Joe watched as Charlie buried himself into Rex's fur, his canine partner holding steady for him. He knew the paramedics were waiting anxiously to step in and whisk Charlie off to hospital, but he was determined to give his friend whatever time he needed before he handed him over.
Charlie pulled back slowly from Rex, Sarah reaching out to steady him again, as he looked around at the crowd of people surrounding the grave. For a moment Joe thought that he was looking for his tormentors but then Charlie asked, "Where's Jesse?"
Sarah glanced at Joe before she replied gently, "He's at the station. He doesn't come out to crime scenes, remember."
He certainly wasn't coming out to this one, Joe had decided early on. If they hadn't got there in time he was not having the younger man's trauma added to by seeing Charlie's body in a grave.
"I need to talk to him," Charlie managed, looking around himself as if searching for his phone.
Joe hesitated, not certain if it was wise for Charlie to speak to his partner in his current, disorientated state. But he was clearly anxious to, so Joe took out his phone, quickly dialing Jesse's number.
Jesse's voice projected his hopeful anxiety down the line so that despite everything Joe smiled as he said, "I have someone here who wants to talk to you."
Joe heard the audible exhale from Jesse as he handed his phone to Charlie.
Joe watched as Charlie heard Jesse's greeting, a flash of relief on the detective's face, reassuring Joe he had done the right thing by calling.
Charlie's face looked a little puzzled at whatever Jesse had said, "I just needed…"
He doesn't manage to finish the sentence, a long pause stretching out. "Jesse... just talk to me," Charlie eventually said, leaning in to Sarah as Jesse did just that, her arms wrapping around her friend.
Joe can hear flashes of Jesse's voice - technical specs, speakers maybe?- and Joe is pretty certain Charlie is not really aware of what is being said. But his breathing is slowing, his eyes closing at Jesse's steady stream of information.
Joe will admit he had been anxious about Charlie and Jesse taking the step they had, even though he had watched them finding their way to each other ever since they had met. Jesse was still so young some days, and he feared that, despite his best efforts, Charlie would end up being as emotionally elusive as he always had been.
At the same time he could not deny how happy they were now, a lightness, especially in Charlie, since they had acted on their feelings. He couldn't fault their professionalism either, Charlie awkwardly, officially informing him in the very early days so there could be no suggestion of impropriety.
The occasional late morning arrival... well, he had suspicions but couldn't prove anything.
There seemed to be a slight lull in Jesse's voice from the other end of the phone, Charlie's eyes opening at the change. Joe's not convinced he is fully aware of his surroundings at that moment, only of his partner on the other end of the phone.
"I love you, Jess," Charlie said quietly.
Joe watched as Sarah smiled at his words. He wondered, not for the first time, how much of a hand she had had in Charlie's decision to cross the line he had been holding between himself and Jesse. He suspected in another time and place she might be on the receiving end of those words. But here she had seemed to understand her two friends' bond better than anyone else, and had been quietly encouraging them even when he feared the outcome.
His words to Jesse seemed to signal a return to the world around him as Charlie started to register who else was there.
"I think I have to go to hospital now," he said as his eyes fell on the paramedics at the side. Charlie smiled at whatever was said before shakily handing the phone back to Joe.
Joe signalled to the medics to step in, pulling himself out of the grave before returning to the call.
"Jesse?" he checked.
The younger man's response still had notes of the emotion that had been bubbling in his conversation with Charlie.
"He's going to Memorial, but there's no need to rush. By the time he gets there, and they check him out it'll be a good hour." Joe paused. "Log everything before you shut down, and then get something to eat."
Jesse's voice showed surprise that Joe had been aware of him not eating amongst the pressure of the day, before agreeing as if suddenly aware he was hungry.
Joe considered his words again. "Is Kelly still with you?" At Jesse's affirmative he asked, "Can you hand me over?"
The paramedics had got Charlie out now, and were moving him towards the ambulance. Joe considered Sarah watching their progress, her hand in Rex's fur, a decision made at the sight.
The steady voice of Sarah's deputy came on the line.
"Do something for me," Joe said. "Make sure Jesse doesn't leave the station until he's fit to drive, will you?"
He hears the slight smile in her voice, "Of course."
Joe watched Sarah and Rex slowly following the stretcher with Charlie on it.
"And then join me out at the scene. I think your boss needs to be somewhere else."
"I'll be there as soon as I can," Kelly replied simply.
"Thank you," Joe said before hanging up the call. He paused before turning back, the quiet business of processing the scene white noise behind him. Closing his eyes for the briefest of moments, he lets out the breath he thinks he's been holding since the first email arrived.
They had been too close to being too late, and he has no idea what he would have done then.
He shakes the thought away. It doesn't matter now; his family is safe, the culprits are in custody, and justice will follow its due course.
Sarah hadn't been certain how Charlie would react after the initial shock of his abduction had worn off. So contained, even under some of the most challenging circumstances, she feared he would just swallow whatever he was feeling. She hadn't imagined her normally amicable friend losing it over his doctor's instructions though.
"This is ridiculous," he snapped. "I'm perfectly fine."
"Charlie, you have just been through a traumatic experience," she tried. "Of course they will want to keep an eye on you."
"But you heard them. There's nothing physically wrong with me," he insisted.
"Doesn't mean you don't need to be here," Sarah said carefully.
Charlie shook his head. "I'll be fine. I just need to go home." He made to get out of bed.
"Where do you think you're going?"
Sarah stepped in front of him.
"Home." He looked around. "Where are my clothes?"
"Taken for processing," Sarah said simply. "So, you need to get back into bed."
Charlie shook his head again. "I am going home, Sarah. Help me or get out of my way."
Sarah considered her friend, and tried to ignore the well of emotion in her at what had been done to him. If she could feel a fury rumbling inside, what must he be feeling?
"Hey, what's going on?"
She turned to glance at Jesse as he came into the room, trying to convey in her look a warning about what he was walking into.
"Jesse, the doctor says I have to stay," Charlie said, his agitation obvious.
"Well, that's understandable," Jesse said carefully, pausing to take his bag off and leaving it to one side.
"Maybe, but I'm going home," Charlie said, as he edged out of bed. "You need to go and get me some clothes."
Jesse glanced at Sarah before turning his attention to his partner. "No," he said simply.
Charlie looked up at Jesse in surprise. "Jesse…" There is almost a growl to his voice.
"No," Jesse said again. His voice is low and gentle, but quite clearly not brooking any argument. "If the doctor says you have to stay, then you are staying."
Charlie's face flashed anger, but he doesn't say anything. Sarah glanced down, not surprised to see Charlie's hands gripping the side of the bed as he fought the desire to yell at Jesse.
Fought the desire to run.
Jesse stepped in close, Charlie not moving but not able to meet his gaze.
"Charlie, look at me," Jesse said gently, as Charlie more obviously averted his gaze. Jesse followed the move. "Charlie, just look at me."
It took a few moments but slowly Charlie turned his gaze back, allowing it to meet Jesse's. The younger man lifted his hand up to cradle Charlie's cheek before he said softly, "It's okay…"
Charlie's gaze stayed with Jesse's until he let out an audible, shuddering breath, the sound of which made Sarah's catch in her throat.
"I just want to go home," Charlie said, emotion rippling through his voice. "I feel…"
He doesn't finish the sentence, but Sarah can guess.
Out of control.
How can he not?
"And I want to take you home," Jesse replied softly. "But tomorrow morning, yeah? Rex and I will stay tonight, Sarah will too for as long as she can." He paused for a moment, before he tried with a slight smile, "I'll get pizza."
Charlie held his gaze for a moment longer before he finally nodded his head in resignation, the smallest smile at Jesse's tone, and probably Rex's enthusiastic greeting of Jesse's words from his perch in the corner of the room.
"See, Rex thinks it's going to be fun," Jesse said.
"Rex thinks anything involving pizza is fun," Charlie retorted, flashes of his normal tone in his response.
Sarah smiled at his words, feeling some of the tension she had been holding give way a little. Her smile spread at the sight of Charlie reaching for Jesse's hand, before she felt a need to move away from the couple. She was perhaps the only one they were openly affectionate in front of but right now it felt like there was a reunion kiss on the way, and that should be just them.
"I will go and warn the nurses’ station about the party planned for in here," she said lightly.
She turned away to pick up her coat, a walk around the block probably good for her as well as them. Glancing back as she closed the door behind her she caught sight of Charlie pulling Jesse in close and let go of a long breath.
When she returned twenty minutes later, blankets and pillows for Jesse's overnight stay in her arms, she found Charlie properly back in bed and Jesse being organised.
"Don't forget Rex will need his dinner and something to sleep on. And I'll need a suit for tomorrow." Charlie looked down at himself. "And something to sleep in that preferably doesn't reveal my butt every time I move."
"But it's such a cute butt," Jesse commented.
Charlie shook his head slightly, but his smile was the firmest it had been since his recovery. "Well, I would like to keep it for your eyes only if possible."
"Is that everything?" Jesse asked, his tone indicating his thoughts on the long list of instructions he had obviously received.
Charlie considered his partner. "Yes, for now." He paused for a moment before continuing, "And no side trips. Straight home, and straight back."
This time there was the slightest eye roll from Jesse before he leant in to drop his lips to Charlie's. "I'll be back in about an hour."
Charlie's eyes tracked Jesse's exit before he turned back to Sarah. “Why do I get a feeling that I have just been handled?"
Sarah laughed. "That's because you have." She grinned. "I did tell you he was ready for you.'
Charlie greeted her comment with his own wry grin, before he said awkwardly, "I'm sorry about before."
Sarah sobered. "You have nothing to apologize for. In fact, I am impressed you haven't taken this room apart after everything you've been through."
Charlie dropped his gaze from hers, before his eyes drifted to the door. "Was he alright?"
"No," Sarah replied, her simple response bringing his gaze back to hers. "None of us were."
She stepped in closer before taking a seat on the edge of the bed. "But he held it together. Held me together at one point." She took Charlie's hand in hers. "You have a good man there, Charlie Hudson."
Charlie nodded at her words. "That I have. Helps to have good friends too though."
Sarah smiled at his words, knowing it was about more than just the last day he was talking about.
"I can't imagine getting out and not knowing he'd be there. That you would all be there…"
And then in that moment he is not there with her, his eyes flickering, and she knows he is back in the grave.
"Charlie…" she prompted softly, squeezing his hand.
"This was worse," he replied, though his gaze is still elsewhere, and Sarah tries to not think about the images flashing in his mind.
"Worse?" she asked carefully.
"Than the drowning," he said softly. "That was terrifying, but it was fast. This...so much time to think, and every time I closed my eyes not knowing if they would open again."
Sarah tried to say something but nothing felt right. She squeezed his hand again, but knows it's the gentle whine from Rex at the side of the bed that brings Charlie back to the room.
Charlie shifted his hand to fuss Rex so that Sarah felt able to speak again.
"We're all here for you, Charlie," she said softly. "Whatever you need to get through this, we're here."
Charlie nodded and Sarah hoped that the efforts he had made to be open with Jesse would be enough to help him now.
But tonight it would be enough for him to eat pizza, let those who loved him take care of him, and to sleep knowing that he was safe.
Enough for all of them.