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"You take a perverse pleasure in turning me down"
"It's what I live for"
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I meant it when I said it —typed it; worded it; printed it; whatever —and I meant it for about five minutes afterward until I thought, I meant it because it was the right thing to say at the time. And suddenly five minutes ago was "at the time" and I was highlighting what I'd written with my mouse cursor and thinking, He has a tie that's this color of blue.
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The TV is on when I let myself into Wilson's apartment.

He has one of those flat panel screens —high def, with more bells and whistles on the remote control than at NASA Mission Control— and he's cleared a space on his wall for it that was previously occupied by a French Impressionist print. I like the change. Wilson, I've discovered, is a closet Francophile. The bookshelf beside the door is stuffed with the typical assortment of spy novels and political thrillers expected out of a man who'd been a boy during the Cold War. But there're at least two English-to-French dictionaries and a few slim volumes of things by Molière. The Love-Sick Doctor is well-thumbed.

The TV is on and showing "His Girl Friday". He's had a good day. "His Girl Friday" and "Some Like It Hot" are indicators of cancers in remission, chemotherapies without incident, biopsies coming back benign and lunches without House's extra "We're together" tender. I worry when I find him watching "Casablanca" or "The Grapes of Wrath." Bogey and Fonda are bad for morale.

He's not in the living room so I palm the key and slip it into the front pocket of my bag and sling the bag from my shoulder, lining it up with the legs of the buffet table by the door. 'Give it a sideways kick with my heel. It tilts at an off angle and I corral it back with the tip of my shoe. James Wilson likes order. He'll come out—wringing his hands on a dishcloth, the cuffs of his powder button-up bleeding darker blue from water splashes—and subconsciously measure the alignment of bag-to-buffet angles. His eyes are corner-to-corner protractors. I like neatness, too, but not every shirt that hangs in my closet is chest-to-back with its neighbor.

He does come out of the kitchen then, and the ambient backlight frames the back of his head so I can't see his immediate expression. Pleased? Surprised? I've let myself into his place before—he had an extra key made, for godsake—but I think it still catches him off guard to see me standing there of my own volition.

Cuddy, M.D. as opposed to Lisa, The Woman I'm Sleeping With.

"Hey." Surprised and pleased. "I thought you had a meeting." Still in necktie and shoes; when he leans in to kiss my cheek 'hello' I can smell the hemisphere in which he's been cooking. He helps me with my coat and I follow him into the kitchen where various pots and pans are chattering to each other across the range. He laughs when I tell him that I once made it a personal goal to learn the Italian names of the different pasta types - 'cocciolette' instead of 'shells', 'ruote' rather than 'wheels' - and I laugh because his Italian is worse than my French (which is saying a lot). We eat dinner in the dining room, seated across the table from one another for the sake of formality, but the tips of my shoes touch his. We don't talk about House or my dad at all.

Afterward, on the couch. "Brief Encounter" is on and both of us recognize the irony of the scheduling choice (but neither of us mention it). My legs are slung casually over his knees and his arm is on the back of the couch and his fingers are against the side of my throat and I'm aware that some kind of peace is upon me but I can't define it. But if I turn my hips at this angle and prop a knee on either side of his left leg I can attempt to. He's got a beatific expression on his face at this point and when it's his mouth that bridges the gap instead of mine I know it's quite possible— if not mathematically certain —that there are hungers in James Wilson that House is altogether wrong about.

Later, he says "Lisa" and the way he says it makes me believe that there was more to add, but he stops because he knows he can't control everything that comes after my name.

On the drive home, a line of movie dialogue gets stuck in my head — "It's awfully easy to lie when you know that you're trusted implicitly. So very easy, and so very degrading."
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House was always "House", even before he had two consonants - 'em' and 'dee' - to tack on the end of it, separated by a comma.

He was "House" to the professors at U of M. "House" to the other TAs, whose own first names were subsequently dropped from the placards of their basement offices in an attempt to look cool. "House" to the cafeteria staff who sometimes wondered if he smuggled donuts and bagels out of the commissary in the big, droopy pockets of his jeans (but who never said anything about it because he was "skin and bones anyway"). He was "House" to the undergraduates, myself included, who kind of moved off to one side of the hallway whenever he passed by - post-Modern slacker Moses, parting a sea of four-point-oh hopefuls.

He had a "G" moored behind the "House" when I received my sophomore Fall schedule in the mail:

Introduction to Organic Chemistry
MWF, 8:00 AM
Professor: Larsen, O.
TA: House, G.


Larsen was a bore and House was a cut-up and the two of them went to the mat with each other at least twice every class session: O. Larsen's reedy, tweed-clad frame and horn-rimmed glasses versus G. House slumped-behind-the-desk, 'Stones t-shirt and black lenses. Once, when O. Larsen came down with a virulent strain of something and couldn't make it to class for a week, G. House took over the lecture and used the Kama Sutra to explain enatiomers and R and S nomenclature. I wanted to try R-CH=CH2 with a guy I was seeing at the time (casually, always casually and on my terms) but there are limitations to the romance of chemistry and I knew that Nice Guys Like That didn't do ethylene substituents with girls like me.

After college it was easier to live by a surname. G. House went on to become "G. House, MD" and I heard from someone via medical-school-grapevine that even that had been a miracle, given his expulsion from Johns Hopkins on the grounds of academic dishonesty. I became "Cuddy" instead of "Lisa" and it was kind of freeing to be rid of the feminine part of my name and settle on the patrilineal core of who I was. "Lisa" was "Consecrated to God" and giving and upturned faces; whereas "Cuddy" cut and kicked off the lips of the doctors that I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with during my residency. Cuddy, run a blood panel. Cuddy, what do you think about transplant ethics? Cuddy, we want you to author a paper on microbial genomics.

House was still "G. House" when his resume passed across my desk nine-and-some-change years ago. I was "Dr. Cuddy" when we shook hands before the interview (and had a madness memory flash of R-CH2CH3 written on the chalkboard in his lazy, loopy handwriting, one long finger tucked against the spine of the Kama Sutra to illustrate the example). He was "House" when I yelled and "House" when I growled and "House" when I scolded and "House" when I laughed (which was, and still is, rare).

He was "House" when his thigh cramped during a golf outing with Stacy and "House" with a sigh attached when he demanded something more for the pain, even though his attending told him that it was nothing more than a pulled muscle. He was "house" before and after the surgery - softened and lowercase when I would come into his room to chart him and prescribe him another dose of morphine because he asked for it. He was "HousE" to Wilson, who'd just begun to get used to the bracketing barriers on either side of the name, but whose fraternal bond with the man couldn't be explained or rationalized. So it just was.

He was always "Greg" to Stacy, and that threw me.

It was "Greg" when she sat on the couch in my office because the beeping of the heart monitors had given her a headache that only a stowaway bottle of rum in a bottom desk drawer could placate, her dark head falling toward her chest and his name falling toward the floor. It was "Greg" when she apologized for the smoke trail that she left behind wherever she went, even if there wasn't a lit cigarette pressed between her fingers. It was "Greg" when we waited on the balcony outside his to-be office (which, back then, was still some extension of opthamology) during his surgery, passing the same never-ending cigarette back and forth while she brooded about what he'd say when he woke up and I wondered if I'd ever get a chance to tell him that I still knew how to assign nomenclature to molecules because he'd taught me how.

Now, "Wilson" is "James" and I'm "Lisa," but "House" is still "House" and there are other names I'd gladly give him but they aren't worth repeating.
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James Wilson has the coldest feet of any man I've ever slept with.

By day he keeps them safety constrained in tailored Armani, ostentatious tassels and insert-a-penny-here slots for occasions formal and whimsical, respectively. At night - one night - his ten toes, ball and heel put up a blockade against all encroaching circulation and make each subtle prod or poke the podiatric equivalent of a cold stethoscope. Hey, doc - you wanna' warm that thing up a little bit?

But I didn't mind. The rest of him, from ankle up, was warm and breathing and weighing down a side of my mattress that hadn't been weighed down in a very long time. And we were okay for that seven hours and twenty-nine minutes between bedroom and board room; okay until our This Is Some Serious Shit meters simultaneously squawked into the red zone - past the red zone and into the this color looked great in the can but it's shit on the dining room walls zone. When we were in the kitchen and he reached indiscriminately for a pager - realized he'd grabbed mine instead - and read at least half a dozen frantic messages from hospital dignitaries and suck-off-to-suck-ups. When our eyes collided between the labyrinth of hanging copper pots and the kinetic, transferrable thoughts

I just slept with my boss

and

I just slept with my head of oncology

came crashing in like the 1812 Overture, the cymbal player jacked up on at least eight Starbucks espressos. The immediate dovetail revelation - and it was good - with the brass section popping a pulmonary embolus.

A shower after that - for me, not him - while he followed the breadcrumb trail of clothing from the bedroom back to the living room, his tie rescued from the 60-watt singe of a table lamp. I came out of the steam a half an hour later, three-quarters put together, un-makeup'd, but needing to see him. He was in the kitchen, shirt and trousers creased, bent over the butcher's block with his tie and a bottle of club soda that I'd been unaware I had. Precise, sweeping strokes of thumb pad and washcloth. A smear of coral-colored wax at the place where the knot kinked into his neck. I remembered that my mouth had wandered when we'd braved the dark place beyond the living room. Felt a very unDeanlike desire to add new and interesting stains to interesting places, but his brown eyes came up over his work and he smiled - that endearing little James Wilson, First Rate Boy Scout smile - and I felt like I'd said a blue word in a church.

And then it was the cheek-to-cheek air brush and his hand on my waist - not as firm or assured as it had been the night before - and his winking red tail lights in the impossibly mobile morning. I couldn't stand the CDs in my car that morning, nor could I tolerate being talked at by pundits and political pariahs, so I spun the dial to a halfway point between stations and subsisted on white noise until I got to the interstate. Tried silence for a while - which wasn't really silence because things inside my head were crashing together like drunken college students - and finally lowered the passenger side window for the roar of passing air. There was a tornado in the car when I hit eighty-three miles per hour.

The good, obliging, numbing soundstorm continued while I made the trek from cushy parking space to the front door, like the residual deafness you get when you stand too close to a speaker during a concert. And as long as my brain was mute I could smile without having a motive; pass on a "good morning" to the nursing staff and a "I need the preliminary specs for the situation in Radiology - and get me a black coffee" to whomever was gophering as my assistant that day. Some brunette from Legal Affairs with a name that ended in "i" but should have ended in "y" to really get ahead in this business.

The doldrums crept in when they called for the assembly of the transplant committee and I happened to catch James' eye as he was coming into the room, his green tie switched out for something in diagonal blue stripes. We exchanged a tight now-that-we've-seen-each-other-naked-what's-left? smile and took chairs at opposite ends of the table. At some point during the proceedings he'd tossed one knee over the other and I caught a glimpse of his shoes from around the corner of the table --

Tassels.
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The first time I met Allison Cameron, I didn't like her. And it wasn't because of a need on my behalf to engage in that innate woman-to-woman pissing match like every analyst will tell you. The way one woman will meet another and instantly size up everything about her - the glossiness and bounce of her hair, whether or not she tweezes or waxes, jewelry (conservative or ostentatious?) - and make a conscious decision that the acquaintance will be either passive or aggressive.

I didn't like her because House deliberately mispronounced her name when I met her - "Allison Camerone" - and I called her that for three days until she politely corrected me. "It's Cameron. Like the movie director." And she pushed a small smile into the lip of her coffee cup while House smirked at me over the table. On the way out of the meeting he leaned over my shoulder: "Way to go, Liza Coodee."

I resolved to be civil to her after that.



The first time I met James Wilson, he complimented me on my shoes. In his defense, they really were spectacular. It was three months after I'd officially taken over as Dean of Medicine and I'd spent two days and two grand on wardrobe modifications. He was in my office (just saying that - "my office" - was enough to make me want to spend more money) amongst the new furniture, one pleated trouser leg tossed over the other. He was courting Wife #2 at this point and his tie collection had not yet exploded in an orgiastic spectrum like it would when he was stressed or depressed.

"I like your shoes."
"I...oh. Thank you. Your tie is nice, too."
"Thanks. I just kind of throw it together."

He started hanging around House and his tie selection got bolder and brassier. House would mock him for them, calling them "the fashion equivalent of a bullfrog's throat bulge during mating season", while his own collar hung limply around his neck.

When I unthreaded the tie from Wilson's neck the other night, I noticed that it was the same one he'd worn to my office when we first met.



The first time I met Gregory House I think that he thought I was in love with him. Which, in itself, wasn't surprising. Half of the female population at the University of Michigan (along with a surprisingly strong contingent of Y-chromosome subscribers) wanted the "legendary grad student" to do their annual physicals. "I mean, this guy is smooth --" this from Miriam, my roommate and bellwether friend, who'd end up dropping out of law school halfway through her junior year to marry a state senator "-- I'd serve him with a court order for medical malpractice just so I could be in the same room with him."

The lacrosse field was on the way back to my dorm and I would walk past the chainlink fence while the team did windsprints up and down the turf. He'd trot by on the pretense of recovering a lost lacrosse ball - or just to stretch the splints from his calves - and push a smile through the chainlink that was so potent I almost wished I had gone into athletic medicine. He made team captain at the end of my sophomore year. I had stopped walking by the field three months before and he caught my eyes over the lecture hall one morning, the brim of his U of M Lacrosse Team ballcap tugged low. In the hall, afterward:

"I haven't seen you around practices lately."
"I've been busy. I'm taking an MCAT preparatory seminar."
"That test is bogus, anyway. Skip the lecture. I'll tutor you."
"No, thanks."

A smirk. "You know what your last name rhymes with? Cruddy. As in, 'it sure was cruddy of Lisa Cuddy to turn down a chance to watch Greg House run'."

I'd never see him run again.
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My able-bodied assistant left for lunch and never came back.

Perfect.
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Forty-five minutes.

I've managed to function on less than that.

I'll need to have lunch with Wilson again. And dessert.
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The only thing that would shock me more than his concern was if I found out it was genuine.
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Who am I kidding?

There's no way I can sit through the rest of this meeting without smirking.
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