Michael decided to take another walk but was quickly stopped by Davenport. "Operations wants to see you!" It didn't take this man long to realize that Michael apparently had something else on his mind. "You okay?" he stopped and stared at the man he considered his friend.

"Yes," it was the first time in a long while that Davenport heard the Mission mode and it took him by surprise.

"The man just gets here and he's already demanding things," meant as a joke he quickly realized that it wasn't going to get the desired response. "He's around the corner from your room," he tapped his friend on the shoulder and left him to his own thoughts but couldn't help wondering what had changed Michael's mood.

Michael knocked then went into the room without waiting for an invitation. "You wished to see me?" he quickly slipped into the character that Operations would have wanted to see.

"I wanted to know where you were on all of this?" the older man struggled to sit up from the prone position he had been in.

Michael quietly moved to give him a hand but made no comment on the man's apparent weakness. "We've made contact with Madeline, she thinks it was Jurgen she was talking to" he sat down across from him and crossed a leg.

"And?" Operations reached for the glass of water that one of the operatives had left for him but it was just out of reach for him to grab it comfortably.

"Let me" Michael passed him the glass. "Thank you" Operations reply slightly shocked him. "She said that she would make contact when she is ready to meet. So far we've been unable to trace her location but I'm hopeful with Birkoff onboard that will soon change" his face lacked any show of emotions.

"And you Michael? How are you?"

Michael didn't understand the man's need to know this. "Fine, the mission will go as ordered" he wasn't used to Operations this way.

"I'm sure it will Michael but I was wondering how you feel about all of this?" he waved his hand around. "How is Nikita?" he saw a momentary flinch from the operative seated across from him. "I take it from your reaction that she's having trouble with my decision to bring Madeline in alive?"

Michael sat across from the only man he had ever feared. Oh, he no longer felt this way about Operations but there had been a time. "She's not happy about it, no but she will do as she's ordered!" it was a statement that took Operations by surprise as it had been some time since Michael was ordering Nikita about.

"Is there anything wrong that I should know about Michael?" but he knew that the answer would be either very vague or denied him. "No!" Michael rose to leave "Get some rest, you're not completely healed" and with that left Operations to slowly lie back and slip into a restful sleep.

Nikita was sitting outside the entrance on the hood of the Suburban when Michael came out for air. "Michael," she turned hoping to draw him near but he remained where he was standing. "I'm sorry if I hurt you," she held her hands under her chin and studied him.

"It's okay" he turned to walk away.

"Don't leave," but she could see that at any moment he would simply slip away. "We need to talk," she hoped that would make him turn and move to where she was still sitting but again he simply stood there, back to her.

"There's nothing left to say," and he walked into the darkness once again utterly alone.

Nikita wanted to run after him but his actions made it quite clear that she was unwelcome at this point. She decided to find one of the operatives and work out in a hand to hand combat just to relieve some tension. Davenport was the only one up for it and they quickly met in the workout room.

"What's wrong with Michael?" he lunged and knocked her to the mat. "Nothing!" she quickly rolled him off of her. "What's wrong with both of you?" he went at her again and was rewarded with a foot to the stomach. "Why?" she grunted as he took her down to the mat once again.

This time he remained seated above her and she found herself unable to free herself. "Get off me!" but he refused to move. She felt her temper flaring "Get off me. Now!" but his only response was to pin her hands down to her sides. "Talk to me Nikita," he moved closer. "You can't do this mission keeping things inside." he refused to let her up. "There's nothing to say!" she bit her lip but he'd seen it tremble.

"Nikita what's wrong?" his voice softened but still he held her down. "Nikita you have to talk to someone," he allowed her to move away from him but she simply laid there.

"I said something that Michael overheard. I hurt him but I didn't mean to." she slowly sat up. Davenport didn't quite know what to say. "I was fighting with Walter because of my big mouth. I didn't know Michael was anywhere around and I said some things that I know were mean and hurtful," she dropped her head into her hands and began to cry.

"Does he know you didn't mean them?" he moved closer and wrapped a protective arm around her. "I tried to apologize but he walked away" she tried to wipe her eyes in her tee shirt. "Can I ask what you said?" he felt that the only way to fix anything was to know what had happened and why?

She hesitated for a moment. "I didn't know that Michael had talked to Belinda last night, face to

face," she waited to allow that tidbit to sink in but apparently it was lost on Davenport. "Anyway, I asked him what she was doing here and I guess I sounded either suspicious or jealous."

He kind of chuckled "or both?" he added. Nikita looked at him but she knew he was right. "Yeah, I guess and of course with Walter having just found out that Belinda is still alive..." she didn't need to finish. "Walter took your question as a personal attack on her?" she nodded. "I can understand your questions about why she was here, why Michael hadn't told you he'd talked to her..." he paused. "But whatever you said to hurt Michael...why?" he looked at her.

"I didn't mean to honestly. it's just that sometimes I don't know where Section Michael ends

and My Michael," she sobbed not knowing if she would ever be able to refer to him as that again. "where he starts." she buried her face in his arm.

Davenport hugged her and waited until the sobs ceases. "Your Michael loves you so much Nikita and I know for a fact that the things that as you call him Section Michael has had to do... well, I'm sure he's not proud of them," he wanted to make sure that she was really listening. "But they are a part of who he is and something you have go to learn to accept," she nodded but said nothing. "Nikita, Michael is very vulnerable right now. he wants to restore your memory and knows that keeping Madeline alive is the ONLY way to do that. Trust me, with what she's pulled, Michael would have gladly allowed you to cancel her if there were any other way," he hoped she understood.

"I know." the whisper was almost inaudible. They sat and talked for hours. Davenport finally realized that is was more than her looks that grabbed at Michael's heart. When he finally left, it was only after he had walked her back to her quarters and was sure she was okay. "I'll see you in the morning" he gently planted a kiss on her forehead then turned to leave. "Thank you," she smiled.

After Davenport left Nikita, he decided to go find Michael. He checked his quarters even going so far as to let himself into the suite of rooms but found them empty instead of just finding Michael ignoring his knocks. He went to to Comm and found Birkoff busily typing away on his computers and checking notes with the other operatives he had recruited as his back up. "Have you seen Michael anywhere?" but Birkoff simply shook his head. Walter was no more help, as he was busy inventorying the newest stock of weapons. He was impressed with Jurgen's collection to say the least and whistled every time he came across a weapon he'd heard about but hadn't actually used. "Hey Walter, you seen Michael?" he called to the area where the whistling was emanating from. "No, why?" he looked around the corner. "I need to talk to him about Nikita" he decided to see if Walter would expand on what he'd already been told. "I'd leave that subject alone if I were you" he placed one of the newer weapons on the counter. "I can't," and with that he turned on his heels and left the area.

Michael had walked the entire compound three times before he decided to sit on the hood of the Suburban and study the blanket of stars that twinkled overhead. "Making a wish?" he heard the familiar voice of Davenport come from behind the vehicle. "Doesn't matter," he sounded very tired and very sad. "They never come true for me." not something that Davenport would have normally expected from him.

"One did," he decided to cut to the chase. "Yeah?" he slid over to make room for Davenport to join him. "Which one?" Davenport knew that he had to get down to business if he wanted to get through to Michael. "The one where you wished that Nikita loved you" he felt Michael stiffen. "Oh!" he didn't now what Davenport was expecting him to say. "She told me what happened" he paused "I hope you don't mind but she needed someone to talk to" he waited. Michael shifted positions as he tried to weigh his words.

"Nikita doesn't know what she wants!" his voice held a bitter undertone but Davenport understood he was hurt. "She knows she loves you," a sharp intake of air came from the man beside him. "No, she thinks she knows, doubts what she knows...I don't know anymore." he ran a hand through his hair.

Davenport had only seen him do that once or twice before and it had only been during a time that Michael was under a lot of stress. "Listen, she knows she screwed up today Michael. She was lashing out at the predicament that all of this has place you all in but I don't believe it's you that she was trying to hurt." He wanted to touch Michael but in all the years they'd known each other, contact wasn't normally welcomed from him.

"She doesn't know yet how I feel?" he sounded so hurt. "I thought I'd told her loud and clear, I thought my doing all of this would convince her once and for all that I love her." he leaned back and looked at the stars.

"She's been hurt Michael, what did you expect?" but he knew the man sitting beside him was hurt far worse. "Don't get me wrong Michael. Section hasn't been kind to you either and sitting in the cheap seats, I'd have to say you got the worse end of the deal. But Nikita, she's in love with you plain and simple," he didn't know what else to say that might convince him.

"When I was a little boy" Michael stared at the Heavens "I believe that somewhere out there were all the answers to life's greatest questions" he sighed deeply. "And now?" Davenport studied his silhouette in the moonlight. "I'm not so sure anymore," he sat upright. "I'm not so sure that anyone has all the answers." Davenport knew that Michael and Nikita had a wedge between them that only they could overcome...if they could. After bidding Michael a goodnight, he left the man alone with his thoughts.



Michael sat staring at the stars totally unaware that at that moment, Nikita stood directly above him watching his every move. How she wanted to go to him, to tell him that she knew why he'd done the things in the past and that she'd forgiven him long ago. He shifted positions until he was lying on his back, hands crossed under his head and his legs bent at the knees as he leaned back against the windshield. Nikita waited a little longer, picked up her robe and wrapped it around her tying the cord tightly as she slipped her bare feet into a pair of house slippers. Something in that action made her smile. Careful to check that no one was in the corridor, she quietly slipped out of her quarters and made her way to where Michael was sitting.

Michael hadn't heard her approach in the soft-soled footwear. It wasn't until she made contact with the black metal hood of the vehicle that he turned to see her. She stood beside him, swathed in a white satin gown and robe with the full moon blazing directly behind her giving her an aura or halo... Michael couldn't decide which. "Nikita, go back inside," he made no attempt to move from his present position.

"We need to talk Michael," she leaned against the suburban. "There is nothing else to say," his voice was calm but the hurt was evident. "Then you need to listen to me," she moved closer but Michael rolled off the opposite side and stood there with the vehicle keeping a distance between them. "Michael, please," he looked at her and studied the woman before him.

"Nikita, you said what has obviously been on your mind for a long time," he began but she put her hand up. "I spoke with a big mouth not letting my head decide what needed to be said." he was shaking his head. "No, when you spoke to Walter, you had no idea I was even there. What you said was the truth, I'm not denying it but I'd thought we moved passed that." he shifted his position but did not come closer. "I was sure that on more than one occasion that I'd made it clear that I loved you but apparently you have doubts about that as well?" he waited while his words sunk in.

"Michael I know..." but he backed away. "Nikita, apparently you don't, you don't know how I feel and for that I'm to blame I guess." he started to turn away but stopped. "Let's just get through this mission all right?" his hand was held up as if it would place an invisible barrier between them. "Michael don't walk away from me!" her commanding tone brought a smile to his face but in the darkness it was hidden from her. "Nikita, I don't have the energy to fight with you, you've made it clear that you're not over what I've done to you in the past and right now, I have more to deal with than my emotional hang ups" she flinched when he said that. "If you think I lied when I said that Madeline was yours when I extracted the information I needed" he paused, moved just a bit closer. "I'll tell you what, you make the decision, if you want to stay the way you are, then cancel her yourself but it there is any hope for us to overcome all that is between us. then you have to let this play out my way. It's your call!" and with that he walked away leaving her standing there considering what he'd said.

Operations woke up and it took a few minutes for him to realize where he was. The operative that had been left to oversee to his needs looked up from the magazine that he was reading. "Can I get you anything sir?" he folded the page then placed the magazine in the crease of the chair. "Where's Michael?" his voice was tired and the words dragged out slowly. "Sir, I think he's in his quarters for the night" he honestly didn't know where the team leader might be. "Find him please?" it wasn't like Ops to ask for anything. Usually he was demanding and the operative was stunned. "Oh, uh...yes, of course," he moved over to the intercom unit on the wall. "I need a fix on Michael's location right now?" he waited and watched as Operations struggled to an upright position.

"Michael's in quarters," came Birkoff's straight answer. "Operations would like to see him" he pressed the button but waited. "Now?" came an exasperated reply. "Yes, now!" and he went to sit besides Ops.

Michael had just stripped down to his tee shirt and shorts when the phone beside his bed rang. "Yes," he sounded tired and irritated. "Operations is awake and asked for you," came the welcomed voice of Birkoff. Michael was more comfortable knowing that with his skills, he that area was covered and would require little if any supervision. "Okay!" he hung up, pulled on a pair of sweatpants then went down the hall.

Again he entered without knocking. The moment he had entered, the operative that had summoned him apologized then left them alone. "You're feeling better?" it was a question that didn't fit the sight of the man before him. "No, not really" Ops was holding a glass of water and had a blanket wrapped around him. "Any news?" he motioned for Michael to sit across from him but Michael simply stood wanting this meeting over so he'd be allowed at the least four hours sleep. "Nothing but I'm not expecting her to jump blindly into a meeting," he pointed out the obvious. "I haven't seen Nikita since I got here, is she in bed?"

Michael smiled at the presumptuous question and relished the surprise look at his answer. "I have no idea." Operations took another swig of water then sat back and studied his number one operative. "I take it you're not together tonight?" Michael smiled. "Why?" Operations knew that he wasn't going to get an answer to that question so he simply saluted his operative then put the glass back on the table. "Guess I need some more rest" he slowly laid back down. "Good night Michael!" he pulled the covers up and Michael turned to leave "Good night!"

He didn't see the satisfied look on Michael's face as the lights were turned down and Michael returned to his quarters. He wasn't prepared to find Nikita curled up in his bed. "What do you want Nikita?" his irritation was apparent due to a serious lack of sleep.

"I want us to be together," she curled cat like around the pillow pushed just under her arms. "Come to bed Michael" she patted the empty space beside her. "Please?" she purred.

"Nikita" he sighed never imagining saying the next thing to her "Please go back to your own bed?" she looked at him thinking he might be playing. "Michael just come to bed, we don't have to touch, I just need you beside me tonight," she tried again but he stood there, arms crossed and shook his head. "No, Nikita, I want you to leave!" he pointed to the door. "But..." he pulled her arm dragging her across the bed. she thought he might be playing a game until she realized he was moving her closer to the door. She pulled back against him and tried to return to the warm spot she'd just been yanked from but he quickly picked her up and deposited her outside of his door. "Go back to bed Nikita, your own bed!" and he closed the door in her face making sure to carefully lock it behind him. She stood there with a look of pure indignation as the door closed in front of her. Michael stood with his back against the door wondering if this was how it was always going to be...



Belinda and Madeline sat across from each other, they'd talked most of the night right into the early morning hours. "More tea Madeline?" she attempted to pour one more cup but felt the bitter taste of having already had one to many.

"No, thank you" she smiled. "Belinda, can I ask you something?" Belinda settled the rose covered Chinese teapot down on the sturdy trivet and sat down.

"What is it Madeline?" she felt closer to the woman, at least she knew that at some point Madeline had actually been good, maybe deep down she still was but that didn't excuse how she hurt people.

"You knew that you were an Abeyance operative yet you still went ahead with your marriage to Walter." she seemed genuinely intrigued by that.

"Because I loved Walter" she made sure to remember to keep things in the past tense. "It didn't matter that I would die at anytime. to be held, loved and cared for even for one hour made everything else less important" she didn't know if Madeline was capable of understanding this. "But Walter had to know?" Belinda shook her head. "No Madeline. I kept that from him, selfish as it might seem. I wanted just a little time without deadlines and missions. And hiding the fact that I'd been returned to Abeyance was my only way," she knew that one day she'd have to tell Walter the truth but hoped that she'd get that chance. "Now it's my turn to ask you a question" she hesitated. Madeline nodded. there was no reason to hide anything from this woman, either they would both succeed at their mission or they'd die trying. "Which is?" she seemed almost smug and Belinda had to force herself to continue. "Why, if you and Operations were able to have a relationship," she saw Madeline take a deep breath, "Why then were you both so set against me and Walter," she shifted positions, "or Michael and Nikita?"

Madeline sat and thought for a moment before she ventured an answer. "Operations was not as set against the relationships you mentioned as I was," it was a dangerous admittance on her part. "I don't believe that your focus is 100% if your mind and heart are on someone you've left behind" she stared at the floor then their eyes met. "How can you worry about the safety of your entire team if there's one person you truly love also on the mission?" Belinda knew she was right about that but time and time again, Michael had proved quite capable of balancing both.

"Michael was capable of doing that, he proved it several times over," she felt the need to defend him.

"Michael is an extraordinary human being and in my opinion, the best Operative that Section has ever turned out but Nikita is and always will be his weakness," she smiled as if that knowledge gave her some sort of power. Belinda sat back to digest what she'd been told. "What makes you think that there was a relationship between Operations and myself?" Madeline crossed her arms as she usually did while interrogating someone. "Call it woman's intuition Madeline," she smiled. Both decided it was well past the time that they should have turned in. Madeline excused herself and left Belinda to pick up the cups and saucers before turning in herself.

Nikita didn't know how long she had stood there fighting the urge to kick and pound her fists against the solid oak door that Michael had closed in her face. "Dam him!" she hissed, stomped a foot then returned to her quarters. A short time later, curled in her empty bed she was finally able to fall asleep.

Michael stood staring at the door, waiting to hear the receding footfalls as she left the spot where he had deposited her. It had taken all his willpower not to throw her on the bed and show her once and for all exactly how he felt about her but quickly banished the idea from his head. "It's not the way" he whispered before clicking off the bedside light, stripping down and sliding into the warm covers that still held the lingering scent of where Nikita had been only a short time ago.

Birkoff and Walter took a break from their respective jobs and decided to take a walk around the compound. "You think we'll get her?" Birkoff had to walk fast to keep up with Walter's ground eating stride. "Slow down!" he tugged at his friend's arms already feeling out of breath. Walter stopped to allow his friend to catch his breath but inwardly was smiling at the fact that even at his age, Birkoff couldn't keep up with him. "I think Michael's going to give it his best shot" he waited as Birkoff sucked in as much air as his lungs allowed. "Is it enough?" Birkoff had his doubts. "This equipment is pretty sophisticated even for Jurgen, I wonder what he was planning?" Birkoff and Walter were both pretty impressed with what they'd discovered so far. "You gotta see some of the weapons that he had still in their crates" he whistled, "I've never seen some of them, read about them but I didn't even know they actually existed until I got here" they walked, side by side through the growing morning light.

Michael woke after only a few hours sleep, showered and shaved he felt a bit better than the night before. Checking in with all of the operatives, he had been informed that Operations had requested to be brought to Communication for a briefing. "I'll be there in ten Birkoff" he closed communication and finished dressing.

When he finally arrived, Birkoff and Walter were buzzing around him like flies each trying to be heard over the other as to the devices each had discovered. "One at a time please!" Operations waved his hands to shut them up. He seemed greatly relieved to see Michael heading his way. "You're looking rested" was the operatives only greeting. "I'm feeling a little better thanks" Walter and Birkoff exchanged glances. "Where are we on this?" he pulled up the schematics of the compound, which showed where Michael had already had ground explosives planted.

"I have the perimeter well covered and we've gone over tactical positions for each of the operatives. if we can draw Madeline here," he was just about to point to some of the vantage points when out of the corner of his eye he noticed Nikita walking by hands pulled over her head as she twisted her long blonde main into a make-shift bun. She turned but didn't smile and her eyes remained glued to his as she strutted past and disappeared down the hall that lead to the kitchen.

"Michael, Michael?" he shook his head hating the fact that Operations had caught him while he was distracted. "I um...I'm working on the sim with Birkoff, plausible scenarios based on Madeline's past performances" he covered himself rather well. "I'll want to be just down from point on this one" Ops had noticed the long drawn out eye contact shared by both operatives. "I'd prefer you on tactical!" Michael wasn't about to give up his position as the leader of this entire operation. "Excuse me?" he pulled out the chair "I mean no disrespect" he sat across from Operations "but you are in no shape to be anywhere near point." he was right and both knew it. "I won't risk your safety or that of my team because you think you're capable of handling that position!" he made his point well and Operations nodded in agreement.

Nikita had poured herself a cup of coffee when Walter walked in "Hey Walter," she looked like she'd been crying. "Hi Sugar," he grabbed an empty cup then turned to get himself a cup "What's wrong?" he noticed the look on her face. "Michael?" she nodded while sniffling into a napkin. "You two still fighting?" she nodded "I tried to apologize but he won't listen," she mumbled as she blew her nose. "Sugar what ya said hurt him, you can't expect him to simply blow it off, you" he pointed his finger at her "are the only one who can get to him like that" She again nodded knowing that he was right. "I love him Walter, I know he loves me but I'm so confused lately" she wondered if things would ever be back to normal. "Want me to talk to him?" she hesitated not wanting to involve another person or get Michael mad at him. "No, maybe you'd better not," she hugged him "Thanks anyway!" she tried valiantly to smile. He left her to her thoughts.

Michael was coming down the hall when he spied Nikita leaving the kitchen, nose red from crying, eyes puffed and crimson. He quickly ducked into the nearest doorway and watched as she slowly made her way out of the building. The downcast head, dejected look of her made his heart break and he knew that they needed to fix what had gone wrong before it was too late. "Birkoff, unless it's important, I'm not to be disturbed is that understood?" he waited impatiently not wanting to loose sight of her. He hadn't counted on running directly into Walter "Hey Michael, got a minute?" he was already waving as he hurried to close the gap between them "Not really Walter," he tried to keep an eye on the direction that Nikita was heading.

"It's about Sugar," he figured that Michael wouldn't stand for small talk. "Walter, while I'd really like to I don't have time for this discussion right now!" he tried to move around the older man. "You'd better make time if you want to save your relationship." Michael would not allow himself to be stopped and quickly pushed him away "Sorry Walter but I gotta go," and he was through the door in a flash only to find the area vacant and no obvious signs of Nikita. "Birkoff, do a thermal scan on Nikita!" he waited once again while his eyes covered every visible inch of ground.

"She's outside the building Michael due west of where you're standing." Michael knew that Birkoff would have needed to run his scan to give him a starting point. "Thank you!" he moved off in the direction that she'd taken. She must have been moving fast since it took a steady trot and he'd

still not made visual contact with her. "Birkoff, am I closing ground?" he stopped to catch his breath and scan the area but still nothing could be seen. "She's almost an entire hectare from you Michael," he decided to keep their thermal readings on sight to assist him. "She must be running because she's opening the gap." Michael was sprinting and then burst into a full fledged run hoping that she'd eventually stop.

"Michael, she appears to be heading toward the lake?" Birkoff didn't know if Michael was aware of it being on the map. "Still heading due west of you" Michael was growing weary and wondered if he shouldn't just return to the building and wait for her return. When it became apparent that he was not closing the distance, he opted for his second choice and headed back.

She came back sweating, breathing hard but with no clearer picture than when she'd left. She loved Michael and would if given the chance willingly scream it from the highest point on earth if it would matter. She didn't think it would. As she neared her door, something wonderful smelling caught her nose and as she moved closer she realized it was coming from her quarters. Carefully she opened the door and found, a beautifully set table complete with lit candles and half-full glasses of red wine waiting for her. Michael had his back to her and was busy working over the stove. "Go take your bath, I ran the water for you." he whispered but never turned around. She stared but then left to do as he had instructed. She was relaxing in the warm bubbles when he slipped into the bathroom with a glass of wine and slowly sat behind her. She took the glass he offered as he carefully poured shampoo into the palm of his hand and gently worked it into the long tresses that he'd come to love. "Michael, I'm..." but he quieted her with a gentle, "Shhhhh, I already know" and continued gently massaging the herbal shampoo against her scalp. She couldn't remember feeling something so sensual from a simple shampoo. "But there's something I need to say." he pulled her head back and slowly brought his lips to hers "Later Kita" he whispered.

They sat across from each other, sipping wine, enjoying the broiled fish and rice pilaf that he'd managed to whip up. "Umm,' she smiled, "this is wonderful, I'm starving." she scooped in another fork full of rice than got the giggles as grains slipped off the utensil and down the front of her robe. "I'm such a klutz," she laughed sending grains of rice spewing from her mouth. She hurriedly covered her face with a hand. "Sorry," and was rewarded by a laugh from Michael. "Allow me to retrieve them later," he toasted her and smiled warmly. She hoped this was the start of some serious rebuilding.