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Detective Hardy returned to his office, shutting the door and closing the blinds. He fell to his knees, letting his head drop into his hands. The noise and commotion of his subordinates celebrating was dimmed by the door. It was a retirement, Smith or something, he’d given him 50 quid and retreated to the safety of his office. Despite the door muffling the sound everything was too much, like sandpaper on his brain. He cursed, trying to calm down. The noise, the lights, even the feeling of clothes against his own skin, hurt. He had tried desperately to ignore the encroaching feeling of anxiety and irritation for hours. When he became so overwhelmed he thought he might break he’d gritted his teeth and made an excuse to escape.

He sat now, crouched on the ground in his office, breath coming in short puffs, hot tears threatening to fall from his eyes. They more than threatened because his face was damp and hot and itchy, only adding to the incredible feeling of too much. He ripped off his tie, unbuttoning the top button, trying desperately to find some kind of relief. Even just the brush of smooth plastic buttons against his finger tips was indescribably painful in this state. He started to calm down, breath slowing to a near normal pace, but the tears would not stop.

As he started to gain a grip on himself, he felt several other awful emotions slip in beside the pain. Anger and frustration mostly, mixed with a fine bit of anxiety. The door to his office opened and he turned to see Ellie’s shocked face standing in the door way. He got to his feet, scrunching his face in pain. “Miller. Ever knock?”

“I did sir,” she said closing the door behind her. He must not have heard it.

He moved to smooth his shirt, grimacing at the texture on the sensitive skin of his hand. “What do you need then?”

“The ah,” she paused, seemingly still caught off guard by her boss’s apparent breakdown, “The reports will be delayed until tomorrow, they’re still processing some evidence.”

Hardy nodded, waiting for her to leave. He’d hardly processed a thing she’d said, the noise grating his ear drums. If he was a more expressive person he might scream. But she didn’t leave, she stayed swaying on her feet long after their conversation should have ended. He knew she had seen his tear stained face, the way his hands shook. He wished she’d at least stop staring, look in the other direction.

Ellie saw the way he flinched when she talked, when people wrote with pens, or when others reached out to touch him. She also noticed the way he didn’t make eye contact, or too much of it. The way he didn’t know what to do when he’d come over for dinner, and how he avidly avoided most foods. After seeing him hunched on the floor after he’d practically ran from the retirement party, things started to click in her head. “You’re autistic aren’t you?”

Alec’s eyes widened in shock, he expected her to ignore it, maybe ask what was wrong, but not for her to guess exactly what was going on. “How’d you know?” His head spun. He couldn’t have the whole station finding out about this. He was more than capable of his job and didn’t need the looks he was so familiar with.

“Tom. He’s autistic as well. He gets sensory overload once in awhile, not as bad as he used to but...” she trailed off folding her hands behind her back awkwardly. “I’ll just be going, you probably want to be alone.”

She left, being careful to shut the door as quietly as possible, and he was thankful that she turned off the light as she went. He sat in the dark for a few more moments, trying to figure out what had just happened. Irritation returned as he realized Miller would probably tell the whole department in an effort to ‘help him’ or ‘make his job easier’. He waited until everyone had headed to pub before he left. He dreaded coming in to work tomorrow knowing that everyone would know by then.

Alec came into the station, heading to make himself a cup of tea. To his surprise he was met with no more stares than usaul. Miller was stood at the coffee machine and only greeted him with her usual curt “Good morning”.

He poured milk into his cup, giving it a quick stir. “Suppose you told everyone then.”

“Told them what?”

“Don’t be daft Miller. You know what I’m talking about.”

DS Miller blinked slowly for a few moment before figuring out just what exactly he was eluding to, “Oh that? Figured it was none of my business sir.”

She picked up her cup and walked back to her desk without any further fuss or acknowledgment, and Hardy felt a small bit of fondness.