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When The Mask Falls

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Zelda rocked her weight from side to side as she lightly bounced the infant in her arms. It was the middle of the night and the rest of the Spellman household would be fast asleep. Her bedroom was dark, the only light coming from the side lamp which illuminated the space between hers and Hilda’s towering beds. Hilda had vacated their bedroom pretty soon into their isolation, unable to share a bedroom with a newborn baby given the repeated crying and lack of sleep. Zelda was grateful for this, allowing her some much needed space from her family given they were all trapped inside this house. She loved her family dearly, would do anything for them, but despite their large home they were beginning to get on top of one other. Having the room to herself also made the nighttime interruptions easier without having to worry about disturbing her sister.

She hushed softly as looked down at the babe’s innocent face, his cheeks rosey as he wailed. He had been crying for hours and she was desperately exhausted. Her eyelids heavy as she looked down, blinking longer than usual, and if it wasn’t for the noise she would probably fall asleep where she stood.

Despite her exhaustion, Zelda loved looking after the child. The babe in her arms made her heart swell and gave her purpose. Sabrina was an independent young witch now - she didn’t need her anymore. She had tried to fill the gap this created with the Church of Lilith and as Directrix she put all her attention into rebuilding the coven. She enjoyed the power. The authority and respect she had wanted for decades finally hers. The young witches and warlocks were her charges, looking up to her for guidance and wisdom. When they became the Order of Hecate their numbers grew as did their strength, Zelda rising up high in the new Coven. She kept herself so busy she didn’t know there was still something missing.

Not until that eventful night when she delivered the baby boy that now wriggled in her arms. The image of his tiny, limp body turning blue in her hands when he wasn’t breathing would haunt her forever. Her blood still ran cold whenever she thought back to that moment. But then his first breath, a tiny gurgle, quietly echoed round the silent room and an overwhelming feeling of love and protection washed over her.

There had been no discussions with Lilith about the child, about how Zelda would look after the boy. The two women had sort of come to an unspoken agreement. It was clear Lilith was uncomfortable with the newborn. Zelda noticed the way the first woman’s eyebrows would furrow and her eyes would dart over the child when she held him as if surveying a piece of artwork that she didn’t quite understand. Zelda couldn’t blame the first woman for her reactions to the babe. Lilith had got herself pregnant as a means of survival, that level of desperation not unknown to Zelda, and the child was to be the Heir to the throne of Hell. Lilith had told her the night she arrived, while failing to hide her progressing labour, that the 13 months of her pregnancy had been torture. Zelda knew this meant more than just pregnancy symptoms and she couldn’t imagine what Lucifer had done to the woman. Especially since the child was not Lucifer’s but in fact Blackwood’s.

Zelda had to admit there was a small ache within her when the news sunk in this babe was the offspring of her ex husband. It made her think about how different things could have been for them. But the father of this child was not the man she once held affection for, that man had slowly ebbed away, and by the time of their honeymoon he had gone completely. She would never forgive him for placing her under the Caligari spell, and his actions after that were just as inexcusable.

Her arm ached from the continued bouncing of the babe. She shifted him to her chest, laying him against her left collarbone, the cries over her shoulder drilling in her ear. Zelda couldn’t hold any resentment to this babe for his parentage, this innocent life in her arms did not ask to be born or had any choice in his lineage. His cries were constant and she knew he was getting himself all worked up as his face reddened. Her swaying and gentle hushing was doing nothing to sooth the little one. Zelda wanted to avoid leaving her room and the silencing charm she had placed on the four walls but thought it was time to try a change of scenery and maybe a feed would calm him. There were a few pre-made bottles in the kitchen that Lilith had left for them for the night feeds.

She gently put the infant back in his bassinet so she could put on her silk dressing gown. “Shhhh I’m still here.” She cooed as she disappeared from his sight for a brief moment. With her gown and slippers on she picked him back up and disappeared down the stairs as quietly and as quickly as she could.

The kitchen was dark but she navigated it well in the low light. Outside of her charmed bedroom the sounds of his cries seemed to echo louder around the tiled kitchen, she hoped he was tiring himself out and would soon fall back to sleep before he woke the whole house up. She decided to pour herself a whiskey before feeding him, needing something to take the edge off her exhaustion and to keep herself awake. Shifting the baby into one arm she poured the amber liquid into a tumbler with her now free hand.

“Is that for you or for him?” Came a whisper from the doorway. Lilith was leaning against the doorframe, her long curled hair cascading effortlessly over her shoulders.

A small grin twitched at the corners of Zelda’s lips, unseen by the other woman in the dark.

“It’s for me. He’s been crying for hours and I need something to take the edge off.” Zelda picked up the glass and took a long sip, relishing the burning of her throat that seemed to tingle pleasantly throughout her body. “I’m sorry if we woke you.”

“Not a problem. I wasn’t sleeping. It seems my body still wakes when he does.” Lilith entered the kitchen fully, crossing over the fabric of her long dressing gown and tying it up at her waist. “When I heard you come downstairs, I thought I’d join you.”

Zelda swapped arms again, placing the babe in her right and giving the left arm a shake to ease the ache. His crying continued, she bounced and swayed unconsciously but his screams only got louder. “Shhhhhh.” Zelda whispered looking down at him, begging him to be quiet. “You’ll wake the others.”  

“Oh no.” She heard Lilith croak. Zelda looked up to see what was the matter. Through the dim light she could see Lilith’s nightgown change colour at her chest, the sound of the infant’s cries had caused the woman’s bodily instincts to take over and her breasts to leak. An annoying symptom of being a new mother, made worse when you weren’t the one doing the ‘mothering’.

“I was going to try feeding him to see if that would calm him, but since you are up…. did you want to do it?” Zelda tentatively asked the brunette, who was trying to brush away the dampness from her nightwear.

“Yes. I might as well.” She said with a slight annoyance “I guess there’s no point in fighting nature.”

Zelda secretly resented having to pass the child to Lilith to feed, the one thing she was not able to do for him herself. But it served as a stark reminder that she was not the boy’s mother which, at times, she needed reminding of. Usually she was adamant that she could do everything herself, batted away the offers of help from her sister and her family, but tonight her level of exhaustion was overpowering and she was quite honestly glad of the company and support. And it was right that that support came from Lilith.

Zelda carefully placed the babe in Lilith’s waiting arms “Support the head.” She insisted as she let go.

Lilith rolled her eyes. “Yes, I know that, I’m not a complete idiot.” Zelda caught the echo of a smile on the brunette’s lips. “Do you mind if we go into the other room? I’d rather have a comfier seat to feed him.”

“Not at all.” Zelda replied. The boy quietened for a second in his mother’s arms but then continued to cry loudly. “I can put a silencing charm in there, it’ll be easier on that room than in here anyway.”

Zelda pocketed her cigarettes from the kitchen table before picking up her drink, the whiskey bottle and an empty glass and followed Lilith into the other room. She had not previously had any company during the night feeds and she had to admit it would be nice to have someone else awake with her.

When she entered the living room she found Lilith already settled on the sofa, rearranging the cushions so the arm holding the babe could rest against them. Zelda placed the whiskey and glasses on the coffee table before closing all the doors to the room and placing a silencing charm around them. She took the opportunity to smoke, suddenly desperate for nicotine after the sip of whiskey, her vices perfectly complimenting each other. She lit the cigarette and lowered herself slowly into the arm chair opposite the other woman, her exhaustion crashing over her.

They sat in comfortable silence. Lilith had partially opened her robe and pushed the strap of her nightdress off one shoulder to feed the infant. Although the woman was not modest, Zelda averted her gaze respectfully. She took a long drag of her cigarette and leant back against the arm chair, her eyes were itching with tiredness.

“There you go.” Lilith whispered as the child stopped crying and began to suckle quietly.

He had been crying for so long the sounds continued to ring in Zelda’s ears. She rubbed her eyes, struggling to relieve the dry and irritating feeling within them like there was something stuck under her heavy lids.

“You’re exhausted Zelda.” Lilith whispered.

“I’m fine. It’s just been a bit of a long night.” Zelda assured her, unaware the woman had been watching her struggle against her fatigue. She took another drag of her cigarette and fidgeted with the seams of her dressing gown, trying to find something to occupy her hands and keep up her façade that she was perfectly fine.

“Have you had any sleep?” Lilith’s eyes were surprisingly gentle with concern.

“About half an hour.” Zelda admitted avoiding the woman’s gaze. Another moments silence passed between then, slightly less comfortable than before. Zelda didn’t want to show any weakness or give any indication she was struggling. Having looked after the boy since birth, in the last 7 weeks he had worked his way into her heart, more than she cared to admit. She feared the day when Lilith would take him back and away from her. But she knew that day would come, when they eventually break out of this time bubble and restart their lives. That is why she had to hold on to every moment with him while she still could. She didn’t know how she was going to be able to give up another child… and the thought of it shattered her to pieces.

“You need to make sure you rest.” Lilith’s voice was soft, her demeanour changed with the infant in her arms. Zelda watched as the demoness looked down at her son and lightly stroked the top of his head. She looked more and more comfortable with the babe with each passing day which made Zelda feel proud but it also drove the knife in deeper - that the boy was not hers. She had hoped Lilith would continue not to care for the child and Zelda could convince herself there was a chance she would get to watch him grow and blossom into a fierce young warlock. A thought she could never admit aloud to anyone.

“I am grateful for what you have done for him.” Lilith whispered through their silence, not raising her gaze and continuing to stroke the tiny hairs on her child’s head.

This caught Zelda off guard. Lilith had not spoken so openly about what they were doing before. What did she mean by that? ‘Have’….? Was she taking him back so soon? Was this the ’Thank you but I’ll have my child back now’ moment? The exhaustion fuzzed her thoughts and the panic sent her heart racing. She wasn’t ready to let go. She took a drag of the cigarette calmly, letting the smoke fill her lungs and steady her mind, trying to keep her mask in place in front Lilith.

“Nonsense. It’s no problem at all.” Zelda dismissed as if she had just done a casual favour for the witch, as opposed to nursing a newborn babe.

“Zelda…” Lilith whispered and raised her eyebrows at her, clearly not accepting Zelda’s blasé attitude. Her voice lowered even further, almost shy, as she continued to speak. “You quite literally saved my life that night. You took me in when I had no where else to go, saved me… saved us, from obliteration.” Lilith looked down at the babe, tracing a finger over his body which he grasped with his tiny hand. “You helped bring him into the world, kept him safe and nurtured when I couldn’t bring myself to even look at him. And I… I will be externally grateful for that.” Lilith bit her lip to stop them from trembling.

Zelda was shocked at how open Lilith was being with her. Allowing her to see the raw emotions of the first woman, the emotions that lay underneath the hard demoness persona she presented to the world. Zelda had only done what any decent witch and midwife would have done in that situation, and from her point of view it was Lilith that had saved them all. If she had not joined them in performing the spell to lock them in this time bubble Zelda was certain they would all be dead. Lilith had not agreed to their plan, or had any choice in the events that led her there. But despite her being in intense pain and seconds away from birthing a child, when they needed her strength and power, she stood tall beside them.

Zelda couldn’t quite form the right words to express what she felt and didn’t know if she even wanted to. Her exhaustion was clouding her thoughts and stopping her from forming a meaningful response to the brunette’s confession.

“Well, I couldn’t leave you out in that storm, not when he was so eager to make his arrival.” Zelda tried to joke, making the moment more lighthearted to cover the rising fears that were building inside.

Lilith’s mouth pursed together and formed a half smile, deflated, her eyes showing the disappointment in Zelda’s casual response. The brunette looked down avoiding Zelda’s gaze, feigning focus on the babe in her arms and on the tiny hand that was grasping her index finger.

A pang of guilt distantly echoed in Zelda’s stomach. Lilith had uncharacteristically opened up to her revealing a raw, emotional and fragile woman. The first woman trusted her enough to lower the walls of her cold exterior and yet Zelda feared she could not do the same. She worried the second her own mask slipped there would be no containing herself, of all the emotions she had bottled up over decades.

“You are better at this than you think.” Zelda muttered, wanting to comfort the other woman somehow.

“At what?”

“Motherhood.” Zelda admitted.

Lilith scoffed slightly under her breath. “I may have been the Mother of Demons, but motherhood like this is not something that comes naturally. When I look at him, he confuses me. I don’t know what I should be doing. He is just so small and fragile, completely dependant on someone feeding, nurturing and protecting him. His vulnerability goes against everything I know.”

“It will take time to adjust, but you’ll get there.” Zelda reassures the first witch, going against the screaming of her heart that wanted to let Lilith disown the child so she could raise him herself.

“I do care about him though. He’s my son.” Lilith’s eyes soft as she gazed at the redhead, her words chipping at Zelda’s reserve. “But I’ll never have your maternal instincts Zelda. You have washed, dressed and cared for him when I couldn’t. Like he was your own.”

Zelda could feel the tears form in her eyes.

“I have seen you sooth him at all hours; the way you hum and sing to him when you think no one is watching.” Lilith confessed as she looked back down at the babe “You’ll have to show me how you do that.”

Zelda’s stomach sank, this was it, Lilith was ready to take back her son. Her eyes stung from tiredness and unshed tears, her lower lip trembled as she tried desperately to hold herself together. “Of course.” She croaked.

“I was wondering…” Lilith started, taking a breath as if scared to ask “you have already done so much for him, and I think it’s about time that I…”

Zelda balled her fists tightly and held her breath as she braced herself.

“… would you be his Night Mother?” Lilith hastily asked.

Zelda felt like the wind had been knocked out of her. Her breath escaped her in a soft cry and a tear fell down her face. “You want me to be his Night Mother?” her words barely audiable.

“You already are Zelda. You look after him, protect him and care for him already.” Lilith’s voice soft, her words pulled away Zelda’s mask and she felt herself crumbling. “I don’t know what the future will hold for him, or what will happen if we ever get out of here. But I do know I want you to be there for him. I’ve seen how far you go when protecting your family and I just hope, you would do the same for him. Especially if something was to happen to me on the outside…”

The tears fell freely down her face unable to hold them back any longer, the salty water coating her lips. Her hand covered her mouth to try and stifle a sob. Zelda would get to be a part of this boy’s life forever; to watch him take his first steps, cast his first spell, blossom into his powers and to be a fierce young warlock. Zelda nodded through the tears “I would be honoured to be his Night Mother.”

“Why are you crying?” Lilith smiled at her, so soft and caring and unlike anything she had seen on the first witch before.

Zelda hastily wiped the tears from her cheeks. “I thought…. you were going to take him back… away from me. I know you are his mother and he should be with you but…” Zelda trailed off and smiled at the thought of the little boy that had worked his way into her heart “but I love him like he’s my own. I was scared that when we leave this house that I would never see him again, I was trying to make the most of every moment while you would still let me. I never thought you would allow me to stay a part of his life.” Her breathing hitched as she tried to steady her silent sobs. She looked down at her hands in her lap, too afraid to see the brunette’s reaction to her emotional admission.

She had not displayed this level of emotion to anyone in centuries, usually keeping it firmly hidden behind locked doors. She didn’t know if it was Lilith’s words or displays of emotion that had disarmed Zelda, or whether the sheer exhaustion had finally pushed her too far. She wiped the tears from her eyes, not daring to look up, her breathing steadying. She heard Lilith get up from the sofa, assuming she was leaving to get away from Zelda. But then she felt a presence at her side and Lilith was placing the child in her arms.

“Zelda…” Lilith whispered “I meant what I said, I am eternally grateful for all you have done. I don’t think I can do this without your help. He is going to need you in his life…I’m going to need you.” Zelda looked at the babe in her arms, at the child she was going to help raise and fresh tears welled in her tired eyes. “You will always be part of his life Zelda Spellman.”