Valentine rubbed his hands triumphantly, admiring his handiwork. "Well, Tower," he said, patting his house's domed rooftop as if it were a dog, "this is the work of a real genius, a real Valentine!" He leaned down and tightened the rope one more time, to make sure it would not unravel, and then took a step onto it.
It had been three or four months since the White Queen had awoken, and she had promptly taken care of several big problems, the most prominent being the Dark Queen and her wretched daughter. Valentine wasn't sure if the Shadowlands even still existed, but he couldn't say he really cared. At the moment, the most important thing occupying his brain was learning this new trick: The High-Wire. It was difficult, death defying, and, if he didn't die while doing it, impressive beyond any of the other tricks he (Or anyone else in his world, for that matter) knew. From a bystander's point-of-view, you could say it was his way of avenging Bing, it could be to show his extraordinary balance (No doubt passed down through generations of Valentines), it could come in handy the next time he had to pass over a ravine on only a three inch thick rope.
But really, if you knew him properly, you'd find out it was just to impress a lady.
Helena had not returned since defeating her anti-form, but that certainly didn't cause him to lose hope. He knew she would be back sooner or later, and besides, she had saved the world. He had all the time in the world now to practice this trick. And it would impress her, and she would be jealous, and he would become something so much more in her eyes.
With that thought fueling him, he took a deep breath and stepped off his tower, spreading his arms for balance. It was going fine so far, of course. He wasn't a very important man for nothing! This would be easy! Soon he would be doing all kinds of things: Juggling, cartwheeling, dancing...
A few steps later, he fell and nearly broke his leg. Luckily his bones were made of steel. If they weren't, they were certainly stronger than everyone else's.
A few more weeks passed. Valentine got further and further along the rope before he fell every time he tried, and was getting into the good habit of catching himself. He nearly forgot about Helena, but every time he looked up at that cord he remembered. He remembered why he was even doing this, why he was putting himself through this, why he was making a fool of himself. It was all for her. She'd love it. She'd love him.
He worked harder, harder, growing distracted over time. He failed to catch himself on several occasions, spraining his wrists, skinning his knees, rolling his ankles, and on one occasion cracking his mask. It had to glue it back together and, while he was waiting for it to dry, tried to practice without it, which was both mortifying and bizarre, so he put it back on. He had no idea how Helena had gotten around without one.
Speaking of her, where was she? She had not abandoned him, had she? No, of course not, that was out of the question! She hadn't forgotten about him, and she hadn't abandoned him, and she would come back soon, and he would take her mask-shopping! She would be back! She had to come back!
He wished for her on those funny little dandelion fluffs, and on the stars, and on other kids' birthday cakes, but it didn't seem to help. Another month passed, and she remained absent, chose not to show her unmasked face. He grew hopeless, too much so to practice his trick. Heck, if she wasn't coming back, what was the point? So he remained isolated in his tower, brooding, feeling quite angry at the world, and often looked out his window at the sky, wondering if she was looking at him this very moment. He sometimes imagined that he could picture her face up in the stars, making out her eyes and her nose and her lips, likening himself to those great astronomers she had once talked about.
Finally he tried again, desperate for something to take his mind off of her. He climbed up to the top of his tower and took a deep breath, poised and ready. He couldn't remember when he had last done this, but he was fairly sure he remembered. He was a Valentine, after all...
He was wrong, it turned out. He didn't like to admit it, but he had to, as he plummeted hazardously towards the ground, landing on his feet but crumpling down to his stomach afterwards, breathing raggedly. And then he sighed, and to his humiliation he could feel his eyes burning behind his mask, his lashes the last remaining barricade against the tears waiting to fall. From somewhere in the distance he could hear somebody running towards him, and did his best to buck up. He was a man, and men didn't cry over stupid things like falling from a building and grievously injuring themselves!
"Valentine! Valentine, what in the world do you think you're doing?!"
He was being turned over, and then he felt something under his head. The first thing he saw was a bright light, and then a hazy figure. When it came into view a few minutes later, he saw that it was her. It was Helena. A surge of joy shocked through his veins, and he immediately stood up. She followed suit.
"Took you bloody well long enough, y'know!" he said, a cross between relief, hysteria, and annoyance creeping into his voice. She screwed up her expression into one of apology.
"I'm sorry, Valentine, but I've been busy," she told him. "The circus has been especially popular lately, and we've had to train tons of newbies... Anyway, what were you doing up there? You could have killed yourself!"
He didn't reply, taking a moment to just look at her. She hadn't changed since last time he saw her, but her hair did seem a little longer. She was wearing a sequin-covered leotard and black leggings, looking like she'd just come from a practice. He shook his head, returning to the present.
"I was practicing!" he explained. "And by the by, I've been worried sick about you! Leaving and not showing up for five months isn't exactly friendly!"
She laughed, which annoyed him slightly. He was on the verge of an emotional breakdown, and she was laughing at him? What had Helena turned into?
But the next moment found him breathless, all other emotion drained from his being besides surprise. She took one step forward and grabbed him round the torso, pulling him into a tight embrace.
"I'd never abandon you, you know that," she said, nuzzling her cheek against his chest. "I missed you."
Without hesitating any longer (Because, really, who knew when he'd get to see her again?), he threw his arms around her shoulders and crushed her in a bear hug, burying his masked face into her warm neck. "I missed you, too."
"By the way..." she said, pushing away to look at him again, "that's a very impressive trick. I just learned it for the circus back home!"
A/N: Just an updated version. :B I submitted on my DA in December of 2008, and I could have sworn I had already uploaded it here, but I guess I was mistaken, haha...