Jennifer wasn’t sure what to expect when Cassandra told her she had a visitor, but she shrugged on her cardigan and toed on her slippers and followed Cassandra out to the day room anyway.
And there was John Sheppard, sprawled in one of the chairs and looking for all the world like a casual visitor, but for the way he was drumming his fingers on one knee.
“Hey Jennifer,” he said.
Her throat closed. There was no way he could have known that no one from the band had come to visit her, not once since she’d agreed to go in for residential treatment. Evan had sent flowers and an apology. Teyla and Ronon sent postcards from every stop on the tour. Rodney called quite often - carefully never mentioning John or whether the band was successful, since her therapist had wanted her to stay away from all Space Monkeys press - and of course her parents came to visit whenever they could, but to see John was so far out of the realm of what Jennifer had expected.
And he looked - good. Better than Jennifer would have thought, because no one had told her anything about how he was doing.
“John. Hi.” Jennifer sank down in the chair opposite him and cast Cassandra a look. Cassandra was still supervising her visits, mostly to make sure conversations didn’t stray into the inappropriate - like the band.
“I was in town and I wanted to see you,” John said. He offered her the ghost of his old smile, the one that made fans scream.
“Thanks,” Jennifer said.
“I know I was a jerk and never called or wrote, so here I am.”
“You’re not responsible for me, John.”
“Well, I’m self-absorbed and an ass. You figured out what was going on with me. I should’ve realized you weren’t as happy as I thought you were.” He glanced down at his hands, but then he held her gaze steadily.
“I didn’t figure out everything going on with you,” Jennifer said softly.
And John looked away, swallowed hard. “Well, you weren’t supposed to. No one was supposed to.”
“Apparently people did.”
“Look, I never told you how I felt about Rodney because - because it didn’t matter. He loves you, you love him, and you make him happy, and I wasn’t about to ruin that.” John attempted to smile, failed.
“Well, Rodney and I aren’t together anymore.”
John raised his eyebrows.
“He didn’t tell you?”
“He doesn’t have to tell me anything.”
They weren’t talking, Jennifer realized. She changed the subject. “How are you doing? You look good.”
John reached up and smoothed a hand over his hair, which was growing out again. “Yeah. I’m officially in remission. So - yeah, I'm good.”
“How are you doing?”
Jennifer took a deep breath. “Taking it one day at a time.”
“I know it doesn’t mean a lot,” John said, “but I’m sorry for how awful everyone was, and how I wasn’t there for you.”
“Not everyone was awful,” Jennifer said. “The awful ones just seemed the loudest.” She bit her lip, then said, “You know, Rodney likes boys too.”
John blinked. “I - what? Should you be telling me that?”
“I just thought you might want to know. In case.”
“Right. In case.” John wet his lips. “Cam and I are still -”
“Oh. How does that work, anyway? If you -”
“He’s nice to me. He understands. He’s fun to kiss.” John blushed a little, and Jennifer couldn’t help it - she laughed.
“I’ll bet. He has a great mouth.”
“I’ll be sure to tell him that.”
“I’m sure he hears it all the time.” Jennifer smiled. “If only you’d started dating boys sooner. Think of all the fun talks we could have had! Like - be straight with me. Bieber or Efron?”
“I can’t be straight with anyone,” John drawled, and Jennifer laughed. “But honestly - Efron. No contest.”
John darted a glance at Cassandra, and Jennifer said, “Don’t worry, she won’t tell anyone. She’s here to make sure you don’t upset me.”
“Hopefully she stops me before I upset you with my stupid mouth,” John said, and Jennifer smiled.
“You’re not stupid. You played stupid a lot, though. In class. With Rodney.”
“Well, yeah. You’ve seen how he looks when he gets all fired up.” John’s expression turned dreamy, and it was a little weird, seeing him like that, but Jennifer knew exactly what he meant.
“True. The way his eyes light up and he starts waving his hands and his talks fast -”
“And his cheeks turn adorably pink? Yeah.”
And Jennifer realized, that of everyone in the band, John was probably the one who understood her best: how much she loved Rodney, and how easy it was to hate herself.
Cassandra cleared her throat and glanced pointedly at the wall. Time for group therapy soon. Jennifer nodded.
“I better get back to treatment,” she said.
“Oh! I didn’t meant to interrupt -”
“Not at all,” Jennifer said. “I was between classes. It was really good of you to come see me, John.”
“It was good to see you,” he said.
Jennifer hesitated, then reached out and tugged him into a hug. She could feel how thin he was. He’d always been wiry, but now he felt slender, almost delicate in her arms. Even though she was putting on weight, she knew she must feel the same to him. No one had dared touch her for more than a pat on the hand or the shoulder since she’d come out of the ER, and she hadn’t dared touch anyone either, lest they feel the truth of what she’d done. This was what she’d needed - the chance to connect with someone else on a visceral level, to feel how real he was and to know she was real herself. John held her gently, pressed a kiss to her cheek, and she kissed him back chastely, a sister to a brother.
“Break a leg out there,” she said, pulling back.
“Good luck in here,” John said, smiling.
Jennifer let Cassandra lead her away. When she glanced over her shoulder, John was standing there, hands in his pockets, watching her go.
The next day, when Jennifer’s parents came to visit her, she hugged them hello, and she felt just a little more grounded, a little more alive.