Disclaimer: Nikita is so not my property. As a matter of fact, none of these characters are. I just take them out to play once in awhile and put them back where I found them.

Spoilers: Nothing specific

Archiving: Sure, just let me know. Nikitangel@hotmail.com

Feedback: Any and all, even the bad stuff, but keep it constructive, would you? Please review - I always return the favor if you have fic on a series that I know.

Notes: Set during Nikita's two years of training before her first mission.

Michael's gaze flitted again towards the clock on the wall. He contained his irritation easily, internalizing his displeasure at her tardiness. Moments later she sauntered through the door, calmly depositing her bag on a bench and joining him on the training floor. She did not avoid his gaze, as most did, but met him straight on, undaunted by neither her lateness nor the tension in his posture.

"Sorry, got held up." Nikita tossed the excuse offhandedly at him and awaited his instructions.

Michael paused for a moment, deliberating his next move. It would not do for anyone to witness this latest display of disrespect she had shown him. It did not speak well for his control over the material. Appearances must be kept in mind, and Michael was ever aware of appearances. He discarded the idea of reprimanding her in front of the other operatives, who were all carefully avoiding this particular area while surreptitiously monitoring it's activity. He would discuss this with her later, privately. Michael took a breath and turned his attention back to his waiting trainee.

She was dressed -- strangely. Once again, she had foregone the usual dark garb favored by most operatives, choosing instead an outlandish combination of blues and greens. He noted the tears and rips she had added to the clothing and made a mental note to add that peculiarity to her file. Madeline would be very interested. Michael was growing used to Nikita's color choices, but was still at a loss as to why she insisted on -- tailoring everything so unusually. Nothing seemed to fit as it was supposed to on her, and she was always layering the clothes. Michael had yet to see her in the same outfit twice -- she was often seen wandering the racks of clothing available to operatives.

His perusal of her outfit came to a halt when he reached her still-booted feet. He barely raised an eyebrow, and she automatically followed his gaze.

"Oops, forgot." Nikita plopped down on the mat to remove the offending boots and tossed them aside. She regained her feet and, catching his continued downward gaze, wiggled her toes at him in a blur of blue sparkles. "Like 'em?" He remained motionless. "I never got to have nail polish before." Still no answer. "Wish Madeline had more colors, though." Silence. Nikita shrugged. "Whatever," she offered him half a smile. "We gonna spar today?"

"No." he replied succinctly.

Nikita paused. "Sooo ... "

He just stood there. What kind of person wore blue sparkle toenail polish while learning to kill with her bare hands? What had possessed her to do such a thing? Michael mentally shook himself, and focused on the conversation. "Targets."

Nikita nodded and stepped away to gather some of the pads and targets they would use. Michael watched her bump into one of the other ops, a tall, intimidating man -- Turner, he quickly identified. Unimportant, a Level One. She smiled at him, pausing to engage him in small talk as she collected the plastic targets. Michael watched in disbelief as Turner nearly smiled back, and began assisting her in her search. The imposing operative gestured toward her feet, and she smiled again, answering something Michael couldn't make out.

She was still laughing to herself when she returned to Michael, targets in hand. He slipped a couple of the smaller ones over his hands and got into position. "Roundhouse. Alternating." Nikita nodded and threw her first kick.

Their routine was silent, broken only by occasional commands from Michael. "Backspin." "Sidekick." "Focus." Nikita's ponytail started to come loose. "Jump front." "Keep your hands up." She was tiring. "Again." "Again." "Harder." He never lost his calm demeanor, absorbing each blow while critiquing the one after it. "Protect your ribs." "Front kick." "Faster."

Suddenly the targets were gone, and his fist caught her abdomen. "Keep your hands up." he repeated as she inhaled sharply and fought to remain standing upright. She nodded, catching her breath. "Again."


The contents of her water bottle disappeared with a few satisfying gulps. Nikita swiped the back of her hand across her mouth and grinned. She leaned back in her chair, presumably observing the computer frenzy around her, but actually lost in her thoughts. It was a trick Nikita had perfected early on -- never let them know what you're really thinking about. She was often found seated at the edge of training circles, a dutiful student out for some extra credit points.

She had really thrown him for a loop today. If she hadn't been so used to studying his face for reactions, any reactions, she would have missed it. But she had caught it -- that fleeting look of bewilderment. Hah! Victory. It wasn't that she didn't enjoy tearing her clothes and painting her toes and such -- it was just so much more fun to push his buttons in doing do.

Nikita had made it a sort of pastime of hers, trying to get a rise out of Michael. He often gazed at her with such an inscrutable look in his eyes -- it made her uncomfortable. She always ended up squirming or something, getting embarrassed, which was just what he probably wanted in the first place. Nikita got back at him in the only way she knew of -- trying to get under his skin, make him reveal something to her. It had been an essential skill on the streets, finding someone's weakness and going after it. Nikita knew his reserve wasn't natural, or coincidental. It was obviously something he had worked on, perfected, and relied on. Therefore, it was important to him, and that was all Nikita needed to know. She delighted in shocking and puzzling him, seeing how close she could get to cracking him.

To be honest, Nikita admitted to herself, she hadn't been thinking about that at all when she chose the blue polish. It had been a new addition to Wardrobe, and she couldn't resist. She hadn't yet ventured the other accessories -- well, that lipstick ... Nikita flushed as she remembered the momentary terror she had felt when Madeline caught her trying out the lipstick. For a moment, she had been transported back to that terrible day with her mother. Though Madeline's tolerant smile had broken that brief reverie, Nikita still couldn't bring herself to try anything else.

Until she saw the sparkles, that is. She didn't know what exactly what it was that had drawn her. The little bottle had seemed so lost in a place like Section -- it didn't belong with the things around it. She had smiled while painting her toenails. It seemed like such an ordinary thing to be doing. Lessons in breaking computer codes and loading ammunition seemed to fade away as she concentrated on a smooth coat and evenly-spaced glitter. She had sat there admiring her good job for quite some time. So long, in fact, that she had completely forgotten about her scheduled session with Michael.

Swearing, she had thrown on her combat boots, foregoing socks completely, grabbed her workout bag and dashed to the training area.

Nikita was nearly at a run when she turned a corner in the hallway and slammed into a man coming from the opposite direction.

"Oof!" she bounced back, nearly dropping her bag. "I'm sorry, I -- " The words died in her throat as she realized who her victim was. His smile was slow and insincere.

"In a hurry?" Operations had inquired smirkingly, brushing a minuscule spot of dust from his shirt.

Nikita narrowed her eyes. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I am."

"You're one of the new recruits ... Nikita, is it?"

"Yeah." She shot back, sticking out her chin. 'Wanna make something of it?' the response came unbidden to her mind. She bit back a smile.

This man brought out the worst in her.

"I've been watching you."

She restrained the urge to roll her eyes. 'So?' her rebellious thoughts responded.

"Late again, I see?" His biting tone grated on her ears.

Nikita closed her eyes, forcing herself not to react. She didn't yet realize how clearly her feelings were communicated -- in her posture, the placement of her arms, her constant gaze at a point just above his head. It was infuriating, and it was unintentional -- two facts which made it unacceptable to Operations. He would have to think of something special for this one ... but not now. Better to wait. Madeline would know exactly how to handle her.

Nikita started thinking about the sparkles on her toes, and what this dumb dog would do if she were to suddenly kick off her boots and wave the glitter in his smirking face. The thought was comforting.

"I wouldn't want to keep you." He gestured for her to pass him, stepping aside with mock chivalry. Nikita swallowed her pride, and stalked past him without retorting to his infuriating remarks. It would only delay her to have to stand there and listen to his threats of cancellation anyway.

The closer she came to the workout area, the more apprehensive she grew. The anxiety bothered her -- she wasn't usually rattled so easily. What did she care if Michael was waiting for her? Why should she worry about being late? It wasn't as if she was going voluntarily anyway.

Nikita felt a twinge of guilt at that last thought. Somewhere inside herself, she acknowledged the fact that she liked learning to fight, to crack codes, to outwit criminals. For once in her life, Nikita felt like she was worth something. These were things she could learn, and learn well.

However, these were hard truths to recognize, and Nikita pushed them out of her mind. Resentment rose within her once more. Who did he think he was, trying to make her feel guilty for being late? She deliberately slowed her pace. By the time she reached the gym, her stride was calm and unhurried. Hah. Let him analyze that.


She blinked, her musings forgotten. There he was again, staring at her. Nikita wondered guiltily how many times he had called her name already. "Yes?"

He was quiet for a moment, seeming to change his mind about what he had been about to say. "You have a session with Walter in five minutes."

Nikita smiled to herself. Now there was a guy she could relate to. Shaking her head as she pondered his next lecherous advance, she rose to her feet and began twisting her hair into a haphazard ponytail. A thought suddenly occurred to her as she wrestled with the tangles. How had Michael known where to find her? Why had he gone looking for her anyway? Before she could drop the elastic band held between her teeth and ask him, he was gone again. Nikita told herself he was probably just used to her forgetting the schedule. It certainly wasn't the first time it had happened. In fact, it was almost nice of him to remind her.

Nice? Michael was being nice?


"Hey, Walter. I hear you've been asking for me?"

"Mmmm. Been workin' hard?" He paused to look her over. "You already take a shower, Sugar? You know I don't mind if you show up all sweaty." The older man grinned lewdly at her, and handed her a box of equipment.

Nikita grinned back at him. "You're a true gentleman, Walter."

He stuck his chest out proudly. "You know it, Sugar." The two operatives made their way to the shooting range. Light-hearted as the banter was, they had several hours of intense training to get through that day, not to mention the days following it. Nikita knew it would be awhile before she got any more downtime.


Madeline studied the file before her. It was a delicate matter, and one she didn't dare leave to Operations. She was in the midst of making several alterations when her doors opened. An almost hesitant Nikita stepped through.

"Madeline? Do -- you think I could have a look through Wardrobe again?" She wouldn't quite meet the older woman's gaze.

Madeline smiled, pleased at Nikita's progress. The transference she had orchestrated was coming along quite nicely. Nikita had shifted her feelings about her mother onto Madeline as planned, but, with the strategist's careful analysis and subtle treatment, Nikita was learning to deal with and overcome some of the issues that had been a problem for her. Of course, Madeline wasn't going to give her closure on all of them. It was best to keep a few of them on reserve, so to speak. Could be useful in the future.

In the meantime, it was fascinating to observe Nikita's behavior around Madeline. Her rebellious demeanor was most often exhibited, but occasionally, when dealing with certain subjects, Nikita seemed to revert to another self. Not shy, exactly, but more reserved, more cautious.

For example, this situation with Wardrobe and its allure for Nikita. Early on, Madeline had noticed the younger operative's tendency to lose track of time while wandering among the racks. So far, Madeline had only been able to trace that back to vague circumstances dealing with Nikita's mother. After examining Nikita's manner when requesting permission to try out the apparel, Madeline could infer that Nikita had been denied such an activity as a child, perhaps even forbidden. Lately, though, her requests had become more confident and less fearful.

Madeline smiled warmly. "Of course. Take your time." She turned back to her work, briefly setting aside her earlier document to add this new development to Nikita's Psych file.

Nikita quickly moved past her and went straight to the accessories section, berating herself for being so nervous. As she surveyed the collection, a small box caught her eye. "This is new." She frowned, inspecting it.

Madeline didn't look up from her typing, but allowed herself a small smile, saying nothing.

Nikita turned the item in her hands, admiring, and finally found the small latch. The lid sprang open, and she stood speechless.

"Madeline? When did this come in?"

"A few days ago." Her voice betrayed nothing.

"But I thought that -- " Nikita trailed off. There in the box lay at least a dozen different colors and varieties of sparkling nail polish. "Why did you order these? I thought you said that that mission is over, you won't be needing anything like the last bottle again." Nikita distinctly remembered this fact, and the disappointment she had felt when she heard.

"I didn't order them."

"What do you mean? Who did?" Madeline remained silent, her fingers moving swiftly over the keys. "Madeline? Who else has the authority to order this stuff?"

The clicking of the keys halted. "That is a privilege of Class Five or higher."

Nikita stood there a moment longer, thinking. Eventually she sat down, removing her boots and socks. There was an enigmatic expression on her face as she started shaking up one of the purple bottles. She smiled a small smile, and began applying the polish to her fingernails.

The muted tapping of computer keys echoed throughout the room.