Burn Notice: I don't own it, I just play with it.
Season 6 spoilers, much of it takes place after episode 6.07 Reunion.
One of the biggest driving desires in a child's life is to be loved. Somewhere along the line, he learned that in order to be loved, he had to be good enough. So he drove himself to be the best at whatever he took an interest in. He learned to fish, but his father was always better, from fly tying to cleaning the fish. He had a gift for throwing, so he joined the football team in high school. First Junior Varsity, where his team made all-county with him as quarterback. Then he advanced to Varsity and sent the team to the state championship three years running. But he could never quite break the records his father set while he went to the same school. He would always be second best.
But that didn't stop Sam from trying. He earned a scholarship and went to college. His dad was a Navy man, and like him, Sam would be as well, hoping that would make his father proud. He went to Annapolis and graduated in the top five of his class. He had a knack for intelligence gathering and ops, so he joined the SEALs. The covert group wasn't easy to get into, and when he walked away from the podium with the golden eagle and trident insignia pinned to his chest, he glowed with pride.
"Sir," he said as he stepped up to face his parents. His mother beamed as Sam gave his father a crisp salute. Any second now, when his father's return salute faded away, he would finally hear the words he waited all his life to hear: "You did good, Son."
"Congratulations, Son. But I'd work on the marksmanship skills. You need to be able to switch hands if necessary." He shook his head. "You could have been first in your class if you hadn't screwed that up."
No matter what Sam did, it was never good enough.
As a SEAL, he and his team took down a lot of bad people, rescued important dignitaries, and saved both the mighty and the weak from one disaster after another. He earned every one of his ribbons through exhausting, hard work. Just off a mission he sported two, one a purple heart, and a sling because of an injury he sustained while saving a kidnapped ambassador's daughter. Barely out of the base hospital, Sam received a phone call from his mother.
"Samuel, it's your father. He doesn't have long."
Sam moved heaven and earth to get home, and he appeared in his father's hospital room wearing his dress uniform. Captain Samuel Axe, Sr., earned his rank and deserved proper respect for his stellar career, so he didn't dare to disappoint him. By the sound of his breathing, Sam knew it was almost over. If he'd grasped his hand, he would have sensed how cold it was. But he hadn't touched him in years. Whenever they were in the same room, eye contact and a salute were as close as they got to physical interaction.
He looked up at Sam, and a very slight smile stretched across his stiff lips when he saw the salute. His mind told him that he was too tired to return it, but Captain Axe would not let this moment of weakness defeat him. Slowly, painfully so, he raised his hand to his brow and responded to his son's display of respect. The hand came down quickly when it was over, but even then he managed to not make the motion anything less than dignified.
"Sir..." Conflict crinkled the corners of Sam's eyes. "Dad, I..."
"You got hurt." Capt. Axe spoke softly as his eyes stopped at the sling.
"It's nothing, Dad. We got the girl, she's safe."
"Next time, keep a tighter rein on your men." When Sam stared at him incredulously, he added, "I saw... the report. You need to be... a better... leader."
Capt. Axe's eyes closed, exhaustion overtaking him. Those were the last words that Sam would ever hear from his lips.
From that day, those words kept him pressing on to do his best until he found himself out of the Navy and enjoying an early retirement because he screwed up in a major way. But even then, he worked hard at a life of leisure, drinking and finding rich women to woo and sponge off so he could forget how he'd failed his father and disgraced himself. Meeting up with Michael Westen again and helping him slowly brought back the old Sam Axe, the one who cared about doing a job right. Then he met a woman who loved him for who he was and made him feel that no matter what he did, as long as he gave it his best shot, she was happy. For Elsa, he would do anything. But was he good enough for her? That remained to be seen.