Shelter (Star Trek: TOS story)

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K/S Fanfiction
Title: Shelter
Author(s): Leslie Fish and Joanne Agostino
Date(s): October 1976
Genre: slash
Fandom: Star Trek: The Original Series
External Links: Shelter online (archive notes on Shelter)

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Shelter is an early K/S slash story by Leslie Fish and Joanne Agostino, though Fish is the primary author. It was first published in the zine Warped Space #20 in October 1976. It is a cave story.

There are two pieces of art by Fish, both done with a thickened white ink on black board.

There is a sequel to this story titled Poses, first published in Obsc'zine #1 in 1977. There is a related sequel in The Sensuous Vulcan called Cooling One's Heels.

"Shelter", "Poses," and "Cooling One's Heels" were also republished in K/S Relay #2.

This story was mentioned in The Development of the Kirk/Spock Relationship: Its Foundation in Fan-Fiction (1978).


This story is probably the first fully-developed K/S short story that was actually published. In it, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are stranded on a planet when their shuttlecraft lands and explodes. Spock suffers from a blow to the head and is unconscious when they take shelter in a convenient cave. (Convenient caves are an amusing cliché used by many K/S writers over the past twenty-five years.) During his delirium, Spock expresses and acts on his deeply-suppressed desire for a sexual relationship with Kirk. McCoy feigns sleep, and Kirk, though initially confused, goes through with the encounter, presumably willingly. But the question is, will Spock remember when he regains consciousness? [1]

Author's Comments


I thought that was the kind of love that women really want: respect growing into love growing into desire — a relationship between equals, which is something hard to find in contemporary culture (even now, all these years later). What K/S fans really wanted was to be one of the characters and have the other. That’s why I made the stories so very subjective and internal, happening mostly inside the minds of the participants. “Shelter," written with a little help from my then roommate (I was going to school at the time), happens almost entirely from McCoy’s viewpoint and reveals his feelings toward both his friends as they go through an emotional revelation that turns into a physical encounter. Note that, though it’s obvious what’s going on, there’s nothing explicit in the whole scene; it’s all about feelings—emotions, which Spock kept trying (and failing) to bottle up throughout the whole series. Lori Chapek dared to publish “Shelter” in issue #20 (“XX”—in number, therefore in rating) of Warped Space, which made it the third K/S story ever published. Diane Marchant (“A Fragment Out Of Time”) and Gerry Downes (Alternative) had already taken much of the flak aimed at pioneers, and—seeing that K/S was now an established trend—a lot of people were willing to write LOCs saying how much they liked the story. There were also a lot of LOCs breathlessly asking: “What happened when they woke up?” So of course I felt obliged to write the sequel. Note that, again, 90% of “Poses” is about emotional jockeying about, and only the next-to-last scene gets down to anything like explicit sex. Even there, I concentrated on the feelings of the participants more than the action. In fact, one bit of advice I’d give to aspiring writers of any sort of erotica is: first plan the scene in complete detail—every touch and wheeze and thrust and gasp—and then don’t write it; instead, write what the actions make the participants think and feel. This is precisely why I jumped back and forth between deep immersion in Kirk’s viewpoint and Spock’s throughout the story. Again, critical response was overwhelmingly favorable. [2]


...what would be the big barrier to any such connection [a sexual one between Kirk and Spock]? Both of their social conditionings. How would you deal with that? And, well, the answer eventually became the plot that I came up with in “Shelter.” I thought that putting it from McCoy’s point of view—by the way...

I showed my first draft to Connie Faddis who gave me a lot of suggestions about how to make it more intense from McCoy’s point of view. She also came up with the suggestion of getting rid of the translator.

[Faddis advised to] just to make it more intensely from McCoy’s point of view and not skip around. In a short story, that was much more effective. I realized that it was a damned good point, so... I also realized that what makes a love, erotic – and this is advice I’ve given to other K/S writers since. Okay, plot out your plot. Plot out your action. Plot it in detail. Every touch and thrust and moan and twitch. And then don’t write it. Keep the detailed plot in mind, but what you write are the emotional and physical reactions to what’s happening, because that’s what really makes the story, and that seems to have worked ever since. It’s not the insert tab A into slot B and rotate. It’s important. It’s effective. It’s what the action makes the characters feel and think.

[Was I happy with how it turned out?]

I was astounded. The reaction to “Shelter” was overwhelmingly positive. There were some interesting nay votes and comments, which I had fun dueling with. I like a good, logical argument. I’m not afraid of confrontation on that. I’ve been on a few labor union picket lines. You’re not afraid of confrontation and words. Good God. But mostly, most of the reactions were overwhelmingly positive, and unfortunately, most of them insisted “What happened when they woke up? Tell us! Tell us!” So I had to write the sequel, so I wrote “Poses.” [3]

"Shelter" in Context

For a 1999 discussion amongst three fans regarding "Shelter's" context within K/S and other Trek writing, see The Foresmutters Project: Commentary & Historical Background: Shelter by Leslie Fish.


From "Warped Space"

From "Relay"

Reactions and Reviews

Unknown Date

A TOS classic. A head injury causes Spock to reveal more than intended, resulting in much angsting and ultimately hotness. Scores huge points for alien anatomy :D [4]

The Three are trapped in a cave-in. Delirious from injuries, Spock reveals that he is in love with Kirk. While McCoy pretends not to be there, Kirk comforts Spock with sex. Spock is awfully melodramatic here, but the set-up is good and McCoy's bystander commentary is very fine, as is his martyrdom in cutting out his own translator to keep Kirk believing it was all private. [5]


I wasn't going to gush about "Shelter" and "Poses" ... but it seems appropriate, because Fish and Agostino show great psychological insight in these stories and express in fictional form the importance of integration. Spock has repressed a whole chunk of his total personality, but then so has Kirk. In Kirk's case, how ever, what has been repressed is his "feminine" side. To hold to his super-macho "Jim, the Galactic Hero" image he has denied a part of himself that cannot be denied without cost. Human beings are basically androgynous, a fact which Fish/Agostino understand very well, and the humanization of James Kirk is as important an element in the Kirk-Spock relationship stories as the change in Spock. Basically, each is helping the other along toward that integration of personality they both need. Even though Leslie Fish and Carol Hunterton have responded beautifully (WS 23) to criticism of Kirk and Spock as lovers, I feel compelled to add my two credits' worth. We hear about all different kinds of love — friendship, sexual love, love of family — between and among people, but I don't think we're talking about different things, only different manifestations of the same thing. And the boundaries which separate those manifestations are amorphous, weak and can easily become nonexistent. I think any kind of love relationship carries sexual potential; whether or not that potential becomes actualized depends on all manner of variables in conditioning, environment, etc. Bev Clark has pointed out (WS 18) that you can't judge 22nd Century people by 20th Century moral standards. As it is, twentieth century moral standards are pretty variable. Plenty of people besides myself have no trouble at all accepting a Kirk-Spock relationship of the kind described in "Poses". Anita Bryant notwithstanding, I find it hard to believe that a 22nd Century person, exposed to the variety of a galaxy-wide culture, won't be many times more liberal In these matters. In fact, one of the criticisms I have of much of Trekflc Is its tendency to give insufficient allowance for the change in mores brought about by 200 years and exposure to many alien civilizations. Granted, there will always be people whose opinions are immune to change; I still find altogether more 20th century prejudices in 22nd century minds than seems likely. I've already told you what I think of "Poses" best thing In the 'zine by far. [6]

"Shelter" was everything I had been led to expect — a beautifully-written, tender story, done with compassion and understanding. The scene where Spock confesses his love and Kirk accepts him was really lovely. The only slight criticism is a vague uneasiness at McCoy's being turned into a reluctant Peeping-Tom, but it didn't spoil the story. [7]


Re Leslie Fish's letter in PROBE 10 [See Open Letter by Winston A. Howlett Regarding His Review of "Alternative: Epilog to Orion"]: I, for one, consider her position on the Kirk/Spock relationship totally indefensible. "In a more advanced, less-restrictive society...there's no good reason why Kirk and Spock shouldn't be lovers...after all, they do love each other." Why, I might ask, does she find it necessary in "Shelter" to explain Spock's childhood dilemmas — Amanda as the tempting, forbidden human woman? Why does she find it necessary to provide psychological 'justification' for a homosexual Kirk/Spock relationship? If there's nothing 'wrong' with such a relationship, except our current social mores, why does Fish see the need to demonstrate Spock's psychological illness? I think that self-contradictory testimony would be inadmissable in a court of law. Besides, the implications of her statement are obvious: normal, heterosexual men cannot truly love each other because they cannot share a sexual experience. Aside from the fact that this is utter nonsense, it's far from the implication Roddenberry intended for the Kirk/Spock relationship. And tell it to Starsky and Hutch! (Not to mention all men who are mutual friends.) [8]

SHELTER traces the dreams which have been haunting Spock, and how his friend, Kirk, has "seduced me into feeling." Since it is already obvious on aired Trek episodes that Kirk does, indeed, occasionally penetrate that Super-Vulcan mask which Spock wears so well, this is not too surprising a development. On AMOK TIME we saw Spock's defenses completely crumble when he saw that his captain was not dead after all. On DEVIL IN THE DARK we see Spock become visibly disturbed when the cave-in first happens, and the Vulcan does not know Kirk's condition, or even if he is alive. There are numerous other instances when Spock will react to Kirk in a way that he would not to any of the other characters, up to, and including McCoy.

In SHELTER Spock explains through his delirium, that Kirk has not only seduced him into feeling, but has also "made me to love thee..." At this point, it could be taken for a purely platonic love that Spock refers to. However, when Spock begins to explore these feelings, and to fully explain the things which have haunted his mind, we begin to see that, yes, under those given circumstances, it could be possible . McCoy, who is also sealed in the cave, pretends to be asleep during this interlude, though he is completely aware of everything that happens. We accept, without question, that

Kirk is a very sensual man, who cares deeply for his entire crew, and especially for Spock. The captain is told by Spock, in the delirious state that he (Spock) was twice made vulnerable to Kirk, and that both times Kirk struck him, forcing his (Spock's) feelings to once again hide behind that mask. (He is, of course, speaking of THIS SIDE OF PARADISE and THE NAKED TIME). In both episodes Ne see another side of Spock, and one which Kirk must deal with harshly in order to protec his ship. Unfortunately we don't know what happens after these episodes -- when Spock must be forced realize that his soul was literally bared to Kirk, the one person in the galaxy that Spock trusts more than anyone else. and that Kirk had to (necessarily) hurt him . While Spock realizes that the harshness was necessary, he is still disturbed by the fact tha his feelings were (he was un-Vulcan), and was hurt for this vulnerability. This is the premise for SHELTER, coupled with Kirk's understanding of what those times must have done to his friend.

Poses, the sequel, deals with their feelings of guilt, turmoil, desire, and the solutions they final y come to once back on board the Both SHELTER and POSES are what could be termed "erotic realism," and are, in no way, pornographic. They keep the characters true to the characterizations we saw in aired Trek, and do not attempt to reduce Kirk/ Spock to two limp-wristed stereotypes. To date, I have read nearly every K/S story to be published, and so far I have seen only one or two minor breaches of character. [9]


Regarding [the] comment about Gayle's Cosmic Fuck series — that you wished that she had shown them freely choosing to enter into the relationship, rather than having it forced on them by the pon farr She wrote these stories before 1977 (I don't know how much earlier), and at that time hardly anyone was writing K/S and those who were, were getting blasted for it (i.e. Winston Howlett's denunciation of Gerry Downes' Alternative in Winston's zine Probe]]). At the time fen were trying to find "reasons" for K and S to get together, almost as if we had to force them together. Now, there is so much K/S, that there are some stories out that have them falling in to bed together for the first time with hardly any motivation whatsoever. Of course, these are the badly written stories. I do think that you have to show some motivation in terms of something that happens in their lives which changes them in some way, so that they decide to enter into the relationship, but I do agree that it doesn't have to be forced. Leslie Fish in effect "forced" Kirk to enter the relationship with Spock in "Shelter" by having Spock semi-conscious and very vulnerable. The way she wrote it, they wouldn't have become involved, if Spock had been in his conscious mind. But, there again, Leslie wrote this over six years ago. A lot has happened in K/S and in fandom in the intervening years. [10]


"Shelter" takes place after a shuttlecraft accident maroons Kirk, Spock, and McCoy temporarily. It describes the feelings and motivations of Kirk, who comforts and ultimately is seduced by a wounded, concussed and delirious Spock, while McCoy, an unwilling witness, pretends sleep. It is beautifully and tersely written. Read it if you haven't already done so! [11]


I noted that McCoy was rather psychoanalytic in "Shelter". This is an uncharacteristic approach for him. He usually relies more on observation and experience than Freudian theory. In fact, I'd regard McCoy as more Client-Centered than Freudian.

In any case, I'm sure I'd be as enthusiastic about Shelter and Poses as nearly everyone else if I'd read them earlier. They are good stories, but they don't compare well with a masterpiece like "This Deadly Innocence". [12]


The first K/S story I ever read was Shelter, by Leslie Fish. And believe me, I would have hurled the zine across the room if it been mine to hurl. Aha! But why would I have done it? Not because I didn't believe, but because I did. Before reading Shelter, my only exposure to the notion of K/S had come from the "Phoenix" books, by Sondra Marshak & Myrna Culbreath, and it wasn't the kind of "exposure" I wanted. In short, though I found the books enjoyable overall, I didn't believe what they were trying to tell me between those professionally-written lines. There was something in the Phoenix books that made me squirm — and not in the same way Shelter made me squirm. The Phoenix books made me uncomfortable, argumentative, and downright bitchy whenever I encountered the concept of K/S. Though, like I said, they're great books in and of themselves.


In all fairness, of course, perhaps the Phoenix books would have affected me in the same way Shelter did had they been done as fanzines, without the need to write between the lines rather than on the lines. All I know is that reading the Phoenix books originally turned me into what's known nowadays as a "rabid anti-K/Ser". You see, the Phoenix books didn't convince me that Kirk and Spock might be lovers, or at the very least, were involved in some pretty kinky pastimes in the privacy of their own thoughts. Shelter, on the other hand, more than convinced me. And I, a stubborn, starry-eyed, 22-year-old girl, didn't want to be convinced. I kicked and I screamed and I yowled — my heroes wouldn't do this! But... Leslie made me believe they would. She made me know they would by showing me how it was possible - which is the mark of a good writer. (And when I got through kicking, screaming and yowling, I went straight to my friend's zine collection and promptly devoured all the K/S I could get my hands on — which, back in those days, wasn't a lot. But it was enough to get me started on the way to delightful perversion, where I've lived happily ever since...). [13]


I've seen McCoy does accept the K/S relationship and can be fiercely loyal in its defense. He usually exhibits less homophobia than either Kirk or Spock often show. This is probably because his training has made him more objective about sexuality. Yet in "Shelter" (originally in WARPED SPACE 20 and reprinted in K/S RELAY 3) by Leslie Fish, McCoy is far from professionally objective. He utilizes Freudian analysis to attempt to determine the causes of Spock's attraction to Kirk. I find this speculative psychoanalysis patronizing and oppressive. McCoy never asks himself why he prefers women. Heterosexuality is not seen as mysterious or in need of investigation. It is homosexuality that needs to be explained. The fact is that no one fully understands how people come to have any sexual preference. Any objective treatment of the question would recognize this. "Shelter" is deservedly regarded as a classic, but the story would be even better if McCoy showed any realization that homosexuality isn't a special case whose etiology needs to be determined like an illness. [14]


...Shelter was the first slash I ever read, and for years was the story I loaned people interested in slash. It was the first 'cave' story (so good it launched an embarrassing number of pale imitators), and just generally wonderful. I can still remember my full body cringe of reading McCoy digging in his own arm without anesthesia to remove the language implant. (And yeah, before anyone says anything--it is way sweet, and not very representative of my favorite type of stories now, 14 years later...) [15]


I remember reading "Shelter" in WS20 and going crazy waiting for the sequel to come out. As usual for many stories of this type, it ended with the "mating" and there was no discussion of the "aftermath". And in this case, since Spock was "out of his mind" during the mating, it was logical that we fen were going "bug-fuck nuts!" waiting for the sequel to find out how both Kirk and Spock would feel later, on the Big E, when they were both in their "right minds".

When "Poses" finally came out and I read it, I was somewhat disappointed. I felt that one of the characters (I think it was McCoy) was REALLY out of character (the way I conceptualized him). But I WAS relieved to FINALLY read the sequel. [16]

Oh, yes, "Shelter" and "Poses". I liked the former much more than the latter. In "Poses" there is real sex, but it almost read tongue-in-cheek, and I remember Leslie later saying she was poking fun at the idea of romance in that story (I remember she wrote a commentary once where she said she detested the word "romance". Ah, a kindred spirit.... <g>) [17]

Well, I was really pleased when [K B] lent me these [Shelter and Poses], as I have suddenly developed an interest in the history of K/S. I have to say that I was not disappointed, both these stories were interesting and thought provoking. The first story “Shelter” is mostly from McCoy’s POV and involves them taking shelter in, guess what—a cave! Spock has been injured and becomes delirious and in his fevered ramblings the truth about his feelings for Kirk emerge, and Kirk’s comforting of Spock evolves into something more. One of the interesting ideas in this story is that the love scene is described almost entirely in sound, which works pretty well though I did wonder just how good McCoy’s sense of hearing could possibly be! I thought the voice of Spock’s delirious mind was really well captured and it’s an interesting idea although I have read other excellent stories based on that idea I assume this was one of the earliest. [18]


One of the first 'cave' stories in slash fanfic, and it still stands up well. Spock's anguished cry of: "Oh friend, my friend, thee has caused me to love thee, and now what shall I do?" is a strong enough line to resonate in the mind, despite the misuse of the second person singular.

Told from the point of view of McCoy, shocked to hear a feverish Spock confess his feelings under the influence of physical strain. It's really half a story--what might they feel when they have to confront their feelings back on shipboard? [19]


A very early piece, from 1976, this story and its sequel are interesting because they avoid many of the cliches of later K/S while establishing others. The setting - Kirk and Spock stranded in a cave, with Spock injured and McCoy a reluctant bystander, is practically the stuff of parody. Yet some details, such as Spock's interesting anatomical differences (he is half-alien, after all!) are fresh and intriguing. The story is well-written, if a bit overwrought; while modern stories take for granted that Kirk and Spock could be attracted to each other and act on that attraction, this story has to establish that premise from ground zero. An interesting and worthwhile read - read the commentary and historical background, as well. [20]


Reccing because of the sheer HISTORY of this, but also because it's good. I don't like it's sequel Poses at all (with the exception of the weirdest and most intriguing portrayal of Vulcan anatomy to date) but this one is the cliche goodness of pon farr and it was the first known K/S fic. [21]


3/5: I have a lot of mixed feelings about this one. The writing itself isn't too bad, though I have definitely read better, and the characterisation is pretty on point for a lot of it. Unfortunately, Bones psycoanalyses his friends using Freud, in a way that very much does not line up with our modern knowledge of psychology. It's also unclear just how consentual the sex is. Clearly, Spock can't consent because he's concussed and thinks he's dreaming the entire time, and Jim seems to enjoy it but he cries afterwards and claims he "had to do it". Definitely not vibing with that. Still, it's a piece of history, and if you feel you can handle the things mentioned previously, it might be worth a read. [22]


  1. ^ Beyond Dreams Press
  2. ^ from A 2007 Interview with Leslie Fish
  3. ^ from Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Leslie Fish
  4. ^ from Recs by Rhaegal
  5. ^ from Karen Halliday's Zinedex
  6. ^ from a LoC in Obsc'zine #2 (August 1977)
  7. ^ from Obsc'zine #2
  8. ^ from an LoC in Probe #12
  9. ^ by Christopher Randolph in Enterprise Incidents #6 (1978) in The Many Faces of Fan Fiction
  10. ^ from K/S & K.S. (Kindred Spirits) #6 (1983)
  11. ^ from Not Tonight Spock #6 (November 1984)
  12. ^ from K/S & K.S. (Kindred Spirits) #16
  13. ^ by Alexis Fegan Black in K/S 101: an essay on the techniques & tricks of writing K/S (August 1993)
  14. ^ from Not Tonight Spock! #11 (November 1985)
  15. ^ Sandy Herrold discussing the story on the Virgule-L mailing list in Sept 1996, quoted with permission.
  16. ^ undated comments by Ruth Lym at Foresmutters
  17. ^ June 1999 comments at Venice Place
  18. ^ from The K/S Press #32 (April 1999)
  19. ^ 2002 rec by Predatrix
  20. ^ from a 2005 comment at Crack Van
  21. ^ 20 TOS K/S fic recs, October 16, 2009
  22. ^ K/S Fanfiction by