For years after Michigan, she used to fantasize about running into him.
In the fantasies, she was always on the arm of some hot guy, an NFL quarterback maybe, and she was receiving a prestigious award for medical excellence.
He would say something like, "I can't get you out of my head" or "I ran away because I was scared of how much I felt for you."
And in the fantasies, she always flipped her hair, dropped a devastating line like, "Sorry Greggie. Too little, too late" or "You should've called when you had the chance"—and strutted away.
Eventually, she stopped having this fantasy, but that didn't stop her from comparing every man she met unfavorably to him. Nobody was smart enough, challenging enough, good enough in bed. She had convinced herself he was the best lover she'd ever had. But that had to be a distortion, right? If Greg House got her off like no man had ever gotten her off before (or since) that was partly because he had seemed so unattainable. It was the thrill of the catch, the euphoria of her triumph. Right?
And that, she supposed, was the only upside of her regrettable one night stand with him: She'd always known she was pretty. She'd always known that men—even older men, teachers, friends of her father—lusted after her. But until Greg, she hadn't fully realized the power of her own sexuality. Like many girls on campus, she had crushed on him from afar. But she was the one who had the nerve to pursue him. She was the one who was intuitively savvy enough to make it seem like he was chasing her. She had been a hunter and he had been her prey.
And then her prey escaped and didn't bother to call.
After graduation, she kept up with him as well as she could, through newspapers and on the internet. She knew he was a big shot doctor now with a reputation for both brilliance and recklessness. She knew he had been fired from several hospitals. Eventually she lost track of him. She had no idea that he was living anywhere near Plainsboro. Until the day she found out about a patient with an aneurysm that the hospital had misdiagnosed, a man who now had a potentially life-threatening blood clot in his leg.
She went to his room—as the newly minted Dean of Medicine it was her job to oversee cases that involved the risk of law suit—and there he was. (How had she not noticed the patient name on the file? She'd been so preoccupied with the trail of errors, she'd forgotten to look.)
He was handsome as ever—well, handsome as a guy on death's door could possibly be—but he had a girlfriend now, an impossibly tall and pretty woman, with a lilting Southern accent and an easy elegance, who seemed completely devoted to him.
Of course he did.
Cuddy gasped a little bit when she recognized him, then covered it by pretending to cough, then marched in confidently and said, "Hi, I'm Dean of Medicine Lisa Cuddy. I'll be personally overseeing your case from now on."
He looked at her for a long time, something flashed in his eyes—recognition? anger? fear?—but he said nothing.
"We, uh, went to med school together" she wanted to say, but didn't. The whole thing seemed so unprofessional and stupid: "We went to med school together and had a one night stand that basically changed my life but obviously you've totally forgotten about and let's talk about amputating your leg, shall we?"
So she said nothing, pretended she didn't recognize him, and treated him as she would any other patient—well, any other patient who happened to know more about medicine than she did.
And she felt sick about the way things worked out, the middle ground that she had proposed that had left him crippled, in pain for the rest of his life. In even the most rococo revenge fantasy she'd ever cooked up, she never wished anything like that on him.
But on some perverse level, she felt like she had achieved closure.
This guy you've been obsessing over for almost 15 years didn't even recognize you, Lisa. He's home with his girlfriend who will probably soon be his wife, adjusting to life as a disabled person.
It was as if she had permanently closed a chapter in her life.
That is, until 6 months later, when she found herself face to face with Dr. Gregory House yet again.
It was a medical conference in St. Louis.
She'd been insanely busy all day, running from one panel to the next—she even had to fill in at the last second for some no-show on a diagnostics panel–and she just felt like she needed a stiff drink before bed.
So she stopped in the hotel lounge, ordered a dry vodka martini, felt some of the day's anxiety begin to melt away. It was then that she heard a familiar voice.
"Dr. Cuddy, I presume?"
She looked up and damned if it wasn't him. Sitting six barstools down from her—grinning at her.
"Gre—Dr. House!" she said.
"Call me House," he said. "Everyone else does."
"In that case, call me Lisa," she said.
"Okay, Cuddy," he said —and raised an eyebrow, like her last name was some deliciously dirty secret they shared.
He got up from his barstool and walked toward her. Sat down next to her without even asking if he could.
His limp was very pronounced now. He was walking with a cane. She felt a surge of sadness. He had been such a good athlete at Michigan. She used to love to watch him run.
"How's your leg?" she asked.
"It only hurts when I'm awake," he said. "Which is something of an improvement, because that means I occasionally sleep."
"House, I'm so sorry."
"You and me both."
"And. . .how's Stacy holding up?"
He looked down at his drink.
"I don't know. You'd have to ask her." There was a silence as Cuddy waited for further explanation. "She left me."
This was unexpected.
"Because of the medical proxy?" Cuddy said, with some dread—if the medical compromise somehow contributed to his breakup, she'd feel even worse. "Because I hope that didn't create a rift between you two: She agonized over that decision. . ."
"I know she did," he said softly. "And I forgave her. But she thinks I didn't. She thinks I was acting out my resentment."
It was clear he was using Stacy's vocabulary.
"It's true, I was resentful," he continued. "But I think my anger comes from a much less complicated place. I'm a cripple. I'm in constant pain. My life is basically ruined. I have a lot to be resentful over."
"You don't have to be in constant pain," she said, in doctor mode. "What meds are you on?"
"Vicodin," he said. "Sweet, sweet vicodin."
She looked at him.
"That's only a short term solution," she said. "In fact, six months has already been too long. Vicodin is highly addictive and has all sort of insidious side effects, as you well know."
"It's the only thing that relieves my pain," he said. "Well, one of the only things that relieves my pain." And he winked.
Jesus, was he hitting on her?
"There can be other . . ."
"It's the only thing that makes my life bearable," he snapped.
She was slightly taken aback by the anger in his voice.
"Too much honesty?" he said, sighing, studying her face. "Enough about me then. Let's talk about you. I don't see a ring on that finger. Or a tell-tale tan line. Are you seeing anyone? Anyone getting the privilege to rip off that corporate cat suit and make you purr?"
She'd forgotten this about him. He was crude.
"I'm. . .focusing on my career right now," she sputtered.
"Makes sense. Dean of Medicine at 32. That's pretty impressive stuff, Cuddy."
"Thank you," she said, then caught herself. "Wait. How do you know how old I am? And that I just became Dean of Medicine?"
"I've been keeping on tabs on you since Michigan," he said matter-of-factly.
"So you do remember me!" she said. The words came out in an enthusiastic rush, betraying her excitement.
"Don't underestimate yourself, Cuddy. You gave me one extremely memorable night."
"Oh, did we hook up at Michigan?" she said, yawning extravagantly. "I'd forgotten."
He smirked at her.
"Yes, we hooked up," he said, playing along. "It was magical. I'm willing to recreate it grunt for grunt it if you've truly forgotten."
The man was obviously a pig.
"Now that you mention it, you did look familiar," she teased, chugging the rest of her drink.
House pointed to the bartender and, without confirming she wanted one, gestured for him to make her another martini.
The presumption of this guy . . .
She speared an olive from her drink, slowly put it in her mouth and bit it in a way that she knew would drive him crazy.
He rested his chin on his hand and stared at her.
"What?" she said, smiling.
"You," he said. "You look incredible. Even better than you did at Michigan."
"I don't know about that. I looked pretty good at Michigan," she laughed.
"No arguments here. But you have this power bitch thing happening now. It's a total turn on."
Oh boy, he was hitting on her. And oh boy, she was tempted.
"Excuse me," she said, hopping up from her stool. "I've got to use the ladies room."
"And excuse me for not standing up," he said. "I don't stand much on ceremony these days—pun intended."
She gave a little laugh.
In the bathroom she splashed water on her face and gave herself a pep talk. Bad idea, Lis. In the annals of bad ideas, this has to be one of the worst.
Never in all her fantasies was there a scenario where he hit on her in a bar and she put up zero resistance and easily fell back into his bed.
(Not to mention a fantasy where he was on the rebound from a woman he loved and quite clearly depressed and drug addled.)
But they were two consenting adults, right? She had no expectations this time. She just wanted to have sex with him. Was that so bad?
And God. . .those eyes. Could they be any more blue? And the way he looked at her: Like he was stripping her bare, not just of her clothing but of her every waking thought. And that new growth of beard on his chin, which gave him a rakish, bad boy look and actually emphasized his beautiful jawline. . .
You're not doing this, Lis. You're not doing this. You're only putting on lipstick and fixing your hair because you want him to have one lasting image of you before you SAY GOODNIGHT for good.
She gave a sigh and left the ladies room.
He watched her walk back to her stool.
"I really should call it a night," she said.
"Really? The night is young," he said.
"I had a long day. I sat on four panels. It was supposed to be three but some clown was a no show on the diagnostics panel."
"Sorry about that," he said.
"That was you?"
"My leg was hurting," he said, pouting.
"Of course. Do you actually do any work at this conference? I haven't seen you at a single seminar."
"I learn through quiet symbiotic observation," he said. "I take in the whole conference holistically, which I find can be more beneficial than attending any actual seminars."
"In other words you sit you in your room and drink booze and watch Pay-Per-View porn in your underwear."
He smiled at her, impressed.
"Or that," he said.
"I'm glad you don't work for me," she snorted.
"It would be a dream come true," he said.
She stood up.
"House, it was an odd but pleasant experience running into you. I hope our paths cross again. And I wish you nothing but the best—personally and professionally."
She leaned in to give him a hug, but he went for a kiss—which sort of ended with a slightly awkward chin kiss.
"I'll walk up with you," he said.
He turned to the bartender.
"Barkeep, my box," he said.
The bartender reached under the bar, handed House a large and rather unwieldy box.
"What on earth is that?" Cuddy said.
"Oh, just some reading material I've picked up at the conference. And a few beer cozys and a 'I Heart the Mayo Clinic' visor—that sort of thing."
He was obviously having a hard time negotiating the box and his cane. He fumbled the box, placed it on a barstool.
"How did you even get here with this?" Cuddy asked, watching him.
"Friend," he said.
Right now, he was balancing the box between the bar and his hip. She finally took it from him.
"My God, it's heavy!" she said. "Do you also have bricks in here?"
They walked to the elevator.
"I'm on the 11th floor," House said, pressing the button.
Cuddy walked him to his room. He unlocked the door with keycard, swung it open with his cane and stepped in.
"Can you put it down here," he said, patting on a table next to the bed.
She was still standing in the hall.
"Or I could come get it if you don't want to. . ." he said, limping toward her.
"No," she said, feeling sheepish. She stepped into the room, put the box down. As she did, she looked at its contents more closely. On top were some pamphlets and papers and underneath that, several bottles of . . . industrial cleaning supply.
"Cleaning supplies?" she said.
"I have OCD," he said. "I like to reclean once the cleaning ladies leave."
She shot him a look.
"You didn't really think I was the beer cozy and visor type did you?" he said, grinning.
"So the box was. . ."
"Prepared on the fly for me by your friendly hotel bartender," he said, stepping toward her.
"To get me to walk you to your room," she said, getting it.
"Just call me handi-capable!" he said.
She was a little flattered, a little pissed.
"Diabolical," she said.
He took another step closer. He was now a mere inches away from her.
"But did it work?"
He leaned in, kissed her. At first she kept her mouth closed, but she couldn't help herself—she parted her lips a bit and he slipped in his tongue, warm and soft and sensual.
She felt her knees buckle a bit and felt that familiar jolt of electricity right between her legs—damn him!— and she knew that she had to regain the upper hand immediately. So she bit down on his lip—hard.
He backed up, put his hand to his lip, which now had a trickle of blood running from it.
"What the hell was that for?" he said.
"To let you know that I'm no innocent co-ed with a crush anymore," she said.
He smiled, licked his lips.
"I'm well aware of that, Cuddy," he said. Then he whispered: "We were good then. Imagine how much better we'll be now."
He began kissing her neck, then between her breasts.
"Let's get you out of that suit," he said impatiently. And he unbuttoned her suit jacket, revealing a lacy camisole underneath.
His eyes devoured her.
"Damn woman," he said.
She could feel his erection against her leg and his hands were now on her waist and the top of her ass and he was beginning to take off her camisole when—with great effort—she pulled herself away.
"It's late. I really should go," she said, backing away from him.
She pulled down her camisole, smoothed it.
"What?" he said, slightly out of breath. "You're joking right?"
He smirked at her. He couldn't quite figure out her game.
He went to grab her again, kissed her on the mouth.
"I'm serious, House," she said, backing up farther. And to emphasize her point, she reached for the jacket he had flung onto the bed.
His face was such a portrait of stunned disappointment, it was almost comical.
"But why?" he said finally.
"Because you should've called when you had the chance," she said. And strutted away.
A week later, she heard through the grapevine that Gregory House had been fired by Parkview General—something about attending medical conferences on the hospital dime without going to a single seminar.
He was 40 years old, at the peak of his intellectual gifts, and out of work. Again. It was his third time getting fired in so many years. He was virtually unhireable.
She got his address from a friend in HR at Parkview and drove to his apartment.
Jazz music was blasting from a speaker. She knocked on his door. No answer. She knocked again, more loudly this time.
Finally, he came to the door, wearing pajama bottoms, slippers, and a concert tee. It was 3 o clock in the afternoon.
When he saw her, he looked inordinately pleased with himself.
"Why hello there, Dr. Lisa Cuddy," he said.
"Hi," she said back.
"Here to finish what you started?" he said, stepping aside, letting her in. "I knew you couldn't stay away."
"That's not why I'm here," she said.
"Then why are you?"
"I'm here to offer you a job."