Hulking Shadows

April 03, 2019:

Bruce fights the beast within, while Betsy invites him out to play.

The Danger Room

A room, except more dangerous.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: None


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

There has been a number of practice attempts in the Danger Room. Bruce has done a number of them alone, and various hours, trying to improve the shooting skill. Some of them have included Betsy, but for the most part he's embarrassed about his lack of progress, and has wanted to work on it by himself. That's normal for Bruce, though: to turtle from others and work on something quietly now and then, needing that alone time.

Bruce had been telepathically connected, lightly, from earlier in the day: he'd been agitated in general at a different problem, and having not slept well. Bruce feeling a little 'raw' can be a safety problem. In fact, the sudden pulse of extreme rage that wakes up the little telepathic thread should cause substantial klaxon of alarm.

He's in the Danger Room like many other times now with his little pistols, but the instability is ramping up.

Betsy is torn. Something isn't right with Bruce. She's uncertain whether he needs peace or if perhaps she could help. Worst case, she supposes, she can go, if she only causes more cause for concern. It's better than intruding on him telepathically, link or no. She has been training in the gym, so she's still in black leggings, a black spandex tanktop, and black sneakers with a hint of dark plum trim. Her hair, tied up out of her way, is loosely escaping as she arrives at the door of the Danger Room. She lets herself in, peering around to see how Bruce is doing. And indeed /what/ he is doing.

"Bruce? Is everything all right?" Her voice is quiet, but steady. There's no hint of fear, only perhaps concern.

"Yes; sure, Betsy," Bruce answers. It took him a few long moments to answer, because he was collecting his thoughts and emotions. He's entirely lying, of course. He's a pent up inferno in there, though the surface is a barely rippled lake.

"I didn't mean to alarm you," he says, very honestly. He hadn't thought about that he'd be noticed: he'd been focused in his pit of spiraling self-hatred. "Or interrupt your gym routine," he adds, spotting her attire.

Bruce is standing near some rapidly moving targets, and doesn't actually appear to have a gun. He shifts his weight a little, sheepish, hands resting into the edges of his pants pockets. He's not set to do a gym (or danger room) visit: just jeans and one of his usual mild colored button-up shirts, sneakers.

"Bruce, you know you don't have to hide anything from me." He also knows it does little good to try. Betsy slips on through the Danger Room door and shuts it behind her. "I can tell you're upset. Talk to me? Is it somethin' going on? Or is it just…an accumulation?" His rage comes in doses, but if left untended, can smoulder and flare up when it's least expected. Perhaps…only he knows when he's at that point, but Betsy senses that he's close now.

"And you needn't apologize, you didn't interrupt me. You've been on my mind today."

"Old habits," Bruce says with a softened laugh, embarrassed, as she reminds him he doesn't have to hide things, shrugging without actually removing his hands from his pockets. He's agitated, but evasive. The distance from her and his friends is the biggest glaring red flag that he's having trouble, well beyond anything that he may recognize or call out as a problem: it's a thing he systematically does to protect others from himself.

"Repressing long enough just makes things a little… tight," Bruce gives, with shame. His tone isn't entirely shameful, but also resentful. The anger is not far away. "Frustrated with myself. I /know/ I shouldn't be."

Betsy smiles - a bittersweet expression. In some ways, Bruce is the kindest and most considerate man alive, as far as she's concerned. But in some ways his self-loathing is something that she wishes she could change. Although, she knows it would change who he is completely. "He needs out," she says definitively. "Maybe here's just the place to let 'im? Not like he can do much to the Danger Room that's not already been tried. I'll be here to make sure it's safe. But you know…he doesn't like to be fooled…"

"If he decided to, he could do a lot to this room," Bruce snaps. And there's the anger, the barb in his correction. He pauses, and winces, pulling his hands from his pockets. "And just because he 'wants' that doesn't mean he gets that," continues the scientist, with a deep and slowly released breath, stretching his hands and fingers, as if making himself relax the tension out. He looks for a distraction and finds it with the moving targets, and also below and to the right of them - there's a gun over there. Yes, it was thrown.

"…did you at least hit it?" Betsy asks lightheartedly, as Bruce spots the gun. "So what happens when you run out of the strength to contain him? You might lose that last modicum of control at an inopportune moment. Like the men's room, and just imagine all those poor, disillusioned men, suddenly feeling /ever/ so inadequate," she deadpans. She's trying to lighten his mood, though she knows she stands little chance. "All right then…let 'im spar me." The suggestion is likely to come as a total blindside, and she's aware. She holds up her hands in a staying motion. "He won't hurt me, Bruce. He's had every opportunity to. He may not like me as much as you do, but he's a part of you, and you….well, whether he likes it or not, you're a part of him." She sighs, lowering her hands. "I just know that it's hell for you like this. It's hell for you to fight it, every moment of every day once the rage builds up." That's why she doesn't respond to his snap. She knows he's saturated with it, and it's either little slips like that, or the one big one he's fighting to avoid.

"No," Bruce mutters when she asked him if he hit the target. Not even close, he doesn't have the arm for it and doesn't fling things in general, let alone with any accuracy. He laughs a little bit as she jokes with him, but his laugh will feel as forced as his expression. "I'm sorry, I don't know why I'm being this way," Bruce says, with his self awareness, even if it always turns and twists problematically even when he's aware that he's being snippy.

Bruce stares at her a little bit as she suggests he actually fight her, and he frowns softly, approaching her, and draws his hands up towards her cheeks, gentle. He attempts to softly touch her face, and lean in to quietly bring his forehead in towards hers. He's trying to find comfort with her, and chose to shut up: his words aren't helping anything right now.

Betsy closes her eyes, content to rest her forehead against his for a long moment. She drapes her arms over his shoulders, encircling him loosely, but holding him all the same. "Sometimes you have to let someone help," she says softly without opening her eyes. The fingers of one hand slide through his hair, and she ruffles it slowly, gently. "I may not always know the answer. I may even offer the wrong ones. But always with the best of intentions." She silently wonders if the Hulk would even assent to spar her. With any aversion at all to hurting her, and any semblance of Bruce within his psyche, he's more apt to push her down and walk off than to actually engage her. She's pretty sure Hulk doesn't /practice/.

Bruce clears his throat in a rough way, a scowl on his face, but he closes his eyes and quietly breathes, using his relaxation training. He can push the Hulk away a while longer: and in that sense, he is letting her help, to calm him down out of this. "I know the targets don't matter," Bruce says. "But I'd hoped to start to get a little bit better. I'm worse today," he admits, embarrassed.

"You're not worse today. You're /unfocused/ today." Betsy tilts her head thoughtfully. "You do know this is all ninety percent mental, don't you? It's a matter of focus, of becoming at peace with what it is yer tryin' to do." She slides her hands down to his shoulders, and lower, to squeeze his biceps gently with her hands. "I think maybe you're attackin' this from the wrong angle. The secret is to breathe…focus…make it about the act itself, not vengeance." She shrugs. "Maybe we should try it with Laser Tag…"

"Yes, surely having people shoot at me in a higher stress environment is a lot safer," Bruce laughs softly, but fondly. The edge of sarcasm is there, but doesn't have a lot of bite. He's just in that middle stage where his intellect makes his brooding anger particularly nasty; he hasn't transferred over into the more simple and direct Hulk mentality. He drops his hands from her face, and his eyes fall off her to the floor, then aside to the damn targets. Green color flutters in through his pulse against his neck and temples, as the veins there grow like roots under the surface of the skin; evident at this distance, even if it's mostly subtle.

Betsy laughs softly, but there's a somber ring to it. "Bruce," she says softly, leaning in close to press a single gentle kiss against his flesh where it flashes green at his throat. "He's comin'… Your control has come a long, long way. But nothing this hard ever comes easy." She lifts up her eyes to his, still fixated on the targets, and this time, she brushes his cheek with the backs of her fingers, lightly and without any intent other than to remind him. "I'm here. I'm the one person who might be truly safe around 'im. You /can/ let go…"

"I don't really want to. I'd rather stay with you," Bruce answers, in a rebellious way that isn't unlike how Hulk can get when he's told to switch over to Banner. There is perhaps a moment where some of the mutual shared person under all of it is there, even if it's briefly. It isn't really two personalities, it's an explosive form of Bruce, without anxiety or self control.

Despite what he said, he smiles at her and steps away, elusive as always when he works to isolate himself and his emotional explosiveness. "I don't want this to be the first time that harm does come to you."

Betsy nods, stepping back now, too. "Well then, perhaps just breathe. Close your eyes. Center yourself as best you can." Betsy moves to retrieve the gun from amongst the fast-moving targets. "Try to calm. Try to aim. It doesn't matter if you hit 'em or not. It's just…practice. That's all life is, really…practice, and more practice. For all of us. And someday…well, someday maybe I'll get it all right, too."

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