The sweat beading down Alan's face pooled onto his shirtfront but he was unable to wipe it away. He wasn't even able to shake the continuous stream of wetness from his chin as it defied gravity and hung in droplets before plopping down to join the previous one. "Why?" He mumbled in a barely coherent voice. "What did you do to me?" each word was shear effort for him to bring forth.
Madeline smiled as she reached into the bag she had place in front of him and refereed to as her 'goodie bag.' She slowly withdrew an IV line, syringe and a bag of clear liquid that she told him was saline solution. "I can make it better or worse for you Alan," she smiled as she busied herself preparing all the items. She reached for him arm and although instinct told him to pull back he found himself paralyzed in the chair and could only watch and pray that whatever she had planned for him was swift and merciful.
"Why?" he huffed out, each breath increasingly more difficult than the last.
"Relax Alan, you're only making yourself more uncomfortable by struggling," she wiped his forearm after applying the tourniquet and fingered his arm looking for the best vein. It didn't take her long and before he knew it a needle had been inserted and hooked up to the IV bag that was now hanging over him like a pendulum. "Why you ask?" she injected the antidote to relieve some of the effects of the drugs then sat back waiting for him to discover that breathing was a bit easier.
"What have I done to deserve this?" he gulped in breath after breath.
"I would relax Alan, you see in this needle," she held up the one she had just used "is the antidote to the drugs you now have in your system." she let it sink in.
"And the other?" his eyes darted to the second syringe lying off to the side.
"That is even stronger than the stuff I mixed in your wine." she placed both needles within view. "Your answers will decide which needle I use. She picked up the second needle, inserted it in the IV tube and injected a small dose into the line. Within seconds his chest again fought to fill his already burning lungs.
"NO!" he tried to scream but it was a mere whisper.
"You are in control Alan, your answers will decide how easy or difficult this all is." She placed the first syringe into a second opening in the line. "Who do you work for?" her thumbs each rested on a single syringe.
"I work at..." he knew the moment he had started that she knew it was not the right answer... "Wait..." he tried to delay as his mind worked between which was the better death... at Madeline's hand or Michael's." He shifted his neck twisting his head from side to side as the answer eluded him.
"I'll only ask you one more time," she smiled. "Who do you work for?"
His eyes pleaded with her yet it was a futile attempt to gain sympathy and they both realized this. "Section." She saw the tears coming from his eyes and knew that he was now faced with the worst dilemma of his life.
"Who in Section are you working for?" she never moved her fingers from the syringes.
"He'll kill me." he wept.
She had her answer but feeling the adrenaline rush of power she wanted it to come from his lips so she depressed the second syringe just a bit.
"Please....." he begged looking like a small child instead of a grown man. She wondered how Michael would kill him if she decided to set him free. Knowing that Michael was behind this and only expected complete loyalty and success she knew that he would never allow Alan to live.
Michael didn't like to be kept waiting. He leaned heavily against the only piece of furniture in the middle of the warehouse. The large sturdy metal conference table must have been left there when everything else was cleared out and Michael was to say the least a bit relieve that an even coating of dirt and dust covered its entire surface. It reassured him that this place had been abandoned and no one had visited it recently. His stomach still ached from the exertion of catching Nikita and he couldn't help but wonder what she thought when she came out of the bathroom to find him gone.
Nikita had run cold water until the basin was nearly filled. Taking the soft lavender handtowel from its holder she submerged it into the chilly water then rung it out and put it against her red and swollen eyes. She didn't know why she was so sensitive lately and could only attribute it to Madeline's adjustment of her. Everything made her either very sad or extremely angry and she often found it difficult at best to get control of her feelings.
"I'm so sorry." she called out as she finally opened the bathroom door expecting him to be sitting on the bed. He wasn't. She left the bedroom and scanned the living room before making her way down the steps and out to the balcony garden. He was nowhere to be found and when she checked for his weapon, she was upset to realize that it too was missing. "Damn you Michael." she flopped down in the chair and tried to busy herself by reading the book she had started months ago.
Nikita was tempted to help herself to a glass of wine, but remembered that she had to be careful not to mix anything with the drugs already in her system. She poured herself a glass of milk grabbed a couple cookies and sat down in a funk in front of the television. She was worried. She knew that he was still very weak and vulnerable right now and wished he had taken her for protection. She smiled at that thought knowing full well that Michael would never put her in the position of being his protector.
Michael waited for almost and hour and when he realized that the contact was not going to show up he finally decided to pack it in and head back to the apartment. He knew that Nikita would want an explanation as to where he had gone but he also knew that the less she knew about the parallel mission the less she was in danger if Operations was to find out.
She heard him coming into the apartment but didn't bother to turn and acknowledge his presence. "Are you okay Nikita?" he tossed his car keys on the counter then his black leather gloves directly on top of them. He saw her shoulders stiffen as he reached to touch her.
"Where were you?" she continued to stare at the book that was open but unread on her lap.
"I went to meet someone." He didn't want to lie to her but also needed to weigh just how much information he could safety share.
"Operations?" she closed the book and leaned back gently against him.
"No, but someone that can or could have helped us." he gently massaged her shoulders.
"Could have?" she looked up and saw a mixture of sadness and anger flash across those emerald green eyes.
"He never showed, it was a waste of time" he kissed the top of her head and went back to the kitchen to grab something to drink.
"Did you try to contact him?" she curled up but turned around so she was actually sitting on the sofa backwards.
"Several times, I don't understand" he paused. "Unless he was discovered." The color left his cheeks as he realized just how dangerous that possibility was.
Madeline sat next to Alan and watched, as each breath became a struggle to take in enough air and then quickly dispel it almost as if he were a panting dog. "Not too comfortable is it?" she smiled. His eyes were open in a mixture of struggle and inner turmoil.
"Nooo" the word gushed from his mouth as he fought to breathe. "Please....stooo, stop," he begged her.
"Tell me what I need to know and I will make this easier on you" she depressed the plunger on the antidote, just enough to give him only a bit of relief. "Better?" she waited as it took effect. His chest heaved a little less and the look of relief came across is face.
"Yes," the word was stronger than previously. "Michael, I report to Michael" he looked up at her. "May I have some water please?" he looked over toward where a glass of ice cold water stood, droplets of condensation forming on the outside of the glass.
"Yes," she held the glass to his lips knowing that he would be unable to get it himself. He took in as much as she allowed and swallowed loudly. "Better?" she asked again. He knew that if he didn't co-operate he probably wouldn't be around for Michael to punish anyway and if he did, well either way cancellation was the only option for him now.
"Does Operations know you are working with Michael?"
He shook his head. "Michael doesn't trust Operations when it comes to you he said you are his weak spot, he is running his own mission," he was rewarded with another dose of the antidote and another drink of water.
Davenport was recording it all. He knew that when Michael saw the tape and heard Alan's confession his next job would be to either bring Alan directly to Michael or cancel him on sight. Davenport knew how dangerous it was to cross Michael and was also coming to the conclusion that Madeline was not going to be taken in easily.
"Where is Michael now?" she sat back down and gave him the opportunity to come clean without further injecting him at the moment.
"He was shot by Nikita and is recovering in Medlab" he thought his answer was honest and was confused by Madeline putting her finger back on the syringe. "Honestly, that's all I know, he was in Medlab last time I made contact with him," his voice raised in shear panic. "Please don't do that, I'm telling you the truth." his eyes were wide with terror. "Please?" he begged and was relieved when she sat back down. She didn't think further torture would be needed.
"You realize that this apartment is being monitored?" she tapped a well-manicured finger on the glass tabletop.
"Yes," was the simple answer as his eyes turned downward. "But Michael's not the only one with cameras in place." he added.
She knew that she had him now. His loyalty would be to her as long as she kept him safe from Michael. She also knew that would be no easy task. He was always just one step ahead of both her and Operations and she wondered how that was possible. It was a few moments after Alan had informed her of the fact that Operations was also monitoring the apartment that she realized that he might have witnessed her little tryst with Alan. She didn't like the possible repercussions of that. If Operations had seen how she had responded to him, she could quickly lose her position as his 'weak spot' as Michael had so eloquently put it. She had no way of knowing that at this moment, Walter and Birkoff were not only monitoring the conversation but thankfully had managed to doctor it so that when Operations did decide to view the tape, he would be unaware of the part where Alan had told Madeline about the parallel mission. She was counting on Operations learning of Michael's mission and the fact that he couldn't be trusted.
Michael spent a good portion of the evening either on the phone with Davenport or sitting off in the corner contemplating his next move. Nikita didn't know where to begin to bring him out of this mood. "Can I get you something to eat?" she tried the domestic nursemaid act. It didn't work.
"I'm not very hungry Kita," he whispered but didn't make eye contact. Instead he sat staring at the blue walls of the apartment. Weighing the probability that Alan would turn allegiance to save his hide. He knew that giving the order of canceling him was justified but also knew that he would then be pressed into explaining those orders to Operations. It was not within his right to cancel someone with giving Operations a full report and he knew that was not possible without him finding out about the parallel mission.
"Michael please, talk to me," she knelt down between his legs and rested her arms across his knees. "Please don't shut me out like this." she begged him trying to catch his eyes.
"Nikita, I have to protect you" he looked at her and she suddenly felt the immense sadness that emanated from his very being.
He looked almost defeated. "And who will protect you Michael? How can we work together when you won't tell me what is going on to begin with?" she stayed on the floor leaning heavily on his knees.
"I can't, if I tell you more it puts you in danger and it appears I've already lost a valuable contact now," he looked ready to cry.
"Michael, you're not going to lose me." she reached up and squeezed his hand noticing how cold it felt. "Michael you're freezing." she got up and returned with a blanket to cover him with. "Michael please, I can help if you let me" she tucked the plaid blanket around him yet he didn't seem to notice. "Who is the contact we," she stressed the we, "lost?" she sat down on a chair that she had dragged behind her.
He looked into her eyes and realized that she was not going to let it go. "Someone that was monitoring Madeline" he didn't look away this time. "She caught him, she not only caught him, she found all of the cameras I had put into her apartment and apparently the ones that Operations had placed there" he continued.
"Wait, you had cameras installed and Operations had cameras installed?" she sat back. "Michael, are you telling me that Operations didn't know you had cameras installed along with his?" she knew the repercussions of running a mission behind Operation's back.
"I have no choice Nikita, I don't trust him, you know that" he stared at her hoping she would understand. She did, she understood that Michael would do anything to help her as he had so often proved in the past.
"I just don't want to lose you Michael." she reached up to touch his cheek. He reached up and took her hands in his.
"That can never happen Nikita." he gently placed a kiss in her palms. "I won't let it." he smiled.
They turned in early that evening after returning to the farmhouse. Lying side by side Nikita rolled over and snuggled into his arms. He was staring at the ceiling and once again she knew he was deep in thought. She wanted to help him but knew that unless he was willing to open up and allow her to, she would have to be content to wait. That was not an easy thing to do and she decided that she would keep closer tabs on whatever it was he was working on.
The next morning, she woke before him and decided to pay a visit to Section. Birkoff and Walter were both surprised to see her but they also knew that she must be up to something to have left Michael behind.
"Hey Sugar." Walter smiled as he tried to remain busy in Munitions. "How goes it?" he saw the seriousness of her appearance. "What's wrong?" She sat heavily on the stool beside the worktable.
"I need to know what Michael is working on Walter." she stared at him.
"Ask him." he turned his back and placed weapons in their various holders.
"He won't tell me" she sighed then placed her head in her hands resting her chin in them. "Please Walter, I don't want him doing this alone?" she begged.
"Hey Nikita" Birkoff suddenly appeared from around the corner "What are you doing here?" he smiled then looked at Walter.
"I want to know what Michael is working on?" she sat upright and faced the younger man.
Birkoff shook his head "What did Walter tell you?" he waited for her reply but kept his eyes on Walter.
"To ask Michael, but you both know that won't do any good, he's trying to protect me" she sighed once more.
"He loves you Nikita, you know that." they both laughed as they spoke in stereo.
"I know that but who is going to protect him running a parallel mission with Operations?" she knew that she had caught both of them off guard.
"How did you know?" Birkoff confirmed that much.
"I was able to get that out of him, but anything else and he clammed up. Birkoff, Walter please?" she stood up. "I have to be involved in this, you both know that" she pleaded her cases. Neither could refuse her although they both knew that they would have to answer to Michael if he ever found out that they had talked.
"He had operatives working on bringing Madeline in by himself." Walter confided in her.
"I know, and apparently Madeline has not only found out about it, but she managed to grab one of them do you know who?" she sat back down.
"His name is Alan, he was posing as her boss, are you sure she is on to him?" he sat beside her.
"Yes, she tortured the truth out of him." Birkoff nodded to confirm this. In fact, that was the reason he was coming to talk to Walter, he wanted him to know that Alan had betrayed them. "He told her everything" he confirmed what he knew.
"Does Michael know?" Walter knew that Alan's days were numbered.
"He was told by Davenport but he can't order him to be canceled without alerting Operations that something is going on behind his back." she filled them in.
"I'm taking care of that now." Birkoff assured her. If it got out that they were all working behind his back, all of them would be in danger so Birkoff had taken the risk of issuing false cancellation papers on him hoping that they might somehow get lost in the shuffle.
"You're taking a big risk, both of you are." she hugged first one then the other.
"We have to, first of all we love you Nikita." they returned the embrace. "And second?" she laughed "Michael would kill us if we didn't," Birkoff added. She knew that they were her best shot at helping Michael, retrieving Madeline and getting herself back to normal.