AU. If Blair's washing out of the guide program, who's taking care of Jim?
Imperfections (currently at 9 stories in length) is what AU should be. Detailed in its differences from canon (Sentinels are known, and guides are trained; Jim's first guide was Lee Brackett, which didn't work out well), yet not so far off that the characters and milieu become unrecognizable. Showing canon events from another perspective (including using specific cases from the series), and giving us twists on canon relationships.
Many people have told AU stories where Sentinels and guides are known in modern society, but this is the most realistic one I have ever read, the most interesting in terms of world-building, and the least dystopian. The ongoing academic discussion in Dasha's universe, over the best way to handle the sentinel-guide relationship (emotional attachment vs. professional competence) alone is fascinating, though it only forms a subplot of experience for Jim and study-related comments from Blair and Jack Kelso.
This is also one of the only multiple crossovers I’ve read that completely works. Dasha does this by crossing over characters, and character dynamics, rather than wholesale universes. Details and emotions are important, and she pays close, careful attention to those, while never letting her cameo characters take over the story, which still belongs to Jim and Blair. (Detours into other povs become prominent in Imperfections IX, but still don’t distract from the story--rather, they add a thick layer of suspense and peril.)
And I can't forget what an excellent a writer Dasha is.
Jim had to lean sideways on the balcony to catch a glimpse of the little group on its way to the park. He wished he were going too, but it was his party.
The whole event was supposed to be mostly for Stephen, right? Get Jim's brother in a room full of sentinels, let him see the truth of their normalcy and weirdness and make his own judgment. Well, that and matchmaking Joel and Marcia. Possibly Blair had had some kind of 'sentinel education' ulterior motive.
Maybe that was what was going on. Maybe Jim was looking around at a room full of sentinels and--? What? Freaking out? He wasn't freaking out. These were his friends. Well, friends and irritating acquaintances. Nothing shocking or new here.
Jim sat down on one of the folding chairs. Joel and Marcia were standing awkwardly in the kitchen, not looking at each other, but talking in each other's general direction. Jim couldn't bring himself to eavesdrop; they were pathetic enough without being a spectacle.
By the table, Jack and Vecchio were talking about sentinel medicine. Jack was being patient--far more patient than when he talked to Blair. Vecchio's qualifications as a guide must be truly horrifying.
Fraser and McKay were on the tiny balcony next to Jim, arguing about hockey like it actually mattered.
Stephen's wife Linda was sitting on the couch with Sheppard. They were exchanging pet stories, which was so trivial and *mundane* that it felt kind of surreal.
Jim listened outward. The park was small and close. Chloe's squeal was piercing. "Daryl, throw it really, *really* high!" Jim wondered if Stephen would worry less if he knew that his daughter was still easily in range of Jim's hearing. Or would he decide once and for all that Jim was just too odd to expose his family to.
At the table, Sharona was trying to convince Adrian that it was safe to eat the potato chips.
Joel and Marcia were headed toward the door together. It was a good sign, but their body language said they were still at the negotiation stage. Because it was important to Jack, Jim hoped it worked out for them. Well, maybe he hoped it for himself, too. If Marcia could have a good relationship with a normal human, then anybody could.
Rodney laughed suddenly--a sharp, unexpected sound--and began to sing the Canadian national anthem. Fraser jumped in on "True patriot love in all thy sons command," and the sound of it changed. The harmony was very tight, and did things in Jim's ears that he had no words for. Most music lately had been a little disappointing. Recorded music sounded flat and canned, and even the best speakers sounded weirdly limited. *Live* music, while vibrant and vivid, was usually a little off--acoustically uneven or slightly off pitch. Jim hadn't noticed any of this before, when he'd had normal ears and a normal life. He'd sort of gotten used to it since coming on line.
Except the two guys singing "O Canada" on Jim's balcony were perfect. The difference was like moving from black and white pictures to color. Or from recycled building air to wind on the beach. The same, but completely different.
Jim didn't breathe until they finished. Except they didn't finish. Rodney started again at the beginning, and this time Ben came in as a shadow, just slightly behind and singing in French. Pitch and timing remained perfect--except perfect was too shallow a word for the bright feeling that seemed to grow in Jim's hands and feet and gut.
Again they finished and started over. This time they alternated lines in French and English. Ben stepped closer to Rodney, and the resonating voices seemed to merge and then multiply. The hairs on Jim's arms were already standing up, and now they began to shiver with sympathetic vibration. He'd had no idea--no idea--that any sound like this was humanly possible. Yet here he was, hearing it, and the impossible music seemed to hold secret meanings Jim couldn't even guess at.
This time, when they reached the end of the verse they really did stop. The silence was shocking. Sudden, cold, solid, like a thing Jim could touch. The quiet filled every corner of the room--almost every corner of the *world*--for a long moment, and then the party guests applauded. The thin, flat sounds trembled against Jim's skin.
Jim held still, not trusting himself to move. He was standing up, but didn't remember moving. He wasn't sure where the floor was. Or where he would go if he did move. Or what the hell he'd just heard. He didn't know--
Stephen--his movements sounded worried--was crossing the room, closing fast. Jack caught him at the door to the balcony and halted him. "He's fine, Stephen, give him a minute."
"Look at him. He's--something's wrong. What's it called? Zoning?" Stephen's voice, quiet but near panic. Jim tried to rouse himself, but it was hard to think, impossible to focus.
"He's zoning, yes. But he's fine. He's in a safe environment. He's not under stress. He's processing a very complicated input. Let him be." Jack's voice, level and calm. Jim breathed in and out, trying to collect himself enough to focus on their faces. They weren't standing very far away.
"You're a guide," Stephen said hesitantly. "You work with Blair."
"I'm his supervisor."
Jim wasn't sure how far away they were. Or who else was around. He tried--hard--to shift his attention, but the senses had taken charge and Jim had no control.
Stephen smelled like pain. He smelled like worry and fear and shame. Jim thought, He gives a shit, and it should have been a comforting thought. A relief. A certain place to start: Stephen cared.
But instead of feeling a relief, a thawing, a warmth--all Jim felt was the same, flat, empty feeling he'd felt about Stephen for years.
And here are the links, to each of the stories, in order. (They can also be found at Dasha's listing at The Cascade Library.)
The Sentinel: Imperfections series, by Dasha ( dashamte )
AU. If Blair's washing out of the guide program, who's taking care of Jim? Crossover with Monk. (149K in two parts)
Imperfections II: Believing in Fairy Tales
AU; multiple crossover. Sentinels are disappearing all up and down the West Coast. This is not a good thing. (158K in two parts)
Imperfections III: Visiting
AU. It's a holiday. They have time off. What can go wrong? (100K)
Imperfections IV: Necessary Parts
AU. Blair starts work 'for real,' Naomi visits, and Jim faces some horrifying truths. It should all be a piece of cake. Rated PG-13. (189K in three parts)
Imperfections V: Passing Through the Underworld
AU. Crossover. Blair tries to straighten out Jim's love life, a nasty murder case gets complicated by the out-of-town experts sent in to 'help,' and nobody is quite as reasonable as they'd like to be. Violence warning. (365K in five parts)
Imperfections VI: What Comes Around
AU. Crossover. Something unexpected comes up. (111K in three parts)
Imperfections VII: Running Up That Hill
AU. Crossover. Sometimes you get all the breaks. This isn't one of those times. Warning: Strong language. (172K in four parts)
Imperfections VIII: One Warm Line
AU. Crossover. Jim's finally getting his feet under him. The rest of the world? Not so much. Warnings for language and minor violence. (271K in four parts)
Imperfections IX: Unexpected Places and Other Strange Roads
AU. Really, something had to be done about Brackett! Multiple crossover. Warnings for violence and language. (357K in five parts)
One small caveat: while this entire series is gen, Dasha has also written additional "detour" stories featuring some of her crossover characters. Some (like the CSI ones) are gen; others (SGA, Due South) are slash. So if you like the series enough to go looking for the detours (try her LJ), just be aware of that.