"I beg your pardon." Charles exclaimed in confusion as he sat back down at the table. Margaret and Hawkeye joined him, still trying to control their laughter as Carrie explained the situation, from her point of view.
"Dr. Pierce is a friend of Brad's from the hospital. Brad asked him to be Margaret's escort for the night, but they've both been acting like imbeciles all evening."
"I'm not surprised." Charles murmured just loud enough for Hawkeye and Margaret to hear.
"How dare you call the woman I love an imbecile." Hawkeye defended, causing Margaret to choke on the laughter she was suppressing. "Besides, he's the imbecile." He gestured towards Charles, but then looking at the man recanted. "No, you were the 'schmoe'." Charles merely rolled his eyes in reply.
Glaring at Hawkeye for a moment Carrie next turned on Margaret, exclaiming in anger. "I don't understand you? What is so funny? You've been acting like a silly schoolgirl all night. You don't even know this man and yet you kiss him passionately the minute you meet him, then not ten minutes later you accept his rather off-the-cuff marriage proposal. I just don't understand you."
By this time Hawkeye and Margaret are just about exploding. They both cover their mouths to avoid letting out a peal of uncontrolled laughter. Tears start rolling down their cheeks. When they finally catch their breath they look at the trio and nearly loose it again.
"Are you two going to explain your undignified behavior or are you going to sit there laughing like a couple of hyenas?" Carrie exclaimed in exasperation.
"Yes, Pierce, Margaret." Charles commented as he leaned back in his chair and folded his arms. "I must admit that I am immensely curious to know what is going on."
The guilty couple exchanged a mischievous look. "Should we tell them?" Hawkeye finally asked, his eyes dancing in fun.
"I think we probably should." Margaret nodded.
"The truth or should I make something up?" Hawkeye teased, shooting the expectant trio a sly look.
"I think the truth would be the best idea." Margaret replied with a chuckle.
"If you insist, dear." He replied with a broad smile. Chuckling with amusement he looked directly at his friend who had set the whole thing up and said. "You know, this is all your fault really."
"My fault!" Brad exclaimed in surprise. "How on earth could this possibly be my fault?"
"If you had of remembered Margaret's name before we got to Carrie's then I could have told you that she and I already knew each other."
"You did?" Both Brad and Carrie exclaimed in surprise.
"We did." Margaret nodded in confirmation.
"You both mentioned the fact that Margaret had served in Korea during the war, right." The other couple nodded in agreement. "We served at the same M*A*S*H unit for the last three years. I was Chief Surgeon and she was Head Nurse. By the time we left Margaret and I were great friends."
"So that kiss, the proposal...it was all a joke?" Carrie finally asked, her brows furrowed in confusion.
"Kiss?" Charles echoed in surprise as his mind whirled trying to follow the peculiar conversation.
"The kiss wasn't a joke." Hawkeye replied, reaching over to squeeze Margaret's hand "I meant every bit of it." The couple smiled at each other for a moment.
"But, Hawkeye, what about...." He stopped, something finally dawning on him. Pointing at Margaret he asked. "Wait a minute, you said that she was the Head Nurse of your unit?" At Hawkeye's nod he eagerly asked. "Is she...Is she the one?"
Hawkeye smiled broadly and put his arm around Margaret's shoulders. After giving her a quick kiss on the lips he looked back to his friend and nodded. "She's the one."
"Now it all makes sense!" Brad exclaimed in relief.
"Now what makes sense?" Carrie asked, still in confusion.
"Remember the nurse that I told you Hawkeye was in love with in Korea?" Brad prompted to which Carrie nodded. He glanced over to Hawkeye and Margaret. "That nurse was Margaret."
"Margaret?!" Carrie exclaimed in surprise.
"Margaret." Hawkeye confirmed, tightening his arm that was around his beloved's shoulders.
"But Margaret, I still don't understand how you could marry this guy." Carrie exclaimed in despair. "He's so unlike anyone I've ever seen you with."
Margaret smiled in amusement at her cousin's remark. With a chuckle she admitted. "To tell you the truth, Carrie, when I first met Hawkeye I had the same first impression of him that you have. That he's an idiotic joker who doesn't have disciplined bone in his body."
"Here here." Charles murmured in agreement.
Ignoring Charles Hawkeye looked at Margaret and asked in mock surprise. "You mean I'm not?"
With a chuckle Margaret continued. "When we first met we couldn't stand each other. We couldn't have a civilized conversation that lasted more than 'hi' and 'goodbye'."
"So what happened?" Brad asked curiously.
"The more we worked together, the more I learned that beneath the juvenile exterior there was a warm, caring, tender man with a loving heart." She smiled at the man she loved more than anything else in the world. "There isn't anything that he won't do for his friends. He bends over backwards to help those he cares about and he was my comfort and my strength for most of that horrible war. Even when he annoyed the hell out of me I found myself turning to him for comfort."
"So, what about that proposal?" Carrie asked curiously. "Are you two really engaged, or was that just part of your little game?"
Hawkeye chuckled in amusement. "The proposal started out as a joke, I was doing it merely for your benefit. I'd noticed the expression on your faces after Margaret and I had kissed."
"Really?" Margaret asked, her tone slightly hurt. She had thought that it was completely real. Had Hawkeye's elaborate joke involved her as a victim too? Before her anger could build however, Hawkeye continued.
"It was a joke until I saw the look on Margaret's face when I asked her. There was something about her expression that made me hope that maybe she wanted it to be real as much as I did. So, I took a chance and indicated to her that I was serious." Margaret smiled with relief at his explanation.
"And you 'seriously' accepted him." Brad commented, looking at Margaret for confirmation. To which she nodded.
"I must say, Margaret. I'm speechless." Carrie exclaimed, shaking her head in surprise.
"So am I, Margaret." Charles chimed in, looking at the pair. Then with an amused chuckle he added. "Though, I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised if that 'goodbye' kiss I witnessed meant what it seems to have meant."
"What 'goodbye kiss'?" Carrie asked curiously.
"The 'goodbye kiss' that these two gave each other just before we left Korea." Charles replied. "It was the longest farewell kiss I'd ever seen two 'friends' give each other."
"Wait a minute." Brad exclaimed in surprise. "You were in Korea?"
"Unfortunately, yes." Charles replied a bitter tone in his voice.
"I'm assuming you were a reluctant draftee like Hawkeye here." Brad remarked, noting the man's bitter tone.
"That's right." Charles confirmed. "Thanks to our incapable leader, Harry Truman."
"And you knew Margaret and Hawkeye in Korea?" Carrie asked curiously.
"Unfortunately." Charles replied with a martyr's sigh. "Margaret of course was a delight to know – by times anyway." He shot her a mischievous look. "Pierce on the other hand..."
"Oh, don't listen to him." Hawkeye dismissed the jab with one of his own. "Chuck here worshipped the ground I walked on."
Charles merely groaned in reply as Margaret explained. "Charles and Hawk were bunkies for the last two years. They shared a tent with another doctor, BJ Hunnicutt from Mill Valley, California. BJ and Hawk became best friends, but there's never been much love lost between them and Charles." She shot their friend a teasing glance.
"Speaking of Hunnicutt." Charles began. "How is he doing? I trust that the two of you have kept in touch."