AUTHOR'S NOTES: This fic sprung from a set of thoughts I had regarding the differences between Jack and Harry as embodied in the Season Six episode 'Paradise Lost'.
The Differences Between Fishermen
Jack ate his fish, grimacing all the way.
It was wrong on so many levels.
Fishing was a sport – an art. It should be done with reverence and in the right frame of mind - almost like making love - only you didn't need a partner.
Harry just didn't get it.
He flicked a glance in the direction of his companion. Harry was eating more of the 'arugula' in spite of his protests about its bitterness. When the stomach cried for food, it didn't much care if the tongue didn't like the taste. Jack remembered that lesson from Iraq.
Carefully avoiding those thoughts, Jack regarded the leaf-wrapped packages sitting in the fire with regret. Now if he'd been allowed to sit down and slowly reel those babies in...it would have been a meal to celebrate.
As it was, the fish might as well have been arugula-flavoured.
It was just wrong.
Just like Harry and his methods.
Lie, cheat, steal, betray... Never mind that in the process you lost something of yourself, a part of you that couldn't be regained. Jack had lost too much of himself that way when he was too young to realise the cost, he didn't want to lose any more of it.
In some ways, he envied the members of his team who hadn't lost their integrity: Carter, Jonas, even Daniel while he'd been around. He understood Teal'c, but he envied the others.
Maybe that was why he'd never really warmed to Harry, even after the guy had helped him out in a tight spot or several. Harry was a bit too close to Jack's bone to really make him comfortable - and Harry knew it. Harry's hands weren't entirely clean – and neither were Jack's. But Harry was okay with having dirty hands and a dirty soul – and Jack wasn't.
As he finished off his fish and started on the new one, Jack pondered his next direction of travel. Across the lake wasn't an option - not just yet. Maybe back through the meadow and around to the other side? He had to do something with his time.
At least this time around, he didn't have a lingering feeling of guilt and responsibility. There weren't other people around to worry about, to feel guilty over, to have to help. It was selfish, but selfishness was part of the human spirit – as much as hope and endurance and honour.
"You would have sat there for hours catching nothing," Harry said from across the fire.
Jack didn't tell Harry that catching nothing was the point of fishing. "I would've caught something eventually."
"After we'd starved to death."
"You seem to be surviving on the arugula." A pointed glance at the bitter herb seemed to make Harry defensive.
"It's better than nothing at all! Anyway, how come you're so calm about this whole 'castaway' thing? You can't tell me you don't want to go back."
Jack shrugged. "They'll come for us." They would. He knew his team. He'd had experience with Carter's determination before, her ability to move mountains. They'd come for him.
"For you, maybe." Harry echoed Jack's thoughts, but sounded suspiciously cynical. Was there a hint of jealousy in the rat's voice?
"If they come for me, then they'll come for you, too."
"I'm not going back."
"Nobody said you had to." Jack was feeling strangely serene. All the more because such serenity and acceptance would bug the heck out of Harry.
"But they'll make me."
Now Harry sounded like a whiny kid.
Jack decided enough was enough.
He wrapped the remainder of his fish up in the leaf and tucked it back in the outer ashes. Then he dusted his hands off on his fatigues and began walking back to the lake.
"Where're you going?"
Jack didn't bother turning around. "To the lake."
"We've got dinner."
"But I can still fish." And that was one thing that Harry would never understand. Not everything had to have a definable point to it.
Harry grumbled audibly behind Jack, but he ignored it. He didn't want to hear it – he didn't need to hear it. They were stuck here with each other, the best they could do was avoid getting on each others nerves more than they already did.
So Jack went back to his line and the peace of fishing and waited for rescue.
Harry watched the other man walk away and shook his head in mild disgust.
Usually, he was fond of Jack in the way distant relatives could be fond of each other: endured during those infrequent family gatherings, but avoided most of the time. And the Colonel had been useful from time to time. A line in to the powers that were and Harry's hopes of respectability – or at least freedom.
Around him, the deserted, dilapidated camp mocked Harry's hopes. So much for 'Paradise'.
And all Jack O'Neill wanted to do was sit and fish.
Why bother fooling around with the niceties when you could get what you wanted in a much more direct manner? Harry didn't get it. Subterfuge had its benefits – especially when people were as gullible and trusting as the SGC – but when a more direct route was available, why hesitate, just because it wasn't 'a nice thing to do'?
Harry had never let the fact that some things weren't 'nice' stop him from doing them.
Stealing technology hadn't been 'a nice thing to do', but it had been necessary. At the time, there was no Protected Planets Treaty with the Asgard. And even once they had the Protected Planets Treaty, the Asgard hadn't been all that helpful - just look at the situation with the asteroid.
Earth, in the form of the SGC and through the doings of SG-1, had saved the Asgard several times over. All they ever got was a pat on the head and a 'nice work' before the Asgard flew back off to their nice technologically advanced planets.
Yet another case in point – the situation with the replicators. Save the Asgard civilisation – and, incidentally, the galaxy – get a free pat on the head. Or maybe the knee.
After six years of nearly nothing, the SGC was practically desperate for new technology that would serve a purpose in the fight against the Goa'uld. Harry had counted on this, and mentally grinned as the SGC had jumped at the opportunity of gaining useful weaponry.
Ultimately, the joke was on both the SGC and Harry. The SGC for believing him, and him for believing that there'd be anything left of 'Paradise' after all this time.
He should have known it would be too good to be true.
And now he was stuck here in 'Paradise'. With Jack O'Neill, who didn't want to do anything but fish.
A fool's 'Paradise', indeed.
And Harry was the fool.
Harry didn't like being the fool.
He scowled at the figure, sitting thoughtfully by the lake, a fine trail of thin line running from the tip of the upright rod out to the centre of the lake.
It wasn't like Jack was catching anything. It wasn't like Jack needed to catch anything. The important part was always the result – the method didn't matter as long as it produced the desired outcome. And Harry's way got things done much more effectively than Jack's way.
He picked a bone out of his fish and flung it aside. God, what he wouldn't have done for some tomato sauce! Or some breadcrumbs. However, both were in short supply around here.
If they'd been left to Jack's devices, they'd have starved. Or gone insane on the arugula.
Harry stuffed some herb into his mouth and chewed distastefully.
Sometimes he was amazed that the SGC and Earth hadn't yet been overrun by the Goa'uld. In the end, he'd concluded that Jack O'Neill had the devil's own luck and the knack of amusing just enough people high up in the scheme of things to keep his own skin – and the skin of all the people who he felt a responsibility towards – intact.
Harry felt a reponsibility to Harry. The world was a lot simpler that way.
Okay. He felt a little reponsibility to Jack, too.
But he was damned if he understood the man.
How could someone who'd seen everything Jack O'Neill had seen, done everything Jack O'Neill had done, still hold the kind of morals and ethics the man had? While he worked for the NID, Harry had read as much of Jack's folder as he had clearance to read. The man had done unthinkable things to other humans in the name of the United States of America. Yet he could take Harry to task for what Harry did for the sake of the world?
I could make sure he's never a problem again. I'm already wanted for treason.
Okay, I'll just pretend you didn't say that.
Someone at the NID initially suggested Jack's refusal to cross the line was due to the moralistic tendencies of his team – specifically Dr. Jackson.
Harry had entertained that thought briefly, then dismissed it. After meeting the man, it was clear that Jack O'Neill wasn't the type to cling to his code of ethics because someone else thought he should. He'd do it for his own sake, not because someone else was passing moral judgement on him. Jack was too damned stubborn to just sit back and let someone else require him to do the right thing.
But it still made no sense. Jack had been shoulder deep in the thick of undercover ops in the late eighties and early nineties, yet in the last few years since his assignment to the Stargate project, he had persisted in trying to keep his hands clean of the things that Harry had no compunction about dabbling in. Okay, so exceptions were made. Jack probably got a great deal of satisfaction out of threatening Kinsey.
This latest inaction was only the tip of the iceberg as far as Harry was concerned. Jack was going out of his way to annoy him – he always did.
Simmons says you're the one who sullied the good name of the NID.
It riled Harry up.
He'd done his best by his world – the only way he knew how. The direct way. And for that, Hammond, Jack, and a lot of other people had condemned him for only doing what they'd have done if they'd had half the courage to cut to the chase instead of stepping carefully around hoity-toity allies.
For that, Harry had been imprisoned, hunted down, distrusted, and left to rot here in 'Paradise'.
Because, whatever Jack thought, there was no way the SGC would ever find them. Not even Sam Carter's brilliance could get them out of this one.
Nope, it was up to them to make what kind of life they could and would here.
By whatever means were available to them – what good were morals when you were dead?
Harry ate the last of his fish, glaring at the turned back of his companion over by the lake, then picked himself and a couple of the leaf-wrapped fish from the fire and stalked away.
- fin -