Bruises

Chapter 38 – Resignation

Spike jerked awake with a strangled yell and clenched fists then lay there breathing hard for a few minutes. Once his nerves were somewhat under control, he sneaked a peek at Buffy. She was still sprawled over his chest, snoring lightly, and he breathed a sigh of relief. He'd managed to wake himself before he'd gotten too far into the nightmare, but damn, that had been close.

He slithered out from under Buffy, being careful not to wake her, then slid off the edge of the bed. He sat on the floor with his forearms propped on his drawn up knees and laid his head back against the bed, trying again not to fall asleep. When he jerked awake for the second time, he got to his feet and started pacing. 'Only an hour and a half to go before the alarm goes off.'

He was checking the carpet between the bed and the bathroom door to make sure he hadn't worn a path when the clock on the night table started screeching. Buffy rolled over and smacked at it a few times before her hand hit the snooze button with a little more force than was strictly necessary. She sat up, rubbing her eyes, and blearily looked over at him. "You're up already? Another nightmare?"

He pasted a smile on his face and stepped toward the bed. "No, just had to use the loo. Was plannin' to catch a bit more kip, if that's all right."

"That's fine. You don't see Tara until five, so you've pretty much got all day to sleep if you want."

He crawled back into bed and Buffy snuggled up to him until the alarm started blaring again. This time, she crawled on top of him to turn it off then settled on his chest, her legs straddling his hips. "Don't wanna go." She pressed her lips to his as she threaded her fingers into his hair. They kissed slowly and gently for several minutes until a quick rapping on the door caused them to part with mutual groans.

"Are you two decent?" came Joyce's voice from the other side of the barrier.

Buffy called out, "Almost," as she reluctantly slid out from under the covers, gently kissing him one more time before she stood up next to the bed and slipped into her robe. She tied the belt then sighed at the door, "Come in, Mom."

Joyce opened the door and stepped into the room. "Good morning." She looked at Spike's sleepy countenance and a slight frown crossed her face. "Didn't you sleep at all after your nightmare, Spike? You look exhausted."

He pasted on that smile again. "Slept as well as can be expected, I suppose, but yes, I'm a bit knackered."

"Well, you go ahead and get some sleep. Angel's downstairs if you need anything and I'll leave your breakfast in the fridge. Oh, Lilah said she'd like to speak to you sometime this afternoon, if you're up to it. I think she wants to apologize again."

Spike nodded slowly, his eyelids starting to droop. "I'll see if Angel will drive me over. Thanks, Joyce."

Joyce gave a quick nod then looked at Buffy. "Your breakfast is ready, so you'd better hurry if you don't want to be late."

"Ok, Mom. I'll be down in a few minutes." She didn't move from her spot by the bed until Joyce had pulled the door closed then she bent down and caught Spike's lips in another gentle kiss. "I'll see you at lunch or after school, ok?"

Spike smiled sleepily at her and murmured, "I'll try to make lunch, pet. Have a good day. Love you."

Buffy ran her fingers through his hair and said quietly, "Love you, too," then she reached down and unplugged the clock.

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Charlie Finn was nervous. Yeah, he'd been inside the interrogation rooms before, escorting prisoners back and forth, but he'd never had to sit at the table and now he'd been sitting at the table for almost three hours. Lilah had been waiting for him this morning when he'd punched in and had brought him to this room, telling him to sit before leaving without another word. It was a familiar technique – leave the accused sitting alone in a tiny room and let them stew in their own juices for a while, wondering what was going to happen – only he didn't know just what he was being accused of.

As far as he knew, he'd done nothing wrong… well, nothing that the police should know about anyway. Sure, he'd done some things in his time on the planet that some would consider to be less than upstanding, but all that had stopped about four months ago. His boy had grown a set, apparently, and had started to resist, finally ending Charlie's almost nightly 'visits' to his room with a vicious punch that had almost broken his jaw. He'd had to take a week off work just to avoid the questions he knew he'd be asked about why the right side of his face was one big bruise. Couldn't very well tell anyone that Riley had done it, now could he? How would that look?

Charlie squirmed in his chair as he fidgeted with his empty bottle of water, wishing he hadn't been stupid enough to drink it. Another familiar technique – let the accused polish off a bottle of water then deny them the use of a bathroom, making their discomfort that much more pronounced – although this technique was generally frowned upon because anyone that had a lawyer worth his fee would definitely be encouraged to bring it up to the judge, and 'torturing' technically 'innocent until proven guilty' citizens was a good way to find yourself out of a job. Charlie didn't have a lawyer, not that he thought he needed one.

The door suddenly flew open and Lilah strode through followed by LeHane. The two dark-haired women silently took the chairs on the opposite side of the table and Faith plunked down a fresh bottle of water and an empty plastic cup as she smiled over at him. "How's it going, Charlie? You doing all right? Need something to drink?" She cracked open the lid on the water bottle and started slowly dripping water into the cup.

Charlie squirmed in his seat again and pressed the heel of his hand to his bladder, trying to wish the sensation away. It wasn't working. "Why am I in here?"

Lilah slapped a manila file folder down on the table then lifted the cover just enough to slip something out, her piercing glare focused fully on Charlie's face as she slid a surveillance photo across the surface. It was a picture from the camera mounted in the hallway outside the row of jail cells. "Do you recognize this man?" She pointed to someone that was standing outside James Pratt's cell, apparently talking to him.

Charlie nodded. "Yeah, that's me. So? It's not against policy to talk to the prisoners and Jimmy and I have been friends since the second grade. I haven't done anything wrong."

Lilah smiled – and it wasn't a sweet smile – as Faith continued to slowly drip water into the cup. "True, conversing with the prisoners isn't against policy. However, revealing confidential information that was specifically designated as off limits for conversation is."

Faith slid the now three-quarters-full cup across the table toward Charlie, making sure to slosh the liquid around as much as possible, then smirked at his pained grimace. "And the news that Pratt's severely traumatized son was coming to the station was specifically off-limits information, Finn. And don't try to tell me that you didn't know it was off-limits, because I distinctly remember telling you that it was," she tapped the time stamp on the bottom of the surveillance photo, "about twenty minutes before this was taken."

"Well… shit." Charlie squirmed as he stared at the photo, trying to figure out just how much trouble he was in. He'd known that telling Jimmy about his kid's visit was against policy, but he'd never figured to get caught doing it. Jimmy was his friend and there was no way he believed that Jimmy had done any of the shit his kid was accusing him of. Sure, maybe Jimmy had been a little too heavy handed with the discipline, but abuse? Seriously? Boys were tough; therefore they needed a tougher hand to keep them in line. And Charlie had seen the way the kid was dressed as they were wheeling him out to the ambulance. It was no wonder Jimmy had had to be so hard on him. The kid was a punk. Probably spent more time back-talking Jimmy than doing anything else.

Basically, Charlie was of a mind that Jimmy had been simply performing his duty as a caring father. Doing his damndest to keep his rebellious teenage son from veering too far off the path and ending up as a drug addict or a criminal, and now he was being persecuted for following the adage of 'spare the rod and spoil the child.'

Of course, Charlie hadn't been privy to the entire case file, not needing that information to do his job, so all he had to go on was what he already knew of Jimmy's character and what Jimmy had told him, and Jimmy had painted himself with a practically blameless brush, putting the reason for every action he'd committed squarely on his son's shoulders. 'He made me hit him… I had no choice,' was the line most often repeated as Charlie had commiserated with his sorry position by telling him of his troubles controlling his own son. He'd told Jimmy about disciplining Riley… and just how he'd disciplined him, nodding sagely when Jimmy had told him that he'd been about to move to that stage, but then the boy had started tossing around untrue accusations and… well… here they were, jailer and prisoner. Charlie had knocked on wood, telling Jimmy that if Riley ever grew a big enough pair to actually go to the authorities, then Charlie would probably end up in the cell next to Jimmy's, because apparently their views on the proper way to raise a child weren't widely accepted by society.

Lilah jerking the photo back across the table startled him out of his thoughts and he looked up at her warily. She slipped the photo back into the folder then extracted a single sheet of paper, sliding it across the table. He glanced down at it then back up at her scowling face. "What's this?"

"Your resignation. Sign it."

"I'm being fired? You can't do that!"

"No, you're resigning, and yes, I can. You knowingly broke policy, and by doing so, you've drastically set back the recovery of an innocent young man, the very person we were meant to protect."

"That picture doesn't prove anything! I was standing outside his cell! So what? You can't fire me because of a picture!"

Lilah practically snarled, "You're lucky I'm not arresting you… yet. I'd have Faith slap the cuffs on you right now but I don't want you to be an employee of the city when that happens."

"Arresting me? For what?"

Faith looked over at him in disgust. "Those cameras record audio now, dumbass. They were installed that week you were on your 'fishing trip,' if that's really what you were doing, so we do have proof of you telling Pratt about his son, and… other things." Charlie's face drained of all its color and he suddenly felt faint as Faith's hand thumped to the table next to the paper then withdrew, leaving a pen behind. "Sign it. I don't want to look at you any longer than I have to. You make me sick."

Charlie numbly reached for the pen and scrawled his signature across the bottom of the paper without even looking to see what it said, then jerked slightly when Lilah snatched the paper back and slipped it into the folder. "Child Protective Services is on their way to the school to take custody of your son and then they'll come here to talk to you. I suggest you cooperate with their investigation."

Faith got to her feet and stepped around the table, knocking hard on the door. It opened and she jerked it wide, glaring at Charlie over her shoulder. "And then I'll be back to arrest you, you sorry piece of child molesting shit."

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I have one more chapter written after this one and then I've hit a wall. I'm going to go back and re-read the whole thing then try to figure out where I want the story to go. If any of you have any ideas or there's something you'd like to have happen, please let me know. I'll make sure to credit you if your idea shows up in the story. I need a nudge, guys! So please feel free to send me your thoughts. I could sure use the help.

Thanks to everyone who has read, favorited, followed, and commented. You guys make writing fun and I really appreciate the time you take to read my stuff.