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DISCLAIMER: Not I, but Dee Henderson.
Before we continue on with our story, it may be in your best interest to know and try whole-heartedly to comprehend everything you can about this complex and close family. There are seven original O'Malley members – all of them orphans. Marcus, Kate, Rachel, Stephen, Lisa, Jack and Jennifer. They met in an orphanage called Trevor House and grew up there together – sticking up for each other like real brothers and sisters would. Once they were old enough they legally changed their name to O'Malley, and even after two decades the group still remained incredibly tight.
Soon enough the whole family found spouses as their separate cases brought them together – Jennifer, a pediatrician, was married to Tom a fellow doctor, then Kate, a hostage negotiator was married to Dave, an FBI agent (and both are now happily living with their sweet little daughter, Holly); Lisa, a forensic pathologist, married Quinn, A U.S. Marshall and Marcus' partner, Jack, a firefighter, married Cassie, a fellow firefighter who was severely hurt – Rachel, a trauma physiologist was married to Cole, Jack's boss, Marcus, a US Marshall, was married to Shari, a politician, and finally Stephen, a paramedic and carpenter, was married to Meghan, a blind ER Nurse.
Sadly, Jennifer fell sick with cancer and after a long and hard battle with her family at every inning, she lost. She left behind brothers and sisters, husband and in-laws torn up by her death, for she was the most beloved of the O'Malley clan.
And now, reader, I hope you understand just a little bit about this unique family, not created of blood, but of love.
So, dear reader, read on.
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Jack broke away from his family and ran to the back of the massive van. Stephen watched him warily, raising an eyebrow as he nudged his brother Marcus, who conveniently happened to be standing close enough. "So what's with the van?" He had been wanting to ask Jack ever since he'd showed up, but he hadn't quite had the chance. The dynamics of the family had already separated the girls from the guys, Kate, Shari and Meghan were laughing about something, Tom, Cole and Quinn were murmuring among themselves, and Rachel, Lisa and Cassie were trying to guess what Jack was lugging out of his van.
Marcus grunted, but a small smile glimmered at the quarter of his mouth. "Arrive in style Jack does not."
Stephen tilted his head to the side, his voice taking on a grim tone. "Now, just because the van looks like it's about a century old…"
Marcus gave a snort of laughter. "Did he tell you the story?" They watched as their brother lifted out massive covered… things. To tell the truth, Stephen couldn't even guess what it was when his brother Jack was concerned.
"Knowing Jack, he wouldn't have rented this – he would have bought it," Stephen conceded.
But Marcus's answer surprised him more than a little. "Not Jack – Cassie."
Stephen's eyebrow shot up.
"It already smells of smoke," Marcus confirmed.
Stephen shook his head, albeit smiling. "Those two were meant for each other."
Marcus shook his head bemused. "That's exactly what I said. Jack grinned like he was proud of it while Cassie looked blankly at me for a minute and then smiled, as if just realizing she was turning into Jack more and more every day."
They watched as the pile on the lawn grew slowly bigger. "Think we should help him?" Stephen asked the question half-heartedly, for he had no desire whatsoever to help Jack try to tug who-knows-what out of his massive white van.
"Nah, he deserves to do a little hard work."
"That's what I thought."
Just then Shari strolled over to where they were standing and leaned her head against her husband's arm before he wrapped it around her shoulders comfortably.
"Hello, Mrs. O'Malley." Stephen smiled down at her, entirely welcoming his extended family with pleasure.
Shari smiled back, comfortably resting in Marcus's embrace. "Hi, Stephen." She turned to gaze up tenderly into her husband's face as her voice softened. "Hello, Marcus."
Marcus kissed her forehead and squeezed her gently before looking back up at Stephen. "I'm still getting used to the title 'Mrs. O'Malley' on Shari."
Shari smiled sweetly up at him. "I'm still getting used to being married," she teased.
Marcus chortled and gave her a hug and a brief kiss. "Same here. No more late chess games with Quinn," he teased back.
"Even if you weren't married, Quinn is married to your sister, so fat chance of that either," Shari countered.
Stephen smiled at their bantering back and forth. This was how family reunions were supposed to go. He glanced over to where Meghan and Kate were talking – every so often Kate glanced over to where he stood, and it gave him the feeling that he was the subject that they were talking about. It was time to desert his brother with his wife and time to rescue his own. He nodded to Marcus – who wasn't paying him any attention anyway – and set off towards Kate and Meghan.
He strode forward and eyed his sister Kate almost warily, reaching over to alert Meghan he was there. "Hey there, pretty lady." It was almost as if she could see. He watched in fascination as she turned slowly, a light smile shining on her face, her hostess ability shining through.
"Hi, Stephen." Meg reached out to take his hand and squeezed it tightly in hers. "Kate and I were just talking about you."
Stephen grinned as he gently entwined their fingers. So his suspicions were confirmed. "Really? I wonder what about me…" His words were enough to make her giggle, and Kate wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
Just then Jack trotted over, tugging Cassie along by the hand. "The dynamic duo is back together again, bro!" he shouted, greeting Stephen with a slap on the shoulder.
Stephen grinned back at him as he turned to Kate again. "So Kate, how's little Holly doing?" He looked at his little niece, clinging to Rachel's hand as the small girl chatted to both Rachel and Lisa. Cole had drifted over to Rae and now joined in their conversation.
Dave overheard this and strode forward. "Growing up splendidly – and happily the exact replication of her mother – she's gorgeous."
Kate blushed uncomfortably and Stephen turned to Dave with a teasing grin. "Who, Kate or Holly?"
Everyone within earshot laughed loudly as Kate and Dave replied with different answers.
Quinn glanced round and mentally counted the heads. "Who we missing?"
"Adam and Sara. They definitely wanted to be involved in our interesting reunions," Dave volunteered.
"Well, while we wait, there's drinks around… pretty much everywhere, cold sodas, lemonade, you name it. Then after we're all refreshed from your long trip and Adam and Sara come along, who wants to play baseball?"
Everyone agreed, including Holly and Meghan. "I'll sit out and take care of Holly," Meghan volunteered quickly.
"You sure?" asked Stephen, not wanting to leave Meghan out of the games.
"Definitely. You go have fun, okay?" With a gentle laugh she rested her hand against his chest. Come on and lead me to where is a safe place for us to sit."
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Now they were back into pairs – Quinn shook out a blanket, sat down and patted the space in front of him. Lisa looked at him for a moment. "You expect me to sit on you?"
Quinn laughed. "Not exactly…" He grabbed her around the middle and flung her down before she could say or do anything, and he caught her with a gentle whoop.
Lisa snuggled closer to Quinn, resting her head against his shoulder, his chin brushing her hair. What a perfect way to spend an afternoon… Lisa remembered thinking lazily to herself as Quinn cradled her against his chest, swaying her slowly and lightly with the wind, the arms under her firm muscles. She was overcome with a sudden burst of melancholy, looking around at her family laughing and playing with the petting zoo Stephen had set up, and their small little niece. Jen… the day is almost perfect. It would be so complete if you were here with me. Her eyes drifted to Tom and felt love and slight sadness radiate from him. It's so hard on Tom. I can't imagine what he's thinking while little Holly runs around him, eyes bright, so small... Lisa smiled when Holly reached Tom and wrapped her small little fingers around his large ones. She had to swallow the sudden lump that came to her throat as she watched Tom smile slowly, then sweep his small niece up into his arms, Holly laughing the whole time. Tom was go good with kids. Quinn tightened his grip and lowered his head, unnoticed by anyone else.
"Are you all right, Lizzy?"
Lisa didn't say anything, just sighed deeply and leaned closer against her husband, seeking his comforting strength. Quinn seemed to understand at least somewhat, and gently stroked her hair. This gentle tender motion made tears roll unchecked down her cheeks. Quinn merely tightened his grip. She was so grateful for his silence. How she missed Jen. There was a dull ache for her sister that seemed to grow at some times, and diminish at others, but it never went completely away.
Finally, when she felt composed, she turned to the man she had trusted her heart to and gave a small, painful smile. "I miss Jen today, Quinn."
Quinn sighed and gently rested his head against hers. "That's not true." Lisa was about to protest when he continued. "You miss her every day, Lizzy. She was apart of you. More than 20 years of memories between you two – how could you not feel anything at all? You would be heartless if you did – and you're so full of love, Lizzy, so full… oh sweetheart, it's more than okay to feel this way; I understand." He wrapped her in his arms tightly, turning her to give her a strengthening and full hug.
"I knew you would," Lisa whispered past the bowling ball in her throat as Quinn continued to cradle her in his arms.
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Rachel sighed as she gazed at Lisa and Quinn, leaning back on her hands as she sat on the picnic blanket.
"Do they remind you of something?" came a deep, teasing gentle voice from behind her.
"Depends," Rae answered lightly, glancing up at her husband Cole. She smiled up at him and he smiled back.
"Yeah, like what?"
Rachel simply grinned, but it was the grin that did it. Cole quickly sat down behind her and wrapped his hands around her waist, lifting her sideways so that she sat on his lap. With a quiet giggle Rachel complied, wrapping her arms comfortably around his neck as Cole kept his hands around her waist.
Cole leaned forward and gently, softly, with smiling eyes and mouth, kissed Rachel. Rachel kissed him back, the stress rolling off of her like water rolling off a duck's back. "Are you ready for a relaxing break?" Cole murmured gently, burrowing his nose in her neck and inhaling deeply. She smelled like strawberries – a perfect smell for this lady.
Rachel smiled back and gave him a brief hug. "More than ready," she promised.
Though they had taken a month long honeymoon, Rachel had gone almost straight back to work – which meant traveling, depending on the nearest disaster was. She had just managed to get back to Chicago a few days earlier, where she and Cole respectively lived. So far her work had done a fairly good job of handing her the disasters nearer to home, but occasionally she was back to traveling, – such as this sudden trip to Thunder Bay - at least for a few weeks. Cole's job, however, demanded less of his attention – though it seemed to expand every night he worked.
Just then Jack jumped up in front of his family and shouted, "The baseball game is on! Boys against girls!" he added for good measure. As a result everyone turned to the driveway and watched as Stephen and Meghan went to greet Sara and Adam, Kate, Rachel and Dave following close behind them.
Stephen and Meghan reached the car first and Stephen shook Adam's hand as Meghan walked carefully around to Sara's side to greet her friend.
Adam enthusiastically shook Stephen's hand back and gave him a slap on the shoulder. "So we're running a bit late," he apologized with a grin on his face. "Sara didn't have anything to wear."
Sara, who overheard her husband, smiled. "I didn't find anything suitable for the occasion to wear," she corrected.
Kate walked over to her sister-in-law and pulled her into a hug, after Sara had hugged Meghan firmly. "Hey, Sara! How's the writing going?"
"Fantastic – "
"If she goes any faster she's going to hurt herself. Which is why she needs a break," Adam told them firmly.
Sara made a face but laughed. Dave came around and gave his sister a brief hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Adam keeping you in line, Squirt?" he managed to say with a straight look on his face. Kate elbowed him in the ribs and he winced. "Kate…"
Sara laughed. "I love you guys so much. You're willing to stand up for anyone in this family."
Kate squeezed her tightly. "And you and Adam are totally part of it."
Sara blinked back tears of gratitude. "How's Holly?"
"She's gorgeous," Dave put in.
"She's growing," Kate said at the exact same time as Dave.
Everyone laughed at them and Stephen and Meghan stepped aside to let the group through to join the others.
Jack grinned. "So who wants to play baseball?"