All Your Dreams Are Still As New

A fanfiction by Velkyn Karma

Summary: In which Dean makes a different choice, or perhaps has no choice at all. An alternative continuation to 2.20, "What Is And What Should Never Be." Gen, no shipping.

Note: I was pretty sure I was never going to write anything for this fandom. Then I asked myself 'what if that went differently?' and the next thing I know thirty thousand words just sort of spewed out of my brain. Ew. Oops.

Note the Second: I had only seen the end of S2 when this fic was completed, so if it inadvertently contradicts, duplicates, or references something later, it's entirely coincidental and accidental! I haven't seen much farther than that, so please don't spoil me either!

Warnings: Swearing, some blood, "character death" (sort of), suicidal thoughts/actions (in the same vein as the original episode)

Disclaimer: I do not own, or pretend to own, Supernatural or any of its subsequent characters, plots or other ideas. That right belongs to Warner Brothers and associated parties.

"Hush—I think he's coming around."

Dean feels a shiver of recognition run up his spine at the voice. It's the first thing he feels at all as he checks back into the real world again, but other sensations catch up pretty fast. He's laying down, on a bed he thinks, it smells like sanitizer and antiseptic, and he can hear the faint murmur of activity far away underneath the voices. Hospital, probably. He's woken up in enough of them to recognize the signs.

"Thank God—I was really starting to worry, no matter what the doctors said..."

But not with those voices. He struggles to wake faster and is rewarded when his eyes blink open and his vision blurs. The faces surrounding him are difficult to make out at first, but slowly they swim into focus. Mom right at his side, and Jess and Carmen at the foot of the hospital bed, and—

"Finally," comes another voice, directly to his left, and that one he is all too familiar with. "Took you long enough. I'd guess you were catching up on your beauty sleep, but seeing as it didn't do you much good..."

Dean blinks again. Sam's trying to sound calm, but Dean knows him perfectly, enough to recognize the otherwise indistinguishable tremor in his voice, or see the concern behind the tired smile. He'd been worried.

Dean has to know why.

"Wh'happened?" he slurs, immediately trying to sit up. His mother immediately puts a hand on his shoulder to keep him still, and he obeys the unspoken request instantly, settling even if he really doesn't want to. Everyone that matters is here, but if something bad's happened—

"You really don't remember anything?" Sam asks, looking concerned. Dean shakes his head, and the four of them exchange glances. Dean feels left out of the loop, especially because he knows those glances are about him.

But they seem to recognize that he's not enjoying being excluded, because a second later Carmen speaks up. "You left the house," she explains. "In a total rush—you told me you had something to take care of, and you just left."

"You came to my house," his mother adds. "I was asleep, but you woke Sam up when you let yourself in..."

Dean turns his gaze to his brother expectantly, and Sam shrugs a little uncomfortably. "I don't...really know what happened, Dean. One minute you kept insisting you had something to take care of, and the next you were just...muttering nonsense, getting really was like you wanted to punch something. And when I tried to get you to calm down and take it easy you all of a sudden just passed out." He looked more than a little worried at recalling the memory, wearing that kicked-puppy Dean-please-don't-overdo-it expression Dean's all too familiar with on the Sam he knows better, and adds, "You really scared me man. You were burning up and ranting and...I've never seen you like that before."

"We ended up driving you to the hospital," Jess adds, even as she slides over to Sam to offer a little support. "You've been here for over a day."

"The doctors think it might be stress," his mother adds. "And you were running a pretty high fever at the time, so combining the two..." She looks concerned as she runs a hand gently through his hair. Dean's an adult and so past needing any kind of coddling, but he enjoys it anyway, closing his eyes for a moment. It's mom, being motherly, and he's not pushing that away for anything in the world.

"Why didn't you tell us you weren't feeling good?" she asks after a moment, now pressing the back of her hand gently to his forehead, like she's checking his temperature even though there's a computer screen with all his stats less than a foot away from where she's standing.

Dean shrugs and opens his eyes slowly. "Sorry. Came on kinda fast. Felt fine this morning." And then, after a moment, "What about the warehouse?" Because he's got this weird impression that he'd been in one recently, stalking through the dark after...something...and voices pleading with him to listen. But they're the barest little flickers of memory, and he can't hold onto them as they flit away into the back of his head.

He glances at Sam—he's sure Sam was there—but his brother is giving him an odd look, with even more of that pansy are-you-absolutely-sure-you-are-okay-because-I'm-expecting-you-to-fall-over-any-second expression than before, and then he says slowly, "There wasn't any warehouse, Dean. You came to mom's house and passed out there. Me and Jess took you straight to the hospital from there." The worried look intensifies, and he glances at Jess and Carmen, as if he's afraid to say something that'll set Dean off or prove he's even more crazy.

Carmen coughs, and then says with the clinical precision of a trained nurse, "Well, he was running a pretty high fever. It's not uncommon for hallucinations to set in past a certain temperature, and patients can sometimes get confused about where they are or what's going on. It's probably just a dream."

The explanation seems to satisfy the rest of his family, especially Sam, who looks slightly less worried that his older brother is cracking up. If only you knew the extent of it, Sammy, Dean thinks to himself idly. If they're all in a panic over him getting a little sick and delusional, he can only imagine how they'd react if he told them he'd spent his life hunting shit that goes bump in the night. They'd lock him in the psych ward for sure.

And Dean's definitely not interested in a rubber room, not when his brain's finally getting back into gear. The wish, he reminds himself. Things are perfect now, more or less. Could be better—he wishes dad was here, getting a chance to play baseball and be with mom and congratulate Sammy on his engagement. But he's got mom, and Sam's happy and safe, and he's even got a girlfriend of his own that's the girl of his dreams (literally even), and he'll take it.

So he doesn't fight the 'hallucination' explanation, even though it doesn't feel quite right. Something deep in his gut tells him there's something else at stake here and that warehouse was real and Sam was there with him. It doesn't matter. Instead he says, "Yeah, that's probably it...sorry, guys. Didn't mean to scare you any. It's been crazy at the garage, lots of stuff going on, y'know how it is...guess it went to my head."

They all nod and smile and agree. Carmen makes a couple sassy remarks, and Sam makes a few attempts at banter that are kind of pathetic compared to the Sam he's familiar with's clever repartee but, considering their relationship now (or lack of one) are still more than he could have hoped for. Jess smiles and laughs at their antics and is so very alive. And an hour later his mother finally shoos everybody out, insisting that Dean needs his rest and that they can come back bright and early tomorrow morning to help him home when the doctors release him.

No checking himself out early in order to get out of dodge before his fake medical insurance catches up with him. No hoping nobody ID's him and waiting for the feds to come around the corner to arrest him. No crappy motel to look forward to, and no exhausting ten hour cross country drives cradling a broken limb or trying to get comfortable while sore all over. He's got family waiting to pick him up and take him home.

It's like a little slice of heaven. He's never liked hospitals before, especially with the number of times he's almost died in one, but now he settles back on the bed comfortably and drifts off to sleep, looking forward to seeing everyone again tomorrow.

The warehouse vanishes completely from his mind, and doesn't come back.

Life returns to normal. And the crazy thing is, it really is normal. One hundred percent, civilian-living-a-totally-repetitive-everyday-life normal, when he stays in the same town for more than a week, reads the newspaper only to learn about current events around Lawrence, and doesn't have to worry about getting ganked from behind by some ghost or creature just by virtue of walking down the street.

It's great.

He swears off hunting completely. He's done with it. All of it. He remembers what he's been forced to pay, even if that life is gone like he hasn't otherwise lived it—all the blood, sweat and tears, all the sacrifices he's made, the life he had to give up, the people he's watched die. Or, maybe worse, he remembers the people that didn't die, and just kept suffering because of what the job did to them. He's so tired of that life, and this's like a second chance. A way to start over. You paid your dues, Dean, you did what you had to, you can stop pretending to be a hero now.

And he's going to. His life is better than he'd ever imagined it could be now. He's got his family together again, alive and safe and happy. He's not going back, not going to let hunting ruin him—them—a second time. He doesn't owe the world anything, especially not in a job as thankless as hunting gets, when half the time you save somebody's ass and they don't even believe it, or can't understand just how close they came to real peril. It's so much risk, so much danger, so much trouble, and now he's got too much to lose to ever want to go back to that.

So he doesn't.

And, thankfully, the life doesn't seem to come back for him, either. Nothing weird seems to happen in Lawrence, Kansas—it's a nice, quiet, perfectly normal suburban town. There's the odd mugging or robbery, a couple articles on drug busts, the occasional blurb about drunk driving car crashes—but no articles about mysterious suicides or strange animal attacks that typically mark an old job. Dean hasn't seen a damn thing out of place since he came back from the hospital after his fever incident, and he's never been so glad for it.

In fact, the only unusual thing happens when he's seeing Sam and Jess off, a week after they bring him back from the hospital. They'd stayed an extra week after Dean had gotten sick, just to help out and make sure he was okay. Sam never straight-up admitted to it, but it was clear Dean's passing out had unsettled him, enough for them to stick around a little longer. But they really need to get back to the college, Sam insists, and once they're reassured the family is back on track and Dean's back on his feet they arrange for a flight back, so they can get back to their classes.

Dean's not thrilled about Sam going back off to college. He wants to repair that relationship more than anything, and Sam's distance from him—literal and otherwise—is the only thing that really feels off about this wish. But the best way to fix things is to start small and help him out, so he offers to drive them to the airport. They accept, and while Dean's helping Sam carry all their bags out to the Impala he swears for a moment he's seeing double. Because that's Sam, in his neatly pressed preppy college clothes with a duffle slung over one shoulder, but he's pretty sure that's also Sam, in a beat up jacket with an startled, worried look on his pale face, and he jerks back in reactionary surprise.

"Dean?" Sam asks, and when Dean shakes his head once and blinks he's only seeing one brother again, giving him a wary, concerned look. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Dean says immediately, the lie rolling off his tongue easily from years of practice hiding ailments from his little brother. "Stood up too fast. Dizzy, y'know."

"Don't go passing out on me again," Sam grouses, half joking, half serious. He's still giving Dean that look, like he's not sure if things are okay. "You good to drive? We can still catch a cab..."

"Hell no," Dean vetoes immediately. "If you gotta go back, you're going back in style. Some people take limos, but my baby's way classier."

"If you say so," Sam says, but he's smiling a little hesitantly now, like he's not quite sure how to keep up the conversation and it's a little awkward, but not quite hating it, either. Dean grins despite the weirdness of the situation. Progress already.

He decides, in the end, that he'd probably just caught a flash of Sam's reflection in the hallway mirror when he'd stood up too fast, out of the corner of his eye. It's a shoddy explanation at best, but it's not like it's a haunting or anything. Hell, Sam's alive. There's nothing weird going on, and it doesn't happen again. No problems.

Weeks pass as he settles further into his new life, and decides he really enjoys being, well, domestic. He jumps at the chance to do simple household chores like taking out the trash and doing the dishes. He has a field day every time he does yard work, mowing the lawn and trimming the hedges and digging up dirt for entirely legal and legitimate reasons like setting up flower beds for Carmen. Once after a thunderstorm part of the ceiling starts leaking, and Dean is so enthusiastic about getting a chance to patch it up instead of tearing the house apart that Carmen actually asks him if he's feeling okay. He loves going to the garage for his day job, having the chance to earn some stable money without conning people out of it, and being able to fix things with his hands instead of kill with them. He likes having the chance to cook real meals instead of heating up crappy dollar dinners at a mini mart or living out of a can, and discovers he's got a surprising skill for grilling.

His family is a little bewildered at his exuberance in life, and treats it with a mix of being amused and mildly concerned. He doesn't really mind so much, because it's nice to have a family that worries, and it's not like they've got much to worry over anyway. He's not out beating up vampires and exorcizing demons, and really, doesn't every woman want a guy that's willing to take out the trash?

There are other things to adjust to, of course. For starters, it's weird having a girlfriend who's around for more than a day or two. Dean's so used to one night stands and ditching town without ever getting close to a woman, that it's weird adjusting to being in a committed relationship that's apparently being going on for a while, near as he can figure. But Carmen's great (and smoking hot), so he doesn't really feel the need to get away or move on.

And there's the hurdle of figuring out exactly who he was before the wish really took effect, because he often feels like he was dropped into somebody else's life halfway through. It's a hell of a lot more difficult than he'd expected when he can't exactly ask hey, can you explain this one thing about myself I should know but don't without his family giving him that concerned are-you-getting-sick-again look. Of course, the are-you-drunk look is even worse, when he does something completely natural for him that is apparently out of character for wish-him—like showing no interest in the blockbuster horror movie that comes out two weeks after his hospital stay, after supposedly rambling about it for weeks. Wish-him was apparently a diehard horror movie buff, go figure. If only he'd known what was really out there—but Dean does, and just can't be bothered with that crap anymore.

The most important by far is making sure his second chance goes to good use, by shoring up the few holes and imperfections that are in his current life. He spends a lot of time with his mother, visiting constantly in a way he's pretty sure wish-him never quite did, helping out around the house when she needs it, or just stopping by to chat and see how she's doing. He enjoys every minute that he sees her alive, and even ventures into the sappier side of things—usually Sam's territory—to make sure she knows just how much he appreciates her. Even weeks later she's still mildly bewildered by his apparent change of heart and all this extra attention, but Dean can tell she's happy too, and that's all that matters. He's got years and years of things he's wanted to say to her while hunting every nightmare that's out there and he's not going to give up the chance to do it now.

Sam is his other priority, and he tries even harder with that one. Sam's a lot less accessible than his mother is, half a country away in California studying law, but Dean does his damnedest to connect with the kid, to fix things. He's got to make it up to Sam, find a way to reconnect after all those years of never being close, find something in common that they can share. To find a way to be his big brother again, in every sense of the word. Not just the guy who picks on his little brother for the hilarity of it or bickers with him or relentlessly teases him about his dates, but the guy that looks out for him, too, protects him and offers advice and never, ever lets him down when he needs help. It sounds like Sam's only familiar with the first half in this new life, and not the second, and Dean's got to show him that it's there, no matter what it takes.

He does his best. He calls constantly, at least once a week, sometimes more, leaves voicemails when Sam doesn't pick up because he's studying or in class and tries to find something to talk about when he does. He emails back and forth too, or texts; sometimes Sam responds better to written word than spoken ones, when he's got time to think about an answer and isn't plagued with awkward silences as he tries to figure out what to say. Once Dean offers to come out and visit, which seems to throw Sam completely.

"You hate flying, Dean, and that's an awful long drive," he says, sounding a little exasperated, when Dean brings it up.

It's not, really, not for Dean, who's so used to roaming the country at breakneck speeds trying to get to the next job before another person dies that a casual road trip from Kansas to California is a breeze. But he can't exactly mention his non-existent country-wandering experiences, so he just says, "It'll be fun. Road tripping. Whadya say?"

Sam sighs. "Dean, look, I realize your warm, fuzzy ecstasy trip thing is more or less here to stay, and it's great that you're being a little less, well..."

"—of a dick," Dean supplies frankly, because, well, he calls'em like he sees'em, and if wish-him let his relationship with his brother go that badly, that's what he sees.

"—sure," Sam acknowledges dryly, "but I really gotta study, man, I don't have time for road trips or visits."

"Oh," Dean says, and wishes it didn't feel quite so much like a stab to the heart.

"Look," Sam says a moment later, sounding partly frustrated and maybe slightly guilty, "I don't mean it like that, it's just—"

"You're busy studying, I get it," Dean says. "It's fine." Thank God he's so good at lying to his brother—and that's the version that knows him pretty well. This one's easy by comparison.

"The holidays are coming up soon. Thanksgiving? Christmas? We'll get a break then and come down to visit like we always do. It's just a couple months, it'll be fine."

"Sure." A whole couple of months of not seeing Sammy. It unsettles Dean, who's not used to letting his eye off his brother for that long after all the recent stuff that happened in his hunter-life, but this wish-world is different. Nothing's hunting Sam. He's just at school like thousands of other kids. He'll be fine.

"Okay. Look, Dean, I gotta go, I've got a huge test tomorrow—"

"Yeah. Okay, Sammy, I'll let you go then. And good luck on your test, okay? Knock'em dead."

He can practically hear the confused expression that is no doubt on Sam's face at the nickname, but then the kid sighs and says, "Yeah, I will. Thanks, Dean. G'night."

It happens like that a lot, really. Dean tries, and he can tell Sam is surprised by it and maybe even a little happy, but he's always busy. It's not like Sam's trying to brush off Dean, or at least Dean doesn't get that impression. But the kid just doesn't know how to deal with his brother trying to get into his life again on top of all the other stuff he's dealing with at school, and things get awkward. It's frustrating to Dean, and he hates that he has to work his way back into his brother's life so slowly when they used to be so close, understanding each other on an instinctive level. But if it means getting back into Sam's life he'll take it as slow as he has to, work his way back in one conversation at a time, and finally make a difference and patch things up.

Things are almost perfect. And once he fills that final hole, things will be perfect. Dean's never been happier in his life, and he never wants this second chance to end.