Title: In the Shadows of Death
Story Fandoms: Criminal Minds, Stargate: SG-1, Hawaii 5-0
Story Relationships: Aaron Hotchner/Daniel Jackson, Jack O’Neill/Danny Williams, Other Background Pairings
Story Characters: Aaron Hotchner, Daniel Jackson, Jack O’Neill, Danny Williams, Janet Frasier, Other Background Characters
Story Warnings: Sentinel & Guide Relationships, Angst, CMBB 2018 Preview, Warnings will change for final posting
Note: This story will be one of my two postings for the Criminal Minds Big Bang for 2018. I am doing two stories that are part of the same universe, which will have 3 entries by the end. The second story will be a Spencer Reid/Tony DiNozzo pairing. I, unfortunately, don’t have enough of that done that I felt comfortable teasing it just yet. Expect to see the full version of this story sometime in the last two weeks of May! Once the full version is up, this post WILL BE DELETED!
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.
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. He 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. He was aware that currently he was considered a loose cannon. Hell, he considered himself a loose cannon. 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 high-priced 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 a pair of snug fitting black jeans that were well worn and soft against his skin. Accompanying it were 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 woods. He’d been renting a cabin in one of the many forest in the northwest and had spent as much of his time alone as possible. He’d only ventured out to restock or when he was sick of his own company. That had only happened a 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 completely incompatible, but he hadn’t cared. 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 believe 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 get away in college, but eventually, he’d found his way back to her. The hold she had over him was just too strong, 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 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 really 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 had become aware that once more she was cheating. He’d seriously considered leaving her. Hell, even Gideon and Rossi had encouraged him to leave her, 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. Maybe because they knew that no one would ever change his mind, 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 simply 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 an anger that just would not settle. There had really been no other options for him. He’d handed in his resignation, putting Gideon and Rossi in charge once more and leaving 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 leaving, 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. 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 obvious from their uniforms that the two men were Air Force, which was curious given that the two 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 fairly sure housed NORAD.
“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 conceded to take a seat, although the chair he chose was as far down the table from the two men as he could get. The fact that it was closer to the door was a happy coincidence. “The impression I got wasn’t that it was terribly 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 though and maybe a little worrisome was that he didn’t find any hint that they were attempting to mislead him.
“That’s correct 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 and current leader of the MCRT at NCIS Leroy Jethro Gibbs. His was the first choice for the position, but 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 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 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 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. Loss is a powerful motivator for a Sentinel of any standing, but especially one that never found his or her mate, but loved their 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 sooths his urge by serving the current and formerly enlisted Navy and Marine personnel and their families. I found my nitch here. That fact of the matter is, 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 or 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, Agent Hotchner, but you are correct. It is your marksmanship skills, specifically your sniper abilities that we are after.”
“You keep calling me 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. “Agent Guide 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. He thought if you joined us though that it was something you might be able to take over. 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 he 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. He 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 he had a feeling 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 an 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 quite 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 easily 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 a normal 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 certainly didn’t add any relief to his aggravation.
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 normal Sentinel’s reaction he knew. Maybe, had his life not been so much resembling a crap sandwich 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 had always 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. It took him a second to hear the conversation going on in the room as a single heartbeat filled most of his hearing that seemed to be racing. His nostrils were filled with the scent of distress and an 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 felt 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 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 he 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 constantly 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 wasn’t fucking Empathy, then Aaron would eat his leather boots. He’d never been one to ignore any part of himself, 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 him 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 a normal 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 self was screaming that this 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.
EndNote: All stories are also posted on AO3. Should anything posted for EAD be completed, the EAD preview will be deleted without warning.