TITLE: The Wolf in the Fable
PRIMARY PAIRING: Caius/ Athenodora
AUTHOR'S NOTE: You may consider this a re-write of 'Like Winter', or 'A Thousand Stairs' through a different set of eyes, or a combination of the two. I'm sticking to chapters approximately 700 words in length because it has ensured prompt updating in the past.
The story title is translated from the Latin expression, 'lupus in fabula', which is a quirky little turn of phrase that means something akin to, "speak of the devil and he will appear".
Athenodora is a surprise.
Caius brings her to Velathri, a bundle of sleet-stained cloak and lunar pallor, with neither announcement nor precedent. Cradled in cold arms, she is a wound-winged sparrow plucked from the dirt and shielded by a child's cupped palms. Nonetheless, sentimentality's shroud does not prevent Aro from spotting the blotted blue wreathing her mouth where a hand, immortal and incautious, has been splayed to keep her knotted in nothingness deeper than slumber.
He sighs. The past decades have been far too quiet. Trust Caius to disrupt that.
"You've brought a meal with you, I see," he muses aloud, knowing the pronouncement to be more prudent than accusing his brother of awkward affection towards a shivering, still-breathing creature.
Caius says nothing, and Aro sees Sulpicia's reprise, another girl who holds a half-god's heart.
"May I?" he asks, shale fingers with shorn nails hovering a feather's edge over the violet snarls of her veins. Perhaps her mind is extraordinary in its facets, a cipher and a key, though she seems only a pale, pretty thing.
"Ask her when she wakes," his wintry brother hisses, slipping a protective palm between her silvered skin and Aro's. The response is half-rational, for the minds of mortals cannot reveal half as much as those of the once-dead.
"I trust that you have considered her family." The slate-haired immortal turns pedantic now.
"They will not seek their child so far from their city," he says, and it is then that Aro notices his brother's vivid eyes, the peppered crimson that lingers upon a knuckle and pools in the hollows of his throat.
"How many remain to search for her, do if they choose to do so?" he wonders.
Caius grins, a hunter's sickle smile. "A few," he hazards, but Aro doubts the estimate. His left hand does not embrace the notion of survivors.
"Your aversion to half-measures is admirable as always, little brother," he laughs, knuckles gleefully entwined. There is such delicious dichotomy in Caius' conduct, far too amusing to be overlooked. "You will, of course, turn our little guest?"
"Stop me if I—" Caius stumbles, seeking the words to frame the girl's death in kinder terms. Once more, he reveals fissures in his facade of ice, and wine-rich triumph touches Aro's tongue.
In the marshlight of the windowless room where mortals meet eternity, Athenodora is colourless, rivalling the glacial grace of the monster that kneels at her side and holds her wrist, seeking the vessels there.
Her skin splits with a taut tear beneath his teeth, once more and again, until she is a mewling, arching girl on fire, her throat and arms, ribs and hipbones, one thrashing ankle, tattooed with oozing scarlet.
Aro brushes Caius' hand then, curious. Sentiment of any sort is so scarce from his wolf-wary brother that he is impatient to grasp at its traces, though they may be reduced to shambles and shreds.
What a literal creature Caius is. His mind is no labyrinth, but an open moor of memories and dancing desire, wound in stripped ribbons around Athenodora. Tarnished intentions, untouched by the shimmering play of light upon snow that characterizes Marcus' lovelorn musings, curl around the girl like ink in water, reforming her into something of his own deviant devising.
This will not be a pretty love affair, rose-glossed and ornamental, Aro predicts with a cat's clever grin.
Before his fingers fumble, permitting Caius the half-serenity of his thoughts, Aro catches a cobweb of gentleness, incongruous in reacherous terrain. His brother cares sufficiently, it seems, to grant the girl immortality, a pretence of equal footing that is infrequently extended to opponents and victims alike.
Aro steps away then, and observes Caius commit a murder that, from the violent view of a thousand years, is exquisitely gentle.
(yet another) AUTHOR'S NOTE: First chapters are never the most compelling. Stick around for the second, though :)