Title: If You Go Down To The Woods
Author: afg
Written: June 2004
Category: Casefile, M/S UST/MSR
Spoilers: None
Rating: R.
Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully are the property of Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. No profit is being made.

Summary - Our heroes go down to Texas to investigate Bigfoot.

Author's note: thanks - To Tali, for her invaluable help, and the precious gift of commas. For Grace, who loved her bugs.


Prologue

Washington DC, FBI Headquarters
August 9 1999
9:30am

Agent Fox Mulder, jerked in surprise as a manila folder was slapped down onto the desk in front of him.

"Bigfoot, Mulder?" A severely pissed off looking Dana Scully stood in front of his desk, with her arms folded. "Even you can't possibly believe in Bigfoot."

"Why, Scully, do you mean to say that you don't?" Mulder said with a shocked look upon his handsome face, as he opened the folder and began to peruse its contents.

"Mulder, you know very well that I don't. There is not a shred of credible scientific evidence to suggest that such a creature, or creatures, exist. I don't know why we are even arguing about this." Scully looked at her partner in exasperation.

"Well, I think Mr. Franklin here might be inclined to differ with you," Mulder pointed to a photograph of a late middle aged man with graying hair and one arm secured in a sling. "He says that one of them attacked him while he was duck hunting around Lake Cherokee in Rusk County, Texas. And he has the scars to prove it," he concluded calmly.

"I've read the file, and pardon me, if I don't leap into your pool of credulity." Scully snatched up the offending document and pointed to a paragraph.

"Mr. Franklin states that, when he tripped over a tree root while engaging in the day's hunting, he broke his glasses in the fall and when he looked up, he saw a large creature coming towards him, which swiped at him with its paw, injuring his arm. He let off a round with his shotgun and the creature ran off. He also states that he had been drinking from a hip flask full of bourbon throughout the morning, to ward of the discomfort from his arthritis."

She shut the folder decisively and put it back on the desk.

"I'm sorry if I don't instantly come to the conclusion that his attacker was a mythical creature, rather than the more likely event that he was mauled by a much more mundane animal such as a bear." Scully walked over to her area of the basement office and sat down, crossing her legs. "You know what, Scully? I might be inclined to agree with you, were it not for the fact that there are no bears in Rusk County, in fact, bears can only be found in the hills of West Texas, so that pretty much rules out that theory. Apart from Deer there are no large animals around Lake Cherokee, nothing much bigger than a squirrel.

Mulder looked towards Scully with a slightly smug expression; suddenly a look of comprehension crossed Mulder's face and he shot up out of his chair and came around to the front of his desk.

"I get it now."

"What, Mulder? What do you get?"

"It's Texas, isn't it?" He said, grinning at her. "You don't want to go to Texas"

"Don't be ridiculous I ..."

"Admit it, Scully; you don't want to go to Texas. I'm right, aren't I?"

Scully was wishing that the bureau didn't hold such a dim view on shooting your partner; she put her hand up to her forehead and rubbed her temple, feeling a "Mulder Special" coming on.

"Okay, Mulder, you win, I don't want to go to Texas," Scully said resignedly. "But can you blame me? I mean we've never done well on a case there. It's like a geographical jinx, and yes, I know that's completely irrational, but sometimes I can't help but feel that way. Yet, saying all that, I still stick with my original objection; Bigfoot, Mulder?"


Chapter One American Eagle Flight 102
Approaching Gregg County Airport
August 11th 1999
3:30pm.

Mulder watched as his partner's hands gripped the arm rests, her knuckles turning white with the pressure. He placed one of his hands over hers and squeezed it gently. It still amazed him that after all the years they had flown together his normally indomitable partner could not conquer her fear of flying. When the plane's wheels made a squealing noise, as they touched down on the tarmac, she finally relaxed her death-grip on the seats upholstery.

After the familiar routine of sorting out the bags and picking up the rental car, they finally managed to get on the highway.

"I still can't understand how you managed to get Skinner to sign off on this one." Scully was fishing through her briefcase looking for a map.

"Hey, you know me; I can charm the birds from the trees, if the need arises." Mulder said. He was driving with one hand while fiddling with the radio tuner, trying to get a station that wasn't playing George Jones, ad nauseam.

"I didn't think that your all purpose 'puppy dog' look works on Skinner." Scully turned to her companion and gave him a piercing glare. "Come on, how did you manage it?"

"I might have embellished the truth a little, that's all." Mulder was still messing with the radio, until finally, Scully reached over, and turned it off.

"Exactly how much embellishing have you done, Mulder?"

"Well, I might have implied, that the Kilgore PD had requested us to investigate a little environmental terrorism problem they have," he said sheepishly. "Which is true, Chief Lowry did ask that while we were down here, we speak to someone, who has been making threats to the Rusk County Water Company."

"So, at no point in your meeting with our boss, did you make any mention of a big, hairy, imaginary creature?"

"Well, of course not, Scully, he'd have laughed in my face." Mulder turned his attention away from the road and shot his partner a pained expression.

"And what do you think he'll do when he finds out the real reason for our little trip?" Two little lines had appeared between Scully's eyebrows, which indicated to Mulder, the depths of her disapproval. He was beginning to wish he'd packed the Kevlar.

"Oh, come on Scully, this is a real opportunity to prove the existence, of what many people have long held to be a relative of Homo Sapiens. We can't let a chance like that slip away from us."

Scully dropped her gaze to the map resting on her knees. Hearing the enthusiasm in Mulder's voice, made her feel guilty for being such a bitch about this case. She felt the frustration ebb from her body, as she thought of her partner's ever- present zest for the unknown. Mulder's passion for the 'Truth' had never really deserted him, even in the darkest moments of their time together. It was something that Scully relied on, when her own faith in her government, her family or her God faltered. Sometimes it scared her just how much she needed, not just his drive, but Mulder himself.

"Scully? Hey, Scully, which way do we turn? "

Mulder's voice broke her out of her introspection.

"What did you say? "We're coming up to a crossroad, which way do we go?"

Scully took a look at the map.

"Sorry, Mulder. You need to take a left."

Mulder looked at his partner, he knew she wasn't just apologizing for her inattention to the navigation. "No problem," smiling at her, he felt the tension that had been between them ease, he was glad that she seemed to have gotten over her annoyance with him. "Do you want to go straight to the Kilgore PD, or do you want to find a place to get something to eat first?"

"Let's check in with Chief Lowry, I'd like to see what this environmental terrorism is all about, as well as getting his take on Mr. Franklin's encounter with the unknown. I'll buy you dinner after."

"What more could a guy wish for?" Mulder mused. "Terrorist threats, duck hunters and dinner bought by a beautiful woman."

"You are so easy to please." Scully smiled.

"You have no idea."

Mulder swung the car left, and sped them towards Kilgore.


Chapter Two

Rusk County
Kilgore Police Department
5:00pm.

It was a hot afternoon in Kilgore and the air conditioning, in the police department, had chosen that very afternoon, to breathe its last. When Mulder and Scully walked through the doors, they were confronted with a proliferation of sweaty men in uniform and a few of Kilgore's less savory citizens, who were equally moist.

"I hope you brought the Birch twigs, Scully, it's like a sauna in here." Mulder took off his suit jacket and started on the buttons on his cuffs. Flashing their badges at the desk sergeant, they asked to see Chief Lowry. Mulder had rung ahead, from the car, to let them know of their impending arrival.

"He's right through there, Agents," the Sergeant pointed towards a glass-fronted office, at the rear of the room. "You can just go on in, The Chief's expecting you."

"Thank you, Sergeant." Scully said.

They made their way through the bullpen and after a gentle knock on the office door, Mulder opened it and they went inside.

"Afternoon, Agents." Chief Lowry was a big heavyset man with a deep voice and an avuncular manner.

"Good afternoon, Chief, I'm Agent Mulder and this is my partner, Agent Scully."

"I'll be honest with you, Agent Mulder, I didn't realize that the FBI had an interest in Bigfoot, what did he do, kidnap the Loch Ness Monster?" The Chief grinned at his little joke.

"Chief Lowry, our division in the FBI is interested in any phenomena, that can not be readily explained, and we would certainly appreciate any information that you could give us regarding Mr. Franklin and his claims." Scully informed him in her most professional tone of voice. She got very tired of constantly having to justify the X files.

"Well, the only phenomena here, is how the hell Jim Franklin managed to drive home after his so called attack. He was so over the limit, he could've knocked out an elephant with his breath." Lowry picked up a file from his desk and handed it to Mulder. "This is the statement from the doctor who examined him at the hospital." Mulder passed the file to Scully, who opened it and started to read.

"Chief, there have been other sightings of Bigfoot around the Cherokee Lake area, haven't there?" Mulder asked.

"Yeah, maybe a couple." Lowry agreed.

"In fact, by my data, there have been nine recorded sightings around the Monroe and Lake Cherokee area, since nineteen eighty eight, ten, if you add Mr. Franklin's. That's quite a lot of sightings for one small area, wouldn't you say, Chief?"

"I guess, but that doesn't mean that Bigfoot is out there, roaming the woods. I mean a ton of people reckon they've seen a UFO, but I ain't seen no aliens landing on the White House lawn"

"My partner might like to dispute that one with you, Chief." Scully said cryptically.

Mulder looked at her and smiled.

"What does the medical report on Mr. Franklin say?" He asked.

"Well, the doctor states, that Mr. Franklin's injury was probably caused by some sort of animal. Mr. Franklin had four shallow scratches and deep tissue bruising, on his right shoulder, consistent with a very heavy slap."

Scully demonstrated on Mulder by loosely curling her fingers and slapping him lightly on the shoulder.

"So, the scratches where caused, by the creature's claws or nails, but, the real damage was the bruising?" asked Mulder.

"Yes," confirmed Scully. "The slap was delivered with some force."

"Does the report say anything else?" Mulder inquired.

"Only that the patient was delirious and highly agitated. The doctor attributed that, to the fact that Mr. Franklin's blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit."

"Hardly a reliable witness," said Chief Lowry dismissively. "He'll be saying that Elvis jumped him next."

"Yeah, but what gave him those scratches and that bruise?" Mulder said. "I'll stick my neck out and say it wasn't the King."

"We'll go to Monroe in the morning and interview Mr. Franklin. Maybe he'll remember things differently with hindsight," said Scully.

"Yeah, you'd best catch him early, before he starts on the booze," suggested Lowry. "As you are going to be in Monroe tomorrow, could you go and speak to a Dorothy Maxwell?" The Chief slid a piece of paper over the desk towards Mulder. "This is a copy of just one of the letters she's written to the Water Company."

"Is this the environmental terrorism problem you where talking about?" asked Scully.

"Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say terrorism, Agent Scully, it's more a case of a little over enthusiasm." The Chief looked a little embarrassed. "It's just that Dorothy is real keen on her butterflies and she's gone and got a little overheated with the Water Company, who are in negotiations with the Lake Cherokee Development Trust, about selling off some land around the Lake."

"Sorry Chief, did you say butterflies?" Scully asked.

"Yeah, that's right. Apparently there are some rare species in that area."

Scully turned her attention of Mulder, who had sunk down in his chair in a futile bid to evade the patented 'Scully Death Glare.'

"Did you mention the butterflies to AD Skinner, Agent Mulder?" Scully inquired sweetly.

"I think that part slipped my mind, Agent Scully." Mulder quickly rose from his chair and took the letter from the table. "Do you mind if we take the letter with us, Chief?"

"No problem, I'll take it that you'll let me know the outcome of your meetings with Dorothy Maxwell and Jim Franklin?" Chief Lowry stood up and extended his hand to the Agents.

"You can rest assured that we will keep you fully informed." Scully shook the proffered hand and turned to leave the office. Mulder followed after her and they retraced their route through the bullpen and out onto the street.

"Go on, Scully, say it."

"Say what, Mulder? I'm not sure I know what to say, I'm too busy thinking what to do with the rest of my life, when Skinner fires us for wasting Bureau time and money," Scully said, raising her voice over the noise of the traffic. "This is a legitimate investigation, it's what the X files are for." Mulder looked a little hurt.

"Mulder, this is a vague animal encounter by an inebriated man and a letter of protest by a butterfly enthusiast. It's hardly Bigfoot and the Unabomber."

"There has been a relatively high concentration of Bigfoot sightings in this area, and drunk or not, Mr. Franklin certainly had a run in with something in those woods. As for the letter, Ms Maxwell does make some veiled threats, who knows what she may be capable of." Mulder stooped down a little to make eye contact. "Let's just see what these people have to say, when we interview them in the morning, okay?"

"Okay, but you are going to explain this lot to Skinner when we get back to DC," Scully sighed in resignation.

"You bet, Scully," said Mulder, patting her on the shoulder. "Now, about that dinner, seeing as we're in Texas, how about Mexican?" Mulder said, cheering up at the idea of food.

Scully couldn't help but smile.

"Okay, Mulder, Mexican it is."


Chapter Three

Ramada Inn, Highway 259 North, Kilgore, 9:45pm

Mulder pottered about his room, unpacking his suits and shirts, while listening to the local news on the TV. Through the paper- thin walls he could hear Scully doing much the same. He smiled, as he thought of the many nights that he had spent listening to his partner, as she went about her routine, only a few feet away from him. She had no idea, how much he enjoyed her nearness, and how, when he went back to his empty apartment, he would feel

her absence as a physical pain, an ache in his chest that only dissipated when he returned to her orbit. He heard the shower start up in Scully's bathroom and tried not to think distinctly unprofessional thoughts about her. This was becoming more and more difficult as the years progressed and he wondered how long he was going to be able to hide the fact that he was in love with his partner.

Mulder imagined removing his clothes and slipping into her room, opening the bathroom door, seeing the outline of her body through the opaque glass of the shower stall. He saw himself sliding open the shower door and slipping in behind her, wrapping his arms around her slick body...

"Mulder?"

"Jesus, Scully, you scared the shit out of me." Mulder said, as he was dragged from his very pleasant reverie.

"Sorry, I did knock but you mustn't have heard me. Can I borrow your toothpaste? Mine's run out." Scully asked, as she stepped through the connecting door into his room.

Mulder rummaged through his suitcase and produced a new tube.

"You can keep this one, it was 'two for one' at the store this week." He handed her the toothpaste feeling a tingle of electricity when her fingers brushed against his.

"Thanks." Scully went back through the door and shut it gently behind her.

"Mulder, you really are one sorry son of a bitch," he muttered to himself, as he picked up his towel and went into the bathroom.

After he had blasted his hormones into submission with a cold shower, he slipped on his flannel boxers and lying back on his bed, he opened his laptop and logged on to the Net. He heard a soft tap on the door to Scully's room.

"Mulder, are you decent?" Scully opened the door a little.

"Yeah, but I can be indecent if you want me to."

"Thank you, I'll keep that in mind," Scully replied as she walked through the door, her wet hair was slicked back behind her ears; she was wearing a pair of sky blue silk pajamas, "I'm just going to get a soda from the machine down the hall, do you want one?"

"No thanks, I'm fine." Mulder smiled. "Hey, Scully, did you know, that it's illegal here in Texas to put graffiti on someone else's cow?"

"No, I didn't but thanks for the warning. I'll just have to show restraint with the next cow I see." Scully grinned back at him.

"No problem, I wouldn't want you to get into any trouble while we're down here."

"No chance of that with you as my partner. 'Night Mulder."

"'Night, Scully."

The connecting door closed and Mulder resigned himself to another restless night.


Chapter Four

Monroe, Rusk County, Texas
August 12th 1999
9:30am

The phrase 'one horse town,' could have been created to describe Monroe. It was a small community on the edge of the Piny Woods and the Franklin residence was situated on the dusty main street that ran through the town. Mulder and Scully looked as though they'd arrived from another world, in their dark suits and salon hairstyles, as they pulled up outside the gate of the house and emerged from the air-conditioned car.

"Christ, Mulder, it's hot here." Scully could already feel sweat starting to bead on her forehead.

"It's not too bad," Mulder said, as he shut the car door and pocketed the keys. "It'll get hotter by the afternoon."

"Oh good, that'll give me something to look forward to." Scully said as she followed him through the little gate, with its chipped and peeling white paint and up the short path to Mr. Franklin's front door which was equally dilapidated. Mulder, rapped sharply on its dirty surface.

The door was opened, by a sharp faced middle-aged woman, who looked disapprovingly at the two Agents.

"Yeah, what do you want? If you're Mormons, you can just get lost, we're decent Baptist folk 'round here, we don't want none of your mumbo jumbo. " She said in an unfriendly tone.

"Good morning. Mrs. Franklin? I'm Special Agent Mulder and this is Agent Scully, we're with the FBI. We've come to speak to your husband about the incident in the woods he reported."

Mulder took out his badge so that she could see it and Scully followed suit.

"It's Miss Franklin, if you don't mind, I'm Jim's sister."

"My apologies, Miss Franklin, may we talk to your brother?" Mulder tried, turning on the charm.

"I suppose so, wait there." Miss Franklin turned abruptly and left them standing on the doorstep.

"You can see why the poor guy drinks," Mulder whispered to his partner.

"Hmm, she's not exactly the friendly type," Scully said, looking fed up.

After a minute, Miss Franklin returned.

"You can go 'round the back," she said, pointing to a path leading, presumably, to the rear of the house. "He's in the shed." She managed, to imbue the word 'shed' with a tone, that suggested it was someplace she found to be particularly repugnant.

"Thank you." Mulder said, and he and Scully made their way around the house and into a scruffy, back yard. At the rear of the yard stood a rickety shed, with grimy windows and the sound of a Glen Miller tune emanating, through the unlatched door.

"Mr. Franklin?" Scully called. The smell of pipe tobacco smoke and whiskey that met her as she opened the door, was almost overpowering in the oppressive heat. "Mr. Franklin?" Scully said again, almost shouting to be heard over the vigorous rendition of 'Little Brown Jug'. She peered through the fog of tobacco smoke into the shed's interior. She could see Jim Franklin sitting at a wooden bench making fishing flies; he was carefully wrapping yellow thread around a tiny arrangement of brightly colored feathers. As he worked, hunched over his task, he hummed along to the music, which, Scully could see, was coming from an old gramophone, situated in one corner of the shed. Scully entered the shed and tapped Franklin lightly on the shoulder.

"Good Lord, woman," Jim Franklin's head whipped round in surprise, his pipe dropped from his lips. "Don't go sneakin' up on a man like that." He stood up and turned to face the intruders.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Franklin," said Scully still having to shout to be heard over what was now 'Pasadena Six Five Thousand'. "I'm Agent Scully and this is Agent Mulder, we're here about the attack you suffered near Lake Cherokee. Chief Lowry called you about us?"

"Oh yeah, FBI right?" Franklin shouted, battling against the noise.

"Yes, that's right. Sir, could you turn off the music, please?" Scully shouted back.

"Oh sure, sorry," he bent to pick up his pipe, then moved to the gramophone and gently lifted the needle from the vinyl, he slipped the record carefully into its sleeve. "These are the original recordings on Shellac," he said proudly. "They don't make 'em like this anymore." Franklin put the record in a rack that had rows of old 78's. "Sorry I had it on so loud, but it drowns out Maude when she's naggin' and Lord, can that woman nag."

Scully looked at Mulder who was failing to suppress a smile.

"Would Maude be your sister, Mr. Franklin?," asked Mulder.

"Yeah, that's her, she never married and when my Sheila died, that was my wife," he explained, "she just took it upon herself to come and take care of me. Well, she sure did that. I can't even have a smoke in my own house, and she don't like the drinkin' either." Mr. Franklin said gloomily, as he relit his pipe and started to puff steadily on its long stem.

Mulder looked upon the man with sympathy. The poor guy certainly was hag ridden, hiding out here in his tatty shed.

"Mr. Franklin," Mulder said, attempting to get back on track. "This attack, could you tell us about it?"

"Sure, although some of it is a bit hazy, 'cause I'd had a little bit to drink, you know?" He looked a little embarrassed. "Well, I'd spent a long while just sittin' and waitin' for a bit of action from the ducks. Anyhow, I thought I'd take a walk to stretch my legs, I took a fall over a tree root and my glasses flew off and as I was looking for them, something real big leapt out from the bushes at me and just kind of bowled me over. I was pretty damn scared I can tell you and when it seemed to turn back to have another go at me. I let off a round with my shotgun and it ran off real quick. I made it back to my truck, my shoulder was hurtin' pretty bad and when I got home Maude made me go to the hospital to get it checked out."

"Could you describe the creature that attacked you?" asked Mulder.

"You know, I can't see too well without my glasses, but the thing was big and hairy. I remember it made a god awful sort of growly, barking noise and it was real strong."

"How tall do you think it was?" Mulder had sat down on the bench, but he leaned forward, enthralled by the mystery.

"Well, I was kind of crouched on the ground so it's real hard to tell, but it looked damned big when it was charging at me."

"In your opinion, Mr. Franklin, what was it that attacked you?" Scully asked, looking not nearly as enamored of the story as her partner.

"Well Miss, it couldn't have been anything else except old Bigfoot," said Franklin firmly. "I mean I've been huntin' and fishin' around these woods and lakes all my life, and I can tell you there ain't no big animals out there, so it had to have been Bigfoot what hit me, I know Chief Lowry thinks I'm a drunken old fool, but I know what I saw."

"Have you been back to the Lake since, to look for it?" Scully asked.

"Nope, I'll be honest with you, Miss, I've been scared to go back."

"Would you be able to draw us a map of the area, Mr. Franklin, so that we could have a look around?" Mulder inquired with boyish enthusiasm evident in his voice.

"Sure I could, but if you're goin' to be trampin' about the woods you'd better wear something more suitable than those nice city clothes." Franklin said eyeing their suits.

"Don't worry, Mr. Franklin, we're like the Boy Scouts, we're always prepared." Mulder said and smiled at Scully who was not looking too keen at the prospect of slogging through the woods.

After a hunt for a pen and some paper, Mr. Franklin managed to produce a reasonable map of the area, in which he'd had his encounter. He handed it to Mulder, who looked at it briefly then carefully folded it and put it in his jacket pocket.

"Thank you, Mr. Franklin," said Mulder, shaking the man's hand. "I'll leave you my card, if you think of anything else that might be relevant, you can call the cell phone number at any time."

"No problem, I sure hope you find that thing out there, I miss gettin' away from Maude." Franklin said plaintively.

"We'll see what we can do." Mulder smiled sympathetically at the man, "Oh, by the way, you wouldn't happen to know where a Dorothy Maxwell's house is, would you?"

"Oh, yes, everybody knows Dorothy," Franklin said, and he pointed to a hill rising above a small copse of trees on the far end of the town. "You see that hill? Well, Dorothy lives on the other side. But she don't like strangers too much, so don't expect much of a welcome."

"We're used to that, thanks for your help Mr. Franklin. Don't bother showing us to the gate we'll find our own way out." Mulder placed his hand at the small of Scully's back and ushered her out of the pungent shed and into the comparatively fresh air.

"Well, Scully, what did you think of his story." Mulder said as they went back through the gate and got to their car.

"I don't know. His vision was impaired and he was drunk, for all we know, he was trampled by a deer."

"Scully, you saw the medical report, those weren't hoof prints on his shoulder." Mulder argued.

"But that doesn't mean he was mugged by Bigfoot," Scully said in exasperation.

"No, it doesn't, but it's worth taking a look around, don't you think?" Mulder said calmly.

"All right, but after we've had a word with Ms. Maxwell I want to go back to the Motel. I'm hot and sweaty and I smell like two ounces of rough shag. I just want a shower and to change into something more appropriate for one of your 'nice trips to the woods'. Okay?"

"Okay, that's a plan. Let's get Ms Maxwell over with. It shouldn't take too long."

"Fine," said Scully getting into the car.

"Scully?"

"What?"

"Say 'rough shag' again, will you?"


Monroe Rusk County, Texas
10:45am

After a convoluted journey, around the outskirts of the town, Mulder finally found the narrow lane that led to Dorothy Maxwell's home. The brightly painted 'Private' and "Keep Out' signs were prominently placed all the way along the rutted track. Mulder pulled the car up by a large wrought iron gate that was secured, with a thick chain and a heavy padlock. Beyond the gate was a short drive of about fifty yards, at the end of which was an imposing, almost gothic looking mansion. Its dark stone seemed to absorb the sunlight, giving the house a cold, leaden patina.

"Ms. Maxwell certainly values her privacy." Scully said as she got out of the car and surveyed the surrounding woods, which proliferated all around the property.

"Yeah," Mulder agreed giving the gate a good shake. "You want to climb over first?"

"Not particularly, this place gives me the creeps."

"Well, if you're going to get all scientific on me, Scully." Mulder climbed up and over the gate and landed on the other side with a grin.

"Mulder, shouldn't we try calling to attract her attention first, before we start trespassing." Scully said trying to curb Mulder's enthusiasm.

"No point doing that, she wouldn't be able to hear us from the house." Mulder started to walk up the drive. He heard a distant honking sound. "What's that?" He turned inquiringly to Scully, who had one foot on the gate, preparing to climb.

"Mulder?"

"What?" He said, puzzled at the perturbed look on Scully's face.

"You might want to consider coming back on this side of the gate." She said cautiously, looking beyond him towards the house.

The honking sound was closer and getting louder by the second. Mulder turned and to his surprise saw a small group of about seven geese approaching him at a rapid waddle. The lead goose had its wings spread wide and its long neck thrust forward. The six geese bringing up the rear were honking madly.

"You're not scared of a few geese, are you, Scully?" Mulder said grinning smugly at her.

"I'm not kidding Mulder," said Scully, looking a little peeved. "You really should get over here."

Mulder ignored her, and started up the drive towards the geese, making a shooing motion with his arms. This seemed to really annoy them and with increased honking and flapping they reached their target.

"Whoa there birdies. Ouch!...Shit!...Ow!...Fuck!...Scully!" Mulder turned and started to run back towards the gate, all the while the geese, who were by now, positively incandescent with rage, flapped madly around his legs and pecked at his lower body with their strong beaks. Mulder leapt halfway up the gate, a particularly vigorous peck to his rear end gave him some helpful impetus. He scrambled back over, landing on the other side, panting and sweating and rubbing his much abused posterior and thighs.

"Having a bit of trouble there, are you?" Scully said dryly.

"Jesus Christ! What the hell was that all about?" Mulder looked stunned.

"Guard geese," said Scully trying not to laugh. "My Aunt Olive had some back on her farm in Ireland. I remember being pretty scared of them as a child, when we used visited. They're very effective, aren't they?"

"Yeah, I was in danger of loosing some very important parts of my anatomy back there."

"Don't worry Mulder, they are strictly vegetarians." She said reassuringly.

"What's going on out here?" A woman's voice brought their attention back towards the house.

"Ms. Maxwell?" Scully inquired, as she saw a diminutive woman approaching them down the drive. Scully thought she looked about eighty five, with white hair that was pulled back in a tight bun. She was dressed in a pair of khaki slacks and a white blouse and despite her age, she moved with ease and her posture was ram rod straight.

"Yes, I am Dorothy Maxwell, and who, may I ask, are you?"

"I'm Agent Scully and this is my partner Agent Mulder, we're with the FBI." Scully said, showing her badge.

"Oh, I see," said Ms Maxwell reaching the gate. "That damned fool, Lowry, sent you to scare me, did he? Well, you can just go back and tell him that his little bullying tactic didn't work and I'll thank you not to get my birds all riled up in future." With a stern look she turned on her heel and started back up the drive, she made a clicking noise with her tongue and the geese, which had calmed somewhat, waddled after her honking gently.

Scully sighed and looked at Mulder with an arched eyebrow and a 'what do we do now' expression, on her face.

"Ms. Maxwell, what are the species of butterfly you are trying to protect?" Mulder called to the retreating figure of Ms. Maxwell. "It wouldn't be Atlides Halesus, would it?"

Ms. Maxwell stopped and turn back to look at the agents. "Why yes, young man, the Great Purple Hairstreak is one of the species that are threatened, along with Callophrys Irus and Euptoieta Claudia." She said with a hint of challenge in her voice.

"Yes, the Frosted Elfin and the Variegated Fritillary are lovely," said Mulder giving her his most charming of smiles. "Why don't you let us in, Ms. Maxwell, we might be able to help."

She looked at the two agents for a moment. "Oh, very well, seeing as how you seem to know what you're talking about." She made her way back to the gate and fished a key out of her pocket.

"Err, Ms. Maxwell could you put the geese away, please?" Mulder said, eyeing the birds warily.

"Good grief man, you're not afraid of a few geese, are you?" She said with a laugh.

"Ma'am, I may never sit down again." Mulder said, looking chagrined.

"All right, you take the key, while I put the birds in the pen, and make sure you lock the gate behind you, I'll meet you up at the house."

"Thank you, Ms. Maxwell" Mulder took the key from her through he bars of the gate and she started back up the drive with the geese in pursuit."

"I didn't know you were into butterflies, Mulder" Scully looked at him, surprised at his evident knowledge of the subject.

"I don't really know much at all, just the names. My father was an enthusiast and when I was a child he would let me look at the pictures in his reference books, I guess some of it stuck with me." Mulder said, reaching to undo the padlocked gate.

"Well, it certainly worked a charm with Ms. Maxwell," said Scully as she followed him through the gate and watched him lock it behind them. "It's a pity that your father wasn't a bird enthusiast."

"Yeah, laugh it up, Scully, get it all out of your system. My ass feels like one giant bruise and all you can do is gloat." Mulder said indignantly.

"I'm sorry, Mulder," she said contritely "I'll drop it."

"If you're really sorry, maybe you could rub it better later." Mulder said with a hopeful leer.

"I'm not that sorry."

"Pity"

They made their way towards the house.


The Maxwell Residence
Monroe Rusk County, Texas
11:05am

The door opened just as they got to the front entrance. Ms. Maxwell ushered them in to a large hallway replete with a beautiful mosaic floor, depicting a woodland scene, including some butterflies, in its intricate design. They walked through the hallway and into a drawing room. The sunlight pouring through the large windows showed off the sumptuous fabrics of the furniture and the brightly colored tapestries hanging on the wall, all of which represented nature in its myriad forms. It seemed as though the interior of the house was the antithesis of the exterior.

"You have a beautiful home, Ms. Maxwell." Scully said as she looked around.

"Thank you. My father loved this house, so I try and keep it in good repair. Which I must admit, gets more difficult as the years go by." Ms. Maxwell replied, a little sadly.

"A place like this must take a lot of maintaining, do you have help?" Mulder asked pragmatically.

"No, you may have noticed that I like my own company, so I do almost all the maintenance myself. Although, I do get a local contractor to look at the roof once a year. Look, as lovely as this small talk is why don't we get down to the reason for your intrusion on my property?" Ms. Maxwell replied, her impatience evident.

"All right, Ms. Maxwell. As you correctly surmised, Chief Lowry did ask us to have a word with you, regarding the letters you sent to the water company. You have made several comments about certain dangers that might befall the company and the Lake Cherokee Trust employees, should they decide upon developing this area for tourism," said Scully, who was getting a little impatient herself. "You do realize that these letters could be construed as making threats to the lives of the people working for this organization, for which, if the companies involved wished to pursue it, could result in criminal charges?" Scully looked steadily at the older woman.

"Don't threaten me, young lady. I have dealt with much bigger fish than you in my time" Ms. Maxwell bristled.

"Ma'am, I am not threatening you, I'm merely pointing out the possible outcome should you wish to continue with your current course of action. Think about it, Ms. Maxwell, how much help can you be to your butterflies, if you are behind bars?"

Ms. Maxwell stood in stubborn silence and glared at Scully.

"Ms. Maxwell, what are these 'dangers', you refer to in your letters." Mulder asked placing himself between the two women.

"Oh, for Pete's sake, I'm not going to go on a killing spree, if that's what you're worried about. There's plenty of danger around that area with the swamp and what have you, that's all I mean. It's just that it is imperative, that the area be left alone," she said emphatically. "It's a pretty small area that's going to be developed. Surely, it can't affect the butterflies that much; it's a big wood after all." Mulder said reasonably.

"You have no idea what you're talking about. This is a micro environment, which can be devastated by the smallest of changes." Ms. Maxwell replied testily.

"May I use your bathroom?", asked Scully politely, breaking the tension between Mulder and the fiery old lady.

"If you must. There's one down the hall, if you go through the kitchen, it's to the left of the back entrance." Ms. Maxwell pointed to the rear of the house.

"Thank you," Scully set off down the hall.

Mulder watched her as she disappeared around a corner. The bathroom request was a standard ruse to have a look around without the interviewee being present, it was surprising, what you could sometimes find out about a person, when you weren't being chaperoned. He turned his attention back to Ms. Maxwell. "Could we sit down, Ms. Maxwell, and you can explain to me all about this micro environment." He sat down in one of the armchairs and prepared himself to be educated.

Scully had turned the corner into the kitchen. In the distance, she could hear the voices of Mulder and Ms. Maxwell. She took a quick look around the kitchen, which was light and airy with bright yellow walls and yellow and white striped curtains, fluttering in the slight breeze, coming through the open window. Several large jars of homemade chutney were lined up on one shelf. Scully wondered why one person should need quite so much; perhaps, she sold it to the townsfolk. Scully carried on through the kitchen and into the small hallway where the back entrance to the house was situated. The door was wide open and Scully walked out into what appeared to be a stable yard. It was cobbled, and had several stalls, skirting it; she couldn't see any horses in them. Lying on the cobbles, was a large ball, it was brightly colored, such as a small child might have played with. Along side it, was an inner tube from a large tire, possibly a tractor.

A sudden raucous squeal broke the silence and startled Scully, who was surprised to see a small group of pigs, emerge from around the corner of the house and scamper into the yard. It appeared to be a family group with the boar taking the lead and the sow and her piglets following.

Scully retreated back inside before she could be spotted, and went into the small bathroom and flushed the toilet for effect. She made her way back to the drawing room, as she approached she heard the sound of laughter coming from Ms. Maxwell. Scully realized that Mulder must have worked his magic on the old lady. It was a skill that Scully envied, his ability to put people at ease often helped enormously on cases. It wasn't a talent that she possessed. Scully stepped through into the drawing room to see Mulder and Ms. Maxwell sitting in the two armchairs, chatting as though they'd known each other for years.

"...then we realized that we were only about five feet from the shore." Mulder was saying. He looked up as he saw her enter the room.

"Did you have a good look around, my dear?" Ms. Maxwell asked, with a wry smile on her face.

Scully had the good grace not to deny it and she smiled back at the woman, her face turning a little pink.

"Hey, Scully?" Mulder said, getting up from his chair. "It turns out that Dorothy here and my father corresponded briefly about thirty years ago.

"Really, what about?" Scully said surprised.

"Butterflies," said Dorothy. "Bill Mulder was quite the expert on Lycaenidae, a group of butterflies that particularly fascinates me, I'd been doing some research for an article I was writing for The National Geographic, and I wanted to check some data, I knew of Bill Mulder's reputation so I wrote to him. He was most helpful; he seemed like a good man, I was sorry to hear of his death." Dorothy looked at Mulder with a kind smile on her face.

"Thank you," Mulder said quietly. It meant a great deal to him, to hear someone say something good about his father.

"Look, would you like to stay for some tea?" Dorothy asked.

"We'd love to, Ms. Maxwell. However, we are here on a case and we really do need to get back to it."

"Oh, call me Dorothy, everybody does. It must be a local case, or Chief Lowry wouldn't have been involved," she mused "Lord, don't tell me you're looking into that old drunk Franklin and his Bigfoot sighting?" Dorothy laughed.

"Yes, we are. How did you guess?" asked Scully.

"There's not a whole lot goes on around here, it wasn't too hard to figure it out, although for the life off me I can't understand why the FBI should take an interest in the ramblings of that old fool."

"Me neither," Scully muttered under her breath.

"My father was the famous naturalist, George Maxwell," Dorothy said proudly. "He traveled all over the world obtaining specimens for zoos and observing animals in their natural habitat. Primates, especially the great apes were his main love, and he was firmly of the opinion that a creature such as Bigfoot or Sasquatch could never have remained undetected in this country so therefore it couldn't exist." She concluded.

Scully gave Mulder a 'well there you have it' expression, which he studiously ignored.

"Well, we're here now, so we may as well do some investigating." Mulder said.

"Well, it's your time to waste, I suppose, but you be careful around that lake," Dorothy warned.

"Now, Dorothy," Mulder said with a frown. "You wouldn't be threatening us, would you?"

"Don't you get fresh with me, young man, it really can be a bit tricky around there and I don't want you disturbing my butterflies."

"We wouldn't think of it." Mulder said with a smile. "I've had a thought about your butterflies, though. As I recall this whole area was once part of the Caddo tribal lands, now unfortunately the Caddo are pretty much dispersed and don't have a big voice, but the Wichita and affiliated tribes do, they are local and pretty vociferous on environmental issues. If you could get them on your team, it would add a whole lot of clout to your campaign. However, you must stop threatening the Water Company, that will get you nowhere except into a jail cell, so no more Dorothy, okay?"

"You know, Mr. Mulder, you are a very handsome and clever young man. If only I were 30 years younger."

"Dorothy?" Mulder looked thoroughly abashed.

"No more threats then," Dorothy said. "I give you my word."

"Then that's good enough for me," said Mulder still looking a little flushed around the ears.

"I'll see you both to the gate." Dorothy took the lead as they left the house and retraced their steps down the drive.

Scully suddenly turned to Dorothy. "Oh, by the way, I meant to ask, do you have any grandchildren?"

"No, I never met a man that I liked more than my animals. Why do you ask?" Dorothy looked a little puzzled.

"It's nothing really," Scully said dismissively. "It's just that I noticed some toys in your yard, a ball and an inner tube ring. I wondered if they were for your grandchildren to play with."

For a moment an odd look crossed Dorothy's lined face, Scully thought that she almost looked frightened.

"No, no children, I'm afraid. Perhaps you saw my pigs? The toys are for them. Very intelligent animals; pigs. Much smarter than dogs." Dorothy said regaining her composure.

"Thank you for your time, Dorothy," said Mulder as she opened the padlock on the gate. "I hope that your campaign is successful."

"Mr. Mulder, you have given me new hope that it will." Dorothy shook both their hands warmly. She watched as they got into their car and started back down the bumpy track.

"What did you think, Scully?" asked Mulder as he negotiated the car over the pot-holes.

"She seemed lonely to me, and I think she was hiding something."

"Did you see anything when you want on your little walkabout?"

"There were no sticks of dynamite, or blocks of Semtex Lying around, if that's what you mean. Although, she did have a lot of homemade chutney."

"Oh well, that's it then we'll tell Chief Lowry to go right ahead and arrest her for the manufacturing of suspicious preserves."

Scully smiled at him. "I think we can tell the Chief that Ms. Maxwell won't be a problem from now on though, don't you?"

"Yeah, I think so." Mulder said as they finally reached the highway. "Let's go back to the Motel, change clothes and then we can get on with checking out Lake Cherokee."

"Oh good," Scully said without enthusiasm, "I can't wait."


Chapter Seven

Lake Cherokee
Rusk County, Texas
5:00pm

"Mulder, we've been slogging through this swamp for two hours now, and I'm in danger of passing out from blood loss, thanks to these damn mosquitoes. Is there any chance that we could move away from the Lakeshore and try a bit of dry land?" Scully asked as her Rockport covered foot sank ankle deep in yet another patch of bog. The waterlogged earth reluctantly relinquished its prize, with a gloopy burp. Scully had grown to hate the sucking, squelching noises that accompanied her, as she tried to keep up with Mulder's long legs.

They had arrived at the Lakeshore, at three o'clock after enjoying a shower and a change into jeans, T- shirts and hiking boots. They'd grabbed a bite to eat at the diner across from the Motel and had driven the few miles to a rough track that stopped about a mile from the Lake. Since then they'd trudged around the shore, with Mulder, intermittently, checking the map that Jim Franklin had drawn.

"Okay Scully, we haven't found anything to corroborate Mr. Franklin's story yet. There maybe some evidence further into the woods." Mulder replied as he led the way into the shade of the trees and firmer ground.

"We haven't found anything, because there is nothing to find," said Scully catching up with him. "The only Bigfoot around here is at the bottom of Jim Franklin's whiskey bottle. We are wasting our time here, Mulder."

"You know? Sometimes your lack of enthusiasm for some of our cases really surprises me. You should be really into this, Scully; it's something that ought to really stretch that scientific brain of yours." Mulder said, as he carried on striding through the heavy undergrowth.

"The only thing being stretched around here is my patience." Scully scowled at his back as he disappeared behind a dense clump of bushes.

The woods were alive with the buzz of insects and the incessant prattle of birds. The sunlight was splashed about the leaves and branches and speckling the loamy earth, as though Jackson Pollock had been running through the woods, having a particularly creative moment. Scully took a moment to appreciate the beauty of the scene. She slipped off her small rucksack, brought out a bottle of water and took a long drink. The air felt dense and sticky and she was covered in perspiration, her normally controlled hair was lank and starting to curl at the ends.

Mulder, on the other hand, she'd noted, looked fresh and very handsome in his dark blue T- shirt and faded jeans, his light gold skin radiating a healthy glow in the afternoon sun. Sometimes, Scully really hated being a redhead, not only that, a short, pale, freckly, redhead. Just occasionally, she'd like to hold a conversation with Mulder where she wasn't looking up all the time or else conversing with his sternum. Mulder seemed to favor tall women, although why she was worried about what Mulder liked, when he was dragging her around the back of beyond, escaped her. At least she got to enjoy the delightful view of his denim-covered ass, as she'd trailed behind him.

Scully, mentally slapped herself for objectifying her partner, she hated it when men did that to her, but, he really was a fine looking man and what was more, he was smart. Yes, he was impulsive and obsessive, and a little egocentric at times, but he was also kind, courageous and he loved her. She wasn't a stupid woman, no one could have missed the way he sometimes looked at her, he tried to hide it behind innuendo and often, juvenile humor, but she knew.

"Hey, Scully? Get over here and look at this." Mulder called.

Scully put her water bottle back in her pack and shrugged it back on her shoulders, just as she was about to step forward in Mulder's direction, she heard a loud rustling noise coming from a deep thicket of bushes and young trees just behind her. Scully walked over to investigate. It was hard to see clearly, the vegetation was so dense and the dappling light seemed to distort the view.

As she peered into the bushes she noticed a strange smell. It was quite strong with a musky almost sickly sweet aroma. She was about to step back, thinking she may have come across a skunk. When suddenly, something grabbed the shoulder straps of her pack and lifting her as though she weighed nothing, it flung her up and away giving Scully an altogether surprising, aerial view of the woods.

Mulder wandered back into the clearing, just in time to witness his partner's aerobatics, he watched horrified, as she sailed through the air and landed on a rough patch of ground with a loud "Oomph", as all the air was knocked out of her body.

"Jesus, Scully!" He ran towards her prone form.

There was a mighty rustling coming from the thick clump of bushes and Mulder saw a large figure pelting through the trees and off into the dense wood. He turned his attention back to Scully, whose features had taken on a grey hue as she desperately tried to drag air back into her body.

"It's okay Scully, just try to relax, try and breathe with me, all right?" Mulder knelt down on the ground behind her and lifted her upper body, so that the slope of his thighs supported her. He reached his hand down to her waist and under her white T- shirt, where he proceeded to knead the heel of his hand in a steady rhythm against her solar plexus.

"That's it, just breathe nice and steady, just like that." He could see her color returning as her diaphragm relaxed out of spasm and her breaths became less panicked.

He noticed a thin trickle of blood coming from a cut on her lower lip; she must have bitten it accidentally when she hit the ground. With his free hand, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a tissue, he gently cleaned her chin and then handed the tissue to Scully.

"Hold this on your lip, it's bleeding. Are you hurt anywhere else?" He asked looking over her body. He couldn't see any obvious injuries.

"No, just winded." Scully gasped. "What happened?" Mulder said, still gently massaging her midriff.

"I don't know, one minute I was looking at a bush, the next I was airborne."

"Yeah, I noticed, I'd give you a six for your aerial maneuver, but you could do with a bit more practice on your landing."

"No kidding?" Scully lifted her gaze to Mulder's face, and she gave him a gentle smile.

"Did you see what threw you?" Mulder asked

"No, but I did notice a strong smell, did you see it?"

"I saw something big haring off into the trees but I couldn't see it clearly."

"You're not going to tell me that I had an up close and personal moment with Bigfoot, are you?" Scully said.

"You might have, Scully, It must be something pretty strong to be able to throw you so far."

"Are you saying that I'm heavy, Mulder?" Scully said with an arch of an eyebrow.

"Heaven forbid, you're as light as a feather," said Mulder back pedaling furiously. "However, I couldn't throw your sylphlike figure anywhere near that far."

"I'm okay now, Mulder. You can let me up." Scully said as she attempted to sit up.

Mulder realized that he still had his hand under her T-shirt. He'd been enjoying the close contact. Before he could move it, he felt Scully's small hand, land on top of his. She gave his fingers a gentle squeeze, then let go. He removed his hand and she knelt up facing him.

"Thank you," Scully said

"You're welcome," Mulder lifted his hand and gently rubbed away a smudge of dirt on her cheek.

Scully felt the warmth of his hand on her skin, she became aware that there wasn't such a height difference kneeling down and she could look at him without craning her neck. His jaw was dusted with stubble and his eyes had taken on the glow of the early evening sunshine.

"Mulder?"

"What is it, Scully? Are you sure you're feeling okay?" Mulder looked at her a concerned expression on his face.

"I'm having an epiphany," she said looking him straight in the eye.

Mulder looked confused "What is that like a regular kind of epiphany or is it some weird medical condition?" Mulder was starting to look a little panicked.

"Just the regular sort." Scully put both of her palms on his face and kneeling straight up, she kissed him.

Mulder was so surprised by this turn of events that his mouth fell open, allowing her tongue to gain entry. He felt her lightly lick the roof of his mouth. He could taste the slight tang of blood from the cut on her lip. The effect this had on him was so visceral that he gripped her shoulders to gently push her away

They knelt there looking at each other, her hands on his face and his, still gripping her shoulders.

"What the hell was that?" Mulder was breathing heavily his chest rising and falling rapidly.

"Well, I know I've not participated in one for some time, but I'd say, that it was a kiss." Scully replied a teasing smile on her lips.

Mulder let go of her shoulders and started to run his fingers over her scalp.

"What exactly are you doing?" Scully said as she pulled her head away.

"Stay still, Scully, I'm checking for lumps. I think you hit you're head in the fall." Mulder reached towards her to continue his examination.

Scully grasped his hands and forced them down to his sides.

"Mulder, I'm fine. I've just come to a realization, that's all."

"What sort of realization?" Mulder said still looking confused.

"I'm tired, Mulder, aren't you? Aren't you tired of dancing the two-step around this thing? I love you Mulder, I won't pretend, that I'm any good at declaring my feelings, I'm not, but I do love you."

"I don't know what to say." Mulder looked like he'd gone into shock.

"Could you at least let me know whether you reciprocate these feelings?"

"Yes" Mulder said, nodding his head.

"Yes?"

"Yes, I completely and absolutely reciprocate those feelings."

"That's good," Scully said, relieved. "Then why are you still looking like a stunned Haddock?"

Mulder shut his mouth and he gently placed his hands back on her shoulders. "You'll never have a normal life with me, Scully. Is that what you really want?" He said, looking at her with an expression that was a strange mixture of elation and deep sadness.

"Mulder, normal went out of the window the first time I stepped into the basement. I wouldn't know normal if it jumped up and bit me on the ass. Maybe it sometimes might seem like it's something I'd want, but how could I go off and marry some guy knowing what I now know? Assuming, that any guy would want a barren woman with a piece of technology in her body, which could call her away for an impromptu barbeque at anytime. I can't just disappear into the sunset and play happy families anymore, Mulder; I can't conveniently forget the depth of the corruption and deceit that we are all wading in. I can barely hold a conversation with my family these days, because as soon as they ask how my job is going, I don't know what to tell them. If I told them the truth they wouldn't believe me.

"I feel as though I'm living on another planet from them, we have no frame of reference anymore. And before you start wallowing in guilt about all this, Mulder, I want you to understand that I don't hold you responsible for any of it. I could have left you and the X Files at any time, but I stayed. I stayed because this partnership is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and it means more to me than anything, even my family, even normal.

"Mulder, together we are hell on wheels, and I always want to be with you, no matter what happens with our jobs or our families or even the whole damned planet for that matter." Scully's shoulders drooped a little as she ran out of steam.

"Scully, are you going to rattle on like this all the time, now that we're an item?" Mulder said smiling at her

"No, I'm pretty sure that I'll revert to my usual taciturn self in a moment."

"Thank God for that," Mulder suddenly swept her up in a bear hug so tight that Scully feared for her ribs. "I love you," he said fiercely.

"I know." Scully hugged him back with equal vigor.

"Can we get up off our knees now? I think I've set." Mulder said with a grimace.

They helped each other up and brushed the leaves and dirt of their jeans. They straightened up and looked at each other, both feeling a little awkward.

"Oh to hell with it," Mulder said and he pulled her flush with his body and kissed her. Loving the way her mouth opened to him, the way her little tongue slipped around his. Her body seemed to weld itself to him and he could feel her heart beating against his ribs. After a minute or two they parted for air. "Why are we tramping around this damned wood, again?" Mulder said still holding her close.

"We're on a case, Mulder, we are looking for Bigfoot, if you recall?" Scully said looking decidedly flushed.

"Oh yes, it's all coming back to me now." He let her go and stepped back. "I'll say it, if you like, Scully?"

"Say what?"

"You are about to suggest that we keep all activities that entail the exchanging of bodily fluids to our downtime periods, am I right?" Mulder said with a grin.

"Well, I might not have put it quite like that, but yes, I think it might be wise, don't you? I mean we don't want to give the- powers-that-be any reason to shut us down." Scully said earnestly.

"Hmm, I guess you're right." Mulder said reluctantly. "We'd better get back to business then. Now, before you rudely interrupted me with your flying squirrel impression, I was examining something that might be relevant to this case, would you care to take a look?"

"Don't you want to follow whatever it was that threw me?" Scully asked.

"Yeah, but it won't take a minute to have a look at this first, come on." Mulder ushered her forward and they made their way through the trees.

"This is it," he pointed to a pile of leaves and vegetation that looked as though they'd been arranged there for a purpose. "Now I know you watch the Discovery channel, Scully, so what does that look like to you?"

"Are you trying to tell me that this is Bigfoot's boudoir?"

"Give the lovely lady a prize. That is it exactly, it's a day nest though, something that it would loosely construct for an afternoon nap." Mulder said, with growing excitement.

"A vagrant, or a hunter could, just as well have made this, it doesn't prove anything." "So what threw you then, Scully? The tramps around here must be on steroids."

"Look, all I'm trying to say is that we shouldn't leap to conclusions, over a pile of leaves that could have been put there by anybody."

"You never give an inch, do you?"

"Not without solid physical proof." Scully looked at him intently. "Mulder, don't expect me to change the way I work, just because I've declared my feelings."

"God, no, Scully, I don't want you to change. I like you stubborn and unyielding." Mulder said with a grin. "I meant it more as a comment on your consistency."

"Stubborn and unyielding? Gee, Mulder, you really know how to sweet talk a girl."

"Baby, you 'aint seen nothing yet," he said with a salacious leer.

"Mulder, if you call me 'baby' again, you won't be seeing anything at all."

"How about stumpy?"

"I'm armed"

"Oh, okay."

"Come on Mulder, are we going to see if we can find any evidence of the thing that attacked me? Because I, for one, am not happy about something or someone like that roaming the woods and I'd like to do it in daylight, if you don't mind?" Scully said, beginning to look a little impatient.

"Good point," Mulder nodded. "Lead on then, Agent Scully,"


Chapter Eight

The woods around Lake Cherokee
Rusk County, Texas
8:15pm

After pushing for more that an hour and a half, through the tangled undergrowth they had found neither hide nor hair of the mysterious attacker. They were both covered in sweat and bits of the local plant life that had stuck to their skin and clothes.

"Scully, the light's starting to go. We're going to have to come back tomorrow to continue the search." Mulder said, as wiped the sweat of his face with the hem of his shirt.

"Can't we let Chief Lowry and his officer's deal with it now, Mulder?" Scully said, looking tired. "Especially now that we've established that there is something in these woods attacking people."

"No way, Scully. I want to get to the bottom of this, don't you? And anyway, they wouldn't know what to look for."

"Well, I can't fault your enthusiasm," Scully sighed. "I just don't fancy another day playing 'Daniel Boone' in this heat."

"Don't worry, Scully, there's a nice shower awaiting you back at the motel, and I believe that it's my turn to buy dinner." Mulder said patting her arm sympathetically.

"Hmm, things are definitely starting to look up." Scully said with a smile.

"Right then, let's get back to the car, before we lose the light altogether."

They started back retracing their route, with Scully taking the lead. The evening sun had gone behind the distant hills and the woods were suddenly wreathed in shadows. Scully was still walking ahead when she realized that she couldn't hear Mulder's firm tread behind her anymore. She turned to take a look and saw him about ten yards behind her, crouched down, tying his bootlace. She was just about to call out to him, when something huge and dark erupted violently out of the bushes behind him.

Mulder's head shot up as he heard the commotion, he barely had time to register the huge thing that was leaping towards him shrieking and barking. It literally ran over him knocking him to his knees. It made a rapid U-turn and dived straight for Mulder, knocking him flat, and started bouncing up and down on top of him, screeching at the top of its lungs.

Scully was horrified as she witnessed what she could now see, to her astonishment, was a huge gorilla, looming over her partner. It looked as though it weighed at least four hundred pounds, its long arms were heavily muscled and seemed to be as thick as Mulder's waist, and she could see the wide band of silver hair, standing in sharp relief against the black on it's broad back, which indicated that it was a fully, mature male.

"Mulder? Don't move. Do you hear me?" Scully called to him as she reached around for her gun.

Mulder heard Scully's instructions, and as he had the biggest gorilla he'd ever seen sitting on top of him, he had no trouble complying with them. He could barely breathe, never mind move. The gorilla would occasionally give him an extremely heavy slap on his back. Luckily, his pack was taking some of the force out of the blows.

Scully brought her gun up into position. She was reluctant to shoot the magnificent creature, but didn't want it to suddenly become even more aggressive and harm, perhaps even kill, Mulder. She could see him, lying on his stomach, with his hands clasped firmly over his head for protection. She had no other option, she was going to have to shoot it, and it would have to be a kill shot, wounding it would only enrage the animal further. She looked down the sight of her gun and started to squeeze the trigger slowly.

"Stop! Oh, stop. Don't shoot, for God's sake, don't shoot."

Scully whirled around only to see Dorothy Maxwell emerging from the trees behind her. She looked thoroughly winded and as she came closer, Scully she could see that she was carrying, rather incongruously, a paper plate loaded with sandwiches. "Pleased don't shoot him, Agent Scully, he won't hurt your partner, he's only playing with him. Really." Dorothy gasped out as she reached Scully.

"Dorothy, he could be seriously injuring Agent Mulder. If he doesn't move away, I'm afraid I'll have no choice. I won't risk Mulder." Scully said returning her aim to the animal.

"Don't worry, I have just the thing." Dorothy picked up one of the sandwiches and waved it at the Gorilla. "Bernard, oh Bernard. Look, sweetie, it's your favorite." She called in a singsong voice.

"Bernard?" Scully said her eyebrow arching.

"Well, it is his name, dear," Dorothy said as though she were speaking to an idiot.

Mulder couldn't hear much of what was going on, due to the growls of the gorilla, and the blood rushing in his head. To his enormous relief he felt the weight on his back shift and with one last hefty slap for good measure, the gorilla got off him and started off down the track, with a jaunty bounce. Mulder rolled on to his side to catch his breath. His whole body was sore from the weight that had crushed him against the hard ground.

Scully watched amazed as the gorilla got off Mulder and came towards them. As he reached them, Dorothy handed him a sandwich, which he gently took in his huge very human looking hand and got down to the business of eating.

"Is he tame?" Scully asked.

"Oh yes," said Dorothy gently stroking the huge ape's head. The gorilla almost dwarfed the two small women with its great bulk.

Scully carefully sidled past the animal and ran to Mulder.

"Are you okay, Mulder?" She asked as she ran her hands over his body checking for injuries.

"I think so. I'm just taking a moment so that my internal organs can slot back into place." Mulder replied, grasping her hand. "Scully, do I look thinner to you?" He asked.

"No, Mulder, you look wonderful," Scully said relieved to find him relatively unharmed. "I was really worried for a moment."

"You were worried? At least, you didn't have King Kong over there using you as a trampoline." Mulder said, sitting up.

"His name's Bernard." Scully said seriously.

"You're kidding?"

"Nope, Dorothy seems to know him quite well. She even brought sandwiches."

"Sandwiches?" said Mulder, looking confused.

"Yes, he seems quite partial to them."

Mulder looked up, he could see Dorothy still gently handing sandwiches to the gorilla.

"You know? Sometimes our lives are really quite bizarre," he said wistfully.

"You've only just realized this now?" Scully gave him an incredulous look

Mulder smiled at her and lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it softly.

"You want to go and wrap this case up now?" He asked her still holding her hand.

"Oh, yes please."

"Right then, help me up and we'll go and put the thumb screws on Dorothy," he said, starting to get up. "Ouch, shit, Scully, my ankle really hurts." Mulder said slumping back to the ground as his ankle gave way.

"Okay, keep still and let me look at it." Scully rolled up Mulder's pant leg and rolled down his sock. She gently palpated the swollen ankle. "Can you move it at all?" She asked

"Yeah, but it's really sore."

"I think it's just a bad sprain, Mulder. I don't think it's broken. Keep your boot on for support. I'll go and get you a big stick or something, to help you to walk."

They both looked up as Dorothy came up to them, with Bernard in tow.

"Are you hurt, Mr. Mulder? We are only a mile from my house as the crow flies, we can phone for help for you from there." Dorothy said with concern. "I'm so sorry about Bernard, he really didn't mean to hurt you, and he was just feeling a little territorial, he thinks of the woods as his really."

"I can see why you didn't want the developers around here now. It had nothing to do with butterflies, did it? It was all about Bernard here." Mulder asked.

"Yes, you're right. Although I am very concerned about the butterflies loss of environment, my main concern was for Bernard's welfare." She looked at her charge as he sat, still munching away.

"How the hell did you end up with a gorilla as a pet?" Mulder asked. "Couldn't you have been happy with a cat?"

"Oh, Bernard's not really my pet, he was my father's. I inherited him when father died. He'd brought him back from the last trip he made to Africa. The Congo, to be more precise. You see he'd rescued Bernard from poachers. Bernard's whole troop had been slaughtered, so father shipped him back over here to put him in a zoo. I'm afraid that he got so attached to Bernard, who was very young, that when the time came, he just couldn't bare to part with him. I'm afraid that was the beginnings of my father's dementia. Any way I've looked after him since, but he's a very mature adult silverback now and he needs his space to roam. I can't keep him locked up in the stables all the time, so I decided that he could go out into the woods. That's when he scared Jim Franklin." Dorothy lapsed into silence and stroked Bernard distractedly.

"That's quite a story, Dorothy, but you do know, you won't be able to keep him. He can't be allowed to go around the woods scaring people or even worse, injuring them." Mulder said gently.

"I know, Mr. Mulder, but where can I send him? I won't have him put down." Tears started to run down the old lady's face.

"Well, I might be able to help you with that." Scully replied, back with a stick for Mulder. "I have a friend who works at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville right here in Texas. She did a primate pathology course with me some years ago. Anyway, she works as a vet at the zoo and she's told me many times about the excellent facilities for gorillas that they have there. I could make some enquiries if you would like?"

"Yes, would you? That would be wonderful." Dorothy broke out into a hopeful smile.

"I can't promise anything, Dorothy, but it's a chance." Scully cautioned.

"I know, but it's worth a try. Thank you so much, my dear."

"Well, come on then, Mulder, don't just lie there. Let's get you to Dorothy's house, so we can get the ball rolling." Scully said as she griped him under his arm and helped him to his feet. She thrust the stick into his hand. "How does that feel? Do you think you can make it?"

"Yeah, I think I'll manage okay." Mulder looked at Dorothy. "You'd better make sure that Bernard comes along too, so that you can keep him out of trouble. Perhaps it would be best, if you kept him locked in his stable, just to be on the safe side."

"Don't worry, Mr. Mulder. As long as I have his cheese and chutney sandwiches, he'll follow me anywhere. He's addicted to them." Dorothy said with an indulgent smile looking towards Bernard.

"That explains all those jars, in your kitchen." Scully said.

"Yes, he keeps me very busy churning it out." Dorothy agreed.

"Are the toys his, too?" Scully asked.

"Yes, even though he's an adult, he still likes to play with them." Dorothy handed another sandwich to Bernard and the strange quartet made their way through the darkening woods, with only a few crumbs to mark their passing.


Chapter Nine

AD Skinner's Outer Office
FBI Headquarters, Washington DC.
August 14th 1999
9:00am

Kim had been AD Skinner's personal secretary for some years now, and she could always tell when an agent was going to get a blasting from the surly AD. She hadn't been surprised when Agent Scully walked into the outer office first thing, clutching their latest case report, under her arm. She'd already dealt with the paperwork for Agent Mulder's sick leave and when she saw Agent Scully's tense face, she knew that she was going to be in for some entertainment. But then, Mulder and Scully's case reports where always entertaining.

Agent Scully had only been in with the AD for a few minutes, when Kim heard him bellow something that sounded like "Bigfoot?" Then there was some more quiet conversation coming mostly from Agent Scully, and then there was another bellow of "Butterflies?" Then some more of Agent Scully's low tones were audible. Kim jumped when AD Skinner roared "A gorilla?" She heard some affirmative sounding murmurs coming from Agent Scully. The door actually rattled at AD Skinners apoplectic shout of "Chutney?"

Oh yes, she would have some lovely juicy tidbits for the secretarial pool. Kim was a consummate professional, she didn't indulge in the office tittle-tattle, but she did like to hint at the odd goings on with her boss and the agents from the basement. She liked to think that it gave her an air of mystery. If only they knew.

"You're home early," said Mulder, as he lounged on Scully's sofa with his bandaged ankle propped up on the coffee table.

"Yes, well, I thought, as Skinner was already screaming at me, I might as well go the whole hog and ask for some time off." Scully said, tossing her keys on the little table by the door and joining Mulder on the sofa.

"Did the meeting with Skinner not go well then?" He said resting his hand on Scully's thigh and gently stroking it.

"You could say that, Mulder. I thought he was going to have a cardiac arrest at one point. I was getting set to perform CPR. He told me to pass on to you the message that he doesn't want to see either of us in his office for another month, so I think we should keep it low key and catch up on some paperwork when we go back next week."

"The Texas jinx strikes again, eh, Scully." Mulder grinned

"Maybe, but we did solve the case, so it wasn't a complete disaster." Scully returned the smile. "I forgot to ask, did Dorothy ring?"

"Yes, she did, and Bernard is settling in very well. I'm glad that your friend was able to help."

"Me too. So I guess there'll be no more Bigfoot sightings around Lake Cherokee?"

"On the contrary, Scully, only yesterday an angler was pushed into the lake by what he described as a large ape-like creature. He also mentioned a strong smell coming from it." Mulder looked Scully in the eyes. "Didn't your attacker have a touch of body odor?" "Oh no, Mulder, don't go there. Couldn't you just have let me carry on believing that for once, we'd reached a conclusion on a case? Who told you about the sighting, anyway?"

"Chief Lowry rang to thank us for our efforts with Ms. Maxwell and he mentioned it in passing. He seemed to be rather amused and said that we would be welcome, at anytime, to come down there and look into it. But the best bit was who do you think the unfortunate angler was?" Mulder asked his face alight with mischief.

"No?" Scully said incredulously

"Yep, you got it, poor old Jim Franklin. I think Bigfoot has taken a fancy to him." Mulder said delightedly.

Scully reached over and cupped his jaw in her hand, stroking his cheek with her thumb "You know, Mulder? I think all this excitement has taken its toll, you look tired."

"I don't feel tired." Mulder said, enjoying her touch.

"You are on sick leave, maybe you should lie down for a while?" Mulder noticed a slightly predatory glint in Scully's eyes.

"You really think so, Scully?" He said, innocently.

"Oh yes, absolutely," she leaned towards him and kissed him softly.

"Mmmm...okay Scully, what ever you think is best."

"Are you going to be this amenable from now on, Mulder?"

"Oh, I don't know, maybe for the first thirty or forty years, just until the first flush of romance is over." Mulder said, dreamily.

"If I'd have known that the prospect of sex made you so agreeable, I'd have jumped you years ago.

"We're going to have sex?" Mulder said looking shocked

"Yes, Mulder, we are going to have lots and lots of sex."

"Oh, yes! Take me now, G-woman." He grinned as Scully helped him stand and they slowly made their way to the bedroom.


Epilogue

Lake Cherokee
Rusk County, Texas

One Year Later

A sultry breeze fluttered through the leaves, as Dorothy Maxwell, slowly made her way through the woods. She knew that she wouldn't be able to make this trip for much longer, she was getting old and her arthritis had been playing her up more frequently of late.

She reached the old rotted tree stump and placed the paper plate on the top, then stepped back a few paces to wait. After a short while, she saw her. The long, shaggy, reddish colored fur, brushing through the undergrowth as she slowly, approached the tree stump. Behind her, trailed two youngsters, both female, as far as Dorothy could tell. She watched, as the mother took the sandwiches from the plate, she gave Dorothy a long look then, hooting gently, she ushered her youngsters back into the deep woods and they melted into the trees.

Dorothy sighed a little sadly. Those infants would be the first and last of their kind. It was a great pity that their father would never see them. Bernard would have been so proud.

The End


Author's notes:

All the places mentioned in this story are real. However, I have had to rely on my imagination for many of the descriptions of these locations. The Internet can only get you so far. So I apologize if I've got it wrong.

In regards to the butterflies, all of the species mentioned are indigenous to Rusk County. Just in case there are any enthusiasts out there.

I did exaggerate the number of sightings of Bigfoot around the Lake Cherokee area. Although there have been documented sightings in that location, the incident with the duck hunter being one of those, I did use a bit of dramatic license,

Authors privilege!

Lastly, the Gladys Porter Zoo really does have a fine reputation for its handling of gorillas.

afg

Return to Bump In The Night