As much as I enjoyed writing the original version from Mike's POV, I have to admit, I really liked the way this chapter turned out. Hope you do too!

Chapter 18

Dean was grinning when he met Sam outside the middle school.

"Ready for work?" Sam asked with a smile. Dean nodded in reply, leading the way to pick up Mikey.

"I threw away the stupid list," Sam told him.

Dean glanced over in surprise. "My list?"

Sam beamed at him. "Yup. Tore it up into tiny pieces first."

He ran a hand affectionately over Sam's head, ruffling the long hair. "Knew I kept you around for a reason."

Sam chuckled at him. "Yeah, yeah," he said as he ducked away.

Dean noticed the crowd near the playground before they could hear the shouts.

"What do you think's going on?" Sam asked, pointing out the crowd.

Dean shrugged, but he quickened his steps. The shouts sounded more like kids watching a fight than some kind of game. Knowing Mikey, he'd be right on the front lines too. Worry overshadowing common sense, Dean rushed into the crowd of kids. He could see the fight over the sea of heads, and the kid on the ground looked an awful lot like Mikey.

Heart pounding painfully in his ears, Dean shoved his way through the crowd. A larger boy had Mikey pinned, sitting on his chest and whaling away with both fists. Dean didn't recognize the other boy, but it really didn't matter. Red flashing before his eyes, Dean grabbed the larger boy by the collar. Holding the boy by the collar with one hand and jeans with the other, Dean lifted him off of Mikey and threw him to the side. He stood between Mikey and the other kid, watching the boy roll to a stop in the dirt.

"It's okay, Dean," Mikey huffed. Dean refused to take his eyes off the other kid. Mikey started to walk by. "I got it now."

Dean grabbed Mikey by the shoulder to hold him back. Had the kid lost his freaking mind? Mikey tried to worm out of his grasp.

"Dean, I said I got it. Let go!" Mikey tried pulling away, so Dean tightened his hold.

With a glance at the other boy, who clearly had a little smarts since he was staying on the ground, Dean spun Mikey around. Both hands firmly on his baby brother's shoulders, Dean marched him through the crowd and towards home.

"What are you doing?" Mikey demanded, squirming and trying to escape from Dean's hold. "Let me go! I'll get him this time!"

Dean snorted in disbelief. That other kid had been seriously kicking Mikey's ass. He exchanged a look of understanding with Sam. Mikey might be fast, and strong, but he wasn't a fighter. At least Sam was on his side with this one. When they were close to home, Dean released his little brother. Mikey raced toward the house, shouting something about Dean embarrassing him.

"What was I supposed to do!" Dean shouted at Mikey's retreating back. "Let him beat you to a pulp?"

Mikey slammed open the kitchen door, leaving it open in his haste. Dean scowled at the door, hoping for once for Mom to be home to shout at them for infecting her clean kitchen.

"What the hell happened?" Dean heard Pop demand the second Sam walked through the door. Oh, great. Now he'd be in trouble for it from Pop too.

"Remember what I told you about bullies picking on Mikey?" Sam asked. When had Sam told Pop that? "Well this dude at Mikey's school just wouldn't quit. He had it coming."

"Had what coming?" Pop asked slowly, as if he were afraid of the answer. Dean closed the kitchen door.

Sam grinned. "Dean."

"Dean, what did you do?" Pop asked and he sounded kind of funny, almost like he was afraid of the answer.

Dean's eyes met his and, for a change, did not look immediately away. "Some asshole had Mikey pinned on the ground, beating the crap out of him. I stopped it and now he's pissed at me."

Anger coursed through his system at the unfairness of it all. He spent all of his free time looking after his little brothers, keeping them safe, and when Mikey should be thanking him the kid turned on him. Turned on his big brother. The little shit.

"Um, Sam? Think you can look after Mikey? We're late for work." Pop was still looking at him funny, but at the moment Dean was too ticked off to care.

"Sure, Pop. No problem." Sam pulled out a ziplock bag and started filling it with ice. Dean moved to go back out the door after dropping his schoolbag on the floor by the door.

"No. You need to change first." Pop tossed him the light blue coveralls waiting on the table.

Dean nodded before leaving the room. Upstairs Mikey ignored him, sitting on the windowseat and looking out the window with his back to Dean while Sam tried to coax him to use the ice. Dean decided to return the favor. If Mikey wanted to see who could freeze who out, the kid was in for a battle. Dean shed his school clothes in favor of the coveralls. When he glanced at his reflection in the mirror before heading downstairs, he was shocked to see his name on the left side.

He took the stairs two at a time, eager to start his first day at work. Maybe he'd even have some time to check out the cars for sale. Dean strode into the kitchen, pointing to his name. "How'd you get this so fast?" he asked quickly. Was there such a thing as a one day uniform service?

Pop shrugged. "Actually, I've been kinda hoping you'd ask to come work at the shop."

Dean felt the grin seep into his face at the words. Pop really wanted him to work at the shop! He held the door open for Pop, wondering what life at the shop was really like.

Right now Dean only had one set of coveralls, so they had to be washed nightly. When he came back to the room after checking on the wash, he found Sam and Mikey sitting on the side of the big bed. Mikey's eye was already starting to change color, darkening from red to a deep purple. Yeah, he had a nice shiner starting there. Dean wanted to ask what they were up to, but Mikey had been giving him the cold shoulder all evening.

"Hey, Dean," Sam said, waving him closer. "Mikey has something he wants to tell you."

Dean scowled but he stepped closer anyway.

"Sorry," Mikey mumbled, staring at the floor. Dean crossed his arms over his chest, waiting.

"For?" Sam prompted, elbowing Mikey in the side.

Mikey sighed, eyes still downcast. "For saying you embarrassed me."

Sam looked up at Dean grinning. "Well?" he demanded. "Good enough?"

Dean shook his head, watching the grin drop away. "Fight?"

Mikey groaned, his head lifting. "I thought I could take him, Dean. Honest."

Dean glared at his baby brother. That other kid was huge!

"He pushes around some of the other kids, but he never actually hits any of them. I figured if I forced him into a real fight, he'd back down." Mikey's face twisted into a sour expression. "Didn't work out too well."

Dean chuckled and shook his head. He motioned for Mikey to stand up. His little brothers exchanged a confused expression before Mikey stood. Dean reached down and pulled Mikey's hands up, holding his arms in a decent defensive position. Taking a step back, Dean jabbed towards Mikey with his right fist.

"Keep that arm up," Dean instructed. Mikey nodded, paying attention now. At least this way, maybe Mikey would be able to stay off the ground until Dean could arrive to save his butt.

Working at the shop was freaking awesome. Pop had paired him up with this cool old dude, so he could learn from someone with experience. He had plenty of experience in being quiet and paying attention and it was really paying off now. The old dude, James, liked to talk. While he taught Dean how to rebuild a carburetor, he also talked about his kids and pretty much everyone who worked there. It was odd, but the lessons stuck in his mind just as well as the stories.

After a week, Dean decided to clean up their tool rack. He didn't bother asking, James never seemed to care when he took some initiative.

"Nice," James said as he worked. "I've been meaning to do something like that." He nodded as Dean kept organizing. "Did I ever tell you about my first job? It sucked."

Dean chuckled to himself as James launched into yet another story. This guy was a real character.

"Hey, Dean?" James whispered, jerking his head at Pop's office. "Is there anything going on with Jake?"

Dean frowned at James. The only thing he could think of regarding Jake was the fact the guy's family vacation was the topic of conversation at the dinner table last night. And that Pop had no idea how many kids Jake had. "No. Why?"

"Your dad had him in there for about half an hour this morning," James said with another worried look.

Dean shook his head. He thought Pop had forgotten about it. "It's nuthin'."

"You're sure?" James pressed. "Because if Jake's in trouble for something, I could go talk to your dad about it."

Talk Jake into having two kids instead of three so Pop could be right and he could be wrong? Yeah, right. Actually, Pop would love that. Dean had a bet with his little brothers that even if he was right, which he was, Pop wouldn't admit to it tonight at dinner. So Dean shook his head again before eying the carburetor waiting on James' bench.

"Oh, that's for you," James told him. "I wanted to see how much you remembered." He shrugged at Dean. "Whenever you're ready to get started. It's for that Impala on the lot, so it's low priority."

"Which one?" Dean asked as he headed for the workbench.

"You know, the black muscle car I caught you checking out two days ago." Dean's eyes jumped to James in surprise. "That is the car you're gonna pick, right?" James grinned. "Your dad told me you could have any car in our lot. It'd be a good one."

Dean shrugged and ducked his head. He hated being so obvious.

"Good choice," James told him. "Now let's get started."

Dean always enjoyed working with James. James talked the whole time, kind of like Sammy, and let Dean figure things out on his own. When he was really stuck, James always seemed to know and would slip in a hint or some directions while telling his stories. Time to leave always came too soon.

"Dean!" Pop's voice was so close it made Dean jump. He had been concentrating so hard he hadn't noticed Pop walking up behind him. A hand squeezed his shoulder. "Easy, son. It's time to go home."

"Okay, Pop," Dean replied as he reached for a shop rag to wipe his hands.

"Pop?" James asked. "Really? You call your dad Pop?"

Pop chuckled. "Since he was six, I think." Pop's hand squeezed his shoulder again. "Still don't know where he heard it."

Dean shrugged but he grinned at Pop as he tossed the shop rag to the side. "Ready."

Pop pulled out the keys. "Then you drive. I'm beat."

Yes! Dean's grin broadened as he snagged the keys.

"James, did Dean tell you which car he picked out?" Pop asked.

James smiled at him. "Nope, but I'm pretty sure I guessed it. The sixty-seven Impala, right?"

"That's it," Pop announced proudly. "It got me to thinking. What if we contacted some of the vintage car clubs and let them know we can work on older model cars? I'll bet we can land some restoration jobs."

James nodded thoughtfully. "That could work."

Pop turned him around. "I'm going to make some calls tomorrow. Night, James! Lock up?"

"Sure thing, boss!" James called after them.

Dean wondered briefly if he was being allowed to drive home because he was right about Jake and Pop wasn't going to say so at dinner. Well, honestly, he didn't care as long as he got to drive!

At home, Dean took his time showering before dinner. It wasn't like anything Earth-shattering was going to happen anyway. Sam and Mikey were literally bouncing off the walls. They couldn't wait to see what happened tonight at dinner.

At first Dean thought Mom and Pop both forgot. Pop was egging on Sam and Mikey to talk about their days, pretty much ignoring Dean. Which was fine with Dean. If he was going to be told he was wrong every time he opened his mouth, he'd just as soon they not ask him anything.

Sam had just launched into a story about how unfair his history teacher was when Mom interrupted.

"Dean?" Mom asked. "Don't you have something to say?"

Dean shook his head as a tense silence descended on the table. He shoveled in a forkful of food, hoping it would stave off more questions.

"I think you do," Mom said in that sing-song voice which meant he had something to own up to.

"If the boy doesn't have anything to say, that's fine, Kate," Pop said, much to Dean's surprise. Oh, so Pop wasn't planning on saying anything. Yeah, he figured that.

"No, it's not," Mom argued. "He told you yesterday that you were wrong, now it's time for Dean to apologize. Dean?" Mom set down her fork to stare at him.

Despite Mom's steady stare burning into him, Dean ignored everyone and continued to eat as if no one had spoken. He wondered what Sam and Mikey thought of all this.

"Dean?" Mom asked again. Dean wondered how long he would be able to hold out before he had to apologize for being right.

Pop cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Um, actually, Dean was right," he announced. "Jake does have three kids. He probably got their names right too, I don't remember."

Dean looked at Pop out of the corner of his eye, to see if he really heard that or if maybe it was wishful thinking. Pop's face was kind of ruddy, like he was embarrassed. When Pop looked at him, Dean's eyes snapped back to his plate.

"Oh. Well," Mom sounded kind of flustered, but Mom was never flustered. "In that case, Mike, you owe Dean an apology."

Dean set his fork down. Pop owed him an apology? Him?

Pop cleared his throat. Dean waited silently to see what was going to happen. "Um, sorry, Dean."

"For doubting you," Mom prompted.

"Sorry for doubting you," Pop parroted. Holy crap! He lost the freaking bet!

Dean nodded, then resumed eating. He glanced up to glare at Mikey and Sam, who were openly staring over the apology, which was virtually unheard of from adults in this house. At the look from Dean, Mikey and Sam dove into their plates, racing to see who finished dinner first. Dean took his time, finishing his meal later than the boys.

When all three were finished, Mikey and Sam chorused, "May we be excused?"

"Don't you want dessert?" Mom asked, surprise written all over her face.

"No, thank you!" Mikey and Sam jumped up from the table and raced upstairs. Dean sighed and stood, intending to follow.

"Dean," Pop caught his arm as he tried to leave, "what's going on?"

One side of Dean's mouth turned up in a smirk. "I lost a bet," he admitted. Pop gave him an odd look as he released Dean's arm. Dean headed slowly out of the kitchen and up the stairs. As if going to school and working weren't enough, now he was going to be so damned sore he probably wouldn't be able to sleep tonight.

The instant Dean stepped into their room, Sam and Mikey both launched themselves at him. Dean staggered under their combined weight. First he picked up Sam, who hung from his shoulder, and flung him on the bed where he bounced about a foot in the air. Next he grabbed Mikey around the waist. Sam barely rolled away in time for Mikey to land safely in the center of the bed. Dean set his feet apart and braced himself as Sam raced around the room, heading for him. When Sam jumped, Dean caught his little brother to send him sailing through the air on the now empty bed. He kept catching and flipping the younger boys until they heard a heavy knock on the door.

The younger boys were really wound up now. Their heads snapped up at the sound and they raced out the bedroom door to see who could reach the front door first. Not wanting to be left out, Dean ran after them.

"I got it!" Pop yelled from downstairs.

Dean paused on the landing with his brothers to see who was at the door. Pop opened it and his jaw dropped.

Concerned, Dean waved for his brothers to stay as he headed slowly down the stairs.

"Hey, Mike. Can I come in?" A deep voice, one which sounded safe and warm, came from the front door. Intrigued, Dean took the last steps two at a time.

"Get out!" Pop shouted and slammed the door.

Dean had never seen Pop react so violently to anyone before. Worried now, Dean rushed to where Pop leaned against the door. His eyes were wide and he was breathing hard.

"Pop?" Dean placed a tentative hand on his shoulder. He squeezed until Pop looked at him. "What is it?"

Pop swallowed hard. "Nothing, son," he whispered, his voice shaking. "Go back upstairs."

The knock at the door turned into a pounding. Maybe his brothers weren't the only ones who needed a little protection from time to time. Dean gently pulled Pop away to open the door. A large man stood just outside, his hand raised to pound again. "Can I help you?" he asked.

"Yeah, you can. I'm looking for Dean and Sam Winchester. Can you help me?" The man's voice rang out in the evening air.

That voice. He knew that warm, safe voice. And the man looked so damned familiar. The man said Dean and Sam Winchester. No one used that name. No one.

"Dad?" Dean asked, amazed. No, it couldn't be. Could it?

"Dean?" The man sounded relieved.

So, Dad remembered him, and freaking left him here anyway! All the years of feeling abandoned by this man, the man standing right freaking in front of him, surged up and out through his fist. When it connected with Dad's jaw, pain shot through his knuckles and up his arm. And it felt so damned good!

He watched with satisfaction as Dad landed on his back with hard thump. Dad was sprawled on the ground, holding his jaw. "Guess I deserved that, huh?" he laughed from where he lay. "At least you didn't grow up soft. That'll help."

"You son of a bitch!" Dean shouted, fury overcoming his better sense. The man actually had the nerve to judge how he grew up? "You come back after thirteen years? Go to hell!"

"Ironically, Hell is the reason I'm here. I've found a way to track the thing that killed your mother, Dean. I want you to help me kill it." Dad stood up to face him. Dean was close to Dad's height now but Dad might have twenty or so pounds on him, not that it would do the man any good. Right now Dean felt like he could take on an army single-handed. He kind of hoped John Winchester would pull something to give him an excuse to hit his biological father again.

"I said: Go. To. Hell." Dean glared at his father.

"Dean," Pop's voice was calm and steady. He felt a familiar hand on his arm. It was the hand that taught him how to ride a bike and drive a car. It was the hand which showed him how to change the oil in Mom's car. It was also the hand which taught him how to throw a football. As he shook with rage, Pop's hand gently squeezed and Dean knew he could do what he needed to do, what he had to do.

"You left us," Dean's voice was barely above a whisper. "You abandoned your family. You don't have the right to come back here now. Pop said Get Out. So get out!" Dean slammed the door in his face. He closed his eyes, leaning heavily against the door and breathing hard. He waited for the sounds of his dad abandoning him again. After a few moments the noise of an engine starting broke the silence, then tires squealing as a vehicle pulled away from the house.

"He's gone," he breathed, sliding down to the floor. Part of him had hoped for Dad to stay, to apologize, maybe try to make things right. But Dad left, the way he had thirteen years ago. Without a freaking word.

He stared up at Pop while his racing heart settled. "Dads leave," Dean told him. He knew Pop never understood why he refused to call him Dad. This was the first time he felt he could put it into words. "I'll never be a dad. Maybe a Pop, but never a dad."

Pop smiled at him and squeezed both his arms warmly. For perhaps the first time, Dean felt like he really belonged here, and not just because he was Sam's brother. He felt like he had a place here which was just for him. God, how had he been so blind?

"Dean?" Sam and Mikey were still standing on the stairs. Mikey's mouth was hanging open. Sam looked close to tears. Oh, crap. How much of that had they heard?

Dean struggled to stand but Pop pulled him up to his unsteady feet. The boys raced down to him. Each attached himself to one of Deans' legs after he was standing. Man, he liked the feel of both Sam and Mikey hanging on to him like this. Especially right now.

"Pop?" Sam cried, tears starting down his cheeks. "You won't let that man take Dean away, will you?"

"Dean's not going anywhere," Pop said softly.

"Why did you call him Dad?" Mikey asked, his head pressed against Dean's stomach.

"Because I'm adopted," Dean said, ruffling both boys' hair. "He used to be my father." He exchanged a look with Pop. Dean was grateful when Pop did not mention Sam was adopted too.

"I have to talk to Mom." Sam ran to the kitchen. "Mom!"

Ah, crap. Dean hoped Sam hadn't heard Dad asking for him too. That son-of-a-bitch! If Sam started having nightmares about this, he was going to hunt Dad down and finish kicking his ass. Dean tugged Mikey along to follow Pop who was chasing after Sam.

In the kitchen Sam was hanging on to Mom, tugging her arms excitedly. "Can that man take Dean away?" Sam demanded.

"What man?" she asked as she turned to look at Pop. Pop sighed, shaking his head. "John? He was here?" she whispered as a strange expression crossed her face.

"Dean's not going anywhere," Pop said again in his 'mow the yard now' voice.

Dean shook off Mikey to kneel next to Sam, to look up into his younger brother's face. He grasped Sam's shaking arms in his hands. "Sammy, it's okay. He's gone." Wow, Sam was as scared of him leaving as he was of being kicked out. A rush of affection for his younger brother flooded through him. "And if he comes back, I'll hit him again," he assured Sam. He wouldn't leave Sam. Not ever.

He heard a gasp from Mom. Dean tried to ignore it. He knew how much she disliked it when he was in a fight, and he had started this one. The thought that he should be grounded occurred to him, especially since Pop saw him start the fight.

Sam flung his arms around Dean's neck. "Don't let him take you without me," Sam cried. "I have to look after you!"

Dean stood, lifting his sobbing brother with him. He shot Pop a quizzical look, but Pop only shrugged. Great. Nobody knew what was wrong with Sam. Dean made eye contact with Mikey. There were tears in those eyes, too. They needed a distraction, something normal and routine. It was too late to play outside.

"Did someone mention dessert?" Dean asked softly, hoping Mom or Pop would catch on.

Mom nodded quickly. "Absolutely. Dessert." She bustled around the kitchen gathering dessert plates and setting them on the table. "Cherry pie and ice cream."

Relieved, Dean carried Sam over to the table. After settling Sam in a chair, he waved for Mikey to sit on his other side. Both boys scooted their chairs as close to Dean as possible. Dean made sure he had a smile on his face as he nudged each of his brothers. They both seemed calmer sitting at the table while Mom and Pop served pie and ice cream.

"So, Dean," Pop asked as he pushed over a plate, "have you given any thought to college?"

College? Seriously? "Not really," Dean said with a shrug, wondering what Pop meant.

"Well, maybe you should," Pop stated as he passed around more dessert. "A business degree could be helpful, especially if you're interested in running the garage one day."

Dean's head snapped up to look Pop right in the eye. He sure didn't look like he was teasing. Yeah, okay, maybe he had a pretty good spot in this family, his family. A slow grin seeped into his face as he gave a slight nod. "Maybe someplace local?" he asked tentatively, wondering if they would expect him to move out to go to school.

"Of course," Mom replied brusquely. "The house wouldn't be the same without you."

That warm feeling Sam had given him a few moments ago was back, and it was overwhelming as it flooded through him. Dean sat staring at his pie until Sam nudged his arm and nodded at his plate. Then Dean ate slowly, not tasting the food, while his mind whirled with possibilities. College. Running the shop. God, he had a future! It was too much to take in all at once. Maybe the ideas would settle in more over the next few days, which was fine. He had time. Plenty of time.