A Clock Stopped

Title: A Clock Stopped

Spoilers through the season seven episode,"Closure."

Summary: "The last round of tests had been the worst yet." It's 1979. Samantha Mulder runs away.

Author's Notes: For memories_child.

There is a brief mention of canon self-harm.

"Where did you find her, Jim?"

The woman's voice was soft, musical. Calming. Who was Jim? Where was she?

"In a ditch on the side of the road. It was the damnedest thing, Arbie. It was like there was a voice in my head, telling me to stop..."

Listening to their voices soothed her. Wherever she was, it had to be better than where she'd come from. At least it was warm and dry here. Eventually, she fell into unconsciousness.

The last round of tests had been the worst yet. She'd spent more than a week there this time. Day after day of being stuck with needles, restrained and hooked up to machines, treated like a lab rat by anonymous men wearing gowns and masks, who avoided her eyes and ignored her sobs. As always, when she found herself back in her bedroom, her memories were fragmented: how she had gotten there, how she'd been returned, and exactly what had been done and why was never explained.

She had learned the hard way not to ask too many questions. When she first arrived at the base, she'd been angry and confused. She knew she didn't belong there: that sickly woman was not her mother. That whining, pathetic little boy, Jeffrey, was not her brother. Despite what the man who called himself her father repeated over and over, until she wanted to throw her dinner plate at his head, deep inside she knew he was lying. She knew this was not where she belonged.

It didn't matter. Her protests were ignored and her misbehavior was punished. After a few weeks of complaining to anyone who would listen that this wasn't her home and these weren't her parents, after hours spent screaming at the top of her lungs in the dark, empty closet where bad children in the Spender household had to go, Samantha stopped trying to get someone, anyone, to listen to her. She might have been only nine years old but she was smart. No one was coming to take her away from this place. No one one was coming to her rescue. She was on her own.

She awoke not knowing where she was. The unlit room smelled faintly of ammonia; the coarse cotton sheets on the bed had been washed with bleach, reminding her of the testing place. There were differences, however. She wasn't restrained. There was no array of machines, just a single tubing hooked up to a pump, running a bag of liquid into a vein in her hand. And, at least for the moment, she was alone. Frantically she started pulling on the tape securing the needle in her arm. She needed to leave, and quickly.

They were coming for her.

Before Samantha could do more than pick off one layer of the sticky plastic, a woman opened the door and entered the room. She was dressed in white from head to toe, with a white cap shaped like a cupcake perched on top of her short brown curls.

"Hello there. You're awake." She switched on the overhead light and walked over to the bed. Samantha flinched at the bright light, and put up a hand to shield her eyes. "Sorry. I'm your nurse, Arbutus Ray. What's your name, dear?"

Samantha said nothing. Arbutus? What kind of name was that?

Arbutus looked at the pump, then took the stethoscope from around her neck. "I need to listen to your heart and lungs. Is that okay?" Samantha nodded. Seeing the loosened tape on Samantha's hand, the nurse tried to smooth it back into place. She shook her head. "I'd better fix that. You must have pulled at it in your sleep. It happens a lot. I'll be right back, I want to let the doctor know you're up."

"No!" Samantha blurted out. "No, no." She grabbed the nurse's arm. "Please. Don't let them hurt me."

Arbutus frowned. "No one is going to hurt you. You're in the emergency room at Memorial Hospital. Now, we need to know your name so we can contact your family. And Dr. Stevens needs to examine you." The woman's tone was kind but firm.

"No." Samantha scowled. "I won't tell you anything. If I tell you my name, they'll come for me." She decided to try pleading. She had little to lose at this point. "Please, you have to let me go. I need to get away from here."

"I can't do that. That's not how it works." She looked at Samantha sharply. "Is someone at home...hurting you?" Her face softened. "You can tell me."

Right. "No. I can't. You won't believe me anyway. No one ever does." Please. Please. Please. Oh God. I can't. Samantha pulled her knees up to her chest and started rocking silently. Her nails dug sharply into her skin. As the pain centered her, she pressed down harder.

"You're going to hurt yourself if you keep doing that. I can't let you do that." The nurse grabbed for Samantha's wrists and pulled them off her knees, revealing the small crescent indentations and the matching scars. Her hands were cold, her grip surprisingly strong.

"Okay, I'll stop, just let go of me." It was the same everywhere. "You can do what you have to, but I don't want that doctor to touch me. Promise me." Please. Hear me.

Though promising nothing, Arbutus let go of Samantha's wrists. She took Samantha's blood pressure, and listened to her heartbeat and had her take deep breaths in and out. She looked at all the scars, the ones on her knees, chest and wrists, but didn't say anything about them.

When she was done, she took a chair from the other side of the room and sat down next to Samantha's bed. "Please tell me your name," she repeated again. "I only want to help you." When Samantha shook her head, the nurse carefully peeled off the old tape from her arm and hand. She took a roll of tape from out of one pocket and put new tape on her hand. Then she wrapped a roll of clingy bandage around Samantha's arm covering up the needle and part of the tubing. "Try not to mess with it. I don't want to have to stick you again."

I'd like to see you try.

"Try to get some rest. I'll talk with Dr. Stevens." Arbutus shut off the light and closed the door. Samantha could hear the click of the lock being turned. That was it, she wasn't going anywhere tonight. She turned on her side, and tried to fall back to sleep.

The next time Samantha awoke, there was a different woman next to her bed, leaning over, whispering in her ear. "Wake up. It's time to go now, Samantha. "

The woman had dark hair and kind eyes, her translucent skin glowing as though she were lit from within. "Who are you?" Samantha said, craning her neck and looking around. "Where is my nurse? Where is Nurse Ray?"

The woman held out her hand. "She isn't here now. My name is Martha. Come along. We haven't much time."

"But I need my clothes, they took my clothes away," she started to say, before she realized that she was already wearing what she'd come in, right down to her socks and tennis shoes. Everything was clean and dry, too. The shoes looked almost brand new. "Where are we going?"

"Someplace where it's safe," Martha said. "Let's go."

Nurse Ray said she wanted to help, maybe she even believed it, but Samantha knew she couldn't do anything to stop what was being done to her. But Martha could, she was certain of it. In her short life, Samantha had spent enough time with pure evil to recognize its opposite. She stood up and took Martha's hand. "How did you get in?" The door was locked. "Can you pick locks?" Now that was a useful skill. Maybe she would teach her.

Martha smiled and opened the door. "We'll go out the back way. Keep hold of my hand."

As they left, Samantha glanced back at the clock on the wall. It was nearly midnight. Or was it? The second hand had stopped.

They glided by the nurses station, past the security guard, past the linen hampers, the empty gurneys and the metal cart stacked with boxes at the end of the hallway. The emergency exit door made no sound when Martha pushed it open. "How did you do that?" Martha must have shut off the alarm somehow before she came into the ER. Samantha was impressed.

There was a large silver sedan waiting outside. "Quickly now, we haven't much time."

Samantha climbed into the roomy back seat, followed by Martha. The man behind the wheel started the car. Silently the car crept forward down the driveway onto the street, speeding up as they headed onto the highway.

Martha visibly relaxed. "Thank you for trusting me. It works so much easier that way."

That was a strange thing to say. "So I'm not the first runaway you've busted out of an ER?" This was met with silence. Since no one was willing to answer that question, she decided to try an easy one. "Who's he?" Samantha asked, looking over at the man behind the wheel.

"I'm Michael. You can call me Mike," the driver volunteered.

"I'm Samantha. Where are you taking me?"

"Somewhere safe." Michael and Martha said together. They exchanged looks in the rear view mirror.

"Why don't you rest now?" Martha suggested gently. "We'll be there in no time at all."

Despite herself, Samantha found her eyes getting heavy. It was warm in the car and quiet. And she had walked for miles all night long getting away from the base.

"We'll have to explain. She's older than most of the other kids. She'll keep asking, you know," Samantha heard someone say as she drifted off.

Martha was sitting quietly at the foot of her bed when Samantha opened her eyes again.

"Hey, sleepyhead," Martha said. "It's time to get you up."

Samantha didn't really want to leave the soft warm bed, but she obeyed. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. The room looked familiar somehow, with the white painted furniture and the old-fashioned striped wallpaper. She looked down at her pillowcase and ran her fingers over the fabric. Barbie doll sheets. She was too old for them, of course; she was going to high school next year. But they felt right. There was an old teddy bear on the dresser. Sitting next to it was a photograph of her when she was eight or nine, with an older boy she didn't recognize.

"We brought some of your old belongings. We wanted you to feel comfortable while you're here." Martha hesitated. "There are some things you may not remember because of what they did to you. Before."

There was so much Samantha didn't remember, didn't want to remember. She picked up the teddy bear and hugged it close. "Was this mine?"


Tucking the bear under one arm, Samantha picked up the metal picture frame and studied it. "The little girl is me. But I don't recognize the boy. Should I?"

"We hoped the picture would trigger some of your missing memories. Don't worry about it now. Why don't you go outside and meet the other children?"

"There are others?" Samantha swallowed hard. "What happened to them? Was someone hurting them, too?"

Martha looked sad. As Samantha's eyes filled with tears, Martha reached out her arms. "Yes," she said simply. "But they aren't hurting anymore." She stroked Samantha's hair until she stopped crying.

Martha led her to the door. "Go on now and play. The others are waiting for you. We'll come get you when it's time to come in."

The old two-story house was painted yellow with dark wood trim, with a huge wrap-around porch. It was set in the middle of a forested area that was shrouded in mist, despite the warm air outside. The porch steps led down to a dirt path, which took her to the large meadow where the other children were at play. There was a tire swing, a tether ball, a small slide. There were some girls jumping rope, some boys playing tag. Although the other children were all much younger, Samantha enjoyed the simple games: Hide-and-Seek, Simon Says, Kick the Can. It had been hard to make friends, living at the base. The other children moved on with their military families when their parents transferred. Samantha's frequent absences did not go unnoticed either. Probably her best friend, maybe her only friend had been Jeffrey.

Although they'd had a rough time at first, over the years they'd gotten closer. He was a victim just as she was. She felt a pang of guilt about leaving him behind. He'd be okay, though, she was sure of it. His father was a monster but at least he had his mother, when she wasn't sick or in the hospital. He had his grandparents when his mom wasn't around.

Where were her parents, her real parents? If they had somehow gotten her bear from her old bedroom and that picture...

She slipped away from the children and headed back to the house. Martha and Mike were sitting on the porch waiting for her.

She had no idea how long she'd been away, since the trees and mist obscured the sunlight. But she knew she should be hungry since it had been more than a day since her last meal; she should be thirsty, too. She hadn't used the toilet since who knows when. My God. This couldn't be happening.

"Samantha. We were just coming to get you." They were smiling. Great.

"I'm dead, aren't I?" she said flatly. She stood a few feet away, reluctant to go any closer. If this was heaven, it was way less cool than she'd been led to believe. Where were the celestial choirs? Where were the angels? Where was God?

"Not exactly," Michael admitted. "This is sort of a way station. For young souls whose lives were interrupted before their time. They are given new bodies, new lives. A second chance. Very soon there will be somewhere else for you to be, but before you leave, there is someone we want you to see."

This made no sense. She hated her life but that didn't mean she wanted to stop being herself. No one had asked her what she wanted. "Do you mean my parents? My real ones?" She didn't even remember them.

Now he looked frustrated."Hey, we aren't in charge here. We're just doing the best we can. No, your real parents are both dead, and have passed into the next realm. Their work here is completed."

"Well, thanks for breaking it to me gently. So I'm an orphan." This creep read minds, too.

He dismissed that with a wave of his hand. "A very minor talent, let me assure you. No, the person we want you to see is your brother, Fox."

"Okay, except I don't remember him either. Oh, that's right. You already know that. Why are we even having this conversation? Can't you just, I don't know, put your thoughts in my head?"

Martha put her hand on Mike's shoulder. "May I?"

He shrugged. "Knock yourself out. I'll go meet the brother."

Samantha waited until Mike left. "That guy, angel, whatever. Mike. He's a jerk."

Martha shrugged. "He's just new to this." She patted the stair she was sitting on. "Come, sit with me."

Samantha thought that was a poor excuse. Don't these angels get some kind of training? "He's dead, too, isn't he? My brother, I mean."

Martha took her hand and squeezed it."No, not at all. He is very much alive, but he's...stuck." Martha stopped. "It's hard to explain."

"Yeah, I'm getting that. Okay. So he's stuck and seeing me will get him unstuck. So what?" She'd thought her life was finally going to get better; instead, it appeared her life was officially over. So here she was, in a halfway house with a bunch of other dead kids until they figured out what to do with her next. Crap.

"He has something important to do," Martha said simply. "He needs your help."

This was crazy. "But he's only a few years older than I am. What could he possibly do that would make any difference to anyone? He's barely out of high school."

"Time passes differently here than it does for the living. Fox Mulder is no longer a teenaged boy, he's a grown man now, an FBI agent. He's been searching for you for nearly ten years. Your disappearance was the pivotal moment of his childhood. In a way, he's been looking for you his entire life." Martha stopped, as though she was listening for something. "He's here now, walking toward the meadow."

For so long, she'd thought she'd been forgotten, left alone to survive as best she could. But someone still believed in her. Someone had never given up trying to find her. Her brother. She had a brother.

"You want me to go to him." She looked down at her hands then over to Martha. "How will he be able to see me? How will he even know me?"

Martha rolled her eyes. "Oh, he'll recognize you, don't you worry about that. And we'll make sure he can see you."

Samantha started down the path, then turned around to Martha. "Will I ever see him again, after this? "

Martha nodded. "Oh, yes. Always."

He was nothing like what she expected from the photograph. He was old for one thing, old enough to be her father, tall and broad-shouldered, with brown hair like hers and hazel eyes. He was so happy to see her, so filled with joy she could feel it even before she saw him being led by the hand by one of the smaller boys. Martha was right, he knew straight away who she was. His strength of spirit had been like a magnet drawing her toward him; she ran through the meadow as though she'd been waiting for him her entire life. She had worried it would be awkward but it wasn't, not at all. His joy was contagious, even the spirit children stopped to watch them. He embraced her, and told her without words that he loved her, had always loved her. She held his face and looked into his eyes. He believed in her, believed she was saved. And all at once, it was true, she was. She hugged him around his waist and put her face on his chest, felt his chin rest on her head, his hands stroking her hair. He was real, solid and warm, the truest thing she'd ever felt.

"Samantha." He said her name so tenderly.

She wasn't alone any longer. She had a brother.

Martha stood at the edge of the clearing, beckoning to her. Her new life was waiting. She had to go.

"I'm going to see you again," she tried to tell Fox as she stepped out of his arms. "Remember. We'll be together again, always. They promised me." Now she understood. This meeting wasn't just for him, she'd needed it too; otherwise she was going to be stuck, just as he had been. Now she was free. They both were free.

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