Finding Ground
By S.L.

Chapter Ten

"Shit," Helen cursed, stamping her foot impatiently on the ground. Today of all days she couldn't find the file of one of her lifers and she had to have a report into the number one by that afternoon. Since Julia's phone call she'd been a nervous wreck. Neither her or Nikki had set a date to go up to Scotland but it hadn't been far off her mind.

"Helen?" A voice shouted. She blinked and spun round to see Karen Betts Governor of G-wing stood with a coffee in her hands, frowning slightly.

"Sorry," Helen smiled apologetically, taking the cup.

"I've shouted you four times"

Helen just looked at her.

"You've been looking worried for the last few days. Is everything ok?" The blonde came over and watched whilst she searched frantically for the file.

"I've lost Sharon Wiley's file" She huffed

"Here, let me look," Karen interrupted, digging in. Within seconds the file was found and Helen smiled thankfully. "It was under your nose," Karen said smiling slightly "What's on your mind?"

"Oh nothing, just got loads to do," Helen turned away and stuffed the file into her bag, her fears still buzzing round her brain, giving her a migraine.

"Are you sure?" Karen stopped her as she got to the door,

"Positive, " Helen smiled and made her way back to the lifers' room.

Driving home she almost crashed into the back of another car because of her depth of thinking and had to swerve to miss a cat. She didn't know what she wanted to do. Julia would want to know soon if she was going to Scotland and she wanted Nikki with her. She needed Nikki there with her. But they could only go as friends and Helen knew that her lover wasn't completely happy about it all. Going as friends meant acting like friends, talking like friends and having separate beds. She knew that Nikki would do anything for her; anything at all but was this asking too much? Her stress levels were sky high by the time she'd dumped her stuff in the hallway and dragged herself into the kitchen to put the kettle on. The rain had begun to pour, hitting her window hard. She stood with her arms folded, watching the dark overcast sky, listening to the wind; whistle through the tree's outside.

She'd only sat down 5 minutes when her door was knocked on gently. She scowled when she couldn't see who was outside. Nikki was at the club and wasn't finishing until late. When the door was opened her body froze. A blast of cold air swept in.

"Jim…" She mumbled, trying to act normally. His bruise had faded yet still it was clear to see the swelling under his eye. A reminder of the night he tried to rape her.

"Hello Helen," He smiled, which took her by surprise "Is Anna here?"

She glared at him "No,"

He looked at her for a second and smiled again "Do you know where she is?"

"No Jim I don't. But I suggest you leave her alone" She said bravely, wanting out of the cold door way and away from Jim Fenner.

He was silent for a second as he stepped closer to her. "Look love can I come in? I've got some apologising to do for the night you came looking for Anna haven't I?" He raised his eyebrows and Helen stood her ground.

"No, I don't need an apology"

"Please?" He asked, trying to peer over her shoulder "Come on love, let me in. We can talk and if Anna's here then…"

"She isn't!" Helen snapped

Jim's face twisted in anger. "I said let me in you stupid bitch!" He growled pushing her hard out of the way of the door so he could get in.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" She shouted as he slammed the door shut behind them.

He turned, his face red and his eyeballs swollen with anger, slapping her so hard she fell to the floor with a moan of pain. "You're going to tell me where she is!" He hissed, dragging her up again.

"Get your hands off me" she managed to say in a daze as she pulled herself free.

"its all your fucking fault" He said, mouth spouting saliva. Helen backed away. She'd never seen Jim like this before. "ALL YOUR FAULT" He bellowed, wrestling her to the floor once again.

Helen winced with pain again as her head hit the floor. She could feel his weight on her, his hands grabbing at her throat but she fought with all her might to get away from him. "Jim get off!" She shouted, writhing underneath him. But he wouldn't listen as he looked down at her

"You bitch! You put thoughts into her head you little…"

"Get off me!" She squealed, tears springing to her eyes. Then she looked up and caught sight of two hands grabbing him by the neck and dragging him away. Still in pain she looked up to See Nikki, reaching out to pick her up and she took to her arms thankfully. No sooner was Helen in her arms had Nikki's motives changed. She launched at Fenner, her arms long and wild, reaching for him.

"You bastard I'm gonna kill you!"

Jim fell to the floor in tears, cowering like a baby and Helen pulled Nikki back. "Leave him!" She gasped, using all her strength to hold the taller woman back "Leave him," She repeated, her breath ragged.

Nikki looked at Helen with a mixture of confusion and anger. "Leave him?" She shouted, "After what he's just tried to do?"

"Yes," Helen said, holding her face that soared heat. She peered at him, crying on the floor. He was a broken man and she knew he was angry that he'd lost Anna. "Go into the kitchen Nikki" She said, her head still light, her stomach churning and her face still sore.


"GO!" Helen demanded and watched whilst she stormed away, slamming the door behind her. Quickly she moved over to where Jim was lying. "I want you to get out of my house Jim, now" She stated firmly.

He looked at her with tears streaming down his face "Oh Helen I'm so sorry..."

"Now," She repeated "I'm not going to get the police involved this time but if you EVER come any where near me again I swear you'll wish you'd never been born" With that she stood up and walked into the kitchen, shutting the door behind her. It had taken a lot of trust on her behalf. But violence had never been Helen's way and although she hated Jim Fenner something chronic, she was willing to trust that he'd never come back again.

Their yes met once the kitchen door was closed behind them and Nikki spoke first.

"That bastard is gonna get it I swear" She hissed passionately

"Oh leave it!" Helen snapped back moving over to the freezer to get out an ice pack

"Leave it Helen? That man just tried to bloody kill you," She screeched. "You should call the police"

"No," She answered firmly "Its not worth it Nikki," she moved over to the kitchen table and as she did she heard the front door slam. "He's gone now"

Nikki turned round and looked at Helen properly, her neck was marked, her face was mottled at one side and she looked tired and close to tears. She sighed. Jim Fenner was a bastard and she'd gladly decapitate his balls. But for Helen, like always, she'd resist. With a frown she moved over and crouched in front of her "Here, let me do that"

Helen let go and closed her eyes as Nikki pressed the pack against her check. "I wasn't expecting you over until later," Helen said, wincing slightly "Finish early at the club?"

"Yeah," Nikki smiled, pushing her hair out of her face "Lucky I turned up really wasn't it?"

"I can take care of myself you know Nikki. I'd have been ok" Helen moved away and walked into the living room.

"Bad day?" Nikki asked calmly, sitting beside her.

Helen nodded but didn't speak, her head was sore and her face ached. "Look, I'm not going to be much company tonight Nikki so if you want to go you can…"

"Don't talk so wet," Nikki shook her head at the thought of leaving Helen alone in the house. With one swift movement she pulled Helen into her arms and rested her head on her own chest. "I'm not leaving you tonight. Not after that"

"I'm so tired," Helen, said quietly, feeling content again as Nikki stroked her hair and kissed her forehead. Within minutes she was asleep and Nikki curled up closer to her on the sofa, holding her, being there. She didn't know what she'd have done if she hadn't have got to the house when she did, or in fact, where she'd got that rush of adrenaline and anger towards Jim. She closed her eyes and listened to Helen breathing. She would stay the night, to be there when she woke up. Inside she felt it was her duty to protect Helen now. Maybe she wouldn't like the idea of being protected, Nikki thought with a smile. After all Helen was one on her own, speaking and thinking with such independence and determination. But it was tough Nikki Wade wasn't going anywhere.

Helen stirred, the warmth of a duvet against her skin making her smile. The smell of bacon surrounded her and she stirred again, this time opening her eyes, only to find herself staring at the ceiling of her living room. She sat up quickly, forgetting why she was asleep on her couch in the first place. But then, a sudden sharp pain in her head reminded her of everything. It was morning and she'd had more than enough sleep, yet still she felt tired. Quickly she rose to her feet, noting that she was still in her suit from yesterday, and wandered into the kitchen. Nikki turned from her cooking and smiled.

"Good morning,"

Helen couldn't speak, the strength of her need to be sick was over powering her and suddenly she felt light headed again as she dashed from the kitchen and quickly up the stairs to the bathroom where she threw up several times. Afterwards she lay her head on the cool porcelain of the bowl. Then she thought of Nikki who had gone into all the trouble of making her comfortable the evening before, calming her, nursing her and then making her breakfast.

"All better?" Nikki asked quietly, crouching beside Helen on the bathroom floor.

"I'm sorry," Helen smiled, lifting her head up "I don't know what came over me."

Nikki helped her to her feet "It's Jim Fenner's bloody fault" Nikki said, surprisingly without bitterness "Maybe we should get you to a hospital and have you checked out"

"No, I'll be ok" Helen reassured her with a smile. "Let me get a shower and I'll be down in a minute," She gently kissed Nikki on the cheek as a weak sign of gratitude and watched her leap back down the stairs.

After the shower she dressed comfortably in jogging bottoms and a tracksuit top. She felt better just for having had the shower and now she intended thanking Nikki the proper way. After drying her hair she went back down to the kitchen to see her sat reading the paper. Helen stood at the doorway for a few minutes just admiring her. She was so good to have around, she thought with a smile.

Nikki turned and smiled back "Hungry yet?" She got to her feet but Helen stopped her

"Thank you Nurse Nikki but I can manage. You finish yours" As she made her bacon sandwich, thoughts of Anna came into her head. Suddenly she panicked. What if Jim had hunted her down and done the same to her last night? "Shit" She cursed, throwing down the bread knife and reaching for the phone

"What is it?" Nikki ran to her side with a look of panic

"Anna, I need to make sure she's ok. What if Jim…"

"I've sorted it," Nikki smiled taking the phone away "She's at her mothers, she's safe and she's happy Helen."

Helen breathed a sigh of relief. She turned to Nikki and smiled again. She really didn't know what she'd do without her. Without a word she pulled Nikki towards her and kissed her, gently at first.

"I love you," She admitted for the first time, pulling away slightly, her eyes seeking Nikki's for understanding. And Nikki did understand. As she looked into Helen's happy green eyes her stomach seemed to flip several times. She understood how hard it was for Helen to voice such new and unique feelings. 'I love you' meant so much more to Nikki, than Helen would ever know.

"I love you too," She grinned, kissing her again, slow yet outwardly passionate and tender.

The phone rang and broke their moment of bliss. Helen groaned slightly as she snatched it up.


Nikki watched her face stiffen and her eyes widen like they always seemed to do when she was worried. She knew who it was on the other end of the phone without even asking. It was her sister again. One of the many people Helen was going to have to eventually face telling and Nikki understood fully what she was going through.

"Yeah I'm fine. How are you?" Helen continued, letting go of Nikki slightly. But Nikki responded by holding her tighter. Helen looked annoyed but didn't pull away as she continued with her edgy voice on the phone.

"Yeah well how about I come up next weekend? Will that be ok with mum and dad?" As she spoke she looked up at Nikki and Nikki could see the fear in her eyes. "Great…" she continued, never taking her eyes from her face "I'm bringing a friend of mine up to Scotland Julia." She managed a smile at Nikki "A very close friend…"

Chapter Eleven

Nikki peered out of the window, smiling at the beautiful trees and scenery that passed by as she sat in the moving car. She was sleepy, yet happy, despite the dull autumn weather. Watching Helen drive she could see that she was tired too. All the way up to Scotland they'd swapped seats, each giving the other one time to rest. But now they were too close, Helen knew where she was going but Nikki didn't. She could see Helen's nerves as she concentrated on the road. However, she was relieved when she received a warm smile once she's stroked Helen's leg supportively. It was a time like this that Nikki just wanted to take Helen's place. She didn't want her to be worried, although she knew it was unfair to expect her not to be at a time like this.

Helen felt her heart lift when she saw Julia, clad in inevitable jodhpurs and riding boots, her wild, dark hair blowing in the breeze as she came running from their parents Manor house. With one last uneasy look at Nikki she moved forward and embraced her sister.

"I took the horses out for a run, haven't had time to get changed, sorry Hel" Julia said chirpily, grinning and holding her at arms length "You look fantastic"

"Thank you, It's great to see you" Helen hugged her again. Julia's eyes wandered over to Nikki with an equally warm smile that Nikki could have sworn was the double of Helen's.

"Julia…" Helen smiled again and looked over at Nikki "This is Nikki Wade" She paused as her eyes flashed naughtily "A very good friend of mine"

"Nice to meet you Nikki. I'm Julia" Helen's sister held out her hand with a grin and Nikki took her hand gladly with a polite smile.

"Nice to meet you too"

"Mum and Dad have tactfully taken themselves off to a flower show, so it's just us three for a bit" Julia explained as she helped them carry bags into the kitchen. "We'll have lunch first, you can take your things up later"

"Organised aren't we?" Helen teased, sitting at the kitchen table. Nikki leant against the work surface, taking in the beauty of the house.

The big kitchen, with its old-fashioned cupboards and big square table, was so hearteningly familiar and unchanged that Helen gave a sigh of pleasure. "It's so good to be here. Thanks for letting us come"

Julia gave her a withering look as she took the napkin from a plate of sandwiches. "It wasn't a case of letting Helen. I've been trying to get you down here for ages." She turned to Nikki "Have a sandwich Nikki."

"Thanks," Nikki smiled and sat down

"Tea, Coffee, something alcoholic?" Julia grinned, peering from one to the other

"Tea please," they both said in unison, laughing slightly.

"Tea coming up!" She grinned, pouring them both a cup.

"I can do it if you like?" Helen got up, only to be told to sit back down again by her sister.

"You two look knackered by the way" Julia sat and picked up a sandwich "Maybe you need rest"

"We'll be fine," Nikki said hastily,

The phone rang and they all looked at each other. Within seconds Julia was gone and they were alone. Helen turned to Nikki with apologetic eyes. "Is this really bad for you?" She whispered, still at the table.

"Not at all" Nikki smiled "Don't worry Helen, everything's going to be ok" She reassured.

Helen smiled and made sure Julia wasn't within earshot or view, before kissing Nikki gently on the lips, brushing them lightly and teasing them sensually. Nikki had never felt a kiss so soft before. She knew that Helen's kisses or shows of affection were going to be minimal this weekend and so every single touch really counted.

"Come on," She whispered, motioning her to the living room, where they sat side-by-side on the sofa and flicked on the TV.

It really was a fantastic house, Nikki thought as she peered around her. Every thing seemed so comfortable, despite the size. So traditional and homely, a far cry from any house she had shared with her family as a child. She closed her eyes and suddenly felt extremely undisturbed. The television was low and the sound of Julia's voice could be heard, laughing and joking in the other room. Their voices sounded very familiar yet Julia and Helen were completely different women. Julia was a brisk, simple, stylish woman. Where as Helen was such a fiery, governing, strong featured, not to mention sexy – Nikki reminded herself with a smile of satisfaction –type of woman.

"How long has she been asleep?"

Nikki jumped, turning her head slightly to see Julia peering with a grin over the sofa. She hadn't realised that Helen had fallen asleep, now laid with her head resting on Nikki's shoulder.

"I'm not sure," She whispered back.

"Do you mind if I just go Nikki?" Julia smiled, again just like Helen.

"Of course not," Nikki laughed silently

"I've got a boyfriend to attend to"

"I see," She nodded

"I'm sure Helen will introduce you to our parents" Julia sighed, pulling on her jacket

"Fine," Nikki whispered, nodding cheerfully. "I'll see you later"

And Julia had gone again.

It gave Nikki time to peer around a little bit longer. She wasn't nosey, just curious about Helen's family and her parents' house. She had no way of moving now, as Helen slept soundly on her shoulder. She could hear her breathing softly. Nikki smiled and rested her head against the back of the sofa, wondering what Mr and Mrs Stewart were going to be like. Helen had never mentioned her parents before, or given an insight as to what they were going to be like. This made her a little nervous. Being around her parents without them knowing that they were lovers was going to be hard, even Nikki felt that. Would they like her? Would they be able to tell that they were more than very good friends? Poor Helen, she thought, yet she was happy that she'd turned up after all.

A deep, chesty cough alerted her. Nikki's eyes opened quickly, yet she was careful not to move so suddenly and wake Helen. It had grown darker slightly outside and through the window she could see the tree's swaying from the gusty winds. She'd been asleep but she had no idea how long.

"Hello," Came the gruff voice of a man, now stood towering over the sofa, his frame large and rather intimidating. With his flashing green eyes and stern features, Nikki was in no doubt of whom he was.

"Hi," She finally whispered.

The man moved his eyes from Nikki to Helen. Nikki felt as though he was some chimp in a cage as he glared quite menacingly at the pair of them. She shifted slightly and let Helen lay down properly, before standing, only to realise the man wasn't so tall after all. Only slightly taller than her, they stood and looked at each other for a second before Nikki tried again. She held out her hand.

"Hi, I'm Nikki Wade, a friend of Helen's"

"I'm her father" He replied, almost bluntly "And I was beginning to wonder who you were". He took her hand firmly in his own before dropping it again and moving into the kitchen.

Nikki's heart was thudding in her chest. Still, she refused to let it show as she took one last glance at Helen, still sleeping on the sofa, and followed him through.

He had his back to her now as he filled the kettle. So broad. She thought.

"So Nikki Wade" He said deeply "How long have you known my daughter?"

She hated the way he said it.

My daughter.

It was as if he used that as his authority stamp over her.

"Quite a while" she sat and he turned

"And she's taking good care of herself?" He asked again

"Yes, of course" Nikki smiled

"It's been a while since she's come to visit her family you know" She nodded "But Helen never changes" Mr Stewart chuckled as he sat at the table. His facial expression turned stern again as he looked at her "So, tell me about you"

"Oh do give over Vic" Came a chirpy voice from the doorway.

Nikki turned and smiled at a woman who looked so much like Helen and Julia, she almost fell off her chair. The woman walked over with flowers in each hand "I'm sure the lady doesn't want you pestering" She laughed "Hello…"

"Nikki Wade" She offered with a warm grin.

Such a contrast. Nikki thought, as she looked from Helen's mother with her smiling, kind natured aura, to her father who seemed far more firm and authoritative.

"I'm Helen's mother Susan" The woman looked up "And that's her father Vic"

"Hi," She said again, watching in shock as Susan busied herself in the kitchen with flower arrangements

"Are you a friend of Helen's, Nikki?" She asked, glancing quickly at her with a smile

"Yes" she nodded "I hope you don't mind me being here…"

"Oh no of course we don't" Susan flapped her arms as she laughed "Any friend of Helen's is a friend of ours, isn't that right Victor?"

The older man grunted slightly but refused to look up from his newspaper. Again Nikki shuddered at the thought of getting on the wrong side of Victor Stewart.

"She looks like an angel in there" Susan smiled

Nikki silently agreed

"Tea or coffee Nikki?"

Just as she was about to answer Helen entered the kitchen, her hair slightly messed, her features slightly worn from sleep. "Hiya" She grinned.

Nikki noticed how her sleepy eyes twinkled at the sight of her parents. Within seconds, Susan had smothered her in hugs, kisses and how are yous. Vic, however just looked up with a brief smile.

Nikki felt like the outsider looking in for the next hour as she watched Helen reacquaint herself with her parents. Sometimes Nikki drifted off into her own little world amongst offerings of Ginger cake and mugs of hot tea. Could she see herself ever being accepted into this family? Vic and Susan knew very little about their situation, how Helen was feeling or how much Nikki loved her. Sometimes their eyes would meet and Nikki could see the anguish in her eyes and in fact how deeply rooted her fears were. But she was forbidden to move to her side and comfort her, or to tell her she loved her or to do anything that was beyond friendship.

"Kiss me" The words caressed her ears like sweet music


"Kiss me Nikki" Helen repeated in an even softer, sensual whisper.

She felt as though she was in heaven as their lips touched for what felt like the first time in years. In reality it had only been hours and they were actually stood in a spare bedroom in semi–darkness with bags and coats scattered at their feet. Their kiss was slow, passionate, sexy and painfully arousing. Still, moments like these made it all worthwhile.

Helen moved away and smiled "Thank you"


"Being such a great…friend"

They grinned at each other

"Thanks ok" Nikki nodded "Will this be my room miss Stewart?"

Helen nodded slowly before helping her unpack her things. Much like the manor house, this bedroom was traditional and spacious. It was warmly lit and carried breathtaking views from the window. The stretch of trees went on for miles and miles.

"Be honest with me?" Helen said quietly as she joined Nikki at the window "How do you find my family?"

Nikki could see the unease in her lovers' eyes again. She took Helen's hands in her own. "Your mother is amazing," She laughed, thinking of the older version of Helen, with her warm, inviting smile. "Julia is great" she nodded, looking out of the window "And your father…" She was stumped as to what to say next. Vic was such a hard man. He managed to unnerve her with each look he gave her. She didn't want to have to tell Helen that. "He's lovely"

"Listen to me" Helen almost laughed, "My father is a lot of things Nikki. Lovely is not one of them" she released her grasp and sat on the bed with a deep sigh.

Nikki turned and looked at her "I'm sorry Helen it's just…"

"I love him dearly but he'll never change" Helen interrupted, peering at Nikki with those haunted eyes "He's never been affectionate with anyone but my mother, he rarely shows enthusiasm…hardly smiles even…" Nikki sat beside her "He's just the person he is Nikki. Opinionated Victor Stewart" She sighed and looked up at Nikki "My father is half the reason why this is so hard for me"

Before Nikki had time to speak, Julia charged through.

Helen stood quickly

"Everything ok?" Julia looked from one to the other

"Just getting settled" Nikki smiled "Everything go ok?"

"Great…my Andy is such a sweetheart" Julia swooned, dropping fresh towels on to the bed "These are for you Nikki"


Helen walked over to the door with her bag before turning back to face Nikki "I'll be down the hall…if you need me"

They smiled

"Ooh!" Julia squealed grabbing hold of Helen's arm as she was about to leave "I know it's my fault that I didn't tell you over the phone Hel, but we're supposed to go to Garrett and Freda's engagement party tonight"

Nikki watched as both women made a face.

"Tonight?" Helen sighed

"Yes" Julia smiled apologetically "Mum and dad really think it's 'appropriate'" she turned to Nikki "Sorry Nikki. Do you mind?"

"No" she shrugged, wondering who the hell Garrett and Freda were.

"Ok, so I'll tell mum and dad we're all going shall I?"

Helen nodded and waited until Julia had left before explaining that Garrett O'Leary and Freda Williams were two extremely rich and stuck up friends of the Stewart family. She explained how her and Julia had never liked either of them and despised the way their father always tried to set them up on dates with 'eligible rich men'.

"It's one of my fathers wishes that I'd fall in love with Robin, Garrett's brother" Helen sighed.

"Why?" Nikki shook her head

"Robin is rich and attractive and noble and intelligent. Everything my father wants for me" Their eyes met "But he forgets that you can't choose who you fall in love with"

With that and a small smile, Helen left Nikki alone.

Helen took a few deep breaths as she walked in through the main doors of the country club that Garrett and Freda were holding the party in. Even though Nikki was quite happily chatting to Susan about gardening, she had the urge to watch her every few minutes. It had been as though she was living on a knife edge for the last few hours, wishing to dear god that she could jut tell her family about Nikki, yet at the same time just too damn afraid to even look at her for too long. Her life, she realised, was two sided. One side of her had a traditional family, a large, homely Scottish house and parents that wanted so much. The other side had a good job, a London flat and a strong, loving relationship with another woman. How could these two worlds ever unite? Would it always be this difficult? How she wished she had the answers.

There she was – Helen thought with a fond smile, as she watched Nikki laugh and joke with her mother – so calm and collected, so emotionally stable and…confident

"She's not going to disappear you know" Julia whispered with a smile

Helen could feel her cheeks redden "I know that" She managed to say evenly as she turned away from Nikki "I just want her to feel comfortable"

"She's comfortable Helen" Julia reassured her.

Helen turned back to face Nikki, their eyes meeting and lingering.

I love you

Helen gritted her teeth. She wanted to say it. She needed to say it…

"Helen" Victor's voice shattered her thoughts as she turned to face the big man, now dressed smartly in a suit.

She smiled

"Don't you think you should go over and say hello to Robin?" He raised a questioning eyebrow and he smiled slightly. Helen cringed.

"I think…"

"No need Mr Stewart" came the voice of Robin from behind them. Helen closed her eyes at the feel of him pulling her round to face him "I've come to her"

She opened her eyes and peered at him. He hadn't changed in the length of time she hadn't seen him. Still tall and tanned, still had his sandy curls and his cheeky green eyes and still wore his sharp suits. She turned to find her father gone. The room was filled with people of all ages and Helen struggled to find anyone she even knew.

"That pleased to see me are you?" Robin chuckled.

Helen forced a smile "Sorry Robin. Of course I'm pleased to see you"

He was still holding her and she didn't like it. "You're still as gorgeous as ever I see" He smiled, letting go.

She blushed, feeling uncomfortable with the way he was leering at her. "Careful now, I may just get a big head"

"Come on" He grabbed her hand "Let me get you a drink from the bar and we can catch up"

She opened her mouth to object but it was too late. He was already pulling her by the hand towards the bar. Again as he pulled her along, Helen scanned the room. "Robin I've already got a drink thank you" She tried as he pushed their way through the bodies.

"Another won't harm a pretty lady like you Hel"

She pulled a face. Secretly urging him to let her go.

It had seemed like a matter of seconds later rather than minutes as she sat staring into a glass of funny coloured liquid that had an umbrella, a straw and a cherry bobbing along the top. Robin had been talking and she hadn't listened to a word he was saying. She wasn't bothered about this pretentious bastard or his top of the range drinks…she needed to find Nikki. Smiling at him she then let her eyes wander. Where was Nik…

She felt his hand glide along her leg.

Mortified, Helen raised hard eyes up towards his face. "Robin…"

"There you are" Came the stern voice of Nikki.

Helen turned, as did Robin. She was stood close to the pair of them, flicking glances from Helen to Robin and then down to his hand, still gently touching her leg. "I'm so pleased to see you're having such a great time" Nikki's words oozed sarcasm as she turned away slightly.

Helen tried to move her leg but Robin had a firm grip

"I'll catch you later"

"Nikki…" she started. But her words were useless as the taller woman walked back away through the mass of congregating bodies.

"She's one of those" Robin muttered, to which Helen fixed him with a hard stare

"One of what?"

"A jealous Dyke!" He hissed. The words seemed to take on a life of their own and punch her in the stomach with the fiercest of blows...

Chapter Twelve

Nikki sat silently in the back of a dark taxi later that night. Right now she knew the last thing that she should be doing was sulking like a baby. But she was. She'd tried hard not to get jealous as Robin made eyes at Helen and kept a firm hand on her knee.



She was annoyed and deeply jealous by the way Helen had let him touch her, yet at the same time she could feel the desire beginning to build inside of her.



She hadn't been able to do that to Helen for what felt like forever and although she felt as though she was having her face rubbed in that fact, she wanted to touch her…badly.

"Is everything ok Nikki?" Helen's voice broke her thoughts as they peered at each other through the rear view mirror.

"Of course" Nikki replied evenly, aware of Julia's eyes watching her. "Thanks for a great night" Helen lowered her eyes again and sat back in her chair.

Helen shrugged her jacket to the floor and stood in her bedroom in total darkness breathing softly. Down the hall she could hear Nikki banging things around the bedroom, as she too got ready for bed. The already tense situation had become even worse when Nikki had seen her with Robin. She did feel guilty; there was no denying that. At the same time she was annoyed and frustrated with everything. The last thing she needed was one of Nikki's jealous outbursts. This was neither the time nor the place and she needed her to understand that. Sexual frustration was also getting a grip of her. Being angry with someone and at the same time wanting to make love with them all night long was a feeling Helen hadn't experienced before this weekend.

Feeling a wave of sadness she burst into tears and held a pillow to her face in order to quieten the sound of her sobs.

She tried to sleep but all attempts were futile and so, finally controlling herself she grabbed her dressing gown and moved down the hallway, stopping momentarily outside Nikki's room before walking quickly down the stairs and through to the kitchen. The house was silent now – just the way she wanted it to be. She needed silence to be able to think. Still in the dark, she moved over to the kettle and switched it on, peering out of the window into the night sky.

"Make that two drinks" Julia's voice whispered behind her.

Helen let out a screech of freight as the kitchen light flickered on. She screwed up her eyes and turned away "Bloody hell Julia!"

"Sorry" Julia chuckled pulling out a chair "I couldn't sleep either"

Helen didn't say a word as she made their drinks, all the while she could feel her sister's eyes on her back. Reluctantly she turned around and sat down at the table opposite.

"Are you going to tell me or am I going to have to beat it out of you?" Julia whispered only half seriously.

Helen gave her a look and took a sip of her tea "I just can't sleep that's all" she said nervously

"Really?" Julia asked unconvinced

"Why are you up?" Helen dodged the question and raised her eyes to Julia's

"That's not important Helen"

"Julia…" Helen sighed and shook her head

"It's Nikki isn't it?" Her sister smiled

"What?" Helen could feel her heart drumming in her chest as her sister fixed her with a knowing stare.

"Nikki" Julia repeated taking a drink.

The two women looked at each other and Helen just couldn't bring herself to speak. Her voice had gone and so had every thought in the world. She wanted to make an excuse up but her brain had suddenly failed her. She just stared at Julia.

"Thought so" Julia laughed quietly "Now, are you going to explain?"

Helen didn't speak

"Hel?" Julia smiled

"There's nothing to explain." She finally found her voice as she drank from her cup.

Julia sighed and shook her head slightly "Do you think I'm completely stupid?" Their eyes met "Nikki Wade is just a 'friend'?"

"Yes" Helen nodded, trying to be braver than she felt

"A 'friend' we've never been told about?" She grinned, "Let me guess close friends….oh…that just can't keep their eyes off each other?"

Helen could feel her cheeks redden. "Don't be ridiculous Julia" She sighed and felt her eyes begin to fill again. She was feeling so damn emotional recently.

"You don't have to pretend with me Helen. You forget I know you so well." Julia reached across and touched her hand "Now tell me exactly what was going on with you two tonight?"

Many breaths and tears later, Helen had plucked up what little courage she had to tell Julia about her dealings with Nikki Wade. It had been so hard for her to even form coherent sentences because of just how emotional she'd gotten. She'd figured that if her sister had already guessed then she couldn't lie to her.

"So she thought you were flirting with Robin?"

Helen's side now sat Julia. A crease in her brow proved that she was paying attention to each and every word Helen mumbled.

"Yes," She shook her head "Oh Jules this is the last thing that we need. It's hard enough being up here as it is"

"I know" Julia smiled "But Helen you need to realise that you've found a decent partner and it shouldn't matter what gender that person is. The world won't stop turning all because you've fallen in love with a woman"

Helen's eyes glittered with tears as she turned to face her sister "Try telling mum and dad that"

Nikki watched her in silence from the door way as she blow-dried her hair. Helen hadn't noticed she was there just yet and she was thankful for it. Downstairs Susan prepared a big breakfast whilst Vic sat in his chair with the newspaper. She didn't know where Julia had gone to, all she did know is the woman she loved was now sat with her beautiful aura, unaware that she was being watched.

She hadn't slept the evening before. She felt guilty for getting jealous and over and over she cursed herself for acting so childishly when Helen needed her most. On more than one occasion she contemplated paying her a visit. She didn't in fear of them getting caught. After all they had gone up to Scotland as friends and Nikki was sure that neither Victor nor Susan would take lightly to intimate discussion between the two of them late at night. So, instead she was forced to grit her teeth and save her apology till morning. She needed Helen alone for a few minutes just to say sorry in the way she knew how. That time was now.

Helen switched off the drier and peered at Nikki through the mirror.

Nikki looked behind her one more time before moving into the bedroom and shutting the door behind her.

"Nikki about last night…"

"Helen, let me explain…"

They both smiled at each other and Helen stood up.

"Let me say what I wanted to say" Nikki whispered, moving slowly over to where she was standing. Helen's eyes followed her every move. "I over reacted in a big way Helen" she sighed, "I don't know, maybe I was paranoid. I thought that Robin guy was in there with you last night"

Helen raised her eyebrows with a small smile, acutely aware of her heart rate quickening with Nikki so close to her. "He wasn't"

"I know that now. I'm sorry" an impish smile spread across her face as she lowered it closer to Helen's "and if I wasn't scared of someone finding us…I'd gladly show you how much"

Helen brushed her nose with Nikki's and said "And if I wasn't completely terrified, I'd gladly let you" before claiming her lips for a slow, sensual kiss.

They enjoyed a breakfast with Helen's family members. Nikki found that she got on remarkably well with Julia and very well with Susan. The women in the house were so alike it was scary. However, every time Nikki's eyes met Victor's she had to mentally stop herself from physically shaking. She felt his hard stare could read into her every thought. But she realised he wasn't just like that with her; he was like that with everyone he met.

Even though she was the guest, Nikki believed in teamwork. After every meal she would help clear away and sometimes offer to make people drinks. Outside the rain poured, slamming hard against the windows.

"Nikki, my mum and dad are taking me to visit an old friend of mine later this morning" Helen announced as they cleared away

"That's fine" She smiled

"You can come along if you want or you can stay here with Julia…"

Nikki opened her mouth to speak, just as Julia walked into the kitchen "Nikki will stay with me"

Helen looked over at her sister

"I'm useless at cross words and I've got a whole load of them to do!" Julia grinned and Nikki laughed

"And what makes you so sure I know what I'm doing when it comes to crosswords?"

Julia shrugged "You look the type and besides you can tell me about yourself" She grinned again and Helen looked back up at Nikki.

They smiled at each other

"It looks like I've had my decision made for me," Nikki laughed.

Helen breathed out with a small laugh "Are you sure you'll be ok…"

"Helen are you ready?" Susan flounced in with her waterproofs on "Your father is waiting in the car. At this rate we'll be washed away"

"Yes" Helen pulled on her coat and put up her hood, looking at Julia and Nikki in turn. "Are you sure you'll be ok?"

"Have a good day Helen and stop worrying will you?" Nikki said softly Their eyes met and Helen melted inside. Nikki was such a people's person and it wasn't the first time she was pleased to have brought her up here.

"I'll see you both later then" and with that and a stunning smile, Helen was gone.

Nikki felt better inside. She'd made her apology clear and Helen had accepted it. For the first time that weekend she actually felt more at ease. Pleased in the knowledge that her lover was out enjoying a day with her parents whilst she got to know her sister better was calming. She just hoped as she laughed and joked with Julia, that one day she'd be accepted into this family. They spent the day talking and drinking cups of tea, whilst doing crosswords or watching game shows on the TV. Nikki got on well with Julia and found she could sit in her company for hours just talking about nothing. Some how she couldn't ever see herself able to do that with Victor. Julia took time out to tell Nikki about their family and what Helen was like as a child, how they had got closer and closer as the years went by. Nikki smiled fondly as she listened to tales of their past.

"Tell me about you, Nikki?" She curled her feet under her as they sat on the sofa together later that afternoon. It was dull outside and the rain was still heavy. They clung to their mugs of tea and Julia offered another biscuit as Nikki began telling the story of her own child hood.

"There's nothing much to tell really" She shrugged, thinking back "I've always been the 'different one' of my family. I suppose I rebelled a little as a child because I felt no one would listen to me"

"Really?" Julia sighed

"Yeah," Nikki smiled slightly as she looked down into her tea swirling around her cup "My parents never accepted me. Ever. They used the fact that I was gay to push me away" Nikki shrugged slightly as she looked out of the window "I got kicked out when I was 16 and I haven't seen any of them since"

Julia smiled and touched her hand "And how do you feel about it all now?"

"I don't" Nikki stated, looking at Julia "They didn't love me they just coped with me"

"But someone loves you now?" Julia grinned knowingly

Nikki sighed with a smile "Yeah," She didn't look at Julia "I've never felt as lucky to be loved by one person in my life"

There was a comfortable silence as the two of them rested their heads against the back of the chair. Then Julia burst into tears, taking them both by surprise.

"Julia, what is it?" Nikki frowned taking the woman into her arms.

"I'm sorry" She shook her head and continued to cry as Nikki held on to her. "It's Andy…oh Nikki…he's met someone else" Julia cried harder and Nikki began to understand. She sighed and stroked her hair

"Your boyfriend?"

"Yes" Julia pulled back a little and looked at Nikki "He told me yesterday and I….oh god I don't know what to think or to do…or…or…"

"Calm down" Nikki moved a strand of Julia's hair and wiped away her tears with her thumbs.

"What the hell's going on?" A voice alerted the pair of them as they sprung apart.

Nikki closed her eyes and cursed herself. To an onlooker it could have seemed like anything.

"I said what the hell is going on!!" Helen shouted

"Hel it's not what that looked like" Julia sighed, standing up.

"No, it's not" Nikki stood also

"Oh don't give me that shit," She hissed as tears sprang to her eyes "Nikki that's my own bloody sister!!"

Victor and Susan came in through the door dripping with rain. "What's this about?" Susan frowned, aware that something wasn't right

"Helen…" Nikki started, reaching for her arm

"Get off me. You make me sick"

Nikki didn't like the tone she had just taken, laced with a suggestion of loathing. Helen pushed past her mother and went back out of the door she came in. Outside the rain and winds continued.

"Where is she going?" Susan screeched, "It's freezing out there!"

"What the hell has happened?" Victor boomed

But Nikki ignored everyone else as she ran out after Helen, the cold rain and blast of cold air hitting her and almost taking her breath away. "Helen what are you doing?" She shouted, watching her walk away briskly

"Nikki leave me alone" She called back as she took to a faster pace. But Nikki didn't leave her alone. It was cold and wet and getting darker. Helen had gotten the wrong picture again.

"Listen to me!" Nikki shouted, trying to catch up to her. Behind she could hear Julia calling, but Nikki just ignored "Helen…will you please just listen to us?" she tried again as she disappeared out of sight.

Helen just wanted to get away. She walked as fast as she could through the rain feeling so angry and hurt.

Nikki and her own sister.

Her mind raced along with her legs. She was numb to everything. She'd made too much of a scene to turn back now. Behind her she could hear Nikki calling. She cried as she walked. How could she do that to her?

"Helen!!" So many voices called her name but she didn't want to listen. She needed space. She'd been right never to get involved after Sean. Because when you got involved and the person you loved cheated, the hurt was real and she could feel it gripping her insides and surging through her.

Nikki could feel her chest tightening but she was not going to let Helen walk out on her own, even if she did know where she was going. She would follow her all night if she had to. She'd follow until Helen would listen.

"Where is she going?" Julia gasped, grabbing Nikki's arm as she caught up to her

"She won't stop walking and when I get near she runs from me. Shit Julia what do I do?" Nikki talked as she walked

"I don't know what's up with her," Julia cried, pushing back her hair.

Nikki stopped dead in her tracks a she witnessed something she never, ever wanted to. "HELEN STOP!!!" she screamed but it was too late.

The sound of screeching tyres pierced her eardrum as a car skidded across the road, colliding hard with her body. Helen was thrown some feet before crashing to the wet ground, rolling for a second or two and lying still. The rain was heavy and Nikki was blinded by her own tears as she ran with Julia over to where she was. It seemed the world had stopped. Her body lay motionless on the hard wet floor…

Chapter thirteen

They all stood still for what seemed like eternity as a man jumped out of his car "I didn't see her I swear I didn't see her…she just…she just ran out…I'm sorry…I'm…"

Nikki looked at him blindly for a few seconds. She couldn't think, couldn't breathe properly as she looked down at Helen's wet figure…so damp and cold… Then, she burst into tears feeling as though her heart had just been broken in two.

"What happened?"

"Phone an ambulance!!"

"Help her!"

"Helen it's going to be ok"

So many voices fused into one another as Nikki lay by her side feeling for a pulse. It throbbed ever so slightly. She didn't care about anyone else even if it was wrong of her. Her main concern was the life of the woman in front of her. Sirens wailed around her and cars screeched to a stop on the slippery road. Feeling her head and eyelids heavy and her breathing strained, Nikki closed her eyes.

"Nikki how are you feeling?" A voice whispered as she slowly opened her eyes. The room seemed to blur for a few seconds before she finally became accustomed to her surroundings. She was sat with a blanket round her in a waiting room of a hospital. Everything came rushing back to her with a thud of realisation. Visions of Helen being knocked across the road startled her and tears sprang to her eyes.

"Nikki!" Julia grasped her hand "It's ok" she reassured her

"Helen…. where's Helen?" She whispered looking into the pale and fragile face of her sister

"She's stable" Julia stood "Now have some of this" She leant forward and passed Nikki a cup of coffee "You passed out with Shock."

Nikki shook her head and stood up, suddenly feeling strong and awake. "I need to see her"

"Nikki sit down." Julia pulled on her arm "My mother is in there with her, she's being taken care of"

With a sigh, Nikki sat and put her head in her arms "If only she hadn't have ran out Julia…"

"I know" Julia sighed and rubbed her face "But she did. Nikki we can't worry. Helen will be ok" They looked at each other and Nikki just hoped she was right.

A doctor came slowly through the double doors opposite the pair of them. Both looked up at his approached with a warm smile.

"Miss Wade, good to see you back with us." He smiled again but Nikki didn't have the energy to smile back at him. "Now, Ladies. Miss Stewart suffered a broken leg and arm, a fractured hip bone and bruised ribs…. along with other cuts and bruises from the accident…"

"Is she ok?" They both said in unison

"She's stable and in the best possible care. Her mother is in with her at the moment and so I suggest you go home and get some rest. We'll be sure to let you know of any progression" He smiled

"I don't think so" Nikki said abruptly "I'm staying right here"

He blinked at her for a few seconds.

Julia looked at Nikki momentarily before turning back towards the man. "Doctor we're quite ok where we are thanks. Is there any chance we can see Helen soon?" As she spoke, Susan wandered through the double doors looking equally as drained and tired.

"She's asleep" Susan sigh and sat beside Nikki "Something I think we all need"

The doctor smiled again "I'll give you a few minutes and I'll be back" and with that he was gone.

For a few long silent seconds the three worn out women looked at one another expectantly. Nikki sighed, feeling her eyes heavy once again. Dropping her head into her hands she wished to dear god that he could just turn back time. The next time she did lift her head again she winced with pain at the feel of her neck creaking. She'd fallen asleep but instead of feeling better she felt considerably worse.

"Are you ok, Nikki?"

She turned her head to see Susan peering over the rim of a polystyrene cup

"I'm ok. Are you?" She replied.

Susan dropped her head back against the wall "I will be, just as soon as I know how my daughter is. Julia has gone home and Vic is in with Helen…maybe you should get some rest…"

"No" Nikki said seriously "I have to see Helen first"

They peered at each other and exchanged slight smiles. "What the hell happened back there?" Susan whispered, "Did you argue over something?"

For a few seconds Nikki didn't know what to say. As far as Helen's parents were concerned, she was just a friend. How could she tell her the truth...

"Nikki?" Susan asked again

"Yes we did. But Susan it wasn't my fault" She shook her head "I didn't want her to walk out there like she did, or…" she sighed knowing that she wasn't allowed to have this conversation with Helen's mother…not just yet. "I need air," she finally concluded, jumping up and striding through the main double doors.

Nikki despised hospitals. They were cold and eerie and held smells that made her want to vomit. Hospitals reminded her of death.

A tear rolled down her face as she stared at the wall in front of her. She had no idea what time it was and she really didn't care. She did know that if Helen wasn't ok, if she didn't pull through then every second of every minute of every hour of the rest of her life would be utterly, painfully, blackly miserable. The strain of everything seemed to crash down on her now and she felt suffocated by it. She'd never loved anyone the way she did Helen Stewart and it hadn't taken this car accident for her to realise the way she felt. No, this had only strengthened what she knew she would feel for the rest of her days. And now she had to make Helen see that things weren't what they had seemed back at the house. Crushing her plastic cup in one hand and slamming it into the bin she raked her hand through tousled hair and went back inside.

No more pissing around she told herself striding towards Helen's room you have to do this Wade.

Both Helen and Susan looked round as Nikki walked in.

"I'll let you talk to her but don't pin your hopes on a response" Susan nodded and stood up, kissing Helen softly before moving to Nikki's side and whispering "Be gentle with her, she's just waking". With a nod of understanding she watched as Helen's mother left the room, shutting the door silently behind her.

Her eyes met Helen's and she sighed as she tried desperately to hold back her tears. She was overwhelmed with love as she blinked and walked over. Helen lay exhausted and ashen pale, her hand limp and cold when Nikki took hold of it. She was bruised and cut and bandaged up in most areas. They just looked at each other and Nikki tried to swallow the lump in her throat.

"I love you so much" She finally managed to say, "You have no idea how much I've needed to see you and tell you that"

Helen blinked and a tear rolled down her cheek "I thought I was going to die," She croaked. "And that made me realise…" She winced and closed her eyes

"You don't have to speak" Nikki whispered "Helen I love you, god so, so much. It hurts me to know you thought me and Julia were…" Nikki looked down as Helen stroked her hand ever so slightly. "I wouldn't do that to you" she finally added

"Nikki, I love you" Helen whispered without opening her eyes… and then her grip loosened.

Nikki smiled and wiped her eyes. "Get some sleep darling" she hesitated slightly before bending to kiss her pallid cheek and making for the door.

As it opened with a creak and she stepped out she jumped slightly when she came face to face with Victor Stewart. They stood for a nanosecond just looking at each other but as Nikki went to move out of the way she was shocked to feel the big man grasp her by her shirt.

"You!" He hissed, "This is all your fault"

Nikki glared at him as he kept a firm grip of her with a low menacing tone and big, tired eyes. "Excuse me?" She retorted, blinking. She was tired and the last thing she wanted or needed was Helen's father in her face.

"You heard me," He said, pushing her against the wall. Victor went to grab her again but Nikki took a firm grasp of his arm

"I suggest you get your hands off me" She stood up to him, her blood beginning to boil.

"I'll do what I damn well want!" He muttered, moving close to her "You were the one who upset my daughter. If it wasn't for you and whatever the hell it was that you did, Helen wouldn't be in this damn hospital" His voice was low yet ominous.

"I don't need this" She shook her head and began to walk away

"Get back here Nikki" Vic raise this voice slightly and again grabbed her

"I said get off me!" she dragged her arm away "You haven't got a bloody clue. This wasn't my fault"

"You upset her so who the hell else caused her to run like she did?" He tightened his grip and Nikki dragged her arm away forcefully.

"I happen to love your daughter. I'd do nothing to hurt her!"

Nikki knew what she'd said and she didn't regret it. It was the only way she was going to get the man to understand. She didn't care anymore. She loved Helen and she wasn't going to have anyone making her out to be the bad person. Least of all Victor Stewart.

He stared at her and she refused to turn away. "Take that back" He whispered, glaring at her.

Nikki laughed slightly and shook her head.

"I said take it back," He repeated.

"I can't Vic," She said calmly as she peered at him. His facial expression was truly unreadable. "But Helen's accident was not my fault"

"You talk such crap," He hissed.

Nikki refused to say anymore. Instead she straightened her shirt and walked out. Feeling, deep inside that this was the right time. Whether Helen was going to accept that she had told her father Nikki didn't know. But she just could not hold the truth back any longer. Uncertain of just what lay ahead, she caught a taxi to the nearest B&B.

Helen winced slightly as she struggled to sit up that next morning. Opening her eyes slightly she grimaced at the sight of dark clouds in the sky outside. The weather had been terrible for days on end now. She had done nothing but sleep since her accident and even now she felt drowsy and nauseous. The car accident was just one big blur right now. She remembered hurting inside…running from Nikki…then feeling that physical pain as she crashed to the floor and was consumed by darkness. The accident that could have cost her life had finally forced her to sit up and think about what really mattered in her life. She loved her family but she also loved Nikki Wade. Her head pounded as she moved again.

"How do you feel?"

She opened her eyes quickly and blinked a few times, noticing her father sat in a chair in the corner of the room.

"A bit battered and bruised but otherwise not too bad" She tried to understand the way her father was looking at her. His eyes seemed far more distant and his jaw line appeared far harder than before. "Dad, what is it?"

"Not now Helen, I'll be back later," He muttered, standing to his feet and leaving the room.

She watched in shock as he left. What the hell had happened? She wondered. Where was Nikki? She felt completely drained and helpless once again as she lay back in the bed and closed her eyes.

She woke again some time later to the sound of movement around her. When she did finally find the strength to open her eyes a nurse was just leaving. She slowly moved her glance over to the window where she saw Julia standing, deep in thought. Helen felt guilty as she watched her. She felt guilty for so many things but mostly for refusing to believe what Nikki and Julia had said.

"Jules?" She croaked.

Her sister spun round and quickly moved to the side of Helen. "Sweetheart it's so nice to see you" Her sister replied as tears welled in her eyes.

Helen smiled and gripped her hand "I'm sorry…about the other day when I thought…" She stopped for a second "Where's Nikki?"

Julia sighed and stroked back Helen's hair "She's been to see you apparently. Left those for you" Julia smiled and pointed to a huge bunch of roses by her bedside. Helen smiled as she looked at them. "And she asked me to give you this. Told me that no one else was to read it"

"What is it?" Helen frowned as her sister put an envelope in the palm of her hand.

"I don't know" Julia shrugged.

Helen opened quickly to read….

Do you know how important you are to me?
Think of something you couldn't live without and multiply it by a hundred
Think of what happiness means to you and add it to the feeling you get on the best days you've ever had
Add up all your best feelings and take away all the rest
And what you're left with is exactly how I feel about you.
You matter more to me than you can ever imagine Helen and much more than I'll ever be able to explain


Her eyes filled with tears and a warm sensation invaded her body

"She didn't come to our house last night" Julia whispered

Helen's heart suddenly sank "What?"

"Oh Helen…" Julia shook her head "Dad knows about the way Nikki feels about you. She told him last night when he blamed her for your accident"

They sat in silence and Helen sat up further in the bed. She couldn't begin to describe the way she was feeling. "How do you know?" She finally whispered

"Nikki phoned me last night" Julia dragged her fingers through her hair "I'm sorry Hel"

Helen repeated Julia's action and rested her head "Well I'm not" she said sternly.

Julia turned and peered at her

"It's about time I stood up for what I believed in." She continued, feeling stronger than she ever had done before. She loved that woman and now was a greater time than ever to finally stand up to her father.

"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" Julia whispered

Helen looked at her. Everything seemed clear now. The way her dad had looked at her, the way he'd left the room without even telling her he loved her. "Yes" She said, peering at the words on the piece of paper "…I think I do" ...

The Final Chapter

Nikki hadn't got much sleep. She worried now more for Helen's sake than her own. She knew that what she'd told Victor the night before had purely been spurred on by the fact that she didn't want or need blaming for Helen's hospitalisation. She loved Helen so much it hurt but she wasn't sure if it was her place to tell her father or not.

She sighed as she sat in the waiting room outside her room, peering down into her cup. When she finally was allowed in to see Helen, she could smile a little, noticing Helen's warm colour returning to her cheeks.

They smiled at one another when she entered the room. "How are you?" She whispered as she sat on the bed

"Tired," Helen smiled as she felt her stomach do lazy somersaults in the pit of her stomach "And you look like you could do with some sleep yourself"

"Yeah, well…" Nikki smiled and looked down at her own hands looking for the right way to tell Helen. She jumped slightly at the feel of her hand on her back

"I have to have a few words with my father I think"

Nikki looked over at her on the bed but didn't speak

"You told him you loved me?" A ghost of a smile curved her dry lips.

"I did" Nikki whispered "and I do Helen I couldn't pretend anymore. I know you must be so angry with me"

"I think now is the right time" Helen sighed, sitting up "The accident showed me so many things"

"Like what?" Nikki turned and took hold of her hand as they peered at each other.

Her warm, brown eyes captured Helen. She stopped to catch her breath for a few seconds amazed by just what she felt. "Like how important you are to me and how important it is for my parents to know who I am" She whispered leaning forward and gently kissing Nikki.

Drawing back, Nikki smiled and squeezed her lovers' hand. Shocked at Helen's sudden change of heart.

The door opened and both of them turned to observe. Nikki felt her heart begin to race slightly as Victor walked in.

Around the room a pin drop could have been heard. Nikki looked away and Helen slowly released her hand.

"Give me a while, Nikki," She said calmly.

Their eyes met and melted into one another before Nikki stood and brushed past the steel built figure of her father. Thoughts whirred around her skull as she made for the hospital exit. The last thing she really wanted to do was leave Helen alone to explain everything to her parents. At the same time she didn't want to stay. If this was the way Helen wanted things to happen then she really did not have a say in the matter.

Helen watched her father as he stood and glared at her, His eyes blazing slits of jade. But Helen really was past caring anymore. She was tired of being afraid now. She sat further up the bed and took a sip of water, dragging her eyes away from him. "Aren't you going to say something instead of glaring at me like I'm some kind of scum, dad?" She said the words with ease and found it easier to speak than she'd first imagined.

Victor sighed and began moving around the bed with his head down and his hands deep in his pockets. "You aren't the scum Helen," He said crustily as his eyes locked with hers "Nikki Wade is!" he hissed.

Helen's features hardened "Don't you dare talk about her like that," She muttered

Vic shook his head "She's got you brain washed. Look at you" He glared at her "I thought I brought you up well, Helen"

She didn't answer

"I don't believe what she says," He growled

"Well you best had," She finally said "Because it's true" Helen watched him and realised that her body was trembling.

"I gave you a good life"

"Oh please Dad!" She raised her eyes to high heaven "You gave me a life that suited you. It's always been what you wanted"

"I know what's best for you" He growled, "Nikki Wade is the last thing you need"

"Let me be the judge of that" She too raised her voice to her father for the first time in her life.

"I took care of you and our family…" He shook his head "and you repay me with…with…"

"No. I didn't want that kind of looking after, you dictating what I can and can't do. What I should and shouldn't do" She shook her head "Even now I can't be me. I have to be the Helen Stewart you want me to be!"

Victor just stared at her

"Not anymore Dad. I'm so sick and tired of living for you, trying to make you proud." She blinked feeling the need to cry, "Nikki is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love her and I can't change that…I don't want to change that" Her face crumpled "All I ever wanted was for you to be proud of me" And then she burst into a paroxysm of sobbing.

"But she's a woman!" He sighed, "You can't possibly…"

"Oh I can and I do," She said wiping her face "And you've got a choice. Accept it and accept who I am . . .or I live my life the way I want in a place where I am accepted"

"Nikki you can't sit outside a hospital all bloody day" Julia whined, holding out her hand. She'd pulled up in her car and had intended on seeing Helen, that was until she'd met up with a pale and worried looking Nikki Wade and learned of the situation. "Come back to our house. If Helen says she wants time then give it to her"

"I am… but I don't want to leave her alone with …"

"He's her father not some mad man now come on" Julia refused to take no for a valid answer and instead pulled the taller woman to her feet.

They stood and looked at each other for a while. "You know I'm not sure how my parents are going to react to Helen's exposure" Julia said "But at the same time I'm so glad she's with you, Nikki"

Nikki felt a smile creep across her own face as Julia spoke. It was such an uneasy time right now and she'd never heard such comforting words before.

"Now, come on… back to ours" The Scot said, pulling her along to her car.

Nikki sat in silence the whole way back to the Stewart manor house and even when she did pull up and get out of the car she didn't speak.

"I'll get you a drink," Julia said quietly as Nikki stood in the hallway. But she didn't want to be here . . . not without Helen. Not without knowing she was okay.

The space between getting to the house and waking up in an arm chair some hours later Nikki had lost completely amongst her own thoughts, fears and emotional uproar. Never the less she woke feeling groggy. She turned with a frown to see Julia sat by her side.

"They both know" were the first words that left her lips as she peered at Nikki. "My mother phoned up and could hardly speak"

Nikki jumped up "You have to take me back to the hospital!" She spoke with indignation "She does not have to go through this without me!"

"It's not going to help is it?"

"Julia I don't care. I want to be with her," Nikki said grabbing her jacket and making for the door, knowing that Julia had no option but to follow her.

Helen came back from the toilet slowly as she walked on her crutches. Wincing every now and then. Susan had entered the hospital room in a complete panic after receiving a phone call from Victor. Helen however had managed to control her tears and stay calm. She wasn't about to give up. She was doing this for her and Nikki's sake now. She would explain things just as clearly to her mother and give her the exact same ultimatum. Now both parents sat in silence. Occasionally, Vic would sigh as he sat in the chair and Susan would pass fleeting looks at Helen. She didn't like seeing her parents this way but she wasn't willing to live her life in fear any longer.

"This has been so hard for me" Helen said powerfully "Don't just sit there. Say something."

"I've had a word with the consultant" Susan said softly as she stared at nothing in particular

"Mum…" Helen sighed

"They want to keep you in for a few more days…"

"Stop it" Helen breathed, shaking her head

"After that you're to stay off your feet and rest for a while" Susan finished just as softly refusing to look Helen in the eyes.

"I know that…the nurse told…"

"Do you love her?" Her mother said with urgency as she interrupted quickly.

Their eyes met

"Very much so" Helen replied.

Susan had organised her face into a parody of angst and trauma

"But don't look at me like that." She said confidently "If you're both going to sit and look at me like I've gone crazy then I'd like you to go"

"Oh Helen . . ." Susan sighed as tears welled in her eyes. Then she stood and walked out closely followed by Victor.

Helen watched them both leave and her own tears filled her eyes. With a deep unsteady, shaky breath she closed her eyes and resigned to sleep.

The first thing Nikki did was panic when she was told that Helen Stewart was no longer in the same room.

"Oh no don't look so worried" The friendly female doctor had said, "She's been allocated a private room. I'll take you to her now".

Nikki had been nervous as she walked at a pace beside the woman. "Just tell me Doctor . . . how is she?"

"She's recovering well" The woman had taken her through various corridors "Although her mother seemed to leave her previous room in some distress"

And that's as far as their conversation had gone. Nikki was tense and her stomach had conveniently cramped with fear.

Now she stood looking at Helen as she slept, with pillows propping her up, in a very relaxing private room. She was sleeping peacefully. Something Nikki always portrayed as a good sign. Sighing, she leant forward and kissed her softly before drawing back and stroking her hair . . . so soft and clean.

She had been so stressed and worried over the last few days. Wondering how Helen was coping and how she felt about everything. There hadn't been time with everything happening so suddenly, for her to question her lovers' emotional state. But Nikki knew deep down that everything would be all right. One day. Helen's parents would never deter her. This vision of beauty and brilliance meant everything to her.

Helen woke with a start and took Nikki by surprise. Yet as soon as they looked at each other both broke out into smiles.

"How long have you been here?" Helen asked, clearing her throat.

"Not long enough" Nikki said quietly as Helen pulled herself further up the bed. They looked at each other and sought their connection.

"I've missed you Nikki" Helen finally spoke

"I've missed you" Nikki managed to smile. Feeling emotional once more "Tell me how it went" She needed to know before they were to discuss anything else. But Nikki grew scared again as Helen's smile faded and she fell back against the bed.

"Not good" She admitted, looking out of the window on to the hospital gardens "I told my father and then my mother…neither of them liked what I had to say, Nikki. Not one bit" Helen sighed.

The silence that followed was plausible.

Helen caught Nikki's hand in her own when she saw how crestfallen she actually looked. Nikki raised her eyes to Helen's and was surprised by the determination she found there. "I love you and that's never going to change," She said seriously "It's just going to take time. This is new to them …and it's new to me," She added

"I'm here for you darling, always. I'll wait for as long as you need me to. I know how this is for you Helen I've been there" Nikki sighed "Maybe I should go back to London…just for a while. Until things get sorted"

Initially, Helen had wanted Nikki there all the time. To catch her when she fell. Now she had found this strength and the sense of knowing. She loved Nikki and wanted to be with her for always. But she knew that Nikki was right in suggesting she went back down to London whilst she sorted out her family issues – alone. She was also content in the knowledge that she really would be there at any time of day or night if need be.

"Maybe you're right" Helen finally agreed, pulling herself back up in the bed "But I want to come home tonight… to see you off home"

Nikki had to laugh "You're crazy. You have recovering to do."

"Yes" Helen smiled "But it's the kind of recovering that can be done out of hospital. I've been here for long enough as it is."

Nikki shook her head slightly as she leant forward and kissed her softly at first "I'm so in love with you" Nikki whispered, seeking a more passionate connection.

Nikki smiled every now and then as she gave Helen fleeting looks in the passenger seat. She was giving directions back to the house and even then, with a crease of concentration across her forehead, Nikki thought she was gorgeous. It had taken a hell of a lot of arranging and sorting for Helen to be allowed out of hospital on such short notice. Although she could walk on her crutches and she felt emotionally strong and healthy, the doctors wanted her to rest up for a few more days. Something – she stressed – that she was more than capable of doing at home with the help of her family. Finally she had been discharged and told that the nurse would visit daily. She would be given Physiotherapy in a matter of weeks.

"Are you nervous?" Nikki questioned as they pulled up outside the house.

"A little bit" Helen sighed "But things will be okay for us eventually" She gave an encouraging smile "I haven't come this far with you for nothing"

The Television was the first thing that could be heard as Nikki opened the door for them. She helped Helen into the living room where Victor looked up from his newspaper and Susan peered round from her flower arranging. Regardless of what either of Helen's parents thought of Nikki, they walked in together and Nikki made sure Helen was comfortable. Nothing was said at first as both parents looked on in amazement.

"What are you doing home so soon?" Susan asked softly "Helen you should have said. Your father and I would have come to collect you"

But Helen ignored what her mother was saying and immediately got down to the point. "There's things I need to talk to you about" She said "We need to discuss things as a family"

Nikki took this as her cue to leave the room and start to pack her things "I'll be getting things sorted," She said quietly, squeezing Helen's shoulder as she passed.

Nikki hated leaving her alone in the room. She would have loved nothing more than to sit beside her and hold her hand through it all. The harsh reality was that it just wasn't possible that way. She pulled out her case from under the bed and began taking her clothes out of the cupboard one by one. She hoped to dear god that her parents wouldn't judge her like she herself was judged as a teenager. Again she knew that it didn't always happen that way . . . however hard she wished. Then she thought more about Helen's family. Julia was wonderful and caring, Susan was the older version of Helen, A very loving woman. Even Victor, she thought with a smile, was a decent man. As hard and unfeeling as he looked, Nikki understood that all he wanted was the best for his daughters. She felt deep inside that given the chance she could get on well with Victor with or without his brooding looks.

"You know I never thought my daughter would come home and tell me she was in love with another woman"

Nikki flinched slightly when she heard the gruff voice of the man himself. She stopped packing and stood up straight. She had no idea how long Victor Stewart had been there & never the less, watched as he walked over to the big window that over looked miles of Forrest.

"I've never been open minded like that," He said bluntly.

Nikki sat on the bed and watched his back.

"I wanted her to get a good job, earn her money in a fast paced city, get married and have kids" He rocked on his heels as he stood there

"Mr Stewart . . ." Nikki started as she rubbed her temples

"Shut up and listen" He interrupted "I've done a lot of thinking" This time he turned and fixed her with a stare that she was no longer intimidated by. "I've never seen Helen as happy as she is with you and I don't want that to change" He stopped and sighed "so if you think you're leaving this house Nikki Wade you've got another think coming"

Nikki gave a choked laugh at what he'd just said "What . . . you mean . . ."

"If she loves you then there's not a thing I can do about it" He said seriously "But I swear the first time you hurt her . . ."

"That's not going to happen and you know it" Nikki interrupted sincerely.

"That's it settled then. Take your clothes back out of the bag and see that she's feeling okay"

Nikki laughed at his style. She couldn't actually believe that he was giving her his consent. She held out her hand and looked him in the eyes as a sign of her understanding. When he didn't accept her handshake within a few seconds she began to withdraw feeling foolish. He then took her by surprise and took a firm hold of it. She smiled and he too smiled back at her.

Relief washed over her in waves. There was still so much that she needed to do and she wanted desperately to prove how much she loved Helen. Her tears were so near as the big man finally let got of her hand and left her alone in the room.

Nikki had taken Helen into her arms once she'd made her way back down to the living room. Her heart constricted and hot tears flooded her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. It had been a very emotional point for all of them and Nikki didn't hesitate on hugging Susan also. This was merely the beginning for all of them, only the frame for the building that had to be done. Both Nikki and Helen accepted that this was new and wasn't going to work automatically. It would take time and fair understanding. All that really mattered was that the situation had been accepted and Helen didn't have to be afraid any longer.

Helen's insides became unglued for the first time since falling in love. With her heart bursting, she smiled feeling Nikki's arms around her waist. So many things had happened to them. She sighed and remembered their first meeting & suddenly believed in fate and the ability to find 'the one'. She had moved swiftly out of that feeling of unease and uncertainty to the warm, secure and unbreakable feeling of real love. She had finally found her ground.

They sipped champagne and watched the overcast, purple Scottish sky and a thick blanket of fresh fog began to settle around the two of them.

"Here's to us" Helen turned with the help of Nikki, and smiled as their glasses came into contact.

Nikki leant forward and brushed noses with her before claiming her lips for a soft kiss. It was then they knew that with determination and that crazy thing called love . . .that anything really was possible.

The End

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