The Balkan missions finally concluded with a minimal loss to Section One but significant damage to the enemy has assured Operations that it would be quite a while before they were facing them again. He would have preferred that they had taken down the leader of the organization but the Intel that had been provided for them was lacking in vital information. That cost the two teams in the field valuable time and with George breathing down his neck, Operations decided to play it cautious and do whatever damage he could within the time allotted to the mission. When his phone rang he was already prepared for Oversight's need for a complete debrief. "Hello George," he rolled his eyes as he flipped open the cellphone and began the incessant pacing that usually signified to anyone that knew his routine that Operations was talking to George.

"I understand the mission is complete?" came the graveled voice over the phone.

"Yes, George, the Balkan mission is complete and my teams are home with minimal loss," he tapped a finger against the plastic cover of the phone waiting for the lengthy interrogation he was sure was forthcoming.

"Were we able to take down the leader?"

Paul was more than sure that George knew the answer making this some kind of test. "No, apparently the Intel was lacking in vital areas once again," he stressed the last part since he was aware that the majority of their Intel had come directly down from Oversight.

"Why is it that your teams are so incompetent Paul?" his voice reminded Operations of nails on a blackboard.

"I might ask you the same thing George, as you and I are both well aware the Intel that was provided came directly from your office" he smiled as he heard the older man take a sharp intake of air.

"It is up to Section One to clear all Intel before they decided what avenue to take" he was playing his chest game once more.

"It's up to Oversight to make sure we get any and all pertinent information regarding missions," the game began in earnest.

"And the Madeline issue?" he decided to change tactics but Paul saw it coming.

"I have four teams in the field as we speak, the situation will be rectified shortly," he kept if short and curt.

"And Michael and Nikita?" he was aware that George knew of their involvement in the situation and it would only be right with them being two of his best Operatives.

"They are on Mandatory Refusal so I would imagine that they were close to completion." He snickered.

"You would imagine?" his raspy voice grew louder.

"Well, George, since we both know they won't contact me again until they are done, I would have no way of knowing where we stand with them, now would I?" he was growing impatient pointing out the obvious. "If there is nothing else I can do for you George, I am short staffed and very busy" he was short and to the point.

"Very well Paul, let me know when you've done what's been instructed of you" and with that the phone clicked off. Operations just about slammed his phone down, thought better of it and pocketed it before leaving the loft.

Madeline finished making the arrangements that would allow her to proceed with her plans. Alan felt as if he were being kept in the dark. On more than one occasion his temper flared and he let her know his feelings. "If we are working together I don't understand..." his arms flailed by his sides.

"We are not working together, you work for me" she corrected him. "Did you forget that?" the smile he had come to hate was back in place.

"How could I. Madeline?" his temper threatened to ignite to a level that he knew would cost him dearly "You and that dam 'I'm better than you are' grin need a good smack once in a while," he couldn't believe it had so easily slipped from his lips.

"Really?" she toyed with him kind of admiring his newfound backbone. "And I imagine you would like to be the one to do just that?" she purposely smiled again and watched the flashes of anger behind his eyes.

"I sure would, I can't imagine what Operations sees in you," his temper flared and he smiled with satisfaction as she looked slightly stunned by what he had just said.

"What would you know about it?" she tried to persuade him to continue. "What wouldn't I know?" he laughed "I don't think there is anyone in Section that doesn't know," he was liking that this seemed to throw her off balance.

"What exactly do you think you know Alan?" she was upset now and trying hard not to show it, but was failing miserably.

"I know you and he are lovers, or were at one time" he decided to play her game as long as he could. "I know that he allows you to get away with sleeping with everyone and anyone you choose, or does he choose them for you? Kinda like a Section One pimp?" he decided to push the envelope a bit.

"I don't think so" her short clipped answer gave her emotions away.

"Does he ever tell you he loves you Madeline? Or is that impossible from two people like yourselves?" he played his hand to the hilt.

"Actually Alan, we are two very passionate people," she didn't know why she was defending herself or Operations for that matter and to a lowly Operative at that.

"With each other?" he tested the waters.

"That information is strictly confidential, sorry" she smiled that dam smile again.

"Yeah, I kinda thought so" he laughed and decided to delve further. "So, tell me" he turned and moved closer "which of us satisfies you better?" he needed an ego boost at the moment.

"My work satisfies me the best," and with that she abruptly ended the conversation by walking away.



"Walter? Walter are you there?" his COM unit hummed to life with the gentle voice of Nikita. Scrambling around the work area he hurried to answer before anyone within earshot would possibly overhear. He slipped in an ear unit and trotted to the farthest point in Munitions. "Nikita? Is that you Sugar?" he whispered while keeping a close lookout for Operations or anyone else that might happen by.

"Walter it's me Nikita are you there?" he had to readjust the unit before finally being able to communicate with her.

"Yes, I'm here" he waited holding his breath between words. "Where are you guys?" he peeked around the corner and was grateful that no one had wandered by so far.

"Is everything okay there? She questioned him.

"Besides the fact that Operations is starting to flip out what with you guys being on Mandatory Refusal." He thought about what he had just said "Hey, if you guys are on, well, you're not supposed to be communicating with anyone if you know what I mean" he was confusing himself and started to gently scratch under his bandana. "What's going on?" he knew that Michael would have never broken protocol and certainly wouldn't have allowed Nikita to if things were okay.

"Jurgen's dead he had Michael's wife and son but they're with us now" he was really thinking he was losing his mind "Michael's wife? Son?" he knew about them but thought that Section might have taken care of them long ago. Oh, he had hear rumors that they were being looked after, protected and such but most the times that simply meant that Section had finished with then disposed of them when they were of no real use to anyone.

"Elena, Adam they're alive and with us now but they can't stay here" nothing like stating the obvious.

"What the hell are you going to do with them?" his voice rose although he tried to contain himself.

"I don't' know yet Walter but we have to protect them from Section" she sure was quoting the rules to him now he had to chuckle to himself. "You can't bring them here!" he really didn't think she meant that but he wanted to make sure she was clear on that point.

"No kidding" she was hoping he might have some ideas but apparently he wasn't going to be much help. "Thanks for nothing Walter" she hissed. "Listen Sugar, maybe Birkoff knows of something but that will take some time..." he hated not having the answer she so desperately needed. "By the way, how is Michael taking all of this?" he knew that Section had almost lost him once with Simone but worse when he had to lose contact with his only son.

"As well as one can expect knowing that he is going to have to beak contact again in order to protect them," the sadness was evident in her voice. "Walter, we don't have much time we're also going to need a voice simulator if we hope to keep Madeline from finding out that Jurgen is dead" she reeled off several things that were in addition to her first request.

"Why? what does it matter to her if he's dead?" Walter didn't know about the sibling relationship and it was quite evident in his next response to her having told him.

"Jurgen was Madeline's brother"...the silence followed by 'Who told you that garbage?" he wasn't buying it quite yet. "Jurgen told me and later Michael and Elena confirmed it," she filled in the blanks for him.

"I want to know how he lived through that blast?" since Walter had developed the charge he was well aware of the damage that one would have caused.

"Apparently he was badly wounded and Madeline used Section resources to save him. She was there for every burn treatment and I am quite sure it was the agony that drew her there" she cringed when she realized just how cold and calculating Madeline really was.

"No doubt" he laughed but it quickly needed to be covered up as Operations entered Munitions.

"Walter? Walter where are you?" his raised voice echoed within the cavernous room.

"Ugh, back here, be out in a minute." Walter was grateful that he had remembered to drop and lock the steel gate that would separate Operations from the back area.

"Listen Sugar I gotta go, check with me tonight and I'll see what I can come up with" and with that he clicked off the COM and tossed the earpiece to the side. He remembered to pick up a check panel that would make it appear that he was logging inventory once again. "Sorry it took so long but I hate to leave anything laying about, don't want to be responsible for any missing weapons ya know?" his snicker betrayed his true feeling for Operations who recalled the torture that Walter had been subjected to when Michael and Nikita had supposedly escaped Section.

Granted it had all been a ruse to set up the implanted Red Cell operative Zalman but the torture he had endured had been very real and this simple reminder actually brought a slight smile to Operation's face.

"No, we certainly can't have any of than again," he leaned against the work desk. "Did I hear you talking to someone?" he wasn't sure and decided to check.

Walter managed to keep a straight face "Nope, just chatting with myself," he smiled and continued entering codes on the panel. "Is there something you needed today?" he loathed the man standing before him. Not only the torture, which he could take any day but the shear fact that it was by his orders that Belinda was taken from his still did not sit well with him and it turned Walter's stomach to even have to be in such close proximity to him.

"Just came by to see if anyone has contact you?" his voice was hopeful. "Nope, no one here" he placed the panel on the table and looked Operations in the face. "But, you'd know that because Michael and Nikita are on Mandatory Refusal right?" he never blinked and it thrilled him that Operations was the first to break eye contact.

"Ya got me there Walter," he turned and walked away.

Walter did a sort of shuffling dance step to the back of Munitions and when all was clear almost fell against the metal racks. "Gees that was close" he wiped the sweat that had pooled under the bandana.

Later on that afternoon, Walter finally managed to get a moment alone with Birkoff in the underground tunnels. "Nikita contacted me this afternoon," he walked back and forth with his hands crossed behind his back.

"Does Operations know?" Birkoff looked up and the reaction reminded Walter of the Deer in the headlights look.

"No, of course not, but he almost caught me talking to her," he continued his story.

"Was she here?" Birkoff couldn't believe that she would risk showing up in Section when they were supposed to be in Mandatory Refusal.

"No, she called to ask if either of us knew of a safe place to hide Michael's wife and son?" he waited for it all to register.

"Michael's wife and son? Aren't they dead?" he too knew that Section usually used someone and discarded them at will.

"No, apparently they were with Jurgen all this time," he couldn't wait to tell Birkoff the rest of what he knew.

"Jurgen? Why? How did he survive?" the questions rolled off his tongue before he could give Walter the chance to answer.

"Madeline saved him after the explosion apparently using Section resources to do it," he knew that Birkoff would eventually run through the panels to see if Madeline made any notes of this.

"Why? She's the one who signed his cancel orders" he was really confused.

"Get this" Walter moved in closer. "Apparently, Jurgen was Madeline's brother," he backed up to get the full picture as the shock of all this set in.

"Brother? What do you mean was?" he leaned heavily against the wall.

"Jurgen's dead but apparently she doesn't know yet. Nikita wants a voice simulator to keep her thinking he's alive," he hoped that Birkoff would be able to find anything with Jurgen's voice pattern.

"I'll see what I can do but I don't know if they keep that stuff after they cancel someone" he honestly didn't know but Walter knew he would do his darndest to find out. "How much time do I have?" he hoped Walter wouldn't tell him tomorrow."

Walter shrugged, "Nikita is contacting me tonight and I hope we have something, anything for her." He tapped Birkoff on the shoulder "You'd better get moving" nothing like stating the obvious. Birkoff left in a hurry. He hated being put under this kind of pressure but timelines were a huge part of his job and Walter knew he would handle the task at hand.....