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HOUSE M.D. FIC: A Valiant Woman (1/6)

TITLE: A Valiant Woman
AUTHOR: Flywoman
FANDOM: House M.D.
RATING: PG-13
PAIRING: House/Cuddy, eventually. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
SUMMARY: Lisa Cuddy always did like a challenge. How else would she have wound up here? Spoilers through the Season 6 finale only.
DISCLAIMER: Do you see my name when the House M.D. credits roll? Didn’t think so.
THANKS: To Susanne for constructive criticism and to jezziejay for overcoming her fear and loathing long enough to read and comment – I owe you big time!
AUTHOR’S NOTE: If Three Months was my love letter to the first few seasons, then this is my letter of resignation to Huddy.

 

Chapter 1: Far Above the Price of Rubies
“I’m not pregnant!”

When she was sixteen, Lisa Cuddy had excitedly explained to her parents that because Y-bearing sperm swam faster but X-bearing sperm lasted longer, the sex of one’s child could be influenced by the timing of intercourse relative to ovulation. Her mother had just stared, her habitual smile frozen on her face, but her father had raised eyes and hands to heaven, then leveled a finger at Lisa and thundered, “Use a condom.”

She had used a condom, and other methods in addition, every time. She’d had no intention of allowing an unwanted pregnancy to derail her meteoric medical career. And now here she was, still childless at thirty-five, her skirt hiked up around her hips while she waited for the world’s most annoying man to stop appreciating her assets and inject her with gonadotropins already.

But no. House obviously considered this a golden opportunity to lecture her on selecting the father of her child for smart reasons, unlike the vast majority of the human race, while rubbing her buttock with an antiseptic cotton ball in torturously slow circles. She felt her face heat even as the ethanol evaporated on her skin like a cool kiss, causing her to shiver. “I’m pretty sure you got that,” she finally huffed, in a probably vain attempt to cover up her perverse arousal.

“Microbes can be sneaky,” he answered, punctuating his point with the prick of the needle. He left her reflecting that playing doctor twice a day really was going to be fun. That, or grounds for personal humiliation and a truly spectacular firing followed by a sexual harassment lawsuit. From where she was standing, it could go either way.

Entrusting him with her folder of donor candidates naturally proved to be a big mistake. She’d be lucky not to get sued for breach of confidentiality, not to mention some kind of employment discrimination. And she’d probably never be able to enjoy listening to Mozart again. She only wished she’d managed to jerk her desk drawer more violently into the man’s groin.

But she turned up on time to the clinic for her second injection, baring her bottom even as she reamed House out for violating Patrick’s privacy. He was coldly clinical, peremptory, perhaps distracted by his friend’s dying “daughter,” perhaps by something else. And as he emphasized how much he didn’t care whom she dated or married or permitted to father her children, it occurred to her that maybe the man doth protest too much.

“Genes matter. Who you are matters. Find someone you trust.”

“Someone like you?” she goaded him on a sudden hunch. House paused on his way out the door.

“Someone you like,” he corrected her in a tone that made it clear he hardly expected to fall into that category.

Although she would never admit it to him, that response had given her pause. Did she like House? She had to admit that the answer, most of the time, was hell, no. Sure, she admired him, for the most brilliant mind she’d ever encountered, because he had the courage of his convictions, and (grudgingly) for his infuriating refusal to knuckle under to her authority. She trusted him, even with something as sensitive and personal as these fertility treatments, and knowing that his best friend was the hospital’s biggest gossip. She cared about him, watched him like a hawk to keep tabs on his progression up the pain scale, and even if he would probably dismiss that as guilt over her role in the surgery following his infarction, she knew better. As for lust, well, the body sometimes has its own reasons that reason cannot touch, but even if his gruff voice quickened her pulse and caused sweat to collect behind her knees, it said nothing about liking.

As for Wilson, House had guessed that their dinner had been an audition, one that had failed. He probably chalked it up to Wilson being too nice for her, and in a way, that was true. Wilson didn’t want kids, she could infer that much from his evasiveness, even if she thought that he would make a great dad. At the same time, he was a guilt-ridden caretaker of the worst kind, so he would never have been content to share his seed and then stand silently on the sidelines. Given a glimpse of her desperation, he would have fallen for her, spoiled her with sensitive sex and that bottomless well of empathy, and used his considerable powers of persuasion to drag her to the altar. And then, maybe two years later, maybe a little longer if she really appeared to need him, his attention would have strayed, and she’d be left a laughingstock, the Dean of Medicine cuckolded by her own department head. Yes, she wanted a child, but she still had her pride, and that just wasn’t a price she was prepared to pay.

At least once, she came dangerously close to propositioning House despite her doubts. But in the end, she eschewed both members of the Dynamic Duo and chose an anonymous donor, this time checking with a genetics counselor at the fertility clinic instead of running the file by House.

The day after House was discharged on sick leave following his shooting and surgery, she showed up for her insemination, feeling even more monstrously alone than she had at the closing of the purchase of her own home. She envied the couples that crowded the waiting room despite the aura of anxiety, the strained smiles, the silent wincing at well-meaning gestures of comfort.

When it was her turn, she lay back on cool vinyl covered with a translucent sheet of sanitary paper and marveled at how different this was from most women’s dreams of conceiving within the safety of strong, loving arms. To ease the passage of the catheter, she imagined House’s hands cupping her heels instead of the shiny steel stirrups, his voice an arousing growl in her ear. Afterwards she held absolutely still for the recommended fifteen minutes, visualizing the thawed sperm swarming up her fallopian tubes, blindly questing for their destination. She thought she could actually feel the shock of penetration, of binding and engulfment, followed quickly by nuclear union and the start of the dazzling dance of development, and had to laugh a little at herself.

Three weeks later, she swerved from self-deprecating smirks to furtive tears of joy.

It was easy enough to keep it from everyone at first, especially since for two months House cast nary a shadow on the steps of the hospital, while his erstwhile team twiddled their thumbs. But shortly after returning to work, House had noticed. Even as the aftereffects of the ketamine treatment were wearing off and he was starting his slow swan dive into drug abuse and self-destructive depression, he commented crudely on the firmness of her breasts, later leered at the barely visible convexity of her yoga-toned abdomen.

Under duress, she confessed to her lie about Richard’s recovery on cortisol, but she kept her second secret to herself. She was not simply protecting herself from House, from the awkward interrogations, the possible disappointment in his eyes. Generations of superstitious Jewish foremothers applauded her decision to keep quiet about her good fortune until it announced its own presence.

Her fears had been realized less than four days later when sudden cramps drove her into the bathroom and she slumped, weeping, while rubies cascaded into the water.

The next morning, she allowed House to believe that her husky voice and reddened eyes marked the unexpected passing of Ezra Powell. Apparently it worked, because when his obnoxious antics in the clinic got him summoned to her office two weeks later, he rooted through her trash for evidence of morning sickness and diagnosed a first trimester ass. Yet again, and for once sincerely, she denied being pregnant. “You are not always right, House,” she added for good measure.

House reminded her of her father, always so certain that he was right. Even if you had the temerity to point out that yesterday he’d believed something completely different, he had absolute confidence that he’d been right before, given the information that he had had then, and he was right now, even if the next hour might alter his views completely.

The thing was, it wouldn’t be half so aggravating if he didn’t turn out to be right so much of the time.

With that in mind, she went home to pee on one more probe, hoping against hope that House really had seen something she hadn’t. Two minutes had never lasted so long. Crouched by the toilet, yet another negative test trembling in her hand, she felt something twist deep inside her. She wrapped the stick in a tissue and tossed it in the trash, then sat sideways on the floor, her thigh pressing against the cold tile.

She woke the next day in bed with her work clothes still on and no memory of how she’d gotten there.

After that, she decided to take a break. She knew the statistics all too well, and logically, one miscarriage should not have discouraged her from resuming the fertility treatments once she recovered, even at her age. But self-doubt had taken root in her breast like a stubborn seed, swelling powerfully against her heart. Although she did not believe in God, or mystical messages from the universe, she had made unnatural demands of her body, and it had rejected them. Perhaps it was too little, too late. Perhaps she deserved to fail for once.

 

Read Chapter 2: The Success of Her Dealings

 

 

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
cuddyclothes
Sep. 22nd, 2010 03:05 am (UTC)
I read this through, and I don't get it. Are you mocking Cuddy, or trying to make her actions make sense?
flywoman
Sep. 22nd, 2010 03:31 am (UTC)
I think it would be most accurate to say that I am mocking Huddy while trying to show how Cuddy's actions make sense - at least to her. Despite my antipathy for this 'ship, I feel a lot of empathy for her, as I also do for House and for most of the other flawed inhabitants of their 'verse.

Also hoping to provoke some interesting discussions. Although, in my case at least, those will have to wait until tomorrow morning.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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