Quite a lot of people here liked 'Purple Tinted Glasses' which is an Alternate Universe of 'The Collector', so I decided to post this story here as well. Fair warning: it is not yet completed.
Warning: This story is not exactly Cullen friendly.
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight.
23:42 p.m., December 21, 2004, San Francisco International Airport
Every now and then, life happened, and Fate loved to remind him (more like slap him in the face with a squiggling sea fish) that despite him being one of the most powerful beings in existence, he too was not exempt from being subjected to the burning pit fires of hell that was public transportation. More precisely, in this case, the waiting area of San Francisco Airport, where he presently found himself in.
If one wanted to pass fairly inconspicuously through the herds of people that dominated the civilised parts of the West Coast of the United States of America, especially after falling victim to life's thrown curveballs, and let it be said that life apparently loved doing so by sending whistling swans, yellow beaks first into his and, by extension, the Guard's poor, unguarded jet's engines, then-
"WAAAAAAAAW!" - He was not goingto killthatdisgus-
Why yes, if one wanted to pass fairly inconspicuously through the herds of people that dominated the civilised parts of the West Cost of the United States of America, one needed to master the Moste Difficulte Arte of Iron-Clad Self-Control. And he was not talking about plain old bloodlust here, never mind there being 178 humans in the waiting hall (including the bloodybansh-baby fifteen seats and three rows of waiting chairs down and to his ten o'clock), with beating hearts pumping warm, wet, bloody blood-red elixir of life at the leisurely pace of an average five to six kilometres per hour, depending.
No no no, bloodlust was, frankly, not worth straining his mental faculties to ponder about, even if his last meal was (he opened his eyes to grace the luminescent numbers 23:44 of the digital clock on the opposite wall with his dark gaze, for he was seated against the far wall of the hall, closest to the first class terminal, his eventual salvation) 591 hours and 17 minutes ago. He'd gone longer without. His consciously recognised record was 305 days in his worst depressive episode as of late in the year 1540 AD when his ardently beloved sister Didyme took her own life by setting herself on fire and flinging herself from the castle's tower moments before he could reach her and stop her.
Nearly half a millennia ago.
Didyme. Didyme. Didyme. Didyme. Didyme. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead Dead.
Didyme. Dead Didyme. Didyme. Dead Didyme. Didyme. Dead Didyme. Dy-
"Master?" Ah, sweet darling Renata. Always sensing when his thoughts started spiralling. Or just paying closer attention to his gloved hands which, for a moment there, had held fast to the armrests a smidgen too tightly. The indents were practically non-existent, unperceivable with a naked, half blind human eye.
No one will notice.
"The flight has been delayed for another hour and a half." Her voice was imbued with apology yet held a tinge of budding frustration. Sweet gentle Renata, even she was not immune to the perils of prolonged exposure to inefficient human means of travel. Excellent.
Collective groaning arose moments later as the herd read the announcement (he opened his eyes again and there it was, below the digital clock numbers, the unexpected but dreaded piece of information, which was announced mere seconds later by an unnaturally clear female voice "…the flight 67483 San Francisco – Seattle has been delayed for further ninety minutes due to the dense fog surrounding the airport's runways…" Figures San Francisco Airport would be the fogbound one, not the one in Seattle.
His journey home had been halted by the blasted birds in LA, where they left Jane, Demetri, Felix, Jacques (a young member of the guard, only two hundred years old, with a penchant for making people see reason), Lily (who had been changed in her forty-second year of her human life and barely stood taller than his late sister… and who had been changed in 676 AD while in process of assassinating the ruling dynasty's heir in Osaka, and was as strong as Felix and as fast as Aro himself). Oh, how he loved life's little mysteries. However, being trained in the 'forgotten' arts from the tender age of six and becoming one of the deadliest assassins in Asia at the time should, perhaps, be given some consideration.
And lastly, Emil. Their pilot. His newest and youngest acquisition. Emil was a rare soul with an affinity for flight which, surprise, surprise, and Aro very much liked pleasant surprises indeed, yes he did, transcended even to flying machinery, such as their poor, unguarded private jet and was, most probably, the only reason why they had safely landed in LA with busted engines only, rather than currently partaking in a lovely stroll through saltwater on the Pacific Basin, and still held possession of their belongings and souvenirs from Japan. Caius would be beyond incensed for months if Jane and Aro had lost his ordered (demanded, more like) katanas to some blade-hungry blue whale. Plus, the trek to mainland through water would have been an arduous one, given the depth of the ocean, in which even their superior vision would be strained to its limit to make path to the contin-
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWW!" that squealinglittlefu-
Aro's self-control was impeccable; at least he used to pride himself with the notion, before. Before. He should be facing infinitely graver circumstances for the craving of swearing to rise its hideous head, yet here he was, starting to doubt…
Thus, their jet was in dire need of new components and he had decided, on a whim, that if he indeed had found himself stranded in the Americas and, better yet, conveniently on the West Coast, it was high time he paid his dear old friend Carlisle, whom he has not seen for almost three centuries now, a visit. Carlisle never graced Volterra's halls with his presence anymore, not since before beginning to build his family.
Which was not to say they have had no contact at all.
There were the occasional letters sent between them, and the rare phone call during the last decades as further technological advances were made.
Additionally, there were plenty of nomads and travelling vampires, vampires with grudges who travelled specifically to Volterra, even the Guard members on the occasional mission, who all happened to bump into Carlisle or his blooming family of gifted individuals sooner or later.
All it took was a brush of his hand against anyone who had come into contact with his dear friend or his family members to have a glimpse of their memories and to See, himself. Besides, he had Carlisle's number. He could call. He should call. Right now. It should even be the polite thing to do. The right thing.
Decisions, decisions. However. He won't.
This impromptu … trip has already started bad enough. No need to bring excessive embarrassment upon himself, well, more than he already has by Renata witnessing his misfortune. Their misfortune. She was suffering along with him, a small comfort but one nonetheless. Sometimes Aro fancied thinking this was karma. For being who he was, sitting on his high throne, deciding fate of vampires and humans alike, it was, perchance, even fair that Fate liked to play with him now and again, by throwing him among hundreds of beating hearts on empty stomach and telling him to be good and patient because Fate fancied a bit of misty weather. He was not sure he appreciated the effort, however, one could not deny Fate had a sense of humour.
He would not sigh, he would not sigh, he would not sigh. Aro still possessed his iron clad control but what wouldn't he give to be able to wring that dreadful thing's neck… He sighed.
Perhaps he should reconsider. Perhaps all these little hints played by the universe were a clear sign that he was not meant to be here and to turn back, or just fly home.
He had made a whimsy decision and would not back down now. His pride would not let him. Besides, the seemingly more undecided he was, and the likelihood that that little prescient witch won't see him coming so he, for once, could surprise Carlisle, the better. Not that Aro did not like Fate making things difficult for him from time to time. Fate made his life interesting, and he needed some more fun before enclosing himself in his marble castle for the next fifty years. The mission to Japan had gone tremendously well (probably accredited to Jacques's involvement), but he was not yet ready to return home. Honestly? He was confident he could rely on Caius and Marcus to hold the fort. Especially Caius. He delighted in being the one to make all the important decisions. When the cat's away… Nothing important for the foreseeable future was scheduled to happen at home either way.
"I am well, Renata. Do not worry so much."
Sweet girl. He was glad he had decided to take her with, for she, too, was in need of a change, to see more of the world and he knew, intimately, her deepest desires, such as travelling the world and searching for her significant other half. It has been almost 276 years since her turning, but, alas, she was an invaluable member of the Volturi, his personal shield and thus irreplaceable. He could not let her wander the world, for she provided protection from physical attacks, as well as unwanted attention.
He was not blind, Marcus, he knew she loved him, almost all of the guard did, and those who did not still harboured some degree of affection toward him. Except for Caius, it was rather that of a love-hate relationship between them, though he knew Caius would stand by him till the end of time. No, Renata wanted to leave, not permanently, just until she found what she was looking for in this world. As much as he wanted to let her, he wouldn't take the risk. He couldn't.
And so she stayed.
He hoped Renata will enjoy their visit to Carlisle in Washington State as much as Aro himself will. He had a feeling that despite all the bumps in the road, this situation was something he had to see through. He opened his eyes for the third time since sitting down and saw it was around fourty additional minutes still until the boarding of the plane commenced.
And that blasted child was still going strong for the last half hour. In times like these, vampiric senses were a curse. He would not stop himself from hearing, although he could, very easily. When one has lived for approximately five thousand years, give or take a few centuries or millennia, there were a lot of useful little things that got cracked, given the right motivation, such as the sparkling problem or making oneself deaf when needed.
Alas, he was not in a safe space, even though there were only humans around, as far as he could tell. However, he was bound to some degree of responsibility as he had Renata with him (which translated to two perfectly lovely, unoccupied seats to his left where the row ended beside the terminal gate and additional three unoccupied seats on his right past Renata, or (correction) three half-occupied seats, taken by their possessions which they categorically refused to part with, even during the flight) thus having the luxury of not having food sit or, Fate forbid, talk directly by him.
Particularly, if his last meal has been over three weeks ago. Thank Fate for the lovely Renata and her gift that dissuaded people from looking at them, much less from approaching. Granted, other vampires would be able to spot them without difficulty, but should they desire to come near, they would find themselves directed away long before touching the shield. Very fortunate it was practically second nature for Renata, at this point, to keep the shield up for extended periods of time.
Given this, he would not make himself deaf but suffer the noise of screeching infants, loud blood-pumping hearts, chattering humans and the general hubbub pertaining to airports. He owed the girl as much, there was no need to worry her by dissociating one of his senses, and bring his guard and brothers' ire upon her.
He decided to partake in a bit of human watching to ease out of some of his darker spiralling thoughts and opened his eyes again for the fourth time.
There was not much to see, really. The waiting hall of the airport was full, all the seats taken and dozens of humans sitting on the floor or against walls or pillars, some were asleep or trying to slumber, despite the wailing brat, but as it was practically night-time already, the flight being delayed again and again since 17:45 and the airport shops had closed as well as the cafes, the passengers had eventually perched in the hall, waiting.
The thrice damned child gave another loud cry and a girl sitting two seats away from it leapt to her feet, swayed a little, grabbed her bag and swung it on her shoulder while making a fast retreat from the siren like infant who would, without slightest doubt, have some sort of noisy gift should it ever became a vampire in the future, thus ensuring it's prompt elimination from this world. No one could, or should, suffer such unholy sounds and be held accountable for their actions.
The girl exited the aisle between the rows and stopped. She started scanning the crowd, no doubt searching for another unoccupied seat. She had dark chocolate coloured eyes, which became more and more dismayed finding all the seats taken and seeing people sitting on the tiled ivory floor. Objectively, she was reasonably pretty, had a fairly symmetrical face, straight nose, pale lips, almond shaped eyes, upturned eyebrows and waist long mahogany hair. Thin but not sickly so, almost as tall as Aro, his guess would be 5'10, dressed in casual jeans and a mint green hoody. He could only guess at her age; the ability to tell exact human ages was one of the few skills that became impossible to retain and could never be mastered when one lived for longer than a few centuries, though he was fairly confident her age was between fifteen and twenty-five years. Children and very old people were easy, anything between became a gamble. The girl's distress was further pronounced by dark rings under her eyes, it seemed someone was in desperate need of baby-less rest. Not that he cared one bit.
Aro closed his eyes again and tried to will the fog outside away. He was succeeding, a little. Manipulating the elements from enclosed spaces such as the airport building was problematic. Should he be outside, he'd wager he could dissipate it using wind in no time; however, making the tiny water droplets condense and fall would be a tad more difficult and time consuming but nothing that could not be done under a minute, taking into consideration the size of the airport's surrounding area. Then again, attempting this method without influencing the air in the indoors of the building was exponentially trickier. He had made slow but steady progress these past hours and was sure there won't be another delay, regardless of the forecast, they should be able to take off without further glitches.
Evidently, few knew of this particular skill of his, there was no need to make it public knowledge. Not many vampires were aware, as it too was not exactly popular information, but while some were born gift-less, the vast majority were gifted... little things, really, more developed intuition, sight, speed, strength, charm, et cetera. Few possessed powerful gifts, such as Renata or Jane, but occasionally, some, like himself, had many talents. Mind reading was his passive gift, very powerful and useful, though with obvious downsides (such as too much information, all at once, living for countless years longer than most others while seeing their long lives in a matter of seconds). They all wondered how he was still sane. The truth is, he wasn't.
Manipulating the elements was something he could do actively; air the easiest, water and fire, being more difficult, came second and third. Also, he was very fast, faster than any in Volterra, save Lily. A few millennia ago he discovered that, given his affinity to air, much like Emil, he could master flight (and wasn't that a terrifically exhilarating experience). He loved flying, but lately could not indulge often due to ever arising awareness of human technology. Especially in the larger cities. The bottom line, the most talented undead had multiple gifts, the longer one lived and the more in tune with their spirit they became, the more gifts could be unlocked and mastered.
Such was the simple truth.
He could sense vague traces of distress radiating from Renata, which got more prominent with every passing second. Now that he was paying attention, he could hear the slow shuffling of light feet and a strong, nearing heartbeat. Aro opened his eyes for the fifth time that night and saw the girl from before making slow but steady way to them.
Most peculiar, no one should be approaching them so directly. Even the people sitting right in front of them did not register anything other than a wall and shied away from so much as looking in their direction.
Which, apparently, was not the case for the nameless girl who was clearly studying both Renata and Aro, and likely wondering why none of the people on the floor made any attempt at claiming one of the (many) free seats beside them. Well, she clearly found them intimidating. Ergo the slow approach.
At his right side, Renata's hands started to shake and he had to place his gloved one on hers. The girl effortlessly breached the invisible physical manifestation of the shield and stopped inside the bubble a few meters from them, forever sealing her Fate.
"Um... Hi. Is this seat taken?" was the quiet question, accompanied by a guarded look. She gestured to the second seat furthest from Aro, right beside the gate.
"Not at all," Aro answered while putting on one of his most charming smiles. "You are most welcome to join us."