"This fight is to the death," T'Pau said.
Uhura stared at her, goggling in shock, for only a moment, before striding up to the dais. "Did you just say you're going to let one of the last ten thousand Vulcans in existence fight to the death? Over a woman who doesn't want him, against a man who doesn't want her?"
"That is our way," T'Pau said sternly. "Thee art out of thy place, Uhura of Earth."
"No. No, I am not. This is most definitely my place." She turned and ran onto the battleground, hoping desperately that Spock was not too far gone to recognize her. He had managed to hold it together, barely, a few minutes ago, when he'd begged T'Pau not to let T'Pring make him fight Kirk, but none of them had known it was supposed to be a deathmatch then... now he seemed entirely determined to kill the captain, lost completely in his own private madness, but this was biology and Kirk was male. Uhura, being female, might be safe. Maybe. She hoped.
The gravity of New Vulcan was as heavy as the old, the air as thin and hot. Her muscles felt heavy and slow, but she charged at Spock as he raised the ahn woon, and grabbed his wrist. "Spock, stop! It's me, Nyota!"
"Thee mustn't interfere!" T'Pau shouted.
Spock stopped, panting. "Ny... ota?" His voice was hoarse and harsh.
"I must interfere," Uhura said, "because this is illogical and unworthy of Vulcans, because the things you have suffered demand that if you're to have a future you cannot be chained to the illogic of the past! And because this is a violation of my traditions, and the Federation values all species' traditions!"
Kirk got his breath back. "Lieutenant... what are you trying to do?"
"Save both your lives, sir," she murmured, and faced T'Pring. "T'Pring, by the traditions of my people the Bantu, I challenge you. Spock is my man. I have claimed him. Yield your claim on him and release him to me, or fight me."
T'Pring showed no more expression than a slight widening of her eyes. "I yield my claim on Spock to you, Uhura of Earth," she said. "If Spock acknowledges your prior claim, he may be released of his bond to me."
"Spock has only half Vulcan blood in his veins," T'Pau said. "For the sake of our species' survival, he must marry a full Vulcan. No Vulcan can be spared the need to rebuild our species."
"He doesn't need to marry a full Vulcan. He just needs to father the children of a full Vulcan," Uhura said quickly. "You want him to father Vulcan kids? He can give you a sperm donation. I would be pleased to raise any children he fathers with him, as their adoptive mother, if necessary. But he does not need to marry a Vulcan to reproduce with one."
She turned to Spock, who was still frozen, his face an agony of rage, confusion and need. "Spock," she said, and put her arms around his neck, pulling him down to her. "Choose. Will you kill Jim, your Captain and friend, to marry a woman who doesn't want you? Or will you let her go and marry me, the woman who loves you?"
"Ny... ota... I do not... I would not... hurt you..."
She pulled him in closer and whispered in his ear. "You're not going to hurt me with rough sex, if that's what you're worried about," she said. "I'll give you everything you need. I want to. Do you trust me?"
"Then tell them you're marrying me."
"I..." He looked up, and with a massive effort of will focused himself. "I choose Nyota Uhura."
T'Pau looked as unhappy as Vulcans could look, but she said, "We recognize the logic that Uhura of Earth has proposed, that a change to our traditions may be required. There is no necessity to make a Vulcan risk his life for his mate when another mate is available who is his preference. Let the marriage of Spock, son of Sarek, and Nyota Uhura, of Earth, daughter of the Bantu people, be acknowledged."
One of the gong ringers rang the gong. And then Spock's hands were on her temple and cheek, his mind pressing against hers like fire, and she lost any sense of where she was or what she was doing in a wave of pure sexual need, more intense than anything she'd felt before. Dimly she was aware that the Vulcan aides at the ceremony had pushed Spock and herself onto some sort of stretcher and were carrying them, and then they were on cushions in a dimly lit tent, but she had little attention to spare for her surroundings, as intent as she was on kissing Spock and ripping his clothes off him, and the sensations of his lips on her mouth and his hands on her body.
It was three days later before she got to see Captain Kirk again. She was dehydrated, starving, every part of her body ached, some parts of her felt positively raw... and she felt great. Two gallons of water or rehydrating drink, a big breakfast, and a painkilling shot from Dr. McCoy and she was sure she'd be as good as new. Or better.
"So," Kirk said, as she was sitting at a table in the tent eating breakfast fruit as fast as she could cram it in. "Congratulations on your marriage?"
She laughed at the uncertainty in his voice. "Congratulations are very much in order, yes, sir," she said. "Also, 'thank you for keeping Spock from killing me, Lieutenant' would be appreciated."
He grinned. "Thank you for keeping Spock from killing me, Lieutenant." He sobered. "I heard from Ambassador Spock. He apologized profusely for not telling us about this; he'd thought T'Pring was dead."
"Everyone did," Uhura said. "I mean, I'm glad there's one more Vulcan living, but... once she was discovered to be alive, couldn't they have worked something out? Spock and I might not have actually been married, but I can't help but think that if you think your betrothed is dead and then you find out she's not, it's really not all that logical to run off to go marry her when you already have a serious girlfriend." She sighed. "Are the Ambassadors still in the Romulan Empire?"
Kirk nodded. "Neither Sarek nor older Spock said so in so many words, but apparently the Romulans are still falling all over themselves to apologize for Nero... it doesn't hurt that Ambassador Spock is known to understand and be able to make use of the black hole technology, or that the Romulans would really rather not be wiped out by a supernova in a century themselves. I don't think either of them will be able to give you their congratulations in person until after your honeymoon."
"I don't think Vulcans do honeymoons."
"But humans do. So the two of you are on leave for a month. Go someplace nicer than New Vulcan to spend it. That's an order."
Kirk sat down at the table. "Just between you and me, Uhura... is there any such Bantu custom about fighting another woman for your husband? Because I've never heard of such a thing."
Uhura laughed. "It's not a Bantu custom. It was the custom of the girls who went to my secondary school. If you wanted to date another girl's boyfriend, you had to fight her, unless she yielded him to you. It was all very stupid and childish and I refused to have anything to do with it at the time."
"You took a risk, then. What if T'Pau had known it wasn't the 'custom of your people?'"
"T'Pau has very little interest in Earth culture, and the average Terran doesn't know the details of all the myriad cultures of Earth, so why would T'Pau? I ran a risk that T'Pring might know better – Spock told me, before the wedding, that she actually studied Earth – but if T'Pring was desperate enough to try to have you kill Spock to get out of marrying him, I figured she'd take any excuse I threw her."
"I can't believe they even let it get that far. If T'Pring didn't want him, and he already had a girlfriend, why didn't they just let her out of it? It's not as if there's any shortage of Vulcan men who've lost their wives or fiancées."
"I think T'Pau blames you and Spock for what happened to Vulcan," Uhura said. "And that's emotional, and completely illogical, and she will never admit to it. But she never liked humans all that much, and Spock's half-human, in love with a human, and then to top it all off he was in command when Nero destroyed the planet and you were on the team that couldn't stop the drill in time."
"I wasn't going to say so, but I think you're right," Kirk said. "I suppose it doesn't help any that I do feel as if I'm responsible for not being able to stop Nero. Or that Spock probably feels responsible, too."
"He won't admit it," she said. "Neither of them will, actually. But I think they both do."
"I don't think you know the Ambassador as well as you know our Spock," Kirk said. "He has admitted it, to me. He does feel responsible for Nero." He shook his head. "I'm glad he's got his logic to fall back on to try to convince himself otherwise, because that kind of guilt is too much for any man to bear."
From the cushions on the floor, a hoarse voice inquired, "Do neither of you see the illogic in talking about a person as if he were not there, rather loudly, when in fact he is present and trying to sleep?"
"Nope, no illogic there at all," Kirk said. "Perfectly logical. Besides, we were mostly talking about the other you."
Uhura got up and went over to the pile of cushions, as Spock sat up, his upper body poking out of the blankets. "Good morning, Spock. There's still two whole baskets of fruit if you're hungry."
"It is technically three point seven hours past the planetary meridian in this region, and 1935 hundred hours aboard Enterprise, so in no sense that applies to us could it actually be considered morning."
"Don't be a grump."
"I'll leave you two newlyweds to your fruit basket... and whatever else," Kirk said, waggling his eyebrow lasciviously. "Remember. One month leave. Spock, take this woman somewhere fantastic for her honeymoon."
"I will endeavor to find somewhere 'fantastic' to take her," Spock agreed, deadpan.
"Like Risa." Kirk's overly innocent-casual tone made it clear that he actually knew what Uhura thought of Risa.
"Not Risa," Uhura said, as at the same time Spock said, "I do not believe that Risa—"
They looked at each other. Uhura grinned. "Mental bond, or coincidence?"
"Shared good taste, perhaps," Spock said.
"Oh, well, if you're going to insult my taste in shore leave planets, I'll leave," Kirk said. "I'm going to have Bones come down and check you both over just to make sure everything's okay. Can you stay decent for half an hour?"
"Perhaps," Spock said.
Uhura looked at his naked chest as he sat in the cushions, lower body tangled in blankets. "No, sir, I don't think so. Give us an hour."
Kirk snorted. "Newlyweds." He grinned. "Fine. An hour." He left the tent.
Uhura plopped herself down on the cushions. "Well, husband, we have an hour. Can you think of anything creative we can do with it?"
"I confess, much of the last few days is blurry in my memory. Perhaps you could refresh me as to what we have already done, so I would know what remains in the realm of 'creative' as opposed to 'tried and tested.'"
"Or, you know, tried and tested works."
"Perhaps you could refresh my memory anyway."
She put her arms around him. "I think I could offer up a few reminders, yes."