A month and a half after Face ate cold steak with Charisa (sadly not a euphemism), the team threw an Irish wake for his relationship. In the heat of the mid-afternoon Iraqi sun, they remained undisturbed in the area by the barbecue that was unofficially "theirs". (Murdock had suggested actually peeing a circle around it to officially claim it as their own, but that led to a discussion about how the sand would shift and blow away so they'd have to do it every morning, and Face suggested shifts but BA suggested fists and that was the end of that. In the end, people seemed content to leave the team to their own devices without any urinary incentives.)

"I'm better off anyway, right?" Face asked not-so-rhetorically, his inflections made rough by the lion's share of a bottle of Jack Daniels he'd consumed in the past few hours. "I mean, fuck her. FUCK her. You never even liked her, right? Fuck her."

From their flimsy chairs beside him, BA and Hannibal exchanged a glance. Their lips were all loosened by alcohol but Hannibal knew it was dangerous to fall into the tempting trap of Sosa-bashing. Let the kid vent, sure, but be careful. Face had loved her, whatever he might have said then or now, and when he'd sobered up he might not appreciate the memory of his three closest friends trash-talking his relationship. There was no place here for 'I always thought...' or 'I told you so'.

Thus, Hannibal tried to choose his words diplomatically. "It wasn't about liking her, kid. She never really made an effort to get to know us. To let us get to know her. She... seemed to want to be a separate part of your life."

BA took another swig of beer. He was still nursing his first, couldn't really stand the stuff, but when in Rome and your buddy's just had his heart stomped on by a callus bitch... Plus it gave him something to fiddle with while he remained studiously silent. Wasn't none of his business. Just let Face get it out and hopefully get they'd get through this without any crying or other girly shit.

Murdock twisted his upper body to look at Face from his position on the ground, arm wrapped around one of the Lieutenant's bare legs. He pushed back his cowboy hat so he could see – Hannibal having appropriated his 'Rock Out With Your Cock Out' trucker hat in honour of the no-chicks-allowed theme of the day. "She was jealous of us," Murdock said matter-of-factly.

It was true. The night they'd met Sosa, really met her as Face's girlfriend and not just a woman they'd occasionally seen striding with purpose around the base, she had made no secret of her discomfort. She didn't attempt to join in any of their conversations, and seemed to resent it when Face's attention was on anyone but her. The more he laughed at Murdock's jokes, teased BA, shared eye-rolls with Hannibal, the more rigid her posture became. Sosa had eventually dragged him out after less than an hour.

That was when warning bells rang for Hannibal, it he was honest with himself. She didn't respect the kid. He could tell from that. If she really loved Face – hell, if she just LIKED him – she would have respected the most important thing in his life. And that was why Hannibal wasn't often honest with himself about this, because he found himself calling the team, their... the team, whatever it was, the most important part of Face's life. Was he wrong? Did that make him just as bad as Sosa, assuming top position?

No, Hannibal didn't think so. He hoped not. Sosa waltzed in and after a few weeks, expected Face's entire priorities and routine to change. Hannibal hadn't expected. He'd EARNED. Not just in the amount of time he'd known the kid, the missions they pulled off and the close physical quarters they shared. He was there for Face at times like these, the whole team was. Where was she? That was the point.

Hannibal tugged the bottle from Face's hands and took a swig of warm Jack. He was getting too old for middle-of-the-day drinking.

Face, meanwhile, was responding to Murdock's assessment of the situation. He snorted. "Jealous. Yeah. Kind of. Maybe." He went to take another drink from the bottle and became very sad and confused to find his hands empty. Murdock dutifully passed up his own bottle of tequila (complete with bendy straw because apparently "tequila is a sipping drink today").

Murdock twisted more and rested his cheek on Face's thigh. "No, she was definitely jealous." His gaze was very serious. "She knew she could never love you the same way I do."

Tequila dribbled out of Face's mouth as he let out a bark of surprised laughter.

BA groaned. "I ain't sticking around if this is gonna be one of your crazy love-fests," he warned the Captain. "You got too many feelings. Keep 'em inside."

The response of "I'll keep YOU inside," really should have been anticipated from BA. Sloppy, noted Hannibal.

Murdock pulled himself into a strange half-squatting position between Face's knees, still addressing BA. "You shouldn't be afraid of our love," he said, gesturing between himself and a Face, who was trying to lick tequila off his own chin. "It takes a big man to admit his feelings."

The pilot half fell, half manoeuvred onto Face's lap, giggling. Face, used to Murdock's touchy-feeliness, accepted it with all the dignity he was capable of. He snorted and took another pull of tequila through his bendy straw.

"I looooooooooove you, Facey," said Murdock, pointedly eying BA, who refused to be antagonised. "You're my awesome friend. I think you are lots of great. Love love love love love..." He leaned forward and hugged Face as much as he could, peppering kisses over his cheeks and chin theatrically.

Hannibal watched with a warm glow in his heart that was not caused by Jack Daniels. (Well, he would deny it was Jack, just like he would claim that his headache the next day was caused by the heat and his nausea from food poisoning.) Thank god for Murdock. All boundaries were blurred within their group, but there was still something intrinsically awkward about asking a fellow man, Ranger, friend, "Do you need a hug?" Murdock didn't ask. He bounded over and gave.

Face's hands, now free of their cumbersome alcoholic burden, came to rest loosely on Murdock's hips as he laughed. "Oh, baby," he drawled, trying to sound like a lady but ending up somewhere between a chronic chain smoker and a South Park character. "You treat me so good. You can see all of my secrets." He gave a slight upwards thrust of his hips and laughed.

"Oh I'm so happy!" Murdock proclaimed, throwing his arms around Face and hugging him.

"Aww." Face brought his own arms up to hug Murdock back, withdrawing them when he thought the hug was over and awkwardly replacing them when he realised the pilot wasn't moving.

Murdock stayed where he was, feet planted on either side of Face's legs, pulling him forward awkwardly into a tight hug that couldn't possibly be comfortable. "I love you, Facey," he whispered, louder than he would have sober but still soft enough that only Face could hear. Flecks of spit hit Face's cheek but he didn't move his arms to brush them off. "You're such a good person. You deserve the very best of everything. I'm sorry you didn't get it this time."

BA and Hannibal didn't hear what the Captain whispered into Face's ear, but they saw the Lieutenant's eyes squeeze shut, his mouth hardening as he swallowed before tilting his head slightly to hide his face in the crook of Murdock's neck. They saw his hands flex on Murdock's back as Face gripped him tighter, and they saw the nearly-imperceptible shaking that started in his chest and vibrated through the pilot.

"Shhhh," Murdock cooed, using his braced legs to rock Face ever-so gently, not letting go. He pressed a kiss to the sweaty blonde head. "Shhhh."

By unspoken agreement, Hannibal and BA quietly stood and left. Hannibal to give his boys privacy, BA because it had officially gotten way too weird and girly for him and he needed to do something mechanical or blow something up or he was scared he'd start farting rainbows.

Face and Murdock stayed, Murdock straddling Face and muttering softly to him, rubbing soothing hands over his friend's back, for nearly an hour. If anyone in the camp thought anything of it, they could suck hairy monkey dick. This was what Face needed. Murdock and Face understood. That was all that mattered.

END