It was ten thirty by the time Dean's phone hummed on the nightstand. He glanced at his watch and grimaced at the thought that he was in bed at this time, but dad had been adamant about it, said they had to get up early and that the following day would be long. Dean had to admit that he was pumped, probably wouldn't be able to sleep, and he had waited for Sam to call, to say he'd landed okay and was back wherever he was staying right now.

"Sam," he said when he picked up.

"Just wanted to let you know I got back alright," Sam replied. He sounded tired.

"Yeah, I kinda figured since it says Sam on the display and all," Dean countered and smirked. "Thanks for the phone, by the way. Another spare?"

"Yeah. Mom is hellbent on me having a phone if I need one. I guess the accident made her a little antsy about that," Sam said.

"Can't really blame her for that, now can you?" Dean shot back and shifted to get more comfortable. "So, you're really doing this, aren't you?"

Sam was silent for a moment. "Doing what?" he asked, his tone a bit cautious.

"Going back to school, getting that law-degree, hanging out with your snooty friends." Dean smirked and pushed his left hand behind the pillow.

"My friends are not snooty," Sam said, his tone almost thoughtful. "And yeah, I am. You got a problem with that?"

"I don't know, Sam. I'm just trying to put everything straight in my head here, trying to come to terms with the fact that we're staying in this reality, and you've already settled in." It didn't sound the way he wanted it to, but he figured Sam would know what he meant anyway.

"I've been here a bit longer than you have," Sam said. "You'll get the hang of it, Dean. You're good with cars. And you've always liked working with dad. This shouldn't be a hard sell for you."

He frowned, considered his response for a moment. "Guess not," he admitted somewhat reluctantly. "It's just ... I guess this is going to take some getting used to." He wanted to tell Sam that he wanted him here, in Lawrence, with him, but he didn't want to sound needy.

"Dean ... like it or not, we're going to have to play this game the right way if we want to stay here. That means me going back to school and you doing whatever you can to fit in with mom and dad. You have an advantage. You're not supposed to know everything about the family and the friends and the town. But me? Dad keeps reminding me of things I should know, which I don't, because I haven't actually lived this life. That's why I'm sticking with the amnesia story."

"I've got a problem, though," Dean confessed. "According to this made-up background story I have, I should know some important details about this world that I get the feeling I don't. Like if you hadn't mentioned that religion isn't a big thing, I wouldn't have known. So, is there anything else I should know?"

Sam sighed lightly. "I don't know. Stuff will pop up along the way. You'll just have to deal with it when it does," he said.

"Yeah, well, there's another issue about this that I don't like," Dean said and sent a quick glance toward the closed door of the room. "I don't like lying to them. I don't give a crap about anybody else, but I really don't like lying to mom and dad."

This was followed by a brief pause.

"Sam?" Dean asked.

"Still here. Look, Dean, I don't like it either, but if we want to stay here ... if this is a reward like you said ... then we're gonna have to. Just keep it to a minimum and try not to freak them out. They don't know anything about the supernatural. Just ... keep a low profile, get into the swing of things and then take it from there."

Dean pulled his hand out from behind the pillow and scrubbed his palm over his face. "Yeah, I guess," he conceded. "Just keep your eyes and ears open, Sammy, okay? Just because we haven't seen any sign of the supernatural here doesn't necessarily mean it's not here. So, don't let your guard down too much, okay?"

For some reason that made Sam chuckle. "You're such a worrywart," he chided. "Fine, I won't let my guard down. But there's really nothing to worry about."

"If you say so," Dean said, unconvinced. "Just ... stay in touch, okay? I need to know I can reach you if necessary."

"I'm only a phone call away, dude," Sam countered. "And, as I may have mentioned before, that goes both ways, Dean." He sighed again and yawned audibly. "Listen, man, I'm about to fall asleep standing up here. I'll call you tomorrow. You can tell me all about your first day of honest work."

Dean snorted. "It'll feel like play time," he said. "Anyway, I gotta get up early here, so I'll catch you tomorrow. Don't study too hard."

Again Sam chuckled. "Good night, Dean," he said and hung up.

Dean pulled the phone away from his ear and eyed it for a moment. Then he focused on the brand name. "Norca?" he muttered, switched the phone off and put it back on the nightstand. "Norca?" he repeated. "I guess some things are gonna be different enough to be weird in this reality," he muttered to himself, switched the light off and closed his eyes.

***

He had barely closed his eyes before a hand touched his shoulder, tightened and shook him once. "Time to get up, Dean."

John's gravelly voice betrayed his own fatigue and Dean burrowed further into the pillow, trying to will a new day away. "Aw man," he groaned. "Don't wanna go hunting today."

He wasn't even halfway awake, wanted nothing more than to not have to go out there and hunt whatever they were after. "We're not going hunting." John's tone sounded bemused. "We're going to work."

Awareness snapped into focus instantly and Dean pushed up on his elbows and squinted up at his father. "Huh?" He tried to make it seem like he had been dreaming, that the reference had been dream-induced. "Work?"

"Yeah, work. Like in fixing cars all day. Come on, get up. Hit the shower. Your mom's making breakfast. Let's hustle," John agreed and, obviously confident that he'd managed to wake Dean up properly, left the room again.

For a long moment all Dean did was just squint at the still open door while the thudding of his heart slowly returned to normal. Damn, he could have really messed things up with a comment like that. He would have to change things around, would have to be the first one out of bed to avoid being caught off guard again. It was a prospect that made him feel tired already.

With a repressed groan, he rolled out of bed and got ready, not entirely sure what he expected of this day other than the fact that he would get to spend it with his father. That in and off itself made it all worth it, even though there was that niggling little voice in the back of his head that kept insisting that this John wasn't his father, that his dad was dead, and he found himself wondering how long this fairytale land would stay real to him.

***

The garage

There were tons of cars sitting out back, most of them in some state of disrepair, and along the side of the building were about ten cars that needed some sort of repair done in the near future.

Dean eyed them for a moment and registered with some surprise that the majority of the cars waiting in line were old classics. There was one Honda Civic among them and one newer Beamer, but that was about it.

"We've got a lot to do," John said and clapped a hand onto his shoulder. "So, what can you do with cars?"

Dean considered his options, then glanced at his father. "Pretty much anything," he said. "What have you got?"

John's expression was unreadable. "There's a Dodge that needs a general overhaul," he said and nodded toward the garage itself.

"Okay," Dean agreed.

Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt – he was not yet comfortable with the idea of wearing an overall – he set to work and hauled the Dodge through the wringer. The problem, according to John, had been that the owner hadn't been able to make the car start and it didn't take long for Dean to figure out what was wrong. On top of it, he cleared out a few kinks in the car and after two hours, the Dodge was ready to roll.

He wiped his hands on a rag and eyed the car for a moment, then glanced around for his father. Mike, his father's partner, was talking to a customer and caught him looking around. Once the customer was out the door, Mike strolled over to him. "You lose something?" he asked.

"Nah, I'm just done with this one," Dean countered. "Where's my dad?"

"Probably buried in that pile of junk over there," Mike said and waved a hand at an old pick-up truck that looked like it had been disassembled. "So, you're done with the Dodge, huh?"

Dean glanced at the guy because of the odd undercurrent in the man's voice. "Uh ... yeah," he said. "Wasn't anything big either. It had a few kinks, but they're easy to iron out if you know where to look."

"Start the engine for me," Mike suggested.

For a moment Dean just looked at him, then shrugged, slid behind the wheel and turned the key in the ignition. The Dodge rumbled to life with ease, purring like a damned kitten.

Mike stared at the car for a second, then smirked. "Well, I'll be damned," he said. "You're a regular miracle worker there, aren't you?"

Dean shut the engine off again and climbed out of the car. "Why's that?" he asked and gave the car a once over before returning his attention to his father's partner.

"John gave you this car to fix because we couldn't," Mike said. "It's a way of testing new mechanics. This old broad hasn't been running for a year now."

That took Dean by surprise and he glanced over at the pickup again. "Okay," he said, uncertain of how to respond to this.

"John, get your butt over here," Mike called.

"What?" came the muffled reply from under the pickup. A second later, John pushed himself out from under the car, got up and came over to join them. "What's up?"

"He fixed it," Mike said and nodded at the Dodge.

John stared at the Dodge for a moment, then glanced at his watch before turning his attention to Dean. "You fixed the Dodge?" he asked, obviously surprised by this.

Dean half shrugged in reply. "Well ... yeah," he agreed.

For a long moment all three of them just stood there and eyed the Dodge. Then John suddenly grinned. "Well, I'll be damned," he said and clapped a hand onto Dean's shoulder. "I never thought I'd see the day when this baby would be ready to roll again. And you fix her in two hours?" There was an undercurrent to his voice that made Dean oddly uncomfortable. He wasn't entirely sure where to place that tone. John's grip on his shoulder tightened a little. "That's my boy," he said. "Well, since you're so good at fixing the unfixable, we've got a few more like it that we've considered giving up on. You wanna take a look at them?"

"Sure," Dean agreed and slowly began to realize what that undercurrent in his father's voice was. And he vowed to himself that he would do the best damned job he could with whatever dad threw his way from now on. Anything, really, to make sure he heard that tone again.

***

That evening

"You should have seen him. I've seen a few mechanics in my time that have impressed the hell out of me, but this? And that's my kid. I mean, you should have seen him."

John's voice was hard to miss and Mary's almost delighted chuckle added to the mix that made this just about the best damned day Dean had ever lived through. Okay, Sam should have been here too, but that aside. He dug his phone out of one pocket, flopped down on the couch and speed-dialed Sam's number.

"Dean."

"Hey, Sammy. How's tricks?" Dean countered with a grin plastered on his face that he knew would take a while to disappear.

"Funny, ha-ha," Sam countered. "What are you so happy about?"

"Ah, nothing. Just had a good day. What about you? Did you plow your way through half the library at Stanford again?" Dean asked.

"He fixed the Dodge. You know, the one we kept in reserve to test new mechanics. She runs like she's just rolled off the assembly line. And neither Mike nor I could ever figure out what was wrong and he fixes her in two hours flat. Sam may be a book genius, but Dean's a mechanical whiz."

The narrative from the kitchen kept going and Dean couldn't help a chuckle.

"Let's just ignore the fact that you couldn't care less about what I've learned today, but on the whole, I've had a good day too, yeah. I've just moved all my stuff into Jessica's apartment. Everything's the same here with her," Sam replied at the other end. "What are you giggling about?"

"I don't giggle, bitch," Dean told him in no uncertain terms.

"He obviously takes after his old man, doesn't he?" Mary sounded happy and it sent a pleasant shiver through him.

"I wonder if something like that is genetic. I mean, I come from a long line of mechanics. And he's ... he took to it like nobody's business. Even Mike was impressed and you know how hard that man is to impress," John continued.

"Dean? Are you still there?"

"Yeah, still here. So, you and Jess, eh? Well, there's every chance in the world that this is gonna work out way better than the first time. So, when's the housewarming party?" Dean asked with a grin.

"Not planned yet. We just wanna see how it works out first. As if I didn't know," Sam countered and chuckled. "So, how was your first day at work?"

"Good. I like this. This is fun," Dean said and glanced up when John stepped into the livingroom.

"Is that Sam?" he asked and Dean nodded. John held out a hand. "Let me just have a word."

"Hang on, Sam. Dad wants a word," Dean said and handed over the phone.

"Hey, sport. How's it going? Did you get home alright?" John asked and grinned. "Yeah, I figured. You could have called after you got in." A quick glance in Dean's direction and John shook his head. "Well, good. So, you guys moved in together today?"

Mary turned up too and sat down next to Dean. "You've done a great thing today," she said quietly. "I haven't seen him this giddy since we got married and I got pregnant with you."

He glanced at her and couldn't help the grin. "I've just always liked to work with cars," he said with a light shrug.

Mary smirked. "You really are your father's son," she said with affection.

"Well, stay in touch. And we wanna see that girl of yours as soon as possible," John said, then chuckled. "Don't get fresh with me, boy. You better watch it. You may be taller than me, but I'm still stronger."

"John, behave," Mary warned with a smile. "Give me that phone," she added and held a hand out for it.

"Yeah, that will be the day," John said with a grin. "Hang on. Your mom wants a word," he added and handed the phone to Mary.

"Hey, sweetheart. Did you get home alright?" she asked.

Dean just sat there and watched her and couldn't help but enjoy the whole exchange. The irony of how this whole thing made him feel wasn't lost on him either. It felt like Heaven in a world where religion was abolished. How was that for a kick in the pants?

"No, I know. You shouldn't listen to him. He's just a silly goose," Mary said. "Okay, sweety. You just take care of yourself and we'll talk next week. I love you." She blushed lightly. "Oh, get out of here," she chuckled. "Here's your brother," she added and handed the phone back to Dean.

"So, anyway," Dean said and smirked when both his parents left the room again to return to the kitchen. "You let me know if anything ... weird happens," he said more quietly.

"Nothing weird is going to happen. Remember?" Sam countered. "Listen, dude, I have this hot blonde waiting for me on the couch in the other room. I gotta go."

Dean couldn't help a laugh at that. "You horn dog, you. Who'd have thought?" he chuckled. "Stay in touch, Sammy. I mean it," he added more seriously.

"Yeah, I know you do. Later, bro," Sam said and cut the connection.

Dean snorted and shut the phone off, then just sat there for a bit while fragments of his parents conversation drifted in from the kitchen. A lot of it was about cars and how life was good right now and he couldn't agree more if he tried.

***

Jessica's apartment
Palo Alto, CA

Sam hung up and just eyed his phone for a moment. Dean's mood had improved a lot, and some of what dad had told him had made him understand that his brother had definitely found his niche among old cars that needed to be fixed. In his opinion, Dean liked to fix things. People, cars, lives. It didn't really matter. As long as he could put what was broken back together and make it work, he was happy.

"There's one hot blonde right here who's dying for a little attention."

He couldn't stop himself from grinning like an idiot and turned around to face Jessica, who stood in the doorway to the livingroom, wearing nothing but shorts and a cut-off top. "Well, I shouldn't leave you waiting then, should I?" he countered, dropped the phone on the kitchen table and slipped his arms around her. "Do you have any idea how good this feels?"

She pulled his t-shirt out of his jeans and slid her hands up his back. "Oh, I have a fairly good idea," she said, tilted her head back and looked up at him with that smirk on her lips that made him fall in love with her all over again. "So, how's the family?"

"So not important right now," he claimed and pushed her backwards back into the livingroom.

How they ended up in bed was something he couldn't recall later, not that it made a big difference. He only became aware of where they were when he woke up in the middle of the night and rolled out of bed, leaving Jess asleep under the covers.

He glanced back at her briefly before he headed out into the kitchen and opened the fridge. For a long moment, he just stood there and stared at the contents, unsure of what exactly it was he felt a craving for. Neither milk nor juice caught his attention, though. His gaze settled on the single beer and he stared at it for a long moment before he grabbed it and closed the fridge again. Then he settled down at the kitchen table and just sat there and stared at it while he tried to analyze the odd urge he suddenly had to drink a beer. It made no real sense to him. He didn't really drink a whole lot and usually settled for soft drinks or water rather than anything containing alcohol. So why was now different? Why was he suddenly craving beer? Especially when it was essential that he maintained the outward appearance of a recovering alcoholic?

He drew in a deep breath and held it, then reached out to touch the can and froze when he realized his hand was shivering. He stared at it, unsure of what the hell it meant. Then he grabbed the can and returned it to the fridge. But the thought was there now, consciously, and the craving grew. He spent the rest of the night watching television to distract himself away from it and everything he watched seemed to contain alcohol in one way or another. Whatever it meant, he figured he would have a day off the following day to catch up on his sleep and figure this thing out.

***