A/N: I love the O'Malley series, and because I am rereading that series right now, I couldn't them off my brain. A dozen different story ideas were going through my head, some of which I still might write. This was an itch. Heck, there is even now a whole category for the O'Malleys!! That is awesome. I hope you enjoy this, and I do warn you it is sad. If you read it, please leave me feedback. I'd love to know your thoughts.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters in this fic. All belongs to Dee Henderson! I did not profit from writing this.
The Last O'Malley
She was the last one left in the family. Sure, the children were all still around; there were even some grandchildren. But of the original seven O'Malleys, Rachel Parker was the last one. It was hard for her to be the last one, hard to have only memories left. She preferred to look back on them happily, to be grateful that God had given them all each other. She knew her brothers and sisters were in heaven, and people had been telling her for years that Christians needn't grieve like those without hope. But knowing all of that could not stop her from missing them. Often the memories she had filled her with an overwhelming sadness.
She remembered vividly each and every time she had learned of one her siblings' deaths, how it had left a gaping hole in the family each time. Jennifer's death had been hard on the family. She was the youngest one, and although everyone joked about how she was everyone's favorite, it was really true. Everyone had doted on her. Jen had been such a sweetheart, no wonder she had been the first to marry. Unfortunately, with finally finding happiness with a man came the knowledge that it would be short-lived. She had fought the cancer with everything she had, and her family had fought with her, but it had been a losing battle. At the very least, Jen had found peace before she died, and had managed to bring it to her family as well. If they hadn't found the Lord when they did, the family might not have gotten through Jennifer's death together, nor would they have handled what was to come.
It had been just over a year since Jennifer died; the second holiday season without her was soon approaching the family, when Rachel got the worst phone call of her life.
"Sweetie, it's me," Cole Parker greeted his wife, and she knew immediately he was trying to keep his voice steady. She immediately demanded to know what was wrong, knowing he was calling while on his shift; a shift he shared with his best friend, her brother Jack.
"I'm at the hospital right now," he explained. When he paused there, Rachel's heart plummeted and she knew what he was going to say.
"We went into an apartment building that was on fire…We had almost everyone out." He took a deep breath and as she waited for him to continue, her hands began to shake so badly she nearly dropped the phone. "We were helping a woman through the hallway on the fifth floor, and she just panicked. She turned to run the other way and Jack grabbed her right as she stepped through a floorboard. She took him with her, Rachel. I tried to get to him, I tried my hardest." His voice broke here and he said no more.
She promised him she would be at the hospital immediately, not wanting to hear him say those awful words. She hung up the phone but knew she couldn't yet leave. Before going to her husband, she had to call her other siblings.
It would be the first time that Marcus hadn't been the one to page a family emergency. That told the others that something was terribly, terribly wrong. She sat by the phone staring into space until everyone had called her back; she simply told them to meet her at the hospital as soon as they could be there. Some of them weren't in Chicago, but she couldn't hold off the news to the ones that were. She said a silent prayer as she grabbed her keys, holding her tears back by sheer will. Lord give her strength if she would have to give the news more than once.
Cole had called Cassie first; Jack's wife was already at the hospital when Rachel arrived there. Hearing her sister-in-law's gut-wrenching cries finally pushed Rachel over the edge. Cole had only tried once to comfort her; when she pushed him away he sat down in a chair, lost in his own grief. He had been Jack's best friend long before he was Rachel's husband, and his grief went as deeply as hers and Cassie's did.
While the family struggled through their grief, Cassie withdrew herself from the family. It was too hard for her to be around Jack's family without him. When they lost Jack, they had also lost Cassie. Some of the O'Malleys had tried reaching out to her, Kate and Lisa especially. Rachel tried a couple of times, but the pain was still too intense for her sister-in-law. Cassie had wanted to go, and even Marcus hadn't been able to stop her.
A year and a half later, Rachel and Cole had their first child, a boy. Kate was near to delivering her second child, and in the meantime, Lisa and Meghan had also had children. These births had had been what saved the family; it had brought everyone together several times, giving everyone renewed commitment to make sure and see each other, not to drift away as they had been doing for too long.
"This is the happiest I've ever seen you," Marcus commented as he gave Rachel a kiss on the forehead. He stayed bent over her hospital bed, showing her his intent on chatting for awhile. She beamed back at him before they both turned their eyes down to the tiny human in her arms. "What did you name him?"
"Timothy. Cole's still working on a middle name."
"Tim Parker," Marcus repeated, smiling down at his nephew. "He'll make a handsome addition to the family."
Rachel nodded her agreement. A brief paused passed between the two of them. "I'd like to have a family dinner tomorrow night. Tim and I are out of here in the morning."
Marcus smiled. "I would like that," he agreed. "We haven't had many of those lately."
"At least everyone came out for this," Rachel commented. "I want us to start making a point to see each other again. More family get-togethers, more dinners…"
"Stephen and Kate have both said the same thing to me recently. I think we can definitely do that."
Timothy Jack Parker was about to turn two years old when Rachel received a page for a family emergency. She was shopping at the mall for his birthday when her pager had gone off. An hour later, she found herself at Stephen and Meghan's house, trying to brace herself for whatever God was bringing to the family this time.
Stephen came back into the living room, Marcus and Shari behind him. Both looked shaken; Marcus was as pale as the white wall behind him.
"Kate and Dave aren't here yet," Stephen told them, obviously thinking the news would wait for their arrival.
"Where are Holly and Kris?" Marcus asked, looking around the house for Kate and Dave's children. Stephen and Meghan had been babysitting the two for the weekend while their parents had gone to Oregon following a case.
"Kristina is sleeping," Meghan replied, frowning at the tense tone in Marcus' voice. "Holly just took Timmy upstairs to play. Is everything okay with Kate and Dave?"
Marcus swallowed hard, looking around at everyone, his brown eyes showing immense pain. "Their plane crashed this morning on their way back to Chicago."
The silence that followed lasted for almost ten minutes. Cole squeezed his wife's shoulder comfortingly. Rachel saw through her watery eyes Lisa turning into Quinn's chest. Stephen just stared into the space before him in shock, a stark contrast to how he'd reacted at the hospital to Jack's death. After all, every since Kate had moved to working robberies and fraud, the family had considered her safe.
Anger swept over Rachel then. Kate was supposed to have been safe! God, why do You keep doing this to us? she thought. I thought we would be safe in You. Why do you keep taking my family from me in such cruel ways? Kate deserved better than that, Lord. Jack and Jennifer did, too. And Kate and Dave have children!
"So what's going to happen to Holly and Kris?" Rachel finally asked, pushing her emotions away temporarily.
"Well, that depends on who Kate and Dave had decided to leave them too," Marcus said thickly. Just thinking about that was obviously hard for him. "For right now I say leave them where they are, if that's all right with you two." Marcus turned to Stephen and Meghan.
"Yeah, that's fine," Stephen said without even asking his wife.
She agreed nonetheless. "We'll need to tell them eventually."
Rachel swallowed, wondering how on Earth she could tell everyone that she had just learned that she was pregnant.
Telling her nieces about their parents had not come easy. They were orphans now the same way the seven O'Malleys had been, only they had family that was determined to take care of them. Kate and Dave had left their children to Cole and Rachel, so along with having two extra children to take care and working through her grief for her sister and brother-in-law, Rachel was also pregnant with twins. That period of her life was the most emotional she had ever been, but Shari had turned out to be pregnant as well. The family was supportive of them both, and the two women often turned to each other for support. Shari had her daughter just a week after Rachel's twin girls were born.
"Marcus wants us to move to Chicago," Shari told Rachel over the phone from her hospital room. Rachel was in her bed at home; she'd had a C-Section and therefore needed more time to recover. "He wants the family to be closer to each other."
Hearing this pleased Rachel. "What about your mom and Josh?" she asked, wondering if Shari would be okay with leaving them behind.
"I'll still see them. And Josh is married; he doesn't need me to stick around for him. They already know we have been thinking about moving, and they both think it's a good idea."
With a smile, Rachel then asked how Marcus liked being a father.
"Oh, Jaclyn already has him wrapped around her finger."
As she hung up the phone, she saw her husband standing in the doorway, smiling softly at her. She smiled back, knowing he worried about her. She had never completely gotten over the deaths of Jennifer, Jack, or Kate, and they both knew it. The same could be said of the rest of the family but that didn't lessen Cole's worry for his wife. He joined her on the bed and asked what she was thinking as she leaned in against him.
"I was thinking about all the new additions we've had in the family since we all got married," she admitted. "Losing Jennifer hurt; losing Jack and losing Kate and Dave hurt. But God has also given us so many miracles, in all of our children." She said it partly to reassure him, but her words were also completely true. She knew the blessings still in her life.
Ten years passed. Stephen and Meghan had three more children; Quinn and Lisa had another child, as well. The children were all raised together, constantly hearing stories about their aunts Jennifer and Kate and uncles Jack and Dave. Tom Peterson, Jennifer's husband, visited every now and again, for he had kept in touch with Marcus, and the kids all called him Uncle Tom. Cole and Rachel had gone out of their way for Holly and Krissy, to make sure they knew how much their parents had loved them. The family was resettling into a normal pattern; one that was shattered when, just seven years short of joining Quinn in retirement, Marcus was killed.
"We aren't going to be sad at this reception," Shari insisted to her in-laws. "We said goodbye at the funeral, now we are going to celebrate his life, celebrate that God let him be in our lives." She held her head up high, a fact for which Rachel deeply respected her brother's wife. She didn't know if she could do the same if Cole died.
They had just come from Marcus' funeral, everyone's emotions still raw from the events of the last five days. Stephen's daughter Katherine had dragged all of her cousins into playing cards, successfully distracting Jaclyn for the moment. The two had always gotten along. Rachel smiled as she watched her son poke Jaclyn in the side, starting a light-hearted fight between the two. All the cousins were close; they had grown up inside the same bond their parents had formed with each other.
Rachel wasn't sure how well she herself could put on a smile and be light-hearted. She knew it would feel good to let go, to be content that Marcus was in heaven with God and with the rest of the family. She wished time and experience would make it easier but it didn't. Every time she lost she found herself in a mental wrestle with God for a few months. Because yet again, the death had come unexpectedly and in what Rachel considered a cruel manner.
She ended up on a couch with Stephen drinking a soda, remininscing. He mentioned Rugsby, the stuffed animal Jack had won for Kate all those decades ago. Its final destination point had been Marcus and Shari's house, mounted on the wall in the TV room. It was still there, on the wall opposite them. When Lisa joined them, she had an update on the case Marcus had been working on.
"The FBI is close to catching the guy who shot Marcus," she informed them. "I just told Shari; she's been through all of this before, she's handling it like a real trouper. She keeps trying to be positive, but I think her mask will be crumbling in another hour."
"Marcus got shot doing his job," Stephen pointed out. "We all would have chosen a different way, but God didn't. It's hard but we have to accept it, just like we've had to before. But if I ever get my hands on that shooter…"
Rachel felt the same way. She wanted to yell and kick and scream at the man who had taken Marcus' life without a second thought; in truth she wanted to do much worse. But it wouldn't bring her brother back. She knew that. She prayed that God would take away her anger. But for the moment, her anger was getting her through.
The shooter who had tried to kill a judge, and who ended up killing Marcus instead, was convicted to life in prison in just a few months. Rachel, Stephen, Lisa, Cole, and Meghan all rallied around Shari and Jaclyn; they were O'Malleys after all. They had made sure Shari stayed in the family; Rachel still wondered why they hadn't done the same for Cassie. Sometimes she thought it was because Shari had been in the family for almost twenty years, or maybe it was because Marcus and Shari had a child, and Cassie and Jack hadn't had the chance to have kids. It didn't really matter. That was just the way things were.
With the children all married by the time they were thirty, Rachel and Cole settled into easy retirement, enjoying spending the days together. She had always been incredibly happy married to Cole, but living in retirement was the closest she ever felt to having true peace. The Lord had finally gotten through to her. She was finally giving up the remaining hurts she felt to Him, and releasing it felt good. In letting everything go, so she also let go her worry for Stephen and Lisa. After Kate's and Dave's deaths, Rachel had always in the back of her mind worried about who would be the next to go, and when. She didn't want to leave them behind on Earth, but nor did she want them to leave her behind. Quinn's health had started to fail, and Rachel worried about him as well. He and Stephen died within six months of each other.
"We're down to four," Rachel told Lisa just a week after their brother's funeral.
Lisa nodded. Unfortunately, their sister-in-law had to move into a nursing home after Stephen's heart attack; she could no longer take care of herself, being blind and in poor health. Her four children had agonized over it, but eventually decided it was the best decision for everyone. Cole had aged well; his health was still fairly good, for which Rachel was grateful.
Thoughts of Stephen consumed Rachel. She missed his very presence in the room, the calming affect he had on people. She had to admit to herself finally that her greatest weakness was indeed her family. Whenever something happened to any of them, be it physical harm or emotional pain, Rachel found herself battling with God. She felt like she was back to square one; she just wanted her brother back. It was just a spiritual low, she knew, but it made her feel that much more inadequate that she could not fully accept God's sovereignty.
"Jenna and Mark are thinking about moving to Colorado," Lisa mentioned, talking about her daughter and son-in-law. "I'm not sure what to think about that."
"Winters are better there," Rachel replied. "It might do Jenna good to have a change of scenery. She needs it."
"Yeah. I would miss her a lot, though."
"You'd still see her. We didn't all used to live in Chicago, remember." She paused for a brief moment. "Rachel, I don't want to be alone."
The brunette turned to her sister, surprised. "Alone? You're not alone, Lisa. You'll never be alone."
"Logic doesn't help my heart."
Rachel nodded again in understanding. "I don't want to be alone, either."
She stood in the cemetery today, standing in front of Lisa's grave. Rachel knew she could not grieve for Lisa the same way she had for the others; Lisa had been nearly eighty when she died. Still, Rachel's heart ached for the loss of her sister.
"I hoped you wouldn't be the last one of us," Lisa admitted frailly, her bony hand reaching for her sister's. "I know how hard you are going to take being alone."
Lisa was in her bed at the nursing home, Rachel making her daily visit. Lisa's body was dying for it was old. They both knew her time would be coming shortly, and for once Rachel seemed more at peace about it.
"Lisa, I don't want you to keep suffering. I want you to go join everybody else, go be with God. Don't worry about me. I'll be joining you soon enough."
"I do worry," the blonde shook her head. "You have taken everyone's deaths so hard."
"So have you," Rachel insisted. "We all did, Lisa."
"But you let it keep hurting you. You could never fully get to the point where you could remember happily, without the pain of the fact that they were gone. I don't want you to keep doing that."
Slowly, Rachel lowered white lilies onto the ground. She wanted to bend down to talk to her sister, but her knees would never forgive her for it. Instead, she stayed upright, looking down on Lisa's grave and whispered a final goodbye to her.
All her siblings were buried in this cemetery. None of them were next to each other, but Rachel knew where they all were and could easily walk to them. She missed all six of them sorely today. For a great long period in her life, they had been her only family. They had been the ones to accept her when the world hadn't wanted her. She stood today without a single one of them left in her life, and a part of her felt a great void there.
Luckily she still had Cole. Of the seven O'Malley siblings and their spouses, they were the last two still alive, and thankfully they were both in decent enough health that they could both still take care of themselves and each other.
Cole grabbed her hand and gave it a tight squeeze. She looked over at his wrinkled face and smiled. He understood what she felt and he sympathized. If anything, she hoped that she and her husband could go together. The children would carry on the O'Malley stories, the laughter, the bond. Eventually, everyone would be reunited, the kids would meet the aunts and uncles they had heard so much about but didn't get to meet on Earth. Their family celebration in heaven would the largest one in the O'Malley family history.
Rachel looked towards the cloudless sky, knowing God was with her on this day and that He had been there all the other days. She was done burying her siblings. They all awaited her arrival now, and even if it took her years to get there, they would still be waiting.