Who: Bruce Banner & Christine Palmer What: Science talk. Yeah. Science. That's all. When: this afternoon Rating/Warnings: green, but references to sex
Once Christine got an idea in her head, she couldn’t help herself -- she had to see it to completion. After the conversation with Stephen (and she wasn’t going to dwell on that night even if she occasionally kept drifting into those thoughts), she knew he was right. The only way to get a clear picture of what was going on physiologically was through an MRI. It would map the brain in a way that she wouldn’t be able to do through psychology or any other field.
Getting access wouldn’t be difficult. As suggested, she went to her chief medical doctor and framed a research study regarding aggression, pain management and healing times. She didn’t actually know what she had proposed considering she wasn’t planning on submitting anything, but he was happy to approve a preliminary MRI session and ensured that she would have full privacy.
Which was good.
She may be okay with her body, but she didn’t need janitor staff walking in on this, ethics issues aside.
Now she just had to convince Bruce it was in his best interest. Obviously if he didn’t want to, she’d drop the topic. The fact that he had approached her, and it seemed like he wanted to sort this out? Well….she hoped it was more of a matter of coaxing. She was busy tidying up the clinic, trying to figure out how she was going to approach this when he showed up.
“Hey!” She gave a wave and set down the box of gloves she was holding. “I was hoping to bump into you. How’s it going? Any weird future things come up that made you question past you?”
Christine believed in light conversation, apparently.
Ever since his conversation with Christine about his confusion over Bobbi’s attention, Bruce hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her questions. Sex had never been a huge priority in his life so he didn’t really miss it all that much after the accident. What he missed was being close to someone, having a connection, and he’d denied himself that for a long time out of fear of hurting anyone who did get close.
He thought that maybe he could let Natasha in and then that all went to hell and just seemed to prove that he was better off alone.
Except now he was in this weird alternate universe and he didn’t know what to think. He had the Other Guy under decent control now and didn’t have the same concerns about hurting people that he once had. So maybe it wouldn’t be the worst to get close to someone again.
Could he? That was the question and he wasn’t sure how to really answer it.
For now, he was going to push those thoughts aside and go visit Thor in New Asgard as he’d promised long ago. With Jane’s illness and everything else going on, they hadn’t been able to really spend time together and Bruce wanted to fix that. Which was why he was here, talking to Christine.
“No, everything is pretty much the same,” he said. “How about you?”
“Other than the hair, not really.” She was really starting to dig the blonde. It was obvious she was going to have to get her roots touched up soon, but in a way, she liked it. She’d always been more of a brunette than a dirty blonde, but hey -- why not! Change is good. “It seems like I’ve been the same ol’ dutiful doctor, working my weird shifts, saving lives.” A shrug. “I’m okay with that. I think I would have had a heart attack if I’d found divorce papers or something.”
Although that would have been hilarious.
“So,” she said, getting right into it, “I’ve been thinking about your problem, the one with the Big Guy and your ...well, other big guy.” Hee hee. “I think we need to do an MRI to really get a sense if this is a biological issue or really more psychological. In all honesty, I think the two are related -- you have a mental block occuring BECAUSE you’re scared.”
She paused. Should she mention everything? No…..or should she….
“And since we have access to an MRI, a very private one, I think I have an idea….”
Okay so she’d say a little.
“The blonde looks good,” Bruce said. He was observant enough that he’d actually noticed the change, though he didn’t comment on it until she brought it up.
He tensed when she brought up their previous conversation, growing more and more uncomfortable as she continued to talk. It wasn’t hard… difficult to follow her train of thought and Bruce couldn’t quite believe she was suggesting it.
It was a solid hypothesis that the whole thing was more psychological than biological. He’d thought as much himself. “What exactly are you suggesting, Christine?”
“Let’s have sex.”
Christine hated beating around the bush.
“You and me. In the MRI. We’ll keep a close eye on your brain wave patterns, talk through it, and see where we get. I don’t know that we can trust anyone else with this,” even if she felt a bit guilty for confiding in Stephen, “and I know that I can stay safe.” Again, with Stephen’s help. She knew if she was really in danger, he’d figure something out. She was sure nothing would happen though.
“It’s like riding a bike. Only in this case, the bike is you. It’ll be fine.”
Bruce knew that his mouth was gaping and his eyes were wide. He didn’t even care how it looked thanks to the short circuit in his brain at her suggestion.
“You want to have sex. With me. In an MRI.”
For as strange as his life had been for the past decade, this certainly took the cake and he was actually dumbfounded. Well, mostly. There was also a very faint stirring of interest that he was trying desperately to ignore.
That made sense to her anyways.
“I think honestly, after the first time? You’ll be able to face that fear head on, and you won’t have to deal with it anymore. If this doesn’t work, we can try something else.” She really didn’t see why he would hesitate...unless.
“Oh. And this is for science, remember.”
Of course it was for science. Everyone offered to have sex with a colleague in an MRI for science. Actually, he wouldn’t be surprised if Tony had made that offer to someone in the past. It sounded like something he would do.
“I honestly have no idea what to say right now,” Bruce said.
The logical part of him said that this was a terrible idea. Other parts of him thought maybe it didn’t sound that bad.
“You don’t have to say anything right now, but I do need at least 48 hours to set up the room.” Again, she had no real reason to think he would turn this down. It made sense. Was he going to spend the rest of his life wondering, thinking what if,and never letting himself get close to another human being again?
And maybe this could help pinpoint some control for him.
It all made perfect sense.
“And hey. If you don’t want it to be me, that’s okay too. Let me know who and we can make sure they understand what’s going to happen.” She wouldn’t be offended either.
“Oh, no, there’s no one else,” Bruce said. He certainly wasn’t going to ask Bobbi since he still wasn’t entirely sure what to make of her actions and didn’t want to give her the wrong idea. The only other woman around that he would trust with something like this was Natasha and, well, that would just be far too awkward to explain.
He did trust Christine, even though she wasn’t in any real way equipped to handle the Other Guy. Still, he figured that worst case, she could call in Strange for backup, though that would be incredibly embarrassing.
Still, he was hesitant to agree without giving it more thought. Now that the subject was on the table, Bruce couldn’t deny that he was interested in figuring out what exactly was possible. “Give me a few days,” he said. “I was actually stopping by to ask you if you can be on call this weekend so I can visit New Asgard with Thor.”
*** Christine stopped for a moment to think before pulling out her phone and checking the calendar. She did have some surgeries scheduled but they were fairly simple ones, nothing that should take hours. “Yeah, I could do that. I wasn’t told there was any mission happening this weekend, so unless that changes, it should be a quiet one anyways.”
Putting her phone back in her pocket, she reminded herself to actually ask Steve or Fury if something was happening. It would be good to have an idea of any missions, although she did recognize that secrecy was a thing and she wouldn’t always be able to know.
“New Asgard...sounds shiny. I hope you have a good time, and make sure to take lots of pictures. No rush on the other thing either, okay? Just let the idea...simmer. Take shape. Come up with your own interpretation. I want you to be as comfortable as possible, even though I completely recognize this is the most awkward thing possible but hey -- what are friends for?”
Bruce couldn’t help but laugh at that. “I can honestly say I never had those kind of friends,” he admitted, a bit sheepish. “But I will let you know. And thank you. I’ll cover for you whenever you need.”
Visiting New Asgard had been put off long enough and he needed to prioritize that. His friendship with Thor was just as important to him as his friendship with Tony, but he’d been distracted by Jane’s illness and Pepper’s pregnancy and getting the clinic up and running with Christine since his arrival, leaving poor Thor on the back burner.
She gave a little wave of her hand. She had no reason to need time off. Not when things were going pretty good right now. Sure, she’d casually mentioned to Stephen she’d like a trip somewhere tropical, but with his portals, they could be in and out without really needing time.
Nah, she’d save it up for later.
“I’ll bug you around Thanksgiving or something. Stephen has a plan to make sure we don’t have to go back for Christmas, which is amazing. Christmas with crazy Christians is really hard.” A pause. “REALLY hard. I did enough church growing up, I don’t want to live in one for two weeks. You enjoy yourself and don’t worry about anything here -- I got this.”
“Go back where?” Bruce asked. He was aware that she and Strange had a past, but her comment made it sound like they were together now and he hoped that her offer wouldn’t cause issues.
He wasn’t sure if he should ask though. It really wasn’t any of his business what their relationship was.
“Oh! To Seattle, to visit my parents.” Christine had a bad habit of talking as if everyone knew what she was saying. “Long story short, Stephen asked me to do something that I found a little sketchy and I made the mistake of calling my mom to ask for a prayer.” She rolled her eyes and gave a half-hearted shrug. “I know, I know, stupid. Anyways, we got invited -- more like ordered -- for Thanksgiving and I thought that was an appropriate penance for Stephen. Knowing him, we’ll get kicked out before we even eat and we’ll be spending time at a Holiday Inn or something, which in a way would be amazing because that is why we won’t be invited back for Christmas.”
She raised a brow. “Does that make sense now? Sorry, I was mid-thought when I started talking.”
It made a little more sense, though it also raised more questions. “So, your parents like him?” Bruce asked. Yes, he was trying to gently probe and figure out exactly what was going on without having to come right out and ask.
“And do I want to know what the sketchy thing was he asked you to do?” He probably didn’t, but he felt protective of Christine and wouldn’t want to see anything bad happen to her.
She gave a little snort. “Oh god no. What’s to like? You have to remember, when we were together, he was an arrogant, egocentric, know-it-all who had money and liked to spend it. That really doesn’t fit into good ol’ wholesome Christian values. He tolerated them because I tolerate them. I don’t think he ever liked them much.”
There was a good reason she never spoke to her parents on speaker when Stephen was around. He couldn’t help the jibes and they always made her laugh at inappropriate times.
“Yeah, the feeling was very mutual. I don’t really care. Didn’t then, don’t now…..and don’t ask about the sketchy thing. It’s fine, it worked out in the end, it was just weird.”
Bruce almost asked what had changed with Strange given that the description sounded fairly accurate to what he knew of the man. He managed to refrain though.”So why don’t you just say you can’t visit?” he asked. Family had never been all that important to him and he couldn’t see why Christine should suffer through visiting hers if she didn’t enjoy it.
“It doesn’t sound like a pleasant time for anyone.”
“Because they’re my parents, even though I can’t stand them.” She gave him a ‘duh’ look. “And I’m an only child. I feel some prodigal daughter guilt when I don’t speak to them. And they’re old. Like really old.”
She straightened up and motioned up and down her body. “I’m a living miracle. A divine birth. Or so my mom liked to say when I was getting into trouble in high school. Something something she wasn’t supposed to have children and then she was almost 40 and pregnant.” She shook her head. “I mean, that sounds more like a gift from the devil than God, but whatever. To each their own!”
“I have no doubt you were a handful,” Bruce teased. At least he could still joke with her. Maybe accepting her offer wouldn’t have to make things awkward. Or at least any more awkward than they already were considering how much he’d already shared.
He gave her another quick smile. “I should get out of here now. I’ll be in touch soon though about… everything.”