He frowned in concentration, making a note of this while Braxton paused. Nikolas started to speak but was otherwise interrupted.
“I can easily look it up if you can’t answer that and you know why? Because the answer is: never. Look, you’re one of the best this agency has and before you interrupt allow me to finish. You wouldn’t be leading the team you have now if I didn’t think highly of your expertise and your sniper skills, but it’s wearing you down more than a notch. You’re not lacking in the cash department because you never treat yourself with your scrimping and saving, so take this on serious advisement...go to Mexico, Hawaii, or China for all I care, but just get away for awhile,” Braxton suggested, going with the order.
Braxton’s tone bothered him. “Try not to replace me while I’m gone,” Nikolas said instead.
“So that’s why you’ve never bothered to take any time off? Because you think I’m going to replace you?” The silence after the question lasted several seconds.
“Damnit, Braxton! It’s because there’s never been a damn thing I’d rather being doing than what I’ve been doing to the best of my ability!”
Nikolas didn’t miss the amusement in his friend's tone as his attention jerked back to the conversation. He raised a speculative brow as Braxton’s words echoed in his head. “Braxton, this is not the time to be doing this and you fucking know it!” he breathed, passing a hand over his face.
“It’s. An. Order.” Braxton gave no quarter.
There was something about that tone, of those clipped words that troubled Nikolas. He had been reading men for a long time, even ones like this. Tough and brave and very private, especially when it came to anything that involved their emotions. There was no way Nikolas could down play this one. Or even hope to win.
“Besides,” Braxton said, “you never know. On your trek to finding yourself and getting your shit together, you could meet the lucky One. Your team has been whining like girls that you’re turning into a drill sergeant on some escapade to make their lives miserable. Just because you are it doesn’t mean that the world should be all black and white along with you. Get a fucking tan. You’re too pale. Now, think you can handle that, soldier?”