VI. and it's coming over you like it's all a big mistake
They tell him she's dead.
And like a total idiot, he believes them.
He gets back from a mission with one of his newest recruits to find Percy waiting for him in his office. That in and of itself is unusual, so Michael is immediately on guard.
"Nikita's dead," Percy says simply, and Michael doesn't believe him.
But the man places pictures on his desk, smiling smugly all the while, watching Michael's facial expression as he absorbs the cold reality presented before him.
Her body is twisted and broken. Blood is spilled across the wood flooring of her apartment; bruises mar her skin. Seeing her damaged and violated like that makes his stomach churn and a sudden raging desire to kill Percy for ever ordering that man to so much as lay a hand on her blaze in his chest.
"She didn't make it easy," Percy grumbles. "It's a shame, really."
Of course she didn't make it easy. Nikita is – well, she was – a fighter. It's one of those things he loves about her.
He never calls.
She keeps the mobile phone on for two weeks, unable to let hope slip through her fingers.
Finally, she drops the cell onto the concrete and slams the heel of her boot into it again and again.
And then, torturously unaware of Michael's fate, Nikita slips off Division's radar, drops off the grid and vanishes into thin air.
She stumbles and falls for quite a while before she lands on her feet. Eventually, she toughens up because she is Nikita and like hell is she letting Percy get the best of her. She will survive, she will get the resources to take Percy down, and she will see Michael again. It is not a matter of if; it is a matter of when.
Taking a page out of Michael's handbook, Nikita finds a nice little hole to hide in and starts to plan. She starts with what she knows: what Amanda has taught her, what Percy has taught her, what Michael has taught her.
Percy has taught her that everyone has a weakness; the trick is to simply exploit it.
So, she needs to find Percy's weakness.
Michael has taught her how to survive without Division's resources. Through him, she's learned where to go to get information, and how to not be screwed over while trying to obtain it. She ends up mentally sifting through his contacts one by one, until she finally finds one who might have an in on Percy.
Amanda has taught her that nothing can be gained by rash action, tea is horrendous, and deviousness is one of the best ways to play the game. It takes quite a bit of cash and quite a bit of flirting, but eventually she finds the skeleton in Percy's closet for which she's been searching. The first whispers of Percy's Black Boxes seem too good to be true. When the rumors are all but confirmed, she almost feels giddy.
She's going to destroy Percy using his own insurance policy. It's something that Percy himself would do. Nikita finds that both poetic and ironic.
Six boxes and six guardians against one Nikita.
Damn the odds.
Patience has never been Nikita's strong suit, but she's been trapped in the web of Division so long she's figured out how the game is played by learning one rule at a time.
Except now, she's out, and it's time to make her own rules.
Rule number one: the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Michael doesn't stay with Division out of some misguided sense of loyalty. He stays because he doesn't know where else to go. Life is empty without Nikita; hell, the world is empty without Nikita.
More than once, he contemplates calling her phone, but logic tells him that even if he did, she wouldn't answer. He couldn't handle it if she didn't answer. If she's alive – and based on what he's seen that's a big if – she's dumped the thing by now.
It's beyond stupid, but Michael doesn't even seriously question the photos until months later. He's at one of Percy's boring galas, allegedly to provide security, when just happens to catch sight of a familiar face out of the corner of his eye. Dark, playful eyes meet his before she vanishes back into the crowd. It's almost as if she means for him to pursue her, which – if it actually is Nikita – she probably does.
He dashes forward, eyes methodically scanning the room.
A fellow agent's voice says something in his earpiece, but Michael doesn't pay attention.
He sees another glimpse of her: long hair swinging above her shoulders as she slips effortlessly through the throngs of people, disappearing for a few seconds only to reappear again.
Michael fears he's losing his mind even entertaining the thought that this woman is Nikita, but he has to know for sure, so he follows the hint of her deep red dress and the bounce of her dark hair as they lead him in a zigzag pattern across the ballroom and sweep through the door leading into the stairwell. Hesitating for just a moment – Percy surely would not be pleased with him if he knew Michael was following a figment of his imagination when he should be doing his job – Michael pushes through the double doors.
She's there waiting. For a long time they just stare at each other. They're practically strangers, old familiarity tragically lost when their paths forcibly diverged.
"You were dead," he breathes finally, even as the cold, hard truth settles in: Percy lied to him. And no, he wasn't so naive and trusting to believe the man completely, but after so much time passed without her contacting him, it seemed to be the truth.
Slowly Nikita shakes her head, shrugging her shoulders. "Is that what Percy told you?"
Michael's hatred towards the man increases tenfold; it's enough to drown out whatever small speck of loyalty previously existed – and some did exist, even after he believed the man had killed Nikita.
He doesn't need to answer the question, and he doesn't have the opportunity even if he wants to because Nikita steps towards him, he steps towards her, and then just like that they're in each other's arms.
The rest of the world fades away; it's as if they were never apart.
Without another word, they leave and never come back.
She takes him back to her hotel room.
They don't turn the lights on; instead, they choose to stay in the shadows, shrouded in blackness.
Her fingers trail down the length of his arm until they reach his wrist. Tentatively she takes his hand in hers, bringing his fingers to her mouth, kissing each knuckle reverently.
He breathes her name and she shivers.
She thinks that after those long months apart this time together should be filled with passion, desire and a sense of urgency, but it's not. It's unhurried and deliberate. It's them finding each other again, reveling in the ecstasy of simply being together after an agonizing separation.
After one long, slow kiss that holds the promise of so much more, she steps away from him. Keeping their hands linked together, she leads him through the suite to the bedroom.
Once they're there, he spins her around so her back is to him. She feels his fingers working on the zipper of her dress. The garment pools at her feet. He kisses her shoulder blades, steadily moving down her spine, his hands firmly pressed against her bare stomach.
"I missed you," he says, lips tickling the nape of her neck. She squirms.
"I missed you more." She leans back against his chest, and he presses his lips were her neck meets her shoulder.
He smiles. "Not possible."
He wakes in the morning to find Nikita sitting beside him on the bed, legs tucked off to one side, palm resting against his chest, hair draped around her shoulders. Caught in the beams of golden sunlight filtering through the large windows, she looks beatific and peaceful.
He's in love with her.
"Let's go somewhere," he says.
"Where?" she asks, bending down to brush her lips lightly against his mouth. It's tantalizing.
He grabs her before she has a chance to pull away, dragging her body down atop his as he kisses her again, pent up longing quickly morphing into an intense, fiery passion.
"Anywhere," he answers, easily rolling their tangled bodies over so his is over hers and pressing long, unhurried kisses along the underside of her jaw. "Anywhere you want to go."
He catches the light flutter of her eyelashes and the tiny hitch in her breathing as she whispers his name.
"I need to tell you something," she whispers.
He moves to her collarbone, and she squirms pleasantly, smile on her lips.
"Michael," she practically giggles, "I'm serious. This is important."
He sits up then, and she follows his example.
Nikita's fingers wind together in her lap. "I found him – Kasim."
"Did you kill him?" Michael interrupts, because he has to know, and as much as he would have liked to shoot the man himself, he thinks he'll just be glad to have that weight off his chest. Besides, he trusts Nikita. If she tells him Kasim is dead, he'll believe it.
She looks down. "Yes. I did."
He draws her close and places a gentle kiss on her lips. There are no words for this moment.
"There's more." She shifts uncomfortably on the mattress. "Michael…he's Division – or, he was before he defected. Percy's the one who ordered that your family be killed."
Their gazes lock together, and silent understanding passes between them.
As tempting as it is to slip off into the sunset and ride away, they both know that they can't.
They're not done yet.
Black Box Number One is tucked away in South Dakota, guarded by a guardian named Abby. She's tinier than Nikita, which Michael almost didn't think possible.
They take turns shadowing her for a few days, watching as she goes about her daily routine. Since there isn't a bank nearby that Percy would consider suitable to store one of his precious boxes, Nikita keeps tabs on the guardian while Michael breaks into her house to poke around. Hidden in a cache of fake passports and various forms of currency, he finds a yellow GPS tracker.
Nikita takes down the guardian, ties her up neatly, and pops her in the back of their SUV.
The tracker leads them to the badlands, where they learn that in addition to having a fondness for submachine guns, Abby apparently has a bit of a predilection towards explosives. In order to get to the box, they need a metal detector and a set of shovels.
It takes them over three hours to get to where the bones are buried, much less dig out the lock box, and once they do, they find that it's booby-trapped.
Predictably, that's when Abby decides to slip free of her bonds and swing a shovel at Michael's head.
The entire thing ends with a skirmish, five explosions, and a nasty shoot-out, not to mention a dead guardian.
Still, they smile at each other as their Kia Sorento drives out of the state. Nikita shakes sand out of her hair as she turns the evidence of their first victory over in her hands. She's hot and sweaty and bruised, but nothing can suppress her happiness.
One down. Five to go.
They have their disagreements.
Sometimes he forgets that although he once was the teacher and she once was the student, those are not their roles now.
She has become his equal in almost every respect. Her skills have been honed and developed during her months on the run, and she is not used to taking orders. (Not that she was used to taking orders before. Nikita's always been an independent thinker.)
Still, they work everything out eventually, whether it is through kissing or kicking.
When she suggests something so utterly ridiculous it's either going to work perfectly or get them killed, there is this waythat he smiles at her that makes her want to kiss the grin right off of his lips and remind him that sometimes taking chances is a good thing.
It's how they ended up here, after all.
Number Two is in Miami.
This one is in a bank, and getting at it takes a little bit of creativity – but, thankfully, there are no explosions this go around.
The good news, this guardian is also female, thin, tan-skinned with dark hair. She and Nikita could have been twins in another life. Michael lifts the woman's ID. While Nikita is fabricating a new passport and driver's license for herself, he busies himself persuading an acquaintance to hack into the woman's account and get her information. After that, getting the box is as easy as walking into the bank and asking for it.
They don't even bother to take care of the guardian, save for finagling a sample of her blood.
That night, they celebrate with Mojitos at a nice little beachside bar, and she kisses him under the moon.
She wonders briefly if this is how they do romantic vacations. ("Oh, you and Robert went skiing in Colorado? Michael and I took a cross-country road trip in search of ominous pieces of computer hardware so that we could take down our former boss's evil Black Ops program.")
It is at this point that Percy begins to catch up to them. A quick scuffle with a Reaper threatens to split them apart, but Nikita is nothing if not inventive, and even Michael has to admit that taking down a guy by stabbing him in the neck with a car key is pretty darn impressive.
Still, at the end of the day he's helping her ice a sprained ankle and suturing a cut above her eyebrow.
That's his Nikita. You can knock her down, but you can't knock her out. She fusses when he makes her rest for a day, ranting and raving about how she can't take down Percy while she's lying on a cot.
"Division will still be there when you heal up."
"But what if –" she tries to get up, and he stops her with a gentle hand on her shoulder – "what if Percy begins to make new black boxes?"
"Settle down, Nikita," he shakes his head at her enthusiasm. "Do you know how long it took for him to set those things up? It'll take a while before he has replacements in play."
Still, she crosses her arms over her chest and juts her lower lip out in a pretend pout. "But that's boring, Michael!"
"Well." He tries not to smirk, he really does, but he fails utterly, "I'm sure we can think of something to keep you entertained."
As it turns out, Nikita can think of quite a few somethings, each one much better than its predecessor.
Box Three is located in New York City.
("Yet another safety deposit box!" Nikita wails. "How unoriginal!"
Michael just chuckles.)
This time the guardian is male, so Nikita is the honey-trap.
When that doesn't work, they use Michael's contacts to break into the bank the old-fashioned way: a hold up. Nikita poses as a rich heiress opening a new account when Michael bursts in with a shotgun and a list of demands. He keeps the cops preoccupied while Nikita breaks into the safety deposit box, gets Percy's box and takes down the guardian, who shows up seconds after the police do.
And because they're Michael and Nikita, they get out with the box and without getting killed by the guardian.
As they drive away from the city, she holds the three boxes in her lap, running her fingers over the surfaces reverently.
"Seriously," Michael says one night, as the tips of his fingers rub a fond caress against her shoulder blades. "I can't believe that Percy didn't find you when he knew you were alive and out there. He had to have been sending men out after you."
"I ran into a few of them, but they were easy to evade. It's a good thing you never chased me," Nikita jokes.
"I wouldn't have caught you." He sounds so sure that she lifts her head up from his chest to look him in the eye.
"Yeah." One of his hands plays lovingly with her hair. "Because I never would have really tried."
Box Four is in Pennsylvania. It's guarded by a woman named Dana Winters, who is in love with a sheriff.
Nikita looks at Michael, and Michael looks at Nikita. All she has to say is "they're us" before he relents and agrees to help them.
Of course, Dana turns them in to Division in exchange for her freedom, and soon they're surrounded by a slew of reapers.
The bloodbath is unimaginable, and the price is higher than Nikita really wants to pay, but in the end, they get what they came for.
"What do we do when it ends?" Nikita asks one night. "When all this is over?"
He kisses her knuckles one by one. "Whatever we want."
She thinks that's a good answer.
Box Five takes them to London.
The guardian there is brutal. Getting him out of the way so that they can to the box involves a car chase that seems to cross half the city, followed by a foot chase that seems to last about as long.
They chase him into a cathedral, where he disappears from view and they consequently split up. She goes right and he goes left. As it turns out, the guardian went left. Nikita doesn't know this until she hears two shots ring out. She races towards the sound, heart pounding and feat beating against the floor.
Please, don't be Michael.
No one is shot when she reaches the two men. Instead, both guns are on the floor and their owners are engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Nikita can easily tell that the guardian is winning.
Michael glances at her for just a second, but the distraction is enough for the guardian to throw him to the floor.
Nikita doesn't even pause for breath before she pulls the trigger and the guardian falls.
The first words out of Michael's mouth are, "I love you."
The first words out of Nikita's mouth are, "You're okay."
Holding out a hand, she helps him to his feet. His arms wrap around her and they hold on to each other desperately.
They find the box hidden in the very church in which they stand.
There is only one left now.
Another Reaper, another narrow escape later, and they're collapsing in on a springy motel mattress, riding through a powerful adrenaline rush.
Michael chuckles as his fingers clumsily fidget with the zipper on the left side of her blouse. Impatiently, she pushes his hand away and takes care of it herself.
"One left," she whispers between frantic kisses. "One left and all this is over." Maybe it's a promise. Only one more, and all this ends. Percy can't hurt them anymore.
The bed creeks and the pillows are hard, but she doesn't really care because there is a gash across his forehead and bruises on his face and chest reminding her how close she came to losing him.
They're alive, and that's all that matters right now.
Six is in Montreal, Canada, watched over by a guardian named Owen Elliot, who is in love with a woman named Emily.
("I'm starting to feel like cupid," Michael mutters. Nikita just finds it poetic that Percy is constantly being taken down by the one thing he forbids above all else – attachment.)
Box Six proves to be the easiest and hardest one of all. It's easy because all they have to do is agree to help Owen slip past Division's radar with his One True Love, and the box is theirs. It's hard, because by this time, Percy is growing desperate, so not only do they have to keep themselves alive, they also have to help protect Emily and Owen as Percy sends Reaper after Reaper after them.
"What's your name?" Owen asks her before they part ways.
She grins. "Nikita."
What to do with the Black Boxes is a source of a lot of debate. On the one hand, both of them would like to just kill Percy and be done with it. Problem is, killing Percy doesn't actually solve the problem.
Michael's idea is a little more…crafty. Kidnap Birkhoff, persuade him to decode the boxes, discover Percy's secrets and use them against him.
("It all comes back to chess," Nikita groans. Michael gives her a confused look, and she distracts him with a kiss.)
As it turns out, it doesn't completely matter because the answer comes to them from the most unlikely source.
His name is Ryan, he's a CIA agent, and he has enough of a crush on Nikita to drive Michael bonkers.
They do, strangely enough, end up kidnapping Birkhoff because no one at the CIA is capable of cracking the encryption on Percy's boxes. It isn't much of a kidnapping really. The moment Birkhoff sees them sitting in his living room – Nikita snacking from a bowl of Skittles on his end table and Michael sipping distastefully at a can of Red Bull – Seymour sighs and says, "What do you want me to do?"
He really is as good with computers as he claims, which makes his boasting upon cracking the encryption only slightly less annoying than it would have been otherwise.
The data only confirms what Nikita has begun to suspect: Percy's been digging his own grave for months now.
Unfortunately, so have Michael and Nikita. The boxes contain details on their missions, foreign and abroad. Needless to say, the CIA is anything but happy with them.
However, when taking down an evil organization with ties to the government is a piece of cake, it's really no surprise that even the Central Intelligence Agency can't hold on to them for long.
They spend maybe an hour being interrogated in separate holding rooms before boredom gets the best of them and they escape, grabbing Birkhoff along the way.
No way is anyone taking Percy down without their help.
They are Michael and Nikita, and together they can do anything.
Percy disappears sometime during the middle of the CIA raid, and it falls to Nikita, Michael, and Birkhoff to find him. The three of them stand in the shell of a building that was once Division. The armory is empty, stripped bare of submachine guns, rifles, sniper rifles, pistols and shotguns of all shapes and sizes. The computer lab is bare, every last scrap of hardware carted off by men in suits. Operations is filled with shattered screens, tossed keyboards and overturned desks.
It fills Nikita with both relief and dread. Relief that it's gone – finished, done. There is no more Division to haunt her every waking moment and even a few of her dreams. Dread, because Percy is still out there. Right now, finding him looks harder than that whole expression about the needle and the haystack.
Michael stands to her left; Seymour to her right. The former is in deep concentration and the latter looks as if he's mourning the death of his servers, which he probably is. Shadownet was his baby.
Nikita knows what it's like to love something deeply and have it ripped away from you. Doesn't matter what it was.
"I can find him," Birkhoff says after a second. Both Michael and Nikita's heads swivel to look at him. The nerd shrugs. "I can find him." He wiggles his fingers. "God of the Machines, remember. Not much went on here that I didn't know about. I know how to find him."
Nikita grins. "Let's do it."
They end up breaking into the CIA again so Birkhoff can use their computer system.
("Just for fun," Nikita tells Ryan when he catches them. For his part, the analyst sighs, groans and leaves them be.)
They escape with, hopefully, enough information to find Percy.
They aren't worried about what evidence they need to bring him down. All three of them seem to understand that this is something that will never go to trial. They're carrying out their own brand of justice.
The son of a bitch is living in a penthouse, drinking high-priced wine and soliciting high-class call girls. The moment the elevator doors open and he sees them, Michael senses the resignation in his face.
Percy knew this was coming.
But then, Michael thinks, he had to know. From the very moment he and Nikita set their sights on taking down Division, Percy must have known that this was imminent.
The girls flee as Percy plops down on a plush sofa and continues to drink from a half-empty bottle of vodka.
"About time you showed up." His words are slurred. "Been waiting. Figured my past was going to catch up to me sooner or later." He glances up at them. "So which one of you wants to end it?"
Nikita takes a step forward, and Michael lets her.
The Glock in her hands wavers, and Percy smiles. "You're not sure you want this, are you, Nikita? It's okay. You don't have to. This isn't you. You have a choice, and you can choose to turn around and walk right out the door."
Michael watches as her fingers tighten around the handle and her lips press firmly together in a thin line.
"No," she says firmly, "You don't get to do that. You don't get to talk me out of it. You don't care about me, and you don't care about any of the other hundreds of people you've recruited over the years. You don't get to weasel your way out of this by appealing to my better nature. You can't say that this isn't me, because guess what? You made me. You don't get to tell me that I have a choice, because you've never given me a choice. Ever."
Her voice is steady, and her hands are as well.
And the last word Percy breathes before the end?
It ends, and it feels like the world has ground to a halt. Nikita feels deflated, like a balloon without air.
There's this emptiness where she used to store her vengeance and rage. It feels like there isn't enough air to breathe, as if she's gasping, dying for just one full breath.
So she does what she should have done a long time ago.
She grieves in the only way she knows how. (For what her life could have been, for her unborn child, for everything Percy stole from her and everything she, in her own stupidity, stole from herself.)
And Michael helps her the only way he knows how: he wraps his arms around her and holds her together as best as he can.
"Let's go somewhere," he says.
"Where?" she asks.
"Anywhere," he answers. "We can go anywhere you want to go."
So they take off, just like that.
Michael's right. They can go anywhere they want; they can do anything they want. One week they travel through Europe, and then they move on to Asia and Australia. They point to a spot on the map and they go there.
Eventually, the heaviness in her chest subsides, and she feels like she can breathe. That maybe, just maybe, everything is going to be okay.
They're Michael and Nikita – pure and simple – the way they were always supposed to be; free from the Percy's lies, Amanda's games, and Division's walls. They don't have to hide anymore; they don't have to sneak around. Their life is not a borrowed one. They live on their own terms now.
They're together; everything else doesn't matter.
They have each other.
It's more than enough.