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"Switch" - Part 1

Part 1 of "Switch"
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Claire Novak glared at the envelope lying on the table in front of her for some time. Giving into the urge Claire snatched it off the table and slowly opened it. The glue gave on the very first tug and she couldn’t help being glad for the sub-par quality of the items used by the school.

There was a part of her that felt guilty about opening mail addressed to her parents. It was admittedly a very small part. The letter was about her and she was well aware of that fact. Why shouldn’t she open it? Claire figured if her teacher had really wanted to keep her in the dark he would have known better than to give her the letter to pass on. What student could resist openings addressed to their parents from a teacher?

Letting out a deep breath Claire pulled the paper slowly from the envelope and unfolded it. Reading the paper did nothing but confirm what she already thought was wrong. Her teacher was requesting a meeting with at least one of her parents; the topic of discussion - her performance in class.

Chewing on her thumbnail Claire tried to figure out what to do. She did fairly well on the tests and assignments but her argumentative nature in class often got her in trouble. She’d known her teacher would do something about it eventually.

Telling her parents about her behaviour let alone the fact that her teacher was requesting a meeting would likely result in her being grounded for the rest of the school year. That really didn’t work for her. Claire struggled to find a different answer to the problem.

In the midst of her thoughts she heard a car pull into the driveway. Sticking the letter quickly back into the envelope Claire shoved it into the pocket of her hoodie. Picking up a book she tried to act as naturally as she could. Getting caught with the open letter before she had a plan wouldn’t do her any good.

“Claire?” The front door creaked open and shut.

A relieved sigh escaped Claire’s lips. “I’m in the living room!” It wasn’t her father or her mother.

The man who walked into the living room was wearing a wrinkled suit and trench coat. If it hadn’t been for the coat and voice Claire would have thought it was her father on first glance. As it was she knew it was her uncle.

“Hello Claire?” Castiel Novak practically melted into one of the large chairs in the room.

Claire allowed a small smile to grace her lips as she looked over to her uncle. Perhaps the solution wasn’t as far away as she’d imagined. Her father and uncle were identical twins after all. If she could convince Castiel to go in James’ place her parents would never have to find out. Mr. Winchester, her teacher had never met her father; even if he had he’d be hard pressed to find a difference between the two of them.

She could get through the meeting relatively unscathed. It wasn’t like she didn’t want to improve on her behaviour she just didn’t want to be grounded until doomsday because of it.

“Uncle Castiel, I thought you were working late at the office?” It was a safe assumption; Castiel usually worked late wanting to make sure everything was complete. As secretary and records management for her father’s business Claire felt he got a bum deal. With such hours she hadn’t been expecting to see the man for the rest of the week, even if he spent more time at her parents house than his own apartment.

Rubbing a hand across his face Castiel muffled a yawn. “Not tonight. Jimmy asked that I make sure you ate and did your homework.”

Claire’s smile morphed into a scowl. “I am not a child. I don’t need a babysitter.”

“Which is precisely why I’m not babysitting. I don’t really care if you do your homework or not.”

“Never mind the fact that I already did it.” Claire actually liked doing homework. It was so much easier for her to focus on it and actually learn something when she wasn’t stuck with her classmates. There was only so much chatter she could block out before it go to be too much. In all honesty if she heard one more comment about Twilight she was going to barf; sparkling vampires lacked ball and she liked her vampires combustible in sunlight and with balls.

“Indeed.”

Rolling her eyes Claire huffed, “I have no idea why he wanted you to make sure I ate. You should never be allowed in a kitchen.”

“I can cook just fine thank you.” Castiel sat stiffly in the chair, clearly on the offensive.

“Uncle Cas you burnt water the last time you tried to cook here…no wait you actually managed to set it on fire.”

“That was not the water.”

“Yeah you’re right. It was the oil you poured into it. How about…stop pouting uncle Cas. How about I make the food so we can avoid a call to the fire department.”

“Fine.” He didn’t stop pouting.

Pulling himself out of the chair he couldn’t stop the small groan that escaped. He’d have to look into getting another chair at work. Not being able to stand properly after a long shift was not good. As he walked past Claire Castiel cuffed her lightly upside the head.

Claire righted her hair before following Castiel into the kitchen.

Rooting around the fridge and cupboards Claire tried to find something that would make enough for two people. She’d been planning on eating her lunch leftovers for dinner but with her uncle there, there wouldn’t be enough to go around. With her head in the refrigerator Claire growled in frustration. Neither of her parents had bothered to go shopping like they had said they would.

Watching the things Claire was pulling out and putting on the counter Castiel couldn’t quite suppress the sigh that escaped from his chest. It was apparent that neither his brother nor wife was thinking about their daughter at the moment. If either had been groceries probably would have been done at some point. They may never be home but Claire was. Castiel was aware that his niece had done some groceries a time or two herself but it was becoming more often then Castiel thought right.

Continuing to watch in silence Castiel reflected on his brother. As of late Jimmy was not earning points in the father of the year department. If anything he was losing them. Most of his time was spent at his business or in his study working on the ever-elusive book he claimed to be writing. Fifteen or not Claire still needed the guidance of her parents.

Castiel had never cared much for Amelia, Jimmy’s wife and now he had trouble finding a reason to bother trying. Amelia was a lawyer; a lawyer that spent time working in family court. There were things she should know better about but she focused more on her big business clients. The goings-on at home held little interest to her.

“Claire, why don’t we order in? My treat, that way no one has to cook.”

Claire beamed at her uncle. “Thanks!”

“My pleasure. What are you in the mood for?”

“Doesn’t matter to me.”

“Thai?”

“Awesome!”

What to order sparked a small argument. They finally decided on two orders of Pad Thai – one with chicken and one with beef, egg rolls and curried vegetables. The only part of the order that was agreed upon immediately was the two orders of fried bananas with coconut ice cream.

Claire waited until the food had arrived and was dished out before she thought it was safe to discuss the letter. “Uncle Cas, what are you doing the day after tomorrow?”

“Friday? I hadn’t planned on doing anything; it’s my day off. Did you need something Claire?”

Claire took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She was anticipating a great deal of disappointment. Still, he’d at least listen. “I, uh, got a letter from one of my teachers. He wants to speak to dad.”

“I see. I am not your father.”

Claire bit back a retort of ‘I wish you were.’ Instead she replied, “I know. It’s just if I give it to dad he’ll freak out and I’ll get grounded till doomsday.”

Castiel gave her an appraising look. “This had nothing to do with the Voltaire concert you have tickets for?”

“No…okay maybe a little bit but…”

Castiel waived her off. Chewing his food he said, “Let me see the letter.”

Claire pulled it out of her hoodie, flattening it out before passing it over. Castiel raised an eyebrow when he accepted it noticing it was open. Claire shrugged and smiled self-deprecatingly.

“I couldn’t help myself, it was about me and I wanted to know.”

“Ah, to be honest I did the same thing. I admire the restraint you showed in opening it. Easier to reseal a clean open.”

The look Claire gave him clearly said ‘I don’t believe you but I’ll humour you.’ She couldn’t imagine her uncle getting in trouble let alone opening mail that wasn’t addressed to him.

Neither said anything as Castiel read the letter. It was only after he’d put it down that he looked at his niece. “Claire…”

Claire watched her uncle carefully, “Yeah?”

“Is there a specific reason you have been behaving in such a manner in the classroom?”

“I don’t like the class, got to do something to stave of the boredom.”

She cringed at the look Castiel shot her. She was lucky looks couldn’t kill otherwise she’d be six feet under.

Sighing she ran her hands across her face. “Ok, I love the class, it’s the other students that drive me nuts. Every time I start getting into things someone interrupts to start at debate. It’s like they think every piece of a myth or legend is symbolism. I mean it’s like trying to find all the symbolism in the Godfather. Sometimes an orange is just an orange; nothing to find there. I get so worked up when they get going. It’s hard not to butt in.”

“I see. Have you tried talking to…” he paused to check the letter again. “Mr. Winchester about the distractions? It is his responsibility to control his students.”

Claire snorted, “We’re teenagers, control only goes so far.”

“Fair enough.”

“But no, I haven’t said anything. If I know they’re wrong I couldn’t help but give my two-cents. Things usually get nasty. We usually end up arguing even after he’s broken it up.”

“I believe part of what you need to work on is your temper.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“You should really talk to your parents Claire. They should know what’s happening.”

Claire didn’t manage to completely cover the answering snort. “I doubt they’d know anything that went on in my life unless it bit them on the ass. Their method involves pretending to listen to me and then grounding me. They’re never home long enough for anything else.”

It pained Castiel to hear his niece talking in such a way but he knew what she said was true. Perhaps it was time to have a long discussion with his brother; no fifteen-year-old should sound so cynical and defeated.

He glared at Claire before pinching the bridge of his nose. He couldn’t believe he was going to do this.

“I’ll make a deal with you Claire. I’ll go talk to your teacher but you need to as well. Explain why you have acted the way you have. Be honest and do not make excuses. We’ve identified the problems now I want you to work on solving them.”

Claire didn’t have to think on it long, it was more than a fair enough deal. She figured she could work the problems out if she focused enough.

“Can you help me?”

“I’m not trained to deal with those kinds of things Claire. Perhaps a professional would be better?”

“Could you try? Maybe some of the meditation techniques you do could help. If I can figure out a way to relax maybe I can get through the class in one piece. Some of it can be used for anger management can’t it?”

Castiel frowned and opened his mouth to speak.

Claire cut him off, “It’s worth a try right? If it doesn’t help I can always find a professional afterwards, no harm.”

“That sounds satisfactory. However, you should have gone to your parents…” he held up a hand to silence her “OR barring them myself before things got this far. As such you are grounded for the next two weeks.”

“Deal.” She resolved not to complain about anything, not if he was going to help her.

Shaking hands Claire thought about the meditation. “Maybe we can start the meditation after dinner?” No time like the present to try and learns something to get her through the school year without throttling anyone.

“I don’t see why not.”

Having a plan and someone to talk to went a long way towards helping her able to relax. Chewing on her food she reflected on what had happened. There were a lot of people that would tell her, her uncle had no place telling she was grounded. Her response would be that he was more of a father to her than his brother. He was the one willing to listen and help.

After the dishes and leftovers were put away Castiel directed Claire to find some candles. They would help her relax.

While she was gone he pushed the table flush against the entertainment centre. He thought over his decision. Was he really making the right one? Castiel did not think that Claire would receive the aide she needed by talking to her parents. She had been correct in stating they were more likely to ground her and leave it at that. While grounding would bring home the fact an action was wrong it did little in the way of correcting the problem. If he could facilitate Claire in correcting the issue and learning from the situation Castiel was more than happy to help.

“These were all I could find,” Claire was holding three small votives and a barbeque lighter.

“Those are fine; line them up on the table.”

Claire nodded, laid the candles out and lit them. Castiel turned the lights off.

“Sit in a way that’s comfortable to you. A position that you can stay in for awhile.”

Clare nodded and crossed her legs in front of her so that one foot rested on the opposite thigh. She was vaguely aware that Castiel had finally removed his shoes and trench coat while she was gone.

Castiel dropped into a full lotus. Both family members froze when a loud CRACK filled the room.

Claire glanced at her uncle in shock before falling backwards laughing.

Grimacing Castiel slowly stretched out his leg and snorted, “Maybe a half lotus today.”

Claire’s laughter had dissolved into giggles. She tried to compose herself. “Sorry.”

Shrugging Castiel had a smile of his own. “What can I say, I’m old.”

Claire rolled her eyes.

Settling Castiel asked, “Comfortable?”

“Okay, focus on your breathing, take a deep breath in and let it out slowly. Count to eight each time. Breath in, hold it, then release it.”

Following her uncle’s direction Claire focused on her breathing. She felt foolish and her brain refused to be silent; instead it continued blathering on about useless things.

Peeking through her eyelids Claire found her uncle breathing steadily with his own eyes shut. She wondered if perhaps he had fallen asleep sitting up.

“Problem?”

Perhaps not then.

“I can’t get my brain to shut up.”

“Keep doing the exercise. Acknowledge each thought positively and dismiss them. They are not important right now.”

Claire wrinkled her nose but closed her eyes once more. Deep breath, count to either. Things will improve. Hold the breath. I can do this. Release the breath at an eight count. Only two months left of the school year, I can get through it.

It took a while but Claire was finally able to clear her mind and fall into a steady rhythm.

Seemingly all too quickly a hand fell on her shoulder bringing her back to the living room. Blinking slowly Claire looked up to find Castiel leaning over her.

“Something wrong uncle Cas?”

“No Claire, you did very well. Much better than I expected in fact.”

Claire smiled and stretched out her leg. As she stood the glowing LCD of the VCR caught her eye. “Is it really 11?”

“I’m afraid I lost track of time. It is rather late but there is one other thing I’d like to show you.”

“I’m not in a rush, no first period class.”

“This is going to sound silly but I want you to focus on the tip of your nose. Take a deep breath and let it out through your noise.”

Claire raised an eyebrow but followed through.

“Did you feel the air on your nose?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you feel the air on your nose?”

“Yeah.”

“Do it ten times, each release or breath counts as one. Keep it in ten breath increments but you can do it as many times as you need to.”

“What if it doesn’t work?” She tried it through once.

Castiel turned on the lights and blew out the candle. “Ask permission to leave the room, washroom break or whatever. A quick walk around the school focusing on relaxing may also help.” He quirked an eyebrow, “Just remember to go back to class.”

“Right. Do not skip class, got it,” Claire laughed. “Thank you.”

“For what?” Castiel walked out of the room.

Claire heard the bathroom door shut and shrugged. She’d tell him again later; eventually he’d realize she meant it. Her uncle was never one you could thank for what he did. He rarely thought of his actions required praise or thanks. Castiel simply did what he thought had to be done.

Claire began making sure her homework was collected and in her backpack. When she heard Castiel enter the room again she looked up. “I’m going to head to bed. Class might not start at 8 but it’s still early.”

“Will you be all right? I should probably head home.”

“I’ll be fine uncle Cas. Thanks for tonight.”

“We’ll talk about Friday tomorrow. I’ll set the alarm on my way out.”

Claire gave him a large hug. “’Kay. Say hi to Michael and Lucifer for me.”

Castiel snorted, “If they’re still talking to me I will.” The two cats were temperamental at best. Castiel was completely expecting to go home to shredded furniture. “Good night Claire.” He left.

Double-checking that the alarm was active Claire headed upstairs. After brushing her teeth she pulled on the fluffiest pair of pajamas she owned and fell into bed. A shower could wait till morning.

She was almost asleep when she heard the front door open and the alarm go off. Her parents’ voices floated towards her. Claire rolled over and stuffed her head under her pillow.

****
Claire moaned when her alarm went off the next morning. “Too soon.”

Throwing an arm out from her cocoon of blankets Claire attempted to silence the infernal machine. Frowning when she encountered the smooth surface of the nightstand Claire lifted her head of the bed and blinked blearily.

It took a moment for her sleep-fogged brain to remember that she’d moved the alarm to the other side of the room on Monday. It was an attempt to stop herself from going back to sleep after turning off the alarm; that and the fact that she’d already broken two clocks this year. No one could say she was a morning person.

Rolling out of bed she staggered over to her dresser and pulled a random wire from the clock. Since she wasn’t paying attention to which colour was lit up she pulled the wrong one. A loud explosion filled the room. Claire jumped, swore and pulled apart the other two wires.

Without the noise Claire could think enough to grab her clothes for the day and head towards the shower.

Dressed and toweling her hair dry Claire entered the kitchen. Rummaging through the fridge she settled on yesterday’s lunch leftovers for breakfast and shoved it into the microwave. With breakfast nuking Claire shoved some of the left over Pad Thai into a container for lunch; that then went into her backpack.

Pulling her food out of the microwave Claire dropped it on the table and dug in. She had class with Mr. Winchester first off and needed to leave in ten minutes if she didn’t want to be late.

Dumping her dishes in the sink Claire grabbed a light jacket and her backpack. She was close enough to the school to walk.

****
Claire arrived at her classroom with only a few moments to spare. Slipping into her seat she pulled out her textbook and homework out of her backpack dropping the bag so it was under her desk. She was quite glad the school hadn’t banned bags in the classroom yet.

Around her, most of the class was also pulling out the assignment. Naturally as a teacher Mr. Winchester seemed to enjoy handing out homework and assignments. The class had one assignment a week but Claire didn’t mind them so much. They were always relevant to the topic at hand and great study material for the tests.

As the bell went Claire watched as a few stragglers rushed in closely followed by Mr. Winchester.

****
Dean took in his class without saying a word. Putting his messenger bag on the desk Dean stripped off his leather jacket dropping it so it rested around his chair. Leaning against the front of his desk Dean crossed his arms and looked over the students silently.

After five minutes he could tell they were starting to get antsy. He’d yet to say a word and they couldn’t figure out why.

One of the girls cautiously raised a hand, “Mr. Winchester? Are we going to start or…”

The rest of the class groaned. If the teacher was content to stand and stare they were more than okay with that. Anything that delayed any work they may have to do was fine by them.

Dean smiled at the class. He did love confusing them. “We already have.”

The dumbstruck look on his students’ faces gave him a chuckle. “We’re going to start discussing the Weeping Angels today. Does any one know who they are?”

Most of the students stared back at him blank faced. He saw Claire Novak frown and heard a soft mutter of ‘Doctor Who?’

At least someone had some culture this class. “Yes, they were indeed used in Doctor Who Claire.”

Claire’s head snapped up and her cheeks coloured. She sank back in her seat; obviously she hadn’t meant to be heard.

Pulling up a PowerPoint, Dean made a point of emphasizing a need for notes. Not that he thought it would do any good. “The myth does go farther then that. The Weeping Angels were statues of Greek women with wings. The myth goes that the Angels have existed since the beginning of time. They do have a very strong defensive mechanism.”

A group of boys in the back snickered. ‘They flash people?”

Dean rolled his eyes. Some of the students really pushed the boundary of maturity; unfortunately it was in the wrong direction. “No, the Weeping Angels turned to stone when seen. If anyone, even others of their own kind set an eye upon them they appeared to be simple statues.”

“That’s a crappy existence.”

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes – he’d done it so often they were starting to hurt – Dean watched the girl who spoke shove her mobile phone into her purse. Did they really think him blind? Dead inclined his head, “That’s why they were also known as lonely assassins. They could never be seen or meet another’s eye if they wanted to be able to move freely and live.”

Most of the class perked up when he used the term assassin. Teenagers these days really were more interested in things when they involved some sort of violence.

“They were killers?”

“Sweet.”

The comments rolled over Dean; he instead focused on the more rowdy students. Most of which were already heavily involved in the debate – he used that term lightly. Dean noticed Claire Novak sitting uncomfortably in her seat with a look of complete frustration on her face. He watched as she closed her eyes and seemed to become focused inward. He recognized the beginnings of a meditation technique thanks to Sam. At least one of his students was taking his warnings to heart. If she continued to improve perhaps he would let her off with only those warnings. Flickering his attention back to the rest of the class Dean let out shrill whistle, taking pleasure in the winces. “That’s enough! The Weeping Angels were assassins yes, but probably some of the kindest you’d ever meet so to speak.”

“What the…” The boy wisely closed is mouth at Dean’s pointed look.

“Claire you mentioned Doctor Who, why don’t you have a go at explaining?”

Claire froze and swallowed audibly. “The Weeping Angels in Doctor Who sent people back in time. The victims weren’t actually killed by the angels, most died from old age.”

“Very good, thank you Claire. They fed off the energy or ‘time’ the victims would have used had they remained in their proper timeline.” Dean fazed out as he focused on the rest of the lecture. It was only by chance that he looked over to the clock. The hands signaling there was only a few minutes left before the end of class.

“I want last weeks homework assignment on my desk, when you hand it in you can leave.”

The class scrambled to its feet, students pushing each other out of the way to get to the front and out the door. By the time the bell rang the classroom was empty and his desk resembled the aftermath of a bombing. Sliding into his chair Dean cringed when his knee popped painfully. Between early morning errands, first period and this class he’s been on his feet too long.

“Mr. Winchester?” Dean looked up from his attempt at organizing the papers and found Claire standing in front of his desk shifting from foot to foot.

“Is there a problem with the assignment Claire?”

“Huh?” Claire noticed she was still clutching the paper. “Oh, no sorry.”

Dean accepted the offered paper adding it to the pile on the desk before shoving the whole shooting match into his bag. “What can I do for you then?”

“I just wanted to let you know my father agreed to the suggested meeting time.”

“All right thank you Claire. Could you please have your father call me at the number on the letter? I’d like to hear from him before hand.”

“Okay, no problem.” Claire left the classroom worried. It was a problem. She had no idea if her uncle was coming over or calling to discuss the details of Friday. Claire also suspected that Mr. Winchester was one to be suspicious enough compare contact numbers for the students with the number used to call. The less suspicion raised the better for everyone.

After Claire left and a brief argument with himself about the merits of moving Dean pulled out a pile of ninth grade papers from his bag. Grabbing a red pen Dean started to mark the top paper on the pile while absently fiddling with his brace.




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Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
speakeasv
Jan. 22nd, 2014 02:43 am (UTC)
What the hell subject does Dean teach that they're discussing Doctor Who in class?? Legitimately curious here...
feline_feral
Jan. 22nd, 2014 02:55 am (UTC)
b
Dean teaches mythology. The Weeping Angels are part of Greek Myth. Perhaps I need to expand on it more in the story.

Although I can't find my resource pages anymore. I think I might look further and make some changes. Thank you for your comment.

Edited at 2014-01-22 03:04 am (UTC)
speakeasv
Jan. 22nd, 2014 03:21 am (UTC)
Re: b
Ugh! Sorry, for some reason my computer logged me out since I last commented.. So that anon was me on accident. Woops!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )