One month later, Amanda and John sat in a hovercar outside UFP Headquarters. It was a beautiful October day, and San Francisco was at its best. Outside the flitter, they were flanked on all sides by Federation Security forces, some visible, and a lot more not. Inside the building, the attendees to what would be an historic occasion awaited.
The weeks following the attempted abduction had passed in a surreal blur. After some days of convalescence, both Amanda and Sarek were pronounced fit and out of danger of any lasting complications from their watery adventure. Events evolved in some surprising ways thereafter.
After the events of that day were revealed, the tide of press coverage and public opinion abruptly turned. Commentators who had been harshly critical of their engagement sought to deplore and distance themselves from the attempted kidnapping and the ugly sentiments behind it. Far many more began to speak out in favor, calling for greater tolerance.
One particularly telling comment came from a surprising source. Detective Sanchez, interviewed for his role in apprehending the extremists, when asked about the Vulcan ambassador, declared decisively, "Anyone who thinks he doesn't love her just hasn't looked."
When asked for a statement on Sanchez' assertion, the ambassador, of course, declined to comment.
At the same time, news of a series of potential trade deals between Earth and other Federation members that would be possible with the ratification of the Centauri Accord hit the feeds, reinforcing the growing sentiment in favor of the Accord. It was ratified by Earth's Parliament two weeks later.
Amanda's efforts to secure a new position finally paid off, as well. Her old university near Boston agreed to an unprecedented joint appointment with Berkeley on the west coast, allowing her to comfortably remain located in San Francisco as well as teach in two locations. She was also pleasantly surprised to receive a letter of welcome from the Vulcan Science Academy, requesting that she speak to the Academy's leadership "at such time as relocating to Vulcan becomes a logical consideration."
That time might not be that far in the future. Two more surprising pieces of news had come from Vulcan, in the form of a call from T'Pau.
"I wish to make the acquaintance this Human bondmate of yours, Sarek," she had announced. "I found her presentations to the Terran media to be quite logical," the matriarch had commented. "And this news of her escaping captors through the water is most interesting. Sarek, what were you doing when your bondmate was in this inhospitable situation?" Before he could reply, she forged ahead. "No matter. I wish to speak to her, this Amanda, to learn more of her. You will see to it."
Sarek's impressive control hid all traces of any of the myriad of expressions that could have crossed his face. "Yes, Matriarch."
"There is one more matter, Sarek. The High Council has concluded its deliberations regarding your assignment."
Sarek calmly raised a brow, not revealing that he was prepared for the worst.
T'Pau looked with approval at her proud, unyielding son. "You will vacate your assignment." She paused a moment. "The High Council has deliberated at length, and has concluded that your recent satisfactory results with the Centauri Accord and in other matters makes you the logical choice to represent Vulcan as its next ambassador to the Federation."
No evidence of a reaction, surprise or otherwise, made itself visible on Sarek's countenance. "Indeed. I am honored by the Council's decision," he responded with quiet dignity.
"Live long and prosper, Sa-fu," his mother told him.
"Peace and long life, Ko-mekh," came his reply before the connection ended.
Stepping into the Future
Amanda was pulled from her reverie by an awareness of her brother staring at her. "You look beautiful, Amanda," he said, his voice catching. "Mom and Dad would be very happy."
Amanda squeezed his hand. "I think you're right."
"Are you ready for this?" John asked. She knew he meant not only the immediate ceremony but also the life that would commence after, the life she had chosen with a man not of her planet, who shared none of her species' millennia of history, but who already possessed her heart.
She fingered the fiery red stone on her ring finger, recalling how Sarek had presented the rare Vulcan gem that he had had set as an engagement ring. She had been propped up in bed, still recovering from her ordeal in the bay, and he had again gotten down on one knee. This time when her tears began he was not alarmed, but instead had offered her his two fingers so he could embrace her mind.
Now Amanda's eyes grew distant for a moment, sensing Sarek, not far away, waiting for her. She turned back to her brother. "Oh, yes," she answered. "I might not know what the future holds for us, but we are ready." She placed one hand on the door control, gathering her skirt and flowers in the other. "Shall we go?"
When Amanda and John entered the hall, her arm tucked in his, they heard the music softly playing. Gerard had done a beautiful job, transforming a utilitarian meeting hall into a space dedicated to a most important and sacred purpose. That purpose was clear even as the decoration was understated and managed to be pleasing to both Human and Vulcan tastes.
Pausing in the rear, Amanda looked out at the gathered guests. The entire Vulcan delegation, of course; the Universal Translator team; John's family; colleagues and friends from Harvard, Berkeley and elsewhere; and a host of ambassadors, Federation officials and other dignitaries were joined by Detective Sanchez and many of the other first responders from that day.
A small contingent of Federation Security personnel, flanked by members of an elite Vulcan guard, stood along the walls, looking formidable. Amanda had conceded to Sarek's desire for the security both to ease her mate's concern for her safety as well as to ensure that Stanek and his team could attend as guests.
At the front of the room stood Justice Stewart, who waited with her dear friend Marcia to one side and Soran to the other. And then there he was. Sarek was dressed in magnificent formal robes she had never seen before, dazzling and elegant. /I am here, beloved,/ she whispered in her mind voice, wondering if he could sense her from a distance.
A moment later she felt his answering call. /I await you, K'diwa,/ came his thought, and she saw him turn those piercing eyes in her direction. It took her breath away.
The music changed then and it was time. John squeezed her hand reassuringly and Amanda smiled and nodded as they stepped over the threshold and down the long aisle.
It seemed to take forever to get to the front, to reach him. Amanda could feel her heart beating wildly as the faces of friends and colleagues passed in a blur, but she savored the moment, seeking to commit every second to memory.
Sarek straightened still further as his eyes fell upon Amanda slowly walking toward him. She is beautiful, he thought, in all ways, and this time he didn't even question the logic of it. They were commencing a ceremony alien to his people, but which would bind them together much as the one to be held on his own planet a year or two hence. Amanda was his bondmate, his k'diwa, and was now about to become his wife. He was grateful that his control was equal to the task of containing the powerful emotions surging through him at this moment. What I feel for her is… profound.
Amanda had reached Sarek's side. For a moment his eyes held such feeling she had to look down, afraid she would start to cry. She looked back up at him and their fingers brushed.
/I love you./
/I cherish thee./
Justice Stewart cleared his throat. He looked over the audience expectantly before he began to speak.
"Dearly beloved, we are here assembled, in the presence of these witnesses, to join together this man, S'chn T'gai Sarek cha Skon, and this woman, Amanda Rebecca Grayson, in marriage.
"Family and friends, I welcome you to this day of celebration. Amanda and Sarek have invited us here to this place to share in their declaration of lifelong commitment to each other."
Stewart then turned to his friend. "Sarek, do you intend to take Amanda to be your wife? Do you enter into this sacred bond with a clear eye and a full heart, to pledge yourself in honor, love and trust to this woman as her companion for the journey of life?"
Sarek's voice reverberated in the hall. "I do."
Stewart looked to Amanda. "Amanda, do you intend to take Sarek to be your husband? Do you enter into this sacred bond with a clear eye and a full heart, to pledge yourself in honor, love and trust to this man as his companion for the journey of life?"
"I do," came her answer, clear and confident.
The couple then joined hands to recite their vows to one another.
"I, Sarek," he began with an orator's stately grace, "take you, Amanda, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; in joy and in sorrow; to love and to cherish; and to be faithful to you alone, as long as we both shall live."
Even though the words included emotions he would not choose to give voice to, and had been conditioned by his culture not to acknowledge, he had no problem doing so here. They were tradition for his wife's people, and he would honor them. It was only logical.
"I, Amanda, take you, Sarek, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; in joy and in sorrow; to love and to cherish; and to be faithful to you alone, as long as we both shall live." Amanda's joy rose as she spoke the words. She meant very one of them.
She knew Sarek could feel her swelling emotion, and she could sense his controlled echo in response. Temporarily oblivious to the their surroundings, the pair just stared at one another, lost in the moment of what they had just done.
There was silence for a moment before Stewart spoke again to conclude the ceremony. "Sarek and Amanda have consented together in marriage, and have witnessed the same before you, and have pledged their faith to each other. May these two find happiness in their matrimony. May they live faithfully together, may they ever remain compassionate. May their years be rich in the joys of life, and their days be long upon the Earth, or wherever they may choose to call home.
"By the power of your commitment to each other, and the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife." Stewart looked to Sarek. "You may kiss the bride."
In a unique public moment, Sarek bent his head to gently kiss his wife. As he did so, his paired fingers reached for hers, and their minds hummed together in private celebration.
The outside world made itself known again as the recessional music began, signaling the couple to go forth. They proceeded back down the aisle and out into the sunlight. There was a brief pause on the steps of Federation Headquarters as dozens of holographers captured the moment – and for once it was not an intrusion. They then stepped into a waiting hovercar to take them to the reception.
Per Sarek's request, they did not stay long.
The new couple efficiently greeted their guests, danced a first dance ("The Blue Danube," again), and cut cake together. Shortly thereafter Amanda tossed her rose bouquet, which was inadvertently caught by a perplexed T'Lina. Needless to say, Sarek declined to bare his wife's leg before guests for a garter belt toss. It was rumored that Rob and Jennreth'nu had plotted to smother Sarek and Amanda's flitter with "Just Married" paraphernalia, but they were thwarted by an alert Vulcan security detail.
The press reported an "elegant reception," highlighting the many luminary guests in attendance but kindly and wisely leaving the bride and groom to themselves, reporting only, "the bride and groom put in a brief appearance before departing to honeymoon at an undisclosed location."
They had planned a honeymoon in Carmel, a breathtakingly beautiful spot on the central California coast. Security was tight, and the location confidential. Nevertheless rumors brought the press, as of course they would, and when a lone couple was seen walking along the beach of an exclusive resort in that locale at sunset, those rumors appeared to have, once again, paid off.
No one thought it unusual that the couple stayed well away from the water as they walked.
Stell and T'Lina noted the similarities in texture and other characteristics between the sand underneath their feet and the sands of their home world. Of great interest, and some trepidation, was the crashing surf so close to the dry sand – so different from Vulcan. Another one of an infinite set of diversities in infinite combination.
"This is a most unusual assignment, Sa-kugalsu," T'Lina remarked as they walked.
"Indeed," Stell replied, "but I am certain I understood our instructions. We are to appear as a 'honeymooning couple' for the next eight days in this location."
"Yes," T'Lina acknowledged, stepping a bit closer to her bondmate. "My research into the behavior this 'honeymooning' entails has yielded interesting results. I am gratified that S'haile Sarek and T'Sai Amanda chose us for this work."
Stell shyly extended his index and middle finger toward T'Lina. "Indeed," he murmured again, "As am I, my ko-kugalsu."
They walked along the beach until darkness fell.
At about the same time, the Surak warped out of Earth orbit. Amanda sat for a moment on the sleeping platform in the ambassador's cabin, stretching luxuriously. They had not stopped to change but had come aboard directly from the reception.
She turned now as she heard him enter after conferring with the captain. Amanda's face lit up when she saw him, just as it would for rest of her life. Glad to be alone with her new husband at last, she could sense sultry anticipation from her mate and she was sure he could feel the same eagerness in her through their bond.
She looked out the window at the permanent starry night enveloping the starship. "I hope T'Lina and Stell are enjoying themselves," she commented, smoothing the creases in the dress she still wore.
Across the room, Sarek raised a brow. "I doubt that is a condition that they would attribute to themselves, my wife. They are central operators in an important mission to ensure the security of a certain Vulcan diplomat… and his new mate."
How does that voice of his make security sound so sexy? "Uh-huh," came Amanda's dry response as she rose and crossed the room to her husband, leaning against his broad chest. "I can only imagine what the press coverage will be when the decoy is discovered. And I can't imagine the commentary when it's learned what a ridiculous honeymoon we did choose."
Sarek looked down at his new wife, one side of his mouth curling upward ever so slightly in amusement. "My mother wants to meet you. Hence the four-day journey to Vulcan is logical. And," he added, once again cupping her shoulders in his large hands, a suggestive eyebrow climbing, "as I understand the purpose of a honeymoon, a well-equipped starship on which we are the only passengers would seem to be an appropriate venue indeed." His voice deepened as his fingers found the fastenings on the back of her dress. "Shall we test my hypothesis, my wife?"
Amanda looked up at her new husband, who definitely appeared to be in an inquisitive mood. She smiled for them both. It had been at once a long road and a rapid journey to this point. And with the soul mates' love they held in their hearts, she knew they could handle anything together. It was time to celebrate.
"Indeed, yes, my husband," she responded with an eager purr, "I have no doubt I'll be more than gratified by your company…"