Chapter Three: Finding Your Forever
It was a couple hours later when the name of Aaron’s ex-wife finally hit him. The two men were still perched on Daniel’s bed, which was a queen size because he had been given the bonding suite instead of the single person isolation room that Aaron had. Aaron was still sitting with his back to the wall at the head of the bed. His long legs were stretched out in front of him and crossed at the ankle.
Daniel was sitting with one shoulder leaning against the wall running the length of the bed with one leg pulled up to his chest and the other curled up underneath his body. They each had a bottle of water that Daniel had retrieved from his fridge when Jack and Danny came in to scold Aaron for the mess he’d made of his room. Daniel was amused and let Jack have his fun for a few minutes before he pointed out that Aaron had been put in the space they needed to remodel and had all the furniture no one wanted in it, which had earned him a glare from his friend for ruining his fun.
“Haley Brooks?” Daniel blurted out after Aaron finished with a story of an unusual case he’d worked in Seattle. When all his Sentinel did was quirk an eyebrow and smirk at him with obvious amusement, Daniel felt his curiosity about this Dr. Reid grow. “You said that was your ex-wife’s name? Do you know her family? You said she went to High School with you. So, I assume that she’s from Manassas as well then?”
Aaron nodded his confirmation of the last question before addressing the others. “Yes, Haley Brooks was her name. Her father’s name is Roy, and her mother’s name was Jean. She passed away a few years ago after a bout with pneumonia. She has a sister named Jessica.”
“Oh, our grandmothers were sisters on our mother’s sides,” Daniel explained excitedly realizing that he’d found a familial link to explain the connection Aaron had felt. “So, it was probably the genetic connection that you felt. There were only two daughters and surprisingly they each only had one child, which was unusual back then. Haley’s grandmother had a son, Roy, and my grandmother had a daughter, my mother, Sandra. We would have been second cousins. I guess it wasn’t a close enough familial connection for the state to contact her parents when my mother and father died.”
“Haley told me once that she didn’t know much about the rest of her grandmother’s family because there had been some kind of falling out,” Aaron explained, and Daniel could feel the relief in the connection that was strengthening between them. “She said that her grandmother didn’t have much to do with the rest of her family. Apparently, they hadn’t approved of her grandfather or something. So, that may be the reason. They may not have even known there was family to contact. I think that we’ve talked about everything, but the one thing that we really need to discuss. So, tell me how you feel about Bonding? Is it too soon after Sha’re or are you ready to move on?”
“I was thinking about that earlier,” Daniel began as he looked down at his hands. “I still won’t say that I didn’t love my wife, but now I have to wonder how much of it was about Sha’re herself, and how much of it was about the freedom she gave me that it feels like I’ll lose by Bonding.”
“Why would you lose your freedom?” Aaron asked immediately, and Daniel couldn’t tell if the frown and the underlying confusion he felt if it was about not understanding the question or if he was insulted at the thought.
“We’ll be working at the same place. I admit that you might need to switch teams, but I don’t know that for sure. I can tell you that from what little I understand of why they brought me here that I’ll need someone like you who can understand the various languages and cultures. You’d still be able to do your translation work when we’re not in the field unless General Hammond feels otherwise. I have no interest in telling you what to do or who you can speak to. I’ve never been that kind of Sentinel.”
Daniel’s head unconsciously tilted to one side as he thought about the question, and realized that he didn’t know the answer. It seemed that he always assumed that he would be forced to give up his life when he Bonded, but as Aaron had pointed out that wasn’t really logical. While it was true that he most likely would be removed from SG-1 and placed with
Aaron’s team, he would still be doing vital fieldwork. Negotiating a hostage situation wasn’t any less critical than the first contact work that he did. While he may need some training to honestly feel like he was ready for such an important task, it wasn’t something the Guide felt was beneath him or even that Daniel thought he was incapable of doing.
In fact, one could argue that the new work might be even more important than what he was doing now. After all, saving someone’s life, or trying to at least, was in Daniel’s opinion more important than finding new worlds. Indeed, the assumption that he’d never get to work with SG-1 again was premature. Once he realized that his thinking had been faulty, he couldn’t help but try and determine how he’d come to the flawed logic. So, it was several moments before he answered Aaron. Once again though there was no sign of upset on the man’s face. It was actually the complete opposite in that he actually looked nothing but patient and understanding as if it were something he was used to.
“I really need to meet this Dr. Reid,” Daniel blurted gaining himself another smirk before he got his brain back on the same track of thought as Aaron. “To answer your question, I don’t know why I assumed that. I guess I just always assumed that I would have to give up everything when I mated, even after Blair told me that wasn’t a given. I’m sorry for making assumptions.”
Aaron just shrugged and looked even more amused as if he’d had conversations like this often. “Even geniuses are human, Dr. Jackson. As long as you understand that going forward, my thought is that our decisions and actions are about us as a whole and not each of us making decisions for only ourselves as individuals I think you can be forgiven. After all, I made some flawed assumptions of my own. Does this mean that you are willing to accept the Bond?”
Even though he was reasonably sure that he knew the answer to the question, Daniel didn’t answer immediately. Instead, he waiting to review his thoughts one last time before replying. “Yes, at least, I’m willing to discuss bonding. I have some concerns that I’d like to talk about, but I am open to the idea with some stipulations. How about you? Are you ready to bond? Given that just a few days ago you seemed violently opposed to the idea.”
He was pleased when Aaron also waited to answer. He assumed so that the Sentinel could be sure of his own words and thoughts before speaking. “I am. I think I’ve worked through the last of my reservations and worked out any emotions that I was holding onto from Haley’s death. Like you I have some things I’d like to discuss with you before we go forward, and I am hoping that our items to discuss are the same things. Also, I am hoping sometime soon that I can find out more about why I am here. I am guessing that even though you were the one that was supposed to be explaining this aliens’ thing to me that we need to wait until Colonel O’Neill and/or General Hammond can be present?”
“It would probably be best,” Daniel replied before shifting to sit cross-legged on the bed with his elbows resting on his knees. “Otherwise it’s not really official, and we’ll just have to go over the whole thing again. As for the items, to discuss I’ll just tell you mine, and then when I’m done you can add to it if that’s ok?”
Aaron nodded his agreement before draining his water bottle. Daniel watched the Sentinel stand and move to the fridge for the first time really taking in the other man’s physique. While he wasn’t sure of the other man’s age, oddly it wasn’t something they’d discussed yet. The Guide estimated that Aaron was more than 5 but less than 10 years older than Daniel. He certainly didn’t look more than 5 years older though. Aaron told him that he’d spent a lot of time in the last year wandering around the mountainside that his cabin had been on, and it showed.
The man was tall, which was a massive plus for Daniel, who wasn’t short himself. At six foot even in height, he liked his male partners to be at least as tall as him but preferred taller. Aaron appeared to be at least a couple inches taller, which was perfect. It was a little warm in the Bonding suite, and because of that, the Sentinel was wearing a pair of shorts that he said he usually slept in when not at home and a worn FBI t-shirt.
His legs were long and toned, and while the shirt was loose fitting there didn’t seem to be much if any flab hiding underneath it. His hair was dark and showing just a hint of grey starting to appear. When he smiled, he had these dimples that appeared and seemed to change the whole look of his face. Not that Daniel had a problem with his regular expression, in fact, it was just the opposite. Aaron’s normal facial expression was one of those intense and serious ones that made Daniel weak in the knees. So, needless to say, he was quite pleased with his Sentinel’s appearance, but still blushed when the other man turned unexpectedly and caught him staring.
“Water?” Aaron asked not bothering to hide his chuckle or the look of satisfaction at being checked out by his mate. “I hope you like what you see. Running up and down the mountain has certainly helped my conditioning. I have to say that I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot with you looks wise and personality. I’ve always had a kink for a big brain and gorgeous blue eyes. You certainly fit the bill on both aspects.”
“Did Haley have blue eyes?” Daniel found himself asking as he felt his face warming up signaling he was blushing. “And, another water would be perfect.”
“Green,” Aaron informed as he grabbed two water bottles and a bag of grapes before coming back, “which is just another reason why it was odd that I was so attached to her.”
“I’m not going to be insulting and say that she was stupid, because she wasn’t. It’s just I’ve always found myself attracted to people that have above average intelligence. Mine is 138, and the one-time Haley took an IQ test when her sister dared her it came back at 93. If life had been different, I could see myself attracted to Spencer since he’s what most would call a genius with an IQ of 189 and the ability to read 20,000 words a minute. He also has an eidetic memory that has made the difference in more than one of our cases.”
“Are you sure I shouldn’t be jealous of this guy?” Daniel asked half teasing and half serious, but Aaron just shook his head as he settled on the bed. When the Sentinel held out a water bottle, Daniel took it and opened it to get a drink not realizing how thirsty he was.
“Absolutely,” Aaron promised as he got comfortable again. “Spencer and Tony are probably my best friends in the world, and now that my head is clearing I can only imagine what will happen if I ever see them again. I am literally closer to them than I ever have been to my younger brother Sean and consider them my real family. They’re also maybe the most deeply bonded Sentinel and Guide that I have ever met in my life, and that includes Jim and Blair.
“Without betraying confidences, I can tell you that their road has been treacherous. Spencer was only 10 when he came online and found Tony who was a 20-year-old college student at the time. I can’t begin to imagine how hard it was for either of them at the start, and I can honestly tell you that there isn’t anyone who could come between them. I don’t have any personal desire to even try.”
“Wow, that’s,” Daniel started but stopped as his mind boggled how hard it must have been for the pair. “I don’t think I would have been able to survive being in either of their shoes. They must both be incredibly strong individuals. I think that now I want to meet them even more than ever.”
“I sincerely hope that you get a chance to,” Aaron said with a smile, “and you would be correct.”
“They are both incredibly strong people who deserve the happiness that they found in each other. Sometimes I wish that things had gone a little easier for them, but I’m not sure their relationship would be the same if it had. To answer your earlier question, I am fine with you telling me what you need and then adding to it if necessary.”
“Thank you,” Daniel murmured as he flashed a somewhat shy smile at the Sentinel. “As for the bonding itself, the only request I have is that we wait a day or two before we get to anything sexual. While I understand the biological imperative to all of this and that you need to imprint on me soon, I’d like this relationship to be about more than sex. I know that there was a period in history that sex was the only thing that was considered important when it came to bonding, but we’ve moved past that as a society, I think. I’m not asking for months, but maybe a couple weeks at most before we bring sex into this.”
Daniel rubbed his hand over the back of his neck as he paused to judge Aaron’s reaction so far. Seeing the soft smile on the other man’s face, he felt like maybe they really were on the same page and continued. “There’s still so much that we don’t know about each other, and I’ve always thought that the strongest relationships start off on a friendship basis before they bring sex into things. I would ask that we settle the bond through platonic methods today, and then in a week or two after we’ve gotten out of here and grown used to our new routines, we can move onto sex. I just want us to start off someplace other than in bed. Metaphorically I mean, considering we’re sitting on a bed right now, which is odd since we have actual chairs, but… I just…”
“It’s ok, Daniel,” Aaron said with a soft laugh, and Daniel melted as the dimples were out in full force. “I happen to agree with you. I want us to be something more than bed partners to start off with. There’s a ton of things we still have to learn about each other. I don’t even know how old you are or what kind of music you like.”
“I turn 40 in July,” Daniel said smiling, “and my favorite artist is Frank Sinatra.”
“My favorite song of his is My Way. I actually got to see him in concert once before he died. I saved up for months to be able to afford the ticket. It was amazing. My mother loved him, and my dad would sing to her sometimes and dance her around the kitchen. What about you?”
Daniel watches as Aaron finishes the grapes he took before shifting so that he’s lying stretched out on the bed and propped up on one elbow. “I turned 45 last November. My favorite band is the Beatles, George Harrison is my favorite bandmember, and my favorite album is the White Album.”
Before either man could speak further, the door to the isolation room opened, and Dr. Frasier came in with Alpha Guide Williams following her. “Gentlemen,” the doctor greeted. “General Hammond wanted an update on how you two were doing. Since Sentinel Hotchner has responded best to Guide Williams thus far, I asked him to come with me. So, how are you two doing today? Sentinel Hotchner at least appears to be in better spirits.”
“I guess you can say that I pulled my head out of my ass,” Aaron quipped as he looked toward the Alpha Guide. “Danny gives an effective ‘get over yourself’ lecture. As someone who used to have to give those quite regularly, I am suitably impressed.”
“Unless you’re my 5year old daughter, coddling is not my thing, Hotchner,” Danny shot back rocking back and forth on his feet, but being an experienced profiler, he could easily read amusement underneath the sarcasm. “Being nice to you wasn’t working. I will remember this the next time Dr. Frasier here tells me to be nice to people and stop bitching at them.”
The doctor in question just snorted, but otherwise didn’t comment. It was easy to read the affection she felt for the younger man though as she didn’t even try and hide it. Instead, she just looked from Aaron to Daniel and back with one eyebrow lifted in silent inquiry.
“I think we’re both doing better, Janet,” Daniel offered, taking the lead in the conversation since he knew her better. “Although I think we’re getting tired of isolation. I believe that we’ve decided to start with a Platonic Bond, which we’re going to settle tonight. Can we get out of here tomorrow and at least move around the base? Also, Aaron needs to finish his informational meeting with Jack and General Hammond.”
“That might have to wait a few days,” Danny interjected locking his hands together behind his back. “SG-1 has to go… out tomorrow to deal with one of those Jack only things. He tried to put it off until you were done, but things… changed. So, we’re taking Rabb with us and hoping for the best. Also, while I’m thinking of you type people, General Hammond wanted me to make sure you knew that your other you that you requested has been hired and will be here in 3 or 4 days. So, if things work out, then we’ll have a meeting with you and Aaron and the new Sentinel and Guide pairing that they’ve hired. Now, the Guide will have other duties, but it’s better than nothing.”
Daniel nodded easily not surprised. “It scares me that I understood that whole thing.”
“Look,” Danny snipped back teasingly. “You try to be concise and speak in code so that you don’t reveal classified information prematurely and see how you do. I mean I know that you know like seven thousand languages, but there’s only so much us mortal human beings can do, Dr. Livingston.”
This time Daniel gave an eye roll at the younger man. “I am not Scottish, a medical missionary, or in Africa.”
“Whatever,” Danny threw back waving a hand in the air. “Same thing.”
Daniel growled but when Aaron began to look worried gave his ankle a reassuring squeeze. Bantering with Jack’s Guide was maybe one of Daniel’s favorite things to do. Although, at first it hadn’t been so. To say that the Guide was prickly when they first met was an understatement. In fact, now that he thought about it, his current situation wasn’t much different from Jack and Danny’s when the younger man came online, and Jack was found to be his perfect match. Quickly, though, those closest to Jack got used to the newcomer. Once they learned about all of the pain underneath the snark and bitching, it was a lot easier to understand his chosen coping mechanisms.
It also helped that it was apparent to those who paid attention how head over heels in love Jack was with his Guide, and now insanely protective of him the Colonel was. While it wasn’t always as easy to see the emotions returned, once you got to know the man the love he had for his Sentinel was plain as day. The two men hadn’t been together even six months yet, but already the devotion was there if you knew what you were looking for. Then, taking into account the fact that Danny had already made an impact on teams with the insight he had on things coming from a cop background, the base as a whole was incredibly attached to their prickly Alpha Guide and made no bones that they’d lay down their lives for him.
Daniel was looking forward to seeing how Aaron would fit into the mix of his eclectic little family and hoped that the affection people had for Danny would be given to Daniel’s Sentinel.
“I don’t see any reason why you can’t begin to come and go as you please,” Janet threw in, and Daniel guessed she was trying to get the conversation back on track. “Of course, that’s assuming you and Aaron do settle into at least a Platonic Bond this evening. It feels to me like the threads of one has started to form between you two just from spending time in here together.”
Daniel watched the Doctor look at Danny who frowned before nodding, and he guessed that she was asking the Alpha Guide to confirm what she was feeling. As Jack and General Hammond’s current representative, he’d also be the one to have a say from the non-medical side of things, and he was glad that the New Jersey native agreed so readily. While Aaron had calmed down a lot, Daniel guessed that forced isolation would never be his Sentinel’s favorite thing.
While Aaron didn’t seem to be a pure extrovert, he did seem to be the kind of person who liked to have people around him in moderation, and he guessed it was the profiler side of him. Obviously, you couldn’t be a good profiler if you hated people. There had to be some level of enjoyment of what Daniel thought of as people watching to be successful in Aaron’s former job. On the other hand, it sounded like, from the stories the Sentinel had relayed, that he also enjoyed his solitude, and was happy to know that the other man would understand Daniel’s occasional need for peace and quiet. Having time to get lost in translating some old musty book that was hundreds of years old was one of his absolute favorite things to do. Although, he thought maybe he wouldn’t mind if Aaron was settled in the room with him quietly reading or doing something else that he enjoyed.
As a child, he’d often watched his parents cohabitating silently together curled up on opposite ends of a couch with their feet twined together. It was something that even as a small boy he had wanted to have with his Mate, and that longing hadn’t changed. As he sat there listening to Danny and Aaron chat, having missed the beginning of their conversation, it finally hit him that everything he’d always dreamed of as a child was happening.
In the dark days of his parent’s death, and the seemingly endless months and years being shuffled from one foster care family who just didn’t seem to give a shit about him, he’d longed for his Sentinel badly. He’d spent an eternity of dark nights staring at the ceiling in whatever room was his for the moment wondering who that person would be and creating imaginary scenarios for the two of them. Places they’d go. Experiences that they’d share. Just clutching onto the knowledge that someday he wouldn’t be alone anymore. He wondered to himself when that had changed.
How had he gone from dreaming about and looking forward to finding his Sentinel to actively avoiding it to the point of marrying a woman from another planet who was in no way compatible with his needs? When had he stopped trusting that his Sentinel would be his perfect mate, and began believing that whoever that person was would be almost his enemy? When had he decided that it was safer to hide than it was to truly live?
“Daniel?” He heard and blinked before turning to look at Aaron who was now sitting next to him looking concerned. Not quite ready to answer the unasked question, he looked around the room, only to find that Dr. Frasier and Danny had gone.
“Where’d everyone go?” Daniel asked confused and turned to look back at Aaron, only to see him looking even more concerned.
“They left at least 15 minutes ago,” Aaron said, and Daniel could feel his hand resting on the small of his back. “You look upset. I thought that you and Guide Williams were just joking around, but did I misread it? Did he upset you? If so, I’ll talk to Jack.”
“No, Aaron, no it wasn’t… it wasn’t Danny,” Daniel assured and didn’t realize that he’d leaned toward his Sentinel until he found his shoulder resting against the other man’s. “I just got caught up in my head thinking some things over, and one thing led to another, and I realized that… I don’t know when I stopped wanting this.”
“This?” Aaron questioned and the tone of his voice that Daniel couldn’t place made him turn his head to look at the older man. “Did you… have you changed your mind?”
“What? No!” Daniel leaned back slightly as a frown wrinkled his forehead while he tried to process what the other man was talking about. Replaying what he’d said he quickly realized the problem and immediately set about clarifying the incorrect impression he’d given the other man. “No, Aaron I didn’t mean… I meant before I met you. I meant generic you that I didn’t know was actually you, but just an idea in my head. I don’t know when I stopped wanting a Sentinel.”
Turning so that he could better look at the man, Daniel found himself taking Aaron’s hands in his own. “I remember being little before my parents died and then in the aftermath of their deaths, all I could think about was this. Bonding. Finding you. Mating. Having someone that was my very own more than they were anyone else’s. It was literally everything that I wanted. I’d lay in bed at night in my first few foster homes and look up at the ceiling in the dark and wonder what you’d be like. I’d imagine places we’d go and explore. Civilizations that we’d uncover and what our lives would be like. Somewhere along the line though I stopped wanting that and started seeking out the exact opposite, and I don’t know when that happened. I don’t understand how everything changed so drastically, and I didn’t even notice.”
“Sometimes it isn’t one big event that changes our whole lives,” Aaron said carefully, and Daniel wondered if he knew he was running his thumbs over the back of Daniel’s. It felt nice. Like the man wanted to give comfort even when he wasn’t actively thinking about it.
“In fact, it seems to me that most times it isn’t one big thing that changes us. Instead, it’s a bunch of little situations and events that slowly change our mind. A kid who is a Sentinel picking on you in one home. One of your foster parents favoring the Sentinels over the Guides in another. A teacher in a class talking about how Guides have been mistreated throughout history, and maybe making it seem as if that’s the way it should be. A girl you like picking a Sentinel over you because she’s a Guide too and you’re too young to understand her biological conditioning will always pull her toward the Sentinel first. Before you know it, all those little things have added up, and you no longer have those dreams anymore.
“Now you want to live your life on your own, and to hell with any damned bossy Sentinel who wants to hold you down. It took too long for me to find you, so you stopped believing that I’d come, and decided to take your future in your own hands. Then you get a little recognition for things that you’ve done without a Sentinel, but there’s always that asshole that has to say something like ‘but just imagine what you could do if you were bonded.’ Or maybe it was ‘it’ll be a shame when we lose you since chances are your Sentinel won’t let you do this once you’re Bonded’. Without even realizing it you’re now actively looking to avoid being tied down to someone who won’t support your ambitions or dreams, and you’re doing everything in your power to make sure you’re not stifled. The thing is though, Daniel, that I have no intention of pulling you away from the things that you love.”
“I know that,” Daniel said, and when Aaron went to speak again, he rushed on to get out the rest of his thought. “I really do. Blair always told me that my Sentinel would be a perfect match for me and I just had to be patient and have faith. He kept telling me that sometimes one of them finds out that one of them has to change their thinking, and I just assumed that he meant I had to realize that I needed something other than the things I love doing.
“I think what he really meant was that well like in our case, my being on SG-1 isn’t what’s important. It’s having the opportunity to go out in the field and meet people and learn about new cultures and societies. It’s being able to use everything I have learned to save people. It’s realizing that being a sniper and profiler are what you do not who you are. It’s hearing what you were brought here for and accepting that sniper doesn’t equate to being a cold-blooded killer. I’m sorry, Aaron. I really am. I think I’ve done us both a disservice, but I remember what I want now. I hope that it’s not too late. I want to be your Guide. I want to be your Mate. I want to be yours forever.”
When Aaron gave him a soft, affectionate smile, Daniel couldn’t help but tilt his head to one side curious as to what his Sentinel was thinking. “That’s what Spencer calls Tony. His Forever. It was how his mother explained what a Sentinel was to him when he was little. Even though he was a genius, there were still some concepts that were too advanced for him at the time she explained them. So, she told him that someday he’d find his Forever and there would never be another day when they weren’t together. I’ve always loved that description of the bond between a Guide and a Sentinel. I would love to be yours forever and your Forever, Dr. Daniel Jackson.”
“Sentinel,” Daniel breathed as he leaned forward wanting to feel Aaron’s lips on his.
“Guide,” Aaron acknowledged, and as they kissed, Daniel swore that he could feel the bond between them strengthening to unite them together forever.