timehasa_way: (The Lighthouse)
[personal profile] timehasa_way
Marker Chapter One.jpg

Chapter One

The drive to the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind was silent and tense, only rarely punctuated with yawns and sighs. Jensen sighed himself, noting that the blazing sun and pleasant breeze were in direct contrast with his mood. It didn’t help that the perfect weather soon became a backdrop for the soothing, neutral colors of the building’s sign and exterior. It wasn’t an actual lighthouse, but a rounded corner of the building did seem to mimic one, complete with a parapet surrounding a circular windowed room at the top, trees and shrubbery framing it all so well. The whole thing had the opposite of its intended effect on Jensen, his anxiety only increasing as he put his car in park. He couldn’t help but think that he’d feel much better if the day were gloomy and raining, the building a little darker, like some sort of cosmic empathy for his distress. He’d only just turned the car off when he heard the sound of the passenger door opening.

“Whoa, Gran, wait!” He’d glanced over at her, eyes wide, just in time to see her stepping out of the vehicle like there was nothing to worry about. It took him a fraction of a second to leap out of the driver’s side door, slam it shut, and rush to her side. “Haven’t I told you to wait for me before you do that?”

“I can still get out of a car on my own,” she snapped, and Jensen could tell she’d rolled her eyes behind her sunglasses, jerking her arm out of his grasp. “Honestly, Jensen, you’re being ridiculous. Again.”

Jensen stood with his mouth flapping open, wanting to be angry, or apologize, or figure out the most appropriate way to respond. He couldn’t understand how she’d been the one to go blind, yet he was the one carrying all of the panic and dismay that came with her new condition. She sighed again before he could answer her.

“Can we please just go inside? The sooner I learn as much as I can from these people, the sooner you can get off my back.”

He swallowed whatever words he’d been ready to say and just nodded, still sometimes forgetting that she couldn’t see him. He grabbed her arm again and felt her tense uncomfortably at the touch. “Sure, Gran.”

Leading Gran to the doors of the Lighthouse, he stepped through with her into a welcoming reception area, the same warm tones from the outside bleeding through to the inside. He looked around first, spotting inviting couches and chairs, some refreshments, and a large recreational area straight ahead. He paused, noticing suddenly that there were a number of other blind seniors wandering around the building on their own, occasionally without even the use of a cane.

“Can I help you?”

Jensen started and turned to the desk at his left, smiling nervously at the woman behind the counter. “Uh, hi.” He pulled Gran forward with him and saw a disapproving look in the woman’s eyes at the same moment he felt Gran tense and jerk away from him.

“Forgive this boy,” Gran said, gripping his shoulder much harder than usual before stepping ahead of him. “I can’t exactly see him, but I’m sure he was gawking.” Jensen flushed and opened his mouth to protest, but the woman behind the desk was laughing, seemingly enchanted by his gran, and Gran just pressed on. “He means well, I’m sure. My name is Donna Ackles, and I’m here for the tour.”

“Ah, yes,” The woman checked a list and walked around the desk towards them, clasping Gran’s extended hand. “We’re expecting you. My name is Jade.” Jade’s eyes lifted from Gran to Jensen, eyebrows raised in question. “Will you both be taking the tour?”

Jensen opened his mouth and wondered why he even tried, Gran turning her head slightly in his direction before commenting, “He’s just dropping me off.”

“Ah, so we have a newbie?”

The three of them turned towards the new voice, an older gentleman with a white cane standing before them, having just come from the recreational area in the back. Jensen was vaguely aware of introductions happening around him, but he was completely caught off guard by the man accompanying the older gentleman. The guy was smiling wide, an easy and kind nature to his eyes and body language, long brown hair flopping in his face. But his body was the striking part, stretching higher than anything Jensen expected to see, wide shoulders and muscle definition adding to the startling image.

Jensen.”

Gran’s voice prodded Jensen to rejoin the conversation, her tone both admonishing and embarrassed.

“Um, I’m so sorry, I just…uh. Hi, I’m Jensen. Ackles. Jensen Ackles.” He heard Gran’s long-suffering sigh beside him and suddenly felt even shorter than the new giant in front of him. He hoped he’d responded correctly, assuming they’d all been exchanging names. The giant chuckled a bit, biting his lip and glancing apologetically at Jensen, as if he couldn’t help but laugh, but didn’t want to make Jensen feel even worse. Jensen thought it might be too late for that.

The older gentleman smirked. “I’m Paul. What brings you here?”

Jensen fought to keep from freezing or just running out of the building, all eyes on him now. He stared back at Paul, who stood looking in his direction, and took a deep breath before speaking much louder than he had been. “I’m here for my gran! She’s taking a tour and starting services here!”

Paul’s smirk turned into a grin, and the giant’s smile was briefly interrupted by a grimace. “He, uh…he can hear you.”

“Right,” Jensen breathed, beginning to sweat. “I’m sorry.” It was a general, pathetic apology to the entire group, but they all laughed, the giant’s dimples showing.

“Jared here’s a smart guy,” Paul said, tilting his head towards the giant. “You should listen to him. Though I did just school him in chess.”

“You play chess?”

Jensen blurted the words out before he could think or stop them, still surprised by this whole experience, and he gulped in the silence that followed. Paul remained smiling, but sighed and reached out to him, finding his shoulder and patting it gently. “Don’t hurt yourself, kid.”

“Why don’t we get a move on?” Gran asked, reaching her hand out to Jade’s elbow. “If we waited to hear every stupid thing Jensen had to say, we could be here all day.” Jensen eyed the ground, wishing it would swallow him whole, while she paused, then somewhat reluctantly added, “Would you like to come with me?”

Though her tone was softer this time, with hints of apology and reassurance, Jensen was unsure of what to do next. Part of him wanted to go with her, to make sure she was okay. And part of him knew she’d be further annoyed by his constant hovering over her. Jared stepped forward, clearing his throat.

“I could maybe tell you more about the place and keep you occupied while Donna gets settled in, if that’s alright? We could talk over lunch? The cafeteria here isn’t half bad.”

Gran scoffed playfully. “Figures he’s the one who gets the lunch date here.”

Jared laughed and picked up her playful tone. “Well, if I were straight, you certainly would’ve been my first choice.”

Jensen thought he might have said “what’s happening” out loud, but the way the jokes and conversation continued until Gran was led away, he figured he must not have. He was left at reception with just Jared in front of him, that sunny smile gone as he realized what he’d just said.

“Oh, man, I’m…I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean…” He fidgeted while standing, those wide shoulders twitching. “I just got caught up in having fun with your gran, I didn’t mean anything by it.” He paused, and the genuine remorse in his eyes almost made Jensen feel bad. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. If you’d rather not…”

“No, no,” Jensen said quickly, not really wanting to leave the premises. “Please, any help you could offer, I’ll take it.”

The way Jared lit up made Jensen feel a little more at ease, but the guy was so excitable, Jensen was almost afraid that Jared was going to grab his hand and run him around the place like a little kid. Either way, Jensen was happy to have someone who was willing to give him a better understanding of the place and maybe make him look like less of an asshole.

He followed Jared to the cafeteria, and it felt like he was following a celebrity. It seemed like everybody knew Jared, and he greeted them all with kind words and high-fives. Once in the cafeteria, Jared told him which foods were better than others. Jensen felt like he was back in high school. And it didn’t surprise him at all when one of the cafeteria workers recognized Jared.

“Oh, good, you are here!” A middle-aged woman whose name tag identified her as Betty smiled at Jared, giving him a knowing look, and reached for something hidden behind the counter.

“I am!” Jared answered happily, beaming at her. “Little late today, I’m just helping Jensen out.” He nodded to Jensen, and Jensen politely extended a hand. “He’s new to this, just brought his gran in.”

“Wonderful! It’s nice to meet you,” Betty said, shaking Jensen’s hand. She turned back to Jared. “Now you get to share these.”

She produced a secret stash of cookies, and Jared laughed loudly and hugged her, greedily snatching them the next minute. He smiled at Jensen. “Maybe I can share a couple.”

Jensen chuckled. “Don’t worry about it. I have a figure to maintain.”

Jared’s smile widened, presumably happy to see Jensen loosening up a bit. After grabbing their lunch, they sat down in the cafeteria together, just far enough away from other people that anything off-putting Jensen said wouldn’t be heard. He didn’t mean to be offensive, of course. He just needed to learn more and adjust to Gran’s new way of life.

“So…you work here?” Jensen asked, starting the conversation. Jared tipped his head back and forth while swallowing the bite of pizza he’d taken.

“It’s not my job. I visit and volunteer a lot. I came here a few years ago, bringing my grandfather in, a lot like you.” He gestured to Jensen, wiping his hand off on a napkin, which seemed futile when he went right back to eating his pizza.

“Oh.” Jensen brightened a little, happy that he sort of knew another member here. “Is he here today?”

Jared wiped his hands again, his spirit dimming a little as loss registered on his face. “He’s passed.” He held up a hand to fend off Jensen’s apologies. “But while he was here, I really got to know this place, and the people, and…I don’t know, I couldn’t just stop, you know?” He sighed, but not sadly. Jensen might have even sensed contentment. “I care about them,” he said, nodding to the people around them. “Everything they did to help my grandfather made them like family, and even the ones who weren’t around then…It’s a wonderful community. And spending time here makes him seem not so far away.”

Jensen nodded, unsure of how to respond. “I admire that,” is what slipped out, but it was the truth. Jared ducked his head and shrugged, playing it off.

“So, your gran’s condition. It’s a recent development?”

“Yeah,” Jensen took a bite of his sandwich and finished chewing before finishing the thought. “It’s, uh, complications from diabetes. She’s not completely unhealthy, but sometimes she’s a bit stubborn about changing her lifestyle. Though I think this would have happened eventually, anyway.”

“Well, then this place is perfect for her,” Jared said, and Jensen stared back at him, used to only negative reactions to Gran’s worsening disease. She’d had doctors hemming and hawing at her for so long about paying attention to what she could and couldn’t do as a diabetic, shaking their heads at her when she wouldn’t listen. The prevailing attitude was usually just, Well, this is what we said would happen if you didn’t listen. At times, Jensen agreed with them, always fretting over her health. At other times, he wanted them to stop treating her like a child.

“What do you mean?”

Jared shrugged. “This place has everything; can teach her how to do everything. She may not be able to see, but she doesn’t have to stop living her life the way she normally does. Whatever hobbies she has, she’ll be back to them in no time.”

It seemed stupid at the time (or at least he told himself it was), but Jensen had to keep himself from tearing up. Ever since Gran’s condition began worsening, the only news was bad news, and their relationship had become strained. There wasn’t much comfort to be had or anybody telling them that everything would be okay.

“She’s not my gran, you know,” Jensen said, and he wasn’t sure why he was suddenly telling this personal story to this man he’d just met, other than that the emotion was getting to him. “I mean, not really. I know she’s older, but…” Jared finished eating and cocked his head, listening intently. “I was in foster care, and she adopted me.” He swallowed and fidgeted, trying to regain composure. “Best day of my life. She insisted that I only ever call her Gran, and not Mom, because grandparents were always the best part of any family; less controlling, more fun. It just stuck.”

“Grandparents are like parents to a lot of us,” Jared agreed, reaching out to cover Jensen’s hand with his own. “Cooler versions, even.” They both laughed a little at that. “She was right.” Jared took his hand back, and Jensen took a deep breath and finished eating. “She’ll do great here.”

Jensen sat back dejectedly in his seat. “I hope so. Some days, I don’t even know what’s happened, or how we got here. We never fought until all of this started, and now…Well, you saw.”

“I saw some tension,” Jared acquiesced, nodding. “But nothing that isn’t fixable. It’s also nothing that isn’t completely normal. Any kind of change like this can cause stress and misunderstandings. We see it a lot here. If you just give it some time, things will go back to the way they were. It’s just a rough patch.”

There was a beat of silence between them before Jensen spoke up again. “You know, you’re the first person who’s made it sound like there’s a light at the end of this tunnel?”

“Well, this is a lighthouse,” Jared deadpanned. When Jensen snorted, Jared laughed and shook his head. “Ugh, terrible joke, I know.”

“It helps,” Jensen said, feeling much lighter than he had when he’d walked into the building. “Thank you.”

Jared ducked his head again and ran a hand through his hair, dimples showing. “Don’t mention it.”

Jensen cleared his throat, wanting to get back on track. “You said you’d tell me more about this place. I saw we passed some rooms. Tech stuff? Sewing?”

“Oh, yeah,” Jared looked up and nodded. “Like I said, they’ll help your gran learn how to do everything here. Sewing, cooking, you name it.”

“Is that…safe?” Jensen asked, lowering his voice so as not to offend anyone.

“Perfectly,” Jared answered. He looked around the room before looking back at Jensen. “Nobody in here is less than you or me. We can all do the same things, just in different ways.” He thought for a minute. “You know, they do have blindness sensitivity classes here. I think they could really help you.”

“Christ, am I that bad?” Jensen slumped a bit, and Jared chuckled.

“No. You’re trying to understand. And I know classes never sound like a good thing, but trust me.” Jared took in Jensen’s hesitant response. “I’ll go with you, if you want.”

Jensen shook his head, wondering why Jared was being this nice to him. “You don’t have to do that. I’ve taken up too much of your time already, and you obviously don’t even need it.”

“It’s no trouble,” Jared insisted. “Really. You asked me for any help I could offer, and I’m offering this. I’d like to do it.”

It took Jensen a moment to think about it and process everything that had happened so far that day. “I really appreciate this,” he said finally, with all the gratitude he could muster. “I’m not sure how I could ever repay you.”

“You don’t have to,” Jared answered, pulling out his cell phone. “Just give me your number so we can coordinate.”

Just to coordinate?” Jensen asked, suddenly remembering the way Jared had joked with Gran earlier and feeling a bit tense and suspicious that he might be fishing for more. Jensen’s experience with Jared that day had been wonderful, but he wasn’t quite ready to entertain anything more than friendship. To his relief, he saw Jared blush, seemingly more out of embarrassment than being caught with an ulterior motive.

“Yes,” Jared said, respectfully. “Just that.”

****

When their time at the Lighthouse was over, Jensen was quiet and careful with Gran, suddenly much more conscious of the weight of his presence and grip when helping her back into the car. He slipped into the driver’s seat with so many words on his tongue that he just couldn’t bring himself to let slip past his lips. It felt like too much at once. He was happy that they’d come here, enlightened by what he’d learned from the place and from Jared, and upset with himself for how ignorant and forceful he’d been before. He was sad that their relationship had suffered, and scared that it wouldn’t recover, though Jared’s comfort had helped. He wanted to address it all, but he wasn’t sure where to start, so he just started the car instead.

“How did you like it?” he asked weakly, when they got to the first stoplight. Gran sighed, not answering right away, and Jensen felt his stomach tighten with dread, suddenly convinced she hated him.

“I’m sorry I told those people you were stupid,” she said, and Jensen breathed deeply, pressing the gas pedal with the change of the light as he tried to cope with the lump he felt in his throat from the emotion in her voice. “I’m sorry I said it at all. You mean well. I know that. It’s just…”

“I’ve been an overbearing asshole?” Jensen offered, the hint of a laugh an attempt to cover up the waver in his voice.

Jensen.” Gran’s voice carried the same gentle scold in it she’d used on him when he was just a kid; the times he’d call himself stupid for not understanding his homework, or say he was useless when he couldn’t fix something that was broken, or say he wasn’t good enough after being rejected. That don’t talk about yourself like that voice that got him through life after years of being trapped in the foster system made him wish he wasn’t driving, so he could stop and let it wash over him, all of the negative feelings that had built up between them recently ebbing away.

Jensen cleared his throat. “My point is, Gran, you’re not the only one who needs to apologize. I know that. And I’m sorry.” He couldn’t bring himself to say the obvious I love you, because it was too much in the moment. They’d never actually said it to each other much, but they hadn’t had to, their relationship speaking for itself.

Gran nodded, and Jensen saw it from the corner of his eye. “I know this change has been hard on both of us, and I know some might think it’s because I stopped caring about my own health. I don’t agree, because I just kept doing what made me happy. I haven’t stopped caring about anything. I haven’t stopped caring about you.”

“I know that, Gran,” Jensen said quietly, briefly reaching over to grasp her hand. He may not have known it a minute ago, but it was so obvious now that he couldn’t believe he’d ever doubted it.

She squeezed his hand before letting go. “I loved it,” she said, and Jensen was confused for a moment before she added, “You asked me how I liked it. I want to go back and keep up with it. This was honestly the best day I’ve had since…”

“Yeah,” Jensen agreed. Gran didn’t finish the thought, but she didn’t need to. “Me, too.”

Gran snorted. “I bet. You met someone. He’s hot isn’t he? He sounded hot.”

Jensen laughed, shaking his head and verbally brushing the comment off. “Gran…that’s not really what’s on my mind.”

“Yeah, I know, you’re mostly worrying about me,” she said. “But you’re not dead. And you seemed to really enjoy his company. I didn’t think you’d be able to say goodbye when we were leaving.”

“That doesn’t mean anything’s happening between us.” Gran scoffed and Jensen laughed, making the turn to their home. “I’m serious! He’s just helping me out. He, uh…” He parked the car in their driveway, hesitating. “He’s actually taking me to some blindness sensitivity classes. Should be good for me.”

“Oh.” Jensen could tell she was grateful to hear it, but she wouldn’t say it. “So, that means you got his number, right?”

****

It was dark by the time Jared left the Lighthouse, and he tried to quiet his brain as he walked out to his car. But when his phone buzzed, he quickly pulled it from his pocket, his pulse jumping until he saw that the notification was just for his low battery. He sighed, leaning against his car when he reached it. He hadn’t even realized that he’d idly scrolled to the new name in his contacts, and was suddenly lost to contemplating meeting and spending a good part of the day with Jensen. He didn’t know why he’d expected that buzz to be Jensen texting or calling him, and he didn’t expect to feel so disappointed.

“You’re still here?” The voice pulled Jared from his thoughts, and he turned to see Betty crossing the parking lot to check on him, concern in her expression. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah,” Jared said, offering her a smile and shoving his phone back in his pocket. “Yeah, nothing to worry about.”

“Are you sure?” she asked. Her head cocked as realization dawned, Jared seeing that knowing spark in her eyes. “The new guy? Did you get his number?”

“No,” Jared answered, then corrected himself. “I mean, yeah, I did, but it’s not like that. I just offered to help him with some classes, that’s all. Besides, I don’t even think he likes me very much.” He felt those words as he said them, remembering just how reluctant Jensen has been to even give him his number in the first place; how Jensen had balked at the idea that Jared might be asking for more than a friendship.

Betty placed a hand on his arm and gave it a squeeze, waiting for him to look back at her before speaking again. “That’s impossible. He seemed happy enough to have lunch with you.”

“He was appreciative,” Jared clarified, shaking his head. “He just needs help, that’s it.”

Betty sighed and squeezed Jared’s arm one more time before stepping away. “Well, good luck, anyway. He might surprise you.”

Jared thanked her and said goodbye, finally getting into his car. He took a moment before driving away, trying to calm himself again. When he’d gotten up that morning, he hadn’t expected to end the night with so many conflicting emotions. He could already feel this new crush on Jensen brewing, and it made him anxious. He tended to feel too much and fall too hard too fast, making any kind of break-up that much more painful; not that he’d had that many relationships in the past. He scoffed at himself. He shouldn’t even even be thinking of the word relationship right now. If he was honest with himself, he was most bothered by Jensen’s reaction to giving Jared his number, hoping that Jensen at least thought he was a decent enough guy to have as a friend. If not, these classes were going to be pretty awkward.

He finally left the parking lot and focused on the road, telling himself that he wouldn’t think about it again until tomorrow.

****

Class tonight at 7. You still in?

The text made Jensen both happy and anxious, for a couple of reasons. One being that he wasn’t sure he was ready to face his own ignorance, and the other being spending more time with Jared. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to spend time with Jared. It was just that meeting new people and making new friends as an adult was an intimidating thing. At least, Jensen found it to be so. It seemed easier when he was a child, and a new toy or video game could bring him and someone else together. Now, things were all work and ailing relatives, getting set in his ways, answering for why he didn’t have the things typical people his age did (a spouse, kids, white picket fence). Still, this class was something he felt he had to do, and at least he wouldn’t be completely alone for it.

Absolutely. Jensen answered. Meet you there?

Half a second, and Jensen’s phone vibrated. Awesome! :)

Jensen sighed, tucking his phone back in his pocket. He was at his desk at work, having dropped Gran off at the Lighthouse on his way to the office in the morning. Part of him didn’t feel comfortable leaving her there, still struggling with her ability to be independent. But part of him was also relieved to have found that independence. It was a solution that he didn’t fully expect to find, and one that would allow them both to keep living normal lives and supporting themselves.

“Hey, Jensen.”

Jeff’s voice snapped Jensen’s attention back to work, and he looked up from his phone, quickly tossing it aside. “Hey!”

“You have that deposition ready yet?” Jeff asked, and Jensen nodded, glancing and pointing at his computer screen.

“Yeah, yeah, just about. I’ll be sending it over to you in a few minutes.”

“Great.” Jeff smiled, and Jensen was once again grateful to work for a lawyer who was actually a pretty decent, easygoing guy. As if to bolster that thought, Jeff’s smile softened, brows coming together a bit. “How’s your gran doing?”

“Better,” Jensen answered. He suddenly realized how true that was and found himself beaming back at his boss. “I think things are finally looking up.”

“Good! That’s good.” Jeff tapped his hand on the edge of Jensen’s desk. “Glad to hear it.”

“Thank you!” Jensen called as Jeff walked away. He turned back to his computer and got to typing, half focused on work and half focused on the anticipation of meeting Jared for class.

****

Jared was waiting for Jensen at the doors to the Lighthouse when Jensen parked his car, his welcoming smile once again abating some of Jensen’s anxiety.

“It’ll be great,” he said, by way of a greeting, opening the door for Jensen. “I promise.”

Jensen side-eyed Jared playfully in an attempt to calm himself as he stepped past him into the building. “You’d better be right.” Jared laughed and clapped a hand on his shoulder as he followed Jensen inside, and Jensen felt the easy connection between them.

He let Jared take the lead once inside, leading him to an almost classroom-like area with desks, chairs, and a whiteboard. Jared respectfully maneuvered them not all the way, but towards, the back of the room for their seats, as if he could sense that Jensen’s apprehension would make him nervous about being up front. The room was about half full when the class got started, Jensen breathing a sigh of relief when an upbeat redhead breezed into the room, offsetting the school atmosphere, the length of her dress flowing around her.

“Hey, everyone!” she greeted the class with a smile. “Thanks for coming.” Her eyes roamed the room, and she smirked and raised an eyebrow when she caught Jared, who chuckled and waved back at her. “I see most of you are new here.” She waved back at Jared before turning back to the whiteboard and grabbing a marker to spell out her name. “My name’s Danneel, and I’ll be helping you out with some blindness sensitivity training.” She turned back to the class, clasping her hands together, slim bracelets jingling, and leaned back against the desk in front of the board. “Now for the awkward part that everybody hates. Why don’t we start off with some introductions? Names and why you’re here?”

Jensen had gotten so bad with names over the years, he knew he was sure to forget them as soon as he heard them. He tried to pay attention as each person ahead of him spoke, and before he knew it, Jared was speaking next to him.

“Hi, my name is Jared. I originally came here a few years back when my grandfather went blind, but right now I’m just here to support a friend.” He tilted his head towards Jensen, who shifted awkwardly in his chair when Danneel’s eyes settled on him.

“Uh…” Jensen cleared his throat. “My name’s Jensen, and I’m here because my gran recently lost her eyesight, and…I really need to learn more about it and how to not be a spaz.”

Danneel laughed and nodded, winking at him. “A lot of us have had to learn that. The first step is admitting it, right?” The rest of the class followed suit, and then Danneel paused. “Well…let’s get some more awkward things out of the way. Classes like these work best if we are all open to talking about the things nobody really wants to talk about. Who wants to give me some stereotypes they’ve heard or maybe even believed about the blind?” She pursed her lips, pretending to think. “Maybe…they have super-hearing?”

A chuckle ran through the class before someone whose name Jensen actually remembered as Chad raised a hand and said, “More than that, though, right? Like, they have this crazy sixth sense, or something?”

“Okay,” Danneel said, nodding and without judgment. “That’s one. What are some others?”

A bit surprised at himself, Jensen found that he was speaking up, clearing his throat. “I actually thought the opposite. Or, maybe I didn’t know that I thought it, but my first day here, I was practically shouting at people, because I thought they also couldn’t hear me very well.”

“Good.” Danneel nodded, thankful for the contribution. “What else?”

It was slow-going, but others weighed in with various other ideas: blind people need canes, dogs, or constant supervision, they all wear dark glasses, they all see only pitch black, they can’t continue with their normal activities, they all use braille.

“Aren’t they all like real good at music and stuff?”

Chad. Jensen did his best not to snort, and Jared elbowed him, both sharing in the amusement and chiding him a bit to be patient. Danneel took it all in stride and offered explanations for all of the suggestions: Other senses do not improve or worsen, but the blind may simply learn to pay more attention to them; less than 2% use a cane and not all need or want a guide dog; the need for glasses depends on the individual’s condition and preference; only 10-15% of people who are visually impaired experience total darkness; many are independent; only 5% or so use braille rather than large print, readers, or devices.

“And they aren’t necessarily more talented than those of us who can see,” Danneel added, then shrugged, reminding everyone that the people they’re talking about are still able people. “But they might be.”

****

When class ended, Jared hung back with Jensen, the two of them hovering in the doorway to the classroom. He clapped Jensen on the back and nodded towards him, encouraging. “That was good, right? You were definitely engaged in the conversation.”

Jensen hesitated at first, but smiled a little. “Yeah, it was good. I definitely learned some things. And at least I know I’m not the least informed about these things.”

Jared laughed, knowing Jensen was referring to Chad. “Very true. I told you before, you’re trying. The people who are the least informed don’t even make the attempt.”

“So, I’m better by comparison?” Jensen asked, brows rising.

“Shut up,” Jared answered, rolling his eyes. He mentally checked himself, trying not to grin too wide or seem like he was flirting, overly self-conscious about his behavior knowing it had made Jensen uncomfortable before. He cleared his throat and stood a little straighter, which he realized later probably didn’t have the effect of making him seem more casual. “So, you’re in for more classes then?”

“Oh, yeah, definitely.” Jensen nodded enthusiastically, and Jared could see just how much Jensen cared in that moment; just one more thing to draw Jared in. “I know I have a lot more to learn, and I need to do this.” Jensen paused for a moment before speaking again. “You don’t mind doing more of these with me, do you? It’s fine if you don’t want to.”

Jared took a moment before answering, swallowing and telling himself not to get too excited. “No, I don’t mind at all. It’s always nice to get a refresher.” He smiled and fidgeted, fighting the instinct to hug Jensen goodbye. “I’ll see you at the next one.”

****

“I’m surprised you’re driving me home,” Gran said later, Jensen having just filled her in on his intro class.

“What else would I be doing?” Jensen asked, brow furrowed in confusion as he flipped on his turn signal.

“Going out for coffee,” she answered, and Jensen remained silent and confused until it hit him, and he laughed.

“Gran, I told you-”

“Yeah, yeah.” She cut him off, waving a hand at him. “Whatever. Don’t worry, pretty soon you won’t be so hung up on carting me everywhere, and you’ll allow me to take a bus while you go have fun.”

“Don’t be silly,” Jensen fake-chided, reaching over to pat her shoulder fondly. “Buses aren’t for queens.”

She rolled her eyes and snorted. “Guess that means you won’t be taking one anytime soon.”

Jensen laughed out loud in surprise at her comeback and nodded to himself. “Touche! You got that right.” He waited a beat before saying, “You know you’re the only one who can say that to me, right?”

“Of course.”


Chapter Two
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Jess

August 2017

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