This chapter touches slightly on: On Borrowed Time
Chapter 3 Or We Could Live – Part 4
It's been two months, two long unbearable months since he and Nikita had a chance to be alone together without the watchful eyes of Section. It didn't help that Nikita seemed set on torturing me, showing up in sexy revealing outfits, 'accidently' bumping into me at every turn, or just generally being her usual gorgeous self.
It had gotten to the point where we would plan to meet inside Section just for brief stolen moments to reaffirm our devotion to one another. I was on my way for a rendezvous with her and it was difficult maintaining a detached mask and to walk in my usual measured pace. I hardly recognize myself, this lust crazed person, who was unable to concentrate on anything but Nikita.
I turned the corner and there was the object of my desire, looking beautiful in white, standing out in the usual black most operatives dress in. "They haven't posted the assignments yet."
"So we won't be able to meet. Not enough time to form a plan."
"If the posting happens soon, there's still a chance."
"Why the delay?"
"Could be a hundred reasons."
"Could be about us."
"They don't know enough or they would have stopped us."
"Maybe we should pull back for awhile."
Nikita said this like a challenge to do the opposite, a challenge I happily accepts as we leaned in for a kiss. As usual, one taste of those perfect lips was never enough. I wanted to devour her, take her in my arms and claim her as my own. It was difficult pulling back when I heard a distant door closing. Years of being cautious were too ingrained to ignore and I reluctant sent her away.
"We'll be together soon. I'll make it happen. Go now."
Shortly after the Crimson Storm mission, Operations and Madeline have set several traps in the attempt to catch Nikita and I going off profile. Since we didn't take their bait and performed strictly by the books, the duo had stopped trying. It didn't mean they were giving up or that I would relax in vigilance.
I was initially wary when I saw the profile for the Genefex mission only called for a two person team. Having reviewed the mission parameter and objective, it was plain that a smaller team was the best approach to avoid suspicion. Reviewing the profile also revealed a way to shorten the time frame and give us a window to meet. It was risky, but such opportunities are rare.
The mission was going smoothly and ahead of schedule. When Nikita didn't meet at the designated location, I knew instantly something was wrong. While searching for her I noticed one of the lab technicians was shadowing me. Recognizing the pursuit behavior as standard Section training, I set out a trap for him. Fear for Nikita and anger at my inability to keep her from harm, made me less than gentle when I grabbed his arm and slammed him against the wall.
"What are you doing here?"
"What do you mean? I work here!"
"Section? What's Section?"
"I've trained a thousand operatives. You smell of Section."
"Listen. Get your hands off-"
Impatient at this inept grunt wasting my time, I broke his arm without hesitation. I forced his other arm behind his back as a warning. "You still have one good arm. If you want to keep it, talk."
"Why are you here?"
"Why wasn't I told?"
"Preserve security in case of capture."
"That's what they told me. I swear."
"They also told you to keep an eye on me and Nikita."
"Where is she?"
"I'm not sure. There was a shadow profile on my panel. It showed activity on the top floor."
"Right about now."
"If you're lying, I'll kill you."
I ran up the stairs, hoping the whole way that Nikita was okay. I found an empty room with no obvious signs as to what might have taken place. Nikita appeared from the other end of the room, looking unharmed. It was all I could do not to run and take her into my arms.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Operations sent me on a branch mission. There's been a change in the main mission profile. We have to return to Section."
Nikita's words were impersonal, giving nothing away. She made no mention of missing our planned rendezvous, no visual cue even of regret about the missed opportunity.
"Nikita. Are you sure you're all right?"
There was something seriously off about Nikita. The first clue was when we got back to the mission van. Since we were alone, Nikita normally would have used this opportunity to sit next to me. She thrived on touches, even if it's the barest brush of our sleeves. It was her way of giving and receiving comfort. That she sat on the opposite side of the van and then closed her eyes for a nap was strange. I couldn't shake the feeling that something had inexplicably changed.
When we returned I confirmed with Birkoff that Nikita was called away for a branch mission. He told me that Operations had sent Nikita to obtain a hard copy secondary buyer's list. His confirmation raised more red flags than eased them since there were no need for Nikita to go off profile and leave her primary team member in the dark if it was part of the mission. Plus, there was nothing about a secondary buyer's list in the mission Intel.
When she was called in for a mission briefing, she didn't glance at me even once. It was as if a switch had been flipped and the light had gone out of her eyes. The uneasiness grew when she left Section without saying goodbye. She had gotten in a habit of checking in every time before she leaves as a way to see each other without raising the suspicion of observers.
I couldn't ignore my suspicions anymore and I went to her apartment despite the risk. I once told Nikita I didn't believe in intuition. What I did believe was my ability to understand what she was feeling. It was how I had known that she was keeping a secret when she returned to Section and when she was hiding her involvement with Adrian. I couldn't read her now other than indifference and it was a terrifying feeling.
She let me into the apartment easily and I noted immediately the renovation taking place. She was painting everything white, a blank canvas, a color she told me she disliked in anything other than clothing.
"What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to see you."
"Yeah? They're watching the apartment you know."
The need to touch her was overwhelming and I ran a strand of her hair between my fingers. She gave me a confused look, as if unsure why I was touching her as she kept painting.
"What did they do to you?"
I forced her to drop the roller, to meet my gaze. She looked back at me, clearly uncomfortable at being touched.
She was obviously lying to me, but lying about what? I couldn't resist stroking the side of her face before softly kissing her. She pulled back with a look of warning.
"Don't." She jerked away from my touch. "I don't know. Don't remember."
There were tears in her eyes and she looked lost and confused. I took her hand to kiss it, but she jerked away and moved out of my reach.
"Don't. It doesn't work. I don't love you anymore."
Those words rang in my head over and over again. It was one of my worst fears, that Nikita would stop caring, would stop loving me. It was worse than my fear though since Nikita hadn't stopped loving me of her own volition. Her mind had been tampered with. They had ripped out a piece of her, a piece I cherished, and left her confused and in pain. I couldn't stand her pain on top of the ones I'm feeling. I left to prevent hurting her with my presence, had to leave to save my soul from breaking.
I walked away without a word, needing that distance now between us, where before all we wanted was to be together. "I don't love you anymore." Those words kept echoing in my mind taunting me, remind me of the cruelty by those in charge of our lives. That they would so coldly manipulate our emotions by denying they ever existed was the last straw. I had played by their rules, obeyed their commands, and tore my soul apart at their bidding. I would not let them do the same to Nikita.
"I won't let them do this."