We all live on the past,
Though the past is destroyed. – Goethe
"Nikita!" Michael called at the retreating figure of his favourite and most talented recruit. The girl turned around, now well and truly used to seeing the suited man with the bouffant and goatee. At her grin, an involuntary smile lit up his face. Quickly moulding it back into his customary scowl, he demanded, "Where do you think you're going?"
The girl rolled her eyes. "Why so protective, Michael? I'm just off to get something to eat."
"No you're not."
"Yes," she said firmly, "I am."
He smirked, "No, you're heading to the shooting range. You have to practice."
She frowned, walking towards him thoughtfully. Her hips swayed agonisingly slow as she swaggered over. "Practice? I think I'm pretty on top of my practice, thanks."
He peeled his eyes away from her skin-tight top and shook his head, "There's always room for improvement."
"Oh?" She cocked an eyebrow. With any other recruit he would have handed them straight over to Amanda for a system reboot. Her stubbornly folded arms and pursed lips challenged him to suggest a trip down the hall, yet both knowing that Michael would never subject her to that punishment. He resented his own weakness.
"Drop the act Nikita, let's remember who's in control of who," he growled.
She shrugged, brushing her fringe out of her face with an elegant hand, complete rebellion lining every feature of her sculptured face. There was something irresistibly fascinating about her wilful flouting of authority. She was different. Daring. Dangerous.
And it drove him insane.
"What do you want, Michael?" she commanded, "I'm starving and looking forward to a sub-standard Division meal. You should really ask Percy about that, you know. How many recruits have died from salmonella?"
"We hide the records in a secret box in the annex," Michael replied sarcastically. She laughed. The sound filling him with such joy that it took much effort for him to sustain a grouch. "You know the next Op makes you an agent, Nikki."
She sniffed, " I know. And seeing that I'm this close to being out of here, one would have thought you'd stop calling me that already. Sounds so...recruit-y."
"You are a recruit. And you'd do well to remember it."
She lowered the finger nails she'd been inspecting and raised an insipid eyebrow, thoroughly unimpressed with the half-hearted threat. But before she could turn away, Michael grabbed her wrist. Suddenly unbearably close, he forced her to look up. Something of her self-assured persona wavered for a second in those unfathomable brown depths.
"You can't fail," he hissed quietly, "This is your ticket out of here."
She stared back in silence. Electricity crackled between them. Something hot that might have been his own collar, or the warmth of her body unintentionally pressed against him. Hazel into coffee. Suit alongside sweats. A stillness that was unnaturally natural, disturbed only by two shallow breaths rising and falling in unison. Piercing the hush, a tap of footsteps, a guard. Blinking into reality, Nikita wriggled out of his grip.
"Fail? God Michael, what does that even mean?"
Before he could reply, she was gone.
Remember those walls I built,
Well, baby they're tumbling down.
And they didn't even put up a fight,
They didn't even make up a sound.
"Focus..." Michael ordered, "Another 15 blanks then we go live!"
They were in the barracks at the sniper range. Sub-level 8 was dominated by this gallery with its reinforced steel stretching down the sides. Mannequin torsos were strewn at various intervals down the two mile long stalls, all sporting bright red spots on their heads and chests.
Michael watched the varying degrees of skill before him. All the kids were at that treacherous stage between recruit and agent. Their provisionals loomed ahead, certain cancellation guaranteed unless they could successfully complete their relative assignments. With the enticing rewards of freedom and fresh air, the eight lined up behind their International AW's were aiming at targets past the 1mile mark.
"Rivers, eyes!" he yelled at one of the slower boys, the wayward bullet completely missing its aim and ricocheting off the metal wall with a discordant bang. Perhaps he should have given this one another 20 minutes before using real ammo.
Of the soon to be ex-recruits; six had decent potential, but two would be dead before the end of the month. Rivers, who was now adjusting his objective lens in embarrassment, was one of the unlucky pair. Of the gang currently assembled, Nikita was the only female. She was also the best, though he knew Amanda and Percy sometimes attributed his glowing references to bias. Though he reluctantly admitted some prejudice in her department, there was no denying that when faced with a knife at the throat, she'd escape. Somehow.
She was his greatest achievement, but ultimately, she'd had it in her blood. They'd merely embraced that untamed rage and channelled it into something vaguely civilised. Although sometimes, Michael thought with glazed sight, he imagined that when she was speaking to only him, there was something almost tender undertoning those often biting words.
"Sir!" cried one of the recruits. He jerked, stepping forward with the expectation that Rivers had shot someone. But instead, he observed a smug Nikita with her gun resting effortlessly in the crook of her arms.
Michael peered down at her shot. Amongst the beige dummies, was a bright blue one almost at the end of the room. It marked the longest ever shot fired at Division. Disbelievingly, he saw the flashing red light that indicated a shot past the record distance, albeit only by the length of about two hands. Nikita was beaming. After several moments, he grudgingly nodded. Rivers looked at her with eyes bulging, the others only grumbled bitterly.
"Whose record was it?" the awe-struck recruit asked after the unenthusiastic applause.
Michael hesitated, "I...can't remember. Some agent years ago. Died on a mission soon after. Goes to show that marksmanship isn't everything. Head down to the Common. Pair up and down hand to hand."
The recruits shouldered their weapons and filed away. Michael turned back to stare at the winning hit. As proud as he usually was of Nikita, is was an unpleasant feeling to see proof of her superiority right in front of him. How much longer before she started to overpower him on the mats. Hopefully she'd have graduated before he was forced to face that shameful day.
"Does this close that dreadful gap between mentor and recruit? Who controls who and all that?" she asked with a sly smile.
Michael ignored the way his mind jumped at the opportunities that presented themselves if he wasn't Percy's right hand man and she wasn't his student. He forced himself be stern, "What do you mean?"
She looked at her him through her eyelashes, "Well if I'm a better shot than you...does that mean I control you on the field? Tell you how to move...faster...slower...left, right..."
He stared at her, trying to see if she meant what he thought she meant, "What makes you think you're a better shot than me?"
Nikita tossed her head, "Oh please, we all know it was your record I broke."
"I told you marksmanship isn't the only make of a good field agent," he grunted. "Go and join the others."
She laughed lightly, "Well if I can kill them before they even get to me, where's the need to learn physical combat?"
He levelled a steely glare at her, "I'm being serious, Nikita."
"Yes, always so serious, Michael," she made a face, "Fine, I'll go. I just didn't want to get sweaty today."
I swore I'd never fall again,
But this don't even feel like falling.
Gravity can't forget,
To pull me back to the ground again.
"Michael, Percy wants you, sir," a guard called. He steeled himself and stepped into Operations.
The boss was standing in the middle of the room, eyes hawk-like and watching the multiple screens around the perimeter of the walls. He had that grim, satisfied smile that he always wore before an Op. Michael felt a shiver of anticipation shoot through him.
"The target is Vladimir Bushkenov," Percy barked, "He'll be at the The Plaza Hotel with a party of twelve. Our intel group has in booked into the royal suite, an expanse of luxury that spans an entire floor. Now, somewhere on that floor is a single hard drive containing...let's just say, 'delicate information'."
"I'll be leading the Operation?"
"Ensure there are no fatalities," said Percy turning a bold eye on Michael, "We don't want him to know that it's missing."
Michael nodded. That would mean Nikita wouldn't have to kill anyone just yet. No matter how big she talked, he knew that the fiesty recruit would not enjoy the ultimate act of murder. He recalled a striking conversation very early on in her training. Soon after she'd beaten her trainer Brutus unconscious in a fit of fury, he had sat her down and forced her to unwillingly listen to his explanation of Division. Through that conversation, he'd discovered, without her really saying anything at all, that her greatest fear – and the one thing that fuelled all that anger – was the knowledge that she was capable of killing someone. Not only capable, but that she had done it too. He had managed to convince her that training was worthwhile. That it served the country. That it could protect.
Still, he knew that despite all his lectures and all her confidence, if they didn't handle Nikita's first kill properly – there'd be hell to pay. Michael didn't look forward to the daunting task of rationalising assignment kills from another she'd committed all those months ago.
Amanda seemed to understand his relief and the stony woman on the other side of Percy caught his eye with a nod.
"I want the contents of the device to be uploaded onto this," Percy lifted a compact laptop from Birkhoff, "Then it needs to be returned to its rightful place without him being any the wiser. Understood? Good. As you know, provisionals always include a kill. So as such, this cannot be Nikita's graduating Op."
Michael nodded, "Should I take her off it?"
Percy waved his words away, "No no...this is just a training task, but she doesn't need to know that. Keep her in the dark. If the recruit believes she's becoming an agent, she'll work harder. Why waste such a good incentive? No, I have something in the works just for our Nikita. It'll really test her. But until then, focus on Bushkenov. Well then? Snap to it."
Back on the landing overlooking the Common, his eye was instantly drawn to a slim figure working a punch bag like there was no tomorrow. Her athletic beauty had him studying every ripple of muscle, every stretch of sinew. Every now and again, he threw a disinterested glance over the other recruits, sometimes registering dubious technique on the bowstaff or shoddy footwork in a Krav Maga session. But in due course, he'd be drawn back to the knitted brows of the girl striking the rubber sack.
In one of these moments when he would be magnetically drawn to watching her body at work, Nikita happened to pause and take a breath. Noticing him standing there, she grinned and wandered over.
"So?" she asked in between gulps of water. "I know you were with Percy."
Michael shook his head, "You never let up, do you?"
She winked, "Come on, what's the mission about?"
"You'll get the details once Amanda briefs you," he explained, "Soon. Two days, tops."
Nikita surveyed him in a strangely thorough way with her head tilted to the side, looking up at him. He squirmed under her scrutiny, unable to take the intense silence between them.
"Can I at least have a general idea?" she pleaded, bounding up the stairs until she was on equal footing. She fell into step though he refused to acknowledge her, continuing well inside the maze of tunnels that made up the recruit dorms. "Where are we going?"
"Are you up to scratch with your training?"
"I'm insulted you even had to ask...give it up Mikey, what's the big deal? Operations' been looking like Grand Central these few days."
He smirked, "Is that why you've been working the bag nearest to the window for the past week?" She gave a shifty glance sideways then melted into a smile. "You're not as smart as you think you are, Nikita."
"I resent that."
They laughed, Michael's usually severe expression disappearing in an instant. "It's at The Plaza, this Sunday."
A moment of realisation dawned on Nikita's face and she blinked at the man now standing in front of her dormitory door. He shuffled from foot to foot, expecting to see the usual triumph only to face something incomprehensible, as if there were too many emotions just under the surface, all rolled into one, for him to decipher. A sweeping look up and down the corridor and he doggedly continued.
"It's not a kill job..." he explained slowly, "It's not...I'm sorry Nikita, this won't be your provisional assignment."
Nikita lowered her eyes for a moment, consumed with both regret and relief. When she looked up again, she was smiling brightly, "So all that training was just to scare us? I need to speak to Percy about his anti-climaxes."
Michael grabbed her shoulders in alarm, "You cannot tell Percy. When Amanda briefs you, act like you have no idea about it."
Nikita looked shocked as Michael pushed her roughly against her door. She attempted to break free from his tightening grip, "But why?"
He didn't reply instead searching greedily in her eyes for what he told himself was reassurance that she would play her part. "Just promise me you'll pretend. It's against protocol to...give you any information before briefing."
Nikita didn't miss a beat, "Then why did you tell me?"
He hesitated, like he'd been slapped, "I...because I trust that you'll not let me down."
She pouted, "You're no fun, you know that? You'd put your duty before anything. Is there a reason the all mighty adults want to keep me stuck down here?"
Nikita looked down at her feet, Michael's hands still wrapped around her shoulders. He watched her, biting his tongue to keep from saying things he'd regret. His throat constricted, lips pressed tightly together as the unformed words collected inside his mouth. Voiceless, he took a gentle hand and took it to her neck. Her chin lifted, she listened as he awkwardly phrased a sentiment he didn't quite seem to understand.
"Nikki...everything I seem to do with you...is wrong. At least it's supposed to feel...wrong, but...sometimes I think, it feels...better than it should," he said in earnest, "And when I let those 'sometimes'...become stronger than it's safe to...let...them become – then I do things that aren't my 'duty'."
She seemed to be choking back laughter at his obvious discomfort. He scowled, jarring back into austerity. "And breaking protocol was one of those moments. That will never happen again."
Nikita opened her mouth to argue that it most certainly would happen again but froze as she noticed how close he was to her. Not just his body, she was used to the proximity from training sessions, but his face. The stubble, the lips, his breath, hot and staggered. She noticed her heart was pounding and realised he could probably feel it, leaning against her like he was.
They found they didn't really mind.
"I'm glad it's not a kill job," Nikita whispered, blinking her dark eyes into Michael's lighter ones. He noticed her bringing it back to business and slowly moved away. The rush of cold air that filled the gap instantly made him regret the action. But the friction was gone and there was no way to bring it back. With head thumping and something hot very deep inside him, Michael nodded at her and stalked off.
When he was well on the other side of Division, he collapsed back against a wall and groaned. What had he gotten himself into?
Hit me like a ray of sun,
Burning through my darkest night.
You're the only one that I want,
Think I'm addicted to your light.
Lyrics from 'Halo' by Beyonce. Not sure if I'll leave this as a oneshot or extend it. I just fell in love with the show and Mikita :)
EDIT (Dec 30th 2011): Now the new edited version. 50% changed, mainly to dialogue. Enjoy!