"Beside the Wells" is not for archive, reposting, republication or passing
around although I cannot and do not object to a single copy downloaded
for er.... personal use.
Other than that - enjoy and if you think of any comments that might help
I'd be more than happy to hear them. This is particularly true of criticism
- I got none when I posted this to ASCE and I refuse to believe it is
entirely devoid of faults.
The story is a reply to a lot of old-style K/S stories set in some form of
unreformed Vulcan in which, after a brief and usually perfunctory
resistance, Kirk settle down quite happily to a life of servitude,
apparently forgiving the rape that tends to occur en route.
I found this scenario superbly unlikely, whatever one thinks of the
character he was the most determined individualist and I think you'd
have to be a saint to forgive rape - so I wrote this story.
Many, many thanks to all who took the trouble to write after
the first posting - I'm more than happy to hear from any one with
jess (my account name) aka Susan Legge (my pseudonym)
It's hard work being this self-conscious I can tell you!
Beside the Wells
by Susan Legge
I bought him from the cages at Y'yan, as every year I purchased
such a one, to warm my bed while Spring storms whipped the
desert sands like waves and all the caravans made camp to wait
Each year we halted at the wells and met our fellow travellers and
traded goods and tales and every year I bought a slave, a woman
or a boy, to join me in my tent and every year, before I left, I sold
them for a little more than I had paid - I was and am a kindly man
and they were treated well.
We heard stories of the strangers while we were still far off and
thought them merely desert tales, swollen in the telling by the sands'
monotony, where every day is like the next and truth is lost in need
to hear the new.
The stories said they came down from the North where no one
goes, that they were small and weak and no man knew their
tongue, barbarians from some mountain tribe, lost in the endless
sea of sand. As clanless men, the first who saw them had a claim
and they were seized and, when the storms had passed, they
would be taken to the town and sold to city men who had a taste
for things both strange and new.
This one arrived weeks later, perhaps in search of others of his
kind, and had been taken like the rest. The day after we made
our camp, I visited the cages, as every year my custom it had been,
and there I saw him and desired him.
It was his eyes I noticed first, not just the gem-stone colour but
the anger in them, hot and unconfined. I had not felt it so myself
in many years and envied it and thought, perhaps, to learn it once
again with all the other things that I had lost.
And so I bought him and have found that over many years I paid
a heavy price and that not just in coin.
He was hurt, a wrenching of a foot which cut his price and which
I told myself, suspecting as I did so that I lied, would mean a
healthy profit when I sold. I had him carried to my tent where
Temek, who had served me since my father bought him as a child,
bathed him and tended to his wound.
I thought that I had bought a boy until I saw him naked from his bath,
a grown man's sex mid curls more bronze than gold. I also saw
beneath the dust and rags that he was beautiful. His hair was short,
a yellow-white that caught the flame of candle and of fire, revealing
small and rounded ears that should have seemed deformed and yet
did not. His skin was darker where the Suns had seen and white
where they had not and he was smooth and almost hairless and
unmarked, not as the wretched boys my cousin La'rak keeps,
made smooth by idleness and vice, but hard and clean and capable
He watched me watching him, saw my desire, my intent and hated
me. He still believed he had the right to choose - as though I had
not purchased all his choices with his flesh! I know he thought of
flight but, when I laid my hand upon his neck, he recognised the grip
that brings paralysis or death and did not start the useless fight he
knew he could not win and so he let me bear him to my bed.
I tried for gentleness, for I am not a man who takes his pleasure
in another's pain, but I had slept long months alone and so, despite
my care, I know that he was hurt. He made no sound and did not
flinch but in the morning I saw blood upon his face, where he had
bitten his own mouth to still his cries.
That night as I lay feigning sleep, I saw him make his painful way
to where the laces held the door secure against the wind. I watched
as he undid the ties and looked out at the driving sand then tied
them up again. This cage might not have bars but still it held as tight.
I thought he would return to where I lay but he did not, choosing to
lie instead upon the floor, wrapped in rugs that must have galled his
Next day the master of my beasts came to my tent to collar him. I
thought to win a smile, for he was fair and such are often vain, and
so I bought a pretty thing, a chain of copper-gilt to shine against his
skin, slender and unbreakable. Despite the gift, the air was thick with
anger as he stood while Mafras worked. His hands were clenched,
his eyes held mine and claimed the right to stand against my will.
Of course, it made no matter for I had ordered the thing done and so
I thought him wild, as once when as a boy my father took me hunting
in the hills and there we found a band of wretchedness in rags,
starved of food and order to their lives. In half a year, with stern
but gentle hand, we broke them to the yoke of servitude.
Thus I tried with him and thus I failed.
At first it was a game, I looked for the response that I had seen so
many times before - shyness giving way to eagerness to please. It
never came, dumb he lay within my arms, accepting what he could
not keep away. He never offered nor began as others always had.
He never gave what I gave him. He never came to me.
I used to wonder why he did not force my hand and make me use
the grip to send him down to sleep but later saw that he was one
who had to know, to see the truth, despite the cost. A foolish,
gallant courage that only made me value him the more, as men will
prize the horse or hawk that holds itself with pride.
In later days I know I gave him pleasure, for the body does not lie
and I was skilled and wished to make amends, but all the pleasure
that I had in him I took. Sometimes I could delight the flesh, the thing
of pulse and blood which takes its pleasure blind. The subtler arts he
could and did disdain, using his mind to kill his swift response. He was
a man for whom the senses sang but all I ever drew from him was
in the dark unreason of response that cares not where the pleasure has
The bitter truth was plain, that any hand might earn as much and few
men's hands would earn them less.
That which could be taken thus I took and nothing more.
Soon it was no game, I set myself to win passion for passion, and then
love for love. I never did. All my gifts of gentleness and all the arts
of love that I had learned while visiting the houses of the town and
poured on him as they had poured on me, he held as less than nought
and every night I saw him standing at the entrance to my tent, looking
at the sand and poised for flight and I made plans to shackle him as
soon as storm winds failed.
Why did I persevere?
I cannot explain a madman to the sane. How every day the need to
have him grew, not just the body (cool and sweet and male) but more,
the self-possessed and untouched core of him that saw and knew and
hated what it saw. There are no words for such a thing, it can be
understood only by those in whom such madness lives (or lived and
died) and so I write in metaphors and tropes which hold but part of
all I felt and knew.
At journey's end I always went to bathe, seeking the pool beneath
my father's house, still and cold and green, and, casting off my
desert robes, would walk into the water, feeling it rise and take me
in and close above my head, quenching my thirst through every
pen pore. And so it was with him, his body a delight to every sense
I had, to every inch of skin.
I loved to lie upon his back and feel the lift and sway of breath, the
blessed wetness of his skin, the pulse-rich place which held me
deep within and if I closed my eyes and mind I could pretend that
we lay there as lovers, holding and held in joy. And if I kept them
closed I did not see his face, neither the pain nor careful lack of life,
the blank and undressed wall he made me see.
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.
He looked at me then threw the rugs aside and climbed out of the
bed and shivered as the cold air struck his skin. Then, standing in the
brazier's light, his arms out-stretched, he turned and showed himself,
demanding that I see that he knew well why I would never sell.
I tried to stay away, for I knew well that men would say, "See how
the half-breed is besotted with the thing that he has bought," and the
old tale would run behind my back, for none would dare to say it to
my face, that I was born, not of my father's wife, but of a slave that
he taken in the wars.
Though none would say it to my face, someone had not failed to tell
she who should have been my wife. So she had challenged and I had
fought her champion and killed and taken what was mine, which
then I cast aside for any who would stoop to pick it up.
And though I was the wronged in this, it seemed that those who
called me friend and even kin all fell away, as who should say,
"Long have we waited for this stain of tainted blood to show."
At first I tried to win back their regard but soon I saw that nothing
that I did would be enough and anger lived and anger died and I
went on alone.
So in the camp, unwilling to shame my father's name, I went about
the trading and the feasts and played my part and every night I
found myself striding to my tent in haste, returning to the salt that
caused my thirst and the cool, unwilling flesh that would not let me
While thus I led with half a mind the daily round of bargain and of
rule, he talked with Temek in the tent, learning to speak our
tongue, beginning with drawings made upon the sand, then soon
enough with simple words. Temek he liked and liked to help him
work and in return let Temek tend his foot.
It maddened me to see them deal so well, becoming friends
where he and I were nothing more or less than prisoner and guard
And was this love or avarice or both? I cannot tell. I only know I
wanted what he was; the way his body curved; the gentle arc
where shoulder met the arm; the way the brazier warmed the
colour of his skin; the way he held his head erect, alert; the way
he never seemed to look yet saw.
I longed to pour myself inside his skin and wear him wrapped
around me like a robe, invading all he was to make of him a
conquered land - *my* land, *my* place, *my* own.