Not the hipster parody I originally set out to write. This is decidedly much more serious. Set post 1x04 "Rough Trade". Don't own. Don't sue. Un-beta'd.


"Okay, okay, dude. Get this. A brunette walks into a bar…"

Michael slams down his shot glass, straight vodka burning his throat, and motions for cup of water. To his left, a man loudly guffaws at his companion, a similarly inebriated college-aged yuppie as they share another joke.

Michael hasn't gotten a buzz yet, and his navy training is telling him it's a stupid idea to get drunk, especially in a joint like this. It's a small pub, modestly crowded for a Friday night with people milling about and the noise level getting rowdier by the minute as the night continues on.

It's not the sort of place he would frequent. It's not his taste. He likes the cozy jazz club farther up five blocks, the one with a live band and a dark, hazy atmosphere perfect for unwinding after a day at work. He used to go there when Nikita was a field agent. They'd meet up in between ops and listen to the band play, him with his beer and her with her soda—he made sure: no alcohol for recruits even on the outside.

She used to tease him about his watchful gaze, but she liked the jazz. It was something they bonded over. She had no idea what he meant when he compared the band's trumpeter to Miles Davis, and he had promised himself, one of these days, he'd give her his Miles Davis CD.

He stopped going when she went deep undercover. After she met Daniel.

He doesn't remember the last time he visited the club. All he does remember is that he was alone, and the music wasn't the same. It was after Nikita left Division.

"…and she's all like, 'oh baby, that's great.'" Another guffaw like the sound of donkeys.

Michael tries to shift away, one ear unfortunately getting yanked into their conversation. The bawdy yuppie telling jokes, a man in an ill-fitting suit like he's a little boy playing grown-up, jabs Michael's arm.

"Oh, oh, sorry man. Accident," he says, his words slurring at the edges. He claps his hand on Michael's shoulder. "We cool dude?"

Michael looks down at the hand on his shoulder before looking up at the yuppie, his bourgeois taste in hair styles, his irksomely red face, and the assumption that Michael was considered a "dude". The yuppie lifts his hand off when Michael callously turns back to his water, too exhausted to deal with him.

"Jesus, what the fuck man? I was trying to apologize!" the yuppie blares into Michael's ear.

Michael doesn't respond. Instead, he lifts himself up and digs into his coat pocket, picking out cash for the bartender.

"Keep the change," he says to the bartender, who eyes the agitated man crowding into Michael's space.

When Michael turns to leave, the yuppie slams his hand into Michael's shoulder, pushing him back into the counter. "Fuck you man!"

His friend, a bit taller and lankier than the yuppie, tries to grab the man's arm, telling him to "chill out". The yuppie shrugs him off. Michael considers the man for a moment. He's shorter than Michael, less built around the shoulders and arms, and substantially at a handicap.

The yuppie telegraphs a punch. Michael hunches over, getting ready to snap the yuppie's arm up and twist it at a painful angle. Michael imagines the satisfying crack of his bone bending in Michael's grasp.

Instead, a smooth voice interrupts, "Boys."

That voice, Michael knows that voice.

"I'm sorry about him. He got impatient waiting for me."

The yuppie stares at the brunette woman. His eyes trace the length of her legs, long and slender. He lets his mouth gape dumbly.

Nikita cants her head and politely smiles. She effortlessly slots herself into the yuppie's seat, her hand latching onto Michael's arm and gently guiding him back to his stool. "He's like that. I hope you'll forgive him," she says to the men still foolishly rooted to their spots.

"No, I mean, we're sorry, yeah," the yuppie's friend stammers.

He grabs his companion and drags him into the pub, far away from Nikita and Michael, while muttering that his friend was an idiot, he could've been beaten up to a pulp, the guy looked like a hit man, and did you see that pissed off expression?

Nikita follows their backs as they vanish into the crowd.

"Ah, alone at last," she says while motioning to the bartender. "You know co-eds. More bark than bite."

Michael watches her cautiously. "Nikita."

"Michael, I thought we were past this phase," she says breezily. That devil-may-care grin slides onto her face, the one that promised a whole hell lot of mischief for Michael.

He scowls. "What are you doing here?"

"I see you got back from Hong Kong in one piece," she says to him.

"Yeah," he replies. The bartender gives them a curious glance when he sets down Nikita's Coke. Nikita smiles at him, a pretty sight in her black dress and leather jacket.

"Does Percy know about you going to Hong Kong?" she asks after taking a sip of her drink.

"Nikita," he warns, his voice low. Out of habit, he looks over his shoulder to make sure he doesn't spot a shockingly blond-haired man wearing glasses and a dark trench coat amongst the crowd, tailing them.

She casually shrugs. She scans the room, taking in the sight of the pub's patrons, the loud television hooked up in a corner, and the raucous conversations. Michael notices how she hasn't really changed much in those missing three years between them.

"I thought you hated places like this," she says, leaning into him. Michael tenses, unfamiliar with the weight pressing into his body. But something he doesn't want to name that is achingly nostalgic doesn't push her away.

"How did you find me?"

"You trained me, remember? You told me it's not that hard to triangulate a cell phone." She turns to him. "Seriously, I thought you hated places like this. The music is terrible."

He raises his eyebrows. Michael can't even hear any music above the din of the pub. "What are you talking about?"

"Don't you hear it? Somebody put on some nineties pop song on the jukebox."

"Nikita…" he says with a familiar, tired-sounding exasperation.

"I miss our old place. Do you remember that one time you scolded me for not knowing the difference between Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday? I couldn't get why you cared so much."

Michael shares Nikita's smile, fond memories filling his mind. "Yeah, and then you accused me of over-tipping the bartender."

"You did," she asserts confidently.

Michael drops his eyes down at his cup of water, the ice having completely melted. "What are you doing here?" he says, softer with his words.

"I know you went against orders Michael," she says, her weight still pressed against him, their shoulders bumping into each other.

Michael doesn't respond, instead taking a drink of his water. Suddenly, he feels sick, because he's two-faced, a hypocrite, telling Percy one thing and keeping other things to himself. Nikita, playing up their old camaraderie and shared memories doesn't help things. The way she looks at him, her dark eyes alit like whenever she was around him, it doesn't get rid of the anger or the disgusting feeling in the pit of his stomach.

She betrayed Division, a voice in his mind reminds him. She betrayed you.

Michael shifts away from her, leaving Nikita with an empty space. She frowns and in the ensuing silence between them, starts shelling peanuts, separating the pieces into neat piles.

Nikita doesn't eat them, more interested at the task at hand instead. She gets nervous during quiet periods—Michael knows that. He's sure that she's gotten better at hiding her tic, but he's reminded of the time when she first entered Division. How she'd always needed something in her hands to wring whenever Percy glared or whenever Amanda would interrogate her for psych evals.

He automatically grabs Nikita's hand when it reaches for another peanut. "Stop that."

Nikita looks at him quizzically. "What?"

Michael, finally catching himself, instantly lets go. He scrubs his face, feeling like a mangled mess around her. It was so easy to slide into old routines, letting her be so close to him. It was too natural for him.

"Nothing." He clasps his hands together and touches his forehead to the apex of his joined fingers.

Nikita motions to bartender again, pointing at glass decanter in the shelf behind him. He sets a shot glass down and fills it with a syrupy brown liquid.

From the corner of his eye, he watches her down the drink. She squeezes her eyes shut, her expression pinched. She exhales loudly as she sets the empty glass next to her Coke.

Michael instinctively opens his mouth, a warning on the tip of his tongue. Nikita beats him to it.

"Don't say anything about the alcohol. I've been clean for more than seven years."

Michael lets out a gruff laugh, straightening out his back. Nikita, pleased, smiles in return.

"I never got to thank you," she finally tells him. She looks him squarely in the eyes, so earnest and genuine. "For what you did in Hong Kong. You had my back there."

She places a hand on the back of his neck. It's an intimate gesture, but something she used to do only for him.

It reminds Michael of the first time it happened in the jazz club, where she said the same thing after he saved her hide from some ex-KGB. She had leaned in close, their foreheads barely touching, and slid her hand around his neck, brushing down the hairs at the edge of his nape.

He had relished her touch. It was soft, and it had made him feel less alone in the world.

Michael breathes in. She smells like burnt honey and lavender.

"I shouldn't have," he says quietly.

In their own microcosm of a world, far away from the hubbub of life moving around them in the pub, Nikita replies, "I know I should have left Division good and alone, but I'm glad I got to see you anyway."

She leans in, like the last time this happened, and touches their foreheads together. Michael shuts his eyes and relaxes, like last time, and for a moment, he can hear the dulcet tones of a piano and an upright bass playing in harmony, lulling him into an affectionate sense of security.

Michael opens his eyes. Suddenly, he's back in some pub too loud for its own good, and the warmth behind his neck has gone as quickly as it appeared. The bartender serves Nikita another drink, who props her elbow on the counter, placing her head in her hand. She glances at Michael and quirks her eyebrows up in a challenge.

Michael settles into his stool. "Another one already?" he teases.

She laughs. "The drinks here aren't that bad." She swallows the amber liquid and motions for another one. She drops a couple of bills on the counter while the bartender fills another glass.

"Nikita, I think you should stop there," he says, partially joking, making sure that the bartender understood that Michael was glaring at him for a reason.

"You know Michael, I think that right now, if we had a race, you'd probably lose."

Michael chuckles and counts the number of empty shot glasses in front of her. "I really don't think so."

"I bet you can't win."

"Nikita, I have won every bet you have ever made."

She downs the shot and gives Michael a quick grin. "Then catch me if you can."

She rockets out of her seat, and the door swings in Michael's face when he runs after her. He slams the door open and rushes into the chill outdoors, his breath condensing in the air. A cold breeze stings his face. He looks around. Nikita is nowhere in sight. An empty road, save for a couple of people stumbling down the sidewalk, greets him instead.

His phone chirrups. He has a text from an unknown number.

Our usual place next time?

Michael's thumb hesitates above the reply button. His phone chirrups again.

I hear the band'll be playing a Miles Davis tribute.

He tries to repress the smile that curls up and presses the reply button.

We'll see.


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