Faces of Freedom

FACES OF FREEDOM

By Traveler

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.

clip_image001

“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

her eyes.

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

with Tara.

“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

incomprehensible.

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,

Matthew.”

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

granted.

“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

choked out.

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.

1

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s