Continuing Tales

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 29 of 29

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"Mum, please," Helena tried to smile and calm her mother. "It'll be fine. I'm just meeting some friends for a bite."

"But it's only been a month-"

"It's been a month," Helena repeated, taking her hands. "I've not had an episode or any of the side effects they were worried about. So I think dinner'll be just fine."

"Just be careful," her mother repeated.

Helena nodded and hugged her mother tightly. "I'll be fine, Mum."

Her father was out with the circus, so it was just her and her mother. Helena hadn't wanted to try this without her father around, but she was losing patience. Dreams hadn't pulled her back and she could manage to draw anything, for the life of her. So she had to come up with another way.

Now, on her way out and a letter explaining everything lying on her desk, Helena had time for her real mission. She walked through the alleys, remembering the route, though at the time it felt like a dream. The first place she'd met Valentine, the first time she saw a living shadow.

She kept walking, assured that she would recognize the place once she saw it. After twenty minutes of wandering though, she started to get worried. Luckily, it was right around that point that she saw a sight that twinged in her memory.

Trying to contain her excitement, Helena ran down the alley, looking for the faint crack that signified the door that led to her world. Her home. Relishing in the fact that she finally admitted it, she searched for the door that would take her where she belonged.

When her fingers failed to find the seam, Helena tried to keep from realizing the truth, but it was staring her in the face. She held her breath and stepped back.

There was no door.

Desperate now, she grabbed the pen from her pocket and scraped a door-shaped mark on the wall, adding a circle for a handle, the stepped back, closing her eyes.

"Please," she whispered into the darkness, "Please."

When she opened her eyes, Helena's heart sunk as her drawing remained just that – a drawing.

When she came home, her mother saw her face and bit her lip. Helena decided to save her the trouble, "You were right. I'm still too tired. I'm just going to crash, okay?"

"Love you, Helena," her mum said.

"I love you too," Helena responded. Her voice sounded rather lifeless, but she couldn't inject anything more. She'd finally realized where she was meant to be and the chance to go had been taken from her.

Slipping into her room, Helena grabbed the letter and tore it up. She had read and reread it a thousand times before leaving it. It was perfect. And useless.

Helena sat at her mirror and pressed her palm on the glass. But no matter how much she pressed, pleaded, begged, cried, or swore, she was stuck on this side.

"And that should be the last of it," Laurel said, wiping her face.

Valentine packed the last few vials into a crate and shut it. "Fantastic. We'll send that over to the Librarian and let him deal with all this nonsense."

He stood up, brushing off his hands. Twelve crates were filled of the contents of the South Tower, finally being taken out of the Shadow Castle and sent to someone who actually wanted to deal with it.

"With any luck," Fin said, hefting the last crate over towards the others, "this whole mess will fall on that pompous dandy's head."

Valentine glanced at him with a frown.

"Bront. The guy's about as useful as a wooden fan in a forest fire," Fin elaborated.

Valentine chuckled and double-checked the room, pretending not to see the reactions of the others. "So, who wants to take Bandy and the cart to the City of Light?"

Only one hand went up and Valentine nodded, "Rickett. Feel free to take what you need from the pantry and set off tomorrow. We'll take these down now."

They all grabbed crates, leaving Valentine with just one to carry down. He headed down last, shutting the tower door behind him and falling a bit behind the others. Moving confidently through the castle, he couldn't help but pause outside a door.

He stared at it, taking a step forward before stopping and shaking his head. "You don't need another disappointment, juggler," he muttered to himself.

Then he grabbed the handle and stepped inside anyway.

A month's worth of dust lay over the room, this one not being one of the ones he made an effort to keep clean. The cot was still as rickety and small as ever. The window still had bars over it. And the mirror…

Valentine placed his crate on the bed, then crouched in front of the mirror. The glass was dark. He tapped it, cleaned the dust off it, stared into it for what must have been close to an hour, but it never changed.

"Come on," he mumbled. "Just one look to know she's okay. Please."

The glass remained just a piece of glass.

His head hung and he squeezed his eyes closed.


He looked over, seeing Whitt in the doorway. He stood and grabbed the crate, heading towards her before she could come in. "Yeah."

"Nodd fell. Broke his arm."

"Course he did. Patch him up and put him on rest for a few days. I'll have Laurel fix the schedule," Valentine said quickly. He had his hand on the handle when she spoke again.

"Did you see…?"


The door slammed shut.


"Yeah?" Helena answered her mother, closing the still empty sketchbook.

She came into Helena's room, smiling. "Are you busy?"

"Nope, what's up?"

Sitting at Helena's desk, she eyed the pictures that circled the mirror, so similar to the one she'd seen in her notebook. "I wanted to talk to you."

"Sure," Helena said, sitting up on her bed. She waited, but Joanne was still staring at the drawings. "Mum?"

"You know," she began, "I used to think these were of Andrew. But they've been around much longer than him."

Helena's smile felt fixed, but she didn't let it vanish completely.

"He's the boyfriend I dreamed up for you, isn't he?" she asked, laughing. The laughter faded when she turned to see that Helena's face, despite her best efforts, had turned pale and her mouth was twisted up.

"Mum…" Helena whispered uselessly.

Knowing what needed doing, her mother didn't need to hear another word. She crossed the room and held Helena in her arms, "Tell me."

"You won't believe me," Helena mumbled.

She pulled her daughter back to stare into her eyes, "Just try me, Helena Campbell."

Helena took in a deep breath, then let it out slowly. "When you were…sick last year, I had a dream. I met a man. A juggler, named Valentine…"

"No, it's not fine," Laurel whispered.

"He doesn't want to talk about it and I think we should respect that," Nodd argued.

Finley shook his head, "He's driving himself insane."

"How can you tell?" Mags muttered.

Whitt and Laurel glanced at her, irritated. Then Laurel started in, "You know what Whitt's been seeing, we've all seen it, too. He works himself ragged, he barely sleeps and he's been avoiding any mention of her name since she's vanished. Sure, he's handling it better than when he first got here, but he's just hiding it and he's getting-"

Mags held up her hand, "I get it, I know."

"He seems fine to me." Nodd crossed his arms and avoided the scathing looks his friends were giving him. When the glares grew too much to handle, he sighed, "Fine, but what do you suggest we do about it?"

"We figure out a way to get her back," Mags said. "She belongs here."

"Did you ever think that maybe she's happy being back with her family?" Nodd said, his tone not confrontational as before. "Maybe she doesn't want to come back?"

"No," Laurel said shortly. "I know her. And she's wanted Valentine since she's met him, she'll not want to give him up now."

Whitt was quieter, as she usually was when Rickett was away, but she still added her thoughts to the conversation, "Queen."

Mags nodded, "She's been rooting for those two since the beginning. I'll contact her. Drag, too. They'll help."

Laurel started, "We should-"

Valentine poked his head into the kitchen, "Laurel, do you have next week's schedule?'

She nodded, unconsciously shifting away from her fellow conspirators. "Yes, sir. All set and ready to go."

"And Nodd's been removed from doing anything even remotely difficult?"

Nodd glared at him, though his cast made any argument pointless.

Laurel smiled, "Yup."

"Good," he said. He eyed the group of them for a moment, then shook his head. "'Night."

They murmured goodnights in return, the kitchen door clicking shut behind him. The table was silent for a good ninety seconds before -

"Are you certain we shouldn't tell him?" Fin asked.

Laurel nodded, but it was Nodd who answered.

"Can you imagine what he'd do if he knew and it didn't work?"

The group fell silent, each of them wondering how they were going to bring their Creator back into their world.

And trying to figure out when the juggler had become such an important part of it.

"Well, sweetie," Joanne started, "that is…quite the tale."

Helena rolled her eyes, "I know. And you don't believe me."

"Did I say that?" she cut in.

Helena stared at her mother, then frowned, "So you do?"

"I…" she trailed off, then glanced at the pictures again, "I might not have, but I've seen him, too."

"When you were sick," Helena recalled.

"Yes, and another time."

That was news to her. Helena straightened up, "What?"

"When you were in the coma," she said quietly. "I spent most nights at hospital with you. One night, I had a dream. It was the same place I had seen you last time. With the fountain and the empty landscape."

"The Pool of Dreams," Helena supplied, curious.

"I was there, and so was he. Your juggler. He told me you were alright, safe with friends and good people." She chuckled slightly, "I remember asking why you weren't with him, if he was your boyfriend after all. He said that he wasn't, and that he wasn't a good person."

Helena stared at her comforter, picking at the threads and trying not to interrupt her mother. It sounded like him.

"I made him promise me that he would look after you, no matter what. Because you deserved better than what you had, being sick in my world. And he said he'd look after you, keep you safe, do what's best," Joanne said, her eyes unfocused. "I was so anxious to make sure you were safe that I didn't quite realize what he was promising until after I woke up, but I think he meant to stay away from you, because he thought he wasn't good enough."

Helena felt her eyes burning, but she couldn't muster up the energy to cry any longer. He made a promise to her mother - that was why he'd been so stubborn about everything. Why he'd put himself on trial, why he tried to keep away from her, but still looked after her. He was always looking after her, even when she didn't know it.

Helena's fingers landed on her drawing, the one her mother had asked her to pull out when Helena first described him. He looked different now, but he was still the same man.

Her mother was quiet for a moment, then she cleared her throat and addressed her daughter, "So, now that that's all cleared up, what are you going to do about it?"

"Mum," Helena said quietly, "I told you. I've tried to go back, but I can't. I'm shut out and I don't...I can't get back there."

"Helena, if you let 'can't's stop you when you were a little girl, you never would have juggled. You never would have started on the tightrope. You never would have begun drawing. Can't is just an excuse so you don't have to try," she told her.

"But I have tried, and-"

"So try again," Joanne cut her off. "And keep trying until you get what you want."

Helena met her mother's eyes for a moment, remembering that this was a woman who'd started a circus, raised a child, handled the expenses for an entire troupe, starred in a circus, beat cancer and was still going strong.

"If I get back," Helena said quietly, "I may never be able to come here again. Not without the MirrorMask and I don't know if I can get it and…"

Joanne's face tremored briefly, "I know, love. But let's be honest, your imagination always was too big for this world."

"I love you, Mum."

Joanne passed her hand over Helena's hair. "I've always known that. And I love you, too. So let's get you back to your juggler."

Valentine wasn't entirely pleased when Rickett returned a few weeks later with a few extra guests.

"Your Majesty," he said, helping the Queen out of the carriage. "To what do we owe the pleasure?"

"Hardly a pleasure, Valentine," she smiled tightly, indicating who was with her.

Valentine frowned when he saw Bront, but didn't say anything.

"We're here because there is a rumor that not everything from the South Tower made it to the City of Light," the Queen summarized as Bront approached.

"Feel free to investigate," Valentine said. "But I assure you that we picked up everything and sent it to you."

The Queen smiled, "Of course. Would you mind terribly escorting Bront to the tower?" She leaned in when Valentine's frown grew larger. "It's been a long trip and I find myself needing a moment alone."

Valentine nodded, gesturing for Bront to follow him.

The Queen waited until he was out of sight, then glanced at Rickett. "Where're Mags and the others?"

"Follow me."

When the Queen entered the kitchen, the conspirators jumped to their feet and bowed.

"Please," the Queen said, waving them to their seats. "No need for that."

"Did you bring it? Your Majesty," Laurel added, her excitement making her too eager for titles.

"Of course, though the Librarian wasn't entirely pleased when he heard what we were planning." She continued when the faces looked ready to argue, "Not that it stopped me. So, where's the mirror?"

"We'll show you," Mags said, waving at Lauren. "The rest of you, keep himself busy in the tower. Don't let him down that hallway."

Fin, Whitt, and Nodd assented, and they exited the kitchen.

The Queen's smile was bright and Mags couldn't help but comment, "You seem to be enjoying yourself, Majesty."

"Oh," she flushed. "Well, it's been a while since I was involved in something secret. It's quite enjoyable."

Laurel smiled, reaching the door first and opening it. Mags waved her inside, "I'll keep watch out here."

"You sure it should be me?" Laurel asked.

Mags nodded. "You're the least likely to be picked out in Helena's world, and the one of the few willing to take the risk."

Laurel and the Queen slipped inside the room and the Queen pulled a glimmering, reflective Mask out from her robes.

Laurel stared at it for a moment before giving herself a shake. "Right, so I'll pop through, find Helena and get her to come back here using the Mask," she summarized.

"It may take some time," the Queen warned her. "We don't know where she is or what she's doing. So you may have to return without her, leaving the Mask there. Helena did it once before, so she should know how."

Laurel nodded and took the MirrorMask in her hands. "Right."

"Be careful."

Turning to face the mirror that had connected to Helena's world for so long, Laurel pressed the MirrorMask to her face, focused her thoughts on her Creator, and leaned into the glass.

There was the sound of shattering and Laurel vanished.

"Gah," Helena shouted, throwing the paper to the ground. "I can't do it!"

"Helena…" her mother started. She'd put down the book she was reading and sat forward on her chair.

"No, Mum. I've tried everything. New mirrors, new MirrorMasks, doorways, messages, nothing's getting through. On this side, my drawings are just pen and paper. It's there that they become real, where I'm actually the Creator. Here, I'm just…a girl who spends too much time drawing," she trailed off. "It's been months now," Helena said quietly. "Maybe it's time to call it."

"I don't accept that," Joanne said firmly. "You got there. Three times, now. You can do it again. Just try something new."

"But Mum-"

"No, Helena. We are getting you back to where you belong and that's final!"

"Oh?" said a surprised voice from the door. "And where might she belong that isn't here?"

Joanne spun, seeing her husband standing in the door, a bag at his feet, "Morris. You're back." She crossed the room and hugged him tightly.

Morris patted his wife on the back, "Yeah, I'm back. Now what was all the shouting about?"

"It was nothing, just-"

"Don't lie, Joanne. You were always a terrible liar," Morris frowned. When Joanne hesitated, he glanced at his daughter. "Helena?"

She stared helplessly at her mother. Convincing her had been one thing, Joanne had seen some of the MirrorWorld. Her father was far more grounded in his ways. She didn't know how to explain it so he'd believe –

Her mirror shattered on her bureau, drawing their attention. Helena jumped up from her bed, her heart tight in her throat.

"Helena!" her father shouted, holding out his hand to her, "Get away from that! The glass…"

He trailed off as a figure appeared in the mirror – then crawled out onto the top of her dresser.

Helena couldn't help the surge of disappointment as it wasn't a juggler hopping to her floor, but still she ran forward and embraced the arrival.

"Laurel!" she shouted, holding the soldier tightly.

Laurel grinned widely, "Well, that went better than expected. Here's to seeing you, Creator!"

Joanne had covered her hand with her mouth, an expression of shock and surprise frozen on her face. Morris had yet to pick up his jaw off the floor.

"How did you get here?" Helena exclaimed.

"The Mask," Laurel said, pulling it forward as she stepped out of the embrace. "The Queen brought it and we decided we'd just come and get you." She glanced and saw her parents standing in the corner of the room, "That is, if you want to come back."

Helena glanced at her shocked father. "Dad, maybe you should sit down."

"Sit down?! That girl just came out a mirror!" he shouted, still holding tightly to his wife.

"Yeah. This is Laurel, a Guard of the City of Light, and my friend. She's from the MirrorWorld which…which I created," Helena started.

Morris stared at her for five seconds, then mumbled, "Maybe I should sit down."

Helena gestured for Laurel to take a seat, then started all over again, "When Mum was sick…"

Valentine was tired of Bront.

He was tired of his face. His attitude. His veiled insults that Valentine wasn't a good regent. His not-so-veiled insults that she had left because of something he'd done.

In fact, Valentine was so tired of it, that he was beginning to get angry. Very angry. But he wasn't acting on it yet, because the anger was a nice change from the…nothing he had been feeling these past few months. It was warm and made his heart pound.

Bront was poking around the tower, finding nothing to complain about, but complaining just the same.

"I can't believe how filthy this place is. Of course, you wouldn't notice, right, juggler?"

Valentine ignored that.

"I mean, it's disgusting really. No wonder the Librarian doesn't want to come out here again."

Valentine ignored that.

"Now, the last regent had some taste. Style. She was something amazing."

Valentine ignored that, not that he disagreed.

"With the exception of being with you, obviously. But apparently beauty and brains are mutually exclusive, huh?"

Ah. Now, he couldn't ignore that.

Valentine stepped in Bront's way, startling the man. He was about Valentine's height, so his attempt to use his stature to his advantage didn't do much.

"For the last time, there is clearly nothing here that was overlooked, so let's set you on your way, shall we?" Valentine said. He grabbed Bront's arm and propelled him towards the door.

"What are you – get your hands off of me! I'm the Librarian's Assistant and -"

Valentine's fingers ground harder into Bront's arm as he growled out, "And I'm the regent of the Shadow Kingdom. Seems like I've got the authority here, mate."

"The Queen will see you hanged for this, you traitorous dog! She should have-"

"Oh, indeed, carry on with that statement," the Queen drawled from behind them. "I'm ever so curious to see what you think I should have done."

Valentine turned, but still didn't let go of Bront. The Queen, Finley, Stayne, and Rickett stood in the hallway.

"Your Majesty," Bront began, "this juggler-"

"Regent," Fin interrupted.

Bront's tone wavered, "This man threatened me with bodily harm and tried to have me escorted from the building."

"Now, that doesn't sound like the Valentine I know," the Queen said.

Bront's eyes lit up as he glared at Valentine, victory written all over his features.

Then she added, "So what did you do to provoke him?"

Bront blanched, "What?"

"I asked what you did to deserve such a response."


"Made disparaging remarks about the former regent," Valentine supplied for him.

As the faces in the hall turned hostile, Bront began to babble.

The Queen cut him off, "I had my doubts about your placement from the beginning. It's nice to see I haven't quite lost my edge. You will be removed from office upon our return to the City of Light. Until then, you will remain in your room until I say otherwise."

She turned to Rickett, "Do you think you could post a guard outside his door?"

"No guards, ma'am. How about a Bandersnatch?" he suggested.

Bront would have fallen had Valentine not been holding him upright.

"Oh, that sounds lovely," the Queen said. "Would you mind escorting him to a convenient room?"

"My pleasure, ma'am." Rickett marched down the hall and took Bront out of Valentine's care. "Sir."

"Rickett," Valentine nodded.

As Bront vanished, so did Valentine's anger. When the Queen approached, he opened his mouth to explain the situation. The Queen cut him off before he began. "Please, I've been looking to get rid of him ever since the Librarian hired him. You did me a favor."

Valentine nodded, still not entirely convinced.

"Um, Your Majesty?" Mags called from behind the Queen. Laurel stood by her side, smiling.

"Excuse me," the Queen said to Valentine. "I'll see you at dinner."

Curiosity bloomed slightly within Valentine's chest, but he ignored it and turned his back on the three women, choosing instead to go downstairs and begin sorting through the new supplies.

Morris stared after Laurel as she went back through the mirror, the MirrorMask falling into Helena's hands.

"So you're telling me, that you created an entire world?"

Helena nodded.

"And you were there the entire time you were asleep?"

Another nod.

"And you met a boy there who you are going back there for? Who we've never met and know nothing about?" Morris said.

"Dad," Helena said quietly. "He's the best person I know. He risked his life to save me and the entire world. During the war, he went through so much pain, but never stopped fighting for the right side, it was all his doing that we won at all. He's clever and funny and – and he's such a good juggler," she grinned tearfully. "He makes me better. We're better together."

Joanne was smiling, sitting on the edge of Morris' chair and touching his shoulder.

Helena got up and hugged her father tightly. "I love him. And he loves me."

Morris held her close for a long time. "Bambino…"

She squeezed her eyes shut, not knowing what was coming next.

"I suppose it…it figures that you would fall for a juggler," he said, pressing a kiss onto her head.

"Runs in the family," Joanne said from his shoulder, wiping Helena's cheek when she raised her head.

Morris met his daughter's eyes, a girl that seemed so out of this world that she belonged in another. "Be-before you go," he said, pretending his voice didn't break, "there's a few things I'd like to put together for you first."

Helena held the MirrorMask tightly and nodded. "Of course, Dad. Anything."

A few hours, many tears, and a fair amount of laughter later, Helena stood in her bedroom, a backpack on her shoulders and a Mask in her hands.

She put it down to face her parents, though.

"Oh," Morris said, "almost forgot." He pulled out her favorite set of juggling balls, the ones she had learned to juggle on, and handed them to her. "You hold onto these, alright?"

Helena nodded and tucked them into her jacket pocket, her heart already aching from the emotions of the day. "I will."

"And you'll do everything you can to get these mirrors working both ways to speak through, right?" Joanne asked.

"I promise, Mum. And if not, I think the Queen won't mind me using the MirrorMask to hop back and forth," Helena said, glancing at the Mask in question.

"Well, next time you'd best bring that boy with you," Morris said.

"I will," Helena promised.

Morris shook his head and held his arms open, "Come here, Bambino."

Helena ran into her father's arm, feeling her mother wrap around both of them. "I love you," Helena told them.

"We know," Joanne said quietly. "We love you, too."

"Always, Bambino."

She pulled back only when they let go. She turned and picked up the MirrorMask, glancing at her parents once more.

Joanne was crying openly, but with a smile on her face. Morris held her tightly and smiled softly at her.

"Good luck," he said.

Helena grinned and placed the Mask on her face, leaning into the mirror.

She came through it what had been Valentine's old room, the mirror rattling slightly against the wall as she stepped out of it. Helena looked out the window and saw that the sun had long since set here. She hitched her bag higher on her shoulder and walked out of the room. Luckily, she knew this place like the back of her hand, even after the months away and it was a fairly simple task to find the massive staircases that ran through the castle. Helena started jogging down them, skipping several steps at a time. Her heart was pounding so hard her ears were echoing the beat. She got to the second story landing and heard voices below. She was coming out right by the kitchen, just after dinner. Helena grinned and pelted down the stairs, dropping her backpack to go even faster.

There was a man at the bottom of the stairs, on his way towards the kitchen just to the right of the stairwell. Valentine, in his white and burgundy, walked with his hands in his pockets, his head bowed as if he was thinking over some problem. He glanced up the stairs, catching sight of Helena, and then looked back to the kitchen and kept walking, disappearing through the door.

"Valentine!" she called out after him, the word ripping out of her as she saw him vanishing.

The voices in the kitchen fell completely silent, and after a breath she saw a flicker of white at the door. Valentine walked out backwards, followed by Mags, Laurel, the Queen, Whitt, Bront – what was he doing here? – Finlet, and all the rest of the guards, then turned to face her.

She smiled, but he just continued to stare.

Then, he turned away from her, facing the guards, "This is probably the cruelest trick any of you have ever played. And I'm played some cruel tricks."

"Valentine, we didn't-" the Queen started.

"Once, I managed to convince a woman that her missing husband had returned as a sphinx-" he started reminiscing.

"But , she's really-" Fin tried.

"-and it worked for a while, but then things took a turn for the odd when she really started to believe it and dress it up-"

"Not a trick-" Whitt said.

"And then when her husband did return, there was a very ugly fight in which the sphinx somehow ended up with half the house, which I still can't for the life of me understand-"

Laurel stepped up, "But, Helena is-"

"Not. Here," Valentine said, cutting her off. "She's gone."

Helena drew in a breath at the sharpness of his words. It wasn't so much anger as it was pain. She did that to him.

"But...she's there," said Nodd, pointing. "You saw her."

Valentine glanced at her, then back at the others, "Well, that's because I've clearly gone mad. Inevitable, really."

"Then why do I see her?" Laurel asked.

"And me?" Bront added.

"We're all hallucinating," Valentine said. "I bet it was something we ate." He glared at Nodd, who glared right back. "I suggest we all just lie down until it passes and everything goes back to normal."

"But-" Mags tried, glancing at Helena.

Helena looked in her pockets for something - anything that would help prove it. The only thing in her jacket pockets were the juggling balls. She grabbed one and threw it.

The others, still looking at her, all ducked but Valentine never saw it coming. It bounced off the back of his head and he winced, turning around. He stopped the ball with his foot and then bent down to pick it up. Valentine looked up at her, tossing the ball up and down in his hands.

"Can a hallucination juggle?" she asked him, starting to do exactly that as he watched.

"The good ones do," he retorted, "Well, if you call that juggling,"

She glared at him and threw him one, the two of them starting a familiar circuit. He had to work a little harder to get the balls up the stairs, but it wasn't a challenge for him.

Helena watched the colorful spheres pass through the air, feeling more comfortable here, juggling with Valentine than she had ever felt at home. She loved her family, the circus, her room, but she happily traded it all for this, right here.

She looked at him and smiled when he met her gaze. And for the first time since she'd met him, Valentine let an easy catch hit the ground. He was up the stairs before she could stop juggling and when he caught her around the waist, the other two spheres fell to the ground, bouncing to the landing.

She was vaguely aware of the others vanishing back into the kitchen and shutting the door behind them, but she was far more focused on the man holding her face between his hands. He kissed her hard, the edges of his mask biting into her skin. When he broke away, she felt lightheaded, but very clearly heard his ragged voice in her ear, "You left me."

She hugged him, pressing her face in his shoulder, "I know. I didn't mean to. But I'm here now."

"For how long?" he asked, his arms tightening around her. He wasn't telling her not to leave again, not asking her to stay, not asking her to choose between her family and him. He just wanted to be ready for the next time she vanished.

"Forever," Helena said. "I'm here this time, Valentine. I'm not dreaming or a double or in a coma. I'm here. Really. And I'm here to stay."

"But your family, the circus?" he asked her, pulling back to stare at her.

"I'll miss them," she said honestly. "But not as much as I'd miss this life. With you."

"So you're really here to stay?"

Helena tried to say yes, but she only got as far as a nod and a smile before Valentine pulled her in for another kiss. Helena held him tightly.

"I love you, juggler."

"I love you, Helena-na."

And nothing more needed to be said.

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 29 of 29

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