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Correct Procedure

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Nicholas' fingers skimmed along the length of Mark's right leg, starting at the ankle and working steadily higher. The touch was firm enough that even through the fleece material of Mark's jogging bottoms Mark was in no doubt as to the passage they traced. Reaching the point where leg and groin met the touch lightened, barely, skimming close enough that Mark had no doubt that Nicholas knew which side he dressed but not so close that Mark could misinterpret unless he did so deliberately.

Satisfied with his exploration, Nicholas started again at Mark's left ankle, gently running his hands over and around the muscles of calf and thigh. That time the routine ended with a quick pass over Mark's groin, as impersonal as a doctor and over before Mark had time to really register it was there.

Nicholas' hands spread over Mark's hips, moving steadily up to map the planes and ridges of stomach, chest and back. Nicholas had the same look of calm professionalism that he always did; state secrets hidden behind guileless blue eyes, sharp mind hidden within a well-cut suit. As he moved, the thin material of Nicholas' crisp white shirt did nothing to hide the hard peaks of his nipples where they pushed against the cloth. Was that why the American's were so insistent on wearing vests under their starched collars, to disguise their bodies natural reaction to cold? Not that the embassy was kept at anything less than a balmy twenty degrees centigrade and Nicholas' hands certainly felt warm enough through the cotton of Mark's T-shirt. Especially so when Nicholas' palms briefly brushed over suddenly sensitive skin, clothing acting as the bolster in a pre-marriage bed and about as effective a barrier.

Nicholas cupped Mark's right shoulder, fingers splaying over the blade and along the collarbone before slithering down the arm, gripping lightly. When the T-shirt ended the touch didn't, skin brushing down skin until it reached the delicate bones of the wrist, slipping away just enough to avoid tangling with Mark's hand. Moving to Mark's left, Nicholas repeated the action, hands gently smoothing down the hair on Mark's forearm which had been raised by the non-existent chill.

Finally Nicholas stepped close, hands closing around the back of Mark's neck before looping forwards to trace the hem of his collar. Left hand dropping away, Nicholas' right rested in the hollow dip that would normally cradle the knot of Mark's tie. Fingers tapping once, drawing Mark's attention to him, Nicholas stepped back.

Mark took a deep breath, mind retracing the path that Nicholas' hands had taken. As he had throughout, Nicholas was studying Mark carefully, puzzling Mark's reactions and weighing the nuances of his demonstration and Mark's comprehension.

"I'm sorry," Mark demurred, "I appear to be being rather dim this morning. Could you go over those new search procedures again?"

Nicholas smiled with a blink and started again, much slower.