Disclaimer: Don't own anything.

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Ashtray

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"Master", a young furniture's timid voice forced Raoul to look up from his computer's screen. For the boy's sake, the Blondie sincerely hoped the matter was important: he was in the middle of preparing his speech for the next Council's meeting.

"Yes", he barked, once again concentrating on the work. Something was amiss with the last sentence, the First Consul had to admit, albeit very reluctantly.

The furniture picked up his Master's sour mood but had no choice but to continue. Leaving now would irritate Master Am even more.

"Katze is here to see you, Master", the boy hastily provided, having decided that it may shift the Blondie's anger to the red-haired dealer.

Well, he wasn't in the household of the demanding Consul for nothing – he guessed correctly.

Raoul's eyes narrowed slightly. The mongrel should have more sense than to come to his apartment. Yes, it was true that since Jason's abrupt death and Raoul's appointment to the position of the First Consul of Amoi they had concluded business together, but to actually barge into Raoul's home… Presumptuous. Cheeky even.

Any other person would point out that Katze was neither 'barging in' nor cheeky in his attitude towards the Consul, but Raoul was far too riled up by the speech to notice such subtle things.

"Shall I invite him in, Master?", the furniture had to once again bring his Master out of his musings.

For a second, Raoul was tempted to send the dealer away with advice to wait for a clear invitation next time, but quickly discarded the idea. As much as he despised the red head, he had to give it to him that he would never bother him unless there was a dire need. Therefore, he nodded his consent and, watching his furniture's back as he was walking out, he entertained the thought of scolding the mongrel anyway. There was nothing more relaxing after a hard day of arguing with every counsellor and minister in Tanagura than observing the dealer squirming under his fiery glare.

A sound of sure, yet soft footsteps and the said red head appeared in the door, bowing the moment when he became aware of the host's gaze on him.

"Sir Am", Katze's voice was always quiet and well-modulated when he was talking to Raoul. He was no fool and had realised years ago that the golden-haired Blondie hated him, for reasons obscure. No hurry to make him act on that hatred, especially now, when he desperately needed whatever backup from the Elite possible after he'd lost Jason's initial support.

"Why are you here?", Raoul wasn't going to waste his breath on greeting the man. His tone was so frosty that Katze, despite his perfect self-control, involuntarily flinched.

"I apologise for inconveniencing you, Sir Am", a smooth reply, followed by another bow, "I'm here because of Master Mink's order."

"Jason's?", Raoul blinked, so surprised that he didn't notice the dumbness of his question in time. Of course Jason's surname was Mink.

"Yes, Sir Am", Katze had no death wish to address the slip. Feeling already more than uncomfortable after the hard glare, he chose to carry on without further prompting, "I was instructed by Master Mink to bring it to you six months after his death. I believe today six months have passed", ducking his head a little, he approached the desk, fishing out a small oval tablet from his pocket.

Raoul's eyes didn't leave him for a fraction of second, now suspiciously inspecting the device.

"What's that, Katze?"

"I was informed that it's Master Mink's last will", almost inaudible answer.

"Informed?"

"Yes, Master Mink entrusted me with it almost a year before his death", from a subtle tension in the man's posture Raoul quickly deduced that the dealer still grieved his former master. An emotion Raoul particularly disliked in the red head.

"Really?", he leaned back, crossing his arms mockingly, "He, the First Consul of Amoi, entrusted you", the last word was accentuated by a note of disgust, "With his last will?"

The Blondie could see that was he anyone else, Katze would either punch him or leave.

"I'm quite proud to say that I think I'd earned his trust", now the voice was soft because the dealer was placating both Raoul and himself, "I'm rather good at keeping secrets", it was meant as a hint at also keeping secret the current First Consul's association with him.

Raoul would never be threatened by a mongrel.

"And that pretty scar of yours is a perfect example of that. Both earning trust or keeping things secret, especially your own activities."

Oh, there. A small, quickly restrained motion of the head to shield the cheek away from the view.

"So, Katze, is opening the file also a part of your 'instruction'?"

The dealer nodded, swiftly taking care of the tablet. Fortunately, it wasn't a complex one, unless you counted the password. Otherwise, Raoul would have surely notice how his fingers were trembling.

Soon, a holographic Iason sprang out of the tablet.

Katze felt his throat constrict and he had to turn away from Raoul's penetrating gaze. He didn't want the Consul to comment about how affected by the other Blondie he still was.

"Greetings", Iason's voice sounded as strong and commanding as ever, "Raoul, my friend", the tone grew warmer and Raoul put a strand of stray locks behind his ear, "I hope you'll do me this favour and become an executioner of my will."

Even though the reply was useless, Raoul still smiled in agreement. It was nice to hear his friend again, he could now do it without regret, he had come to terms with everything that had happened, unlike other people in that room. Of course, he would make sure matters would be settled to Iason's satisfaction.

"First off", Iason got down to business, never one for needless chit-chat, "All my funds, possessions, along with my apartment shall belong to Riki."

Katze's mouth twitched.

"If", Iason sighed, "By any tragic chance he's no longer there, everything shall be inherited by Raoul Am. If Riki is there, Raoul shall become the owner of all of my works concerning biological engineering and the politics."

That was to be expected. Katze was too impartial to accuse Raoul of indifference, therefore he didn't know what to make of the Consul's blank face. Was it his disapproval of Riki? But should such emotions matter when both the mongrel and his owner were dead? Wasn't it a time to forgive?

"Then, my furniture", Iason was serious and chilly again, "Both of them shall be granted citizenship and a yearly pension, not smaller than 13 000 credits. Raoul, please", the Consul's eyes changed to softer, "Take care of it and their first months of freedom. They've been reliable, loyal workers and they desire as much. Katze will arrange that if you wish him to."

Both listeners were taken aback at this, although neither betrayed it. The authoritative tone in which Iason gave Katze his dispositions were at odds with the gentle voice addressing Raoul. One that the current First Consul began to think about it, he couldn't really recall how Iason had tended to treat his ex-furniture. No matter how hard he tried, he came up with nothing. Indifference? Taking him for granted? He should have… Wait, should he? What exactly was Katze's status?

A citizen? The man was probably as rich as Croesus, to use the expression from the Old Terra, he should have no problems with acquiring an ID and a citizen's rights, even if in a not entirely legal way. But then, he had never heard anyone calling Katze by a surname of any kind. When his arrival was announced to Raoul, too, it was always 'Katze', not even 'Mister Katze'.

A furniture? Raoul had to snort. The man was far too old (by the way, he wondered how old exactly) and damaged goods. Besides, he wasn't wearing a furniture tag. No, Iason must have given him his freedom back, he had been using him in the black market, a servant wouldn't have got so high in the hierarchy there.

So, what? A mongrel from Ceres and nothing more?

He inspected the dealer, not ashamed of being spotted. He had every right to do so and Katze knew it. Wisely, he silently subjected himself to the scrutiny. Tall, lean, pale like porcelain. Irises of unusual, amber hue, slightly slanted, always bright and calculating. Fiery red hair, almost like Ruby's, thin 'determined' lips. All in all, not a typical Ceres material.

It was soon interrupted by Iason's next words.

"Katze", the name was called so sharply that Katze instinctively straightened up.

He'd been waiting for that moment since he had crossed the doorstep of Raoul's apartment. Honestly, even in his own head he couldn't voice his expectations. What were they? Some form of appreciation? Gratitude? He'd never got it, but maybe, with the prospect of a death something had changed. A goodbye, most probably. After all, he was the most faithful servant, of that he was sure. Iason hadn't needed his strong personality to ensure Katze's devotion, the fact he'd kept his life in his perfectly shaped hands had been enough. Still, the furniture got citizenship, so maybe, just maybe, he too would be signing his next contract with two words instead of one.

Iason's lips curved up in a bad imitation of a smile, one he had always directed at his red head.

"Katze", he repeated in a self-satisfied way, "You've always admired that old ashtray in my office, the one shipped from Sion. It's yours. There seem to be a lot of ashes around you."

Raoul saw Katze stiffen. The dealer's fist clenched and was quickly hidden between the man's thighs as he tried to take a deep breath. It was a punishable display of negative emotions, emotions that were obviously meant as a disagreement with a Blondie, but the Consul decided to be merciful and let himself pretend he was oblivious to it. He could remember it for later, scolding Katze now, in such state was pointless. Bitterness made mongrels unaffected by things happening outside their minds and he wanted the dealer to be very aware of his every word should he chose to reprimand him. Truthfully, Raoul could almost understand him. Almost. More than that, he felt a smirk forming on his lips. What now, Katze? Opinionated, proud, sarcastic Katze? Where's your famous control?

Katze willed his breathing back to normal, he had an audience here watching him like a hawk. It would do him no good to react to Iason's order. How could he have hoped that his misdeed would warrant any other consequences? A dismissal, like the one seven years ago, the banishment to the underworld, the fleeting glances when Riki had appeared on the scene... Short messages and cutting remarks. Lot of ashes. Right. As if because of his hair whatever he had touched turned into ashes, sooner of later. Even his owner wasn't an exception.

Not to mention his own soul.

"And", Iason spoke up when they were both sure his speech had ended, "Tomorrow, bring your tag to Raoul."

A dismissal would have been to easy. He had got a life sentence.

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