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Ecuador in the fall...was hot. The kind of heat that just didn't let up, it just hemmed you in on all sides like an extra coat you couldn't get rid of. Bruce dipped a bowl in the stream and dumped it liberally over the back of his neck, letting the water run down in rivulets through his hair and his shirt. It was some relief at least, but it was so humid already he still felt pretty sticky all over. He looked left and right, readjusting his backpack as he stood. There was a village coming up, he'd been able to ask a person or two on the way using broken spanish to find out about it. It was pretty remote but that's what he was hoping for. His laptop wouldn't be any use, he would have to wait till he reached someplace with electricity but for now, he just wanted a place to stay hidden.

Bruce walked away from the stream and back to the road, staying to the side to avoid any cars that might plummet by. No speed regulations here. Soon he was walking into the small village, hoping he didn't stand out too much, a white man who could just get by on the spanish he knew. If he could find a little work here, he might not have to spend the night sleeping in an alley again.

--------------------------

Blonsky had been following for the past few hours. He knew he was getting close, he'd seen the signs, but it was slow going; for as unlikely as it seemed, Banner was irritatingly good at this, leaving a path behind him that was almost untraceable.

But where Banner was good, Blonsky was better. The heat was oppressive, the pace he took gruelling, but he continued to push anyway. Ross may have given him orders to find the man, but Blonsky was in this for his own reasons, the fact that the man holding the keys to his freedom happened to have the same general goal as he was only happy circumstance.

Without the weight of combat gear, he was able to move much more unobtrusively, slipping amongst the brush almost entirely soundlessly. He waited under cover as Banner emerged into the village, glanced around to get his bearings. It was a small place, the same layout as nearly every other such cluster of buildings. Nothing tactically challenging. He slipped further back into the brush and circled around, picking a point some distance further and entering the village there, moving with the kind of confidence and bearing that practically screamed a need for distance. He wouldn't be bothered. He lurked in the shadows, following Banner's progress from afar at first. Close enough that his prey could sense his approach if he was alert, but far enough away to give the illusion of temporary safety.

--------------------------

Banner wasn't as alert in this heat...seriously, who was? But in the back of his mind, he always had a sense of being watched. Whether it was real or imagined, he never could tell until they showed themselves. The price he paid for being paranoid about surviving. Right now, he figured it was the natives casting their curious glances at him and he tried to smile at a kid in a doorway as he passed. See? Nothing to see here...just passing through.

He moved through a small outdoor marketplace, looking over different foods being sold.

--------------------------

Banner moved, and so did Blonsky, shadowing him, moving closer the further they advanced but staying just out of reach. The key was to avoid spooking him, lure him into a false sense of security then attack when he was off his guard; straight-on attacks hadn't worked, so as much as it galled him, a new approach was warranted.

He crept even closer, approaching from his blind spot and blending into the crowd the best he could, smooth and silent and so completely part of the rhythm up until his hand clamped down on the man's shoulder, a solid enough presence to strongly discourage immediate running.

Not that he couldn't if he wanted to, of course. And Blonsky would certainly welcome the challenge if he did.

"You never cease to amaze me, Banner."

--------------------------

...just when things were starting to go well. Bruce freezes in place under the hand on his shoulder, his train of thought screeching to an emergency halt. He could feel his heart rate pounding all the way up to his ears, beating in time with the watch on his wrist.

The people milled around them, oblivious to the dire situation. Bruce didn't move, closing his eyes and forcing himself to take a breath to calm down. Easier said than done, he was still tense and on edge, expecting to be shot at any moment. "Blonsky." His tone was quiet but it said plainly I was hoping never to see you again. Ross must have put him up to this...at least that was the best case scenario. Worst case, he was here to do more than capture Bruce. He wanted to fight him.

--------------------------

"How far did you really think you could get?" he asked, casual enough on the surface but with a warning lurking underneath. "Did you honestly believe you would be left in peace after New York?" As if the whole thing were Banner's fault, and not his for reaching too far too quickly, for getting greedy and losing control.

He could feel his pulse. Fluttering under his fingertips, higher than was 'safe,' and a small thrill or self-satisfied pride went through him at the fact that he could control his, or at least more than Banner could. He was the better one here, stronger, faster, more in control, superior in nearly every way that mattered, and yet he'd lost. His grip tightened at the thought, fingers digging in hard enough to bruise, but he reigned it in. Not yet. Not now.

--------------------------

His sense of self preservation rebels against that remark. He could go farther...there had to be someplace safe in this world for the Hulk. There's a quiet determination that takes hold as he goes back to his jujitsu training, those endless tumbles and falls practiced with the sensei in Brazil.

As the fingers dig into his shoulder, he pivots almost without thinking and, taking a hold of the arm above the hand, he levers Blonsky over his shoulder and into a fruit stand, scattering oranges left and right.

He's off and running the second he lets go of the arm.

--------------------------

The former soldier recovers from the impact quicker than physics says he should, sparing barely a moment to collect himself before lunging to his feet and taking off after his quarry. He grins as the ridge of his spine stretches and warps with the extra demand; this was what he really wanted all along, regardless of what his Plans had started out as. He's a predator by nature, he lives for the hunt.

Banner has a good lead, at least at first, but there's no chance he can maintain it for long; he makes it across the market and out the entrance before Blonsky's on him, grabbing what cloth comes to hand and shoving him bodily into the nearest building, pinning him there with most of his strength.

"How did you do it?" he demands, an almost desperate edge to his words. "You can't beat me."

--------------------------

The breath is knocked out of him as he is shoved against the building, almost stunned at first. He tries to bring up an elbow for Blonsky's face but the angle is difficult when he's pinned against the wall. That doesn't stop him from trying to get free, struggling and twisting as he is trying to get his wind back, unable to reply.

--------------------------

There's an emphatic shove, an increase of pressure that strains at ribs and is designed for discomfort, a silent demand for the struggling to cease, and then it eases. Enough for Banner to breathe, enough for him to speak.

And then he waits for his answer.

--------------------------

The bricks swim in front of his eyes as he's pushed harder into the wall for lack of oxygen. His struggles stop and it's only when Blonsky lets up that he manages to cough and get an honest breath again. Bruce stays put, his heart sinking into his shoes at being caught like this. He doesn't say anything just keeps his eyes on the wall in front of him and concentrates on breathing in and out.

--------------------------

Blonsky's losing patience, not that he's ever particularly good at keeping it in the first place. The grip eases further, if only so he can flip Bruce around, get his back to the wall instead. Easier to intimidate that way, when they can see you. He keeps one hand splayed on Banner's chest to hold him in place, firm enough to keep him there but loose enough so he can breathe, and tries again. He's fragile, too fragile; how can someone that contains something like the Hulk be so unbelievably breakable?

"I'm not bringing you in. Not yet, anyway. So answer me."

--------------------------

Bruce's hands went up as soon as he was roughly turned around and pushed back against the wall, a non-verbal display of being unarmed. Ironic though not entirely true. He could see Blonsky now, not that it was an improvement over the situation. The man looked just about the same as the last time he saw him....hungry for power.

He takes a slow breath before saying quietly. "How did I do what?" Yes, he hadn't forgotten the question. He just wasn't sure what kind of answer Blonsky was looking for.

--------------------------

"Beat me."

Everything he did was offensive, from the utter lack of fight in him to the raised arms, as if Blonsky was even concerned about the scientist having a weapon. The only weapon he had was the one he wanted, or at least wanted to best. And then the question, as if he'd already forgotten, or didn't understand what he was asking.

His words are deceptively calm, but there's an intensity under them, a desperation. A need for an answer.

"I can feel your pulse in my fingertips. I can smell your fear. I'm stronger, faster. Better. But you still beat me. How."

--------------------------

That pulse goes up slightly as Banner's eyes narrow with frustration. It doesn't matter what his answer is, Blonsky won't like it. He leans forward against the hand to talk face to face. "I didn't beat you. The Hulk did. I. can't. remember." It was the truth, he remembered nothing from the fight, only that he survived it. It was all a big uncomfortable blur in his memory.

He settles back a bit against the wall again. "Last I remember of it, I fell out of a helicopter....because your monster was determined to kill and destroy the entire city."

--------------------------

Blonsky leans in as Banner retreats, searching for the lie but knowing it can't be anything but truth; his own memories from the incident are little improved, pieces torn apart only to be forced back together afterwards, images, sounds, and smells with little to really connect the dots, there's no reason to believe Banner's will be any more helpful.

Lips pull back in a snarl, an inhuman expression in an all-too human face. "Well what's it got I don't, then?"

--------------------------

Bruce shakes his head, not knowing the answer. "Maybe you should be asking yourself what do you have that it doesn't." Like being sick in the head...or the added serum...or the fact that he wanted more. All of which Bruce did not have.

--------------------------

He lets out a frustrated noise. "That's not it. It can't be it, doesn't make sense. Everything I have makes me better than you, makes mine better than yours. You're wrong."

--------------------------

Bruce wasn't going to argue with him. Not here, not like this. "Fine, so I'm wrong. But let me tell you, this thing that we have...this does not make a person better." Ok, maybe he was arguing a little bit. This was a monster, not an improvement on humanity.

And he was looking for an out, once Blonsky was distracted enough, he was going to make a break for it.

--------------------------

A chuckle escapes him, low and dark and honestly amused. "Just because you're afraid of it doesn't mean it doesn't. Have you ever sped down a road, taken a curve too fast? Hid under the covers as a storm passed by as a child? Jumped from an airplane, hundreds of miles up, and hurtled towards earth in the moments before you've got the parachute out?

Life's about terror. About fear. You conquer that, an' you've got the world in the palm of your hand."

He eases off just slightly, enough to give Banner room to maneuver if he chooses. Silently hoping he does; he could use a chase.

--------------------------

Bruce shakes his head no, he did not agree with that at all. "Life is not about killing other people just because you can."

And he's jumped out of a plane...without a parachute, thank you very much.

Why was he....? Oh. It clicked for Bruce and he leaned back against the wall again. He wanted Bruce to run. Now he had a dilemma: give Blonsky what he wanted and run for his life....or stay here and get captured. Neither option sounded very good.

"How long do you think before the army catches up with you as well as me? Don't think just because you bring me in that they'll let you go free too. You'll probably end up in the next cage over."

--------------------------

"Who says I'm looking for you for them? I'll worry about me, you worry about you; I'm better at the hiding game than you are, they won't find me until I'm ready for them."

He smirked dangerously; when they did they would absolutely regret it. He was grateful to them, in his way, for giving him what they had, but that didn't mean he was about to be their personal attack dog. He'd had enough of that.

--------------------------

It was infuriating, the way Blonsky was trying to run his life. As if Bruce didn't have enough trouble trying to avoid the General. He silently glares back...

Stupid man, you're stronger than him, smash him... Bruce pushes that stray thought back in his mind, no he's not going to give Blonsky the fight he's itching for.

"Be easier if you took me in now..." he started to say but a voice speaking rapid spanish was interrupting their little chat. It was an Ecuadorian policeman in a short sleeve uniformed shirt, gesturing at the two men as he came over. Bruce could only catch about half of what he was saying, but he was shaking his head no, hoping beyond hope that the man would back off.
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Bruce Banner - The Hulk

October 2016

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