Summary: conclusion.

Rated: Sappy/angst. Help! I can't shut my ugly, seaweed for hair, hag of a muse up.

Thanks for enduring.

Happy 'Bloody' Valentine's Day!

Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?

-- John Keats

Sam had done it. Kicked the habit -- again. Was worse this time around, like pulling a starving puppy away from its mother's teat. The demon cravings had roared through his body, like an eighteen-wheeler trucking hard and fast down the highway of hell, blaring through his veins. It was killing me, making my flesh crawl to watch through the stupid little porthole. Sam was drenched in sweat and shivering, trying to curl into a little ball to escape the pain but the cuffs kept him in place. The pain stole his breath, stole his sanity. He'd grappled helplessly on the cot, like a worm on a hook. Fists clenched, growling, laboring for breath, baring his teeth, begging me to help him, and I couldn't.

Once, unable to stand myself, I unlocked the iron door and went in to wipe the perspiration from his face trying to calm him. He fought me hard. His face was a dark gray pallor, black bruises under his eyes. The ceiling fan's shadows seemed to change his features, but I knew this was still Sam. Somewhere in there.

For a split second his mind clicked into place and he seemed to recognize me, just barely clinging to the edges of reality.

"S…sorry, Dean," he gagged, his words breathy and shallow. "I'm sorry."

"Spilled milk. Sam, remember, we don't cry over spilled milk." I ran my fingers through his sweat-matted hair.

"D'n, pl…please," he begged just as his eyes rolled up into his lids and he zoned, thirsting and fighting for the stuff again.

"Sam! Come on, man!" I tried to catch Sam's arms, stop him from his flailing panic. "Easy now." Even with the padding under the cuffs, he was hurting himself. "Lay back"

"N-no more," Sam groaned, a blue vein popping out at the corner of his temple.

"Easy! Dude, easy," I gritted my teeth trying hard to hold his convulsing body still.

"Gah." Sam must have bit down on his tongue because blood and droll leaked out the side of his mouth. "Errr," he screeched, trying to scrabble away from me. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Please, please, please." His back arched, the demon blood trying to hurl him across the room.

"Dean, you are agitating him." I looked up to see Cas lingering in the doorway.

I knew I couldn't pull Sam from the abyss. Cas was right. I stood, backing away from the cot and watching Sam struggle fiercely jonseing for something I'd never give him. I was going numb, feeling marble cold, staring at him until the numb cold was gone and it hurt too much to stare any longer.

"I'm sorry, too, Sammy." I said through trembling lips. I sighed, doing the only thing I could do -- leave the room and lock my prisoner, my brother, inside.

Three days later:

Sam was still sweaty and shaky, but he was back. He watched quietly as I uncuffed him from the cot.

"Fuck!" I tossed the cuffs to the floor, in disgust; the sound of steel hitting iron making me wince. Sam didn't move to get up. Just sank deeper into the cot, a trembling hand absently rubbing at his right wrist. "Sorry about that," I said.

"What are you talking about?" Sam asked, shifting his weight and struggling to sit up. "Errr," he groaned, sinking back.

"Your wrist." I bent to help Sam up, stepping back quickly when he shook his head in protest. "During the worst of it," I gestured toward his wrist. "You managed to pull so hard on that cuff you tore through the padding, and your skin," I added, noting all the dried blood. "I need to clean that, see if you broke anything."

"It's okay," Sam let out a breath, straining again to sit up on his own.

This go around with the demon blood had left him even weaker than the first time, and he collapsed back yet again.

"Can I help now?" I firmly asked, not making a move until Sam gave permission.

Sam nodded, looking down at his bloodied wrist.

Permission granted, I grabbed a glass of water off the table and sat on the edge of the cot. Sam's heart was no longer beating fast, his breathing no longer erratic, his body no longer bucking and fighting him. Still, he looked pale, and he was holding onto a low-grade fever. He shivered once, really hard, as if his blood ran cold -- maybe it had.

"Here, drink this water."

Sam lifted a wavering hand. Took a couple of times, but he finally grasped the cup and drank a few sips. When he was done, he let out a tired breath and I snatched the cup before it could fall as his hand flopped weakly back to the cot.

"Thanks." Sam closed his eyes, sagging boneless.

I let him rest a second, listening to the annoying whump, whump of the giant ceiling fan, and gently cleaning and wrapping his wrist. When I was done, I glanced up watching the whirling blades; they sent vaporous, ghost-like shadows spinning grimly around the rust-colored room. I shivered thinking of what creepy, weird stuff Sam's hallucinating mind might have chosen the shadowy forms to take. From the way he'd screamed and pleaded, calling out my name in fear, I'd say the worst kind as he hiked his way through, and out of hell.

"You ready to get out of here?" I swallowed, touching his cheek lightly.

"Gah!" Sam jerked, eyes popping open wide as if something had exploded inside him.

"Whoa, hey. Just me, kiddo." Damn he was so jumpy.

"Dean." Sam dug his fingers into the cot and looked away.

"Sorry." I lowered my voice. "You ready to get out of here?" I made sure to whisper.

No answer, just a choking sob and trembling limbs.

"Sam, you okay? You're still shaking, man."

"Rooms cold," he said taking a deep breath, obviously trying to control his body.

"Let's get you out of here." I leaned down and slid a hand under Sam's shoulders, lifting. "Damn Sasquatch," I muttered, aware of how heavy, how dead weight he was.

"No!" Without warning, Sam grabbed hold of my shirt. "No!" His fingers nervously twisted in the material as he talked. "I can't…I don't think…Dean, please." Sam's facial muscles twitched and he bit into his lower lip, obviously trying to hold something back. "Please. Please." I could see the fear written in every tic as a single hot tear rolled down Sam's cheek. He turned away from me, but not before I caught the disgusted look on his face.

Kid needed to stop doing that. "Sam." He shivered hard. "Sam look at me." Sam slowly turned back to me, but his gaze didn't meet mine. I gripped his chin with one hand and dipped my head down so I could look him in the eye. "What are you afraid of?"

"Me." Sam grimaced. "Me."

"Sam, you don't have to..."

"Yes, I do, Dean. Yes I do!" Scared eyes shifted to stare at a wall. "Lucifer, he kept right on knocking, begging to be let in and…and…and I said yes. Oh, God…I said, yes" Sam closed his eyes and ground his teeth. "I ripped you apart, Dean, like a dog after a cat, I ripped you apart," he choked. "There were bits of you everywhere, your blood… everywhere." Sam made a face as if someone had just sucker punched him in the gut and he was going to puke. "Everywhere, Dean. Your blood was on the ground, on the bushes, on the trees, in the sky, in the rain, on the rocks…" Sam shuddered. "It was on me."

"Sonofabitch," I muttered watching another tear roll down Sam's cheek. "Sam it wasn't…"

"It was, Dean it was so…"

"It wasn't real!" My voice hiked ten notches, and Sam jerked squeezing his eyes shut tighter -- sweaty and scared. "You were hallucinating, bro." Sam's horror, at its worst, made my stomach roil and left a cold spot in my chest. "Your fever was off in never-never land, creating some really weird Steven Spielberg shit in your head," I explained. "It wasn't real."

Sam's brow crinkled, and he opened his eyes. With a slight flick of his head, he tossed his hair out of the way, a nervous habit he'd had since a kid. I knew there wasn't much else I could say. We both feared that three letter word. "It's not going to happen, Sam. We're going to turn the blood-covered ground into a field of red flowers. When the guns go off... the bullets aren't going to hit us. What you saw … it's not who you are." I stared into his eyes. "You don't get it, do you?" I toned down the volume. "You and me, Sam, that's what's real, and we're going to hold on to what's real… got it? Sam gulped. "Sam, you got it? Sam!" My words echoed through the small room. Sam wore a confused look, but he nodded in affirmation anyway. I put a hand on his shoulder. "When you're ready to believe that and get the hell out of here, I'll be right outside the door, even make you some breakfast." I stood looking down at my kid brother. Sam remained still, staring at me. I kept a poker- straight face even as I felt myself tearing up. I had to make Sam believe, I believed. Was bull-crap strategy, but it was all I had left. I sucked in a deep breath and backed away, my eyes steady and stern, locked to Sam's as I stepped out the door.

I let out the breath, leaning against the wall just outside the panic room. What else could I do? Closing my eyes, I asked for the thousandth time in three days, with all that was left of my soul, for someone, anyone, anything out there that gave a friggin' shit to help my brother and me.

The squeak of the cot and the slow shuffle of feet, brought my eyes open. I swiped the blury haze of unshed tears away just as Sam staggered through the unlocked door.

"I'll hold on," Sam said, small puffs of air lisping out his lips as his head fell to rest agaisnt the door with a thump. "I will." He swayed and his hand shot out to grip the iron frame for support as if in proof.

"Good boy, Sam."

"But you have to hold on, too, Dean."

"Oh, brother." I rolled my eyes.

"That's right, I'm your brother, and you still have a soul. A real soul." Sam pushed his hair out of his way. "The soul of a fighter, of a hunter, the soul of my brother. I can see it in your eyes, Dean, even if you can't. We have a choice. If we didn't, Michael and Lucifer would already be wearing us."

"What the hell, Sam." I raised a brow. "You practicing to be the future host of the Dr. Phil show, dork?" I pushed away from the wall and gave Sam a playful, but light punch to his shoulder.

"'We're going to turn the blood-covered ground into a field of red flowers,' Dean? You should talk, Oprah," Sam smirked, heading up the basement stairs.

"Shut up." I followed behind Sam cautiously, being sure he didn't tumble backward.

He barely managed the stairs, taking one at a time, legs wobbling beneath him -- a soggy newspaper When Sam reached the top step he teetered on the edge. He would have fallen back, if not for my hand dropping between his shoulder blades and giving him one small push getting him off that last step.

"Every thing's spinning," Sam uttered, his strength squeezed from him like a juiced orange.

"Easy, Sammy," I whispered. "Don't upchuck." I kept my hand firm against his back.

"Saving that for after this breakfast you promised to cook me." He leaned into my hand. "Hate feeling like this."

"If it's any consolation, I hate you feeling like this to." I gave him a pat, before letting my hand fall away and squeezing past him, heading into the kitchen.

Sam followed close on my heels and sat down at the table. "So, what are you making me?"

I opened the fridge and peered inside. "Burgers and beers? I smiled.

Sam grunted.

"Left over cardboard?"

"Rather eat leftover rubber."

I glanced over my shoulder. "Bobby's got a few frog legs in here." I smiled.

"You suck, Dean," Sam gulped. "Not much that won't put my stomach in detox for a few weeks, just forget breakfast."

"You need to eat." I cringed, putting the joking aside. "How about scrambled eggs and toast, pal?"

"Yeah, okay," Sam agreed, although reluctantly.

I went about gathering the supplies. "Hope you're ready for the best damn scrambled eggs of your life." I pulled out a fry-pan and started cracking eggs in a bowl.

"I'll brave it," Sam muttered tiredly behind me.

I nodded.

'Brave it.'

That's what we would do. Castiel was wrong. We were not prisoners of love. Michael was wrong. We were free to choose who and what we loved. What we did. The person we became. We chose to take the hard knocks and everything else that angels, demons, and life threw at us. Over and over again. We chose. Sam and I. And we'd keep on choosing as long as we had the courage to, as long as we had each other, as long as we had our souls.

The 'blah, blah, heavy sigh, end