Title: Last Chance
Author: Jayde
Feedback: Please. arcenciel9@yahoo.com
Website: http://www.geocities.com/arcenciel9/
Rating: PG.
Archive: Anywhere is welcome. Just let me know.
Spoilers: None
Disclaimer: They belong to CC, 1013, and Fox. Not me.
Summary: Mulder picks up a very interesting hitchhiker
Notes: Urban Legends challenge response- you can find the original at http://www.snopes2.com, although I bet most of you've heard it before. Slightly modified, but we all know Alex never plays by the rules. Apologies to Nebraska, beta by Rev.


It was hot.

There was no shade, no form of civilization, for as far as the eye could see. Even with two bottles of water and the air conditioning on high, it was hot. Mulder could feel his shirt sticking to the seat (his coat had been thrown over to the backseat early on) and he was beginning to be jealous of Scully. She might have the flu, but she wasn't *here*. The only thing keeping him going now was the fact that he was more than halfway to his destination, and turning back now would mean another two hours of nothing but corn, highway, and heat.

He was never coming to Nebraska again. It didn't matter how spectacular the next crop circles were, photos would be enough.

There was a dark speck on the road ahead. It grew as he approached and began to develop a shape. Jesus, was it a hitchhiker? The display on the dashboard said it was 108° outside. The man had to be insane. It looked like he was wearing pants and long sleeves, all in black. Even (was it? it was!) a leather jacket. That wasn't insanity, it was suicide.

He slowed as he got closer. There wasn't anything in his job description that included picking up hitchhikers, but it could probably be stretched to include saving the lives of the terminally stupid. Mulder hadn't seen another car in over an hour, so he couldn't just leave the man. Even if he was an idiot. He pulled to a stop as he drew even with the dark figure and lowered the passenger window. Heat flooded in, overwhelming the air conditioning. How was he staying on his feet, let alone walking, in leather?

"Need a lift?"

The man, who had stopped when the car had, seemed to consider it. Mulder took the chance to glance over him. Black motorcycle boots, black jeans, black leather jacket. Maybe there was a broken down Harley on the shoulder somewhere, but he hadn't seen one. The man had his hands in his pockets and his head bent down behind the turned-up collar of the jacket, so all Mulder could see was short, dark hair. It looked soft...

Mulder pulled his mind off the track it was trying to take and firmly ordered himself not to start fantasizing. Especially not about a man who hadn't deigned to show his own face yet. Although the lean body under the leather and denim was obviously fit, and there was a more than hint of muscle where the jeans clung to strong thighs.

"C'mon, last chance," Mulder snapped. He was losing his control and he was losing the air.

The answer that finally came was barely audible over the idling engine. "Sure." The man paused awkwardly, then tucked his face even deeper into the jacket and climbed stiffly into the car. "Thanks," he added in a muffled voice.

Mulder acknowledged the words with a grunt as he pulled back onto the highway and tried to coax more cold air out of the vents. Once he admitted to himself that it was a waste of time, he turned to his newly acquired passenger and shuddered at the sight of the jacket. He was overheating just looking at it.

It had to go. "Lose the jacket," he not-quite-ordered. The man stiffened even more, if that was possible, and his body language began screaming discomfort. Perfect, he'd picked up the shyest hitchhiker in history. The day just kept on improving.

He opened his mouth to say something reassuring but closed it as he saw the man appear to lose some internal battle. Shoulders slumped, the head somehow sank even farther, and a hand that was almost shaking lifted itself to the zipper.

The overwhelming shyness became even more evident as the man turned sideways, looking out the window and presenting Mulder with his back as jerky movements worked both arms out of their sleeves. Maybe he was scarred, or somehow disfigured? The body being exposed certainly wasn't; the muscles revealing themselves were works of art, well sculpted and clearly defined through a snug tee shirt. They were painfully tense, though, and Mulder found himself holding his breath in anticipation of the face that had to be revealed eventually. Would it be as beautiful as the rest of the man? Would it be perfectly normal, the type that blurred into the background after being dismissed as average? Would there be something wrong, something the man was ashamed of?

Would it be Alex Krycek?

Mulder slammed on the brakes, reached for his gun, and bit back a curse when his hand came up empty. The sweaty chafe of the shoulder holster had been driving him crazy, so the Sig was out of reach under his coat on the back seat. He was bracing himself to fight Krycek for whatever weapon the assassin had when he finally took a good look at the man sitting next to him.

Krycek hadn't pulled a gun of his own. He looked exhausted. More than that, he looked defeated. The shadows under his eyes were too dark, his recovery from the sudden stop was too slow, and his body language had shifted from discomforted to submissive. It wasn't an aspect of Krycek that Mulder had ever pictured. He'd imagined many faces on Alex Krycek, trying to see the truth behind the mask of the young agent, but abject surrender wasn't among them. It didn't fit. Yet here he was, after being picked up in the middle of nowhere, leaning against the car door like it was the only thing keeping him from collapsing.

"What now, Krycek?" The words were a snarl, but the anger faded into fascination as he watched the professional killer wince. "What are you doing here?"

Krycek's reply was just as spiritless as the rest of him. "Walking, hoping for a ride." The bloodshot eyes darted back and forth, avoiding Mulder's face. "Taking my last chance."

That drew a short bark of laughter. "What chance, Krycek? Why should I give you any kind of opportunity?"

Another wince, but eye contact, finally. God, the pain in those eyes. "Because I'm sorry," Krycek said softly. The next words were slow and halting, like he was dredging up things he hadn't even let himself think about. "For... for everything. And I wanted you to know I didn't mean to hurt you."

Mulder should have laughed again. He knew that. He should have punched Krycek, gone for his gun, and ended it all right then. It was just -the sheer *misery* in those eyes was too much to be another act. He cursed himself silently when he heard his own words, too soft and too gentle for the spy sitting next to him. "You've got a hell of a way of showing it, Alex."

When on earth had Krycek become Alex?

It looked like gentleness cut deeper than anger, though. Alex sank farther into his seat, like he was trying to hide in his missing jacket or collapse in on himself and escape notice. "I know," he said, the wretchedness in his eyes seeping out into his voice. "I'm sorry."

There was something else. There had to be. Consortium operatives did not just wander the American Midwest in search of forgiveness. "Is someone trying to kill you, Alex? Is that why you're trying to get your redemption?"

It was Alex that laughed this time, almost hysterically. "No, Mulder. No one's trying to kill me now. I can promise you that." He looked like he wanted to say something else, but he checked himself. Then his gaze caught the back seat and he looked at it longingly. "Would you... Can I get some sleep? Before you ask all your questions. I'm so tired."

He should have refused, should have cuffed Krycek to door handle and gotten everything out of him. But the exhaustion was back in his voice and his body, and that last sentence had been a plea. He nodded.

Alex looked pitifully grateful, but he didn't say anything as he climbed in back and curled himself under his jacket. Mulder jumped when his gun was passed forward, realizing too late how vulnerable he had been. Behind him, though, Alex was already half asleep. "I'm sorry," he whispered again. "I wanted to tell you... but I'm tired. So tired." His voice was fading. "Pras-te minya. Ya tebya lyublyu."

He hadn't understood the last of it, hadn't even recognized the language, but Alex was dead to the world. Mulder studied the face he'd been so curious about; eyelashes resting on the cheeks, barely curled nose, and parted lips that were too bright against the pale face. His first guess had been right. His mystery passenger really was beautiful.

He looked blankly at the gun in his hand before tossing it on to the other seat. He couldn't kill Alex. Not like this, not when the man was comatose after baring his soul. Probably not ever, if he admitted it to himself. There was too much between them for a bullet to pierce.

He began driving again, glancing into the mirror every minute to reassure himself that what had happened was real. He was distracted only when his cell phone began to ring.

"Mulder."

"Mulder, it's me." Scully's voice sounded better, less congested. "You'll never guess who just turned up in the DC morgue."

"Santa Claus?"

She laughed, which started her coughing and made him feel guilty all over again. "Better." He could hear her smile. "Alex Krycek."

He should look in the mirror. He knew that. He should look over his shoulder and see the man sleeping behind him. Instead he stared straight ahead as Scully went on, describing fingerprint matches and positive identifications.

He responded automatically when she finished and was immensely grateful when she said the batteries in her phone were running out. Thanked her for the news and hung up, staring straight ahead as he tried not to think about anything.

He looked, finally. Braced himself like he had for the fight and turned to see if he'd gone insane.

No Alex. No scuffs or dirt from his boots, no wrinkles in the suit coat he would have been sleeping on. No sign that anyone had ever been curled under the black leather jacket lying on top of the coat.

Nothing.

-----

Russian translations:
Pras-te minya I'm sorry
Ya tebya lyublyu I love you

Archived: November 02, 2001