"Well, I don't know Ray Vecchio, but just from what you've told us I can think of two things that you have in common." BJ informed him.
"Oh, and what's that?" Ray scoffed slightly.
"Your choice of profession for one." BJ listed. "And second - your best friend."
"Yeah so." Ray replied unmoved. "That doesn't mean we'll be friends."
"No, maybe not." BJ concurred. "But it's definitely a step in the right direction. Trust me, I know."
"Look, no offense or anything, Doctor, but how could you possibly know what will happen." Ray exploded with great annoyance. "Just because the three of you all hit it off well doesn't give you any right to say you know anything. You can't possibly know what it feels like to possibly loose your best friend to somebody else."
BJ gave Ray a very serious look and very firmly assured him. "I know exactly what it feels like." When Ray gave him a skeptical look he continued. "As I told you before, I met Hawk back in 1952 when I was drafted and sent to Korea. What I didn't tell you was that I was Trapper's replacement." He nodded towards the man sitting across the table from him. Ray followed his gaze and Trapper picked up the tale.
"Hawk and I landed in Korea about a year before BJ did. We were tent mates and hit it off right from the start. Soon we were doing everything together - working, eating, chasing nurses, the works. We were basically inseparable." He paused for a moment before adding. "He turned out to be the best friend I ever had."
"So what happened when BJ came?" Ray asked curiously.
"The same thing that happened when you came to your new post." BJ replied. Nodding towards Trapper again he continued. "About a year into the war Trapper was discharged and sent home - that's when I arrived. Like I said, I was his replacement."
"Just like I was Vecchio's." Ray commented beginning to understand where the story was going.
"Right." BJ nodded. "And it was a little rough at first for us as well. Hawkeye was mildly upset by the change, mostly because it had been sudden and unexpected and he hadn't had the opportunity to say 'goodbye' to Trapper."
At Ray's surprised look Trapper explained. "I received my discharge while Hawk was away on R&R. I tried to reach him to say goodbye but we couldn't find him. By the time he got back I had already left to catch my plane at Kimpo."
"I got back to camp and found out that he'd left shortly before." Hawkeye picked up the tale. "So I tagged along with our company clerk who was heading to Kimpo to meet BJ's plane, hoping to say bye to Trapper before he left." Looking at his original bunkmate he grumbled in pretend annoyance. "I missed his plane by ten lousy minutes." Trapper chuckled slightly at his friend's mock anger and shot him a sly smile which was quickly returned by the other party. They were both soon chuckling over the memory. The two men had long ago discussed the emotional turmoil that had been created by Trapper's sudden departure and any and all hurt feelings had been mended several years before, as could be seen by the teasing looks on both their faces.
"You know, it was kind of the same way with Fraser and Vecchio." Ray reflected thoughtfully for a moment. "Fraser was away in Canada on vacation when Vecchio got his undercover assignment. When Fraser returned he found me at the station trying to convince him that I was Ray Vecchio." He paused for a moment before he turned to BJ. "So what happened after you arrived in Korea?"
"Well, basically the same thing that happened with you and Fraser." BJ replied simply. "Hawk and I became good friends really fast and became basically inseparable." He smiled at Hawk as he added. "He became the best friend I ever had."
Ray looked at Hawkeye and asked seriously. "How did you feel about having two best friends?"
"Very lucky." Hawkeye told him honestly. At Ray's skeptical look he explained. "Some people go their whole lives without finding one really close friend. I was lucky, I found two." He exchanged warm looks with the two men that had been his closest buddies for the better part of fifty years.
"Did you ever feel like you had to choose between them?" Ray pressed curiously.
Hawkeye shook his head. "Never. Both of them mean a great deal to me. I could no more chose between them then I could choose which arm to have cut off. They are both indispensable."
Looking to BJ and Trapper Ray asked curiously. "How did you two feel when you met?" The two men exchanged serious looks before replying.
"I was pleased to finally meet the legendary Trapper John McIntyre that I'd heard so much about." BJ replied honestly. "The man whose shoes I'd filled for two years in Korea. But I was also very cautious."
"Cautious?" Ray repeated, a puzzled look on his face. "Why?"
BJ glanced over to Trapper for a moment before answering Ray's question. "Knowing what good friends they had been, I found myself holding back - from both of them." He paused thoughtfully for a moment. "I think deep down I was feeling the same way that you're feeling now. I was afraid of being rejected, afraid that I would be pushed out of the scene now that Trapper was back. After all he appeared just as suddenly as your pal Vecchio did."
"Oh?" Ray's eyebrows lifted in expectation.
"After the war was over and we all went home, Hawk and I kept in regular contact. We talked on the phone, exchanged letters and cards and tried to visit each other at least once a year."
"Once a year?" Ray exclaimed in surprise. "That's it, only once a year?"
"Well we thought that was pretty good considering I live in California and he lives in Maine." BJ pointed out a trifle coolly.
"If you're from California and he's from Maine how did you end up here in Chicago?" Ray pressed curiously.
"In '58 Hawk and I both came to Chicago to attend a Medical Conference." BJ explained, a broad smile on his face at the memory. "It was just like old times when we'd hit Seoul or Tokyo on R&R: No wives, no responsibilities, just two old war buddies out on the town."
"It was great." Hawkeye joined in the tale. "We shared a hotel room and after the convention was over for the day we painted the town red."
"And blue and green and whatever other color you could find." Trapper joked mischievously.
"We did have fun." BJ laughed at the memories of those days.
"We certainly did." Hawkeye agreed readily. Then with a mischievous twinkle in is eye he added. "Remember the look on that old doctor's face when we sent a big box of pipe cleaners to his table." Looking at Ray he explained. "He smoked the smelliest old pipe that I've ever seen. It reeked from miles away. I'm sure he hadn't cleaned it once this century."
"And that about how long he's been smoking it I'm sure." BJ remarked with a laugh.
"What did he think of the pipe cleaners?" Ray asked curiously.
"He frowned at the pipe cleaners, but he raved at the note that went with them." BJ replied. "But we didn't stick around to watch the whole show."
"Didn't want to be identified as the culprits." Ray surmised with a chuckle.
"Very sharp, Detective." Trapper confirmed with a laugh.
"So what happened?" Ray pressed, giving them an expectant look.
"Oh, he finally calmed down." Hawkeye replied mischievously. "Though he was never able to prove just who sent him that note."
Ray gave him a puzzled look for several moments before protesting mildly. "No, not with the doctor, I mean with these guys." He gestured to BJ and Trapper. "How did they meet?"
"Well, after we left the restaurant we stopped in a bar down the street." BJ replied, picking up the tale. "And that's where, low and behold, Dr. Trapper John McIntyre makes his unexpected appearance."
Looking at Trapper Ray asked curiously. "How did you feel about meeting Hunnicutt? What went through your head when Pierce introduced the two of you?"
"Well, to be honest, I have to admit that at first I was jealous." Trapper replied truthfully. "I was jealous that this clean-cut, wet behind the ears greenhorn had wiggled his way into Hawkeye's life and had usurped my rightful place as Hawk's co-conspirator."
"So neither one of you liked the other right off the bat then." Ray stated thoughtfully.