DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Karen A. Bates and is reprinted from Illusions #1, published by Checkmate Press, 1987. Checkmate Press is the property of Karen A. Bates. This story is Rated PG-13.

Pieces of Confetti

Karen A. Bates

T'Pring took one last look into the mirror, pleased by the image reflected there. Few women of Vulcan could lay claim to the beauty which was hers. She would never outwardly display her pride, emotion being unacceptable, but inwardly, it was nurtured to full bloom.

Today was the day she had long awaited, for that moment when she would be drawn to the koon-ut-kal-i-fee, the place of marriage or challenge. T'Pring motioned her servants to place the silken cape over her shoulders, then turned for them to fasten it. The price of the wrap had more than paid for these two miserable humans who served her. Mere human dregs captured a year ago on one of her father's trading runs. Why the Empire even allowed them equality with other higher forms of intelligence was quite beyond her.

Shoving the two aside, T'Pring gracefully glided from the room and down the expansive curved staircase. Her parents were nowhere to be found, but she knew it was simply their way of showing displeasure in the match T'Pau had arranged for their only child.

Meeting the marriage procession outside the estate gates, T'Pring assumed her position and sedately marched to the appointed place. Stonn walked beside her, but she avoided his eyes. It would not do for someone to suspect. Their stolen hours together had been glorious ones. The joining of their bodies, even without the touching of minds, had been more than she had ever imagined. She could feel the ache in her body as it yearned to feel him inside her again. Soon, T'Pring promised herself she would know the touch of his mind, and be complete.

The bells ceased, and T'Pring realized they'd come to a halt. Stepping out of formation, she took the position of honor, nodding to T'Pau to indicate she was ready to proceed with the ceremony. From beneath downcast eyelids, T'Pring studied her intended husband. She looked beyond the impressive dress uniform and bodyguards and saw the mixed heritage, saw the degradation end humiliation that faced her in this marriage. T'Pau must have been mad to think anyone would willingly accept the son of Sarek. It was quite common for human women to bear the children of their captors, but no one had ever defied tradition by actually claiming one as son and heir. T'Pau supported her son's decision by performing the betrothal ceremony herself, a ceremony which had bound T'Pring to this half-man for thirty years.

Today, that would end. When Spock swung the mallet to seal the agreement, T'Pring stopped him dead in his tracks with an upraised arm, with the shout, "Kal-i-fee," the challenge.

Expecting to see bewilderment in his eyes, she was startled to see the insanity wiped away for a moment and hatred take its place. A shiver of fear swept through her, then disappeared as her normal self-confidence regained control. Declaring Stonn her champion, T'Pring moved aside to watch the struggle. There was no doubt in her mind as to the outcome. Spock, in his weakened condition, could not defeat a full-blooded Vulcan. When it was done, she would be claimed by Stonn, as they had agreed earlier, and become his consort. Her logic had been flawless in the choice of a husband. Spock would die, Stonn would marry her.

As the two fought, T'Pring found herself watching Spock more than Stonn. There was a grace and deadliness to him Stonn lacked. The Vulcan was clumsy and inept compared to the half-human. With the slash of the lirpa, the contest was over. T'Pring, stunned, did not move.

Feeling T'Pau's eyes upon her, T'Pring showed no grief at the death of her beloved. She had gambled and lost. From this moment on, she was nothing more than chattel, the same low class as the two women who had served her an hour ago in her bedroom. Was this how they had felt when captured?

Walking as if in a dream, T'Pring came forward, kneeling on the ground, wrists crossed before her, at the feet of her new master. What would he do now with her? It was within his rights to execute her for her actions this day, if he so chose. No one had declared challenge since the days of Surak. Logic and tradition had always prevailed ... until today.

Past her speeding thoughts, T'Pring heard T'Pau's voice as she declared Spock the victor, the woman his property. The humiliation she had expected from her betrothed had not come from him, but from her own actions ... and desires. The hand that grasped her wrist and pulled her to stand was steady. Without seeing, T'Pring followed him, unable to resist his grip. She was only barely conscious of entering a house, of leaving the bodyguards behind as they climbed the stairs to the second floor of Spock's ancestral home. "Explain."

Her head came up in shock at the sound of his voice. No Vulcan in plak tow should be able to speak. "Specify," she answered.

"Why the challenge?"

Her eyes met his in a flash of anger. "I did not want a half-human. I wanted a Vulcan who could be my equal."

"The real question is whether you can be my equal," came the flat response. "Did you think I was unaware of your relationship with Stonn? All he shared was your body. I intend to have everything."

"By law, you possess me, but it will take more than law to truly claim me," she retorted in cold defiance. How had he known of her time with Stonn? Did he have spies? The alternative was even less attractive -- that his control of the link between them could be that strong. It would imply a discipline far beyond her own.

"I have no more time to waste on words." As he held her closely, splayed fingers covered her face, and the burning madness of the plak tow, held so long at bay, seared her mind. Faces, events, feelings she'd never known existed, flashed in endless sequence. Worlds and peoples never imagined were played out before her, a woman who'd been bound to Vulcan for a lifetime. Compared to Spock's, her own life had been narrow and sterile.

* * *

T'Pring awoke first and pulled a quilt from the foot of the bed to cover their bodies. Even in sleep, there was no real peace on his face, she observed. So much turmoil and complexity in one man. His mind was highly disciplined and cold logic ruled his life, but beneath it was a fire that probably no one other than T'Pring had ever seen. This man could have been more than her equal, but she'd thrown it away on Stonn. Tradition told her she should have preferred Stonn; the flower of self, deep inside, told her otherwise.

She felt the touch of a hand on her throat and stiffened in response. Fingers walked up the side of her face until they found the desired position. Without further warning, Spock rolled over and covered T'Pring, pulling her into his madness.

* * *

"Stonn?" Everything was so fuzzy...

"He is dead," came the reply.

Memories of the ceremony and Stonn's death came back suddenly. Her life had ended with the challenge of the marriage. All of her carefully laid plans were nothing more than pieces of confetti on the ground. Stonn was gone ... "Understood," was all she could say.

"I will be leaving."

Opening her eyes, she saw him standing beside the bed, already in uniform. Slipping from beneath the covers, T'Pring knelt on the floor in the formal posture of submission. "Your wish?" This was it, the final humiliation he would heap upon her before returning to the stars and his many conquests. The images from his mind were forever seared into her memory, a constant reminder of the man who was her owner and master. Her life had always revolved around Stonn, planning toward the day when she would be his wife. Now her beloved was a pile of ashes, scattered to the winds. The stone floor grew colder as she continued to kneel at his feet, waiting. Not daring to lift her head to meet his eyes for fear of retribution, T'Pring stared at the complex patters beneath her feet, concentrating on its intricacies. Why does he remain silent? "Clothe yourself," he said finally.

Having no other garments available, she quickly dressed in those she'd worn the day of the ceremony, kneeling again when finished. T'Pring had watched him peripherally while obeying, noting he'd not moved from his previous stance. What does he want?

"I offer a choice."

A choice? "I await."

"Remain on Vulcan, or accompany me."

His tone betrayed nothing of the thoughts behind the words. T'Pring considered her options carefully, uncertain of the variables. Spock was a stranger to her, despite the time they'd spent together during the pon farr. Vulcan was her home, the place she knew. To leave with him would be to enter the unknown. Without Stonn, Vulcan would not be the same. If she left, would she ever return? Spock had not returned in twenty years, until driven to do so.

What would life with this man be like? No longer certain she could contemplate it logically, T'Pring proudly stiffened her spine and raised her head, looking him straight in the eye. 'There is nothing to hold me here any longer," she defiantly threw Stonn at Spock. T'Pring thought she detected a ghost of a smile touch his lips, but it vanished so quickly she couldn't be sure it'd ever been there.

She watched silently as he pulled out a communicator, nipping the lid open negligently. "Spock to Enterprise."

"Enterprise, Uhura." The voice dripped with boredom.

"One to beam up."

T'Pring started at the calm statement of intent. "I don't understand. You gave me a choice, I made it."

He closed the lid. "Why should I give you what you want?"

"Arrogant half-breed!" T'Pring hissed, allowing herself a moment of irritation, then reclaimed her mask of impassivity. No Vulcan would be so bold as to play mental games such as this. It was obvious she had been in error to even consider preferring Spock over Stonn. Let him leave her here; she would have his name and property by default, through his absence. Her momentary lapse in logic would never be known, her physical pleasure felt at their joining would remain secret. With Spock gone, T'Pring would once again have a chance to pick up the pieces of her life. "Very well, I shall remain on Vulcan, if that be your wish."

He took a step toward her and she shrank back from the look in his eyes. Never had she seen such pure hatred before. What sort of man is this?

"Guards." Once his bodyguards entered the bedroom, Spock reopened his communicator. "Spock to Enterprise. Energize."

T'Pring felt a sharp pain as he clasped her wrist tightly and the beam surrounded her. "No! Not this..." Once again, her life was nothing more than pieces of confetti.