Facing Your Own Demons

And They Haunt You

Banner really wasn't in the best of moods this week. His lab had become a bit of an unruly mess, along with himself. During the past week or two, he had been trying everything in hopes of finding a cure for his condition. Bruce didn't inform anyone of his plans since he was sure the others would understand. Most of them had spent so much time trying to build him up, convince him that the Hulk wasn't a monster. That he wasn't a monster, that he could find a way to control it, but at the end of the day it was always the same.

Bruce had hardly even left the lab. Eating marginally and only sleeping when he finally couldn't take the exhaustion anymore. This new intense motivation started because of a private interview he did with Tony a little while back.

-A week and a half prior-

Why they were doing interviews Bruce would never understand. Wasn't it enough for the supposed Avengers to just be seen? He really hated PR.

"It's nice to meet you Mr. Stark," said the blonde haired, brown eyed woman conducting the interview for the- what was it this time? The Daily Bugle? She extended her hand to him. "Dr. Banner," she greeted, offering her hand in turn. He took it politely. The woman cleared her throat first. "Okay so, my first question is are you allowed to give any information at this time regarding the Asgardian, Loki?" Tony leaned back in his chair.

"Apparently, we're not really suppose to. They're rules are so restricting it's like putting on a muzzle, and keeping everything else locked up real tight." Bruce grinned. In his own way he was referring to Loki. At least with the whole muzzle and chains part.

The journalist continued to ask a series of questions. None of which were all that interesting or difficult. Until a certain question did come up. "Dr. Banner, are you concerned about the number of casualties?" Tony had gotten instantly suspicious on why she had only asked Bruce and not himself. The whole ordeal reeked of offensive intent.

"I, um," he still wasn't good in public situations, "It really is horrible when anyone dies. I suppose Loki-"

"What about some other certain causalities?" Tony's eyes narrowed and there it was. Bruce swallowed hard and his stomach dropped. His nerves suddenly a mess.

"I-" He stuttered helplessly, trying and failing to form substantial words.

"Over hundreds of thousand's plus dollars in property damage,"

"I didn't-"

"Not to mention several human causality's and-"

"I think it's time we wrap this up," snapped Tony harshly. The woman nodded curtly and walked away quickly. Tony Stark was not exactly a man you wanted to mess with, although the stupid girl had just walked over and prodded the beast without a thought.

Bruce got up immediately and started pacing. He wrung his hands. Nervous tick. Tony stood up after a minute. "You okay?" It really was a stupid question, but Tony really didn't have an instinct for this type of thing. Bruce kept his back turned to the other man.

"How many more interviews do we have tonight?"

"Bruce," Tony interrupted, his tone hosted a rare form of sympathy that rarely undisguised in the mans voice. Bruce sighed. He never wanted all of this pity.

"I'm okay, Tony. I'm used to it." Tony stayed silent for a moment. He didn't believe it. Not for a second.

"We can go back home if you feel uncomfortable-"

"I am fine, Tony. Let's just get this over with," Bruce had remembered firing back. Famous last words.

Bruce sighed heavily, being shaken from his thoughts when the glass door abruptly opened. To his surprise Natasha stood in it's wake. Natasha looked at the man as if he were a ticking bomb about to explode at any moment. Her body language and expression stayed stoic, but in her eyes you could tell that she was genuinely nervous, maybe even afraid right at this moment. "Dr. Banner," she said finally "I see I've caught you at a bad time."

Bruce sighed again. He probably did look like a mess. His clothes were wrinkled and slightly unruly, his hair was disheveled and he had dark circles under his eyes. "Is there something I can help you with, Miss Romanoff?" Natasha nodded.

"Actually yes," she tossed down the small file she had been shown before. Bruce went to pick it up off of the lab table. It was a risky move in Natasha's mind, but she felt that beating around the bush with a world renowned mind such as Banner's just really wouldn't work. Time to rip off the bandage. Banner's eyes went as wide a saucers upon viewing the same photographs Natasha had previously been shown and his mouth gaped slightly.

"Is this the data from-" Bruce found he was unable to finish as he flipped passed the daunting photos. Natasha subtly took a step back as she noted his growing panic. Bruce finally drew in a few deep, calming breaths. However, he was still quite shaken and who could really blame him?

"They only have bits and pieces; H.Y.D.R.A and a cult of spies." She decided that the best approach was to be very informative. Factual. It wasn't very comforting, but for a man of science like Banner knowing the details always seemed to help. "I got a tip," Natasha starts "from Fury."

"Fury?" Bruce questions quizzically, moving his mind off of the current crisis for at least a fraction of a second. "He's alive?"

"Evidently," Natasha answers, of course she and Steve knew that he was alive all along. "He's- we're very worried about this sort of intel in the hands of these people." Banner, still holding the file in his hands, maybe gripping it a bit tighter than he normally would, sits back in the chair behind him. "Infiltration isn't the problem," Natasha continues "believe me, I didn't want to have to drag you into this, but... no one knows gamma radiation like you do."

"If there was that's where you'd be," Bruce quips numbly. He feels like his world had started spinning faster 'round and a feeling a nauseousness swept over him. Who was honestly suicidal enough to dig up something like that? Some things should just be left to die and project Gamma Pulse was definitely one of them.

"Doctor, I wouldn't be asking you at all if it weren't very important, but lives are at steak... a lot of lives." She knew she wasn't playing him, Natasha knew that she couldn't, but she wanted to be clear that he knew the severity of the situation.

"I take it you and Fury already have a plan in motion?" He says, Natasha knows that he would have assumed as much, granted he was right.

"A transport to a safe house near their suspected base of operations," Natasha clarify's.

"I don't really have a choice, do I..." The man trails off. Natasha, deep down, feels an amount of sympathy for the guy. He's probably facing and feeling all the same horrors as she is inside.

"You do," Natasha counters. Bruce grimaces and shakes his head.

"Like I did then?" He retorts, referring to when they first met. He shakes his head again. "But this isn't that. This is more... personal..." Something that's my responsibility, Bruce tells himself mentally. "When do we leave?"

"We'll leave tomorrow afternoon. So, catch up on your homework and get some sleep," she says, far more gently than before. She thinks of saying something else to follow up, but she doesn't. She ends up exiting soon after..

Bruce dropped the folder onto the floor and sunk back further down into a chair as soon as she had left. Head in his hands he tried to concentrate on his breathing. That experiment- His experiment had ruined everything, had ruined him. Now, someone was digging it back up and trying to put the pieces together, as if they actually fit correctly in the first place. Nothing scared him more than the potential result.

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