Bone of Contention

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Title: Bone of Contention
Author(s): Kel and Michelle Kiefer
Date(s): 2004
Length: 126K
Fandom: The X-Files
External Links: Bone of Contention

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Bone of Contention is an X-Files story by Kel and Michelle Kiefer.

From the Story Header

Summary: When an investigation in the middle of nowhere opens old wounds, 2000 miles away becomes too close to home. Can Mulder and Scully unravel the puzzle before they fall apart?
COMMENTS: Huge, huge thanks to MaybeAmanda and Syntax6 for beta. Our eternal gratitude also to our own resident veterinarian, the lovely Enigmatic Dr, for beta and technical advice on all things sheep.

Reactions and Reviews

Unknown Date

Oh, I can barely express how much I enjoyed Bone of Contention by Kel and Michelle Kiefer. The opening scene alone is priceless, but what really works here is the way the authors tie the story thematically together so that it fires on all cylinders. It is by turns scary, tender and funny, but always witty and fun. You'll never look at sheep the same way again! Then do yourself a favor and read the many other stories by these two terrific authors. They are a treat both together and alone. [1]


Bravo! Witty, sharp dialogue. Wonderful characterisation. Bits that made me laugh, bits that made me nearly cry. And a fantastic case file to boot. [2]


You wouldn't think that a casefile about sheep/human hybrids would be anything but satire, would you? I mean, would you? While humorous and charming, this story is so much more than that. I love Kel's writing. She always offers wonderfully quirky casefiles with excitement, well-developed original characters and a surprising amount of subtlety. This story proves that experimental subjects are people too. [3]


Because I am in need of comfort fic, I am by-passing the queue for the moment, in order to post a story I reread any time I am feeling low. I think everyone who loves to read has stories or books or fan fiction that they turn to in times of crisis, for escape or to just to make them smile. This one does all of that, and more. Any story that can make me laugh and cry and creates genuine suspense about the case file and the romance is a classic, in my view. I remember how disappointed I was when emily_shore recced this fic at crack_van. "No," I wailed. "That's my favorite story! I want to get to rec it." So now I have. [4]
I felt it kind of weakened somewhat toward the end with the ugly things they were saying to each other. That didn’t seem like them to me. And I could’ve done without the medical examination bit, which I had to skip. But all in all, a very original and even more creepy story. I won’t forget that ending for a long time. Ack! [5]
Oh. oh. oh. what a lovely little endlessly charming story. It's just steeped with affection for these two characters, and sweet silliness yet wonderful underlying dark humor that borders on the satirical. It's a smart story, and sure of itself, loaded with wit and witty dialogue. ....[snipped] I think that's what I like most about this story... that while yes, it is a case file of sorts, the heart of the story is their bizarre love story. Mulder woos Scully over mutant sheep, and Scully forgives Mulder of his eccentricities because of his goodness, his excitement, his intelligence, his child-like wonder and curiosity.

I usually don't do well with casefiles, because I end up not really caring about the extraneous characters or psycho-killer-mutant-alien-conspiracy plot, which more times than not is contrived, boring or just plain ridiculous. I end up skimming through huge sections, just getting to the bits where Mulder rescues Scully from the inevitable knife-wielding super villain, and they have license to be demonstrative of feeling.

Not that the plot of this story isn't ridiculous, but it's so well constructed and the extraneous characters - Roger, Brian Yates, Revere, even CSM - are so well constructed that even though they play minor roles, they're always complete, whole people with unique, believable voices. Especially Roger. I didn't skip through anything on this one... these characters were so fresh and darkly funny and the plot was so satirically ridiculous.

I also loved the examination scene. It was dark humor to the max. Here you've got two characters who love each other, want each other, and Scully finally gets to touch Mulder's penis, but the context is so ridiculous that they are both completely miserable. She has to get a kind of sick pleasure out of making him squirm in this scene, asking her 'medical history' questions in a detached, professional capacity.

And the whole castration bit was genius, in that same awesome, twisted, dark, witty way.

As far as the 'ugly things' they say to each other at the end... Well you're right, I can't ever imagine Mulder telling Scully she makes him sick, that she let them essentially rape and use her, and that he doesn't know who she is.... even drugged, angry, terrified and humiliated..

But I can forgive the story of that because as soon as he says it, he reacts exactly the way Mulder would react. He's horrified at himself, and desperate to make her understand how much she means to him. [6]
I quite liked Bone of Contention. I don't have the glowing feelings for it that many people do, but i thought it was well plotted, and that the original characters were particularly good. i never really bought that mulder would have thought scully was hormonally altered as a result of her abduction and subsequent infertility - at least not to the extent he thought she might have been in BoC, but it was an interesting idea, anyway. ETA: i just want to clarify - i think it would've been realistic for mulder to have wondered about scully's biochemical functions, post abduction. i just don't think he actually did, much. i don't think, canonically, it was an issue. and i don't see it as being 'in character' for that reason. [7]
I followed the excellent Bone of Contention back in the day--Five years ago!--impatiently, and had the nerve to be disappointed that there was no final sex scene. Well, callow youth. I was barely out of adolescence....

I still feel that the final conversation between Mulder and Scully feels too flat. Maybe I'm just addicted to jokes. Or maybe I don't appreciate subtlety. No, I'm *crazy* about subtlety. And I think that BOC is a study in that very thing.

This is a logically constructed casefile that has what many lack, a motivation plugged directly into the ust generator. Mulder is afraid that he and Scully will never have the sex he has dreamed of for so many faux-adolescent years. He is agonized about it, really, and has no idea that a direct approach would resolve Scully's insecurities as well as his own. It's an absurd situation, but one we shippers are hooked on, and the dry and subtle writing sells it on an adult level. In a situation one banana peel from buffoonery, delicate relationship adjustments are made.

Of course Mulder blurts out inanities and hurts Scully terribly; that's what happens when people don't practice intimate conversation; their ability to articulate deserts them in the clinches. And I do think he has a valid worry to add to all his ongoing invalid worries. Just as Scully has every reason to question Mulder's Brain.

The style is deliciously understated. I'm too lazy to illustrate, but I do remember being tickled when Mulder thinks of humming "Peggy Sue" just as Scully is nervously about to board a chartered small aircraft. This is a joke that requires at the very least some attention, as do many others, but the writers manage to make reading no chore whatsoever. [8]
That same conversation made me very happy, as did the lack of a final sex scene. I cannot tell you the number of stories that have been ruined for me by a tacked-on sex scene or three, the number of stories (in multiple fandoms) I have quit on because the writer decided that in the middle of a crisis, up against the wall, was the perfect moment for their heroes. I think that Syntax6's "Split the Lark" is a wonderful exploration of the aftereffects of rape on a woman and her lover. I love it to pieces right up until the end when it has that awful sex scene. I just wanted to cry when I read it. I am sure that as a writer she wanted to give the reader closure but it just isn't that simple.

The bottom line is I just don't think Mulder and Scully get to live happily ever after and people who think they do are watching the wrong show. YMMV. That is just one of the reasons that IWTB didn't work for me. I think for these writers their relationship is always going to be a work-in-progress. I thought the scene at the end hit the right notes, without dragging the story down into cheap melodrama or tacky romance novel clichés, which is the way a lot of writers would have gone. It might be a more popular story if they had given us a sex scene but it certainly wouldn't have made my top five favs list.

The scene at the end perfectly illustrated what their issues are--what they are always going to be. Mulder is a feelings type and Scully is ruled by her intellect. When Feeling people fall for Thinking people, there is always going to be some conflict. Mulder is spilling his guts to her and she is still telling him that they don't have to talk about what didn't happen. She just doesn't get it. Mulder is right. She really does compartmentalize her feelings--she's doing it right there in front of him! She never does say she loves him, either. But that's who she is, and as Mulder says quite plainly, there is nothing that could happen to her, nothing that she could do to him, that would change how he feels about her. I'm kind of weeping just thinking about this, can you tell I identify with Mulder in this scene? He loves her for who she is, not for who he wants her to be. He loved her even when he was convinced that she might not ever return those feelings because of what was done to her. That's true love. Of course, Scully feels the same way about him, he just can't see it, he's got himself so wound up in knots he can't think clearly.

I also think the ending is rounded out by the other mismatched love affair at the end, the other couple who can't talk about their feelings or consummate their relationship--maybe ever. That does not mean that Roger doesn't adore his beloved Cindy, on the contrary, he also sees her for who she really is, he sees the humanity in her, in a way that no one, not even Mulder is able to do. Even Mulder just sees her as evidence. Roger's love is transforming, it makes him into a better person, it gives him a true course of action and propels his rescue of his beloved from the clutches of the Syndicate, much in the same way that Mulder's love propelled him to go to the ends of the earth--literally--to rescue Scully, another trauma that he has yet to fully process, any more than Scully has.

Well, I'm getting of topic here. But I disagree vehemently that the conversation between M&S is flat. It is round and full and satisfying on every level, at least for me. [9]
Wendy, when your X-passion is aroused, who can stand against you? I argue incoherently even when I have a dog in the fight, and in this case we agree on most points. Of course I don't believe in the happy-ever-after scenario; adults know better, whatever they fantasize. IWTB didn't work well for me either, but what I saw on *that* screen was hardly a walk in Happymarriage Park.

As previously admitted, I have a bad reaction to the whole discussing relationships thing. The verbal working out of issues. I prefer jokes, which are plentiful in BOC, and that last desperate admission countered by Scully's nonresponsive response just didn't achieve the appropriate closure. For me.

However, your point about Roger and Cindy is a great insight and a lovely parallel. One hopes just as hard that there will *not* be a sexual resolution in that particular case.

This story is about sex as much as it is about love. It creates an interesting disorientation. [10]
This story is about sex as much as it is about love. It creates an interesting disorientation.

And the story is about the perversion of reproduction by the Syndicate. I think Kel and Michelle Kiefer want the reader to draw those parallels, between what was done to Scully and the other Mufon women, how they were used as lab rats, as incubators, to what monstrous thing was done to that half-sheep, half woman creature. Mulder is still angry about happened to Scully, and that anger fuels his search for the truth. He gets frustrated because Scully doesn't seem angry to him. She, too, is angry, but her fury gets hidden away, which in a way is a good thing. (Iolokus is an examination of what would/could happen if she didn't. So is Cofax's The Mill, though in another direction.) Mulder does realize that it helps keep her sane even as it creates this unwanted distance between them. He's resigned to the distance. His realization at the end, that she does truly love him, is really quite moving, because as a reader I was totally convinced (by the adorable plot) of his foolish ignorance.

The humor in "Bone of Contention" doesn't hide the ugly reality of what has been wrought here and elsewhere by the evil bureaucratic machine of the Syndicate. Being able to keep both those balls in play is a delicate balancing act for a writer and they do it so very well here. That is Kel's major attraction for me as a reader, that she can address so well the serious issues raised in the series, and still make me laugh along the way. [11]


This last rec has nothing to do with [the ep] “The Unnatural,” but we’re almost at the end of season six and I haven’t recced “Bones of Contention.” Everyone who loves to read has stories, books and/or fan fiction that they return to again and again, for escape or to just to make them smile. This fic makes me laugh and cry, all while creating genuine suspense about the case file and the romance. It’s a classic, pure and simple, a must-read for The X-Files fandom.[12]


  1. "omniscribe". 
  2. "X-Files Fanfiction 101: an introduction for newbies". Archived from the original on 2006-02-07. 
  3. recced by emily shore at Crack Van, March 2008
  4. wendelah1 at xf book club, November 2009
  5. mosinging1986 at xf book club, November 2009
  6. Kate at xf book club, November 2009
  7. amyhit at xf book club, November 2009
  8. estella c at xf book club, December 2009
  9. wendelah1 at xf book club, December 2009
  10. estella c at xf book club, December 2009
  11. wendelah1 at xf book club, December 2009
  12. 201 Days of The X-Files, Archived version, 2015