SPOILER ALERT! PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
Luke was now two drinks in, and he was going to end up asking.
He really, really shouldn’t ask this, but in the brief ponderings he’d dedicated to it, he now had a hunch. And after realizing Brennan had brought them to this random bar to kill time before having to face the mess he made earlier, Luke couldn’t fight the question that was lurching out of his throat.
“Did you and Liza hook up or something?”
Brennan slowly turned away from the glass shelves of liquor behind the bar toward Luke’s face, squinting one eye like Clint Eastwood in old westerns right before he was about to kill someone.
Well, that was a horrible idea.
Brennan had killed fifty-six people—that they knew about.
But that also turned him into a total pacifist, so…
“I just mean,” Luke hastily added, “y’all are fighting constantly, and you’ve never done that, and it’s super recent, and it all just seems like the kind of situation where two people accidentally—”
“No,” Brennan clipped. He turned to face forward again. “I would never do that. Not to her, to Skye, to Connor, to Savannah, or to all of you as my friends whose opinion about me matters to me.” He bristled. “I have a code. I have dedicated my life to brotherly loyalty. I have given the rest of my life to the most remarkable human being I’ve ever encountered, and I don’t take that privilege lightly. I know I have a reputation the size of Texas that precedes me, but nobody gives a fuck why I behaved the way I did. Since they don’t give a fuck, they don’t know. Since they don’t know, I fully expect everyone and their mawmaw to assume I’m not going to be any different now that I’m married.” He lifted his half-empty glass of scotch. “Y’all don’t know me, so fuck you very much.”
“I honestly didn’t…er…don’t think you did anything,” Luke quickly backtracked. “It’s all just so out-of-character for you that I was just wondering if something bad happened.”
“Nothing bad happened.” Brennan rubbed his forehead. “I’ve just noticed since actually being married that Liza is…problematic.”
Luke raised his brows. “Oh, Liza’s problematic.” He chuckled sardonically. “Okay then, bruh. Whatever you say.”
Brennan slid a side glance to Luke’s face. “I mean, me and Liza are problematic now. I’ve believed this whole time…y’know, since Skye showed up and we found our place with each other…I thought she and I and Connor and Liza had this great little quad-squad.”
“You do have a great little quad-squad with all them,” Luke reminded him. “You’re pulling a bunch of shit lately that’s fucking the whole thing up for everybody.”
“And that’s because I realized how problematic it is.”
“What exactly is suddenly so problematic?”
Brennan stared forward and said nothing.
“Y’know.” Luke pointed at him with his glass. “The only problems I think anyone is seeing is that one: Skye’s super friggin’ stressed out about all the stuff y’all are doing while trying to fit into her new life in your social circle, and two: now you’re acting like a dick to Liza.”
“I can’t explain this to you, Corporal.” Brennan dropped his face and rubbed his forehead. “I just need Liza to back off. I can’t explain why. I just need her to back off.”
Luke squinted incredulously. “What the fuck did she do to you?”
“She did nothing.” He paused weightily. “Maybe I need to just go away.”
Luke arched a brow. “And what does ‘I need to go away’ mean?”
Brennan simply sipped his drink.
Luke stared at him critically for a second. “When are you going to start therapy?”
Brennan’s fingertips suddenly went white on the glass as he appeared to squeeze it. “If one more person brings up therapy for me, I really am going to lose my shit. I am not the one who needs therapy. Everyone else needs therapy. I do not. Nothing has ever happened to me that was bad enough to warrant therapy. It would be ludicrous for a person like me to go to therapy. In fact, it might even be insulting to people who really need it.”
“Oh, yeah, nothing bad has happened to you.” Luke downed his drink and then motioned at the bartender for another round. “We’re just going to pretend all that time you spent in Afghanistan was just a friggin’ vay-cay, right?”
Brennan stared at the glass liquor shelves. “Yep.”
“Well, oh-fucking-kay, then, bruh,” Luke remarked, picking up the fresh glass after the bartender put it down.
They sat in silence for a few beats, and then Brennan spoke up again.
“What’s your plan with Chloe?”
“Man.” Luke rubbed the stubble on his chin and cheeks. “Speaking of therapy…”
Brennan turned all the way to face him. “Have you talked to her? Is she going to go?”
“No, but right before we left Scott and Ophelia’s, she said some stuff that was a good segue to bringing it up,” Luke explained. “I’m not in a rush to get back over there, but if she’s still there when we get back, I kinda want to keep talking to her about it. If not, I’m going to—”
Brennan cut him off by whistling at the bartender. “Can you close us out, buddy?”
The bartender diligently brought the check, and Luke eyed Brennan as he tipped and signed. “What are we doing?”
“We’re going back,” Brennan said matter-of-factly. “You need to continue that conversation. That’s progress, and this is a window, and you need to get back over there to keep talking to her.”
This was far more typical of Brennan’s behavior, which only made the rest of it all the more atypical. “And what are you going to about your quad-squad?”
Brennan didn’t answer, shoving the check and pen away from himself and then downing the last of his drink.
Luke waved at him. “Hello?”
Brennan pointed at Luke’s drink. “Finish that or leave it. Time’s ticking.”
And with that, Brennan stood up and started to leave, so Luke downed the drink.