Chapter 17 – Day 15 – Endings - What actually happened:

"You will sacrifice much for what you believe in and you will realize too late that you gave up on what truly mattered."

Nikita tossed and turned in bed, the words of Madam LaRue running endlessly through her head. She jerked forward with a gasp then buried her head in her hands. She had a feeling that what she decides to do next, will impact the path she would take.

Michael sat up and gently caressed her shoulder before asking: "What's wrong?"

She looked up to meet his concerned stare and leaned back against the head board, wrapping her arms around her raised knees. She tilted her head back and closed her eyes, attempting to erase memories of the dream.

Michael gave her the space she needed and waited patiently for her to respond to his question. She wanted nothing more than to tumble into his arms and feel the strength of his body against hers. She wanted to unburden her secret to him and tackle any obstacle as long as he was besides her. She kept silent fearful that he would turn away from her. Like so many things she's lost over the years, she had lost the courage to dream the impossible dream.

A heavy silence stretched between them, threatening to tear the closeness of the bond they had forged over the last few weeks. She opened her eyes to find Michael patiently waiting, with calm eyes that nevertheless betrayed concerns for her. She couldn't tell him her secret assignment, but she could share some of what's been bothering her the past year.

She sighed and answered: "I'm afraid to go back, Michael. I feel like I finally found a piece of myself once again over the last weeks. I don't want that feeling to go away."

He patiently asked: "What are you afraid of?"

"I don't feel like myself any more. I feel…lost."

He didn't respond, but silently encouraged her to continue. "I feel like the longer I've been inside Section and the more I compromise and adapt to survive, I also loose myself in the process. I didn't even realize how much I had changed until…"

He prompted: "Until?"

"Until Helmut."

She was afraid her announcement would hurt him, but Michael calmly looked back her waiting for an explanation. She hurried to reassure him: "I didn't love him, Michael."

"I know."

"He…reminded me of myself, or at least how I used to be. I used to be that idealistic, that sure of right from wrong. The longer I'm in Section the more the lines blur."

She shook her head wryly and continued: "Madeline used to say shades of gray, now all I see are just that. I don't even think I could distinguish the correct path versus the Section way."

"The essence of you is still there, Nikita. You haven't lost that."

She met his steady gaze, amazed that he could be so sure when all she had was doubt. "How can you be so sure?"

"I see you. I see the conflict you face every day as you struggle to survive in Section. You wouldn't have such a hard time if you weren't still hanging on."

Nikita was startled not only by the length of Michael's speech, but also to the faith he held for her. A faith that she would betray when she revealed she had been lying to him for so many years.

Lost in thought she said quietly: "I use to tell myself I wasn't really committing murder as long as I kill in combat. I once told Madeline that I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I killed in cold blood."

She met Michael's gaze and continued: "When I went to save Helmut from the Section team, I took them all out without a second thought. I even knew one of them, Chris, I went on several missions with him and exchanged greetings and jokes. They hesitated when they saw me and I used that advantage to take them out. They would have engaged in a firefight had it been a stranger."

Nikita was lost in memory for a long while, her stomach twisted tight at the recollection. She forced herself to continue: "I thought I would be sick afterwards, but I felt nothing, no remorse or regret, just a big fat nothing."

For the first time she started her confession Michael spoke up: "You were injured, Nikita, you were in shock."

"What about afterwards?"

"You were on pain medication to numb the pain."

"You can't explain it all away, Michael."

"I'm not trying to."

She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment before rashly asking: "How did you react the first time you had kill in cold blood?"

Other than a slight widening of his eyes, he did not react visibly to her question at all. Softly he replied: "The first time I threw up afterwards and I couldn't look at myself in the mirror."

She was shocked at his admission; she couldn't picture him having a hard time dealing with anything. She asked tentatively: "And now?"

"It got easier after that."

Sensing something he wasn't saying she pressed on: "Did it really get easier?"

His lips twisted slightly in a wry smile: "I don't think about it."

She was quiet as she went over his words. Something he had said caught her attention and she questioned him: "You said you couldn't look at yourself in the mirror afterwards."

Knowing what she was asking for, he replied: "I still can't."

Sometimes it's too easy to pretend that Michael came to be like this fully formed, without going through the mental, physical, and emotional wounds he must have received over the years. That he survived with his sanity intact was a tribute to his strength.

She thought about what Michael said and the implication behind them. To turn away from his own reflection, to be disgusted by it, revealed to her how unbearable life inside Section was for him. No matter the outcome, and the risk to herself, she was determined that he would be freed. She just wished she could be there to help him heal.

She looked into Michael's eyes. They could be cold, unfeeling, and concealing everything. This morning they were open, baring his wounded soul to her without reservation. It was her turn to mask her turmoil and deception. She revealed the love for him that she couldn't hold back, couldn't keep concealed from him.

"Please hold me, Michael."

He obliged, wrapping his strong arms around hers. She breathed in his spicy, intoxicating scent, reveling in this small window of opportunity to be together. All too soon that window would slam shut with her trapped on the opposing side from where she wanted to be, by his side.

The elevator hummed as they descended deep underground into Section. They stood on opposite sides of the elevator, mindful of the ever present cameras inside Section. They couldn't resist looking greedily at each other, drinking in the sights of their beloved's form.

The elevator door swings open, revealing the bright walls of the transport corridor. They proceeded silently into Section, blank masks firmly in place to face the unwelcomed reality. Before they parted, he to his office and her to Madeline's, they brushed their palms against each other in the lightest caress. It was one last affirmation of their love and devotion to one another in this cold, ruthless world.

The end.