I have to confess, I've been dallying around about writing this chapter because it would inevitably make me homesick. And, of course, it's always sad when a good story comes to an end. Thank you, readers and reviewers!
The old-fashioned streetcar creaked along the tracks through the night on its way to the French Quarter. It moved slowly past huge live oaks with draping Spanish moss, grand houses with gingerbread trim and lovely gardens, a few schools, and a university. The sweet scent of magnolias drifted in the night air, and crickets soothingly chirped all around them. Even after all that had happened, Taurik naturally still didn't believe in magic. But if ever there was such a place that possessed that quality, it was most certainly New Orleans.
Marianne contently laid her head on Taurik's shoulder and gazed out of the window at the pretty world going by them. Taurik lovingly took her hand into his. Behind them were Sam and Johnny. The former was giving the rest of the gang a narration of the various places they were passing. All the while he was slipping in his favorite comment about Taurik being a "sly dog" for convincing Marianne to marry him so soon. As a matter of fact, they were going to their engagement party at her family's home that very evening.
Behind Sam and Johnny sat Rahat and Qismah. They had all just come from their wedding in Luxor not a week before. Rahat had joined the Medjai brotherhood, and planned to continue his distinguished career. Qismah approved, so long as he promised to give the dead their due respect. Interestingly enough, she had managed to persuade her new husband to follow the tenets of Islam, at least outwardly. It was evident that Rahat would never become a believer himself; but like his father, he respected his wife's beliefs.
Johnny Norris also intended to continue his career, and he would work together with Rahat from then on. Taurik suspected that he had also joined the Medjai, but for once, Johnny kept that matter to himself.
The only one who had decided to change fields was Marianne. It was understandable, since she was the one who had been the center of all that had happened. Instead, she would focus on the more academic aspects of Egyptology, rather than on archeology. After they got married next month, she was going to move to San Francisco while Taurik finished his last two years at Starfleet Academy.
"End of the line!" the car driver announced with a grin when they reached the edge of the Vieux Carré. "Time to get off, y'all!" The passengers, who were mostly tourists bound for the sights, activities, and "traps" of the French Quarter, cheerfully complied with the elderly man's request.
"So this is the French Quarter?" asked Rahat. "It's just like the pictures." Qismah smiled in agreement. It was all very new to her, as she had never before left Egypt.
"I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore," Johnny remarked with a wink.
The group walked for several blocks, and turned down Marianne's street. It was not at all far from Sisko's Creole Kitchen, Taurik noted. He had just been to his fiancée's home the day before to ask her family's permission. Mr. Broussard had reluctantly given his consent, though he was astonished that his daughter wanted to marry a Vulcan. Taurik had actually expected more opposition, but was pleased to find that it was not the case.
As they neared the house in question, the sounds of the Broussard party became audible. Instead of entering through the front door, they went through an intricate wrought-iron gate that led to the courtyard. Inside were tables filled with hors d'oeuvres and desserts, as well as a bar over in the far corner. A jazz band was playing in the opposite corner.
"Welcome to our home, y'all," Mrs. Broussard greeted them at the door. Taurik tried not to stiffen his body when she hugged him and kissed his cheek. He knew he would have to get used to Marianne's loud family and their insistence on tactile contact sooner or later. After she gave the others a similar salutation, they made their way first, of course, to the bar.
There were so many people, and they were all eating and drinking and laughing. Aside from Marianne's parents, the only other person Taurik recognized was Mr. Sisko, who jovially raised his glass of champagne from across the patio.
"Marianne!" the nearest tall round man said.
"'Tit Jean!" she smiled happily as they embraced. "Taurik, this is my cousin, 'Tit Jean."
As the Vulcan predicted, the man pulled him into a bear hug. "Welcome to the family!" he said. "You'll have to come over to my house in Breaux Bridge next week to our boucherie."
"Well," Marianne tried to explain, "'Tit Jean, I don't know how that will work."
"But, chere, I have de best boucherie in de state. You know dat," 'Tit Jean said indignantly. "Everybody likes it."
"That's not it," she said carefully. "Vulcans are vegetarians. Taurik doesn't eat meat."
His ruddy face soured. "Quoi? He don't eat no meat?" For a few seconds, the noise stopped and everyone starred in shock. But then 'Tit Jean was suddenly ashamed of his rude remark, so he calmed himself and smiled. "Das ok, cher," he said to Taurik, "We have a crawfish boil instead. My sister-in-law has a farm where dey grow dem all year. It'll be just like Lent, yeah." At once the noise resumed and everyone went back to whatever it was they were doing as though nothing had happened.
Marianne smiled at Taurik, silently telling him it was the best 'Tit Jean could do. Indeed, Taurik was not ignorant of the significance of the gesture. "Thank you, Cousin," he said diplomatically. He made a mental note to make sure he ate before they went to 'Tit Jean's house the following week.
"You're welcome, Taurik," said 'Tit Jean, happy to have reached a compromise. "Bring your friends, too, eh?"
"I'm sure they will be pleased to attend," he said. Taurik looked over at his comrades. Rahat had opened the bottle of Romulan ale he brought, and everyone was cheering as a result. Taurik repressed a shudder. Champagne would suffice for him, thank you very much.
He noted with some amusement that Qismah didn't look very happy about it, either. So much for following the Muslim way. Indubitably, she and her husband were going to have a discussion after the party. Taurik was relieved that Marianne would not be making similar demands of him.
"Well, Taurik," said Sam with a glass of the ominous blue liquid in his hand, "Who would've thought we'd end up back in the Crescent City so soon—and for your wedding!"
"Not I," the Vulcan admitted.
Sam's expression became serious. "I'm really honored that you asked me to be your best man, Taurik," he said.
"Say nothing of it. You're my best friend, Sam," said Taurik, "I can think of no one else I'd rather fulfill the role."
"Thanks all the same, man," he lifted his glass and went off to flirt with one of Marianne's relatives.
Suddenly realizing that his intended was no longer at his side, he scanned the area to find her. She was deep in conversation with one of her aunts. Sensing his gaze, she briefly flashed her heart-melting smile at him. Marianne's aunt apparently didn't notice, for she continued to talk incessantly.
The whole experience was certainly very strange to Taurik. His own family was not nearly as large. Gatherings on Vulcan were by nature calm and quiet compared to this rowdy bash. His relatives did not demand instant intimacy; rather, they abhorred it. For Taurik and his family, this marriage was going to be…an adjustment. It was the most irrational thing he had ever done, and perhaps would ever do.
Nevertheless, it was all worth it to have Marianne as his wife. No amount of logic could explain it, but he loved her deeply. Though he would only admit it to her (and perhaps to Sam if he continued to press him), Taurik was the happiest he had ever been in his life. The famous and quite appropriate words came to his mind, Laissez les bons temps rouler!