Continuing Tales

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 26 of 29

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"And I have to say," the Queen smiled, "I'm very impressed."

Helena smiled, "Thanks."

"You've done very well in such a short amount of time."

"It was definitely difficult," Helena admitted.

It was the morning of the party and the Queen, her retainers, and the servants had arrived at the break of dawn to help set up and decorate. Right now, the Queen, the Prime Minister, the Librarian, and Helena were in the cleaned and partially decorated dining hall, enjoying a light lunch.

"Guests should be arriving in the next four hours. What else needs doing?" the Prime Minister asked.

Helena rubbed her eyes, "I've got a few people upstairs cleaning up after the plumbing accident. It's all fixed now. Clothes are all set for my group."

"Are they appropriate?" the Librarian asked.

Helena hid her irritation with the Librarian behind a smile, "The Shadow Kingdom won't disappoint."

"We'd never think that," the Prime Minister interjected smoothly.

"Good. If you'd like a tour, I'm sure Mags would be able to set something up for you," Helena said, getting to her feet. "Or you can wander on your own, but I'd avoid the guard's barracks outside." She headed towards the door, the list of things that needed doing short, but becoming more necessary.


Helena paused, confused for a moment. "Oh, because there's a monster in there. His name is Bandersnatch and he's actually not that dangerous, but he's intimidating and a little shy. So I'd leave him be."

She stepped into the hallway and nearly bumped into another familiar face. "Drag!" she exclaimed.


"Oh, knock it off," she said, bending down to hug him.

He hugged her back, a faint smile on his face.

"Have to say," Drag said, "I've missed having you around. I've had my hands full with Deci's replacement. Have you met him?"


"Bront, is his name. Handful. Arrogant. But he knows what he's doing," Drag said.

Helena smiled and he became a little more serious.

"No hard feelings?" he asked her. "You know, arresting your friend and all?"

"No," she smiled. "You did your job. No hard feelings for me yelling at you?"

"I saw Nodd's nose, I'd say a shout wasn't too bad," Drag said, eyeing her.

Helena flushed. "I had a rough night and Nodd was…being Nodd."

"You sure you're all right?" he asked her. "You seem a little ragged."

"I'm fine," she insisted.

Valentine walked by them, his eyes on the other end of the hallway as he moved from one task to the next. Helena kept her eyes fixed on Drag, not letting them chase after him like she wanted.

He glanced behind him, then sighed. "Ah."

Helena just shook her head.

"Not like you to give up, Creator," Drag noted. "Especially on that one."

"Yeah, well…." Helena trailed off. "I guess I had to learn sometime."

Drag stared at her and then cleared his throat, "How about a tour of this place, then?"

Mentally cataloguing her to-do list, Helena figured she could spare a few more minutes for him.

"What do you want to see first?" she asked.

"I heard there's a monster."

Helena smiled, "Come and meet Bandy."

Valentine glared at the pile of clothes on his bed. "Nope."

Mags glared at him, "You have to. It was sent over special for you."

"Valentine's don't wear things like this."

"We're all wearing new clothes. Helena's gone through so much trouble to make us new things and now you're just going to-"

"Helena made this?" Valentine edged closer to the bed and poked the pile of grey and dark purple clothes.

"Yes, she made all of them. And she's run out of time to make you anything new, what with taking care of Bandy-"

Valentine rolled his eyes.

"And the decorations, and the plumbing had a complication. She's been working on all of that. I have to follow her around to make sure she eats and sleeps. She nearly fell down the stairs the other day she was drawing so much," Mags shook her head.

Valentine stared at the clothes. "So Helena made these?"

"We already covered that," Mags muttered. "So shut up and get over it. Be grateful and put them on."

He glared at her. "Fine. Got it."

Mags left after another glare from him and much flapping of hands. He shut the door behind her and stared at the clothes. "So Helena-na made this. For me. Specifically. My clothes. For this evening."

He grabbed one edge of them and flipped them to the side to see what they looked like. It was…dashing.

Helena wanted him to look dashing. Or thought he looked dashing.

He smiled.

It was time for a party. He put on the clothes and glanced at himself in the mirror. Yes, dashing. Dashing enough to make amends without making an apology. He could do that.

Valentine stepped out of his room and hopped down the stairs. He would show up at Helena's door looking dashing and appreciative and then he'd…

Well, he'd figure it out when he got there.

He reached his hand up to knock, but the door opened before he got there. And then he definitely could not figure this out.

The man that was leaving Helena's room was handsome. Maybe. No. But he was smiling. And Valentine could see past him to see that Helena was beaming as well. She didn't see him, since Valentine backed up out of his way. The man murmured an apology as Valentine stepped back. The juggler shook his head, "No…'course."

The stranger shut the door behind himself, "Impressive girl, that one."

"Yeah. Yes. She is." He was babbling. He stopped.

"Well, then," he said, smiling. "I'll see you downstairs."

"Right. Yes. Downstairs."

The man vanished down the hallway. Valentine stared after him, standing in the hall and not moving.

He was still there thirty minutes later when Mags showed up to hurry Helena along. "What are you doing here?" she asked him.

"Leaving. Right now."

Mags got to the door and opened it up, "Well, be off with you. The Queen's waiting for one of you to make an appearance. I told her you were getting ready an hour ago."

Valentine glanced up and saw Helena just past the door. She met his eyes, bold as ever. She glanced at his clothes, but the door was shut before he could respond.

He headed down the stairs, his shoulders tight.

Valentine slipped down into the ballroom, using one of the back corridors to keep from having to make a noticeable entrance. He was a very important man, but he wasn't so comfortable with everyone's eyes on him. He hung out on the edges of the room, slipping through the crowd with the ease of someone who's comfortable with anonymity. One of the only good things that came from the Princess. He was quite good at sneaking now.

"Valentine," a voice said from behind him.

Of course, some people were also very good at finding others.

He stopped, seeing the Queen of Light behind him. He managed a quick bow, "Your Majesty."

She smiled and waved it away. "I must admit, I am very impressed with what you've done to the place."

"Yeah, it was all Helena's work."

"She is very bright. Has she come down yet?"

Valentine shrugged, "Not sure. I don't think so."

"You didn't come down together?"

Way to rub it in. "No, she wasn't ready yet."

"Ah, well. Thank you again for helping her here. I know she appreciates it. As do I. I'm not sure what kind of trouble she would have gotten into without you here."

Valentine thought about Bandersnatch, the nightmares, the falling, "Don't think I'm doing that much good, to be honest."

"Of course you are," the Queen said. "But how are you?"

"Me?" he asked.

"This place has been a healing venture for both of you. So how are you?"

Valentine answered shortly, "Fine."

"Of course, you can only be healed if you allow yourself to be."

He didn't answer.

A man approached them and the Queen sighed quietly, "Oh. Valentine, meet Bront. The Librarian's new assistant."

Valentine looked up and glared. This was the man he'd seen coming out of Helena's room. He had dark hair, brown eyes, and darker skin. His mask was gold and a little gaudier than most – it covered both eyes and arced up over the top of his closely shaved head. He was well dressed, but at least Valentine had the upper hand there. His outfit was just as formal and more unique than the new Librarian.

"Bront," the Queen said, "meet Valentine, the regent's adviser here. Valentine, this is Bront."

Bront shook Valentine's hand, "Pleasure to meet you."

Valentine smiled quickly, but didn't answer.

Bront's eyes glimmered behind his mask, "Oh, you're that Valentine. The juggler."

Valentine crossed his arms, Bront's tone making it clear he wasn't finished.

"You murdered my predecessor."

"Bront," the Queen said sharply. "That is out of line."

"A thousand apologies," Bront said, bowing his head slightly.

"And no," Valentine cut in. "I didn't kill Deci."

"Oh?" Bront smiled.

"No. And yes, I'm the juggler." He nodded to the Queen, "Excuse me."

Valentine worked his way through the crowd, Laurel catching his eye and smiling. Valentine nodded at her and smirked at Nodd, whose nose was still red and swollen.

He skulked around the room, avoiding conversation and dancing. He hated dancing.

He gotten good at avoiding people and their gazes, which is how he came to be standing by the door.

Valentine had been debating on skipping out on the party altogether, so he should have gotten credit for showing up at all. He slouched by the door, avoiding Bront and the Queen and everyone else.

Then someone slipped through the door.

Helena didn't notice him, but he was close enough to see her take a deep breath, clench and unclench her fists, then step into the crowd. While he'd slipped through the crowd undetected, Helena walked right through the center, speaking to everyone who approached her.

He didn't feel so inclined to leave now.

Valentine hated dancing. He wasn't any good. He could find a rhythm in juggling, but that was the only rhythm he had. So when the dancing really began, he hugged the edge of the room and avoided the eyes of anyone who approached him. When the song began, he'd take a moment and look over all the couples on the floor. It was impressive, the way they all knew what to do in time with one another. He enjoyed watching the Queen and Prime Minister twirl around, even though he was a good two inches shorter than her. Mags and Drag were less elegant, but the grins on their face made up for it. He saw Nodd and Laurel, Rickett and Whitt, Helena and-


She was laughing, her cheeks flushed as they moved across the floor. She certainly didn't have a problem finding the rhythm. The Librarian's assistant was grinning as he spun her around, grabbing her waist and lifting her up in time with the rest of the crowd. When the song ended, Bront bowed and kissed her hand, and Valentine may have broken one of the dishes on the table when he happened to catch sight of it. A server came and cleared it away, Valentine backing up to give him the room. When he looked up, another song had begun and Helena was no longer in sight. Neither was her dance partner.

Valentine had a sudden desire for some fresh air. He went to the side garden, knowing it was smaller and less likely to have others in it. He slipped out the door and froze on the landing.

Helena was sitting on the bottom step, Bandersnatch's chin in her lap as she scratched behind his ears. The monster lifted its head when Valentine appeared and growled under his breath.

"Nice to see you, too," Valentine muttered, knowing there was nothing for it now.

Helena didn't turn around, but tugged on Bandersnatch's ear. "Cut it out, Bandy."

"Stupid name for a ferocious, fierce, flesh-eating monster," Valentine remarked. He took a few steps down the stairs, standing behind Helena.

"I named him Bandersnatch, everyone else shortened it."

"Still silly."

"Yeah, well..." she trailed off and Bandersnatch stepped back, shook and wandered off into the dark.

"I thought he was in the barracks," Valentine said.

Helena sighed, "He kept getting out, so I just asked him to stay in the gardens and leave the guests alone."

Valentine remained where he was staring at the back of Helena's head. Her hair was up and all knotted, revealing her neck and shoulders. The dress she worse, from what he could see, matched his exactly in color. A dark silvery grey, that hugged her like a second skin. It didn't leave much to the imagination, not that he was imagining-

Oh bugger it, yes he was.

"Did you need something?" Helena asked him. She didn't turn around, but her voice sounded a bit tighter.

"Just some fresh air. Getting away from the dancing. Not one for dancing, me."

Helena stood up and faced him, "Well, enjoy your-"

"You..." he trailed off, staring at her. The dark gray bled into the same deep purple that he was wearing and the skirt flared out around her feet. She looked older. And beautiful.

She crossed her arms and stared at him, "I?"

He cleared his throat. Recover from this, Valentine. "You look different."

She nodded shortly, getting ready to brush past him.

He grabbed her arm, her skin hot beneath his fingers. "Helena-"

Pausing, she didn't look at him, "Valentine, we've done this. And I'm not doing it again."

"Doing what?"

"Putting myself out there to have you literally run away from me again," she said quietly. "You don't feel the same way, and that's fine, but let's not play these games, okay?"

"I'm not playing games," he told her.

"Then you need to make up your mind and stop playing with mine," Helena snapped at him. "I know what I want, you're the one who seems to be confused." She pulled her arm away from him and started up the stairs.

Valentine stared after her. Bandy growled from the darkness behind him. Valentine took a breath and told the shadow, "When you're right, you're right."

He got into the ballroom just as another song was starting up. Helena was back in Bront's arms, this time her smile forced but in place. Valentine weaved through the dancers to appear behind Helena. He glared at her Bront. "Mind if I cut in?" He didn't wait for a response, but snatched Helena's hands out of the man's loosened grasp and twisted her away.

"Excuse me," Bront said, "but you're being very rude."

"Yeah, I know. Go away now," Valentine told him.

Helena's face was annoyed, but she kept her voice low. "What are you doing?"

"Continuing our conversation."

"I don't have anything else to say."

"Juggler, I insist you leave her alone," Bront interrupted, standing just off to the side and looking quite out of place.

"Shove off," Valentine said. When Helena gave him an exasperated look, he added, "Please."

Bront finally left and Valentine returned to his conversation, "And good, because I have things to say."

She sighed and shrugged, "Fine, what do you have to say?"

"You weren't important when I first met you. And although I'm a very important man, few people seem to realize it."

She bumped into someone else as they turned and Helena pushed back against his hands to lead him, "Do you even know how to dance?"

"Nope. Anyway, we were friends, even though I had a few slight setbacks. Then you show up again and suddenly you're a hero and a creator and regent and I'm the guy they wanted to convict but couldn't."

"Valentine-" The hardness was disappearing from her face as she looked at him.

"And I thought staying away would be better, so if didn't ruin your reputation, hanging around with someone like me and to be honest, I'm still not entirely sure that I'm going to be able to be good enough for you-"

"That's ridiculous," she interrupted him.

"Maybe. But despite all of that, I can't just stop feeling- and believe me, I've tried quite hard - and I know exactly what I want and it's-"

"Pick me up," she said.

He grabbed her waist and lifted her up, putting her back down in time with everyone else. "You," he finished.

Helena had both her hands on his shoulders, "Then why did you leave?"

"Because you're you and I'm me and I just...I panicked, which Valentine's are known to do from time to time."

"And now?"

"I may be an abysmal dancer, and a less than impressive adviser, but I'm a brilliant juggler and I'm not panicking. Not at the moment, at least," he told her.

Helena smiled at him. "You're not abysmal. And you're a great adviser."

He glanced around, seeing that they were the only couple not moving. He grabbed her hands and tried to follow along, if only to get the inquiring eyes off of them. Now that it was done, he felt at least ten pounds lighter. "Thank you, for the clothes, by the way."

"You're welcome," Helena said, the smile on her face real and all because of him.

"So, what now?" Valentine asked.

"Well, we have to stay at the party. And later, we'll talk some more."

"Right." The music stopped and he stepped back, but Helena reached out and took his hand. Little fingers twined between his and Valentine felt himself more anchored to this maskless girl than anything else in the world. He smiled down at her and she led them off the floor to mingle and chat with everyone he'd been trying to avoid.

Though, with Helena by his side, he really didn't mind it.

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 26 of 29

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