A/N: Been going through some old WIPs and found this snippet of a piece that was meant to be a missing scene from Black Light, also inspired by another author's fic where Frank can hear Adam drowning at Panchaea over the infolink. Not sure if I'll continue this specifically or maybe start a new piece with a similar premise, but I figured it can't hurt to share what I have.
THE RIALTO THEATER
He's still breathing...isn't he?
It's hard for Frank to tell, crouched on the hardwood floor of the Rialto's stage by the entrance to the bubble tent, zipper cracked open just enough to let him peer into the darkness inside the dome. The two men have commandeered his sleeping quarters for the night. Not without invitation, though Jensen, ever the martyr, has taken the floor while leaving the other one—Stacks—to take the camp bed.
And now the other man is snoring too loudly for Frank to hear if Jensen is breathing at all.
He's being a fool, he tells himself. Jensen is alive. Frank had seen it plain as day—he's walking, talking, falling into trouble and getting out of it, as always. The DNA test had confirmed it's really him. And yet…
After the months of nightmares, hallucinations fueled by sleep deprivation and caffeine overdoses that the rational part of Frank's mind knows can't be real, it's hard not to believe he's staring at a ghost.
Is he moving…?
The other man is. Snoring aside, Stacks is twitching in his sleep, gears grinding in his mechanical arms, yet Jensen lies as still as a corpse. Frank hates the metaphor the instant his mind conjures it.
He's sleeping, that's all. He wouldn't appreciate me watching him.
So why can't he tear himself away?
He never formulates an answer, not even in his head, but deep down Pritchard knows the reason. For all his efforts to keep the memories at bay, still they bleed out of his nightmares to spill into waking moments: the white noise of an Infolink signal, GPL pinging from the Arctic, and that momentary spark of hope amid the chaos until he heard Jensen's voice.
Not the sound of a man victorious, relieved to have halted Darrow's transmission and ended the violence.
The sound of a man afraid.
Throat growing tight, Pritchard had cut him off. "I know."
It was the final time he heard Adam Jensen speak. The Infolink spared him nothing in the moments that followed: the groan of warping metal and cracking concrete, followed by the roar of cruel water as Panchaea's walls caved. Then, worse still, the sound of choking, Adam fighting to breathe against the might of the ocean forcing its way into his lungs.
Francis had called out his name; heard his final gasping breaths, Adam's pulse a frantic hum of interference undercutting the signal.
Then he heard nothing at all.
It's the same nothing he can hear now, even the momentary breaks in Stacks' snoring leaving behind nothing but silence.
I'm not about to go over there and check more closely. I'm not.
Except that already he's pushed the tent's zipper further open and begun to creep inside, squinting to make out Jensen's face in the dark. Through the widening crack, a narrow shaft of light falls across Adam's chest, and Francis wonders for a moment if maybe he could see it move if he spared a few seconds to look.
Then his next tentative footstep causes a floorboard to sag beneath them, and Adam sighs softly and rolls over in his sleep.
Pritchard freezes in place. Definitely alive, then. Now he feels foolish. But still…
His hand is halfway outstretched towards Jensen's neck, taken by the notion he could just make certain if he felt for a pulse before he catches himself. Shaking his head, Pritchard balls a fist and pulls his hand back to his side. "You aren't going to make a fool out of me, Jensen," he mumbles softly. "I've done enough insane things on your account."
Carefully navigating his way back to the stage outside, Francis already knows that by the end of tomorrow he'll have done many more.