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"COPS is filmed on location with the men and women of law enforcement. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty, in a court of law."

"but irregardless, we're on the job and if makes people breathe a little easier, knowing we're out there ..."

Scully rolled her eyes as she heard Deputy Weztel begin his opening speech. Like any slightly vain, full-of-themselves rookie Deputies he sounded just a little too self-important talking about his job. Like he was God's gift to law enforcement. There was a part of her that was a bit pleased that he had nearly lost it by the end of their investigation. She felt slightly guilty thinking that, remembering how frightening being a rookie was, and how each person coped with it in their own way, but then she also remembered why she was here, in Mulder's apartment, on his couch finding out just how little the FBI really had to hide.

Mulder emerged from the kitchen, a few longnecks held between his fingers, clinking as he walked. There was a bag of chips open on the coffee table in front of her, and the smell of microwaved popcorn permeated the room. Mulder set four beers on the table and she moved three in front of her.

"Hey," he protested immediately.

"I'm going to need them, and bring the rest of the six-pack when you bring the popcorn," she answered, tartly.

"maybe we'll get lucky, sneak up on him."

She snorted. There was no sneaking up that night, on anything, except for maybe that camera man that always seemed to be in her face. She had gotten his number in the early morning hours as everyone had parted ways - just to piss Mulder off. They had exchanged snide remarks over it at breakfast not an hour later, but by the time Mulder's plate had been cleaned of everything but a film of grease Scully had reassured Mulder that she wouldn't be calling him.

Mulder returned from the kitchen, carrying two more beers and the steaming popcorn.

"You know, he called me the other day-"

"Wetzel?"

"Yeah, he'd come across something he couldn't explain and wanted to know if I was interested in investigating it."

"And?" Scully wasn't sure how she felt about the possibility of another investigation in L.A. so soon. First a dead, but not, magician and then this case and the fact that she was fairly certain a shadowy conspiracy wanted her, and Mulder, dead. She wasn't sure how much more she could take.

"Eh, a case of particularly nasty sewer sludge contamination making people act out scenes from movies at odd times. Nothing unexplained there."

She shook her head. Werewolves stalked the streets of Willow Park, CA, but it was sewage that made people behave crazy. Sometimes she just didn't get him.

"I've got ID in my back pocket!"

"We're investigating a case."

"Oh god, do I really sound like that?" Scully asked, taking a swig of beer.

Mulder smiled at her. "Who's that handsome fellow?" Mulder gestured at the screen.

"You mean the one holding the gun? I think his name was Beacome." Scully smiled mischievously. Mulder punched her softly in the shoulder.

It was awkward, watching the two of them, and difficult for her to not criticize every detail of her hair and appearance, how she stood, what she said, how she said it.

"Agent, you seriously believe we're looking for some kind of-"

"We'll, I'll show ya."

"Oh Mulder, you didn't."

"Didn't what?"

"Show that drawing on national television." Scully watched as Mulder unfoled the picture of wolf-man on screen. "Oh, yes, you did."

"Scully?" Mulder sounded amused, but with just a hint of hurt under it all. She bumped his shoulder with hers by way of apology. He bumped back and all was forgiven.

Scully couldn't help but cringe as she listened to Mulder earnestly talk to the woman onscreen. She had heard him talk that way a million times before, with the same earnest excitement in his voice, the same honesty. But she was used to it and had learned in seven years of working with him that there was a brilliant investigator behind the seemingly crazy words and ideas. Those years had taught her that Mulder was a consummate professional that would follow a case through the end, no matter what the conclusion. But, millions of Americans had no way of understanding that.

She felt her chest tighten. Mulder bumped her shoulder again. She looked up at him, eyes wide, a half smile on her face. He smiled at her reassuringly. It was simple: Mulder didn't care what people thought of him, he left that to her.

"Let me see your hands!"

Indistinct shouting accompanied the two of them as they burst through the door to the crack house on screen. Scully felt her heart race as she remembered that. No matter how long she worked on the job, criminals she chased down, nice trips to the woods she went on with Mulder, fear and adrenaline always raced through her veins whenever she drew her gun and followed Mulder down another rabbit hole.

She could still smell the urine and stink of human filth that permeated the house. Those were images and smells that never left you after moments like those. At breakfast the next morning, she and Mulder had cracked uncouth jokes about crackheads and their whores, things she'd be horrified she had said if she though too long and hard about it. It was cathartic though, to wash off the night before while she washed down stale toast, runny eggs, and a pile of grease that resembled hash browns with bad coffee.

Scully took a sip of her rapidly-warming beer, willing the scene to hurry up. Mulder held the popcorn bowl in front of her and she let a smile ghost her face as she took a few kernels and put them in her mouth one by one. Unlike everyone else that night, the fear hadn't gotten to her and it was all because of the man who seemed to have an uncanny ability to read her thoughts.

"I seriously doubt we're going to find anything resembling contagious pathology here..."

Scully grabbed her second beer from the coffee table, running her fingers through the copious amount of condensation on the bottle, feeling it drip off and hit her legs. She caught Mulder's smile out of the corner of her eye.

"What?"

"You're kinda hot when you're playing doctor Scully. I never knew. I should watch autopsies more often," he replied, taking a swig of his beer before swallowing and grinning at her lecherously.

She rolled her eyes. "You find them boring."

She heard her voice say, "because the FBI has nothing to hide." Mulder chuckled.

"You know, Scully, this is interesting, getting to see you work when I'm not around."

"Yes, Mulder, very interesting."

"We should do this more often."

"No."

He chuckled again and crunched his popcorn.

"I don't know. You've got to figure there's enough fear in the world that if it doesn't show up in Willow Park, it's gotta show up somewhere."

"You know Mulder, you really can be brilliant sometimes."

"Now Scully..." He was embarrassed, she could tell. He hid himself behind humor and wild conjecture, but deep down inside, he valued a few select peoples' opinions and hers was one of them.

She rested her head on his shoulder and watched as they talked on screen. It had been a stupid idea, she had told him, for him to suggest they watch this together. But, as she sipped on her third beer, she knew she didn't regret it. They were a team, and that much was obvious. Perhaps she rolled her eyes at him a little too often, and he talked crazy a little too much. But, the two of them, together, were a team.

He tugged a lock of hair that hung down in her face and she looked up at him.

"You're not half bad yourself."

"Thanks, Mulder."

"I wonder where that creature is, what neighborhood or person he's stalking now, who is facing their worst fear."

Scully patted his leg, it was like him to both worry and wonder at the ones that got away, at the cases that never were quite solved or concluded to his satisfaction.

"Well, I can tell you one place where he's not," she said as she stood up, slightly unsteady from the three beers.

"Whoa," he said, resting a hand in the small of her back to steady her. "You're staying here tonight, partner."

She looked down at him, a rare opportunity, and smiled a full smile. "He's not here."

"No Scully, with you, he's not."

Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?