As the van driver Max maneuvered their damaged vehicle around the two vehicles, Nikita struggled to keep her balance, as well as keep out of the line of fire. "Michael lost his balance and hit his head when we were rammed. He's unconscious. We're going to need Medical. He's bleeding a lot from a cut at the temple, but so far he's breathing okay," Nikita reported.
"Somebody else must want those letters," Tip said wryly, as he began to return fire at the unknown enemy."
Operations began a rapid fire of orders. "Blue team, advance and cover the van. Medical, we've got incoming wounded--at least one head injury, others unknown. Birkoff, I want to know who's attacking our team, and I want to know now."
Birkoff spoke up, "It's not too hard to figure who might be after those letters, Sir. Secret Service, NSA, or somebody rogue the Republicans hired. Not too many others give a flying flip about them."
"It's nothing to be flip about young man," Operations replied heatedly. Those letters are important to ‘me,' he admitted to himself. They were a superb bargaining chip in his arsenal of ‘weapons.' While the letters would be of value only for another two years, they would give him immense power over the President for those two years. A great many opportunities could come and go in that time, and he meant to take advantage of them all.
"Report, Wellesley!" Operations demanded. "What's going on now?"
"Blue Team is making a difference. They appear to be aborting the attack," Tip responded. "Michael still unconscious, Nikita?" he asked over his shoulder.
"Yes, I've put pressure on the laceration, but he's still not responding." Nikita could not keep the worry from her voice.
A new voice sounded in her headset, "Nikita, this is Doc. How's his
color? Slap some telemetry on him and see if one of you can get an
IV line in him. I want to see some numbers on him. Give him
an oxy mask, after you read me his O2 Sat. level."
"Right. We've been kind of busy till now. Color is so-so," Nikita answered. She began to follow the trauma surgeon's instructions. Pulse oximeter on his right forefinger, 98%--that was good. Nikita didn't bother to announce the result. She knew Marie could read it from where she was. Oxygen mask on, two liters, she thought as she adjusted the flow meter. She ripped open Michael's shirt and placed a sticky Dynamapp pad against his chest.
"Numbers are looking good, Nikita. His EKG and O2 levels are fine. Now, see if you can get that line in."
Nikita began to pull the IV box from beneath the van seat, and to rummage for the supplies she would need. She thanked heaven that Michael had large prominent veins in his forearms. The medical portion of her training had been her least favorite, and she absolutely hated needles. Nikita applied the tourniquet and cleaned the most opportune site. The needle slid into the vein, and Nikita was awarded with a return of blood. Ten more seconds and the needle was secured. "IV Done," she announced with relief.
"Okay, just give him a bolus of 250cc, then cut it back to 125cc/hr, Nikita."
"Right," Nikita replied as she programmed the numbers on the IV pump.
"Great job, Nikita! If you ever get ‘tired' of going on missions, I can use you down in Medical!" Marie exclaimed, as she winked and grinned at Operations and a pale-faced Madeline. "Bring my patient home now, okay, kids? We'll be waiting for you with the porch light on."
Operations sighed and rolled his eyes. Madeline maintained an impassive exterior, belying the turmoil she actually felt.
Tip looked at Nikita with a smile on his face. She was one hell of
an operative. Cool as a cucumber, and she didn't know he was
even in the van. All her energy was directed at Michael, and he guessed
it always would be.
In spite of all the times, Nikita had sat by Michael's bed, waiting for him to regain consciousness, she had never become accustomed to the agony and uncertainty. A future without Michael seemed unthinkable. She watched the dials and numbers on the various pieces of medical equipment with anxious eyes. Doc had been in numerous times and nodded as she surveyed his test results.
She had been told, "Nikita, he's going to be fine. He has a severe concussion, but there's no subdural hematoma, and we're going to keep him under observation until there's no danger of one. You can go to your quarters, and I'll call you when he awakens."
Nikita had shaken her head. "I know. I know. You're going to stay here
till he regains consciousness or until you lose consciousness yourself."
Marie had patted her shoulder and left
her alone again with Michael.
Nikita could not help but remember the first time she had seen Michael in the white room. She had looked into his silver-green eyes and seen the face of an angel. The Dark Angel he was called, even the Angel of Death, because of his ethereal beauty. He wasn't a Hollywood pretty boy, for his beauty went far deeper than the arrangement of skin and bones and muscle. His calm demeanor merely showcased the beauty of his eyes; the eyes that tried to hide a man's soul behind a blank stare. The same blank stare that was utilized whenever the pain of what the man did to survive became too much. This was the man she loved, would always love.
Nikita sat and held his hand, stroked his arm. She resisted the temptation to run her fingers through his newly shorn hair. The natural curl made it thick and springy, muchmore so than when he had worn it in the longer style. Unconscious, he looked so young and untroubled, for none of the demons that assailed him when awake were to be seen in his face now.
It was early morning when Nikita finally surrendered and lay her head on Michael's bed. Tip Wellesley stood outside Michael's room and watched Nikita through the observation window as she slept. He had finished a lengthy debrief with Operations, who had seemed a trifle too elated over the retrieval of the letters. There was a lot that Tip did not understand about the internal politics at Section Headquarters, and he continued to have many unanswered questions. He heard footsteps and turned to see who was joining him at the window. It was the Munitions Master Walter.
"Sugar still in there?" Walter asked as he walked to Tip's side.
"Yes. It uh- looks like she plans on staying there too," Tip offered.
"Hmm. Not surprising. When either one of them is injured, you can't pry the other one away. They're soul mates, you know. They've spent four years trying to deny it, but they are," Walter said by way of consolation. From the looks of it, Wellesley had it bad for his Sugar. Walter didn't think for one minute that the younger operative was standing at the window mooning over Michael.
Tip sighed, "Really. Too bad, for me that is. I guess it's good for them."
"That still remains to be seen," was Walter's sage reply.
Although it was not noted in Section One, dawn broke the horizon at 0600. A movement awakened Nikita, a movement of Michael's hand. Nikita raised her head and looked first at Michael. His eyelids were fluttering, and he grabbed her hand.
"Nikita?" he asked hoarsely.
"Yes, Michael, I'm right here. You fell and hit your head in the van, and you've been unconscious all night," Nikita said in an attempt to orient him. Her heart soared. Michael really was all right.
"The rest of the team?" he asked as he shut his eyes again, in order to adjust them to the light.
"Everyone's fine. You were the only casualty. You have a severe concussion anda laceration from where you hit your head when you fell, but that's all. Doc wants you to stay here another twenty-four hours to make sure you don't develop a subdural hematoma."
"I need to debrief."
"No, that's all taken care of. Operations has the letters. Everything is fine." Nikita desperately wanted Michael to stay in bed, as ordered by the feisty physician, but Michael was difficult to keep in bed, at least by injury.
"Well, I'm awake now, and I'm ready to go to my quarters," he insisted as he began removing the telemetry leads.
Doc sauntered into Michael's room and saw what he intended. "Hmm. I thought you might be up to something like that. The wires can come off, but you're staying put, if I have to sit on you, Michael! Now I can think of at least one other person who might just help me do that, eh, Nikita?" the tiny physician said with a huge grin on her face.
Michael rolled his eyes, then gave his own half smile, half smirk of a grin. "I think Nikita will be sufficient for the task, Marie--if she wants to be, that is."
"Well, she's been here all night, Michael. What do you think? I think that shows some kind of devotion."
A wordless glance passed between the two operatives--a communication, wordless, but no less powerful for not being spoken aloud. Nikita nodded at Michael, and Michael in turn nodded at Marie, who took the hint and left them alone.
Michael took Nikita's hands in his and kissed the backs of them and continued to hold them to his lips. "The things I said to you after Hector took you. I had no right at that time to say them, but I did. I meant them then, and I mean them now. You are my life, and I want you to be with me always. You and my son are my hope for the future. I don't know if I will ever be able to be a father to Sean again, but I am not going to let you go without a fight. I will not surrender you to another--unless you tell me now that you love him and not me."
"More than anything, I know that I don't deserve your love, but if I do have your love, I will do everything in my power to earn it--and your respect, Nikita."
Nikita shushed him with her lips on his. "I love you, Michael, for the man you are and for the man you can be. I don't want to live without you in my life. You're like a chamber in my heart--if we're not together, I'm incomplete, pathetic as that might sound."
Michael spoke again. For once, the words could not be withheld. "From the first time I saw you, I knew I was lost. It was the first time that I realized I would be able toget over Simone's death. Your protestations of innocence were a common response from new recruits, but something in your eyes--a fire, but an innocence--told me you were no common recruit."
Michael moved on the bed to allow Nikita room. She climbed into the bed
and lay beside him as he cuddled her in his arms. "Je t'aime, Nikita. You
are my heart." He pressed a kiss on her forehead, as she began to cry softly
in his arms.
Madeline viewed the tender scene between Michael and Nikita. Tip Wellesley stood beside her and watched as well. Madeline pushed a button on the remote, and the screen went black. "You were assigned to seduce Nikita and take her from Michael's realm of influence. You have blatantly failed in your mission. What do you think I should do?" Madeline asked with an impregnable reserve.
Tip flushed. At that moment, he hated Madeline more than he thought it possible to hate anyone, except the drug pusher responsible for killing his sister. "I think you need to find a better hobby, Madeline," he responded rashly.
Madeline blinked. "In what way?"
"I think you ought to stay out of the personal relationships that develop between your operatives. The bond between Michael and Nikita was and is very strong. You shouldn't interfere with it."
Madeline smiled, "You're in love with Nikita, too, aren't you? Without waiting for any admission from Tip, she continued. "I assign a class 5 operative, the veteran of many Valentine operations, to seduce one level 2 field operative, and you fall in love with her. If it weren't so ironic, I would be amused."
Tip shifted his weight, uncomfortably from foot to the other. The woman was a demon without a heart or soul. Her reputation was well-deserved. Surely, she wouldn't order him canceled, would she? Even class 5 ops. were not immune to cancellation, given great enough error.
Inwardly, Madeline delighted at his discomfiture. Control had always been her drug, and she now had another handsome man in the palm of her hand. She could imagine the thoughts running through his mind, but no matter! He had actually accomplished what she had desired, but she felt no need to let him know that. Michael and Nikita were reconciled, as she had planned.
If she had any regrets about using Michael, she relegated them to an interiorguardian. No regrets would be acknowledged, at least not in the light of day. What she felt or allowed herself to feel in the dark hours of the night was her own trial.
Madeline leveled a blank stare at Tip. "I will have to give this some consideration, and then I will make my recommendations to Operations as to any status change. That will be all."
Tip turned on his heel and escaped from her lair.
Two days later, Michael knocked on Nikita's door. "Come with me," he said.
Nikita looked at the man in front of her. He wore blue jeans and light gray wool sweater. She smiled as she leaned against the doorway with a wooden spoon in her hand, "Why should I go with you, strange man. You show up at my door, and I'm not sure I even know you. You look like someone I used to know, but you're not wearing a single black article of clothing. You might be a spy for all I know." She rapped him lightly on the lips with her wooden spoon, and a dot of cake batter remained.
Michael disarmed Nikita of the wooden spoon, gathered her into his arms and kissed her soundly. "We're going to the park," he said. "I want to show you something."
"Hmm. Yes, you're who I thought you were after all. At least you kiss like the spyguy. So, I guess I'll accompany you to the park." Nikita grabbed a sweater and pulled it over her long blonde hair.
Michael smiled at the lovely vision in front of him, grabbed her hand and kissed it. "Let's go," he said softly.
Nikita smiled. She was only too happy to follow this strange man, where
ever he led her.
After a few minutes, Nikita asked, "You were going to show me something?" Michael smiled, "Be patient."
Nikita rolled her eyes and said, "Like I haven't heard that before."
Suddenly, Nikita felt the tension leave Michael's body.
He said, "Over there, coming in the iron gate."
Nikita turned to look, and her eyes grew wide at what she saw. "It's Sean," she said quietly. "I didn't know you knew where he was."
"Madeline has allowed me to monitor him, as long as I make no attempt to contact him or his new family. They bring him to the park in good weather, and I wanted to share it with you," he said in a voice thick with emotion.
Michael and Nikita sat and held hands while watching the active four year old play on the swings and slide. His petite mom seemed to have as much fun playing as he did. She was a brunette with dark eyes and appeared to love the little redheaded boy. He appeared to return her affection as he ran and jumped and basically had a great time in the park. His mom brought out a ball, and soon they were pitching it back and forth. The little fellow seemed to have a natural ability in catching and throwing--and boundless energy.
"Back up, Sonny, and I'll throw it farther. Let's see if you can catch this one," called his mother.
Sonny was obedient, but missed the ball, which landed at Michael and Nikita's feet. Nikita quickly picked up the ball as Sonny came to retrieve it.
"Thank you!" he said. "My mom is a great pitcher. I'm gonna grow up to be a baseball player. I will too!" he declared with great seriousness.
He stopped for a moment and looked into Michael's eyes. "Hi!" he said. "Gotta go now. Bye!" Off the youngster ran to his watchful mom.
"Sorry, I hope he didn't bother you," she yelled across the distance.
"No bother. He's beautiful," Nikita yelled back to her. Nikita reached and took Michael's hand in her own. "No bother at all." Her eyes swam with unshed tears, as she looked into Michael's face.
"I don't know if I can stand this," he said, as he watched his son run in the other direction.
"Of course, you can. You have to, for his sake," Nikita said as she led
him fromthe park.
Unseen in the shade of the evergreens, Tip Wellesley watched Nikita as
she and Michael left the park. He had to face it. She belonged
to Michael. He had lost Nikita, because she had never truly belonged
to him, but that knowledge didn't make the searing pain in his chest any
Madeline viewed the park incident from another vantage point, unseen by
Michael and Nikita or Tip. She was satisfied with Michael's response when
the ball had landed at his feet. Nikita had reacted brilliantly, relieving
Michael of any need to respond. The two belonged together, and if they
could stay alive long enough to enjoy it, she would be more than satisfied.
Operations was pleased as well. He had arranged surveillance for Michael's trips to the park. He noted Wellesley's presence and filed that bit of intel into his data bank of weaknesses. Nikita was still a danger to the order in Section One, but she seemed to be at the top of her game, protecting Michael. Interesting, he noted how strong she had become. She had no where near Michael's abilities in tactical strategies, but she was good--damn good.
Madeline's being at the park did not please Operations. He suspected that Madeline had harbored some kind of feeling for Michael, for years. At least, with Michael and Nikita together, he didn't have to worry about meeting Michael coming from Madeline's quarters anymore. He still loved Madeline, in spite of her cold manner toward him of late. He had nearly lost her during the contagion outbreak some months ago, but she would come around, he thought. She always did, sooner or later. He had to be patient.
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