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Chapter Five: Red

Paul POV

She came in…and I felt like all the oxygen had been beaten out of me. I watched as she met her dad's eyes and she just crumbled…and I couldn't hold my tears in any longer. I felt the dam break and I cried…watching the only girl I've ever…ever loved – fall apart. She then searched frantically for Isaac, her twin. He'd been a wreck since Sam called the Swan residence not long after the ambulance got there he said. Jaxon called me around seven this morning. He'd gotten ahold of Bella around six before she left for work.

This was never how I wanted to see her again…we all knew she'd be more than a wreck. I wasn't sure I could handle seeing her like this…

Now I knew I couldn't.

I hadn't cried yet…not until I saw her fall apart. That didn't mean I wasn't devastated…I was. Tucker was an amazing young man…the most loyal kid I've ever met. But I had the ability to hold it together. Not when it came to Bella though.

She'd changed quite a bit. Her hair was a lot longer…she'd finally grown it out like she'd always wanted to. Her face had matured in the last year and a half…though it was to be expected. Last time I saw her she was about to turn sixteen. She'd be eighteen this year. She hadn't grown any taller, still a short little thing…still just as tiny. I looked at her and felt like…like I'd missed out on so much.

Looking at her now…it hurt more than anything. She held onto Isaac for dear life for a few moments until she'd began to calm down. She pulled back and look around the room, settling finally on me. Making eye contact I could practically feel her pain…I felt desperate to console her…but I knew it wasn't my place anymore. I watched her sit on the couch with her brothers and my heart clenched painfully hearing her speak.

"When did it happen?" She asked, any strength in her voice long gone, and I watched Sam shift uncomfortably. He'd been on patrol when he'd been hit and he wasn't far off.

"About two this morning." Sam said and she turned her gaze to him. He cleared his throat. "I…I called for the ambulance." He said and she took a deep breath.

"And he…" but she stopped short. He took a deep breath and I heard tears in his voice.

"There was nothing they could do, Bella. It was almost instant…I'm so sorry." He told her and I watched her hit her low. She put her head in her hands and cried to the point of hollering out loud. I felt a few more tears fall from my eyes and I let my head fall. I felt arms around my middle and looked to see Claire, tears steadily streaming down her face too. She'd been in bed when Jaxon called and I went and got her up right after I hung up the phone. Her reaction hurt almost as much as Bella's.

"Claire…Claire wake up." I shook her carefully and she groaned. It was only just after seven in the morning on a Saturday and she was not pleased.

"Go. Away. Paul." She grumbled and I shook her again, keeping my voice soft.

"Claire, hun you need to get up. Something bad happened." I told her and she dozily opened her eyes to look at me. Her face turned serious when she saw the look in my eyes.

"What's going on?" She asked and I waited for her to sit up. I took a deep breath.

"Claire…Tucker was…he was out late last night and was walking home alone. He…he was hit by a drunk driver." Her eyes went wide and she frantically flew out of bed and started throwing socks and a sweater on.

"Oh my God… we...we need to call Bella. And get to the hospital right away. She's… she's going to want a play by play while she's on the way here and-"

"Claire… they already called Bella. She'll be on the next flight." I told her, cutting her off. She nodded and snatched her phone off the bedside table but I caught her hand.

"Claire. Hun you need to sit down…" I told her and she shook her head.

"No! We need to go now!" She said frantically and I stood up, holding her shoulders.

"No. Claire…Tuck…he didn't make it." I told her and she looked up to my face in disbelief.

"No…don't say that, Paul…" She said weakly and I shook my head.

"Claire…he's gone." I told her again and her knees gave out. I held her up as she cried. After a few minutes she sobered enough to speak.

"B-Bella's on h-her way?" She asked and I nodded. She wiped her face and nodded back.

"We need to be there…f-for Charlie and the boys…a-and I want t-to be there when she…when she gets h-home." She told me and I nodded again, taking her in a hug.

"We'll go over in a while. Jaxon is calling when they get back home. They…have some stuff to sort out at the hospital and police station." She nodded and sat down.

"This…can't be happening." She said weakly and I knelt down in front of her.

"Hey…look. We will get through this and we will do everything we can to make sure they do too. Alright? But we need to be strong for them." She nodded and sniffled.

"Bella has to be a wreck." I felt my chest get heavy and fought to keep my composure. Just thinking about the state she must be in ripped me apart.

"That's putting it lightly. Jaxon said she completely lost control. He had to call Renee and Phil to go to her place in Nashville because she wouldn't come back to the phone…all he could hear was screaming and crying." I told her and she cried a fresh stream of tears.

"I need to be there for her." She said and I nodded, kissing her forehead,

"You will be, hun. I promise. You'd better call the others, alright? Jaxon said they'd have people over in a bit. Said Charlie didn't want to be alone." She nodded, reaching for her cell.

"I love you, Claire." I told her and she gave me a big hug.

"I love you too, Paul." She told me and I sighed. If only those words came that easy when I had her here…

I watched Bella sit back into Jaxon's arm and sigh. She looked like she'd cried all she could at the moment. Her face was blank and she seemed to zone out.

Charlie had calmed too and was asking people if they wanted a drink refill. Sue stopped him and motioned for him to go sit with his kids. He sighed and nodded, approaching the couch.

"We uh…we have some stuff to do…tomorrow." He said sitting on the coffee table across from his now three children. It just looked incomplete…and they looked like they felt it. I could only imagine how they must feel…I know I'd be useless if I ever lost one of my sisters. Bella's face never changed. She just looked…lost.

"We have to go…pick out a…casket. And…and we need to meet with the funeral director about how we want it all set up…and we need to…you know…choose flowers and stuff. Bells…I thought you might be the best one for something like that." He said and she nodded, still zoned out.

"Yea…flowers." She said and he reached for her knee. She refocused at the contact and he patted her leg.

"We will get through this sweetie. Together. Alright?" He told her and she nodded, a few silent tears falling down her cheeks.

"And we are all here to help with anything you may need, guys." Sue told him and a few others verbally agreed.

"You guys won't need to do this alone." Billy told them with a nod to Charlie. He nodded with a sniffle.

"You guys…have shown my family great loyalty today. I can't thank you enough. From me and the kids…I…we couldn't do it without you." Everyone nodded and people fell into small conversation. Charlie got up and started talking to Sue, Harry and Billy. My sister and Leah went over to the couch and sat on the coffee table in front of Bella.

"Hey, Sweetheart." Claire said and Bella looked to them and threw herself into their arms. The three girls hugged and Jaxon and Isaac got up off the couch, leaving them to their moment.

"How you holdin' up?" Jaxon said, coming over to me. I gave him a look.

"Shouldn't I be asking you?" I asked him and he shrugged.

"It's not hard to guess how I feel. I'm curious about you." He told me and I sighed, glancing to Bella.

"I don't know. To be honest…I just…it's like I never even thought about the fact that she's back…I just…I've just been terrified to see her like this." He nodded and clapped my shoulder.

"You should talk to her. At least say hi and let her know things are alright on your end. I know Bella…it'll be like an alarm in the back of her mind if you don't." I nodded.

"I will… I just want to give her some time…" He smiled sadly to me and fell into conversation with Sam. I sat in the chair just listening to Bella chat with the girls. Her voice was hoarse and I could tell she'd been screaming…a lot. It reminded me of my talk with Jaxon this morning and I wasn't looking forward to being in his head later. None of us were.

I looked around to the guys in the room. Since Bella left for Nashville, Jacob, Jared and Embry have all made the change. And it was looking like Quil would too. A group of vampires just moved back to town permanently and it had set Embry off two weeks ago and Quil was bulking up fast. We were lucky Embry was so in control of his wolf…he hadn't been like me at all. He wasn't a very angry guy though, so that probably helped a lot. Now that Bella's family knew, things had gotten a lot more tight knit. Charlie knew and understood why I avoided Bella and he actually kept in touch with us if he was ever looking for witnesses or trying to find a scent trail. It had been a process, but they finally accepted that our world exists. I looked to Bella and saw her taking a glass of water Sue offered her and she thanked her.

Looking at her…I was nervous. I mean…a lot had changed since she left…we never actually "broke up"…it was always just implied. Of course I'd heard she had dated since then…I couldn't blame her. I knew she was single now though. I remember mailing her things back to her and sighed. I'd been so angry that she didn't reply to me…I'd wanted to reconcile…to see where we were at now that I knew I wouldn't be a danger to her. And I let my emotions get the better of me. I went on one of my Paul hissy fits and just threw everything that reminded me of her in a box and slapped an address on it. It was low of me…but I couldn't change it now. My only hope was that she'd take my apology and accept my offer to be civil for the time that she's here. Leah got up and went up the stairs to the washroom and I watched Claire disappear into the kitchen. We made eye contact and I felt my nerves spike. I looked to her and saw her eyes turn gentle…she gave me the faintest smile…it would have been almost impossible to notice if I didn't know my Red.

Red…I felt my heart clench at her nickname. She'd gotten it one day when we were driving home from busking in Seattle. It was a far drive…but she was 100% worth it. We'd been chatting about random things and she gave me her typical Bella sass. It was fantastic…I always deserved it and it was always entertaining. That day I looked at her and I said

"You're red." She had laughed and complained that she wasn't blushing and I'd had to explain. She was Red…because she was sassy and bold. She smoldered with attitude…character…talent. And to top it off, Red is my favourite colour. And she's my favourite person. She'd gotten all lovey-dovey with me and kissed my cheek. I'd remember that day until I die. That was the day I'd realized that just like my favourite colour…my world would be bland and grey without her.

She broke our eye contact when Jacob had come over and given her a hug. They chatted for a bit and I got up to chat with Charlie and the guys in the kitchen.

"Paul, my boy. I…I wanted to ask. Would you be a paul-bearer? Tucker always adored you. You and Bella have been friends for so long…and then dated…and Tucker always thought of you like a brother." I looked to Jaxon and Isaac who were watching me and I nodded.

"Charlie…I'd be honoured." I told him and he clapped me on the shoulder.

"Come on boys. Let's go outside." He said and grabbed a few beers, passing one to each of us. It seemed he didn't care who was old enough today.

We stood outside for a little while, drinking our beers and chatting about random, meaningless topics when Bella and many of the others came out back, beers in hand. A few of the dads and Sam had brought cases of Charlie's favourite.

"I don't care." Bella said, looking to her dad and popping the tab. He shrugged and clinked her can.

"I want to make a toast." Charlie began. "To friends, family, and the one's we can't do without. Life is short and you never know when everything can change. So never hold back." He said and everyone voiced his or her sincerest agreement, some shedding silent tears. I looked and saw Bella take a swig of her beer and fall into discussion with Isaac. Charlie came up to me after making a round of the group.

"Alright. I've got you, Jacob, Sam, Harry, Phil, and Tuck's best friend David. He really wanted to be apart of this. You six are the paul-bearers and I was wondering if you could come over tomorrow night and I'll go over the details with you guys." I nodded, swallowing my mouthful of beer.

"Yea of course. If you guys need anything else…the pack and I are always here." I finished in a low voice. Most of the people here knew about the pack…but I didn't want to chance Bella hearing. This was not the time. He nodded.

"Thanks…I'm sure there will be stuff to do. I don't really know…how to go about this stuff. I mean…when my parents went…I was still with Renee and she organized a lot of it for me." I nodded. It had to be difficult. Especially when it's his son.

"It's ok dad…I remember when Grandma Dwyer passed away. Mom was useless and I helped a lot." Bella said, coming up behind him. I made eye contact with her and nodded, she nodded back.

"Bells I don't want to over work you right now. You need time to heal." She nodded.

"I know…but…I want to make it as special as I can…he deserves it." She told him and I saw a few tears fall down her cheek. He tossed an arm around her and pulled her close to his side, kissing the top of her head.

"And it will be. You can count on it." He told her. He sighed and looked to each of us.

"I think we need another beer." I chuckled and thanked him, watching him walk away and leaving me with Bella.

"Hey…" I started and she looked up to my eyes.

"Hey…" She mirrored and I sighed.

"Look. There's so much going on right now…and all that's going through my mind is that…I don't want to distract you or argue…I don't want to make this about what happened…I want to make it about you and your family." She looked up to my eyes and I saw a flicker there…I'm not sure what it was…but it seemed kind and gentle…with an added dose of Red.

"I just…I want you to know that…I'm here." I finished, unsure of what else to say. I miss you? I wish you never left? I want another chance…'no.' I told myself. I can't think like that anymore. She gave me a soft smile and sighed.

"Thank you…to be honest it hasn't even hit me yet that I'm home…but I don't want to fight either. I just…I just want to be with my friends and family." I nodded.

"I really wanted to thank you." She told me and I gave her a curious look. "Well…I see the way you've stayed close to my family…I heard you're a paul-bearer…I mean…I guess I want to say thank you…for helping my family through times like this. I really appreciate it." She said and I nodded.

"It's no problem really I-" but she cut me off.

"But it's a big deal to me. And I needed you to know." She said and my mouth fell into a small smile. I nodded back and she gave me a small smile of her own. She leaned forward, putting her hand on my forearm and tip-toed up to leave a small kiss on my cheek. I of course had to lean down to her so she could reach.

I watched her pull back and smile, walking over to Claire and Leah. They spent a bit of time catching up…light topics. I just stood still. I did my best to keep my face neutral…keep my body from tensing. But Bella had kissed me…had touched me.

In that moment I felt like…I needed to hold her. Get closer to her. Be everything she's ever needed.

When she touched me…I imprinted.

Bella POV

I sat on the couch with Isaac. Everyone had left about an hour ago…it had been a very long day. I looked to the clock and saw it was just after midnight and I sighed, leaning into Isaac, his arm around my shoulders.

"It's weird how things don't sink in until everyone's gone." I told him and he nodded against my head.

"I know…the house feels fuller now that you're home…and emptier all at the same time." I nodded against his shoulder.

"I know." I replied. Jaxon came into the living room and sat in the chair.

"It's really nice having you home Bella. Isaac hasn't looked this complete since you left." I smiled softly and closed my eyes.

"I haven't either." I said.

"And yet emptier." Isaac supplied and I nodded.

"Exactly." I finished and opened my eyes to see Jaxon smiling at us. He always loved our twin moments.

"You know what I miss?" I said and they both turned their attention to me. "Remember when we all used to climb into dad's bed and watch Saturday morning cartoons? He'd be at work and we'd all just stay in his room all morning until he came home on his lunch to see us." The guys nodded, a smile on Jaxon's face.

"Yea…he never quite trusted me to take care of the three of you." I laughed.

"Yea because you were usually the ring leader of bad ideas." I told him and he chuckled, mocking offense.

"Hey now. You weren't so innocent yourself." I smiled and shrugged.

"And yet I'm still the princess." I told him and Isaac chuckled.

"Yea, yea." He said and I sighed. After a few moments of silence I looked to Jaxon.

"Can we go watch TV in dad's bed?" I asked, tears threatening to fall. He looked at me and his eyes turned soft. He nodded and got up form his chair. Isaac and I got up too and they followed me up to dad's room. Dad was at the station making sure time off was covered and he said he needed to do a few minutes of paper work. We got into his room and I turned on a lamp. Jaxon grabbed the remote and flicked the TV on. None of us cared what we watched…it was more about the activity.

When we were little, Jaxon would lean against the headboard on the left side and Isaac and I would lay on our stomachs side by side on the right side, head propped up on our elbows. Tuck was little so he'd curl up on his side at Jax's feet. I looked to the bed and saw Jax and Isaac had taken their positions and I took a much-needed breath. I went around the bed to Jax's feet and curled up on my side, right where he used to lay. I put my head on Jax's leg and we watched late night sitcoms until we all fell asleep.

I woke up in the morning to sun cascading through the window and stretched, my legs hanging off the bed as I did.I could curl up into a ball just fine but truth be told, we didn't quite all fit on the bed like we used to. I sat up and looked to the guys and saw Jaxon sleeping on his back, Isaac sleeping on his stomach, and my dad on his side, sleeping on the edge of the bed. I looked to them all and sighed. I wasn't sure I had any tears in me today.

It's hard to explain…yesterday I could do nothing but cry…and today it's like…I was just heavy. Today was a day for getting things done…I could cry at the funeral…but I needed to get everything today perfect.

I looked at the clock: 8am. I got out of the bed and stretched again. I went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth and did my business. I went downstairs and opened the fridge. Perfect. I'd wake them up right, with a nice breakfast.

At around 8:30am Isaac and Jaxon came groggily down the stairs, smelling breakfast.

"Well would you look at this. Can you move home? Please? I'll pay you just as well to make bacon every morning." Isaac told me and I laughed, shaking my head.

"I highly doubt that." I told him, pouring them both a cup of coffee.

"How's that whole gig goin' anyway?" Jaxon asked me, sleep heavy in his voice. I shrugged.

"It's going really well actually. I've been in the studio a number of times…I have a few songs recorded and polished…a few still under review. The gigs pay alright money but not nearly enough to live on." He nodded and grabbed a plate.

"So what's the next step then?" He asked and I gave him some scrambled egg.

"Well the label paid for me to travel to a few radio stations this summer and I played two or three songs on there…nowhere huge though. Once the album is put together we can start sending it out to stations. My producer, Bob, was talking about possibly releasing a single soon. Try and get my name out there." He nodded.

"That's kind of cool, eh?" He asked and I nodded.

"Yea it is… I mean…the album shouldn't take more than a year. Bob said first albums usually have eleven or twelve songs on them and I'm at five if this last one pans out well. I've vetoed about five from being on the record so I'm being pretty choosy about the whole thing." He chuckled.

"Surprise, surprise." Isaac said and I laughed too.

"You have to be! It's not about quantity. It's all quality…I need to make people want a second album before I've even written for it." Jaxon winked to me as he took a piece of toast.

"Hey. I don't have any doubt." He told me and I smiled. I heard dad shuffling around upstairs and poured another cup of coffee.

"Morning." I told him as he came into the kitchen and he nodded, yawning.

"Morning." He said, taking his coffee. I made him a plate and we all sat down and had breakfast.

"I hate to get into this mode but…we have a lot to do today kids." He told us and we nodded.

"We have to meet the funeral director at one so I wanted to get to a few places before that. You think it's possible?" He asked and we nodded again. We were all silent for a few moments.

"So…how 'bout that sleepover." Isaac asked and I felt a smile come onto my face.

"I came into the bedroom last night around 1:30am and you were all passed right out." Dad said with a chuckle and I smiled to Jaxon. Dad didn't say anything else about it, we all just fell into simple conversation about work and the weather…but I could see it in my dad's eyes. He'd needed that last night…I think we all did. We were a family…and we needed each other now more than ever.

After I cleaned up from breakfast, with the guys help of course, I went upstairs to shower and get ready for the day – it was going to be a long one. I tossed on a pair of jean shorts and a black tank top, letting my hair curl naturally. I waited in my room while the other guys got ready and looked to my songbook and guitar. Of course…I never went anywhere without them. I heard something in my head…but I wasn't quite sure what it was. I grabbed my guitar and played a simple melody and recorded it on my phone. I wasn't sure what it would be yet…but I knew it would be Tuck inspired.

I lay in the middle of the living room carpet and sighed. It had been such a long day…and it was only six. I looked to Isaac asleep on the couch and I could hear Jaxon on the phone with someone…I wasn't really paying attention. Dad was at the kitchen table making a list of things that still needed to be done.

I heard a knock on the door and sighed, getting to my feet with a groan. I went to the door and opened it, looking up to see Jake's face. Not that I hadn't noticed yesterday…but it was like all the guys around here had caught onto a huge growth spurt. It made Paul's seem less weird that's for sure. I stood to the side, inviting the guys in. Jake, Paul, David, Harry, and Sam all came pouring into the house and I ushered them into the living room.

"Dad's just making a list of things we need to do…he'll come in here when he's done." I told them and they nodded, taking seats in the living room. I took my spot back on the floor and Jake laughed.

"Bella…what are you doing?" He asked and I groaned.

"Well…we all slept in dad's bed last night…and I slept in a ball…so I'm stretching my back after a long day." I told him and he chuckled again. The guys smiled at my story.

"You all slept in your dad's bed?" Harry asked and I nodded with a laugh.

"Yea…it was cute." I said seriously, though I broke into a smile right after. I heard Paul chuckle and I smiled. It was nice to hear that sound again.

"Sorry to leave you guys waiting I was just in the zone." My dad told them as he came into the living room they told him it was no problem and they got down to business.

"Alright. The funeral will be Tuesday morning at eleven, should go until about noon. Then we are headed to the cemetery and afterwards we are all coming back here for a wake barbeque. If you guys or the girls at home want to make something to bring, that'd be great…I'll take care of the burgers and hotdogs." He told them and they nodded.

"Sue will for sure make something…I'll get her to call you tomorrow." Harry said and Paul nodded.

"Yea my mom said yesterday to ask you when I came over today about what food she could bring to the wake…I guess she just assumed." My dad nodded.

"Just tell them to call and let me know…whatever they decide is fine." I lay on the floor listening to them until I felt my eyes go wide.

"Oh…oh….OH!" I yelled and threw myself up and ran to the stairs. I burst into my room grabbing my guitar, strumming a few chords. I played back what I had on my phone and threw my songbook open. I jotted down a few words…I'd finally gotten it.

Paul POV

"What the hell was that?!" Jake asked and I just chuckled.

"She got a song idea." I told him and he just looked to where she had left and shook his head.

"She's gonna break something moving that fast." He said and I only smiled. We could hear her upstairs of course…but I tried to give her some privacy.

"You guys don't…plan to tell her…right?" Charlie asked and Sam shook his head.

"No…not right now. There's too much on her plate." Sam told him and I felt my insides tighten. Bella…my imprint. She…she'll know someday. One day soon when she's back from making this record and I can explain things fully…I'd have her back. Well…I'd have what she'll give me. I'm sure it won't be anything more than friendship to start…but I hoped that one day she'll take me back. I know I didn't say it enough but…

I've never stopped loving her.