a·poph·a·sis [uh-pof-uh-sis]

noun

Rhetoric . Denial of one's intention to speak of a subject that is at the same time named or insinuated

Origin: Greek. A denial, equivalent to apópha ( nai ) to say no, deny

Apophasis

"I'm a fake."

John breathes; his careful gulps of air are taken with conscious consent. In. Out. He is aware of each contraction of his diaphragm, and of each subsequent relaxation. The expansion of his lungs is accompanied by a brief temperature change, focused on the roof of his mouth and the very back of his tongue. Amazing the things one can notice when they take the time to pay attention.

John is paying attention.

There is a rough scratching feeling where his bare feet rest on the carpet and a slight pressure at his bent elbow and again at his temple where his fingers rest. John is vividly aware of it all. From the familiar scent of the flat – tea, chemicals, jam – to the aching emptiness of the leather chair across from him.

"No. Alright, stop it now."

John closes his eyes and moves his fingers to the bridge of his nose, pinching lightly. It does nothing for the throbbing behind his eyes or the vague ache at the back of his neck. The gesture, however, is familiar and obscurely comforting.

The silence is getting to him. It echoes inside of his head, punctured only by the soft tick of the clock on the mantel.

John imagines, just for a moment, that the tick is the clicking of teeth. A monster, inside of the hush, preparing to devour him.

He wants to laugh. Wants to share the stupidity with . . .

"No. Don't—"

John's breath hitches. No. No, no, no! Breathe, Watson, he tells himself. Just breathe.

He focuses back on the in and out of precious oxygen in his airways. No. Not just oxygen. Nitrogen, argon, carbon dioxide, and countless other small somethings. Can't forget the somethings.

It's the little things that are telling. The speed of a pulse, the content of the mud on a shoe, the state of a wedding band...

"Oh, God," John gasps, crumpling forward.

There are no tears but he shakes uncontrollably.

"...you were the best man and the most human... human being..."

His mind, numb before, races.

A smile, a laugh, an indignant exclamation of "dull!" The particular intent focus of intelligent eyes. The flash of pleasure when John was surprising. The coat and the bloody cheekbones.

It all comes crashing down on him, spinning through his mind at warp speed. Pictures of shared moments, snippets of conversation, flashes of emotion.

And running, of course. Always running.

Running after him.

"Just stop it, stop this..."

He can stop running now. There is nothing to run for anymore.

But, it will be fine. It . . . will all be fine.

John just needs to keep breathing.