So, for those of you reading In the Middle of the Night, this doesn't follow that. I haven't updated and can't for a while, so I figured I'd post this. I wrote it a while back, and it's been sitting on my computer for a long time. Posting it will motivate me to work on it.

Also, if House is OOC, bear with me and use your imagination.

In the semi-early hours of a horribly sunny morning, Dr. Gregory House slouched into the free clinic at PPTH. His facial expression was about as far away from 'rainbows and sunshine' as a human being can possibly achieve, mostly due to the fact that he was there against his will.

Dr. Lisa Cuddy was behind him, watching him like a hawk. She'd cornered him on his way into the building and had twisted his arm into making up the hours he'd missed of his clinic duty.

House's team, also working on the ridiculous amount of hours their boss had amassed, watched him stalk into the clinic amusedly.

Chase smirked at Foreman, tossing down a patient file he'd just finished up. "Looks like Cuddy caught him today," he observed, watching House practically slam a patient room's door in Cuddy's face.

House sighed, resting his head on the door. Clinic duty. What a horrible waste of time for someone of his intelligence. He should be in his office, preventing outbreaks of smallpox and deciding that no, it wasn't lupus. Instead, he was prescribing bed rest to people with colds.

"Who're you?"

House cocked his jaw, tapping his cane on the floor. If he didn't know Cuddy was waiting right outside the door, he would have fled right then and there. Without turning around, he answered.

"Oh, just some random bystander who decided to come into your room. Who the hell do you think I am?"

He turned then, reading through the file without looking up at the patient. "Jacob Darning, fourteen, admitted with…"

He trailed off, reading through the file silently.

Finally, he raised his gaze to take in his patient.

A young man was sitting uncomfortably on the bed. Green eyes watched House warily from behind long, dark brown bangs. But what caught House's attention was the large black eye the kid was sporting.

"Nice shiner," House said evenly, watching for the kid's reaction. "What happened?"

Jacob spoke up, clearing his throat before doing so. "Got into a fight with a kid at school," he mumbled.

House cocked his head to the side. He would have bet ten clinic hours that that was a lie, what with the way Jacob had stumbled over his words and shifted his gaze away from his doctor. He didn't have the markings of the sort of kid who got into brawls.

"Now now, don't lie to me. I haven't even asked you the important questions yet," House tutted, watching as Jacob stiffened, his face paling a bit.

"SO!" he yelled, just to startle the kid. Jacob jumped about a foot in the air, his breathing accelerating. "What brings you here, Jacob, aside from the obvious?"

Jacob grimaced, hugging himself. "M' head hurts," he muttered, eyes downcast. He swallowed.

"Does it now. What'd he slam you into?"

Jacob met his eyes, his face startled. "How'd you-"

"Answer the question," House said flatly.

Jacob bit his lip, starting to stand. "You know what, it feels better now, actually. Thanks anyway…"

House brought his cane up, barring the doorway. Jacob stopped his escape attempts, watching House with a mixture of fear and anger. "Come on, man. I want to go."

House nodded slowly. "Sit down, Jacob. I'm just gonna do a few tests. If you check out, you can go."

Jacob sat down warily. House fished out his penlight, thankful that he'd crammed it into his back pocket for once.

"Hmm," he surmised after a moment.

"What is it?" Jacob asked worriedly, blinking at the bright light. "I told you, I'm fine."

House raised his eyebrows. "Really? Because you have a concussion. Slight, but it's there."

Jacob looked panicked. "Please, I can't stay here long. I've got to be at school, or-"

House jumped in. "Or, what? Daddy dearest gonna hunt you down?"

Jacob's eyes widened, pupils contracting in fear. "I d-don't know wh-what you're t-talking about," he stuttered.

House sighed, hooking a stool with his cane and bringing it to him so he could sit. He'd hit right on the money, from the kid's reaction.

"We're gonna be here till you tell me what happened, kid," he stated matter-of-factly. "I've got all day."

Jacob stared at him, swallowing repeatedly.

"I told you, I got in a fight with a kid at school," he restated. "He slammed me into a wall. That's all. So just give me a prescription and let me go!"

House pressed his lips together, crossing his arms over his chest. He knew the kid was lying his ass off. He showed all the markers of an abuse case. Fidgeting, easily panicked, ashamed of showing pain.

These weren't things House had been taught. He'd experienced them first hand, learning the hard way.

He cocked his head to the side.

"I get it, Jacob," he said slowly. "You think if you say anything, he'll know. He'll find out, and he'll punish you. Am I right?"

Jacob visibly flinched. "Please just let it go," he whispered, not meeting House's eyes.

House shook his head. "You're wrong. He's not all powerful. He doesn't control every aspect of your life like you think he does, trust me."

Jacob's eyes watched him warily, never straying.

Keep the threat in sight, House thought to himself. Another lesson I wish I'd never learned.

He splayed his hands out wide, trying to seem as non-threatening as physically possible. "Kid, if you really want to go, go. I can't exactly chase after you, if you didn't catch that," he half joked, holding up the cane. "But I know you want out of this. I can help you, if you'd let me."

Jacob eyed the door, blinking furiously. House realized with a slight sense of panic that the kid was crying.

"Hey. It's okay," he said after a moment, feeling totally unlike himself as he uttered the useless platitude.

"He hit me," Jacob whispered. "Punched me over and over. Grabbed me by the shoulders and slammed me into the wall."

House bit his cheek, trying to keep his memories at bay.

"Mom not around?" he guessed, and correctly. The kid shook his head.

"No. Just me and him," he muttered.

"I-" he began, then choked on his words. His tears were flowing harder now. "I can't go home. I hit him back. God, why did I hit him back?"

House could see the anguish plainly on the kids face, knew exactly what he was feeling.

"It was right," he told him firmly. "I know it seems like it was stupid now, but it was right."

Jacob shook his head, hugging himself again. "Are you going to call CPS?" he asked shakily.

House measured the boy for a moment. "Do you want me to call CPS?"

Jacob bit his lip. "I won't have any where to go," he stated sadly. "He's all I have."

House saw himself in this boy. He saw his father's hands, shoving him. Saw his father beating him black and blue. Saw John House dunking his child's head in an ice bath.

He knew what this kid was going through. Knew exactly what it was like. But Jacob, unlike him, had a way out.

"You'd be in foster care," House said after a long moment. "At least for a while."

The words brought a look of fear to Jacob's face. "Please don't say anything," he pleaded with House. "You know no one would adopt a teenage boy with abuse issues. I'd be stuck in the system till I turned eighteen."

House snorted. "And you're saying that's worse than what you're dealing with now?"

Jacob shook his head. "I know what I'm dealing with now. I'd be lost in the system."

House shook his head. "I'm required to report abuse if I see it."

Jacob scoffed. "Oh, come on. You don't strike me as the kind of guy who follows the rules. You aren't even wearing a lab coat, a name tag. Don't give me the 'it's the rules' spiel."

House raised his eyebrows, impressed in spite of himself. This kid was smarter than he looked. "You're right," he gave him after a moment. "I'm not a rule follower. But I'll still have to report this."

The color drained from Jacob's face. He was sure he had won. "You can't," he pleaded. "Do you know what he'd do to me?"

House stared at him. "I have a pretty good idea, yeah," he answered, thinking about a few close calls he'd had with his own father and people who had noticed the abuse.

Jacob watched him, his eyes narrowing. "Your dad too, huh?" he stated more than asked.

House looked at him sharply. "That's none of your business."

Jacob latched onto this, using it to his advantage. "You know what I'm dealing with, man! If your dad was anything like mine, you know I can't say anything. The only reason I'm here is because I thought he'd kill me if I went home too fast, and I couldn't show up to school with this headache. Just give me some pain killers and let me go."

House shook his head. "I wish someone had been there for me," he said quietly. "I wish someone had done for me what I'm about to do for you."

Jacob's eyes widened. "I won't say a word. I won't give them anything to work with."

House scoffed. "Your dad will beat you senseless anyway. You know it, and I know it. Stop kidding yourself."

Jacob bit his lip, deflated.

"I'm alone," he said quietly. "I've got nothing else."

House looked at him evenly. "You seem like a pretty smart kid, Jacob," he pointed out. "I bet you can manipulate people easily, right?"

Jacob nodded slowly.

"You know why that is? Survival mechanism. You need it to survive in the home you're in. I've got it too, along with some other fine attributes that I'm sure you share."

Jacob shook his head. "What does this have to do with anything?" he asked.

House rolled his eyes. "You're a bit slower than I was, but you'll learn. What I'm saying is that I wouldn't mind hanging around with a minny-me, for a while. Four years, to be exact."

Jacob's eyes widened. "Wait. Are you saying you'd foster me?" he asked incredulously.

House raised his eyebrows. "I know people. Well, to be more specific, I have dirt on people. It wouldn't take much for me to twist the system a bit and land you with me and my room mate."

Stop! House's mind screamed. What are you saying? You can't take care of a kid! You can hardly take care of yourself! You don't even know him!

But the fact was, House knew him more than he'd like to admit. He recognized every flinch, every deflection. He saw himself in Jacob Darning, and he was going to be damned if another kid turned out like he did.

"Look, kid," House said seriously, after a long moment. "I'm not saying you're gonna love me and call me Daddy. I'm not saying I'm going to be a good parental figure. But it'd be a hell of a lot better than what you're dealing with now."

House, eyes on his cane, finished quietly. "I'd never hit you. I know how much it hurts."

Jacob looked at House closely. "Why're you doing this?" he demanded. "You don't seem like the kind of guy to do something out of the kindness of your heart, no offence."

House chuckled. "None taken, because I'm not. Truth be told, I'm curious. And I've been told that I'm somewhat of a loony."

House studied him. "I know you don't love him," he pointed out quietly. "I never loved mine. Feared him, yes. Loved him, no. It'd be no skin off your nose to leave him behind, and you know it."

Jacob swallowed. "You're right, but…"

"But what? It's the best option you've got right now, kid. I'm just offering up my place till you find somewhere better. Hell, I'll help you get emancipated if that's what you want."

He twisted his mouth. "Take it or leave it, but I'm reporting the abuse to CPS regardless."

Jacob looked him up and down, as if assessing his options. "I don't even know your name," he mumbled.

House stuck out his hand to shake. "Greg House, M.D."

The kid eyed him, then shook it slowly.

So, what do you think? I realize that adoption and the foster care system are hardly like what I've described, but this is a fictional story. Reviews are welcomed with open arms and chocolate!