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 first season

"Why are we here?"

Nikita flicked a glance at her passenger. "Michael, relax." He continued to stare at her. "All right, all right - I ...I'm not really taking you for coffee." He blinked. "Well, Michael, I knew you'd never come otherwise." His continued silence was giving her second thoughts. She chewed her bottom lip. "Michael?"

"I don't eat ice cream." He was now gazing out the car window at the brightly colored storefront.

"Oh, come on, everybody eats ice cream," she coaxed the back of his head. "Michael, give it a chance. Please?"

He took two measured breaths, and opened his door. Nikita allowed herself a self-satisfied smile she knew he couldn't see, and followed him into the ice-cream shop. Once inside, Nikita shook off her jacket in the warmth of the building, and observed Michael over her shoulder. He was standing perfectly still, taking in his boisterous surroundings with a careful calmness.

"What flavor do you want?" she asked as she joined him near the wall. His eyes rapidly perused the overwhelming selection of flavors posted on the walls. Nikita waited impatiently, her standby choice ready and waiting in her mind. Michael seemed to be in no hurry to answer her. She finally huffed a sigh as their number was called, and approached the cash register alone.

"I'll take a double-scoop Triple Chocolate Fudge cone and a double-scoop cone of ... French Vanilla," she finished with a flash of inspiration. As she was paying, Nikita ventured a peek back at her waiting companion. He seemed at ease, surveying the surrounding melée of children and sugar, but she noticed the tension in his posture. His stance was a little too wide, and she saw how he kept his back to the wall. She smirked at his discomfort.

She was still smiling as she returned to his side with the desserts. "Shall we sit?" He nodded and led the way to a table in the corner, courteously pulling out a chair for her. "I had to guess on yours," Nikita said as she handed him his cone, waiting to see his reaction.

He accepted the ice-cream hesitantly, reluctant to have the sticky stuff on his hands. There was a sparkle in her eyes - she had done it on purpose. His lips moved into a half-smile that surprised her, and his eyebrows raised imperceptibly. "Excuse me." He pushed his chair back and advanced to the counter. He returned moments later, bearing a spoon and a bowl.

Nikita's smile widened. "Sorry - didn't you want a cone?" He didn't say a word as he deftly transferred the ice cream into the dish. Nikita turned her attention to appreciating the sweet treat before her, concentrating on keeping the chocolaty dribbles from running down her hand. The thought of Michael with ice cream dripping from his wrist was so absurd that a giggle escaped her before she could help it.

His eyes fell on her at the childlike sound, and he immediately regretted it. She was in the midst of a melting crisis, licking off runaway trickles that had oozed down the side of the cone. He shifted in his seat and swallowed another spoonful of ice cream.

Her melting predicament once again under control, Nikita found herself watching Michael's careful advancement through his two scoops. Precise spoonfuls, a delicate grip on the spoon, slow and steady ... she had never seen anyone consume ice-cream in a such a cultured manner. A growing boldness stirred within her as she observed his dignified progress. She pursed her lips, smothering a chuckle of anticipation.

"I'll be right back," she promised, leaving the table. He followed her with his eyes, sensing her change in mood. She reappeared moments later, looking innocent and carrying a cup of ice water and a straw. He narrowed his eyes slightly at her, but she simply returned his searching look with a bright smile. Reluctantly, he relaxed his guard and returned to his dish.

That relaxation contributed to the sheer unexpectedness of her next action. He sat motionless at first, shocked. He blinked, blinked again, and stared at the silently laughing woman before him. Carefully and slowly, he reached out and grasped the straw wrapper that had just flown at his forehead.

Across the table, Nikita vainly tried to control herself. She couldn't believe what she had just done, yet the ludicrousness of the situation was too much to keep inside. Tears sprang to her eyes as she struggled to gain a straight face. He was still contemplating the wrapper in his hand, the other hand still poised halfway to his mouth with his spoon.

Eventually, the melting chocolate commanded Nikita's attention again and she suppressed her amusement at the look of disbelief on Michael's face. He opened his mouth, debating his next words, unsure of how to respond. He could see her shaking shoulders as she hunched over her cone, and her face was turning red from holding in her laughter. The ridiculousness of everything started to creep up on him. A twinge of mirth grew within him, and had Nikita looked up at that moment, she would have witnessed the rare, wry smile of her mentor.

She was busy with damage control, however, as her inattention to her cone had resulted in an urgent situation. By the time she could face him, Michael's demeanor had reverted to its former appearance. He had elected not to mention the event, instead resuming his measured consumption of his dessert.

Nikita continued to steal quick looks at him, a smile lurking in the back of her mind, awaiting retribution for her impulsiveness. Still no reaction. She soon polished off the rest of her cone and sat restlessly waiting for Michael to finish. He moved methodically, completely aware of her impatience, with no intention to indulge it. She fidgeted a few moments more, than bounded out of her seat.

"Where are you going?" he questioned without looking up.

"To powder my nose," returned Nikita sarcastically. She stalked off to the restrooms, muttering to herself. 'Stupid man doesn't even know how to have a decent conversation.' She shoved the door open. 'Can't even take a joke.' Leaned against the tiled wall, waiting in line. 'Try to do something nice, what do you get.' Glanced at her watch and sighed. 'Stupid man.'

By the time Nikita made her way back to their corner, Michael had finished his dessert and was quietly waiting at the table. She carefully examined his face, but could find no sign of irritation, or humor, for that matter. She found herself wondering if it had really happened at all Shaking her head, she gathered her things and they started towards the door of the restaurant.

A familiar, shrill ring buzzed through the air, and both operatives automatically grabbed for their cell phones. They looked away rather sheepishly as the businessman in a nearby booth flipped his open.

Neither of them spoke during the drive. Nikita still didn't know what to think about the whole episode, and Michael merely maintained his customary silence. "So," she finally ventured, breaking the silence, "Are you going back to Section?"

His gaze remained straight ahead. "Take a left at the next light." Nikita's eyes opened wide, surprised. She wisely chose to keep quiet as he went on offering periodic instructions. She was stunned when she saw their final destination.

"Is - this where you live?" she asked, taking in the impressive apartment building before her. She hazarded a glance towards him.

"Yes," was all he answered. He looked down for a moment, then reached for the door handle, turning back to her at the last moment. "Thank you for the ice cream." His fingertips brushed her hand lying on the seat, and then he was gone.

Nikita stared after him, contemplating the gift he had given her. A sideways sort of smile crept across her face as she pulled away from the curb, glancing back at the building as she drove away.

EPILOGUE:

"And will that be all, sir?" The teenaged-clerk inquired blandly.

"Yes." The customer reached for his wallet, searching for the correct currency. The clerk glanced at the bills, mildly interested. Strange - the guy had something else stuck in there, something white, thin, folded up. He puzzled over it as he rang up the purchase.

"That'll be two sixty," he recited, reaching for the money, leaning to get a better look. Huh. Shrugging his shoulders, he gave up and tossed the carton of ice cream into a bag, handing it to the mysterious man. "Thank-you-for-shopping-with-us-have-a-nice-day."

It wasn't until the black-coated man was out the door that the clerk finally figured it out. A straw wrapper, of all things! Why would anyone carry around a straw wrapper?