A/N: I wrote this (or parts of it, the beginning and the ending - the rest was added later on when two people, who don't have accounts on here but whom I care about a lot, expressed curiosity about the fic) nearly a year ago now, around the time I realised Henrik just wasn't going to get a proper reaction to everything that happened. Out of bitterness towards the show writers, I decided to give Henrik the mother of all breakdowns in a fic. I'm explaining all this so people know that I wrote this for more reasons than just being sadistic towards fictional people. It was a rage against bad writing on a soap opera. Which... doesn't make me sound much saner. XD
As the description implies, this 'verse is canon-compliant up until S20E39 'Undoing' and takes a completely different turn after that.
Also, yes, this fic uses quite a bit of creative license with the hospital stuff and how neurotoxins work etc, etc. The Holby writers take creative license with medical stuff all the time, I can do the same.
I know I warned you all about this in the description, but seriously, this is dark. So I'm going to reiterate it again: trigger warnings for severe mental illness (on both Henrik and John's sides), fairly graphic (but not gory) murder-suicide, ableism (as a character thing, not the author's beliefs at all), and general dark themes. If you're triggered by anything to do with mental illness or suicide, opt out now for your own sake. Everyone else, welcome to my twisted mind, and enjoy this story - if that's possible...
"I can't lose anyone else, John."
Apparently Henrik had been more literal than John had thought, when he said that. Ah well, everybody makes mistakes, right?
Rarely ones that send their not-quite-lovers into catatonic states, true, but a mistake is a mistake… right?
They'd had to pull Henrik away afterwards, after Roxanna had been given up on and her time of death had been called. He'd just sat there for hours, apparently, frozen in shock, even after Roxanna's body had long been taken to the morgue.
It was when another patient needed the room that a nurse had realised just how long Henrik had been there and tried to talk him into leaving, according to what John's been told. Henrik hadn't responded to her, only moving when she physically helped him up and out of the room. He'd been checked in as a patient on the ward afterwards, first being looked over physically, then a consultant had been sent down from psych once they figured out it likely wasn't physical. (There weren't any acute psych beds available, so Henrik had to stay on Keller. To say John was angry when he was told that would be an understatement.)
And that's when John finds out. Essie breaks the news to him, saying she thought he should know so he could prepare before having to see the state Henrik was in for himself, and because he was the closest person that Henrik had left.
John doesn't know how he manages to avoid breaking down in tears right there and then. He's not sure how it got to this point, but suddenly Roxanna is dead and Henrik is catatonic and it's all John's fault.
He goes to see Henrik as soon as he gets the chance. "Hello, Henrik," he attempts to greet his friend, hoping that somehow he'll be able to snap Henrik out of this and everything will be fine. "How are you doing?"
There's no reply. No movement, either. Henrik's eyes seem to follow the sound of John's voice, but they're somewhat glazed over, and obviously unfocused. It seems more like an instinctual obligation than a conscious response.
"Come on, Henrik," John pleads, putting a hand on his friend's shoulder in an attempt to elicit some sort of response – a flinch or something at least.
John's never been angrier with himself.
Eventually, later that day, they manage to find a psych bed for Henrik.
John can't help but hate it when he's told about that. This shouldn't be happening. Henrik isn't supposed to be like this: he isn't supposed to be so vulnerable and helpless, and he certainly isn't supposed to be on a psych ward, especially not because of something John did.
John comes to see Henrik every day after that.
The first three days play out exactly the same. John tries to talk to and interact with Henrik, but receives no response. He makes an effort to talk or just to touch Henrik as much as he can. He tells himself it's because, if Henrik's still aware of anything at all, he must feel terribly scared and lonely and perhaps having John around would make him feel a bit better.
In reality, it's more for John's own comfort than anything else.
It disconcerts him, seeing Henrik like this – totally silent, unresponsive, and perhaps worst of all, hooked up with tubes and wires just to make sure he at least gets some kind of nutrition, just to keep him alive, because he can't even do that much for himself right now. Talking nonstop, no matter how silly and trivial the subject, helps John to not think about that.
John finds himself wondering what Henrik is thinking ('if he's thinking', says a voice in the back of his head, and John's not sure which would be worse, Henrik being totally gone but hopefully at peace somewhere, or still in there but afraid and hurting). Does he remember losing Rox? Can he process anything John is saying? Does he understand what's happening to him?
The last thought makes John's chest ache. If he were in that situation, he knows, he'd wish himself dead. He'd rather die than live without surgery, his lifeblood, the one thing that makes him feel useful and accomplished.
John wonders if Henrik feels (or would feel) the same. He decides that the answer is probably yes, all things considered. He knows how important surgery is to Henrik, so he doesn't think Henrik would want to live without it either.
By the second day, he's set his mind on one thing: protecting Henrik from anyone that might try to hurt him further. That, at least, he can do. So he tells the staff there a sob story or two about how he's the only person Henrik's got left, and fights to be responsible for making decisions about his friend's treatment, seeing as he currently can't make them himself.
On day four, Henrik 'wakes up'.
Sort of. He's moving, and even talking a bit, but he's still not totally better.
But progress is progress, right?
John finds this out in an email that morning, and gets down to the hospital as quickly as he can.
He doesn't know what he expects when he arrives in the room Henrik is being kept in, but he's hoping for some sort of positive sign.
He's not sure he'd call any of this positive.
Henrik is sitting on the bed when John walks in. His knees are pulled tight to his chest. From the sounds of it, he's been crying, and John doesn't know how long for.
The possibility occurs to John that maybe Henrik won't recognise him. He attempts to take his mind off that. It would be too painful.
"Hey, Henrik," he says, trying to keep his voice low and soft, almost as if he's talking to a skittish animal. He doesn't want to risk scaring his friend.
Henrik looks up. John thinks his eyes still look unfocused, unseeing even. It freaks him out. And as he suspected, there are tear tracks on Henrik's cheeks.
"John?" Henrik says, in a quiet, confused tone that makes it sound like he can't believe John is really there. Maybe he can't.
"Yes, Henrik, it's me," John affirms, careful to barely go higher than a whisper.
Henrik reaches out for John, and John moves closer and lets Henrik hold on to him. John hears a high-pitched whine, and it takes him a moment to realise the repetitive whimpering is coming from Henrik. A few seconds later he feels his shirt growing damp with tears.
It takes great effort for John to keep it together then. Seeing Henrik in this state is just so hard.
He tries to remind himself that there was no way he could've known this would happen. It doesn't work.
John insists on signing Henrik out that day, telling Henrik's consultant that he thinks it would be best for him to care for Henrik at home, that he'll find a way to handle it, that a familiar environment is far better for Henrik to recover in.
(Though in reality, John fears there's no recovery now. Not after everything. This has been a long time coming, especially since the shooting, after which Henrik always seemed like he was one more traumatic event away from breaking entirely. But John spins lies about 'recovery' to get Henrik discharged anyway, because he doesn't trust the psych staff with Henrik, and he knows that, were Henrik more aware of his situation, he wouldn't want to be seen like this.)
Eventually, the consultant agrees, though they insist on keeping Henrik there for 48 hours longer just to monitor his condition.
The next 48 hours, John thinks, are the longest of his life. Henrik turns out to be very tearful, often confused, practically mute apart from a few words, and easily frightened – but while he does have a couple of crying breakdowns, it's nothing bad enough for him to absolutely need to stay on the ward, and he doesn't regress to catatonia, at least, so it's agreed by the psych staff that, yes, Henrik can be discharged if John takes him in.
(John's suddenly rather grateful for the psych bed shortage, because though no one admits it, he's sure it helped the psych team decide in his favour.)
So John takes a few days off work to get Henrik settled again.
On the first day, John turns up early in the morning, greeting Henrik politely as usual. He'd fetched some clothes over from Henrik's house to bring, so his friend wouldn't have to be stuck in the hospital-issued clothes that make him look even more vulnerable than he is.
He leads Henrik carefully into the bathroom, and when they're both ready, he says "alright, Henrik, I'm just going to take your clothes off now so that you can get clean, okay?"
Henrik nods, so John gently slips Henrik's shirt over his head and pulls off his trousers. He supposes he could ask him to do this himself, that would be easier in so many ways, but he's scared of overwhelming Henrik with too many demands too fast.
It's not that John minds, anyway. If he has to spend the rest of his life caring for Henrik like this, so be it. It's just so difficult to watch the man he loves reduced to this.
Somehow it only makes things feel worse to John, that Henrik seems to not have the presence of mind to feel embarrassed. He makes no effort to cover himself when John undresses him, or instructs him to get into the shower. (Henrik can, as they've found, still follow instructions at least. They just need to be simple and clear.)
He helps Henrik out of the shower stall, dries him off and dresses him in his own clothes. Henrik seems more comfortable, physically relaxing slightly, once John's finished dressing him, which John supposes is an upside. Of course he'd be more comfortable in his own clothes than the hospital ones.
Henrik seems uncertain and nudges John gently once they finally get out of his room, as if to say what's going on, what are we doing, where am I, and John doesn't blame him. Henrik has had the plan explained to him before, but John supposes it was too long and complicated for him in his state.
So John just says "I'm taking you home. I'll look after you there."
He can practically feel everybody's eyes on the two of them as they walk out the hospital.
It's when John finally gets Henrik to the car park, and is trying to get him into the car, that he starts kicking up a fuss about it, trembling and crying and yelling, collapsing to the ground and rocking himself back and forth slightly, just enough for John to notice. John is confused about it, about why it took Henrik until here to break down, for a moment and then he realises just why the place is making Henrik panic - this is where Roxanna was knocked down.
Fuck, it always comes back to Roxanna, doesn't it?
John does his best to shush Henrik as he pulls him up and pushes him into the passenger seat. He gets in himself and closes the doors. At least this way they won't make a scene – that's the last thing either of them need right now, especially with all the people around, most of whom John is certain are watching them.
"C'mon now, Henrik, it's okay," he says in his best attempt at reassurance. "Let's just get you back home for a nice rest, yeah? It's safe and peaceful there, and there's good food which I'm sure you must be missing, and I'll be there to help you."
A sense of relief comes over John when, after a while spent murmuring numerous platitudes, Henrik finally stops screaming. The crying and shaking taper off slowly, until Henrik has worn himself out and John can reach over to do up his seatbelt before doing his own.
By the time they get to Henrik's house, he's fallen asleep. John almost doesn't want to wake him – he actually looks somewhat peaceful for once. But he has to do it, so he does. "Henrik, wake up. We're home now," he urges. Henrik's eyes flutter open and John helps him out of the car, careful to make sure Henrik doesn't end up hitting his head on the door, before they walk inside together.
Henrik heads for the sofa right away, sitting down on it and about to pull his legs up so he can curl up on it.
"Wait," John says, "you should probably let me get your shoes off first." He doesn't bother to untie the shoes, just slipping them off Henrik's feet instead because that's quickest.
Henrik then curls up on the sofa, snuggling as tightly into the side as he can. John notices there's a blanket draped over the edge of the sofa, and he grabs it and gently places it over Henrik.
The room is uncomfortably silent, so John goes to get them both some food. He's thankful that Henrik will still at least eat on his own, even if he has to be told to do so.
As John finds out over the next few days, things are even less hopeful than they seem, and Henrik switches rapidly between various states of awareness and levels of dependence.
At his best, Henrik is almost there, but not quite. He's fragile – he cries easily (which, compared to his past self, is very jarring), and he often panics over the tiniest of things, even getting paranoid when John leaves the house (presumably out of fear that something'll happen to John). He doesn't talk much, and even when he does it's only one- or two-word sentences. He's constantly tired and tends to fall asleep wherever he can. Occasionally John has caught him muttering to himself. He needs a lot of help and guidance to be at all functional, but at least he can. It's certainly better than when he can't.
While he may be made up, now, of scattered fragments of who he was before, John can see the old Henrik in there still, on the better days. He still reads a lot, he still enjoys gardening – in fact, he seems to have taken to it even more now that he doesn't have surgery to hold on to anymore. Sometimes he even still laughs when John tries to make a joke.
But the rest of the time, he doesn't seem very much like Henrik at all. To say he's a shadow of who he used to be would be an understatement. Sometimes he barely seems to have any sort of grip on reality, and has a tendency towards totally breaking down and crying and screaming over almost nothing. At those times he's also almost entirely reliant on John, needing to be fed and washed and dressed by him because he's too out of it to do anything himself. He has a lot of nightmares that John needs to comfort him after. He often tries to reach out to John, near-constantly desiring to be held by him. Apart from the breakdowns and displays of emotion, it's almost like he's catatonic again. Occasionally, he even still is, though it never lasts longer than an hour or two.
By day twenty-five of taking care of Henrik, and day thirty-one since this goddamned living hell began, John has realised that this is even worse than he thought, and that, now that he's been back at work for a few weeks, it's a lot harder to keep a balance between work and looking after Henrik than he thought it would be.
So the next day, he makes a decision, and brings something home with him from the lab.
This is just what's kinder to Henrik. Anyone in their right mind would think so. He's been treated like some kind of lab animal – his psych team have tried to suggest all sorts of treatments for him, from various medications, to therapy (to which John had snapped at them and said 'I can't even watch the news because it makes him upset, and you think he could handle therapy?!'), to ECT (which John had ardently refused, being well aware of the risks and not wanting to fuck Henrik up any further). He deserves more dignity than that.
And isn't it better for a brilliant mind like Henrik's to pass on to whatever comes after death, than to be wasted on a life of dependence, of tears and pain and suffering, of not being able to do what he was born to do? He shouldn't be made to live like this. It's unfair.
He won't be alone, anyway; wherever Henrik goes, John is sure to follow, even to the afterlife – or even lack thereof.
So as John slips the needle through the syringe filled with MPTP and into Henrik's veins, he doesn't regret a thing.
Nor does he regret a thing as he pulls out the needle as Henrik starts to slip away, refills the same syringe from a bottle in his bag, and sticks the same needle into his own arm.
He refills the syringe a few more times so it takes its effect faster, to kill him quickly rather than simply poison him and make him wait for death. He needs to do this together with Henrik, can't live even a moment without him. He gives Henrik another dose, too, just to be safe.
And so there they lay, Henrik Hanssen and John Gaskell, the not-quite-lovers, dying together, with the same neurotoxin in their veins, from the same syringe and the same needle.
It doesn't get any more intimate than that, John thinks, as he takes Henrik's hand in his own. "It's okay, Henrik, you won't be alone. We're going to be together, now, for all eternity."
He swears he can feel Henrik grip his hand in response.
And then the world goes dark.