A/N: This is the sequel to Ticking. Hope you like it!
Summer was just around the corner but if Nikita hadn't been spending most of her time watching surveillance tapes from various missions, she wouldn't have known what season it was. Confined to Section One since the last time she had been out, putting her children and Maria in danger, she hadn't seen the sun for months. She craved its heat, its light on her skin, the happiness it generally brought along. Most of all, she missed her children, whom she hadn't seen or spoken to since the attack, three months earlier. If it weren't for Maria's highly-secured e-mails, she wouldn't have known what her children were up to. It was by those messages that Nikita had learned that their first year of school was quickly coming to an end, that their fifth birthday party had been a blast and that they asked several times a day when they would be able to see their mother. Maria assured her, in every e-mail, that they were well, that the new security around their home was protecting them very well and that she didn't have to worry. But Nikita did worry. After all, she was a mother, a mother of two wonderful twins, so smart and so full of life.
She had never thought, in a million years, that this was how she would be raising her children. Apart, with the help of a woman who played surrogate mother to them. Then again, it was how things worked in Section One. There was absolutely no place for children in an anti-terrorism secret organization. As Operations, she was well aware of that but, unlike her predecessor, she didn't have the heart to cancel them.
The sliding doors opened and Nikita stepped inside what had once been Madeline's office, which now served as her own. Her eyes still filled with sleep, she made her way to the desk, half-asleep. She yawned widely as she sat down and wiped her face with her hands.
Peeking through her fingers, she caught a glimpse of a flashing light at the bottom of the screen. Frowning, she double-clicked on the flashing icon and waited. The screen turned blank for a second, making her wonder if she had just downloaded a virus into her own computer. Soon enough, the screen turned back on, a box having popped up.
She could feel her heart pounding in her ears as her eyes settled on the three, green words on the screen.
St-Jovite, Quebec, Canada.
The message was clear and she understood it immediately.
Shakily, she got to her feet. As she walked out of the office, down a flight of stairs, and down an elevator, she tried to pull herself together. Her hands shook, her heart raced madly inside her chest and her knees felt as though they were on the verge of collapsing under her.
She had long stopped hoping for that day. The weeks following Michael's departure, she had clung to the hope that he would contact her, even daring to hope he had changed his mind and wanted to come back to her. Weeks had gone by and Michael had remained silent. With each passing weeks, Nikita's hope faded until she had given up altogether. It had been years since she had dared to hope that he would get in touch with her again.
Then she had met Dave Lanark, ex-operative for Section Two down in Australia. After saving his life, Lanark had decided he needed to repay her.
"Ask me anything you want, I will do it." He had told her a year ago.
Immediately, she had thought of him.
"I need you to look for someone." She had told him.
He had promised her he would do anything in his power to fulfill her wish. Today, he had lived up to his promise.
Her heart still raced madly as she passed by Matthew, coming in with two other men Nikita recognized as being Stuart and Mark, two of her best operatives. She nodded politely at them before turning another corner and disappearing down a different corridor.
She needed to prepare. There were a lot of things to plan out before she left, the sooner the better. She didn't think want to wait too long. Too many things could happen if she waited before setting out for Canada, which could postpone her trip. And she didn't want it postpone. She had waited long enough.
She spotted Walter coming into his warehouse as she went around the corner.
"Hey Walter." She said, smiling, as she approached him.
Nikita examined his face. She couldn't remember the last time she had truly examined his features. He seemed to have aged immensely in the last six years. He had never told her his age but she guessed that he was most likely in his seventies, if not mid-seventies. She wondered, as she always did when she crossed path with him and saw his tired eyes and smile, and his wrinkles, just how long he had been at Section.
"What's up?" He asked, looking up from the weapon he had been examining.
Even his voice sounded tired and Nikita almost felt bad for what she was going to say next.
"I need to go out."
Walter's eyes widened, alarmed.
"Why?" He asked in a worried tone.
"I need to go see my kids."
Even though spending ten years in Section One had taught her not to be afraid of anything, she still felt slightly anxious every time she left 'undercover' to see her children. She always felt as though she would be attacked and captured, the terrorists not fooled by her disguise.
Today was one of those days. As she was driven to Maria's home in a window-tinted car, she couldn't help the feeling of anxiety pulsing through her veins. Every trip in the outside world brought her kids closer to danger, the last time she had visited them a proof of that.
She could still remember the guns outside the small cottage, Erin's screams as she witnessed the death of a man whom, until recently, she had thought had been one of Maria's friends. She could remember vividly grabbing her daughter's hand and pulling to her safety, before holding the shaking body in her arms. As she had rocked the child to sleep, once everything had calmed down around them, she vaguely remembered Adam and wondered if he had felt the same way as her daughter so many years back. She wondered if he was still traumatized, if he still woke up in the middle of the night, screaming. Had Michael sent him to see a therapist? Had he taken care of him so well that the child had simply forgotten what had happened six years ago?
Maria hadn't mentioned anything in her messages since that fateful day. She hadn't said anything about Erin being troubled by what had happened or about Jacob acting weirdly. Maybe they were after all okay.
The car turned into a quiet neighborhood. Nikita had always loved the place, away from the downtown area, where crime was at its lowest and where the families seemed to be living in a time period long forgotten by the rest of the world. Trees still casted shadows on the ground here, protecting from the sun on hot summer days. Kids still rode their bikes in these streets, still left them lifeless in the driveway once they had gotten bored of them. Here, children were tanned from their time spent in the sun and not white as ghosts like those who spent more time in front of the TV than sleeping.
The car drove through the neighborhood until they reached a less fancy part of it. Small houses stood in rows, their square lands equal, grass green and one tree in the front yard. From the corner, Nikita could see the little sky blue house where Maria and her children lived. She felt her heart swell at the thought of holding her babies in her arms again, after being separated for three months.
Finally, after what seemed like ages, the car pulled in the tiny driveway. Nikita looked up to see a curtain move from the living room window. Maria had been waiting for her.
Stepping into the warm sun, Nikita took a deep breath. Three months confined underground had taken its toll on her. She felt as though she had been there for years, instead of just a couple of months.
She walked up the stone path leading to the front door. As she climbed the steps, she almost thought she could hear the surveillance cameras zooming in on her. She looked up to find a lens staring right back at her. She forced herself not to shudder.
Just as she was about to ring, the front door opened, revealing a tall, Spanish woman. Her long black hair cascaded down her back, her brown eyes were dark and fiery and her smile, warm and contagious. Nikita smiled back at her.
Maria stepped aside to let her friend in. Then, Glancing briefly at the driver in the car, she closed the door.
"Are the children here?" Nikita asked, realizing how quiet the house seemed.
"They are playing outside." Maria replied, her voice thick with a Spanish accent. "Can I offer you something to drink? Water?"
"Actually, I'm not staying long. I just need to talk to you about something."
Just then, the backdoor opened and footsteps were heard on the other side of the house. Nikita listened as the footsteps grew louder and nearer and a brown head appeared down the hallway.
"¡María¿Podría tener un vaso de agua?"
Erin stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes settling on the tall woman standing beside her caretaker.
Nikita smiled brightly at her daughter.
Erin gaped at her mother before turning on her heels and running back to where she had emerged.
"¡Jacob¡Mamá está aquí!"
Nikita didn't need any translation for this statement. Mama is here. She felt the heart-swelling sensation once again. She turned to Maria to see her staring at her, beaming.
"She's happy to see you, I think." Maria said.
Seconds later, more footsteps could be heard rushing to the front door.
"So you wanted to talk to me, Nikita?" Maria said, sitting down on the couch, after the children had run back outside.
Taking a deep breath, she continued.
"Dave Lanark contacted me."
Maria nodded, her expression serious. She knew of Michael, Nikita having told her everything she had needed to know, and understood perfectly well the gravity of the situation.
Nikita got to her feet and walked to the window giving to the backyard. The twins were busy playing with two other children, another boy and girl, Nikita deduced were probably the next-door neighbors. The girl, as blond as herself, looked up and their eyes met. Nikita smiled at her. The girl smiled shyly back before going back to her game.
"Apparently, he lives in Canada."
Even with her back turned, Nikita could picture Maria forcing herself not to smile. After all, she ought to have been happy at the thought of seeing Michael once again but the happiness could have felt had been washed away by an inexplicable fear before she even had the chance to feel it.
"That's great." Maria replied, trying her best to remain serious.
"Yeah I guess."
"What's wrong?" Maria asked.
"Michael doesn't know about them."
"It'll be the perfect opportunity for him to meet them."
"But what if...?"
"He is not happy?" Maria asked, finishing the sentence for her.
Nikita turned around and nodded, tears welling up in her eyes.
"I'm sure he will be. The way you described him to me, I really think he will be happy to meet his children. He will feel blessed. Who wouldn't feel blessed to know these kids? I know I am to have the chance to raise them."
Nikita forced a smile before turning back to the window. Erin was now chasing the other young boy, a bit taller than who she thought was probably his sister, but with hair as blond as hers.
"There's something else, isn't there?"
Nikita, who had been lost in her thoughts for the past minute, jumped, visibly startled.
"Sorry." Maria said. "I didn't mean to startle you."
Nikita shook her head, dismissively.
"You are thinking about that day three months ago."
The mother nodded.
"And you think that it's going to happen again?"
"How is she? Is she okay? Is she still scared?"
"I don't think so." Maria replied, honestly. "I won't lie to you. The few days after the attack, she was still a bit shook up. She refused to sleep alone so I let her sleep with Jacob. But Jacob became scared when his sister told him what she had seen at the cottage and the both of them slept in my bed with me for about a week. Then everything went back to normal."
"So she's fine?"
"But how can she be?"
The Spanish woman shrugged.
"She is strong."
Just like her father. Nikita thought.
"Maybe she has more of Michael in her than I thought."
Maria didn't say anything.
"You'll be able to have a few days off." Nikita announced, tearing her gaze from the children outside. "Consider it as a vacation."
"I will gladly take them. Maybe I'll visit my parents in Spain. I haven't seen them since Christmas."
Nikita remembered, with a pang, how she hadn't seen her children the previous Christmas. Again, she had been confined to Section One after a mysterious illness had spread throughout Section. Jacob and Erin had gone to Spain with their caretaker, coming back two weeks later all tanned and a bright smile on their face.
"How will you break the news to them?" Maria then asked. "Are you going to tell them they are about to meet their father?"
Nikita sighed. She hadn't thought of that. She had been so caught thinking about how to break the news to Michael that she had forgotten that it would be a real shock to the twins as well.
"I don't know." Nikita admitted. "I'll think things through."
Then, glancing at the clock in the living room, she added:
"I really need to go back." She announced. "I'll just go outside and say goodbye."
The woman watched as Nikita slid the door to the backyard and stepped onto the deck. Then, from the window, she saw the twins stop dead in their tracks and run towards their mother. Nikita hugged them both, kissing the top of their heads, inhaling the smell of them, closing her eyes. Maria felt pity towards her. Being apart from her children was obviously tearing her apart. She just hope, as she left the window, that Michael would love them as much as Nikita loved them.