DISCLAIMER: All Characters belong to Shed productions.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Love is Blind
By SimoneIsAnAngel


Chapter Twelve

It had been almost a week since Claire had packed all her belongings away and moved them across campus to her girlfriend, Caroline's apartment, leaving Helen to fend for herself. It had also been a week since she had last been in the company of Nikki. Although it was student services policy for the "councillor" to visit on a regular basis of at least three times a week, Nikki had not shown her face, or made any effort to get in contact. Helen surmised that like Claire Nikki too had had enough of her mood swings and could not bear to be around her any longer…extra credits or not.

So here she was. Living alone in an apartment that she couldn't see, other than from memory, and there for could not possibly handle the day to day chores that was required of her to keep the 2 bed roomed flat in a state of cleanliness.

As she walked from room to room, fumbling around various pieces of furniture in search of her discarded jacket, she felt a number of unknown items brush against her bare feet. Items that had been dropped and not picked up, through sheer lack of enthusiasm. Normally she would have scolded someone for such disrespect of tidiness, but now she couldn't care less if the rubbish grew legs and walked to the bin of their own accord. Her logic was she couldn't see the mess, no one else bothered to visit, so why keep the place neat? Even the smell had begun to seem less pungent now as she got used to its distinct aroma.

Finding her coat draped across the window ledge she reached into the pocket and pulled out her mobile telephone to put it back on charge. Not that she expected anyone to call, but in case of emergency she liked to have it with her at all times. Without sight it still wasn't too hard to figure out someone's number and dial. But text messages were a different story. Her friends absentmindedness had amused her in the first few weeks after she was released from St. Mary's, as they continued to send her messages which she was not able to read. But after a while the beeping alert had started to depress her. It only served to remind her of what she was missing out on…how her life had changed while everyone else's had remained the same.

Sitting down on the sofa she stared blankly at where she remembered the Television used to sit; in the corner by the window, tucked away.

Many nights she had lain sprawled across the couch, watching movies, eating junk food and guzzling cheap booze from the local off license, but now she couldn't even find the remote control to turn it on. So instead she sat in silence, listening to the footsteps walking along the corridor outside, each set passing by her door, never stopping. Until now.

A chap at the door momentarily startled her, and she remained seated. Whoever it was would soon realise they had made a mistake and move on to the correct apartment without further disturbance. Or so she thought. As the door was rattled again a fear began to build in her. A dread deep in the pit of her stomach that she didn't understand, or know how to get rid of.

She didn't want to see anyone, or have anyone one see her for that matter. It had been days since she had ventured out of the house, and even then it was only to go to the shop to buy a loaf of bread. Toast was all she seemed to eat these days. After many burns from the cookers hob she had given up on eating anything that required full sight or effort.

"Helen! I know you're in there! Now open up the bloody door before I knock it down!"

"Go away" she pleaded silently. But whomever was on the other side of her front door was not giving up.

Defeated she took a deep breath and walked unsteadily towards the door. Her hand rested on the handle for a second before she turned the lock and pulled it open.

"Nikki" Helens voice was monotone and completely void of emotion.

"What took you so long to answer? I was really beginning to worry about you!"

"If you were really that worried about me you would have showed up last week like you were supposed to. Too busy with your new girlfriend I suppose, like most people seem to be these days."

"What? You've totally lost me Helen. I don't have a girlfriend, and how do you even know I'm a lesbian? I could be the campus slut for all you know!" Nikki was grinning wildly from ear to ear, although she didn't make it obvious in her voice. Verbal sparring with Helen could have its fun elements.

"I hate to inform you of the obvious, but you can still be a lesbian and a slut…so that comment really serves no purpose. Now, was there something you wanted, Nikki? Or did you just come here to bug me?" It wasn't only Nikki that was enjoying this light-hearted confrontation. Helen found the darkness behind her eyes was now replaced by a shining light; a bright light that signified hope and took away the black, muggy feelings of despair that strangled the life out of her soul.

"Yes, actually, I do have good reason to be here, a few in fact. I wanted to apologise for my behaviour in the pub the other day, it was uncalled for and completely against my nature."

"You mean it's against your nature to snap back at me when I'm being a bitch?"

"No, it's against my nature to pass judgement about people I don't know and discuss them when they are in hearing distance." Nikki's face turned crimson as she recalled her exact words that day.

"Well, you can forget about it, because I didn't hear what you said. So why else are you here?" Helen knew better than to open a can of worms that could set their friendship back even further than it was. She wanted a clean slate, and if that meant letting Nikki away with her harsh comments then so be it. She had to energy left to do battle.

"You didn't? Well, ok then…erm, why I'm here? Ah, yes…I have a present for you. I was in the library this afternoon and I remembered seeing from your file that you were a keen reader, and it gave me an idea." Helen was speechless. A sign Nikki took as indifference.

"Can I come in and show you what it is?"

"I don't think that would be a good idea. The place is a tip, Nikki." Now it was Helen's turn to blush. She couldn't see for herself what state the place was in, but she knew it resembled a dump.

"Helen, I'm a lazy arse student, who spends all day in classes and all night working. You think my apartment is a palace? I don't have time to breath let alone clean. So let me in. I told you…I'm not a person to pass judgement." Helen moved away from the doorway in reluctance to let Nikki enter. The second she did the acrid smell hit her like a tonne of bricks. Rotting food mixed with an aroma she couldn't place, but was certain it was mould.

"Christ, Helen, what have you been doing to yourself" Nikki thought to herself as she surveyed her surroundings. Plates scattered over tables, damp towels dotted across the carpet, clothes, CD's, cans of soda…all in places they didn't belong.

"So is it you or your room mate that's a messy bugger?" She tried to lighten the sudden oppressive atmosphere that had engulfed them.

"I don't have a room mate…anymore. Claire left this week." Helen stopped, not wanting to divulge any more information than was necessary. Nikki could see the smaller woman's discomfort and didn't press her.

"let me help you clear this mess up then."

"No, its fine. I've just been a little lax lately. I'll do some cleaning tomorrow." Not convinced, Nikki ignored her and began to pick up plates and empty wrappers as she went along.

"Where's your bin bags?

Within 30 minutes the flat was starting to look like it should have been, and with the windows open and a little air-freshener the smell was beginning dissipate.

"There you go, almost as good as new," Nikki dropped the last of the dishes from the sink into the cupboard and dried her hands.

"Thank you." it took a lot for Helen to say the words, but they came straight from her heart.

"Don't mention it. Now what's say I give you your pressie and then I go and get us some takeaway and we can put on some music and get to know each other a bit better." Helen pondered the suggestion for some time, even although she instantly knew her answer.

"I'd like that a lot. But only if I can pay."

"I'm glad you said that, cause I'm broke." the two women burst into laughter and Nikki didn't think she had ever heard a sweeter sound. Helen Stewart sounding happy was like music to her ears.


Chapter Thirteen

With the empty silver cartons from their takeaway discarded in the bin Nikki walked back to the couch and retook her seat next to a patiently waiting Helen.

She took a sip of her wine and without words observed Helen in intricate detail. She was mesmerized by the beauty she saw before her. Without makeup, perfectly styled hair or immaculate clothing, Helen Stewart still managed to leave her awestruck.

"So, you liked your present then?" Nikki stared into the most beautiful green eyes she had ever seen, despite their emptiness.

"Nikki, it was the most thoughtful gift anyone has every bought me, I don't know how to thank you." Helen felt her eyes well up and her heart swell as she remembered the pack of audio books that Nikki had obviously had wrapped in some fancy shiny paper, complete with bows. She could imagine the glittering shimmer of colours creating spectrums under the overhead lighting as she tore apprehensively at the wrapping with the help of her friend.

"The Classics on CD…I thought you would enjoy listening to some stories read by an actual professional as opposed to having to endure me babbling on like a monotonous idiot as I tackle "Jane Eyre" Helen giggled and tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear; a sudden bout of nerves washing over her. The comment made her think of Nikki's voice; husky and deep with a refined English accent that seemed to roll with ease off her tongue. Her stomach flipped involuntary as images floated fleetingly in her mind. She had no idea what Nikki looked like. All she had was a self-created mental picture of a woman who had no face.

"Nikki, describe yourself to me." Helen edged herself along the sofa and tucked her legs beneath herself, her knees nudging lightly against Nikki's left thigh as the space between them closed.

"Average height, average build, ok looking, I suppose. Not much else to say really." Nikki shrugged, feeling almost self-conscious.

"Nikki, please. Don't be modest, or shy. It's the one thing I miss about not being able to see…" Helen bowed her head as she hesitantly started to open up.

"I always took for granted the sights around me…never taking in the finer details which now I wish I could visualise. When I speak to people I know, then it's fine, I can picture then. But with strangers I have a huge void, a blank canvas that I need to paint myself. I can tell you are taller than me, because I can feel your breath wafting over me when you stand beside me and talk, and I know how you sound and smell…but the rest, you have to help me with." Nikki felt touched as she saw tears glisten in Helens eyes. She had never thought about not being able to see before, and for a split second she put herself in Helens place and the thought frightened her. Modesty suddenly didn't matter anymore.

"Ok. Well, like you said, I am tall. I am about 5'10. I have short, black hair, which I style. Brown eyes and when I get out in the sun enough I guess you could say I had a sallow complexion. As for my build, I'd say I was athletic, maybe slightly curvy, in all the right places I hope." Helen laughed, a deep giggle from the pit of her stomach and nodded with a smile Nikki could not read.

"And I really think that is it. No distinguishing marks or scars, no tattoos or piercing."

"Nikki, can I touch you?" The whisper from Helens mouth sent shivers down Nikki's spine. She knew there was nothing sexual intended, but how she wished there was. She didn't know if she could cope with just platonic touching, but since the moment she had clapped eyes on Helen she knew she would never be able to refuse her a thing.

"Sure," Her one word quivered on her lips. The anticipation of the small, soft hands working their was towards her face was too much. Her heart and her core throbbed in rhythmic time with each other, the blood rushing to both as skin made contact with skin.

Helen's hand seemed to glide over her face with ease, from her forehead, to her cheeks. A thumb gentle brushed her nose, down to her lips, reaching from corner to corner, tracing the voluptuous shape with a delicacy that made Nikki tingle.

She watched in sheer fascination as the hands lowered, fingers brushing along her jaw line until they met in the middle at her chin and slid down her neck, onto her collarbones and down the middle of her chest to where her tight, black, V-neck top blocked the passage of movement.

She clamped her eyes shut, praying for the teasing to stop, and at the same time wishing for it to never end. She wanted Helen's hands to carry on; down to her breasts, which begged to be cupped by those dainty fingers.

"You're beautiful" the deep compassion from the simple statement shook Nikki from her lust-filled reverie.

"So are you, and not just on the outside." the tears that had glistened in Helen's eyes now flowed freely down her cream coloured cheeks. Her head shook, refuting Nikki's words. Maybe once she had been, but now she was tainted with an ugliness she couldn't shake.

"Yes you are. Last week I may not have thought the same thing, but tonight has proved to me what a beautiful, special person you really are Helen. That tough exterior, I know it's not really you, and so do you. Talk to me, let me in…drop those barriers you're hiding behind." Nikki squeezed her hands in reassurance and pulled her into a tight embrace that Helen returned with as much strength and need. Her arms wrapped in a python-like grip around Nikki's waist and in that instant she knew she could never let go.

"It's too difficult, Nikki. I don't know if I'm ready to let go…I'm so scared. I've lost everyone that matters to me, don't let me lose you too."

"It's ok, darlin', I'm not going anywhere. You take all the time you need, and when you feel the time is right to talk then I'm going to be there for you, alright?" Nikki felt Helen's head nod against her wet shoulder.

"Thank you, Nikki…for everything."

"Don't thank me, Helen…just promise me one thing. Promise me you will allow me to help you, no matter what pride you may feel."

"Only if you promise me something too?" Helen wiped her eyes and sat up, breaking the hug, of which both felt the loss.

"And what's that?"

"Promise me you will move in and take care of me until I can take care of myself." Nikki felt her heart swell in admiration and love. Helen was, in her own small way, letting her in behind the wall of fear that she had tucked herself behind. It was a small gesture, but a big step towards getting the old Helen back where she belonged.

"You have yourself a deal, roomie. Now lead the way to my new bedroom."


Chapter Fourteen

It had been three long weeks since, Helen, with dignified grace had let go of her pride and made a promise to Nikki, to allow her to help out whenever ever she felt things were getting too much for her, and she had stuck to her word…or so Nikki thought. Hut thinking back over the last 21 days, Nikki slowly came to the realization that all was not as it seemed.

It had all started out ok. Nikki had moved into the spare room which had been vacated by Claire and things had seemingly gone without problem. Both women were getting on like a house on fire; a firm bond pulling the two into a friendship that they cherished. There had been a few minor differences which had been temporally pushed aside. However, for Nikki it was getting harder as each day passed to stay on neutral ground. She was falling head over heels in love, and there was nothing she could do about it. She had not expected to fall so deeply in love with anyone, and least of all Helen with whom she had had some rather heated arguments in the beginning of their acquaintance.

Helen may not have had boyfriends banging down the door, but Nikki knew she was straight from harmless comments that had been made by Helen. But those innocent words were hurting Nikki in a way Helen could not see. She never saw the frowns on Nikki's forehead and the dark shadows of pain as an Ex boyfriend was mentioned. Nor did she see how Nikki involuntarily flinched and withdrew during their nights snuggled together on the couch watching a movie, when Helen mentioned in passing that she missed being able to ogle her favourite gorgeous actors. It pained her beyond words, and made her feel slightly off balance. She could not understand how Helen was able to stir those feelings in her. Nikki was unsettled by the fact that someone could touch her heart and soul so deeply in such a short time.

Sp she felt like she had no choice but to resign herself to the fact Helen was nothing more than a friend, and that was all she could ever be to Nikki.

That thought was reaffirmed when a blast from Helen's past showed up and wormed his way into their lives and claimed Helen's affections and attentions.

Three weeks previous: Moving day.

"Helen, open the bloody door…" Nikki felt the sweat drip into her eyes causing them to sting as she stood outside of Helen's apartment, fighting with a particularly heavy box that was fit to burst with a multitude of weighty hardback books.

"Sorry, I was in the bathroom," Helen heard Nikki sigh in relief as she dropped the box onto the floor with an almighty thud. Rubbing her own back, Nikki straightened and wiped her brow.

"This moving lark is a pain in the arse!" Thoroughly pissed off, Nikki plonked herself down on a chair for a short lived, but well earned rest.

"Sorry," Helen uttered sincerely.

"Hey, what you sorry for." Nikki lit up a cigarette without asking for permission and lifted an old can of Coke from the table as a makeshift ashtray.

"Well, it was my bright idea for you to move in here in the first place." Helen started to move towards the sofa but suddenly felt her feet connect with something on the floor. Before she knew it her knees had come crashing down on top of the box that Nikki had hastily discarded from her arms.

"Shit, are you ok?" Nikki was out of her chair in seconds and was helping Helen to her feet, and guided her to the safety of where she had been sitting, picking up the discarded cigarette on the way.

"Yeah, it's my own fault. I should really watch where I'm going." Helen laughed immediately at the absurdity of her statement. She wasn't trying to be sarcastic, but somehow it sounded that way. She sounded just like the Helen Stewart that Nikki expected to be greeted with, and Nikki wondered how much of that bitterness was unconsciously meant.

"Well, it seems like I should be the one apologising now. I'll get this lot cleared away into my room and out of harms way. I don't think it would look very good on my police statement if I killed you on my first day living with you." This time both laughed heartily and Nikki tenderly stroked Helen's slightly grazed knees with a loving touch.

"You plan to wait a few weeks, eh?" Helen countered. She hadn't meant to seem so flirtatious, but Nikki's fingers dancing along her skin was causing feelings in her that she hadn't experienced in a long time, and it was giving her a confidence she wasn't aware that she had ever had.

"I could, but it all depends on how well behaved you are. I could do it sooner if you don't comply with all my demands." Nikki raised her eyebrows, her face a picture of seriousness which at any second could have disappeared as she fought not to laugh. She was relishing every moment of this rare opportunity to see Helen out of her self-built cocoon, and at the same time she enjoyed being able to look mischievous without being caught out.

"Oh, and what demands would those be?" In mock-seriousness Helen crossed her arms over her chest and tried to look as stern as possible.

"That, Miss Stewart, you will have to wait and see." Quickly standing up and breaking contact, Nikki walked away. This game, which had started off as harmless fun wasn't so entertaining for her anymore. Seeing Helen's tongue poke out from behind her teeth as her lips curled into a smile sent shivers down her spine, and caused rather inappropriate thoughts that soon led to all consuming guilt. She shouldn't have been thinking about her friend in this way, and like a bucket of cold water had been dumped on her she sprang up. If she didn't walk away now then she knew she would forever live to regret the kiss she had almost planted on Helen's soft, inviting lips.

Nikki wasn't the only one feeling disillusioned and a bit confused. Helen felt her heart sink at the loss of physical contact , however brief it had been. The smile quickly fell from her face and a deep frown replaced it. What had just happened between them? Why did she suddenly feel so exposed, and what was it about Nikki Wade that made her feel so naked? She had never felt that way before with anyone. It was unsettling and made her even more uncertain of herself, yet this new confidence bubbled away inside her, spreading like a warm fire in her stomach. It made her feel good and suddenly she was more ready to face the outside world again.

"Right, come on, get yourself showered and dressed. I'm going to put this stuff away and by the time I'm done I want you ready and waiting." She said, before almost stumbling over her words and hastily adding "You're taking me for breakfast at the pub." Nikki may have sounded confident, but that couldn't have been further from the truth. Her body was quivering with emotions that she was desperately trying to shake off and forget for good. So she kept her eyes averted from Helen as much as she could. Even if she knew Helen could not see her facial expression, which she was grateful for, as it would have been a sure giveaway. The sight of the short, blonde woman in a pair of skimpy pyjamas was doing nothing to help her rampant feelings and if this was what she would be greeted with every morning for the next year then she didn't know how she could survive.

"At this rate I'm never going to need hormone replacement therapy," She mused to herself as she heard the shower begin to run and wanton images of an undressed Helen under the running water flashed involuntarily through her mind. Dumping another box on her bed she joined it, putting her head in her hands with a sigh of discontent.

This was going to be absolute torture.

Arriving at the student-filled bar less than an hour later Helen was ready for food, and Nikki was ready for a huge bevy-load of alcohol to try and kill each and every emotion that was currently clouding her better judgements. The walk to the union had been made in silence, but neither felt uncomfortable like they had done on previous occasions. Instead there seemed to be a peacefulness through the unspoken words that passed between them.

"Helen! Nikki!" Trisha, upon spotting her two friends walk into the pub dropped everything and bounded over, flinging her arms around Helen, almost knocking her over with her over-zealousness.

"Trish, it's good to see you too." Helen giggled and pulled away from the tight embrace. The last time she had seen Trisha had been at the hospital. Guiltily she remembered how she had turned her back on Dominic and Trisha and refused to speak to them, despite the fact they remained by her side the entire evening and returned each day until she was released. After that the only person she saw had been Claire.

"I'm sorry I haven't been around, but…" Trisha was about to rhyme off a number of excuses when Helen stopped her in her tracks.

"Don't worry about it. I wasn't exactly at my friendliest the last time we spoke, so I can hardly blame you for not wanting to be in my company." Helen's smile didn't quite reach her eyes.

"Lets just start a fresh."

"Sure. I'd like that. Now what can I get you both?"

"Well, lets start with some food and then we can get to the booze." Nikki grinned mischievously, but it wasn't long before Trish wiped the smirk from her face.

"Helen can have as much booze as she likes, but you, lady, are working in an hour!"

"Eh! No, I'm not, I have the day off…we agreed yesterday I could swap my shift as I was moving apartments."

"I'm sorry, babe, but Shell called in sick with a stomach bug, which I'm sure roughly translates into meaning she has a hangover. I did try to call you earlier, but you must have been on your way here." the bell rang at the bar and Trisha hurried off to serve the impatient customer who was clearly desperate for attention.

"Shit!" Nikki pulled out a seat and threw herself moodily into it. She had been looking forward to spending the entire day with Helen; eating, drinking and generally being merry.

"It's ok, Nikki. There will be plenty more opportunities for us to get pissed…I'm Scottish remember. We take our drinking seriously." One smile from Helen was all it took for Nikki to forget why she was in a bad mood in the first place. Those teeth could have brightened up a darkened room, and an even darker heart.

"I know, it's just I promised you a day of fun, and I don't like going back on my word. Today was supposed to be…never mind, you're right." Nikki stopped herself from saying the word special, for she knew today was only special to her, not Helen.

Trish came rushing back, pulling Nikki out of her musings and shoved a kitchen towel in her hand.

"Now, come on…. Stop daydreaming and get your pretty bum behind that bar."

Nikki shook her head in exasperation and rolled her eyes, but said nothing more. She walked around the bar and started to stack the glasses and make the bar equipment ready for easy access. She did it automatically as it had become second nature to her over the months. Without much thinking things were laid out on the table behind the counter.

Helen had walked up to the bar, where she had seated herself with some difficulties on one of the bar chairs.

"Can I get some service here?" she said in a teasing tone.

"What does the fair lady want?" came the fast reply from Nikki, who had noticed Helen approaching out of the corner of her eye.

"I would like a big greasy burger and chips, please and an even bigger pint of beer to wash it down with." Helen said and laughed. She hadn't felt this good in a long time and all credit had to go to Nikki, for her persistence and undeniable charm.

"Coming right up," Nikki beamed as she put the order into the kitchen. However, she didn't notice Trisha watching her intently from the other side of the bar. A look of jealousy on her face as she watched the two friends interact lovingly. She knew Helen was the woman of Nikki's dreams, Nikki had told her as much. But it didn't stop her wishing it was herself that had Nikki's attentions.

The afternoon quickly turned into evening and the bar that had been quite quiet was now almost filled to capacity. Trisha had done a good job in the last months, turning the small, normally deserted bar into the place where every student wanted to frequent in their spare time.

Nikki felt rushed off her feet as she battled to please the dominant crowds that had assembled in front of her. Every once in a while she would get a fleeting chance to look over to Helen, who now was seated at a table over by a pillar in the corner of the room. Until the last hour she had been able to pop over occasional to make sure Helen was ok, but after Trisha snapped and told her she needed her more than Helen did it had been difficult to leave the bar.

As she turned her back to the optics with a double vodka in her hand she noticed Helen was no longer alone. A sandy-haired guy was sitting next to her, laughing and touching Helen's arm; a little more than Nikki deemed necessary.

"Hey, Trish…come here a second."

"Yeah, babes?" Nikki cringed as she heard the term of endearment but let it slide. She had bigger things on her mind right now.

"See that guy there, with Helen?" She nodded over to where she was looking.

"Yeah, what about him?"

"Do you know who he is?" Nikki tried to sound like she was just curious, but even she could hear the jealousy seep from her own mouth.

"Hmm…if I remember rightly he's the guy Helen had a fling with while she was on holiday a few months ago, over summer break. Thomas something-or-other…nice guy from what I hear, and I know Helen was totally smitten with him. He was all she spoke about when she came home." Trisha knew she was over-exaggerating the facts, but she couldn't help herself. The more Nikki looked angry the more it spurred her on. Putting a wedge between the two women might be just what she needed to get Nikki into her good-books and into her bed.

"Oh, right. She never mentioned him to me. So he can't be that important." Nikki needed to believe that was true, even if her heart was telling her otherwise.

"I wouldn't count on it…she's just left with him."

"What?!" Nikki spun around to see Thomas with his hand on Helen's back, ushering her outside into the cool night air and there was nothing she could do but watch.

It was right then that all their problems began.


Chapter Fifteen

Watching Helen walk out the door with Thomas closely behind her had been like a kick to Nikki's stomach. A venomous anger bubbled in her as she pictured herself vaulting over the bar to follow the couple outside; to ask Thomas what he was playing at and what the hell his intentions were with Helen. But the determined look on Trisha's face brought her back to reality with a bang and stopped her in her tracks. She had already had one verbal warning from the tall blonde this evening, and she knew another would lead to her losing her job, which she couldn't afford to happen as she desperately needed the money. All she could do was continue to play the role of obedient barmaid, albeit grudgingly, and imagine what Helen was getting up to with this guy, who according to Trisha, she knew intimately - and it made her sick to the stomach.

The feelings of nausea rising in her gut were still there as she climbed into her new, cold bed and recalled the night over in her head. From the fear she felt at seeing Helen disappearing with a strange man to the relief she felt coming home to find Helen in bed, asleep and alone.

Nikki lay there in the dark staring at the ceiling until she could see the light of dawn begin to drift through the tiny cracks in her curtains. She knew there was no point in trying to sleep now - not when in a few hours she would have to wake up, make breakfast, tidy and help Helen with her studies before completing her own.

Nikki wondered if she had realised before now the magnitude of the tasks she faced being a part-time carer to Helen, and if she was being truthful to herself she knew the answer was no. It hadn't even been 24 hours and already she could see Helen was going to be hard work in more ways the one. What with her studies and work on top of everything she didn't know how she was quite going to manage, but for Helen's sake she knew she had to battle on. She loved her, and would have walked to the end of the world and back for her. Hell, she would even have gladly sacrificed her own sight if it meant Helen could have had hers back. That's how deep her newfound adorations ran, and as much as Nikki knew it was not healthy, she couldn't help herself from going out of her way to put a smile on the other woman's face. Helen Stewart was like an addiction you couldn't rid yourself of, now matter how hard you tried.

Getting out from under the duvet, Nikki pulled on a hooded sports jacket over her pyjamas and walked out into the deserted living room where she decided to get the tidying out of the way before Helen got up. The place was a tip, but it was still looking a lot cleaner than the first time she had turned up there and the lounge had resembled a Middle-Eastern war zone. Lifting some empty containers from the table she padded quietly into the kitchen and dumped them in the bin as noiselessly as she could. The dishes were the next thing to be tackled, quickly followed by a rub down of the surfaces and a vigorous mopping of the linoleum flooring. The long handled cleaning apparatus took the brunt of her anger as she scrubbed away her building frustrations along with the dirt, her tears mixing with the warm, soapy water.

It took a lot to make Nikki cry, but when she did it was always with good reason, and she always made sure she was only in the confines of her own privacy. She loathed self-pity unless it was called for and she berated herself for the sorrow inside herself that she found hard to justify. Life for her had never been easy, but like she had told Helen the first day they met, you just had to get on with it, no matter how catastrophic the events that fate threw at you. You had to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and chalk it all up to experience. Whatever didn't kill you made you stronger. Nikki swore by these philosophies. "Don't let the buggers get you down" was a phrase that often left her lips. She used to mutter it to herself when her parents would nag on at her. "Achieve good grades, get into a reputable University, get a well-paid job and an even better paid husband with a set of golf clubs and a membership to a gentleman's club." She had done all but the latter just to please them, but somehow it was never good enough. Even when she made it into Oxford University law faculty there was an underlying sense of disappointment oozing from them. If she had won the Nobel Prize for her achievements they would still have found fault somewhere. "Not anymore," She thought bitterly. Coming out to her parents had been one of the hardest, yet easiest decisions she had ever had to make. She couldn't have taken it any longer than she did; the hiding, the secrets, the lies. She sacrificed her entire life to be free - and it had been worth it. Even leaving Oxford to study at Larkhall had been a massive weight off of her shoulders. The pressures of her old life were all gone, but with her new life came a new set of burdens and responsibilities that she hadn't been prepared for.

Her parents were wealthy to say the least, and things had always been handed to her brother and herself on a plate; money was never an object. But now she was out on her own, without any support, financial or otherwise, and it was proving tougher than she could have ever envisioned. The brave face she showed to the world didn't always mirror how she felt inside. No one truly knew what was going on in the mind of Nikki Wade - not even Helen - and was the way she intended to keep it.

Kicking the red water-filled bucket away from her she dried her eyes and made her way back into the living room with the intent of going back to bed for a catnap. But as she strolled passed the sofa something caught her eye. A large hardback book with the words "Criminal psychology: Psychopathy vs. Sociopathy." written in bold print lay on the table unopened and looking fairly new. She hadn't seen it before now and it made her wonder why Helen had left it there. It was obviously part of Helen's curricula relating to her chosen course, but why did she have it if she couldn't read it?

Nikki frowned and picked it up and upon doing so saw a small note flutter to the ground, which she picked up and started to read.

"Mrs Lorimar, I requested this publication on audio-tape for you, but unfortunately it is now out of print. I have yet to hear back from the publishers regarding a copy, so in the mean time I hope this will do."

"Shit," Nikki thought to herself. How was Helen supposed to complete her coursework if she didn't have the appropriate study material to work with. Weren't Universities supposed to have adequate access to aides for students with disabilities?

"So bloody much for student services and tax payers money" she sneered in contempt, before the idea hit her between the eyes.

"It won't be out of print for much longer," She carried the book back to her bedroom and closed over the door. It would be hours before she reappeared again and still she would not have had any sleep.

When Nikki wearily reappeared at almost Midday Helen was not around. Her bedroom door was closed over and although she could hear no sound, Nikki knew she was still in bed. Not wanting to wake her just yet she avoided switching on anything that would make a noise and instead started to rearrange some furniture to pass the time and keep her awake until bedtime, which she calculated at being at least 10 hours away.

She was no interior designer, but even she could see this place needed jazzing up. It drab walls and mismatched furnishings were a sight for sore eyes, even if it was student accommodation. Her old room had been pretty much the same, but she had never bothered to make the effort there, it didn't feel like home; not like here, with Helen.

A little more than 30 minutes into her handy work and Nikki threw herself full length onto the couch to rest and admire the room. It was a vast improvement, and all from just shuffling a few pieces of furniture around. "If only Helen could see it." Nikki mused with a sad smile, knowing her room mate would have been delighted by the difference.

Thinking of Helen made Nikki look at her watch. 12:26pm and the short, blonde was still in bed. Helen had mentioned she was a heavy sleeper who was unable to survive on less that 10 hours sleep…but nearly 13 hours? Something wasn't right.

Without a second of hesitation she was standing outside of Helen's bedroom, listening intently with her ear against the door, an uneasy feeling washing over her that was a combination of worry and fear - emotions that were only heightened as she opened the door and felt her heart sink and her stomach lurch at the sight she was met with.


Chapter Sixteen

Nikki stood in shocked silence as she watched Helen thrash around on the bed; her covers being kicked away as they tangled around her feet, and sweat dripped from her face as she cried out in muffled, incoherent screams.

"Helen, wake up!" Rushing in panic towards the bed, Nikki gently shook Helen, and held onto her body to stop the lashing out of her flailing limbs.

"Get off of me, no…no, don't touch me!" Helen continued to lash out violently, until she started to rouse from her unconscious state, and the intensity of the gaze from her otherwise unseeing eyes chilled Nikki to her bone.

"Helen, it's me, Nikki. I'm not going to hurt you." Nikki felt Helen's body enervate in her arms and suddenly become prostrate. All she could hear was Helen's deep breaths as she fought to replenish some much needed oxygen into her lungs.

"Are you ok?" Nikki felt Helen's head slowly nod on her shoulder. She could also feel the moisture from the small woman's forehead soak through her light nightshirt and dampen her skin.

"You sure?" There was a pause before again, Helen nodded with uncertainty.

"I don't think you are." Nikki pulled away slightly so she could see Helen's face but still keep her arms around her. Helen's cheeks were flushed and tear stained as she looked up at her friend, her hollow eyes almost pleading for Nikki to understand.

"I'll be ok." Helen's hoarse whisper did nothing to reassure Nikki. There was nothing convincing about the statement whatsoever - even Helen didn't truly believe what she was saying, but still she clung on to the illusion that everything was okay.

"How long have you been having these nightmares? And don't lie to me, Helen; I'll know if you don't tell me the truth." Helen wondered how in such a short space of time Nikki Wade had managed to get into her psyche and somehow, almost clairvoyantly understand what she was thinking. She had been about to lie and brush this nightmare off as a first and a last. But Nikki, as always, knew better. If she lied now Nikki would only push her into admitting the truth. So she spared herself the hassle and for once didn't try to brush away her problems.

"Ever since I left the hospital." Helen sounded somewhat humiliated in her confession, like it was something to be ashamed of. Adults weren't supposed to let their fears creep into their dreams as far as she was concerned, and the shame showed in the deep blush on her cheeks.

"Why haven't you told me about this. Christ, Helen, it's no good bottling this stuff up. Things only get worse if you don't talk about them."

"I know that, but…" Nikki felt Helen become rigid as she paused and she noticed the look in Helen's eyes change from sadness to terror as she began to recall something in her mind.

"But what?"

"They scare me so much, and talking about it…that scares me even more. I don't want to remember. When I wake up I want to shut it all out and pretend what I'm seeing isn't real. I thought they would stop when you moved in, but last night…they got even more vivid."

"Are you dreaming of the attack?" Nikki asked reluctantly, but knowing for Helen's sake she had to probe deeper.

"Yes." A small and suppressed sob escaped Helen's quivering lips.

"Shh, come here. Don't cry." Nikki pulled Helen back into her arms and tenderly brushed her right hand over the small blondes back to sooth her; wishing it would be enough to take all the pain away.

"You should speak to someone about it - a professional." Nikki said in a whisper.

"No!" Helen jerked her body away in sudden anger, but Nikki held gently onto her.

"Okay, it was just a suggestion." Helen paused momentarily, then let herself slide back into Nikki's tender embrace. Safe in the knowledge that Nikki wouldn't force her into seeing a councillor. She had all the support she wanted and needed right here in Nikki's arms, where she could feel safe and loved.

"What is it that scares you?" Nikki pulled herself and Helen under the duvet and lay back against the pillows with Helen's head resting gently on her chest.

She felt Helen relax, her body becoming less rigid and she heard a small heartfelt sigh leave Helen's lips. Nikki waited patiently for Helen to speak, but for a very long time only the ticking from the alarm clock was heard. She had almost given up when Helen finally broke the silence.

"It is the uncertainty and the feeling of terror that the nightmares invoke in me. I'm sometimes even scared of going to sleep, knowing that the minute my eyes are closed I'm going to relive that night over again." She hesitated while trying to gather her thoughts. Nikki sensed she needed time so she kept silent, even as a thousand questions burned in her mind.

"I keep running and I can't escape. Someone always grabs hold of me and drags me into this dark alley… I try fighting this…. this person off of me, but he is too strong… and then…" once more Helen stopped talking.

"What happened?" Nikki said quietly still stroking Helen's back with great care and tenderness.

"I don't know," Helen said and let out a deep moan. "I don't even know if it is real or just the nightmare. I never see a face, or hear a voice. I just see hands coming towards me, and I can feel the fingers digging into my skin. I think I might be going crazy."

"No, you're not…" Nikki tried to figure out how to reassure Helen without suddenly blurting out that she loved her with all her heart and would never let anything bad happen to her.

"You know…" she said tentatively, but was cut short by Helen suddenly sitting up in the bed.

"Nikki, what time is it?"

Rather puzzled Nikki looked at the alarm clock.

"It's nearly 2pm…why?"

"Shit, I've got to get ready, I have a lunch date with Thomas. I promised I would meet him for a walk in the park in half an hour." Helen shouted as she sped out of the bed with amazing precision for a blind person, and headed straight for the bathroom, acting like the last 15 minutes had not happened.

Nikki let out an exasperated and very frustrated groan. She silently cursed Thomas with all of her heart. She couldn't help but feel like he was taking Helen away from her, even if she knew that Helen was not hers to retain. She slowly sat up and looked around the room, realising this was the first time she had been so close to Helen's personal space. Her heart lurched as she tried to commit each intricate detail to mind; from the smell that hung in the air, to the colours and textures that made up the room. Every fixture and fitting gave her a deeper insight into the woman she loved; Helen.

Nikki's attentions were soon drawn towards the door as Helen came bounding back into the room, wrapped snugly in a small, fluffy white towel that merely covered her mid-section, while her dampened hair dripped periodically onto her bare shoulders. Nikki watched in silent awe, her hormones raging at the sight before her. She knew she shouldn't be staring so intently, but she somehow couldn't draw her eyes away.

"Have you seen my jeans?" Helen asked while rummaging through a drawer in order to find something suitable to wear. Nikki reluctantly directed her eyes to the floor and taking another look around, found the inside-out jeans discarded on the floor. She picked them up and handed them to Helen, who was now standing in a nice, yet plain white top that clung to her curves and a pair of panties that Nikki momentarily glanced at before diverting her gaze in embarrassed lust.

"Thanks." She quickly pulled on the stonewashed denims. "Okay, well, I best be off. I'll maybe see you later, Nikki" Helen said as she walked out the door, apparently without a care in the world.

The deafening silence that engulfed the apartment sent Nikki's mood below zero. She so much wanted to tell Helen how she really felt about her, but she was terrified that the object of her desire would back away and dismiss her, no longer wanting her help or even worse not having her live with her in the apartment. Opting to keep her emotions bottled up meant she kept Helen as a friend; spilling those pent up feelings would only result in her own heartache. No matter which way she went it would end in her being burnt, and Thomas Waugh was adding fuel to that fire.

Walking back through the living room to her own room, she sat down at her desk, where the big, heavy textbook lay open. It was part of Helen's curriculum, but now Nikki had recorded it on to tapes so Helen would be able to hear it, and hopefully not fail her degree. Nikki on the other hand knew what the outcome to her own studies would be. She had neglected her coursework since day one at Larkhall, and as the first term began to draw to a close she knew, if things weren't rectified and soon, then she would be forced to leave University and Helen behind.

The idea had crossed her mind a million times; to move on to pastures new. To a place where she was content, doing her own thing, leading her own life, the way she choose to. Had it not been for Helen she knew she would already have packed and gone. But for the last three weeks she had been happier than she could ever remember; until the last few days. The closeness she and Helen had seemingly shared had began to dissipate at an alarmingly rapid speed, and the gaping void between them had started to appear. Something in Helen had changed and Nikki couldn't put her finger on what it was. One minute Helen would appear to be "normal", chatting away, smiling, sometimes even going as far as to flirt back at Nikki's blatant, innuendo. Then like a rain cloud had descended over her head she would clam up and retreat into herself, blocking Nikki and everyone else out. To say Nikki was confused by the behaviour would be an understatement. But she continually let it pass without question. Never once did she allow herself to believe that Helen was perhaps developing the same feelings she herself was harbouring.

Instead she had come to the conclusion that each of them had a different agenda from their newfound friendship. Nikki was there to help Helen, and Helen was there to help herself. And now that Helen was slowly finding her feet, with the added assistance of a certain male, whose amorous advances were like a magnet pulling Helen towards him; Nikki felt surplus to requirements.

Placing the last piece of sticky-tape over the package she had newly wrapped, Nikki sat it back down on desktop and moved forlornly towards her bed. Getting down on her hands and knees she dragged her suitcase from beneath and lifted it onto her mattress.

She needed a clean slate, and as her days at Larkhall were numbered, and her chances of a life with Helen impossible, she decided it was time to go while her head was still held high.

By the time Helen would return from her day out with Thomas she would be packed and gone; onto a new life where there was no more failures and no more broken hearts.


Chapter Seventeen

Nikki skulked stealthily into the pub where she was due to work that evening, her suitcase being wheeled despondently behind her. She was in a decidedly dismal mood, having made her decision to leave what meant the most to her, Helen. But she had to; otherwise her heart would surely be even more shattered than it already was. She knew she could not stand by and watch the love of her life swan off into the arms of another person, and a man of all things.

She felt a sudden twinge of sadness tug at her heart as she stopped to take a look around, viewing the familiar sea of faces that sat around the small wooden tables in front of her. One or two looked up from their drinks long enough to smile in her direction, or to give her a nod of acknowledgment, which she duly returned. She knew nothing about these people who she had fondly come to know as regulars frequenting her place of work, but these faces without names were a constant source of comfort when she needed it. Their hearty banter and quick wit while waiting to be served always somehow managed to brighten Nikki's day, and that she would miss terribly.

As she had packed her bags less than a few hours before she had thought of everything she would be giving up in order to start a new life. But as she stood here in the reality of it all, the magnitude of her hasty choices hit her. She had not thought about the impact of leaving all her friends behind too. It was not only her very private personal life but also her more professional life she was leaving. Not to mention giving up her studies which she had fought so hard for.

"Hiya, Nik…you're early for a change. You feeling alright?" Trish's cheerful voice pulled her out of her dark musings.

"Hi, Trish…" Nikki was not really in the mood for the happy smile on Trish's face and the beaming, lust filled eyes. She knew Trish had a thing for her, but she was not interested. There was only one woman she wanted, and she couldn't have her.

"What are those bags doing here?" Trish asked as she spotted the suitcase and the matching holdall on the floor in front of the bar.

Nikki did not answer right away. She only gave Trish a dark, sullen look, which said a thousand words.

"You're leaving, aren't you?" The happy look on Trish's face had evaporated into thin air and a distinct panicking look haunted her eyes.

Nikki only nodded to confirm Trish's question. She was in no mood for discussing the ins and outs of her private life with somehow whom she knew could make matters worse.

"But why? You seem so settled here. Is there problems at home?" Trisha's rapid firing of questions sounded desperate, and bordering on frantic.

"If there was problems at "home" I'd be the last one to hear about them. No, I just need a fresh start."

"But…" Before Trisha could carry on Nikki raised her hand to stop her in her tracks.

"I will work my last shift tonight, and after that you will have to get someone else in to help you work the bar. I'm sorry that it's short notice, but it's the way it has to be."

"Sure," Trisha didn't know what emotion to convey first. Shock, anger, fear, loss, and a multitude of other feelings coursed through her at once. But in the end she settled for numbness.

"I'll miss you Nikki. I know we never hit it off in the way I wanted us to, what with you having feelings for Helen, but…" Trisha tried to downplay the jealousy in her voice, but it needn't have mattered, for Nikki was no longer listening to her.

"Shit! Trisha, I'll be right back. I've forgotten to do something important back at the flat. I won't be long. Take care of my bags for me." Without waiting for a response Nikki shot off out through the doors like a piston. She had forgotten to place the wrapped, homemade audio tapes in a place where Helen was bound to find them. If she hurried home now she would be able to get back to the apartment to put them in the right place before Helen would be back; no doubt with Thomas in tow.

"Ok, but hurry… the place will be crowded…" Trish shouted after her but the words fell on deaf ears.


Helen had rushed out of the apartment totally oblivious to the fact that Nikki had looked absolutely devastated by the apparent joy she had displayed at meeting up with Thomas.

Thomas Waugh had come into Helen's life through a chance encounter while on Summer break from University, when herself and a few friends had booked themselves a much needed holiday on one of the Spanish islands. The pair had found it incredible that they should meet for the first time, hundreds of miles away from home, when they lived around the corner from each other on the student campus; and so a steady friendship had begun, which lasted the duration of their two week stay.

Helen's friends had goaded her about the amount of time she was spending with the handsome pre-med student; comments which she laughed off to their face, but spent hours mulling over in private. So what if she was spending more time with Thomas and his annoying friend, Sean that she was with them? She was having fun.

Thomas was gorgeous; everything she should want in a man. So why hadn't she felt anything for him? This was a question she was determined to now find the answer to.


"It's starting to rain, we should probably head back." The light autumn drizzle began to trickle slowly from the clouds above; not enough to soak them, but enough to alert them to the fact a good old British rain storm could at any minute ensue.

Thomas' suggestion at a walk in the campus grounds had seemed like such a romantic gesture, but if she was being honest Helen would have admitted that the idea didn't really have an impact on her. The novelty of looking at the lovely scenery was lost on her due to her current predicament, but somehow Thomas didn't seem to acknowledge this fact.

At first Helen wondered if he was embarrassed to make comment, having realised his faux pas. But as the day wore on she soon came to realise that Thomas was practically oblivious to her lack of sight. If this was a good thing or not she couldn't decided, but small alarm bells were beginning to go off in her head and an uneasy feeling began to churn in the pit of her stomach.

Switching off from listening to Thomas ramble on about a peace protest he was thinking of joining in on at the weekend, Helen began to amuse herself with thoughts of Nikki, and what kind of day her friend was having.

She pictured Nikki laying on the sofa of their home, singing along, albeit out of tune, to the songs on her walkman, as she chilled out, reading one of her favourite novels. A smile crept onto Helen's lips at the thought. Nikki didn't know she was listening in. But from her bedroom, Helen would sit by the doorway, lost in her own mind, as Nikki's voice wafted through the flat. She was no Whitney or Mariah, that Nikki would have agreed on herself, but Helen loved to hear her, and know that her friend was close-by.

"Let's have dinner, on me. That little Italian restaurant on Garrick Street looks delicious, and that new club, "Enigma" is right next door. We could make a night of it."

"I don't know, Thomas. It's Sunday, and we both have lectures in the morning." Helen couldn't have cared less if she made it to her classes the next day, but it was the best excuse she could come up with. All she wanted to do was go home, and curl up beside Nikki and have her friend read to her as she relaxed.

"Oh, come on, Helen. Live a little! It won't kill you to have some fun!"


"But nothing. I'm not taking no for an answer." Taking Helen's hand a little more forcefully than she appreciated, Thomas started to walk away, with Helen having no choice but to follow. Her mind screamed for her to leave, but her legs carried on walking.

A few hours later she was wishing she had followed her intuition, rather than Thomas Waugh.

Suggestion: a short flash back to the attack?

She pushed him away with a vigorous movement sending him almost flying backwards on the dance floor.

"Get away from me!" she yelled and fumbled towards the entrance door unknowing of the puzzled looks that followed her hasty exit, and without hearing Thomas calling out after her.

She ran as fast as her legs could carry her, though she was not quite sure where she was going. She was literally running blindly across the campus, not knowing where she was headed. She suddenly heard footsteps and a feeling of sickness swelled in her stomach. She had stopped running and stood breathlessly steadying herself f against a wall. She listened intently to the sound of the footsteps. They were light, so it was definitely not a man. She relaxed slightly and tried to locate the direction the person was walking. By the sound of the heels on the pavement it seemed that the person came directly towards Helen.

She took a deep breath and tentatively asked:

"Can you please tell me, where I am… I mean which road I'm on?"

"Yes, dear," a woman's voice said. It was warm and gentle, almost like a balm to Helen's frail nerves. "You're standing at the corner of XX and YY"

"Thank you.... so very much…" Helen said with great relief. By a stroke of luck she had managed to run in the right direction. She was only one block away from the apartment where she knew Nikki would be waiting for her. And Nikki would be able to help her, of that she was sure.


Nikki had walked into the dark empty apartment with some apprehension, but she soon found the wrapped package on her deserted desk. She picked it up and stood for a moment, weighing it in her hands. Then she turned on her heel and walked back into the living room towards the kitchen. She placed the package on the kitchen table near the sink where she knew Helen always went to put her cup. She took one final glance around and headed for the door. She was about to reach for the doorknob as she heard something outside. Before she could decide what to do, the door flung open revealing a very dishevelled Helen. She was shaking and tears had started to run down her face making it streaked and red. Her clothes looked crumpled and slightly disarrayed but not torn or dirty. Yet it was enough to make Nikki panic.

"My God, Helen!" she said with horror colouring her voice. "What's happened to you?"

"Oh, Nikki!" Helen sobbed and lashed herself forward in the direction where the familiar voice came from.

"I know who did it?" she said between sobs, hugging herself tightly into the contours of Nikki's body, where she felt herself melt


Chapter Eighteen

Helen glanced down without thinking to the watch that sat on her wrist, purely for decorative purposes and wondered what time it was. She imagined it to be around 9pm, but she had no way of knowing for sure. Thomas had excused himself to go to the bathroom a few minutes before, so she sat alone at their table in Bertorelli's - a little family-run Italian restaurant in the centre of town.

She could feel the heat from the lone candle in the middle of the table radiate across her face as she leaned forward resting her tilted head on her hand, whilst stifling a yawn with the other.

"Surely you can't be tired yet?" Thomas' voice echoed from nearby.

"Well, actually Thomas…"

"I've paid the bill, so if you're ready to go?" Thomas held Helen's light cardigan in hands and helped her into it in a very gentlemanly manner that most women would have appreciated. But the gesture was lost on Helen who was still reeling from Thomas' blatant dismissal of what she was about to say. She knew fine well why he was doing so - he wanted her to go to the club with him so he could parade her to his friends, despite her continual protests to be taken home.

"Thomas!" Helen said a little too loudly. She heard the restaurant hush for a moment, before the diners picked back up their cutlery and resumed their chatter.

"Thomas…I'm really not in the mood to be going out drinking, so if you would kindly take me home I would appreciate it." Helen said in a quieter tone so as not to cause a further scene.

"But, Helen…please…just one drink then I swear to you that I will accompany you back to the dorms safely. Just the one…for me…" Thomas held her shoulders in a firm grip as he practically begged her to join him next door - and with a sigh Helen relented.

"Fine, but just the one, okay?"

"Deal - you have my word." He answered with a large, sly grin as he escorted her towards "Enigma".


The blaring music rang around Helen's ears as she walked into the club, stopping beside a large fake to wait on Thomas who was still being frisked at the door.

"Right, what are you having to drink?" Thomas took hold of her hand as he came up next to her and started to walk into the main dance floor and across to one of the bars.

"Just a coke for me," Helen bellowed trying to make her voice heard over the pounding dance beats.

"You can do better than that, Helen…come on…"

"Okay, get me a bottle of beer - any kind, it doesn't matter" Helen knew she wouldn't drink it, but if it got Thomas off her back then so be it.

"Sit here, I'll be right back." Thomas spoke in her ear as he lent down towards her, guiding her onto a plush black leather sofa - and Helen did as she was told. As she waited she tapped her fingernails idly onto the table in front her, matching the rhythms of the music. Within minutes she heard the recognizable clunking sound of glass bottles being placed on the table and she felt a hand slowly come towards her and softly rest on her left shoulder.

"Thanks," She replied, reaching out carefully to lift her drink. As she did so an all too familiar smell wafted into her nostrils and she felt her body automatically stiffen in fear. In a flash a picture coursed through her mind - the same scenes she witnessed every night in her dreams. But this was no dream - this was a living nightmare. In seconds the horrific events of her attack were played back in her memory, like an action replay.

Quickly jumping to her feet, she pushed away the hand from her shoulder with a vigorous movement, sending its owner almost flying backwards on the dance floor.

"Get away from me!" she yelled and fumbled towards the entrance door unknowing of the puzzled looks that followed her hasty exit, and without hearing Thomas calling out after her.

She ran as fast as her legs could carry her, though she was not quite sure where she was going. She was literally running blindly across the campus, not knowing where she was headed. She suddenly heard footsteps and a feeling of sickness swelled in her stomach. She had stopped running and stood breathlessly steadying herself against a wall. She listened intently to the sound of the footsteps. They were light, so it was definitely not a man. She relaxed slightly and tried to locate the direction the person was walking. By the sound of the heels on the pavement it seemed that the person came directly towards Helen.

She took a deep breath and tentatively asked:

"Can you please tell me, where I am… I mean which road I'm on?"

"Yes, dear," a woman's voice said. It was warm and gentle, almost like a balm to Helen's frail nerves. "You're standing on the corner of Berkley Street - next to the University."

"Thank you.... so very much…" Helen said with great relief. By a stroke of luck she had managed to run in the right direction. She was only one block away from the apartment where she knew Nikki would be waiting for her. And Nikki would be able to help her, of that she was sure.


Nikki had walked into the dark empty apartment with some apprehension, but she soon found the wrapped package on her deserted desk. She picked it up and stood for a moment, weighing it in her hands. Then she turned on her heel and walked back into the living room towards the kitchen. She placed the package on the kitchen table near the sink where she knew Helen always went to put her cup. She took one final glance around and headed for the door. She was about to reach for the doorknob as she heard something outside. Before she could decide what to do, the door flung open revealing a very dishevelled Helen. She was shaking and tears had started to run down her face making it streaked and red. Her clothes looked crumpled and slightly disarrayed but not torn or dirty. Yet it was enough to make Nikki panic.

"My God, Helen!" she said with horror colouring her voice. "What's happened to you?" All thoughts of leaving were now at the back of her mind, and her main focus turned to Helen, who was in obvious distress.

"Oh, Nikki!" Helen sobbed and lashed herself forward in the direction where the familiar voice came from.

"I know who did it" she said between sobs, hugging herself tightly into the contours of Nikki's body, where she felt herself melt.

"I know who it was that attacked me,"


Chapter Nineteen

"What? Who? When?" Nikki asked, pensively, while watching the open front door. Her eyes quickly returned to the dishevelled woman in front of her, who got more agitated by every second. She gently put her arms around her to calm her down. She tucked her in and held her close, soothingly stroking her back.

"The attack that made me blind, Nikki," she hiccupped as tears started to run down her cheeks again.

"Thomas…it was Thomas, who attacked me… I smelt his aftershave and it all came flooding back…that night, the attack…I remember everything." Helens sobs sounded painful, and Nikki could almost feel the suffering penetrate her own soul. It made her temper boil and an unknown rage tore through her in way she had never experienced before.

"The bastard!" She yelled "I'll kill him! I'm going to bloody kill him when I get my hands on him! Now, where is he?" Nikki seethed, practically foaming at the mouth as red hot temper jolted through her like electricity. She tried to free herself from Helen's grip, but the small woman was a lot stronger than what she looked.

"He's at the club, but please, Nikki, promise me not to go there and hurt him. I need you here, with me. Don't leave me." Helen clung so tightly to Nikki's waist that it was painful. Nikki stopped struggling to get free and instead tightened her hold of Helen, who shook violently.

"Shh, I promise I'm not going anywhere," Nikki whispered in a choked voice, and only she noted the double meaning of her words. "But I can't promise that I won't hurt him, not after what he's done to you," she said a bit more forcefully than intended.

"Nikki, I'm not happy about what he's done to me either, but you can't go around hitting or killing people" the sensible Helen had slowly returned and now she tried to reason her way back from the fears that had just held her in an iron grip. From experience she knew full well that Nikki was a hothead, with a temper that could be easily unleashed when least expected. Not only could it get her into trouble, but in this case could also get her hurt. Helen wanted to see Thomas get what was coming to him, but not at the expense of seeing Nikki suffering because of it. She cared too much about Nikki to see anything bad happen to her.

"I don't plan to kill him, Helen, but I do plan to make the bastard suffer, just like you did." The look on Nikki's face said it all. She meant every last word of what she was saying.

"An eye for an eye? It's not the way! Nikki please, I mean it…I couldn't stand it if anything happened to you because of me…I…I…" Helen stuttered and stopped mid-sentence, well aware that Nikki was watching her intently, almost reading her mind.

"You what? What are you trying to say?" Helen shook her head in answer to Nikki's questioning.

"Nothing" She whispered. Cowardly fear stopped her saying the three little words. Words that she was desperate to shout at the top of her lungs, but couldn't. She wanted Nikki to know how she felt; to know that a love like she had never before experienced burned deep inside her like an out of control furnace. But right now she didn't think she could handle the rejection that would likely ensue. What would Nikki see in her, other than friendship? Nothing. Nikki's words from the day they had first met still sat at the forefront of her mind, playing over and over like a record on repeat.

"I wouldn't go near her even if she begged me. She's damaged goods…" Had Nikki meant those callous words, or was it a case of pretend hatred masking true love? There was only one way to find out.

Nikki's breath swept across her face, the tiny puffs of air gliding over her lips causing a tingling sensation that ran the length of her body. Never before had she felt this turned on - not from just being held so close and definitely not by being held by another woman. But these last few weeks a lot of things had changed – she had fallen in love without noticing it, and now when she was being held so close, felling safe for the first time since the attack, she realized it.

Oh, how she wished Nikki would lean forward and give her what she had been searching for all these years - but neither moved. A long, lingering silence encapsulated them as they stood there like time had been frozen. Neither wanted to break the embrace, but the intensity of the moment was becoming too much for both to bear. The longing each had was overpowering - and Nikki could see it in her friends eyes. A sparkle that she had never seen before shone brightly from the once barren orbs. Was that lust she could see, or was it just wishful thinking? The latter seemed like the more obvious choice, considering Helen had never before shown an interest in her, or any other woman for that matter. As far as Nikki could see, up until now Helen had wanted Thomas - not her and she wasn't about to lose a valued friendship for one quick kiss.

Helen on the other hand was growing impatient. Losing Nikki as the repercussions of a kiss hadn't crossed her mind - probably because the hormones now raging around her body had blocked out all rationality. It was now or never, she thought to herself as her tongue swept across her bottom lip. But just as she was summoning up the courage to close the tiny gap between their mouths someone barged in through the open front door. Nikki's head shot up in an instant and she could feel Helen tighten her arms around her in a python like grip. She at once recognized the disarrayed dark haired figure in the doorway. It was Thomas. Nikki could feel how her temper started to erupt like an angry volcano, slowly simmering at first and rapidly building into an overwhelming, burning rage. Before she knew what she was doing she had forced herself out of Helen's hold and launched herself at Thomas with the speed and agility of a wild animal, that took them both by shock.

"You bastard!" she screamed as she knocked him over. Thomas , who was not prepared for Nikki's attack, stumbled backwards and fell to the ground with a heavy thud. It knocked the wind out of him and gave Nikki the upper hand for the moment.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing here, following Helen to her apartment?" Nikki continued screaming at him as she kneeled across his chest, panting erratically. "Do you think you could finish off what you didn't manage last time?"

Thomas had regained a little of his composure, but enough to be able to respond to the mad woman, whom he had never, until now, had the pleasure to meet. He struggled to get away from her, but the dark-haired beauty had him pinned to the floor, ensuring there was no way for him to get to Helen.

"What the Hell are you talking about?" he hissed back as he tried to defend himself and duck the blows that kept coming his way.

"You fucking bastard!" she yelled angrily. "Don't play me for a fool… it was you who attacked Helen that night. You made her blind. You've screwed up her bloody life." Nikki kept trying to hit Thomas where it would hurt him the most, as he fought to catch her wrists.

Helen, meanwhile, was still standing rooted to the spot where Nikki had left her. She could hear every word that was screamed between Thomas and Nikki, as well as hearing the obvious sounds from the struggle between them. Somehow it made her both angry and worried. Worried about what could happen to Nikki, worried that she would actually manage to seriously injure Thomas and worried that Thomas would be too strong for Nikki to handle after all. Panicking; she trembled in fear - knowing she would never be able to forgive herself if anything happened to the woman who had become her protector - she could never live without her.

Summoning all his strength, Thomas managed to throw Nikki onto her back and edge himself away long enough to be on his feet again, but Nikki was too quick for him and once more launched herself at him In attack. However this time he was prepared and stepped aside like a bullfighter. She narrowly passed him and tripped in the process of stopping and turning to hit him, making her curse out loudly. Embarrassment and anger were not a good mixture. Together they turned Nikki Wade into a Molotov Cocktail that was ready to explode.

Helen could hear the commotion and Nikki swearing, but she had no idea what was happening, She mustered all her determination, channelling her fears into strength, and desperately tried to get herself between the scuffling pair before someone was seriously hurt, or injured. That however was easier thought about than done. She had no clue where she was standing, although she had a rough idea. Edging forward slightly she threw her arms out, in the hope something familiar would graze her fingers - but all she could feel around her was thin air.

A determined thud, followed by a deep groan stopped her in her tracks.

"Nikki!" Her heart beat wildly in her chest as the adrenaline pumped around her body. "Nikki?" She repeated in panic, tears stinging her redundant eyes.

"I'm ok," came the deep, winded reply, but it didn't do anything to ease Helen's fears. Nikki sounded in pain and she had to get to her.

"Where are you?" Helen looked around, even although she couldn't see a thing.

"Don't move Helen, stay where you are," Nikki's words were short and sharp as she struggled to get oxygen back into her lungs. One punch to the stomach was all it had taken to render her immobile, as Thomas stood watching her like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

"Oh, God, what have I done…I'm so sorry," He clasped his hand over his mouth; shocked that he had lashed out so violently.

"What's he done? Oh, God, Nikki…" Helen had heard enough, and she certainly wasn't going to listen to Nikki's advice. She ran forward, but before she could get where she was going she felt her legs collide with something in front of her. Like in slow motion she toppled forward her hands stretched out in front, grappling for anything to grab a hold of that would save her from a nasty fall - but it was too late. The last thing she heard was her name echoing around the room as her head made impact with the carpeted concrete.


Chapter Twenty

With fear in her eyes and terror in her heart, Nikki watched helplessly as Helen blindly strode towards her. The long pine coffee table which she had moved from its usual place in front of the television that morning, in her pursuit of cleaning the house was right in the track of the blind woman. Nikki could only watch as Helen lost her footing and began to tumble to the ground in slow motion. There was nothing she could have done to help her - it all happened to quickly - yet it felt like an eternity before Helen actually hit the floor. By the time she had risen to her feet she heard the loud crack of Helen's head meeting with the edge of the coffee table and then hitting the ground with a dull thump. Nothing followed after that but a deadly silence.

"Helen!" Nikki knew shouting the other woman's name would do no good, as Helen was clearly unconscious, but she couldn't help the words from escaping her lips as she ran towards the stagnant body. "Helen!" she cried out again with fear evident in her voice.

Thomas was still standing like a statue in the middle of the room. He had not moved an inch and he seemed to be completely paralyzed by the quick succession of events. Nikki on the other hand had her wits about her and carefully kneeled next to Helen, trying to find her pulse and establish if she was still breathing. Her training in first aid from her days at a posh all girls school came rushing back to her, and she acted automatically with the unconscious form of Helen.

Thomas seemed to be coming out of his haze as he watched Nikki struggle to contort Helen's body into a recovery position, and quickly went to help the dark-haired women, as his own medical training kicked in. Whilst acknowledging the need for united forces, albeit very reluctantly, she allowed him to assist her in bringing Helen back to consciousness. As a deep sigh left Helen's mouth Nikki nodded towards Thomas, who took it as his cue to leave her to it, and got up.

"I'll call for an ambulance," he said, reaching for his mobile phone while stepping away from the two women on the floor.

Everything felt so distant and dark, with a warmth a warmth that pervaded her senses. She could hear the mumbling of voices echo from afar, but she was unable to see a thing. The darkness had been well known to her for quite some time. She was used to its black cocoon, ever since that fatal attack. But the darkness that surrounded her right now was not hostile or unpleasant. In fact it was emanating an air of friendliness and comfort that for so long had been foreign to her. The pains and fears had all gone, leaving her only with the sense of floating, as thought she had left her body.

A slight flicker of light seemed to find its way towards her as the voices came closer. They seemed familiar even if she could not place them with certainty. A sudden sharp white light hit her forcefully and she felt an agonising burning pain on the side of her head. The voices became clear, yet not completely understandable to her. The muffled sounds entangled with grey shadows that filtered in and out of the white light and she slowly became aware that she was able to see the shapes of what looked like a woman and a man. They may have been blurred, but they were undeniably there. She heard someone moan, and realised it was herself. The man stood and moved away. She didn't get what he said, but the woman seemed to agree with him. She wanted to scream for help but the words stuck, reverberating around her head.

"Helen, are you all right?" a warm soft voice drifted over her. Helen tried to answer but nothing coherent came across her lips. She wanted to say that she was ok, but the words did not leave her. Her dazed mind reckoned from the sound of the voice that the woman kneeling next to her was Nikki. She wanted to see her, but her vision was still too blurred to fully make out the features of the woman.

"It's here," a mans voice said. It was the last thing Helen heard before slipping into the darkness that constantly seemed to swallow her up.

A very irate Nikki paced back and forth along the rows of spotlessly clean corridors of St. Michaels hospital. She had not been allowed to follow Helen into casualty despite her insistence, and much to her annoyance Thomas had been permitted entrance, since he was a medical student and well known to the staff. When he finally came out Nikki had the urge to punch him again, but the weary look on his ashen face stopped her from doing something overly violently towards him.

"Where is Helen? What is happening? What's going on?" the questions came flying out of Nikki's mouth before she could get a hold of herself. She had stepped right up under his nose and tried to restrain herself from hitting him and grabbing the lapels of his jacket to push him against the wall. She needed to release all the pent up aggression that had been slowly building inside her as she impatiently awaited news, and Thomas seemed like the perfect candidate to play punch bag with.

"She is ok. She has been taken to the ward. The specialist said it was a nasty bump, but she will live." Thomas sounded very tired, and his eyes held a sudden sadness. "You can go see her now. I'll show you the way."

He turned around and led Nikki down a maze of brightly lit hallways that seemed never ending. He opened a large white door into a darkened room, which held nothing more than a small bedside lamp which was turned on; casting a dim yellowish light across the large single bed in the middle of the room. Nikki looked at the small figure which lay inside the bleached white covers, and she couldn't help but note with sadness how Helen seemed awfully small and fragile in comparison to the bed.

"Listen, Nikki, you may not believe what I'm saying, but I have no idea why Helen accused me of attacking her. I would never do anything like that, and I certainly would never dream of hurting her in such a way…"

He was cut short by Nikki who could no longer restrain the anger from letting her make at least a verbal attack.

"No, you bloody listen to me! Stay away from Helen! Leave her alone and don't come near her again!"

For a brief moment Thomas was dumbfounded, but he quickly regained his composure.

"What on Earth gives you the right to dictate what I should or shouldn't do?" He had become angry too which showed in the agitated way he spoke. "It's not like you're her mother, sister… or…or… even her partner!"

The moment the words left his word, he knew he had hit a nerve, judging from the look in Nikki's eyes and her face as it darkened, every contour tightening in anger. Then something dawned on him. How distant Helen often had seemed when they were together. He knew that some of the distance was due to the fact that she could not see him, but he had always felt an emotional distance as well, like there had been a brick wall between them. All the pieces fell into place in his head.

"That's just it, isn't it?" He said with vehemence. "You got to her first… I should have known a…"

"A what?" Nikki had turned around and stood nose to nose to him only a few inches away.

"A what?" she repeated more insistently. "Why don't you just say it out loud? A dirty dyke…is that what you meant?" She moved even closer into his personal space.

"Come on, for once tell the truth. Or are you afraid by letting go you will reveal your true self? That you're a bloody rapist who attacks women, when they can't defend themselves?" Nikki had grabbed the lapel of his jacket and was about to shove him out of the door, as a weak, yet distinct voice called out behind her.

"Leave him, Nikki! It was not Thomas who attacked me. I know who it was."

Both Nikki and Thomas spun around like rockets and eyed the small framed woman in the hospital bed. She looked with a mixture of curiosity and wonder at Nikki, who suddenly felt very self-conscious although she didn't realise that Helen was actually staring directly at her.

Thomas, however, had noticed and knew that the direct eye contact meant she could see again.

"Helen, you can see now?" he tentatively asked, and Helen moved her head so she was looking him directly in the eyes.

"Yes… even if things are still a bit dim and blurred…" she returned her look to Nikki. She wanted to take everything in of this gorgeous woman. Helen quickly realised that Nikki had been far too modest when describing herself. What she saw was a tall, lean, curvy and absolutely beautiful woman with short jet-black hair a pair of deep soulful brown eyes that looked with adoration at her, and the love that emanated from them could not be missed. Helen could feel her stomach flip at the sight.

As much as she felt great relief being able to see again, what made her happiest was that her memory had returned. Even if it was not all happy memories considering the events of the attack, it still calmed her to know exactly what had happened. She knew who had attacked her, how and why. She knew that she could prove it and she knew the attacker would go down with a bang. And she was more than prepared to do her bit to make that happen.

Nikki let go of Thomas, who was sandwiched between herself and the door, leaving him to rearrange his clothes into how they should have looked, before Nikki had grabbed fistfuls of material.

"Thomas, I'm sorry for accusing you of attacking me. I know now it wasn't you. It was just your aftershave that triggered something in my memory and I went off half-cocked without giving you a chance of an explanation. But please understand that I was scared…"

"I don't blame you, Helen, you did the right thing….but I don't understand…what do you mean about my aftershave?" Thomas had a truly puzzled look on his face. He frowned as he seemed to search his memory for something. Then he suddenly looked up at Helen as realisation hit him - the metaphorical light bulb having gone on in his head.


Chapter Twenty - Part Two

"Love is Blind - It sees more, not less…"

"It's not mine," Thomas stammered. "I borrowed the aftershave from Sean; I didn't have anymore left of my own… That means that Sean….?"

"Yes…" Helen said without elaborating on it.

Nikki just looked from Thomas to Helen and then back without really understanding what they were talking about, but it seemed they both knew and were absolutely sure about it.

"Shit!!" Thomas suddenly exclaimed, making Nikki almost jump.

"What?" Helen looked questioningly at him.

"We need to get the police to pick up Sean right away," Thomas said with haste. "Otherwise he will be leaving the country and he won't be back until spring. He applied for a six-month study program in France, and he leaves in…." Thomas looked down at the watch on his right wrist. "Less that two hours."

"What are we going to do?" Helen said with a slight touch of panic in her voice. She wanted to nail Sean, but lying in a hospital bed was not the best starting point.

"Nikki, you stay with Helen. I'll get hold of the police." With that Thomas hurried out of the ward leaving Nikki gob smacked and rather confused. She had no idea what was going on, but from the agitated state that both Thomas and Helen were in she figured out that this Sean was the key to it all.

She tentatively walked over to where Helen lay helpless and gingerly sat by her bedside in the seat provided.

"How do you feel?" she asked quietly, gently rubbing her thumb over Helen's hand.

Helen looked up at Nikki with warmth and suddenly she felt that nothing could ever harm her again.

"I'm fine, thanks…." She knew it was a stupid thing to say, but at the moment she really did feel fine and she wanted to hold on to that feeling. She was sorry she had not been able to look into Nikki's eyes before now, but finally she had been given the chance and she wanted to make the most of it. Helen realised that Nikki looked slightly uneasy and with a questioningly look she said:


"Nothing…" Nikki shook her head forlornly.

"You sure?" Helen wasn't convinced. Nikki's voice sounded unusually flat and there was a sadness in those chocolate-brown eyes that she didn't imagine was always there.

"Well…. It's just…. Who is Sean?" Nikki's lost look made Helen's heart contract almost painfully. She looked like a lost child, but Helen decided that she could, and would make her smile again. She also decided it was time to tell Nikki everything about the attack now that she could remember it.

"Sean and Thomas share an apartment. I met them both during the summer on my holiday in Spain. We hung out together, as we all came from this university. I was as you might have guessed very interested in Thomas, as he is really everything you could wish for in a man." At these words Nikki hung her head a bit more, almost imperceptible, unless you were Helen who was a great judge of character.

"I dated Thomas briefly, but Sean was always hanging around too, never leaving us with a moment of peace. He was Thomas's friend, so he didn't want to offend him by telling him to go elsewhere. Thomas is really far too sweet and gentle, totally incapable of being impolite towards a friend. It was obvious to me that Sean was only hanging around because he fancied me. Thomas was too nice to see that, but I could feel Sean's eyes follow me everywhere I went. It was very unnerving, because he had a really strange look that I couldn't read. I could never find out what he really wanted. When we all got back here, I was desperate to find out if Thomas was still interested, but our paths never seemed to cross, so I left it up to the hands of fate," Helen smiled ruefully. "But it seems fate had different ideas for me." Nikki clutched the hand she was rubbing tightly in support and Helen carried on.

"I tried to persuade Claire to join me down at the bar, but she wanted to spend time with her new girlfriend - so I went alone. I didn't expect the pub to be empty, but it was, so I spent the night talking to Trisha, catching up on what had happened during the Summer. At closing time I decided to walk home, rather than taking a taxi. I thought the fresh air would do me some good, and that perhaps I would sober up before I got back to the flat." She gave a mirthless sigh.

"I had only walked for few minutes when I felt a presence behind me. I turned around a couple of times, but couldn't see anything, so I thought was just my imagination, besides I was beginning to feel slightly woozy to say the least. I might be Scottish, but I never could handle my drink." Helen tried to laugh but the newfound humour wasn't fooling anyone "I felt dizzy - almost like I wasn't there. The last thing I knew was this person coming out from the shadows and putting his hand over my mouth. Though that is not entirely true, I do remember something else. I remember the pain as he dragged me deeper into the trees, and I remember the smell of his aftershave wafting over me, which I knew that only Sean used. And then I remember being pressed down on the ground. It had been pitch black until then, but suddenly the moon came out and I saw directly into his eyes as he…" Helen took a loud gulp. "He looked possessed, and all I could think was what had I done that was so bad that he could be doing this to me. I must have blacked out then, for the next thing I knew I was waking up at the hospital unable to see or recall anything that had happened. Everything was just a blur and in that moment I wanted to stop living." Helen broke her eye contact with Nikki and looked away. "I wanted to tell you this, because I trust you, Nikki. I always have even before really knowing you. You were always kind to me, even when you infuriated me, because I knew you were right. Everything you said hit home to me, but I couldn't stop being a bitch; it made me feel strong and safe. If I put up defences then no one else could hurt me like the attacker had. But now that I have you in life I don't feel the need to protect myself anymore; for you do that for me. When you're near me I can be the old Helen - without all the defences and barriers. You really don't know how much you mean to me Nikki."

Helen's tale had left Nikki speechless . All she could manage to mutter back was. "You mean the world to me too." before she pulled Helen into a tight embrace. Her body's reaction to the close proximity of the small blonde made her feel guilty, but she couldn't help it. Anytime she as much as smelt Helen's unique scent it pushed her pent up hormones into overdrive.

Pulling away slightly, she stared down into Helen's eyes. She looked so exhausted, and Nikki realised that it must have taken a lot of courage to finally tell her the story, as it was far from pleasant. And reliving it all couldn't have been an enjoyable experience either.

"You need to sleep now," Nikki said gently.

"I don't want to…" Helen murmured into Nikki's shoulder. "Nikki…" Helen hesitated "Have you ever been in love? I mean, really in love?"

Caught off guard, Nikki simply replied with her heart more than her mind.

"Yes, I've been in love…" she could feel her heart beating a little faster at the mention of love. "But only once…"

Helen sighed contently and snuggled up closer to Nikki.

"So have I…" she whispered silently, not knowing if she should reveal herself completely to Nikki. She wanted to, but she was not sure she had the courage to do so.

As Nikki held on to Helen, she could feel her body start to react in the most unsettling way. She could feel Helen's warm breath brush across her collarbone, sending pleasant shivers along her spine. She didn't want to take advantage of the situation or of the bond of friendship they both shared, but this want in her was almost agonising. The beat of her heart began to match the throbbing that pulsated steadily further south in her body.

She tried to keep her hormones under control as this was neither the time nor the place to do anything about her raving lust. Or so she thought. She moved her head to talk to Helen and take her mind off of her illicit thoughts, but as she looked directly into a set of green grey eyes staring intensely into her own with a unhidden desire she knew she wasn't the only one feeling this way.


Chapter Twenty - Part Three

On their own accounts mouths sought out each other. Warm lips met in a hungry kiss that soon escalated into many more, whilst hands started to search out the hidden places of pleasure. It was a moment both had envisioned a million times before, but one that neither could now comprehend.

"Helen, we can't do this here," Nikki gasped between kisses, but the only response she got was a low throaty moan of desire.

"Helen," Nikki desperately tried to prise herself away from Helen's embrace, but she found she couldn't muster the willpower or the inclination. She had waited far too long for this moment to break it up now - hospital or no hospital. Helen may not have had a tight physical grip on her, but emotional it was constricting her.

"Make me feel human again, Nikki." Helen breathed so seductively into Nikki's ear that the woman just couldn't refuse the request. Without hesitation or thought she clamped her mouth back over Helen's hungrily. The kiss grew deeper. Their lips clashed roughly, whilst tongues danced together rhythmically, with a passion that grew in intensity and need.

"No," Nikki finally pulled back, fighting for breath. But the regret of doing so would not be as great as the one she would feel if she carried on. "I want to make love to you properly. I want our first time to be special, not just some rushed job to satisfy a craving. I'm going to make you feel human again, babe - but not here." Nikki looked so sincere and heartfelt that Helen could not be mad at her. Instead Helen felt her love deepen. She didn't want their first time to be just about sex either. She wanted a memory she could look back on and cherish as one of the happiest days of her life.

"You really are beautiful, you know." She lifted her hand to softly caress Nikki's flushed cheek. "But you know what I've learnt from all of this?" Helen paused to give Nikki a look filled with intensity that gave her next words more weight. "Looks really don't matter in the slightest. I fell in love with you without having even seen you…I want you for you, Nikki…what you are inside, not for how beautiful you are." She paused once more with a mischievous twinkle in her eye as she continued. "Although I must say, it is a bonus." The two burst into uncontrollable laughter that was only broken when the door opened and Thomas made his way in. Nikki jumped away from the embrace immediately, but Thomas raised his hand to tell her she needn't have done.

"No need to break apart on my account. I just wanted to let you know the police have arrested Sean and are on there way here to take a statement from Helen. I also bumped into Doctor Harris on the way here and he said Helen is free to leave whenever she's ready, the scans are all clear. Right, well, I best be off, I've done all I can here." Thomas turned to leave but Helen stopped him.

"Thomas, wait. I want to thank you for everything you've done for me in the last couple of hours. I really appreciate it, and again let me apologise for accusing you of the attack. I haven't had the easiest time of it lately."

"This hasn't been easy for me either Helen. I've lost you, even before I had you, and into the bargain I've lost my best friend. The only two people I though I could trust have betrayed me in the last 24 hours! Sean is a bloody sex pest and you turn out to be gay." Thomas thrust his fist squarely into the concrete wall without once flinching in pain. A sudden adrenaline was pumping so quickly around his body that he could hardly feel a thing.

"Thomas, please, don't make this any harder for me. I just fell for someone who happens to be a woman…I cant help who I love…don't be angry with me for that…" Helen had had enough aggression in these last few days to last her a life time, and the last thing she wanted now was an argument with a man she regarded as a good friend.

"Do you blame me for being angry! I thought we could have a future Helen; and Sean was like a brother to me. You're both bloody liars!" As Thomas dissolved into tears like a ruined man, it amazed Helen to see Nikki get up from her chair and go to comfort him. She held on tightly while he rocked himself on the floor like a defenceless little boy who needed soothing.

"Sometimes we lose people we love, and sometime we are betrayed by people we trust - that hurt never goes away, but we find new people who can replace them in our hearts. I know right now you're in pain, but believe me Thomas it will get better. You may have lost Sean, but do you really want someone like him as a friend? And I'm pretty sure you haven't completely lost Helen either. Has he?" Nikki looked up to Helen who shook her head. "See…This isn't the end Thomas, it's just a new beginning."

"I need to go home and sleep, I cant cope with this right now," Thomas wiped his tear-soaked face with some embarrassment, and moved away from Nikki's embrace with a quick squeeze of thanks to her shoulder. "I'm sorry for the outburst - I know it's the last thing you both need right now."

"We're both here if you need us," Helen added compassionately. She hated the fact Thomas was in turmoil and she was the main reason for it, in more ways than one. Thomas wasn't a bad guy really, despite his few faults. He was no Nikki, but he was no Sean either.

"Sure, I'll see you around Uni." Thomas didn't look back as he left room, bound for the apartment he once shared with Sean, which would now be eerily empty. It wasn't the only place that was strangely silent though. Nikki and Helen stared at each other in quiet contemplation. Neither new what to say, as there were just no more words that could be spoken. The love in each others eyes was enough.

"Come on, lets get you home. Thomas was right, you've had enough excitement for one day." Helen nodded in silent agreement. She had had enough of hospitals and heartache. All she wanted now was to return to normality, with Nikki Wade by her side.

The End

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