A/N: This story started out as a character study of Miles for In The Aftermath of a Fire, but then it became quite long, and given how much I enjoy writing from Miles's perspective I decided to make it into its own thing. The inspiration for the title came from a fan video by EMarie on YouTube, check it out if you haven't seen it: it's quite old, but in my opinion it is one of the best edits on his character. Just so you know, this person doesn't know I exist, I just genuinely like the video.

The story is divided into three parts, and it is an introspective piece following Miles relationship with his father as it escalates during 14A. Most of the scenes and virtually all dialogue are taken straight from the show, with a few missing moments here and there. This first chapter covers episode 14x02 - Wise Up.


WARNING: This story deals with child abuse, and the chapter contains some mildly graphic descriptions.


Weep little lion man,
You're not as brave as you were at the start

(Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man)

Chapter 1

The first time his father hit him was right after that god-awful morning at the golf club. Miles could not even believe his nerve: pretending to want to spend time with him, bond with him. Seriously, he played it like a consumed actor, he even told him all the right things: that he felt like he didn't know him at all anymore, that they both should work towards not fighting so much… it seemed so genuine. Instead, it was all a little show for the press. Unbelievable. But most of all, Miles could not believe himself, falling for such a trick, trusting that his father would stop and finally listen to all the years of him crying out for his attention. How could he be such a fool, hadn't he learned anything about his dad, by now? He was so angry, so mad, mostly at himself, for letting his father hurt him this much, again and again.

It was hardly the first time they had a heated altercation, it wasn't even the first time his father grabbed him by his arms and waved him around, but what happened next took him completely by surprise. Again, when will he learn? All these years, and still he expected his father not to actually hurt him — he wondered where this blind faith came from. Because the mighty Miles Hollingsworth II, this time, did not limit himself to tossing him around a little, overcompensating for the fact his son had by now grown a tad taller than him. No, this time he literally threw him into a wall, stupid painting and stupid heavy frame and all.

The shock, and the sharp pain in his back, completely froze him in his feet. They say it's a common reaction in times of crisis, isn't it? When in danger, against all odds, our natural, animal reaction is to shut down and freeze. Do nothing. No screaming, no fighting back, just utter, paralyzing fear. He could see his father was also startled, the way he let go of him immediately, swore to God it was an accident. It was the closest thing to an admission of guilt he had ever heard from the man, even though not quite an apology. What had just happened must have been something big. Miles registered this, but didn't really process it. It was just too much, and all he could think of right now was to get out of there as fast as he could and find Tristan, because Tristan was comfort.

"Can I- Can I go now?" was all he managed to muster, avoiding his father's gaze. Waiting for his permission, too scared to move. He hated feeling this vulnerable, he hated that his father could reduce him to this state. He could sense tears fighting to get out — the pain expanding in his chest, his throat, pushing to make him break down — but he fought back. He would be damned before he cried in front of his father.

He rushed to school — literally, he had never covered the distance in less time — only to find another cold shower waiting for him. All their friends were shielding Tristan from him, of all things, and the reason was that stupid interview. The one he gave to get back at his dad, before it blew up in his own hands. Of course Tristan was pissed, they had just agreed to keep their relationship private, but could he not see that this was not about him? The last thing Miles wanted was hurting him, he would never do it on purpose. If only Tris would come with him, so he could explain…

"I thought you actually liked me," Tristan accused him.

"I do like you!" Miles retorted, urgency in his voice.

Of course he liked him, was he kidding? Tris was pretty much the only person he liked, right now, and definitely the only one he wanted to deal with.

"No, you don't. You manipulated me."

Those words, those precise words, hit him harder than if Tristan had slapped him. Oh, the irony: hadn't he just said — an hour, a thousand years ago — pretty much the same thing to his dad? He clearly recalled shouting the words that started the fight, all you ever do is manipulate everything. He actually felt sick to his stomach, and like he couldn't breathe properly.

"No, no I didn't- I didn't do it, don't say that…" he weakly tried to argue.

But Tristan was already gone, his back towards him, out of his reach. Lost, forever. Because Miles knew all damn too well how awful feeling manipulated was, and he sure as hell knew nobody would come back for more.

Of course, such a perfect day could only improve, so he obviously ran into Maya in the hallway. She came up to him, to be exact, wanting to talk about his sudden and very public coming out.

"Just leave me alone!" he uttered harshly. At this point all the pain he felt was turning into fuming anger, and he definitely didn't need one Maya Matlin barging in.

It didn't work, clearly, Maya was not one to give up easily.

Miles finally sprinted out of her reach and managed to hide in the locker room. Alone, at last. He angrily tossed his stack of books over the wooden bench, and the loud sound of the impact resonated in the empty room.

It didn't make him feel any better. Not even a little bit.

He paced towards the back wall, leaning his head against the hard surface. His heart was pounding, his blood pumping through his temples, almost painful. His lower back hurt with every breath, and he felt a turmoil of emotions inside him — most of which he couldn't really place. He could feel the uncomfortable sting of tears pushing to come out, and he knew for a fact he was about to break down. He didn't even remember the last time he had cried…

He had almost given in, and resolved to wallow in his own pity for a little bit, when Maya ran through the door. Perfect, really, just what he needed. Gosh, could she seriously not leave him alone? Please?

"You know this is the boys' locker room?" he weakly informed her, and he couldn't help but feel embarrassed at how broken his voice sounded. It took a humongous effort to push back the tears but hey, he wasn't about to cry in front of Maya. Not a chance in hell.

"Like I care," said Maya. She hesitated for a second, looking intently at him. "Did you do this to hurt me?" she finally asked.

It took Miles a second to realise what the hell she was talking about. How did this have anything to do with her?

"You really think a lot of yourself…" he mocked her, trying and failing to come across as his usual sardonic self. It was typical Maya, making it all about herself.

"Then tell me what's going on, I'm just confused!"

"You're confused?!" he snapped, and his words resonated in the silence that fell between them. She looked concerned. She must have seen how much of a mess he was. He hated her for being there, hated her. Why couldn't she just leave him alone?

"Miles, talk to me… what's happening?" she begged, softly.

Miles took in a deep breath. Indeed, what was happening? Nothing new, if he had to be honest. He had tried for so long to please his dad, but it never worked. Then, he had tried to at least make him listen, and look how well that went: with a bruise on his back, and him hiding like a scared child in the school's locker room.

"I'm happening, Maya… The great tornado that is Miles Hollingsworth III is screwing up his life again," he confessed, his broken voice scraping painfully out of his throat.

"You had another fight with your dad?" she guessed.

Miles didn't answer to that. His eyes switched towards her, at loss for words. Why did she have to look so freaking commiserating all the time? Was he really such a wreck, to attract all this pity? He looked straight into her eyes, and for the briefest second he wondered if he should tell her. Could he? She was there, mere inches from him; all he had to do was speak up, and then… what? She would console him? This was a terrible idea, what the hell was he thinking…

"I should find Tristan," he said instead, and tried to sidestep her and reach the door. Maya wasn't having it, of course.

"Miles, if something's going on at home you need to talk to some- Hey," she blocked him in his tracks, placing her tiny hands firmly on his shoulders. "You don't have to talk to me," she continued, "but to someone. When you don't tell people what's inside your head, it only gets worse."

Miles lost any remnant of fight, after that, and just stood there in silence. He felt completely empty by now, the battle against his tears getting harder by the minute. He leaned back against the wall, giving up on escaping the uncomfortable situation.

She'll get tired, eventually. She'll leave him alone.

They all did, at some point.

The rest of the day was painful, at school. Tristan was still avoiding him, and by now Miles was actively avoiding him too. Maya kept shooting him these concerned looks, as if he were a lost puppy or something, and he would have wanted to scream at her if only he wasn't feeling so on the verge of tears himself. Somehow, anyway, he made it to the end of classes, and he gratefully headed out at the sound of the last bell.

Only then, standing in front of the school steps, he realized that being out wasn't any better at all. It meant he should go back home, where in all likelihood he would find his dad. He pondered for a second his different options. Maybe he could go to Winston's, and game for a little? That is, if Winston wasn't still mad at him for messing with Tristan. Wrong line of thought, too painful. Maybe he should just keep busy, wander around for a while? Only he couldn't, he suddenly remembered. He had his road test, today, and he needed to go home, if he wanted to make it in time.

The mansion was eerily quiet, and seemingly empty. He thought back to Maya's words, the part about having to tell someone, and he still didn't know how to feel about it. Maybe he should tell his mother. Maybe she would know what to do. Or maybe, instead, she would think all of this was his fault, like his father thought. Maybe she would even be mad at him, and honestly Miles couldn't take any more yelling for the day.

He sneaked into his room, taking a deep breath. Had he really just considered telling his mum? Jeez, what was wrong with him? He couldn't think of anything worse than going over it with her, saying it out loud.

Making it real.

He felt so ashamed, he just wanted to dig a hole in the ground and hide there, where nobody would ever find out what had happened. He locked himself in his washroom and took off his shirt with a little effort. It might have been some form of morbid curiosity, but he needed to see it. He turned his back to the mirror, and there it was: a big, black bruise just below his waistline, stretching towards his side. Right where his backbone protruded, his skin had peeled off a little, scratched by the impact with the frame. He touched the damaged area around the edges, hesitantly, testing the waters. It didn't hurt too bad, but it was definitely a bit tender.

He turned around, facing himself in the mirror, still holding his shirt in his hands. He felt strangely empty, almost detached from his own body. He studied his reflection, as if looking for an answer to all the questions he didn't have the guts to ask himself. Maybe he should go talk to his mother, after all. Maybe that's what he was supposed to do.

He couldn't find her in the house. However, he did find the twins, doing their homework in Frankie's room. They hadn't seen their mum either, but Hunter informed him that Dad had locked himself in his study. Whatever. What, was Miles supposed to feel bad for him, now?

His sister looked at him almost teasingly. "What happened this time?" she asked, not too bothered.

Sometimes Miles really wondered why on earth he kept trying, with the twins. It was so obvious they didn't care about any of this. Just look at how quick Frankie was in dismissing him, without even knowing what had happened (Let me guess, you guys had another fight?), or how Hunter pulled out his best sarcastic tone (Ah... you didn't like the course he took you to?). Still, Miles always tried; even now, he attempted to explain to them what had really happened, the photo-op at the club, their joke of a dad. But of course it all had to be his fault in their eyes.

"Miles, you only look on the worst side of things," Frankie accused him. "Dad cares about you, and you care about him!"

"No, I don't," he retorted, blankly. He wouldn't let her see how much this affected him, he wouldn't be weak in front of the twins.

"So why do you spend all your time trying to get his attention?" she asked, and he almost choked at the way her words hit him. Was this really how she saw him?

"Ok, are you two living in some sort of alternative universe here?" he shot back, "Dad is always yelling at me!"

"Yeah, and most of the time you're yelling back! Or you started it," said Hunter, looking disapproving.

"You two are pretty much exactly alike," Frankie concluded, and Miles froze at her words.

"No I'm… I am nothing like him!"

He felt out of breath, as if air were being sucked from his lungs. Why would she say something like that? Why were people constantly likening him to him? He felt his chest tighten at the mere idea, and his heart pounded so hard he wondered if the twins could hear it. He had to calm down, he thought.

He had a driving test to pass.

In the end, he didn't even have to decide whether to tell his mum or not, as when he finally found her she didn't give him any time to speak. Instead, she scolded him for his behaviour that morning, and suggested he apologised to his father. Miles's stomach twisted at her words, at the mere idea of having to apologise for what had happened. But he didn't need to, eventually, and funnily enough it was his father himself to pull him out of the situation. He approached Miles in the patio as they were heading to the road test, reassuring his mother they were good. Then, Dad asked him if there was any way they could start fresh, and Miles thought that this was even worse than having to take the blame. Start fresh? How?! He went for honesty, and told him that he genuinely didn't know. Surprisingly, that seemed to be good enough an answer.

Then his father pulled off that low stunt with the two identical convertibles, and a piece of Miles died inside him. His first instinct was to cry on top of his lungs that his forgiveness could not be bought, that the man was crazy if he thought even for a second that a new car was an adequate way to repay him for the ugly bruise he carried on his back, a constant reminder of this morning's 'accident'. No, it wasn't this easy, it couldn't be: his father had to do more than wave some money around, if he truly wanted to win him back.

After a split second, though, rationality kicked in. Because Miles knew, by now, that his dad would not change, he would never care; and at his lowest point, while assessing the damage on his own offended skin, he had sworn to himself to never let him hurt him again. Never to hope for a change of heart from this man who so clearly didn't consider him worthy of his love, or his attention — or an intact spine, for that matter. Therefore, let the car be welcome; no reason, really, not to try and at least gain something from all this misery. If he played it smartly enough, he thought, he might even be able to win Tristan back. After all, the boy had always had that soft-spot for grand gestures…