Cannot touch

Cannot hold

Cannot be together

Cannot love

Cannot kiss

Cannot have each other

Must be strong

And we both let go

Cannot say what our hearts must know

How cannot I not love you?

What do I tell my heart?

When do I not want you here in my arms?

How does one waltz away from all of the memories?

How do I not miss you when you are gone?

Cannot dream

Cannot share sweet and tender moments

Cannot feel how we feel

Must pretend its over

Must be brave and we must go on

Must not say what we've known all along

How cannot I not love you?

What do I tell my heart?

When do I not want you here in my arms?

How does one waltz away from all of the memories?

How do I not miss you when you are gone?

How can I not love you?

Must be brave and we must be strong

Cannot say what we've known all along

How cannot I not love you?

What do I tell my heart?

When do I not want you here in my arms?

How does one waltz away from all of the memories?

How do I not miss you when you are gone?

How can I not love you when you are gone?

–Joy Enriquez, Anna and the King

Just Breathe

He's gone. Michael left with Adam just a few minutes ago. I put on my black sunglasses and wipe away the tears that had come burning to my eyes. Everything I have ever wanted just walked away. A small smile forms on my lips, a sardonic twist at the irony. Everything I have ever dreamed of is now forever out of my reach. I watched them walk down the hall until I could see them no more. Slowly, squaring my shoulders, I turn around and walk in the opposite direction of my heart. My heart is crying out in protest. Pain, burning white-hot pain shoots through my body, ricocheting through every sensitive part of me. I can feel the heat in every cell, it seems. My feet are leaden and it takes everything in me just to keep putting one foot in front of another until I am at my car.

I don't even realize I have made it to my Porsche. It seems like I have been standing here forever. It could have been minutes or hours until my brain sent a signal to my arm and hand to unlock the doors and almost with a mechanical motion I got in the driver's seat and drove away. I don't think the shock has set in yet. I shed a few tears at the train station, but haven't since. In silence, I drive. I don't really even notice where I am until I look up. Michael's home, our home. Even though my apartment holds more memories, not all of them are good. Michael's loft was the one place we could truly be alone. They monitored him less than they did any other operative.

Sometimes, Michael would circumvent the security monitors and allow us complete privacy. The loft became our hideaway, our refuge from all of the Section driven madness that we were unwilling participants to. On our few and far between days on downtime together, we would meet here or drive back together. All of the memories of the loft are good and I need to feel a piece of Michael now. I still have the key and so I let myself in. Housekeeping hasn't had a chance to clear out the loft, not even after he was 'canceled.' Operations was too busy dealing with Mr. Jones and the power struggle to pay attention to the details and so his loft remained unused, untouched, even after he came back from the dead, so to speak.

I walk through the front door and am greeted with the living room. Decorated in warm tones of brown and beige, the living room was inviting and yet still screamed single male. A small laugh bubbled up at my thoughts. On the leather couch was where we had curled up so many nights watching movies and eating popcorn, content with the silence otherwise. I remember one particular night where I made Michael watch Anna and the King. Thinking about that movie makes tears come to my eyes. Like the characters, we are to be separated for the rest of our lives. My mind skimmed over that fleeting thought and I passed the spacious kitchen where the two of us had taken turns cooking dinner. Memories of candlelight dinners and dancing to entrancing music. Those were the early days when Michael had invited me to stay with him for weeks at a time and I gladly accepted. It was here where Michael taught me to cook some of his favorite dishes. I remember those first few stumbling attempts to 'impress' him with my culinary talents.

Michael was coming home from a mission and he would be hungry, I thought as I put the deep dish into the oven to bake. I planned a romantic dinner and a night of peace for him. Michael was always tired and wore out after a mission and this time I wanted him to come home to a hot meal and a kiss. It will take about an hour for the food to bake, I thought. Just in time. I had an hour and so I thought I'd rest in the living room. Reclining on the sofa, I let out a sigh. I had been on back to back missions for the past week and was myself exhausted. The next day and a half was downtime for both Michael and I. I'll just rest my eyes for a moment, I thought before my eyes drifted shut.

I bolted awake to the distinct scent of smoke. My fuzzy mind instantly cleared. Dinner, I thought helplessly. Almost running into the kitchen, I found Michael already taking out the unsalvageable meal. "Michael, I wanted to cook for you...We've been together for a week now and every time you've cooked–"

Michael cut off my speech. "All I want," he said as he cupped my face, "is you." With that said, he leaned in and kissed me.

I passed the kitchen, the bathroom, and the library that doubled as an office, and walked into the master bedroom. Michael liked his space and the master bedroom, like the rest of the loft, reflected that. Spacious and open. The room was a combination of my and his tastes. Splashes of color decorated the walls. My input, obviously. Michael's style was evident in the utter lushness and decadence of the handcrafted king sized four poster oak bed that dominated the room. I opened the door to the walk in closet that still housed some of my wardrobe and Michael's clothes. Drawing a sweater off one of the hangers, I pressed the soft cotton to my nose and inhaled Michael's scent. Before now I guess I hadn't realized what saying goodbye had really meant. Inhaling the scent that was uniquely Michael, immersed in his possessions, the shock I'd been in wore off and pain hit me in waves. Memories rushed in.

"Michael, no!" I giggled as I jumped on the bed, trying to evade Michael and his fast fingers. Just a few minutes ago, he discovered how ticklish I am and began to take full advantage. Michael jumped on the bed after me and tackled me to the mattress. Both of us Section-trained, both of tried to gain the upper hand. Finally, by the time we were both out of breath, neither really wanting to lose the advantage, but both knowing we'd win either way, Michael was on top and I underneath him. Neither of us said a word, just breathing hard and staring into each other's eyes, saying a thousand things we could never say aloud. Michael reached down with one hand and ran his fingertips over the features of my face. My eyes closed in pleasure. How I love this man....

More memories bombarded my mind and I crawled into our bed, still smelling Michael, wanting, needing to be close to him. Moments of happiness and love flashed over my mind. Sitting by the fire wrapped in his arms, sleeping cocooned in his warmth, watching the stars overhead from the safety and comfort of his embrace on a cloudless night from the deck of the boat we'd rented during those blissful weeks before everything had come crashing down last year. Making love at my old apartment, here at the loft, on the boat in Lyon, in the chamber when Michael rescued me last year. These memories and countless more flooded my mind and the floodgates open.

Everything I'd been holding in from the moment I'd walked into the train station and seen Michael to saying goodbye and finally saying what our hearts had known all along flooded out. Every cell in my body was wracked with pain and it finally stuck. Michael was never coming back. Never again would he kiss me, hold me. I would never see him, hold him. Make love to him. Never again would I be able to say, I love you. No more quiet dinners. No more days away from Section spent together with nothing more taxing to do that make love. I would never be able to smell him, his clean masculine, sandalwood scent. My throat aches with the tears that are stuck. My eyes burn and I shake in anguish. Oh God. Oh God. I can't do this. I need Michael. I miss him. I love him. I love him. The man that I have cared for almost seven years and loved for nearly that long is gone. He will never come back. I can't do this. I cry, sob, almost scream in pain for hours, my heartache a physical pain. I wrap myself in the blankets that cover the bed, needing to be with him, needing to feel him in some small way, wanting his presence. I feel like a part of me has been ripped from me and it has. Half of my soul walked down a walkway to a train and never looked back. Gods.

A few hours later, still slightly rocking on our bed, hot tears are still slipping through closed eyelids. I don't want to deal with anything right now. I want to curl up into a ball and die, as my heart tells me. And I want to listen to it. I curl inside of myself even further and soon I am asleep, a reprieve given.

Nikita. Wake up, Nikita. "Michael?" I question aloud groggily, half awake and half asleep. I think I hear his voice, but I know that is impossible. By now Michael has left the country.

Get up, baby. You've got a job to do. Section One needs you. Wake up, baby, dry your eyes and go to work. Do what you and I would have done had we been given the reigns.

"I miss you, Michael," I tell him as I walk into his arms.

"I know, but it had to happen this way." And I know. There was no other choice, for either of us. "Know this. That I will always love you. Someday I will tell you that in person. If not....Know that I will love you until the day I die. I love you, Nikita."

I awake to Michael's voice in my mind, that soft whisper.Fresh pain hits me, but I take it in. It doesn't take over. Michael's words resonate through my mind. I really can't be here. Section One is waiting for its new leader. Me. Just thinking that starts a whole new rise of panic, but I tamp it down. I force it down into a corner of my being. I need to gain control of myself. I have an organization to run. As the new leader, I have to get busy. Get my mind off of... things. I take a hot shower and don a black pinstripe suit befitting the leader of Section One. With deliberate purpose, I pack a few things that I cannot bear to part with. A few of Michael's sweaters, a picture of the two of us on a deserted beach, and a few other kicknacks are packed into a small bag and loaded into the Porsche. Section One is waiting.

The time it takes to drive back to Section flies by and soon I am entering my new access code and entering Section through the back way, so to speak. Apparently, the leader of Section One has his or her own entrance, separate from the rest of the 'minions.' I go straight to my new office and surprisingly no one interrupts my entrance. I darken the aerie for a moment to collect my thoughts and get my mind set.

If I am to become the new Operations, the leader of the most covert anti-terrorist organization on the planet, then I must put aside all of the ties to my old life. I cannot be always thinking of Michael or remembering something we did, second-guessing my actions. In order to do my job, all thoughts of our love will need to be put in a corner. For a few moments, I allow myself the luxury of remembering for an all too brief moment all of the good and the bad that Michael and I have been through, every moment of love, before slowly locking each moment, each memory inside a corner of my heart. There, it will be kept safe and only in extreme moments will I allow the key to unlock the door. Now I understand what Michael said about having himself kept inside, forever what it would need to be for him. Mentally locking the pain and love away, I take a deep breath and press the button to undarken the aerie.