The Pastor was up early, making his last arrangements for the morning service. It was all part of the routine he’d had for years. It didn’t matter how content with his plans on a Saturday, he would still rise early on a Sunday to give himself time to read it through again and make any last minute changes. Why change a practise that had served him well for so long?
This morning, he’d also got to get the boys to church with him as well. Not that they were bad about coming with him to church, not necessarily eager but he could understand that. He could remember being a teenager and wanting his freedom, not wanting to be cooped up in church on a Sunday morning. Things changed and now he looked forward to it, never ceasing to be thankful for his mother’s insistence upon it when he was younger.
He heard Dean upstairs urging his brother to hurry, frustration when the younger boy wouldn’t stand still long enough to get his clothes on properly. Moments later and Sammy was thundering down the stairs, followed by Dean’s quieter steps. It was no surprise that as Sam arrived, he still had only half of his shirt tucked in and some of his buttons in the wrong holes. Dean’s arrival accompanied by the words, “Sorry” and “Good Morning” was equally predictable.
“Samuel, are you going to get your shirt done up properly and tucked in or is your brother going to have to start dressing you again like he did when you were a baby?” the Pastor asked calmly, knowing full well that Sam was more than capable of dressing himself, but had a tendency to get distracted and not pay attention to trivialities like buttons in correct holes when something else had caught his interest.
“Huh? Oh! Yeah, I’ve got it!” The younger of the boys stilled and actually began to fix the arrangement of the buttons, still smirking at his brother who was watching him to make sure it got done right this time. As Sam finished and began tucking the shirt in properly, Dean swooped in and started doing Sam’s top button and fixing the collar.
Jim didn’t say a word, but was struck by how much like a parent Dean’s actions were. As Dean stood up, he had time to regard the teenager’s own appearance. He looked smart but uncomfortable in the clothes Jim had bought for him, smart pants, shirt and tie. The tie was awkwardly done and Jim reminded himself to give him a hand fixing it before they left when Sam was distracted by something else.
“I could stay here and start lunch. . .” Dean said quietly, ignoring his brother’s confused look.
“Thank you, but no. I’d like you at the service today and like I said before there are some people I’d like you to meet. The Thompsons have just fostered a young man, just a little older than you Dean, and he doesn’t know the area or have any friends. Ava and I thought perhaps you might be able to help him, show him around.”
Dean sighed and nodded.
Eliot was uncomfortable in the smart suit Ava and Stan had taken him out to buy. He’d never had to wear anything like it and it felt stiff and unnatural but he didn’t want to upset either of them by complaining. In truth the last thing he wanted was to be going to church, least of all to ‘make friends’ with some Pastor’s kids, like that was going to be a match made in Heaven!
Eliot shifted awkwardly in the pew between Stan and Ava. He tried to see past the people in front to spot the Pastor’s boys, see if he could get any idea what they were like. He hoped they were too boring, he didn’t want to be stuck with them if they were. The thought crossed his mind that Stan and Ava had him between them so he couldn’t escape but he gave up on worrying about it because in reality, it wasn’t like he could run anyway.
He wondered where the Pastor’s wife was as the boys seemed to be sitting in the front pew alone. They were both quiet, dressed in smart clothes. Eliot wasn’t optimistic about the potential for friendship with them.
Keeping Sam still when he wanted to turn around and see if he could spot whoever it was that Pastor Jim wanted them to meet was taking a lot of Dean’s attention. The only thing that seemed to stop the constant fidgeting was singing. Sammy for some reason loved joining in with the hymns and songs and would sing loudly, at times slightly off-key.
The singing was the time Dean allowed himself the chance to try and peer over his shoulder discreetly trying to spot a likely looking family.
The service was over and Dean and Sam accompanied the Pastor outside to say goodbye to the congregation as they left. Dean hated it, hated when Pastor Jim’s parishioners looked at him with pity. He knew what they were thinking, “Poor kids, thank heavens for the Pastor’s kindness.” It wasn’t like they were completely wrong, he just wished he couldn’t see it written in their eyes and on their faces.
Sam, by contrast, seemed to enjoy the attention, mimicking the Pastor’s hand shaking and chatting away to anyone who asked him a question about how he was spending his time at the Pastor’s. Thankfully, he was old enough to know that he had to watch what he said and so Dean no longer had to be on guard to keep his brother in check as he had when he was younger.
Ava and Stan didn’t rush to leave and get into the throng of people leaving, instead staying sitting in the pew. “Thank you for agreeing to come to church with us, Eliot.” He nodded, but didn’t say anything. “We don’t come every week, but we always make sure to come to service when we have something extra special to be thankful for, so we came when we heard that you were going to come and be with us and it seemed right to come again today.”
Stan patted his shoulder gently, “We’re not going to make you come with us, if you are uncomfortable here, but we’re grateful that you gave it a try today and we’ll give you the choice each time.”
Eliot nodded again, then figured he probably ought to say something to put their minds at rest, “It was okay. I can come with you, if you’d like, next time.” After all, they were being very good to him, they were trying hard to make this work, it wasn’t that terrible to sit here for a couple of hours with them every now and then.
Seeing the grateful smiles on both faces, Eliot knew he’d said the right thing. He shifted awkwardly, not sure what to say next, before suddenly putting into words the thought that had occurred, “Why do the boys come on their own with the Pastor? Why doesn’t his wife come to church with them?”
“Oh!” said Ava, suddenly looking slightly embarrassed herself, “They’re not the Pastor’s sons . . . he looks after them for . . . I’m not sure who for . . . but he looks after them for their Dad. Their mom died when they were little. He has other children who stay with him sometimes too. There’s a boy sometimes who stays who’s a bit older than these two. I think the Pastor’s part of some sort of network or something and when the families are struggling, he offers help.”
Eliot’s eyes widened slightly and he said quietly, “So . . . so they’re a bit like me.” Ava slipped anarm around his shoulder, pulling him closer.
As they left the church and Eliot saw the two boys standing awkwardly alongside the Pastor, the older one leaning over to undo the younger’s top button. As he straightened back up, Eliot could see how uncomfortable he was being on show and wondered if the Pastor always made them stand there. “Oh dear! Poor boys!” Ava said quietly. “Maybe we should have hurried more, I didn’t realize the Pastor was going to have the boys stand with him and wait.” Eliot looked at her curiously, so she explained, “From what the Pastor has told me about the two of them, Sammy, the younger boy doesn’t too much mind this sort of attention, but Dean is quite shy. I think he normally stays in the church and starts on the Pastor’s clearing up so he can avoid meeting people.”
As they approached and Eliot’s eyes met Dean’s for the first time, he knew that they could be friends. Dean wasn’t going to look at him like he was a piece of filth because he wasn’t with his own family, seeing him smile at his brother and then nervously at Eliot as the adults introduced them, he knew the other boy might be shy but he wasn’t unfriendly.
As Dean held out a hand to shake, Eliot took it in his own with a firm grip and hoped that he was right, hoped that they could be friends.
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