Continuing Tales

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 28 of 29

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Helena edged out of sleep slowly, her body aching, but in the best kind of way. She smiled without opening her eyes, rolling onto her side and reaching out. Her fingers hit a piece of cold metal instead of Valentine, rocking her out of her daze.

She blinked slowly, trying to figure out what was happening. Seeing empty white walls and the smell of antiseptic making her head ache, Helena frowned, sitting up slowly.

This wasn't her room. And the bed wasn't her bed. And it was definitely missing someone else.

There were needles sticking out the back of her hand. Had something happened to her last night? Was she back in the City of Light for some illness? Helena ripped out the needles, ignoring the beeping that began and tried to get someone's attention. "Valentine?" she croaked, her throat sore from disuse. Had it been more than a day or two? She couldn't remember anything.

"Look who's finally up!" someone said from the door.

Helena glanced at the woman and froze. Her face was warm and friendly, looking over Helena with a practiced eye, her smile spreading across red cheeks. Helena could see every inch of it, because this woman wasn't wearing a mask.

She wasn't in the City of Shadow.

She was home.

Past of her was happy, glad she was about to see her mother and father again. But the far larger and louder part was screaming that Valentine was gone. She'd left him alone, without so much as a warning.

Helena took in a breath, trying to quell the storm that was starting in her chest. "What happened?" she asked quietly, hoping that her shaking voice could be passed off as weakness.

"You were in a pretty bad accident, honey. In a coma for weeks. We were starting to think you'd never come out of it."

"My parents?" Helena whispered.

"They're fine, dear. You got the brunt of it. They're down in the cafe, I'll send someone down for them. I'm sure they'll be thrilled to see you awake!" The nurse left, leaving Helena alone in the hospital room.

Her parents were here and safe. She'd see them in just a moment. But the thought didn't calm her. She was stuck here. Without the Mask. Without a way back. Without Valentine.

They thought that her subdued nature and quiet responses were because of exhaustion and confusion.

As Helena underwent more tests during the next few days, they thought the night terrors were because of the accident and the coma.

But really, whenever Helena went to sleep, she could see Valentine, just beyond her reach. And she could never stretch far enough to touch him. There were no dreams by the Pool for her to explain herself. No feelings or inklings or books.

She kept hoping – and feeling guilty – that the next time she fell asleep, the next time she opened her eyes, she'd be back with him. But she never was.

By the time Helena was cleared to go home, she'd recovered from one coma and willingly entered into another, emotional one, if only to hide it from her parents.

The first night in her own bed, she hoped that she'd wake up in the MirrorWorld, it didn't matter where, so long as she was there and could get to him.

The next morning, still too early for the sun to be fully up, found Helena sitting at her window with dark circles under her eyes and her hand pressed against the glass.

"Please," she whispered for the hundredth time. "Please, let me back in."

"This is your doing, isn't it?" the Librarian shouted at Valentine.

Unsurprised, Valentine just stared blankly at the Librarian. He probably deserved this. Just like he deserved being alone again.

He was in the kitchen, the Librarian and Drag tearing into him. It was almost nothing compared to the Queen's quiet, teary questions, though she had been far less confrontational about it. Valentine stood in the center of the room as they questioned him, though it felt more like accusations rather than actual questions.

"I can't believe they trusted you!" he raved, glaring at Valentine. "You were a traitor before and you're a traitor now!"

He advanced on Valentine, who stood completely still as the Librarian shoved him.

"You should have hung when-"

"That's enough!"

Valentine frowned, turning to see who belonged to such an out of place remark.

Mags stood in the door, her arms crossed as she advanced on them, "You keep your hands to yourself, Librarian, before I start getting physical."

"Second," Drag snapped, the first thing he'd said since Valentine had been brought in here. "You're out of line."

"No," Laurel came in after her, followed by Nodd, Finley, Whitt, Rickett, and more of the Shadow Castle crew. "No, you can't come in here making judgments when you don't know him. You haven't seen him here."

"You claim he's changed? In such a short time?" Drag questioned, without the vehemence of his companion.

"Not at all," Mags said. "I'm saying he was always on our side, even when he was forced to work for the enemy. You both knew that, otherwise you would have convicted him."

"This boy's done nothing but help and work his ass off trying to make this a better place," Finley added, standing directly next to Valentine.

Valentine swallowed against the knot in his throat, turning his eyes back towards the Librarian.

"You're just saying that because he's been playing the long game," the Librarian grasped. "This was his plan all along."

"It was his plan to risk his life for Helena?" Valentine nearly flinched when he heard the name, but controlled it. "For us?" Rickett asked. "Look at the evidence, bookworm."

"Fine! Helena, our Creator, has vanished from our world. And the last person to see her was him! He did something to her, he hurt-"

Valentine stepped forward at that, ready to shoot down any accusation that he had hurt her. He had made it right with her and he would neverever-

"He would never hurt her," Laurel snapped. "How dare you say that? To him, of all people. His biggest concern from the get-go was her safety, you idiot. So stop shifting the blame because you don't know the answer. Back off."

"I don't like the guy," Nodd admitted, ignoring the glares Mags and Laurel shot him. Their faces softened as he continued though. "But even I know he'd rather die himself than watch her be hurt. His biggest mistake was taking too long to finally admit it out loud."

"You all so ready to throw away your careers for the sake of a traitor and a murderer?" the Librarian scoffed.

"No," Whitt said, her tiny voice ringing through the room. "For a friend."

Valentine blinked rapidly, her friends gathering around him to protect him. Laurel put her hand on his shoulder, smiling encouragingly at him and he had to amend his thought.

His friends.

Look at that, Creator, he thought. You really did change everything.

Now, just come back and he could call it square.

Helena tried to smile as her father talked about the circus. She wasn't able to go with them on this upcoming trip, but soon, he kept saying. Soon she'd be back in action, and everything would be just as it was before.

Helena nodded at the appropriate places in her father's speeches, helping him pack for his trip in near silence. Most of the time, she sat in a corner, the new sketchbook from her parents settled in her lap and a pen in her hand.

A week later, her mother came into her room and opened the sketchbook while Helena was sleeping. As she flipped through the first few pages, she frowned, the stark whiteness of the paper clearly proving something was wrong. Helena had been seen with this sketchbook every day for the past week, for hours at a time, but there wasn't a single line in it. Joanne ruffled the pages, hoping for something, anything that would prove her daughter was still the same.

A small, crumpled piece of paper fell out of the notebook and onto the floor. She picked it up, frowning as the spiked hair and the white robe jogged at her memory. It was an old piece of paper, so something Helena had drawn before the accident, but it was also the only thing in the entire notebook.

Placing it back within the white pages, she sighed and stared at her daughter.

"What happened to you, my darling girl?" she whispered, touching Helena's hair.

Valentine stood at the door to her room, everything almost exactly how she left it the night she vanished. The only thing he had done was straighten up the bed and put her dress over the chair. He hadn't touched anything else at all.

"Valentine?" a voice asked.

He flinched and turned, seeing Mags standing behind him. "I knocked, but you didn't answer."

"Yeah," he said, rubbing his mask. "Sorry, what is it?"

"I spoke to her Majesty and the council. They've decided that until…she returns, you're to be acting regent," she told him.

He stared at her blankly. "What?"

"You're the regent of the Shadow Kingdom," Mags repeated for him. "You're in charge of this place."

"Who in their right mind would put me in charge?" he scoffed, closing her door.

"Well, the Queen suggested moving the Prime Minister here, but there were objections."

"From who?"

"Us. The Shadow crew. We would like you to be in charge," she said firmly. "You were closest with her. You thought like her. You're clever. You understand this place better than most and I think Hel- she would have liked it," Mags caught herself as Valentine flinched.

He thought about it. If he wasn't regent, what would he do? Travel? Run away? How far would he have to run to escape memories? Was it possible? Someone should make something to help with memories – oh, right. Alcohol. He shook his head. Besides, if he ran, he'd have to leave his new…friends. And although the Valentine before him hadn't had much in the way of friends, he was finding that he rather liked the idea.

"Alright," he said quietly. "I'll do it. But nobody calls me regent."

"Yes, sir," Mags saluted, before turning on her heel and heading towards the stairs. She paused at the top, just as Valentine was heading into his room, "Juggler, I'm glad you're staying."

He nodded and closed the door behind him.

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 28 of 29

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