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TITLE: Come True
AUTHOR: Namaste
SUMMARY: A character study of Cuddy and how her world has changed her since college, and how she has changed her world.
NOTES: Something different for me, a story in which House and Wilson are in the background. I wanted to do something though taking a good look at Cuddy, and the opening line came to me one morning at 12:30 a.m. when I was trying to fall asleep.

Many thanks as always to Auditrix for the beta and the priceless feedback, and the Ann Arbor District Library for its fine collection of children’s books, which proved to be a great source for this story.


by Namaste

Once upon a time, Lisa Cuddy took a class on fairy tales.

At first she thought it would be good to bone up on the stories about princesses, dragons and castles in case she needed them one day to put young patients at ease.

Besides, it seemed like an easy elective to fill out her remaining liberal arts credits while still focusing on her final year of pre-med, cramming for the MCATs and her new duties as president of Michigan’s premed chapter of the American Medical Students Association.

She should have known better. Rather than fantasy and escape, the class was all about history and analysis. From the first minutes on that warm sunny day in late August, the professor made sure to strip away any illusions she may have had.

“Fairy tales are a literary form of anthropology,” he said. “Rather than bones and shards of pottery, we’ll be sifting through the development of the character. If the hero is a warrior knight, we’re looking at something that was created prior to the middle ages. A scholar with a stout heart brings us to the expansion of the church and the increasing clout of priests and monks.”

“Sleeping Beauty” was merely a fable about the dangers of apathy while countrymen suffer under a tyrant. “Little Red Riding Hood” could be explained away by a Freudian analysis of sexual awakenings, “Beauty and the Beast” by a Jungian treatise on the ability to accept and overcome our own dark emotions.

Cuddy told herself she didn’t care that they were picking apart every Disney classic her parents had ever taken her to -- or that the real stories had been corrupted by Disney in the first place. She had never believed in Prince Charming, had never expected a white knight to rescue her from a life of drudgery.

She had always known that her future depended on her own abilities. There were no fairy godmothers out there handing out good grades. So if she wanted to retain the GPA needed to get her into the med school of her choice, she had to do the work herself, even if she didn’t buy into everything the professor said.

And he was full of himself. He’d pace the length of the classroom, gesturing wildly at the students to emphasize every point, shouting out regularly that they should take note of what he was saying, since he might put it on the final exam.

She regretted signing up for the class from the moment he opened his mouth. She pulled out a pen and began taking notes resenting every moment she spent in the required humanities class when her time would have been spent better in the lab running tests for her senior research project.

But it was the only class that fit into her already overpacked schedule outside of either Shakespeare or Chaucer, and no matter how pretentious the professor, “Hansel and Gretel” had to be easier than either of those options.

So Cuddy settled in with the stories and with the assignments -- and four weeks in, was surprised to find herself looking forward to class

Rather than a mindless exercise, she found she enjoyed diving beneath the surface, learning what evil was lurking below the fantasy. She wondered if this was what psychiatry was like, using patients’ words to diagnose their illnesses.

Even after the class ended, she found herself still analyzing every story.

“No, don’t you see?” she told one of the other association members one gray day in early March when the officers had wound up at a coffee shop near the Diag. “It’s all there -- the drudgery, the mindless servitude -- she’s treated as a lowly serf, yet capable of better things.”

“You think too much, Cuddy,” Greg House said and grabbed the bottom half of a muffin from her plate as walked up to the table.

“I wasn’t talking to you,” she said and took the muffin back out of his hand, ignoring his triumphant smile when part of it still broke off between his fingers.

She watched him circle the table to claim an empty chair and wondered again just how House had insinuated himself into her group of friends over the past few months.

She’d heard of him even when she was a junior rushing to finish her chem requirements and he was flying high in the med school. Once she took over the top post within the pre-med division of the AMSA, though, she found herself at the hospital more often, and began spending more time with the med students planning joint AMSA events.

And the more time she spent around the med students, the more gossip she heard. It quickly became clear that House was an unofficial topic at any gathering, though he never bothered to show up himself.

House, they said, knew every answer to every question. He knew the diagnosis before some of the attendings. One or two of the residents were known to just assume the fourth year med student was right and run their tests based on his ideas, rather than do their own workups.

Cuddy was at the cafeteria one day in October, working out the final details of a homecoming mixer when Trish Neumeyer, a second year med student, pointed out House from across the room.

He was tall and slender, with brown hair and a short lab coat so rumpled she could make out the wrinkles from fifty feet away. There was no one thing that made him stand out, but he did. He walked quickly through the line, filling a cup from the coffeepot, paying for it and then leaving again.

“Maybe he’s got a ouija board hidden in his locker,” Matthews said.

“You’re not serious, are you?” Neumeyer asked.

Matthews shrugged. “It’s as good an explanation as anyone else has come up with.”

“Ouija boards aren’t good for anything except fourth grade pajama parties,” Neumeyer said. “He’s probably got a photographic memory. He’s never had to cram for anything in his life.”

“Then how come he can’t remember anyone’s name?” Matthews asked.

“Ford thinks he pulled a Robert Johnson,” Mickelssen said. “He went down to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil in exchange for becoming a doctor.”

“No soul.” Neumeyer snorted. “That’d explain a lot.”

Cuddy saw him once or twice around the hospital campus that fall, but didn’t actually talk to him until a Sunday in January when she and some of the other AMSA members had grabbed brunch at Angelo’s.

The diner was a good central meeting place -- between the hospital and campus -- and a spot where they could usually drag over one or two med students to get their input. Besides, she never could resist the toasted homemade cinnamon bread.

They were just about to order when House walked in, his coat unzipped despite the freezing temperatures. He grabbed an empty chair and sat at the end of their booth.

“What looks good?” he asked.

House didn’t bother introducing himself, just acted as if they all knew who he was.

They all did.

By the time Cuddy had worked up the confidence to ask him what he was doing there, he had finished eating and tossed a few dollar bills on the table.

“I’m a little short,” he said. “You’ll cover for me, right Cuddy?”

She was so surprised he knew her name she just nodded.

“Who knows why House does anything?” Neumeyer said two days later when Cuddy bought her a beer at the Blind Pig and asked if she had any idea why House had joined them.

“Maybe he was interested in something someone said,” Neumeyer said. “Maybe he felt like seeing what kind of reaction you’d all have. Probably he just saw it as a chance to jump the line and get seated right away.”

It had been two months since that first brunch, and House still kept showing up. No one ever called him, as far as Cuddy knew. They’d just meet somewhere for a study break and he’d be there. Movie? There he’d be in the lobby.

And now here he was at the coffee shop, licking the crumbs from Cuddy’s muffin off his fingers.

“Fairy tales are just fairy tales,” House said and grabbed a napkin from the pile at the middle of the table. “Cinderella isn’t some hidden code telling the huddled masses they need to stand up to oppression -- it’s just a way to pass the hours on a long winter’s night while dangling out the promise of an eventual reward to get the kiddies to do all their chores.”

“Right,” Cuddy said. “And a cigar is just a cigar.”

“Nope. A cigar’s always about sex. Especially if you’ve been having those dreams about me again.”

“Looking-glass, looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?”
Little Snow White

Cuddy knew she should have known better. But the idea that her grades, her AMSA activities and MCAT results would get her into the first school of her choice had proved to be as much a fantasy as any fairy tale.

She had held a shred of that belief until she saw that Jim Collins had received his acceptance letter from Harvard the same day she had been turned down, even though she knew his grades couldn’t match hers.

The cold reality was that connections mattered. And beyond the student associations, she didn’t have them.

“There’s no such thing as a meritocracy Cuddy, didn’t your parents tell you that?” House said when he found her at Espresso Royale later that day, still carrying her rejection letter.

“If that’s true then why is it you could have an internship anyplace you want to go?”

“Because in case you haven’t heard, I’m exceptional.” He shrugged and took a sip of his coffee. “But it’s more likely that it’s just because they haven’t met me yet. I look better on paper than in person.”

Cuddy looked up from the envelope to House.

“Is that supposed to mean that you won’t be sticking around for your residency?”

House nodded. “The packing has commenced.”

“But I thought Williams loved you.”

“Williams does love me,” House said. “So do Stern and Chao. Peters and Doucette, however? Not so much.”

Cuddy ended up staying at Michigan for medical school, where tales of Greg House’s exploits still echoed through the halls. House himself went east.

“A certain father had two sons, the elder of whom was smart and sensible, and could do everything, but the younger was stupid and could neither learn nor understand anything, and when people saw him they said: ‘There’s a fellow who will give his father some trouble.’”
The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was

Cuddy settled in to the long days and longer nights, smiling at some of the stories she’d hear about House -- about how he’d take on other students, teachers, residents and even attendings and show them all up. Some had been embellished over the last few months, some hadn’t.

She’d even hear actual news about him from time to time over the years. Sometimes she’d find an article he’d written, on topics that got everyone talking about him all over again. But she noticed the articles and the gossip always seemed to place him somewhere else, always on the move to some new location -- in Baltimore, then Boston, then Cleveland.

Cuddy didn’t have time to follow all of the gossip. After the frustration of the med school selection experience, she spent every free hour away from classes or the hospital learning the art of networking.

She’d chat with the attendings and with visiting professors, find out about their families and hobbies. She noted ways to keep conversations always interesting and never controversial. She learned how to give and receive sincere compliments.

She took up golf, knowing that frustrating hours spent on the golf course gave her contacts she’d never get by bitching over work with her friends at the coffee shop. She put in work to improved her game, eventually coming to enjoy it, though never developing the same passion for golf that she had for tennis.

“There was once a King who had an illness, and no one believed that he would come out of it with his life.”
The Water of Life

Cuddy still believed in medicine. She knew it had its flaws, but medicine belonged to the practical sciences. It was all about research, about tests, about measurable results.

Princeton-Plainsboro was her second hospital after residency. She had spent a few years in Boston -- the town she once thought would be her dream home -- only to find it wasn’t for her. Boston wasn’t a place where she could make her mark. In a medical town already known for the best and the brightest, there were few opportunities for a talented doctor from the midwest.

Princeton, though, had the raw ingredients of great minds, great connections and great facilities. More important, Cuddy saw a vacuum in the PPTH leadership and knew she could fill it.

She volunteered for committees and never turned down any assignment.
Less than a year after she arrived, Cuddy was offered the chance to oversee the clinic, and grabbed it.

Officially, all faculty members had to work in the clinic. Unofficially, it had become common practice for attendings to send the most inexperienced residents down to fill out their hours. At any given time, the only doctors on staff there were either so new they could barely find the exam rooms or so exhausted from working both their hours and their attendings’ that they couldn’t think straight.

The records had become so jumbled and mismanaged that it was hard to tell how many patients went through on any given day -- never mind which insurance company to bill for what procedure.

Cuddy had been on the job for three days when House was admitted.

When she saw House in that hospital bed, she knew that everything she had believed about medicine was just another fantasy. Medicine may be a science, but it depended on fallible humans.

“There was once a man who had a daughter who was called Clever Elsie. And when she had grown up her father said: ‘We will get her married.’”
Clever Elsie

Cuddy wanted to believe in love, and watched from across the lobby as Stacy helped House into a car following his discharge, Wilson guiding him through the open door, and placing the crutches in the back seat. But eight months later, she was standing at the door of Stacy’s office, watching her pack.

“I’m sorry,” Cuddy said.

“Not your fault,” Stacy replied. She reached into a drawer and began pulling out envelopes and folders, separating personal information from hospital files.

“I could have told him it was all my idea, that I forced you into it.”

“You didn’t need to do that,” Stacy said. “Even if you did, he would have figured out the truth eventually.” She put a box down on the desk and dropped into the chair. “It doesn’t matter anyway. It never would have worked out.”

“It did for a long time before this. You two lasted longer than most marriages these days.”

Stacy shook her head. “No, it wouldn’t have lasted -- a couple more years maybe -- but Greg’s ... overwhelming. He’s got to be the biggest personality in every room. He’s always got to be right.”

Cuddy stepped further inside and leaned against the desk. “It always seemed to me that you were able to handle him.”

“No one can handle Greg,” Stacy said. “All you can do is try to control the chaos.”

“The little louse has burnt herself,
The little flea is weeping,
The little door is creaking,
The little broom is sweeping”
The Louse and the Flea

Until Alfredo, Cuddy thought she could believe in herself. She cleaned up the mess left behind when the former medical director resigned without warning. She managed to bring the budget back in line while expanding clinic hours and making it clear that all of the doctors were expected to work their own hours in the clinic. No substitutions.

She was enough of a realist to know that PPTH could never afford to hire the biggest names in medicine, so instead she sought out rising stars. She offered tenure and high profile positions to young doctors -- opportunities they might have had to wait decades for at other hospitals -- and began building a staff that could rival more established facilities.

And hiring House to head the diagnostics department meant Princeton-Plainsboro had at least one name that would stand out above the others.

She attended conferences, always on the lookout for the next potential breakout medical star or research opportunity. As she made the rounds at receptions, House’s former bosses would sometimes pull her aside. For the first few years, they all seemed to offer nothing but sympathy to her. But lately, they had been asking for her secret in keeping him in line.

“Hill and vale do not meet, but the children of men do, good and bad.”
The Two Travelers

Cuddy always knew enough not to believe in the fantasy of House -- the one that she first heard whispered across the tables at Michigan, the idea that he had some special insight, some medical third eye that gave him divine inspiration into every medical puzzle.

There was no secret. No magic potion. Those stories ignored the nights she saw him working through the darkness and into dawn, running tests, running his fellows and running himself to exhaustion. The days when she watched him study every book, every report in hopes of finding the one thing everyone else missed.

The only secret was his insane stubborn nature, the one that wouldn’t let him quit. There were days when she swore she hated it. Days when she nearly had to physically drag him to the clinic to fill out his hours, days when he ignored his paperwork, days when she fielded yet another complaint from yet another department.

But there were just enough days she admired that nature to make it all worthwhile. Days when he solved another mystery, days when he saved another life, days when he won more positive buzz for PPTH.

And there were days when she wished should could just sit back and enjoy it all. Days when she heard the nurses laughing at some remark he’s made, days when he managed to solve a case and cut away at some inept specialist’s ego at the same time, days when he gave his fellows just the slightest of compliments -- just enough to leave them both both beaming and bewildered, yet even more dedicated to find the answer.

Some days she would watch House and Wilson talking together in the cafeteria, napkins and cups and plates spread across the table between them. She would see Wilson say something and see House smile, or watched as House pointed out something and Wilson laughs.

Some days she wished she were a part of that. She can even imagine a world in which she would be part of that. She liked to believe that House respected her enough to accept her into his very select inner circle.

But she knew that image was as much a fantasy as any other story she’s heard. Even if House were to allow her in, Cuddy knew that he needed limits -- and it is up to her to enforce them. No one else seemed able or even willing to try any more. And after all, someone has to control the chaos.

“Two or three hundred years ago, when people were far from being so crafty and cunning as they are nowadays, an extraordinary event took place in a little town.”
The Owl

Cuddy’s life wasn’t a fairy tale. She was no princess whose body was so delicate it could be bruised by a pea.

House was no bewitched prince who merely needed the love of a pure heart to break a curse so he could finally be happy.

Edward Vogler was not an evil wizard whose spells would melt away once his powers disappeared.

But that didn’t mean Cuddy couldn’t have a happy ending.

A year after the board voted out Vogler, the members gathered on the stage in one of the lecture halls. Cuddy continued working the room, greeting business leaders and government officials as she made her way to the front.

She was just stepping up to take her seat when House walked into the back of the lecture hall. Cuddy saw him look at Wilson and saw Wilson smile and nod.

She stopped briefly and leaned down to Wilson. “How’d you get him to come?”

“He lost the bet.” Wilson smiled, but didn’t provide any further explanation and she took her seat between him and the board’s new chairman, Dan Newcombe.

Cuddy had recruited Newcombe after the fiasco with Vogler. He had retired two years earlier as a respected hospital administrator in New York, one who had provided her with guidance in her early days. She laid out her hopes and her plans for the hospital -- along with the realities of running it, which he knew all too well.

He agreed to step in for just six months to help PPTH recover from the mess Vogler left behind. He promised he would keep his hands off the day-to-day business, and was true to his word. At the end of six months, both he and the rest of the board agreed to extend his stay.

Now, up at the lectern, Newcombe was busy praising the hospital, its doctors, its support staff and Cuddy herself for winning PPTH a spot in the latest ranking of the nation’s 50 best hospitals.

The board had been quick to approve a congratulatory billboard and some advertisements noting Princeton-Plainsboro’s accomplishments in the New York and Philadelphia newspapers.

Wilson had suggested a day long series of receptions that would allow the staff on every shift to stop in and get some cake and ice cream thanking them for their work. Newcombe had immediately signed on, volunteering to show up even for the 2 a.m. event.

But Newcombe vowed he’d make only one speech.

Cuddy listened to him touting PPTH’s advances during the past five years, accomplishments even beyond the statistics mentioned in the official ranking.

Wilson’s oncology department was gaining a strong national reputation, noted both for its thorough approach to treating every cancer, but also for its outreach programs that comforted patients and their families.

The NICU unit had survival numbers that made it the top choice for every high risk pregnancy in the region.

The clinic was proving that it was possible to break even financially, and still provide top medical access to the working and lower classes that were invisible in most college towns.

Even House’s presence was finally paying off. Not that he was any more willing to take patients, but he was taking them. And the high profile status of some of his cases -- from Carly Forlano to Senator Wright to Sebastian Charles and Jeff Hastert -- meant that movers and shakers were taking note of him and PPTH.

Some came expecting House would treat them, and left disappointed. Others came just wanting to know more about this hospital that had been taking on cases no one else would handle, and they brought with them money and connections that would otherwise go to Mayo or Harvard or New York.

After the speech, the crowd from the lecture hall moved into the cafeteria. There was cake on one table, a reprint of the magazine ranking and article on PPTH framed and hanging prominently on the wall.

Cuddy greeted one of the city council members and looked across the room. House had a plate of cake in one hand and was making his way back out toward the door when Wilson stopped him.

She couldn’t make out what they were saying, but Wilson was laughing and even House had a smile on his face.

Cuddy remembered what House said once, after Alfredo, after solving yet another case, accusing her of being unable to see the “gaping chasm” between reality and what could be. She hadn’t been certain then whether to be pleased or pissed off.

She felt a tap on her shoulder, interrupting her train of thought.

“Excuse me, Lisa.” She turned to see Andy DeWind, the executive secretary for the Schaade Family Foundation. She had spent the past two months courting the nonprofit group in hopes of winning a donation that would provide the funds needed to hire a pediatric cardiac surgeon. She smiled at him.

“Andy, good to see you. I’m glad you could make it.”

“It’s always nice to have the chance to celebrate something positive,” he said. “Do you have a minute?”

“Of course.”

He turned away briefly to get the attention of an older woman standing just behind him.

“Dr. Cuddy, I’d like you to meet Mrs. Schaade.”

“It’s a pleasure.” Cuddy took note of the woman’s simple but finely tailored suit.

“Congratulations, Dr. Cuddy,” she said. “I’ve heard some wonderful things about your hospital -- and about you.”

“Thank you, I’m pleased you were able to come by for our little party.”

“I was wondering, do you have a few moments so we could talk?”

Cuddy smiled and nodded. “Why don’t we step this way.” She led the way to a small private dining room.

Maybe House was right, she considered again. Maybe she didn’t see the chasm. Or maybe she knew how to build bridges.

“King, what art thou doing now?
Sleepest thou, or wakest thou?”
The Three Little Men in the Wood

Cuddy was exhausted by the time she finally made it back to her office, but she had promised a follow-up call with a reporter from the local newspaper, and knew she had to check in with him before 9 p.m. to beat his deadline.

She settled in at her desk, admiring the roses Newcombe had delivered to her office that morning. She called the number on the business card she had slipped into her pocket.

“We’re thrilled, obviously,” she told the reporter, while checking through the stack of mail and messages on her desk. “This is a great honor, and it’s wonderful to get the confirmation from our peers that we have become the center of excellence that the community has known about for so long.”

She found the package buried halfway through the stack, wrapped in newspaper. “Thank you,” she said to the reporter. “It’s a bit premature to start talking about any expansion plans yet, but obviously there are other specialists and specialties we’ll be considering if the opportunities arise.”

Cuddy picked up the package and realized that the paper was more than six months old. Summer. Baseball season. One of Hank Wiggen’s games was featured.

The reporter thanked her for her time, and she assured him it was no problem. She hung up and turned the package over. There was a sticky note on it, taken from her own desk. There was only one word, the handwriting familiar: “Congratulations.”

Cuddy gently pulled apart the paper to reveal a book -- a collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It was an updated edition of the same textbook she had used nearly twenty years earlier, a sticker on the back identifying it as coming from one of Princeton’s used bookstores. She smiled, set it down on the corner of the desk and went back to checking through her messages.

Ten minutes later, she had scanned the messages and e-mail and was satisfied she had done everything she could for the evening. She turned off her desk lamp and shut down the computer, then picked up the book and walked across to the sofa. Cuddy turned on a lamp and slipped off her shoes. She curled her legs under her and opened the book to the first story.

“In olden times, when wishing still helped one, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun itself, which has seen so much, was astonished whenever it shone in her face.”
The Frog King


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 10th, 2006 08:23 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful story! I really enjoyed reading it.
Jun. 30th, 2006 03:29 am (UTC)
I loved this story, it went a long way to a central mystery: why would Cuddy actively keep House on when he would be such a pain in the ass for anyone in Cuddy's position?

I'm working my way through all your fic - it's all quality stuff, but this insight really worked for me. Thanks for making all your work available! - much appreciated.
Jun. 1st, 2007 10:05 pm (UTC)
Very, very nice. There isn't enough Cuddy-centric fic out there. I like the fairytale motif.
Jun. 2nd, 2007 12:29 am (UTC)
Thank you. I think a lot of the Cuddy-centric stuff is heavy on the 'ship side of things, and I'm not really a shipper in any combination -- I like to see how the characters stand as individuals, for one.
Jun. 17th, 2007 11:40 am (UTC)


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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