Title: Leap That Makes the Fall

Author: MissAnnThropic

Spoilers: up through The French Mistake

LiveJournal: miss_annthropic dot livejournal dot com

Pairing: Dean/Castiel

Summary: With no explanation for how or why, Dean and Sam find themselves with a fallen angel on their hands.

Disclaimer: None of it's mine. I'm just a sad little fangirl that spends her days writing fanfic and watching DVDs of her favorite shows :(

"I gotta say, boys," Bobby Singer's voice sounded from Sam's cell phone, on speaker so both Winchesters could participate. "As far as worrying situations go, well, this has got to be the best one yet."

Dean and Sam looked at each other across the small motel table. Bobby was right, of course, but that didn't ease the taut, anxious expression on either of their faces.

"Bobby," Sam piped in, leaning forward on his forearms laid on the table to be closer to the phone resting flat in the center, "there hasn't been a hint of anything supernatural in weeks."

"And if we were just talking about one city or even one state that would be weird enough, but nothing in the entire freaking U.S.?"

"And more than that," Bobby noted. "I've been putting in some calls to some of my international contacts, and there's nothing going on anywhere. One minute it's shit – in every human language imaginable – hitting the fan, the next it's dead quiet pole to pole."

The absence of bad things happening would make any normal person rejoice, but the Winchesters were once bitten, twice shy. Both boys were twitchy and snappish… the waiting for something to inevitably happen was getting to them.

"We've been wandering around aimlessly for weeks with nothing to do," Dean bitched.

"We're just… it has to be the calm before the storm, right?" Sam chimed in, forestalling another one of Dean's gripe-sessions. "I mean, our whole lives there's always been something that needed hunting. And now, all of a sudden, nothing? There must be something coming… something big."

"Well, if there is, there're no signs or omens of it coming," Bobby added. He paused before asking, "Have you tried checking in with the angels?"

Dean went stiff and scowled mightily. Sam winced inwardly. Dean had been particularly touchy about that topic of late. So touchy, in fact, that Sam had been going out of his way to avoid it.

"I've called for Cas at least a dozen times," Dean said.

Twice that, in truth, but Sam wasn't going to say so.

"Bastard hasn't answered a single one of them." With a sneer and a snort, Dean quipped, "Not that that's unusual for him lately."

"Hmmm," Bobby mused, taking it in and no doubt culling Dean's sarcastic snipe. "You try any of the other angels besides Castiel?"

The brothers exchanged another loaded glance. "We, uh… we tried Balthazar," Sam confessed, "only because he's been 'summonable' in the past, but that didn't work, either." Sam pursed his lips. "But it was a long-shot trying to reach him, anyway. Balthazar's not exactly what you would call reliable or trust-worthy."

"What, and Cas is?" Dean groused under his breath.

Sam threw his brother a supremely bitchy look, but Bobby's voice cut in before Sam could say anything. "You consider the possibility it's not just the bad guys that have up and vanished? That maybe it's the good guys, too – though I used the term 'good guys' loosely?"

That made Sam and Dean look up at one another. The 'I hadn't considered that' flew between them.

"Whoa, wait, you mean the angels are gone?" Dean asked, suddenly sounding a tad concerned.

"I don't know… but could be."

Dean was bristling. It was almost audible, because the silence that fell over the three hunters was so thick.

"Ever since angels popped up on the radar few years ago, I've tried to keep tabs on angelic activity on top of demonic activity as best I can," Bobby continued, "and this lull ain't just with the demons. There haven't been any signs of angels at work or play in just as long as the nasties have been MIA."

"That's… suspicious," Sam mused.

"Surely can't be coincidence," Dean grumbled.

Then another clueless pause took hold.

"Listen, boys," Bobby finally said, "I wish I had something for you, but truth is I'm just as baffled as you by this. I'll keep an eye and ear out for anything that even resembles a hunt, but honestly, right now, I've got squat. Hell, I've been doing some housework around here that's been needing doing for years because all of a sudden I have all this time on my hands."

That was something the Winchesters could relate to. For more than a week, the complete absence of hunts to be had was starting to drive them batshit. They were like ballistic missiles that suddenly lost their tracking data. They were weapons with nothing to point at, and the purposeless meandering across the United States was getting on their nerves.

Dean's moreso than Sam's, but Sam was trying to be tactful about how he dealt with that.

"Thanks, Bobby," Dean muttered, and Sam swiped out a hand to fetch the phone and end the call.

Dean was on his feet and pacing by the time Sam looked back up. "This feels all wrong, Sam."

"I agree, man, but what can we do?" Sam held up his hands helplessly. "If there was a lead, something we could follow and track down to figure this out, I'd be all for hitting the road right now. But there's nothing."

Dean rubbed at his face with his hands, tensed, then turned back to Sam. "You think Bobby's right… I mean, about the angels being gone?"

That was really what Dean was worried about, now that Bobby had suggested it. Sam didn't need to be a genius to figure that one out. Even if Dean and Castiel had been at each other's throats more often than not this past year, there was still something tragically tangled about the hunter and angel's 'relationship'. Sam figured he'd need a doctorate in psychology to even get close to sorting it out. Most of the time, it was just better to not even try.

"I don't know… you'd think something that could take out the angels would be wreaking some noticeable havoc here on Earth." Sam hesitated a moment. "The last time you talked to Cas, did you get the sense there was anything different?"

Dean scoffed. "Dude, things have been different with Cas ever since Stull Cemetery."

It was a sore spot Sam knew he had to poke with great care, because not much set Dean off of late like bringing up Castiel's change in personality since the Apocalypse was averted. Sam could appreciate Cas was doing what he had to do, being a soldier in a war in Heaven and all, but Dean had never been quite so forgiving of Castiel's circumstances. Once Sam had his soul back, he felt like the tension between Dean and Castiel had a very personal flavor to it… like Dean was hurt and angry more than he was just angry.

"I know, but I mean… did you get the feeling he was trying to tell you anything?"

Dean pinned Sam with a shrewd 'what exactly are you getting at?' look.

"Look, Dean… I know you two haven't seen exactly eye to eye lately…"

Dean snorted.

"But I think if something heavy was going down, something that could wipe out the angels, Castiel would find a way to tell you. Even if it was against every law in Heaven, he'd figure out how to let you know."

It almost looked like Dean blushed a little, but it was buried in a screwed face in the next moment. "No, he was just being his new and improved dick-angel self. No hidden message of impending doom."

Which left them right back where they started… two hunters with absolutely nothing to hunt.

Sam used to dream about a world with nothing to hunt. Now that he had it, he found he had no idea what to do with it. But even as lost as he was, Dean was even more lost. Sam had at least aspired to escape to a life away from the hunt, but Dean had to be dragged away from it kicking and screaming. Sam was tense waiting for the next shoe to drop, but Dean was about ready to crawl right out of his skin.

Dean paced around the room a while longer, then grabbed the car keys and headed out. Sam knew what he'd do. Dean would find a bar, maybe hustle some pool, pick up a girl if he could manage, then come slinking back into their motel room in the early morning hours. And the two of them would pack up and head out in the morning with no destination in mind beyond the open road.

It's what the Winchesters knew, and until they had some direction, they would go with the inertia of their lifestyle.

Eventually, something would land in their lap.

Sam had never expected that 'something' to land quite so literally.

He and Dean were in a small town in Vermont. It was raining cats and dogs… figuratively. If it was literallyraining cats and dogs, that would have been a job for the Winchesters. Instead it was just sheets and sheets of freezing rain washing out the world beyond the Impala's headlights.

They were headed back to their motel from the local bar. Lately, Dean drank like the booze had offended him. Sam started flinching as Dean slammed down shot glasses and bottles with an accompanying flash of teeth. It reminded Sam of a temperamental chimp he saw on the Discovery Channel once… if chimps had drinking problems.

Their phone call to Bobby had been four days ago, and there was no more hint of supernatural activity now than there had been then. The world was at peace… but for how long? How fragile and imaginary would that peace prove to be? And would Dean still be fit to face it when it finally broke? Because at the rate he was going, he'd come completely unglued for want of something to kill.

Sam sat sullenly in the passenger seat and just tried to avoid the bear that was his older brother. He hated that Dean was driving after the bar, but Sam had some sense of self-preservation and he wasn't up to wrestling the keys from Dean's hands. He just counted themselves lucky the motel was only a couple of blocks from the bar and that Dean had such a protective instinct toward his beloved car.

The Impala swung into the parking lot of the motel. The place looked deserted. Most of the lights were off in the rooms, and the lot was pretty thin on cars. It wasn't a very popular place to stop, apparently, and it was that hour of night on a weekday when all people with any common sense or decency were asleep. Sam might say it looked like part of a ghost town, but that would be too good to be true. Instead, it was just a dank, dreary, miserable little motel in the asscrack of nowhere that the Winchesters were calling home for now.

When Dean turned the car toward their room, the car's beams slid over the asphalt, the nearest drops of rain in sparkles and the distant rain in a pale haze, and a flash of something light and vague in the darkness.

Sam squinted and realized he was seeing a human being, naked and sitting on the ground in the pithy shelter of the side of the neighboring building. A twinge of sympathy tugged at him, trying to imagine being stuck out on a night like tonight. The Winchesters liked to bitch about how bad they had it, but there were some who had it a whole lot worse.

"Ah, look," Sam crooned sadly as he pointed abstractly at the figure, "naked homeless guy."

In the next instant, Dean was slamming on the brakes. Sam threw out a hand to brace himself against the dash as the car, even at the slow speed she'd been moving, hydroplaned briefly from the force of Dean's brake. Before Sam could ask Dean what the hell he was doing, Dean put the car in park, threw open the door, and bolted out of the car into the icy rain.

Sam watched Dean hurry toward the homeless guy a moment before he climbed over the seat and followed Dean out into the storm. He was wondering if his brother had finally snapped, because Dean wasn't the type to throw himself into helping out a drifter found on the side of the road. He tried to save people, sure, but in Dirty Harry style, not Mother Teresa's.

By the time Sam caught up to where his brother was kneeling in front of the bum, Sam was soaked through. His breath was coming out in white puffs in the cold night air. He blinked rain out of his eyes as he came up alongside the pair, still without a clue what Dean was doing.

Dean was crouched in front of the man. The transient was pale and shaking, legs drawn up to his chest, arms wrapped around his legs, and head pillowed on his kneecaps. It was sad, sure, but why –

"Cas!" Dean said urgently.

Sam's eyes went wide. No way. It couldn't be.

Dean's hands were on the man's bare shoulders, then in his black hair, trying to rouse the folded figure. "Cas! Come on, man, snap out of it. It's Dean."

At that, the man feebly lifted his face and looked up and…

"Holy shit!" Sam yelped. Dean was right. It wasCas. A completely drenched, shivering, frail-looking, naked Castiel, but Castiel nonetheless. Sam gaped. He'd been wanting something unusual to happen, but this wasn't quite what he had in mind.

The rain beating on the ground was loud, so Castiel's words were almost entirely drowned out when he fixed his bleary eyes on Dean and croaked, "Dean?"

"Yeah, it's me," Dean returned, even as he was peeling out of his jacket. His shirt was soaked in a matter of seconds as Dean draped his jacket over Castiel's naked shoulders. "What the hell happened, Cas?"

Cas just stared into Dean's face a moment. "I… I don't…"

Sam didn't have to see that stormy, pissed-off mama-bear look that overtook Dean's face at Castiel's disorientation to know it was there, because Sam had grown up seeing it. He just knew he had to bend to its will when Dean ordered, "Let's get him inside."

Sam took one side and Dean the other, and together they hauled Castiel up off the ground. They tried to prop him up on his feet so he could walk under his own power, but the second they started to take away their support, Castiel's knees buckled. "Whoa whoa whoa," Dean muttered as Castiel sagged against him… Sam noticed how Castiel certainly chose the direction he sagged.

Dean was taking nearly all of Castiel's weight and he looked fine with it, so Sam decided he could be more helpful doing something else. He ran back to the car (parked in the middle of the lot with one door open), got in, and drove it up to the space in front of their motel room. It was a very short distance; Dean had already half-carried Castiel most of the way to the room by the time Sam turned off the car, pocketed the keys, and clambered back out again.

Sam got the motel room door unlocked and swung it open just about the same time Dean led a weak and trembling Castiel inside.

Dean eased Castiel down on to the nearest bed. Castiel went where Dean guided him, meek and mild like an abandoned kitten. He sure didn't give off badass angel of the Lord vibes. In fact, he looked pretty pitiful wearing nothing but Dean's soaked jacket and shaking so hard his teeth clacked together. Dean was all over and around him, for the moment the angel's recent questionable behavior forgotten as Dean threw himself into his work.

At that point, Sam began little more than a gopher, fetching Dean this and that while Dean went into caretaker mode. Sam rarely let on to Dean just how good his big brother was in the role, because Dean found it emasculating or some shit like that. But fact remained that Dean had a real knack for it… more father andmother-like than John Winchester had ever been when Sam was growing up, anyway.

When Sam came back from the bathroom with the towels in hand that Dean requested, Dean was hunkered down trying to get hold of Castiel's attention. "Cas? Hey, man… what did this to you?"

There was no answer. Castiel looked miserable. He was shaking and soaked, his hair plastered to his head and water running down his face in rivulets. Dean took the towels from Sam and tossed aside the jacket he'd draped over Cas. Respect made Sam's eyes flick away momentarily, because he was pretty sure he wasn't supposed to be seeing a naked angel. Dean didn't let modesty check him as he unfurled one of the big white towels and covered Cas with it. His hand cupped Castiel's neck and Dean frowned.

"His skin's ice-cold, dude," Dean said lowly.

And his lips looked blue, too. Sam wordlessly went to the room's heating unit and cranked it up ten degrees. The thing came to life with a hot breath of air (with a fittingly foul smell to match), but it would take a while before the room was anywhere close to toasty.

Sam watched Dean towel off the wet angel. Castiel sat through it speechless, eyes unfocused and expression slack. The only movement coming from him and not from Dean's ministrations was the wracking shaking that rippled through his slight frame. Had Castiel always been so small underneath all those clothes?

Then Castiel's eyelids began to drop and he swayed.

"Fuck," Dean swore as his hands shot out to steady Castiel. After drying off most of Castiel, even ruffling a fresh towel through his dark hair, the angel still looked frozen half to death. Dean could see that just as well as Sam. Dean touched Castiel's cheek and tried to get a good look at his eyes, but Castiel was fading fast. That Castiel, an angel, was fading at all was disturbing.

Apparently, Dean whole-heartedly agreed, if the tone in his voice was any indication. "He's still hypothermic." Dean glanced up and toward the bathroom, no doubt contemplating sticking Castiel in a warm bath (because no way could he keep on his feet for a shower), but Castiel looked like he was going to nod off any second. Someone would have to get in the bath with him just to keep him from drowning himself, and that was starting to sound like a lot more work than the obvious alternative. Dean sighed roughly, dipped his chin toward his chest, and with only that to go on Sam knew what was coming. "Sammy… get me some dry underwear."

Sam went to Dean's duffel and dug out a dry pair of boxer briefs and tossed them to Dean. With single-minded determination, Dean went to work. He wiped the damp towels away and to the floor and tugged Castiel up to his feet. It was shocking how easily Castiel went, though he ended up leaning heavily on Dean to stay upright (or maybe just seeking heat). Sam strode forward and turned down the covers of the bed, trying not to look at the pasty expanse of goose-pimpled skin on display so close to him. Dean grimly lowered Castiel on to the bed and worked him under the covers, arranging him until he was lying on his back blinking up languidly at the ceiling.

Then Dean was stripping out of his own soaked clothes, leaving them in a sopping pile on the ugly carpet. He went down to nothing, then stepped into the dry underwear Sam had given him. Then, without a word, Dean climbed into bed with Castiel. Sam pulled the covers up around both of them while Dean reached over for Castiel and awkwardly pulled the man toward his body heat. When the angel flopped over to lie flush with Dean, Dean sucked in a surprised breath.

"What?" Sam asked, worried.

"He's cold," Dean snarled, and that was that. Dean said nothing more as he shifted and tugged and arranged until Dean was on his back and Castiel was in his arms and drawn in until he was lying more on Dean than on the bed. The angel was visibly shivering, but even in his disoriented state when he recognized the warmth against him he snuggled down into it.

"You ever say a word about this and I'll shoot you," Dean warned Sam with a glower.

Sam just offered a pathetic smirk. The brothers tormented each other about a lot, but there was an unwritten Winchester code that stated anything done in a life-or-death situation was off limits for later teasing. And right now, it looked like Castiel actually might be in a life-or-death situation.

Sam gathered up the wet towels and clothes and tossed them on the bathroom floor. "Will you be okay with him?" Sam asked, standing around dripping on the carpet and soaked to the bone.

Dean looked up at Sam from peering down at the black head of hair pillowed on his chest. "Yeah, I'm good… he's already not shaking quite so much. Fuck, Sam, what happenedto him?"

All Sam could offer was a shrug. Then he went and took a long, hot shower.

When he got out and pulled out some sleep clothes, the room was on its way to stuffy. The bad-breath heater was at least doing its job, no matter how odiously. Sam cast a glance toward the bed where his brother and the angel were sharing body heat. They were in the same position Sam had seen them in before he showered, but there was no sign of the violent shaking that had claimed Castiel's frame before.

Dean looked Sam's way and said lowly, "He's asleep."

Sam finished pulling the t-shirt down over his head and froze. "Asleep?"

There was a worried expression on his face as Dean nodded. They were both thinking the same thing: angels don't sleep. For that matter, angels don't get hypothermia from being exposed to the elements.

A sick feeling began to settle in Sam's stomach. "Do you think he's…" He couldn't finish the thought aloud, but he obviously didn't have to. Dean's stricken look confirmed that he shared Sam's concern.

"I don't know, Sammy." Dean turned his attention to the sleeping man in his arms. "Damnit, Cas, what the hell happened?"

Castiel, unsurprisingly, didn't answer.

Exhausted and at a loss for what else they could possibly do for now, Sam crawled into the second bed and in no time at all was fast asleep. Maybe, if he was lucky, he'd wake up to find that the whole bizarre evening had been a dream.

To Be Continued…

A/N: I'm participating in the help_japan Lightning Round by offering fanfic. If you're interested, you can find more info at my LJ: miss_annthropic dot livejournal dot com