DISCLAIMER: If only the gods would smile upon me and make Ms. Jones and Ms. Lahbib all mine, but alas, Nikki Wade and Helen Stewart belong to Shed Productions. I have merely offered them candy, and brought them safely home.
SPOILERS: This is set after Series Three, Episode Sixteen, "Coming Out".
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Swimming Lessons
By Fewthistle


Helen lay back on the sofa, her head pillowed in Nikki's lap. The only light came through the bay window, falling gauzy and white across the floorboards. Nikki's fingers slipped gently through the hair at Helen's temples, an almost reverent caress, matched by the look of bemused adoration in her dark eyes.

Looking up to meet Nikki's gaze, Helen shifted slightly, a frown pulling down at her eyebrows, as she pushed herself up into a sitting position.

"I know that this probably isn't the time, and you probably, don't want to hear it, but I have to say some things, Nikki. I owe it to you and to myself. I've had a long time to really consider all the things I've said and done to you," Helen began, before feeling the brush of Nikki's fingers across her lips.

"Don't. It's not important anymore. It's all in the past. We're here, now, together, and we're going to stay that way and that is all that matters," Nikki soothed, her voice low and mesmerizing.

"It is important. If we're going to have a future, and I want that more than I have ever wanted anything, we have to be honest. We have to talk about things, even the unpleasant things," Helen responded, her own hand coming up to capture Nikki's, fingers interlacing.

"You're not going to lay back down until you say it, are you?" Nikki asked, a tolerant smile just gracing her full lips.


"Alright, then. Tell me all your deep, dark secrets. And then I'm taking you to bed. Deal?" The smile was fully evident now. Only a small, shadowy thing that ghosted across her chocolate eyes, gave any hint that she was troubled by Helen's words.

"I just need for you to know some things. I've never told anyone any of this. Hell, I've never shared my feelings with anyone, ever. So, please, sweetheart, just bear with me a little while?"

"Yeah. Of course I will," Nikki reassured, tugging gently on Helen's hand until she leaned back, her head resting against Nikki's shoulder.

"You know we Scots are supposed to be a dour people, and maybe there's some truth in it. I know that growing up, I was never encouraged to be too happy, or too excited. It seemed like extremes were frowned upon, at least in my house. So, I learned to find the middle ground, to just be content. Not happy, not sad, just in some sort of emotional limbo," Helen began to speak slowly, musings that seemed as much for her own ears, as Nikki's.

"I guess I never realized that, even though I always felt that I disappointed my father, and so I tried to make decisions for myself, to make me happy, I didn't get as far away as I thought. For years, I'd been existing, just trying to make sure I breathed. I think that that's why I was content with Sean, with the way things were. No great drama, and no magic either.

"It wasn't until I met you, Nikki, that I learned what it was like to feel things, really feel them. It was like standing on a beach, motionless, as a tidal wave washes over you, and suddenly realizing that you don't know how to swim. It terrified me, beyond reason. I kept thinking that I could hold my breath long enough to make my way to the surface, and then I'd be okay. But it seemed like the harder I tried to struggle to the surface, the deeper I sank."

"Oh, darlin'," Nikki murmured.

Nikki shifted her arm so that Helen was enfolded, pulled tightly against Nikki's side, her head coming to rest in the curve of Nikki's neck.

"And so many times, to my addled brain, it seemed as if you were trying to pull me down, till I felt like my lungs would burst. That's when I'd try and break away, push you away from me, tell you we were through. It wasn't until I really lost you, this last time, that I realized.

"I had spent my whole life just trying to get enough air into my lungs to survive, and it never was enough. When I finally allowed myself to admit that I didn't want Thomas, that I didn't want any man, that I only wanted you, it was like letting out that breath I had been holding and finding I could breath underwater, really breath for the first time in my life," Helen spoke quietly, a look of mystified amazement on her face at the inherent truth of her admission.

"Does that make any sense?" Helen asked Nikki gingerly, doubt evident in her tone.

"Well, despite a rather obscure analogy, yeah, it does. You love me, and you can't live without me. Does that about cover it?" Nikki replied, tilting Helen's face up and meeting her hazel eyes.

"Obscure analogy? I pour my heart out to you, tell you my deepest thoughts, and all you can focus on is my 'obscure analogy'? I never should have encouraged you to go to Open University," Helen fumed, the laughter in her eyes belying her tone.

"Yeah, well babe, that what you get for pushing education on me," Nikki laughed, standing to pull Helen to her feet. "Now that you've unloaded all this, can we go to bed?"

"Nikki," Helen said softly.

"Yes, it makes sense. And I'm really grateful that you told me. Honestly. I want you to tell me things. I want you to tell me everything. I want to learn all that there is to know about you, and then start over again, in case I missed something. I love you, Helen," Nikki told her tenderly, one hand coming up to cup Helen's cheek.

"I love you too, Nikki."

"So, can we go to bed now, or will there be anymore of these analogies tonight?" Nikki smiled.

"You know, the one about the doghouse is coming to mind, right about now," Helen smirked back, her head tilted to the side, her eyes challenging.

"Come on. You know you can't resist me," Nikki teased, taking hold of Helen's hand and leading her to the bedroom.

"That's what I've been trying to tell you all night," Helen grinned back, allowing herself to be led.

"I know. I know."

The End

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