Continuing Tales

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 11 of 29

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Valentine was only alone for a few moments after Helena vanished, his hand startlingly cold after being held in her tiny, furnace-like palm. He swallowed back whatever nonsense he'd been about to spill and thanked his characteristically unlucky stars that she'd gone before he started being ridiculous. Saying things like thank you's and missed you's and lov-

No. He was lucky.

Even more so, when he woke up, he'd had enough time to school his expression. When he came to in his Tower, it was without a smile or trace of the happiness he'd really felt. Slowly, Valentine opened his eyes to find that he was, amazingly, alone.

He got up and dressed still in solitude. With a sense of foreboding and uneasiness, he wandered his Tower, his rotting guard following his movements, but making no attempt to stop him.

"Valentine," a voice called from downstairs.

Knowing better than to delay whoever it was, Valentine went to his kitchen, finding a living guard standing by the door.

"The Queen would like to see you."

"Not mutual," the juggler murmured, but followed the guard anyway. His usual silent guard trailed after both of them.

They moved past the food storage and crates of fruit and barrels of flour for the living army, heading towards the tent in the center of it all.

The Princess's tent was head and shoulders above all the others, pitch black and huge. He didn't know how she did it, but the inside was larger than the outside. As they approached, Valentine noticed several of the living soldiers glancing at him with frowns. The uneasiness began to grow.

His messenger left him outside the Princess's tent and fled quickly. Valentine waited outside the canvas for a moment, garnering the strength to walk inside.

A strange noise was emanating from within. Heavy breathing, rhythmic movements… It had been a long time and Valentine wasn't expecting to be hearing that sort of activity, which left him a little slower on the uptake than he should have been. He pulled the edge of the canvas aside and glanced inside.

It took a moment for his eyes to adjust. He first saw a large expanse of back and spiked hair that looked strangely familiar. Except his back didn't have crescent shaped cuts in the shoulders, or long red marks across it, or a pair of arms clinging around his shoulders, nor long legs wrapped around the waist and –

"Harder," ordered a familiar voice, from just behind the man. The back bent and shifted slightly, revealing the other person.

Valentine met the Princess's eyes over his copy's shoulder and she grinned at him. Spinning away from the canvas, Valentine retreated back to his Tower, his bedroom, shutting his guard out and ignoring the bile rising up in his throat. It wasn't him, it was only a copy. It wasn't him. Not really.

And yet.

Valentine barely made it to the bathroom before losing his lack of breakfast. As he panted and tried to keep down what was left of his stomach, he found that he was glad that he'd been honest.

He wasn't okay.






"What?!" Helena snapped, turning on Mags.

The shorter woman raised her brow at her tone, but just eyed the mess of training dummies and discarded boom-sticks on the ground. "You've been at this for hours. Give it a rest."

"No," Helena said, pulling out another piece of paper and dropping it to create her seventh? Twelfth boom-stick? "I've almost got it."

"What's going on? The past few days, you've been on edge."

"It's too quiet. The Princess should have done something by now." Helena neglected to mention she hadn't seen Valentine in her dreams for three nights. That was starting to wear on her, too. What if he'd been caught? What if the Princess had done something to him? She wouldn't even know until the Princess was taken down.

So that's what she would do.

Helena raised the boom-stick, ignoring Mags' attempt to speak and fired.


She blinked and stared at the target – a perfect circle in the middle of its chest. No extra flames. No blowback. No sparking.

"Did you get it?" Mags whispered.

Helena moved to the next target and tried again.



Helena smiled as Mags cheered, "You did it! Finally!"

"I'll get started on them right now. I should have a good handful of them up and ready by tomorrow," Helena said, grabbing her book.

"Nope," Mags said, snagging Helena's wrist and yanking the book out of it. "Eat, then work."


"If you die of malnutrition, Drag will somehow make it into my fault and I'm not having that. Eat."

Helena rolled her eyes and followed the tiny woman reluctantly.

Fifteen completed boom-sticks and three more almost finished drawings later, Helena collapsed into bed and tried not to hope.

When she arrived at the Pool, she was alone. Trying to keep her spirits up, Helena left the juggling balls alone and decided to practice some of her tumbling. It had fallen by the wayside as she and Valentine focused on their more favorite pastime, but he wasn't here…yet.

She stretched carefully, knowing all too well what would happen to muscles that weren't properly warmed up. Once she felt confident, she started with the basics. Headstands, handstands, cartwheels. Then she moved onto the more difficult ones, the flips that required the Pool's edge and a running start to be completed. Two in the air, then three and she felt better about her tumbling.

Content and a little tired, Helena stretched out again, deep muscle movements that made it burn pleasantly. Wrapping up, she put her arms high above her head and bent back, catching a glimpse of white as she did so.

Helena spun, "Valentine!"

For a moment, he just stared at her, that rawness she'd convinced herself she imagined clear on his face as he looked over her. It was as if he was dying of thirst and she was the fountain. Helena swallowed, having never been looked at like that before, and Valentine's eyes latched onto the movement of her throat and then continued traveling down. She could feel the flush starting on her cheeks and his hands clenched.

Then he broke it, smiling tightly, "Hello."

"Where have you been?" she asked, taking a step nearer and telling herself that her knees were not shaking at all, thank you very much.

"Around," he said vaguely, flapping his arm in the air.

"Not sleeping?"

He smiled again, a little easier this time, "Not so much, no. Why, did you miss me?"

For half a second, Helena debated on lying. "Yes."

His mouth parted, having not expected the answer, and then he shrugged. "I'm here now."

Once again, Helena ignored her inhibitions and crossed the distance to her friend. He'd made no move towards her, but he didn't seem disappointed when she wrapped her arms around his waist. Quicker than last time, Valentine hugged her back, holding her close.

"I was worried about you," Helena said into his shirt.

"Don't do that. Valentines can take care of themselves," he answered, his thumb rubbing circles along her spine.

She smiled, "I know. Doesn't mean I won't worry about you, though."

"That's your mistake, then," he murmured.

Helena chuckled, then squeezed him tightly. "I'm glad you're okay." She tried to pull away, but his arms didn't loosen around her. Helena looked up and saw that look behind his eyes again.

His hands had stopped on her back and he stared at her like a man lost.

Unsure and concerned, Helena smiled faintly, "Hey, you're okay. We're okay here."

He didn't smile back. "It's not where I am that makes me okay, Helena-na."

She wasn't sure she was still breathing at this point.

Valentine continued, "It's who I'm with and I…I think…"

Helena had to fight to keep her eyes on Valentine's eyes and not to wander downward…

"I think…"

His hands tightened slightly around her and then he grinned and stepped back, "I think we should have a rematch."

Helena reeled. "What?"

Two swords appeared in Valentine's hands and he handed one to her, a faint light in his eyes. "You win, you get another honest answer to a question, which I'm sure you need as you've wasted the last one."


"And when I win-"

"'When'?" she echoed in irritation, forgetting what it had been that she wanted to say.

"-I'm going to take something that I've wanted for longer than morally appropriate," he smirked.

Helena nearly dropped her sword.

"What do you say, Creator?" he asked, pulling off his robe and glancing over his shoulder at her.

She had an idea of what he meant by his winnings. Was she really willing to bet that against him? Could she live if she lost?

Did she even want to win at this point?

Helena raised her sword, "Come and get it, then."

Valentine grinned.

There was no testing of one another this time. When Valentine came at her, it was like a wave bearing her down. Helena held her own, but Valentine was fighting as if for his life. He moved faster than she'd expected and she was hard pressed to keep up with him. However, Mags trained her well and Helena had eventually evened the field, giving as good as she was taking.

Then Valentine twisted in a way she didn't think was physically possible, getting away from her blade and behind her in one amazing movement. Helena tried to turn, but-

Helena froze, her heart pounding in her ears. She hadn't dropped her sword, but she felt metal pressing against her throat. "You win," she panted, letting her blade drop. He held her tightly, one arm wrapped around her shoulders, keeping her from moving away. She could feel his heart pounding on her back, his breath coming short enough that she felt it on the top of her head. Despite the cessation of movement, her heart only moved faster.

He let go of her slowly, stepping back. "I didn't expect you to do so well."

"I've been learning."

He chuckled. "Same here." The sword in his hand vanished. "Do you know how I did that?"

"Yeah." Her sword vanished as well. "I won't let it happen again."


Helena walked over to the Pool, washing off her face in the water. Valentine joined her, handing her his robe as a towel. She grinned and took it, wiping the droplets off. When she lowered it, Valentine was very close to her.

"Your winnings?" she asked him, her heart back in her throat.

"Something like that. If you don't mind."

Helena shrugged, the nerves that she had managed to calm rising again as he stared at her. "You won, fair and square. Besides, it's a dream."

"Right," Valentine said. He took his robe out of her hands and wrapped his hand around her hip.

"It isn't real." She took a step closer, resting her hands on his chest. His heart was thrumming beneath her fingers.

Pushing her hair away from her face, he leaned in. "Of course not." Right before his lips touched hers, he stopped and murmured, "It's just a dream."

Helena's eyes slid closed, and she wrapped her fingers into Valentine's shirt. She could feel his breath puffing against her mouth and she leaned forward, anxious to feel him and –

The dream rocked, the water spilling out over the pool. They straightened, but Valentine didn't let go of her. "What happened?" Helena asked.

It rocked again, sending Valentine into her. She managed to keep them both upright, steadying them.

There was a noise, but it was so loud it hurt her ears. "What's going on?" she shouted, her hands over her ears.

Valentine grabbed her wrists, pulling them away from her ears. He looked worried, "Wake up."


"You have to wake up. Something's happening where you are. I don't-"

Helena cried out, wincing as pain burst along her side. She pressed her hand against the spot and when she drew it away, her skin was red.

Valentine pressed his hand against her side, his skin beneath his mask pale. "Wake up."

"How?" Pain clearly didn't work.

"Not pain," he mumbled, thinking along the same lines she had. He glanced at her, "Helena."


Without warning, Valentine shoved her towards the ground. She fell backwards, but right before she hit the ground, her eyes snapped open. The pain in her side was still there and it was still far too loud, but she was back in her tent. Or what was left of it. Explosions rattled around her and she climbed out of the mess that had been her bed and tent.


She was still on her knees as she looked up. Laurel was on her hands and knees, spitting blood out of her mouth. "You okay?"

"Sure," Helena responded. "You?"

Laurel shrugged, looking at the slice down her leg. "Feeling lucky."

It looked like something exploded a few yards outside their tent. Any closer and both of them would've been killed. As it was, part of the tent's supports had lodged in her side, causing the pain and bleeding. She grabbed her bag, which held her notebooks and pencils, and her sword. Her armor was a mess, but she salvaged the breastplate and the helmet. She pulled the bag over her head, tying the straps up so the bag hung down her back. Then she pulled on what was left of her armor and grabbed her sword.

Laurel had done the same, having saved her wrist guards as well.

Both of them had heard the sounds of battle. Helena tied her sword sheath onto her belt and kept the naked blade free. "Still feeling lucky?" she asked Laurel.

Laurel grinned, swinging her blade in a circle. "Damn right I am."

"Let's find Mags."

They had only managed to move a few feet when they heard a cry.

"To the Queen! The Queen!"

Helena and Laurel didn't hesitate. They sprinted towards the Queen's tent, shoving past fleeing civilians and wounded soldiers. A Shadow stepped in Helena's way and she cut down viciously, sending him reeling to the side and opening up her view.

The Queen's tent was gone. In its place, a crater of black shadows and white fabric. Helena's heart choked her for a moment before she looked to the side. The Queen lay on the ground, clearly wounded, surrounded by the few soldiers that were still standing, the Prime Minister, Mags, and Drag among them.

"Well, what do we have here?" a voice that was and wasn't Helena's asked.

The Princess moved forward from her Shadow army, smiling. Helena could see the portal that had opened up in their camp, answering how they'd gotten in so far.

They needed a miracle.

Helena scrabbled for her notebook, "Laurel, keep them off for three seconds!"

Laurel jumped into the fray, her sword added to her commander's and keeping the soldiers and Princess at bay for the seconds Helena needed. She finished the boom-stick in her notebook, throwing the paper to the ground and snatching up the weapon just as the Princess extended her hand and forced the guards away from the Queen.

"Finally," the Princess murmured, smiling as she raised her hand and the Queen was dragged to her feet by shadows. "It'll be over quickly," she laughed, stepping closer.

Drag and Mags tried to fight their way forward, but there were too many. The Princess wrapped her fingers around the Queen's throat.

"No!" Helena screamed.

No one stopped a faceless soldier. Helena shoved her way through, killing the few shadows that got in her way until she was right next to the Princess. The girl didn't even glance at Helena, too focused on the Queen.

"I told you, you'd all pay. I took away your Creator and now I'll take your Queen," the Princess announced to the crowd.

Helena ripped off her helmet, ignoring Mags's warning and the Prime Minister's shouts. "Looks like you didn't, actually."

The Princess went white, dropping the Queen out of pure shock. While she escaped back to their own people, the Princess advanced on Helena, shadows and dark magic sparking in her hands. "You little bitch. You should have stayed dead."

Helena laughed and lifted her boom-stick. "Yeah, not so good at that."

Helena fired and the Princess raised her hand, shadows blocking the blow almost completely, but sending the Princess back a step. Helena started to reload, but already saw that she wouldn't manage to do so in time, not before the Princess set her shadows on her.

The black-eyed girl snarled, "Just die, already!"

Helena braced herself-

An explosion rang out from just without the portal, sending all who were near it to the ground. In the echoing moments, the Princess turned her gaze on that, her eyes glaring at the distraction.

Helena took her chance, attacking the Princess when her back was turned. The point of her boom-stick went against the Princess's back and Helena pulled the trigger.

The Princess screamed as a good portion of her side vanished. Shadows exploded out, knocking everyone backwards. When they cleared, the Princess, the portal, the shadows, and her army were gone.

"What just happened?" Mags asked, helping the Queen to her feet.

Helena stood up slowly, still favoring her side, "I have no idea, but I'm glad."

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 11 of 29

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