Continuing Tales

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 4 of 29

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Valentine knew Helena's schedule like the back of his hand and knew how long he could expect her to be gone based on the size of the bag that she carried out. Backpack meant school, meant eight hours. Then she'd come home and spend time in her room doing work. Duffel bag meant circus practice he gathered, usually until late at night. Both bags meant she was gone a week and she always came back exhausted, but trying out new juggling acts. He assumed that she had been traveling with her family's circus.

Valentine kept up with her practicing, trying the same moves she did or reviewing the ones he already knew. Now he was always juggling.


He didn't even look up, concentrating on his juggling. He didn't answer, which angered the Princess more.

"Val," she snapped.

"Need something?" he asked quietly.

"A book."

He ignored her, making her shift angrily. "I need a book, Val."

"I heard you." He stopped, catching his orbs and putting them into his pocket. "What do you need all these books for?"

She stared at him. "You don't usually ask questions."

"You don't usually come to me," he pointed out. He cocked his head, "Getting lonely up in your evil tower?"

"Get me the book, Val," she ordered. She described it in detail and Valentine stored it away.

"How many more books will you need?" he asked her. "Starting your own evil library?"

The Princess smirked at him, "Don't try to be clever, Val. It's really not your area. Get it to me by morning."

He walked past her, "Always do."

Valentine thought that getting into the City would get more difficult as the years passed and he continued to plunder the Library, but nothing seemed to change. It was like they weren't even aware there was a problem.

In and out in twenty minutes, Valentine returned to his Tower with the newest book under his arm. He sat in his living room as the Tower took a rather sedate pace back to the City of Shadows. Opening the book, he started to read, doing the research that he might someday be able to use. Somehow.

The Mask could make the wearer invisible, sort of. It would reflect what was behind the wearer, making it look like they weren't there. But if they moved, there would be an outline. Could be useful.

He closed the book as it got into the history of the MirrorWorld and away from the MirrorMask. He settled the book across his lap and stared at the empty armchair across from him. Invisibility would be pretty useful. He could get the Mask and sneak out, staying invisible until he got to the City of Light. Where he'd be immediately arrested. Or killed on sight. The former wouldn't be so bad, if he got a chance to speak. The latter would be inconvenient. But at least the MirrorMask would be out of the hands of the crazy, lying, evil-

Why did he even have two armchairs?

He was lying in bed when the mirror he was watching out of the corner of his eye went dark. Valentine sat up, frowning. He heard footsteps pounding outside of his door and walked over to it, knocking.

"What's going on out there?" he shouted, trying the knob.

It opened and there was no one standing guard. He took one step out before something slammed into his chest.

He fell back against the door with a huff, automatically wrapping his arms around the figure. "What-"

Brown hair fell back from her face as she looked up. He clearly saw chocolate brown eyes.

Valentine froze, "Helena?!"

"We have to go," she told him. She grabbed his hand and led him through the halls, up towards the Princess' room.

"We have to get out," he said, pulling her back. "How are you here? Why did you come here?"

"For you." Her face was so matter-of-fact when she said that, it took a moment for the meaning of her words to sink in. "We have to go this way."


"Trust me, Val."

Valentine followed her, the warm fingers leading him forwards, her face calm and collected, like she saved the world every day.

But wait…

Helena led him to the Princess' room and he closed the door behind them. "What are you looking for?" he asked her.

"The Mask. We need it." She opened up drawers and cupboards, searching.

He swallowed. "It's not in there."

Helena looked up, "Then where?"

When he didn't answer, she walked over to him, taking both of his hands in hers. "Help me find it, Val."

He got his hands free, tracing them up her arms, over her shoulders and up her neck. She stared at him, still calm.

Or empty.

His fingers found the seam of the MirrorMask and he pulled it off, revealing the Princess.

"Clever," she smirked.

"Sloppy. Helena never called me Val," he snapped.

The Princess took the Mask out of his fingers. "I almost had you."

He turned around to leave, "Not nearly."

"You could pretend."

He glanced over his shoulder, "Pretend what? That you're not a murdering, manipulative witch?"

"That I'm your Helena."

He didn't know what kind of game she wanted to play, but he wasn't buying. "Pretending is for children."

She put her hand on his shoulder and stopped him. "Fine, lying if you prefer. You already lie to yourself every day, Val. What's one more?"

He shrugged his shoulder and got her to remove her hand. "Not. Interested."

"I am exactly like her," the Princess said, her voice rising.

"You're nothing like her," he said, turning to face her. "And Valentines don't settle for second best."

She slapped him.

Valentine reeled. Sure, she'd hurt him, but she'd never actually raised a hand to him. She had more thoughtful, ruthless, conniving ways to do it. To resort to brute force meant…

He felt the corner of his mouth rising up in a smirk. The Princess's face darkened in fury, but he couldn't keep from smiling.

It meant that she wasn't as in control as she let everyone else believe.

"If that'll be all?" he asked her, almost bouncing on his toes.

"Get out," she hissed, turning away from him.

Valentine did so, nodding to the guards that had reappeared by the door. "Gents."

He heard glass shatter behind me, making him chuckle to himself as he headed towards his room.

The ice princess had begun to crack.

Sometimes he wondered why she didn't take his mirror to Helena away. As much as he hated her, he knew she wasn't completely stupid. She had to have made the connection between his getting the mirror and his sudden…belligerence.

Valentine thought that maybe if she took it away, she'd still be admitting to failure. That even silent and unintentional, Helena had more sway over him than the Princess, who was ever so annoyingly present.

Or perhaps she left it because it kept him more complacent in his room. He'd certainly been less tempted to leave now that he had something that mattered.

Either way, he tried not to push it too much. Especially after the latest incident with her. Next time she ordered him to her room, he went without complaint, got the description of the mirror she wanted, and proceeded with the pick-up.

It didn't mean he wasn't thinking about getting back to the mirror, though. As soon as he got back three days later, he shoved the mirror into the Princess' hands and proceeded up to his room, immediately looking at the mirror. He didn't even hear the door shut behind him.

Helena had a big box on her bedspread, but she was sitting in front of the mirror, holding her hair up off of her neck and looking at it. She'd only ever worn it down or in a ponytail. It was kind of endearing to see her trying new hairstyles. She opened up the box and smiled at whatever was in it.

She jumped and looked at her door, grabbing the box on her bed and shoving it between her bed and her wall. Then she ran and opened up her door, letting in her father. He stepped in, looking a little frantic. He grabbed Helena's hands and spoke to her earnestly.

Helena looked down at her father's hands, then back up at him and nodded, shrugging as she did so. Her father asked her something, staring at her.

She nodded, smiling but Valentine could tell it was a little forced.

Her dad left and Helena stayed sitting on her bed for another moment. Then she sighed and rubbed her face. She got up and grabbed the box she had hidden from her father. She opened it up and stared at what was inside.

Helena picked it up, revealing a silver dress. She held it up to her, looking at it in the mirror. He noticed the purple sash that tied around her waist and trailed down to the hem. It didn't have sleeves and it only reached her knees. It was different. Pretty.

She smiled slightly at her reflection, but then the smile faded. She put the dress back in the box. Then she grabbed her duffel bag and dropped it on top of the box, uncaring that it got crushed. Once the bag was packed, the pushed the box off of her bed. She grabbed her backpack and headed out the door. On the way, she paused by the small corkboard on her wall. She pinned up some pictures there, ticket stubs, pieces of things she had done or had been going to do. She grabbed one rectangle off of there and crumpled it up, throwing it past her bed to land on the box. Valentine only saw one word – Prom.

The door shut and Valentine stared after her. He hadn't seen that disappointed expression on Helena's face before. He didn't like it. She did a lot of things to make her father smile, but he always saw the face she didn't show her parents. The exhaustion, the hurt, the disappointment.

She loved them, he knew that. And they loved her. And their circus.

He wished he could make it better.

It had been a difficult week. The Princess had sent him out several times and he hadn't been able to sleep in his comfortable if sparse cell for a full night at all. He dropped off the latest retrieval – three different masks and a very particular windowpane – and went up to his cell without complaint, falling face first onto his bed with a groan. He kicked off his comfortable boots and turned onto his side, glancing in the mirror out of habit. He closed his eyes and sighed, finally ready to-

He sat up. Helena was sitting at her desk, her head in her hands. She rarely sat this close to the mirror. She wiped her eyes and looked into the mirror with a sigh.

Helena's eyes were red-rimmed and she looked pale. She picked up a pen and continued with something in front of her. She moved her empty hand in a gesture like she was talking. She glanced to the edge of the mirror, her mouth moving in a conversation. He slid off of his comfortable bed and onto the floor in front of the mirror, at eye-level with her.

"What happened, Helena-na?" he asked her, searching her face and room for clues.

A black dress was on the bed and her usually clean room had clothes strewn on the floor, like she hadn't bothered to put them away after changing. Which was not normal for her.

"Talk to me," Valentine said.

She was still talking, the pen moving in confidant, straight strokes across the paper. She glanced up into the mirror, almost having a conversation with herself. He glanced at the paper, seeing a wreath on the center of the page. The words were difficult to read through the mirror, but he caught a few. Words like Dearly LovedMissed, and Nan.

Someone had died. Nan had died. Nan…? Oh, the old woman. Helena's grandmother.

Helena's mother opened the door, leaning her head in. She was dressed in black, too. She said something to Helena, her eyes red but dry. Helena nodded and her mother left.

She looked into the mirror again, her eyes listing to the side of the mirror. Her chin quivered, but she drew in a breath and calmed down. She finished her drawing and put it to the side, dropping her head into her hands again.

Shifting to the side, she grabbed her red notebook, still battered and pages torn out but tucked in. Helena flipped it open, finding a specific page. It was creased and battered. One that had obviously felt her wrath the day she punched the man-boy.

She lifted it out of the notebook and stared at it for a second. Her other finger traced the lines from her drawing. She dropped the page and put her fingers against the glass.

Valentine saw the paper and blinked. It was him.

He reached his hand up and put his palm against his side of the mirror. He could have been imagining it, but he felt like the places where her fingers met his were warmer than the others.

She smiled slightly, then dropped her hand away and picked up the dress on her bed. He looked away for one hundred counts and when he looked back, Helena was dressed and pinning back her hair. She picked up the piece of paper that held him and tucked it back into her red notebook. Then she grabbed the card she had made and headed out the door.

A month passed before the Princess sent him out again. She wanted an entire box of sphinxes and the little bastards had taken him nearly a week to gather up. By the time he had gotten back, he was exhausted. Valentine trudged upstairs to his room and fell asleep without bothering to get changed. When he woke up, the day was already halfway gone. He sat up, rubbing the back of his head with a groan. He had a headache, from either too little or too much sleep, he wasn't sure. He glanced up into the mirror, looking out the window-

-and back into the mirror.

Helena was in her room. Changing. And he was looking.

Valentine swallowed, shutting his eyes. Usually he had a hint to when she would be changing, and he would stop himself before she started and for two and a half years he didn't have an issue. Now, the issue was engrained on the back of his eyelids. Probably forever.

Not that he minded.

Wait, yes he did. Or not. He didn't know.

What he did know is that he really wanted to open his eyes. He counted to one hundred. Then two. Then to five hundred just to be safe. When he opened his eyes finally (very tentatively for a half a second before he snapped them shut again, then opened for sure when he knew Helena was gone), the room was empty.

He huffed, falling back on the bed. It was just an accident. It didn't mean anything. He didn't mean to see anything. Not that he did. She had been wearing what were technically considered clothes. Almost. Maybe.

He covered his eyes, and was immediately assaulted by images of long legs and scraps of green fabric that didn't leave anything to the imagination. A flat stomach and certain curves that had most definitely not been as pronounced the first time he met her, she had been stretching her arms above her head and more skin than he'd know what to with and-


He stood up, forcing the image out of his head by replacing it with detailed inspections of his stone floor. He'd never noticed that crack in the masonry before. How interesting. And those lines looked like the Prime Minister's mask, and that group the giants, and that one reminded him of the curve of Helena's hip and-


"You are an awful, awful man, Valentine. Pull yourself together," he muttered. "She's your friend."

Sort of. He thought of her as a friend. Most of the time. When he wasn't seeing more of her than he should. And he meant more. But the last time they had spoken, he had broken any version of friendship.

And yet…she still thought about him. Talked to him even though she thought he couldn't hear. Even though she thought he didn't care.

He did. Very much. And she still thought he didn't. That bothered him.

Helena had taken her big bag, so he knew she'd be gone for the next week or so. He'd gotten used to it, said hello to Helena's mother as she came into her room on occasion. He'd gotten over her looking like the Queen of the City of Light. Though he certainly saw the resemblance.

A week went by. Then two. Which had happened before. When the third week hit, Valentine knew something was wrong. He could feel it. So he sat by the mirror day and night, barely sleeping in case he missed something. He waited for Helena to come back, but days ticked by and that wrong feeling spread from his stomach to his chest until he wasn't sure how he was able to keep breathing.

It was late three nights later when something finally happened. Helena's door opened and her mother entered, pale and shaking.

Valentine stopped juggling and watched her walk over to Helena's bed and sit down. She picked up the see-an-enemy and stared at it for a moment.

Tears slipped over her eyes and she bent over the toy, silent sobs racking her shoulders. Valentine stared into the mirror and hoped he was wrong. Someone else came into the room and Valentine realized it was Helena's father. But he couldn't be home. Not without Helena. Why was he there without Helena?

The woman got up when he entered the room. She was shouting at him, her face getting red splotches on her cheeks. He just stood there, not saying a word.

Helena's mother slapped him and then covered her mouth, anger giving way to tears again.

Seemingly unaware of the red mark on his face, Helena's father took the woman into his arms and the two of them stood in the room together, both of them crying.

Valentine stood alone, dragged into their grief without understanding why. But he knew it had to do with Helena.

Something bad had happened to Helena.

He moved before he even thought about it, out his door so quickly that the guards didn't think to stop him until he was already down the hall. He heard them chasing him, but he didn't turn. His robe whipped out behind him, snapping around corners and up stairs until he reached the dark room.

Valentine slammed open the door and the Princess jumped. "What do you think you're-"

"What did you do?" he spoke over her.

"I have no idea what-"

"What did you do to Helena?" Valentine shouted, ignoring the sounds of the guards coming in behind him.

She blinked and stared at him. Then her face broke into a twisted smile, "Took you long enough. And she got what was coming to her."

Staring into her dark eyes, Valentine realized that she was lying. She had no idea what'd happened. She hadn't done anything.

"Take him back to his room and actually guard him," the Princess said, flapping her hand at her guards. "Knock next time, Val."

He allowed them to lead him out and back down to his room in silence. He barely noticed when they shoved him into his room, slamming the door behind him.

He went to the mirror and knelt in front of it, but it was empty of everyone. Even the see-an-enemy was gone now. Valentine pressed his hand against the glass, pushing as if he could break the barrier.

"Where are you?"

Helena climbed out of the back of the trailer, checking the straps as she did so.

"All set, Bambino?" her father asked as she hopped out. Pingo closed the door behind her locking and securing the big top's trailer.

She nodded, brushing off the dirt on her hands. "We're good to go."

Pingo gave her a thumbs up and headed to the cab. With three hundred miles to go before their show tomorrow night, they had voted to head out straight after the show and set up before sleeping. It wasn't the first time and it worked better than trying to sleep and then set-up. They always gave themselves too much time for set-up, banking on the idea that something would need fixing.

The fleet of cars, pickups, RVs, and trailers began following Pingo out of the field. Helena and her father walked to their ride in no big hurry, as they always brought up the rear and Helena's trailer was already hooked up to the back of her father's RV. Helena let out a jaw-cracking yawn as she headed towards the passenger door.

"Why don't you go get some rest, Bambino?" her dad said.

She had to wait a few seconds for the yawn to vanish, making her reply a lot less believable. "I'm okay."

Her dad urged her to her trailer. "Go catch some rest. Another big day tomorrow."

She couldn't argue. It'd been two weeks of these tear-downs, driving, and set-ups, with only three nights of actual rest in between shows. She was exhausted. "Thanks, Dad. Love you."

He smiled and opened her door for her. "Sweet dreams."

She stepped up, making sure the door was locked and secured, taking a quick moment to ensure that the rest of her items were properly stowed. The RV started up and Helena sat on her bed, taking the time to wipe of the stage makeup and quickly brush out her hair, but not bothering with her jeans, jacket, and leotard. She even left her shoes on she was so exhausted.

When the trailer started moving, Helena let the momentum drop her back onto the bed and she curled up. Her eyes burned a little as she closed them, too dried out from lack of sleep. With the gentle swaying of the trailer and the hush of paper rattling against her wall, Helena fell asleep.

Helena was dreaming about the tightrope. She'd been practicing up there for a few weeks now, so it wasn't the first time. This one was still different. She was near the center of the rope, her chin high and her arms outstretched. They she heard someone shout her name from the ground. Against all the rules, she looked down.

Her mother smiled up at her, "Helena!"

Helena grinned, "Hi, Mum!"

Her mother's face wavered in and out of focus, to be replaced with the Queen of Light's. "Help."

Helena took a step back, wobbling on the rope. She hadn't dreamed about the MirrorWorld in months. Years. She'd been thinking about it more just recently, but not dreaming about it.


She looked to the other side of the rope on the ground where her father and the Prime Minister fought for focus.


"Please come back."

She had to look away, to adjust her footing on the highwire. She was losing focus and balance.


She was keeping her eyes up; not that it helped, since he was standing on the highwire platform. Helena swallowed, meeting his eyes.

"You're still disgusting," he said, smirking. He was leaning against the support post, looking like he didn't have a care in the world. Helena ignored him.

"They need you," he told her.

She didn't say anything, but took the chance to look him over. He looked older and leaner, which was saying something, since he'd been pretty skinny the last time she saw him. There was something about him, though. She couldn't place it. Whatever it was, he looked different.

Helena blinked and Valentine's mask was gone. Her extended hands clenched into fists when she realized who this was now. She kept walked forward, knowing that it was bring her closer to him, but also knowing she would fall if she just stayed there any longer.

"Selfish brat."

Helena kept quiet, hearing the calls for help from the ground get louder. "Help" and "Hel" started to get confused, the masks disappearing and reappearing so quickly she couldn't tell who was saying what. She frowned, staring at the support pole that was her focus point.

"Nobody will care about you as long as they think you're nuts," Andrew sneered.

Was he twelve? Did he think that would work on her?

"Nice bloke, that one." Mask - Valentine. "He's charming, really."

"-your insane obsession over a place and people that doesn't even exist!" Andrew.

"They need your help, Helena-na," Valentine said, gesturing to the ground.

"Why?" she asked, breaking her rule and not caring. She was almost to the platform.

The mask vanished, but before Andrew could say anything it reappeared.

"They're in danger. Very dangerous danger. Just up your alley, if I remember correctly," he said, watching her.

She was just a few feet away from the platform. She waited until her feet touched the wooden base, glancing up into Valentine's face. "From what?"

"Not what," he said. Andrew's face reappeared, sneering at her, and then Valentine was back. He put his hands on her shoulders, staring at her.

"Who, then?" she asked, reaching up to wrap one hand around his wrist.

He smiled. "Oh. Me."

Helena frowned, "You? Valentine, what-"

The mask began to vanish and reappear too quickly for her to see who was who. All Helena knew is that suddenly she was pushed.

She fell off of the platform, heading towards the ground. She forced herself to relax, seeing that the net was in place. It still hurt a little, but not nearly as much as hitting the ground would.

Just before she reached the net, there was the sound of screeching tires and screaming metal. Helena gasped as a bright light went off and the net vanished. Pale stonework rose up to meet her and she covered her face.

Helena hit the ground hard, but not as hard as falling from a tightrope. She winced, rolling onto her back and making sure she hadn't broken anything. Her lungs protested by throwing a coughing fit. When she could finally breathe, Helena focused on the sky above her. It seemed a little washed out. She frowned and a cloud of fish flew by.

Helena sat straight up, ignoring the spinning sensation in her head. The fish swam away from her and towards towers that rose up about a mile away from her. The ragged landscape and familiar skylines, the ones she fallen asleep to every night for eighteen years, were no illusion.

She was back in the MirrorWorld.

"Well. Shit."

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 4 of 29

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