Eugene Boudin, The Coast of Portrieux, 1874

To read my previous recommendations, click here.

Guilty Pleasures

Hookers, strippers, voyeurs...oh my!

There's just something so alluring about prostitution stories, as weird as that is. I might feel a little, well, hesitant about my guilty pleasure if I didn't know I was in such good company. So instead, I decided to be curious about it. To read my theory on why prostitute stories are so oddly compelling, click here.

If you weren't around for the Great Senad Drabble of '98, I think you owe it to yourself to check it out. It does require a little patience to make your way through the story. That's just the way drabbles are—erratic, at best. But a lot of wonderful writers put their talents and imaginations into this one, and it is hot. If the premise of Blair as call boy and Jim as wealthy client gets you going, then by all means get on over to the Drabble Page.

The Drabble inspired two wonderful individual efforts. Pumpkin's Inexorable Series (Momentum, Inertia and Interval, so far) takes the general premise of the drabble and runs with it, with a very interesting exploration of the power struggle inherent in the hooker/john relationship. While I don't usually recommend stories that are still a work in progress, this one is so taut and scorching it seems a shame to wait.

Emily Brunson switches the roles in her story, Aphrodite's Garden, so that Jim is the man of the evening and Blair the wealthy love interest. It's beautifully written and emotionally compelling, as all Emily's stories are. She brings authenticity to the notion of Jim as prostitute and cleverly interweaves the Sentinel experience into the AU plot. After reading her story (still a work in progress), you can see how differently Jim's life (or anyone's, for that matter) might have turned out with only a few minor changes.

A Matter of Pride, PJ's AU, is one of my favorite prostitute stories of all time. In it, Jim is a famous model and Blair is an anthropology professor. Both are blackmailed into selling themselves. The plot is tightly constructed, and I found the back story beautiful and touching, in keeping with the essence of the characters. Jim and Blair don't give in to the blackmailer to protect themselves, but, rather, to shield people they care about. When they finally find each other and fall in love, it's the beginning of the end for the blackmailer.

I've read a few TS stripper stories. Most of them have the guys working a case, and it's usually Blair who does the stripping. And I enjoy this. In Stripping Away by Mia Athlas, however, it's Jim who struts his stuff while under cover—and much to everyone's surprise, it's not the first time he's shimmied down the catwalk. Now, this really got to me. I found the description of Jim dancing and taking his clothes while Blair watches in the audience incredibly steamy, but also oddly tender. A vulnerable Jim—especially physically, sexually vulnerable—gets me every time. There's also a sequel, One Last Time, in which Jim and Blair further explore their relationship and wrap up the case.

Brenda Antrim's Polarity is not for those who shy away from mention of underage sex, especially underage prostitution. But if this doesn't put you off, then please do check out this wonderfully wrought story of how Blair's past resurfaces during the investigation of a case. What I most appreciate about Polarity is its authentic, unflinching, non-moralistic exploration of "the life." Brenda leaves it up to us to ponder how young is too young, whether prostitution is inherently harmful, what constitutes consent, and other such questions. It makes for quite an interesting read.

I include the first story in Yvonne McCool's In Beauty Truth, In Truth Beauty series in this category, because I get such a big voyeuristic thrill out of it. Blair poses nude for an artist. Jim arrives early to pick him up, and he ends up in the picture, too. (How I'd love to get a copy of that!) Their sensual discovery of one another is wonderfully described, and for me, it's got an added kick knowing that the artist is watching them love each other, recording it on canvas. In fact, just talking about it gives me the shivers.

Sensual Pleasures

Intimate moments, beautiful words.

When you put two such wonderful writers as Bone and Aristide together, it's not surprising that you'd get a story as unique and compelling and just plain hot as Out of Whack. In it, Blair's out of luck with the ladies. Jim's out of patience listening to him whack off. So when Blair informs him that he's taking up with men, Jim offers to help. As he puts it, "better me than some jerk." Indeed.

While I'm on the subject of Bone... If there's anyone out there who hasn't read the marvelous, beautifully written, just plain perfect series Territorial Imperative, then you must run, don't walk. Truly. It has my vote for most intense first time ever, and it just gets better and better with each successive story.

And not to leave out Aristide... Fruit of the Vine has forever changed the way I look at strawberries. It's unseasonably hot in Cascade. The guys have fruit for dinner to cool off. Blair helps Jim let go of his senses and really enjoy, with intense results. After some twists and turns in their relationship, Jim comes to the understanding that he doesn't need Blair because of his senses. He just needs Blair, period. Truly beautiful.

What happens when Blair annoys the goddess Oshun? She teaches him a lesson about love, in Sensual Rhythms by the lady of shalott. The parts of the story from Oshun's perspective are wonderfully witty. And the sex? Oh, my heavens!

Smaragd describes Mission Control as a story about appliances, but somehow, this makes it sound cold and clinical. And it's anything but. Jim and Blair are staying at a hotel in Vancouver. Their room has a fancy toilet complete with digital control panel. Blair gives it a whirl. Jim takes control and gives him the ride of his life.

Back to Basics

Still more Sentinel classics...

The first TS story, Sanctuary by Lynna Bright, remains one of the best. After fifteen months away on expedition, Blair returns home to Cascade and begins a far different kind of relationship with Jim.

What do you get when you mix powerful desire, erotic dreams, and a Sentinel who is big into denial? Kim Gasper's wonderful Repressions. Kim takes the canonical link between Jim's emotions and his sensory problems and turns it in an interesting, sensual direction.

A common theme in earlier Sentinel stories is how Blair has changed, enlarged, improved, and just generally turned Jim's life upside down. Not that later stories don't also deal with this. But somehow, it's never quite as compelling to me. I don't know why this is, exactly. Maybe it's the difference in immediacy between current events and history. If, like me, you started watching the show somewhere in the early third season, then Jim was already changed by then. Blair had been part of his life for years. I envy the people who saw their relationship unfold, firsthand, during the first run of the eps. And I enjoy reading stories that have this sense of new discovery in them.

House Beautiful by Peruvian Gypsy is one of these early stories that wonderfully demonstrates how Blair's friendship enriches Jim's life. In it, Simon stops by the loft one morning and notices how things have changed. The author paints in wonderful small details that create a sense of shared home and entwined lives. It's a sweet story that left me with a warm feeling.

In Barroom Buddies by Gena Fisher, Jim goes out for a drink with the old gang and has a moment of realization, the way people do, that this old life is really the past now. When he spots Blair sitting at the bar, he recognizes his future. A quiet story that has stuck with me.

New and Noteworthy

New to fanfic, new to TS, or just plain new to me.

Jim's been reading Robert Frost, and it's stirred up all kinds of questions and thoughts in him. Sigrid's Yield is a lyrical, lovely story about passion and need and union.

In Grey Areas by Wax Jism, Blair has to go to extremes to save himself, Jim and Simon from a psychopath. Out of the trauma comes the realization of love. It's a tautly written story, with the guys actually sounding and behaving like (gasp!) guys. There is a powerful, visceral quality, both to the words and the situation.

A Day in the Life: Or, the Care and Feeding of a Modern-Day Sentinel by Shadow is a humorous, lusty account of Sentinel mating habits from the Guide's perspective, with just a dash of danger thrown in for a little added spice.

I love stories in which Jim can't stop himself from listening in on Blair. In Wake-keeping by Kass, the eavesdropping is not just erotic, but poignant. Jim hears Blair's vitals go crazy and rushes into his room. Instead of danger, he finds him crying. They each learn something new and important about the other. This is my favorite of the many fine stories Kass has recently posted.

Cool structure. A skillful use of language. Vulnerable Jim. What could be better? Resonant's Tender is just as its title suggests.

I stumbled onto Kit Mason's web page a while back through some kind of happy accident, and I've enjoyed her writing very much. It's intelligent, well wrought, emotional—all the good things. I especially love her Three Treasures series. It's a moving, heart-rending follow-up to the events of SenToo. It shows one way in which Jim and Blair might have healed and gone on together, believably, beautifully.

Most of us slashers are women, and yet, often enough, we disdain original female characters in our fanfic. To read my theory about why this may be so, click here.

I firmly believe that there are many female characters who are neither plot devices nor Mary Sues. I like an interesting, solidly developed original character, either male or female. I really like Kelly Boyd's The Other Observer. Her character Mavis (everyone should be named Mavis!) isn't perfect, and she doesn't think the guys are, either. In fact, she thinks Jim is—well, old. She's only interested in Blair as long as he can keep up with her free-spirited ways. She's such the embodiment of young women today, all shockingly red hair and piercings and a cool self-possession I'll never really understand. Mavis has certainly stuck with me. Not to mention that Jim and Blair get together in this story in such a sweet, sweet, tender way that it's worth reading even if you're not that crazy about OFCs.

The Rest of the Story

My favorite episode-related fiction.

The Sentinel by Jim Ellison, a collaboration by Francesca and Miriam, has to be the smartest post-TSbyBS story I've ever read. To say any more than that would spoil it. But it's Francesca and Miriam. So, really, what more do you need to know?

Lyrica has a wonderful knack for finding the erotic potential in small moments where others might not think to look. In Rapture and Roses, she takes the scene in "Switchman" where Blair first guides Jim through using his senses and makes something incredibly sexy out of it. She works similar wonders for "Storm Warning" in Behind the Storm We Feel.

I like the imaginative way Lenore takes off on canon in her stories. In Love's Bitch, she sheds a very interesting light on what might have happened to Jim while he was undercover in "Prisoner X" and how that experience would change his relationship with Blair. Rite of Passage gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "the way of the Shaman." Her Inferences and Innuendo series ties into various episodes. It shows how two separate events in Jim and Blair's lives and the secrets and lies that surround them could inter-react with one another to both tragic and tender ends.

I couldn't stand "Four Point Shot." To me, it was one big, yawning waste of a previously interesting bad guy. And then I read alyjude's Homeward Bound. Suddenly, I was seeing the ep in a whole new light, with a lot more spice and way more menace. It's only too bad the ep's storyline wasn't this good.

I also recommend Candy's All My Roads, a complex, compelling, realistic take on life for Jim and Blair in the wake of the press conference. It's once again available on the net. You can also get in an attractively illustrated zine form.

The Hard Road

Well-told stories with a degree of difficulty.

When I first began reading TS fanfic, I had a low tolerance for difficulty. I was okay with a few obstacles on the way to everlasting happiness, but too much pain—I couldn't handle it. Maybe I'm growing up as a fan, because lately, I've found myself seeking stories with more grit. For those who feel similarly, here are some of the stories that have moved me the most.

I enjoy romance as much as the next gal. But I respect a story that doesn't gloss over the difficulties inherent in changing one's sexual identity so late in life. In Then An Image by Laura JV, Jim struggles with his demons after he allows Blair to take him for the first time. A truly powerful story.

There are lots of stories in which Jim or Blair say to the other: "I always knew you wanted me, too." And it's perfectly true. Damned by Virginia Vaughn explores what would happen if that weren't the case. It's not a long story, but it's filled with powerful, fascinating ideas and questions. The nature of consent. How easy it is to see what we want to see. The power Blair wields over Jim simply by being his Guide. How Jim's senses make him vulnerable. It's a compelling story that's sure to stay with you.

The way I view Jim has definitely undergone an evolution. At first, I saw him as larger than life, impervious, a super man. And then I saw him as a real person. And then I began to notice his vulnerabilities, both physical and emotional. Few stories explore Jim's vulnerability better than Midnight by Emily Brunson. She brings Jim's pain very much to life, and it's not easy reading. But you do walk away with a sense of just how much of a godsend Blair has really been to him.

You have to be able to bear less than happy endings to appreciate Myrna's Ever After. In it, Jim and Blair are the victims of anti-gay intolerance on the job. Blair is critically hurt and left permanently head injured, his mind that of a young boy. Jim struggles to care for him and to deal with his own bitterness. This story tore my heart out. It's a testament to the notion that love binds, even when romance is out of the question.

The Same, Yet Different

A few of my favorite AUs.

Gillian Middleton posted her story B.J. Sandburg to her site in parts as she wrote it, and every morning, I would fly over to my computer to see if there was a new chapter. When there was, I'd read it over breakfast, and it absolutely made my day. It's such an interesting and unusual premise: everyone in the Sandburg clan changes gender for one year when they turn thirty. And now it's Blair turn. Gillian writes about the experience so deftly and so realistically that after a while switching sex just seems like a normal part of life. It certainly helps that her Jim and Blair really sound and behave like Jim and Blair, only it's Jim and Blair dealing with this very, very weird thing. B.J. Sandburg is a funny, moving, thought provoking story that I can't recommend enough.

I must admit that I have quite a thing for stories about Jim and Blair in prison. I don't even care to speculate why. However, I will say that J.C.'s Until Proven Innocent is my favorite "guys behind bars" tale. I find her explanation for how they got there really quite clever. You can see how it actually could have happened if things had gone just a little bit differently than they did in the series. Plus, the sex— In the prison shower. Do I really have to say more?

For an action-packed AU, check out Between by Ariana Lussier. Blair is a famous profiler being stalked by a psychopath. Jim is the bodyguard hired to protect him. In Ariana's universe, Jim is more of an everyday, working Joe, and Blair is very strongly connected to his family. But still, the basic essence of the characters is alive and well, especially that wonderful spark of connection between them. The development of their relationship—from Jim's being a little put off by Blair's homosexuality to their becoming friends to their falling in love—really touched me.

In addition to vulnerable Jim, I also appreciate a mysterious Jim. And so, I adore Sand by VG. Blair is the CEO of his own company. Jim is former military turned surfer. When Blair goes to the beach to ponder his problems, Jim finds him and takes him in. It's beautifully written, with a strong sense of atmosphere. You really feel like you're at the beach. You honestly believe this is the first meeting between people who are deeply, elementally attracted to one another. You wish, wish, wish for a sequel.

For a wonderfully exhaustive collection of links to Sentinel fiction,
check out S'Belles Link Connection.

Are there other stories I ought to be reading and recommending?

Pen me a note.

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