It's been nearly three weeks since John last saw Henrik now.
It's been equally as long since he last had any contact with him, too.
So he decides, one day, that he has to see Henrik, see for himself how his friend is; and that evening, John finds himself knocking on the door to Henrik's house and waiting for an answer.
It's been eight minutes since he first knocked now, and John's almost scared that Henrik really has-
No. He promised, remember? He said he wouldn't do that again.
(John tries to ignore the voice in the back of his head saying but that promise was thirty years ago.)
He forces himself not to think about it, and not long after, Henrik opens the door.
John finds himself gasping slightly. Henrik looks… well, there's no polite way for John to put it, Henrik looks like a mess. He's usually so particular about his appearance, and while it's clear he's trying his best, his hair and clothes are just dishevelled enough that it's clear he really hasn't been in a good way. (And he clearly hasn't showered in a few days, John notes.)
It shouldn't come as a shock, not after all Henrik has been through recently, but it manages to shock John anyway. Henrik looks more like the anxious, oft-hungover man John met at Rigden than the cool, collected CEO he initially reunited with a mere two months back.
"John?" Henrik sounds exhausted, and it's at this moment John notices his friend's eyes are bloodshot, and there are dark circles forming underneath them. He can't help but wonder when Henrik last slept.
"I just wanted to know how you were doing. You can't have been having an easy time of things."
Henrik shakes his head. "It's… it's no concern of yours, John."
"It is my concern when you haven't contacted me since you… the only information on you I've had since then was from Serena Campbell of all people." (And she's not the one you've known for thirty years, John adds in his head.) "Please, Henrik –" John stops, realising an attempt at a different argument might work better, "I didn't come all this way for nothing. It's been a while since I last ate, actually, can I come in for a couple of biscuits and some tea at least?"
It occurs to John the minute he says it that it's an easy ruse to see through.
Henrik seems to be willing to play along, though, and nods. "Just – wait a minute." He closes the door.
John waits, and waits, until after what feels like forever, Henrik opens the door again and gestures for John to come in.
(Henrik seems oddly silent today: not his typical quietness, but something completely different. It's closer, John thinks, to the kind of quietness where you have a hundred thousand things to say, but it's easier not to say them because if you start you're not sure you'll ever stop.)
When John comes in, he notices that there's something on the living room wall, covered by a sheet. He wonders what it is, but knows that if Henrik's trying to disguise it, it's better not to ask. "So, where's the kitchen?"
"I'll show you," Henrik offers, heading in what John supposes is the direction of the kitchen. John just follows Henrik, trying not to think too hard about the state his friend is in.
"Henrik," John finds the words falling from his lips before he can stop himself from saying them, "When was the last time you took a shower?" He realises immediately how insensitive that sounds and tries to fix it. "I don't mean to be insensitive, but – you're clearly not taking care of yourself."
"Three days ago?" Henrik says. It comes out as more of a guess than an answer.
"Have you even eaten today?"
"This morning, yes."
"So not since then?" John grabs a pack of biscuits out of the cabinet. "Join me, then, we'll share these." There's an awkward silence after that, as he searches for the power button on the kettle.
"Henrik," John suggests after he finishes his tea, "would you mind if… could I…" Suddenly he's the one lost for words. "Let me help you."
Henrik doesn't respond.
"How about you take a bath, at least? I could…" John can't bring himself to finish the sentence, but he knows Henrik will know what he's implying.
Henrik gives a small, hesitant nod, and avoids looking at John while he does so.
John feels his heart break at the fact that Henrik's in a bad enough way that, for once, he's actually admitting to needing help with something. He forces himself to push the feeling down, trying to focus on offering whatever practical support he can instead.
So before he knows it, John's running a bath for Henrik.
"Is the temperature okay?" he asks. He doesn't get a reply, his friend seemingly being lost in thought. "Henrik?" he calls, raising his voice slightly.
That seems to get Henrik's attention. He dips his finger into the water, just the slightest bit, and nods.
John then takes to slipping Henrik's jumper off and unbuttoning his shirt. Henrik glances to the side, seemingly focusing his eyes on a small chip in the paint on the walls.
It suddenly occurs to John that he's doing the very thing he's fantasised (albeit guilty so) about over the years since he met Henrik. But he'd always imagined pleasurable escapades in private, perhaps in cabinets or closets, or simply in a shared bedroom. Not… this.
John undoes the last button and pulls the sleeves of Henrik's shirt over his arms. (Maybe he's imagining it, but Henrik seems even thinner than usual.) He hesitantly brings his hands down to Henrik's belt. "If you want to…"
Henrik shakes his head.
"Are you sure you're okay with allowing me to do this?" John questions again, finding it hard to believe his friend's answer.
Henrik nods, hesitantly but vigorously, and shuts his eyes. He doesn't need to speak for John to know what he means: just get it over with so we can never speak of this event again.
"Just… get it over with, then. Alright." John knows he's saying it to himself more than anything; he feels almost anxious at the idea of Henrik allowing him to do something so intimate. He forces himself to remain composed, reminding himself that it's a completely innocent situation, that all he's doing is helping a friend. So slowly, carefully, he undoes Henrik's belt, unbuttons and unzips his trousers. He looks away as he fumbles for a grip on the waistband.
A few seconds later, he mutters "okay, Henrik, you can get in now," still averting his eyes. He hears a splash of the water, and turns back to see Henrik, who's now sitting in the bath, head bowed, eyes closed, with his hands folded in his lap in an attempt to protect whatever modesty he can. He looks like he feels uncomfortable with being there. John can't blame him; he'd feel ashamed himself, if he were in Henrik's position.
John rolls up his sleeves and the legs of his own trousers and then sits down on the edge of the bathtub. He grabs a flannel from the little storage caddy mounted to the wall, dips it in the water and then gently starts to run it across Henrik's back.
After a few minutes, Henrik actually leans into John's touch. It's the most he's moved since getting into the bath. It makes John wonder if perhaps this is what Henrik needs: to not have to be the one in control, the one with all the answers, for once. To just sit and let someone else take care of him for once, in a safe, quiet environment where he knows he can ask to stop if he wants.
(John would understand, were that the case. It's something he's daydreamed of, himself, though he'd never admit to it.)
John takes the washcloth and runs it across Henrik's chest a final time before he wrings it out, dips it in the water again and brings it up to Henrik's face. He tries to be extra gentle here, using only the lightest touch, and within a few seconds he wrings the cloth out again, placing it on the side of the bathtub.
"Tip your head back," he says.
Henrik follows John's request immediately, with no further response.
John scoops some water into his palms before bringing them up over Henrik's head. He repeats the action until he decides Henrik's hair is sufficiently damp, at which point he grabs a bottle of shampoo from the storage caddy. He forces the bottle lid open – something that takes him a bit more of a fight than he expected – and squeezes some of the shampoo onto his hand, before rubbing it into his friend's hair. Henrik winces involuntarily at the sudden cool sensation.
John scoops up more water and carefully rinses Henrik's hair off. "Okay, we're done now, Henrik." He thinks he ought to say something comforting, or at least a 'you did really well', but he resists the urge. The both of them feel exposed enough as it is, and he doesn't want to make Henrik feel patronised on top of everything else. Better to stay quiet.
Henrik sighs. It sounds more like a sigh of frustration and sadness than one of relief.
John feels like sighing too. He finds himself wishing there were something more he could do to help his friend.
John stands up and grabs a towel off the towel rack. He stares at the wall and holds his hand out for Henrik to take the towel, and a few seconds later hears the sound of the bath water draining and then feels someone touch his hand.
He feels Henrik jerk away from him immediately and hears a murmured "sorry". John releases his grip on the towel so Henrik can take it.
It's in this moment John realises he forgot to find Henrik something to change into. "I'll just find you some clothes, if you don't mind." Henrik doesn't answer either way, and John decides to take that as a 'yes'.
So he slips out the room, grateful for an excuse to escape the awkwardness of the situation, and goes into Henrik's bedroom. He notices that the bed looks like it hasn't been made in a few days, and he tries not to think about that as he opens Henrik's wardrobe. He picks the cleanest shirt, underwear and pair of trousers he can find and heads back to find the bathroom door is now closed. He very nearly opens it, but remembers to knock at the last second. Henrik opens the door, the towel now wrapped around his waist, and takes the clothes from John's hands without a word before quickly shutting the door again.
(John tries not to feel insulted by the lack of thanks.)
John heads back to the living room, hoping to give Henrik some privacy even though it's really too late for that now.
When Henrik returns, now fully dressed, he remains silent, but he gives John a nod of acknowledgement.
John already knows that's going to be the last time they recognise that any of this happened.
They sit there in silence for a few more minutes until John finally decides to put his shoes back on and says "I'd best be on my way, I've got paperwork that I haven't finished. Bye, Henrik." (He's not lying, anyway: he has got paperwork that he didn't get the chance to finish today. It's just not the main reason he should leave.) "And please," he adds, voice hushed even though no-one else could possibly hear them, "try to look after yourself."
There's barely time for Henrik to say goodbye before John's out the door.