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

A Stewart Christmas Carol
By Nico

Part 16

At a little after 7:30pm, the guests began to arrive and there was still no sign of Karen and Yvonne. Nikki and Helen thought it was best to leave them and let them sort things out without any interruptions, so Claire and Trish went off to welcome the guests while they sorted out the drinks. There were a few familiar faces making a beeline for the kitchen, Helen recognised most of them from her time at Larkhall. They were all quite surprised to see her again and greeted her warmly, but it was true to say that not all the guests were happy to see her. Bodybag could be counted among them.

"Hello Sylvia." Helen tried to sound cheerful. No amount of spirit visits could ever persuade Helen to like her.

"Oh fuck, who invited Satan?" Nikki mumbled under her breath while she still had her back to Bodybag.

Di Barker stood at the side of Bodybag grinning in her usual drippy way. She looked quite pleased to see Helen now that she had gotten over her fixation with Dominic McAllister and didn't hold a grudge against her for trying to 'steal' him.

"Hi Helen." Di gave her a little wave.

"Hi Di, how are you?" Helen wasn't keen on Di, she always thought deep down there was something strange about the woman, but she made an effort to be pleasant.

"Oh I'm fine, how have you been?" she ignored the look on Sylvia's face as she chatted away.

"I'm great thanks." Helen beamed, she meant it. Since sorting things out with Nikki, she felt happier than ever.

Nikki turned around and grinned when she saw the look on Bodybag's face, she could tell she was shocked and she didn't even bother to hide it.

"Hello Bodyba……I mean Mrs. Hollamby, Miss Barker." Nikki nodded at them.

"Hello Nikki." Di answered, while Bodybag remained silent.

"Well I never." Bodybag sniffed, she hadn't expected to see Nikki at the party.

"You never what? Worked a day in your life?" Nikki looked as if butter wouldn't melt.

"Just you watch who you're talking to Wade." Bodybag bristled.

"That's Miss Wade to you. I'm not a prisoner anymore, I did my time." Nikki smiled sweetly and Helen was enjoying the fact that she could fight back now without getting in to trouble.

"Would you both like a drink?" Helen asked but while Di nodded affirmatively, Sylvia ignored her.

"Once a con always a con, that's what I always say." Bodybag hitched her bosom up and pursed her lips.

"That's a bit harsh Sylv." Di didn't think she was being fair.

"Then it's a bloody good job we don't have you in control of the justice system then isn't it!" Helen couldn't help feeling rankled, "now would you like a drink or are you going to stand there insulting my girlfriend all night?" Helen said the last bit with a cold smile.

"Eh?" Sylvia looked horrified, "you mean you two are….?"

"Yes that's right, we're lovers. Got a problem with that have you?" Helen threw her arms around Nikki's neck.

"I think it's disgusting! Jim was right; he always had his suspicions about you two. I wonder what Mr. Stubberfield would have said?" Sylvia looked at them sanctimoniously.

"You should try it some time Sylvia, you don't know what you're missing." Helen winked at her and then finished off by placing a kiss on Nikki's lips. "I don't really care what Stubberfield would think and as for Jim, I care even less. It's got sod all to do with anybody else, so do you want a drink or not?"

"I'll have a small glass of wine and hurry up about it, I don't want to watch you two while you're at it all night." Sylvia looked away in disgust.

"I'll have a glass of white wine please Helen." Di was still smiling; it hadn't seemed to bother her.

Helen passed the wine over and Bodybag disappeared back in to the living room. They both grinned at each other, they knew it was childish but they had managed to settle a score with her and it had been fun. Di waited until Bodybag had disappeared and leaned in closer.

"Just ignore her, you know what she's like." Di rolled her eyes, "it's nice to see you both together, I think you make a lovely couple, you always did get on so well." Di smiled and then left them to it.

"That was nice of her." Helen still thought there was something strange about her but at least she had been accepting of them.

"Yeah it was nice of her. Still a bit wary of her though, something strange about her." Nikki looked thoughtful; she had picked up on it in her time at Larkhall.

They stood chatting quietly in the kitchen once everybody had a drink, and it didn't take them very long to slip back in to a comfortable state with each other, it soon felt like they had never been apart. Had anybody studied them for any length of time, they would have seen a very happy couple at least on the outside but inwardly, it was a different matter. Nikki wanted to get at Fenner; she wanted to kick his teeth down his throat for what he did to Helen. She also felt guilty because she hadn't known about it, Helen must have gone through hell and she hadn't been able to help.

On the other hand, Helen was still feeling guilty about everything and was worrying that Nikki didn't trust her. They were both aware that something was bothering them but they were determined to enjoy themselves at the party, the heavy conversation could be taken care of later when they were on their own. Helen knew her mind wouldn't be totally at rest until she had gotten everything off her chest, she knew Nikki would benefit from it as well. They both needed to let out the emotions that they had been bottling up so that they could be dealt with, even if that meant them screaming at each other.

"Stop feeling guilty." Nikki spoke softly, she knew Helen was still struggling with her feelings, only this time it wasn't about being fearful of expressing them.

"I'm sorry I can't help it." Helen smiled sheepishly.

"I know, but you've got to let it go. I told you, no matter your reason for leaving, you're forgiven." she ran her hand down the side of Helen's jaw gently. "You wouldn't have come back if this wasn't what you wanted."

"I want this more than anything, and I promise to try and stop feeling guilty." Helen said quietly, "seeing as how we're on the subject, what's bothering you?"

"It's Fenner, who else?" Nikki raised her eyebrow at Helen who nodded; she could understand the way Nikki was feeling. "I feel like throttling the bastard." she lit up a cigarette and was surprised when Helen took one too.

Karen had long ago forgotten how cold it was as she stood beside Yvonne in the garden. In the twenty minutes that they had been out there, Yvonne had only uttered three words. She had said 'yes', 'please' and 'thanks' as Karen had offered her a cigarette.

Yvonne didn't want to say anything; she felt she had already dropped herself deep enough in the shit as it was. Karen on the other hand, was thinking about what she was going to say, she didn't want to say the wrong thing and scare Yvonne off. But by that time Yvonne had withdrawn even deeper in to herself and Karen couldn't find the right words, so she decided just to talk and see what happened.

"You're really quiet." Karen's breath fogged in the cold night air.

"Aren't I always?" Yvonne blew out smoke and watched it rise in to the air.

"Not usually this quiet. Did you mean what you said about loving me?" Karen wanted to be sure.

"Of course I do, when have you ever heard me say something I don't mean?" Yvonne raised her eyebrow at her in a questioning look.

"Never to be honest. I just wanted to be sure how you felt incase I made a pratt of myself by telling you that I'm head over heels in love with you Atkins." Karen's voice contained a smile and Yvonne heard it.

"Oh god, anything but that." Yvonne smiled and shook her head, "did you have to go and fall in love with me? I know I'm irresistible but you really should try and exercise a bit more control over yourself!"

"I can't help it if you make me go weak at the knees can I?" Karen sighed, "now that I think about it, having you behind bars every night when I wanted to be with you was awful." she remembered the times she had allowed herself to briefly wish she could take Yvonne home with her.

"Wasn't much fun for me either. Nikki was lucky in a lot of ways, at least she got within a foot of Helen. They managed to snatch a couple of minutes here and there but I never had that." Yvonne wasn't jealous, she had been pleased for Nikki and she had accepted the fact that she and Karen hadn't had the same opportunities

"So what are you standing there like a dummy for? I'm waiting right here for you to show me how you feel." Karen's voice became seductive, being attracted to a woman wasn't nearly as problematic as she had envisioned.

"Look Karen, as much as I love you, you and I cannot be together until you sort Fenner out. Helen would report him and she wouldn't give a toss about the consequences but, I don't want to see her go that route, I don't want to see her lose what she and Nikki struggled for so long to hang on to. Now, I could get him sorted in five minutes, but I know you wouldn't agree with that and to be honest if I play too many of those games then I'm only going to end up banged up again." Yvonne took hold of Karen's hand and laced their fingers, "so that only leaves you, you are the only one that can get rid of him, legitimately anyway. Knowing what he did to Helen should be incentive enough to nail the bastard to the wall." Yvonne took a deep breath, she probably couldn't be described as a woman of many words and it was an unusually long speech for her.

"I promised Helen I would sort it and I will. Susie is going to send a letter to the press so that's a good way to draw attention to him for a start. I couldn't lodge any sort of formal complaint, because I have no concrete evidence against him, he appears so clean that I'm surprised he doesn't squeak when he walks. But a senior member of staff could always leak information about his previous suspected wrongdoings." Karen winked.

"I think I like that idea. Sufficiently underhanded to turn the tables on him and play him at his own game. That's the professional side sorted but what about the personal?" Yvonne waited to see which way it would swing. If Karen was going to get rid of him pronto then fine, but if she was going to let him hang around then Yvonne wouldn't tolerate it. She felt she was too old to start playing relationship games at this stage of her life.

"He'll be sorted tonight, I promise you."

"Good, as long as he is." Yvonne hoped Karen meant it.

"Besides, I want to be alone with you and I have something special planned for tonight." Karen said casually.

"Oh yeah? Does this thing you've got in mind require two people?" Yvonne knew full well what Karen was driving at.

"Oh yes." Karen moved closer to Yvonne and placed her arms around her neck, she moved so close that their lips were only centimetres apart, "I want you to stay with me tonight and make love to me." Karen whispered sexily.

"I'll see what I can do…." Yvonne pulled Karen's lips down to hers and they proceeded to kiss passionately for the first time.

Claire was on her third trip to the kitchen for drinks when she felt a pair of hands circle her waist. She wasn't sure who it was, it could have been Helen or it could have been Trish. As much as she loved Helen, she really hoped it was Trish.

"Friend or foe?" Claire asked with a hint of a smile, she now knew who it was.

"Neither. It's somebody who fancies the pants off you." Trish got closer and nibbled on Claire's earlobe.

"You're feeling brave." Claire turned around and faced Trish as she smiled. She had thought there was something between them but hadn't been positive until she had looked into her eyes.

"That three quarters of a bottle of whisky has really helped." Trish's eyes twinkled as she smiled. She didn't see the point in hanging around, she saw what had happened to Nikki and Helen and decided to grab the opportunity while it was there.

"Am I to understand you are looking at me through whisky goggles now?" Claire's hands found their way around Trish's waist where they held on tightly.

"Not at all, I'm seeing perfectly clearly, and you are beautiful." Trish didn't wait for an invitation and pressed her lips against Claire's in a passionate kiss.

At that moment, Helen chose to enter the kitchen with Nikki in tow and they took in the sight of their best friends snogging the faces off each other. Helen was momentarily stunned, she hadn't even realised that Claire's sexual proclivities pointed in that direction. If she had known then she would have saved them both a lot of messing and told her she was gay sooner. Helen got over her shock as suddenly as it had arrived; it was nice to see her friend in a relationship that looked to be doing her some good for once. She gazed at Nikki and they both smiled.

"Ahem!" Nikki cleared her throat, "are you two coming up for air any time tonight?" she grinned at the look on their faces.

"Shit!" Trish nearly had to be scraped off the ceiling, "you frightened the life out of me then." Trish didn't seem in the slightest bit embarrassed to be caught kissing another woman by her ex, she and Nikki were good friends and it wasn't an issue.

But Claire was another matter, she had known that kissing Trish in the kitchen wasn't exactly private but hadn't really banked on being caught by Helen just yet. She blushed slightly and looked at Helen awkwardly.

Helen wanted to put her at her ease. "Not bad is it? Definitely something to be said for kissing a woman. Nikki needs a bit more practice mind you." as Helen spoke she pinched Nikki on the bottom, she responded by picking her up and tickling her.

"I can agree with you on that." Claire said as Helen squealed.

"Niiikkkiii!" Helen was giggling so hard that she could hardly speak.

"Do you give in Stewart?" Nikki was tickling Helen's ribs mercilessly.

"I give in…..I give in." Helen gasped.

"Pair of daft sods!" Claire was laughing at the look on Helen's face. She felt grateful to them both, they hadn't made a big deal of it and their messing about had had the desired effect, she felt much better.

"You ok now?" Trish spoke quietly; she had noticed Claire's slight embarrassment.

"Yeah I'm fine, it wasn't you. I was just nervous about my best friend knowing, I know it's stupid cos she's gay too but…." Claire shrugged her shoulders and looked apologetic.

"Hey no need to explain, we've all been there." She placed a kiss on Claire's cheek and drew her in to a hug.

The kitchen door flew open and let in a few icy draughts, as Yvonne and Karen came sauntering in looking very pleased with themselves. Nikki noticed the change in Yvonne at once; she wasn't moody anymore like she had been for months on end. She had become the old self assured Yvonne once again, and looked like nothing could faze her.

"Oh you're back then? Thought I would have had to ring search and rescue. You know incase you two got caught in a clump of weeds or something while you were copping off with each other and accidentally froze to death." Nikki giggled.

"Very funny Wade! We were in fact talking like responsible adults, which isn't something you would know anything about!" Yvonne bantered.

"Oooo listen to her! We thought there was a possibility you might have bogged off early for midnight mass. With you being the creator of the Larkhall Tabernacle Choir and all." Nikki grinned, she remembered the guitars and how it drove Bodybag up the wall.

"Found god while you were in prison then did you Yvonne? Mind you religion's not the only thing you've converted to lately is it?" Helen joined in the banter and chuckled softly as Yvonne started giggling and gave her the finger.

"She's become a willing convert alright, just goes to show that the Nikki Wade lesbian seduction classes paid off. Who says I haven't got the right equipment?!" Nikki set about getting them some more drinks.

"I'll have you know that I'm quite religious thank you." Yvonne said it with such a serious face that they all started to wonder. It even made Karen stop and think.

"Don't tell me you've come over all holy?" Nikki couldn't see it somehow. Wife of a dead gangster, known for his shady dealings. Now turned Lesbian, in a relationship with a prisoner governor. It didn't paint a very holy picture.

"Oh yeah, I'm holier than a tramp's underpants!" Yvonne said with a smile as they all cracked up.

They were laughing like idiots when Bodybag came in to the kitchen, she rolled her eyes when she saw Yvonne, she wasn't her biggest fan and the feeling was mutual. Bodybag hoped there weren't going to be any more cons crawling out of the woodwork. Yvonne placed her arm across Karen's shoulders and pulled her closer; Sylvia suddenly noticed that all the couples in the room were female.

"I've ended up in a house full of lesbians." she took a not so subtle step away from them.

"It's not catching Sylvia." Helen couldn't help but be irritated by her; "well unless you wanted it to be." she winked at her and tried to keep a straight face.

"If you're really nice, we'll let you stay after the party tonight and join us in the orgy we had planned. We thought that we'd do a bit of girlfriend swapping and then we were just going to have a free for all. I'm sure if you asked Helen nicely she would teach you the basics, she can do incredible things with her hands you know and if you're lucky, I might even join in." Nikki fluttered her eyelashes at Bodybag. Helen shook with laughter.

"You filthy little madam, just wait till my Bobby hears about this." she pursed her lips and they became a thin line of disapproval.

"It would probably turn him on and give him a heart attack." Yvonne spoke under her breath but it was loud enough for Bodybag to hear. Karen tried not to laugh.

"Hey Mrs. Hollamby, happiness, is indeed door shaped." Nikki pointed at the door. Helen choked on a laugh as Bodybag marched from the kitchen.

"What the hell did you invite her for anyway?" Yvonne pulled a face.

"I could hardly invite other members of staff and leave her out could I? Besides, she won't be here long, she's going to midnight mass." as Karen spoke more giggles broke out.

Helen got her laughing under control, "eh you! Offering my services out to Bodybag of all people. Yuck!" Helen shuddered and pulled a face at Nikki.

"Well you didn't think I was going to go anywhere near her did you? Why keep a dog and bark yourself? You did say I was the boss remember?" Nikki pulled tongues at Helen and then smiled smugly.

"I've created a bloody monster." Helen had a twinkle in her eye as she spoke.

"You know I don't want to share you with anybody else. Just wait till I get you alone later on tonight." Nikki whispered huskily.

"Hmmm can't wait. How do you fancy a dance?" Helen looked up at fluttered her eyelashes at Nikki. Her whole body shivered in anticipation of what was to come but for now she had to find a way to take their minds off it, otherwise they would have had to sneak off there and then.

"Don't make those cow eyes at me, you know I told you I'm not much good at dancing." Nikki looked at her pleadingly.

"Don't you believe it Helen, we own a club remember? She can boogie with the best of them." Trish giggled as Helen began to tell Nikki off. Nikki glared across the room at her.

"You little liar! Am I not good enough to dance with?" Helen pretended to look upset.

"I admit I told a porky pie. But there was a method in my madness, if you thought I couldn't dance then I may have been able to drag you off for some quiet kisses." Nikki wiggled her eyebrows.

"You still can but first I want you to dance with me." Helen saw Nikki pretend to pout, "Oh go on, make your old wing governor happy." Helen's bottom lip wobbled as she pretended to sulk.

"What here? In front of all the guests!" Nikki started giggling.

"Just dance with me you little sod!" Helen dragged Nikki off in to the living room as the others followed.

There were quite a few familiar faces watching them as they weaved their way through the crowd. Drippy Di Barker was looking dreamy as usual, because she was chatting to some bloke and Bodybag was in a corner sucking on one of her lemons, while throwing disapproving glares in their direction. Helen didn't care, things had changed, she was no longer a prison officer. She felt free to express the love she had for Nikki now, she felt very proud of their relationship and she didn't care what any of them thought. In fact she quite enjoyed the shock on the faces of some of her ex-colleagues.

Nikki felt ten feet tall as she pulled Helen to her and they swayed as a slow song began to play. At last she had the woman of her dreams and she was out of prison, free to live her life the way she wanted to. Helen wrapped her arms tightly around Nikki's waist as she laid her head on her shoulder. Nikki could feel the change in Helen; she was unafraid to show her soft and vulnerable side to her. She was willing to let Nikki be the one in control for once, and let her take care of her instead of pushing her away.

A few hours later, the party was still in full swing and the guests were really enjoying themselves. But three couples in particular were enjoying themselves far more than the rest, they knew they had something special, and were determined to cherish it because a few hours earlier they wouldn't have thought it was possible.

Part 17

At three o'clock in the morning, most people began to call it a night and filtered off in small groups as they shared taxis home. So far Fenner hadn't turned up and Karen was fairly confident he was pissed out of his mind at a mate's house and would leave them all in peace. They got stuck in to tidying up, Karen had told them to leave it but they insisted, it wouldn't take long with all of them mucking in. When the cleaning was finished, the others went through to the living room while Nikki flipped the kettle on for some tea. Helen had stayed with her and held on to her sleepily.

"Tired sweetheart?" Nikki rubbed Helen's back and rocked her back and forth.

"Totally knackered, I can't remember the last time I had more than three hours unbroken sleep. I very rarely stay in bed for more than five hours these days." Helen yawned and snuggled further in to Nikki, delighting in the warmth she found there.

"You always said you couldn't go with any less than nine hours, I thought you loved your bed?" then it dawned on Nikki why Helen couldn't sleep.

"I did but it's a bit hard to sleep when you keep having nightmares." Helen's voice sounded so small and vulnerable that Nikki held her even tighter.

"This is all to do with us isn't it? That's why you've lost so much weight and you look so tired." Nikki knew Helen had tears running down her face.

"I felt really guilty afterwards. I missed you so much, I couldn't sleep and I couldn't eat, all I did was work. I'm so tired Nikki." Helen sniffed quietly as Nikki kissed the side of her face. She was physically and emotionally exhausted.

"I know baby, I know. But I keep telling you that you have to stop feeling guilty; there is nothing to feel guilty for, ok? Don't worry; I'll make sure I take care of you."

"I don't really deserve it, after all I've done, and I should be the one taking care of you."

"We'll take care of each other sweetheart. What's done is done, it's all in the past, and I don't love you any less because of it. I'm really proud of you in fact; it must have taken a lot of courage to come here tonight."

"I know but I've lived with it for so long now that it won't be easy to get rid of. I abandoned you and I hate myself for it." Helen kissed the side of Nikki's neck, right in the spot where she knew she liked it.

"Now come on, stop thinking like that. I'm sure I know why you did it and I don't hold it against you, you did the best you could in a bad situation. Everything is forgiven and forgotten ok? Brand new start." Nikki gently rubbed Helen's lips with her own, and then kissed her softly, "promise me?"

"I promise." Helen sighed with happiness as Nikki proceeded to kiss her again. She knew they would still have to talk but for now she was feeling a lot better.

"I love you." Nikki said as she stroked Helen's silky hair.

"I love you too." Helen really meant it and she would make sure she proved to Nikki just how much she loved her.

An hour later they were all sitting in the living room chatting about their time in Larkhall, Nikki and Yvonne had quite a few stories to tell and Helen was enthralled.

"So there I am, standing in the bloody shed with Julie S, in my overall bottoms and bra." Nikki giggled at the memory, "while Julie J and Bodybag are standing outside looking in at us while we're standing there pretending we were trying to cop a feel."

"I can just imagine the look on her face." Helen chuckled softly.

"Face like a busted arsehole according to the Julies!" Nikki remembered it like it was yesterday, "and I'm inclined to agree."

"How did you keep it hidden though? Helen's officers slacking were they?" Claire was cuddled up next to Trish on the two-seater sofa.

"Oi! I'll have you know, I ran a very tight ship thank you very much." Helen's expression was one of amusement. She had always suspected the inmates got up to things that the officers had no clue about.

"Yeah it's not Helen's fault Fenner is a pratt." Nikki saw Karen's head jerk up at the mention of him, "Shell blabbed to him that I was brewing it in my shed, only he couldn't find it. He failed to look in the compost heap." Nikki sniggered.

"The compost heap?" Trish looked horrified.

"It needed to be kept warm as it fermented. It was a lot better than the Julies idea of taking it in turns to keep popping out to the shed and hugging it!"

"I hope that was before I got there, I'd be upset if I missed out in your homebrew!" Yvonne was sat snuggled up to Karen on the sofa.

"Yes it was, although it wasn't long before you got there. We'd decided to hold a wake for Monica's son Spencer, so I whipped the hooch out of the compost heap and passed it up to the Julies' cell. I remember how bad my head was the next morning, god I felt rough. Chateau Larkhall we called it, brewed in shit, tasted like shit!" Nikki wrapped her arms tighter around Helen who was sitting on her knee with her arms around her.

"After I turned up though you lot got spoilt, remember all them miniatures I got brought in?" Yvonne smiled at the memory.

"Bloody hell Yvonne!" Karen exclaimed, Yvonne wasn't a prisoner anymore but she couldn't help getting pissed off at the thought of what had gone on under her nose.

"It was only a bit of booze, we behaved ourselves otherwise." Yvonne shrugged.

"Well mostly anyway, remember Babes Behind Bars?" Nikki shook her head and laughed.

"Oh yeah! That punter wanted Julie S to baa like a sheep, perverted bugger!" Yvonne giggled.

She related the rest of the story and Helen saw the funny side because she didn't work for the home office anymore and consequently didn't care. Even Karen loosened up a bit, after all Yvonne wasn't a prisoner now. They chatted happily and didn't notice what time it was until Trish pointed to the clock on Karen's mantelpiece, at 5am.

"Better get going and leave you in peace." Claire said as she stood up and dragged Trish with her.

"Yeah we better go too." Nikki lifted Helen up and stood next to her. Helen looked knackered; it was time Nikki got her home to bed.

"I'll call you a taxi, where are you going?" Karen looked at both couples.

"Trish is coming home with me, aren't you love?" Claire winked at Trish.

"Absolutely." Trish smiled as Nikki shot her a "you scored!" look.

"Nikki?" Karen was poised to dial a cab.

"I'm going back to Trish's; I'm taking Helen with me. There is no way I'm going to have my girlfriend stumble through the hotel foyer like a drunken floozy at 5 o'clock in the morning!" Nikki giggled and then grimaced when she got a dig in the ribs from Helen.

"Oi less of the floozy!" Helen grinned, "Mind you less of the drunk as well because I haven't had that many."

"Well in any case, you're coming home with me ok?" Nikki looked down at Helen adoringly.

"Wouldn't miss it for the world." Helen rested her head against her shoulder as Karen was about to dial the number of the cab company.

The front door slammed and they all jumped, in came a drunk and pissed off looking Fenner. Karen closed her eyes and sighed, she should have known he would show up, she had a feeling she wouldn't be able to get rid of him easily. He surveyed the room and took the scene in, in two seconds; three of his least favourite people were standing in front of him.

"Just can't seem to get away from you two." he pointed to Nikki and Yvonne, "and I must say I didn't expect you to turn up after all this time. Your girlfriend take you back did she?" he sneered at Helen.

"Listen Fenner, I'm not in the mood to stand here exchanging unpleasantries with you, so do me a favour and don't talk to me." despite sounding brave, Helen shivered slightly with fear and Nikki felt it immediately.

She placed herself further in front of Helen and pushed her back slightly so that she could put more space between them and Fenner. She felt like punching every single one of his teeth down his throat, even just the thoughts of his hands anywhere near Helen made her see red. But she wasn't going to touch him, because that's what he wanted, he wanted her to get angry so she would be dragged off to prison again.

"What's up Wade? Frightened in case she gets too close to a real man and wants to run off with him? Worried you can't satisfy her?" his face curled in to a cruel smile.

"Think whatever you like Fenner. It obviously entertains your tiny mind." Nikki shook her head at him.

"That's Mr. Fenner to you dyke." he snapped.

"Fuck you Mr. Fenner, is that any better?" Nikki looked away, she couldn't be bothered with him, she hated him for hurting Helen but realised the bastard wasn't worth fighting with. He would get what was coming to him eventually anyway.

Karen glared at him, suddenly seeing him and knowing what he did to Helen and the inmates sent her off the deep end. She put the phone back in its cradle and folded her arms as she glared at him.

"Have a good night out then?" she said sarcastically.

"It was alright, better than sticking around here." his expression was one of disgust.

"Don't let us keep you then. You know where your suitcase is; don't let the door hit you on the way out!" Karen had had enough.

"What the hell are you going on about Karen?" Fenner stumbled as he turned around to face her properly.

"I know what you did and I know what you're up to, I want you out of my house." Karen kept her voice firm and steady.

"I think you've had a bit too much to drink love, you're not making any sense." Fenner lit up a cigarette. As he blew smoke out, Karen could smell the stench of whisky and cigarettes on his breath.

"I know what you did to Helen you sick twisted bastard. I also know what you did to Susie, Shell and Rachel Hicks. You've got five minutes to grab your stuff and piss off before I call the police." Karen was deadly serious.

"You just couldn't keep your mouth shut could you? You bitch!" he shouted at Helen.

"I kept my mouth shut for long enough, why the fuck should I protect you? You might never get punished for what you did to me but at least everybody knows now what an evil, perverted, son of a bitch you really are." Helen's eyes bored in to him.

Fenner's eyes flashed angrily, he didn't like the way she had just swanned in and tried to wreck his cosy set-up. He took a few steps closer to Helen, and Nikki pushed her back, as she tried to make sure he kept his distance. He suddenly shot forward and lashed out at Helen, slapping her with the back of his hand before Nikki could stop him and caught her lip, making it bleed.

Nikki was livid; she looked at him as if she wanted him dead. All she could think about was how history seemed to be repeating itself, first Gossard and now Fenner. But she would quite happily serve another ten prison sentences if it meant Helen was safe.

"You bastard!" Nikki screamed at him, she was about to grab him when something stopped her. She smiled at him coldly, "that would be right up your street wouldn't it? You smack Helen so I retaliate and smack you back. Well that's not going to happen, I love Helen too much to end up back in prison for punching your lights out. If you ever so much as touch her ever again, I won't be so willing to stop the next time. I killed the bastard who was threatening somebody I loved once before and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again, so be warned." Nikki's eyes glittered coldly and Fenner knew she meant it.

"She better keep her mouth shut for a lot longer then." he spoke to Nikki and then turned to Helen, "I know people who can have you up on disciplinary charges in two minutes. Don't think that would go down well with the home office would it? A lesbian relationship with an ex-inmate? They're going to love you!" Jim chuckled.

"Don't try and threaten me Fenner because it won't do you any good, I don't work for the home office anymore, I quit this morning. So you can take your threat and shove it up your arse where it belongs." Helen was firing on all cylinders, "You know one of the best things about hitting rock bottom? All of sudden you realise you've got nothing left to lose and the only way is up. I will fight for as long as I have to, to get you thrown out of the prison service and that's a promise." Helen wiped the blood from her lip and glared at him.

"Ah but you could still get prosecuted, whether you work for the home office or not. It's a criminal offence to aid an escaped prisoner Helen. Didn't think I knew? Let's just say I have my ways of finding things out, I've even got proof." he didn't of course, but he thought it was enough for him to bluff with. But he underestimated Helen; she didn't take kindly to being threatened.

Karen wondered what the hell was going on. What did he mean escaped prisoner? Surely Nikki hadn't…..She decided she would ask about it later, now wasn't the right time.

"Personally I think you're full of shit. You can't prove a damn thing. But I'll tell you this though, if I go down Fenner, I'm going to drag you all the way down with me. Enjoy it while it lasts." Helen's voice had taken on a threatening tone Jim had never heard before and it unnerved him, this wasn't the Helen Stewart he remembered.

"Yeah yeah." he said by the way of an answer, he tried to look tough but it was obvious Helen had taken the wind out of his sails.

"I want you out of here now Jim." Karen looked at him in a cold hard way he had never seen before. After witnessing the ugly side of him tonight, it made her wonder why she hadn't seen it before. She suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of respect for Helen for dealing with the situation so well; even though it was obvious it scared her.

"Well that's just tough, I'm staying put. If you don't like it then you leave." Jim left the room and trudged upstairs.

"I don't bloody believe him! I won't stand for a bloke that hits women, he deserves a good smacking!" Yvonne was all for making a phone call to get him sorted out but knew Karen wouldn't allow it.

"Yvonne it's ok really, he's done it once, but he won't do it again. Karen, why don't you and Yvonne take my hotel room for the night? I won't be needing it." Helen didn't want Karen in the house while Fenner was there, she didn't trust him.

"Are you sure?" Karen looked grateful for the suggestion.

"Course I'm sure, I'm going home with Nikki so you're more than welcome to stay there."

"Thanks for this Helen, I owe you one." Yvonne gave her a grateful hug and then passed her a tissue.

"No problem." Helen smiled, and then clung on to Nikki as she wrapped her arms around her.

Nikki noticed Helen was shaking and felt her anger deepen; she was going to make sure he had what was coming to him. Karen dialed for a taxi and Claire was talking to Yvonne about the legal procedures they would bring against Fenner if they gathered enough evidence on him. Once the taxi had been ordered, they grabbed their stuff and went outside, preferring to wait in the street in the freezing cold rather than be in the same house as Fenner.

The taxi soon turned up and they set off towards the hotel, Helen showed Karen and Yvonne up to the room and carried her bags down with Nikki's help. After wishing everybody a 'Merry Christmas', Trish and Claire had gone off home in the taxi while Nikki and Helen waited for the one that the receptionist had called for them. It came five minutes later; they put the luggage in the cab and then climbed in.

Helen immediately relaxed in to Nikki's arms and closed her eyes as she held on tight. Nikki loved Helen more than life itself and felt like she had just broken her promise of looking after her. She knew that not retaliating against Fenner was the right thing to do but at the same time, she wished she could have punished him for what he did to Helen. The more she thought about it, the more confused and angry she became.

Helen knew Nikki was struggling with the situation, she knew exactly what she was thinking and would talk to her about it as soon as they got in. Even though they had left Larkhall behind them, in some respects it still plagued their lives and Helen wondered if either of them would ever be free of it. She leaned up to kiss Nikki and felt a warm and loving response. Helen knew Nikki wasn't angry with her, but couldn't help wondering if there was going to be fireworks when they got home.

Part 18

Nikki carried the luggage up the path, enjoying the view of Helen walking ahead of her in her dress. Helen unlocked the door and flipped the hall light on, she turned around and noticed that Nikki was watching her; she smiled in response as she felt a warm glow spread through her. For the first time ever, she had been totally honest with herself, and finally felt comfortable in her own skin.

The taxi ride home had been made in silence, and Helen wished Nikki would open up to her. After all, they had agreed that they needed to learn to communicate with each other. Nikki went straight through to the kitchen and flipped the kettle on, as Helen sat down in a chair and watched her.

"Nikki, are you going to tell me what's up, or do I have to guess?" Helen asked nervously, she was waiting for Nikki to explode. She knew what was up with her but wanted to hear her say it.

"I'm just thinking about how I would like to see Fenner strung up from the nearest available tree. I should have protected you, I shouldn't have let him get anywhere near you. Look what he did to you." Nikki crouched down beside Helen and ran a finger over her cut lip.

"You know as well as I do that if you'd hit him back, he would have had you arrested quicker than you could blink sweetheart. Besides, when I report him for assault, I have five witnesses and a split lip to prove it." Helen winked at Nikki.

"You're unbelievable, Fenner smacks you in the face and yet you're still smiling." Nikki moved forward and gently kissed Helen, mindful of her sore lip, then leaned back and smiled at her.

"Course I'm smiling, I'm with you aren't I?" she placed a kiss on Nikki's temple, "it's bloody impossible not to smile because I know you love me." Helen ran her fingers through Nikki's hair; she leaned against her as her eyes closed.

"Doesn't change the fact I let you down. You know, I've never really hated anybody in my life, but then Gossard showed up and bloody Fenner. They've turned me in to the type of person I always promised myself I wouldn't be." Nikki savoured the feeling of Helen's nails running along her scalp.

"You're a wonderful person Nikki, don't let him get you down, he only has power over you if you let him, I learnt that the hard way. I want you to stop thinking you've let me down, it happened quickly and you just weren't expecting it."

"Yeah I know, but he makes me so angry. He can do whatever he wants when he wants and nobody seems to be able to stop him. When they say the devil looks after his own, they're not bloody kidding."

"You know, you surprised me tonight. You've really learnt to control your temper and I'm proud of you. It takes courage to walk away when you have to sweetheart." Helen placed a kiss on Nikki's forehead.

"Well I didn't see the point in using up all my energy on getting angry when it could be put to better use." Nikki grinned and stood up and made some coffee.

"How very true." Helen could feel her arousal getting stronger.

"Bugger! I better put the turkey in the oven or there won't be any lunch." Nikki pulled the turkey from the fridge and then whacked it in the oven, "good job Trish stuffed it earlier on, I don't fancy sticking my hand up a turkey's arse. I can think of nicer things to be messing about with."

"Mess about with me for a while then. I bet I taste nicer than the turkey does." Helen leered at Nikki.

"You really are a big perv Stewart." Nikki laughed; Helen wouldn't have said something like that in the past.

Karen and Yvonne were coming over for Christmas lunch, and Claire had also been invited. It had been planned for a while, with Yvonne and Helen being last minute additions because they hadn't planned on them turning up.

Helen thought of her father, no doubt still sitting there talking to her mother on his own. She would go and see him soon but she was still trying to get things sorted with Nikki and Karen and couldn't be in two places at once. She sat there knowing that she would never be able to explain to Nikki just how sorry she was, there weren't really enough words in existence to describe the extent of her regret. Nikki noticed she had gone quiet, and decided it was probably time they talked. She placed a cup of coffee in front of Helen and sat down.

"Penny for them." Nikki took hold of Helen's hand.

"I was just thinking about you." Helen gripped Nikki's hand tighter, "about how I can never really put in to words how sorry I am that I left you. You must think I'm off my rocker." Helen shook her head and took a mouthful of coffee.

"Why's that?" Nikki frowned questioningly.

"I didn't want for us to be split up, and they would have if they found out we were together, yet I left you anyway? What kind of twisted logic is that? I suppose it must have made sense to me at the time but now I think about it, I don't understand it. It must be a bloody mystery to you as well."

"Not really. You knew after the night I escaped that we could never cool things between us because our feelings were too strong. You were worried about them finding out about us, and I was trying for my appeal at the time. It doesn't take a genius to work out what would have happened, they'd have handed you your P45 and the CCRC would have thrown my application out in a heartbeat. I know it wasn't easy for you sweetheart, I know you were struggling with your feelings for me at the time. Then there was the problem of your job, it was never easy for you either. There was a lot to contend with and in the end it probably all got too much for you. Leaving gave you the space to come to terms with your sexuality and you were able to work out what you wanted. Not everybody could have coped with it so well, you did what you had to do and I'm glad you're back." Nikki took Helen in her arms and held her tightly.

"How come you understand me the way you do?" Helen rested her forehead against Nikki's. Nobody had ever understood her properly before.

"I suppose it's because I'm just too damn talented for my own good!" Nikki smiled.

"Hmmm very talented. I'm so sorry Nikki, I never meant to hurt you, I don't know where my head was." Helen got serious again.

"Probably the same place mine was, up my arse!" Nikki giggled, "It was all due to the situation we found ourselves in, if we had met on the outside then it would never have been so fraught with misunderstandings. We both struggled to understand how the other one was feeling but we didn't quite manage it, there was never the time to communicate. I was just as guilty for going off the deep end and not trusting you, but as far as I'm concerned we're back together, and that's the most important thing. I understand why you left, even if I didn't understand it at the time. I don't care about the past anymore, the future is what's important and I'm glad I get to share it with you. So I'm telling you again, and not for the first time tonight, you're forgiven." Nikki kissed Helen on the nose.

"Are you sure? I put you through a lot of shit you know." Helen looked doubtful; she didn't feel like Nikki should give in this easily.

"Yes I'm sure. I put you through a lot of shit as well remember? So we're even. It's time to let go of the past so that we can get to know each other as we are now. Back in Larkhall we were in a bubble, and the way things were was inevitably going to have some impact on how we behaved towards each other. We're free of all that now and we can finally begin to get to know each other properly without having to worry about any restrictions."

"That makes a lot of sense. If we had met on the outside then it mightn't have been a problem. I was the one with all the power and it put our relationship on an uneven footing. We've got to find our natural balance so that we can even things out because that was never an option in Larkhall." Helen's expression turned playful, "remember what I said though, you can boss me about any time!" Helen gave Nikki a quick peck on the lips.

"Hmm that could be fun!" she wiggled her eyebrows, "Now I know that we haven't talked about every single thing that happened but is there really a point when we seem to understand each other so well?"

"Nope, actually I'm perfectly happy now I said what I had to say and I think we can close the door on it and start again." Helen was glad that was the end of it, now she could put it all behind her. She wasn't worried anymore; she knew Nikki had forgiven her.

"How about we go to bed?" Nikki's voice was seductive.

"How about we don't?" Helen's voice was just as seductive.

"If you're not ready then we don't have to darling." Nikki took hold of Helen's hand and kissed it.

"Oh I'm more than ready, and you'll find out exactly how ready I am for you very soon but lets not go to bed just yet." Helen's face took on a seductive look.

"Well what do you want to do then?" Nikki was puzzled, Helen looked incredibly turned on and yet she didn't want to go to bed.

"This is a lovely table." Helen winked and began tracing a pattern on it with the tip of her finger, which made Nikki lick her lips.

"Now you come to mention it…." Nikki's heart was racing.

Nikki advanced towards Helen who was now resting on the edge of the kitchen table while watching her every move. As Nikki got closer, Helen moved her thighs apart slightly and ran her hands down the length of her dress. If Helen wanted to be kinky and make love on the kitchen table then Nikki could be just as kinky, she had plans of her own for later. She stood in front of Helen and got as close as she could without touching. They were both breathing heavily, and Nikki was mesmerised by the rise and fall of Helen's breasts.

Nikki placed her hands either side of Helen, leaning in but not touching her, and looked deeply in to her eyes. She knew eye contact turned Helen on, and it was something she could do all day because Helen had beautiful eyes and she never tired of looking at them. She ran the tip of her tongue across Helen's bottom lip, slowing as she came to the cut, and then gently licked over it, being careful not to hurt her. Helen moaned as she felt the wetness of Nikki's tongue against her lips. Helen needed her now but she knew Nikki away.

"Ah ah, not yet. Relax sweetheart, just trust me. You're perfectly safe, I wouldn't ever hurt you." Nikki wanted Helen to abandon her control.

"I know baby." Helen realised she needed to let Nikki be in control for a change. She knew she could let go with Nikki because she could trust her.

Nikki resumed her journey of Helen's lips with the tip of her tongue, savouring the taste of them and dipping a little further in each time, teasing her but never quite giving her what she knew she wanted. As much as Helen wanted to pull Nikki's tongue into her mouth, she resisted all attempts and found to her surprise that not being in control all the time wasn't so bad. Nikki finally took pity on her and flicked her tongue across her lips, waiting to be given entry. She felt Helen's lips open and her tongue beckoned her inside, their tongues began rolling around each other, tasting, exploring.

Helen longed to feel the firmness of the table below her and the softness of Nikki above her. She was highly aroused and she could feel the evidence between her legs. She felt Nikki's hands moving up her thighs, under her dress and all the way to the top of her tights. Deft fingers found the waistband and began to slowly slide them down, keeping in contact with as much of the skin as possible. It was torturously slow and Helen was aware she was becoming painfully aroused.

Nikki could see the effect she was having on Helen and it was making her own arousal build. Helen's legs were now bare and Nikki sank to her knees, she took her foot in her hand and began to kiss it slowly and sensuously. Helen closed her eyes as she reveled in the sensations it was causing. Helen's breathing became even more erratic when Nikki ran her tongue over the inside of her ankle; she was duly rewarded with another moan. Hands began to travel slowly up Helen's legs; a tongue followed their path seconds later. Helen could feel the throbbing between her legs intensify as she was subjected to images of Nikki's tongue much higher up.

Nikki continued to kiss her way up Helen's legs, leaving goose bumps wherever she touched. She began to push Helen's dress up her thighs slowly, as she squirmed against her; she was desperate for Nikki's touch. The dress found its way to Helen's hips, Nikki saw her underwear was soaked, and she smiled, she had never seen a woman quite this turned on before. She had never been so turned on herself either and she took this as confirmation of how deeply connected they were. As Nikki inched Helen's underwear down her legs, she could smell her scent, and inhaled deeply as a stab of excitement shot through her groin. The underwear was eased down Helen's legs and removed, before being thrown across the kitchen

Nikki blew across the damp curls at the apex of Helen's legs and a long moan came from deep within her. It didn't stop and Nikki looked up in surprise.

"You didn't did you?" she said in wonder when Helen's moaning stopped.

"Yes I did. See? You hardly have to touch me to make me come. Don't stop." Helen threw her head back and waited for Nikki to touch her again. The orgasm was one of the best she had ever had and Nikki had barely touched her.

Helen's dress was the next thing to be thrown across the kitchen, shortly followed by her bra. She was naked and panting when Nikki began the second stage of her pleasurable assault. She picked Helen up and sat her on the edge of the table, pushing her knees apart just far enough so that she could stand between them. She felt her legs grip her tightly as hands found their way around her neck.

Nikki ran her tongue down the side of Helen's neck before gently sucking on it with open mouthed kisses. She slowly flicked her tongue over her pulse point, and then kissed her way across her collarbones. She bent her head and blew gently over Helen's erect nipples, sending shockwaves through her entire body.

"Nikki." Helen was breathless, "please." she begged.

"Don't you like me taking my time?" Nikki kissed Helen's breasts in between words. Kissing around but never quite making contact with her nipple.

"I love you taking your time, but I need you Nikki, please." Helen tried to arch her pelvis toward her.

"Soon sweetheart, I promise." Nikki could go on all day, nibbling and teasing Helen but knew it must be getting too much for her.

She took Helen's nipple in her mouth and rolled her tongue around the sensitive tip, eliciting yet more moans from Helen, who by this time knew she would never think of any kitchen in quite the same way again, but little did she realise that the best was yet to come. Helen felt the exquisite sensation of Nikki's teeth grazing across her nipple and was tempted to have another orgasm there and then but tried hard to hold on to it.

Nikki's tongue began to lick a path down the centre of Helen's body, towards her bellybutton. The first time they made love, she had been surprised to find Helen had her bellybutton pierced. It seemed strange that a woman who appeared so prim and proper, and refused to deviate from the straight and narrow if she could help it, had this piece of jewellery adorning her bellybutton. It seemed totally incongruous with who she was, or at least who she projected herself to be. But then there had been several occasions where for just a split second, Nikki could see that given half a chance, Helen had a wild side to her that needed to be encouraged to show itself. Tonight was proof of that; she was all ready for going to bed whilst Helen had been the one to initiate sex in the kitchen.

Finding out who this woman was, what she liked and where she liked to be touched all over again was as pleasurable for Nikki as receiving pleasure itself. The sleepy look of ecstasy on Helen's face was erotic in the extreme and Nikki felt proud of herself for taking her time. A quick release wasn't what she wanted, she wanted to make love to every inch of Helen, she wanted her to remember this night forever.

Her tongue played around Helen's bellybutton, gently tugging at her piercing, and dipping inside for a few seconds before her tongue trailed a path downwards across her taut stomach. She stopped before she got too close to where Helen was praying she would end up. She received a growl of frustration in response and it made her smile, Helen had had indeed surrendered control to Nikki but she still made it known when she disagreed with the proceedings. She thought it was about time she moved things along so she gripped Helen either side of her hips and placed her lips over hers. She nibbled and sucked at her lips as they kissed passionately. Helen's hands found Nikki's trousers and slid the zipper down without any resistance, before pulling away and smiling at Nikki.

"Come on then, get em off!" she said huskily. Her Scottish accent doing funny things to Nikki's stomach.

Nikki took her time getting undressed, allowing Helen to feast her eyes on her body. She rubbed her hands across her breasts and smiled when Helen's eyes widened and she moaned at the sight of Nikki touching herself. She placed Helen's hand between her own legs and encouraged her to occupy herself while she removed the rest of her clothes. Helen began to get a little carried away and Nikki stilled her hand, she didn't want her to go over the edge just yet.

"Now now, that's naughty." Nikki smiled.

"Punish me then." Helen's voice was thick with desire, and she tried to look every inch as naughty as she felt.

"Oh no, you've been such a good girl, I think I'll reward you instead." Nikki took Helen's fingers in to her mouth and tasted her wetness. Helen shuddered and closed her eyes.

She stood firmly between Helen's legs and wrapped them around herself, and Helen gasped at the skin on skin contact. Nikki rubbed herself against her, knowing that the friction was driving her crazy. She pushed Helen back on to the table and heard her gasp when the cold wood come in to contact with the sensitive skin along her spine. She immediately arched her back and pulled Nikki closer with her legs.

Nikki kept a firm grip on Helen's hips and rubbed against her, slowly and deliberately, whilst enjoying the look of pleasure on her face. She kept her movements soft and mostly devoid of pressure, she wanted to tease just a little longer. Helen's eyes were rolling back in her head, she needed Nikki now but she couldn't voice her demands, she could hardly breathe. Nikki placed Helen's feet flat beneath her and kissed her way up her thighs, creeping slowly closer to where she needed her most. Helen's scent was intoxicating and she dipped her tongue in, eager to taste her. She slowly ran her tongue up the hypersensitive skin and rolled it around the little bundle of nerves, as Helen began to gyrate her hips in perfect rhythm with her movements. But Nikki had other ideas, as soon as Helen was close, she stopped.

"Oh Nikki, don't stop sweetheart please." Helen begged. She then shivered as Nikki took pity on her and started to gently stroke her in small slow circles.

"It's ok darling." Nikki smiled and then climbed on to the table top and lay beside Helen, before resuming her caresses. Thank god it was a big table!

They smiled at each other and then slowed the pace down slightly, allowing them both to calm down for a bit before they went any further. Nikki's tongue danced across Helen's and hands roamed, exploring the soft skin beneath their finger tips. She finally positioned herself on top of Helen and she wrapped her legs around Nikki, pulling her closer. They lay there just looking at each other for a few minutes.

"I love you Nikki Wade, I've never loved anybody like I love you and I never will." Helen stroked the side of her face.

"I love you too sweetheart. I'm glad you came back, I'd be lost without you." Nikki took Helen's hand and kissed each finger softly, before kissing the palm.

"Me too darlin'. Come on, show me what you're made of." Helen whispered seductively as she pulled Nikki in for a kiss.

Nikki leaned down to kiss her and then supported her weight with her arms as she began to glide back and forth. Their sweat slicked skin created a wonderful friction that had them both tingling and aching for more. Nikki built up a steady rhythm and they were both moaning and gasping as each thrust took them closer to their goal. Nikki timed it so that they went crashing over the edge together. They cried out each others name and rode wave after wave as a million fireworks went off in their heads. Nikki slowed and stilled her movements before dropping her head on to Helen's shoulder exhaustedly.

"That was mind-blowing." Helen's speech was muffled because she had face buried in Nikki's shoulder. Nikki didn't answer, "are you ok sweetheart?" Helen was slightly worried, did Nikki regret it?"

"I'm fine, having trouble breathing for starters, and my legs won't keep still." she chuckled softly and lifted her head up and smiled.

"You had me worried for a minute. I couldn't figure out if you regretted it or if you'd kicked the bucket from exertion." she smiled as Nikki shook her head and laughed.

"I'm still very much alive and I would never regret what we just did, it was beautiful. At least this time around, I know the only place I'm headed after this is bed, and I get to take you with me, how lucky am I?"

"Not nearly as lucky as I am." Helen reached up to kiss her and then ran her hands down her back.

"Oh I beg to differ oh gorgeous one, I'm the lucky one." Nikki kissed her on the forehead and then climbed down on to the floor.

"Where are you going?" Helen turned over on to her side and leaned on her elbow.

"Breakfast, I'm hungry." Nikki opened the fridge, "aha! Just what I was looking for!" she closed the fridge door and turned around.

Helen saw she was holding spray cream, a bottle of chocolate syrup and a dish of sliced fresh fruit. She knew exactly what Nikki had in mind.

"Oh no you don't!" Helen said laughing.

"What?" was Nikki's reply as she joined Helen on the table once again, "you look good enough to eat my breakfast off, so why shouldn't I?"

"I'm sticky enough as it is that's why. Can't you use a plate like anybody else?" Helen's arms were behind her head and she watched Nikki as she fiddled about with the fruit.

Helen lay watching Nikki as she lined up slices of strawberry and peach across her toned flat stomach. She gasped at the coldness of the chocolate syrup as Nikki drizzled it across the fruit.

"That's freezing." Helen complained.

"I'll warm you up in a sec." Nikki replied as the squirty cream ended up on top of the chocolate syrup.

Nikki took her time eating the fruit, making sure that every single drop of cream and chocolate was licked off. Helen was moaning again, she had never had somebody eat their breakfast off of her before and she decided she liked it. Nikki winked at her as spray cream was applied firstly to her bellybutton and then her nipples. She couldn't stop the sounds that emanated from her throat when Nikki began feasting upon different parts of her body.

"Oh god that feels good." Helen croaked.

"I haven't finished yet." Nikki smiled wickedly.

"What are you going to do?" Helen smiled suspiciously; she could tell Nikki had something up her sleeve.

"This." Nikki said as she took one of the bottles and moved in between Helen's legs. She squirted the chocolate syrup on her and her eyes widened in shock. The syrup was freezing and was now oozing around places she never expected to have chocolate syrup.

"You can't be serious." she giggled.

"Oh but I am." Nikki went off in search of the chocolate syrup as Helen lay back.

"Oh Nicola." was all Helen managed to say before she was lost in the sensations that Nikki was causing.

Part 19

By the time the kitchen had been cleared up, and they'd had quick shower, it was already 8am when Nikki and Helen managed to climb in to bed. They had both been so exhausted, that they had kissed each other 'goodnight' and then instantly lapsed into unconsciousness. So it was a very cranky Nikki, that greeted Trish and Claire with a 'bog off, it's too early' when she was informed that it was already midday and time to get out of bed.

"Get up lazy arse, it's Christmas day." Trish poked Nikki on the leg.

"So what? It will still be Christmas day when my body decides it's not tired anymore and wakes me up again." Nikki snuggled back down again and Helen had not even stirred.

"Yvonne and Karen are coming soon." Trish thought she might at least get up for Yvonne.

"And this makes a difference because? You can operate a front door can you not Trish?" Nikki glared at her with one eye, which peeked above the bedclothes.

"You're a sarky sod when you're tired Nikki. You can't have gotten home that long after Claire and I did, and we're up and about already." Trish put her arm around Claire's shoulder.

"Not my fault you went straight home to sleep is it? You boring pair of gits!" Nikki chuckled.

"So that's why you're knackered, you've been shagging Helen all morning." Claire giggled at the look on Nikki's face.

"I walked in to that one!" Nikki shook her head, "alright I'm up." she grabbed the covers and pushed them aside before standing up.

They looked at Helen, she still hadn't moved, and was sleeping soundly. Claire noticed the look on her face as she slept, she couldn't remember ever seeing her friend look so serene. Nikki didn't want to disturb her but if she didn't, she wouldn't eat.

"Time to get up sweetheart." Nikki leaned down and kissed Helen on the forehead. There was no response.

"She's out for the count." Claire smiled.

"Eh Nik, are you sure she's still breathing?" Trish was a bit worried; surely nobody could sleep that soundly?

"Helen could sleep for Scotland!" both Claire and Nikki spoke at the same time and laughed.

"She's still breathing. she's knackered after everything she's been through that's all, she deserves a rest." Nikki pulled the covers up to her chin and gave her one last kiss before shooing Claire and Trish from the bedroom, so Helen could sleep in peace.

Nikki was helping out in the kitchen when Yvonne and Karen turned up at half one. There was still no sign of Helen and Nikki knew she must have been worn out. Karen gave Nikki a kiss and a hug and then went off in to the kitchen to say hello to Claire and Trish. Yvonne stayed behind and talked to Nikki in the hall, as she slipped her a small package.

"Thanks, I owe you one." Nikki smiled gratefully.

"My pleasure. How's Helen today?" Yvonne looked concerned. Helen was part of her 'family' now.

"She's still upstairs sleeping at the moment, but she seemed fine when we went to bed, apart from her lip being a bit sore." Nikki smiled at the memory of a few hours earlier.

"I take it you made up for lost time then?" Yvonne's eyes twinkled.

"Of course! And while we're on the subject, have you been making up for lost time yourself?" Nikki laughed softly.

"It was incredible." Yvonne's eyes went misty and she cleared her throat.

"I know just how you feel mate." Nikki patted her on the back and they went off to find the others.

Helen opened her eyes and the room came in to focus, where the hell was she? Then it all came flooding back to her and she felt a tear of happiness roll down her cheek, which soon became a sob. She didn't hear Nikki enter the room, or see her worried expression.

"Oh babe, what's the matter?" Nikki climbed on to the bed and lay beside her.

"It'll sound mad but I'm happy." she looked up at Nikki and wiped her eyes, "every day for the past year, I've woken up and felt utterly miserable but today I know I'm here with you and all of that's behind me." Helen smiled and closed her eyes as Nikki wiped her tears away.

"I promise I'm going to make sure you wake up happy every day sweetheart." she took Helen in her arms and stroked her hair.

"I know you will." Helen kissed the side of Nikki's neck, "what time is it?"

"It's two in the afternoon." Nikki looked at her watch.

"Why didn't you wake me? I should have been up ages ago." Helen rolled over and lay on top of Nikki.

"You needed to sleep; you were worn out through an accumulation of months worth of sleepless nights. You needed to rest and you had nowhere else to be so where was the harm?" Nikki looked up at her and gently inspected her lip, it was now an ugly purple colour and swollen to twice its size.

"Does it look bad?" Helen knew that if it looked even half as bad as it felt then it would be horrible.

"It's bruised and it's huge. We should put some ice on it to take down the swelling. In fact we should have done that this morning." Nikki tutted and gently kissed the side of Helen's face.

"I'll live sweetheart. Is Karen and Yvonne here?" Helen played with Nikki's hair as she spoke.

"Yeah they got here half an hour ago, lunch will be ready soon, that's why I came to get you." Nikki ran her hands down Helen's back.

"Why don't you help me get dressed then and we can go downstairs." Helen climbed off Nikki and walked over to her suitcase.

"Good god Helen, you're beautiful." Nikki looked her up and down appreciatively.

"Don't you think I'm too skinny?" Helen turned around and pointed to ribs, which were just a little too prominent.

"I must admit I preferred you the way you were before but you're still perfect to me. You just need a little fattening up." Nikki winked at her and took her in her arms.

"So long as I get my meals served off your body, I'll eat what you like." Helen smiled seductively.

"You might just have yourself a deal there sweetheart." she leaned in and kissed her.

Downstairs in the kitchen, Yvonne and Karen were sampling the Christmas booze and Claire and Trish were whispering sweet nothing's to each other over the trifle. Karen began giggling over something Yvonne said and Trish took the opportunity to whisper to Claire.

"I can't wait until tonight." Trish raised her eyebrow seductively.

"Neither can I, if it's anything like this morning then I'm a lucky woman." Claire ran her finger down the side of Trish's arm.

"Remember what I said to you this morning? Well later on I'm going to….." She was interrupted when Nikki and Helen came in to the kitchen.

"Oi Trish, do you have to talk dirty over the trifle?" Nikki giggled, she could tell by the look on Trish's face that was exactly what she had been up to, she knew her too well. Trish pulled a tongue at her.

"Oh by the way Nik, I meant to ask you. Where is my bloody fruit? I hope you haven't scoffed it cos I bought it for the trifle." she pointed to the bowl in front of her as Helen nearly choked on the glass of wine Yvonne had just handed her.

"Fruit? What fruit? You must be going doolally in your old age Trish, I didn't see any fruit." Nikki shrugged her shoulders and turned around to Helen, "shit!" she mouthed in her direction as Helen tried desperately not to laugh.

"I'm sure I had some in the fridge." Trish went on, "I remember slicing the peaches and the strawberries up. I could have sworn I bought a can of spray cream as well but I can't find it anywhere." she was confused.

"Excuse me a moment." Helen fled from the kitchen, she couldn't hold on to her giggles any longer. They could hear the faint sound of Helen guffawing as she went in to the living and only Nikki knew why.

"What's wrong with her?" Yvonne was puzzled, had she missed something? Why was Helen laughing like a fruitcake?

"I'll be right back." Nikki dodged the question and went to see Helen.

She found her on the couch curled up in a ball laughing her head off, Nikki watched fondly as Helen shook like a jelly. It was good to see her so happy, they'd never had the chance to see each other like this, it was something other couples took for granted. Helen looked up and saw Nikki watching her. She got her giggles under control and opened her arms, and Nikki willingly sank in to them.

Trish was scouring the cupboards and the fridge; she still couldn't find the squirty cream anywhere. She was having doubts that she had bought either the fruit or the cream now and she had no choice, she would just have to do without it. She placed the fruit-free trifle in the fridge and then set about checking on the roast potatoes, they were nearly done so she sat down next to Claire and took hold of her hand for a five minute rest.

"Was Jim still at the house when you went home." Claire took a sip of her wine and looked at Karen.

"No, there was no sign of him. I doubt the bastard has gone for good but we can hope at least." Karen lit a cigarette and passed one to Yvonne.

"What are you going to do about him?" Not only was Claire interested from a legal point of view, she was interested personally because he had thumped Helen one.

"There isn't much I can do because I don't really have any proof. I can't go and talk to Susie because it would look like I was deliberately digging for dirt on him. And I can't say anything to area because again, I don't have proof. As I said to Yvonne, I could of course leak something to the papers, area would be forced to look in to it then and that would get the ball rolling. The only other way would be for Helen to contact the police and bring an assault charge against him but I don't know if she would be willing to put herself through that, especially with what we know now." Karen was referring to Nikki's escape.

"I'm more than willing, I've got all the proof I need, five witnesses and this." she pointed to her lip, "he can't prove a damn thing, he's bluffing." Helen walked in with Nikki and sat down.

"Helen's right. If he had proof then he would have done something about it long before now. Why wait twelve months? Especially when he had no idea that Helen was going to turn up again. Nah he knows sod all about anything, he's bluffing." Nikki was certain. She lit up a cigarette and Helen pinched another one. "Since when do you smoke? That's a couple you've nicked from me now." Nikki looked at her questioningly.

"Since about twelve months ago, when I got a taste for them because they reminded me of you." Helen took a drag of her cigarette and blew the smoke out as she took hold of Nikki's hand. "Nik's right, if he knew anything then he would already have used it against me by now."

"What exactly did happen that night?" Karen was intrigued.

"You would be better off not knowing Karen. If you ever get questioned about it then you can say you don't know and you wouldn't be lying under oath." Helen looked at her and then tapped an ash.

"She's right you know Karen, since neither of them has really admitted to you that Nikki escaped, or given you any details, you can't be accused of withholding information. You first heard about it from Jim and since he has no proof, it constitutes hearsay and is not admissible in a court of law." Claire offered her legal point of view.

"I suppose you're right, I'm just going to have to use my imagination aren't I?" Karen smiled.

"So what are you going to do then Helen?" Yvonne had been listening quietly up to that point.

"Well tomorrow, I'm going to see a friend I haven't seen for a long time and talk to her about it. That might get things started." Helen took a last drag of her cigarette and stubbed it out as she blew the smoke out.

"Who would that be?" Nikki tried hard not to be jealous, after all they'd been through, she knew better than to think things like that.

"Lucy Summers, she's a friend of mine from Uni. She went in to the police force, she's a DCI now."

"Lucy is a nice girl." Claire nodded her head, "if anybody can help with that side of things then she can."

"Are you sure? We're talking about the police now you know. Bunch of bastards!" Nikki lit up another cigarette; she used to respect the police but now had a deep mistrust of them.

"Lucy's ok Nik, trust me." Helen patted her on the hand.

"I hope you're right." Nikki wasn't convinced.

Trish was bustling around getting the lunch ready, and she delegated various tasks to people. Karen and Yvonne were on booze duty and Helen was putting vegetables in to serving dishes. She turned around and noticed Nikki was in a world of her own.

"Nikki can you lay the table please?" Trish was nonplussed when Nikki started sniggering.

"Lay the table? I think that may be a bit of a fruitless task!" Nikki couldn't stop laughing.

"Why not though? You've laid everything else!" Helen burst out laughing as well, the others looked at them is if they were idiots. Nikki tried to speak but couldn't get the words out; she had to settle for taking a few deep breaths. "Besides, what would you know about laying the table for lunch? You only do breakfasts!" Helen started giggling again and Nikki held on to her as they both laughed.

"Oh god." Nikki said as she clutched her ribs.

"What's up with you two?" Trish looked at them as she got plates from the cupboard.

"Ignore us, it just reminded us of a long standing joke between us." Nikki said whilst thinking "if only they knew!"

Trish didn't look as if she was buying it but said nothing and went back to getting lunch ready, It was ready to put on the table a few minutes later and they sat down to eat. The conversation was comfortable, and it flowed easily. Nikki and Helen both found it difficult to concentrate at the table after knowing what they had done on it earlier that morning. They both blushed a few times as they recalled certain details and couldn't help holding hands under the table.

"You want stuffing Helen?" Nikki was poised to hand the dish over.

"Is that an offer?" Helen sniggered.

"Certainly is, I can't guarantee is has the same kick to it you got this morning mind you." Nikki winked at Helen.

"Anybody want some sausages?" Trish held the dish up.

"I'm leaving that one well alone!" Nikki giggled as Helen rolled her eyes at her.

The conversation started up again and they were chatting about previous Christmases in Larkhall. Nikki and Yvonne had described how bleak it was and Helen went quiet.

"Are you ok sweetheart?" Nikki asked when she noticed Helen wasn't joining in the conversation.

"I'm finding it a bit hard to eat, my lip is killing me." Helen put her fork down and put a hand over her mouth. It was partly true, her mouth was really sore but the thought of Nikki stuck in Larkhall at Christmas was tugging on her heart strings.

"Here, let me feed you." Nikki smiled.

"You're really sweet to me." Helen leaned forward and kissed her.

Nikki cut up her food and sat feeding it to her while they exchanged soppy grins. They both knew it wouldn't matter who was shoving food in to Helen's mouth, her lip would still make it painful to eat but they enjoyed the closeness it brought. It allowed Nikki to take care of her and if Helen was honest, she loved it.

After lunch, Trish took the trifle and placed it on the table for when they were ready to eat dessert. She was still chuddering on about the fruit which started Helen and Nikki off laughing again.

"Something's going on with you two." Claire looked at them both; she could see it in their eyes.

"I don't know what you mean Claire." Helen's eyes twinkled, she wasn't about to tell them that she had had a passionate session with Nikki on the kitchen table just a few hours before.

"I'll wait until you've been on the voddy later and then I'll get it out of you." Claire managed to say before Karen's mobile rang.

Karen listened in to the phone for a couple of seconds and then the colour drained from her face. She leaned forward on the table and rubbed her hand across her forehead.

"I don't bloody believe this……are you telling me it was deliberate?………well if you're asking me who I suspect then I only know one person who would want to get back at me like that……right ok I'll give you the address." Karen gave Trish's address and then put an end to the call.

"What's up darlin'?" Yvonne was concerned.

"That was the police, my house has been torched. Not a single thing left, it's gutted." Karen was in shock, she had lost everything, she had nothing but the clothes she stood up in and a few possessions.

"Oh love." Yvonne put her arm around Karen and pulled her close. "I bet it was bloody Fenner."

"It has to be him, who else could it be? I mean I know I'm a target because I work in the prison system but I don't think it's a coincidence that we confronted Jim over everything and then my house goes up. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out how that came to happen." Karen took a mouthful of her wine.

"So they're coming over to question you?" Helen felt awful, but she would rather have had Karen homeless than dead.

"Yes they're going to want to speak to you all as well; you were all witnesses to what happened last night. You don't mind do you?" Karen didn't want to spoil the day.

"Course we don't mind, we're all happy to help." Nikki stood up and patted Karen on the shoulder, then went off to find her cigarettes.

Twenty minutes later, there was a knock at the door, it was the police. Karen looked up at the clock, it was 4pm.

Part 20

Nikki paced the kitchen; she didn't feel comfortable because there were members of the police force in close proximity. Helen made her sit down after she had been pacing the kitchen non-stop for twenty minutes. The time seemed to drag and they were anxious to know what was going on. Finally, Karen came back in to the kitchen.

"Is everything ok?" Yvonne jumped up and went to her.

"I've told them I suspect it's Jim, they say they are looking for him now. They want us all down the station, they want statements." Karen looked apologetic.

"What nick are they from?" Nikki already had an idea but wanted it confirming.

"South Lea, why?" then it dawned on Karen why the name seemed overly familiar.

"That's Gossard's station." Helen couldn't believe it, could things get any worse?

"They'll have the red carpet out to welcome me." Nikki said sarcastically.

They headed off to the station a short while later, the journey made in silence as they were lost in their own thoughts. Nikki felt her skin crawl as she stepped inside the police station, no doubt they would all recognise her, the officer on the front desk certainly had. They were taken through a door on one side of the reception and led them down a corridor, which had interview rooms on either side. They were told to sit and wait until the officers were ready to question them.

Nikki was getting paranoid; she had visions of being done for arson and getting sent back to prison, even though she had a solid alibi. She had trusted the police up until she met Gossard and now her faith in them was non-existent. Every copper that went past, seemed to stare at her, and it was wearing her down.

"I see the judge's decision counts for nothing with this lot." Nikki growled as she paced in front of Helen.

"Take no notice of them. You did your time and there isn't a thing they can do to you." Helen knew it was hard on Nikki having to be there, and she really felt for her.

"Oh no? Despite being in the house with you lot when Karen's was set fire to, they would claim I was capable of being in two bloody places at once knowing them, sneaky bastards!" a copper caught what Nikki was saying as he walked past and sneered at her, "I see things haven't changed much around here." she gave him a two fingered salute behind his back.

"Don't let them rattle you Nik, best off ignoring 'em." Yvonne tried to calm her down.

"She's right, come here and sit down." Helen held her hand out to Nikki; she took it and sat down.

"God this place gives me the creeps; it's like a mini version of Larkhall. Only in here the criminals are wearing the uniforms." Nikki shuddered.

"Same as Fenner." Yvonne folded her arms and sighed, she hated cop shops as well.

"Too right. I always thought he'd be an evil bastard no matter where he was."

Twenty minutes had passed and they were still waiting to be questioned, Nikki's mood had deteriorated further, she wasn't managing to control her temper too effectively and now scowled at everybody who walked past before they could do it first. After a further twenty minutes two detectives, a man and a woman, came walking up the corridor towards them.

"Look out, it's Dempsey and Makepiece." Nikki said with a snigger, Helen poked her in the ribs and tried not to smile.

"I'm DI Thomas and this is DC Heath." The tall blonde woman ignored Nikki's comment. "We would like to ask all of you a few questions, can we start first with you miss?" she pointed to Nikki.

"Wade, Nikki Wade, but then you already know who I am." Nikki wasn't fooled for a second, "I'm quite happy sitting here thank you, why don't you pick on somebody else?" Nikki knew she was being awkward but knew they would jerk her about no matter how she behaved.

"It won't take more than a few minutes Miss Wade honestly." DC Heath smiled at Nikki, was sure he could use his charms to persuade her to talk to them for five minutes.

"It's no good smiling at me like that sunshine, you're not my type, and I'm sure my girlfriend wouldn't take kindly to it." she said as Helen bit her tongue in an attempt not to laugh.

"Surely you have nothing to hide so it won't hurt you just to answer a few questions." DI Thomas was getting fed up.

"I wouldn't admit to knowing my grandmother in front of you lot." Nikki stood up, "but I'll answer your questions because Karen is my friend."

Nikki walked through in to the interview room and sat down; she immediately lit a cigarette and waited for the questions to start. She had a bad feeling about it all.

"Where were you at approximately one pm this afternoon?" DI Thomas got stuck in.

"I was at Trish Harris's house, with my friends."

"Which friends? Who was at the house?" she was writing it all down.

"Trish, Claire Walker, Karen Betts and Yvonne Atkins. And also Helen Stewart who was in bed." she refrained from mentioning Helen was her girlfriend, otherwise they would want to know all about it and she didn't think it was any of their business.

"How come she was in bed late?"

"Correct me if I'm wrong but I didn't think it was a criminal offence to stay in bed as long as you liked. I'm here to answer any questions you may have, except those pertaining to Helen's bloody sleeping habits!" Nikki was getting pissed off.

"I'm trying to ascertain what made her sleep in so late so that I can rule her out of our inquiries."

"Look love, I'm not trying to tell you how to do your job but shouldn't you be asking Helen these questions?"

"I'm asking you. Why was she in bed so late?"

"She was at Karen's party last night with me, we didn't get in until 6am or thereabouts and we didn't go to bed until 8 ok? You wanted me here to question me about Fenner so get on with it." Nikki blew smoke out and leaned back, she wasn't going to be intimidated.

"You said 'we' didn't go to bed until 8. Am I to understand Miss Stewart is your girlfriend?"

"That really isn't any of your business. My private life lies outside the domain of this discussion. You were told Karen suspected Fenner of starting a fire at her house, I'm here to answer any questions you have about that and sod all else, so don't even bother trying."

"In that case then Miss Wade, I'm formally arresting you….." DI Thomas launched into her spiel and Nikki sat there looking horrified.

In a room across the hall, Helen was going through the same routine; she had refused to drag out her private life and relationship with Nikki but had been forced to explain that they had met at Larkhall when she worked there. The police seemed to want to know more but Helen refused to tell them.

She gave them the details of what Fenner had done to her previously, and also about him lashing out at her the night before. They wanted to know why she hadn't reported it sooner; she fobbed them off by saying that she had been too afraid of him to report it, which was partly true anyway.

"That lip looks bad; have you had it checked out?"

"No need to, it's painful but it won't kill me." Helen was glad she had cadged a few cigarettes off Karen before going in. She lit one and exhaled smoke noisily.

"So what was this argument about then?" the copper was fishing for info.

"I already told you. No matter how many times you ask me that question, the answer will still be the same." Helen glared at him.

"Let's just go through it one more time." the cop smiled coldly and shuffled his papers.

Claire and Trish had been interviewed already but it seemed to be the other four women that the police were interested in the most. Claire had been in and out as quick as a flash but they kept Trish for a little longer, making sure she knew that they knew exactly who she was. A door opened down the hall and Karen came out, closely followed by Yvonne a few moments later. A further ten minutes after that, Helen appeared looking very pissed off indeed, Karen hadn't seen her in that kind of mood for a long time.

"Where's Nikki?" she asked looking around.

"She's still in there." Claire pointed to interview room number two.

"I wonder what's taking so long?" Helen hoped Nikki was alright, she hoped they weren't giving her a hard time.

Suddenly, the door to interview room number two flew open and two policemen dragged Nikki out kicking and screaming. Helen looked on horrified as did the rest of the group. Nikki was struggling to speak to them.

"Get off me you bastards!.........Helen! I didn't do anything honest………..They just arrested me for no reason." Nikki was dragged round the corner out of sight.

"Jesus! They can't do that surely?" Helen swung round to face Claire, she looked horrified.

"They can't unless they have probable cause and I don't see how they could have." Claire was rapidly trying to think of a reason why Nikki had been arrested.

"We've got to contact Lucy, she would know what to do, we can't leave Nikki in there much longer." Helen folded her arms and watched as Claire reached in to her handbag.

Claire dialed a number and waited; when it began to ring she passed the phone to Helen.

"Yes hello, could I please speak to DCI Summers please……Lucy, it's Helen, how are you?"

The time seemed to drag on and on and they had no choice but to wait it out because Lucy couldn't make it for another few hours. Claire couldn't get any sense out of the custody sergeant either, he continued to fob her off with excuses, it apparently didn't bother him that Claire was Nikki's solicitor. Yvonne fed the drinks machine with loose change and handed coffees to everyone while they waited for something to happen. It was another hour before Nikki appeared; Helen noticed the haunted look in her eyes was back.

"Nikki, are you ok sweetheart." Helen felt awful, she had sat thinking for the last ten minutes how she had done everything in her power to stop Nikki from ending up in Larkhall a second time and now all this was happening, "oh god what have I done?" she thought to herself.

"I'm fine love, don't worry about me." she tried to smile but it didn't quite reach here eyes. She disappeared as she was taken back in to the interview room.

She sat down in the hard plastic chair and waited for the inevitable interrogation, she wished it was all over with so that she could go home with Helen and be left alone to live her life. DI Thomas re-appeared.

"So are you going to explain what your relationship with Miss Stewart is now?"

"Fuck you." Nikki wouldn't play ball.

"Do you fancy another spell in the cells?"

"You can only hold me for twenty four hours anyway, mind you, that's only if you're playing by the rules which you aren't!"

"I can hold you for a lot longer than that if I really needed to."

"Bully for you." Nikki shrugged and refused to look at her.

"Now your relationship with Miss Stewart."

"The answer is still fuck you." Nikki was adamant.

"In that case, I wonder how Miss Stewart would cope with some time in the cells?"

"You evil bitch! Don't you dare." Nikki's eyes blazed with anger.

"So tell me what I need to know….."

Nikki knew she had no choice.

Helen was pacing the corridor, Nikki had been in there an hour now and there was no indication of them being released any time soon. Surely to god it didn't take this long for them to find out what they wanted to know? Why had they arrested Nikki anyway? Helen didn't understand any of what was going on and it made her feel angry and powerless. Claire did her best to try and calm Helen down but she didn't have any answers either, none of them did.

"You want another coffee love?" Yvonne put her arm around Helen and gently squeezed her shoulder.

"Yeah that would be good." Helen's bottom lip trembled and she burst in to tears. Yvonne pulled her closer and she sobbed on her shoulder while Claire patted her on the back.

"There there love, let it all out." Yvonne knew all the upset of the past year was flooding out and it wasn't such a bad thing, it would be better to let it all out.

Nikki rubbed her eyes and then lit yet another cigarette, her third in fifteen minutes. It was obvious the police were after something. She just didn't know what….yet.

"So you're positive that you had nothing to do with the fire at Miss Betts house?" the woman tapped her pen.

"I didn't go anywhere near Karen's house. I'm not a bloody arsonist! I was in for murder remember?" Nikki couldn't take much more of this, "What I don't understand is why you are asking me if I did it? We already told you what Fenner did so you should be trying to find him instead of trying to pin this on me." Nikki shifted uncomfortably in her seat; the chair was making her back ache.

"I'd like to ask you a few more questions but for now I think we should take a break." DI Thomas stood up and left the room with her colleague, another policeman came in to stand guard.

Nikki shook her head at him; she hadn't done anything wrong so why were they making her feel as if they thought she was guilty of something?

Helen meanwhile, had been dragged off for another round of questioning and was beginning to lose her temper. She had been assaulted by Fenner and yet was made to feel like a criminal. She had stopped listening to what the policeman was saying and suddenly snapped.

"Look, I know you can't stand Nikki Wade or anybody associated with her because of the fact that she killed detective Gossard. But this is unprofessional in the extreme. We're supposed to be here for an informal chat. I wasn't arrested, you have nothing to charge me with so why the aggressive line of questioning? Why are you asking questions about things that have nothing to do with this case? What is it that you aren't telling me?" Helen had had the feeling something was going on for quite a while now.

"I'm not at liberty to discuss anything about this case with you Miss Stewart and I would appreciate it if you would just answer my questions." he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, she wasn't stupid, she knew something was going on.

"Two can play that game. I'm not obliged to answer your questions if I'm here informally. If you want answers then you can bloody well arrest me." Helen folded her arms and looked at him defiantly.

"I think it's time we took a break." he stood up and left the room. He wasn't willing to arrest somebody else; they could end up in deep shit over the first one.

"Why not? I've got plenty of time." Helen said sarcastically.

It had been exactly the same for Karen and Yvonne too, they had been dragged back in to an interview room and they'd had to explain the situation over and over again. They didn't seem to be very interested in Jim Fenner's suspected involvement of the burning down of Karen's house, but were more interested in the kind of relationships they all had.

They all kept quiet about Karen and Yvonne's relationship, after all Karen was still a home office employee and she could get in to trouble. They explained the night they spent together as Yvonne looking after her friend because Karen didn't feel safe staying with Jim. Karen was getting agitated; once again Jim Fenner was nowhere to be seen, getting away with it as usual.

Yvonne on the other hand, had had the same suspicion as Helen; there was something they weren't telling them. She decided to play it cool, she had learnt how to deal with the police over the years, and told them only what they should know and no more than that.

An hour later, a smiling Lucy Summers turned up and hugged Claire in greeting. She was introduced to Trish and then was given an explanation of everything from start to finish.

"That's some story." she'd had to listen carefully to make sure she didn't miss anything, "and they're still being questioned?"

"Yes, they've been gone for well over an hour now. Trish and I were done quickly but they're hanging on to them. We don't even know why Nikki was arrested, and we are worried about her." Claire hadn't got a clue what was going on, when she'd asked, an officer had fobbed her off.

"Leave it with me, I'll see what I can find out." Lucy walked off and went in search of the officer in charge.

Part 21

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