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One universal truth of the US Military is that it takes an ordinary man or woman and breaks him down, stripping away all of the selfishness, cowardice, doubt, pride, and individualism. Shaping each piece of humanity to fit into the grand machine that protects the good old U.S of A. Working as unit becomes second nature, everything within them focused on getting the job done and looking out for the guy or gal who is standing beside you. One thing they don’t teach a soldier is how to survive back stateside, how to deal with the shell shock of coming back to peace or how to deal with any handicaps that are brought back with you.
Ryker's team had dealt with the worst of the worst, dropping into the heart of enemy territory to either extract or neutralize a target. Gunfire, rockets, and bombs had become his life, a regular part of his reality that desensitized the male to any and all horrors that humanity could cook up. His instincts had been honed to go on alert at any loud sound, to pay attention to the little nuances of movement that might indict a person was armed, and naturally expect that worst of anyone that wasn't dressed in camo or fatigues.
He hadn't expected to be back so soon, grounded permanently and discharged with all honors. His lack of vision made it impossible for him to ever serve again and even if he hadn't lost the use of his eyes the emotional damage was too much. Being the lone survivor provided its own special kind of guilt heaped on top of the anger that came with having to learn to be self sufficient all over again. Learning how to do the most basic of tasks in an all new way and coming to terms with the things he'd never get to do again.
Even more frustrating, there were a limited amount of resources available to a veteran, very few medical institutions took the insurance he was afforded. They took the solid stance that the military could and should take care of it's own, which left very few options for an overabundance of personnel who needed care and attention. If anyone cared to argue the point they had only to drive by their local Veteran’s Affairs Hospital and get a good look at the line that formed hours before the facility ever opened each morning. Ryker had been standing in just such a line well before dawn, taking the cues from a elderly Marine who had been kind enough to direct the crippled SEAL.
6 hours later lunch approached and Ryker had moved with the line inside, standing uncomfortably among the crowd. He'd been given a number, the little piece of paper long since crumpled in his grip. The grumpy lady at the front desk had grudgingly told him the number, not caring that under the wraparound RayBans his eyes were a milky blue and useless as the day was long. Somewhere across the massive entryway a stamp was rhythmically slammed down onto paper and an automatic stapler that sounded nearly identical to a gun being loaded made him twitchy. His fingers tightening and untightening around the walking stick he used to navigated new places. Standing in the corner he could hear everything, the murmuring of the crowd and the gossiping of the nurses overly loud to his sensitive ears.
Click-pop. Click-pop. Click-pop.
A cold sweat started to wind it's way down his temples, wetting his back as he tried to fight the images that flashed with each loud noise. Breathing through his nose the male kept his head down, hands wringing the stick in his hand as he counted slowly in an attempt to distract his overactive brain. Running a hand through his hair he grimaced, the dirty blonde locks were wet from his sweat. A throat clearing not far from him made him flinch, a gentle voice letting him know that his number had just been called.
Distracted he heard the grumpy nurse call out, “335.” Her tone and the angle of the sound told him she knew exactly who she was calling, and the added effort it took her to reach him was a burden on her day. Clearing his throat he followed the directions in his head, taking each step carefully as he approached the counter. Despite his best effort he stumbled over a foot, a leg that had been lazily extended into his path and not being able to see he stumbled into the marble countertop just as the loud snap of a stamp slammed down in front of his face. In an instant he was thrown back into enemy territory, sand and dirt and heat surrounding him as he faced off against an insurgent with a weapon held directed straight at him.
“Drop it!” he yelled, repeating the words in Farsi and Arabic, his M16 held in rock steady hands while his heart hammered in his chest. His vision seemed to waver, a kindly yet firm old voice repeating for him to stand down and take a knee filtered through the images, completely off with the scene before him. Blinking rapidly he felt a hand on his arm and jerked, falling over something that knocked the air out of his lungs. His hands desperately scrambled for his cane that was nowhere to be found and as his back hit the wall it was becoming harder and harder to breathe.
As the panic attack sank it's claws into him Ryker looked up, a bright light suddenly blinding him in its intensity.
Argent waited patiently as he got lost in his own mind, she was used to being around those who suffered from PTSD now and she had learned that sometimes it was best to let them process their own thoughts and not interrupt, she kept her touch gentle on his shoulder to remind him where he was and that he was safe. There was little that could surprise the aspect of light nowadays, she had seen and been through a lot in her long life, but seeing the sheer strength some of these people had, to keep fighting against all odds, it really was awe inspiring to her and kept her on the ground. She just hoped the difference she made to their lives meant something.
She watched his reaction as she spoke the usual things they need and she thought she caught a slight sense of panic go through him when she mentioned the home visit, she pursed her lips for a moment before she spoke “The visit isn’t too taxing, just to make sure your life is stable” though she had to admit she probably wouldn’t pass one herself considering she lived with 7 dragons and a bunch of guards who carried around pretty dangerous weapons, she shook her head, what a weird life she led.
The difference in his demeanor when she gave him the good news however was almost astounding and chuckled brightly, his excitement almost catching as she felt his hand on her shoulder and she raised back to her feet. “I’ve seen this particular group myself and believe me when I say you’re in for a good session” she gave a gentle smile heading out of the office and leading him through the winding halls of the hospital “A long time ago I was given a second chance I never asked for” she explained as they walked before she stopped, pushing the button on an elevator and waiting for it to arrive.
“I just want other people to get the same chance I got” sure being brought back to life as an immortal dragon wasn’t quite the same thing but she really felt like she could do some good in the world, make her second life worth so much more than her first. When the elevator arrived she moved forwards, stepping inside and pressing the button for the third floor. Leaning back against the railings she looked up at him for a moment “Does it ever scare you?” she asked curiously “Not being able to see?” perhaps she shouldn’t have asked that but as the aspect of life she had to admit it was something she wanted to know.