Denial: Mentally Unstable

"Hope is the denial of reality." ~Margaret Weis

The janitors close the blinds, turn off the lights, vacate his office and the adjacent briefing room. Silence seeps from the walls that don't talk back, settling over him like a soft blanket. No sound. No light. No people to interrupt. It's peaceful in a way that makes him want to scream.

Not that anyone would hear him, of course. But the quiet is just what the doctor never ordered.

Moonlight streams brilliantly through the window, casting long shadows across the carpeted floor, and House glances down to find a small dark patch inconsistent with the surrounding material. Kneeling to get a closer look, his fingertips ghost over the spot, and for a moment, he imagines he can feel again. The color is in fact the one he expected—red. Easily missed without further inspection. From years of medical training and expertise, he knows the sight of blood—his blood—is a mark, a reminder, an everlasting stain on the mind. The pool from his wounds has long since dried, but he suspects it won't be there past the end of the week. Cuddy wouldn't stand for a single imperfection in her hospital.

Even in his wing.

House's thoughts wander as he paces back and forth in front of the stationary white board. How had some stranger waltzed into Princeton-Plainsboro and assumed his identity without his knowledge? (Well, he had been teleporting more erratically lately . . .) And how could this imposter benefit from patients in vegetable states? What purpose did that serve? (Criminal minds aren't exactly stable, House.) It didn't make sense. The other guy, the tall one, had agreed to help. This left House pondering three possibilities: they were mentally unstable undercover spies, mentally unstable close relatives, or mentally unstable and gay.

As he replayed their conversation in his head, the third seemed more and more likely.

He blinks and finds himself back in the ICU. His comatose body is as still as ever. House sighs heavily upon seeing the slumped figure in a chair next to his hospital bed. Despite knowing she rarely makes time for sleep these days, he envies her. At least she can sleep. This nightmare seems to be everlasting, and he wonders when he'll finally wake up, finally get things back to the way they used to be, should be. Maybe he's really in a coma and the nightmare had resulted from it. Maybe he's caught between life and death and currently having an out of body experience he can't control. But why does he keep poofing back here, to the ICU? Is it because he's still attached to his body in some way? Not to mention that Cameron always seems to be here when he does—

The door swings open and a flash of rage rolls through House. It's so brief and unexpected that he thinks he might have imagined it, but when a small crack suddenly appears in the ceiling above his head, House begins to think otherwise. The two mentally unstable gay spies waltz in like they own the place, the imposter holding some device that immediately lights up and starts making some otherworldly sound.

The taller of the two spots Cameron stirring from her slumber and pushes the thing away. "Dean, turn it off!" he whispers hastily.

Dean slaps the tall guy's hand away. "Relax, Sam, I know what I'm doing." House hears something click, and the device disappears into his stolen lab coat the thief's still wearing.

Sam clears his throat. "We're sorry to disturb you, ma'am," he says to the waking Cameron. "We thought visiting hours were over."

Cameron sits up, blinks a few times, glances at her watch. "They are," she replies groggily. "I work here."

Dean eyes the immunologist up and down once. "Even better."

It takes everything House has not to step forward and take a swing at the idiot.

The elder Winchester's smile turns south as the fluorescent lights above them flicker once, but if Sam takes notice of it, he doesn't give any indication he has, face a calm, cool mask. All business.

"Ignore him," Sam says, waving away his brother's comment.

Cameron's mouth turns down at one end. "Excuse me for asking this—I've had quite a day—but . . . why are you here, exactly?"

As weight shifts from one leg to the other, Sam buys a little time, appearing to look nervous to think up some last minute but believable story. "This may sound strange, but I . . . I'm a writer, and when I heard this hospital might be haunted, I jumped at the chance to come here. Now, I know the staff here wouldn't appreciate me giving this hospital more attention than it needs," he rushes to continue, seeing Cameron's expression, "but I find inspiration in the most unlikliest of places. And since no one has been able to confirm my suspicions—"

"It's not haunted."

Sam joins the frowning club. "It's . . . not?"

Cameron shakes her head. "Not even close. I'm sorry to disappoint you, Mr.—?"

"Brennan. Joe Brennan."

She turns to Dean, stares down at his name tag, blinks a couple times to make sure she's seeing straight, but the name doesn't change. "And Dr. . . . House." To the surprise of Sam and Dean, Cameron busts out laughing. They exchange confused looks as she doubles over, trying to catch her breath. Dean watches Sam's expression morph several times as his younger brother comes to a realization. "Seriously," the female doctor finally gasps, "who are you?"

Sam folds his arms and glares at Dean like a mother would her troublesome toddler. I told you that picture looked nothing like you, Sam's eyes seem to say. Dean clears his throat and insists to the female doctor he is, in fact, Dr. Gregory House.

"Then where's your limp? And your cane? And those damn bottles of Vicodin pills you pop like candy?"

Sam smiles, holding back his own fit of laughter, watching Dean squirm. Assuming the identity of an actual doctor from Princeton-Plainsboro had been his older brother's idea after all, not his.

Dean just stands there for a minute, thinking up an explanation. "I, uh . . . left all that in my office, you know, on the fourth floor, with my TV, PSP, and crapload of CD's." He beams at her and waits. She doesn't buy it, copying Sam by folding her arms. Dean sighs. "All right," he confesses, "I stole the coat, okay? There was a hundred dollars in it, so I took it, and then I wanted to try the coat on, naturally. So I've been wearing it around to see how many people believe I'm a doctor. And you gotta admit, I've got the looks." He cocks an eyebrow in an attempt to appear attractive.

Cameron ignores him and shifts her gaze to Sam. "And you believed him?"

Sam holds his hands up in defense. "I just met him on the elevator and asked him where the Intensive Care Unit was."

"So why did you want to see Dr. House?" Cameron moves to the bedside of the only patient in the room. Sam follows her movement, catches sight of the cane leaning against the bed rail, taking note of the protective way the doctor stands there, as if she's guarding his life. Even though he appears to be in a coma. "Are you actually writing a book, Mr. Brennan?"

The tone is mocking, and Dean knows she's figured out Sam isn't who he said he was. How, he's not sure, but Sam's face has locked into a familiar expression—one Dean has seen a thousand times.

Sam knows.

And there's nothing Dean can do to stop his little brother from speaking the truth.

Sam clears his throat. "My name is Sam Winchester—"

Dean watches a triumphant smirk spread across the female doctor's face, and despite knowing Sam will continue to spout their true identities to a complete stranger in order sway her over to their side, he can't help but interrupt. "Sam, come on," he says as casually as possible, gesturing to the doctor, "you don't have to explain yourself—"

His little brother shoots him a warning glare. "Don't," is all he says.

Dean shuts up.

Sam returns his attention to the only female in the room. "My name is Sam Winchester, and this is my older brother, Dean," he explains. Dean offers a small wave in greeting. "We're hunters, Dr. . . ." Sam strains to make out her name on the tag.

"Cameron," she replies. "Dr. Allison Cameron."

Sam nods. "Dr. Cameron," he repeats politely. "We're hunters. We investigate any unnatural occurrences that take place all over the country. My brother and I have been on the road most of our lives, joining the family business at a young age. Our father conducted similar research before he passed a few years ago, and it has become our job to preserve his legacy. Please, if you know anything at all about what's been happening here, just . . . let us know."

Uncertainty crosses Cameron's face as she glances between the brothers. "So you guys are . . . ghost hunters?"

Sam notices the way his brother shifts his weight back and forth from leg to leg, obviously having taken offense to the label. Sam fights a smile as Dean does his best to defend them. "Well, actually—" Dean starts with a smile, then pauses, deciding to rephrase his statement. "You see, 'ghost hunter' is a general term given—" Finally, he shrugs, throwing in the towel. "What the hell? Who are we kidding, Sammy? Yeah, we hunt ghosts," he admits to Cameron.

Sam eyes the cane by the bed again, the way the doctor remains at the patient's side, gripping the rail as if it's the only thing holding her to the ground. "How long has Dr. House been in a coma?"

Dean releases a long, low breath. No time to be gentle, huh, Sammy?

There's a heartbeat of shock, resulting from how effortlessly Sam made the connection, followed by a few of hesitancy. "Two weeks."

Sam exchanges a knowing look with Dean, who decides it's safe to speak. "And when did the power outages start?" he asks, squinting at the lights directly above him.

"About . . ." Cameron's eyebrows stitch together. "Maybe a little over a week ago?" she replies, voice rising enough to make it sound like a question. "Why? What does that have to do with Dr. House?"

Sam's jaw clenches and unclenches just as quickly. "I'm sorry, Dr. Cameron, but we believe it has everything to do with Dr. House."

Gregory House openly curses the gay spies, but of course no one can hear him.