Continuing Tales

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 24 of 29

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It was three days before guests were to arrive and Helena was having a rough time of it. "Sit!" she shouted.

Amazingly, the Bandersnatch sat, giving her a sad look.

"No, you're having a bath and that's final," she said, ignoring the snickering around her.

The Bandersnatch huffed, then let his head sink down to allow access to his back and ears. His matted fur was still dirty, but the cuts on the Bandersnatch's fur had to be cleaned and the creature wasn't being very helpful.

"Thank you," she told him. She almost rescinded it when she looked at her clothes, but bit her tongue. It's not like getting upset would make her clothes any drier or less torn up.

"Why don't you go back to the Tower and get some dry clothes," Mags suggested. "We can handle him."

That's absolutely what Helena wanted, but she still said, "Are you sure?"

"Go. We've got this."

"Thanks, Mags," Helena said, squeezing the woman's shoulder and leaving the hall. She heard Mags say, "Now, listen here, you big brute, if I have to go get her because you're being a brat, we're going to have a serious problem, understand?"

Helena chuckled and hoped that the Bandersnatch would behave. Though it would be faster to cut through the gardens, Helena took the long route back to the Tower, not wanting to have a repeat of the other day with Valentine. She just wanted to take a hot shower and forget about parties and drawing and jugglers and baths and Bandersnatches.

She made it to the Tower without incident and almost ran up to her room. Peeling her soaking clothes off, Helena just grabbed a towel and then went into the bathroom she shared with Valentine. Even sharing this rather necessary room hadn't allowed for any communication. He was quite good at avoiding her. Helena found herself staring into the mirror a few moments later and promised that she wouldn't think about the juggler any longer. She hopped into the shower, turned it as hot as she could stand, then let the water wash away her frustrations.

All too soon, her responsibilities started listing themselves in her head, reminding her that she couldn't be lazy or wasteful. Helena got out of the shower and dried off, wrapping the towel around her as she took a few more selfish moments. She sat on the edge of the tub and combed out her hair before braiding it back and out of her way.

She'd just tied off the end of her braid when the bathroom door slammed open. Jumping up, Helena grabbed the edge of the towel. It had seemed more than enough when she was alone, but now she was conscious of exactly how much of her the towel didn't cover and how it seemed to be designed for size negative zero midgets.

Valentine had frozen in the doorway, clearly startled to have found her here at this hour. "What..."

"Shower," she answered him. "You?"

"Same," he mumbled, looking anywhere but at her.

Single word sentences were all that they seemed capable of. Helena tried to pull up her earlier anger and frustration, but just found a bit of loneliness and wishing that they could at least go back to being friends. She didn't look at him, "Sorry, I'll get out of your way."

"No, it's okay. I can wait," he told her.

"I'm finished. Just leaving," Helena told him. "Really, it's all yours." She hated this tiptoeing around, both of them trying so hard to be polite and not say anything that would upset the other.

"Thanks, then," Valentine managed.

She didn't break her rule, not really. She didn't look at him. But she may have glanced up into the mirror when he turned to twist the shower back on. "What happened?" she asked, forgetting about being polite and boundaries and his apparent dislike of having her near in the sight of the scarlet lines that wound all over his back.

"I fell into a bush that seemed to be very annoyed with being landed on," Valentine said. "It's nothing."

"Not nothing. Jump in and then I'm cleaning those up for you, whether you like it or not," Helena ordered.

Valentine looked ready to argue, but then he nodded faintly, "Whatever the regent commands."

Helena went back into her own room, annoyed that she hadn't thought to lie out her clothes so they could dry faster. She did so now, but her pants wouldn't be dry anytime soon. She grabbed an overlarge shirt, one that she usually slept in, and rationalized it that girls in her world wore shorter things and called them dresses. This would be fine for now. The next was to hunt for the first aid kit she'd drawn up a few weeks ago. She found it several minutes later in the tiny closet - who knew she would've filled it up so quickly - and then turned to grab her notebook.

It was then that she realized she couldn't hear the sound of the shower any longer. "Dammit." Helena dropped the notebook and forgot about drawing new clothes. She opened up the bathroom door, her suspicions confirmed when she saw Valentine half dressed in his room and clearly not intending on waiting for her. Grabbing the first aid kit, she stormed through the bathroom and took the shirt out of his hands. "Sit," she ordered.

He perched on the edge of his bed, glancing at her, "It's not a big deal, I'm fine, so-" He made to stand up and Helena stood directly in front of him and pushed on his chest, "Sit," she told him again, aware that she was significantly shorter than him and was really not an intimidating figure at all.

Valentine swallowed and did so, without argument this time. Helena sat behind him on the bed, looking over his back. He was right, the cuts were superficial, mostly. A few of them deserved to have some antibiotic ointment put on them, and she would do just that.

She tried to ignore the other scars that crisscrossed his skin, putting the ointment on the new injuries.

"How the garden coming?" she asked him. Her voice was quiet, dropping slightly with the rising tension.

"Fine. Just about finished."


"And the inside?" he asked after a moment.

"All right. Almost done," she answered.

Conversation with him had never felt this forced. Not since their first meeting after the Battle for the Mask. However, she still pushed.

"Thank you, for working so hard," she commented. "I really appreciate it."

He scoffed quietly.

"A few of your coworkers came up to me and mentioned how much you've been doing," Helena admitted.

He shook his head, disbelieving or refusing to listen. Either way, it made her frown.

"There are people here who think very highly of you," Helena said quietly as she covered the last of the cuts. "I know you don't agree, but maybe you should start listening to them."

He stood up and grabbed his shirt, backing away. Helena stayed where she was, knowing that she'd pushed too hard. Valentine pulled the shirt over his head, "Thanks for the patch up."

"Yeah," she murmured, watching him run-without-actually-running towards the door. He grabbed the handle and she added, "Bye, Valentine."

He nodded quickly and shut the door behind him.

Valentine got out of the shower, the cold shower, letting the water continue running. It wouldn't do for Helena to help him, not after he'd made such a fool out of himself. He dried off with the towel, trying to keep images of a towel-clad Helena out of his head except - oh, look, there they were again - No. Bad Valentine. Dried off, he turned off the water and bolted into his room, hoping for a minor miracle and...

Hmm. Would have made more sense to turn off the water after he got dressed.

With a note to do that the next time he was trying to escape, he pulled on his pants and trousers and had almost begun to hope that he would make it.

The bathroom door opened and Valentine knew that he'd run out of time. He kept trying though, grabbing his shirt-

Helena snatched it out of his hands and glared at him, "Sit."

He did, but not because she told him to. It was more out of shock as to what she was wearing. It looked like one of his shirts, hitting her about mid-thigh. The sleeves were rolled up and the cuffs too big around her wrists. With her hair still damp and bits escaping her braid to curl around her face, she looked even younger than he tried to remind himself she was.

And at the same time, she looked much older. Old enough to know what she was doing. What she did to him.

Escape. He had to get out of there and found himself rambling and unable to look away from her, "It's not a big deal, I'm fine, so-"

He stood up, wondering exactly how rude it would be if he just bolted for the door right now. He hesitated a moment too long, though, and Helena moved to block his path. There was no backing away from her, the bed was hitting his knees already.

She put her hand on his chest - were her fingers really that warm or was he just ice cold from the shower? - and pushed him gently.

"Sit," she told him again.

This was turning into one of his daydreams - one of the good ones that didn't end with her crying or yelling at him or begging him to leave her alone - except it was actually happening. Valentine swallowed painfully, aware that his heart was pounding, and sat back down.

Helena didn't move from in front of him, didn't move her hand from his chest. He waited. Any second now, she'd walk behind him with the first aid box and they'd have an almost normal conversation which just made it harder for him to leave her alone but the he would leave and he'd feel guilty and that was the way it was, except it wasn't happening because Helena pushed harder on his chest and he fell back against his bed and there was no first aid box nor even any cuts to tend to, but suddenly Helena was there, on top of him, sitting low on his hips and this was not what had happened earlier.

"Helena, what are you-"

She smirked, the coquette gone and replaced with the more realistic version of her. The one he lov-

"I had thought it would be pretty obvious," she joked. Her tone belied the slight shifting of her hips that made Valentine grab the sheets.

"Why?" he asked her.

Her smile softened, replaced with a little hesitance. "Because you wouldn't. And it's what you want, right?"

"I...It's not that I want..." Dammit. Mouth, brain, start working!

Helena leaned over him, brushing her lips across his, her hand holding him still - as if he would move now! - and her thumb tracing his mask. It was sweet and gentle and pure and so not what he'd be expecting of the girl half dressed and sitting on top of him in his bed.

He had to think a few seconds after she pulled away to remember how to breathe. When he did remember, he managed to be even more eloquent. "But you'"

"Want this. And more specifically, you," she told him. "And I think I'm being pretty obvious." She laughed a little and Valentine heard the faint shyness come through. On instinct more than anything else, he put his hands on her waist. She put her hands on his chest and pushed herself into a sitting position. "So, my manager, all you have to do is tell me if I'm right or wrong." Her fingers traced nonsensical shapes on his skin. "Do you feel the same way about me as I do about you?"

This had to be a dream. It was the only thing that made sense. The only way Helena would be saying these things. And in dreams, people didn't get hurt. If in the off chance he did get hurt, Valentine considered if it would be worth it.

Obvious answer, really.

"Yes," he murmured.

He wasn't sure she heard him, but he couldn't stop himself now. Valentine sat up, keeping her steady in his lap, capturing her mouth and rejoicing as her arms wound around his neck to pull herself closer.

He groaned, her arms feeling like the home he never really had, and held her all the nearer because of it. Valentine dropped his lips to her neck and she chuckled slightly. But then she kept laughing and laughing and it sounded…


He pulled back and Helena's eyes were black.


Helena flinched and shot straight up in bed when the shout echoed through her walls. Her soldier and guard training had her out of bed and moving before she'd realized what she was doing. She went through the bathroom, her hand on the doorknob before she finally had the presence of mind to hesitate.

A second shout broke her resolve.

She'd never before bothered him before during one of his nightmares, but in none of them had he ever sounded this…scared. She pushed the door open and saw Valentine thrashing on the sheets, his shirt soaked through with sweat.

Helena's hands hovered over him, choosing to call his name, "Valentine! Valentine!"

He didn't respond, just twisted in his bed even more, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides.

Throwing caution to the wind, she grabbed his forearms and shook him, "Valentine!"

His eyes snapped open and then he moved.

Valentine leapt up, twisting his arms until he was the one holding her. He slammed her back into the wall and leaned in, the fear that erupted from his scream turning into anger that was etched into every fiber of his being as he glared at her.

"You're gone," he snarled.

"What? Valentine, I-"

He didn't look her in the eye. "Shut up. I told you to stay away from me, Princess."

She froze as he put his forearm across her throat. "Val-"

He pressed harder, cutting off her air. "No."

Helena was in a dangerous position. On the one hand, Valentine was choking her. On the other, he was doing it because he thought she was the Princess, and if she fought back, he would continue to believe it. So that left her with a really unfavorable option.

She didn't fight back.

Her vision was going blurry as she lifted her hand to touch Valentine's wrist. She tapped on it, trying to draw his attention to the truth.

He glanced at her fingers. "What are you..." he trailed off, seeing the scars from the spider, but no spider.

Valentine fell back from Helena, staring at her. She rubbed her throat, attempting to draw in air without gasping.


"Yeah," she said quietly. "Just me."

"I didn't..."

"I know. It's okay." Her throat hurt, but there wasn't any permanent damage as far as she could tell. "I shouldn't have woken you up."

He was still leaning against the wall, not looking at her. "I was having a dream. I thought you were somebody else."

"I know. It's okay, Valentine. Really. It was an accident."

He shook his head, "I hurt you."

"I'm fine. It was an accident."

He grabbed his robe, shoving his arms through it. "I've gotta get out of here."

"Valentine," she said. He was running away from her. Again. She grabbed his fingers and tried to hold him still. "Please, everything is fine."

"Everything is so very far from fine, I can't even see fine from where I am," he said scathingly, pulling out of her grip.


He slammed the door behind him.

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 24 of 29

<< Previous     Home     Next >>