Continuing Tales

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 10 of 29

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Untitled Document

The flaming chunks of the training dummy landed around them. Mags flinched and stepped aside.

"Maybe a bit too strong?" Drag mumbled.

Helena put down her boom-stick. "Yeah, I think you're right." She stared at the machine, "I think I'm almost there, though."

"Just a little more work," Helena commented. "I'm just going to go and work on them for a bit."

As she started off, Drag stopped her. "I'll walk with you."

They walked in silence for a while back to her tent.

"How are you?" Drag asked her.

"I'm fine."

He stopped. "Helena. It's been two days and you haven't spoken about it."

"About what?" she tried.

For how short he was, he was far more intimidating than she'd anticipated.

"Fine. No, I haven't spoken about it and I don't want to, okay?"


She stopped, unable to lie, but unable to tell her suspicions either. "He was best friend."

"I'm sorry that we weren't able to help him," Drag said quietly, stopping as well.

Helena hesitated, "Look...I don't think I thanked you for saving me."

"It's what soldiers do," Drag muttered.

"Well, thanks. Soldier." Helena smiled. "Goodnight."


Helena went back to her tent and settled into her cot.

"It's been quiet," Laurel noticed.

"So I've been quiet, what's the big deal with that?" Helena muttered.

Laurel laughed, "Sensitive. I meant everything. The Princess. She's been quiet."

"Licking her wounds."

"Or planning her next move."

Helena sighed, "True. But let's not dwell on that. Let's just get some sleep."

"You okay?"

"I'm fine. Just tired."

She wasn't tired. Not really. But she was eager to sleep. She had been the past couple nights. She wasn't even entirely sure it really was Valentine that she'd seen in her sleep, which was the only reason she hadn't come clean about him.

Well, perhaps not the only reason.

In her dream, they'd been like they had been before the mess, before the war, before...everything. They'd just been friends.

Granted, friends who were both incredibly suspicious of the other, but friends, nonetheless.

After making three more prototypes of the boom-stick, Helena called it a night and changed into her pajamas - just clean breeches and a top in case something happened in the middle of the night.

The second dream began and she was by the pool alone. She stared into the water, wondering if she'd be spending the entire time alone. She found herself hoping that she wouldn't.

Weirdly, the sun around the Pool was hot. Helena was soon sweating and wishing for some shade. Without an option, she leaned over and splashed water on her face, cooling down almost instantly.

She used the hem of her shirt to dry off a little, hearing a scuff from behind her.

Valentine was standing a few feet away from her, watching.

"You're back," she noticed, letting her shirt drop back down. Valentine followed the movement and the shook his head slightly.

"As are you."

The tension was back, but not quite as bad as it had been the last time. Helena decided to trust this Valentine, at least a bit.

"So how does this place work, anyway?" she asked, taking a moment to step around the Pool a little, putting some distance between them.

"Where do you go when you dream?" Valentine asked.

She shrugged, "The circus. My house. My trailer." Here. Your Tower. She kept watching him as they walked around one another.

"You aren't really in those places, though. Just an image." He flapped his arm as he spoke and his sleeves swung about.

"But we've been here before. When we were awake."

"Just like you've been at your trailer and in your circus. It's just a dream," Valentine explained.

"Then how are you here? How are we both here, but not really dreaming?" she asked.

"How do you know you're not? I might just be a figment of that very overactive imagination." His steps were slowing and he was turning to watch her.

Helena slowed as well, doing little more than just shuffling her feet. "Because if I dreamed you up, you would be different."

"What would I be?" he asked quietly.

She glanced up at the dark eyes she couldn't quite see, the mask that was so impassive and yet so familiar to her as well. "You'd be like I remembered. This you...this is a new you."

"Hate to disappoint," Valentine said, still staring.

"You don't," she said quickly, making him smirk just a little. Dammit. "I mean, you've just changed a bit. You're still mostly the same. Still a juggler. Still got your Tower."

"Of course I've got my Tower, I'll have you know, I'm a-"

"Very important man," Helena recited along with a smile. "Yeah, I know."

Valentine's head cocked towards her, his own mouth drawn up in a smile.

Caught up in the moment, in the sense of the familiar, which she had believed to be completely lost, Helena reacted rather than thought, trusting in this being a dream. Trusting in her friend.

Helena moved forward and wrapped her arms around Valentine's waist, hugging him tightly.

He inhaled, obviously not expecting that. It took him a moment, but Helena felt his arms slide around her back.

This was a dream, Helena knew that. It even felt dreamlike. There was almost a barrier between her and Valentine, a fuzziness that kept this from becoming too clear. But still. She could hear his heartbeat in his chest, feel his breathing, his hands on her back.

She'd grown. He'd been much taller than her before, but now her head fit snugly beneath his chin. It felt...nice.

Something touched her hair and she jumped, startled.

"Your hair is longer," he noticed.

She turned, her cheek against his chest to see him twisting the ends of her hair in his fingers. Looking up at him, she commented, "Yeah, well, three years will do that to you."

Valentine glanced down at her and Helena froze. They were awfully close. Closer, in fact, than Helena had wanted to be the first night. But this was Valentine.

Still, she slipped out of his hold, ignoring how he seemed reluctant.

"So, how are you?" she asked, trying to change the subject. He was staring at her and it made her feel exposed. He was working with the enemy. She had to remember that.

Because she was doing so well with that right now.

"Oh, you know. Living the dream," Valentine said. "Literally, I suppose."

Helena sat on the edge of the Pool, looking up at him. "I mean it, Valentine."

His mouth dropped open for a second, then he shook his head. "Of course you mean it."

"Are you okay there?"

Valentine strode around, rubbing his wrist with one hand. "Oh, you know me. I keep my head down and make the rounds, kiss hands, shake babies - wait. No, that's not right."

Helena smiled, but couldn't shake the feeling he was lying. "Valentine…"

"That last skirmish was rather squeamishly skirmishy, wasn't it? You came out alright?"

She knew he was changing the subject, but she played along. "Yes. We only lost a few of the metal soldiers."

"Ingenious creations. I'm assuming they were yours?"

Helena shrugged, "Maybe."

"Brilliant. She ranted and raved when she first saw those. Well done," he commented.

Helena felt a strange feeling rising up in her throat. "And your forces?"

"Not mine. Hers. I'm just along for the ride, as they say," he said, waving his hand like it was no big deal.

"Can you leave?" she asked quietly.

Valentine hesitated in place, then continued moving, even faster than before. "No. You know, just finally settled in. Besides, she kind of has my old place under lock and key."

Again with the "she."

Looking at the ground, Helena voiced her next comment. "You seem to spend a lot of time with her."

"Part and parcel of the whole being-one-of-the-few-people-she-hasn't-killed-yet position I've got going," Valentine murmured, his smile there but clearly forced.


"You know," he said, putting a finger to his chin, "I've just recalled, you said you could juggle."

Helena got to her feet, anxious to know what was happening to him, "Valentine, please-"

"I mean, I know I can juggle, but it doesn't hurt to have some practice, so what do you say?" Three juggling balls appeared in his hands and he started doing a circuit.

"Can we please talk, instead?"

"Nothing doing with talking, juggling solves all life's problems."



"I want to help," Helena insisted.

"Then juggle."

She crossed her arms and glared at him, "I just need to know you're okay!"

Valentine smirked and juggled, executing a perfect spin with his coat snapping out. Helena suppressed a twinge of jealousy at the ease with which he did that and rolled her eyes. "Not everything can be solved with juggling."

"Then you're not doing it right."

She couldn't help a laugh. "Fine, let's-"

He winced, grabbing at his arm. "Some other time, then."

"Waking up?"

"Of course," he muttered. "See you later, Creator." He then chuckled. "Look at that, I made a rhy-"

Then he was gone.

Valentine woke up with a smile.

He'd made Helena smile.

He'd made Helena laugh.

Even being on opposite sides of a war - not that opposite was exactly the right word, he was on her side, just not physically over there on her side of the battlefield, but - he had managed to make her happier.

Having just woken up from one of the greatest moments in the past three years of his life, Valentine wasn't as observant as he usually was.

"You're happy this morning," a strikingly familiar and yet horrifically emotionless voice said.

He sat up and glanced to where the Princess stood in his doorway. He'd been sleeping in his old room. He wasn't quite sure, nor did he really care where the Princess slept, so long as she left him alone.

"I dreamed about palimpuffs. They were juggling tiny sphinxes. It was amusing," he deadpanned, straightening his hair to feel slightly less exposed.

The Princess's black eyes stared at him. "You think you're clever."

"Disagree. I know I am."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "Where do you go when you think I can't follow, Val?"

He swung his legs over the edge of his bed and stood up, towering over her like he did Helena. "Does it matter? Anywhere is better than here."

"Would you like to test that?" she called as he walked past her into the bathroom.

"It's too early for the empty threats, Princess," he snapped. "Let me at least get some breakfast in."

"Grumpy," she whined.

"Bitchy," he muttered beneath his breath.

"What was that?"

"I'm itchy, do you want to know all about my morning routine?" Valentine said.

The Princess probably had a response, but Valentine missed it as he closed the bathroom door.

He could hear her voice through the wood, but he tuned it out. He closed his eyes and pressed his head against the mirror.

Reality was dragging him down.

So, he thought about something else. A small, warm pair of arms around his waist, holding him tightly. And he was able to hold back, really - well, mostly really, in his dreams which is about how close he was going to get.

Still, much better than anything else he had right now.

Clinging to that memory, Valentine was able to make it through that minute. And the next. And the next.

By the time he knew it, it was night again and he'd made it through the day.

He got back into bed and closed his eyes with a smile.

Helena had been running around all day – creating new types of boom-sticks, more metal soldiers, replacing armor. She was exhausted, and yet couldn't fall asleep. She'd never had this much fun sleeping. Almost every night she found herself by the Pool of Dreams, joining or quickly joined by her friend. They talked, about unimportant things as Valentine persisted in changing the subject every time he could, but they talked. They discussed juggling and tumbling and everything except the battle they were in. They once spent an entire night seeing who could stand on their heads the longest. Most nights it was wonderful.

A week later, Helena didn't find it so wonderful.

She arrived first and immediately sat down on the ground next to the Pool. The ache in her chest hadn't vanished with her conscious mind and here, in this place of peace and honesty, it was hard to hide it. The shorter figure half buried beneath the debris, the "G" on his chest almost unrecognizable from the muck and blood…

She buried her face in her knees and tried to control her breathing.


She didn't move, ignoring him. She was angry and sad, and it wouldn't end well. A warm hand landed on her shoulder and she had to fight not to flinch away.

"What happened?" he asked quietly.

Helena sniffed, wiping her hands across her face. So much for control. "There was another small skirmish."

"I heard."

"It was a diversion. Some of the Shadow forces snuck around past our front line. They were going for the Queen, because most of our forces were in the battle, but a friend of mine was there and he held them off as best he could, but…" She shook her head, feeling the pressure in her throat. "My squad was the closest so we were called back, but by the time we got there…we weren't in time."

She remembered the feeling upon seeing Gallant's body in the churned up ground, a Shadow soldier standing over him. She didn't say what happened then. How it was her first kill where she didn't feel guilty. How she would have killed ten more if it would bring back Gallant.

Valentine squeezed her shoulder and this time Helena did move away. He didn't react as she stood up and turned to face him. "What are you doing there, Valentine?"


"With the Princess."

"Sleeping, I suppose," he responded. What little expression she could make out from behind his mask shut down.

"What does she want with you?" she asked, trying to keep her temper.

Valentine shrugged. "Entertainment, mostly."

"But you're with her. All the time. You could help us."

"No, I can't," he shook his head.

"Yes, you can!"

"Tried helping once."

"Then why can't you do it again?"

"It ended badly."


He shrugged and Helena huffed, "Why can't you answer anything honestly? You could find out what she's doing and relay it to me and then we'd have a fighting chance!"

"Until she figures it out, you mean." His voice was harder. "And then, she'll twist it all about until it hurts you even more."

Despair and frustration drove Helena's words. "We need your help, Valentine! Maybe Gallant would still be alive if you weren't such a-" she cut herself off.

Valentine smirked without humor. Apparently she didn't cut herself off in time. "Go on. Say it."

Helena shook her head, but he stood up, his fists clenched. "You were going to call me a coward, weren't you?"

"I didn't mean-"

"You did," he interrupted, with a hard laugh. "Not that you're wrong, mind you. But then again, I've been there for three years, so I had to make some behavior changes if I didn't want my mind rewritten. Unless you'd prefer that?"

"Of course not!" Helena snapped. Her tears were swiftly turning into anger. "Don't be stupid!"

"Because I'm sure I could arrange that with her. Already under house arrest, may as well go for broke!" He waved his arm about, striding towards her. "Wouldn't take much, the last bloke just sneezed in her presence before he was emptied out. And I know I've riled her up far more."

"Stop being ridiculous!" Helena shouted. "I don't want that!"

He was in her face, shouting at her, and she was shouting right back. It was only sensible that the dream would react. A sword appeared in Helena's hand and she looked down at it, startled.

When she looked back up, Valentine's eyes were locked on the blade. "Feeling a little angry?" he asked quietly, his tone calming.

"Pissed is the word I would use," Helena shot back.

He grinned, a good portion of the anger disappearing, but the tension still palpable. "Good. Then let's make a deal."

"What kind of deal?"

A sword appeared in his hand and Helena backed up, instinctively tensing. He swung it confidently. "We fight. If you win, I'll answer a question honestly. One question, one answer."

"And if you win?" she asked, already feeling the adrenaline start to rewire from anger to anticipation.

He was already shrugging out of his robe. "You'll find out if I win."

Mags and Drag's voices were both screaming in her head to back off, to stay away…

But they weren't here, were they?

She nodded, "All right."

She rolled her shoulders as they circled one another in the dust. She'd fought two fake Valentines, but never the real thing.

The real Valentine should prove a new challenge.

They started out slowly, not trying to win or lose, but just feel one another out. Valentine was more unpredictable. He'd clearly never trained with someone the way Helena had with Mags. His movements seemed to be more a combination of many different styles, which make him unpredictable. He was stronger than Helena as well. However, she was faster and a bit smoother than him, the trained movements flowing into one another easily.

They broke away from one another. Helena could feel the sweat dripping down the back of her shirt, but she saw Valentine's chest heaving, too.

Getting in close, Helena ducked under Valentine's swing and hit low with the flat of her blade. He grunted and danced away from her, but Helena followed. All he needed was just enough room to strike out at her, just a half step away and he would win. Luckily, she was too quick to allow that. Helena hit once – twice – thrice more and Valentine stumbled back. Helena hooked her foot around his ankle as he stepped back, tossing him to the ground.

Valentine landed with a thud, dropping his sword. Helena stood over him and held her sword casually over his chest. Not near enough to really threaten him, but near enough that he knew who had won.

"Well done," he remarked from the ground, his sword vanishing along with Helena's.

She extended her hand down and he grasped it, allowing her to help him up. She pulled him and he hopped up surprisingly easily, giving her too much momentum and startling her back. Tripping herself, Helena clutched Valentine's hand in both of hers and he caught her round the waist.

He held her off the ground for a long moment, his long arm firmly wrapped around her. Helena's hands were caught against his chest, still holding onto his other hand.

"Much as I don't want to tarnish your victory," Valentine said quietly. "That wasn't the most graceful celebration."

She grinned and shrugged, trying to ignore the way his chest vibrated beneath her fingers. "I didn't want you to feel too bad about losing."

"Ah, well," he said, smirking. "I can stand losing to you."

He whirled her up and around to her feet, leaving her head spinning slightly. "So, what shall your question be?"

Helena hesitated.

"The Princess' strategy? Battle plan? Don't know much there, have to tell you. Her soldiers? Her breakfast?" Valentine rattled off, pacing.

Once again, the siblings' voices rattled through her head, begging her to get information from the one source they had. And once again, Helena ignored that.

"Are you okay?" she asked quietly.

Valentine froze for a half second, then grinned, "Of cou-"

Helena interrupted, "You said honestly."

He swallowed audibly, the smile, the façade, dropping from his face for a half second. "No."

She didn't know what to say.

"But I'm managing." And the mask was back. He grinned and winked, "You certainly wasted your question, Creator."

Helena took one of Valentine's hands in hers, glancing up at him, "No, I didn't."

Valentine stared at her, something raw behind his mask. "Helena…"

Helena woke up.

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 10 of 29

<< Previous     Home     Next >>