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Jul 23, 2019 12:05 PM
Cat gets invited for a peaceful tea with Felix's family
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When they went to live with their grandparents the triplets felt very hopeful about the future. Their parents' warnings even looked entirely unwarranted after a while.

It was after their first "mixer" with "people of their age" that they noticed anything amiss. The questions didn't sound that bad at first, typical parental figure inquiring about romantic prospects. But the question got insisting and the parties more frequent. The young Daliath women looked less friendly and more "looking for an opening to exploit", so did the girls' relatives.

For a while, Felix (or Feliaris in this world) held to the hope. He gave his parents the benefit of doubt. Then one night they are at a party with some Daliath from Parjen. Full-augmented Daliath, unlike the local norm of partial augmented like his family. Felix started a conversation with a (very) tall dark-skinned young woman, his age and a fashion model.

Their grandparents almost stopped the conversation by force. It must have been coordinated, some people distracted her and another set distracted him. Felix joined his brothers in not-attending the kind of event.

Then the grandparents, got wind of some rumors and confronted the triplets about it. Separately, so they couldn't coordinate. Luckily, Fernando predicted the possibility and they collectively deflected any questions. It was suspicious, but it meant their grandparents knew nothing besides that there was a boy named "Katur".

Their grandparents changed tactics. Of course they did.

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Eleonora didn't get the chance to talk to the Vaesteri triplets at previous parties. Everyone wanted to talk to them. Of course, who wouldn't? Prestigious family, broken apart by tragedy, raised in the exotic and wild world of Earth and finally returned to Milirevi to reclaim their birthrights. It was the plot of a romance novel come to life and everyone wanted to be the heroine or be related to the heroine. Or more likely, they wanted status and money.

 

But time passed, Eleonora was not invited to other parties where the triplets attended and the rumor mill didn't reveal anything useful until the triplets stopped attending parties all together.

However, an invitation arrived at the Paresteri household, politely asking for attendance at a small tea party with other people (subtext: young women) of similar status.

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The Vaesteris are not the only ones subtly pushing their scions in the direction of suitable matches. Aron Paresteri, a partly-augmented Daliath who is justifiably proud of his bloodline, wants grandchildren. Leo has been dealing with hints of decreasing subtlety for the last few years. Aron is delighted that his daughter received an invitation from such a prestigious family; his offspring is less than thrilled. 

Eleonora Paresteri would be delighted to attend, says the reply.

It's not like Leo had anything better to do with that time, and it is nice to meet new people, especially ones who grew up in other cultures like the Vaesteri triplets did. 

Because they'll have more interesting stories to share, clearly. Not for any other reason, like the fact that they might be less likely to share the traditional Daliath outlook on certain things. It isn't done to talk about such matters at a tea party anyway, even—especially—one that's a thinly disguised cover for parental and grandparental matchmaking. 

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She might want to make a quick detour at the temple before climbing the stairs towards the large residence above, but that's entirely optional.

A maid opens the door and takes her to a balcony. "Eleonora Paresteri, daughter of Aron Paresteri," she announces.

Dal-Jaon Vaesteri stands up and greets her. "I am glad you honor my household with your presence," he actually sounds sincere, "I feel I never had the opportunity to talk to your family."

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It's a fairly spacious balcony with a lot of flowering plants. They must have some kind of weather-ward because there is no sign of the earlier rain.

Besides the hosts and Eleonora there must be at least two other families, with a total of three other young women "of age". There is also a non-Vaesteri young man, because plausible deniability is important, or maybe the Vaesteri are just generous/multitasking.

The third triplet is nowhere to be seen. One is leaning on the guard-rails, looking at the city beyond and ignoring the girl trying to get his attention.

One of them is unexcitedly talking to a "candidate" and her younger sister, until the two are called over by an older relative. Leaving him open for conversation.

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"It's my honour to be here, sir." Leo can do the 'sounding sincere' trick too. The trick is to find the part of yourself that genuinely believes whatever message you want to convey. "My father sends his apologies that he could not attend, but sadly he had a prior engagement." 

This man is almost certainly one of the most bigoted people in the room and if he knew half of what went on in Leo's head he would regret that invitation immediately. That knowledge is a bright, bubbling feeling that puts a sparkle in Leo's eye and helps make the smile look genuine, even while wanting to slap the smug look off Dal-Jaon Vaesteri's face. 

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"We offer our apologies for sending an invite in such short notice," Dal-Jaon says unaware of anything going through her head. He spots the lone triplet, sipping tea. "But of course, an old man like me shouldn't bore a bright young woman like you. Would you mind keeping company to one of my grandsons?"

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"It would be my pleasure." By which Leo means that none of the rumours around the Vaesteri triplets suggest that they might be unpleasant conversation partners. 

Having also noticed the lone triplet, Leo heads in that direction.

Observation so far suggests that the two visible triplets are unimpressed with the standard approach, so maybe starting with something other than bland small-talk would be a good idea. That suits Leo just fine. Small-talk is a necessary evil to be gotten out of the way so the real conversation can begin. Better to lead with something clever, something funny, something that leaves the young Vaesteri—and it's starting to be annoying that there's no way to tell which one is which—with the impression that Eleonora Paresteri is an interesting person. 

"So," Leo says at a volume intended only for the two of them, "would you rather be back on Earth right now, where you couldn't do magic in public but your grandparents wouldn't be putting you on display like a prize racehorse?" 

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Well, that gets a surprised chuckle out of him, though he still looks a bit tired. "Now, that's a complicated question to answer." He combs his fingers through his hair and offers a seat and a cup of tea from a self-heating teapot.

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"All the best ones are," Leo comments, accepting a teacup and sitting down. "I've got time. I'm Leo, by the way." 

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"I am Feliaris... but call me Felix," he adds after a pause. "And well, first step answering the question is dispelling the stereotype that Earth is a war-torn world. You don't see guns on the street everywhere everyday. Well, maybe in some parts of America."

He really does not expect her to get the joke. It's a test. He hates that he is testing people at all.

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"Felix," Leo repeats quietly. It's easier to remember someone's name if you've said it back to them. 

The comment about America gets a laugh. "Oh, I've heard a lot about America. Is that where you were living on Earth?" With mock concern, Leo adds, "You weren't involved in any shootings, were you?" 

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"No?" That's not a funny subject, but Felix guesses it's his fault for bringing it up. "I mean, of course not I was never involved in any shootings. But that's where I used to live on Earth. Though, I was born in Brazil."

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Aaaa he's awkward why is Leo finding this cute—

"Oh! Which was your favourite? Brazil or America?" Not even thinking about what to say to impress him anymore, just genuinely wanting to know because it's interesting that he's lived in two different places even before coming here. 

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"We were kids when we moved, so it's hard to pick an actual favorite." He can do small talk, that's something he can do. "But defaults to America, where everyone I know is."

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"That makes sense," Leo agrees. "Is there anyone you'll especially miss?"

Maybe he has a girlfriend back on Earth and that's why he's not interested in any of the girls here. Or a boyfriend, suggests part of Leo's brain. That part does not get a say in this conversation and is summarily ignored. 

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"Of course, my parents are still there."

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"Right. Yes, I did know that, I just. Forgot. Sorry." Ugh, that was a stupid mistake, that's one of the few things everyone knows about the Vaesteris. Well done, Leo, now Felix is going to think you're an idiot. Or maybe just a heartless bitch. 

"I, uh, meant more like friends. Or maybe someone who was more than a friend?" Carefully not giving this hypothetical person a gender, to see what he makes of that. 

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"Ah," Felix says like he expecting this.

Well, the sad thing is that asking that line of questioning actually puts Leo ahead of most other candidates.

"It's okay. I am okay," he says tiredly. "I had plenty of friends and used to have plenty of more of friends. No one that I am currently missing." He tilts his head. "There was someone I wish I could've told about sorcery, he-" Felix shakes his head.

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"...you could tell me about him?" Leo suggests softly. "If you want, I mean."

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Felix gives her a look. Like he is not sure what's the angle of attacking she is aiming at.

But Felix's natural instincts take over and he figures there ought to be a non-nefarious explanation. Certainly, a reasonable justification even if...

"I just think he really would've liked knowing about magic... why do you ask? Do you..." he lowers his voice to a whisper, "need help?"

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The minute flinch that follows Felix's words probably answers his question, along with the look on Leo's face.

"...yes. How did you—"

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"I- lucky guess," he gently puts a hand on her arm, waiting for a reaction. "What's going on? Is it something I can do to help?"

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Leo doesn't pull away, but Felix can feel the arm he's holding shake with tension. 

"I—is there somewhere quieter we can talk—" They're still speaking in hushed voices, and it's unlikely that anyone else is listening in, but that probability goes up the more openly distressed either of them looks. 

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Felix makes himself smile, for the benefit of people watching. "Of course, do you want to see my contraband of Earth media? It's at our library."

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"You know, I think I would like that." Leo summons up a smile from somewhere and shifts Felix's hand so they're arm in arm. "Lead on." 

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