Toki looked up at Charles. Pale blue eyes met warm hazel ones, and silence fell between them.
Charles looked up again from his work, wondering what Toki wanted, and followed the Norwegian's gaze out the office door to a huddle of Kokateers guarding the entrance against possible asassins. He understood what Toki wanted, but he didn't want to admit it. After all, he employed the Klokateers, he was responsible for their inhumane treatment and sub-human standards. He had known from the beginning that it was wrong, but he couldn't bring himself to admit it. He couldn't do that to Toki. Or the other boys, but especially Toki.
"They want this, Toki.", he lied. Just last night, he had seen two of them drunk in the kitchen, crying, complaining to Jean-Pierre that they wanted to go home, that they didn't want to deal with this anymore. And Toki seemed to know he was lying. The reproachful glare he gave him told Charles so immediately, and he turned away angrily. Why couldn't he simply take the truth? So the Klokateers didn't want this, big deal. They had signed up for it, and they had known what they had been signing up for.
The younger man turned to face him again, and Charles sighed. "Toki, I know that a lot of them don't like it. They want to leave. I would too if I were them. But they knew what was going to happen, they can't pretend that they didn't know, that I asked them to do something that wasn't in the bargain."
"Charlies, dey didnt's know dey woulds be treateds likes de animals. Likes... likes pigs. You didnt's never tells dem dat, dids you?", Toki blustered, and Charles blinked. Toki was right. He had mentioned undying loyalty, unwavering service and adamantine devotion, but not once had anything about animalistic treatment been said. Shame burned in his face as he watched Toki sit up from the wood-tiled floor. Perfectly arranged, real wood. The Gears had to contend themselves with sleeping on cots and crates and sacks of flour in the basement. And here he was, sleeping in the best bed he'd ever slept in, getting Prime Italian and Jamaican Brandy whenever he wanted it, working but never overworked. Toki was right. He had ruined hundreds of thousands of lives.
One of the Klokateers entered the room with a bow and asked politely, "Milord, shall we arrange for more Brandy to be brought up?"
"No, thank you. Go and take the day off.", Charles offered, and at the man's stunned look, he smiled.
And to ensure he would be listened to, he added gently, "That's an order."