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And Here You Are Living

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Bruce Wayne walked into Dr. Fatima Waqud’s door at precisely 9 o’clock, which surprised the psychologist. The well-known billionaire was hardly known for his punctuality or his attention to decorum, for that matter. She had been hesitant to see Gotham’s famous resident when her secretary had informed her of the appointment. More famous for his ridiculous exploits, Bruce Wayne had little patience for counselors and therapists, so to see him in her office on time, no evidence of a hangover, and dressed to impress in a well-tailored suit on a Saturday morning surprised her in a way few things managed to surprise a counselor who was used to catering to the rich.

After pleasantries had been exchanged, Dr. Waqud brushed her gold and red hijab away from where it had fallen slightly in front of her face. She smoothed her loose bright yellow summer dress as she sat down in her dark brown leather armchair and gestured for Mr. Wayne to have a seat on the matching couch that accented the forest green rug on the floor. Earthy tones tended to help people relax, and her office was filled with their influence as could be seen with the framed pictures on the wall and the fountain that bubbled in the corner of the room. Dr. Waqud’s office was a sanctuary from the noise, bustle and dismal colors of Gotham. Fatima had always loved colors and the way they influenced the mind and her own mood. It was one of the many reasons, her family had been surprised that she had settled in the dreary city, yet she had her reasons.

“What brings you to my office today, Mr. Wayne?” She asked after he had finished settling himself. The billionaire looked awkward and uncomfortably on her couch; he sat on the very edge as if waiting for the chance to escape.

“Bruce, please,” he corrected but offered no other explanation.

“Very well, Bruce. How can I help?” She kept her tone light and friendly, trying to calm his nerves.

He studied her for a long minute, and she smiled politely. She’d hardly be a fit therapist if she didn’t know how to wait for another to speak.

“I’d admired your dissertation regarding how post-traumatic stress disorder developed in children and affected them as adults,” Bruce replied, shocking the psychologist.

Charcoal eyes blinked. Then blinked again. Dr. Waqud absently spun the gold bangles that contrasted against her dark skin. She would not have been more surprised if he had announced he was Superman.

“You read my dissertation?” She asked. Her voice holding only an echo of her surprise.

He nodded.

Regaining her equilibrium, she spoke with a calm voice, “I apologize. I hadn’t been under the impression you were much of a reader.”

Bruce flashed her a smile that she had seen on the cover of magazines throughout the years. “You can hardly believe everything you read in the tabloids.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “I did you a disservice by prematurely judging you. I offer an apology.”

He waved the offer away. “I’m here because of your dissertation. Your research and arguments were intriguing to me. Recent events have forced me to admit that I may not have the best resources available to combat PTSD that developed in childhood. I hope to rectify the situation.”

This at least was familiar ground. As much as Bruce Wayne reportedly hated therapists and the whole counseling field, everyone in Gotham knew what had happened to Martha and Thomas Wayne. Poor Bruce had been a young witness to their cruel murders, and he most likely had developed a form of PTSD as long with the world’s worst coping mechanisms if the tabloids were to be believed.

“What happened?”

He stared at her again, and there was something unnerving in that stare. “What is your opinion of the Batman?”

She didn’t react to the non-sequitur. Often times, patients would circle to the real issue if you were willing to listen. “I’m afraid my opinion is far too complicated for our time together, but in short, I am glad there is someone who is able to combat the likes of Joker and Two-Face, but he never should have allowed a child to fight with him. Have you had an encounter recently with him?”
Bruce smiled. “Oh, I’m afraid I’ve never had the chance to meet him. I’m far too afraid to travel the places he is supposed to frequent at night.”

“What are you afraid of?”

He shrugged, relaxing into a role that Dr. Waqud was only beginning to suspect was a mask. “I’m a billionaire in the world’s most crime-ridden city. What’s there not to be afraid of?”

She leaned forward and kept her face neutral. “Is fear a consistent part of your life?”

He laughed. “Only a little, but I’ve managed to keep friends in high places.” He grinned. “Are you aware that I fund a large portion of the Justice League operations?”

“What?” Fatima kept the shock off her face but suspected she failed keeping it out of her voice. That was not where she suspected this conversation to go. Was this man truly implying that superheroes could be bought?

“I help fund the Justice League,” he repeated. “I believe in their mission, and my support has always been fairly well documented in their annual tax documents. However, I have recently realized there is a crucial element missing, and I have been tasked to solve the problem.”

As the words sunk in, she leaned back in her chair. “Allah forbid,” she whispered. “You want me to be a counselor for the League.”

Bruce leaned forward, perching once more on the end of the couch. “Something like that. You were brought to my attention due to your most recent article regarding the superhero ideal and how we cannot hold ourselves to their highlights when we only ever see them in their glory. You argued that many of our heroes would have to be suffering from PTSD, but the public would never see it.” He gave her a toothy smile that did nothing to calm her racing heart and unsettled nerves. “It was a fascinating read.”

Before she found her ability to reply, Bruce stood up. “I’ve left the non-disclosure agreement with your secretary. As for payment, if you provide satisfactory services, I’m willing to fund the non-profit you are attempting to get off the ground for an entire year.” He turned to leave. “If you are in agreement, I’ll expect you at Wayne Manor on Monday evening. If you are not, then this conversation never happened, or I have your license revoked for breaking patient client confidently.”

She blinked again, twisting the golden bangles encircling her wrists. Still she stood with him. “Are you threatening me, Mr. Wayne?”

“Of course not, Dr. Waqud.” He didn’t fumble once over the pronunciation of her foreign name. “I’m just stating facts.”

With that, he walked out of her office. Collapsing back in her chair, she continued to spin her golden bracelets as she thought over everything that had been revealed to her in the last fifteen minutes. She was not arrogant enough to think that she alone could help the entirety of the Justice League. That would require far more than she alone could offer, but the promise of getting her non-profit to support the Syrian refugees off the ground and running was too tempting to dismiss the notion out of hand. The current political climate did not encourage Americans to donate to a charity that was run by a Muslim female, even though the non-profit itself had designed to be completely secular in nature.

Dr. Waqud stared at the space on the couch Bruce Wayne had left. Possibilities circled in her brain. This could be a chance of a lifetime.