Notes: Spans pre-series through season seven. Title comes from the song Help I'm Alive by Metric.

Warnings: references to suicide, alcohol, drugs, and canonical character death.

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When Sam is nine years old his father shoves a gun into his hands and collapses back onto the couch with his bottle of whiskey. Dean's mouth twists in sympathy, but he only gives a tiny shake of his head. Sam's eyes are stinging and his throat is aching but he won't cry, can't cry, Dad's drunk and it would only make things worse and Dean's eyes are begging him not to cause trouble tonight.

He turns the gun over in his hands.

His teacher says the thing in his closet is only in his head.

He wonders if maybe a bullet would scare it away.

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When Sam is sixteen his brother gives him a pill and a belt to bite down on and flinches along with him as he pulls the needle through his skin. It hurts like hell, but that pill is effective and afterwards Sam feels better than he has for days and months and years. It's artificial and shallow and he knows it, can feel it, but for once his thoughts are quiet and he sleeps easily.

He wakes up and it's all back to normal, pain in his side, Dad on his back, noise in his head.

He waits until Dean's not looking and opens the first aid kit, finds the pills, notes how many remain.

He imagines swallowing them all at once and never waking up again.

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When Sam is twenty-two his love appears in the corner of his eye when she's not burning in his dreams. He's perfectly aware of how unhealthy it is, but it's all he has left of her and he clings to it. Dean is worried and he doesn't want that, but he fakes a smile and pretends to eat, pretends to sleep, and Dean doesn't really want to talk about it any more than he does so the silence above a vengeful spirit's grave is never filled.

He thinks he might know what it's like to persist out of grief and vengeance alone.

He watches the flames flicker and sees her face.

He thinks he might want to know what it's like to be put to rest.

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When Sam is twenty-four a soldier drives a knife through his spine and he wakes up a day later with an aftertaste in his mouth. There's still pain in his back and evil in his veins, but Dean is so happy to have him back that Sam doesn't question where exactly he came back from just yet. There's a flavor stuck in the back his throat which he thinks is probably death but it tastes more like peace and he's afraid to swallow in case he loses it completely.

He puts a bullet through Jake's head without even a flinch.

He thinks maybe he's committing a sin.

He thinks probably he's performing a kindness.

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When Sam is twenty-five his brother dies.

He is going to kill Lilith.

Then he's done.

He wants to die bloody.

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When Sam is twenty-six the devil offers him sympathy and understanding and safety for him and his loved ones. It could be his destiny and his damnation and his salvation, but he refuses time and time again. Dean's not there and when he is there he's distant and angry but Sam deserves it, and he doesn't deserve what the devil's offering so he doesn't take it.

He has to fix what he broke.

Even if he destroys himself in the process.

Especially if he destroys himself in the process.

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When Sam is twenty-nine his mind buckles and breaks and the jagged pieces look like Lucifer shoving a gun into his hands. Dean pulls him back from the brink, but quickly backs off as if Sam's sanity is a slightly cracked piece of glasswork and not a million shards all over the ground. Sam's hope is waning and his strength is fading but he won't break, can't break, everything's gone to hell and it would only make things worse and Dean's eyes are begging him to just be okay tonight.

He turns the gun over in his hands.

Dean says Lucifer is only in his head.

He wonders if a bullet would scare him away.