Payback

Disclaimer: I do not own the O'Malleys. But I do wish I was part of their family.

Summary: She had been the last one to see them alive and hadn't been able to do anything to stop them from dying. Soon she would understand what it's like to die a painful, lonely death.

"This is nice." Stephen O'Malley remarked as he joined his two brothers in a booth at Sullivan's Bar and Grill for a rare boys only meal. It had been a strange occurrence for both he and Jack to have the same day off at the same time that Marcus was in town.

"Quiet." Jack agreed a little unsettled at the missing female voices of his sisters even amidst the sounds of the bar and the people playing pool behind them.

"What are the girls up to anyway?" Marcus asked curiously. When the four of them got together who knew what would happen.

"Lisa said something about going to see Bridesmaids." Stephen mentioned as he stole one of Jack's seasoned fries.

"I'm sure Kate loves that." Joked Marcus as he bit into his steak. Stephen laughed at the idea of their sister, the hostage negotiator watching a chick flick. Despite her petite stature and feminine appearance, she was well respected in the Chicago area for her ability to walk into any situation and diffuse it any way possible. But when Rachel, Lisa, and Jennifer were against her she didn't stand a chance.

There was an awkward silence as Jack didn't join in the laughter. "I don't think she went." He said tensely as he watched the matching grins of his brothers fade to looks of concern. It should have been expected, Marcus as leader of the family was very protective of his sisters, especially Kate. The two of them had been friends long before the rest of the them had arrived at the Trevor House. Stephen filled in as Kate's protector when Marcus O'Malley was out of town with his job as a US Marshal. As an EMT he had patched her up more times than he would have liked.

"Explain." Marcus demanded worried as he sat back in the booth. Jack was hesitant to comment on Kate's situation, when he was only guessing at what was bothering her. He knew the two of them would smother her until she gave up what was really going on. He knew his role in the family was the fun-loving, yet protective brother. He felt an obligation to protect her from Marcus and Stephen. They meant well but sometimes their helping wasn't what was needed. The situation last week had really shaken her up, he had seen it firsthand.

"She probably doesn't want the others to worry about her." He admitted slowly. "Kate likes her space." As the defender of the family, Kate was the first to one to offer help when one of them needed it. But she was reluctant to ask for help herself.

"We should go see her." Stephen decided. "I'll go." Jack declared with a sense of authority usually reserved for Marcus or Stephen, leaving no room for argument. His two older brothers were surprised, yet wisely agreed.

"Call us." Marcus asked seriously. "If I need to." Jack amended as he pulled on his coat and left some money to cover his part of the bill.

"What is he not saying?" Stephen wondered, his concern for Kate increasing. He had heard about the situation from last week that she had been involved in. She was not usually forth coming about her work, but she had been especially close mouthed. As much as he wanted to be the one to go see her, maybe it was best that Jack had gone. He was the one who could charm information out of the O'Malley women where he and Marcus couldn't.

"I hope she can shake it off." Marcus commented troubled. Over the twenty years they had been friends, there were few secrets between them. "I heard it was a hostage situation with two kids." He informed Stephen quietly.

"One of my buddies from EMS said both kids were dead as well as the mother when they arrived on t he scene." Stephen remarked calmly, yet the anger flashed in his eyes revealed what he thought about their sister Kate having to experience that first hand.

Jack made a quick stop at the corner market for some of Kate's favorite ice cream. He figured if he was going to get invited in he would need some leverage to negotiate with. Kate was a sucker for Moose Tracks ice cream. In typical Jack O'Malley style he also added some sundae toppings to his shopping basket before checking out.

Kate grumbled as the long expected ringing of the doorbell interrupted the seventh inning of the Cubs-Brewers game. Determined that whoever was at her door was probably an O'Malley and not going away, she resigned herself to answering the door. She opened it and was surprised to see Jack standing there. Before she could convince him to leave, he showed her the gallon of ice cream he had bought, and without a word ushered him in.

Jack sent her back to the couch to watch the game as he took over her kitchen to fix his famous sundaes. "What's the score?" He called out as he scooped the ice cream into two tall sundae dishes, before adding whipped cream, sprinkles, cherries, and nuts.

"3 to 1 Cubs, bottom of the seventh." Kate called back, surprised at his lack of prying at her staying in from girls' night out. She should have known though, prying wasn't Jack's style, he let Marcus and Stephen use that tactic. He was more laid back and patient, being there for you until you just told him what was going on. Seeing as he had been there when the hostage situation had gone sour last week, and he understood the emotion of that day she admitted she was sort of glad to see him.

"Did you see that play where Quentin climbed the wall to rob that homerun?" Jack asked as he handed a heaping sundae to his sister. Kate sat up to accept the treat. Jack's sundaes were as legendary as his sense of humor. "Saved the game for sure." She agreed, taking a bite. "Thanks." She said with a small smile. He grinned back, wanting to help his sister whatever way he could.

As they watched the game, Jack watched her. There were shadows under Kate's eyes, if he had to guess they were caused by the inevitable nightmares last week's event had triggered. She was pale and was exhausted as he had ever seen her. He contemplated calling in Marcus and Stephen but rejected that idea when he realized she had fallen asleep.

He turned off the television and placed the empty dishes in the sink. Jack moved Kate into a more comfortable position on the couch and covered her with a blanket. He checked the doors to make sure they were locked and turned off the lights before settling in on the chair across from Kate.

It was some time before he fell asleep. Worry about Kate made him think about the situation last week. He had heard the call come through on the radio and immediately turned away from his destination of the supermarket to check on his sister. She had been too shocked to say anything, a fact that had scared him. She allowed herself to be led to the ambulance and hadn't complained when her boss Jim had sent her home. Or to Jack's house, as he insisted seeing her state of distress. He insisted she stay the night, even offered her the spare bedroom for a few nights, but Kate being her stubborn self had left the next morning. Now he wished he had been more forceful with her, a little more like his brothers would have been.

The first thing Kate noticed the next morning was that she was not in her room. Nor was she in her pajamas, or even alone for that matter. Shaking off sleep she quietly went to fix a pot of coffee, careful not to wake up Jack who was sleeping uncomfortably on her chair.

For the first time in a week Kate felt refreshed; last night had been the first one with no nightmares. She knew she could call Marcus or Stephen and they would have stayed the night for as long as she needed. It was a hard habit to break, her self-sufficiency. Usually she could handle anything that came her way. But she had to admit that the Nichol's case was more than she could handle.

The images were so vivid in her mind, haunting her both day and night. Her hands and clothes covered in the blood of the two grandchildren that had perished at the hands of their grandfather. Sam Nichols had kidnapped his ex daughter in law and his grandkids and had shot them and she had been forced to watch. He had been a desperate man, but not insane. His son and wife and recently gotten a divorce with Lucy gaining full custody of the children. The son, Greg Nichols had been devastated when he got the news of their deaths. He had been staying at the family lake house in Wisconsin and had flown back

Tuesday, the day before the funerals. She still wondered what she could have done to have ensured a different outcome.

"How about some hoops tonight?" Jack startled her as he entered the kitchen, turning a chair around to sit and relax and watch Kate make breakfast. Though he appeared relaxed, inside he was anything but. He hadn't missed how she jumped at his sudden appearance. Or how she tried to hide how her hands shook as she poured his coffee. She still looked tired, even after a solid eight hours of sleep. Weary, he decided, was a better word to describe her. Almost to the point of exhaustion he noticed, not to mention she had a lost more than a few pounds that she didn't need to lose. As a firefighter, he was well trained to notice the small details.

"Really?" She said in disbelief. While basketball was the family sport, it wasn't Jack's first choice. When he didn't change his mind she agreed. "I have the swing shift tonight, one to nine pm." She informed him quietly, yet excited. She needed a way to break out of her funk.

"Let's meet at the gym at 10pm on Harrison." Jack suggested as he headed to the door to leave to take his shift at the firehouse. "Thanks for breakfast." He kissed her cheek and gave her a long hug as she walked him to the door.

"Thanks for warding off Marcus and Stephen." Kate replied gratefully. She knew it hadn't been an easy task persuading the two of them to back off.

"They're concerned Kate." Jack reminded her gently. "I know." She said as she shut the door behind her brother. She knew how concerned they were, how concerned they all were. It hadn't been easy to get out of last night's girls outing. She had pleaded fatigue and her sisters had allowed her that excuse, but they weren't fooled as judged by the amount of messages in her voice mail from her sisters. Two from Rachel, one from Lisa, and four from Jennifer. Sooner or later she would have to return their calls, but she didn't want that emotional deluge before going to work.

She still had three hours until she had to leave for work so she busied herself with cleaning her apartment and playing the radio and her favorite radio station loudly. She didn't always have time to be neat but liked to keep her home as clean as possible whenever she could. It helped her when she came home in the middle of the night and didn't trip over things lying around.

Jack ignored the missed calls and messages on his phone from Stephen and Marcus. He hoped he would have more to say after playing basketball with Kate tonight. He hoped he had softened her up with the ice cream last night so that she would confide in him after a grueling game of basketball. Kate was the toughest O'Malley to get to open up, her past leaving her with scars so painful that trust was a tough thing for Kate to do. Lisa would just vent out her emotions, Rachel would rationalize her feelings, and Jennifer would cry and allow herself to be comforted and let things go. Kate's way of dealing with things was to take out her anger on the basketball court. Jack didn't mind taking his occasional lumps as the poor sap that had to oppose her, but maybe he should consider finding her another hobby, one that was less physical, he thought with a grin. He laughed at the thought of Kate staying still long enough to pursue a hobby like scrapbooking.

"She hasn't returned any of your calls?" Marcus said with a sigh as he paced outside the Chicago office of the US Marshalls.

"It must be bad." Rachel remarked, hurting for their sister Kate as she relayed the information to Marcus. Rachel O'Malley was currently in Virginia with a family who had recently lost one of their children to leukemia. As a trauma psychologist, she found herself in demand all over the country. "I hope to be finished tonight, pick me up at the airport?" She asked even as she checked for flights back to Chicago on her blackberry.

"I'm considering a family page." He offered for Rachel's opinion. She knew he didn't take family pages lightly. They had been few and far between in the years since they became a family. Most of them on Kate's behalf. It was the burden of her job as a negotiator.

"Let's leave it till tomorrow." Rachel opined thoughtfully. "Jack's playing basketball with her tonight."

"I hope he survives." He commented with a chuckle, knowing his own struggles keeping up with Kate on the basketball court. "Keep me informed." He reminded Rachel as they hung up. He rubbed his hands over his face as he waited for his partner Quinn to exit the office.

"Everything okay?" Quinn asked as he met up with Marcus a few minutes later. "Kate." The one word answer that needed no explanation. Quinn knew how close the O'Malley clan was, even envied them for their closeness, but he knew that Kate often found herself in precarious positions, causing her brother and his partner reason to worry. If Marcus was worried, then it must be serious.

"Anything I can do?" He asked as they headed out for some lunch. "I'll let you know." Marcus replied tiredly, wishing he knew what to do himself.

The plan was set. He would do everything in his power to make her pay. She had been the last one to see them alive and hadn't been able to do anything to stop them from dying. Soon she would understand what it's like to die a painful, lonely death. It was the only thing that gave him a reason for getting up every morning. He set down the picture taken of the three of them just 2 weeks ago when they came to visit and left the hotel with one purpose in mind; to kill Kate O'Malley.

Jack had the day off but spent it avoiding his brothers and sisters. Marcus had told them all to back off for the day which left him feeling pressured to get Kate to open up before they were unleashed. He was afraid that if they pushed too hard, she would break or avoid them like the plague. He hadn't mentioned his fears to Marcus because of that fact.

He had seen Kate after the Nichol's situation and it had scared him. She simply fell apart, completely shell shocked by the weight of the tragedy. It wasn't the first time she had lost a hostage but to lose three at one time was grievous. When she had first come out of the building she had been covered in blood, much to his horror, but he was quickly informed it was the children's blood. She had been holding the two terrified children, shielding them from the sight of their mother's body when the grandfather suddenly started shooting. It was a miracle she hadn't gotten shot, but she hadn't been in the mood to count her blessings. Jack had pleaded with the head of the EMT staff to white out some details of the event from the logs to protect his brother Stephen. He didn't understand how Kate dealt with the things she faced in her job and still be sane. He would have retired a long time ago.

But he understood her need to do her job. Kate always had a sense of justice. She was the peacekeeper in Trevor House, countless times resolving conflicts before the house mother had to intervene. She kept others out of trouble, but didn't know how to avoid it herself. He remembered the time when he was 12 years old and one of the other boys, Steven, had accused him of taking his favorite baseball. Not only had Kate resolved that situation, listening to both sides and weighing the evidence, but she managed to mend that friendship as well. It turned out that another boy Chris had found the ball in the backyard. And at the Trevor House where personal possessions were rare, reluctantly gave it back with a look from Kate. She was intimidating even back then. That was the beginning of their long friendship before they became O'Malley's.

"Could this day get any worse?" muttered an angry and dejected Kate. Not only had she been on desk duty today, though it was not unexpected with IA running a thorough investigation into the Nichol's case but she was told by her boss to take the next week off. After debriefing her fellow officers of open cases she had pending, she reluctantly left work. She headed to the park to burn off some steam before meeting up with Jack to play basketball.

She was almost running late to meet Jack when she got to her apartment. She had lost track of time at the park and now barely had time to change before heading to the gym. She was looking forward to playing ball with Jack, she didn't spend nearly enough time with him, she missed his contagious good humor. But she knew at the end there would be a serious chat.

It was the only thing that kept the rest of the family from breaking down her door. She wouldn't even know where to start in explaining how affected she was from last week's tragedy. Should she start with the nightmares she had every night of being covered in blood, and seeing their faces every time she closed her eyes? Maybe she should explain why she kept flinching at loud noises, imaging the sound of the gun going off over and over again? Could they understand her sudden fear of the dark and not knowing what lie beyond what she could not see? The screams of kids she couldn't protect, three people who had lost their lives, who never had a chance. But mostly, she wondered how she had survived that standoff.

Speaking of lights hadn't she left her hall light on that morning? It had become a habit so it would illuminate most of her apartment as soon as she walked through the door and could dispel her fears of imminent danger.

Maybe Jack had turned it off when he left? She thought puzzled as she paused to withdraw her keys from her purse.

She quickly unlocked the door and reached for the light switch when she felt herself being pulled off balance into the darkness. Her purse and phone scattered away from her taking away any way to call for help and her Mace. She desperately wished her boss hadn't made her leave her gun at the office. Instinct kicked in and Kate struggled to remember the defense techniques she had learned in the self-defense class Stephen had enrolled her and Lisa in last Christmas. With luck she managed to land a hard kick into his midsection, causing him to let her go.

Wincing as she felt the bruising on her wrist, she stumbled to the door but she wasn't quick enough as a quick pull on her ankle had her crashing to the floor painfully. Desperate now, she kept thrashing about hoping to disrupt his plan enough to convince him to leave. She wasn't going to be a helpless victim. She managed a few glancing blows with her feet even as she felt her strength waning. He must have at least 70 pounds on me and at least 6ft3.' She catalogued in her mind; the information would be useful later when she would have to inform her family and her boss what had happened.

Grunting he knew he needed a better plan. This lady was a lot tougher than she looked. He couldn't risk getting caught now when he needed to carry his plan out. For Lucy, Gracie, and Joey's sake. He also couldn't risk her seeing him. Without a second thought, he managed to drag her into the living room. Kate felt her skin rubbing across her carpet, the burning sensations making her more alert as she bit her lip to keep from crying out.

She kept trying to get up so he timed a well placed kick to her face that left her dazed. Taking advantage of that fact he pulled the dining room china cabinet down upon her showering her with glass and china. The weight of the piece pinned her down and the cabinets landed a striking blow to her head, leaving her motionless.

He managed to buy himself a few extra minutes with her out cold so he set out to trash the place to make it look like a random incident. The last thing he needed was to have the police start looking for connections. He knew the most obvious place to start would be with the case last week. Next time he would have to be more prepared. Justice would be served and she would pay. He went out the same way he came in, through the back door and slipped away into the dark alley and down the street before daring to hail a cab back to the hotel.

Jack allowed her ten minutes to be late; expecting she probably got tied up at work or stuck in traffic. "Gives me more time to practice." He said grimacing as his shot bounced off the rim and he had to chase it down. He was sure tonight's game would be over quickly despite the fact that he had the day off and Kate had put in a full day of work.

He was sweating heavily before he realized she was now twenty minutes late. Thinking he missed her call while he was shooting free throws he walked to the bleachers to check his phone. No missed messages. It was unlike Kate to be late and not call but the events of the last week had totally ravaged her system. She was acting so unlike herself that he wouldn't be surprised if she fell asleep. Hopefully she would forgive him if he woke her up.

One ring. Two rings. Three rings. After the sixth ring it went straight to voicemail. Now he was concerned. Kate was a light sleeper, every time he had tried to sneak out of Trevor House she always managed to hear him, even though they lived at opposite ends of the hall. He quickly dialed another number and added his emergency code to it. Kate wouldn't forgive him easily if this was a false alarm, but the churning in his stomach was enough to convince him to make the call.

"What's up Jack?" Marcus called less than a minute later. "How's Kate?" He added before Jack could reply.

"She didn't show up Marcus." Jack stated seriously. "I'm heading to her apartment now." He declared as he rushed out of the gym and into his car.

"I'll meet you there." His older brother agreed immediately. "Call Stephen." Jack requested, trying not to panic. Marcus didn't like the direction the conversation was headed. If Jack was concerned enough to call in their brother, a paramedic, then he was going to pull rank and use his siren to blaze his way to Kate's door.

Jack didn't bother to wait for his brothers to arrive. If Kate was in danger every minute was precious. He pulled his car to the front of the apartment, not caring that he was parked illegally. He noticed her car parked in her spot, a fact that did not ease his worry. She was home and not answering her phone. As a fireman, the list of possibilities was not a pleasant one. He glanced up at the dark house, noticing not a light was to be seen from the street. Since the incident last week he knew she had been sleeping with one or more lights on and bounded up her stairs two at a time, adrenaline and fear coursing through him.

He was used to breaking into houses, but it wasn't necessary as the door was unlocked. "Kate?" He called out as he opened the door. He ran his hand over the near wall to find a light. A quick flick of the switch illuminated the apartment. Furniture and things were strewn about. Before he could survey the damage a moan from the other room grabbed his attention.

"Kate!" Jack shouted more urgently this time. Whoever had trashed her apartment was long gone and he wasted no more caution searching for them. He stopped short when he turned into the living room. All he could see were legs trapped underneath the china cabinet, he had helped pick out and move in to her apartment. He hurried around to the front to reassure her that he was there and checked her pulse. Her breathing was shallow and coming out in quick, painful breaths. Blood streaked down her cheek.

"I'm going to lift this off of you, okay?" he asked his sister. She grunted softly in reply. "Come on Kate, stay with me." He pleaded with her as he tried to move the heavy object off of her. His muscles strained with the effort as he managed to lift it a few inches off her body, but she was unable to crawl out, as she drifted in and out of consciousness.

"Where was Marcus?" He wondered impatiently what was keeping his brothers. Though it had only been ten minutes since he had called Marcus, time had slowed down since he found Kate. Even though he could move the china cabinet no further he kept it raised to help her breath and ease the pain from her back.

"Jack!" yelled Marcus as he tore into the apartment, Stephen right behind him. "In the living room." He shouted back relieved that finally Kate could get the help she needed.

The two O'Malley men rushed through the debris following Jack's voice. They quickly grabbed the cabinet and helped Jack push it away. "Jack, hold her neck, Marcus help me roll her over." Stephen calmly took control over the situation, though the fear in his stomach was enough to make him want to vomit.

This wasn't just another victim. This was his sister. Kate who had listened to him countless times over coffee and blueberry pancakes as she coaxed the details of a bad shift out of him, Kate who left him voicemails when he hadn't called her enough, Kate who could kick his butt in bowling, and Kate who could take care of herself no matter the situation.

While Stephen checked her vitals and catalogued her injuries, Jack called 911 and Marcus sent the emergency page to the rest of the family.