Here's what you need to know about this fic, which I've decided to set roughly in the ballpark of season 6, with some stuff shifted around to accommodate the story I want to tell. It wouldn't need to be so different if all these characters could be alive and happy at the same time!
1. Gabriel never died, but he stays out of the Winchesters' lives, only popping in if Castiel ropes him into something.
2. Gabriel and Castiel teamed up to retrieve Sam's soul after realizing that Castiel missed it the first time around.
3. Dean never went to Lisa after season 5, instead he stayed with Castiel, who alternates between working jobs with the Winchesters and helping run things in Heaven.
4. Sam doesn't have a wall of any kind, so he has vicious nightmares about hell, but he's good at controlling it.
5. Castiel is at full power as an angel, but has a far more human personality than he used to, partly due to adapting to a more constant life on earth.
Chapter 1 - Injured
Dean sat in the driver's seat of the Impala, glaring impressively at a suburban house. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the house itself, but the people inside of it were decidedly out of the ordinary for a calm little suburb like this. That was the problem with calm little suburbs. There was always something waiting to threaten that idyllic appearance.
To Dean's right was his younger brother Sam, who was watching the house with the exact same level of intensity, though his expression was less dramatic. He instead looked thoughtful, which suited him. Dean was a man of action, and Sam was a man of words. Both could act in either capacity, but everyone has their own niche.
"Why are we still watching the house?" A low voice demanded.
"Ssssh," the Winchester brothers said in unison. Only Dean turned around to look at Castiel, the angel in the backseat.
"We just want to make sure there aren't any surprises, Cas. We'll go in in a sec." Dean reassured him, giving the angel one of his rare genuine smiles.
Sam watched the exchange out of the corner of his eye, a smile dancing on his lips as well. His older brother was like a first grade girl with a crush around the angel sometimes, and he was relieved that the two of them were actually in a relationship now. Before they had gotten together, the tension had been remarkably intense sometimes. Now it was almost like being with two puppies. Castiel was the confused puppy and Dean the eager one. They were adorable to watch. Most of the time. There was a reason Sam had his own room when they traveled now.
"What do you say, Sam?" Dean asked, snapping Sam out of his thoughts. "You think we're good?"
"Yeah," Sam agreed. "If something was going to happen we'd have seen it by now. Let's go."
"Excellent," Castiel said, his intonation not changing at all to match the enthusiasm in his eyes.
Sam's lips twitched again, but he left the angel with his brother and headed towards the house. Nothing suspicious had happened in the entirety of the time they'd been watching, but that was no reason to leave caution behind.
Creeping slowly towards the front door, Sam was aware that Dean and Castiel had joined him, Dean mimicking his brother's cautious approach while Castiel watched with amusement.
"Cas, humor us. Some discretion?" Sam whispered, gesturing towards himself and Dean, who weren't standing in full view of a window.
Realizing his error, Castiel moved to Dean's side, glancing towards Sam to make sure his new position was approved.
Rolling his eyes, Sam moved towards the front door, took a deep breath, and knocked it down.
"Nobody move!" He roared, training his gun on the first woman in the room. She was probably in her forties, and her barely grey brown hair was done up in tight bun, which only accentuated her angular features.
Startled, the woman backed up against the wall, but did not look frightened. Instead, she glanced towards the other two women in the room with a meaningful look.
"Dean, Cas?" Sam called, reassured when he heard Dean cock his gun and train it on the youngest woman, who couldn't have been more than twenty.
The one woman without a gun trained on her was the oldest, and she was glaring viciously at the hunters. "How dare you?" She roared. "You cannot just barge into my home-"
"I believe your activities as murderers negates your right to privacy," Castiel informed her gravely. Something about his frankness shut her up.
Dean chuckled at that and gave Castiel a wink. "Good one, Cas."
"Why are you here?" The angular woman demanded, straightening up and stepping towards Sam, who readjusted his grip on the gun.
"To stop this," Sam said firmly.
"Stop what?" The youngest woman asked, looking petrified.
"You're witches," Dean said, his tone irritated at how drawn out the conversation was becoming. "Six people have died already, and you psychos aren't killing anybody else!"
The youngest witch's eyes widened and her gaze flew to the oldest woman's face. "Is that true? People have been dying? You said this was simple magic! To help people!"
"I thought it was!" The old woman protested, glancing between the young witch and the hunters. "There's no way we're responsible!"
Unsure, Sam's gaze slipped to the other two women for a split second.
That was all the time the angular witch needed. With a screech of glee she launched herself forward, knocking Sam over and laying a knife across his throat. "Not one single movement from any of you!" She sneered.
Dean's face was furious. "Let him go, you bitch!" He yelled.
"Touchy, touchy, aren't we? Mother, Opal, come to me." The angular witch glared at the other two women until they joined her, both still basking in the success of their performance.
"What'd you think?" Opal asked Dean, winking at him. "I thought I was rather convincing."
Dean glowered at her, but managed to retain enough of his boyish confidence to chuckle at her. "Hate to break it to you sweetheart, but I'm taken." He gestured to Castiel, who looked murderous.
A flash of disappointment flickered across Opal's face, but she sniffed and rolled her eyes. "As if I'm even interested," she said primly. "I don't fraternize with hunters." She said it like it was a dirty word, and the looks on her mother and grandmother's faces confirmed their opinions.
"Well, I don't hang with witches either," Dean said with a shrug. "So I guess everyone's happy. Now, let my brother go before this ends extra badly for all three of you."
"Oh, I don't think so," the angular witch replied. Turning her face skyward, she began yelling in an ancient tongue that neither Winchester recognized immediately.
The blood drained from Castiel's face and he lurched forward. "NO!" He bellowed, reaching out a hand in vain to stop the witch from speaking.
Dean, unsure what was happening, went into autopilot mode and fired his gun, shooting the youngest and oldest witches through the head. He leveled his gun at the witch who was chanting, but her concentration hadn't broken.
With a final screech of the language, the witch lifted up her hands away from Sam and cried out in Latin, only to have her voice silenced by Dean's gun.
All of a sudden there was a still silence in the house, and it was far more disturbing than even the chanting had been.
"Sammy!" Dean called, his voice tense with nervousness. He lurched to his brother's side, ignoring the bodies of the women. His tall brother lay at an awkward angle on the floor, unconscious. "Cas, what'd that bitch do to him?"
Castiel picked himself up off of the floor, where he had fallen unceremoniously in his attempt to stop the witch. "She was cursing him in Enochian," he answered gruffly, seething. "As soon as I realized I tried to stop her, but obviously I failed. I'm sorry, Dean."
"Wait, wait, wait," Dean interrupted, not letting the apology continue. "Cursing him? Like how?"
"He is..." Castiel searched for a kinder word than the one that came to mind. "Damaged."
"Clearly, Cas, he's out cold," Dean said impatiently. "What was the curse?"
Castiel sighed, looking uncomfortable. "This curse is...harsh. It is unlikely that Sam will ever wake up."
Dean froze, unable to accept that. After all the crap they had dealt with to get Sam back to normal after the apocalypse, there was no way a stupid hunt for witches was going to end his baby brother. "If he does?" Dean managed to ask.
"Were we somehow able to revive him, Sam would be unable to walk, speak, or perhaps even see. This curse is designed to render the victim useless." Castiel looked brokenhearted as he shifted his gaze between the brothers. "I am so sorry, Dean. I cannot even fathom how you must feel."
"Shell shocked," Dean managed to reply. "Don't beat yourself up, Cas, please. I don't blame you for this. We'll figure something out. Can you...can you try to wake him up?"
Castiel nodded. "I can try." With a deep breath he knelt beside the younger Winchester, whose face looked so innocent in his current unconscious state. The angel and Sam were not the best of friends at all times, but they were closer now than they had been before Sam had sacrificed himself to defeat Lucifer. Castiel had rescued Sam for Dean's sake, though he had had to seek assistance when he realized he had to go back for Sam's soul. Seeing Sam lying on the floor, so damaged, was a sign that Castiel had failed Dean. Steeling himself against another possible failure, Castiel lightly placed two fingers against Sam's forehead, allowing his grace to have free reign. Please, Father, Castiel begged God. Do not let Dean lose his brother like this.
Dean watched anxiously, one hand clutching Sam's unresponsive hand and the other resting on Castiel's shoulder in support. "Well?" He asked cautiously as the glow emanating from Castiel faded away.
Castiel shook his head slowly. "I am not strong enough."
"Isn't there anyone...?" Dean started to ask, not ready to face an end just yet.
There was a pause, then a look of determination fell over Castiel's face. "I will be right back, Dean," he told his, for lack of a more appropriate term, boyfriend, before flying away.
Dean was left clutching his brother's lifeless hand, panic threatening to overwhelm him. Even the slight motion in Sam's chest that indicated he was still breathing was not enough to assuage the hunter's fears.
The whoosh of wings caught Dean's attention, and he looked up in surprise to see that Castiel had returned with a guest. "Gabriel?" He asked skeptically.
"Step aside, Dean-o," Gabriel said casually. "I'm here to wake Sleeping Beauty." It had been Gabriel that Castiel turned to when he needed to save Sam's soul, and the archangel had agreed with surprising ease. After all the trouble he had gone to to save the younger Winchester's soul, Gabriel was going to be damned if a normal hunt negated all that effort.
Mild irritation broke through Dean's attempts to keep calm, and he fixed his glare on Castiel. "Gabriel?" He said again, this time using his tone to inflect the words 'what the hell are you thinking' into the name.
"We needed someone more powerful, Dean," Castiel said calmly. "Gabriel is an archangel." He turned his gaze to his older brother, watching intently.
Reluctantly, Dean mirrored Castiel's movement and watched the short archangel mimic Castiel's earlier action, this time the glow burning bright gold. Where Castiel had a soft and natural white light that felt comforting, watching Gabriel was too bright. It hurt Dean's eyes like watching the sun in midday without sunglasses. He had to look away, but when the light faded his head whipped back around to watch his brother for any signs of life.
It was just a grunt, but it meant that Sam was awake. Dean flung himself towards his brother, shaking him lightly by the shoulder. "Sammy?" He asked urgently.
There was another groan, but when Sam opened his mouth, no words came out. He gestured with panic towards his eyes and legs, then his mouth, his hand motions indicating more and more frustration as he realized his inability to communicate.
Tears pricked Dean's eyes, but he refused to allow them to escape. Resting a hand on Sam's head, he shushed him, stilling his flailing hands. "Calm down, Sam, we're going to fix this! I'll be right back." Gesturing urgently to the angels, he walked just slightly away from his brother, then turned on his lover and the obnoxious archangel he tolerated. "What the hell am I supposed to do?"
"He needs to be cared for," Castiel said. "He needs to learn to adapt."
"So, what, you and I take a year off of hunting to care for the invalid?" Dean demanded. "He would hate that, I would hate that, and you would hate that."
Castiel's face fell slightly, knowing Dean was right.
Gabriel sighed and ran a hand through his hair, wondering if he would regret this. "He'll stay with me. I can give him a steady flow of my grace. If anything can help him recover, that will. I could use a break from my own life, and babysitting the Sasquatch isn't a bad gig."
Dean looked at him skeptically, but Castiel nodded and turned to Dean. "It's the best option for Sam, Dean. He will have an actual chance of recovery with Gabriel, not just a chance at adapting to life with disability."
Dean still looked torn, but as his gaze fell on his helpless brother, he managed a nod. "I swear to God, Gabriel, if you pull any kind of crap with my brother..."
Gabriel made a face at him. "I know, you've stabbed me before, remember?" He winked at Dean before walking off and laying a hand on Sam. The two of them disappeared, leaving Castiel and Dean alone with the dead witches.
"Cas," Dean gasped, leaning against his angel for support. "I don't know what I'll do if..."
"Sam is in good hands, Dean," Castiel assured him, hugging the hunter tightly to his chest. "If anyone can save your brother now, it's Gabriel."