It took me well over a year, but I've finally managed to write the rest of this story! Takes off during the winter break between NC1 and NC2, and follows the events till the end of NC4. Enjoy!

More notes at the end.



Christmas that year didn't really feel like Christmas at all, because Dad wasn't there. And yes, Frankie should have expected it; her parents had been separated since last spring, and even when they had started seeing each other again in the fall, Dad had never officially moved back in. Then the whole mess with Miles happened, and now their father was definitely not coming anywhere near the house. Still, somehow Frankie imagined Christmas would have been an exception. For some reason, she had expected him to be there, sitting at his spot at the table, slicing the ham and passing the gravy and smiling wide while opening her presents.

That couldn't happen, obviously. Miles was still a nervous wreck every time anyone so much as acknowledged the existence of their father, thus expecting the two of them to be in the same room at the same time was just plain madness.

It still hurt, though. So much.

Their grandparents were missing, too. Things were just too complicated, this year, Mum didn't feel like seeing her in-laws, and having them over without Dad would have been awkward to say the least. So they had sort of, kind of, not been invited to come over. Sure, the three of them kids would go visit them, later in the day — making sure not to accidentally bump into their father, for Miles's sake. Hunter and Frankie had even spent the Eve with their dad, in his condo downtown. It just wasn't the same.

Nothing was the same. As they sat across each other in the formal dining room, eating roast on Christmas day — their mum, and Miles, and Hunter, and Frankie, and all that space for just the four of them… It just didn't feel right.

Even her brothers felt off, somehow, like they weren't the same persons she had grown up with anymore. Miles was this new and still unknown creature, who behaved so differently from her brother, and who constantly seemed on the verge of a breakdown. And Hunter… Frankie had been so worried about Miles recently that she had barely noticed at first, but Hunter was acting real weird, too. All that stuff that went down with the Gamers Club was just too crazy, even for Hunter, and on top of that he seemed to have parted ways with all his friends. He was just so angry all the time, the smallest of things was enough to tick him off. Just the other day, Frankie had made what she thought was an innocent joke and Hunter overreacted so hard it scared the hell out of her. She completely froze, watching him lash out, flip a chair to the ground, run upstairs and slam the door behind him.

Granted, Hunter had always had a bad temper, but he'd also always had an incredible patience around her. He didn't always listen to her, and his patience was more of the resigned, rolling-eye variety, but still. Hunter had always been the one person she could turn to with anything, and he would be there — from taking tennis classes with her although he hated them, when they were eight, to letting her copy all of his Maths homework since junior high, to lending her five grands when she needed the money, no questions asked. This angry, aggressive person, ready to flip out at any minor thing… he just didn't feel like her twin, at all. He felt like a stranger.

A stranger who picked up and left after eating maybe half of his meal, ignoring their mother's plea that they were about to open presents. Frankie turned to Miles as a reflex, and she saw the same worry in his eyes, too. Still, he didn't look at her. And Frankie didn't feel like asking him to talk about it, either. Miles was distant, and weird, and anyway he was about to leave for boarding school in two weeks. It was what was best for him, what he needed. Frankie just had to get used to go through things without leaning on him.

Frankie curled up in the passenger seat of her brother's car, her forehead resting on the cool surface of the window, Miles driving in silence next to her. It was a cold January evening and the sky was wet and grey, a tedious drizzle hitting the windscreen — the kind that makes it hard to find the right speed for the wipers. It matched her mood perfectly.

Today had been a long, difficult day. School had been a nightmare, with all the trouble with the volleyball team, the backlash of the prank they pulled on Northern Tech. Frankie knew deep down she should be paying more attention to what was going on there, instead of letting it slide around her and expecting Shay to step in to fix it, but at the same time it hardly seemed to matter.

Nothing really matters, as you drive back from the psychiatric ward after visiting your in-patient twin brother.

"You okay?"

Miles's quiet question interrupted her thoughts, breaking the silence between them. Frankie forced herself to nod in response, but Miles didn't seem convinced by it. His eyes kept switching towards her, concerned. Frankie pretended not to notice, and went back to gazing out the window at the blurred landscape they were speeding past. Miles was a bit too much right now for her to handle.

She was still mad at him, for once. He had known that Hunter was sick, he had known for weeks, and he hadn't told her. He hadn't told anyone, in fact, and instead continued to pack his stuff to spend the rest of the school year at that fancy boarding school. How could he have even considered leaving, knowing what he knew? What Hunter had done? Did they really mean this little to him that he could just shrug it all off and leave?

She was being unfair, Frankie knew this. She knew Miles cared about Hunter, and her, so much so that he wasn't, in fact, leaving. Maybe she wasn't even mad at Miles, but rather at herself — for being so dumbly blind, for missing the signs that her own twin was in desperate need of help. The scenes from earlier at the hospital kept replaying relentlessly in her memory, Hunter's cold anger — at her, at Miles — his mean words, his attempted escape. His desperate growls as the hospital staff grabbed him (harsh grips on his arms, why did they have to be this rough?) and pushed him back to inaccessible parts of the ward, where she couldn't reach him. Where she couldn't check he was okay, he was safe, where she couldn't lay down next to him and tell him not to be scared, that she was with him, she would always be with him.

Frankie took a deep breath to slow down her pounding heart. She could sense Miles's relentless glare on her, and she just wished he would stop, leave her alone to figure out her feelings. The sounds of the road, of the car, of the world around them, turned into an indistinct buzz in her ears, making her head dizzy. Frankie pulled her legs up towards her chest and wrapped her arms around her knees to try and keep herself together. She really didn't want to cry, not here, in this car, next to Miles. Yet, her eyes were burning, her chest tighter with every shaky breath she took, an overwhelming sense of coldness expanding inside her as her racing thoughts kept spinning in her head.

She turned to Miles automatically, without thinking, and as their eyes met he made that face: the wide-eyed, deer-in-headlights, I-don't-know-what-to-do face that he always made at the sight of her tears. She immediately jerked her head away, wiping her cheeks angrily on the sleeve of her shirt.

The gravel screeched loudly underneath the tires as Miles pulled over at the side of the road and unhooked his seatbelt. She felt him shuffling around, and in the span of a moment his arms were wrapping solidly around her. He didn't say anything — there was nothing to say — but he moved closer to her, squeezing in next to her on the passenger seat. He kept her in a tight grip until the world around them seemed to disappear; there was just Miles left, the warmth of his body, his familiar scent, the soft cotton of his jumper. One hand cupped behind her head and the other gently rubbing up and down her back.

It took her long to calm down, neverending minutes spent sobbing in her brother's chest. Miles finally pulled back from her and slowly returned to his seat. She sent him a tentative glance, and to her surprise she noticed that Miles's eyes were misty, too. He was breathing slowly, leaning back into his seat and staring straight ahead. It saddened her to the core, it was all too much; Hunter in the hospital, all the distress they all felt, and on top of that knowing that Miles was hurting, too, but wouldn't let himself express it openly in front of her. She wanted to say something to him, but her throat felt like sandpaper and she had no clue how to comfort him while she was feeling so broken.

Eventually, Miles took the most humongous deep breath she'd ever seen anyone take, his chest shaking as the air flew out of his lungs. He just started the car, after that, and took them both home.

Things somehow shifted into a new normal. Despite all that was going on with Hunter, Frankie quickly came to realise she could not ignore the problems of her own making anymore.

"What's been going on with your volleyball team?" her mother confronted her one morning, causing her to jump in her chair.

"How do you know about that?" Frankie asked in dismay.

Her mother gave her one of her looks. "Your father called. Apparently these antics made the local news."

Frankie silently groaned. Marvellous.

Her mother went on, "He said you're not answering your phone, is that true?"

"What has she done, now?" asked Miles, running down the steps two at a time and into the kitchen.

"Nothing," she blurted out, just as her mother said, "There's some sort of scandal around a prank her team pulled at school."

Miles looked alternately at the two of them, a suspicious look on his face. Frankie sighed loudly.

"Nothing, okay? I have it under control. You guys have enough to worry about, I can fix this on my own."

Mum grabbed her purse to leave, but not before sending her one more poignant look. "Just... answer your father's calls, okay? It sounded important."

As soon as she left the room, Frankie slumped down in her chair. Miles didn't miss it, already on alert mode at the mention of their dad.

"What was that about?"

"It's fine, Miles," she answered automatically, but then she stopped herself and backtracked. "Actually… it's not. I made a big mess, and now I don't know what to do."

She raised pleading eyes to him, and he took a seat in the chair next to hers.

"What happened?"

So she told him. About the prank, and the banner they drew, and how it all blew up and now everyone thought that she was racist and wouldn't let her explain. How she tried, and tried, but people kept twisting her words. How even Shay, her best friend, had turned her back on her and kicked her out of the team.

Miles listened in silence to her rambling and took his time to process everything she was telling him, leaving her waiting on the edge of her seat.

"I don't think Shay actually believes that you're racist, Frankie," he finally said. "From what I hear, it sounds like you don't really want to admit that you made a mistake, and that it hurt her and those other girls."

And that… actually made a lot of sense.

"So… what should I do, now?"

"Just, apologise again. For real," he said. "And if someone misinterprets and thinks that you're racist… so be it. Their opinions are not what really matters."

Frankie looked at her brother, defeated. He was right, but it was easier said than done. Miles always made this not-caring-about-what-others-think sound so darn easy. Yet, Frankie knew that if she wanted to put this whole ordeal behind her, this was probably the only way to do it. Maybe she should start looking into a good self-help book on the matter…

"When did this happen?" she asked him, "When did you become such a level-headed wise guy and I such a… mess?"

Miles shrugged, a crooked smile curving the corner of his lips. "We're all a mess, Franks. Some of us just learn along the way how to hide it better."

That caught her off guard. "Wow. Deep. And… depressing?"

His face twisted into a slight smirk. "Only a little," he conceded.

"But you're doing better, now, aren't you?" she asked, hesitant. It was all fine and all, joking around, but when someone with Miles's personal history starts making cynical jokes, alarm bells should start ringing everywhere.

"I am. Much, much better," he said, serious yet gentle, as if he'd managed to read right into her soul. "Now, go get ready for school, and I'll drive you. But if it takes you more than five minutes I'm leaving without you!"

She scoffed, shaking her head. Some things truly never change.

They started going back to family therapy again, Frankie and Miles and their mother. Hunter would join once dismissed from the hospital, Mum said. She thought they might use some external help, just like last year during the divorce, and she probably had a point.

It happened at one of those sessions, just a few weeks in. Their mother cleared her throat nervously and said, "I would like to invite your father to join us for these meetings."

It was directed at no-one in particular, although it kind of sounded like she was asking for permission — whether from Ms. Walker, their counsellor, or from the two of them, Frankie wasn't sure.

Miles instantly went still at her words.

"I know things are difficult right now," their mother continued, "But I really think it would help. All that's happened recently, and your brother… we should talk about these things together, as a family."

There was a brief, tense pause, filled with awkward silence, and Frankie braced herself for the earthquake that was sure to follow. Miles was glaring at their mother, disbelief spelled clear as day all over his face.

"Are you insane?!" he finally exploded, "Are you seriously suggesting we all sit here with Dad?"

"I'm not saying he'd come home with us, Miles. I just believe there are things we should all talk about, with your father, too."

Frankie secretly agreed with their mother on this, although the way Miles was looking at her — like she'd gone completely mad all of a sudden — dissuaded her from voicing her opinion. Miles raised his chin the way he did when he was readying himself for a confrontation, resolution in his eyes.

"It's either me or him, Mum. I thought we were past that!"

"Miles, honey, you're overreacting…"

Miles's scoffed, hurt flashing through his eyes at their mother's remark, and Diana silenced herself at once, clearly regretting her poor wording. The atmosphere was so tense between the two of them, Frankie could almost feel her ears buzzing just by sitting at the edge of it.

Ms. Walker then cleared her throat, and the three of them nearly jumped out of their skin, heads turning towards the therapist as a reflex.

"Miles," she said, looking softly at him, "Why don't you explain in your own words how your mother's suggestion makes you feel?"

Their mum was staring expectantly at him, albeit sporting a noticeably less confident expression than Ms. Walker — and Frankie couldn't blame her, really. Miles frowned at both of them in turn, but then his shoulders slumped down, as if he'd lost all his fight, all at once.

"What's the point," he asked, sardonic, looking straight at their mother as he spoke. "She doesn't seem to listen to me, anyway."

As her brother left the room — in the same exact way that he had done so many times, over the years — Frankie could clearly see tears at the corners of her mother's eyes.

Despite her best intentions, things had gone way out of hand with the racism accusations. Everything sort of exploded at the Anniversary Gala, and now Frankie didn't even know where to start picking up the pieces. She had skipped school for four days in a row before getting caught, and going back had been every second as bad as she'd feared it would. Just one day back, and she knew she couldn't take it anymore. She ended up hiding out in Jonah's car, crying, and somehow managed to convince him to run away with her.

In hindsight, that had been a truly atrocious decision.

She had made a lot of mistakes, in the past weeks, and she had hurt a lot of people — her family, her friends, and now even Jonah. Granted, she hadn't wanted to. Her life had been going down the hill since long before all this mess even happened, but what Frankie had finally come to realise was that she couldn't hide forever behind her family's problems. Everyone in life has problems. They're not an excuse for being a shitty human being.

The look of pure relief on Miles's face as she returned home after her runaway skit struck a deep chord with her. He held her tight in his arms without as much as a word, and only reluctantly pulled back when their mother joined them. Mum lectured her, and grounded her, and then hugged her tight herself, saying how glad she was to have her back home. Miles stuck around until their mother left them alone, and only then came to sit on the bed next to her and talk. It was emotional, and hard. It was the first time she admitted out loud how wrong she had been. Miles didn't pass on judgement — which was one of the best qualities about her brother. She wanted him to know how much she regretted all the drama she had caused, but she knew there was no need to put it in words. He'd already forgiven her.

It had taken her a while, but Frankie was finally ready to do the work to make things right again. She decided then and there that she would stop complaining, and start listening. She would take responsibility, and apologise to everyone she'd hurt, and she would wait patiently until Shay was ready to forgive her. One day, hopefully not too far in the future, things would be good again.

Hunter was finally coming home. All the drama of the past few weeks meant Frankie had sort of neglected visiting him as often as she should have, and now she felt equal parts relieved at the prospect of having him back, and guilty for how bad of a twin sister she had been. Mum had gone a little overexcited, and planned a whole celebration for the afternoon. Miles rolled his eyes at the idea, but after all, throwing a party seemed to be how their mother showed her affection. At least this time she had managed to scale it down to something Hunter might actually enjoy. Just a few close friends, some games, no fancy anything. The beautiful sunny day helped, too.

No matter how much she'd waited for this day, Frankie still got giddy at the sight of her twin standing in the doorway of their home. He looked a little awkward, too, a little hesitant. But he smiled wide the moment he saw her.

She closed the distance between them and launched into his arms, squeezing all the air out of him in a move worthy of a tentacled creature.

"It's so good to have you home," she whispered, their heads so close that only he could hear her.

Hunter tightened his grip around her back. "It's good to be home, too."

It felt a little strange at first, a bit too much tiptoeing around from everyone involved. But then Hunter's friends showed up, and things got more natural. They played Magic, and ate cake, and then she almost lost track of her newly-returned brother as she went down a gossiping spiral with Vijay.

Before they even knew it, the sun was setting, their guests were leaving, and Hunter looked ready to collapse any second. He had done more socialising in one afternoon than in the past two months combined, and he looked shattered, but happy.

As Hunter disappeared upstairs, heading straight to bed, Miles dropped down next to Frankie on the sofa in the den.

"Happy to have him back?"

Frankie couldn't hide a smile. "It's a bit unreal, isn't it? It feels like it's been forever, but at the same time it's like he never even left."

"I know what you mean."

"It was nice, seeing him with his friends. He seems happier, doesn't he?"

Miles leaned back in the sofa, a soft grin on his face. "Yeah, he does."

Frankie snuggled up to his side, and he put an arm around her. She realised it was the first time all term that she felt calm, like the dark cloud that had been with them for a while had finally lifted. Granted, things were not magically solved; Hunter still had charges against him that wouldn't go away just by not thinking about them. But he was home, relatively healthy and happy. It was a start.

"What was that about, with you and Tris at the party?" she then asked Miles, thinking back to their rather abrupt disappearance, earlier in the afternoon. "Are you guys broken up for good?"

Miles remained quiet, but he turned a very suspicious shade of red around the ears, and something clicked in Frankie's head right that instant.

"Oh. My. God."

She sat up abruptly so that she could look him in the eyes.

"Oh my god, you had sex?"

"Jesus, Frankie!"

Miles squirmed uncomfortably in his seat, but she kept staring him down, relentless.

"So, all that moaning, this morning? About Tristan not wanting you?" she pestered.

"Okay, first of all, I don't moan," he said, and she rolled her eyes at him, scoffing. Yeah, sure.

"We… didn't break up?" he offered with a cocky grin, one that said exactly what he meant by it. And seriously, Frankie didn't need to be reminded of yesterday's incident. Walking in on him once had been traumatising enough.

"Ew. Ew!" she screeched, covering her eyes in a vain attempt to block the all too vivid images replaying in her head.

Miles stifled a laugh at her exaggerated display of disgust, and that somehow managed to diffuse the awkwardness between them. She removed her hands from her face, offering him a weak smile.

"Sorry, I'm being silly," she said, "I'm happy for you guys. You deserve to be happy."

Miles raised an eyebrow, and — fair enough, that was quite sappy. He shook his head and pulled her back in, planting a kiss on top of her head. "You're such a dork," he said, his tone laced with affection.

She punched him half-assedly on his leg, and proceeded to make herself comfortable against him.

"Sooo… gossip time?"

"Get lost."

Things seemed to be finally looking up. In hindsight, that should have made her suspicious, as it was a well-known fact of life that the Hollingsworths could never catch a break. But it was her first game back with the Team, and Frankie was over the moon to have finally made up with Shay. It was a big deal, too, the first time Degrassi qualified for City Finals in half a decade.

The news of the accident reached them right after the game, videos frantically checked on the little screens of their phones, hands on each other's shoulders just to be able to keep standing. To keep breathing.

A freaking bus crash.

The mess that followed was that of too many panicked people running into the same parking lot, rushed arrangements made to ensure everyone was accounted for, how many people in which car and with whom. Frankie sneaked in the back of Miles's, squeezed in between Shay and Lola, while Zoë sat up front. They were all in such shock that Frankie didn't even question why Zoë, of all people, was riding with them. Winston would take Hunter home (why was Hunter even here, again?) and come meet them afterwards.

Hours passed. The emergency room looked like one of those medical dramas on TV, stretchers being pulled and pushed around, doctors and nurses hurrying between one bloody body and the next. For a while, they all lost sight of each other, scattered in search of their people in the meanders of this aseptic labyrinth, lists of names being hushed around like hot gossip.

When Frankie eventually reconvened to the waiting room, desperate for a hot cup of coffee and even just a corner of a plastic chair to crash on, her tired eyes caught sight of Miles, standing at the other end of the room with his back towards her. He looked like a nervous mess, his left leg twitching uncontrollably, and her heart dropped at the sight. Was he really still waiting, after all these hours? Forgetting about the chair, she quietly approached him instead.

"Hey… How's Tristan, any news?"

Miles shook his head in silence, eyes staring vacantly towards the other side of the double door, the part of the world they were cut out of.

"Nobody knows anything, not even his parents," he told her. He was biting his nails raw without even noticing, and Frankie automatically took his hand into both of hers and gently pulled it down to stop him.

"Are you okay?" she asked, trying her best to keep her voice steady. This sounded bad, but he really didn't need her to freak out on him, right now.

Miles evaded her question, jerking his head in the opposite direction and taking one more deep breath to steady himself.

"What about Jonah, is he all right?" he asked, instead.

"Jonah's fine, he's got a broken leg. He needs surgery, but he'll be fine. His family's with him, they just got him into a room."

"Good... good." Miles sounded distant, her words barely registering with him. "It must be such a relief. Are you going with him?"

Frankie shook her head, tears burning at the back of her eyes. She pushed them down with resolution, now was not the time to cry.

"I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying with you."

Miles turned in surprise, looking straight into her eyes in that super-intense way he had. She could see everything spelled out on his face, how scared he was, how close to breaking down. He seemed to be debating something in his head, and Frankie thought he was about to tell her no, go home, don't worry about me. She was mentally preparing to hold her ground, to repeat she wasn't leaving, to take his hand in hers and wait with him through however long it took. But, in the end, he only said one word.


Tristan's coma had hit them all hard, but clearly no-one as hard as Miles.

Miles had been at Tristan's bedside since the crash, almost nonstop for weeks now. He was going through the motions, barely registering time passing, and some nights he came home and went straight to bed without as much as a word to the rest of them. And Frankie knew she was being unfair, because god knows she'd be the same if it were Jonah instead of Tristan, but she couldn't help a really bad feeling about it all. It was something in his drained face, in the dark circles under his eyes, in the exhausted persistence that got him out of bed every morning and to the hospital. She couldn't help feeling that her brother was wasting away in front of her eyes, until one day he'd drive himself sick.

"I'm worried about him," she confessed to Jonah one Saturday afternoon. They were sitting by the pool — her mum was away for the weekend, hence Jonah at her house — and both their phones had just buzzed with Miles's latest update from the hospital. Jonah had quickly gazed over his notification before discarding it, the memories of the crash still too fresh for him to endure the constant stream of pictures from her brother.

Frankie sighed. "I just wish there was anything I could do to make him feel better."

Jonah reached out for her hand, squeezing her lightly. "You are, Franks. I'm sure your brother knows you're there for him."

Frankie wasn't convinced it was enough, though, especially given how Miles hardly talked to her, these days. She wished she could do something more, something tangible to show him that she cared, to remind him that there were people around him who loved him and were willing to help.

It wasn't until a few days later, when the reminder for Tristan's birthday showed up in her calendar, that an actual idea started forming in Frankie's head. What if they planned a surprise party?

She tentatively ran the idea with Jonah, to see what he thought. After all, Tristan himself was still unconscious, a fact that hardly needed celebrations. Would a little feast be insensitive? On the other hand, it could be just what they needed to lighten the mood a little.

Jonah smiled wide at her, his face softening and full of affection. "I think it's perfect, Frankie."

All was set in motion, after that. Shay was sent on a hunt for party-hats and decorations, and Jonah would bring his guitar. That left Frankie and Lola to take care of the cake — and luckily Lola was a better baker than she was, what with her Cantina experience and all.

The cake turned out lumpy and awkward, the frosting barely hiding how wonky it was, but the smile on Miles's face as she handed it to him, candlelit and all, made it all worth it. Frankie hadn't seen Miles smile in weeks, she had almost forgotten what it looked like.

And she couldn't stop smiling back at him.

Weeks passed in a haze, each one identical to the next. This summer felt like the longest in history, and at the same time it was just gone in the blink of an eye. In a way, she had wasted it — no internship and no trips abroad, just long days by the pool with Lola and Shay, or Jonah, and long evenings at home with Hunter in between the hearings for his case.

School was starting again, thought, and all three of them would be back at Degrassi — Miles for the last time. So many things were different this year. Her brothers were different, one of them on probation and the other sleepwalking through life, after months of bleak days at Tristan's bedside. Their classmates were different, so many of them affected by the horrors of that bus crash, either for living it or because someone close to them did. And Degrassi itself looked different, with all the new colourful posters, and "safe spaces", and prayer rooms for the incoming Syrian refugees.

And even the things that should feel familiar (like Miles getting detention, how new) somehow felt off in this new light.

"Jonah told me you had a sort of breakdown in class today," she said, checking on him as she got home after practice, that night. Miles was hiding in the library room, scribbling down in a notebook, apparently intent on ignoring her attempt at conversation. She didn't budge, though, and took a seat next to him. "Did you really get into a fight with Esme? Over those pictures of Tristan?"

Miles slammed his notebook shut and threw it at his side, making her jump in her skin. "Back off, Frankie, okay? I just had a really crap day."

"Alright, I- I just wanted to make sure you're okay."

He toned it down a little as he realised he'd startled her. He leaned back into the sofa, running a hand over his face and taking a deep breath.

"I am. I'm sorry. Everything is just a bit hard right now."

She didn't know what to say to make him feel better, so she didn't say anything. She scooted a bit closer to him and laced an arm around his waist, resting her head on his shoulder.

They sat there in silence for a while, until neither of them knew how much time had passed.

She was sitting with Lola over lunch just outside the school, enjoying one of the last warm days of the season. Jonah had a meeting with Grace and Maya for their music project, and Shay was off with Tiny, so that left the two of them. It was nice, it had been a while.

Frankie was venting about how busy Jonah suddenly was, with Lola punctuating her rant with sympathetic noises while keeping up with her stream of incoming Oomfs. Not that Frankie minded; she was used to it, and Lola was a natural multi-tasker, anyway.

A familiar face suddenly popped up on the screen, causing a genuine smile to spread over Lola's face. Frankie still found it a little weird, her brother and her bestie being friendly, but she was happy to roll with it. She knew first hand how good of a friend Lola was, and Miles sure needed one at the moment.

"I think it's really nice, what you're doing for him," she told her.

Lola raised her eyes from her screen for the first time today, probably, her smile replaced by a confused expression.


Frankie motioned to Lola's phone. "Miles? You gave him a job at the Cantina, didn't you?"

"Oh, that. We were really just overbooked, could use some extra help."

"Regardless. Everything has been so tough for him recently, he seems like a new person since he started hanging out with you."

"I like your brother," Lola declared softly. Her face dropped as she registered how wrong that sounded, and she rushed to clarify, "I mean… he's not as cute as you, obviously. But he's nice. You're a good breed, you Hollingsworths."

Frankie chuckled, shaking her head. "Relax, Lo, I know you're not after my brother!"


Lola's face looked like a picture, Frankie had to struggle real hard not to burst out laughing at her.

"I'm not so stupid to believe those rumours," she said with a smile, "People think that just because you two talk it must mean you're hooking up. Please!"

Lola let out a little nervous laugh of her own. "Yeah. That's totally crazy."

"I know, right? But… I'm glad he has you," she added, suddenly serious. "He won't talk to me, and at this point I really don't know who else is there for him. Winston's so busy recently, and even if he were around, they were never the type of friends to talk feelings. I'm more at ease knowing you're keeping an eye on him." Her voice lowered to a whisper, her eyes shying away from Lola. "I just… I don't want to see him spiralling down, again."

She must have looked miserable, because the next thing she knew Lola was hugging her tight, soft and warm and caring.

"He won't," she whispered in Frankie's ear. "It's not like last time. He's stronger, now."

Frankie nodded, unable to put a sentence together. Lola leaned her head on her shoulder, and Frankie realised how much she had needed this, her best friend.

"You're right, he is," she said.

Everything was going to be fine, this time.

Frankie dropped down next to her brother on the sofa, causing Miles to look up from his laptop.

"So, you're writing a play now, I heard?"

It had been quite the surprise when Jonah told her that Miles had joined the Theatre Club as their playwright for the Winter production. But then again, seeing how Miles was scribbling down frantically in all his free time, maybe she shouldn't have been surprised at all. It still felt weird to think of him as part of a club, though. If you didn't count his failed attempt at Student Council over a year ago, the last time Miles had been involved in anything school-related was the basketball team in grade 10, and that's only because Dad made him. School spirit and her brother weren't really a thing.

Miles turned a bit red around the ears and sunk his head between his shoulders. Still, despite the slight air of embarrassment, he could barely hide his excitement. Frankie struggled to contain a smile, feeling strangely warm and fuzzy at the sight of her nerd of a brother. She sure as heck wasn't going to be the one discouraging him from it.

"Wait… is this it?" she asked, pointing at the laptop balanced haphazardly on his thighs. She grinned wide and asked, "Can I have a sneak peek?"

Miles tilted the screen away from her. "When it's done, maybe."

"Okay, Mr. Secrecy," she laughed, "What's it about?"

His face dropped slightly, and Miles lowered his gaze to the ground.

"It's… kind of about the crash. About, you know, Tristan, and the crash."


She didn't know what else to say. Of course that's what he was writing about, it was so painfully obvious she wanted to kick herself. She even knew that Jonah and Grace were writing music based on their memories of that day, how could she not make the connection?

Miles seemed pensive, distant. He was doing that thing he did when he retreated into his head and forgot the world around him. It scared her a little every time she saw him like that, although she knew it wasn't fair.

"Well… I can't wait to see it," she told him, honest. He raised his eyes to meet hers, coming back out of his head.

And he smiled.

It was supposed to be a girls night. Really, it was. And Frankie knew that throwing a party when their mother was at that yoga retreat was stupid, and a bad idea, but when the opportunity came she just couldn't resist it. Jonah had been so distant, lately, and she needed some quality time with him. And if opening her house to Tiny and the rest of their friends was the price to pay for it… well, so be it. Clearly there was enough space in the house for the whole gang to hang downstairs while she and Jonah enjoyed her bedroom, or so she thought.

Except, when it came to it, Jonah totally rejected her.

It hit Frankie harder than she cared to admit. Like, weren't guys supposed to want it all the time? Jonah panicking at the sight of her breasts could only mean that there was something wrong with their relationship. With her.

She felt humiliated. She rushed off her bed, desperate to put some distance between herself and Jonah, and in the process she managed to knock off the candles that she had lit for atmosphere. What happened next felt like a blur, her bench catching fire, the alarm setting off, and Miles bursting into her room with the sheerest panic on his face.

Frankie wanted to dig a hole in the ground and disappear.

"You okay?" asked Miles, turning towards her after suffocating the flames.

She practically jumped to grab the first thing she could find to cover herself with, and only managed the slightest nod in response.

"I think I should go," Jonah muttered from the opposite side of her room, "Can we talk later?"

Miles was standing cross-armed next to her, and Frankie wanted to cry.

"I think I need a little space," she answered in a tiny voice. Jonah stood there flabbergasted for a long, uncomfortable moment, but then he finally stopped staring at her and left.

Frankie had hardly ever felt this mortified in her life. As soon as the door closed behind Jonah, Miles turned his attention back to her, concerned.

"You sure you're okay?" he asked her again.

She sniffled back her tears and forced herself to nod a bit more convincingly. Miles was shuffling on his feet next to her, and she quietly slipped on the pink robe she had just picked up, too embarrassed to look him in the eyes.

"Did he… Frankie, did he, like, pressure you or something?" he asked her, hesitant.

"What? God, no, Miles..." She felt her face heat up, and yet raised her eyes to meet his, "If anything I did…"

Miles's face twisted into a slightly disgusted expression. "Okay, I so didn't need to know this…"

An uncomfortable silence crept upon them as they stood awkwardly next to each other, Miles towering over her. After a few excruciating moments, the silence was suddenly busted by a… chuckle? Frankie glanced up in surprise and she found Miles barely containing a fit of laughter. She looked at him wide-eyed for a moment, but then she couldn't help cracking up at his ridiculous face. That was it; it broke both of them, reducing them to a giggling mess. Miles had to sit down on her bed, his legs unable to keep him standing, and they both ended up holding their side in pain at the absurdity of the entire scene.

When they finally managed to recompose themselves, Frankie had literal tears in her eyes. Miles leaned back a little, looking affectionately at her.

"Do you want to come hang in my room?" he asked her, "It smells like burnt chicken in here."

Frankie pulled a very eloquent face. "It does, right?"

And Miles just smirked, shaking his head. He leaned in closer to her and placed a kiss on the top of her head.

"Let's go, pyromaniac…"

Tristan had finally woken up, and now Miles was back to visiting the hospital at any given moment he didn't have to spend in school. Yet things were hardly back to normal, and Tristan was not exactly back, either. The months in a coma had taken their toll on him, and it quickly became clear that the road to recovery was going to be long and uncertain. Miles tried his best to pretend everything was fine, but Frankie could see right through the act.

She'd never question that he was happy, and grateful, and relieved that Tristan had made it out alive. Of course he was. Yet, the reality of the situation had hit him hard, and there was no denying that it was affecting him; Miles was once again irritable and snappy, the dark circles creeping back under his eyes.

He was barely at home, these days; he was skittish all the time, obsessing over the play and compulsively rewriting parts of it, driving everyone around him crazy. The other day Lola even let it slip up that Miles had lashed out at her during rehearsals — and if Frankie weren't this worried she would have probably given him a piece of her mind. How dare he mistreat her best friend? Especially since Lola had been nothing but nice and supportive.

"He seems worse than before, don't you think?" she asked Hunter. Miles had just got back home from school, changed in a hurry, and headed off again to the hospital. All of this without as much as a word to either of them.

"Give him a break, Franks, he's just stressed," said Hunter.

"That's exactly what worries me though. We both know he doesn't have the best record at dealing with stress." She paused, unsure whether to bring this up at all. "I'm worried he's going to hurt himself," she finally whispered.

Hunter sighed loudly, but then dropped the controller and switched off the TV, turning his full attention to her.

"He's stronger than you give him credit for, you know?" He paused, looking uncomfortable, but then added, "If it weren't for him… things might have gone down a lot differently, for me."

His words made Frankie shiver to the bones. They never talked about what almost happened last winter, it was too heavy to be spoken of.

Hunter was right, though; it was time for Frankie to have some faith in their brother. One cannot conquer their demons overnight, but Miles had shown them time and again that he was sure as hell trying to.

"Are you still watching Lola's video?"

Miles looked up deer-in-headlights from his screen, and Frankie shook her head lightly at him as she took a seat by his side.

"That was weeks ago. Why are you so caught up in it, still?"

Once more, Frankie found herself thinking how infinitely more resilient girls were than boys. Here was Lola, who had found out she was pregnant at sixteen, dealt with it alone, and turned it into a proud statement to the world, and she was doing fine. Meanwhile Miles, who had been her friend for, like, five minutes, seemed unable to process what had happened, to the point you would guess he was the one who had an abortion.

She could still picture his exact face when she first told him. She got it, really; no one wants to find out a friend they care about had to go through something so traumatic. But, again, Lola was doing great, and Miles could see it for himself every day at rehearsals. But apparently it wasn't enough.

"Have you seen what people are saying in the comments?" he asked her, agitated. "It's awful, Franks. Why are people so mean?"

Frankie sighed. So this was it, then.

"Well, Miles, I hate to break it to you, but the world is full of assholes. Specifically, assholes who don't believe women should be able to make this type of choices."

"Can you be serious for a moment?"

"I am!"

She was. Her tone might have been sarcastic, but she stood by what she said. It was no news to anyone that girls were endlessly shamed for things that require two people to happen, while guys could go on like nothing affected them. They were not the ones who had to deal with consequences, after all — as Lola's experience proved.

Miles pressed his fingers on his temples, glancing down the comments section once more.

"How is she dealing with this?" he asked her.

"Oh, she's not reading them."

He raised his head to look at her, surprised. "Really?"

"Yeah, no way. She knew this was going to happen. She's not stupid, Miles."

Miles slumped down against the backrest, and finally closed off his laptop. "No, she isn't."

Frankie curled up in her corner of the sofa, hugging her knees. She was a bit torn, seeing Miles this invested — after all, Lola was her best friend. She hadn't realised exactly how close those two had become over the past months, and she didn't know how to feel about it. She nearly asked him whether he knew who the father of Lola's baby was, but then decided against it. If Lola had not even told her and Shay, she sure wouldn't have told Miles, of all people.

"You look pensive. Everything alright?" he asked her, and she shook herself back to the present.

"Yeah, sorry. Just thinking."

"How are things going on, with you? We haven't talked much since, you know."

She smiled a sad smile. Her recent breakup with Jonah was the latest unspeakable, in the Hollingsworth household, and things were especially weird with Miles since he was spending so much time with her ex for the play.

"I'm fine, really," she told him. "It's hard, obviously, I miss him a lot. But it was all my own making, from that stupid break, to my paranoia, to hacking into his messages. I have no one to blame but myself."

Miles gave her a sympathetic smile. "I'm sorry it came to this."

She sighed, leaning back into the sofa. "Yeah. Me too."

It was finally the night of the play. Miles had been slightly neurotic all day, and even Lola who generally walked through life unfazed showed little signs of stage-fright. The reason became apparent once Frankie saw them on stage: those two were carrying the entire show, with a little help from Rasha in a selected few scenes. If you asked Frankie, though, they had nothing to worry about. They absolutely killed it, displaying a chemistry that far surpassed what Frankie would have expected.

All thoughts of Lola and Miles quickly disappeared, though, as Frankie found herself fully immersed in their characters. In truth, the show hit her like a ton of bricks. Thinking of Jonah was painful, these days, but even she had to admit that his and Grace's soundtrack was perfect. It transported her right back to the day of the accident, forcing her to relive it all over again. And the script itself, just wow. It was as if Miles had slashed his soul open and laid it there on the stage for all of them to see. She never knew that he had it in him to write something so honest, and raw, and beautiful.

The lights turned off after the final embrace between Hero and Coma Boy, and the audience erupted in a roaring applause. As she joined the standing ovation around her, though, her eyes caught an unexpected sight, and Frankie stilled in surprise. It was no trick of the lights, it was really her dad, quietly defiling at the back of the auditorium. She truly hadn't expected him to show up, and in fact, she wondered if Miles even knew about it. With all that had gone down in the past few years, it was a big step for their father to be here, and Frankie quietly smiled at her secret knowledge.

She left the auditorium with Hunter and their mum, gathering with everyone else in the Student Council Office for the afterparty. It was a happy moment, the first in a long time. Tris was there, Miles was radiant, everybody kept gushing over the play.

They didn't know it then, but all hell would break loose within the next hour. Right as they opened their bottles and cheered to Miles's success, in fact, someone they all knew was being rushed to the hospital, battling for her own life. Zig would come running into the party, white as a ghost, looking for Jonah and Grace, Tristan and Miles, anyone who needed to know. His panic contagious, in the mess that followed, distressed people and tears and hugs, and rushing to the parking lot and looking for a ride to the hospital.

In that mess that hit them all like a punch, Miles suddenly locked eyes with her, a void, disoriented expression on his face.

"Go," Frankie urged him, "I'll get Mum, we'll see you at home."

Miles kept staring at her as if he were trying to focus. He finally nodded back to her, eyes so deep and dark it hurt. He leaned gently towards Tristan — who looked more than a little spaced out, staring vacantly into nothing in particular — and whispered something in his ear, moving his wheelchair outside the doors.

"See you at home," he said as he passed by her. She just nodded, speechless, squeezing his arm briefly before letting him go.

Later that night, curled on the sofa in the den, Frankie was shaken out of her semi-vigil wake by the sound of the front door closing. She propped herself up, and caught sight of Miles standing by the doorway, perfectly still.

"You're up," he stated, not really a question.

"How is she?" asked Frankie, a chill running down her spine.

He nodded at her briefly, and she took a sigh of relief. He had texted, before, five rushed words typed from the chaos of the hospital — she's gonna make it, just that. She had needed to see it on his face in order to fully believe it, though.

Miles walked in silence towards the sofa and slumped down next to her. He looked completely defeated. He ran a tired hand up and down his face, sighing loudly as he leaned into the backrest.

"I'm really sick of hospitals…"

His muttered words hit her like a punch and she stared at him, speechless. He sounded so much older than any 17-year-old ever should, and it was so unfair. Miles didn't deserve this, not again. He didn't deserve to almost lose yet another person he cared about.

Miles turned his head towards her, and Frankie glanced up to him. Even in the darkness, she could easily make out the dark circles underneath his eyes. She felt physically unable to smile, but she forced herself to at least nod in acknowledgement.

Maybe one day they'd finally all catch a break. She was still waiting for that time to come.

And, just like that, it was Christmas again. Their parents were no less divorced than they had been last year, but so many things had changed in the past twelve months that this time around they thought they would make an effort for the Holidays, try and spend just that one day together.

It wasn't all smooth, all of a sudden. It was weird, in fact, having Dad back at the house after all this time. They were all moving a little differently, a little off — as if they didn't quite know how to act around him anymore. She could see it in her brothers, in Hunter's suspicious sideway glares, in Miles's circumspect movements and evasive eyes. And even their mother, who was effectively the initiator of this whole thing… Frankie could tell it wasn't as natural for her to resume the wife role to their father's husband.

Things were never going to be back to how they were, and that's okay. Frankie herself must have changed and grown, since last year, for her to realise this. That she could enjoy spending Christmas with her family even knowing that Dad would go back to his apartment at the end of the night. And it was okay.

Some little things surprised her, still. She had expected Miles to antagonise the move, to make life difficult for their parents and to otherwise ignore Dad as much as possible. And yet he didn't. He wasn't exactly warm towards him, either. But he sat down through the entire dinner, and made small talk, and gave updates on Maya and Tristan when Dad asked. He even volunteered that he was thinking of applying to Queen's business programme, much to everyone's surprise. Their father responded with a look of pure joy on his face, one that Frankie had hardly ever seen him direct to her older brother.

Maybe, this time, things were actually going to turn out okay. It was more than Frankie would have expected, and she was happy with it.

The relative quiet of the Holidays left room for a fresh wave of drama as soon as school started again. On the very first week of the new term, while unsuspectingly hanging out at that stupid FunFair, Frankie was caught entirely off guard at the sight of Jonah singsong-ing his devotion to no other than Grace, and in front of the entire student body, no less. After all the months of him swearing he was not into her, the liar! Frankie felt completely shattered, and humiliated. It had been a mere six weeks since their breakup, and she had not-so-secretly harboured hope to be able to mend things, with him, but now it was clear she had been delusional.

After wallowing in self-pity for a reasonable amount of days, Shay and Lola finally pushed her to move on and do something proactive, to at least fake it until she made it. It was easier said than done, though, as Lola and Shay were too busy to help her find distractions, and Frankie had not realised how much she'd depended on Jonah to fill up her time. Yet, in her newfound determination to 'win' the breakup — as Lola liked to put it — Frankie found unlikely allies in the last people she would have thought of: Esme and Zig.

It had been quite a long time since the bad days, when Frankie simply couldn't see Esme as anything other than the girl who hooked her brother on pills and almost got him killed. Now, Frankie wouldn't say she knew her well, by any means, but she and Zig had been solid for over six months, and during that time they'd been in Frankie's extended group of friends. Not once, over that period, had Frankie seen Esme high, or handing out drugs, which slowly made her realise how unfair it was for her to just place all the blame on Esme — when she very well knew her brother's tendency for self-destructive behaviour didn't need much external input.

Still, the thought of what Miles would have to say of her new social circle was constantly nagging at the back of her mind. He had been uncharacteristically chilled about it, at first, merely mocking her over the guitar-smashing fiasco that got her in trouble at home. As things went on, though, and she kept spending more and more time with Zig and Esme both at school and out, Frankie couldn't help but notice the tension building between her and Miles, like they were headed for... not just a fight, but an explosive one.

She truly hoped to be wrong. However, the disapproving looks on Miles's face whenever they crossed paths told her she wasn't far off the mark.

"What's that long face? I thought we were celebrating you getting into Queen's Commerce tonight!"

Frankie popped into the armchair in front of her brother. He was sunk in the sofa in the library room, a big frown on his face.

"Earth to Miles?"

As she waved her hand in front of his face, he finally looked at her. "Sorry, I'm just… I don't even know."

"What's on your mind?"

He sighed, slumping even deeper into the upholstered fabric.

"Mr. Mitchell got me this interview for a creative writing programme in London," he said.

"That's amazing!" Frankie gushed, surprised. "I didn't know you wanted to apply to a writing programme."

"Neither did I, to be honest, but… I looked it up, and it seems like a great opportunity. Too good to be true, maybe."

Frankie smiled at him. "It sounds perfect, Miles. Is that why you're worried?"

Miles exhaled, running a hand through his hair. "Not really. I mean, yes, but it's not it." His eyes met hers, and she could see him faltering. "Dad came by, before."


"Yeah, he wanted me to have that," he said, pointing at a jacket folded on the armchair, one that Frankie immediately recognised. It had been years since she last saw it, but she still remembered how insanely proud Dad was of that old piece of University merchandising.

Miles turned back to her, discomfort on his face. "We talked, after, and well. Let's say he made it clear he doesn't think I have a shot at this. It got me so mad, but now… I don't know. It's making me question if this is the right choice, after all."

Frankie hesitated. It was always tricky to talk to Miles, whenever Dad was involved. She ended up reaching out to stroke him lightly on his arm, and smiled. "One thing at a time, then, yes? First, you do a kick-ass interview tomorrow, and then… you'll see what happens."

Miles relaxed his shoulders, his face softening in relief. "Thanks, Frankie."

She smiled, waving at him as she left the room. Seems like she'd have to tell Mum to reschedule the celebrations, after all.

Esme had just left. She'd been at her house all afternoon, like most days in the past couple of months. Often with Zig, other times, like today, by herself. Even when Zig was busy with work, it was never hard for Esme to find ways to keep them both entertained. It was honestly the most carefree Frankie had felt in a long time. The sky was the limit, with Esme, and fun was the only thing on the agenda.

Frankie had barely closed the door behind her when she felt the looming presence of her brother at the other end of the hall. It was rare, these days, Miles always seemed to find a way to make himself scarce whenever Esme was around.

"Was that your boyfriend's other girlfriend? Or are you dating the both of them, now?" he taunted her, "You know, I haven't kept up with the twitter rumours, this week."

"Why, are you jealous I'm having threesomes before you?" she teased him.

Miles rolled his eyes. "Are you?"

Frankie shook her head at him, a smile creeping on her face. "No, silly."

Miles crossed his arms over his chest, his fingers fidgeting with the sleeve of his shirit. "You know that I'm all for your sexual liberation, sister of mine, but… I just really don't like how much time you are spending with Esme."

"Yeah, well, it's a good thing that no one asked your opinion, then, uh?"

Miles pursed his lips to stop what was sure to be a nasty remark, and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Look, Franks, Esme… she's not a good person. For once, just trust me on this. Please?"

Frankie took a deep breath of her own, silencing her most belligerent streaks. She saw where Miles was coming from — really, she did — but that didn't make him right.

"Frankly, Miles… don't take this the wrong way, but I don't think you know her well enough to pass this type of judgment on. Not anymore."

Miles scoffed. "Oh, I know Esme, trust me. She's bad news."

That was the last straw, for Frankie, his dismissive tone made her blood boil in her veins. "Sure, go ahead, blame it all on her! It's not like you were messed up on your own, back then, right?"

She instantly regretted snapping at him. She was sure Miles would come back for her throat, after her outburst — hold that against him, really? Not her smartest move.

To her surprise, though, Miles suddenly shut down before her eyes.

"You're right," he said quietly, not even a hint of his usual sarcasm, not even trying to fight. And crap, she could definitely hear the hurt in his voice. She had messed up, big time.

"Miles, wait, I- I didn't…"

But he'd left already, barely sparing a glance in her direction. And Frankie felt like her heart had suddenly turned five pounds heavier.

Frankie came in slamming the front door behind her and stormed straight upstairs, ignoring her brothers' voices calling her from the living room. She needed to be alone and deflate, after the lovely weekend she just had. Once in her bedroom she slammed that door as well, for good measure, angrily dropping her bag on the floor. To no one's surprise, her door quietly re-opened mere moments later, and Miles and Hunter let themselves in.

"I take it the camping trip didn't go well?" said Hunter, stating the obvious.

Miles glanced at her with concern. "What happened?"

She scoffed, raising her arms dramatically. "Well, it seems that you were right after all, and being friends with Esme was the worst idea."

"What, why?"

Frankie turned around to face them, planting her hands on her hips. "Uhm, let's see, maybe because she had a psychotic episode or something, dragged me in the woods, and then left me there alone?"

Hunter's eyes widened and Miles's face drained of all colour. "She what?"

"Oh, and it turns out I was her pet project, too, and she was only using me to keep Zig interested. So yeah, just peachy," she vented, letting all of her frustration out.

Hunter extended her a sympathetic smile, but Miles practically exploded in front of her.

"What the hell, Frankie?" he uttered through gritted teeth, "I told you she was bad news!"

"Oh, so what, should I have expected it from her?"

Miles shook his head, astonished. "This is Esme we're talking about!"

"Miles, c'mon," Hunter tried, but Miles shrugged away from him.

"Think of what could have happened to you! Could you not just listen to me, for once in your life? Oh, but no, she's changed. I was overreacting. Right?"

Frankie dig both hands in her hair, her heart pumping furiously in her chest. Hunter stepped in once again to try and contain Miles's ballistic meltdown, but Frankie had had enough.

"Just leave me alone, both of you, okay?"

Both her brothers fell silent at her outburst, but she could still see the argument simmering in Miles's eyes.

"Just… please. I can't handle you two right now."

She stared down her twin with the best pleading eyes she could manage until Hunter sighed, defeated, and grabbed Miles by the elbow pulling him out of her room.

Finally alone, Frankie face-planted on her bed and silently screamed into her pillow. This past weekend had been incredibly confusing, and scary. For a moment, she had seriously thought she would die in those woods, unable to find her way back to the camp. She couldn't even stand the sight of Esme, after that, and ended up sleeping in the car with Lola. Except she had to get over it in the morning, as the seniors dumped Esme on her for the way back — turns out Zig wasn't too fond of her either, at the moment. Needless to say, it was a very quiet drive.

She was completely exhausted, but she also still smelled like damp sleeping bags and bonfire. She was in serious need for a shower, or maybe a nice bath, even, to calm her nerves.

About an hour later, Frankie lied burrowed in her bed binge-watching old episodes of Grey's Anatomy, warm and cuddly in her favourite pyjamas, when a knock on her door interrupted her.

"I come in peace," Miles said slipping through the crack with his hands raised. "Can I come in?"

Frankie nodded once, moving aside to leave him some space in her mess of blankets, and Miles quietly sat down in front of her.

"I'm sorry for before."

"Miles, I'm really not in the mood to talk about it."

"No, I just…" he dropped his gaze to the floor, tugging nervously at the collar of his shirt. "I just got scared, that's all. And I might have gone a little overboard."

Frankie responded with her most eloquent raised eyebrow. "You think?"

Miles gave her an apologetic smile, and stretched a hand out to her knee. "I'm just glad you're okay."

She didn't say anything to that, she just sank back into her pillow. Miles stayed around a couple more minutes, then he squeezed her hand and left.

Late spring was upon them, when one day Miles came back home as if walking through a thick haze, and plopped down into the lounge chair by the pool next to her. She turned her head his way, sliding her shades down the bridge of her nose, but Miles seemed intent at staring into nothingness.

"Tristan dumped me," he finally said.



Frankie was speechless. After everything those two had been through, she had kind of started thinking they would be together forever. Hell, Miles was even considering giving up the writing programme in London to stay closer to Tristan through his recovery. Where did this come from? Wasn't it a bit ungrateful for Tristan to just drop her brother like this, after all the months he spent at his side?

"He says I'm getting in the way of his recovery. Like, I put too much pressure on him. Can you believe it?"

Frankie glanced over at Miles, who was deliberately not looking at her. He sounded almost pissed off, but — judging from his quivering voice and the mistiness in his eyes — she'd say it was most definitely his way of dealing with heartbreak. She stretched a hand towards him, stroking him gently on his forearm. Thing is, she could see Tristan's point, as well.

"You know, maybe it's for the best," she said softly, and hoped he wouldn't flip. He didn't. "You were ready to give up so much for him. You already have. Now you can accept the spot you earned at your dream school, enjoy that trip to Europe this Summer-"

"Well, the whole point was to enjoy it with him," Miles cut her off. She bit her tongue, trying to be more careful with her words.

"I know. But, let's face it, Miles, he isn't ready."

Miles sighed loudly, and turned to face her for the first time. "I know."

She quietly exhaled. "I think this might even be his way of saying thank you. To let you go, give you permission to leave him behind without guilt."

Miles didn't say anything, but he gulped as if he had something stuck in his throat. Frankie leaned closer to him and rubbed a hand on his shoulder. He took another deep breath, then shook his head at her. "It's not as if I can afford to go to London, anyway. Dad will never pay for a writing programme."

"I'm sure you'll find a way," she said, confident. Then she dropped it, though, as opening the Pandora box of their father was never a good idea.

Miles placed a hand upon hers and squeezed her gently.

"How are you doing these days, Franks?" he then asked her. "I keep springing all my problems on you and I never even asked how you're dealing with… well, the whole Esme thing, I guess."

Frankie looked suspiciously at her brother. "What, now you care?"

Miles tilted his head with a knowing look that silenced her. Truth is, she didn't even know how to explain her feelings, at the moment. She had grown really close to Esme and Zig in the few months they'd spent hanging out. She had been one of Zig's "girlfriends", but it was Esme she had felt closest to, the one who had helped her get over Jonah and start having fun again. Her betrayal had stung, but despite the hurt, Frankie couldn't help missing her.

It wasn't a safe feeling to express to Miles, though, so she kept quiet. He seemingly sensed it anyway, though, and went on fidgeting with his hands in his lap, sending her sideway glances here and there.

"I'm sorry for being such an ass to you all term," he said, taking her by surprise. She turned to take a good look at him, but he was once again avoiding eye contact. "Esme and I have the worst possible history, and I can't pretend I'm not glad she's not around you anymore, but… I shouldn't have rubbed it in your face like I did. I guess what I'm trying to say is, it doesn't make me happy to see you feeling like crap."

Frankie retreated into her lounge chair, at loss for words. What was this, even. She and Miles had come a long way in the past couple of years, and they were way closer now that they had once been, but all this earnestness was a bit too much. She wasn't prepared, didn't know how to take it.

"I- I'll be fine, I think," she stuttered, unsure.

Miles gave her a half smile. "Yeah. I know you'll be."

In the blink of an eye, it was graduation day already.

In true Hollingsworth fashion, drama followed them all the way through, and Frankie wasn't even too surprised when she couldn't just enjoy the day, sit down, and watch her brother and friends walk across the stage. She didn't even make it into the auditorium, in fact, before her eyes caught sight of Esme — standing in front of the school steps on a freaking motorcycle.

Esme had been acting real weird in the past twenty-four hours, and not just regular Esme-weird. Showing up at Frankie's late last night, and then sneaking out in the early hours, and now this… she seemed completely derailed, manic even. So to hell with the ceremony, Frankie ended up sneaking inside only to beg Zig to come and help her deal with their shared ex (or whatever it is Esme was to them, at this point).

Witnessing Esme's breakdown shook Frankie to the core, and not just because of her mixed feelings about the girl. In a way, it was like being transported back to last year, to the darkest moments of Hunter's downwards spiral, when he was lashing out incoherently at anyone in his path. She felt helpless, once again, much like she had felt when it was her own twin who had needed her.

All grudges aside, Esme clearly needed help. And not, unfortunately, the kind of help that she or Zig could give her. Frankie had never felt as relieved to see a teacher as she did when Ms. Grell walked through the doors, rushing to take Esme in her more capable hands. Thank god someone had the good sense to alert her, thought Frankie, as Ms. Grell pulled Esme under her wing and took her away from the crowd.

In a very anticlimactic fashion, everything then was just over, like that. Frankie barely had time to dry her tears, pull herself together, and reach her family back in the auditorium before the walking ceremony started. It was quite a rollercoaster of emotions, but by now Frankie had grown used to it. It came with the territory, it seemed.

She squeezed in next to Hunter, both their parents at their sides, and she took a moment to marvel at how far they'd all come, all the Hollingsworths gathered in the same room, celebrating the end of Miles's high school career.

"Miles Hollingsworth, London Writers' Academy," Mr. Simpson announced, and Frankie sprung to her feet, clapping her hands and cheering him on as he crossed the stage to collect his diploma.

It had been a long and bumpy ride, full of hardships and heartbreaks, but he had made it to the other side.

She was so incredibly proud of him.

They all got up at a pretty ungodly hour to be at the airport by 5:00 a.m. Miles's flight to Paris wasn't leaving until 8:15, but their mum had insisted they needed at least three hours to be extra safe. It was 5:40, now, the boys were checked-in and their huge backpacks dropped off, leaving them with only a small carry-on bag each.

Miles had thrown one of his signature pool parties at home, the day before, so that all their friends could have their sendoff moment. This morning was for them, the family. Winston came with his parents and Grandma, a tiny lady Frankie had never met, while the twins and their mum were there for Miles. Everybody was feeling equal parts excited and emotional, especially on the Hollingsworth side — given that Miles would go straight to London at the end of the trip, and they wouldn't see him again until Christmas. It seemed like an awfully long time.

As everybody gathered around Miles to wish him well on this new adventure, Frankie stepped aside to say her goodbyes to Winston.

"Keep an eye on him, yeah?" she said, motioning with her head towards her brother, towering over the little group of people around him. Frankie and Winston were just a few steps away, near enough to be accounted for, not so close that their words would be overheard.

"Don't I always?" Winston smirked at her.

Frankie smiled wide at him, feeling a sense of immense affection for the boy — the man in front of her. Winston had been such an important part of her life, constantly there since she could remember, and it was a strange experience being here to send him off to this Grand Tour of sorts.

"Have a lifetime of fun, this Summer," she told him emphatically, struggling to keep the emotions to a minimum, "Just try to stay sober enough not to forget anything, because I demand a super-detailed recap when you're back, okay?"

He chuckled quietly, tenderness in his eyes. "It'll be done! Take care, Franks."

He went in for a hug, and she squeezed him briefly before his parents got a hold of him, dragging him back with them to say his goodbyes to Grandma.

"All this affection for Chewy and none for me, your own brother, blood of your blood?"

Miles appeared at her side with a cocky smile of his own. Somehow, it made her laugh, and tear up a little at the same time. She had no clue how he'd managed to disentangle himself from all the attention, but here he was, alone. She decided quickly that trying to put words together would not be a good idea, so instead she just tackled him, wrapping her arms firmly around his waist and hiding her face in his chest. Miles didn't seem to have anything to say to that; she felt his arms closing in around her, his head resting on top of hers.

"I'm going to miss you so much," she somehow managed.

"I don't believe you for a second," he said, a smile in his voice.

She cupped his face in her hands, pulling him down to her height to kiss him right on his cheek.

"Be careful," she started her list of recommendation, "And have fun. And text us every day. And try not to get in too much trouble, in Europe!"

"I don't know what you're talking about, I'm always such a saint!"

"Yeah, Saint Miles from Toronto," Hunter chipped in, popping out of nowhere right that second. "Frankenstein, are you done channelling Grandma?"

She pinched him at his side, making both brothers laugh as Hunter squirmed away from her.

"Seriously, though, I think it's time," her twin went on as he regained his composure. And, as if on cue, their mum approached them, squeezing Miles into one last tight hug.

"Be careful, okay? And have fun!" she said, causing a fit of laughter in all three of them — which left their mother in the utmost confusion.

"Was I that funny?" she asked, perplexed.

Miles shook his head, a gentle smile on his face as he kissed her goodbye. He then patted Hunter on his shoulder, and leaned down to pinch Frankie's cheek, as if she were still a little girl.

"Chewy, we're off!" Miles declared, saving Winston from his family's hold. One more round of tearful hugs, and the boys set off, joining the short queue towards Security.

The entire clan started making a decent impression of the farewell scene of a cheesy movie, with hand-waving, and last-minute recommendations shouted across the departures hall, and phones raised to capture on camera the first steps of the journey. Miles laughed his contagious laugh, shiny eyes and dimple on his cheek and all, and waved back at them one last time. Then, he turned towards Winston, put an arm around his shoulders, and the two disappeared behind the gates, duffle bags in hand, already bantering about something else entirely, something only they knew.

And, like that, they were gone.

More A/N: first of all, giving credit where credit's due, a huge Thank You to drizzletomyhurricane for keeping me motivated enough to write this and for her very sensible feedback and eye for detail. As always, any mistakes are my own fault.

That being said, I really hope you liked it. Please let me know in the comments what your favourite bits were, and what else you wish I had included that I left out. I can't wait to hear your thoughts!

Finally, if you're one of the, like, five people who read this story when I first posted it, please know that while working on Part II, I went back and added a few extra scenes to Part I, too. Let me know if you spot them, if you ever go back and re-read :)