A/N: First SN fic! What can I say? I've always been in to time travel concepts, and I think the Winchester's of all people deserve a second chance.

VERY IMPORTANT: The first chapter of this story is very dark, because it was implausible for Dean to do something as drastic as going back in time (cliché, but hey, this is fanfiction) without him being completely desperate. Please bear with the angst! I wrote this story because I wanted to give the Winchester's a break, rather than to torture them. So no matter how it looks, this will be a HAPPY story, eventually!

Thank you for reading!

SECOND CHANCES

Be-beep. Be-beep. Be-beep.

It wasn't supposed to end this way. That, he was sure of. It wasn't how the stories ended; with the heroes ambling contentedly home after a long, hard fight for a world they had successfully saved. That was how it went. But this was no fairytale. And it wasn't a story; it was their lives.

Click. Whoosh, in. Click. Whoosh, out.

Dean wondered, as the pad of his thumb brushed back and forth across the back of his little brother's cold, clammy hand, how it had come to this.

"I can't accept this." He whispered hoarsely, for what felt like the hundredth millionth time that day. That week. Month? It had been that long?

"I won't."

His gaze lingered on Sam's face. His little brother possessed none of the soft, boyish innocence of youth that they had begun their journey with. His features had grown sharper, his eyes darkened by the things they had seen, the things they had done. Dean hadn't seen Sam…the real Sammy…since he had closed his eyes lying limp on the floor of that wretched church. Stull cemetery. The Devil's Hole; Hell's Gate. They were closed forever now.

As, it seemed, were the doors of Sam's life He had gone to sleep, and not woken up. Hadn't even moved. Dean pulled his chair closer to the hospital bed, leaning over the gurney rail to press his forehead against his brother's cheek. Letting out a long, slow breath, he let his own eyes slide shut. The cold of Sam's skin burned his own. Wretchedly, pathetically, undeservingly alive.

"This isn't right, Sammy. This isn't fair."

His hand automatically sought out the crumpled area of Sam's shirt; it had been stretched under the constant strain of Dean's fingers twisting the fabric. Right above Sam's heart. Barely a flicker of a beat. Thu-thump. An age. Thu-thump.

"We did it." Dean whispered in Sam's ear, the damned long hair brushing against his nose. He swallowed "We beat the big bad. Saved the world. We're heroes. We're invincible. Heroes don't die. We deserve our happy ever after."

Sam said nothing; the empty shell before Dean was nothing more than a mess of skin and bones and flesh. No real life. No emotion, no movement, no Sammy. His brother's face was slack and emotionless, mocking Dean, a pale imitation of the boy Dean had raised, loved, watched grow…and now, watched die.

Dean's eyes snapped open.

"What was the point, Sam?" Dean murmured, leaning up on an unsteady elbow, a hand sliding up to his brother's hairline, brushing rebellious bangs with clumsy fingers. Dead to the world. But not dead. Not at peace. Stuck between hell on earth and…who knew? Whatever. Heaven?

Somewhere along the way, Dean had lost all desire for greater things, for far-off places and dreams and glory. Instead, he had settled for one small mercy, one tiny saving grace. Family. Dad and Dean and Sammy, all together.

And then there were two. Dean and Sammy, alone in the world, but together. Still together, always together, and so it was alright. Dean could cope, just, with one less mercy. Now, though?

Dean had nothing. He was here and Sam was…God knew where. Somewhere nice, Dean hoped. Some place with lots of sun and books and a top of the range laptop. And Jess too, maybe. Mom and Dad as well.

"Was this all it was?" He stared blankly at dull whitewashed walls, the sensation of Sam's hair running through his fingers his last connection to reality "We went through all that pain, lost everything, gave everything we ever had…for this? For you to-"

He broke off. His throat had closed up, so completely that he nearly gagged. His neck was on fire, trying to strangle itself. It would be doing him a favour.

"I'm not going to tell you to fight, Sammy." He pointedly addressed not Sam's body, but the empty air around him "Because…we're tired. We're broken. What would we do, even if we went on? We couldn't have done it forever."

Once, he would have liked to. He had felt invincible; he could have gone on and on and on forever, the three of them, hunting evil and saving people and damned be the consequences. And one day they would all be just too slow and be gone. At least they would have gone down together. As it was, the stats stood at 1.9 recurring percent down, 1.1 recurring percent to go.

Dean licked his dry lips and winced as he tasted coppery blood. His wounds would not heal; he didn't want them to. He wanted to go back. He wanted time to be frozen as it was, in that one glorious moment when they had won, it was okay, and they were standing side by side watching the world grow brighter with each passing moment.

BANG. Then Sam had stopped smiling; a trickle of blood ran down his chin and he jerked and crumpled like a doll, a perfectly circular hole punched into his chest. Dean's everything had shattered then and there. He hadn't bothered to pick up the pieces.

"If you're going to go, let me know, okay?" He said softly, smoothing Sam's hair back from his face and almost smiling when it fell right back in place "I'm coming with you. You and me against the world, huh, bitch?" Jerk the memory of Sam retorted, and Dean faltered before continuing "Well, the afterworld…"

Be-beep. Whoosh, in. Be-beep. Whoosh, out.

"The results from the last scan will be in soon, Sammy. Today they might do it. Today they might agree to let you go. I don't want to, but…you said yourself. We've earned our rest, right? You want to go. And I've always done what you want, Sammy. We'll go together, hm?"

Slam; Dean jerks violently and his head snaps around to glare at the door, where a blurred figure in hospital white hesitantly stands.

"Mr Winchester?"

It was very odd to be himself again. To be seen by others as Dean Winchester; although, the one they knew as Dean Winchester was a suspected serial killer and a psychopath. Still, it was about as close as he was going to get.

"I'm Sam's new doctor, Doctor Clyde Hudson." Dean did not reply; the man wiped his face anxiously with a sweaty hand "As you know, we executed another thorough examination of Sam's condition;" he took a deep breath and babbled hastily on "these included testing for absence of papillary reflex response to light, corneal reflexes, vestibulo-ocular reflex, cranial nerve response to pain, and gag and cough reflexes."

Dean quirked an eyebrow almost imperceptibly, his features automatically reflecting the attitude which had once driven him. It had given him colour; he had enjoyed hiding behind the mask of a devil-may-care smartass. But it had served its purpose. He had nothing left to hide from, and nowhere left to hide should he want to.

"Doc, I don't really give a fuck how many long words you've learnt." The words sounded cold and dead, even to him "I know about the five tests. Just tell me. Either tell me we can let him go or tell me he can come back."

He was tired. He needed it to be today. So God-damned tired…

"I…cannot. Sam failed the gag and cough reflexes test, I am afraid. It is unfortunate, as this is the response controlled on almost pure relay reflexes that are not dictated by the brain, but under law he is still technically alive."

When does life end? When you stop breathing? When your heart stops beating? When your mind stops thinking, when the clock stops ticking? It was ironic, considering their line of profession, that Dean and Sam had become the living dead. Dean just happened to have not stopped moving yet.

"So what you're saying is…" His empty tone was so unnatural that the Doctor actually flinched, as though he had been struck. Dean turned away from the door, fixing his gaze once again upon his brother's slack face. He had tried to bring it to life in his head. Had pasted every expression of Sam's he knew upon it. The creases when he frowned, the crinkles when he laughed, the way his mouth stretched when he smiled. Every day of his life, Dean had felt his world grow a little less dark every time he heard Sam laugh, saw him smile. Now even that seemed centuries away.

"Sam's gone, but because of some random muscles still reacting, he can't be…"

Free. Sam couldn't be free. He just continued to fade, grow paler and paler and further and further from Dean's reach as he struggled to hold on to him. Be-beep. Whoosh. Be-beep. In. Out. In. Out. Growing weaker, slipping away.

"I'm sorry, Sir."

"No you're not." Dean hissed, tensing. After a moment, however, he slumped, exhaustion and despair drowning his anger.

"You know Doc, if I had any fight left in me I'd probably be angry. I'd slam you against the wall and demand that you find another way." Dean remembered the vibrant young man ready to take on the world, and smiled bitterly. "I was like that once, you see. The law says Sam's still here. He's not. He and me, we're living corpses. I just happen to be more animated; I guess I always have been."

That young man had been a fool to think he could win.

"Mr Winchester…your lawyer informed me that you have a meeting scheduled with him in just a few minutes to discuss your defence for your trial. Two armed police officers are waiting outside, ready to escort you to a secure facility. I shall keep you informed of-"

No.

"Leave." Dean whispered, so quietly he wondered for a moment if the word had even made it past his lips. Beside the door, the Doctor shuffled his feet uncomfortably and cleared his throat.

"I'm sorry?" He inquired. Dean did not look at him.

"Just…leave us alone. Please."

The Doctor gazed at the bent form of a boy in a man's broken skin, stretched and torn beyond his comprehension. The haunted dark in the boy's eyes frightened him; reflections of intolerable pain and suffering made his soul shudder in pity.

"Ten minutes." He said, curtly, trying to quell the trembling in his limbs "Then the officers shall escort you."

Dean did not watch him go. He felt a pressure building inside him; rage, terror, despair, they twisted together in an endless mass of blackness that threatened to swallow him whole. He wanted to scream till his throat was raw, he wanted to cry until he bled dry.

"What's keeping us here, Sammy? The law? God? What more could we possibly do? If we this will never end, then what's the point in staying?" He was pleading now, begging "What do they want from us?"

Perhaps he had gone mad. Talking to a fucking corpse. He slammed a fist against the metal solidity of the gurney before jumping to his feet and screaming out with all the life left in him:

"WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME!"

So long as I'm around…nothing bad is gonna happen to you.

Stupid, cocky bastard…

I want you to watch out for Sammy, okay?

I failed…Dad. I failed. I'm so sorry, so fucking sorry….

We can't run from this. And you can't protect me.

Sammy…Sammy, Sammy, little brother…I'm sorry. I couldn't save you. I tried and tried but it wasn't good enough and I couldn't do it, couldn't save you…

"Please…" Dean begged, begged for forgiveness, begged for help "I've given everything I ever had to give…"

Be-beep. Be-beep. Be-beep. Be-beep. Be-beep. Be…beep. Be…beep. Be-

Silence. Everything stopped. The nurses in the hallway stopped walking. Doctor Hudson froze, a cup of coffee halfway to parched lips. Sam's ventilator stopped feeding air into his lungs, yet it was not needed; every cell in his body was frozen.

"What do you want from me, Dean Winchester?" A soft voice asked of the empty air.

Dean whipped around, and was understandably surprised to find a small, dark- haired boy, seemingly about eleven years old, sitting cross legged at the end of Sam's bed. He was pale, but not unhealthily so, and was dressed in perfectly ordinary looking jeans and a sweatshirt. His black hair was neat and combed back.

Dean's eyes narrowed. The boy had an unnatural look to him, despite his normal appearance. The eyes, Dean decided. Unnaturally sharp, sky blue eyes. The boy was smiling at him with what seemed to be pity, and something else…sadness?

Those eyes were so very very sad…

"How the hell did you get in here? Who are you?" Dean demanded finally, automatically throwing a warning arm protectively in front of Sam's prone form. The boy blinked, and looked slowly down at Sam. His eyes flickered, grew darker, and his smile faltered.

"I am nothing. I am everything." He said, pleasantly, but with that damned underlying sadness which struck Dean in a place he didn't like to admit existed. He growled. What the hell?

There was a long, long silence. Dean glared at the boy. The boy smiled sadly back. Slowly, very slowly, Dean lowered his arm from protecting Sam just a little, and edged closer to the boy.

"You're not human." He stated, bluntly, but the boy only continued to smile. For some inexplicable, inescapable reason, Dean knew the boy was not here to hurt him. He could not explain it. He just knew.

"What do you want?" He asked, quietly, and the boy's smile widened. He looked old. Far, far older than his child-like body seemed to be able to convey.

"That's a silly question. You called me here. You said, didn't you? You asked me what I want from you."

Dean felt the enormity of his situation slam into him (ironically) like a large, momentum packed truck.

"Holy fuck."

The boy actually laughed at that, and moved from the end of the bed with a neat hop. Dean immediately tensed as the boy stood just a few feet from him, and frowned. He seemed…strangely blurry. Indistinct. Like he wasn't wholly here…

"Well, Dean. You have done what you have done. I have nothing more to ask of you. What have you to ask of me?"

The boy clasped his hands behind his back and looked expectantly up at him. Dean, for once in his entire life, had no idea what to say.

"I don't understand." He said, numbly, and the boy nodded understandingly.

"Not many do."

The boy stepped slowly around Dean, continuing to stare at him with that odd gaze. Then, he turned to look at Sam, and his face fell. Dean was caught in indecision; his every instinct was screaming at him to grab the kid and throw him away from his brother, but…some higher power was telling him, no.

"You once said…your dearest wish was to be a family. To be beside your Mother. Your Father. Your Brother. That was what you wanted."

Dean stared at the back of the boy's head, his heart banging painfully against his ribs. Every pulse of blood that ran through his veins felt enormous, constricted. It was suddenly difficult to breathe.

"Yes." He whispered, hoarsely. It was all he could force out. The boy turned to look up at him, and Dean found himself unable to look away.

"Do you still want it?"

Want it? Want Mom, Dad, and Sammy, all together again? All of them? It seemed too much to hope for, too much to be real. Want it? He would give the world back to the demons for it. Maybe it was time to be a little selfish for once.

Dean cleared his throat, and nodded, just once. The boy seemed to stare right into him, intimately inside and all around him, and for once, Dean let himself go and projected his every desire for all the world to see. Every feeling he had ever felt, every thought he had suppressed, every wish he had hoped for…this is me, he thought. This is what I want the most.

After what felt like hours, the boy nodded in return.

"I can only do so much to help you. I cannot change what has happened. But I can grant you the power to do so."

Dean frowned, his brain feeling strangely numb. This couldn't really be happening, could it? It must be some kind of joke. Or dream, probably. He was lying asleep, sprawled across Sammy's bed waiting for the doctor's to come and try yet again to drag him away. He winced. Maybe he should stay asleep a little longer…after all…this was a good dream.

"What do you mean?" He heard his own voice slur, his speech sluggish, and the boy frowned slightly.

"Your story began when the Evil One took your Mother, Mary Adelaide Winchester. The night of the 2nd November, the year 1983. I can send you back seven days prior. During this time, you must accomplish what it took you a lifetime to accomplish if you are to succeed."

A tiny pinprick of hope ignited in his chest, and his heart began to pump harder, faster, as though in anticipation. The hope blossomed and spread, sending spirals of adrenaline and pure strength flowing through him with such intensity that he shuddered at its brightness. For the first time in a month, he felt as though he had come back to himself.

"You're saying…we can change everything?" He said, uncertainly, hardly daring to speak the words aloud "If we kill the demon before it kills Mom?"

This was utterly absurd. Why was he even considering this? He had learnt long ago that it did no good to ponder on what could have been, what might have been done. The past had been and gone, done and done. You couldn't change history.

"We?" The boy inquired, softly, glancing down at Sam. Dean moved around the boy to stand beside his brother's head. He eyed the stupid, overly messy mop of hair, the gangly, freakishly long limbs, the freak that was his brother, his life, his partner in crime. Automatically, his lips quirked in a fond smile.

"I kinda miss having him around." He muttered, with a false reluctance that did not reach his expression. The boy looked knowingly at him, his eyes glimmering with quiet amusement.

"Very well."

Dean blinked, and the boy was gone. Panic rising, he whirled around, his breath hitching in his chest when he saw the boy sitting beside Sam on the bed, one small hand pressed carefully against his brother's horribly pale skin. His heart skipped a beat.

"What did you-" He demanded heatedly, but the boy cut across him:

"Once in the past, your brother shall be as whole as he was before the Evil One was vanquished." Dean's brain took several moments to process the words, which seemed a jumble of incomprehensible nonsense to his ringing ears. The boy smiled affectionately down at Sam, smoothed his hair from his face in an odd mimic of Dean's own actions just minutes earlier, and drew away. Turning to Dean, he fixed him with a significant look.

"You have my word." The pledge echoed and rebounded inside Dean's head, as though asserting the truth of the words. There was a long silence.

"Why are you doing this?" Dean asked, quietly, exhaustion seeping into his tone. The sadness in the boy's eyes grew darker, and Dean felt suddenly that his own heart was breaking just by looking into them.

"You believe only in what you know; and all you know is evil." The boy said, regretfully, almost as though he was to blame "Tell me, Dean, is it so difficult to believe that there is good in the world, too?"

Dean's mind switched to default setting mode; in other words, the defensive walls slammed up faster than you could say 'sonofabitch'.

"But this is…" He spluttered, searching desperately for a rational explanation for all this; the philosophical crap was doing his head in "I…I don't buy it. If you can do this, then why not just fix it all yourself? Why send us back to do the dirty work?"

The boy's face grew colder, more impassive, and his expression sent chills down Dean's spine.

"Free will. Both a blessing, and a curse. To be free, you first have to decide whether you truly want to be."

For a long moment, they simply stood, listening as the gears began to grind and the world began to move once more. Out in the hall the nurses continued on their way, the doctor dropped his coffee and cursed…but the machine forcing air into Sam's lungs did not re-activate, nor did anything move within the hospital room.

"Seven days, Dean Winchester."

The boy had gone, and the world was slipping away. Dean's vision was beginning to blur at the edges, the room swimming in and out of focus, and every particle of his body felt as thought it was wriggling out of his skin. Suddenly, his entire body was on fire, burning, torn into a million pieces yet remaining together. He tried to cry out but couldn't, his lips felt a hundred miles away, and everything around him was shattering to pieces with a roar which deafened him.

Then, he was falling. Lost in an endless abyss of darkness and blinding light existing together in an endless war, being pushed down, down, down, his body simultaneously on fire and frozen, imploding and exploding. Buckling under the weight, Dean felt consciousness spiralling further and further from his grasp.

Finally, his world fell blessedly dark.

A/N: Any comments, suggestions, or any kind of feedback would be really appreciated! Should I continue the story? Either way, thank you for taking the time to read!