A/N: This fic is based off a prompt from dragonsophie on Tumblr, so shoutout to them for that post. It's also inspired by the headcanon that John has struggled with psychosis since long before we see it in canon. This is set in an AU where John never killed anyone, and John never killing anyone would mean he didn't kill himself either, so the timeline here is very vague. Maybe it's set last year. Maybe this summer. Maybe right now. Who knows. It's after Henrik (finally) gets therapy, at any rate, so that's why I say mid-2018 or later.
John hasn't replied to Henrik's calls or texts in three days.
The first day, John was meant to be at work, but didn't show up. Henrik assumed he'd called in sick or requested the day off, but apparently that wasn't the case either, and no one was entirely certain what was going on.
So Henrik sent him a text that evening:
'I noticed you weren't at work today, and you didn't call in sick or anything. I hope everything is alright.'
He contemplated whether to say anything else, unsure of whether John would appreciate the message or if it would make him feel ill at ease. He found himself typing it out a few minutes later anyway, when John hadn't yet responded:
'If you need to talk, you know I'm here.'
The second day, John still hadn't replied to the texts. He wasn't at work, either. No one had heard from him, at least not any of the people Henrik asked.
Henrik had to admit he was starting to feel concerned that something was wrong. Despite knowing how unlikely it was that anything serious had happened, he found himself spiralling into worry, the thought that John was hurt or worse refusing to stop tugging at the back of his mind.
He left a voicemail that afternoon.
'My sincerest apologies if I'm bothering you, John, but it's been two days since anyone last heard from you. There's been some talk of getting a locum in if you keep being absent: a locum who would undoubtedly have not even half your talent. We miss you – I miss you. Come back soon.'
It's the evening of day three without contact from John, and after having tried to phone him that morning and afternoon without any response, Henrik makes the decision to go and check on him in person.
He feels like a bit of an idiot for not doing this sooner, as it's not as if he doesn't have keys to John's house now. But before, he'd wanted to give John space, scared of coming across as intrusive rather than as simply a concerned friend. (Or partner, or whatever it is they are now. Henrik's not sure. He doesn't think John knows, either.)
Now, however, it's just been too long with no answers at all, and Henrik supposes he has little choice other than more drastic action.
So rather than go home after work, he drives to John's house, and lets himself in to an empty kitchen.
It feels unsettling, the combination of the quietness with the lived-in appearance of the room – there are plates and bowls left in the sink, empty packets of all sorts of food are strewn about on the counters, but the house is totally silent, and there's no sign of activity from John.
Henrik hopes this isn't another one of John's downswings, where he pushes himself too hard for too long and subsequently crashes and burns for a rather long while. It's starting to seem like it though, like a return to certain times in the past where John was clinging on to Henrik for dear life, metaphorically (and sometimes literally) speaking – where Henrik would have to remind him to eat, keep track of how much sleep he was getting, and, if the worst came to the worst, talk him out of his darker thoughts.
Henrik barely had the strength to hold himself together back then, nevermind to keep John going. (He never knew how John managed it when he had to do the same for Henrik.) He thinks that's only more true now. The years have worn him down and he's not sure he can be what John needs, not anymore.
But if things have gotten bad again, then Henrik knows he needs to try. To try to be there for his friend, even though he doesn't know that he actually can.
So he takes a deep breath and walks through to the living room.
He first notices, in the dimly lit room, that there's a lump of something on the sofa, then realises that it's John, curled up into the foetal position. His eyes are closed as if he's sleeping, but his breathing is too uneven and shaky for that. There's a bottle of Tylenol on the coffee table near the sofa, and a discarded blanket that's half on the sofa and half on the floor.
So John's come down with something. That would explain his absence from work, though John must be in rather bad shape to have not turned up at all, rather than showing up and silently struggling through the day like he has in the past when he gets sick…
unless he was doing that before his disappearance, and Henrik didn't even notice.
Henrik sighs quietly. "Oh, John, what are we going to do with you?" he murmurs, not intending his words to be heard.
John's eyes snap open right afterwards, though, indicating that he did in fact hear Henrik, and he glances up at him before groaning softly and closing his eyes again.
"John?" Henrik repeats, louder this time.
"Should've known this would happen," John mutters, "with the fever too…"
"What are you talking about?" Henrik questions, moving closer.
"You know. Don't – not right now, please…" John coughs. "Of course I'd see you."
John doesn't think I'm actually here, Henrik realises, he thinks he's hallucinating from the fever.
It's the plea of 'not right now' that really worries Henrik. Is John's fever so bad he's already been hallucinating?
Then things start snapping together in his mind – things John has sworn had happened when they didn't; never anything big enough for Henrik to be majorly concerned, but snippets of conversation John tried to reference, or the occasional laugh and 'remember when you wore that awful tie?' followed by a description of a tie Henrik didn't own, had never owned—
Oh, God. John has been hallucinating since long before the fever. And he's never told anyone, not even Henrik, his closest friend and confidante. And he's certainly never seen anyone about it. He's been suffering in silence all these years and Henrik has let it go unnoticed.
Henrik thinks that, if he weren't a medical professional who knew it was impossible, he might actually believe his heart was breaking right now.
He doesn't even know where to go from here. John isn't going to talk about this when he's physically better, there's no chance – but he clearly needs some sort of intervention.
Yet all Henrik can do at the moment is try to comfort him in the here and now, so that's what he does. "John, listen to me. You aren't just seeing things, okay? I'm really here, I promise."
"You are?" John asks. His voice is quiet and soft and everything John's voice isn't supposed to be. He sounds so broken. It almost scares Henrik.
"I am," Henrik affirms. He outstretches an arm, but stops just short of actually touching his friend. "Can I touch you? To prove it."
"Please," John whispers.
Henrik reaches out and puts an arm on John's shoulder. John relaxes a little bit, and his eyes light up in wonder at the realisation that Henrik really is there. In fact, he looks amazed by it. It would be a lovely look to see on John's face… were it not in this situation.
"Have you eaten recently?" Henrik asks after a few minutes in silence, rubbing his hands together nervously.
"Haven't felt up to it."
"Can I make you something? Soup, maybe? That's what people normally like to eat when they're sick, isn't it…" Henrik trails off, realising that he's just starting to ramble at this point.
"Okay," John nods.
"Alright then. I'll be back soon."
While he waits for the soup to finish heating up, Henrik takes a few moments to contemplate what to do now.
John needs help, that much is clear. But Henrik doesn't know how to help him. Not when he wouldn't accept it.
Not that Henrik could judge him. He'd spent years struggling in secret himself, with the occasional period of time where John would help him out if things got really bad.
It's an agreement they've had for many years, though an unspoken one: if one of them was in a dark place, the other would take care of them however they needed until they felt better. A fairly substantial amount of their relationship over the years has been built on it.
But Henrik had never tried to hide things from John, not when he was at his worst anyway. The rest of the time, yes, but at his lowest, Henrik was an open book, too focused on survival (or, occasionally, achieving the lack thereof), and on pretending to be fine around people other than John, people who wouldn't understand, to care about much else. There were things they didn't directly discuss, but they weren't so much hidden as they were open secrets.
While John has been hiding this for… Henrik remembers things that, in hindsight, point to this, going back to the early days of their friendship. So, decades. John has been hiding this for decades. Even when he was at his lowest points, even when he was relying on Henrik to keep him functioning. It feels a bit like an indication that John doesn't truly trust Henrik at all, keeping this hidden even from him.
(Henrik knows by now that it's not personal, that John distrusts everyone, that he hates showing any form of vulnerability just as much as Henrik himself does. Yet it still feels hurtful that John wouldn't trust him with something like this.)
And even though John had tried to hide it, there were still signs all along. How could Henrik have been so blind?
Henrik remembers how Roxanna had finally managed to push him into seeking professional help by threatening his job. He supposes he could do similarly for John, but he doesn't think he's brave enough to actually go through with getting John fired if he declines (and declining is an understatement for how he would likely react to the idea). He couldn't do that, couldn't take The Work away from John, not when it's so important to him.
But if there's anything that has a chance of working…
He supposes he shouldn't even be thinking about this right now. He doesn't even know how to raise the subject with John, and what use is planning later steps if he has no clue where to start?
Henrik returns to the living room a few minutes later, carrying a bowl of soup.
"Here you go," he says. He puts the bowl down on the coffee table, before slipping back into the kitchen to get John a glass of water and putting that down too.
"Thank you," John says weakly, slowly pulling himself upright and then picking the bowl up from its spot on the table.
Henrik takes a seat on the sofa. He spends the next ten minutes or so preparing himself for what he's about to say, then finally, when John's done eating, he speaks. "John, you said— you implied earlier that you had hallucinated before." He feels guilty for taking advantage of John's fragile state and clouded thoughts like this, but he doesn't know how else he's going to have a chance of getting any further information. "Have you?"
"I, uhm… 'bout as far back as I can remember. Not when I was a kid, but after… 't's okay though, Henrik, I'm used to it."
Henrik tries to disregard the ache those last eight words make him feel. "Have you ever seen a professional about it?"
"Told anyone? At all?"
"You're the first, Henrik," John says. "You always are."
Before Henrik can ask what that means, John has busied himself with shifting as far to the edge of the sofa as possible.
"John, what are you doing?"
"You shouldn't be too close to me. I'll – I'll make you sick too."
Henrik sighs. Of course John is prioritising Henrik more than himself, even when he's ill. "That doesn't matter. I'll be fine. Actually, just – come here." He places a hand on John's arm, and when there's no rejection, pulls him closer and holds him.
John snuggles closer into Henrik's grasp, apparently grateful for the attempt at comfort.
Henrik finds he can't bring himself to loosen his grip. He wishes he could do more than this for John; though he'll be over this physical illness in a few days, his mind is a whole other story, and Henrik has no idea what to do about that. But for the moment, when they're huddled together on the sofa like this, he can almost pretend there's nothing that he truly needs to be worried about.