NB: This is the first fic of any kind that I've written in over a year and the first BallyK one ever, its just a little thing I've started with to get my head around the characters before I write something properly. Its set somewhere in season 2 but nowhere specific.
Assumpta rested behind the bar, everyone's drinks were full and she could have a breather. Her eyes scanned the bar and came to rest on Peter Clifford. She started to smile and then checked herself; it wasn't wise to dwell on him particularly when Father Mac was sitting at the other end of the bar. She turned to where Father Mac and Brian were sitting hunched over talking quietly to each other, ignoring everyone else in the pub. Peter on the other hand, was on the side of the three stooges, chatting, but always had a hello for anyone who entered the door.
Two men, same profession and yet they were light years apart. Assumpta recalled the saying, "you can tell a man by the company he keeps" the two priests proved that so well. If your chosen and favoured companions were Brian Quigley and Kathleen Hendley there had to be something wrong in your way of thinking. Father Mac never had the time or the inclination to help out with community projects. She remembered, he had been based in Ballykissangel when she was a little girl and even then, he had rarely been seen chatting to parishioners or helping out with festivals, at the last minute he would accept some nominal role in the proceedings and accept full credit for the hard work that had gone on.
Right from the get go Peter had been out in the community, trying out with the football team, helping at the school, and was always available if someone needed a helping hand, whether it was as a babysitter, organising a local fete or helping clear up at the pub after closing time. Never expecting anything for it, he got embarrassed if his help was mentioned. Father Clifford looked after the parish, Father Mac looked after himself, it was as simple as that.
Assumpta glanced back at Peter and saw him looking at her with concern written across his features, she realised that she had been frowning and quickly wiped her expression to a smile. The last thing Assumpta needed was for Peter to openly show concern when no one else had noticed anything. Peter was risking himself more and more for their friendship, she coveted it too much to make him stop, but they had to keep it under control in front of prying eyes especially when those eyes had the ability to transfer him to the ends of the earth. She had heard that Father Mac had already had words with Father Clifford about blurring the lines between 'parishioner' and 'friend' and being found more often outside the church that in it. Something she took to mean that he spent too much time in her bar.
Peter was too innocent to realise that people could construe the time they spent together as more than it was. He didn't realise the way a small village worked, no one was above suspicion and gossip was the lifeblood that kept it going. She suspected that even if he knew how dangerous it was for him it wouldn't change the way he acted. He wouldn't abandon her friendship just to save his reputation and standing. It was one of the reasons she l-… no that was definitely venturing into dangerous territory, even admitting her feelings to herself was something Assumpta avoided at all costs. They were friends, that's all, anything else was impossible, not only was he a priest, she was certain he was only interested in friendship, any evidence to the contrary was her own heated imagination surely.
She watched as Peter drained the last of his drink and clapped a blathered Brendan on the shoulder offering to walk home with him, using the excuse that he needed a stroll to clear his head before turning in for the night. Assumpta smiled gratefully at him for the subtle hint for Brendan to get moving before closing time for once and then sighed as Brian called for another round at the other end of the bar.
Half an hour later, Assumpta looked up from wiping the bar as the door opened and Peter's head popped in, scanning the bar. "Father Mac gone? I just thought I'd check on him, make sure you weren't giving him a hard time." The clear, green eyes shining with humour as they looked at her. Assumpta mock-scowled at him "Oh very funny, you're the one who left him here, whilst taking one of my best customers home." Peter opened the door further, but Assumpta came around the bar shooing him out. "No, no, out you go, I'm nearly done here, you'll just make me take longer." Just as she was shutting the door on him she paused, "goodnight Peter, and thanks" she shut the door, locking it and rested for a breath, hearing the soft " 'night Assumpta, sweet dreams" on the other side.
Assumpta smiled as she finished clearing away the mess, Father Peter Clifford was a good friend, a good man – a good priest even, and if you can tell a man by the company he keeps, maybe she was doing alright too.