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"We're finished."

The words kept assaulting Michael, along with the angry eyes of the beautiful woman who had delivered them--her beauty marred by the scars he had helped give her. Those eyes had torn through him, had left holes. . . . The woman he cared about so much hated him.

Michael stood by the gurney which comprised Nikita's bed now. He had been standing there, watching her quietly, for half an hour.

The last several hours were a blur for him; it was almost as though they hadn't really happened, as though everything from those words to this moment had disappeared in the fabric of time.

He knew, though, that he had watched Nikita get shot and had also somehow gotten her back to Section. He had some vague memory of being told he had wounds that needed tending and of mutely allowing the doctors to poke at him, after she had been taken into surgery--when they hadn't let him follow; they had murmured something about his injuries, that he was lucky to still be conscious or something. He knew he had taken a shower, too, once they had ordered him to and hadn't let him watch her operation. He remembered, as well, that they had given him Section's standard-issue white pants and tank top to wear, once he had found some excuse for them to burn his clothes from the mission, so he would never have to face them again. . . . Then, Nikita had been wheeled out of surgery, and his life had started once more.

Michael had no conscious memory of what his own injuries had been. He didn't give a damn. . . . None of it mattered; nothing mattered other than the woman sleeping on the gurney in front of him, . . . and she despised him.

He didn't blame her, really. How could he? He had used and betrayed her so many times, had ordered her beaten and almost seduced; he had manipulated her emotions, forced her to care and then destroyed her over and over. . . . How could she possibly have any feeling left for him other than hate? She would have to be a fool to still care. Michael shook his head slightly. She had never been foolish . . . only innocent.

He had known the plan from the beginning--had been briefed at the outset. . . . He had tried to convince them not to do this. He had argued that Nikita couldn't be tortured into betraying them, but they had known. He hadn't cared so much about being tortured himself; he had survived that enough, but he didn't want to hurt her again. He had suggested, therefore, that her feelings for him weren't strong enough for the plan to succeed, but they hadn't listened; it didn't matter. They had staked Section's survival on her humanity and on her feelings for him. . . . And he had helped them to do it.

Michael continued watching her. She was on her side, half-rolled into a fetal position. She seemed so in need of love and comfort, . . . but he knew he had none to give her.

He had lied to her today, not in most of what he had said, but in his silence and in his motivations behind the words he had given her. His heart had clutched when he had heard the lie which Operations and Madeline had included in his profile to ensure her emotions--that he had had a son with Simone and that Section had killed him. He closed his eyes briefly. As much as he had wished that a child with Simone had been possible, he would willingly have given up that child itself in order to have erased that lie from Nikita's mind.. . . How would he ever be able to tell her that revelation, too, had been a manipulation--just another part of the plan to break her? . . . How would she ever forgive him, if she did know?

Michael opened his eyes again and resumed watching her, thinking back to his earlier words. She *was* the only one of them with a soul; that was precisely why she had been chosen as their Judas. He swallowed back tears. He *didn't* know what love was anymore, either; the cruel deception he had helped carry out today was proof of that. . . . He *was* dead, too, a mass of decaying flesh, except for her; she was the only spark of life in him. . . . Nothing could change that.

He vividly remembered telling her all of this--remembered the look of hope on her face, how she had touched his hand--had held onto it, binding them together at the spot with the strength of her love. . . . He had felt something within him die again at that moment, even as she had offered him life. He knew that he had damned himself once more; if there was any sort of god, he couldn't possibly have enough mercy to forgive the people who betrayed his angels.

Michael closed his eyes for a minute before looking at her again. Whatever part of him it was that had thought it understood love had died with Simone--if not before. . . . But he did care for Nikita more deeply than he ever could have imagined possible. His life depended on her more completely than it ever had on anyone before--even (although he could not fully face this consciously) Simone. Nikita was--to him--the personification of love and life. Anything holy in the universe, she was. . . . She couldn't help, therefore, but to hate him.

He had been half-relieved and half-destroyed when she had broken, earlier today. He had almost wished that their interrogator *would* make him insane. Seeing how much pain `Kita had been in when she had saved him--believing that she was dooming her friends and co-workers to protect him--he had half-wished for the plunger on the needle in his neck to be pressed down. He would have welcomed a release from the consciousness of his betrayals.

The dream he had had when he had fallen unconscious--after they had tossed him back in his cage--hadn't let him out of his hell, either. In it, he had opened his arms to Nikita, and she had willingly embraced him, held him close. "I love you, Nikita," he had whispered to her, a second before she had begun to melt into his flesh, to get lost in the decay. . . . Then, she was alive but in a casket about to be lowered into the earth. She had looked up at him with love but also with fright and utter confusion. "Welcome to my world, my love," he had whispered, before he had closed the casket, and she had been lowered alive into a premature grave.

Michael swallowed hard to keep back the tears, as he still stood motionless by her bed, remembering. When he had awoken, she had looked so ashamed, so guilt-ridden--expecting his hate or his fury. . . . He couldn't even meet her eyes.

He hadn't been able to stop her, either--shortly thereafter--from killing their interrogator; he hadn't really tried to. He had allowed her to take her retribution, half-wishing that her bullet had been buried in his heart instead.

He had needed to get them out of the warehouse, then, or so he had told himself. That was his primary, admitted reason for refusing to answer her questions about his betrayal. Really, though, he had known that--if he had allowed himself to speak to her honestly--he would have shattered. . . . How could he speak honestly to her, after all, as she had stood there, eyes begging to be told her assumptions were wrong, the scars on her face an externalization of those he had given her? How could he look into those eyes--those deep wells of betrayed light and love--and explain his actions? . . . How could an angel ever be capable of understanding demonic reasoning?

Her last words had hit home, running through him as though she had stabbed a knife deep in his heart. They struck so deep, because he knew that they were justified--that she should have told them to him honestly a hundred times before. . . . He deserved whatever pain he received and more; she deserved only love and contentment. There was no middle ground. She was better off without him. . . . He was the one who was dead.

Michael was so lost in his thoughts and in watching Nikita that he only half-registered the entrance of Madeline and Operations. Madeline watched him with some regret. "How is she?"

Michael finally looked up at her with devastation in his eyes and answered her honestly. "Better than any of us." He stood near Nikita protectively and waited for them to move away.

Madeline left sadly. Operations gave him a slightly warning look for upsetting her and then left as well.

Michael knew that he, too, should go. He had no right to be there. He was being selfish.

He made it half-way around the bed, before he moved back close to her. For his own peace of mind, he had to tell her something. He leaned down to her. "It wasn't all a lie," he whispered. Then, because he needed to, he kissed her lips softly.

Nikita's head turned away from him, as though--even unconscious--she wanted no part of him.

Michael caught the movement, and it tore further at his heart. He left the room to allow her to regain consciousness without his presence, wishing that he hadn't always been unworthy of angels.