How to Survive
A/N: House/Supernatural Crossover. Spoilers include Season 2 of Supernatural and nothing really for House (but takes place sometime before S4, we're still rollin' with the old crew).
Disclaimer: I do not own or lay claim to anything related to Supernatural or House. But oh, how I wish I did...
Summary: When Dean comes down with a mysterious illness, Sam unwittingly hands him over to Dr. House—a man they don't trust and who doesn't trust them. Meanwhile, the doctors race to figure out what's killing Dean and end up digging a little too deep into the lives of the Winchesters, getting a frightening glimpse of a world beyond their own.
It started with a cheeseburger.
One minute Dean was happily chowing down on a double bacon burger with extra onions—grease dripping out the back and onto the motel table, Sam looking on in disgust and throwing a wad of napkins at his brother to catch the falling grease—and the next, he was on the floor, coughing bits of half-chewed meat into the snot green carpet, skin suddenly pale and slicked with a thin sheen of sweat. When drops of blood splattered onto the carpet to join the food, Sam's brain sprang into panic mode and he grabbed his brother under the arms, hauled him to the parking lot, and threw him into the passenger's seat of the Impala.
By the time they pulled into the hospital parking lot, Dean was shivering; his skin was almost gray, his eyes glossy and unfocused, his hairline damp with sweat. The blood around his lips, which Sam, in his haste, hadn't bothered to wipe off, made him look like some kind of rabid animal.
Dean could walk but only just. He leaned heavily against Sam, who practically dragged him through the front doors and into the emergency waiting room…
Which was packed.
There was a man holding a red-stained rag to his left shoulder, his bald head sweating profusely; a pregnant woman with a screaming toddler (whether the screaming was from annoyance or pain could not be determined); a teenage girl seated on a plastic chair, leaning over her knees, hands pressed firmly to her face; a man in a suit and tie vomiting earnestly into a basin; and a family of six, all of whom were crowded around the mother, who was wailing and holding her hand, signifying that she might have chopped off a finger while preparing dinner.
And a whole slew of people with varying degrees of trauma. Busy night for the ER.
Sam shook his head. This would take hours.
"Come on, Dean," he muttered, walking up to a frazzled looking nurse and putting on a rigid smile. "Excuse me, can you point me in the direction of the clinic?"
The woman looked up; there were gray streaks in her bushy brown hair, and she wore cat-eye glasses that magnified her eyes enough to make her look like an insect. She pointed him down the hall, told him to follow the signs, and went back to her work.
The waiting room of the clinic was nearly empty. Sam sat Dean down on a hard plastic chair, the latter looking utterly relieved at no longer having to carry his own weight, and let his head drop back against the wall as he closed his eyes. He was still shivering.
Sam almost ignored it when the fake name he'd given was called; he did a double take, mentally rechecked the name on the insurance card he'd snagged from their stash of fakes, and maneuvered Dean into the empty room.
They waited ten minutes before the door opened and a growl of a voice greeted them with, "William Gibbons?" There was a pause as a tall, older man limped into the room. Well, limped wasn't quite the word—there was something graceful and loping in his gait, and he pushed the door closed with the cane in his right hand before finally looking up from his clipboard and setting two probing blue eyes first on Dean, then on Sam. "Do your friends call you Billy?"
The man smirked, but Sam didn't follow. He stared. Billy?
His mouth quirked, taking the smugness out of his smirk and turning it to disappointment. "Not a ZZ Top fan, then."
Sam caught himself before he rolled his eyes. Leave it to Dean to put William "Billy" Gibbons on an insurance card. That snapped him out of his worried stupor. He noticed that the man was not wearing a white lab coat and, trying to rein in his frustration, he asked, "Are you a doctor?"
"Of course I'm a doctor," the man replied condescendingly, waving the chart in his left hand around in the air like an award. "I have a clipboard and everything."
Sam continued to stare, nonplussed. Dean continued to sit where he was, either not interested or not conscious enough to follow the conversation.
The man—doctor—whatever, rolled his eyes. "I'm Doctor House. I'm guessing he's—" he glanced toward Dean, eyes gleaming critically— "my patient, Billy. Which makes you… Frank Beard?"
Sam's brain was too busy playing Dean dying hospital panic on repeat to come up with a sufficient lie, so he sputtered the truth: "Sam. His brother."
"Well, Sam-his-brother Gibbons, since it looks like ZZ over there is out of commission, why don't you tell me how you stumbled upon the clinic of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital?"
Sam glanced quickly over at Dean, and sure enough, he looked as if he were dozing. Worry shot back, full force, covering his annoyance with this so-called doctor.
"We were just sitting down to dinner when he passed out for a second, and started coughing up blood. It came on really suddenly. He was fine all day."
"No sign of illness?"
"Not even the sniffles."
Doctor House nodded, then pierced the unassuming Dean with his bright eyes. "Hey!" he shouted. Dean started, looking around in confusion. "What drugs are you on?"
Dean blinked slowly at him. "Huh?"
"Drugs. You know, E. Special K. Coke. Dope. Red Devils. Dyno. What are you taking?"
Silence from the defendant. Breathing heavily, Dean shook his head and gave Sam a pained look. The latter replied for him: "He's not taking any drugs."
"That you know of," Dr. House retorted, eyes only flickering to Sam for a brief, scornful moment. "Billy. Would you be more inclined to tell the truth if Sam left the room?"
Dean chuckled deep in his throat, working up enough spit to speak. "Sam knows I've done drugs before, why would I hide it now if I was doin' anything? I'm not. Get over it. Next question."
Dr. House waited a moment as though deciding whether or not to give it a rest or pursue the idea that Dean was a pathological liar (which wouldn't actually have been far from the truth but, in this case, wasn't important). Then he tucked the clipboard under his right arm and used his free hand to fish a penlight out of his pocket. Limping—loping—strutting, really, over to where Dean was seated, he flashed the light in his eyes.
"Pupils are dilated," he muttered to no one.
Sam watched as he dropped the light back in his pocket and squinted at Dean. "Hey," he shouted into his face once more as Dean looked about to nod off again. "Any nausea?"
Dean cracked open an eye. "You're the doctor."
House rolled his eyes, produced a thermometer seemingly from the air, and stuck it in Dean's ear. After a moment it beeped. "101.3. I'd say that's a yes, wouldn't you?" The doctor seemed very good at juggling multiple things with the extra burden of his cane, for suddenly he had a small bottle in his hand and was preparing to pop something white and oblong into his mouth.
"What's that?" Sam asked before he could stop himself.
"Candy. Want some?" House held the pill out for Sam to take before it disappeared into his mouth, the bottle back in his pocket. Sam let it go. His frustration was nearing the end of its short tether.
"What's wrong with my brother?"
"His body seems to be fighting off… something."
Dean snorted weakly, not opening his eyes. "That's specific." Then he leaned over, coughed twice into his hand, and smeared blood on his jeans when he wiped off his palm. Sam glanced back and forth between his brother and the unruffled doctor, a good cocktail of impatience, worry, and anger growing hot in the pit of his stomach.
"So you don't know what's wrong with him?"
"Not yet," House replied.
"What does that mean?"
"It means I'm admitting him. It's something doctors sometimes do. If we just sent them all away sick we'd run out of business."
Sam forced himself to take a deep breath and release it slowly. "Are there any other hospitals in the area?"
House eyed him, and Sam got the uncomfortable feeling that he could see right through him. "There's Princeton General, but if we don't know what's wrong with him, they won't either."
Dean was shaking his head, but he only got Sam's attention with he softly groaned his name. "No, Sam. No hospital. Just take me back, I'll be fine."
Sam's eyes danced between Dean and House. The latter shrugged. "Or, you'll vomit up the rest of your blood supply, your fever will boil your brain, and you'll die."
Sam nodded at Dr. House. "Admit him."
"Patient history," Foreman grumbled, tossing the papers onto the table in the conference room in obvious annoyance. "It was like pulling teeth, but I think I got everything of importance."
"Remind me, isn't there something I usually say here, about lies and everybody?" House retorted, limping caneless to the whiteboard and frowning at the list of symptoms.
"This guy's a piece of work," Foreman continued to the others, ignoring House's comment. "He's got a whole slew of scars and past injuries; was once electrocuted, been shot, stabbed, burned—and half of this I had to get from his brother because he's being… uncooperative. Nothing seems like it could be connected, though. It was like… poof, and he's sick."
Palpably irritated, Foreman threw himself into a chair at the table and leaned back. Chase gave Foreman a commiserating smile, and Cameron continued to watch House, waiting for him to shout out some miraculous diagnosis. But he had his back to them, still frowning at the whiteboard.
Cameron piped up here: "White count was up, but not enough to solidify a diagnosis."
"It could be a virus," Chase suggested with a shrug. "Meningitis, Encephalitis, West Nile. Typical symptoms."
"Yeah, except the blood-spewing," House replied, turning from the board. "What was he eating before he keeled over?"
"You expect me to ask him what he was having for dinner?" Foreman asked incredulously. When House continued waiting for an answer, he sighed. "Double bacon cheeseburger with extra onions, chili fries, and a chocolate milkshake from Carol's Diner."
"Obviously he cares about his arteries as much as he cares about personal space with the nurses," Chase commented with a grin; when no one else seemed amused, he let it drop off his face and looked down at the table.
"Chase." The sound of House's voice made Chase's head snap up. "Go to Carol's Diner, order that exact same thing, and bring it back."
"You think it was something in the food?" Cameron asked doubtfully.
"No, I'm just hungry," House mocked. "Cameron, go talk to the patient, see if you can get anything else out of our tight-lipped friend. Foreman, go console the brother. They're staying at a motel; find out which one. And when you do, go have a look in their room."
They all stared at him. House flapped both hands towards the door. "Shoo."
And, like Pavlovian dogs, they did.
Dean felt like utter crap.
He was lying in a hospital bed in one of those horribly revealing gowns, first of all; there was nothing on the TV but daytime soaps, which he hated; Sam was fussing over him like a mother hen, constantly smoothing his blanket and fluffing his pillow, then pacing around the room until Dean had to close his eyes; and, to top it all off, he really did feel like crap. He was ice-cold and then burning up; his stomach roiled angrily and wouldn't let him eat (which was, in itself, cruel and unusual punishment for Dean); his head pounded; he felt exhausted; and whenever he coughed, it came out bloody.
"Sam," he rasped, voice a low grumble in his ears. "Sam!"
Sam stopped pacing and was at his side in an instant, still fidgeting.
"You know we gotta get outta here, don'tcha?"
"What?" Sam spluttered.
Dean took a breath, willing himself not to cough or throw up. When he didn't he continued. "Longer we stay here, bigger chance they'll find out the insurance's fake, the names are fake, and we're legally dead. 'S a bad idea."
Sam looked strained. He also looked tired, worried, and hyped up on caffeine. But when he looked at Dean, there was fire in his eyes. "So, what? You wanna pull a Houdini act on your doctors, waltz out of here coughing blood, and go back to the motel to get sicker?" His voice was rising, in both pitch and volume, and Dean was just waiting for the moment when Sam would snap, throw his arms wide to show his massive wingspan, and go off on a rant that would attract the nurses just outside.
The door opened, and they both whipped their heads around to see who was entering, and if anyone would catch that Sam had just called 'William Gibbons' by a different name. It was the pretty doctor, with the long brown hair and the sympathetic smile. Dr. Cameron.
"Hi," she greeted, smile slipping slightly when she saw the expressions on their faces. "Um… if I'm not interrupting, would it be all right if I talked to William alone?"
Sam hesitated, glanced at Dean, and then vanished through the door. Dean gathered up his energy to put on a smile. Cameron checked his vitals, then she sat down at the chair next to his bed.
"Please, call me D… Will." Dean mentally berated himself for almost slipping his real name. He wasn't thinking clearly enough to lie easily. Well, he thought, I must be sick.
"Will. Look, I know you've told us multiple times—"
Dean smirked. "Your boss still thinks I'm lying about something." Cameron gave a gentle nod. "First of all, can I say that he's a bastard?" Cameron smiled. She really was pretty. He wondered what she was like in… whoops, mind wandering again. "I'm not on drugs. You may think I'm a liar, and that's fine, but I don't want to die here. And I'm not on drugs."
She opened her mouth as if to say something and then shut it. Dean watched her, wishing that he didn't look so disgusting here, unwashed, covered in sweat, his chest starting to burn uncomfortably.
"I believe you," she said at last. "And House may be… a bastard, but he's a good doctor, and a great diagnostician. We'll find out what's wrong with you. But, just to be on the safe side, we're going to run a tox screen."
"And maybe once I'm better, me and you can get together sometime…" Dean suggested, raising his eyebrows.
Cameron laughed, but he could see a blush rise on her cheeks. "Maybe."
As soon as she left the room, he pressed a hand to his chest, over his heart, trying to quell the building pain and thinking—knowing—that it couldn't be this again, it couldn't be his heart, the reaper had fixed him…
Chase sat down at the half-empty diner, feeling awkward, and glanced briefly at the menu. But he already knew what he was going to order—ridiculous as the idea was—and settled for looking around the restaurant for a waiter instead. The place was… quaint. He hadn't even known that there were any diners like this in the Princeton area.
A plump, middle-aged woman arrived with a bright red dye job and fake nails. "Hiya sweetie, what can I get you?"
Chase smiled indulgently at her. "I'll have a double bacon cheeseburger with extra onions, chili fries, and a chocolate milkshake. And can I get that all in a to-go container?"
The woman's smile faltered. She hadn't written the order down on her pad of paper. "That's funny. Do you know a real tall guy with floppy brown hair?"
Chase thought for a moment before his mind settled on an image of Sam Gibbons. The first time he'd met him, he'd had to look up quite a distance to see his face and had found himself quite intimidated. "I might, why?"
"Oh nothing, it's just he was here yesterday, ordered that same thing and a to-go container. Just funny when that happens, sort of like déjà-vu." Then she wrote down the order and smiled at Chase. "I'll bring that right out for you."
He nodded and watched her go, mentally diagnosing her with high cholesterol and possibly type II diabetes. He idly watched the few other people in the small diner as he waited, wondering how Cameron and Foreman were faring with Sam and William. If House had come up with a diagnosis yet. If it was at all possible that something in the food had triggered the symptoms, and it if was at all possible that the same something would still be in the food the next day. At last the rotund waitress returned with a bag and the check. As she set it down on the table, she leaned over, grabbed the back of his neck, and pressed her mouth against his. At first there was nothing, but then her tongue parted his lips and there was warmth in his mouth. He didn't pull away, too shocked to move, and she deepened the kiss.
Someone in the diner watched them curiously, but then they both pulled away, and the patron assumed they must be a couple.
Chase paid the bill, picked up his bag, and walked out of the diner.
"Why do you need to know what motel we're staying at?" Sam asked cagily, and Foreman knew instantly that he wasn't going to get anywhere. Sam was too guarded, his eyes dark and mysterious, wary of strangers.
"Just for the record, so we know where you are in case of—"
"In case of what? Look, I'm staying here, at the hospital, and I'm not leaving without my brother, so why does it matter?"
Foreman counted to five in his head, wanting to lash out at the guy yet a bit anxious of his height, breadth, and unconditional devotion to his brother. He was starting to see why House didn't like dealing with patients. Both of the Gibbons brothers were a pain in the ass.
He shook his head, realizing that he wasn't going to get anywhere. "I guess it doesn't. Forget I brought it up."
But when he informed House of his failure, he got a response he hadn't been expecting.
House was sitting in his office, feet propped up on his desk, yo-yo dangling from his right hand. "That means he's obviously hiding something in his room that he doesn't want us to find. These guys are smart. They're covering their tracks. There's something they don't want us to know."
Foreman shoved his hands into the pockets of his lab coat and rolled his eyes. "Great. But we still don't know where they're staying, so how does that help us?"
"Oh, innocent youth," House sighed sarcastically. "Time to return to your corrupt roots. Dig deep inside and I know you can find that inner criminal. Follow him to the motel."
"He said he wasn't leaving," Foreman objected.
House scoffed. "Well, now he knows we're onto him. Ergo, he's going to go back to his room soon to hide any incriminating evidence in case you do find out where he's staying." House glanced at his watch. "Get Cameron and go before he's too far to catch up to."
So, having no reason not to, Foreman went.
Dean didn't know where Sam was, but he did know that he had a rare moment of peace and solitude. So, taking advantage of this, he squeezed his eyes shut, pressed his head against the pillow, and reassessed the various pains in his body. There had been a slow build of pressure near his heart for a while, but only now was it starting to get unbearable. He dug his fingers into the skin of his chest, trying to douse the burning with his nails instead of water. His hair was sticking to his forehead, flattened with sweat and grease. He felt horrible.
And he only felt worse when the door opened and the clack of a cane on the floor, followed by an uneven swagger, met his ears.
"Oh, fuck me," he grumbled under his breath and opened his eyes.
Dr. House was standing in the middle of his room, leaning on his cane, eyeing him cockily with those critical blue eyes.
"You and your brother are liars."
Dean was too tired to roll his eyes. "You plannin' on beating me with that cane until I tell you want you wanna hear?"
"Nah, last time I tried that I had a lot of trouble convincing the board it was self defense. I don't know why they thought a bedridden guy with cancer couldn't take on a cripple, but they seemed to think that I attacked first. Got me landed with extra clinic hours, which, incidentally, landed me with you."
"You're the worst doctor I've ever met."
"I didn't realize you were Billy Gibbons, M.D."
Dean and House glared at one another for a long moment.
"Do you get off on harassing your patients?" Dean asked coldly.
"Yes I do. In fact, sometimes I lie awake at night, coming up with new and creative ways to let them know that they're all morons."
"Why do you bother, then?" Dean spat, head starting to pound. "You don't care if I live or die."
House was silent for a moment. "You're right; but I'd rather you live. See, if you die, then I have no excuse to find out what killed you. And I'm a curious guy. Usually it's easier to find out what's killing people while they're still alive. So, in all practicality, I'd rather you stayed alive just a little while longer. Think you can you manage that?"
Dean liked a lot of people. He wasn't necessarily a people person, but he often found things to like in others.
He couldn't find anything in House.
"Long as you manage not to kill me."
House seemed to think about it for a moment before he tapped his cane on the floor.
Sure enough, by the time Foreman grabbed Cameron on his way out of the conference room, Sam was already making his way to the parking lot. Foreman was almost annoyed that House had been right, as usual, but he decided to ignore that for now in favor of following the classic black Chevy Impala—which had probably twelve different kinds of environmental hazards, judging by the growl of the engine and the black exhaust smoke that belched forth from it—out of the parking lot and down the street.
Cameron was really annoying to have in the car. She was what one might call a backseat driver, and that irritated Foreman to no end.
"Watch out for that truck," she said. "Oh, get through before it turns red or we'll lose him." "Use your turn signal when you change lanes." "Speed limit's 35, we don't want to get pulled over." "Don't follow right behind him or he'll notice."
"Cameron, will you please just let me drive?" he asked at last, exasperated.
She shut up after that, but her eyes kept lighting up whenever she obviously had something to point out about his driving skills. Finally they pulled into the Super 8 parking lot and watched from a distance as Sam got out of the car.
Foreman looked over at Cameron and caught her eye. "You wanna get out and go see what number he's walking over to, so we know what room to come back to?"
"Why don't you?"
"If he looks out and recognizes me, we're busted."
"So? He'd recognize me, too."
"He just talked to me half an hour ago. And I think I'm a little more conspicuous."
"Conspicuous? Are you pulling the race card? Really? Who are you, House?"
"Hey," Foreman snapped, breaking them out of their argument, looking around. "Where did he go?"
Suddenly there was a sharp tap at his window, and Foreman managed to stop himself from jumping out of his seat as he looked to his left and saw Sam standing outside their car, a seriously pissed look on his normally guarded face. Foreman rolled down the window.
"Are you following me?"
Before Foreman could open his mouth and further aggravate their patient's brother, Cameron broke in. "Look, we usually ask our patients to let us look around their houses to see if there's anything there that might have caused their symptoms. We just wanted to have a look around, that's all."
"What, were you going to wait 'til I left and then break in? What kind of doctors are you?" Sam demanded. Then he seemed to regain himself, realize his situation, and he took a breath. "Well, you might as well come in, as long as you're here."
Foreman blinked, surprised; he glanced over at a smug Cameron. Then he realized that Sam was probably only inviting them in because he'd realized that if he turned them away they would just come back some other time, enjoying the luxury of snooping around without him supervising. They got out of the car and followed him to his room, Foreman momentarily wary of stepping through the threshold for fear that Sam would bash them both over the head and stuff their bodies in the trunk of his car.
But his fears were unfounded. The motel room was a little messy but otherwise normal. There was a pile of napkins on the table (it looked as though he had already come back at some point and thrown out the food); the beds were unmade; there were a couple of duffel bags lying on the floor. Otherwise, it was a pretty typical motel room: ugly brown walls, some paintings of sailboats, cheap carpet. There were several flecks of dried blood on the floor near the table, the only sign of what had happened the previous night.
"It's not much, but you can look around."
They did; they looked under the beds, in the (questionably sanitary) bathroom, in the empty closet. Sam tidied up as they looked, tossing the wad of napkins in the garbage and tucking one of the duffel bags under a bed.
Cameron threw an apologetic smile to Sam, who was watching them with a look that said he was dying to say, 'I told you so.' But before he got the chance, his cell phone rang, and he flipped it open and pressed it to his ear.
"Yeah?" A pause. "Hey, Bobby. No, just, hold on a sec—" He turned to the two doctors. "Are we done here? Motel's got bad reception," he explained, motioning towards the door. Foreman nodded and led Cameron out the door and off to the side; they watched as Sam emerged, locked the door behind him, and started walking in the opposite direction. "I'm here… You didn't?... I don't know, Bobby, they can't find anything, I don't know what's wrong…"
Soon he was out of earshot. Cameron had started to walk towards the car, looking defeated, but Foreman grabbed her by the shoulder and motioned for her to come back.
"What? There was nothing there," she argued petulantly.
"Didn't you see how he was protecting that one bag, making sure we didn't go near it? The one he hid under the bed when he thought I wasn't looking?" He couldn't help the grin on his face.
"What, you want to go pick the lock? What if it takes too long, he gets off the phone and comes back?"
Foreman shook his head. "We'll be quick." Reaching into his pocket, he produced a key and dangled it in front of her. "Spare room key. Swiped it from the bedside table."
A wry smile quirked up on Cameron's face. "Foreman the motel thief. Would you say that's a step up or a step down from cars?"
"Really? You're gonna play that card? Who are you, House?"
Deciding not to waste any more time, the two snuck back to the room. Foreman stuck the key in the lock, gave a silent cheer of victory when it turned, and stepped into the room. They hurried to the bed, grabbed the bag, and unzipped it.
"Holy…" Cameron's voice trailed off as they gaped at the contents of the bag.
Suddenly Foreman realized his worry that these two were serial killers had been right on the money.