The Good Fight
Disclaimer: Not my characters, just my words.
The first morning, just before dawn, Michael wakes up and finds Nikita awake already, watching the sun rise so intently one might think she was watching it not just for herself. As if she was watching it for those who could not be there, can never be there again.
Michael doesn't ask, just as she doesn't ask about the empty picture frame on the shelf in the basement. Just the right size to hold a picture of a child, yet it doesn't. Yet it can't.
Nikita doesn't ask. Michael doesn't ask. They both know the wounds of the other as well as they know their own scars, and perhaps feels them even more keenly. Love does that. And so Michael sits next to her while the first rays of the sun bathe them in light and the promise of warmth and new beginnings.
First morning, first dawn of a new life, she leans her head against his shoulder and wishes it wasn't just them here.
Sometimes, the good guys do win. Percy died. Amanda died. Division was dismantled, parts of it brought into the secret services, parts into private business specializing in security services. Zetrov was won, and Gogol with it, and the cost of it just one girl's service to a life she never wanted.
See, sometimes the good guys do win, but that's not necessarily the same as a happy ending or an ending at all. Alexandra Udinov running Zetrov to keep it out of harm's way doesn't bring anyone much happiness at all, least of which Alex.
Teach a girl to do the right thing, and she may keep on doing it, Nikita has long since learned. Has long since lived. Even at great cost.
The pardon was good, in the end. After many deaths, after so much blood, after Division fell and Percy died and there was nothing left but scorched earth, Michael and Nikita got their pardon and a house in a quiet suburb.
Bad guys defeated, good guys winning. That doesn't mean there wasn't a cost. For all of them.
The house is so normal it could be the pin-up of Normality Weekly, at least the first day. The more Michael and Nikita unpack, the less normal it becomes.
Weapons, because there might be new bad guys. A bullet, because it missed Nikita by a hair and Michael likes to touch it to remind himself never to take her for granted. A radio set on a certain frequency, because even if Owen hasn't been in touch for a year when he promised he would, he might still and not in fact lie in a nameless grave. A key to a locker, because Michael doesn't trust pardons and has money and equipment for a life on the run if needed.
A computer hard drive, because Birkhoff. Just because it's better to remember him by that than the pain in his eyes as they both watched him die.
Amanda. She died in pain also, but that is not comfort. Pain caused may have been a comfort to Amanda, but not to Nikita. She doesn't want it to. It would make them too alike, and she fears that even now.
One box is left unpacked in the basement, because Nikita never gives up hope that Alex might want to unpack it herself one day and move into the room they've made for her.
The second morning she wakes from a nightmare, gasping as it leaves her and finding her fingers digging into Michael's skin as if he's a lifeline. She almost hates him a little for that.
She rises from the bed, not caring the floor is cold against her naked feet, not caring she has nothing on when the darkness wraps her so well. Exhaling, she walks over to the window and watches the faint reflection of herself.
Nikita. Alive, even after everything.
Michael wouldn't let her die. That was the problem. For all she talked about wanting a life after, a home, an end, she never quite believed it. Not deep down.
She always believed she would die doing the right thing, atoning for her sins with the most powerful sacrifice of all. Giving her life to make right all the wrongs she had used parts of her life to do. She was always ready to die for something.
Michael wouldn't let her. And so here she is, alive when Owen probably isn't, Birkhoff certainly isn't, Carla isn't and Ryan... She doesn't want to think about Ryan as he lives now. Better to consider him dead.
“Nikita,” Michael says behind her, her name like a caress.
“Don't,” she says, a touch sharply, feeling a strange surge of anger. She was always ready to die for the right cause. He was never ready to let her, and she can be angry at him for that, just as he can be angry at her.
"If I can help it," he says, voice as raw as she feels, "I won't just let you die. I never will."
She turns around sharply, but Michael meets her gaze steadily, unflinching. She can see some of his anger lurking beneath the calm too, matching her own.
"I love you," he goes on. It isn't an apology, but it is a reason.
"I know," she says. It isn't forgiveness, but it is a sort of acceptance.
When she leans down to kiss Michael, he meets her halfway, his hands moving up her back as she arches a little. Even here, even now, they still have little tugs-of-war, little power plays, knowing each has a strong hold on the other and neither is good at rolling over and just doing what they're told.
Nikita wasn't, when Michael was her instructor. Michael wasn't, when joining her cause and not letting her die for it.
She digs her fingers a little into his shoulder as he lifts himself further up, changing the angle between their bodies enough to make her bite down on his lower lip. Her hair falls down around them both, filtering the light of the sun almost as shutters.
'I love you,' she doesn't say; she kisses him to give the message instead, and his body tells her he knows.
Nikita gets a job at the local community centre, specializing in working with troubled teens. Michael gets a job as an instructor for the police department. Not for the pay check, either of them. For the sense of normality, they both assure each other.
For a sense of purpose, neither says but both feel. Their last one is completed, after all.
Sean visits on the third day, bringing souvenirs from Moscow, and Michael watches Nikita hug him with a slight smile. Always so easy with her affection, even to one who once had a mission to kill her.
(Rather like himself, he tries very hard not to remember.)
But perhaps she is hugging Sean because she can't hug Alex, because Alex is so much like Nikita and refuses her former mentor a place in her life least it bring danger.
Nikita excuses herself when a teen comes over to ask something about the community centre, leaving Sean and Michael to share a slightly awkward silence.
“How is Alex?” Michael finally asks, and Sean shrugs with too much put-on indifference.
“Good. She has begun to disarm some sections of Gogol, the ones we think can't be...” He looks for a good word, making a slight sarcastic grin as he does. “Re-educated.”
“And how is Alex?” Michael repeats, getting a look from Sean. “You didn't answer the actual question.”
“Pushing me away. Says a relationship will paint a target on my back. Unwilling to put me in danger, apparently,” Sean says, and the bitterness isn't just evident in his voice.
“That's not her choice,” Michael points out, reaching into the fridge and handing the other man a beer.
“Isn't it?” Nikita asks from the doorway and Michael meets her gaze evenly. “You told me it was when I was trying to get on the first plane to Moscow.”
“It is her choice,” Sean says, making them both look at him. “But that doesn't mean it is the only one that matters.”
On the fourth day, they can't help themselves anymore; they spar.
It's like an itch, too many years of having to keep in shape because your life would depend on it, too used to winning one fight just to have another on their hands to think the war is over now.
Michael is still stronger and Nikita is still nimbler, and neither can completely best the other still, as it's always been, as it will always be.
As they want it to be, and when she gets in a particularly good move on him, he kisses her as if he never wants to stop.
The first time she jumps at a noise, a back-firing car thinking it a gun, she reaches for a weapon without even thinking, and has to pretend she was just doing her shoelaces instead.
The second time she jumps at a noise, a door slamming open thinking it Division teams coming, she manages to make her speeding up just seem like she realised she was in a hurry.
The third time she jumps at a noise, one that she isn't sure what even is just that it reminds her of Percy, she manages to keep her body from reacting much at all, even if her mind does.
She never does stop jumping at noises, just manages to disguise her reaction better.
Birkhoff did get a grave, unlike many others, and Nikita gets into the habit of visiting it once a week. She knows Michael does too, even if he doesn't tell her. One day they might be ready to talk about Birkhoff with each other. For now, they both feel their own grief too much to acknowledge the other's as well.
Alex has someone come with flowers regularly too, but the grave still seem to be getting more flowers than Nikita can account for, at least until she sees Sonia there one day, kneeling down and talking to the grave as if Birkhoff is still there to hear.
Love. The greatest thing there is. But also the most terrifying, knowing what it might cost you to lose it.
When Nikita comes home and kisses him desperately, Michael puts his arms around her and kisses her back with equal fervor; takes two to make it co-dependent, after all, and he's always been just as bad as her.
“What did you work with before, dear?” Vera, the elderly lady running the community centre asks Nikita as they eat lunch one day, making Nikita bite a little too hard into a beetroot.
Taking down a government agency gone rogue, might be the most truthful explanation but the least likely to be believed. Trying to prevent the future misuse of troubled teens, might be an acceptable rewrite but one that feels a little hollow.
“Fighting the good fight,” she says, and Vera smiles at her.
“Don't we all, dear. Don't we all.”
'I don't know, do we?' Nikita doesn't say.
Michael is watching the kid across the street as she comes home. A boy, probably around the age Max would be now, and she just needs to read Michael's face to know his thoughts.
He doesn't notice her until she takes his hand, and he looks a bit guilty at being caught.
“I didn't want you to think I was...”
“Missing him?” she says, touching his cheek. “Thinking about him every day, wondering if he's safe, wanting to share his life but knowing your emotional needs can't come above everything else?”
“Yes,” he says a little brokenly, then looks at her.
“I feel the same about Alex,” she says softly. “I am not staying away from Moscow just because she asked me to.”
“I know you're not,” he says equally softly, kissing the palm of her hand. “You remember you told me once you were not mother material?”
“You were wrong. You're the greatest material there is.”
Nikita is an alloy, Michael has come to realize. Oh, metals are strong, but on their own they're often too soft or brittle or unstable. But combine them – make an alloy – and they be greater than their components, greater even than their base. Steel is stronger than iron. Bronze is harder than copper.
All the components that make up Nikita – abusive upbringing, troubled youth, assassin training -, and she still has properties different to them – greater strength, greater love, greater endurance than you'd ever predict when putting it together.
How can she not know what great material she is?
So he kisses her skin and thinks it more precious than gold, traces the shapes of her bones and thinks them stronger than iron, feels her body pressed against his and knows, knows it to be more worth than its weight in platinum.
Michael will want a child, Nikita knows. One to raise. One to love. One to see himself and her in too. One to know there is a future for, one to live for. One that isn't lost to him for all the right reasons.
She's beginning to wonder if she wants it too.
Maybe even two. A Seymour and an Alex.
“Nikita,” Alex says as Nikita answers the phone on the third ring.
“I don't know what to do.”
“No,” Alex says impatiently, as if a multibillion company with international power is the least of her worries. “Sean.”
“He's impossible, he refuses to do what I tell him, thinks he knows best for both of us, looks at me as if I am worth life itself and I keep thinking if I lose him, if I lose him too... Nikita, what am I to do? How did you manage Michael?”
“I didn't,” Nikita says, looking up as she feels the gaze of the topic in question on her, feeling it warm her. “I just learned to live with him.”
In the morning, just before dawn, Michael wakes up and finds Nikita awake already, watching the sun rise so intently one might think she was watching it not just for herself. As if she was watching it for those who could not be there, can never be there again.
He knows the feeling. He is the feeling, and he leans a little against her as he sits down next to her.
“Home,” she says distantly. “I always wanted to a home, but I wanted to live with myself when I got there most of all.”
“I remember,” he says, watching their hands entwine as if it's the most natural thing in the world. “I remember warning you about living with me as well.”
She smiles quickly, but it doesn't quite touch her eyes.
“I thought the more I did, the easier it would be to live with myself,” she goes on quietly. “It's the opposite. The more you do, the more you have to live with.”
“Yes,” he agrees, thinking of lost children and found loves, wondering if one is meant to balance out the other.
“I'm so tired,” she says quietly. “It never ends. Even when it's over, with Division gone, with Amanda and Percy dead, it still feels like a battle. Just with memories and myself rather than them. It never ends.”
“No,” he agrees still, but leans down and kisses her, feeling their breaths mingle. “But neither does this.”
Fighting the good fight, Nikita thinks faintly, leaning into Michael's kiss as the sun rises on them both. Maybe that's what all of life is, not just taking down a government agency gone rogue, not just stopping people willing to use kids as weapons, not just ensuring the safety of the people you love. The good fight.
It ever ends. It just changes battlefield. The war that is life, bringing victories and losses alike, and always, always another battle with every dawn.
And so Nikita kisses Michael while the first rays of the sun bathe them in light and the promise of warmth and new battles; It might never end. But then, neither does the reason to keep fighting.