True Love Never Was Easy
Part Four
Three Dead Men



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Mac's Apartment
Washington, D.C.
Saturday, July 26th, 2003
0407 Hours (local)

Mac felt him as he moved away from her. She had hoped he was coming back, but when she heard him rustling through his clothes, she knew he wasn't. She had dared to turn her head just a little and open her eyes into tiny slits. She saw him pulling up his jeans by the dim light from the street lamps sneaking in through the window. Harm picked up his shirt and the papers scattered on the floor and slipped out of the room, missing the tears that had begun to leak from Mac's eyes.

She heard the door to her apartment close behind him with a thudding finality.

-----

Mac's Apartment
Washington, D.C.
0646 Hours (local)

Sleep didn't come for Mac again after Harm's departure. She had shed a few tears over him, but vowed that they would be the last. After an amazing night, he had just left her without a word. With a broken heart, Mac dressed in light clothing for a long run. She left her house at a fast walk and headed to Rock Creek Park. Once within the park, she began to jog. Her jog started off at a controlled, steady pace, but after a few miles, her pace picked up, and soon she broke out of her jog into a flat out run. Other joggers began to look at her as she sped past them, but Mac didn't care. She was just running, running from the memories of the night before. A night she hadn't wanted to forget, but now wanted to take back.

Mac only stopped when her lungs began to burn. Her body was coated in sweat, the day having dawned hot. It was after 0745 hours and Mac was several miles from her place. She started walking and tried to regain her breath, fighting back tears. The running hadn't helped; she couldn't escape the memory. After walking another mile and a half, Mac found a bench and took a seat. She buried her face in her hands while she tried to get her emotions back under control. A few minutes of this and Mac rose again and began a slow jog back to her apartment. At the edge of the park, she once again slowed back to a walk to head home.

Once home, Mac climbed into the shower to wash away the sweat and Harm's scent. She had hoped to wash the memory down the drain as well, but she knew it wouldn't happen. If there was one thing she had learned in her life, it was that sometimes, memories couldn't be forgotten, no matter how much she wanted to forget them.

-----

Mac's Apartment
Washington, D.C.
Sunday, July 27th, 2003
2337 Hours (local)

Sunday night found Mac in bed, waiting for the next day. Her heart was numb and her body was tired. She had spent the weekend scrubbing her apartment from top to bottom, perusing the case the Admiral had given her and Harm on Friday, working on a few other cases she had brought home with her, and running. She was doing anything to try and purge her mind of thoughts of Harm, but at night, there was nothing she could do. Every time the phone rang, her heart began beating with the hope that it was Harm, but she was always disappointed. Finally, she had grown numb. She had lain awake in bed the night before, finally falling into a fitful sleep some time after 0100 hours and awakening just after 0430. She didn't think Sunday night would be better, but she hoped that sheer exhaustion would take over.

It didn't.

-----

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
Monday, July 28th, 2003
0703 Hours (local)

Mac had awakened with a splitting headache three hours earlier. After another long run, not a jog, she had showered and come into work early, once again forgoing breakfast, as she had skipped many meals over the weekend. At this early hour, the JAG office was nearly empty, for which Mac was thankful. She spent some time listening to her voice mails and going through her email before sorting through the stack of stuff in her inbox.

The Admiral wandered in at 0747 and he paused as he took note of Mac's early arrival. She appeared to have been there a while, already surrounded by stacks of paper. She also looked to be tired, dark circles present under her eyes and her skin tone was pale.

"Did you have a good weekend, Colonel?" the Admiral asked as he approached her office.

If looks could have killed, he would have been a dead man. "Not particularly, Sir. You?"

"I'm sorry to hear that. I did, actually. Meredith and I just spent time at home, much to my relief."

A smile flitted across Mac's face, but it was brief and the Admiral felt that it was mostly for his benefit. "That's nice." Mac turned back to her work, clearly uninterested in a conversation with him.

The Admiral turned and headed towards his own office, hearing a door slam a moment later. If he had looked to see, he would have confirmed his suspicions that it was Mac's.

Tiner came in a few minutes later, followed by several other JAG staff members. By 0800, everyone was present and accounted for, with the exception of Harm, who was usually late.

Mac caught sight of Harm as he walked past her office a few minutes past 0800, looking refreshed and smiling to Bud, not looking her way. "I'm glad one of us had a nice weekend," Mac muttered angrily to herself. "What'd you do Commander, get laid this weekend?" "Why, yes, Colonel, I did," she responded answering herself. "Was she a nice girl?" "Yeah, she was, girl-next-door sort. It won't happen again, as she wasn't even that good in bed. But you know what they say, some is better than none and a fuck is a fuck." Angry tears welled up in her eyes and blurred the notes on the case she was looking at. She wiped angrily at them. "Fucking bastard!" she said loudly, loud enough for Tiner, who was getting ready to knock at her door, to hear.

He knocked anyway. He heard her command for him to enter, so he did, cautiously. He would have been Dead Man Number Two of the day if looks could kill. "Ma'am?"

"Tiner," she responded curtly, avoiding his gaze.

"The Admiral wants to see you and Commander Rabb in his office, Ma'am."

"Thanks, Tiner. I'll be right there."

Tiner smiled weakly and retreated quickly, pulling the door shut behind him.

Mac took a few moments to calm herself before she stepped out into the bullpen. She crossed to the Admiral's office where he called her in and Harm was already waiting.

"Have a seat," the Admiral instructed. The two officers obeyed his command, avoiding eye contact with each other. "I trust the two of you had a chance to look over the Marshall case this weekend?"

"Yes, Sir," both officers responded as one.

"And have you had a chance to talk about it?"

"No, Sir," Harm responded quickly. "I can't speak for the Colonel, but I got a little busy this weekend," he said as he turned to look at Mac, hoping she wouldn't be mad.

Mac knew he was looking, but she didn't turn. He wouldn't get the satisfaction. "Like the Commander, I was also busy this weekend."

"Okay. Well, I got some new information this weekend," the Admiral said as he handed each of them a few sheets of paper. "It looks like this is bigger than anybody thought. I need you guys to do some additional investigative work on this before Marshall gets to court. I feel that there is more involved."

Quickly skimming the material, Harm spoke up, "I agree, Admiral."

Mac merely nodded, not trusting her voice. She was seething.

"Okay. Staff call is at 0900, take your time beforehand to discuss this case and figure out where you are going to go."

Both officers rose to their feet and responded, "Aye, aye, Sir."

"Dismissed."

Both turned to leave, Harm allowing Mac to go before him. Once in the bullpen, Harm asked Mac, "So, what do you think of the case?"

Mac turned to him, her eyes on fire. "I think I'm surprised you even had time to look at it, as you were so busy this weekend." Her voice was loud and the whole bullpen turned to look.

"Hey, take it easy, Mac," Harm pleaded. "I… uh… just had a lot to do," Harm stammered.

"I'll bet," Mac responded. She did not say what else she was thinking, that he also had a lot of people to do, including her.

"So, your office or mine? To discuss the case?"

Mac continued to glare at him. Like the Admiral and Tiner before him, Harm would have been a dead man if Mac could have killed with a look. "Well, seeing as one of us apparently had a good weekend and got some sleep, why don't you take the whole fucking thing into your office and you do it!" she half-yelled as she shoved her copy of the case materials at his chest. She turned on her heels and stalked away, leaving Harm no choice but to clutch the folder and papers before they fell all over the floor. A few seconds later, the door to Mac's office once again, slammed shut.

As the bullpen got back to business, Sturgis approached Harm and jokingly said, "Jeez, what got into her this weekend?"

Harm really didn't want to answer that question.

-----

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
0917 Hours (local)

Throughout the staff call, Mac glared daggers at Harm across the table, if she looked at him at all. The glances didn't go unnoticed by the rest of the staff, but no one knew what was up between the two attorneys. At the end of the meeting, as people were filing out of the conference room, Harm called, "Mac," offering her a friendly grin.

She turned around to face him, her face looking both bored and irritated. "Commander?"

Harm's grin slid off his face at the use of his rank. She only did that when she was really angry, and judging by the fire burning in her eyes, she was mad at him. He held out the file she had shoved at him earlier, "Here. You might need this. I already have my own copy."

Mac accepted the folder and turned to walk away.

"I also put a copy of the notes I've made in there, too."

Mac merely nodded to acknowledge him, not even giving him a thank you, as she stepped out the door.

"Commander," the Admiral called behind him. He didn't sound angry, but he wasn't happy, either. "Walk with me." Harm followed the Admiral down the hallway. "Have a good weekend?" he asked.

"Parts of it were nice. How about you, Sir? Did you and Meredith do anything special?"

"No, we just stayed home. And with her crazy ideas, that is a good thing." Both men laughed lightly at the comment, but Harm didn't feel it. He was puzzled over Mac's behavior, and he couldn't shake the feeling that it had something to do with him. The men had reached the Admiral's office and Harm followed the Admiral inside. "Have a seat, Commander."

Harm did as the Admiral requested. "How is the Marshall case going?"

"Well, Sir, I am having a minor difficulty with it."

The Admiral nodded. "Would this problem have anything to do with the Colonel?"

Harm sighed as he answered, "Actually, it does, Sir."

"I try not to pry into the personal lives of my people, but I do have concerns about the Colonel. She hasn't seemed like herself today," the Admiral stated. "She seems upset."

"Today?" At this point, Harm was struck with a sense of déjà vu.

"She was fine on Friday."

Harm sighed, not wanting to admit this to himself, much less the Admiral. "Well, Admiral, that might have something to do with me."

"Is it related to the Marshall case? A disagreement?"

"We haven't even talked about the Marshall case, Sir," Harm admitted.

"I'm also getting a sense of hurt from her."

"I believe I am responsible for that."

"Care to explain?"

"Respectfully, no, Sir."

The Admiral sighed heavily as he leaned back in his chair.

"It's one of those days, I guess. Or weeks. I seem to be pressing her buttons." Harm winced at his choice of words, which had flown out of his mouth before he could stop them.

"Can you stop that?"

"I am trying, Admiral."

A weak smile broke out on the Admiral's face. "I believe we've been through this before, Commander."

Harm didn't share in the Admiral's smile.

"In the meantime," the Admiral began as he straightened in his chair and put his glasses on, "see what you can do on the Marshall case on your own until the Colonel gets over whatever it is."

"Yes, Sir," Harm said as he rose to his feet.

Just before he reached the door, the Admiral called after him again. "Commander?"

"Sir?"

"I trust you'll keep this conversation to yourself?"

"Of course, Sir," Harm agreed.

"Good," the Admiral stated as he returned to the papers before him.

Harm stepped out of the Admiral's office and hung his head. It was already interfering with work, and that was the last thing he wanted to happen.

-----

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
1448 Hours (local)

"Mac!" Harm called as he spotted her crossing the bullpen.

Mac pursed her lips and approached Harm. "Commander?"

Harm winced internally. The day was not getting any better and Harm was starting to believe that she was intentionally avoiding him. "Do you have a minute?"

"I'm busy. What do you want?"

"To discuss the Marshall case?" he offered hopefully.

"Fine," Mac agreed reluctantly. If it would get him off her back, she'd talk about the stupid case. She followed him into his office where he shut the door.

"Have you done anything on it?" Harm asked.

"I haven't had the chance. Like I said, I've been busy."

Harm sighed, "Mac, I can't do everything on this."

Mac glanced to something over his shoulder, and for just a moment, her face softened. She spoke again, "Fine. Tell me what you want me to do and I'll take care of it when I get a chance."

"Mac, why do I get the feeling you are throwing this in my face?"

"That's the first smart thing you've said all day, Commander. Perhaps you feel that way because I am. Are we done?"

Harm shook his head. "Tiner told me you were in here this morning before both he and the Admiral. What's going on?"

Mac's expression changed from one of anger to one of hurt. "Don't start that with me! I'm not playing that game with you again. I'm not doing it anymore!"

"Mac, will you just tell me what is wrong?"

Mac once again covered up her hurt expression with one of anger, only her eyes revealing the truth. "I'm not going there. Drop it, okay?" Mac turned and opened his office door and walked away.

"Wait!" Harm called after her. "Mac!" He moved quickly and caught her in the bullpen on her way to her office. He grabbed hold of her arm to keep her from moving. "It isn't okay! I want to know! Talk to me!"

Tears were forming in Mac's eyes as she angrily shook her head. "No, Harm. I'm not doing this!" she shouted. "I am not having this conversation with you, not here, not now, and probably not ever! Now let me go and leave me alone!"

The entire bullpen had paused in its activities when Mac had opened the door. It was no secret that the two officers weren't currently at their best. Even the Admiral had stepped out of his office when Mac had started shouting.

Harm released Mac's arm and she immediately stepped back from him, the first tear making its way down her cheek. She stormed into her office, picked up her purse, and walked back up to Harm.

"I mean it, leave me alone. If it isn't work related, I don't want anything to do with you." She stomped angrily across the bullpen, wiping at the additional tears that had managed to escape.

"Don't do this, Mac! You can't do this!" he yelled after her, taking a few steps towards her, not caring that the entire office was in the middle of their argument.

"And why is that, Harm?" Mac asked as she stopped just short of the doors leading to the elevators. "Why can't I just walk out and leave you?"

"You just can't!"

Mac shook her head as her eyes watered once again. "Watch me!" She turned to go, pushing the doors open.

"Mac! Wait! I…" Harm stammered. "I love you!"

The bullpen drew in a collective breath. Bud dropped the file he was holding, spilling its contents on the floor. Nobody moved to pick it up, including Bud. Somewhere, a phone rang, but nobody went to answer it. The only noise came from the air conditioning unit and the TVs overhead.

Mac stopped halfway through the doors and looked back at Harm.

"I love you," he repeated, looking her straight in the eye, not yelling it quite as loud as he had before. "That's why you can't just walk away."

The tears began streaming freely down Mac's face and her lower lip quivered. She said a few quiet words that most didn't catch, but Harm managed to get them. "Sometimes, love isn't enough."

Harm saw this across the distance and his heart broke for her pain.

She turned and ran, bypassing the elevators and taking the stairs all the way down. She didn't stop running until she reached her car, and she quickly pulled the vehicle out of the parking lot and set it loose on the streets, squealing her tires as she went, tears still streaming down her face and blurring her vision.

Back in the bullpen, it was a long time before anybody moved. And even then, it was Harm, who took the few steps back into his office and quietly shut the door behind him, a broken man.

********

5/9

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