Title: New Client
Summary: Mary-Anne Spier baby-sits for an eight-year-old new girl named Samantha, plagued by nightmares of an abduction, and gets her X-phile boyfriend wondering.
Author's Note: For those of you waiting around for the season 6 premiere with *nothing* to do. . . Luan D. Lascy is obviously not my real name, it's an anagram for which XF character? **
"Hello, Baby-sitters' Club," Kristy called into the receiver of the phone, a bit breathless after our usual scuffle for the phone. We were always careful, of course - Claudia would have a cow if we broke her phone. Kristy stuck out her tongue at me, and I retaliated by showing her a mouthful of chewed Twinkies.
"Gross, Mary Anne!" she hissed at me, then returned to the phone. `Sorry, didn't catch your name? Morley," she whispered to me, as I got the notebook. "New clients." She returned to the phone. "Tuesday, November 12, 8 to 11:30? Sure, hold on a minute." She looked at me expectantly.
I glanced at the calendar. "Jessie and I are free."
"Sorry, Madame's having me tutor some of the little kids that night," Jessie apologized, sliding into the splits on Claudia's carpet.
"When exactly did you plan on telling us this little detail?" Kristy's eyes were narrowed dangerously.
"Right before the phone rang?" Jessie attempted.
"Oh, stop being a control freak, Kristy. I'm still free, and I'll take the job," I told her.
Kristy, still staring daggers into Jessie's form lying contorted on the floor, relayed the information to the Morley client on the other end. Having accomplished that, she proceeded to get other relevant information on the Morleys: address (1013 E. Noromo Drive), phone number (377-1121), and how many kids (one 8-year-old girl, Samantha). " `Kay, thanks Mrs. Morley, and we'll see you on Tuesday," she finished.
"1013 Noromo Drive? Isn't that the house that just got bought by the Feds?" Dawn asked after Kristy hung up.
"The government bought a house a few blocks from me?!" Stacy shrieked, and we all winced at the high octave she hit.
"No, Stacy, stop being melodramatic," Kristy admonished. "Just some guy working for the government - NSA, FBI, MIB, XYZ, whatever other acronym they've got for it."
"That's just as bad," she insisted. "Man, have you *seen* those government agents? They are, like, another species, homo sapiens spookius or something."
"Oh stop," I hushed her. "They can't be that bad."
"Can't they?" Mallory spoke up suddenly. She didn't talk very much at meetings, so it was a surprise to hear her. "Call me paranoid, Mary Anne, but I think you'd better watch your step on Tuesday." **
The first thing I noticed about 1013 Noromo Drive was the overpowering smell of cigarette smoke. It assaulted me in a wave from the moment Mrs. Morley, a petite brunette with alert, catlike green eyes and a clipped British accent, opened the door to let me in. I grew accustomed to the smell quickly; as a baby-sitter I'd gotten whiffs of several houses, not all of which smelled like perfume, and I'd learned to take them in stride. The interior of the house was still decorated with more cardboard than anything; I guessed the Morley were still living out of cardboard boxes. Trinkets wrapped in bubble wrap and newspaper lay all over what I took to be the dining table, a bag of sunflower seeds standing out in the midst of the mess.
The TV and black leather sofa were unpacked, and the girl I took to be Samantha was sitting on the latter watching TV while absently chewing on the end of her long dark- brown braid. A board game lay on the cushion beside her.
"Samantha's already had dinner," Mrs. Morley - scratch that, *Phoebe*, as she insisted I call her -- told me briskly, putting on pearl earrings to match the string around her neck, "but if she wants to she can have some sunflower seeds. Not a lot though. Bedtime's at nine sharp. Emergency numbers are over here," she pointed to a card by the phone, "and this is Bob's pager number." She tapped a sticky note plastered to the fridge by an I Love Lucy magnet.
"Honey," called a man's voice, low-pitched and ever so slightly gravelly, "we're going to be late."
"Coming dear," Phoebe called back. She gave Samantha an affectionate peck. "Be good, sugar."
"Bye, mom," Samantha called, turning around for the first time. I saw her elfin, almost pointed face, cheerful smile, upturned nose, the perfect picture of a wonderful childhood - except for the eyes. Hovering mistily between brown and green, they held a sadness that was uncommon in a child of eight. Maybe her parents had divorced - this Bob Morley seemed a little old to be her father anyway. . .
After her show finished, Samantha and I went through the introductions - I told her she could call me Mary, but she refused. Also, she insisted on being called Samantha, not Sammy or Sam. She had no friends yet, having just moved here a week ago.
"Oh, Stratego!" I exclaimed after I saw the board game she'd had on the couch. "I used to *love* this game. I haven't seen one in ages."
Samantha's eyes lit up. "You want to play?"
Between handfuls of sunflower seeds, we finished the Stratego game minutes before nine. "*Please*, Mary Anne, let me stay for just one more game," she pleaded.
"Come one, Samantha, it's a school night. You'll be all groggy in school tomorrow if you don't get enough sleep," I reasoned.
Finally, after much cajoling on my part, we agreed that Samantha would go to bed if I stayed in the room until she fell asleep. That didn't take too long; she was asleep before her head hit the pillow. I stayed in there for a few more minutes, then wandered out to the living room to finish the book I'd brought with me.
"That is what `to the pain' means. It means that I leave you to live in anguish, in humiliation, in freakish misery until you can stand it no more; so there you have it, pig, there you have it, you miserable vomitous mass, and I say this now, and live or die, it's up to you: *drop your sword*!
"The sword crashed to the floor. It was 5:55."
It was actually close to 9:23, but I was forced to stop reading because I heard something like a moan coming from the bedroom. "Samantha?" I called softly, going to the bedroom.
It came again, escalating into a scream. "No - no, stop, I don't want to - don't want to go - Fox, help me! FOOOOX!"
I was somewhat relieved - it was only a nightmare. I turned on the lamp and rubbed Samantha's tense shoulders. "Samantha, wake up honey, it's just a dream. . ."
She opened her eyes and burst into tears, throwing herself into my arms. What else could I do? I hugged back. Eventually her sobs subsided, and I said, "That must have been a doozy of a nightmare to have you shouting like that. I heard you from the living room."
She nodded blinking away tears.
"Do you get nightmares like that often?"
She nodded again. "Every night."
I winced at the thought. Imagine having to go to bed every night knowing you'll inevitably wake up in a cold sweat, possibly screaming. No wonder the poor kid hadn't wanted to go to bed. "You want to tell me about it?"
That was all it took to get Samantha's words tumbling out of her mouth, sometimes tripping over each other in their haste. "I had a brother in the dream, Fox, four years older than me. We were playing Stratego in somebody else's house, and there was a light - and Mommy and Daddy came in with some other really skinny people. They said they wanted to take me home, but I wanted to stay with Fox. They started talking about gen-genetics, whatever that is, and how I was perfect for a Project because of my *jeans*. I shouted for Fox to help me, but he wouldn't move! It was like he was per-peril. . ."
"Paralyzed?" I offered.
"Yeah, that. Then Daddy grabbed me by the waist and dragged me out into the light. But Mary Ann, Fox never moved! He never tried to help me!" Her voice cracked and she resumed crying.
I hugged her again. "Honey, that was just a dream. I'm sure your parents would never make you go if you didn't want to."
She looked up at me. "Are you sure? They really wouldn't?"
Oh God, what a thought. "Of course they wouldn't," I told her. "Now calm down, and go back to sleep. I'll sit here until you fall asleep."
I sat for a good twenty minutes. Samantha was more reluctant to fall asleep after the recent nightmare. "We both liked sunflower seeds," Samantha murmured sleepily at one point.
"Fox also like sunflower seeds," she repeated.
Finally she seemed to be asleep for the night, and I retreated into my book until the Morleys' car appeared in the driveway.
"Oh, that's nothing to worry about," Phoebe assured me lightly when I told her about Samantha's nightmare. "She gets them fairly often, but not every night."
She glanced at her husband who was tapping a cigarette out of a pack - Morleys, I noted, what a coincidence -- whom I'd gotten my first good look at. His face was a mass of wrinkles, his hair regulation-length and salt-and-pepper, mostly salt. The eyes surprised me. They were bright and alert, but holding a great deal of suspicion, as though he was expecting some secret attack by Iraqi terrorists. What unnerved me even more was how this suspicion stayed trained me the whole time he was driving me home.
"And it was kinda freaky to see the dad," I told Logan over the phone. "He has the strangest eyes I've ever seen. And you can smell those Morleys a mile away-"
"Yeah, his cigarettes. Weird coincidence, huh, the brand name and their last name."
"Wow, a Cancerman clone," Logan murmured.
"Nothing. How was Samantha?"
"A perfect angel," I told him truthfully. "Except she had a nightmare at night, the kind that gives you the willies to think about. Something along the lines of her having this dream brother, Fox I think. Weird name for a boy. Anyway they're playing Stratego and her parents come in and take her home, though she doesn't want to go, and Fox is paralyzed and can't help her. And get this, she gets it *every night*. I'd go crazy if it was me."
"Mary Anne, turn on the TV. Channel 13. Quick."
"Um, okay." I flipped on the television, and saw a picture of a woman sitting up in a motel bed, a man sitting on the floor against the bed. "Oh God, Logan, is this some smarmy romance movie, is it?"
"Heck no," he laughed shortly. "Listen." - - - The man I recognized as David Duchovny, from a "Beethoven" movie - not my favorite flick, but one gets experience in kids' movies when one baby-sits an average of four a week. "I'm telling you this, Scully, because you need to know, because of what you've seen," he was saying intensely to the redhead in the bed. "In my research I worked closely with a man named Dr. Heitz Werber, and he's taken me through deep regression hypnosis. I've been able to access my own repressed memories of the night Samantha disappeared. I recall a bright light. . . and a presence in the room. I was paralyzed, unable to respond to my sister's calls for help."
He suddenly lunged forward and grabbed who I now knew was Scully's wrist, making her jump. "Listen to me, Scully. *This thing exists*."
"But how can you-" she began.
"The government knows about it," he cut her off, "and I've got to know what they're protecting. Nothing else matters to me - and this is as close as I've ever gotten." - - - I sat in shock on the couch, listening to the Duchovny character tell a carbon copy of the nightmare Samantha had related in tears a few nights ago. This was too weird.
"They're both FBI agents," Logan filled me in. "The woman is Dana Scully, she's the skeptic. The guy is the believer; he's-"
"Yeah, Fox Mulder. How'd you know?"
"Lucky guess," I said, more to convince myself than him. " This is all a coincidence, right? There's -"
"A logical explanation?" Logan finished. "You sound like Scully. Next thing you know, you'll be spitting ten million polysyllabic words at me to explain why Samantha Morley is not Samantha Mulder."
"Will you settle for three syllable at the most?"
"Okay. This episode with David Duchovny, it's a rerun, am I correct?"
"Yes," Logan conceded.
"So there's a chance Samantha *Morley* has already seen it. Right?"
"So she incorporated it into her dream?" Logan asked skeptically. "Fine, but a nightmare like that should only happen every other month at the absolute most. But you said she gets this nightmare every night. Why should something she saw on TV, and if your idea is correct, she's already forgotten, appear in a nightmare *every night*?"
"All right, but think about this: on this show - what's it called?"
" 'The X-Files'."
"Okay, on the 'X-Files', in what year does this alien abduction take place?"
"When Mulder is 12, and Samantha's 8 . . .let me see, that would be 1973. Sometime in November, I think," Logan informed me.
"All right, so wouldn't Samantha be . . . 34 right now? Last I checked, I baby-sat an eight-year-old, Logan." I sighed. "Listen, we're getting nowhere with this. If Samantha Morley is Samantha Mulder, so what? So this Mulder guy's life's work is living a few blocks from me. What good does it do?"
"Sure, but aren't you just a bit curious?"
I thought about that one, about all the evidence against the two Samanthas actually being one and the same, about the age difference, and about the futility of the whole argument. Then I remembered Phoebe Morley's nervous laugh when I told her about the nightmare, her surreptitious glance to her husband, the suspicion in his eyes - and suddenly the night seemed much darker, the empty house much larger.
"I don't know, Logan. I honestly don't know." **
Days turned into weeks, weeks turned to months, and before I knew it, three months had passed. Christmas vacation came and went, finals were crammed for, taken, and passed, Logan and I went on a few dates, argued some about the Samantha dilemma. Baby- sitting jobs with various clients were taken by various members of the BSC, and it was on one such job with Mallory's family, the Pikes, that I had the second Close Encounter of the Samantha Kind, as Logan was beginning to call them.
Mallory and I were taking some of the kids to the park - a lightened load since three out of seven kids were at a doctor's appointment that was going to take at least another hour. Watching Vanessa and Byron have a shouting match and hoping Mallory's assurance that it wouldn't escalate into a fight, I saw Samantha sitting on the edge of the sandbox, aimlessly picking up sand and letting it sift out again.
I walked over to her and called, "Hey, Samantha!"
"Hi Mary Anne!" she answered brightly, waving. I remembered the "X-Files" rerun I'd seen recently - I'd finally seen the entire episode I'd begun with Logan, and it was beginning to creep me out. I'd never see a mosquito bite the same way, I mused with a smile, remembering the scene where Scully disrobed in front of Mulder to see if she had "the marks".
"How's your brother?" I asked, emphasizing "brother".
Samantha raised her eyebrows at me blankly. "I don't have any brothers or sisters, Mary Anne."
"You told me about one . . . Fox?" I hinted.
For a brief moment, understanding and pain flashed across her face, then disappeared as quickly as it had come, to be replaced by a look of genuine confusion. "Fox? Who's he? And what kind of name is Fo-"
"Samantha!" came a familiar voice, laced with a British accent, and Phoebe appeared suddenly, a mother hawk defending her brood. "Come on, dear, time to go home." She turned to me, and her hostile, icy eyes sent a chill down my back. "For your information, *Ms. Spier*, Samantha's nightmares have stopped, and I would appreciate it if you wouldn't remind her of them." She led Samantha away, a protective hand on her shoulder. Samantha gave me a look filled with regret and a hint of despair.
"Mary Anne? Can we go home now?" Vanessa sounded genuinely worried, and Byron wasn't attacking verbally anymore. Never a good sign.
"What's going on?" I asked Mallory.
She nodded towards a man in a regulation suit, regulation-cut salt-and-pepper hair, smoking a cigarette - another chill ran down my spine as I realized it was Mr. Morley. "Yeah, let's go," I agreed. We took a circuitous route home, just to be on the safe side. Baby-sitting rule #1: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and have some fun in between. **
ENTRY INTO BSC NOTEBOOK
Samantha Morley was, as usual, a pirfect anjel. The house was a mess because the Morleys are moving again - demands of the job, they say. Darn it, we lost another clyint to the govirnment. (FYI: Mr. Morley works for the FBI. Freeky.)
Samantha had no nitemares, not even any anxity about falling asleep. I stayed in her room for an hour after she fell asleep - nothing. I saw an "X-Files" rerun out of bordom, and the resemblense between Samantha Mulder and our former charge is amasing. *
I never saw Samantha again.
Stacy said she noticed their house went up for sale amazingly fast. Mr. Morley - or Cancerman, as I've come to think of him now, thanks to Logan - must have some connections in high places.
Logan's gotten me to appreciate "The X-Files" a little more now, though I'm not obsessive about it. I'll watch the reruns occasionally, getting more background on Mulder and Scully. For example, Flukeman. References to him showed up in several episodes, including an incredibly poignant one about reincarnation. Some girl had managed to convince herself and Mulder that they were soulmates. Mulder had to be hypnotized, and it was the first time I'd seen him cry.
I don't see very many references to Samantha, but I perk up my ears when I hear her names, searching despite myself for parallels between Samantha Morley and Samantha Mulder.
One night I turned on the TV to see another show on FOX and caught the last few minutes of one I recognized as "Conduit" from Logan's coaching. Scully sat next to a laptop, a tape player running beside her. "I can't see," Mulder's voice reported.
"Try turning your head," a man's voice suggested.
"I don't know."
The scene shifted to a black-and-white photo of Samantha and Mulder as kids. Mulder held the photo in a shaking hand, perched on a kneeler in a chapel while crying his eyes out.
His voice came again: "They'll bring her back safely. I know they will."
"How do you know that?"
"I want to believe."
The shot of Mulder, broken and weeping, faded to black. I shivered as a single line of white print appeared across the screen:
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER CHRIS CARTER.
The End **
Sorry for pairing Cancerman and the Phoebe slut, but they deserve each other. No feedback, please, getting E-mail from anonymous sources freaks me out. I'm as bad as Frohike! <g>
"Open yourself to extreme possibilities, Scully, but only when they are true." --Mulder, "Beyond the Sea"
"We have come together in this life, in this time, only to meet in passing. . . "
"We at the FBI don't have a sense of humor that we are aware of."
-- Agent K, "Men In Black"