"I knew I'd find you here."
Cody doesn't look up at Nick's words. Instead he freezes, holding his shot of whiskey at his lips.
Nick signals the bartender and sits down on the bar stool next to Cody, bumping his shoulder into Cody's along the way.
With an audible sigh, Cody sets his drink down and shakes some of the spilled liquid off his fingers, wiping them with a napkin. "Should've picked a different bar," he mutters.
"Shoulda stayed at the damn hospital," Nick counters.
Cody's shoulders tense. "I'm fine."
Nick raises an eyebrow. From this angle, Cody almost looks like he's fine. Sure, the cast on his arm is pretty damn obvious where it’s resting on the bar top, but most of the bruising is on his other side, except for... Nick turns on his stool, facing Cody. He lets his leg brush against Cody's, resulting in a flinch and a hiss.
"Yeah. You're just peachy."
The bartender drops off Nick's drink, and Nick throws a couple of crumpled bills down before picking up both their drinks. "Come on."
He makes his way to one of the booths, walking slowly without making it look like he's trying to accommodate Cody's injured state, or his own.
Cody slides into the booth across from him. It puts his good side into the shadows and highlights the vivid bruising on his face and his arm. "Didn't grab a jacket?"
Cody shrugs, but the motion's cut short by the obvious pain he's in and it turns into more of a flinch.
Cody's wearing scrubs and a pair of sandals - all clothes he probably stole at the hospital. It's the reason why he's not wearing a jacket - his own was cut off at the hospital and he didn't want to steal someone else's. Scrubs were one thing, but a jacket? Cody wasn't going to do that to anyone who was just trying to make a living.
Cody throws something at him and Nick catches it out of reflex. It's his wallet. That had been Nick's most obvious clue as to where Cody had gone – not that he'd needed clues. He knows Cody almost better than he knows himself. There are only a handful of places Cody would go to lick his wounds, the Riptide and Straightaways being the most obvious ones.
"I'll pay you back for the taxi."
Nick sighs. Cody's still in his mulish phase. "Damnit, Cody! I don't care about the money! I care about the fact that you're here drinking and likely lookin' to pick a fight instead of resting at the hospital!"
They spend the next few minutes silently glaring at each other, neither of them ready to give in. Nick shifts a little to find a more comfortable position for his ankle. Cody bore the brunt of the assault yesterday, but Nick didn't exactly wait in a corner until it was all over.
"The doctor said you should elevate it," Cody says pointedly, patting the bench seat next to him.
Nick shoots him a half-hearted glare – if anyone's in a position to make pointed comments, it surely isn't the walking bruise – but obediently slouches down a little to put his foot up on the other side of the booth.
Cody's hand comes down on his ankle, gently, right where the bandage is hidden under his jeans. Nick can't really feel the heat of it underneath the layers of fabric and cellulose, but it still feels nice.
After another moment of silence, Cody picks up his glass and holds it up, clearly waiting for Nick to follow suit. He does, and Cody clinks their glasses against each other.
"To another solved case," he says, downing his shot in one go.
Nick drinks his own, the alcohol burning down his throat to settle, warm and not very comforting, in his stomach.
This is not a celebration.
The case had been a total disaster. Sure, they'd saved the client and gotten the bad guys, but the price had been high. Too high.
"I shouldn't have left her."
Nick moves his leg a little closer to Cody, giving and drawing comfort at the same time. "You couldn't have known what would happen, Cody. None of us could."
Cody sighs, heavy and mournful, and Nick – Nick gets it. He'd spent the night at Cody's bedside in a crappy hospital chair, ignoring the pain in his ankle and feeling guilty for not protecting Cody. Just like Cody is ignoring the doctor's advice (and Nick) because he feels guilty for not protecting Jessi's friend Christi. The difference is that Nick can be safe in the knowledge that Cody is alive and safe – banged up and in pain, yes, but alive.
Christi… she hadn't been that lucky.
"You know what gets me, Nick?" Cody stops fiddling with his shot glass and puts it back on the table. "What gets me is that Christi – she had nothing to do with this. With any of it. She wasn't even involved, so why did she have to die?" Cody's voice is thick and a little broken, like he's choking back tears.
Nick knows the feeling. He meets Cody's eyes and they share a look of complete understanding.
"Jessi is the one who saw the deal go down. Quinlan was putting the pressure on the other dealers in the area. We were the ones chasing Guiterrez. So why did he go for Christi?"
Nick rubs a hand over his face. "Bad luck, man. Quinlan stopped by the hospital this morning, said Guiterrez mistook Christi for Jessi. Thought he was getting rid of his witness when really he was killing her friend. "
"That almost makes it worse." Cody leans back, a defeated look on his face. His hand slides up Nick's leg, coming to rest just underneath his knee. This time, Nick can feel the heat of him.
Nick doesn't mention that Quinlan also said Guiterrez was outside Jessi's apartment, watching the place, waiting for the cover of darkness to break in and get Jessi. Except that Jessi had spent the night on the Riptide, feeling safer with all of them around than alone at her apartment. Cody had stopped by to pick up a few things for Jessi when he'd come across her friend Christi. Christi had been worried about her friend. Cody had told her to go home and stay there until the whole thing was over. He couldn't have known Guiterrez was there, or that he'd follow Christi and kill her.
Guiterrez had realized his mistake later that day when Quinlan and his boys had shown up at his legal business (a restaurant downtown) to arrest him. Nick and Cody had been in the alley out back, providing some extra manpower while Murray and Jessi had been in the Jimmy. They hadn't known about the car Guiterrez kept out back, or that he'd be ruthless enough to barrel down the alley full throttle. Nick had pushed one of the cops, a kid barely rid of his training wheels, out of the way of the car. Which is why he hadn't been in position to save Cody from most of his injuries.
Looking at Cody's angrily purple face and the hints of bruises poking out from the collar of his borrowed shirt, Nick is more than grateful that Guiterrez hadn't hit Cody full on. The glancing blow he'd received had been enough to catapult him into the nearest wall, causing lots of bruising, some cuts and sprains, but thankfully only one broken bone (his left arm) and a broken nose.
Nick blinks, coming back to the present. "He took Jessi home. The doctors released her just after Quinlan was there to get her statement. She's pretty upset. I told Murray to stay with her."
Cody nods. "Good. She shouldn't be alone." Like Christi had been, he doesn't add.
Cody squeezes his leg briefly. "Nick?"
"Get me out of here?"
"Sure, babe. Let's get you home."
Nick gets up, wincing a little at the sting in his ankle. He waits for Cody to get to his feet, standing close enough to catch him if he needs to, silently offering support. He steers Cody to the exit with a hand on his back, carefully avoiding bumping into anyone. It's not especially hard, at 2 pm on a Tuesday.
The sunlight outside makes both of them pause and squint, giving their eyes a moment to adjust. Feeling the warm rays of the sun on his face and Cody's solid back under his hand, Nick soaks up the warmth of both. He'll take Cody back to the Riptide and make some lunch, get some food in their stomachs to counter the morning alcohol. He'll call Murray, get an update on Jessi. Maybe he'll even call Quinlan for an update on the case, even though it was pretty much open and shut. Guiterrez won't see the light of day for a long time.
"You know what I just noticed?"
Cody grins. His grin is a little haunted, but it's a good effort. Nick can't help but grin back at him. "This puts me one up on you, Nick," he says, lightly tapping his taped nose.
For a moment, Nick is speechless. It's not over, of course. There will be nightmares and secret tears and yelling, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.
It's also officially the lead for Cody in their unofficial broken nose competition.
Cody laughs, not as a carefree as usual, but happier than he's been in the last twenty-four hours.
Nick sighs dramatically. "All right, I'll graciously concede the point to you." He puts his arm around Cody's shoulders, glad that he's still there, and joins in the laughter.
"Home?" he asks when their laughter peters out.
"Home," Cody confirms.