𝓣𝐢𝐦𝐞 ✦ Around 10:00 𝒜ℳ
𝓛𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 ✦ Grand Hall, Tepes Island
𝓘𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 ✦ each other, mentions: @ineffable@QueenNugget@Tootsiepop
𝓛𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 ✦ Grand Hall, Tepes Island
𝓘𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 ✦ each other, mentions: @ineffable@QueenNugget@Tootsiepop
There was only one thing better than a strong drink while watching the entertainment of children acting like adults, and that was a free strong drink. The smooth Gin did little to remind him of its ailments as it slid down his throat leaving just the faintest of burns as mostly disinterested eyes scanned through the room, there was still no sign of the princess he had spent the majority of his night with, but the fiery locks of a familiar gorgeous comrade brought a smug smile to his lips. The connection of their eyes was brief but he saw the annoyance in them, and as his own blood stepped into his view and offered a lame attempt at conversation Octavius could only reply with quiet laughter.
The laugh was genuine, and it was applicable to everything within the last thirty minutes or so, especially the king’s speech. What a way for the king to break up his biggest threats while masking it as a handout for the less fortunate of their world.
what a joke.
A small scowl replaced the smile as his vision focused on the shorter male standing across from him. A rare sight it was to see his only full sibling in the flesh and blood and even rarer at a “little” vampire soirée. Well, at least Dominic was smart enough to heed the warnings of his older brother. Octavius’ hand on Dom’s shoulder wasn’t nearly as crushing as it appeared and carried the affections he was allowed to share between his family,” I’m glad you still listen to me some of the time Dom. Have you been having a good time so far? No trouble?” The latter one of the two questions was pointed and quieter than the first, an older and wiser light flashing in the youthful appearance of the well-known troublemaker, ” Can we get my cute little brother here a drink?”
“I’ve been getting by,” he remarked taking the drink offered to him. It was clear, which gave him a good idea of what it was. Taking a sip from the glass, his guess was confirmed to be true as his lips had quivered from the bitterness of the drink. “Does this place have anything less heavy than gin?” Dominic made it a mission to keep his displeasure with hard liquor to an absolute minimum so he didn’t seem like a complete burden. “I’ve been keeping to myself mostly. I don’t think anyone here cares for me all that much, though. I’m sure the word about what I do has reached some here.” He was only guessing. He had no way of knowing if the vampires here actually knew what he did.
Octavius chuckled at the displeasure his brother seemed to be fighting to not appear as a brat, but what were little brothers for? “Gin is good for a man's body, Dom, it’ll make you strong and desirable. For instance look over your left shoulder, you remember Andrie? Well, she’s been looking for me all night and this morning, probably to suck my soul out… or blow my brains out, who knows?” The second part was added as an afterthought but it was all quickly dispelled with the order of drink more suitable for a soft boy like Dom. With their drinks figured out and small talk complete, it was time for business, and with his younger brother adamant about staying out of the family loop there was a lot of it to go over. “Dad stepped down from the Head position a couple of years back and gave it to Stef.” That bit went down with a large swing of his liquor, no amount of time would ever make that news bearable for Tavi, but he pressed on anyway.
“You know Stef is less than delighted to have any Zeno’s straying from the family business. While this little stunt our lovely king is pulling may seem like a handout, it’s 100% a power move. Our dear older brother has been stepping on Dmitri’s toes for too long, and now the King is doing us the favor of reminding that insufferable asshole his own little brothers are thorns in his sides. You happen to be the bigger thorn of us two.” There was a pause given for Dom to digest what he was saying and hopefully start piecing together what this whole shebang meant for them,” I’ll lose my place in the Mob as a formality, but none of those men would turn against me—if they did they’d die anyway. But you, you’re free for the taking Dom, and not the kind you’d enjoy. I know you hate our world, but you have to become involved now to protect yourself, I can’t do that for you anymore.”
He said nothing. Dom didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t make him sound like a cliche. The reason he broke away from the family was due to his intense disagreements with how his family -- hell his kind -- handled their treatment and opinion of the humans. He understood why they felt that way, but he was far from accepting of it. Tavi had done everything he could to protect him. Being the oldest had a few perks, but now… Everything, as they say, was fucked.
“I’ll just leave New York then. I’ve lived under the radar once before. I can do it again.” Dom was all talk right now. He was reacting like he normally did to news he didn’t quite like and maybe it was a bit of his fear setting in. “Not like anyone in the family will give a damn about the human sympathizer of the Zeno family.”
The reactionary snort was humorless and carried the bite of the coldness that had seeped into his bones over the past two centuries. A little devil on his shoulder urged Octavius to just let things be what they would be and accept the fact that if Dom ended up getting himself killed then that was just Natural Selection doing its handiwork. The insistence wasn’t enough this time around, the loyalty he had to his little brother wouldn’t be bested by the whispers of his demons.
A strong hand clasped Dom’s shoulder in a sort of reassurance that paired with a less than reassuring chuckle, “Leaving isn’t going to save you this time, you’ll need to put yourself into a position of security. You need to make powerful allies, right now there’s a room full of people that don’t know you, but definitely know about the Zeno name. Andromeda can probably be talked into helping you out, she’s more useful than most people give her credit for.”
He tried to be positive about it or, at the very least, be positive for his brother’s sake, but right now Dominic wasn’t exactly feeling it. For that to happen, the immediate future would have to be abysmal for Dominic to not see the light at the end of the tunnel. “Wonderful,” Dominic said as hopeful as he could make it sound.
At the back of his mind, he knew it wasn’t likely that they would turn him away at the mention of his name. Dominic Zeno carried some weight, even if he was just the youngest son. He wasn’t no Octavius Zeno or even the other Zeno’s out there, but hell be damned if Dom actually wanted to continue to lay low as he had been doing for years -- decades, even.
Yeah, he hated this new normal but he knew Tavi was right. He hated it and wished it wasn’t the case, but he knew he had to make at least some effort. “Fine, you win this round.” Dom scanned the room and all of the potential allies seemed poor. “Who do I even begin with? Should I just go for the top of the food chain and try and sway the Tepes Princess to be a friend?” Dom wasn’t trying to convey himself as a smartass. He was wholeheartedly serious.
” I wouldn’t say that’s the best strategy right out of the gates.” The pointed voice came from behind Dom as the short redhead pushed her way through a group of boisterous vampires. She frowned as one stepped on her shoe, wrinkling her nose. ” Not that you’d have much success with that plan anyway.”
Her eyes traced Tavi’s figure coldly, her mouth set in a thin, displeased line. ”I’m not going to even start laying into you about last night.” No matter how many times she tried to scold Octavius, he rarely paid any attention. Some days Andrie wondered why she even bothered trying to get his attention anymore. ” I hope I’m not interrupting anything, though. I just thought I heard my name being thrown around over here. As for you,” She turned to Dominic. ” Going after the biggest fish in the sea isn’t the best idea, but not having anyone behind you is an even worse plan.” Andrie had only ever heard of Dom, never actually seen him. It seemed everything about him didn’t take after his brothers, especially his personality.
Probably a good thing, if she were being honest.
”Besides, you want people useful to building your house. While social traction is nice, skill is even better.”
Octavius’ lips quirked into an amused smirk upon hearing Andrie’s voice and feeling the ice in her glare. The mentions of last night were met with a questioning raise of his eyebrow. Apparently, the missed text messages were more serious than he thought, not that it would have changed anything they were both busy with other people. Despite her obvious displeasure with him, Tavi couldn’t help but pull the beauty towards him and plant an exaggerated kiss on her cheek, “I’m here now Andrie, so forget about last night, yeah? You look stunning.” the last part was a quiet whisper in her ear before he back off allowing her space and set his eyes on the group he had excused himself from moments ago. Andrie glowered at him halfheartedly, wiping her cheek.
“I wouldn’t go for the crown family. The Tepes are traditionalists, they're in it to preserve their family name. Niklaus and Kasania don’t care about the name nor the traditions but Niko is too young to protect you and Kasania mostly tolerates Milo and me because of Niko. Well, I’m sure there’s love in there somewhere but she wouldn’t bat an eye in throwing us under the bus if it meant saving her brother.”
Octavius took a moment to let his eyes travel to the newcomers to the table looking them over from the distance. The conversation with them would have given him more of an opportunity to form a more complete impression, but the introduction was enough for now.
” As for the other girls that approached the table... Avyanna’s my pick, she’s young but confident, and she has the same look in her eyes as I did when I first migrated to America. There’s potential in her, she could be groomed to be extremely useful. The other one, she’s the Artois’, a hidden gem in the art house. Obviously pretty, but she can’t keep her eyes off The Dog, and Milo will more than likely want to play with her, so she may very well soon be off limits...” The volume of his voice drifted with his eyes moving back to Dom, “What will you do little brother?”
That was the million dollar question.
What was Dominic going to do? He wanted to continue to just not doing anything but what he had been for the past fifty years or so. He didn’t want to get involved in the politics of people he no longer cared for nor had an interest in knowing. The only people in the vampire world (or at least those involve with vampires) he seemed to give two damns about was Tavi and his silent partner who helped his clinic stay afloat and stay under the radar. Yeah, staying under the radar was exactly what he couldn’t do anymore and honestly? Dom hated it. He hated it all and he should have just stayed in New York, consequences be damned.
“I have no earthly idea.” He could only laugh at just how the choices were slim at best of them being successful. “I figured going for our family’s rivals would be my best bet since I’m not exactly close with the Zenos,” he looked at Tavi, “well except for you.” Then came another laugh, followed by a deep sigh. “What about the other Artois? I’m not a complete moron. I know that they at least aren’t like the Tepes family. What are the odds of me striking a partnership or whatever that needs to happen with one of them?” He asked Tavi and the redhead.
Andrie broke her gaze from the pair of princes, letting her eyes scan the crowd for faces she recognized. While business often didn’t cross lines with members of other houses, she was smart enough to do her research. There was one face, in particular, she was trying to pick out.
” If I may...” Andrie chewed on her lip pensively, turning back to Dom and Tavi. ” Despite being a pureblood, I think Irene might be a viable ally for you. I may not know much about her- or you,” She added, pausing to give Dom a quick once over. ” But from what I’ve gathered of the two of you, you might share some of the same ideals. Plus, she didn’t seem drawn to the asshole type when she was talking to your brother here.” She punched out her words, reluctant to admit she hadn’t let Tavi too far out of her sight, despite her annoyance with him. “I doubt she’d like the methods Tavi and his friends use to get what they want. And, people don’t talk much about you, but I’ve heard you aren’t too fond of the way we do things around here either. You might be able to see eye to eye on more than most other Zenos here.”
She shrugged, dismissive of her own opinion. If there was anything she knew from her years serving the Zenos, few of them liked to be told what to, and she wasn’t too keen on crossing any of them, regardless of their position. Better safe than sorry, for the sake of self-preservation. ” But most of that I’ve pieced together from watching her and bits and pieces of what I’ve heard. So take my advice with a grain of salt, if you will.”
“Of course you have my support, but it goes as far as advising. I’ve played this game already and I could care less about changing anything within our world so I won’t be much of a participant. I think Andrie has a good idea, Irene might not be the next in line but she has powerful family members you could work your way getting close to.” There was another Artois in the estate that could offer Dom a great deal of help, but Tavi wasn’t inclined to start throwing her name around in the case others were listening to their conversations. Following a strong pat, Octavius motioned to the path leading to the youngest Artois, “No better time than now, yeah? Just politely pull her away from the group, strike while the iron is hot, and all that.”. The serious tone of their conversation had lifted with the small chuckle and the order of his second drink, “Take Andrie with you if you need back up.”
The jolt of force on his back only reinforced the idea that Dom started to build in his head that his brother was starting to get impatient with him. Or at least wanting Dominic to make an attempt to get something going before this first party was over. Whichever it was, he rolled his eyes but surrendered to the path that he was now on. There was truly no excuse to use now. He had asked his questions and were given detailed answers. The two potential allies he saw was the black beauty who he couldn’t help but notice was incredibly attractive and the equally alluring, Irene.
He took in a deep, though short, breath. “Well, then let’s see if I still got the charming pleasantries that father drilled into me all those years ago.” Playful as it was, Dom winked his brother’s way as he nervously approached Irene Artois with Andrie there beside him for support ...whatever that meant.