Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Bruce Wayne, Steve/Diana, Max Klinger, B.J. Hunnicutt, Charles Emerson Winchester III, Colonel Sherman Potter, Father Francis Mulcahy
Fandoms: DC Comics, M*A*S*H* (Chapter 3)
Genres: Angst, AU, Challenge, Historical, Drama
Rating (this chapter): PG-13
Claim: For my 2017 Bruce/Dick Bingo Card.
Prompt: AU Retcon
Pattern: Row A (Straight/Vertical Line Bingo) (3/3)
Prompt Count: (8/9)
Warnings: Author Chooses Not To Warn
General Summary: Dick is drafted into the Army during the Korean War, and he and Bruce must adjust to that hard fact of the Cold War.
Chapter Summary: Bruce begins a new Mission.
Date Of Completion: June 30, 2017
Date Of Posting: November 4, 2017
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count (this chapter): 2254
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: This AU is set in the pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths Earth-2. The Golden Age heroes lived on that Earth, and that included the Dynamic Duo. Earth-2’s Dick Grayson never split from Bruce, but he gradually made a life for himself away from Gotham. The retcon part comes as he winds up getting his Greetings from Uncle Sam. Note: The incident in Dick’s letter happened to my father. Pretty shocking for a 17-year-old from Massachusetts training for combat in Korea. Also the training camp scene. The Irish-American was my father. Welcome to the South!
All chapters can be found here.
“WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU…”
His breath away.
The one he loves
The Battle of Pork Chop Hill was the last great battle of the war, a huge number of men dying just three weeks before the ceasefire.
The news of the ceasefire was greeted by relief from those with loved ones in the war. Americans were disgruntled by a ‘tie’, but were glad that the war (or ’police action’, as it was officially known) was done. Now they could indulge in postwar consumerism without guilt about soldiers dying in yet another war. After a Great Depression and World War II, people had been ready to spend in 1945, and now they were once again unfettered by a war fought in a place few Americans had ever heard of before the war.
All that was left was the rubble, of a country and of people. There was the dead, the maimed, the dispossessed. It would take years for North and South Korea to rebuild. Families would never reunite. American soldiers would come home and spend the rest of their lives in decaying V.A. hospitals.
Wonder Woman searched the battlefield, helping the wounded and saddened by the dead. She tries to find the missing, but those who are listed M.I.A. in war are like ghosts, vanishing off the face of the earth.
Bruce put the latest copy of Life Magazine down, staring at the picture of a weary Diana.
He picked up the phone.
And Bruce Wayne began his search. Using his clout as one of the richest millionaires in the country, he went to South Korea.
It was just as Dick had described: devastated countryside, ruined fields, and an eerie silence.
Then there was Seoul.
Buildings were pockmarked by bullets and shell holes. Alleys were garbage-strewn, and rats rustled in the shadows. Refugees dressed in rags shuffled along broken sidewalks while stick-thin children begged for food.
Steve Trevor met Bruce outside the U.S. Embassy, shaking his hand. “We’ve got a room for you. You can put your luggage away and we can meet Wonder Woman outside the city.”
Steve had signed out an Army car and drove them out to where Pork Chop Hill loomed up over the valley. It looked ordinary, but there were trenches and command posts visible to the naked eye.
“The last place Dick’s squad was seen here,” Steve said as he shut the car engine off and pointed to a section of the hill. “Their shelter was there with the C.P. at the ridge over there.”
Bruce was out of the jeep quickly, making a note to dress more appropriately in the future as his dress shoes slid on the rocky incline. Steve followed him, and he watched as Bruce began searching the area.
“What do you expect to find?”
“To be honest?” Bruce shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“I’ll help you look.”
Despite a thorough combing of the hillside, they turned up nothing except some spent shells. There were gouges in the ground, the earth churned up by large shells. It was obvious that a battle had been fought here, but there was no evidence of the missing squad.
Bruce did not bother to hide his discouragement. Steve smiled sympathetically as he clapped a hand on Bruce’s shoulder. “We have to meet Diana. C’mon.”
Bruce looked stubborn for a minute, then nodded and climbed back into the car.
They traveled down a hot, dusty road as the infamous Korean heat began to ratchet up. Bruce mopped his brown with a monogrammed handkerchief.
The car topped a rise and a small settlement of tents appeared. A sign read, 4077th M*A*S*H* with arrows underneath painted with the names of American cities and towns and the number of miles to get there. Steve drove in and parked in front of a tent with Command written in chalk on a board over the entrance.
“Come with me,” Steve said.
They entered the tent, the canvas effectively trapping the hellacious heat. A thin, swarthy man with dark hair and a prominent nose was sitting at a desk next to radio equipment.
“Hi, Klinger,” said Steve.
“Hey, Major Trevor. What’s up?”
“Has my Angel arrived yet?”
“Yep, she’s in the medical tent.”
“Great, thanks. Colonel Potter in?”
“No, but he’ll be back soon.”
“Okay, I’ll stop by again. Corporal Max Klinger, this is Bruce Wayne.”
“The Bruce Wayne?”
“’Fraid so,” Bruce said lightly.
Sympathy crossed Klinger’s face. “I read about your ward. I’m sorry.”
“Well, um, do you want to wait here?” Klinger fanned himself with a Superman comic, to Bruce’s chagrin. Steve’s eyes sparkled in amusement.
“No, we’ll go see Wonder Woman,” Steve said.
Bruce followed Steve to the large medical tent. Upon entering, they were greeted by the sight of every patient watching Wonder Woman raptly as she visited each bed.
She made every man feel special as she talked with them. Bruce glanced at Steve and saw the total adoration there. He smiled slightly.
Wonder Woman saw them but continued her rounds. A doctor with kind eyes and a mustache was smiling as he watched the Amazon with his patients. He saw the newcomers and crossed the tent, indicating the next room.
Bruce and Steve complied and shook hands with Dr. B.J. Hunnicutt, who asked pleasantly, “What can I do for you, gentlemen?”
“We’re here to see Wonder Woman,” Steve said.
“Well, no surprise there,” B.J. said with a smile. “She’ll be glad to see you.”
“I hope so.”
They all laughed, and Steve introduced Bruce to B.J.
B.J.’s blue eyes widened slightly. “You’re searching for your ward?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have any information for you.”
“You might without even knowing it. Can we talk?”
“Sure.” B.J. waved the hand holding a clipboard. “Ah, just the man I want to see.”
A balding man in a white coat spoke with a distinctive Boston accent as he entered the tent. “What now, Hunnicutt?”
“Passing on ward duty, Doctor. Come on, gentlemen, the Swamp’s free.”
The Bostonian rolled his eyes and pushed open the ward door. “Oh, I see we have a star-spangled guest.”
“He sounds a little put out,” said Steve in amusement.
“Charles lives to grump his way through life,” said B.J. cheerfully.
Bruce found himself approving of the good doctor.
B.J. led them to a tent a short distance away. “Home sweet home, gentlemen.”
Bruce could smell a lingering scent of booze and saw the still located between two cots.
“Have a seat.” B.J. waved toward the cot opposite his. He filled two plastic champagne glasses from the still and poured one for himself. He plopped down on his cot. “Drink up.”
Steve and Bruce drank and immediately coughed.
“Wow, that’s…” Steve rasped.
“Machine oil?” B.J. supplied.
“Something like that.”
Bruce coughed again. “Did anyone from my ward’s squad come through here?” He named the number and gave more details about Pork Chop Hill.
B.J. rubbed his eyes. “Mr. Wayne, we had the most casualties in months during that battle. We were swamped while short-handed.”
B.J. shrugged. “Situation normal. Thank God the shooting’s stopped.”
“Do you think it’ll stick?” Steve asked.
“Maybe, but we’ve had ceasefires before.” B.J. took a long sip. “I hope so.”
Bruce felt a headache starting. The thought of the war starting up again unnerved him. If Dick was still alive…
“We’ve got some dogtags brought in by one of the field medics. Father Mulcahy has them.”
“Thank you, I’d like to look at them.” Bruce set aside his glass.
“Four tents to your right.”
Once Bruce was gone, B.J. asked, “Is he tough enough for this search?”
Steve drained his glass. “He may have a butler who brings him tea and scones, but Bruce is as tough as they come.”
B.J. looked skeptical but smiled as Steve held out his glass. B.J. filled it and leaned on his elbow after Steve took the glass.
“I hate to see a guy living a delusion.”
“Do you really think so?”
“’Missing in action’ usually means dead.”
“There have been missing soldiers who have been found.”
“Steve, you know how this goes: a direct hit obliterating a body; body parts scattered; soldiers executed by the North Koreans or Chinese and buried; captured and never released, and no one even knows they’re POWs. That’s just some of the scenarios."
Steve nearly gulped the booze. “Bruce won’t give up.”
B.M. suddenly looked exhausted. “Good luck to him.” He held out his glass and Steve clinked it with his own.
“Father?” Bruce stuck his head into the tent tentatively.
“Yes?” A bespectacled man with gray hair looked up though he appeared youngish, maybe thirty.
“Sorry to disturb you. I knocked and didn’t hear anything, but the door was ajar.”
“Ah, yes, I was absorbed in my Bible study. What can I do for you?” Mulcahy gestured for Bruce to sit on his cot.
“I’d like to see those dogtags that were recently brought in.”
“Certainly.” Mulcahy rose and went to a plastic bowl on top of his nightstand. He handed the bowl to Bruce. “When the courier arrives, they’ll be shipped to Headquarters for processing.”
Bruce dumped the bowl’s contents onto the cot and quickly sifted through the shining metal, his movements desperate. His shoulders slumped as he looked at the last tag.
“Your loved one’s tag isn’t there?” the priest asked softly.
Bruce shook his head. Neither Dick nor Roy’s tags were there.
Bruce smiled wryly. “Disappointment is routine on this journey.”
Mulcahy nodded, his blue eyes understanding. Bruce felt comfortable in his presence.
A good skill for a priest to have.
“So you’re searching for your brother? A nephew?”
“My ward, Dick Grayson.”
“Also, his friend Roy Harper. They were in the same squad. I’m friends with his guardian, Oliver Queen.”
The priest looked genuinely interested. “So you’re both unmarried?”
Bruce nodded. “Ollie has a girlfriend, though. I expect marriage is in the cards for them.”
Father Mulcahy smiled. “Good. Now, tell me the details of your case.”
So Bruce did, pouring out his grief with the facts, startled by his own openness.
The father is really good.
When he was finished, he felt a little less exhausted.
“I’ll say a prayer for your boys.”
“Thanks, Father.” Bruce scooped the dogtags back into the bowl.
“I’ll be heading to the orphanage soon but I can talk awhile more if you need me.”
“No, I’m fine. I have to speak with Wonder Woman.”
“Ah, a fine woman.”
“She certainly is.” Bruce took out his wallet and handed Father Mulcahy a $50 bill. “Just a little something for the kids, Father. I‘ll send a real donation when I get back to the States if you’ll give me the address.”
“Thank you, Mr. Wayne.”
At the hospital tent, Steve and Bruce met Wonder Woman, who hugged Bruce.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered in his ear.
They talked about the search and Diana said, “Keep your faith, Bruce.”
She squeezed his shoulder. “War is never easy."
They walked around the camp and spoke about Justice Society business, a short respite from the war.
Diana eventually took her leave. The last stop for Bruce was Colonel Potter’s office. Steve kissed Diana, promised to meet her back in Seoul, and accompanied Bruce to meet with Potter.
“How can I help you, Mr. Wayne?” asked the gray-haired surgeon after they settled into his office.
Bruce told his story while Potter listened carefully. At the conclusion of the tale the older man said, “I’m sorry you and your friend Mr. Queen are stuck in this limbo. It’s rough, as you well know. But I’ll inform my staff to keep an eye out.”
“Won’t you be going home soon?” asked Bruce.
Potter sighed. “Not for awhile. The Army is not too certain of this ceasefire, and I can’t blame them. Oh, in public they’ll trumpet it, but negotiations have crashed too many times before. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Commies do pull a fast one.” He shrugged.
Bruce realized that the colonel could be right. The peace talks had stalled over and over again. Who was to say this latest truce would stick?
“I appreciate your help.” Bruce could see the weariness of the colonel. How long had he served here? He noticed the pictures on the wall behind Potter’s desk and realized that the man was a lifer. He had served in World War I, according to a few pictures, and in World War II. He had probably seen enough of war the third time around.
“Glad to do it. The boys in the med tent right now are too sick to move, unless bombs begin raining down on their heads. Once the last one goes, we’ll probably be able to fold up our tents and head to Toyko, then home if this armistice sticks.”
After the meeting was over, Steve escorted Bruce to the car. “Hopefully they’ll all get to go home.”
“Is Dr. Pierce on leave? I’d heard a lot about him, but no one said a word about him.”
Steve looked uncomfortable. “This is on the Q-T, Bruce. Hawkeye Pierce was shipped home early.” He sighed. “He cracked up.”
Bruce felt ice form in the pit of his stomach. “I’m sorry.”
“He was a brilliant surgeon. Hopefully he’ll recover.”
Bruce hoped so, too. The war had caused enough damage.
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