He took her to his place. She never really stayed with him before, if, of course, you don't count all those times that he was missing. She spent the night on his couch a few times, but she never came for a sleep over when he was around.

He did stay with her, though, on more than one occasion. Her place was bigger, tidier, and as his doctor she liked to keep him close whenever he got himself drugged, injured or discharged from hospital against medical advice. Which happened to occur quite frequently.

This time her place was a wreck and her mother wasn't in town. She had the key of her mother's place, of course, but Mulder didn't want to leave her alone on a night like this. She didn't even need lots of convincing before accepting his offer. It felt like she was barely aware of his presence, like she retrieved to some distant, safe place in her mind, and she wouldn't even return his gaze anymore.

Mulder didn't like any of it. He already witnessed her falling apart because of Pfaster once, but this time it seemed worse, it seemed darker. This time he didn't even dare to force her to look at him, not trusting either of them to be strong enough to handle what he'd see in her eyes.

No, he was definitely not leaving her alone tonight.

Grateful that he even had a bed available for her, Mulder found clean sheets and changed them while she was in the shower. He took the dirty ones to the couch, though he highly doubted he would be getting any sleep tonight. He just hoped she would, while he stayed on guard and alert in case she needed anything.

Not knowing what else to do, Mulder turned on the TV and tried to follow a movie or whatever was on. His thoughts kept coming back to the events earlier in the night, though. The signs he missed. The intuition he ignored. Scully almost died at the hands of a lunatic again, and he hadn't done anything to prevent that. He arrived there just in time to witness her fend for herself. Alone.

He didn't do a damn thing for her, and now he still didn't know what to do for her. He'd write a report, witness in her favor, help her clean up her apartment, change the locks on her doors, but all that would have to wait until tomorrow. Tonight it was just two of them and she wouldn't tell him what she needed. But he had to something.

Scully was still in the shower, for – Mulder looked at the clock – over an hour. He could hear the water insistently running, without a break. This couldn't be good. Alarmed, he got on his feet and rushed to the bathroom.

"Scully," he gently knocked on the door. "Is everything all right?"

No answer.

"Scully!" he insisted, louder this time. "Talk to me, Scully!"

The water stopped running and a second later Scully's voice answered him. "I'll be right there, Mulder."

He let out a sigh of relief. She was ok! He overreacted, as usual. Ashamed of invading her privacy, he turned to get back to the living room and give her space, but something stopped him. A realization. The way that she flinched when he touched her. The way that she hugged herself, as if trying to become even smaller and sink into herself, away from anything and anybody that could hurt her. The never-ending shower after she just had one back at her apartment.

Mulder felt a pain in his chest and he suddenly had trouble breathing. He wasn't alarmed though, since this feeling wasn't anything new and he was well accustomed to it.

The bathroom door finally opened behind him and he turned around to face her. The sight of her broke his heart. Her hair was wet, and wrapped only in his huge towel she looked smaller than ever. She tried to force herself to look at him, but failed miserably.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked accusingly. He cursed himself for being harsh with her, but he was so filled with rage that it clouded his judgement. He wasn't mad at her, of course, but he wanted to punch the wall, to break something, to kill the man, no, not the man – the monster – that was already dead. Seeing her like this erased any doubts he had about his sudden realization that he did, in fact, come to her apartment too late.

And nothing will ever be the same again.

"I don't know what you're talking about," she said, her voice filled with fear. "I was just having a shower and I lost the track of time. I'm sorry."

"You can't wash it off, Scully," his voice was calm, but it was a cold, deadly calmness that could kill in a cold blood, not her, but everything around her. "It's going to take time."

"I'm fine, Mulder," her voice was shaky but firm. It almost made him laugh. Her I'm fine statement never sounded more bizarre and ridiculous than at this point.

"You can't even look at me, Scully," he stated the obvious and she hated him for it. "You are not fine. Get dressed, I'm taking you to a hospital."

"I am not going anywhere," she said firmly, clutching the towel and taking a step back, even though he didn't try to touch her or move in her direction.

"You are an officer of the law," he insisted. "You know you have to be checked."

"For what?" she finally managed to look him in the eyes, her awoken rage giving her the courage. She took another step back, standing her ground, and her gaze told him that he was a man and she hated him for it. Well, he hated himself just as much. "For evidence against a man that is already dead and can't be prosecuted? I'm not playing a 'victim blame' game, Mulder! I don't need the whole world to know what he did to me and blame me for it!"

"What about STDs?" Mulder insisted. "I know you can rule out pregnancy, but what about AIDS? Who knows what kind of diseases the creep had! And what kind of damage he'd done. You can't examine yourself to make sure you're really okay. You are a doctor, Scully, so you need to be reasonable about this!"

He felt physically sick saying those words, and to her of all people! But he was a law officer as well, he knew what had to be done.

Scully took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She wanted to disappear into the ground and never emerge to the surface again. Never face her partner again. But when she opened them again he was still there, and she was still there and there was no way around it.

"There is no damage, Mulder," she said quietly, looking through him as if he was a ghost. "That man was very meticulous and thorough, and he came well prepared. He used a… condom and lots of lubricant. And when he… when he holds the knife to your throat… you don't even fight. It doesn't even hurt. It's just… so slow and… careful… and it takes forever… And he makes sure that… that… that your body listens to him instead of you…"

She didn't even notice that she started to talk about her experience in the second person. She didn't notice that she closed her eyes and that tears were freely falling. Her mind took her back to her cold bathroom floor, lying stiff and still with his hands all over her, her core invaded and her body betraying her. He looked her straight in the eyes as he moved on top of her, and she held his gaze, not giving him the satisfaction of seeing her tears or hearing her beg for mercy. She stared into the eyes of pure evil, closing hers just for second and never again, since behind the closed lids all those feelings in her body intensified and somehow felt more real, less deniable. She spat into his face, sending her soul away, hiding it somewhere that he couldn't reach, that he couldn't touch, a place so remote that she didn't know if even she herself would ever be able to find it again.

"My god, Scully," Mulder's broken voice brought her back to the present. "I'm so sorry…"

She shook her head and quickly wiped away the tears. She couldn't do this. She couldn't handle his pity, his sympathy. She didn't want Mulder to know, him of all people. But now it was too late. He got it out of her. Of course he would.

Now things could never be the same.

Bracing herself for his intervention, she rushed to his bedroom and started to dig up through her overnight bag, looking for something to wear.

"I have to go," she informed Mulder, not even noticing that the towel fell off of her body. Mulder noticed, but his mind wasn't working fast enough to remind him that he shouldn't look, so he did. He looked for cuts, bruises, anything to make sure she really wasn't hurt that badly. Physically, that is.

"Where?" he asked when she started putting her clothes on.

"Anywhere," she responded in a hurry. "I don't care. I need to be alone."

"Then stay here," he suggested. "And I'll go."

"Where?" It was her time to ask. She stopped with the dressing and looked at him, feeling tired, confused and incredibly lonely.

"To my car," Mulder shrugged. "A motel? Bellefleur? Europe? As far as you need me to go."

"Okay," she whispered. Her strength left her and she dropped on the floor, resting her back against Mulder's bed. She couldn't stop her legs from shaking and her tears from falling again, while her whole body shivered from the coldness of her bathroom tiles that was deeply absorbed by every single cell in her body, and the invasion that no amount of water and soap managed to wash away.

"Okay," Mulder repeated. He hated leaving her like this, but he had to respect her wishes. He couldn't risk estranging her, not now, so until he came up with a better plan he would play along with hers. "Call me if you need anything."

"Yeah," she whispered and he finally left. He didn't get farther then the building hall in front of his apartment, but she didn't know that. To her he felt farther than Europe, farther than space, in a boy's club that she no longer belonged to, in a world that ceased to exist for her.

She was totally, utterly alone, and there was no way out for her.

Mulder's dirty t-shirt lay on the floor next to her, and she absent-mindedly picked it up and brought it to her face. His smell gave her just enough comfort to prevent her from completely losing her mind. Clutching the smelly piece of cloth tightly to her chest, she climbed on the bed and cried herself to sleep.