Continuing Tales

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 20 of 29

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"Helena? Salve now," Whitt ordered.

Helena grabbed the jar and turned, ready to help get Valentine back into working order.

And then she saw him.

The bruised ribs looked painful. The way his arm hung out of its socket was wrong. But it was everything else that made her drop the jar.

Scars crisscrossed his body like a road map. His shoulders, his back, his sides, his arms, up to his neck and disappearing into his hair. His cast hid more, she was certain.

They traced every moment of his time with the Princess. Every time he'd done something wrong. Every time he'd spoken out.

Every second of his pain, laid bare for her to see.

Every inch of her betrayal and selfishness written on his skin in pale ink.

She stood in front of him now, spreading the balm that helped the bruises now - but nothing before - doing just this short of nothing to help the man who sacrificed everything and-

She couldn't stop the tears, as much as she wanted to. It wasn't fair, for him to see her sad when it was all her fault to begin with. And he noticed.

He met her eyes with only concern for her and she couldn't speak. Her mistakes were imprinted on his skin, not hers, and it wasn't fair. He should hate her for this, for-

"I do," he said quietly.

"What?" she whispered, not remembering this.

"I do hate you."

Helena stepped back.

"It's all your fault, Helena-na. This is all your fault," he chuckled, spreading his arms wide to make the scars more visible, "but I'm the one wearing it."

"I'm sorry," she mumbled.

He laughed, but it was a cold sound. "Do you know why Valentines don't apologize, Creator?"

Helena shook her head, hating that angry look. The look she'd only seen in her dreams, when he looked at-

"Because apologies are useless, meaningless, don't-change-anything, can't-fix-anything nonsense. They're just words," he snarled, advancing on her.

He'd backed her up to the window, arms on either side of her, boxing her against the glass.

"And words can't change what you did, Princess," he breathed.

Helena turned, looking at the window. She could see her reflection.

Black dress, black nails, blacks eyes.

And even worse, the juggler over her shoulder was draped in shadows, with dark pits where his eyes should have been.

"No!" she shouted, shaking herself out of her sleep. Panting, she kicked off her sheets and stumbled out of her bed to reach the window. Breathing in the cold morning air, she shivered, relishing the feeling.

She never thought she'd prefer the Princess's memories over anything, but that was worse. Not even the parts that were made up, but the scars.

There was still quite a bit of time before she could go downstairs without getting an angry look and word from Whitt for not sleeping. Helena dressed slowly, catching sight of her back in the mirror while doing her hair.

Two massive scars straddled her back. The newest one, still tinged red and healing was from the sconce in the Princess's tower, where she'd hung on the wall before her skin ripped. It still pulled, but it was manageable.

The other scar was older, all healed. From the blade of an enemy, wearing a friend's face.

Helena pulled her shirt over her head. Guess they all had new scars to bear.

Still, she tried to focus on the positives of last night.

Something had changed between her and Valentine. She wasn't certain what it was, but things didn't feel so strained. She smiled at her reflection for a moment.

Of course, today was a new day and who knew what would happen.

Two hours and a breakfast later, Helena stood outside the door to the Choir with Laurel, Nodd, Finley, Mags and Rickett. Some new faces joined them, too. A very tall former Shadow woman named Gesture and her partner Stayne. Stayne's half mask was a beautiful shade of red and Gesture's, covering her mouth and left eye, was a pale grey. Helena looked around again, hoping she had just missed him and that -

Valentine strolled around the corner, ignoring as a few of Helena's friends as they glanced at him. He nodded slightly when Helena met his gaze and she felt something untangle in her chest.

"All right," Helena began. "Some of you already know what lies behind this door, so bear with me. For the rest of you, this is the Choir."

She tried to explain, "There are boxes in here and inside those boxes are these...robots. Clockwork robots, that twist your head until you're not certain what's real. You forget who you are. And you…"

How could she explain it? That song, that stupid, inane song that she could never listen to again, that pushed at her mind and shoved her consciousness until all that she was, everything that made up Helena, was trapped within a tiny corner of her own head, screaming and shouting, but having no effect on her words or her actions or even her own thoughts. It was a haze of darkness that lay on her mind and made her not her and she couldn't explain.

Helena swallowed and cleared her throat. "They'll sing and make you forget. So, Laurel?" Her friend moved, passing out tiny clumps of cotton mixed with a soothing gel. "You're going to need to put these into your ears to keep the music from getting through. Just hold onto them for a minute, though."

She explained her plan. "We're going to go in and quickly station ourselves between the boxes. As soon as you see movement, the very second that box opens, you need to destroy the robots. They are dangerous."

"Is it permanent?" Stayne asked. "If we hear the music, is there any coming back?"

Helena couldn't help but glance at Valentine. He smirked slightly as she answered, "Yes, you could come back. But I don't know for certain how to do it and I'd really rather not take that risk."

She looked around, "Any questions?" Nobody moved. "Then let's go. Ear plugs in."

Helena went between each of them, talking loudly to make sure the plugs were working. When everyone was ready, Helena reached for the door handle and tried not to lose her composure. The metal was cold and Helena tried not to think of what lay within. She clenched her jaw and shoved it open.

Her team moved effectively, picking out one box apiece throughout the room. They covered all of them and still had a body to spare. Helena grabbed the lid of hers and pulled -

It didn't budge.

She could see her team doing the same things, but the boxes weren't opening. Helena looked around and saw the raised circle on the floor.

Helena was pushed into the room and onto the platform.

"Why do birds suddenly appear…"

Cold fingers scraped across every inch of her skin, undressing her, stripping away clothes and identity while that song flowed through her head. Part of her, the Helena-part, wanted to get out, get away, but it got quieter and quieter until she was compliant with the hands. Her face was smeared with makeup and her body relished the feeling while her mind cried out for them to leave her alone, to keep their hands off of her, to stop touching her. Freezing metal moved through her hair, up and down her arms, across her lips and eyes, all the while tearing her apart and rebuilding her into something new, something worse, something dark-

She hated being in charge, sometimes.

Helena walked across the floor towards the podium, waving for everyone else to remain in position. She stepped up onto the podium and the reaction was almost instant.

Valentine was a few boxes away and his mouth opened-

"Why do birds suddenly appear-"

The music started, off-key and chilling, and even through her ear plugs it started ripping at her sanity.

Then there was a clamor of metal, snapping springs, crashing cogs and wrecked wheels. But still, Helena could hear the music.

"Ev'ry time you are near?"

Boxes smashed around her, she saw it, metallic faces beaten into the ground. One head rolled towards her, stopping as it reached the base of the platform. Still, its mouth moved, singing to her.

"Just like me, they long to be-"

Helena stepped back, raising her sword to finish it off. Icy fingers closed around her sword arm. She turned and found herself face to face with one of the robots. Its box was destroyed, but it had hauled itself out of the shattered pieces of wood to put it at eye level with her. It squeezed her wrist until she dropped her weapon, then it leaned nearer, the other hand reaching for her face.

"Close to you," it sang, the cogs damaged and the sound coming out flat, off, terrifying.

Helena shrugged out of its grasp, backing up to get off of the podium, when she bumped into something solid.

A hand closed around her elbow, but she didn't panic. This one was warm and Helena leaned even further into the reassuring heat, needed to rid her body of the chill from the robots and the song.

Which wasn't playing anymore.

Helena looked around, seeing only pieces of the robots left. The few bits that were still moving were being advanced upon by her friends. In fact, only one person was missing and -

Helena turned, the hand on her elbow dropping away as she faced Valentine.

He was removing the plugs from his ears and she mirrored his movements.

"So, hindsight being what it is," he remarked in a falsely cheery voice, "do we think that was our most brilliant idea, regent?"

"It was the only one I had," she said, hopping off of the platform and checking to make sure everyone else was all right. Other than a few scrapes, everyone was removing their ear plugs without an issue, kicking the pieces of their enemies to make sure they were really dead.

"How about, oh I don't know," he followed her, his mocking voice drawing attention, "not using yourself as bait for crazy, mind-altering metallic beasties?"

"Gather these things up, every last bit," Helena ordered. "We're going to have a bonfire." She knelt down, sweeping pieces into small piles. "And who else would I have asked to do that?" she asked her still irritated shadow.

"I don't care! Anybody else. Use Noddy-boy, nobody like him," Valentine said, gesturing to the soldier in question.

"I'm right here," Nodd muttered.

"See?" Valentine gestured, "He's not disagreeing."

"I was fine," Helena argued, though her heart was still pounding from the adrenaline as she headed towards the door to gather bags and brooms to pick up the pieces. "I had plenty of back up."

Valentine was still on her heels and Helena couldn't stop the smile that spread across her face. She glanced at the floor, grinning as he continued.

"Back up is as good as a palimpuff in winter if you go out of your way to put yourself in danger!" he shouted at her, tugging at his hair. "You'd think, having stopped the end of the world twice now, you would have a better understanding of your own safety but-" he broke off as Helena turned, her arms crossed and her eyes dancing. "Why are you smiling?"

She couldn't help it. The tension between them had vanished for the moment and he acting so much like his old self…

She still didn't want to risk too much, though. Helena stomped out the urge to hug him and instead uncrossed and her arms and shrugged a little.

"You were worried about me," she pointed out. "You care."

Valentine's mouth hung open for two seconds before he closed it and backed up a little. "I...Well, you're the regent and I'm supposed to look out for you and's not like I'm-"

"Thank you," Helena said honestly, touching his hand. He didn't react, but he didn't back away, either. "I'm glad you have my back, manager."

That got the tiniest hint of a smile, the corner of his mouth just lifting slightly. "Somebody has to."

She didn't want to push it, so she gave him one more smile and walked away.


Whitt turned on Valentine, a large saw in her tiny hands.


He nodded, his mind still on something else. "Go for it, doc."

She attacked the cast and left him to his thoughts. Valentine thought back on the morning, cursing his stupid mouth for saying stupid words that his stupid head couldn't stop.


But it's not like he had a choice. He'd seen that thing - that robot - reaching for her and he'd jumped up without thinking and then she'd leaned into him and just -

Stayed there.

He stood behind her, feeling her breath come in pants as she stared at the thing that tried to unmake her, feeling her back against his chest as she rested against him for comfort and reassurance. He'd held her elbow, not allowing his other hand to do what it really wanted, which was to wrap around her completely and whisk her away from all of these things. His own heart pounded in his throat as he looked down at the strands of dark brown hair. They hadn't been this close since the Battle of the Mask, in the hallway, where they'd -

She turned to face him, pulling the plugs out of her ears as he did the same. And then it all just started coming out. The stupid words.

All the right-wrong words that broke the wall he'd been trying to build.

And he might have been able to start building it back up again, but she'd smiled.

She smiled and all that worry and the shadows on her face and the tiredness in her eyes, it all just vanished.

From now on, though. From now on, he'd be the quiet guardian that watched but never touched or talked or, worst of all, smiled at his charge. He was here to look out for her and that was it.

From now on.

"All set," Whitt said, putting the saw down and brushing the white-grey flakes of the cast from her front.

Cast-free, Valentine walked out of the doctor's rooms, twisting his wrist this way and that as he experimented with it. His fingers were itching to do some real juggling, but he quenched that desire as his stomach grumbled.

He walked into the kitchen, seeing Finley, Laurel, Rickett, Whitt, and Nodd sitting at his usual table, with his usual spot still open. He went to grab a plate and food, and the Creator caught his eye, sitting at a different table with Gesture's group. She glanced at his wrist, met his eyes and smiled at him.

Valentine's mouth turned up.


Valentine moved his shoulder, forcing her hand off of him, "Not. Interested."

"I am exactly like her!"

"You're nothing like her. And Valentines don't settle for second best."

She slapped him, hot fury coursing through her.

Valentine stepped back, the skin below his mask turning red. He seemed surprised, but not hurt.

She glared at him and he started to smile. It was the kind of smile she gave him. And she hated it.

"If that'll be all?" he asked, utterly calm.

"Get out," she hissed, turning away from him.

Valentine headed towards the door, commenting to her guards, "Gents."

She grabbed one of the inkwells off of her desk and threw it at the wall. She must have moved too soon, because she heard a quiet chuckle before the door shut.

She glared at her guards, "Out." They shuffled to obey her, closing the door behind them.

She stared at the heavy wood, wondering where this anger was coming from. It was directed at Val and Helena. But there was some left over that she couldn't figure out. Some that felt sour in her mouth.

She was angry at herself.

Sitting in her chair, the Princess stared at the MirrorMask. She was beautiful. Powerful. Clever. Why didn't Val want her? Why couldn't she own him like she did everything else in this world? He was the only thing that fought her every step of the way and while she enjoyed the struggle and banter too much to give him to the Choir, she wondered why she put up with it. If she had him re-taught, he'd be like her. They'd have more in common.

Oh. She didn't want him to be like her. She wanted him to be Val and be hers.

Why? It was so much easier the other way.

The Mask reflected her face and the Princess scowled. Instead, he still belonged to the other girl. Helena. She didn't understand.

The Princess grabbed the MirrorMask. She put it against a wall and pushed, suspending it in the stone. It hung there, and the Mask flattened, making a round mirror. The Princess waved her hand over the mirror and Helena's room appeared before her, empty of its occupant.

It only took a moment for the Princess to focus and the she found herself stepping out of the mirror in Helena's room. It was quiet and mostly familiar from the time she'd spent here. It hadn't changed much. A few things here and there sparked recognition. The bedspread. The green cushion. The dresser with the-

The Princess stopped and walked closer to the dresser. Papers were taped up all around the edges of the mirror, all at least a year old from the state of the paper and smear of the pencil, but all of them were of the same character.

Dozens of Valentines were looped around her mirror. Helena hadn't forgotten the juggler, despite being here for the past two years. Despite her dalliance with the other Val.

She was supposed to forget.

The Princess put her hand on the edge of one of the drawings, grasping it between her fingers. If she tore them all down, would Helena just make more? Would Val just vanish?

In the end, she left everything the way she was and returned to home. She pulled the MirrorMask off of the wall and sat down again. Val wanted Helena. Helena at least remembered Val. Fine, all she had to do was keep Helena from coming back. Or, if she managed to come back, she'd just have to kill her. Simple enough.

The Princess put the Mask down. She would keep him. Nothing could help him except her. Soon, they'd be the only two non-shadows left and then he wouldn't have a choice. Neither of them would have a choice. it was either each other or nothing. They would be the only two left and no one, not even her, wanted to be alone.

The Princess smiled.

Helena woke up, her heart pounding. She hated this. Memories that weren't hers. Thoughts she shouldn't have to carry.

But tonight she especially hated the feelings left in her. The Princess's memories reeked of loneliness. Such longing to be with another person, to have a connection with another person that Helena's stomach twisted and she hugged her arms around herself, fighting the urge to cry. She hated the loneliness.

She hated that it made her pity the Princess, just a little.

She threw the covers off of her bed and sat up, trying to find some comfort in her surroundings and finding nothing. It was empty of anything. Including relief. Hominess. Anything.

She grabbed her jacket, needing to get out. She had to get out of this entire castle. All of the Princess' memories were here, layering over what Helena knew and tainting it.

She got out of her room without being seen by her well-meaning but overprotective guards. Then she used the side garden door rather than the front door. It was only when she felt the grass under her feet that she realized she forgot to put on shoes. She tugged the jacket tighter around her shoulders, not even knowing where she was going until she arrived.

The door of Valentine's Tower lay in front of her. She raised her hand to knock, but the door opened before her knuckles got there. Helena waited, but there was no one there. She traced her fingers along the frame. "Thanks."

She wandered into the kitchen, remembering the last time she was in there. She looked at the cupboards, the memory of that day tempered by the things she knew now. He'd been trying to protect her. Always looking out for her, even at the cost of his life.

She'd never looked around his Tower. Not really. She never really had time to.

The kitchen led to a small sitting room. It was sparsely decorated, but the two small armchairs that were in there both looked well-used. The stairs on the other side of the room must lead up to the bathroom and Valentine's bedroom. A tiny part of her wanted to go up and wake him, just so she had some sort of comfort. But that was selfish; if anyone needed rest, it was him. Besides, she was pressing her luck with their strained relationship as it was, being here without his permission. But the Tower had opened, and she already felt better here than in her room...

There was a blanket on the floor by the armchair. She shook it out, a thin layer of dust coming off of it. She thanked whoever was responsible that she didn't have any allergies. Helena tucked her bare feet beneath her on one of the chairs and pulled the blanket over her shoulders. It wasn't exactly the most comfortable thing physically, but Helena felt warmer and more at home here already. She rested her head against the wing of the armchair and closed her eyes...


She started awake, seeing Valentine at eye level. She cleared her throat, wincing as her neck twinged. "Hi."

"Are you all right? Is everything okay?" he asked her.

"Yeah," she nodded, sitting up. "I'm sorry. I just couldn't…I couldn't sleep in there."

He watched her rub her neck, "You can't sleep there, either. Why didn't you wake me up?"

She shrugged, "I didn't want to bother you."

He stared at her for a long minute and Helena stood, "I'm so sorry for barging in here. I'll find somewhere else in the castle to sleep. I'm really sorry."

He chewed his lip, something fighting behind his eyes before he sighed. "Come on." Valentine stood up and motioned for her to follow. Helena did and glanced down at what he was wearing.

"Are those future fruit pajama pants?" she asked him, smiling.

"Don't judge."

They got up to the second level, where Helena saw two closed doors and one that was partially opened. She saw a disheveled bed and his robe on the floor.

"Here," he opened up the door farthest from his room. It was completely empty.

"Is this an extra bedroom?" Helena asked, looking inside. It was small, but she never needed a lot of space.

"Not yet. It's just a regular room. If I put a pool in it, it would be the pool room. Or I could grow a tree and make it a garden room. But, I suppose if you put a bed in it, it could be another bedroom." He looked like he hadn't thought of that before.

"Would you mind?" she asked him. "Being Tower-mates? I just can't sleep in there."

"No, I don't…I don't mind," he said. "If you really want to."

"I do. Please."

He nodded, "Then it's all yours. There's a bathroom through here." He opened the other door in the room, revealing a small bathroom. That had another door in it, which apparently led to Valentine's room. "I suppose you could just create a new bathroom, but I'm not sure where she'd put it." He looked up and around at his Tower.

Helena glanced at him. "If it's all the same to you, I'd rather leave your Tower the way it is."

He said, "Well, as long as you want it. It's yours."

"Thank you," she told him honestly. "I really mean it, Val."

"Don't call me that," he snapped, glaring at her.

Helena took a minute to realize what she had done. It had been the dreams…the Princess always called him Val. But it had felt wrong in her mouth.

Valentine was still staring at her, anger on his face.

"I'm sorry. I didn't…" Helena hated that he was looking at her like he had looked at the Princess. "I'm sorry."

He didn't say anything and Helena looked away. She couldn't see that look. "You know, forget it. I can deal with the castle. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to barge in." She backed away and started to leave the room.

"No, wait, Helena," he turned and stared at her. The look was gone now, so Helena did as he said. "Don't go. I didn't…It's not…"

She couldn't help but smile at their utter incapability to communicate when they felt bad. She decided to go the less-talkative route. Helena walked up to him and wrapped her arms around his chest. "I'm sorry."

He didn't move to hold her, or even breathe for a moment. Then, he put his arms around her, "Don't be."

Helena sighed, closing her eyes for a second. It was odd, that after their fighting and shouting and guilt, she felt at home right there.

"You can call me that, if you like. It's fine," he said, his voice humming.

"No," she told him. "No, it doesn't suit you." She shook her head at the idea of calling him anything else. Especially a nickname used by the girl who ruined his life.

Without his robe on, it was a much different feeling hugging him. She breathed out slowly, feeling his heart thrum beneath her cheek

Valentine pulled away, "So, you need a bed."

"I can take care of it," Helena said, ignoring that she felt colder now. She rubbed her arms against it and eyed the space.

"Do you want help?" he asked, leaning against the wall.

Helena smiled at him, feeling better than she had in days. "Creator, remember? All I need is a pencil and some paper."

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 20 of 29

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