Continuing Tales

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 17 of 29

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Helena lifted her arms above her head, "And, Val? Just to prove how serious I really am…"

Valentine opened his eyes, lifting his head slightly to look at her. He glanced at the Monkeybirds covered in inky shadows around them and Helena saw his hands shake.

"No. Plea-"

She threw her hands down and the Monkeybirds went with them. He took a half step forwards, but his fists clenched and he stopped, glaring at her in a way that she never hoped to see again. She stared at him as the Monkeybirds were wiped out.

Helena brushed off her hands when it finally went silent. "Just so you know, there are a lot more people in the City of Light. I'm asking for one. You bring me one, and I'll spare the rest."

"For now." Valentine's voice was short and curt.

She smirked, enjoying getting under his skin. He tried so hard to appear uncaring, but he truly didn't want to see other people hurt. It was thrilling to see him unbalanced. "Let's cross that bridge when we come to it. Will you get me Mrs. Bagwell?"

"Yes," he bit out.

"Will you refuse me again?"

He met her gaze, nearly as hard and cold as Helena figured hers was. "No."

"Good. Now get me what I want."

Valentine turned on his heel, never looking left or right. Helena watched him go and smiled. She enjoyed twisting him. He had started out so good and noble, if a bit misguided. Now he was turning as black as her.

Helena walked over to the edge of the tower, smiling. It was only a matter of time before he didn't have another option other than her. She looked down at her handiwork, pride seeping through her. She saw the mangled bodies and started to laugh-

Helena woke up with a muffled scream, her clothes soaked. She shot out of bed, just in time to make it to the bathroom attached to her room. After vomiting whatever she had eaten the night before, she felt a burning pain down her back.

It'd been six days since the Battle for the Mask. They were still hunting down a few stragglers, but most of the Army of the Light was settling into the Castle of Shadows, cleaning it out and recovering. Helena had spent the first three days recovering from the perpetual migraines and significant blood loss. Her back had been sewn up, along with her other numerous cuts and scrapes.

But the worst of all were the nightmares.

They'd started the night after the Battle. She'd thought that they were just something she had created, but six nights of them were too much.

Helena stumbled out of her room and down the hall where Mags and Drag stood guard outside the Queen's room.

"Helena," Mags stepped up, "are you all right?"

"I need...I need to see the Queen. Please," she said quietly, knowing that her hands were shaking.

Drag knocked on the door. "Majesty?"

The quick answer from inside got rid of the tiny guilt Helena housed that she was waking her monarch at such an early hour.

Helena slipped through the door, shutting it behind her when Mags and Drag might have followed.

The Queen and Prime Minister sat at the Princess' old desk, going through her papers and files.

"It's early, Helena," the Queen said quietly. "You should be resting."

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about," Helena answered, nodding at the Prime Minister as he smiled at her. "I've been having dreams."

"What kinds of dreams?" she asked, putting down her pen.

Helena sagged into a chair, prompting the Prime Minister to hop up and touch her shoulder, "My dear, are you all right?"

"I don't know." Helena's voice shook.

"I'll get you some water," he said, squeezing her shoulder gently before leaving the room.

"Talk to me," the Queen pressed.

"Every night since the Battle, I've had nightmares," Helena started.

"Not unusual for what you've been through."

"Except they're not my memories. Not my thoughts," she argued. "I think...I think when I absorbed the Princess, that something might have been leftover. I've been dreaming about her life. Her words and actions. What she did…" Helena trailed off.

The Queen stared at her for a moment, then shuffled through some papers. "I have the medical records from after the Battle." She pulled out a file and flipped through the papers to find Helena's. "I have here that despite your injuries, you were all right. The shadow remains on your palm, but hasn't moved from when you first got it. Your eyes are how they should be. You haven't developed any other new powers." She smiled. "I think it's safe to say that you are all right. However, you may be suffering from some side effects of defeating the Princess. As we don't have any records of this sort of thing, we don't know if they're normal or not. That being said, I know the nightmares must be awful, but as far as we know, that's all they are. Just nightmares."

Helena nodded slowly. "I guess nightmares aren't the worst thing that could happen." She didn't feel completely at ease with her new nighttime activities, but she felt a bit better. Helena used the time to ask what she had been concerned about just as long. "How is he?"

The Queen didn't ask who she was talking about. "He's stable. His injuries from the Battle were serious, but he's recovering from those."

The way she said it made Helena nervous. "What else would he be recovering from?"

"Why haven't you gone to ask him for yourself?" the Queen countered.

Helena's mouth snapped shut at the unexpected question, but she continued. "I have gone to see him. He's refused to see me. Every time I go, they tell me he's sleeping or resting or busy...but I know he's not. He doesn't want to see me," Helena assumed, avoiding the Queen's eyes. "Not that I blame him."

"Helena, what happened to him wasn't-"

"What happened?" she interrupted quietly.

With a small sigh, the Queen handed over another piece of paper from the file she had pulled Helena's medical records. "You can look for yourself."

She took the page and skimmed it over. Some of it, she didn't quite understand, but she caught the important words, insomnia, paranoia, night terrors, fear of the dark, half-healed breaks and lesions, fresh breaks over completely healed ones, malnutrition, exhaustion, internal damage, brain damage (pre-existing condition?), anxiety, panic attacks, distrust of authority… the list went on.

Helena handed it back, trying to reign in her anger. The tiny part of her that had killed those who killed Gallant wished she hadn't gotten rid of the Princess so quickly.

"Did you see any evidence of this when you saw him at the Pool of Dreams?" the Queen questioned her.

Helena recalled the way Valentine had hunched over his broken ribs and his swollen face. "Yes."

"Do you know what he might have done to prompt that?"

"He said he pissed her off." Helena recalled her one question that he had answered truthfully. "He would always pretend that he was fine. That it wasn't that bad. But it was."

The Queen noted that down. "Helena, the trial is today."

She was well aware of that and just nodded.

"I need you to trust that I do not want him to hang if he is innocent."

"But you don't completely believe that he's innocent, do you?" Helena asked.

"I don't know. But I want to know the truth." The Queen waited to see Helena's nod before continuing. "I'm just afraid that he won't tell it."

"He will," Helena said, wanting to believe it herself. "He has to."

"Perhaps a visit from you today wouldn't go amiss," she suggested.

Helena wasn't looking forward to it as much as she thought she would. "Are you certain that's wise?"

"Yes. Despite the other things scheduled today, I do believe that it will be helpful and necessary," the Queen said.

Helena wasn't so certain.

Still, an hour, a bath, and new bandages later, she walked towards Valentine's room, and faced the guard at the end of his hallway.

"I'm here to see him," she said quietly.

"He's sleeping."

Helena narrowed her eyes and the guard, someone she hadn't met before, shifted uncomfortably. "I'm going to see him anyway. Open the door."

He didn't hesitate again.

Valentine wasn't sleeping; he was sitting on his bed, juggling one handed. His cast kept him from lots of things, but apparently he refused to let it keep him from juggling. He looked up and paused when he saw her, catching the spheres and putting them on the bed.

"Not sleeping?" Helena asked.


"He told me you were."

"That's because I asked him to."

The blatant honesty about the lie made her blink. "Why?"

He shrugged, and Helena stepped further into the room, leaning on the wall across from him.

He sat back, mimicking her as she crossed her arms. He didn't seem inclined to talk, so Helena took a moment to look over him.

In her dreams, he looked exactly as she remembered him - spiked hair, clean robe, frantic if efficient movements. This man - this stranger - wasn't her Valentine.

His hair was longer, pushed back from the edge of his mask and falling almost to his collar. His robe was different, but Helena figured that was her fault. She had redrawn him and apparently changed his clothes. She hadn't added the scars, though. Not the nicks on his mask or the ones that ran across his hands. She hadn't added the lean muscle that ran all along his frame. She hadn't added the arrogance, or the lies, or the disinterest that showed even through his mask.

"Did you need something?" he asked her.

Helena shook her head, at a loss for what to do. She wanted the Valentine she'd spoken to in her dreams. She wanted to walk away from this stranger wearing a new version of her best friend's face, but she couldn't. She was rooted to the spot because the man she'd known in her dreams came from this one, and it was her fault they didn't match. If he was really all that different, he wouldn't have said and done what he did. There was still something going on here and she would figure out what it was if it killed her in the process. But this Valentine wanted to put a fight.

Fine. She'd become quite the fighter herself.

"How are you doing?" she asked him, refusing to balk as he didn't show any interest in speaking or even looking at her.

"Broken arm. Damaged throat. Minor cuts and bruises. Broken ribs. That last one was thanks to you."

She nodded. The Queen's reports had listed all of that and more. The abuse, the exhaustion, the night terrors. Helena kept all this in mind as she stared at him.

"Anything else, Creator? I'm actually quite the busy man," he commented.

"I wanted to talk to you."

"Isn't that what we're doing now?"

She shook her head. "You're reciting facts and trying to kick me out. Hardly a conversation."

"Yeah, well. Conversations are between friends."

Ouch. "So you saved my life because we're not friends?" She didn't bring up the kiss. Neither one of them was in a place to talk about that yet.

He shrugged again. She hated that shrug. "Between you and her, I think you were my better shot."

She didn't like being compared with the Princess. But she was here for a reason. She had to focus. "Your trial is today."

"Here to say goodbye?" he asked coolly.

"Don't say that," Helena murmured.

He started juggling again, "Get used to the truth, little girl. I'm a criminal. Treasoner. Murderer. I don't get another chance."

"You're not, I know you," Helena said, "and-"

"You don't know me," he cut in harshly. "I'm everything they say I am and more. And if you weren't so hopelessly naive, you'd be well aware of it yourself."

"I am not naive," she snapped at him.

He unfolded from the bed, catching the juggling balls and putting them down once more. "Did I upset the poor little Creator?"

"Knock it off," she ordered.

"Or what? You'll arrest me?" he smirked, not taking a single step towards her but making her feel like he was cornering her nonetheless.

"I wanted to be certain that you understood the details of your trial," Helena tried to refocus the conversation. He was deliberately baiting her. And it was working.

"I'll be tried. Pretty clear."

"Not just you," Helena said, watching his face and hoping she was playing this correctly. "All the living soldiers of the Army of Shadow will also be tried, along with the other war criminals. Your confession will be matched against theirs to confirm their guilt or innocence."

His expression went carefully blank, "I didn't know there were other prisoners."

"Guess I'm not the only hopelessly naive person, am I?" Helena shot back at him. Her headache was coming back with a vengeance.

He laughed, but it wasn't the right sound. It wasn't the sound of her friend. This was a defensive sound, for all that he tried to mask it. How often in the past few years had he had to make that sound? Why did he still feel the need to make it now?

She had to leave before he did something else to push her over the edge. "I wanted to wish you good luck at your trial. And I'm glad you're feeling better."

Valentine didn't have an answer for that and Helena slipped out before he could.

However, the twisting in her gut proved that the trial wouldn't go as well as she hoped.

The trial wasn't going well.

Three hours later and well into his trial, Valentine sat on the stand, with his arrogant smirk in place. He had answered all of the Librarian's questions and watched as the Council's faces got more and more resigned.

"So," the Librarian said, rubbing his forehead, "let me recap what you said. You stole books from my Library, you helped the Princess infiltrate the City of Light, you kidnapped Mrs. Bagwell, you gave the MirrorMask to the Princess, you caused the deaths of the Monkeybirds, you're responsible for the death of Deci, you sent away our Creator, you attempted to kill her twice, and you donned the armor of a Shadow Guard, along other miscellaneous and nefarious deeds, too many to recall in the past three years."

"That about sums it up," Valentine said.

He didn't look up to see anyone's reaction sitting above him in the stands. He knew where this was going.

"And you have no guilt over it? No sorrow for the things that you did? Nothing at all?" the Librarian asked. He sounded desperate.

As if he didn't want to convict him.

Too bad.

"I'm not sorry for the choices I made."

In the resounding silence from his statement, he heard the voice he'd prayed wouldn't get involved. "Your Majesty...may I ask him a few questions?"

Valentine watched the Queen stare at Helena carefully for a minute, then, "Do you have an objection, Judge?"

He clearly wasn't going to argue against the Queen and the Creator. "Not at all."

The Queen waved her hand and Helena walked down the stairs until she was level with Valentine's stand.

She didn't speak to the crowd. Just to him. "So you aren't sorry, because those were the best decisions you could have made? You might have wished that you hadn't had to make it at all, but the ones you chose are the ones you've accepted?" Helena asked.

Valentine stared at her, his mouth a thin line. Damn it. She knew. How could she know?

She smiled, "Might I remind you, you swore under oath to answer all questions truthfully." Helena gestured to the orb that was attached to his podium, which glowed red with all untruths.

Valentine's good hand clenched. "You are correct."

"What were your choices?" Helena asked.

The tension went up.

"For what matter in particular?" he asked her, resigned to telling the truth, but refusing to make it easy on her.

"Sending me away. What would have happened if you hadn't gotten me to return home and stay there? What would have happened if you hadn't convinced me to leave and never come back?"

He thought quickly. He couldn't lie, but he couldn't tell the whole truth. He'd promised. This was the one way to ensure his promise and now she was trying to take it away from him.

Valentine watched Helena's eyes get narrower as he remained silent. He had to make it believable, though. He had to keep her from asking more questions. He sighed, letting his shoulders sag slightly. "The Princess had gotten her metal spider around me. Had you returned home with an intention of coming back here, she would have killed me." The murmurs sounded more understanding, but not at all sympathetic.

"What were your exact terms for forcing me to leave and never come back?" Helena pressed.

"I had to get you to leave. Convince you that you weren't wanted. I had to give her the Mask." He had to tread carefully.

"And was your life the only thing at stake?"

He stayed silent, the only movement was his face, turning to watch her as she paced.

"Answer the question," the Librarian ordered quietly.

"No," he stated.

Helena didn't respond. She just stared at him with those too-clever eyes and that endlessly patient face.

How did she know to ask these things?

She was going to stand there until he finally gave in. Valentine swallowed, thinking about the other people to be tried. If he lied, he might ruin their chances at forgiveness.

"Dammit," he whispered under his breath. "No. The Princess had hidden three of her metal beasties in your room when she was there. Had I not convinced you not to come back, she would have killed you."

The revelation was met with shocked gasps. Helena didn't react, but her eyes lit up with some kind of victory.

"The other choices that you made. What were the details of those decisions?" Helena asked him.

Valentine gave up then. He listed off the hard truth of the matter in a detached voice. He was given a choice between Mrs. Bagwell and the entire City of Light. His refusal had resulted in the deaths of the Monkeybirds. He had donned the armor to distract the Princess, saving Helena's life in the process. The metal spider had been the thing to kill Deci, not him. The Valentines who had attacked her had been the copies made by the MirrorMask.

"Were you hurt by her?" Helena asked as he finished summing up his decisions. The Council was taking pages after pages of notes, all of their faces far more sympathetic.

Valentine glared at her then, shaking his head slightly. Don't push me, he thought. Don't make me say it.

Her face was already sad, the corners of her mouth turning down slightly. She knew.

"Did she hurt you?" she asked again.

The admission fell into a silent room. "Yes." He should have been stronger.

But he wasn't.

"Did she lie to you?"

"Yes." He should have seen through those faster.

But he hadn't.

"Had you been able to escape without putting anyone in danger and without giving the Princess an opportunity to make more plans without inside help, would you have done it?"

"Yes." He should have made that opportunity.

But he didn't.

She reached into her pocket, pulling out A Really Useful Book. "Do you recognize this?"

He just wanted this to stop. He'd had the Council in the palm of his hand before she arrived. Now she was turning things upside-down. "Yes."

"Does this sound familiar? 'MirrorMask: Can copy things and people. Can let you imitate people. Can open gates between worlds. Can allow travel between worlds without replacing the alternate world's person. Can ward off Shadow powers'."

"Yes." Stop, stop, stop.

"How so?"

"I wrote it." Too little. Too late. Too useless.

"And how did you know about this, when not even the Queen nor I was aware?" Helena asked.

"I read it."


"In the books she had me steal. I started reading them and tried to figure out what she was doing." After being pushed to because I was too big of a coward on my own.


"To stop her. Or to get the information to someone who could."

"The Book came to me."

He shrugged, staring at his clenched fist. "I didn't know."

"Sure," someone scoffed in the crowd. Valentine's head lifted slightly. They weren't all convinced.

"When did you send the Book back to the Library?" Helena asked slowly, ignoring the comment.

"I sent it out..." he trailed off, the dates coming together, glancing at her.

"You sent it out...?" She pressed, meeting his eyes.

How did she know?!

His hands were clenched, even the one in a cast, sending delightful pinpricks of pain up his arm. "A few days after the Princess told me you had been killed."

"So, while the Princess was thinking that her greatest opponent had been gotten rid of," she said with a condescending smile towards herself, "you were still trying to help the City of Light. Why?"

"Because the Princess was a horrible person," he exclaimed in a huff, his anger getting the best of him.

"And remind me, Valentine. When the Princess was doing her very best to kill me in her tower, who burst in, distracted her, threw the MirrorMask to me, and nearly got himself killed by her in the process?" she asked him, her voice louder this time.

He glared at her, his salvation and undoing in the same, frustrating package. "Me."

"In fact, you stopped breathing because of her spider. Your heart stopped beating. Do you remember that?" Helena asked him.

"No, I don't."

"I was there and restarted your heart. So I remember it." Helena stared at him for a minute and then shook her head, "So, correct me if I'm wrong, Valentine, but you chose kidnapping one woman to save hundreds, you gathered up the information that could stop the Princess and managed to get it to someone who could use it against her, and you died making sure that the Princess didn't win. Did I miss anything?"

"No, but-" he tried.

"So really, if it wasn't for you, we'd all be serving the Princess now."

Shut up, shut up! "That's not-"

"Except for those of us she had killed, which I'm sure would have included myself, the Queen, the Prime Minister, and others. So you actually saved-"

"Stop!" he shouted, on his feet. Helena did, staring at him as the murmurs got louder at his outburst. "Stop. I didn't save anyone. Everyone who got hurt or killed or vanished was my fault. I'm responsible. Not being as bad as the Princess does not make me a good person."

They had to know.

"It doesn't make you a bad one, either." Helena told him quietly. She turned to the Council, "I'm done, Your Majesty."

"If that's so, I believe the Council had enough information to make a ruling for Mr. Valentine. Thank you for your testimony and-"

"If you're smart," Valentine interrupted the Queen, earning a few dark looks, "you'll still convict me. Her way of presenting it is nice," he jerked his head towards Helena, but kept his eyes on the Queen, "but the truth is that I'm responsible for more deaths than I can count. There had to have been another way to do things that I just missed. I'm an awful man, and I don't deserve to be forgiven."

He knew the stone on the podium didn't so much as flicker red.

The Queen looked down at him, "Your comments will be taken into consideration, Mr. Valentine. You're excused."

He stood, ignoring Helena as she stood by the podium, obviously trying to catch his eyes. The guards took his arms and helped him down the steps before heading towards the door.

"Next up, we have…" the Queen hesitated, then sighed quietly, "Miss Helena Campbell."


Valentine twisted slightly to see Helena walking calmly up the steps to sit in the defendant's chair. What would she be on trial for? She hadn't done anything wrong!

"Charges include negligence, consorting with the enemy, aiding and…" the Queen's voice was cut off as the doors shut behind Valentine.

Consorting with the enemy.


He'd broken his promise before he'd even made it. He'd gotten her into trouble just by being near.

Valentine stared at the floor. He hoped they'd convict him and help fix his mistakes.

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 17 of 29

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