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Patchwork Project

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“Do you ever think about them?” Cas asks as he holds up two suit jackets. One is tweed. The other has anchors for buttons. Dean’s going to veto them both if Cas tries to buy them.

“Think about who?” The question came out of nowhere. They’re in a Salvation Army looking for some new clothes. They weren’t even talking about people. Dean had said that Sam was taking too long in the flannel section, Cas held up a jacket, Dean made a face, they moved onto lunch possibilities – now suddenly “them”.

“The people who owned these clothes before us.” Cas puts both jackets into the cart and keeps moving. He stops when he finds a dark chocolate corduroy jacket. That goes in the cart too. Of course it does.

“What do you mean do I think of them? Why would I want to?” Dean actually tries pretty hard not to think about them. One wash and the clothes are his. They may not be new, but he doesn’t linger over how that stain got there or how the jacket ended up ripped there or why one of his shirt buttons don’t match the rest. It doesn’t matter.

“Think of all the places these clothes might have been. What their wearers have done. Maybe they’ve been donated and bought multiple times.”

“This isn’t the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. They’re just clothes. And we’re the end of the line for them. It doesn’t matter how many lives they’ve lived. They die with us.”

Cas’s mouth snaps shut, and he storms down the aisle, the exit ruined by the fact that he’s pushing a shopping cart with a squeaking wheel. Still, it’s obvious Dean isn’t supposed to follow so he doesn’t. Instead, he looks over some sturdy but light-weight jackets. He could use a new one. His current one still has the bullet hole from their run in with the Nazi Necromancers. Dean drapes the jacket over his arm and goes to check out the shirts. He could use another thermal or two.

Dean’s shopping is done much sooner than Sam and Cas’s, and he finds himself standing outside the dressing rooms, waiting for them to finish up. He keeps a firm grip on the plastic handles of his bag like he’s afraid someone is going to try and take them away from him. The clothes might have belonged to someone else before but now they’re his. His to wear and wear down. His to tear in fights and stain with blood. His to burn when the time comes.

Finally Sam and Cas emerge from the changing stalls. Sam has some clothes draped over his arm and some more clutched in his hands. The ones on his arm get dumped into the cart with the clothes Cas is going to buy.

“Took you long enough,” Dean says.

“Human sizing is frustrating,” Cas says. “They’re not consistent between companies. I had to try everything on to know if it fit.”

“Dude,” Dean says as he herds them towards the cashier, because Dean is so ready to get out of here. “What part of disposable clothing do you not get? They don’t need to be tailor made to fit you. It’s only a matter of time before it gets shredded.”

“You may have no care for your possessions, but I do,” Cas says. He brushes by Dean, and Sam gives Dean a ‘look what you’ve done now’ look before going to pay for his and Cas’s clothes.

***

“Could you at least try to be less of a bastard?” Sam asks when it’s just the two of them. They’re back at the bunker, and Cas is in his room putting his new clothes away. Sam, unfortunately, followed Dean back to Dean’s room and decided that it’s a good time for a talk.

“Don’t you have an entire room of your own to be judgmental in?” Dean asks.

“He’s never owned clothes,” Sam says.

“Really? News to me. I hadn’t realized he’d been wandering around naked all these years.”

Sam presses his lips into a thin line, clearly not in the mood for Dean’s bullshit. “Clothes as in plural. Cas has owned one outfit, and no, don’t start in on Emmanuel and Crazy!Cas and all that. Cas, our Cas, has been wearing the same suit and trench coat pretty much the entire time we’ve known him.”

“So what? I should have a little party for him, because he’s bought his first clothes?”

Sam sighs, pulls out his ‘why is my brother an idiot’ face. “He views things differently than us, Dean. Same outfit for years. It was a constant. He could snap his fingers and have it clean and ironed and everything. Think about how much history it has. He’s excited about his new clothes, let him be.”

“Right. Cause now that he can’t magically fix his outfit it’s not worth the upkeep? Why bother with hand washing clothes and hang drying and ironing boards when you can just pop over to the nearest Salvation Army and buy new clothes? I mean, if something isn’t easy then you should just give up on it, right?”

“Dean?” Sam’s gone from annoyed to concerned. “Are we still talking about clothes?”

“Course we are. What else would be talking about?”

“Right,” Sam says drawing the word out. “I think you and Cas should have a talk.”

“I think you talk too much.” Dean hangs up his new jacket, pulls his old one out of his closet. “Cas and I are fine.”

Sam shakes his head but, finally, leaves Dean alone.

***

Dean’s in one of the rarely used rooms in the bunker when Cas finds him. Dean’s crossed legged on the floor, jacket spread across his lap, and pulling a threaded needle through the fabric as he sews a patch on. A jacket with a bullet hole is going to attract a lot of attention. A jacket with a funky looking patch? It might get a bit of attention but not the wrong kind.

“Are you hiding?” Cas asks. He stands in the doorway, unwilling to come into the room without an invitation.

“Why would I hide in my own home?”

“You aren’t often in this part of the bunker.”

Maybe Dean didn’t want to put up with Sam’s teasing about Dean being a secret seamstress. Yeah, Dean learned to sew a wound closed before he learned how to sew fabric, but hunting is a rough life on bodies and clothes and someone needed to know how to repair their clothes. Back when dad, Dean, and Sam traveled together, Dean had been pretty handy. He’s lost some of it now, but he can still manage a semi-straight basic over under stitch.

“Wanted to work in peace.”

“Oh.”

Cas sounds hurt and Dean belatedly realizes how his comment must have sounded. He didn’t mean for it to sound like that, not that Cas would believe him. Things haven’t been great between the two of them since Cas fell. Well, things haven’t been great for longer than that but now they’re stuck in close quarters together and things haven’t gotten better.

Dean thought what the two of them needed was for Cas to stop fluttering off every two seconds. But Cas is grounded and it hasn’t made anything better. Dean wonders if he’s stupid for thinking there’s still hope for the two of them.

“Come in,” Dean says. Cas won’t accept an outright apology, but he might take this. “You can learn. You’re probably going to have to mend things now that you lost your magical laundering powers.”

“You’re repairing your jacket?”

“I told you. We’re the end of the line for clothes. I’m not giving it away, but I’m not giving up on it yet.” Dean runs the needle through a few more times, turns the corner. “But people give you weird looks when you’ve got a bullet hole in your coat.”

“So you’re erasing it.”

“Covering it up.” Dean turns the jacket inside out. The bullet hole is still visible from the inside. “It’s still there. I still know it’s there. Cause you were right. Earlier, in the store. Clothes have stories. I don’t know what ones they come with, but once they’re mine, I know everything about them. I wouldn’t erase this.” Dean’s thumb drags over the torn fabric. He’d been shot at by Nazi Necromancers. He doesn’t exactly need the reminder—how could someone forget something like that?—but he’s going to treasure it anyways.

Dean goes back to sewing. The silence between them now is less strained than is usually is. It still isn’t comfortable. It’s anticipatory like Cas is gathering the courage to say something.

“It’s a sturdy jacket,” Cas finally says. “It would be a shame for you to throw it away.”

“Exactly. Just needs a few repairs is all.”

“And you’re willing to repair it? Even though you bought a new jacket at the store today?”

“Willing to repair a lot of things.”

“Yeah?” Cas’s voice is hesitant. “My trench coat—it’s got a few stains on it. Sam says you’re the one to talk to about it.”

“Yeah, we can check it out. No promises, though. Some things stain permanently. But hey, if it doesn’t come out? Gives it character. Like this.” Dean holds up his jacket, now successfully patched up.

“It’s not new anymore.”

“Wasn’t new when I got it.” Dean shows the buttons to Cas. They don’t match. “I had to replace one of the buttons. I had to wash it three times and still couldn’t get the color quite right.” Dean shrugs. “You work with what you’ve got. Now, what did you stick your sleeves in? If it’s marinara sauce then I’m going to say ‘I told you so’ because there’s no reason to eat dinner with that monstrosity on.”

“I like my trench coat,” Cas says. He puffs himself up, offended on behalf of his coat.

It steers the conversation into lighter territory, into safer territory. But Cas lingers in the doorway for Dean, and they walk down to Cas’s room side by side, and Dean can’t deny that something’s changed. It’s a small shift, barely noticeable, but it’s a start.