"Exactly!" Ray Kowalski exclaimed eagerly. Now that the other man was finally on his wave length he excitedly continued. Gesturing to Trapper and Hawkeye he said. "See, these two were friends first, just like you and Fraser. Then Trapper was sent home and BJ came, just like when you went undercover and I took your place." Vecchio nodded in understanding waiting for him to continue. "Trapper even left Korea just as suddenly as you left Chicago."
"Really?" Ray Vecchio looked at Trapper for confirmation.
Trapper nodded and explained. "I got my orders while Hawk was on R&R. Radar and I..."
"Radar?" Kowalski and Vecchio interrupted together. The two men looked at each other, a look of surprise on both their faces. The others at the table smiled in amusement at their expressions.
Trapper answered the unasked question. "Radar was our company clerk. A great kid, bit on the na´ve side, but at the same time amazingly wise for his age. He basically ran our unit, which was no small feat I can tell you."
"Did this na´ve yet wise kid have a real name?" Vecchio pressed with mild annoyance in his tone.
"Of course." Trapper replied, his own tone growing impatient. He was beginning to truly dislike the hostile Italian detective. He found himself truly grateful that BJ wasn't like this man or else they probably would never have become friends. "His name is..." He paused for a moment realizing that he didn't know what Radar's real name was. He'd always just called him 'Radar'. Looking to Hawkeye and BJ he gave them a pleading look.
"His name is Walter." Hawkeye supplied, giving his friend a reassuring smile. "Walter Eugene O'Reilly."
"Walter?" Vecchio repeated the name, his tone dripping in disbelief and ridicule. "No wonder he went by Radar."
"You really were the nickname club weren't you?" Kowalski remarked as the three older men glared at the other detective angrily. How dare the snotty Italian insult one of their own.
Kowalski's comment finally penetrated and Trapper smiled slightly and replied. "I never really thought about it before, but I guess you have a point." Then glanced at Vecchio as he heard the man mumble 'yeah, on the top of his head'. Letting the remark slide Trapper continued his story. "Anyway, Radar and I tried to reach Hawkeye to tell him that I was leaving, but he was no where to be found."
"So you didn't get to say 'goodbye' to Hawkeye?" Vecchio asked pointedly.
"No, I didn't." Trapper looked sadly at his old friend.
The Italian grinned triumphantly as he leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. "Well, see there's where we differ. I said 'goodbye' to Benny before I left."
"You did?" Kowalski exclaimed in surprise and even Fraser gave him a puzzled look.
Noting Benton's expression Vecchio reminded him. "The phone call."
"Ah, yes." Benny replied in understanding but then pointed out. "Though you didn't actually say 'goodbye', Ray. You just told me that you wouldn't be available to pick me up when I got back to Chicago. You didn't tell me you were going undercover. I just thought that you were busy on a case and couldn't meet me."
"Which I was." Vecchio replied eagerly.
"Yes, you were." Fraser acknowledged, rubbing his thumb across his brow as he added. "I just figured that your case would be in our district or at least still in Chicago. I didn't know that you were going to a whole other State."
"Well, I tried to say 'goodbye'." His friend defended somewhat subdued. "But there was only so much I could say over the phone."
"Understood." His old partner acknowledged simply.
Vecchio then looked back to the three older men and asked. "So what happened after Trapper left?"
"That's when Beej arrived." Hawkeye replied smiling at the man in question. "And in some ways we hit it off better than Trapper and I did." Fraser glanced at Kowalski and nodded in understanding. In a lot of ways he felt closer to this Ray then he had to the previous one.
Vecchio noticed the silent exchange between the two partners but refrained from commenting on it. "So what happened when Trapper and BJ met up? Was it love at first sight or was it like Stanley and I?" He shot Kowalski a wicked glance, enjoying seeing him bristle at his name.
"From what I've observed of your relationship, I would have to say that the level of friction was about the same." Hawkeye replied giving both men an examining look. "But given the differences of personality between them and you two, it wasn't quite as tangible."
"What do you mean by that?" The explosive Italian demanded defensively.
"Well, for example, they didn't take pot shots at each other like you keep doing to Detective Kowalski." Hawkeye replied pointedly.
"Yeah, well." Detective Vecchio glanced over to his opponent, a mild look of contrite on his face.
Ray accepted the hint of apology eagerly, he desperately wanted to build or at least start to build a bridge to close the enormous gap between himself and then other detective. "Look, why don't we start over again." He suggested in a friendly tone. "Let's just forget what's been said and start again. How 'bout it?" At the other man's hesitation he added quietly. "For Fraser's sake?"
Vecchio looked from the eager expression on Kowalski's face to the hopeful one on Benton's. With a small sigh he nodded. "For Benny's sake." A smile spread across the faces of each man sitting at the table.
"Greatness!" Kowalski exclaimed and drummed his hands happily on the table.
"I really don't mean to spoil the moment." Vecchio commented after glancing at his watch. "But we really should get going."
"It's only four-thirty." Kowalski remarked after checking the time. "We still have time. Let's have a cup of coffee first." He signaled to the waiter who took the order.
"Actually, we should get going soon too." Hawkeye commented as he drained the rest of his martini. "I promised my wife I'd take her to see this play that she's been wanting to see and when I promise Meg something I better make sure I do it."
When Hawkeye said his wife's name Benton nearly choked on the water he was drinking.
"Your wife's name is Meg?" Kowalski asked in surprise.
The older man, puzzled at his expression nodded. "That's right. Actually her name is Margaret. Meg is my pet name for her."
Kowalski shot a sly look at his Mountie partner, whose face was about the color of his uniform and casually remarked. "Ben and Meg. It has a nice ring to it."
Vecchio looked from Kowalski to Benton and then back again, his face twisted in confusion for several moments. When understanding finally hit him he exclaimed in disbelief. "Are you talking about Benny and the Dragon Lady?"
Kowalski chuckled in amusement. "Dragon Lady? That's cute, I dig it, though I always preferred 'Ice Queen' myself?" He shot a mischievous look at his partner who frowned slightly at both nicknames.
"Ice Queen?" Vecchio repeated, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Yeah, I could see how that would fit." For the first time the two detectives shared a genuine smile.
"Who's this 'Dragon Lady-slash-Ice Queen'?" Trapper asked curiously. All three war veterans had noticed the hot blush of the Constable's face when Kowalski had said 'Ben and Meg'.
"Her name is Inspector Margaret Thatcher." Fraser replied quickly and a trifle defensively. "She's my superior officer."
"And the woman that he's head over heals in love with." His partner piped up, chuckling at the look of embarrassment on his friend's face.
"No he's not!" Vecchio rose in defense of his blushing friend. "She's too much of a witch to him."
Trapper looked from the younger trio to Hawkeye and laughed. "It must be the name."
"What do you mean by that?" Kowalski asked curiously.