After Michael had left Nikita standing alone in the corridor, he'd quickly walked as far as the building allowed while still remaining on the floor lest someone need him. His mind reeled with the responsibilities it attempted to sort out for him. He loved Nikita, it's whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life with but part of his heart belonged to a family he knew could never be. As long as he was a part of Elena and Adam's life, neither would be safe from Section and he knew in the end that he'd have to permanently distance himself from them if they were to ever have something of a normal life.

He found a room that looked like it might have been Jurgen' private quarters. It was not overly done up but had more of a masculine theme. The leather sofa and overstuffed winged back chairs were tastefully done in hunter green leather and sat inviting anyone to take a seat and enjoy the fireplace which they faced. He closed the door behind him and casually wandered around the room. Pictures of Elena and Adam hung on the walls or sat in intricately carved frames on the mantle above the fieldstone fireplace that took up one whole wall. The sadness overwhelmed him at that moment as he took in various pictures of Adam at play, Elena looking happy and relaxed as she held her son against her while looking out over a body of water. It made Michael wonder where they had been when the picture was taken.

Another was one of Michael and Jurgen standing with their arms around each other's neck as if hey were two close friends. He recognized the background as the training room in Section and couldn't remember by whom or when the picture might have been taken but it had been some time ago when his hair was much longer and he and Jurgen were working together.

He found the stereo and found that Jurgen's taste in music was really quite similar to his own. Cello pieces and violins, piano music, modern, pop, jazz it was all here. He picked up a CD of Cello music and placed it into the player after studying how to turn it on. After adjusting the volume, he slowly walked to one of the chairs and with a great sigh sunk into the inviting leather and closed his eyes. The first piece took him back to when he was much younger and first realized that he had an appreciation for the beautiful melody that such a large wooden instrument could draw forth. But the second piece brought tears to his eyes as he recognized the music that Adam had often asked him to play whenever he had trouble falling asleep.

He didn't know how long he'd sat there except that his shirt was damp from the cascade of endless tears that began falling and just didn't seem to be able to cease. Tears for his life, or the one that brought him to Section. For the lives he took before and during his life there...for the pain that he inflicted on other, the lies he told Nikita and the many times he'd been forced to use her, lie to her, hurt her...over and over. He wondered how it was that she'd ever managed to love him even after all he'd done. Simone for her bravery in risking her life to marry him only to find out that he'd been misinformed about her death and he'd actually left her behind in the hands of a torturous madman...had he known, he'd have moved Heaven and Earth to find

her but where Section was concerned, she'd been collateral damage. Elena for her innocence and love of him and her undying faith that he and the son that their marriage had brought forth were all she needed in the world.

Nikita once again came to the forefront. She always did, she had since the first time he'd seen her walking through Section, long scraggly hair, ripped and shredded blue jeans and colors that no one in their right mind would have worn together. That was his Nikita. His? What right did he have to her? He closed his eyes and the tears resumed.

Deep in thought and sorrow, he never heard the gentle click of the lock as someone let themselves into the room then silently closed the door behind them. Nikita stood just about to say something when she noticed the tears streaming down his face under lashes pulled tightly closed against the world. Carefully she made her way over and it was only when she knelt beside the chair and touched his cheek that his eyes slowly opened.

"Michael?" she took his hand and brought it to his lips. "I know this is so hard for you," she planted light butterfly kisses in his palm. "I'm here if you need me," she watched as his emerald green eyes took in every essence of her being.

"I'll always need you Nikita" he whispered but made no attempt to pull his hand free. "I'm sorry for all the times I've hurt you, used you, betrayed you..." he wanted to say more but she placed a finger over his mouth.

"Shhhh....it's in the past, no permanent damage done" she smiled. They sat like that for what felt like an eternity. Michael studying her and she with his palm pressed against her lips but both in their own silence. They knew that the next few days would once again be some of the most difficult for everyone...



Operations felt himself succumbing to the lightheadedness he was feeling as the blood continued to ooze from the wound he tried in vain to cover. "Walter, I really need to get to Medlab," he pleaded but saw nothing but contempt in the older man's eyes.

"Do you now?" Walter leaned against the wall as Operation's nodded, his reactions slowed by the loss of blood.

"Walter we can forget about this now if you'll just call someone to help..."

But Walter stood and pointed the weapon at his head. "Forget?" his laugh was pure maniacal "Forget huh?" he turned his back but not enough to lose the sitting form of Operations from his peripheral vision "I might be old, some might even question my sanity from time to time but my memory" spinning around took Operations by surprise. "My memory is still totally intact and forgetting is something I'll NEVER be able to do," he turned and walked to the other end of the room.

"Walter, everything I've done I've done for Section, surely you can understand that?" his voice wavered and Walter knew it was taking all his strength to remain conscious.

"You're a liar Paul." Operations was taken back by the venomous tone of the voice that up until now had never referred to him by his God given name. "You play these people like a puppet master," he paced. "You play God, you and that witch of yours," his words spewed forth like molten lava. "You alone decide who lives and dies in this godforsaken hell hole." His voice raised in crescendo as his pacing increased.

"I do what I have to Walter, we all do," his voice was weakening by the minute.

"No, we do everything in our power to survive," he knelt before the fallen leader of Section One. "You on the other hand make every moment here a living nightmare from day one!" he kept a safe distance between himself and the wounded man.

"Walter, Belinda," but the moment the words slipped out he instantly regretted mentioning her name.

"Damn it you son of a bitch I told you never to mention her name again," the butt of the assault rifle came down hard and swift against Operation's other shoulder.

"Walter stop!" he tried to avoid a further onslaught but the wound and loss of blood only served to slow him down. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry for Belinda, I'm sorry for Michael and Nikita what more can I do?" he genuinely sounded apologetic yet Walter wasn't playing his game anymore.

"You've done enough" the older man suddenly seemed to age before Operation's eyes. "Why is it Paul," he stressed the name once more "that somehow I'm just not buying?" he turned on his heels just as Operations gave into the blackness that suddenly enveloped him.

Walter sat down and studied the now still form of Section's leader. He was fighting inner demons that told him to simply sit there and watch as the life finally drained out of one of Section's most evil bosses versus someone who was reluctant to simply take another's life because of revenge. After a short while, he decided that there had to be another way to punish Operations and that death was simply too easy and too good for him so he summoned Medlab to come and take him from the White room. He never stayed to hear the outcome, instead he returned to Munitions, reset the device timers that he'd hidden there and then went to check on Birkoff.



Michael and Nikita couldn't be sure exactly when Madeline might call with a meet time. "We'd better get our positions down before she catches us off guard" he pulled out the arial map that had been in Jurgen's desk drawer.

"I'd like teams layered three out" he looked around as the operatives gathered nearer "We can only assume that Madeline is not alone she hasn't slipped and mentioned anyone else but having dealt with her over the years" he began jotting marks around the hills that encompassed the compound. "Davenport, you'll be in charge of the third team, third layer" he nodded. "Nikita, second team, second layer I'll want your team here, here and up here" he pointed to the embankments that overlooked the most point where Madeline would most likely enter the area. "Davenport's people have already placed mines to take out the only three access roads leading in or out of here" he looked to Davenport who nodded slightly in confirmation. "Nikita, you'll take point here" he showed her a point directly above the main entrance to the house. "I want to draw her to the house but this will give us the advantage of seeing her before she's even close to the compound." Nikita nodded. "It'd be easier with a helicopter" she smiled and Davenport looked at Michael.

"That's what I had in mind."

Michael's head shot up. "We can't call in Section's helicopter," but Davenport was shaking his head.

"There's one on the base and it's loaded and ready," he smiled. It wasn't often that he knew anything ahead of Michael. "Hope you're flying skills have improved?" he was teasing.

"Of course" was Michael's simple reply. Things were beginning to look up for them for once.

Madeline sat down on the bed she had been using since they'd arrived and waited for Alan to emerge from the shower. "What's up?" he felt like she was studying him once again.

"We're going to meet Jurgen in the next couple of days and I'd like to go over my plans with you." she pulled out a map, not quite as detailed as the one Michael hand and uncurled it on the bed.

"Plans? What plans for God sake?" he towel dried his hair. Madeline couldn't help wondering how it was that men were able to do whatever they pleased. With a simple towel wrapped around their waists yet woman couldn't hold one up to save their lives... stupid thought on her part but lately she felt as if she were having trouble keeping simple thoughts in her head. "He's your brother right," she nodded, "then what plans do you need?" he didn't understand her quandary.

"Jurgen insisted we meet at his compound" she sat back. "I'm not walking in there blindly," she pointed to the map.

"Madeline, there's only two of us right?" she smiled "What? you can't possibly have any Section operatives working with us or can you?" she wasn't sharing if she had.

"I'm not stupid Alan and Jurgen knows that," she yawned. "I'd like someone to scope this out before I call with a meet time."

He knew the someone would most likely be himself since Madeline seemed better at giving orders than actually doing any of the leg work. "I'm to take it you're meaning me right?" he pointed to himself.

"Yes, Alan, you can handle this right?" she sounded doubtful.

"I should certainly think so!" his voice didn't hide the fact that he was feeling slightly insulted at her remark.

"Good, don't screw this up Alan." she gave a low warning tone to her voice.

"Yeah, okay," he turned and left her sitting alone in the room while he returned to the bathroom slamming the door behind him.

Operations was stretched on the table having been stripped of his bloody clothes and redressed in hospital attire. "Blood loss is significant," the doctor stated to a nurse who was busy hanging another unit. She smiled, "At least we knew he bleeds," they couldn't contain themselves at that point.

"I'm just amazed that Walter didn't finish him off." Operations heard or thought he was hearing bits and pieces of a conversation taking place above or around himself. "He's certainly caused enough bloodshed of his own," the doctor adjusted the EKG tapes and began monitoring him. "Bout time he shed some himself." he watched as Operation's heart beat a steady if not slightly fast rhythm.

"I'd like to stabilize him before we attempt to remove that bullet." What he wanted to say was how he'd like to keep Ops in pain for a while before finally relieving it by taking the bullet out.

"Should I give him something for the pain?" her face betrayed that she was also thinking along the same lines.

"No, we'd better wait, his heart is racing and I don't want to cause further damage." She saw the smile crack across his features. "As you wish Doctor," and she disappeared.

Operations spent most of the evening slipping in and out of consciousness. They never gave him anything to relieve the extreme discomfort he was obviously feeling. Each time they met over him, the conversation was pretty much the same, his heart continued racing and at this point sedatives and painkillers could only due worse harm. So it was that Operations finally got a good taste of pain for the entire night. In the morning, his breathing tube removed, he was finally able to summon the doctor. "I'd like something for the pain!" he grabbed out at the doctor's arm. "NOW!" but the doctor shook himself free.

"There's too great a risk to you right now," he lied.

"Listen, I've been lying here all night in great pain and I expect that you do something!" his voice could barely raise beyond a whisper because of the trachea tube.

"We'll be taking you to surgery soon" he wrote on the chart in his hand. "Until then, lie still and be a good patient for once," and with that he disappeared. He had Birkoff to look in on and since the gunshot wound to Operations upper shoulder no longer appeared life threatening...he'd just have to wait until the Doctor felt like operating.



The doctor was happy to see that Birkoff had consumed some light fare. Broth with a few noodles, juice and some Jell-O and so far had been able to keep everything down. "How are you young man?" he checked the vitals that the nurses had jotted into his charts. "Feeling better I'd think?"

Birkoff smiled, he still had the equivalent of a massive hangover and the slit under his eye throbbed terribly. "I'm still in pain," he didn't want to pester but felt that the doctor needed all information to asses his condition.

"Where?" the doctor laid the chart on Birkoff's leg and brought out his opthalscope to examine his eyes.

"My head feels like I was on a drinking binge," he smiled weakly, "and this," he pointed to the bandaged area, "hurts like hell." He knew it sounded pathetic considering that Operations certainly could have done more.

"I'm not surprised by the headaches and to be honest with you Mr. Birkoff," he finished with the scope when he noticed that the beam of light really seemed to bring greater discomfort to Birkoff. "I'd expect you're going to have headaches for a while," he needed to be honest since he didn't know how long Birkoff had been exposed to the electroshock.

"What about this slit?" Birkoff had seen them before on other victims. Funny he now thought of himself among them and often wondered what their purpose was other than the fact that whenever they were applied, the prisoners had become more than willing to talk and apparently, Walter had stopped it before it got as bad as it could have. Walter, the thought of him made Birkoff cringe since he wasn't aware that the standoff between his friend and Operations had ended.

"Listen, I've got a surgery to perform Birkoff but I'll check back when I'm finished why don't you try to get some rest?" he smiled.

"Surgery?" Birkoff's imagination began running rampant.

"I'm removing a bullet from Operation's shoulder" he finished his notes then looked up. "Apparently Walter's not as good a shot as he used to be," both men chuckled.

"Walter? What happened to him?" his concern was genuine and the doctor knew that he'd get no rest until he knew.

"I don't rightly know but I'll have someone check and find out," and with that he patted Birkoff's leg and left the room. Birkoff tried but couldn't remain awake long enough to ask anyone about Walter's where a bouts.

Birkoff woke about two hours later, his vision blurred and his head still causing him quite a bit of discomfort. He wondered if the pain would every go away. Shielding his eyes from the overhead lights, he turned his head from side to side in an attempt to see who was around to ask for more painkillers. There beside him, slightly across the room but directly beside him lay the inert form of Operations, breathing tube still in place and apparently still unconscious after the surgery. Just the sight of him made Birkoff wish he were anywhere but in the same room with the man.

Operations began to come to and his first reaction was to attempt to rid himself of the breathing tube. He no sooner got his hand up to rip it out when a nurse nearby noticed and stopped him. "Sorry, it can't come out until you can remain awake," she moved his hand which he swung to avoid her. "You could vomit and choke to death," something she didn't think anyone would mind.

He motioned that it was uncomfortable and attempted a second try at it. She simply brought his wrists to the side of the gurney and put each in the leather restraint. "It's for your own good," she smiled then gave him another injection. "This should help you relax" she patted his arm and he had to twist his head to see where she went. It was then that he spotted Birkoff. Their eyes locked onto each other and neither seemed to be able to break the stare.

It was only after the sedative kicked in that Birkoff noticed that Operations was one again out of it...