Word Count: 3,203
Spoilers: Up to A Man Walks In A Bar...
Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS and never will. No copyright infringement intended.
Characters/Pairings: Rachel Cranston, Kate Todd, Tony, Gibbs, Ziva, Abby, McGee
Summary: Rachel Cranston misses her sister more than she thought possible. Her life with Kate and her life after her sister's death are completely different.
Rachel Todd was six years old when her younger sister, Caitlin, was born. Up until that point, she was the only girl in the family. Before her younger sister came along, Rachel had been surrounded by brothers – Eleven year old Jack, eight year old Aaron, and four year old Derek.
She was the first one to start calling Caitlin by her nickname, Katie. “Katie is the best little sister ever,” Rachel informed her mother one day when they were eating lunch.
Anna Todd smiled at her daughter. “I’m glad, Rach.” She was happy that Rachel had taken to the new baby. The mother of five chopped up the vegetables she was giving the kids for lunch.
When a three year old Kate began freaking out about starting pre-school, nine year old Rachel decided to have a talk with her. “I’m scared, Rachel.” Katie was shaking and her bottom lip was trembling. Her eyes were welling up with tears that she refused to let fall.
Rachel grabbed her hand and walked over to the couch. Both girls sat down. “You’ll love school, Katie. I promise. It’s really fun and you get to learn lots of new things!”
Katie leaned against her. “Are you sure?”
“Okay, let’s go. Come on, Mommy. I wanna go to school,” Katie informed Anna. She grabbed her mother’s hand and tried to skip off.
“Caitlin, wait a minute. We have to drop your brothers and sisters off at school first.” Anna gave her a smile.
Neither Kate nor Rachel would forget that day. They had been close before that, but they were practically inseparable afterwards.
On the day of Kate’s thirteenth birthday, nineteen year old Rachel skipped her classes and drove home to celebrate with them. Her younger sister had become a teenager, and it was a pretty important birthday.
“You didn’t have to come, Rach.” Kate hated that her sister had decided to come home early for her birthday.
“Of course I did. It’s not every day that my little sister turns thirteen. And besides, it’s Friday. I’m only missing one day of classes.” Rachel grabbed Kate’s hand and squeezed it.
Kate grinned at her and then hugged Rachel. The two ran upstairs and started discussing their plans for the day. They were going to go out to dinner with their parents and brothers later, but they could still do whatever they wanted beforehand.
Rachel and Kate decided to head out to the mall at noon. Rachel let her younger sister drag her into one of her favorite stores. By the time the two Todd sisters left, their feet were hurting them.
Rachel groaned. “I never want to go shopping for that long again.”
Kate laughed. “Don’t lie. You love it, Rach.”
“True, little sister. But you have to let me complain! Where’s in the fun in shopping if we can’t complain?”
Both girls dissolved into laughter and then collapsed on the couch. They put their feet up on the table, something they usually weren’t allowed to get away with. However, Anna was in the kitchen baking a cake for Kate and their father was still working.
The years passed by faster than anyone expected. When Rachel met Michael Cranston, she knew he was the one for her. She brought her teacher boyfriend home to meet the family only three months after they began dating.
“He is so amazing, Rach. You’re perfect for each.” Sixteen year old Kate smiled at her older sister. She liked Mike. He was nice and treated Rachel well. That was always a good quality in a man. And if the Todds didn’t like Rachel’s (or Kate’s) boyfriends, he was usually gone. Rachel especially valued Kate’s opinion. She trusted her younger sister with everything.
“I am so glad you feel that way! I think I’m going to marry him, Kate.” Rachel had never felt this way before about any of her previous boyfriends.
Kate uncharacteristically let out a squeal and hugged her. “I am so happy for you right now, you have no idea.”
The first person Rachel called upon getting engaged to Michael? Was Kate. “He proposed! He actually did it. Mike got down on one knee and asked me to marry him and I said yes!”
Kate literally screamed into the phone, but she’d deny it later. “Yes! That is amazing news!”
“Kinda loud there, Katie. But thank you!” Rachel winced at the sheer volume of her sister’s voice. That had been extremely loud and shrill, even over the phone.
“So, have you guys set a date yet?”
Rachel shook her head and then realized Kate couldn’t see it. “Not yet. He only just proposed tonight. But it’s going to be soon. Kate, I want you to be my maid of honor. You up for that job?”
“Of course I am! I would love to be your maid of honor!” Kate was grinning from ear to ear. She couldn’t believe her sister was getting married.
When Kate graduated from high school, Rachel and Mike were the first ones to arrive at the house. None of the Todd brothers had showed up yet.
“You’ve grown up so fast, Kate. I still remember the day you were born. One of the only really clear memories from when I was six.” Now she was twenty-four and about to get married, while Kate was eighteen and graduating from high school. How had life gone by that quickly?
“Stop getting all nostalgic on me, Rach. Mom and Dad have been doing it for days now since I’m their baby and it’s driving me crazy.” Kate was smiling, though.
“I can’t help it. I’m sorry, Katie!” She wasn’t sorry, however. Rachel was probably going to cry at one point and she didn’t even care. In fact, Mike had even offered his shirt for her to cry on, which was just one of the sweetest things he had ever said. In fact, that had already sent her into tears.
The section that the Todd family was in at the football stadium for the graduation was the loudest section of them all. Kate was embarrassed and turned beet red, but she’d probably never see any of her classmates again. Unless she went to a high school reunion, but she doubted that would happen. Kate never wanted to return to this school again. She was glad to be gone.
A year later, Rachel’s wedding day finally arrived. “You nervous at all? Because you shouldn’t be, Rachel.” Kate gave her an encouraging smile.
“I’m actually not nervous at all. Mike and I have been together for a long time. He’s my soul mate and I am definitely ready to marry him.” Rachel straightened out her dress.
“Caitlin, you better wait awhile before you get married. I can’t take my baby getting married just yet.”
“Don’t worry, Mom. I’m not planning on getting married for a long time. I want to have a career first.”
“And there’s nothing wrong with that,” Rachel informed both her mother and younger sister.
“Of course there isn’t. Katie is definitely independent.” Anna was proud of her both of her daughters for being independent. That meant they were strong.
About half an hour before the ceremony, the Todd women got a little bit emotional about Rachel getting married and burst into tears. Rachel’s mascara was running down her face in black streaks. “I was hoping to prevent this. Kate, this is your fault!”
“No, it’s yours!” Mascara was also running down Kate’s face. She wasn’t normally like this, but it wasn’t every day her big sister got married.
Anna sighed. “I’ll fix your make-up. I told you both that waterproof make-up was the way to go, but neither of you listened to me.” She smiled at them both and wiped away her own tears.
Kate had just joined NCIS when Rachel learned she was pregnant with her and Mike’s first child. “I don’t know if I can handle this. I’ve wanted to be a mom for a long time, but what if I mess this up?”
“You’re not going to mess this up, Rach. You were so good with me when I was growing up. And Derek too, of course. You took care of us when Mom and Dad or Jack and Aaron couldn’t. You’re going to be a great mother.”
Rachel leaned her head against the cool bottle of water in her hands to stave off the nausea and grinned. She loved having these phone conversations with Kate. They always made her feel better, and the psychiatrist did the same for Kate sometimes when her younger sister lost confidence. “Thanks a lot, Kate. I appreciate this. And you’re definitely going to be the baby’s godmother and the best aunt ever.”
“Looking forward to it.” And then the conversation turned towards Tony DiNozzo and his irritating yet amusing antics.
Kate was away with NCIS solving a murder when Rachel gave birth to daughter Alexandra Elizabeth Cranston, but the new aunt came to visit Allie as soon as she was able to.
About two years later, Rachel got the phone call that shattered her world. When she heard the words “Kate’s dead” from her father, she dropped her cell and sank to the floor. She couldn’t process anything beyond that, and the psychiatrist was forever grateful Michael picked up the phone and talked to her father.
Rachel rushed to her and Mike’s bedroom and then refused to get out of bed. She let her husband take care of their toddler. She felt horrible about pretty much abandoning her daughter, but Rachel didn’t know what to do.
“We need to go to the funeral, Rachel,” tried Mike. He was extremely worried about his wife. She had retreated into herself since learning the news about Kate’s death.
“I’m not going.”
“I said I’m not going, Mike. It hurts way too much and I can’t do it!’ With that, she burst into sobs again and buried her head underneath her pillow. At least it muffled the sobs a little bit.
Mike sighed. “Fine, but I’m going. And I’m taking Allie with me. She needs to say good-bye to her aunt.”
“Whatever.” It hurt Rachel to say, but she didn’t want to say good-bye to Kate. How was she supposed to go on without her little sister? They had been the closest out of all five Todd siblings. How was she supposed to deal with their brothers alone?
The entire time Mike and Allie are gone, all Rachel does is get up to go to the bathroom and cry for the sister she’ll never see again. It feels like a hole has opened up in her heart and it’ll never be closed again.
By her third week in bed, Mike has had enough of his wife dealing with Kate’s death this way. “Up and at ‘em, Rachel.”
“Mike, I love you, but leave me alone,” Rachel groans.
“Rachel Michelle Todd Cranston, get out of the bed now!”
“Okay, I’m up.” Rachel quickly jumped out of the bed and tried to care about what her husband was going to tell her next.
“Rach, I love you. So much. And I know you miss Kate, but you can’t keep acting like this. She wouldn’t want you for this. You still have me and Allie and your parents and brothers and nieces and nephews. Live for us. We need you back, Baby.” Mike was in tears, and normally he’d be wiping them away, but he wanted to get through to his wife.
“I just don’t know what to do next.” Rachel missed work and taking care of Allie and being with her husband. That day, she made a silent vow to do better for her family. They needed her, and that was what was important.
“I know you don’t. But I’m going to try and help you. I think it’s always going to hurt you, but you gotta move on.”
“I know I do.”
“I’ll be with you every step of the way. Why don’t you go get a shower? I’m sure you’ll feel better. I know you haven’t had one in a few days.”
“Okay.” Rachel smiled and then kissed her husband. She rushed to the bathroom to take a shower. And it did make her feel a little bit better. One step at a time.
Thirteen months after Kate died, Rachel and Mike welcomed their second child. Upon learning of her pregnancy, Rachel’s first instinct had been to call Kate and tell her the good news. When she realized what she was doing halfway through dialing, she hung up and retreated to her bedroom. Rachel sat and cried on the floor for a few hours that night.
Rachel and Mike’s second daughter was named for the aunt she’d never get to meet. Caitlin Rose Cranston was quickly nicknamed Lin since trying to call her Katie or Kate just made Rachel want to die every time she heard them.
Six years after Kate died, Rachel decided to profile Kate’s old team. She was still missing her sister – That pain had never faded – and wanted to talk to them. She was also curious about them personally. In the two years Kate had worked at NCIS, Rachel had heard so much about Gibbs, Tony, Abby, McGee, and Ducky.
No one disappointed her – Tony was exactly as Kate described, although grown up a little. And in love with Ziva, although not ready to admit it. Even though none of them wanted to talk to her, they still did it. And they talked about Kate.
The team was clearly a damaged mess and Kate’s death was still an open wound to some of them, but Rachel got some much needed closure she had been looking for for the past six years.
When she went home, the psychiatrist cried over her sister and then baked Kate’s favorite type of cookies for the first time in a long time. And it felt good to Rachel. It didn’t hurt; it just felt right.
The anger and sadness over Kate’s death would never really go away, but Rachel felt that she could actually start to move on for the first time. She was always going to miss her sister. That was something that never would change, but at least it wouldn’t be hanging over her anymore.
Mike noticed a change in his wife when he got home from work. “You talked to Kate’s old team? How’d that go?”
Rachel beamed. “Well, they’re just as Kate described. And I’m great. Awesome, even.”
Even eight year old Allie and five year old Lin noticed that their mother was acting differently, and they were secretly glad for it.
Kate’s death had been hanging over Rachel for six years, but for the first time, she could think of her sister without it hurting or wanting to die herself.
As cliché as it was, life now held a new meaning for Rachel and she couldn’t wait to see what happened next. To quote another cliché, it was like the world was brighter now.
Rachel definitely wanted to talk to the NCIS team again in different circumstances. After realizing she had been Kate’s sister, Tony had cried a little and then rushed off to the bathroom, citing “allergies” for the tears. She wasn’t sure if McGee and Ducky had found out, but it seemed like Gibbs had known immediately.
She looked forward to her next visit.
But first, Rachel had to take her daughters to visit Kate’s grave. In all the years that her sister had been dead, she was unable to visit because of the pain. And Mike had never gone back either, so the girls had never met their aunt. Allie and Lin had just heard some occasional stories from their grandparents and uncles, never from Rachel.
There was a lot for Rachel to tell her daughters, and she was going to start now. It was the least she could do.
Rachel took a deep breath and grinned from ear to ear. She began to tell her daughters about Kate’s birth and what she remembered from that day.
She was actually in tears from laughter, not sadness by the time she was done telling them stories. Rachel still had a lot more to tell Allie and Lin, but she’d save those stories for later. No use in giving them up all now. They didn’t make her sad anymore, just happy. Kate had been happy when she died and that meant everything to Rachel. Including the fact that Kate’s murderer was dead and would never be able to hurt anyone again.
About a year or so after their first meeting, Rachel brought Mike and their daughters along to visit Kate’s old team.
“Lin, you look a lot like Aunt Kate. So does your mom.” Tony DiNozzo smiled at Kate’s niece.
“Thanks, Agent DiNozzo. Mommy’s told us a lot about Aunt Katie. She seems awesome.”
“She definitely was awesome. Aunt Kate was one of my best friends. Your mom’s told you a lot about her? Well, we have stories too. You want to hear them?”
“You sure you want to?” Rachel beamed at Tony. She was glad he was making this much effort with the kids. Kate’s nieces and nephews had meant a lot to it, and it was sweet that Tony was trying to bond with them.
“Of course.” Tony walked over to the couch, and Allie and Lin followed him. Ziva sat down next to her husband and laughed at some of the stories he was telling the girls.
After getting bored and wandering away for a little while, Ziva found Rachel at the grill. Rachel was glad that Gibbs had decided to throw this barbecue. It was a celebration for Abby and McGee’s impending wedding. “I’d like to thank you for your visit. It changed everything. Tony talks about Kate more. So does the whole team. And I can tell it hurts them less.”
“You don’t have to thank me, Ziva. It was more for my benefit than theirs, but it does hurt less.” There were still days Rachel refused to get out of bed, but Kate’s death didn’t hurt as badly anymore. And the bad days were few and far between.
“You wanted closure. Nothing wrong with that.” Gibbs flipped the steak and then added hot dogs to the flames.
“You did get me thinking about Timmy and me getting back together, and now here we are.” Abby hugged Rachel.
“Well, I’m glad. You two seem really happy together. And your team is still damaged beyond belief, but you’re still making it work.”
Rachel would forever be grateful that she decided to analyze Kate’s old team.
In Gibbs, Ducky, Tony, Ziva, Abby, and McGee, she found lifelong friendships. And that was something Kate would be happy about it.
Rachel’s hurt over Kate’s death was never going to heal fully, but at least she had found these people and had her family.
That was all she could have asked for. Rachel and Kate had been the only Todd sisters and the best of friends.
And it meant everything to Rachel that Kate’s team had accepted her into their family and kept Kate’s memory alive.