DISCLAIMER: The characters in this story belong to Shed Productions. I am borrowing them for entertainment purposes only and not for financial gain.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the authors.

Cloudy Skies
By Nico

Part 11

The weeks passed and March turned into April. Since New Year's Day in New York, Nikki and Helen had only seen each other twice and spoken on the phone a handful of times. Both claimed busy schedules but the truth was seeing each other hurt too much. Nikki was more miserable than Fiona had ever seen her; she had tried talking to her several times but couldn't get through to her. Claire tried to talk to Helen but met with the same response; Helen had sounded flat and unemotional, and wouldn't give an inch.

Claire and Fiona thought it was about time that they both sorted things out. They invited them both out to dinner, hoping to get them together in an attempt to get them to talk. It was a Saturday night when they turned up at the restaurant, to find Nikki propping the bar up. She had had more than a couple of drinks.

"Hello you two" she slurred drunkenly.

"Hiya bud, how many have you had?" Fiona was concerned, Nikki could take a drink like anybody else but she knew Nikki never drank alone.

"Just a couple to whet my whistle that's all" Nikki grinned and then her expression turned to one of anger when Helen walked in.

"What's she doing here? Oh I see what's going on, bollocks to all of you, I'm off" she drained the rest of her drink and stormed out, nearly knocking Helen on her backside as she went.

"How many has she had?" Helen said straight off.

"God knows but its one too many" Fiona said dragging the two women behind her as she went in search of Nikki.

They searched up and down the road and found her leaning against a give way sign further up the road.

"Nik mate, what are you doing?"

"What does it look like? I'm waiting for a bus"

"Well you aren't going to get one standing there, that's a give way sign" Fiona would have laughed about it had the situation been different.

"Bollocks! Oh well, I'll go and find a bus stop then" she said and started off up the road with the three women following.

"Nikki what's gotten in to you?" Helen asked, she was concerned about the way Nikki was behaving. It wasn't like her to get drunk like this.

"Well it's certainly not you darlin'" Nikki remarked crudely.

"For fuck sake Nikki! What's this all about?" Helen asked although she had an inkling that it had to do with the situation they were in.

"If I have to tell you that then I would be wasting my breath, seeing as how you obviously can't understand why"

"Nikki stop, and stand still for a minute will you?" Fiona grabbed Nikki by the arm and turned her around to face them.

All four of them stood there in the street looking at each other. Nikki was glaring at Helen who looked forlornly back at her. It had been building up for months; Nikki just couldn't deal with the fact that Helen didn't want her. She had started drinking a little heavier on and off a few weeks back but it had steadily gotten worse, it was the only thing that seemed to make her feel better. So far she had managed to keep it a secret but now everybody knew.

"Go on then say something, I'm not standing here all bloody night while you stare at me" Nikki said in Helen's direction.

"How long have you been drinking like this?" Helen asked as she stepped closer.

"None of your business"

"Why are you drinking heavily?" Helen tried again.

"Still none of your business"

Fiona was getting fed up of Nikki's behaviour, she whistled for a taxi and then bundled Nikki into it with Claire and Helen following. They went back to their house and they tried to sober Nikki up. They made dinner and then afterwards all sat down to try and get Nikki and Helen to work through their problems.

"Nikki just tell her will you?" Fiona gave her friend a prod.

"Tell me what?" Helen asked looking from Fiona to Nikki.

"Nothing" came the monosyllabic reply from Nikki, Fiona shook her head.

"She's in love with you Helen, that's what all this is about. Only she thinks you don't feel the same way" it was out and Nikki didn't look happy about the fact.

"That's private, last time I tell you anything" Nikki went to stand up but was pulled back down again.

"Oh Nikki sweetheart, why didn't you say?" she went and crouched in front of Nikki and held her hands.

"I was scared to"

"I love you too Nikki, you should have said something"

"What was the point? You're married, and it's not like it's going to go anywhere"

"I admit its not a perfect situation but that's not to say you should have kept how you felt about me a secret" Helen felt like her heart was breaking, she also felt guilty about the state Nikki was in. she felt responsible because she hadn't had enough courage to tell Nikki how she felt, but it was to protect her against Thomas.

"Being separated from you has been painful you know, these last few months have been hell" Nikki looked up and looked straight into Helen's eyes.

"They have been for me too, that's why I didn't make the effort to see you more"

"This is all such a fucking mess, what are we going to do about it?"

"I don't know, I'm married and that makes it difficult"

Nikki took her hands back, stood up and went upstairs the bathroom. Helen watched her go and shook her head in despair.

"Give her time Helen, she will come round eventually" Claire patted Helen on the shoulder.

"I don't blame her for being pissed off with me, I know she wants to be more than friends but I can't give her that. If I tell you both something will you swear not to tell her?"

"We promise, what is it?" Claire said checking the stairs to see if Nikki was coming down them.

"The reason I won't leave Thomas for her is because I know if he found out he would go after her. He's knocked me around a few times, he has a bad temper. If I tried to leave him he would drag me back"

"Bloody hell! Helen you have to tell her" Fiona was shocked.

"I can't! I know she thinks I don't love her enough to leave him but she is better off believing that than knowing the truth. She already suspects and she can't know for sure, it would cause too much trouble"

"You can't stay in a marriage like that, what if he kills you one day? You have to leave him before it's too late" Claire tried to get Helen to see reason but it wasn't having any effect.

"It's too difficult. I should never have gotten involved with her in the first place, its causing her too much pain and I never meant for that to happen. It's probably best if we don't see each other, then it will give her time to get over me"

"I don't think she will get over you, she loves you too much" Claire wished there was some way of getting them both together, but Thomas presented a real problem.

Fiona got up to check on Nikki because she had been gone a long time. She found her asleep on the bathroom floor, she dragged her into the spare room and deposited her on the bed and then went back downstairs.

"Nik's asleep in the spare room; I found her kipping on the bathroom floor"

"In that case then I should go, before I do though have you got some paper and a pen, I want to leave her a note"

Helen sat down to write the note, it was one of the hardest things she had to do but she felt it was best under the circumstances. She said goodnight to Claire and Fiona and made her way home to Thomas, hating him more than she ever thought it possible to hate a human being. Nikki woke up next morning to find the note on the bedside table.

My dearest Nikki,

The time I spent with you was the only time in my life that I have ever been truly loved. I wish that things could be different, but sadly they aren't and there isn't much I can do about it. You're a very special woman, and I'm losing out on everything that I have ever dreamed of. It's breaking my heart having to let you go but I hope that someday you will find somebody who makes you happy and gives you the things you deserve. It's probably better if we don't see each other, and although I would rather have you in my life at least as a friend, it would hurt us both too much. I want you to know that I love you very much, and no matter where we both are, that will never change.

Helen x

Nikki's tears fell as she clutched the letter, her heart ached mercilessly. "Looks like I've been dumped for another husband, some things never change" she thought bitterly. Had she known the real reason why Helen had walked away, she would have had more hope.

Part 12

Six weeks later

Helen was little more than a shell of a human being these days. It took all her effort to drag herself out of bed and face the day, but somehow she had managed to carry on. There wasn't a day that went by that she didn't regret her decision not to leave Thomas and make a go of things with Nikki but she knew Thomas too well. He was getting worse, the drinking got heavier and he lost his temper even more frequently than before.

It was now routine for her to have to cover up bruises, and she even had to take a week off work when he split her lip. She knew he would end up killing her one of these days but she knew if she left him he would kill her anyway. She frequently rang Claire and Fiona to find out how Nikki was and the reply was always the same, that Nikki was still missing her. They both begged her to leave Thomas but she was adamant that she couldn't.

It was a Friday morning and she had a day off, Thomas was working for which Helen was thankful, she felt she could relax at last when he was gone. Most of the time she was like a cat on hot bricks, waiting for the next outburst. At least when he left, she would have a few hours respite until it got near to him coming home and then she would start to panic again. She was flipping through the mail and came across a Larkhall envelope.

She opened it curiously and when she had finished reading, it was as if somebody had answered her prayers. It was a letter telling her that she had been promoted to Head stewardess and to let the scheduling department know of her route preferences. At that point, something inside her snapped. She stood up and rang them straightaway.

"Hello, this is Helen Stewart. I'm calling about my schedule preference"

Ten minutes later she put the phone down. "Fuck you Thomas" she thought. She was leaving him, if he was going to come after then she would put up a fight. She would have to warn Nikki, that was assuming she even wanted to try again. Helen hoped desperately that she would and that she hadn't lost her for good. She picked up the phone again.

"Hiya Fiona, its Helen. Look I've got some news, I'm leaving Thomas"

Thomas came home that night and started on the alcohol straight away. Helen steeled herself for what she had to do, because it was now or never.

"I had a letter today informing me that I was promoted to head stewardess"

"Really? Well better late than never I suppose" Thomas was uninterested, he knocked back more whisky and re-filled his glass.

"I was told to inform them of which route I wanted and I'm going to be working on another route as of Monday" her heart was beating rapidly, and her palms began to sweat.

"What?" Thomas's face darkened, and Helen knew he was going to lose it any moment.

"I got another route because I don't want to work with you anymore, in fact Thomas I don't even want to be married to you anymore. I'm leaving you, I'm not going to put up with your temper or being used as a punch bag any longer" she knew it was coming any second.

"You can't leave me because you haven't got the guts. Even if you do, then you know I will find you and when I do I will drag you back here kicking and screaming if I have to"

"I'm still leaving you, if you want to drag me back then you will have to find me first" Helen said although she knew it would be easy to find her, they worked for the same airline but she was trying hard not to be afraid of him.

"Looks like I'm just going to have to teach you a lesson then" He stood up and advanced towards her, she backed away until she was standing against the wall. She closed her eyes and waited.

Thomas punched her in the stomach and she crumpled over, struggling to breathe as the pain radiated through her abdomen. She collapsed to her knees trying to make herself as small as she could. He pushed her over and kicked her in the stomach twice as she lay there.

"That's just a small taste of what you will get if you leave me. Still think it's a good idea?"

She didn't answer him, just lay there trying not to let the tears escape. She was determined he wouldn't see her cry.

"Anyway I'll leave you to have a little think. I'm off to the pub, don't wait up" he said before slamming to door behind him.

Helen finally burst into tears, the pain was awful. She lay on the floor for twenty minutes until she managed to drag herself into a sitting position by using the sofa as leverage. She had to sit there for a further ten minutes again before she could move, then she pulled herself up onto the sofa and lay down trying to get comfortable.

"You've just hit me for the last time you bastard!" she said loudly.

It was a Monday morning and Nikki shuffled into the airport. She was late and the rest of the crew was already on the plane. She walked into the cockpit, to see Fiona looking happy.

"You look happy stud. Don't tell me, Lucy Lawless has been on the phone at last and proclaimed her undying love for you?" Nikki grinned.

"No! Well not yet anyway!" Fiona sniggered.

"What are you looking so happy about then?" Nikki was puzzled by the way her friend kept grinning at her.

"You'll see" was all Fiona said as she turned back to her paperwork.

After they had completed the pre-flight, Nikki walked to the back of the plane to see if the stewardesses had everything in order. She made her way to business class and then finally first class. She stopped to talk to Claire.

"Everything alright then Claire?"

"I'm not sure; just wait a moment while I ask the head stewardess. Is everything alright?" Claire said to somebody who wasn't in Nikki's field of vision.

"Oh everything is fine" a smiling Helen stepped out and Nikki gaped in amazement.

"Helen what are you doing here?"

"I've been promoted" Helen said as Claire slipped off to the cockpit leaving them alone.

"Congratulations" Nikki said stiffly, she was getting tired of Helen messing her about.

"I've really upset you haven't I?" Helen said turning away, as the feelings of guilt stabbed at her heart.

"What did you expect? That I would welcome you with open arms? No matter how much I still love you Helen, I won't put up with all this shit" Nikki stood defiant with her arms crossed.

"Do you mean that? You still love me?"

"Yes of course I do, although I shouldn't. What are you doing on this route anyway?" Nikki had softened towards her a little.

"Well it's a long story really but there is this gorgeous pilot I know, and it was killing me to keep away from her because I love her so much. I needed to see her again, and tell her that even though I don't deserve another chance, I very much want to be with her" Helen said quietly.

"What about Thomas?"

"I left him Nikki; I couldn't stay with him any longer. The only person I want is you" Helen's eyes pleaded with Nikki to give it another go.

"Do you really mean it? I can't keep going through all of this, one minute you want me and the next you don't"

"I mean it, honestly I do. I have a lot to explain to you, I need to tell you why I behaved the way I did. Believe me Nikki I had my reasons" Helen looked so sincere, and Nikki's heart melted.

"I believe you. You don't know how much I've missed you" Nikki said as she pulled Helen towards her and hugged her. Helen tried hard not to flinch, when she pressed against her stomach, she would tell Nikki but now wasn't the right time for her to find out.

"If its half as much as I've missed you then its loads" She pulled Nikki's head down and kissed her. Fiona and Claire stood just outside the cockpit door and clapped and whistled.

"Bog off you two! This happens to be a private kiss, no audience allowed" Nikki giggled.

Nikki took off for New York that day, in a much happier mood than she had been in for a long time. Helen wanted to be with her at last and she was working on the same route, Nikki didn't think life could get much better than this. Helen kept coming in to the cockpit to check on them and Nikki would frequently nip off to see her when she could. The closer they got to New York and away from Thomas the happier Helen was but at the same time she grew more anxious. She was dreading having to show Nikki the bruises because she knew she would be upset, and then she would threaten to go after Thomas.

They eventually arrived and checked into the hotel, they wanted to share a room. They had spent so much time apart already that all they wanted to do was spend time together. Helen insisted that they shower and go to dinner first before she explained the situation to Nikki; she wanted her to be fully relaxed before she told her.

They got back to the room, and Nikki poured them both a drink. She settled on the bed next to Helen who was looking apprehensive.

"You look petrified, don't be afraid, just tell me whatever it is" Nikki took a hold of Helen's hand and found she was shaking.

"The reason I didn't leave Thomas is because he has been beating me up. I was afraid he would go after you and hurt you, and I knew if I left him he would come looking for me. When I got the letter telling me about the promotion though, something just snapped and I realised that I was losing you and everything I've ever wanted just because I was afraid of him. I asked to be transferred onto your route and luckily they had slot open. I just couldn't stay away from you any longer Nikki; it was hell being separated from you"

"Oh sweetheart come here" Nikki took hold of Helen and rocked her back and forth, as they both held on tightly. "You should have told me, we could have sorted it out together. I knew something wasn't right, and you should have said when I asked you. You're safe now, I won't let him touch you anymore, I promise"

"That's not all Nikki, after I told him I was leaving him, he laid into me" Helen pulled her shirt up, to show Nikki the big ugly purple bruises that covered her stomach.

Nikki saw the bruises and thought her heart would burst. The tears rolled down her face as she saw just how much Thomas damage Thomas had done to Helen. She bent over and carefully kissed Helen's stomach as she broke her heart crying. It was too much for Helen as she saw Nikki in such a distressed state, and she broke down too.

"I'm going to make sure that the bastard pays for this. By the time I'm finished with him he will eating out of a straw for the foreseeable" Nikki was livid.

"Nikki it's not worth it, he'll only hurt you and I don't want that. Promise me you won't go after him?" Helen was fearful that Nikki would go looking for him.

"I can't promise you that, I told you once before what would happen if I found out he was hurting you and I still mean it"

Helen hoped Nikki would calm down and forget about it but she knew she was being far too optimistic.

Part 13

Nikki got up next morning and left Helen to sleep while she went to see Fiona and Claire. She hammered on the door, when a gentle knocking failed to work. It was some minutes afterwards when a wild looking figure opened the door.

"Jesus! It's the living dead" Nikki giggled as Fiona invited her in to the room.

"What do you want so early in the morning? You know you should never wake a vampire before sunset" Fiona quipped.

"Have you stuck your fingers in the electric socket? You hair is sticking up like you've been dragged through a hedge backwards" Nikki sat down on the sofa.

"Cheeky! It costs me a packet to get my hair looking like this, it's the pillow effect" she laughed while flicking the kettle on.

"Should have saved your money, all you had to do was lay still on the runway for a bit" Nikki sniggered when Fiona flashed her a disgusted look.

Fiona made them a coffee and then placed a cup in front of Nikki. Nikki looked around the room and noticed someone was missing.

"Where's Claire?"

"Under here" Fiona lifted the top of the duvet, and pointed to Claire who was squinting at them both evilly.

"Trying to sleep, bugger off" she moaned and pulled the covers back over her head.

"She's pleasant in the mornings!" Nikki smiled as she took a sip of her coffee.

"Tell me about it. Anyway mate, what's this early morning visit all about?"

"Helen, you should see the state of her. Thomas has been knocking her about, her stomach and ribs are covered in bruises"

"Bloody hell, is she ok?" Fiona tried not to let on that she knew, she had made Helen a promise not to tell, but she was shocked at what Thomas had done.

"She keeps saying she is fine but it's obvious she is in a lot of pain. I'm going to swing for that bastard when I get back"

Nikki needed to smoke and she waved the packet at Fiona pleadingly, who rolled her eyes and then told her to light up. Nikki inhaled the smoke thankfully, and took a mouthful of her coffee.

"You're going after him? Are you sure that's wise?" Fiona looked worried.

"Yes, I want to teach him a lesson. This time the fight will be more evenly matched, he can pick on someone his own size"

"I'll go with you then"

"No, you can't. I don't want you to get involved, I know you can handle yourself but this is my problem"

"No buts, there is no way you are facing him alone. As soon as we get back, we will go and have a chat with him"

Nikki got back to the room to find Helen sitting up in bed, she was watching TV. She smiled at Nikki as she sat down on the bed, next to her.

"Where've you been? I woke up and you were gone"

"I just fancied a walk, I left you to sleep because you looked knackered" Nikki kissed her softly, and then lay down beside her.

Helen had the distinct feeling there was more to it but didn't bother to ask any questions. She was happy and didn't want to start fighting with Nikki all over again; she didn't want her to get the impression that she didn't trust her. They spent the rest of the day relaxing because Helen was still sore and didn't feel up to any sightseeing, they were over in New York frequently and could sightsee any time.

They had dinner with Claire and Fiona that night, and had a good time. Helen was a lot more relaxed than she had been for as long as she could remember. Nikki had invited her to stay at her house, because there was no way she was going to allow her to go anywhere else while Thomas was still hanging about. After dinner they got changed back into their uniforms and made their way to the airport for the return flight.

They went straight to Nikki's house from the airport, and she got Helen settled in. Helen had been in pain on the flight over and Nikki was trying to persuade her to see a doctor. Helen was reluctant but finally gave in, and Nikki called the doctor out to examine her.

"Hello doctor, thanks for coming. She's through here" Nikki led the doctor into the living room where Helen lay on the couch.

"What seems to be the problem miss?"

"Stewart. My stomach is bruised and I've been experiencing a sharp pain in my chest. It hurts when I cough or take a deep breath"

The doctor waited for Helen to lift her shirt and then he examined her. He pressed on her ribs slightly and she winced, Nikki had to look away.

"I would say it's very likely that you have fractured ribs. You need to go to the hospital to get them x-rayed. If you do have a fracture, they will give you some painkillers and you will need to take a couple of weeks off work" The doctor smiled and stood up.

"Thank you, I will take her to get them x-rayed today" Nikki shook the doctors hand and led him out.

"Let's get you to the hospital sweetheart, sooner we get there the sooner we get back" Nikki smiled reassuringly at an apprehensive looking Helen. She helped her into the car and then drove her to the hospital.

A few hours later they were waiting for the results. Nikki felt like giving Thomas some fractures of his own at this point. It was obvious that Helen was in pain and sitting on the hard chairs in the hospital wasn't doing her much good. Eventually the doctor came back and explained to Helen that two of her ribs were fractured. He asked her some uncomfortable questions about how she came to do it and she answered him truthfully. He suggested telling the police but Helen refused. They picked up the prescription for pain killers and then Nikki took Helen back home.

She took Helen up to bed and then left her there watching the TV as she phoned for a takeaway. She couldn't be bothered cooking and she wanted to sit with Helen. The food arrived a while later and Nikki dished it out and handed Helen's plate to her.

"You've been quiet ever since we got back, what's the matter?" Helen said between forkfuls of her Chinese.

"I was just thinking sweetheart" Nikki smiled and then took a mouthful of her rice.

"About Thomas? Nikki I told you the bastard isn't worth it"

"He isn't but you are. It's bad enough him hurting you as it is but know I know he's fractured your ribs, I'm going to make sure he gets paid back in kind"

"Nikki you cant do that! What if he hurts you or what if he goes to the police?" Helen started to worry.

"He wont hurt me, don't worry about that. He won't go to the police either; he won't want to tell them that a woman kicked the shit out of him"

"Nikki please don't, I don't want him anywhere near you. Promise me you won't please!"

"Ok just calm down. I promise I won't specifically go looking for him, but if I see him anywhere near you then I will and that's a promise"

The next few days Helen and Nikki spent a lot of quiet time together. They got to know one another better and swapped stories about their lives before they met. Nikki left Helen alone one morning while she went to do some shopping, and Helen sat flicking through the channels on the TV trying to find something to watch. She couldn't so she picked up one of Nikki's books and settled back to read.

Nikki got to the supermarket and realised she had forgotten to pick her wallet up. She shook her head and sighed and then got back into the car. Meanwhile there was a knock at the door that had Helen cursing as she sat slowly up and then shuffled down the stairs. She opened the door and Thomas stood in front of her grinning.

"Thomas what the ffff!" she exclaimed.

"Hello Helen, ready to go home?"

"I told you it's over, just leave me alone"

"I can't do that, are you going to come quietly or do I have to drag you?" the grin on his face turned to an evil expression and Helen had the presence of mind to slam the door in his face quickly before he had a chance to react.

She shuffled into the living room as quickly as she could, and frantically dialed Nikki's mobile as Thomas started to hammer on the door.

"Open this door before I kick it down!"

"Nikki! Thank god, Thomas is outside. He's banging on the door and threatening to kick it down if I don't let him in"

"Get upstairs and lock yourself in the bathroom. I'm a couple of minutes away from the house, I'll be there soon, hurry up" Nikki switched the phone off and put her foot down.

Thomas was getting some funny looks from the neighbours and decided it might be a good idea to disappear before somebody called the police. He got into his car and drove away disappearing just as Nikki pulled up. There was no sign of Thomas and the front door was still shut so he obviously hadn't managed to kick it open. She rushed into the house and upstairs.

"Helen it's me, its ok he's gone" Nikki said breathlessly as Helen opened the door.

She fell into Nikki's arms and sobbed, as the feelings of fear returned once again. She had never really believed she was free of Thomas but she had begun to hope he would leave her alone. Nikki helped Helen back into the bedroom and made sure she rested. When she at last drifted off into an uneasy sleep, Nikki got on the phone.

"Hiya it's me. Are you free tonight?"

When she had finished her conversation, she made her way downstairs to put the kettle on.

"You're not going to be a happy man when I've finished with you Thomas" she thought as she spooned coffee into a mug.

Part 14

Nikki had left Helen with Claire while she and Fiona had driven to Helen's house to see Thomas. Nikki's palms began to sweat the nearer they got, but her nervousness was overridden with a desire to re-arrange Thomas's face. Fiona stopped the car and they both got out, they walked up to the front door and Nikki knocked. He came to the door several seconds later; it was obvious he had been drinking.

"Well if it isn't the dyke twins. What can I do for you?" He smiled smugly.

"You can leave Helen alone for a start. If I ever catch you at my house or anywhere near Helen at all then I'm going to kick your teeth down your throat" she snarled at him.

"I don't think so love" he reached out and pushed her over. She landed on her back in the front garden.

She quickly stood up and launched herself at him, dragging him through the doorway and onto the grass. They rolled over and over trying to pin the other one down, Thomas was strong but Nikki was no weakling. He lashed out at her and caught her a glancing blow on the nose but didn't do much damage. Fiona joined in the fight and dragged him off Nikki, and threw a punch at him that made his nose bleed.

Nikki then punched him in the face, and drove her knee into his stomach. He sank to the floor clutching his ribs.

"Now you know how Helen feels you bastard!" Nikki screamed at him.

"The bitch deserved it, you don't know her like I do" he gasped from the floor. Nikki followed up with another kick to the ribs.

"Come on get up and fight like a man you cowardly arsehole" Nikki watched as she staggered into a standing position and flew at her.

She grappled with him and he stuck his hands round her throat and started to cut her air supply off. Fiona tried to drag him away but he had her in an iron grip, standing back she aimed a kick at his kidneys. He shouted in pain but didn't let go, she continued to kick him until he let go, Nikki sank to her knees breathing heavily and clutching her throat. Thomas was laying on the floor rolling around in agony and once Nikki had regained her breath, she kicked him a final time in the stomach.

"I'm warning you now, leave Helen alone. She doesn't want you, and if you persist in trying to see her then next time you won't get off this easily.

She and Fiona left him laying there in the garden and as they made their way back to the car, Thomas shouted after them.

"Don't think I've given up. Helen is my wife and she belongs here with me, I will do whatever it takes to get her back, and if I can't? Well you will just have to wait and see"

"Over my dead body Waugh!" Nikki snarled at him.

Thomas was a man with a plan, he didn't care what it took to get Helen back, and if he couldn't have her? He had decided nobody could.

Nikki arrived home and immediately went straight to Helen. She was sitting there with a frown on her face looking worried. She nearly jumped out of her skin when Nikki spoke.

"Sorry sweetheart, I didn't mean to scare you" Nikki rubbed Helen's back soothingly.

"It's ok, what did he say?" Helen now looked fearful.

"He didn't have much of a chance to say anything. Let's just say that Fiona and I taught him a lesson he won't forget in a hurry" Nikki didn't mention anything about his previous comment of getting Helen back. She didn't want to alarm her, and she thought it was all talk anyway.

The next couple of weeks seemed to go by quickly as Helen and Nikki spent time at home together. Helen recovered quickly and the pain from her fractured ribs had eased. She got to the go ahead to go back to work, and was pleased that she finally had something to do. She would miss being alone with Nikki all day but She and Helen had made the decision to live together permanently, and now they were both happier that the situation between them had become permanent. Nikki was quietly confident that they had heard the last of Thomas, he hadn't been anywhere near the house since the night she had been to see him and she was now convinced that the threat of him doing whatever it took to get Helen back was an empty one.

Nikki's birthday was coming up and Helen went into town to buy her a gift, she wanted to find her something special. She meandered around the shops for a while browsing, but she felt distinctly uncomfortable and she couldn't work out why. She tried to shrug the feeling off but no matter how hard she tried it remained. She gave up on the shopping for a while and headed to the nearest cafe for a coffee; she ordered and then sat by the window, watching the world go by. She sat thinking about Nikki and disappeared into a dream world, only to get the shock of her life when she looked up from the table to see Thomas leering at her.

"Hello Helen, mind if I join you?"

"I thought I told you I didn't want to see you any more. It's over Thomas why do you keep following me around?" Helen could feel her heart thumping away but tried to remain calm.

"You are my wife and I love you"

"You don't know what love is, love isn't scaring somebody so much that they can't stand to be around you. Love isn't kicking the shit out of someone because you lose your temper" Helen glared at him.

"I lose my temper at times, who doesn't? I wouldn't have hit you if you hadn't pushed me into it, you are never going to find somebody who loves you more than I do" He smiled across the table at her strangely.

"You need help, there is something going on in that head of yours that isn't right. Just so you know, I found somebody who really does love me, more than I ever thought possible" Helen felt her skin crawling just looking at him, not for the first time she wondered how she had ever gotten involved with him.

"If you're talking about Nikki then its not real, she may say she loves you but she's having fun at your expense. You tried your little experiment of sleeping with a woman but its time you came home where you belong, and let a man take care of you"

"It's not an experiment, I'm gay and I always have been it just took me a while to realise it. Nikki brought it all to the surface and I married you thinking it was what I should do. I'm sorry Thomas but I don't love you and I never have" Helen stood up and went to leave as he grabbed her arm.

"Are you really gay? You're not just saying that?" Thomas looked up at her.

"Yes I really am gay, please let me go"

"Then I wish you the best of luck, I can see there is no future for us now. Take care and look after yourself" He smiled sadly at her, but Helen wasn't convinced for a minute he actually meant it, she knew him too well.

"You too Thomas" was all Helen said as she fled from the cafe, and straight to her car.

By the time Helen got home she had calmed down enough to carry on like nothing had happened. She didn't want Nikki to know, it would only make things worse. She found her in the kitchen talking to Fiona over a coffee.

"Hiya stud" Helen smiled over at Fiona.

"Hiya, that accent of yours makes a woman's toes tingle" Fiona raised her eyebrow at Helen and smiled.

"Down girl!" Nikki said to Fiona as she waved a finger at her jokingly.

"Hiya babe, fancy a coffee?" Nikki asked as she kissed Helen and gave her a hug.

"Yeah I would love one thanks" she said as she sat down at the kitchen table.

"Did you buy anything while you were out?" Nikki said noticing that Helen was free of any bags.

"Nah didn't see anything I liked, just had a bit of a window shop and got some fresh air"

The three women sat and chatted away for the next couple of hours and then Fiona went home. Nikki prepared some dinner for them both and they sat and ate as they talked. Nikki noticed Helen was a little quieter than usual and she wondered if something was bothering her.

"Are you ok sweetheart?"

"Yeah I'm fine, just got a bit of a headache"

"Tell you what, why don't I run you a nice bath and then we can have an early night"

"Mmm that would be nice. Come on, race you!" she giggled as she ran up the stairs with Nikki in hot pursuit.

Later on that night, Helen was firmly wrapped up in Nikki's arms as she listened to the rain hitting the window panes. She had her head on Nikki's chest and could hear her heartbeat and slow rhythmic breathing as Nikki slept. She was warm and comfortable and it felt like the best place on earth to be, she had never felt like this with anybody.

She regretted all the time she had wasted in not leaving Thomas sooner to be with Nikki but at least they were together now and had managed to put the past behind them. Nikki had understood why Helen had made the choices she did and had forgiven her, even though at times she didn't feel like she deserved it.

Her encounter with Thomas earlier that day popped into her head, and she pushed the thoughts away, she didn't want to think of him. She turned slightly so that she could lay full length against Nikki who stirred in her sleep and held Helen tighter. She closed her eyes and eventually drifted off to sleep.

Part 15

Three months later

Thomas lay back on his hotel bed in New York slowly getting drunker as the minutes passed by. He smiled to himself at what he had done, he knew Helen would regret ever having messed him about. He stood up and weaved his way over to the mini-bar, and selected another drink for himself, and set about getting seriously pissed.

Nikki smiled as Helen entered the cockpit, and handed over cups of coffee to her and Fiona. She chatted with them for a couple of minutes and then placed a kiss on Nikki's head before going back to the passengers. Nikki was looking forward to getting back to England because she and Helen had planned a two week visit to Scotland to meet her family, unfortunately that wouldn't be possible but they would still be going for the trip.

Helen had told her parents that she was divorcing Thomas and that she had met someone else. She hadn't wanted to tell them she was gay over the phone but they demanded to know exactly who she was leaving Thomas for and she had been forced to tell them. They went berserk and disowned Helen, telling her to keep away from them because they couldn't bear the shame of having a lesbian for a daughter. It had upset Helen at first but then she had told Nikki that she wouldn't change things for the world and if her parents couldn't accept that then it was their problem.

The flight seemed to take forever and they both wished time would go quicker. They had been quite busy for the last few weeks and hadn't much time to do things together so the break in Scotland would be welcomed. At last they touched down in Heathrow and they skipped off the plane as fast as they could like kids that had just been given an unexpected holiday.

Nikki and Helen made their way through the airport laughing and joking with Fiona, and they didn't seem to have a care in the world. They were making their way through customs when one of the customs officials nodded his head to his colleague and he went up to the three women.

"Excuse me ladies, may I look through your baggage please?" he was very businesslike and polite.

"Yeah sure no problem" Nikki smiled and lifted her bag onto the counter; she knew it was nothing unusual for customs to check airline staff bags.

He rifled through Nikki's bag and pronounced himself satisfied and then did the same with Fiona's. He came to Helen's bag at last and was checking through it when he suddenly stopped and looked up at her. Helen noted his expression and wondered what was going on.

"This bag is definitely yours madam? And you packed it yourself without help from anybody else?"

"Yes the bag is mine and I packed it myself" Helen was puzzled.

"In that case madam I must ask you to come with me" he pulled a bag out of Helen's luggage and they all gaped in amazement when they saw what it was.

It was a bag containing a white powder which looked to be about a kilo in weight. Helen was now panicking, she had no idea where the bag had come from or how it had gotten there. She saw the look of fear on Nikki's face but she was gripping her hand tightly in support, and Helen was thankful for the fact.

"That isn't mine, I don't know how it got in there" Helen knew it wasn't much of a defense but it was the truth.

"Please madam if you would just follow me" He said dispassionately.

Nikki went to follow but was told she wasn't allowed to stay with Helen.

"Don't worry sweetheart I will do everything I can to get help. Try not to worry, I know its hard but we will sort this out" She gave Helen a hug and they were both close to tears, they knew Helen was in a lot of trouble.

The customs official took Helen off to be interviewed and Nikki walked outside to her car with Fiona in a state of shock.

"I don't bloody believe it! Helen is not in to drugs no way! I don't know how they got in there" Nikki said as she lit a cigarette up with shaky hands.

"You better get her a good lawyer Nik cos she is in a hell of a lot of trouble" Fiona said quietly.

"What are they going to do to her?"

"They will question her; she will be arrested and taken into custody. She will then have to go to court"

"Oh Jesus!" Nikki crouched down against the side of her car and put her head in her hands.

Nikki drove away from the airport, she didn't want to leave Helen behind but she knew she wouldn't be allowed to stay. She drove straight home, and immediately phoned a friend of hers who was a lawyer that she knew would help.

"Trish, its Nikki, I have a big problem and I desperately need your help" She put the phone down after five minutes, and made her way round to Trish's house.

Helen sat in a room at the airport alone. She had been questioned by customs officials about the substance in her bag. Helen protested she was innocent but it didn't make a difference. They went away and tested the drugs and came back to tell her that she had been caught carrying a kilo of cocaine. Helen couldn't believe her ears, and she couldn't figure out how the drugs had found their way into her bag because she never left it unattended. She put her head in her hands and the tears trickled down her face, she had been formally charged with drug trafficking offences and was told she would be remanded in custody pending a court hearing.

Nikki screeched to a halt outside Trish's house and ran up the pathway and knocked on the door, she waited impatiently for her to answer the door.

"Nikki come in" Trish stepped aside and then followed Nikki into the living room.

"What's the problem?"

"It's my partner Helen. We came back from a routine trip to New York this afternoon and customs pulled us over. They searched our bags and they found a bag of white powder in Helen's case. They took her off and wouldn't let me stay with her. You've got to help her Trish" Nikki pleaded desperately.

"Ok just a few questions. Is Helen a drug user? Has she ever taken drugs before?"

"No! She isn't in to drugs, she has never used them, and she isn't that sort of person Trish"

"Ok I just had to check, so she obviously has no previous convictions or she wouldn't have been employed by the airlines. I will make a few calls and then go down there and see her, try not to worry I'm sure we can clear all this up"

"I bloody hope so" Nikki said despairingly.

She went home and Trish promised to call her, as soon as she knew anything. Nikki got in a flopped down on the sofa and waited by the phone anxiously; she wondered how Helen was getting on. She had seen the look of fear on her face and she knew she would be scared about what was happening to her. Nikki felt like screaming, Helen had been put through enough this past year and deserved to be left alone to get on with her life.

Trish pulled up to the police station where Helen was being held for further questioning and explained that she was Helen's lawyer. She was taken to an interrogation room and was told to wait while Helen was brought in. Ten minutes later Helen came in and was looking petrified.

"Helen, I'm Trish. I'm an old friend of Nikki's, she called me this afternoon to come and represent you. How are you holding up?"

"Not very well. The drugs aren't mine, I just want to go home" Helen's tears fell and Trish rummaged in her bag for a tissue. She passed it to Helen who accepted it gratefully.

"The drugs definitely aren't yours then? I asked Nikki and she said you have never taken drugs"

"That's right I never have, and the drugs really aren't mine, I'm telling you the truth. What's going to happen to me now?" Helen asked tearfully.

"I will see if I can get you out on bail but I can't guarantee it, you will go to court in the morning and will either have bail granted or you will be remanded in custody"

"Oh god! I'm not sure I can handle going to prison, isn't there any other way?" Helen asked fearfully.

"No I'm afraid there isn't, I will try to arrange bail for you but don't get your hopes up" Trish stood up to go and sort things out and Helen was led back to her cell.

Helen could be on her way to prison the following day and was dreading the prospect. She sank back onto the hard bunk in the cell and sobbed, all she really wanted was Nikki, but she couldn't have her and she felt very much alone.

Part 16

The prison van pulled up outside an imposing looking prison and Helen was herded out into the prison with other women following behind her. She had been to court and the judge refused to grant bail, and had remanded her in custody till a court hearing was scheduled. It was a totally alien environment to her and she felt like a fish out of water. She was taken into a holding area and was forced to strip while she was searched, and then had to take a shower. She was mortified at the way prisoners were treated, and wanted nothing more than to be able to run away.

She was then taken to her cell which she had to share with 3 other prisoners on G wing. She had been visited by a prison officer called Karen Betts who was to be her personal officer. She was very friendly, and a good listener and it made Helen feel more comfortable with her situation. They had had a long talk and Helen had protested her innocence. Karen had heard it all before but this time she really believed what she was being told as Helen seemed so sincere. She promised to help Helen as much as she was able and then left her alone in the cell.

Nikki was pacing the living room in a state of heightened agitation, Helen had been sent to prison and there was nothing she could do about it. She was chain smoking constantly and she had gotten through almost a bottle of vodka in just 3 hours. Trish tried to calm her down but it wasn't doing any good.

"Nikki you have to try and calm down, behaving like this won't do either of you any good. Helen needs your support, and you have to be strong"

"I can't handle this Trish, she and I have been through so much shit in the past year. Her husband used to beat her up and she's been through enough, she shouldn't be in that bloody place" Nikki lit up a cigarette and threw back yet again another shot of vodka.

"I'm trying my best to get her out of there but it's a serious offence. You don't just get a slap on the wrist for drug trafficking"

"I know that but she didn't do it, I have no idea how the drugs got into her bag in the first place. She didn't put them in there and neither did I"

"What about any of the crew? Any indications they might be responsible?" Trish asked. It was a possibility they both had to consider.

"Not as far as I know but I don't know all of them that well. I know for a fact it wouldn't have been Fiona or her partner, but as for anybody else I just couldn't say" Nikki sat down and held her head in her hands, she desperately wanted Helen out of prison and didn't know what to do.

"I can make a few background checks; see what I come up with. Maybe I should check out the husband too, I mean you never know" Trish then noticed the look on Nikki's face.

"Fuck! Why didn't I see it before? It was Thomas, that bastard is responsible for all this"

"Nikki you don't know that, I'm not saying it isn't possible but what makes you think it?"

"I told you he used to beat her up, she left him for me. He made a threat a few weeks back when I told him to leave her alone and stop harassing her. He said he would do whatever it took to get her back" Nikki started to pace the room again.

"He's not going to get her back if she's in prison though is he?" Trish was confused; she couldn't understand Nikki's point.

"No he wouldn't but it means nobody else can have her either. He told me that if he couldn't have her back then I would just have to wait and see what happened. This is his way of paying Helen back. I'm gonna swing for him, obviously last time I went to see him didn't teach him anything" Nikki was furious, it all made sense now but Trish wasn't convinced.

"You still can't go around accusing him of planting drugs in his wife's luggage; you could end up in court yourself for slander. Let's just wait and see what I can dig up eh?" Trish tried to persuade nikki to be patient.

"Yeah alright but don't expect me to wait forever" Nikki wasn't going to let it rest; she had no intention of waiting.

Helen shuffled along the line waiting to be served, the food didn't look very nice and she thought it probably wouldn't taste nice either. She was standing talking quietly to one of the other inmates who had taken Helen under her wing, Barbara hunt would make sure Helen was never on her own.

"The food isn't very nice but you get used to it" Barbara smiled.

"I hope I don't have to wait around that long, it could ruin my appetite for ever" Helen smiled slightly back.

"Oi! New girl, whatchoo avin for dinner?" Shell Dockley, a blonde inmate stared at her.

"Sausage and mash please" Helen said meekly as shell dolloped the food on her plate.

Helen then walked over to a table with Barbara but before she could get there, Maxi Purvis decided to cause trouble. Just as Helen was about to walk past, she quickly pushed her chair back and knocked her off balance. The food went all over her, and the floor.

"You should be more careful what you're doing" Maxi smirked at her.

"There was absolutely no need for that!" said Barbara getting angry.

Karen Betts had seen what happened from across the room, and quickly came over to see if Helen was ok.

"Are you alright? Are you hurt?"

"No I'm fine thanks" Helen replied quietly, feeling humiliated.

"Why don't you go and get changed and I will get you some more food. I will have somebody clean this up for you" Karen said kindly.

"I'm not hungry but thanks anyway. Think I will just go and lie down" Helen walked away, with tears threatening to break through but she was determined that they wouldn't see her cry.

"Purvis! You are on report" Karen said to a stony faced Maxi.

Helen got back to her cell and burst into tears, she couldn't put up with being in prison. She hated not having her freedom but most of all she hated not being with Nikki. She missed her so much, and she just wanted to be held by her and told everything would be fine. She dreaded the coming night, being stuck in a dorm room with 3 other women when she would rather have been at home in her own bed with Nikki's strong comforting arms around her.

Barbara came into the cell ten minutes later and noticed Helen was sobbing for all she was worth on her narrow bunk. Barbara instinctively wrapped her arms around the small Scot and rocked her back and forth like a baby as she cried. Rubbing Helen's back and whispering motherly words of comfort, she tried to calm her down. Helen clung on for dear life, Barbara was a source of comfort to her and she was thankful to the woman who had shown her so much kindness in the few hours that she had been here.

"Thank you Barbara. I'm sorry, I'm just finding it hard to come to terms with" Helen said as she sniffled.

"Don't apologise dear, we all find it difficult to begin with. I know it doesn't seem like it now but in time you will learn to cope. Have you got anybody who will come and visit you?"

"Yes my girlfriend Nikki. She must be going out of her mind worrying about me" Helen said as the thought occurred to her that Nikki would be as upset as she was.

"Tell you what, I have some phone cards, why don't we go and call her"

"Oh Barbara thank you!" Helen smiled her first genuine smile since she had arrived and Barbara was happy to be able to help.

"Come on dear, there shouldn't be much of a queue" Barbara led Helen out of the cell and towards the phone.

Nikki was sitting on the sofa smoking; Trish had not long left and promised to visit Helen the next day. She had also promised to find out about Nikki visiting her, and when the next visit was. Nikki felt helpless and worried constantly about whether Helen was ok, but at the same time she felt a burning desire to rip Thomas's head off. The phone suddenly rang and it startled her, she stood up and answered it.


"Nikki sweetheart it's me"

"Helen! Baby are you ok?"

"I'm fine Nikki, I don't like it in here but then prison isn't supposed to be a holiday camp" she laughed a little trying to lighten the situation.

"I miss you so much; I wish I could get you of there right now. I'm doing my best to get you home" Nikki was close to tears and Helen could hear it in her voice.

"I miss you too and I know you will do everything you can to get me out of here but try not to worry about me, I'm fine really" Helen wasn't fine at all but she didn't want Nikki worrying, she knew Nikki was a born worrier.

"Trish is coming in to see you tomorrow, she will explain more about what's going on to you. She said you had a court date set for about six weeks time"

"Yes that's right, six weeks is hardly a long time, it will probably fly over and then with any luck I will be home" Helen wanted to believe it but she knew realistically she could be looking at a few years in prison.

"I hope so sweetheart, I love you"

"I love you too Nikki. When is your next flight?"

"Supposed to be tomorrow but I'm not going, I can't go swanning off to New York knowing you are stuck in jail"

"Life carries on sweetheart, you should go back to work it will take your mind off things" Helen didn't want Nikki in the house all day brooding over things; it would only make her ill.

"Yeah well I will see how I feel. How are you getting on in there, have you made any friends?"

"Yes I have, a lovely lady called Barbara is looking after me and she is letting me use her phone card to call you"

"If I find out she is a six foot blonde who is after your body Helen, I won't be pleased!" Nikki joked.

"Hardly! She's old enough to be my mother Nikki, you don't have any worries on that score" Helen smiled.

"I know I trust you"

"Oi! New girl, get off the bleedin' phone, some of us wanna call 'ome" came the dulcet tones of Shell Dockley.

"Nikki I'm sorry I have to go, there is a queue behind me and they are screaming to use the phone" Helen didn't want to have to say goodbye but she knew it was coming.

"Ok babe, take care. I will come and visit you as soon as they let me, I love you so much Helen" Nikki's voice wavered as she spoke.

"I love you too Nik, more than you will ever know. Take care, see you soon. Bye sweetheart"

"Bye baby"

They both put the phone down and burst into tears at the same time. Helen was ushered back off to the cell by Barbara who had put a comforting arm around her shoulders. Nikki slumped down onto the sofa and the tears ran unchecked down her face, feeling a sudden burst of temper, she picked up her glass and hurled it at the wall and it fell onto the carpet shattering into a thousand pieces.

Part 17

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