Nikita set the table and placed the serving tray with the pot roast and noodles, baked potato and the rest of the side dishes before Michael. He was quite impressed and wondered if she had only lied about being unable to cook.
"Everything looks and smells wonderful" he placed his napkin on his lap and picked up his knife and fork as she placed a healthy portion on his plate.
"I hope it tastes as good as it looks," she smiled as she loaded her plate and sat across from him. He lifted his glass and toasted the dinner and then them. "To us and new beginnings" he smiled, she clinked her glass of ginger ale since she was afraid to drink anything that might interact with the drugs that she had been given.
"To closure" she smiled as she picked up her fork and stabbed at a piece of meat. "You first." she challenged Michael.
He picked up his fork with a hunk of meat on it and slowly turned it around and around studying it. "It looks good" he teased then sniffed at the meat. "It smells okay." he laughed as her face tightened.
"Just eat the damn meat Michael." she was eager to please him and hoped that she wouldn't poison him by accident.
He slowly placed the meat into his mouth in what could only be considered a sensual move, slowly sucked the juices from the fork. "Hmmmmm...." he smiled contentedly then dropped the fork and grabbed his throat.
"What? Michael are you okay?" she screamed as his eyes rolled in his head.
"Best I ever tasted." he started laughing and some of the juice rolled leisurely down his chin.
Nikita stood up and crossed over to him and licked the juice from where it was pooling. "Yes, I agree." She smiled when she realized that she had taken him completely by surprise. Much better than yelling that he had scared her half to death. She returned to her seat and set about eating what surprisingly turned out to be a fantastic meal. "Not bad." she mumbled with a full mouth that made Michael picture her as she had been living on the street taking meals wherever and whenever she could get them. The thought made him sad when he realized that much of the things done to her had been because of him. "What is it Michael?" she put her fork down and placed her head on her hands studying him.
"Nothing." he tried to change the subject but she knew that something had made him sad even if only for a moment.
"Don't lie to me Michael," she stared at him.
"I was just thinking that it was because of me that you came to Section, that all of this was done to you," he continued to blame himself and Nikita decided he would need to let that all go.
"Michael, what is done, was done is over and can't be changed. It is not all your fault. I came back on my own remember?" she smiled.
"No, I brought you back, you came back for me." he put his fork down then lifted the wine glass to his lips. "This is all my fault" he downed the red liquid.
"Michael stop it." She shouted drawing him out of his sadness. "I can't handle it when you blame yourself. I love you just the way you are, yes bad things have happened to me in fact, they have happened to both of us and we are who we are but we are together." She emphasized that fact.
Madeline spent the afternoon preparing a homemade dinner, Spaghetti with meatballs on angelhair pasta with garlic bread. She ran out and purchased what she hoped would be the perfect bottle of wine. At least that is what the store owner had assured her of. She set the table with a beautiful red and white checked tablecloth and placed two crystal candleholders in the center. She wanted Alan to be surprise and thought he was when she had phoned him to invite him back for dinner.
"Are we going out somewhere Celia?" he smiled knowing what effect his attention was having on her.
"No, I thought I would do the cooking tonight." she laughed at the thought of herself in the kitchen complete with a picture of her wearing an apron.
"Shall I bring anything? The wine perhaps?" he continued as he worked on the project on the desk before him. If she had been there, she might have realized that he was typing up a debrief for Michael.
"Took care of that already but how about dessert?" she stirred the homemade sauce and tasted it before adding just a pinch more garlic. "See you around 7 okay?" she was having trouble balancing the phone and working in the kitchen.
"Till tonight." he made a kissing noise in the phone then disconnected. He was pleased that they continued to make progress. Michael had told him that gaining her confidence might be extremely difficult.
Madeline left the sauce simmering on the stove and decided to take a shower. Carefully placing all the hair care products in the shower stall, she accidentally knocked over the hair conditioner then stooped to pick it up. It was then that she noticed the hair thin wire running up the corner of the wall behind what appeared a fresh bead of caulk. "What the?" she carefully ran the thread upward and managed to not only dislodge it but trail it up to the microscopic hole above the shower area. Gently tugging on the fragile line the object it was anchored to slipped out of the hole and into her hand. Her bottom lip dropped as she recognized the familiar object. Section One had obviously paid her a visit!
It didn't take her very long to inspect her entire apartment and without fail she found each and every micro camera. Whoever had planted them obviously didn't realize who they were dealing with and she was more than sure that when Section realized that they had indeed been found, there would be hell to pay.
She wondered aloud who had set her up and the only one she could come up with was Alan. He had been the only one to get her out of the apartment for any length of time and she knew Section would not have sent anyone in broad daylight to wire her apartment. At first she started to cry. She had enjoyed Alan's company greatly and was extremely disappointed that it would have been him who betrayed her but then she realized that knowing what she did, she had element of surprise on her side. Hoping that she could replace all the devices before they were noticed scurried about the apartment replacing each and every one in exactly the spot she had removed them from.
She was glad that she had taken the time to pay attention years ago to wiring someone's place. Deciding the shower would have to wait, she dressed and left the apartment to purchase some of the necessary items she would need for Alan's little surprise... and boy would he be surprised. Madeline smiled to herself. Apparently Section had underestimated her once again.
"Sir, whatever was causing the interference has ceased and we are resuming monitoring Madeline's apartment." Davenport wiped the sweat from his brow. He did not want to be the one to have to report to either Operations let alone Michael that he had somehow failed in keeping tabs on this woman.
Michael had helped Nikita finish putting the dishes away. She had been so busy washing all the pots and pans that dinner had required, she never noticed how Michael sat back and studied her. She seemed more at ease than ever before yet something about her wasn't quite..., well, anyway Michael couldn't put his finger on the one thing about her that was bothering him.
Nikita reached up to place the wineglasses safety back on the upper shelves of her cabinets and realized that her perch atop the unsteady kitchen stool was not one of her better moves. Almost before she finished the thought, she lost her balance and would have tumbled to the floor had it not been for Michael's lightening quick reflexes.
Catching her had not been without its repercussions though, Michael steadied her then quickly grabbed his stomach which suddenly felt as if it had been ripped open once again. "Ouch" he gingerly felt his shirt then studied his hand looking for any traces that the wound might have begun bleeding again.
"I'm sorry Michael, dumb move on my part, are you okay?" she reached to touch his abdomen but not realizing it, her touch lacked the tenderness the situation required and she almost wound up slamming her hand into the still healing area.
"It's fine Nikita." he backed away before she could do anymore damage.
"I'm really sorry, I better let you alone," she hurried from the room looking as if she were about to cry.
"Nikita, come back here..." his voice trailed behind her and he thought her heard her slam the bathroom door. "Come on out Nikita it's really okay." he held an arm against his stomach to quell the spasms coming from the wound. He stopped to wonder just how long it would be before he was back to full strength then vowed to stop babying himself and begin a regime of training to strengthen his abs.
"Leave me alone Michael, I can't do anything right anymore." she shouted behind the solid wooden door.
It was no use, Michael had tried the doorknob to no avail and obviously she wasn't responding to his pleas to come out and see for herself that there was no harm done. Michael was left with two options, he could spend the evening standing alone in her bedroom begging her to come out or he could get down to the business of finding a way to bring Madeline in. When it became clear that she planned on staying in the bathroom for a length of time, Michael retrieved his jacket and gun, tucked the weapon into the waistband of his pants and left the apartment. He figured it would do her good to worry for a while.
As he made his way to the elevator, Mick's door opened a crack and Michael saw the over made up eyeball of one of his frequent visitors peeking through the crack. "Hello handsome," she pulled the door open and Michael realized that although a bit heavy on the make up, she truly was one of the better specimens that he had seen hanging around Mick's place.
"Hey Michael." Mick poked his head out from behind the woman "How's it going with Nikita?" he was dressed in only a black silk robe tied carelessly around his midsection. Michael figured that was the only thing he had on when he got a glimpse of Mick's bare stomach. "You'd better cover up," he nodded in Mick's general direction. "You could catch cold." he laughed to himself then stepped into the waiting elevator without acknowledging Mick's inquiry.
The cold outside air momentarily took his breath away and he hoped that leaving the building for even a short time wouldn't set him back when it came to his recovery. He had much to do and realized he was on a thin timeline. He couldn't risk Operations discovering that he was running a simultaneous mission regarding Madeline. He had explicit instructions to keep Operations up to par as to what transpired on the 'Mission' to retrieve Madeline yet something about the way Operations was going about it rubbed Michael the wrong way. Thus the need to have his own team running parallel to the one Section had in place.
He called his contact on the way to the meeting place and was relieve to see that he had beaten the man to the destination. Michael never liked being the last to arrive at anything. His intense training as Section's top operative had instilled in him the need to have an opportunity to survey his surroundings and to figure in advantages for himself.
He parked the car out of anyone's view and made his way cautiously into the warehouse. He approached from the upper level and by the time he had climbed the last stairs, both his lungs and stomach were burning from the shear effort. He hoped that he would have time to regroup before the meeting. The last thing he wanted was to show anyone be it friend, enemy or contact that he was vulnerable right now.
It didn't take Madeline long to shop for the necessary items she would need to complete her plans for this evening. Short on patience and even shorter on apparent time, she decided to get to the bottom of things and find out exactly who Alan was reporting to. She hurried and prepared herself, not as carefully as she might have had she not discovered the micro cameras throughout her apartment, but enough to put Alan off his guard for the time it would take to set the stage for her little production.
Right on time she thought to herself as she slowly made her way over to answer the doorbell. "Coming" she tried to maintain a lightness that she wasn't feeling to her voice. No sense tipping her hand before she needed to. He leaned against the door jam in what would have normally been a seductive stance and she felt her stomach turn as she realized that once again she would have to put on her Section mode to get through the evening. "Hello Alan, you look, shall we say interesting," she stressed the last word, "this evening" she smiled.
If he was paying attention, he might have noticed it was not the full toothed smile as of late, but the tight lipped one that she often wore when she first started at him company. "I hope you don't mind but I brought dessert and a bottle of this horrendously expensive champagne that the store manager assured me was out of this world." he leaned in to kiss her and she made the effort not to back away.
"Let me take that, I'll put it on ice for later." she took the bottle, returned the kiss then turned and walked toward the kitchen.
"Something smells wonderful" he sniffed the air as he casually hung up his coat in the closet behind the glass entryway in the foyer.
"I hope you brought a healthy appetite with you" she called from the kitchen as she prepared two glasses of wine. "How about a glass of wine before dinner?" she carefully dropped the liquid into his glass then gently swirled it around to make sure it was thoroughly mixed. "The man at the wine store told me this was one of his best." she turned and carried the glass over to where Alan had taken a seat near the fireplace.
"Must be some special stuff?" he carelessly laughed as he took his wine goblet from her. Tipping it toward her, he made a toasting motion and smiled. "To us and discovery." he clinked his glass gently against hers.
"Discovery?" she toyed with him.
"Yes, tonight I intend to find out all about you." he continued to smile in a wide tooth grin that made her insides churn.
"And I as well" she laughed realizing that he surely was in for one of the biggest surprises of his life. He took a sip and savored the taste.
"Wonderful aroma, sweet but not overly." he took another sip and swished it around his mouth. "French?" he swallowed and took yet another large swig. "I can't believe how mellow this is," he smiled hoping that she would equally enjoy his champagne.
"Careful Alan, the wine manager said it does strange things to people" she teased knowing full well what would be the outcome of this evening.
"I'm sorry, I just never tasted something so extraordinary, may I have another glass?" he held it out knowing that it would be rude of him to simply help himself.
"Sure, be right back." She took the goblet into the kitchen and made him up another batch of the special wine" she returned with a smile and handed him another full goblet of wine "There's more where this came from" she sat across from him and watched as he sipped down another glass. "Let me go check on dinner" she seemed to remember that suddenly and hurried into the kitchen. "How was your day?" she called back to him keeping him chatting as to monitor the effects of the drugged wine.
"Good, I had a meeting thish morning with one of my shilent pardners." his voice quivered but he didn't really seem to attribute it to anything more than drinking this wonderful wine too fast.
"And it went well I presume?" she brought the food to the table praying that he wouldn't slip to far under too soon. "Come sit down, I'll have everything out of the oven in just a moment or two," she turned to watch as he made his way to the dining table using the back of the chairs to steady himself.
"Shorry." He said as he tipped one over accidentally. "This wine must be hitting me wrong, I didn't eat anything for lunch and apparently I should shlow down with this shtuff." He gulped the last of his wine then plopped heavily into the seat.
"We'll fix your right up" she placed the platter of homemade spaghetti directly in front of him and checked his pupils. They were dilated to nearly the entire surface of his eyeballs. "Right on schedule" she hummed as she turned to retrieve the garlic bread from the oven. "Be back in a sec" she called behind her.
"No pro, prob...problem" he suddenly couldn't get the words to come out straight. "I don't undershtand...." he looked confused as two of Madeline's faces came into the picture. "What's wrong with me?" he pleaded as he began to feel numbness creeping up from his lower extremities.
Fifteen minutes passed and the numbness had crept steadily higher. He stared at her in vast confusion. "Celia?" he pleaded as he found it difficult to not only talk but unless he was hallucinating, he was also having a hard time breathing. "The name is not Celia" she stood up and looked into the camera. She had tweaked the volume so that she could now control it at will. "My name is Madeline but I already suspect you know that?" it really wasn't a question but the fearful look that came over his face gave her all the answer she needed.
Davenport's head shot up from the newspaper he had been engrossed in at the mention of her name. "Dam!" the second operative looked at him then turned up the volume on their monitor. "Michael is not going to like this one bit," he knew he didn't have to tell Davenport that one.
Davenport dialed the phone and only had to wait for one ring. "Yes," came the lightly French accented voice. "Sir, we have a situation," and with that he closed the phone.