Emery stepped inside the strangely quiet kitchen and looked around. Behind him, Miles whimpered softly. “It’ll be alright, Miles,” he murmured in reassurance. “Mom’s probably in bed.” He led the way up the steps to their parents’ bedroom.

Peering into the darkened room, they could see their mother, propped up against the pillows. Her eyes were closed and she seemed to be sleeping. Emery slipped quietly inside and set the bouquet of flowers he held on the bedside table.

“Emery, Miles, you made it,” she greeted softly.

“Hi Mom,” Emery replied before kissing her cheek. “How are you doing? Can we get you anything?”

“No, dear-heart, just sit with me for a while. Miles, sweetie, don’t be scared,” she said, holding out a hand to the younger boy.

“Are you… going to be alright, Mama?” he asked softly as he gave her a hug.

“We’ll see, Miles. Whatever happens, you and your brother take care of each other, alright? Promise me,” she said. Her voice was faint but there was a firmness to it that was familiar.

“We promise,” Emery said softly. He took Miles’ hand in one of his and his mother’s hand in the other, even as Miles did the same, completing the circle. “I… wish Dad was home.”

“I’m sure he does too,” she said softly. “Stay with me until I’m asleep, boys. The doctor will be coming to check up on me soon. Emery, you’ll be alright. They figured out you had this much earlier on than they did with me.”

Miles whimpered softly once more and Emery squeezed his hand as he said, “I know, Mom. Don’t worry. We’ll… we’ll be alright.” They sat with her in silence as her eyes drifted shut.