I have tried to capture the tone of the film and my fond memories of it here. Originally written for the Yuletide Rare Fandom Story Challenge; slightly edited for this site. EDIT: This fanfic has been redited to remove song lyrics.
The film "Armageddon" and its characters belong to Touchstone Pictures. The song "Desperado" belongs to the Eagles. No copyright infringement is intended or implied.
A. J. Frost sometimes had trouble getting over the end of the world, even though it hadn't happened after all. There were too many memories, and for him they went way back before anyone had sacrificed himself.
He remembered coming to work on the rig. He'd been told that Harry Stamper had felt stuck giving him a job, because of the family obligations, and he didn't know what the hell to expect.
What he got was Harry, and a lecture.
"Make no mistake, A.J. Frost, I hired you because you know what you're doing. The same reason I hired everyone else here, and I expect the same from you as from everyone else. No, I expect better. Carelessness kills here, Mr. Frost, and I won't have it."
A.J. had kicked a foot around on the floor. "Yeah, all right, Mr. Stamper."
"That country goofball act won't wash with me, so don't bother. You'll behave like a professional."
A.J. had straightened then, and looked him in the eye. "Yes, sir, Mr. Stamper."
A smile had finally flickered on Harry's face. "Cut the 'sir'. And the 'Mr. Stamper'. I'm not that hard-assed, even on the job."
There had been more safety lectures then, and an explanation of his duties, and by the time he was ready to drop dead from boredom Harry had told him he could leave.
"Just one more thing, A.J. Not everybody's cut out for rig work. Eventually everyone gets sick as hell of being stuck on this platform, starts hating his job, and admits that he's wishing like hell there were women here."
"What if he doesn't like women?" A.J. had asked, for no particular reason. He anticipated some kind of bigoted remark that his friends might make.
Harry had grinned. "Then he wishes like hell I hired better looking guys instead of these ugly old bastards."
Harry had looked him in the eye and continued. "Seriously, you'll be OK; you're not locked up and you'll see the town now and then. But if you get squirrelly, tell me before you try to beat the hell out of someone. Deal?"
It was a deal, and A.J. had done his best. Being stuck on the rig hadn't turned out to be the issue. His main problem was that he needed to think for himself. He couldn't sit back and do anything over and over when there was a way to do it better.
Harry didn't have much sympathy for that. "I'm not as old as you think I am, A.J., and I'm not stupid. If you have an idea you can come to me and tell me. Have I ever bit your head off for that?"
"Well there was the time I told you that you should probably stop peeing onto the environmental inspector's boat deck."
"Shut up, A.J."
"Well, what about the time I—"
"If you don't shut up, I'll tell everyone what A.J. stands for."
"It only stands for—"
"I'll make up something worse."
A.J. didn't know everything he wanted to about Harry. He had a daughter somewhere that he loved, but that meant nothing to A.J. until much later. He hated whales, most of the government, and smart-asses. He was alone most of the time, and A.J. wondered why.
One day he had turned to Harry and said, "Do you ever say anything that isn't an order, a complaint, or a joke?"
"Would anyone give a damn if I did?" Harry had answered.
He had walked away with A.J. still standing there saying, "Well, yeah, hell."
They did go into town of course. Not usually together, if only because someone had to be responsible for the rig. But since neither of them was loaded with strange vices, sometimes they found themselves in the same place.
Those were A.J.'s most interesting nights in town, at least until Grace got there. Harry with a few drinks in him was a different man. Still himself, and not a weepy drunk – hell, he never got all the way drunk – but he had a little fun.
A.J. never forgot the night at the Toby Jug that a couple of people had started bitching about the lack of karaoke bars in town. Harry had called them whiners, and dared people to sing along with the CDs the bartender already had. Everyone had a few drinks in them, and it started sounding like the greatest idea in the world.
A guy got up and sang "Forever and Ever, Amen." He was way off-key, but everybody clapped. A woman did "Open Arms" in a dead-on impersonation of Dolly Parton, though Dolly probably wouldn't have sung it.
Harry wasn't one to refuse his own dares, and A.J. was watching him when he put in a CD, took a pose and started up.
He wasn't a great singer either, but by the time he got to the partabout letting somebody love youA.J. was almost ready to tear up and he couldn't say why.
It was a while later that Grace showed up and A.J. had a new focus, and thought of Harry more as somebody's father – a pissed-off, vengeful father at that. He knew that his Grace wouldn't be who she was if it weren't for Harry though, and he thought about that sometimes when they were sneaking around behind Harry's back.
After that Grace was just about his only concern until the destruction of the world made itself everybody's concern, and then he had to think about Harry again.
He heard Harry sing Desperado one more time, one night just before the mission, when a bunch of guys who had no business drinking had gone drinking anyway. No one was supposed to be thinking about people except as a whole.
They had all been pretty far gone, and Rockhound had slammed down his glass and said, not for the first time, "So, we gonna die, folks?"
"The whole damn world is gonna die," some smart-ass from NASA had piped up.
"That's not what I mean," Rockhound had said, with the near-coherence he never lost. "Who's expendable?"
"Nobody," Harry had said. "You don't ever call people expendable."
"That's a bunch of crap," NASA guy had continued. "The whole damn—"
"Which means we're all expendable, but you don't say it, damn it. You fly off big heroes, and you promise to come back bigger heroes and you don't think about it."
"Or nobody comes back, and it doesn't matter because the whole…" NASA guy was pretty drunk, and stopped with that.
Harry had looked serious, and as normal as that seemed considering that the NASA guy was right, A.J. didn't want to see it. This one was a karaoke bar though, and he had thrown down money and told Harry to sing "Desperado."
Harry had brushed him off, but eventually stumbled up and sang. When he got tothe line about walking alonethe whole bar was singing and crying, and A.J. was too. Partly for Harry, even though the whole damn world was almost certainly going to die.
When it was all over, A.J. had a lot of questions, and things he didn't want to think about. Should he have fought Harry harder over who was really expendable? He couldn't have though, when civilization was counting down seconds.
Should he pretend he wasn't glad he got to go home and take care of Grace? No, Harry would never have expected that.
But when he was with her later, he thought of Harry sometimes, and the fact that he was doing just what Harry had wanted, and there was an extra happiness there along with the part that was just plain sad.
Sure, they could all take some comfort in the fact that literally no one on earth would forget the name Harry Stamper, but it had to be all right to still complain that he was gone, didn't it?
But that was one thing A.J. had left that few other people did. He knew Harry Stamper as an expert geologist, and a protective father, and a guy that he damn well hoped had stopped riding fences by now, and not just as the savior of everything.