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.

He was on his way to his office when he heard it. Very faint strains of it, yes, but all the same...

Michael stood there for a moment, apparently studying the panel in his hands, but concentrating fully on detecting the source of the elusive melody. As his piercing gaze swept across the dozen or so techs seated at the monitors before him, his eyes automatically came to rest on Nikita.

She lounged back in her chair, oblivious to its carefully ergonomic structure. Michael noted her posture and his mind immediately turned to Madeline. The older woman would definitely be displeased with her protégée.

Michael noticed the absence of bubble gum with a twinge of amusement, recalling Birkoff's rather loud irritation at finding pieces of the gooey pink stuff on his mouse pad last week.

While Nikita had one hand firmly on the mouse that zigzagged across the pad, her other hand was slightly waving back and forth in the air. Michael observed her odd behavior for another minute before making the decision to approach her.

It wasn't until he stood directly behind her that Michael saw the tiny headphones in her ears. She was still unaware of him, her eyes glued to the rapid movements across the computer screen.

Michael slowly realized that the sound he had heard earlier was coming from Nikita. As she was still unaware of his presence, he allowed himself to listen a bit longer. She was humming his favorite aria, her free hand unconsciously conducting the music in the air. If he concentrated, he could hear the tinny strains of L'eliser D'amore: Una furtiva lacrima. He nearly smiled to himself as the music washed over him. A small half-smile did escape when he realized Nikita was coolly running the sim on the screen and tracking several anomalies as she half-hummed the foreign words.

"Nikita," he finally spoke.

Startled, she spun the chair around. "Michael!" Her eyes widened a bit. "What are you doing here?"

He opened his mouth, then closed it, deliberating. "Where did you get that CD?"

Nikita's forehead creased in confusion. "My music? You're asking me about my music? Oh!" Embarrassment coursed through her. "Was I humming again?"

He paused, "Yes." He saw tips of her ears turn pink. "Quietly," he quickly added. "Where did you get it?"

"I'm not sure what made me pick it up. I saw it in the store, and something about it - I don't know," she shrugged. "I wanted to try something new, I guess. He's wonderful, isn't he?"

Michael nodded. "I remember - " he stopped abruptly, turning away from her.

Nikita waited for him to continue. "Michael?" He remained silent. "Michael, what do you remember?"

Still looking away, he answered in a halting speech, "Someone I - used to know. He loved this song." That was all he would give her, but it was more than she had expected. This was the first time Nikita could recall that Michael had shared anything of his past with her.

She pursed her lips, deciding how best to keep the conversation going. Her mind raced as she tried to think of some innocuous question, something that wouldn't frighten him off. "Do you have this CD?"

He faintly shook his head. "No, we had the record. It's not the same, on CD. It's not - " Once again, he broke off. "You can't get the record anymore."

Nikita nodded slowly, studying him. Her screen suddenly began flashing wildly, and she whirled back to the computer, swearing to herself. By the time she looked up again, he was gone.

"Hey, Birkoff."

"Hey," he replied, not turning his attention from the screen.

Nikita frowned. "You know, you're not very sociable, Birkoff."

He sighed loudly. "I'm busy. I don't have time to be sociable."

Nikita guessed that he was still feeling a little prickly about the bubble gum, but decided not to bring it up again. "So ... how are you?"

"What do you want, Nikita?"

She put her hand to her chest in mock surprise. "What? Why can't I just have a little conversation with a friend?"

His eyes briefly flicked off the monitor long enough to give her a disbelieving glance.

"I just want a little favor," she said hopefully.

"Forget it."

"Oh, come on, -- "

"No, Nikita." His typing grew more furious. "I have things to do. Go bother Walter for awhile."

"Please?" She leaned closer to him. "Birkoff, please?"

His lips tightened somewhat as he struggled to keep his attention on his work. "Nikita - go away."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "Fine. I don't need your help anyway." She stalked off to another workstation. It took her awhile to figure out the setup of things. She wasn't even sure how to begin looking up the information she wanted on Michael's past.

Several hours later, she gave up. She hadn't really expected to find much on her own anyway. The closest she had gotten was an outer shell of data, with nothing but the barest facts about him. Eye color, hair color, birth date, place of - Nikita halted in her reading. A strange smile crossed her face.

Days later…

"Come in."

Nikita took a deep breath, and entered Michael's office.

"Hey, Michael."

"Hello." Usual response, she thought wryly.

"I have something for you."

"Birkoff said he wouldn't have the analysis until four," Michael answered, still engrossed in his work.

Nikita rolled her eyes. "It's not an analysis." She looked over the flat package in her hand and waited for him to finally give her his attention. He continued to type away for several minutes. She sighed. "Michael."

"Yes?" Still not a glance.

"You sure know how to take the fun out of something." She glared at him and walked over to his desk, abruptly dropping the package on the papers lying there. He blinked, and stared at it.

"What is it?" he asked, switching his gaze to her.

"You won't know until you open it." He looked at her uncomprehendingly. She nearly rolled her eyes again. "It's a present, Michael." He froze. "Happy Birthday."

He sat motionless. Nikita raised her eyebrows. "It doesn't unwrap itself, you know. Do you know how long it took me to find black wrapping paper?" She smiled, hoping he would join her, but he seemed stuck in his position.

Slowly, he reached for the package. He didn't look at her as he carefully broke the seals of tape, unfolding the still-intact paper and placing it on his desk beside the gift. Silently, he ran his fingertips across the worn cover of the record.

"How?" he half-whispered, half-spoke, still not meeting her gaze. "Where did you find this?"

Nikita smiled, reaching out tentatively to brush the back of his hand.

"Happy Birthday, Michael."