<Three years, three god damn years,> Daisy couldn’t keep the frustration off her face while she reviewed her file at the DVA’s New York branch.
It was three years since her panic attack during Hurricane Sandy rendered her unconscious. The next day she was diagnosed with PTSD by a doctor that could have been her grandchild, and the psych failure resulted in her certification’s suspension. The next three years weren’t easy for her but she was woman enough to admit that was her own fault. To say she’d imploded would be an understatement. John and the Patriots covered for her with the press, saying she was taking a much deserved break. That was bullshit.
The first three months she’d done what the doctor’s ordered. She’d taken it easy, traveled, and seen the world. She was a wealthy woman, simple accumulation over time led to that, so she visited London, Paris, Rome, Beijing, etc. It was obviously fun, but it was still a vacation and she needed to get back to work.
Her psych failure when she returned hit her hard. Hard enough that she’d proceeded to destroying a large part of the testing room, incurring another red mark in her record. With nowhere new to go and nothing to do she rapidly broke down. She kept the drugs and one night stands to a minimum but her love for vodka flourished. John found her unconscious in an alley outside her apartment and immediately staged an intervention. She’d been arrogant enough to show up wasted, and she was a mean drunk. The meeting ended with her team storming out on her while she hurled insults after them. John stayed long enough to give her a sad glare and the information to a rehab facility upstate.
Given time she would have made up with her old team. She was more an acquaintance than friends with everyone except John, but they were the closest thing she had to a family. Sadly she never got the chance to apologize. An Armageddon Class Super rampaged through New York with some technological brilliance support and killed everyone but John. The legendary battle nearly killed her only friend, something she never thought possible. She saw him in the hospital once, smelling of booze and crying like a baby. She didn’t attend the funerals. The only thing she did was show up every few months to recertify, and every year she failed.
She’d hit rock bottom shortly after. She became a vagrant moving from place to place and drinking herself into a stupor every night. It was the only thing that dulled the pain and kept her from remembering. She couldn’t say how long passed before she pulled herself out of the muck and went to rehab. She got better quickly because it wasn’t the vodka that was the problem, it was her mind. She drank to forget; as long as she didn’t need to forget she didn’t need to drink.
She’d been out six months when she ran into her DVA appointed psychologist on the streets of New York. She was not having a good day. The previous night was full of dreams of death, so she started the day with three mimosas before decided to wander around. Stumbling into Dr. Johnson smelling of champagne didn’t help her case.
“My office, tomorrow, noon,” he’d been blunt before walking away.
So now she found herself sitting in the man’s pretentious office. Thick bookshelves of expensive wood ringed the walls, stuffed to the point of exploding into the center of the room. His desk was much larger than it needed to be and made of rich mahogany. He even had one of those honest to god stereotypical therapy chairs for his patient to lie down on. Admittedly she had a jaded view of the man, but he’d now failed her recertification a dozen consecutive times.
“Why am I here if all you are going to do is fail me again?” she had to use all her restraint not to throw the file back in his face.
“Why do you keep trying to recertify if you know you are going to fail?” his smug tone infuriated her.
“Fuck this I’m out of here!”
“Reaper, if you walk out that door right now you will never be a Hero again.” Her hand was on the knob, but no matter how much she wanted to call his bluff she couldn’t risk it. Being a Hero was everything to her, her entire reason for being.
“Thank you,” the Doctor calmly reopened the file as she retook her seat. “The fact of the matter is that you will not be a Hero until you get extensive psychological help and get your drinking under control.”
“My drinking isn’t a problem, Doc,” she rebutted. “Just give me some brain pills and I’ll be as right as rain.”
He smiled sadly at her, “I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that.”
“Then how does it work?” her growl was accompanied by the cracking of the plush chair’s armrests.
“Reaper…Daisy,” the use of her name startled her into calm. She didn’t know he was cleared for that information. “You need to be in a supporting environment doing what you love, but without putting any civilians in danger. Right now I cannot in good conscience certify you to protect civilians against criminal Supers. The chance of you losing control and hurting yourself or others is too great.”
Dr. Johnson was right, although her stubborn nature wouldn’t admit it. If she got overwhelmed like she did during Sandy then there was no telling how many people could get hurt. The still intact reputation of Reaper would be shattered and criminals would take it as an invitation to run wild. That would cause her to use extreme measures and the cycle of trauma and death would continue. She would give anything to be a hero again, but making the pain stop was a close second.
“What do you suggest,” her acquisition took the psychologist by surprise; this was the most progress they’d made.
“Well, the first course of action would be to see if Hallow…”
“I’m not taking a single favor from that mercenary son-of-a-bitch,” she spat, the taste of bile flooding her mouth. “It has to be something else.”
“I knew plan A was a bit of a long shot,” he smiled wryly, knowing her history with the renowned healer. “But you can’t blame a man for trying. Plan B is going to take more time than Hallow, and put more pressure on you.”
“I’ve been a Hero for almost fifty years I can handle a little pressure,” she felt a little insulted at her implied fragility. She might look like Barbie but she sure as hell wasn’t one.
“Very well. I’ve learned that West Private University is looking for an alternative instructor…”
“Oh fuck me,” Daisy interrupted burying her face in her palms. “Please don’t tell me I need to go babysit HCP candidates.”
“We like to think of it more as teaching and mentoring than babysitting,” the psychologist continued without missing a stride. “West is looking for an alternative instructor, and despite your recent inactivity you are still one of the most renowned names in Hero history. They would be happy to have you.”
She was glad he’d been gentle with her. Inactivity sounded so much better than homeless drunk. <Do I really have any other option?>
“No you don’t,” his reply sent her toppling off the chair.
“Are you kidding me!” she was on her feet pacing back and forth. “I’ve been meeting with you on and off for years and you’re a telepath. You could have made this whole process easier if you’d been upfront with me. You can read my thoughts, so why all the damn questions? How am I supposed to trust you as my psychologist if all you aren’t truthful!” she was winded by the end of her rant.
“Please sit,” the calmness in his voice was infuriating. Her kinetically amped punch shattered his stereotypical psychologist chair, but he didn’t even budge. Her breathing was ragged, she felt lightheaded and her chest was tight. “I need you to take deep breaths and calm your mind, Dasiy,” his voice was very serious now. “You’re on the verge of another episode. Think serene thoughts. Focus on something calming to stop the adrenaline response.” Slowly she pulled herself away from the precipice. She used memories of her few friends and the good times they’d spent together to center herself.
“Very good,” there was genuine joy in his tone this time. “It is a very good sign that you can step back and collect yourself.” He motioned to a traditional armchair in front of his obnoxious desk. “To answer your previous questions, I am not a telepath. I am an empath, so I can only feel your emotions not read your thoughts. Sometimes your emotions make it relatively easy to discern what you are thinking. As for asking these questions, they are necessary for your journey. I can’t give you the answer to everything or you’ll never learn and heal.”
“That…makes a lot of sense,” Daisy shook her head and grabbed a bottle of water from the small end table next to her chair. “So, this teaching gig?”
“Yes,” his eyes lit up at the reminder. “West would need you solely in the alternative instructor position. Currently their alternative instructor is also in charge of the Weapons discipline and is overextended. You would only be required to teach freshmen, which will leave you ample time for counseling.”
“Whoa, slow your roll there Johnson. Who said anything about counseling?” she held her arms up in a defensive position.
“You need a professional to work through all your emotions, and doing a session every few months isn’t going to make you better,” his frankness didn’t sit well with her. “Lucky for you my brother is the therapist at West, so I will be able to thoroughly fill him in on your case. And yes, before you ask he is also an empath.”
“So I see a shrink once a week…”
“Twice,” he corrected.
She rolled her eyes. “So I see a shrink twice a week and teach a bunch of baby Supers how to stay alive. I guess it’s not such a bad deal.”
“You’re missing an important aspect,” he held up a halting hand before grinning. “Have fun, socially interact with other Heroes, and get back to the Reaper we all know you can be.”
For the first time she shot him a genuine smile. “I’m sure they’re interviewing tons of people for this position. Why do you think I’ll get it? I’ve been inactive for three years.”
“Don’t worry about that,” this time his grin was practically conspiratory. “I’m sure the Dean won’t even need you to interview.”
His energy was infectious, so much so she wondered if it was part of his power. She returned his grin with an impish one of her own, which was truly frightening paired with her demonic eyes. “You sold me on it, Doc. When would I need to be there assuming I get it?”
“Monday,” he stated flatly; like getting from New York to Orlando, getting a place to stay, and preparing for the term was possible in two days. “Don’t worry,” his conspiratorial grin was back. “Heroes always find a way.”