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Whipped

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They’ve barely made it out of the car when his cell bleeps. He pulls it out, reads Scully’s message, slips it back into his jeans and strides out to catch up with Jackson who is balancing on the wheels of a cart as he manoeuvres it out of the trappings of the bay. He narrowly misses an old woman who tuts loudly and Mulder mumbles ‘sorry’.

The homeware store is new and huge and Mulder stands in the entrance getting his bearings. Jackson is riding the cart towards the paint aisle, past the stout and stern-faced store clerk who twists on the spot and follows the errant teen. Mulder’s cell buzzes again and he reads the message as he holds his other hand up to the clerk in apology. He grabs the hood of Jackson’s jacket to stop him.

“What? Mom tell you to make sure I don’t get into trouble? Are you filming me, Spooky?”

He lowers the phone. “No,” Mulder says, picking up a couple of paint sample cards from the grays. “I’m asking you to not get into trouble. And why would I film you, you do that often enough yourself.”

“I’m Tik-tok famous.” Jackson swaggers as he holds his cell out in front of him, spins the trolley round and lets out a whoop that stirs up the well-dressed couple at the paint mixing counter.

Mulder’s phone bleeps again.

Jackson plucks the gray paint card from Mulder’s grip and shakes his head. “Lemme guess. Mom? Because you two don’t actually have any friends, do you?”

“She’s just… stop spinning that thing.”

Jackson steps down from the wheels and picks out a card of dark reds like a blood spatter from fresh to dead. Mulder grimaces and turns to the mint greens. He checks the cell. “What does pastel but not wishy-washy, statement but not bold mean, do you think?”

His son’s hand slaps him across the shoulders and Jackson grins at him, an irritatingly familiar, shit-eating smirk. “It means you’re well and truly whipped, old man.”