Harleen's first session.
A dreary light blue room with pastoral scenes hanging on the walls, an unassuming area rug in pink and yellow, a worn wooden desk. That was her side. Across the room, large enough to give the patient space and small enough to give them company, was the sort of uncomfortable upholstered chair found in any doctor's office.
She hadn't intended to start with the harmless, unassuming patients, but the nervous man escorted in by a nurse was oddly fascinating to behold. He was twitching ever so slightly and wringing his hands. His eyes were very wide. They were a light blue, and genuine fear seemed to lurk in their depths. Her first impression was of a man dying of terror. His head was mostly bald, and what was left of his dark brown hair was retreating towards his ears. His glasses were thin, so he didn't have a huge disability, but all the same, she felt he would become very uncomfortable if asked to take them off.
She liked him. She didn't know why.
"I am Harleen Quinzel. I will be your doctor." She smiled at him, making direct eye contact. "Tell me why you're here, Theodore."
His bottom lip trembled and his eyes narrowed immediately. "I want to be called Walter. I want to be c-called Walter."
"Alright, Theodore. I'll call you Walter."
"Walter" was a schizophrenic, and had been since he was nineteen years old. He was forty-five.
She spent the next three months with him trying to convince him to take his medication, and pulling him through his night terrors, phobias, and auditory hallucinations. The one thing she had found was that he really needed someone to talk to. Her job wasn't so much as to treat, but to listen to him and to participate as much as possible in his hallucinations. She didn't tell the rest of the staff, for fear that she would be chastised. But what else could she do? What made "Walter" calmer was having someone listen to him instead of repeatedly telling him it wasn't real. They had conversations with people "Walter" heard or saw. She helped him evade people trying to kill him by discussing self-defense plans, like hiding under his bed or pretending to be someone else so convincingly that they wouldn't know it was him. His symptoms improved. Her colleagues were impressed.
In the end, it was ruled that "Walter" only needed relatively low doses of medication. She convinced "Walter" to take it.
He was doing well.
Doctors sang Christmas carols under their breath in the hallways, office doorways were decorated with tinsel, and Harleen had a Santa hat gracing her office desk. The 23rd. Two days away.
She waited in her chair, legs crossed.
A smiling nurse escorted "Walter" through the door, and then waved to him. He waved back as she walked back the way she'd come. The small, balding man closed the door.
Harleen jumped up from her desk and tackled him with a hug. "Hey, here's my friend Walter! How are you?"
He still didn't do eye contact very well. "They say I'm doing well."
She ruffled what was left of his hair. "That's great!"
"Well enough to go home." There was a tremor in his voice.
"Oh, Walter." She felt her eyes actually prickle. She'd never thought she'd grow so attached to someone who she was supposed to be treating. That wasn't professional. "That's wonderful. Who's going to be waiting for you back home?"
"My mother." He looked at her as if he expected her to be angry at his next words. "And my wife."
Harleen finally released him from her hug. "How long has she been waiting for you?"
The prickling in her eyes got worse. "She's been waiting for you all this time? True romance. Oh, Walter…That's wonderful."
He smiled and ducked his head. "I guess so."
"Of course it is!" She playfully punched him in the arm. "Get outta here, you big lug! When're they taking you home?"
"Today. At 4:30."
She hugged him again. "Then this is good-bye!"
He looked frightened.
She instantly amended her words. "You call me every day, alright? And don't hesitate to come back if you start feeling worse again, you hear? I'm there for you. I'm your friend."
"Yeah." He smiled again. "I'll tell you about my wife. She's beautiful."
After the session, she was left alone in her office, spinning slowly in her swivel chair and doodling on her notepad. It was really good-bye. What was she going to do now?
As if on cue, Dr. Arkham knocked and opened the door.
She stared at him. "Dr. Arkham! Sir!" She stood up, then sat down, then looked at her skirt and smoothed an inconsequential wrinkle.
"I came to check up on you," he said, smiling. He walked inside a few steps and folded his hands. "You lost your first patient today. I wanted to know how you feel. Of course, everyone wishes that they would lose a patient the way you did – recovery – but you still feel a sense of loss, don't you?"
She nodded mutely. Now that her boss was even saying, she felt it was a crushing blow. Someone she knew, just like that, gone. Forever. Well, not forever. But she hoped it was. It was a strange feeling, and she looked up at Dr. Arkham hoping for a therapy session of her own. She'd never been more confused.
"The trick, if there is one, is to keep moving." He smiled as though he knew how she felt – and he probably did, she realized. His expression became slightly more teasing. "And I know something that should cheer you up, if you've been waiting for it all this time." He winked.
She stared at him. "What…" She didn't even want to speculate.
He handed her the chart tucked under his arm. "An opening has appeared." He was no longer smiling. "The Joker case."
Her jaw dropped. Then she ripped her eyes from the chart in her arms and tried to pay attention to him. It was only respectful. She didn't want to seem rude, not at a time like this. "Why is there an opening?"
"The doctors currently in his ward have refused to see him."
"They can't do that!"
"Actually, Dr. Quinzel, they can. It's only their right, for working with such dangerous people."
"But who would see him as his psychologist?"
"That, my dear, is the point, Dr. Quinzel." He gave her a direct look. "I am asking if you will. Are you still interested?"
Her hands tightened on the chart before she could even consciously respond.
He waited anyway.
"I…I guess. I mean, yes. I mean –" She tried and tried, but she couldn't regain her composure. "You were so reluctant to give him to me!"
He raised an eyebrow with a sardonic smile. "Let's just say I've come around. It's far better to give The Joker a psychologist who wants to see him versus an unwilling doctor."
She smiled. The chart was cradled against her chest.