into the white tank top and PJ bottoms that always seemed to be
hanging in her tiny
closet. Nikita sipped a cup of herbal tea, while she listened to
the magical sounds that emanated from her CD player. She wondered
if Michael or Therese were going to be able to adapt to their new circumstances.
She was fairly certain that Michael would overcome his emotional difficulties.
After all, he always had, although at tremendous cost. Therese, however,
remained a gnawing question in Nikita's mind.
Nikita stood and began to breathe evenly and deeply, but was interrupted by four soft raps at her door...familiar sounding raps. Yes, she thought as she opened the door. Indeed, Michael stood there.
"Michael? Come in." Nikita stood aside and allowed him to enter.
"Thank you." Michael looked around and sat on the narrow bed, leaving the single chair for her. In an absent-minded gesture, he began to stroke the colorful granny square afghan.
It looked to Nikita
as if Michael had something to say, but was not certain if even
he knew what it was. "Would you like some tea? Sorry, no coffee." Michael's addiction to coffee was well-known throughout Section One.
Michael gave an absent smile, "Yes, tea would be fine."
Nikita made the tea swiftly. It was the one thing she could do automatically, with her eyes closed. She carried the cup to him, and their fingers touched briefly as he took it from her.
"Thank you," he said, as he gazed into the cup of fragrant steaming drink, avoiding her eyes.
Nikita had to restrain herself from touching him. He had come here for a reason, and if she gave him enough time and space it would all be revealed. Nikita took her own cup of tea and sat in the chair, crossing her legs Indian-style. She blew on the tea, then sipped it slowly.
"Mmm," she murmured, as she watched him over the rim of the cup. "It's good and hot."
"Yes, it is."
content merely to sip his tea. Nikita watched him closely as he
closed his eyes and seemed to drift onto another plane. Then abruptly, he opened his eyes and asked, "Is Therese all right?"
Nikita gave a
rueful smile. "Yeah. For the moment, anyway. I left her
minutes ago, and she was uh-- better than earlier.
then rose as if to leave. "I should go. I'm keeping you from
Nikita looked into Michael eyes. "You don't have to leave," she said hoarsely. "I was just listening to some music, relaxing," she replied with a shrug.
A tiny smile quirked
the corner of Michael's mouth. "Well, if you need to relax
opened widely at the old familiar phrase. "Yeah?" she asked
Michael gave a small nod. "Yeah."
into Michael's eyes, and to her dismay her lower lip began an
involuntary tremble. Even worse, she started to babble. "Are you sure? I mean just because I said the word relax. I mean I wasn't hinting. It was a slip---."
Michael rose from the bed and stopped her babbling by placing his fingers on her lips. "Shh. You have a very bad habit, Ni-ki-ta," he said softly.
"Only one?" Nikita asked as she opened her mouth and began to kiss his fingers.
"Oui, you talk
too much." Michael caressed the side of her face with the back of
his hand, slow movements of discovery, as if touching her and seeing her for the very first time. It would be the first time he made love to her without the haunting specter of another clouding his mind. He ran his fingers through her hair, luxuriating in its silky texture as he crushed her to his chest. He was losing control, and she was the only woman capable of making him lose control. He wanted to cry. He wanted to laugh hysterically. He wanted mount her like a stallion. He wanted to worship her with all the reverence she deserved. Mon Dieu, he was losing his mind. He wrenched himself from her encircling arms.
"No!" he cried.
for his hand. "It's all right, Michael. It's all right, if
you want to
go, or if you want to stay. Staying is not a commitment. You need me. I'm your...." Nikita stopped. She wasn't really sure what she was, or if she could bring herself to say what she truly felt. She tried again. "Stay. Take what comfort there can be between us."
"You deserve more." His green eyes were shiny with tears that he would not allow himself to shed.
"So do you, but
‘this' is what there is, right now. Please stay." Nikita's
dropped to a whisper. Nikita took his hand and placed it on her left breast. "Feel my heart, Michael. It's saying for you to stay." Nikita then placed her other hand on Michael's chest. "Your heart is saying to stay, too, Michael. For once, listen to your heart."
The pounding in Michael's chest seemed to intensify, answering for the man, who could only stare into aquamarine eyes--eyes that had trusted him, loved him and been betrayed by him. "I don't deserve you, Nikita."
Damn, the man, Nikita thought, as her face took on a mischievous aspect, "Maybe not, but I think we're stuck with each other, and if ‘you' don't shut up, I'm either going to kick you out of here, or ‘never' let you out of here. Take your choice." She began backing him against the wall. "Personally, I think a compromise could be agreed upon, like I'm going to keep you here till morning. As of now, you," she pointed at him, "are my prisoner."
Michael shrugged and accepted the inevitable. "I always have been, Nikita."
Nikita smiled. "Then come here, now, prisoner," she demanded softly.
The prisoner held his wrists in front of him in mute supplication.
Nikita said as she reached for him.
Together they sank on the bed. Finally, there was nothing left for them to say.
"Six AM! Damn!
I was supposed to meet Therese at five-thirty to start her
training. Your supposed to see her at eight." Nikita scrambled from the bed, pulling from Michael's determined grasp as she headed for the shower. "And she has to see Madeline at seven." Nikita rushed back to press a quick kiss on Michael's forehead, but was stopped by that determined operative whose mission objective was to delay her. "No, that's all you--."
Her words were stopped by Michael's lips on hers, but then a quick smack on her posterior startled her. "That was just to show you who's in charge," he said playfully. "I know you have to go. I do too." Michael swung his muscular legs over the side of the bed and began to dress.
Nikita sighed as he zipped his pants. "See you later?" she asked, as she stepped into the small shower.
Michael gave a
guilty smile. "Probably." He continued to dress until, except for
his short curly hair, he was presentable. He combed it with his fingers, hrugged and left as Nikita stepped from the shower.
Therese puffed on her second pack of cigarettes in fifteen years, as she paced her living quarters. She'd been up since five AM and, Nikita was over an hour late. She had showered, dressed in an atrocious gray sweat suit that made her butt look as wide as all Europe and had a cup of coffee, but still no Nikita. Therese's pacing was interrupted as she heard the door open.
"Sorry, I'm late. I sort of, uh-- overslept," Nikita said with a sheepish grin.
"Well, I didn't
and I've been awake since five AM." Then the observant Therese
suddenly became aware of Nikita's expression. "Oh. Did anyone else oversleep as well? Please tell me it was a certain green-eyed operative."
Nikita smiled. "Guilty as charged, but you and I have to hit the gym."
"Mon Dieu! Nikita,
do we have to do this? You know my idea of strenuous
exercise is a casual walk on a windy day."
"Yes, Therese, and it shows!"
"Well, you don't
have to be so blunt, Cherie. Lead on. Lead on. I am your
material. Do with me what you will, but you'd better leave something of the psychiatrist because that's the only reason I am here."
"Don't worry today
will be sort of an orientation. I think the treadmill is a good
place to start."
"I can hardly wait," Therese muttered as rolled her eyes.
Thirty minutes later, a somewhat frazzled and perspiring Therese was gasping, as she finished her stint on the treadmill. "They used to use something like this in 18th Century English prisons as a punishment. I am sure of it," she said as she wiped her red face with a towel.
"Well, now it's pretty handy for whipping under exercised
psychiatrists into shape." Therese responded by wadding her towel and throwing it at Nikita.
"Just don't try that stunt with Madeline. She's been known to cancel people forless," Nikita said with a devilish smile.
"Hmm, yes. Seems
the icy Madeline is next on my agenda for the day. Well, no
time to shower and change. I guess I will see her like this." Therese tossed her head, then looked to the left, then to the right. "Where is her office? This place is a veritable maze, Nikita. Who would ever had known it was here, so close to the city."
down the steps into Madeline's lair and collapsed into the
note of Therese's air of arrogance that verged on insolence, but
chose to ignore it for the present. "Did you rest well? I hope your accommodations were satisfactory."
"I slept as well
as any claustrophobic five hundred feet underground might be
expected to sleep. How do you sleep, Madeline?" Therese asked with irony.
"You're not here
to analyze me, Dr. DuPre. Your initial charge will be Michael.
Do you think you will be able to maintain your professional distance this time? I am well aware that your feelings for Michael forced you to suspend his therapy."
Therese gave a
snort. "So formal, Madeline? You had no difficulty calling me by
my name during our luncheon engagement. As for Michael, what difference does it make, if I maintain my professional distance or not? It's not as if any professional review board is going to censure me, and I hadn't noticed any reliance on ethics in relation to decisions made by Section One. Expedience, yes. Ethics, no."
her blankest stare at Therese. "It is true that what we do here
often calls for the most expedient use of our resources. It would be most unfortunate if Michael's therapy is impeded by your lack of emotional detachment. He has proved his value to Section One many times. You and your value to us, however, remain as yet unknown. We do not waste resources unnecessarily, but we do know when to cut our losses."
Therese took a
deep breath. "My, my, that sounds like a thinly veiled threat. Am I
supposed to quake in my boots? Do you think I want to live under the conditions here? Think again, Madeline. I will do all in my power to help Michael repair the damage that Section One has done to him. Other than that, I make no promises. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a patient at eight, and I need a shower."
Therese rose to leave, but was stopped by Madeline's favorite maneuver, the last minute comment. "Michael's too young for you, you know."
around and smiled, "Of course, he is, but he wasn't too young for
you, was he?"
softly on Therese's door and waited for her to respond before
entering. Technically, he did not have to accord this courtesy to Therese, but he did it because he felt she was due any consideration he could offer.
Therese waited in the space set aside as an office. The same comfortable chairs and sofa as in her old office were arranged with the same care and precision. "Good morning, Michael," Therese said as he came into her office. She observed that he seemed more alive and less distraught than he had the previous day.
Michael once again felt compelled to apologize for Therese's being in Section One. 'I'm so sorry, Therese. Your life has been ruined because of my difficulties." Michael looked at his well-manicured hands. He found it difficult to look Therese in the eye.
I don't blame you. I blame Section One and their dictatorial, hypocritical
and immoral methods.
The fact is that I am here, and you have need of my services.
Now, I am already
aware of some of the circumstances behind your difficulties, but tell me
whatever you wish
to tell me, in whatever order you choose. We are not limited in time
here as we were before.
I have no other patients. I do, however, have to meet someone
named Walter this
afternoon for weapons training," Therese added with a rueful smile.
"I'm sure this room is under surveillance, Michael, so if you have one of those scrambler things you used before, this might be a good time to activate it."
Michael gave Therese a brief, secretive smile, as he removed the latest version of the PAS419-beta from his jacket and activated it. "This will now provide four hours of privacy, if we need it."
the back of the leather chair that had once before been a silent
witness to his emotional distress. Michael closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. "I suppose I might as well start at the beginning." He began to pace, not being able to sit. He cut his eyes toward her in order to judge her reaction to what he was about to say. "I couldn't tell you before. The mission was too important to jeopardize the years of preparation that had gone before. Section wanted to take down a terrorist broker, and he was never exposed. It had been years since he'd been photographed. Section had located his daughter. She was very young when he left her and her mother, and there had been no contact between them since. Her mother had died recently, and she
was alone. She had financial resources, but she was very vulnerable emotionally."
"It was my assignment
to not merely seduce her, but to court and marry her, then
use my influence
to encourage her to find her father. From the intel Section had on
her, I could
see that she was lovely, of East Indian heritage. She had been educated
in England, but
had returned to Bordeaux after the death of her mother. I met her
in a park as she walked
her dog, Watson. He was this big black retriever, and I was not sure
how he would
accept me, but my shoes and hands had been treated with a chemical bait.
I was jogging
near the path she always took with him, and he lunged at me, knocking me
to the ground.
She was properly horrified and scolded the poor animal, who was licking
hands and trying to make friends."
Michael stopped pacing and finally sat in the leather chair, as he continued. "She apologized over and over. She was very embarrassed, saying he'd never done anything like that before. I, of course, being the ultimate valentine operative, was charming and refused to accept her apologies and took her to coffee instead, Watson in tow." Michael smiled at the memory. "He was such a good dog. He never sensed that I was devious and had manipulated the situation. I always thought dogs were supposed to have a sense about people, but I guess I fooled even old Watson."
The far away look
in Michael's eyes made it appear to Therese that he was truly
reliving those moments.
"It was easy to
make her fall in love with me. We took long walks. We went
the museums. I was everything to her that she needed, except honest, of course. I was already married to Simone, but that made no difference to Section. Simone and I had made a pact never to discuss missions that involved relationships with other people. At first, it was simply a mission, then it became more complicated after Elena and I married. Walter was part of my cover. I needed to trot out a relative or two, so Walter became my step-father. Mainly, however, we were two young people in love, newly married and few
relatives to interfere. She depended on me for everything. On one hand it was nearly suffocating, but on the other, it was a totally new experience for me. Only my younger sister had depended on me like that before, never a woman I loved. Yes, I had come to love her."
it, or at least knew I was being torn between the two of them,
but Simone continued to soldier on until, Elena became pregnant. That was when Simone seemed to unravel at the seams. She was enraged when she learned of it from Madeline. There was a scene, Simone nearly attacked Operations. I realize now that Simone's death was no typical Section loss, and that a profile had been set to bind me to Elena and separate me from Simone, because that is exactly what happened. I retreated from Section One, spent more time with Elena between missions. She became my refuge from the pain I felt here, when reminded of Simone's absence. When I was in Section, I shut
down. I couldn't talk to anyone. I was full of the pain that I could not express in my other life. My ‘split' became real at that time. I lived two entirely different lives."
"I tried to tell
myself that Section would let me continue to live with Elena and
Adam, even though I knew the end game from the start. We went through the motions of trying to find Elena's father. There were times when she refused even to discuss him, and others when she would insist on renewing our efforts to find him. Adam's birth was ordered by Section. The ‘blood cover' would make our little family complete and give her father another compelling reason to seek contact with his daughter."
Michael had made most of his long peroration as he looked at the ceiling or the
floor or over Therese's shoulder. Finally, he looked at her fully. "Do you see anything before you that should be salvaged?" he asked with a voice full of self-disgust. "Is my conduct not abhorrent?"
Therese, who was
saddened to see Michael so riddled with self-hate, said,
"Michael, I'm not here to judge you. No one could ever judge you worse than you do yourself. You are as much a victim of Section One as Elena or Adam or Simone."
and Therese were occupied with therapy, Nikita decided to check
her lap top to see if any intel was available yet on Therese's disappearance. Setting aside her cup of herbal tea, she quickly went through the procedures to boot her system and waited as it went through its warm-up. As a joke, Birkoff had altered Nikita's sounds. He'd done it more than once, and whenever it suited his fancy to do so. How he managed to do it, Nikita had no idea, but she never knew what to expect.
"Good morning, how's everything?" greeted her as the desktop came into view. I was Michael's voice greeting her. The next response from the computer was again Michael's voice.
"Have I ever told you how beautiful you are?" he asked. Damn, she thought the little computer whiz had taken snippets from the Armel mission tape and downloaded them as .WAV files to the sounds in her computers. She would make him pay for that. Well, maybe she wouldn't be too mean to him. Michael's voice did sound awfully good coming from her little lap top.
her hard drive for the sink file Birkoff had created, so that she
could check any media references about Therese. "You have two unread files" the menu announced. Nikita highlighted the first file, entitled "Has Anyone Seen" and began to watch the MPG from a local television newscast. "Local authorities were contacted late this evening by Dr. Pierre DuPre about the sudden disappearance of his wife, prominent psychiatrist Dr. Therese DuPre. The last confirmed sighting was by her administrative assistance, Kristina Lemieux at approximately 4:45PM. Members of Dr. DuPre's group therapy session were expected at five o'clock. It is not known yet who attended the
group session, but the investigation continues. Dr. DuPre's vehicle, a silver Peugeot, is missing from the parking garage of her office building."
The second file
was titled, "Missing Psychiatrist's Car Found." It was an early
morning newspaper article that stated that Dr. DuPre's silver Peugeot had been
discovered, crashed and burned. The body of a female burned beyond recognition had been discovered in the vehicle. It stated that the investigation was ongoing to determine of the body was that of the missing psychiatrist, and if the circumstances of the crash were accidental or foul play.
As she read those
ominous words, Nikita felt a cold chill race down her back.
Section One would not and could not let Therese go. Logically, Nikita had known they wouldn't, but until she had seen the newspaper article, she had hoped against all reason that they would somehow find a way to let her go back to her family.
Nikita clicked on the print icon, and a copy of the newspaper article began to print. Nikita wondered if she should show it to Therese, as she had promised. I'll talk to Michael about it first, she thought. Nikita reached for her tea and found that it had grown too cold and bitter for her taste.