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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.
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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.
Ryker smiled and shrugged, “I kind of live in a community house. Lots of people under one roof.” More like lots of predator under one roof but he wasn’t going to tell her that. He had told her a facet of the truth and that was all that was needed. Sure that Orion would be able to work with him, help him get through the home visit so that he could have this break. The old man was many things, first among them a caregiver and the moment Ry asked for his help he would get it in spades. It was one of the many reasons he respected the man so much.
Things were happening quickly and he was barely being given enough time to process it all, which was probably a good thing. His training came to the forefront, mind switching into a fact-gathering state as he rose from the chair and took the arm she offered. He would have time later to fully work through all the thoughts and feelings he was dealing with, right now he needed a clear head. Pushing everything but the here and now into a little box, he shoved that little box down deep to be taken out and dealt with later.
They walked out into the hallway, turning to make their way to a part of the building he wasn’t familiar with. She was good, her steps even and measured allowing him to fall into step with her as she guided him where they needed to go. He listened intently as she revealed a piece of herself, further endearing who she was to him. Most people he had met tried to keep themselves hidden, detached in a way that always made him feel uncomfortable. He knew for a fact it made many others feel the same way as if they weren’t human enough to allow the basic niceties of connection. “We all deserve a second chance.” She stopped them, turning just a bit and his hearing picked up the subtle click of a button. An elevator.
“Not everyone has the attitude. Many think that each second chance has to be earned, that each person has to go through everything they did without taking the time to find out what hell they have been through.” He had met many people like that, who didn’t understand and didn’t care. He’d met too many people still who thought he deserved what had been brought upon him, those who felt they had no standing to be in a warzone. He usually ignored those people and then when to the gym to work out his aggression.
The doors opened and he entered easily, turning to face the door and leaning his back against the wall. Her question made him smile, his shoulder lifting in a light shrug. “At first it did. Then my lack of vision had my other senses coming alive like I hadn’t believed they could.” That was the truth, as most would expect for many like him. “I can see in a very different way. Lights and colors and things that I didn’t think were possible.” He was surprised by that admission, the only other person he had told about his other sight was Orion. Laughing a bit nervously he reached up and rubbed the back of his neck, “Sounds weird I know.”
Argent realized why he was so concerned about the home visit when the mentioned living in a community house, after all, it wasn’t like you got to always choose who you lived alongside in places like that “Sounds draining” she commented and shrugged a little, she couldn’t really talk considering she lived in the Ailward manor she supposed, though she was very rarely there, she preferred to be out in the city most of the time, enjoying the little freedom she got to have “But you should be okay, truth be told I’ve never actually heard of them failing one” she laughed softly, it was formality more than anything considering the spots on the list were so hard to come by because they were so picky about who got on them in the first place.
She did realize that this was probably very overwhelming and emotionally taxing for him, she wasn’t normally one to rush things but she’d seen the ins and outs of these programs enough times to know his best shot was by leaping into this with both feet, besides she was here to help him if anything got too much. The aspect did have to her advantage that her natural aura tended to exude positivity and she did her best to use such an ability to help people feel more relaxed. She knew it was stressful coming to this hospital and probably brought back a lot of things people didn’t want to remember.
Argent wasn’t an expert of giving care for the blind but she used her own common sense, keeping a slow and steady pace, eyes forward so that she could move the both of them if anyone came in the other direction. For the most part, the halls were pretty empty though, all the consultation doors closed as doctors worked with their patients. As they climbed into the elevator she heard him speaking about second chances and smiled “You’re right, I believe they do” she admitted, she’d seen a lot of people in her life and if she’d had the chance to offer something better for any of them she would have, she hated to see others in pain or hardship.
Argent watched the male curiously as he spoke about his experience of being blind, it was hard for her to truly imagine what it must be like for him but the insight he gave her sounded much less daunting than she had pictured it to be in her mind, perhaps she was biased considering that light was her element though. She widened her eyes a little as he spoke about being able to see colors and lights though, was that why he had stared at her almost like he could see her before. When he nervously spoke about it being strange she clicked her tongue before speaking “I don’t think it’s weird at all actually” she admitted before speaking again “Light and I have a pretty unique relationship” she admitted.
From the way he had spoken about his vision she got the feeling that he was likely supernatural, which meant the community housing he mentioned was probably one of the many faction houses that existed around the city. Argent, however, was not able to tell a person’s species by looking at them to know for sure. The elevator reached the floor they were going to and the door opened. Without a word, she slipped her arm through his again leading the way to the room where the training session was taking place.
The red-haired aspect waved to the trainer through the window before she opened it. The room was full with vets who were paired with their respective assistance dogs but in the corner at the back of the room was one pup, wearing his assistance jacket and looking a little sad that he was sitting out of the session. Thankfully her supervisor had already called ahead and so after she lead Ryker into the room they brought the lone dog over to meet his new companion. “Ryker, meet Harley” she spoke softly as she guided the male towards the animal and then stepped back to let them meet properly.