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: Jurgen's fate, a vague reference to my earlier fic, 'December Worries'

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: This is a crossover piece, sometime in the second season of LFN. I won't tell you the crossover show, because I think it's better if you're surprised :-) If you really want to know, just scroll to the bottom and look at the names

Nikita lifted her hand and brushed a hair away from her forehead, leaving a trail of clay smudges behind. She grinned. She was up to her elbows in wet, slimy, messy, wonderful clay - and loving it. Sister Machine Gun pounded in the background as she stepped back and tilted her head, admiring her creation. Not bad. Not fantastic, but really coming along. Her eyes narrowed as she took in her surroundings, considering how this piece would fit in with her décor.

She was just returning to her sculpture when the familiar ring of her cell phone intruded on her reverie. After a few seconds of maneuvering she managed to flip open the phone with the edge of a nearby towel.

"Josephine."

She sighed.

"Come in."

"Yeah," was all she answered before dropping the phone and staring at her clay-covered arms, spattered clothing, and caked hair. No problem.

***

She sat motionless across from Madeline, the clay hurriedly removed from her forearms, though various splotches, unbeknownst to Nikita, remained in her hair.

They had been seated in silence for the last several minutes. Madeline had not acknowledged Nikita's presence when she first entered the office, had not even looked up from her computer screen. Nikita refused to be the first one to speak, and so had kept her mouth shut. Madeline eventually finished her work and looked up to meet Nikita's carefully blank gaze. A small smile graced the older woman's face as she waited to see how long Nikita would last.

Nikita glanced at her watch in an exaggerated motion and raised an eyebrow the a fraction of an inch. "You wanted to see me?" she finally queried.

Madeline's small smile grew. "Yes," she responded after a few seconds. "It has come to our attention that you've once again become involved in an extra-curricular activity."

"And?"

"Does sculpting help you deal with Jurgen's absence?" She watched the younger operative closely.

A Nikita from a year ago would have smirked at the use of the term 'absence' for 'gone because he's dead.' The present Nikita merely stared back at Madeline. "I enjoy sculpting. There's only one class a week. I haven't formed an attachment to any of the students. I don't see a problem."

Madeline inhaled slightly before speaking. "That's not the point. No matter the reasons, there is a protocol for these situations. Operatives are required to complete all training within the Section, or go through the proper channels to initiate training with an outside source. You have done neither."

"Now," Madeline folded her hands on the desk as she spoke, "we have allowed you a certain - latitude, in the past. We felt it was to our advantage that you remain convinced you deceived us in the matter of the French course." Nikita shifted in her seat. "However, there are rules, and it's time you obeyed them."

"What does that mean?" They couldn't make her drop this course. They couldn't.

A well-timed pause. "You may continue with sculpting, after filling out the appropriate paperwork, of course. I'm sure you'll keep us apprised of any future academic endeavors."

She smiled politely and coldly. "Of course."

"That will be all, Nikita." Madeline said, returning the smile.

Nikita rose from her chair. Neither of the women was unaware of the true purpose of the meeting. Madeline often felt the need to throw Nikita off-balance by emphasizing the Section's omniscience. It didn't bother Nikita as much anymore. She knew she had only to appear suitably 'creeped out' and she would most likely remain unpunished.

She carefully made her way up the three stairs and exited the office, leaving the clicking of Madeline's entry into her Psych file behind her.

********************

Nikita listened idly to the conversations swirling about her as she worked, trying to translate the French in her head for practice. The studio was fairly empty tonight but there were still several students staying late to finish their various sculptures. She decided that she liked working here instead of home - she especially liked the lack of surveillance.

A wave of doubt swept over her and she narrowed her eyes at a small hole in the wall. Well. She couldn't exactly search for hardware in front of everyone else. Maybe later tonight. With one last speculative glance at the hole, she returned to her creation.

A rapid exchange nearby caught her attention. The blonde woman was speaking much too quickly for Nikita's limited, though much improved, French skills. The blonde was upset with the dark-haired man, that much was obvious. Her words spewed forth angrily. The man - the good-looking, well-built, pony-tailed man, Nikita amended to herself - responded in English, nearly as upset. Nikita strained to hear them without being obvious, a difficult task since the two had suddenly realized their surroundings and lowered their voices.

"It is not safe, and you know it." The man's eyebrows were creased with concern.

"I can take care of myself. I refuse to be escorted everywhere just because some enemy of yours is around. I refuse to live my life that way," returned the woman, calming down and switching to an accented English.

"Tess, you know I didn't want that for you -"

"Stop. Just stop. I can't have this conversation again. Go home, wait for me. I'll be finished in a couple of hours."

The man was adamant. "I can't let you - "

"Mac, I'll be fine. I have my car, I'll put the top up. I'm not going to have you sitting around looking over my shoulder while I work, just to take me home later."

He opened his mouth.

She beat him to it. "Trust me, Duncan." The two stared at each other in silence for a full minute before the man relented. Pressing a kiss to her forehead, he pulled her in for a hug. She sighed in frustration and hugged him back. "I'll see you tonight, alright?" He nodded and left the studio.

Nikita frowned in contemplation. Ten bucks the guy was sitting outside the building right now, guarding the woman in spite of it all. A clatter startled her out of her reverie and she looked up to see the blonde setting up next to her.

"He's driving me insane," announced the woman.

"Excuse me?"

"That man. Insane," she muttered, wrestling with her materials. "All I want is one night to myself. Is that too much to ask?"

Ghosts of those words drifted across Nikita's mind. She smiled. "I know what you mean."

The blonde paused to smile back and offer her hand. "Tessa Noël."

"Nikita," she replied, accepting the handshake.

Tessa withdrew her hand, noticing the silence after the first name she had been given. Interesting. "You're new around here?"

"Yeah, I just started classes. I work away a lot, though, so I fall behind. I like to come here at night to catch up," she finished with a shrug.

Tessa nodded. "It's peaceful here. I could work at home, but sometimes I just need some time to be myself, my own person, apart from him and his exciting life."

"Yeah," replied Nikita, thinking of her own life. "Yeah, I can see that."

"I love him, I do, but sometimes - insane!" she repeated.

Nikita nodded. "Sometimes that protective mode -"

"I know, I know. And they don't want to talk about it, of course -"

"No, they'll take care of it -"

"No need to keep us in the loop -"

"Why would we need to know anything?"

"No, everything will be fine -"

"Leave it to them." Nikita finished up.

The two women gazed at each other in newfound camaraderie. "You do know what's like," said Tessa.

Nikita pursed her lips and looked down, deliberating. "Yeah," she finally answered.

Tessa knew enough not to push. Something about this woman, a reticence, an alertness to the surroundings. She glanced at the long black leather coat lying beside the woman. A strange feeling arose in the back of Tessa's mind - no, Mac would have felt her if she was Immortal. Still ...

"Oh! I'm so sorry!" Tessa exclaimed as she bent to pick up the pieces of the broken waterglass. Nikita stooped down to help, hissing in pain as one of the shards sliced her finger. She held it to her mouth for a moment, increasing Tessa's suspicions, but the wound remained. She sighed in relief, feeling a little guilty for testing the woman, and quickly finished cleaning up the remaining shards.

"It's almost like he feels guilty," continued Nikita.

Tessa nodded. "Exactly. I choose my own path; I live my own life. It's not his responsibility to protect me from every little thing."

Nikita scrunched up her nose. "Well, I didn't exactly choose my own path. Before, I mean. But now - every day I make the decision to live this life. It's my decision, my life. He's not in charge of it."

"Not matter how much he tries to be," added Tessa.

"He makes decisions for us, and expects me to just -"

"Follow them, for your own safety. He's only trying to keep you alive, right?"

Nikita stared at her. "Right."

"He even tried to send me away, 'for my own safety.' How could he think I would leave? We tried that - he left, once. I came after him," Tessa molded the clay in front of her with increasing force.

Nikita's work was taking a similar beating. "I don't want safety, I want him."

"He has some idea in his head that his love is a burden, or something. He tries to protect me from himself."

The words cut straight to Nikita's heart. "Yeah," she said slowly, "I know what you mean."

Their conversation paused upon the arrival of two rambunctious children and a haggard-looking father. "Mommy!" The kids ran toward one of the sculptors, bestowing sticky hugs and kisses.

Nikita gazed at the children and swallowed heavily. She turned to Tessa only to find the other woman in a similar position. They observed the family wistfully, their eyes filled with sadness. Tessa took a deep breath and looked up at Nikita, holding her gaze thoughtfully.

"Sometimes it's just very hard," she ventured.

"Yes," Nikita replied. "Sometimes."

The two worked in silence after that, each absorbed in her own thoughts about their conversation. It was nearly nine o'clock when they finished up. They cleaned up their workstations and headed for the door. Leftover sunlight greeted them outside, the last of the sunset glowing in the sky. Nikita swept the area and immediately noticed the pony-tailed man in the convertible, hiding in the alley. She smiled to herself.

Tessa reached her car and turned to say goodbye. "Do you need a ride?" she offered, seeing that Nikita meant to walk.

"No, I - I enjoy being outside when I can," Nikita answered. "I spend a lot of time - indoors. Don't get to see much of the sun."

Both of them automatically directed their gazes toward the sunset.

"It's beautiful," commented Nikita. "Someday I'm going to go see all the sights here, I'm going to be a tourist, and I'm going to do it in the sun."

"Are you new to Paris?" questioned Tessa.

Nikita smiled wryly. "Actually, I've lived in Paris for four years. Don't get out much, like I said."

"Well, I'm not sure if you'll find the sun follows your plans," she teased. "Clouds, rain - you know."

Nikita sighed resolutely. "Well, I'll just have to take what I can get then, won't I?" She winked at Tessa. "With a little temperance, of course," she added as she donned her sunglasses. "I can 'be patient.' I'll wait for someday."