Nikita had fooled everyone else in the briefing that morning, but Michael knew her. She had been crying and that bothered him. Through all of this, despite every word regretted later and every time that he'd pulled away, she'd remained…not upbeat, but stoic. She was his rock. He might still be floundering like a drowning man, but he knew she was there and he was still trying to make it to dry ground. Maybe she knew this, maybe she didn't, but in the moments that spent alone what mattered to him was that she kept trying. No matter what he did or didn't do, Nikita kept trying and that meant more to Michael than he could put into words.
Granted, her efforts had grown more sporadic over the last few weeks, but he'd thought that was just her giving him his space. Now, he wondered if she wasn't hiding something else from him. Or maybe there was an end to the amount of pain that Nikita could take.
"You okay," he asked, cornering Nikita in the hallway. She'd changed, looking a little less put together now. And a little more ready to kick his ass for being such a hypocrite.
Nikita blinked and looked around. When she looked back at Michael, he could tell that she had expected to find someone else in that hallway. Michael thought getting his hand cut off had hurt less than that brief startled glance. It took his breath away in a bad way.
She thought he didn't care about her.
He thought he was an idiot.
"Yeah," she said. "Just tired."
"Oh," he replied, still gasping mentally. He wanted to say a thousand things. To fix what he'd broken. But he couldn't settle on what to say first or how to say it. There was a pause. Nikita bit her lip.
"I've gotta go, Alex is waiting for me." She shifted her weight as if to move past him, but she stopped. Her eyes flicked up to his and then down again. She kissed him on the cheek. It was so hesitant and light, Michael barely felt it. But he did feel the way that she pulled away. Like she was shying away from him.
She headed down the hall and around the corner.
He knew the last few weeks had been hard on her. But for the first time, he was confronted with just how much she was hurting and just how much he was hurting her. He felt like someone had just scraped away whatever had allowed him to turn away everyone else's pain and now it was all laid before him, glaring, angry and still bleeding.
Michael hurried after her. Of course, she'd disappeared by the time he rounded the corner. But she'd looked ready for a sparring session, so he knew where to find her.
They weren't sparring, that much he could tell when he reached the small training room Nikita and Alex favored for their one-on-one sessions. He could hear them talking, but it wasn't until he was just outside the door that he could make out what they were saying. He stopped, knowing that he should walk away now. But, despite the risk to his own person should he be caught, Michael listened.
"Alex, I don't want to talk about. Not right now." She paused. When she continued, he could barely hear her. "I can't. I'm sorry." Her shoes squeaked against the mat.
Michael heard a whump, but no returning grunt. Nikita must've started working the bag.
"Have you told him yet?"
"Michael has enough on his plate right now," Nikita grunted. "He doesn't need this."
Michael held his breath. He leaned forward, trying to get some visual. Alex was holding the bag as Nikita pounded away at it.
"So, when are you going to tell him?" Alex grunted as Nikita kicked the bag hard enough to push her back a few steps..
"This is not 'not talking about it'."
Alex caught Nikita's next punch in the palm of her hand, forcing Nikita to look at her.
"I'm worried about you."
"I'm fine, Alex." Nikita moved off. She started unwrapping the elastic on her gloves.
"No, you're not."
"What am I supposed to tell him? That I lost a child that I didn't even know about long enough to tell him?" She threw the gloves down. "What good is telling him going to do?"
Michael reeled back. He felt every part of him go cold as cold as his bionic hand. He tried to breathe, but his lungs felt like rocks.
"He can help you through this."
"Like he's letting me help him? You have no idea how badly he wanted this."
"You wanted it too," Alex whispered.
"I will lose him, Alex." He heard her take a raw breath. "And I'm already losing him." She went storming out of the room and down the hall. Luckily for Michael, she didn't look to her right.
"Oh God," Michael whispered. He leaned, almost fell, against the wall behind him. In the room he could hear Alex going to town on the punching bag. He listened, matching his breathing to the hits. Smack. Smack. Breathe in. Smack. Smack. Breathe out. He could feel the grief, twisting and building inside of him. But he couldn't let it out. Not yet.
It was time for him to start acting like the man she had agreed to marry.
Twenty minutes later he found her in the weapons locker. A strange choice if you hadn't been party to the conversations that happened in that room. Or at least, one conversation in particular.
She was sitting on a bench, looking small. Not fragile. Never fragile. But too small to hold up the amount of pain bearing down on her. Michael was realizing that he really hadn't known how much pain she could take.
Her hands were braced on her knees as wrenching sobs came up from deep inside her. She didn't even notice his presence. She paused, sucking in a breath and Michael stepped into the room. Nikita jerked her head up with a gasp. She turned away from him.
"How long have you been there?" she asked.
"Not long," Michael replied.
She didn't lean into him when he sat down next to her. If anything, his presence seemed to make her uncomfortable. Whether intentionally or not, she was leaning away from him.
"I know that I have given you very little reason to let me in over the last few weeks but, whatever is going on…" he started. He stopped. It all seemed so silly. He knew what was wrong. He'd been through this before. But something inside him knew that she needed to tell him her way. And there were things she needed to hear before there was a chance that she would open up to him again. "I'm sorry."
"What?" she said. She finally reached up and swiped at her eyes.
"I'm sorry. I've shut you out. It just—I wanted to figure out how to deal with this on my own before I made you deal with it." Michael paused. He reached out and took her hand in his. "I was wrong. I'm always stronger when I'm with you. You anchor me. You make me look beyond myself. I can't promise to be the most candid person about this, it's still—too hard to talk about sometimes, but I'm going to try harder to let you in. This affects you too, and I shouldn't make you deal with it alone."
He'd done it now. There was no going back. Nikita was always one to hold him to his words. But now that the words had been said, Michael found that he didn't want to take them back. It was like someone had ripped the bandage off and then stitched him together. He got down in front of her, taking both her hands in his. Her eyes met his as the prosthetic tightened around hers. He thought he saw a smile at that.
"I am so sorry, Nikita," he said. "Can you forgive me?"
The smile faded and she looked down. Michael took a breath and braced himself.
"I was pregnant." The words were neither soft, nor harsh. They didn't need any other inflection to show how much her world had shattered.
Michael swallowed. "What happened?"
"I don't know."
"It was three weeks ago," she said. "I just felt off, so I went into medical. They told me I was pregnant and that it was just my body adjusting." Her hands clenched under his. "I was a mess after that, so Alex drove me home. But I—I kept feeling worse, so I went to the hospital. By then it was too late." Michael closed his eyes. He'd known something was wrong around then. Ryan had told him it was just a bug when Michael asked him why Nikita hadn't shown up for two days, probably because that's what Nikita had told him. If he hadn't been so caught up in how his life had changed, he would have known. He could have at least checked on her.
"And you know the worst part? I could see it. For the first time, I could see that future for us—for me. And I realized that if something like that was possible, then we were going to be okay." She leaned forward, resting her forehead on the hands at her knees. "I'm so sorry, Michael," she sobbed. "I wanted it so badly. You have to believe me."
Michael pulled her off of the bench and onto the floor with him. He wrapped his arms around her.
"I know," he whispered. And then, because he'd barely understood the words himself, he said it again. "I know." He felt Nikita's arms wrap around him and finally, he broke too. If anyone saw them like that, he didn't know. His whole world was just the two of them. Just the small pinpoint in the bigger picture. Finally, he pulled away, forcing her to look in his eyes.
"It's not your fault," he said. Nikita let out another sob and ducked her head. "Nikita, look at me. It is not your fault. Sometimes these things just happen."
Nikita looked up at him. Michael swallowed. He had never talked about this with anyone besides Elizabeth.
"Before Haley…there was a boy."
He closed his eyes. So many moments from his old life had slipped away, but he could still see Elizabeth's face when they realized it was all going wrong. He couldn't remember any moment during their marriage that had been harder than that moment. He knew it was the hardest thing Elizabeth had ever gone through.
And Nikita had been alone.
Michael couldn't meet her eyes anymore. This was how she'd felt every day for the past two months. For him, it had been mere minutes, but for her—she'd been watching him suffer alone for weeks. Again, he was hit by the stupidity of every time he'd pushed her away. He was surprised that she hadn't thrown his ring back in his face. Or shot him. He deserved both. The words he was going to say were stuck, trapped behind the emotions flooding through his brain. Still, he forced his vocal chords to work. He had to prove…he wasn't sure what, but he had to prove something.
"He was thirty-five weeks when we lost him," he managed. He had to stop every few words to push past the pain. "No one knew why. It just…it just happened, Nikita. No warning. He was there and then he was gone." Michael took a breath. "He was perfect." Had Nikita cried every night for the last three weeks, like Elizabeth had? Did she wake up in the middle of the night alone and in pain? Had she thought about calling him and begging him to come home? Would the sound of her tears have been enough to convince him to come?
Nikita shifted, resting her head on his shoulder. Her cheek pressed into his neck, hot from tears.
"You never told me," she said. "I'm sorry."
"Do you ever think about yourself?"
Nikita shifted again, trying to pull away.
"Don't move," he said. "Not yet." He pulled her closer. Her smell, her touch, the feel of her arms around him was overwhelming and he felt like an idiot for ignoring how much he had missed her. And he knew she had felt the same. It hadn't even occurred to him that by asking her to leave him alone, he was leaving her alone too. "I'm sorry," he said again. "I'm sorry for making you deal with this—All of this on your own." He held up his fake hand, just to make sure that she got the whole picture. Her head bumped against his jaw as she nodded. She took the fake hand in both of hers, playing with the leather glove that was his constant accessory now.
"I'm sorry I kept this from you," she said.
"It's okay. I haven't given you very much reason to trust me. But you're right. We need to do this together—I'll try not to forget that again."
"I'm going to hold you to that."
"I know you will." He kissed the top her head before pushing her away so he could stand up. He tried to pull his phone out of his jacket pocket. It was stuck at an awkward angle. He almost used his other hand, but he stopped. Actions spoke louder than words after all. "Nikita, do you mind helping me out."
She reached in and retrieved his phone, seeming almost shy as she held it out to him. "Thank you," he said and before she could react, he grabbed her and kissed her. Just a quick peck, but that was all he was willing to risk in a place so public. She didn't look any happier than he was about the briefness of their contact. She wrapped her arms around his waist again and rested her head on his shoulder.
"Hey, Birkhoff. Yeah, could you let Ryan know that Nikita and I will be out for the rest of the day."
"You and Nikita, huh? Hope you're planning to kiss and make up," Birkhoff replied.
Michael rolled his eyes. "Something like that."
"Mikey, I'm pretty sure it'll be exactly like that." Birkhoff hung up.
"Birkhoff." Michael rolled his eyes. "His minds always in the gutter."
Nikita laughed. "Good thing you didn't tell him that we'd already made up." She kissed him and it was only as an afterthought that Michael realized that he had both hands pressed at the small of her back. "Leaves plenty of time for the kissing part."
"Let's go home," Michael said. There were tears in her eyes again, but she was smiling.