A/N: I've had the central idea for this story over two years ago, and I've been tinkering with it since. I have to give a huge Thank You to Sean, aka Frankston, for sticking with me through it, reading various drafts of differing levels of coherence, and giving useful and insightful feedback. Go send him some love, and pester him a bit so that he finally publishes his own NC5 fic he's been working on!

WARNING: This story deals with (the aftermath of) domestic violence. There won't be anything too graphic, but if it's something that makes you uncomfortable, please approach this fiction with care. Feel free to PM me for anything :)




The room is dark, and quiet. Some artificial-looking light from a street lamp filters feebly through the blinds, casting soft shadows over the hardwood floor and illuminating a small pile of crumpled clothes stashed in a corner of the otherwise tidy space. Once in a while, the perfect silence is broken by the soft swoosh of a car outside the window, just a moment before it's gone. Even London is asleep at such an ungodly hour of the night.

Miles Hollingsworth is fast asleep, sprawled like a starfish underneath a thick duvet cover. He stayed up late, last night, half studying and half procrastinating. His laptop lies abandoned on the floor at the foot of the side table, hidden by a pile of handwritten notes on this week readings and a soft-cover edition of a book — one which is not even on his reading list at all.

The sudden noise of his phone vibrating against the hard surface of the bedside table resonates in the silence of the room. Miles stirs awake, startled. It takes him a few moments to open his eyes, to find his bearings again, recognise the familiar shapes of his room, mere shadows in the feeble light coming from the phone screen. Slightly disoriented, Miles turns towards the digital alarm clock at his side. It's 3:04 a.m., according to its blinking light. He sighs loudly, a hand running over his tired face as he rolls back. His drowsy mind then registers that the phone has stopped buzzing, in the meanwhile. Great. Just great.

Miles lets his body sink deep into the pillows, ready to fall back into numbness in seconds, but then the phone goes off again — the noise startling him once more, so loud in the quiet calm of the night. He groans at the unwelcome interruption, swearing under his breath, and flings around an uncoordinated arm to shut the device into night mode. In the process, his eyes catch a glimpse of the screen, just a second, but it's enough to see who's calling. And crap — that's not a good sign. Miles quickly swipes his numb fingers over the answer button and nervously pushes the phone against his ear.

"What… Hunter?!" he mumbles, his voice hoarse.

Miles can barely make out an indistinct frenzy at the other end of the line. He can probably count on one hand the times Hunter has called him in his life, though, so this must be bad. His brother starts vomiting a flow of urgent words, and Miles's head gets dizzy, spinning uncomfortably.

"It's the middle of the night here, Hunter, what the-"

It's Frankie.

Hunter's words silence him, a sense of dread grabbing the pit of Miles's stomach. Hunter starts rushing once again through the details, and the feeling only exacerbates as Miles grasps the meaning of what his brother is saying. This… can't be happening. He springs up on his bed without even realising it, phone glued to his ear.

"Max did what?!"

Miles can feel his blood draining from his face and a cold sweat covering his suddenly overheated skin, heart racing in his chest as his brain goes blank, his head dizzy.

"What the hell happened?! Is she okay?"

The hell you think?! Hunter's voice comes back harshly at him. Fair enough, it was an idiotic question. Miles shivers, a pang of white-hot anger grabbing his insides and twisting till there's nothing left in place, there can't be. The thought of his sister, so small… and her boyfriend, a grown man… he can't think about it, or he's going to be sick.

Miles's mind somehow registers that Hunter's still talking, but he can barely make up his words. He hears him apologising for snapping at him, and he wants to tell him it's okay, but he can't. He can feel his thoughts slipping away as he starts hyperventilating. He's spiralling down, down to that dark part of his mind where anxiety resides, ready to engulf everything else. With a humongous effort, he forces himself to resurface from his tangled thoughts until he's back in his room, on the phone with his brother.

"I'm getting the first flight," he says, out of breath, "I'll text you when I arrive. Keep her safe!"

Miles hangs up, his hands shaking. He's surrounded once again by the quiet stillness of the night, only this time it screeches so loudly against his inner state that it makes him nauseous. He presses his fingers on his temples to try and ease the wreck that's happening inside his head, to no avail. He's so exhausted he could cry, and yet he knows he wouldn't be able to go back to sleep even if he tried. In truth, closing his eyes and lying down is pretty much the last thing he needs right now. What he needs is to get moving.

In a burst of energy, Miles kicks the sheets to the side and sits up on the edge of the bed, quickly scanning the room. His head is spinning, and Miles forces himself to take a deep breath and compile an orderly mental list of all the things that need doing. Pack a bag; book a flight; send an email to his Programme Director at school, informing of his absence; take a shower; have a bite to eat — or at least some coffee; keep breathing.

He decides to start from the shower. It seems like a reasonable choice.

He's back in his bedroom within ten minutes, washed and dressed and feeling a little steadier. He can't stop, he needs to keep moving, or he'll collapse. So he fishes his laptop from the spot on the floor where he left it a mere few hours ago and moves to the kitchen. He takes a seat at the breakfast bar and opens the browser to start looking for a flight, only to quickly pause to get up and make coffee. He needs coffee.

He spaces out a little as he leans over the kitchen counter, his head filled with the bubbly sound of the water coming to a boil, fresh coffee filtering through and slowly filling up the glass pot, drop by drop. The familiar ritual of reaching for a mug and pouring the hot black liquid feels strangely reassuring, and Miles holds on to it as he mechanically adds a splash of cold milk and half a teaspoon of sugar, just like every other morning. Mug in hand, Miles moves back to his stool, where his unfinished search awaits for him. He chucks down a couple of gulps of the hot beverage, nearly burning his throat in the process. Come on, Miles, breathe. Time to focus.

Miles's not exactly a novice at booking flights. Moving to a different continent will do that to you, he assumes, yet he's never had to purchase a same-day ticket back to Canada before. There are seats still available on the 8:30 a.m. departure from Heathrow, landing in Toronto at 11:15 a.m. local time. Which is good, morning is good. He'll be there soon, he'll see her soon. His eyes flicker to the time on the screen — it's nearly a quarter to four. He has roughly an hour and a half before he needs to set off, if he calls a taxi to the airport. Without a second thought, Miles clicks on the 'book now' button and starts filling in his credit card details.

There are very few instances in his everyday life when Miles finds himself grateful (like, really grateful) that money is never an issue he has to worry about. This is one of those instances, he thinks, as he casually drops almost a grand on a one-way flight home without blinking an eye. His heart rate finally seems to slow down, as if his body had managed to find a human pace once again now that this one big task is sorted. Miles gives himself a moment to finish his coffee — lukewarm, by now — and then he gets going.

The following hour flies by in a blur. Miles moves in a dream-like state around his one-bedroom flat, automatically picking up clothes and other essentials and stuffing them into his bag. He pours himself another cup of coffee and forces half a slice of toast down his throat with it. He puts a reminder in his phone to call the housekeeper tomorrow to come over and sort things out while he's away. He even starts drafting some bullshit formal email about a 'family emergency' and 'missing classes' to send to school, but eventually he runs out of time, and his taxi is already waiting downstairs.

With one last look around he grabs his luggage, switches off the lights, and locks the front door behind him.

More A/N:

Quick little background info that will come up later in the story but might not be mentioned super clearly. Time wise, the story is set three years after Next Class 4. Miles is now a Final Year student at the London Academy for the Arts, and the twins are attending their second year at university back in Canada. - Hunter at Queen's University in Kingston, and Frankie at McGill, in Montreal. The fic is named after the song of the same title by Mumford & Sons.

The rest of the story is made up of 14 more chapters, plus an epilogue. Each chapter takes place on a consecutive day, covering a storytime of two weeks.

I hope I've got you hooked, and that you're curious to find out what happened and what will happen next once Miles gets back to Canada. Who is Max? What did he do to Frankie? Reviews make my day, and this time specifically I'm very unsure of this fic, so I'd love to hear your feedback to get a sense of whether I'm doing this right.

See you next chapter!