Summary: Castiel must raise Dean’s daughter after Sam and Dean’s deaths.
Warnings: main character death, death of parents, angsty shit
(So I got this request a few days ago and really loved it because my ultimate weakness is TFW as family/parents. However, the result is kind of unlike anything else I’ve written before, at least in my opinion. It’s not a reader insert, and it’s just kind of… I don’t know, different? Anyway, I hope you like it, even though I didn’t know what to name the kid so she just doesn’t have a name… and the ending is sort of blah… I’m gonna stop criticizing myself now so just read it gosh ~Sam)
At first, he was Cat.
It wasn’t surprising that her first word was ‘dada,’ and even less surprising was Dean’s reaction; he hadn’t stopped smiling for days, clinging to her even more than usual and beaming proudly down at her every time she spoke his name. However, it wasn’t long before she figured out her uncle’s name, too (although she had trouble pronouncing s’s and called him Bam instead of Sam), and shortly thereafter starting calling Castiel by her own version of his name, as well.
He could still remember the first time she said it. Sam and Dean had often tried to get her to learn his name, gesturing to the angel and repeating “Cas, say Cas” until it didn’t even sound like a real name anymore. But of course back then he wasn’t around as often as he would have liked, and so the one-year-old’s father and uncle eventually moved on to teaching her other words (or at least trying to).
Sam’s attempts were usually more realistic, prompting her to learn words like “food” or “bunny” (in reference to the stuffed rabbit he’d gotten his niece when she was still a pink-faced, unbelievably small newborn, which she slept with every night since coming from the hospital). Dean, on the other hand, could be found many days playing with her on his bed in the bunker, pointing to different records and instructing, “Say music. Muuuuuu-sic,” or, one time, “Baby, can you say Metallica?”
Castiel, on the other hand (when he was able to visit, once every few weeks or so), didn’t push her much to learn words she wouldn’t understand the meanings of anyway. He was still new to the difficult world of taking care of children, but he could imagine it would be somewhat patronizing constantly being made googly-eyes at and asked in strange voices to say things like “shoe” or “toy.” So when he was left alone with her to watch over her while Sam and Dean were away or busy, he usually spared her the English lessons and opted instead to play with her in silence or hum quietly until she fell asleep.
It was one of these peacefully quiet times that she first said his name (or her version of it). The two adult Winchesters had left her alone with Cas while they bought supplies and groceries, and as per usual, the bunker had been rather silent for the past hour, save for the child’s gibberish babblings and peals of laughter as she clumsily fumbled around with blocks and her beloved bunny. However, she lost interest in her toys the moment her father and uncle strolled into the room, arms weighed down by multiple grocery sacks, which Dean immediately put down before rushing over to the little girl seated on Castiel’s lap.
“Dada!” she squealed happily, reaching her arms up for him. Dean swept her into his arms and gave her an exaggeratedly loud kiss on her soft cheek, causing her to burst into giggles. Cas smiled softly at the sound of her laughter as he stood up from the couch and smoothed out the wrinkles in his trench coat.
“Hey, baby girl,” Dean greeted her lovingly, holding her on his hip and nodding towards Castiel. “Did you have a fun time with Uncle Cas?”
Turning her bright green eyes towards her honorary uncle, her few tiny teeth showed as she broke into a grin and exclaimed, “Cat!”
Cas looked up at the child curiously, and Dean’s eyes widened with amused surprise. “Hey, looks like she finally figured out your name, Cas,” he smirked. “Well, sort of.” He adjusted the bow on top of her head and prompted, “Can you say Cas?”
The angel watched without comment as she squealed again, “Cat! Cat!” and pointed emphatically in his direction.
It was the first time she ever spoke to him directly, and after that day, she never stopped.
For a while, it was always just “Cat, Cat,” as she would hold her chubby arms out and make grabby hands for Cas when Sam or Dean would hand her over to him. She would giggle giddily as soon as she had settled in his arms, and would rest her fingers on his stubbly cheeks or play with the buttons on his coat.
As she grew, Cat turned to Cassie, her uncle to Sam or Sammy, and Dada to Daddy; she learned to walk on shaky, unsteady, and later confident and constantly-moving little legs; diapers and pacifiers were replaced by Hello Kitty sneakers and bicycles, and somewhere along the way, Castiel developed an unprecedented and unconditional affection for the little girl as if she was his own. And the feelings were more than mutual. Of course Dean was still the go-to for comfort after nightmares or when her scraped knees required more attention than just a band-aid, and Uncle Sam was great when it came to learning how to swim and making sure she ate the vegetables that Dean said weren’t that important. But Cas, he was her storyteller, coming up with bedtime stories about heroes that saved the world more than once (he claimed they were purely fictional, but one day, she would learn otherwise). He was her weird-uncle-mixed-best-friend, a walking encyclopedia to answer every question she could come up with—and damn, did she come up with a lot of questions.
Castiel tried to answer them as best he could, not sugar-coating things or dumbing them down, because he knew she was smart and had to learn these things eventually, anyway. But even still, there were only so much you could tell an eight-year-old, no matter how mature or intelligent the child, and sometimes, he struggled.
“What are those paintings in my room?” They’re for good luck, he’d tell her. And by good luck, he’d think the truth to himself, I mean they will keep you safe from the demons and even angels who would love to bring you harm.
“Why am I not allowed downstairs?” That’s where your father hides your birthday presents. That’s the dungeon where your father and uncle keep monsters hostage for interrogation.
“Where’s Daddy and Sammy?” They’re working this weekend—working to take out a coven of witches in Baltimore.
And the worst.
“Why don’t I have a mommy?”
Cas had frozen in place at the sound of her voice, hand still gripping the knife he’d been rinsing off in the sink while preparing her lunch. It was good, he supposed, that Dean and Sam had been out when she asked the inevitable question they’d all been waiting for her to ask; it would have hurt them too much to have had to explain it to her, would have reopened wounds that had never really closed to begin with. And even though it pained Castiel to think of it as well, she deserved the truth about her own mother—but still…
He recovered himself before she even noticed his original discomfort, placing her finished PB&J on a plate in front of where she sat at the kitchen table, feet swinging lazily beneath her chair. Sitting down beside her, he watched as she mumbled a hurried “thank you” before taking a large bite of the sandwich and looking back up at him, waiting for an answer. He hesitated, seated uncomfortably on the edge of his chair and staring intently at the crumbs falling to the table.
Her small voice brought him out of his thoughts, and he took her napkin and used it to gently wipe her chin and lips clean of peanut butter and grape jelly.
“Your mother,” he began slowly, his voice even lower than usual, “passed away when you were very, very young.” Technically before you were even born. She was six months pregnant. You survived, and she perished.
“Does that mean she died?” she asked, mouth full of peanut butter.
He nodded curtly. “Yes, it does.”
Surprisingly, the little girl seemed less affected by his statement than he’d expected. Her rushed eating became slightly less zealous, and the corners of her pink lips turned downward the slightest bit, yet there were no tears, no sniffling as he’d anticipated. Instead, she simply furrowed her brows thoughtfully, appearing years older, and swallowed the last bite of her sandwich before chasing it with a long sip of milk.
“How did she die?” she asked, eyes wide with innocent curiosity. She gazed up at him, looking even more like Dean that she always did.
Castiel cleared his throat and took her now-empty plate, taking it to the sink. “She died saving your father from someone who wanted to hurt him.” Metatron. “She was very brave.” She didn’t deserve to die, but I couldn’t save you both.
The girl nodded, deep in thought. Her smile had indeed fallen, but she appeared less genuinely sad than solemn out of obligation. Castiel understood that; she’d never known her mother—no one even spoke of her—and with Sam and Cas there to help raise her with her father, her mom’s absence went practically unnoticed by the child who didn’t know anything different. At that moment in time, she didn’t mind that she didn’t have a mother. As long as she still had Daddy and Sammy and Cassie, she was fine. But even still, there was something in Cas’s tone and in the air that deflated her a bit, made her feel serious and a little sad even if she wasn’t sure why, really, like the one time Cas took her to church and they had to be quiet and pray.
“Well,” she finally spoke, wiping a milk mustache from her lip with the back of her sleeve. “I’m glad Daddy didn’t get hurt, then.”
Castiel nodded. “Yes. So am I.”
And he was. Of course he was grateful that Dean had survived the attack, even if it had come at a cost. But from the moment they’d brought his tiny, premature newborn back to the bunker and begun their stint as Team Free Will, Parent Edition, Cas had known that it was only a matter of time before Dean stopped surviving. Even though they managed to keep the child away from the hunting world rather well, he’d known—and Sam and Dean had known, too—that one day, her dad would be gone, as well, reunited with her mother only in death. Every time she was left under Castiel’s watch while the brothers went on a hunt, or even when he accompanied them and left the girl in the care of Charlie or Jody Mills, he was constantly on edge, wondering, “What if this is it? What if today is the day she becomes an orphan?”
She was twelve when it finally happened. Perhaps, if Castiel’s grace hadn’t completely burnt out several years earlier, condemning him to mortality for good, he would have been able to save them from the demons that took their lives. But he couldn’t, and he didn’t, and even though there was nothing he could do about it, he always partially blamed himself for it.
In one day, she lost both her father and uncle, and Castiel lost the greatest friends he’d ever known. In a moment, their lives came crumbling down, suddenly lost and alone… except they still had each other.
Castiel tried his hardest to be everything she needed, but the first few years were perhaps the most difficult thing Cas had ever survived, and that included the apocalypse and Purgatory. There were nights where he’d find her glaring down at an Algebra textbook, and would gently place his hand on her shoulder or begin to ask if she needed help only to see her snap in front of him. Angry, seemingly unprovoked tears would stream down her face, still so innocent and young despite the despair in her (Dean’s) eyes, and she’d cry and scream because it’s not fair they’re gone, you should’ve saved them, I should’ve saved them—never mind the fact that she hadn’t even been in the same state as them when Sam and Dean perished. I don’t want you, I want my family. Unless you can bring my dad or my mom or Sam back, leave me the fuck alone!
And even though he didn’t know much about raising teenagers and he no longer possessed the ability to mind-read, Castiel knew she didn’t mean what she said. In his brief tenure as a human, he’d learned that grief could make people say things without thinking, and even though he grieved differently than her, he understood why she did what she did. Of course, the outbursts sometimes hurt anyway, but never for long, because every night when he checked on her before bed, the door was always unlocked despite the perfectly functioning deadbolts on the inside of every room in the bunker. He’d see her curled up on her bed, usually with her back to him, tightly squeezing the bunny Sam gave her that she never would completely outgrow.
And when he’d sit on the edge of her bed and smooth his hand over her hair, she would always mumble “I’m sorry” in the most broken, hoarse-from-crying voice he’d ever heard, and all would be forgotten. Cas would tuck her in the way he’d seen Sam and Dean do ever since she was a baby—it seemed so long ago—and, even though only hours before she had ‘hated him’ and ‘never wanted to see him again,’ she would always, always say, “Love you, Cas” right before drifting to sleep, and he always said it back.
A year passed since the last time either of them had seen Sam or Dean Winchester alive, and then a year and half, then two; and slowly, slowly, things started to be okay again. Dean’s baby girl started high school and went with a boy to homecoming (she looked so much like her mother with her hair in an elegant braid, and so much like Dean with her excited emerald eyes; Castiel took pictures and placed copies in Sam’s and Dean’s bedrooms). When she got the flu for the first time, he did everything he could for her without an angel’s grace, and when Cas caught the flu from her, she did the same for him.
She got her license and took her father’s Impala for the first ride it had been on in five years, Cas sitting shotgun. They both teared up a bit when Led Zeppelin automatically started blaring through the speakers, but neither one would admit to doing so.
Castiel watched her graduate (she ranked third in her class), and afterwards hugged her in the auditorium in front of the other graduates so tight and for so long that she eventually groaned “Caaaas,” rolling her eyes in embarrassment. But she hadn’t really minded.
It was hard to believe that the young woman in front of him had once slept in his arms, weighing less than seven pounds. Now here she stood, a few weeks over eighteen years old and already off to change the world everyone always knew she would. He watched from the doorway with a solemn smile as she placed her final suitcase in the back of the Impala and slammed the trunk close before strolling up to him again, hands shoved in the pocket of her Stanford hoodie and green eyes darkened with bittersweet sadness.
For a brief moment, they stood wordlessly in front of the bunker, taking each other in and putting off the inevitable. It was Cas who finally broke the silence, running a hand across his jaw. “You had better call me as soon as you arrive. That way I’ll know you got into Palo Alto safely.”
She smiled a bit, turning her eyes downward. “Yeah, I know. I will.”
They shifted on their feet awkwardly, and she cleared her throat, tugging at the hem of her bright red hoodie bearing the name of her destination. “Think Uncle Sammy would be proud?” she asked quietly, not meeting Castiel’s eyes, which had only grown more intense with age, his crows’ feet crinkling as he managed a small smile.
“I know he would be very proud of you,” he answered, placing his hands on her shoulders.
Without a moment’s hesitation, she threw her arms around her honorary uncle’s neck and buried her face against the trench coat he still wore all these years later. Fuzzy memories of Dean and Sam resurfaced in her mind, along with more crisp and recent memories of the past six years she’d spent with Castiel, and suddenly, leaving Kansas seemed a lot harder than she’d thought. She squeezed her eyes closed in an attempt to keep away tears that fell anyway.
Cas immediately held her back just as tightly, reluctant to let go of his little girl—and she wasn’t even technically his. (But somehow, she was.)
“I’m very proud of you,” he murmured, resting his head on top of hers and relishing the feeling of her presence. Who knew how long it would be before she was able to visit again? “And I know that your mother and father, and your uncle, too, wherever they are… I know they’re proud of you, as well.”
She nodded weakly against his shoulder before finally pulling away, attempting to be discrete as she wiped tears away from her cheeks. Letting out a shaky breath, she said, “I should probably hit the road soon…”
Castiel nodded. As hard as it was to say goodbye—it seemed he was always saying goodbye—he couldn’t wait for her to begin her first year at Stanford, for her to change the world the way only a Winchester can, only this time, she’d change the world with words and education instead of with blood and sacrifice. He forced himself not to walk after her as she got into the passenger’s seat of her (Dean’s) car and closed the door behind her, waving at him through the rolled-down window and revving the engine.
“Bye, Cat,” she smirked sadly, and Castiel watched the Impala pull away from the bunker and disappear onto the horizon.