Reflections

By Shahrezad1

Summary: "Vance mused on the irony of fate that had brought him where he was. A life of desperate 'unwantedness.' All leading back where he started, so many years ago. It was a distant memory within the juggler's mind. He remembered…weathered stone. A tower high above the clouds. Glass. He'd been…eight when he'd first returned. 'First returned. Where had that come from?'"

Disclaimer: I don't own a lot of stuff. I don't own my roommate's table or chairs, or any of her books. Not to mention the library-I don't own the library, unfortunately. Or the local video store. Which goes to show that it's not such a surprise that I don't own this either. Please don't sue-I don't own much.

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"I'm a very important man."

-Valentine

"You'd have made a terrible waiter."

The words were out of her mouth before she could hold them back, but still the young girl didn't regret speaking them out loud. They were impulsive, true, but they felt right. And as the man accidentally wrapped around her laughed in agreement, Helena found hilarity burbling up her throat to her lips and along into a spontaneous half-hidden smile.

And something about it all drew him to her; she could tell. As he stopped laughing at her comment and continued simply for a the sake of sharing in her humor. But their connection couldn't last forever, and she watched as her words turned behind his eyes like clockwork. Resulting in a single confused expression.

"What?"

"Never mind. I…long story. I'm Helena," Helena responded quietly, eyes still smiling in their upturned corners as she looked up into his taller view. And the young man she'd 'never seen before,' found he couldn't really look away. Even with the interference of color and sound, murmuring voices surrounding them both in cheery waves, he couldn't seem to draw himself away.

"Robby Vance. But my friends call me Va-."

"Valentine," she finished for him in a quick murmur, nodding. His mouth opened like a fish before it was replaced with an impressed smirk. It didn't last long, however, as he realized where his hand was on her back and the fact that they were both still in the direct line of site of the ticket booth. Immediately his long fingers were off the smooth of her back like it was a hot stove, form falling several feet back. And in the sudden transition he tossed her the ball as though it were a completely natural thing to do.

And then she caught it.

Brows furrowed, the newly introduced Valentine opened his mouth again to speak, but was interrupted as someone called her name. Helena tossed him a quick nod and dashed off. Leaving several of her juggling balls behind in the wet grass below for the man to hesitantly pick up.

~/~/~

Examining the interior of the circus tent, Vance mused on the irony of fate that had brought him where he was. A life of desperate 'unwantedness,' followed by a short stint of independence. All leading back where he started, so many years ago.

It was a distant memory within the juggler's mind, revolving around the concept of light and shadow dwelling simultaneously within the same area. He remembered…weathered stone. A tower high above the clouds. And a mix of fiendish creatures, not all evil although predominantly fierce in appearance.

He remembered…glass. A twist and twirl of dancing figures pulling him with them. He'd been…eight when he'd first returned.

First returned. Where had that come from? Frowning, Robby pursed his lips into straight queue of thought, long legs drawn up within the tiny space the theater seating afforded him. Propping on bony elbow up on another bony knee so that he could rest his chin in the palm of his long hand.

The imagery could only mean one thing: he was a creation of fantasy, a child of either the circus or gypsies. No other situation as fully explained his blurred past.

And then it had all changed; a tall, feathery figure handing him off to the dour woman who demanded he call her 'mother'. That was where the memories became clear for him-with the tinkle of glass and silver as she handed over something in payment for him. It had always seemed like simple coinage to Valentine, but his subconscious whispered otherwise. The same subconscious which brought him hazy scenes of music and masks. And truthfully it had always felt like what she had given him was her dreams. But that couldn't be right, could it?

Any more than the costumes he recalled could be true beasts or living fairytales.

But lately he wasn't so sure. Not with the recent dream that had called him here by name.

Not with meeting her as she was now.

But she was too young; far younger than he'd had an impression of through their foggy dream-conversations.

Ugh! It was all so jumbled in his head. Like pieces of a stained glass shattered and tossed, uncaring, on the ground.

Combing both hands through his hair, Valentine allowed himself to indulge in the nervous habit until the untidy strands were even untidier in disorderly little spikes. But when he finally withdrew the two offending limbs he had to fight the desire to jump back in surprise as he found himself not alone.

An older fellow sat in a similar pose, bent at the waist with forearms resting on his knees and hands occupied. Although the younger of the two had to do a yet another double-take as realized what with.

Crystals. Dozens of crystals caught within the weaving net of gloved fingers, absently but expertly twirled to some inner rhythm. And come to think of it, the man really was humming something. But not loudly enough for Robby to tell what from. And come to think of it, wasn't he an odd looking man, too? Dressed all in dark jeans and what had to be black cowboy boots and a leather jacket. And the thin braid his unmanageable hair had been drawn up into held as much blonde as it did silver, leading to the belief that perhaps he was far older than he appeared.

Odder, too, as winged eyebrows and mismatched eyes met Vance's blue ones over a hawkish nose. But the smirk he somehow knew resided just below never appeared.

"Strange, isn't it," the regally British voice asked, contrasting Vance's crisp Irishness in a single go. And the youth found himself wanting to be wigged out, annoyed, anything really. But all he could feel was slight trepidation tempered with…trust? Trust, really? For an unknown bloke in a circus tent? For all he knew the man could be one of the performers themselves, pulling a stunt. But unconsciously the rolling vocal tones relaxed him and Robby immediately found himself nodding.

"…very strange," the fellow continued quietly, absentmindedly, "to be reunited. With old faces and old places. Wouldn't you say so?"

Brows bunching at the eery similarity of his words to Valentine's thoughts, Robby turned the frown forming on his face into something resembling an affirmative grin. But not enough, apparently, as his unwilling companion's bittersweet quiet transitioned into a lightly humorous half-smile. Immediately the younger of the two dropped the expression like a bad juggler, shoulders dipping inward as he heaved a heavy sigh.

"Right. Old faces."

"You don't remember me, do you?"

That got his attention. Turning fast enough to get whiplash the strawberry blonde was facing his older contemporary in an instant, but the gentleman had already looked away. Gazing at some vague point in the ring as the lights dimmed ever so slightly. Fifteen minutes before curtain, Robby's mind supplied, but the rest of him was primed for an answer. Any answer, really.

But apparently his curious visitor wasn't willing to share, pulling air into his lungs like it was his right as he slowly straightened. Then smirked tiredly, motioning towards the center stage with an elegant twirl of hand that made Valentine realize for the first time that his crystals had magically disappeared. But to no pockets that he could see, those decidedly black jeans worn as tightly as they'd seemed from the beginning.

"She's a rare one, wouldn't you say? A Dreamer. They tend to create worlds till they bleed…or go mad. You might actually be familiar with the sensation yourself, if I'm correct," an ironic little smirk and a nod were the only concession for the 'boy's ability before he continued, "Still, like a rose's short blooming, it's something to cherish. Don't you agree?"

He had to be barking mad. Or maybe he was on something. Because Vance hadn't an inkling as to what the gent talking about. Unless he meant…

Dodging a glance at the curtains beyond the open arena, Robby's eyes, 'blue as Forget-Me-Nots,' fell on a slim figure in metallic spandex, ballet shoes modified for circus use. She seemed to be searching for something and the young man wondered what until her hazel orbs landed on him, dark lashes brushing along milky white cheeks. And then her gazing ended and his breath went with it, something warm and solid growing in the gap between his rib cage.

There was no doubt about it. She was the one. Sixteen years old and off limits to him at his own nineteen lovely annuals. But she knew him; knew and had been searching, the way he had searched all his life. Although maybe what he had been searching for and what he had actually found was entirely different than the answers he'd been seeking? And maybe this end result was better than it would have been, anyway?

But she was still too young. In this world anyway.

Where had that thought come from?

And then even odder words come out from the cruel twist of a mouth standing high above him. Answering words and thoughts left unspoken, "not so young, I think. It's only forever; not long at all. You can wait a few years before she grows I'm sure. I have. But no longer-now is the time to act."

What was that supposed to mean?

But he wasn't given the chance to press for an answer as the man whirled around like one wearing a cape. Forced to watch as the old juggler held up a single specimen of glass Vance could tell he was about to throw, the young man called out the only question he could think of as he rushed back to the tent entrance. Dodging patrons and children left and right as the need for real honesty nearly choked the Irish man.

"Wait! Who are you?"

"You can call me…Gareth. Gareth Peverell. I suppose I'll be seeing you again soon, Tobias."

And then he had dropped the delicate orb, exiting the tent in the wake of billowing white dust clouds and cream-colored feathers. But even those disintegrated amid the rush of a light wind and eager crowds, till nothing was left of the strange man's existence. Reluctantly, so very reluctantly, Robby Vance turned away to retake his place among the sitting viewers. Hands combing yet again through short locks, as though questioning his own sight until reality had once again settled into its proper realm.

It wasn't until at the end of the first act, on the edge of his seat in wait for that interesting girl from before to appear, that Robby thought to correct the disappearing man. After all, his name wasn't Tobias.

Or was it?

~/~/~

AN: If you can't guess who the "older gentleman" is, I really can't help you. ^^; Except perhaps to say that you should take a look at some of the other works of Jim Henson.

This honestly started as an innocent little exploration of 'Robby's character and the possibility that he, as Valentine, came to the same world Helena did as a visitor. And maybe that he's been dreaming about her the way she's been dreaming about him. But somehow things developed into…something more. I was just thinking about different ways they could interact and the quote from the movie, "she wasn't even my real mother. She bought me from a man," (loosely paraphrased) came to mind, reminding me of a certain child thief. And then it evolved into a weirdly convoluted, yet not entirely improbable plot. ^^; Hoo boy, I'm just a tad pathetic.

But! And this is a strong 'but'…Helena in another world is a Princess. What's not to say Valentine isn't something similar? Perhaps an heir? After all, didn't he say he was a, "very important man?"

Gareth-gentle (name of one of Arthur's knights), Peverell-piper. Seemed like a fitting name.

Mirrormask, Labyrinth, Peter Pan, and Tin Man don't belong to me. So sad. TT_TT