Weee~ it's update time! Uhh, I actually finished this like, a week ago and totally forgot to post it! Haha! Sorry for that! I've been so busy and my head's such a complete mess right now.

Oh, and thank you so much for everything! The feedback is just so wonderful and overwhelming, it makes me grin like an idiot all day. Thank you thank you thank you so much! You all should get a trophy or something! :]

Okay, one last burst in my A/N! Season 2 is here! OMFG! Isn't it so bad ass? Mikita practically runs my Fridays (well, actually, it's Saturdays here because of different time zones. XD). Just love it!... All types of awesomeness in one show! And I am totally in love with Birkhoff right now! Haha! The Mikita-Birkhoff tandem is just so freaking funny and amazing, it's perfect! And don't even get me started on Owen…

Ahem… Enough of that. So here we go with the update! Enjoy!

"Love over duty, huh?"

"Who wouldn't make the choice?"

"I know someone." – 1x13

Chapter 4: Tortured Reluctance

"We'll talk about that when I get back tomorrow."

"Yes, sir."

"How is she?"

"She's resting. Her fever seems to have gone down already."

"Good. When she wakes up and seems stable, you two can fly back to Division later. She can continue recuperating there. I'll arrange her debriefing, and possibly her new assignment, the day after next."

"Thank you, sir."


Michael placed his cellphone back in the heatproof container situated next to him. He felt a bit satisfied, managing to convince Percy that Nikita had come down with some flu and buying them some extra time. He wiped away with the back of his hand a bead of sweat that loomed above his right eye. Tugging on the collar of the towel bathrobe, opening it a bit wider, he sighed.

God, it was hot.

Well, it should be expected since he was in a sauna.

The figure whose head was resting on his lap stirred, causing him to slightly tense up. But after a few strained seconds, she didn't show any other signs of regaining consciousness.

He relaxed a bit. His heart returned to its natural rhythm again. Everytime Nikita made the slightest movements, his heart seemed to just stop beating, and his breath gets stuck in his throat, edgy in anticipation.

It's been like that for the past 2 hours.

Michael tucked a lock of dark hair behind her ear. Even though she was unconscious, she looked monumentally better. Her skin wasn't sallow, cold and clammy anymore. She breathed in and out more steadily now. And her pulse thrummed evenly under his fingers.

Grabbing the tiny empty vial from his bathrobe's pocket, he rolled it between his fingers. Raising it to his eye level, he read the silver letters printed on the label: methadone hydrochloride

Placing the vial back in his pocket, he gazed at Nikita. He figured that it was a good thing that the drug keeps her knocked out throughout the whole withdrawal process, saving her from the pain. She was still going through withdrawal though, but it was already nearing the end. Or so the doctor said. He was told that the drug's sedative effects would slowly wear off along with the withdrawal symptoms after the first hour.

All he really needed to know was that she was going to be okay.

Michael leaned his head against the lilac-painted concrete walls and exhaled deeply. He can't believe how much worry one woman can elicit from him. He didn't even know he had that much worry in him.

But he'd like to think that, if it was any other agent or recruit, he'd still be concerned about their welfare just as he is now. And he'd have done the same to get them better, just like what he was doing now – going through detox via sauna with the affected person. It was in his nature to care and look out for them. Someone had to. It was his mantra. He'd like to think that he'd be fair and treat them all the same.

He could rationalize his actions for the next decade for all he cared but he'd know it still wouldn't matter.

He could never treat every agent the same way he was taking care of Nikita now.

Because for one thing, he wouldn't let just any agent rest their head on his lap.

But personally, Nikita had that privilege.

That's why everything was so messed up.

He couldn't even get mad at her for what happened last night. It was his decision to stay and have a drink with her. It just so happened that their next drinks were laced with drugs. It wasn't her fault. It was purely fate playing a dirty trick on their twisted relationship. If he really wanted to, he could blame it on fate but, where would that go?

Besides, alcohol only loosens people's inhibitions. Which meant that his actions last night were innate; parts of him that were only tucked away, locked up, or restrained due to circumstances. The alcohol only brought those feelings to the surface and the drugs gave him a chance and reckless courage to act on it.

A lot of things happened last night that he couldn't believe that it had the possibility of being concocted in his head. But one of their incidents stuck out to him most. Placing his right hand on Nikita's shoulder, he gazed at the simple gold ring on his finger.

He didn't know for sure but maybe in his subconscious he did want to be married again, if he had the chance. Waking up, to have that feeling and knowledge that someone was bound to another because of love. He never really deliberately thought about marriage after Elizabeth's death given that he was then recruited into Division and revenge had preoccupied his mind for some time. But after meeting Nikita, he wasn't sure anymore. He couldn't account for his subconscious.

But he did know Nikita wanted to get married, if their situations were different and everything she wanted was still possible. She told him that a long time ago.

And so this is where their problems begin.

After last night, there was no chance of ever going back. Not that they ever did. They may not have said anything – or at least, for the most part, anything they can significantly remember – but their actions spoke tidal waves of what they really felt for each other.

Michael exhaled deeply, wishing he still had his hangover-induced headache right now so he'd have an excuse not to think any further. But the aspirin the doctor gave him prevented that luxury.

He couldn't help but muse that things were definitely simpler like this: oblivious and away from the outside world with Nikita asleep on his lap. Maybe in some alternate reality, this could last forever.

Because he really didn't know what to feel.

To be honest, a part of him was rather glad that he was with Nikita. Even married to her. Because if given the chance, he wouldn't have it in any other way. He wanted her to be at his side, his equal, his partner. He couldn't explain it but she just had this aura around her that brought out feelings from him. Feelings that he had forgotten. Though she frustrated him at times but she made him happy and alive again. That's why, gradually and unconsciously, she had become a constant fixture in his life. And seeing her has become one of the reasons why his life and Division didn't seem so dull and dragging anymore. Like a drug, he was hooked. And really, with her, he could see a future. A purpose.

But then there were also Elizabeth and Haley. Would they want him to be with Nikita? Was he cheating on them? They may be gone but their memories still haunted him. Especially the memories of their last moments. It was a constant reminder to him that he still had some unfinished business to attend to before anything else. He had to deal with the person responsible before he could move forward. 5 years has passed and he was nowhere near to finish things. He still loves his deceased wife and child but he has already held on to so much hate and hurt in his clouded heart for so long that he's afraid it might consume him. He's confused and conflicted. He now wants a future but he can't let go of his past. He just can't… He's been told many times that he holds on to too much of the past.

Even though he knows that putting his past to rest can set him free.

Percy and Nikita have promised him that they'll help. But since their wants and ideals contradicted, he could only choose one.

Then again, choosing one over the other will have tremendous consequences. If he picked Nikita, Percy could take it as treason and ungratefulness after everything he's done for him. He'll consider Nikita as a distraction and personal baggage. And Percy could order her instant cancellation, if not both of them. He couldn't do that to Nikita. He just cared for her too much. But then, if he picked Percy, he knew Nikita wouldn't understand. It'll hurt her for sure. She was already vocal to him about her disdain for her boss and his unwavering loyalty to him. Choosing Percy over her would just drive a twenty-foot wedge in between him and Nikita. She just didn't understand that he wouldn't be here if it weren't for him.

No matter what, Michael still owed Percy his life, and for giving him another chance. He'll always be forever grateful for that.

But could he choose – love or duty – and stand firmly by his decision?

He slipped a diamond ring on her finger. "I will always be here for you."

The smile that graced her lips made her entire face glow. She watched him affectionately as she pulled him to a stand from his kneeling position on the floor. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she gazed deeply into his piercing green eyes and said, "Always."

His lips formed into his signature smirk before he held her chin in between his thumb and forefinger and kissed her.

The small group of people who gathered around them cheered.

Nikita's eyes fluttered open.

Feeling a little disoriented, her trained senses took control. She was still a bit groggy but she studied her surroundings. The first thing she noticed was that everything was on their side. A second later, she realized that she was lying down. And she was sweating.

Feeling a hand tighten infinitesimally around her shoulder, she too tensed up. Her muscles instinctively readied themselves to protect her self. Always be on guard, Division would be so proud. But somehow, she felt something different. That she was safe. And her sixth sense hasn't proven her wrong just yet. Taking a chance, she rolled over slightly and looked up. To her immediate ease, it was only Michael, watching over her closely. She relaxed. But then she also noticed that he was uncharacteristically quiet. In his eyes, Nikita saw concern and relief pass, and then it was replaced with… something she didn't know.

Something that didn't feel right.

Wait, was she resting on his lap?

Wordlessly and slowly, Nikita pulled her self to sit up. Michael let go of her without any resistance, but still wary of her actions.

Nikita looked around the room, confused. It was circular but a section was made of frosted glass to let sunlight in, the rest of the walls were mauve in color, and there was some sort of white smoke floating lazily from a huge metal vase in the middle of the room. She didn't know where they were, or how they got there, or why the heck was it sweltering hot. But this definitely was not their hotel room, she was sure of that.

"Where –?" she asked, turning to face him. Her throat was a bit scratchy and hoarse.

"In a sauna," Michael told her, seeming rather distant, "like you requested."

A sauna? Well, that would explain the heat. But why would she ask for a sauna? She didn't remember…



The memories of what happened flooded her mind. Las Vegas, the call from Birkhoff, what supposedly happened last night, the alcohol and the drugs, her hazy morning, her withdrawal –

The Ketamine!

As if reading what was troubling her, Michael handed over the answer to her confusion. Nikita took the glass vial in her hands and read the label. Her eyes widened in surprise, and then she looked at him, her eyebrows knitting together. She questioned, "How –?"

"Apparently, Birkhoff has his contacts," Michael shrugged lightly and a bit nonchalant for her taste, "He made a call to a doctor who lives around here and got you that and me a couple of aspirin."

"Remind me to thank him when we get back," Nikita couldn't help but let out a small smile. No matter what he'd say, Birkhoff was definitely a good friend.

"Nikita," Michael said, rather affectionately than he would've liked. He was failing miserably at trying to distance his self from her. The moment she woke up, Michael just wanted to hug her. Hold her close, make sure that she was alright. But he reminded himself what he should do, should've done a long time ago. Placing his hands on either side of him, gripping the concrete ledge of what they were sitting on, he steadied himself as he asked her, "how do you feel?"

Nikita looked at him and saw for a fraction of a second, an overwhelming pent-up emotion, but it disappeared before she could figure out what it was.

"A lot better," she admitted, staring down at her red fuzzy-slippered feet. All around, she was okay though there was still some slight lightheadedness whenever she made some movements. But she could definitely handle it. The worst was over anyway. And the knowledge that Michael stayed with her during the whole time watching over her made her feel all warm inside. She touched his right hand lightly and said to him gently, "Thank you."

Michael looked straight ahead. If the walls weren't made of concrete, they probably would've already melted at the intensity of his gaze. He didn't want to do this but he had to. But he just can't forgive his self to hurt her. Yet again. He just hoped and prayed that Nikita would someday see that he was doing this for both of them. Pulling his hand away from her's, he told her coldly, "I'm just doing my job."

Nikita's hand remained where it was, stunned. Michael's comment was unceremoniously harsh. She looked at him but he didn't face her. But there was something in Michael's expression that bothered her, making her uneasy. She didn't understand. It was almost as if... he'd had enough.

"Michael –?" she started to say but stopped when he shifted his hand and the gold glint from his ring caught Nikita's attention.

Her jaw slackened as she stared at the small piece of jewelry in awe. Involuntarily, her thumb caressed the underside of the matching ring on her right hand. It all clicked. Like pieces to a puzzle, everything made sense. Nikita realized that it was Michael's defensive mechanisms taking control. What happened last night pulled him out of his comfort zone too much and now he was withdrawing, doing damage control. He was clamming up on her...

But they were too far into it now. She won't give up that easily.

She took a deep breath and exhaled, "Michael, about last night…"

"Don't, Nikita." He didn't even blink. He just kept staring into the distance.

Typical Michael. She said, "So we're not even going to talk about it?"

"There's nothing to talk about," he told her firmly. He focused on a single spot across the room, not daring to glance at Nikita. He didn't dare to face her because he feared it might weaken his determination in what he was about to do. He laughed inwardly. Division's second-in-command was actually scared to face a woman, who would've thought? "Last night was just a temporary lapse of judgment. It will never happen again."

"So you mean everything last night," Nikita's eyebrows knitted. She knew there was an angle to this but she was losing it. She had a feeling on how this was all going to go down. But she was still exhausted physically and mentally to think about it, much less to deal with the drama. Even so, she struggled to fight it. Her stubbornness would not let her back down. She wanted an answer. Swallowing hard, she said, "that was just the drugs and alcohol talking?"

His reply was a curt, "Yes."

"You are such a bad liar, Michael." She jeered, her way of masking the hurt she was feeling.

"What do you want me to say, Nikita?" Michael snapped, finally looking at her. His eyes like hard, emerald ice.

"I want you to be honest with me!" she shot back, fiercely. She couldn't understand why Michael was doing this to her, backing her to a corner, when she had just recovered. She stared directly into his eyes. Brown against green. There was anger in his eyes, Nikita saw. But there was also pain. Pain that she didn't understand. Why would he be hurt when that was exactly what he was doing to her? She told him, in a low voice, "I deserve at least that much."

"You want to know what I think? Fine!" He spat, standing up. He couldn't deal with this sitting down with Nikita just within an arm's reach. The look of pain in her eyes was weakening his resolve. Why couldn't he do this properly? He was so frustrated at his self and that feeling seeped into his voice, "None of this would've happened if you listened to me, Nikita! You knew that I already said 'no' but you kept on insisting!"

"You think this is all my fault?" Nikita scoffed, getting defensive. Her emotions were clouding her thoughts but she didn't care anymore. She stood up, ignoring the slight dizziness that affected her, and went in front of Michael, their faces merely inches apart. She stared at him closely, searching his eyes for some answer but not finding any. She hissed angrily, enunciating every word, "Michael, if you had half the self-control you had as to your sickening loyalty to Percy, you could've just said 'no' and walked away."

A few moments passed as they continued to glare at each other. Not one backing down. The tension palpable in the air. Nikita wanted an explanation, an answer. One that Michael could not give. But what she said was spot on. He could've walked away but he didn't. He never took that chance because he didn't want to. He didn't even think he'd have to strength to do so. She was just that too important to him.

He broke their gaze and turned away, smiling ruefully. So much for trying to end things easily. He should've known better.

Turning back to face her, Nikita saw a subtle change in Michael's expression. It wasn't as intense anymore. But it wasn't relaxed either. There was some sadness and defeat into it.

She interpreted this as his surrender.

He'd given up.

On them.

He didn't have to say it. She already saw it in his eyes. And it shattered her heart.

He started, "I'm sor–"

"Don't," she pleaded softly. Don't do this to us, was what she wanted to say to him but the words never got past her lips.


"Don't, Michael." Nikita turned away, trying to control a sob that formed in her chest. She couldn't believe it. After all this time, after what they've been through, he'd just give up that easily? Give up on them?

The hurt and the pain were visible on her face. And it was clawing his insides. But Michael reminded himself that it was for the best, "Last night was a mistake."

"It doesn't have to be," she tried to reason, turning back to face him. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears. They were stinging the corner of her eyes but she wouldn't let them fall. Her fallen tears would mean she would've given up too. But she won't, even though she could literally feel her heart splitting in her chest.

Michael shook his head lightly, "It could never work."

Nikita was silent at first. And then, in a barely audible voice, she said, "If we were still in Division."


"We could disappear," Nikita reasoned with him quickly, her voice growing stronger. The thought of escaping Division has been crossing her mind for some time now. She was getting sick and tired of all the missions being given to her. Division was slowly killing her humanity and she couldn't let that happen. But she couldn't leave without Michael. She couldn't abandon him in that wretched place. She couldn't do that to him. She needed him to see that they could do this together. That they still had a chance at a better life, "You said so yourself that Division, Percy, was getting out of hand. That this is not what you signed up for."

"Nikita," he looked at her sadly, "you know I couldn't do that."

"Why?" she pushed. She wanted to know the reason. She knew he could definitely handle life outside Division. Heck, he was the strongest person she'd ever met. But something was holding Michael back, making him decline the offer. And then she remembered what he told her in St. Petersburg, "Because of Kasim? We could find him on the outside, Michael. I promised I'd help you bring him down."

"It's not just Kasim."

"Then who is it? Percy?" she asked, suspicious. She tried her best to think of other options. She thought Michael's desire for revenge on Kasim was the only one holding him back. He was hiding something from her. And she didn't know why or what it was. But she figured that Percy had something to do with it. Didn't Michael see that Percy was not all that he was cracked up to be? That he was better off without the man? She held his arms and looked deeply into his troubled eyes, "Michael, you've done enough in service of him. It's time you did something for your self."

"I just can't, Nikita." Michael said, breaking her gaze and looking down at the floor. He didn't even bother to correct her assumptions, believing that it'll make it easier for her to let go.

But Nikita's grasp tightened as well as her voice, "Can't or won't?"

Michael sighed. The suggestion to leave Division was tempting. For a second, he was almost swayed even. But if they were on the run, they would forever be looking over their shoulders. He knew Percy would not rest until he could contain them. The two of them just knew too much for their own good. And they'd be lucky if they weren't killed within a week after their trackers would go offline. Well, a week was even pushing it. Because no one escapes Division. And Michael knew better than anyone that the place had eyes and ears everywhere.

But if they continued to remain inside Division, Michael could watch out for Nikita. Protect her like no one else can, just like when she was a recruit. That's why he couldn't leave. It was to protect her. But staying with Division also meant sacrificing his relationship with her. A price that they had to pay. A bargain that he had to accept just to keep her safe. Unlatching her grip away from him, he told her, "It doesn't matter."

"It matters to me!" A single tear rolled down her mocha cheek.

He fought the urge to wipe the tear away from her beautiful face. "Just focus on getting better right now."

Her hands dropping to her sides, she silently watched as Michael turned away from her and went back to the place where they've been sitting on earlier. He opened a rectangular container and took out a rolled up piece of paper. Brushing past her, the paper in his hands, he made his way to the metal vase in the middle of the room. She moved to stand next to him just as he placed the paper on top of the red hot coals in the open furnace.

It didn't take a second before the paper caught fire. Bits of coal snapping at the foreign object. Little flecks of ember jumping lightly in the air. The burning paper curled upwardly, unrolling, giving Nikita a peek of what the document contained before it was lost forever. The two-word heading robbed the breath out of her.

It was their marriage contract.

But like everything else right now, she couldn't save it anymore. She could only watch. Like everything they had for the past years, it was ending up in flames. The fire voraciously licking and burning the paper before their very eyes. And in a matter of seconds, the document was reduced to ashes, blending and mixing with the glowing coals.

Michael clenched his hands to hide that it was actually trembling. It took most of his strength to throw the piece of paper into the furnace. But he had to destroy the evidence of anything that ever happened between him and Nikita. Any physical proof posed a threat of being discovered. He had to do this to protect the two of them. But it didn't mean that it didn't hurt him inside. It did. More so than anybody will ever know. But his hurt deepened when he reluctantly yet slowly took off the gold ring from his finger and dropped it into the mouth of the vase.

He swallowed hard as the gold band slowly turned black because of the soot. There weren't any special engravings on the ring that could let it be traced back to him so he didn't bother that much on destroying it. The heat from the coals wouldn't be hot enough to melt the metal but it would still be enough to blacken it and disguise it in case for some reason, someone would dig through the used coals of the sauna. Michael may have had the strength to destroy their marriage contract but he couldn't bring his self to do the same to his wedding ring. Although he knew they'd probably never see it again, but he got some comfort that, at least, it was still whole somewhere. A sliver of hope that he could hold on to that proved he and Nikita shared a connection at one point.

There was a small clink as another metal hit the other. Michael saw that a matching yet smaller ring suddenly joined his blackened one. He turned to his side to look at Nikita, surprised. He didn't mean for her to do the same to her ring because not a lot of people would question a woman like her wearing jewelry. But him, keeping or wearing one would raise a lot of questions, especially when he spent most of his time inside Division.

Still, he felt slightly better at the knowledge that their wedding rings would stay together. Lost, but together.

He returned his gaze back to the glowing embers. Silently, they stood side by side, watching as gold turned to black. Slowly marring. Like their relationship.

"I don't believe it," Nikita whispered softly. If Michael's trained hearing wasn't sensitive enough, he probably wouldn't have heard it.

He turned his head slightly to face her. The heat emanating from the furnace formed droplets of sweat along her hairline. The glow from the embers threw her sharp features in high relief. Her sad, glistening brown eyes reflected the orange-red flame. He gazed at her as she slowly closed her eyes and sighed.

Opening her eyes, she looked up to Michael. She couldn't do this anymore. Her voice shook and her lower lip trembled, "I can't believe that I had faith in you. I can't believe that I waited for you." She blinked, trying to stop the tears. But it was no use, they were free falling now. She swallowed the lump that formed in her throat, "That in some part of me, I hoped that maybe, just maybe, you'll be honest with your self and choose me over Division. Pick love over duty."

Her words were heartbreaking yet sincere. And like a stab from a dagger, it cut deep through Michael. In that instant, he wanted to reach out to her, to pull her close to him, to tell her that it's not what she thinks. It will always be her. Her over Division. But things were complicated enough to begin with. He can't put her in danger for something he wants so selfishly. He can't let another person he loves die in front of his eyes.

Willing his self to turn away from her, he breathed deeply trying to control his voice as he told her, "You placed your faith in the wrong person."

"I know that now." She told him, dejectedly. In a lower voice, she whispered, "You should have told me before I..." Trailing off, she bit her lower lip.

Choosing to ignore her last comment, Michael walked back and gathered his things from the heat-proof container. Now that Nikita was relatively better and awake, he could call Birkhoff and tell him to alert the contracted pilot that they'll be leaving the island shortly. He couldn't bear to stay here any longer.

It was on his way to the door that led out of the sauna when she spoke again. She said, her voice devoid of any other emotion but chagrin, just a simple statement, "I guess we'll always have Fiji."

Michael stopped, his hand on the doorknob. He glanced sideways, his lips forming a hard line. Opening the door, he muttered back, "Fiji."

"Oh, Nikita, where are you?"

"Fiji. I needed some R and R."

"Yes, I heard Nadi is excellent this time of year." – 1x06

Okay, so maybe a "Caution: Drama Alert" should have been placed beforehand. XD

Anyway, how did you find it?

Leave a Review and let me know! I would love to hear from just anyone and everyone! :D

Aaand… I don't know about the next chapter yet because I still have to write the thing. Though I know how it's gonna play out and I've already written some parts of it… it's just that season 2 is completely sidetracking me! Haha. Mikita is so all couple-y and cute and adorable and kickass, etc etc… and here I am writing a drama and angsty fic. Don't get me wrong, I just love love LOVE that their together. I can't even put it into words! :D

But I need some inspiration! Some Mikita angst! And that Cassandra chick might be what I'll have to wait for. I know every Mikita fan (including me) is gonna try to have her neck when she comes. Haha! Gah. So anyway, just be patient, pretty pretty please? I swear I'll post the last chapter soon!

Again, THANK YOU so much for taking time to read! And review!

'Til the next update! Keep on being the best badass people of the world! ;)

xx Dani