"But I'm not like you Michael." – Nikita: Season 2 Episode 8, London Calling
She presses a soft, final kiss before she separates from him. She glides away in her ivory sweater and dark denim jeans, hair flailing behind her in the crisp London breeze as a river of tears stream down her face. She hates this; she hates being the martyr once again and having to sacrifice herself for somebody else, even if it is her true love. But she's Nikita, and all of her experiences (with or without Division) have taught her to quell her emotions and stay strong so she evens her breathing and silences her tears, hands clutching her bell sleeves because it's the only thing she can cling to at the moment.
Michael gazes at her as she leaves, comprehending the pure truth to her words yet unwilling to accept it, unable to go down without a fight. He rushes after her in a flurry of movement, not ready to part with this gorgeous girl without an explanation.
"Nikita, wait! This isn't your decision to make."
The words come out harsher than he intended but all the pent up emotion he'd been fostering for days finally bubbled over and unfortunately Nikita was the recipient of it. He knew that this verbal explosion was going to make the impending discussion (he refused to call it an argument) all the more complicated, especially since her making decisions over his head had previously been a subject of contempt between the two of them.
Nikita continued marching away, her steadfast resolve precluding her from acting on the desperate desire to look at him one more time before he was gone from her life for good. As a distraction, she dipped her head and stared at the asphalt that composed the English roadway. She attempted to tune out his voice, mentally reciting intricate step-by-step instructions on how to covertly disengage an AK-47, but it was in vain. The alluring baritone of his voice still reached her sensitive ears so she had no option other than to listen.
"You don't need to distance yourself from me," he said, finally managing to catch up to her brisk pace.
"I can't be with you anymore when I'm the only thing holding you back from being with your family – to have that idealistic life I know you secretly crave."
She instantly knew that she had struck a chord with him. Anything related to children and families and missed opportunities resounded in him like an echo on a cave. He was speechless for a brief moment before responding.
"But I don't want it with her. It's you, it's always been you."
"So maybe that's true, but right here, right now you have an opportunity for it. There's no waiting some indeterminable amount of time for Division to fall, no missions to come between you and what you want, no continual death threats to hinder your goals; there's only the chance at being a father that you've always desired."
"I can split time with him and with you. I don't want to have to leave you Nikita. I love you."
She smiled, a sad, wistful look washing over her face as she wished that everything was that simple. That adding two plus two really did give you four in this situation, but there were too many other factors, too many other variables in the problem that Michael had yet to account for.
"I love you, too, but that's why I have to do this. It's not because I want to in the slightest. If you don't take this chance it will always, always be at the front of your mind: when you're dismantling an IED, when you're planning an op, when you're interrogating a target, when Birkhoff is ranting about his online girlfriend. That, that right there is the reason you can't come with me, for your own safety. The thought of it could be detrimental. You know how much your primary focus has to be about destroying Division, 100% or you'll suffer the consequences. The distraction, in the form of that adorable little boy, could get you killed. There're tons of reasons associated with that before we even begin to look at all of your emotional insecurities with it."
She could see the gears turning in his head as he finally grasped the gravity of the situation. He now understood the complexity of the issue and saw the big picture that he'd been previously blind to thanks to his personal involvement. He registered why it was that Nikita had kept Max a secret despite the emotional toll it had burdened her with.
"But, Nikita, I…" His attempt to formulate a rebuttal failed.
"I'm not like you, Michael," Nikita said softly, repeating the phrase from their prior conversation that had led to this one. "My early childhood was far from normal, hell it was chock full of a whole bunch of craziness and abuse that no kid should ever have to deal with."
She faked a grin at her pathetic joke, but it appeared as a grimace and Michael saw right through her façade. He reached over as if to comfort her but she shrugged him off and trudged on.
"I never had a family, what with the get-togethers at Thanksgiving, tree-decorating at Christmas, or any other cherished tradition. I bounced around Foster Care and into a Ketamine-addicted life on the streets. Division, as much as I hate it, is probably the most stability I've ever had in my life. But, you, you're different. You were a fairly regular guy before Division. I don't know everything about your childhood and I'm sure it wasn't Brady Bunch perfect but it definitely held a semblance of normality to it. There might even be some parents you never told me about. And then there was Hayley and Elizabeth and your time in the Navy and everything was OK before the car bomb. So you know what that's like, and you know what you're missing. I don't. So I can carry on and live for revenge and accept that. But you won't be able to, maybe you could have before, because of your love for me, but not now. Not when there's option B, here with Cassandra, where you can watch your son grow and make up for lost time and all of those other things that you want so desperately to do."
"Nikita…" He interrupted again, his face forlorn with internal angst and motivations to do the right thing by her, yet unclear of what that right thing was.
"And I'm not going to ask you to continue to compartmentalize your emotions. That's what you've been doing up 'til now," when it looked as though he may say something, she added, "and don't try denying it because you slipped a few times and I caught each one."
"But it's not that simple for me, Nikita. I can't be objective about this like you apparently can. I want both of you."
"We don't always get what we want," she replied, quoting that greatly overused Rolling Stones song.
"I'm so sorry that this is even an issue between us," Michael conceded, "There are times when I wish he didn't exist to drive this wedge between us."
"We both know that isn't true," she corrected, "You love him, I can see it in your entire body anytime you're near him. And maybe, maybe you could learn to love Cassandra, too."
It broke her heart to say it, especially since she had already observed the beginnings of a spark between them, but if Nikita removed herself from the equation and replaced herself with Cassandra then maybe Michael wouldn't be so hesitant to leave her.
"That," he emphasized, "will never happen. I don't care how much Jujitsu she throws at me or how long she's worked with MI6. She's not you, so it isn't possible. I will always love you, Nikita."
"But you love Max too. You can have a family with her, Michael. Division will only care about me from now on, they'll lose interest in you and you'll be safe to pursue whatever path you want with Max and his mother. Amanda only desires the black box so you'll drop off her radar and be able to live in peace."
"Division is my fight, too," Michael affirmed.
"No, Michael, Percy is your fight and right now, he isn't our opponent."
Michael was losing ground fast, his argument falling flat under her logically constructed sentiments, so he was grasping at straws when he responded.
"Whoever you're fighting is automatically my adversary, Nikita. I want to help you. I love you and it kills me to think of you going at it on your own again."
He touched he face, softly stroking her smooth cheek with his fingertips. He seemed to be memorizing her features and trying to already retain a memory of this moment with his senses. He realized that what he had just said almost sounded like a capitulation to defeat and knew instinctually that she had as well. His assumption was correct, as she had caught that he was already imagining a future without her, where it was Michael then Nikita instead of Michael and Nikita.
"I love you, too, and I always will. But they say that if you love something, set it free. I love you with my whole heart, Michael, and that's why I can't stay to watch you suffer and try to hide your feelings from me. Goodbye, Michael. Stay loved."
She placed a lingering, tentative kiss on his lips and past him into the twilight that had recently fallen. The soft hues of purple and indigo mixed in with the warm rays of gold and magenta comfort her as she snuggled further into her cashmere sweater and headed away from her true love. The tears press against her eyes, stinging as they fall like silver drops of moonlight. He watched her go in painful silence, but did not follow. This time, he wouldn't attempt to change her mind.
Eight months later, after half a dozen failed efforts at taking down Oversight and saving Alex from herself, Nikita laid on her too-large bed in her big, empty room in a mansion overlooking the water. Birkhoff had managed to follow through on his hopes to score a place on the beach; it's a private area of course, where their next door neighbors are ten miles away and the only sound stemmed from the swaying trees or the cascading waves. Nikita had pushed onwards with her duty, trying to save the world one crooked black box assignment at a time. She figured that if she couldn't be happy at least she could be productive and make the rest of the people a little happier. It's not the same though, now that she knows what she's missing. Birkhoff's good for companionship and comic relief but it's not the same and even he knows not to bother her when she's in one of her "Mikey-moods" as he's dubbed them. He thinks she doesn't know that he calls them that, but she does, she knows everything except how to enjoy herself now that he's not with her.
When she's feeling particularly remorse and masochistic she hacks into satellite feeds in Belarus and England, watching him live his life without her. She's unable to discern whether or not he's resumed a relationship with Cassandra but at this point it almost doesn't matter because he's with her and not Nikita. It's slowly killing her inside, each image of them together as a happy family twists the knife deeper in her chest, driving out all hopes of breathing normally. Usually her little observation sessions end with her in tears, desperate for what she no longer possesses so she's stopped them for the last few months, unable to bear the deluge of emotions that always accompany it.
She's staring at the ceiling, watching with boredom as the thousand-dollar fan oscillates above her head. The sadness has probably reached an actual depression at this point, she guesses. If she were to visit a psychiatrist they'd prescribe so many anti-depressants for her, her head would spin. But, of course, she doesn't, because her recent ambushes on division have made her even more number-one-most-wanted than usual so she's pretty much in isolation unless it's on a mission when the risk is necessary. God knows she doesn't need to compromise another one of Birkhoff's safe houses. She's verging on suicidal, she knows. Between the self-destructive tendencies and unwarranted weight loss, she's slipping away at a painstaking pace.
It turns out that being consumed with revenge and nothing else to live for doesn't work out so well. It's left an emptiness inside her that she can't seem to remedy. She's always had that extra little thing whether it be training Alex, tracking down Michael, or even back when she saw only rage following her fiancée's death. Now she's left with nothing. She wouldn't be surprised if Birkhoff staged an intervention due to the dark circles alone, never mind all the other indicators of her non-wellbeing. But he would be wrong in his assumption that she's trying to get herself killed, because she's not. She knows that the news of her death would eventually reach Michael's ears and he would feel responsible for her and it would destroy him inside. She can't have that; the guilt of it would be unbearable for her.
The next morning the doorbell rings around noon and she moves to answer it, gently closing the book she'd been staring at for half an hour, not processing the actual text. Normally, she's more cautious with visitors, her paranoia of a possible threat preventing her from being hospitable to newcomers; because of this, she tends to let Birkhoff answer the door but he's otherwise indisposed at the moment so it's just her. This time of year, it's probably some lost tourist in need of directions and she doesn't want her own fears to affect them so she simply opens the door with a fake smile plastered on her beautiful face.
To say she's shocked is the understatement of the year as she stares at the face in front of her, the person she's longed for eight torturous months for is right in front of her, parked on her doorstep like the greatest package anyone could ever hope for. Michael. He's back. Her first instinct is to hurl her entire body at him and reaffirm her love for him in various forms of affection, but she stops herself, unwittingly accepting that there must be an ulterior motive to his presence and that she shouldn't let herself get so excited with false hope. She steels herself for what may follow.
His voice is the same as always but seems more so due to his absence. He's gorgeous and unkempt and so undeniably Michael that she can't contain herself. Her resolve falters and she rushes to hug him, crushing his body to her own and loving the way they fit together like an arrow to a bulls-eye.
She's so distracted with his presence that she misses that he's started talking so she refocuses and attempts to clarify his words in her mind that's currently befuddled with rampant emotion.
"…then I found out the true significance of him through her friend and everything made sense. God, I should have seen this sooner. You were right; she does have a problem with keeping secrets, even as a secret agent."
"Hold on, Michael, what?" Nikita asks, confusion evident on her face as her eyes search him for some kind of revelation.
"I'm not Max's father. It was that Nigel guy that was her MI6 handler for all those years. She slept with him a month after I left and Max was born prematurely. I didn't believe it at first but I started noticing a few slight things, things that I hadn't caught onto previously because I hadn't known to look for them. I confronted her about it but she of course denied it. Then I got a paternity test done covertly that proved me right. She's been playing me this whole time and I'd been too naïve to see it."
While the selfish part of her is ecstatic, she feels horrible for him because she knows how much Max meant to him and she would never try to ruin something as sacred as that. But for Cassandra to do such a thing, to knowingly lie to Michael on a daily basis about such an important matter, is inconceivable.
"Originally, she had hoped that it had been me, but she's known since Max was one who his true father was and it was never me. I've spent the last few weeks searching you out and trying to find your current hideaway but you made it more difficult than usual so it took more time and effort. I feel terrible for what I'm sure I put you through, Nikita, and it was all for nothing."
By now, he's picked up on her physical ailments and being Michael, he's sure of the emotional ones that she's suffering through as well. A hybrid of sheer joy and all the other overwhelming emotions that are currently rattling around in her head induce tears that gush down her face and she fights to keep her voice stable.
"Michael, you could not have known. No one could have guessed. The timeline fit perfectly and she was supposedly this honorable intelligence officer. I don't blame you in the least for this, but I can't say I'm not happy to have you back with me. It's been agony without you here. And I had to make it harder to find, Division's been after me more so than usual lately so every precaution is necessesary."
They're touching each other now, hands roaming all over bodies and getting reacquainted with themselves as a couple. Though Nikita's unsure of what's causing his tears, Michael has joined in on the crying though his is less prominent than her own, just tracks steadily flowing down his face in a silent river.
"Nikita, I want you to know something. Even before I knew all the lies she'd spewed and the convoluted web she was weaving, I never loved her. She tried to initiate a relationship with me but I couldn't accept it because my heart still loved you. I was only there for Max and whenever I wasn't with him my mind wandered back to you. You said that 'what if' was the most dangerous question for me and you were right. I spent half my time longing to be with you and wishing I'd chased you down a second time and refused to let you out of my sight, even if it meant doing something outlandishly crazy like bugging your car or locking us together in a room without a key."
He let out a bark of a laugh at that and couldn't resist kissing her for the first time in eight months. She laughed too, for a moment, her lilting soprano mixing in with his gravelly baritone. They dissolved into a passionate fit of kisses and ministrations, always touching, always together. After an extended period where time was meaningless to them, Nikita spoke.
"But you're here now and we'll make it through, just like we always do," she said lovingly, threading her fingers through his hair.
Three weeks later, when they're fielding enemy fire from a Lithuanian mob boss over a misplaced weapons container, with Birkhoff clipping off details over comms, Nikita twists her head to the left and catches a glimpse of Michael popping off rounds from a machine gun. He grins, before ducking back down and rejoining her behind the fence they're currently using for cover. Nikita smiles back and suddenly remembers who she's living for.
"32, and still growin' up now; who you are is not what you did; you're still an innocent."