Tyson stormed down the hallway and threw open the door to Seel's study.
"I hate you!" he exclaimed before Seel even had time to look up from his papers. "I hate you!"
Seel put down his pen and gave a wry half smile. "What for this time, Tyson?"
Tyson seethed. He didn't know how to explain all the churned up things inside of him – anger, lust, bewilderment, resentment. Feybraiha was a tumultuous time for any young har and Tyson's celebration was only a day away. Perhaps, after it was over, he'd feel better. But every time he thought of it, he felt a sense of dread and a nagging in the back of his mind. He'd only recently figured out what that nagging feeling was about. He wasn't scared of aruna – in fact, from the descriptions, he found himself quite excited by the idea. But the feeling that his feybraiha was going all wrong just wouldn't go away.
Tyson felt tears sting his eyes. He realized that he was going to cry like a tiny harling in front of Seel, of all people, when he was supposed to be a day away from adulthood. It was too much to stand. "You've done something to me," he said. "It is supposed to be Rin; not you, never you. Rin has been chosen for me and everything has been arranged – and then you slink into my head and you won't leave me alone. I don't want you. I don't!"
Seel seemed fairly surprised, but he merely sipped at his coffee. The morning sunlight streamed in through the window and gleamed off his tawny hair. "I see," he said at last.
"Rin is perfect," Tyson went on, "he has the bluest eyes and the blackest hair and long legs. He likes mountain climbing and making sculptures out of old spoons." Seel seemed about to say something here, but Tyson interrupted him, viciously. "And you are stupid and boring and I hate you"
Seel put down his cup of coffee and regarded Tyson for several moments before speaking. "Tyson," he said in a voice that was more compassionate than the one that he normally reserved for Tyson, "you should have told somehar that you were having these … feelings about me earlier. Now, everything has been arranged with Rin and we can't go back on our agreement without risking offending him and his entire family."
This caused Tyson to burst into a fresh wave of tears. He didn't usually get so emotional about things because he didn't usually care about anything. But Tyson was completely unprepared for his body's incessant demand for somehar he hated.
Most hara, on meeting a reception like this would have either told Tyson to straighten up and start behaving like an adult or would have come to him and tried to comfort him. Seel just sat, looking at him.
"Please, calm down," he said, after a moment. He gestured at a chair that Tyson was standing near. "Sit."
Tyson sat in the chair and crossed his arms. His tears were receding. Seel tapped his fingers on his mahogany desk.
"Feybraiha is a strange creature and different for every har," Seel said, at last. "For many, their body merely needs awakening and almost anyhar can do the job. But occasionally, for a few, the body imprints on one specific person and they get the strong feeling that it can be nohar else."
"Yes," Tyson said, feeling a little more himself, "thank you for reciting a feybraiha pamphlet to me. Are you going to tell me that my body is a beautiful flower just waiting to blossom now?"
Seel sighed. "I'm trying to help you, you know," he commented. "If you really, strongly feel that it has to me, then we need to do something about it. I can have a room made up tonight – the second bedroom in the west wing should do well, I think. We will meet there. You can still have your party and go with Rin tomorrow and behave as if it is your first time. We will tell nohar but Swift – I wouldn't feel right unless I told Swift."
Tyson thought about this. The rational part of his being was screaming that he hated Seel, but it was overruled by the sense of relief that washed over him. Already, his body felt calmer, more balanced than it had in weeks. He managed to raise an eyebrow at Seel. "That's awfully devious of you."
"Sometimes grown-up hara lie, Tyson. If we didn't lie now, then your feybraiha might feel all wrong to you and that can be very traumatic. I wouldn't want to face Swift and Cobweb if they thought that I'd traumatized you." Tyson rolled his eyes. He hated it when Seel talked to him in this tone of voice. It was the tone that adults used when talking to harlings, but not harlings that they particularly liked. It was a forced patience, a refusal to snipe and argue solely because adults should be above arguing with children.
"Can I tell Cobweb?" he asked.
Seel made a face. "I would prefer it if you didn't," he said.
This fascinated Tyson. "Why not?"
Seel hesitated, but when he spoke Tyson could sense that he was telling the truth. "There are some hara who have a taste for youth and innocence, Tyson. They intentionally tease harlings close to their time with kisses and caresses so that those harlings will imprint on them. Then, the family has no choice but to choose them for feybraiha even if they feel it an inappropriate choice. I am afraid that Cobweb would believe I had done something similar. And, knowing how I feel about Cal, I am afraid that Cobweb would suspect my motives for doing such a thing to be dark – or – or connected with revenge." Seel looked Tyson square in the eye. "But we both know that I have done nothing like this."
Just being gorgeous, a small, traitorous portion of Tyson's brain whispered. Despite his earlier accusations, he did not believe that Seel had done anything to intentionally rouse him. But still, there had been something there. It seemed that everyhar who looked at Tyson saw Cal, but Seel did so more than the others. It was most of the reason for their animosity toward one another. Seel was rarely openly hostile, but every time he looked at Tyson, Ty could see the wheels turning in his head; thinking of Cal, hating Cal, thinking that Tyson had no right to be there, shouldn't be there.
Just occasionally, though, the looks would be different. Seel would get a distant look on his face and he would smile a bit. These times weren't much better, because Tyson knew that he was still thinking of Cal – only pleasant memories were involved. Always, during these times, Seel's face would eventually harden and he'd look away and Tyson would know that he was remembering bad things that came after the good memories.
Lately, those looks had taken on a new dimension. Sometimes, Seel would look at him and Tyson would get the sense that he was having memories that beyond being good or bad were roony; sensual. When Seel looked at him like this, Tyson could sometimes feel his own body start to react.
"Cobweb will probably find out, anyway," was all Tyson felt the need to say. "He's Cobweb."
Seel drew in a deep breath. "I realize that. But I would still appreciate it if you said nothing. I am willing to do this favor for you and I would appreciate it if you did me this small service in return."
Tyson rolled his eyes again. Of course Seel would make it sound like taking aruna with Tyson was some sort of dreadful chore. "I still hate you, you know," he said, in case Seel had forgotten.
"I know," Seel said, "but you are old enough to know that aruna often doesn't have anything to do with love. It doesn't always have anything to do with liking either, although more often than not there is some degree of fondness involved."
"I wasn't looking for another lecture."
Seel shrugged and waved his hand dismissively. "You should go find something fun to do with your day," he said. "It is your last day to be a harling, after all."
"Right," Tyson said. He sensed that Seel was thinking about something else – probably Cal again. It seemed that his family was always looking at his actions not in terms of whether they were right or wrong, good for him or bad for him, but based on whether they made him more or less like Cal. This was another proof. Seel was the first person that Cal had ever wanted also.
As if he could see Tyson's thoughts, Seel said; "You shouldn't read too much into it, Ty. You've known me for several years now. You see me almost everyday and I like to think that I am a moderately attractive har. We aren't blood related. It probably isn't surprising at all that you've imprinted on me. I'm sure it means nothing more than that. After tonight, you'll be over it."
Tyson nodded and left the room.
--- -- ---
The room Seel had suggested for the night didn't have terribly sensual furnishings. Somehar would likely have considered it lovely, but Tyson winced inwardly at the pale lavender walls and floral bedclothes. It did, however, have a very large bed and was far removed from the rooms where the rest of the family slept, which was probably what Seel had been thinking.
Tyson had decided that this night would be a clinical experience. His body demanded Seel, there was no changing it. Tyson would grit his teeth and give his body what it wanted, but tomorrow night with Rin would be his first true aruna. He sat down on the bed, leaning against the headboard and closed his eyes. He wished that he were drunk.
A moment later, the door creaked and Tyson's eyes flew open. Seel came in, padding on soft soled shoes. He had changed his clothes since the morning and now wore a cream colored garment in traditional Gelaming style. It wasn't particularly alluring, but the color did look good against his skin. His hair was unbound and flowed long down his back. Seel closed the door behind him and sat down beside Tyson on the bed.
He said nothing, but reached out and touched Tyson lightly on the cheek. Tyson flinched and drew away. Somehow, it hadn't occurred to him that taking aruna with Seel would involve Seel actually touching him. Seel had certainly never done anything of the kind before.
Seel drew back his hand and sighed. Perhaps he was nervous as well. "Are you sorry that you didn't get your party beforehand?" he asked.
It took a moment for Tyson to realize that Seel was talking about his feybraiha celebration. "No. I don't care about stupid parties and things. I'm actually not looking forward to it tomorrow."
"Still," Seel said, taking a lock of Tyson's hair in his hands, "certain aspects of it can be meaningful. Would you like me to put flowers in your hair?"
"Why the hell would I want that?" Tyson shivered. "Let's just get on with it." He began to strip off his clothes. Tyson had never been terribly self-conscious about his body. After a moment, Seel arose from the bed to take off his own clothing. When they were both naked, they stared for a moment.
Seel was beautiful. Tyson could admit that much to himself. His body was lean and taut, but his skin had a creamy smoothness to it. It was hard to tell if the soume or the ouana was a stronger aspect for him. Tyson looked at the ceiling. He wouldn't lay here and worship Seel's body and tell him how gorgeous he was. Surely, he got enough of that sort of thing from Swift.
Tyson began touching himself, making himself soume – he had learned enough through self-experimentation to do that. He tried not to think of Seel as he did this. There had been a young har at the market the other day – Sandor? Shandor? – who had been very beautiful with red hair and very fair skin. Tyson tried to think of him. Seel watched him, impassively.
"I must look like a harling to you," Tyson grunted, not really caring.
"You're very beautiful, Tyson," Seel said in a soft voice. Perhaps he was actually trying to reassure Tyson.
"I think I'm ready now." He felt Seel climb onto the bed. He closed his eyes and gripped the blankets. This was it. Tyson was soume; he could just lay back and let it happen and try to think of something else.
He felt Seel's weight shift and heard him give a frustrated sigh. "I'm not going to do it if you're going to be miserable like this," he said. "It's not right."
Tyson's eyes flew open. Seel moved to sit beside of him, very close, so that his warm skin was like a brand of fire to Tyson. "Come now," he said, "you imprinted on me. There must be something you find attractive about me."
Tyson shrugged, uncomfortable. "I guess your hair is sort of pretty," he admitted.
"Good," Seel's voice was encouraging. "Touch it." He took one of Tyson's hands and placed it in his hair. Tyson stroked it – it was just as soft as it looked and when he held it near his face, it smelled sweet.
Seel tilted his head to the side and closed his eyes. He looked like a housecat being stroked. Tyson thought that he hardly needed his ego fed like this.
There was a moment when Seel opened his eyes and looked straight at Tyson. In that moment, Tyson nearly forgot that it was the dreaded Seel, bane of his life, that he was looking at. He just saw a har so beautiful that he took Tyson's breath away.
"I'm going to share breath with you now," Seel said, in a husky voice. "Don't be afraid."
Tyson wasn't afraid; he'd shared breath before. Seel's lips were the softest touch on his mouth, only tiny wisps of breath escaped. It was full of spring flowers and moonbeams and still pools of water.
Tyson pulled away. "Stop it," he said. "Stop editing. I want to see what's really inside you." He pressed his lips against Seel's. This time, Seel's breath was wholly different; full of complex, adult things. Longing and fear and self-chastisement and memories that seemed to be good and bad at the same time.
Tyson had never shared breath with somehar so much older than him before. The others had been much closer to his own age and still young in many ways, though they were past feybraiha. Seel seemed to have a lot of human memories floating around in his head which was odd because Tyson had always been told that incepted hara had fuzzy recollections of their time as humans. There was a strange city and human parents who argued and a boy with blond hair who kissed Seel in secret where no one could see, because it had to be a secret, always a secret.
Seel pulled away with a gasp. "It's okay," Tyson said, "you can think of him if you want. It doesn't matter." But it did matter and Tyson was afraid that he was going to cry again. He realized that this was why he hadn't wanted it to be Seel. What did he care if it wasn't Rin? Rin wasn't so special. But he wanted somehar who saw him for himself and not for his hostling. But by this time, his body's desire had reached such a pitch that he would have said it was okay for Seel to cut off his nose, if they could only take aruna.
Seel climbed on top of him, straddling him. Tyson wanted him that very moment and felt that he couldn't wait any longer, but Seel began talking again. "I don't want to think of him, Tyson. I never have. I just want to do something nice for Swift's little brother and not have it be about … anyhar else. I just want to take aruna with a beautiful young har without having to deal with his ghost. I don't want to see him when I look at you, but --"
"You can't help it," Tyson groaned. Seel had been touching him the whole time he'd been talking. He didn't have to explain. Tyson had always known that what Seel thought about him on an intellectual level was different from what Seel felt. Tyson wished that he'd just stop talking and start using his ouana-lim.
"You don't know how much you're like him. He leaves his imprint on everyhar. There is a part of him inside you."
"There's a part of him in you too," Tyson said, thinking of Seel's memories. "The part is not the whole, but it can't be separated." Tyson did not know what made him say this; it was as if somehar else was speaking with his voice.
Seel flinched. "Yes," he agreed and with this admission he slipped inside Tyson. Even in Tyson's fantasies, he had never imagined aruna being so intense. He felt that he was swept away to another world and was only dimly aware of his arching back, his fingernails digging into Seel's shoulder, Seel saying his name over and over as he thrust into him. His own voice was speaking too; babbling, pleading for something that hadn't been reached yet. At the moment of orgasm, Tyson found himself screaming out Seel's name. Of course it was Seel – it had to be Seel. Seel understood some part of Tyson that even Tyson himself couldn't comprehend.
--- -- ---
Some weeks later, Tyson picked at the remains of his breakfast while Swift and Seel discussed some dull matter over his head. Cobweb had already left the table. Tyson suspected that Cobweb knew what had happened between him and Seel. Though nothing had been said, Cobweb's animosity toward Seel in the last weeks had been at an all time high. Those two always had a fluctuating relationship – sometimes they seemed to be almost friends and sometimes it seemed that Cobweb wanted to turn Seel into something particularly nasty. Not that Tyson could blame him.
Not too long after it happened, Swift had cornered Tyson and (much to Tyson's mortification) attempted to talk about the whole experience in that awful way that adults talk to harlings about aruna. But Tyson wasn't a harling anymore and he'd managed to silence Swift with a few saucy remarks. Well, if Swift didn't want to be embarrassed, then he shouldn't have brought it up.
"So Tyson," Swift said, cutting through Tyson's thoughts, "what are your plans for today."
"I'm going to sleep all afternoon and go barhopping with a friend of mine this evening," Tyson said, honestly.
Swift snorted and shook his head, but Seel glared at Tyson sourly. "I don't suppose that we can expect you back before dawn?" he asked, not, Tyson knew, out of any kind of jealousy, but because Seel had got it into his head that Swift should be more strict with Tyson.
"I don't suppose you can." Tyson was a vigorous, curious young har – he should experience aruna with a lot of different hara and if he got to experience a lot of different alcoholic beverages in the process, well, that was just a bonus.
Swift stood up from his chair and kissed Seel on the forehead. "We have to let Ty go his own way now, remember?" Tyson didn't much like the idea of Swift and Seel discussing his life like this– they weren't his parents -- but he said nothing and managed to nod politely to Swift as Swift left the room.
Tyson realized, too late, that he was left alone in the room with Seel. He ate the last of his fruit, wondering how soon he could leave without seeming impolite. Unfortunately, Seel started talking.
"Nothing's changed between us, has it?" he asked.
Tyson shrugged. "Did you think we'd become best friends?"
Seel laughed and ran his fingers through his hair, absently. "I suppose not. Do you still hate me?"
"Not as much as I did." It was an honest answer, but Seel flinched as if wounded. "Oh, come on, it's not as if you like me either. Stop playing the martyr. I know that you've sometimes done nice things for me because – I don't know, because you felt guilty or you felt like you should, but you've also said and done some pretty shitty things to me over the years. You can't expect me to just forget."
He watched Seel's posture stiffen. "I know that I haven't always been great with you, but--"
"I know, I know," Tyson interrupted him. "You've tried. But every time you look at me, you see Cal and neither one of us is ever going to be comfortable with that. It's okay. I'm a grown-up now, I get it."
Tyson stood up and was about to leave the room, but something made him walk over behind Seel's chair, lean down and say; "But for the record, I'm glad it was you." He smiled at Seel's confused expression and walked away.