Nikita steadied herself against the side of the bed nearest to Michael's shoulder where she gently place her hand and traced circles against the rough material of the hospital gown that covered his still body.

"I remember being on a mission," she spoke slowly as her fingers continued the circular pattern. "I remember being told to go to a different channel, they were your orders." she stared up at him locking deep blue crystal colored eyes to ones the color of hardened steel. "Birkoff told me that you wanted me to change to a private channel and that I was to go to this room only when I got there Madeline was there standing beside some machine."

She looked first at him then at Annie who was nodding to confirm what she had just heard. "She said that she hoped whatever went on between my last meeting with Michael was worth it because it would be my last." She waited for some sign that he knew but the blank yet intent stare told her that Madeline had indeed acted on her own. "I tried to tell her that Section had tried to alter me before but she laughed and said they had new technology and drugs. The last thing I remember was sliding into the machine and seeing Michael's face and calling his name. After that, it all goes blank," she finished looking drained again and he reached out to help her back to her bed but she pulled back.

"I have to stay with Michael." she shook him off. "I understand that Nikita but you need to rest." he insisted and she found herself following his gentle guidance back to the bed beside Michael's.

She settled into the bed and Annie helped to straighten the covers. "Nikita why don't you try to get some more rest," but Nikita was shaking her head. "You won't do yourself or Michael any good if you remain like this." she insisted stepping beside her and smoothing the hair from Nikita's face. "I will stay right here beside you and I promise that I will wake you if Michael comes to okay?" she smiled softly and Nikita wondered why this woman would be so kind to her.

"Why are you being so nice to me? What does this matter to you?" she stared at Annie who suddenly looked very sad.

"It matters Nikita because I invented the machine that Madeline use on you only I didn't know you or about you until Michael filled me and Operations was kind enough to let me try to make this right," she smiled again but Nikita knew that she was sincere.

"I have one more question for you Nikita and I need an honest answer." Operations stood on the other side of her bed and stared into her eyes.

"If I can." was all Nikita would commit to.

"How do you feel about Michael?"

She locked gazes with him wondering if this were some sort of trick, if she answered that she loved him would they be canceled? If she said she didn't would he be able to tell that she was lying? She hesitated for the briefest of moments and Operations had his answer.

"Then you do remember?" he smiled, patted her should and left the room.

Nikita was more worried now and Annie couldn't help but see it clearly written on her face. "Nikita, I will be right back." she patted her hand then hurried out of the room behind Operations. "Sir." she called to him as he walked ahead. He turned and faced her. "What happens to them now?" she faced him unafraid of what might happen to her now. "Haven't they been through enough?" she pleaded their case but couldn't read what was going on behind the gray eyes.

"Operations please, I am begging you, they love each other. Michael took a hell of a risk finding me. Nikita has been played with so much it's a wonder that she remembers as much as she does and I for one am glad that she knows she loves him. Imagine if she were to remember that it was she who shot him?" she placed a gentle hand on his arm trying to keep his attention.

Neither of them had heard her come out of Medlab or their conversation might have been more guarded. Neither noticed as she slowly slid against the wall close enough to hear every word. "Oh my God, I did this to Michael?" she screamed before collapsing in a heap on the ground.

"Nikita!" Operations yelled trying desperately to stop her fall but being to far away, he could only gather her unconscious form and return her to Medlab...



The lab technicians carried Nikita's unconscious form back to the bed beside where Michael lay still asleep after his surgery. Gently Annie covered her once again with the covers bunched at the bottom of the bed. "I'm sorry Operations, I wish she hadn't heard us. I never saw her standing in the hall." she felt the need to apologize since she carried the guilt of inventing the very machine that had started all of this. Silently she cursed Madeline and wished every kind of evil available and them some on her.

"You can call me Paul and it's not your fault, you did what Section asked you to do nothing more nothing less." she reassured her with a gentle touch of the hand. Both noticed the Dr. checking Michael's charts and inquired to any changes in his status.

"Well, he's been upgraded from critical if that says anything, but he has sustained quite a bit of internal damage as you both know." he flipped the pages back and forth comparing the notes carefully written from hour to hour. "Of course we would be more confident if he would wake but being that it hasn't been that long we can only take a wait and see attitude and keep him comfortable. And the girl?" he motioned to Nikita.

"She fainted in the corridor." Operations looked at her and saw her eyes fluttering.

"Nikita? Nikita are you okay?" he returned to her side.

"Wha.....what happened to me?" she sat up and immediately felt the room start to spin.

"You fainted" Annie pressed a cool cloth to her forehead.

"Yes, I remember" she looked upset as she turned to Michael "I remember hearing one of you say I had shot him. Is it true?" she carefully watched each of their faces as Annie nodded.

"You did, but you didn't know what you were doing you were under the influence of mind altering..." She couldn't quite decide what the proper term would have been to call it.

"Madeline messed with my head" she sat up legs swinging from the bed. "I swear to you, if I've killed him I am going after Madeline myself do you understand me?" she locked gazes with Operations and he saw the beautiful blue eyes turn to ice. All he could do was nod.

"Nikita?" they all heard the whispered voice and turned to see Michael blinking rapidly under the bright lights surrounding him. "Nikita you must not blame yourself." he turned his head slightly and tried to say more but his dried parched lips only managed to mouth words and Annie quickly brought him a damp sponge to moisten his mouth. "Drink, I need water." he struggled for breath. The pain he was feeling covered his complete midsection and was growing unbearable from the look on his face yet he knew if he complained that they might sedate him once more and he wasn't ready for that.

"Let me ask if you can have it, I'll be right back." Annie smiled and crossed the room. Returning with a glass of ice water, she carefully lifted his head just enough so he could take small sips.

He wished to simply pour the entire contents of the cup down his irritated throat but Annie only allowed small infrequent sips at the cup. It hit his stomach like molten lava. Having been devoid of food or liquid since the shooting, it reeled at having something so cold and harsh enter it and he felt like he might vomit. Annie, ever aware of things quietly brought up a tray and placed it within reach of his free hand. "Have they found Madeline?" he looked at Operations who smiled something he seldom did without evil being behind it.

"We know where she is and can get her at our leisure, but I think a game of cat in mouse is in order all things considering." The chuckle that came from him took all by surprise.



Madeline had found the time to slip home and change into a lavender sweater and simple black slacks that complemented her figure. She had chosen to wear the earrings and necklace that Alan had bought her, pearls that gently swayed with each step. Checking her reflection in the mirror, she reached into the closet and removed the fox fur coat that she had indulged in and wrapped it around herself snuggling into the warm soft fur as she left the apartment.

Reaching up, she placed the single piece of thread across the doorframe and adhered it to the door. It was a trick she had learned early on to register whether someone had paid her a visit while she was out. Although she was relatively certain that Section had not found her, the trained operative instincts still warned her to be careful.

Smiling to herself she crossed the hallway and waited for the elevator. As she entered and pushed the button to close the door, she vaguely heard the other elevator open but simply dismissed it as another neighbor coming home. If she had taken a moment to check, she might have noticed the five rather large men who exited and made their way to her door.

Davenport looked the entire door up and down then smiled when his eyes settled on the thread. It made him laugh that she was still acting as an operative after all this time but realized that with all the training he had received and knowing he was no where near her rank and status, Section must have worked harder at instilling this in their higher ups. Carefully he removed the thread and waited as another operative worked at the lock it didn't take him long to gain them access to her apartment. "We're in Birkoff." Davenport reported into his COM unit.

"They are on sight sir." Birkoff forwarded the message to Operations who silently wore a unit of his own keeping tabs on the mission without bringing it to Nikita's attention.

"If you will excuse me for a moment." he coughed and left the room. "Get everything installed and don't screw this up is that clear?" he had a direct line to Davenport now and wanted him to know just how important this mission was.

"Yes, sir, we'll be done in 15 minutes or less" he commanded his team to place cameras in each room and following Operations specific orders, even placed one in the shower.

"Don't forget who you are dealing with Davenport, don't get careless I don't want her to suspect anything do we understand each other?" the question was rhetorical.

Madeline took a cab to Gibson's paid the driver and exited the taxi on the curb per the instructions pasted on each window. The doorman took in the sight of the attractive woman and smiled as she passed "Good evening Ma'am." he tipped his cap and proceeded to open the door to admit her. She returned his smile but said nothing as she made her way to he hostess station.

"Good evening welcome to Gibson's how many in your party?" the pretty redhead smiled noting the fur and the beautiful woman standing before her.

"I have someone expecting me." Madeline smiled looked over the room and saw Alan making his way to where she was standing. "I see him now thank you," she turned to acknowledge the hostess before smiling and waving back at Alan.

"Enjoy your dinner" she smiled genuinely. They made and attractive couple as they returned to the corner table that Alan had reserved for them. Madeline smiled as she noticed the half-filled wineglasses sitting on the table.

"I hope you don't mind I took the liberty to order us a bottle of their best wine?" he hoped he wasn't being to forward. "Not at all" she allowed him to remove her coat and turn to hand it to the waiter. "Don't lose it" he teased and the boy smiled and nodded. Madeline was uneasy about losing sight of the fur but Alan assured her that it was quite safe and hoped she could think of something beside a dead animal's skin.

Davenport and his men were in and out in just under 14 minutes. He himself had taken the time to supervise and inspect each of the devices placed in every room of the loft. Satisfied that all was in order, they carefully exited the doorway, returned the thread to its previous position and left the building the way they had entered, through the roof.



Michael stared at Nikita, or so it seemed. He tried hard to focus on her, but the face that he loved so much wavered and blurred and it was extremely difficult for him to bring her in clearly. "Nikita is that you?"

Nikita looked at Annie wondering if by some chance his vision had been effected when he was shot. "Yes Michael it's me." she smiled and moved in closer. Michael tried to lick dry parched lips that had begun to crack even though Annie and Nikita had taken turns sponging them with the moist cloth. This made it harder for him to form the words that he needed to speak.

"Michael are you having trouble with your vision?" Annie moved in beside Nikita and checked his pupils.

"Blurry" his voice came in raspy heaves as if each word were incredibly difficult for him.

"That's the medication they have given you too keep you comfortable, let me get the doctor for you." she tapped his arm and scurried across to where the doctor was conversing with another operative that had come in earlier. "Excuse me doctor, but Michael has regained consciousness but he seems to have trouble focusing on anything is this normal?" she was genuinely concerned.

"It is not uncommon given the seriousness of his wounds, the amount of blood he lost and the damage he has sustained." He checked his chart and made a note to run some additional test. "Let's see what we are dealing with." He closed the chart replaced it under his arm and strode across the room, Annie practically skipping to keep pace with him. "Michael, welcome back to the world of the living." He smiled removed his penlight and proceeded to check Michael's reaction to the light. "Hmmmm." he flipped open the chart that he had gently placed on Michael's chest read something and jotted down a note.

"Doctor what seems to be the problem?" Operations was growing unsettled by the other man's manners.

"Well, he is having a bit of trouble with his eyes. Apparently he sustained some sort of head trauma and his pupils are not reacting as they should."

Michael was getting angry that they were carrying on the conversation yet not including him. "Am I going to be blind?" he sat up a bit then winced at the tenderness of his abdominal area.

"Careful young man, can't have you undoing all my find handiwork now can we?" he picked up a syringe and started to fill it.

"What are you doing?" Michael pulled back his arm as far as the IV tubing would allow.

"I'm going to give you something to keep you calm and help you sleep." he finished filling the syringe, wiped a spot on Michael's arm and was a bit surprised at the strength in the other as it grabbed his wrist.

"No! No more medication to help me sleep, I have slept plenty and I am quite calm." he implored Operations to back him up.

"It's for your own good young man." the doctor was going to proceed but was stopped by Nikita's hand removing the syringe from his own.

"Michael said no more sedation." she insisted and the look in her eye told the doctor that crossing her would not be in his best interest. She tossed the syringe into the metal receptacle and stood almost between the doctor and the patient.

"He's going to be in a lot of pain..." the doctor continued.

"He can handle the pain, you can give him something for it that won't knock him out." she looked at Annie for something.

"I need him awake doctor." Operations interjected and the doctor finally backed away.

"I'll see what I can do." He was angry that these people were preventing him from doing his job. It didn't sit well with him that he was being forced to keep a patient awake when it was much easier to deal with them when they were under sedation. He would have to report this to her per her instructions and he knew from previous experience that she would be far from happy. He only hoped that he never got caught. It had been months since he reported to her and he was sure that he would be admonished for that too. There was much to bring her up to date on now.

"Nikita how long have I been here?" he looked into her eyes, his vision clearing a bit more as the sedation began wearing off. As it did, he became more and more aware of the discomfort from his abdominal region but refused to complain. It wasn't in Michael's nature to let pain show yet Nikita could see it in his eyes. Operations and Annie resumed a brief chat to the side of the bed and when they finished, both excused themselves and left the two alone.

"You've been here since I apparently shot you Michael, I'm really sorry about that." she smiled uncomfortably.

"You don't remember shooting me?" he had hoped that she was okay but now was unsure.

"Not exactly, but I do remember one thing." she smiled and hoped that he understood.

"What?" he never took his gaze from her face and his emerald green eyes covered every inch from forehead to chin as he studied her. "What do you remember?" he smiled reassuring her that he did indeed understand all that she had been through.

She leaned in close, pecked him on the nose and smiled, "I remembered that I loved you and always have." She smiled and waited for a response....