The Return of Shield

Talk Therapy

Six months later, Grant Ward was brought into Kat’s office. By now, the guards knew the drill since these visits happened once a week: they would remove Ward’s chains and stand outside the door until called. Their wait could last anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours. Since her office was soundproof, they had no idea what was going on inside, a fact that initially was worrying but now had become routine.

Grant had come a long way from when she first met him in the hospital. Kat had visited him several times a week during his stay in the hospital, mostly to let him see a friendly face and make certain that he was receiving the care that he needed. On her second visit, she brought a whiteboard, marker and eraser so that Grant could “talk” if he needed to. He rarely did but Kat didn’t let that stop her. During her visit, she would talk about the weather, current events (carefully staying away from anything about SHIELD or Hydra), movies, television and even books she was reading. While she shied away from personal topics, her goal was to help Grant realize that there was more to life than just spying, work and betrayal. She also brought a Kindle for him to read the books she downloaded for him. A few of Grant’s regular nurses were fine with this. As one told Kat, “He sure doesn’t act like a bad guy.” However, the majority of his guards and the rest of the medical staff were aghast at a prisoner being treated so well but Kat was adamant that her directives be followed.

After he was transferred to prison, Grant was required to come for weekly visits to her office. The first time was a bit of a disaster as he completely refused to talk even though she knew that he was physically capable of doing so.

After her first three questions went unanswered, Kat just looked at Grant. The two of them had a staring contest which went on for quite a while. Even though it made her uncomfortable, Kat knew she couldn’t let him win, so she searched for evidence of his true feelings until he finally looked away.

“Grant,” she said. He turned to face her. “I get it. You’re in prison and there is little you do that is under your control. By making you talk when you don’t want to, about things you’d rather forget, I’m taking away even more of that control. So, let me get to the heart of the matter. You’re here because I think I can help you and because the FBI wants to know more about Hydra. You can refuse to talk to me if you want; I’m not going to try and make you. But, regardless, you will be sitting in my office once a week for at least an hour. I can always do other things,” she said with a shrug. “But you’re never going to get better and you’re never going to have even the chance of getting out of prison unless you decide that you want to cooperate. The choice is yours.”

With that, Kat got up, grabbed a book and plopped down on her couch. She read for 40 minutes straight until Grant cleared his throat. Then she looked at him with her eyebrows raised.

“There is another therapist who comes to talk with me at the prison. I thought you were going to be my psychologist,” he said.

“Technically, I am your supervising psychologist. I won’t be the one doing the actual therapy but Dr. Stoddard does keep me updated about what you all do and do not talk about. I understand that you haven’t been talking with her either.”

Grant nodded, so Kat continued, “That has to change. You need to talk with her because she can help you.”

“So why am I coming here to see you?” Grant asked.

Kat smiled. “That’s a good question. My professional role is to ensure your cooperation about Hydra and evaluate your fitness for various prison programs. My personal role is to teach you about life.”

Grant looked annoyed. “I’m over 30 years old. I already know about life.”

“Grant, you may be an adult but there are lots of things you don’t know, lots of experiences you haven’t had. If you give me a chance, I can teach you about things Garrett never even dreamed of.”

Grant still looked irritated but he nodded, so Kat ended their session for that day. No sense in pushing things.

From then on, he had willingly talked to Dr. Stoddard about his family, his recruitment by Garrett and his time as a Hydra agent. Unfortunately for the FBI, Grant’s knowledge of Hydra was fairly limited given that he was a sleeper agent and, as such, his main priority was to gather information. Grant believed that he would have been told more about Hydra once he was activated but, as he had been captured quickly, there hadn’t been time to tell him much. However, what was bad for the FBI was good for Grant himself as his therapist was then able to concentrate less on gathering intel and more on healing him.

The time he spent with Kat was different. True to her word, she taught him about how healthy families raised children and what positive sibling relationships looked like. They discussed the ways in which his adolescence would have been different had he been able to live it like a normal teenager. They also went over self-esteem, adult relationships, healthy emotions, appropriate emotional expression and effective communication. Despite Grant’s discomfort, Kat also insisted on talking about healthy sexuality and what both physical and emotional intimacy looked like.

Kat marveled at the ways in which Grant had changed since she first met him. He was no longer the closed off man who couldn’t talk but was turning into someone who was trying to listen to himself and communicate his wants and ideas. He was learning the delicate balance between giving of himself and making sure his needs were met. She felt sad when she realized what an amazing person he could have been with a normal upbringing but was very pleased with his progress. Not only was he smart but he was emotionally adaptable as well. It was one reason why his therapy had been progressing so quickly. The only topic neither Dr. Stoddard nor Kat had been able to approach was Grant’s time with Coulson’s team; it was just too volatile a subject for now. Kat thought she knew enough about what had happened through reading the reports Coulson’s team had submitted but she had yet to bring it up to Grant.

“So, what’s new?” Kat asked Grant cheerfully as she watched him settle himself into a comfy chair. She marveled anew at how good-looking he was, especially with some animation in his face. Of course, he would look better in a color besides prison-orange but that couldn’t be helped at the moment. She frowned when she saw the healing bruises on his face and the careful way he lowered himself into the chair.

Grant chuckled and replied, “Not much. I am in prison, you know.”

Kat stood up suddenly and moved closer to him to examine his face. Grant shrank back subtly when she raised her hand to touch his face. She knew that he hoped his reaction had gone unnoticed but, of course, it hadn’t. He really should know better.

“What happened?” she asked sharply.

“Oh, it’s nothing, just a few scratches. I’m fine,” he replied with ease.

Kat narrowed her eyes at him. “Grant, I know that Dr. Stoddard has talked to you about this! Being physically assaulted is not nothing and it certainly is not fine! You may be able to carry on physically but this isn’t normal and I will not sit here,” Grant smiled. “Stand here,” she corrected herself, “and let you shrug this off. Now, what happened?”

Grant’s smile faded. “Some of the other prisoners ganged up on me in the prison yard. I was able to fend them off but they got in some good punches before the guards broke it up.” He looked down. “It seems like things like that are happening to me more frequently but I don’t know why. I haven’t been doing anything different.”

Kat returned to her chair thoughtfully. Perhaps it was time. She leaned forward to make sure he knew she was serious. “I know that for most of your life, you’ve had to deal with things on your own. But I want you to know that you are not alone any more. It may not seem like it now, but there are people who care about you and we will not let you be thrown to the wolves. Okay?”

Grant looked startled but he said, “Okay.”

Kat sat back. “Good, make sure you keep it in mind. Listen, I hate to do this to you since you took the trouble to make the trip,” Grant smiled faintly at that, “but I need to cut this short today. I have a lot of things to prepare for before my time off.”

“When do you leave?” he asked just to be polite. What did it matter to him when she left?

“Friday night,” she answered with a direct stare. “Just after I get off of work.”

Grant nodded as he stood up. He was a bit puzzled that she was dismissing him so early and right after such a bombshell too. That wasn’t like her. Grant also was disappointed that he wasn’t going to see Kat for two weeks (he would never admit it to her but he truly enjoyed their time together), especially since he was having all the trouble with the other prisoners, but her vacation wasn’t a surprise. She had been preparing him for it for a while; he just hadn’t known when exactly it would occur.

“Grant,” Kat said before he reached the door. He turned to face her and was a bit startled to discover she was right behind him. How had she moved so quickly and quietly? Kat touched his arm gently as she looked up at him. “I know this has been a hard time for you but I promise that things will be okay. You’ve made a lot of progress and one or two setbacks aren’t going to compromise that. I realize that my vacation is coming at a bad time but I want you to know that if you truly need me, I will be there for you,” she said with an intensity that was unusual for their conversations.

“Thank you. I appreciate that,” he replied.

“Make sure that you remember it!” she called as he went out the door. Kat hoped that upcoming events would not turn her words into a lie. She rarely made promises but, in this instance, she thought he needed to hear it.

Once Grant was gone, Kat took out her cell and called her boss. “It’s time,” she said.

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