Disclaimer: I own nothing Supernatural. And whilst I do occasionally Hurt, I do not own this song, not Trent Reznor's words, nor Johnny Cash's voice.

Author's Note: Too much Johnny Cash plus too much Supernatural, leads to too much angsty contemplation.

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel.
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real.

There was something about the dreams, the ones after, that soothed him in an odd sort of way. Seeing her plastered to the ceiling, blood dripping to his face, warm and salty-sweet. The heat of the fire, burning his eyes, choking him, even in his sleep.

It was real, every redundant, panic-filled moment.

It was the worst night of his life, the one he'd wished he could forget and yet, for some inexplicable reason, took a masochistic joy in reliving.

Because it was also retribution. Her own. And he deserved every bit of it, every gasping breath he woke with, every awful churn of the stomach to follow. He let her die. And no matter what Dean said, he knew that he was to blame.

And he knew that he needed to suffer for all he had caused.

The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything.

But his gift had saved lives: his, his brother's, however many others. Demon-given or God-made, didn't matter when the outcome was the same. A second chance, for someone. An ace up their sleeve.

It was torture, of course, every time. Feeling like his head might actually explode, skull cracking at the seams, blood and brains and that which made him him, all oozing out in euphoric agony.

And what he saw…death, pain, fear, sacrifice, wrath. Dean, Max, Jenny, Jess, Dad. It was too much to see, too much to know. Too much to last until after the vision waned, world returning to its upright state, images fading from Technicolor blur into drab truth.

Too much to always remember.

He's to the point now that he knows when one's coming, can recognize the dull ache that precedes the vision crashing down around him. An all too familiar pain.

What have I become
My sweetest friend?
Everyone I know goes away in the end.

It always comes back to her, first and foremost. Because he loved her. Without ever even knowing her, he loved her most of all. That vague impression of what she might have been. The brief echoes of what felt like her voice, sounding in his ears. No, Sammy, when chasing a ball into the street. And, So proud of you, when holding his acceptance letter in his hands.

He didn't just crave a mother, an ephemeral feminine presence to guide him or hold him, soothe away his sorrows, chase away his fears. He craved his mother. The kind-hearted, take no shit – according to his father – tall, beautiful, blond.

Call it kismet. Call it Freudian. But he found the answer to his midnight prayers on his second week at Stanford. The square peg to the round hole in his heart. Because she didn't quite fit the bill, wasn't quite what he'd been yearning for all those years.

She was more. Better. Just what he'd always wanted without ever even knowing it. And he loved her. Without her ever even really knowing him, he loved her most.

He should have known better than to think that he could get away with that.

And you could have it all
My empire of dirt.
I will let you down
I will make you hurt.

He didn't cry when they fought, didn't cry when he left. Didn't let loose a single tear for all he'd lost, all he'd given up. He wouldn't let himself, stubborn pride covering for juvenile arrogance. Faux indifference taking the place of grief, of guilt.

Because, really, it was just as much his fault. For holding him too tight, not wanting to let go. And Sam hated him for that. Hated him for trying to make him into all that he had been, and all that he had lacked. Hated him for not seeing, not letting himself see, that it just plain wasn't what he wanted. You have Dean, he had said, you don't need me. And in his tone was the implicit, I don't need you.

But it was a lie. Because he was his father, the man he loved and hated and fought tooth and nail not to resemble, despite being his spitting image.

So when the flames grew higher and hotter, ash and smoke and the smell of burnt flesh pricking at his eyes, stifling his breaths, then, he let himself cry. Because he finally realized what his father's legacy would be, what it now was. Fire and sorrow.

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar's chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair.

He remembers reading Eliot in high school, junior year. The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock. He remembers one line in particular. There will be time, for visions and revisions. He remembers thinking even then, I'm not so sure.

Now he knows it's not true. There is no time. It used to be that everyday he woke without an angry ache or slicing pain was a good one, every night he went to bed, both he and his brother in one whole piece, was a lucky one. Now everything is measured in clips of good that outweigh the bad, the evil. He has a thought of sacrifice, commits an act of due diligence, and sees himself as Sam, the son, the lover, the hero, the brother, all that he has been.

Then come the times of anger, hate, a burning need for destruction.

He's no misanthrope, never has been. But lately he just wants to watch people die, feel their blood soak through his skin, their life ooze out between his fingertips.

It's coming, and he knows it. But when Dean asks if he's all right, his voice always catches, tongue stills at the roof of his mouth, an omission worse than any lie.

Because he's lost enough already, and losing his brother would be the last straw.

Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear.
You are someone else
I am still right here.

But even with the lies and false assurances, Dean continues down that path. Because he's not stupid, and Sam never has been a good liar.

So it happens everyday. Everyday he looks a bit more lost, a bit further gone. A bit older and more jaded and pained. He can see it in his face, in his eyes, every time he steals a glance at his older brother's form.

So why bother trying, when running from the truth, ignoring it, hoping for the best, had never gotten him anywhere?

So he asked him a favor, begged and pleaded and manipulated him into agreeing. Because Dean would do anything for him, and Sam knew that.

He told him to do what John said, no matter what, follow through with his instructions. Because as adept as Dean was at following Dad's orders, he was even more certain to abide by Sam's wishes.

Even if it killed him, which it surely would.

Because Dean's not nearly as strong as he'd have everyone believe. And there are things he just can't take. Like having to kill his own brother.

So he can't help but think, as he makes it through another day, still mostly himself, mostly not evil, that Dean's the one who's really changing, shutting himself off, sharpening his unabashed sense of cynicism. Perhaps if he's able to work long and hard enough at it, one day he'll be entirely jaded enough to do as he's promised.

One day he'll be as inhuman as Sam himself is destined to become.

What have I become
My sweetest friend?
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end.

Mom. Jess. Dad. Those with the bond of love, family.

Others, connected to him by something else, something frightening and horrifying, and too solid and real to deny. Max. Ava.

Dean, fading further everyday. Falling while still clinging to a useless hope, holding on by the very tips of his chewed-up fingernails.

Sam. The Sam he is, was. The Sam who would never pull the trigger on a gun pointed at his brother's head, loaded or not, possessed or not. The Sam that would never let a demon into his body without a fight, a hell of a fight, let alone let one in that would kill a hunter, hurt Jo, go after Bobby and Dean.

Caleb. Pastor Jim. Webber. Others he'd never ever met, never would meet, never could. In the end, just by being born, being allowed to live, Sam Winchester would walk the earth like a plague, cutting down countless innocents as he passes.

And you could have it all
My empire of dirt.
I will let you down.
I will make you hurt.

"You know, I've tried so hard to keep you safe," he'd said once, not so long ago.

"I know," came forth, the only true response, even from a mouth that was not his own.

"I can't. I'd rather die."

He played it back, that fleeting conversation he'd never even had, barely even heard from the depths of his body where his soul was being kept. That demon was too much. He let it be too much. And that was just a lowly member of the Fallen.

This was even more. This was his destiny, a curse than filled every vessel in his body, a promise given the world before he'd even entered it.

Because no mother could a kill her child, she'd been taken from him. Because his father had waited too long, he'd been kept apart from him. Because his brother stilled his own hand, stubborn faith etching his name onto his tombstone, he'd chosen to leave him.

"I'd rather die," over and over again.

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way.

Only fairy tales end in happily ever after. And this is no fairy tale, he thinks, gun in hand, grip tight despite blood-slicked fingers.

It shouldn't have happened this way. But so much had led them all down this road, so much that one single turning point could never be discerned, never be pinpointed. But that didn't stop him from thinking – final thought to ever flick across his conscience mind – that if he could just go back, have just one more chance, he'd do things differently.

No matter what became of him. If it meant that they'd all still be alive and well, all whom he'd loved – Mom, Dad, Jess, Dean – he'd do everything differently.

He would find a way.