A/N: Just a little fic inspired by onesweetmemory's pic of M&N and a castle at Michael's Retreat. Thanks for the inspiration, Lisa!
"I used to dream that there were places like this somewhere. Safe. Warm. Do you ever think of anything like that?"
"You never talk about it."
"Inside, nobody can change. It will always be what I need it to be."
"Is it anything like this?"
"A little maybe…you're there."
- Michael and Nikita, Catch a Falling Star
Wind whipped in her face, the warm summer sun bright against her skin. She was in a field of wildflowers, their soft petals caressing the skin of her bare legs as she walked toward the cottage that dotted the landscape. Set in the middle of the field, surrounded by woods on three sides a couple of acres behind, the small house was made of a combination of stone and wood. Her breath caught at the beauty of the simple home, a dream she never thought they'd realize.
Straight from fantasies softly spoken on a cold winter night, it was all she'd wanted and more. Smoke billowed out of the chimney of the two-story structure and as she moved within a few hundred feet of the house, she could see movement. The windows were open to allow the fresh air to rush in. A child's laugh could be heard. The laugh turned into a shriek as a smaller body was lifted upside down into the air by strong hands. His face turned toward the window, his son still his focus, and Nikita could see a small but somewhat sad smile gracing his mouth, curving those lips. There was anguish in his eyes, a hollowness Nikita shared.
She moved closer still.
The wind picked up and Nikita pulled her light jacket closer around her frame. She stumbled for a second on the uneven ground and she thought, not for the first time since leaving her Porsche, that she should've worn flats. Her gaze still fixed on the domestic scene in the cottage, she made her way slowly through the field to within feet of the house. Michael was still distracted by his laughing son, tickling the young boy. After a moment, he put him down and it appeared he went back to stirring something in a pot on the stove, which was clearly seen from the outside. Its scent wafted to Nikita's nose and her senses took in the sweet smell. It was some sort of sauce, something he'd never cooked for the two of them in the seven years she'd known him before they'd parted five years ago.
Coming from the left, she knew she was in his blind side, unable to see her until she was almost upon them. Suddenly, her body began to tremble and her heart race in a combination of elation and trepidation. What if he didn't want her anymore? What if he'd fallen out of love with her when the years had only cemented her love for him?
What if it was too late?
Those fine tremors shaking her body almost imperceptibly, Nikita moved finally into the line of Michael's sight. Unerringly, those hazel eyes, always more green than brown, or gold or blue, locked onto hers in shock. Even now, five years later, Michael maintained his Section blank mask and her only visual clue was that surprise and, an instant later, disbelief and hope that warred in their depths. He blinked and Nikita knew he was thinking he was imagining things, that she wasn't there, that she had to be a figment of his imagination and that in fact, she was still imprisoned in Section.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Nikita moved out of his sight again and she caught his swift movement toward that oak door. Michael opened it immediately, before she could even reach for the handle. For a few tense moments, each stared at each other, noting the differences since the last time they'd seen each other. By unspoken agreement, they'd not contacted each other; though she had known where he was and could have visited anytime. But such a venture was too dangerous for all three of them. As such, they'd not seen each other for five interminable years. He'd grown out his short hair, such that it was back to those beautiful curls he'd had for the first four years she'd known him. They framed his gorgeous face now, no longer confined behind his ears in a half-hearted attempt to conform to Section standards. He was wearing a thin black t-shirt and jeans. He was barefoot, giving him a relaxed look, intensely different than many of the times they'd been together, either in Section or out.
Nikita had also grown out her hair, although it was still somewhat short, at just brushing her neck. She watched as he took in the blue sheath of a dress, distinctly out of place in the relaxed atmosphere, and the calf-high black boots that conformed to her legs and showcased her calves, the sunglasses perched on top of her head. "Michael…" she started hesitantly.
"Ni-ki-ta," he almost whispered and she nearly went weak at the knees at his pronunciation of her name. It was said with all the reverence of a devotee saying the name of his God. Tears sprung to her eyes spontaneously. Her fears evaporated. With that one word, with the ache and love and heat and wonder conveyed in that silky tone, all of her fears were allayed and Nikita swayed toward him in disbelief and awe that such a man could still love her. That he'd waited.
He caught her in strong hands and pulled her to him and then allowed his hands to linger, first to stroke over her covered arms and then up her neck and face to caress the ridge of her brow. She almost shattered against him with that small, infinitely remembered, unaccountably tender moment. "Nikita…" he whispered again, an unspoken question tacked onto the soft missive.
"Yes, I'm here. For good. No Section tricks," she said softly.
"Why?" Why now? was the real question.
"Walter died about a year ago, massive coronary. Natural death. I couldn't take it anymore, you gone, Walter dead…He was my touchstone, Michael. I couldn't stay there without him, no matter the promise to my father."
"And Center approves?" he asked, moving closer into her space. Christ, he wasn't sure how much longer he could wait to kiss her, but he had to know this one last critical element. He couldn't take it if she was off books and had come to him with significant heat on her. As much as he loved Nikita, he couldn't allow anything to happen to his son.
"They never liked me. But since I was my father's daughter, they didn't kill me when they found a replacement. They don't know where I am, but they know I'm with you. We won't be bothered." She moved closer in, their lips just about touching, brushing, and she could hear the ragged movement of air in his lungs, shallowly acquired and forcefully pushed out. "They owe my father that much."
Just as she was drawing a breath, Michael broke their standoff and pressed his lips to hers, and for the first time in five years, they kissed. Tentative but lingering at first, both still somewhat afraid it was a cruel joke they desperately wanted to believe in, lips barely brushed, met. A few seconds of that and Michael's long-lauded control was stretched to its limits, evidenced by the way he opened his mouth and coaxed hers open as well so that he could sip from the well of her upper and then lower lip, nibbling gently on the plump surface.
Nikita clutched at his sides, holding on in case it was a dream, wanting to savor each second. Michael caused her head to spin and spots to dance in her closed eyes as he slipped his tongue inside to sweetly caress the inside of her lip and trace the outer surfaces of her teeth before sliding deeper to tangle with hers. A moan broke from her lips, low and vibrating off his mouth and a hard shudder racked his tall frame.
A loud noise issuing from the kitchen broke the reunited lovers apart and Michael traced the slick surface of her lower lip with the pad of his thumb and reminded himself sternly that his son was inside. "Come in, Nikita," he invited in a low voice, inviting the woman he loved into the house he and Adam had created out of his and Nikita's vision. She entered and took in the interior. For all of their conversations over the seven years they'd known each other, they'd never spoken specifics, but as he watched her reaction, Michael knew he'd gotten the details right. Tears appeared and were quickly blinked back. "Welcome home, love."
Later that night, enclosed in his warm arms, Nikita felt contentment for the first time in over a decade. Truth be told, for the first time in close to twenty years. They were spooned together, most of their clothes still on. It was close to midnight, or maybe a little after, and they'd already loved more than once for the night, but Adam had a habit of coming into his father's room during nightmares, so by tacit agreement they'd left the majority of their clothes on. Pulling his arms tighter around her, Nikita wound her legs through his, needing even more of that closeness. Softly, slowly, she was lulled into sleep. And for the first time since taking over Section, Nikita Wirth slept deeply without reservation.
When she awoke, sunlight streamed through the window and Nikita's human blanket was no longer wrapped around her. Michael's side of the bed was made, not mussed like the two of them had been rolling around the bed making love. Dread began to fill her and she called out to Michael.
"Adam", she called, getting out of bed.
Again, no answer.
Quickly putting on clothes, Nikita opened the door to a horror. She was in Section, the gray walls bleak and cold compared to the quiet elegance of the bedroom she'd just left. A cruel joke. Her mind had played such a cruel joke; the cottage – didn't exist. Michael and Adam – on the outside, away from Section. Nikita – still trapped in Section. The walls closed in. A scream welled up, rage and pain and despair rolled into one sound….
Nikita shot up in bed, her heart pounding a mile a minute, sweat dampening her face, neck, and chest, the scream strangled in her throat.
She was naked in their bedroom, or so it appeared. She hardened her heart against the wish and cautiously looked around. Just like her dream. Until her eyes alighted on the naked form of Michael Samuelle, a soft smile curving his lips. Was he real?
She reached a shaking hand to touch his face, and his eyes opened, somewhat alert and a hint of sleep in their depths. His eyes questioned her first, and then he verbalized the concern. "What's wrong?" he asked, sleep roughening his voice.
"I dreamed…" she started, the fear and despair slipping into her voice, tightening her throat.
"I'm real, Nikita. We're real," he said softly, pulling her down into his arms and curving her face into his neck.
A sob broke lose. "I dreamed that I hadn't found you, that that day didn't actually happen. I was still at Section and you were on the outside."
"It's real, Nikita. I'm here. It's no dream," he whispered against her cheek, stroking her bare back, the warm metal of his ring heated comfortably against her. "It's no dream."
"I'm free," she said, reiterating their story in her head. It really had happened like that – the cottage, the wildflowers. It was only her fear that turned her mind down that path.
"We're free," he added, a hand sloping down between them to rest on the soft swell. "And she's no dream."
A sob broke through again, relief and love intertwined. She'd paid her dues to Section and been richly rewarded. She had everything she had ever wanted or dreamed: a wonderful husband, an adorable step-son who she and Michael were starting the process for Nikita to adopt, a baby girl on the way, and a wonderful home to share it all with them. Her heart calmed its racing. It really wasn't a dream. The soft scent of wildflowers drifted in from the open window and as Michael's embrace, the tender strokes of his hand down her back, lulled her into comfort, Nikita's drowsy mind quieted and she slowly fell back asleep, this time to dream of their future, not their past.