Title: Wailing Wall

Author: Skybright Daye

Summary: Two different people meet in one hallowed place — connected by a name they both know . . . set immediately after the main events of "Without Reservations".

Disclaimer: I do not own the A-Team (who aren't really even mentioned) or Hannibal (who isn't even named). Kenneth J. MacMillan is a fictional name. If he really exists, and he really did die in Vietnam, it's a complete coincidence. No disrespect is meant to the dead.
Comments are welcome and appreciated.

Don't ask me why I was there.

Logically it made no sense. It was late, my flight the next morning was early, my hotel was halfway across town — and I didn't know my way around D.C. at all, especially at night. With only about an hour before sunset, I should have turned my rental car towards the hotel before I got lost in the dark, unfamiliar streets. It was also cold, and destined to get colder once the sun went down.

But I had to see *it*. It had nothing to do with logic — I had to see *it* before I left town. Why I had to was a long story.

It wasn't as if I needed a dose of solemnity — flying across the country for a job and then getting turned down cold had done that. I didn't know anyone who was there. Heck, I didn't even know why *I* was there.

But still, I had to go.

I found a place to park the rental car and walked the rest of the way there. The Washington Monument loomed high in the slow-fading light, and traffic noises drifted across the Mall from the street. I suddenly remembered the old news footage I'd seen, of the National Mall covered with thousands of people — Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech. For a minute the sounds of traffic became the roar of a hope-filled crowd.

But the minute faded quickly; and unlike the crowd, the thousands I had come to meet would never speak again.


Nothing prepared me for *it*. I'd told myself to be ready. Logically, I had known that the names of fifty-eight thousand dead was a staggering thing. But to actually see *it* . . . . it's not something I can even describe.

Name after name after name. Father. Brother. Sweetheart. Son. All graven into a surface so slick and dark I could see myself in it — even in the dimming light.

I started to reach out, to run my fingers along the names, to touch the face of the nation's greatest sorrow — but then I stopped myself. I'd promised myself that when I finally got here, the first name I touched would be *his*.

The lady in the information booth was soft, graying, and middle-aged, with gold-rimmed glasses and an MIA bracelet. When I told her the name I was looking for, she smiled softly. "A friend of your family?"

I squirmed. "Something like that."

Used to people's discomfort, she asked no more questions. She simply found his name — handling the directory of names like a priceless relic — and told me where to find him.

I thanked her and followed her directions, making my way down the length of the great, black Wall.


There weren't many other people there. As I said, it was cold out, and nearly dark. People had better things to be doing on a Tuesday.

Some people did, anyway. There were a few who had braved the evening chill to reach out and touch the face of the stone — family members, maybe. Or friends. Or more.

One of my fellow humans was an older man — fifty or sixty, silver-haired. Despite the chill, his jacket was thin — a windbreaker, really. His gloves were black leather, his face lined with fine wrinkles brought on by laughter.

He wasn't laughing this evening. Instead his face was somber, ice-blue eyes distant with sadness, his arms wrapped around each other in a comfortless self-embrace as he stared at the Wall.

He and I stood before the same panel of the Wall, and for a minute I thought about leaving. Whatever had brought on his sorrow, it was a private thing, and I didn't want to intrude.

But I stopped myself. I'd come too far to turn back now. I couldn't go home without finding *him*. So, taking a deep breath and carefully avoiding eye contact with the man, I started to search.

It didn't take long. The woman in the info booth had told me how to count the lines by using the roman numerals, and within five minutes I had found him.


Trembling with an emotion I couldn't name, I put out my fingers and brushed them against the Wall. The black stone, chilled by the cold day, reminded me of black ice on the park blacktop back home. I traced his name — once, then twice — and caught a flicker of motion out of the corner of my eye as the stranger give a start.

Turning, with my hand still on the Wall, I glanced at the silver-haired man. His arms had uncrossed themselves, and one hand was held out as though he wanted to touch me.

He was staring at my hand.


*Oh, man, now I've gotten myself into it.* I thought, glancing frantically back at Kenneth's name. *This was his son or his brother or something, and I've walked in on his grief.*

The hand remained extended, but his eyes traveled to my face. "I . . . did you know him?"

*Oh, man.* "No," I admitted, squirming once more. "No. I never met him." And then the explanation burst out of me.

"He and I were born in the same town. It's a college town. Not many of our men went. Only six died, and my family didn't know any of them, but I . . . he . . . he's buried in the same place as my grandparents." I spoke rapidly, like a student caught in the gaze of a disapproving teacher. "I saw his grave when I was little, and after they built this place I told myself I'd come and find his name. He's the only connection I have to the War." I suddenly felt very stupid . . . coming here for a man I didn't know, then interrupting the grief of a man who had a right to mourn here. "I'm sorry." I finished lamely. "I didn't have the right."

"You've got the right." The stranger replied. He spoke gently, but his voice was underlined with sadness and strength. "Everyone's got the right."

He advanced a few paces, until the gloved hand that had been outstretched rested next to mine on *his* name. Slowly, like one not accustomed to sharing with strangers, he began to speak.

"I was a Colonel in Vietnam. Saw a lot of action, met a lot of men." He half-laughed. "Only the Army didn't send us men. The Army sent kids. Kids that either turned into soldiers . . . ." He traced the M in Kenneth's last name. "Or didn't survive.

"Mac was a good kid. Smart, alert, quiet. He would have made a heck of a soldier. He was the sort you could trust, knowing he wouldn't let you down." He glanced sideways at me. "I only knew him for six weeks.

"We were on a reconnaissance mission, trying to scout out the Cong units in the area, when we came to this rice paddy. Place just had 'mine field' written all over it. I marked out the spot, radioed for the minesweepers, had my men start to pull out. Then Mac . . . ." He sighed. His eyes looked, not at the Wall, but into it, to a place and time far gone. "Mac heard a noise to his right. Wheeled around, trying to pin it down . . . and put his boot down on a mine." His voice broke. "Kid never even knew what killed him."

What was I supposed to say to this man? The words that finally came were quiet — and not nearly enough. "I'm sorry."

He nodded, as if he were accepting the fact that I couldn't find any better words. "You know, I'd been in 'Nam for years. I'd seen a lot of men die. You'd think I would have been used to it by then. But something broke in me that day. And I swore by everything holy I'd never let another kid die under my command. I swore I wouldn't ever lose another one. Not ever again."

My hand had dropped by now. Reaching out, he ran his black-gloved fingers along the length of Kenneth's name. "Oh, Lord." He whispered it softly, like a prayer. "Not another one."

Understanding dawned on me then. Somewhere — maybe very close by — somebody this man loved was fighting with death. And the closeness of the struggle, his own helplessness to stop it, had driven him here — to stand with the names of the dead, and remember his vow to hold back the hand of death. I put my fingers next to his on Kenneth's name. "Is it . . . your wife? Or your son?"

He glanced at me with what might have been surprise. "My son?" Then he half-smiled. "You could say that."

"I . . ." Again, what could I say? "I'm sorry."

He nodded again. Then he turned his gaze back to the Wall. "He's been unconscious for almost a day. They say . . . he might not wake up."

"I hope he will."

"So do I." His steel-blue eyes seemed to gain courage as he read the list of names. "He's tough, you know. He's lived — we've lived — through so much. And we're so close . . . ." I got the feeling he wasn't really talking to me. Perhaps he was talking to Kenneth. "We're closer than we've ever been to seeing an end to it. We'll make it. He'll make it. He's got to."

It was strange. Touching the Wall had drained my emotional strength. But he seemed to be drawing strength from it. He glanced sideways at me and smiled, removing a cigar from the inner pocket of his jacket. "It's going to be all right."

I nodded, feeling that now was the time for me to leave. "I . . . ." Again I was at a loss for words. "Thank you."

He nodded once more, and I turned and walked away.


I had gone the length of a panel before it hit me . . . and I knew who he was. I had seen his photograph in the newspapers — how many times? But I had read . . . and they . . . .

The rumors were true, then. The man I had just met hadn't just lived through Vietnam — he'd lived through years on the run, and his own death. Without a doubt, it was him — and I suddenly had the feeling I knew who was fighting off death, who he had called his son.

So much went through my mind — so much I wanted to tell him. I wanted to let him know that they had been my heroes, that I believed in their innocence . . . .

I wanted to let him know that compared to what he had faced, having a degree and no job was a trivial thing; that if he could live through facing his own death, then I could have courage enough to face life in the real world.

Trying to form everything I was thinking into a coherent sentence, I turned to speak to him . . .

But he was already gone, leaving only the chilly Washington night and the drifting smoke of a sweet cigar. I grinned.

Maybe it would take a lot of effort. Maybe I'd have to work my way up. But if he and his friends could fight the odds, then so could I.

*He was right,* I reflected as I started for the car.

It's all going to be all right.