Going into a bookstore is a haven for Sam, but only if there's something else for Dean to do. If Dean comes in with him, suddenly Sam's enjoyment gets tempered by the uneasy feeling that if he takes his eyes off his brother for a minute, something will happen. Not something bad, because they've yet to come across anything seriously terrible in a bookstore (Dean disagrees, saying there's just something wrong with those self-help books).
It's libraries they have to watch out for, what with collecting older books of unknown origin along with the dust; not to mention they don't have a screening process for who they loan them out to. Dad's journal has a whole section on cursed books and haunted libraries, and the sheer frustration involved in trying to find which of the multitudinous books is the right one. Sam will never forget the library in New Haven, or the concussion he got when that poltergeist threw half the reference section at him. Whoever said "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me" has never been hit in the head with a dictionary.
No, the only bad thing about bookstores is Dean in a bookstore. Because while Sam can quite happily lose himself for a few hours, indulging his bibliophilic tendencies amidst the stacks, Dean gets bored. It's too quiet, there's nothing to do, and even the addition of coffee shops doesn't help much, because it's all overpriced fluffy crap drinks that are most certainly not coffee. And when Dean is bored, that's a bad thing, because then he finds ways to entertain himself. Ways that usually end up embarrassing Sam, or getting them kicked out of yet another place.
So the feeling of dread that envelops Sam when he looks up from his perusal of the stack of bargain books on American hauntings (most of it's made up, exaggerated, or rehashings of old urban legends, but they're still fun to look through and laugh at) and realizes that his brother is nowhere in sight is quite understandable. Sighing, Sam quickly checks the surrounding aisles as well as the register. Last time they'd gone to a Barnes and Noble, Dean had spent nearly 30 minutes flirting with the girl at check-out, then disappeared with her for another 15 when she went on break.
Not this time, as there's no sign of Dean or a pretty girl he could have been flirting with. A quick glance out the front windows shows the Impala gleaming unattended in the sun. Okay. Sam blows out a quick breath as he thinks this through. Dean would have told him if he left the store, so he's still somewhere in the building. But where?
Sam looks around, his height allowing him to scan the different sections, wondering which would draw Dean over. From past experience, he knows it could be any of them, not just the magazine racks. It's funny that when most people look at them, they assume that Sam is the smart one, and Dean is only muscle and a pretty face. Like Dad could have really raised a genius and an idiot. Dean only perpetuates the image, playing to the stereotype when someone automatically categorizes him; Sam suspects he gets a bit of a kick allowing people to underestimate him, even if it really irks Sam.
Thing is, Sam knows Dean is anything but stupid, and nowhere near as dumb as he plays. There are some gaps in his knowledge, true, and he can sure act like an idiot, and he's not the type of geek that Dean always accuses Sam of being. Sam enjoyed school, enjoys learning things for the sake of learning, and his memory of details is excellent, if he does say so himself. Dean's called him a walking encyclopedia more than once. It's what got him the grades and test scores to get into Stanford, then allowed him to excel in pre-law courses. He loves to read, happily devouring any books he can get his hands on in between hunts.
Dean, however, is just as smart as Sam is, and as much of a geek. He's just quieter about it. Dean reads, but selectively, and doesn't salivate over new books the way Sam does. He didn't enjoy school, and he certainly didn't care about it. He's never said why, but Sam has his suspicions, chiefly that school probably bored Dean. To have to sit still and listen for hours, among other kids who didn't understand them or what they did, about things that he'd never use . . . well, it's no wonder that most of the detentions Dean earned were for disrupting class.
Sam still gets the giggles at times over the way he acted out. There were the occasional fights and fooling around with cheerleaders behind the bleachers, of course. But he remembers the high school in Toledo, when Dean first impressed the teachers by handing in a report on ancient Rome written entirely in Latin, earning himself an A, until they went and had it translated. Mixed in with three different exorcism rites were several creative if completely filthy limericks, and a discourse on what a dirty fucker Caligula was. Two months later, in a different school, Dean nearly got suspended when he created a homemade flamethrower in shop class.
Sam figured it out sometime around Dean's senior year. Sam likes to learn anything he can. Dean only likes to learn something if it's interesting or it can be put to practical use, which is why his report cards were littered with D's in English lit and World Civ, but A's in physics, chemistry and shop. The low grades weren't because he didn't get it; he simply didn't care. Sam bets that Dean learned more from watching TV in motels and hanging out at Bobby's or Pastor Jim's than he ever did at school.
Sam has never thought Dean was dumb. After all, Dean was the one who had taught Sam how to read, write, and count, and who had made sure that Sam always had his homework done. If Sam ever had questions, he always went to Dean. He can credit his A's in algebra and trig simply to Dean's tutoring. And with anything related to hunting, Dean can be a downright genius. He knows more tactics and strategies than a three-star general, can decipher puzzles and patterns out of sketchy information, can identify well over a hundred various supernatural nasties and the easiest way to take them out, and can recite the specs on any of their weapons and the car at the drop of a hat. He's incredibly resourceful and inventive, a regular MacGyver, which many cops over several states have found out too late. He also knows way too much pop culture trivia and can beat Sam at Sudoku any day of week, although Sam murders him on the crossword.
But it wasn't until a few months ago that Sam truly got exactly how smart Dean really is.
Dean has always had a fascination with anything mechanical or electrical. He likes taking things apart, figuring out how they work, then putting them back together. He rebuilt the Impala entirely by hand, after all, and Sam found out afterward when he was filling up on gas that he'd even managed to improve her gas mileage a bit. He'd teased Dean about the homemade EMF meter built out of an old Walkman, until he realized that even though it looked shoddy, it was more sensitive than the lab-grade one Sam had purchased. It had saved Sam's life two weeks ago in Iowa when Dean's little device picked up the slight spectral build-up just before the ghost attacked, allowing him to duck a blow that would've taken his head off.
Still, it took the discovery in the trunk to really drive the point home. Dean had come down with the flu, a bad enough case that they holed up in a motel for a week for him to recuperate. Dean's grouchy when he's sick, so Sam ended up cleaning out the car to give himself something to do other than strangling his brother. He cleaned and reorganized the weapons, then started digging through the accumulated junk that had traveled with them through countless states.
Towards the bottom he found the box of photos Jenny had given them from their old house. He'd have liked to go through them with Dean, for Dean to tell him about each photo, any stories they might dreg up, anything of that past life that had disappeared in an eruption of fire and grief. But he had to wait for Dean to bring it up on his own, to suggest it of his own free will at his own time; pushing his brother into remembering would only shut him down, possibly for days.
So Sam sat on the steps outside the motel room, sun beating down on his shoulders as he slowly rifled through the pictures, mementos of happier times, a life he didn't remember. He smiled at one of toddler Dean dressed as a cowboy for Halloween, another of him on Dad's shoulders in a T-ball uniform, and then Dean with his hands pressed on Mom's very pregnant belly and a very serious look on his face. The back of that one had a caption written in flowing feminine script; "Dean talking to baby Sammy, April 1983."
He had to take a deep breath to get himself under control, unsure of what exactly he was feeling. Pulling out the last batch of pictures, his fingers brushed over a manila envelope hidden at the bottom of the box. Curious, he tugged it free and opened the flap, expecting more pictures. Instead, a bunch of papers slid out, some with official looking headings, many of which Sam recognized. School records, transcripts, test scores, letters from colleges. At first Sam thought that Dean had saved Sam's papers, maybe in preparation for the day Sam wanted to go back to school.
But Sam had only taken the SAT in high school, not the ACT, and he'd never applied to University of Texas or MIT. A closer look revealed Dean's name on each of the papers, and suddenly Sam was having a hard time breathing through his shock. Sam had excellent test scores, obviously, but Dean's . . . if these were real, and they sure looked like it, Dean had scored exceedingly well on the SAT, with 790 on the math section and 730 in English. On the ACT, he had perfect scores of 36 in Math and Science sections, and a cumulative score of 34.
Flipping through more papers, he learned that Dean had been accepted into engineering programs at Texas University and NYU, and a conditional acceptance at MIT. Most mentioned grants and need-based scholarships, and another well-worn letter provided info on the ROTC program. Business cards from various professors and admissions officers were paper-clipped to the corners, edges showing wear from frequent handling.
Sam had to put the papers down, mind whirling furiously. Dean had applied to colleges? And had been accepted? Why the hell hadn't he gone, especially with opportunities like these? No wonder he'd been drawn to Ash, with his mullet and MIT background. Sam had seen the eager look on Dean's face when Ash had shown them his computer rig, fingers clearly itching to touch and play with it. Why hadn't he even mentioned this?
A second thought saddened him. Dean hadn't mentioned it because he didn't think it was worth mentioning, since it wasn't an option. Sam knew his brother, knew how he must've thought. Dean could've gone, but at the expense of leaving Dad to hunt alone, and Sam, at 14, to suffer through high school alone. By then, Sam and Dad had already started to fight, and Dean was the peacemaker, making sure they didn't kill each other. Dean couldn't have left them, couldn't abandon his family, duty calling to him stronger than his dreams.
Swallowing down a sick feeling of guilt, Sam shuffled through the papers he hadn't yet glanced at. A couple pieces of notebook paper covered in scribbles and sketches looked like designs for night vision goggles with enhancements on the frequency ranges, like putting a thermal scanner and EMF meter into visible ranges. A tattered piece of printer paper had what looked like meaningless combinations and words that Sam thought he vaguely recognized. It took him a minute, but then he remembered his roommate freshman year, the hacker wannabe who'd been caught rummaging through teachers' files online. He'd left sheets covered in cheat codes, hacker tricks and backdoor access combos all over his desk.
Another page had chemical structures and telemetry figures hastily drawn on it along with sketches of a shotgun and shells. Sam recognized NaCl, and realized that this was for the rock salt shells. Now that he thought about it, salt in a shotgun barrel would quickly build up and deteriorate the barrel, necessitating cleaning after nearly every shot to prevent jamming. But they treated their shotguns just like any other gun, and Sam had thought that they simply packed normal shells with rock salt, never realizing that more was needed. Dean had figured out a way to modify the shells and salt to make them practical weapons, in a way that Sam had taken for granted before.
The last three papers in the stack rocked Sam to his core, and made him realize that he didn't know his brother nearly as well as he thought. The first was a patent application. The second was the official letter dated April 1997 acknowledging receipt of the applications currently under review, giving reference info for patents pending. The last was actually two separate letters, granting patent and copyright license for a portable heavy-duty auxiliary power pack to a Michael Dean Wesson, an alias Sam recognized from one of Dean's fake ID's.
Sam suddenly remembered all the times Dad had complained about the EMF meter eating through batteries, not to mention when they'd first gotten cell phones only to find out how prone the batteries were to drain in the middle of a hunt. But during his senior year at a high school in Texas, Dean took a shop class where the teacher apparently let him do whatever he wanted. Sam hadn't paid too much attention to what his brother got up to, but he vaguely realized that once they left Texas for a hunt in Minnesota, Dad never complained about dead batteries again.
Yes, that day had certainly been a wake-up call. It made him wonder what else Dean had hidden from him, what stories had remained untold, what else Sam had taken for granted simply because it was his big brother. College had woken him up to the fact that, besides the obvious, there were several smaller things unusual about Sam that he'd never realized, simply because he was following Dean's lead and he didn't know any differently. It stemmed from his childhood, when Dean was a superhero and his word was law.
In short, Dean is anything but stupid, much more than muscles and a pretty face. He may not exercise the best restraint or show common sense at times, but he's not an idiot. Sam's never called him on it, but it does infuriate him at times. Like when Dean's playing dumb about something Sam damn well knows he knows better, as if he's pandering to Sam's ego. More often when some civilian takes one look at Dean and automatically assumes him to be the slow blue-collar brother, the brawn to Sam's brains.
Out in Virginia, a rich banker they'd saved from a pair of vicious poltergeists had done exactly that. Upon finding out that Sam had gone to Stanford, he'd offered to pull some strings to get Sam an internship. Normally Sam would've been flattered, but the man had made some insinuations about Dean and his lifestyle, pompously looking down his nose as he snidely offered to find something for Dean to do "instead of holding his brother back, dragging him along in a shiftless and demeaning life." Dean had had to drag Sam out of the house before he did more than bloody the guy's nose.
Still, even as smart as Sam knows Dean is, there are times when he swears his brother has the emotional maturity of a ten year old, and the attention span of a hyperactive ferret. Which means setting him loose unattended in a bookstore can be hazardous to Sam's mental health.
He quickly passes through the travel section and heads for the fiction and literature. Just beyond is the true crime section, then mystery and horror, not to mention the science fiction and fantasy. Sam doesn't get the logic that places the sci-fi right next to the romance books; maybe it has something to do with the fantasy aspect of both. Still seems strange. Nevertheless, Sam peeks over, because he knows as well as Dean that women congregate there, and are usually in the right type of mood to flirt heavily with a handsome stranger.
Regardless, Dean's not lurking in any of those sections. That's half the store covered.
Glancing over at the music section, Sam debates whether to search that before or after the children's section. However, the dividers separating the music from the books are lower than the shelves, so Sam doesn't have to search it. It's clear that Dean isn't over there, so he heads for the brightly colored children's section.
When they'd first stopped in a chain bookstore after Sam had rejoined Dean on the road, Dean had wandered off within ten minutes and didn't answer his phone when Sam started looking for him. An exasperating half an hour later, Sam had found him in the last place he searched or thought Dean would be caught dead in: the children's section. Apparently the normal girl who did story hour every week had called in sick, and the already short-staffed clerks were trying to figure out who they could spare to replace her.
Sam didn't know how it all went down, who spoke to whom first. All he knows is that when he stepped around the giant display for Thomas the Train Engine storybooks, he found Dean, his macho big brother, sitting on a tiny chair surrounded by almost two dozen wide-eyed kids as he read Curious George out loud. Sam didn't know who was more enthralled, the kids as Dean made sound effects along with the action, or the mothers who simply watched Dean, some with decidedly hungry gazes.
Sam remembered Dean reading him to sleep nearly every night when he was a kid, and during long trips in the Impala he would make stories up to entertain him, often spinning out long fanciful tales involving their eclectic collection of second-hand action figures so he could act it all out, enchanting little Sammy. He had so much patience for Sammy's questions, incorporating things at the drop of a hat, and had rarely gotten things mixed up. He used stories to explain things without having to tell the whole truth, to answer Sam's questions obliquely but with enough information to sate his curiosity. It's no wonder Dean's so good with kids, given how he'd had Sam to practice on.
Sam had lurked out of sight to listen to the story without letting Dean know. Afterward, he watched as several women came up to thank Dean for volunteering, and he was pretty sure at least two had slipped him their numbers. Grinning to himself, Sam made his way over to the history section and pretended to be engrossed in a new biography of a Korean war vet when Dean came to find him ten minutes later.
While there are plenty of little kids running around (and Sam has to watch very carefully where he's going), there's no story hour today, and Dean is definitely not there. Turning to leave, Sam nearly trips over a little girl in brown pigtails. She barely comes up to his knee, and she stares up at him with amazed eyes. "You're huge!" she exclaims with delight. "Are you Bigfoot?"
Sam can't stop the rueful smile. If he had a quarter for every time he heard that . . . "No, I'm not."
Right then the girl's mother comes rushing over, scolding, "Sophia! What have I told you about talking to strangers?"
The girl looks crestfallen as she points at Sam. "But Mommy! He looks like Bigfoot!"
Flustered, the mom glances apologetically at Sam. "I'm sorry about this, she doesn't mean . . ."
Sam chuckles. "It's okay, she's no bother. In fact, my brother calls me Sasquatch." Looking down at them, he asks, "Speaking of which, have you seen a guy around here, late twenties, short dark blond hair, leather jacket?"
They both shake their head, and Sam nods, giving the little girl a grin that she returns brightly, then escapes out into the regular part of the store. Dean's obviously not in the gardening, crafts, or do-it-yourself sections, and a quick glance through the science and engineering reveals a few interesting books but no brother. Sam's starting to get frustrated. Where the hell is Dean? If he's back in the stockroom with a cute clerk . . .
Right about the point when Sam's debating on the humiliation factor of having his brother paged to the help desk, he spots a familiar leather-clad arm leaning against a bookshelf. Sighing, Sam lengthens his stride to get to Dean, ready to give him grief for wandering off and making Sam look for him. The initial relief fades into confusion as he looks at the section he's in, just for future reference.
What. The. Hell?
Dean's clearly reading something, and apparently engrossed in it as he doesn't hear Sam approach him from behind. Okay, Sam could understand this if they were in the magazine section, but philosophy? Unless he'd wandered over here after pulling a book on tantric sex from a couple stacks over. In that case, Sam most emphatically does not want to know.
Sam clears his throat, and Dean startles a bit, looking up to meet Sam's eyes. "Hey. You find everything you want, geek boy?"
A smile twists Sam's lips. "Yeah." He indicates the three books he's carrying. "But these are the only ones I need." He glances down at the book in Dean's hands, relieved that it's not pink or covered in photos of naked women. In fact, it's black with white lettering on the cover . . . strangely familiar white lettering, but not something he's seen on a book before . . .
Dean holds it up with a bright grin. "Check it out, Sammy! I have to get this."
Oh yeah, he's seen that lettering before. On albums covers. Because Dean's holding a book called Metallica and Philosophy: A Crash Course in Brain Surgery.
Sam is struck speechless for a long minute, blinking at the book. This has to be some sort of joke. Metallica, with screaming lyrics, pounding bass, and outright aggressive sound, has to be the least philosophical band Sam's ever heard. Led Zeppelin maybe, but not Metallica. Must be some sort of parody book, like Bored of the Rings. There's no way it can be serious.
Dean arches an eyebrow with a smirk, clearly knowing what Sam's thinking. He presses the book against Sam's chest. "I'm serious. Take a look. You might learn something."
Skeptically, Sam skims the back cover before he opens to the table of contents. It is a serious book, not a spoof, part of a "Philosophy and Pop Culture Series," that looks to be a collection of essays. The chapters cover subjects like "Through the Mist and the Madness: Metallica's Message of Nonconformity, Individuality, and Truth," and "The Struggle Within: Hetfield, Kierkegaard, and the Pursuit of Authenticity."
Flashing back to his Intro to Philosophy class, Sam tries to recall what he read of Kierkegaard. He's frustrated when he can't quite remember, only that the name is familiar. He wonders abstractly if Dean has read Kierkegaard, because he knows he's read Marx and Sun Tzu. Flipping through the pages, he skims sections on Plato versus Aristotle on moral expression of emotions, warrior culture values pertaining to white suburban youth, and the basics of addiction and willing and unwilling addicts. Oh yeah, Kierkegaard was the father of existentialism; Sam can see where that relates.
Suddenly, with something akin to horror, Sam realizes he's interested. Intrigued, even. He'll have to read this, if only to sate his own burgeoning curiosity, and he just knows he's going to be analyzing every Metallica song every time Dean plays them from now on. Worse, he now has the lyrics to "Master of Puppets" running through his head. Snapping his head up, he glares at Dean, who's openly grinning with triumph.
"Pretty cool, huh?" He snatches the book back and heads for the register. "I get to read it first."
Falling into step behind Dean, Sam can only shake his head. Yeah, Dean's smart, much smarter than anyone really gives him credit for. But still, Sam is right; letting Dean loose in a bookstore unattended, while enlightening, is hazardous to Sam's mental health.
A/N: The book is real. Look it up on Amazon. I found it while browsing in a bookstore for 3 hours a couple weeks ago. It instantly reminded me of Dean, so I just had to buy it and read it. The essays are pretty insightful, and from a character analysis standpoint, you see a lot of Dean and explanations for his character reflected in his choice of music. Or maybe I'm just an over-analytical geek with a kink for Smart!Dean.
Besides, one thing I hate to see in fanfic is when people characterize Dean as dumb. Not only is that insulting, it's not canon. Kripke has said several times that these guys are smart and well-trained. Besides, a stupid hunter is a dead hunter. Dena may not have the same type of intelligence as Sam, and he can lack common sense (and self-preservation) at times, but he's far from an idiot. Maybe I'm just projecting overmuch here, but this is something that really bugs me.