I had fun once and it was awful (visiblemarket) wrote in visiblefic,
I had fun once and it was awful
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Fic: Differential Diagnosis

Title: Differential Diagnosis
Fandom: Heroes
Characters: Claude, some OCs
Rating: PG13
Word Count: 3500+
Summary: Claude goes to therapy and achieves perfect mental health. At least part of that statement is true in relation to this fic. Really it's more "Claude gets a job and coworkers and some other stuff happens in a very limited scope".
Warnings: I got my degree in psychology from the joint universities of Fictional Media and Internet Research. So yeah. Maybe some inaccuracies there. Also discussions of what are most likely not appropriate psychiatric practices, but they're presented as such and occur offscreen.
A/N: I don't know what this is. Done, that's what this is. At the very least, I finished something, so hurrah me.



The room looks empty at first glance, and for a moment, he can’t believe his luck. And then he knocks, quietly, just in case, and there’s movement. A woman, about his age, maybe a little older, coming down from where she’d been standing on a couple of bookshelves.

“Oh, hey,” she says. “Sorry. Cobwebs.” She waves what looks like a dusting cloth at him, as if that explains anything, and sets her feet down on the floor. Her heels click lightly, and she pulls distractedly at her jacket, before putting out her hand. “Claude Rains?”

He takes it. “Yeah, that’s me. Dr. Reynolds?”

“You can call me Caroline, if you want. Can you close the door?”

He does. She rummages around through a pile of papers and notebooks on a large wooden desk and comes away with a legal pad and what appears to be a rather nice pen; red, with gold trim. Most likely a gift, given that the pantsuit she’s wearing is clean but obviously well used, and that she’s not wearing any kind of jewelry. The pad itself looks about the type you’d purchase in a hurry at a supermarket.

“Thank you,” she says, and gestures toward the low, faded green couch. “Please, go ahead.”

It’s obviously not a request. He sits. Rests his hands on his knees. “Just sit or—“

“However you’re comfortable.”

Sitting. He’s comfortable with sitting. Well, he’s comfortable with leaving, but stays seated. He watches her flip through the legal pad in her hand, then shake her head, put it down, and look for another. She finds one, along with a folder that looks much more familiar to him.

“All right, Mr. Rains,” she gives a brief smile, as she sits down and uncaps her pen. “We can…we can start with why you’re here, if that’s okay?”

He shrugs. Giving her as little as possible is his current plan. Not that he thinks it’s going to work, but it’s better than the alternative.

“Okay. So, why do you think you’re here?”

He considers giving a smart answer. He can tell she’s expecting it, and for that reason alone, he decides to be honest. “I’ve been told my ‘mental state’ needs to evaluated before I’m allowed in the field.”

“And you want to be in the field?”

“It’s part of the job.”

“So is deskwork.”

Claude snorts. “Right. Tell me, doctor, what does the fact that I’d rather be outside than fillin’ out forms in triplicate indicate? Paranoid schizophrenia?”

She jots something down and he tries to get at glimpse at what it is. “Too early to make that call.”

She’s taking the piss. She must be. Not that there’s much to indicate that, but she must be. She looks up at him. Tilts her head. “Is there a problem, Mr. Rains?”

“You tell me, doc.”

“Mm,” she nods, considering something. “Would you like a look at my notes?”

He blinks. “That a trick question? I say yes, you make a note of it, then lock ‘em tight at the end of the day?”

“Like that would stop you,” she says, mildly, and caps her pen before leaning over and handing him the notepad. He gives it a brief look, fully expecting code or handwriting that’s entirely illegible. There’s none of that, just preliminary facts, his age, position, couple of things he’s said. A string of words he recognizes from one of the Primatech files with a question mark following them, and that’s a bit of a surprise. He turns his eyes back to the doctor, who raises her eyebrows. “Enough?”

He shrugs. She takes the pad back and uncaps her pen. “You can feel free to ask to look at them again, at any time.”

“Brilliant. Can’t wait.”

“Mr. Rains, transparency is very important to this process.”

“Was that some sorta…joke?”

Her lips press together, very tightly, and there’s a light sound like a chuckle being suppressed. One certainly escapes him, and he leans back a little.

“Should we continue?” she says, and her voice is a little higher for a moment before it returns to the calm, even tone of before. He nods. “All right. Have you ever done something like this before? Therapy, or psychoanalysis, or…?”

“I…” he clears his throat and leans forward again, as he wonders just how much she actually knows. “Possibly.”

“Possibly?” her tone is amazingly mild, interested but not obscenely so. Probably a lot, then.

“When I was…well, when we brought someone in, someone considered to have agent potential, they usually got a psych eval.”

“And so you think you were…”

“I’ve seen my file.” And so have you, he doesn’t add.

“But you don’t remember the experience.”

“Don’t…remember a lot of the first coupla months.” He’s surprised he’s telling her as much, and she seems to be as well, but she covers it handily. She jots something down, and looks back up at him.

“Was that common? The amnesia?”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, presumably you brought in several individuals in your time.”

“Yes.”

“Would they have remembered the experiences?”

“Would we have done anythin’ to keep them from doin’ so, is what you’re askin’?”

“Would you have?”

Questions met with questions. It’s not exactly a surprise, but it’s not as infuriating as it could be, possibly because her interest comes off as something she’s reluctantly found necessary. He supposes they give training for that.

“Not to my knowledge.”

“All right,” she makes another note. Gives him another vague smile. “How old were you when you started at Primatech?”

“Started workin’? Twenty.”

“Young,” she says, and yet it still sounds like a question.

“Supp’se so. Didn’t really think about it.” Which is a lie, and he wonders if she can tell. She’s not quite inscrutable, but she appears to have a base state of cheerful curiosity that’s hard to see beyond.

“You specified ‘working’ before.”

“Did I?”

“Yes. You did. Why?”

“I was picked up before then. Trainin’, evaluations, all that, it takes—” he thinks he might’ve winced, and wonders if she notice. “Took a bit.”

“Mm,” she nods. “And that’s when you think you were…evaluated?”

He shrugs.

“All right,” she says, closing the pen she’s been using and flipping the notepad shut. “I have another question for you.”

“Shoot.”

“What do you think of the program?”

“Honestly?”

She nods encouragingly.

“Think it’s crap. Teams are a bloody stupid idea; gettin’ two people to trust each other’s hard enough, tryin’ to get that going between five, six people’s gonna be impossible. The team they’re tryin’ to put me on’s lead by a complete rookie whose most relevant experience is in bloody social work, and what, they’re trainin’ with bulletproof vests and riot gear? That’ll put people in a trustin’ mood.”

“And yet you still want to go out in the field with them.”

“They’re all bloody imbeciles, but they mean well. Don’t think they deserve to get killed over it, which’s what’s gonna happen, first time they go bumbling into a dangerous situation with their pretty little vests. This isn’t the FB bloody I.”

“Okay then,” she says, with another vague smile. “I think I have all I need.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes,” she nods. “Yes, I do.”

“What’s the verdict?”

“I…” she looks down as she taps her pen against her closed notepad. “I’m going to greenlight you for field work—“

“What, really?” he doesn’t bother to disguise his surprise.

“Conditionally.”

He stares at her, and then narrows his eyes. “Conditional on what?”

“I think you know what, Mr. Rains.” He thinks he does, too, and her frank look removes any doubt from his mind.

“This because I said the program’s absolute crap?”

“Yes. That’s exactly why. You hurt the agency’s feelings,” her tone is entirely dry. “And now I’m stuck with you once a week. Wednesdays okay? Around noon, so you can pretend you’re going to lunch?” He doesn’t answer, just stares at her. Doesn’t even bother to glower, and her smile is a little more smug this time. “See you then.”

*


“Hello, Mr. Rains.”

He gives her a nod and a tight-lipped smile, and she tilts her head. “We’re going with the silent route, then? Okay. Sit down.”

He does, on the couch. She settles on a chair next to him.

“I’ll tell you how this is going to go today, Mr. Rains. I’m going to explain why I think these sessions are necessary, and then I’m going to offer you a deal, and then you’re either going to chose to stay, or chose to leave. Either way, I’m not going to rescind your clearance.”

He shrugs.

“Okay. You know where I worked before this? A homeless shelter.”

“Wasn’t bloody—“

“You lived on the streets for seven years, Mr. Rains. Entirely unseen for the most of it, and entirely on your own. And now you’ve got a nine-to-five job, where you gotta follow a dress code, gotta deal with water cooler talk and teamwork and all kinds of stuff you’re not exactly used to. And you’re gonna do it, because you feel an obligation, and because you know the government needs you to do it. Which is the only reason they could get you down here the first time, ‘cause you knew they’d be letting you out no matter what evaluation I gave.”

“Suspected it, yeah,” he says, grudgingly, and she smiles. Friendly, warmly, much more honestly than anything he’s seen from her. He’d have preferred smug.

“I’m here to help, Mr. Rains. I care what you’re going through.”

“Nice thing about bureaucracy, that. They can hire someone to care ‘bout their faceless masses.”

“Hey, I get paid whether I see people or not. If you weren’t here, I’d be taking a nap on my couch right now.”

“Yeah?”

She shrugs.

“A bureaucrat didn’t make that arrangement.”

“No. I did. Know why?”

“So you could get people like me to trust you, by tellin’ us that. Same as the trick with your notes.”

“Exactly.”

He chuckles, and she seems surprised. “Wanna know somethin’ about me, Dr. Reynolds? About my experience with psychiatry?”

“You don’t believe in it.”

“’s not bloody Santa Claus, doctor. Doesn’t need to be believed in. But here’s how it worked back in the bad old days, right? We’d bring in some kid, sixteen, seventeen years old. Bloody terrified of what he could do, of who he was. The fact that nothin’ about the world made sense anymore. And then we’d sit ‘im down, next to some nice, posh bloke. Real soothin’ type, nice and calm. Give’m a couple of hours together, so they’d talk things through. Kid comes out, not quite all better, but gettin’ there. And we’d go in. Have a little chat with the doctor, find out just what he’d been jottin’ down in that nice little book of his.”

“Everything we talk about is confidential—“

“Yeah, he’d say that too. Builds someone’s trust, yeah? So we’d put it in the files. How to calm the rookie down. How to build him up, get him overconfident and fit and loyal. How to present an idea to him, keep him from fightin’ it too much. Just where he’d need to be hit, just how to keep him in line. Just what it’d take for him to snap, and you wouldn’t believe just how often we’d use that particular bit of intel. So yeah, I believe in psychiatry. ‘s not quite my problem with it, whether or not it works.”

“Mr. Rains.”

“Dr. Reynolds.”

“You’re here for a reason. Not here, in this office, not here, in this world. But in this building. You want to work here.”

“It’s better than the alternative.”

“You think it’s different from Primatech, because otherwise you wouldn’t be here. You’d rather have the alternative.” He shrugs, and she doesn’t seem bothered by his insolence. “But that difference, it’s not going to be easy to deal with. You know that already.”

They stare at each other for a minute, before Claude drops his gaze, drums the fingers of one hand against his knee, and sighs.

“Mentioned a deal, didn’t you?”

“I did,” she says, with another smile, encouraging this time. He just cocks his head and looks at her. Her smile doesn’t fade. “Give it four months. Don’t miss an appointment, at least try to listen to what I say, and then we’ll see where we are. If you want to stick with it, we will, and if not—“

“You’ll shake my hand and congratulate me for havin’ achieved perfect mental health?”

“Something like that.”

“Been told there is no such thing.”

“You’ve been told right.”

“Convenient, that. For people like you.”

She smiles again, sweetly. “You want to tell me about your goals for the next couple of weeks?”

“Not particularly,” he says, and slumps back on the couch.


*


He starts to not mind it so much, and that’s a danger sign. She’s just so mild, almost bland, and entirely impossible to get offended at. She asks questions, and for the most part, he answers them.

He wouldn’t, except that they’re entirely boring ones. How he’s doing at work. How he feels about how he’s doing at work. Nothing entirely revolutionary there, but she seems to find it fascinating.

He’s doing well, at work. Shirley’s…admittedly a better leader than he’d anticipated. He develops a theory as to why once he stops by her desk after she’s left, and has a good look around. Pictures of boys, four of them, in progressing states of development, from school pageants to graduation caps. No father in sight, at least not in any of the pictures.

The rest of the group’s decent enough as well. Jenna’s got a bit of a chip on her shoulder, Leon’s obviously in love with her, and Anthony’s as entirely mystified by the lot of them as he is, most days. He finds himself appreciating that, especially in the face of Gail, the youngest, who’s fresh out of university. Her high, breathy, up-turning words manage to drive Claude to contemplate murder almost daily, but then Tony’ll throw him a wry and dignified look from hooded eyes and he’ll smirk back and feel the killing urge subside a bit.

He tells Dr. Reynolds most of that. It’s something to say, and it’s not about him, and it seems to satisfy her curiosity.

“It’s a different dynamic,” he says, and she nods, and makes a note, as per usual. “I don’t…don’t especially trust ‘em with my life or anythin’ like that, but…”

“But they’re competent enough.”

“Suppose so, yeah.”

“Even with the Kevlar vests?” she says, and he looks to her to see if she’s having him on. She doesn’t seem to be.

“It’s a good enough idea, in some situations,” he grants. “Was right about them not rushin’ in like that, without havin’ done some legwork, but…’s a good enough idea.”

She makes an interested noise, and nods. “You know that I recommended the teams as opposed to partners, right?”

“I didn’t, no.” But it’d certainly explain her interest. Multitasking, dealing with him while checking up on her pet project, well, he might even respect her more for it.

“I did a study of a couple of Primatech partnerships, while they were setting up the department. I found that most cases ended up needing more than the two agents, and that working in teams from the start was more efficient. Plus it cut down on… intradepartmental secrecy and codependence.”

He’s not sure if he imagined the pointed look she tossed him during the pause, and he leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees.

“A couple of Primatech partnerships, eh?”

She looks down at her notes for a moment, and smiles a very small smile.

“Yes, you and Noah Bennet were part of that group.”

“You spoken to Bennet?”

“I have.”

“He a patient of yours?”

“You know I can’t tell you that, Claude.”

“’course not, Doc. But let me tell you. Between him and the team…I’d take the Mod Squad, any day o’ the week.”

She laughs, and he’s not entirely sure why. She flips a page in her pad, and asks him how he feels about his new flat. Badly, is the answer, and he leans back to give it.

*


“I’m not goin’,” he scoffs, and she just looks at him, steadily. He somehow feels compelled to explain, even though she hasn’t asked. “It’s a stupid idea. Most of us’re workin’ here anyway, if we wanted to all ‘get together and catch up’,” he attempts his best American accent, but based on her inability to stop the chuckle, he guess it hasn’t improved since the last time he’d tried it. “Then we would’ve bloody well done it already. Like it won’t turn into a sodding Truth and bloody Reconciliation Commission anyway. Christ, you Americans. Diggin’ up what’s best left long buried, just to see how rotten it’s got. I’ve no reason to go.”

He looks over at her. He’s not really sure why, but she doesn’t seem surprised.

“You want my advice?”

She’s never offered any before, and he’s curious enough to say yes.

“You should go. I went to my high school reunion a couple of weeks ago. I hated all those people, but seeing them now…I think it’s healthy.”

Healthy,” he sneers. “Healthy’ll put you out of business, Doc. You know that, right?”

She gives that bloody Mona Lisa smile and he feels somewhat compelled to tell her about the time he’d been drunk enough to bet Haram he could steal it. They’d been in Switzerland at the time, and it’d been two hours into a train trip to Nice before he’d sobered enough to realize it. He remembers the resulting phone call and the bloody trial it’d been to find enough change to make it, what with his utterly vicious hangover and the fact that it’s nearly impossible to stay invisible when your brain has decided to amplify every sound tenfold. More clearly than anything, which is strange because he hasn’t thought of it in years, he remembers his partner positively roaring with laughter at the other end of the line after he’d explained the situation.

He finds himself smiling, too, more than just a little. He doesn’t tell her why.

*


“I have a question for you.”

“I’m shocked, shocked to—.”

“Claude,” she says, tone stern but eyes at least marginally amused.

“Right. Question?”

“You weren’t recruited, were you? To the Department?”

“I wasn’t, no.”

“You volunteered.”

“That I did, Doc.”

“Why?”

He shrugs. “Better to be a part of somethin’ than run away from it. Than ignore it. Even if it all went to shit, at least I’d know about it first hand and wouldn’t be playin’ catch-up.”

“Do you think it’s all gonna go to shit?”

He hesitates, then shrugs again. “Don’t want it to. But then the Company didn’t start out where it ended, did it?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“Nah, ‘course not. You’ve just read the files about it. Done a couple of case studies. Completely ignorant of the whole thing.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Well then, Doc. What d’you think, is it all gonna go to shit?”

She looks down at her notes. Presses her lips together. Looks back up at him.

“I think you were misdiagnosed.”

“What, by you?”

“Not by me,” she gives him a look like he’s being intentionally difficult. “By whoever…at Primatech.”

“Do you, then?”

She nods.

“The…what was it, ‘avoidant personality disorder’, you think that was a misdiagnosis?”

“I do. You’re not shy, Claude. You’re not afraid of rejection. You don’t react especially badly to criticism. Maybe you have a couple of the symptoms now, but back then…I think whatever problems you had, they definitely exacerbated. Maybe they even did it intentionally. But you don’t have a personality disorder.”

“Coulda gotten better, since then.”

“Yes, you could have,” her tone is precise and meaningful, although hell if he knows what the meaning its full of actually is.

“That mean I’m free to go, then? Perfectly healthy?”

“Well, it’s been more than four months, Claude.”

“Has it?” he tries to sound surprised, but doesn’t think she buys it.

“It has.”

He considers that. Considers her, the office, the fact that while he’s going home to an empty flat tonight, it’ll be after a round of drinks with Tony, as has become a kind of tradition, Wednesday nights. An evening of talking very little and drinking enough, and maybe Shirley’ll come along this time, too. They’ve been working on her, on the assumption that she could use a couple of hours of companionable silence of her own.

He makes a decision. He’s not sure if he’s entirely proud of it, if it’s entirely wise, the decision he makes, but at least he makes it.

“Can I tell you ‘bout this dream I’ve been havin’, Doc?”

“Claude—“

“No, I’m serious about this one. Honest.”

“Oh, like the ducks?”

“I am always serious about ducks.”

“Oh, of course,” she says, uncapping her pen, and not even bothering to hide a smile. “So am I.”

“As you should be, Doc. Now, ‘bout this dream, right?”

“Mm-hm,” she says, and begins to write something down.

“Well, it starts of, right, and I’m a triangle…”

He keeps talking, she keeps listening, and that night, he goes out with Tony, and Shirley, and they don’t talk at all. When he goes home, pleasingly buzzed and dropped off by a shared taxi, it’s to an empty flat, but he doesn’t feel alone.


*
Tags: claude, fic, gen, heroes, pg13
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