"House, wait up." Wilson heard what had happened and wanted to catch him before he went home.

House in predictable fashion ignored him and kept on going.

"Come on House, you don't want to be alone on Christmas Eve. Not with all you are going through."

"Being alone on Christmas was your choice not mine. I'll be just fine."

"Cuddy told me what happened. Did you never think that your job was on the line here?"

"I've been fired before."

"You have never been fired for doing your job while stoned before. This is serious House. If you don't fix this you will lose everything." Wilson wasn't sure if he was saying these things for his benefit or House's, but the words came out the same anyway. He was getting so tired of stating the obvious, but what else could he do?

"Cuddy just needs a little time to settle down. She'll get over this."

"You are out of chances. You will never be able to work anywhere again if you have no medical license. You are nothing if you can't be a doctor."

"Then I'll have to find something else." House limped quickly away leaving Wilson to worry about what was going to happen next.

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Cameron, Foreman, and Chase entered Cuddy's office. "You wanted to see us?" Foreman asked on everyone's behalf.

"Come on in. Close the door." She let them enter and take their places before starting to speak. "I wanted to catch you all before you left for the holiday. I just suspended House indefinitely. If he doesn't clean up, he no longer has a job here. I wanted to let you three know that if House does get fired, I will do everything to make sure each one of you find other positions in this hospital. Until that is decided, I will be primary attending for your department. Any questions?"

Cameron for one didn't take the announcement very well. "That's it? You are just going to let him go? He saves too many lives."

Cuddy took a breath before answering, but remained firm. "He has to save himself now. If he can't do that, he won't be able to help others. Now, I also wanted to thank you all for your good work with Abigail. Despite all that has happened, try to enjoy your holiday."

"Thanks Dr. Cuddy," they said in broken order before heading toward the door.

"Chase, do you have a minute?" Cuddy asked. Foreman and Cameron shared a quick glance wondering what she would want with Chase before they headed out.

Cuddy waited until the others were gone. "Twice in a row now you were right. Please don't second guess yourself anymore. I for one don't believe it's a fluke. Well done."

Chase stood positively speechless by her words of validation. This was a first in his three years at the hospital. "Thanks and Happy Hanukah, Dr. Cuddy."

"Merry Christmas Chase."

Chase slightly smiled and then left the office thinking he had just gotten one of the most memorable Christmas presents he ever had.

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The only indication House had that it was Christmas was that the calendar said December 24th. Nothing about this situation felt like Christmas. It felt like every other miserable day in pain. The oxycodone was a far more powerful medication that the vicodin, but it didn't have the calming effect that the vicodin provided. The more he took, the more jittery he was. Swallowing the entire bottle was his only recourse. The pain had to go away.

Oxycodone presented another big complication though. When the pain was really bad whiskey combined with the vicodin would perfectly take the edge off. As a doctor he knew what would likely happen if he poured himself a whiskey to go with his new unchosen drug. The risks of overdose and death were far greater. Still he found himself with a glass and the whiskey bottle on the table.

He poured himself a drink and contemplated how far he was willing to go to dull the pain. Maybe the best cure for pain was death. The vicodin made him a better doctor and that was now taken away, but if he didn't accept the deal his career was over. If he wasn't a doctor, he was nothing. Still, taking the deal meant he would lose his vice. Was life worth living if he couldn't have the two things made up his livelihood? Compromise was something he never did well. Death might be the only option left.

House wasn't sure why he called his mother. He knew that she wasn't there. They never were on Christmas Eve. He presumed that if he did decide to play Russian roulette with pills and alcohol, he didn't want her to feel guilty if he died without calling first. Maybe it would be comfort to her that she was the last person on his mind.

The bottom line was at this point, House really didn't care if he lived or died. He didn't have a death wish, but he wasn't hoping for life either. He remembered Wilson telling him once that his pain defined him. He denied it at the time, but maybe in a way he was right. What Wilson didn't get though was there was a fine line between psychological pain and physical pain. The physical pain was real and always would be. He believed Wilson was either talking about the psychological pain or he didn't think there was a difference between the two. The vicodin relieved both of those pains and both were very real. Having to face both of them at the same moment was just too much for one man to bear.

House opened the bottle and poured the remaining pills into his hand. He took one last moment to consider what he was about to do. He had nothing left to lose. He would let nature or his own body determine whether he lived or died. He threw the pills into his mouth and swallowed. He was surprised to feel a slight burning. Considering all the dry popping he did, he figured nothing would bother his esophagus anymore. He grabbed the whiskey glass and drank all the contents like it was the water that normally accompanied so many pills going down.

Any decision to his fate should come pretty quick. His coherence faded in and out when he heard the phone ring. It would either be the hospital or Wilson and he wasn't about to speak to either. The urgent pleading on the answering machine confirmed it to be the latter. House was too numb by his act to respond to the call. He was too numb actually to do much thinking or contemplating of anything. He had no flashes of his life gone by, no thoughts of accomplishments, no consideration of patients or people that crossed his path. He felt nothing. He smiled when he came to that realization. The pain had finally gone away.

He felt his lucidity slip away in an instant. His mind was in a complete fog as he stood up and tried to make his way to the other room. He didn't know where he was going or what he was trying to do, but his brain told him to move. He didn't get farther than the edge of the couch before his legs buckled underneath and he took a lamp down with him.

Maybe a part of him wanted to live after all as he rolled over on his side in case he passed out. If he got sick he didn't want to die choking on his own puke. That wasn't a dignified way to go. Not that there was much dignity in an overdose of oxycodone and alcohol either. No, there wasn't any dignity left in this situation at all.

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House wouldn't answer his phone. Wilson knew that House often ignored phone calls of those that he didn't want to talk to, but after their conversation at the hospital he had a bad feeling about this evening. It was the sixth sense that develops between long time friends, no matter what the circumstances. House was getting ready to crash and he knew it.

Wilson wasn't sure what he would find as he used his key to open the door, but he didn't think it would be good. Sure enough, as he entered the apartment and looked beyond the couch, House was collapsed on the floor.

Wilson rushed over in a deep panic. He hoped he wasn't too late. As he rolled his incoherent friend over, he was at first relieved that he wouldn't see the worst case scenario. Sadly, the actual situation proved to be just as bad. Sure, House wasn't dead, but he had vomited a good amount of pills. Wilson knew that by expelling the contents of his stomach House would be okay, but how did he get his hands on so many pills?

The answer lied next to a conscious but completely intoxicated House. The empty bottle told him everything he needed to know. Oxycodone, prescribed to a now late Mr. Zebaulsky.

Wilson felt the rage explode inside of him. If Tritter found out about this, House would ruin the deal. That wasn't the part that upset him though. The half empty whiskey bottle confirmed it. Taking that many pills and whiskey meant that House no longer cared if he lived or died. At this particular moment, Wilson didn't care either. In disgust he threw the bottle down and left House alone in his misery. He no longer wanted any part of it.

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How did he reach this point? How did his life deteriorate this badly where here he was at 2 am on Christmas morning standing outside of the office of a man that was every bit as deranged as he was? Mentally, physically, emotionally, House was feeling like crap. Pain was hitting him at all angles and he couldn't take it anymore. There were only two ways out, and one of those ways already failed this evening. The deal was all he had left.

House knew Tritter's type. Carrying out justice was not just a job it was an obsession. House could actually relate to that stubborn mentality as he was the same way with his medical puzzles. Still, there was something about Tritter's abusive behavior that couldn't be justified. He hated having to cave in like this, but it was only at rock bottom that he could admit defeat. "Only an idiot would go to jail on principle." Foreman told him. No, only an addict would. He didn't want to be an addict anymore.

He walked into that office a broken man. Slowly limping, head hung low, and wearing the gaunt face of a troubled person he approached the desk. He knew Tritter would look at him in this vulnerable state with a smug expression but he was finally ready to take responsibility for his actions.

"I'll take the deal."

Tritter looked at him feeling rather self-righteous, yet he didn't show the part of himself that was very surprised that House actually cracked. "You like putting off things to the last minute I see."

"Spare the lecture. I'm headed for rehab next. What do I need to do?"

"I'll tell the DA." Tritter replied.

"Pardon me if I don't trust you, but call him now."

"It's Christmas, I'll tell him you met the time frame."

"Now." House said sternly.

Tritter nodded and picked up the phone. "He accepts the deal…Yes…I'll let him know…Merry Christmas to you too."

"Okay, we're all set." Tritter declared.

"That's it?"

"Yep. We'll get back with you at the rehab facility with all the paperwork after the holiday."

House nodded. His instincts told him that it was now best to leave. He couldn't though. After all they had been through Tritter had earned some words of scolding. "You're no better than me. You may have gotten what you wanted, but this is no victory. You have shattered a lot of lives."

"You don't need drugs to make a positive impact in people's lives. It is your addiction that is shattering the lives of those around you."

"That's nothing you need to be concerned with."

Tritter wouldn't back down. "It becomes my business when you break laws. You're right, I don't care what you have done to Dr. Wilson, Dr. Cuddy, or your staff. I don't care what I do to them either. The bottom line is you are abusing drugs, and I'm supposed to go after people like you. If those in the middle get hurt, well they are simple casualties of war. Doesn't that sound familiar? How many patients and their families have you hurt in your pursuit of the truth?"

House had no good answer for that. He threw one last weary gaze at Tritter before turning toward the door. He stopped with his hand on the doorknob. "This deal, it means you are going away, right?"

"Yep."

"Good." House opened the door and started his journey to rehab.

-----------------------

At this point, there is where I visualize the touching montage showing what each of the cast members are doing to the backdrop of some inspirational Christmas music. This is one of those moments where only TV can do it justice. I can't write these montages with the same inspiration. Try to visualize each shot and pick a song you think that will work with this. I'm thinking Clay Aiken's version of O' Holy Night, but that's just me.

Scene starts with a shot of Foreman enjoying a quiet evening next to the Christmas tree with his girlfriend. Fade to Cameron who is sitting at home with a glass of wine sadly worrying, thoughts of House and his struggles dominating her mind. Fade to Chase who is sitting in Christmas mass saying a solemn prayer with the rest of the congregation to the glow of candlelight surrounding him. Fade to Cuddy who checks in on Abigail at the hospital while she is sleeping. Cuddy is wearing a faded smile, her eyes showing worry and distress. Fade to Wilson who is sitting alone in his hotel room, drinking scotch heavily trying hard to forget everything that has happened. Last scene is House at the desk getting signed in at rehab and then being led to his room. Final shot is a broken, aching, and very grim House alone in the center of the sterile room. O night, oh holy night, oh night devine.

a/n: Thanks Merlin71 for the final scene idea. Thank you everybody for indulging me with my protest fic here. It may not be better, but it offers a different option. One that has more Chase, so I'm happy.

Anyway, thank you for the wonderful reviews. The response has been fantastic. I thought I might throw a few explanations down based on some of the comments I got.

One of the main goals was for someone to finally acknowledge that Chase was right and he was on the right track. I get so frustrated when the writers have him be the one that comes up with the idea and then backs off without fighting for it (except in Finding Judas, but according to MLC that was just a fluke). That has happened too many times. Enough already.

Rapid detox was just a plot device to eliminate some scenes I hated like the cutting scene and Cuddy coming begging to House with Vicodin. The main casualty was the scene with the little girl in the cafeteria, which I actually liked, but there was no room in this plot for that. My approach with the detox was just meant to show a different slant so I could move my alternate plot along.

Someone pointed out the purpose of Cuddy and Wilson cutting House off was to make House suffer so that he would give in. My alternate point in this fic was that House is stubborn and if they left detox to him he would end up hurting himself, others (a la punching Chase), or would find a way to score drugs anyway (which he did). I ended up concluding that no matter what their motives House was going to do what he wanted, and I did agree with the show that he needed to hit rock bottom to finally see reason. That was the only thing I agreed with, but it was something.

Hopefully Cuddy was a less weak character in this version. Wilson too. He shouldn't have to put up with crap from Cameron.

Tritter goes away. Need I say more.

Chapter 3 was not the strongest chapter, but I felt the need to correct somewhere the inaccuracies and glossing over of the ramifications of the diseases. This show does that too often. The sad part is, I'm not a doctor nor do I work in health care. I just used the internet.

Thanks everybody for reading and Happy Holidays!