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i like your moxie, sassafras!

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"Sunshine State" extras
the arch of the eyebrows gives it away

I've never written formal author's notes for a story before, but I do know that things usually start off with effusive thanks for the betas. In the case of this story, my two lovely betas - monkiedude and janissa11 - were, quite simply, indispensable. They cut scenes judiciously, they praised me extravagantly, and they were always willing to talk.

"Sunshine State" grew out of two conversations I had with monkie. The first began with her noting that Sam was awfully old for his class, from which I speculated that perhaps Sam was behind because he was on the soccer team at Stanford and so was taking one fewer class than normal in order to accommodate his practice schedule; she squealed and I promised to write her soccer Sam. The second conversation began with a poll that she put up
regarding the Winchester boys' sexual proclivities and experience; I commented that I believed that Sam was a virgin when he went to Stanford and that he might have wondered if he were gay, given how close he and Dean had always been, and therefore experimented once with a male partner before realizing that he is in fact straight. So I had originally planned to make Sam's foray into slash both deliberate and not very meaningful.

Honestly, part of the reason for that was that I've never written slash. Never. Ever. I've barely written any smut at all; only one of my stories in this fandom ("Lacuna") has included "onscreen" sex. But slash (both Wincest and RPS) seems to rule this fandom; I've read so much of it, loved and been blown away by a lot of it, that it seemed the height of presumption to try it out here. Once again, my betas charged in, capes fluttering. One sent me video clips of gay porn just so I had a clue what I was dealing with. And both insisted I had nothing to worry about before I wrote those scenes and after, too.

Which leads me to Ben (oh, BEN!). monkie was instrumental in his creation - she named him and helped me figure out how similar I wanted him to be to Dean. One of her emails to me on the subject reads (verbatim): "I completely agree with the necessity of the shoulders, thighs, and smile. Also, cockiness. I vote no on the freckles. Maybe his hair is darker except when he's in a certain light. HE NEEDS THE MOUTH AND EYELASHES." Even better, just as I was falling madly in love with Ben, so was she; once I get a partner in squee and dementia, there's no stopping me. (How little shame do I have? So little that Ben and I share a birthday. And the location of certain birthmarks. Now that's just sad.) So Ben became more than just a fling, more than just a Dean-lookalike. He became someone who truly loved Sam, whom Sam loved in return. So it broke all our hearts (by this point, Em was fully aboard the Ben-train) when Sam cut Ben off cold.

Instead of just letting me wallow in misery, though, these two did something about it (do you see what I mean when I say these two are MADE OF AWESOME?). monkie requested an outtake from Ben's point of view. So I wrote her the moment Ben first sees Sam. And then Em, evilest of all, whispered "Ben/Dean." And lo, a series was born. I have no plans to write a formal Ben/Dean fic; what I AM writing are just isolated scenes that don't fit any canonical timeline. But in my mind, Ben and Dean are together and they're going to stay that way - they are my OTP. Both monkie and I are going to be writing this pairing, so watch her journal too if you don't want to miss any Ben.

Thank you for reading!

The guy sitting one seat down and one row ahead of him had slanted eyes. Not just long fingers that held a shiver-inducing promise, not just an adorable mop of tuggable brown hair, but Jesus fuck, slanted eyes too.

He was going to fail Art History, swear to God, if he didn't stop staring at the guy instead of the slides. He'd flunk the class, get kicked off the team for being on academic probation, and then have to drop out of school entirely.

Or he could just get to class early next time and stake out a seat next to the guy. Much less drastic, much happier ending. He loved having a plan. And he loved having talented feet. The darkness covered him as he got the toe of his sneaker on one of the guy's textbooks and slid it silently back.

The lights came on just as he was about to pick it up and look for a name written on the inside cover. The guy got packed up quick, then frowned and looked around. He stood and held out the book. "This yours?"

He got a grin. Dimples too, and that was just completely unfair. Obviously he was being punished for something. "Yeah, thanks, man," the guy said and loped off on his impossibly long legs.

No, not punished. Rewarded. He's always been an optimist, and if the guy meets all of his outward specifications, then surely he meets the inner ones too? Like having a thing for brown-haired, grey-eyed boys. Or boys who have broad shoulders thanks to genetics and muscled thighs thanks to years of soccer and drills. Or hell, boys named Ben. Whatever. He whistled as he left the lecture hall.

I couldn't make the timing of this square with canon (Ben as intern), BUT this is AFTER Dean and Cassie have broken up and AFTER Ben and Sam have broken up but BEFORE Dean gets Sam at Stanford.

scene one
A few years of school haven't made him a doctor, but a few weeks working in this clinic made him certain he was doing the right thing, despite being run so ragged he'd need new sneakers every three months and being so exhausted he'd learned to sleep standing up and with the lights on. He stands on one foot in front of the coffee machine, turning his free foot in tight circles, watching the steady drip of dark liquid. His pager goes off and he grabs the half-full cup and pours out all but a mouthful so it won't spill as he jogs down the hall.

He opens the door to exam room 3. The guy sitting on the table is taking in the bland beige walls, the dusty sky-blue floor, one foot tapping restlessly against the cabinet. "Could really use a spot of color in here, doc," the guy says, smiling at him in a way that he doesn't quite trust; "how's this?" He gestures to his bloody nose, the two black eyes blooming against the pallor of his face. "Broken," he self-diagnoses authoritatively.

Spectacularly broken is more like it, and Ben can't find his professional voice, not when this guy is joking through the pain. He leans in a little closer to assess the damage and can see freckles peeking out from under the spatter of rust-colored gore. "What's your name?"

The guy's mouth opens and closes quickly like he hadn't been expecting that question, or maybe not that tone of voice. "Dean."

"Alright. Hang on, Dean, I need to check something out." He reaches forward and cradles Dean's face in his hands, thumbs sliding as gently as possible over his cheekbones, then shifting so his fingers can probe cautiously. Dean doesn't flinch once, just lets the weight of his head hang heavy in Ben's hands and keeps his eyes on Ben's. Big, green-gold eyes with long lashes that sparkle gold at the tips. "You're right, it's broken. I'm going to have to set it; that's probably going to hurt worse than the break." At least it hasn't started to heal already. He doesn't think he'd be able to take a hammer to that face.

Dean just nods, eyes steady. "Do what you gotta do, doc," he says, trying to grin.

"I'm not a doctor," he says. "Not yet."

"I know. You're just a baby," Dean says, sitting back and looking him over consideringly.

"I'm almost twenty-five," he says, knowing the minute he says it that the "almost" is a dead give-away.

Dean leans back and laughs, his long, strong throat on display. "Almost? Really? Will there be cake and streamers and balloons?"

"If I've been a good boy, there will be," Ben smiles back, unable to read any meanness in that easy laugh, the teasing words. "And if you're a good boy and sit very still while I set your nose, you might get a treat too."

And for the first time Dean blinks warily and looks self-conscious and sits up straight. "What's your name?" he asks, sounding confused.

"Ben," he says, holding out his hand. Dean's hand is rough, his grip firm.

Dean nods as he lets go. "I'm ready."

scene two
"Ben," he hears as he's about to leave the clinic after a long shift. "I want Ben." The voice is ragged, no undertones at all, honed into one level pitch. He doesn't recognize it, but the need in it, flat and unhidden, calls him. He turns and walks back to the check-in desk. There's a guy half-slumped over it, keeping his right arm raised so that the blood drips from it a little more slowly. "Ben. Please."

"Patsy," he calls, starting to jog down the hall; "I'm here. What's going -" He cuts himself off when the guy turns and he sees that it's Dean, his generous mouth thinned to a tight line, his eyes glowing with pain. "Dean! I've got him, Patsy," he calls over his shoulder as he puts one hand on the small of Dean's back, steering him down the hall, toward exam room 3. He opens the door, turns on the lights, and watches Dean seat himself on the exam table.

Dean rolls up the right sleeve of his plain black t-shirt and points his elbow out, exposing an ugly, jagged cut in his tricep. "I know, I know; we gotta stop meeting like this," he cracks, but Ben is not in the mood. He just steps close and sees that the cut has been made even uglier by a clumsy stitch, the black thread still dangling.

"When -" he asks.

Dean cuts him off. "Three hours ago." No other explanation, no admission of pain.

There's that untrustworthy stoicism again. He needs to know how this happened; he needs to catch Dean off-guard. He looks at the wound again, frowning. "Aren't you right-handed?"

"Ambidextrous, actually," Dean flashes a cocky grin at him. "Just couldn't get the right angle to do it myself."

He lets Dean see the anger in his eyes at that for a long moment, then doesn't look back up as he cleans the cut and sews it up, neat little stitches. Dean smells like sweat and blood and he wants to trace all his veins with tender fingers, bury his nose in his bright hair. "Ben -" Dean says quietly. He turns away, buzzing for a saline drip, still not looking up. "Ben," Dean tries again, but then Noreen comes in with the stand and the pouch and the sheathed hypodermic. In the second it takes her to deposit the stuff on the counter and leave, he can feel Dean shift from stillness to defeat.

"I don't want to see you hurt, Dean," he manages to say, and Dean can't quite pull off a smile, but his eyes go soft and he accepts the needle sliding under his skin without a murmur.

He hangs the bag and takes a step back, rubbing his eyes. He feels with his foot for the chair somewhere behind him, turning a bit to spot it. When he turns back around, Dean's mouth is on his, soft and slow, and his eyes are open.


Noreen and Patsy are standing at the check-in desk, arms folded across their chests like they're bouncers. "Go home, Ben. I don't want to see you here until the day after tomorrow," Patsy says sternly.

Neither one of them is looking at Dean, but the disapproval they're radiating is strong enough that Dean just bows his head until his chin touches his chest and murmurs, "Yes, ma'am," sounding completely sincere and more than a little cowed.

He holds the door open, matching Dean look for look, until Dean heaves a disgusted sigh and goes through the door first. He can see Dean shiver a little when the wind knifes through the thin cotton of his torn shirt, and they both pick up the pace. "This is me," Dean says suddenly, stopping by a behemoth of a car, a shiny black beast that he touches with delicate fingertips. He can see a bloodstained towel on the seat, flung over a brown leather jacket, and he really has no idea who this man is who's looking at him with soft green eyes. "Which one's yours?" Dean asks without breaking his gaze.

"I don't have a car," he answers. "I walk or take the T."

Dean looks like he's having trouble processing the notion of public transportation, digging in his pocket for his keys with his left hand. "But you know how to drive, right?"

"Yeah, of course."

"Great," he hears, and then the keys are arcing toward him and he plucks them from the air without thinking. He looks at them in his hand, more surprised that he caught them than confused about their purpose, and takes a step toward the driver's door, only to find himself pressed right up against Dean, who's warmer and even stronger than he looks. He flushes a little, takes half a step back, and ducks his head slightly. Dean's voice is an amused drawl in his ear. "So it's not just me then. Good to know."

He looks back up in disbelief. "What are you . . . I kissed you back," he protests. Dean can't quite raise just one eyebrow, but he comes pretty close; Ben knows he shouldn't find even that endearing, since it's a deliberate goad, but he does. "You wanted me to spread you out on the exam table and climb on top of you?" he challenges and Dean breaks out in a lecherous grin that somehow comes off as adorable, and Ben is in big trouble now. He waits, but Dean apparently has just enough maturity to refrain from making a crack about sterile environments. He pokes him, hard, and reminds him, "With the IV trailing from your arm? No way." Hearing his own words reminds him that he should actually be angry at the stunt Dean pulled, and he turns, unlocking the car with swift, sharp movements.

He shrugs Dean's hand off his shoulder. He sees Dean shift out of the corner of his eye and realizes that the hem of Dean's shirt is ragged because that's where he got the thread for the stitches he attempted. He turns back to face him. "Just . . . what the hell were you thinking?"

Dean's not smiling or playing cute now. "I needed to get out of there and I needed to stop bleeding." His face has gone severe, mask-like, and Ben wonders if that's from the strain of answering unwelcome questions or just pain from the wound. Some doctor he's going to make, keeping someone in Dean's condition out in the cold. He nods and gets in the car, reaching across to unlock the passenger door and slide the towel and jacket out of Dean's way.

Dean crumples into the car, letting the seat cradle him. Ben feels him shaking a little, but then he's shaken too when he turns the key and the car rumbles to thunderous life. He doesn't have to adjust any of the mirrors; he and Dean are within an inch of each other's heights. He turns on the headlights and drives.


Dean's frowning, not all the way conscious, turned slightly toward him, and Ben's wishing he hadn't let himself accede to Dean's unspoken wish to do without painkillers, because some Demerol in the IV would have let Dean rest a little easier. He finds a space in front of his building - one of the perks of living in an unfashionable neighborhood - and takes his time maneuvering the car, bigger than anything he's ever handled and a stick shift besides, into it.

The lines on Dean's forehead seem a little shallower now, but the streetlamps could be playing tricks with his eyes. Or maybe it's just wishful thinking, now that he's got Dean silent for once, not trying to dazzle or distract. He wedges his hand between Dean's left shoulder and the seat. "Dean. We're here. Wake up." He keeps his voice firm, unassuming. Dean murmurs incoherently but seems to like the warmth of his hand against the chilliness of his own skin, insinuated against the impressionable leather. "Dean," he says again, and Dean's throat clenches tightly like he's trapping a scream. He runs his thumb over the strong jut of Dean's jaw and puts his mouth close to Dean's freckled ear, his lips tickled by the short hair sticking out in sleepy spikes, and says, "We're home. Come on."

Dean's eyes open on a hollow gaze and he stares like he's never seen Ben before. Ben's cursing himself out for not insisting on the Demerol and trying to look reassuring at the same time, and Dean blinks wearily, his head lolling against the seat. "Motel," Dean says, not quite slurring the word but not biting it crisply off either.

He catches himself before he starts arguing with Dean, who's muzzy from small snatches of sleep and probably out of his mind with pain anyway. "Come on," he says, getting out of the car and going around to Dean's window. He doesn't want to open the door and let the cold air in until Dean looks like he's ready to move, like his legs will hold him, so he just bends so that they're face to face. But Dean has slid toward the driver's seat, and his shaky hands curl familiarly around the steering wheel, settling into their accustomed places. Ben opens the passenger door and rests one knee on the seat, holding his hand out against Dean's sudden skittishness. "Come upstairs with me," he asks and Dean's knuckles go white as he shakes his head.

"I'm telling the truth," Dean says raggedly.

"What truth?" he asks, crawling forward to get one hand around Dean's wrist, closing gently over thin leather bands.

Dean's almost panting now, pain or panic, but he tries to answer. "Truth about me. About my life."

"Can't you tell me inside?" he cajoles but Dean's as stubborn as he looks and Ben capitulates. "Okay. So tell me now. What do I need to know about you?"

Dean twists uncomfortably to show off his wound again. "This? From a rawhead. The broken nose? Malevolent spirit."

Startled, he meets Dean's scared gaze, holding his wide eyes for a long moment; he thinks they're both holding their breath. He closes his eyes and feels Dean's wrist sag in his grasp. He thinks about the jagged tear in Dean's tricep, how he couldn't begin to guess what would slice the skin so cleanly while making such a mess of the muscle beneath. He thinks about trails of Dean's bright blood, spilling heedlessly on quiet earth. "How did you get away?" he asks, looking back up, and Dean's eyes blaze.

"Exorcized the spirit. Electrocuted the rawhead," Dean whispers.

"Come upstairs," he says again and Dean slides across the seat.

scene three or just click the otp tag.

There are not enough ♥s in the world. Congratulations, my darling.

Without you and Em, this fic would be a sprawling, incoherent mess.

I owe you, again, as always.

I love this whole thing. I don't really have anything more coherent to say than that, just that I love your version of Sammy's college years and everything that happened to him. Wonderful job!

Thank you so very much! And thank you too for the lovely rec.

I loved these extras. :)

Oh, whee! I haven't commented on the other chapters because I read them all together, but I really loved the entirety of this story. Am extra glad for the extras (sorry, bad pun), since Sam pissed me off a bit with the way he treated Ben. Sure, it was absolutely believable, and Lord knows I've done similar things with much less reason, but I still wasn't very happy with him. So it's nice to see Ben get some compensation. :-)

Altogether, I think you've created some really excellent OCs as well as shown some new insights to Sam's character.

Oh, thank you very much! I'm glad the OCs worked for you, particularly my beloved Ben.

And Sam is very YOUNG, you know? He's causing great pain, but he's suffering too.

Oh, so much love for this whole fic! Sam was extremely believable, and all the OCs you created were marvelous. A lot of things about this made me nostalgic for my own college experience, with the sports and the casual intimacy and the drunken partying and the moments of clarity where you make these huge realizations about the people you used to know, who you used to be, etc (that thing about Dean, where he finally sloughed off the hero-worship and started being cynical about him, was huge, and very familiar). Of course, the new realizations aren't usually that much more correct than the old ones ;), but it's part of the learning process.

My love for Ben is incalculable ;), and my love for your little Ben/Dean snippet is EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. And he told him the truth, immediately, to avoid the Cassie redux if it was gonna happen. And awwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

I loved it all! Beautiful job!

Thank you very much! I always enjoy your comments.

And he told him the truth, immediately, to avoid the Cassie redux if it was gonna happen. Got it in one! I have an unhealthy love for these two together.

You rock!

Nice, is all I can muster up.

oh. oh. I have serious love for pre-series fic and this just made my top 3. Vibrant OC's that enhance Sam's personal growth & integration into Stanford. Sam's youthful mistakes & selfishness are handled so deftly it's easy to visualise with the character we now know.

And Ben. You should be so proud of him. I just empathised with the poor guy so much when Sam freaked out and bolted.

Really liked the idea of Ben and Dean meeting after Dean's fiasco with Cassie. It's easy seeing Ben helping Dean heal *cough* in more ways than one.

Whee! I'm so glad you liked it!

I AM proud of Ben. And in love with him. And ready to explode from the hotness and sweetness of him and Dean together. No words.

The thing is, I did like Cassie . . . once I wrote her. But she had her chance, and it's Ben's turn now. Mm-hmm.

well lucky lucky Ben that's all I can say!

Ben and Dean are BOTH lucky boys in my mind!

Oh man, oh man. I just - I love this whole fic, so much. ♥

And the Ben/Dean is amaaaaaaaazing - I felt so bad for Ben when Sam just dropped him, but this? AMAZING.

Aww, thank you so much!

Seriously, Ben and Dean is my OTP. THEY CANNOT BE STOPPED.

It's all wonderful! What an amazing, amazing story! I don't have enough words to describe how perfect the Ben/Sam relationship was, and Sam reaction to the realization that Ben was a proxy. The whole entire thing! So, so fabulous!!

Thanks for writing this, and for sharing it! ♥

Hi honey!

This is the fic I was griping about in your journal - because it seemed like people were coming out of the woodwork to post Sam-at-Stanford stories and I was getting idiotically stressed about it. ANYWAY, I'm very very glad you like mine! Yay!

Oh, BEN!

I almost _never_ beg, but please please _pretty_ please more?

There absolutely will be more - from both me and monkie. It's just a question of being inspired to write the next Ben/Dean scene. I have a few ideas for everyday things they could do together, but I think all of those things would happen only after they started having a physical relationship, and I'm completely unprepared to write THAT scene right now, so it'll have to wait. Sorry!

Also, I FINALLY got notification on your comment regarding the GA scenes. I don't have them broken down by individual episode anymore (hard drive issues) but I do have all of JDM's scenes in one mondo file. It's much too big for ysi and MU tends not to work for me. But if you have any ideas about how I can get it to you, I'd be happy to try.

Wow, wow, wow, wow.

Just read through this whole thing and...
Damn. Just wanna smack Sam for just - abandoning Ben like that. Gah!
Loved all the little details, the little...bits and pieces of the past coming up to haunt him. Loved his progression from utterly unsure 18-year-old freshman to confident nearly-in-law-school Sam...

And then Dean! And Ben! Oooh, lovely.
Really, really good stuff.

Thank you so much!

Ben gets what he deserves in Dean, so don't worry about him. Whee!

Wow, I just finally read this story--it had been tormenting me from my to-read list since you posted it--and it's really wonderful. I love your exploration of Sam at Stanford, the phases he goes through there, the people he connects with. I loved Ben, and I wanted to smack Sam dumping him like that, but at the same time I wanted to comfort Sam. The boy has such issues. You really brough Jess to life, and seeing their relationship depicted so believably makes her loss muh more poignant.

And these extra scenes here, with Dean and Ben? Love them very, very much.

Oh, thank you very much! I'm so glad this story worked for you, and the extras too!

(Deleted comment)
Whee! Glad you liked!

Yeah, you're right on - Irene is a reminder of what Sam thinks of as the relationship that must not be named. Plus, Irene is friends with Ben too, so it's easiest for Sam to just cut her off, sweep his whole freshman year under the rug.

Thanks for reading!


Sammy's so wrapped around Dean. *pets* It's so cute.

I feel sooo sorry for Ben though. He didn't deserve that.

I wanna know what happened during those years that Sam hadn't dreamed of fire. *pets the poor woobie boys*

Oh! And so Dean to have helped Sam go. Sam, the idiot, never saw how Dean needed his family. He lost Sam and he wasn't gonna lose John but he did lose John in a way cause of him helping Sammy leave.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. It all just means I loved it! :)

Well, I'm very glad you loved it! I appreciate the feedback!