The pink slip on his desk this morning had blindsided Bruce. From out of the blue, General Ross seemed to have decided that he was being “unprofessional” and that his work wasn’t up to the standards he wanted, which led to his immediate firing.
Literally. He’d only barely had enough time to read the paper incredulously before security was escorting him out of the building.
So Bruce did the only thing his shocked mind could think to do. He drove back home. It wasn’t until he was sitting silently in the driveway that the full scope of what had just happened hit him.
The house he and his brothers were living in was owned by someone else, they were only renting it. It was a nice neighborhood, the house was spacious enough for all of them, plus the landlord was good about keeping up with maintenance and such. The catch to such a good deal, however, was the pricey monthly rent. It hadn't been too much trouble with Bruce’s fancy government scientist job-- he’d been paid well enough that his whole paycheck alone covered two months rent.
Bruce never minded being responsible for that; he loved his job so it wasn’t like it was a chore. Plus, this let his younger brothers pursue careers they actually enjoyed too. David could wrestle and not have to worry about taking time off to recover from fights, Joe could bartend to his heart's content without worrying about rent, Peter could teach and have a full fridge of food to come home to.
But Bruce had just lost his job. They’d lost the source of rent money, and he didn’t know if his brothers’ much smaller paychecks would be enough to cover that, and bills, and groceries if his search took longer then two months.
God this was so pathetic.
Maybe he wasn’t cut out for being a scientist after all. He was fired because his work was “sub-par” after all, so he must not be as smart as he thought.
“Bruce? What’s wrong?”
A deep voice snapped him out of his daze. While lost in thought, Bruce’s body had worked on auto-pilot; turning the car off, heading to the front door, and entering. Looking up, Bruce sees that it’s David’s voice he’d heard, his head and body leaning out from the kitchen to the left of the entryway.
The second oldest Banner was clad in only a pair of purple sweatpants, showing the bruises that littered his torso from last night's boxing match. The taller man also had a black eye, which was thankfully much less puffy and closer to a normal color then before. His brown hair was also messy, which led Bruce to think his muscular younger brother had just woken up. It hasn’t even been that long since he got let go…
“Oh my god, are you okay!?” David’s voice was full of worry, and in an instant he was in front of Bruce, wiping the tears that had started streaming down his cheeks “Did Betty turn you down? I thought you were gonna wait until after work,”
Oh, right. Bruce had also wanted to ask his friend and coworker Betty Ross out to dinner after work today. So much for that idea-- what would she think of a jobless idiot like him now? The thought only caused more tears to fall.
“N-no, no, it’s not that… I… David, I got fired…” Bruce choked out, wiping his cheeks.
“What!?” suddenly, David got an angry look on his face “Why!? Was it your asshole boss’ fault? God, I knew I hated him for a reason!”
Bruce could only nod silently, though a part of him was soothed by his brother’s anger on his behalf. Leave it to David to have a protective streak that could take on the military.
“If I ever see that General Fuckface ever again, I’m giving him a black eye! What reason did he give, huh? This oughta be good”
Still not saying anything, Bruce pulled out the pink termination paper he’d gotten this morning. It took David a moment to read it despite there being so little text.
“Are you- ‘sub-par results’, ‘unprofessional’!?” David’s brow furrowed harshly “What the fuck does he mean ‘sub-par’, you’re a fucking genius! You have, like, twenty PhD’s-”
“Just four…” Bruce murmured.
“-And ‘unprofessional’? Bah, he must be getting overprotective of his daughter. You’re almost painfully formal and nice even in situations that don’t call for it. That has to be discrimination of some kind, he can’t just fire you because you have a crush on his kid!” David finished his rant, crumpling up the paper and throwing it into the kitchen sink from the hallway.
“What- David how would he even know about that?” Bruce asked, face flushing.
The younger brother gave him a deadpan look “Bruce, everyone on that base knew you liked Betty”
This was news to Bruce. He was so sure that he was being discreet about his feelings! He’d only told his brothers about them, but it turns out everyone knew!? Oh no, did Betty know? She’d never said anything about it, does that mean she just wanted to be friends? Was she just placating him the whole time and waiting for an opportunity to let him down easy?
“Oh…” was all Bruce could say to that.
“But regardless-” David shook his head and got back on topic “The point is: this is a bullshit firing. I’m gonna talk to Jen and have her get the ACLU on this, maybe we can get you your job back-”
“Woah, woah, wait, David… I’m- I’m not gay or anything like that and I’m not trans like you are, how could they even help me? As far as they would be able to prove, this was a justifiable firing. The scientists at the base all hated that I wasn’t a soldier like them so they’d go along with it, especially if Ross tells them too because they’re so loyal to him…” Bruce trailed off sounding defeated.
“Bruce, come on…” David tried to pull him into a hug, but the smaller man just walked past him.
“No, it’s fine. I’ll just find another job somewhere else. No need to kick up a fuss about it…” Bruce waves the concern off, walking down the hall and towards his room so he can lick his wounds in peace. He should also get a start on job hunting, so there’s no time to get a lawyer involved or whatever.
David watched his brother’s form disappear down the hall and sighed, returning to the kitchen. He better text Prof and Joe the news. Maybe they can cheer Bruce up this evening.
The first thing Bruce had to do was make a resume. He’d been specifically sought out and recruited by the military right out of college and never had a job before that, so he didn’t have one he could just edit and then send out.
So as all good scientists do, he did his research. Most of the information he found was obviously aimed at teens and young adults who were just entering the job market; websites often mentioned putting high school extracurriculars and clubs down as replacements for actual jobs. Still, it gave Bruce an idea of how to fill out the document since he’d only had one place of employment previously (and like hell was he putting General Ross down as a previous employer for someone to call). He managed to find documentation of some of his volunteer work, as well as a contact from his old college that could verify the tutoring service he'd run while there.
Since getting home in the morning, Bruce spent the rest of the day in his room on his laptop working on his resume. The only time he took a break was to eat lunch-- a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Frankly he only did it so David wouldn’t break down his door and force him to drink one of his disgusting health shakes.
By one in the afternoon, he had something presentable that he’d be happy sending out. Next… well, he had to actually find a lab that was hiring.
It was around the time that dinner rolled around, his stomach starting to protest from a lack of food, that Bruce took a break. He had sent his resume out to 23 different labs during the afternoon, so he figures he’ll hear something back from at least a couple of them within a week or so. He’s done all he really can now, and Bruce just hopes he gets a reply soon so he can stop worrying.
Another pang of hunger made itself known. With a sigh, he bent to his body’s will and got up to get food.
Bruce had only just set foot into the kitchen when he was practically tackled into a smothering hug by his youngest brother.
“I heard what happened, Bruce, I’m so sorry!” Peter practically cried, squeezing Bruce in his muscular arms.
“Prof… Prof you’re squishing me” Bruce wheezed.
Reluctantly, Peter-- or as he was known to his brothers, Prof-- let the smaller man go, instead electing to put his hands on Bruce’s shoulders with a concerned look on his face.
Now that Bruce could breathe, he could take in the scene. David was at the stove cooking, and based on the apron Prof was wearing he was helping out. At the table, Joe sat with his phone out-- probably texting his next one night stand over Tinder or Grinder or whatever other number of dating apps he had on his phone. The 3rd oldest brother had obviously just gotten home as he hadn't even taken his tie or bartending vest off.
“Are you okay?” Prof asked, worry palpable in his voice.
“I’m… fine. I just sent out my resume to some places so hopefully I’ll hear back soon” Bruce assured, gently taking his youngest brother’s hands off his shoulders and passing by his large form.
“Okay then... “ Prof sighed, wanting to press more. But he knew Bruce well enough by now. If he wants to talk, he will, and trying to push him will just make him clam up and run away from the problem or his feelings.
“We’re making stir-fry,” David says from the stove. He stirs around the wok a little before setting it back on the burner. By the looks of it, Prof had been cutting up ingredients while David did the actual cooking.
Bruce just nods, taking a seat at the table after a moment of debate.
“So… how was work?” Bruce asks softly, turning to Joe.
Joe’s gray eyes look at him for a second, seemingly debating something. After a moment it looks like he makes the decision to finally be social because he sets his phone down and leans back in his chair, a bit of his black hair falling out of the neat slicked back style he’d done it into that morning.
“The usual. I’m just glad I don’t got the night shift. Some bachelor party was gettin’ a little rowdy before I clocked out, and I pity the poor suckas’ that had to put up with them on the shift afta’ me” he grinned from schadenfreude.
“Right…” Bruce just stared, raising a brow.
“But yeah. The usual. Slow morning, happy hour lunch rush, average afternoon with things getting more active by night” Joe says simply, looking bored “By the way, did Lizzy agree to go out wit’cha?”
The reminder of his crush made Bruce deflate. He decided against asking Betty out for now, out of shame for being fired-- by her dad no less. He didn’t want her to agree out of pity, he wanted a genuine reply.
I’ll take that as a no…” Joe says after a moment of silence.
“I didn’t ask her out” Bruce corrects softly.
“Bruce....” David sighs from the stove, turning the burner off while Prof got bowls.
“Bruce, she won’t care that you got fired, you know that” Prof admonishes gently, bringing over a bowl in each hand. He set one in front of Bruce and one for himself. David was right behind him, giving a bowl to Joe before digging into his own.
“I know…” Bruce lies “I just… don’t want her to worry about it”
The look in Prof’s green eyes tells him that his lie wasn’t the best, but the youngest lets it go. He brushes a lock of long dyed green hair behind his ear while adjusting his glasses before digging into his food.
“If you want that Ross asshole dealt with, just let me know, Hulk’s got this” David says through a bit of noodles “Caiera has also offered one of her many swords if needed”
“David… I don’t need you or your girlfriend to kill anyone, oh my god…” Bruce puts his face in his hands.
“Yeah, Hulk” Joe laughs, nudging the larger man’s arm “At least hire somebody else to do it! That way it’ll harder to trace back to ya”
“No discussions of murder at the dinner table” Prof says primly, though he’s obviously trying to fight off a smile.
And lord help him, Bruce couldn’t hold back the snort that escaped him if he’d tried. His brothers’ support helped a little. At least he had them to help him through this. Though, hopefully ‘this’ wouldn’t last long. If the applications he sent out today didn’t get anything back, he’ll just keep trying until a lab got back to him with an offer. He had two months before he would really start to worry, plenty of time to get another job as a scientist.
The next morning, Bruce allowed himself to sleep in a little bit, only getting up finally when the sun was streaming through his window and onto his face.
Sighing sleepily, he got up and got dressed in some sweats and a t-shirt, grabbing his laptop on his way to the kitchen.
“Morning…” David greeted, jerking his head to the fresh mug of coffee with plenty of creamer.
“Thanks David” Bruce gave his brother a quick side hug before grabbing the mug. The first sip pulled a satisfied sigh from his mouth. Oh man, that was good, and just the right amount of creamer and sugar too. If wrestling didn’t work out, he thinks David would make a good barista-- if he could get past his distaste for the scent of coffee that is. He only ever put up with it for his brothers.
With coffee in one hand, Bruce set his laptop onto the island countertop and turned it on, unlocking it with his password. He took a sip and navigated to his email, refreshing the page to see if he had any replies.
Greeting him was a wall of new emails.
Furrowing his brow, Bruce set his mug down and started reading each one, eyes slowly widening with each new word on the screen, mind becoming frantic as the reason for all of these soon dawned on him.
He had received 23 automatic rejection letters because he had been blacklisted by the Army.