Author's Note: Welcome to the story, everybody. I've caught the Aro/Bella bug and the result is my first attempt at writing this pairing and fanfic in general.
So far, the M rating is just for safety but it will become necessary in future chapters.
Please read and review!
Aro paced the perimeter of the throne room, his cloak billowing majestically behind him. The noonday sun made his skin shimmer faintly. His eyes glowed a deep and unearthly red, identical in color to his ruby cravat. His hair, dark and straight, drew attention to the unnatural symmetry of his features.
The effect was impressive but Caius had seen it a thousand times too many. He raised his head lazily from his hand.
"What is the matter, brother?" he said. His tone was unconcerned.
Aro paused in his tracks, tensed theatrically and then waved his fingers in dismissal. A heavy silver ring caught the light and gleamed. "Nothing."
Caius snorted. Aro always put on a performance and there were no easy answers from him. "If you wanted to be left alone, you wouldn't be huffing dramatically right in front of me," he said.
His face set in a chastised expression, Aro returned to his throne and leaned in to look at the pale vampire on his left. "Edward Cullen's little mate is fascinating."
Caius grimaced. He remembered the human quite well. She had smelled flowery, like an explosion in a perfume store. She looked perpetually on the verge of tears. Hopelessly ordinary, he'd decided and he stood by that conclusion. "Her potential gift is interesting. Other than that, she is a standard whimpering mortal. In this case, whimpering is an accurate description not an insult."
"We frightened her," Aro said, as though that lessened her failings.
"Obviously," Caius agreed. "Is there a point you are trying to arrive at?"
"How long has it been since her visit?" Aro had asked that question almost daily for the past few weeks and he repeated it again as if it was completely novel.
"A month or so," the other vampire said, not bothering to be more specific.
Aro smiled, liking that answer. It was a nice, merciful amount of time for the Cullens to transform the human in their midst into a vampire. His expression split and changed into something more dangerous. "Long enough for her to be turned if the charming Edward had any intention of doing so, wouldn't you say?"
"Is a visit to Forks in order?" Caius said, tapping his fingers impatiently on the black armrest of his throne. He had waited for centuries to suppress the Cullen coven. It seemed anticlimactic somehow that one little human would motivate Aro out of his apathy.
"I'd think so," his brother agreed.
Businesslike, Caius stood up. "The regulars will be ready to travel in a few hours," he said, referring to Demetri, the twins and Felix. They were the most effective agents the Volturi had and they were so used to missions abroad that it took them no time at all to assemble.
"Oh, I'm going to attend to this personally," Aro said cheerfully. "I'll gather them myself."
Caius stiffened. A leader leaving Volterra signalled a state of emergency. If word got out that Aro was accompanying the guards on a mundane jaunt to America, the might of the Volturi would instantly be questioned.
"And why would that be?" he said cautiously.
Aro's answering laugh was breezy. "She's fascinating, remember?"
Caius rolled his eyes. "If you want a vacation, you can just say so."
"And have you mock my work ethic? I think not," he said playfully.
Internally, Caius hissed. He could tell that Aro was hiding something, but he also understood that demanding answers would not get him anywhere. It hadn't the last hundred times he'd tried it. "Enjoy your trip," he said instead.
"Are you sure you don't want to join me?" the other vampire sang, extending a welcoming hand.
"I hope Athenodora enjoys the sudden increase in your company," Aro said, naming the one person who could willingly separate Caius from his vengeance.
"I'm sure she will," Caius said mildly. He'd been happily devoted to his wife for two thousand years and his brother's teasing couldn't change that.
Aro made a face. "I have to pack. What does one wear to a dreadful rainy forest?"
"Bring an umbrella," Caius advised. "And get rid of the cloak."
"That's the first good suggestion I've heard from you in a decade." Aro grinned over his shoulder as he departed. "Give Marcus my regards. Try not to burn the place to the ground. I should return in a month."
Caius waved a weary goodbye.
Flying was one of the modern world's disappointments in Aro's opinion. He had expected air travel to be stately. Instead, the airplane's motor droned in his ears and the scenery unfolded so slowly that he was impatient with it after an hour. He prodded his luggage miserably. He didn't own any cheap paperbacks that could just be tossed into a briefcase, and his first editions were too precious to leave the library.
Boredom. Simply dreadful.
With nothing else to do, he looked back and observed the other passengers. Jane and Alec shared a pair of earbuds while watching something on a laptop perched on their knees. Aro could hear the tinny reverberations of dialogue coming from inside the cheap headphones. They looked like children caught in the odd moment of cooperation between sibling rivalries.
Strange little creatures, he thought fondly. But then, gifted vampires were always peculiar in some way. Demetri's restlessness was obvious. He tapped out rhythms with his foot when there was no music or found patterns where there were none. Heidi was blunt to the point of rudeness, as though her charming public demeanor exhausted her. Marcus, even in his grief, couldn't help playing matchmaker or councillor to every couple he encountered. Aro had come to expect and even welcome oddness that came with talent.
And that was why he had to get his hands on Isabella Swan.
The Cullens were sickeningly normal. Repressed, of course. Constantly acting. Taking a gifted vampire and forcing her to interact with humans, and go to high school and pretend to be a normal, suburban teenager would dampen her ability. Such a waste, he sighed to himself.
Among the Volturi, the girl would have a chance to explore her potential. Really, he was doing her a favor by taking her away from the banality of her current situation. How he was going to do that—well, he wasn't sure just yet. But he had his trusted guards, and if his plans truly went off the rails, Caius and the inevitable I told you so were only a phone call away.
Pleased with his own beneficence, Aro leaned back into his chair and sighed contentedly.
The Volturi owned property in Seattle. The Volturi owned property everywhere. Aro's real estate purchasing policy was you'll never know when it'll come in handy.
This particular property was a mansion at the city limits. It was surrounded by trees, and large enough to be opulent without attracting undue attention. Aro decided to give the financial advisor who had bought this a large Christmas bonus, before remembering that he had eaten the man a few years ago, alas.
After allowing his guards an hour or so to fiddle with their luggage and explore their new home, he gathered them in the immaculate kitchen.
"My dear ones, have we all settled in?" he asked.
"Yes Master," Alec said politely. He'd hung all his clothes in the closet, and then done the same with Jane's. The most responsible member of the guard was twelve years old, Aro thought ruefully.
"Wonderful, wonderful," he said. "I know that this is a little more humble than we're used to, but it's only for a short while. Besides, you have this entire magnificent city to view."
"Will you join us, Master?" Jane wondered, rocking from her toes to her heels. She was so childish at times, he noted, unsure whether he found it endearing or frustrating.
"Perhaps later, darling," he said. "I have other business to attend to."
There was no reason to tell his guards that he intended to pay Isabella a visit. It was a foolish idea, rambling through woods at night to catch a glimpse of one human girl. Felix, at least, would be sensible enough to try and stop him. Aro justified his lack of caution with curiosity. The excuse rang a little false, even to him.
The house was non-descript. A peeling white two-story with a police car and an ancient truck out front. Everything about it gave off the air of effort with limited results, as though somebody worked very hard to keep it in this state of functional shabbiness. Aro grinned. It was always easiest to beguile people with humble beginnings.
From Edward's memories, Aro knew how to find Isabella's bedroom and how to enter it silently. The greased window hinges were a nice touch. At some later date he'd examine all of her belongings and try to catch some glimpses of her strange and quiet mind, but right now he wanted to see her in person. Each step careful and measured, Aro padded to her bedside, taking care to avoid creaky boards.
The girl was apparently a light sleeper. As soon as his watery shadow covered her bed she bolted up and stared at him disbelievingly. For a few moments she opened and shut her mouth in a convincing impresison of a goldfish, and then she found her tongue.
"Aro?" she slurred, wrapping the covers around herself like a fluffy shield.
"Heavens, no. You, my dear, are dreaming," he said. Humans were ridiculous creatures and that meant that this equally ridiculous ploy could work.
Isabella pinched herself hard.
"No, I'm not," she said.
Aro shrugged apologetically. "It was worth a try."
She swept dark, wavy hair—Aro suspected that sleep had ruffled it, and found the idea strangely adorable—out of her face.
"Are you going to kill me?" she wavered.
"Then why are you here?"
"To see whether young Edward has fulfilled his promise." That was true enough. No reason to tell her about his sudden need to study her. He imagined that would unnerve the girl.
"He hasn't. Not yet. Obviously." Bella gestured to herself, clumsily extracting one hand from the folds of her duvet. Aro's eyes lingered on the fear widening her eyes, the frantic rise and fall of her chest. Her little human reactions were so interesting that he'd forgive the insolence in her tone.
"My, my. The pair of you are in trouble," he purred, taking care to make the word sound like a threat and a titillating promise. He loved watching mortals interpret the ambiguous.
"Don't look at me, I wanted to be turned months ago," she said defensively.
Aro had assumed as much from his viewing of Edward's thoughts. Still, this game was entertaining. "Ah, so it is your paramour who is reluctant. Why would that be?"
"Something about souls," Bella said. Her voice betrayed a little impatience a hint of laughter. She found the idea of damnation funny apparently.
Aro arched his eyebrows playfully. "Oh?"
"I can't discuss theology at two in the morning. I have my limits," she said, grinning unabashedly.
"Hm. You are very willing to… ah… shove your beloved under the proverbial bus, it seems." He found that small disloyalty delightful. Mates were usually so mindlessly committed to each other.
"No! I don't want you to kill him either," she said sharply. Her arms crossed over her chest quickly, the covers falling off her shoulders.
"What is it that you want, Miss Swan?"
"First, you should leave. Second, you should go back to Italy. I'll report to you, or something, once the Cullens turn me. Deal?" Bella's voiced quivered, but she didn't break off eye contact in the dark.
"Goodness, no. I haven't maintained my position by listening to the empty promises of pretty girls."
Her face flushed with blood. Aro could feel its heat and smell it without seeing it.
"So what would it take to get you out of room and far away from Forks?" she demanded.
"Oh, much better! A negotiation," he cooed, clapping his hands together in the shadows. "The way I see it, my lovely Isabella, the only power you hold is over my curiosity. So, if you indulge me and let me turn you, I will leave your precious Cullens in peace."
He could hear her deliberating, and picked up on the handful of false starts, her tongue clicking against her teeth then stopping.
"So… you just want to bite me?" she said at last.
He grinned broadly. "You know how newborns are. Adult supervision required, as they say. I would be obligated to bring you back to Volterra."
Her fear came back. It smelled cold and metallic.
"No deal," she said. "Listen, I can't just vanish. Let me finish high school, graduate, all that. Then I can fake a university acceptance in Italy. Or a job. Or something. I'll leave with you in a few months. For a year. And then I can go back to Edward. Okay?"
Her words had come out mashed together and too fast. The pounding of her heart practically echoed in his ears.
Aro paused, pretending to consider her terms. He'd have his own way, but it was always more amusing when his victims thought that they retained some small scrap of control.
"Okay," he agreed, mocking her tone.
"So that's all it takes?" Bella asked, disbelieving.
He almost laughed. So this little girl was slightly smarter than the usual doomed human. Fascinating, really.
"There is a formality," he said. Hopefully the Cullens had not bothered to teach her much about vampire laws, or else she'd know that there were no other components to promises from the Volturi.
"We're talking about pinky swears, right?" she said cautiously.
He grabbed her right wrist, taking note of its warmth and fragility. Very gently, he scraped a fine line with his nail on the exposed flesh and pressed his closed lips over the beading blood. He noticed her shiver and rushed intake of breath with pleasure. And she tasted as exquisite as he expected.
"There. Signed in blood, my dear," he purred, returning her hand to a very flustered Bella. "Do not let me interrupt your night."
He vanished out the window, the distinctive, divine taste of her blood still smeared over his mouth without waiting to hear her answer.