Dean filled the last of the water troughs and crossed the pasture to the gate. He smiled when his horse Honey followed, nudging at his arm so he’d give her more attention.
“Hey, girl, feeling needy today, aren’t ya?” He stroked her head and brushed her hair back from her eyes. Her winter coat was coming in nicely. Once she’d gotten her cuddles she moved off to go munch on the grass and he left through the gate to check on the chickens.
Running a working farm was hard work but worth it, and as he watched his horses running across the open fields, he felt a sense of pride. His animals were all healthy and doing well, even the ones he was rehabilitating, like Honey. She was only meant to be a temporary visitor, staying long enough for him to get some weight on her and get her over the neglect she’d experienced in her last home, but he’d fallen in love with her. That was four years ago. It had taken a lot of training and patience but she was one of his best riding horses now. His phone rang in his back pocket and he pulled it out. It was the vet, Cas. He felt his stomach do a flip like it did every time the handsome doctor called, though he knew something had to have happened if he was calling out of the blue like this. He slid the bar to accept the call and put it to his ear.
“Hey, Cas, what’s up?”
“Hello, Dean, how are you?”
“I’m good. Just finishing up my chores. What’s going on?”
Cas sighed and that immediately told him something was going on. Somewhere there was a horse or horses in need, and Dean was the person he saw fit to rehabilitate them.
“How well do you know your neighbors?”
Odd question. “Well, depends on which ones you’re talking about. I know Chuck and Becky next door, and on the other side is the volunteer fire station. I don’t know the farm I back up to, the house is too far away, I’ve only waved at the farmer in passing during harvesting season. There’s a farm across the road but I only knew the old owners. Since these knew people moved in about eight years back I haven’t said much to them. They’re not too friendly. Why? What’s going on?”
“Well, it’s those people across the road. Are you aware that they keep horses and livestock?” Cas asked.
“I see the cows, sure. They’re kind of skinny, and the property stinks to high heaven. I don’t think they ever clean it up.” Dean replied.
“I spent the better part of the last two days on their property with the Humane Society after there was a complaint filed. I work in conjunction with them as they are very short staffed currently. Dean, I ended up putting their entire herd down. The cows were all terribly sick. The horses are…” The vet’s voice caught and Dean got the impression the horses were really bad off. “I’ve seen you work miracles before. I’d like to see what you can do with these two. These people had all of these beautiful animals, and what did they do? Neglected them all. How can anyone choose to own large animals like this and then just shirk their responsibilities? It sickens me.”
“Where are the horses now, Cas? Did you take them to the clinic or are you still across the road?” Dean went around the front of the house and looked across the road to the neighbor in question’s property. There were cars up near the house and a truck that looked an awful lot like Cas’.
“They’re still on the property, can you bring your trailer over? I didn’t want to move them more than absolutely necessary.” Cas replied.
“Ok, give me fifteen to hook it up and I’ll be over.”
He hung up and went to get the trailer ready. Later Cas could help him get the quarantine stalls ready in the barn.
Pulling up in the neighbor’s driveway, Cas was already waiting. He looked troubled and Dean soon saw why as he was led into the filthiest, worst smelling barn he’d ever stepped foot inside of. His eyes watered and he tried not to gag as they walked to the last two stalls.
“Where are the people that live here?” Dean asked as he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket to cover his nose. The flies were thick, even inside the barn and his first view of the horses made his stomach turn.
“They’ve been arrested. I don’t know all the charges, but child neglect is one of them, and animal endangerment.” Cas replied. “These two are bloated with worms but they’ve been starved too. I’ve been giving them supplements, vitamins, grain and some hay, but I figured you’d be better prepared to feed them to build their weight back up safely once you got them back to your place. Moving them any great distance is not good for them, nor is housing them outdoors. I know you have the heated barn for the rescues.”
“We have to get them out of here. Once I get them back home I can get a better assessment of their needs. This is going to really be touch and go for a while.” Dean said.
“Do you possibly have space for a couple of goats as well?” Cas asked. Dean dropped his hand away from his face and frowned.
“You’re shitting me, right?”
They got the two horses and six miniature goats moved over to Dean’s farm, all of which were moved into the quarantine barn. Cas checked vitals while Dean got everyone set up with food and water. The horses had an appetite and thankfully the goats were not nearly as bad off as the horses. By the time they got everyone settled it was time to put the chickens up, so Cas helped him do that real quick.
“Say, would you like to stay for dinner? I have a pot roast in the crock pot.” Dean said as they headed inside to wash up. It wasn’t the first time he’d invited Cas to stay for dinner, and he liked when the man said yes. Cas smiled and nodded.
“I’d love to.”
Cas took his coat off and hung it by the back door and went to wash his hands in the bathroom while Dean stripped off his own coat and flannel, hanging them up next to the vet’s coat. He washed up at the kitchen sink and began setting the table. When Cas returned to the kitchen he smiled as the man pitched in to help.
“I see you have chicks in the brooder. What are you raising?” He asked.
“Faverolles. They’re being raised for show. There’s some Polish in there too. I have a buyer paying top dollar for them.” Dean replied as he brought the crock pot over to the table.
“You always raise the nicest birds. I’ve always loved your Marans.” Cas smiled softly as Dean brought fresh, hot biscuits, a jar of honey, and butter to the table.
“They’re a pain in the ass when they’re juveniles, but once they mature, they’re great. I finally have a flock laying the perfect chocolate eggs. I have some, if you want a dozen.”
Cas nodded, smiling wider. “I’d love a dozen. I need to replenish my own flock.”
Dean brought a pitcher of lemon water to the table and poured a glass for both of them. They sat down to eat and Cas raved over the food which made Dean blush.
“You are an amazing cook, Dean, I don’t think there’s anything you can’t do well. I always enjoy having dinner here. You put my cooking skills to shame.”
“Thank you.” Dean pushed a potato around his plate and watched the other man as he ate. “How’s Claire? Amelia?”
Cas winced and swallowed the mouthful of carrots and potatoes he’d been chewing.
“Claire is doing very well. She is applying to colleges, getting ready to take her midterms. She’s a junior. As for Amelia, she’s doing fine, I guess. We don’t talk much, just a bit when I’m picking up or dropping Claire off, and at school functions. She’s remarried, happy, and from what Claire says, expecting a baby, though they haven’t made a formal announcement yet. They’re waiting until she’s out of the first trimester because she’s already lost one baby. I’m sure they’ll say something to me when they’re ready.”
“I’m glad they’re happy. I’ll send a gift their way once they’re in the clear and telling people.” Dean liked Cas’ ex-wife. Amelia used to be partners with Cas in his business, but they’d divorced ten years earlier and she’d gone on to open a small animal clinic in the city while Cas remained in the country, working on livestock and running his large animal hospital. Many times over the years Dean had wondered if there was any possibility that Cas might be interested, but aside from dinner a few times a month, he didn’t know. The only thing he did know was that Cas was one of his best friends, if not his very best, and he enjoyed every moment they spent together.
“Anything new going on with you?” Cas asked. Dean shrugged.
“Not really. Getting ready for harvesting season. Sammy’s coming to visit this year for Christmas, bringing the whole family, as long as no one gets sick. I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping yet.”
“Neither have I. Claire wants an iPhone 8 this year. I am not spending a grand on a cell phone. Neither is her mother. We’re not rich.” Cas sounded offended by his daughter’s request, which made Dean laugh.
Cas smiled and nodded. “Indeed.”
They finished eating and after cleaning up, went back out to check on the horses. Cas left around ten and Dean turned in for the night, deciding he wasn’t going to wonder anymore whether there could be something between him and Cas. He had to move on with his life.
The next few weeks were touch and go but both horse made it. He got the paperwork on them and learned their names were Peaches and Tulip. Cas came around twice a week to check on the horses and he knew he had permission to be on the property even when Dean wasn’t home. One Friday afternoon he stopped by when he had the time but when no one answered the front door, he decided to go around back and check on the horses anyway. They had finally put on enough weight that it was safe enough to deworm them, and he’d brought that with him today, along with a new supplement. He made his way out to the barn and got busy working with the horses. As he was finishing and coming back out into the yard, he caught sight of Dean standing out in the far pasture with another man, unloading hay. They wouldn’t hear him yelling from here, or even see him, but he didn’t want to leave without at least talking to Dean, so he sat down on the back stairs to wait.
The hay was unloaded, one bale in each of the four pastures where Dean kept horses, and then the truck was coming back up towards the yard. It parked at the other end the yard and Cas got two steps across the grass before he stumbled to a stop. For a moment he thought maybe his eyes were playing tricks on him, but the hay guy, Michael, another farmer from a few miles down the road was leaning over to kiss Dean, and Dean…wasn’t pushing him away. That was not something he’d expected. For as long as he’d known Dean, he hadn’t known this about him. Suddenly things clicked into place. The looks, the frequent dinner invitations, he’d long suspected Dean was interested in more than just friendship, but he’d been too much of a coward to pursue it. It wasn’t that he wasn’t interested in return, it was that he was scared. He’d had one failed marriage and he was terrified of ruining another relationship.
He knew the moment Dean spotted him. His body went rigid and he pushed Michael back. Words were exchanged and then Michael was turning to see Cas standing there in the yard too. Dean slid out of the truck and Michael pulled out of the yard, leaving him alone with the vet. Slowly he crossed the yard until he was standing in front of Cas.
“I, uh, didn’t know you were here. Where’s your car?” Dean asked.
“I pulled all the way up to the barn. Y-you weren’t here when I got here. I tended to the horses. Dewormed them, and the goats.” Cas motioned absently back towards the quarantine barn.
“Oh, that’s good.” Dean scratched nervously at his jaw as they fell into an awkward silence.
“So, you and Michael, huh?”
Dean dropped his eyes to the ground as his cheeks flushed red. It made his freckles stand out more. He shrugged.
“He’s been flirting for a while.”
“I didn’t know you liked him.” Cas chewed at the inside of his lip and hoped he didn’t sound like a petulant child. Dean’s gaze flickered briefly up to him before moving away again.
“Does it bother you? Some people have an issue that I like men.”
“No, of course not. I didn’t know you did, but I would never have an issue with it. Michael’s a nice man, but you should know that he’s married.” Cas said. Dean looked up sharply.
“Are you kidding me?”
“No, his wife goes to church with Amelia and Ron. Her name is Stacy. She’s really very nice.” Cas replied. Dean lifted his Stetson off his head and ran his fingers through his hair.
“Fuck! I finally move on and the first guy I show interest in is freaking cheating on his wife. Now I have to get my hay somewhere else.”
“I can get you a connection with another hay farmer, that’s not an issue. What do you mean “moved on”? What did you move on from?” Cas asked. Dean froze, his eyes widening before he turned and headed for the back door.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Dean,” Cas followed after him, and right into the house.
“It’s nothing, Cas.” Dean slipped out of his coat and hung it up before taking off his flannel. He cocked an eyebrow when Cas took his coat off too.
“You can’t bullshit me. Were you dating someone and you broke up?”
“No, Cas, I haven’t dated anyone in years. Not seriously, anyway.” Dean sighed as he started rooting around in the cabinets to see what he could make a quick lunch out of. He settled on grilled cheese and tomato soup. Cas pitched in to help without being asked.
“You don’t just say something like that without meaning it. It means you have feelings for someone that you’re trying to ignore.”
“Cas, drop it, please.” Dean pleaded as he got the bread buttered and laid out on the griddle. Cas let out a frustrated growl and grabbed him by the arm, spinning him around so they were facing one another.
“Stop. It’s me, isn’t it? Why couldn’t you just tell me, Dean? I know, I haven’t exactly been receptive, and I’m not sure I even could do a relationship, not if it turned out like my marriage did, but fuck if it didn’t piss me off seeing you kissing Michael when I’ve been wanting to kiss you for years.”
Dean’s mouth fell open in shock and he stared at Cas hard, searching his eyes for any sign that he wasn’t certain of what he was saying.
“You…what? I had no idea you…You married Amelia!”
Cas chuckled and shook his head. “I like women and men, Dean.”
“You never said shit to me!” Dean shoved him but Cas didn’t budge.
“Neither did you. I had to see you kiss another guy to figure it out.”
Cas reached around him to turn the griddle off so the bread didn’t burn, and then he was back looking in Dean’s eyes.
“I don’t know what I should be saying right now.” Dean admitted.
“Do you have feelings for me?” Cas asked. Dean bit his lower lip, hesitating for a moment before nodding.
“Yeah, yeah I do. I have for a long time now, but I gave up cause I was sure you were straight. You never mentioned being bi, and after you and Amelia split the only dates I knew you went on were with that Meg chick and that lady Pam from IGA. You never talked about any men.”
“I went out on a few dates, men and women, but I liked you. I was just too afraid to risk our friendship. You’re important to me, Dean.” Cas raised a hand a tentatively placed against Dean’s chest. Dean smiled.
“Cas, you’re important to me too. You always will be. Geez, I never thought you could be interested. You never even hinted that you…” Dean scrubbed a hand down his face and shook his head. “Dude, I don’t want to just be friends. I’m not Amelia, ok? You can’t expect me to do what she did. I’ve known you some 15 years now, and we’ve been friends at least ten of those years, and…I’ve been in love with you most of that time. I was finally deciding to just give up, move on, and try not to think about you anymore. I’m pushing 40 and I’m tired of being alone. I don’t want to be alone anymore.”
Cas brought his hands up to cup Dean’s jaw, stroking his thumbs over the stubble on his cheeks.
“I would never compare you to my ex-wife. It was my own irrational fears of getting hurt that made me hide my feelings. No more, ok? From now on, I won’t. Why don’t we have lunch and I’ll stick around to help with the afternoon chores. Later we can make dinner together and…I’ll stay the night? We can talk and I’ll help you with the morning chores. I’m on call tomorrow, so unless I get an emergency call, I don’t have to leave.”
“W-what about Claire?” Dean’s stomach was practically bursting with excitement. He was glad he’d changed his sheets the day before. They weren’t a week old, which was good.
“She’s not with me until next weekend, and even then she’s not really with me. She’s working or spending time with her friends or boyfriend. I might see her during the week if she stops by for dinner though.” Cas replied.
“Alright. Let’s eat then. I have to still water the birds and tend to the chicks.” Dean said.
“Not yet.” Cas moved his hands from Dean’s face to the counter behind him, which pressed their chests against one another. Dean cocked his head curiously, but a second later Cas was kissing him. He wrapped his arms around the man’s neck as Cas wrapped his own around Dean’s back and held him tight. It went on forever, and yet not nearly long enough. The best part was how right it felt for both of them.
Dean got the sandwiches made while Cas made the soup, and they sat down to eat. When they were done they finished up the chores and went back inside. It was still too early for dinner so they sat down together on the couch. To Dean’s surprise, Cas was a cuddler. They’d always sat with a few feet between them, but now, Cas was practically in his lap, sliding up under Dean’s arm the moment he’d gotten comfortable and laying his head on Dean’s shoulder. They talked, for hours, until it became too late to cook and they were forced to order something, and then they continued to talk while they ate. Cas insisted on taking him to dinner the following night, not that Dean was complaining. He was looking forward to it.
It was the start of something new and wonderful that only got better as time went on. Dean found a new hay distributor and cut ties with Michael the following morning, and two months later Amelia made the formal announcement that she was pregnant. Cas informed her at the same time that he was with Dean. She wasn’t terribly surprised. Neither was Claire who simply rolled her eyes and muttered “About time”.
A year later Cas sold his house on the edge of the city limits and moved onto the farm with Dean. He brought his farm dogs Gibbs and Nellie, his own chickens, and a flock of ducks. Everyone fit in fine and Dean found it much easier having another person around to help out, but more than anything, he was happy having the man he loved to wake up to every morning. Even Claire loved spending her visitation time at Dean’s. She went riding and had pretty much claimed Tulip for herself. Peaches went to a home with Dean’s friend Jody and later, when Claire finished college, she took Tulip with her.
Dean treated Cas better than he ever could have dreamed of. Any reservations or fears he’d had were eliminated within that first few months and by the end of their first year together he knew he’d been an idiot to resist his feeling for Dean as long as he had. After four years, he got the idea that he wanted to try marriage again, so he proposed. Dean said yes and that summer they got married there at the farm. Their marriage ended up outliving Amelia’s second, and her third, lasting for the rest of their lives in fact, but they chalked that up to what happens when you marry your best friend, and they both knew they’d do it again in a heartbeat.