'Napoleon! Stand completely still and don't move a muscle!!'
Napoleon froze stock still in the middle of the Vienna hotel room, the rare, fierce note of urgency in Illya's tone commanding instant obedience.
'What is it?'
Illya, in his shirtsleeves, rose from his seat at the desk and walked slowly towards Napoleon, extending the wand of the portable bomb detection device, which was emitting a high-pitched electronic beeping signal.
'You know those minature Thrush capsule bombs I found in Vladstein's wallet?'
'Yes?' Napoleon didn't think he was going to like what was coming.
Illya moved the wand nearer to Napoleon and the beeping increased in volume and frequency.
'I think there's one in your clothing'.
Napoleon tried hard to suppress any movement from the cold shiver that traversed his spine.
Illya passed the wand over Napoleon's full length, front and back, but the shrill beeping remained constant.
Not daring to move even a fraction, Napoleon endeavoured to keep his voice casual.
'Did you find out what activated them?'
'Increase in body heat, friction, impact...and remote detonation'.
Blue eyes met brown for a long, silent moment.
Illya laid the detection device on the floor, where the frenetic beeping continued.
Illya proceeded to visually scan the length of Napoleon, walking round to circle him completely, eyes roving thoroughly over every inch, scrutinizing buttons and cufflinks. He stopped facing Napoleon, shaking his head.
'I'm going to have to search you'.
Napoleon smiled wryly. 'Please do'.
'Slowly—very slowly—move your arms away from your body'.
Napoleon complied, lifting his arms out to either side, stiffly and steadily.
'That's far enough'.
Illya began a manual search. First, he slipped his fingers into each pocket of Napoleon's dinner jacket, feeling into every corner, then ran his fingers delicately under the edge of his jacket collar and very slowly down the underside of his satin lapels. Next, he smoothed his hands carefully across the broad shoulders and lightly travelled down each of the arms in turn, skimming delicately around the sleeve openings and shirt cuffs before gliding, with gentle pressure, back up the inside of the arms and feeling cautiously under the arms pits.
'What is it you hope to find?' breathed Napoleon, huskily. 'I mean...what do they look like?'
Illya's brow was furrowed with concentration, his breathing laboured.
'Small, round, metallic, the size of a shirt button, but heavier. Possibly with a short antenna of some kind. Like a microphone'. He skirted the hem of Napoleon's jacket with his fingers, inch by inch, feeling for any tiny lump or resistance.
'I see. Having any...luck?'
'None. Try to breathe less'.
Napoleon bit his lower lip as Illya pursued his search, sliding his hands beneath Napoleon's jacket and brushing open palms slowly across his chest and abdomen, then around his trim waist, and up over his broad back between jacket and shirt. To do so, he had to stand close, his face turned to one side and his hair in Napoleon's nose, which twitched ominously. The sensation of Illya's proximity was a useful counterpoint to fear; he was acutely aware of every movement of the lithely muscular agent's body, the scent of starch from his white shirt and the warm leather from his gun holster mingling with his body heat. He hoped that Illya, if he had detected the hardening of Napoleon's nipples, would put it down to the adrenaline rush of danger. He moistened his lips quickly.
'I should probably warn you, I...tickle easily'.
'I'll bear it in mind', Illya replied tersely, checking diligently around Napoleon's belt and waistband. 'Did you have, shall we say, any occasion to remove items of clothing while you were at the ambassador's?'
'How unusual for you', Illya intoned, richly ironic.
'I think we can dispense with the wisecracks, given the circumstances'. Napoleon replied, then winced inwardly, well aware that Illya was willingly and uncomplainingly sharing the danger.
'If you can remember any contact, it would be helpful'.
Napoleon thought hard but couldn't seem to recall any opportunity for a plant. He hadn't bumped into anyone and no one had given him anything to carry. His pulse had now quickened to match the pace of the incessant, urgent beeping from the machine on the floor. No matter where the capsule was on his body, Illya, being now so close, was also at risk from fatal injury.
Illya slowly lowered himself in a crouch, checked over Napoleon's shoes and socks then began stroking his way with both hands slowly up each pants leg in turn to the top of the thigh. Napoleon, keeping his head level, allowed his eyes to dip and experienced a strange sensation as Illya's blond head bobbed at his waist. He swallowed audibly.
Illya darted a quick, searching look upward, his voice gently sardonic.
'Sorry Napoleon. Just think of me as your tailor'.
Napoleon felt sweat beginning to prickle his arm pits and lower back and refocused his gaze intently straight ahead. He reflected ruefully that at his present rate, the rise in body heat would set off the capsule before they found it. He frowned as a thought occurred to him.
'Shouldn't you be removing the clothes as you go?' he suggested.
There was a brief pause before Illya responded with dry emphasis.
'No. Entertaining as that sounds, I'm concerned we might pull a trigger mechanism, a wire or thread'.
Napoleon wished he hadn't asked. He began inwardly speculating whether they could even remove the device if they found it.
Illya rose and faced him. 'Permit me', he said, suddenly formal, as he slid his hands around Napoleon's hips beneath his jacket.
The next moment, Napoleon practically flinched as he felt Illya's hands curve warmly over the swell of his buttocks, but recovered himself, barely in time. Heat suffused his face as Illya probed searching fingers into the depths of his pants pockets, stimulating an unmistakable reaction. Napoleon closed his eyes, embarrassed beyond belief, blood beating a tattoo in his loins and experiencing a strong desire to murder the man who was so selflessly putting his life on the line for him.
'The things I do for you, Napoleon', murmured Illya, throatily, tracing a firm finger over his partner's zipper.
Red spots danced in front of Napoleon's tightly closed lids as Illya cupped a warm hand over his crotch, squeezing lightly, then slid a hand between his thighs. He's enjoying this, the bastard, thought Napoleon, biting hard on the inside of his cheek. Robbed of the ability to breathe, he wildly speculated on whether death might be preferable to facing his partner ever again, after his flesh had turned so damningly to stone beneath a touch of his friend's hand.
Awareness gradually dawned that the contact had ceased. Napoleon gingerly opened first one eye, then the other. Illya was standing a foot in front of him, pale and intense.
Napoleon sucked in a much-needed breath. 'Anything?'
Illya, grim-faced, shook his head.
Resolution, and coherent thought, returned to Napoleon Solo.
'Right, get out of here, now. I'm going to take these clothes off and get rid of them'. He gave his best insouciant grin. 'Go down to the bar and order me a martini, very dry'.
Illya smiled back. 'Nyet', he whispered.
'Get out, Illya', Napoleon barked crisply, 'That's an order'.
'Wait! There is one place left we have not tried!'.
Illya closed in, reached up a tentative finger, almost touching the end of Napoleon's black bow tie.
He searched Napoleon's eyes. 'Did anyone...?'
Napoleon gasped softly, realization dawning. 'Yes! The ambassador's wife...'.
He remembered now—the dazzling smile, the winking diamonds, the daring neckline of the blue velvet evening gown against her white bosom. How playfully charming she had seemed, as she laughingly adjusted his tie.....
From his pocket, Illya withdrew a small flick knife which he quickly prised open. Carefully raising a wing of Napoleon's collar, he deftly sliced through the tie, holding it firmly on the side next to the bow. As it slid free, he cupped it in his hands and held it. Napoleon could now clearly see the capsule with its trailing wire filament wedged in the black silk knot.
Illya moved swiftly and carefully to the open balcony window. He quickly scanned to see that the gardens below were empty and dropped the tie over the balcony, ducking back inside. The following explosion shattered the windows on the ground floor, hurling earth and stone fragments high into the air, raining pebbles and dirt onto their balcony.
Wordlessly, Illya returned and picked up the now-quiet detection machine. He scanned Napoleon thoroughly.
'All clear'. The edges of his mouth quirked upwards.
Napoleon slumped, drained, onto the nearest bed. His partner's dedication and presence of mind had saved him, yet again, from a most unpleasant death. One tug on the end of that tie and he would have been......
'We have to report this to Waverly', said Illya, switching off the machine.
Napoleon wiped the back of his hand over the dampness of his forehead. 'I need a stiff drink first'.
'Martini, was it? Very dry?', Illya enquired, putting on his jacket.
Napoleon shook his head. 'Vodka, tovarisch. Lots of it. And perhaps we ought to go someplace else. I think those were the windows of the bar that just blew in'. He smirked pointedly. 'You, uh, don't mind if I change first into something more comfortable, do you?'.
Illya smiled. 'Take your time'. He sat down with a book to wait for his friend. Napoleon retrieved a fresh suit of clothes from his closet and headed for the bathroom. Pausing in the door, he stole a furtive look back at Illya. Somehow, he didn't think all the time in the world was going to make him comfortable with the memory of how he'd responded under Illya's touch. A bomb had gone off in his psyche and there was no putting him back together, ever again.
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