Dick Grayson slumped on the bergere striped settee that Dr. Waqud ordered for her new therapy office at Wayne Manor. Bruce had given her a black American Express card and told her to order whatever she needed. When she had asked what the limit was, Bruce smirked at her and told her she wouldn’t hit it. It was a good thing too, because the room Bruce had provided for her was a disaster. She promptly ordered a fresh coat of a less daunting paint color and friendlier décor. The room now looked like a well-used living room. Well, assuming one had multiple security protocols to enter one’s living room. Paranoid didn’t even begin to describe billionaire Bruce Wayne.
Despite the ridiculous security measures, Dr. Waqud was satisfied with her work. She sat in a tan upholstered swivel arm chair that allowed her to turn from her desk, which faced the room’s large window, to the client area, where her current client sat with his forearms on his thighs and his hands dangling between his legs. Between them was a glass circular coffee table framed with the same wood that supported the settee. The table held a deep green vase with fresh cut lilies and the clipboard with the paperwork Dr. Waqud had given Dick a few minutes ago. He hadn’t spoken a word or moved his gaze since she had asked him to complete the Beck Depression Inventory.
If she were honest, she was surprised by Dick’s clear display of depressive behavior. Bruce had warned her that Dick had quickly and easily fooled his last therapist into believing that his retreat into self-destructive behaviors was a fluke based on high stress levels. A few coping mechanisms later and Dick had been cleared. That was not the teenager currently on her couch. Dick looked defeated.
“Dick, if you do not wish to fill the form out, we can return to it later,” she offered when Dick still hadn’t moved to pick the clipboard and pen up.
He flicked his eyes up at her briefly in response. She wasn’t overly concerned with the inventory; there should be another one on file once Dr. Leslie Thompkins released her files to Dr. Waqud.
“There are a few questions you’ll have to answer verbally though.” Dick didn’t twitch in reply. “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?”
“No.” The word was short, bitter, and angry.
She didn’t believe him, but she was also familiar with the tone of someone who felt like their entire world was people asking if they planned to attempt suicide. Still, there were several questions she had to ask in a professional capacity.
“Have you ever attempted suicide?”
“No.” Dick’s body tensed, and his hands moved to clenched fists at his sides. Despite the evident anger at the line of questioning, Dr. Waqud continued. She knew from Bruce that Dick was lying to her, but she didn’t blame him. There was no trust built up between them yet; nevertheless, the questions were a professional necessity.
“Okay, thanks for answering those,” she said with her calm counselor voice. Dick wasn’t going to talk to her until a level of trust had been established. “Why don’t you tell me a bit about yourself?”
Dick gave a huff of laughter. “I’m sure Bruce told you all about me.”
Yes, Bruce had. Bruce had offered a range of details from Dick’s fighting style to Dick’s preferred breakfast. It was endearing really. Bruce had complied a list of everything he could think of that may have affected Dick’s mental state including a document on the most traumatic missions, and he also included a list of his son’s tells that he had begun to compile. Behaviors, he argued, that meant Dick was about to slip into self-destructive behavior. It was quite clear to Dr. Waqud that Bruce sincerely desired to help his son, but he also had no idea how to do it.
“This isn’t about Bruce. This is about you, Dick. I want to know what is important to you.”
Dick shrugged. “My parents fell to their deaths when I was nine because I didn’t stop Zucco, and then I became the world’s youngest superhero.”
Fatima made a note of Dick’s guilt at the death of his parents. “But what about you now? What do you enjoy doing?”
Dick shrugged again.
“What brings you joy?” Dr. Waqud persisted.
Dick offered another fake laugh. “Nothing.”
“How long have you felt that way?”
He didn’t answer.
“More than six months?”
His response was quiet, barely a whisper. “Yeah.”
“More than a year?”
Dick hunched further into himself, but his answer was evident in the silence.
“Okay,” she began, leaning forward in her chair. “My job is to help you feel better, but I will need your help.”
“What’s the point?” Dick mumbled into his feet.
“Dick, do you want to feel like this for the rest of your life?”
The answer was sullen. “No.”
“Your way hasn’t worked. Are you willing to try something else? If it doesn’t work, what have you lost?” She argued. It wouldn’t matter how good she was at therapy if Dick didn’t cooperate, he couldn’t move forward.
He shrugged in response.
Well, that was probably the best she was going to get for now. She barely restrained from twirling her golden bangles on her wrist. It was a nervous tick that she wouldn’t allow in a professional capacity. “Okay. Well, let’s talk about last night,” she said softly.
Dick immediately tensed.
“What happened last night?”
The dark-haired boy finally looked up, a bitter expression on his face. “Can we stop pretending Bruce didn’t already fill you in?”
“Bruce isn’t in this room,” she reiterated, determined to keep her growing annoyance out of her voice. “I want to know what happened from your perspective. Why did you go out last night?”
Dick gave her a skeptical look but ultimately decided to test her. How she handled this next dialogue would set the tone for future sessions. She would have to tread carefully.
“Because Harley Quinn deserves better.” His answer was short and to the point as if the answer was obvious.
“What do you mean?”
Shifting his posture, Dick leaned forward. “What do you know about Harley?”
Dr. Waqud thought about the facts she knew about the crazy women. Mostly, Dr. Quinzel was a horror story among therapists. No self-respecting therapist willingly worked for Arkham Asylum anymore. “She used to be a therapist, but she joined the Joker.”
“Yeah, but why did she join the Joker? No one knows what happened in those therapy sessions because the footage was deleted,” Dick argued. For the first time since he entered the room, there was an energy around him. “The Joker is – was sadistic, abusive, and manipulative. Anyone who was locked in a room with him by themselves for such extended periods of time...” Dick shook his head. “She didn’t stand a chance.”
Dr. Waqud blinked and then blinked again. “You wanted to save Harley Quinn.” That was unbelievable. Whose first thought to a criminal mastermind, who had hurt them and their family, was this person deserves to be saved?
Dick shrugged again, energy vanishing as quickly as it came. “It’s the least I could do. I did kill her boyfriend.”
She wouldn’t let this stand. “All evidence suggested that the Joker pushed you off that ledge. His death was his own fault.”
“I was going to kill him,” he insisted.
Dick didn’t answer her. It was something they would have to continue to work on. She decided to change topics.
“Why did you go out without any armor?”
“Because my suit was locked up, and no one was listening to me,” Dick growled. “If I were trying to kill myself, I would have jumped off Wayne Tower.”
Dr. Waqud bit back a small smile. Gotcha. “So you’ve thought about jumping off of Wayne Tower?”
Dick paled. “It’s not like that. I wouldn’t.” The words were desperate and fearful. He needed her to believe him.
“I believe you,” she told him softly, trying to calm him. “But I still think it would be a good idea to develop a safety plan.”
“I don’t need one.”
“Dick, can you honestly tell me that if something happened to someone you loved you wouldn’t consider jumping?”
“Nothing is going to happen to them,” Dick said with fierce determination.
“I know, but just in case. It pays to be prepared, right?” She argued.
Dick nodded in defeat, clearly not excited about the prospect. For the rest of their session, Dr. Waqud helped Dick form and plan the beginnings of a safety plan. By the end, she was satisfied with the sketch they created, but she wasn’t confident Dick would call anyone on his list if he did start feeling suicidal.
Her next session was a surprise. Well, her next 3 sessions were a surprise. She had agreed to counsel Bruce’s son. Now there was a son back from the dead, a neighbor, and a nearly silent girl Bruce found on the streets. Astaghfirullah, Bruce certainly had a complex.
Her thoughts were distracted as Jason Todd strutted into the room. Only for him to freeze and do a double take.
“Holy sh- you’re a Muslim?!” He exclaimed.
She ran a finger around the edge of her brown and yellow striped hijab. “Is that going to be a problem?”
Jason looked indignant. “No. I’m not,” he stumbled with his words. “Look, I know every idiot who says they’re not prejudiced is probably hiding from the systematic injustices they benefit from. But I’m not. You surprised me. Everyone knows Bruce hates religion.” He sat down on the couch with a glare and crossed his arms.
“Interesting. I didn’t know that,” she replied. “I only spoke with him briefly, but I was under the impression that Alfred was a devout Christian.”
“Alfred is Alfred,” Jason stated as if it explained everything. When it was clear she didn’t understand, he elaborated. “No one tells Alfred what to do. Besides, I’m pretty sure Alfred’s been going to that church since before Bruce was born. I think Dick went with him once or twice to an Easter service or maybe it was Christmas.”
“And yet, you are convinced Bruce hates religion,” she stated.
“Because he does,” Jason argued right back. “Whenever Alfred brings God up, he gets this tight pinched expression like he’s been constipated for the last week.” That was an image Fatima didn’t need. “When Dick went with Alfred, he was thunderous. I thought Bruce was going to start punching civilians. Come to think of it, Dick may have gone just to piss Bruce off.” Jason unwound his arms from his chest and shrugged. “I don’t remember it real well.”
There was a lot in that speech to unpack, but since Bruce hadn’t treated her with prejudice, she decided to focus on the most pressing concern. “Have you had trouble with your memory since you came back to life?”
And Astaghfirullah, that was not a sentence she had ever expected to say. Na'udzubillah, at first she had thought that her initial assumption of Bruce Wayne being a closeted insane person had proven correct. People didn’t just raise from the dead. He knew the man had missed his son but claiming a resurrected son was far too close to the dangerous waters of insanity and far from reality. She hadn’t believed him until she saw the DNA results herself. Then she praised Allah. Clearly, Allah had great plans for Jason Todd, and it was an honor to be included.
Jason squirmed on the couch, making him look significantly younger than the tall, muscular man who strolled into her room. “Look, I’m fine. I’m not crazy. I’m only here because Dick said he wouldn’t see you unless I also started therapy.”
Dr. Waqud hadn’t been told that and normally she wouldn’t offer counseling to someone who didn’t agree to be there, but Jason was a special case. “You must love your brother a lot to agree to those terms,” she stated.
“Don’t read too much into it. I just don’t want him to end up dead.” Jason crossed his arms again and glared off to the side.
“Well, what would you like to talk about?” She asked, forcing cheer into her tone.
Jason turned back and eyed her skeptically.
“If we are going to sit here for an hour, we might as well discuss something.” She needed Jason to open up and unlike Dick, he didn’t have any known pressing concerns. Of course, there was the obvious trauma of his death and resurrection, but Dr. Waqud doubted Jason would be willing to consider the matter during their first appointment.
“How was Dick’s session?”
“Doctor patient confidentiality prohibits me from speaking about Dick’s or anyone else’s treatment to another party.”
Daddy issues didn’t even scratch the surface of the boys’ preoccupation with Bruce’s surveillance. Perhaps, she would need to speak with Bruce about giving his sons room to breathe. “Dick is 19, and therefore a legal adult. It is no more Bruce’s business than it is yours what he and I discuss.”
“Oh great,” Jason grumbled. “Because I’m 17, Bruce gets full access to our conversations. Pass.”
“That isn’t what I said. Only if there’s something of a concern like if you were planning on hurting yourself or someone else would I have to speak to your father about it.” It had only been a few minutes, but she could already tell dealing with Jason would be headache inducing. Whereas getting Dick to speak was like working with a kinked hose, she had to work the kinks out before he would speak. Jason was very argumentative.
Jason tensed at the word father but pushed passed his unease. “Dick’s the suicidal one, not me. And I’m not going to hurt anyone else, so there’s no reason for Bruce to be involved with any of this.”
“Of course not,” she agreed easily. “I take patient confidentiality seriously.”
Appeased, Jason gave a stiff nod. Even if his face still held a skeptical frown.
“Now that we got that out of the way. What would you like to discuss?”
Jason stared at her for a few moments before asking. “What do you know about amnesia?”
“Are you having difficulties with your memory?” She asked again.
“I didn’t say that. You asked for a topic. I chose amnesia. Like those terrible soap operas where a character gets amnesia and ends up sleeping with his best friend’s wife or something. How likely is that to happen?”
Dr. Waqud knew when it was better to simply play along. “Memory loss isn’t my field or specialty, but total amnesia is very rare. Most amnesic patients recover part if not all of their memories.”
“What helps someone recover memories?” He asked, aiming for nonchalant, but she heard the eagerness in his tone.
“I’m not familiar with the latest research, but it has long been believed that familiar stimuli can help a brain remember,” she replied.
Jason nodded, a look of contemplation on his face. “Is there a way to create localized amnesia?”
She didn’t bother asking if there was something Jason wanted to forget. Instead, she replied to the question, “I believe people have been asking that question for years. It’s why alcohol sales never falter.”
“Don’t let Bruce hear you say that. He thinks alcohol is the son of the devil,” Jason explained.
The rest of Jason’s hour continued in the same vein. Jason asked ‘theoretical’ questions about memory loss, the concepts of guilt versus shame, and the ethical issues surrounding the death penalty. Through the conversation, she learned that Jason was struggling with his memory and a deep struggle over the death penalty, but he didn’t want anyone to know of his struggles.
At the end of the conversation, Jason stood up and smirked. “This wasn’t half bad, Doc. I’ll send the replacement in.”
Before her newest client walked in, Alfred came into the room with a silver tea tray with biscuits and a pot of tea. “I took the liberty of making you cardamom, ma’am. I apologize for Master Bruce. He forgets that most people do not plow through work with a single-minded determination without the need for a break.”
Dr. Waqud smiled. Alfred Pennyworth was a treasure. “Thank you.”
He nodded his head in reply. “I’ll distract, Master Timothy for a few moments, to allow you a break.”
He left the room before she could thank him. She couldn’t help it. She really liked Alfred. Perhaps, she was beginning to understand what Jason meant. Alfred was Alfred.
The last two hours had been heavy. There was much to digest and dissect, but for now, she cleared her mind and breathed in the familiar scent of the black tea.
All too soon, Timothy, Bruce’s neighbor, of all things, slinked into the room. Timothy immediately sat on the couch. He was a tiny teenager. If Bruce hadn’t informed him of Tim’s age, she wouldn’t have believed he was past 12.
“I’m Dr. Waqud. You must be Timothy,” she greeted.
“Tim,” he corrected.
“Nice to meet you, Tim.” She smiled. “How can I help you?”
Tim studied her. “Let’s not pretend that Bruce hasn’t already told you about the recent deaths of my parents. I’m assuming he also informed you that I was given a choice between speaking with you and speaking with Canary.”
It was vaguely irritating to have to keep repeating to Bruce’s children that therapy was about them and not Bruce. She would have to have a conversation with the billionaire.
“I’m here for you, not Bruce,” she stated.
Tim stared at her, a clear expression of judgment. “I know that, but I’d rather not waste time discussing things we both already know. We only have an hour.”
“Are you in a hurry?”
He was silent as he stared at the floor for several moments. “I need to be okay. I need to be stronger.”
Tim didn’t look up. “Dick’s depressed. Jason’s clearly lying about his mental state, and the only reason Bruce hasn’t noticed because he’s consumed by his worry about Dick. Never mind the fact, that Bruce is trying to pretend like Jason’s first few weeks back didn’t happen. They need someone who’s functional to help them.”
“And who said you needed to be the one who helps them?”
Tim’s head popped up. “I have to.”
“Because I have to,” Tim argued.
“That’s not an answer, Tim. I need you to tell me why you have to be the one who helps them,” Dr. Waqud pressed.
“Because if I don’t, what’s the point?”
“What’s the point of what?”
Tim shook his head and refused to answer her question. She could see the beginning of tears forming in the corner of his eyes.
He cleared his throat. “I think I’m going to speak with Canary. Thank you for your time.” He stood up to leave. He paused at the door when she called to him.
“That’s your choice, but Tim, if you can’t face the answer to that question, you will not heal,” she told him.
Tim gave a hesitant nod and left the room. Dr. Waqud thought she’d have the next forty minutes to make notes for Jason and Dick and brainstorm how to best convince Bruce that he needed therapy as much as his sons. However, less than five minutes later Cassandra Cain slunk into the room. At first, Fatima hadn’t even heard her enter. One second no one was in the room. The next Cassandra was on the couch.
The girl’s eyes were big, and she kept surveilling the room as if she were waiting for someone to jump out and attack her. Bruce had informed Dr. Waqud that he suspected Cassandra had been physically abused. She understood his suspicions. Most teenagers didn’t have the wary sense about them that Cassandra exhibited.
“Hello Cassandra,” she greeted. “I’m Dr. Waqud.” She stuck out her hand for a handshake.
Cassandra stared at it and turned her head like an owl. “Cass,” she stated.
Fatima dropped her hand. According to Bruce, Cass had difficulties with her speech. Dr. Waqud had explained to the man more than once that she wasn’t a speech therapist. Bruce, she suspected, had some sort of listening disorder because he ignored her hesitance completely. Since Cass didn’t speak much, Dr. Waqud thought she try art therapy with her. She was also not an art therapist but trying to explain to Bruce that he would need someone else fell on deaf ears. There was a limit to how many people he was willing to know about Batman, and he had already exceeded it with her.
Handing a set of color pencils and a blank sketch pad to the girl, Dr. Waqud asked her to draw a self-portrait. Cass blinked at her in confusion. Deciding that it may be best to start simpler, she tried asking the child to draw what she felt. Cass nodded and began scribbling away on the paper.
Five minutes later, she held up her drawing proudly. It was a large black oval with two legs(?) protruding out of it. It looked a bit like a two-legged black cat (maybe?). Dr. Waqud had no idea what type of emotion it was supposed to represent.
“Can you explain your drawing to me?”
Cass looked at the drawing and back to her therapist. “Bat,” she said.
“Bat?” Fatima repeated. She had to bite down on her desire to inform the girl that bat was not an emotion. “What does bat mean to you?”
Cass stared at her for a moment. “Safe.”
“You feel safe with Bruce?”
“Were you not safe before?” Dr. Waqud questioned.
Cass pulled her legs up onto the chair and hugged her knees to her chest. She refused to answer, but it was answer enough. Dr. Waqud attempted to get Cassandra to draw another picture, but Cass refused. Fatima closed her eyes for a few seconds to collect her thoughts. When she opened them, Cassandra was gone. She hadn’t even heard the door open or shut.
Fatima rested her elbows on the arms of her chair and rubbed circles around her temples. She had a lot of work cut out for her. This was a much bigger job that Bruce had originally suggested. While she felt confident that she’d eventually be able to help Dick with his depression, and she knew she and Jason would make progress, she couldn’t help but be glad that Tim had decided to see the other therapist. Maybe, Cassandra would as well. With research and time, Dr. Waqud might be able to help the girl, but she was not trained, nor did she have the tools to help Cassandra at the moment. It would be highly more effective if Bruce hired a trained speech therapist.
Quite frankly, there was a lot she needed to speak with Bruce about including the fact that none of his children felt like they had any form of privacy. However, she was not sure she would have any more success getting Bruce to listen than she did earlier. Perhaps, Alfred would have some ideas.