A/N: This story is co-written by the lovely Zeshaika, who is just as much of a fan of TGWTG as I am. It will feature a large amount of the TGWTG Team, and will be more humorous than my other TGWTG story. Hope you enjoy, and please leave constructive criticism.
Trigger warning: mentions of mental disorders, none graphic.
We don't own any aspect of TGWTG characters or plotlines. This story refers to the characters of TGWTG, and is in no way related to the actual people on the site.
Luke was positive that if he didn't look up, he would be alright.
The mop-topped teenager was bent at the waist, arms crossed tightly as he stared at the carpet. The couch beneath him creaked slightly as his knee bounced furiously up and down, up and down, more or less to the loud beat from the speakers nearby.
It was ten twenty-five. One hour until he got to go home. Until he could go home, sit on his couch, watch a movie. Until he didn't feel like his stomach was going to split in half. He could last one more hour.
"Luke!" a voice called out, barely noticeable over the loud club music- at least, it would be for anyone not currently trying to remain invisible. A tall, tanned boy squirmed through the crowd, only fellow clubbers keeping him from stumbling to the ground.
Luke hated it when Mark drank. It made him loud.
"Hey, dude," the boy laughed, settling down next to the thin boy on the bench. "Been looking for you. Why aren't you dancing?"
Luke tried to think of a good reason (beyond "I don't feel like it"), and failed. He shrugged, causing his friend to click his tongue and shake his head.
"Man, I brought you out here to get loose," he whined, elbowing Luke softly in the side. "You need to relax. Y'know? Just chill out. Have fun. What do you want to do? Get a drink? Dance?"
"Watch a movie," Luke said plainly. Mark rubbed his forehead in irritation.
"You're hopeless. Hang on… YO!" The boy waved an arm towards the crowd, and two people broke off from the group. Two girls in short dresses.
Luke felt his throat go dry. No. No, no, no. Go away. Don't talk to me. PLEASE don't talk to me.
"Hi," one of the girls cooed, both settling down on the couch. Mark grinned widely.
"Luke, these are my new friends. Vanessa, Marissa; Luke."
"Hi, Luke," Marissa giggled. Or was it Vanessa? The only visible difference was that the one looking at him had blonder hair and smaller breasts than her friend. She was smiling, but Luke saw the question in her eyes. She was wondering what was wrong with him. Why he wasn't saying anything back.
Say something back, you idiot.
"H-hey," he managed to say, ducking his head. One of the girls (the one currently wrapped around Mark's bicep) gave a loud peal of laughter.
"Aw! He's shy!"
Shy. Stupid. Weird. Same thing.
"Let's dance," Mark said, either trying to save his friend from further embarrassment or trying to see how far he could get with Mar-nessa. Either way, he pulled his girl up and gave Luke a death glare. Quailing under his friend's gaze, Luke allowed himself to be pulled off the couch and onto the dance floor- just as the song switched from pounding bass to smooth R&B.
"Alright boys and girls," the disc jockey chuckled over the mike. "This here's a slow number. So grab somebody and get close…"
Dear God, no.
Luke felt his stomach twist as Van-rissa pulled him in and wrapped her arms around his neck. Too much in shock to do much but realize she smelled like apples, he placed his hands gingerly on her waist.
This would be fine. He could do this. As long as no one looked at him and no one talked-
"So, is Luke short for Lucas?" Van-rissa murmured directly into his left ear.
Luke's stomach twisted again. He swallowed hard. "Y-yeah… it's uh… Lucas. But I mean, I go by Luke to most people. Except my teachers. Well, not all my teachers. But mainly it's uh… it's Luke." He winced inwardly even as the words left his mouth. He sounded drunk. Or crazy.
There was a short silence, as Luke felt the girl shift away from him slightly. "Hm. Where do you go to school?"
"UCLA." Good. One word-answer.
"What's your favorite subject?"
Oh God, no. He was going to sound stupid. "Um… I, uh… don't have one."
Van-rissa shifted again. Now they were dancing an arm's length apart; seventh-grade style. "Don't be dumb," she chastised, raising an eyebrow. "Everyone has one."
"I'm not… dumb. I'm sorry," he said quickly, stuttering slightly.
"Why are you apologizing?" Van-rissa asked, looking more than a little confused, and (Luke thought) irritated. "Are you okay? You don't look good."
What's wrong with you? Why can't you just act normal for once?
Luke let go of the girl's waist, backing up slightly. His stomach had begun to cramp, and he felt a cold sweat dripping down the back of his neck. "I… um…"
A body bumped into his. "Hey!" a man yelled, glaring down at him. "Check yourself, bro!"
People started to turn around. They were staring at him. Judging him. Laughing at him. The crowd pushed in on him. Luke tried to move, tried to walk away. He bumped into the man again, who pushed him roughly.
"What's your freaking problem, bro?" the man bellowed, scowling. Luke's stomach heaved as he stumbled away, trying to keep his balance despite the spinning of the room.
So many faces. Watching him. Judging him. Teasing him. He couldn't take it anymore.
Luke turned around and threw up. Right onto a pair of high heels. A loud screech pounded into his ears, and a pair of hands shoved him away. Van-rissa was staring at him in shock and anger.
He had to get away. They wouldn't stop looking at him. He just needed to leave. He pushed his way to the exit, bursting through the door into the cold smokiness of late Chicago air.
Mark would be angry. Vanessa and Marissa would be angry. Everyone was angry at him.
Sides heaving, Luke collapsed onto a bench. His heart was pounding in his chest. His mouth tasted terrible. He was alone. In a park. No one around.
No one watching him.
Luke's breathing began to slow, yet his stomach continued to cramp. Sweat had soaked through the button-down he had borrowed from Mark. He pulled it off and threw it, remaining in a white T-shirt. It had been too big anyway. And Mark was already mad at him.
He tilted his head back, closing his eyes. The night flashed before him, the faces and accusing eyes of the clubbers etching into the black behind his eyes. Their laughter. Their shouts.
Luke's stomach heaved again, but there was nothing left to come up. He felt empty. Empty and stupid. And he was sweaty and cold and shaking.
He was sick; he knew it. It was the only explanation. He needed to go to a hospital… but they'd ask questions. They'd need him to talk.
Hospital was out. Maybe he could go home… but Mark lived next door. He'd yell. Luke couldn't handle any yelling.
Luke leaned forward, leaning his elbows on his knees and gripping his head in his hands. He squeezed his eyes shut. He had never messed up as royally as this. What was he going to do?
Luke froze, his mind flashing instantly to cops, muggers, rapists -
"Hey, look at me. C'mon. I won't hurt you."
Luke took a deep breath. It was a woman's voice. She sounded nice. Her voice was measured; slow. He raised his head.
She had short, brown hair with stripes of purple down the front. Her face had no makeup. She was looking him over critically, and he shrunk into himself slightly. She was wearing scrubs under her coat.
"Hey, it's alright," the woman said softly. She had her hands out, palms up. "Are you okay?"
Luke tried to speak; tried to explain. But he couldn't.
The nurse nodded, seeming to understand. Luke's spine relaxed slightly. "If you want to come with me," she said, "I'm on my way to my job. There are people there who can help you. But I'm not making you," she said hurriedly. "It's up to you."
Luke took a deep breath. Then another. And, finally, he worked up his courage and said. "I'm not supposed to… get in cars… with strangers."
The nurse smiled at him. "The hospital is walking distance."
Luke swallowed again, standing up. "Okay. Will I… have to talk to anyone?"
The nurse hadn't lied; no one talked to him. She had handed him a tiny Dixie cup of water, and a piece of paper to fill out with his name, age, allergies, blah, blah, blah. Later came the question of why he was there. He didn't really know what to put besides "out of my mind," so he settled on "panic attack and nausea."
Then came an odd question: Are you anxious around others? How much, on a scale from 1-10?
Luke wrote down a seven. Then he rethought it, crossed it out, and wrote down a four. Then he remembered Van-rissa's face, crossed it out again, and wrote down a ten.
Then he waited, noting that the room seemed to be extremely hot. Although it may have been because he had been sitting in Chicago in the middle of the night, wearing nothing but a T-shirt and corduroys.
The nurse eventually led Luke into a small room just down the hall from the reception desk. Nervously, the curly haired young man's eyes darted around, desperately trying to avoid the room's two other occupants.
"Luke," the nurse said in a sweet voice as she waved toward the two doctors now staring at him, "These are Doctor Block and Doctor Tease. They'll be talking with you for a little bit."
Sweat beaded on his forehead, possibly from nervousness or due to the temperature in the room being closer to a furnace, as the two doctors stared at him with hungry, eager expressions, as if he were a frog in the middle of a biology lab, waiting to be dissected.
The nurse began talking to the doctors in a low voice, though Luke caught the phrase "anxiety" a few times. He zoned out the speech, taking the time to investigate the two doctors.
The one on the right was short, squat, and professional. She had thick-frame glasses that looked suspiciously plastic, a yellow pencil stuck in her frizzy brown hair, and was listening intently to the nurse. The other doctor, a very sultry looking blonde with librarian glasses and several pens stuck haphazardly into a messy bun, ignored the conversation, opting instead to continue staring at their new patient with an intense interest that made him want to vanish into the walls.
"I beg your pardon," the brunette doctor huffed suddenly, "But what do you mean by "be careful"? Are you saying that you don't trust us to exercise the best action for the well-being of our patients?" Her reassurance was interrupted as she slapped her fellow doctor on the shoulder, jolting the blond from her piercing gaze. "Doctor Tease!" The brunette exclaimed, "Please stop staring at the patient and pay attention."
Tease only made a face in response as both she and her partner returned their attention to the nurse. However, the nurse seemed at ease; Luke got the impression she had dealt with the two in the past.
"It's not that," she intervened smoothly, tucking a strand of purple hair behind her ear. "It's just that some of the other doctors find your patient interview methods a little… eccentric."
"Of course they are!" Tease interjected, "We have a duty to our patients- nay, to science itself, to be as involved and dedicated to our work as possible. And if that involves lesser-known techniques, so be it."
"That's not quite what I meant," The nurse interrupted again, earning yet another reproving look from the two doctors. "I'm referring to the event with the plumber and the ice cream truck…"
"An experimental therapy technique," Tease declared. "And as you well know, that man can almost walk now and he dropped the lawsuit almost immediately."
"Or the incident with the cockaroaches in the maternity wing…?" the nurse continued.
Doctor Block tilted her head. "What cockaroaches?"
"Yes," Doctor Tease added quickly, eyes shifting back and forth. "We have no earthly clue what you're talking about."
The nurse raised an eyebrow, but handed them Luke's folder. "Go easy on him," she told them firmly, giving Luke a smile as she exited the room.
With no human barrier to protect him from the two doctor's intense gazes, Luke's heart began to race as he shrank back against the armchair he was sitting in. He hoped that if he made himself appear small enough, he'd fall through the uncomfortably scratchy fabric of the chair and disappear from his captors' sharp gazes. Couldn't they just give him some Tums and let him go home?
But alas, the too-firm padding within the chair would not yield and provide him shelter. Doctor Block, as her lab coat proclaimed, ignored the young man's nervousness, as she started scribbling in her notes.
Please don't talk to me, Luke thought as squeezed his eyes shut, please don't talk to me. Please don't talk to me. Please don't…
"So," the blonde doctor began, looking over the file that the nurse had given them, "Your name is Luke, correct?"
"Yes..." the curly haired young man all but squeaked as he shrank back even further in the chair.
He felt like a timid mouse, corned by a hungry cat. All he wanted was an escape—any small secret passage that could get him out of this clinic with its stagnant smell of iodine and fish-oil and uncomfortably warm rooms, and away from the two doctors and their questions.
He felt as if they were judging him behind those pairs of thick-rimmed glasses on their faces, and so far they did not like what they were seeing, even if they tried to mask it under a blank, unreadable mask of calmness.
"Luke," Doctor Tease said, "When did you start to feel these feelings of anxiety around others first begin?"
Nervously, Luke fidgeted with a loose string on the armchair's upholstery, trying to avoid eye contact with her, as he tried to think of the answer. In a way, he admitted, he couldn't remember exactly when it'd started.
He'd always felt kind of nervous and shy around people, even as a kid. It'd never been anything serious or out of the ordinary; a lot of kids were shy. It'd only been rather recently that it'd gotten to the point that it seemed to go beyond shyness and straight into… something else.
"I-I don't know…." Luke mumbled, more to himself than to the doctors, "I-I just don't like talking sometimes…"
He winced as he saw Doctor Block enthusiastically scribbling something in her notes. Each curved line of graphite scratched into the yellowing paper felt like a death sentence, sealing his fate into eternal damnation.
"Why do you not like talking to people?" Tease asked, leaning forward with a focused gaze that was more than a little unhinged.
"Well," Luke said, still only barely audible, "People make me nervous sometimes. It's like I can hear them thinking: 'Look at this loser kid. Doesn't he know anything? What's wrong with him?' Okay, maybe not exactly those words… and they're not always thinking that..."
"You hear voices?" Tease asked perking up, "Other people's thoughts, you say?"
Beside her, Doctor Block had begun scrawling on the notepad furiously, as if she'd suddenly been hit with a shot full of caffeine and sugar. Her hands shook with barely contained excitement, almost dropping the pencil as she wrote.
"Not really," Luke explained, "More like, I kind of imagine that people have this sort of… expectation for me. Like they already know that I'm going to screw up and they're just waiting for me to do it. And I… always do."
Tease frowned as she slumped back disappointedly. Likewise, Doctor Block's hyperactive hand slowed to a steadier pace, taking time to erase several lines from her notes.
"I just don't like talking to people," Luke continued. "I don't… I don't know why."
From there, the conversation continued without much trouble. Although the same nervousness persistence within the pit of Luke's stomach, slowly eating away at him until he felt like he was going to throw up again, he no longer seemed to have any trouble speaking clearly enough. Mainly because it was Doctor Block who began to talk to him whilst still looking down at her notepad, and Doctor Tease was content to sit and pick at her fingernails.
Just answer their questions and finish the conversation, a voice said in the back of his mind, the sooner you finish answering their questions, the sooner you can leave. And, the sooner you leave, the sooner you can just go home, go to bed, and forget this ever happened.
After a half an hour that felt like a miniature eternity, the interview finally ended. Sweat trickled down Luke's neck, dampening the collar of his shirt, as the two female doctors discussed something in voices too low for him to properly hear.
Straining his ears, he tried to pick up even a small fraction of what they were saying. Only a few scattered words and phrases were easily decipherable. Among those Luke swore he heard the words "ward four," and "further observation."
The young man's heart tightened in his chest, as he thought he detected grim traces of concerned frowns upon their faces as they looked over him with furtive glances. What did this mean, he wondered, his heart starting to race again. What did they mean by further observation? Where was "ward four"? What was "ward four?"
It means you're crazy, a little voice in the back of his mind sneered, Congratulations, Luke; you've finally snapped. And what's your prize? A nice padded cell all to yourself! It's kind of small, and there's not any view, but it comes with an adorable matching strait-jacket.
That couldn't be true, Luke protested, shaking his head as if that would dispel these venomous thoughts that clung there like a pair of fuzzy socks to a sweater in the dryer. He wasn't insane was he? Sure, he had apprehensions and the occasional proneness to panic attacks when being around people, but that was normal. Right?
"Doctors?" he asked, his voice cracked and raspy as the words slithered out of his suddenly dry throat, "I'm not… crazy, am I?"
The two doctors raised their eyebrows as they looked at each other for a moment. However, not more than two seconds had passed before the two ladies burst into a fit of giggles. Luke felt the bottom of his stomach threaten to split again, before the brunette gave him a wide grin. "We don't think you're 'crazy' per se," Doctor Block said, smiling, "But, we think that you may have a case of Social Anxiety Disorder."
All at once, the feeling in Luke's body seemed to be drained as he leaned back in the chair. Whether it was from fear or relief, he didn't know.
"Now," Block continued, "usually this type of disorder is very common, and very easy to treat with the proper therapy. However, due to the extreme nature of your case, we'd like to place you in ward four of the hospital's psychiatric ward."
"Wait," Luke said, sitting up suddenly, "You still want to commit me to…" He trailed off slightly, throat going dry. Swallowing hard, he managed to choke out, "…the psyche ward? Am I really that… bad?"
"Don't worry," Block reassured him, "it's only temporary so that we can better observe you and test our hypothesis, and perhaps find… alternative means of treating you." Luke didn't like the way her eyes lit up at the phrase "alternative means."
"Besides," Tease added, "Ward four is usually where the more functional of the crazies go. You'll be in good company."
The stocky brunette glared reproachfully at her fellow doctor as she stepped on her foot. "What my colleague is trying to say," Block laughed weakly, "is that ward four is usually reserved for keeping observation over our more functional patients—the ones who are there voluntarily—and unique, relatively non-dangerous cases under special observation. Of course, we suggest this only if you are willing to be placed under observation."
For a while, Luke sat quietly as he contemplated the doctors' offer. On one hand, committing himself to a mental ward, no matter how minor the case, felt kind of awkward. There was a certain stigma attached to being in a mental hospital that, while he personally didn't agree with, others would surely be very quick to judge him based upon.
On the other hand, he thought, if he had a problem, especially one so bad that it made sitting through a simple interview feel worse than being tortured with a piece of hot copper wire through his skull, it was probably safe to say that he probably needed just a little help.
Besides, the little voice of optimism within him said, perhaps being around other people and making a few friends around here would probably help in the long run.
"Okay," he said finally, "I'll do it."
"Good," the blonde scientist smiled as she and her colleague began to guide him out of the room, "I'll have MarzGurl pass the paperwork along to you. Don't worry, your stay here will be very…interesting."
The sly grins that spread across the two doctor's lips seemed to suggest that the two were sharing a joke that Luke could not possibly begin to understand. Once more his heart started to race as he followed the two down the hallway, meeting up with the purple-headed nurse they called "MarzGurl". One question played over and over in his mind, repeating itself like a broken record:
What have I gotten myself into?
A/N: Please review with any advice or concerns, and once again a big thank you to my co-writer Zeshaika.