It hadn’t always been this way, you know. It hadn’t always been quite so simple and seemingly effortless to look so competent - odd, still, of course, and set apart from the masses, well, that wasn’t ever going to change. He was, after all, Sherlock Holmes, and he was strange and ethereal, and that brain of his — who knew what it was up to?
Years ago, there were tutors and therapists and doctors and shrinks. Messages coming in from all over telling him just how very wrong he was. It was difficult for him as a child. He had no friends to speak of, and frankly, he didn’t even know he was supposed to be bothered by this until the therapists told him how very abnormal it made him. But no, the lack of friends wasn’t the biggest problem - not really. People were boring, uninteresting and they all talked about the silliest things; if only they could talk about something interesting for once, something worth knowing. But no, the real problem, the real difficulty in Sherlock’s childhood wasn’t people. It was the constant stream of sensory input - the fan in his room at night with its click, click, click that thundered in his ears, the cacophony of sound in the markets with their bright lights and masses of people and their inane chatter, and the details that it seemed no one else could see, but he could. A little chalk on a person’s shoe could tell him just where that person had been and how long it’d been since they had left said locale.
But that was years ago. By all accounts, he should have learned to cope with all of that by now. And he had, to some extent. Oh, certainly, people still saw his rudeness first, long before they heard his question of, “a bit not good?” They didn’t always see his need for silence on a crime scene as concentration, but as stubbornness and being demanding.
Still, overall, his therapists would have called him a success. He had “overcome” what they considered to be the most troubling parts of his neurology and had become, overall, a functioning member of society.
But then there were days like today. Days where he pushed his body a little too hard, a little too far. He denied himself sleep and sustenance, not necessarily consciously, but it happened all the same. He pushed himself to the limit, and he fell.
If only he had said no to John. If only he had demanded they take a cab instead. But John insisted on the Tube, after they worked a case that had taken Sherlock 72 hours to solve. They were both bone tired, and Sherlock didn’t have it in him to argue. He just wanted to get home as soon as possible, and really, having another row with John (after their previous one about whether it was wise to yet again go after the criminal without alerting the Yard that they were going to do so) was simply not in his plans.
The Tube was too — everything. The noises, the cloying smell of perfume among body odor, the lights that made his head buzz — it was all too much. It was crowded and Sherlock was pressed between an elderly woman and John — John, who noticed everything but not enough. John, who was his friend, possibly his only friend, who eyed him warily as he became more and more overwhelmed.
He tried to hold it all in, he tried. But soon, it was too much. He clapped his palms over his ears to try and block out some of the noise. He tried to take deep, calming breaths. He didn’t realize he was emitting a monotone sort of humming sound, a fact John would point out later. He did notice the shifting he was doing, from one leg to the other. If he’d been stationery and not inside a vehicle, he probably would have been pacing — he at least would have tried to make himself look a little bit normal, in that regard. He closed his eyes until John moved one of his palms, just slightly, and asked, “Are you okay?”
Sherlock wished he hadn’t asked. How was he to explain this all? John would want to know — he was nosy like that, always over concerned about Sherlock’s well-being. But he just shook his head quickly, waiting out the end of the trip, which gratefully came very quickly. John tugged at his elbow and mercifully, they were on their way back to Baker Street again.
"John," he began when they were safely home again. "I’m sorry…"
John looked at him, perplexed. “You’re apologizing? Why?”
"For….my behavior. On the Tube."
"I’m failing to see the problem."
"You weren’t bothered by it? That’s not the usual reaction."
"No, I really wasn’t. Concerned that you were all right, of course. Bothered? No."
"Are you all right?" John sets down a plate of biscuits along with a cup of tea in front of him.
"I am now, yes." He studies John, looking for any sign of dishonesty, any sign he’s just putting him on, and he finds none. "You’re being entirely truthful. You actually weren’t embarrassed by me."
"Absolutely not. Why would I be?"
"Because I’m not….normal. People seem to be bothered by the reminder."
"Sherlock, I knew from the day I met you that you weren’t normal. Why should I be bothered by that fact now?"
"Oh. That’s good, yeah."
"Good. Glad we have that sorted. Dinner?"
I commissioned Shootbadcabbies, who drew me this fabulous art to go along with my fic (“Overwhelmed”, if you go looking for it on AO3). She is lovely and I had only a vague idea of what I wanted but this is so much more than I anticipated. She draws such a lovely autistic Sherlock.