In the Shadows of Death – Chapter One

  • In the Shadows of Death – Chapter One
Status:
  • Complete
Content Rating:
  • PG-13
Fandom(s):
Criminal Minds, Stargate:SG1

Relationship(s):
Aaron Hotchner/Daniel Jackson, Other Background Pairings

Warning(s):
  • Death - Minor Character
  • Discussion - Child Abuse
  • No Beta
Genre(s):
  • Alternate Universe
  • Angst
  • Science Fiction
  • Slash
Word Count:
6853

Author's Note:
Timeline for Stargate: SG-1 is roughly season 3 and CM is roughly season 6. Ages have been tweaked from canon so that they make sense for the characters involved. Knowledge of the James Bond Series or the Alec Trevelyan character are not needed. This story is the first of two that I wrote for this year's Criminal Minds Big Bang. Thanks go out to DarkJediQueen and Rivermoon1970 for all their work. Big props go out to my artist Weaslett who created my banner and the art in part 4!

Summary:
Aaron Hotchner was still angry a year after his wife’s death and the truths that came out in the aftermath. The last thing he wanted, needed or expected was to be recruited as a sniper to kill aliens, or to find his Guide in one Dr. Daniel Jackson. Little did he know that Dr. Jackson was just as angry over his own wife’s death and didn’t want a mating any more than Aaron. If they give each other a chance, maybe these two wounded and angry men can heal each other.


Banner by Weaslett

 

Chapter One: Unexpected Opportunities

 

Latent Sentinel Aaron Hotchner walked down the corridor of an underground military base with an escort both in front of him and behind. The familiar weight of his Spirit Guide Harrison a red wolf brushing up against him as he trotted along beside him. Aaron felt something like the unsubs he’d on occasion visited in prison or the local lockup. He couldn’t say though that he completely blamed them, and was aware that currently he was considered a loose cannon. Hell, he thought that he was a loose cannon himself. That was one of the reasons why he’d decided to quit the BAU a year ago despite the numerous protests and the wounded look in Reid’s eyes. He had instincts burning inside of him better suited for his days as a SWAT leader than the Unit Chief of the Behavioral Analysis Unit.

They entered into an elevator, and he found himself forced to take in his appearance. He was dressed in all black. It was his color of choice for the last year. Gone were the expensive suits that he’d been known for, and in their place were jeans and cargo pants mostly black or another dark color. Shirts ranged from dark-colored polo shirts or old t-shirts. Shoes were almost always one of this two pair of boots. Today he had on some snug fitting black jeans that were well worn and soft against his skin. Accompanying it was a black polo shirt and a pair of black Timberlands that he’d had forever and 12 centuries. It was probably the expression on his face though that drew the extra body to escort him to whatever meeting he’d been hunted down for.

He didn’t sleep much these days, so there were bags under his eyes that looked the size of a damned garbage bag. His skin was even more pale than usual as he hadn’t spent much time in the open sunlight preferring the solitude of the deep woods. He’d been renting a cabin in one of the many forests in the northwest and had spent as much of his time as alone as possible. He’d only ventured out to restock or when he was sick of his own company. That had happened a mere handful of times though in the year since he’d left the BAU. His eyes were hard with a hint of the anger that had burned just below the surface since the day Haley had died, and he was forced to face the truth of his marriage.

He’d always known she had the tendency to cheat on him. It wasn’t as if whatever affair she’d had at the end while in Witness Protection was even the first time while they’d been married. The first time that she cheated on him had been when they had still been in High School. His father hated Haley and wanted him to drop her in favor of any of the debutants that his mother had been trying to shove at him. He’d refused though just to spite the old bastard and stuck with the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. He hadn’t cared that he was potentially a High-Level Sentinel and Haley was mostly mundane with some possible Sensitive tendencies. They were utterly incompatible, but he hadn’t been bothered. She was his entire world, and he had enough faith for everyone.

The first time he’d become aware of her straying nature was when he caught her making out with the quarterback at their Junior Homecoming dance. They’d only been dating 3 months, but Aaron had been hooked already and at the time believed her crocodile tears when she told him that the other boy tricked her. She and Aaron had gotten into a fight because she didn’t think the corsage he got her was big enough. She’d accused him of was being cheap because she was some poor girl who lived beside the bar with the town drunk for a father. He hadn’t once questioned her story that Stanley Thomas tricked her into believing that it was Aaron himself who had cheated first by running off with the head cheerleader Molly Henderson.

In the years between then and the day that George Foyet killed her, there had been many other men and more tales than Aaron had been able to keep track of. In the end, he always took her back though. He’d tried making a clean getaway in college, but eventually, he’d found his way back to her. The hold she had over him was just too firm, and he’d never been able to explain why. When his bastard father called her a harlot after finding out from one of his drinking cronies that he’d beat the shit out of the other man’s son, the old man demanded an explanation why he believed a whore over an upstanding boy from a good family.

Hotch’s only explanation had been that he was aware of what tales teenagers would tell to get what they saw as the piece of ass they wanted. Haley was the love of his life, and how could he not believe her? His father had just snorted and advised him frankly that his precious girlfriend would sleep with anything she could catch. He went on to warn Aaron that all she saw in him was an escape from her hopeless future, and he needed to think past his hormones.

Aaron’s father had been an abusive piece of shit, and there weren’t many things he regretted not settling before the fucker died. His cheating dead ex-wife though was at the top of the list. She was maybe the only time that his father was indeed telling the truth, and Aaron should have listened. At the time, he accused his father, who was a weak dormant sentinel most likely caused by his abusive nature and alcoholism, of being jealous and not understanding. Now though, he understood that maybe this once the man had been speaking from a place of experience. It didn’t excuse all of the other horrible things he’d done to his oldest son, but it was the one-time Aaron maybe should have listened.

Just before he caught The Reaper case in Boston, Aaron became aware that once more she was cheating. He’d seriously considered leaving her. Hell, even Gideon and Rossi encouraged him to split from her that time, and they’d been of the few people who supported his need to stay. Maybe because the bonded pair had seen something in his and Haley’s relationship that they recognized as vital to Aaron. Perhaps because they knew that no one would ever change his mind because he had to change it for himself. Maybe because Gideon knew something none of the rest of them did. It wouldn’t be the first time or the last. Regardless, the pair had been the most supportive of his constantly troubled relationship right up until the final stretch when even Gideon admitted maybe Aaron needed to move on.

Before he could though, they caught The Reaper case. Foyet focused on him for reasons they didn’t understand, and when the dust settled Haley was dead. That alone was enough to ramp up Aaron’s anger. When he’d found out that she was six weeks pregnant with a child, he’d told her adamantly that he did not want his rage just blew out of control. Add in the fact that physically he could not have helped create this child because he hadn’t seen her in three months, and you ended up with anger that just would not settle. There had indeed been no other options for him. He’d handed in his resignation, putting Gideon and Rossi in charge once more and left Spencer behind.

He’d told himself that Rossi could balance out whatever lingering damage there was to Jason after his breakdown in the wake of The Boston Shrapnel Bomber case. He also managed to convince himself that Spencer’s Sentinel Tony DiNozzo was all the younger man needed, and he would survive Aaron leaving despite their older brother/younger brother relationship. So, he’d told everyone he was going and had taken off before any of them could try and change his mind. He soothed his guilty conscience with the thought that at least he did it in person and didn’t leave some stupid Dear John letter behind for one of them to find.

He was pulled out of his head as he was led into a conference room that already held two men he wasn’t familiar with. Briefly, he let his gaze linger on each man before he skimmed the room for threats while Harrison prowled restlessly. Upon finding nothing that seemed would put any of them in immediate danger, he returned his eyes to the two men now standing.

It was evident from their uniforms that the two men were Air Force, which was curious given that the men who had accompanied him there had been Marines. One of them had the ranking of Corporal, and the other had been a Gunnery Sergeant, but both were most definitely not Air Force. While it wasn’t completely unheard of, it was rare enough to see the two Military Branches mixed together on one base. A base located underneath a mountain that he was reasonably sure housed NORAD.

“Sentinel Agent Hotchner, thank you for joining us,” the balding man offered, holding out his hand. “I am the commanding officer of this base, General George Hammond. Next to me is my Second in Command and the leader of our Team 1 Sentinel Colonel Jonathan O’Neill. If you could have a seat at the table, we can explain why we asked you to join us.”

“You make it sound as if I had a choice,” Aaron said with a slight growl as he shook the man’s hand and conceded to take a seat. Although, the chair he chose was as far down the table from the two men as he could get, and the fact that it was closer to the door was a happy coincidence. “The impression I got wasn’t that it was all that voluntary.”

It was the Colonel who acknowledged his statement with a snort and a head tilt. “Trust me, I understand. I was happily retired and spending all my days fishing at my cabin when I got pulled back into this madhouse. Unfortunately for us both, when the President says your talent is being wasted, and you could be of better service to your country, people tend to listen.”

“The President,” Aaron repeated sounding more than a little doubtful as he studied both men for any sign of dishonesty. What he found puzzling and maybe a little bit worrisome was that he didn’t sense any hint that they were attempting to mislead him.

“That’s correct Sentinel Agent Hotchner,” General Hammond confirmed with a brief nod. “He gets a list of any higher-ranking military or civilian operatives suggested for the program. When your name was submitted to us as a possible fit for an opening we have, you were familiar to him because of a few of your higher profile cases with your team at the FBI. President Hayes commanded us to pull you from the cabin you’d sequestered yourself in and get you back to being useful.”

Aaron frowned deeper as his confusion heightened despite the explanation. “Who would recommend me for a spot here doing whatever it is the Air Force is doing underneath a mountain that houses NORAD.

“That would be Marine Reserve Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Jethro Gibbs. He was the first choice for the position, but it was determined to be ineligible mostly due to his age and some physical limitations. We sought his opinion though as to who he thought would be best suited for a sniper position we need to be filled, and he said that after him you were the best sniper in the US.”

Aaron huffed and rolled his eyes. He should have known it was Gibbs. Talk about an old bastard. Leroy Jethro Gibbs led the Major Crime Response Team over at NCIS and was a pain in Aaron’s hiney. Given that NCIS was housed in the Quantico complex where the BAU FBI building was located, the two had enjoyed something of a friendly rivalry at the shooting range. He should have known when he ignored the man’s calls after Haley died that he would pay for it. “Why would the Air Force need a civilian sniper when they have Marines on base, and access to any number of their snipers?”

“Because you’re not only in the top two best snipers in the country depending on how good Gibbs’ eyes are that day, but you also already have the security clearance needed to be read in on our little project. We believe that you understand the need for confidentiality. You have profiling skills that we would love to take advantage of and we think that you would be perfect to lead the team that we are building.” Jack shot back drawing Aaron’s attention.

“Look, I’m not going to bullshit you, ok? I can honestly say I have a pretty good idea where your head is at, just like Gibbs does. You might say that the three of us are members of a club nobody wants to join. Gibbs because of the death of his wife Shannon and daughter Kelly, and myself because of the death of my son Charlie and divorce from my wife in the fallout. A loss is a powerful motivator for a Sentinel of any standing, but especially one who never found his or her mate but loved their mundane spouse regardless.

“There’s a need that builds inside of you to make someone pay and the longer it goes on without being resolved, the more you want to spill the blood of just about anyone guilty of threatening the Pride. Gibbs soothes his urge by serving the current and formerly enlisted Navy and Marine personnel and their families. I found my nitch here until I finally found my Guide. That fact of the matter is, Sentinel Agent Hotchner, if we don’t find you an outlet for your anger, then you’re going to become a danger to not only yourself but to the general public. Neither Gibbs nor myself want to see that happen, and we certainly don’t want to see the S&G Center get their hooks into you.”

Aaron felt his teeth grinding together, and forced himself to stop, not wanting to give the two strangers any further sign of his agitation. Logically, he’d always knew that the S&G Center wouldn’t be happy that such a potentially strong Sentinel such as himself to be loose with the burning anger that he carried with him every day for the past 363 days of his life. “Let me get this straight. You want me for my sniper abilities. Not because I was the Unit Chief on the primary BAU team for the FBI?”

“Your abilities as a profiler are certainly icing on the cake, Sentinel Agent Hotchner, but you are correct. It is your marksmanship skills, specifically your sniper abilities that we are after.”

“You keep calling me Sentinel Agent Hotchner,” Aaron complained frowning. “I quit the FBI almost a year ago.”

“Not according to the FBI,” George countered opening a file and sliding it toward where Aaron was sitting. Getting up, he retrieved it before moving back to his seat and looked over the information.

“Fucking Gideon,” he muttered under his breath drawing a chuckle from Jack.

“I think that I’ve said that every time I’ve run into the man,” Jack quipped tongue in cheek style drawing a startled look from Aaron.

“You know Jason?”

This time it was George who responded. “Guide SSA Jason Gideon has done some work for us similar to what he does for the CIA, assessing agents for certain high profile and high-stress positions. He isn’t fully read into what goes on around here but knows enough to be able to give us an accurate enough opinion. We thought if you joined us though that it was something you might be able to take overdoing.  Our people would be able to speak more freely, and we’d get a more accurate idea of their readiness. There have been a handful of times when someone didn’t work out, and we’re fairly confident that it was because Guide SSA Gideon didn’t have all the information he needed about what goes on around here.”

Aaron cocked his head to one side as he noted he still had no idea what it was the Air Force did miles underneath a fucking mountain in Colorado. “What exactly is it that you people do here?” He was intrigued when the General looked to Colonel O’Neill, and it was the SIC that answered. The response that he got certainly wasn’t one that he expected.

“Aliens, mostly,” Jack said casually with a slight careless tone that didn’t match the sharp intelligence easily read in his eyes. Aaron had a feeling that the other man was a lot like Tony in that he often played dumb so that people would underestimate him.

Aaron knew it worked like a charm for Tony, and he had a feeling that it worked just as well for Jack. The reality though was that behind the dumb routine was a mind as sharp as any he’d ever seen that could make intuitive leaps you just couldn’t train. At least that was his experience with DiNozzo, and his instincts told him that Colonel O’Neill would turn out to be much the same. For a moment he wondered what it would be like to watch the two men together in interrogation and felt a pang of regret over how he left things with his friend.

Spencer might have filled a younger brother spot in his life that he’d never entirely been able to manage with his real brother, Sean, but that didn’t mean that Tony was any less important. Tony was the one that always seemed to just get it. Sometimes, it was because he understood so well that Aaron had avoided him. Most of the time he didn’t want to admit even to himself how uncomfortable the man’s insight into his psyche made him. He was used to be the one who could read anyone and didn’t know as he liked being the one so quickly read.

Pulling his attention away from his musings and back to the present, Aaron wanted to immediately call bullshit, but nothing that he was reading in either man suggested that they were kidding. “How so?” He finally asked, and the lifted eyebrow from the Colonel was the only sign of shock at his easy acceptance from either man.

“If you could sign these forms, we’ll have Dr. Jackson, who works as the archaeologist on Jack’s team, come in and explain things fully to you.” General Hammond requested as he stood and brought Aaron a Non-Disclosure Agreement on his way to the door.  After reviewing them, he signed where needed as he listened to the General call for someone to get this Dr. Jackson. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a blond man with slicked back hair sitting in the waiting area outside of the conference room watching him curiously, and idly wondered who he was. Momentarily, he let himself get distracted by the routine of signing the papers as his mind ran though the various possibilities of who the blond was. Later, he’d blame Danny for not noticing the arrival of another unknown man.

He’d just finished a complete read of the papers and adding his signature in the appropriate places when he realized that his senses were spiking. Being a latent Sentinel, Aaron never struggled with his senses because for the most part, he didn’t have access to any of his Sentinel abilities. His eyesight had always been a little better than an average human, but it was nothing close to what he’d have once he had access to his Sentinel eyesight. Having taken not only the standard classes but all of the advanced ones that they’d let him into, he knew that given his current situation, there was only one reason he could be having this problem. It didn’t add any relief to his aggravation, in fact, it was quite the opposite.

He stood so quickly that the chair he’d been sitting in fell over. Not pausing to right it though, he moved to get as far away from the feeling and the doorway as he could, which was the complete opposite of a typical Sentinel’s reaction he knew. Maybe, had his life not been so much resembling a crap sandwich recently, he’d be more open to the idea of a Guide. Hell, he might even have welcomed it with open arms had he found this person a year ago. However, after the events that occurred 363 days prior, the last thing he wanted was to put his faith in someone else hoping that they wouldn’t let him down.

Especially when a tiny part of him had always questioned why Haley still had such power over him when he wouldn’t have tolerated half of the crap she pulled under other circumstances.

Especially when the mysterious Guide that he guessed was the mentioned Dr. Jackson immediately made him think of Haley.

Especially since the last unbonded Guide who had been close to his level had been George Foyet.

He heard a low growl and didn’t immediately recognize it as coming from him, but did recognize the echoed growl as belonging to Harrison. It took him a second to hear the conversation going on in the room as a single heartbeat that seemed to be racing filled most of his hearing. His nostrils were filled with the scent of distress and aggravation that he was familiar with. His eyes were locked on a pair of blue ones that seemed filled with the same hesitation that Aaron was feeling. It wasn’t until he became aware of the soft fur underneath his fingertips that he was able to pull his eyes away from the man he guessed to be the Dr. Jackson that General Hammond had spoken of.

When Aaron’s back hit a wall, he startled slightly not realizing that he had moved so far from his original position but didn’t take his eyes off of the newcomer. He couldn’t remember the last time that his Sentinel instincts were so at war with his human heart. Despite the fact that he didn’t previously have access to any of his enhanced senses, he’d always had the mindset that came with one that was online. His urge to protect family, then tribe, then the innocent, then everyone else had always been strong. It was what finally drove him from the Prosecutor’s Office and to the FBI training academy. Right now, though, he felt something like Aaron imagined he would experience if he were literally being torn apart.

People always associated the gift of Empathy with Guides because it was such a vital part of their makeup. Thus, they assumed that Sentinel’s lacked such a thing and were instead more like blunt objects with super senses. Aaron wasn’t sure if he was typical of Sentinels in general, but he had a feeling that when it came to his non-enhanced senses, he was most likely slightly above average, but still part of the pack. Therefore, he believed that rather than lacking the gift of Empathy, most Sentinels ignored it or shoved it away because they didn’t understand what it was. Because it wasn’t as strong as a Guide’s Empathy, and they were continually having it shoved down their throats that it was a Guide only trait, they didn’t understand the impulses that they were getting.

However, Aaron had never met a Sentinel of any rating that didn’t have something of a higher intuition that they generally called their “gut” or ability to read people. If that weren’t fucking Empathy, then Aaron would eat his leather boots. He’d never been one to ignore any part of himself though and instead chose to embrace all parts of his personality. It was something that he shared with Spencer Reid’s Sentinel Tony DiNozzo.

That Empathy had allowed Aaron to get a general read on his deceased wife and was what robbed him of the ability to stick his head in the sand and ignore all the things he’d read off of her over the years. It was why he had always felt so torn about what he knew she was doing versus how he reacted to the cheating over the course of their relationship. However, because he was a Sentinel and therefore labeled as lacking any level of Empathy beyond that which you’d find in an average human being, he had no skill or training in how to decipher what he sensed.

He knew that at that moment he must be throwing off a mess of conflicting emotions. He could feel fear, anger, and a deep longing thick in the air, and knew that they were all coming off of him. It was so hard to get past the fact that his Sentinel side was screaming that the man who had just come into the room was his Perfect Mate. Then at the same time, his brain was screaming equally as loud that he felt just like Haley.

JUST. LIKE. HALEY!

Jesus, his new Guide felt just like his dead wife. The cheating bitch that had gotten pregnant by someone while in Witness Protection as he was trying to hunt down the serial killer who was targeting her. He hated her more than any human being since his father died, and now his new Mate felt just like her. He didn’t know how to reconcile the two. Hell, he didn’t even know how to begin reconciling the two.

Just as the wolf pressing into his side began growling louder at the rest of the room, everything became muted, and he could feel no more than he usually could. In fact, after he had a moment to catch his breath, he realized that he actually felt less than usual, and was getting no reading off of the Guide who had invaded the room. As he was trying to figure out what happened, a short dark-haired woman pushed herself into the space, and practically shoved the stranger out barking orders at a dark-haired man who appeared to be of Asian descent behind her to get him to an isolation room. Once the man was gone, leaving him alone with Hammond, O’Neill and this new woman, he noticed the blond he’d seen earlier slip into the room and shut the door. Before he could speak though he found himself unconsciously straightening when the woman turned her sights on him. He belatedly noticed her lab coat and the stethoscope around her deck and realized that she must be one of the base doctors.

“Dr. Frasier and Guide Williams, this is Sentinel Agent Aaron Hotchner,” Hammond introduced as he took charge in an attempt to get things calmed down again. “He’s coming to us from the FBI’s primary Behavioral Analysis Unit and will lead our new SWAT  Team and possibly a combination or separate Profiling Team.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Sentinel Agent Hotchner,” Dr. Janet Frasier greeted as she hovered just inside the room but watched him with a calm confidence that was actually helping to soothe Aaron’s nerves. It was echoed in his Spirit Animal who had quieted next to him and had moved to lean against his leg. “I’m not sure how much training you have had, or how aware you are of your status. So, I apologize if I am simplifying things for you too much. Are you aware of what just happened?”

“I think I came online and I’m pretty sure that the man who just left is my Guide,” Aaron answered and frowned at the reality of the situation settled further into his mind leaving him somewhat confused. “Although, I will admit I am somewhat confused. I was always under the impression that it would be a much more painful experience.”

“Normally it would be,” the Doctor agreed as she offered him an understanding smile before glancing over her shoulder at the blond, “but luckily for you, Colonel O’Neill is recently bonded himself, and his new Guide was out in the waiting area.”

“He began shielding you the moment he felt you awaken.”

Aaron turned to Jack frowning deeper not understanding why a newly bonded Sentinel would have his Guide in the waiting room unless he didn’t trust him. The notion wasn’t helping his chaotic thoughts about his own Guide. “I’m sorry. General Hammond introduced you as Sentinel, but in my distraction, I didn’t put the pieces together. I didn’t realize you were bonded. Why would your Guide, who I guess is the man the General just introduced as Guide Williams, be in the waiting room though? Do you not trust him?”

Jack flashed a smile at the Guide Williams, and it appeared to be genuine and real for the first time. “Guide Danny Williams is my bonded mate, and no, it’s not about trust. Mostly he was out there because he wasn’t available yet when you arrived. A small bit of it is about his security clearance and another small bit was the fact that we didn’t want to crowd you with a room full of people when you came in.”

“I don’t…” Aaron started before trailing off tilting his head to one side. “I’m sorry to be nosy, but can you explain that security clearance bit?”

Jack nodded understanding the man’s confusion. “I am lucky in that Danny at least has some kind of hands-on knowledge of what the Military does given his previous job was that of a Detective with the Newark, New Jersey PD. Had he been purely academic or had some other non-military non-law enforcement job combining our lives would have been a complete nightmare. So, at least he gets what we do around here on some level. Unfortunately, though, he had no security clearance level and no military training let alone the officer training he needs to be my Guide in all aspects of my job.

“Fortunately, though, he does come from a strong Sentinel and Guide family. So, he didn’t have to play catch up there. He’s spending time right now in two-hour blocks training with some of the men around here. One of the members of my team is doing some military field work training with him and helping him improve his hand to hand skills. Our new JAG/Investigative Team Leader Harmon Rabb is helping him with the non-field work side of my job and life. Then there’s the security clearance aspect of it all that has been going on for almost 3 months. Hopefully, though that comes to completion soon.”

Finally satisfied that he understood the situation, Aaron turned his attention back to the Doctor. “Normally I would have had my own Guide shield you, but honestly, I’m not sure he’s strong enough to do it. So, Danny is a much better choice anyway. I’d like to get you into isolation. Since there seems to be some push-back from both you and Daniel about the bonding, I am giving you both the options of sharing isolation or being put in together. Dr. Jackson advised that he was fine either way and would leave it up to you. He wanted me to make sure you knew that while he wasn’t thrilled at the idea of a bond right at this moment, he wouldn’t reject it before giving it a chance either.”

“I don’t,” Aaron started only to stop as he realized his mind was still caught on the anomaly that seemed to be Guide Williams. “Why would Guide Williams shield me from Guide Jackson? Not that I’m not grateful. This is… Well, let’s just say I can’t imagine many things more unwelcome at the moment than a bonding. I just thought that such things as getting in the middle of a bonding were seen as a no-no by the Sentinel and Guide Center.”

Aaron sought out the Guide who stepped around the doctor with his hands shoved in his pockets. “You were upset,” Danny explained confidently. “Normally I wouldn’t ever think to interfere with the creation of a new bond. In your case, though it was painfully obvious that you were about as opposed to this thing as a person could be. So, frankly speaking, I don’t give a rat’s ass what the Center would want to be done in this situation. I’m not about to allow you to be roped into some bond thing against your will just because of some mystical mumbo-jumbo.”

By the time he got done with his rant, Danny’s hands had come out of his pockets, and Dr. Frasier was forced to dodge as he waved them around in his enthusiastic grumbling. Despite the situation, Aaron found himself almost amused at the sight. Quickly though, he was reminded of the situation he found himself caught in.

Dropping his gaze to the floor, Aaron tried to shove through all the negative emotions he was feeling and the hints of Haley he’d gotten and didn’t understand to try and make a rational decision. While he would admit that he wasn’t the same man now that he’d been a year before, he hoped that he wasn’t so different that he couldn’t be counted on to do the right thing. While, like Dr. Jackson, he wasn’t thrilled with the timing of things, he’d been waiting to find his Guide for most of his life. Even while caught in Haley’s web of lies and deceit he’d longed for the safety and soul-deep connection that a Guide would bring to his life. He’d hoped that whoever they were would be the final piece needed to draw him online. He’d be a fool to deny this chance before it even began. The problem was that he couldn’t get past that familiar feeling that he associated with Haley that he was getting off Guide Dr. Jackson.

“As much as I wished I could just ignore my instincts, I can’t,” Aaron said knowing that he’d be no good to his new Guide if he didn’t get some things worked out within himself first. “I’m not ruling out the bonding, I just… Things haven’t been great, and I need to get some things worked out in my head before I can agree to be locked inside of a room with someone that right now I distrust severely. I don’t think it would be in either of our best interests to lock us up together at this time.”

“That sounds like a perfect decision,” Guide Williams said quickly as he shoved his hands back into his pockets. “Why can’t all Sentinels be as logical as you. I bet you won’t be the type of Sentinel to have to be rescued from some crazy woman on every other planet you visit. Jack and I would be happy to escort you and Dr. Frasier to your isolation room.”

“We would?” Jack asked looking puzzled at the notion, but even Aaron could see the twinkle of amusement in his eyes. It wouldn’t take him long to figure out how much his fellow Sentinel loved to rile up his Guide.

“Yes, Jonathan, we would,” Danny said as he took his hands out of his pockets as he marched toward his Sentinel ranting as he went. “A new member of your Pride is in need of some solitude so that he can do the intelligent thing to think about what he’s going to do before he actually does it. You are going to help me escort this nice man to the isolation room and learn something from his manners. Maybe I’ll get lucky, and something will rub off on you.”

Aaron was forced to cough to hide his laughter and noticed the General was focused entirely too intensely on his shoes. Most likely in an attempt to hide his own amusement. When he glanced at Sentinel Dr. Frasier, he noticed that she was just rolling her eyes and looking entirely too calm about the situation. He would come to learn that she and her Guide Michael Khan were possibly the two most zen people on the planet.

“Yes, dear,” Jack replied, and the smirk on his face made his amusement over the situation clear for all to see. As was the snort of amusement that he gave when Danny poked him in the chest to emphasize his feelings, before stalking back to Frasier. As he and Jack followed the pair to the elevator, Aaron found himself growing fond of the Guide who didn’t cease his ranting. It was a testament to the good doctor’s level of patience as she didn’t seem to respond other than to nod in the appropriate places.

Eventually, though, they found themselves at the isolation rooms, and Aaron found himself hesitating just short of the door to the room he’d be locked in. “You know your own mind,” he heard and for a second didn’t recognize who it was since there wasn’t a single insult or complaint included.

Turning his head, he saw that Guide Williams had moved to stand between his room and the one next to it. He couldn’t help but wonder if that’s where Guide Dr. Jackson was. “If you were ready for this then you wouldn’t have hesitated. Trust me, I understand needing some time to get over being pissed off at someone else before you can head into a bond with some stranger that you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with.”

“Why should I give Haley more power than she’s already had over me?” Aaron asked growing angry again. “Hasn’t she done enough? Hasn’t she ruined enough in my life? Even now with her death she still has the power to come between me and my happiness.”

“This isn’t about her, whoever she is,” Danny said with certainty. “This is about you and resolving something inside of you so that it doesn’t taint your future with Daniel.”

“My deceased ex-wife,” Aaron said absently as he thought over the Guide’s words and was startled to hear a huff of annoyance.

“Well, then trust me, my friend, I am an expert on the things that cheating no good ex-wives deserve and don’t deserve,” Danny ranted waving his hands once more. “I am such an expert I could teach a class at Stanford or Yale on the subject. I could be considered the world’s top expert on the subject of things ex-wives do and don’t deserve.”

“How did you know she cheated?” Aaron asked suspiciously, but Danny seemed to be completely unphased by it.

“Look, my no-good cheating, lying, scheming ex-wife slept around on me while we were married,” Danny ranted annoyed, “until she found some schmuck that was rich enough to give her everything she thinks that she deserves.”

“Then she lied to the courts about how I was an unfit father, had her new Daddy Warbucks bribe the judge, and then stole my precious Gracie away to a hellhole in the Pacific! I know a man who has been victim to a cheating wife when I see one. I am sorry to hear that she’s dead, but I know the anger caused by unfaithfulness and someone who didn’t appreciate what they had because they were too greedy and self-centered to see past their own grubby little fingers when I see it. No, you, my friend, have been though enough. So, as the expert here, I am telling you to take the time you need to work it all out for yourself before you attempt to bond. The best thing I ever did for myself and Jack was to wait to agree to anything until I was in my right mind again.”

Aaron couldn’t help but chuckle at the shorter Guide, but eventually nodded as he stepped into the room. Before the door shut through, he turned to see Danny watching him.

“If you need anything,” Danny started looking nothing but serious and concerned. “Just shout for me. I’m gonna tell lunkhead that we’re gonna stick around until you’ve worked things out in your head. He’ll probably be thrilled to get to sleep on those hard-assed cots and eat that crappy food every meal every day again. Me, I will be nothing but miserable, but for you, I will sacrifice my sleep and my appetite. It’s what a good Alpha Guide does for his Pride.”

Bemused, Aaron just nodded as he watched Danny shut the door, and seal him in. Feeling the exhaustion of over a year of sleepless nights, Aaron headed straight for the bed, and after taking off his boots, laid down pulling the blanket over him. Just before he fell into a deep sleep, he found himself wondering just why Daniel would feel like Haley.

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