A Section One Christmas
Written March 2001
Synopsis: A short vignette about Christmas at Section One.
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of LFN Productions, Warner Bros., and USA Network. No infringement is intended.
“That is the ugliest thing I have ever seen.”
Nikita shot a playful glare in Walter’s direction. “I think it’s wonderful.”
He sighed, holding up a long chain of his bandanas, tied end to end. “Well, here’s my contribution.”
Her eyes lit up, and she hugged him excitedly. “That’s so great, Walter, thanks! Help me get it up, will you?”
Birkoff appeared, nearly tripping over the string of lights he dragged with him. “This is from Systems, but they need the LEDs back when you’re done.”
“And,” he continued, holding out a box, “some of my staff made these ornaments for you.”
Nikita peeked inside. Little green computer chips hung from metallic hooks. She grinned. “Thanks, Birkoff.”
“No problem.” He looked at the pine tree and winced. “It’s, uh, looking pretty good.”
Walter chuckled. “It’s ugly.”
She folded her arms across her chest. “It’s not ugly; it’s art.” She finished stringing Walter’s bandanas around the base of the tree. She stood back to admire her handiwork and smiled.
It was Christmas Eve, and Nikita was trying to get everyone into the holiday spirit. She had asked Operations for permission, and he had neither granted nor denied her request. Since he was nowhere to be seen, she went ahead with her plans. She brought in an artificial tree and assembled it in the middle of Section One, where everyone would see it. She asked operatives to find something of sentimental value to hang on the tree, but she hadn’t had many takers. In an effort to get the ball rolling, she brought several pairs of her sunglasses. It worked, and soon operatives and departments were adorning the branches with personal effects.
Michael approached the group of decorators, addressing Nikita. “What is this?”
“This is the official Section One Christmas tree,” she answered cheerily. “Did you bring your ornament?”
He didn’t answer her immediately, staring at the tree. Finally he said, “I’m not sure it’s appropriate.”
“We fight for peace, and Christmas is a time of peace. What could be more appropriate than that?” She stood by him, gesturing to the decorations. “There’s a little bit of everyone on this tree, you know. Our hopes, our dreams, our loves. It’s the essence of who we are.”
He looked at her blankly, and she tried to figure out what he was thinking. He reached under his shirt to remove the security key that he always wore and pulled it over his head. “Where should I hang it?”
A small party of sorts had developed around the tree. It was nearing midnight, and almost everyone had contributed something to the tree project. Walter wore a Santa hat adorned by a sprig of mistletoe. Birkoff set his computer to play Christmas tunes, and people danced, laughing together and behaving in ways very unlike Section operatives.
Nikita served glasses of wine, swaying to the music. As she surveyed the area, she noticed someone hanging an item on the tree. She made her way over and stopped suddenly when she realized who it was.
The woman turned and smiled softly. “Hello, Nikita. Merry Christmas.”
“I, uh…I didn’t think you were coming.” She handed her a glass. “What did you hang on the tree?”
“A pair of bonsai shears.”
“Very appropriate.” She grew silent, unsure of what to say. She looked over Madeline’s head and saw that the windows to the Perch were dark. “Where’s Operations?”
Madeline said nothing, nodding her head in the other direction. Nikita turned, and the room grew quiet. Operations stood on the edge of the crowd, but everyone stared at him nervously. He managed a small smile before saying, “Carry on.” He made a path to where Madeline waited. “Hello, Nikita.”
She handed him a glass of wine as well, surprised to see him. “Hi. Merry Christmas.”
“May I still contribute to the tree?”
“Oh, of course.”
Operations removed his Vietnam memorial pin from his jacket lapel. “Do you have a hook for this?”
“Sure.” She handed him one, and he affixed the pin to it before hanging it on the tree near Madeline’s scissors.
“It’s almost midnight,” he pointed out, taking a sip from his beverage.
“Already?” She sighed, gazing at the tree. Walter and Birkoff were right; it really was ugly. Bandanas lined the base, with syringes and lights in the middle, and computer chips near the top. Earrings, sunglasses, necklaces, gummy bears, and other little trinkets appeared throughout the foliage. Correction: it was hideously ugly. But there was some beauty in its irregularities and inconsistent coloring. All of the different symbols, joined on one single tree, were perfect examples of how Section operatives lived their lives. So different, yet working together for a cause. Nikita smiled thoughtfully. There could be beauty in simplicity.
The clock on the computer beeped, indicating it was midnight. A chorus of ‘Merry Christmases’ sounded through the room. Nikita smiled, walking to Michael.
“Merry Christmas, Michael.”
He handed her a small box. “Merry Christmas, Nikita.”
She looked at him shyly. “You got me a gift?” Quickly, she discarded the wrapping paper and found herself staring at a gold necklace with a crystal pendant. She gasped. “Michael, it’s beautiful.” She kissed his cheek softly. “Thank you.”
He nodded in response, reaching for his ‘ornament’ and putting it back around his neck. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
Operations watched Nikita as she admired her new gift, and he turned to Madeline. “So where’s my present?”
She regarded him with a smile. “It’s in my office.”
“Yes. If you would like to accompany me, you can have it now.”
“All right. I suppose I should send everyone back to work–”
She put her hand on his arm to stop him. “I think we should allow the party to continue for a while longer.”
He noticed a glimmer in her dark eyes and grinned broadly. “I do like your thinking, Madeline.” Silently, they slipped away unnoticed, and the celebration continued without them.