by Beth Mott
Story set during "due South" episode 'Call of the Wild' about 45 years after the "M*A*S*H" characters came home from the Korean War (1953).
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I got the idea for this story from reading some due South Fan Fiction concerning Kowalski's thoughts and feelings when Ray Vecchio returns. It made me think of a similar threesome on M*A*S*H and got to wonder what would happen if Kowalski met them while he was struggling with the changes his life had taken. The story is set during 'Call of the Wild', after the big argument Kowalski and Vecchio have at the police station.
Stanley Raymond Kowalski banged his empty Scotch glass down heavily on the bar before him and demanded. "Another double."
The bartender eyes him cautiously as he approached. "Haven't you had enough, mister?"
Glaring angrily at the bartender the other man repeated. "Another double." Without taking his eyes off the man, the bartender picked up a half full Scotch bottle and refilled the glass. "Thank you." Kowalski said as he picked up the glass and lifted it in a mock toast to the man behind the counter before taking a drink. The bartender merely frowned and moved off to help another customer. When the man had left Kowalski set the glass back down on the bar and leaned his elbows on it, burying his face in his hands. He couldn't believe how much his life had changed in the last twenty-four hours. Twenty-four hours ago he was still known to the world as Ray Vecchio, detective with the 27th Precinct of the Chicago Police Department, partners with a crazy, dirt sniffing, everything tasting Mountie who he viewed as the most annoying and yet the best friend he'd ever had. Having a 'sister' who was out of this world, in more ways than one and a life that, despite its weirdness, seemed to make sense. But now...now his world...his life...seemed to make no sense at all. Everything was taken away, nothing belonged to him anymore...not his job, not his name, not his 'sister', not even his friends...not even his best friend.
He smiled ironically to himself when he remembered his first impressions of having to work with the quirk-filled Mountie. He was sure that the man would drive him crazy, he was sure that they wouldn't be able to work together without killing each other...but it happened. And not only did they work well together in some strange, twisted way they complimented each other, made up for what lacked in the others talents. It had been a refreshing change. But now what? What would happen now that the real Ray Vecchio was back? Would he just be pushed into the background? Cast aside like an old shoe. Forgotten and abandoned. With a sigh he reached for his glass again.
As he was taking a drink the sound of riotous laughter filled his ears. Lowering his glass he looked over his shoulder at the people that occupied the bar with him. There were several people in the room, some in groups of two or three, a few like himself were solo. Lonely souls lost in their own misery. The one table that caught his attention was the one off to one side beside a gently flickering fireplace. Seated at it were three older gentlemen, each sporting white or grey hair and a few wrinkles on their still quite handsome faces. They were laughing heartily at some private joke, their juvenile laughter belying the age their faces showed. There was something about the trio that intrigued him. Maybe it was the obvious camaraderie that they shared, the tangible warmth of friendship. Or perhaps it was because one of the men laughed so loud and heartily that he seem to evoke smiles on the faces of everyone that heard him.
Presently one of the men rose from his chair and gathering up the three glasses headed towards the bar. He came up beside Ray and plopped the three empty glasses down on the countertop. "Fill 'em up, my good man."
"Three more very dry martinis coming up." The bartender replied as he took the glasses and went to fill the order.
Another explosion of laughter filled the room. The man beside Ray turned to watch his friends laughing across the room, chuckling slightly himself. Ray frowned at the sound of pleasure from the other man, unable to understand what he could possibly find so funny about his friends laughing without him. Noticing Ray's look of disapproval he commented. "Hawk's probably up to his old tricks again."
Ray looked from the man to his laughing friends and back again. "It doesn't bother you that they're laughing without you?"
The man smiled slightly and replied. "No, why should it?"
"Doesn't it make you feel left out that they're sharing a joke or a conversation and your not there?" Ray pressed, knowing how he'd feel if Fraser and Vecchio were sitting at a table laughing like those guys were and he wasn't there to hear what they were saying.
The man shrugged unconcerned and replied. "I've probably heard it before anyway. After 48 years few things are completely new anymore."
"Forty-eight years?" Ray repeated in surprise. "You guys have all been friends for forty-eight years?"
"Well, give or take a few years." The man replied. "I met Hawk...he's the loud mouth on the right..." He smiled as his friend, as if on cue, broke into his trademark laugh that his friends knew all too well. "...I met him back in '52 when I was kidnapped by the Army and dumped in a M*A*S*H unit during the Korean War."
"A 'M*A*S*H unit'?" Ray repeated in a puzzled tone. "What's that?"
"It stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital." The man explained patiently. "They were makeshift hospitals that were scattered along the front lines."
"Like where the guns were going off and stuff?" Ray asked curiously.
"Yeah guns, tanks, bombs and everything else that the enemy thought would make noise." The man replied with a mild chuckle of amusement.
"So you were in a war?" Ray looked at the man before him. He didn't strike him as the kind of person you'd find in a war. He seemed too meek and mild to be shooting a gun. But then a lot of people thought the same thing about Fraser, but Ray had witnessed what a crack shot he actually was.
The man nodded his head and sighed. "They called it a 'police action' but it was a war, no two ways about it."
"A police action?" Ray repeated in surprise. "Were you a cop?"
The man chuckled in reply. "No, I'm afraid not. I'm a doctor." Extending his hand he added amiably. "Dr. BJ Hunnicutt."
Ray took the offered hand and automatically replied. "Detective Ray Vec...ah, Kowalski."
"Detective?" BJ raised one eyebrow in surprise. "So you're a cop."
"That's right." Ray confirmed as he released the other man's hand.
"That must be dangerous work." BJ commented as he watched his companion take a rather large drink of his Scotch.
"To put it mildly." Ray remarked almost sarcastically, then after glancing back to Hunnicutt's friends for a minute he pressed. "So you and your buddies have been good friends for a long time?"
Surprised at the man's interest in him and his friends BJ hesitated slightly before answering. When Ray looked at him expectantly he chuckled a little nervously and asked lightly. "You're not investigating us for something are you, Detective? Because none of us has even looked at a gun since Korea."
Ray noticed the twinkle in the other man's eyes and realized he was just teasing him. "No, just wondering if it's possible for a person to have more than one really good friend at the same time."