Written September 2001
Synopsis: Operations is up to something; where does Nikita fit in? Takes place during an AU season seven.
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of LFN Productions, Warner Bros., and USA Network. No infringement is intended.
Nikita looked at herself in the mirror and, once again, decided to change her hairstyle. She was completely nervous, not to mention suspicious and somewhat frightened. Meet me in the Tower, seven o’clock. Don’t be late. She’d never been to the Tower before, and she still wasn’t sure why she was going. But Operations had been adamant–maybe even a little pleading?–and she couldn’t refuse a request from the man who determined whether she lived or died.
But why? The past month had been odd, to say the least. It all started when Operations commented positively on her attire. ‘I like your hat,’ he had said. The praise seemed genuine enough, albeit a bit silly, but she thanked him nonetheless. The next day, he asked her to lunch. Confused, she accepted. They spent the time in pleasant conversation with one another. He asked her questions about her likes and dislikes. He even answered a few questions that she posed. She left the lunch with a smile on her face.
Things progressed quickly from there. He stopped her on her way out of Section one afternoon and asked her to go wine-testing with him. Interested in his motives, and not quite certain if she should (or could) refuse him, she traveled with him to a small vineyard in the south of France. They tasted everything that the company manufactured, and Operations paid careful attention to which ones Nikita liked. When she declared a favorite, he bought two bottles. As he took her home that evening, he asked her to keep their meetings a secret. She agreed.
On several occasions during the next two weeks, they did other things in secret, the most peculiar of them being advanced ballroom dancing lessons. Operations was an incredibly skilled dancer, fluid and strong. She wasn’t sure why he needed lessons; he seemed perfect already. The smile he kept giving her as his arms surrounded her made her heart pound. What was going on? Was he falling in love with her? She hoped not; she wasn’t intending to lead him on in any way. But she couldn’t imagine why else he would be inviting her to do these activities with him.
And now, the invitation to the Tower. He had seemed so excited, even hinting about a surprise he had for her. Butterflies did nose dives in her stomach. She didn’t like surprises; they made her edgy. And from what Nikita knew of the Tower, it was not the place she wanted to receive a surprise from her boss.
Finally satisfied with her appearance, she hurried to her car and drove to her destination. After going through numerous security checkpoints, she reached a heavy door with a round window. She opened it cautiously, her senses overtaken by the new environment.
Soft jazz music floated from invisible speakers, a deep female voice passionately singing the lyrics. Nikita smelled food, and the scent was both pleasing and familiar. Wasn’t it something she and Operations had eaten before? She walked slowly along the scuffed wooden floor toward a romantic candlelit dinner accompanied by red wine on ice–one of the same bottles he had purchased at the winery.
She spun around abruptly, facing Operations. He was wearing a suit and tie but looked a bit more formal than usual–and maybe even a bit more handsome. She nearly blushed at her own thoughts. “Hi.”
“You look nice,” he said, regarding her white dress appreciatively.
She tossed her hands up and nervously proclaimed, “So do you!” Then she laughed. “I’m sorry, I’m just..umm…”
“Nervous? Don’t be. My intentions will become clear after dinner…assuming you haven’t figured them out already.” He gave her a quick smile and gestured to the booth-like nook where dinner was waiting. “Please have a seat.”
She did as she was told, hoping he didn’t notice how much her hands shook as she held her utensils. The meal consisted of eggplant parmigiana, rosemary focaccia, and insalata mista, all of which Operations claimed he made himself. Nikita was impressed by the quality of the food; not only did he rule the world, he had a knack for cooking. Who’d have thought?
“One dance, then dessert,” he announced, holding out his hand.
“What’s for dessert?”
“Tiramisu,” he replied with a smile. “Also homemade.”
Hesitantly, she took his hand since the subject change didn’t succeed in distracting him. She was still shaking, trying to keep her eyes on anything but his smiling face as they danced. Their closeness was driving her crazy, and she backed away. “All right, what’s this about?”
He frowned at her in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean.”
He sighed. “All right. I guess there’s no use in stalling any longer. Sit down, Nikita.” She did and looked up at him. He stood uncomfortably before her, hands in his jacket pockets. “I know that you’ll probably want to think about this first, and I understand that, but I’d like an answer tonight.” He briefly shut his eyes and pulled a small box out of his pocket. He handed it to her slowly. “Open it.”
She lifted the lid and found herself staring at a beautiful, expensive-looking ring. It had three round diamonds, at least a carat each, fixed to a solid gold band. She let out a small gasp.
Operations grinned excitedly, moving around to stand next to her. “Do you like it?”
“It’s gorgeous, but…”
His face fell, and he braced himself. “But?”
She handed it back to him. “I’m sorry, no.”
He nodded slightly, gazing at the jewelry. A thought struck him. “Then you have to come with me and pick out one you like.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Well, I need it for tomorrow night, and I’m not sure I’ll have time to go before then.”
She was about to reply when she realized what he had said. “Tomorrow night?”
He sighed heavily, plopping down on the other side of the table, and stared at the ring again. “Madeline and I met twenty years ago tomorrow. We never do anything special to celebrate because I always forget or something comes up. But this time, I wanted to surprise her. I mean, twenty years…” He chuckled softly. “It’s a long time. I’ve been planning this event for a while now, and I thought it would help to get another woman’s opinion. I want everything to be perfect.”
Finally, the past month made perfect sense. The wine-testing, the dinners, the dancing lessons… they had all been for Madeline. A grin spread across her face. “Why didn’t you tell tell me?”
“Madeline has this sixth sense about everything I do, so I tried to make it seem like something ordinary to avoid suspicion.” He turned to her, his emotions uncharacteristically plain on his face. “Nikita, please help me. If she doesn’t like this ring or this night, I’ll never forgive myself. Please.”
She smiled tenderly. “May I see it again?” She took the box and studied the ring carefully. “This is an anniversary setting, isn’t it?”
“Yes, or at least that’s what the salesperson told me. The three stones represent the past, the present…”
“And the future,” she finished absently. “Did you get the right ring size?”
She returned the box to him. “She’ll love it. She’d be crazy not to.”
He looked at her suspiciously. “You’re not just saying that so you don’t have to come with me, are you?”
“No! Tell me, what were you thinking when you bought this ring?”
His lip quivered slightly. “That–that there was no ring beautiful enough for her, that this was the closest one I could find.”
She tilted her head. She didn’t realize he felt that way about Madeline or that he was such a deep-hearted romantic. “The fact that you selected this ring on your own, with her in mind, will mean more to her than anything else.” She gave him an encouraging smile. “She’ll love it.”
“I hope you’re right.”
Nikita didn’t see Operations or Madeline until the day after their anniversary, at a mid-morning briefing. As he delivered the report, he continually gazed at Madeline, a silly expression on his face. Nikita glanced over at the woman and spotted the diamond setting on her left ring finger. She couldn’t help but grin.
Afterwards, she followed Operations to the Perch to meet with him in private. He looked happier than she’d ever seen him. “I take it your evening was a success.”
“You were right; she loved it,” he beamed.
“I noticed it on her hand. It looks great.” She smiled sincerely. “I’m glad everything worked out for you.”
“Thank you.” He bent down and picked up the other bottle of wine he had purchased at the vineyard. “Here, as a token of my appreciation for your assistance.”
She chuckled, taking the heavy gift into her arms. “Thanks.” She started to leave, wondering where she was going to put the bottle until she went home.
“Nikita… according to my panel, both you and Michael are scheduled to have downtime tomorrow evening.”
She turned slightly, noticing his small smile. “Really?”
“And it just so happens that he comes from the same area where that wine was produced. Perhaps he’d like to share it with you.”
She grinned. “Perhaps.”