A/N: I do seem to like my Jeroen angst. Same disclaimers as before, pretty much the same warnings and even the same spoilers. Jeroen angsts, swears a bit, and yes, in the comic, he really does eat cat food. That would be the grand total of spoilers in this fic, really, from the Jenny Sparks graphic.
Apollo found Jeroen leaning on a rail near the centre of The Carrier, staring into the caged baby universe. He was smoking what Apollo hoped was a cigarette. If Midnighter caught him smoking pot again Jeroen was doomed.
"Doctor," Apollo greeted him, leaning next to him on the rail.
"Apollo," Jeroen responded dully.
"Are you busy?"
Jeroen gave him a very bemused look. He tossed the now burnt down fagend into the baby universe, causing a mass of novas, and turned to face the older hero. Apollo grinned at his own redundant words.
"Obviously not," he said. "Can I ask you a favour?"
"A favour?" Jeroen echoed, obviously surprised.
"Swift is away, and Angie and Jack are… busy."
"I see," Jeroen muttered, mood souring swiftly.
"I didn't mean it like that," Apollo soothed. Apollo was the only one who ever thought to, when it came to Jeroen. "Mid and I need someone to sit for Jenny for a few hours."
Jeroen didn't bother ask why, he simply replied, "I can't."
Apollo opened his mouth and closed it again. He regarded the Doctor shrewdly.
"You've never sat for her, have you?" he asked after a moment.
"No," Jeroen said simply.
"She's easy to handle, you know," Apollo coaxed.
"It's not that."
"Have we ever asked you before?" Apollo asked softly. "Somehow, you're never around."
"Why?" Apollo asked simply.
Jeroen turned back to the baby universe, mouth twisting in a wry smile. Apollo gave him time to reply, knowing it had to be a deeply personal reason. Jeroen lit another cigarette."There's two reason's really," he said softly. "The first is very personal, you understand."
"Of course," Apollo said, speaking barely over a whisper. Suspicions were beginning to arise in him, but he wasn't the type to judge someone without evidence, and even then he would try and hold back.
"I… I'm not comfortable around Jenny Q because of Jenny S." Jeroen took a long drag on the cigarette. The explanation was simple enough so far, to Apollo's mind, and much the same problem they'd all had four years ago, when Jenny Q first entered their worlds so soon after their bereavement. "I don't know if you noticed, I don't think any one did, but I wasn't always comfortable around Jenny S."
"I hadn't noticed," Apollo admitted.
Jeroen breathed deeply and stared at the burning end of his cigarette.
"I had a crush on Jenny S."
Apollo grimaced, wondering how to phrase what he wanted to say next. Eventually he settled on: "It must have been quite powerful, for you to still be uncomfortable around Jenny Q years later."
"That would be because when I say crush, I mean love," Jeroen said bluntly. "I was furious when I learned she'd left the diary to Angie, given Angie the chance to see her again. I could have saved her!" his voice cracked.
Apollo put a comforting hand on Jeroen's shoulder, squeezing gently. Jeroen leant in towards him, just slightly. He was biting his lip hard enough to make it bleed.
"When she found me I was eating cat food," Jeroen murmured. "It didn't bother her. She's been all the way down, you see. I think she was the only one here who had even a hope of empathising with me. She was sympathetic, in her own way."
"She was around for a long time," Apollo said. "She could empathise with all of us, in one way or another, and she'd still faced problems the rest of us couldn't even imagine."
"The second reason," Jeroen said quietly, taking another drag on his cigarette to disguise the emotion inspired roughness in his voice with cigarette roughness, "is because I was only just around the corner when I overheard Midnighter telling you that he'd 'rather kill Jenny than leave her alone with that crackhead.'"
Apollo lifted his hand form Jeroen's shoulder and it hovered, awkwardly. He was blushing slightly, and the absolutely mortification he felt on his partner's behalf sickened him. The worst part was, he couldn't take back Midnighter's words with any sincerity. Midnighter and Jack had a shared contempt for the young man.
Jeroen smirked at the universe.
"Who did you tell him you were asking to sit for her?" he asked softly. "I hope you had nothing too important to do."