It had been a miserable day. Garatt had spent most of it desperately trying to think of anything he had ever known to make M’ayen go away.
And he had.. Nothing. Not what Asheran’s girlfriend had been called. Not who Asheran had kissed. Not who he might have planned it with. Not a thing. Just the knowledge that somewhere out there Asheran had brothers and a sister and the bewilderingly exciting memory of Asheran going on and on about naked wet girls. Which was probably not going to help.
(Leave aside whether he would have given up that information to save himself, leave off his conscience what it made him that he would have in a heartbeat if it got him out of another session like the last. Asheran was big and M’ayen wouldn’t dare touch him and also Asheran had left, and left Garatt with his firelizard to explain what had happened. This was not Garatt’s fault; even if the fact he was ready to blurt anything he knew if he had known anything to blurt felt like betrayal.)
He had nothing, and he still had nothing when he took himself to M’ayen’s office after dinner that night (better to take himself than be dragged, even if he threw up the little he had eaten first). All he could do was take himself and pray the little information he had to give yesterday was enough (it was never going to be enough).
He was bewildered all over again when he was called in to find what looked like a selection of his essays spread over M’ayen’s desk. The ACM gestured with a finger that he should stand in front of his desk.
“What are these?”
“They’re-- my essays?” He kept his hands safely clasped behind his back, not wanting to touch them. Hands felt like something that should be kept away from M’ayen wherever possible. Still, he could recognise his own handwriting.
“Are they now?” And M’ayen smiled as though he’d just won a gold flight. “Fetch me your notes for them, please. Just those.”
It felt like a trap, but Garatt was confused by it. He bent his head over the essays, skim-reading the first paragraph, trying to work out which notes he would need.
For a few minutes he was confused. It was his handwriting sure enough, but not for a moment could he remember writing it. He’d been so tired that day, so desperate, he’d almost forgotten copying out the essays at all. It felt like something that had happened in a dream.
M’ayen was watching for the moment realisation hit, for that horrified second of shame and guilt and terror because oh Faranth, he had hadn’t he, and oh Faranth, they had noticed.
“Who wrote the essays, Garatt?” M’ayen’s words were a soft terrifying sing-song.
“I--” He should have protected her at least, she had only been being kind. But it made no difference whether Garatt had intended to or not; he couldn’t remember her name, he could barely remember her face. “I’m sorry, I--” Apologies didn’t work on M’ayen, not ever, just like pleading and begging didn’t. Garatt could feel panicked tears prickling at his eyes again.
“Sorry that you got caught?” M’ayen raised his eyebrows. “Quite the little rule-breaking spree you’ve got going on there. First helping Candidates sneaking on the Sands, now cheating. Do you know what they do to Candidates here for cheating, Garatt?”
Nothing good. Not when it was M’ayen. Garatt shook his head, not daring to speak.
“Now, I should tell the CandidateMaster. She of course would be obliged to write to your father. Mmm, what do you think your father would say, Garatt?”
It felt as though his tongue were too big for his mouth, as though it had somehow had all moisture sucked out of it and glued itself to the roof of his mouth. Garatt couldn’t speak. What would his father say? His father who, if he valued little else, valued listening and working hard? His father who already looked at him as though wondering how this disappointment belonged to him.
“Or--” M’ayen said, and the words were not a surprise, “we could just deal with this one between ourselves.”
And Garatt felt his stomach drop as the ACM walked past him to lock the door.
Blackadder: I mean, what about the people that do all the work?
Baldrick: The servants.
Blackadder: No, me; *I'm* the people who do all the work.