“Miss Y/N, there is a telephone call for you!” Bronwyn said excitedly.
You’d been helping Emma in the kitchen, cutting up vegetables for dinner when she had come running in. There was dirt on her hands from helping Fiona in the garden, so you knew one of the other children was holding the phone for you. You couldn’t help but wonder where Alma was. She’d never let Bronwyn, or any of the children, run around so messy.
“Thank you, sweetheart,” You said with a smile, “Can you wash your hands and help Emma finish with the dinner preparations for me?”
The little girl gave you a large, happy smile and a nod, before running off to wash her hands as you’d asked. You couldn’t help but let out a chuckle. They were always so full of energy. Wiping your hands off on one of the towels in the kitchen, you made your way into the hall where the phone was. You knew it was your aunt. She called every week at the same time, updating you on all of the family gossip.
Your Aunt was the peculiar one in your family and had been your rock when it came to learning about other peculiars. Actually, she’d been your rock in general. The relationship you shared with your parents was notoriously tumultuous, so your Aunt and Uncle had been more like parents to you than they had. But your aunt was your best friend. You’d told her everything when you stumbled into Alma’s loop. The children, Alma, your feelings for the woman. She’d been the one who encouraged you to stay with them.
Enoch was waiting with the phone in hand, but he wasn’t talking to anyone on it. You found it strange, since your Aunt took any opportunity to talk with your children. But you brushed it off.
“Thank you, Enoch.” You said with a smile, taking the phone and pressing it to your ear. He just nodded before walking off, “Sorry about the wait, Auntie, I was helping prepare dinner in the kitchen.”
“Y/N?” The gruff voice of your uncle came over the line. It made you freeze.
“Uncle Al? Not that I don’t love that you called, but where is Auntie? Did she get in trouble with the neighbors again?” You joked, trying to ignore the niggling feeling that something was very wrong.
“Look, kiddo, that’s what I called you about,” He said, with some difficulty, “There isn’t any easy way to say this, but.. your Aunt passed away last night.”
Beyond the last few words, you stopped hearing anything that he was saying. You felt your blood go cold. There was no way she could be gone. This had to be some type of horrible joke, right? Your Aunt was too young, too healthy to die. It wasn’t her time yet. It couldn’t be. You hadn’t even gotten the chance to say goodbye to her.
You knew your Uncle was still talking on the other end of the line, but you couldn’t bring yourself to say anything. It felt like you couldn’t breathe. The woman who’d raised you was gone. After stifling the tears and impending breakdown, you opened your mouth to speak.
“H-How?” You stuttered out, your throat feeling tight.
“...Y/N, I-She didn’t want to tell you. She knew that you’d try to come home and she didn’t want to interrupt your life there.” He said hesitantly.
“Tell me what? ” You ground out.
“She’d been sick for a while, kid, and it was rough. It was hard. She didn’t want to keep it from you, but she didn’t want you to put your life on hold for her, either. I’m sorry.”
It felt like you were drowning. Like you kept bobbing up, above the waves, only to be shoved back down before you could draw in any air. She’d been sick for so long and had kept it a secret. For you. She knew she was dying and hadn’t said anything. A million emotions filled your chest, swirling and lashing out. Your calm facade was slipping and you couldn’t let yourself break where the children could see you.
“U-Uncle, I need to call you back, okay?” You choked out.
You barely heard him say ‘okay’ on the other line, before you’d slammed the phone down. Trying to keep it together was a losing battle. A few tears slipped from your eyes as you passed the main room, making Enoch and Olive look at each other with frowns. You hurried up the stairs and into your room before you let go completely.
Shutting it, you leaned heavily against the door, letting out a sob. You tried to muffle it by putting your hand over your mouth. There were too many things going on around the house, you didn’t want to interrupt them. Alma kept too tight of a schedule for that.
It felt like your chest had been hollowed out. The knowledge that the person closest to you, who’d practically raised you, was gone? It felt like it’d taken your breath away. Taken the joy from your soul. Whether momentarily or not, was up to you. But right now you didn’t have the strength to fight the misery.
You crawled into the bed you shared with Alma, wrapping the blankets tightly around yourself, and cried yourself to sleep.
“Fiona, can you fetch Millard and Hugh from the back yard? It’s time for supper.” Miss Peregrine asked the girl as she stepped into the kitchen, eyebrows furrowing when she noticed your absence.
“Of course, Miss Peregrine!” The girl said, running outside quickly.
Your absence from the kitchen was bothering Alma, but she pushed it away, assuming you were probably somewhere else in the house. The table still needed to be set. So she put her focus into that.
Soon enough, all of the children were around the table. Alma had taken her place at the head of the table, but the seat at the opposite end was still glaringly empty.
“Has anyone seen Miss Y/N?” She asked, trying to hide her worry. You were never late to meals. Or to anything, really.
“She had a telephone call earlier, but Olive and I saw her rush upstairs after it ended.” Enoch said softly.
Alma stopped in her motions. That was odd. She was aware that your phone calls were almost always with your Aunt, so she couldn’t imagine what would have prompted a hasty escape upstairs.
“Everyone continue eating. I’ll be back.” She said, standing, moving up the stairs quickly. Worry had rooted its way into her chest.
Seeing that the door to the room you shared was closed, she knew that was where you were. The children were instructed to leave the doors open when they weren’t in them, to circulate air-flow through the house. Alma was one to lead by example.
She knocked softly at first, just in case you were indecent. Something you never understood; she’d seen you in various states of undress many, many times. But such was the way of Alma Peregrine. Polite until the very end. As she received no response from the inside of the room, she pushed the door open carefully, peering in.
An eyebrow raised when she saw you wrapped up on the bed. Gently closing the door behind herself, she moved forward, perching herself carefully on the edge of the mattress. It was then that she noticed your eyes were puffy.
“Oh, my darling…” Alma breathed out, gently caressing your face with her hand.
The touch caused you to stir, pushing your face into the touch, like a cat. It made her smile slightly. Seeing how peaceful you were at the moment, she couldn’t bring herself to wake you. Whatever had made you so upset was something that was probably best to leave until later.
“Sleep peacefully, darling Y/N.” She whispered, placing a feather-light kiss on your forehead.
Being careful to leave quietly, she made her way back down to the dining room. All of the children looked up expectantly. A few frowns formed when they noticed you weren’t with her.
Alma took her seat silently, eating her meal and acting normally, though the confused looks of the children never left. Eventually, Claire was the first to break the uncomfortable silence that had permeated the space.
“Miss Peregrine, where is Miss Y/N?”
The rest of the children looked at her again, openly this time. Dabbing at her face with a napkin, she let out a small sigh.
“Miss Y/N will not be joining us for dinner this evening.” She said.
She never could have expected the noise that would erupt in the room after that statement.
A cacophony of ‘why?’ and ‘is she okay?’ shattered the quiet that had settled over them. All of the children looked either outraged or worried. Some even both. It stunned her for a moment, before she leveled them all with a glare. They lowered their voices immediately.
“She needs some time alone right now,” Alma said tersely, “She is not to be disturbed. Is that understood?”
They all visibly deflated. A few of the older children opened their mouths to speak, before she gave them a severe look. The woman was notorious for not answering serious questions, but they felt they had a right to know if something was wrong with one of their guardians.
“Is that understood?” She asked again, slowly.
“Yes, Miss Peregrine.” They all said in unison.
“Good. Now, back to your meal, before it gets cold.”
Though it was slow, they all obeyed the command. Dinner felt odd to them without you there. It was too silent. There was a little bit of chatter around the table, but otherwise, the mood felt somber. It lacked the usual energy and laughter your presence created.
The members of the household went about fulfilling the rest of their day according to schedule, before preparing for bed. After the last of them were comfortably settled, Alma made her way to the bedroom. A few of the children tried to peek outside of their doors, hoping to get a glimpse of you, but Alma caught them easily. Nothing got past an ymbryne.
You were awake this time, leaning against the headboard with your eyes closed. She paused briefly at seeing you. But when you opened your eyes and looked at her, she saw the pain in them, the tears threatening to spill over. Casting all thoughts of changing into proper nightwear aside, she sat next to you, pulling you against her.
That was all it took for the dam to break. You were once again overtaken by the misery in your heart, sobbing heavily into her shoulder. Alma gently rocked the two of you, her own heart aching at the sounds. She’d never seen you so broken before. And she never wanted to, ever again.
She wanted to say something. Anything, in hopes that it would make you smile again, returning that brightness to your eyes that she loved so much. But it didn’t take a lot for her to realize that this wasn’t a feeling that would go away overnight. Which made her all the more worried about what had happened.
When you let out the worst of it, your sobs became sniffles. Alma leaned away slightly, tilting your head up so your eyes could meet.
“What has you in such a state, my darling?” She asked softly, watching your expression with piercing eyes.
“I had a phone call,” You started, before stopping to clear your throat, “I thought it was my Aunt, but it wasn’t. It was my Uncle. He… He was calling to tell me that she died last night. Apparently she’d been sick, but she kept it from me. She… She lied to me. She thought I would put everything on hold to see her and she was right, but I didn’t even get to say g-goodbye.”
Your throat began to feel tight again, but you refused to break this time. You wanted to feel something, anything other than sadness. So latching onto anger was the easiest alternative.
“The whole time, she didn’t tell me anything. Kept me in the dark. What kind of person does that? I deserved the opportunity to prepare myself, to say goodbye. She didn’t want to interrupt my life here, but she did anyway! It hurts so much. So much. And it’s all because she couldn’t just… tell me she was dying.”
Alma watched you. Watched your face twist up in anger before a realization hit you. Then she watched you deflate. In all of your grief and anger, you hadn’t stopped to realize what the admission would have meant to your Aunt.
She had been the strong one all of your life. She thrived on it. And to lose so much of her strength - so much of herself - she would have felt humiliated. Your Uncle had probably been treating her differently and she didn’t want that to happen with you too. She didn’t want the person she’d been so strong for to treat her like she was fragile. All she’d wanted in her time left was normalcy. To be treated as she was, not who she was turning into.
“Is it wrong, that I’m still angry? That a part of me still resents her for keeping it from me?” You asked brokenly after a while.
“Not at all. You’re allowed to feel whatever you wish, just don’t let it consume you.” Alma said softly, brushing a few stray tears from your face. You couldn’t help but lean into the touch.
“I’m going to miss her so much, Alma,” You whispered, “I had all of these plans. I wanted to bring her and my Uncle to the loop - to meet you and the children. They would have spoiled them rotten. She would have pestered you endlessly about helping, but you would have loved her too. And all of the games they would have played with the children… I always thought I had time. I imagined all of these scenarios and fell in love with them, but I’ll never get to have them.”
“You can still have memories like that,” She said, “It won’t be like you imagined it, but I believe your Uncle feels the same grief you do. He can come here and meet us. It’ll be good for the both of you.”
The suggestion burrowed into your mind, refusing to let you go. Your Uncle had never been to a loop before. Of course, you’d help him find it, but you imagined what his reaction would be. He was peculiar, like you and your Aunt, but he’d never been raised that way. So besides a few little quirks, he’d lived life almost entirely as a human. But he’d never been one to turn up his nose at it.
“I’d like that… I think I would really like to see him. And I want all of the kids to meet him, too.”
“I’ll make the arrangements in the morning.” Alma said, finality in her tone.
“How are we going to talk to the kids?” You asked, suddenly feeling very anxious.
“Don’t fret over it. I will handle it all.”
“You do trust me, do you not?” She asked. Upon feeling you nod, she let out a sigh, “Then trust me to handle this for you. For us.”
You leaned against her heavily, letting out a sigh of your own. Alma would take care of everything, you knew that, but you always had a difficult time letting go of control. Even to her.
Alma tangled one of her hands into your hair, combing through it gently, scratching at your scalp with her nails. She felt the tension ooze out of your body. With a sly little smile, she pressed a kiss to the top of your head, laying down with you. You didn’t hesitate to snuggle into her. And comfortably wrapped up in one another, you drifted off to sleep.
The children seemed to understand that something had happened. You spent a little less time in the main common areas, and when you did, you seemed more exhausted than usual. More sad. They all went out of their way to be extra cheery, in hopes of bringing your spirits up. And when it worked, the days felt a little bit brighter.
There had been a few incidents at the beginning, when something that was said would make you tense up, biting the inside of your mouth to keep from crying. Alma would do her best to change the subject, but by then it was too late; it’d already upset you and the children were beginning to notice. They would apologize profusely each time. You hated how guilty they felt, when it wasn’t really their fault. So you’d give them as normal a smile as possible and excuse yourself for a few moments. Then, after a while, everything would feel alright again.
True to her word, Alma had arranged everything with your Uncle. He was set to arrive today. And against your rational thoughts, you were brimming with nervousness.
“Relax,” Alma said, coming up behind you and wrapping her arms around your waist, “Everything is going to be fine.”
“I know that. I do. I just can’t help it. It’s been so long.” You sighed, leaning back into her.
“That it has. But nothing about your relationship has changed. He’s still the same man who raised you, and I believe he is very excited to finally see you. And meet all of us.”
Her words put you at ease. She was right; he was still the same person, you’d just both experienced a loss. Nothing about how you cared for one another was different.
You didn’t know what you’d do without Alma. Through everything, she’d been your rock. She didn’t judge you when your grief became overwhelming, or when something felt too difficult. Instead, she wordlessly took care of it. You knew you’d never be able to thank her enough. Though you knew she wouldn’t even let you thank her; making an excuse about how it was in her nature to help. But still, it meant everything to you. You couldn’t imagine what you’d be like without her steady presence and reassurance. And you wished with all of your might that you could do something nearly half as meaningful as all of the things she’d done.
Overcome with emotion, you turned in her arms, pulling her into a kiss. You knew that she would never fully be able to understand the amount of love and gratitude that was overflowing in you, but this felt like the closest you would ever come to sharing it. How could you convey everything you felt in words, when she’d spent the past week showing her love through nothing but action? To do anything less than the same felt like a crime.
Alma froze momentarily at your actions, before melting into it. She brought her hand up to caress your cheek, holding you ever so gently in place while she kissed you. You couldn’t help but lean into her touch. In all of your time together, the brush of her fingertips against your skin was still enough to send shivers down your spine. The way she held you felt like the first time; like an endless well of emotion had flooded into your chest, making your breath stutter and your heart swell. You hoped that it would never stop feeling like that.
Her lips on yours were insistent, dominating. She never gave anything less than her all in most things. Especially not when it came to kissing you. You let her take control, which you could tell pleased her greatly, as you felt a playful smile cross her lips. If you hadn’t been so invested in the feeling of her lips on yours, you would have pulled away just to see it. Alma’s smile always took your breath away.
Absentmindedly, you heard a flurry of excited noises from outside of the window. It didn’t really mean anything to you until a few of the children burst through the door. The two of you quickly separated, though it was obvious what you’d been doing. It was no secret that you were together. However, Alma was not fond of being overly affectionate in front of her charges.
“Miss Y/N, Emma’s back with your Uncle!” Hugh said excitedly, bees escaping his mouth.
“Thank you, Hugh, I’ll be out in a moment.” You laughed as the bees buzzed around your head, before the boy sucked them back up.
When he’d left, you let your gaze drift back to your lover, who was doing her best to smooth any wrinkles in her clothing. It made you laugh a little bit. She raised an eyebrow at the sound.
“Is something amusing, Miss Y/L/N?” She asked.
“Oh very , Miss Peregrine,” You teased, “You see, you’re worried about your clothing, but you may want to check your hair, darling.”
You watched as her eyebrows furrowed cutely. She wasted no time in locating a mirror, her eyes widening slightly at the mess her hair had become. As she went to fix it, she threw you a glare.
“Appearing unkempt is not a laughing matter.”
“My dear, dear Alma. I like it best when you look… unkempt.” You whispered the last word in her ear, before turning on your heel and heading for the door. She would definitely make you pay for that later.
Upon opening the door, you immediately saw your Uncle, sitting on one of the benches with the children all around him. If you knew any better, he was likely telling one of his stories. He may not have lived a life surrounding his peculiarity, but he’d certainly had some peculiar experiences despite that. And he’d shared them all when you were growing up.
“You’re not giving the children any naughty ideas, are you?” You asked as you came upon the group, making them all turn towards you.
“Of course not, kiddo. Rather some marvelous ones.” He said.
The twinkle in his eye told a different story, but you weren’t going to say anything. You were just happy to have him here. He looked a little different than he had the last time you saw him, but he was still the same man you’d grown up with. Same smile, same hair - if a bit lighter - and the same mischievous eyes.
“I’m sure. Did the children introduce themselves before they pounced on you?”
“Yes, they did. They’re all very well-mannered.” Your Uncle commented, looking very impressed.
“Make sure you tell Alma that. She thinks I’m a bad influence on them.” You joked, knowing very well that Alma had just come outside.
“It’s because you are,” Alma said, giving you a smirk, before extending her hand to your Uncle, “Allen, delighted to finally meet you in person. We’re all very glad to have you with us.”
“Glad to be here, Alma. Thank you for opening up your home to me.”
“Nonsense. Any family of Y/N’s is family of ours. Now won’t you come in? We were just about to begin preparing dinner.” Alma offered a smile, before gesturing towards the house.
As you watched your Uncle and the children follow Alma back to the house, your chest felt lighter than it had since hearing the news. You knew that the grief would never fully leave you, but it felt like it was almost bearable, seeing all of your family interact like this. Alma looked back and raised an eyebrow at you. You smiled, hurrying after them.
You weren’t going to waste a single moment.