A/N: I would like to dedicate this chapter to my granddaddy, who passed on 8/17/11. You'll be missed.


April 26, 2012

Early in the morning four days after Rocky and Jesse's engagement, the couple sat with Rafe by Charlie's bedside. All three were weary, but none of them could leave, not just yet. The night before, Charlie's already labored breathing had worsened and, with the doctors saying the end was imminent, they had stayed through the night to say their final goodbyes.

"It's okay, Dad," Rocky whispered again, squeezing his hand. "We know you're tired. It's okay to go. We'll be fine."

Rafe leaned over and covered their hands with his. "Yeah, Dad, you don't have to worry about us. We have each other, and we'll all be okay," he said. "It won't be the same without you, but we'll be all right."

"I'll take care of them both for you, Charlie," Jesse chimed in, his voice rough. "They're my family. I won't let anything bad happen to them."

They had said these words, and variations of them, so many times during the night that it had become almost like a script. Never, though, were the words false. Slowly through the night, they felt him slipping away, and now they could feel that he was almost gone.

"I love you, Dad," Rocky told the shrunken man in the bed. "I'm going to sing our lullaby again, okay?"

She began to sing, her voice steady and soothing in the hushed room. The slow beat of the heart monitor kept time to the melody: beep, beep, beep. It faltered, along with Charlie's breathing, but Rocky never did. Her lilting voice continued, determined to finish the song even as her father sighed out his final breath.

As the monitor flatlined, she sang the last note and then leaned down to kiss her dad's forehead. "Goodbye, Daddy," she told him. "I love you."

Rafe, with tears streaming down his face, took her place by the bed as she moved to wrap Jesse in her arms. She could feel his tears on her shoulder, but her own eyes remained dry. She rubbed his back, telling him it was okay, and then moved aside to comfort her brother while Jesse stepped up to the bed.

"Oh, Rafe," she whispered sadly, hearing his grief, as a nurse quietly entered the room to silence the machine. "He's in a better place now."

It was such a clichéd thing to say, but she knew it was true. If she didn't, she wouldn't have been feeling so calm. Her father had believed in Heaven, and she knew there was no reason why St. Peter would turn Charlie Gallagher away.

The doctor came in to pronounce his time of death—six-thirty-two—and then he gave his condolences, directing them towards Rocky. The two living men in the room, crying in the chairs pulled up to the bed, wouldn't have heard him anyway.

Rocky didn't think neither Jesse nor Rafe could handle watching Charlie's body be wheeled out, so she gathered their things, and ushered them out of the room. A few of the nurses were waiting at the center of the wing, and Rocky thanked them all quietly, hugging each of them in turn.

Her boys went on ahead, leaning on each other, and Rocky watched them with soft eyes, glad they had each other. There was paperwork that needed to be signed, but she was assured she could come back later to do it. She nodded, thanked the staff again, and followed her fiance and brother out of the hospital.

Dawn had broken, but the sun was still low in the sky as they piled into Charlie's car and headed for the house. Rocky was amazed by the normalcy around them; buses still shuffled half-asleep kids to school while commuters sipped to-go cups of coffee on their ways to work.

Feeling a little bit like she was in a dream, Rocky pulled into her father's driveway and turned off the engine. They all sat there a moment, absorbing the fact that Charlie was never again going to set foot there, before getting out of the car. Rocky slung her arms around their waists as they walked up the path to the red front door.

Charlie had just repainted it the summer before last; Rocky remembered teasing him about the color and he had retorted that the red invited good luck. She stuck the key in the lock and turned it, pushing open the door. It yawned wide, darkness lingering in the space beyond, and they all steeled themselves before stepping through. Rafe hesitated the longest on the threshold, but, finally, he allowed Rocky to pull him inside their childhood home.

He crossed immediately into the kitchen and pulled the unopened bottle of Jameson's out from the cabinet above the fridge. He took down three glasses and poured a few fingers of Irish into each of them before handing two to Rocky and Jesse.

The couple shared a look, but they followed Rafe's lead and made a toast to Charlie.

Rocky threw herself into making the arrangements for her father's burial and memorial service, wanting it to be perfect. Jesse helped out when he could, but as Rafe had decided to throw himself into a bottle, most of Jesse's attention was focused on keeping his best friend out of trouble. He would allow the drinking for now, but he and Rocky were both afraid Rafe would turn to something heavier if he was left to his own devices.

Sunday morning, Rocky came home from her meeting with with Father Santiago at Sacred Heart Church to find Jesse and Azrael both sitting on the couch. Smiling in pleasure at seeing Jesse, she dropped her things off on the table, and snuggled up against his side. It felt like she hadn't seen him in days, and she had missed him sleeping beside her at night while he had been keeping Rafe company.

"What are you doing here?" she inquired after giving him a long kiss hello. "Not that I mind, at all."

Absently, he played with his ring on her finger, still getting used to the sight of it there. "I'm no longer needed," he said matter-of-factly. "Julie showed up a little while ago, and told Rafe he needed to straighten up, or else."

Rocky winced slightly, remembering what the fall out had been the last time a girl said those words to her brother. "Oh?" she said, too afraid to ask what happened next.

"When I left Julie was fixing him a pot of coffee while he hopped in the shower," he explained, smiling happily. He laid his head against hers. "I think our little boy is all grown up."

She closed her eyes, relief flooding through her. "I think you're right," she told him. She kissed him, hard and brief. "Thank you for staying with him."

He shook his head dismissively. "What else could I have done?" he inquired. "We just got him back, I couldn't risk losing him again."

"We won't," she assured him. "Ever again."

The second Saturday after Charlie's passing Rocky, Jesse, and Rafe sat in the front pew of the church Charlie had attended the last thirty years of his life, and they listened as Father Santiago gave what turned out to be the first of many eulogies. In her planning, she hadn't expected more than five or six people to get up to speak, but easily twice that many mourners made their way up to the front to share their memories of Charlie.

They hadn't wanted to wheel him out while the memorial service was still ongoing, so, as a result, they were actually late for Charlie's private burial. Rocky knew wherever her dad was, he was laughing about it; he had always said he would be late for his own funeral. Nearly an hour later than scheduled, with the early May sun shining merrily down upon them, Father Santiago said a few final prayers for Charlie, and then the gleaming mahogany casket was lowered into the ground.

They had invited a few people back to the house for a celebration of Charlie's rather short, but full, life after the service, and they hurried to Charlie's home—although he had left it to his two children, it would never be anything but Charlie's—hoping to get there before the party began. It was already underway when they arrived, and they entered the house just as Dougie lifted his bottle of beer into the air.

"I'm not good with words, that's Jesse's bag, but Mr. G was a special kind of person, so I have to say somethin'," he was saying. "As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death. I think we can all agree that Mr. G had a happy death."

The whole neighborhood had turned out for the event, even those few who had been unable to come to the funeral, and it quickly became one of the huge block parties Charlie had always loved to throw, with music, and food, and dancing. There were several more toasts given in Charlie's honor, in addition to stories told that hadn't been appropriate for church, and though the weather forecast had called for rain, the sky remained cloudless. Rocky figured that's Charlie was doing, so he could keep a clear eye on the party.

Somewhere around mid-afternoon, Rocky found herself standing beside Jesse, listening to old Mrs. Chlumsky from two streets over tell them about how Charlie had helped her plant her tomatoes after her knee replacement surgery last year. It lifted Rocky's heart to know so many people had cared for her father, and to see how many lives he had touched in ways she never even knew about.

Around sunset, with the crowd now dwindled again to just close friends, Jesse brought out Rafe's acoustic guitar. But instead of handing it over to her brother, as she expected, he instead settled down onto a folding chair with the instrument, his fingers moving deftly on the strings. When he opened his mouth to sing, Rocky was shocked beyond words. Jesse never sang. Not unless he was trying to get a laugh out of her, which was certainly not his intent now.

Though his guitar playing was fair, his voice really was as horrible as he always said. The people around him didn't seem to care though, and neither did he. What Jesse lacked in technique, with this song he more than made up for it in simple, heartfelt emotion. Hearing the words he had written—for her, for her father, hell, maybe for everyone who loved and had ever loved Charlie—Rocky, for the first time in days, cried.

The room is quiet. She hears him breathe. He's almost gone now, But she can't leave. The words she whispers, Soft and low, Send him onward, It's okay, Dad, go. His heartbeat falters, It's almost time For his final journey, That final climb.

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, too-ra-loo-ra-li, too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Her hazel eyes are dry. Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, too-ra-loo-ra-li, too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Her last minute lullaby.

She sings to him Of days long past, A little boy's cackle, A little girl's laugh. He'd loved them so much They didn't miss Mom And he made room, no complaints, When a green-eyed boy came along. Although he's leaving them now They will not be alone They have one another And together they're home.

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, too-ra-loo-ra-li, too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Her hazel eyes are dry. Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, too-ra-loo-ra-li, too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Her last minute lullaby.

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, too-ra-loo-ra-li, too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, His eyes close one last time, Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, too-ra-loo-ra-li, too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, She leans down close and whispers goodbye.

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, too-ra-loo-ra-li, too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, It's her last minute lullaby.