Disclaimer: "Supernatural" and all related characters and concepts are the property of The WB Network. This work of fiction is, in no way, affiliated or authorized by The WB Network. No profits were or will be made from this story.

Spoiler Warning: This story is an alternate ending for season 5 episode 8 "Changing Channels," so spoilers for that episode, and some dialogue is lifted from that episode entirely.


"So, boys, now what? We stare at each other for the rest of eternity?" The sarcastic voice echoed around the empty warehouse, bouncing from the walls the same way the reflected light of the flames bounced off the stagnant puddles on the concrete floor.

"Well, first of all," Dean informed their captive in his most commanding voice, "you're gonna bring Cas back from wherever you stashed 'im."

Gabriel was not impressed. "Oh, am I?"

"Yeah." Dean narrowed his eyes at the other's nonchalant tone, "Or we're gonna dunk you in some holy oil and deep-fry ourselves an archangel."

Gabriel's eyes narrowed and flickered to Sam. But if the younger Winchester knew his brother was bluffing, he also knew better than to give it away with his own expression. After a breath the archangel reluctantly raised his right hand, still staring calculatingly at Dean. Then, as his upper lip curled into a snarl, he snapped his fingers.

Off to their left—appearing very much as if it'd been there all along and only now was a curtain being drawn away to reveal it—was a second ring of fire, identical to the one the boys had laid themselves.

Castiel was kneeling in the center of the flames, his back bowed low. Thick cuffs, glinting a dull tarnished gold in the light of the flames, held his wrists behind his back. They were mirrored by an identical pair of shackles across his ankles which were connected to the wrist cuffs by a short length of chain behind Cas's back.

"Cas!" Dean hissed, and was moving toward the bound angel even before he finished his outcry.

At the cry, Castiel turned his face toward them. In addition to the silver duct tape across his mouth, there was now a second piece across his eyes. (and Dean's first thought was 'Ow, that'll rip his eyebrows out when we pull it off' and his second was 'Why? Cas already recognized Gabriel.') There were some sort of black scribbles on the duct tape, and small beads of crimson had trickled down the sides of Jimmy Novak's nose and right temple. Cas was breathing hard, but also slowly, which Dean took to mean the angel wasn't in pain. When Dean got close enough, stopping just outside the fire, he realized the scribbles were Enochian sigils drawn in sharpie.

"Shit." Dean hissed between gritted teeth, and his first instinct was to kick dirt over the flames. But while the concrete warehouse floor was filthy and laden with stagnant puddles, there wasn't dirt or debris enough to smother the flames.

He did, however, have a flask of holy water in the pocket of his jacket, and Dean was hurriedly unscrewing the top when Sam grabbed his wrist with a "No, wait. Don't! You can't throw water on a grease fire."

"What?" Dean snarled.

"Water and oil don't mix." Sam sighed. "We need to smother the flames with sand."

"Dude!" Dean hissed, his hands going wide in a gesture which clearly indicated the distinct lack of sand in the immediate vicinity.

But Sam was already aware of the problem and jogging towards the warehouse door as he called back, "We've got shovels in the car, I'll come back with dirt."

Castiel blindly tracked Sam's progress by the sound of his shoes on the damp floor, then turned attentively back to Dean when he spoke, "Just hang on, Cas. We'll have you out in a sec."

The angel was quiet, making no attempts to talk around his gag, and was still apart from tracking the noises of the warehouse. But Dean could see the tension in his shoulders, and the way Cas was subtlety straining at his shackles. Dean clenched his jaw, dug for the lock-picking tools he'd pocketed before he and Sam had ever arrived at the warehouse, and was just considering jumping over the holy fire himself when Sam returned.

"Here." Sam was carrying a shovel piled high with soil and gravel from outside. He dumped the load on the flames using the head of the shovel to spread it so that the circle was broken for a space of two feet.

Dean pushed into the circle and hooked his hands into Cas's armpits. "Come on, Cas." But when Cas only grunted and failed to rise to his feet even as Dean pulled him up, Dean discovered that the chain connecting Cas's wrists to his ankles was far too short to allow the angel to stand. Hissing a curse under his breath, Dean laid one hand on Cas's shoulder and decided to rip the tape from his eyes instead. A muffled yelp escaped the gag and Cas jerked away from Dean (one glance at the tape confirmed his thought about eyebrows). Dean looked away--all the privacy he could afford Cas in the given situation--and took his time wadding the tape in his hands up, making sure to smoosh it into the tinist ball he could manage. By the time Dean had finished this task, Cas had returned to his usual stoic demenor, and Dean made a production of reaching for the tape across Cas's mouth.

With this warning, Cas didn't react to the second ripping of duct tape from his skin. As soon as he was able, he questioned earnestly, "Gabriel?"

"Over there." Sam pointed and Cas craned his head to look at the archangel who was watching them. Dean scooted behind Cas to apply his lock-picks to the cuffs which were, now that he looked closely at them, actual gold and engraved with more Enochian sigils. Fortunately, despite the layer of dirt that encrusted them, they weren't hard to get open, and soon Cas was on his feet and only too eagerly stepping free of the ring of fire and towards his brother.

"Hello Gabriel." Cas's voice was gruffer than usual, but if Gabriel noticed he wasn't concerned.

"Hey bro. How's the search for daddy going? Let me guess," He smirked, "Awful."

Castiel's eyes widened in surprise ('Or is it horror?') at the archangel's cavalier attitude. Gabriel arched his eyebrows, clearly intending to keep egging Castiel on, and Dean suddenly realized he couldn't take any more.

"Okay, we're out of here." Dean moved toward the door and called out "Come on, Sam."

The abrupt dismissal clearly caught Gabriel off-guard. "Uh, okay?" He sputtered, watching as the two brothers headed for the door, only Sam looking back at him. "Hey! Guys? So…" Now Castiel was moving with the Winchesters, leaving Gabriel alone, "So what? Huh? You just—" And if that wasn't panic in the archangel's voice, then it was a damn good imitation, "You just gonna leave me here? Forever?"

And with his hand on the door handle Dean snapped. "Don't be so melodramatic! This isn't one of your shows. It's just fire, not a bloody devil's trap." He roared back at the archangel. And the lines of his face, for one moment Sam thought, were even harder than Gabriel's had been when he spoke of his brethren's war. "Once it runs out of oil to burn, the fire'll die and you'll be free." 'And we'll be far enough away that you won't find us again. Not easily.' Was the rest of his thought, but Dean didn't speak it, instead mumbling softly, "Fire probably won't even last all day."

And it was true, Sam reflected. Because even though they had managed the small miracle of pulling the holy oil out of his (and Sam couldn't help but clench his buttocks compulsively) er, trunk, the truth was they hadn't managed to produce much of the oil. And blessed or not, the oil was still subject to the dictates of physics, and couldn't burn forever. It wouldn't be until much later that Sam would realize that Gabriel must have already had the oil in the warehouse to have used it against Cas, and he and Dean must simply have come across the remainder of it.

The door opened at Dean's touch, but he froze in the shafts of sunlight that spilled inside. "And for the record," He spun, pacing several steps toward Gabriel once more, "this isn't about some prize fight between your brothers. Or some destiny that can't be stopped. This is about you being too afraid to stand up to your family."

The raw fury on Gabriel's face had Sam retreating a step, all his hunter's instincts screaming at him that pissing off a paranormal creature that much was a Bad Idea, capital letters and all. Dean must have gotten the same memo, (or perhaps he'd simply run out of things to say) for he backed off as well, turned and shoved his way out the door.

Sam squinted in the weak sunlight outside before following his brother to the Impala. Dean was still antsy, his face still troubled. "All that stuff he was spouting in there, do you think it's true?"

Sam barely hesitated, "I think he believes it."

Dean stopped next to the driver's door and faced him, "So what do we do?"

There wasn't any heat in the question, and Sam rested his hands on the dew-slicked roof of the car. He heard the warehouse door close behind him and glanced back at Castiel just long enough to note that the blood was already gone from the angel's face. Sam took a deep breath, "I dunno."


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