the noise of stars
By unperfectwolf
Rated: pg13
Fandom, Pairing: Supernatural, Gen: Sam Winchester, Dean Winchester
Summary: Even when you know it's coming, dealing with the consequences of a deal made with a demon is never easy.
Disclaimer: not mine, never was mine, never will be mine.
Notes: 2,900 words. written for iamzulma, for Sweet Charity. I hope this is worth the almost 20 you paid for it! also, with great thanks to Sara for the cheerleading (I think she's been more excited about this fic than I was :P) and the beta. title kinda sorta from "an old man with enormous wings" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Originally published 5/29/07, but doesn't go AU until No Rest For The Wicked.

the noise of stars

It took Sam nearly six months to locate the book. Their father had mentioned it once or twice when Sam was a kid, but John had never known much about it. Sam had questioned Pastor Jim about it several times. The two of them had sat up late into the night when they had stayed with him the year Sam was fifteen, discussing the possibilities of a book like that actually existing, and if it did, where it could have been located.

Sam had never forgotten about it, but once they'd left Pastor Jim's that year, he'd stopped talking about it. He'd stopped looking for it when they came to rare collectives, though his eyes always caught on the oldest books. It wasn't until Dean had sold his soul to hell to bring him back from death that Sam had any real reason to start looking again.

Six months after Dean made his deal, Sam got a lead about library in a church in New York City. He left Dean asleep in New Jersey, hoping the pain killers he'd dosed him with because of their latest hunt would keep him asleep for the next twelve hours or so—more time than Sam needed to get in and out with the book, if it was there.

It was. Sam had no qualms about breaking into the library in the church basement, picking the locks on the book cages, and taking the book out with him. He noted the cameras and kept his face turned away, but he had no doubts that Hendrickson would figure it out.

He didn't care.

.

The book was everything he'd hoped for. He never showed it to Dean, knowing his brother would never let him do what he planned on doing with it. He memorized the exorcisms he could, taking notes but never actually copying word for word. When he met the demon face to face, he wanted to be able to tell her the truth, to make it so that their deal could never be rescinded.

He kept the book until just before Dean's time was up. He didn't push it too close, leaving a few weeks' buffer, but he knew without a doubt that the demon would want this book. It was the book that had told Samuel Colt how to forge a weapon that could kill a demon, after all.

He took off in the middle of the day this time, telling Dean he was going to the library and that he would be back later. By the time Dean called looking for him, he was a couple hundred miles away from Nocona.

"Sammy, where the fuck are you?"

"Uh, just passing through Leland, Mississippi."

"What are you doing, Sam?" Dean asked him, but it was obvious that he had a good idea of what was going on.

Sam smiled grimly, despite that Dean couldn't see him. "Saving your ass."

"Sammy," Dean said, his voice tight.

Sam sighed. "I'm gonna do this, Dean. I'll call you when this is done, all right?"

He didn't give Dean a chance to reply, just hanging hung up and tossed the phone into the passenger seat.

He buried the box, then stood to wait. He didn't call for her, like he knew Dean would have, or look around. He just stood there, hands in his jean pockets, bag slung over his shoulder, and waited.

She showed after a few minutes as a blonde in a flowing white gown, too much like his mother and Jess. He knew she did it on purpose, trying to get the jump on him by throwing it in his face, but after everything that had gone on, all it did was make him surer.

"Sam Winchester," she cooed, slinking towards him, curling herself around him like a cat. "Surprise, surprise. I would have thought you'd have been here months ago."

Sam shrugged. "Didn't need to be here months ago."

"So sure?" she asked, her brow furrowing.

"Sure enough," he told her. "Are we going to make a deal or not?"

She smiled at him then, her smile beautiful but deadly. "Sure we can, Sammy. What are we dealing for?"

Sam gave her his best 'what do you think?' look, perfected by his years as Dean's younger brother. "Dean's soul."

"That," she told him, her smile even more unfriendly, "is not on the table."

"Really?" Sam asked, pulling the book from his bag. It creaked with age as he shifted it in his hands, the parchment pages crinkling softly. "I guess I won't have to give this up, then."

The demon's eyes were riveted on the book. He tilted it so that she could see the symbol on the cover and she gasped. "Is that..?"

"It's the book that Samuel Colt used to make the colt," Sam told her. There was no title. If it had ever had one, it had been long lost over the years.

The demon didn't look up from the book. "It's been hidden for so many years. So long, so long. Most copies have already been destroyed," she said almost to herself.

Sam nodded. "In return for Dean's soul, you can have this. Destroy it, keep it, trade it, I don't care."

She glanced up sharply. "Do I look stupid, Sammy? You'd have copied down the exorcisms long ago."

Sam shook his head, his bangs falling across his eyes. "I haven't."

"And I should trust you?" she scoffed.

Sam shrugged. "The deal won't hold if I'm lying."

The demon stared at him for a long moment. "Fine. But on one condition."

Sam eyed her. "What condition?"

"One of his senses is mine. Sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste. One of the five, no guarantee which," she told him, her eyes flickering between his face and the book.

Sam knew this is her way of coming out on top, of making sure that Dean had a reminder of the deal for the rest of his life—a life he wasn't supposed to have, not after making such a deal.

"No. But," he said when she opened her mouth to call no deal, "you can have one of mine."

She cocked her head to the side, staring up at him. "What is it with you Winchesters, so willing to take a hit for each other? You, your brother, your father. Even your mother, dying for you." She reached up, caressing his face. "Just for that, I think I'll give you twenty-four hours until I take it."

Sam nodded jerkily. "Fine. But, to be clear, Dean's soul is free—like the deal was never made—and I give you the book now, and one of my senses in twenty-four hours?"

She smiled at him. It still wasn't nice, but the poison had faded somewhat. "You got it, Sammy," she told him right before capturing his mouth in a kiss.

.

Sam waited until just before his twenty-four hours was up before he went into the room to face Dean. His brother was sitting on one of the beds staring at the door, waiting in silence. He was tense and looked like he hadn't slept very much in the last few days.

"Sammy?" he asked when Sam came in, standing up.

Sam smiled slightly. "Hey."

Dean took a step forward, pausing before pulling Sam to him in an awkward hug. "God, Sam."

Sam brought his arms up slowly. "Dean?" he asked, confused. Dean's version of physical affection usually ran more along the lines of a slap on the back or screwing with Sam's hair.

"Don't ever do that again, Sammy. God, just don't," Dean breathed out, his voice unsteady and rough.

"Dean," Sam shifted back. "I had to do it, okay?"

Dean tensed up. "What did you do, Sam?"

"I," Sam looked into his face, cringing at the look of terror in his brother's eyes. "I fixed it. You're safe."

Dean backed away. "What did you do, Sam?" he asked again, his voice even rougher. "Oh God, Sam."

Sam reached out for Dean again. "Dean, it's okay. I traded…" he paused. "I traded her for it. A book for your soul."

Dean stared at him. "There is no fucking way that demon would trade my soul for a book, Sam."

"Yeah, well, if it's the right book, apparently she will." Sam knew he needed to tell Dean about the rest of the deal because in less than an hour he was going to be one sense short. He almost didn't want to—if it was taste or smell, there was a chance he could fake it for long enough to find something else to blame. But the other three, Dean would know right away that something was wrong.

Dean watched him, still unsure. "Which book did you trade, Sammy?"

"A book. I got it from a church in New York City," Sam told him. He would have to explain exactly which book it was someday, but for the moment, Sam figured there were more important things to talk about.

Dean's eyes narrowed. "What aren't you telling me, Sam?"

Sam looked away. After a long, quiet moment, he glanced back at his brother. "One of my senses," he told him. "I traded one of them. I'll know which in a few minutes now."

Dean stared at him, aghast. But when he opened his mouth and said something, the world had gone silent.

.

It wasn't too hard to adjust. Sam and Dean had established a form of non-verbal communication long before, but it wasn't until Sam couldn't hear that he realized just how limited it was.

He learned ASL quickly, just like everything else. To his surprise, Dean learned it too, almost faster than Sam. They still used their own code, but mostly to supplement ASL in the area of things that went bump in the dark and the stuff they used to kill them.

They were both fairly good at reading lips as well, so it had been a little easier. It was still hard, though, especially at night. Sam hadn't slept much for the first two days, too tense because every time he closed his eyes, everything was gone.

He couldn't hear anything, not even the normal sounds of life. As a hunter, that meant he couldn't hear anything unusual, either. The third night, after he had lain there for several hours, staring at the ceiling, Dean stumbled over from the other bed and shoved him over. With even just Dean's hand lying on his stomach, Sam was able to relax, sure that his brother tensing in the night would wake him.

They had spent the rest of the summer that way, and after the first few nights Dean had just started throwing their bags onto the first bed.

It had taken Dean a few weeks to almost-always remember that Sam couldn't hear him, and he had often been halfway through a sentence before he remembered. The first few times he'd looked stricken, watching Sam as if he was going to fall apart. Sam just asked him to repeat what he was saying in sign or in front of him, so he could read his lips.

Eventually Dean started to talk and sign at the same time, letting Sam pick which one to follow. Sam had first felt almost like Dean didn't think he could handle it if he only did one, but it hadn't taken him very long to realize Dean didn't know which was easier for him and so did both.

They got used to it. They adjusted. They still hunted. Sam had been able to hear for most of his life, and his ability to speak hadn't been washed away with his ability to hear. He'd had to learn how to regulate his voice, but he'd done it.

When they showed up at Bobby's in late August, the older hunter didn't bother to hide the fact that he was almost as surprised to see Sam as he was Dean.

"How'd this come about?" he asked, sliding a shot glass of holy water to each of them, then a beer each when no smoke or steam came from either.

"Turns out Sammy should have been a lawyer after all," Dean told him. "He managed to get me out of the deal."

It didn't take long for Bobby to realize something was wrong. The boys had been doing this for almost three months by then, though, and he couldn't tell what exactly was wrong. Finally, he gave up waiting for them to tell him. "What happened to you, Sam?"

Sam looked over at Dean, unsure. Dean signed a question to him real quick, and when he nodded, Dean sighed. "He gave up his hearing, as part of the deal to keep my soul."

Bobby leaned back in his seat. "Can't be all she asked for."

Dean shrugged. "It wasn't. He gave up something else, a book." Dean caught Sam's eye, making sure he was watching when he spoke. "He won't tell me what book it was."

Sam held his eyes for a moment before dropping his gaze to the table. Bobby watched the exchange, his eyes narrowing. "There's not many that would interest a demon. Few, in fact, worth a demon-hunter's soul."

Dean glanced over at Bobby. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. Most of 'em would be books on exorcisms. You sure it was just one book?" Bobby asked, his brow furrowing.

"Just one's all he copped to." Dean cocked his head to the side, watching Sam.

"Hmmm," Bobby stood, going to the fridge to get more beer. Dean didn't stop looking at Sam.

.

Bobby called him a few weeks later. They'd only stayed with him for one night before they'd taken off again, but Dean had promised they'd keep in better touch than they had the year before.

"Dean," Bobby growled out when Dean answered. "Your brother told you which book it was that he traded yet?"

Dean's eyebrows rose and his eyes cut from the road to his brother for just a moment. Sam looked over at him, his eyes scanning his lips as he spoke. "No, not yet."

"Huh. Well word has it that a certain book that was being protected in New York has gone missing. A book of exorcisms, Dean. Some that could kill a demon dead." Bobby paused, but not long enough for Dean to defend Sam. "I'm not saying he did it, but just—coincidences rarely happen."

Dean didn't say anything, just shut his phone and gripped the wheel tighter.

.

Dean waited nearly a week before he brought it up. "Hey, Sam," he nudged his brother, making him look up from the laptop. Their conversations were different now, not as casual as they had been before. Dean couldn't hide during them anymore, couldn't keep his hands busy or his back turned. It made things harder, sometimes, when Dean didn't know where to begin. Most of the time now, he was almost too blunt, still unsure how to find a good middle ground between how things were now and how they were before.

"That book, the one you traded. You got it in New York, right?" he asked, signing along.

Sam eyed him for a long moment before nodding.

"It, uh," Dean paused, bit his lip for a second. "Was it a book on exorcisms?" he asked.

Sam nodded again, slowly.

Dean sighed. "Why the hell would you do something like that?" he murmured, not signing this time.

Sam understood anyway and stood up then, his eyes hard. "I didn't have a choice," he growled out, his voice just enough different now to remind Dean of what else his brother had given up. Sam pushed past his brother and was gone before Dean could stop him.

.

When Sam got back, Dean was sitting on the edge of the bed nearest to the door, staring at the ground. Sam stopped just inside the room, watching his brother closely.

"Sammy," Dean sighed out. "Sammy, God, you can't do this to me, man. Just—don't run off again."

Sam's eyes fell away from Dean once he'd stopped talking. "Sorry," he told his brother gruffly. "I just—" he brought his eyes back up to Dean's. "You sold your soul for me, Dean. A book of exorcisms was nothing."

Dean closed his eyes for a moment, swallowing. "It's just, the book, what was in it—"

"Was nothing if I couldn't save you," Sam cut him off. "Dean, if keeping you alive meant giving up every copy left of that book, I would have hunted them all down and given them to her. Please," he begged his brother, kneeling down in front of him and looking up at him. "You gotta understand, Dean."

Dean reached out, touching his little brother's face briefly. "Sammy…"

Sam started to reach for Dean, then hesitated. "She wanted one of your senses originally," he told him. "I wouldn't let her take any of you. I wasn't going to lose you, not even that much."

Dean reached out and pulled Sam towards him. "Sammy," he wrapped his arms around Sam, his head resting on top of Sam's. "God, Sammy."

Sam leaned into the embrace, his arms around Dean's waist and his face turned against his shoulder. He could feel his brother talking, could feel his harsh breathing, but all he could think was that he wished he could hear his brother's heartbeat just once more.