Hopeful

I do not own these characters.

She saw the car waiting for her as she exited the hospital after a long and exhausting shift. She felt a twinge of fear. They were obviously police of some sort but in an unmarked car and in plain clothes. She saw a flash of badge as they confirmed her identity and whisked her into the back seat. She instinctively knew not to ask questions, and she knew that this most likely had something to do with him. She hadn't seen him in almost a year now, but he was in her thoughts every day. She knew the trial was going on, and she scanned the paper every day searching for his name in the list of defendants. How could it be that he was omitted? Was he dead? She recognized many of the names as those she had become familiar with in the other trial—the one before she adopted Christine. That trial had put away Christine's natural father who was also the most dangerous man in the Russian mafia here in England. Nikolai had stepped seamlessly into those shoes. She was so torn just thinking of how she felt every time she remembered their kiss. How could she feel such things for a man that was clearly a monster? She should be terrified of him, but all she could think about was how much she wanted to see him again. Maybe these men would have some answers for her. So she kept silent in the back seat, her stomach in knots, waiting. Was she hoping? Yes, she was.

The car stopped in front of an old hotel she vaguely knew. Her escorts walked her through the lobby to the elevator. She felt awkward in their silence but still sensed that she was in no trouble herself. On the eighth floor, she was led to a room at the end of the hall. There was a brief knock, and then a key was produced. She stepped inside the room alone, feeling the door close behind her. He stood from the sofa to greet her, his hand outstretched and a tentative smile on his face. She was overwhelmed at the physical response she felt when their eyes met. She knew her face flushed. She put her hand out and he took hers in both of his. It was not a handshake, but a warm connection. She had so many questions, but just wanted to take in this moment. She could hear her heart beating and she felt a little dizzy.

"Please sit down. Thank you for coming." His accent was as thick as she remembered.

They sat at opposite ends of the sofa facing each other.

"How are you? Um…I don't even know what to say." She laughed nervously.

"I know. I'm sorry about all this. We don't have much time, so please just listen. My name is not Nikolai. It's Jake. Actually, it's Yakov, but I call myself Jake. For the past three years I have been working undercover, infiltrating the Russian mafia. I am an agent of the FSB."

She sat back and exhaled. "Oh."

"I am a witness in the trial that you have probably heard about. My testimony begins tomorrow. Hopefully, by this time next week, my work will be done and I will be on my way to a new life with a new identity. It's for my protection. So they can't find me. I'm taking a great risk telling you this, but I just didn't want to leave knowing that you believed me to be a bad man. I'm not perfect. But I am not what you thought I was."

She felt her eyes fill with tears. This answered so many questions she had felt nagging in the back of her mind. The relief was overwhelming. And yet, she also felt a rush of panic that he was leaving. Going to a place where no one could reach him. That meant that she couldn't reach him either.

"Can I find you? I'm not ready for this. I have so much I want to say. I don't know where to start."

"I know this doesn't make much sense, but I was hoping that you felt something…something like I feel. I have stayed away to protect you, but I think of you all the time. If things had been different… I just had to see you."

There was a knock on the door. A head popped in. "Excuse me, but we need to get her out of here."

"Yes, just a moment. Thank you." Then he turned to her, taking her hand in his again. She felt his urgency. "Can I contact you? You won't be able to reach me, but I'll figure something out."

"Yes. Yes, of course." She knew she only had a minute. She put her hand on his face. He leaned into it with a pained look and closed his eyes. It was then she knew that she would do anything to be with him. Her mind reeled with all the questions of details, wondering how this could work. But as she kissed him she knew that she loved him, and that somehow they would make this all make sense. And for the first time in a long time, she felt hopeful about her future.