5. I'll Keep You
According to one of the stories her mother liked to tell, she had been deathly ill once as a child with something the doctors had been unable to identify. She, her mother, and her mother's boyfriend had tried giving her ice baths to get the fever down. Then they had taken her back to the hospital demanding that her doctor give Elena something, professional opinion be damned. She was eight and she was dying.
Against his better judgment he had prescribed antibiotics, giving them dire warnings to bring Elena back at the first sign of a negative reaction.
A week later she was sitting up on her own and playing in the living room. A week after that she tired easily, but she was back at school.
Elena didn't remember it.
But this, this she would always remember. And Michael's last words – "Say goodbye to Elena" to her father, and "You have to rest" to her – would follow her to her grave.
Screaming her rage and hurt, confusion and guilt as her father's and her husband's dead eyes mocked her, Elena knew it was true. Michael would forever haunt her in a way her father, just the wisp of a ghost until a few minutes ago, would never be able to do.
There was shouting in the hallway. She thought she heard her name. She thought she heard the high-pitched screaming of a child. Her child?
Someone approached the bed.
"Stay away from me," she growled. The pain in her chest wouldn't go. It was hard to breath.
They tried to touch her.
"I mean it."
Tears blurred her vision but nothing else was.
The arm was thick and belonged to a man. It snapped under her hands.
But she was still sick. He managed to stick her anyway. Elena stumbled out of bed as Nikita pushed open the door. Her eyes widened in horror as she took in the disaster at Elena's bare feet.
How could she have… "Get him out of here," Elena rasped around her pain, around growing unsteadiness. "Get Adam…" She stumbled.
"Elena, you shouldn't—"
Her knees gave way. "…Adam…out…"
"Where is Adam?" Madeline asked her.
"With the neighbor's daughter."
"Hmm." She nodded. "And how do you feel?"
There was a long pause as Elena unwound the simple question. She tried catalogue her myriad feelings and determine what Madeline was really asking. Elena took a deep breath, made a decision, and widened her stance. "Still a bit weak from the illness. The doctors tell me I should take it easy for about a week or so."
Madeline looked briefly away then back at Elena. "Yes. I have that report. That isn't what I meant."
Which was what Elena had thought, but she had hoped that Madeline would let her slide. False hope.
"How do you feel about what happened?"
Elena breathed for a moment, in and out, trying to shut down the memory of guilt and rage and shame and anguish that threatened to spill out. She knew that Madeline would wait.
"I'm happy that it's over," she said, finally. "I'm…sorry that Adam had to see so much of it."
"I know. That's what I keep telling myself."
They both knew that there was so much more not being said. The "anything else" was just a formality.
Elena shrugged lightly. "It still seems like a lot of work."
Madeline tilted her head to one side in acknowledgment. "You know Salla Vacek couldn't have been brought in any other way. Your father was too clean. Too secure."
It took Madeline longer to answer that one. "He had become a liability that needed to be dealt with."
"But why like this?"
Madeline gave her a small smile. "We needed him to help complete the mission profile on your father."
"I see." She kept her hands clenched behind her back.
"You…thought very highly of Michael."
"He was the father of my child. And he did his best for me and Adam in spite of—"
Elena gave her a brief nod. "The very least I could do was respect him. It seemed only fair."
The two women stared at each other, both wearing their most pleasant masks.
Elena broke first. Shifting on her feet she said, "When will my release papers be finalized? I want to get Adam settled someplace new as soon as possible."
"The better to minimize the trauma. Yes, I understand. Unfortunately that's not an option at the moment."
All the shields she had put in place for this meeting, so thin already, were breaking. Had she really believed that Section would uphold its end of the bargain they had made when Operations had all but ordered her to have a child? Apparently she had.
"Not yet. There's just one more thing we need for you to do."