Tissue warning: if you know me, you know to take these serious.

10

Time felt like it stood still as I watched the orange flames lick every inch of the house I'd grown up in. I could hear the firemen moving around me, yelling for one team to head to the back of the house while another worked on the front. I could hear Jacob and Sam trying to keep the neighbors back. I could hear someone screaming, but it wasn't until I felt Carlisle's arms wrap around my body that I realized that person was me.

"Shh, baby," he whispered into my ear.

"My . . . mom," I choked out, my tears pouring down my face. "Where's . . . my . . . mom?"

"I don't know," he murmured, turning me so that I was nestled against him.

I laid my head on his chest, bringing my hands up to clench the back of his shirt. With the boys wrapped around my legs, we stood there and watched as the fire ravaged the house. Everything would be lost. Every photograph of my father and me, of me and Renee before she let her grief destroy our relationship, of the three of us as a family would be gone. Those were memories that I'd never get back.

"We've found somebody!" one of the firemen yelled, and I felt my heart clench as I watched four firefighters stumble out of the front door, one of them carrying my mother's body. "She's alive! Get a stretcher."

I stepped away from Carlisle, who pulled me back against him. When I looked up at him, he frowned. "We'll follow them to the hospital."

I nodded, knowing that I couldn't do anything for Renee, anyway. We stood there and watched as the paramedics got my mother strapped down onto a stretcher, worked on accessing her burns before loading her up in the back and racing down the street. Carlisle kept his arm wrapped around me as we headed to the car. Michael opened the car door for me and when I slid in, I noticed the tears streaming down his face. Reaching for him, I brought him into my arms, burying my face in his hair as I reached for Tyler, who nearly leapt into my embrace.

"I love you, sweet boys," I whimpered, needing them to know that he and Tyler were just as important to me as their father was.

"I love you, too," he cried, hugging me back, and while Tyler didn't say anything, he didn't need to. He's tears spoke volumes.

After a moment of crying, Carlisle pulled them back, murmuring, "We need to go."

The ride to the hospital, though short, felt like it took an eternity. The boys sat in their car seats, whimpering and sniffing back their tears. They didn't understand what was going on, or why my heart was broken. In their eyes, Renee had been the scary woman who tried to take me away from them. They didn't know the mom I had as a little girl, the one who played dress up with me, who sang with me in front of the mirror, causing my father to laugh and grab the video camera. And thanks to the fire that was eating everything in its path, they'd never see those home movies, either.

Carlisle parked in the visitor's lot and ran around to my side of the car and helping me out of the car. Once we had the boys out, he wrapped his arm around me and led the three of us into the emergency room. Of course, everyone stopped and stared at us, gawking like we'd stumbled in naked and he was fucking me against the wall or some shit.

I ducked my head away and silently let my tears fall while Carlisle told the triage nurse that we were waiting for information on Renee, and that we'd be in the waiting room. I barley heard her muttered "okay" before he was leading us to the back corner, pulling me to sit in the chair next to him. I shifted so that my legs were draped over his. Tyler climbed onto my lap, nestling his tiny body against mine, his tears seeping into the thin cotton T-shirt I'd put on that morning.

Today had been hell. Everyone judged me, stared at me, accused Carlisle of hurting me, according to Alice at least, yet my love for him and the boys never wavered. Not once. I needed them, now more than ever. They were all I had left now, and it wasn't fair to put that kind of expectation on them. Especially on the boys, but it was what it was, and I couldn't change that. Not right now.

"Bella." At the sound of my name, I looked over and saw Alice, Rose, and Emmett rushing over to me. Alice dropped to her knees and wrapped her arms around me and Tyler, who screamed, "Let me go!"

Alice frowned as she moved her arm. "Sorry, little man."

"Whatever," he muttered, nestling himself against me even more.

Alice shifted her eyes up to mine. "Are you okay?"

"No," I grumbled. "She was in the house. I don't . . . I can't. . . ." I trailed off, knowing that if I said the words that were trickling through my head, I would start crying again.

"We saw the smoke, and . . ." Emmett shook his head as he looked around. "Jacob Black told us you'd come here. We . . . we were worried."

"Me, too," I whispered, pressing my lips against Tyler's head.

Emmett, Rose, and Alice didn't say anything else as they settled around us. A few minutes later, the doors to the emergency room opened once more and Jasper came rushing in. He looked around the room until his eyes landed on me and Carlisle.

"Bella," he murmured, but didn't say anything as he sat in the chair across from me. Michael moved from the seat next to Carlisle and climbed into his lap, laying his head against Jasper's chest. Rose, Emmett, and Alice looked uncomfortable with Jasper being there, seeing as he was our teacher. But once again, he was showing his support, being my friend first and then my teacher.

"Edward called you?" I asked, and he nodded.

Once again, silence surrounded us. Carlisle kept his arm around me, one hand rubbing circles on my arm and the other on Tyler's back. Tears continued to fill my eyes, sprinkling down my cheeks. My father had been stolen from me in the blink of an eye and now my mother was . . . Well, Renee had left me long ago, too.

I'm not sure how long we were sitting there, waiting and watching the set of double doors that led to the back of the emergency room, when they finally opened and Edward walked through them. My breath clenched in my chest as I stood up, keeping Tyler in my arms. His arms and legs wrapped around me, his head dipped into the curve of my neck.

Carlisle and Michael were by my side in a heartbeat.

Edward walked up to us, a grim look on his face. "Bella."

"She's gone, right?" I whispered through my tears.

"No," he murmured. "Not yet, anyway. The burns . . . They're extensive, covering more than fifty percent of her body. We've sedated her, gave her medication to help with the pain, but at this point, it's only a matter of minutes."

"Oh," I whispered. "So, um, what now?"

"We try to keep her comfortable," he explained. "Do . . . do you want to go see her? It might be the last time."

"I, um, I . . ." I shook my head as I looked up at Carlisle. "I need to."

"I know," he whispered, leaning down and kissing the top of my head before looking over at Jasper. "The boys."

"I've got them," Jasper said, reaching over and tugging Tyler, who fussed, out of my arms. "It's okay, bud."

"I wanna stay with Bella," he cried, turning and reaching for me.

My heart ached as I brought my hand to his face, wiping away the tears that were falling like raindrops. "Sweetie, I will come get you as soon as I can, but I need you to be a big boy for me and go with Jasper, okay? Please?"

Though his lips trembled, he nodded his head before laying it against Jasper's chest. Michael wrapped his arms around my legs before he stepped over to Jasper and took hold of his hand. Jasper looked up at me, his eyes full of concern. "If you need anything . . ."

"We'll call," Carlisle said, tightening his arm around me. "Thank you."

Jasper nodded and turned over at Edward, sharing a look of longing before leading Michael out of the hospital with Tyler sobbing into his neck. Alice, Emmett, and Rose muttered that they'd call me later before they followed. Edward cleared his throat, motioning for me and Carlisle to follow him through the back. My legs felt like lead weights were weighing them down as we walked across the waiting room, through the double doors, and down the hallway. Dr. Gerandy was standing behind the nurses' desk, his eyes darting from him to me, a range of pity and outrage.

Four letter words and built up anger soared through me, but I held them back, not wanting to make a scene, not wanting to give him the satisfaction knowing how much he pissed me off. My mother was dying and he was too busy fuming because I'd chosen to let Carlisle love me. He was an asshole, and not worth my time.

Edward stopped outside of one of the trauma rooms and held out two yellow gowns. "It's just a precaution."

I nodded as I took it from him and slipped it on my arms, taking the mask, footies, and gloves from him next. Once Carlisle was ready, Edward opened the door to Renee's room and I stepped in. Tears flooded my eyes once again. She was laying on the bed, her arms, legs, torso, and half her face covered in gauze bandages. Tubes and wires were coming out of her and a monitor was glowing in the eerily dark room, showing her blood pressure, heart rate, and pulse.

"Can I hold her hand?" I asked.

"Of course," Edward said.

My hands shook as I reached out and gently took hold of her right hand, lifting it off the bed. Her eyes opened and she looked over at me, and for the first time in two years, the woman looking back at me was the Renee I remembered.

"Hey," I whispered.

There was a tube down her throat, making it impossible for her to speak.

"I want to hate you," I whimpered and her eyes filled with tears. "You hurt me, Momma. You hit me, you called me names, you turned away from me. I want to hate you, but I can't. I've missed you. I love you, Momma, I love you so much. Don't leave me, Momma, please don't leave me," I sobbed as my knees buckled beneath me. Carlisle immediately wrapped his arms around me, holding me up.

Renee's eyes flittered from him to me before they closed, and a tear traveled down the side of her face. Once again time felt like it stopped as I stood next to my mother and watched as her heart rate slowly until it stopped altogether. And once again, my tears fell and I began to sob. Carlisle swept me into his arms and pulled me away as Edward leaned over my mother, checked for a pulse and heartbeat before saying, "Time of death 17:23."

—TB—

I don't remember what happened next. I don't remember Carlisle carrying me out of the hospital, loading me into his car, driving over to Jasper and Edward's so we could pick up the boys. I don't remember Jasper pulling me into his arms and giving me a hug, whispering how sorry he was for my loss, for the death of the mother who had hit me, called me a whore, and nearly killed me. I don't remember getting back into the car and Carlisle driving us home, leading us into the house, or walking upstairs to our bedroom.

But I do remember stripping off my clothes and climbing into a hot bath, pulling my knees up to my chest as the hot water caressed my skin and my tears fell down my face because once again I'd lost a parent. First my father, and now my mother.

"Hey," Carlisle whispered, kneeling next to the tub.

"Hey," I whimpered.

"I am so sorry, Isabella," he murmured.

Laying my head on my knees, I looked over at him. "Me too. I just . . . I don't . . . What do I do now, Carlisle? I don't have a father or a mother, or . . . . What do I do now?"

"You cry," he said. "And you grieve for them, for yourself."

I shook my head. "My mom and I were waiting for my dad to come home for dinner. I'd just been accepted into this summer writing program over Port Angeles Community College, and I hadn't told him yet. He loved my lasagna, so I made it for him, knowing that he'd give me whatever I wanted. Seven o'clock came and went, and then eight, and I was getting worried because my dad always called when he was going to be late. Then the phone rang and I laughed, feeling like an idiot for being worried. But when my mom answered it, her face changed. Right in front of me, her face changed, and I knew. I mean, I didn't know, but I knew something bad was happening. She dropped the phone and said we had to get to the hospital, that Daddy had been . . . shot . . . And I didn't want to go because I knew, you know?"

"Yeah, I know," he whispered.

"She drove like a crazy person, yelling and screaming for everyone to move. I just sat there, unsure of what to say or do. She pulled up outside of the ER and we rushed in. Dr. Gerandy was standing there, and Jacob and Sam were standing there, and I knew. I saw it on their faces," I cried. "Daddy's dead and Momma's dead, and now I'm all alone."

"Oh, baby, you're not alone," he insisted, standing up and kicking his shoes off. Stepping into the bathtub, still fully clothed, he wrapped his arms around me, holding me as I cried for my parents.

I'm not sure how long we stayed in the tub before we heard Michael calling for us. Carlisle sighed and climbed out, grabbing a towel as he walked into our room. I heard Michael ask if I was okay, ask if I was coming downstairs, and heard Carlisle tell him he wasn't sure, that I needed some time alone and for him to go back down to Tyler, that he'd be there in a minute.

I stood up and drained the water and grabbed my own towel, wrapping it around my body before I walked into the bedroom. Carlisle was standing in front of the dresser, naked and digging through his underwear drawer. I don't know if he heard me or sensed me standing there, but he looked over his shoulder at me. I grabbed my towel and threw it into the hamper, standing there naked and wet.

"The boys are downstairs," he murmured, his eyes raking over my body.

"I know," I whispered, but just stood there.

"Isabella," he moaned. "I want you. I do, but . . ."

I nodded and walked over to the closet, grabbing one of his scrub tops. "You mind?"

"No," he said, sliding his arm around my waist, letting his fingers graze my hip. "Are you coming down?"

"In a minute," I whispered. "I'm sure the boy are hungry."

"They had left overs," he told me. "You don't have to come down, if you don't want to. They won't be mad."

"I, um, I need to be with them," I whimpered. "I need some sense of . . . normal."

"Okay," he murmured. "Do you want me to wait for you?"

I shook my head. "Go ahead. They're scared enough."

Carlisle sighed, but I knew he agreed with me. Giving me a kiss first, he pulled on a pair of boxers, plaid pajama pants, and a T-shirt and walked out of the room. I grabbed a pair of panties from my drawer and slipped them on before pulling on his green scrub top and a pair of his pajama pants, needing to be as close to him as I could. I pulled my hair into a messy bun before I headed downstairs. The boys were sitting on the couch with Carlisle as they flipped through one of his photo albums.

"Tell me about this one, Dad?" Michael asked.

I smiled as I sat on the stairs and listened as Carlisle spoke. "Um, you were two or so. And um, Uncle Garrett and Uncle Marcus were visiting. You would not leave them alone. You followed them everywhere, so Uncle Garrett tucked you into one of his shirts so that only your head was showing, but his arms were in the sleeves. While you jabbed on and on about nothing, he moved his arms in these wild and outrageous gestures. You laughed so hard, you couldn't keep going."

"Where was I?" Tyler asked, his blue eyes wide.

"Uncle Marcus was holding you, I think," he explained, shifting his attention over to me. "Hey."

The boys looked over and saw me sitting on the stairs, and in an instant, they were off the couch and in my lap. Leaning my head against the top of Michael's, I was unable to keep my tears from falling, unable to keep the ache in my heart from throbbing. These little boys and Carlisle were my family, all I had left, and I would hold on to them as tightly as I could, because in the span of a heartbeat, I was an orphan.

Thank you for all the reviews. Heavy chapter. I'll admit to becoming very emotional while writing this one.