Nereus Who Tells No Lies

by The Spike

Notes: Thanks to Sarah T. for the quick read-through and ancient languages info.

Lex dreams as he sinks.

He dreams of armies of herons, coracoid, black-footed, diving for sleek-scaled koi in oceans of oil. He dreams of the cold whisper of breath in dry lungs. He dreams of Helen smiling as she falls away from him, her wedding dress belling and trailing like the skirts of a jellyfish.

He hears his own voice inside his head:

You never learn.

He nods, the motion knocking free the air in his lungs. It forces his jaws apart, forces its way past his teeth, wreathing his head in a crown of bubbles.

On the other side of this -- this drowning -- is a thing to know. A treasure. He can see it clearly. An open chest, spilling scrolls in ancient Greek, Linear B, Aramaic, Sanskrit and that other language no-one knows -- Clark's tongue.

Lex licks his lips. Saltless in the salty sea.

*You never learn.*

But what is the lesson here? Death? Distrust? Misogyny recapitulates the sailor's prayer?


He'd never be that trite inside his own mind. There must be more. Some thought...some thing...

It's just so quiet down here. And there is so much light. Pillars of it, golden, spiralling. Fanning like sandalwood. What was he thinking of?

Clark? Clark's tongue? Oh, yes. The treasure of his mouth... He would have tasted that.

Dream of the sweet that never was. The sweet that was...

The lesson. What is the lesson? His father's voice now and that's bitter as old wood. He's lost his train of thought. Wood. Woods. Blood. Nixon fell in leaves of grass. Buried under secrets. He'd married Helen in the church of the woods. He'd buried Clark in caves of stone.

Clark. The treasure that was lost. The burning in his chest that will not stop. The twist of every single lie, told and taken. A tangle beyond untying now. Only the mystery's line is pure and that...

Lex kicks at the water, driving himself down. He's already solved the puzzle, so why does it feel undone?

You. Never.

Shut up, he tells the voice. Shut up and let me think.

His brain is whirring now. A clockwork of signs and symbols. He is an orerry. He knows everything there ever was and the pieces move into alignment only once in a lifetime. Only once, but: Clark is a champion. The world is an easy oyster. Helen is a terrible liar. He made one bad mistake. Conquering is going to be as easy as...

As easy as...

Faster, Lex. You're almost at the end.

Something was obviously out of true but it's already too late, the steady march of sidereal time and all his stars unanchor. Bright sparks falling at the corners of his vision.

He cranes his neck to see. Nothing but the mirror-bottom of the ocean. He's had everything. Lost everything. There should be room for pity there but there is nothing where the pity was but burnished bones, wrasse cleaned. He bares his teeth.

What will it matter in the next life? He comes to it naked, grinning. Heart in hand.

I never learn, he tells the universe.

And breaks through the water's surface to the air.


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