In the morning, Dean asked Cas if they should continue the search for the ghostly object again with more force than before and Cas agreed. Perhaps it was good that Cas and he took a little time off and he could take the management of his own farm back up. Cas’ family had put a manager on the property ever since had Cas lived here, and nobody else on the farm had been affected by the ghost.
Dean was ready to drive hours and hours if it meant that Cas did his own thing again and maybe felt confident about what he did without Dean looking over his shoulder daily. He thought that it would be good for Cas to run his own farm for a while, and then maybe he would understand Dean’s point of view better. Although, he was thinking about buying a book by Nietzsche while they were in town today.
They drove to the nearest livestock auction, Balthazar kindly taking a raincheck on spending the whole day around animals, and Dean felt able to laugh again while the four men of Cedar Ridge arrived at the parking lot. Dean and Sam in a pick up truck and Bobby and Cas in the bigger truck they had hired for today. The first thing Dean noticed when they pulled up was Frank’s truck. The second thing he noticed was a brand new truck with the Winchester’s logo on the side.
“Dad’s here,” Dean nodded at it and Sam just shrugged.
“Hopefully he’s come to terms with this by now.”
“You really think so?” Dean asked and his head moved forward a little because he put so much emphasis on his question.
Sam pouted and shrugged again: “I hope.”
Dean led Cas around the little portable yards of the sheep pens once they were once around the auction grounds.
“So, you’re buying sheep today, right?”
“Yeah, can’t afford cattle yet and we’ll mostly go for the bargain sheep at that.”
Cas nodded, still a little stiffly because of their fight yesterday and Dean really wanted to talk to him now, but if he started a conversation here the whole town would soon know about their fight too and so he just walked on.
He stopped at another pen that looked interesting, his attention caught at the opening bid being an absolute dump price.
Cas kept back when Frank came up behind him and announced: “That’s a sad looking bunch.”
“Yeah, it is isn’t it? They look like they’re half dead.”
Dean heard more of the conversation, nodding at the auctioneer a few times.
Then he heard another familiar voice behind him.
“Frank. Mr. Novak,” there was an obvious nod in John’s voice as he joined Frank and Cas.
“Have you ever seen sheep that look so weak?” John asked, gleeful because he must know that Dean was bidding right now.
“That’s what me and Frank were saying just now. You have to be dumb to buy them,” Cas seemed happy to strike a conversation when the auctioneer announced. “Sold for 2,50 a head to Dean Winchester.”
He turned around just in time for Cas to grow pale and for John to laugh mightily at Cas’ dumbstruck expression.
“You should see the look on your face,” John continued to laugh and tipped at his hat when Dean came up to them. “Good to see you, son. I see you haven’t lost all your sense on that organic crap farm of your brothers'. What kind a’ profit rate are you looking at with this herd?”
“I’d say 200%,” Dean shrugged impassively, looking past his father and at Cas‘ unusually pale face. “300 if we’re lucky.”
“If you get them fed up, that is,” John slapped his back and went on his way again, still laughing.
“We were having you, Cas,” Frank admitted when Cas seemed to have acquired lockjaw after John‘s disappearance. “But John took it too far, like always.”
“You ok, Cas?” Dean asked, gently nudging him.
Cas nodded sharply and stalked off.
Dean didn’t see him for a while, joining Sam who bid on another mob and then they loaded the young sheep on the truck they had hired.
As they just closed the bolts, Cas joined them again, looking downcast and still pissed.
“So, lunch?” Sam asked and they all nodded.
They walked to the nearest place that served food and Dean asked Cas again: “Are you ok?”
“No, not really. I looked like a complete idiot in front of your father.”
“Yeah, because he set you up.”
“You could have warned me.”
“I was in the middle of bidding, I couldn’t well shout out: ’Don’t listen to him, baby.’ No one would take me seriously if I did that.”
“Yes, and now no one is taking me seriously.”
“You just don’t know much about sheep yet.”
“Do you realize there is always something new I don’t know about and that people can hold over me?”
“It’ll pass,” Dean assured him.
“Yeah, in more years again, right?” Cas said bitterly.
“You’ll get there,” Dean assured him and Cas nodded, his head apparently racing.
“You know sometimes I think it would be easier if I’d go back to the city.”
“What?” Dean stopped dead in his tracks. “You’re thinking of leaving?”
“Relax. I would come back, you know? But in the city I wouldn‘t have any of these problems to fit in.”
“Life ain’t always easy,” Dean said, hiding his hands in his trousers because they shook like mad. “Hang in there, baby. It’ll get better.”
“If you say so,” Cas nodded, again not really there in his head and Dean felt the ground shake underneath him as he followed after him to the diner.
Cas wasn’t in a very good mood for the rest of the day, no matter what everyone did to try and cheer him up. Not even when Charlie and Jess showed up and Sam finally manned up and asked Jess out for their first official date. Dean gave him a grin at that, applauding his brother once the girls had moved on watch the auction of horses next and maybe buy one that they could afford. But when Dean looked at Cas’ stonelike manner, felt himself slipping again.
“Hey, how about we go down to the lake tomorrow?” he nuzzled Cas against the truck when they were ready to go home. “Hmm? Have a lazy day. Just you, me and lots of action in the water.”
“Sounds nice,” Cas sighed and let Dean press a kiss to his temple before he got into the truck with Bobby and Sam and Dean got into the bigger one, loaded up with 200 sheep.
“What’s going on lately?” Sam asked as Dean carefully backed out and they rumpled onto the way home again.
“It’s Balthazar that’s fucking things up and Dad was an asshole to Cas today. We’re not in a good place,” he admitted.
“But you’ll fix it?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. He said things would be easier for him in the city, Sammy. Sounds like he’s thinking of leaving, don’t it?”
“Then you gotta show him that you don’t want that.”
“I told him that I loved him. And he didn’t say it back,” the words rolled off his tongue before he could stop them.
“Yeah, I didn’t mean to. We were arguing and I just mentioned it in passing. I screwed up, Sammy.”
“Just tell him again,” Sam said, giving his brother an emphatic smile. “He’ll say it back when the time is right. Anyway, what are you thinking about me and Jess?”
“Just one thing. About damn time, Sammy!” Dean felt himself grin, even though his head was filled with dread.
In the morning Dean packed a for a whole day of being out on the property and felt really good when he heard Balthazar talk to Sam while Cas was out saddling up.
“Have you seen Cassie?”
“No, I haven’t,” Sam said offhandedly.
“It’s ok, I’ll find him.” and Dean thought he couldn’t love his brother more, because he knew exactly where Cas was and what he had planned for today and just didn’t tell Balthazar.
Sam walked out with him, carrying a saddle bag for him and they checked on the sheep again before Dean and Cas rode out.
“Hey, Sammy?” Dean pointed at one sheep that could barely keep itself upright. “I’m not seeing what I’m seeing, right?”
“What is it?” Cas asked when Sam looked at the ewe Dean was pointing at and made a violent gesture with both his arms before he raked his hands over his face.
“Damn it!” Sam shouted with emphasis.
“Maybe it’s just the one,” Dean tried to soothe him as he let Cas hold his horse and grabbed the sick sheep around it’s front legs and turned it around until it had it‘s back towards the ground.
“Don’t look so shocked,” Dean said to Cas when he dragged the animal out, walking backwards. “It doesn’t hurt ‘em.”
He dragged the sheep into an empty yard that Sam held open for him and when the ewe was in, he held it down, bringing one front leg behind his own legs and checked it’s eyes. “It’s definitely conjunctivitis, alright,” he decreed and then let the animal get back up. “Yah!” he slapped it’s behind and the animal darted, or rather wobbled, off. Sam raked his hands through his hair now, looking panicky.
“It shows all the signs of agalactia, doesn’t it?” Dean said and kicked the ground sourly.
“Yeah, it does,” Sam was just as pissed as Dean was when the animal wobbled on it’s legs as if it was in pain. Dean leaned down and checked the joints of the animal next. “Yeah, definitely inflamed.”
“So, it’s a disease?”
“Yeah, and a notifiable one at that,” Dean nodded as he climbed back out of the paddock. “It’s just the one though and it has the wrong ear tag too.”
“What’s the ear tag, then?”
“Winchester’s,” Dean said and Sam looked as if a brick had hit him in the stomach.
“So Dad’s mixed a sick sheep in our new herd and thinks he can get away with it?” Sam fumed.
“Yeah, guess so. He must have done it yesterday at auction. Though why he’d just have a sick one like that around, I don’t know.”
“I gotta call the vet. And he’s gonna want to vaccinate the lot.”
“And that would mean what?” Cas asked about the stone cold expression on both brother's faces.
“Means they’re not organic anymore, Cas. But y‘know, maybe we‘re lucky. We noticed it in time and I guess Dad‘s gonna be pretty pissed that we alert the vet about a sick sheep of his. Dunno why he pulled a stupid stunt like that in the first place. It‘s not gonna do him any good. We need to keep an eye on the rest of them though.”
Sam nodded, but tried to calm down: “You should go and enjoy yourselves though. Me and Bobby can handle things here. It’s just an isolated case and we can’t do anything until the vet was here and confirmed it. We just gotta keep ’em separate.”
“Sure you can handle it?”
“I’m serious, Dean. You can go. Take the day off. We’re not gonna do much except checking them.”
“So you’re not gonna kill that sheep then?” Cas asked once they rode next to each other. “Stop it from spreading?”
“Nope, don’t need to. All it needs is treatment. I just hope the rest haven‘t caught it.”
“Your father is an ass, you know that?”
Dean shrugged and didn’t comment, filial loyalty still too strong inside him. But he had to admit that John hadn’t been the nicest person in the world ever since they’d got to Cedar Ridge.
“I just wish, he wouldn’t do things like that. But he has his ways, which he thinks are right and to which he holds with an iron fist.”
“Dean, you can say it to me. I know when you’re angry, I can tell by the way you hunch your shoulders,” Cas said, noticing things about Dean which only his oldest friends knew about before and that loosened Dean's tongue.
“Damn right I’m angry, but I can’t do anything,” Dean let his horse trot when they came up to the lake. “Let’s not talk about this anymore until we know the verdict, ok? Today is about us.”
“Ok,” Cas answered as they tied their horses to a tree.
“Well, what are you waiting for, get naked already,” Dean encouraged as he already pulled his boots and socks off and jumped in the water as soon as he was nude.
“I dunno,” Cas hemmed and hawed. “I’ve never been skinny dipping.”
“Dude, it’s only me here and I’ve seen you naked countless times. Get your gorgeous ass over here.”
“Alright,” Cas smiled and finally joined Dean in the cool water.
“It’s really nice,” he said as he trod water, next to him.
“Yeah,” Dean kept eye contact and swam closer. “I know,” he gasped and dunked Cas’ under water for a second.
When Cas came back up he looked waterlogged and so pissed that Dean couldn’t stop laughing at his sour expression.
“So this is funny to you, right?”
“Yes,” Dean said in a grunting laugh.
“It won’t be funny anymore when I retaliate,” Cas said and lunged for Dean who just swam away, completely relaxed.
“Maybe you’d get me if you didn’t announce it first,” he chuckled as Cas swam closer again.
“Or maybe I just need to catch you off guard, when you’re really not expecting it,” Cas purred and rubbed himself against Dean, using the drift of the water to get them both hard.
“You wouldn’t, would you?” Dean said, his chuckle dying on his lips and being replaced with a wanton expression as their cocks bopped against each other in the water.
“Not really,” Cas rasped and held onto Dean’s neck, bracing himself on him as he continued to rub himself on him.
“Wanna finish this in here or on dry land?” Dean asked.
“We can do it again later,” Cas panted at Dean as they moved so that he could stand in the water as Cas locked his feet behind his back. “Right now, I just wanna make you come.”
“Damn, I love the way you work me,” Dean panted, Cas humping him with force and he already felt himself twitch. “That’s it, just a little more.”
Cas grunted happily when hot liquid shot out of Dean’s cock, at a totally different temperature than the cool water around them and screwed his eyes closed as he imitated him with happy pants and more humps.
Then Cas grinned and pressed Dean’s head under water for a second which came so unexpected that when he came back up he huffed and puffed, finding Cas with a completely confused expression on his face.
“Gotcha,” Cas smirked dirtily.
“You’ll pay for this,” Dean said in his best threatening voice and carried Cas out of the lake with a quick lurch over his shoulder, not letting him get down while he whacked a picnic blanket and a bottle of lube out of a saddle bag.
“Is that a promise?” Cas smirked when he finally was on the ground again and Dean was on him in another couple of seconds.
Dean retaliated for it by teasing him for over an hour before he finally showed mercy and fucked him senseless.
They were still lazing around, eating the increasingly wobbly sandwiches they had packed, when they heard a sheep baaing behind them.
“Fucking shit!” they shouted out in unison and redressed with lightning speed.
“Someone must have left a gate open,” Dean fumed, already on horseback again.
“It wasn’t me,” Cas said defensively at once.
“I never said that,” Dean said, rolling his eyes and urging Mary Grace to ride over to the sheep faster.
“You ride another way, over the field and see if there are any more over there, ok?”
“Yep, got it,” Cas said and rode off into another direction while Dean took the most direct route back to the homestead, driving a dozen sheep by the end of it.
“Sammy!” Dean shouted when he came up to the yards.
“Yeah, over here. C’mon!” Sam shouted at the sheep and got behind them, driving them into the yard.
“Bobby’s out there already as well.”
“How many are gone? Is the sick one still in the yard?”
“No, it’s all empty.”
“Fucking terrific,” Dean groaned and rode back out immediately.
He came across Bobby on the way back out.
“How many head, Bobby?”
“50,” came the grumpy reply from the older man. “The sick one’s not here. I reckon it was that city douche.”
“Yeah, me too. Need help gettin‘ them in?”
“Get gone, idjit. Find the rest.”
Dean nodded and rode on, finding other two dozen on the empty field next to the one he had sent Cas into.
“Ya! Get movin’ you stupid beasts,” he drove them back to the homestead.
“Has Cas come back in the mean time?” he asked once they were all in the yard.
“Yeah, he’s brought about 30 back and said he’d check the Devereaux boundary paddock next.”
“There’s everything full of trees there, he’s gonna need help.”
Sam nodded and already checked on the lot that Dean had just brought up.
He rode out again, tired and still pissed as hell. The sheep needed rest and not being chased all over the property because some asshole couldn’t close a damn gate.
“Hey Cas,” he shouted when he saw him trying to round up what looked like the rest of the mob.
“Dean I could use some help, they’re all behind trees.”
“Sure thing, you take the one side and I the other,” they closed in a scissor around the animals and drove them back towards home.
“You see that, Dean?” Cas pointed at one specific ewe.
“Yeah, I’ve seen it.”
The Winchester ear marked sheep was among them.
“We’re gonna need to separate them from the others. And the already infected one needs isolation again.”
“How likely is it that they got it now?” Cas asked.
“Likelier than before at least,” Dean grumbled when they were back at the yards.
“No, Sammy not that one. The infected one is in this lot,” he shook his head when Sam wanted to open the pen for them.
“Over here then,” Sam helped them on foot and after a final count, 201 sheep were back in the yards.
“Stupidest thing that could’ve happened,” Dean said sourly as they isolated the sick one again just when the vet and Balthazar came up behind them.
“Cassie!” Balthazar said with a wide grin. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“You wouldn’t happen to have left the gates open when you were looking for me, did you?”
“Does it matter?” Balthazar laughed and Dean couldn’t help himself at it. He shoved the price idiot onto the ground and raised his fist to improve his face with a couple of angry bruises, ripping him up by his undoubtedly very expensive shirt.
“Dean, calm down. He doesn’t know better,” Cas kept him from punching Balthazar in the face now. “He’s an idiot, alright. He didn’t do it on purpose though. He had no idea that the sheep were sick, right Balthazar?”
“Hang on, these ugly things are sick? Do I need a doctor?” Balthazar huffed, even as Dean let him go, not too gently so his back hit the dirt road once more.
“It’s not contagious for humans, ye idjit,” Bobby grumbled at him, holding Dean’s other arm even though he seemed like the wanted to punch Balthazar himself.
“Well thank God for that. I don’t know what you’re so upset about then.”
“Because you’re an idiot,” Cas rasped deeply and rolled his eyes.
Dean looked at Cas with surprise, and relaxed a bit, his anger fading away quickly. When had it happened that Cas was just as upset as he was about something like this? All thought of punching Balthazar in the face vanished as he looked at Cas with a new wave of love flooding through him at him getting things like this now.
“Well I guess I owe you all an apology,” Balthazar said in that damn sonorous tone of his. “How about I’ll treat you all to dinner before I leave, ok?”
The only thing Dean liked about this sentence was the word ‘leave’, but he nodded, looking at Balthazar with more disdain than he had ever felt in his life.
“He didn’t know better!”
“You can’t keep lying to yourself, Cas. He can’t be so stupid that he doesn’t know that animals get out when the gates are open. And besides, he didn’t just leave one gate open, he left every gate open!” he had just wanted to talk to Cas after all that had happened, he hadn’t wanted to argue.
“So what are you thinking? That he’s in on this with your father and wants to ruin everything?”
“Yes!” Dean shouted out his thoughts on the matter after having found out that every last gate on the property had been left open to ensure that the sheep spread all over the property. “Hell, he is ruining everything. He wants you, Cas, and he’s not gonna stop until he has you. I won’t let that happen.”
“I am so sick of your jealousy and your suspicions, Dean. I can take care of myself. Balthazar will not do anything that I don’t want.”
“So you’re saying you want him to do things with you?”
“I didn’t say that, damn it! Why are you making everything so damn hard?”
“I don’t know,” Dean shouted back. “Perhaps it’s all too hard for you if you can’t take being laughed at by people like my father. If you can’t stand that I’m telling you things as I see them. If you can’t stand asking for things you don’t know around here. Maybe your hide isn’t thick enough for this life!”
Cas snapped his mouth closed, obvious hurt in his face. “Maybe it really isn’t.”
“Don’t walk away, Cas. You can change, I can change. And the rest will just fall in line.”
“You keep saying that, Dean. But what if it doesn’t? What if I screw up again, like with the heifer? And you look at me like you looked at Balthazar today?”
“I wouldn’t,” Dean said taken aback.
“You don’t know that. The screw up only has to be big enough.”
Cas was very distant for the rest of the day and didn’t even sleep in the same bed with him tonight. Dean had seen him go over to the shearer’s quarters and felt somewhat consoled that he at least wasn’t spending the night anywhere near Balthazar but still he felt his eyes burning every time he looked at the empty spot in the bed next to him.
The next morning, after another sleepless night and many cares, saw the final ending of Balthazar’s visit and when Sam talked about his plans to say farewell to him with a big barbeque over breakfast, Dean and Cas only nodded, not looking at the other.
“Everyone, gather round please. Cassie and I have an announcement,” Balthazar said as they had finished eating in the evening. They had temporarily fixed up one of the disused shacks around the homestead and Balthazar had creased his nose and complained about it more than once that this was gonna be the venue for his farewell venue, but in the end he had conceded because Dean looked borderline murderous when he complained. Everyone couldn’t wait for him to be gone, but what he said just now didn’t bode well.
Dean felt his heart sinking into his shoes at the schmucks’ words, because he seemed to know what was coming. Cas hadn’t spent one minute with him today. Anything might have happened in the mean time.
Charlie took Dean’s right arm, Jess hugged him from around the back and Sam laid his right arm over his shoulders. Together, they awaited the blow that would surely come now.
“I finally convinced him to come back to town with me and open that business we always wanted to run.”
Everyone was shocked into silence for a second, Mary, Frank and Bobby looking at Dean, surrounded by his closest friends and his brother before they politely clapped at the news. Dean wasn’t able to raise one hand to even pretend to be happy, the hellfire that burned away every thought of his happiness in his mind just wouldn’t let him.
“So you’re going back to the city? Getting things on with Balthazar too?” Dean asked once he had the chance to get Cas on his own outside of the shack.
Cas shrugged, not wanting to argue again apparently and looked over the plains that had held corn just a week ago and were now empty and desolate looking.
“I like it here, you know that. But I think you were right. This life’s too hard for me in the long haul. And it’s not as if anyone really shouts at me that I shouldn’t go. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe old dreams shouldn’t be abandoned. But if you want me to stay, I will.”
Dean gulped, pain coursing through his veins. This was the moment he could turn this bullshit around, he could make him stay. But could he really do that? This business was Cas’ real dream, he’d always want to do it and could he say: ‘no, you’re staying with me and not live your dream, because you’re my new dream?‘ He couldn’t, could he?
Screw this, he thought and opened his mouth, but Cas had already politely smiled and turned his back to go back in, not betting on getting an answer anymore.
“Stay,” Dean whispered softly.
Cas must not have heard it because he went on into the shack and Dean was left outside in a night that seemed to have lost all it’s warmth now.
Cas turned around in the door opening, smiling at him but there was definite pain lined in his face: “I’ll come by often to visit.”
“Yes, do that. Please,” Dean nodded and then turned his face away, not wanting to let Cas know that he was crying now. He knew Cas wouldn’t come back. Balthazar would make sure of it.