The Science of Monsters
Chapter One: Forever Alone
Bruce Banner felt he was meant to be alone forever. Running farther, faster, from everyone who wanted to gain all the bad qualities that his physicist day job at the army injected into his body, he couldn’t stop to do any of the things he’d always wanted. The love of his life would never be safe in his presences as long as ‘the other guy’ lurked within the darkest corners of Banner. Keep calm, keep hidden, and if ever found…run like hell. Those were the rules, and they were never broken until ‘he’ showed up.
The Avenger’s Initiative granted Bruce friends for a moment, but after the moment was over the initiative left him running from even worse monsters. General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross, the original monster, only wanted Bruce’s blood to create more ‘super soldiers’ which would never work. The last time General Ross tried to make another turned into a complete disaster that almost killed Bruce. The newest, and much scarier, monster tracking him down had to be the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury may seem like a reasonable man, but that didn’t mean he would stop hunting Bruce down for his one man army.
“¿Puedo tengo una Coca-Cola por favor, y dónde puedo alquilo un coche??” Banner asked with an almost perfect accent as he sat at the bar of an outdoor restaurant in the market square.
“Sure,” the Spaniard with thick, dark curls answered before popping the cap off of a glass Coke and placing it on an off white napkin in front of him. “You can get a car over by Rosas.”
Bruce glanced down as blood rushed to his cheeks, “O-oh, You speak English,” he stuttered.
“Yeah, most people here in the market speak English,” the man laughed causing his chocolate eyes to glow, “we need to know it so we can haggle with the foreigners.”
Bruce chugged half the coke, cooling his parched throat, before chuckling. “Can you point me towards Rosas? I need to make it to England before morning; a ride to the border where the ferry is would be great.”
The Spaniard agreed while making huge hand jesters to the left and right. Rosas was about two miles and four turns away from the market. Bruce could smell the fragrant summer flowers half a mile away. Jasmine, Spanish Roses, Dittany of Crete, wild Daisies; the scents were pungent and created the sweetest perfume. Bruce thought of home, and the beautiful yellow daises Betty always brought to work. He regretted letting his mind wonder over the glorious memories of Betty Ross.
He shook the lingering homesickness from his thoughts as Rosas became a small dot in his vision. His lips parted in a stiff smile as his pace quickened. The band on his arm beeped harshly twice reminding him to be very careful with his maddening heart rate. The little white shack with the red stone roof surrounded by beautiful flowers shined with happiness as the couples giggled and snuck coy kisses. Bruce couldn’t be sadder, wishing he had anyone to share the moment with, but he held his smile.
The sweet scent of dust filled his nostrils as he entered the shack. A woman with sun kissed skin, graying hair, and defined laugh lines in the back corner was twirling a bookrack full of used gardening books. Bruce took a moment to look through the shelves of flowers arranged perfectly. A young woman with long chocolate waves and enigmatic forest green eyes appeared behind the counter. Her broad smile reached her eyes while her long tanned legs stepped around the counter towards the woman at the bookrack. Bruce could hear the conversation easily, but his brain was scrambled around the beauty of the young woman. He shuffled over to the counter watching the woman a little too intently. He turned quickly when her eyes met his.
“¿Cómo puedo ayudo a tú?” The woman asked as she ran her fingers across the length of his broad shoulders.
“Si. ¿Cuánto por la carro?” Bruce asked; his voice shook as he stuffed his hands in his pockets. The woman’s smile brightened as she rounded the counter pulling out a black notebook. Her long, slender fingers traced down the page while her plump lower lip slipped between her pearl white teeth.
“I have two cars, both for sell right now. The black one is 3,995€, and the dark green rust bucket is 800€. I can’t guarantee it’ll run far though.” She leaned forward on the counter revealing enough to cause a man’s heart to beat a little faster. The band beeped repeatedly.
He quickly pulled the crinkled banknotes from his pocket while stuttering, “I-I’ll t-ta-take the gr-green one.”
She giggled before turning around, bending down at a very suggestive angle causing the band to beep faster, and pulling out a silver key on a magic eight-ball key chain. She licked her lips before leaning over the counter again, “Here you go.”
“T-thanks,” Bruce stumbled back a few steps before hurrying out of the building. He shook the images of her low cut shirt and painted on shorts from his mind as he found the car. The key he thrust into the door wouldn’t turn, so he tried it in the black car sitting next to him. The key slid into place easily and clicked the lock as it should. He chuckled to himself as he climbed into the car. “Women…”
The drive to the coast wasn’t as long as Bruce expected it to be, neither was the ferry ride to England. He knew the hard part would be finding his way onto a boat to Ireland. Mr. White had to have an answer. Day to day living, praying that your heart didn’t speed up at the sight of a beautiful woman or a good run, was too much for Bruce to handle anymore.
Walking towards the docks, he noticed a couple of men. Black suits, black sunglasses, getting out of black sedans. “Shit!” Quickening his pace, Bruce could feel his blood begin to boil slowly. He recognized one of the men.
“Coulson,” hissed Bruce before slipping into the shadows of a barge.
“He has to be here,” the snarky SHIELD agent proclaimed. “This is the only path he has to Mr. White.” Fury! Nick Fury must have hacked the computer sequence, or General Ross found a way to get in first.
“I can’t believe he fell for this trick,” Coulson’s partner laughed, “he’s be on the run for years, you’d think there would be some kind of proto call as to what he believed.”
Bruce sighed before studying his surroundings, but Fury wasn’t his only problem. There were people dressed in camouflage searching barges. “Damn it!” He quickly pulled his disposable cell phone out of his pocket and dialed the only number he could think of.
“Hello, thank you for calling the Stark residence, how may I help you,” a cheerful male voice answered.
“Jarvis?” Bruce questioned as he held the cell phone tighter to his ear.
“Yes,” Tony Stark’s mechanical butler asked. Bruce shook his head as the corners of his mouth rose slightly.
“You sound more and more human every time I speak with you,” he laughed. “This is Bruce Banner. Can I speak with Tony?”
“I’m afraid he’s in the middle of something, Mr. Banner…”
“No, Jarvis, this is an emergency. Put him on the phone now!”
Bruce waited for mere minutes that seemed like hours before he heard the click of a phone being picked up. Muffled arguing filled the silence. “Tony?”
“Hey, big guy,” Tony laughed before hissing, “will you just stop! Why can’t we take a normal vacation for once, Pepper?”
“Hey Pepper,” Bruce half yelled into Tony’s ear. “I need a place to hide out. Fury and Ross are after me…again!”
“Come to the Tower, you can stay with us,” Tony suggested.
Pepper and Bruce simultaneously breathed, “NO!”
“I need a place to hide, Tony. You’re like a flashing beacon of ‘LOOK AT ME!” That won’t work.” He explained with a sneer before stopping a crew member on the ship. “¿A dónde navegan?”
“Wh-what? Who are you talking to?” Tony barked.
“Para New York.” The sailor replied.
“A guy on this ship I just hopped on,” Bruce hissed, “¿Cuánto tarda?”
“The one I’m on trying to hide from everyone looking for me. God, Tony, are you listening to a word I’ve said,” Banner schooled.
“Unas dos semanas, señor,” the sailor answered with an eyebrow raised.
“¿Hay un helipuerto a bordo?” Bruce whispered as he noticed Coulson doubling back towards his bardge.
“Si,” the sailor answered.
“Did you say heli-something,” Tony questioned, Pepper yelled, “Heli-something?”
“Yeah, they have a helicopter pad on the ship I’m on. You think you could send a chopper to get me off this metal bunker waiting to be sunk by ‘the other guy?’”
“Yeah, text me the name of the ship and I’ll send the rescue squad. I even have a place for you to crash when you get to California,” Tony reassured him. Bruce almost sighed with relief.
“Not the Malibu house,” Bruce complained. The last time he was in the Malibu house he broke through the glass wall nearly falling off a cliff.
“No…” Tony trailed off, the metal click signaling he was away from Pepper, “I just bought a warehouse. It’s storing most of what I’ve been working on lately, but Pep doesn’t know about it. There’s a bed, a fridge, and a microwave; Jarvis is connected to the security system to keep out unwanted guests. You’re welcomed to it.”
“Alright, thanks, Tony.” Bruce hung up the phone without a goodbye. He grabbed an old black baseball cap to replace his ratty blue hat.
“¿Cuál es el nombre de este barco?”
Four days later, Bruce was situated in a warehouse with at least forty Iron Man suits of all different colors. The first order of business he decided on was turning the emergency acid wash corner of the lab into a faux shower. He couldn’t remember the last time he had a decent bath, but that would change soon. The extra blue tarp Tony had lying around would work perfectly for a shower curtain.
Bruce just finished rigging the shower and taking off his shirt when he heard the door of the warehouse open and close. He walked towards the front of the building carefully, the band beeped twice. “Honey, I’m home! And that heart rate monitor is going to be you’re down fall one of these days,” Tony’s familiar voice echoed.
“You know, I just built you a shower in here,” Bruce laughed as Tony’s face popped around the suits.
“It was built in, you just accessorized it,” he laughed before putting the brown bags on the floor. “I brought food, a few shirts, and these new stretchy jeans. If you Hulk out they won’t rip!”
“Please tell me you brought a hot plate with the food,” Bruce almost pleaded.
“I did! I knew you’d ask since you’re such a soup freak,” Tony laughed.
“Good, now, throw me some soap,” he chuckled as he grabbed the pants and a shirt off the table. “Is this yours,” he questioned catching the soap.
“Yes, I couldn’t get away with buying new things for you, so I had to bring what I had,” Tony shrugged.
“There’s no way in hell this will fit me,” he complained.
“Beggars can’t be choosers, Bruce. Now, I have to run. Pepper thinks I’m with Rhodey and he thinks I’m with Pep because you insisted on no one knowing you were here.”
“I’ll go out and get my own clothes after I shower,” Bruce stated, “have fun with Rhodey and Pepper!” Tony laughed before leaving his friend alone.
Always surrounded by the deafening silences of aloneness, Bruce sighed before washing the dirt, grime, and sadness down the drain.