D’xon hated reading homework. It was the worst part of the job other than pain in the arse Candidates who couldn’t behave. Both were reasons that he didn’t generally make being an ACM a full time job, but with everything going on he’d been pulled from his wing and put back to work. And now he was stuck reading homework.
It seemed like every essay was worse than the last. None of them were so bad that he could say anything, but feck, where did they get these Candidates these days?
Then he came to Garatt’s. The paper was nonsensical and looked like it was a patchwork of multiple essays put together. How was this boy even still a Candidate?
Quite annoyed, he found the nearest Candidate outside his office and sent the boy to go find Garatt and send the boy to his office.
There was a point where you just stopped fighting the fact that you were going to be in trouble. No matter what he did, Garatt was going to be in detention with M’ayen for probably the rest of his life. Talena was going to be angry with him. Probably other people were going to be angry too. Things were...just going to be awful, probably forever.
You could only manage actively horrified for a few days. After that, your brain absorbed that this was just how life looked now. There was a resigned slump to Garatt’s shoulders as he trudged to the office, not particularly in a hurry to be in more trouble, not knowing what he was in trouble for just certain that he was. For something. That was what happened now.
“Garatt, sit.” D’xon gestured to the chair opposite him over the desk. He slapped down the latest homework assignment from the Candidate. “What is this?”
“It’s..my essay?” It looked like his writing anyway, and Garatt could vaguely remember trying to finish it early one morning before anyone else was awake.
D’xon shoved it at Garatt. “Tell me what it’s supposed to be about, because I have no idea from reading it.”
Despite his attempts not to care, Garatt flinched a little at that shove, hunching in on himself. Tall and skinny, he seemed to shrink, pulling in on himself. He looked at the essay, reading only the first couple of sentences again. “The.. different roles in a Wing?” he said, making it more a question than a statement, as though he had himself forgotten. He eyed D’xon anxiously, aware the ACM wasn’t pleased but still not sure why.
“So why do you mix in how to tell knots apart and how to present yourself on Hatching Day?” D’xon pushed it further toward him. “Go on, have a look.”
“I don’t..” Garatt skim-read it quickly, biting his lip as essay jumped from one topic to the next. One hand crept up to his curly hair, already messy, twiddling a curl around one finger unconsciously. “I.. don’t remember.”
D’xon crossed his arms as he looked at the distraught child. What was going on? Was he folding under the weight of being a Candidate?
“What were you thinking?” the ACM asked. “You can’t stay a Candidate if you keep up work like this.”
“I don’t remember,” Garatt repeated. Still tugging at his hair, he squirmed in his chair; there was something about being in trouble that made him need to wriggle like a fish on a hook. “I just-- I forgot, I guess,” he suggested miserably after a moment. After trying to explain to Talena there was no way he could explain why he had forgotten, how tired he was, how little time there was left in his day.
“There must be a reason,” D’xon pushed. “Because right now you look careless. Do you want me to think you’re careless?”
“...No, sir.” Though he looked careless in more ways than one; curly hair standing out madly at all angles, shirt creased, hands clean to the wrist and then.. Not. You could probably write a page on dress code violations right there. “I can.. Rewrite it?” he suggested, trying not to think of the building pile of undone work he was already accumulating.
“Absolutely you’ll rewrite it,” D’xon said, taking back the already written paper. “And then you’ll write a paper on how you mean to prevent this in the future. And how you plan on keeping a neat appearance. You can do all this in detention with me. And if you don’t want more detentions, you’ll actually fix your appearance. You look like a lazy slob. What kind of dragon do you think will want you when you look like that?”
He’d looked just miserable until that point. Now he looked actively horrified, mouth half-opening in protest at the list. “But-- but I can’t!” he said, almost a wail.
D’xon narrowed his eyes. “You can and you will. Or do you not want to Stand this time?”
“No. I-- I mean--” Garatt flushed, and ducked his head, already guessing the reception to his next confession. “I’m-- already in detention with ACM M’ayen,” he told the floor in a mumble.
“You already have detention?” D’xon didn’t look pleased at that. “What’d you do to earn that?”
Garatt swallowed. How did you explain the laundry list of minor crimes that seemed to add up more with every day that passed? “..Stuff,” he admitted after a long pause. “Untidiness… messy hair… not paying attention…” There was a long pause between each one, as though the words were forced out. He sniffed, feeling the ACM’s disapproving look. “Not.. not answering questions right… Not doing as I was.. As I was told.. Not..” His voice was starting to wobble. It was too easy to cry at the minute, as though tears were always only a moment away.
“So this isn’t a new issue,” D’xon said, templing his hands as he looked at the boy. “Very disappointing. I will talk to M’ayen. We’ll find a time for your detention one way or another.”
And M’ayen would-- he didn’t know what M’ayen would do, but it wouldn’t be good, just like Talena talking to him hadn’t been good. “I’m sorry!” If he’d seemed dull at first, at the point of apathy about his scolding, now he was abruptly terrified as though only just realising this was something to take seriously. “I can-- if you let me I can write them -- uh, uh--” He gulped air, trying to find a solution. “I can-- write them before breakfast?”
“If you have time to do them before breakfast, you have time to do that detention then.” D’xon tapped the paper. “This is unacceptable and this needs to improve. If you weren’t getting detention from other ACMs, you wouldn’t have to be finding time to do this.”
“I’ll do better!” The promise was frantic, edged with panic. “I’m sorry!” As though that could maybe make it go away, as though he were still a small child and a sincere enough apology could erase mistakes.
“You’d better do better,” D’xon said. “Report to me tomorrow before breakfast and get that paper done. We’ll see if you can keep your promises.”
“...Yessir.” He would be exhausted. He was already exhausted. But it meant keeping D’xon away from M’ayen. Garatt swallowed down the acid sting at the back of his throat at the thought, still red-faced.
“Good. Dismissed.” D’xon gave a wave of his hand and then went back to grading homework as if Garatt wasn’t there. One problem sort of taken care of. Hopefully no more to come.
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.