"Are you sure about this?"
Sam looked over at Dean and smiled indulgently. "I'm sure, Dean. Now stop asking."
Dean grumbled and tossed his duffel into the trunk before shutting it. "Fine, whatever." Then he paused, looked at Sam again, and said seriously, "But if you start feeling shaky about it, you tell me, all right?"
Sam was about to answer when a disgruntled voice called, "If you're gonna drag us out of bed at the crack of dawn to say goodbye, you could at least, ya know, say goodbye."
The brothers turned just in time to see Niko frown at Cal and even half-raise a hand to smack him on the head before seeming to catch himself and lowering it. His scolding, though, was perfectly audible from there.
"It's ten o'clock in the morning, I've been up for hours. When will we manage to kick this laziness of yours?"
"I'm injured!" Cal protested.
"Yes, and also annoying. Do you think there's any chance of that healing as well, given time?"
Cal rolled his eyes, his arm protecting his stomach, quite obviously relying on Niko to keep him upright and steady, whether he was willing to admit it or not. "Whatever. I'm just saying that I don't see why we're here, is all."
"Well, you can leave anytime," Dean said lightly as he and Sam reached them.
"We just thought that since you and I took turns nearly getting each other killed, we should mention the fact that we're leaving town," Sam added, not exactly sounding as if he was joking.
"Hey, I did not nearly get you killed. Nik just roughed you up a little. And me getting shot wasn't exactly your fault, either."
"Oh, it definitely was," Sam said, and Dean frowned at him darkly before turning back to Cal and Niko.
"So…uh…it was good seeing you guys again, I guess," he said awkwardly, not really knowing what else to say. He was just no good at stuff like this…especially since he wasn't entirely sure he meant it.
Ca. grinned. "Relax, man. Feeling's mutual."
"The feeling that whenever the four of us meet up, things get bloody," Cal explained casually. "Which means we'll never be able to honestly say it's good to see each other. That feeling."
"Oh. Well, as long as we know that—" Dean shrugged and turned to clap Sam on the shoulder. "C'mon, Sammy, let's hit the road."
He was following Sam to the car when something occurred to him, and he stopped and turned. "By the way, here's something interesting. When we checked out, the guy told us our bill was already paid." He looked closely as he spoke, but no change of expression registered on either face. "And when I called the doctor who helped us, he mentioned that someone paid Sam's bill in full, and then some." He paused and looked a little closer, but still there were no visible signs of recognition. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about that…would you?"
Niko seemed to think about it, then said simply, "No."
"Huh." Dean started to turn away again, but then he stopped and said seriously, "Thanks."
If Niko thought it was about time, he didn't let on.
"Think we'll see them again?"
Dean looked in the rearview mirror as he pulled out of the parking lot and watched Niko start helping Cal toward the taxi that was waiting for them. For some reason the sight warmed him, felt familiar, and he couldn't bring himself to gloss it over.
"I think, Sammy, that we'll keep on meeting up with them whether we like it or not. We're stuck with them just like we're stuck with each other." He grinned at his brother, only to find Sam staring at him with something akin to wonder. "What?"
Sam shook his head, still not losing that awed expression. "You're really not leaving, are you?"
Once again, Dean felt the urge to pretend he didn't know what the question meant—but Sam didn't deserve that. "No, Sammy. I'm here to stay."
Sam smiled, and Dean returned his eyes to the road.
Dean's hands tightened convulsively on the wheel, his eyes whipping over to Sam's face. His smiling, earnest, happy face.
It had been too long since Dean had seen that face, and his laughter—and Sam's, another thing thought lost—filled the Impala as they left New York behind.
Author's Note: Okay, that really is it for this story! Thank you so much, everybody, for reading and reviewing, especially considering how long this story got!