Face prides himself on being a positive person.
He looks on the brighter side of life.
For him, the cup is always half full, never half empty. And the cup is always refillable anyway.
Given the bare facts of his early life, he knows some people are surprised by his positive attitude, when he does allow it to shine through the careful masks he usually wears. He likes that. In fact, he revels in it. What’s the point in being predictable anyway? There’s certainly no point dwelling on the negatives in life.
When he was a kid, it would have been so damn easy to let those negatives swallow him whole. When family after family told him they’d chosen someone else to adopt. When teachers told him he’d never be smart enough. When his college girlfriend told him he’d never be marriage material. When his first boyfriend told him he’d been sleeping with someone else for a month because he wasn’t enough. When the recruiter told him he’d never have what it took to be a Ranger.
And on and on and on and on. When person after person told him he wasn’t good enough, it would have been so easy to give in and agree with them.
Instead, he just let it build him up. He’d be okay. Everything would be okay, one day, and the more he said it the more he started to believe it. He’d prove them all wrong. He was more than good enough. If he didn’t believe it, no one else would.
He gets his degree. He makes it into the Rangers. He finds his team, he finds his place, and everything really does look like it’s going to be okay. He doesn’t find the love of his life, but there’s still time for that. He’s young.
* * *
And so it goes, year after year. Sometimes he has to work damn hard to keep hold of his positivity. Sometimes it feels as if it would be so much easier to just let his attitude slip towards the dark side. Shit happens, especially doing what they do, and there are some truly shitty days as the years pass by.
Days when it’s hard to see the bright side because the world around them is so incredibly dark.
Days when it looks like his time is about to be cut brutally short.
Surrounded by armed insurgents with machine guns, down to his last handful of bullets and trying to stay hidden behind too-small rocks, he knows his only rescue is at least ten minutes away. It might as well be an hour. He’s not where he’s meant to be, so it could take his team even longer to find him, but still he smiles. Adrenaline is thundering through his veins, and if he dies here then at least he dies for a reason. Everything will be okay. Everything has to be okay, one way or another.
He chants it under his breath like a mantra, ducking and weaving and taking a shot only when he’s confident of success, rationing his remaining bullets. Everything might be okay. Or, well, it might not.
Of course, the chopper arrives in the nick of time, and as the insurgents turn their fire on the rest of his team, he makes his break towards safety with a roar and a laugh of joy. He’s alive.
* * *
That mission has no lasting impact on him. It isn’t the first close call he’s had, in fact it isn’t even the hundredth, but not all missions are quite as easy to shake off. It’s a hard life, the life of a Ranger, and it’s both mentally and physically challenging. Draining, even. But the work they do is important, and for the most part he doesn’t let it linger in his mind when they return to base. He can’t afford to let it linger.
He sleeps well. He sleeps the sleep of the exhausted, mostly, though still balanced on a knife edge at all times until they get back to the States.
Except. Sometimes, something stays with him. It happens to them all at some point in their careers, either a kill that stays with them, or a decision made in the blink of an eye with disastrous consequences. The ‘what ifs’ can haunt them all. But this particular time, he isn’t even sure what it is. He’d thought he was fine. He’d thought everything was okay.
Except he wakes suddenly in his bunk in the middle of the night, the FOB as quiet as it ever gets, with the familiar sounds of his team snoring and grunting in the tent around him. He’s crying, hot tears streaming silently down his cheeks. And he can hardly breathe, his chest painfully tight, his stomach twisting and churning.
He’s not sick. He knows that instinctively, just as he knows he doesn’t want to wake his team. They’d sit up with him, of course, and they’d help him. But they need their rest. They don’t need his shit.
This is panic, pure and simple, his heart pumping far too hard and his whole body in fight-or-flight mode for no good reason. He lies there in the darkness, mentally shouting at himself to calm the fuck down, but his breathing just speeds up even more until he starts to feel dangerously lightheaded.
He cups both shaking hands over his mouth, forcing himself to breathe only through his nose, and he concentrates, squeezing his eyes shut. He’s okay. Everyone he cares about is okay, they’re right there by his side. Everything is okay. There’s no need to panic.
Everything will be okay.
And eventually, his tears run dry and his breathing slows, and his racing heart calms, and he falls back into a blessedly dreamless sleep.
In the morning, each of his teammates seem unusually attentive to him – a hug, a backslap, a cigar – and he comes to realise they’d been awake and aware the whole time. Rather than being mortified, he’s quietly proud that he’d handled himself so well, while knowing that they’d have had his back if he needed them. He’s incredibly lucky.
He never thought he’d have so much in his life, and his life is damn good. He’s blessed.
* * *
Even so, sometimes there are simply no good reasons to be positive, and moments when he longs to fall into a pit of despair and drown himself with a few dozen bottles of cheap vodka to ease the way down. But even on those days, something deep inside him fights back. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, right? Even when he’s finally worked up the courage to tell the man of his dreams that he’s been in love with him for years.
Even when Hannibal just turns and walks away without a single word of reply.
Everything is okay, though. At least he’s been honest. He’s been finding it harder and harder to hide his feelings, and he’d thought he had reason to hope those feelings might be returned, so he’d taken a chance. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. At least he knows the answer now, even if it isn’t the answer he’d desperately wanted.
He knows the older man won’t hold it against him professionally, and he can only hope and pray that he hasn’t completely ruined their friendship.
Everything will be okay, eventually. Sure, things might be a little awkward between them for a time, but he won’t ever mention this again, and he’ll find a way to move on, somehow. His throat is a little tight right now, and there are tears prickling at the back of his eyes, but it’ll all work out for the best.
He’s got his game face on again by the time Hannibal comes back, but all his carefully prepared words of apology are for nothing when he finds himself swept up in strong arms and pulled into the most passionate kiss of his entire life.
It seems he isn’t the only one prone to the occasional panic attack. After everything, it seems he’s loved.
* * *
It’s so much easier to be positive now he’s finally with Hannibal the way he’s always wanted, living and working and fighting and sleeping together every single day. With their two brothers-in-arms by their side, life is good. Even when he finds himself injured, it’s all still good, there’s beer and a kiddy pool and sunshine and steak nuked to perfection. Even a surprise visit from his ex can’t ruin his day, though he’d have to admit she does dent his positivity just a little.
A gentle hug and a tender kiss in the privacy of Hannibal’s tent soon fixes that.
But then the court martial changes everything yet again.
It’s hard to see any kind of positives when they’ve been framed quite so spectacularly. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when they’re stripped of their ranks. It’s hard to see the glass as being even half full when they’re sentenced and separated.
He keeps trying to tell himself it will be okay. There are worse places to be than prison, after all. No one will try to kill him there – at least, no one will dare try again after he breaks the arm of the first guy to jump him in the showers – and after his one and only midnight panic attack he pulls on his well-worn mask and squares his shoulders.
Everything will be okay, won’t it?
He just can’t see the plan. Three steps ahead, that’s what they’ve always believed and how they’ve always been trained, but none of them could have seen this coming. Not even Hannibal.
Where’s the plan?
Where’s the fucking plan?
He’s alone again, and he’s terrified, and he keeps telling himself it will all be okay, but this time he can’t quite believe it. He’s lost.
* * *
The plan is there, of course it is, buried beneath layers of deception and planning and lies and revelations that steal his breath away. Then there is escape and running and proving themselves right, followed by yet more betrayal that makes his head spin and his stomach twist. Then more running, of the kind that will probably never end. But strangely enough, when he stops for a second to think, he finds he’s actually okay with that.
Most days of the week, someone is trying to kill them or capture them, and now they’re on the run they’re also usually broke and sleeping in the van, barely scraping together enough money to feed themselves. Life is hard, and not a lot of fun. No one would blame him for being a little pissed. A little negative.
But, they’re together.
He has the man he loves by his side and in his bed, and he has his two brothers, his best friends. Three people who know him and love him and understand him, just as he knows and loves and understands them in return. They’re still fighting for the right things, and they’re still making a difference to the world, and he’s still proving everyone else wrong. They said he’d never amount to anything, but just look at him now.
They might think he’s guilty or they might doubt what they’ve heard, but it doesn’t matter to him at all. The only people whose opinions matter to him are those few who already know the truth.
He doesn’t need to be pardoned. He doesn’t need reinstatement, or back pay, or even something as simple as an apology.
He loves and he is loved. He honestly doesn’t need anything more.
For the first time, possibly the first time in his entire life, everything really is completely and utterly okay. And whatever might happen next, he knows deep down in his heart that it will always be okay from that day on.
Some might call that positive thinking, but for him, it’s just fact.