A/N: So, this is part of the Expect The Unexpected series I'm working on, which is, frankly, exactly what it sounds like. As part of my everlasting quest to defy any and all possible cliches, something completely unfathomable happens to one member of the Glee club in each fic of the series. This is installment number two, but none of them are connected plot-wise, so there aren't any prequels you have to read for any of them. Some will be tragic, some scary, some comedic. Enough jabber - please enjoy!
Sun Gone Lost
Looking back on it now, Will knew he should have realized something was wrong with Puck. The kid had been behaving strangely over the last few months, zoning out during Glee practice, skipping football, acting jittery. He'd even ceased all of his attacks on the underclassmen and less popular upperclassmen, and started sitting away from everyone else during lunches. Will had just written it off as stress from having to watch his daughter come into the world and then hand her off to a total stranger. There was absolutely no way that he could have known that the reason went deeper than that, but as he and the rest of the Gleeks watched from the front of the school as Puck was loaded into the back of the ambulance, Will couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. He was the teacher – he was supposed to see it when there was something going on with one of his students, and he was supposed to take action. He had done neither.
As the ambulance pulled out of the parking lot and disappeared down the street, Will exhaled slowly, turning back to the group of eleven kids standing behind him, all just as confused and terrified as he was. Nobody spoke, and even Brittany seemed to understand that whatever was going on, it was bad.
Mercedes was the one to finally break the silence. "So…what happens now?"
Will sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. There was no point in trying to hold rehearsal now; even Rachel looked like her heart wouldn't be in it, so he dismissed them. Slowly, they dissipated, trudging toward their cars or off to call for their rides to pick them up early. Soon only Quinn remained, a slightly shell-shocked expression frozen on her face.
"Quinn," Will said quietly. "I need you to tell me exactly what happened."
"I…I don't know," she whispered. "I didn't – didn't do anything, at least I don't think I did, but—"
"Slow down," Will said. "It's okay. Just tell me what happened."
She drew a long, shuddering breath, trying to compose herself. "I don't even remember what we were talking about, but he…he just started yelling that I was trying to control him, that we – we were all out to get him…that none of us would care if he – he threw himself off a roof—" Her words were choked off and she hid her face in her hands. "Oh God, you don't think he could be serious, do you?"
Will shook his head vigorously. "No. He was just overreacting."
"To what?" she cried.
He didn't have an answer for that.
Two Months Later
The rule was that only three people could visit a patient at one time, so the Glee club members that had wanted to go had been split up into pairs; they would all be accompanied by Mr. Schue when it was their turn. Finn and Quinn were first.
Nothing was said on the way to the hospital. The quarterback and former cheerleader sat silently in Will's old piece-of-junk car, staring out the windows for the duration of the hour-and-a-half ride. When they arrived, the first thing that popped into Finn's mind was that the building looked absolutely nothing like a hospital. The only word to describe it that he could think of was fortress. And that made his stomach twist painfully in his gut. Quinn grabbed his hand.
Will led the two of them in, wearing his best brave face as he approached the front desk.
"You have an appointment?" drawled the receptionist before he had a chance to say anything.
"Uh, yeah. We're here to see Noah Puckerman?" He noticed that his hands were a little sweaty, and he wiped them on his jeans, trying not to make the action look obvious.
The receptionist frowned at the register for a few moments, then handed them three cards to clip onto their clothing. "Do not remove the visitor IDs at any time," she droned. "You can go wait in the Day Room – it's down that hall."
At the elderly woman's direction, Will, Finn, and Quinn made their way down the corridor, trying to ignore the chilly atmosphere and the shivers running up and down their spines.
The Day Room had tall windows, letting dusty sunlight slant across the floor, and looked more like a pre-school classroom than a hospital ward. There were checker boards on some of the tables, some with games left unfinished, and more board games stacked in the padlocked closets. There was a gigantic bin of ragged stuffed animals, their eyes sad and their limp arms and legs dangling over the side. A large box of maltreated crayons and markers sat on the nearest table.
"Mr. Schue?" Quinn whispered, her voice shaking. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
"It'll be fine, Quinn, don't worry," Will assured her, though he was started to doubt his decision in letting the kids (and himself) see Puck at all. Maybe two months wasn't long enough?
Just then, a door on the opposite side of the room opened, and they turned, expecting to see Puck walk through. Instead, a middle-aged doctor entered and strode over to them. "You're the visitors for Noah?" he asked bluntly.
"Okay, before you go in and see him, I'll need to explain a few things," he said, shifting his clipboard to his other hand. "If he seems a little groggy or out of it, don't worry, it's just the medication he's on. He'll be a little bit spacey, too, losing his train of thought, that kind of thing. He probably won't be suffering from any episodes right now, since we upped the meds a tad for your visit, but if he does, don't panic, just call over one of the orderlies – they'll be close by the whole time. You have an hour."
Without any further introduction, the doctor turned and headed back for the door. It took Will's brain a second to reconnect with his feet and usher his students along, Quinn tight-lipped and Finn paler than Kurt. As they followed the doctor, Will put his hands on their shoulders. "Remember, neither of you have to go in and see him. You can always go wait in the car if you feel uncomfortable at any time. Okay?"
They nodded, and Will knew they weren't going anywhere.
When they entered the ward and finally saw Puck sitting at a table at the far end of the room, slouching down with his back to them, Will felt a small wave of relief. For some reason, he'd half-expected Puck to be in shackles, but that must have been his imagination spinning out of control as he anticipated the visit the night before.
"Puck?" Finn ventured as they approached him. "Hey, man." The quarterback took the seat opposite him and Will took the chair on the end of the table. Quinn sank into the seat between Finn and Will.
Puck's eyes were glassy, and he was staring out the window.
Finn said his name again, a little louder.
Puck's gaze snapped away from the outside world and landed on Finn's face, then traveled to Quinn's and Will's. He frowned slightly, as if he was surprised that they were there. "Oh. Hi."
"How are you feeling?" Will asked.
Puck shrugged, leaning his head against his fist and tracing idle shapes on the tabletop. His skin had gained a pallid tone that made him look like he was about to throw up, and his eyes were shadowed. Quinn looked away when she noticed that his fingers were shaking a little from the medication.
"We miss you at school," Finn said. "And in Glee."
"They won't let me have my guitar in here," Puck said, the words slightly slurred.
"What? Why the hell not?" Finn looked furious that his friend would be denied this one simple pleasure in his current situation.
Puck looked at him, tapping his index finger against the table. "They think I'd use the strings."
Will blanched. Quinn looked horrified. It took a moment for Finn to get what Puck was trying to say, and when he did, all the color drained from his face. Puck's eyes had fallen back to the smooth surface of the table, sliding out of focus.
"Puck?" Will tried to catch his attention.
"Huh?" Puck blinked.
Will rubbed the back of his neck in agitation. "So…how are things going in here? What do you do all day?" He mentally slapped himself for the feeble conversation starter, but Puck seemed to have no problem with it.
"Today we had group therapy," Puck recited flatly. "Yesterday was poker night. We bet with sodas. Tomorrow, if the weather's nice, the docs are gonna let us play basketball outside."
"Sounds like fun," said Will, forcing a smile. Puck didn't look all that enthusiastic about it, but maybe it would bring some color back to his face.
"Why'd you come to see me?" Puck asked abruptly, looking back out the window.
Quinn finally spoke. "Because we miss you, Puck."
A muscle twitched in his jaw. "None of you even liked me."
Will stepped in. "Puck, don't be—"
"Stupid?" Puck finished harshly. "Ridiculous? That's what everybody is telling me, all the time now." His hands balled into shaky fists.
"Puck, we came because we miss seeing you," Will said firmly. "You were a big part of Glee. Do you have any idea how empty it is without you?"
Puck lurched to his feet, swaying slightly and making the three of them flinch. "This isn't my fault!" he shouted, his eyes wild but strangely focused. An orderly was instantly at his side, pressing down on his shoulders in an attempt to get him to sit down again.
"Noah, what did we talk about?"
Finn swallowed and Will's stomach twisted again. Didn't the guy realize he wasn't talking to a baby?
Puck gritted his teeth. "No yelling," he said.
"Good, no yelling," the orderly praised him. "Now, why don't you just sit back down—" Puck sat. "—and talk nicely with your friends?" The orderly didn't leave until Puck gave him a small nod, a silent promise to be good.
Once the orderly was gone, Puck seemed to relax, but he said nothing and once again let his eyes slide out of focus. Will and Finn exchanged upset looks. Several minutes of painful silence passed, and then Puck suddenly drew a sharp intake of breath, still staring at nothing.
"Puck?" Finn said, frowning in concern. "What's the matter?"
Puck shook his head, burying his face in his hands. A shuddering inhalation told them he was crying, but none of them knew what they could do or say. "Shut up!" he growled.
Finn looked taken aback. "I-I'm sorry—"
"Not you," Puck snapped, his hands dropping.
Quinn shrunk closer to Finn, and Will felt his heart jump into his throat as he realized what was wrong. He called the orderly back over. "Something's happening," was all he managed to say.
The orderly nodded and swiftly pulled Puck to his feet. "Okay, Noah, you're gonna come with me…"
"No. I want to stay here."
Puck shrugged off the orderly's hands. "I said I want to stay."
The orderly sighed. "Noah, you need to come with me now," he said sternly. "Do you want me to call one of the nurses?"
A muscle beneath Puck's eye twitched, and he gritted his teeth again.
"I didn't think so," the orderly said, gripping Puck's shoulder. "Come on. Let's go."
Before Will, Finn, and Quinn had a chance to react, the orderly had led Puck out of the room and out of sight. The three of them were left speechless at the table until the orderly returned, and this time Puck wasn't with him.
"What happened?" Finn asked.
"He had an episode," the orderly said, but upon seeing Finn's blank expression, he clarified. "He was hearing voices."
"And…where is he now?" Will asked.
"In his room, asleep."
"You knocked him out?" Finn demanded.
The orderly laced his hands behind his back. "Schizophrenia is complicated. There's no telling how long an episode will last. Usually, it's better to put him to sleep than to have him sit it out," he explained. "I apologize that you didn't get a chance to say goodbye."
Soon afterwards, the three of them were exiting the hospital, more than a little shaken. Quinn leaned into Finn's embrace as they walked back to the car, casting one last look at the foreboding building's face before she climbed in. "Mr. Schue?" she said softly. "How long do you think he'll be in there?"
Will sighed. "I don't know, Quinn." He dropped heavily into the driver's seat. "I just don't know."
A/N: Please leave a review and tell me what you think of it. If you enjoyed it, add me to Author Alert to be notified when the other installments in the series are posted. So far, only Brittany's is up - check it out, it's titled Tus Spiritus Sancti.