"Well, no, not right off the bat." The two men agreed whole-heartedly. "But after a bit of time we both came to realize that neither one of us had the right to claim Hawkeye as our best friend exclusively. He obviously cared for both of us very much, had chummed with both of us for years and it wouldn't be fair to make him chose between us. So, for our sakes as well as his we decided to try to be friends. And soon, to our great surprise, we didn't have to try anymore. We were friends."
Ray looked hopefully at them as he asked. "You think that's possible for Fraser, Vecchio and me?"
"Sure, why not?" The three men nodded their heads in whole-hearted agreement.
Ray mulled their words over in his mind for several moments. In fact he was so caught up with his thoughts that he forgot his companions until Trapper finally exclaimed.
"I think we need another refill."
Hawkeye looked at his friend and commented teasingly. "If you're trying to get me drunk it'll probably work."
"Whose turn is it to buy?" BJ asked curiously. "I bought the last round."
"Let me." Ray piped up eagerly as he signaled to the bartender that they wanted another round. Silencing their protests he said. "It's the least I can do for your advice."
"You're feeling better than?" Trapper asked with a soft smile.
"Yeah, I'm good." Ray nodded, returning the man's smile with one of his own.
As the bartender set the drinks in front of them the door to the bar opened and in walked a man dressed in a bright red uniform, a dog standing loyally by his side.
"Whoa, did that guy just fall off a Christmas tree or something?" Trapper laughed when he caught sight of the newcomers.
Ray smile with knowing amusement when he caught sight of his partner and Diefenbaker. "That's what I thought at first too. That's my partner, Fraser and Dief."
"What kind of dog is that?" Hawkeye asked curiously, noting the furry animal beside the newcomer.
"That's not a dog actually." Ray corrected as he raised a hand to get his friend's attention. "It's a wolf. Hey Frase!"
As Fraser's head turned towards the familiar voice of his partner Trapper leaned forward to close the gap between him and Ray, a serious look on his face as he repeated. "Wolf? Did you just say wolf?"
"Half-wolf actually." Ray replied with a slight nod. Then to reassure the now wide-eyed man he quickly added. "But don't worry, he's harmless. You give him donuts or pizza and you're his bud forever." As if to confirm Ray's words a fluffy head suddenly appeared on his arm as Dief lovingly nudged Ray's chest with his nose. The blond man chuckled knowingly and lifted his other hand to scratch the wolf affectionately. "Hey Dief old buddy. How's it going?" Diefenbaker woofed in reply and licked his lips expectantly. "Sorry buddy, don't have any goodies on me. But maybe we can convince Fraser to go get some pizza later, 'k?" Dief woofed again in reply and sat down beside his friend's chair just as Fraser arrived.
"There you are, Ray." He greeted warmly, his voice full of relief and his eyes full of concern. "I was beginning to get worried when you didn't come back to the station after lunch."
"Yeah well, I needed a breather." Ray replied, somewhat evasively refusing to make eye contact with the other man.
"You disappeared so quickly." Fraser scolded mildly, his eyes still brimming with worry as he carefully regarded his friend. "I was going to join you for lunch, but I turned around for a second to grab my hat and you were already gone."
"Sorry." Ray mumbled quietly, still not meeting Fraser's concerned gaze. "How did you find me?"
Fraser dipped his head slightly for a moment as he rubbed his thumb nervously across his eyebrow. Clearing his throat slightly he replied. "Well, given your mood when you left the station I had a feeling you were probably heading for your apartment. On my way there I noticed the GTO parked outside of the bar, so I deduced that you must be inside."
"Oh." Was Ray's simple reply. Then remembering his three companions he added. "Constable Benton Fraser this is Dr. BJ Hunnicutt..."
"Pleased to meet you." Fraser shook hands with the older man.
"The pleasures mine." BJ returned with an amused smile on his face.
"And these are his two best friends, Dr. Ben Pierce and Dr. John McIntyre." Ray gestured to each man in turn.
"Dr. Pierce." Fraser acknowledged as he shook hands with the doctor.
"Hawkeye." Pierce prompted as he returned the Mountie's handshake.
Fraser's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Hawkeye?" he repeated.
"That's right." Hawkeye confirmed.
Fraser frowned slightly as he asked. "What tribe are you from, sir?"
"Tribe?" Hawkeye repeated in confusion.
Fraser nodded, a thoughtful look on his handsome face. "Yes, which tribe? The reason I ask is that I believe 'Hawkeye' is a common Cherokee name, but your complexion doesn't match the complexion of the common Cherokee Indian."
Hawkeye exchanged amused smiles with his friends as Ray corrected. "Fraser, he's not an Indian."
"He's not?" The Mountie gave his partner a look of intense surprise.
"No, he's not." Ray confirmed. "'Hawkeye' is just a nickname. His name's actually Ben. His dad got the nickname from his favorite book which was about Indians."
At Hawkeye's nod of affirmation Fraser replied. "Understood."
"Have a seat Frase." Ray urged, gesturing to the empty chair between Hawkeye and BJ.
"Thank you kindly." Fraser replied as he removed his hat and claimed the offered chair between the two older men.
"Guess what, Frase." Ray remarked excitedly. At his buddy's expectant look he continued. "These three have been best friends for forty-five years."
"Well, that's wonderful." Benton smiled warmly at the trio. "Congratulations. Forty-five years, that's a long time."
The three men exchanged smiles as Ray exclaimed in mild frustration. "No, Fraser, that's not the point. I mean it is the point, but it isn't."
"Then what is the point, Ray?" The other man asked patiently.
Ray paused slightly before taking a deep breath and replying. "The point is that all three of them are best friends. Three. So, I was thinkin'...I mean, I was wonderin' if it would be possible...if it could work that..." His heartfelt ramblings were interrupted by the loud shout of another man.
"There you are!" The five men at the table looked up to see a dark-haired Italian striding angrily towards their table. "What the hell are you doing here, Kowalski? You should be at the station."
Ray Kowalski's eyes flashed with fury as he retorted heatedly. "None of your business, Vecchio."
"It is my business when you put my case on the line." Vecchio replied with great annoyance. "Welsh wants all of us back at the station by five o'clock."
"I already know that." Ray informed him, trying to keep his tone in check. "You didn't have to bother coming down here to tell me something that I already know."
"I didn't come down here to tell you that." Vecchio retorted. "I came because Welsh made me come. Seems he's worried about you and wanted us to find you." He nodded to Fraser to clarify who 'us' was. "I told him you were a big boy and that we weren't your babysitters but he insisted that we find you. So here we are. Now can we go?"
Ignoring Vecchio's question Kowalski turned his attention to Fraser asking softly, his tone barely masking the hurt his eyes showed. "Is that why you're here? Because Welsh sent you to find me?"
Fraser glared slightly at Vecchio before looking back to his partner. He felt his heart constrict at the look of pain in his friend's eyes. He could only imagine what thoughts had been going through the emotionally delicate man's mind since Ray Vecchio's sudden appearance last night. Fraser had immediately noticed how confused and withdrawn he'd become since he realized who the dark-haired man was in the hotel room last night. Knowing how fearful the blond man was of rejection and how quickly he expected to receive it made Fraser feel even worse about the whole situation. As glad as the Mountie had been to see his old partner, he wasn't about to forget his new one and how good a friend he was to him. He wasn't about to leave him behind just because Ray Vecchio was back, no matter what the blond detective expected. Giving the worried man a reassuring smile Fraser replied. "Honestly, yes and no. The Leftenant did ask Ray and I to come find you because he was worried about you." Noticing the blond man tensing slightly he quickly continued. "However, I was already on my way to find you when the Leftenant called us into his office and sent us to find you."