ONLY PROCEED IF YOU ARE UP TO DATE ON RNOLA 1-3
I was now two drinks in, and I was going to end up asking.
I really, really shouldn’t ask this, but in the brief ponderings I'd dedicated to it, I now had a hunch. And after realizing Brennan had brought us to this random bar to kill time before having to face the mess he made earlier, I couldn’t fight the question that was lurching out of my throat.
“Did you and Liza hook up or something?”
Brennan slowly turned away from the glass shelves of liquor behind the bar toward me, 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 we knew about.
But that also turned him into a total pacifist, so…
“I just mean,” I 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,” he 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,” I quickly backtracked. “It’s all just so out-of-character for you that I was just wondering if something bad happened.”
“Nothing bad happened.” He rubbed his forehead. “I’ve just noticed since actually being married that Liza is…problematic.”
I raised my brows. “Oh, Liza’s problematic.” I chuckled sardonically. “Okay then, bruh. Whatever you say.”
Brennan slid a side glance to my 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,” I 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.” I pointed at him with my 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.” He 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.”
I squinted incredulously. “What the fuck did she do to you?”
“She did nothing.” He paused weightily. “Maybe I need to just go away.”
I arched a brow. “And what does ‘I need to go away’ mean?”
He simply sipped his drink.
I 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 squeezed 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.” I downed my 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,” I remarked, picking up the fresh glass after the bartender put it down.
We sat in silence for a few beats, and then Brennan spoke up again.
“What’s your plan with Chloe?”
“Man.” I rubbed the stubble on my chin and cheeks. “Speaking of therapy…”
He turned all the way to face me. “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,” I 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 me off by whistling at the bartender. “Can you close us out, buddy?”
The bartender diligently brought the check, and I eyed Brennan as he tipped and signed. “What are we doing?”
“We’re going back,” he 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?”
He didn’t answer, shoving the check and pen away from himself and then downing the last of his drink.
I waved at him. “Hello?”
He pointed at my drink. “Finish that or leave it. Time’s ticking.”
And with that, he stood up and started to leave, so I downed the drink.