Beside the Wells
|Title:||Beside the Wells|
|Fandom:||Star Trek: The Original Series|
|External Links:||Online here|
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It was one of the first K/S stories posted online.
This story won an ASC Award.
"A/U: A Vulcan takes the human Jim Kirk as slave, but never owns him."
The Author's WordsIn 2007, Susan Legge was interviewed for Legacy. Here is an excerpt from the article:
"It was written as a protest against a plethora of zine stories in which Kirk, of all people, ended up as Spock’s slave and, after a little perfunctory resistance, ended up liking it. I loathed the premise, especially as applied to so rampant a libertarian as Kirk. I loathed the rare story where the ownership was the other way round just as much.
I put it online because I didn’t think any zine editor would want it, (a) because I had no confidence—it was the first slash I’d written, and I had no idea if I was any good at it—and (b) because it seemed a rather weird story with a weird premise and a weird language, and I wasn’t sure anyone but me would get what I was trying to do. I’d had gen published before, but this was totally different. It got a lot of very positive reaction. Unexpectedly so because there was so little K/S online, I had no idea how many readers there would be for it.”It was voted best story on the alt.startrek.creative (ASC) newsgroup that year. “Beside the Wells” was also the first K/S story online to play with some of the fluidity of electronic publishing, the ability to make changes to the online work. A few months after posting the story, says she, she thought of a clever ending she liked, though perhaps not so much as the first. But what the heck? It wasn’t like there would be a stack of zines to waste and reprint. She posted it to the newsgroup as a “Version 2”. Now readers have both: one story, two endings.
Reactions and Reviews
This, I sighed, is another master/slave A/U event—not my favorite—but so tantalizingly written that I wouldn't let it bother me. Lyrical, poetic, mesmerizing. But was it just an A/U? By the time I finished I didn't think so. Was this Master Spock? Not the way I read It Was the slave Kirk? Certainly. And in the 23rd century, just a captive on another planet Very thought provoking. Told first person in a style that you would swear was drawn from some ancient tome, it is almost like going back to literature class. Never once did this manner of "speech" falter. Listen to this: "I longed to pour myself inside his skin and wear him wrapped around me like a robe ...." But did our Kirk ever submit with anything but his body? No. Held in trust for Spock. You knew this though it was never spoken. Elsewhere in camp his friends were also held captive and he visited them when he could. He learned the language and played with the children, but never once did he belong in any way to the man who would claim him, had claimed him in the only way the Human would allow. When the winds died that held him in the camp, he was gone like the night. The Master reminisces of times long past, as we see his grandchildren are now adults, stopping yet beside the wells. In closing, the Master speaks of painful lessons learned. "For many years I wondered if he ever thought of me and hoped he would remember. But I am older now and wiser far ... and pray that he did not." Definitely memorable." 
The feeling that remained with me from this story was the tragedy of how much both participants had lost because each was unable to understand the other; their attitudes were so opposite that there was no possible ground for compromise. As a firm believer in the "happy ending", I would not have wanted this ending changed—to do so would have weakened the story. Another very important point raised is, what constitutes the trigger to bring a person brought up in a society where slave ownership is the norm, to question that upbringing. It happened in our own society, when a few pioneers began the campaign. What motivated them to go against everything they had been taught? The key may have been revulsion at the idea of slavery for an individual, as in Beside the Wells; the next step the realisation that it is absolutely wrong. Susan has shown subtly but very clearly how the mind-set has changed. It's not often that you find such a strong idea in such a short story. It's not one I will easily forget.
I really enjoyed this refreshingly realistic master/slave story. Kirk was completely believable; Spock’s character did not quite match what we saw in TOS, but the differences seem plausible given the AU setting of this story. The story is told from Spock’s point of view, and Susan’s use of language really helps to define his character. This is a well written, thoughtful story.
This is a slavery story with a difference, and one interesting, and for me very effective, detail is that nowhere are the names of the protagonists, either master or slave, given. In some ways it's a fairly typical K/S master-slave scenario, with the master becoming besotted with his slave; what makes this story so unusual, and gives it much of its strength, is that the slave does not respond, never stops resenting his captivity; he cannot resist physically, but he can and does resist mentally, while letting his master see that he can and will form friendships elsewhere.
Everything is done from the master's POV; he can't get inside his slave's mind, can't understand how his slave thinks— it is established early why a mind meld is impossible; but neither can the slave understand the ethos of his captor's race.
[J B] found the ending unsatisfactory (KS Press No 14, P11). I did not. I know that Susan does not personally find the "slave falls in love with his master" scenario convincing, and I would agree with her that an adult reared in a society that did not make use of slaves would find it very difficult to do anything but resent the man who had bought him, no matter how well he was treated.
There is an alternative last sentence (which doesn't change anything) which I actually found a more effective, a more hit-in-the-gut ending, and I understand from Susan that while some of the people who have read it prefer it, others prefer the zine ending.This is not a comfortable read for those of us who prefer the happy ending, but I would certainly say that this is a story designed to make us think; the sort of story of which a writer can be justifiably proud and which will probably be remembered, even by readers who didn't agree with the ending, long after a "This was marvelous!" happy-ending story has faded into "Yes, I remember I liked it, but what was it about again?" 
This marvelous A/U story is told from first-person POV of Spock, who has bought a human, who we know is Kirk, as a slave. I loved the technique of having Spock tell the story—very poignant feeling.
I loved the feel of ancient times that the author created—how the people live, how they think and their old-world language. And of course I loved that Spock finds Kirk and is immediately attracted to this gorgeous, feisty human. I loved the first description of Kirk; "I also saw beneath the dust and rags that he was beautiful. His hair was short, a yellow-brown that caught the flame of candle and of fire, revealing small and rounded ears that should have seemed deformed and yet did not." The author really captured the seemingly exotic nature of a human for a Vulcan.
This is definitely Kirk—ready to escape, unwilling to surrender easily, gorgeous and willful. (I had to put gorgeous in there.)
Beautifully shown as Spock tries and tries to get to Kirk and finally becomes almost obsessed with making Kirk respond to him with passion and love. "Once as I lay on my back, shattered and spent, my heart a mad thing in my side, I saw the shuttered mask that he still wore and fury rose and in my rage I swore an oath that, come the dawn, I'd offer him for sale to all and any."
I love this style of writing—so perfectly suited to this type of story. The sentences are long and flowing, filled with exotic, other-worldly flavor. "I thirsted for him as I have seen men thirst for water in the desert or for shade in noon day heat, I craved him as men crave for drugs or wine and, like such thirsts, it grew and fed upon the little that I had of him, that little creating of itself a desperate, abject need to have him, all of him, all mine." This is almost one entire paragraph and it reminded me of a colorful Vulcan scarf flowing in the desert wind. Really beautiful writing.
But here, I need to respond to something that Fiona James says in her review of "Beside The Wells" above. She states that the author and herself "...find 'slave falls in love with his master" scenario convincing, and I would agree with her that an adult reared in a society that did not make use of slaves would find it very difficult to do anything but resent the man who had bought him, no matter how well he was treated".
I respectfully disagree with both statements; first, that the scenario is unconvincing, and second that the slave would only resent the master.
I think that the slave falling in love with the master is totally believable—and I can think of many reasons why. But without going into those reasons, we are dealing with Kirk and Spock here. I think that changes the picture considerably. To say that any man would only resent the master is like saying what you think should happen, that that's the way it ought to be. But the dynamics between a master/slave can be very complex with dominance/submission and control issues. We'd all like to think that if we were in that situation that that's how we would react—in a righteous manner, respectful to ourselves.
But aside from debating whether someone would or wouldn't "give in" to the master or whatever, we are talking about Kirk and Spock. These are our heroes who are destined and meant for each other, aren't they? So I don't see why Kirk wouldn't have fallen in love with Spock.
However, and this is a big however, I thoroughly enjoyed and accepted the ending that Kirk didn't end up with Spock. I thought the author set her premise and followed it through very convincingly, I just don't think that just because Kirk was a slave that that would completely preclude his falling in love with Spock. (And I promise not to bring up Command Decision as an example of the dynamics between master/slave and Kirk and Spock. And I won't mention how excellently that novel dealt with the issue. Nope.)Anyway, this is a beautiful, haunting story that I truly enjoyed.
Considering how I feel about "happy endings" in the sense of Kirk and Spock's being together at least indicated as a sure thing at the end of the story, I can't really say why I loved this one. The obvious reason is that it's an A/U story, and only from Spock's POV (so we don't really know Kirk's feelings after he left the stage and can surmise what we want); so it doesn't bother me that they're not together at the end, such as it would in a mainline-universe story.
At the end, Spock is an old man who in his youth, before his enlightenment (directly caused by Kirk), kept slaves. Now he only hopes that the beautiful, fiery bed-slave he once owned, once loved, does not remember being "owned" by Spock.
Which of course he never was, owned, that is. Not Kirk.
This is lovely writing, in old-style, first-person desert dweller. Rich, poetic, just beautiful. The erotic parts hot, hot, insane-driving hot. And the sad part (Kirk leaving) so sad.
Also I appreciate the tautness and focus. I call this elegant writing—the most said in a minimum of words. A lovely piece as a whole. And I also appreciate what a vivid picture we get of Kirk, a character who doesn't even speak the language, from his master Spock's POV.
There is even a little plot in this reminiscence, the story of Kirk's coming, then going....This is the second story of Susan's I've read recently and I hope there will be plenty more.
Alternate Universe stories are a particularly fun part of fanfiction, and for some reason there are a lot of Vulcan-desert-barbarian-slave ones in Star Trek fanfic. This story is a classic exploration of that theme. The author, Jess, describes it as: "On an alien, desert planet a human is captured and sold." But what effect will this human, and his very different strengths, have on his captor? Bitter and lyrical, this short story speaks of regret and that which might have been.
There are two versions - read them both and see which you like better.
Beside the Wells, Version 1 (link broken)Beside the Wells, Version 2 (link broken) 
Darkfic Rating: Espresso: AU. These paired stories have a very bitter bite to them. There are risks and consequences for those who enslave others, as one man finds out. 
- "Original Usenet posting".
- from The Legacy of K/S on the Internet: The Source of the Mississippi
- comment by Ruth Gifford at alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated/, November 3, 1997
- from The K/S Press #27
- from The K/S Press #15
- from The K/S Press #15
- from The K/S Press #15
- from The K/S Press #15
- from The K/S Press #15
- from brademante13 at Crack Van, posted August 31, 2005, accessed March 25, 2013
- "Darkfic recs, November 2000".