Why Do You Write As If You're Running Out of Time? (JP M'ayen/T'ril)


It was amazing how quickly you could go from being the quiet kid no-one really paid attention to except occasionally to grumble his essays were a bit half-hearted to just..drowning. Garatt was just..tired. Miserably tired. Constantly tired. Tired because he tried to catch up on essays too late and too early, tired because D’xon had introduced the new torture of morning detentions, tired because eating made him feel like vomiting so he’d started to just pick at his food, tired because when he did try to sleep he couldn’t. Just tired.

So, in one class after another he started to fall behind. Homework started to be prioritised by who was likely to shout most. M’ayen, naturally, headed that list, D’xon was not far behind, then Talena and everyone else had to slot in somewhere behind with work dashed off hastily when he could. 

Or-- in someone else’s class. He was near the back of T’ril’s class, and just sitting listening was liable to make him sleepy anyway. There was a whole heap of essays he had to complete still for D’xon; the more he struggled the more they multiplied with essays on fidgeting and paying attention added to the heap. No-one would notice that it wasn’t just note-taking surely? Hesitantly at first and then with more speed he started to work on the most recent, soon shutting out the drone of T’ril’s voice altogether as his pen flew over the paper.

At first, T’ril was pleased at the diligence of all his class members, taking notes. And glancing at the notes, they looked adequate, if not good. Some of these kids would be in his classes for Turns, so the adequate notes of today would be the perfect notes of tomorrow. He probably wouldn’t have noticed, except that he’d stopped to ask a question and the one boy kept on writing. And writing. He hadn’t said that much--how many notes could one take on the breaking and separating of firestone anyway? So he stopped and looked over Garatt’s shoulder. The boy was so focused on his writing that he didn’t even notice T’ril there.

Wing formations need to be spaced...That was not what he was talking about. He stood next to Garatt and quietly asked, “So, what do Wing formations have to do with firestone?” he asked. He didn’t yell. He didn’t scream. He just asked as if he were asking what the weather was like today.

Garatt froze. He hadn’t even noticed the ACM walking up close to him. He raised a guilty face to the man; just because he wasn’t shouting yet didn’t mean he wasn’t going to. “I.. uh..” He fumbled, trying to find a good excuse. “So… you space it right.. So they don’t burn each other..?”

“Mmmhmm.” Though T’ril knew that was the wrong answer, the almost ghostly pallor of Garatt’s skin, the dark circles under his eyes, the way his uniform hung off of his slight frame...when he first started coming to class, he wasn’t that skinny, was he? T’ril chose to ignore the fact that the Candidate was doing someone else’s lesson in his class. He wanted to tell the kid to go to the Healer’s, but maybe there was a reason he looked that bad.

He decided to go talk to some of the other ACMs first. And purely by chance, or luck, or bad luck (for Garatt, at least) he chose M’ayen first. Mostly due to their Fortian connection. 

After class was over, he went to M’ayen’s office. “Got a minute,” he asked, poking his head in.

M’ayen never liked people just popping in to his office. Whilst it might be an open secret amongst most of the Candidate staff by now that he needed glasses, still, he hated being caught in them. His hand went up to them automatically as T’ril popped his head in, snatching them off hastily.

“What is it?” he asked, already scowling.

“Oh, come on, you don’t need to pretend with me,” T’ril said, pleased he’d caught M’ayen unaware. He respected the man, but he also remembered the pain he went through as a Weyrling. “Anyway, I want to discuss one of our Candidates. Young boy, still wet behind the ears.

“Anyway, I’m wondering if you’ve noticed anything off about him. He looks, frankly, sickly. Garatt is his name, and I hesitate to say this, but he may not have what it takes to be a rider.”

Without permission, he sat in one of M’ayen’s chairs. Well, they were peers now. He didn’t need permission. But it was amazing how experiences at a young age affected one as they got older.

M’ayen was still frowning as he tucked his glasses away in a drawer. “I taught you to knock!” he complained. “What’s Garatt been doing now?”

“I guess you did,” T’ril said unapologetically. 

“He was doing a different class’s homework during my lecture,” he continued. “I was going to call him on it, but he really doesn’t look well. I’m worried that he’s not taking care of himself, and if he can’t take care of himself, how can he take care of a dragon? Though I’m not sure if it’s because of that, or if he’s truly ill and not telling anyone.”

So that was how the boy was managing to keep on top of his essays. M’ayen had been waiting for the chance to leap down his throat about them but somehow the essays Garatt handed him were never less than passable.

“Call him on it,” he said now, bluntly. “If he’s ill he’s old enough to take himself to a Healer. More likely he’s never been required to do a day’s proper work in his life and he’s suffering for it.”

T’ril frowned, ever so slightly. The kid didn’t strike him as that type. He struck him as someone who had bit off more than he could chew. Yet, Turns of working with M’ayen had conditioned him to not question the man too hard. His stabbing had also turned him into someone who was less secure in his own thoughts.

{{You’re an adult now, you can question who you want,}} Garanth said.

Well, fine, then. “Are you sure? He seems...cowed,” T’ril said, uncertainty hedging his voice.

M’ayen sighed. “The boy’s the only son of one of the big Holders,” he said. “If he’s cowed it’s because he’s not used to people not automatically letting home off. But if you’re not convinced, by all means, we’ll call him in you can ask him what he thought he was playing at and we can see.” And with M’ayen in the room, it was certain that would only go one way.

T’ril thought about it. Seriously thought about it. But there was some part of him that hesitated. 

Back in the day, he wouldn’t have hesitated a moment. After all, he was a bronze rider, and had Pern by the balls. But all that had changed, and he had become unsure, timid, careful. Maybe too much so. So, instead, he deferred to someone who wouldn’t steer him wrong.

“No, I think you’re right. If he’s the son of a Holder, then he’s too used to getting his way. I’ll give him extra work at his next class, teach him that he can’t be doing his homework while I’m trying to teach him.” He stood. “Kid’s got to learn, nothing’s going to be handed to him on a silver platter.”

“Talk to Talena and D’xon,” M’ayen advised. “I know they were struggling with him as well. Likelihood is he picked your class to catch up because he thought you’d go soft on him.”

“I will. Maybe together we can make an adequate candidate out of him yet,” T’ril said. “Meanwhile, I’ll talk to you later.” He grimaced. “These lesson plans won’t be planning themselves.”  He left M’ayen’s office, already thinking of extra work for incalcitrant candidates.


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