Summary: Kryptonian customs can be strange and harsh.
Warnings: Rated NC-17. m/m.
--Excerpt from The Balance Principle: A Brief History of Inaureme
One of the most ancient of Kyptonian legends is the myth of the sun goddess Inaure, a story every school child can recite by heart. Inaure, both beautiful and brash, in the full flush of her brilliance, was too headstrong to listen to the Sky Father's warnings that she not shine too brightly lest she destroy what she meant to nurture.
"My rays give warmth and light and life, Father," she answered with the arrogance of youth. "I see no need to dim my radiance."
So she flared and glowered and shimmered in all her glory, too caught up in her own luster to heed the consequences. When she did finally spare a glance down at creation, she was grieved to see that what had once been green was now brown and sere, what had teemed with life was bare and parched and dead.
She went weeping to the Sky Father Nawatu and begged to know what to do.
"Do not despair, my child. What is done can be undone, but you must give up your will to me. I will send one who can balance out the intensity of your light, and when I do, you must give way before him."
Inaure agreed, and when she was visited by Saleel, the bringer of darkness, she yielded to his embrace, and night fell. When Saleel withdrew, she shone once more, ushering in the dawn of a new day. And so it was ever afterwards, Inaure and Saleel, light and dark, the eternal balance.
For many centuries, the myth of Inaure was taken as it was no doubt intended, a lesson in the importance of restraint. It was only in the Zeequat Epoch that it began to be interpreted as a blueprint for the sexual initiation of young people, and not until the Abelith that the practice of inaureme, the formal coming of age ritual, had become widespread.
In its most essential form, inaureme is the celebration of balance, youth versus experience, curiosity versus knowledge, the receptive principle versus the active. Early practice of inaureme was a private family observance. When a child reached the age of majority, a trusted friend was selected by the parents to act as initiator or saleelam. The rituals were performed in the home, prayers said for the son or daughter's joyous passage into adulthood, and then the celebrant and initiator were left alone to conclude the ceremony.
Religious rituals often lose meaning over time, and today's practice of inaureme is particularly such a case in point. By the end of the Toolec Epoch, the private observance of inaureme began to decline in favor of more lavish and public displays. An organized priesthood evolved, and inauremistas, temples devoted to the celebration of the ritual, began to be built. Today not even the smallest hamlet is without one.
Perhaps most troubling is the way the selection of saleelam has changed in the modern age. Historians trace the shift back to the publication of Zor-Tak's treatise at the end of the last century, "Purity and the Transcendent Sexual Experience." The work gave rise to a cult of virginity that persists to this day, inspiring great interest, even competition, in taking on the role of saleelam. Eventually, it became customary for initiators to make tokens of regard to the family in return for the honor. In ancient times, celebrants of inaureme knew and trusted their initiators. Today, they are all too often put into the hands of wealthy or well-connected strangers. Inaureme has devolved into little more than trading a son or daughter's virginity for political favors or financial consideration...
Three days before Kal-El's fifteenth birthday, the parties began, their house festively decorated with garlands of white lilies and yew branches, symbols of purity and good will. Lavish buffets were set out for the guests eight times a day. Wine flowed like water. There were troupes of entertainers: Machalian dancers, acrobats from the Zindi circus, the entire cast from the Capital Theater to perform famous scenes from Kyptonian mythology. Family members and friends came from all over Kypton to spoil Kal-El rotten, plying him with spun sugar candy and Mauzoo nut cookies and toys from alien worlds, one last chance to indulge him in the pleasures of childhood.
At the end of the three days' revelry, Kal-El was dressed by his mother in a simple white robe and led by his father to the inauremista where the ceremony would take place, a trail of family members and well-wishers trailing behind.
They were greeted at the door by the priest and shown into the main chamber. Kal-El had never been inside an inauremista before; no one who had not yet come of age was permitted beyond the front doors. He glanced around now that he had his chance, and his cheeks burned at what he saw. There were murals painted on the walls, scene after scene of young celebrants experiencing their inaureme. In one, a young girl with bright red hair lay on her back, a man with a long beard on his knees between her thighs. In another, a boy was stretched out on his belly, legs flung open, his face twisted in ecstasy as a woman leaned over him, penetrating him with an alabaster dildo, her long gray hair flowing across his back like a curtain.
In the main chamber, the applicants seeking to be his saleelam were waiting. They had already spent two days at the temple being instructed in the rituals. The responsibilities of the saleelam were taken very seriously. There were four men and two women. Three were Kryptonian, richly dressed in the style of the capital, two Dervans with their distinctive violet eyes, and finally a bare-headed Earthman. Kal-El had never seen any of them before--in conservative households such as his, young men and women who had not yet come of age were not allowed into society--but his mother had broken the rules of the inaureme and described them to him.
The eyes of all the applicants fastened on him as soon as he entered the room, and Kal-El ducked his head shyly, pressing close to his father's side. They settled on cushions before low tables, Kal-El and his parents and other members of the house of El on one side of the room, the prospective saleelams on the other. Temple attendants served a light supper, and everyone dined, all but Kal-El, who was too nervous to eat.
At last, the meal was cleared away, and Jor-El nodded to the priest.
He rose to his feet and addressed the prospective saleelams, "If you please. We will begin."
His father had only told Kal-El what to expect in the vaguest of terms. His primary instruction had been, "Just do as you're told."
The priest read from the Book of Inaure, the familiar story of the original inaureme, and then he led the assembly in the traditional prayer, asking Inaure to make Kal-El's passage into adulthood a joyous one. At last, he nodded to Jor-El, who put a hand on Kal-El's arm and urged him to his feet. Kal-El's palms were damp, stomach clenched with a nervousness that bordered on terror. By some miracle his feet managed to carry him over to the priest without stumbling, and the priest guided him to the center of the room, where all eyes turned to him.
Kal-El stood there, gaze cast down, half paralyzed by the unfamiliar attention.
The priest gently prompted him, "Go on. Let them see you."
The robe was designed for simplicity, but Kal-El's trembling fingers still fumbled with the ties. At last, he got them undone and hesitantly let his garment slide to the floor. One of the temple attendants scurried over and took it away, lest Kal-El try to put it on again. It was a wise precaution, because if he'd had some other choice, he would not have stood there nude, enduring strangers' eyes moving over his skin. Modesty is the measure of a wise spirit. Kryptonian children learned that saying in the nursery. Under any other circumstances, it was considered daring, and not very tasteful, to show so much as a bare arm or an ankle in public.
"Who gives this child to be initiated into the mysteries of adulthood?" the priest asked in a grand, ceremonial tone.
Kal-El's father stood. "I do."
"Approach," the priest told him.
The priest took a silver chalice from the altar, said a prayer over it and handed it to Jor-El.
"My child, you must give up your will to me," his father said to him, then pressed the chalice to his lips.
Kal-El obediently took a sip. He'd never tasted wine before, and it was surprisingly sweet on his tongue. He drank more, and his father encouraged him, "yes, my son, that is the way," until it was all gone.
The first thing he felt was heat, burning the back of his throat, and then his head started to reel. The fire settled low in his belly, and his cock began to stir. Murmurs of appreciation whispered through the room. Kal-El felt a pang of shame that he could not control his body, but his skin just kept getting hotter, his cock harder. He wanted so badly to cover himself, but his hands seemed so far away, as if they belonged to someone else entirely.
"The prospective saleelams are invited to inspect the celebrant," the priest announced.
Kal-El did not know what those words meant until the applicants rose as one and swarmed around him. Suddenly there were hands everywhere, running down his back, stroking along his thighs, plucking at his nipples.
"Responsive," someone murmured, making Kal-El blush.
Someone else casually fondled his cock. "Well-endowed, certainly." And his cheeks burned hotter.
Only the Earthman did not touch him, standing a little apart, watching his competitors' frantic grabbing with what appeared to be amusement and obvious sympathy for Kal-El's plight. The Earthman was pale and smooth, and looked so blessedly cool, like that first breeze of autumn when the weather finally broke. The other applicants' hands were sticky and hot, and Kal-El longed to lose himself in something that would help take away the swelter.
"Male bodies don't bear witness the way ours do," the female Dervan complained. "How do we really know this boy has never been touched?" She ran a finger impertinently along his cleft.
To question such a thing was a great insult in Kryptonian society. Kal-El expected a harsh retort from his father or the priest.
But it was the Earthman who spoke, "We have only to look at him."
He drew near at last and stroked his thumb lightly along Kal-El's jaw. Kal-El stared helplessly at him, and the look in the Earthman's eyes made him ache. He was so dizzy the simplest things were remarkably difficult, but the impulse was undeniable and he managed to lean in and clumsily press his mouth to the Earthman's.
Soft stir of breath against his lips, "Very sweet."
The priest's voice interrupted Kal-El's dazed sense of wonder, "The prospective saleelams are asked to take their seats once more, so the ritual may continue."
When they'd sat back down, the priest read the Creed of Inaure that affirmed the balancing principle, and then he gave a short speech about what was expected of the celebrant and the initiator.
Finally, it was time for the vow of obedience.
Jor-El addressed his son using the words of the Sky Father Nawatu, "I will send one to you, and when I do, you will give way before him."
"Yes, Father," Kal-El whispered his response. "I will yield to your wisdom."
His father nodded, satisfied with him, and then he gestured for the applicants to follow him from the room. The one who returned would be Kal-El's saleelam.
"We must prepare you," the priest said after everyone had gone.
One of the temple attendants brought him a vial of ceremonial oil, lightly warmed, and the priest said another prayer and began to anoint him, forehead, chest, wrists. Finally, he let some dribble down the small of Kal-El's back, into his cleft, and then his fingers followed, pressing against Kal-El's hole and slowly inside him. The shock of being penetrated was more than he'd expected, and he made a sharp noise of protest, his head spinning too much to form actual words.
The priest gently shushed him. "This is necessary, trust me. We don't want your inaureme to be painful. It isn't propitious."
The priest had just finished his ministrations when the door to the chamber opened, and Kal-El's heart leaped, torn between hope and dread. Then the Earthman walked in smiling, and it felt as if wild birds had taken flight in Kal-El's blood.
The Earthman took his hand. "Youth and experience, the receptive principle and the active, eternal balance," he said the expected words.
But Kal-El wasn't listening. The man's heat and his smell, and Kal-El wanted...no, needed to be closer to him.
The priest cleared his throat. "The chamber is this way."
They were shown into the inner sanctum, bare except for a bed with pristine white sheets and a blanket decorated with the crest of the house of El, and a table that held a pitcher of water, food, and various sexual devices. A door led off the room to a bathroom.
"You will have until this time tomorrow. No one will disturb you before then," the priest said and withdrew, closing the door firmly behind him.
A hazy idea occurred to Kal-El, that perhaps the murals in the temple were meant to be instructive, so he went to the bed and lay down on his belly, spreading his legs for his saleelam, as the boy in the picture had done. He glanced back at the Earthman, looking for some sign that this had been the right thing to do.
For a moment, the Earthman didn't move. Then he started toward the bed, deliberately, betraying no hint of impatience. He sat down next to Kal-El and studied him, tilting his chin with his fingers to look him in the eyes.
"They did auction off your virginity to the highest bidder," he said dryly, "so I suppose it shouldn't come as any surprise that they'd drug you until you can't remember your own name to make sure you'd enjoy the experience."
He frowned at the Earthman. "My name is Kal-El."
The Earthman smiled. "I stand corrected." He kissed Kal-El lightly on the lips.
Kal-El leaned closer, needing more, but the Earthman drew away, hesitation written clearly in his face. Kal-El had never heard of a celebrant being rejected by his saleelam, but adults kept many things from children and the possibility that the Earthman might not want him made him really quite frantic. He shifted on the bed, showing off his body, letting the Earthman see his arousal, his thighs falling open in renewed invitation.
The Earthman's eyes moved over his body like a caress. "I do find you very beautiful." He met Kal-El's gaze. "And also very young. If I had any conscience at all..." He sighed. "But then, if I had any conscience, I wouldn't have given your father a fortune in biomedical contracts for the privilege of deflowering you." He kissed Kal-El again, more urgently this time.
This kiss led to many others, a blur of touching, and Kal-El got lost in one new sensation after another. He didn't even realize that the Earthman had divested himself of his robe until he was naked and on top of him, and then he moaned and spread his legs wide, offering himself to his saleelam.
"God," the Earthman said in a harsh breath against his cheek, his body moving demandingly against Kal-El's.
"Just tell me one thing first," Kal-El whispered.
The Earthman looked him in the eyes. "Anything."
Kal-El touched his cheek, almost shyly. "What do they call you on your world?"
"They call me Lex," the Earthman said against his ear, and then entered him.
There was a moment of pain--even the priest's careful preparation could not prevent it--but it was fleeting, replaced by a burning ache, that in turn became a spark of pleasure.
"Lex," he murmured, his hands moving of their own volition over the man's back.
"Kal-El," Lex answered, face pressed into the curve his neck.
"Say it again," Kal-El begged. "Say my name."
And Lex did, over and over, moving inside him until they were both weak and gasping and spent.
Inaureme spoke of this one sex act, but with Lex's help, Kal-El soon learned there were many others. The fog from the wine wore off, and he felt the need to explore more keenly, staring at Lex's body, tracing the lines of his muscles, tasting his skin. Want thrummed through him, and he moved on top of Lex and held his wrists and pushed his body roughly against him, the need to take so strong. But all the lessons impressed on him since he was very young, about the receptive principle and a celebrant's proper role, came rushing back, and he jerked to a stop, an apology tangled up on his lips.
Lex took his face in his hands and told him, "I don't care what they taught you. I don't believe in your religion. You don't have to be passive with me. Do what you want. Take whatever you need." His eyes glinted. "I know I plan to."
Many hours later, they stopped for food and some rest, and then they came together again, more eager than ever. Lex whispered in his ear again and again, "I couldn't let anyone else have you," as they did things Kal-El could never have dreamed of.
When they finally fell asleep, he was blissfully exhausted. He did not know how long he rested, but when he woke, he was cradled in Lex's arms. Lex was already awake and greeted him with a kiss.
Kal-El smiled and kissed him back. "I wonder what time it is?"
Lex shook his head. There were no windows in the chamber, and it was impossible to tell. "Although I can't imagine we have much time left."
Kal-El sighed and pressed closer. Lex stroked his hair and kissed him, and Kal-El murmured, "yes" and "please."
Even though Kal-El knew it would end soon, it still startled him when the door actually opened, and his father and the priest strode in. His father's eyes moved over his naked, sex-flushed body with more than a hint of distaste, and he scrambled for the sheet, pulling it all the way up to his chin. Lex ignored Jor-El's presence long enough to press one last, lazy kiss to his neck.
"The inaureme is over," Jor-El informed him coldly. "You've had the maximum length of time, as specified in the contract." He handed Kal-El his robe. "It is time to go, my son."
Kal-El kept his eyes lowered as he dressed, not trusting himself to look at Lex or Jor-El. He joined his father, who put his arm around him and said, "Let us return home."
Kal-El shot one last longing look over his shoulder as they started for the door.
"Just one more thing," Lex said.
"Yes?" Jor-El said impatiently.
"There is a human custom. We call it farewell."
Jor-El sighed heavily. "If you must."
He slipped from the bed, unconcerned about his nudity, took Kal-El's face in his hands and kissed him deeply. "May your life be as happy as you deserve it to be," he said.
There was so much Kal-El wanted to tell him in return.
But his father interrupted before he could get out a word, "Kal-El, go wait for me outside." He gave Lex a scathing look. "I do not approve of this farewell."
Lex only smiled.
It was but a few blocks to their house, but the separation from Lex weighed heavily on Kal-El, and it felt very long. He dawdled, not wanting the distance between them to grow.
At home, his father took him firmly by the shoulders to talk some sense into him, "Kal-El, I am glad your inaureme was a joyous one. I hesitated whether an alien would be a proper saleelam, but you seemed to prefer him. And indeed, it appears to have been a most propitious choice. As you know, a joyous inaureme brings good fortune." He looked him sternly in the eye. "But you are an adult now, and it is time to embrace adult responsibilities. We must begin to consider your future very seriously."
"I have considered it already, Father. I would very much like to travel. Explore other worlds--"
His father broke in, "I did use the word 'serious,' Kal-El. Now that you've had your inaureme, it's time you made your debut into society. I'll speak with your mother about your wardrobe. You'll be of marriageable age in a couple of years, and we want you showing to your best advantage."
"Married? But none of the other kids--"
"Are members of the house of El," his father said with a severe look, displeased that Kal-El dared argue with him. "We have very high standards to uphold. Both Tal-Rek and Kaya-Zah lost spouses in the last year and are looking to make second marriages when the mourning period is over. Each has made it known to me they would be interested in a young, obedient husband."
Kal-El stared at his father. "Kaya-Zah? She's older than mother. And Tal-Rek is older than you!"
His father nodded calmly. "Indeed. Either would make a well-balanced union, youth wed to experience. Under their tutelage, you would learn the finer points of moving in society. Your husband or wife would be able to teach you discipline, restraint, how to make yourself pleasing. You could not have a more advantageous match."
"No one agrees to such marriages anymore," Kal-El protested. "Today young people marry someone their own age, someone they have," a picture of Lex flashed in his head, "some feeling for.
"You may make your own choice for your second marriage, when you are older and wiser. As I chose your mother."
"But I want to make my own choice now! The way everyone else is allowed to do."
His father stared coldly. "I have already explained why you are not like everyone else. I suggest you go to your room and meditate on that point until you see the wisdom of everything I have said."
He swept away, leaving Kal-El to miserably ponder his fate.
The answer came to him in the middle of the night. If his father wouldn't let him lead his life his own way, he'd just have to do it without his permission.
It wasn't safe to look up the information he needed, where Lex's ship was docked, on the computer at home. Kal-El knew his father monitored it. So he had to wait until he was back in school, and then it was simple enough to tell his parents he was working late in the physics lab, an activity his father heartily approved of, and slip off to the starpad.
Lex had just finished loading his cargo when he got there. "Kal-El. I wasn't expecting you to see me off."
Kal-El practically threw himself at him, arms going messily around his neck.
"Hey, I'm glad to see you too," Lex said, hugging him back.
"Please let me come with you," he begged.
Lex pulled back, frowning with concern. "What's happened? What's wrong?"
"My father wants to marry me off to an old man," Kal-El told him desperately. "And if that man doesn't want me, then there is an old woman who will. I want to be with someone who wants me, not a young, obedient husband."
"Kal-El," Lex told him firmly. "I wish I could take you with me, but I can't."
Refusal wasn't what he'd expected, and the surprise hit him hard. "Why not?" he asked, his lip trembling.
"If you defied your father and left Krypton, you'd never be welcomed back."
"So?" he said insistently.
"So you're not ready to make that decision. Not on a whim. Not because you've just had a fight with your father."
"I'm not some stupid kid. I'm an adult now. You made me an adult," he said, sounding as petulant as a three year old.
Lex regarded him patiently, "Kryptonians rarely marry before they turn eighteen, isn't that right? Your father is too traditional to deviate from that."
"He did say in a couple of years," Kal-El conceded.
"There then," Lex said, as if the matter were all settled.
"How does that make a difference?"
"Time always makes a difference," Lex told him very seriously. "In these next two years, I'll be spending a great deal of time on Krypton, much of it in business with your father. Whether he cares for humans or not, protocol demands that he receive me in his home, giving me time to spend with you."
Kal-El brightened at the thought.
Lex smiled. "Time will also allow me to find out more about what drives your father and how I can convince him to let you marry me instead of one of these feeble old people you dread so much."
Kal-El leaned into his embrace and sighed with happiness.
Lex stroked his hair. "And if that fails, time will help you decide if you really are willing to leave behind your home and your family and everything you know. Or if perhaps there are worse things than taking an old man for your husband."
He wanted to say that he already knew the answer to that, but Lex stopped him with a finger to his lips. "Here. Take this." He pressed an interstellar communicator into Kal-El's hand. "If anything happens, if you need me," he smiled, "or just want me, use it, and I'll come."
Kal-El held onto it tightly. "Did you mean what you said about asking my father to marry me? It's what I want, but not--" He swallowed hard. "Not if you were only doing it out of pity, to save me."
Lex tilted his head and touched Kal-El's cheek. "Why do you think I offered you father business contracts instead of cash or credits?"
Lex smiled. "I had the feeling one night wasn't going to be enough."
Kal-El hugged him hard and didn't want to let go, but Lex did have a schedule to keep and finally had to gently push him away.
"I'm making the run to Atallia. I'll be back in less than week."
He kissed Kal-El and went halfway up the gangway. Then stopped, turned around and came back down to kiss him again.
"I'll see you soon," he said, stroking Kal-El's cheek, giving him one last kiss before finally boarding his ship.
Kal-El watched and waved and waited until the ship had finally disappeared from sight, lost among the stars.
He closed his eyes and touched his lips. "I like this
farewell," he said to himself.