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She strummed her fingers on the desktop. There was no rhythm to the movement. It was just a random slamming of her fingertips against a hard surface in her nerve-wrecked anxiety.

Nikita's mind was working at a furious rate. She could barely catch the thoughts long enough to figure it out. Her own thoughts were running away from her, going right over her head. Too fast, she had to calm down. Had to get her head on straight. She had a plan to create. It was the most important deceiving plan she ever had to make. The most important moment in her life, thus far. It had to work. Everything had to go right. If it didn't, she'd never, ever forgive herself. There would be no living on if it went down wrong.

She had known this was going to happen for so long. Section being invaded by Oversight. Section being divided and rated, operatives having to pay the penalties for their kindness towards her. It wracked her soul. It was a pain and guilt so great she could barely stand it. She had to wrestle it down right now. Put it out of her mind, at least for now. There was plenty of time to berate herself later. If that was to keep interfering with her thoughts, she may miss something in her plan. And there was absolutely no room for mistakes.

She also had to cast out another thought. This plan was for Michael. Who was going on a suicide mission. Because she had sentenced it.

Her heart lurched in her chest, squeezing, stabbing. Emotions and guilt so intense she could barely hold in the pain. And there was no one to sympathize an ounce with her this time. They'd all learned their lesson. They wouldn't be coming near her again.

She did what she had to. Because she thought it was her one and only chance to fix things here. That she could make changes. But now she wasn't so sure.

'The plan!' She reminded herself. She needed to think of the plan. Michael's life was in her hands here. She needed to get him far away from Section's grasp.

The only problem to her plan-making was a single thought, a reminder, that kept pounding at the back of her head.

I'll have to let Michael go.

She'd never be able to see him again. He'd be gone from her. A new wave of suffering assaulted her body like a tidal wave. Oh God, that hurt.

She didn't know how she'd survive this place without him. Without his reassurance. His face. His rare smile. His love. His leadership. It made her ache all over. But she had made her bed and now she'd have to lay in it. She deserved to lose him after all she had done against him. The choices she had made may be wrong. They may have been selfless at the time, made of good intentions, but they were backfiring with each angry glare from an operative she once called her friend.

She had no friends. Not any longer. And even though that was bad enough, it didn't compare to what she was putting Michael through. He had not only trusted her with everything, protected her with his life, but he had faith. He had his love invested. He reached out, for the first time in so long, to her. Entwined his heart with hers. He had taken a major risk, but he had done it. Even though he had been so damaged. So shattered by others. He had still done it.

And now he was involved in a suicide mission.

And now, she'd have to let him go.

Her mind flicked back through the years. Through all her uncertainty of his love for her. If he even cared. She could never tell really, not for a long time. He kept pushing her away. He kept trying to distance each other.

She knew that, but she never knew why. She had always assumed it was for his benefit. After all, he had died a thousand deaths from people who had betrayed him in the past. She felt a bit slighted, but she understood.

She may have thought she understood, but she didn't, really. Not his true motives. Not the way she saw it now.

He was never so selfish as to protect himself. In fact, he had done the opposite. And on the side, just in case he wasn't being selfless enough, he had suffered through those periods of pushing her away. Of distancing.

It was because he loved her that he did it. Because he sensed that as long as they were enwrapped in this place, the ending might not come out so well.

Forcing her to distance herself from him, to think on her own two feet and to be prepared for whatever Section threw at them, was his way of protecting her.

Practically from the time that he'd been assigned to her, he's been seasoning her. Teaching her to be independent on such a no-such-thing-as-freedom place. Showing her that if, or when, they'd reach the point of a permanent parting, she could survive. It may be painful. It may hurt for a while. It may be difficult. But she would be able to do it. And survive through it.

Whenever they were getting too close, he started to throw in more slack. To let her go a bit more. Never allowing her to become dependent upon him. He knew, no matter how good his skills were, that he wasn't immortal. That he had a target on his back at all times - while in the field and in Section.

He had shown her that not only could she keep going after he departed from her, but that he also trusted her to do so. He knew she could do it. He had complete confidence in his material.

He let her see, over and over and over again, that she was capable of surviving all by herself.

But she was blind of it now. Blind in her own fear. Suffocating in her mistakes. Something in her mind, or perhaps it was located in her heart or soul, was letting her know that for once, maybe for the first time, Michael was wrong. Dead wrong.

She couldn't survive without him anymore than she could survive without air. Without a daily meal or water to wash it down. The truth was, no matter how much he tried to distance himself, the separation only made her heart grow fonder of him. Deeper in love. And yes, even more dependant. She had blindly trusted that he would just simply always be there. He was Michael, after all. He wasn't capable of dying. It was one of those things that simply didn't happen to a man like him.

Recent events were dead set on proving her wrong.

Michael had suffered through and sacrificed so much, just for her. She didn't deserve it. Not anymore. Not after deceiving so many people.

It was time she started to pay him back. Getting up, she went to Munitions, a cautiousness in her stride. Dirty looks from familiar faces were cast in her direction. None struck her as hard as when she looked at Walter.

No smile awaited upon his face. No familiar 'Hey Sugar' came as a greeting. The man before her seemed to have aged ten years overnight. The bags under his eyes were discolored. His skin seemed to just sag off of him. His shoulders drooped. It seemed like there was nothing left of him. But for now, the only thing sure about him was that he was clinging to his station for as long as he could.

He didn't meet eye contact. Not at first. Just a quick flick of his eyes to see it was her. Then he turned his head, as if it pained him to see her.

Nikita licked her lips, trying to gather shards of her shattered courage.

"I'm so sorry about what I did, Walter. To you. To everyone. You have to believe me on that. But...even if you don't...I need your help. I need it now."

A spark, faint but sure, was in his eye. "Michael?" Came his gruff, low voice.


He let out a low breath, then slowly extended his finger towards an orange bag.

"I tried to give it to him on his way out. He wouldn't take it. He's leaving soon, you know."

She nodded, wrapping her shaky fingers around the handle. "I'll bring it for him."

Walter met her gaze. No words passed between them. There were too many cameras, too many spies. But they both knew what was happening. She caused this mess. But she was going to fix it the best way she could. She'd save Michael. And then she'd suffer her own little death to let him go.

"Thank you." She whispered.

He lowered his sight in acknowledgment.

She turned and walked to van access. She'd have to sneak out before the operatives did. She'd get to her point before anyone else. And she'd make sure she'd save Michael.

Payback - a bitter sweet sacrifice. And there was no time like the present to offer it.

-K.S. -