2012-08-03 07:59 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] mas-stretchy.livejournal.com
If anything it adds to the experience as he just settles, wrapping his arms around her contentedly and taking in the smell of her shampoo. He kisses the top of her head and closes his eyes, feeling more calm and secure than he can remember having been in years.

"I won't. Promise."

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Elizabeth (Betty) Ross

April 2014

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