DISCLAIMER: Bad Girls and its characters are the property of Shed Productions. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Everyone Asks How You Met…Not How You Stayed Together
By Prairiegirl


Chapter 1

Helen's fists were wrapped tight in Nikki's black jacket, pulling her close as they kissed. Helen, with a sly smile, leaned over and whispered in Nikki's ear, "Do you want to go slow some more…say at my place? I'm not sure I can stay within the law here on the street." Helen held Nikki pinned up against the wall, ignoring the people staring as the two women made out on the street.

Nikki glanced down at the ground, overwhelmed by the woman she held. Earlier today she was certain she would never see her again and now here she was, in her arms. Helen smelled of hibiscus and leather and something sweet that was just….her. "I need to tell Trisha that I'm leaving. I sort of ran out of the club. She'll wonder. Well..." Nikki stumbled, "she won't wonder…."

At the mention of Trish's name, it was Helen's turn to look down at the ground shyly. "Erm…Why don't I just wait out here. I don't want to erm…" She pulled back, giving Nikki room to leave.

Nikki lifted Helen's head gently and looked into her warm eyes. "It is OK. Trisha is the one who told me to go after you. I figured I didn't have a chance," she explained. "Come on." She took Helen's hand in her own and turned towards the bar. "Besides, I'm not going to let you go." She pulled the reluctant Helen towards the doorway. "This is my club, by the way. I'm not some shiftless ponce. But I expect you know that from your detective work."

Helen stood fast, even as Nikki gently tried to pull her towards the door of the club. They stood, arms outstretched between the two of them. Helen's eyes were pleading.

"Please?" Nikki asked gently. "As a favor for me?"

Helen smiled, knowing what response Nikki wanted, the words Nikki herself had said when Helen asked her the same question. The tension slowly bled out of her and she let Nikki draw her towards the door, giving in once again.

They walked back into the bar and the thumpa thumpa of the bass hit her. "You Spin Me Right Round, Baby Right Round" blared from the speakers. It was Helen's first gay bar, or a gay anything for that matter. Women were dancing with each other, the bartenders wore tiny tank tops and there was a large rainbow made out of glass on the wall. The large dance floor was lit with blue lights and a smoke machine created a haze over the room. It smelled like a bar, of warm bodies and cigarettes. She recognized a number of people from on television when Nikki gave her statement to the media. She took a deep breathe as she continued in.

Nikki led her over to the bar where Trisha sat, drinking directly out of the bottle of champagne. "Everyone!" Nikki shouted. "Everyone, this is Helen. I owe her my freedom and my life. She fought to get me out." Nikki raised their hands in the air. The small group of people broke out cheering.

A tall man with wavy brown hair and sideburns came up to Helen and gave her a hug. She hugged him back awkwardly back with one hand. "I'm Jack. I've known Nikki for yonks, pretty much since her parents kicked her out. Her ma and my ma used to play gin together." He had strong, gentle hands, broad shoulders and thick sideburns. "She's helped me out of trouble a loads of times. A great friend."

Nikki grinned. "'Well it goes both ways." Nikki looked around the room. "And this is Lucy and Abby. You guys have been together how long?"

"Five years," the taller blond woman said. "We know Nikki from the Breast Cancer Awareness Fundraiser they host here every year."

"Congratulations," Helen said,trying to be gracious. "That sounds great."

"And these are Marcia and Jenny," pointing out two brunette women. Jenny and I dated about a millennium ago." Nikki explained.

"We are much better friends than lovers...." Jenny explained. Nikki continued to point out all the people in the room and how she knew them.

Helen knew that she wouldn't remember any of the names but tried to look interested. She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned. "Can I get you a drink?" It was Trish. Helen tried to discretely slide her hand away from Nikki, aware of the past between the two women but Nikki held on.

Trish saw Helen's move and smiled, understandingly. "It's OK. The lesbian community has a great tradition of keeping our exes as friends." Her blue eyes met Nikki's, looking for reassurance that this was what Nikki wanted. Nikki beamed. "But if you are not good to her, I will strangle you with your own brassiere." She smiled again. "So what will it be?"

Helen looked mystified for a moment then Nikki broke in. I think we are going to be heading off." she said. "I promised Helen that I would show her a good time when I got out. I keep my promises." Trish smiled knowingly.

"That sounds great," agreed Helen, clearly happy to be leaving the awkward situation. "I'm starved." She stood slightly behind Nikki's shoulder as Nikki said goodbye to her friends. It was easy to hide a bit behind Nikki because she was so much taller.

Trish gave Nikki a hug, pressed keys in her hand and whispered in her ear. "Thanks," Nikki said, clearly pleased.

"Ready?" Nikki asked the shorter woman.

"Ready," Helen replied, rolling her R's through her Scottish accent.

As they walked out of the bar, Nikki said, "You know this is odd. I've known you for a while now but there is so much I don't know about you. Where you went to school. What your family is like. I don't even know what you like to eat." Nikki looked at Helen as they walked out." I've got a some friends who are chefs who can fix us up but I don't know what you prefer.

"Well, I like anything Italian, Wycombe Abbey then Cambridge and my family...well that is a long story. Possibly requiring several strong drinks," Helen replied.

"You know, this feels like a first date, except with someone that you know really..." Nikki said, then plowed into Claire and Marion, the attorneys from her trial. Helen, seeing the two women, abruptly pulled her hand away from Nikki and stepped back.

"Nikki. Helen." Claire greeted them then reached out to hug Nikki, then Helen. Helen kept her distance from Nikki. "I'm glad to see you. We just thought we would stop by to celebrate. It isn't every day you get a win like this."

Marion, usually the reserved trial attorney, glowed with satisfaction. "It is nice to beat the bastards once in a while." She looked much more relaxed now she was free of the robes and wig that came with appearing before the high court.

"Erm...Helen and I were just going to go out for a bit to eat. Fancy coming along?" Nikki asked easily. "Helen likes...Italian so I was thinking Boca di Lupio on Archer Street. I know the chief. Well, I used to know the chef. I assume she is still there. It has been a while..."

Claire laughed. "That sounds great. Why don't we meet you over there. Marion and I drove together. You and Helen want to ride together or do you want to come with us, Nikki?"

"No, I'll ride with Helen. I assume you don't come to this part of town often?" Nikki asked.

"No, not usually," Helen replied. "I'll need directions." She stood apart from Nikki, one hand on her purse. "We'll meet you there straightaway," she said to Claire.

Claire and Marion turned and walked down the street to their car. "I'm parked over here," Helen said, tilting her head.

Nikki held out her hand but Helen just started walking to her car. "I can't right now. Not in front of Claire." She glanced back behind them and continued to walk.

Nikki stopped. "You mean you won't hold my hand in front of your old friend, even here in Soho?" Nikki looked incredulous.

"Nikki, its complicated. Can we just have dinner with some friends and talk about it later?" Helen sighed. "I just want to get something to eat, go home and just be with you for a while. Without any bars or rules or Prison Service between us. Just have it be simple. For once."

"I don't hide." Nikki argued.

"I know!" Helen said forcefully. "I know," she said again, more gently. "But understand, I need time." She turned and unlocked her car. The back seat was filled with files and personal items from Larkhall. "Come on. We owe Claire and Marion dinner at least. Then we can go home." She looked Nikki in the eyes. "If you still want to," she asked gently.

Nikki got in the car, holding her frustration.


Chapter 2

Helen slipped out of bed, leaving Nikki sleeping. She reached out to her lover and gently stroked her cheek but she didn't wake. Yesterday had been a stressful day and she was happy to let Nikki sleep as long as she wanted. Helen smiled and pulled on her white robe and started a pot of tea. It was sunny out and going to be a warm day. The garden was becoming an overgrown riot of green, needing a good weeding. She picked up the newspaper and dropped it on the white iron furniture. As she went back into the house to get her tea, the phone rang.

"Hello" she said. "Oh, hello Da. Yes. Yes. Yes. I'm glad. No, I'm not seeing Thomas any more. No, it wasn't going to work out. Yes, he was a nice man. No, not yet. And I quit the Service. Yesterday. It wasn't going to work out. It is a corrupt system and I didn't want to be part of it any more. We can talk more about it. No, not yet but I have a couple preliminary interviews lined up next week. Yes, I will be fine. This weekend?" She glanced towards the bedroom. "OK. OK...OK...OK. I'll be there. OK. By Da. Love you."

Helen poured two cups of tea and walked into the bedroom, knowing the phone woke Nikki. She was laying on her side, her dark hair a stark contrast to the white sheets and pillowcase. Helen set one cup on the dresser next to the bed and slid into the curl of Nikki's body. "Morning sweetheart," Helen said. Nikki wrapped her arm around her lover. "Careful. I don't want to spill," Helen said, setting the second cup onto the dresser.

"This is glorious." Nikki said, deeply satisfied. "Being able to just lay here. Soft bed. Real tea. No screws." Nikki leaned over and buried her nose into her lover. "Soft woman." Helen had that clean laundry smell that smelled white. Nikki sighed contentedly.

Helen smiled back. "You look chuffed." She reached over for her tea.

"I am quite pleased. I can't imagine anything better than this right now." Nikki hugged Helen tightly.

"Well I don't know how you like your tea. That might make it marginally better," Helen said.

Nikki smiled. "Cream. Two sugars. I like it sweet. Like my girl."

Helen rolled her eyes. "That has to be the cheesiest line ever."

"Well maybe that is how I am feeling at the moment." Nikki reluctantly set up in bed and reached for her tea. Helen settled against her again, enjoying just being able to touch her lover without constraints. "Wow, so this is how tea tastes like. Nothing like that swill at Larkhall."

"Yeah, it is pretty bad," Helen agreed. They sat quietly enjoying their tea. "Well I've got a lunch scheduled with an old colleague today, at 1:00. So I am going to have to leave you on your own, at least for a while today. I'm sorry sweetheart."

"I like that," Nikki replied, smiling shyly.

"What" replied Helen.

"Sweetheart." Nikki snuggled closer to her lover.

Helen smiled. The sun came through the windows, making the room feel lighter.

"So who was that on the phone?" Nikki asked.

"My Da. He wants me to come to dinner on Saturday," Helen said with weight in her voice.

"So what is he like?" Nikki asked companionably.

"My Ma died when I was young. It was just him and me. We're close even though he drives me crazy." She sipped her tea. "He's a minister. Church of Scotland. Never approves of what I do with my life."

"So how did you end up at Cambridge with a father on a minister's salary?" Nikki quizzed.

Well he isn't just a minister. He's been Moderator of the General Assembly. One of the top leaders. Or at least as much as there are leaders for Presbyterians." Helen pulled into herself a little, letting the implications hang in the air. "And the family has money. Well enough for things like college and such. But I still work."

"Explains the 500 year old wall hanging over the bed...," Nikki said, readjusting her understanding of her lover. "Do you want me to come along? Moral support?"

"No. I'll deal with him myself." Wanting to change the subject, Helen asked, "So do you need help getting your things? Do you know where they are?"

"Do you want me to stay here?," Nikki asked, hiding her hopefulness. "I don't want rush things. I do own a flat."

"It's your and Trish's flat, yeah?" Helen asked.

"Yeah. We both own it. There is a guest bedroom I could take over. It's no big deal. Nothing will happen." Nikki explained. "I know where my heart is."

"I think if the alternative is me having you every night or you staying with your old girlfriend, I'd rather have you here." Helen leaned over and nuzzled Nikki's nose. She set her cup on the dresser, took lover's mug from her hands and kissed her.


Chapter 3

Helen was fretting. It was Saturday and she had to see her father. She was restlessly cleaning the flat, not really making any progress but shifting dirt around.

Nikki had moved her clothes in, as well as a few personal things but was careful to keep her impact on the flat small. A little closet space, some books but nothing else. She had also started to get her life back. She had gotten her drivers license renewed, her banking sorted and had gotten a cell phone. She had met with Trish to get up to speed on how the business was doing and to start picking up shifts at Chix.

"You going to go, darling?" Nikki asked? She was curled up on the couch reading "Stranger in a Strange Land." "If you are going to be there by six, you are going to need to leave soon."

"Yeah, I know." Helen put away the broom and got her black leather jacket. She leaned over and kissed Nikki goodbye. "I won't be late. It is just dinner. And he goes to bed early."

Nikki grabbed her and pulled her into her lap and kissed her deeply before letting her go. "Love you," Nikki called after her. "Don't let the bastards get you down."

Helen drove carefully to the restaurant. It was a French restaurant, in Chelsea. Every table had a formal white table cloth, three different wine glasses and five forks. The wait staff were dressed in black and white, with long white immaculate aprons. She spotted her father and strode over. A waiter pulled the chair out for her and she slid in.

Glenn Stewart looked the epitome of a minister. He was tall, gray hair and carried an air about him that made it feel that he was wearing his robes and collar even when he wasn't. His movements were measured and gave the impression that he thought deliberately about every breath he took.

"Hello Da," Helen said.

"Hello Helen, " her father replied, his deep voice resonating with his Scottish accent. "Good to see you." The reserve that he carried he kept even for his own daughter.

"Good to see you too Da," Helen replied. She kept her face perfectly calm, belying what she felt in her belly. "So, you are down south for a meeting? What about?" She hoped going on the offensive would let her keep control of the conversation.

"It is a meeting with Churches Together. There is concern that there will be pressure to ordain homosexuals soon and the various Churches need to talk so we are coordinated in our response. Leadership is important in times like these." He paused for effect. "I've been all over the country meeting with the synods and presbyteries to try to help them understand that we have to stand with what the Bible says, to stay committed to historic Christian orthodoxy but many members feel like they have to change to please the secular world." Mr. Stewart had slipped into his preacher voice. "This sin is everywhere now - on television, in movies - have you heard of this one..."Kissing Jessica Stein? Two girls try out being homosexual just to see if they like it! Can you imagine? " her father said incredulously. "It is the kind of thing the Church has to stand against."

Helen raised one hand to her mouth, looking intently at her father, waiting for the next thing he would say. One of the waiters in an impeccable long white apron interrupted before he could speak, giving them each a tall menu. "Good evening. My name is Andre and I will be your waiter for the evening. The special is a Salmon Mushroom Coulibiac With Sour Cream Dill Sauce served with new pota..."

Helen broke in. "I'll have that, thank you. Always a fan of the salmon," she quipped with false humor, hoping to hide her desire to make this conversation as short as possible. "Da, you know what you want?" she prompted.

Her father hadn't even opened his menu. "Oh, I'll just have the steak au poivre. Can't go wrong with that." He handed his menu back to the waiter who solicitously walked away. "So, what is this about you quitting your job...again?" her father probed.

"Yeah. I quit the Service. It is incredibly corrupt and immoral and I just couldn't live with being part of it. We had one guard who was taking advantage of the women prisoners and also running a brothel on the side. I think he killed at least one of the inmates too but I can't prove anything. And there are a lot of women who are in prison who really shouldn't be. Mothers, whose children who are also sentenced because they have to be apart. I had one woman's son die because she wasn't there to take care of him. Drug addicts who need treatment rather than prison. I had another die because she couldn't get decent medial treatment from the addled prison doctor. I just couldn't keep being part of it." She took a deep breath and paused. "It's just better that I am away from it. I can find other, more positive things to do with my life." She stopped and sipped some water. "I have an interview next week that looks promising. It is with a program that reviews sentences for long-term inmates to see if they were properly convicted. The Conservatives want to reduce jail costs and one way to do it is to boot out inmates who shouldn't be there so they want help reviewing sentences. It would be a lot of fun and maybe help some people who just shouldn't be in prison."

"Who's in charge of it?" her father asked.

"A man named Roy Macalaster. Scottish, obviously." Helen looked hopeful.

"I'll see if anyone in the Kirk knows him and can put in a good word for you," her father offered.

"Thanks Da. I'd appreciate it." The waiter brought two salads and set them down. Helen began carefully. "I did some work with one prisoner. Her name is Nikki Wade. She killed a police officer and was sentenced to life but the trial wasn't handed properly and her solicitor gave her bad advice. She was set free this week. So I've got some experience for the job," Helen said hopefully.

Her father attacked his salad. "I think I saw that on the news...manslaughter if I remember...wasn't it that she is a homosexual and claimed that the police officer tried to rape another homosexual so she killed him? With a bottle? Sounds like the kind of person who should be locked up, not let go."

"No, she's not a cold blooded murderer. She was just trying to defend someone and things go out of hand. She was set free this week after they reviewed her case. I helped get the review..." Helen took a deep breath. "...And when she got out, she needed a place to stay so she is staying at my house..." Helen looked down, unable to meet her father's eyes.

"Helen!" her father raised his voice. "What do you think you are doing? A murdering homosexual in your house? While you sleep? Is this wise?" His voice thundered in a way that could only come from decades of practice. Several people from adjoining tables turned to stare. "I have always admired your desire to good in the world - it is one of the tenets of our faith - but this? Isn't this too much?" he questioned. "Staying in your home?"

"Da, she's not like that." Helen looked up, trying to explain. "What she did she did to protect someone. She's actually quite a good person." She searched for what to say that he would understand. "Does charity work even," she added feebly. She paused. "I just wanted you to know in case you called and she answered the phone."

"And you broke up with Thomas? At least you would have had a man to protect you." Her father pointed his fork at her for emphasis.

"It just wasn't going to work out, Da." Helen leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms in front of herself, protectively.

"He seemed like a nice man from what you said. Good job, decent to you." He father probed. "Someone you could raise a family with. What was wrong?"

Helen raised her voice. "It just wasn't going to work, Da. That's all." She set her untouched salad aside, clearing the space between them. It was clear that she wasn't going to say anything more.

"Well, I think you should get this Wade person out of your house as soon as possible. I don't want to have to worry about your safety." Her father said paternalistically.

"Don't Da. I've got it handled," Helen said definitively. "I don't need your help with this."

Her father dismissed her pleadings. "Look, here comes our dinner."


Chapter 4

Htelen walked into the living room carrying a bottle of vodka and two glasses. Nikki was where she had been, on the couch reading. The sun had gone down and she had neglected to turn on anything but a single lamp next to the sofa. The bulb cast a warm glow but left the corners in shadows, hidden. "How's the book?" Helen asked as she collapsed next to her, setting the bottle and glasses on the coffee table in front of them. She put her forehead against Nikki's neck as Nikki wrapped her arm around her.

"Darling, what happened?" Nikki asked gently.

"He's just very...wearing. He's an old man with old ideas in a world that is changing around him. It makes for a long evening." Helen reached up and kissed Nikki softly and then snuggled back into her lover's arms. "I told him about you in case you answer the phone. I didn't want him to be surprised."

"Thanks. I appreciate that." Nikki replied. "Would probably freak him out finding me here."

"So how's the book?" Helen asked, deliberately changing the subject.

"Good if you like overly sexed alien men with a Svengali hold on women," she replied lightly. "Well, honestly quite interesting. I usually don't go in for science fiction. But despite being a highly sexed alien, the main character actually says some interesting things about God and humans and religion. You might like it. I'm almost done."

"I think I'll just pop on the telly and veg out. Fancy a drink?" Helen asked.

"Do you want to go out instead? Just the two of us? I've got something I think you might like." Nikki said, raising he eyebrows. "I just need you in sensible shoes and a leather jacket. Thank god you have more than one...how many leather jackets do you have anyway?" Nikki said, pretending to be serious.

"Too many," Helen replied, laughing. "OK, I'll go out but not too long. My Da was pretty wearing."

"I'll be right back. I've got to change." Nikki went to the bedroom and came back wearing black jeans, black boots and a black form fitting motorcycle jacket.

Helen's eyes opened wide. "Pretty hot there Wade" she said, taken aback. "I"m not sure I'm going to let you out of the house in that!" she ogled. "I'd have to peel the girls off you...."

"Well I promise not to stop long enough to let them catch me..." She held out her hand. "Come on."

Helen let Nikki led her out the front door and onto the street. There was a blue classic Triumph Bonneville under the streetlight. A helmet hung from each handlebar. "It's a 1974, the last year of the real Triumph factory. One of the last made. Its a bit cliche, dykes on bikes and all but it is the one place I can always sort my head." Nikki took one of the helmets and held it out to Helen. "Fancy a ride?" she said with a slight smile.

"Nikki, I'm not sure its safe," Helen said, uncertain of what to do with the invitation. "I've never been on a bike before," she said nervously.

"Life's not safe," Nikki replied. She jumped on the kickstart and the bike roared to life. She put her helmet on and got on the bike. "Come on. If you've never done it, it's brilliant."

Helen stood there a minute, looking at her lover, uncertain of what to do. Sighing, she strapped on the helmet, fumbled to find where to put her feet and settled on the bike.

"You have to hold onto me or you will fall off," Nikki shouted above the engine noise. She wrapped Helen's arms around her tightly.

Helen slid closer to Nikki as Nikki slowly pulled away from the curb. The air smelled fresh and clean as they picked up speed. Helen clung to her lover as the world slid by, dark and cool, uncertain of where they were going but ready to hold on.

"It's the Ace Cafe", Nikki shouted above noise of the engine. "The place to be if you like old motorcycles." The Ace Cafe had been built as a 24 hour transport cafe on the North Circular road in the 1930's, bombed during the War, rebuilt and repurposed as the place to be if you liked bikes or old cars. The building was painted white now, with high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows so people inside could see the action outside. The car park, if it could be called that, was filled with motorcycles and old cars scattered haphazardly around the lot. Large men in black t-shirts and black leather jackets were walking through the car park admiring each others skills at sculpting metal and coaxing old machines to run. Rockabilly music spilled out of the building. Beer was everywhere. "Come on. I'll buy you a drink," Nikki said, cutting the engine and coasting next to a chopped Triumph with a psychedelic paint job.

Helen took off her helmet and got off the bike. The ride had been both exhilarating and soothing, both at the same time. The sense of motion made her heart pound, of how the buildings around her rushed by, appearing then disappearing and the traffic passed behind them. But in the dark and quiet, with only motion to fill her senses, the motion itself became peaceful. There was nothing for her to do, nothing she could do except hold on to her lover.

Nikki held out her hand to Helen. "Are you sure that its OK?" Helen queried, looking anxiously at the large men in black t-shirts, several obviously intoxicated. "This is a biker bar, yeah?"

Nikki smiled. "Everyone here is a misfit one way or another. We'll just blend in with the other misfits." She was clearly comfortable being in this place.

Helen took Nikki's hand as they picked their way through the bikes and hot rods. Nikki stopped to look at a perfectly restored Triumph Tiger. "A lot of people chop them," she explained. "Hard tails, tall sissy bars, loud paint. I like the classic look, nice lines, the way the God and the factory intended."

"It's gorgeous," Helen said, supportively. They made their way into the cavernous room. A silver bar ran across one wall. A four piece band played at the far end of the room, with a number of people dancing in front of the band despite a lack of a dance floor. Tables filled the room, with pub grub and beer mugs covering the tables. Specials were written on chalk boards above the kitchen door. Nikki strode up to the bar, Helen in tow. "What would you like?" she asked.

"A bitter, thanks," she yelled over the music.

"A bitter and an Irn-bru, thanks." Nikki told the bartender.

"You're not going to have anything to drink?" Helen asked, surprised.

"You drink, you ride, you fall over, you die." Nikki replied amicably. "You can but I have to get us home." The bartender came back with two drinks and Nikki paid. "You want to sit down?" They picked their way through the crowd, looking for empty chairs in the quieter part of the room.

"Dominic..." Helen said, tripping over Dominic Macalaster, one of the guards from Larkhall. He had on his riding gear, sitting at a table with several other men. A half-drunk pitcher of beer sat on the table as well as a half-eaten basket of chips.

"Helen..." Dominic replied, clearly surprised to find her at a biker bar. Helen looked around and recognized several of the people sitting around the table from the Prison Service. Dominic stumbled a bit and then recovered. "Erm...you know, when you live at home, you need to have someplace to go with your mates. Everyone, this is Helen Stewart. Helen, I think you know a few of the blokes?" Dominic said, trying to be welcoming. "She was Wing Governor for a while at Larkhall...but quit."

Several of the men raised their glasses and cheered when they heard that she quit.

"Oh, and Nikki Wade..." he said, seeing Nikki finally.

"Hey, arn't you the lifer that got out this week?" a large man with a shaved head across the table interrupted. He wore a black vest, with a leather jacket slung over the back of his chair. He leaned back. "Killed a copper? Conviction reduced to manslaughter, wasn't it? And they let you out?" He glanced over at Helen as he said this.

"Ah, yeah..." Nikki replied. "Justice is sometimes a slow bitch," she said defiantly. She looked at Helen, who looked uncomfortable.

"Well its good to see you, Dominic. We were going to meet some folks here so we had better go find them," Helen lied, not wanting to stay and chat more with the group. She tilted her head. "I think I saw them outside. Dominic, good to see you," she said with fake congenially and retreated back the way she came. She set her bitter on the bar and started walking outside, not looking back at Nikki. She stopped at the bike, clearly angry. Nikki followed her.

"Great," she shouted at Nikki. "Just great. Now it is going to be all over the Prison Service by tomorrow."

"What? That you were out with an ex-con? A murderer? A woman?" Nikki shouted back. "What?"

Helen refused to answer. "I just want to go home..." she replied, in a much quieter voice.

"I'm not something to be bloody ashamed of!" Nikki said vehemently.

"I know. Just take me home," she ordered.

Nikki took the bike home as directly as possible. Soon they were outside Helen's house and Nikki shut off the bike. Helen had calmed visibly during the ride. As she got off the bike, she sagged a bit. The light from the streetlight was wane.

"I think I had better stay somewhere else tonight," Nikki began evenly, giving Helen an opening. "I'm not sure you want me here."

"No." Helen said clearly. "No," she said more forcefully. "I want you here." Helen searched Nikki's eyes. "It is just hard. You have to understand." There were more words but they wouldn't come out. She held out her hand to Nikki, clearly inviting her into the house and all it meant.

"I have somewhere else I can go. It's all right." Nikki offered a second time. "If it is too fast, we can take things more slowly," she added gently. "Or if you need to think about this more."

"No. I want you here. With me." Helen replied slowly. She reached out her hand as an offering. Nikki reached across the gulf between them and took it.


Chapter 5

It was Wednesday morning, the next week. Nikki had taken a shift at Chix and was sleeping late. Helen had gone out for a job interview, this time with a prison advocacy group, leaving Nikki to sleep. The phone rang. Nikki, startled, leapt out of bed, fumbling around for the phone. She found it in the kitchen and picked it up. "Hello," she said sleepily, scratching her short black hair.

"Hello, is this Helen?" a man's voice asked.

"No, this is Nikki. Can I take a message?" Nikki asked, looking around for a pen and paper. She noticed the day was overcast and rainy.

"Is this Nikki Wade?" he then asked.

"Yes it is. May I ask who is calling?" she asked somewhat grumpily. She tried to rub the sleep from her eyes.

"This is Glenn Stewart...Helen's father," he replied in measured tones. "Are you still staying with my daughter?" he asked?

"Erm...yes..." Nikki replied, confused. It then dawned on her that she was talking to her lover's father for the first time. "Yes, I'm Nikki Wade. Good to finally talk to you, sir. I've heard a lot about you," she said congenially. She scratched at her hair and tried to wake up. "What can I help you with?"

"Well, I have information on places you can stay. So you can move out of my daughter's house," he said informatively.

"What?" Nikki asked, clearly confused. "Why would I be moving?"

"Well you can't keep living with my daughter, can you? You have to move on," he said, his voice rising authoritatively. His Scottish brogue became more pronounced. "I have some places you can go."

"Excuse me?" Nikki said confused. "Sir, I love your daughter. I want to spend the rest of my life with her." Nikki said. "I thought Helen told you about us."

There was silence on the other end. Then, in a thunder, he shouted, "Are you having sexual relations with my daughter? You are a homosexual, correct?"

Nikki's temper flared. "Yes, sir. I am a homosexual and yes I am having sexual relations with your daughter," she replied sarcastically. There was a dial tone on the other end of the phone. "Shit," Nikki said to herself. "Shit. Shit. Shit."

Helen walked into the flat, tossing her briefcase on the kitchen table. She was wearing a conservative blue suit that set off the brown tones in her hair. She looked pleased. "Hiya," she said to Nikki, who was sitting at the kitchen table. She had gotten showered and was wearing jeans and a tank top. Helen walked over to kiss her lover but Nikki pulled away.

"What's up," Helen asked, concerned.

"What exactly did you tell your father about us?" Nikki asked evenly.

"I told him you were living here with me..." Helen said slowly.

"Did you leave out the part about being together?" Nikki continued.

Helen looked puzzled.

"Well guess who called asking about whether I was shagging his daughter and when I was going to move out!" Nikki said angrily.

"No." Helen said. "No I didn't tell him that,' she shouted. "He was ranting on about homosexuals and ordination and I just couldn't do it. I was going to tell him. I was just waiting for the right time." Helen pleaded. "I was going to tell him."

Nikki paused. "Helen, are you ashamed of me? It seems that you are ashamed to be seen with me in public. You don't want your friends to know, you don't want the Prison Service to know, you don't want your family to know." Her temper flared. "Everything is fine as long as it is behind lace curtains. But when it comes to everyone knowing..." Nikki's voice rose as she spoke. "Yes, I am a dyke. Yes I am a murderer. Yes, I am a con. I won't hide any of that. It is who I am. If you can't deal with it, we shouldn't be together."

Helen began angrily. "No, you don't understand..." but Nikki broke in.

"You've always gotten to be the good girl. Minister's daughter. 'A' student. Governor. Welcome to what the rest of us have to deal with. We are not perfect. And we aren't ashamed and we don't have to hide." she said vehemently.

"Nikki" Helen shouted. "That's not fair!"

"Yeah, maybe it's the truth," Nikki replied. She stood up and walked out, leaving Helen standing alone.


Chapter 6

"I'm not sure we should be together." Nikki said. She was in her and Trisha's flat, not far from the nightclub in Soho. They had bought the red brick four story building when the neighborhood was still seedy and property cheap but the neighborhood had gentrified around them. There was a coffee shop on the first floor and apartments on the other two, leaving the top floor for the two of them. Not one for decorating, Nikki had had her friend Jack decorate the apartment. He chose Scandinavian lines and muted colors. The space felt clean and sparse. Trisha and Nikki sat on a beige couch, an open bottle of white wine in front of them. It was late enough to be considered the early morning, after Trish had closed the club. Having been club owners, she and Trish had spent many early mornings together. Trish had changed from her dress pants and shirt, which she wore at the club into her pyjamas.

"When we are together alone, it is wonderful. Bloody wonderful." Nikki leaned over to take her wine glass. "But when we are together out in the world, well, its a different thing." She stopped to take a sip. "In some ways, I think it was easier for her when I was in prison and there were all these rules that she could hide behind. Never could come too close so she didn't."

She told Trisha about seeing Claire and Dominic and the prison guards and the disaster with Helen's father.

"I think she is ashamed of me. I mean, I understand. I'm not exactly Miss Middle England, am I now. But she knows that. If she can't handle it, she can always go back to man land," Nikki said, emphatically.

"But you love her, right?" Trish prompted.

Nikki smiled and paused. "Yeah, yeah I do." She looked down shyly at the floor, embarrassed by the admission.

"And you are going to go back to her as long as she'll have you." Trisha said, matter of factually. "I know you. Never know when to quit."

Nikki sat a minute, looking at the women who knew her better than anyone. Giving in, she said, "Yes."

"I mean you beat the British legal system to be with her, yeah?" Trisha prodded. "Broke out of jail? Broke back into jail? You've done a lot of crazy things to be with her."

Nikki smiled again.

"You love her and you should be with her," Trish stated simply.

"Yeah, but she doesn't want me." Nikki pleaded.

"Go back to her until she won't have you any more. And then go back again." Trish said, directly. She stood up. "Nikki Wade, I'm chucking you out of here. Go." She tilted her head towards the door.

Nikki smiled and stood up. "Thanks. I appreciate it."

Nikki stood in front of Helen's flat, not knowing what to do. No lights were on but Helen's car was there. She didn't want to just walk in like she belonged and it didn't feel right to knock so she went into the back into the garden and sat down on the stoop. The sun was just starting to come up and the garden had that smell of things growing, of green and clean dirt. She wondered when Helen had time to plant. No tools were out but she spied a small tool shed and inside was a hand weeder. She began to clean up the flower beds.

"You don't have to do that..." Helen said quietly, appearing on the steps as if she were a cat. She wore an old gray sweatshirt and her eyes were red.

"The plants need to be taken care of." Nikki said matter of factly. "I've got some experience with this." Unsure of whether to run to Helen or run away, she kept weeding and waiting.

"Where were you?" Helen asked, sitting down on the stoop. She wrapped her arms tightly around her legs and put her head on her knees.

"My place." Nikki answered.

"With Trish?" Helen asked, concerned. "All night? We have one fight and you go back to her?" she asked incredulous.

"No." she said, responding to the accusation. "She closed the club and got back just before I left."

Helen looked relieved at the admission. "Why did you go there?" she probed.

"Well, it is my flat after all and you bloody well didn't want me here." Nikki replied, frustrated. She threw down the weeder and stood up.

Helen responded, passionately. "Nikki, you don't understand. I broke up with the man that I loved because of you. I've lost most of my friends, between the ones that were his and the ones from work. I quit my my career because of you. Now my father may never speak to me again."

Nikki looked down at the ground, braced for what would come next. She wanted to make it easy. "I know. I'm a murderer. A con. A dyke. I'm not what you want in your life. You need someone more...socially acceptable..."

"No." Helen got up walked over to Nikki, searching her eyes. "Listen to me. All I know is that no matter which way I go, no matter how much I fight it, I keep coming back to you." She paused. " I can't explain it. It scares the hell out of me."

"I know." Nikki said. "But things would be better..."

Helen reached out and took Nikki's hands. Nikki stood perfectly still, waiting. "I didn't give up on you. Don't give up on me either. You just need to understand that I'm scared. I'm scared of losing more, although I don't know what I have left to lose." she said quietly. "I just know that when we are together, it is right." She looked hopeful. "Will you come home?"

Nikki had a look of relief on her face. "Yes," she said simply. "Yes, I want to come home." Nikki wrapped her arms around Helen as the sun rose a brilliant red behind them.

The End

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