Author's note: Surprisingly this is the last chapter. I thought there might be more but now it's been pushed to a sequel. Thank you for reading and your lovely feedback, I hope you enjoy this final update.
Warning: A lemon. Compared to the previous chapters, this is a fairly graphic lemon. Now feel free to skip ahead and read it first.
Images flashed across the screen in quick succession. Bodies, some human, some vampire. Aro and the others watched in silence, Natasha grimly with her arms folded, Aro with his hands clasped in front of him, and Marcus with that expression of sadness that always overtook him when viewing casualties of war. Loki leaned against a table off to the side, watching Aro with a determined set to his mouth that was unbalanced by the worried expression in his eyes. Over the past few hours he'd observed Aro shifting from extreme interest to oblivious abstraction and he was getting concerned that Aro's mind at least might not yet have completely healed from the double-blow of transformation and resurrection. Aro for his part kept assuring him that he was merely thinking, that he had a lot to think about these days.
The slideshow ended and Caius's face appeared on the screen.
"All in all, the numbers are lower than expected, and any media coverage has been kept to a minimum. The humans are used to oddities now, thanks to SHIELD and its friends, so the deaths have created less of a stir than they would have a few years ago. The bodies have been destroyed of course."
"And no human victim survived?" asked Aro.
"None, the vampires that tried to feed died almost instantly. The humans not long after. As far as we can tell, the venom mixed into their blood streams killed them faster than their wounds.
Aro sighed. "Which means there is no possibility at the moment of creating new vampires."
"Not unless you're looking for a new method of execution."
"So it worked, we're safe," said Natasha to Aro.
Caius glared in her direction but Aro only nodded. His hand brushed her shoulder lightly. "You're perfectly safe from us, my dear," he said sympathetically. "One less enemy to deal with."
Loki smiled, amusing himself by thinking by how little the woman understood the situation, understood how powerful the immortals would become, each their own power source. His scorn for the new SHIELD director continued as before, despite Aro's obvious trust in her. The vampire had yet to read Natasha's mind, relying instead entirely on Marcus's reading of her loyalty bonds.
"Have you explained to Gianna?" Aro asked, turning back to the screen.
Caius looked uncomfortable. "Yes. She says she's fine, but... I'm sure you'd have an easier time with her."
Natasha quirked an eyebrow at Aro.
"Ah, we promised Gianna immortality in exchange for her service," said Aro.
Natasha smiled sardonically. "What's the back-up present for that?"
"Cuddles with Aro," murmured Marcus, too low for a human to hear, but at the back of the room Felix had a very un-vampire-like coughing fit.
Aro shot Marcus a reproving glare and slid his palms together thoughtfully.
"All the immobilized vampires, make sure they're in a secure-enough location, we might need to leave them there for some time."
Caius tilted his head. "Why?"
Aro made a somewhat despairing gesture and Marcus picked up the reply. "We're not sure if Aro can die," he said.
Caius stared at him quizzically and then leaned forward suddenly. "What?!"
"Exactly," said Marcus.
"Not even by fire?!"
"Well we're hardly going to try it out on Aro," said Marcus dryly.
Aro ducked his head, suppressing a laugh.
"So you're telling me," said Caius, his voice low and grinding, "that we're about to take away the one way we've been able to control our species?"
"Since eternal starvation is the only alternative, yes," said Marcus.
Caius grimaced. "And you, Aro, you're in agreement?"
"I'm afraid so, Caius, we'll just have to start with everyone whose loyalty is assured and go from there."
"I don't like this."
"I know, dear brother."
There was silence for a few moments.
"We're setting up a new headquarters in the SHIELD hub," said Aro finally, in a quieter tone of voice. "We're taking everything from Fury's lab and from our first SHIELD location. I thought it would be best if Loki conducts the next transformations there."
Caius nodded unhappily.
"I'd like you to come there as well, right away. The family has been apart too long."
"And leave this lot on their own?" Caius asked in disbelief.
Aro smiled. "We're all going to have to learn to trust each other more."
Marcus and Didyme were waiting inside the entrance to the SHIELD hub when Caius's car pulled into what at first appeared from the outside to be an ordinary warehouse.
Didyme hugged Caius enthusiastically when he emerged, and Marcus grasped his shoulders and shook him a little with the deep affection of an older brother. Caius gave them something like a genuine smile and then went serious again as the other occupants of the car, Heidi and Gianna emerged.
"Come on," said Didyme, seizing Caius's hand, "we've got a lot to show you."
Moments later Caius looked around the new headquarters of the Volturi empire, humming with activity and filled with humans who, besides the occasional curious glance, were mostly unconcerned with the presence of several vampires and an Asgard god.
"How much do they know?" he asked Aro who hadn't stopped grinning since his arrival.
"That we're an Earth species that has entered into an alliance with SHIELD, the same as before," said Aro.
"And him?" Caius indicated Loki.
"Pardoned," said Natasha with a touch of bitterness. "In exchange for his alliance with us as well." She gave Loki a sideways glare and he smirked in a purposefully self-satisfied manner.
"What about the Council?" Natasha asked Caius. "Are they still in the picture?"
"The Council has been dismantled," Caius replied. "Literally." He smiled at her in a not very pleasant manner.
Natasha regarded him for a moment expressionlessly, and then said simply, "Good." It was impossible for her to forget that the Council had tried to bomb New York during the alien invasion.
Caius looked a little startled at this unexpected response and turned back to Aro who was smiling happily, pleased with his new protégé.
While Marcus and Natasha began showing Caius around, Aro beckoned to a waiting Gianna and took her hand. To his relief, she was taking things better than he would have expected. He had feared a steep drop into insanity ending in some compassionate neck-snapping.
"I am sorry," he said, "to renege on our agreement." He caressed her hand and then slipped it over his arm as they walked on to join the others.
Gianna smiled. "I don't know, it opens up more possibilities. For instance, I could get another job…."
Aro grinned. "And I know just the place that could use your talents. Director Romanoff is going to need some administrative help I think, now that I've removed Ms. Hill from her position."
"Brave new world," said Gianna.
Caius found Aro later in his Hub quarters, drying his hair after a shower and considering which of his newly arrived black suits to put on.
"I see you're getting comfortable with your new life," Caius said sarcastically.
"We've adapted to many things over the centuries," said Aro lightly, pulling on his trousers and selecting a suitable pair of boots.
"Oh certainly," said Caius, "the printing press for instance, national postal systems, air travel, underwear, mobile phones."
"Of course I'm angry! You destroyed our entire way of life! You've destroyed us!"
"We can still make this work, Caius," Aro said soothingly, turning away from the rack of suits and reaching for his brother's hands, "We are the Volturi after all."
Caius jerked his hands away angrily. "You do realize that Fury might have killed the entire coven with his poison."
"I do," said Aro sadly, I shudder to think what would have happened if we hadn't switched over to blood banks for the alliance with SHIELD…."
"If I had any suspicion of the extent of the damage you were going to cause…my god, I would have burned you when I had the chance!" Caius shouted.
There was only one thing to do under the circumstances, and Aro did it. He seized Caius's face in his hands and kissed him. It wasn't a romantic kiss by any means but neither was it completely platonic. It was a kiss of long-standing intimacy between two people who would always be more than brothers.
When they parted, Caius looked calmer and much younger. He leaned into Aro's hands, emotions seeping through his skin, fear, loneliness, jealousy. There was a part of Caius that would always be a frustrated, inarticulate teenager, and Aro would always be the only one to understand this.
"We will be alright, I promise," said Aro.
"Marcus and Didyme, they should never have encouraged this. They only think of themselves, not of you and what you have to sacrifice."
Aro pulled Caius close and leaned his chin on his shoulder. "Perhaps they encouraged me because they aren't as blinded by love as you are, because they can see me for what I am, a monster," he said quietly.
"Of course you're a monster," said Caius. "You have had to be in order to protect us all. No one should judge you for that." He hugged Aro tightly and buried his face in his brother's thick hair.
They didn't notice Loki's approaching heartbeat until he was at the door. Caius pulled back quickly, gave Loki a curt nod and left without saying a word.
Worried, Aro reached for Loki's hand immediately, afraid that the scene had been misinterpreted, but found only conflicted thoughts about Loki's own adopted younger brother.
"Families are always complicated," said Aro, resuming getting dressed. "Centuries of reading minds has only confirmed my own experience on this."
"Speaking of which, you should know that your sister has asked me to change her next," said Loki. "Will you object?"
Aro shook his head, letting himself become absorbed in the small pleasure of pairing a black suit with a silver necktie. "It is her right, as it was mine to go first. It wouldn't be right to choose someone else to take the risk for her at this point. By the way, you might want to start dressing like us now, would you like one of these suits? We're the same size I think…." He turned to Loki and saw that he was already dressed in a fashionable dark suit.
"…Or you could just do that," Aro concluded, smiling.
"I could," agreed Loki.
Aro slid his hand into Loki's and interlaced their fingers. "There's something I want you to see, it was in Fury's mind and I've researched it since with Natasha. I think you'll like it."
The extent of the building's interior was almost beyond belief, practically the size of a small city.
"What is this?" asked Loki, turning in place and staring around him at the scaffolding, cables, platforms, and half-constructed metal shapes contained within the open space.
"It's the floating headquarters of SHIELD," said Aro. "They were building it when you stole the Tesseract but it wasn't near completion so they used a prototype to take to the skies."
He stepped over to a control pad on a nearby wall and typed in a code. All around them transparent, holographic blueprints for walls, floors, machinery and technology sprang up, filling in the gaps between what was real and what had yet to be built.
"Magnificent," breathed Loki. "It's a palace for kings."
"I've directed Natasha to resume construction. We'll make some modifications I think, the plans aren't as technically advanced as they could be, and the Volturi have some engineers who could contribute much to the project."
Aro turned to Loki, grinning mischievously. "I've been wanting to take a closer look." He leapt upward, sailing through the air and landing on a tangle of cables near the high ceiling. He steadied himself, gripping the cables on either side of him, and leaned down to Loki's upturned face, many feet below.
"Care to join me?"
Loki appeared in front of him, his boots finding footholds next to Aro's.
"I would," Loki said, his low voice sending a shudder of pleasure through Aro's body.
He pulled Aro tightly to him, lifting one leg across his hip to bring them closer, savoring how aroused Aro was quickly becoming. With his other hand he grasped the back of Aro's head and kissed him deeply.
Aro moaned into Loki's mouth, his fists tightening on the cables until they threatened to snap. Loki increased the momentum of his movements, grinding his hips roughly against Aro's and tasting his mouth with aggressive insistence. Aro abruptly let go of the cables and pushed away, launching them both through the air across the gulf of empty space below.
They landed on a maintenance platform a distance away, tumbling over until Aro had Loki triumphantly pinned down by his forearms.
Before Aro could register his intentions, Loki vanished from underneath him, reappearing behind his back and seizing him firmly with one hand wrapped around his neck and the other grasping his shoulder. He jerked Aro's jacket back and contrasted the violence of the action with a slow series of gentle bites along the length of Aro's neck.
Aro's breath came in soft gasps as Loki dragged his hand down across the contours of his chest and then around to pause for an agonizingly long moment at the back of Aro's trousers before ripping neatly through belt and fabric. Almost in the same moment, Aro twisted around in Loki's hold, his body momentarily a streak of shadow, his legs wrapping around Loki's waist, bringing him down on top of him.
The sight of Aro laid out below him, with his dark hair spreading around him and an expression on his face of naked desire and open vulnerability, made Loki lose what was left of his self-control. He tore open the front of his own trousers and shoved himself into Aro, entering him with a kind of desperate violence.
Aro writhed underneath Loki as he thrust heavily and untiringly into him. His boots scraped against the platform's surface in a desperate attempt to gain traction and his fingers clawed deep grooves into the metal before he was able to brace himself enough to push back against Loki's thrusts, deepening their entry. Sharp shocks of pleasure ran through both of them, building in intensity. Their kisses were anything but tender, their mouths hard and devouring.
Overwhelmed, Aro groaned and locked his arms around Loki's shoulders. Despite his best efforts, he felt his body being pushed toward the completion of a process he could not control.
"Loki," he gasped. "I'm…I'm…."
Loki cradled Aro's head in his hands. "I have you," he said, his voice a strained whisper. He began to move faster, watching Aro's face intently as his eyes widened and his lips parted in a silent cry, before his head arched back and he shuddered violently.
While Loki was still enjoying the moment, he felt Aro recover and tighten his legs around him. In a blur of movement Loki was flat on his back, Aro above him, thrusting into him with deep, hard strokes, his slender fingers digging into the platform on either side of Loki's head and his teeth bared a little with the intensity of the effort.
Loki had barely time to gasp Aro's name before the pleasure overtook and crashed down upon him, temporarily robbing him of speech and strength.
Aro grinned down at Loki and laughed out of pure happiness. Loki joined him, paused to pull in deep breaths of air, and laughed again, the deep sound a counterpoint to Aro's high erratic laugh.
They lay together for some time, legs entangled, two dark angels in Armani suits.
"You haven't thought about taking over the world lately," Aro said after a while, his voice partially muffled in Loki's neck.
"Well, I've been a bit distracted," said Loki, smiling.
"You should think about it again."
Loki raised his head and quirked an eyebrow at Aro.
"Caius reminded me of something earlier, that I've always protected what was mine to protect, even if it made me a monster."
"What are you getting at, Aro? You want to rule this world as well?"
"Why not? The game may have changed but the rules remain the same. We control SHIELD now, the Avengers initiative, the Tesseract. We have a responsibility to protect the people of this planet, from themselves and from external enemies."
"I tried this once before, I thought humans would be better off without the dangers of freedom, but they're willing to throw themselves in the path of destruction rather than lose what they have."
Aro shook his head. "You forget that no one knows humans as intimately as I do. Humans don't believe they have freedom to give up. They look around and see nothing but constraints and limitations they have no control over. What they want, all they've ever wanted, is to be protected and looked after, not by something known and loved but by something secret, feared, effective."
"I had an army to help me take control before…."
"Armies can be defeated. What is much better is laws, invisible and yet so potent they are almost impossible to overturn. A few simple laws, easy to obey, easy to enforce."
Loki looked serious but Aro's smile grew wider, reading the rapidly developing plans in his mind.
"Your idea has possibilities," Loki said thoughtfully.
"Infinite possibilities," replied Aro. He looked upward with a quiet joy, as though he could see farther than the ceiling of a SHIELD facility, up to the stars beyond.