They were running late. The getaway from dealing with the harpies unleashed on Philadelphia was not quick. The creatures had ingratiated themselves into the community. Evil rarely came at people in its true form--it was insidious and believable; filling a need people did not know existed.
Mac knew they were on the job but requested their presence, all of them, in New York City by three o'clock Saturday. They thought they would make it with time to spare, but the things they hunted rarely made allowances for social timetables.
They had stopped at a gas station, changed into less stained clothing and washed off the worst of the grime in the sink. Dean chauffeured them to Mac's building were they were waved in by the doorman.
Dean raised his hand to the hunter standing guard in the lobby. He was part of the extra protection Mac required. Extra protection that since the loss of so many hunters made Dean feel a little more comfortable.
"He looks like a CIA operative," Sam commented.
"The other owners are thrilled with the protection,” said Caleb Rufus arranged for them, a trio of hunters that has a security business on the side. That's Everett- he's a favorite of the women in the building."
"You jealous about losing your status?" Dean shoved Caleb.
"Mac's probably happy he hasn't had to move in awhile," Sam added as they made their way to the elevator.
Mac's 15th floor condo had a view of Central Park. While not the penthouse, it was high enough to have a great view and low enough to get out of the building using the stairs. Caleb gave a cursory knock on the door, but was quicker with the key.
The foyer gave a view of a formal family dinner happening in the dining room. Dean looked down at his jeans, the hole by the knee.
"Did Mac mention he was having a party?" Sam tugged self-consciously at the sleeves of his shirt.
Dean could feel his brother’s discomfort. Sam was still in hiding, afraid of what people would think about him. Dean thought if he was willing to work past Sam’s issues, then it was sending a message to the other hunters to do the same. No one needed to know about their rough patch, or the cracks they were still mending.
Joshua greeted them first. "You're late." He held up a bottle of champagne to Caleb. "Drink as much as you can. You'll need to fortify yourself. I'll try to hold them off."
"What's this about, Josh? Are you buzzed?" Dean eyed Caleb as he took a swig of champagne.
"The happy couple is coming." Josh moved so he was standing next to Sam, opening up Dean, Caleb and Sam to the others.
"Happy couple?" Dean mouthed to his brother.
Sam pointed to his left hand, third finger. It made sense to Dean and he gripped Caleb's bicep while pulling the bottle out of his hand, hiding it awkwardly in his leather jacket.
Mac reached them first, towing Esme by her hand beside him. "I was getting worried."
"What’s with the family gathering, Dad?"
"Mayor Bloomberg married Esme and I today." Mackland smiled. “Your grandfather stood in for best man."
Esme stepped forward and kissed Caleb on the cheek. "We wanted you boys to be there. We held him here for as long as we could."
Dean prompted Caleb forward, and Caleb gave Esme a hug. "I think you know that things don't always go as planned." Dean had done enough prompting, and Caleb rallied, reaching a hand out to his father. "Congratulations. This is a surprise."
"A good one I hope," Mackland replied.
Caleb's silence was a little too long. Dean covered for him. "Any surprise with food is a good one. It smells like chicken. I just love chicken, don't I, Sammy?"
"Yeah, Dean loves chicken. Congratulations," Sam said, giving Esme a kiss on the cheek and shaking Mac's hand, too.
"I’m going to say hi to Grandfather. It’s been a while." Caleb excused himself, which Dean recognized as taking a moment to lick his wounds.
"Perhaps you’ll be more successful at prying him away from my grandmother,” Joshua said, following him out. “He insisted on sitting next to her at the dinner table."
Mackland ran a finger over his brow, watching his son leave. "I should have told him alone. I wasn’t thinking."
"Maybe we should have waited," Esme said, her hand going to Mackland’s arm.
"Carpe Diem," Dean said. "We needed some good news." The death of Ellen and Jo weighed on him. "Damien will come around. Give him a little time for the champagne to kick in." Dean pulled the bottle from his jacket.
Dean enjoyed the dinner, relinquishing Joshua's bottle of champagne, and kept up an appropriate conversation for the small gathering of Jocelyn, Cullen, Joshua, Carolyn and Bobby. Caleb sat near Mac, while Dean and Sam were seated on the other end of the table near Bobby, who kept saying that he was really surprised Esme chose Mac over him. He thought they had more of a connection. It was apparent to Dean it was just a pretence. He was shaken from Ellen's death and had made Dean tell him in detail about Ellen's last moment on earth with her daughter.
Sam felt he was not in a hostile crowd and brought his shoulders down a notch. Dean left his brother inside and pulled two beers from the refrigerator and took them outside where Caleb leaned against the railing. The city below was filled with lights and motion. "Damien, do you want the speech about how you didn't lose a dad but gained a family, or the story about the bird, the cat and cow?"
The mention of his father's parable got a smile out of Caleb. He took the offered beer. "I get why he did it. With Bobby hurt, Ellen gone, I think he didn't want any regrets. I'm happy for him, them."
"Yeah, I can see that." Dean raised his eyebrows, calling Caleb out for sounding and acting distant.
Caleb lifted the beer in a mock toast. "Well maybe I'll get a buzz going like Josh, and everything will seem peachy."
Thankfully, Carolyn was watching over Joshua who seemed to be too happy about the marriage, going so far as to give a toast to the newlyweds, overcompensating for Caleb's lack of enthusiasm. It was a fun train wreck to watch.
"Now that's a good idea." Dean removed the cap from his beer with his ring. "Dude, you always had this thing about not sharing your people."
"My people? Deuce, I research cults, I don't run one. Though it isn't a bad idea."
"The people you let in, that you are close to. It's cool 'cause you would do anything for them, but you don't want them to change." To Dean, Mac and Esme should have been married a long time ago, but their sons got in their way and affected their timing. The newlyweds seemed to come to an understanding that their sons would always be a priority for them, but they could still be there for each other too.
"And you embrace change so well?" Caleb teased.
Dean did not reply at first. "I'm trying to roll with the punches."
Caleb lifted Dean's chin and moved his face from side to side. He had gotten an elbow to the face by one of the harpies. "Seems like you should have ducked."
Dean shrugged. They got the job done. "Mac said he wants to talk to us."
Caleb sighed, took another big gulp of the beer, then started to play with the label.
"What?" Dean asked. Caleb knew something.
"Things are changing, Deuce, and I'm not talking about Esme redecorating." Caleb put the bottle down on the small outdoor table. "Mac wants to handover The Triad. He wants us to takeover. Marrying Esme was the last sign that Mac was ready to retire. He would not have married her if it meant exposing her to more risk."
Dean didn't know what else Caleb said after 'takeover' as he sat down hard on the iron patio chair. "Maybe you're wrong." Dean tried to think of a time when Caleb had been wrong or misunderstood.
"We're going to find out right now," Caleb answered as there was a tap on the glass French doors. Mac was knocking with Sam behind him. They joined Dean and Caleb on the balcony.
Sam looked upset; Dean frowned, trying to figure out what had happened. Had Mac already talked to Sam?
"Son, I want to apologize again. Esme and I decided very quickly to make this official." Mac rubbed a hand over his mouth. "I wanted you to be there, happy with my decision."
"Dad, we're good. Just as long as you don't have any more kids, Josh doesn’t call you Dad and I stay Cullen's favorite."
Mac nodded. "I think we can manage that."
With that situation diffused, Dean wanted to address his main concern. "You said you wanted to talk to us?"
Sam answered instead of Mac. "Dean, I told Mac everything-about Ruby, the demon blood, the final seal. . ."
Dean was proud of his brother for telling Mac about his downfall. They only left Mac out because of his position, and Dean didn't want to feel the disappointment that he had not been a good brother.
"Bobby had already told me," Mac said quietly. "But, I am proud that Samuel told me himself. You all need to know that I always have an open door for you to come talk to me. I would rather you didn't keep secrets, from each other and from me, especially now."
Dean accepted the admonishment and hoped that was the end of the conversation. He started to stand. "Well, if that's everything then I think we should break out those cigars that you save for special occasions."
"Actually, no, that wasn't the reason why I wanted to speak to you boys."
Dean resumed his seat, and tried for a passive face.
"I always thought John and Jim would be by my side when this time came," Mac said, looking out to the distance as if seeking out the hard to see stars in the New York City sky. He returned to the present. "But we've all had to deal with the unexpected. I wanted to give you boys as much time as possible to find yourselves, and you have… all of you becoming men to admire because you have each overcome so much." Mac put his fingers over the silver band of The Brotherhood. "I am going to retire this Triad so the next one can begin."
They remained still; Dean could clearly hear the conversation taking place inside. Bobby was teasing Joshua about his interest in the wedding plans. Dean wanted to leave and join them, but duty and honor to Jim, his father and Mac, kept him on the balcony..
Sam interrupted the silence. "Mac, I can't be The Scholar, not after all I did. All I told you-"
"And don't forget Lucifer wants Sammy and Michael wants to inhabit me," Dean added. "I don't know if we're going to walk away." He didn't know if there would come a time where he would allow Michael in, and then what would happen? Would Sam give in? Caleb was already talking about tempting dreams from the devil. "You might want to re-think this."
Mac put up his hands in a calming gesture. "I've given this a lot of thought. It's time because you need to be The Triad for the extra protection it provides. You've been looking for Triad Power. Once you find it, I hope it can help, but in the meantime the three of you together as a full Triad can be powerful all on its own."
Sam shook his head, lost in the quagmire of the recent past. "Other hunters are supposed to respect the positions of The Triad. They aren't going to respect me when they find out what I did."
Mac grabbed Sam's forearm and pulled him in closer. "You are going to be The Scholar. No one is perfect, and it is about growing to become a better person, learning from your mistakes."
"It's not your opinion we're worried about," Dean commented, making eye contact with Caleb who so long ago had been reviled by the other hunters, determined to mark him as untrustworthy because of his lineage. But Caleb did not add any argument. He followed the discussion.
"The hunters respect all of you. You have the witches willing to work with you." Mac gestured to Joshua. "You have angels on your side."
Unlike his son, Mac had not had the privilege of meeting the angels, but like his son, he wanted to believe they were benevolent in nature no matter the evidence against them. Mac's logic was that Castiel's quest to find God showed not all was lost with the angels.
Dean put up two fingers. "Two angels not at full power." He included Anna. "The rest are against us."
"Deuce, if we don't do this now when are we going to? There is always going to be another excuse. We can't avoid this forever." Caleb had embraced his role as The Knight, desired it in fact. Dean knew this, didn't want to deny his friend who embodied the spirit of The Brotherhood.
"Not forever, Damien, maybe a year or so," Dean explained. In a year they would see if they were succeeding against Lucifer or if he would have to allow Michael in as much as he resisted the idea.
"I'm not Victor." In Mac's eyes was a plea. "I am not going to run away with my bride to Hawaii. My life, our lives are about you boys and the future."
In the end it was Sam who swayed his decision. "Dean, I want to do this." Sam's hand was splayed on his chest. "I've got a lot to make up for, and The Brotherhood protects humanity. I have to do that."
Dean closed his eyes, trying to envision him formally being The Guardian, adding onto his responsibility, but like his brother had said, helping humanity. He would not be alone. He would have Sam and Caleb. He nodded his agreement.
Joshua gave a rap on the door, but didn't wait to be invited in. "Pardon my interruption, but Cullen has invited my grandmother to stay with him and Bobby."
"That's quite a nice gesture. There is plenty of room-"
Caleb stepped away from the railing of the balcony, rallying to Joshua's side. "No way. No way are the grandparents hooking up. It's sacred. Can't you do anything to stop that?"
"Dude, you're The Knight. He's the Advisor and you can't stop your grandparents from hooking up? We're doomed before we've started." Dean raised his eyebrows. It was a challenge to the two men, and it gave him ammunition. He would encourage Jocelyn and Cullen. They were not his grandparents, after all, and any moments of lightheartedness were welcome.
"Joshua, Mac just told us he wants to retire and he wants us to step in," Sam explained, temporarily losing his hesitancy.
Joshua didn't seem to be the least surprised, probably surmising what Caleb had too- Mac's marriage heralded the end of his time with The Triad. Joshua looked over his shoulder, back to where Carolyn, Esme and Jocelyn were with Bobby. "Bobby wanted to bet my grandmother that you would have the ceremony this week."
"What?" Was Dean the only one being surprised?
"How much was the bet for?" Caleb asked.
Mac sighed, pinched the bridge of his nose. "Our whole family is here. Jocelyn was at the last transfer of power, and it would be nice to do things properly for once."
"Are we talking about doing this tomorrow?" Sam asked, his arms stiffly by his side. Suddenly, the secure person disappeared.
"No, next week."
"Then Jocelyn's going to have to get a hotel room because Cullen moves fast and we'd be looking at another surprise wedding. Can't she stay with you and Carolyn? That way you have time for a little talk. . ." Caleb pointed to Joshua as if giving him an order.
"Carolyn has a one bedroom. There's not enough room. And we've already had a chat," Joshua replied.
Dean surmised the discussion was about Ben Mosley and any information Jocelyn knew about her husband's Triad. "How much was the bet for?" Dean asked. He hoped Jocelyn forwent the hotel and took up Cullen's invitation. He'd pay Bobby to help the situation along if need be.
"She didn't want to take the bet, something about never betting against a full Triad, especially when they were handsome." Joshua said while shaking his head.
"At least I can still rely on my good looks. What are the rest of you going to do?" Dean relaxed back into the chair to pretend he was comfortable with the idea of being The Guardian in a week.