Disclaimer: I don't own JAG or any of the characters in the show—nor will I be making any profit off this story.
AN1: This is a somewhat delayed episode reaction to Automatic For the People; it also contains elements that are meant to follow the Sixth Juror. It's also a one-shot deal that monopolized my thoughts (apologies to those who are waiting patiently for more on my other stories) and attempted to take on a life of its own.
"Where are you off to in such a hurry?" Commander Harmon Rabb inquires of his colleague, Lt. Colonel Sarah MacKenzie, who is currently rushing around her office looking for something and muttering she's going to be late. Her briefcase and cover are sitting on one of the chairs in front of her desk, ready for her departure.
"Nowhere if I can't find my keys," she answers testily. "Sorry. I don't mean to take it out on you; it's just that General Cresswell decided he wants a rematch on the pistol requalification range this afternoon and I'm going to be late."
"Give me two minutes to grab my briefcase and let Jen know I'll be out of the office and I'll drive you down. I'll work on the Breant file while the two of you enjoy your competition and then I'll take you to dinner afterwards," Harm suggests impulsively. Since Christmas, the two of them have been on the same page regarding their relationship, but neither has had the time to do more than keep moving forward in the back of their mind. With this unexpected lull in the office workload—of which Cresswell appears to be taking advantage of as well—Harm was already on his way to ask her to a non-working dinner; the opportunity to spend time with her, even if it's just the relatively short drive to Quantico, is an added bonus.
"Fine, but if the general wants to know who suggested your early departure from the office…"
"I'll take the heat; don't worry," he assures her quickly, already moving to make sure he's ready in his promised two minutes.
As she watches him move into the bullpen, Mac can't help but add, "And dinner sounds wonderful." He still has a silly grin on his face when he escorts her from her office exactly two minutes later, lightly tugging on her briefcase to get her to let him carry it. She allows him, but only because it would be difficult to juggle the briefcase, the bag with her cammies for the firing range and her cover—or at least that's what she tells herself.
When they arrive in the parking lot, like any gentleman, Harm unlocks and opens her door for her. Again, she doesn't protest, but his sudden burst of laughter almost makes her deck him. "Well, now we know where your keys are," he explains, indicating the elusive objects sitting on her passenger seat.
Mac sighs. "Just great. I must've laid them down when I was getting my bag out earlier."
Before she can begin to beat herself up over the incident, something she doesn't need to be doing at any time, but especially not now when she needs her head in the game for this rematch with Cresswell, Harm asks with a terribly awful and sporadic accent, "Would m'lady like to take the SUV whilst I remain behind to locate someone to help a damsel in distress?" It's the laughter dancing in his eyes while he's trying to maintain a perfectly straight face that convinces her not to take offense at being called a damsel in distress. Instead she laughs and playfully swats away the hand that's holding out the keys. "Are you sure?" he asks, silently imploring her to understand he'll be happy to do whichever she wishes.
There's no way Mac wants to miss dinner with Harm, which is probable if he remains behind. "I'm sure; it'll be fine until later. Let's go. Besides, I can't wait to see how General Cresswell reacts to your presence," she admits, smiling his favorite smile, his earnestness having overwhelmed her laughter.
She's still smiling when they arrive at their destination; not even the accident that further delayed them could dampen her spirits with Harm telling humorous—and personally embarrassing—stories during the drive. The smile weakens, but doesn't entirely fail, upon seeing Cresswell waiting for her when Harm pulls up outside the building. "You've got 5 minutes, Colonel," he states as she hops out of the vehicle, gear bag in hand.
"I'll be ready, sir," she throws over her shoulder.
"Well at least I know why the colonel was almost late," Cresswell remarks into the SUV; he's still holding onto the door Mac had flung open in her haste. "What are you doing here, Commander?"
Harm bristles at the almost insult, but consciously chooses to let it go until another time. "Colonel MacKenzie was having problems with her car, sir." Technically true—it is a problem that she can't get inside because her keys are locked in there. "All I have on my plate for this afternoon is getting started with the paperwork for the Breant court-martial; I brought the file along, so I'll just work on it while I'm waiting. She'll need a ride back to her car," he finishes somewhat lamely, frantically hoping that Cresswell doesn't offer to drive her back himself. Even in the chill air, Harm is beginning to sweat under the scrutiny of his CO. He hopes Mac's 5 minutes will be up soon so she can divert Cresswell's attention.
"Do you have your sidearm with you?" Cresswell asks out of the blue.
"Ah…yes, sir," Harm responds, off balance.
"Well then, park this thing, get your sidearm and join me," Cresswell orders, shutting the door and stepping away just in time to avoid becoming a victim to Harm's fighter pilot reflexes. Although more than a little bewildered, Harm does as asked, having to practically run to catch up with the shorter man as he enters the building. "Charlie," Cresswell addresses a Marine a few years Harm's junior, "I need a set of cammies for this officer. And be quick; he only has 3 minutes to change."
Charlie sizes Harm up in half a second, pulls a couple of times off the shelves behind him, and presents them to Harm. "Second door on your left, sir," he instructs, pointing down one of the hallways. Harm moves on autopilot, wondering if the explanation that's popped into his head is as farfetched as it seems.
With a minute and a half left to spare, Mac emerges from the ladies locker room. "Colonel MacKenzie reporting as ordered, sir," she says crisply, coming to attention in front of her superior officer with just a hint of a smile in her eyes.
Cresswell is pleased. Here is at least one aspect in which Mac hasn't lost touch with the Corps. "At ease, Colonel. As soon as the commander…" he trails off, mouth hanging open, as Harm emerges, looking completely at ease in the cammies. He doesn't even get a chance to come to attention before Cresswell throws a strangled 'at ease' at him. Cresswell leads the way to procure their ammunition and then outside before he says another word to his officers. "Colonel MacKenzie is always telling me that you're not a typical representation of the Navy, Commander; you have this opportunity to prove it to me."
Mac, who's having a hard time keeping a straight face at seeing Harm in Marine cammies, turns a little pink at Cresswell's observation. Harm takes the challenge in stride, recalling the account Bud gave him regarding the female Marine who wanted to compete against the men in the boxing ring. If this is what it takes to open Cresswell's mind about the Navy, Harm's all for it—he's pretty certain the new JAG will be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
If the Gunnery Sergeant on the range finds it odd that three officers show up when he's expecting two, he doesn't show it. The fact that the third is a Navy Commander, on the other hand, startles him so much he misses a beat when introductions are made. While he's explaining the rules—a little more detailed than necessary—a crowd slowly gathers. A few friendly wagers are made, but not for money as the officers who are present quickly squash that idea; several cocky young Marines laugh that the squid won't even be able to hit the target. If Harm, Mac or Cresswell hear the insults they don't react; each officer is mentally preparing for the signal to begin the first phase.
Later, when the shooting's done, when all three officers have changed out of their cammies and rendezvoused in front of the building, Cresswell informs them that given the unofficial nature of their competition, the results would be reported by phone the next day, 0900 sharp. "Commander, I'll be looking forward to seeing your finished report on the Breant case at that time as well," Cresswell adds, smiling to himself. That none of the three have any idea how well or poorly either of the others have done—being the only three on the range, Gunny spaced them apart so they wouldn't be able to see anyone else's target—doesn't bother him too much, but keeping the tall aviator off balance is something he's beginning to enjoy, and it will give him something to do to keep his mind off those darn results.
The look on the tall aviator's face as his CO walks away is too much for the Marine standing by his side. "Close your mouth Harm—unless you're planning on catching flies to get out of our dinner date."
"Very funny Mac," Harm tries to growl at her. He'd actually raised a hand to check if his mouth was hanging open despite being aware that his teeth were clenched. He gives up a moment later, his own laughter joining hers; it's been a while since she's laughed as freely as she's done today, and if hearing her laugh means he gets picked on, so be it. But still… "The Breant case wrapped up five minutes before I found you frantically searching for your keys. I would have gotten a start on it this afternoon, but by no means finished it," he explains.
That sobers her up immediately. "Would you rather skip dinner tonight?" Mac asks hesitantly.
"Not a chance," Harm replies immediately. "Dinner comes first, getting you into your car second, and then I'll go home and work on the Breant file."
"If you wouldn't mind swinging by my place either before or after dinner, the second will be easier to accomplish; my spare key's there."
They decide on a restaurant not far from Mac's place that she's heard about but couldn't get Webb to try. "Not fancy enough for him," is the only bitter comment she makes. Noting the look of concern in her companion's eyes, Mac purposefully deletes all thoughts of the annoying spy from her mind. "Let's go Harm," she prompts. Snapping himself out of his own thoughts, Harm complies, unlocking and opening her door before heading around to the driver's side. Silence reigns in the vehicle until Harm manages to get them through the heavy traffic and onto I-95; both of the SUV's occupants deciding to do everything they can to make dinner as enjoyable as possible. Once they reach the interstate the conversation begins to flow naturally, and all thoughts of uncomfortable topics are forgotten.
Dinner is the most relaxed time the two of them have shared in a while. Neither is sure exactly how they got started, but dinner conversation somehow degenerates into a contest to see who can tell the most outlandish but true story from before they met. Mac graciously admits defeat when she runs out of material and Harm follows the story of how he knows a Lear jet will loop and roll with one where drug dealers masquerade as aliens on a deserted base in Texas. Over coffee and desert their topic changes to comparisons between their former and current COs. Harm admits he hopes he did well enough to at least make Cresswell realize that squids are capable of handling themselves. They allow themselves to linger just a bit longer, the necessity of things yet to be done cutting the evening far shorter than either would have liked. Stopping by Mac's apartment turns out to be an exercise in futility—with her keys locked in her car, Mac doesn't have a way into her apartment—until Harm remembers the key she gave him years ago. Laughing over the situation seems safer than getting angry about it, Mac decides, but it takes a bit to get Harm in on the fun. Only after he realizes Mac won't think he's laughing at her does Harm give in to the absurdity of the situation; they are still laughing when they return to JAG where Harm waits until she's on her way out of the parking lot before he heads in that direction himself.
Three-quarters of the way through his second pot of coffee, Harm saves the document he's been working on and gratefully shuts the computer down. The remainder of the coffee gets dumped down the drain and the pot set to brew a fresh batch in too few hours. Despite the staggering amount of caffeine he's consumed over the course of the night in order to keep himself awake, Harm is asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
Mac isn't too terribly surprised to see Harm's office still dark and unoccupied when she arrives the next morning at 0755. She feels a little guilty that their lingering over dinner and desert meant he had to stay up later, but she can't find even a hint of regret over it. Turning to exit the break room with her eyes on her nearly overflowing cup of coffee, she doesn't see what she bumps into, but the arms that go around her, steadying her, are familiar. "I'm in need of coffee this morning, Colonel, but I think it will help more if I drink it rather than wear it," Harm laughs into her ear, still holding on.
Carefully disentangling herself from his grasp, Mac flushes. "Not a drop spilled, Commander," she retorts. "I'm surprised to see you so early; I was certain you'd be dragging in just before our scheduled meeting with the General." Having stepped far enough back to get a good look at his face, Mac notes the bloodshot, tired eyes of the man standing in front of her. "You didn't get much sleep last night did you?"
"Not much, but I did get the paperwork finished. I wanted to come in to get a somewhat fresh look at it before I printed the final copy for General Cresswell; I don't particularly think he'd be impressed with the number of typos I'm sure I made." He tries for a tired smile as he reaches past her for the coffee pot. "I feel like my eyeballs are swimming in this stuff already this morning…but I wouldn't trade dinner last night for a little more sleep," he finishes, whispering the last part in her ear as he reaches past her again to return the coffee pot to its proper place. "If you're ever up to a repeat, let me know."
Harm is gone, back to his office with the door closed so he can work undisturbed, before the words register. Smiling because she's certain the two of them are now on the same page, Mac returns to her office to finish up a couple of items she would like to get signed off on while they are in with the General.
Thirty minutes later Jen knocks on Mac's open door to get her attention. "Ma'am, the General would like to see you and Commander Rabb in his office." Mac checks her watch in case her internal clock has gone haywire; it simply confirms that there are 30 minutes before they were expected to report for the results—something else must have come up.
"Thank you, Jen. I'll get Harm if you haven't already informed him," Mac offers.
"Thank you, Ma'am. I did come to you first since your door was open and I haven't seen him yet."
"Oh, he's in there; he's either proofing a report he wrote last night, or he's catching up on his sleep," Mac laughs. "That's why I want to get him myself; I want to see which it is."
Jen doesn't even try to hide her smile. "Mind if I tag along, ma'am?"
Jen waits until Mac gathers the files she wants to take in to the General and then follows her to Harm's office. Just as Mac raises her hand to knock, the door is pulled open and Harm's arms go around her for the second time that morning to steady her after he nearly runs her down. "Whoa, we really have to stop meeting like this, Colonel." He turns to Jen who's watching with wide eyes, "Is there something I can do for you, Petty Officer?" he asks, taking his time in unwinding his arms from around Mac's waist.
"General Cresswell wants to see you and Colonel MacKenzie in his office, sir." She'd give just about anything to know how Mac knew Harm hadn't gotten much sleep last night; he just looks a little worn out to her.
"Thank you, Jen." He keeps his attention on her until he's finished speaking, then focuses it on the woman still practically standing in his arms. From the corner of his eye he sees Jen beat a hasty retreat back to her desk. "So, it took two of you to deliver that information?" he asks lazily. "I hope nothing really important comes up today or I might find my entire office surrounded."
Mac bites back an indignant retort; she deserved that one, and by the twinkle in his eyes she can tell he's going to take the opportunity to tease her about it. "With the way you looked in the break room, I thought you might have fallen asleep at your desk," she admits, trailing him back into his office where he grabs an empty file folder from his desk.
"Well, in my haste to get a few hours of sleep, I inadvertently set the timer on my coffee pot for PM instead of AM. By the time I realized it, it was too late to start a pot. The cup I grabbed on my way in helped get me here, but I knew I'd need a bit more before I was really awake enough to finish this up." He waves the papers he's just picked up off the printer at her before neatening them up to place them in the folder. He leads the way, throwing back over his shoulder, "It certainly helped that the coffee was Marine grade this morning. And fortunately I fixed most of the mistakes last night or I'd be looking for some way to avoid this early summons."
A brief image of Harm hiding under his desk, contorted and squished into the small space, poking at the keys on his laptop in an effort to make the necessary changes to his report before anyone can find him, invades Mac's consciousness. She lets out a full laugh just as Harm opens the door in response to Cresswell's command to enter. Cresswell, Harm and Jen look at her funny, but Jen doesn't get to hear any explanation she might offer as the door is closed behind them.
Cresswell looks at Mac a little strangely; he opts to ignore the odd behavior for the moment, instead turning his attention to the reason he called them in before their scheduled meeting. "At ease, have a seat," he instructs. "Colonel, did you get the problem with your car resolved last night?"
"Yes sir; it's been taken care of."
"What was the nature of the problem?"
Feeling like a deer caught in headlights, Mac stammers, "I…ah…I locked my keys in my car yesterday, sir." Her face is hot, and she's sure if she were to look over at Harm she'd see him fighting to not laugh.
"You locked your keys in your car," Cresswell echoes. "And did you have to find a locksmith somewhere to let you in your car?"
"The reason I ask is because your car was still here when I left for the evening yesterday. I thought it might have been a serious problem, but when I saw you arrive in the car this morning, I didn't know what to think."
"Commander Rabb drove me home so I could get the spare set I have there. We stopped for dinner on the way."
"It's lucky for you that you don't keep your apartment keys on the same key ring as your car keys…"
Mac is beginning to think Cresswell knows a lot more than he's letting on about the situation. She sneaks a look over at Harm and finds him with a thoughtful expression on his face, not a laugh in sight. Completely convinced it's not just her imagination, Mac acknowledges this has the possibility of getting very uncomfortable. "That would probably be a good idea, sir, but I keep them all together; makes a better weapon that way." Cresswell turns from his contemplation of the view outside his window, an expectant look on his face, but says nothing. "I was able to get into my apartment using the key I'd given Commander Rabb a number of years ago," she explains.
"Commander Rabb has a key to your apartment?" Cresswell questions, his voice even.
"And Colonel MacKenzie has a key to mine, sir," Harm breaks into the conversation. When Cresswell turns his attention to the other half of the duo, Mac breathes a sigh of relief and Harm tenses in anticipation of whatever may be headed his way. The silent scrutiny doesn't make the sometime aviator flinch as it might someone who hasn't had the need to develop nerves of steel; the raised eyebrow is taken as a question. "A number of years ago a former DSD agent held me hostage in my apartment. It was awfully expensive to replace the window Bud broke when trying to get in, not to mention he almost blew us up by tripping the motion detector on the bomb that was left with me in the apartment. Since I don't live in a particularly safe neighborhood, I didn't want to leave a spare where just anyone could come across it. Colonel MacKenzie had had a stalker after her a short time before that; it seemed wise that someone should have a key to each of our apartments. We chose to exchange keys because we were partners at the time, and although we fortunately didn't ever need them, we, or I at least, never thought about returning it."
Cresswell lets his gaze travel from one to the other, silently assessing the two officers sitting in front of him. The both look him straight in the eye when his attention is turned their way; neither appears to be hiding anything. "What happened to the DSD agent?" he asks, wanting to know if there's some sort of deranged former agent out there after one of his people; he's getting the idea that this group is going to keep him on his toes, any potential catalysts for the anticipated excitement need to be identified as soon as possible.
"He's in Leavenworth, sir," Harm replies. "At least I hope he's still there," he adds under his breath.
"And the stalker?"
"In prison, sir," Mac responds, also adding a fervent hope that Coster is still where he belongs.
"Good." The two officers breathe almost identical sighs of relief as Cresswell seems to dismiss the subject. "I have an assignment for the two of you." Cresswell outlines the situation and hands them each a folder. "Colonel, you'll prosecute; Commander, you'll defend. Petty Officer Coates should have your travel arrangements and orders by the time we're finished with our meeting." He looks at the two of them again, "Is there anything either of you wants to add?"
"No sir," they reply in unison, both aware that he is not referring to the assignment he just handed out.
Considering the topic closed, at least for the moment, Cresswell turns his attention to another matter. "Commander, I understand the Breant court-martial finished up late yesterday morning." He glances across his desk at the younger officer, silently cursing that he has to look up to the man, even seated.
"Yes sir. We wrapped up just before I left the office yesterday." No need to explain what he left the office for. He presents the folder with the recently printed report in it. "Here's the report you requested, sir."
Cresswell is suitably impressed. He'd only discovered the case had wrapped later than expectations when he arrived that morning; all earlier indications had them wrapping several days ago. Now that he thinks of it, he should have known something was up—Sturgis, usually almost painfully prompt with his paperwork, hasn't handed in his report yet. The barest hint of guilt flickers in his consciousness as his eyes meet Harm's, for the first time noticing the fairly well hidden tiredness he sees when he looks hard enough. "Did you stay up all night to finish this?" In addition to wrapping late, the Breant case was rather complex, requiring a lengthy investigation to find the man responsible for a series of leaks of sensitive material. Harm had almost reluctantly joined the investigation of what was shaping up to be a purely circumstantial case, and despite his almost staggering case load to fuel his hesitancy in getting involved, managed to completely clear the first—and innocent—suspect and get NCIS on the trail of the real culprit before having to keep a court date for another case. From what he's seen and read about the tenacious officer, Cresswell suspects Harm didn't end his assistance there, however since it didn't keep him from any of his other duties, he can't find any reasons to fault Harm's actions.
"Not all night sir."
At that moment, Mac's internal clock tells her it's 0900. Harm is at least temporarily saved from having to expand on his answer by Jen buzzing the General to let him know he has a phone call. The slightly quizzical note in Jen's voice suggests the caller provided only enough information to make it through the normal screening process, but not nearly enough to satisfy her innate curiosity. Cresswell picks up the handset on the off chance someone else would choose to call precisely at 0900 and quickly switches to the speakerphone when the identity of the caller is confirmed.
"You know it's unusual to give these results out over the phone, General. I can have a courier there with them in an hour, sir," the man on the other end of the phone advises them, acting like he's trying to stall.
"Gunnery Sergeant, all three officers that were present yesterday are present now and we'd like the results now," Cresswell responds forcefully, although not yet to the point where he would resort to raising his voice.
A resigned, "Yes sir," is heard. "Cresswell, 389." Cresswell looks pleased with his results—he beat both his and Mac's scores from their first session. "MacKenzie, 390." Mac looks a little smug at beating her commanding officer again. "Rabb, 395." Harm's expression is neutral; Mac and Cresswell have identical looks of astonishment on their faces. "Is there anything else you need, General?" the Gunnery Sergeant asks when he doesn't hear anything for a few minutes.
"Yes. Would you have the courier bring an official copy of the results?" Although their range time wasn't part of the usual requalification process, Cresswell had made the arrangements with the understanding that the scores could be used to replace the earlier requalification scores. These results Cresswell wants to see in black and white before he gets started with the idea that's forming in the back of his mind. He ends the conversation after obtaining confirmation that the hard copy will be in his hands in the aforementioned hour, and then once again turns his attention to his officers. "Good scores, both of you," he offers.
"Thank you sir," Harm and Mac respond in unison. "And you as well, sir," Mac adds, knowing his previous score was somewhere below her own earlier score of 382.
"Is this what you were referring to when you told me Commander Rabb was not a typical Squid?"
"Actually I had no idea about this, sir. I was mostly referring to the fact that he often puts himself in the line of fire and refuses to leave anyone behind, although it does frequently get him in hot water."
Well, that has to be what Sturgis was trying not to bring up when they were discussing Bud, Cresswell surmises, and possibly what Harm had been referring to when he admitted to having heard the word 'unorthodox' applied to himself. "Would you care to explain, Commander Rabb, why this ability doesn't show up in any of your fitness reports?"
"To be honest sir, I don't know what to say. I stopped going to the firing range when I returned from Vietnam. I was told I was a natural for the shooting team at the Academy, but it wasn't something I wanted to pursue. I've been in a number of situations where I've had to use my service revolver, more so probably than one would expect from a lawyer. I don't go looking for trouble; I originally learned to shoot because I didn't know what to expect during my search for my father. It's not something I practice or work at; I've already taken too many lives to want to do that," Harm explains with a sad expression on his face.
Cresswell regards Harm, trying to clear his mind of any preconceived notions he may have had about the man. He debates dismissing Mac in order to make the clearly uncomfortable officer more relaxed before he proceeds with satisfying his curiosity, but the quick glance that passes between the two of them brings him to believe it would hurt more than help the situation. "I must have missed the entry that put you in Vietnam," he fishes for information, referring to Harm's service record.
"I wasn't in the Navy yet, sir. I went to Vietnam to look for my father in 1980. Colonel Stryker gave me all the pointers I'll ever need when it comes to firing a weapon. The first time my intended target was a man rather than a paper silhouette I realized I couldn't fire a weapon without it reminding me of the sound the man made when he died; it's something I'll never forget, and it's something I think about any time I need to pull the trigger. If I ever forget, I will resign my commission and lock the weapon away forever rather than become the man Palmer once insinuated I am." Harm is lost in thought, rambling a bit and not aware he has an audience. Mac looks like she's wants to stop the painful memories, but Cresswell wants to hear what Harm has to say—he wants to know what's behind the carefully crafted façade he's noticed but not been able to get around, until now.
"I don't really need a weapon to end someone's life, though," Harm continues after a moment of silence. "I learned that technique so many years ago I'm surprised I still remembered it. With his neighbors watching, I think that was more humiliating than China…" Harm trails off, blinks, and realizes where he is. His face grows hot, turning pink in embarrassment. "I'm sorry sir; I don't know what came over me." He would give just about anything to disappear into the floor right about now; unfortunately it doesn't look like Cresswell's ready to let him go.
Cresswell wracks his brain for anything he might have read that would explain Harm's comments, finally coming up with something he's pretty certain figures in somewhere. "Was that technique learned during the time you were posing as a Gunnery Sergeant?"
"Yes sir. That's one thing Stryker didn't even attempt to teach me when I was in country."
Cresswell thinks for a few minutes, doing some calculations. "Wouldn't you have been just a teenager in 1980?"
Harm risks a quick glance over at Mac, knowing it's only been a few years since he finally told her the story and now he's getting ready to tell it to someone he barely knows. "Yes sir; I was 16. It was the only chance I had before I tried for the Academy, so I made plans, saved my money and snuck out one night for my flight. I don't know if I really thought I'd find him or what, but I had to try."
"A girl died and I came home with less hope than I'd left with. After that, I didn't think I'd ever find him. If I'd known then that I was looking in the wrong country…"
Mac resists the urge to lay a hand on his arm; he still looks lost and alone when he talks about his father. "The only reason we got as far as we did was because of Parlovsky and Falcon, and even then it almost cost you your life. Had you known to look in Russia in 1980, you would probably have disappeared without getting any farther than you did in Vietnam."
"What does Russia have to do with MIAs from the Vietnam War?" Cresswell asks, completely lost.
"My father was transferred to Russia after he was captured in Vietnam—they were interested in finding a way to protect against the pilots who flew Iron Hand missions," Harm explains. "He eventually escaped, but was killed trying to protect the woman who took him in; he never knew he had another son."
A lot of what's in Harm's service record is now becoming clearer to Cresswell, at least a lot of what isn't classified. Despite the fact that it is highly unlikely, he actually toyed with the idea for a while that much of what he read in the file was actually made up; that for some reason someone wanted to see what might happen if they put whatever popped into their minds into the record of one officer and essentially expected everyone to believe it. The proof, however, seems to be sitting in front of him. He asks a few more questions, more for curiosity's sake than real need to know before he dismisses both officers. Now more than ever, he's certain this group of individuals will keep him on his toes, and if he's not careful, will turn a lot of his preconceived notions on their respective ears, if not completely upside down. Before the pair clears the door, he calls out. "Commander, if it's absolutely necessary and it gets the job done, I can deal with unorthodox on occasion." Harm acknowledges the concession, realizing that a new level has been added to his relationship with their new CO; following Mac as she heads to her office to look over their new assignment, he hopes he's just started a trend that he can continue—with her.