Five Reasons Dean Uses the Trenchcoat as a Pillow (and One Reason he Doesn't)
I. It smells like Cas.
You'd think it wouldn't, not after getting dunked in the reservoir and covered with black ooze (amazing how it all washed out). But the minute Dean picks it up several hours later, when it's dried in the sun, the smell washes over him -- the smell of porch steps in moonlight, of alleyways and highways, the smell of gentle, patient hope and blue eyes a mile deep. Dean folds it up, and he doesn't bury his nose in it or anything, but he does clutch it to his chest and tuck it under his pillow when Sam's not watching. Sometime during the night the pillow flies off and he's buried face first in the trenchcoat. When he wakes up, it's like waking up in the arms of a lover. Peace surrounds him. The pang of sadness that follows is worth it.
II. There's nothing better to use.
Rufus' cabin isn't exactly the height of luxury. Bobby's back isn't the greatest, either, and Dean's bum leg is elevated on the remaining pillows. The trench is sticking out of his duffel bag on the floor, and late at night on that damn sofa Dean can't stand the horizontal ceiling-staring a minute more. So he leans over, groans as he stretches, tries not to topple over on to the floor, and pulls it up under him.
The scent overwhelms him again, and he could swear the smell of lake-scented air on a sunny pier is floating into his nostrils now, even though he and Cas were never there, other than in his head. It's got to be just water smell left over from the reservoir. But when he closes his eyes the sun is beating down on him, and his legs feel light. He can feel Castiel's presence next to him, just there, not speaking, not needing him for anything. They used to have times like that, him and Cas -- together even when Dean didn't need anything. Maybe only for a few minutes at a time in the larger context of the war they were both fighting, but those times were sanctuaries.
He never should have let them end. To the extent he will admit to having pushed Cas into the stupid, stupid end he suffered, he blames that. Too much praying for him to show up, not enough just plain wanting him to be there.
III. His dreams improve.
He has a lot of dreams these days, and zero percent of them are good. Sometimes he dreams about Sam falling from a cliff, Dean racing to the precipice, his hand just barely swiping the ends of Sam's fingers and falling to his knees as Sam slips away and down into nothing. Sometimes he dreams about hell, about Alastair coming back for him, whispering that he's always going to have Dean on his rack unless Dean keeps torturing. In those dreams Dean knows he has to kill someone, a human, or Alastair will find him; he's stalking some poor woman or high school boy, knife in hand, sad but aware that when he gets to that corner his arm will fly back and the knife will glint and there will be blood everywhere.
Sometimes the dreams can't be explained in normal words or sounds or images, but he wakes up covered with sweat, knowing they were no less horrific.
But with the coat curled up beneath his pillow (or directly beneath his head, when he's sure Sam won't see), the dreams change. They're still scary, but there's light there, there's a sense that the dreams will be revealed as just dreams. He never sees Castiel's face or hears his voice, but Cas is there, nonetheless, though Dean knows even in the dream that he's dead. It hurts more, sometimes, when he wakes up, because he knows that hope is not going to be present with him. Once he wakes up, he's on his own.
IV. It becomes a friend.
Dean gets a cold halfway through his recovery from the broken leg. Being laid up in Rufus' drafty old cabin will do that to you. There are nights where he sneezes and snots all over the damn thing, where he soaks it in sweat . It always comes back from the laundry (and Sam's noticed by now, but not said anything, thank God) smelling just like it used to, looking pristine and slightly worn, just as it did when Castiel first walked into that barn wearing it. Dean figures it's been living with an angel long enough to have gained some of its own healing power.
"Wish you would hand a little of that over to me," he mutters one night as he curls it under his head one night. A moment later it occurs to him that he's talking to a trenchcoat, but who cares, really? It's not like he thinks the thing'll answer back. It's just a comment.
He makes another comment a few minutes later. "You have been through a lot of crap, for a coat. Guess we both have. Surprised we're still in one piece."
He grins, dares to bring a finger up to stroke against the soft fabric. Just a touch. Not even a caress.
"We both tried to cover that damn angel's ass," he says. "And where did he leave us?"
His finger runs up against a button. Hard. Cold. He winces.
"I don't get it," he says. "Why does everyone think they have to lie to me? Sam, Cas... I can handle it if people are doing shit. It's when they lie to me about it that it makes me mad, and that's all people do."
His eyes are wet. He turns and buries his face in the coat, tries to hold back the tears. He's only half-successful.
In the morning, his eyes are itchy from tears, but the coat is clean and dry. Dean looks at it when he sits up and can't help feeling like it chose to keep his secret. What a relief.
V. It connects him to his past.
There are times when he can't sleep, but if he presses his nose into the coat's pliable fabric he can imagine being outside a motel, Castiel on a bench and hung over, Dean tossing him a bottle of aspirin.
Or, by the glow of a vending machine, Castiel giving him a few well-placed words and a furtive look, a bit of subterfuge that likely saved his brother's life.
Or the back alley of a brothel, beer and mirth tickling the back of his throat as he laughs and slings his arm around Castiel, thinking that sometimes when things go wrong in the world, that's how it should be.
Any number of times, moments, conversations he never paid attention to before, because they were insignificant. He's a soldier and he fights wars, and none of the rest of it matters.
Except for they're the only things that get him through the night sometimes.
"You son of a bitch," he whispers fiercely into the coat's folded skin, late at night. "I miss you too goddamn much."
He thinks he can feel the coat fold around him, squeeze him slightly, the light of an angel's grace whispering as he drops off to sleep, "I miss you, too."
Of course it's just his imagination, or a dream. But Castiel has spoken to him in dreams before, and it was real then.
Maybe it's real again.
I. Its owner needs it back.
The leviathan that reconstitutes Castiel's body becomes strangely sympathetic to their cause. Bobby's the one who reminds them, not everything in purgatory is necessarily evil, and these leviathans have free will, too. This one walks around shaped like Cas, but Dean won't let him have the coat, no way -- it's not Cas, and it never will be.
Sam's the one who anchors Dean in reality, reminds him that he's not looking at Cas, nor Jimmy, nor God.... just a Cas-shaped creature that has decided Dean and Sam are better allies than his brother leviathans. Smart creature. Dean and Sam do their best not to let their friends get killed; as far as they can tell, the leviathans are interchangeable and dispensable.
But toward the end, when the creature has expended all of its strength, when it's at death's door, it whispers, "I kept it alive. Just a spark. But what a persistent spark it's been. It's the one who has taught me to see the world as you do."
It closes Cas's eyelids. Dean shakes its shoulders. "What? What did you keep alive?"
The leviathan draws its last breath and exhales through the words, "Your angel."
A moment later, Castiel opens his eyes. Dean knows it's him even before the first "Hello, Dean."
It's hours before they get home to the new shack Bobby's set up as a safehouse for them. Dean scratches the Enochian sigils away so Cas can enter, and the coat is lying there, rolled up, on the bed in lieu of a pillow.
"You've been sleeping on it," Castiel observes, his lips quirking.
"I, uh... yeah." Dean grabs it from the bed, tries to muss out the months of wrinkles.
Dean avoids his eyes. "A bunch of reasons."
Castiel shrugs the coat on, stands in it a moment, and cocks his head as though listening.
"Oh," he says, "I see."
Damn the coat, Dean thinks. It's telling him all my secrets.
Castiel crosses the room and pulls Dean close. Before he can move, or protest, Dean is surrounded again in that familiar texture and scent. He inhales deeply, swallows his pride, and puts his arms around Cas. The feeling floods him of being home, being in a safe place. The coat's where it ought to be, between his head and Castiel's shoulder.
He supposes he can forgive the coat for spilling a few of his secrets, if this is what he gets in return.