Continuing Tales

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 21 of 29

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Valentine made quite a few promises in his time, but rarely found himself having to follow them. It was a dangerous, careful game of balancing but, as a juggler, he'd never found it overly difficult.

He'd promised to never owe anyone anything (which is why he used to steal, so he never owed anyone money).

He'd promised to always listen to his mother (that solved itself when she didn't want him as a son).

He'd promised to do the right thing (for himself. Obviously).

He'd promised to never disappoint anyone (which is why he let them have such low expectations of him. Win, there).

He'd promised to be the best Valentine he could be (and since there was only one, he was good with that).

Those promises were easy. Then he had to make another one.

He'd promised to do what's best for Helena.

Which was a little complicated.

See, he should stay away from her, because he wasn't the best for her. But she came to him for comfort, so he couldn't-wouldn't (details weren't important) turn her away. As long as he kept things clear between them...he had to be her friend to look after her, right? Yes. Maybe? No, yes. Definitely, probably, yes.

Most likely.

And it had nothing to do with the fact that he was sleeping better in the days since Helena moved in. The way he could smell her shampoo when he got into the shower in the mornings. How she would be sitting at the kitchen table when he came downstairs, with a breakfast waiting. How when he saw her, the past three years seemed very far away. How-

But she was just his friend. His friend who he had completely platonic feelings for. Who didn't affect him in any way other than how the other people here did.

He came downstairs and Helena looked up from tying her shoes. She smiled, "Hi."

His mouth turned up at one corner and his stomach twisted - dammit, what was wrong with him?

"Sleep well?" she asked, standing up.

For once, he didn't have to lie. "Yes."

"Me, too," she admitted with a smile. Valentine grabbed his robe, wondering how this tiny girl in his kitchen, with the too-large shirt and torn pants, with her hair that fell over her face whenever she leaned over to do anything, how this girl had saved the world twice already. She'd saved both of their worlds. She'd saved him.

He tugged his robe on, trying to rid himself of the dangerous, lurky thoughts in the back of his mind. She was just his friend - that's all he could be for her. That's all he should be.

Helena came over and straightened his robe, tugging the collar straight. Her hands lingered on his chest and Valentine held his breath. Of course, those lurky thoughts lurked forward and he remembered how she'd yelled at him in the castle and how it felt when he'd held her against the wall and kissed-

He stepped back, letting her hands fall off of him. Behave.

"Looking good, juggler," she said with a smirk. Grabbing her bag with her notebook and pencils, Helena headed out of the Tower.

Valentine watched her go, his robe feeling too hot and his skin burning. Taking a deep breath, he followed the girl who was just his friend.

And he wished he could be more.

"No, Mags," Helena said firmly, settling into the chair. "We aren't going out there with the intention of killing it."

"That monster nearly killed you the other night and you just want to let it live?" Mags snapped, glancing at Laurel for support.

"She's got a point," Laurel commented.

"It might not be dangerous, beneath the shadows. I don't want to kill an innocent creature if I don't have to," Helena explained.

"You killed the Monkeybirds without flinching," Mags argued.

"We didn't have a choice or the time to try and help them," Helena retorted, glancing over her shoulder to make sure the door was shut. "And I did flinch."

"Helena, we have to-"

"No, Mags," she interrupted. "If we don't have to, we aren't going to."

"Argh," Mags muttered. "And you're sure the juggler doesn't have a clue what it is?"

Helena fixed her with a glare. "Valentine," she said forcefully, "doesn't know what that thing is. And he saved my life the first time we faced it. So don't do that."

"Do what?" Mags said, fixing her belt.

"You know what, Mags," she retorted. "Throw suspicion on him just because something goes wrong. He doesn't deserve that."

Mags shrugged, then Laurel eyed Helena with a grin. "But he deserves to have you moving in with him?"

"Shut up," Helena said, standing up. "It's not like that."

"Which is why you're blushing like a liar in court?"

"Shut up," she repeated. "It's not-"

A knock at the door interrupted her. Valentine popped his head into Mags' room, "Just wanted to let you know, whole first floor is cleaned up and Noddy claims his groups has finished the west half of the second floor, which I find highly unlikely as the boy can't even keep his shirt on straight, but…" he shrugged. When Mags and Laurel just kept grinning and Helena blushed at the ground, Valentine frowned, "Am I missing something?"

"No," Helena said, glaring at her friends. "Thanks, Valentine."

"Sure. See you at lunch," he said, vanishing and closing the door with a snap.

"Yeah, so nothing's going on," Laurel drawled.

"Drop it."

"Have you guys talked about the kiss, yet?" Laurel asked, making Mags smirk.

"No, but I sure regret talking to you two about it," she snapped at them, trying to sort out if her frustration was with herself or them.

"You've already moved in with him, what're you waiting for?" Mags asked, kicking the chair so Helena sat down again.

"I told you," Helena explained quietly, "it's not like that." She didn't feel right sharing the fact that even though she was sleeping better, it didn't mean she was one hundred percent. Last night had been a good night, but the night before had found her sitting in the armchair by the window for three hours. And it was only because she was up that she heard the muffled screams from Valentine's room.

She'd thought about going upstairs. But he was just as proud as she was and she'd never want someone seeing her like that. So when he stumbled downstairs, drenched in cold sweat and his hands shaking, she'd just handed him a blanket. He sat in the chair next to her and they stared in silence until the sun came up. Then they'd gone their separate ways and not spoken of it.

"Do you want it to be like that?" Laurel asked her.

Helena looked at the ground, feeling the blush start up again. They shared a bathroom, which should have been a little awkward, but it wasn't. Helena got up earlier by habit and was usually getting out of the shower when Valentine was waking up. This morning in particular, Helena had gotten dressed and cracked the door connecting to Valentine's room, to let him know she was done. She'd hadn't been looking, but -

The first time she'd seen Valentine without a shirt, she'd been too distracted by the extensive scarring to really look at him.

Well, she was looking now.

Helena spent an unjustifiable amount of time at the door. The scars were still there, tugging at Helena's heart and guilt, but beneath it lay a tightly wired frame. Finley mentioned that Valentine had been training with him, which explained the definition, but most of the muscles were all Valentine's work. Something stirred deep in Helena's belly, making her breath catch, and she moved away from the door before she got caught.

"Yes?" Helena mumbled. "I don't know. I just...I don't want to let him go again. Is that stupid?"

"That's sweet," Laurel smiled.

"Hmpf," Mags muttered. "You could do worse than him."

Taking that as the positive message it was meant to be, Helena bent over the maps again to work on their plan.

A few hours later, Helena nodded as Mags waved her forward, sneaking through the shrubs. Her friends moved around her, all armed and prepared with their shadowed weapons. It was late afternoon and they were sneaking through the grounds.

Mags had been tracking the monster for days and had figured out where its lair was. Now, they were working on cornering the beast to trap it. The plan was solid. Clear. It had been picked apart over and over again until they were certain it couldn't possibly go wrong.

Which didn't exactly explain how things had gotten so screwed up in such a short amount of time.

"Keep the line!" Mags shouted, her boom-stick held up with the small line of soldiers with her. "Helena, are you good to move?"

The creature's tails had snapped back, taking out Helena, Valentine and Laurel before they could close the pincer movement. Picking herself up off the ground, Helena felt the trickle of blood at her forehead, but could still move. Valentine and Laurel were moving too, if a little stiffly. "We're good!" Helena shouted back. "We're good, right?" she asked her friends.

Valentine nodded, grabbing his sword as Laurel got to her feet, "Sure, if you want to call it that."

"We have to get it in the trap!" Mags shouted. "It wants to run! Suggestions?"

"Bait!" Valentine shouted back.

Helena thought about the cage she had drawn for the creature, located just a hundred or so meters away. The door was open, Rickett waiting there to slam it shut once the creature was inside. The bottom half was pretty well sealed, but the solid wall changed to bars at the upper half to allow for fresh air and light. It was high, but with a running start…

She reached up, feeling the tickle on her face as blood dripped down. She wiped it away, her fingers coming back red. Helena edged towards the path they were trying to lead the creature down.

"Helena, no!" Laurel said, limping towards her on what was clearly a twisted ankle.

"Here, crazy monster," Helena called, waving her stained fingers at it.

The monster twisted its head towards her, nostrils flaring as it caught the scent of her blood.

Valentine edged up next to her, "What are you doing?"

"I'm bait," Helena said, backing up and seeing the monster follow her.

"Wrong," he said quietly. He took her hand and Helena's heart jumped into her throat. He squeezed it tightly, and Helena glanced at him.

He let go of her hand and waved his bloody fingers. "We're bait."

"Ready?" she asked.

"Are you?"

"On three. One, two-"

The monster roared, a screech that pressed on their ears.

"Three!" they both shouted, taking off down the path.

The pounding of six paws behind them ensured that the monster was on their trail. They couldn't afford to lose ground like last time, so they ran as quickly as they could, breath ripping from their lungs.

"Did you get," Valentine panted, "any further in this plan than run?"

"Jump through the top of the cage."

"Oh, brilliant," he muttered.

"Better idea?"

"No, but that doesn't mean I can't hate this one!" he snapped, undoing his coat. He pulled his arms out of it, never losing pace with her, before balling it up and throwing it to the side. "If the monster eats it, you're drawing me another one."


Helena tripped and Valentine grabbed her arm, hauling her up without breaking stride. "If you get us killed by this thing," he said, "after everything else we've been through, I'm going to be very irritated."

"You didn't have to join me," she glared, seeing the cage up ahead.

"'Course I did, I have to look out for you," he snapped, removing his hand as they both prepared for the jump.

"Says who? I can look after myself," Helena retorted.

The monster roared, very close behind them.

"Obviously," Valentine drawled. "Without me, you'd be killed ten times a day and-"

"What the hell are you two doing?!" Rickett shouted from the top of the cage.

"We're bait!" Helena shouted back.

"Of course you are," Rickett responded as they ran into the cage. "Hurry up."

Helena eyed the wall, knowing she'd make it. She ran straight at it and pushed her legs up, catching the lip and hauling herself up and over to land with a thump in the grass. Valentine landed a moment after her, somewhat less gracefully, and Helena heard the slam of the gate and heaved a sigh.

From within, the monster growled and roared, pacing back and forth. Helena could see the shadowed eyes watching her and Valentine above the bars.

The juggler got to his feet, wiping off his shirt and pants. He rolled his eyes on the monster and turned away from it to face her, shaking his head. "Once again, I'm a little concerned about your very dangerous lack of self-preservation. If it weren't for me, you'd-"

Helena saw the slim paw fly through the bars, straight towards Valentine. She reacted, no time to say anything, grabbing Valentine's shirt and throwing both of them backwards onto the ground and letting the monster's paw and claws slice at empty air.

Helena propped herself up on her elbows as Valentine looked over his shoulder at his near death experience.

"So," she asked, cocking her head to the side with a smirk, "remind me again how it's always you saving me?"

Valentine turned back, still lying on top of her. His smile was already in place, but when he looked at her, the smile faded.

She suddenly was very aware of his body on top of her, his arms bracing himself up on either side of her head, the pressure of his hips over hers, how close his face was.

If she thought her heart had jumped when he took her hand, it was nothing compared to the samba it was drilling on her ribs now.

Helena swallowed and Valentine's eyes followed the movement before rising part way back up to her mouth. His tongue darted out as he wetted his lips to say something and Helena's breath hitched.

Dark eyes snapped up to hers and he opened his mouth, "-"

"Helena!" a voice that was not the one she wanted to hear interrupted whatever spell had been woven over them.

Valentine's eyes shuttered over, like he had been during the trial, and the other Valentine came forward, calm, collected, and sitting up easily, as if nothing had happened.

Meanwhile, Helena was sure she was hyperventilating as she got up without his help. "We're fine."

"That was amazing!" Laurel said, helped forward by Fin.

"That was stupid," was Mags' input.

"Worked, didn't it?" she asked, walking around to the front of the cage. "Now we just need to figure out how to get rid of the shadows."

"If they can be gotten rid of," Nodd muttered.

"They can," she responded, eyes on the monster and thoughts on the juggler.

He hit the ground hard, ribs protesting. He didn't think on that, though. His immediate thought was to look up and see that Helena was on the right side of the cage, picking herself up easily. As long as she was safe.

Which was more difficult than he thought it would be.

She looked at him and he dropped his eyes, standing up and brushing himself off. "Once again, I'm a little concerned about your very dangerous lack of self-preservation. If it weren't for me, you'd-"

She lunged at him, the unexpected movement pulling both of them to the ground as something large whipped past where his head had been.

He twisted back, seeing the monster snarling in its cage.

"So," a voice more familiar than his own started, "remind me again how it's always you saving me?"

He glanced down at her, ready to come back with some witty...comeback - he would do better than that - and froze.

She lay beneath him, her head tilted teasingly to the side and the smile dancing across her lips. Brown hair hung over one shoulder and hazel eyes were already laughing. He also noticed their position, her legs pinned beneath his while his hips lay against her. He was terrified to move, to breathe, to blink and disrupt it.

Valentine knew what he felt for her were thoughts of the adult-nature, along with other four-lettered words that were far more dangerous. But he had to keep that all hidden, which was incredibly difficult when her smile disappeared and she looked at him like…

Well, like that.

His eyes followed the movement of her throat and he wanted to taste her skin and her lips and every other bit of her - not necessarily in that order - but he had to be the good guy for once in his miserable life.

He wet his lips to say something humorous and clever that would make her smile but break the mood and keep her close but not this close and-

Her breath stopped.

Just for a moment. Not even a moment. A milli-moment. He would have thought he'd imagined it, but when he looked at her eyes, it wasn't the laughing, playful hazel he had seen just a minute ago.

Her eyes had gotten darker. Not in the I'm-a-murderous-psychotic-Princess darker but darker of the adult-nature. She felt the same way. About him.

He waited for the voice that would break it all, like he knew was coming, but a breath passed. Then another. Then another.

Valentine looked around and saw that although they were in the clearing, there was no cage, there was no monster, there was no one there but them.

He looked back at Helena, whose smirk came back, just slightly.

"This is a dream," he whispered, as if speaking too loudly would wake him up.

"So? Doesn't mean it's not true," she smiled.

"Helena, I-" he began, unsure what he was doing. He moved to get off of her, but she grabbed his shirt and stopped him.

"Don't go."

"This isn't real."

"Then there's really no reason for you to go," she responded. She rolled her hips slightly and Valentine bit his lip.

Helena - dream Helena, he knew - leaned up and pressed her lips to his.

Valentine held onto his promise. For three seconds. Which was impressive, considering how long he'd been wanting to do this again.

He responded to the kiss, pressing Helena into the grass. Her hands on his shirt tugged him closer still as she arched into him. Valentine braced himself on one elbow, allowing the other to wander down to her hip, his thumb sliding beneath her top to trace small circles against her skin. Helena nipped at his lip and deepened the kiss, her tongue tracing across his mouth. He groaned, unable to keep his hips from rocking into her.

She gasped and threw her head back, and Valentine lost what little control he had. He buried his face in her shoulder, nipping and kissing at every bit of skin he could find, while his hands roamed a little more freely. His fingers trailed up a flat stomach, dancing across ribs, before sliding around her back to hold her closer, unable to believe that it was happening. That she was here with him, her own hands pulling and tugging at him and -

Wait. She wasn't tugging. She was pushing.

Valentine pulled back to look at her face and something in his chest shattered a little.

Helena, tears in her eyes, was shoving at him, her voice forming words he could only now hear. "Get off of me! What the hell do you think you're doing?! Get off!"

He threw himself off of her like he'd been burned. In fact, every bit of him was burning right now, but he was cooling off swiftly at the undiluted hatred in her eyes.

She got to her feet, hair and shirt rumpled, and red marks across her neck and shoulder. "What the hell was that?!"

"Y-you," he began shakily, "You kissed me and I thought-"

"You thought?" she cut him off. "You thought I'd want to do that with you?"

He had. Now, he wasn't so sure.

"You're supposed to be looking out for me, not taking advantage!"

"I wasn't-" he stepped forward, his hand outstretched.

Helena backed away from him, "Stay away from me!"

Valentine dropped his hand and took a step back.

"Don't ever touch me again," she ordered.

He nodded.

Valentine woke up silently, which was a nice change. He sat up, digging the heels of his palm into his eyes, the sharp edges of his mask pressing into the skin. "Stupid," he muttered.

Dreams were dreams. Thoughts he could repress during the day with the living Helena lying beneath him came out in the nighttime, when he only hurt himself. Still, this one had been rough, as it was becoming a more familiar nightmare. Helena screaming at him, hating him, hurt by him...he didn't like that.

He stood and went into the shared bathroom, seeing that the door to Helena's room was shut. Running some water through the tap, he wiped his face and mask clean, scrubbing the rest of the dream off with the towel.

Bracing his hands on either side of the sink, he glared into the mirror.

"Get ahold of yourself, juggler," he muttered. "She's your friend. That's all. You need to behave and not get yourself worked up over her. She's fine without you. She doesn't need you. She needs someone better. She needs a soldier or a prince or..or a-"


If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 21 of 29

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