Some place inside him, some place so real it scares him worse than dreams have any right to, he's still fighting. Not with guns, not with choppers - the VC are gone from his nightmares, now. So are his comrades, so many lost souls. He gives them the best peace he can by forgetting.
His own peace is harder come by.
Cody's still with him - always with him. Danger's long past; decades past; but something in Nick can't let go. He knows it, looks about the calm, ordered pier, his calm ordered life. It should translate to a tranquil mind, an easy heart.
The water's smooth and easy like Cody's smile, the boat at rest, as gentle a refuge as Cody's arms. But Nick can't ignore the spike, the hint, the nudge at the edge of consciousness telling him safe is an illusion.
To believe the illusion is to pay with his own dearest treasure. The price of failure is Cody, lost and broken, hurt, shattered. Taken.
Nick learned that early and well, and he'll never forget. In port, he sleeps with one eye open, one hand on his partner. When Cody forgets to check, with one hand on his gun.
The last year, Cody's started taking the boat out more often, staying out longer. Overnight, more often than not.
Nick can't say he blames him. There's still danger out there - there's always danger out there - but at least on the ocean, they get a running start.
"Hey Nick. Put that away. You can't blow away a thunderstorm."
"Maybe we oughtta head into port. The swell's kinda big..."
"The lightning's kinda beautiful, and so are you. C'mon, big guy. The only place we oughtta head is below, wait out the storm somewhere more comfortable..."
Nick's still got a gun in the sock drawer, so he's happy to leave the shark rifle on deck. And reassure himself one more time of Cody, still his. Still whole.
"Don't ever leave me, Cody. Don't you ever leave..."