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Love Is Not Always Enough

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Banner by the lovely DarkJediQueen

 

_______________

 

January 1995

Aaron stared at his hand that was still wrapped around his new roommates at the FBI Academy.

“Well shit,” he muttered under his breath as he was pulled closer to the other man.

“I agree,” said the roommate as he buried his nose against Aaron’s neck scenting him. This was a fine mess he found himself in on the first day of his academy training. He had found his Sentinel, which just was a kick in the ass because Aaron was newly married.

“I’m married.” Aaron pulled back and looked into the man’s eyes that he had yet to be introduced to officially.

“Again I say, well shit.” The man pulled back, and Aaron felt like his world just dropped out from under him. He didn’t want this to feel as good as it did. “I’m Seeley Booth, by the way.”

“Seeley.” Aaron stood there breathing hard as he watched his Sentinel lean against the wall. He knew he should walk out of that room, go ask for another room assignment, but standing face to face with his Sentinel, Aaron did something he would never have in any other circumstance. He surged forward and kissed the man standing there. He was pulled in closer and held fast. Pulling back he laid his forehead against Seeley’s, admiring the fact that they were the same height.

“What are we going to do about this, Aaron?” Aaron almost groaned at the way that Seeley said his name. He had barely gotten his name out when they had touched, and it felt like a bond wanted to start with the both of them.

“We barely know each other, yet I feel connected to you already. I don’t know, Seeley. I don’t know if we’ll be able to stop this.” Aaron felt wrecked as he stood there so close to Seeley. The low growl that came from the Sentinel had Aaron shivering. Stepping back to try to clear his head, he knew he had to call Haley at least.

“Look, I ah, I need to call Haley then we need to speak with the Administrator.”

Seeley smiled as he reached out and cupped Aaron’s cheek.

“I’ll wait here, and we can talk if you need it.”

Aaron nodded and left needing to feel the fresh air on his face. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and made the hardest call he ever had to make in his life.

_________________________

The first month together was a bit of up and down. Haley, much to Aaron’s surprise, was more understanding than he thought she would be. Aaron and Seeley had gone to the apartment Haley had moved into when they came to Quantico for Aaron’s academy training. He introduced their son, Tyler, who was only a few months old, to Seeley who took that better then Aaron thought he would.

Haley was going to hold off on any kind of separation and Aaron had wondered why. Now, four months later Aaron figured out what her instincts were telling her. It should have been the best thing that ever happened to him, that’s what all the literature said and what the Sentinel and Guide center always promoted. In most cases it was true, but Aaron had already seen when it went wrong. Sentinels who killed, or Guide’s who fell into sensory overload and went insane. Standing at their dorm window looking out and sipping from the water bottle that was in his hand, wishing it was a glass of whiskey. That right there told him that he was in trouble. Only one more month left, and Aaron was at a loss. He stared out the window at the darkened grounds, no longer watching the clock tick by later and later.

Their dorm room door opened and in stumbled his Sentinel, drunk, face already bruising, Aaron knew Seeley had been in another fight. Either from gambling, drinking, or both. Aaron had learned quickly to suppress the bond after the first time this had happened.

“What happened this time? Do you know how close you are to being kicked out? Not to mention that our bond is fraying because of your drinking and gambling.”

Seeley had looked like he was trying to smile, but Aaron could tell that it hurt.

“Come on, Aar. I’m just having a bit of fun.” Seeley slurred as he stumbled towards their bed. “I know, I know I fucked up again. Sure I lost some, but I won it back.”

Aaron sighed as he pushed off the window and walked towards the bed. He sat down as Seeley tried several times to lean upon his arm.

“At what cost, Seeley. The cost of your career? Of our Bond? You can’t keep doing this, you need help.”

Seeley glared up at Aaron as he rolled to the side and clumsily sat up on the bed.

“I don’t need help,” Seeley growled. Aaron felt the force of emotions inside of him. Late nights with his parents fighting, his father drunk, hard fists, broken bones, harsh words. He swallowed down the bile that rose up as his empathy recoiled at the anger coming off of Seeley.

“Yes, you do. And I swear Seeley if you don’t get it voluntarily I will go to the Center. I can’t keep doing this.”

Seeley shoved off the bed and paced almost like a caged animal. Hadrian, Seeley's tiger spirit guide was curled in the corner watching the man.

“You’re my fucking Guide, Aaron, and you aren’t going anywhere.” Seeley’s breath was ragged, his heart was racing, and Aaron wondered if there was more wrong from the fight that Seeley was trying to conceal.

Aaron pushed off the bed and stood toe-to-toe to his Sentinel.

“That doesn’t mean I have to continue seeing you fuck up both of our lives.”

“So, what, you want to break our bond?” Seeley sneered at Aaron.

That wasn’t what he wanted at all, but he was beginning to think that was what he needed. But he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t say the words.

“I want you to stop doing this to yourself, to us. You’re my Sentinel, and that means a lot to me, Seeley. But not like this.”

Seeley stood up and went to the bathroom slamming the door shut with no more words said between them. An hour later he came out, showered and looking a little better, but still not great. Aaron had opened up his side of the bond and could tell that Seeley was sobering up. Sentinel physiology didn’t let someone be drunk for long. Seeley usually sobered up quickly, but this whole situation left Aaron drained and exhausted.

“Look I’m sorry.”

Aaron didn’t take his eyes off his Sentinel as he tried to gather his thoughts together.

“Then stop this. Talk to someone and get some help.”

“I can handle it, Aaron.” Seeley tried to smile as he walked towards the bed.

“But I can’t. I can’t keep worrying about where you are, I can’t keep watching you slip down this destructive path, and I can’t let you take me with you. Please, Seeley, I know that you have to be willing to do this for yourself. While I want to be selfish and beg for you to get help for my sake, for our bond’s sake, I know you are only going to do it when you’re ready.”

“I’m exhausted. Let’s go to bed.”

Aaron sighed and knew the discussion was going to be ignored once more. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could carry his Sentinel like he was. When they slipped into bed together, and Seeley wrapped around him, Aaron sighed and pushed back against him. The strong arms held him fast as they legs tangled, this was what Aaron loved about being with Seeley. At night, wrapped together, feeling safe and protected, but Aaron was fraying, his empathy was tattering as he tried to hold his Sentinel together. He didn’t know how much longer he would be able to. Those lips that Aaron loved to feel on his skin moved across his neck.

“I love you, Aaron. I know you don’t believe me, but I do. I’m sorry.” Seeley whispered and held on tighter, not admitting to the tears that fell against Aaron’s skin, and Aaron not bringing it up because he didn’t want to fight anymore.

“I know, Seeley. I love you too.” That was the kicker. Aaron had fallen hard for his Sentinel, but the emotional and mental roller coaster was taking its toll, and Aaron wondered, not for the first time if they were going to crash and burn.

______________

Somehow Seeley had held it all together for the last month of their academy training. The administration and teachers were all watching Aaron and Seeley closely. There were no more sneaking out for late night bar crawls, no coming back looking like he had been in more than one fight, no more stumbling in drunk.

In fact, Seeley was holding it together very well. They got assigned to Seattle and the SWAT division. Both men were highly trained firearms experts, both had excellent sniper skills, and they both were top-ranked shooters. Haley was happy for them both and agreed to go to Seattle with them. Aaron had not wanted to be far away from Tyler.

The first six months that they were in Seattle had gone well, and Aaron thought they may have turned a corner, that was until a particularly dangerous situation that SWAT had been called in for. When all was said and done, the hostage situation had turned deadly, and children had died in the aftermath of a madman’s shooting spree.

Seeley’s gambling began to spiral out of control which gave Aaron no choice but to seek bond separation. Seeley was reassigned out of Seattle for both their sakes.  Aaron had to be isolated for a few months to try to recover. Haley had stuck with him the whole way through it all.

“I’ll always be here for you, Aaron.” Haley had crawled into Aaron’s bed one night after he had come home from the center. All they did was hold each other while Aaron attempted to keep it together. He felt broken inside, even with reassurances from the center that he would eventually recover, Aaron wasn’t sure that he could. He decided to make a go of his marriage and clung to his wife.  After two years Haley was pregnant again, this time they had a little girl.

“She’s beautiful, Hales.” Aaron choked on the emotions inside of him as he held his daughter in his arms. He vowed then to give all of himself to his marriage and his children.

“What name are we going with?”

Aaron gently swiped a finger over his daughter's cheek and smiled down at her.

“I think I like your idea of Dillon Faye.”

Haley smiled at him as he sat down on the bed next to her with Dillon still in his arms.

“I like that too. Hello, Dillon.” Haley took the baby from Aaron’s arms, then leaned over and kissed him. “She’s perfect, isn’t she?”

Aaron took a deep breath and felt something settle deep inside him. This was his family, and he could live without a Sentinel. He was strong, and he would prove to his children that he didn’t need anyone but them and their mother.

__________________

May 2005

After Jack was born, Haley had to have an emergency hysterectomy. Jack’s birth was the hardest on her, and there were complications. Tyler and Faye were ecstatic that they had a little brother, the two kids had been close from since they both could crawl, a new little brother was exciting for them both.  Aaron couldn’t have been happier about that. He had helped Haley with the emotional toll it took on her to lose a part of herself as she had. This was almost as emotional as the two miscarriages she had between Faye and Jack.

Tyler was now ten, and Dillon was eight. Aaron enjoyed watching his children grow up, even though his career with the BAU took time away from them. He sometimes felt torn between the job and his family. Sitting outside with a glass of tea on the table, Jack in his arms and Haley sleeping, Aaron wondered if the last six years was worth it. Hearing the sliding door open, he heard soft padding of feet, then a chair being pulled towards him and his daughter sitting next to him.

“Daddy?”

Aaron looked towards Faye and smiled softly.

“Yeah, kiddo?”

“Ty and I have been talking, and we know that Mommy isn’t feeling well so we decided that we would help with Jack since you have to go back to work.”

Aaron was stretched out across two chairs as he held his baby son in his arms.

“I was thinking maybe I needed to do something different. I should be home with you and your Mom more.”

Faye’s forehead creased as she appeared to ponder what Aaron was saying.

“But, Daddy you can’t quit. You love your job.”

“Don’t you want me around more?”

Faye sighed heavily as she crossed her legs and leaned forward.

“You’re here for the important stuff. That’s what counts. You need to help Uncle Jason because he’s hurting too.”

Aaron wondered, not for the first time if Faye was a Guide. She was starting to show quite a bit of empathy for her age. Tyler, Aaron knew deep down that his oldest boy was going to be a Sentinel. Just thinking of him seemed to conjure him as he too came outside and sat down.

“What’cha doin’?”

“Telling Daddy that he needs to stay where he is. Uncle Jason needs him.”

“You don’t want to hunt the bad guys anymore?” Tyler’s face was an almost replica of his sister’s as he leaned on the table, head in his hands.

“Do you want me to hunt the bad guys?” Aaron was genuinely surprised by his kids. They liked to think that their father was out there catching criminals and keeping them safe. Aaron was more than humbled by their generous hearts.

“I think you should. You get the bad guys, Dad. I know you can’t come to every game, or be at every stupid school thing, but I dunno you’re here when it’s really important.”

Jack squirmed in his arms a moment stretching and yawning.

“All right, come on you guys need to get to bed. It’s a school night, and Jack here needs to go to sleep as well.”

There were groans and protests which made Aaron chuckle, but he followed the kids up to their rooms. He put Jack down first, let Tyler read by himself in his bedroom for a little while and sat with Faye as she read from her book snuggling up to her father. After the end of the chapter, her eyes started to close, and Aaron helped her get under her covers and go to sleep.

Finally, he made it to his room where Haley was curled up with her own book. Aaron crawled up on the bed and leaned into her.

“They want to make me Unit Chief permanently.”

Aaron had not wanted to talk about this at dinner with the kids there. He watched as Haley closed up her book and set it aside.

“And what about Gideon?”

“Lead Profiler. I would be his boss.” Haley snorted and shook her head, Aaron wasn’t stupid, he knew what she wasn’t saying.

“Aaron...” Haley looked down at her hands and sighed. “Just don’t forget about your family. We need you too.”

“I know, Hales. I want to be here too, but I need to do this. I know its hard for you to understand.”

Haley laid her hands over Aaron’s and laced their fingers together.

“I’m trying. I know part of it is your Guide instincts, at least that is what I’m learning from the classes at the center.” Haley lifted their hands and kissed the back of Aaron’s. “Can I ask you something?”

The tone in her voice told Aaron that he wasn’t going to like her question, but he would let her ask it anyway.

“Yes?”

“Have you tried to...”

Aaron knew where this was going and stopped her before she could get the question out fully.

“Don’t. Don’t ask me that Haley.”

“But you know he stayed in the FBI. I know you have times that I can’t help you and I wonder if you want to be in this Unit is somehow fulfilling a need you don’t know how to express.”

Aaron shoved off the bed and walked to the large window to look out at the night sky.

“Please don’t ask me this, Haley.” Aaron almost choked on the breath he took, even after all this time, thinking of Seeley still hurt. It was a pain that never went away and sometimes when everything was still and quiet he could at times still feel Seeley there. He never told anyone, especially Haley, but he ached with the knowledge that his Sentinel was so close, yet there was too much pain between them.

“I’m sorry, Aaron.” Haley had gotten out of bed and wrapped herself around him, holding him close. Closing his eyes, he let himself lean on the strength of her and tried to put Seeley Booth out of his mind.

_____________________

Aaron cursed his fate when he stepped out of the elevator on the Monday after his paternity leave was over and stood there in the hallway in front of the glass doors to the BAU offices. He pulled on his suit a little, tightening it up and shoring up his armor as he watched Seeley Booth walk towards him. Aaron didn’t move, he wasn’t sure what he was feeling in this moment as he locked eyes with his Sentinel after almost nine years.

“Aaron...” Seeley lifted his hand like he wanted to touch, but dropped it back to his side. Aaron could feel how uncomfortable the man was, but he wasn’t going to help Seeley become comfortable. He could be professional if that was why Seeley was there.

“Agent Booth. What brings you to Quantico? I assumed you were still in DC.”

Seeley stood up taller and straightened his tie, Aaron couldn’t help that his eyes went right to it. He almost smiled at the whimsical star pattern, but he was having a hard enough time keeping the physical distance, let alone emotional.

“I am. I’m here to speak to your Unit Chief.”

Aaron narrowed his eyes, word had not quite gotten around to all the divisions that there had been a shake-up in the BAU. Aaron knew it was petty, but he didn’t let Seeley know right away that he was now officially the Unit Chief. Taking a deep breath, Aaron tilted his head towards the doors before turning that way.

“Follow me, and I’ll take you to him.”

“Aaron...”

“Not here, and not now.” Aaron tried to keep his voice neutral, but he wasn’t sure if he could. Aaron’s wolf, Shadow, was walking next to him trying to keep him calm.

“Alright. Look I have this case that I really do need advice on.”

Aaron didn’t say anything, just kept walking ahead and towards the stairs. When he entered his office, he stood and waited for Seeley to follow.

“Hotch, I wanted to speak with your UC.”

“Then you will be talking with me.”

“You’re....” Seeley squared his shoulders, and Aaron felt that small connection that he still had with Seeley flare up inside him. They stared at each other a few moments, a battle of wills was absolutely happening between them. Seeley looked away first, and it took everything inside Aaron not to smile. Raising a brow, he then turned and walked to his desk. He may be a guide, but he wasn’t going to let anyone, especially Seeley Booth intimidate him.

“Yes, Booth. I am Unit Chief. I’m not surprised you haven’t heard it was just made official before the weekend. Now, have a seat, what can I do for you?”

“I think we have a serial killer. I mean we’ve dealt with multiple murders before, but this is different, and my team and I sorely need your help.”

“Do you have the details?”

Seeley pulled several files out of his briefcase and passed them over to Aaron. Aaron was careful not to touch Seeley as he took the files from him. He went over them carefully, but quickly.

“I’d say you are right. These older cases where you only have the remains, you’re sure they match these new cases?”

“Brennan is positive.” Aaron got a quick flash of emotion. There was affection when Booth had mentioned Brennan, and Aaron almost bristled at the feeling. Frowning hard he went back through the files once more. After he was done, Aaron got on his phone and called Reid to his office. He knew the younger agent would be in around that time.

“There are similarities, but we will need to see if we get identification on the first three victims and delve into their backgrounds to see if they have anything in common with the three new victims. This pattern has me intrigued.” Aaron tapped the pictures of the victims' bodies and frowned deeper. He knew that symbol, he just wasn’t sure where he had seen it before.

A knock on his door had Aaron looking up.

“Come in, Reid.”

Reid walked in and looked between the two men. Aaron could tell the Guide was sensing the emotions in the room but was discreet enough not to mention it.

“Special Agent Dr. Spencer Reid, this Supervisory Special Agent Seeley Booth. He works out of the Major Crimes unit in DC. We have an odd case, but I’d like you to go through these files for us and give us your opinion.”

Reid took the files and walked over to Aaron’s couch and began to go through them carefully. Aaron looked at Seeley who was frowning and narrowing his eyes at Aaron. For his part, Aaron knew the mild attraction he had towards the youngest member of his team had flared up, but he would never do anything about it. Over the years Aaron had acknowledged attraction to others, but he was loyal to Haley. Looking at Seeley made those old feelings for his Sentinel churn up inside of him, and he knew that the bond on Seeley’s part also wasn’t completely gone. Aaron felt the jealousy emanating from the man, and when Hadrian made an appearance Shadow almost pounced on him in happiness. The two animals curled around each other and laid down near Spencer.

“How’s Tyler?” Seeley asked as Reid took his time with the files.

“He’s good. He’s playing little league football now. He liked soccer, but he wanted to try something different.”

“That’s good.”

“I ah, I heard that you have a son.”

“I do.” Seeley smiled and moved to pull out his wallet. He handed it over to Aaron after he opened it up to the picture he kept in there. “Parker. He’s a great kid.”

“He looks just like you.” Aaron smiled, but it felt fake to him.

“I heard you and Haley had another son.”

“Jack. He’s our last. There were complications.”

“I ah, I’m happy for you, Aaron.”

“Are you?” Aaron closed his eyes a moment and hated how good it felt that his spirit animal was curled up with Seeley’s. He could feel Shadow’s happiness, and it made that old ache flare up.

“Yes. I am.”

“Hotch, I’m done going over these.” Reid stood and brought the files over and set them on Aaron’s desk. Aaron wasn’t fooled, he knew precisely what Spencer was doing. Even he wasn’t immune to the tension in the room.

“The first three and second three are part of a pattern. Your team pinpointed the first three murders within days of each other. I would suggest that it was three days apart. Everything about this is in a pattern of three. If we can get identification, and find out if they are missing, I believe we can get a clearer picture of what happened, but the second set of victims, because you have identification and approximate abduction times, you know for a fact that they were taken and killed within three days. Three days later the second victim and the pattern repeated on the last victim. Also, you see that in the second set your first victim was taken March third.

“Even the markings on the bodies are done in series of threes. Many numerous cultures and religions regard the number three as being significant. It is the only number that has a beginning, middle, and end. Some believe that three is the universal number. Heaven, Earth, and Water. Mind, Body, Soul. Sun, Moon, Stars. All of these things in myth and legend happen in threes. I won’t know more until I can see the bodies.”

“I can arrange that, Dr. Reid..” Seeley stood and smiled. “ Thank you. I’m not sure how this all will help us, but your help could be invaluable.” Seeley turned to Aaron. “That is if you’re willing to help.”

Aaron looked down at the files. He knew he could turn this over to the B team, but something was nagging at him. He felt like they had to take the case.

“We’ll come to DC. I have to brief my team and get on the road. I know it will take us about an hour or more to get out there, depending on traffic.”

Seeley smiled and held his hand out for Reid who took it and smiled back, then turned to Aaron and almost did the same, but pulled his hand back at the last minute. Aaron could just feel his reluctance to do that.

“Why don’t we meet at the Jeffersonian. I can introduce you to the Squints.”

“I’ll call when we’re close.”

“Oh, right. Here. My card with my cell number on it.”

Aaron took the card and slipped it into his pocket, and as soon as Seeley left, he flopped down on his chair and reached out for Shadow who let out a plaintive whine that his other half was gone once again.

“He left the files. Do you want me to have JJ make copies?” Reid asked as he picked them up off the desk.

“Yes, thank you, Reid.” Aaron heard the hollowness in his own voice. The emotions he was feeling weren’t going to get any better with them working this case. Aaron felt like he had been blown wide open and didn’t know how to shut them down.

Reid started to walk towards the door, stopped and turned around to look at Aaron.

“I’m not going to ask because I know how private you are, but...If you ever want to talk-”

“Thank you, Reid. I’ll keep that in mind.” Aaron waited until Reid left before he leaned over his desk and placed his head in his hands. Shadow laid his head on Aaron’s lap giving as much comfort as the spirit wolf could. Aaron buried a hand in the fur and slowly let out the breath he was holding onto. He was trying to find his equilibrium once more.

“Everything okay?” The gentle knock and the voice of Gideon had Aaron looking up.

“We have been asked by DC Major Crimes unit in on a consult. I’ll need everyone in the conference room right away.”

Instead of leaving, Gideon pushed inside the office and closed the door behind him. He sat in the chair that Seeley had just occupied and Aaron just looked up and glared at the man.

“I saw who it was.”

“Are you here to profile me, Jason?”

“No. I’m just wondering if you’ll be objective.”

“My personal life has nothing to do with this case.”

“You’re going to be working with your Sentinel, Aaron. How is that not going to affect you?” Gideon eyed Aaron in that way of his that made you feel like you were under a microscope. Gideon knew about Seeley and Aaron’s relationship when a difficult case early on had Aaron out of sorts. He had confided in both Rossi and Gideon, his mentors and bosses, about what happened. He never thought Gideon would use that knowledge against him.

“Because I can separate the job from my personal life. I don’t see how this discussion is relevant to the case, and I would appreciate you staying out of my personal business.”

Gideon sighed and continued to chew on the toothpick in his mouth as Aaron glared at him. Aaron wasn’t going to back down from Gideon anymore than he did from Seeley.

“I think we have a case to worry about.” Aaron stood and grabbed his briefcase almost at the same time that JJ appeared at his door. Aaron had felt her emotions before he heard her knock on the door. It took him a moment to pull his shields back in place, but once he did, his own empathy and emotional signature was locked down tight.

“JJ, come on, and I’ll brief everyone.” Aaron walked out of his office and didn’t look at Gideon. He had enough to deal with at the moment, and his former mentor wasn’t one of them.

____________________

Another set of bodies had been found, older than the first and in the same area as the first two sets. Aaron knew this was the Unsubs preferred burial ground. They received this new information as they pulled into the Jeffersonian employee parking. Booth met them and handed access passes for the team's vehicles.

Aaron had JJ and Reid, Morgan had Gideon and Elle. After parking, everyone got out, but Aaron took a few moments to gather himself. Grabbing his briefcase gave him an excuse to take the time he needed. Once he exited, he was the Unit Chief his team knew him to be.

“Booth.”

“Hotch. You guys made good time. Come on, Bones and her team are working on the bodies that were recently found. I have my CSU teams still combing the area to see if we find more.”

Aaron hated that it sounded like a challenge, but he didn’t know how to be around Seeley.

“All right. Do you want us to work out of here? Or back at the DC office?”

“I spend more time here than in my actual office. Cam has set up a conference room you guys can use.”

Aaron kept his counsel as they walked through the museum and towards the labs where Dr. Temperance Brennan and her staff were housed. Aaron knew of Dr. Brennan, he often looked over reports of cold cases she had consulted on, and he knew Spencer knew the forensic anthropologist. Aaron smiled to himself at how Spencer collected professors like he collected his books. Aaron ignored the sharp stare he got from Booth.

“Bones thinks she knows what the weird markings are on the bodies, but she wants to hold off until she has confirmation of her suspicions.”

“Smart. I haven’t met Dr. Brennan, but I know Gideon has met her and Rossi worked with her on a cold case that he was writing about recently. He was impressed with her. Even took her out to dinner.”

Booth chuckled under his breath as they piled onto one of the elevators. Aaron felt the curiosity of his team through the emotional tethers he had to them. Aaron used them in the field to gauge their emotional pile and when it was time to send them for rest and food, or when to push them. Right now all he felt was them wanting to know what was going on between him and Booth.

“Well, Rossi’s reputation is not unknown to us in the DC office.”

Aaron actually laughed as he shook his head. The elevator stopped, and they all piled out towards the security doors right outside the lab. Booth used his pass and typed in the code that unlocked them. The group passed through, and they all walked towards where three bodies were laid out ready for examination. Spencer didn’t hesitate as he grabbed gloves, and a mask slipped them on and joined Dr. Brennan who was currently examining one of the bodies. Aaron didn’t try to stop him. This was one of Spencer’s skill sets.

“Dr. Brennan.”

“Spencer, I’ve told you to call me Temperance.”

“I know, but it feels weird. I read your reports of the other six victims. I wanted a good look myself.”

The two Dr.’s talked sotto voice as Spencer watched Dr. Brennan work.

“Booth! Glad you’re here I’ve got some information on the soil and the insects that were found....” An enthusiastic, curly-haired man in a lab coat, goggles, and gloves walked over with folders in his hands.

“Jack?” Aaron was startled to see the man whose parents had been a fixture at Aaron’s parents' infamous parties.

“Aaron? What are you doing here?”

“On a case. I didn’t know you were here in DC. Last I heard was you...” Aaron trailed off as Jack made a slashing motion across his neck.

“You two know each other?” Seeley asked as he crossed his arms standing close to Aaron.

“We met on a case a few years ago before the BAU went to a team model.”

“Oh. Well, that’s good. Let me introduce you to everyone else.” Aaron knew Seeley wasn’t exactly satisfied with his answer, but neither of them wanted to make a scene. Angela was an interesting person and one Aaron thought would get along well with Penelope.

Zach Addy had Aaron wondering if he was a Guide who was suppressing his gifts. There was something in his emotional pile that was setting Aaron off, but he knew it wasn’t really his place to bring it up. He might mention something to Dr. Brennan after the case was over. Though, watching Spencer with Zach, Aaron thought maybe they knew each other. He would talk to Spencer later to see what he knew. A guide suppressing their gifts wasn’t someone that should be ignored, too many serious issues could come up over time. As an Alpha Guide, Aaron knew it was one of his responsibilities to help those who might be having a hard time with their gifts.

Angela had proved to be excellent at her job and already had several sketches and clay models of the victims' faces.

“These are amazing, Miss Montenegro. I’ll have our analyst get them out there and see if anyone recognizes any of them.”

“Please, call me Angela.”

Aaron smiled as he shook her hand, he wasn’t wholly unaware that she was a beautiful woman, but just like with Spencer, Aaron would never act on his attraction. The low growl coming from Seeley had Aaron side-eyeing him and glaring. Something was going to come to a head, and it wasn’t going to be pretty. Aaron just hoped they were behind closed doors when it did.

____________

“You and Booth were mated weren’t you?”

Aaron looked up from the files that were scattered around on the conference table in the room Dr. Saroyan had let the BAU spread out in. It was almost luxury accommodations compared to some of the police stations they had to work out of over the years. Dr. Brennan was leaning in the doorway, observing in a way that reminded him of how Spencer discerned the world around him.

“That’s a rather old fashioned word, but yes. Though I don’t see how that knowledge relates to the case or us working together.”

Dr. Brennan walked further into the room after closing the door and sat down near Aaron. She leaned forward and had a contemplative smile on her face.

“There’s too much tension between the two of you for there not to be a prior relationship. Plus, your spirit animal keeps showing up in my office when Seeley is in there. Only mated pairs do that. I don’t use the term lightly, Agent Hotchner. Mates have a profound meaning in a lot of cultures, and we have shied away from those meanings and devalued them in our Western Society. For agricultural and what we call primitive societies, mates are respected. Sentinel and Guide mates are revered. Please, I don’t mean offense.”

Aaron threw down his pen and leaned back in his chair and took a good long look at Dr. Brennan. The wry smile on his face had her smiling back.

“Yes. We were mated, as you say. But...it’s personal.”

“Booth has always been honest with me in our personal interactions. He talked about you in more abstract terms when we began to work more closely together and gained more trust with each other. He deeply regrets his actions, all though I can understand you not wanting to stay in the situation.

“However, Booth has changed. He’s grown into a man who has battled his demons and has stayed sober. He also goes out of his way to stay away from any form of gambling. I’m telling you this because I can observe how careful you both are in your interactions, but I can feel that part of you and Booth that makes you more reaching out to each other. Ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away.”

Aaron took a deep, steadying breath and looked out the window of the conference room to see Spencer, Angela, Jason, and Elle in a seating area talking with files laid out in front of them. The ability to break into groups and spread out was refreshing, and Aaron had welcomed the solitude the team was giving him.

“You’re a Guide yourself, aren’t you?”

“I didn’t know until I was much older. I’ve been trained by the center and have been able to handle my gifts on my own. Look, I’m not telling you to get back together, but I think you two need to at least talk to calm down the tension between you two.” Brennan stood up and began to walk out of the room. “If you need some privacy, you can always use my office.”

Brennan left, and Aaron knew she was right. He and Booth needed to at least talk to each other to try some kind of resolution. The tension between them was affecting the team, and that wasn’t good on the best of cases, this one looked like it wasn’t going to be quick, or easy. The plus was everyone could go home or crash at the DC offices bunker. Aaron finished off his coffee and put everyone and everything except the case out of his mind and got back to work.

Three hours later, Aaron had the two whiteboards set-up with what they knew of each victim and possible murder weapons. He was on another cup of coffee, he lost track of how many he had when someone came up next to him and handed him a bottle of water.

“You’ve had too much coffee, Aaron.”

Aaron turned and looked at Seeley for a moment before he set his cup down and took the water.

“You don’t need to take care of me, Booth.”

“Someone needs to.”

Aaron turned back to the murder boards to study them. His mind and heart a storm of emotions.

“You lost that right, Booth.”

“Would you just stop. Please, just...stop fighting me. Let me do this!” Booth’s voice was near cracking with the emotions that were pouring off him. Aaron’s hand twitched like he wanted to touch, to sooth his Sentinel, but that was a road he didn’t want to walk down. Taking a deep breath, he opened up the water and downed half of it before setting it aside. Giving Seeley this much may not be as big of a hardship as he was making it out to be.

“All right. All right, I’m sorry.”

“There’s a sandwich and salad on the table. Eat.” Seeley turned on his heel and left the room. Aaron turned and walked over to see that it was one of his favorite sandwiches from one of the places he and Seeley used to go to on weekends at the Academy. Clamping down on the memories, Aaron sat and ate. The team was arriving back as he finished his sandwich and started to eat his salad. They all had food as well. The team ate together as they updated Aaron on what they found, which wasn’t much, but every little bit helped. Aaron said nothing about the food, and when another bottle of water appeared on the table, he said nothing.

____________

Almost a week into the investigation the Jeffersonian now had almost twelve bodies, all in sets of three, all in various states of decay. Brennan, Spencer and Dr. Addy were working on making a timeline, Angela was working on more sketches and facial reconstructions.

Families had started to come forward, and DNA testing began. Aaron was in Brennan’s office looking through some of her anthropology books to see if he could find what was making the peculiar marks on the bodies.

Seeley had come in and dropped off food and several water bottles as well as some coffee from a small coffee shop not far from the museum. Aaron knew it was his Sentinel instincts and the team had learned by the third day into the case to let Seeley do these small tasks for Aaron. Mostly bringing him food and making sure he rested. Aaron was getting annoyed by the behavior. They were no longer bonded, even if a part of the bond still existed it was tenuous at best.

Absently Aaron opened up a bottle of water and started to sip as he put the books he was looking at away. The more he dug, the more he considered the idea that the marks were from some sort of religious ritual item. Aaron knew that he should have let Spencer do this part, but something about the marks was familiar and Aaron was trying to figure out where he had seen something that would make that kind of wound. Closing the book he was looking through, Aaron leaned back against the couch and closed his eyes, giving himself a few moments to clear his head.

“You should get some rest. If you don’t want to leave, Bones’ couch is actually a futon thingy. She has blankets and pillows in a box under where you’re sitting.”

Aaron slowly opened his eyes and looked over to see Seeley leaning in the doorway. He took a few moments to gather his thoughts together and used stacking the books up off to the side to give him time.

“Please stop, Booth. Just- stop trying to take care of me.”

Seeley frowned as he slid his hands in the pockets of his pants and looked down at the floor. Aaron stood and grabbed Brennan’s books and put them back in their places on the bookshelves behind her desk.

“I...it’s...”

“Instinct. I know that, but we aren’t bonded, Booth. We haven’t even been anywhere near each other for the last ten years. Please, just stop.”

Aaron was done shelving the books and was about to pick out some other ones he saw on religious artifacts when he felt and saw out of his peripheral vision that Seeley had come to stand closer to him than he had been during the whole of the investigation. Leaning on the bookcase, Aaron turned just his head to look at his Sentinel.

“I can’t turn this off, Aaron. I can’t stop what I’m feeling either.”

“Booth...

“Stop that! Stop calling me Booth.” Seeley shoved away from the bookcase and started to pace. Hadrian kept pace with him with Shadow by Hadrian’s side. The spirit animals were making their displeasure at their respective Sentinel and Guide known.

“What the hell am I supposed to call you?”

“You could call me Seeley, Aaron.”

Aaron set the books down on Brennan’s desk then leaned his back against the wall as he watched Seeley pace with the spirit animals making noises at him. Aaron hung his head as he pressed his fingers to his temples.

“Why are you pushing this? We are in the middle of an investigation. We’re all frustrated with the progress, and you come in here pushing at things that should be left for later.”

Aaron had forgotten how fast Seeley was then he found himself penned in against the wall with his Sentinel right there in his face mere centimeters away.

“Because we have got to stop dancing around this. The tension between us, the rest of our teams are feeling it. You have to stop fighting me, Aaron. Please. If we go our separate ways after this case, I’ll understand, but please let me just...” Seeley closed the gap and laid his head against Aaron’s. His breathing was rough and ragged, and Aaron felt his need to touch. Being this close to each other was making the bond flare up, and as much as Aaron wanted to push Seeley away, he also wanted to keep him right there. The confusion was painful, and Aaron knew he should be thinking of Haley, but he couldn’t, not at this moment. All he was thinking was Sentinel. His Sentinel. Who was in distress because Aaron kept pushing him aside and near dismissing him. He was feeling Seeley’s pain through the sliver of the bond that they shared.

Aaron pressed back as he wrapped a hand around the back of Seeley’s neck. He had a decision to make. Keep fighting his Sentinel’s instincts, or give in and let Seeley do what he needed to do. Aaron knew it was his decision and he needed to give Seeley consent. This wasn’t giving into a demanding Sentinel, his own Guide instincts were stressed to the limit. If he gave in, it would be for them both. He could always rescind his consent, and Seeley would respect his boundaries, just like he had been over the last week.

“Seeley, look at me.”

Seeley looked up at Aaron and what he saw was pain and anguish. He felt it himself but tried not to let it transmit down the bond. He knew that was wrong as well.

“Okay. I’ll stop fighting you, but please stop growling at Spencer.”

Seeley chuckled as he smiled and Aaron didn’t even try to stop the feelings inside of him at that familiar smile. At that moment he remembered the good times they had shared.

“I’ll do my best. But you feel something for him.”

“He’s a good friend. That’s all.”

“You’re attracted to him.”

“That may be, but I wouldn’t do anything about it. He’s much younger and a subordinate. Besides, I’m still married.”

Seeley growled, as did Shadow and Hadrian. Aaron knew Shadow didn’t like Haley, but there really wasn’t anything he could do about that.

“Can I ask something.”

“You can ask, doesn’t mean I’ll answer.”

“I want to kiss you right now. I want to remember what it felt like, if only for a moment.”

Aaron knew this was probably a terrible idea, but he wanted it as well. Even if to just settle his Sentinel and they could get past this whole thing that was happening between them, then the price of a kiss was the least he could do.

“Yes.”

Seeley moaned in the back of his throat before their lips even touched. Aaron’s hands were pinned to the wall by Seeley as his mouth was taken in the most tender kiss Aaron had ever had from Seeley. Usually, it was always a fight for dominance, but he had already decided to submit to Seeley. The almost choking tether of tension between them broke, and Seeley was plastered against Aaron, his lips not stopping their gentle assault on Aaron’s mouth.

This felt too damn good, and when it became almost too much of everything, Seeley pulled back. The Sentinel was calmer than he had been since stepping into Aaron’s office.

“Please, it’s late, and you need rest.”

Aaron looked at his watch finally and saw that it was long past two a.m.. He was mentally and emotionally exhausted.

“All right, I’ll lay down for a little while.” Aaron waited for Seeley to pull back and let him go. He walked back to the couch and quickly figured out how to make it into a bed. His jacket and tie were already off to the side, Aaron shed his button up as well as shoes, socks, and belt. He emptied his pockets, then reached under the bed and found the box with pillows and a blanket.

“Bones gets in around six, but she usually goes to the bone room first. I’m going to leave her a message to let you sleep.”

Aaron was about to tell Seeley not to do that, but he didn’t want the fight that would bring on when he had just given his consent to Seeley to let him take care of Aaron.

“That’s fine. I might be up at that time anyway.”

“Aaron...”

“Don’t push, Seeley.”

Aaron slipped into the bed and let out the proverbial breath he had been holding. The light in the room went out, and the shades were drawn. A moment later the door was being closed, and Aaron was beginning to drift off into sleep. Aaron barely registered someone slipping into bed and pushed out of his mind how good it felt to be wrapped up in his Sentinel. He hoped they would get a break on this case, he really wanted an end to it and to be out of Seeley’s radar once more. The hand soothing him, making him fall asleep faster had him dreaming of things that, to him at least, could never be.

____________

Three days after the night Aaron had spent in Brennan’s office he found what it was he was looking for.

“I found it. I even know where I can get one.” Aaron showed Brennan a picture of a Japanese Buddhist Vajra.“This is a sacred Buddhist object, I don’t know why someone would use it as a weapon. It’s supposed to be used symbolically in Buddhism against evil. Three is also significant in Buddhism. It can mean the three planes of existence, or the three forms of Buddha himself. We won’t know until we find the person doing this, but I believe we are looking for someone who has deeply twisted the Buddhist teachings.

“There is a temple here in DC that I know someone who is a practicing monk. He has not taken a vow of silence so I think I can get an audience and ask him some questions.”

The team all had looks of shock on their faces as Aaron explained what he knew.

“How do you know all of this, Hotch?” JJ asked as she looked at the book. Brennan had a notebook in front of her and was sketching the Vajra. Aaron knew she was going to compare it to the marks on the bodies.

“I spent a few months there several years ago.” Aaron didn’t offer any more explanations even though he knew the team was curious. It was personal to him, the team didn’t need to know. The curiosity he felt coming from his Sentinel only had him raising his brow. Seeley would figure out that it was a little after Aaron had broken the bond between them.

“I’ll go make the phone call. I’ll take Dr. Brennan with me. Reid, I want you to do a deep dive into the different forms of Buddhism. I believe our Unsub leans towards the Japanese version rather than Indian, Tibetan, or Chinese. It’s a little different, but we need to know how different.

“Gideon, we’ve gotten more calls from possible family members. I’d like you and Morgan to follow up on that. Booth, coordinate with Garcia to find out if she has come up with anything linking the victims now that we had started identifications.

“I have a feeling we are running out of time before the next victim shows up.”

Aaron handed out more assignments. He had JJ working with Angela, and Elle he put with Reid to help him out. After he was done, he moved off to make the call to the local Buddhist temple and the Monk he had gotten close to when he was there. The call was short, and Aaron was granted an audience. He was smiling when he hung up as he slipped his phone in his pocket.

He went to find Brennan so they could get going. Twenty minutes later, Aaron was driving towards the Temple which wasn’t too far away from the Jeffersonian.

“You stayed there after your bond separation, didn’t you?”

Aaron knew the question was going to be asked. Brennan, at least, was no-nonsense and for some strange reason, that was a comfort to Aaron. She would ask, but she was also respectful which made Aaron trust her.

“Yes, I did. I took a six-month vow while I was there. My service was playing my guitar for the other Monks and  time spent in the kitchen.”

“I spent three months in Tibet. It was an interesting experience. I found that I learned how to contemplate and how much meditation really does help to center me.”

“I think a certain friend of mine, one I think you might actually like, he would be shocked. I spent time here.” Aaron pulled into the parking lot with the other visitors that came to view the temple and spend time wandering the beautiful gardens. “Jaw-Long has tried to get me to give up my life of violence. We’ve kept in touch over the years, and he is one of the best men I’ve ever known.”

Aaron knew Brennan didn’t know what to say to that and thankfully she didn’t push anymore. They exited the vehicle and made their way inside. Aaron greeted several of the Monks who were walking around and answering questions the visitors had. Those practicing a vow of silence were on the inside of the temple tending to various duties. They looked up and smiled, Aaron gave the customary short bow in return.

They were shown further into the Temple and left inside of an office. Aaron didn’t have to wait long when his friend came through the door.

“Namaste, Brother Jiaying.” Aaron bowed with his hands in the prayer position, Brennan did the same.

“Namaste, Aaron.”

After greetings, Aaron straightened up and was engulfed in a hug from the Monk.

“It is good to see you, Aaron. Come sit. And you, Dr. Brennan, are not unknown to me. I have followed some of your work. Plus, your books are quite exciting.” Jaw-Long smiled as he pulled a chair up and had Aaron and Brennan sit. “Now, what is it you need to speak with me about. Everything is all right with Haley and the children?”

“Yes. They’re fine. What I want to ask about is....it isn’t pleasant Jaw-Long. There have been a series of murders. Twelve, in fact. They were killed, I believe, using one of these.” Aaron stood and walked over to the bookcase behind the desk. On one of the shelves was a Vajra, just like what he had pictured in his head.

“The marks on the bodies match the kind of mark this would make. And, everything about this case revolves around the number three.”

Jaw-Long stood and took a deep breath.

“This is rather disturbing, Aaron. Why would anyone use a deeply sacred object like this to commit such crimes.”

“That’s what we are trying to find out, Brother Jiaying.”

“Please, Dr. Brennan, you can call me Jaw-Long. No need for formalities in this office.”

“Thank you.”

“Jaw-Long, is there anyone you’ve dealt with that may have been expelled from the monastery? Or maybe someone who has been studying here that seemed a little off, or someone who you or some of the other Monks may have been worried about?” Aaron slid his hands in his pockets as he turned away from the bookcase to face his friend.

“We have had to turn several supplicants away recently. And, yes, If I recall we did have to ask a couple of young men to leave. The others were feeling uncomfortable around them.”

“Why is that?”

“I cannot put my figure on it. The young men's affect was...it was as if they had nothing inside of them. They would look at you, but there was just nothing there.”

“Do you have their names?”

“Yes. Aaron, if they have done something...”

“It isn’t your fault. Sometimes we can do everything right, try to help those who need it, but it doesn’t always help.”

Jaw-Long moved over to the desk and booted up the computer. Contrary to many people’s misunderstanding of Buddhist Monks they did not shun technology. Most just chose not to engage. There was a place for it, and Jaw-Long was one that acknowledged its usefulness. He took a moment and wrote down a couple of names and was even willing to give Aaron their last known addresses.

“If it were anyone else, I would not easily give up this information. But if one or both of these men are harming others, I must help.”

“Thank you. Do you have any idea why they might be doing this?” Aaron went into more details on the case, but not enough to jeopardize the investigation.

“This sounds familiar...” Jaw-Long stood and walked over to a bookcase in another area of the office. He was perusing the books, which looked very old to Aaron. “Ahh, yes. A very obscure, ancient legend. Here, a God, one that had faded away into obscurity, Si Teng. Here you can read it for yourselves, but I must ask that you read it here and do not take this text out of here. It is quite old and one-of-a-kind.”

Aaron let Jaw-Long set the book on the coffee table and handed each of them a pair of white gloves. After donning the gloves Aaron and Brennan sat and read through the text carefully turning the pages with just their fingertips. The ritual outlined three stages to obtain deity. When they got to the end, both Aaron and Brennan knew what was happening. It was a bastardization of the ritual and twisting of the Buddhist faith all in one.

“Thank you. This helps more than you know.”

“Anything for you, my friend.”

Aaron and Brennan stood and started to leave Jaw-Long’s office, but after Brennan cleared the doorway, Jaw-Long called Aaron back.

“You are troubled, my friend and it has nothing to do with this case.”

Aaron leaned against the wall near the door and crossed his arms over his chest. He wished Shadow was there, but the spirit animal had been spending time with Seeley.

“Seeley was the one to bring the case to us. Some days I think I should have handed it over to another team.”

Jaw-long leaned against his desk, his red and gold robes flowed around him, and his own spirit animal, a gorgeous and colorful mandarin duck sat on his shoulder. The animal was as beautiful and humble as Jaw-Long himself.

“Or, maybe the Spirit Plane brought you two together for a reason. When you first bonded, I don’t believe that either of you was ready, emotionally or spiritually. You both had a lot to work out in your own lives, Aaron. Maybe, the universe is telling you it’s time to come back together.”

“How do I trust him, Teacher? Love that isn’t enough.”

“Ahh, so you do still have feelings for him.”

Aaron rubbed the back of his neck and tried to look anywhere except at Jaw-Long.

“It isn’t enough. I don’t know what to do.”

“Offer friendship. Start somewhere to see if the two of you could ever be what you were. If the relationship is as harmful to you as it was before, then you can say without a doubt that neither of you should be together. But, if your Seeley has grown and changed with an awareness of self, then would it not be a disservice to you both to not see what could be?”

“Teacher...”

“Aaron. I am not your teacher any longer. I am your friend and always will be.”

Aaron looked at his friend for a few minutes, letting his emotions settle.

“I don’t know what I want, Jaw-Long. I may not even be able to figure it out before this case ends.”

“There are no time limits, Aaron. Don’t put that pressure on yourself. Take your time, and you should include Haley in your decision. She is part of this as well.”

“I know. I know this affects more than myself.” Aaron pushed off the wall, bowed towards Jaw-Long and straightened back up. “Thank you. And for the record, you will always be a teacher to me whether you like it or not.” Aaron smiled as Jaw-Long laughed. Aaron left, still confused but the tension he had been holding onto eased. He hoped this would help him deal with Seeley better than he had been.

_____________

After getting the names from Jaw-long, the case finally had a break. Aaron and Seeley were the point men in interrogating the two men. They were separated into two different interrogation rooms, at the moment, the two men were going after who they thought was dominant in the relationship.

The reports from CSU’s preliminary investigation came through and after Aaron’s team had gone through the apartment the two men shared, there was more than enough evidence that they were involved. Now, it was just a matter of breaking them down and getting a confession.

Aaron was watching Seeley and Brennan, Shadow was in the room on top of the table, Aaron knew his spirit animal was being intimidating.

“You two are scary, you know that?” Spencer spoke as he moved to stand next to Aaron.

“We were always good at this part, Our teachers at the Academy often commented on how we gelled and could be intimidating to a suspect.”

“Why aren’t you in there now?” Spencer didn’t take his eyes off of what was happening in the room.

“Needed a break. We’re going to interview the partner in a few moments. I think I want you to go in there with Brennan. Look submissive, our suspect is rebelling against a dominant personality. I’ll pull Booth in a moment.” Aaron was standing with legs apart, and arms crossed over his chest.

“He thinks I’m some kind of threat to the two of you. Why would that be, Hotch?” Spencer turned and waited for Aaron to look at him.

“I knew you were eventually going to ask. However, right now is not the appropriate time to have that discussion.”

“Hotch..”

“Reid. We’ll talk after the case is over.”

Aaron wanted to give himself time to provide Spencer with an appropriate answer. He hoped that after their talk, he wasn’t going to lose a friend. Aaron used his comm to talk to Seeley, pulling him out of the room. He got a glare for his troubles, but at least Seeley listened to him. Spencer went in with his own bag of tricks. There was a point where Brennan caught on and put on an air of submissiveness. It was working, as well as the knowledge of what the suspect was trying to do.

“I almost wanted to fight you on this, but it looks like you were right.”

“Our problem was always that the two of us are very Alpha males.”

Seeley chuckled, and Aaron let himself smile a little.

“Look...after this case...if you want to keep in contact I am willing. We can start with e-mail. Work up to more.” Aaron slid his eyes over to look at Seeley who had his gaze intently on what was happening behind the glass.

“If you are willing. I am too.” Seeley turned his head towards Aaron. The two of them stared at each other for a few moments, then Aaron handed him a slip of paper with his e-mail address on it. Of course, Aaron had put it in code. Seeley glared at him and shook his head. “Gonna make me work for it, aren’t you?”

“Of course.”

“Come on, let’s see if we can break the other one.”

Aaron and Seeley walked down the hall and entered the second interrogation room. This was the weaker partner and didn't take long for him to break.  When faced with an Alpha pair like Aaron and Seeley his instincts were to give it all up.

The clean up didn’t take long from there, and by the time Aaron was filing paperwork back in his office in Quantico he was happy, the whole thing was over. He had promised Spencer that they would talk and the two of them left with Aaron taking him to dinner. When he finally got home, he was glad that Haley wasn’t fighting with him, she let him have his space, then she was there to comfort him.

Later that night as he did a little work in his office Aaron heard the ping letting him know he had a new email. When he opened it he smiled despite himself.

You forget I work with genius’.

Have a good night, Aaron.

Seeley.

It was short, but it made Aaron laugh. He sat back and contemplated if he really did want to start this. Aaron looked out of his office door and thought about Haley for a few moments. Turning back to the computer, he composed a short response and sent it off all the while hoping he wasn’t making the biggest mistake of his life.

_______________

January 2006

Aaron was working at home that day, Haley had gotten sick, and Jack had a fever. It was Friday and Aaron had called the school to tell them he was keeping Tyler and Faye home. He had gotten everyone breakfast, checked on Haley and made sure she took her medication, and brought Jack into his office and set up the playpen so that Aaron could watch him while he worked.

After their case with Major Crimes six-months prior, Aaron had been spending more and more time e-mailing and even texting online with Seeley. It was to the point that Haley was fighting with him about it. She wanted him to make a decision, his Sentinel or his Family. Aaron wasn’t sure he could give up either one.

He was in the middle of finishing up a report when there was a soft knock on his door, which was open. He wanted to be available for the kids if they needed him. He looked up and saw Tyler standing there looking nervous.

“Hey, Kiddo. What’s wrong?”

“Can I talk to you, Dad?”

Aaron set his pen down and walked over to the couch in the room. He patted the seat next to him, and Tyler rushed over and sat, leaning in close to Aaron.

“What’s up, Kiddo?”

“Faye and I heard you and Mom fighting.” Tyler looked down at his hands in his lap. “Are you going to get a divorce and leave us for your Sentinel?”

Aaron took a few calming breaths and sat back against the couch pulling Tyler closer to his body.

“You deserve honesty, Tyler. I don’t want to you lose you guys. I love you so very much. You, Faye, and Jack are the most important people in my life. Your Mom is pretty important to me too. I would never just leave you. If, and this is a big if, Son, if I decided to bond again with my Sentinel, I would talk to all of you before that happened. And, I would want you to meet him first.”

“Mom said something happened a long time ago.”

“It did. You were still a baby, so I don’t suspect you remember much. What happened between myself and my Sentinel is very personal, Tyler. There are things that I won’t talk about without his permission. Do you understand?”

“It’s grown-up stuff?”

“Kind of. It’s like when your friend Audra was having problems at home, and she told you all of that in confidence. You wanted to tell me so that I could help, but you didn’t want to say anything without her permission. You encouraged her to talk to me, remember?”

“Yeah. And you helped. Her Mom and Dad are doing better. And, she’s in my class at the center and stuff.”

Aaron smiled and ruffled Tyler’s hair.

“Right. Even though a lot happened between my Sentinel and Myself, some of it is his story to tell. He went through a lot of counseling to get better.”

“Do you love him?”

Aaron looked at a spot on the wall just above Tyler’s head and tried to read his own emotions. He was about to answer when Faye walked in and crawled into Aaron’s lap.

“What’cha doin’?”

“Your brother said you heard your Mom and I fighting. You can tell me anything, sweetheart. Especially if it’s something that is bothering you.”

Faye sighed dramatically as she leaned back against Aaron.

“We didn’t mean to hear you, Daddy.”

“I know, Sweetheart. You never have to apologize. And you know I will always answer any questions you guys have, okay?”

“Are you and Mommy gonna break-up?”

“I don’t want to. We have a lot to talk about, and you guys don’t need to worry about that right now, okay?”

“Okay, Dad.” Aaron gently pulled on the bonds he had with the kids and checked their emotional state. They both felt satisfied with Aaron’s answers for now, but even he wasn’t sure what was going to happen in the future.

“Okay, Daddy.” Faye slid off Aaron’s lap and kissed his cheek before running off out of his office. She caught herself and turned back looking sheepish, making Aaron smile. She slowed down and walked out of sight. A moment later Tyler followed after her.

Aaron set aside his work and went upstairs to go check on Haley. When he entered the bedroom, he turned on the white noise machine and the dampeners.

“How are you feeling?”

“Better. Thank you, Aaron, for staying home.” Haley smiled a little, but it didn’t reach her eyes.

“Am I being selfish?”

“I think, Aaron, that I’m no longer what you want. Seeley has always been between us whether you want to admit it or not. I know why you stayed away from him for so long, and I understand, but he changed, didn’t he?”

Aaron scrubbed his face as he crawled on the bed and pulled his wife into his arms. Thankfully she didn’t fight him.

“I want to believe it. He is repentant, but I...”

“You need to make a decision, Aaron. Me and the kids, or Seeley. That doesn’t mean I would ever keep you from them, but they are picking up on the tension between us.”

“They heard us fighting. I think Tyler and Faye are manifesting. It was good to put them in the classes early.”

“Aaron...”

“I know, but I’m not evading on purpose. I just- I need time, Haley.”

“Fine. Just don’t take too much time.”

Aaron held Haley close, but even he could feel the difference in the tether he had formed with her. She wasn’t a Guide, but Aaron had bonded with her, and for a long time, they had been happy. Until they weren’t. They were both growing apart, Aaron was gravitating towards his Sentinel, and Haley, well Aaron didn’t want to think about what Haley was doing behind his back. At least he was honest with her, he hoped eventually she would be honest with him. He didn’t know what the near future was going to hold, but Aaron had a feeling that the choice, at some point, was going to be taken out of his hands.

_______________

February 2006

Aaron had his eyes closed as he held Spencer’s hand while he slept off the overdose. Aaron’s throat was tight with emotion feeling guilt for not stepping in before things got this bad. Aaron was also making sure this was staying quiet. They were at a smaller, private hospital where Aaron could easily bury what was going on. He was not going to let Spencer ruin his career. He had a lot to live for, he just needed to remember that and know that people were there for him to help him.

The young man lying on the bed had been through more than anyone his age should. This was just one more blow that he didn’t need. Spencer had become important to him over the almost four years Spencer had been on the team. He was too young, but Aaron knew he wasn’t fragile.

The quiet knock on the door had Aaron standing up and moving to open it.

“Seeley, thank you for coming.”

“You said it was important.” Seeley swung his gaze towards the bed and lifted a brow. “What’s going on?”

“I didn’t really know who else to call. He needs more help than I can give him.” Aaron moved outside of the room and beckoned Seeley to follow him. They found an empty room where Aaron shut and locked the door so that they wouldn’t be disturbed. “Spencer is going to hate me for what I’m about to tell you, but I’d rather he hate me than to see him continue down this path.

“A few months ago he was abducted by an Unsub with verified DID. He tortured Spencer and shot him up with Dilaudid cut with street grade heroin. I knew there was a problem, and I should have reported him, but it would have set him back and-”

“You care about him.” Aaron felt Seeley’s eyes on him as Aaron paced the room.

“I do, but not how you think. Yes, I will admit to the attraction, but Spencer has become a good friend, almost like a little brother and I can’t...we can’t lose him.”

“I don’t know what I can do, Aaron.”

“You could help him. I know some of why he kept taking the Dilaudid. He’s a Guide without a Sentinel. That’s his story to tell, I won’t break that confidence. I haven’t asked anything of you, Seeley, since we’ve been communicating again. But, I’m asking it of you now.”

Seeley paced after Aaron stopped and leaned against the wall. Aaron thought back to the case that brought his Sentinel back into his life and reawakened that ache inside of him. He tried so hard for his family, but he was giving more and more of himself to the job just to try to ignore the pain he felt every day. He couldn’t put it back in the box he had locked up tight. Seeley and the kiss they had shared all those months ago were indelibly burned in his brain.

“Aaron...” Seeley brushed his hand over his hair and threw it up in the air as he blew out a breath in frustration. “How do you know he’ll even accept my help?”

“Because you’re outside of our circle. You’ve been there. You know, at some level, what he’s going through. I’ve only begged for one other thing in my life, and you didn’t keep that promise, I’m begging you now. I can’t lose him, and goddammit Seeley, you owe me!”

Aaron felt the moisture in his eyes as he tried to keep that tight lid on his emotions.

“I do. I owe you for a lot.” Seeley took two strides over to Aaron and before Aaron could protest arms wrapped around him and held him close. “I owe you more than you know and I fucked it up. I don’t wish for much in my life, but I wish I never lost you.” Seeley buried his face against Aaron’s neck and that small connection between them flared to life, and it ached so much that Aaron wrapped around Seeley trying to hold on to what he had once lost.

Shadow was bumping his legs, but Aaron ignored his spirit animal.

“Please, Seeley,” Aaron’s voice cracked as he whispered just loud enough for Seeley to hear. Pulling back was the hardest thing Aaron had ever done and fleeing the room might have been cowardice on his part, but he needed space to get control once more.

This was the first time that Aaron had been in physical proximity to Seeley since the case that brought them together again. The nightly chats and emails were one thing, but feeling how close they had actually become hurt and Aaron knew he was on a precipice.

Haley was still upset over the hours he worked, and something was definitely going to come to a head, he hoped he was prepared for the worst. For now, though, all he wanted was for Spencer to get clean and to get his life pulled together. He hoped he had done the right thing.

______________________________

October 2007

Aaron stood outside of Seeley’s door, two suitcases and a go bag in his hands. He knew Seeley knew he was out there, but Aaron needed to make the first move. On the drive over Aaron thought this was a terrible idea, but he was fraying, and he needed more help than anyone could give him. The last few months had been beyond stressful, Haley leaving and taking the kids was the last straw. He couldn’t be alone right now, and he wasn’t going to take Spencer up on the offer of his second bedroom. That would be a disaster that would end up in heartbreak. He knew he would take from Spencer whatever comfort the younger man offered, even it meant physical comfort. Aaron knew himself enough that it would end up hurting both of them and only help in the short term. The temptation was just too great, and Aaron didn’t want to ruin a precious friendship.

Aaron finally knocked and swallowed against the lump in his throat. Seeley opened the door, and the look of concern that came across his face was almost too much for Aaron. For a moment he hesitated and was about to turn around and leave.

“Aaron, what happened?”

Aaron gripped the handles of the cases hard to give himself something to hold onto.

“I don’t really want to talk out here.”

“Right, sorry. Come in.” Seeley stepped aside, and Aaron walked in, setting his luggage off to the side. He had never been inside Seeley’s apartment, but it immediately felt comfortable and inviting.

“Come on and sit.” The hand on Aaron’s back felt better than it should have. The weight, the heat, all felt amazing even through his layers of clothing. “Would you like something to drink? I don’t have any alcohol, I don’t keep any in the place.”

“Some water would be fine.” Aaron wondered why Seeley felt the need to mention no alcohol, but frankly, Aaron was glad he didn’t have any. He was not in the right frame of mind to be drinking, that was the one reason he didn’t go to Rossi’s. Dave might be one of his best friends, and while he would be sympathetic, given the man’s track record in marriages, he could easily talk Aaron into drinking too much.

“Here.” Seeley handed him a glass, and Aaron took it if only to have something to hold onto. Seeley sat on the couch, and all Aaron could think of was wanting to feel his Sentinel wrapped around him taking all the pain away.

“What’s going on?” Seeley looked like he wanted to reach out, to touch again, but Aaron could tell he was waiting for his cue from Aaron.

“Haley left. She took the kids and left. She gave me an ultimatum, and I wasn’t trying to call her bluff, but she felt like I had. So much has happened in the last few months I don’t...I don’t have anything left, Seeley.” Aaron let go of that tight control he always had on his emotions and felt the moisture in his eyes gather there. The frayed edges were unraveling even more, and Aaron wasn’t sure what more he could take. “I didn’t want to be alone. I knew I could have stayed with Spencer, and in my current frame of mind, it would be a terrible idea.” The flare of jealousy had Aaron looking up at Seeley whose fingers were so close to touching him all Aaron needed to do was move a few inches to make that physical connection, no matter how small.

“What do you need, Aaron?” Seeley made the decision for the both of them and wrapped a hand around Aaron’s wrist and gently tugged until Seeley was stretched out on his back on the couch, head on the arm, his legs stretched out with Aaron lying on top of him. Aaron didn’t want to sigh as those once familiar arms came around him and held him close.

Frowning Aaron buried his face against Seeley’s cloth covered chest. He didn’t want this to feel as good as it did. He didn’t want to crave Seeley’s touch or the lips that grazed his forehead, but he and Haley had barely had any intimate contact over the last few months. Aaron was finding himself touch starved, which was cruel for a Guide of his level. The emotional upheaval had battered against Aaron’s shields hard enough that there were cracks he was having trouble shoring up. He knew what he needed, but Aaron was afraid of initiating a bond he wasn’t ready for.

Aaron had never contemplated cheating on Haley, but Haley had not exactly thought the same. A part of Aaron couldn’t blame her, ever since he had stayed in communication with Seeley, Aaron had been feeling restless, spending more time in the office, finding excuses to take the kids out without Haley. Aaron had been pulling back from his wife, and he felt split in too many directions. Aaron needed focus, but little by little, the things thrown at him over the last months was making him lose that focus. Aaron knew he needed more, he needed physical intimacy, and it was killing him just a little inside because the only one who could smooth all those unraveling edges was the one person he didn’t trust.

“What I need I’m afraid of. I need to not feel so much. My shields are fraying and I know I keep leaking my empathy onto my team. I’m falling apart here and I’m opening myself up to too many things that could hurt me, but I didn’t know where else to turn.”

A hand rubbed up and down his arm, and it felt better than it should have.

“I know what I need, but I’m afraid, Seeley. I can’t handle a bond right now.”

“We don’t have to bond, Aaron. But, if you let me, I can help.”

Aaron lifted up on one arm and looked down at his Sentinel, and it was like the years melted away, and he saw the Seeley Booth he had met that first day at the academy. He saw the man he had fallen in love with, and frankly still was, looking at him there was patience that the younger Seeley had not possessed. Time had mellowed him somewhat, and Aaron knew it might be a mistake, but he needed to let go, to safely open up to someone to help with all of the mixed-up confusing emotions that churned up inside of him.

“I want to trust you, Seeley.”

“Aaron, this doesn’t have to be anything more than what you need.”

When Seeley cupped his face with his hands, Aaron closed his eyes and surged forward those few inches and pressed his lips to Seeley’s. The returning kiss had the years between them melting away, and it was almost like the first kiss between them.

“I just need the pain to stop,” Aaron laid his forehead against Seeley’s, his breathing ragged as all of that bottled up emotion started to leak out.

“Shh, Aaron. I can help you, but I need to know how far you’re willing to go. How much you’re willing to let me in.”

“Touch me, I just need to be touched.”

“Let’s go to the bedroom. We’ll be more comfortable there.”

Aaron hesitated only a moment then crawled off of Seeley and waited for him to stand up. Seeley took his hand and pulled him towards his bedroom. Once there, Aaron didn’t hesitate to strip out of his clothes, but he was shaking with too much of everything inside of himself.

“Hey, come here.” Seeley laid a hand on Aaron’s naked hip, and the other he cupped Aaron’s jaw holding him close. “You’ve been dealing with too much, haven’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Aaron’s breathing was ragged, and his heart was racing. He needed balance and being in his Sentinel’s space made him realize he had not had true balance in years. Taking a shuddering breath, Aaron knew he had just buried everything inside of him and tried to let being with Haley be enough. But, in truth, no matter how much Aaron loved her, she wasn’t enough. No one would ever be enough except for his Sentinel.

“No.” Aaron took control, he needed to, and for now, Seeley was letting him. The kiss this time was harder, more desperate and Aaron let go of his shields unleashing his emotions and his empathy onto his Sentinel. Seeley was holding on, but barely. Falling onto the bed Seeley used his Sentinel strength and held Aaron down for a moment to regain some control.

Seeley held Aaron’s arms above his head with one hand wrapped around Aaron’s wrists, the other he skimmed along as much naked skin as he could. Aaron moaned as those fingers gently at first, then more firmly stroked his body, touching him in ways that not even Haley had touched him.

Seeley bent down and took Aaron’s mouth in a searing kiss. When he pulled back, Aaron saw his eyes dark with want and need.

“Let me feel all of you, Aaron. Don’t hold back. I won’t be pushed into a bonding drive, but even as limited of a connection as we have, I can tell how out of control your mind is. I promise not to push for more than what you can handle.”

The mental and emotional struggle lasted for a few moments, but Seeley kept touching him. After releasing his hold on Aaron’s wrists, Seeley used both hands, and his mouth to map out Aaron’s skin. Aaron knew that reaffirming the imprint would happen. He wanted to trust Seeley, and the only way to find his center again was to let the man in.

Dropping the last of his shields, Aaron heard the sharp intake of breath from Seeley. He felt his Sentinel in his mind, soothing the pain, helping to reorder his thoughts and emotions. Hands soothed his flesh and every touch, every kiss helped to let some of the things he had been dealing with go.

The wet heat around his aching cock had Aaron closing his eyes and fisting his hands in the sheets under him. The only thing in his mind was this. The closeness, the intimacy, the touch of his Sentinel, the craving his body and mind had for the man slowly taking him apart.

“Touch me, Aaron.” Seeley lifted his head to look Aaron in the eye. “Touch me and know that I won’t ever hurt you like I did before. Touch me and let all of this pain you are feeling go.”

Aaron hesitated only a moment as he wrapped his hands around Seeley’s shoulders, touching his Sentinel’s flesh for only the second time that night. The softness was a surprise as Aaron began to let all of those things inside of him go one at a time. Seeley, with unspoken permission, went back to pleasuring Aaron with his mouth, taste was now reaffirmed. The orgasm didn’t rush out of him, it was more a gentle rolling, but it ignited the need for more. Seeley’s mouth was pressed once more to Aaron’s, tongues tangled, tastes mingled and the moan Aaron let out sounded filthy even to his own ears.

“Please, Seeley..” Aaron gripped Seeley’s waist and knew he wanted, no needed more. That final connection between them was a need pulsing deep inside of him, even though he was afraid.

“I need you to be absolutely sure, Aaron.”

“Yes. I need to feel you inside me. It’s been a while, though.”

“We’ll take as much time as you need.”

Lube was found, condoms discussed, but Aaron was willing to take the risk, which was relatively low for both of them. Seeley took his time, using his fingers to not only stretch Aaron but to bring him pleasure as well. When Aaron felt ready, a pillow was pushed under Aaron’s ass, lifting him up to a better angle. Seeley took his time with this as well, letting Aaron get used to him. Aaron touched more urgently, his fingers dug into Seeley’s flesh as he was breached long and slow.

Then, Seeley bottomed out, and it broke those last barriers Aaron had been holding onto. They moved together, flesh against flesh, the slide of the hard cock inside of him, hands gripping hard Aaron cried out as Seeley’s mind touched his once more.

Wrapping arms and legs around Seeley, Aaron held on as he was pushed closer and closer to release, both physically and emotionally. Seeley was thrusting harder and faster, his breathing ragged, but Aaron could tell he was keeping a tight hold on his own shields, holding back the bonding drive, and it made Aaron let everything out all at once, battering the both of them with the force of all that was inside of him. The release of emotions pushed both men towards an almost painful orgasm.

Aaron was still wrapped tightly around Seeley, finally letting the sobs that had wanted to break free, go. Seeley continued to touch and kiss until Aaron collapsed on the bed, his mind and body exhausted at the emotional and physical purge. He barely registered Seeley slipping from him, or the warm cloth cleaning him up. Warm covers and a warmer body wrapped around him and Aaron thought it might be foolish on his part, but he felt safer than he had in far too long.

_______________________

Aaron heard voices, and it pulled him out of the first deep sleep he has had in too long a time. One of the voices was distinctly female which made Aaron bristle a little. Before he jumped to conclusions, he sat up and saw that a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt was left for him. Sitting up he pulled on the clothes before walking in the bathroom and splashing water on his face.

“I hope this wasn’t a mistake,” Aaron said to himself as he looked at his reflection in the mirror. He may have settled more, but his relationship, if there could be one, with Seeley was far from resolved. Standing up, Aaron dried off his face then walked back into the bedroom where he grabbed his phone and checked the time. It was well after 3 a.m. Slipping the phone into his pocket, Aaron walked out of the bedroom to see what was going on.

Aaron stopped and was a little shocked to see Dr. Saroyan standing there with a coat tightly wrapped around herself.

“Dr. Saroyan.” Aaron stepped further into the room and stopped when he was even with Seeley.

“Agent Hotchner. I ah...well, this is awkward.”

“Cam I’m not going to lie to you. This is exactly what you think it is, but it’s complicated.”

“No, Seeley. It’s really not. I had a feeling when Agent Hotchner helped with the case that there was something between you. You’re his Sentinel, aren’t you?”

Aaron felt a bit of pride, happiness, and even some love leaking through the connection. The knowledge that Seeley still loved him shook him a little, but Aaron kept his face stoic as he watched the woman in front of him. He admired her strength and the fact that she actually smiled.

“Yes.”

“I am going to assume there is a history between you two that you want to keep private.” Dr. Saroyan laid a hand on Seeley’s covered arm and smiled again. “Don’t worry, Seeley. My world isn’t going to fall apart. I care about you, but I think you have something far better. Here, you’ll want this back.” A key appeared in her hand, and she pressed it into Seeley’s.

“Cam...”

“You don’t have anything to explain, Seeley.” Dr. Saroyan leaned up and kissed Seeley on the cheek, then came over to Aaron. “Whatever happened in the past, I just want to tell you that Seeley is a good person. I’ve seen him change a lot. He told me once that he lost the best thing in his life and he would forever regret it. I know it’s not always easy to forgive and to move on, but I think he’s worth it.” Dr. Saroyan then kissed Aaron on the cheek, turned around and walked out the door.

“Aaron...”

“You don’t have to. You built a life Seeley, and I can’t get upset about it. Were you two seeing each other?”

“It was more off and on. I knew Camille a few years ago, and when she came to the Jeffersonian, we connected again. She’s a remarkable woman, and beautiful. But, I knew we weren’t going to last.”

Aaron needed something to drink. He walked to Seeley’s kitchen and found the glasses and got himself some more water. That act shouldn’t have felt as natural as it did. Being in Seeley’s apartment shouldn’t feel as natural as it did. Aaron chalked it up to being in his Sentinel’s space.

“Do you want to talk about what brought you to this point?” Seeley leaned over the counter he was sitting at and watched as Aaron leaned back against the sink in the kitchen.

Aaron took a drink of the water from the glass he was holding then looked down at the floor. He was feeling vulnerable and open in ways that he hadn’t since breaking the bond with Seeley more than eleven years prior.

“I guess it all started in Georgia. I ah, I never properly thanked you for helping Spencer.” Seeley waved it away making Aaron smile. Then continued. “Haley was staying away from the house more and more, then we got some clues on a case Gideon had been chasing most of his career. Frank Breitkopf got so far into Gideon’s head I should have pulled him from the case. I should have done a lot of things differently when it came to Gideon. Like recommending he retire, or be put on consulting or teaching.

“When Breitkopf came back...” Aaron rubbed his forehead and tried to stop second-guessing himself.

“Aaron, I knew you were having issues when that monster came after Gideon. You’re emails- I could tell things were bad.”

Aaron’s laugh held no humor in it as he pushed off the sink and set the glass in hands down.

“I wanted to ask for your help, but I was afraid to. I’m still nervous about us, Seeley.”

“I know. We can talk about this, which I know is not either of our strong suits. There is someone that can help us. Someone that Bones and I have been talking to.”

“Why?”

“I ah, I shot a clown.”

“I’m sorry, what?” Aaron furrowed his brow and tried to comprehend what Seeley was saying.

“Not a real clown. An ice cream truck clown.”

“Seeley..”

“What? It’s was annoying me, and the case was frustrating, and Bones and I were fighting.”

Aaron didn’t want to laugh, but the picture in his head had him laughing anyway.

“So, we were told that we had to see a counselor. Together. But, and I will never admit this to anyone else, he’s...he’s good. Name is Dr. Gordon Wyatt, but he likes to be called Gordon Gordon. Don’t ask.”

Aaron laughed even harder which Seeley just watched and waited till Aaron was done, but the quirk of his lips told Aaron he was more amused than he wanted to admit.

“I don’t know.” Aaron was serious again as he watched his Sentinel. Silence reigned for a few moments as Aaron took the glass and rinsed it out. He walked over to the living room and sat down on the couch. Seeley followed and sat down at the other end.

“What happened in Arizona, Aaron?”

Aaron had taken to letting Seeley know when they were out of state. He wasn’t sure why he did it, but there was something so right about being accountable to his Sentinel. Aaron had not wanted to look too deeply at the why’s at the time. Or the late night chats he and Seeley sometimes had when neither of them could sleep.

Aaron talked about the college and how he knew Gideon was losing it, but it was hard for him to bench his former mentor. The fallout from the case, Haley pushing him towards the White Collar position that Strauss was offering, then Michigan and Haley’s ultimatum.

“I had just come home from Michigan. I didn’t want to know about the phone calls that she was getting, or how she left the house at odd hours while I was on suspension. Then I was in the house, kids gone, Haley gone and the silence was deafening. I needed to not be there, so I packed bags and after a long debate with myself, came here.”

Seeley laid a hand on Aaron’s and made him look Seeley in the face.

“I know the commute sucks, but you can stay here. I want you to stay here.”

Aaron took a few moments to contemplate what Seeley was offering.

“The couch pulls out into a bed and I don’t mind sleeping on it. My second room is for Parker, but I think there is a possibility for a second chance here, Aaron. I know I don’t deserve your trust, but I’m willing to work on rebuilding that trust.”

Aaron stood and walked over to the window and looked out at what he could see of the city. Slipping his hands in the pockets of the sweats he was wearing, Aaron considered Seeley’s proposal. Could he open up again to his Sentinel? Closing his eyes, Aaron laid his forehead against the cool glass and pressed a hand there as well. He was glad that Seeley was giving him the space to consider his proposal.

He ran through all of the pros and cons, the good and bad and knew that indeed there was no choice. He wanted to begin to trust Seeley, not just with his body, but with his heart and with the possibility of a bond.

“If I move in, you know there isn’t any way that we’ll be able to be this close and not at least sleep in the same bed. And, I’m willing to speak with this Gordon Gordon. But, one drunken scene or any gambling and I can’t, Seeley. I couldn’t go back to that, and I don’t want to put my children through that. The next few weeks are going to be hard enough.”

Aaron watched with wary eyes as Seeley uncurled from the couch and walked towards Aaron. Seeley laid a hand on the back of Aaron’s neck warming the skin there.

“I promise you, Aaron. I know I fucked up the first time with us, and the truth is I haven’t been the same since you broke our bond. It took me sobering up and getting help to see what it was I lost.”

Aaron wanted to believe him, to trust him, but it would take time and a lot of work on both of their parts.

“I want to trust you, Seeley.”

“So we take baby steps. One day at a time.”

Aaron took a deep breath and laid a hand on Seeley’s chest and couldn’t help wondering if he was making a huge mistake. Aaron knew he needed to take this chance, but he wasn’t going to hope. Hope was for the foolish, he was realistic but optimistic as well.

“One day at a time.” Aaron agreed.

Moments later they were sliding into bed, Seeley acting like the big spoon wrapping himself around Aaron and Aaron tried not to want this all the time, but he did. Being with his Sentinel soothed something deep inside of him that had been fractured and only time would tell if he had made the right choice in taking this chance.

_______________________

“Do you always have that look when you are assessing someone you’ve just met?” Dr. Gordon Wyatt was nothing like Aaron thought he would be. They had met in the man’s garden at his house, tea had been laid out for them, complete with sandwiches, scones, and cakes. Aaron wasn’t fooled by the Dr’s seemingly affable nature. There was an intelligent, shrewd, cunning man behind the facade.

“Habit of the job.”

“Hmm. Has your job made you hypervigilant?”

Aaron cocked his head to the side while Shadow paced the garden reflecting Aaron’s sense of mild unease.

“When you chase serial killers for living hypervigilance is a must.”

“What do you think it would cost you to relax in public? To realize that not everyone is a serial criminal?”

Aaron almost laughed. Gideon had written that very question into the interview handbook for the BAU.

“You seem amused by my question.” Gordon leaned back in his chair with an inscrutable look on his face.

“That’s a question right out of the BAU psychologists handbook. Jason Gideon and I revised it together.”

Gordon leaned forward and clasped his hands together and rested himself across the table.

“I had a feeling you were going to be much harder to open up than Seeley. I noted the psychology degree as well as your JD in Criminal Law.”

“You got a JD?” Seeley asked looking very impressed. Aaron couldn’t help feeling a stirring of pride at his Sentinel’s obvious happiness.

“Yes. I...it was after I broke our bond. SWAT made me take time, and I needed to do something because I was driving Haley crazy. So, I went back to college in Seattle. It wasn’t difficult to get in the program.”

“Good for you. I know you had wanted to before.”

Gordon cleared his throat, but the amused look on his face put Aaron a little bit at ease.

“I can already tell that if you two had been able to weather the storm, so to speak, your bond would have been profound.”

Aaron looked off to the side and sighed deeply. He had been told that at the Seattle Center, which didn’t help the situation at that time. He felt Seeley staring at him and closed his eyes. Apparently, he had not been told the same.

“From your expression, I can assume you were informed of this.”

“Yes. After I initiated the bond separation.”

When Aaron looked over at Seeley, he looked gutted. Aaron couldn’t help him, he needed to work through that information on his own.

“Agent Booth, you didn’t know did you?”

Seeley closed his eyes, and the guilt that settled inside of him had Aaron reaching out and wrapping his hand around Seeley’s wrist.

“No. The Center didn’t tell me.”

“And why do you think that is?”

Seeley blew out a frustrated breath as he tapped the table in front of him.

“Because I probably would have done something stupid.”

“Agent Booth, what do you think you would have done?” Gordon sat back with a cup of tea in his hand and gave Seeley that same penetrating gaze. Aaron was impressed and wondered if he was a Guide. It would make sense at how comfortable he felt in the man’s presence.

“I would have gone after Aaron. Probably make the situation worse than it was. I wasn’t in the best place, and Aaron was emotionally compromised. I could have easily manipulated the situation.”

Aaron turned to look at Seeley, guilt, fear, and pain all mingled on his face, and the emotions shone in his eyes. Seeley was honest. Brutally honest and it made that tight fist Aaron had around his heart lessen just a little. If Seeley could bleed a little, then maybe Aaron could too.

“At the time? I probably would have let you. The pain...” Aaron’s eyes filled with moisture and in seconds Shadow was rubbing his face against Aaron’s legs, sending comfort. Seeley reached over and laced his fingers with Aaron. “It was crippling, but thankfully the Center was good, and they helped me shore up my shields. It took a long time for me to come out on the other side.”

“And going through all of that is where your fear of another commitment to your Sentinel is coming from.”

Aaron looked up at Gordon and nodded.

“Yes. I want to trust him again. I want to be able to look at him and see the man he has become. I want him to see the man I’ve become. We’ve changed, and I know that if we bond again, this time there will be no undoing it. I need to be sure.”

Seeley looked gutted and hopeful at the same time. Aaron felt that hope coming down through the tattered bond they still shared. The next few months would test both of them. Either that final thread would snap completely and cause irreversible damage to both of them, or they would learn to grow and trust again. Not just in themselves, but believe in each other once more.

“I can tell you two still have something of a bond about you still, but it’s rather weak.”

Seeley swallowed and gripped Aaron’s hand, Hadrian was laying across his feet lending as much comfort as possible.

“Yes. The center doesn’t know why there wasn’t a full, clean break. We’ve gone and had the testing, and even they were surprised after reading our files. The Alpha Guide believes it might be a product of how deep the bond already was. Hearing that it would have been profound, I wonder...” Seeley grabbed his tea and sipped. Aaron could tell his throat had gone dry, and he was having trouble keeping grounded.

“I’ll be frank with you two. I sincerely believe there is something extraordinary here. You’re bond, despite the bond separation, and the intervening years prevailed in some capacity. You have a  rare and unique opportunity to move forward. To eventually become the pair that you were obviously meant to be.

“To do that, I need you to be as open and honest with me as possible. This process will not be easy. Difficult emotions will have to be dealt with. Scars will open up, and the both of you will have a difficult road ahead, but I hope that if you do the work, your bond will grow and strengthen and nothing will be able to come between you again. But, your honesty is key here.”

Gordon looked between them and leaned forward. Both Shadow and Hadrian walked over to the Doctor and nuzzled his hands.

“I need to know here and now if you are each willing to do the work.”

“Yes,” the two men exclaimed at the same time.

“All right. Since I know most of Agent Booth’s background and the things in his past that have been rather hard for him to deal with, I’d like to know more about you, Agent Hotchner.”

Aaron took a deep breath and looked long and hard at his Sentinel, feeling some of that love he had once known from the man. Aaron turned back to Gordon and gave him a speaking look.

“My Father started to abuse me when I was six....”

__________________

May 2008

The case in New York changed everything. After the adrenaline of trying to save Kate’s life wore off, Aaron collapsed in pain. The Doctors were amazed that he had been able to actually stand, let alone limp over to his friend and keep holding her spine together. They chalked it up to his Guide abilities kicking in on overdrive, but now he was in a drug-induced sleep. They didn’t want him falling into a coma, which would be dangerous territory for a Guide who was only partially bonded. The Sentinel and Guide doctor on hand made the suggestion to put Aaron into a light forced sleep to let his body heal. Spencer still held his medical power of attorney while on cases and could override Aaron if he thought his Boss and Friend was acting like an idiot.

Aaron slowly woke up on his own, but he knew two things at once. One, there was a body in the bed with him, and two he was not in New York. Aaron could feel it. He was going to assume he was in Bethesda at the Sentinel and Guide wing, but he wasn’t sure. He wasn’t sure of anything except that Seeley was curled around him, the bond between them was stronger than it had been before, but he knew they hadn’t had sex.

Physical intimacy had slowly come back into the relationship, but penetration had still been off the table. Aaron’s trust in Seeley had been growing, and he knew that it wasn’t going to be long before they took that last step.

“Sleep,” the gruff voice in his ear growled at him. Seeley felt odd, and Aaron wasn’t sure what it was he was getting from his Sentinel, but he knew it had to be related to what happened to him in New York.

“Seeley,” Aaron turned in the bed so he could look Seeley in the face.

“Aaron,” Seeley growled again, “Sleep.” It felt like a demand, which was unusual for his Sentinel. The only time he ever got dominant with Aaron was when he worked himself too hard. He was about to say something more when Seeley opened one eye and glared at him. Seeley grabbed him around the waist and turned him back onto his other side so that Seeley could wrap fully around him. Aaron was still in physical pain, but Seeley’s comforting presence and his warmth lulled him back to sleep. He would worry about all of the other stuff later.

Aaron woke up again mainly to use the restroom and get something to drink. Bottles of water, protein bars, and toiletries in the bathroom were left for the two of them. Shadow was curled on the small couch in the room with Hadrian. Aaron looked around and figured out that they were in a bonding suite. Taking a deep breath, which hurt like hell, and walking wasn’t great either, especially with the cast on his leg, but he would deal with it later.

“Aaron, bed. Now.”

Aaron sighed and knew then what was wrong with his Sentinel. Seeley had gone feral and was not coming out of it yet. Aaron wondered if Seeley had seen the tape of the bomb blast somehow. He knew Seeley had been worried when Aaron had given him the vague details about the case.

“Seeley, you have to come back.” Aaron crawled back into bed as best he could.

“More sleep. You need to heal.”

Aaron wanted to fight with him but knew he wouldn’t stand a chance. He turned onto his other side and let Seeley once again wrap around him. After only a few minutes Aaron fell back to sleep.

For two more days, they followed a similar routine. Seeley allowed a shower at night, with him taking care of Aaron, then they slept with Seeley wrapped around Aaron. Each day was a little better, and Seeley was coming out of the feral state he was in. By the fourth day Aaron could move around easier, he was also breathing easier, and Seeley finally allowed a Doctor to come in and look at him. The doctor wore white cloth gloves to examine Aaron because even a small amount of a strange scent on him made Seeley a bit crazy.

“Guide Special Agent Hotchner, you’re a lot better than when you were flown in here. Your cracked ribs are healing nicely, but I still want you to wear the brace for at least a couple of weeks. Your tailbone is also healing well, and many of the scrapes, burns, and bruises are already fading. You are incredibly lucky. Your Guide healing abilities accelerated what a mundane would take weeks to heal.”

“When can we get out of here?”

“When your Sentinel stops growling at people is when you can get out of here.”

“I will have some proper food brought in, I’m sure you’re tired of protein bars and snacks.”

“Thank you, that would be fantastic.”

Seeley just glared at the doctor until he took his hands off Aaron and put his medical bag back together.

“I’ll take care of it right away. If you can get him to stop being stubborn, I feel confident in letting you leave tomorrow.”

Aaron thanked the Doctor again and waited until the man left the suite.

“You have to stop being so stubborn. I want to go home, Seeley and we can’t if you stay like this. They won’t let you leave.” Aaron reached out and touched Seeley’s cheek. “We need to talk about what happened, you know that.”

Seeley leaned into that touch before pushing Aaron down on the bed. Seeley took a deep breath, Aaron knew he was grounding on his scent. The kiss wasn’t unexpected, nor was the hand snaking its way under the hospital shirt Aaron was currently wearing.

“I can’t do much, Seeley. I’m still a mess.”

“Need to feel you.” Seeley’s voice deepened, and Aaron knew he was holding on by a thread. His Sentinel needed to reassure himself that Aaron was alive and healing well. Aaron shed the shirt and awkwardly got his pants off of him. The cast limited what they could do, but Aaron was willing to give to Seeley as much as he could.

Seeley didn’t waste time as he shed his own clothes, then he was claiming Aaron’s mouth in a kiss as he carefully covered Aaron’s body with his. Aaron couldn’t help the moan deep in his throat as Seeley pressed down against him. The most they had done over the months of living together was hand jobs or frottage. Aaron hadn’t been ready for sex since months earlier when he had been fraying at the edges.

“Please, Aaron.”

The pleading in Seeley’s voice Aaron could hear the emotions and the pain his Sentinel was in. Their bond hummed with anticipation, and Aaron knew this would be a big step of trust on his part because there would be no way he could hold back his shields this time, he was also too emotionally open. If they had sex now it would mean fully bonding with Seeley, and this time there would be no breaking the bond, it would kill, or severely damage them. There was a lot they still needed to work on, but they had gotten through the worst of it all with Gordon Gordon, but now he was gone, and there was a new psychologist that Aaron wasn’t sure about. He was just a kid.

Aaron knew he was overthinking when he looked in his Sentinel’s eyes once more. Trust. That’s what it all came down to. Did he trust Seeley again with not just his heart, but his mind and his soul as well. They would be connected even more than the first time. The bond was pushing at him, and Aaron made his decision by wrapping his hand around Seeley’s neck and pulling him down and kissing him.

“Yes, Seeley.”

Seeley was scenting him, using hands, mouth, and tongue to taste him and feel him. Slowly, agonizingly slowly Seeley was taking him apart. His body might be bruised and battered, but his heart was filling in ways it hadn’t since he had initially broken their bond. The love he kept locked down deep inside he let out, and it overwhelmed him. Seeley reached up and wiped the silent tears from Aaron’s face.

“I’m sorry, Aaron. For everything.” Seeley’s breath caught as he once more took Aaron’s mouth in a kiss so gentle, yet firm that Aaron felt every emotion Seeley was trying to convey. Aaron believed him. He genuinely believes him this time that he really was sorry for everything that happened before. It was just pretty words to placate his Guide. Aaron had opened himself up and looked deep into Seeley’s very soul and found the heartbreak and sorrow he had been carrying around all these years.

“Shh, Sentinel. I’m right here. I promise I'm never going to leave you again. I don’t think I could. Take what you need. I give it to you willingly.”

Seeley closed his eyes, and Aaron felt him fighting himself. Aaron turned on his side with the casted leg under him, and his good leg curled on top. Seeley sucking in a breath and knew what Aaron was telling him. Seeley stood on shaky legs and opened drawers to find the lube he knew was there.

Getting on the bed, Seeley tried to be as gentle as he could preparing Aaron. Holding Aaron’s uninjured leg up, Seely fumbled for a moment but was able to push into Aaron. He gently thrust in, taking his time to make sure he didn’t hurt his Guide. Aaron felt it when Seeley bottomed out, his shields fell and Seeley was let entirely into every part of Aaron’s being. Seeley was also wide open, he had been the whole time Aaron had been under.

The sex was slow and gentle, but it was enough to cement their bond. Aaron felt it wrap around the both of them, almost like a golden thread being woven around them. Seeley wrapped a hand around Aaron’s hard cock while he laid kisses across his neck and shoulders.

Aaron’s breathing hitched as he was pushed further and further towards the release his body was begging for and when Seeley came inside of him it triggered his own orgasm, and he came in Seeley’s hand.

Aaron felt Seeley nosing at his neck and the base of his hairline, growling and making little satisfied noises. After a few moments, he pulled out and stumbled into the bathroom to clean up, then brought a warm washcloth to clean Aaron up. When Seeley slid back into bed and curled around Aaron, the bond thrummed between them alive and healthier than it had been in years. The two of them were pulled under into sleep, but this time it was a deep, restful sleep, and Aaron hoped when they woke he would get some answers.

___________________

“I’m so sorry, Aaron. You were friends weren’t you?” Seeley asked, and Aaron was glad that his Sentinel was mostly back to his normal self. There were still some rough edges, but they would work that out as they relearned how to be with each other in the bond. They would see if they could get out of the hospital later that day.

“Yes. We had kept in touch a little bit. I...” Aaron didn’t know how to feel. His friend was gone, and he felt the grief over that, but the part that made him Guide was rejoicing in that he was once more bonded to his Sentinel.

“You don’t have to be okay, Aaron. I understand.” Seeley was wrapped around Aaron as they sat on the bed waiting for the doctor to come to see them. Seeley was leaning against the headboard, with Aaron laying against him, back to chest. Some of his cuts and bruises had faded, and he was feeling better physically. Emotionally he was a mess, but he figured part of that was his grief, the other part was the bond.

The knock on the door had both men sitting up more, but Seeley didn’t release Aaron, he had an arm wrapped possessively around him, his hand was splayed against Aaron’s stomach under his shirt. Aaron felt the comfort but also knew this was a display for the Doctor.

“Come in,” Aaron finally called out.

The Doctor slipped inside and noticed how the two were sitting.

“Sentinel Booth. May I approach your Guide?” The Doctor thankfully knew the protocols on newly bonded pairs.

“Yes, Doctor.”

He let Aaron go, and the Doctor slipped on a pair of cloth gloves before he did a quick examination.

“Well, your outward bruises and cuts are healing well. How does it feel to breathe and to move?”

“I’m a little stiff, but the breathing is better.”

“And Sentinel Booth? How are you doing?”

“If you’re asking if I’m still feral, the answer is obviously, no. While I am feeling a little rough, the rest is for my Guide and me to work out.”

The Doctor nodded, walked to the door and let a nurse in with a wheelchair.

“Well, I feel confident in letting you both leave. You have some paperwork to sign, and then I can let you go.”

They took care of the paperwork quickly, and Aaron sat in the wheelchair. Seeley was the only one to push him, he growled at the nurse that put her hands on the handles, then she stepped back. She had to walk out with them, explaining the liability issues. When Aaron got into the SUV and Seeley into the drivers' side, they started home.

“We still haven’t talked about what happened, Seeley.”

“We will, at home. I promise.”

Aaron took a deep breath and laid his head back. He had already checked his messages and responded back to the team, as well as Haley. Aaron talked to the kids and made sure they were okay. He wanted to see them but knew Seeley would want some more bonding time, and they really needed to have that discussion. Getting home, and wasn’t that a revelation that Aaron thought of Seeley’s apartment as home. He knew eventually they would need to talk about getting a house, but that could come later. At the moment all he could think about was food, rest, and once more being in his Sentinel’s arms. Feeling Seeley, and that connection they have always had, being strengthened once more gave Aaron a warmth deep down in his soul that he had been missing for a very long time.

Seeley helped Aaron up to the apartment and got him settled on the couch with his leg elevated. Seeley went to the kitchen, and Aaron closed his eyes and let himself explore the bond even more. A warm cup was pressed into his hands a few moments later as was a plate of food set on his lap.

Seeley sat down a moment later with his own cup of tea and plate of food.

“I think we need to talk about what happened.”

Seeley took a long sip from his cup and Aaron knew he was stalling.

“I heard that the case was taking a bad turn, and when I didn’t hear back from you after our last text’s, I had Angela look into what was going on.” Seeley frowned into his cup and set his food aside. Aaron could feel so many emotions coming from Seeley, the most potent being fear.

“I saw the explosion, Aaron. I saw it before it was reported on. I...”

“Seeley...”

“I went feral, Aaron. I was ready to run all the way to fucking New York if I had to. Even with our bond so weak, it still affected me, and I thought...when I didn’t see you, and the bond grew even fainter, I thought I was losing you.”

Aaron reached over and took Seeley’s hand and tugged until Seeley was practically wrapped around him, even if it was a bit awkward.

“I’m right here, Seeley. I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere.”

“Aaron,” Seeley still felt unsettled, and Aaron knew it was going to be a couple of days until the Sentinel inside of him calmed down, and his emotions evened out.

“I know things aren’t perfect. I don’t think they ever will be, but we continue to work on it, and I promise that I will always come home to you, Seeley. I know what you’re going to say, but I can’t give up what I’m doing. It’s become a part of me, a big part and I know you’ll understand, but I can’t give it up.”

“I would never ask you to give it up. I know we’ll figure this out, Aaron.”

Aaron felt the truth in Seeley’s words and knew, for the first time in far too long, that things between them were going to work out. He trusted in that part of him that made him Guide. He trusted Shadow and knew the spirit animal was happy with him again.

“I know we will. Right now, though, I’m exhausted and just want to sleep in our bed.”

Seeley sucked in a deep breath and nuzzled against Aaron’s neck. It was the first time since moving in that Aaron called it their bed. He did it deliberately, letting his Sentinel know that he was serious and that he was all in on the relationship.

An hour later, after a proper shower and Seeley helping him keep the cast dry, he was bundled up and laid in bed. Seeley slipped in behind him and held him close. Aaron had no trouble tumbling over into sleep as the bond deepened even more between them.

____________

Four Months Later

“Wow, this place is cool, Dad. This is yours and Uncle Seeley’s?” Tyler asked as he looked into the bedroom they had picked out for him. Faye’s was across the hall, and Parker’s was at the end. The nursery for Jack, which would grow with him, was on the same floor as Seeley and Aaron’s room.

The small party was a housewarming, and both teams and their significant others had been invited, as had Haley and Jessica.

“Yeah, kiddo, this will be your room when you stay with us.”

Tyler turned and hugged his father, then ran over and hugged Seeley.

“This is so cool, Uncle Seeley.”

“Yeah? Your Dad and I worked pretty hard on it.”

“I love all the spaceships! Where’d ‘ya get them all?”

Seeley laughed and ruffled Tyler’s hair.

“We found them lots of places. Maybe next time you can go with us.”

“That would be awesome!” Tyler hugged the two men once more and ran off.

Faye was standing outside her room and looked up at Aaron.

“This really mine, Daddy?” Faye bit her lip as she looked inside.

“Yes, baby it is.” Faye smiled wide as she looked around at the baseball posters of her favorite players.

She didn’t say much, just hugged Aaron, then Seeley and ran after her brothers.

“Those two are a handful.”

“You have no idea. They’re great kids. And they like you, Seeley.”

“It’s a little heady. We have four children, Aaron. This is...”

Aaron took Seeley’s hand and pulled him close.

“We knew the responsibilities we have when we started this again. We can do this, Seeley.”

Looking at Parker, who was smiling as he peeked out of the door of his room.

“Dad! I love my room!”

Seeley pressed his forehead with Aaron’s and laughed.

“That’s great, kiddo. Why don’t you go out with the rest of the kids? We’ll be there in a little bit.”

“Okay. Love you, Daddy. Love you, Uncle Aaron.”

The four months it took to find the house and get it ready to move in, the two Dad’s had spent as much time as possible getting to know each other’s children. There had been a long talk with Haley and during that discussion, Aaron had come to the realization that her ultimatum had less to do with Aaron’s hours and work, and more to do with how he was gravitating to Seeley. He had been at a standstill, and with the emotional and mental toll he had been going through, Haley made the decision for the both of them.

Aaron hated to admit that it was the best thing to do at the time. It forced him to make a choice, and before he knew what he had been doing, he chose his Sentinel.

“I will always choose you, Seeley. If you had come to me earlier, I think I would still have made a choice to be with you. But, I wonder if we would have been ready.”

“I think...I think the years we spent apart we needed to find ourselves. I needed to figure myself out. I needed to be better, and I never realized that I was becoming the man you needed me to be.”

Aaron pulled Seeley closer and kissed him gently, pouring all his emotions into that one kiss.

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe we both needed to grow. Maybe the first time, it wasn’t meant to be. But, I don’t want to dwell on the past anymore, Seeley. This house, our bond, and our new team, this is all that I could have asked for.”

“This will be interesting. An S&G BAU. It’s long overdue.”

“But, I’m glad we are doing it together.”

Seeley rubbed his cheek against Aaron’s and made little growling noises.

“Together.”

That was all Aaron had ever wanted. Him and his Sentinel, together.