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The Empty Vessel

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Jan. 6th, 2011 | 10:53 pm
mood: tiredtired

Title: The Empty Vessel
Summary: The world changes, and Claire goes searching for her father. Or, barring him, Castiel. What she finds is neither.
Recipient: gabby_silang, who gave the prompts: 5x04-verse. Claire and Amelia at Camp Chitaqua. Claire runs away from home. Claire tries to find her dad. Claire yearns for Castiel. These are all the same story.
Characters: Claire, Cas, guest appearance by Dean
Rating: R
Wordcount: 3,079
Disclaimer: None of it is mine.
Warnings: Angst. Lots and lots of angst. Not-quite-sex that isn't about the sex but kind of sort of looks like incest from the outside only it isn't. Did I mention angst? Swearing. Recreational drug use. Also, angst.
Neurotic Author's Note #1: So I picked up a pinch-hit for Novakfest, and this is kind of what came out of that. I'm really not sure where it all came from, except that gabby_silang gave some really awesome prompts, and it made me want to do verybadwrong things with them.
Neurotic Author's Note #2: gabby_silang, I am very sorry that I couldn't work Amelia into this story, but it became less about the Novaks than it was about Claire and the fact that she was a vessel for an angel for about thirty minutes of her life, if that much, and what it all means.
Neurotic Author's Note #3: Because this was a bit of a last-minute pinch-hit, it's unbeta'd. I think it's okay enough to post, but if it's riddled with mistakes, I apologize.

:::ETA:::

The fantastically talented nickelmountain has made a podfic of the story! Go here to listen to it and lavish praise upon her!




I am not your father.

It's the truth and the lies of it all, Claire thinks. The world keeps changing on her, and there's no such thing as truth and no such thing as lies, only this in-between state where everything makes a certain, terrible kind of sense.

She's thirteen years old when she tokes her first joint. It's her birthday and a guy at school named Jimmy Maynard gives it to her for free. She accepts because he's got the same name as her Daddy, and it feels important. Symbolic, maybe. She feels light-headed by the time she and her friends —more classmates than friends, but that doesn't matter much to her— have finished passing the joint around. She giggles, disconnected from her body, but it's nothing like the beautiful feeling of separation from before. She misses her father, but she misses Castiel more.

Eventually she figures out that it doesn't mean anything, but by then she doesn't care anymore.

She's thirteen and five months when she lets Eric Fernandez put his hands up her shirt. She might have let Jimmy Maynard do it, but Eric got there first. She's fifteen and three weeks when she lets Bryce Howard be her first, and it's awkward and uncomfortable and he goes too fast, and she can't figure out what the fuss is, because it's really not that great. She decides not to do it again, and Bryce breaks up with her afterward anyway, and she finds she doesn't care about that either. She doesn't tell her mother. Not about any of it.

It felt different with Castiel inside her.

She's fifteen and seven months when the world starts to end.

~*~

“I am not your father.”

She's sitting cross-legged on the floor of Cas' cabin. He's barefoot, so is she. One of his legs is stretched out to the side, carefully bandaged to support what he's ruefully informed her is a broken foot. He looks like he hasn't shaved in days, but then, so do all the men here. She fiddles with a thread from the cuff of her fraying cargo pants. They're falling off her, were a size too big when she got them, and she's lost more weight since then. It doesn't matter. She keeps her belt cinched tight, hasn't worried about her looks in what feels like years.

“You're in his body.”

“True.”

She doesn't know what else to say. She's come all this way, and for what? She doesn't know what she was expecting to find, except that it was definitely not this. She stares at him, trying to figure out if he still looks like her Dad. She doesn't recognize him.

“So you ran away from home, huh?”

“You make me sound like a delinquent teenager.”

“Isn't that what you are?”

She shakes her head, but it's not a denial. She plucks at the stray thread again, and a few more inches pull loose. “I miss my Dad.”

“He missed you too. All the time. It's probably one of my worst regrets, in all this mess.”

She looks up, surprised by the admission. He's staring up at the wooden ceiling of the cabin, his fingers toying with the wooden prayer beads hanging at his neck. She doesn't know if the habit of fiddling with stuff comes from Castiel or her dad. She doesn't remember Jimmy ever fidgeting, but then she never paid attention to him that way before. Dad was just Dad, fun and sweet and always willing to help out with her math homework.

“What are you doing here, Claire?”

She wants to cry. “I don't know.”

~*~

She wants to hate him. He's screwing with her father's body. Not even twenty-four hours go by before she hears all the camp rumours about him. Drugs and sex and generalized debauchery. The men look on him with gentle derision, the women talk about him like he's some kind of demi-god, and it all makes her want to throw up.

She avoids him for three days, which isn't hard to do. She catches sight of Dean a few times, but it's not like she knows him. All she remembers is him and his brother barging into their house, the stench of sulphur all around, and then nothing. She remembers Castiel feeling something for him, nothing she could quantify then, even less so now, but she can't tell him that. He wouldn't care, either, by the looks of it. Sometimes she fantasizes about going up to him and kissing him, but she doesn't think either of them really want that.

Cas is sitting outside when she finds him again. His injured foot is propped awkwardly on the ground in front of him, the bandages filthy, but holding firm. “You're back.”

“Observant.”

“That's what I'm known for.”

“Not the way I hear it.”

“What do you want, Claire?”

She shrugs. “Is my Dad still there?”

“I am not your father.”

“So you keep saying. I just, I mean... is he —I don't know.”

“He's gone. I'm sorry.”

Claire is done crying. “Where is he now?”

“Heaven, is my best guess.”

“You don't know for sure?”

He pulls the remnants of a joint out of the front pocket of his shirt, strikes a match against the porch stairs. “I don't really know anything anymore, but don't let on to the others. It'll ruin my mystique.”

She snorts quietly. “You going to share that?”

He turns slightly, stares long and hard at her. Then he gives a jerk of his head, not quite a nod and not quite a shake, and holds it out to her. It's the first familiar feeling she's had here, pinching it between her thumb and forefinger and pulling the smoke carefully into her mouth, rolling it around her tongue before attempting to inhale properly. It's been a while since she's done this, but she manages not to cough out the lungful of smoke before handing back the joint.

~*~

“You keep coming back.”

“There's nowhere else to go.”

“You could always go back to your mother,” Cas suggests, but she can tell he's not really serious about sending her back out into the world. She'd probably die before she got even ten miles from the camp —it's frankly a miracle that she got here at all.

“She wouldn't come with me. I sent word that I was okay. She might even get it.” She feels lighter now, and she sits next to him on the stairs. “Do you want her to come?”

“What is there to say? I can't bring him back, even if I wanted to.”

“Do you want to?”

He looks at her, blue eyes piercing right through the fuzzy veil of pot that's slowly been settling over her. “Why would I want to?”

“It's always a choice, isn't it? You or him.”

“I suppose you think it's a pretty poor trade.”

She doesn't reply to that. “You know, he and Mom got married right out of high school, even though they waited before having me. She was his first love. They used to tell me about it all the time. Like it was a story.”

He finishes the joint, flicks the stub away, and it sparks against the dry earth.

“How many women have you fucked with his body?” she can't keep her tone neutral.

“You only want to hear about the women?” There's a sneer in his tone, and suddenly she can't bear to hear another word come out of his self-loathing mouth.

“Fuck you, Cas.”

She scrambles to her feet, stalks off into the night.

~*~

After a week, she gravitates back, but she doesn't go in the cabin. She finds Dean outside, staring at the bead curtain that serves as a door in the warmer months. His hands are loose at his sides, ready to draw pistol and knife at a moment's notice. She moves to stand next to him, and it takes another minute or so before he bothers to turn and look at her.

“It's Claire, right?”

“That's right.”

“He told me you were here,” Dean says, and he rubs the back of his neck with the hand that's not by his gun, looking awkward. “It's about four years too late for an apology, isn't it?”

“I don't want anything from you.” She wipes her hands, clammy for no reason she can determine, on her cargo pants.

He snorts. “Good, 'cause I've got nothing to give, anyway.”

“Castiel told me you think too little of yourself.”

“No one calls him that anymore, you know.”

“I wasn't talking about Cas.”

“Oh.”

“Are you waiting for him?”

She's curious. She knows why she's standing out here, staring at the cabin, unable to go in and unable to bring herself to leave, and she can hazard a guess about his reasons, but his face is impassive in the twilight, unreadable to most people. She thinks maybe Cas could read it, if he were here. She wants to put her hand out and test her theory that it would pass right through him, through some kind of gaping void that she can feel there even if she can't see it.

He snorts. “No.”

And with that, he vanishes back into the night. She doesn't even turn to watch him go.

~*~

She takes the few porch stairs at a run, the wood creaking with dry-rot. She lets herself inside, halfway hoping to catch him in bed with a woman, but he's alone. He's sitting on the army cot which is the only piece of furniture in his tiny bedroom, good leg drawn up against his chest, leaning against the rough planks of the wall, his normally wavy hair plastered to his head.

“Cas?”

He doesn't twitch, just stays where he is, breathing hard, and when she draws near she can see his eyes have rolled back in his head, white half-moons showing beneath his lids. He's sweating, shaking, hands lax at his sides, fingers curled toward the palms, almost but not quite as if he's meditating. She shakes him by a shoulder, and he stirs a little, groans under his breath.

“Cas!” She bends a little at the waist, staring at his face as though it holds all the answers she's looking for. “Cas, what did you take?”

His eyes snap open at that, one pupil blown all out of proportion while the other's down to the size of a pinprick, and the next thing she knows he's jackknifed forward and is puking over the side of the bed. She sidesteps just in time to avoid getting vomit all over her feet, catches him before he falls forward face first into a puddle of his own puke and drowns.

“I'm not cleaning that up,” she tells him, rolling him onto his back on the bed.

He shivers and doesn't answer, turning on his side and trying to curl into a ball. She considers leaving him to just sleep it off, but she knows there's no way she'll really go through with it. He might asphyxiate, for one thing. She ends up cleaning up the puke, because it's either that or step in it, then sits next to him on the cot, watching in bemusement as he wedges himself against the wall, arms curled over his head. She draws up her own legs, hugs them to her chest, sits and waits.

Halfway through the night he sits up, eyes a little wild, and for a second she thinks he's going to puke again, but he just stays where he is, sweating and shivering, and she hears him murmur something under his breath. She rubs the sleep out of her eyes, places a hand on his arm, and stiffens when he turns and wraps his arms around her, drawing her to his chest and resting his cheek against the top of her head. He smells of stale sweat and vomit and faintly of blood, but she lets him cling, pushes them both back down onto the bed and just presses closer to him when he traps her legs between his.

He falls asleep again, and she lies awake, staring at the stained fabric of his shirt.

~*~

“I was trying to fly.”

“What?”

“When I broke my foot. I thought maybe I could still do it, if I tried hard enough.”

Cas rarely, if ever, sits in chairs. He's always on the floor, on the ground, on his bed. Sometimes he perches on the table in the large cabin where they have their big camp meetings, him and Dean and Risa and Chuck and sometimes others. But he hates chairs. He slouches in them, hooks his legs over the arms, or flips them around and straddles them.

He's not used to not feeling his wings, she thinks.

“Do you ever think about what you'll do, after?”

He shakes his head. “There won't be an after.”

He shifts on the floor where he's sitting, broken foot out to the side, his other knee bent, the sole of his foot pressed up against his thigh. She can hear something rattle in his pockets, another bottle or three of dubiously-identified pills. He's going to make himself sick again, and that's not her problem. Never was.

“You're screwing with his body.”

His head whips toward her, and she staggers at the intensity of his glare. She feels her heart lurch and stop, because it's him, it's still him, and she knows him like she knows herself, and she wants to turn and run as far away as she can and at the same time she wants to fling herself into his arms and beg him to take her back. Then his face closes off, expression sardonic.

“It's not like he has any use for it anymore.” It's so cruel that it takes her breath away.

“Fuck you.”

“That seems to be the general consensus, yes.”

She runs.

~*~

Claire goes on a supply run, one day, trying to prove her worth. She nearly gets herself ripped apart by Croats, two others whose names she's never learned die. One of them has his throat torn out, and blood gushes, warm and pungent, all over the sleeve of her jacket. The other's a girl, a few years older than she is. Just turned twenty-one, Claire remembers her staggering drunkenly through the camp with friends, giggling even as they slipped and fell in the mud after the rain. Now her face is spattered with blood and dirt, and she's staring at the open cut on her shin and blubbering, tears and snot mingling on her upper lip, and Claire just stares as Dean pulls out his pistol and shoots her neatly through the temple.

She stares at him, trying to read his face. He doesn't look sad, doesn't look disgusted. She's going to find the feeling by elimination. Not happy, not bored, not aroused. Not anything. He holsters his gun, doesn't look at her. She's glad, doesn't want to see the expression in his eyes.

“Let's go.”

They load the supplies in the truck, leave the corpses where they are to stare sightlessly at the pale sky.

~*~

Cas is waiting for her when they get back. She jumps out of the truck and sprints along the uneven ground, jumps over the stairs and lands on the porch with a thump. He's in the doorway, leaning heavily against the doorjamb, his weight mostly off his bad foot, though it's almost healed by now, and she hurtles headlong into his arms. Her head fits just under his chin, and his hands smooth themselves along her ribcage, down her back to settle at her waist. She shoves her own hands under his shirt, fingers feeling along his ribs. He's horribly thin, his skin hot to the touch, as though he's running a fever... or housing an angel.

“This isn't what you want,” he says, a little breathlessly.

“You can't give me what I want.”

“No.”

He pulls her inside, back into his bedroom. She's holding onto his belt, tightens her grip, and he staggers a little, nearly toppling them both over. She ends up in his lap, straddling him, his breath hot against her face, and she tangles her hands in his hair.

“Why did you leave me?”

He's gripping the side of the bed with both hands, knuckles turning white, shaking so hard she thinks he might buck her off. She can feel his dick straining against her through the fabric of his cotton drawstring pants. She slides further against him, until her breasts are brushing against his chest, their lips fractions of an inch apart.

“It was the right thing to do,” his voice is strangled. His cheeks are flushed, eyes bright. “He begged me. You know what happened.”

“I missed you.”

Every day. She's wanted this every minute of every day since he left her, and now he's right here and just as far out of her reach. He rests his forehead against hers, brings up his hands to clutch at her shoulders so hard she can feel the bruises his fingers are leaving behind. His breath hitches audibly, and she cradles his head in her hands, wipes the tears from under his eyes with the pads of her thumbs. His voice cracks when he tries to speak.

“I missed you too.”

“Take me back.”

He shakes his head, but he tugs on her, gentle but urgent, and she lets him pull him on top of her on the bed, enfold her in his arms, because she gets it, she thinks. That she's the closest thing to his grace that's left. She presses her entire length against him, feels warmth seeping into her every pore, and he hooks his knees around hers, tucks her head under his chin, and they both lie very still. She holds her breath, exhales slowly only when she can't hold it anymore, and wills herself not to cry.

Like this, though, it almost feels like being complete.

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Comments {38}

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(Deleted comment)

ratherastory

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from: ratherastory
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 04:14 am (UTC)
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:D

Thank you! I am looking forward to your coherence tomorrow. ;)

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unstoppablei

(no subject)

from: unstoppablei
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 04:11 am (UTC)
Link

Damn. This is amazingly good. I do love the angst, and the strange undertones. Lovely!

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ratherastory

(no subject)

from: ratherastory
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 04:15 am (UTC)
Link

Thank you very much! I'm glad you enjoyed it in spite of the weirdness. :)

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ratherastory

(no subject)

from: ratherastory
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 05:31 am (UTC)
Link

*beams*

There's something really compelling and unutterably tragic about that twelve-year-old girl housing an angel for about thirty minutes. Jimmy said it was like being chained to a comet... what would that do to her for the rest of her life, especially if she could never get it back?

And then to be left with this broken shell who looks a bit like her father and acts a bit like Castiel, but is his own person nonetheless? Yeah, I'd be confused too. :P

Glad you liked it!

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MoragMacpherson

(no subject)

from: moragmacpherson
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 05:25 am (UTC)
Link

Wow. That's just... vivid and compelling and beautifully done.

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ratherastory

(no subject)

from: ratherastory
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 05:55 am (UTC)
Link

Thank you so much!

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gabriella

:DDDDDDDDD:

from: gabby_silang
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 06:10 am (UTC)
Link

1) OMG thank you so much for writing this pinch hit OMG
2) I started quoting things, but then it was the whole thing. God, God, to have a miracle of your own, an adventure at that perfect age just when all you can dream is adventures and they seem within reach, to actually have it, to have power and be powerless to not have it, to be snatched up by destiny, and then to lose it. And then this to see it tattered and muddy and human, stubbled and ugly and puerile, just some bitter old man pretending he never knew you at all. JFC, this is a knife in my heart, this entire story.

OKAY SO SOME QUOTING

“It's always a choice, isn't it? You or him.”

“I suppose you think it's a pretty poor trade.”


What I love about these lines is that you can reverse the speakers and it still makes perfect, heartbreaking sense. And and and this detail okay:

She doesn't remember Jimmy ever fidgeting, but then she never paid attention to him that way before.

Goddamn, the shame of it. Trying to remember things about the man, but it's too late to know him well enough. And asjkdfhlksadf that tiny scene with Dean, both of them waiting for him, and they couldn't tell each other why, could barely tell themselves what's in that shabby cabin that's worth hanging around for.

IN SHORT: OMFG I LOVE ITTTT :DDD <333 CLAAAAIIIIRE OMFG This is gorgeous, and so vividly drawn. Thank you so much.

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ratherastory

Re: :DDDDDDDDD:

from: ratherastory
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 01:16 pm (UTC)
Link

*beams*

I'm so pleased you liked it!

It never occurred to me that those lines could be reversed, but you're absolutely right.

Poor Claire, who lost her father while he was still larger than life and before she ever knew him as a human being.

I couldn't resist when I saw your prompt. There have been other stories of Claire meeting up with Castiel later in life, but all of them have had him still an angel. I couldn't help but wonder what she would think of the broken-down junkie of 5.04, who was just another human but with the added twist of being in her father's body. The fact of the matter is, even 2014!Cas is still in Jimmy's body, and I can only imagine the rage and disgust that people who loved Jimmy would feel at seeing Cas abuse the body Jimmy entrusted to him in good faith.

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rokhal

(no subject)

from: rokhal
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 06:50 am (UTC)
Link

Intensely disturbing in a deeply thinky way. This takes the classic search for meaning, relationship, and unity to a whole new level.
Poor messed-up Claire! Poor grounded Cas!

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ratherastory

(no subject)

from: ratherastory
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 01:18 pm (UTC)
Link

Thank you! :)

I was fascinated by the idea of both Claire and Cas each trying to find that missing piece from themselves in each other.

I'm glad you liked it!

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Tversan

(no subject)

from: tversan
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 07:41 am (UTC)
Link

Wonderful job with the story. The whole "The End" Universe is very interesting, and I really like the way you put Claire in there =)

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ratherastory

(no subject)

from: ratherastory
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 01:21 pm (UTC)
Link

Thank you very much!

This was an exchange about the Novaks, so Claire was really the whole point of the story, even if Cas kind of tried to take over a few times. ;)

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Shini

(no subject)

from: 4422shini
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 08:50 am (UTC)
Link

Wow, I did not see that fic coming. That was ... Wow. Hawt, tragic, and different. Conclusion: I love it!

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ratherastory

(no subject)

from: ratherastory
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 01:31 pm (UTC)
Link

Thank you so much! It's definitely a strange story, but once I saw the prompts they spoke to me and I couldn't not write them. :)

Glad you liked it!

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primrose_1

(no subject)

from: primrose_1
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 10:53 am (UTC)
Link

Wow. I like this very much. Not just the idea that Claire isn't ever really whole again after Castiel leaves her, but when you set this- with broken Cas after the apocalypse. VERY well done!

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ratherastory

(no subject)

from: ratherastory
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 01:42 pm (UTC)
Link

It was a really compelling prompt. The idea of exploring Claire as a teen confronted with the man who, for all intents and purposes, replaced her father, was too fascinating to ignore.

Thank you!

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dossier

(no subject)

from: dossier
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 02:46 pm (UTC)
Link

This is heartbreaking, the normal rite of passage into adulthood covered in blood and grace. Everyone is changed by the croat'verse, but the continuing confrontations between Cas & Claire are an order of change above, and are unutterably fantastic.

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ratherastory

(no subject)

from: ratherastory
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 02:51 pm (UTC)
Link

Wow, thank you so much!

It was a trip to write, so I'm glad people liked it. :)

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Maria

(no subject)

from: vasiliki
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 10:30 pm (UTC)
Link

I totally LOVED it!!! Amazing, wonderful emotions unfolding here! <333

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ratherastory

(no subject)

from: ratherastory
date: Jan. 7th, 2011 10:44 pm (UTC)
Link

Thank you so much! :)

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slinkymilinky

(no subject)

from: slinkymilinky
date: Jan. 10th, 2011 05:19 pm (UTC)
Link

Oh my gawwwwdddd -this, so many buttons pressed, sooooo many. So beautiful - EVERYTHING I want from a Claire/Cas fic. You are fabulous!

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ratherastory

(no subject)

from: ratherastory
date: Jan. 11th, 2011 03:08 am (UTC)
Link

*blushes*

Thank you so much! It's a lovely, complex relationship, and one which I had never explored, so it was a fun challenge to write.

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amonitrate

(no subject)

from: amonitrate
date: Jan. 11th, 2011 01:10 am (UTC)
Link

Oh my, wow. I love Claire here, and Cas, and how confused and awful things are.

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ratherastory

(no subject)

from: ratherastory
date: Jan. 11th, 2011 03:09 am (UTC)
Link

Thank you!

Poor Claire, I can't begin to imagine just how terrible this situation must be...

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zatnikatel

(no subject)

from: zatnikatel
date: Jan. 24th, 2011 04:45 pm (UTC)
Link

Wow, this is amazing... the way you write Claire's feelings about her dad as compared to Castiel, and how they've both been damaged by Cas's grace being snatched away but they still crave it because nothing can ever compare. Fantastic too how you weave in Claire's burgeoning sexuality, and write her confusion over this man who is and at the same time isn't her father. I'm sort of in awe over how something that is quite simple can be so deep... I've read it four or five times now and there is so much more going on in it that you might perceive the first time you read it. I'm even more in awe reading that it was a last-minute pinch hit. Wow.

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ratherastory

(no subject)

from: ratherastory
date: Jan. 24th, 2011 07:37 pm (UTC)
Link

Wow, thank you very much!

The pinch-hit prompt was too good to resist, really. I loved the idea of having Claire, now a teenager, reunite with a Cas who's human and yet in her father's body still... the dynamic was too good for me not to want to explore it.

I'm so glad you liked it!

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jolinar_rosha

(no subject)

from: jolinar_rosha
date: May. 16th, 2011 11:44 am (UTC)
Link

I would so much like to have a proper, useful comment for this, but my brain just refuses to go beyond 'Cas and poor Claire and poor Cas and Claire and oh I want to hug them both'.

so yeah. I'll go look for a fluff story of yours after this. Because I need my fluff to overshadow the brilliant heart-ache.

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ratherastory

(no subject)

from: ratherastory
date: May. 18th, 2011 01:48 am (UTC)
Link

This one turned out pretty depressing, didn't it? I hope you found some nice schmoop to cheer you up after. ;)

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