A/N: For your history lesson. It was in Vietnam War that helicopters were first introduced and were first tested in transporting the sick and the wounded from the battleground. Also, the rank of Winry mentioned in this chapter is a real rank belonging to Sharon Ann Lane who died of shrapnel wounds when her sect was hit by rockets on June 8, 1969, and who was working in the same area mentioned in the story. My dates for Winry do not match Sharon Ann Lane's, though and neither does the base. I've just altered them to fit the story.
My thanks and my love to all who have sacrificed themselves for the U.S.
Thanks to all you guys who have show your support for this short story and I honestly hope you enjoy it
…I'm reading, I'm not believing Just names on a wall
That, they're all just names on a wall
Once living, they were once breathing
Now they're all just names on a wall
They're just names on a wall…
Just names on a wall
Many years later
Many sunrises had risen and sunsets had fell since they had found Edward Elric, a Grunt in the U.S. Army alive. He survived long enough to witness the end of the Vietnam War, had survived long enough to see the building of the Black wall of names, honoring all his brothers and sisters in the Service.
Yet he could not bring himself to visit the memorial in person.
Not a day had gone by when the faces and the cries of his brothers had not haunted his dreams, nor had they ever been very far from his thoughts. But the two faces he so desperately wanted to see refused to show themselves. Even in his memories, Al and Winry's face was foggy and unclear. For years it had driven him mad. And so like a dying man searching for life, he had sought out for old photos but none of their late day selves could be found. But the pictures he did find did little to ease his fear for he found that in his haze to remember he had also forgotten the sound of their voices.
It would still awake him in sweat and tears, but somehow he had survived through the years. Whether it had been the last look in Winry's eyes, pleading him to live on, or her smile of bittersweet happiness, he did not know.
But he had lived. Maybe not so well as he would have in a prior life, for there were more times than not that he had drowned himself in alcohol and had teetered on the edge of starvation from self-neglect. Edward had not found himself until many years later, but the damage had been already been done to his body. He was now suffering from that, too.
But still he lived in a sort of numbed daze, hardly ever smiling and almost never laughing. It simply hurt too much.
Which is why he was shocked to find, on this day, fifteen years since the end of the Vietnam war, that an unexpected package came to his little apartment in the city; a note attached onto its crinkled brown wrapped paper:
Edward Elric, It read.
It is because of her last thoughts that I relinquish the memory of my dear friend, Winry Rockbell, into your hands. Don't waste them, Elric; she was one of my girls.
-Riza Mustang (formerly Hawkeye)
Feeling his chest tighten at the memory of cold, unyielding eyes, Edward slowly tore open the package and gently slid out a familiar old, worn out leather bound from its neatly wrapped home. His breathing quickened; teeth clenched. Between the old folds of the book, a sepia-toned photo lay nestled. He pulled it out; his delicate movements exaggerated.
The photo was of a group of nurses, judging by their plain white apparel. They stood closely together with grim expressions. His amber eyes zeroed in on her distracted face looking somewhere off to the side. Winry's features were sharper than he remembered, and there were lines on her face from the strain of nursing and her hair was pulled tightly back. He flipped it over.
First Lieutenant Winry Rockbell at 312th Evac. Hospital, Chu Lai.
Below it read:
Find her name on the Wall and read her memories there.
He doubled over, gasping.
Never in the past fifteen years had Ed ever confessed to having a younger brother nor ever admitted to being in love with his childhood friend. Silently he had carried them within the confines of his mind, agonizing as they slowly slipped away.
And so despite of raw emotions from earlier years threatening to burst, he had obeyed the letter and went the black, granite wall. The Vietnam Memorial. The Great Wall of Names.
The former Army man didn't know how long he stood staring at his reflection in the hard stone, not bringing himself to read each inscription. With a name, there would be a face. It didn't matter that he may have never seen them before; there would still be a filthy soldier, exhaustion written on his painted features staring back at him.
Reminding him that he should have died. He should be up there on that wall.
Shoving his hands into his pockets Ed tore himself away and began to walk the memorial's great length. Vaguely, he was aware of passing men not much older than he openly weeping at the wall. He passed by young ones who gazed at it solemnly, wondering at the depth of their parents' pain.
Ed ignored them as he strode purposely toward a bench placed a few feet from the Wall and, forgetting his earlier reasons from coming there, he pulled out Winry's old journal. With mixed feelings he opened the book and began to read.
October 6, 1972
There has been a cry for help from the service and I find that I cannot ignore it. Maybe I could use my small capacity to learn for the benefits of the wounded. I will join the Army as a nurse. My life is in God's hands, now.
December 18, 1972
It's Christmas but even in the midst of the chaos the girls still found time to get a Charlie-Brown tree to place in the corner of the hospital. It warms my heart and reminds me of the Christmases spent with Ed and Al. We all kept each other from becoming lonely. I wonder how they are.
February 12, 1973
Staci was lost to us today. She stepped outside to greet one of the trucks containing our supplies and was shot. It scared all of us, I think, especially Sarah. Not even women are shown mercy in this horrible war.
What little comfort there is, I shall take. Staci is in a place where there shall be no more sorrow or crying.
Still, I've never cried so hard in all my life.
The entries continued on and, unbeknownst to Ed, silent tears slid down his face as he read and reread each entry. It was like he had been granted a second chance to know Winry. It was the baring of her soul—her very essence.
March 2, 1973
Ed and Al have been on my mind of late… it worries me. Maybe it's just all the pain and the sadness that have been surrounding us all. And knowing that they could be one of these men, too…
May 28, 1973
An epidemic has spread out among the wounded and has even touched the girls. Many of the help are leaving in fear of their lives… I find that I cannot.
May 30, 1973
I've only regretted one thing in my life, and yet that seems to be the one thing that comes back to haunt me. A man on his deathbed pressed into my hand a silver locket with a picture of his love within its silver hinges. He told me of his heart for her and asked me to tell her how much he loved her. I told him I would so he could at least go in peace.
It broke my heart that I had to lie.
It was only then that I realized that I had been lying to myself all along, also.
"Edward Elric, I'm in love with you."
It's a shame that I'll never get to say it to him. I don't even know if I could.
Night had fallen and a grown man weeping on a bench was bound to draw attention. He took comfort that here at the wall it was not an uncommon sight. He continued to read through the pages until two years had passed through them and nearly and hour and a half hand passed in the reality.
February 15, 1975
"Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." – Revelation 2:7
I kept this verse close to my heart because Al was the one who first mention it to me. Neither of us has known at the time that it would lead into a full-fledged debate. He says Paradise will be a grand utopia filled with people who are able to live together without the desire to hurt. I told him he was silly because it would be just like earth, more or less. But I imagine Paradise as I would heaven, for they are the same. I picture all of God's beauty at its fullest and I picture the sun as his grace.
Ed called Al an idiot and me a stereotypical Romantic. He said there was nothing after death. I pity him for his outlook. With the belief that there is nothing after death, we have all that much more to fear. Ah, well. Maybe he came around.
February 28, 1975
I have decided to turn to the sunrise. Too many times I have been frighteningly caught up in the depression and the hopelessness of all the situations I am forced into. I can't keep going like this.
This morning I watched the sun as it rose high into the sky and realized that it was a reminder that no matter how hard or terrible that day may have been, it will fade and a new day will take its place. And while we struggle for survival on this violent land, the sunrise is the same here as it is back in the states as is the promise that lives behind it.
Whenever I loose hope, I'll look there.
March 1, 1975
I, along with some of my fellow nurses, have been transferred directly to the field.
Something is going to happen. I can sense it.
March 14, 1975
Never have I seen such bitter men… It breaks my heart.
The dates were becoming alarmingly familiar to him.
March 28, 1975
Riza met up with Mustang today. The way he looks at her sends chills through my arms. He loves her, I know, and I'm glad that he is alright. Still, it's almost comical at the way she scolds the Colonel. Mustang also found my blueprints to the cars and the helicopters and was quite impressed. He found it odd that a woman would have a passion for mechanics but he said he would contact me in a few months to use my abilities.
March 31, 1975
I saw him today when I honestly believed that I never would. Edward Elric. And before my chances for happiness are elevated, he tells me that Alphonse is dying. He asked me to go after him.
I would be lying if I hadn't said I seriously considered not going. It's a deathtrap out there and, surely, I wouldn't make it alive. But Edward stared at me with his pleading amber orbs that held such fear for his younger brother that I was nearly undone.
After a brief inner struggle I realized that Alphonse was my friend. If he was indeed dying he should not go it alone. None of us have ever been alone, not truly. I have decided to go because of this. I love him like he were my own brother and would do anything for him.
Should these words live past me (which I'm most certain they will) then I would like them who read it to know that I lived my life as best I could and for the sake of others. With that, I am content and shall forever be. Besides, I'm looking forward to finally settling our debate.
And should I die in my attempt to go to Al, I do not blame you, Ed. I know you were not really conscious of what you were saying at the time, I understand the effects of war quite well by now. But I found once you told me, once you asked me to find Al I could not deny you. I couldn't deny my serving nature.
Live on and remember me. Remember Al. For though our legacy may have been destroyed, our ideals live on within those who knew us and then we are never forgotten—not truly.
I'm facing the sunrise. I'm taking the first step into Paradise.
It was the final entry that had been written a month before the true end of the war. The last of her thoughts. And, ironically enough, the last page in her journal. He had read he journal all the way through, and it had taken him virtually all night for he had stopped frequently to straighten his bearings and to push aside the twisting pain inside his heart. He was left numb and broken once more. All these years he had blamed himself when she had forgiven him from the beginning.
Where did that leave him?
With the spotlight shinning upon the wall, Edward chanced a glance toward the names, finally taking them in and reading them. His throat closed with the first name his eyes landed on.
And, ironically enough below it read:
It had not been chance that he had chosen this exact place to sit. He was trembling from the rush of emotion. Day was beginning to break but the sun had not yet risen and Ed found himself standing nearer to the wall. He placed one trembling, scarred hand on each side their names and bent his brow low to touch the engraftment.
"I'm so sorry, Winry." He chocked. "I wasn't there for you. I never was. I'm so sorry."
Much time must have passed for the formerly dark sky began to lighten into a mild gray with the new morning. Though still emotionally shaken, Ed felt relieved to have at least some of the guilt that had weighed heavy upon his shoulders for nearly fifteen years, cast off.
He had asked this woman to do the impossible that had taken her life, and still she had loved him enough to forgive him. If only he could have been so bold to convey his own feelings of the heart before the start of the war.
Yet had it not been Winry's own words that she had looked to the sunrise to keep from getting trapped in the overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness of life? Had that not been what Winry had done in her determination to make it to Al?
There was a small tug on his jacket and he looked down to see a little girl staring up at him with bright, wondrous blue eyes.
"The lady told me to give this to you."
Confused, Edward opened his palm and watched as she slipped an old photo into it. He stared at it, dumbfounded and shocked.
"Where's the lady who gave this to you?" he asked in earnest.
Shrugging, the little girl pointed off into a cluster of trees.
"See where the sun touches that bench? She was there."
His eyes darting back and forth and there was no longer anyone standing there (if there ever was) but he recognized the unmistakable scent of fresh gardenias and sunshine. A crooked smile formed the thin line of his lips, knowing that somewhere she was laughing at him.
Ed's old self, his brash self would have ran toward the bench like a madman, but over the years he found he had grown sensitive to those quiet whispers that come to you unbidden, almost as if it were a voice in the wind. Remember us, Ed it breathed.
So instead, he turned to the little girl who was watching him expectantly.
"What's your name, little one?"
"Well, Eleysia, do you want to hear a story?" Ed sat and patted the bench seat next to him invitingly.
Pulling the photo Eleysia had given him, he pointed to it in show. "See this little boy right here? That's my brother, Al."
Ed smiled. "Mhmm, and this little boy is me. Now the girl right here, her name is Winry and she is the woman I fell in love with."
"I saw her. She's very pretty."
A knot tightened in his chest.
"She is, and she always loved to watch the sunrise."
"Like that one?" she pointed to the rising sun.
"Yes, Eleysia, just like that one."
I was feeling a little overwhelmed by this chapter, to be honest. I wanted to get Ed's reactions just right, but yet taking into accord how much time had passed and how his reactions would be as an older man. I actually seriously considered bringing Winry's image back (Like in chapter two) but I thought it would take away from the realism. This way is more believable.
And in I seemed too vague on Al and Ed's thoughts on him, then I apologize. Al's death wasn't really his fault. Given the choice he would have died with his brother but the decision was taken away from him. Because it was his request to Winry that sent her onto the field in the fist place, he feels greater guilt over that.
Thanks for all who reviewed this story! And let me know what you think in a review!
Song inspirations for Meet You in Paradise
Still Here Waiting, Todd Agnew
See You in the Sunrise, Bebo Norman
Mercy, Bebo Norman