AN: Back to our regularly scheduled fic-purge. I've never lost my weakness for this moment, when Scotty almost gets captured, in "The Barter".

Kelly waits behind the connecting door between the two hotel rooms, wondering if he dares open it, straining his ears to hear what's going Professor is safely in the room with him, but Scotty's not back yet.

The shower starts running, and Kelly nods. Good move. He slides the door open a fraction, and his heart sinks as he sees Mr. Judo lie down on the bed and stretch out his legs. Scotty's trapped in the bathroom.

You are all expendable, the line from training resonates in his head, but he can't listen, not yet. He knows he should have Shenko in the elevator by now – Scotty can take care of himself – but still he waits.

The jangling of the telephone is loud in the other room. Kelly starts, but only inside. He pushes the door closed, ear pressed to the crack, motioning to his 'guest' to keep silent.

He's memorized his partner's moves from a hundred missions, and he can almost see him opening the bathroom door and picking the right moment to make a run for it…

"They are going to try and take the Professor!" booms the voice of one of the bodyguards. "Quick, get him!"

Kelly closes his eyes. Now, Scotty, now, because in a moment it's going to be too late…

His hand is on the doorknob, ready to turn it and pull Scotty inside and clap him on the back the minute he comes inside, congratulate him on another hairsbreadth escape…

There's a thud, and a crash from inside the room, and Kelly goes cold. "The professor is gone! This man was in the shower!"

"It is the man from the elevator! I suspected he was an agent!"

"Who are you? What have you done with Professor Shenko?"

"Man, what is this? I just wandered in, taking a tour of the hotel, you know, it's not my fault you left the door open!"

If it wasn't so patently untrue, he could almost believe Scotty's American-tourist spiel himself. But as he hears the impact of a fist striking flesh, he knew his captors haven't bought it either.

"I'm going to complain to my Embassy! Get me hotel security! I got rights!"

"Where is the Professor?" Kelly flinches at the sound of another punch.

Then he deliberately reaches for the door—and locks it.

Nothing more to see here, Kelly tells himself sternly as he takes his charge by the arm and pulls him from the room. He knows the manual as well as Scotty does. When they want a simple answer, they can always force it out of you. And Kelly knows these guys will stop at nothing. He pushes the thought from his head as he shepherds the Professor into the elevator. Scotty knows the drill. He'll hold them off for as long as he can, as long as he can take the punishment, as long as it takes for him to concoct a convincing cover story, and then tell them Shenko has been spirited from the room by helicopter, a rope ladder from the roof, whatever it takes to distract them and buy Kelly some time.

He can't let Scotty go through it all for nothing.

So he hits the ground floor running, bundling Shenko into a taxi and hurtling away from the hotel, telling himself over and over again that Scotty's a trained agent, that he's no helpless innocent, that he's gotten out of worse jams than this, that he's perfectly capable of holding up his end.

But he knows what manner of men have him at their mercy now, and he's left him in their hands.

By the time Kelly gets the Professor to the safety of the villa, he's bathed in cold sweat. Depositing the professor in the care of Mr. Sommers, he jumps right back into the taxi and heads for the hotel.

No doubt Scotty's blinded them with science by now and is on his way to the Sommers mansion himself, but he can't explain the urge that makes him want to make sure. He alights from the taxi, meaning to go round the back, scrounge up a waiter's coat and make his way to the roof. They should have gone in the penthouse suite window from the beginning – this was a damn stupid idea—

"Out of the way! Police coming through!"

Kelly steps back, the sidewalk halted for a second, chafing to move forwards. But he's stopped short when the hotel door swings open to disgorge what appears to be the entire Japanese police force, shoving a cuffed Igor and Koski out of the lobby, accompanied by another three men, one of whom he recognizes as a fairly high-ranking Russian agent. What the-?

"Let me – 'scuse me – just going in…" Kelly changes course, veering towards the hotel entrance and bursting into the lobby in time to see a police lieutenant snapping a notebook closed and bowing with a great deal of ceremony to –well, he can't see the man's face from here, but he'd recognize that red pom-pom anywhere.

He shoves gawking hotel guests and wait-staff out of the way, finally getting a glimpse of Scotty's face, trying to assess the damage.

He heaves a thankful sigh. Not too bad at all, swollen cheekbone and jaw, and judging by the way his partner has three pretty Japanese girls patting his face with towels, he's going to play the sympathy angle for all it's worth. Shaking his head, Kelly corners a waitress, who's only too glad to regale him with the exciting details. "Oh, it was just terrible! Those awful men tried to kidnap the Ambassador to Kookamunga! They had him tied up in the room! But he used the cut telephone wires to send Morse code signals to the manager, and he called the police!" If the starstruck look on the her face is anything to go by, Kelly can tell the 'Ambassador' is going to have his pick of the girls in this hotel. The lady pauses for breath. "Isn't it awful?" she beams delightedly.

"Should never happen to an Ambassador, honey," Kelly mutters. "Thank you." Weak with relief, starting to smile, he shoulders through the crowd to congratulate his resourceful partner. "Excuse me. Excuse me, sir, ma'am."

Free entertainment over, the crowd's starting to disperse, and eventually he reaches Scotty, now on the way to the elevator, trio of lovelies in tow. "Hey," he blurts, addressing his partner's back. "I see you're okay."

A cool, reserved face turns to him. "Excuse me, sir, do I know you?"

Ah. He's completely forgotten about his cover. In a flash, Kelly's whipped out his reporter-notebook. "Well, Your Excellency, I was wondering if you would care to give me details about what occurred here today."

"No comment." Scotty turns his back on him, striding through the opening elevator doors and shepherding in his entourage.

Kelly frowns. There's a slight limp marring the smoothness of Scotty's stride. "Well, Your Excellency," he barrels into the elevator, wishing Scotty would lose the girls already, "what is your opinion of the motivation for this terrible attack?"

The brown eyes are those of a stranger. "No comment." The doors slide shut.

Kelly's starting to get unnerved and not a little indignant. Holding it in carefully, he sticks to their cover. "Well, perhaps in that case you would like to tell me whether you were injured in this little misadventure. As it were."

"I doubt that that is anything your readership would care about."

Kelly's had his mouth open to ask another question, but it stays hanging open for a while before he remembers to pick up his jaw. "You can't seriously be accusing me of—"

The cool gaze becomes positively frigid, Scotty's eyes flitting to the girls standing respectfully alongside them, heads bowed. "I beg your pardon?"

Scotty spent entirely too much time in England, Kelly thinks, starting to get pissed off. "Excuse me, Your Excellency, but…"

"You're excused." The elevator has reached the penthouse floor, and Scotty sweeps out of it with his gaggle of girls. Before Kelly can get over the shock, his partner is inside the suite, and the door's shut in his face.

Frozen for an instant, Kelly recovers, striding over to the door. He nearly pounds on it, but remembers his cover at the last minute and merely raps smartly on the door.

A Japanese groupie opens the door. "Sorry," she beams, "His Excellency is busy." And she slams the door in his face.

Steam coming out of his ears, Kelly takes the elevator down to the lobby and lights a cigarette. The deep drag calms him somewhat, and he heads over to the payphone and dials Sommers' house, confirming that the USSR agents, thanks to his partner's quick thinking (he grinds his teeth) are now in police custody, and Sommers confirms that he was able to get Shenko on a private plane headed for the USA. Mission accomplished.

And now, he has to kill Scotty.

He doesn't really need busman's courage, but he stops by the bar again for another smoke and a drink. Then, completely out of patience, he strides up to the elevator and seethes all the way up to the penthouse suite.

This time a languid "On-tray!" greets his knock. Scotty must be alone. Good, that way he won't have to be impolite to any women. "Excuse me," Kelly says haughtily, opening the door, "I want to use the room." Not waiting for Scotty's response, he strides in and goes straight to the shower, turning it on decisively and stepping in.

The warm water ought to calm him, but instead, the sound of the shower recalls this morning, and his stomach clenches at the thought of Scotty held prisoner. Morse code. Huh. Trust his genius partner. He did the right thing to trust him, he thinks indignantly, and where does Scotty get off—

He snaps the water off, and bursts out, dressed in a towel.

"You think I wanted to leave you behind? Huh? Is that what you think?"

Scotty looks up from the comic book he's reading. "Pretty big for your britches, from a man who's not even wearin' britches."

"I will be dressed for a royal ball sooner than you think," Kelly retorts, grabbing the nearest pair of pajama pants and pulling them on. "Now what's with this cold shoulder you've been giving me? Huh?" He rummages around for a T-shirt, gives it up as a lost cause and turns to have it out with his partner. "Because, because I will have you know—"

"They were gonna take me behind the Curtain."

The dark, earnest eyes gaze unblinkingly up into his, and for a moment, Kelly's struck with an attack of vertigo. "They were what?"

Scotty speaks, and for the first time Kelly can see the vulnerability in him. "They – when Mr. Soviet Boss-man showed up, it took him about two seconds to recognize me as Alexander Scott, US Government Agent, partner of Kelly Robinson, US—"

"Government agent. Yeah, yeah. So what's that got to do with Shenko?"

"Well, they stopped asking about Shenko about the same time they found out who I was, y'see."

Kelly drops onto the bed, seeing it all suddenly. "They wanted you instead."

"Musta figured it was a fair trade. Now they had me anyway."

For long moments, Kelly's beyond speech.

"They were dumb enough to tie me up in the room that had the telephone in it," said Scotty, "—telephone wires, anyway. You know, it's not hard to short-circuit telephone wires."

"My partner, the electrician." Kelly's hands are clasped, arms between his knees. "Christ."

"It's not as bad as it sounds," Scotty says. "You see that door?"

For the first time, Kelly notices that the connecting door to their suite is broken open, as though someone's smashed through it. "Yeah, what's up with that?" he asks, although he knows the answer; he thinks perhaps Scotty needs to say it.

"Well, you know the drill: if they want a simple answer, they can always force it out of ya, so I didn't spend too much time resisting. Figured I'd need my strength for later—"

"Nobody's blaming you," snaps Kelly. "Sorry. Go on."

"Um. So, I told them my partner was up on the roof with a rope ladder."

"Figured you'd say that." He can't help smiling. "They fall for it?"

"Enough to send someone up to check it out. Didn't leave me alone, though."

"Vigilant, those Soviet agents."

"Uh-huh. So then, they don't find anyone, and they don't probably know I can speak Russian, way I figure, because they're discussing how a pair of American agents with their heads stuffed full of secrets are worth much more than some political science professor, and how this has worked out better than ol' Fyodor could have dreamed…"

"Fyodor? Big bald guy, right? The boss?"

"Uh-huh. So, then, they figure there's only one other place Kelly Robinson could be."

"They busted through the door."

"I was praying like crazy that you hadn't done the tomfool thing and waited, 'cause you might have, y'see. I was sayin' just please let him have taken Shenko and hightailed it on out of there."

Kelly shakes his head, but says nothing.

"So then they vandalized hotel property, and there was no-one there... they figured one Alexander Scott was still better than nothing. And that's when they left me alone in the room, see, went to get a laundry cart."

At that, Kelly can't help smiling. "Their last mistake."

"You can say that again." Scotty matches his expression. "But man, when they busted that door open, and you weren't there… I was about ready to give you a medal."

Kelly frowns. "Sure didn't show it."

Scotty's smile disappears. "I'm sorry, man. I'm not Superman. I was… mad, I guess. Wanted to pay you back. I guess I lost it." He shrugs embarrassedly. "I thought – I didn't think I was gonna – ever see you again, and then when I did, doggonedest thing, I got mad, and then I wanted to get even. Even though it wasn't you I was getting even with. Sorry."

"Even Steven," Kelly mutters reflexively.

"Yeah, it was even odds," Scotty blurts.

"How can odds be even?"

"It's odd, right?"

"Anyhow, I figured you had an even chance."

"Even so, I wanted to get even."

"That's not odd, really."

"No, it isn't. Even if I…"

"Ah, ah, you changed the meaning!" Kelly's not going to let it slide; it's rare enough he wins a linguistic game with Scotty. "The sense is different. I win!"

They exchange a smile that doesn't reach either of their eyes, still filled with remembered fear.

"Think you win anyway, man." Kelly slumps down on the bed, suddenly weak with retroactive terror at the thought of Scotty spirited behind the Iron Curtain, interrogated... He shudders.

"Hey, hey, none of that. I'm okay."

"Yeah, you can take care of yourself." Kelly lets out a sound that's half-breath, half-groan. "Everything for king and country. And you'd do the same if it were me, right?" The answer isn't immediately forthcoming. "I said, right?"

Scotty sits heavily on the bed, cater-corner from him; Kelly can just see part of his face. "Sure." But he doesn't meet Kelly's eyes.

"Scotty, if you're not worth scrapping a mission for, then I'm sure as hell not scrapping a mission for!"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Scotty turns to him with a glare. "I'm worth more than you? That what you're trying to say?"

"I'm trying to say that if I could leave you behind, then you—"

"I don't want to talk about it."

Kelly ignores the this-conversation-is-over tone. "Used, and used up. Remember? You said that. "

Scotty looks down. "Just let's say I'm not as good an agent as you, okay?"

"Oh, that's a riot, that is a regular laugh riot! My Rhodes-scholar partner with the wonderful memory and the scientific skills and the genius brain and the—"

"It doesn't make you worth less!"

"I left you!"

There's a long silence. Kelly can almost hear it as Scotty deflates, his partner finally reaching out to straighten a wrinkle in Kelly's pajama pants. He smiles wryly. "Hurts like a bitch, don't it?"

Kelly's jaw drops at the profanity, then he snorts with laughter. "Such language, Jack. I'll write Mom."

Scotty's laugh is light, joking. "You do, and I'll tell her how you left me."

A sharp pain, like a spike, spears Kelly's gut, and he turns away.

"Aw, I'm sorry…" Scotty makes a little sound of frustration behind him. "C'mon! I didn't mean it."

All he can do is shake his head, the truth hanging there in the air between them. I left him.

"You were doin' your job. I know that."

Instead of making him feel better, the words make his stomach turn, like he's going to be sick.

"Hey," Scotty's voice is a breath, close behind him. "Have I ever given you any cause to believe that I can't do my part?"

Kelly shakes his head once, tersely.

A warm hand drapes over his bare shoulder. "So if you'd stayed, you'd have been saying I needed a babysitter. Have you ever known me to need a babysitter?"

Through the bitterness, Kelly manages, "Do not give me a straight line like that, man." He shrugs off the comforting touch, wishing he could shrug off the thought of what could have happened to that hand, those fingers, if the Soviets had managed to...

His partner huffs a laugh, a mere breath, and then the bed dips as Scotty slides across to sit by him, slightly behind him, long legs draped all over the bedspread. At the sensation of the warm body next to his, Kelly heaves a deep sigh, feeling whole. "Shoes on the bed? Really, man, I can't take you anyplace."

There's a movement, a rustling behind him, and first one shoe, then the other, sails over his head in a lazy arc to land somewhere next to the table. He opens his mouth to needle his partner some more, then gasps as the big hands grip his shoulders, thumbs digging into his back. "You're all wound up," Scotty mutters as Kelly groans.

"I—oh. No fair. Winning an argument by brute for—mmmmm…"

"That's me. The Big Bad Wolf," Scotty says distractedly, continuing to knead Kelly's muscles. "Hoo boy, you keeping rocks in there, or what?"

"Had a bad day." Kelly's laugh is almost a sob.

"You and me both, Herman."

"So how come—I'm the one who betrayed you and you're—the one givin' me a prize?"

"The world works in mysterious ways. Now shut up." The words barely have time to sink in before Scotty says, an edge to his voice, "And the next time you say you betrayed me just because you trusted me to do my job, I'm pitching you off the wonderful balcony they have on this penthouse suite, you dig?"

Kelly sighs, half-smiling, letting Scotty push him down to the mattress as he keeps kneading his back. "Always wanted… to fly."

"Just…" Scotty inhales deeply, holds it in a few minutes, breathes out softly. "Not too close to the sun, man."

"You neither."

"Me neither," Scotty acquiesces.

"Tell you a secret, though," Kelly confides.

"And what would that wonderful secret be?"

"I've got a parachute."

Scotty doesn't ask what that parachute is, but Kelly has an inkling that he already knows. What he isn't prepared for is that after several minutes of rubbing his back, Scotty breathes, "Me too, Hoby. Me too."