Michael slept on her lap for nearly an hour and although her legs were killing her, she was unable or more so unwilling to wake him. He looked so peaceful and relaxed that she hadn't the heart to disturb his much needed slumber. She thought about all they had been through, both together and alone. It made her love him all the more for the many times she now knew that Operations and Madeline would have gratefully canceled her had it not been for him taking the blame when she screwed up or openly defying them whenever they gave the orders to have her canceled.
How many times that she didn't' know about had he stood in his typical Mission mode facing down Operations as he berated Michael for allowing Nikita to be a weakness yet never complaining openly to her with the rare exception of "Nikita, why can't you just do the job?". She understood now how difficult the choice between her and his own life must have been although she was also very sure that if the roles were reversed, she would sacrifice herself before letting anyone hurt Michael again.
"Did I sleep long?" he blinked, as his eyes grew accustomed to the glowing light from the table next to the sofa.
"Only an hour or so" she smiled as she toyed with the front of his hair. "Did you sleep good?" she traced a path from his forehead down over the bridge of his nose and then lightly over his full sensual lips.
"I think so." he didn't remember if he had dreamt while sleeping. Often he was haunted by the many nightmares that came to him regarding the choices he had been forced to make in the past. Taking peoples lives, losing not one but two wives and a son but somehow, whenever Nikita was there beside him, he nightmares didn't come and he found himself grateful for that much.
"What do you want to do about dinner?" she smiled as his nosed twitched as she ran a light fingertip around it.
"Dinner? It's that late?" he checked his watch and tried unsuccessfully to sit up. His stomach was still tender which irritated him. Michael wasn't used to convalescing and he hated the fact that he had to baby himself right now.
"Need some help Spyboy?" she teased as she easily slipped from under his head and then offered her hands to pull him into an upright position.
"Spyboy?" he laughed. She loved that part of him. The part that let the mask slip and showed her the smiling humorous side.
"Yeah, I kinda like that nickname don't you?" she laughed as she got him standing the leaned in for a quick kiss before turning away and heading into the kitchen.
"Woman, I'm starving rustle me up some grub," he teased in his best southern accent.
"I'm sorry sir, but we are all out of grub this evening," she shouted back to him. She decided that a light dinner of catfish fillets lightly breaded with a salad on the side would do nicely and it wasn't long before the house took on the warm smell of dinner being prepared. Michael wondered what life would be like if they could remain this way forever.
Madeline allowed Alan to finally sleep off the effects of both the drugs and their antidotes. For most of the evening, she had closely monitored him and noted that he ran a fever and his breathing often grew erratic and strained. He didn't stir as she applied cold compresses to his forehead and she wondered if she had pushed the envelope once to many times. She really wasn't as concerned about his health and welfare as to the fact that she knew she needed him alive.
It was hard enough keeping tabs on just how close Section was on her own but now that she had his loyalty she knew that she at the very least would have some sort of protection. Alan was not about to go behind her back. He knew that her methods of torture and death were long and drawn out and that Michael's would be swift and although painful, mercifully, they were quick yet he wasn't eager to die either way so he chose to stick closely to Madeline.
When he finally stirred, he pulled back as she reached to place another compress on his forehead. "Relax Alan, you're running a very high fever I won't hurt you," she smiled and sat beside him.
"Ce....Madeline, you know that Michael is going to kill me don't you?" he boosted himself up against the headboard.
"Michael will not be killing anyone" she checked his pulse. "As long as I have your loyalty Alan, you will be fine." She handed him two pills from a bottle near the bed and a tumbler of ice water.
"What are they?" he studied the two little green capsules in his hand.
"They'll help you relax while I make you something to eat." She smiled once more as she pocketed the pill bottle and left the bedroom.
He looked around trying to find his clothes then lifting the blanket, he realized that she had taken every stitch. "Can I at least have my underwear?" he called out to her.
"They're in the dryer now, they should be ready shortly but there's a robe hanging in the closet you can use for now," she called back to him and he though he heard her humming.
She was busy preparing dinner for both of them and had gone so far as to actually set a nice table. "I'm starved" he smiled than gave a short chuckle as he though of the irony of the situation. Here he sat almost in a home like setting with a woman that he could have easily loved preparing dinner for him. Yet he knew that in the blink of an eye, she could easily turn and stab him to death with the very knife that she was now chopping vegetables with.
"What's so funny?" she turned with a look of confusion on her face. He was amazed at that, she was normally very poised and the last to show any form of emotion.
"Nothing, well, just that fact that a few hours ago I was sitting at this very table thinking I could die." he reached across the table and helped himself to a glass of water.
"You still very well could Alan" she turned her back missing the shock written on his face.
Nikita finished the dishes, Michael dried them and put them away although it hurt to reach up to shove the last of the dishes onto the upper shelves of the cabinets. How normal it all felt doing housework together. The thought made him remember Elaina and Adam and it didn't take Nikita long to realize that once again he had sunk into a self imposed solitude.
"What's the matter Michael?" she turned and was surprised to see him putting his field jacket on "Where are you going at this hour?" she checked the wall clock then tossed the towel down onto the counter top. "I'm coming with you." she didn't wait for a response but quickly threw on a jacket that was probably inappropriate for the weather but she didn't want to give him the change to get too far ahead of her.
He didn't head for the car instead he turned toward the back of the property and began steadily climbing the hill behind the farmhouse. "It's kinda dark for a walk don't ya think?" she climbed behind him trying not to let the distance between them widen. "Where are you heading?" she was quickly scrambling behind him. "Slow down, this is kinda steep for an evening climb" she joked but still got no response from him.
"Michael STOP!" she reached up and tugged at the back of his jacket which only managed to slow him down momentarily. "Damn you Michael, I can't keep up." and with that he disappeared into the darkness. Nikita struggled to stick to the path that she only thought he must have taken but it wound steadily into the dense wooded area up behind the farmhouse and within moments, she was hopelessly lost. She hadn't thought to bring a flashlight, had no compass not that she could have read it in the still darkness of a moonless night. She cursed herself for her choice in outerwear and Michael for leaving her behind once again.
She stopped to listen to the night noises surrounding her but for some reason there was nothing. Perhaps the snow that had fallen earlier in the day served to muffle the noises she thought should be emanating from the forest. IF the moon had at least been out, she was sure that she could have found her way back to the farmhouse. She turned in full circles trying to catch even the smallest glimpse of anything that would mark where exactly she was. Instead she was simply surrounded by trees, bushes and more trees.
An hour had passed, Nikita felt that she had been walking in circles but had actually somehow managed to climb to the crest just west of the farmhouse. She noticed headlights from several vehicles surrounding the building and men in dark clothing quickly moving about the property. The odd thing was that neither her car nor Michael's remained at the house. Realizing that not only was she not dressed to remain outside much longer but also the fact that she had left without taking a weapon she once again cursed herself and the situation.
Crouching lower, she inched closer to the best possible view of the entire perimeter of the land and kept a lookout for anyone heading in her direction. Her heart beat a steady drum within her and she swore that she could hear it. She held her breath as she heard the sound of crunching snow somewhere nearby. Wishing that she had worn something to cover her blonde hair, she ducked and rolled under the branches of a huge evergreen and pulled her head as far down into her jacket as was possible. She tried to squirm her body back as tightly to the base of the tree as she could but before she got much farther, she felt the presence of someone or something behind her. And before she could react, something wrapped itself around her entire head and muffled any possible screams for help....
She struggled, she fought, turning and twisting as she attempted to remove whatever had been tightly wrapped around her entire head. She screamed, or so she thought, but the thick material made it impossible to be sure. It also made it extremely difficult to breathe and her chest began to hurt with the effort. She knew she was being pulled along, actually dragged by her ankles through the wet cold snow. That she was certain of as she continued to writhe and kick out at anything nearby but each kick no matter how she twisted and struck out missed its mark only to have the hands wrap tighter around her ankles and yank her that much harder.
Her head bounced around like potatoes in a burlap bag and she tried without success to lift it off the ground each time it came in contact with something. She wasn't sure how much longer she would be able to fight. Her arms were being yanked over her head after having been secured by some type of rope, which quickly bit into her flesh. She heard no one speak. No sounds to tell her where she was being taken but as suddenly as it started they, she assumed there were more than one since she didn't think that one person could possibly cover the ground as quickly as they did pulling a struggling human behind him. The hands around her ankles released their intense grip and she thought she heard a car opening.
Cat like, she attempted to tuck her legs under her and get herself into an upright fighting stance but no sooner had she gotten to her feet then someone lunged against her midsection causing her to fold over their shoulder. She had the sensation that she was at first being carried to then dropped into the trunk of a vehicle. A moment later, the lid was slammed and she was crammed fetal style into the tight compartment.
Michael returned after hiding the cars, to the spot where he had quickly led then left Nikita. He had moved the cars after receiving a tip from his contact that someone was on to their location. He was grateful that he had thought to bring a flashlight and even more so that the newly fallen snow made it easier to track her. She had covered quite a bit of ground in the short time that he had been forced to leave her behind, but knowing Nikita, she would have been more inclined to remain in the warmth and safety of the farmhouse and fight it out if need be.
He continued for a distance and as he neared what he knew to be the West ridge above the farmhouse, he noticed a change in the ground cover. No longer were there a single set of footprints but those of several much larger than the ones he had been tracking. Another hundred yard and the ground quickly told of the huge struggle that must have taken place. The snow had been gouged in huge patches and tree branches were broken and scattered about.
He saw the path were the biggest struggle must have stopped but the unmistakable signs of a body being dragged within two or more sets of the larger footprints. The only thing that he knew for sure was that for the entire path that was left behind, Nikita had been alive. It was not the straight and narrow path of something still and dead that he followed but an entire upheaval of stones branches and snow till the path stopped at the edge of the road.
The tire tracks were clearly marked as they left a trail of spun on rocks in their wake of a quick get away. Without thinking of his own safety and well being, Michael pressed an arm around his midsection and quickly ran back toward the now empty farmhouse. He hoped that they had not found his weapon and he needed time to activate the tracking device he had thankfully had Walter install in Nikita's field boots.
Michael tried to carefully plan his next move. First he contacted Section to let them know that Nikita had been grabbed, by whom he couldn't tell them since he didn't know himself. Then he talked to Walter who assured him that not only had he installed the tracking device inside Nikita's field boot but that one had been installed when she had been brought into Medlab when all of this had started. "By who's orders?" he asked yet Walter didn't have the answer only that it had indeed been installed and up and running since she was released. Birkoff wasn't much help either although he did promise to find out by running a back trace to see who the monitored reports of her comings and goings were being sent to. His guess was Operations but he wasn't sure of anything anymore.
Michael stopped in Section to arm himself with more ammunition and he solemnly gave Walter the list of everything he would need. "This is not on your profile" he looked up at Michael and his heart ached for the young man. He saw Michael attempt to put on his mission face but by now he knew him well enough to know that the fact that Nikita was missing once again was killing him inside. "We'll get her back Michael" he patted his should and turned away just as Operations entered Munitions.
"Michael do we know who took her or how they managed to find out where you were?" his eyes showed a weariness that he didn't even bother to cover.
"No, I was contacted to warn me but I failed to protect her again." his voice dropped and he didn't care if Operations heard the quivering of emotions that racked his normal calm and monotone voice.
"Walter have we managed to track her yet?" he looked past Michael to where Walter was busy packing a bag with various arms.
"Birkoff is working on that as we speak," he never looked over his shoulder but continued to check his list and fill it as per Michael's request.
"Michael, I heard rumors that Jurgen might still be alive?" he stared at the operative as Michael personally loaded each and every weapon.
"You know as much as I, it wasn't confirmed" he checked scopes and sights on each piece of equipment.
"Do we still have a tail on Madeline?" the question was volleyed to each of them.
"Davenport has her under surveillance but he hasn't seen anyone or anything to confirm whether Jurgen is dead or alive, if he is alive, it won't be for long." and with that he picked up the large bag and headed out of Munitions.
"Michael" Operations voice boomed
"Yes?" he turned and once more the steady stare and voice returned.
"I don't want this turning into a personal war." he commanded.
Michael turned completely around and stood straighter that he normally did. "You should have thought about this when it all started" and he turned and left before anymore could be said.
"Walter, is Michael working off profile?" he turned and studied the older man who was busy retying his bandana.
"Not that I am aware of" he lied. He didn't care if Operations knew; he didn't care what he thought. His main concern was now for Michael and Nikita.
"I'd like to see a copy of his panel." he put out a hand waiting for the device. Walter reached under the desk and handed him the original and not the one that had been updated. He would have Birkoff wipe that one clean before it fell into the wrong hands. "I can't seem to see anything out of the ordinary" he gauged the older man's reaction but got nothing.
"There is nothing to find, he's working on profile just as you instructed" he turned away after taking back the device and putting it away. "Did you expect anything else?" Operations snickered but never answered. Of course he expected something, Michael no longer followed his rules but seemed to thrive on making his own. He only hoped that Michael would return Madeline alive at least until he questioned her himself. After that, he didn't think that anything would keep his number one operative from killing the woman who had ruined his live and that of the woman he loved.