Fire: Part III, The Spark

TWO YEARS LATER:

Kingstone’s father didn’t get jolly after a drink or two. He got fucking pissed. She remembered the bruises on her mother that she didn’t understand, and she remembered the night her father left.

It wasn’t like in the movies, with a huge fight and breaking glass and raining hard outside- it was a still night, and she could hear the yelling- she could hear the fast-paced creaking of her mothers rocking chair as her father yelled unintelligible slurs. She was ready for the raw sound of fist-connecting-with-face, and she was huddled under the covers to try to protect herself from it.

The door slammed and her entire body jolted, because even at his most angry… Daddy never slammed the door. He was quiet until he wasn’t. Until he exploded and the monster behind his silver eyes exploded.
Mummy had locked the door- Kingstone was sure she’d heard.

Mummy always locked Kingstone’s door. She would never not lock Kingstone’s door. She’d do anything to protect her kids. Kingstone cuddled closer to her teddy bear.

She also heard the breaking glass of the window, and as she sat up in bed she heard the-

“Lauren?” A pair of rough hands jerked her awake. Her confused eyes were met with gold ones. “Lauren?”

“Hmmmm? What?” Kingstone didn’t know whether or not to be angry that she’d been woken up, or happy that she’d escaped the dream of the memory.

~

Rupert gestured to the foot of the bed where his wide eyed son looked up at his mother from the foot of the bed. “Looks like you’re not the only one to have nightmares, King.”

Kingstone’s heart softened and slowed as she took Lewis into her arms. “Is that so?” The toddler nodded in her arms. She prompted, “Want to talk about it?” Again Lewis only shook his head no. He barely talked, and to be honest Kingstone was worried- she knew he was smart, but his verbal developments had been unusually slow- why? She knew he could write in full sentences already, but he hardly ever spoke more than one word- this annoyed Rupert to no end.

The child crawled in between his parents and shook with fear- Kingstone wondered what her son had been dreaming of, and if it had perhaps been even worse than her own dream. She huddled closer to her son and her husband, supressing a shudder that did not go unnoticed by Rupert.

Reflexively his arms wrapped around her as they all fell back into a dark, dreamless sleep.

~

The first time he hits her, she’s sure it’s a one time thing. Rupert is always aloof but sweet, and so mild mannered that she’s sure he wouldn’t do anything to hurt her or Lewis. Immediately the cloud of rage lifts from his face and he grabs both of her hands and hauls her off of the floor, apologising profusely; promising it won’t happen ever again. He kisses the cheek that’s flushed red from the impact, and Kingstone hopes that it won’t bruise as he holds her against him, still heavily breathing and apologising. She doesn’t question him for one second.

She knows she won’t wind up like her mother.

~

“What’s that?” James gestures to a collection of purple bruises on her arm that her sleeve rolled up just high enough to expose. She puts the most mortified face she can muster on and quickly rolls her sleeve down to cover her whole forearm. “Is everything alright at home?”

No. No. James can’t find out. He’ll kill Rupert and at this point Kingstone doesn’t know what she’d do- she leaves him at home with Lewis everyday. Babysitters are expensive and she knows Rupert loves Lewis too much to hurt him.

“It’s -ehm- fine. I think we just got a bit carried away- uhm- last.. Last night..” James immediately waves his hand in her general direction.

“No need for details, King. Just tell him to go easy on you.” James chuckles and she laughs along as he pats her on the back. She holds back a wince.

Lauren Kingstone is a strong woman. These kinds of things don’t happen to her. She’s worked enough of these kinds of cases with James to know what a relationship like hers is when she sees one. For some reason she can’t really see it though. Maybe… Maybe it’s because she’s in it.

The station becomes a sort of sanctuary she never thought it would have to be, not that she’ll admit that to anyone- herself included. The ugly purple blotches down her back serve as a reminder as she works late, of what awaits her at home.

~

Rupert teaches Lewis how to count and all the biology that the standard 12-year-old should know. Sometimes Kingstone thinks he forgets that their son is only 5 and can only fit so much into his brain. He seems intent on pushing it to the limit, every day; to the point where Kingstone isn’t sure Lewis has the energy for nightmares anymore.

The sex is always good- it’s always a reflection of what Kingstone suspects is inside Rupert’s heart- tough, hard and too deep to grasp fully until it’s all over and she’s encapsulated in soft, warm arms she almost can’t believe would ever hurt her the way that they do, come the morning over such small things- the water bill was a bit high, Lewis not eating enough ‘brain food’, anything really. Kingstone never wanted or expected a normal life, but that’s not to say she wanted this.

It feels like it’s love though.

She should have known better than to fall in love with someone like Rupert. Someone safe and warm. Yet, when she looks down at Lewis she knows it’s all worth it- his tiny silver eyes and impossibly light hair. Everything about that child is innocent, and that’s what keeps her going, even as he squeezes her a bit too tightly at night when his father is out of town on business.

**One day she will tell you that she has had enough
He’s coming round again.**

He has her by the throat when something snaps she decides she’s had enough of it. Lewis is asleep; he always is these days. Always exhausted. Somehow she finds the strength in her arms to heave Rupert off of her for the first time. He stands there again as if it were the first time. He looks down in fake horror at his bloodied paws, but Kingstone could vomit at the apathy in his eyes.

“Lauren? I’m- I’m so s-”

“Fuck off.” He looks hurt somehow at her coldness and her heart twists, but she’s too damn tired not to do this. “And get out.”

“What?” He’s still in shock, so she shoves him back against the door.

“Fuck off. Out of my life. Out of this house. Get the hell away from me.” He contemplates for a moment, looking like he still feels in full control- like he thinks he has a choice, which really annoys Kingstone.

“What about Lewis?”

The name of her son sparks something ancient and protective in Kingstone. This drunken bastard thinks he has a place as a father? In her house? Seriously?

“Oh Honey, you’re never going to see Lewis again. He’s going to grow up like a normal kid. He’s going to have fun and play around with Thomas the Tank Engine and go to a normal pre-school, like every other kid. Maybe one day he’ll even have a good father.” She looks at her feet for a second; she crossed the line. He takes being a father so seriously- she shouldn’t have-

She shouldn’t have looked down.

She doesn’t see Rupert’s fist flying. She feels it as the sheer force knocks her to the ground.

She fights. All of a sudden, she’s fighting for her life as the man who once treated her and the baby so kindly aims blow after blow onto her and she can’t block them all.

~

Lewis peeters around on chubby legs still, searching in the crowd of black for his mother. He finds his uncle Jammy looking down at the odd wooden box everyone seems to be so fascinated with- he wonders why. Mama would tell him, if he could find her. He tugs on James’s hand and the detective jolts slightly before bending down to pick up the boy.

“Where’s mama?” Asks Lewis. James’s eyes cloud over with an emotion beyond his 5-year-old reasoning. Lewis waits for a response and hears another voice- uncle Sean.

“She’s gone away.”

“She comes back? When?” The two older men exchange a glance.

“Not for a while, kiddo.” James’ eyes won’t rise from his feet, but Uncle Sean’s do.

“What are those marks on your arm, Lewis?” he pushes up the black sleeve of Lewis’s ‘Fun-ear-al’ suit to reveal the dark marks on the chubby arm. What’s he looking at them so funny for? Has he not seen them before?

“Oh my fuck.” Said James, when Sean quickly clamped his hands over the child’s ears.

“Kingstone wasn’t telling us something.” Murmured Sean, glancing worriedly at the smiling photo on top of the coffin.

The official story had been simple- a break-in gone bad. There’d been a broken window in the middle of the night and her jewellery and television had been taken. She must have woken up in the middle of the night and found the burglar, and that hadn’t ended well.

Flashing through his mind came the images of the bruises from months earlier. The suddenly withdrawn nature of the woman who had practically become his daughter after the divorce. He should have known- he should have known!

“Kingstone didn’t tell us a lot of things, Sean. Maybe thing’s would have been different if she- if I’d just-” James sighed and suddenly Lewis was a deadweight in his arms. The kid had fallen asleep. “I guess it’s our job to find out.”

“I think it’s time to go.” Said a quiet, calm, sudden voice, as Joseph and James watched the coffin lower into the ground. They turned to see Rupert with a small, brightly-coloured child’s backpack.

James and Sean exchanged a look before Joseph took Lewis into his arms and the taller detective stepped forward with a face like a thunderstorm. He knew he’d have to prove it. He’s solved the unsolvable before. All that matters is stalling for long enough to find the evidence. He’s sure as hell not letting Lauren Kingstone’s son go home with the man who stands before him, smiling too brightly for the funeral.

“Rupert Rodut, I’m placing you under arrest under suspicion of assault and murder.”

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