Author: Javanyet PM
A new psych evaluation program at the precinct has Nick very very nervous. Cold-shower alert in the final chapter.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Supernatural - Chapters: 8 - Words: 21,931 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 12-02-06 - Published: 08-19-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3113339
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"New task force."
"Some dumbass new testing regulations."
"Maybe she got promoted and we're getting a new captain."
"Great, I just finished breaking her in."
Finally Nick had to laugh at his partner. The roll call meeting called by Captain Cohen had raised no end of rumor and speculation, all of it based on other rumor and speculation, some reaching back before Nick and Schanke had even arrived in the precinct. Nick and Schanke were settled in the rear corner of the room, swapping assumptions as the other detectives assembled and engaged in the same activity. By the time Natalie arrived and sat next to Nick, the air was thick with a hybrid of expectations.
"I heard they're shutting us down because business is off," Natalie offered brightly.
Schanke smirked as he inhaled his second donut. "You heard that from a bunch of stiffs? They're just trying to get your hopes up."
Nick peered around his companions so he could the hallway outside. "Well she's coming out of her office now, let's just wait and see what she has to say."
Natalie gave him a poke in the arm. "You're no fun at all, are you?"
"Someone at home would disagree," Nick punctuated the statement with a sly smile and an arched eyebrow.
Now Natalie pinched him, hard.
"Boo hoo, see if 'someone at home' can make it all better, wise guy."
Captain Cohen and an attractive brunette walked took their places at the front of the room. Cohen waited patiently for a moment or two as the those assembled continued to buzz with conversation, then loudly cleared her throat. Silence.
"Thanks to all of you who came in on your off time for this meeting, it won't take long. I want you all to meet Angela Johnson." She indicated the woman on her left, who nodded and smiled in acknowledgment. "Dr. Johnson's a psychologist who specializes in job-related issues." Now, confused/curious silence. "Command is launching a new program aimed at keeping on top of any stress-related problems that might arise with our officers in the field. A particular focus, initially at least, will be in the areas of homicide and sex crimes. Ours is one of several homicide units in the city to be selected for the pilot portion of the program. The first step will be to establish an intake file on all field personnel, to provide a baseline for future reference. Dr. Johnson will be interviewing each of you according to a schedule that will be posted by tomorrow on the bulletin board here."
Schanke raised his hand and asked, "But Captain, don't we already have a company shrink? We all filled out those million-page evaluations last year. And every time somebody fires a weapon we get interviewed, and if we're into a really ugly case we can request a sit-down about it."
Now Angela Johnson spoke. "Yes, detective, but we all know not everyone is forthcoming about their difficulties. Especially in your little corner of police work, there's a tendency to be 'okay', and just push aside the effects the job might be having on you. This new program is intended to take the decision out of your hands, a sort of end-run around denial. Which you well know in your job can be a terminal affliction. We're going to develop a more hands-on approach, to keep an eye on things a written evaluation just can't address."
"Not that any of you would have that problem," Cohen added somewhat sardonically, "but think of it as taking one more responsibility off your plate."
Nick shifted uneasily in his chair and Natalie cut a look at him. He'd never taken advantage of the "company shrink" for obvious reasons, and on the very few occasions he'd had to shoot anyone he'd been able to submit an evaluation from a member of the Community whose "mortal job" was as a licensed social worker and psychotherapist. Night appointments available, of course. Apparently that avenue of avoidance had just been eliminated. Already the wheels in Nick's head were turning rapidly, organizing logical objections and failing that, a plausible psychological profile. Maybe Brinkmeyer, his up-til-now ringer, could help him with that. Either way it was going to be a rough ride.
Dr. Johnson took the floor to elaborate a bit on the planned interviews. "As Captain Cohen mentioned, I'll be conducting intake interviews with each of you. We're not trying to pry into your personal lives or hunt for weak links in the department. This will simply give you all a baseline file to compare against any future evaluations, which at this point are planned to be conducted routinely once a year at the same time as your performance review. While it's not a standardized test the interview will address the same issues with everyone, only what you tell me will differ." She paused to scan the room for reaction. "I see a lot of doubtful faces out there. Let me assure you that this is a two-way street. It's a chance for you to let someone know what's giving you trouble at work and how you think it can be minimized."
"Well if you learn how to minimize murder, that would be a plus," Natalie quipped.
The doctor laughed. "I'd love to be able to put you all in a new line of work. But for now, we're just going to try to make the one you have easier for you, and easier for you to do better. Captain Cohen has a generous supply of my cards. If you have any particular questions or concerns please feel free to contact me; for the next six months I belong to you. "
"I'd be careful who you say that to," Schanke cracked. The doctor and Captain Cohen both raised eyebrows. "Not me!" Schanke waved his left hand in self defense, "I'm a happily married man! I meant some of the less socially sensitive types that work here." His colleagues glared at him as one. "Uh, never mind."
Nick leaned over to whisper, "Smart move. Quit while you're behind."
"So how you gonna handle this?" Natalie asked Nick when they'd walked down the hall, out of earshot of the others.
"I have no idea yet."
"Well it's not like your cognition is so different, I mean aside from your highly attuned senses and hypnotic talents it functions pretty much like everyone else's. And you internalize all the baggage of your experiences pretty much the same was as anyone else, don't you?"
Nick made a face. "Except my 'baggage' is older than Methuselah. And my formative experiences are somewhat out of the ordinary."
Natalie nodded, getting his drift. "And most people's fight or flight response doesn't include fangs."
"Or actual flight."
"I see your point."
"All manner of reactions and memories are triggered by therapy, Nat, and any adequate therapist can see when that's happening. Something tells me that Dr. Johnson is much more than adequate."
"I wish I knew what to tell you. At least I'm the only other one here that knows about you, and I'm not part of the project because I work in the lab."
"Thanks for the reassurance but as silver linings go that's not exactly blinding." Unease was beginning to segue into genuine distress.
"Well it's not as if she's going to be using truth serum, Nick. And she'll be talking to everyone about their work."
"And our relationships with our colleagues. And relationships outside of work. You know it's all part of the picture, or they wouldn't bother with those spouse support groups." To which Maura pointedly did not belong. Why bother when your man can't be killed in the line of duty? At least that's what Maura always said, brushing aside any other supports the group might offer.
Just then Schanke arrived to interrupt the uncertainty with his own kvetching. "Not enough we get shot at, lied to, and led on wild goose chases all over the city trying to clean up after man's inhumanity to man, but now we gotta get shrunk. When I tell Myra she's gonna give me twenty pages of reference notes to fill in the home life picture. At least you have a nice uncomplicated happy life outside of 'our little corner of police work'."
Nick shot a look at Natalie that was half irony, half fear. "Yeah, Schank, lucky me."
Maura was poring over classified ad email responses at the dining room table. Vargo had decided to move on from Raven, and word of the available position had gone out in the Community, which was no big deal, and in an ad in the Sun that was giving Maura fits because there was no way of knowing if the ad responses were from "fellow travelers" or mortals. It wasn't as if she could slip the question into the interview. "Bud or O positive?" Maura muttered under her breath as she tried to interpret telling information such as former home addresses (Eastern Europe might sound stereotypical, but it was a giveaway) and employment history. Janette was trying to take advantage of the computer age. Tackling Human Resources was a heightened challenge when the immortals wouldn't identify themselves in the online messages forwarded by the paper to Raven's computer, and the mortals couldn't be informed of the nature of some of their coworkers (and customers). She wondered idly if vampire computer cookies were coded differently. Maybe Aristotle would know.
"Huh?" She barely raised her head to acknowledge Nick's question. In addition to the hell of selecting a replacement, she was cursing Vargo's departure because he was her most reliable "enforcer", you should pardon the expression.
Nick was lounging on the sofa, sipping his evening meal. "I said, how would you characterize our relationship?"
Maura looked up from the too-small print in front of her to stare at Nick as if he'd asked her "Do these pants make my butt look big?" Her voice betrayed utter confusion. "Where the hell did that come from?"
"Answer the question first." He didn't want to trigger her hatred of psychobabble, which would of course lead to an uninterrupted diatribe laced with satirical shrinkspeak.
"Well, I guess, uh…" she was lost. "It just is what it is, I guess. We cross the mortal divide, our circle of friends and family would raise Charles Addams from the grave with pen in hand." She could see from the look on his face he wasn't amused, so she tried to be more analytical. "We live together and support each other's neuroses, we love each other, we have sex in ways that Kinsey couldn't have hallucinated on acid…"
Nick stopped her before she went on a real roll. "I can see this is a wasted question."
Maura abandoned her work (gratefully, as it happened) and planted herself next to Nick on the sofa. "Well what do you want to hear, anyway? Have you been watching Oprah or what?" she demanded.
Nick doubled over in the crash position, arms locked over his head and growled in exasperation. "Just once," he grumbled, "just once can you give me a straight answer to a question? Just for variety?"
Maura leaned down to peek between his knees at him. "Well maybe there's your answer. Maybe our relationship is a futile attempt at nonstop standup to counteract our annoying jobs. Which might succeed by the way, if you'd only loosen up a little more." After going blind playing "Vampire…not a vampire" for the past couple of hours she was not in the mood to be serious for another moment. Nick sat up and regarded her with something resembling desperation.
"You're loose enough for both of us and our extended Addams Family. I just asked a question, Sweet, would it kill you to answer it?"
Now Maura groaned in frustration. Of all the people to ask a navel-gazing question of… well she supposed she'd be the one he'd ask this particular one. "I'm sorry, Bats, this is so out of left field I guess it must be really important for some reason you're about to explain to me…" she looked hopefully at him, "right?"
He explained. The program, the purpose, and his enormous trepidation.
"Oh swell, they're gonna get you 'in touch with yourself'. Shit, isn't it enough you get slapped around by the job, now you gotta analyze every slap." She stopped herself when she noticed the look on Nick's face. Now wasn't the time for one of her anti-psych speeches. She sighed, and offered, " Well I suppose you could just focus on the same stuff anyone else would… I mean we have the same shit to deal with as anyone else at the end of the day. All that living together stuff like shitty moods, not bringing work home, how much to share, whether or not to just try and dump it outside and create a little oasis of denial here. And all that love and trust shit that gets beat senseless by dealing with posers and freaks and…" she felt herself spinning off on her own job.
"Traumatic blood loss…" Nick interjected to disrupt her tangent.
"Ha, ha. You know what I mean."
"Yeah, but everything connects to something else, doesn't it?" He sighed. "I guess I'll come up with something."
Maura thought for a moment, then shrugged. "Well here's a thought. How about the truth?"
Nick glared at her. "Now you're not funny at all."
"I'm not joking. You're a smart guy, you can dance around the delicate details." He didn't look convinced, so she slid closer and put her arms around him. "Bats, your whole existence has required a certain, ah, gift for euphemism. It's not lying, it's a matter of definition. Instead of saying 'I drink Maura's blood when we're doing it' you say 'our love life is a bit exotic'. Somehow I think the tiny details aren't what's important anyway." He looked uncertain, so she took him by the shoulders and shook him. "You worry too much. They're not gonna want a verbal videotape of la vida Nick, okay? And to answer your question," she kissed his ear, "I'd characterize our relationship as just right." Maura could feel Nick relax a little, and getting even a tentative smile out of him was a great relief. This really was tying him in knots, she realized. He slouched down a bit and laid his head on her shoulder, eyes sliding shut as she ran slow fingers through his hair.
"Y'know," she mused, "it might not be such a bad thing, really. You've always struggled with the same sorts of things for centuries, maybe now's your chance to look at them in some clear sort of way, not just beating your head against them."
"I can't exactly tell her that I'm trying to undo 800 years of vampire transgressions and their emotional reverberations."
"Seven hundred," she corrected. "And it's the transgression part that's important, and the reverberations, the guilt trips and obsession with making it up, those are what's gotten in your way. And ours, sometimes. Millions of garden-variety beer-swilling mortals encounter the same shit. You'll figure out a way to make this work. And you know you can bring the 'leftovers' home to me."
Nick was lying across her lap now, smiling a bit more. "Well either way I'm gonna be dragged down my 'personal highway' as the new age types call it…"
"Think of it as a 'guided tour of your inner landscape'."
"Not bad. Maybe you should set up a practice."
"You couldn't afford me. You're way too fucked up." Rewarded with a scowl, she left Nick for a moment and returned with a stack of her email printouts. "Now tell me if you recognize any of these names…"
Nick shifted this way and that, trying to get comfortable in what under ordinary conditions would be a very comfortable chair. Suddenly aware of his fidgeting, he forced himself to settle in one position.
"Sorry. This is uncharted territory for me. I'm not what you'd call effusive with strangers."
"Well you're in the same boat as everyone else, if that's any help. I've found police officers in general and homicide detectives in particular tend to keep their own counsel or limit the range of their 'sharing', to use a worn-out cliché." Noticing Nick's appreciation of that comment, she added, "I don't deal in psychobabble, detective. This is going to be as down-to-earth and practical as you didn't imagine it would be. That's why they hired me and not some Yellow Pages shrink. Your commanders downtown knew that would be a waste of time and budget, considering the clientele."
Loosening just a tad, Nick had to laugh in acknowledgment of that truth. "Yeah, nobody can 'affect manage' like a detective."
Dr. Johnson looked up from scanning his personnel file. "So, detective,"
"Nick. Just Nick."
"Just Angela, then." Nick was privately grateful she didn't use Maura's occasional nickname for him. Angela leaned over and extended her hand, shaking Nick's firmly. "Nice to meet you Nick. I'm going to make this as painless as possible for everyone."
"You were about to say…"
"Yes." She began to recite the facts and figures. "You've been with Metro for six years, ten months here in this precinct. All with the same partner. Citations from the city, commendations for bravery and extraordinary duty, just three suspects killed in the line of duty. Never been seriously injured in the line of duty… seven languages." That obviously impressed her. "Degrees from…" she trailed off as she ran through his history prior to Toronto. "Well you know all of this already."
Only recently, Nick admitted silently. Aristotle had done well by him.
"You've never spoken to the department counselor," she noted, now looking Nick in the eye.
He shrugged. "Never felt the need, I guess. Had a private therapist do my post-shoot evaluations."
"So I see. 'Detective Knight displays no residual emotional issues aside from those considered typical for someone in his profession.'" She closed the file and was silent for a moment. "Everything here indicates you're a very good cop, and a very well adjusted one. No disciplinary hearings except for a few procedural issues. You've occasionally 'gone your own way'…"
"It's hard for me to take 'let it go' for an answer when I'm convinced otherwise."
"You also seem to have volunteered for many of the most dangerous cases and reported for some very hazardous calls when you were off duty."
"I'm a cop. That doesn't stop when the shift's over."
She considered this. "To be honest, that could be considered a bit reckless or self-destructive, going out of the way to put yourself into harm's way. Could be, if you'd ever been wounded in the line of duty."
Nick didn't know how to respond. "I'm not suicidal if that's what you're getting at."
"But there are often other reasons for jumping in where others fear to tread." She stopped there. "Well those are things for a later time. You weren't always a homicide detective, were you?"
"No. In the UK I was a regular beat cop. It was my partner who got me interested in homicide, he was doing some additional duty investigating a series of related murders. I guess I was just attracted by the puzzle of it all."
"Well as you work a case and get closer to 'whodunit', you learn more and more about what it was in the killer that made him, or her, choose to kill. The more cases you work over time, the more you see the choices fall into certain categories. At first it seemed random but after awhile they started to resemble each other."
"That's interesting… what did you discover?"
"Probably what you know already, people kill for greed, jealousy, revenge. But I found the most common denominator to be control." He answered her questioning look. "Not control in an egotistical sense, but in the sense that most people see themselves as having only the most tenuous control over their lives and how they're affected. It's all a mess of variables pulling or pushing them along, most of which are beyond our control. Murderers, when they decide to kill, are re-establishing that control by removing what they see as the key variable. The one who's going to turn them in, the one who's preventing them from getting what they want or need, the one who's going to disrupt their well-ordered existence by leaving them. Like that."
"And what might determine which individuals might reach that moment of identifying the 'key variable' sooner than others? Or not at all?"
Nick smiled ruefully. "Well when I figure that out we can all go into that other line of work you mentioned that first day."
"But there seems to be an element of control you've overlooked… that ending someone's life is the ultimate act of control over that person. An act of ownership, even. That in a world full of uncontrollable variables, killing another not only eliminates that variable, it assumes ownership of that person's control over themselves. And that brings power into the equation."
"You might have a point there." He hoped he'd successfully hidden exactly how good a point he thought it was.
"Well Nick, your powers of analysis seem to threaten to side track us here. Let's get back to more basic things… you like your job, and you're good at it."
His inner sigh of relief nearly deafened him. "The answers are yes, and I work hard at it." The rest of the interview continued in mundane fashion, establishing the facts of his life but not elaborating on them. That would come later, and he wasn't looking forward to it. This doctor was perceptive even for her profession, and Nick found it troubling how easily he'd been persuaded to "open up".