Derek Hale left Beacon Hills on a day where the sun was high in the sky and the clouds had made themselves scarce. He had come back to the loft to grab some last minute thing because despite everything, he had never planned on leaving after Mexico and Peter. He had every intention of coming back but in the moment he realized he couldn’t go back. Not yet. He wasn’t ready. So with the sun beating down on his back, he put the last box in the back of the Toyota, climbed into the driver’s seat, started the car and left Beacon Hills in a cloud of dust.
He didn’t forget though. He couldn’t. Not with all the blood that was stained on his hands, not with the taste of Kate still on his tongue. Not with snapshots of amber eyes and moles plaguing his mind. Derek left, but he never forgot.
He traveled with Braeden for awhile but he soon realized that this…journey was one he had to make by himself. They parted ways outside of New Mexico and then Derek just…kept driving. He only stopped when the exhaustion made the lines of the road blend together and when the beeping of the dash telling him he was low on gas annoyed him. He wasn’t sure where he was going at first, not until he saw the sign that said “Welcome to New York!” It was then Derek realized that this journey wasn’t about finding himself, it was about letting go of those he had lost. Letting go of all the anger, pain, and grief he had harbored.
He stood outside the door of the apartment he and Laura had lived in for 30 minutes before he found it in himself to go in. The familiar click as the key slid into place was only surpassed by the wave of Laura that hit him when he opened the door. He barely managed to shut the door before he fell to his knees and cried.
He stayed in New York for almost a month. He visited all of his and Laura’s favorite spots and slept in her bed until her scent was almost completely gone. He spent the last day putting all of her things into storage and signing the papers to release his ownership of the apartment.
Once he left New York, he made his way to South Carolina. His family had a summer place there that he hadn’t been to since they died.
It looked the same as he had remembered. The little cottage was tucked away in the woods near a lake. It was the only place for miles and was one of the only places they could be who they really were. They could shift freely without worrying about who might see them. Once he put away his bags, he went to a big oak tree out back, the one that still had the swing attached to it. When he got closer he was surprised to still see the claw marks from when Cora had swung a little too high and tried to stop herself from falling. She ended up breaking her arm that night. The same night Derek learned how to take someone else’s pain, the sound of his sister’s cries offering all the inspiration he needed.
South Carolina held him for two weeks. The sense of freedom he had here was addicting but eventually he felt the itch indicating that it was time to move on. So he loaded up and made for Chicago.
His dad was originally from Chicago, moving to California when he was 15. His family had made a trip to Chicago when Derek was 8 but he stills remember it. If only because Chicago was pretty miserable for him. Derek had learned control when he was 5, he couldn’t risk going to school without it. But other things were handed to learn and blocking out outside stimulants was one of them. Chicago was a walking headache for Derek, the sounds and smells assaulting him the entire trip. But it was easier now, as he made his way to his dad’s childhood home. He could block out anything he didn’t want to experience.
Chicago kept him for 3 days.
His next stop was Colorado. His older brother, Justin, had loved Colorado. Always found himself at home among the snow and ice. Derek could never understand it but as he stood in the middle of the snow covered yard of the Bed and Breakfast he was staying at he thought he might have finally figured it out. The snow was proof that even things cold and harsh could have beauty. That the bite of the cold had some semblance of safety as it wrapped around Derek’s entire being. He thought that maybe Justin had been on to something.
Colorado was a one night stand and the next morning he was on the road before the sun came up.
Derek didn’t need the welcome sign to tell him he was back in California, he could feel it in his bones. What did surprise him was that it didn’t give him a sinking feeling in his gut, his instincts weren’t telling him to run. For the first time since he left, California somehow felt like home again.
Derek thought this new found… happiness was going to be short lived when he showed up at his loft and heard a heartbeat inside but as he got closer he realized he knew that heartbeat.
He slid the door to the loft open and was still surprised to see him there, even though Derek heard his heartbeat, smelled him the moment he opened the door. What surprised him even more was the gun that was pointed at him.
“You really shouldn’t sneak up on people like that. Especially ones who know what go bump in the dark.” Stiles said, lowering the gun and placing it in the back of his jeans.
“This is my loft. Why would I announce my presence?” Derek said, moving to put his bag on the couch.
“Because I know you knew I was here. Common courtesy.”
“Oh? Common courtesy? I’ll have to remember that next time.”
“You leave like that again and I won’t be here when you get back.” Stiles said with an edge to his voice. Like it hurt him to say the words.
Derek felt something twist in his stomach and ache in his heart.
“Stiles…I–” Derek started but was cut off.
“I missed you. And it makes me feel so stupid because I know you didn’t miss me. You couldn’t have because you leave too often to ever miss who you leave behind. But damn, I missed you. I thought about calling you a thousand times but I figured you were better off without me. Because I’ll always equal Beacon Hills to you. So I always hovered over your name in my phone but never went through with it.”
“I missed you. Of course I missed you. Why do you think I’m back?”
“I don’t want to be the reason you’re back! I want you to be back because you want to be back. Anything less and you’ll just leave again. So if you aren’t here because you’re ready, then leave because I can’t go through watching you walk away from me again.” Stiles said with a slight waver to his voice.
Derek took a deep breath.
“I left because this is city is a graveyard to me. I see nothing but tombstones and ghosts everywhere I go. But I left to bury my demons. To put my grief to rest. And I also left because I wasn’t ready to love you yet. I wasn’t who you needed. When I left, I wasn’t deserving of your love.”
“And what’s different now?”
“Now, I’ve let go of my grief and anger. Now, if you’ll let me, I’m ready to spend everyday trying to be deserving of your love.” Derek said, looking Stiles in the eye.
“Derek, you’ve always been worthy of my love. I was just waiting for you to figure out that you were.” Stiles said, stepping forward and bringing his hand up to Derek’s cheek.
Derek stepped forward and leaned down to nose at Stiles neck. Stiles tipped his head to the side to give Derek more room. Derek placed a dry kiss right at Stiles’ pulse point causing Stiles to suck in a breath and close his eyes, waiting for more. Derek, however, just stepped back.
“But you love me.” Derek said with a small smile. Derek had made a lot of assumptions with his little speech so part of him needed Stiles to confirm what he thought.
“Yeah, I love you.” Stiles said, crowding into Derek’s space to place a quick kiss on his lips.
Or at least it was meant to be quick but Derek grabbed Stiles’ waist and pulled him closer and deepened the kiss.
Stiles’ hands on his body felt like everything he ever needed so maybe it wasn’t California that felt like home, maybe it was Stiles.