Michael left Section without running into Operations. Not an easy feat since Operations had been on edge since his 'meeting' with Nikita. But true to his word, he had been using every available asset to try and find Madeline.

Michael pulled his black Nissan Pathfinder to the rear of Nikita's building. There was no sense warning her of his approach. As he entered her building, he decided to take the stairway instead of the noisy elevator as not to alert either her or Mick who now lived across the hall of his entrance. He heard the stereo playing from the end of the hallway as he made his way to her door. Knocking softly he leaned his forehead against the Oak doorframe and patiently waited for the nearing footsteps to open the door.

"Michael?" She opened the door then stepped back to allow him access. "What are you doing here?" she smiled, closed the door then leaned against it. Michael slowly took in the sight. Nikita had her hair French braided with the bottom ponytail done in a herringbone design he remembered being referred to as fishtailing. Funny how he thought of something like that. She was dressed in black stretch pants with a white tee shirt with flowers running in random patterns across the chest. "You look" he paused not wanting to scare her "you look well" he slowly removed the black leather gloves and returned them to their usual place in his pockets of the black wool overcoat he was wearing. "Thanks, so do you?" she bit her bottom lip "Can I get you something hot to drink it's mighty cold out there today?" she smiled again. Michael nodded, made his way around the counter and sat on the padded barstool directly in front of the cup she had placed on the counter.

"Why did you leave Section?" he folded his coat and tossed it on the sofa behind him. "Operations was not supposed to know you were out of the coma" He stared at her back taking in the curves of her hips and her small tight behind. "I know Michael but I felt like a goldfish in a bowl" she turned and returned his stare. "People poking and prodding me, I couldn't stand it another day" she placed the cream and sugar on the cabinet "Coffee or tea?" she turned the gas jet on under the kettle. "Tea is fine" he smiled, his breath coming in wispy notes "You took a big risk leaving there" he leaned forward on his seat as Nikita bent down and reached for the teabags stored under the cabinet to the left of the stove. The view made Michael swallow hard and sit back before she had the chance to notice him watching.

"Have you found Madeline Michael?" she cut right to the chase. "I know she's not in Section, Operations told me she had escaped but I don't believe it. I don't think she did it alone" she unwrapped a teabag and placed it into his cup dangling the string from the side. "He said he would help me find her, but I don't know how much faith to put into that either." She slowly added the now boiling water over the bag, returned the kettle to the stove than stood back directly in front of Michael, crossing her arms and leaned in close "I really wanted to kill him today" she whispered, inches from his ear.

"Why didn't you?" he locked eyes with her and the sadness he read in her beautiful azure blue eyes made his heart break. Quickly he sat up putting distance between them. "What is it Michael?" she started making her way around the counter "You're not afraid of me are you?" she moved to his side, bringing her hand up, she ran her fingers through the longer tendrils of hair that curled against his collar. "Michael are you? Afraid of me?" she saw him tense up but didn't stop playing with his hair. "Nikita, please..." his eyes filled with tears. "Don't pull away from me" she brought her hand to his face gently cupping his chin in her palm then turning it to face herself.

"Don't Nikita" he tried to pull his head back but was stopped by the fingers of her other hand entwining themselves in his hair. Slowly she brought her moist lips to his...



Michael tried in vain to pull back from the embrace that Nikita now had him in. "Nikita please," his voice was snuffed out by the steady grind of her warm moist lips firmly planted against his. "Don't...." he pulled back and started to rise from the stool. "Don't do this," he backed away from her as if her kiss caused him great pain.

"Michael?" she swiped the back of her hand across her lips pausing to enjoy the tingling sensation that coursed through them. "Don't you want me?" she smiled a bit shyly. Nikita realized that she had started having feelings for Michael when he had missed his usual visits on more than one occasion but she hadn't shared this with anyone until now. She still wished she could remember if she was feeling something she had always felt only it was being reawakened within her or if these feelings were fresh and new.

"Not like this," he backed away from her to put distance between them. She saw the tears hanging just behind the half-closed eyelids. "I though this would be what you wanted?" she tried not to feel offended but the rejection was something she hadn't counted on. "I guess I'm just kidding myself to believe that you could or ever did love me," she turned, pulled her sweater off the back of one of the chairs where it had been carelessly tossed and wrapped it around herself.

"I'm sorry Nikita," he put his hands up in a surrender motion. "But until we can undo whatever it is that Madeline did to you, this can't, I won't let, well it just can't happen," he grabbed his coat, tossed it over his arm and turned to leave.

"Michael!" she raised her voice slightly, "If you walk out that door without talking about this," she took a breath and held it slightly. "Don't bother coming back," she had laid the cards on the table now and waited hesitatingly for his next move.

He turned to face her the tears now flowing down his face, "It's because I do love you that I have to leave." he bowed his head sniffled a bit and opened the door to go. "Please, whatever you do, let me find Madeline. Stay away from Operations he's dangerous and can't be trusted" and with that he was gone.

Later that afternoon, after spending the day rearranging her apartment and bringing it back to a more lived in look Nikita decided that she needed to get something to eat. Changing into sweats and grabbing a pair of sunglasses from the rack that had been a gift from Michael, she slipped them into place, found her keys and purse and slipped out of the apartment. She wished that Michael would have come back but she also realized that she might have pushed him into an uncompromising position. She made a mental note to apologize to him the first thing in the morning when she hoped to see him in Section but for now, smiling to herself she decided to indulge her cravings for a nice juicy cheeseburger and some greasy fries.



Madeline finished another busy day at the office and was straightening her desk before leaving for the evening. Alan Greiger stood silently in the doorway watching her move gracefully about like a butterfly flitting about from flower to flower. "Care to join me for dinner?" he smiled as she jumped from the unexpected intrusion. "Sorry to scare you," he chuckled. Madeline smiled making a mental note to stop being so relaxed. "Thanks but I was just going to go home, slip into a hot bubble bath and read a book I was hoping to pick up from Borders on the way home. Maybe some other time?" she smiled again.

"Then let me at least drive you to Borders?" he wasn't being put off so easily this time. "It's gotten pretty cold out there" he motioned to the outside windows were patterns of ice had formed being so high up from the ground.

"Thank you for the offer Alan but I really enjoy walking Michigan Avenue on a brisk evening" she placed the last of her folders in the five drawer Walnut filing cabinet, turned the key to lock it and tossed them on her desk next to her purse and coat. "Maybe some other time?" she smiled reached across the desk and switched off the desk lamp that was seated just left of center. When he still hadn't left, Madeline picked up her coat and started to place it around her shoulders "Let me help you" he came around the desk, reached for her coat but missed and grabbed her hand. She pulled away as if burned by his touch. "I'm sorry, clumsy of me" he let her get the coat on herself. "Id' better be going" he motioned to the door. "See you tomorrow" it was his turn to smile, turning he waved slightly and left the office. Madeline breathed a sigh of relief then brought her hand up under her nose to take in the aroma of his after shave. Shaking her head, she switched off the lamp, lifted her black leather purse to her shoulder and pulled the door closed behind her.

Meanwhile back at Section, Michael sat behind his locked door, blinds firmly closed against prying eyes and was just finishing a phone conversation that seemed to bring him a pleasure he hadn't felt in quite a while. "The Windy City certainly is a beautiful place this time of year Anton" his voice held a hint of a smile "Be sure to take in the lights on Michigan Avenue, they should be lighting them anytime now" he jotted down a note to himself. "Yes, the Chicago Board of Trade is a large building but I doubt you'll have trouble locating our 'target" the last word was drawn out by the lilt of his voice. "I am truly grateful for what you have done so far keep me posted" and with that he hung up, stretched his hands over his head and sighed.

Closing his files and locking away his notes Michael rose and crossed his office. Opening the blinds, he reached back across his desk to shut off the enabler that allowed him the privacy he need, switched off the desk lamp that Nikita always played with and left the office. Heading across Communication Michael looked up and saw Operations reading a palm held computer so he turned and made his way to the Observation deck. Trotting up the five stairs he silently walked into the room.

"Michael?" Operations didn't bring his head up at first "What can I do for you?" he closed the device and placed it on the COM panel.

"I need a team to go with me to Chicago in the next day or two" he knew it didn't come across as a request, more of a statement.

"Are we running parallel missions that I am unaware of?" Operations couldn't hide the irritation. He was growing increasingly restless and disgusted with his own lack of control that he had recently discovered was over running to other areas of Section. He did not like the feeling of being undermined at every turn. "Michael?" he waited. The younger man brought his eyes up to meet Operations "No, no parallel mission just something that needs to be handled" he never blinked knowing this was unsettling to the older man. "I can handle it alone if I have to" he countered.

"Are you asking my permission?" Operations shot back.

"No, I am simply telling you where I will be in the next day or two" and with that Michael turned and left but not before ducking to miss the palm device that was whipped across the deck.

"I am still in charge here!" Operations screamed but it seemed to fall on deaf ears.



Nikita enjoyed the Orange Roughy fillet she had ordered at the Wharf Inn. After downing a second lemonade, she politely dabbed at the corners of her mouth, waited for the server to bring the check to which she decided Section would be responsible for the bill and handed him one of her credit cards. "Give yourself a twenty dollar tip" she smiled to herself as the server's eyes widened like saucers. "Thank you ma'am, this is the best tip I got all day" he kinda wiggled when he walked away causing Nikita to laugh.

Michael was back in his office going over his private notes and entering them in the panels that he would distribute to the other five operatives that he intended to take with him. Getting the units from Walter had been like pulling teeth; he wasn't willing to part with any equipment that was not ordered by Operations or Madeline. "If this goes down wrong Michael it will be my tail they're after" he shook his head. "Nothing will go wrong Walter and I've already informed Operations that I was taking the men out in the next day or two" he carefully piled each unit onto of each other.

"But I wasn’t informed of any upcoming missions" he really looked puzzled now.

"You wouldn't have been, this is My mission." he whispered. "It's personal Walter."

Suddenly Walter got his drift. "Is this why you are downloading the profiles yourself?" Michael nodded and turned away "Walter" he waited but looked to be in a hurry. "Yes," the older man looked up from the worktable. "Nikita is not to know" and with that he turned and left.

"Hey Walter" she smiled as she flipped the ponytail lying on his denim jacket collar.

"Sugar, what brings you in today?" he tried to act like he hadn't witnessed the events of the past few days.

"I was bored at home" she sat on the stool across from him "Have you seen Michael today?" she popped another piece of gum in her mouth and chewed rather loudly.

"No..... Yes, he's somewhere around" Walter knew he couldn't lie to her. "What is it Walter?" she leaned forward "What are you not telling me?" she leaned still closer trying to make the older man make eye contact with her. Walter knew better than to allow that, he didn't want to answer to Michael if she succeeded in prying the information from him. Nikita slid off the table, finger walked her way around it to him and ran a finger along his cheekbone. "You know something Walter, what is it?" she nuzzled her nose next to his ear and gently blew into it "Tell me what you know Walter." she whispered in a singsong voice.

"Sugar, I just can't" he shook himself loose and hurried to the back of Munitions pulling the large steel gate down to deny her any further access. "Ask Michael!" was the last she heard from him as he disappeared behind the walls. Nikita thought she must be losing her touch shook her head then walked away. Whatever Walter knew he was afraid to tell her and if he was afraid of something or someone, Nikita could easily figure that Michael was involved.

The phone rang in Michael's office just as he saw Nikita coming past the window. Quickly he flipped the blinds closed and pressed the button that locked the door by remote and blackened the window. "Michael? Are you in there?" she knocked a little surprised that she was unable to see into his office. "Michael you have to talk to me!" she raised her voice. Michael quickly answered, told whoever was on the other end that he would call them back realizing that he would have to deal with her before he could handle the upcoming mission. With a flip of the switch, the door unlocked, the window cleared and Nikita pushed her way in. "What is going on around here Michael?" she pushed the door closed and leaned against it, arms crossed defiantly in front of her.

"Nikita nothing is going on" he wouldn't meet her eyes. Silently he cursed himself, forever allowing her to destroy the Machine Michael that so easily put of walls between them.

"Yes, yes there is," she shouted as she dropped herself into the lone chair across from his desk. "Do you hate me that much?" she chewed her gum nervously.

"Hate you?" he shot her a surprised glance "Why would you think I hated you?" he stared unblinking.

"You avoid me, you pull away when I try to get close. Walter isn't talking to me. Well, he's talking but it's what he's not saying that makes me know something isn't right" she leaned her elbows on her knees to bring herself closer to his desk.

"There is nothing you need to know about" he picked up the COM panels and placed them in his drawer.

"There is something, what I am not sure but Michael, I will find out what is going on" she gave him another chance to fill her in.

"Nikita, I wish you would leave it alone." he stood up and came around his desk. "I told you I would handle it and I will." he reached a hand out to caress her cheek. "You have to trust that I will handle this." he moved a little closer bringing his lips within inches of her ear. "I need your word that you will leave it alone." He brushed his warm lips against her earlobe and breathed in her scent as if doing so would draw the strength he would need to complete his mission and gain what was now his goal: to restore Nikita to her old self. "Promise me Kita" he whispered "Promise me" he gently placed a kiss next to the first. "If it concerns me Michael I can't!" she backed away, tears in her eyes "I can't promise you that. Ask me anything else and it's yours, but I can't promise that I won't get involved"

Michael sighed and shook his head. "Then we have nothing else to say to each other!" he waited for her to leave.

Nikita felt the sting of tears welling in her eyes "When are you going to trust me Michael Samuelle?" she stressed his last name. Michael knew that she was torn between wanting to be involved and wanting to promise she wouldn't and he appreciated the honesty when she admitted she couldn't leave well enough alone. Slowly he picked up the phone and pressed a button that Nikita was unable to see.

Within minutes two security guards entered the office and waited for his command. "Take her to her apartment, make sure you don't leave her alone for a minute or you'll answer to me!" he stated without blinking. "If she gives us trouble sir?" the larger of the two men asked.

Michael reached into the desk drawer and removed a syringe and a vial of bluish fluid. "This will ensure that she doesn't, use it only if necessary!" he turned the items over to the men, walked around the desk as Nikita glared at him.

"How could you?" she screamed. "Trust you?" she spat at him as the two guards grabbed her by both arms. "Watch her carefully, she is deadly with her feet." Michael stated then coming to stop in front of her he leaned in and planted a kiss on her lips as she struggled to pull back. "Behave Nikita, it's for your own good." He backed away and motioned them to take her with them. "I hate you Michael, I don't love you Anymore!" was the last thing he heard before the door closed behind them. "You will again" he whispered to no one in particular.