Part V
Michael shook his head.  "That is entirely too simplistic.  There are too many
things for which I should be held accountable."

Therese leaned forward with her elbows on the desk and asked, "And who holds you accountable for these things, Michael?"

Therese knew the answer from Michael's steel gray eyes, before he ever replied, "I do."

Therese sighed.  At time she thought it was futile sparring with Michael.  He
would castigate himself, no matter what she said.  "Coffee, Michael?  I'm ready for some."

 Michael's eyes remained hooded, but he nodded his assent.

 Five minutes later, Therese brought a steaming cup of coffee for each of them.
"Are you ready to resume?  If you are, I have a question.  In our previous round of therapy, you spoke of the infant that you and Simone lost.  I would imagine that learning you were to have a child with Elena was extremely disturbing to Simone.  How did you deal with the conflict within your self?"

Michael shut his eyes and grimaced.  "I never had a son with Simone."

"What?  If I remember correctly, you went into great detail about the loss and your suspicions that Section One was responsible for his death, while you and Simone were away on a mission."

Michael could not have appeared more guilty.  It was obvious that telling her the
truth ‘now' was painful for him.  He set his coffee on the table beside his chair and ran a hand through his hair, stalling for time and the right words.  "It was an anomaly inserted into my personnel file before the Directory was stolen.  It was to be used at some point to make me into a more sympathetic person for Nikita.  It was felt by Madeline that it would ‘bond' Nikita to me.  In the end, it was very successful, although not in the context that we expected.  When Nikita was captured and tortured by Dominic, he revealed it to her coincidentally.  It became an important factor, however, in encouraging Nikita to give up
the new location of Section in order to save me."

"See how good I am at what I do?  I betrayed my feelings to Nikita so that she
would betray Section and trap our enemies.  The profile was not my choosing, but it worked.  When  I told you the story about losing my son, I merely substituted what I thought it would be like to lose Adam for the emotions I supposedly felt for Rene.  I didn't like deceiving you, but I had to remain consistent with my cover, whether Nikita was involved or not.  I'm sorry."

"Therese smiled ruefully.  "Of course, I've had patients lie to me and present
preposterous confabulations that no one in their right mind would believe; however, I have never heard such fantastic stories as yours, and never so convincing.  You ‘are' good, Michael.  Too bad you can't run for President."

Michael gave a tight smile and sipped his coffee and began.  "Nikita, of course,
figured out what I had done and despised me for it."

Therese could not resist a reply, "But no more than you despised yourself."

Michael gave a small wordless shrug and nodded.

"Michael, what was the alternative, if you hadn't proceeded with the profile, as
you were ordered?"

"I would have been canceled.  Section would have been eliminated by someone
guilty of more heinous crimes than you can imagine.  Hundreds of operatives, not to mention thousands of people would have died had Dominic achieved his long term goals."

"Michael, you are part of an organization that only rewards a successful operation.  You believe in the overall aims of Section One, don't you."

"Yes," Michael replied hoarsely.

"Although you don't always agree on how those aims are achieved?" she asked.


"Your death would change things for the better, how?"

Michael buried his head in his hands.  "Mon Dieu!  You are worse than Nikita.  I
thought psychiatrists were supposed to listen.  Don't you ever just listen?"

Therese's response was a smile.

"I know that I have to survive. The need to survive keeps me focused on the
mission.  I know that I am the prime contender to take Operations' place, if I can stay alive long enough.  Twenty-four hours a day, I am walking a tight rope, trying to keep Nikita alive and near me, while trying to do exactly as Operations desires and never falter with Madeline watching every move and nuance.  I thought living two lives was tearing me apart, but it is this place."  Michael looked around the room.  "I am still torn.  I love Nikita and I miss my son.  And heaven help me, I miss Elena, too.  I can't tell Nikita that I still worry about how she is taking my death and the death of her father.  Section shot us right in front of her.  And my son....  I don't know what this has done to him."

Tears sprang to Michael's eyes, and Therese watched he tried to blink them away without success.  "Michael, it's all right to care about your wife, and it's all right to cry for your son.  There is no one in this room who will think you less a man for being overwhelmed by this situation, and I think you underestimate Nikita's devotion to you."

Michael's shoulders began to shake as the comfort of Therese's words surrounded him and gave him permission to feel.  He gave vent to the pain that ripped through his abdomen and chest in waves of agony.

As his sobs, began to abate, Therese knew she had never wanted to hug a patient more than she wanted to hug Michael at that moment, but she mustered all her professionalism and handed him a box of tissues instead.


There were no missions pending, and Nikita found it difficult waiting for Michael
to emerge from his session with Therese. She knew that Michael found difficulty in expressing his feelings, even with her. It had been easier for him to show her.
Unfortunately, it had not always been easy for her to see. Too many times she had been blinded by anger at his manipulations and lies, never once seeing that, in his own way, he had been protecting her. He had finally shown her the truth. He had given her freedom. Not that she had understood it at the time or appreciated it, for in fact, she had resented it.  At the first opportunity, she had returned.

Nikita marveled that he was able to relate to Therese by slipping into a therapeutic relationship. Nikita supposed that the doctor was as good at her job, as Michael was at his. Plus, she cared. It was obvious to Nikita that Therese had feelings for Michael. What woman wouldn't? There was much about Michael to love. Superficially, he was handsome, with a definite air of mystery that had always attracted women, be they innocents or seven-eighths of the female operatives in Section One. His eyes told so much, the blank stare notwithstanding. His eyes held promises of--well, that was part of the mystery. Nikita smiled. Michael had certainly been a mystery since she had first
known him; but now some of those mysteries had been answered, leaving a man that was grieving and vulnerable beyond his control, but no less desirable.

Nikita walked into Systems and plopped into a chair beside Birkoff and began
drumming her fingers on the countertop.

Birkoff was not amused. "What?" he asked in a petulant tone.

Nikita sighed. "I'm bored. What are you doing? I mean what do you do when
there's no mission on pad? I'm just a little curious. That's all." Nikita flashed him a quick false smile.

"What the hell do you think I do, Nikita? Play Slingo on the Internet? Jeez. I
should think you know by now that intel retrieval and analysis is my main function here, besides chaperoning you kids while you're on missions."

"Sorry! I didn't mean to step on your professional toes, Birkoff. I know you
don't goof off...much," Nikita responded with a grin.

Birkoff rolled his eyes. "How's the sink file I installed for you working? Any news yet?"

Nikita moved closer to Birkoff before answering. "It's working a little too well,
Birkoff. Her disappearance has already hit television news and the early morning edition.  Section One at its most efficient, one might say. Her car and body have already been found, wrecked and burned beyond recognition," she whispered.

Birkoff looked over his glasses at Nikita and asked quietly, "Does she know?"

"No, she's been with Michael all morning. I don't know how to break it to her."

"Surely, she realized Section would handle it."

"Yeah, but seeing it in print makes it so final, like seeing my grave did--row 8, plot 30. Nothing quite like it." Nikita shook her head as she remembered her first meeting with Michael in the White Room, and the photograph of her grave site that had cut the apron strings to her old life forever.

"That would do it all right," Birkoff agreed.


Michael leaned against the wall. He felt drained after his session with Therese.
That he felt so comfortable with her he didn't question. Obviously their previous
therapeutic relationship was a major factor, as was the simple fact that she, too, was able  to cast aside her emotions and deal with him on a professional level. It gave him hope that  with Therese's expert guidance and Nikita's emotional support, he might be able to recover  from the emptiness that seemed at times to consume all his energy. He knew that his  ability to focus while on missions remained severely impaired. Operations and Madeline  would not allow that to continue much longer. He knew that too.

However, Michael had begun to question everything he had done in the past.
Were his rationales valid? Was his survival worth the price paid by his soul and psyche?  How was he any different than the Nazi guards who herded people into the ovens during  W.W.II? Michael was not sure that he 'was' any different. Those guards either believed in  what they were doing , as reprehensible as it was, or they did it to stay alive. How was  Section One's goal of 'saving' the world any different from Hitler's goal of world  domination by purifying the races. Michael wasn't sure it was.

Michael remembered Nikita's turning to him for advice during her confrontation
with Operations and Adrian. He had asked her "what have you seen with your own eyes?"  Nikita had based 'her' decision, a decision that affected every operative in Section One, on  what she felt she had seen with her own eyes. Michael knew he must continue to evaluate what he had seen and what he would see in the future. He knew he must no longer simply  accept Operations orders and follow them. He had to begin to think for himself . He  would have to offer alternatives. He would have to change.

Not only would he have to change, he would continue to keep Nikita close to him.  He knew she had guarded him. He had sensed it. Their connection was so strong and so  much a part of him, that he knew she had remained near him, during the period when he  had been so dysfunctional that he had not cared if he lived or died. Her vigilance had touched him. He supposed she could not do any less than he would have done.

He loved Nikita. He was not sure he would ever believe he deserved her love, but it seemed to be a fact of life that everyone around them acknowledged. He was becoming accustomed to the idea. She was no longer a wild street waif. Instead, she had become a polished operative, who had the tremendous ability to win the loyalty and devotion of all those around her. Michael knew it was this very quality in Nikita that Operations feared most of all. In many ways, Nikita and Operations were very similar--impulsive, stubborn, and each of them always convinced that she or he was doing what was right.

By the time Michael reached his office, Nikita was there waiting for him. She
arched an eyebrow and glanced meaningfully at his scrambling device. He nodded gravelyand activated it.

"What is it?" he asked.

"I wanted to show you the files I've pulled on Therese. Section has already
provided a body. They're not gonna let her go."

"You knew that, surely, Nikita."

"I hoped that maybe memory modification...."

Michael shook his head, "No, in an adult like Therese, it would pose too many
difficulties. Memory modification is not without its risks, Nikita."

Nikita gave a rueful smile. "I don't know that much about it, Michael. I just know
Section has the capability."

Michael leaned forward on the desk. "What was your purpose in collecting the
intel on Therese?"

Nikita was almost at a loss for words. "I suppose I really wanted confirmation that this was a permanent situation for her."

Michael allowed his irritation to show by tapping his fingers against the desk. The action was unusual, to say the least. "From the moment Section took her from the parking garage, it was a permanent situation, Nikita. Do you intend to show the files to Therese?"

Nikita shrugged. "I wanted your advice on that." Nikita ran her hand across the
edge of the desk as she waited for Michael's response.

Michael nodded. "Show it to her. She needs to understand, just as you did, as we all did. There is no reprieve."

"Just show it to her? That's awfully cold, Michael."

"Would it be kinder to give her false hopes?"

Nikita looked at her knees for a moment before answering, "No."

"She's your material. Show her."

Nikita, ever the compassionate, said, "I only hoped that there would be an easier way to do it."

Michael allowed his tone and eyes to soften, but his response was essentially thesame. "There's not, and you know it."

Nikita nodded. "I know. I hate it, but I know." Nikita reached across the desk
and gently touched the back of Michael's hand, tracing the network of veins.

"Courage," he said, as he took her hand in his for a brief moment.

Nikita smiled, "You, too."

Part 6