A/N: Henrik is autistic and you can't tell me otherwise. C'mon, it's blatantly obvious to anyone with any knowledge about autism. Anyways, got the title for this one from Panda Bear by Owl City. Parts in italics are Henrik's internal monologue.
The day hasn't been off to a good start.
Not only had Henrik been awake into the early hours, slept in late as a result and subsequently had to hurry to class, but now that he's there – barely in time – Professor Kotal is announcing to everyone that the deadline for their presentations, on neurological disorders of their choice, has been changed to three days earlier than planned due to 'unforeseen circumstances'.
Henrik's barely even started on his so far. Not out of laziness, rather that he just hasn't had the time to work on it, caught up in everything else he's studying.
And now he has to have it finished within four days, rather than a week.
He thinks, during a break that afternoon, about how today marks exactly five months since Maja told him she was already four months pregnant.
His son will be born any day now. Perhaps he already has been – after all, how would Henrik know?
He knows it's all for the best, that if his child has any chance in life, it's without him there.
Yet he can't quite get rid of the feeling nagging at his mind, telling him congratulations, you've already failed at fatherhood.
He lights another cigarette and tries to persuade himself that whatever's happening in Sweden is no longer relevant to his life.
By his last class that evening, Henrik is exhausted.
And it seems, after that final lecture, some other students have decided it's a good time to start a prank war in the hallways. Or something like that. There's shouting and laughter and boisterousness.
He considers trying to join in, wishing to blend in with everyone else, maybe even impress them - but the rowdiness puts him off, and they all seem so tight-knit and happy and he knows he'd ruin their mood, knows he'd be stuck on the outside once again.
(He really needs a drink. Maybe then he'd be able to just talk to them like a normal person.)
He feels so on edge, suddenly hyperaware of everything, ears aching from the yelling and giggling around him, the denim of his jeans scratching at his legs even more than the usual discomfort he's learned to put up with.
He strides down the hallway, books clutched tight to his chest, and hopes he looks like any other student who's barely started a presentation that needs finishing in the next four days, rather than one on the verge of a nervous breakdown because people are laughing (what kind of bastard is he, bothered by people having fun) and the stress of the aforementioned presentation is too much to deal with when he's already having to deal with everything else –
"Hey, Henrik, come join us!" he hears a familiar voice call.
It's Roxanna. Now he's going to let her down, just like he lets everybody else down, he's going to disappoint her too – but maybe that's a good thing, maybe she'll realise now he's undeserving of her friendship (let alone anything further, though he finds himself desiring it regardless).
"I can't, sorry; I have to work on my presentation."
"Aw," Roxanna says. She sounds let down and Henrik feels guilty for it. "But you're really missing out!"
"'I have to work on a presentation'," a young man in the group repeats mockingly. "Get off your high horse and have some fun for once! The presentation can wait!"
"I'm sorry but it really can't," Henrik insists as he quickens his pace, trying not to wince at the intensity of his surroundings.
He breathes a heavy sigh of relief when he finally gets back to his dorm room, virtually slamming the door behind him, placing his books down on his desk.
He should be working on the presentation, or on anything else he's got to do. Instead, though, he finds himself pacing the room, fists clenched so tight his nails are digging into his palms, all the while he's struggling to think straight. It feels like his mind is going a mile a minute and leaving him in the dust.
wow, look at you, you should be nearly done with that presentation by now, aren't you supposed to be smart? you can't even balance your studies right, how would you ever be able to parent a child, at least you've done one good thing by staying out of his life. Maja's probably found someone else by now anyway, a man who's actually fit for fatherhood, a man who can socialise without drinking what might as well be half his body weight in alcohol, a man without evil in his bloodline-
City lights outside catch his eye as he walks past the window. He raises a hand by reflex, shielding his eyes from the glint.
don't be ridiculous. they're not that bright. John wouldn't be bothered. Roxanna wouldn't be bothered. no-one you know would be bothered. it's just you, you freak, hiding from the streetlights like they're going to blind you.
He continues to pace the room, breathing strained, mind racing. By this point he knows what's going on – one of the so-called 'hissy-fits' of his youth that he never quite stopped having. They reduced in frequency, and he learned to hide them away, but much to his shame, he didn't grow out of them like all the other children.
you're pathetic. John made a mistake saving you that night. he didn't understand how worthless you truly are, if he'd known he would've just left you there to drown-
Somehow his thoughts are nearly as loud as the hallway he was just walking through.
"Shut up," he finds himself muttering, "shut up, shut up-" he claps a hand over his mouth to stifle a yell that's trying to form in his throat.
There's a knock on the door. "Henrik?" calls John's voice.
"Come in," Henrik sighs. He can't say he wants to see anyone right now, but he can't bring himself to turn his friend away either. He just hopes John leaves quickly, so he can be alone.
John opens the door. "Are you alright? I was passing by and I thought I heard you talking; you sounded upset."
Henrik nods. "I'm fine, John." (He's not entirely sure John buys it.) He notices tears welling up in his eyes and silently begs them not to fall. He feels unsteady on his feet, like he could collapse and fall apart at any moment, like he's barely holding himself together.
"You're shivering," John points out. "I thought you Swedes were supposed to be immune to the cold," he says with a slight smirk.
"I'm not cold," Henrik says, and immediately regrets it, because that would've been a much easier explanation. "I'm just - I –" he finds himself out of words, no excuses coming to mind.
A tear slips down his cheek. He inhales shakily.
you just gave yourself away, now he knows, now he knows how pathetic you are
He falls back against the wall, trembling, more tears making their way down his face.
Henrik searches for a way to explain things to John, but he can't even really explain it to himself, and he can't seem to find his voice anyway.
"Is something wrong?" John asks. The question is pointless, and they both know it.
Henrik forces out an answer to the best of his ability. "It's been – it's five months, today, since – since Maja…"
"Told you about the baby?"
"And she was, what, three months in when she told you?"
"Four," Henrik corrects.
"Has she… had it, then?" John questions awkwardly.
"I have no idea," Henrik mutters, sliding down the wall until he's sitting on the floor.
"I thought you didn't want to be part of the kid's life."
"I don't! It's just –" Henrik doesn't finish his sentence, coughing and trying to wipe his tears off on his sleeve.
John breathes in deeply. He kind of looks like he's about to start crying himself. He pulls a pack of tissues out of his jean pocket, takes one out and hands it to Henrik, who takes it gratefully. "Here you go."
"Would it be better if I, uh, left you alone?"
Henrik shakes his head. "No – no, please stay." There's no point in John leaving now, he's seen all there is to see, he's not going to want to be friends with Henrik anymore after this, and Henrik needs this, needs John's presence to ground him for as long as he can have it.
Thinking about John ending their friendship, though, just makes Henrik cry even harder.
"Okay," John says, "okay, um, I can stay then." He walks a few steps closer to Henrik.
"I can't – I can't do this anymore, John," Henrik chokes out, "I can't do this." He's not even fully certain anymore what he's talking about, it could be any number of things: the whole Maja situation, trying to become a doctor when he knows he's not good enough for the job, constantly feeling so alone even when he's in a room full of people…
All of it, maybe. Just existing.
"Hey, hey, it's alright," John mumbles.
That's not even the slightest bit true, Henrik knows it, and he knows John knows it too, but he's too tired to say anything on the matter – and there's something very comforting in the sound of John's voice, even if he's saying things they both know are false.
There comes a point where Henrik finds himself exhausted beyond belief, supposing he's cried all the tears he could. His mind is starting to clear up again, but that's not such a good thing as it sinks in properly that John just witnessed all of this.
"I'm sorry," he says, his voice hoarse, "John, I'm sorry, you shouldn't have to see me like this."
"It's not a problem," John replies firmly. He picks up a bottle of water off Henrik's desk and passes it to him. "So, what was that?"
Henrik takes a sip from the bottle before he admits "I don't know. I have these, um…" he stops, trying to find the right word. Breakdowns? Outbursts? "…episodes, have done since I was a child. I can usually keep them under control, but every once in a while it gets too much and I…" he trails off, embarrassed enough already. "It's not normally like that," he adds in a hurry, hoping to salvage the whole scenario somehow. "I haven't had one that bad in a long time."
John nods in (a sort of) understanding. "You look really tired," he comments. Henrik's not sure if it's an attempt at sympathy or John trying to divert the subject so he has an out from the situation. "Maybe you should get some sleep?"
"I've got studying to do, John, and I need to get to work on this presentation-"
"An hour of sleep won't kill you, Henrik," John says, as if he has any room to talk when he's got a reputation for staying up working late into the night, "C'mon. Look," he tries to compromise, "I'll come in here in an hour to check if you're awake yet."
Henrik gives in to the offer, despite the guilt he feels for not doing the work he should be, despite the fact that he's not even sure he can sleep with everything on his mind – but he's so worn out, and his bed does look really inviting right now, and John's right, maybe just one hour…
"Okay," he affirms, pulling himself up off the ground and climbing into bed.
There's a hint of a smile on John's face right before he leaves the room. "See you in an hour, then."