Between the doctor and Castiel, Dean was happier than he had been ever since he had picked his brother up from Stanford to hunt for their father. Even before that to the time when Sam was eight and still an innocent. The doctor warned Dean and Bobby that Sam would be very tired and would sleep a lot until he got stronger. Castiel told Dean that he could sense that Sam's soul was not hiding anymore but inhabited the whole vessel. It wasn't until Sam was staying awake longer that Dean noticed a big difference in his brother.
The first sign that there was something wrong with Sam was that when asked what he wanted for breakfast, he said, "Charms!" As an adult, Sam only ate fruit or something as equally healthy for breakfast, not the sugary, sweet cereal that he had grown up with. His choice for lunch was Spagettios. When Dean heard that, he freaked and practically yelled at Castiel to "get his feathery ass down here and find out what's wrong with my brother!" Dean heard a noise in the doorway of the library where he was and he saw his baby brother, all 6'4" of him crying and looking scared. Dean hurried over to his brother and was immediately latched onto. He was able to maneuver them into the living room and onto the couch by the time Castiel appeared. Above Sam's sobs, Dean explained his worry and asked Castiel to check it out. The Angel was concerned and put his hand on Sam's head.
He found that Sam's mindscape had changed for the better. Instead of a dreary place with a lit house, he found a beautiful meadow…and an eight year old boy who looked like Sam with the brown, floppy hair and hazel eyes. There was a smile on his face that the Angel had never seen before, one that showed innocence and total happiness.
"Cas!" the child yelled and ran to the Angel to latch onto him in a hug.
"Samuel?" Castiel asked confused.
"Sam! Not Samuel," the child answered.
"Okay Sam. Can you tell me what happened?" Castiel wanted to know.
The child nodded but then held up a ball. "Play catch with me?"
"I don't know how," the Angel confessed.
"It's easy, I'll teach you," the child replied. Sam spent the next few minutes telling Castiel how to play then they started to toss the ball to each other. Another couple of minutes passed before Sam started to speak, "He asked me what I wanted and I said I wanted to be happy."
"Who, Samu…er Sam, who asked you what you wanted?" Castiel asked as he tossed the ball back to the child.
"Um…he's like you but has more wings. He has long brown hair and brown eyes," the child tried to describe. "He asked me when I was happy and I said before I asked Dean about Dad's real job so he said okay and here I am."
"Did he say how long you would be like this?" Castiel asked quietly. The description sounded like Raphael but it really didn't make any sense since the Archangel had made his feelings on the whole thing quite clear.
"Said that since I got hurt bad I would never be the same as I had been. Said that I was innocent now and he wanted to give me a gift, one that would last forever so I would never be hurt like that again," Sam was equally quiet. Then he asked anxiously, "Did I do wrong? Will Dean hate me for my choice?"
Castiel put the ball down and went to the child. Picking him up, he looked in the child's eyes and said, "I'll make sure he understands that you did nothing wrong. He won't hate you, child. He loves you very much and, if this makes you happy, then it will make him happy. He will just have to get used to it."
Sam snuggled into Castiel's shoulder and said sleepily, "Thanks Cas."
"I just have one more question Sam and I need you to answer it." Castiel felt the little boy nod and he asked the question that had been on his mind, "Have you always been able to see my true form?"
"Yeah," Sam yawned. "Pretty wings."
"Thank you. Why didn't you tell Dean that you could see me?" Castiel wondered. He was astounded at the answer. It was so Sam.
"I didn't want him to feel bad cuz he couldn't."
The Angel stood and held the child until he slept. Then, laying Sam gently on the ground, he left the mind to talk to Dean.
When Castiel pulled his hand from Sam's head, he saw that the man was sleeping against his brother's chest. Smiling at the sight, he carded his fingers through the brown hair and marveled at the feel. Eight year old Sam wouldn't mind him doing this but the much older Sam would have pulled away, even in his sleep. He looked up to see Dean staring at him with questions in his eyes. "We had a talk, Sam and I. He told me what was going on," Castiel said.
"What happened, Cas? Why is he like this? Is it brain damage like the doctor thought?" Dean asked.
Castiel paused to organize his thoughts then he began, "Sam was given a gift. One that extends to you but you need to know that he's worried that you would be mad at him since he had been asked what he wanted. I told him that it may take you a bit to understand but you could never be mad." Dean nodded and Castiel continued, "I believe that Raphael had healed Sam so he could wake up from his coma but he also wanted to give Sam something special. He asked Sam what he wanted and he told my brother that he wanted to be happy. Raphael then asked Sam when he was happy, truly happy. Sam's answer was when he was eight so that is where Sam is mentally and emotionally."
Dean's eyes filled with tears, "He couldn't heal Sam so he was the same age as he was a couple of months ago? Why, Cas, why?"
Castiel reached up to cup Dean's face. Then he reached for Sam's head. Concentrating, he brought Dean into Sam's mindscape. This time, instead of the meadow, they found the young boy sitting on a log by a stream. Dean recognized the area as one he had taken his baby brother to fish when they were both young. The stream wasn't too far from Bobby's place so John was okay with the two of them walking there and back. He noticed that he was carrying three fishing poles in his hand while Castiel had some bait and tackle.
Like some novice, Dean stepped on a stick and the crack seemed loud. Sam turned around and, seeing who was there, smiled largely. "Dean! Cas! You came to fish with me?" He asked as he ran towards the pair.
"Su-sure Sammy. We're going to fish with you. See, I got the poles and Cas brought everything else," Dean responded. Sam beamed and, tugging both men, he brought them to the spot where they first saw him. At Sam's insistence, the three of them took the time to hook and bait their poles then throw the lines in the stream.
They fished in companionable silence for a while then Sam began to speak, "Dean, I told you how I found Dad's journal, didn't I? Found out about the monsters he hunted?"
Dean touched his Amulet that Sam had given him for Christmas when Sam was eight, "Yeah, why?"
"Um, I got something to tell you but I don't want you to get mad," Sam said with his head hanging down.
"Sammy, I promise I won't get mad," Dean responded putting a hand on his brother's shoulder.
"I didn't tell you when exactly that I read his journal," Sam confessed.
Dean looked confusedly at his baby brother then asked, "When did you read it, Sammy?"
"Um, I was…I was four when I read it," Sam said in a very low voice.
"Four! Why? I mean I knew you could read, I was the one who taught you but why did you pick Dad's journal up in the first place?" Dean was a bit ticked off but when Sam started to flinch away from him, he reigned in his anger.
"Sam, what led you to read your father's journal?" Castiel asked the small boy with a warning in his eyes for Dean. Dean just nodded, ashamed of his outburst.
"I remember Daddy getting mad at Dean for leaving our room cuz he wanted to have fun. After…after he got done yelling at Dean, he wrote something in his book and I knew it had to do with why he was so mad. I wanted to find out but I knew nobody would tell me anything so I waited until Daddy was asleep and I got up and read it," was the confessed answer.
Dean cleared his throat, "All of it?"
Sam nodded, "Yeah, all of it. I found out that monsters were real and you guys were keeping me safe. Dean, I don't blame you for that witch-thingy. You were eight and you deserved to have some fun in your life, not just hanging around a baby like me. Daddy should have stayed with us if he was that worried." Dean was shocked to find out that his then four year old brother had forgiven him for almost letting him get killed, then blamed their father for letting it happen. The rest of what Sam had to say left him reeling. "Since then, anytime we stopped at Pastor Jim's or Uncle Bobby's, I'd wait until everyone was asleep and go down to the books to read. Pastor Jim found me sleeping with a book once and thought I had been looking at the pictures. He talked to me about not doing it again, saying that the pictures would give me nightmares but I just got more careful, made sure if I got tired I went to bed. Dad kept leaving his journal in easy places to find so I kept up with them until I asked you at Christmas about the monsters."
"Aw Sammy, why didn't you tell me this before?" Dean asked carefully so as to not upset the little boy.
"Heard you and Daddy arguing once. He wanted to tell me about the monsters but you kept saying I was too young, that I should be a kid for a little while longer. I wanted you to be happy so I didn't tell you that I already knew. Did I do wrong?" Sam asked with tears in his eyes.
Dean put his pole down and stooped to wipe the tears out of Sam's eyes, "No kiddo, you didn't. Thank you, baby boy for giving me that. For letting me raise you like I wanted to for at least a little while."
"Dean, do you hate me for everything I did? For Ruby? For the demon blood?" the child asked hesitantly.
"I hate that you felt you had to do that but I could never hate you. Just like I don't hate your choice with Raphael," Dean answered honestly and sincerely. He was rewarded with a hard hug and a huge smile. It warmed Dean to realize that he did the right thing with Sam.
Castiel smiled at the healing that was being done. Then he said, "Sam, we need to go but we will always be with you. Do you understand?"
"Yeah, you need to leave me in my mind so you can go to the real world," Sam's answer shocked the living daylights out of Dean.
"That is right. We will see you in a few seconds," the Angel replied. Before Dean knew it, he was back on Bobby's couch, holding his brother as Castiel backed away from them. "Do you understand now, Dean? Raphael gave your brother back his happiness and innocence by mentally and emotionally de-aging him. Sam, though, will always be able to help with research, if that is what you want. He is not naïve and does know about the existence of the supernatural world. He has his memories but none of the feelings of hopelessness he had before. It is a great gift."
Dean hugged his baby brother close and closed his eyes, "I know, Cas. I know. Thank you all for everything you have done for us. Will you be around anymore?"
"I am your Guardian and Sam's. I will be here for the two of you, always and forever. I promise," Castiel said gravely.
It had been six months since the revelation that Sam was a perpetual eight year old and Dean found he was okay with that. Sam, at eight, was smarter than most adults that Dean knew. He was able to help research and could still read at a college level. His grasp of other languages was scary but Castiel assured Dean that most children were able to be multi-lingual if taught at a very young age. Still, it was a shock when Dean would come downstairs to find his large baby brother watching cartoons or playing with toys as if every adult did it. He had Dean playing again and it made Bobby laugh whenever he saw the two grown men playing tag or statues. It healed his own wounded heart at what happened with Sam.
Dean decided, soon after his trip through Sam's head, that he would give up Hunting to be with his brother. At first, he craved the Hunt like a drug addict craved the next hit but the cravings gradually wore off as his life became more Sam-centric and less of killing things. Bobby gave him a job and, after a couple of months, he was able to afford an apartment but Bobby became incensed by the thought of the boys moving out so Dean scrapped the idea in favor of peace in the family.
Castiel stayed with the family saying that Michael assigned him permanently to the Winchester/Singer household. When Sam heard that, he cheered and said thank you to Michael in a very, very loud voice. Dean found that Sam could see Castiel's true form and the Angel, to keep Sam's secret, fudged the truth saying that innocent could see Angels. He, like Sam, didn't want to hurt Dean's feelings.
Between Castiel, Dean and Bobby, Sam was never made to feel as though he was the lowest ranking pack member. No longer was he the low man on the Totem Pole. No, he was Sam Winchester, a valued and much loved member of their family.
It made sense that Raphael would have changed his mind but never said a word about healing Sam after he refused his brother's request.