Summary: Scully has too many rolls of toilet paper for just one person.
When: Starts off during the cancerarc, and then goes all AU on your ass. How d'you like them apples?
Word Count: 1 500+
Rating: Vague sex.
Disclaimer: I’m not, he is. They did, I didn’t.
Scully has too many rolls of toilet paper for just one person. And too much Ivory Soap. And too many band-aids. They line her cupboards and clutter her shelves, waiting to collect dust.
She never has fresh fruit. Or dairy products. Every time she buys yogurt is a risk, and she stands in the frozen food aisle, reading dates, calculating. She has bottled water by the truck full, but not enough apples. Her fridge looks like it belongs in a fallout shelter. It is the fridge of someone awaiting the end of the world.
She is always buying in bulk, hoarding things, because she hardly ever has the chance to go shopping. Never on weekdays, seldom on weekends, and there just isn’t enough time. Her kitchen counter is littered with unfinished grocery lists, little paper corpses with curling corners.
After her abduction, inexplicably, she bought boxes and boxes of cotton balls. She has no idea why. She would go to the grocery store and find herself gravitating helplessly towards the toothpaste aisle. It was a compulsion. She’s never thrown them out, and now, sometimes, she uses them to stop the nosebleeds when she runs out of Kleenex.
She’s always running out of Kleenex.
She makes a game out of it when she’s shopping: how many different brands per trip. She gives herself extra points if the brand is foreign, or contains a special feature like “hydrating lotion” or “double quilted sheets”. She thinks she could make a game out of it at home too: draw up a table and rate each brand on softness, durability, and visual appeal (she’s particularly fond of the pink tissues, even if they do abrade her nostrils). She doesn’t. She thinks it would be crossing a line of some sort.
She’s started carrying the little portable packs with her out in the field, and was embarrassed to find that Mulder had too. Now, whenever a nosebleed starts, she is careful to always have a tissue ready before he can offer her one of his. It’s a little like the wild west; one, two, three, and draw! Mulder never wins.
You’d make a lousy gunslinger, she whispers, pinching her nose and tilting her head back, voice muffled by her Kleenex (always her Kleenex).
Of course he doesn’t hear.
These days, Scully is always exactingly pragmatic about what she buys. She never runs out of dishsoap, or pens. When Mulder comes over to write up reports, he always marvels. Scully, he teases, look at all the colours. Blue, black, and red. There’re so many choices it’s enough to make a man’s head spin.
I have highlighters too, Mulder, she’d say. Should I bring you those?
No, no. I’m already overwhelmed.
The cotton balls are a poor substitute, but they’re better than wiping blood on her good towels. Or using toilet paper. She was forced to once, in a diner at the beginning of the cancer, back before she and Mulder started carrying around Kleenex with their guns and their flashlights and their badges. Her nose smarted the whole the rest of the drive, and Mulder kept looking at her like he was afraid she was going fade away if he blinked.
They ruin her makeup, the nosebleeds. She always has to touch up her lipstick afterwards. Eventually she just stops putting it on in the morning, and the tubes dry out slowly in the bathroom cabinet.
“Are you sure you don’t need anything?” Mulder wheedles. “We could be here for as much as two more days.”
“I don’t need anything,” Scully insists. “I brought everything in my overnight bag.”
Mulder murmurs something like ‘always prepared’ or perhaps ‘never be-haired’ and wanders away from her down the aisle in search of shaving cream. He flits between the tower of disposable diapers and the bath soaps, forever a toddler, distracted by bright colours.
Scully’s lying, of course. She needs Kleenex (she always needs Kleenex). There is some right around the corner, but buying it invites the possibility of that expression in his eyes. That moment of wide, unbearable understanding at the checkout counter.
She settles for cotton balls instead. Mulder raises his eyebrows but makes no comment.
When her nose starts bleeding the next day in the field, Scully is expecting it. It's just the kind of luck she has. But she’s not wearing a white blouse, and the local PD doesn’t notice, and they’re right next to the car, so. It could have been worse.
She is in the backseat, safe and unobtrusive and (mostly) cleaned up, when Mulder finds her.
“Scully,” he says, grinning, sliding in beside her, “what on earth are you doing to that poor cotton ball?”
She hates him. She hates hates hates him. “No Kleenex,” she mumbles, bent over so as to prevent any blood dripping onto her suit. Mulder makes a fist against her back, knuckles rubbing in a soothing circle.
“You could’ve just asked me,” he says, too quietly. “You know I carry extra.”
“You were busy,” she huffs, but accepts the portable packet he’s extending towards her now. They’re quilted. Five extra points, she thinks, and does not laugh.
“Never that busy,” he whispers.
They sit there together like that, Mulder’s hand still on her back, until Scully’s nosebleed drip drip drips to a stop. It takes longer than it used to, Scully notices, counting
Another thing she didn’t buy at the drugstore, but should have: a compact mirror. “You’ve still got some,” Mulder whispers. “Just there.”
They’re hidden from view, her short and Mulder slumped down, almost below window-level. A secret backseat kingdom, Scully thinks, still dizzy, but no, that sounds wrong. That suggests something.
It is cold and early-morning still and she gives him the Kleenex.
Lets him wipe the blood from her face.
“This is not conductive to the healing process,” Mulder tells her from somewhere deep inside her fridge. They are back from the hospital and Scully has a suitcase and a headache. “There is absolutely nothing in here but water.”
“So I’ll keep hydrated,” she says, and means ‘leave’. (And really means ‘stay’.)
“You’ll keep nothing of the sort,” he says, and gleefully dumps half of the water bottles into her trash. Before she can so much as open her mouth, he holds up a hand. “We need to make room, Scully.”
“Room for what?” It is possible that he has an X-file he wants to store, a maniacal science project too wild for
“For the food.”
He gathers up all her unfinished grocery lists, coaxes them from their hiding places under the breadbasket and behind the toaster. He tells her that he is going to buy every single item on them, and refuses to listen to reason, even when she says, Mulder, you’ll be buying ten of the same thing.
He leaves for the store, and returns with six cartons of milk, three bags of apples, four bags of oranges, too much yogurt to count and many many tubs of ice cream. When he dumps the whole lot on her counter she discovers that he really did buy everything on the lists: she stares, embarrassed, at the three boxes of tampons and the two disposable razors.
Mulder tears around her apartment in a grocery-unpacking frenzy, and all Scully can do is stand by helplessly while he puts the apples in the crisper, the ice cream in the freezer, the yogurt in the fridge, the oranges in a bowl. When he goes to put the tampons in her bathroom cabinet (the tampons in her bathroom cabinet and Scully is never, ever going to stop blushing) he comes across the cotton balls.
“Scully,” he says, grinning, “is there something you want to tell me? Some secret cotton kink that you’ve kept hidden thus far but—”
She kisses him. She pulls away after a second.
Quietly waits for the other shoe to drop.
“Scully,” he whispers, and kisses her back.
He spends what feels like hours sucking her collarbones, her ankles, her right shoulder. He strips off her shirt but focuses on her wrists, licking bracelets around them. She cannot keep up and leans back into the pillows. When he finally, finally starts in on her breasts, biting the nipples just that much too hard, she is incoherent, scrabbling at his back with useless fingers.
“Fuck,” he says when he pushes inside her. “Oh god, Scully. Fuck.” And then: “You almost—oh god, Scully, you almost—”
“Shh,” she whispers, and he hauls her up so she’s sitting on his lap. She bites at his lips until neither of them can speak.
“How long?” she asks, afterwards. They are laying on top the sheets, wrong way up on the bed, and Scully is too skinny; too skinny for sex, too skinny for him to pillow his head on her breast. There aren’t enough curves left on her. But then she thinks about all the new ice cream waiting in her fridge, and smiles.
“Years,” he whispers into the skin at her belly. "Years and years and years."
“Oh,” she says, and means it.