A/N: I'm really, really sorry for not updating this for so long. I'm afraid a combination of writer's block and depression has been stopping me from writing. (Yes, I know I uploaded a Casualty fic last week, but that was one I'd written back in October.)
Additionally, I'm afraid there is a very high chance that this fic won't get finished. I'm not really in any state to be writing right now. And I'm really kind of bordering on a breakdown of my own and I doubt writing a story about that exact thing is going to do me much good at the moment. But I already had part of this chapter written, so between that and the fact that I felt I should at least get far enough into this fic that I could actually USE the dialogue prompt that inspired it in the first place (it's the "suicide watch" bit, you'll understand when you get to it)... I figured that if I do nothing else for this fic, I should finish chapter 4.
So you all get at least one more chapter before I probably call it quits. And it's longer than the others too. You're welcome.
I've also finally upped the rating to M, because the self-harm is quite graphic in this chapter. There's no depiction of the actual act but there is description of the injuries and the method used, so. Better safe than sorry.
Any misspellings in John's note are absolutely intentional, btw. I've always headcanoned John as not very good with the written word, and prone to making mistakes if he's not paying attention (and/or if he can't use autocorrect lol); I think he's more of an auditory-oriented person, hence the Dictaphone. (Speaking of headcanons, I wonder if you guys can tell I headcanon that John finds it comforting to listen to Henrik speaking Swedish yet...)
Chapter title from This Is What You Did by This Is The Kit, because I've been obsessed with that song lately. The John vibes of it are STRONG. Do yourself a favour and listen to it.
To NeverNeverLady (again, I apologise to you for the late update!): You're absolutely right about Henrik. He's used to being able to fix things, to help people, so being in this situation is definitely making him feel helpless :( John probably could do with being sectioned at this point, but as you say, he'd feel like he was being betrayed. That's part of why the rest of the squad really don't want to hospitalise him, I think. (Though whether they will be able to avoid it, or be forced to make the choice... who knows? Not me. I've been making this entire fic up as I go along. And that's probably why I keep getting writer's block. XD)
Henrik lies awake and watches John sleep.
It feels like this is the only time either of them get any peace at the moment. During the day, Henrik's just a worried mess, never knowing what's going on with John. And John… Henrik can't even begin to imagine what John must be experiencing.
Psychosis. Henrik contemplates the word, as though it were an object he could examine. So that's what this is.
It must be petrifying, Henrik thinks, to have to go through that. To think everyone is trying to hurt you, when the truth is all they want to do is help.
Henrik understands, now, why John's been acting the way he has. Of course John's been upset and angry: he legitimately doesn't understand that he's ill. He lacks insight. Henrik would be upset, too, if he believed there were people out to harm him and no one else listened to him about it.
John stirs from his slumber then, whimpering quietly and muttering incoherent words, clearly in the midst of a nightmare.
"Shh, shh, det är okej, sov nu bara, somna bara om," Henrik outstretches a hand and strokes John's hair gently, shushing him repetitively until John goes silent again and his breathing relaxes to a steadier rhythm.
Henrik hates how the only times John seems open and responsive to him anymore are when he's barely even conscious.
John's never even told him about the hallucinations. That's something he should've told Henrik about. They've been together for months, close friends for decades, and yet Henrik only found out a few hours ago, and not even from John himself. Does John not trust him? Does he not feel like he can talk to Henrik about these things?
Henrik hopes that's not the case. He knows he has a tendency to intimidate people – has even used it to his advantage, sometimes, to avoid having to deal with the emotional consequences of letting anyone get too close to him – but he didn't realise John was one of those people.
If John had told him about this sooner, Henrik could've got him help. John could be on medication by now and none of this would be happening.
Maybe this is all Henrik's fault, really. He made John feel like he couldn't open up, so he never did, and now they're in this mess.
John is fed up of the way Henrik keeps looking at him.
He can tell Henrik thinks he's crazy. Everyone thinks he's crazy. He knows that.
And fine, maybe they're right, but what does it matter? When did 'this person sees things that aren't there sometimes' become grounds for assuming that person could never be in real danger and putting them at further risk by refusing to help them?
No one is taking him seriously. Not even Henrik. David comes the closest, but even he doesn't seem to truly believe John.
And God, where does John even start on Roxanna? She's trying to ruin his work, she keeps gaslighting him, and nobody listens to him when he speaks up about this. He recalls the conversation they'd had yesterday morning, when Roxanna told him she didn't think he should be back at work, and that maybe he should just call off the trial because it was doomed to fail anyway. And then to top it all off, she had to go and deny it ever happened later. Like she didn't know exactly what she had said.
All he's done is try to help people. Maybe he isn't doing it well enough, because he did everything he possibly could for Lana and she still died. But he's trying. And goddamn, he had no idea how much vitriol people would aim at him just for trying to do good.
He certainly didn't think a woman he's been friends with for thirty years would attempt to ruin his career over it.
John tries to take his mind off Roxanna and her betrayal. It's too hard to think about. But it's not much easier to think about the glances Henrik keeps giving him as they eat breakfast, the looks of concern as though there were something wrong with him and not with everyone else.
John hates being looked at with pity. He hates being talked to as though he were merely a child scared of monsters under the bed. He hates not being listened to when he raises concerns about the harm he might face as a result of his fame.
They're all going to regret it, John thinks, when he's dead. They're going to ask who could do this and why didn't we see the signs. And John hopes there's an afterlife just so he can watch them then and laugh at how he warned them someone was going to kill him.
As soon as John's finished his breakfast, he shoves on his shoes and jacket and heads out the door. He doesn't want to have to deal with any more patronising behaviour from Henrik. He's had enough of that the last few days.
Roxanna is seriously weighing up the pros and cons of reporting John as unfit again.
Henrik certainly isn't going to do anything. David's had years to do something, and he hasn't, so Roxanna doesn't expect him to take action now either.
So someone needs to do something before John starts putting lives in danger.
It isn't that Roxanna wants to put John out of work. It isn't, contrary to what John's accused her of, that she hates the trial or has a grudge or whatever. She knows that having his work taken away from him would be a risk to John's mental health, but by carrying on like this, he's putting his patients at risk too.
And the patients have to come first. John may be sick, and Roxanna may feel sorry for him, but their patients can't suffer for that.
Roxanna's not convinced, either, that John carrying on with the trial and his work at the hospital isn't harming his mental health too. She doesn't want him to end up being sectioned, not if they can avoid it.
It feels like she's damned if she does and damned if she doesn't, when it comes to helping John.
Roxanna heads down to John's lab that afternoon, while John is busy with a patient. She doesn't really want to let him treat anyone alone right now, but hopefully Essie will intervene in her place if something goes really wrong.
She searches every surface she can find, looking for the note John was writing yesterday. Finally, she pulls something out of a drawer that seems to be it, and looks over the note carefully:
'7:30 AM September 25 – Lana brought into theatre
9:30 AM – operation finished
12:30 PM – Lana wakes up (but not fully consicous? she wasn't responding to her surroundings and she didn't try to talk or anything she just lied there oh my god was she already braindead at this point did i kill her )
12:40 PM – Lana starts to detearioate, taken back into theatre
1:35 PM – No output
1:50 PM – Lana declared dead
- Problem with the implant?
- Hospital failure to provide proper post-op care?
- Lack of proper theatre hygiene, leading to infection?
- Someone sabotaged her operation'
It takes Roxanna a while to figure out what the last sentence of the note is, thanks to John having crossed it out, but when she does realise she can't help but worry.
And Lana? Is… she's that trial patient in Lisbon, right? So something's gone wrong with the trial again and John isn't telling anyone about it?
John is in theatre. His patient is a young woman – Susan Harrison, that's her name, apparently – who's been in a car crash and now needs surgery for the bleed on her brain. He's dealt with many similar cases before, having been in neuro for several decades and all that; this is as good as routine for him now.
And if Susan looks a little too much like Lana, it doesn't matter. John can ignore that. Really, he can.
At least until Roxanna's voice rings out over the microphone. He turns around to see her standing by the window of the operating theatre, and he almost wants to scream right there and then.
"How's it going?"
"Fine. Now please stop stalking me."
"I'm not stalking you, I just want to know how the operation is going."
"If you want to know so badly, watch. But keep your mouth shut. Some of us want to focus when we're trying to save somebody's life, Rox," John snaps.
Roxanna doesn't say anything more after that.
John's nearly ready to stitch his patient up and call it a day, when he hears a loud beeping.
"BP is falling," Essie warns John.
"Dammit," John mutters, looking down to see more blood pooling in Susan's head. How has this happened? This wasn't supposed to happen. He was going to finish the surgery and then move on to the next patient. This wasn't supposed to happen.
Professor, I think we have to give up.
John forces his eyes closed and takes a deep breath. He doesn't need to hear that stupid nurse's voice right now. This isn't Lisbon. This isn't Lisbon.
He opens his eyes again, and for just a fraction of a second, he thinks he's looking down at Lana.
"Professor Gaskell, do something," Meena Chowdhury's voice begs. (Who invited her to assist on this surgery? She's insufferable.)
John forces himself not to indulge his visions, and focuses on trying to repair the tear in La– Susan's brain.
It still isn't working.
Susan's BP keeps on falling.
There's one long, continuous beeping sound.
"No output," someone says. John can't think clearly enough to figure out who.
"Right, um, she needs adrenaline," John declares, hurrying to begin chest compressions on his patient. "Someone give her some adrenaline. Now! We can't lose her."
A moment afterwards, Essie speaks up.
"Professor Gaskell, she's been in asystole for fifteen minutes."
What? No. That's impossible. John was only demanding someone gave the patient adrenaline a few seconds ago, wasn't he?
"I think we should call it."
"No. No, we can still save her, I know we can."
"No, we can't," Essie says, quietly.
John feels someone's hands pull his away from his patient.
"Time of death 14:29."
All John can see is Lana's face staring back at him.
Ten minutes later, John's the only one left in the theatre. When he finally manages to look away from the now empty operating table, he sees Roxanna is still staring back at him.
Oh, she must be getting a kick out of this.
"Have you thought about treating your own patients, rather than just staring at me like that?"
"Well, unfortunately for the both of us, I happen to care about you. So you're stuck with me. Come on out of there and we can talk, okay?"
"If you really cared about me, you'd trust me! You wouldn't be going around watching me like a hawk. I know you're up to something, Rox."
"I'm not 'up to' anything!" Roxanna insists. "John, just – come to your senses already. Please. Everything I've been doing, I've been doing out of concern. This grand conspiracy you think is against you, you're imagining it!"
Before John can even find it in himself to say anything, Roxanna makes a choked gasping sound, as if realising she just said something she really shouldn't have.
Deep down, John had wanted to not be right about this. He hadn't wanted to believe that Roxanna could do this to him. But she has; she wouldn't just bring up the idea of there being a 'conspiracy' against him out of nowhere, she's working with them to hurt him and this is her attempt at throwing him off the trail and—
"Where did you get that from?" he says, trying to stop his voice from shaking, trying to sound brave, trying to intimidate her.
"Henrik called yesterday. He said he'd had a conversation with you that worried him. That you were saying there were people out to harm you."
So Henrik's betrayed him too? John should have expected that, but he didn't. He thought Henrik would be better than that.
The revelation makes John want to cry. He forces back the tears. He can't let Roxanna see him this weak.
"John… I'm sorry I snapped at you, okay? I realise now that this is probably psychosis, and… and you aren't well enough to know you're ill, but–"
"You're gaslighting me! I know what you're doing!"
"But you can't carry on like this. It's harming both you and your patients. No one wants to hurt you. Not even me. I promise."
John hurries out of the theatre and right past Roxanna. He can't listen to any more of this.
John pulls up in front of the house – well, Henrik's house, actually, but thanks to his inability to stop loving that god-damned man too much for his own good (something he sorely regrets today), John's been living there for some months now – and hastily gets out of the car.
Henrik is quick to meet him at the doorway. "John? What are you doing here? I thought your shift wasn't over yet."
"I don't feel well," John mutters. It's not entirely untrue. Thinking about how Henrik went and tattled on him, like they're fucking primary school children or something, has been making him feel sick to his stomach. "So I came home."
"Do you need anything? I can get you water, or some medicine, or–"
"No. No, I'm just going to have a lie down, Henrik. Don't bother me."
Henrik frowns. "Alright," he whispers, his tone holding a hint of disappointment at John's rejection. John tries not to feel bad, tries to remind himself that this is nothing in comparison to how Henrik has betrayed him.
Henrik is working the night shift tonight.
He's not sure he feels okay with leaving John alone that whole time. He's so unpredictable in this state, who knows what he could do to himself? But Henrik can't bother David by asking him to watch John again. He doesn't want to bother Roxanna, either, and John wouldn't respond well to having her around right now anyway. Who else does that even leave? Maybe Essie, Henrik supposes, but he doubts John likes her anywhere near enough to let her stay with him overnight.
So Henrik has to leave John alone for now. If he's lucky, John will get to bed on time and sleep through the night, and none of it will be a big deal.
John can't deal with this anymore.
There's no one he can trust. Roxanna has allied herself with his detractors – the people who want to kill him. John never did get on too well with her, but he always assumed she at least had the decency to want him alive. And Henrik's going around gossiping to everyone about what John thought he was telling him in confidence. Probably telling everyone how crazy I am, John thinks.
David isn't doing much better, either, is he? He may not actively be trying to hurt John, but that doesn't mean he's doing anything to stop Roxanna from planning to do so. John doesn't know much about marriage, but he's fairly certain most people would draw the line at their wife trying to kill their best friend.
…John can see it, though. Why people would want him dead. He's a failure of a surgeon. He couldn't even save Susan today, and that was a basic operation. Several of his trial patients have died because he was smart enough to come up with these new techniques but not smart enough to fucking implement them properly.
He couldn't even save Lana.
He couldn't save Lana.
It's nearly 6am when Henrik gets back home. He's lucky, he thinks, that Keller was quiet tonight so he could leave work 20 minutes early; the more chance he has of getting some sleep in now, the better.
The house is quiet, Henrik notices as he enters, and the lights are off, so it seems John did go to bed eventually. That, if nothing else, is a good sign.
Henrik heads up the stairs to check on John. John is indeed in bed, fast asleep, though for all Henrik knows he might have only been there for a few minutes. (John never was good at keeping a sleep schedule.)
Henrik takes off his glasses and sets them on the bedside table, before picking out a pair of pyjamas from the wardrobe, trying to be as quiet as he can so as not to wake John as he gets changed. He then lies down under the covers next to John, about ready to go to sleep, when–
Hang on, is there something on John's shirt sleeve?
Henrik carefully lifts the cuff of John's pyjama top. He can't see it well in the dark, but there's definitely some sort of dark stain on the fabric.
Oh, God, no, no, no…
Reluctantly, Henrik pulls up John's sleeve, only to be met with exactly what he feared: a cut right across the side of John's wrist.
It must be at least an hour or two old by now, as it's stopped bleeding, but it looks like quite a nasty injury regardless, and far too close to John's radial artery for Henrik's comfort.
John shifts and murmurs something Henrik can't make out, seemingly woken by Henrik's touch. He blinks a few times, and then whispers "Henrik?"
"John," Henrik asks quietly, his hands still on John's arm. "What's this?"
John shies away, failing to answer.
"Come on, darling, you're going to have to get up so I can clean this cut for you, okay?" (Henrik really would have preferred to be there when this happened, so he could help John earlier, but he supposes cleaning out the wound is better done late than never.)
John nods silently, letting Henrik help him up and guide him downstairs. Henrik's surprised John hasn't started yelling at him yet, but he supposes John is too tired for any of that right now.
Henrik sighs as he folds up John's sleeve again, preparing to disinfect the cut. In the kitchen, with the light on, he can see the injury much better than he could in the dark of their bedroom. "Oh, John… what have you done to yourself? I put away all the knives and razors, so what did you use?"
John looks down at his feet.
"What did you use to cut yourself, John?"
"…A pencil sharpener," John admits quietly, almost like a child who knows they've done something naughty. "I broke it and used the blade to cut myself. I'm sorry."
Henrik frowns as he continues cleaning out the cut. He had hoped that limiting John's access to his usual self-harm instruments, insisting on monitoring him if he was going to use any obvious sharp objects, would be enough. But instead, it seems to have only led to John finding more creative ways to hurt himself.
"Are you mad at me?" John asks when Henrik's drying his wound.
Henrik is caught off guard by the question, but manages to get himself together enough to respond: "Of course not, my love. I'm just worried about your wellbeing. Can you tell me why you're doing this?"
"'M a bad doctor," John mutters.
"No, you aren't."
"Yeah, I am. I keep failing people. My patients keep dying because of me."
Henrik puts an arm around John. "It's not because of you, I'm sure. I know it's awful when you can't save someone, but it happens to all of us. It's not your fault."
It scares Henrik, hearing John talk about himself like this. But he figures it's probably best not to upset John further right now, and they both need some sleep. So instead, he whispers "come on, let's get you back to bed."
Henrik can't stop thinking about what John said and did last night.
He's growing more worried than ever now. John only seems to be getting worse, hurting himself even after Henrik tried to stop him. Henrik really, really, really does not want to have to have John sectioned, but some part of him feels like that's going to be the inevitable outcome of this.
He tries approaching John that afternoon, hoping they can simply talk this out.
"John? I think we need to talk about what… what you were doing last night."
"What, so you can go and gossip to Roxanna about it? No chance."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh, I think you do! You know what she told me yesterday? That you told her I 'thought' there were people trying to hurt me. I assume you inspired her psychosis theory, too?"
Henrik briefly questions if the conversation even happened, but decides there's no other way John would've known about the phone call. He'd been careful to stay out of earshot, so it's not like John overheard. "It wasn't like that."
"Was it now?" John asks bitterly. He doesn't sound anything like the fragile man Henrik had comforted last night, but at the same time, he does: underneath all the anger and name-calling, John seems confused, scared even. It breaks Henrik's heart to watch.
"I was just expressing concern for you. John, you're saying things that don't make sense, you're self-harming, your nightmares are getting worse… I love you, and I want to be able to help you, but I don't know what to do."
"You could start by leaving me alone!"
"I tried that last night, and look where it got us!"
"Jesus Christ, Henrik. You're acting like I'm the only person who's ever cut themselves! So I did something impulsively that I probably shouldn't have. What does it matter to you?!"
"It scares me, John! You could cut too deep and end up hurting yourself, or the wounds could get infected–"
"And your drinking habit in uni could have permanently damaged your liver! But hey, it didn't, and cutting didn't hurt me."
"John, listen to yourself. You're trying to explain why it's okay for you to self-harm."
"You're trying to make this sound worse than it is."
Henrik has half a mind to scream in frustration. "You cut your wrist last night. You don't cut on your arms, only your legs. What's changed? How do I know this isn't the precursor to a suicide attempt? How do I know it's not you trying to cry for help before you do something worse to yourself?"
"My wrist was just the most easily accessible location and I needed relief, so–"
"I'm putting you on suicide watch," Henrik interrupts. He surprises even himself by saying it, but it's the only answer to all this that comes to mind. "No closed doors. No sharp objects. No being alone."
"This is ridiculous!" John snaps. "I'm not suicidal, you know I'm not–"
"And I'm not taking chances," Henrik asserts. He doesn't want to take away John's freedoms, but this is his last-ditch attempt to help before giving up and having John hospitalised, and he knows it.
"Well, what about work?"
Henrik sighs. "I'll check up on you throughout the day and make sure you haven't hurt yourself."
"What about when you have to work?"
"I'll arrange for someone to stay with you."
John seems to give up on arguing after that, as though he's realised he isn't going to get out of this.
Henrik tries not to feel guilty about it. He himself had argued with John many a time about John's attempts to help him, when he was at his worst earlier in the year. He understands John's choices now, though, and appreciates his effort.
He can only hope John will understand all this when he's finally well again, too.