AN: I wanted to write a story about Tyson and Azriel's childhood (harlinghood?). I use lots of different points of view in this story. I love reviews.
As soon as any adult let Tyson and Azriel out of sight, the two harlings would wrap themselves in thick blankets and slide down Forever's carpeted steps. This was their favorite game. It was a bit like riding a sled
Of course, the two had been expressly forbidden from sliding down the stairs, the activity declared to be "dangerous". That day, Tyson kept a sharp lookout for Seel who was supposed to be keeping an eye on them, but was locked up in his office. Tyson reflected that there was probably very little danger for Azriel who was a cautious harling and had the tendency to miss the point of the exercise and take the steps one at a time on his bottom. Tyson, however, was both older and more daring and would often get a run and go to fling himself face first. That was the most fun way.
Tyson sighed in relief when Azriel reached the bottom and began to trudge back up, dragging his blanket behind him. Then, he saw that Azriel was carrying something in the crook of his arm that he hadn't noticed earlier and he huffed in annoyance.
"What is that?" he asked, pointing the small, stuffed dog.
"My puppy," Azriel replied, smiling up at him and nearly tripping as the blanket tangled around his legs. "I was taking him for a ride."
"But that's my toy," Tyson said. In fact, it was one of his oldest. He could recall being a small harling, about Azriel's age, and Cobweb telling him that his hostling, his real hostling, had given him the little stuffed dog with the soft brown fur and pink glass eyes. Tyson couldn't recall ever being told that his hostling had given him anything else and of course he had left before Tyson could remember him.
Azriel shook his head. "No. Cobweb said I could have him."
Tyson could feel his cheeks flushing in anger. Everyhar always liked Azriel better, even Cobweb who was supposed to be Tyson's guardian. Now Cobweb was giving Tyson's things to Azriel without even asking permission. Maybe, Tyson thought, they would give all of Tyson's possessions to Azriel and make Tyson sleep in the stables with the horses and dress in rags. He was momentarily distracted by this idea, as it sounded like a somewhat more interesting life than the one he'd been leading, but was brought back to reality when Azriel spoke again.
"Cobweb said I could have a lot of your toys."
"I don't care," Tyson snapped. "That's my dog and I say you can't have it. Give it to me."
He expected Azriel to just hand the dog over because Azriel would usually did what he asked, but that was not the case today. "No," Azriel said, crushing the stuffed animal against his chest in a pincer-like grip.
Tyson sighed and tried a different tactic. "Come on, Az. You know you're supposed to share. Just let me look at it." He thought that if he could just get the dog away from Azriel for a moment, then he could hide it in his room and Azriel would quickly forget about it. Azriel had a million toys. This one wouldn't make a difference.
"No," Azriel said stubbornly. "Seel said I didn't have to share my toys with you anymore."
Tyson gritted his teeth. Of course Seel would say something like that. "I don't care. That's my toy and you're going to give it to me." He made a swipe for the dog, but Azriel stepped back. He grabbed for it again and this time managed to get a firm grip, but Azriel was also holding tight. He gave a sharp tug and then pushed Azriel backwards. He knew a moment of triumph as he managed to wrest the dog from Azriel's hands, but it was short lived.
Azriel tumbled backwards several steps, trying to regain his balance, but his feet caught in the blanket and he fell down the steps. Tyson watched helplessly as Azriel tumbled down and then landed with a sickening crunch in a heap at the bottom.
There was a moment of silence before Azriel started shrieking at the top of his lungs.
Seel came running when he heard Azriel's cries. He found his harling crumpled pathetically at the bottom of the stairs, tears running down his face. A couple of servants had beat Seel to the scene and were checking Azriel for injuries. Azriel was holding his hand as though it pained him.
Seel tried to piece together what had happened. There was a blanket at the top of the stairs. Had Azriel been playing on the stairs and fallen? But if that were the case, surely the blanket would be at the bottom of the steps. Then Seel spotted Tyson standing in the shadows with a supremely guilty, Cal-like look on his face.
He walked toward Tyson and grabbed him by the arm when the harling tried to slide past. "What happened here?" he asked.
"Let go, you're hurting me," Tyson said, trying to pull away.
"He pushed me!" Azriel screamed.
"You pushed him?" Seel asked, gripping Tyson's arm tighter. "Is that true?"
"I didn't mean it. I was --" Tyson began, but Seel didn't need to hear anymore. Tyson was used to talking his way out of punishment, but it wasn't going to work this time.
He turned Tyson around and gave him what he'd needed for a long time. A good spanking. It was more satisfying than Seel would have liked to admit to hear Tyson crying out, to see the tears running down his face when Seel let him go.
Then, he looked around to see the servants regarding him, vaguely shocked and the reality of what he'd just done sunk in. "Go to your room, Ty," he said.
Tyson didn't have to be told twice and ran away, crying. Seel sighed. He'd never hear the end of this.
Cobweb came out of a trance, sensing a disturbance in his home. He may not have possessed the close psychic connection with Tyson that he had with Swift as a harling, but he knew enough to tell when Ty was distraught.
He went to Tyson's room and found the harling crying into his pillow.
"What happened to you?" Cobweb immediately asked.
Tyson shook his head and turned away. He was old enough to want to hide his tears.
Cobweb walked to the bedside. "Ty, tell me," he said, placing a hand in the Tyson's soft, blond hair.
"Seel grabbed me and whipped me," Tyson burst out, his voice muffled by the pillow. "And I didn't mean it – I just wanted my dog. I didn't mean to, Cobweb." Tyson was unable to control his sobbing.
Cobweb sucked in a deep, angry breath. He could see bruises forming on Tyson's arm. No wonder he was crying. Cobweb was quite sure that Tyson had never experienced anything like this before. He had never seen a need to spank or otherwise physically punish either Tyson or Swift. That type of thing was for humans. Harlings were easier to manage.
"That will not do," he said and he left to find Seel.
He met Seel coming out of Azriel's room and stopped him with a firm hand on the shoulder. "You will not touch Tyson again," he hissed before Seel had a chance to say anything. "He is not yours to punish. You will not hit him. You will not grab him. You will not harm one blond hair on his little head. Understand?"
Seel didn't flinch. He merely looked at Cobweb and rolled his eyes in that way that meant he found Cobweb's antics faintly ridiculous. "Your highson is in bed with a broken wrist right now. I would think you'd care a little more about that than about Tyson's bruised ego."
Cobweb looked behind Seel to see that Azriel was gingerly holding his tightly wrapped wrist. How could he have not sensed that something was wrong with Azriel? He must have been so focused on Tyson that he missed it. Seel pulled Cobweb further into the hallway, presumably so Azriel wouldn't see them argue.
"What happened?" Cobweb asked, though he already had a good idea.
"What do you think happened? Tyson pushed Azriel down a flight of stairs."
Cobweb crossed his arms. He certainly thought that Tyson could use a good talking to, but there could be no excuse for the way Seel had handled the situation. "You still should have come to me if you couldn't deal with Ty in a calm manner. I'm his guardian."
Seel rolled his eyes again. "And then what? You would have said 'pushing harlings down staircases is wrong, Tyson' and he would have done the same thing next week? Please. I've seen the way you deal with him."
Cobweb's anger was starting to return. "I never spanked Swift," he said. "I'm assuming that you think he turned out all right."
Seel raised his eyebrows, seemingly unimpressed. "Swift is not Tyson. Last week he was climbing out of his second story window. The week before he was poisoning my coffee."
"It was pepper," Cobweb pointed out. And Seel thought he was dramatic.
Seel sighed. "My point is that he is completely out of control and you refuse to do anything about it. If you don't get a better handle on him he's going to end up getting himself or someone else killed."
Cobweb shook his head. "He's just a harling. You refuse to see anything in him but Cal."
Seel's face eyes went flinty and his face hardened at this remark. "I knew Cal when he was Tyson's age, Cobweb. You want to know why he turned out as he did? It wasn't because his parents were cruel and abusive to him, though I'm sure that's what he'd like hara to think. It was because his parents allowed him to do whatever the hell he wanted. That's still his problem – he thinks he can do whatever he pleases and hara will still adore him and tell him how wonderful he is simply because he's Cal."
Swift was returning home after a long day in Galhea when he heard the sounds of Cobweb and Seel having an argument. This wasn't so unusual. When you live with somehar, you learn things about him and Swift had learned that Seel liked to feel some level of control over everything in his life. The house had always been unquestionably Cobweb's domain and Cobweb wasn't about to give up an inch of that control without a fight. Swift groaned as he heard Cobweb mention Cal's name. Arguments about Cal were always the worst kind. He attempted to sneak past them, but Seel caught sight of him and called out his name.
"What is it?" Swift asked, walking toward the two.
"Tyson pushed Azriel down a flight of stairs and Az broke his wrist," Seel said. "And your hostling seems to think that this is acceptable behavior."
"I do not think --" Cobweb began, but he was interrupted by Azriel who had spotted Swift.
"Swift, come and look at my arm," he called.
Swift sighed in relief. He looked at Cobweb and Seel and shrugged. "It seems I'm wanted," he said. Seel put his hands on his hips in annoyance and Cobweb gave Swift a look that clearly said that the discussion was not over, but they let him go into Azriel's room.
Swift felt sorry for his son when he laid eyes on him. In addition to the wrist, he also had bruises on his face and a bandage covering some injury on his knee. "What happened?" he asked, sitting down beside his son.
Azriel let the story out in one long, quick stream of words. "Tyson tried to take the puppy Cobweb gave me only I wouldn't give it away 'cause Seel said I didn't have to share so Tyson pushed me down the stairs and I hurt my arm and Seel spanked Tyson and the doctor bandaged me and gave me sweets and Cobweb and Seel are fighting now."
Swift had to smile at this very honest, if convoluted answer. He tried to make sense of it all as his son showed off his bruises. Azriel was a resilient harling and though Swift could see that he had been crying, he now seemed to be putting a good face on it. Obviously, Tyson and Azriel had got into an argument, which wasn't unusual. He knew that at their age, disputes were natural.
But then Tyson had pushed Azriel down the stairs. Accidentally? On purpose? Swift found the idea that Tyson would knowingly push Azriel down a long flight of stairs chilling, but he had noticed Ty showing increased aggression toward his son lately. Would he take it this far? Should Swift take measures to assure Azriel's safety, to give Tyson a little extra discipline?
Then Seel had apparently spanked Tyson which Swift found hard to imagine. Seel was usually so calm and levelheaded, but matters involving Cal were the exception to this rule. And Seel saw Tyson as a matter involving Cal.
Cobweb would be none too pleased about Ty getting spanked. Swift winced as he imagined that he would have to listening to his hostling's rants for the next few weeks. Seel had probably been telling Cobweb that Tyson was going to turn out just like Cal, a sentiment that he had expressed to Swift in private several times now.
Swift didn't particularly want to face either Cobweb or Seel, but figured that he might as well get it over with. He made sure that Azriel had everything he needed, but when he left the room he found that neither his hostling nor his consort was hanging about.
He found Seel in their bedroom, sitting before a their large dresser mirror and combing his tawny hair. "I don't regret what happened with Tyson," he said.
"Really, not at all?" Swift watched, wincing at Seel's abuse of his hair. "Careful. You'll pull it all out."
Seel stopped brushing and glared at himself. "Okay. I'm willing to admit that I acted in anger and that was wrong. But I don't regret the result. A spanking is just what Ty needed."
"What did Cobweb have to say?" Swift asked, sitting down beside Seel and taking the brush from his hand.
"That I was a terrible, child-abusing monster and that if I ever looked at Tyson sideways again, he'd kill me. Oh, and that I was punishing Tyson for being like Cal."
"Do you think that there might be a bit – just a bit – of truth to that?"
Seel glared at him. "No. It's you and Cobweb that can't see past Cal with him. Anytime he pulls one of his little stunts, you reprimand him, sure, but you do it all with a grin on your face because you are thinking of how like Cal he is. Do you think Tyson can't see that? You would be firmer with Azriel if he did the exact same thing. I've watched it time and again and told myself that it's none of my business. But now Tyson has nearly killed my son, our son and I'm not going to sit back while you two do nothing."
Swift shook his head at this outburst. "Maybe you're right," he conceded. "But harlings will play rough, sometimes. I've seen them playing on the stairs before. Do you think it might have been an accident?"
Seel's mouth set into a firm line. "No, I don't," he said. "Oh, I don't know if he meant for Azriel to fall down the stairs, but I certainly think that he meant to push him. I've seen him bullying Az before, what you call 'playing rough', I suppose."
Swift was beginning to get angry. "I wouldn't stand for Tyson bullying our son, so don't suggest it," he said. "If there is anger and resentment between them, then it is partially just the result of growing up practically like brothers and partially the result of you sowing discord between them."
Seel crossed his arms. "Oh? I sow discord, do I?"
Swift looked at his chesnari and sighed. It was hard to be angry at Seel. "Sometimes, I think you do," he said. "For example, did you tell Azriel that he didn't have to share with Tyson?"
Seel stared at him for a moment. "In case you haven't noticed, Tyson knocks Azriel down and steals his toys, Swift! I was just trying to get Az to stand up for himself."
Swift placed a hand on Seel's shoulder, feeling melancholy. Now that he thought of it, he had caught Tyson doing that very thing before. Was he too soft on Tyson at the expense of his own son? "I can see how that might be the case," he said and then shook his head. Raising harlings was harder than he would have imagined. "What are we going to do? About Tyson? About Azriel? Do you honestly think spanking is the right option? It seems so human that I can't believe you did it. I've never seen you spank Azriel."
"Azriel never misbehaves as badly as Tyson," Seel said, but his tone was considerably calmer and he seemed to recognize that Swift wasn't about to jump down his throat. "To be honest, I don't know if spanking is right, but at least it's different. What Cobweb's been doing is obviously not working. If you don't figure out a way to give Tyson some discipline and structure then he really will turn out like Cal."
"Would that be so bad?" Swift ventured to ask. He expected an angry outburst, but Seel just smiled bitterly.
"I know you don't feel the same about Cal as I do, but how can you ask that question? Surely even you must see that Cal is disturbed, full of darkness and regrets, poisoning his own life even more than he poisons the lives of those around him. But when he started out, he was just an irresponsible little troublemaker with a violent streak."
Swift sucked in a deep breath.
"Look, I know that everyhar thinks that I don't give a damn about Tyson," Seel said. "But I don't want to watch a harling that I've seen grow up, a harling who has grown up alongside my son go down the same dark road as Cal. God. I don't think even Cal would want that, do you?"
Swift knew that he wouldn't. "Tyson isn't like Cal," he said.
Seel gave him a skeptical look. "You have no idea. Tyson is just like Cal was at that age."
Swift shook his head. "No. He may have inherited Cal's looks and a good dose of his personality, but he doesn't have Cal's history. He's second-generation. He doesn't have to go through what you first-generation hara went through. And I think that you're right about what Cal wanted. I think that one reason he gave Tyson to Cobweb is that he wanted his son to be better than he was."
Seel looked at his reflection in the mirror for long moments. "Don't we all," he said and Swift knew that he wasn't just talking about Cal and Tyson anymore.
When Cobweb came back into Tyson's room, he seemed slightly calmer than before. He sat on the bed beside Tyson and stroked his hair.
"Did you talk to Seel?" Tyson asked, feeling embarrassed that he'd told Cobweb and that by now the whole family likely knew about his humiliation.
"I did," Cobweb said. "I don't think he'll be whipping you again, but if he does, I want you to come and tell me."
Tyson looked away, feeling glum. "I hurt Azriel. Everyhar hates me. Azriel's the angel child and I'm just a demon."
"You know that's not true," Cobweb leaned down to give Tyson a kiss on the forehead. "But you shouldn't hurt Azriel. He's your sori. You should be protecting him, not pushing him down staircases!"
Tyson squirmed uncomfortably. "Azriel's wrist is broken and he could have been hurt even more seriously," Cobweb went on. "Is that what you want, Ty?"
"No," Tyson said. "I just wanted my dog but I should have figured out a better way to get it from him." He squeezed the little stuffed toy tightly in his hand.
Cobweb seemed to notice the toy for the first time and he looked at it in disbelief. "This is what you were fighting over? Tyson, you outgrew these types of toys ages ago."
"My hostling gave it to me, you said so," Tyson burst out. "And then you just gave it to Azriel?"
Cobweb sucked in a breath. "Oh, yes," he said. "I'm sorry, Tyson, I forgot. I told Azriel that he could have the toys in the back of your closet – the ones you never play with anymore. I didn't realize the dog would be there or even that you would remember me telling you that. You were very young at the time."
Cobweb put his arm around Tyson and Tyson snuggled up to him, though normally he would object to being babied so much. "All your life, there will be people who will try to turn you and Azriel against one another," Cobweb whispered in Tyson's ear. "But you can't let them, because you are family and you have to stand by one another."
Tyson leaned into Cobweb's side. "It's all Seel's fault," he said sulkily.
Cobweb pursed his lips and Tyson thought that he would agree, but he merely said, "Was Seel the one who pushed Azriel?"
"No," Tyson said. "But he makes me angry."
Cobweb stroked his hair. "Well," he said, "whoever is at fault, it isn't Azriel."
"No," Tyson agreed.
Cobweb took the little dog from his hands gingerly. "I think you should keep this thing your hostling gave you," he said. "But I'm sure you have plenty of other things in your room that Azriel would love to have and that would mean so much to him, coming from you."
"Okay," Tyson said, taking the point.
Azriel was trying to sleep, but it was hard. It had not been a good day – first, Tyson had pushed him, then everyhar seemed to be fighting and now a scrape on Azriel's knee was paining him even more than his broken wrist.
There was a soft knock at the bedroom door. "Come in," Azriel said, secretly hoping that it was his parents and that they'd let him cuddle up to them and kiss all his booboos. The door opened and Azriel saw the hall light shining off gleaming blond hair. Tyson.
"Go away," Azriel said, pulling his blankets tighter around himself. "You're mean!" He couldn't understand why Tyson had pushed him. Ty usually didn't like stuffed animals – he called them "baby toys" and had been known to make fun of Azriel for playing with them.
Tyson stepped farther into the room, casting Azriel a guilty, but hopeful glance. "You're right," he said. "I'm sorry I pushed you. But your hostling spanked me for it – that was pretty funny, huh?"
Azriel shrugged. It had been a little funny. Tyson usually got away with everything. He didn't have to study hard at his lessons and be a good little harling all the time like Azriel. The adults never seemed to expect much from him. "Yeah, I guess," he said.
Tyson seemed to take this as an invitation and climbed onto the bed beside Azriel. He slipped under the covers which Azriel then pulled over the both of them. "How long is it going to take your wrist to heal?"
Azriel stroked his wrist as he thought about how the doctor had poked and prodded him. "A few days. The doctor said it would have been longer if I'd been human. It must be bad to be human."
"Yeah," Tyson agreed and he reached into his pocket to pull out a black velvet bag. This got Azriel's attention immediately. Tyson was infinitely interesting – he knew so much more about things than Azriel and unlike the adults, he'd tell Azriel anything. If Tyson had something stored away in a mysterious bag, then it had to be fascinating.
Tyson emptied the contents of the bag onto Azriel's lap and Azriel's eyes went wide. Spread out before him was a collection various stones – many shiny, many flecked, many of strange color or texture. Azriel could just remember that when Tyson was young, he'd had a collection of what seemed like hundreds of rocks in his bedroom. Cobweb had eventually made him throw most of them out, but Ty had kept the very best. Sometimes, he would take one out and hold it before Azriel's face and when Azriel reached out to touch it, he'd put it back in his pocket. "You're too young," he'd say. "You'd just smudge it or lose it or swallow it."
"These are all my most special stones," Tyson said, pointing at the rocks spread out on Azriel's lap. "I want you to have them."
Azriel looked at him in amazement. "Me? Really?" Tentatively, he reached out to stroke one with his finger. It seemed to glow pink under his hand.
"That one makes you feel better if you hold it," Tyson said. Azriel picked up the stone. It did seem to have a soothing effect. He didn't notice his booboos quite as much. It also tickled his palm and Azriel began to giggle.
"See?" Tyson said.
Azriel set it down and began to examine another stone, this one silvery and rougher. "I can really have all of them?" he asked.
"Yep, all of them," Tyson said in a light voice.
Azriel picked up the stones one by one, examining them closely. He was entranced for a good long while. He suddenly felt bad for not sharing with Tyson. He couldn't remember why he'd done it. The grown-ups always made him so confused. Swift told him that he should always share his things, but then Seel said that he didn't have to share with Tyson and he shouldn't let Tyson pick on him. This had been a new idea to Azriel. He knew that sometimes Tyson didn't play nice, but it was something that just happened like the wind blowing. It had never before occurred to Azriel to try to do anything about it. And then Cobweb had told Azriel that he could have Tyson's toys even though Azriel told Cobweb that Tyson would be angry.
But there were always times, like these ones, when Tyson was nice.
"Ty?" Azriel asked, looking over to see Tyson burrowing his face into the pillow.
Tyson looked up, bleary eyed. "Yeah?"
"I'll share my toys with you even if Seel says I don't have to."
Tyson reached out and wrapped an arm around Azriel. "Thanks."
"Why do you think Seel told me that anyway?"
Tyson screwed up his face and for a moment, Azriel wished that he hadn't asked. Sometimes, Tyson said mean things about Azriel's hostling and Azriel had to defend him. He didn't feel like having a shouting match with Tyson right after they'd made up. But Tyson just stared up at the ceiling. "Well, Az," he said, after a long pause, "sometimes I think that the adults don't know how to play nice any better than we do."