A/N: Hello, lovelies!
A'right, I came up with this story idea at the beginning of last summer whilst driving to a job interview, and I couldn't believe how amused I was by it. I was then dragged to "Dark Shadows" with Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer, and the story suddenly took a different turn. This story isn't a spin-off of "Dark Shadows" by any means, but it's amazing how we get unrelated ideas from things that become our own.
I was writing this as entertainment for myself, but now it's evolved into something that might entertain you! I was originally going to write a full-length story with no chapter breaks, but then I decided to post to FF, and that obviously changed.
This story is meant to be taken lightheartedly; read it for enjoyment, not for fulfillment.
"Oh, dear…" Aro mumbled, touching his chin with his thumb and pointer finger, staring down at the traveling nomad vampire who stood before him and his three brothers. He watched the nomad shift his stance nervously as he tapped his other hand's fingers on the armrest of his elaborate throne.
"What the hell were you doing living and working alongside filthy humans?" Caius sneered, his arm clutching the armrest angrily.
"I – "
"Caius, down." Aro chided. Though the nomad's words were disturbing indeed, what he was reporting was far more intriguing and exciting than his breach of vampire law.
"I am telling you, my lords, I can promise and guarantee that the humans I worked for were gifted; with abnormal abilities. The lot of them!" The nomad rushed, taking a step backward as Caius growled.
"Why have you come to us with this information? If anything, you have exposed your idiocy, and warranted your own death!" Caius hissed, slamming his fist down on the armrest of his chair, eyes glinting dangerously.
The nomad cowered, closing his eyes. "I did not come to rat myself out, my lord! But I thought you should know, for the safety of the vampire race. But also…I was hoping that they would make fine additions to your coven…" he trailed off, opening his eyes to glance at Aro.
Aro kept his fingers on his chin, his lips pursed in deep thought.
Perhaps the nomad was only presenting them with this information to save his own head. Perhaps he really did have a loyalty to the Volturi. Perhaps he was frightened that humans could now carry abilities, Aro couldn't be sure.
"Silence!" Caius snapped.
"Caius," a voice wheezed from the other side of the dais.
"Finally chipping in your invalid opinion, old man?" Caius replied, his voice laced with venom.
Marcus gave him no ill, but merely stared down at the marble beneath his worn-down shoes. Marcus was a simple soul. He did not delight in fashion or vanity.
"You have given us very interesting and potentially useful information, my friend. And I will allow you to walk away with your life – "Aro began before being cut harshly across by Caius.
"What?!" Caius hissed.
"– As long as the information you have provided to us is indeed true. You will be held here in the fortress until we return. A simple phone call from my end ensuring that the information is correct will set you free."
"He should be executed for exposing himself so!" Caius reared, standing onto his feet, face twisted in rage.
"My decision is final." Aro announced, a soft smile on his lips.
Within a few seconds, the nomad was bordered on both sides by Santiago and Felix – the Volturi brute force – and escorted from the throne room.
"Have you lost your mind?!" Caius spewed, taking a menacing step toward Aro. Aro made no retreat, only smirking softly.
Marcus seized his opportunity; being in the fortress for decades at a time made him very anxious to go somewhere – anywhere – that was not enclosed by stone.
"He makes a valid point." He wheezed, looking at Aro with glazed eyes. "If there are humans with gifts, we need investigate. For the good of all."
"True…but too many of us traveling at once will attract attention." Aro replied, touching his pressed palms to his lips lightly, as if in prayer.
"Then we will travel solitary. The three of us."
"I refuse to come along to such a pointless cause! Age has gone to both of your demented heads!" Caius shrieked, stamping his foot.
"Come now, brother; surely you are curious?" Aro pressed, resulting in Caius looking at a potted plant off to the side, seriously contemplating throwing it in Aro's decrepit and obviously hollow head.
"We will go without the Guard. If we travel in secrecy, we should be all right." Marcus breathed, standing slowly, looking almost as if he needed assistance.
"I'm not going." Caius pouted childishly. "You cannot make me."
"I hate you both." Caius snarled, sitting back in a leather armchair in the Volturi's private jet, his claw-like fingers gripping the armrests tightly, and threatening to tear the material.
Aro looked absolutely giddy, eagerly switching music settings on the jet's stereo system, whilst Marcus looked out the window at the sparkling ocean beneath them, obviously bored. He'd long since finished the book he brought to entertain himself, and was now subject to listening to his brothers; Caius grumble and complain about Aro's idiotic behavior, and Aro exclaim every few minutes about a newfound piece of technology in the cabin.
Aro was almost like a child; he had so much zeal about everything.
"It changes colors when the light is on! This is amazing!" he beamed, pushing a button repeatedly, clicking it on and off. The com-link system from the cockpit suddenly rang through the cabin.
"My lord, are you touching something labeled 'cockpit lights'?" Demetri's voice was apparent through the speaker above Marcus' head.
"…No…" Aro lied, putting on doe-eyes, and looking sickeningly innocent.
"Whoever is, please make them cease. It's quite a bother." Demetri finished. The com-link clicked off, the static-y sound disappearing.
Marcus gave a tiny smirk, appearing more to be a grimace from the misused muscles in his face.
Aro sat back in his seat, unable to sit completely still. He twiddled his thumbs at lightning speed, then kicked his foot, then began to sway his arm to the string music around them, as if conducting it.
"For God's sake, Aro!" Caius screeched.
The journey could not end fast enough. When it did, Caius scrambled over both Volturi Masters to get off of the plane. He tripped over himself to get onto the tarmac, gripping it thankfully. Marcus walked calmly off the plane after Aro, staying against the jet as a cloud shifted, sunlight streaming across the black runway. Caius also scuttled into the shadow, growling lowly. Aro quickly turned his back to the sun, his hair providing enough cover that his skin was not exposed. His hands were gloved, and every other area of skin was clothed in his usual elegant wardrobe.
"Maryland," Caius scoffed. "You think the colonists would have been able to come up with a less ridiculous name.
Marcus said nothing, looking blankly at the ground.
"Felix, weather report." Aro barked suddenly. Felix and Demetri both stood in the doorway of the jet, unwilling to step out onto the tarmac.
"Scattered showers throughout today, but mostly overcast for the next three months. It's storm season, Master." Felix replied, reaching his hand out to hand Aro an accurate weather report researched earlier that morning. Aro took it from Felix, and examined it for a moment before tucking it into the inside breast pocket of his jacket.
"Excellent. You may both depart. I have my mobile communication device, and your contact digits are inputted. Go on, go on; leave us."
Felix and Demetri both hesitated. They were ordered to fly the Masters to the United States, but then leave them there without a guard to protect them. The idea was instinctively gut-wrenching for them. If something happened to the Masters…it would be their fault for abandoning them – even if they were ordered.
Demetri was wary that age had finally destroyed what was left of Aro's mind. Was he truly supposed to leave them to fend for themselves in a foreign country? The thought was horrifying.
"You have your orders. Depart now." Aro said, his usual lofty voice gone, and in its place, was the voice of a ruler; a king. Demetri and Felix both bowed their heads, closing the hatch to the cabin. Aro, Caius, and Marcus blurred off of the tarmac and into the overhanging hangar, keeping themselves in the shadows as the plane turned to taxi, eventually taking off into the sky.
Marcus sighed softly.
So it begins.
The cloud cover returned, luckily, shortly after the jet had departed, giving the Volturi Masters adequate shield from the sun. Though they were all wearing attempts at contemporary clothing – high-fashioned travel coats and suits – they stuck out like doves in a crowd of blackbirds. As they entered the city of the humans' residence, many of the passersby stared at them, one or two women gasping out in surprise, alarm, and intrigue. Though the year was current, the town seemed to be stuck in an earlier time…
The shops here lined with signs and advertisements, couples and families walking together as they completed their errands, the streets with streetlights, and the curbs with vehicles. Overhanging the main street of the town was a large banner advertising the Founders Day parade that was to begin in one week. Marcus eyed the people passing by, but dropped his gaze to the ground quickly before their eyes could meet his crimson orbs. Caius curled his upper lip at a child who pointed at him, causing the child to hide behind his mother's legs.
Aro walked determinedly towards the north side of the street, straight toward a diner. He held open the door for Caius and Marcus as he arrived. Caius froze just before the doorway.
"What? We cannot go in there! What are you thinking, idiota? We do not eat human filth."
"Come, Caius. I am hoping to gather some information about this family that we are trying to locate. The more we know going in, the better." Aro replied warily, still holding open the door. Caius sighed in exasperation, walking in in front of Marcus.
The outside of the diner was extremely misleading. The outside – bright, cheerful, and apparently wholesome – was only a lying shell of the dark interior; harsh music played in the background as tattooed men clad in leather sat leisurely on the barstools, fingering their alcohol.
As if on cue, the entire bar turned to look at them. The bearded men turned back to each other and gossiped, not caring to whisper, and pointed to the three strange – but well-dressed – men who just entered their haven.
Aro beamed at the room. "Good afternoon!"
The room froze once again as soon as his lyrical voice rang through the air. The music even halted for a moment. Marcus' eyes flickered around at the men, drawing himself up to stand at his full height. The music lifted into a new song, and though the men turned away, the three pale men were the topic of discussion.
Aro sat down at the counter, patting the seat next to him for his brothers to join him. A scantily-clad female with a flannel shirt – tied just below her breasts – leaned over the counter in front of Marcus.
"What can I get you to drink, sweetie?" she said in a whiny voice. She smacked her gum loudly between her bleached-white teeth, her cleavage all but falling out of her shirt. Marcus' stared at the wooden bar in front of him, eyes widened. Aro pitied him…it was difficult for him to look at women after the death of his wife, but Marcus was also never a lustful man. He believed that women should be fine, elegant, upstanding, and mannered. The woman in front of him disgusted him; it was painfully obvious. Caius watched Marcus with interest.
"Nothing, thank you." he mumbled.
He nodded once, eyes still downcast. The woman turned to Caius.
"What 'bout you?" she paused while looking at him, cocking her messily curled head to one side. "And what's wrong with ya? You one of those albinos I see on TV?"
Aro coughed to cover a laugh, straightening his suit lapel as Caius looked at her, thunderstruck.
Aro interrupted before Caius shot his hand over the counter to strangle the raunchy woman.
"Actually, we could use your assistance."
The woman turned her gaze onto Aro, also staring at him, but not in the same way she looked at Caius. She leaned over farther, arching her back a bit. Her eyes grew lustful.
"And what can I help you with, sir?" she smirked, her tone obviously implying something dirty. Aro – unfazed – reached into the right side pocket of his jacket, taking out a small photo given to him by his informant, depicting four people; two women – one middle-aged, and the other, elderly – and two teenagers; a male and a female.
The bartender picked up the picture, her face darkening. Her eyes shone with sudden fear.
"Who are these people?" Aro asked sweetly, interlacing his fingers together, and leaning slightly onto the counter.
The woman's lips tightened. "Those are the Ashworths; the richest bastards in the state of Maryland."
"Tell me more about them."
She huffed slightly, throwing the picture back onto the bar toward Aro's hands.
"The woman is a widow, and her kids are freaks. She takes care of her late husband's mother. They got their money through real estate and the stock market. Her husband was the estate manager, though. When he died, she got all of his money. Personally, I think that that bitch killed her husband for the income." She snarled, wiping the counter with a rag roughly. Somehow, Aro suspected that she was irritated more out of jealousy than actual repulsion.
"How did he die?"
She rolled her eyes. "They say his body was found in the woods, mauled by some sort of wolf or something. I think that she just destroyed his body to hide evidence. She's a clever bitch."
Aro quirked a brow.
"What is wrong with her children?"
"Baby, are you talking about those Ashworth freaks?" a hairy man asked from beside Marcus. The leather on his jacket vest rubbed against itself as he turned, a gentle squeak emitting from it.
The bartender nodded.
"I can tell you more about those miserable outcasts. Their son, now he's a troublemaker – he gets into fights a lot. And beats the competition to a bloody pulp, yet…never gets a scratch on him. The little girl, she's the really weird one. She knows when shit's about to happen, y'know? She predicted a car accident that killed the major's son two days before it happened. No one listened to her, of course. But when it happened…"
Aro's eyes widened. A seer!
Marcus lifted his head, now interested by the conversation. Caius took interest in flicking a peanut shell across the bar.
The man shuddered. "Freaks. Probably practicin' witchcraft or somethin'. I believe it; they're always cooped up in that big house. The mom looks like a little witch, so does her damn mother-in-law."
"I see. Can you direct me to their home?" he asked.
"Yeah, sure." the hairy one nodded, pointing toward the wall in front of them. "Go up to the top o' town, and make a left on Kensington. Just follow the street, and you'll see it on top of that hill. It's an eye-sore, that's for sure."
"Grazie, my friend." Aro thanked the man by shaking his hand, smirking as he let go, and stood, gesturing for his brothers to follow. Marcus and Caius both rose from their stools, walking behind him out of the bar. All eyes were on them as they left. The man clutched the hand that Aro touched as if he'd been electrocuted.
"Have you thought about what you're going to say once they answer the door?" Marcus inquired gently, looking up at the elegant, but worn-down house.
"I have not…" Aro paused just before lifting the large brass knocker, looking thoughtful.
"What if we just tell them the truth? I'll stand by the back door to stop them when they run." Caius spoke sarcastically. Aro threw him a little glance of annoyance, lifting the ornate knocker, and hitting it on the door three times. The sound echoed through the house, radiating through the door.
Footsteps could be heard approaching the door, the steps close together, but evenly spaced. The knob turned, and the aged door swung open. A middle-aged woman stood in the threshold, looking at them with darkly bagged eyes, and slightly frayed blonde hair. Her face had lines of worry and grief, deeply etched around the eyes and the corners of her mouth. Her overall appearance was that of a widow – a grieving widow.
Her eyes searched the men briefly, and her brows lifted in surprise and fear of their unnatural appearances.
"May I help you?" she spoke in a hushed tone, a slight husk in the back of her throat. Aro smiled his pageant-winning smile.
"Good afternoon, madam. We are three brothers settling in Maryland for an indefinite amount of time, and until we can establish a destination, we are seeking employment to fulfill our necessary needs."
The woman blinked at his wordy response, the door creaking slightly closed. Marcus could sense her wariness toward them, and her growing skepticism.
"What my brother is trying to say is that we are looking for work to fill our time."
The woman relaxed as he finished speaking, giving a soft smile. "Were you referred to me as domestic help?"
"We heard around from a few in town." Marcus replied, keeping his tone pleasant. Caius looked down at the deadened flowers in the garden by the stone steps, curling his lip at the neglect.
Her smile faded. "You must have heard terrible things."
"We only heard that you required help."
Marcus spoke the truth as far as we knew it. Since the nomad had effectively ceased his employment, surely the Ashworths were searching for replacements? He took a gamble.
She inclined her head, scrutinizing them. Were they being true to their word, or did they have other intentions? She couldn't be sure. But…the taller one looked sincere. She couldn't speak for the other two, since one looked like a new puppy proud that had marked his territory in numerous places around the house, and the other, like a cat forced into taking a bath.
"I suppose an interview wouldn't hurt."
Marcus gave the closest thing he could to a smile, more of a lessening of his grimace, as she opened the door and gestured for them to enter the house. The entranceway was grand and open, but had obviously suffered years of neglect. The once elegant tile work scrawling the floor was dirty and lackluster. A chandelier hung above them, raining a bit of dust as the front door slammed closed. To the left was a sitting area in front of a hearth, and to the right, a doorway to another room.
Directly in front of them was a sprawling staircase that split at the top in different directions. It reminded Aro slightly of his own home, but he would be a basket case (compared to his own current crazy) to see it in such disarray.
The woman gestured to the sitting area in front of the barren marble hearth. Aro, Caius, and Marcus settled into their respective places; Aro in the middle, Caius on his left, and Marcus on his right. Not only was this appropriate in their minds, but a habit of comfort no matter where they traveled.
"My name is Helen, and I am the head of the Ashworth family. What are your names?"
Marcus waited for Aro to speak, but as soon as Aro hesitated, he understood that this had become his responsibility. Aro had seen how she reacted to him when he initially spoke, and rather hoped to avoid it. She was far more taken with Marcus.
"My name is Marcus, and these are my brothers, Aro and Caius."
Helen looked between their faces, seeing no resemblance. She released the fact for now.
"What unusual names." She muttered, crossing her ankles delicately.
None of the brothers answered to her comment, and silence descended upon the room. Helen cleared her throat to break it.
"Do you have any experience or credentials?"
Marcus looked to Aro, feeling very uncomfortable with lying. Aro smiled his dazzling grin and gestured wildly with his hands as he spoke.
"We do indeed; I, myself, am a master organizer. I have kept and maintained a library for...a very long time."
Aro, of course, was speaking of his personal library in Volterra, which held some of the world's most valuable and original works – as well as a collection of musical records that could rival any collector in the world. He had carefully catalogued and organized them, repeating the organizational process every two weeks to satiate his boredom, using a different system of organization.
Helen gave a short nod, looking to the other two men.
"I am an expert chef, and my brother Caius enjoys taking care of the grounds." Marcus said when cued.
Caius gave Helen a small, insincere smile, turning his gaze to Marcus to express the sentiment in his eyes – a burning, deep, hateful stare that made Marcus want to laugh. The mental image of Caius on his knees weeding a flowerbed would amuse anyone in the Volturi.
Interesting what little things set him off…
Helen looked straight at Marcus. "Give me a day to consider? And…compare the other applicants?"
Helen had no other applicants, and had already made a decision regarding their employment. However, she felt that she needed to examine the brothers from afar and determine if their intentions were as pure as they had indicated.
She knew of many who would enjoy ruining their family from the inside. Or find some demented, forged piece of proof to have them jailed or removed from the state. With the state of things, she could not be sure if they were investigators or innocent travelers.
She certainly was not willing to take a chance where her family was concerned.
"Of course," Marcus replied, standing in synchronization with his brothers. Marcus bowed his head as a gesture of goodwill, and then led the way to the door.
Helen watched them go, standing in a stunned silence as the echo of the door faded.
"Oh, my God."
Caius sneered as he stood next to one of the beds of their motel room, seeing the obvious neglect of housekeeping. To the human eye, it would look like a clean, well-made bed. But to a vampire, it was covered in stains, muddled with the scents of many, and the bedspread was obviously several years old. Caius hissed at a particular stain – semen – spread by the foot of the bed.
Marcus set their things down by the door, giving the room a noncommittal glance. Aro rushed straight over to the television and ran his fingers over the glass front, mesmerized.
"I've never seen one up-close before…!"
"For God's sake! They are nothing but disgusting animals! I cannot be expected to stay in this room for more than an instant!" Caius snarled, his hands clawed at his side.
"Calm yourself; we are not planning to sleep in the beds." Marcus rasped, opening a small travel bag to retrieve his book, planning to read it again.
Caius made a hybrid sound in the back of his throat of a scoff and a choke, before kicking the bed, dislodging the mattress dramatically.
Aro snapped his head around, his mood changing on a dime.
"Enough of your childishness, Caius." He said coldly, "We are here for a specific purpose, and I expect you to uphold our intentions in order to ensure efficiency. Do you think I am enjoying myself? Hmm?"
Caius actually blinked. Though used to Aro's sudden and drastic mood changes, he was surprised at the things that triggered them. Deciding not to mess with that puddle of crazy, Caius corrected his behavior. Aro inclined his head, turning it slowly to look out of the one window to the darkness outside.
"This is going to be a challenging stay, but I believe that we will be better by the end."
This was going to be a long night, Marcus could see.