A/N: I'm very glad to know I was missed!! I'm still trying to get back on track and in to the mind set of this story, so this chapter may not be up to par, but there's more to come.
The words echoed through the interior walls of his stunned brain.
"She's not doing as well as we hoped. She had potential, but she's not following through with it. It's been a year now, Michael. She should be much farther than this. It would only be cruel to her, to drag her along further just to cancel her later on when she's close to completion."
No, it wasn't true. The words made sense, but not when said against Nikita. His material.
The image of her innocent, doe eyes came to him, clear as a bell. The picture expanded to see her frightened, all her true fears confirmed, awaiting the gun shot that would end her life.
He could see her lifeless body, cold to the touch. An innocence destroyed.
Michael had seen horrible things in his life. More than any one man should. But this was something he couldn't tolerate.
He was failing Nikita. He was failing. She was going to pay.
"Nikita has a year left to learn. I'd like to have that. I'll return to missions, if you'd like. I'll work with her in my spare time-"
"You mean your family time?" Operations asked, pointedly. "I won't have you ruining our set up with Vachek for this failing recruit, Michael."
What did Operations expect from him? To turn in to a machine that needed no sleep and could just keep going on hard work? He had to do something, but the outlook was growing dim.
"I'll figure something out."
"Tell me, Michael. Why are you so concerned for this girl? She doesn't heed your warnings or take you seriously. She doesn't learn her lessons or improve in any way. She's rebellious, selfish and uncaring for any of our ways. Plainly, she doesn't belong and you should be able to see that clearly. Why is it that you refuse? I could take her off you hands. You can return to your normal work. Have more time to raise your new son and tend to your wife. That's what you want, is it not? Why keep fighting for a girl who doesn't deserve your attention?"
Michael didn't answer that. Truthfully, he didn't know how to. Operations was correct in what he said. He did want more time with his family. To have his schedule be not as hectic as this last year's had been. He was being handed the opportunity to have what he wanted - and here he was, fighting against it. Against Operations, against the selfish will to indulge in his wish.
"May I have the year to finish what I begun?" he asked instead, side stepping the original question.
Operations didn't look happy in the slightest as he stared back at the prized pupil. "Unless she fails an evaluation," he finally decided.
Well, that was a start. All Michael had to do was keep Nikita alive for one more year, and then she was in charge of her own fate. He had made it this far, maybe he could finish the rest of the way.
Walter watched Michael pace, not bothering to hide his interest in the strange actions. Birkoff was a bit more fearful from his spot next to the munition's worker, but had to sneak peeks as well.
"He's been at it for twenty minutes now, Walter. What do you think he wants?"
The older man shrugged with a grunt. "I don't know, but I'm sure he's not happy about whatever it is."
"You think it's about Nikita?"
Walter looked over at the smirking teen, a frown set upon his own face. "I doubt we'd be lucky enough to have it be about anything else."
With that said, Walter left the young computer tech and walked towards the silent but deadly man.
Michael watched him approach, supressing a groan. He'd been pacing here, waiting to gather the courage that wouldn't come. He knew that both Walter and Birkoff had been talking about him, probably laughing at his inability to admit weakness and ask for help.
"Is there something you need, Michael?"
Michael side glanced at the curious creature. Took a breath. "I need your help."
Walter was taken aback, but quickly recovered. "Anything in particular?"
He looked over at Birkoff, who was hiding in Munitions still. "I'll need Birkoff, too."
This sounded serious and worrisome. Walter beckoned for Birkoff to come over, then awaited their sentence.
"I just received orders from Operations. To...to cancel Nikita." Did he just stumble on his words? Show weakness in the plainest way?
Birkoff looked surprised. Walter, shocked and immediately grieved. "You're...you can't do that. Not yet. She passed her evaluations-"
"Operations believes she's a waste of resources and time. But I managed to give her another chance - if she steps up on her work, she may survive a few more months. I can't catch her up on all the work."
"I can dedicate more time to her lessons. I'll work around her schedule," Walter was quick to step in.
"What should I do?" Birkoff asked, seemingly still lost in this conversation.
"Teach her computers. How to hack, how to memorize the basics. Knowing how to type would be a good start."
"I suppose I could work a few late nights to squeeze her in."
Michael stood back, looking at his new team. He couldn't say he was very pleased with this situation - from Nikita's lacking to his own - but he did have a team. And that meant hope for the following year.
"Good," he finally said with a nod, walking towards his office. He'd have to have an in-depth conversation with Nikita at some point, but decided to forgo it for the evening. He had enough drama today - he wasn't sure if he could stand all of hers.
"Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Ni...Nikita?"
Nikita sprawled on the floor, shaking her head. "I can't do any more," she protested.
"You've only completed eight, none which were proper. You have to step it up, Nikita."
Her face scrunched in her dismay as she looked up at him. "Push ups really aren't my thing, Michael."
"Nothing here seems to be 'your thing'!" he practically roared in her face.
She shuffled away from him, looking confusied and frightened. "M-Michael?"
"Every day, Nikita, I come in here. Promise myself that I'll be patient with you. That I'll do everything in my power to train you the way Section requires. Every day, you seem to have the same level of determination to prove to me that you are not trainable."
She frowned deeply, pulling herself in to a sitting position. "That's not true."
"No? It certainly seems that way to me. And I'm not the only one who thinks it."
That made a shiver run through her. "Who...who else?"
He crossed his arms. "Operations. He approached me yesterday. Gave me your death warrent. Told me to kill you."
Her expressive blue eyes widened, tears instantly forming and overflowing. "I'm...I'm cancelled?" she wailed as the streams ran down her face.
"No. But you are so close Nikita, that I'm surprised you can't taste the bullet. You have to listen to me. Do as I say. Walter and Birkoff have agreed to help you. Now you have to do the work and allow us to do that. If not...you won't be here in two and a half months. Sooner, if no improvement is shown. This isn't about Evaluations anymore. It's about being on your guard, twenty four seven, no matter where you are or who you're with. That's how real Operatives act. Like their life is on the line at all times. Like each second that ticks off the clock is one closer to their untimely death. I told you before that you should start thinking like an operative. Now you must."
She bit her lip to try and make it stop trembling. Just another thing she failed to accomplish. "I don't know what to do," she replied honestly. How could she change completely, just like that? How? In to what?
"I have all the answers you need to survive this next year. All you need to do Nikita, is allow me to tell you them. For you to memorize and learn by. Listening to me is your cheat sheet around here. It doesn't get any simplier than that, I guarentee it."
He handed her a tissue, something he seemed to always carry when he was around her, and waited until she scrubbed away the mess her panic had created.
"Will you let me help you from now on?" he persisted, hoping that this time he'd get through to her.
She looked up at him, her usually fair skin now a dark red. He offered a hand and she took it, soon standing before him and nodding.
Good, that was a start. He'd have to keep up on the scare tactics now, for they all too easily slipped her mind after enough time lapsed. But at least she promised to try. That was something, wasn't it?