Disclaimer: All characters owned by Paramount.
Thanks to: Kathy, for beta-reading.
Timeline: Post show.
Author's note: Written in memory of Brock Peters, aka Joseph Sisko. And for the city the Siskos hail from.
Last night I got the news that my grandfather had died. He hadn't been ill; it was simply age and a heart attack. Now my Mom died in a Borg attack, and my father – well, let's not get into that. It was a shock, at any rate. So you'd think Grandpa getting a peaceful, natural death would be easier.
I loved my grandfather. I didn't see him very often, with Dad posted on various space ships and then on Deep Space Nine. It's a long journey back to Earth. But we tried to make it at least once each year, we talked to him as often as we could, and we always tried to get him to visit us. Somehow, he never did. It wasn't that he had anything against space travel. He just didn't trust anyone to take proper care of his restaurant while he was gone. He loved that place. Sisko's, in New Orleans. It was like him. Nothing big or fancy. Small, unpretentious, full of great smells and never empty. Never cold.
I grew up in space, mostly, in rooms full of perfect temperature adjustment, so that was always the first thing I noticed when we were visiting Grandpa. The air. As soon as the transport from space was over, there it was. Warm, humid, and full of spices and traces of burnt oil. Of course he could have installed filters, or even old-fashioned air conditioning. He didn't want to.
"Don't hold with that," he said. "Besides, how are people going to enjoy my gumbo if they might as well be in Siberia?"
There was a piano in his restaurant. He didn't play. My father did, a little, but mostly Grandpa found one of the guests who did. Not that he had to ask. It seemed to bring it out in people, that restaurant – old Earth tunes, some new music from Rigel XI, someone was always playing something. Once my father brought Dax along, Jadzia, I mean, and she played something from a forgotten Vulcan composer, would you believe that. Then she grinned and asked my father to join in, and pretty soon they were jazzing it up.
When Jadzia died, my father took me and left the station. At the time, I didn't know whether it was temporary, or for good. I hadn't seen him that shaken since the Borg killed Mom. It wasn't just that Jadzia was dead, though that was horrible; she'd been his best friend, and he blamed himself for her death. It was also that he had lost his connection to the Prophets. The wormhole aliens. They seemed to be gone, too. The Bajorans had no idea how to handle that – the Prophets were their Gods, after all. And my father was supposed to be the Emissary and explain things. It just was too much, so he told me to pack, and returned to New Orleans. To his father.
It was a bad time for me. I had no idea how to comfort him. When we lost my mother, that was something we shared; I was just a kid, but I knew why he was grieving. I felt the same thing. Now I was sad because of Jadzia, but you know, I somehow was glad the Prophets were gone. He had already almost died because of them once. Same with me. So I didn't know what to say. How to make it better.
Grandpa did. It wasn't that he had some magic words of wisdom, and suddenly my Dad was up and about. He was just there, giving my father stuff to do, giving him time to get a grip on things. I don't think Dad ever cleaned that many clams or gutted that many fish in his life. Every now and then, Grandpa would stop and put his hand on Dad's shoulder, and Dad leaned a bit into his touch. He wasn't shutting him out.
I did a lot of potato peeling and other kitchen stuff in those weeks, too, and I told Grandpa about life on the station. About my friend Nog, and how he was doing. What Bajor was like. About the months when the Cardassians were in charge. He had been incredibly worried about me then, he said, and gave me some extra potatoes to peel, which made me smile.
He was a good listener, my grandfather, but also a good storyteller. It was Grandpa who first made me want to become a writer; all those stories would be lost, I thought once, if something happened to Dad and me, like it had to my mother. Someone should record them. No, someone should write them down. In the restaurant, it was mostly tales about old guests of his. When he took me for a walk, fishing or visiting friends of his, he told me about the city. New Orleans. If you listened to my grandfather, it was the most beautiful place on Earth, and that's why everyone had been out to get it.
"But they didn't," he said, satisfied. "The plague couldn't. Colonel Green and his thugs couldn't. Not even the big Hurricane of 2005 did. The Big Easy always comes back, Jake, mark my word. Might be pretty down for a time, might need a good while to heal. But don't you ever give up on something that has its roots here. Just do your best to help, and it will happen."
Suddenly, I was aware we weren't talking about the city any more.
"I'm trying," I said, and thought of my father, my strong, loving father, who had faced down Founders and Cardassians alike until life gave him a blow that carved him inside out. My grandfather nodded.
"I know," he said, and then he went on about catfish again, and how he got his best recipe from a direct descendant of Victor Séjour, the first African-American writer to publish, in 1837, no less. "Born and bred in New Orleans," he said, and teased me by stating how much faster I would have gotten published if Dad had raised me here. I thought he was kidding me about Séjour, or the catfish recipe or the descendant, or all three, but he might not have been. You never could tell with my grandfather, and sometimes I didn't even want to. I just wanted to listen to his soft basso voice rumbling on and on while the heat was everywhere around us. I knew everything would be alright then, in the end.
My father is gone now, and though I haven't given up hope that I'll see him again, I don't think it will be any time soon. And Grandpa is gone forever. But you know, I'll take Kasidy and my little sister and go to Earth for his funeral. I've already notified people there to wait until we're there. A funeral is a big thing in New Orleans, and all the family has to be there if you want to do it right; Grandpa taught me that. He also wouldn't forgive me if I let his friends who go with him that last distance eat anywhere but at Sisko's afterwards. I'm not the cook my father was, but you know, I think I can do that. With Kasidy's help. She's no chef, either, but she picked up a few tricks from Dad, and she's family. Family sticks together and pulls through.
Grandpa taught me that.