Author's note: Takes place sometime in season 7. A little bit of silliness written for the La-La-La-2004 ficathon but never posted there. Thanks to Jerie and Jemima for looking this baby over; the 'choose your own ending' is their fault.
"Mulder, one of these days, I'm just going to flat out refuse to follow you to Podunk, USA--"
"Opal, Wyoming, Scully, *not* Podunk. *Opal*. Mulder kept his eyes on the road -- the long, straight road -- and stepped on the gas ever so slightly; the rental car could do 80, easy, maybe even 85. He thought he'd take advantage of Scully's crankiness with this latest case to indulge in a little bit of fast driving; given her current mood, she probably wouldn't even notice the speed and therefore insist on driving before he got them both killed.
Scully waved her hand listlessly. "Opal, whatever. One of these days, I'm just not going to go."
"But here you are." Mulder tried to inject a little bit of pep into his voice.
"Yes, here I am." Scully leaned her head against the window, watching the landscape fly by. "But I assure you, if I had known, if I had had any inkling whatsoever that Opal was home to nothing but a huge natural gas production facility and a bunch of cattle, I wouldn't have come."
"Not even for the once in a lifetime experience of seeing a jackalope, also known as antelabbit, horny bunny--" he took his gaze off the road for a moment to leer suggestively at Scully "-- or stagbunny?"
"I don't have to tell you, Mulder, that breeding between a jackrabbit and antelope isn't even genetically possible," Scully said, not even bothering to hide the impatience in her voice. "You also forgot to mention that Opal was on the official registry of ghost towns, Mulder."
Mulder flashed a grin in her direction. "But I did mention that Opal is *the* place for jackalopes, didn't I? Douglas, Wyoming might be ground zero, but Opal has had more sightings in the last two decades than anywhere else in the United States and my source--"
Mulder ignored her; one of these days, Scully was just going to have to get over her irrational jealousy of the entomologist. "My source says if there was ever a time to check out this rather rare creature, this would be it."
Scully scoffed at the remark and turned her attention back to the rather desolate view outside. "This better be good," she said under her breath.
Mulder grinned to himself. "I did promise you, Scully, didn't I, that this would be a trip you'd never forget?"
"Right. Chasing a mythical creature in some ghost town. Definitely unforgettable."
"You know, if you'd read the files and looked at the pictures I'd prepared for you--" Mulder shook his head in mock dismay "--instead of reading Jose Chung's latest, you wouldn't be taking this case so lightly."
Scully scowled. "If you're going to take up my Saturday by flying me across the country to some godforsaken ghost town to see some antlered bunny--"
"Fine, *warrior* rabbit, but as I was saying, if you're so intent on taking up my weekends to go in search of some mythical whiskey drinking monster, then I reserve the right to read what I want on the flight."
"You're not really getting into the spirit of things, Scully."
"*Spirit* of things, Mulder? I'm here, aren't I?"
"Just barely." He glanced at her sideways. "Look, if you didn't want to come, you shouldn't have come. You could have stayed home and made your Halloween costume or something." He frowned suddenly. "You *do* believe in Halloween, don't you?"
Scully gritted her teeth. "*Mulder*." After a moment, she said, "These jackalopes of yours, I mean, they aren't really real."
"What are you saying, Scully?" He let up on the gas slightly as he saw a police car coming from the opposite direction.
"I mean, they could just be a myth. There are some cottontail rabbits, who when infected with a papillomavirus, the same virus which causes warts in humans. In rabbits, the virus manifests itself as benign, precancerous or cancerous skin growths, which a century or so ago, could be taken as horns." Scully tipped her head to the side as she eyed Mulder. "This jackalope could merely be an exaggeration of perfectly natural and common phenomena."
"So you think we're running after a rabbit with a bad case of warts." Mulder glanced at the clock; they'd been in the car for nearly two hours now and it was probably a good time for a break. He spotted a diner up ahead on the right. "Want to stop?"
Scully squinted. "Are you sure it's even open?"
"Let's find out." Mulder swung into the parking lot, narrowly avoiding a deep and large pothole. Weeds stuck up through the asphalt and the lights in the aluminum-sided diner were off, and the screen door hung awkwardly by two out of its three hinges. A faded yellow sign hung crookedly in the dusty window read "Mel's Fine Dining." Scully got out of the car, and put her hands on her hips. Mulder watched her with some trepidation as she took in the scene.
"I think it's fair to say this place hasn't been open for years," Scully said. She turned to look at Mulder. "But the fresh air is good. I don't mind taking a walk--" she narrowed her eyes "--unless there's a possibility we'll miss sighting this jackalope of yours."
Mulder considered. With daylight savings time coming to an end, it'd be dark before they got to Opal, where the most recent sighting of the jackalope had been reported. At the same time though, he thought Scully had the right idea, that it was probably good to take some time to stretch their legs out; he did feel a little achy all over, probably from lack of movement. He nodded and let Scully lead the way. They walked in relaxed silence, and when he touched her hand gently, she didn't pull away. He smiled in relief. Perhaps she really wasn't as mad as she acted.
"You know, there's something else I didn't tell you about the jackalope," he said.
He cleared his throat. "Its milk is considered to be a powerful aphrodisiac."
Scully stopped short. "Please tell me--"
Mulder held up a hand. "Don't worry. It's not advisable to milk a jackalope," he said. "In fact, it's incredibly dangerous."
Scully resumed walking, but at a slightly quicker pace than before. "Anything else you forgot to tell me?"
"I didn't forget to *tell* you anything. It was all in the file you didn't read."
Scully scowled and kicked over a clod of dirt. To the east and west, as far as the eye could see, the terrain was flat and brown. In addition, a nice wind had started to pick up, adding a sudden chill to the air. Mulder put his hand on Scully's back.
"Let's head back to the car," he said. "It's getting late."
Scully nodded in agreement. "You did make reservations for us in Opal, didn't you? I don't want to be searching for a hotel in the dark. Especially not in a *ghost* town."
"Where's your sense of adventure?"
"Back in D.C., along with the eighty other commitments I left back there to follow you all the way across the country to chase--"
"I'm just saying, Mulder. What if this thing doesn't exist? What if we get all the way out to Opal, and all we find is cattle?"
"What if it's cattle with antlers?"
Scully's lips turned up into an almost petulant pout. "And need I remind you that cattle and antelope also can't cross-breed?"
Mulder sighed. "I'll make it up to you, Scully," he said, "if we don't find the jackalope. I'll tell you what, we get out there and we find nothing, I promise to take you trick or treating tomorrow night."
"I'm not five, Mulder."
"Fine, how about beer and movie then? 'Caddyshack'? 'Steel Magnolias'?"
She softened a little at the last suggestion. "That's more like it. Throw in Chinese take-out and we'll have a deal."
"Deal," Mulder said as he opened his car door. Scully frowned.
"What's that?" she asked.
"Did you hear that?"
Mulder strained. "No."
"That voice, a human voice, Mulder --" a concerned expression crossed Scully's face "-- someone in the diner is in trouble!"
"There's no one in there! You said it yourself--"
Scully turned around and sprinted towards the diner. Still a little confused, Mulder raced after her. Scully rattled the screen door and after a second, stepped aside to let Mulder kick it in. As he glanced back over her shoulder, he saw Scully pulling out her weapon. After a moment, he followed suit.
The air inside the diner smelled stale, musty, and a thick layer of dust covered the tables, counters, chairs and shelves. A couple of barstools, the cushions covered in a once shiny and sparkly red vinyl, had been tipped over. A coffee cup and a plate sat on the counter. Behind the main counter, the grill, refrigerator and soda machine all appeared to have ceased service months -- if not years -- ago. Scully moved gingerly through the diner. Already, her black shoes were covered with dust, as were the cuffs of her pants.
"There's nothing here," Mulder said. He cautiously tried one of the still upright barstools. "Are you sure you heard something?" He glanced over his shoulder. An old radio sat on one of the shelves, but it didn't appear to be turned on. Mulder slid off the chair, and rounded the counter. Old boxes were stacked at the far end, and he supposed the double-doors probably led into the kitchen. He glanced across at Scully and she tipped her head to the right. He took her cue and pushed through the doors and into the kitchen.
The kitchen was about ten by twenty feet, and was in much the same shape as the front of the diner. Scully lifted a loaf of moldy bread and then dropped it on the floor. Mulder opened a large cabinet or two, but given the thick layer of dust covering just about everything, he felt it was a safe bet that there was no one back here.
"We'd better get going," he said. Scully took another look around and then nodded.
"You're right," she said, shaking her head. "I *swore* I heard something."
"Maybe it was the wind," Mulder said.
"No, it was a human voice. I'm sure of it." Scully grabbed a paper towel from a dispenser over one of the work tables and knelt to wipe her shoes off. Mulder looked at his watch; only an hour or so of daylight left. "Mulder."
He jerked back to attention. "What?"
Scully pointed beneath the work table. "Foot prints--" she looked up at Mulder "-- or more accurately, *paw* prints."
Mulder squatted next to her. "Can you tell--"
"Leporidae," she said. "Without doubt."
"Rabbit." Mulder peered under the table and two pairs of eyes stared back at him. "Scully--"
"We're not alone." He glanced around nervously, noting additional pairs of eyes staring back at him from beneath various tables and cabinets.
"Mulder, what are you talking about?" Scully got down on her hands and knees. "Oh." And then again, the single syllable drawn out, "Ooohhh."
"The jackalope has the uncanny ability to mimic a human's voice," Mulder said, his voice suddenly shaky. He felt somewhat dizzy. "That's probably what you heard out in the parking lot. They're known for saying specifics to divert any hunter who might be looking for them, like 'he went that way' or 'go over there'." He wiped his sweaty palms on his pants. When did it get so hot in here anyway?
Scully looked at Mulder. "You're the jackalope expert. What do you suggest we do?" There was a teasing note in her voice.
"You've never seen 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail', have you?" he asked.
"Are you suggesting the jackalope is really a killer -- oops, warrior -- bunny?"
"Right now, I'm suggesting we back away very, very, very slowly, but in as professional and as a calm a manner as possible," Mulder said, as he slowly got to his feet. "Did I mention the jackalope is known to be somewhat aggressive?"
Scully put her hand on the butt of her handgun. "You've mentioned a lot in the seven years we've been together, Mulder, but nothing about the possibility of cute and fluffy albeit aggressive bunnies."
Mulder glared at her. "Try and at least pretend to take the threat seriously, Scully."
"I'm completely serious." Scully bit her lip.
"They've got us surrounded." Mulder tried to keep his voice even as the first creature hopped out from beneath the table. Its fur was a sandy brown, its eyes blue, while thick protrusions extended from its forehead. A second later, another rabbit -- this one with even larger horns -- joined the first.
"I see that."
Carefully, Mulder reached for his weapon. "No sudden moves, Scully."
"I'm following your lead." Scully took a step backwards. Three more rabbits, each with sprouting a set of antlers larger than the previous, joined the other two. "What's the best way to deal with, uh, a jackalope?"
Mulder didn't take his eyes off of the growing crowd of jackalopes. "Um, I think, whiskey?"
"Jackalopes like whiskey, if I remember correctly." He noted the additional jackalopes emerging from beneath the refrigerator. "Cowboys used whiskey to lure them--" Mulder blinked "-- into the open, and then, uh, once intoxicated, the jackalopes slowed down and it was easier to hunt or milk them--"
"I thought you said it was dangerous--"
Scully held up a hand in frustration. "And if we don't have whiskey? Mulder, there are nearly two dozen of these creatures in here."
"Then we, uh, run?"
"In a professional and calm manner?"
Pick your ending: One or Two
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