FACES OF FREEDOM
Written for Virtual Season 13 Memorial Day Special. This story follows the events of
the VS universe.
Rated: PG13 for a few bad words
Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully and the characters of The X-Files are used without
permission but always with love.
Summary: A little moment of remembrance we often overlook.
“Here, this spot is fine,” Mulder deposited the cooler and two folding chairs on the
lawn at Maggie’s announcement. They had parked in the shopping plaza and walked
down to the lawn in front of the high school. The parade didn’t start for another
hour yet and that was a good thing because it would probably take that long for Tara
to haul the stroller out of the van, set it up, get Claire settled into it and walk down
here. He knew Scully was back there somewhere with Matthew. He opened the
chairs and motioned for Maggie to sit down.
“Have a seat Fox, it’s going to be a long day,” Maggie said, patting the arm of the
other lawn chair.
Accepting her invitation, Mulder eased himself into the chair, gripping the arms of
the chair he leaned his head back, letting the late morning sunshine warm his face.
The Baltimore area had bypassed spring this year. Even at eleven in the morning he
could already tell it was going to be another hot day. The polo shirt he’d put on that
morning was sticking to his back already and a bead of sweat trickled down his left
temple. After a moment he felt Maggie’s hand come to rest on top of his right hand.
He opened his eyes and turned to face her.
“I never a get a moment alone with you like this to thank you, Fox…”
He looked at her somewhat confused, “For what?”
“For all you do for us. This is Memorial Day. I want you to know I’m grateful.”
Mulder pulled his hand out from underneath hers, winced a little and looked back up
the street hoping to catch a glimpse of Scully. As matriarch of the Scully clan,
Maggie by all intents and purposes should hate him for what his involvement with
her daughter had brought to the Scully family. That she not only accepted him as a
faux son-in-law but actually felt compelled to thank him made him somewhat
uncomfortable. How does one respond to something like that? He turned back to
face her with a somewhat puzzled look on his face, “Memorial Day is a day for
remembering those who died in service to our country, Maggie. I don’t …”
“For remembering what they’ve done for us,” she replied touching his arm again.
“Perhaps something we should have done when they were still alive.”
He swallowed hard at her sweet words, and reached over to put his left hand on top
of hers in a comforting gesture, “You’re welcome,” was all he could say when he met
Suddenly two sticky hands wrapped themselves around his face, knocking his
sunglasses askew, “Guess who?” a voice giggled behind him. He let go of Maggie’s
hand and reached behind him.
“Must be – Spider Man Junior!” Mulder exclaimed, reaching under Mattie’s T-shirt to
tickle him, making him squeal with delight.
Scully opened the chair she’d been carrying for Tara and then sat on top of the
cooler next to Mulder.
“Aunt Dana, if you sit on that how we gonna get the food?”
“Matthew, we just got here!” Tara admonished him as she came up behind him with
Claire in the stroller.
“He’s a guy, Tara; we’re always hungry for something.”
“Yes, you are,” Scully met his eyes and smiled when he waggled his eyebrows at her.
Climbing off the cooler she opened it and proceeded to pass out sandwiches.
Matthew reached in and pulled out two juice boxes and handed one to Tara for his
sister. Mulder grabbed the can of ice tea Scully offered him momentarily
contemplating whether to drink it or pour if over his head. “Ah, nothing like tea and
turkey by the side of the road.”
“Do I detect an air of annoyance at this family outing Mulder?” Scully sat back down
and proceeded to unwrap her own sandwich.
“What?” When he looked at her over his can of tea he could see she hadn’t thought
his comment was too amusing. “No, not at all, it’s just been a long time since I
experienced this side of suburbia.”
After a quick lunch Mulder and Matthew had retired to the lawn in front of the school
for a game of catch while they waited for the parade. Scully had taken the chair
Mulder had vacated and the gals passed the time planning out the rest of the day.
There would be a trip to the cemetery and then home for a cookout where Mulder
would be asked to test his barbequing skills.
The boys came back from their game as a sizeable crowd was now gathering along
both sides of the street. Mulder understood now why Tara had insisted they leave
early and picnic. Memorial Day’s three day weekend had become the “unofficial”
beginning of the summer season and everyone came out to celebrate especially on a
beautiful day like today.
“You want the chair back?” Scully asked him, taking in his sweaty appearance.
“No, I need to cool off,” he said flapping his now untucked shirt at her. “But I will
take another tea, if you’ve got one.”
Mulder chugged another tea and wondered how many of the people that now lined
the street really knew why there was a Memorial Day or what exactly they were here
to commemorate. The kids came out to have fun and that was fine but in the back
of his mind he couldn’t help but wonder about the adults and teens who all seemed
more interested in cell phone conversations than what was currently going on.
“You gonna help me catch candy?” Matthew turned to ask him, looking up the street
to see if the parade had started yet. The sound of a police siren sounded off in the
distance and Matthew jumped up and down.
“Candy? Is that why you’re here Matthew?”
Matthew turned to look at Mulder like he’d just asked the dumbest question. “I’m
here to remember the soldiers.”
Looking past Scully, Mulder caught Tara’s attention and then turned back to
Matthew, pulling his baseball cap down over his eyes, “So, am I buddy.”
“Hey! I can’t see when you do that!”
“I know, and then I can get all the candy!” Mulder teased.
As the sounds of the parade drew closer people began to crowd the street. Moving
their chairs closer or sitting on the curb. Those who had come late pushed in closer
for a better view. Scully pulled the cooler over in front of her and told Matthew to
climb on it so he could see. Mulder picked up Claire and swung her up onto his
shoulders gripping her knees so she wouldn’t fall. “Guess you’re on candy duty now,
babe,” he poked Scully and smiled at her when she turned around.
The parade’s color guard followed the lead police car with each branch of the service
represented. Mulder scanned the crowd. Very few of those seated stood as the flag
passed by and fewer still removed their caps or placed their hand on their heart. It
seemed like it was only the elderly who now remembered the proper etiquette for
observance of the nation’s flag. He guessed it only happened at sporting events
because people were reminded to do so. Maggie stood as the flag came by followed
by Tara and Dana. He heard her whisper in Matthew’s ear to remove his cap.
Mulder smiled at Tara when she watched her son return a salute to several retired
military personnel seated across the street from them. Bill had taught his son well.
The first band was the Drum and Bugle Corps from the Naval Academy at Annapolis,
they’d been playing a series of patriotic music as they approached and were now
playing American the Beautiful. When Maggie began to sing along with some of the
adults in the crowd the rest of the family joined in. Scully turned to Mulder, “You’re
not singing, Mulder.”
“I don’t want to scare everybody, Scully.”
Pursing her lips, she looked up at Claire who had covered her ears and then turned
back to watch the Corps end the song with flourish of drums.
The parade lasted almost an hour. Every department of the military had been
represented as well as just about every local baton corps and little league team.
Classic cars had been filled with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and politicians who
had rained candy on the crowd in hopes of securing votes. The city had polished up
all their machinery and rolled it out so the tax payers could see that their dollars
were going to good use; further evidence to Mulder that local parades hadn’t
changed much in his lifetime.
The final band in the parade was the local high school’s marching band. They had
been playing military songs along the route and as if on cue struck up the Navy’s
fight song when they passed in front of their little group. He watched Maggie’s eyes
fill with unshed tears.
Somewhere along the way someone had handed the kids small American flags. They
both waved them frantically at a color guard of mounted police that brought up the
rear of the parade. Maggie leaned over Matthew, “You can put that on your Daddy’s
grave when we go to the cemetery.”
As Scully helped Claire down from Mulder’s shoulders Tara and Maggie started to
pack up for the walk back to the van. She watched him bend over and grip his
knees, stretching his back. “She’s getting too big for you to do that, Mulder.”
“Either that or I’m getting too old,” he turned to look up and her with a sheepish look
as she rubbed his back and then he straightened up.
“Now everyone runs home to barbeque,” Mulder commented, taking Scully’s hand as
they began the walk back to the parking lot. Maggie and Matthew walked on ahead
“What is with you today?”
Mulder caught the annoyance in her voice, “Nothing,” he answered trying to find
words that would placate her as his eyes scanned the dissipating parade crown. “I’m
no different from anybody else here Scully, it’s the apathetic attitude of the nation
these days. Most of these people didn’t come here to commemorate those that have
died defending our freedom. You saw what I did, a lot of blood’s been spilled for that
flag and people can’t even get up off their ass to show their appreciation. Most of
them only came here to watch Billy march in the parade,” he winced at the
realization of what he’d just said. “That didn’t come out right, did it?”
Scully shook her head but didn’t comment.
“The Memorial Day holiday dates back to May 30th, 1868 when flowers were placed
on the graves of all Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
It wasn’t until World War I that the day was changed from honoring not only Civil
War dead but all those who had died in any war. Of course now it’s become part of a
three day weekend kick off the summer celebration thanks to that National Holiday
Act. A lot of people feel that doing that has distracted from the spirit and meaning of
the day. I gotta say I agree with them.”
“I thought I read somewhere where the Veterans of Foreign Wars have been trying
to introduce a bill to have it changed back to May 30th.”
“I think they’ve been trying to do that for sometime. Maybe it would change the
rather nonchalant way the public observes the holiday.”
“Did you know that you’re supposed to fly the flag at half staff until noon and then
full staff from noon to sunset today? Matthew caught me on that this morning when
he was helping me put up your Mom’s flag. Of course we’ll have to wait until we get
home to take care of that. Your brother taught him well, Scully.”
“He had a good teacher too, Mulder.”
Mulder had seen many photos of Captain Scully over the years but because of his
sudden death back when he was first partnered with Scully, Mulder had never had
the pleasure of meeting the man. He’d often wondered over the years of his
relationship with Scully what the Captain would have thought of him. “I’m sorry I
never got to meet your father, Scully.”
His comment momentarily brought back that fateful night and Scully looked up
ahead to her mother. How many years had her mother spent raising four children on
her own while her father spent a lifetime serving his country? They never had gotten
to spend his retirement years with each other. “He was a very proud man, Mulder.”
“Maybe the wives of servicemen need a memorial too,” Mulder acknowledged, almost
as if reading her thoughts.
Scully wasn’t sure what had brought on the sudden air of patriotism that surrounded
her partner. Normally he was more inclined to voice his opinions on the ineptitude of
the present administration than anything else. She turned to comment and then
suddenly realized he was no longer walking beside her. Turning around she found he
had stopped a few yards back. Maggie and Tara had already reached the van and
were in the process of loading the kids into it. “Mulder?”
“You know what your mom said to me?” he asked walking up to her. “She thanked
me, said she was grateful for everything I’ve done for her family. What the hell does
she have to thank me for? How was I supposed to respond to that?”
Scully’s brow furrowed. She knew Mulder had comfortably accepted his place in the
Scully family but she also knew that he still had doubts about his own self worth. It
troubled her to see him question his value in society. “I don’t think she expected
you to say anything Mulder. She knows what this life you’ve chosen has cost you.
That you continue to pursue it because you know it’s the honorable and moral thing
to do just like the other men who have served this country.” She reached out to
clasp his hand, “But she also wanted you to know that we’re all grateful for the little
things you do, for what you do for the women in your life,” a gentle smile graced her
lips. “And for being there for the kids; your time is more valuable to them than
anything. And because we all know that you do them because they are things you
want to do, not because you feel they’re something you think you owe this family.”
She searched his eyes, hoping to find he accepted the gratitude. “I’m sorry you
never got to meet Dad, too. He was a good judge of character and he would have
seen right through that cool exterior of yours to the man you really are. You’re a
good person, Mulder. When will you accept that about yourself?”
He stood there for a moment, slowly closing his eyes to think. Good person or not,
he did owe this family. When he opened them again Scully had already turned away
and was heading for the van.
Forty-five minutes later Mulder brought Tara’s mini-van to a stop off to the side of
the drive the wound through Hopewell Cemetery. He sat for a few minutes while the
gals got the kids out and Tara opened the back hatch to take out the flowers they
had brought for Bill’s grave. She gathered the large bouquet of red roses in her
arms and took Claire’s hand, heading up the slope to the grave site. Maggie took
Matthew’s hand and followed her pausing for a moment as Mulder got out of the van.
She waited as he walked around the back to where Scully stood waiting for him.
“Scully,” Mulder tilted his head asking for a moment alone.
Scully looked towards her mom who still waited at the base of the hill with Matthew,
“I’ll be right there, Mom.” She watched her mom turn and head up the hill with
Matthew and then turned to Mulder who stood with his hands in his pockets.
“What is it, Mulder?”
“I’m – gonna go for a walk,” his voice was soft, his eyes asking for gentle
understanding. “This is a family moment, Scully.”
“Mulder, you are a part of…”
“I know, I know, I…” Taking his hands from his pockets he placed them gently on
Scully’s shoulders. “You and your Mom and Tara need a moment for this and I need
to go make peace with something myself. Can you understand that?”
She didn’t really understand what he was referring too but on the other hand she
couldn’t refuse him either. “All right,” she replied, meeting his eyes, “We’ll just meet
you back here at the van, okay?”
He smiled and placed a chaste kiss on her lips, “Love you.”
When Scully had started up the hill to join her family Mulder turned away and
headed up the cemetery drive. Hopewell was an older cemetery and the lawn was
dotted with small American flags that had been placed on servicemen’s graves. It
made him glad that some cemeteries and groups still took time to do that. He didn’t
know where he was walking; he just knew he needed to assemble the thoughts that
were rambling about in his head.
Something about the day had triggered a multitude of emotions within him. His
mother, his father, his sister, Scully’s father, her sister, her brother; their lives
hadn’t been lost on any historic battlefield like many of the men and women who had
been laid to rest here. Their lives had been lost for a freedom most of the world had
no idea that were in jeopardy of losing.
He fought the urge to run, it was always his way of putting the pieces together and
clearing his head. Sooner or later this battle for freedom would boil down to the
survival of the fittest. Trouble was that in today’s world most people were so
consumed by fighting for their own survival, whether it was physically or financially
that trying to get them to see the scope of the conflict to come was almost
His biggest question was how he fit into it all He was no military strategist. Fact
was the military, or part of it, was very likely involved in the whole conspiracy on a
global scale. The men and women who lay here had known what they were fighting
for; they believed in the cause and were willing to give their lives for it. He’d long
ago accepted that fate of himself but how do you convince a world? How do you get
a world to believe in a threat you have no proof exists?
Before he knew it, his leisure stroll had turned into a brisk walk and he found himself
back at Tara’s van without the answers he had gone looking for. The family was still
up at the grave, Maggie had her arm around Tara and Scully stood holding Claire and
Matthew’s hands. Mulder turned and walked slowly to the other side of the drive
where a large oak offered him some cooling shade, “And in the end, Mulder, if you
can’t convince them, then everything these men and women who have come before
you have fought for is lost,” he whispered to himself.
Up on the hill Scully leaned over her brother’s children and whispered to them, “Why
don’t you put your flags on the grave with the flowers,” Claire let go of her hand and
gently bent down to stick her little flag in the ground next to the headstone.
Matthew remained at her side, “Matthew?”
“I want to give mine to Uncle Mulder,” he answered looking up at her. She glanced
over at her mom and sister who had heard Matthew’s request. At their quiet smiles
of acceptance she turned back to Matthew, “I think he would appreciate that,
Mulder stood by the side of the drive for several minutes. The warm breeze rustled
the leaves over his head and ruffled his hair. He took a moment to hand comb it
before sliding his hands back into his pockets and walking out on to the lawn. He
silently counted the flags that fluttered in the warm breeze. Too many lives he
thought to himself, too many lives lost for a cause many people today take for
“Dammit, Dad,” he looked up then, through the stately old trees that dotted the
cemetery into the sky as if expecting his own father to hear him. “What was the
purpose of it all? I don’t understand it! It would have been nice if you’d given me a
fucking clue!” He heaved a big sigh at his own frustration, “Nothing I do, none of the
pain or the blood gets me any closer to making any sense of it. I just want to know
that I’m doing the right thing!” It suddenly dawned on him that Scully had asked
him that very same question oh so many years ago; he’d had no answer for her then
either. “What the hell am I here for? What did you die for Dad? If I die, what will I
have died for? I just want to know that it’s worth the fight.”
Suddenly realizing he’d been talking aloud he glanced down and gasped. His eyes
scanned the scene around him in amazement. Across the cemetery lawn before him
stood shadows; ghostly images of men and women dressed in military attire from
the Civil War to the present. Their faces took his breath away and he staggered
back at their presence. He blinked, hoping to quell the images but when he opened
his eyes again three more and materialized before him.
His father, flanked by Scully’s father and brother stood before him. “Dad?” Mulder
Bill Mulder took a step towards his son, “I died for you Fox, they’ve all died for you.”
his father said, glancing behind him at all the faces that stood witness. “You already
understand the greater purpose, son. It all comes down to one word, as it has in
every generation – freedom.” Mulder swallowed hard, his father’s voice momentarily
chilling him. “And if you die, it will be for the freedom of those who come after you,
it’s that simple. You’ve already realized this on your own; it’s why you do it.
Nothing in the world is more valuable.”
Someone was trying to pull his right hand from his pocket, he jerked and then
glanced down to see Matthew standing next to him holding the little flag he’d
received at the parade, “Here, this is for you,” he offered, handing Mulder the flag.
Mulder took the flag from Matthew’s outstretched hand and glanced around. The
images that had been there only moments before were now gone and Matthew gave
no indication that he’d seen them. He stooped down to meet Matthew’s intense blue
eyes, “I thought this was for your Dad, why are you giving it to me?”
“Because,” Matthew said, meeting his eyes. “You’re fighting for our freedom too.”
Mulder swallowed. Yes, he was, and even though he may someday just be a number
on a casualty list like so many that came before him. He now understood that his
efforts would not have been in vain. Matthew and Claire were proof of that. He
reached for Matthew, wrapping his arms around him in a gentle hug and blinked
back the water that had filled his eyes, “Thank you,” he whispered as Matthew
returned his hug.
Behind them on the drive, Scully stood next to Maggie and her sister-in-law and
witnessed the exchange with pride.
When Mulder stood up, Matthew wrapped his arm around his legs. He reached down
and ruffled the boy’s sandy red hair as they both looked out across the lawn of little
flags in silent memory.
AUTHORS: NOTES: Thanks to my buddy Chris for the title to this piece and to Vickie
for always being there to beta my creativity. And most importantly, take a moment
to thank a serviceman this Memorial Day.