Disclaimer:Not mine. No money. No affiliation.
No one really believes that life can change in a second. But it can. Maybe not a second, but definitely in a minute.
The stage was set; New Directions were a well oiled machine, they worked, they gelled, everything went perfectly. Their entrance was flawless, the first number was perfect and everyone rolled right on into the group number without fault. They had this, Will knew they had it. Until they didn't.
It was just before the close of their group number, at one side of the stage Brittany was twirled under Mike's arm before they spun around, in the middle Rachel and Finn mimicked them and at the other side of the leads, Puck and Quinn completed their manoeuvre in perfect harmony with the other two couples. Except there was a loose board on the stage, a piece of the flooring sticking up just that millimetre too much.
It's like a horror movie, or a sci-fi or something. One second Puck's right there, the next Quinn is holding onto nothing and he's gone. There's a crash and then nothing and the music tapers off as Quinn rushes to the edge of the stage, "Puck, Puck, oh no, someone help!" Will is out of his seat and down the walkway as fast as he can.
There's just this wild build up of commotion, people are shouting things, pushing to get near, orders shouted, everyone trying to see, trying to help, camera's going off. Will can hear Quinn's sobbing, can hear Tina and Brittany crying, Finn and Sam and Mike all muttering. Will just pushes past it all, lowering himself down beside Puck.
There's metal stands and music equipment and God knew what else all laying around, and Puck's sprawled over something with his head tipped back and, Will doesn't realise it until he's actually touched it, but there's a pool of blood around Puck's head, like some perverse, demented halo of crimson. There's no response from Noah, not that he expected on, but there is a pulse, and that's good, that's enough.
They arrive at the hospital in a blur. Paramedics shouting out orders that don't make sense and no one can rightly keep up and then it's just waiting. It's the waiting that's hardest.
Mr Schue goes to wash up; Quinn almost broke down crying just looking at him, with his blood stained shirt and his hands, covered in Puck's blood, blood from the injury to the back of Puck's skull. She couldn't believe that there was so much blood, that someone could bleed that much and still have blood left.
Over the space of the next few hours people filter in. The club stick around as long as they can, Miss Pillsbury comes to sit with Mr Schue, Mrs Puckerman shows up when she can, still in her nightdress, eyes scared and Quinn puts aside everything she might remember from living with the Puckerman's to offer the woman a hug before she breaks down.
They're sitting, waiting, for four hours before a doctor comes out to talk to them. "Puckerman?" Ruth stands up, not releasing Quinn's hand and the blond is more than grateful for it.
"My boy, is he, how's my boy?" There's a waver in her voice, this scared tremor that Quinn feels in her whole body, it just makes the cheerleader squeeze tightly to Mrs Puckerman's hand in silent, steady support.
"Noah suffered a very serious trauma to the head, we've managed to stop the bleeding and early CT scans show no swelling, but it is hard to tell with these types of injuries." Quinn can't get the image out of her head, Noah lying out over the floor with blood slowly seeping out around his neck and head.
"Can we see him?" The doctor looks between Quinn and Ruth and then all twelve other members of the club and the faculty that stand there, along with Mr and Mrs Hummel and Mrs Jones. They take up the whole of the waiting area, there isn't a spare seat at all.
"Just family," and Quinn feels the tears start, she wants to see him, wants to see him not bleeding, not dying, not helpless on the floor where she can't do anything, "he's still unconscious, but that's to be expected. We'll move him to a recovery room and monitor his brain activity." Ruth doesn't let go of Quinn's hand, it's like she isn't capable of letting go, like everything will crumble if she does.
"Stay with me," Ruth turns her blotchy, blood shot eyes to Quinn, gripping tightly, "stay with me, sweetie?"
"I'm not going anywhere." As if she would, as if she could. Quinn doesn't know what it is, doesn't know if she wants to know what it is, but she can't walk away from this, can't take a step back, not without seeing him.
No one really knows what to do. No one really knows if there is anything to do. It's all just this negative space where empty words fill in.
Everything will be okay and he'll pull through and don't worry, the doctors know what they're doing all float around. They move Noah from surgery into the recovery ward. They're told that it's family only just now, and just for fifteen minutes. Quinn is surprised with Ruth declares that Quinn is family, she's the mother of Noah's little girl, and the doctors don't press matters. Quinn doesn't say anything because she gets to see Noah.
But when she does, it's almost enough to break her. "Oh, Noah." Ruth finally lets go of Quinn's hand, swapping it for one of Puck's. He looks small, he looks small and vulnerable and so horribly damaged just lying there in the hospital bed. There's a white bandage around his head and his face is pale and Quinn just can't place this boy with the boy she knows.
Ruth is murmuring Yiddish at Puck, and Quinn knows he doesn't understand a lot of it, she doesn't understand any of it, but Puck is unconscious, he can't hear them anyway. She just takes his other hand in hers, strokes her fingers over the back of his hand and sighs. He feels cold, and that's not right. She remembers Puck's hands; sure and warm and safe -after everything they were always safe, he was always so careful. She can't help but raise his hand, clasped in hers, and press it to her cheek.
A nurse comes in, takes some readings, makes some notes and asks Mrs Puckerman to step outside to talk for a minute. "I'll stay with him," Quinn nods, answering the question before it's even asked. Ruth is right outside the door, and Quinn can hear the murmur of the conversation but all her attention is on Noah.
"You need to get better soon," she doesn't know why she does it, because he can't hear her, but it makes the tight feeling in her gut unclench just a little. "We need you. Someone has to get Rachel to shut up sometimes. Someone has to pull Santana back when she gets too fired up. Someone needs to stick up for Artie, and Kurt, and Tina. You know the other boys just don't do it the way you do. They're too sweet." Her hand clenches in his, hoping and praying and just wishing that he'd squeeze her hand. He doesn't. "You need to be there to tell Finn when he's being stupid. You need to be there, you just have to."
Quinn gets another five minutes with Noah before she's ushered out, Mrs Puckerman joining her back in the waiting room where everyone still stands. Ruth has forms to fill in, she has details to iron out. Quinn is left to face the group of worried faces.
"How is he?" Finn breaks away from Rachel long enough to stand in front of Quinn and she just feels it all wash over her.
"He's so cold, and he looks so lost, and he's just-" the tears fall down her face and in an instant she feels the full weight of the New Directions family enclose on her, Finn pulling her in, Rachel wrapping her arms around her, Santana resting her head against her, everyone holding on.
But they still need Noah to keep them strong.
Waiting is 'normal'. That's what they've been told. Head injuries are unpredictable, no two patients react the same way to the same things. It's just a matter of waiting. Noah will wake when he's ready.
Three days and nothing changes.
Ruth has to go back to work. Everyone has to go back to school. Life keeps going. Quinn feels numb in class. She coasts through her days, barely there, barely awake. She doesn't even care that someone is constantly herding her where she's supposed to be. Santana and Brittany lead her to and from classes. Mercedes sits with her to make sure she eats at lunch. Kurt and Tina spend their free periods with her in the library to keep up on homework. Sam and Finn take turns driving her to the hospital.
She spends more time there than she does at home. The nurses know exactly who she is, she knows all their names. The doctors don't question her presence. Quinn tries to get to see Noah at least once a day. She hates that he's lying there on his own for any length of time, that one day he might wake up and be by himself. She knows he gets lonely, knows that he has issues with abandonment, knows that sometimes he's scared of not being worth anything to anyone.
She wishes she could tell him how much he means to her.
There's a guilt eating at her. Rachel noticed, tried to convince her to let it go. Santana tried to threaten it out of her. Finn and Sam tried the casual conversation in the car. Not your fault, just an accident, no one saw it, not the one to blame. But she couldn't shake it.
She let go of his hand, she couldn't pull him back, couldn't hold on, she let go. She sees it play over and over in her head. Some nights she tries not to sleep because all she can see is Puck, falling backwards, disappearing off the stage and then blood, just so much blood. She can't sleep after dreaming just once, spends the night up, cleaning anything she can. She's called his cell phone more times than she can count, just to hear his voice.
"Noah," she feels less stupid talking to him now. Because what if he can hear her? What if she just needs to say the right thing and he'll wake up? What if he just needs to hear that she's there, that she's finally there and she understands and she knows that he must've felt like all those months ago?
It's scary. Being in that place and not knowing for sure, not knowing if he's going to break her heart again. Only she broke her heart the first time, she broke her heart and his heart in one swift move. But they could have a chance, couldn't they, they could take that chance and try, actually try. They don't need something to pull them together, because he pulls them together on his own. They fit and she never saw it before, because she was just so in love with the image of Finn, that perfect, picture of them, both of them, happy and smiling and it was just such a lie.
And now, now she's there and he's not and it's breaking her apart inside.
"Please, Noah, you need to come back." Her hand runs over the bandage, wondering if they shaved the mohawk, they probably did, moving to stroke down his cheek. "Everyone misses you," and it's true. Santana nearly took off a jocks head for a misplaced comment, Artie almost wheeled down the stairs from not concentrating on what was going on, Finn keeps turning to tell Puck something only to find him not there. "I miss you."
But there's no response. No twitch, no beep, no blink. Nothing.
Quinn climbs onto Noah's bed, curling into his side and crying onto his chest.
It's little at first. This irritation.
But it builds, to the point where she has to swat slightly at her face and she feels a chuckle. Quinn's eyes open at that, pushing herself up and she grins. "Hey there Q." His eyes are bright and there's a smile on his face and his hand just runs over her cheek.
"Noah." She can barely get the whisper out, before she's leaning down and pressing a kiss to his lips and then-
"Quinn, sweetie," the hand on her shoulder jerks her awake. The disorientation throws her for a moment before she stops thinking and just looks. She's lying on Noah's bed, and Noah is still unresponsive. "I'm sorry, honey, but your Mom is here to take you home." There's a stab in her chest, and Quinn nods her head as she pulls away from Noah. She was dreaming, just dreaming.
The nurse moves to check the machines, her back to Quinn to offer some semblance of privacy. She appreciates it, she does. It gives her the strength to lean over and press a kiss to Noah's temple, leaning in just a little longer than required, breathing deeper than necessary.
And then the world collapses a little.
It's a piercing screech. A long, high pitched noise that shoots through her and Quinn pulls back like she's been burnt, like she's touched something she shouldn't. The nurse fires into action, pulling Quinn away and hitting a button beside Noah's bed and that's when it sinks in.
Noah's dying. He's not breathing. His heart's stopped. He's dead.
"No, no, no." Her hand raises to her mouth, the words tumbling out and tears streaming down her face as reality claws at her like ice shards in her skin. "Help him!" She's screaming -she doesn't know what she's screaming, but she's screaming and crying and he's dying and she never told him.
Before she even knows how or why or what, she's in the luminous hallway, huddled on the floor in her mothers arms, sobbing like she hasn't sobbed since she was a little girl. Mrs Puckerman is there too, they're waiting again and the doctors are making a noise in Noah's room and then there's silence and Quinn can't stop imagining that she's lost him. That she never really had him and she's lost him. "Please no, please, please, no."
"Mrs Puckerman, please, calm down. Noah is fine. He's okay. He's pulling through." They said it was a blip, that his heart stuttered, that something caused a break in pattern. But he's stable now, he's responding to stimulus, that he's recovering again.
All Quinn hears is that he's not dead.
They let Quinn stay at the hospital. Curled in a ball in a chair next to Noah's bed, her hand in his while she just watches his chest rise and fall. She's scared to move, to blink, to even breath herself. Like one wrong move and he'll disappear all over again.
She sent word to Finn, who initiated the Glee tree and spread the word. Noah was getting better. One hysterical phone call from Santana after they found out he almost died and then everything was quiet. Quinn would call with any updates. She'd keep them informed.
It's not until after seven in the morning, when Mrs Puckerman is getting ready to finish her late night shift and come back to the hospital, when Quinn should be getting up to get ready for school, it's not until then that Quinn sees for herself that Noah is getting better.
She doesn't know about Glasgow scores, she doesn't know about frontal lobes or subdural whatevers. She doesn't know what sort of stimulation they were talking about. But she does know a squeeze, she does know a small tug and that almost blink.
Noah's waking up.
She should get a nurse, should call for a doctor, should do something to get someone in there. But he squeezes her hand. He squeezes her hand and she's not letting go for anything. "Noah? Noah, can you hear me?" He gives her hand another squeeze, clearing his throat and licking his lips. "Here," she takes the little cup of water from the rolling table, the water they'd given her to calm her down, "just a sip."
She needs to get a doctor, needs to get a nurse or something. Needs to get word to Ruth. But when she moves to pull away, his grip tightens. "Don't go." And Quinn doesn't have the strength to argue.
"Okay," she just moves back to his side, running her free hand over his jaw, "just let me call the nurse." The call button is close enough that she doesn't need to move away from him, that she doesn't even need to look away from him. Because his eyes are open, they're unfocused and dull, but they're open. "I'm not going anywhere."
This time, it's her grip that tightens, just the same way her chest tightens and her stomach flips and her heart clenches. "Promise." They couldn't tear her away.
"I can walk you know." There's a hand on his elbow and one at his back and seriously if he had any more people around him he'd develop claustrophobia. "It's my head I mangled, not my legs." His head that he smacked and almost cracked like Humpty freakin' Dumpty.
"Better not let Quinn hear you say that." And Evans has a point, because Quinn doesn't like anything to remind her, Quinn doesn't like when Puck jokes about brain damage or amnesia or any of that, because it was always a possibility.
The first few days it was a serious problem, because he couldn't even remember going to Nationals never mind getting on the stage. But things came back piece by piece -it was the norm with head injuries, retrograde amnesia or something. They ran tests and scans and asked lame question after lame question before they declared that everything seemed normal.
But normal was a twitch in his left thumb, normal was a near constant headache under florescent lights, normal was blurred vision. He was told it would get better, that it was just residual trauma to his brain, that things would clear up. Puck just wanted out of the hospital.
It took four days, four days after he woke up. It was a week after Nationals before he was let home and no one had even told him if they placed or not -although one of the performers falling off the stage and almost dying might put a dampener on the performance, truth be told. Maybe he didn't want to know if they placed. He wondered how long he'd get before Rachel yelled at him for ruining their Nationals chances. He wondered if Quinn would bitch slap Rachel if she tried.
And that was a little weird, wasn't it. Quinn.
He'd woke up to see her, he'd always sort of known, in this weird out of body sort of way, when someone was with him. It was like being half awake and just rolling over to sleep for another five minutes and then coming to a few hours later. He had these vague recollections of Santana and Brittany telling him about Cheerio practice, this odd running monologue in Finn's voice that might've been something from a news paper, but Quinn's presence just sort of stuck with him.
He refused to let go of her hand when he first woke up, and maybe that was stupid and lame and made him a pussy but he didn't want to let go, and she didn't protest. His Ma said she'd been there every day, and that made him feel all sorts of weird things.
But now he was home. They let him go. Told him to take it easy, to go back to school when he was ready. He wasn't to play any sports until he'd seen a doctor, at least six weeks he was told. It was okay, because football season was over and summer was coming up, so he'd be fine in time for senior year, because he wasn't not playing in senior year, not when Beiste actually made them good.
The biggest thing, the huge thing that was right there, was if he'd see Quinn again before he went back to school. His Ma seemed fine with letting him stay home, they had two more weeks before summer, he had a pretty good reason to skip out on class.
"Okay, I am at my door. You can go away now." Puck couldn't really figure the hovering, but Finn insisted and Puck didn't have the energy to argue. Sam just smirked, opening up the door to Puck's house and letting Puck step inside to the chorus of 'SURPRISE!'. There were balloons and a banner and streamers and fuck, who was gonna clean this mess up?
But that hardly mattered, because Sarah was wrapped around Noah's legs and he hadn't seen her in ages -because hospitals were no place for little girls. And really, if they were going to have a party, who was he to say no and go to bed? He'd been in bed for seven days.
He got hugs from all the girls, fist bumps from Mike and Artie, Kurt gave him this tight watery smile and Puck pretty much threw Blaine at Kurt because blubbering girls were bad enough. Schue looked just as bad, like he was about to break down any minute and Puck just wanted to edge away. Miss P even hugged him -although that was super awkward because he was pretty sure she wanted to run for the disinfectant the second she could.
"You okay?" Fifty minutes later and he's practically dead on his feet. And he's not even standing. Quinn sits on the sofa with him, running her hand over his buzzed head and smiling slightly.
"I'm okay," but he has no energy at all. "Tired." He can't figure it. He's done nothing but sleep for a week, and he's still tired. But Quinn wraps her arms around his shoulders, tugging him towards her, so that his head rests on her shoulder and she's leaning back. And party or no party -and the party was never going to be good with three adults in the room and a pre-teen- Puck is perfectly happy to drift between wake and sleep, nestled up against Quinn.
He still needs to figure out what this is, what they are. But he's pretty sure that'll come later.
Like when he can remember what day of the week it is.