A/N: First of all, yes, the fic title and chapter title here are both from a Linkin Park song AGAIN. This isn't going to become a new trend, I swear, I actually named this one before naming my last fic. Also One More Light is just a really good album for writing to.
So, here's a quick rundown on this AU:
- John and Henrik are in a relationship and have been living together for a while. Instead of inviting Rox to live with him at the end of Precipice, John moved in with Henrik to look after him, and he just kind of... never left and they fell into a relationship after a while. Also John's not an outright murderer, and he has good intentions, but he's been letting himself get too obsessed with his work/the idea that he's going to be some sort of saviour and has been making mistakes with the trial as a result.
- David is alive and well: Rox, Morven and Ollie were operating on some generic patient instead when Ollie got shot. Rox probably still went through her "obsessing over fixing Ollie" phase but it stemmed from a desire to "make it up to him" for Tara's death.
- I'm intentionally writing John as having Borderline Personality Disorder here, because canon never stated anything other than "he's crazy" but BPD seems to fit best for the symptoms he's shown having. He's probably got something else too, but I'm leaving the specifics of that vague for now. (I might change my mind on that later.)
This fic is partially inspired by a prompt from prompt-dealer on Tumblr. I won't say which just yet, but when the dialogue from the prompt turns up, I'll put credit in the chapter's end notes.
I don't have plans for the chapters here to be as long and sprawling as my last couple of fics, but this first chapter is relatively short and I do plan for the others to be longer (probably around 3k words each, give or take a few hundred words, but I haven't definitively decided on anything yet). I also hope to update this thing at least weekly, maybe twice a week. Saying that now so I can hold myself to it.
Like my past 2 fics, I'm not really sure whether this should have a T or an M rating. I don't plan to get super graphic or detailed about any of the dark themes here, so I've gone with T for now, but the fact that they're still a plot point might warrant an M. If anyone thinks I should change the rating, let me know. (Or I might change it myself later on.)
Trigger warnings for this fic (either in this chapter or future ones): Death (of minor characters only), grief, discussion of suicide, discussion of abuse, discussion of human trafficking, psychosis, paranoia, self-harm. There will almost definitely be discussion of sexual abuse/assault in future chapters, but I haven't decided the degree to which it will be relevant yet - it might just be mentioned, or it might become a plot point. (Don't worry, though, I'm not going to use it as just an angsty plot device. I know very well how serious that sort of thing is and want to handle it respectfully.)
Henrik barely has time to process what's going on before John disappears.
He's caught completely off guard by the news. One moment they've just arrived home after finishing up their shifts, the next John is putting down his phone and grabbing Henrik's hands.
"I have something important to be doing. It's for the trial. I need to leave today, I'm – I'm getting the next flight."
Henrik can comprehend those words individually, but together, his brain is drawing a blank. This has just come out of nowhere. "John? What on Earth are you talking about? Where are you going?"
"Lisbon. Don't worry, it'll make sense soon. You'll see it on the news, I imagine. This is what my entire career has been leading up to."
John's frantic demeanour unnerves Henrik. There's something going on, he can tell (is John in any state to be travelling?), but before he gets the opportunity to investigate further, John's hurriedly packed a small suitcase and is walking out the door.
Henrik didn't hear from John for days after that, and it seemed neither Roxanna nor David had either. Henrik didn't say a word to them, because he knew they'd think his worries ridiculous, but he spent almost every waking moment wondering if something bad had happened, if John was hurt or heaven forbid he was dead and Henrik didn't even know–
But no. Today, five days since he disappeared, John stumbles through the door of his and Henrik's house with a thousand-mile stare, his hair a mess, and days-old stubble on his face.
As soon as Henrik hears the door open, he rushes to it. "John! I haven't heard from you in days, I was so worried–"
John shakes his head. "Stop. Just… calm down, please." Henrik knows that tone of voice. That weary, exhausted tone, tinged with sadness.
Henrik takes a step back, giving John physical space, and then gently asks "what happened, my love?"
"I don't wanna talk about it," John insists.
Henrik takes a deep breath and tries not to give away his worry. "Shall I make you some dinner? I'm sure you must be hungry after your flight."
John nods silently. He lets Henrik slip an arm around his shoulders and lead him to the living room. Henrik has to help him down onto the sofa, because he makes no move to sit down himself, and that combined with the emptiness in his eyes scares Henrik because if whatever happened in Lisbon was enough to make John dissociate like this… it must have been really bad.
"I think perhaps we should have an early night tonight, hm?" Henrik asks before heading to the kitchen. It's not really aimed at John; he's merely thinking out loud.
He's running on autopilot, now, his brain going through ways to help like a flowchart. He's dealt with John going through bad patches often enough throughout the years that he's worked out the best strategies to help. If John's getting bad again, he needs rest first and foremost. He may not be able to get out of bed for some days (evidence: clothes unironed, hasn't been shaving, obviously not taking care of himself oh God has he even eaten today) – plan for this. Taking up the household chores for a while will probably be necessary. Don't forget to check for scars, just in case, and if he starts hurting himself again then put away all knives and razors where he can't get to them–
He returns from the kitchen some minutes later, handing John a plate of food and a glass of water.
"Thank you," John mutters. He stares at the plate for a good while before finally scooping up a bit of food onto his fork.
Neither of them mention it when John only finishes half of the plate. Better half than none, Henrik tries to reassure himself. At least he's eating.
(Henrik achieves his goal of getting the both of them to bed early that night.
He doesn't notice, however, when John gets up in the early hours of the morning, woken by dreams of yelling and punishment and burning, burning, burning―
And while Henrik lies asleep in bed, exhausted himself from days of worry, John slips downstairs to the living room and cries silently, one hand clutched to his side in an attempt to stave off the phantom ache.)
Henrik is much too busy at work the next day to see much of John, but every glimpse he does catch worries him.
John seems strangely frantic – nearly manic, even. It seems like quite the 180-degree turn from yesterday, when he was so deeply fatigued.
When Henrik passes by him on Keller and tries to start conversation, John gives a hasty response that Henrik can barely make out. (There's something in there, Henrik swears, about 'I can't fail this patient like I failed…'; John cuts himself off after that.) He then hurries away before Henrik has time to say anything.
Henrik catches John from a distance later, watches as he talks to a patient of his. His voice falters when he's talking about possible surgical options, like he's suddenly insecure in his abilities. There's an odd panic in his tone, and Henrik doesn't miss the disturbed look on the patient's face as John continues ranting on about the pros and cons of stem cell treatment.
Henrik wonders if John has any idea what he's saying himself.
Roxanna steps in, apologises for John's rambling, and starts explaining things to the patient more calmly. She gives John a glance that even Henrik can tell is a sign of concern.
The next day, Essie approaches Henrik in the middle of their shift.
"What's going on with John?" she whispers. "I'm getting worried."
Henrik sighs. "I haven't a clue either. He seemed… off, when he left for Lisbon. He was telling me how his whole career had been leading up to this – whatever 'this' was – and I'd probably see it on the news. Here we are, eight days after, and there's been nothing in the media. And trust me, I've searched his name online more than enough since he left, I'd know if there was anything. I can't get any information out of him, either."
Essie frowns in concern. "Has something gone wrong with the trial, do you think?"
"Maybe," Henrik shrugs.
"If something has gone wrong… he can't just keep it hidden."
"He can't, no."
"We need to know what happened. For the safety of the trial patients." Essie pauses for a moment after that. "I went to the lab earlier and heard him muttering about something. Recording on that Dictaphone of his. He stopped once he realised I was there, so I didn't hear much, but… it did sound like something had gone wrong. He was saying 'I don't know how this happened', and I swear I heard something like 'I should've saved her' in there, too."
"That… that is concerning, yes," Henrik nods. "Thank you for the information, Essie."
Henrik pulls Roxanna aside at the next opportunity he gets. "How has John been today?"
"You think he's acting off too?"
Henrik nods. "As does Nurse Di Lucca, for that matter. I don't think I've ever seen John quite like this before. He seemed depressed and dissociated when he came back but – I thought I could deal with that, that if something had happened in Lisbon we could sort it out. But these last two days…"
Roxanna hums in agreement. "You should've seen how he was in theatre today. I was honest to God scared he was going to get our patient killed. If I hadn't been there, I think he actually would have. He couldn't focus on the operation itself at all, one moment he was determined to save the patient and the next he was acting like it's hopeless and we should just give up. He can't think straight."
Henrik sighs, leaning back against the wall. Some part of him says that if this were any other colleague he'd go to Occupational Health about it, but it's not any other colleague, it's John. And John would take it as a betrayal if Henrik were to do that. But…
"He's not fit to operate," Roxanna says. "You know I've been worried about him for months – however much you all insist he's fine – but this is too much. Disappearing to another country with no warning. Not contacting anyone for days. Conversations that don't make sense, being unable to focus on his job… you have to admit it now, surely. He's not fit."
Henrik shakes his head. "No. He's not. You're right."
A few minutes of silence pass before Roxanna adds "we need to do something about it", as if she wasn't sure whether Henrik was already aware of that fact.
"We need to tell someone. Occupational health maybe, or just go straight to Abigail. We… we can't have him putting anyone in danger."
Henrik glances down at the floor, unable to bring himself to meet Roxanna's eyes. "He's going to hate it. Probably hate us, too."
"I know. But in the long run…" Roxanna sighs, before stepping away. "I'll do it. I'll talk to Abigail. Spare you the trouble. John doesn't even have to know you were involved."
Henrik lets her walk away.
As Henrik expected, John is quick to come to him after getting the news.
'Coming to him', in this instance, meaning dragging him into the staff room and saying "so someone snitched on me to Ms. Tate, and now I've been 'asked' to take some time off work, with a 'strong recommendation' to seek mental health treatment."
"I see," Henrik says as if he didn't know this was going to happen, "I'm sorry to hear that."
"I bet you anything it was Roxanna. Fucking bitch, interfering with everybody's lives. Didn't she force therapy on you too?"
"You could say that, I suppose," Henrik replies nervously. He doesn't want to enable John behaving like this, but John seems to be in the kind of mindset where Henrik speaking up would result in a you're in on it too, then and the last thing John needs right now is to feel conspired against.
"Why does she think she has the right to control people like this?"
"I think it's her way of trying to express that she cares. For better or worse."
"It's not any of her business! Treatment isn't for everyone! Maybe I cope just fine on my own, maybe I don't want to be medicated into a fucking zombie or patronised by a therapist for an hour every week, did she ever think of–"
"John," Henrik interrupts. "I understand if you don't want those things, but I've been on antidepressants. I've been to therapy. You know that. Is that how you think about me?"
John is silent for a moment, and then blurts out "it's not the same thing!" Before Henrik can ask 'why not?', John's walking out the door. "I'm going home. Roxanna can try her best, but I won't let her take my dignity."
"No need to. You do a good enough job of doing that for yourself," Henrik mutters, once he's sure John's out of earshot.