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Revenge of the Shippers or Harm Grows a Backbone.

By Laura BF

Disclaimer: Not mine, not mine, not mine! They can have my extra Lois and Clark trading cards and my pocket lint collection for them!

Author's Note: This is a reaction to Pulse Rate--I figure that this is a much better alternative to whacking them upside the head with an ultimate Louisville Slugger to knock some sense into them. My beta reader assured me that it's not too insane, and talked me into posting it. I've been playing in Forever Knight, where this type of weirdness is fairly common, so just chalk it up to temporary insanity. ;)

~*~*~*~

Mac woke up and looked around. The last thing she could remember was going to bed in her apartment, but she wasn't where she had gone to sleep... and she had gone to bed alone. Stretched out on top of the covers beside her was Harm--and he was the only person in sight. She frowned and began to examine her surroundings. The two of them currently occupied the only piece of furniture in the room besides a single table that was bolted to the wall and the floor. Bottles of water stood on the table, and a large padlock was visible on the door.

Mac got up to examine the lock more closely, only to discover that her ankle had been chained with a well-padded shackle to the metal frame of the queen-sized bed. She could make it to the nearby table, but no further. She sighed and sat back on the bed next to Harm. She checked him over carefully for any obvious physical wounds. She was still pissed as hell at him for his recent courtroom antics--saying that she was tougher on the kid because of her own battle with addiction--but that didn't mean that she wanted him hurt.

Harm *was* still her closest friend, after all. "Harm?" she shook his shoulder, trying to wake him up. He moaned and rolled over slightly. At least he was still alive.

"C'mon, flyboy, wake up!" she ordered.

Harm groaned and opened his eyes. "Mac?" he said groggily. "What're you doing out of my dream?"

"Sailor, snap out of it," she threw him an irritated look, not wanting to know exactly what his dream had been about. "We're locked in here, and I don't have a clue where *here* is."

"Well," a soprano voice issued from a small speaker above the door. "We see that the two of you are finally awake."

"Who are you?" Mac demanded.

"If this is about the Matthews case--" Harm began.

An alto voice came next. "No, this isn't about *work*."

A baritone joined in. "This is about the two of you and your relationship."

"We've been watching the two of you dance around eachother for *eight* FREAKING *years*, and we're *sick* of it," a bass said.

"You've been *watching* us?" Mac asked, outraged.

"Yes," the soprano chimed in. "And after the way both of you have been behaving this year, we decided to do something about it--so you're going to be locked in here until you work things out."

"But what about our jobs, our lives?" Harms demanded.

"We have full cooperation from your friends," the baritone said smugly. "Admiral Chegwidden sends his regards and said to tell you that he's sick of your lack of commitment to each other mucking up his office."

Laughter met their gasps of outrage. "But this is *illegal*," Mac protested.

"Only if we get caught," the alto said. "You'll find chamber pots under the bed, and food will be delivered shortly."

"And this is like the Pit of Despair," the bass said. "Don't even think of trying to escape--you'll never get out."

"So we're stuck here until--" Mac began.

"Until you fix things between the two of you, yes. Colonel Mackenzie, are you galactically stupid or just blind as hell not to notice how the Commander feels about you? And Commander, we thought about applying a baseball bat to your head several times for not admitting it and asking the fair Colonel how she feels."

"You people think that I'm *galactically stupid*?" Mac asked, shocked. Harm just shook his head and began to laugh helplessly.

"We'll leave the two of you alone, now. *Fix* your relationship before we're forced to take more drastic measures." The first soprano said. The speaker crackled once, then fell silent.

"This is unbelievable," Mac muttered.

Harm put his hands behind his head and leaned back against his pillows. "At least they gave us a comfortable place to sleep," he said with a wry smile. "I mean, if we're not going to be going anywhere until we work things out, then we're *never* getting out of here."

"*Harm*!" Mac protested.

"Let's face it, Ninja-girl. We haven't been able to have a good conversation and actually *talk* to each other in a very long time."

"Because you always leave…" she grumbled.

"As I recall, *you* were the one who did the leaving in Paraguay," he retorted. "I gave up *everything* to rescue your six because of how I feel about you, and you threw it all back in my face." He sighed and rolled away from her. "What ever happened to 'thanks for saving my life, Harm'? Or, 'thanks for throwing what was left of your sorry life away to make sure that I didn't get dead'?" Harm sighed and buried his face in his pillow. "Doesn't matter anymore, anyway," he said, his voice muffled.

"Harm--" Mac stopped and looked at him, really seeing him for the first time in a long time. "I'm sorry," she said finally.

"So am I," Harm said hoarsely. "I'm sorry that I ever let myself fall in love with you--I knew better!" He rolled out of the bed and walked to the end of his tether, his back to her.

Mac's mouth fell open in shock. She closed it with a snap. Silently, she slipped off the bed and tried to join him. Unfortunately, her chain stopped short of where he was. "You're going to have to help me here, navy." She said. "I can't come any closer."

"Good," he said gruffly. "You're too close as it is." He turned towards her, and she could see the pain in his eyes. "You're one of the few people who has the power to hurt me--and you keep using it… frequently."

"I'm sorry, Harm," she said softly.

"So am I," he retorted. "Right now I can't decide if you're clueless, or just plain cruel. It hurt like hell to see you kiss Webb, and when you mentioned that you were dating him, you just twisted the knife! I love you, Sarah, but I'm sorry I do, because right now I'm not even sure that I like you anymore."

"Harm--"

"Let me *finish*," he snapped. "I've listened to you and let you slowly tear me apart for *years*, and it's time you let *me* talk. I've been waiting to be good enough for you for a long time, but I see now that it's not gonna happen. You want perfect, Sarah, and I'm about as far from perfect as a person can get. What in hell do I have to do to get your attention?" He looked at her in despair. "I went halfway across the world, gave up my career, *killed* people… just to get you home alive." He walked back to the bed, sat down, and buried his face in his hands.

"How much abuse can I take before I bleed to death?"

Mac sat down on the bed beside him and tentatively wrapped her arms around him. She hadn't known *any* of what she was telling him, and hearing it made her feel incredibly guilty. She hugged him tightly--or tried to.

"Don't touch me," he snarled, pushing her away and stalking back to the end of his chain.

"Do you really--love me?" she asked, incredulous.

"God help me, but I do," he said, scowling.

"Then why did you keep walking away?" she asked.

"I was giving you space to make your own way," he said stiffly.

"But the ferry--"

"I said 'not yet', not 'no'." He glanced back at her. "Marine, you have the strangest habit of picking the *worst* times for conversations about us," he said.

"I'm sorry," she said again. "I'm sorry I said all of those awful things, I'm sorry that I can't seem to talk to you about anything important." Mac hesitated. "But I'm *not* sorry that you love me, and I'm *not* sorry about how I feel about you." She held out her hand beseechingly. "Please come back over here, sailor," she begged.

Harm hesitated for a few minutes before walking over and sitting as far away from her on the bed as he could. "How do you feel about me, Sarah? If you feel how I think you do, prove it! Admit it, and marry me," he said roughly. "Even when I hate you, I still love you--I can't help it."

Mac crawled closer to him, put her arms around him, and kissed him on the temple. "I can't," she said hoarsely.

Harm pulled back. "Why?" he asked simply.

"Because I'm too damn scared, that's why." She retorted.

"Then we can be scared together, because I've been terrified that I've lost you for good ever since Paraguay." Harm stared at his hands, refusing to look at her.

"You haven't," she said, a lump rising in her throat. She wanted to be angry with him, but the emotion wouldn't come. She had known at the time that what she'd been saying was cruel, but with everything that'd been going on around them, she hadn't cared. "I'll marry you," she offered.

"Why?" he grated.

"Because, squid-for-brains, I love you," she whispered, fighting back tears. Mac wrapped her arms around him and was relieved when he relaxed into her embrace. She almost sobbed with relief when she felt his arms surround her as he hugged her back.

The duo looked up in shock as the far wall slid away, revealing a crowd of people and equipment. The people looked at them and cheered before they started to trickle out of the door on the far wall. Harm and Mac stood up and released each other, tripping over their chains in haste as the Admiral walked out from behind a camera. "As you were," he said, as he came closer and unlocked their chains.

"What… was all of this?" Mac asked.

"It's a simulation room," AJ said. "I called in some favors when the shippers approached me."

"Shippers?" Harm questioned.

"A loosely organized group of people who want you and the Colonel together," AJ supplied. "I can't say I blame them. Bud is outside waiting for the two of you--I'm going to give you a few days off to work things out, and then I want *both* of you back, ready to work without the constant sniping, is that clear?"

"Aye, sir," they chorused.

"I'll work on the fraternization problem while the two of you are on leave. You're dismissed."

Harm and Mac walked out the far door, arm-in-arm.

AJ chuckled to himself. "Well, I'll be damned," he said. "They were *right*." He shook his head and left the building for home where his Meredith was waiting for him.

Finis.