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The wind whistled past the windows mixing with the occasional clatter of the wheels speaking to the tracks below, while faint murmurs of conversation echoed around the closed in confines of the cab. It was a soundtrack he knew well, the subtle sounds of humanity making the most of public transit. The light rail wasn't his favorite mode of transportation but given the restrictions of his bank account it was the only option. Sometimes he really hates being blind, hated the limited amount of resources that were available to him due to how few, like him lacked sight, versus the many that had full function of their eyes. Thanks to all sorts of monetary restraints he couldn't even afford a guide dog, a tool that would improve his quality of life greatly and yet he couldn’t couldn’t seem to scrape up enough money for the initial consult.
Resisting the urge to grumble Ryker shifted in his seat, getting a good whiff of the lady sitting to his right. Her perfume was more alcohol than scent and she had sprayed enough on to cover three French brothels liberally. Wrinkling his nose he turned his head, distracting his mind by tuning in to a conversation taking place at the back of the car several rows behind him. They were lawyers, if the use of vocabulary was any indication, and vibrantly talking about an interesting case they were working on. Notes of a song drifted around their words, a pair of earbuds turned up too loud, while an old lady cough hard enough the Therian was afraid her lungs were going to pop out at any moment. He'd tried to wear earbuds but even with only a single one in his ears his hearing was severely hampered, which left him exposed and disoriented. In the absence of his sight his hearing was his next best sense. He had other means of seeing the world but it was still vague and hard to predict.
Hearing his stop broadcast through the train by a rather robotic yet feminine voice the male rose from his seat and carefully moved to the entrance. Once the car came to a stop he used his whitestick to navigate the stairs, taking a deep breath of the perfume free air before he turned left. Heading down the boulevard he counted his steps while following the map I'm his mind, walking the two remaining blocks the the highrise the belonged to the enigmatic CEO Aarav Saxena.
The email for the job interview had popped into his inbox about two weeks ago, detailing little besides the location and time of said interview. Apparently Mr. Saxena had found him through some mutual acquaintances at the Department, who had given him some rather shining recommendations. Despite only being in Evermore a little over a month he was already making a name for himself in the world of psychology, though that wasn't hard given the lack of competition.
Navigating through the doors Ryker walked forward a few paces, a slight whiff of expensive aftershave bringing him up short. “Mr. Miles?” The voice was young, tentative but with a string of almost desperate need to prove something. Smirking he held out his arms in response, “Unless you know another ruggedly handsome blind guy who specializes in shrinking people.” He’d meant it as a joke but the young man in front of him only smacked his lips in agitation before directing him to follow.
Chuckling the Therian followed, using the squeak of the young man's expensive shoes as a guide. They rode up through the elevator in silence, Ryker grinning slightly the entire ride. He knew judgement had been passed, between his sarcasm and most likely his only semi-professional attire he was being deemed leagues below the upstart who was voraciously climbing the corporate ladder. He couldn't help it though, between the recent change in his location and the student loan bill's that were piling up mixed with the lack of a solid job he wasn't getting very far. The sad truth was very few people seemed to be interested I'm hiring a blind guy. Not only did he have to fight to prove he was capable despite the handicap but that he was qualified. Even proving that he'd completed Graduate school at the top of his class most potential employers took one look at him and immediately decided he wasn't worth the effort.
Truth be told, as Ryker stood waiting for the Bossman to call him in for his interview, he was anticipating being turned away. The only reason the Precinct had hired him, albeit on a strictly temporary basis, was because Orion was friends with one of the Officers who had vouched for him. As a consultant he didn't get very much work and what work they had given had been simple stuff, nothing to test his skills or training. Sighing heavily his head came up as a soft feminine voice beckoned him forward, a slight touch at his elbow guiding him into a huge office if the acoustics were anything indication.
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"I mean no offense, Aarav but why are we hiring a blind guy?" The female sat on the other side of the large table spoke with a hint of exasperation in her tone. "You want in-house psychologist, I can get you the best from an Ivy League of your choice." It was not surprising that the idea of hiring a corporate nobody for a company as big as Everectronics did not sit well with the Chief Operating Officer, Chelsea Stannard. But Aarav had made up his mind, and for various reasons he knew this was his only option.
Looking up from the file he was going through, the male placed his reading glasses back on the mahogany table, his lips pursed together as his dark hues fell on the blonde. "His job wouldn't be to teach our employees how to use their eyes." He spoke with little to no aggression in his tone, a sort of calmness that he had inherited from the years he practiced patience against all the hurdles life threw at him. "His eyesight, or the lack thereof, is the least of my concerns." As he placed the file on top of the table, Aarav leaned in, enough for her to see the hints of a chuckle that was at the corner of his lips, but before he could say anything, the familiar dark-haired head of his new assistant popped inside the room after a tentative knock.
"Mr. Miles is here for his interview," He informed to which Aarav nodded his head, his gaze moving back to his COO. "That's all the time I can give you today, Stannard. Please be a darling and escort Mr. Miles in on your way out." Rising to his feet, Aarav let his fingers slide into the pockets of his pants, turning his large frame towards the full-length window behind his chair as he heard the fading footsteps of the female walking out.
When the sound of the new voice echoed through his large office, Aarav finally turned back to greet the male with a smile. While he wanted to escort the male to a seat by himself, Aarav wasn't sure if that would be insensitive to his condition and decided against it. "Good afternoon, Mr. Miles. Please, take a seat." He ushered, rounding off the table to pull a chair out, hoping the squeaky sound of the metal sliding against the polished floor would give him a hint of direction.
Once seated, Aarav unbuttoned the front of his suit, moving back to take his own seat. "I've heard great things about you, Mr. Miles." The male started, following the normal procedure of hiring, not wanting the male to feel discriminated against. "Tell me, what made you want to become a consultant for the ECPD?"
The thought rolled through his grey matter as a tall female beckoned him in, her feelings were guarded but the scent rolling off her was rank with skepticism. Her aura bloomed in the small silence as he turned and began walking towards the office, a dark almost putrid green that he’d come to associate with disapproval. It was the same color and scent that the young business man in the elevator had adopted, a reaction the SEAL was becoming accustomed to. Striding into the room he introduced himself, tilting his head as he got an answer and an invitation to sit. Much to the Therian’s surprise he heard the squeak of a chair which gave him a direction, walking a couple of steps until his walking stick hit the wheel and his natural inclinations took over.
Sliding easily into the comfy leather chair Ryker broke down his walking stick quickly and efficiently, setting it on the table before he leaned back and stretched his long legs out. He didn't have to wait long, Aarav cut straight to the chase and opened the interview with an insightful question. He took a moment to study the man, confident and successful, yet something told him that the male had something up his sleeve. Deciding on honesty Ryker shrugged, “To be frank, up until today the Police Department is the only place thus far to give me a shot at work. Most people see disabled veteran and they cringe and when they see blind on the label they throw my resume in the trash.” He’d found that little tidbit out the hard way, and it hadn't set well with him from the get go. There was nothing he could do about it though, except push forward and keep hold of what little hope he had left.
“It’s work. Not steady work mind you but work nonetheless. I have some special skills they occasionally put to use and I'd rather be working than sitting at home.” Even if it meant begging the officers for work, engaging in whatever banter he could in an effort to gain their trust. He was hopeful that one day they would give him a solid shot and at that point realize his potential. He was a SEAL, with extensive knowledge and skills, all of which meant squat when people found out he was blind. It was infuriating and frustrating beyond belief. And once again a situation he had no control over. You couldn't force someone to see your worth, couldn't beg them to look past you handicaps to the man underneath. They had to make that decision and more often than not it was easier to just look away.
Ryker was desperate, though he had too much honor and pride to admit it. Without proper funds it was difficult for him to acquire a trained sight dog, even with all the resources at the VA they had estimated he MIGHT be put on the waiting list in a year or so. He’d be behind other vets who needed emotional support and the like. So he was forced to go the personal route and try to appropriate one on his own dime. There were plenty of companies that could train seeing eye dogs but they needed the money to do so. Purchasing a puppy of the right breed and intelligence and then the man power required to train the pup wasn't a cheap endeavor. Breathing out a measured breath the male tilted and his head to the side waiting for the next question. Or the eventual dismissal he knew was coming.
Aarav was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but he had first-hand experience of all the hurdles life could throw at a person - MIA mother, disapproval from family that eventually led him to be cast out, murder of a loved one and the shocking betrayal that led him to not only lose the few people he cared about and his child but also stake his wife with his own bare hands. But he was not someone who had succumbed to the tragedies, instead with the help of people who constantly gave him a chance and provided him with much needed support, the CEO had now built a life for himself far away from the darkness of his past.
That was why he didn't see Ryker Miles any differently from other candidates that the male would hire in his company. His tragedies were out of his control, much like the older male's and the least he could do was extend a helping hand and a fair opportunity, returning the favour that many had done to him when he was in a rough place. Leaning back against his own leather chair, Aarav folded his hands across the desk, intertwining and tucking his fingers under his chin as he surveyed the candidate, taking in his posture and the way he answered his question.
Honest. That was the first word that came to the CEO's mind, and much to his relief that was the most important thing he was looking for in his employee. With a low chuckle, the male cut him when he spoke about his resume being thrown in the bin, "Well, I can assure you we will do no such thing. Your condition is the least of our concerns. All that matters is your work." Smiling, he then let him continue, his gaze slowly scanning his frame.
"Speaking of, most of the things I need to know about you are in this file in front of me, so I will get to what we expect from you here instead," He started as soon as Ryker finished, "Your work here would involve all tasks a regular in-house counsellor needs to do - talking to employees, gaining insight, ensure maximum productivity and help anyone who needs it." He paused, a soft breath rolling off his lips, "However, you will be reporting everything directly to me, and not anyone else. This is something I need assurance that you will be able to do." Aarav did not want to explain much about his actual intentions, in case the man turned down the offer or wasn't as trustworthy as he appeared to be. "I'll be honest with you, Mr. Miles. I can hire the top psychologists in the country for this job, but I need someone I can trust and the police department thinks you can be it."
Pausing once again, he waited for the words to sink in, before continuing. "Like I've said before, your disability means very little to me if you can do your job well. And if you do prove yourself worthy of this position, I can personally guarantee you benefits to help your situation - a trained sight dog, a raise high enough to pay off your debts - anything you need."
The male’s head tilted a bit more, his own lips turning up into a wry grin as the CEO reassured him that he was different. There was a note in his voice that the Therian found honest, and yet he knew from experience that a person could be honest in one moment and then go the opposite direction in another. As a SEAL he had been trained to endure immense amounts of pain and torture, his mind conditioned to sticking to the same story as if he had lived every minute of it. The truth was what you made of it and until proven otherwise a person had no choice but to go with it. “You’ll forgive me for being a little cynical, experience is a bitch and she doesn't care who you are.”
Chuckling Ryker sat back in his seat, leaning back into a relaxed position. Aarav went forward with the interview, detailing out what would be expected of the him. It made the dirty blonde curious as to who else was being interviewed for this position. He could read between the lines, or maybe that was the strategic soldier in him, making him suspicious while his mind spun out all spots of scenarios. Based on the scent the other Male was putting out and the nature of the work involved, it all spelled out being more than just a counselor. The question was, was it information he’d be collecting or ferreting out a mole. Either way this job would be more involved than just chatting with people and easing work anxiety.
Curiosity piqued Ryker sat up a little straighter in his seat the moment the other male mentioned the one thing that would give him his absolute independence back. He’d become fairly adept at getting around and handling his blindness but there was still a lot he couldn’t do. A sight dog would give him control and allow him so much more mobility, self-sufficiency. Since the day he had woken up in the hospital, darkness surrounding him like a suffocating blanket he had been struggling to get back to the man he had been. Or at least as close to the man he used to be, given lack of sight he’d never completely he himself again. Never able to do the things he’d come to love, or the job that gave him purpose.
Pulling his mind out of that self destructive tailspin the Therian took a moment to compose himself, doing an assessment of both himself and the man sitting across from him. Leaning forward he placed his forearms on the table, linking his hands together as he stared in the direction Aarav’s voice had come from. “I get the feeling there’s more to it than just talking to people and keeping up productivity. If that had been the case you wouldn't be considering me for the job. Granted I'm good at reading people and have a background in psychology but you and I both know combined with my military training its it's more geared toward interrogation techniques.” He was good at getting information, good at blending in to get at the knowledge he wanted and even better at subterfuge. A person needed to be in order to be a SEAL, which begged the question why was this CEO looking at his resume and not some Ph.D in psychology from a ivy league school?
Aarav didn't fail to notice the spike in curiosity as the male offered and incentive the Therian would not be able to resist. Sitting back on the large leather chair, Aarav crossed his leg, resting one feet against the knee of the other as he listened intently to what the male had to respond with.
The CEO had to admit, he was not disappointed when Ryker gathered that there was more to this job than in-house counselling. After all, if he couldn't discern that from the CEO's voice, he was probably not as good as Aarav needed him to be. So with a slight chuckle, the older male replied, "To confirm your assumptions I'll have to be giving away privy information. So let me put it this way."
He then leaned forward and with a soft smirk spoke, "I've built this company from ground up. So it is my duty to know what my fellow colleagues and employees are up to and what they are not, if you know what I mean." Running his digits down the silk tie anchored from his neck, he continued, "Indeed you seem to have just the combination I need, which may or may not involve your time in military." Aarav knew he was beating around the bush at this point, but there was no other way he could put it in front of the male without giving away what his plan actually was.
"That's all I can say Mr. Miles. The rest depends on whether or not you'll be willing to work for me." With an exhale, Aarav slid the documents containing the male's merits and achievements along the wooden table, towards him. "As for why I want you, the police force thinks you can get this job done and I trust them."
Ryker's hand dropped just as the folder slid in front of him, the soft hiss of the soft vellum loud in the silence following Aarav's pronouncement. Not bothering to open the folder he could guess what it contained, more interested in processes what had just been said. As he had suspected the job was going to be fluff on the surface and information gather underneath, with some fancy undercover work thrown in. There was a specific goal in mind, of that he had no doubt but it couldn't revealed before he accepted the job.
The male sat back in his seat, rubbing his hand over his chin and cheek while he considered his options. The CEO's goals explained why he was being considered for the job and the perks he certainly couldn't pass up. The silence stretch on as he thought about things, telling him that his perspective boss was patient and had known what he wanted before the Stag had even stepped foot into his office. That could be a dangerous trap to fall into, or a blessing that would keep on giving.
Finally Ryker straightened in his seat, mind made up. “I'll take it. Your offer presents a challenge and lord knows I need the stimulation.” And the money. And the perks. He didn't mention the guide dog but they both knew that was at the forefront of his mind. How could it not be? Suddenly the thought of being employed again, to have a clear purpose made his chest swell with hope. Hope for a better future than the one he had been imagining and hope that he could take back control of his spiraling life.
“When do I start?”
"How would a blind guy get the job done?" Chelsea's voice rang in Aarav's mind as the male in front of him pondered over his offer. The COO of Everectronics wasn't exactly the best with her words, always brash and to the point, which annoyed almost everyone in the company except Aarav. He had seen too many kinds of people in his short lifespan, and had come face to face with so many tragedies and experiences that he had learnt not to judge a person by their outward personality and give everyone a chance.
Which was what he was doing to the Therian essentially. Running his fingers down the short ebony spikes of hair, the older male chuckled at the lack of stimulation in Ryker's life, "Well I can't promise the corporate world would be much of an adventure, but we do offer coupons for clubs, restaurants and spas to make up for it." He responded in light-hearted humour, trying to break the ice between them. "Maybe even strip clubs if that's what stimulates you." If Ryker was going to take up this herculean task, Aarav wanted to ensure they were on the best of terms so it would be easy for him to come up to the CEO with anything and he could keep a track of what the therian was doing.
"Well, we can start as soon as my assistant gets the paperwork done." He chuckled, picking up the landline placed at the corner of his desk, ringing the male at the other end of the wall and instructing him to get the contract specifically ready for Mr. Miles. Hanging up, Aarav turned to Ryker with a warm smile, "While that is being done, would you like some drink? Tea or coffee?"
Ryker let out a small chuckle, leaning back in the seat until it tipped back and he was bouncing on the toes of his boots. Resting his hands on the side rails of the chair he shook his head, “Strip clubs? 2 years ago I would have jumped at hearing that, not so much these days.” He tapped on one of his temples, calling attention to the first and most obvious obstacle. “Too much noise and stimulate besides. Those places tend to be a trigger and one I try to avoid at all cost.” His smile turned a bit wry, a memory surfacing that was painful and embarrassing to remember.
A couple of months after getting out of the hospital a friend of his from high school had suggested they go to a concert, get him out of his house and back out into the real world. The first hour had been a little uncomfortable but manageable, it was when the concert got into full swing that he had gone into a melt down. The loud music, the yelling, and other sound effects had had him sweating bullets, wincing at every pop or drop of the base. Then some john behind him had gotten a little too rowdy, too deep in his cups, and had the bad luck of shoving into the blind vet. Ryker had blacked out and woken up in a cell, a little bruised and banged up but nothing compared to the hapless people who had come into his line of sight.
Thankfully the cop who had arrested him had recognized PTSD and managed to talk him down, taking him to the station to level out. Charges weren’t pressed but that longtime friend had disappeared and the cop had given him a ride to the VA. It had been a pretty dark moment in his life, even darker than his lack of vision. Heaving a heavy sigh he nodded slowly, “Those other perks sound good though. I like going to the gym and food is life.” He couldn’t stop his smile from growing, the satisfaction of finally having a job, of having a direction for his life to go in was a feeling like no other. Purpose.
“Water? I can’t take the caffeine.” He admitted honestly, turning his head in the direction of the voice while they waited for the paperwork.