Michael spun in his chair and stared at Nikita. "Great, just great!" she threw her hands into the air. "Just what we did NOT need!" Talk about an understatement. "There's nothing to be done about it now." Michael's voice held a small hint of being agitated as he slowly rose from the chair and walked out of the room. Nikita didn't follow him, she knew from past experience that Michael was better left alone at times like this. Instead she sat back and tried to figure out a way that Walter and Belinda could meet before the mission went down.

Belinda finally got all the specs she would need, ones that would appear acceptable to Madeline yet not give anything vital away. Slipping into her vehicle, she carefully checked the perimeter and started the engine. Checking her Intel once more, she was just about to pull away when someone grabbed her from behind and quickly covered her mouth with a gloved hand. She struggled to see who had managed to sneak up on her and as she twisted and fought, it became apparent that she was quickly over matched. Her cries of frustration were quickly muffled by the soft leather that covered her mouth while the other hand quickly made light of her flaying hands. "Don't struggle, I won't hurt you!" she tried hard to recognize the voice but it was apparently muffled as well by the black hood covering whomever's face. "If I let go of your mouth, do you promise not to scream?"

She nodded and was quickly rewarded with the removal of the hand "Who the hell?" she started but was just as quickly silenced once more. "You promised" she nodded that she had and would keep her word. "I'm sorry" she whispered. The hand was once again removed and she was allowed to turn around. Taking a defensive stance she was just about to kick out at her assailant when the person removed his hood. "Michael?" she seemed stunned. "What are you doing here?" she looked around to make sure they were truly alone.

"I came to tell you that Walter is coming here," he folded the hood and stuck it into a pocket of his black mission jacket. "I'll try to set up a meet but I don't know how," he leaned against the jeep and she could easily see that something else was bothering him.

"What aren't you telling me Michael?" she figured he needed a push.

"Operations is coming here as well!" his voice did little to cover the disgust he carried for the man. "Why?" she knew but needed to hear it from him. "Because he wants Madeline alive" she nodded having already figured that out. "Can it be done that way?" she knew nothing of his plans other than small bits and pieces.

"I'd planned it that way, I need her to restore Nikita and since she's the only one capable of that, I had intended on taking her alive all along" he looked directly at her. She wasn't judging, she knew how close he was to Nikita and what he would do to protect her. "But what about Nikita?" she knew that Nikita's hatred of the games Madeline had played with not only her but with both of them. "She wants her dead, that's not an option," he answered honestly, glad he finally could admit this to someone.

"I take it she's not happy with your decision to keep Madeline alive?" he sighed and for once Belinda was treated to some emotion from the man she always thought incapable. "I don't want to lie to her," he seemed to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. "But there's no other way, she wants her dead and I don't," he crossed his arms against the well muscled chest that Belinda along with every other female operative had admired once or twice. "I told her that once I had everything I needed from Madeline, I would allow her to do whatever she wanted to her." he paused and closed his eyes.

"Which is impossible now that Operations is coming?" she clearly understood and Michael now knew what Walter saw in this beautiful, intelligent creature. He nodded and leaned a foot against the tires. "I've lied enough to Nikita" he suddenly looked very sad and alone. "I don't know what to do."

she moved closer and touched his shoulder "You have to let it play out the way it will, Nikita seems back to normal are you sure you really need Madeline?" she knew the answer. She also knew that Madeline would be a tradeoff of sorts to allow her and Walter to be together. If Madeline went down in this mission, a lot of people would pay for that. They spent the better part of another hour chatting and when they were finished, exchanged a hug of understanding and Belinda went on her way. Michael took time alone to walk the outer rim of the compound and study tactical advantages.

Nikita checked several times to see if anyone knew where Michael had disappeared to but so far no one had even noticed his absence. "I don't like this" she stood before Davenport, hands on hips. "It's not like him to just disappear" but she knew that assessment wasn't quite right. "Not in the middle of preparing for a mission" she self corrected.

Davenport knew that Michael had a lot on his mind. He'd only recently heard that Operations would be joining them and knew that it wouldn't sit well with him. "Maybe he needed time to sort things out Nikita," he tried to sound understanding but having never been allowed a relationship while in Section, he'd long ago given up trying to figure out the opposite sex.

Nikita realized that she wouldn't get anywhere standing there and decided she needed some fresh air. Grabbing a jacket, she told Davenport of her plans and had to gently dismiss his desire to go along just in case. "I'll be fine, I'm not leaving the compound" she pulled her long blond hair out of the back of her jacket and zipped it up half way. "If Michael comes back, please tell him I need to speak to him before he turns in?" Davenport nodded then left her alone.

She slowly left the safety of the building to walk along the tree line. Things were not going they way they'd planned. It was obvious that with Operations joining them any hopes of retaliation against Madeline would not include canceling her as Michael had promised. She didn't hold it against him as he had no clue of Operations decision. It just didn't seem fair after all they'd been through but if there was a way to at least assure that Walter and Belinda could be together, at least some good would come of it. Silently with the exception of the rocks that crumbled underfoot, she made her way around the inner edge of the tree line totally unaware that she was being watched...



Madeline was sitting on one of the overstuffed chairs, one leg curled under her while the other kept time to the music coming from the small portable radio seated on the side table. Belinda didn't know what surprised her more, the radio, the casual way that Madeline was sitting in the chair reading whatever it was that she had splayed across her lap or her choice in music. Somehow, she never pictured Madeline listening to Garth Brooks and seeming to enjoy it. "Umm, hello" she felt like a deer in the headlights.

"Belinda," she nodded not yet looking up. "How did your, what did you call it?" she finally made eye contact. "Look see?" she smiled, that damned tight lip smile everyone hated. "I got a chance to see more of the compound than the last time" she leaned against the arm of the sofa to Madeline's right. "Don't you find it strange that there doesn't seem to be some security measures put into place there?" Madeline studied her facial features "They must have something going, so far we haven't been able to get a fix on just how many people Jurgen has working for him," she kept her best game face on. "Have you any idea when you're going to meet with him?" she was trying hard to get some sort of timeline when all of this would be put into play."

Madeline shook her head. "My brother will have to sit tight until I feel that meeting him isn't a mistake" she flipped the pages of whatever she was reading and gave a nonchalant shrug of her shoulders. "I never knew that Jurgen was your brother" Belinda moved slowly to the sofa and gently slid back into the ultra soft cushions. "It wasn't common knowledge" she put the magazine down. "We were never very close" she looked sad but Belinda doubted that Madeline was capable of displaying let alone feeling any emotion like that. "Even as children, Jurgen had his own ideas" she reached over and turned the volume of the radio down. "He made friends easy enough but often times it was only a friendship that would eventually benefit him to some measure. if there was nothing that he could gain from it, it was not a lasting friendship," she sighed.

"And you Madeline?" Belinda sat back, arms crossed. She was surprised that Madeline had even shared as much as she had. "What about me?" she opened the door but Belinda wondered if she really wanted to let anyone 'in.' "Did you make friends easily?" she figured she'd baby-step into the 'door.'

Madeline smiled, it wasn't easy to be the study rat to someone else's questions. "I didn't have very many friends as a child" she paused "I guess nothing has changed?" she smiled but leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Belinda wondered if there would be tears there when she reopened them but sat in silence until Madeline was prepared to continue.

The plane ride was spent with Birkoff and Walter huddled together discussing tactical maneuvering and the latest computer gadgets that Seymour found to be very exciting. Operations sat back and studied the two men as he snuggled under the blanket that the flight attendant had been kind enough to provide. Not feeling 100%, he knew that perhaps his accompanying them might have been a tactical error on his part. Although he didn't want to interfere in whatever plans Michael might have, he was sure that he was more than a little tired of being kept out of the communication loop that had obviously been going on behind his back. Birkoff and Walter would occasionally throw quick darting glances his way ever careful to avoid actual contact. "He doesn't look good" leave it to Birkoff to always state the obvious.

"He isn't even supposed to be out of Medlab" Walter whispered back to the younger man.

"Michael didn't sound to happy when he found out he was joining us" Birkoff remembered the sharp edge that his voice had taken after Operations had shared his little news.

"Michael doesn't need Operations to run his show, he needs some freedom to do things his way" he motioned to where Operations was losing his battle to simply keep his eyes open. "He's going to be a liability to this mission for sure" Neither man even attempted to help Operations to a more comfortable positions, they simply sat back, whispered in hushed tones and watched as his head bobbed and weaved as he snored away the rest of the flight.

Madeline indeed had tears in her eyes when she finally brought her head upright and turned to Belinda. "No one wants to be friends with someone who kills her sister." she knew that this tidbit would probably shock the hell out of Belinda but it no longer seemed to be important to keep it to herself?

Belinda coughed, brought her hand to her mouth and sat in stunned silence. Her actions spoke volumes as to the fact that she didn't really know how to respond. "You? You killed your sister?" she sat upright. Madeline nodded.

"She had a doll, I wanted it" she began, simply stating the facts without going into any major storyline "we wrestled and she fell down the stairs hitting her head!" a statement of fact, no emotion showing either in her voice or on her face.

"It was an accident then Madeline" she tried to sound understanding.

"I wanted the doll!" Something told Belinda that no matter what she said, Madeline would always take the blame for the loss of her sister yet she wondered why then she would have remained so distant from Jurgen. Madeline must have read her mind. "After my sister died, my Mother sent me away and it was years before I ever talked to my brother again." another statement of fact.

The plane finally touched down and it was several moments before Walter and Birkoff settled who would wake Operations. "You, I don't really care if we leave him and let the plane take him back to Section" Walter's tone told Birkoff that he meant exactly what he had stated. "Well, I'm not waking him up, he's been such a crab lately...." he sat back as the two of them continued their debate.

The stewardess took away the need when she gently tapped Operations on the shoulder. "The limo is waiting just outside sir" she whispered as he blinked and attempted to focus. The plane finished it's travel and slowed to a stop. The door was opened and two operatives came onboard to assist Operations to the car. "I can manage!" he attempted to rise on his own but quickly realized that he was much weaker than he'd previously thought.

"Let me give you a hand sir" the larger of the men gingerly held him under his arm as he pulled Ops to a standing position. Both men simply took an arm around their neck then gently half carried him off the plane. Inside the luxurious leather seats if the limo, Operations allowed himself to be gently lowered. He pulled his legs up to his midsection, snuggled under the blanket that had been placed over him and slipped back to sleep.

Walter and Birkoff were just about to follow him inside when the smaller of the two men stopped him. "The other vehicle" they motioned to a Suburban with darkened windows that slowy crept forward. "But...." Walter was about to argue but stopped when the window was rolled down and she saw both Nikita and Michael in the front seat "Need a ride?" she smiled warmly. Birkoff felt an immediate sense of relief that for the moment they would be able to talk without being overheard by Operations.



Michael drove in silence as Nikita chatted away with Birkoff and Walter. She turned in her seat, not an easy thing to do since Michael always insisted on driving with seat belts in place. "I'm glad to see you two." Walter reached over and touched her shoulder, he knew touching Michael would get nothing but a silent glare so he chose to keep his hands to himself. "I was worried about both of you," he continued. Nikita smiled.

"Where are we on getting Madeline?" Birkoff's question brought the faintest smile to the corners of Michael's lips.

"We," he began "know that she'll be making contact in the next few days or so." he drove on only occasionally glancing in the rearview mirror "We hope that she can be obtained with minimal losses," his glance landed on Walter and he knew just what he was thinking. "She's fine Walter, I talked to her personally last night." Nikita's stunned glance told Birkoff and Walter that this was something she hadn't known.

"You talked to her face to face?" she sounded slightly upset. "When?" she turned then proceeded to act like she was removing lint from her pant leg. "When I went to take a walk" his answer was short and curt. "How is it that you and she happened to what? run into each other?" she sounded jealous right then. Birkoff and Walter exchanged glances and shrugs.

"She was supposed to be on a fact gathering mission for Madeline," he knew how it sounded the moment it came out. "And what Michael, she just happened to plan on running into you?" she knew that she sounded jealous but she couldn't help it lives were on the line here. "She didn't know that I would be there" his voice told her that she was treading on thin ice at the moment.

"Perhaps she is working both sides?" she regretted having to point this out, especially with Walter sitting behind her. Birkoff caught the irritated glance that was cast her way by his friend. "She wouldn't do that Nikita!" his tone and the fact that he didn't refer to her as 'Sugar' told Nikita that she'd indeed ruffled his feathers. "Walter, I'm sorry" she started but stopped as she noticed Michael clenching and unclenching his hands on the steering wheel.

"Belinda is on our side" his voice came in an irritated low manner. "She simply wants the chance to see Walter before this goes down" he turned to look at her "I would think that you of all people would understand this!" the last comment hit the mark making her feel like an idiot. They rode the rest of the way in a thick silence.

They arrived about an hour later and Michael and Birkoff headed off to the Comm center. Nikita quietly offered to show Walter to his temporary quarters and they silently walked side by side. "Listen Walter, what I said back there..." she slowed her pace hoping he would stop. "Forget it." he wouldn't look at her and continued beside her adjusting his steps but never actually stopping. "I was out of line." she wouldn't let the subject die and Walter having had only a couple days to adjust to the fact that Belinda was still alive, felt every word like salt on a wound.

"You're damned right you were out of line!" his words caught her unguarded. "How dare you even think something like that about my wife!" she knew that she deserved everything that was being thrown at her. "Walter..." she brought her hands up in resignation. "Dam you Nikita, you have Michael, you've had him all along but Belinda, she was taken from me..." he realized that it was now him who was out of line but the anger he had so long ago attempted to bury came bubbling to the surface. "They took her from me never caring how I felt about her. I've never asked Operations for a single thing. I've towed the line time after time whether I agreed with what they were doing or not, and the first chance at happiness I get and they take it away!" His arms were flying as he vocalized all the emotions that came spewing forth.

"I understand," she whispered.

"How can you? You and Michael..." but she did understand and the realization stopped him from going further. "Sugar it's just not the same for me as it is for you" he reached out to touch her but she pulled back.

"No, Walter, you're right, it isn't the same!" her voice conveyed the hurt and anger that simmered just below the surface. "I don't know why you were brought to Section hell, I don't even know how or why I was chosen but I was." she turned, ran a hand through the long blond mane as she chose her words. "They put me with Michael and what expect me NOT to have feelings for him?" she paced like a caged tiger as her voice raised with each statement. "I fall in love with him and they screw with my mind" she continued her tirade. "I know I love him but I also know that there are things about me that I still am not sure of. I want Madeline DEAD! I can't have what I want because Operations won't let me!" she didn't know where this was all leading but she had to voice her feelings.

"They use my feelings for Michael over and over and I'm supposed to forget how many times I've been manipulated by him for the good of Section!" she didn't realize that Michael was now standing just around the corner out of her field of vision.

"Michael had to do what Section told him to or risk being canceled Sugar," he tried to soothe her but realized that it wasn't' possible just yet.

"Sometimes I wonder just how much I really mean to him!" she was crying now and it was then that Walter noticed the shadow from around the corner.

"Michael loves you enough to risk his life to get Madeline back. This whole parallel mission was his idea" he began hoping that Michael would stay hidden. "Operations was ballistic when he found out that Michael disobeyed him once again" he started to close the distance between then. "Do you know how much Michael has suffered because of his feelings for you?" his voice was stern and demanding. She stopped crying and stared at the older man.

"He lost Simone and clammed up. He lost a wife and child because of Section" he continued. "How dare you question his love or loyalty to you!" his voice raised "He let you in after three years of talking to NO ONE Sugar!" he brought a finger near her face. "How dare you open his heart only to rip it out!" he was shouting now and the stunned look on her face told him he was making headway now. "How dare you think that you're the only one that Section manipulates!" he poked her shoulder with the finger that had only a moment ago been in her face. "You don't know what it's like to have to act like a statue while your heart is breaking" he couldn't stop himself and this time didn't care.

"You see what you want to see, a man who can shut himself down and not show emotions. But me, I see a man who has been used, lied to and hurt over and over again only to finally reach out to someone who has the gall to question if he actually loves her?" he turned away. "You need to grow up Nikita!"

She didn't know what it was, his words or the fact that he finished up calling her by her God given name instead of the usual Sugar that finally made impact. "Walter, I'm so sorry" she moved toward him but he turned her around to come face to face with Michael "he's the one you should be apologizing to!" and with that he stepped back and moved besides Birkoff. "Come on Walter, I'll show you the neat things they have here" he motioned for them to leave the two others alone. Walter didn't hesitate. Michael looked up and mouthed "Thank you!" to his friend.

"Michael..." she hung her head in shame. "I'm so sorry..." she began hoping he would take her in his arms but he simply stood there gathering his thoughts. "I know you love me" she continued "It's this mission that's..."

but he silenced her, "No, it's not only the mission Nikita" he raised her chin so she had no other choice then to make eye contact. "I don't blame you for having doubts about my feelings...at least not in the past but I'm sure that" he hesitated, took a deep breath then began again. "I was sure that I left little question as to my feelings for you but obviously I was wrong?" he waited for her to answer.

"No" she went to step closer but he backed away. "Michael I know you love me and I love you" but he wouldn't let her close the gap.

"But it's not enough is it Nikita?" he held her at arms length. "You'll always have some doubts as to whether or not it's the Section Michael or really me that is telling you that I love you" he stated something she tried desperately to deny.

"Michael please..." again she tried to move in closer but again he rebuffed her attempts.

"Not until you learn to tell the difference" and with that he turned and walked away. He was glad that he'd left when he did so she couldn't see the tears that were now streaming down his face."