Hieron gazed out the window. The decanter on the side table had been closer to full a hour before.
A jostling came at the door. Then a pause. And then other rustling and the door opened. Rocco dropped some items into his pocket and walked in with a puzzled look on his face.
“Oh! Mister Farnsworth. I didn’t expect you to be home. Good thing, I suppose, as my key wasn’t working and I…ummmm…had to jim…err…fiddle with it to get the door open. You want me to go get a locksmith to look at it.”
Hieronymoose acted as if he hadn’t heard any of the Rocco’s stammering.
“Rockford, my dear fellow, come have a seat here and enjoy the sunset.”
Rocco approached slowly, his tail twitched nervously when he was unsure of what was going on.
“It had not occured to me when I rented this flat the view it would have. See how the sunset pierces the St. Marrowbone Cathedral stained glass windows? Georgeous, really.”
Hieron let a silence fall. After the space of a dozen of Hieron’s heart beats (and more than double that of Rockford’s), he cleared his throat.
“I’m sure even with all of your extra-ciruricular activities you’ve heard of my impending nuptuals?”
Rocco nervously nodded. Hieron reached over and poured the squirrel a wee dram and handed it to him.
“To the institution of marriage and all that comes with it!”, intoned Hieron.
"Congratulations, Sir. I’ve been meaning to find time in our busy schedules to stop off and congratulate you.
“Yes. I’m sure you have.” replied Hieron flatly.
Rocco twitched on the edge of his seat. The scotch was some of Hieron’s best.
“About the locksmith…”
“Yes.” Interupted Rocco, “I can go straight away, I know a guy who’ll come straight out even as evening falls upon us…”
“No need. A proper locksmith was out earlier in the day. As I said, I am to be betrothed soon and we will live for the most part here in town.”
Rocco blinked several times as his nose twitched.
"So, to put this bluntly, you will of course have your room out at Abacus Racks where you are free to stay as my ward. But no longer do I wish you in this apartment. Furthermore, I do not wish for you to be “Inspecting the Warehouses” on my authority and have informed the foreman of that.
“Dear, dear Rocco. I hope you can understand why I am doing this. It’s not that you’ve fallen in with a bad crowd. It’s that you’ve fallen in with a bad crowd and been noticed. All sentients will have their daliances in their day, but a true Gentlesentient knows discretion and honor over all.”
“Your mates Tom and Eighth were keen enough to secure life mates. Even that Qumquat? Qwattle? Whatever his name is has found the eye of my dear cousin. Do you not understand that when the chips fall - and fall they will - those who are married to True Citizens will find their misdeeds swept under a carpet and those whose only ‘protection’ is an Aldermoose who must be seen as a acting in Weatherby’s interest will be…dealt with harshly.”
Rocco’s eyes had grown wide with astonishment.
“I would ask that you keep your nose clean until after the ceremony. I’m sure we can work out an arrangement to keep you out of the press until then, hmmm? It would be noticed if my own ward was not in attendance.”
A silence lingered briefly as Hieronymoose let Rockford twitch.
"I’ll have you know that you must be thankful to Liz already; Ms Heliotrope has a noted distaste for the Military. And just the other night, Cmdr Damerl (@pogo) had already begun inquiries to an academy that he could put a word in at. ‘Shape the boy, right up.’, he said. This was while I was enjoying an evening at Levithan’s.
“So, Boyo,” spat Hieronymoose. “I will give you this as an option. There happens to be a certain Trades Concern that will be taking in it’s inaugural class. I happen to have some influence there and have secured for you a place in that class as well as a room in the domortory. I think a proper education in business accumen would see you do well. Word has it that your freelancing has been reasonably successful. Complete the course in the top of your class, keep your whiskers clean, and I’m sure I will have a place for you in one of my businesses. Fail and your only option on Weatherby will be cleaning the fish pens.”
Rocco blinked. Blinked again. Finished his scotch.
“No need to answer tonight. I’m sure your busy schedule needs to be cleared. I’ll give you until tomorrow dinner. Liz and I are dining at the The Antlers and you two can be properly introduced. Fail to show and I’ll let the fishmaster know to expect you. You can go now, Rockford Julius.”