Fear has always been a part of Bruce Banner’s life. His earliest memories were of anger, rage and screams. A victim of abuse and tragedy, young Bruce was caught in a war between safety and murder. The arms of his mother the only defense from his father’s wrath. Her battered body only a shell that served one purpose. To protect her son at all cost. Even at the cost of her own life. A price that was paid full. Innocent blood of his mother’s dead body tainted his soul that day. One last lullaby which haunts him to the day. Unable to abandon the guilt, Bruce felt at fault for his mother’s death. Because, all the times she had kept him safe, he failed to protect her. The weight of his mother’s death became a harsh burden to bear, corrupting what innocence he had left as a child. And no longer safe in his mother’s arms, he suffered at the violent hands of his father’s -silencing the precious memories he had and enflaming the bruises on his body and soul.
Pleas for mercy did not end the abuse. But social services did. In and out of homes he went, from one family to another. A child prodigy, none could challenge his brilliant mind. None could cure the turmoil in his heart. None could tame his anger. Like father, like son. Left to inherit his father’s instability, the young Bruce Banner hit a low point, and for a child, it made it difficult for him to develop a healthy attachment. When all seemed lost, a loving aunt, Susan Banner, adopted her nephew. Nothing like her brother, her love and understanding was the only thing that kept the boy from drowning. Damaged, however, that no amount of time and love could heal, a bitterness grew inside. It festered inside a lonely soul whom no one could reach. With a far superior mind than most his age, bullying quickly began. To counter against his harsh reality, to buffer the temper he hid behind a meek persona, a new identity was created.
In the early days of his childhood, Hulk became his only friend. A stupid notion really. Bruce knew the Hulk wasn’t real. He knew the difference between imaginary and reality. But there were days he felt the Hulk really did exist. Hulk was a mask, harboring every one of his secrets and the protector of his weak body. A weak body gave to him his father’s abuse, but a strong mind nurtured by his mother. Unable to comfort the rage which grew inside, the Hulk was there to channel it. Take the blunt of the blame so he wouldn’t have to face the grim reality. Truthfully, he was a monster, hiding behind false smiles and quick humor. Just like his father.
Slowly, the Hulk disappeared. From existence and his memory. When school became too much, he did what he did best. Hide. For months, he stopped attending school, working from home – his room the only sanctuary he felt safe in. The only condition to his self-exile was therapy. Tossed from one therapist to another, none could force Bruce to come to terms with his vast amount of issues. Perhaps he did not learn to control whatever beast that hid inside. But he learned how to hide it, and hide it well. Almost to the point, everyone thought he was miraculously cured.
Until the incident.
Starved for an end, a bomb was built. Unstable as its creator. With creeping intentions to harm every person that harmed him, physically or verbally, perhaps a twisted survival instinct, Bruce had it ready to ignite. But, at the last minute, plans were thwarted. Moved far away in hopes to rebuilt himself and start a new beginning, Susan brought Bruce to a new town. Eventually met with a new offer. Build weapons for a General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross. For some sick reason, open to the idea, Bruce accepted. Graduated with a doctrine in nuclear physics, he went to work for General Ross, where he met Thunderbolt’s daughter, Betty.
Everything he was not, Betty was kind, patient, and hopelessly loyal, and it did not take long for the physicist to fall deeply in love. At first, he fought his feelings every step of the way. But Betty refused to let their spark fail. Every single time he pushed, she pushed back. With equal, if not more, force. She drove the man mad. Her addicting laughs. Her honest words. Her love for life. Born anew, life before Betty did not exist. And life without Betty was unimaginable. From ill-mannered to almost sociable, he changed. Betty’s light drove away his demons in the darkness. He planned on asking her to marry him. A small piece of happiness which did not last for long.
The small ring burned in his pocket. Anxious about his date with Betty, Bruce was more than his nervous self. Forgetting and a massive klutz. The question choked him. His throat squeezing every moment he saw Betty. Doubts began to form in his mind. Would she say yes? Or no? Bruce couldn’t imagine spending his life with anyone else. No one could even touch Betty. Thoughts of her interfered with his work. He knew it did. And every time his sweetheart asked what’s wrong, he fumbled with his words, far too embarrassed to answer. Betty suspected something. She could always tell when something was wrong. Read his behavior far quicker than he could react. Too invested with the future, too late did Bruce realize his present was about to destroy every one of his plans.
He failed to notice the alarms ringing out loud. Something had gone wrong.
Radiation infused with his being. A familiar anger rose up and met him with a green vengeance. A sea of blackness welcomed him. And control was lost. When he came to, confused, only blood came into recognition. Not his own, but Betty’s. Betty, his beautiful Betty, battered and torn. Her body broken, but alive. Whatever happened, Bruce knew it was somehow his fault. Betty lived, but sleep claimed her. A coma. Realizing what had happened, a second entity harboring inside his body and hiding in some fierce depth of his brain, Bruce fell back onto old habits. He ran. Because hiding was what he did best.
Years bled into a vicious cycle. Because what he did to Betty, Thaddeus Ross was on a vengeance to hunt him down. Destroy the Hulk. Traveling the world, driving any force that came into a close vicinity, he lived in self-exile. A familiar place. Childhood training taught him to avoid relationships and attachment. From Canada to South America, and Eastern Nunavut to the Arctic Circle, the wanderer roamed. Sick of the traveling. Tired of the Hulk’s rage and the damage he did. Sick and tired of life. A gun point to his mouth, his last thoughts were of Betty. Prayers of forgiveness were sent to her. Finger snapped the trigger and the world fell apart.
Death was not what he thought it’d be. Truthfully, although a man of science, he did not know what the other side held. Anything had to be better than the nightmare he live. Death felt familiar. Like a dream. But far from his desires, Bruce awoke, nude and far from dead. Angry that the destructive nature of the Hulk saved him, in the freezing winds he stayed. Death on his lips. However, his unwanted protector, Hulk re-emerged once more, leaving Bruce desperate for a cure.
Joining the Avengers Initiative hadn’t been an option, lied to and eventually overcoming his initial hesitation in order to protect the world. His desire for an uninterrupted life nothing more than a fool’s notion; The Hulk, apparently, more valuable than his little crusade to help the less than fortunate. His freedom to choose no more tangible than his ability to control the Other Guy. But where he found imprisonment, he found friends. Just as dysfunctional as he was, if not more, collaborating to create the most lose cannon team in existence. Destructive just as they were helpful, the Avengers’ ability to save were in question. The very essence of himself he tried to hide from was the very thing the world needed. Or so he was led to believe.
Despite what many believed, “Hulk Smash” wasn’t his motto in life. If forced to save the world, Bruce wanted to on his own terms. As Bruce Banner. First instincts should’ve been listened to the moment Stark’s brilliant idea came to fruition. The creation of an AI to fight in their absences not exactly how he wanted to be remembered. Rather than listening to his voice of reason, he assisted Tony, only to unravel in his greatest sin. Hundreds perished by the Other Guy’s might. And many more were endangered because he longed to be more than Hulk. Best to disappear, quit before more innocent lives were taken, he took to his wandering ways once more. Nat being the personification of violence that he tried to avoid. So if he had to sacrifice one to lose the other, then so be it. In the end, for the first time, Banner and Hulk agreed peace was the best option – sacrificing what could’ve been for escape he longed for.
To begin his path of redemption, Bruce stole the dead body of Pietro Maximoff and located it to the Cradle. To one day return him from the dead. It kept with his stolen quinjet in a cave far from human civilization.