A/N: While this fic is technically canon compliant in the sense that nothing in canon directly contradicts it, I have incorporated a lot of my headcanons into it. So if headcanon-heavy fic isn't your thing, you might be better off finding something else to read, I'm afraid.
This fic could probably do with some trigger warnings, so: TW for death/funerals (no actual death scenes though), recurring discussion of suicidal thoughts, briefly implied disordered eating (due to depression, not an actual eating disorder), and PTSD. There's also a fair bit of swearing if that bothers you. Honestly, I wasn't sure whether this fit better for a high T or low M rating. I picked T in the end, but if anyone thinks I should re-rate this as M, tell me and I'll do it.
- I based this fic off the assumption that Group Animal took place in-universe at the end of November, rather than the beginning of December which is when the episodes aired, because I think that's what makes the most sense with the timeline. I chose November 29th as the specific date, just because I felt like it. I also assume here that We Need to Talk About Fredrik takes place literally twenty-one days after Group Animal (even though "three weeks" could be an estimation), again, because I felt like it lol.
- The poem John reads at David's funeral isn't mine, it's Benediction by James Berry. As such, I only quoted the last lines rather than the whole text to avoid getting in copyright trouble.
- Mary and Miranda/Andy are OCs I've wanted to introduce for a long while. They'll probably show up again if I ever get to write that David character study I've been planning.
- For anyone new to the fandom and confused by the Hanukkah scene here, yes, Henrik is Jewish (on his mother's side). This was confirmed in the episode 'Hanssen/Hemingway'. The show's just forgotten about it. (It's never been stated explicitly how observant he is, if at all, but the S15 finale had him praying and talking about "making a promise to his god", which implies some degree of religious belief, while in S20 he told Roxanna he was an atheist. I headcanon he used to be somewhat religious, and observes some Jewish holidays to feel closer to his mum, but had a crisis of faith post-shooting.)
John is running on autopilot.
There's not much else to do, after what happened yesterday. John is lucky, compared to some of the other people here: he didn't get shot, he didn't watch anyone get shot, he didn't have to witness his loved ones dying in front of him like Henrik or Roxanna did.
But it was still a shock, the last welcome he would've expected. And more importantly, his best friend of thirty years is still dead.
John knew David didn't have long as it was. He'd been on phone calls and video chats, when David would space out and start saying how he should call his parents (who had both died some years ago) or when he'd misremember what country John was working in or when he'd have to ask what they were talking about again.
(John was terrified for the day David stopped recognising him, and in the last few months, he knew it wasn't long before it happened. Selfishly, some part of him is a tiny bit glad that reality never came to be.)
But John still thought they'd have longer than they did. He wasn't prepared for David to be ripped away from him like this.
He wanted to take a day off work to process the shock, but he knew he couldn't do that. Roxanna was already off for the day, as were many other staff members – and Holby needs what staff it can get right now. So John came into work today anyway. David would want this, wouldn't he? He'd want John to carry on helping people no matter what. That's what John tries to tell himself, with every patient he treats, every surgery he performs.
John goes down to AAU that afternoon after being paged to consult on a patient. As he steps out of the lift (which has had every last trace of Raf Di Lucca's blood cleaned out of it, like nothing ever happened), he sees a figure walk through the doors.
John blinks once, twice. Surely he's seeing things again. But then he sees other people turning and looking, and he realises that Henrik really did just wander into the hospital, not even twenty-four hours after his son was killed.
(And that's the only way John can think to describe it, wandering. There's a lost look in Henrik's eyes, like he's come here simply by instinct, not knowing what else to do. If John's on autopilot, then Henrik's pilot has abandoned him completely, and he's about to crash.)
John hurries over to the entrance, where Henrik's talking to the security guards. "Henrik?"
"Leave me alone, John."
John frowns, but says "okay", and walks away to see about this patient. He tries to pretend he can't hear Henrik shout at someone to stop fucking staring at him.
John goes to Henrik's office, later, to try and persuade him to understand that he needs to go home.
He knocks on the door a few times – gently, because he doubts loud noises are going to do much good for Henrik right now. There's no answer, though, so John gives up and pushes the door open.
And then he sees just why there wasn't any answer. Henrik's bent over at his desk, with his arms folded and his head lent down against them. He's not moving, except for a slow, steady rise and fall of his shoulders as he breathes.
John should've expected this.
(He takes a moment simply to look at Henrik. The other man is just as beautiful as ever, even after all these years. John's still just as taken aback by him as he was when they first met so many years ago.)
He walks over to the desk and lightly taps his friend's shoulder. "Henrik?"
Henrik opens his eyes quickly. "John?"
"You fell asleep at your desk," John explains quietly. "How much sleep did you get last night?"
Henrik doesn't answer that.
John sighs. "Henrik, you're not fit to be here. It hasn't even been a day."
"You shouldn't be here either, by your logic."
"I didn't witness the things you did, Henrik, that's the difference. You barely seemed to know where you were when you came in a few hours ago."
"I've got paperwork to do."
"The paperwork can wait. C'mon, I'll drive you home," John adds, not wanting to give Henrik any ideas about driving in this state. It's a miracle he didn't crash on his way here.
"We shouldn't be leaving in the middle of our shift."
"Says who? You're the CEO – who are they gonna make you answer to?"
"Exactly. I'm the CEO, and as such, I could make you stay here if I so wished."
"And are you going to?"
Henrik is silent.
So John takes Henrik's hands in his own and helps him up, walks down God knows how many flights of stairs and out into the car park with him. He opens the front door of his car, gets in and shifts his way into the driver's seat.
Henrik pauses for a moment, before getting into the car himself. They're mostly silent, on the drive there, except for Henrik giving John directions every now and then.
Eventually, they arrive at Henrik's house, and John opens the car door. He walks to the doorway with Henrik, but stops there, thinking that perhaps stepping inside would be crossing a metaphorical line as well as a literal one.
"I'm sorry," Henrik mumbles as he walks inside and takes his shoes off.
"Don't be. This is the least I can do."
"No, I don't–" Henrik stops, there. He speaks up again a few seconds later: "I killed your best friend."
John's breath hitches in his throat. "Henrik, don't say that. David's chances of surviving that stroke were very low even if Fredrik hadn't… it was nothing to do with you, at all. And I knew David well enough to know he wouldn't want you thinking that way."
Henrik just nods, making that little humming sound he does when he disagrees with someone but doesn't have the energy to argue.
"Go to bed now," John whispers, "get some rest. Try to sleep, if you can, but at least have a lie down. And if you need anything… just let me know, and it's yours."
"Thank you," Henrik says, his voice breaking. And then he closes the door.
Henrik turns up at work again on the second of December.
He seems less out of it now than he was a few days ago. John had tried to call him a couple of times just to make sure he was okay and that he hadn't tried to kill himself again because John hasn't seen Henrik this empty since the autumn of 1987 and he remembers how that ended, and on each occasion John had been called back later on, Henrik explaining that he hadn't been able to get to the phone.
John has a strong suspicion that that means Henrik fell to the other extreme and slept through most of the last two days, but he doesn't mention that. Henrik's coherent and alert enough to operate now, and so what can John really do to stop him?
Roxanna's back at work too, as of today, and she won't shut up about Oliver Valentine. John knows she's throwing herself into this to escape just as much as he is. And Henrik's starting to go from thin to downright gaunt.
John pops into Pulses during his break. They have a buy-one-get-one-free promotion going on – to raise sales of these new biscuits they're selling, it seems.
They don't look bad, but they don't look particularly appetising, either.
John buys two anyway, and adds a blueberry muffin for good measure.
And he heads up to the Keller staff room with the paper shopping bag, and sets it down on the table, which, luckily, Henrik happens to be sitting at. "Pulses were having a promotion, so I got some biscuits. I thought maybe you'd like one?" he says, lifting a biscuit out of the bag and offering it to Henrik.
John can tell Henrik sees through the paper-thin excuse to avoid saying 'are you okay? are you eating enough?'. Henrik doesn't comment on it though, just thanks John and takes the biscuit.
John takes the other one for himself, so the both of them can at least pretend everything is okay and normal.
After they've both finished eating and Henrik has hurried off to who-knows-where, John takes the bag with the muffin still inside and tapes a note to it reading 'for Ms. Macmillan only' before putting it in the fridge.
(He denies it was him who bought it, later, when she asks him about it. But he knows she knows it's his handwriting, and he thinks she knows that, too, because her only response to his denial is a grateful smile.)
"Mr. Valentine's reflexes are improving," John is explaining as he stands in Henrik's office, "but… I don't think he's as close to waking up as Roxanna wants to think."
"You're best off taking whatever updates she gives you with a grain of salt. She's seeing what she wants to see," John sighs, leaning slightly against Henrik's desk. "If I'm honest with you, Henrik, I'm starting to worry about h–"
There's a loud crashing sound. It makes John jump, but he quickly reorients himself and realises he'd knocked his elbow into that little fish thing Henrik keeps on his desk, causing it to fall to the floor.
Henrik, John notices, has frozen up. His eyes are unfocused, his body stiff, his breathing rapid and shallow. John realises immediately what's going on.
He had hoped Henrik would never have to deal with this. With flashbacks. John wouldn't wish the awful things upon anyone, let alone his dear Henrik.
"Henrik? It's alright, I just knocked something off your desk. Sorry about that. Come on, you're safe now, I promise. We're in your office, and everyone's safe. You're just having a flashback, okay?"
Henrik still doesn't respond.
"Henrik," John says, and at least he gets a moment's eye contact in response this time, "talk to me. I tell you what – can you describe what you see for me? What's on your desk?"
"I… uh, well," Henrik glances down, "I have my pencils, and some folders, and my phone. I – where's–"
"This?" John holds up the metal fish. "I knocked it over accidentally. That was where the noise came from."
Henrik blushes slightly, refusing to meet John's eyes. "Oh."
"There's nothing to be embarrassed about," John assures Henrik. He can't bring himself, however, to add 'I have them too'.
Henrik's seemed on edge all day.
Granted, John hasn't seen him much. But when he has, Henrik's been so tense, like he's moments away from either snapping at someone or breaking down in tears. He speaks in short, sharp sentences and wrings his hands even more than usual.
John finally catches Henrik at the end of his shift, and says "you seem stressed". He leaves it at that – just another one of the games they play, the pretence that maybe John just means normal work stress and not so, your son killed and injured your friends and colleagues and you watched him die in front of you, how are you coping with the trauma stress.
"I'm fine, John," Henrik insists. "Contrary to what you and everyone else appear to believe, I am not made of glass and I do not need a minder. So I'd suggest you just fuck off and leave me to myself."
"Fine then," John rolls his eyes, snapping right back against his better judgement. "If that's what you want. We're only trying to help you cope."
As Henrik hurries out of the hospital doors, John tries to remind himself that irritability is common in freshly traumatised people, that Henrik's not in his right mind at the moment and didn't really mean what he said.
But that doesn't make it hurt any less.
If anything's going to help, John thinks, it's the holiday season, right? Henrik always loved Hanukkah: he'd light his menorah every year back in the day.
(John loved it too, if he's honest: the candles, the prayers, trying to help Henrik make latkes – which never came out as good as they looked in the recipe books Henrik bought, but they were good enough, and he and Henrik made them together, so John would've loved them no matter what.
He always worried about crossing a line, because all these things seemed so deeply important to Henrik but it wasn't John's background and he thought maybe that meant he shouldn't be too involved, but Henrik always seemed happy to share the celebrations with John.)
Maybe this year, the holiday will give Henrik some strength, a reminder that good things can still happen in the world.
So when John passes by Henrik in a hallway on Keller, he stops him for a moment and says "by the way – I looked it up on Google a few days ago, and, as I'm sure you know, Hanukkah starts this evening. So, uh, happy Hanukkah."
Henrik looks down and refuses to meet John's eyes as he says "I – um – thank you."
The 'but there's not much to celebrate this year, is there?' goes unspoken, but Henrik doesn't need to say it out loud for John to hear it.
"I could come over, if you want," John suggests. "See if Rox is interested, too. We could make latkes and light the menorah and it would be just like old times."
It wouldn't be just like old times. John knows that, deep down. There's forever going to be a David-shaped hole in any type of gathering the three of them try to have, now.
Henrik shakes his head. "I appreciate your offer, John," he promises, "but I think I'd rather spend Hanukkah by myself this year."
As Henrik walks away, John questions to himself if Henrik's going to be celebrating this year at all.
John doesn't go to Raf Di Lucca's funeral.
It wouldn't feel right. It's not like he knew the man, even if he did start work at Holby on the same day Raf died.
Henrik goes, though, and John can't help but worry about him. He understands why Henrik would want to say his goodbyes, and maybe it'll give him a little bit of closure, but what if it just makes him feel worse? Henrik's struggling enough already.
John texts Henrik that evening, once the service is surely done. He doesn't bother calling, thinks Henrik probably needs time to rest and reflect after the emotional stress of the funeral, but he has to say something.
I meant what I said. You need anything – tell me.
In some ways, seeing Henrik pretend he's okay and get on with his normal routine is even worse than when he seemed on the verge of collapse.
Because John doesn't know what Henrik's bottling up. And at least if he knew, maybe he could figure out some way to help.
Roxanna is doing the same, as well. She's walking around like everything's fine, like she's not newly widowed and throwing herself into work to make it all mean something again, like she's not watching along with John as their long-time friend pretends he's not having a breakdown.
It makes John want to scream.
And the worst part is, he's guilty of it too. David's funeral hasn't even happened yet (but it's only a couple of days away and John doesn't know how he'll cope) and John's here, operating on patients and examining candidates for the trial like nothing ever happened.
So this is what the three of them are doing: burying themselves in work, enduring awkward silences, acting like things are okay, acting like things can ever be okay again.
John pretends his checking up on Henrik is for work reasons. He pretends Roxanna isn't obsessing over fixing Oliver Valentine so that she can make David's loss mean something. He pretends he, himself, is only focusing on the trial because it's his latest project and not because he needs a distraction.
John is on the way to David's funeral, and he's a wreck. It takes everything in him not to zone out and cry right there at the wheel. It takes everything in him not to call it quits and crash on purpose.
He thought he still had time to prepare himself for this day. A few months, at least. If they got lucky, a year or two.
He pulls up outside of the crematorium. Roxanna's already there, talking to two women who look to be in their early 40s. It takes a moment for John to recognise those women as David's younger sisters. They must've travelled to Holby for the funeral.
Swallowing the lump in his throat, John gets out of the car. "Hello."
Roxanna turns around and looks at him. "John. You made it."
"I did," John nods sombrely. He wants to say something witty or sarcastic or passive-aggressive like he always has when meeting up with her, try and make today feel normal, but he can't. And besides, they're here for David. He wouldn't want them picking a fight at his funeral.
"John Gaskell?" One of David's sisters asks.
"The very same, Mary," John affirms. "You know, last I met you two, you were both barely out of your teens. Look at you now, all grown up. I bet David was proud."
"Thank you," the women say, just slightly out of sync.
"And how about you, Miranda? Or are you still going by Andy?"
"Still Andy, thanks," Andy confirms, adjusting her tie. "Remember when I told you I thought I liked girls? And you sat me down and told me it was okay and David would still love me if I was gay?"
"I do remember, yes." John notices that Andy doesn't mention the part where he told her he knew this because he was gay, too.
"I'm married now," Andy says. "Her name's Laura."
"And I have a husband, Alex," Mary adds. "He's a lovely man. And we have the most beautiful little girl."
"I'm happy for you," John tells them. "Both of you."
"I just can't believe he's gone," Mary whispers after some minutes of silence. "We were such a happy family. Then Dad died, then Mum, but at least we three were together. Now it's just me and Andy."
John squeezes Mary's hand. "I know."
"Have you heard anything from Henrik?" Roxanna asks. "The service starts in five minutes and he still hasn't called or texted me."
John shakes his head. "I wish I had. Sorry." (He wonders to himself if Henrik's been thinking the same things as he has. The same questions about whether it's worth it to carry on. John prays to a god he doesn't believe in that Henrik hasn't acted on those thoughts either.)
Suddenly, Henrik's car pulls up. "I'm sorry I'm late," is all he says as he gets out of the car.
No one can bring themselves to ask why.
The funeral service is beautiful. David would have liked it, John hopes. There are photos everywhere, some of David with his family, some from his and Roxanna's wedding day and from their vow renewal, some of him just hanging out with his friends. An old favourite song of his is playing on the speakers.
Roxanna gives the eulogy, of course.
"I don't think any of us ever expected that we'd be here today. I'd thought about what I'd say when the day came, but I honestly believed I'd have more time to prepare. So forgive me, if this speech isn't as good as David deserves.
I always thought love at first sight was just a fairytale, until I met David for the first time. I knew from that moment on that I'd found the one. And I had. Our wedding – March 3rd, 1991 – was the best day of my life. I remember having cold feet before the wedding, but then I walked up the aisle, and the look on David's face when he saw me in my wedding dress told me I'd made the right choice.
I never doubted our relationship again, after that. That's not to say we didn't have rocky patches, of course we did. We were married for twenty-six years, after all. But with David, I always knew things would turn out alright in the end.
He had this smile that lit up the room whenever he walked in – I know that sounds terribly cliché but he really did. I swear his eyes sparkled when he looked at me, even after thirty years together. And he was more than just a pretty face – he was intelligent, too, one of the smartest men I've known. It took a lot of hard work to get as far as he did, but he pulled it off. He taught at a medical school right here in Holby for some years after becoming a professor, and let me tell you, thanks to his guidance, those young doctors have a very bright future waiting for them.
I knew when…" Roxanna stops, there, and wipes tears from her eyes. "I knew when he got his diagnosis that we had to make the best of the years we had left. I like to think we did. And I wish I'd had more time with him, but I cherish what we got more than anything. So… may David Hopkins, the best person I ever had the privilege of knowing, rest in peace."
John feels a tear run down his cheek, and dries it with the handkerchief in his suit pocket. He steps forward, next, reads out one of David's favourite poems.
His eyes meet Henrik's a few times while he's reading. Each time, Henrik looks away.
"…Thanks to flowering of white moon, and spreading shawl of black night, holding villages and cities together." John finishes, taking one last glance back at David's coffin, and, finally, returning to his seat.
John had thought ahead to David's funeral a lot, but he's not really sure what he assumed would happen after that. Maybe he just figured his life would somehow stop with his best friend's.
But it hasn't, of course.
Instead, he's at work as usual. Still diagnosing patients. Still performing neurosurgery. Still working on the trial.
It doesn't feel right, for life to just carry on like this. But John doesn't really have any other option. He needs to keep living, no matter how wrong it feels, so he can improve people's lives with his work.
Roxanna, at least, seems to have found some degree of closure from the funeral: she told John earlier she was going to finally take up the counselling sessions the hospital had been offering. That's a small good sign, John thinks.
Henrik, though, has been painfully quiet today. More so than ever. The worst part is that he won't talk to John. Any attempt John tries to make at asking how Henrik's doing gets either ignored entirely, or deflected into a question of how he's doing.
Finally, John just pulls Henrik into the hallway when they both have a spare moment. "Henrik, are you alright?"
Henrik doesn't say anything for a while, and John's about to give up. But then Henrik whispers, so quietly John could almost think he imagined it: "they're burying him today".
Henrik doesn't need to explain who 'he' is for John to know immediately.
"Oh," John says. And then, also whispering, "I'm sorry."
"Well, you know, you were neither the man who committed a mass shooting nor were you the police officer who shot that man. So I don't think you've anything to be sorry for."
"My condolences, then, if that's how you want me to put it."
Henrik stares down at the floor. "Thank you," he finally murmurs, and John can tell that even if Henrik's trying not to show it, he really is upset.
If there's one thing John's wanted these last three weeks, it's to be able to pull Henrik into his arms and give him a hug. To hold him tight and tell him he's going to be okay even if John's not entirely certain he believes that himself. To just be able to stay with him and comfort him until he feels better.
But John doesn't think Henrik would accept that (he'd probably think he doesn't deserve it), so he refrains from offering it. Instead, he does what he can: he holds a hand out, and lets Henrik take it in his own.
Which he does, almost immediately. John kind of feels like his bones would break if Henrik held his hand any tighter.
And then, Henrik lets go of John's hand as suddenly as he'd grabbed it. They're not going to mention this again, now. Instead, they'll carry on with the day as if it didn't happen. John knows that.
He just hopes he could provide Henrik some comfort, if only for a minute.