The Word Withheld

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K/S Fanfiction
Title: The Word Withheld
Author(s): J.S. Cavalcante
Date(s): 2000
Genre: slash
Fandom: Star Trek: The Original Series
External Links: The Word Withheld

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The Word Withheld is a Kirk/Spock story by J.S. Cavalcante.

It was published in Festival and as part of an early online challenge.


"After retrieving Kirk from the interspatial rift of "The Tholian Web," Spock realizes his oath to Starfleet and his service aboard the Enterprise are in jeopardy because he has denied to himself—and withheld from Kirk—a certain truth about the nature of the Vulcan relationship called "t’hy’la"."

Reactions and Reviews


Just as I told you, I went off into the wilds of Thanksgiving armed with just your story and that was my sole reading matter. I wanted to get away from all the discussion of it into a purer reading of it, and I was glad I did. This was a very agreeable story; I'll agree that it did have a certain tenderness that some stories don't have, but as many DO have that tenderness. I thought Kira provided a wonderful scifi kind of scenario for you to work with, and you breathed life and vividness into it. It was a great set up, and your Jones Jones and her computer messages and Spock just not giving a damn about what she did were very fine. The beginning with Kirk's almost-demise, the confrontation of the two Spocks (and the Scrooge-like manifestation of the older Spock) were full blooded and robust and science-fiction-y! Yay! You took great care and it was witty and lucid. I was gratified by your discussion of t'hy'la (is that how it's spelled). Your Spock (in both incarnations) was wonderful; Kirk is tough to write though, isn't he? It's hard to capture his extraordinary zest for adventure and sensation without making him somewhat mindless. Or some sort of one-dimensional whore, but, really, that's not Kirk at all!!!! Kirk is always full of conviction.

You make me think about the actors a great deal. LN did a buhrilliant job in making Spock so enigmatic that almost any scenario can be projected upon him. His secret life (even revealed in "Amok Time") was geniunely mysterious. He could be capable of anything. But if we can project anything we want to onto Spock, we can't with Kirk, and that makes HIM somehow also mysterious, hard to write. You had him grinning a couple of times; no! Make him NOT grin! The most beautiful thing about Kirk is the bow-like curve of his mouth. A big grin ruins it!

Now that I've started writing K/S I've found how hard it is to write Kirk. Spock doesn't give in to anything, and Kirk gives in to everything, and yet Kirk doesn't give himself away while one can see Spock surrendering very easily (to Jim). In a way, JS, I wish you'd fooled around a little more with the actual sex scene; it didn't seem to mean much to Kirk and, while I could hear WS saying those lines, I wanted Kirk to FEEL more. There was something a little sinister about the ease with which he fell into bed with Spock (Remember Turnabout Intruder! The Enemy Within! Remember TNG's Allegiance! Alien-double Picard finally acts -- after all these years -- like he's going to knock boots with Bev, oh, yeah, only prior to steering the Enterprise into little briquets by knocking it against a sun! Spock better watch his green ass!)

Last night when I got in from my vacation, I was drinking wine and thinking and stuff and I started prowling through the television channels and I found an old rerun of "The New Adventures of Columbo" with WS!!! He was a corrupt Rush-Limbaugh-like radio host! He had a pencil mustache! At the end, Columbo and them hauled him away in chains! WS looked purty steamy for an old guy, I must say. He IS plump and that plumpness makes his body lose some of its expressiveness, but his features are still beautiful. And you know, I thought he did quite an agreeable job of acting. He did something very interesting. When he was *ACTING* (the way we think of WS *ACTING*) he was trying to establish his alibi so Columbo wouldn't find out he was the killer, but he also just acted in a fairly subtle way (and that was when he was being real and not trying to establish an alibi).

I know this seems to be un-germane to your story, but seeing WS and thinking about "A Word Withheld" were actually part of the same experience. It reveals to us the continuing evolving myth of Kirk and makes us question what we see in it and thus brings us a little more self-knowledge. Well, uh, I mean, sort of.

All told, a gratifying experience -- I'm glad I got to read it. [1]
This is an excellent story and I enjoyed it a great deal. I especially appreciated the smooth, graceful way the story took the characters from deep non-sexual love to a sexual relationship, and of course it did a fine job of explicating Spock's feelings, with sufficient "showing" that there was little need for "telling."

The story also struck me as something of a pinnacle, apotheosis or [choose your superlative] of the contemporary printzine aesthetic in K/S. Since I am a self-confessed renegade from print fandom, I hope this will not be taken as a negative comment. I don't mean it as such. I mean only that this story is such a superbly written example of that aesthetic that the conventions of K/S in printzines seem to stand out all the more clearly in it. As a mutual fan-friend of JS's and mine has written, the contemporary K/S printzine aesthetic might be defined as highly attached to romance and beautiful descriptive passages and relatively unconcerned with plot and story structure.

While recognizing that it's always problematic to talk about the "typical," I do think that it is common for contemporary printzine stories not to rely on plot but rather to use well-established tropes (like the ones employed in the KSOF) in place of plot. The function of the trope is to provide an opportunity for the characters to explore and express their feelings of romantic love. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this -- it's a convention, or set of conventions, developed over time by fans who write for printzines, and as a genre this type of story is enormously popular among fans. At its worse, the trope-driven story can seem gimmicky, but at its best, it proceeds seamlessly to the revelation of the characters' romantic emotions that is the real point of the story.

Thus, this story effectively examined Spock's internal emotions in prose of high polish, but the principal plot device (Spock's worry about how Kirk would react to the third meaning of the word t'hy'la) struck me as a bit too thin to support the weight of the story. Nor, it seemed to me, did this device have true dramatic impact. Spock's fear that his commitment to Kirk as his t'hy'la would render him incapable of continuing to serve on the Enterprise turned out not to be a valid fear at all, but simply melted away in the light of day when Kirk assured him everything was OK. With all due respect to our Captain's powers of logic, I think that for Spock's fear of the import of his own emotions to have dramatic validity, his fears must be real. And the more real his fears are, the less likely it is they they can be banished with a kiss, so to speak. Besides, how would Kirk or any non-Vulcan on the Enterprise *really* know what it means to a Vulcan to be someone's t'hy'la? Is Kirk really the right person to tell Spock he is mistaken?

A plot-driven story might have started with the premise that Spock's fear is valid -- once Kirk has become his t'hy'la, he no longer can serve with him -- and followed through on the real-world implications of that premise. In a trope-driven story, such a device need not serve as a real dramatic premise. Its purpose is served if it opens up the characters' emotions and provides an opportunity for them to get together romantically and sexually. Once again, I am *not* saying that one approach is superior to the other.

Thinnish plot devices are one characteristic of the printzine aesthetic; another is the multiplication of plot devices. For example, in this story we have not only the problem of the word t'hy'la and Spock's feelings about what happened to Kirk in "The Tholian Web" as the trigger for the problem, but also the warning about the consequences of Spock's ignoring his emotions, delivered here by a visitor from the future; the discovery of an inadvertant bonding link between Kirk and Spock; a re-writing of "Generations" to make it more satisfactory from a K/S perspective; and ditto with a new spin on "Menagerie." Hey, who let all those tropes out of the barn? Any one of them would be an appropriate subject for a story in its own right. Here, they seem to serve the function of raising the emotional ante rather than furthering the development of a clear dramatic structure.

So, just my thoughts for the day on the zine aesthetic. I want to repeat that the story was extremely well-written and an excellent example of a well-loved genre. [2]


The stories in this zine were written for an online K/S list: each story was written in answer to a randomly assigned K/S "challenge." As Jenna and Dusky explain in the foreword, many of the challenges deal with K/S cliches and the idea was to approach these old, familiar scenarios in new and exciting ways, which is exactly what J.S. Cavalcante has done in The Word Withheld." I won't go into too much detail here, since this is a brand new zine and I don't want to give away the plot or the challenge that led J.S. to write this story (Jenna and Dusky have wisely placed the challenge that inspired each tale at the end of the story). Suffice it to say that The Word Withheld" is very skillfully written and that by the end of the story J.S. had dealt beautifully with pretty much every question and objection I could come up with along the way: even though the story is not very long, all of the loose ends were tied up in a most satisfactory and pleasing manner. There's some nice science fiction here and some great K/S. The only criticism I have is that the very beginning of the story (up until the first break) felt too much like a summary to me. Even though it deals with events we have seen on the screen, I think a slower development would have been better. [3]
Yay! She's back with a cool story. It is about "A Spock from the future comes back in time and tells the "now" Spock to Carpe Diem—Seize the day". Each scene is beautifully written. This story is set right after Spock rescues Kirk from the Tholian web. The humor like when Kirk took hold of Spock's hand and being "hyper aware" that McCoy was watching. The sadness one felt when Spock's future self was talking to him about opportunity loss because he didn't have the chutzpah to tell Kirk how much he loves him. It was definitely a five hankie and a big sob. Kirk using the word T'hy'la to Spock and not fully knowing what it meant. The aawww factor in that alone. This is a very well written short story. I highly recommend it. Definitely a Ten Vulcan Salute! [4]
This story revolves around an older Spock time- traveling back to our Spock; and this was the 'challenge' for the story, future Spock telling our Spock to seize the day. In the beginning we see that during the Tholian Web incident Spock, faced with losing Kirk, has such regret for all unsaid and undone; but when he gets Kirk back he closes himself off again.

The means for Spock to try to get closer to Kirk is through revealing all the meanings of the word t'hy'la-not just the brother, comrade meaning. After the Tholian incident, Kirk takes Spock's hand and says 'friend,' and Spock says "t'hy'la." But then Spock is pressed, here and again later, to explain the term more fully. He doesn't feel he can reveal the third definition of t'hy'la; but this is before the future Spock's visit.

In the future Spock's reality, he'd never become lovers with his Kirk, and this was achingly sad. He urges our Spock to make his feelings known to Kirk. The short ending scene, years later, with Kirk not going on the Enterprise-B, shows how important to their future was our Spock's indeed seizing the day.

I guess we have to agree to not haggle about the disaster of messing with one's past via time-travel, such as this future Spock does. I mean, if I could go back and change something so I would have a happier life in the future, I'd sure like to do that, but I would be wreaking havoc with the veracity of the original timeline...if there really is such a thing. I might be quite surprised JSC would have Spock do this for such a purely personal reason, but how about this reasoning: I'm thinking of how in a couple stories in Strange New Worlds 3 (which I just read; and which is, of course, only one of many places where this is mentioned) authors repeatedly refer to Kirkas a master at creating temporal we also could choose to make it part of our version of canon that the Enterprise crew are prone to doing this, whether "right" or 'wrong.'

You could say that whatever they do that creates a divergent timeline is "meant" to be done. But I'm only thinking about all this now-l didn't bother to be bothered by it as I was reading this wonderful story.

Here's something I wondered about though: This Jones L. Jones (love the name), who's a walking disaster-how did she get on the Enterprise then? She's a fun minor character, but...

There's such a charming moment, when Spock is giving Kirka neck massage (and Kirk happens to not have a shirt on) and Kirk says, I already know what t'hy'la means. I can just picture Spock about to croak when Kirk says that, but then Kirk says something on the order of, it's someone who gives you a backrub without your really even being aware you need one so badly.

I loved Spock's logic (and JSC's) about why he feels t'hy'la and his Starfleet career are in conflict. He talks about Talos IV, Pike, his court-martial. JSC posits in this story that the Talosians had mentally coerced Spock, making him believe Pike was his t'hy'la. Thank you -- this is a great explanation for that whole thing. So Spock thinks his feelings are a threat to the safety of the ship, that he would put the ship in danger to rescue his t'hy'la.

Of course Kirk is able to talk him out of all this in a really fine way, and talks about trusting his feelings and so on. And then we get this beautiful scene leading up to the sex scene.

I know this is nothing new, and is a common and complex aspect of preference (i.e., between pre-K/S and K/S) as far as what readers must have sex in their stories and who are satisfied with everything short of actual naked, genital sex...but I do find for myself such pleasure in the pre-sex moments between these two. It's just exquisite to me for these men, with their intense history and everything they represent archetypally and everything they mean to us personally...for them to kiss each other on the lips for the first time, or acknowledge that they're talking about sexual love when they express their feelings, or hold each other and do not pretend their arousal is anything other than what it is. I love these first moments of explicit awareness and acknowledgment and almost don't have to have the sex. However, were I forced (with blue velvet poodles) to make a choice, I will put myself on the end of the scale with those who want the sex, thank you.

So, this pre-sex scene was so satisfying...though the sex quickly in bed was quite satisfying also. It's just funny, as I sit here and write about it, how I could write words and words about how wonderful this little scene is...and it's really just a little scene. I guess it's that in the hands of such a talented writer we get to feel privy to what seems a quintessential moment, so perfect and intense. That's how it made me feel, anyway. A moment that stays with me long after reading it.

I'm not spelling it all out here, these especially good passages. There's another small thing in this story that I love, too, another interesting aspect of t'hy'la. And finding out at the end how Kirk has been wise all along to what Spock thinks he's not revealing. [5]
'The Word Withheld" by J.S. Cavalcante is a 17 page story in the netzine FESTIVAL I picked this story because I recognized the name and most of the names in the zine were not ones I recognized, not being someone on the K/S scene on the net. I normally like Cavalcante's stories so Ifigured she would be a safe bet, and I was right. This was a really strange story. Spock—after Kirk is rescued—calls Kirk "t'hy'la" but refuses to give him the final definition of the word which is "lover." Then Spock receives a visitor from an alternate universe who is also from the future. I was afraid that this was going to be a "Christmas Carol" type of story, but it wasn't. This visitor gives Spock some advice which he decides to take. Thus, we have a happy ending to the story. This was a pleasant read. [6]


As I slowly make my way through my tall stack of unread zines, I came across gems like this.

The plot is simple—written from the challenge that these authors participated in. A future Spock comes back in time to visit the younger self to tell him how he must change his future. Of course that means to be with Kirk, and here, it’s the word withheld: t’hy’la. And it’s love. What a lovely and tender scene when Spock goes to Kirk’s cabin to profess his love. Earlier, Spock had quoted Surak, “The time has come” to a neat side character (who I actually liked!), Crewman Jones L. Jones. One of my favorite things is putting an action like this in its own paragraph: “Spock kissed him.” To me that’s carpet-thrashing-time. This is a Spock of deep thought, profound sensitivity, who is really smart, and just strong enough despite his doubts and fears. I’ve always enjoyed JS’s portrayal of Spock in just about every story she’s written. I adored, adored, adored the ending— did I say that enough? The first line to open the scene: “Twenty-seven years later to the very day...” so perfectly reveals the alternate timeline. Chekov’s death(or lost in the Nexxus) in place of Kirk was really haunting and poignant.

All I can say is I’m so glad Jenna and Dusky put out this zine of on-line stories so that I and others who read zines can enjoy them, too. [7]


"The Word Withheld" is set in the immediate aftermath of the events of The Tholian Web. After retrieving Kirk from the interspatial rift of "The Tholian Web," Spock realizes his oath to Starfleet and his service aboard the Enterprise are in jeopardy because he has denied to himself--and withheld from Kirk--a certain truth about the nature of the Vulcan relationship called t'hy'la.

Told from Spock's point of view, it quickly becomes clear that Spock is in love with Jim, who in turn has no idea that his first officer feels anything more than friendship for him. Spock finds himself wrestling with the issue and the consequences, realising each time Kirk's life is endangered, he is emotionally compromised, which he believes makes him unfit for command. As a result of his experimental science work, he has a surprising encounter that helps him see the issue in a different light that could potentially change the course of his life. The story delves into Spock's inner psyche, revealing the bitter-sweet emotional consequence of his close friendship with his commanding officer and friend. Bones, Spock is certain, is aware of his feelings for Kirk but unusually, doesn't push him on it. After nearly losing his life, Jim is in a philosophical place, his mood mellow. This is as original and gripping a story as any I've read from this author. The characters to me, are all spot on for TOS; not the sometimes larger-than-life portrayals, but deeper more complex characters who are flawed and believable. I've left a lot of it out of the description so as not to spoiler, but let's just say there are some surprising turns to the story that all reboot fans will be familiar with, and it also neatly ties up an event I've refused to acknowledge ever happened. Cryptic?

The answers lie in "The Word Withheld" - an excellent first time story at just over 12,000 words. [8]


Time travel is not really the main focus of the fic, but acts more like a deus ex machina. It's still a lovely fic, with a wonderful portrayal of the relationship between Kirk and Spock that slides so easily from friendship into romance. [9]


  1. November 28, 2000 comments by Miss Sunbeam at ASCEML
  2. November 6, 2000 by Judith Gran at ASCEML
  3. from The K/S Press #54
  4. from The K/S Press #55
  5. from The K/S Press #61
  6. from The K/S Press #56
  7. from The K/S Press #73
  8. from The K/S Press #170
  9. Inner Voice: Fancake, September 11, 2012