a thousand years in the making
"O Earth, that hast no voice, confide to me a voice!
O harvest of my lands! O boundless summer growths!
O lavish, brown, parturient earth! O infinite, teeming womb!
A verse to seek, to see, to narrate thee."
- Walt Whitman
Although ancient, Aro was a simple man and there was one thing man truly wanted - immortality. In his human days, immortality was achieved by procreation, a privilege that Aro would never forget was stolen from him when his maker had ripped into his throat and venom had brought forth the demon the lived inside the man. The inability of vampires to have children had irked Aro so greatly that he, a philosophy scholar of twenty-five, had killed his own sire in a bout of madness. This inability still haunted him. Aro believed it haunted them all.
Vampirism was a close to immortality was one could become, but in truth, vampiric immortality was imperfect. Aro could still die. He'd proven that countless times before and, as of late, he'd had the urge to prove it again in the murder of his younger sister, Didyme.
His delightful sister, who he had changed into a vampire himself. Didyme, the living proof that Aro could love beyond his own ambition, proof that he was whimsical, proof that his ambition for immortality was very much alive. He'd never been so disappointed to learn that Didyme's gift was happiness. Compared to his own gift, he'd had thoughts for a while that his sister's position in his coven was essentially useless, Marcus be damned. She was a complication, a threat that Aro could ill-abide. In his ethics, in his worldview, the ends did truly justify the means and he was not shy of using any means at his disposal. It was this ruthlessness that had put the Volturi Coven in power and it was, in large part, his cunning that kept them there.
Still, to kill his own sister…Aro's contemplation about murdering his sister were kept to himself, but his wife was more clever than he gave her credit for. His true match on this entire world, throughout time and for eternity, Sulpicia knew Aro better than perhaps Aro knew himself.
"Regret shall haunt you, my love, if you take the mate of your friend and end the life of your kin," said Sulpicia, lips brushing against his ear, nails scratching down the fine arch of his brow. She is careful how she touches his skin and it makes him curious. Sulpicia so rarely attempts to hide her mind from him. "I do not wish to see you haunted."
"What would you have me do, then? Didyme tests my patience each day she tempts Marcus from the throne. He is necessary," Aro argues, voicing the thoughts that have been crawling through his mind, insidious and treasonous, for years. He requires Marcus' gift just as much as he requires Caius' tactical mind. Without either, the Volturi rule is precarious. He would not end up like the Romanians.
"My love," says Sulpicia, soothing and gentle. "I believe I have found a solution to your woes."
Aro's head rolls on his neck, ruby eyes lazily tracking his wife's form as she slips out of his reach and opens the door of their chambers. Sulpicia snaps her fingers, turning to Aro with an insolent smirk. Behind her, a waifish vampire of oil-spill dark skin appears, wide eyes locking onto Aro with intrigue. His brows rise minutely, but he waits until his wife has closed the doors, content to allow Sulpicia's ambition to reign free.
"This is Mele," she announces simply.
As it turns out, Mele is gifted with a remarkable ability - the transference of powers at a simple touch, the possibilities of which make Aro salivate. Oh, but what he could do with such power at his own fingertips. He thinks he understands what his wife intends, until she strokes his cheek and tells him of a plan that would soothe so very many of Aro's desire. There is hope in her touch, in her mind, a tentative thing that spoke of a desire long-suppressed. His brilliant wife had found a way around what the change had snuffed so effectively; or, at the very least, Sulpicia had a theory that she was determined to test.
Aro wants immortality; his wife longs for a family, for that which was stolen from her at the press of his venomous teeth to the gentle slope of her neck. For her, in apology of forever sealing her womb, Aro would entertain his wife, his dear mate. It is indeed an additional bonus that Sulpicia's desire would deliver his to him, as well.
He smiles, a sharp thing of too many teeth. Fierce, much like his love, and so very different from the humanity that had abandoned him all those years ago. "And you think such a thing is possible, my love?"
Sulpicia drapes herself over his lap, nails scraping over his scalp, unheeding of their single-person audience, who watches on with keen interest. "My love, I believe that you can make it possible."
And that is how Aro, already two thousand years old, becomes a father.
The Volturi must not know but that is not a problem for Aro. He is the secret-keeper. And anyway, Marcus is occupied with Didyme - who lives under Aro's mercy and a sworn oath that Marcus would not leave - and Caius has gone to war over dogs. He is very much left to rule at his leisure in Volterra. It suits him - and his plans - well.
The women he allows Sulpicia to pick. Over the course of several years, she carefully selects women that look similar to herself, for the purposeful fact that she is intent on reminding Aro of who exactly thought of this plan to ensure his immortality. It is a tedious process. Vampire strength so easily overpowers all-too breakable humans and his restraint of his thirst has grown lax. More than one human falls victim to his bite, but Sulpicia always returns with another that satisfies her requirements, be in weeks, months, or years later. He obliges. When he lays with the women, Sulpicia is at his side; when the only woman who makes it into the third month lives, Sulpicia is the one who minds her needs; and when the woman screeches and thrashes upon the stone floor, torn in two from the inside out, it is Sulpicia who takes the babe and holds the child aloft between Aro and Mele.
The transfer of Aro's power into a half-vampire infant is a curious concept and rather more painful than he thought it would be. Like a tug straight from his naval. For a disorienting moment, he finds his mind strangely silent, and fears that his own gift is lost to this process. But he allows it to happen, the moment passing within the next breath.
As the baby cries - dark hair, dark eyes, a mouth full of venom-dripping teeth - Aro is stock-still, watching as Mele frowns in contemplation and says, "It is very odd, but I do not think your gift will manifest in this child."
"Pardon?" says Sulpicia, holding the female infant in the crook of her arm. Her touch is gentle, vibrant red eyes alight with maternal affection that warms Aro. He wonders for his wife's health when the child is taken from the castle - as it had to be for them to keep this treacherous secret from the others. Arrangements have been made, though, and the child would not be too far. Rome, under the care of humans and Mele's watchful, wary eyes.
Mele shakes her head, brow furrowed. When she speaks, it is without confusion; when Aro touches the back of her hand, her mind is clear, scientific and as familiar as Plato's writings. "Although the transfer was successful, this child has no powers to speak of. Perhaps in a generation or two, should the child reproduce, then that is when the gift will come to fruition. It is a gift that must be inherited."
Aro does not comprehend the meaning of this inheritance until a golden-eyed vampire by the name of Cullen comes to his court five hundred years later and by that time, Aro is a grandfather. His first child, Arilpicia, had died in the birth of her son, whom was called Fozino and who was raised far, far away from the castle walls of Volterra.
Carlisle Cullen speaks of his vegetarianism just as easily as he talks about a human fool named Mendel and that is when Aro understands.
He will have to be patient. The guarantee of his immortality - of the greatness of his gift - will come to fruition, but it will take time. As Carlisle posits and as Eleazar agrees, the gifts of vampires are recessive, not dominant. Vampiric gifts are by chance, not rote.
If anything, this confirms for Aro the superiority of his guard, of himself. He contents himself to wait and watches as Sulpicia bides her time with visits to Rome under the guise of marveling at the humans and their progress.
Fozino is soft-hearted, idealistic and bright-eyed. He dies in the second World War, of which his participation was strongly discouraged in spite of Fozino's declaration that he had an obligation to the humans, an obligation to stop them from killing themselves. Aro and Sulpicia's mourning of Fozino is silent, private and wretched. He'd had a grandson - a quarter-vampire with no talent to speak of, but surely with Aro's nose. He had loved Fozino just as much as he'd loved Arilpicia, but this loss is more difficult to accept.
Their bereavement is comforted only with the knowledge that Fozino had taken a human wife, Nancy, and that she was already pregnant by the time Fozino left for war.
Aro's great-grandson, Charles, is given the surname of his adoptive American parents after his mother - Nancy - dies giving birth to him, as does seem to be the pattern of vampiric births, which are unaccountably violent. He has never laid eyes upon Charles Swan, but Mele is a reliable agent and he believes her when she assesses Charles Swan to be somewhat gifted.
"A shield, I think," she says thoughtfully on the night that Charles is taken from Italy in a contraption called an aeroplane. "But if you were to wait a single generation…"
Aro listens and he watches the life of his great-grandson through the eyes of others. Sulpicia's day trips to Rome all but cease; instead, she fabricates an interest in American cities. If she visits Seattle more than Chicago or New York, then none are the wiser save Aro, who eagerly watches his great-grandson grow into a man each time she returns from overseas.
"There is a girl," Mele announces on the cusp of the new millennium. "The girl, I believe, Master. Isabella."
Aro sits straighter in his seat, Sulpicia mimicking his attentive posture as Mele relates what she knows about the squalling creature - one-eighth vampire, hardly enough to count but enough to show promise - that has finally inherited his ability. Born in September 1999, Isabella Marie Swan already uses her gift, reaching out to touch the hands of her caregivers and make silent demands to see to her needs.
Aro is enthralled by the news - by the possibility. Isabella's gift is not quite like his own, but it is similar enough that he is satisfied. Mele posits that her own gift had somehow been transferred into Aro's bloodline, but he hardly cares. If Isabella is gifted twice-over, then a more stunning and impressive heir to him she will be.
"I must see this girl," he says, standing and reaching for Sulpicia, who shares the same enthusiasm. It is, in a way, also her great-great-granddaughter and she has not held a child since sweet-hearted Fozino.
With Didyme still alive and Marcus tamed, it is very easy to make excuses to leave Volterra at a whim. At Sulpicia's bidding, Aro takes Renata along as protection; his new guard is meek enough that neither of them believe she will tell their secret, even without Chelsea's interference in her loyalty.
The new age of technology in the human world makes such excursions very easy. A single chartered plane and fifteen hours later, Aro is gazing down at the heir of his power with awe while the child blinks calmly, looking up at his red eyes from the safety of her crib. He does not remember Arilpicia being quite so small or pink. It must be because Isabella is so human - except for the eyes. The mossy-green color is a remnant of his human life, but the variation of flecks - golden, cocoa, silver, gimlet - and the sharpness behind the gaze is all vampire. Superior.
Aro reaches out, a single thin finger hovering over the quiet infant. He waits, Sulpicia at his side, murmuring about how perfect the girl was, how even she could feel that the child was something other in a way that not even other half-breeds had been.
The babe stretches her hand to wrap around Aro's finger - still for a moment before gurgling in happiness, sending back a thought of cold and safe and thirsty through the link between their skin. Aro's breath catches.
Isabella is so obviously Aro's - it could be no other way.
He is besotted.
Aro keeps an eye on his Isabella far more closely than any of his other descendants. Perhaps it is because he is a thousand years older, wiser to the frailty of life that could be taken so arbitrarily. Perhaps it is because Isabella is the one for whom he has been waiting. Perhaps it is because Sulpicia has gone to great lengths to ensure that he would have some connection to this talented child and that makes it all the more easy to involve himself in her sweet, sweet life.
To Isabella, Aro is her great-uncle - a long lost relative of her father's who lives overseas in the motherland and who only wishes for some connection with a living relative. By extension, Aro comes to know his great-grandson Charles well enough through letters that he begins to think twice about changing Charles into a full-vampire. Time will tell, he supposes, and in any case, Isabella is always his focus.
Little Isabella Swan is the light of his very long life.
He follows her progression through the years with a keen eye, as does his dear wife, who is enamored with the girl as well. Isabella's life, thrumming with possibility, eases the grief of the death of Aro's other descendants. He cannot wait to truly meet the girl when she is old enough, to truly become her family, her confidant, her sire.
Aro is a patient man. To achieve true immortality, to return what has been stolen, patience is absolutely necessary.
A/N: WELL, I just tossed canon right on it's ass. If you didn't know: Didyme, Marcus' wife, really is Aro's little sister and he really did kill her because Marcus and she were thinking about leaving and Mele is from the Life and Death branch of the fandom and really does have the power transference (obviously used differently here). In writing this, I introduced an alternate-universe character and didn't kill anyone! Yay!
This is actually the first time in all my years writing that I'm doing, like, actual fanfiction. It's a Twilight re-telling, mostly because I wondered what might have happened in canon if Bella figured vampires out really fast without all of that internet research nonsense. So, there had to be a way for that to happen, which meant that her figuring it out had to be instantaneous, which meant that either she was like Alice or she was like Edward. I went with telepathy, but more specifically, I went with Aro's telepathy…mostly. I've always liked the idea of touch-telepathy, but while Aro's is like ALL AT ONCE, I'm going more Vulcan-esque in this version. It's not going to be exactly like either, but that's alright because she is only 1/8th vampire…
So, here we are. Stick around, kids.
As always, be brutally honest. I can take it.