labcoatgirl: (Default)
Drinking Meme: with anger_mgmt


[Pfft, nothing could POSSIBLY go wrong. Famous last words, right?

Betty doesn't usually imbibe like this, but it was a particularily long day of work for her at the college. And she didn't work the weekend so it was time to let off a little steam. Her girl friends had started with Jello shots and it just snowballed from there.

Now she was laughing with the rest of them and trying to deny wanting to get up for karaoke. No good, they were already pushing her into the line and she was giggling too much to protest.]

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[This whole being drunk thing hasn't been so bad. It's not something he'd want to do - maybe another decade or two before the next go at it? But it hasn't been as bad as he'd been half-afraid it would be.

He has his - he's lost count, sixth? seventh? twentieth? - beer halfway to his mouth when he sees her and freezes.

He should run. He should wait until her back is turned and he should go, but he can't. Besides, things have changed and he's no longer a fugitive. He knows in the back of his mind that this is why he ended up back in the city where she lives. It's probably the real reason why he's drunk now.

He sets the beer back down on the bar and slides off the bar stool, threading through the crowd to the cluster of laughing women gathered around Betty.]

Betty? [He reaches out to touch her arm, meaning to get her attention.] Betty.

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No, no... [She was saying, shaking her head as the rest of the ladies were saying yes as they perused the playlist for karaoke.] I am not doing that one! That's embarrassing.

[Someone was tugging at her sleeve and saying her name.] I don't even know the... [She turns to figure out who wants her attention...if she can focus enough to see. But when it's Bruce's face that swims into view, her expression goes from laughing to wide eyed staring, her mouth open in a display of pure shock. If she hadn't been toasted, she would have been a little more reserved.] ....words?

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I'm sorry, ladies. [Bruce is apologizing to her friends even while he keeps his eyes locked on her face. It's been too long, far too long, but he still has every feature memorized.

He can feel their eyes on him, judging the drunk man accosting their friend and he doesn't fault them at all for the way they close ranks on Betty. If they knew they'd have even more reason for their response.] Betty? Can we--? [He motions away from the stage and her friends.] Can we talk?

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[In her alcohol doused brain, there was a smaller version of Betty trying to plug the cord from the common sense part of brain to her mouth, trying to say something worth saying. But instead, she reacts less than brilliantly.]

Oh...oh Bruce you're here...you're here and I'm... [completely drunk and babbling now] How did you get here? No never mind, it's been too long...why are you here??

[Just pull her aside, she might not stop talking till you do. Her friends are now asking if she knows him though, suspicious of the guy coming up out of the blue and knowing her name] No, no he's a friend, well more than...but we haven't seen each other and he's been gone and now he's back...

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[Bruce will cautiously draw her away from the others. He doesn't have any right to just pull her away and he tries to convey with his body language that he'll let go the moment she tells him to, but he needs to get her away and just...

Just what, Banner? He doesn't know, but he needs to see her.]

We'll just go over there. [He points to an empty booth in the back.] I promise I'll behave. Betty? I came to see you.

[He should have stayed sober. Stupid, stupid.]

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Okay...okay, yes, fine. [She's nervous, of all things. Must be the alcohol, Betty's never had five jello shots in a row before. She keeps trying to fix stray hairs that are falling in her face, tucking them behind her ears as she is easily led to the empty booth.

At his admission though, a happy smile spreads across her whole face. He came looking for her.] I missed you...so much. [Hiccup.] You were gone for so long.... [She really had been missing him terribly. Hoping he was alright out there in the world. Wishing so badly that he could stay and knowing he wasn't able to.]

You look good. Have you been good? [Stop saying good, Betty.] I've been...good. [Her eyes tearing up. No, she's been far from good since he's been gone.]

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[He wants to help her with those stray hairs. Truth be told, he wants any excuse to touch her that he can find. Sober, he would be too aware of the eyes on them and the time apart that stretches between them, but with this much alcohol in his system, he reaches out, meaning to brush back her hair with his fingertips.]

I've been... [No lies, but the whole truth isn't needed either.] ... better. You look good. Better than good.

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[She shakes her head, not realizing that's messing up his aim with the hairs.] No...no, I'm not. [Her voice slurs a little, another hiccup in there.] I'm a mess. Why did you go?? Why couldn't you have stayed?

[Sober Betty would have never said anything like that, knowing how it would hurt Bruce. But she wasn't thinking all the straight right now. But when he does manage to fix a few hairs behind her ear, she finally stops talking and just looks at him. He always had such nice eyes. That was the first feature Betty had noticed about him when they first met way back...seemed eons ago now.]

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[All his reasons melt off his tongue. He knows them. He knows they are sound. He knows why he'd had to leave - for her safety from the Hulk, from those who would use her to get to the Hulk, even from Bruce without the Hulk - but looking at her face, touching her, even for that moment, he loses them and he can only tell her the truth that underlies all the other logical explanations.] I was afraid.

[He drops back in the booth and slides back toward the wall.] Sit with me?

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[Betty has never minded the danger. She always wanted what was best for Bruce...and since the incident, his alter ego as well. She's always been willing to go wherever he went.

But he hadn't given her a choice when he left. And she didn't think it would hurt as much trying to let him go, but being this drunk, it's apparent that she's never really let him go.

Betty sits, or more like her knees falter, in the booth with him. Fiddling with the empty glass in her hands, not knowing what to say next.]

Are you leaving again after this? [She asks without looking over at him. Betty isn't sure how many goodbyes she can take.]

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There's this... thing. [He regrets leaving his beer at the bar and some faint vanity won't let him pull out his glasses to occupy his hands; he doesn't want her to see how the years have kept marching by for them.] A group. They'll keep the army off my back if I help them when they need... brains or brawn.

So I can't stay, but I don't have to hide anymore. [He has a question of his own. The one that gets to the heart of his fear.] Are you-- what happened to Samson?

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[She's not sure which he's saying, but she definitely heard that he can't stay. And that's enough for the water works to start, tears starting to run down her face and drip onto her folded hands.]

[She sniffs, trying to keep composed but it's a losing battle.] I...we...we broke up. [That's the short version.] Right after you left.

[A sad smile as she glances over at him with wet eyes.] He couldn't compete with you.

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No... oh no, Betty. [All that careful restraint he'd shown with her before - before Harlem - that's drowned in beer. He reaches for her immediately, wanting to gather her in.] I'm sorry. I am so, so sorry. I didn't want you to be alone.

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[Restraint isn't working with all that alcohol in her system. Betty just about melts over to his side, letting him pull her close and burying her face in his shoulder. He still smelled the same, if that made any sense at all.] Na...na...not your fault... [She tries to say, but it's hard to talk when you're crying. Tomorrow, she'll probably be really embarrassed that she let all of this go at once.]

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It is. [And she is exactly how he remembers her, other than the tears, the scent of her hair, the shape of her in his arms. How many nights has he dreamed of her? Too many to want to remember when the dreams all ended with him waking alone in Brazil or Mexico or India.] It's my fault and I have missed you so much, but we're here now.

Hey. [Maybe a distraction will help them both.] Did you get your mother's necklace?

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[Everything always seemed right with the world when he was holding her. Even now with so much time between them, it was like he only just left yesterday.

Betty finally smiles at the question, dabbing her eyes with a napkin and nodding. She moves the collar of her blouse to show she's wearing the necklace.] I did. Thank you.

[She's managed to reel in some of her emotions now that he's holding her, calming down somewhat.] I'm sorry, I just....we had jello shots earlier and I thought it would help... [Help her forget her troubles for one night and just have some fun.]

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Good. I worried that something might happen to it. [He's unwilling to let her go, but if she gives him any signal at all, he will. Staying here like this until they get rousted at last call seems entirely reasonable to him.]

I got drunk. [Like she can't smell that on him.] I never get drunk. I think maybe it was a last test, you know, if I could do this and still stay in control, I could go see you. And here you are anyway.

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You always did think ahead. [She was certain the necklace was gone for good, but she hadn't minded. They needed the money at the time.]

You mean you're...? [Bruce is drunk too? Betty almost laughs at that, it coming out as a strange strangled sound.] You worry so much about control.

I'm glad you're okay. [She leans her head on his shoulder.] I wish you hadn't had to wait. [She would have liked to see him, in control or not. But Betty understands the dangers he went through at the hands of her father.]

I wish I could have been there for you...helped with your work. [She looks up at him with a question.] Are you still working? In a lab, I mean?

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It's a habit. [He'd minded. He'd minded that she'd given up the one thing she had from her mother for him. It was a small consolation that he could get the necklace back for her.]

I'm not sure why people do this for fun. [He lets his head rest against hers and feels a long-held tension release one notch at a time.]

I missed you, but I needed to know you were safe. [He gives a half shrug in response to her last question.] I'm not sure if it's a job. It's more like someone gave me the keys to a toy store and told me to go play, but I'm back in a lab again. You'd love it. [He smiles at a private joke.] It's like Candyland.

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[She liked to think if her mother was still alive, she would have approved of Bruce.]

...it seemed like fun. [Betty was in no rush to move from this spot. As if the longer he held her meant he wasn't going to leave as fast.] Though...I'm glad you saved me from singing 'Don't Stop Believing' in public.

Candyland?

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[He's certain if his mother were alive she would love Betty.]

You would have been... [He laughs a little because he's just not going to lie. He laughs, and it feels so good to do that.] Journey?

And you are not going to believe me when I tell you, but that's how Tony Stark described it to me. The lab's in Stark Tower in New York.

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[She can't help a small tittering laugh of her own, trying to smother it in her hand, her cheeks pinking up in a blush.] It's the only one I knew the words to. The rest were all country songs.

[It does feel good talking about something mundane and normal. But when Bruce mentions Tony Stark of all people and that he's working at Stark Tower, she almost pulls a repeat performance of her initial reaction to Bruce.] ....you work in Stark Tower?? You work in a lab in Stark Tower??? [Whatever is in that lab, Betty is already jealous of it.]

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You should come and see it. [It's part of his best case scenario for how their reunion would go.] You'd love it and I can introduce you to Tony and Pepper.

I'll warn you, he'll probably try to hire you away from Culver. [That's another part of his best case scenario.]

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I would love to see it! [Seeing Stark Tower? With Bruce? That sounds almost too good to be true. But she's not letting him leave so easily this time, especially not while she's drunk.]

I saw Mr. Stark once before...before I met you. I was part of a picketing group for one of his factories. [Those were her slightly hippie rebellion years. She smiled, remembering how that rally had gone.] I chained myself to the front doors with ten others.

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Make sure to tell him that. [Tony can take it, and if he can't, too bad. He can't be the only one doing the poking.] He's out of the weapons business if they can't be attached to an Iron Man suit; I wouldn't be there otherwise.

[There's so much to tell around that, but he's too drunk to coherently explain the attack on Manhattan and his part in what happened.] You could go back to New York with me. Take a long weekend, I'll have you back in time to put the fear of cell biology in undergrads.

[Okay, that hadn't been part of the plan, but once the words are out of his mouth, he's not the least bit sorry.]

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I heard that. I'm glad he changed for good. [Back then, he was still into making weapons and furthering wars. At least, from Betty and her friends point of view, that's what he was doing.

She brightens at that suggestion.] I could let Susie grade papers, she's capable and she has my notes. [Oh goodness, was she actually thinking about doing this? Was she going to abandon the girls she came with and run off with Bruce?

Yes, she would totally do that in a heartbeat.] I didn't bring my car.

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[She's actually considering it? He beams and impulsively kisses her temple.] Do it. I'll call us a cab, you can go home and pack what you want to take, and I'll book two tickets to New York.

[The corporate credit card in his wallet is a far cry from $40 and a lip gloss when it comes to traveling.] Tell me I'm not actually passed out on the bar over there just dreaming this.

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[She smiles happily but shakes her head.] Uh-uh, no cabs. [If it's not him and his Hulk problems, its her yelling at the driver for driving like a maniac.]

If it's not you, then it's me and the girls are toting me home right now. [No, they were busy chatting at another booth.] Maybe they could drop us off at my place? [It would be a tight squeeze though. Bruce squished in a car full of talkative women? Now that was an awkward picture. One that Betty wasn't apparently thinking of as she's tugging Bruce's hand.] Come on, we could get to the airport before midnight if we hurry.

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[Whoa, hang on, moving like that has him reeling, but he's letting her pull him back out of the booth, holding on to her hand as though he would never let her go again.]

Betty, I don't want to... [Oh look, they're all staring at the pair of them. He can feel their eyes taking in every detail, judging the signs of tears on Betty's face, his bleariness, and he just doesn't care. Betty's coming back to New York with him.] ...impose.

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[She tries to help by looping her arm in his, hopefully the pair of them can keep each other from falling down and meeting the floor.]

No no no, it's not a problem. [One of the girls, Janice, is asking if everything's okay and Betty asks if they can get a ride back to her place. Janice asks if she's ABSOLUTELY SURE she wants to go home with a guy she just met in a bar, even if he was a friend from awhile back. Betty nods emphatically.] Yes, I have to go pack. We're going to New York.

[She's obviously not explaining this well.]

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[Good enough. He's hanging onto her like his life depends on it and not just his tenuous grip on staying upright.

He wants to promise her friends that he would never hurt her, but he will always harbor the fear that it could happen.]

I'll get her back in a few days unless she really likes my lab. [It's meant to be a joke, but none of her friends look terribly amused.] See, this is why I don't drink.

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[It takes some explaining but finally, one of them agrees to drive both of them to Betty's house. With the stipulation that if he makes any false moves in the care, Janice gets to leave him on the side of the road. Betty would not hear of it, but since it's the only way to get home right now, she'll just have to like that arrangement.

They get to her house, she throws stuff into a bag, and soon they're pulling up to the airport terminal. Betty hasn't smiled this much in awhile.] I can't believe I'm doing this. In a good way.

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You can't? [He's out of the car to help Betty with her door and bags, fumbling and eager both to help and to show her his new life. He's hoping she'll see a Betty-shaped space in it.] It's like seven years of Christmases and birthdays all rolled together.

[He offers her his hand before they walk through the sliding glass doors to check in.] Thank you.

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[She's trying to help too, though thankfully she had stuck to just two bags and an extra pair of shoes. She hadn't even changed out of her little black evening dress. Betty holds his hand, feeling ten years younger for a moment.]

I think that's just about right. [Seems like they've missed that many happy times together. Hopefully, tomorrow this won't be something she'll regret. Right now, she hadn't the faculties to think it through. Which might end up being a fortunate thing.]
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Elizabeth (Betty) Ross

April 2014

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