's been a while! I've had an awful lot going on this year, and quite frankly, most of S7 was not exactly...inspirational. :P Hopefully this is the beginning of the end of a long writing drought. Enjoy, and as always, I do not own House.

# # #

Rob woke with a start as the early morning light started to creep into the bedroom. He recalled doing the same thing at least three times during the night, each time forgetting that Celia was there with him until he heard her sigh or shift in reaction.

This time there was no such reaction, and Rob had to wonder for a moment if last night had really happened at all. He pushed himself upright and swung his legs over the edge of the bed, finding his clothes in the same pile he remembered, attaching his prosthesis before dressing and carefully making his way out of the bedroom.

The smell of coffee brewing hit him before he reached the end of the hallway, and he could hear someone singing along to the radio, a distinctly female voice. Rob couldn't help breathing out a heavy sigh of relief at the sound.

His relief was further confirmed as he entered the kitchen and spotted Celia, singing and dancing as she started putting together breakfast. Rob leaned in the doorway and watched her for a few minutes, marveling at the idea that a woman was occupying this space. He had been sure it would never happen again.

Finally Rob crossed the kitchen, intending to sneak up on Celia from behind. However, she turned at the sound of his prosthetic, greeting him with a smile. "Mornin'."

"Damn, and here I thought I was bein' slick." Rob chuckled, leaning down for a brief kiss.

Celia wrapped her arms around Rob's neck and deepened the kiss while Rob braced his hands on either side of her against the counter, pressing into her. He could already feel himself reacting, and he wanted nothing more than to take her right here in the kitchen.

"For Christ's sake, get a room." House's rumbling voice startled Rob. "You're blocking the coffeepot."

"Sorry." Rob mumbled, feeling his face heat up as Celia let out a girlish giggle.

House shrugged casually, regarding both of them with an amused expression. "It's your house. Do it in every room if you want." He arched an eyebrow as he studied Rob. "If you haven't already, that is."

"Not yet." Celia piped up, her arms still around Rob's neck.

House merely rolled his eyes and shook his head. "I'll be out in the shed with Tyler. Let me know when it's safe to return."

With that he limped out of the house, whistling softly to Baxter, and the dog followed House out. As soon as the screen door slammed shut, Celia burst out laughing. "That man's somethin' else."

"He's alright." Rob agreed with a chuckle of his own before leaning in to lightly kiss Celia. "Now, about what he was suggestin'…"

Celia ran her fingers through Rob's hair, threading them along the back of his head. "Might as well start here."

"That's kinda what I was thinkin'." Rob murmured, his hands starting to undo the buttons at the bottom of her shirt. He could hear her breath catch in her throat as he smoothed his hands along her stomach and ribcage, moving up to her breasts that were still encased in her bra.

She let out a little sigh as Rob brushed his lips along her neck, taking in the scent that still lingered from the night before, mixed with something else he couldn't quite recognize.

"Oh, hell." Celia suddenly pulled back, her eyes going wide as she quickly whipped around to the stove and turned it off under the smoking pan. "I think breakfast is ruined."

"Hardly." Rob answered, drawing Celia back to him. "Can't say I was all that hungry anyway."

Celia sighed and slipped her arms around Rob's waist. "Suppose we could head down to the café in a bit if you wanted."

"I suppose." Rob leaned down and gave Celia a quick peck on the lips. "I sure ain't in no hurry."

"Can't imagine you are." Celia let out a laugh and returned the kiss.

"And just what the hell's that supposed to mean?" Rob teased.

"Nothin'." Celia responded.

"Hm." Rob pulled Celia toward him until he was able to ease himself into a kitchen chair, with Celia straddling him. "I'm guessin' you ain't in no hurry either."

"You'd guess right." Celia draped her arms over the back of the chair, leaning in and kissing him hard, her tongue sliding into his mouth.

Rob let his hands slide to the small of Celia's back, his fingers spreading out as their kiss deepened. She let out a sigh that became a soft moan, leaning even further into Rob and wrapping her arms around his neck.

He broke away to start a line of kisses down her neck while he moved to unbutton her shirt, meeting at the space between her breasts. Celia gasped softly as Rob placed a gentle kiss there while brushing his thumbs over her bra.

She leaned back ever so slightly, regarding him with a little smile before reaching out to tug at his t-shirt. Rob instinctively cringed at the move before he could stop himself, and Celia tilted her head at him curiously.

Rob merely shook his head and pulled off the t-shirt himself, and Celia responded with a warm smile before smoothing her hands appreciatively over his chest. While he still had trouble believing that Celia would want to touch him, he wasn't about to stop her, either.

He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, working at her bra until it came undone, all the while kissing her hard, their tongues tangling up, their hands wandering all over each other.

It was becoming almost more than Rob could take, and he thought there was a good chance he would come undone right then and there. Before he could make a suggestion, Celia pulled back, taking off her bra and letting it drop to the floor.

"Don't move." She told him breathlessly. "I'll be right back."

Rob's imagination was working overtime over those words, barely daring to hope that he and Celia were anywhere near the same page. Before his thoughts could get too far, Celia returned with something clutched in her hand.

"Whatcha got there, girl?" He asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.

Celia barely suppressed a wicked smile as she placed the object on the table and kneeled in front of him, undoing his jeans. "You'll see."

Rob was startled at first, but it quickly dawned on him what was happening, and he was only too happy to go along. He shifted enough to allow Celia to pull his jeans down, managing to shake one leg loose.

Celia moved between his legs and took his hardened flesh in her hand, following with her mouth. The sensation was almost more than Rob could take, and he let out a sound of pleasure, his fingers instinctively curling themselves in Celia's hair.

He barely heard the click of toenails crossing the kitchen, but he snapped to attention when he felt a wet nose pushing under his arm.

"Baxter!" Rob barked just as the dog tried to lick Celia's face. "Get the hell out of here!"

Celia looked nearly as startled as Baxter, but her expression soon softened as she reached out to pat the dog on the head. "Poor thing. He didn't know what was goin' on. Did you?"

"Don't go encouragin' him." Rob growled, even as he scratched Baxter behind his ears.

Celia laughed and pulled herself off the floor, taking Rob's face in her hands and giving him a quick kiss. "Maybe we should take this somewhere a little more private."

Rob rose from the chair, wrapping his arms around Celia and pulling her close. "Or maybe I should just put that mutt outside for a while."

"Now you stop." Celia scolded him.

Rob kissed her firmly, letting it deepen until their tongues were intertwined again, feeling his reaction grow again. He quickly unfastened Celia's jeans, shoving them over her hips and onto the floor.

"Right here?" She asked breathlessly.

"Right here." He murmured in response, pulling her down with him as he fell into the chair.

His hand fumbled around until he found the condom, breaking away from Celia long enough to rip open the packet and roll it over himself. They both shifted slightly until he could guide himself inside her, soon finding an easy rhythm.

No words passed between them, only soft sounds of pleasure as their hands wandered over each other. Rob could feel the pressure slowly build inside him as Celia's body started to tense up, her breaths growing shorter. He reached in between their bodies, finding the hard nub of flesh and stroking with his thumb.

She let out a little squeak, her release quicker than he had anticipated, and within a few strokes he followed, his entire body shaking and tensing with the powerful sensation.

Finally his body relaxed, and he let out a long sigh as Celia leaned against his chest. A long silence stretched out between them, and Rob was reluctant to break it. Instead he loosely wrapped his arms around Celia, his hands absentmindedly smoothing over her back.

Celia sighed and squeezed him, settling a little further into him. An old feeling, one Rob was sure he'd never feel again, started to wash over him. He wouldn't go so far as to say he was in love with Celia, but there was surely something more developing between them.

The idea scared the hell out of him. What if she didn't feel the same? Even if she did, what if things changed when she returned to Memphis? Maybe she would decide to stay there, and then where would he be? Right back where he was, that's where.

Rob huffed irritably and shifted slightly, and Celia lifted her head to give him a questioning look. "Are you alright?"

"Fine." Rob answered roughly. "Just gotta get up."

Celia slid off him, and both of them started to gather up their clothes. Rob couldn't help feeling more than a little awkward at the silence that followed.

"Hey." Celia's voice was soft, and Rob glanced up at her. "Why don't we get cleaned up and go get a little somethin' to eat?"

"You go ahead." Rob told her, his own thoughts still troubling him.

Celia laughed a little and ran her hand over Rob's head. "You sure are thick-headed."

"The hell do you mean?"

Celia took Rob's chin in her hand and tilted it upward. "Did you miss the 'we' part?"

Rob was a little baffled, but quickly caught on. "Guess I did." He took Celia's hand and squeezed it. "I don't do showers too well, but I sure could use a bath."

"Fine by me." Celia answered, squeezing Rob's hand in response. "Meet you there."

Rob almost immediately relaxed, the awkwardness finally easing somewhat. Obviously the woman wanted to be around him, for whatever reason. He figured he might as well enjoy it while he could.

# # #

House left Rob and Celia behind in the house and headed out to the shed to meet up with Tyler. Even if the kid didn't show up, he figured working on the bike would be a good enough excuse to give the lovebirds some time alone.

As it happened, Tyler and Mike were standing by the shed, along with another kid. House assumed it was Tyler's friend, whatever his name was, and a knot of dread immediately formed in the pit of House's stomach. He hadn't actually counted on Tyler following through on House's offer, much less bringing his dad in on it.

"Hey, Doctor House." Tyler called out as House approached the trio. "This is my friend Zach. You know, the one I was tellin' you about?"

"I remember." House answered, glancing over at Zach. The kid had a guarded expression that poorly covered the fear in his eyes. "So, Zach…I hear you've got some trouble at home."

Zach looked over at Mike, who nodded firmly and clasped his shoulder. "It's alright, son. You can tell him."

Tyler grumbled something House couldn't quite catch, and Mike threw him a sharp look. "You've already done your part, son. Let Doctor House do his."

House gestured toward the shed with his cane. "I don't have an office yet, so this'll have to do."

Zach looked wary, glancing at both Tyler and Mike. Finally, when Mike nodded in encouragement, he followed House into the shed. House turned on the light and closed the door behind him.

House eased himself onto a stool and gestured to Zach. "Just for the record, yes, I'm a real doctor. Got the papers to prove it and everything."

"'Kay." Zach seemed to relax slightly, though the wary look never left his eyes as he approached House.

He stood in front of House for a long moment, as if unsure what to do. Finally House huffed irritably. "I have to do a physical exam. Can't do that while you're still dressed. I'll turn around, and you tell me when you're ready."

A few minutes passed before Zach quietly spoke. "Ready."

House had prepared for the worst, but that still didn't prepare him for what he saw when he turned around. Bruises and marks of various shapes, sizes, and colors covered the boy's upper body, and as House got closer, he spotted old cigarette burn marks across Zach's shoulders, in addition to obviously more recent cuts and bruises.

It was all House could do to contain his rage as he examined the boy. Zach was almost skin and bones, abnormally skinny even for a boy his age, and House could guess that he had been made to miss more than a few meals as punishment for something.

He shook off the thoughts that were creeping to the forefront of his mind. This wasn't about himself. This was about the kid.

Zach was shaking as House completed his exam, his head down so far it was nearly resting on his chest. House knew what he had to do next, but it wouldn't be an easy task.

"Hey." House spoke gruffly, and Zach barely lifted his head. "I've got to get some pictures. Documentation and all that."

"You gonna make him stop whoopin' my ass?" Zach sounded far older than his years.

House took a deep breath before answering. "I don't have that kind of power."

"Then why the hell am I here?" Zach demanded. "Thanks for nothin'."

Normally House would have snapped back, but he managed to catch himself before he did so. "Look, I said I don't have that kind of power, but other people do. But they can't do their job unless I do mine."

Zach glared at House, but there was a hint of defeat in there, as well. Finally he seemed to relent, his shoulders slumping.

House pulled out his cell phone and opened the camera feature. It wouldn't take great pictures, but it would be better than nothing.

As he started to take pictures from different angles, he could see the boy shaking more than ever, and he could hear him murmuring something House couldn't quite make out.

Zach took a deep ragged breath as House took the last picture, and it was only then that he saw the tears running down the boy's face. Something stabbed at House at the sight, but he shook it off. This part wasn't for him to deal with. That's what shrinks were for.

"We're done." House closed his phone and tucked it in his pocket. "Get dressed."

With that he left the shed, where Tyler and Mike were waiting. Tyler looked as if he would burst if he didn't say something, while Mike hung back, equally interested, House was sure.

"It's real bad, ain't it?" Tyler blurted out. "I told you."

"Tyler." Mike's voice held an obvious note of exasperation. He turned to House with an apologetic expression. "You've got to forgive the boy. He's made it his mission to do all he can for Zach, but he gets kind of carried away."

"It's a good thing he did." House answered. The images of Zach's battered body would stick with him for a long time, despite his attempt to detach himself from the situation.

"So now what?" Mike asked.

"Now…I take this to Protective Services, they file a report, and they take it from there."

"But what about Zach?" Tyler demanded. "He can't go home. That man'll kill him!"

"Tyler, calm down." Mike told him firmly.

"Can't he stay with us?" Tyler all but pleaded.

Mike frowned, his concern obvious. "I suppose…at least for a little while. But I still gotta at least tell his mom where he is."

Tyler rolled his eyes. "She won't care. Probably be glad he's gone."

"I ain't goin' home." Zach suddenly spoke up behind House. "I don't care where I go, but it ain't gonna be there."

"Damn right." Tyler agreed, rushing to his friend and slinging an arm around his shoulders. He turned to Mike. "Can Zach come check out my bike?"

"It ain't yours yet." Mike laughed. "But yeah, go ahead. I gotta talk to Doctor House anyway."

With that the two boys headed back to the shed, Tyler already talking a mile a minute about the motorcycle. Mike took off his baseball cap and ran his hand over his head. "Man, what the hell did I just sign up for?"

"A whole lot of trouble." House told him. "You know that you don't have a legal leg to stand on, right?"

"I know." Mike sighed. "But I can't see lettin' that boy go back there. If I'd known how bad it was, I'd have poked my nose in a hell of a lot sooner."

House thumped his cane on the gravel. "I'd say better late than never, but…"

"…but that's a bunch of bullshit." Mike finished for him before extending his hand. "Thanks for helpin' out with all this. Zach might turn out alright after all."

House had his doubts, but he decided to push them aside for the time being. He'd done all he could for now, and that would have to do until he could figure out his next move.

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