Disclaimer: not mine
Rating: PG-13 for the occasional bad word, mild sexual content and mild violence
Summary: A CIA mission gone wrong, where Harm was the pilot, resurfaces with major consequences six months after his termination. Set in Season 9 after "The One That Got Away". Crossover with NCIS. Eventual crossover with Alias.
Author's Note: I tried to research this, but found it difficult for whatever reason. If the Osprey aircraft is used improperly here, just use your imagination and go with it. It's really a small technicality and not important to the bulk of this story. The story will center around Harm and Mac, so all characters from the other two shows will be given enough background as it pertains to the plot. Don't worry if you don't watch NCIS or Alias. The personalities will be clear through dialogue or character interaction. As for spoilers, all current episodes of NCIS are fair game. The season premiere of Alias is fair game.
October 20, 2003
Somewhere in Iraq
The sand swirled viciously around them thanks to the blistering winds. Dust particles and small pebbles would ricochet off the window, making him smile with complete glee. The two pilots were content, grateful to be inside and not out there with the rest of the team. While all CIA missions were branded dangerous, Harmon Rabb, Jr. found luxury in just being able to sit back, relax and wait in the cockpit.
Harm, as he preferred to be called, didn't always hold this blue collar job. He had a better one. Once a Naval aviator by trade turned JAG lawyer, his days were filled with excitement. They were filled with friends, respect and the woman he thought had loved him. That woman was Colonel Sarah "Mac" Mackenzie, his second partner and best friend.
Back when they first met, he was a younger, cocky officer clad in dress whites and gold wings. She seemed to be infatuated with him, even though she swore strongly that dress whites were overrated. If memory served him correctly, she nearly kissed him in gratitude. Thanking him when he allowed some Marine to tag along on an investigation in Columbia. And he was wearing dress whites. Overrated? He thought not. Yes, even now, he couldn't help but look back on the early years and dub them his "glory days".
It was safe to say those days were long gone. He was now reduced to a humble agent. Mac was no longer seduced by his charms (and he doubted she really was in the first place). What made all of this so much worse was the fact that he was alone.
He was flying planes again, which was never a raw deal...only this time he was flying them for the CIA. It seemed rather ironic he would land such a job. He had never been a fan of "spooks" and their trickery. It was in fact the Agency's fault he lost his original job in the first place. So why was he here working for them? The reasons behind the Agency hiring him and why he accepted the offer was another long story. A story that involved the woman he thought had loved him and another CIA agent by the name of Clayton Webb.
Harm's resume was impressive. His ability to win. . .uncanny. He had the looks, the brains, the charm...but still no girl to complete that ideal package entitled: World's Best CIA Agent. Well, there was one girl in his life now. Except she would never give him the time of day. That girl was his co-pilot, Beth O'Neill. They had some history...but not the kind you would think.
He was called upon to defend her on sexual harassment charges. She proclaimed her innocence, despite she couldn't prove it. With testimony from other men, Harm doubted her until he found out her secret. Beth was in fact a lesbian. It was then Harm's task to prove her innocence without exposing her arcane lifestyle. To make a long story short: He won. She was allowed to keep her job. She later retired and started her career flying planes for the CIA.
They were now currently partnered up to take on terrorism and to fight the good fight. Okay, that sounded a little commonplace, but in reality it was the truth. In a few short weeks, they became good friends. In the next month, they discovered how much they depended on each other. They would never let each other down, no matter the circumstances.
The boys at the good ol' Central Intelligence Agency thought it would be best to give Harm a crash course on "How To Fly An Osprey". There was already a ridiculous list of planes he was cleared to fly and now after intense training...he could now operate the coveted aircraft. Usually, Harm was the lead pilot, but not this time around. Beth was in charge, clocking in tons more time in the air then Harm on this particular aircraft. It only seemed fitting that he sit second chair.
Even though Harm wasn't the lead, he was very much like a little boy in a candy store. Picking out all the planes he liked and trying out each one. Sometimes, he couldn't wait for a mission to be over just so he could find out what he was going to fly next. Maybe he wasn't totally satisfied with the new lifestyle, but it did have some perks.
He turned to his partner and smiled, "Should I get you an iced tea?"
"Do I look that comfortable?" Beth asked him with a hearty laugh.
Yes. After both having tumultuous Naval careers, the chance to be pilots again was a blessing in more ways than one. Their roles in the missions were very simple.
Transport, drop off, pick up, and come home. It was heaven.
She stretched and said wistfully, "An iced tea would be good right about now."
"Yeah, it would," Harm nodded in agreement. He could feel Beth's eyes on him and he laughed, "You're not going to take this opportunity to ask me about Colonel Mackenzie again, are you?"
"No, no," she shook her head. She stole a quick glance at him and he wasn't convinced at all. She sighed and corrected herself, "Actually, yes, I was."
"I asked you kindly to drop it. . .," Harm reminded her, then added. ". . .The first three times."
"I don't understand, Harm," Beth sighed. "You both burned out on each other? I just think you're being too irrational here."
"Irrational?" Harm frowned and asked, "Why do you care so much, Beth?"
"Because I can see that this issue is tearing you up inside, that's why," she replied sympathetically. "I don't have to be your best friend to see that."
Harm timidly gave her a soft stare expressing his thanks for her regard to his feelings. After leaving JAG behind, he had no one to vent to. No on to listen to him. It appeared Beth had been listening all along and he just didn't notice. It slowly occurred to him that Beth was an okay replacement to console him, but she could only serve as a temporary substitution. She was right in her limited assessment of the situation. Eventually, he would need to talk things over with Mac. Talking to her, however, was definitely one thing he wasn't looking forward to.
Suddenly, the radio squawked and Harm retrieved it and answered, "This is Romeo."
"Start the engines now, we're coming back!" screeched Agent Mark Daniels' voice.
So much for "being the pilot" and smooth sailing. Before Harm could order it, Beth was already flipping switches and pushing buttons. Actually, she was the one giving the orders. How easy it was for him to forget he wasn't "top dog".
"I'm going to open the hatch!" She stood up and rose from her seat. "You get this thing off the ground!"
"Yes, Ma'am!" Harm answered her. He started flipping switches on his side. Checking gauges and other instruments. It took a very long minute, but the propellers started to warm up. He then shouted out, to lighten the mood, "I think it's safe to assume that something went wrong!"
"You think?" Beth retorted. Her voice was still somewhat playful, but also very distressed at the same time. The moment the door came down, Daniels and the rest of the team jumped on. Wait. Five agents had jumped off, but only four came back. Beth immediately asked, "Daniels? What happened? Where's Watson?"
"Just go! They're right behind us!" he shouted, tearing off his radio equipment. It was then Beth noticed the dirt and blood. She didn't want to leave. She wanted to ask more questions, but she had to ignore them for the moment and carry out his orders. She hopped into her seat next to Harm. The Osprey was hard enough to handle when it had a full crew, but with just her and Harm at the helm...things were much more difficult. They shut the hatch just when bullets started to bounce off the back.
"Let's go!" Harm ordered the aircraft, as the propellers were finally spinning full force. The aircraft began it's ascent and easily avoided the attacks of the guns on the ground. Harm and Beth had once again pulled themselves from incredible danger. Once they had reached 11,000 ft and were at the maximum speed of 275 knots, Harm took this time to figure out what had happened.
"They were ready for us," Daniels coughed, trying to clear his throat of gunshot and explosion powder. "Andy didn't make it. This. . .this is his blood on me."
Harm couldn't breathe. Not Andy. Why did they take Andy?
Beth gave him a pat on the shoulder and nodded towards the controls. She was trying to snap him out of it and encouraging him to continue doing his job. He tried to concentrate on flying, but it was too difficult. Andy was his co-pilot on his previous mission, test piloting the CIA's new aircraft: the Aurora. They had a brush with death then, when they entered Korean air space. It seemed this time, Andy wasn't so lucky.
Beth involuntarily released a small whimper. Harm looked at her with sad eyes as he also tried not to cry. While Andy had loved flying, running ground operations was another one of his passions. He had just been promoted from pilot to ground surveillance. Harm gently rubbed her arm, trying to comfort her. She accepted the gesture of solace graciously. Harm pulled himself together and asked, "How did it happen?"
"Andy was in front of us," Daniels explained. He was beginning to choke up with sadness. "Once we had reached the spot, the ground beneath us just exploded. Andy was gone before he knew what hit him. Then the bullets started flying and we ran back here."
Harm just nodded, understanding completely. Andy had stepped on a mine. Now that he had a better reasoning of the events, he could focus his attention on getting the survivors home. That, of course, was his job.
Transport, drop off, pick up, and come home.
Agent Mark Daniels was a 42 year old man whose job was his life.
He was a former Marine. He had no wife. No kids. No relatives that he cared to speak of. Nothing. The CIA was all he had. This agency was his family and when he lost a member of that family, it was like losing a son or daughter. Losing Andy Watson like that really shook him up. No, that was an understatement. Losing Andy literally tore him to shreds.
He didn't utter any more words on the way back to Langley. He wouldn't let anyone touch him. It was safe to assume what tore him up the most was the fact there were no remains to bring home to Andy's family. Deep down, Mark knew he had failed Andy in so many ways. If only he had seen that mound of dirt sooner. If only Andy had waited a little while longer to go on a real mission. If only...
At the debriefing, it was rumored that Mark finally broke. His eyes watered slightly, releasing subtle tears that stained his cheeks, leaving paths of sorrow in their wake. Harm could only watch in amazement at the other agents, waiting on Mark's return. They kept saying, "Its quite tragic to see such a distinguished agent fall like that."
Did these people understand what happened out there? A man was killed. Mark had every right to cry.
However, when Mark left Kershaw's office and re-entered the land of the living, not a trace of sadness could be found. It appeared his heart was ice again. He would be the first one to remind you that this job required little emotion. You had to be cold, bold and fearless. You couldn't get caught up in all of that nonsense known as love, jealously, loss, or anger. There was simply no time to even fathom the meaning of those sentiments. Harm had been doing this for a month now and he still couldn't understand how these people could just turn off their emotions like a light switch.
There was one agent, however, that held Harm's curiosity when it came to concealing one's emotions. He sat at his desk and watched that man walk by. Clayton Webb. It seemed the more time that passed, the more he was changing. Clothes slightly ruffled from time to time. A sullen look in his eyes. Clay was constantly popping pills for headaches. This behavior molded a different man. A man Harm wasn't sure he knew anymore. There was one possibility behind the changes.
Harm could only assume Clay and Mac were together, but he could bet money Mac factored into the equation somewhere. Maybe they were going out to dinner or he was spending time alone with her. Maybe this was causing Clay to arrive late to work, miss important meetings or screw up his paperwork. However, the constant need for aspirin couldn't be the result of dating Mac. No. There was another reason for that.
Harm's eyes focused on Clay. They focused with a determination to see through him. To see what was going on in that head of his. However, just like every other spook in this building, Clay was still hard to read. The only way to find out if Clay and Mac were in fact a couple would be to ask. He stood up from his desk and walked up to Clayton and Mark, who were talking by the water cooler.
"Harm," Mark greeted him with the most manufactured smile Harm had ever seen. "How are you holding up?"
It was now Harm's turn to fake a smile. Deep down, he felt maybe he should ask Mark if he was really okay. How was he holding up?
"Yeah, Harm," Clay chimed in. "I know that Andy was your friend."
Harm stiffened slightly at Clay's comment and the real reason he came over here was null and void. This would be a bad time to bring up Mac. He moved his head around, pretending to crack his neck and answered painfully, "Yeah, Andy was a good guy."
An awkward silence followed, leaving Harm with a sudden need to get away. Clay beat him to it. He coughed and excused himself, leaving Harm alone with Mark. Before Harm could pull a disappearing act similar to Clay's, he felt a strong hand on his shoulder and realized Mark was the one supplying the pressure.
He gave a warm, genuine smile this time and told him, "Come with me, Harm. I want you to see something."
Harm followed Mark down corridors he had never traveled before. This little trip intrigued him and he momentarily forgot about Andy, Clay and concealing his emotions. Maybe Mark would take him to some room stuffed with a ton of spy gadgets and other fun items. Anything right now would occupy his mind and keep it from thinking about other things.
When they stopped, Harm's childlike hopefulness vanished. He was at the wall. Mark didn't need to explain the importance of the gold stars. Harm already knew. They represented each and every agent who died serving their country.
Mark stepped up and touched one of the gold stars that stretched from one side to the other. He looked at Harm and said, "Andy will go up here tomorrow. He's a hero."
Harm released a frustrated sigh and asked, "He's a hero because he died?"
"No, not at all," Mark replied, sounding shocked that such a question would even be asked.
"I'm sorry...I knew what you meant," Harm apologized and stepped closer to Mark. "It's just...he was so young. . ."
Mark nodded his head, looking like he understood Harm's disappointment. He folded his arms across his chest and said thoughtfully, "Sometimes...people do confuse death as heroism. In fact, death can be a result of cowardice, accident or bad luck."
Harm slowly looked up at Mark and asked, "Is that all?"
"No, Harm," Mark sighed and unfolded his arms. "You of all people should know, that heroism comes with sacrifice. Is there something going on that has made you lose sight of that?"
Despite Mark was only two years older than him, he had the wisdom of a great grandfather and the love that went with it. Like mentioned before, the CIA was his family and he treated Harm no different.
"I sacrificed my career to help someone," Harm sighed, then quickly appended. "I'm not saying it makes me a hero. . . It's just, . . . You know what, never mind."
Mark pulled on Harm's arm to keep him from leaving. "Don't walk away, Harm. You either get out your frustrations right here or on a future mission your emotions will get in the way."
That Mark. He seemed to have an answer for everything. And surprisingly, Harm didn't resent him for his know-it-all demeanor. Mark was simply trying to assist him and like so many times before, Harm was pushing that help away. This time, he conceded and finished, "Sometimes I wonder if the sacrifices we make really amount to anything at all in the end."
"When I first started working here, I used to ask myself the same question," Mark winked at him. Harm smiled.
They both began their journey back to the offices. They talked about everything. Why Harm jumped to his conclusion of death vs. heroism. How Mark managed to do his job despite the casualties and the letdowns. The conversation was insightful. Once they reached Harm's desk, Mark took a seat and said, "You just have to learn to pick up the pieces, dust them off and put them back together."
"What if you're missing pieces?" Harm asked, still not all the way convinced. He then added wistfully, "What if there's this gaping hole that you just can't fill?"
Mark squinched his eyes and chuckled, "Are we still talking about heroism? Or is this conversation eluding to a lost relationship?"
Harm could feel his ears burning. How did all of his conversations somehow bring up his relationship with Sarah Mackenzie? And why was it so obvious to everyone else? Mark didn't even know who Mac was! He shook his head in the negative and replied, "No...not about a woman. I'm just saying...holes like Andy. How can you replace them?"
"I've worked here for a long time," Mark replied. He stood up and sighed, "Andy had a wonderful spirit that will never be forgotten. That's how you fill that hole, Harm. You never forget."
North of Union Station
Harm let Mark's words sink in and he tried his best to work by them. He tried to emulate Mark's actions, style and speeches so he could make it through the day. He was 40, two years younger than Mark. He had no family, no wife just like Mark. He was also a former military officer now working for the CIA. Exactly like Mark. In some ways, Harm could confuse himself with his mentor. If Mark could make it through his entire life the way that he had, than Harm could too. Of course, the logical explanation wasn't always the right one.
When he arrived home, he would see that blinking red light on his answering machine. That small red illumination would remind him of his previous life. The life he longed to have back. He didn't really want to be some cold, 40 year old bachelor with no time for love and affection. He wanted to argue court cases and see his colleagues. Deep down, he wanted to see Mac.
He was so close one night to listening to all of the messages, but he always managed to stop himself. He knew it was Mac trying to reach him. The total number of messages had now reached 17. Seventeen unanswered calls. It boggled his mind how persistent she was being. If he wasn't answering after call number 8, what made her think he would call back after 17?
What made her think that? She knew him well enough to know that it wouldn't be too long before he answered her.
This time, he came in, saw the light and just didn't care anymore. He finally hit the play button with no regrets. Without anger or happiness. He just hit play and listened to her voice. The last message played with more desperation than the previous one.
"Harm, where are you? I know you have to come home some time. . . Clay pretends he's never seen you, you don't answer my calls. Would you please call me back?"
She terminated the call after that. So, she was speaking to Clay on a regular basis. That last message did nothing but prove that. He drank from a beer bottle and let his heart harden. She told him never in Paraguay and he was going to take that literally. . . no matter how atrociously it tore him apart inside.
For a moment, hope sparked in him. He picked up the receiver and started to slowly punch in her area code. Then the first three digits of her number...then he stopped. He hung up and walked away from the phone. The red light continued to blink. The 17 messages he never erased.
October 26, 2003
Harm was told he needed a contingency plan. In other words, don't get caught. Their next mission was supposed to be simple. An agent had been exposed and needed to be extracted immediately. He and Beth were to fly in a C-130, pick up said agent and bring that agent home. Naturally, there were problems. The agent had a family that he didn't want to leave behind. Harm tried to say there was no room, but he was in a C-130. He knew there was plenty of room and being the kind of man that he was, he couldn't leave the family behind.
Harm and Beth tried to make them as comfortable as possible and they prepared for take-off. It wasn't too long before the fates decided to mess with Harm some more. First, there was the engine failure. Okay, he could work with that. When it seemed they had things under control, then they had no brakes. Furthermore, with the agent's entire family on board, they couldn't eject. Before too long, the engine would completely crap out on them and they would fall into a painful, watery death. They were trapped.
Finally, some light shed on the situation when they discovered the USS Seahawk was in the neighborhood.
After much deliberation, the crew on the deck worked at a feverish pace, trying to prepare landing space for the over sized aircraft. Every plane was moved. Some had to take off while others could be stored below deck. The engine finally gave out as Harm and Beth landed the C-130 on the deck of the carrier with the nose of the plane hanging just over the edge. In celebration of the amazing feat and the fact that their lives were saved, Harm hopped off the plane holding one of the children and smiling his face off. He was completely unaware that the news cameras were even present. While they focused on him, Beth managed to avoid being caught in the glare of the those dreaded camera lenses.
Harm had failed. He was exposed.
"You're firing me?" Harm had asked Allen, his boss. Allen had explained that his face had been plastered all over for the world to see. Harm could do nothing but accept it and go home. While he packed up his desk, which had few possessions to begin with, Mark Daniels walked up to say his farewells.
"You were a fine agent, Harm," Mark complimented.
"Obviously not good enough," Harm joked mildly and shut the cardboard box carrying his belongings. "If you would excuse me, I have a debriefing to attend. . . "
"Wait, Harm," Mark stopped him. The look on the agent's face unsettled Harm. Like there was trouble. "I know this experience wasn't easy for you. I just want you to remember one thing."
"What's that?" Harm asked, furrowing his brow in confusion. Mark seemed very worried.
"Watch your back and keep your loved ones close," Mark told him sternly. "That mission where Andy died may come back to haunt you."
Harm still not sure as to what Mark was getting at, just put on a smile and said, "I'm taking your advice, Mark. You told me not to forget Andy and I won't. Thanks for the concern, but I think his death is finally behind me."
For a moment, Mark didn't return the smile and Harm had the unpleasant feeling that he completely misinterpreted his words. Then Mark did smile and he gave Harm a hearty parting handshake. "I wish you luck in all your future endeavors, Harmon Rabb."
"Thanks, Mark," Harm grinned. "I'll never forget you."
Harm finally picked up his box, said goodbye to some people here and there, and walked out. He was finally leaving the CIA behind for good.
To be continued. . .