A/N: With thanks to On-A-Dare, who continues to be awesome.
"I'm going to run to the store," Dad said, as he and Dean were finishing dinner. "You know of anything we need?"
Dean shook his head. There probably were things, but he couldn't think of them. Sammy had been sick, feverish and puking and shaky, all week. His fever had finally broken that morning, he'd managed to keep soup and juice in his stomach, and he'd spent most of the day drifting in and out of sleep.
Dean and Dad hadn't slept much at all in the last few days. Dean had only barely managed to stay awake through dinner. He carried his dishes over to the sink, stared at the rag for a long moment, and then remembered, "I think we're almost out of soap."
"Okay." Dad set his own dishes next to Dean's. "I shouldn't be gone more than an hour." He clapped a hand on Dean's shoulder. "Leave the dishes, son. I'll deal with them later. You just get to bed."
Dean didn't even bother to change into his pajamas. He looked at the bed across the room to make sure that Sam looked okay, then pulled off his shoes and crawled under his blanket. He lay awake just long enough to hear Dad lock the front door as he left, and then Dean closed his eyes and –
"Dean?" said Sam.
Dean's eyes opened. "You sick?"
"No," said Sam. "But I can't sleep."
"Well, close your eyes and try."
"Okay," Sam said.
Dean shoved his blanket off; it was too hot in here. He closed his eyes again and –
"It didn't work."
"Close your eyes, shut your mouth, and try again," Dean said.
Dean watched three minutes tick by on the clock on the wall, but Sam didn't say anything else. Dean rolled over and –
A small hand tapped him on the shoulder. "Dean?"
"I still can't sleep."
Dean rolled back over to face his six-year old brother. "Then try counting sheep."
Even in the dark, Dean could see Sam's face furrow in confusion. "What sheep?"
"Imaginary ones," Dean said.
"Why would I count imaginary sheep?"
"Because that's what people do when they can't sleep. They count sheep."
"I don't know," Dean said. "Because it's boring and it makes them fall asleep."
"Oh," said Sam. And then, "Okay." He padded across the room and got back into his own bed, apparently satisfied.
For the moment.
Dean shivered and pulled his blankets back up to his chin. He turned a few times, trying to get comfortable, and then –
Dean felt Sam's hand tapping his shoulder again. "What, Sam?"
"How do I keep the sheep straight?"
"The sheep, the imaginary ones. I'm trying to count them, but they're all over the hill, and I think I might be counting the same ones over and over."
Dean sat up. "You don't know how to count sheep?"
"Of course I know how to count sheep," Sam said, indignantly. "One, two, three, four, five, six—"
"You line them up, Sammy, jump them over a fence, and count them as they jump."
"Why would sheep line up to jump over a fence?"
"Jesus, Sammy, I don't know. To get to the magical special happy sheep meadow on the other side. They all line up and jump over the fence, okay?"
"Don't the ones at the back of the line feel bad?" Sam asked.
"That they have to wait to go to the magical special happy sheep meadow?"
"Well, then, they should have gotten in line sooner. Go to sleep, Sammy."
"Okay," said Sam, and started back towards his bed again. Halfway across the room, he stopped. "But what if there's a wolf?"
"Why would there be a wolf?"
"There's always a wolf," Sam said. "In all the stories. What if a wolf is coming to attack the sheep, and the only safe place is the magical special happy sheep meadow, and the ones at the end on the line are going to get killed?"
"Then I guess they really should have gotten in line sooner."
"They're imaginary sheep. There can't be an imaginary wolf unless you imagine one. So just, you know, don't."
"But I already did," Sam wailed. "And now my imaginary sheep are going to die."
"So get an imaginary gun and shoot the imaginary wolf."
"I can't do that," Sam said, horrified.
"Dad said I'm not ever allowed to touch guns unless he's there."
"It's an imaginary gun, Sam!"
"Dad said all guns."
It was like a nightmare, Dean thought. Except that at least if it were a nightmare, he'd actually be allowed to sleep through it.
"The sheep know kung fu," he said, a little desperately.
"The sheep know kung fu?" Sam repeated.
"Yeah," Dean said.
"All sheep, or just mine?"
"All sheep," said Dean. "It's a little known fact."
"Oh," said Sam. "So, if a wolf comes . . ."
"The sheep can kung fu its ass."
"You're not supposed to say 'ass.'"
"Fine. They can kung fu his butt. Happy?"
"Yes. What about a bear?"
"The sheep can kung fu the bear's butt."
"What about a python?"
"The sheep can kung fu whatever pythons have instead of butts, okay?"
"Dean, how do pythons poop?"
"Are you kidding me?"
"They don't have butts, so how do they poop?"
Dad had never specifically told Dean not to kill Sam, but it had been broadly implied on any number of occasions. Which, in this moment, was in Sam's best interest for survival.
"I don't know, Sam. They just do."
"Can we look it up tomorrow?"
"Sure, Sam. We can look up python poop. Now, just go to sleep."
"Okay," Sam said. "Don't yell at me."
Sam got back into his bed, and for five blessed minutes, all was quiet. Dean pulled his blanket up, threw it back off, pulled it up again, closed his eyes and –
Sam tapped him on the shoulder again. "Dean?"
"What about an abominable snowman?"
"What if the sheep get attacked by an abominable snowman? Those are, like, really big and really mean and really strong, and I don't know that even with kung fu, a sheep could fight him off."
What the hell went on in Sam's mind?
"Then all the sheep will gang up on it."
"Will that work?"
"Yeah. Everyone knows abominable snowmen have weak ankles."
"But what if – "
"Sam. Go. To. Bed."
"You're being mean," Sam muttered, stomping back across the room. "You're the one who gave me the stupid sheep in the first place. I am just trying to keep them from getting killed."
"I'm not talking to you!"
"Yeah, well, I'm not talking to you, either!"
Dean pulled his blanket up over his head.
On the other side of the room, Sam began to count. "One, two, three, four, five . . ."
Dean got out of bed, wrapped his blanket around his shoulders, and went back to the living room.
He had just gotten settled into Dad's recliner when the front door opened and Dad came in, hands full of grocery bags.
"Dean? I thought I told you to get to bed, son."
"I know," Dean said. "And I tried. But there were sheep and Sam didn't know how to count them – and who doesn't know how to count sheep – and then he was worried about wolves only he couldn't shoot the wolves because you told him he wasn't supposed to touch guns when you aren't there, even imaginary ones, but it was okay because the sheep knew kung fu, only Sammy still wouldn't sleep, and I don't know how pythons poop."
Dad set the bag by the door and came over to the recliner. He laid the back of one hand against Dean's forehead. "I'm not sick," Dean said. Okay, so he felt like crap, but that was just because no one would let him sleep.
"Dean, you need to keep your voice down. Your brother's sleeping."
"No. He's. Not," Dean said.
That was the whole point.
And to prove the whole point, Dean went back to their room, opened the door, and said, "See?"
In the bed under the window, Sam was sound asleep and snoring faintly.
"He – he – he wasn't doing that," Dean said.
"Okay, son," said Dad. "Come on, I think you need to rest. Might be coming down with what Sammy just had."
"I'm not," said Dean, miserably, as Dad walked him over to his bed. "I'm not sick, and I don't need you to tuck me in."
Dad put Dean's blanket back in place across the bed. "I know."
"I'm not a little kid," Dean said.
"I'm not Sam."
"I know, son." Dad smoothed Dean's hair down. "We'll talk all about it in the morning. But right now, Dean, you need to sleep."
"Yes, sir," Dean said. "But he really wasn't sleeping."
"Good night, Dean."
The room was dark and quiet, except for Sam's even breathing. Dean could hear, faintly, the sounds of cabinets opening and water running as Dad put away the groceries and washed the dishes from dinner. Dean closed his eyes, pulled his blanket up to his chin and –
– and couldn't sleep.
He couldn't frickin' sleep.
One. Two. Three. Fou—Hey, is that an abominable snowman?