Scully can’t be entirely sure, no, but she is fairly certain that this is one of the most bogus cases they’ve ever investigated. Mulder, of course, was hooked the moment he read about the so called killer bunnies in Oklahoma. No amount of eye rolling and ‘but, Mulder’ could convince him that it was not a case, merely teenagers pulling a prank. Now, after endless interviews with gum popping, giggling children, Mulder has agreed that maybe, just maybe, Scully has a point. She doesn’t tell him 'I told you so’, but the look she gives him conveys the same message.
“Good night, Mulder,” she says with as much sympathy as she can muster before she closes the door behind her. She sighs. Just this one night, she tells herself as she rummages through her suitcase to find her pajamas. They will fly home tomorrow, Mulder will leave the paperwork to her while he sulks and complains that they haven’t had a good case in months. As if she was personally responsible for that. She sighs again. Her pajamas in her hand, she enters the bathroom. The light comes on with a hiss and throws dim shadows. Just as she’s about to undress, she hears a knock on the door. She leaves the button on her blouse undone and goes to open it. There’s Mulder in jeans and a T-shirt holding up his toothbrush like a magic wand.
“Sorry to bother you,” except he doesn’t sound sorry at all and doesn’t wait for her to invite him in, just walks past her, “can I borrow some toothpaste?”
“What happened to yours?” Scully closes the door. It’s cold here in Oklahoma and Mulder’s restless antics tell her that he is not planning to leave any time soon, even if she gave him the whole tube of toothpaste. Or threw it at his head.
“It happens to be at home.” Mulder strolls into her bathroom as if it were his hotel room. She remains there, simply listens to the domestic, rather intimate sounds. The rush of the water, the squeak of the faucet. A moment later Mulder reappears with the toothbrush hanging from his mouth.
“Scully, do you ever talk to your friends about me?” The question comes out of nowhere, is seemingly out of context. She stares at him with big eyes; does he expect an answer, an honest one? He blinks at her. Yes, he does expect an answer. Scully is so taken aback that her first instinct is to tell him that she has no friends. “Do you?” He asks again, lazily chewing on his toothbrush. She has half a mind to tell him that this is not how you brush your teeth. But his gaze is persisting, his waiting loud.
“What- what does that have to with the case?”
“The case? Nothing. You were right about the case and the teenagers. So do you?”
“Mulder, you’re supposed to brush your teeth over the sink. What if you drip toothpaste on your shirt or the carpet?” He grins, the toothpaste around his lips spreading in tiny bubbles, and disappears into the bathroom. She hears him spit and feels her cheek blush. When he returns the toothbrush is in his hand.
“One of your friends called yesterday.” he says and watches her, “Jack something. Said you met in Maine.” She remembers, dimly. A grumpy face, a lopsided grin.
“He’s not a friend. I told you about him, remember?”
“Did you talk to him about me?”
“Mulder, what is this about?” She is not in the mood to play one of Mulder’s games.
“I just want to know. He claimed to know me.” Mulder puts the toothbrush back into his mouth, biting down on it.
“Of course I mentioned you, Mulder. You’re my partner.” Her cheeks must be on fire. She didn’t mean for it to sound like that. Mulder, however, seems unfazed, and definitely not done. “He – Jack - is not a friend,” Scully adds, hoping to end this ridiculous conversation.
“What did you tell him?”
“I don’t remember, Mulder! Why is that important?”
“Hm, just wondering. There was this young agent some years ago. She said she’s heard a lot about me.” Damn Mulder and his memory. Scully watches the drop of toothpaste on Mulder’s lips, licks her own and is convinced she can taste the sweet, minty flavor. “She was a friend, wasn’t she?”
“Fine. I do talk to people, and my friends, about you, Mulder. Happy? I didn’t think it was a big deal.” Now she wonders if he ever talks about her when she’s not around. She stares at him, unsure if she wants to know.
“What do you tell them?” His voice is even as he asks her. He brushes his teeth standing there in the middle of her hotel room and Scully can’t decide what’s more absurd, the question or him.
“I don’t keep a record of what I say.”
“Too bad. So that Jack guy and- what was her name?”
“Kelly Ryan,” Scully scowls; she shouldn’t feed his madness, but the name falls from her lips easily. She won’t tell Mulder, no way, but she does remember. Not the exact wording, but she knows she called him brilliant, called him wonderful. Handsome, maybe. She blushes again, clears her throat.
“Who else, Scully.”
“Do you want me to give you a list?” From the crazy look in his eyes that is exactly what he wants. Scully feels another sigh come on, but she swallows it, makes room for the blazing anger that runs through her veins.
“I’ll stop talking about you, Mulder,” she says trying to keep her voice from sounding shrill, “how about I’ll stop talking to you right now, too?”
“Scully, no,” he comes closer and touches her shoulder, “that’s not what I meant. I just – when that Jack guy called he said some things and I just wanted to know where I… stand.”
“You’re in my hotel room, Mulder, and I don’t even remember that guy’s last name. That should give you a clue.” He grins and the toothbrush threatens to fall from his mouth. Scully takes it from him.
“So it’s not too presumptuous to think that I’m important enough for you to talk about me with your friends?”
“Not too presumptuous,” she agrees before she goes to the bathroom, Mulder on her heels. “I once told my friend Ellen you were cute,” she admits as she lets water run over his toothbrush.
“I also told her you were a jerk.”
“Ouch. But a cute jerk.” Their eyes meet in the mirror over the sink, their expressions slightly askew, distorted.
“I told Melissa how annoying you are,”
“Hm, maybe I don’t want to know-”
“And how much I love working with you,” Scully cuts him off, smiling. As she watches Mulder she wonders if she should tell him all the things she told Missy. How he made her feel so alive. So passionate. How beautiful he could be. Her sister, oh how she misses her, had merely smiled. Had known what Scully herself is still not ready to admit.
“I told Penny Northern that I can always count on you.” Mulder takes a step closer so that he is almost touching her; she feels his warmth on her back, tentative and soft.
“My mom,” she stops herself, remembers and chuckles.
“What about your mom?” Mulder’s voice is a gentle whisper against the shell of her ear. She shivers and wants to make him wait as she feels the apprehension in the way he leans closer. Or maybe she just wants him to whisper again. But her willpower dwindles with every passing second.
“I don’t need to tell her anything, because she always asks about you.”
“Always?” Scully nods and feels him right behind her now, his front to her back. Maybe she can blame the size of this tiny bathroom for that. Except it’s not that tiny. There’s enough space. But neither of them wants to use it.
He leans over, presses against her, and takes his toothbrush from her hand. Their fingers touch briefly and for the flash of a moment Scully can’t help but wonder what it would be like. Their toothbrushes right next to each other, sharing a tube of toothpaste, them standing like this every night. Not in hotel rooms, but in their homes. The moment passes, Mulder’s warmth leaves, and she tries to follow. He opens the door and lets the cold air in, reality, too.
“Thank you,” he tells her before he leaves and closes the door. She has no idea if he means the toothpaste or what she’s told him. Somehow she thinks it doesn’t matter one bit.