The house was over a century old, and had seen half-a-dozen pastors and their families come and go. This meant that although he lived alone, Jim never felt alone. The house still seemed full of its previous occupants, its own personal cloud of witnesses. The trees in the garden had been planted in the late 1800s by a pastor's wife whose green thumb was apparently almost miraculous. The second spare bedroom was still papered with the pink flowers chosen twenty years ago by a little girl who now had children of her own. And Jim's study was set up in the same way that the every pastor before him had arranged it, with the huge wooden desk standing before the west-facing window to catch the afternoon light, and the built-in bookshelves filled, as they always had been, with biblical commentaries and books of theology.
In the house's silence Jim could hear its history.
He still got pleasure from having visitors to stay. He enjoyed the break in his solitary routine that guests brought. He liked preparing huge meals and eating them with friends around the dining-room table that he never otherwise used. He liked having conversations that weren't limited to congregational personalities and politics, or spiritual or personal crises. He liked the noises that filled a house when children were living in it; the laughter, the yelling, the thumps they made as they ran or jumped down the stairs in the morning.
Today the house was as quiet as if Jim was alone in it, even though he knew that all three Winchesters were around the place. They had spent the morning together, all four of them using the archery set that the congregation thought Jim had set up for exercise and relaxation. John versus Dean, Jim versus Sam; the two losers (Dean and Jim) doing the lunch dishes. But after lunch they had gone their separate ways. John was, Jim hoped, resting in the room with the pink flowers; catching up after the sleepless nights of his last hunt. Dean was outside, taking advantage of the fine weather to wash the Impala. And Sammy, the last Jim had seen of him, was cross-legged in front of the bookcase that held Jim's fantasy collection, apparently determined to read his way through it.
Which meant that as a host Jim was free from all responsibilities. As a pastor, there was still Sunday's sermon to write and only two days to go. But the presence of the Winchesters was drawing Jim to what he thought of as his 'extra-curricular' work, and with only the mildest feeling of guilt he pushed aside Brown's two-volume commentary on the Gospel of John, and reached for the file containing the photocopies of the twelfth-century manual on demonology that he was trying to translate for Bobby Singer.
In the seminary, Jim had had to learn a biblical language. He had chosen Greek over Hebrew on the basis that he knew most of the alphabet from high school science. Three years of studying koine Greek had confirmed what Jim had suspected; he was little use at languages. The seminary hadn't even tried to teach him Latin, assuming that everything written in Latin that a congregational pastor might need would be available in translation. Which for most of the people Jim had studied with was probably true, congregational clergy having little use for medieval demonology texts. Jim, however, did have use for them, or at least knew others who did, and over the past ten years had taught himself enough Latin to allow him to translate them - slowly and painfully. He'd been working for six months on this particular text, and was only half-way through it. So it was with a mildly frustrated sigh that Jim pulled out the photocopied pages and opened his notebook.
Jim had been working for almost an hour, translating what he could, making notes of the words he didn't know to look up later in his Medieval Latin dictionary. He had only done a couple of paragraphs, and was now convinced that the author was being deliberately obscure. There had probably been a good reason for it at the time, but it wasn't making Jim's task any easier and the interruption was welcome.
"Sammy," Jim smiled, and then at the sight of the youngest Winchester's frown quickly corrected himself. "I mean, Sam. What can I do for you?"
"I just wondered what you were doing," Sam said, hovering in the doorway as though unable to commit to either coming in or going away. The 'don't disturb Pastor Jim when he's working' rule was probably warring in Sam's head with his need to find something new to do. Jim tried to help by beckoning him in.
"Translating something for your Uncle Bobby," Jim said as Sam came to lean on his desk and look. "Or at least that's what I've been trying to do. How about you?"
"Reading, but I got tired of it. I went to check on Dad, but he's still asleep, and Dean's doing something to the car."
Jim nodded. It was what he'd suspected. Not even Samuel Winchester could read all day without a change, but with John asleep, Dean under the Impala's hood, and Sam forbidden to leave the house alone his options of alternate activities were limited.
"Is that Latin?" Sam asked, peering at the pages in front of him.
"Apparently," Jim said, "although I'm starting to doubt it. You're learning Latin?"
"Dad's been teaching me," Sam said, frowning as he tried to make out some of the words. "Only for a few months, but he says I'm almost as good as Dean." He looked up to make sure that Jim realised what an achievement that was. Dean, Jim knew, was the best at everything, at least in the eyes of his younger brother.
"Maybe your Dad should teach me, too," Jim suggested. "Or your Uncle Bobby and I will both be ninety, bald and toothless before I can get this finished and give it to him."
Sam giggled a little at that, and then caught his breath. "Maybe I could help?"
Jim was about to say no, and suggest that he and Sam took a walk instead, but he caught himself. John had tried to hide the reality of the supernatural world from Sam, had tried to keep him innocent and protected, but that had all ended last Christmas, when Sam had found John's journal. Sam hadn't coped well with being lied to, and when he'd found out that Jim and Bobby Singer had also known the truth and kept it from him they'd joined John in Sam's bad books. That had hurt. Jim considered the Winchesters family, Dean and Sam were the closest thing that he had to nephews. The months when Sam hadn't wanted to talk to him on the phone had wounded Jim more than he had ever expected.
That seemed to be over. Sam had apparently forgiven his father, and his 'uncles' along with him. Helping Jim with a translation, working with him on something that would ultimately be used to fight evil, might reinforce that forgiveness by reassuring Sam that he was now a part of the fight.
"Well, then, pull up that chair, I'll hand you the dictionary, and you look up the words I'm struggling with. I've written down what I think is the nominative, so that should make it easier for you."
Whether Sam really understood the second sentence or not, he understood the first, and he flashed Jim his dimples as he pulled the spare chair over the desk. Jim cleared a space for him, found him a clean sheet of paper, and handed over his list of untranslated words and the dictionary.
For another hour there was silence, broken only by the shuffling of paper and the scratching of pens. Jim found it surprisingly stimulating to have someone working by his side; his own translation was going much more quickly as Sam worked down his list. Jim was so buried in his work that Dean's voice calling for Sam came as a huge shock, and from the fact that Sam dropped the dictionary he wasn't alone in that.
"I'm in here, Dean!" Sam yelled back, looking contritely up at Jim when he winced. "Sorry, Pastor Jim, I didn't mean to be so loud."
"That's okay." Jim smiled down at him. "Although it does remind me of when you were a toddler. It took forever to teach you to use your 'inside' voice."
Sam's 'outside' voice had obviously reached his big brother, unless the sounds that Jim could hear were being made by a rapidly approaching elephant. No, the figure filling the doorway was definitely the eldest Winchester, even if he was cunningly disguised by a thick layer of dirt and grease.
"Whatcha doin' squirt? You know you're not meant to bother Pastor Jim."
"I'm not, Dean!" Sam said indignantly. "I'm helping!"
"He is," Jim reassured Dean. "You are, Sam. But it's probably time you took a break."
"Good. I'll clean up and then we can go into town for ice-cream." Dean disappeared, his progress up the stairs again being signalled aurally through the house. Jim hoped that John's subconscious would recognise the source of the noise and allow John to sleep through it, or Dean was going to hear all about it later.
"I could stay, if you need my help some more."
Jim looked down at Sam's earnest face, and smiled. "No, Sammy. You're been a great help, but we've finished for the day. I'll take a walk while you and Dean are away. Just bring me back some ice-cream."
"I can help again tomorrow."
'If you want. But you don't have to."
'I want to," Sam said, obviously sincere. "I like looking things up."
"Then I'd be very grateful for your help," Jim responded, equally seriously. "Thank you." He got the dimpled smile again, and felt his heart warm at the sight. "Now, go and get ready, before your brother gets impatient!"
Sam took off, as fast as Dean, but a little quieter. Jim watched him go, silently reciting the blessing that he offered every time a Winchester left his sight. Even if it was only a ten-minute walk in search of ice-cream, it seemed safest to invoke heaven's guardianship on the journey. Dean and Sam were Winchesters, after all.
Jim's house was filled with the memories of those who'd lived there before him; he could sense their history in its walls. He wondered if the pastors who followed him would sense the bright intelligence and sweetness that had seemed to Jim to fill his study as Sam Winchester had worked there beside him.