Nikita leaves Michael with a number to one of her burner phones scribbled on his hand.
(She also leaves him with a kiss on the lips and an invitation to call her anytime.)
It's been two weeks and she still hasn't heard from him. It's beyond insane how often she checks her phone to see that it's working and that she hasn't missed his call. Especially since she should have thrown the burner cell out weeks ago.
She's on a rooftop, rain pelting against her favorite leather jacket, rifle in her hands, target in her sights, when a text finally comes from Michael. She thinks it must be Ari wanting confirmation of the hit, so she quickly pulls out her phone to check it.
I'll be in NYC in two weeks.
It's not exactly an invitation, but it's something. Another text comes through a minute later with the name of a hotel, a date, and a time.
Nikita's target steps out onto the balcony, and she smiles as she pulls the trigger.
Michael glances up at Percy's right hand lady strolls into his office and sits on the edge of his desk. He should have suspected that she would come around to check on him eventually. "Has Nikita replied?"
"A few minutes ago," he says. "She agreed to meet me."
"Did you think she wouldn't?" Carla asks.
"I don't know what I thought."
"Do you want to see her again?"
This is the only thing Michael doesn't like about Carla. Her perceptiveness comes in handy when they're dealing with new recruits and their shady pasts. It's beyond annoying when he's the one she's placed underneath her microscope.
"That doesn't matter," Michael finally answers. "Percy wants me to see her again, so I'm going to see her again."
"Percy doesn't run everything around here," Carla says. "I wish he would have talked to me about this before he sent you in; I wouldn't have let him."
"I wanted to go."
"Because of Kasim."
She's not wrong, so Michael doesn't object.
Carla leans over and places her hands over his. "Michael, I know how much you want to take down Kasim. I want to take down Kasim, for betraying this place, for betraying us. But you don't have to do it this way. You don't have to let Percy push you around."
"I'm in this now, Carla. I'm not backing out."
"You know, if you get in too deep, this is going to end badly, Michael. Eventually, you're going to have to betray her."
Michael doesn't say anything. He knows. That knowledge has been festering in his gut since she kissed him goodbye.
She works for Gogol. She's not on his side. She would kill him in a heartbeat. All these are things he keeps reminding himself.
She is gorgeous. She is lovely. She is confident and vulnerable, perceptive and oblivious.
Michael would really like to see her again. To figure her out further. He wants to know what the Phoenix on her hip means; he wants to know why she joined Gogol. He wants to know her, all the intricacies and insecurities, and the hopes and fears, the likes and dislikes, her wants and her needs.
Yet, even as he knows that each new bit of information will help him to learn about her, he also knows that every thing he learns will be forged into a weapon to use against her. Michael's just not so sure that when the time comes, he'll be able to pull the trigger.
She wears a short green dress that she tells herself she picks because she hasn't worn it in ages, and not because Ari's never seen it in his life. Nikita's not sure when she got so good at lying to herself.
He smiles when he see her, and her stomach leaps at the sight as she slides onto the barstool next to him.
"Hi, Soldier Boy."
"I told you: I'm not a soldier."
"Well," Nikita purrs, "I think you'd be upset if I called you CIA boy."
"I'm not CIA."
She steals his scotch and takes a long sip. "You keep on telling yourself that, soldier."
"And how would you know if I was CIA?"
Using her index finger, she points at her chest. "Nikita Mears. Investigative journalist. I've been around the block a few times. You start to recognize the government types. Especially the ones who are good at evading your questions. You denying it?"
"Journalist doesn't sound boring to me."
She gives him a look, and he seems to quickly pick up on her confusion. "When we first met," he says, "I asked you what you did, and you said it was boring."
"I sit in a cubicle and tap at a keyboard," Nikita says. "It's pretty boring to me. And did you see how deftly you steered that conversation away from your job?"
He opens his mouth, then closes it again. Nikita smirks.
"Let me buy you dinner," her says.
She smiles as she finishes the rest of his drink; she can't remember the last time anyone took her to dinner. It certainly wasn't Ari.
Michael takes her to a vegetarian restaurant. She asks how he knows, and he cites what she ordered for breakfast from room service. She can't believe he remembers.
Nikita doesn't date. She doesn't have any need for it, unless she's on an assignment, and then she has a secondary goal or objective. Here, there is no alternate strategy on her part, nothing for her to do but have a good time, to study Michael. She finds that she likes the idea of trying to figure out what makes him tick. She notes the wine he orders, the meal he chooses. She thinks for a little while about the meaning of the color of his tie, the thought behind his cufflinks. She studies his reaction to things the waiter says, his reactions to the things she says. Little things here, little things there.
They talk about her life (her cover life as a journalist really is boring - through a string of shell companies, Zetrov actually owns the paper, and Nikita's never penned a word in her life, but it gives the excuse to travel). They discuss the places she's been, the things she's seen.
Until Nikita finally says, "What is this, Michael?"
"What do you mean?"
"You don't have to do this, you know. I came here with the intention of sleeping with you. Normally when I meet a man at a hotel...he doesn't buy me dinner first."
It takes him a second to respond to that, but when he does, he graces her with a lopsided smile that makes her stomach flip. "Then you've been dating some real jerks," he says.
"What made you pick me that night?" Michael asks, later.
Nikita's eyes are closed. She shifts into a more comfortable position against his chest. "What do you mean?"
"You were the prettiest woman at that party; you could have had any one of those men in your bed. Why did you pick me?"
She presses a kiss against his sternum. "I should be asking you the same question. Why did you pick me?"
"If I tell you it was because you were the prettiest girl in the room, will you think less of me?"
Nikita shrugs one shoulder. She's accustomed to being the prettiest in the room.
"No," Michael says, letting his fingers splay out against her stomach. "I don't think that was it. Or at least not all of it."
She's quiet, waiting, almost dreading whatever he says next.
"I chose you," he says, "Because you chose me. I saw you, of course. I definitely thought you were the prettiest in the room, but I didn't think I'd have a chance until you started talking to me."
Finding his hand with hers, Nikita winds their fingers together. She slides a leg over his hips and rolls onto his chest. Her hair falls around his face, and when she kisses him, it feels like a reward.
"Why did you pick me that night?" he asks. The words come out low and gravely. Nikita's pupils instantly dilate, and her thighs tighten slightly around his body. It takes her a few seconds to answer, but when she does, her voice is as thick with want as his was.
"You looked corruptible," Nikita says. "I wanted to be the one who got to corrupt you."
"Is it working?"
The kiss she gives him is positively filthy, and it ends with his lower lip between her teeth. Scraping her nails against his shoulder blades, she slowly runs her hands down his arms. He reaches for her, but Nikita grabs his wrists forcefully and pins his hands down, slowly rocking her hips against his.
He moans, and she smiles. "You tell me."
Nikita moans pleasantly. She's got her face buried in a pillow and her arms stretched over her head. Michael's hands are working against her shoulders, firmly massaging the tense muscles there. If he keeps this up, Nikita thinks she might melt right through the mattress. His hands touch just the right places, alternating between gloriously rough and achingly gentle.
"Sorry," Michael says, "You've got this knot right there. Must be stressful."
"It has it's perks."
He falls over onto his back, settling down next to her. "And it's downsides, apparently."
The truth comes out unbidden. "Sometimes, I feel hollowed out. Empty. You do what I do for as long as I have, you eventually see a lot of things you wish you'd never seen." She curls against him, letting him tuck his arm around her waist as she uses his shoulder as a pillow.
"I know what you mean," he says. It's the first time Michael has even casually admitted to her that he's in the intelligence community, and the acknowledgement of something Nikita's long known to be true fills her with this inexplicable joy.
"I knew you were CIA," she says smugly.
For just a second, Michael looks nervous, but it's there and gone before Nikita can think too much about it. He rests a hand on her thigh, rubbing circles with his thumb, and suddenly her body is reacting to his touch in a completely different way. The moan that slips from her lips carries a different weight to it. He kisses her and tugs her close and right when she's just about forgotten what on earth they were even talking about, Michael replies, "I can neither confirm nor deny."
They meet again in Paris because she's there to eliminate a target for Ari and Michael...never really tells her why he's there.
He just is, and he uses his body to press her up against the wall in one of the shadiest nightclubs she's ever set foot in. They hide in the shadows of a tiny alcove as the music and lights pulse around them. The cut of her dress is low enough for him to place a line of kisses down her breastbone, and her skirt barely reaches her thighs. Michael's fingers slip beneath the material, and she lets her head fall back against the wall as her body shudders under his touch. It's not enough, not nearly enough, and she tells him so between breathless gasps.
Her hands grab at his shirt, searching for purchase, for something to hold onto as he hooks both hand behind her thighs and lifts her up. She tightens her legs around his hips. It's all she can do to hold on.
Everything about him is intoxicating and dizzying. He spins the earth beneath her feet. She's never had such a weakness before.
And, oh, he is a weakness. Nikita just can't quite bring herself to care. Not when his hands are pushing up her skirt and his mouth is hot on her skin and -
One of the bouncers inevitably stumbles across them and throws them out, but that's ends up working out fine because Ari rented Nikita a car with a very spacious backseat.
Jet lag is a bitch. It's past midnight in Moscow, but to Nikita, it feels like early evening. Silky sheets are tangled around her legs and one of Ari's arms wraps possessively around her waist.
Carefully, Nikita shimmies out of Ari's arms and into a silk robe. Padding to the window, she pulls back the curtain and stares out at the lights of the city around her.
Unbidden, her thoughts drift to Michael, of his hands on her skin and his voice in her ear. It's not the first time this has happened.
She wakes up in the morning and she thinks of him. She closes her eyes at night, and he's the last thought in her mind. She's in so deeply she's drowning, and the most terrifying part of that is how much she doesn't care that her feet can't touch the bottom anymore.
Ari's hands settle on her shoulders. She jumps, startled. She hadn't realized heard him get up.
"You're tense," he says, and she can hear the surprise in his voice. "What's keeping you awake?"
"Just a bit of jet lag," she says, biting her lip at the half-truth.
He sighs, letting his hands slip down her arms as he presses a kiss below the line of her jaw. He turns her face towards him. "Why do I feel like you're not being completely truthful with me."
Uneasily, she swallows. His fingers travel to her wrist and find her pulse. "Your heart's racing, Nikita."
She knows. It's been hammering in her chest since he appeared behind her.
Ari sighs, almost sadly. "You don't love me, do you, Nikita?" His tone is surprisingly patient.
"No," she says. "I don't."
"There's someone else, isn't there?"
She doesn't answer; she doesn't have to.
"Do you love him?"
Again, Nikita is silent.
Ari tucks a bit of her hair back behind her ear and then presses a kiss to her forehead. "Be careful, my dear. Emotions can be a nasty thing in our business."
Michael walks into a hotel suite in Vegas to find a trail of rose petals leading into the bathroom. Nikita's lying in the tub, covered in bubbles. The lights are dim and there are candles spread out across the room, filling it with a heavenly scent.
"Are you trying to seduce me?" The words slip from his lips so naturally.
"You've proven to be very seducible." Nikita holds out a hand and beckons to him with a finger. He leans over her and as he does she grasps his tie, tugging him down until she can kiss him.
"Michael," she whispers against his lips, "I might be in love with you."
A war breaks out inside him, one side desperately wanting to return the declaration of love, the other side knowing that this is nothing more than a charade. The words I might be in love with you too hover on his tongue, but he stomps them down.
He kisses her instead, because he does love her and he loves kissing her. Nikita kisses with the same passion she does everything else. It's so easy to get swept away.
"Clothes off," she moans against his lips. "Now."
Michael hurries to oblige.
Carla sets a syringe on his desk, and Michael's stomach sinks like a stone.
"Percy's calling it the Poe virus," she says. "It's slow acting. Even without the antidote, she'll be fully functional for a good 36 hours before she starts to feel any symptoms, but without the antidote, she will die."
"What if Gogol can get her the antidote?"
"This virus was specifically created for Division use. There is no way for them to find an antidote, not in time. She either helps us or she dies."
"What does Percy want her to do?"
Carla hesitates, and that's what tells Michael that this is so much worse than he thought it was. "Percy wants her to kill Ari Tasarov."
"If she kills Ari, Gogol will kill her, and she knows that. She won't do it."
"Is that really what you think? Or do you not want to believe that she would kill him just to save her own skin?"
Michael ignores the question. "Why does Percy want Ari dead?"
"He has someone inside Gogol, someone who will be in a position to take over the organization after Ari is out of the way."
"He won't tell me." Carla says. "And that's what concerns me the most."
"So," Nikita says, swirling the last bit of wine around in her glass as watches him dress. "What happened to her?"
From his seat on the edge of the bed, Michael doesn't turn to look at her, which merely confirms her suspicions. "What happened to who?"
"Your wife," she says nonchalantly, setting her glass on the nightstand and crawling across the bed. From behind, she wraps her arms around his shoulders and presses a kiss against his jaw. "You've never said."
Michael weighs his options. Sometimes he feels like they're trading secrets. One of his for one of hers. That's the currency of their relationship: a lie for a lie, a truth for a truth.
He can't say the name Kasim Tariq, of course, but he can tell the rest of the story.
And he does. She stays at his back the entire time, keeping her arms around him and her hands pressed softly against his chest. He can feel her breath against his skin as she presses soft kisses to his shoulder.
In a small way, it helps him remember why he's doing what he's doing. It helps him reconcile why he has a syringe of deadly virus with him, and why he's planning on stabbing her with it.
She falls asleep in Michael's arms, her head nestled against his chest. So trusting when she really shouldn't be. He doesn't deserve her. He doesn't deserve this.
Michael waits until Nikita's breathing has evened out before he slips out of her arms and grabs the sedative from its hiding spot beneath the bed.
He hesitates for a moment. She will never forgive him for this. He's not sure he can forgive himself.
She wakes up as Michael stabs her with the needle. Her eyes fly open and the shock and betrayal he sees there makes him sick to his stomach. She scrambles off of the bed and away from him, towards her clothes.
"Michael," she breathes, before her eyes take in the needle in his hand and the expression on his face.
"I liked," he says, taking the tone he uses on the recruits. "I'm not CIA."
One of her stilettos comes flying at his head. At least it's not a bullet.
"You're Division!" She spits the last word like it's a curse. Another shoe flies towards his head, this one is slightly easier to dodge now that he's on guard. He'll be honest - if she ever found out, he half expected a knife in his back.
"I just injected you with something called the Poe virus. You'll be dead in 48 hours unless I give you the antidote."
Nikita doesn't move. "Michael, don't do this."
And for a split second, he wants nothing more than to take it all back. But it's too late.
Michael keeps his voice calm. "I need you to kill Ari Tasarov."
"You need me to, or Percy does?"
"I am not killing Ari. I'll die first."
For just a second, he believes her. She will die first.
Michael's job is to figure her out, and he knows how to get her to do what he wants.
"No you won't. You're not blind to the things that he does. He's not the good man you'd like to see him as, and deep down you know it. This gets him out of the way. It...stops him from hurting people."
"People like your wife?"
It's like a bucket of cold water to his face, and suddenly Michael's wondering just how much he severely underestimated her ability to figure him out. The truth weighs in his chest. "Ari didn't have anything to do with Elizabeth's death, but he's actively protecting the man who did."
He doesn't ask her how she puts the pieces together. It isn't like she would tell him anyway.
Nikita begins to pace, back and forth with such fury that she should be wearing a hole through the floor. "I don't know how I didn't see it. Everything...everything's been a lie."
"No." He stops her there, stepping in front of her and catching her shoulders with his hands. "No, it hasn't been. I promise you it hasn't been."
"And how am I supposed to believe that?"
He opens his mouth but the truth silences him. She has no reason to believe him.
"I should kill you right now," she says.
"You think you know me so well, Michael? You got me all figured out so you can use me however you want?"
"It may have started like that, Nikita, but it wasn't...it wasn't supposed to become real."
She shakes her head, "No...no. You don't get to tell me that it was real. None of this was real for you. You used me." The last barb sinks in his chest in the way a blade in her hands never could.
"And you used me right back." It's not the same and he knows it.
Scoffing, Nikita shakes her head. "Tell Percy you made an excellent honeytrap."
to be continued...