"Well fancy seeing you back here." An acidy voice cooned "and there I was thinking I wouldn't get the pleasure of seeing you again."
Dean tensed. He knew that voice. It haunted him. Followed him like a bad smell.
Dean whirled around, looking for the disgusting face with always came with that voice, the knowing smirk that would come with the tone.
"Why hello Dean. Nice of you to return to me." Alistair said, his face split with a grin, his wide, empty, eyes black, devoid of any good emotion.
He laughed at Dean's shocked face. His laugh had always worn Dean down more than anything else ever could. It had more evil in it that his vessel could ever create, it held the very sound of his true form in it, and it chilled Dean to the bone.
"You can't be here!" Dean said, his voice shaking from fear "you're dead. You're gone."
Alistair laughed again "yes. I am. But that doesn't change anything because here," he paused to gesture at the surroundings which Dean hadn't paid any attention to yet "anything can be real."
Dean looked around, at the pure darkness that was everywhere. There was nothing else, nothing which Dean could cling to, nothing for Dean to use to escape, he was trapped here, with his worst nightmare.
"You're not real. This is a nightmare!" Dean gasped, relief flooding him. Alistair wasn't back, he was gone, Dean was safe.
Al istair tilted his head, the gesture reminding Dean of a certain angel so much that it made him feel sick. How dare the definition of darkness imitate something, someone, so full of light.
"Does it really matter though?" The demon mused "after all, I may not be real, but for as long as you're asleep, you're in my domain, and clearly you're not awake right now."
Dean felt all his previous relief disappear as the demon started walking forwards.
"You will never be rid of me Dean" he hissed "you are mine you will always be mine. And once you die, you will come here, to the empty, and I will have you once more. Forever."
Dean shook. No. No. Billie would never throw him in here. Cas wouldn't allow it.
But hadn't Billie said she would throw him into the empty when be died? And wasn't Cas powerless over what Death decided to do?
"That's right." Alistair laughed "you'll be here, with me. I can't wait to get my favourite toy back. I can't wait to make you cry and beg. I can't wait to mess with that pretty little head of yours."
Dean shook his head. No. No. All he needed to do was wake up. He could escape. Maybe not forever, but for now. And now was all he needed.
He looked around desperately, blackness, nothingness, nothing to help him wake up. He tried pinching himself, prodding himself, kicking the floor and the air. Nothing.
He only stopped his attempts to escape when Alistair finished closing the distance between them, close enough to touch him, and ran a hand along his arm. Dean froze. He knew there was no knife, he knew it was a dream, Alistair couldn't hurt him, not really. But that didn't change his instincts, that didn't change the fear that squirmed in his gut. That didn't change anything.
"Nothing and no one can save you" Alistair whispered into his ear as he continued running his nails up and down Dean's arm, imitating a knife, showing Dean what he would do as soon as he had him back.
Dean shook, his mouth frozen closed while his vocal cords ached, he wanted to call out, to yell, to scream but he couldn't.
'Cas.' His mind screamed. 'Cas can save me, he can wake me up, save me from Hell all over again. I need Cas.'
Alistair's laugh was even more evil this time. "Ah yes. Castiel. He broke his wings for you. To get you away from me. How do you think he would feel if he knew that he didn't even manage to fully save you? If he knew he would never get you away from me? If he knew that as soon as you die, you will come straight back to me?"
Dean shook his head. Cas had managed. He was free. Alistair was gone.
"Then again, does he really care what happens to you when you die? I mean, does he really care about you?" Alistair mused "you're just a pet Dean. A quick fuck until he gets bored or you die. Then he'll move onto a new human, a new pet."
Dean shook his head harder. No. Cas loved him. He was more than just a pet. More than a quick fuck. Cas loved him. Cas saved him from Hell, Cas rebelled for him, Cas went against everything he knew, his whole family, for Dean.
"No. Cas loves me." He croaked out, trying to hide how his voice cracked as he talked.
"Does he though?" Alistair asked, his face the picture of innocence, even while his eyes crackled with barley concealed evil "Dean, he branded you like livestock, like putting your name on a pet's collar. Just like I did. How is he any better than me?"
Dean's eyes unconsciously flicked to his left shoulder, where Cas' handprint sat. Branded into his skin, branded into his soul. Alistair was lying…. Wasn't he? The handprint was different, different to A listair's brand, it was a sign of love, not ownership.
"No. He's different to you. He cares about me. I know he does." Dean turned around, refusing to look at Alistair, refusing to listen to the vial lies he was spinning.
Again Alistair started laughing. "But Dean. I'm dead. So clearly there is a part of you, however deep, which believes what I'm saying."
Dean just stared, shock filling him as he realised the truth in those words.
"I'll see you soon," Alistair crooned "but until then," he dug his long nails deep into Dean's arm, deep enough to draw blood and form scars "just so you have a physical reminder that you belong to me."
Dean shot up in bed, gasping for air as he clawed at his uncooperative lungs.
Breathe. He needed to breathe dammit.
"Dean!" A voice called out in worry "Dean it's ok!"
And then there were strong arms circling his waist, pinning his arms to stop him from clawing at himself and a hand carding through his hair gently.
"It's ok, it's ok, I'm here, and so are you. Whatever it was wasn't real." The voice was low, gravelly, and instantly calmed him, however slightly.
Dean felt himself go limp in the arms. He slowly opened his eyes and saw Cas' worried face staring back at him. His eyes shining in the dim light of a bedside table. Dean just stared. He could drown in Cas' eyes, and right now he really wanted to.
"Did you have a nightmare?" Cas whispered gently into Dean's hair as he continued hugging him close.
Dean tried to answer, but when words failed him, resorted to just nodding. Yes it was a nightmare, anything involving Alistair was a nightmare.
Suddenly remembering the last few moments of his dream, Dean pulled himself from Cas' hold to check his arms. He knew that Cas could just hold on, stop him from going anywhere with his angel strength, so it meant a lot to him that he didn't, they he let Dean go.
Looking Down at his arm, Dean felt sick. He could feel bile bubbling up his throat, but he swallowed it down. Not now. Not yet.
There, marking his skin, were nail marks. Red in the low light levels and sore when he prodded them.
He almost thought he could hear Alistair hissing 'mine' in his ear but that could have been just a trick of the darkness.
"Do you want me to heal them." Cas asked, looking down at Dean's arm as well "you clawed yourself in your sleep, I was about to heal them when you woke up."
Dean swallowed. Did he want them healed? That depended on Cas' answers to his next few questions, to be honest.
"Cas." He whispered, his voice breaking around the simple word. He had no idea how he was going to force the next few words out, but he had to try. "Cas, what do I mean to you?"
Cas leaned back slightly, still holding Dean tightly, but far back enough to see Dean's face. "What's brought this on?" He asked, running his hands up and down Dean's back "you're my whole world. My reason for living. I have lived many millennia, but I feel like I didn't truly start living until I met you." Cas said. His tone showing ultimate truth. "I love you Dean Winchester, and I always will."
Dean felt tears prick at the edges of his eyes as he choked out "so I'm not a quick fuck? I'm not a replaceable pet?" His voice shook as he talked but he needed to be sure.
Cas looked positively outraged "Dean! No, of course not!" He noticed his tone and softened it slightly "why are you asking? Did something happen in your dream?"
Dean thought about lying, but before he even finished thinking, his mouth opened and he was talking "It was Alistair. I dreamed of Alistair. He said that I was his and would return to him when I died. He said you didn't care about me, I was just your human pet until I died or you got bored and then you would replace me." By the time he was finished, there were tears streaming down his face, but they weren't enough to block out the look on Cas' face. It was a mixture of heartbroken and angry.
"No, Dean no. Never. You won't go back to him, I'll make sure if it, I promise. You're not his!" Cas practically hissed the last bit, his eyes flashing dangerously "And I do care about you! With all my being." Cas said, his voice steely but pure sadness winding its way into the words.
Dean knew he should stop. Cas was already angry enough, seemingly from the thought of Dean belonging to Allistair, no point poking an angry bear, but he couldn't. He needed to ask, needed to know. "What about the handprint?" At Cas' confused look, he continued, "it's a brand, ownership, like livestock?" He voiced it as a question, even while his wording implied fact. He decided to miss out the part where Alistair said that they were the same, angel and demon, both of their brands showing that they owned Dean. He didn't see any point in insulting Cas by comparing him and his claim on Dean's soul to a demon. Then again, looking at Cas' face, what he said was even worse.
Cas' eyes were glistening with unshed tears "no, Dean no. My handprint isn't me owning your soul, it's not you being my pet or my property. No please don't tell me you believe that!"
Dean looked at his angel's face, he was crying now, fat tears falling down his face as he sobbed.
Dean, who had mainly recovered from his nightmare and just wanted answers, carefully swept the tears off Cas' face "no, Cas, I know, I just…. What is it? What is it really?"
Cas looked down for a moment, clearly trying to figure out what an adequate answer was "I guess…. It's the angel version of a wedding ring? It tells all other angels that I have claimed you and your soul, but I don't own it, like a human wouldn't own the person they married. It shows anyone who can see souls that you are mine and I am yours and I will destroy the world to protect you."
Dean nodded, feeling himself deflate slightly. Alistair was lying, Cas cared, Cas loved him. He was more than a pet to Cas. He didn't think he had felt this relieved in a long time.
"Do you want me to heal them?" Cas asked, bringing Dean's attention back to the nail marks on his arm.
Dean nodded, still feeling a bit sick at the sight of them, "yes, I don't belong to him. I belong to you."
Cas did very well in not questioning what he meant, just healing Dean's arm, but when he opened his mouth to correct that Dean didn't belong to him, Dean cut in.
"I do. I belong to you angel. And you belong to me."
Cas smiled, "come on, you're going to be grumpy tomorrow if you don't get to sleep."
Dean was going to argue, but he was cut off by a huge yawn so he relented with a smile and curled in closer to his angel.
Cas gently kisses him on the forehead, "see you in the morning." He said gently.
Dean barely had time to nod before he was slipping into sleep, and this time he didn't dream of Alistair.
Whenever he looked at his shoulder from that day on, he didn't see a brand, or a question, he saw a promise, he saw a future.