It was too hot for this — for anything, really. The air hung in heat-shimmers over the road. He was sticking to the car seat in a way that would have been uncomfortable if he'd had time to think about it.
The road was perfectly straight. It stretched ahead, no shadows, no turn-offs, no shelter. He glanced in the rearview mirror again. Nothing had changed. There was still another car behind him. And no matter how much he speeded up, it stayed there.
He wished for a gas station, a state trooper, something, anything — anything other than the turkey vulture circling high up in the sky. This was ridiculous. This kind of thing didn't happen to him.
In a defiant gesture he turned on the radio and was assaulted by a burst of static. Then, slowly, an entirely too cheerful voice came through. "...one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you!"
He was driving fast. Very, very fast. This wasn't the kind of thing he did; he'd never pushed his car over 100 just because, never tried to test his reflexes taking a curve at top speed, never, basically, seen his car as an extension of himself or of his manhood. Now he clung to the wheel and wanted to become one with the Buick, a metal centaur.
He glanced back again. No change. The other car still maintained the same distance. It still didn't have a license plate. He was out of cell phone range. Sweat trickled down his forehead, stung his eyes.
On the radio, another burst of static gave way to Stand By Your Man. Great, he thought to himself. All I need is a cowboy hat.
And someone to stand by.
He couldn't see the driver of the other car. The windows were darkened. Of course. It was just the finishing touch to this surreal experience. The emptiness all around was beginning to feel disturbingly natural. He'd always driven along this road, frantically, had always been looking back at a black car with dark windows, feeling sweat trickle down his spine.
It was unendurable. And besides, his hands were starting to cramp from holding on so hard to the steering wheel. He glanced up in the rearview mirror again, drew a deep breath, and hit the brakes.
Both cars came to a screeching halt, his pursuer missing the rear fender of his Buick by about a quarter of an inch.
He opened the door with jerky, angry, frightened motions, got out and peered through the strong sunlight at the other car, too confused to even remember to take his gun out. "Who the hell are you?" he yelled. "What do you want?"
The car door opened; a man got out and leaned back against the car, smiling a little. "Maybe this isn't the right moment to tell you, but I want my REM CDs back."
His mood changed from bewildered and angry to just plain angry. A few quick steps took him to the other man, up close, close enough to rip his sunglasses off and throw them on the ground. "You bastard."
"At least you didn't call me a bitch." Alex Krycek's green eyes hadn't changed.
He drew breath for another verbal attack, then paused, wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand, and took a second look. "What are you doing here, really?"
"I told you—"
"You walked out on me without a word. The next thing I hear is you're not just out of my life, you're out of the Bureau, Scully is missing, Skinner looks like he's been chewing glass and Mulder turns into the poster child for Prozac. And you think you can show up again and, and—"
"I missed you," Krycek said softly. "I missed you a lot."
"So you decided to chase me down and give me a heart attack. Thanks."
"I missed those CDs too, of course," Krycek went on.
"Well, you're not getting them back," he said, aware that it came out more petulant than anything else.
"And I'm not getting you back, am I." There was a rather wistful look on Krycek's face. He looked different — scruffier, more hard-edged. But his eyes were as beautiful as they had always been. And his mouth. Yes, his mouth, too...
"You're crazy." He thought about fumbling for his gun, decided against it. He'd never be able to convince Krycek that he was serious. He'd never be able to convince himself.
Krycek laughed, and it rang out clear and painful in the emptiness all around them. "Oh, yes. Yes." Reached out, curving one hand around his neck, pulling him closer. "But you knew that from the start."
"I thought I could—"
"Help me? Understand me?" Krycek's smile was cutting him to ribbons. "Tame me?"
He didn't want to think about it. He didn't know what he had thought would happen. Strange enough that someone like Alex had ever looked at him in the first place. Stranger, that they had been lovers. Had been so close.
Instead of a sharply worded denial, what came out of his mouth was, "I missed you too, Alex. I still miss you."
The hand around his neck tugged at him. Closer. Closer still. He drew a breath, looked at Alex, looked away again and dug his heels in.
"Just one kiss," Krycek said. "For old times' sake."
He couldn't help it, he had to smile. "You know it wouldn't stop there," he said. Fire was racing through him from the touch of Alex's hand on his neck, and just the thought of those lips against his own made moans crowd each other in his throat, jostling to get out.
"There's no reason it has to." Krycek's voice had dropped to its huskiest seduction tone, every word an invitation. "We could..."
"No, Alex." He closed his eyes. He wanted. God, how he wanted. Lust burned him more wickedly than the sun.
"No?" The softest brush of lips against the corner of his mouth, a familiar caress between them, Krycek's favorite way of initiating lovemaking.
"No." He reached up and pulled his lover's hand away. His ex-lover's. Stepped back, looked again into bright green eyes. "I don't know exactly what you're up to now, Alex. But you know I'll find out. Just leave now, please. Just — go."
Krycek looked around, laughed a little wildly. "Go where?" He flung out a hand. "We're already on the road to nowhere." Deep breath. "All right." Krycek bent to pick up the sunglasses, put them on again, said from behind their dark protection, "You were a lousy lay, anyway."
Krycek got back in the car, slammed the door and started the engine. He reversed with screeching tires, close enough to threaten toes, and took off.
Silence fell as the sound of the car engine eventually died away. The sky was still blue. That damn turkey vulture was up there, hopeful, ready to swoop down. C'mere, come and get it. Fresh roadkill. It was only my heart, nothing important.
He turned around and went back to his own car, got in, sat staring for a moment before he remembered that he ought to close the door, turn the key, put on the damn seatbelt.
John F. Byers started the car and drove away without looking back.