Welcome to the final chapter! It is choke full of epic, mundane dialogue and exposition of doom, so do beware. Kudos to making it this far. And you know the drill. Don't own. Don't sue. Un-beta'd (Sadface!).
The last time she was in a detainment room, the ones with obscenely bright fluorescent lights, sterile, scrubbed clean, and metallic to the touch, was when she first encountered Percy. Irony has a vicious humor.
The door opens. Michael enters. There's an unfamiliar loping to his gait, and he walks with a quiet restraint. The seat scrapes against the floor as Michael sits down, grating her ears. He holds himself differently-with an understated confidence like an experienced professional and nothing of the amateur on his early missions.
Gone is the raw force he exuded, and something in Nikita's chest silently splinters.
"What are you? CIA?" she spits out.
Michael cocks his head and gives her a long, expressionless look. "NSA."
God, she should've known. "Nerds," she mutters. His mask breaks. He ruefully smiles.
He teases her like there's no bad blood between them. But there is. Bucket-fulls, in fact. Nikita frowns.
"I should've known."
"You knew. You ignored it." Gone is the accent, replaced with the crisp enunciation of every syllable that he struggled to master. But it's cleaner, prettier, and more affluent. It tells her he's well-educated and probably from a well-off, upper-middle class family.
"So was Jimmy a lie?"
Michael's brows furrow, confused by the sudden tangent. So, he entertains her with a bout of honesty.
"My cover. There was a La Muerta fighter that was incarcerated six months ago. I took his spot."
"So who are you then?"
He shrugs. "I'm Michael."
"Such a liar," she whispers, like there's vice clamped around her throat, strangling the air out of her.
His eyes soften, and unexpectedly, he reaches his hand up to her neck, grasping it gently. His touch, soft against her skin, traces her jaw. "Didn't lie about everything."
Nikita immediately jerks her head away like she's been burned right through her flesh and limits any response to the hurt expression on Michael's face. She has to admit: he was good. He had her fooled, and she no longer trusted his sentiments to be genuine.
"You used me to find the boxes," she says flatly.
Disappointed, Michael leans back into his chair. He sighs, "Yes."
"You couldn't have done this alone though." The shackles around her wrist clang when she scoots in closer. "Who else?"
Michael plays with something in his grasp, clenching and unclenching his fists, thumbing its outline, not quite ready to answer.
"Alex," he finally says.
Incredulity was something Nikita could mask easily, but this, this she couldn't fathom. "No. That's not true."
"Her name is actually Liliya. We borrowed her from the CIA."
"That is not true. I picked her up. She was a drug-addled little girl—"
"We've been on Division's tail for the past eight years. Liliya was planted as a precursor and for intelligence gathering about Division's internal infrastructure."
Nikita squeezes her eyes shut, her fists curling shut, so close to shattering apart. "God."
"Daniel." The word comes off hard, as if swallowing a bitter pill. "Daniel was originally Division."
"God, shut up."
He doesn't. "He had one of the boxes while infiltrating Military Intelligence and struck a deal with General Kline."
An image of a small, grizzly man in his Army green suit taking a shine to her when she first entered the 66th MI brigade comes up in her mind. Once upon a time, he told her she had a lot of potential.
Michael pauses and opens a file. He spreads out sealed documents and papers intentionally under her nose, some authenticated by Percy himself. On others, she recognizes Kline's sharp signature and Daniel's own elegant work. There, Michael proves his next words.
"That friendly fire you misconstrued was Percy's hounds. But we got the box, Percy got you, and everything started from there."
Everything started from there. Her defect from Army intelligence into Division, and Percy's well-groomed statements about serving God and country, cleaning up the corrupt government and the injustice it inflicted, catering to her bleeding heart over a fallen fiancé.
She spent a good chunk of her life serving Division, and Michael's words took a bat to her carefully constructed world, revealing the fragile balance Division sought to hide until it was smashed to bits and pieces.
"What don't you know?" she bites out.
"The whereabouts of the remaining black boxes. That's why you're here with me. You're Percy's right-hand. We know you have an idea."
"What makes you think I'll tell you anything?" she snarls, hateful.
Michael leans back into his chair and looks at the camera in the corner above Nikita's head. She watches him.
"You know what's true," Michael says without any aplomb or sickening sentimentality. He's genuine, like he actually believes his words. "And you know what's right."
The way he says it, so sincere and desperate, it breaks her. She feels them. She feels the tears welling up, and she tastes all of the pain and guilt and confusion amassing in her mouth.
"No I don't," she brokenly protests. "Everything—Christ."
She bows her head and squeezes her eyes shut, and the water smoothly slides down her cheeks.
"Please Nikita," he says all too softly, his voice low and laden with something she doesn't want to trust. "That night wasn't a lie."
She sharply inhales and looks up, at a loss.
And Michael is watching her, his hands twisting nervously—belying the impartial expression on his face. Then he reaches out and barely touches his finger to the pale stretch of her hand. She doesn't move away.
After a lengthy moment, Nikita speaks.
"London, Amsterdam," she lists off indolently, losing all the fight in her. "Cairo, Rio de Janeiro, Melbourne, Shanghai, and Ontario."
As if a burden had been lifted from his shoulders, Michael gets up with a hopeful smile and clasps her hand, warming her in the cold room as she feels the brush of something wrinkling against her hand.
The sound of the shutting door creates a disgusting reeling in the pit of her stomach that wants to crawl out of her mouth. Instead, she swallows it down and unfolds the scrap of paper he left in her hands. In straight, clean handwriting:
Wait five minutes for the shift change.
Across the table, a small metal object gleans light.
He left the key.
She laughs, tears threatening to spill out.
"At three pm yesterday, what is considered America's largest take-down of—not criminals—but actual government officials in what is possibly the greatest American scandal in history. This and more at the five o'clock news…
"…In a series of arrests, a number of politicians, including Senator John Maller, have been taken in by federal law enforcement, under suspicion for treason. They are alleged to be connected to a black-ops group responsible for numerous political assassinations and actually sanctioned by the government…"
"…As you can see, one man, shown here, is the assumed director of an intelligence organization, known as 'Division' that has been under investigation by government internal services for apparently the past decade…"
Every TV screams about Division, streams grainy clips of public arrests, and Percy stating his innocence before the Supreme Court. He ends up being sentenced up to 200 years in prison. The lack of death penalty comes from high favors and blackmail by Percy's anonymous supporters that flittered away into oblivion after Division's public fall. Nikita thinks it has to be Amanda.
But a man of that status, secrets, and notoriety amongst the world's most dangerous circuits was bound to be killed. Nikita stops listening to the news outlets when a month later, Percy is found dead in his cell, shanked by a broken piece of laundry machinery. The world is still atwitter about Division, creating a massive backlash against the government. The president even gives a speech claiming to his innocence in the whole debacle, which Nikita can verify as true. The CIA scrambles to keep their reputation up, and she hears through the grapevine that the black market has to deal with a sudden vacuum that Division left behind.
Nikita keeps herself busy though. She cleans up her old accounts and wavers when she covers her tracks. She's so tempted to let herself be caught-get what she deserves, so to speak-but Nikita knows herself. She envies Michael for his tenacity. She often thinks about him. She wonders if Michael were in her shoes, would he let himself get caught?
So, she keeps running.
Nikita visits Daniel's grave and stops looking over her shoulder when an affidavit slips under the hotel door, and she realizes no one's looking anymore. With a post-it note with "I'm sorry" written in vertically long, sharp letters stuck to the first page, the document sums up several testimonies, swearing to Nikita's innocence and how she was an innocuous agent who got played around by the wrong people. Sealed by major intelligence committees, the three signatures at the bottom of the last page are Nikita's godsend.
That is if the Father were none other than old man Kline himself, the Son, someone named Michael S. Weber, the assistant director of NSA's Department of Counterintelligence, and the Holy Spirit, a CIA field agent called Liliya Alkaev. A small sticker points to an empty line.
It stays empty, though. Nikita's not entirely eager to accept his apology. At least, not yet, so Nikita leaves the affidavit to gather dust on the table.
It turns out that Amanda is much easier to find than Nikita originally had predicted. She skims over Amanda's Division profile. Just for the sheer hell of it, Nikita types in Amanda's name in to a search engine, and she gets a website for Amanda's cover. In another life, Amanda is a real estate agent.
After a few more phone calls, Nikita boards a flight to San Francisco, following the trail of Amanda's Division work history profile. She takes a cab through the urban, upper-class neighborhoods, and it stops in front of a Victorian-style house with nothing eerie or ominous about it. It looks like a lovely place to live.
A young girl, about five years old, swings the door open after Nikita rings the doorbell. Her flaming red hair is gathered up in piggy tails, and she has the same nose as Amanda. It takes a while for Nikita to string a coherent sentence.
"Hi there. Is your mother home?"
The little girl shyly nods and smiles before running back into the house, screaming at the top of her lungs, "Mommy!"
Nikita hears Amanda's voice before seeing her. When the door widens, and Amanda finally appears in the entrance, she says simply, "Took you long enough."
She mildly smiles. "Come in Nikita."
Amanda's house is narrow with long hallways opening into a living room with large windows filtering in sunlight. The room is homey, inhabited, with a mess of toys on the rug, magazines scattered across a coffee table, and photos crowding the mantle. It's all so domestic and so unlike Amanda.
"Did you know?" Nikita immediately asks.
"About what Nikita?"
"That Percy was intent on creating his own little empire of his own?" Amanda settles herself on a loveseat, lounging comfortably. She motions Nikita to sit. "I've always known, and I've always supported it."
Nikita makes a face, skeptical and somewhat horrified. "How could you…?"
"You have to see it this way Nikita. Everything we did was a necessary evil to make sure that our country ran smoothly and that we could keep the less savory organizations in check."
"We took kids and trained them to assassinate people that now I'm beginning to doubt deserved to die."
"Oh Nikita," Amanda exclaims, exasperated. "Listen to yourself, you sound like old hock, passing judgment on everything. We took those kids, literally the trash of society, and gave them the chance to do something with their lives and serve their country."
"What we did was wrong. We gave them a gun and trained them to kill good people! We didn't care about giving them chances. We cared about gaining the upper hand!"
Amanda sighs. "Nikita, understand this. There is no such thing as right or wrong in this business. Getting the upper-hand and power is what keeps things running."
Nikita makes a disgusted noise and shoots up from the recliner. "I'm done listening to this."
She grabs her bag and steers out of the room, quickly striding down the corridor to the front door.
"You know I'm right Nikita," Amanda suddenly says from behind her. "Otherwise, you wouldn't have been in Division."
An ominous click. Nikita slowly turns on her heel with her hands in the air. Amanda points the barrel of a gun at Nikita's chest
"I believed," Nikita says, facing Amanda. "What I was doing was right."
"No you didn't. You knew all along but ignored it. You justified it by putting all your energy in being a mother to those children and pretending that it wasn't your fault when you put a gun in their hands." Nikita presses her lips together in a tense line, defiantly glaring at Amanda. "It wasn't until Michael started questioning you about everything. Don't you see? If Michael hadn't filled your mind—"
"Michael didn't do anything wrong," Nikita angrily says, surprising even herself. "He was the only sane one amongst us all."
Amanda sadly shakes her head. "And I'm the one with the gun."
"So what? You're going to keep that thing in my face? Shoot me."
"Oh Nikita," Amanda tsks. "You've forgotten how much I actually don't care about you."
Suddenly, a small, high-pitched voice anxiously asks, "Mommy?"
From the living room doorway, Amanda's daughter widens her eyes as it darts back and forth from the gun in Amanda's hand and the edgily quiescent Nikita.
"Baby, go back into the room," Amanda says, her calm undermined by a thrumming line of nervousness.
"Mommy what's going on?" The little girl clutches on to a worn bunny toy encased in her arms. She wetly sniffles, huge tears gathering at the swell of her eyes. "Mommy?" she cries.
It's then that Nikita notices something peculiar about the girl. Her eyes remind Nikita of Percy.
"Shoot me Amanda," Nikita quietly eggs on. Amanda jerks her head, staring at Nikita. Her daughter begins bawling.
For a moment, Amanda struggles between Nikita and her daughter, quickly turning her head back and forth between them. Finally, she springs to her daughter, dropping her gun at a foyer table and scooping her daughter in to her arms.
Nikita lets out a breath of relief as her arms fall. Amanda hushes her daughter, jostling her up and down. "We're not done yet," she says to Nikita over her daughter's sloping shoulder.
Nikita curtly nods and then exits the building.
The next time Nikita tries to contact Amanda, another family has moved in to the house, and all they can tell her about the previous owner is that "she left".
Nikita discovers that Michael comes from a working-class neighborhood in Boston. His father is a Gulf War veteran and a metal-worker, and his mother, a seamstress in a factory until her arthritis got in the way. Michael sends them checks weekly to help with the medical insurance.
Jimmy, she finds out, is actually Luke Weber. He had died from a drug overdose when Michael, she surmises, is fresh out of college. Unlike Michael, who graduates magna cum laude from MIT, his younger brother takes another route. The neighborhood remembers him as "Loony Luke", the local drug dealer, and the police remember him as a nuisance that kept on giving until he choked on it himself and died.
His parents still live in his childhood home, a small, rickety house squeezed in a block and surrounded by a short metal fence. Weeds pop out of the yard, and the paint on the porch is peeling off. The house is aged and hard-weathered, much like the woman who greets her at the front door.
Michael's mother, "Call me Laura deah. Don't need to make me feel oldah", is a small woman with a certain hardiness to her. She has the same eyes-green like a swamp in the summer-as Michael.
"How do you know Michael, deah?" Laura asks her, setting down a quivering tray of tea on a coffee table, her hands old and knobby.
Nikita turns away from the pictures of Michael's graduation. "Work."
"Oh, so you're ah…" Surreptitiously, she whispers, "NSA?"
Against her own will, Nikita's mouth curves up, and Laura bashfully laughs. She swells up with pride. "That's m' boy. Come, sit down for some tea."
As Nikita walks to the couch, she notices a photo frame on top of a marred upright piano. The image itself is faded, the colors having lost its saturation. Michael, lanky like many boys hitting puberty, grins from ear to ear. His left arm is slung around a smaller, chubby boy whose face is smattered with freckles and an identical grin, edged higher at one end. Perched on his arm is a thin fishing rod.
There is something so happy and simultaneously alienating about the picture, it unsettles Nikita. She thinks about how her mother, her psychologically disturbed biological mother, had a baby when Nikita entered the foster care system. It was a boy. Nikita has never met him. She doesn't even know his name.
She stiffly sits down and clutches her teacup. It warms her cold hands, and she thinks to herself, did Michael ever like coffee or did he like tea more? She shakes the thought of her head and politely smiles at Laura, who is sitting across from her.
"How long have you known Michael, Nikita, was it?"
Nikita sips her tea. It smells fragrant and tastes earthy and sweet. "About a year, year and a half. Two, actually."
Laura smiles slightly and drinks her tea. She offers Nikita cookies, which Nikita courteously declines.
"What can I help you with deah?" Laura finally asks.
"Huh?" Nikita asks, confused.
"Well, there must've been a reason you're here. At first I thought, good lord, is he dead?"
Nikita quickly shakes her head. "No, no, I'm not here because of that. I'm here…"
The words are stuck in Nikita's throat. Laura places her hand on Nikita's after a moment.
"Are you all right?"
Nikita looks down at Laura's hand. This is what a mother's touch must be like, gentle and soft and patient. Steady and reliable like an ancient oak tree during a storm. She turns her eyes to Laura's face. When Laura tenderly smiles, her mouth crookedly lifts up, shadowing Michael's own lop-sided grin that Nikita's only witnessed in terse flashes. Something shifts within Nikita, heavy and uncomfortable.
Nikita doesn't know what made her come here. Maybe she wanted to make sure that Michael was real, not some idea that the government imagined up like magic that had manipulated her in any direction, as if she were chaff in an unfettered breeze.
She wants to separate the lies from the truth.
"Is Michael—if you don't find this strange, but how did Michael react to Luke's death?"
"Oh my," Laura says, shocked. "Michael nevah talks about Luke with anyone. Well, I mean, he was…" Laura rubs her hands against her thighs, thinking. "He was devastated. The two of them were inseparable until Michael went t' college. Without Michael around, Luke started making some bad friends, and…"
Laura's lip trembles, and she clears her throat.
"I'm—I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked," Nikita stammers, feeling so oddly out of place.
Laura shakes her head quickly. "No. It's fine. It's simply…Michael, he just closed himself up after Luke's death. Clammed up, never wanted t' talk t' his fathah or me or any of his friends. That boy's always had a strong sense of morality, but I think he blamed himself. And then aftah Sarah and Haley…"
"I'm sorry, who?" Nikita asks, confused.
"Oh," Laura says. "You don't know. I shouldn't tell you then." She apologetically pats Nikita's knee before lifting herself up to clean up the tea. "Michael'll probably tell you if he told you about Luke."
Nikita drifts around the room while Laura is in the kitchen. She skims the clutter of frames set up on the mantle. There are pictures of Luke, of the family from years ago, but it's the pictures of Michael from which Nikita is able to piece a life together, wholly separate from her own.
A picture of Michael at his MIT graduation. A picture of Michael with his father, a man that Michael undeniably took after in stature. A more recent picture of Michael, dressed in a tux. She recognizes the jolly, ruddy-cheeked NSA director laughing beside Michael. Michael's arm is loosely wrapped around a woman with statuesque features, wearing an expensive maroon dress, her blond hair loose by her shoulders. Nikita doesn't recognize the woman, and within her, something fearfully green rears its ugly head.
"I need to go," she says aloud.
"I'll let Michael know you came around t' the house," Nikita suddenly hears over her shoulder. She whips her head around. Laura smiles kindly.
"No, no need. I will—I'll let myself out," Nikita breathlessly lets out in a hurry.
Laura hobbles after Nikita when she swiftly grabs the front door and literally sprints outside. She quickly hops down the porch steps, wanting nothing more than to get away from this place, from the aching, unfathomable feeling she gets from it.
"Nikita," Laura calls out.
Nikita turns around, feeling somewhat ashamed that she acted so rudely to a woman of Laura's age. She was taught better than this. "Yeah?"
"Please do come back again deah. I'd like t' get t' know you."
Unable to help herself, Nikita wrenches a smile out and replies, "Of course."
"It's crazy Daniel. This world is crazy." Nikita has never spoken to a gravestone. It feels a little awkward at first, but there's no one else she's been able to honestly talk to. When Daniel was alive, he had that way about him that just made her want to open up and be vulnerable after years of building up personal barriers.
It was so refreshing and freeing, and she actually thought he would make an honest woman out of her. Funny how that turned out.
"Didn't expect me to be here did you?" she asks affectionately. The words come easier, spilling out with less trouble. "I have some news. Percy's dead. Michael e-mailed me your written confession, and you called Percy a psychopath."
Nikita lays down a bouquet of daisies at the base of the gravestone, worn from weather. She toes aside the autumn leaves and detritus piled up over the season and kneels down.
"You were right. He was, but I turned a blind eye," she contritely remarks.
"I think Michael was right. I needed the control after you died. I didn't want to feel like that again, that time after you died." She twists her face and touches his headstone. "And look what I got myself in to. I ended up creating a group of killers with a trail of victims who never deserved to die. I sent them out, knowing that they might never come back." She quickly wipes away a stray tear she never meant to let out.
"Some of them," she continues. "They never did come back. I killed good men Daniel for money. I killed kids." Her voice cracks. "And I find this all out from this guy I fall in love with, who's a double agent and a liar and I should have known this." The last word is lost in her hitched breath.
She presses the palms of her hands to her eyes. "Christ, I never meant for this to happen. What am I supposed to do now?"
A breeze sweeps her hair and nips at her face. For a moment there, she can almost hear Daniel's voice, optimistic, because he always thought the next day could be better. He was such an obnoxious ray of sunshine, even out on recon, and he always made her laugh.
But then it fades. Nikita can't hear him anymore.
She tenses when she notices someone watching her from behind a column of mausoleums. At first, she thinks it's the trick of the light or the sun staring directly into her eyes. From afar, a tall figure with broad shoulders pops the collar of his trench coat when the wind hits him.
Her breath seizes as she sharply inhales. Their eyes meet, and his expression is indiscernible. He digs his hands into his coat pockets and turns to leave.
A tree branch above her head sways from the wind, creaking from the momentum when Michael's back hides in the distance.
Something within Nikita clicks into place, giving her an abnormal sense of clarity and movement. She's not sure what it is, and maybe in retrospect, she'll be able to name it. Not now though.
She reaches into her pocket and places her engagement ring on the top of Daniel's headstone. It traps the light and glimmers even under the shadows. She used to amaze at the prisms of white when the diamond was on her hand.
But that was a long time ago.
"Daniel, I'm sorry."
Under a skeletal tree craning its branches down to her, Nikita keels over and quietly sobs, releasing all the pain, betrayal, and death as a catharsis-deep like a well-washes over her.
Nikita finds a pen and signs her name and rank-SSG Nikita K Ngo- and then snaps the pen cap close.
She almost feels like a burden has been lifted off of her. She almost feels free.
"Alex," she breathes out. She corrects herself. "Liliya."
"I'm—I…it sounds like you're okay," Alex says warily.
"…I guess I am."
The days go by at a gauzy, almost dreamy, pace. She hasn't experienced life like this, since, well, never. Her life's been constantly one thing after another, but now, Nikita doesn't have a whole lot to do. She lays low, but she's not too entirely worried, keeping an ear planted on the intelligence and underground radars. She starts hiding out in a dilapidated mansion that crumbled as soon as the economy did and sleeps thirteen hours every day.
While lying on a cot that harkens back to her more utilitarian days in the army, Nikita stares at the ceiling, and after a while, she's able to close her eyes and feel a little more at peace with herself.
Once she's fed up with that though, Nikita hacks into the NSA database, ekes out Michael's phone number, and rings him up.
The sun warms up the autumn wind, but it doesn't stop Nikita from digging her hands into her coat pockets. She's in South Boston, and for some reason, the spot she's supposed to meet him at-a playground with a metal half-dome structure as old as the neighborhood itself and a history that moves with or without Nikita being there-feels a lot like she's encroaching on personal territory.
She first spies him across the street. He sits on a bench facing the swings, epitomizing the model of an intelligence agent. A simple, dark navy suit, shaven face, neatly trimmed hair. He looks terribly normal and genteel, discreet and unassuming. Nothing of a Middle Eastern dusty desert and its harsh, beautiful landscape. Nothing of a worn village well and its hidden depths and swelling current. He just.
He just is.
A torrent of emotions washes over Nikita—indignation, caution, fear, and strong yearning synced to her rapidly beating heart. She wishes she could loathe him more.
Michael sits up when she approaches. She stops in front of him, the affadavit tucked under her arm, and for a moment, they stare at each other, an awkward silence as they try to figure out what to say.
"I'm surprised," is the first thing Nikita says to Michael after months apart. "I never thought you were the stalker type."
Michael cracks a smile. One side of his mouth lifts higher. Crooked. It's then that Nikita realizes: perhaps she does know this man. She hands him an envelope containing the affidavit.
"Nikita. You look different," he notes when he takes the envelope, eying her new haircut and the fringe brushing her eyebrows, the heavy canvas jacket and jeans combo, a far cry from her standard skirt-suit while working for Division.
"Hmm," she says as she sits down next to him, feigning an air of indifference.
He shifts the envelope back and forth in his hands. They sit in silence, not quite as awkward but not quite relaxed. Nikita listens to the children laughing on the playground.
"INSCOM misses you," Michael finally says to her while watching a couple play with their dog. "They're willing to take you back."
"I met your mother," she abruptly says, ignoring his last statement.
Michael chuckles. "I know. She told me 'a very pretty lady' came by," he says, imitating his mother's broad accent. "You didn't have to go meet my parents. I told you I didn't lie about everything."
"I couldn't trust you..."
"But?" he continues for her.
"I heard you retired from the NSA," she says instead.
"That is true," he says, playing along with Nikita's sudden shifts in conversation.
Nikita sits there for a while with her arms crossed. Michael waits patiently for her.
"You know how you told me about Jimmy?" she finally says.
"I went to your house expecting to find something completely different than what you deceived everyone with." Michael looks almost ashamed. "And I saw the picture of you and Luke on the piano-stand. You weren't actually lying," she says quietly.
"Nikita, I want you to know that Alex and I…we never meant to hurt you."
"I know. Alex already explained everything to me. She sounded sorry."
"She is. We both are."
"God, this is—" Nikita sighs. "You weren't expecting me to come to Colombia, were you?"
Michael shakes his head. "No. We meant to extract the box, then pull out, and I would be presumed dead. We already knew that Jaden was coming. It was a measure of whether or not I could get you to leave and not get stuck in the crossfire. You were hard to get rid of."
He sort of smiles at her, wistful. It nearly makes her respond in kind.
"You were the one asking me to stay though," she corrects him.
"I know," he says. "I was improvising. Alex was worried on her end that I wouldn't get out in time when Jaden came in."
She opens her mouth to say something, but her eye catches a gleaming light on his left hand.
Michael follows her line of vision and instantly covers his hand, moving it away from her sight.
"Are you married?" she asks, unsurprised.
"Widowed." Michael twists the ring, pausing. "My daughter and wife died in a car accident about six months before I went undercover. It's been three years, two weeks ago."
Sarah and Haley, she thinks. That's who they were.
He continues, "I heard about it when I was in Kosovo, following an alleged Division agent. I wanted to go in undercover as soon as possible, but the NSA stuck me in therapy first. I-" A pause. "I lied when I told them I was okay."
Nikita imagines the pain he must've gone through, the anger, the grief, the guilt, and the gaping void they must've left in his life, how the shrink must've talked to him like he actually understood what death meant and how desperately Michael needed to get away from everybody's sympathetic murmurs and sad looks. How he must've hit a tipping point, ready to tear things apart from his frustration at the world, at life, at everyone, everything, and anything.
She's familiar with the feeling. It's then, without consciously knowing it, that she starts forgiving him for the lies and deceit.
Michael moves in his seat, increasingly flustered. "I don't even know why I'm telling you this," he murmurs. "Anyway," he says loudly, "that's not the point. Percy's been on the CIA's most dangerous list for the past decade, and as you heard, he's been killed."
"I know," she says.
"But we haven't been able to locate Amanda." He purposefully looks at Nikita. She doesn't even flinch.
"I don't think she's a threat at the moment. She has other obligations on her hands."
The expression on Michael's face tells her that he's not quite convinced, but he'll take it.
"Okay, well. When we brought down Percy, we angered a lot of powerful people. Gogol's been looking around for the remaining boxes and sniffing under rocks for you."
Nikita closes her eyes and sighs.
Michael continues, "And the reason why I stepped down is because I've been assigned by the intelligence community to track Gogol. If you're not going back to INSCOM, I want you to join me."
Nikita opens her eyes to the sight of a little girl with dark hair and dark eyes running to her mother. It reminded her of a memory at some place in another time. "There's not a lot that Division knew about Gogol other than they're big, global, and scary. They rival Division in black market ties and resources," she says.
"It doesn't matter if we don't have the info yet. You're good at what you do. We could use that."
"I joined Division, because I thought, somehow, I could avenge Daniel. Percy told me that Kline signed the orders for the friendly fire. I was so angry. I never thought to double-check, but it's what kept me going. You know…I thought that I was right." She laughs mirthlessly. "I think I'm tired of dealing with black op organizations."
"We could run away."
"You know we can't do that. It was foolish of me to even bring it up." He looks away from her. "I'm sorry Niki."
Nikita's fingers find his hand and grip it, tightly, because she feels a bizarre unsteadiness, and that if she doesn't hold on to him, she'll float away with the wind to some unforeseen, unfathomable place. Michael threads their fingers together, and he keeps them pressed against his thigh.
"It won't end you know," she tells him, the future foreboding. "Even after Division, after we're dead, there'll be something else and after that, something else. Division wasn't the end of it. Gogol won't be the end of it."
Michael looks up to the sky, the clearest it's ever been all season in Boston. The sun blinds his eyes as he squints, searching for something he can't name. He wonders if Nikita is searching for the same thing. Beside him, Nikita shudders from the cold.
He lifts his arm and wraps it around Nikita's shoulders.
"I know," Michael murmurs against her head. She believes him.
Nikita had been afraid that he wasn't real, and if she tried, her hand would swipe air, and he'd disappear. Or maybe she was the one who wasn't real, having committed herself to a world made up of shadows and illusions that inversed everything she thought was true.
But she doesn't fall into him like he's an illusory ghost, because there he was. As solid and tangible as the ground beneath her.
Suddenly, everything's been turned upside down again, and perhaps, she's only re-orienting her perspective to reality. It has been a long time after all.
Michael's fingers tangle in her long hair, and she tightens her hold on his hand.
"What are you going to do then?" he asks.
She doesn't answer, because she doesn't know.
Instead, she leans into Michael and imagines that what it'd be like to work in INSCOM again-General Kline at his rear corner office, barking orders at people scurrying about in the bullpen and her catching up with her old unit. Finding out one's married, another has kids, and another retired and owns a vineyard instead.
Maybe she'll going out overseas in uniform again, have another tour of duty, serving her fellow man, serving God and country. Or perhaps, go overseas to slowly disassemble the Gogol machine, one piece at a time until there's nothing left but scraps and a victory in her fist, knowing that she did some good.
Maybe she'll even go home to a warm body. Maybe there'll be nights where Michael curls up against her after a particularly demanding op, and they'll share kisses and jokes and secrets and burdens. Where in their bed, he'll murmur things about how he likes coffee more than tea, and he'll laugh, deep and round, when she admits to him that she once thought of him as a village well and an Afghan desert.
Maybe, where one day in the future, her hands will be washed of blood and dead Division operatives barely eighteen, Daniel will be a tender, nostalgic memory, and eventually, she'll recognize the difference between right and wrong again.
Maybe, years down the road if she isn't dead already, she'll finally be able to completely forgive herself.
Then, lovingly, slowly, carefully (because she is not a doll, only bone and tissue and oh so terribly human and he has known this all along), Michael brushes her bangs back. During the bitter cold of the day, his lips against her forehead promises something, something that feels like the sun's first rays arching out from beyond the stony, arid cliffs after a night of nothing but thrumming fright while hoping to God that she'll survive the war.
It promises something like redemption. Maybe, something like a new beginning.
So she softly whispers to him, "Maybe."
Couple of final (lengthy) notes:
Nikita's military rank is SSG, which means Staff Sergeant. SSGs are able to command squads (of about four people) and if the rank above is unavailable (which is I think Sergeant First Class), command a platoon. Why did I think of military for her? Taking in her canon background and poor childhood, I thought about how she'd become a leader in Division. Michael was originally Naval intelligence, so I thought, why not?
INSCOM stands for US Army Intelligence and Security Command.
As for Michael, as you find out, he's the assistant director of an NSA department, which I totally made up. Why is an assistant director going undercover? Good question. Why is Michael from Boston? Because Fringe's Olivia Dunham is from Boston, and I love their dialect. There should be a Fringe-Nikita crossover!
And then I made up a lot of stuff, because it just sounded cool.
The story ends on a sort of ambiguous note with Gogol and Nikita's last piece of dialogue, because really, when you're in a job that constantly puts your morals into question, fighting an abstract "evil", what's going to happen? Ultimately, what I'm more interested in is: what happens to a person in the thick of that?
But that's why we love spy stories.
More notes (Can't shut up. Swear this is the last bit):
I'm not really interested in continuing the universe, so if anyone's interested, go wild! Just let me know ahead of time, so I can relish the new story.
Finally, much love and hearts and virtual cookies for the reviews and support. Because, really, what's a story without anybody to read it? I luff you all, and thanks for sticking through the insane amount of dialogue and character exposition and random back stories and the weird AU-ness of the whole thing. I completely created a different creature than the show, and somehow, people enjoy it. Again, you have my infinite gratitude.