If asked, Jensen would say that he liked all kinds of movies. If pressed, he might confess that he doesn't really care for horror movies. But he doesn’t admit that to just anyone.
Roque always thought it was hilarious that the hacker left the room whenever the theme for "Unsolved Mysteries" came on the TV. It didn't matter what language the dub was in, Jensen never stuck around. It was unexpected and therefore amusing to have such a weakness as a battle-hardened soldier.
But after Roque found the show in flipping when Jensen was immobile with a splinted ankle, it stopped being so funny. None of them were going to forget how that familiar voice cracked in fevered dreams and how fucking quiet Jensen was the next morning.
Clay looked the other way when Cougar used Roque's favourite shirt for target practice and Roque barely even tried to stop the sniper. He just kept looking at their silent hacker and frowning whenever Jensen flinched. Spec Ops weren't supposed to shy from loud noises and they certainly weren't supposed to carry around nightlights because they're afraid of what could be hiding in the dark.
It was Pooch who found the tiny bulb in a safe house in Passive Fundo, Brazil, squirreled away behind a dresser and barely making a dent in the tropical night. There were birds still squawking outside their window and Jensen passed out across a bare mattress, head turned towards where the dinky light bulb was twinkling.
“Hey, Jay, wake up.”
The hacker mumbled, reluctant to wake from the sleep that had been four days in coming.
“Jensen, man, move. We gotta bug out.”
Pooch grabbed at Jensen’s non-wounded arm and ducked the swing he’d known was coming.
“Get up, soldier!”
Jensen’s eyes snapped open and blinked in the dark. Pooch just nodded at him and dropped a half-packed duffle across hacker-knees. He grabbed the nightlight and tossed it to the blinking corporal before returning to his own things.
Pooch didn’t tell anyone else about the hidden light but Cougar had seen the way Jensen never seemed to settle in pitch black. He often noticed things that Jensen didn’t know he had, like his own favourite chocolate bars stowed in the bottom of a duffle that wasn’t his to be doled out when he was desperate for a fix, or the way Jensen slept with a flashlight in his hand and not his gun in the middle of the jungle. Cougar knew the gun was beneath that pillow so he didn’t mention it to Clay but he wasn’t surprised to find Jensen awake before the sun hit their fortification beneath the heavy trees.
“I will not let anything get you,” Cougar said in an undertone over dehydrated breakfast and bad coffee. “Not in the dark.”
Jensen blushed and ducked his head, mumbling something about the likelihood of being eaten by a jaguar in the middle of the jungle. Cougar just smiled when he found a Mars on his bedroll when he lay down the next night and didn't say anything else.
For Clay, it was something different; it wasn't remotely funny, it was something he could ignore, accept or pander to. He made it his business to know the weaknesses of each person on his team so that he could pre-empt breakdowns and prevent them. When he saw Jensen look away from a poster for “Dog Soldiers,” Clay was mildly concerned until that night saw Jensen sprinting through the dark ahead of him and not hesitating more than a soldier should before darting around corners even when the moon was cloud-covered.
The CO put it out of his mind until they found themselves sitting around the TV, watching some mindless thing that he was barely registering. It was all copacetic until the screen flickered with blood and guts and something supernatural that had Roque snorting into his half-empty beer, Pooch laughing outright at the ‘80s special effects, and Jensen squeaking and tumbling over the back of the couch, knocking Cougar’s hat off in his attempts to get away.
“Jensen, what the fuc—“
“No es verdadero, J—“ [It’s not real]
An upstairs door slammed and they swallowed useless reassurances that no one scared was hearing. Cougar grabbed his hat and made it a step towards the door before Clay was on his feet and shouldering past.
“Go easy on him, Colonel, okay? Everybody’s scared of something,” Pooch called after him and he could hear Roque’s murmurs which sounded an awful lot like agreement.
Clay found his wayward hacker in his room beneath the slope of the roof with a laptop shining brightly coloured things against a waxy, drawn face.
“Oh Clay, hey.”
“Hey, Jake.” Clay was a little surprised by how soft his own voice was. “How’re you doing?”
“Doing? Oh, you know. I’m good! No aches to speak of and I don’t think I have more than four bruises right now, so that’s good.”
The older man nodded; he’d expected the run-down but that didn’t make it any easier to talk about what was bothering his hacker.
“How about your head?”
“The dark, Jensen. How are you doing in the dark?”
“The dark, sir? An absence of light? Aside from slightly less than normal night vision, I generally do all right.”
Clay sighed and flicked off the light in the room, pushing Jensen’s laptop shut in the same motion. He waited a moment but aside from the slightest hitch in his breath, the blond didn’t move.
“It’s only when I’m sleeping,” Jensen sighed, still a shadow invisible in the dark.
Clay turned towards him, feeling for the edge of the bed and sitting down slowly. On any other topic, Jensen wouldn’t shut up but Clay had discovered that it was much more difficult to get the hacker talking about himself.
"And it won't become a problem, Colonel."
Clay rubbed at his face and hated that he had to be hard about this. But they couldn't afford the weakness even if it meant that Cougar was going to glare at him.
"See that it doesn't, Corporal."
He left Jensen in the dark and smiled a little when the light didn't immediately turn on behind him.
"I wasn't always afraid of the dark, you know," Jensen announced, drunk and more talkative than he normally was--the other Losers sighed collectively and glanced around the bar to make sure no one was paying them more attention than they ought to. A drunk Jensen was a noisy Jensen and they were all too tired to put up with much tonight. The mission had been almost beyond FUBAR'd and all they wanted was to unwind until their ears weren't ringing.
"At least, I don't think I was." Jensen sighed, fidgeting with a shot glass and looking remarkably despondent for a Spec Ops corporal. "I just don't like when things jump out at me. Then there's screaming and..." He shivered, sinking back into the seat.
"Well, I don't like clowns," Pooch said into the lull, shuddering theatrically and looking pointedly at Cougar.
"Yo no quiero al dentista," the sniper admitted under his breath so Jensen could hear him. [I don't like the dentist.]
Roque frowned when Pooch poked him. "What? Fine. I don't like heights."
Clay hadn't returned to the table by the time they got around to him but he admitted to Jensen in the quiet of their hangovers that he wasn't the biggest fan of snakes. None of them used the word "fear" but when Roque changed the channel away from the opening strains of "Unsolved Mysteries," it didn't need to be discussed further.
On his last sweep of their next safe house, Pooch made sure that Jensen's nightlight had been packed and Jensen went with Cougar to the dentist when they were stateside. Roque made a point of using a clown doll as the target for Pooch's demolitions practice and Jensen took the position between Roque and the edge of the roof when they were helping Cougar set up his sniper-hide on their next mission. Cougar, the snake-whisperer, took sleeping-bag checking duties when they were in the middle of Borneo. And if they grinned a little whenever Jensen squeaked during the scary kid’s movies they tried out, they never laughed when the nightmares hit. They were Losers and they had each others' backs, even on the little stuff.