Zelda had been entirely prepared to deal with Ambrose's appearance on her own, at least for a few days. She wasn't overly fond of expressing her own emotions, and she didn't want to show these particular ones around Sabrina. Besides, her niece was strong and she would get through it. Perhaps that was a cold view of things, but Zelda had always been something of a cold woman. She hardly needed to coddle her when it came to one of their family being sent home. Sabrina had managed when it had been Zelda herself, and she would manage this.
Archie was a different story.
She knew that her niece had been through her share of romantic disappointment - between young Mr. Kinkle and Nicholas Scratch - but she had seemed happy with Archie. And Zelda wanted nothing more than she wanted Sabrina to be happy. With him gone now, she was sure Sabrina had to be hurting and the part of her that very much saw Sabrina as a daughter wanted badly to fix it.
The problem, of course, was that there was no way to fix it.
So instead she stood outside Sabrina's door, a tray with a pot of tea and some cookies in hand. She raised her hand and knocked lightly on the door, hoping Sabrina would be willing to deal with a visitor.
"Sabrina," she said, careful to keep her tone as gentle as she could manage. "Could I come in?"
Sabrina hadn't needed the notification to tell her that Archie was gone. One minute he'd been in the bed beside her and the next he'd simply been gone. No amount of location spells would help locate him, no magic she might be able to muster up would bring the boy back. She hated how unfair the entire situation was--how easily bonds could be formed and then forcibly broken because Vallo suddenly decided the person no longer needed to remain.
It might not have stung quite as badly as losing Ambrose, but Sabrina knew that Archie was going home to a nightmare. One that she could do nothing to help him out of. He'd have his friends though and maybe the version of her there could manage a way to save them all. It could turn out okay.
Getting out of bed didn't seem like it was going to be happening though and so Sabrina had been staring at the ceiling, content with wallowing in her own misery for a while longer, when she heard the knock and her aunt's voice. Salem looked up from where he rested on her stomach, wondering if they were allowing company. It was on the tip of her tongue to say no, but it was her Aunt Zelda's voice, and Sabrina didn't want to turn her away if she was wanting to see her.
"Only if it's just you." Because she wasn't up for anyone else tagging along.
"It's only me," Zelda assured Sabrina, taking a moment to shift her hold on the tray so that she could open the door. Stepping inside, she closed the door behind her and then set the tray down. She had promised Sabrina it would only be her, after all, and leaving the door open would just invite further company. There was no need for that. Not for this.
She crossed the room, the tea abandoned on the table for the moment, and took a seat next to Sabrina. She really was worried about her. So much had happened recently and, while Sabrina was a strong girl, everyone had their breaking points. Reaching over, she stroked her niece's hair the way she had when she was a child.
"How are you, dear?" she asked.
Sabrina closed her eyes briefly as her aunt touched her hair, leaning into that gesture. It had always made her feel better when she was younger and found it still did now. Salem shifted, resting at her side instead of on top of her. Though he still kept himself pressed closely, keeping up the purring sound to help comfort her.
"I think I've moved on from crying my eyes out to numbness."
She wasn't entirely sure if that was a good thing or not. Sabrina preferred feeling something over simply existing, even when her emotions were all over the place. The dullness that had settled over her, making everything seem drab and grey, was a feeling she didn't particularly know what to do with.
"I don't know what to do."
She couldn't fix this with magic.
This was the hard part. Because he knew that Sabrina wanted to fix everything. And for a while now, she had been able to fix everything. Even the few times there had been disastrous consequences, she'd still been able to help in some ways with her magic. That could make anyone feel powerful and capable. And with that came an expectation of always being able to fix any problem. So when there was no magical solution, it could be difficult to adjust.
"Oh, Sabrina," she sighed. "That is a perfectly normal way to feel."
She was very familiar with that feeling. It was how she'd felt for the longest time in the aftermath of Edward's death. She'd always been close with her brother, and losing him had been something she almost couldn't bear. It was Sabrina who had pulled her out of that state. Having her niece to focus on had made everything more bearable. She only hoped that she could help her in the same way.
"You just...keep going," she said. "It's hard, but you are an incredibly strong young woman and I know that you'll get through it. Take the time you need, but don't let this feeling rule you. And remember that I am here for you no matter what."
Sabrina didn't feel strong. She felt powerless and it was a feeling she'd only felt a handful of times before--when she'd gotten out of Hell and found everyone dead, watching Lilith carry Nick into Hell, and walking away from Harvey's house when he'd needed to kill Tommy. She'd figured out ways to eventually make all of those things right, except for Tommy. There was no fixing what had happened there and this seemed to be shaping up to be like that.
She probably needed to talk to her therapist about it, but the thought of leaving the house to actually go to therapy wasn't very appealing.
"How do you keep going though?" She barely wanted to get out of bed.
As much as she missed and worried about Archie, what Sabrina wanted most was Ambrose back. Not having him there, not knowing he was safe with everything that could still happen at home, ate away at her. Things had seemed relatively okay when she'd first arrived in Vallo. She'd just been trying to figure out to save Nick. But the memories she'd gotten had shown how much that wasn't the case--everything had gone to crap.
Was that happening now?
Zelda sighed, shifting to sit more comfortably next to Sabrina, her fingers still running through her niece's hair. All she had ever wanted was for Sabrina to be happy and safe, and it often felt like she had failed in that regard. So much had happened since Sabrina had turned sixteen. She'd been through so much and she'd been forced to grow up so fast. Zelda wished she could have done more to protect her.
The question was a difficult one to answer. There wasn't one simple fix. A magical cure that would make the world hurt less. Zelda would have liked it if there were, but magic was rarely so kind.
"You just do," she said. "I know that isn't what you want to hear. But you get up and you keep going. And it's really hard at first. But eventually it becomes easier. And sometimes you have someone, a troublesome little niece for instance, who makes everything just a bit more bearable."
Leaning down, she pressed a kiss to Sabrina's hair.
"I know that I'm not always the warmest person," she acknowledged. She was hardly unaware of her own failings. "But you can always talk to me if you need someone to listen. No matter what, I am always on your side, Sabrina. Whatever you may need."
Sabrina hugged her pillow tightly, slowly letting out the breath she had been holding. It wasn't what she'd wanted to hear, but it was the truth, and the one thing she could always count on was Zelda telling her the truth. She never sugar coated it, which was honestly how Sabrina preferred it. Platitudes never worked well for her. They were alike in that regard.
"I know you are, auntie." Sabrina might not have always been sure about that, but her aunt had shown that she truly did always have her best interest at heart, even when Sabrina might not have thought that was the case. Afterall, she had chosen her over the Dark Lord's nonsense every single time.
"I just don't think I know what to say right now. I'm just tired and angry and sad and…" Exhausted. Her bones felt heavy. Everything felt heavy.
Sabrina traded her pillow for her old stuffed rabbit, a holdover from her childhood that she hadn't quite parted with. "I just want Ambrose back."
Zelda had always chosen Sabrina and she always would. She didn't always have the easiest time expressing this, or any emotions really, but it was the truth. Since the moment she'd seen her tiny little face, she had known that she would do whatever it took to keep Sabrina safe and happy. She might never have a daughter of her own, but Sabrina was better than any imagined child.
"You don't have to say anything," she assured her. "Not right now. Don't force yourself to deal with this faster than you are ready to. Take your time. The world will still be here when you're ready. As will I. Let yourself be angry and sad and whatever else you need to be. We all understand."
Zelda sighed. "I want him back too," she said. "I want our little family together. But he'll be alright. He's smart and he's powerful."
She looked across the room, then back down at her niece. "I made some tea," she said, "if you'd like some. It should still be hot enough." She didn't want to push, but she hoped Sabrina would agree. She wanted to be sure she was taking care of herself.
Sabrina had thought that Zelda was smart and powerful as well, but she'd still found her aunt's skeleton when she'd been released from Hell. Neither had kept Prudence or Nick or her friends from being killed as well. They hadn't stopped Ambrose from going insane after losing everyone.
But Sabrina couldn't bring that up. She didn't want to lay the burden of a future that they would never have to experience on their shoulders. She'd turned back time, ensuring they all lived, and she meant to carry that particular mess all on her own.
"Chamomile?" she asked, moving to sit back up. It was her favorite and it would probably be a good idea to get something inside of her.
Zelda knew there was something Sabrina wasn't telling her, that she hadn't been telling her for some time. And while she wished Sabrina would let her take on some of whatever burden was plaguing her, she would not push. Sabrina was entitled to her privacy and she would tell her if and when she felt like it was the right time.
For now, she simply got to her feet and crossed the room to fetch the tea, bringing the tray over and setting it on the bed between her and Sabrina. There was tea, of course, along with some of the biscuits Sabrina liked. She was hoping she could cheer Sabrina up at least a little with some of her favorites.
"Of course it's chamomile," she said as though anything else would be absurd. She poured the tea into the cups, before passing one to Sabrina. "There you are, dear."
"Yeah, I'm doing okay. Got my friends here, they helped me adjust. I mean, as much as you can adjust to getting magically kidnapped to a whole new magical world." And that was a lot less Disney than it sounded, but so far, nothing terrible had happened to Francis so he was counting it as a win over his home world. "I mean, at least Ultron's not here?" And hopefully Francis didn't just jinx them.
Taking a gulp of the coffee that his alt-dad had brought, he fiddled with the cup. "How are you settling in? I know you just got here, so this is probably still super weird for you." He had seen ogres just walking around like regular citizens. He was pretty sure he saw an unicorn the other day. Of course it was super weird.
It helped to have her aunt in the room with her, to have the tea and the biscuits--a little taste of normalcy. All Sabrina had to do was ignore the fact that Ambrose wouldn't be popping in to bother her, or regale her with whatever nonsense he'd gotten up to that day. She just needed to focus on the cup in her hand. Easy enough to tell herself to do but not so easy to put into practice.
"Thanks, Aunt Zee," she murmured before taking a sip, letting the heat of it warm her some. It didn't quite reach into her like it usually did, the numbness that had creeped into her skin still winning out, but the outer layer had at least begun to thaw.
She tried to come up with something else to say, but sometimes there just weren't any words, and Sabrina thought this might be one of those times. So she drank her tea and nibbled on the biscuit, letting Salem crawl back into her lap.
Zelda knew that this little bit of routine wouldn't magically make anything better. But she did hope that it might help just a little. If nothing else, it would show Sabrina that she cared and that she did notice when things upset her. She knew her own tendency toward internalizing her emotions could make that hard to see at times but she did love her family. More than anything in the world.
"Of course, Sabrina," she said, before sipping her own tea. There was no need for idle chatter. This was more than enough. Just quiet company and support. Enough to let Sabrina know that she was not alone and that, no matter what, she had family that cared for her.
It was nice to just spend time with her niece. They both led busy lives, here more so than back home, and that meant they didn't get to spend quite as much time together as they used to. And while she was thrilled for Sabrina's independence, she did miss things like this.
"Would you like me to bring supper up for you tonight?" she asked. "That way you don't have to deal with everyone?"
Sabrina had a feeling she probably should have dinner with everyone else, but the thought of being around that many people again was overwhelming. Add in the fact that her aunt was offering a way so she wouldn't need to and Sabrina knew she couldn't pass that opportunity up. It wasn't likely to happen anytime soon again.
"I think one more night up here," she murmured before taking another sip of her tea.
One more night to wallow and hate the world, to ignore everything that was happening beyond her tiny bedroom. She'd pick up the pieces like she always did tomorrow. Face the rest of the world then as well. Or at least try and check in on others.
Because Sabrina knew that the world would keep spinning even if she stuck to her room for a few days. She didn't have to carry the weight of it on her shoulder in Vallo. For a few days she could simply grieve the absence of her cousin and Archie.
"One more night then," Zelda agreed, glad that Sabrina didn't seem to be planning to spend the rest of her life up in her room, at the very least.
She could allow her niece the time she needed. It wouldn't hurt anyone, and at least Sabrina was willing to talk to her. That meant she wasn't isolating completely. She just needed a bit of time to come to terms with everything that had been happening lately. Vallo was lovely, but it could be a bit much at times, and this was certainly one such instance.
"I'll bring you something to eat later," she said, clearing up the tea and getting to her feet after giving Sabrina a brief hug. "You just get some rest. Don't be afraid to ask if you need anything at all." She sighed. "I know things are hard right now, but it will get better and you'll get through it."
Sabrina knew firsthand that things could get worse. They had done so at home and no amount of being able to fix it would ever erase finding everyone she loved but Ambrose dead, Hell ransacked, and the Earth a barbaric garden world. Therapy helped some, at least to the point she wasn't sleeping outside in the woods anymore, but her dreams were still full of nightmares each night.
"I know, auntie." It was just figuring out what exactly to ask for. Sabrina wasn't all that certain what she even needed anymore. Except maybe time, and that didn't always seem guaranteed.
She offered up a small smile before setting the cup of tea on her bedside table and laying back down on the bed, exhaustion catching up with her again. "Thanks for checking on me."
Zelda was still worried. She knew Sabrina was taking things hard, but it did feel like there was more to it than what her niece was telling her. Still, it was better not to push. She would give Sabrina space and support and her niece would tell her when she felt the time was right. Pushing had never done any good where Sabrina was concerned. She was rather like Zelda herself in that way.
There was no need to ask if she was sure. Sabrina knew her own mind. And hovering would do little to no good. And, in all honesty, it had never suited Zelda. She cared, but showing it wasn't always easy.
"Of course," she said with a small, fond smile. "I'll let the others know to give you space, and I'll be back later with dinner. Just try to get some rest for now."