The Truth as a Slippery Slope

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Napoleon leaned back in the passenger side of the car and rubbed his hand over sore and gritty eyes. "I hate getting dosed with truth serum," he muttered.

In the driver's seat, Illya started the car and pulled calmly away from the smouldering ruins that were all that was left of that particular THRUSH compound before answering. "Doesn't everyone?"

"You'd be surprised," Napoleon said earnestly, reminding Illya that the truth serum was still in effect. "There are a half a dozen section two agents who actually enjoy the experience. Apparently they find it...relaxing."

Illya frowned deeply. "Isn't that a security risk?"

A dismissive wave. "It's never impacted their performance under the influence," Napoleon said. "We train our people better than that. But they say resisting is more like a puzzle than a battle. Apparently, figuring out how not to answer can be fun." There was a long, quiet pause. "On the other hand," Napoleon murmured at length, "I do try to keep them away from high risk missions. Particularly after we've just changed the codes. I can't quite put my faith in someone who isn't going to fight."

"Should you be telling me this?" Illya asked, sliding Napoleon a wary sidelong glance.

"Probably not," Napoleon leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. "But Christ, Illya, you're my partner. You're number two section two. If I can't trust you with a little generic gossip, who can I trust?"

The curves of the narrow, twisting road might have made for a nice scenic drive under other circumstances, but Illya was too distracted by his partner's uncharacteristic attitude too pay any attention. The expletive might have been explained away by exhaustion and relief at getting free of THRUSH before he cracked, but the weary set of Napoleon's shoulders, the way he kept rubbing at his temples, the bleak tone of voice... Illya made a mental note to point the chemists towards depression as a possible side effect. Assuming, of course, that there was any of the chemical left in Napoleon's blood by the time they could have some drawn. THRUSH had not been so thoughtful as to provide a sample.

"Procedure--" he attempted, but Napoleon cut him off.

"Don't talk to me about procedure, Illya. It's not like it would be the first time we've broken the rules."

Illya's lips thinned and he had to remind himself that Napoleon was drugged and tired and probably in pain, and that they were in a car in the middle of nowhere and the comment hadn't even been particularly indiscreet. But they had agreed never to discuss it. "I hadn't realized you felt so...stifled by U.N.C.L.E.'s procedures," he said aloud.

Napoleon shot him a glance that implied he knew exactly what Illya was doing with that comment. "Not stifled, exactly," he replied, not pushing the point. "More...impatient. I've never liked the paperwork..." Napoleon trailed off and hummed softly. "Never much liked the red tape, either."

The steering wheel was growing a little tacky with sweat under Illya's hands. He shot his partner a glance, but Napoleon was staring contemplatively out at the countryside, apparently not at all disturbed by the tenor of the conversation. "But it's all worth it in the end, yes?" Illya said, forcing a light note into his voice.

"We haven't got to the end yet." Napoleon sounded...distracted. Illya didn't know if that was a good thing or not.

"The end of this Affair, Napoleon," Illya corrected automatically.

Napoleon turned back to Illya and pinned him with a look all the more disturbing for the sadness lurking in those dark eyes. "Have we come to the end of our affair, Illya?"

Had Napoleon misinterpreted his comment deliberately, or did he really think Illya was referring to their personal relationship?

Illya's response was careful. Measured. "I suspect we will not know until we are back at HQ where we belong."

"Hmmmm." Napoleon turned back to stare out the window again. "Where both of us belong. I think you're right."

Illya let out a quiet breath of relief. I think it's a very good thing THRUSH didn't have you for longer, he told his partner silently.