Derek knows nobody blames him for getting the hell out of Beacon Hills. He feels the barest hint of resentment from Isaac through the pack bond, but even that’s barely there, subconscious. When he takes Cora and just goes , it’s for the best for them both. Neither of them feel at home in Beacon Hills anymore, neither of them are comfortable there.
Stiles texts him three days after they evacuate. They’re at some diner on the outskirts of Las Vegas, eating dinner, when it comes.
Stiles Call me?
He blinks down at the text, eyes wide. Cora, who’s sitting across from him stuffing her face with a burger, looks over as his phone lights up. She raises an eyebrow, shakes her head, and looks away without comment. Derek’s glad she doesn’t say anything; she wasn’t there long enough to feel any real pack connection to the rest of them, but he was. He can still feel it, and probably always will at least a little.
He wonders what this could be about. In their entire time knowing each other Derek can count on his hands how many times they’ve texted or called each other, and figures something must be wrong.
He waits til they’re back at their hotel before stepping out on the balcony, pressing the call button.
“Derek,” is how Stiles greets him, continuing before Derek can get so much as a ‘hi’ out, “You left.”
It’s not accusatory in the slightest, and though Derek can’t hear his heartbeat or smell him, he doesn’t think Stiles is angry or disappointed. It’s just a fact.
“I,” Derek starts, then stops. He needs a moment to think about how to explain it.
“I don’t blame you,” Stiles jumps in, “You just didn’t tell us. I went to the loft yesterday and you weren’t there, and it was pretty cleared out.”
“I needed to get out. Cora too. There was nothing tethering us there, no sense of home in the land anymore.”
Stiles makes a noise of assent.
He asks if there’s anything wrong, and Stiles laughs.
“Isn’t there always?” he mentions, and Derek has to agree with that.
They talk for the better part of a half hour by the end of it, just about random little things and it feels weird but not unwelcome. It feels good, talking to pack.
It becomes a thing. They text regularly, and occasionally call each other and just talk, sometimes for up to a couple of hours. It’s about anything and everything, though Derek is careful to always ask after the pack, and he can tell how everything’s going by how long of a sigh Stiles gives. Stiles always asks how he and Cora are doing and listens carefully when Derek tells him what they’re up to.
Once, Stiltes talks at length about his mom. Derek kind of remembers her; his mom was friends with her, and he met her a handful of times. It’s interesting to hear Stiles talk about her, and Derek returns it the next time they talk, when he tells Stiles about his family.
“I want to go back to Argentina,” Cora says about a month after they leave Beacon Hills. Derek blinks at her before he’s nodding, going to buy plane tickets and get their passports ready.
He comes back a year later, road tripping around the United States by himself. He wonders everyday whether he should have stayed with Cora, but she found a home in Argentina. He liked it there, but he pack she stayed with wasn’t his pack, and he didn’t want to be there forever.
He wonders if he’ll ever find a home again.
He ends up in New York City. It was his home for years, and it’s the last time he felt at home. He wonders if he still will, without Laura.
He’s still texting Stiles on a regular basis, and even Skyped him once or twice while in Argentina. He always seemed tired, ready for high school to end. Stiles called him a few days after his eighteenth birthday, starting the phone call out with “I cannot believe you!” and Derek had laughed and Cora had gone so far as to tell him he never seemed as happy as when he was talking to Stiles. The call had been over a birthday present; a small figurine of black wolf and a hoodie made from the softest material Derek’d ever felt, both of which he found at a small outdoor market.
Derek chose to ignore the remark from Cora, but he wonders about it as he drives into the City. It’s near May, and he knows that most of the pack will be graduating soon. He wonders if he should send something.
New York ends up feeling off, still, but familiar enough that he thinks I’ll stay here for a while .
It’s mid-June when Stiles texts him You gotta tell me some cool places to visit in NYC .
Derek stares at the text, wondering why Stiles is talking about the City. He asks, to which Stiles replies Didn’t I tell you? I got into NYU, I’ll be attending starting this fall.
No way, he texts back instead I’m in New York right now .
Stiles Dude!!!! How long?
However long I want to? I’m leasing by the month.
Stiles Well if you’re still there when I move we should hang out!
Derek ends up helping Stiles and the sheriff move Stiles into his dorm. When he’d met them at NYU, Stiles had jumped out of the car and threw himself at Derek for a hug and - Derek’s not had much physical contact since he left Cora, and it’s weird at first before it turns to nice.
They tour the city a couple of days before John has to drive back home. He pulls Derek aside, asks him to keep an eye on Stiles.
“Of course,” Derek agrees, looking over at the man in question, who’s tapping his foot and staring down at a map of NYU’s campus. John watches Derek for a moment before nodding, going over to his son to say goodbye.
They hang out the very next day again, Derek taking Stiles to a hole-in-the-wall diner he loves. It becomes a thing; when Stiles can’t stand his roommate, he stays at Derek’s apartment, which is only a few blocks from campus. They go out to dinner at least twice a week, text regularly, and Stiles will sometimes come visit Derek at the bakery he works part-time at.
It seems a logical next step when Stiles decides to move off-campus his sophomore year that they move in together; it’s cheaper for two people to rent a two-bedroom than one person a one-bedroom, and they hang out regularly enough anyway.
Derek realizes how much he’s been missing, living with another person. He loves making dinner for himself and Stiles, loves the lazy Saturdays when they just hang out and Netflix and even comes to enjoy the game nights Stiles starts up with some college friends.
It’s New Year’s Eve that year that Stiles kisses him at a party they’re at. It feels right, in the moment, and it feels right every time after that.
“There’s a job offer in Boston,” Stiles tells him about a month before he’s to graduate NYU with a degree in journalism.
It’s late one night, Derek doing some writing and Stiles leaning against him, highlighting text from an article for a final paper he’s writing.
“Yeah?” Derek replies, not looking up from his laptop, struggling with a sentence structure.
“Yeah,” Stiles confirms, “As an investigative journalist and editor for this journal that prints twice a month, plus their online articles.”
“Good for you,” Derek finally meets Stiles’ eyes, “That’s exactly what you wanted, right?”
Stiles nods, and Derek assumes that’s the end of it. He goes back to writing, until -
“I don’t want to go unless you’re okay with it.”
Derek stops, confused. They’ve been dating for two and a half years, he knows Stiles pretty well by now, and he can’t imagine why he would think Derek wouldn’t be okay with it.
“I just - this is your home, and I don’t want to uproot you again when I could probably get a fairly good job here in New York, too.” Stiles shrugs.
“Stiles,” he says slowly, carefully, “This isn’t my home.”
Stiles looks, understandably, very confused.
“I didn’t even feel comfortable here until you moved here too,” Derek confesses, “And I realized that - home isn’t a place. It’s wherever you’re at.”
Stiles is shocked . Derek continues.
“I’ll go wherever you want or need to, because at the end of the day the only place I want to be is wherever you are.”
It’s the first, and probably the only time, Derek will ever see Stiles speechless, and he makes a short mental note to remember the occasion. He’s just thought that when Stiles kisses him and everything flees his head but Stiles, Stiles, Stiles .