This Deadly Innocence, or "The End of the Hurt/Comfort Syndrome"

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K/S Fanfiction
Title: This Deadly Innocence or, "The End of the Hurt/Comfort Syndrome"
Author(s): Leslie Fish
Date(s): 1979, reprinted in 1982
Genre: well, the story's been in two slash zines
Fandom: Star Trek: The Original Series
External Links: on the AO3
on the K/S Archive

Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

This Deadly Innocence or, "The End of the Hurt/Comfort Syndrome" is a Star Trek: TOS story by Leslie Fish. It was first printed in Naked Times #3, and later in K/S Relay #4.


This novella details just why Kirk and Spock have so many unfortunate accidents in the so-called "line-of-duty". Once McCoy discovers their dark secret, they are sent on an extended leave to the planet Lilliput -- a world where everything exists in miniature… and where accidents are relatively impossible. Needless to say, the two accident-prone culprits must learn to deal with this -- and to deal with their own feelings as well.

Author's Comments

Unknown Date

"This Deadly Innocence" was subtitled "The End of the Hurt-Comfort Syndrome" and was intended to be exactly that. I was tired of "hurt/comfort" stories because I could see that they were euphemistic substitutes for real intimacy, and because I knew of where this syndrome can lead in real life -- namely, to real injury and death. I had McCoy spell it out for Kirk in the first part of the story, then had him carefully trick Spock into understanding the problem, then set Our Heroes down in a safe place where they could work out their needs in safety. 'Tis purely a psychological story, and the only actual "slash" happens in the last sentence. Nonetheless, this was enough to keep it out of the traditionally hurt/comfort 'zines. Heheheheh. [1]


I believe the last K/S story that ever got published was... The End of the Hurt/Comfort Syndrome. [2] A year earlier there was a zine that came out which cautiously celebrated the relationship of Kirk and Spock without the sex. There was a year there where there were an awful lot of hurt/comfort stories, which were, as somebody pointed out, a clever way of avoiding getting them in bed while expressing love, and I illustrated a story for them about — it was a typical h/c, and as I recall, I did the illustration with white ink on black construction paper which required great precision because that’s an awfully coarse paper and fine ink, and I wound up doing kind of pointillism, and the editors were most impressed and offered to print any story that I could give them...

I wrote This Deadly Innocence as kind of a mirror image of the story that I had illustrated, and I did the illustrations, but this time in black ink on a white Bristol board paper where I could get a lot more fine detail. The last illustration in it was a sort of mirror image of the illustration that I had done for the first story. I remember that I finished This Deadly Innocence at a Star Trek convention. I took it to the editors of that first zine on the first day. On the second day, they reluctantly handed it back, saying, “It’s a great story. If you could only cut that last paragraph.” I said okay and then took the story and walked it down the corridor to the editors of another zine which was starting up, handed it to them, and they said, “Yeah!” (laughs) and they took it as is. I think that it’s up for grabs which of my K/S stories is the most popular, that, which is to say, purely a romance and “Shelter.” [I was pretty attached to that last paragraph.] The last sentence, actually. “That’s exactly what they did, three times that night and again in the morning.” (laughs)

[I wasn't going to allow it to be published without that.] Nope. The whole point was that any powerful emotion demands physical expression. When we’re tickled, we laugh; hurt, we cry. When you feel a powerful attraction to somebody, yes, we fill feel horny.

Discussed and Used

This story was discussed in Not Tonight, Spock! in Sexuality in K/S Fiction: Anal Intercourse.

Fish also used part of this story as a springboard for Sunset and Evening Star in 1980.

Page Samples from Naked Times

Page Samples from K/S Relay

Reactions and Reviews

Unknown Date

Half-meta, half sappy first time romance, this fic takes traditional h/c fics to task by having Bones, fed up with Kirk and Spock constantly risking their lives for each other as a substitute for what they really want, send them on medical shore leave. The planet is delightful, with its adorable miniature dinosaurs, and the slow pace and introspection makes the slash very organic. [3]


The most outstanding story [in this zine] is by Fish, appropriately titled 'This Deadly Innocence, or The End of the Hurt/Comfort Syndrome!' What a great sense of humor along with a very intelligent dialog of Spock's debate with himself over the value of emotions. And the nice gradual closeness and its logical conclusion makes the K/S ending seem OK even for those who don't prefer such an ending. Yes, that is the end of the hurt/comfort syndrome for sure. Now, if you want to write a story with a less horny Kirk and no K/S sex, you just end their shore leave at 1 week instead of the 3 or 4 that this one lasts. I also like her description of the many little beasties that live on the planet. [4]


'This Deadly Innocence, or, The End of The Hurt/Comfort Syndrome' by Leslie Fish, is one of my personal favourites. In a way, its title sums up its essence, for it is full of contradictions that marry into a most effective whole. It ably combines seriousness and frivolity, mixing earthiness and romance, intellect and emotion into a delectable, frothy concoction. However, just like a well-made soufflé, the result stands up under careful inspection.

The original premise is almost flippant; can one really believe two mature men 
will embroil themselves in such a farcical situation, or that McCoy will not recognise
 what is happening much sooner? Can it be that the writer is actually poking gentle
 fun at the Hurt/Comfort situation so beloved of fan writers, stretching it out to 
the point where credulity almost, but not quite, snaps? Certainly with the choice
 of venue for the medical leave McCoy insists they take, the reader is shown that 
this will not be a Hurt/Comfort story, for the environment is totally, unequivocally

Their problem? To find a way, acceptable to both of them, of expressing the love McCoy knows they feel. Both of them are bound by the conventions of their roles, Spock as a Vulcan and Kirk as a cool, calm, Starship Captain. It is Spock's initial acceptance that he must find what there is to his life other than existence and logical function, that leads him to an understanding of his suppressed need. Kirk, used to handling emotion, knows all along that he loves Spock, but not how deeply it will go if he gives his love full expression.

The story is gentle and unhurried and allows us full insight into each man's mind as they struggle, each for the other's sake, to undergo the actively embarrassing process of being quite honest and open, not only with each other, but ultimately, and hardest of all, with themselves.

Leslie provides interesting sidelines for consideration; Kirk's sexual proclivities and Spock's shocked understanding of the possible reasons for his very-existence are two of the most intriguing. The story ends in mutual acceptance of their feelings, with a final envoi to remind us that this serious business of love always has its lighter side.[5]

I've just finished reading a marvelous story and have to tell someone or I'll burst. It's 'This Deadly Innocence or The End of the Hurt/Comfort Syndrome' by Leslie Fish from K/S Relay 4. To say I thoroughly enjoyed it would be an understatement, Leslie has turned her usual brilliance on the fan concept of the hurt/comfort syndrome and produced what I consider to be a masterpiece. The humour she brings to the situation, for it is a funny story, might be considered tongue in cheek but if you enjoy the occasional light hearted K/S story then this is a must.

Yet for all its humour there are some beautifully tender moments as the two of them slowly come to terms with their love for each other. Be prepared though, for even here the reader is in for a surprise or two.

For me it was one of those stories that defied being put down until the very last page. When those fans who take their K/S deadly seriously, I'm sure would benefit from a read. [6]


I think that Leslie Fish's This Deadly Innocence is the ultimate statement on h/c. I interpreted Leslie as saying that h/c is based on repressed sexual desire. In repressing it, it turns destructive so that Kirk and Spock actually endanger one another and cause the other to go into situations where he will be harmed in order to have the excuse of displaying warmth and affection afterward. It is a painful and dishonest game. Once Kirk and Spock recognize what they feel for each other, they can get out of the trap that h/c is. [7]


McCoy diagnoses Kirk and Spock with a rather serious case of Hurt/Comfort syndrome and sends them both to an idyllic planet on mandatory shore leave so they can work out their issues.

This story tackles one of the most explored aspects of Kirk/Spock (and slash fanfic in general): the fact that sometimes two male characters cannot bring themselves to express their feelings unless one of them is hurt or in serious danger. The one thing that makes it different is that the characters are made aware of how unhealthy that is for them and try (even if under duress, slowly and rather awkwardly) to change that.

“This Deadly Innocence” has the distinction of being one of the first Kirk/Spock stories ever published to make the leap from Gen to Slash (and thus helping to coin the term). While at times Kirk and Spock come out a little too innocent (Spock in particular) or a little too mushy, it’s still a very sweet story about the development of their relationship. [8]
NAKED TIMES 3 is famous for Leslie Fish's story, "This Deadly Innocence, or The End of the Hurt/Comfort Syndrome." It was as good as it's made out to be—romantic, touching, and funny, with a marvelous last-line-but-one, that should to my mind have been the last line. Worth the price of the zine... [9]


... the best that I have ever read in K/S is "This Deadly Innocence" by Leslie Fish. Its themes continue to impress their importance upon me. I thought of it when I read [C P's] letter in "Observation Deck". She says that she can't abide cruelty, but loves hurt/comfort stories. It seems to me that the underlying implication of h/c, as brilliantly shown by Leslie Fish, is extremely cruel. In these stories Kirk & Spock must be punished for loving each other. They can't show they care without paying the price of pain & anguish. [10]


My favorite "introduction to K/S" story has always been "This Deadly Innocence" by Leslie Fish, published in NAKED TIMES 3. (In fact, I bought an extra copy of the zine just so I could loan it out to newcomers.) It's a logical, though also somewhat tongue-in-cheek development of their friendship to sex, but since it doesn't contain any sex, it's not going to offend anyone or blow anyone away. I've always felt that if the reader was disappointed in the ending, then you knew she was ready for more hardcore stuff. [11]


A delight. One for my “Aladdin’s Cave”—I don’t know what else to say. I loved it from start to finish.

I loved McCoy’s deviousness, the Lilliputer planet, the gradual incline of openness in words and touches. I loved Spock’s testing and expanding his appreciation of beauty by including other senses.

I loved all those details about the human condition and why they act like they do. Spock tries to see if that could be incorporated in some way into a stagnant Vulcan society.

As I said, one for the treasure hoard. [12]


The premise is based on the spate of hurt/comfort stories that were the mainstay of Star Trek fan fiction through the 70s. I was one of those eager fans for whom the authors of the day produced story after story where one or both of our heroes went through terrible agonies, were tortured, torn limb from limb.... But, oh, the satisfaction when at the end there was one moment between them, an understanding look perhaps, or if we were really lucky, a touch, maybe a (be still my heart) hug.

It was only after I discovered K/S in the late 80s that I was able to look back at what I'd read through the 70s, and realized how very close to K/S these stories were approaching. Flirting with it, for sure, but like a nervous and inexperienced young lover, not quite ready to take that last step into true intimacy, into the ultimate touch that will bring bodies as well as souls into congress.

Fish saw this association long before I did, and it seems that this story is the result. In the opening scene, Spock is in sickbay in a healing trance, and Kirk is by his side, praying that Spock will survive. Behold, Spock awakens, Kirk must slap him from the trance, but then, ah, then comes one of those scenes with which typical 70s hurt/comfort was rife.

"You're alive!" Kirk almost sobbed with relief. He leaned over Spock, impulsively wrapping his arms around him. "Oh, you're alive..."

...Gratitude choked off his shaking voice, Kirk bent lower and gently pressed his lips to the green bruise. . ..Spock .. .turned his head slightly and returned the gesture, intrigued by the smooth textures, feeling wrapped in soft layers of peace and contentment. His eyes slid shut and his breathing stretching into the deep rhythms of normal sleep."

Now typically this is where a hurt/comfort story ends, and the reader sighs in almost-contentment and closes the zine. But this is where wily author Fish begins her story. Kirk turns, and there is McCoy standing in the doorway. He is wise to what has been going on.

You're taking turns, he accuses Kirk in his office. I've had to patch up one or the other of you six times in a year. You can't find any other way to express this emotion that's between you except by giving comfort when one of you has been injured. So each of you've been deliberately getting injured, setting up situations without maybe even being conscious of it, taking risks that are unnecessary, all for that one moment of payoff, when you can wrap your arms around the injured party and finally express that unnamed emotion inside.

McCoy says: "That's what you were doing in the intensive care unit just now: showing love the only way you can. I know a love scene when I see one, and that's exactly what I saw."

The doctor is rightfully concerned that one day the injuries will be too great for him to repair. His solution? He orders Kirk and Spock to take a four-week short leave, not on the Star Base where Kirk had planned, but on a nice, safe, research planet named Lilliput, where they should be safe, above all, and where they can somehow sort out their problems. Kirk agrees, but only to help Spock learn to deal with his problem. Spock agrees to go, but only because he thinks he can help Kirk with a serious emotional maladjustment. Neither can see the plank in their own eye...

And so they go. Kirk tries to take three books with him and the chess set, but McCoy jettisons two of the tomes in the transporter room, and confiscates the chessmen on the grounds that they are substitutes for communication. The CMO is serious! And curiously, he sends the not-yet-healed Spock ("Do you realize that Spock broke nearly every bone in his lower body, just for one hug and kiss?") to the surface with crutches that are a tad too long for him, so that they are uncomfortable to use. Hmmmm.

Turns out that on Lilliput, the animals and presumably the flora as well are all tiny-sized, and we are treated to some really interesting "minor characters" including a herd of miniature mammoths, tiny bears, even a nasty T. Rex that's no more than knee-high. We also get to see Kirk and Spock's time together in an isolated cabin, how they spend their time filling up the days so they don't have to talk, and then the first tentative attempts at real communication. There's some contemplation of Spock's about his purpose as the first Vulcan/human hybrid, and a realization of his true meaning in life as being one who can integrate logic and emotion, but for me personally that section has always fallen flat. There are some really funny sections, for example when Kirk comes charging into the cabin with phaser drawn to "protect" Spock from the tiny denizens, and Spock realizes "...that, among humans, the emotion of love often manifested itself as protectiveness. Of course, that is part of the problem...." Also kinda cute how Kirk ends up carrying Spock from place to place as they forage for food and explore the woods and shore around them, because of those blasted crutches being so long. I keep seeing Kirk trying not to look as if Spock is very heavy, when you know darn well he must be.

After days of following the fellows through baths and laundry duty and tramping all over the landscape and cooking dinners and reading classic science fiction to each other (I often wonder why they couldn't have made their own flat board chess set, it would be easy to do), the story reaches a satisfactory conclusion. So long as you don't mind there being no sex scene in the story at all, but one beautifully suggestive sentence that somehow manages to do the job in delivering all the satisfaction that no hurt/comfort story was ever able to provide. Instead what we get is a story that just drips intimacy, as our fellows work their way through lots of barriers to come to the final conclusion that it is really easier to admit "I love you," than to play the game that might kill one of them. And that the natural progression of the affection they hold for one another is expressed through closeness of the body.

A must-read for any K/S fan! [13]


This is one of the very first slash stories of any sort in any fandom and, apart from its historical importance, it's still a fascinating read. It's interesting to note that this story isn't as sexually explicit as a lot of current slash stories but I loved the many different cute little animals that were part of Spock and Kirk's world in this story. Some readers may find the characterisations a little hard to swallow - I found both men to be more innocent then I found entirely believable - but all in all I enjoyed this story thoroughly. [14]


This one is a reluctant rec as well. The writing is definitely purple prose to the point of almost being a turn off, but the world described in the story, oddly enough, makes me want to rec it. The story is about Spock getting injured saving Kirk and McCoy is tired of them saving each other to a ridiculous amount because they only show love when they are almost dead and it's way too dangerous. So he drops them at a planet where all the animal life is miniaturized. A world where a whale is only five feet long, no dangerous than a playground so they won't sacrifice each other stupidly. The description of the animals and how they're the co-stars of the fic is really fun. Come on, Spock helpless with a bum leg as little bears attack their dinner, lmao. [15]
Holy hell I loved that, LOL! And the little unicorns, oh my god, how sweet. ♥ The animals were totally the stars, lol... And man, McCoy is like the most evil yenta ever, even purposefully giving Spock too tall crutches. What a BAMF. [16]


I first read this story in 1979, and it‘s just as delightful today as it was then.

Meta and fic go so well together, don‘t they? As soon as fans started writing fic, they began analyzing tropes, speculating and debating characterization, and commenting on the "why" of it all. Rereading "This Deadly Innocence" now reminded me of how often fic is used as part of the fannish debate. Back in the 70s, there was a lot of meta written about hurt/comfort As more and more Trek zines were published, so were more and more h/c stories (originally called get stories, i.e., "Get Spock", "Get Kirk", etc.) Along with this was lots of analysis and psychoanalysis as to what the appeal of h/c meant. Fans observed that many of these stories were written in order to get Spock (or Kirk) to show vulnerability, particularly emotional vulnerability. As the 70s continued, h/c stories became more and more extreme. Fans commented there seemed to be "more and more pain to reach that one moment of emotional confession/pay off." K/S had emerged from its early 1970s underground by 1976. A new concept was introduced into the fannish debate - that slash was a natural substitute for h/c – that sex should, and would, replace violence. "This Deadly Innocence or The End of the Hurt/Comfort Syndrome" by Leslie Fish was written specifically to prove this point. In the author‘s words, in her interview in Jenna Sinclair‘s Legacy # 5 fanzine: ""This Deadly Innocence" was originally subtitled "The End of the Hurt-Comfort Syndrome" because, as many fans had been considering for years, the H-CS was indeed a euphemism for sex; a way for the characters to physically express powerful love for each other without venturing into dangerous‘ sexual territory. I got to thinking about just how dangerous the H-CS could become, and decided to expose it -- to the characters, and to the reading audience." (It didn‘t work out that way – h/c didn‘t exactly go away; it is a genre all its own, both apart from slash and concurrent with slash. "This Deadly Innocence" starts out with a scene that had already become cliche by the late 1970s: Either Kirk or Spock, in Sickbay, is agonizing over the sight of the other hovering at the brink of death from terrible injuries sustained to protect the other one. This is the moment of payoff in classic h/c. But Leslie goes off in a different direction: McCoy has noticed the deadly pattern Kirk and Spock are engaged in, and he‘s determined to break through to both of them and make them realize the meaning of the dangerous game they‘re playing.

Quote: "What's this all about, Bones? What's the point?" The instant the words were out of his mouth, Kirk got an ominous feeling that he shouldn't have asked. "Oh, come on! Do you mean you really can't see the pattern?" McCoy studied him for a moment, then reached into the lower desk drawer for the reliable bottle and glasses. "You've been taking turns." "At what?" Kirk picked up a glass, avoiding McCoy's eye. "Arranging accidents for yourselves, that's what." McCoy filled the glass for him. "You've gotten it down to a science--or maybe an art-form: a ritual danger, rescue, worry and relief. Formal and stately as a pavane. A classic case. Cheers."

McCoy offers a solution: several weeks alone together on a planet where truly nothing can possibly go wrong (truly!) – the aptly named Lilliput where the most ferocious predator, a tiny Tyrannosaurus Rex, is less than two feet tall. He also makes sure that they have very little in the way of distractions. Without ship‘s business or a chessboard to occupy them, they actually have to talk to each other. Each is convinced the other is in denial – and each is utterly blind to their own lack of self-awareness. It‘s fascinating to watch Spock use logic to understand emotion; equally fascinating to see Kirk reach one level of understanding after another. The idyllic setting is perfectly realized. All the miniature animals, from whales to unicorns to elephants to bears, play a part in their path to understanding each other – and themselves. For those who like Naif!Spock, you‘re in for a special treat here. For those who aren‘t into that trope, come along for the ride anyway – it‘s a terrific journey.

Another quote: Wish the Enterprise were still in communicator range, Kirk thought, spreading the sleeping bag on the hearthrug. Ought to talk to McCoy. He'll never believe... 'Bones, Spock just suggested nudism, nuzzled my neck, and told me I'd helped with a philosophical problem by not eating a dinosaur. I think he's coming apart at the seams.' What answer? ... Probably, 'Keep him talking.' Right. Communicate. Express feelings. He doesn't know how to show love... for me... Kirk paused in mid-motion while pulling open the bed. Omigod, is that what all this craziness means? Trying to find ways to say... trying things at random... and he has no idea how, or what the effect is...

This story is 31 years old – and yet the only part (to me) that seems less than contemporary is the fact that no one knew at the time that the brontosaurus was poorly named. [17]


"Oh, wow, what a wonderfully intense, marvellous story! Wonderfully structured, great the idea of having the two of them isolated on this world without technology, with nothing to do but being together and trying to understand each other and themselves. Amazing the way you convey the alienness of Spock's thought processes. We always tend to make him a human with pointed ears and high temperature - instead of a creature that is different from humans in a wide variety of ways not only physical."[18]


"I was hunting down Kirk/Spock fics and found this one that the writer reposted since it'd first been published in a zine. It was published in a hurt/comfort K/S zine, but the writer despised the h/c trope and thought it was abusive and condoned violence, so they wrote a longfic with a bunch of h/c and had McCoy explain how all of this was wrong, terrible, and shameful. And it was essentially pre-slash the entire time, but the very last sentence references K/S sex, and so the writer proudly proclaimed that they fit all the requirements to get published in the h/c zine.

I didn't read the fic, though. That's basically a summary of the A/N at the beginning of the fic. I back clicked ASAP.

I thought it was kinda endearing. If that author hated h/c so much, I wonder how they'd fair during the age of YKINMKATO.[19]


I LOVE those old Star Trek fics that are like 30 chapters long, impeccably written, and straight from the good old fanzine days with actual awesome illustrations. A prime example is This Deadly Innocence by LeslieFish on AO3. YISS IT’S SO GOOD AND IN CHARACTER AND ILLUSTRATED GIMME GIMME THE GOOD SPIRK SHIT

#spirk #space husbands #old star trek fics are the bomb and that's the motherfuckin tea [20]


  1. ^ This Deadly Innocence, a.k.a., The End of the Hurt/Comfort Syndrome by Leslie Fish, Archived version
  2. ^ Actually, it was Descensus Averno.
  3. ^ from Recs by Rhaegal (early 2000s?)
  4. ^ from Universal Translator #2 (1980)
  5. ^ from Communicator #4
  6. ^ from Communicator #6
  7. ^ from K/S & K.S. (Kindred Spirits) #9
  8. ^ Epic Recs, posted May 20, 2008, accessed March 20, 2013
  9. ^ from Treklink #13 (1988)
  10. ^ from Not Tonight Spock! #10 (1985)
  11. ^ from The LOC Connection #35
  12. ^ from The K/S Press #15 (1997)
  13. ^ from The K/S Press #25 (1998)
  14. ^ from Madrigal, posted January 2004
  15. ^ 20 TOS K/S fic recs, October 16, 2009
  16. ^ comments to deleted comments at 20 TOS K/S fic recs, October 16, 2009
  17. ^ from The K/S Press #174 (2011)
  18. ^ review at the KS Archive, Archived version (2014)
  19. ^ fail_fandomanon, Archived version (2016)
  20. ^ bitchydragondoodle.tumblr