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A journey long overdue

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1.
Pacific Coast Highway

The first postcard arrives when he’s just settled into his brand new dorm room. It’s a picture of a huge sequoia tree with a wolf photo-shopped beneath it. It makes him laugh out for a second before he realizes that it wasn’t Scott who sent.

There are no words on the card. Just his address and a postal stamp from the national park services. He swallows hard and wonders how his address made it out to that certain someone.

He’s still staring at it when Lydia walks in with the last box of his belongings. One look of her at him and then at the postcard and he knows what’s coming. This has been brewing over the summer. It’s inevitable and they know it.

He forgoes any kind of words and just hugs her close. This is not how he figured things would go. This summer had been special, had been beyond good. But it’s not their future any longer.

“Friends?” He hates how uncertain he sounds

“I’ll kick your ass if you mess this up. Of course, friends. I can’t live without in my life. I love you,” Lydia says in a way that leaves no doubt and he smiles, genuine and relieved, because he feels the exact same.

“Love you, too Lyds.”

When she hugs him goodbye, makes him promise to come to Boston because it would be a shame to not meet up once in a while, it hurts less than he expected it to.

The postcard becomes the first item on his new info board and remains there until he graduates.

2.
Graceland

The second card reaches him in the middle of a rather difficult phase. He’s questioning his choices as he struggles with the program that was supposed to be his life. Even his dad has a hard time bringing his spirits back up.

He misses home more than he imagined. He misses Scott and the pack like a part of his entire being has been ripped away. Making new friends his harder than ever because here, everyone is so set on succeeding, that building good and healthy relationships almost always takes a backseat.

Two years and still two to go. Sometimes he doesn’t know why he’s doing it anymore. Helping people with knowledge and figuring out things, it’s what drove him here what made him decide that this is what he wanted to do.

Being confronted with the purest form of human nature through the cases they work, it’s more than enough to doubt himself.

So when the card tumbles out between the bills and ads for super cheap couches he blinks for a moment. Then breathes in deeply, for the first time in months.

It’s Graceland in the cover, which makes him laugh out loud for some reasons. Stile snever figured he'd be one for the torusity spots let alone buying such a card. His roommate looks up from where he’s studying case files and scowls. He thinks Stiles is crazy anyway, so Stiles doesn’t care much.

He flops down into his bed and looks at the pictures not really daring to turn the card around. He doesn’t want to be disappointed when it turns up empty again. He’s not sure how long he lies there staring but the voice of his roommate startles him a little.

“Not gonna read it?”

So there is something on the back then. He turns the card in is hands, heart pounding, blood rushing in his ears. This is the first time in years that there will be words between them.

A dog’s life

What? It takes him embarrassingly long to realize that it’s lyrics from an Elvis song. He has to google it and snorts when he reads through them. It’s a joke. And it cheers him up in ways he can’t explain.

Stiles blinks at the card again, stares some more and only then sees the number written in the top most corner of the card. “When you need it” written right below it. It’s easy to add it to his contacts, write the name above it and save it.

It’s not so easy to actually use it. It’ll take him months but he doesn’t know it yet. The only thing he knows right now is that he feels lighter somehow. That everything bothering him pales compared to the knowledge that someone out there who cares about him knows exactly when to make that fact known to Stiles.

3.
Demons

The cards keep coming through the years. Always sporadic, mostly without any words on them and from all over the world. He keeps them in a box, safe for the first one. That always goes up on his board wherever he happens to live at the moment.

Before he knows it he has graduated, is settled into a job in a field office and is living in a rather neat little apartment. But it’s the middle of nowhere and he’s been away from his pack for a long time now. Too long maybe. As much as he loves getting all this experience under his belt, he still sometimes thinks he’s about ready to come home.

He’s grown into himself. Has learned and trained. Is both really good at his job and finally ready to step into the role of emissary. Only, there’s not real pack he could work with. Scott has Mason now; a development Stiles saw the minute he handed over the bat all those years ago.

He feels disconnected, floating around without a real anchor to keep him settled. Work’s about the only thing keeping him busy. And his almost daily talks to Lydia and surprisingly Malia make him feel at least somewhat connected to the world outside his little abode and his Midwestern life.

He suspects that it’s Malia giving away his addresses all the time. There’s no other way that cards could have found their destination without fail.

Stiles has texted the number from the Graceland card a few times, mostly to check if everything is okay. He always gets answers but those are so generic that he sometimes doubts it’s really the person he suspects.

But then, generic answers were always kind of his style.

The cards stay simple but always come when he needs them to. He’s developed some sort of dependency on them, which can’t be healthy but made him reevaluate his ways of finding happiness. He’s not sure why but knowing that there is something between them that warrants that kind of contact is like a healing potion for his fractured mind.

Lydia once told him that she couldn’t be the one to heal him. The box full of postcard sort of proves her right.

He’s in the middle of a rather brutal case when he gets taken. It’s stupid and idiotic that he hadn’t expected it. Everything about these murders indicated supernatural involvement and he’d still been too careless to ask for back up. He’d gone alone to check out a crime scene, a mistake only rookies make.

Technically he’s still one after only two years on the job but this is something he’ll beat himself up over for years to come. At first he struggles against the restraints only to be hit over the head for his troubles.

When he wakes up it’s to a face of a young woman. The sister of one of the murder victims. Her eyes are glowing yellow though and the smirk on her face looks feral in every sense of the word. Possession, Stiles thinks and wonders if he’ll make it out alive. Chances are he doesn’t.

She monologues, tells him everything and nothing at all. The demon or rather demons as it seem, since she keeps switching voices and behavior don’t care much about him. He only stumbled upon them by accident.

His phone is lying on the ground right next to the chair his bound to. Stiles blinks when he sees it, can’t believe how stupid these demons seem to be. He’s not sure they gathered that he isn’t hundred percent human either but seeing as the woman has her back to him he figures not.

Concentrating is sort of difficult with the raging headache and the blood dripping into his eye. But he manages it long enough to active his screen and type out 911 to the first number in his contacts. His brain just shuts down after that, too exhausted to stay conscious.

The last thought he has is that he hopes his GPS tracker is switched on.

4.
Let's not try to figure out everything at once

The card he wakes up to is a garish yellow with neon pink balloons on it and a “Get well soon” printed in Comic Sans. It’s so hideous that Stiles knows it’s a joke. He laughs anyway or tries to. It’s more of a croak than anything.

The straw at his lips feels like heaven, the cool water even more so. He’s not embarrassed that he whines a little when it’s taken away again. The snort he gets for it sounds so familiar yet so unexpected that his eyes fly open.

He cringes at the brightly light room, blinks several times to focus and then just stares. He’s not sure what to say or how to even approach all the questions flying around in his head. This is overwhelming in a completely other level than managing to send a text with his mind.

“Your text… It was sent to me.”

So that answers his number one question.

“And yes, your GPS was switched on.”

Okay, second question answered. What is this, read-Stiles-mind-hour or what?

“Might be, if you weren’t talking the entire time,” it’s said with a smirk and apparent amusement but Stiles can see the worry in those pale eyes and just reaches out. He needs to know that this is real and not something his mind has conjured up to safe him from the torture those demons had planned for him.

“I’m here, Stiles.”

His hand is enveloped in a strong hold, making his breathing slowdown, which he hadn’t realized had gone through the roof. This is real. The thought alone anchors him in the here and now. He slides back into exhausted sleep with what he knows is a smile on his lips.

+++

The next time he wakes up is to a dark room only tinted in the streetlight coming through the window. It takes a second for his eyes to adjust. When they do he then takes a look around. He’s not surprised to see his dad in the chair next this bed. Otherwise the room is empty.

Stiles tries not to feel too disappointed. It’s a close thing, though.

On the second sweep he finds the next card. This time it’s just white with a single blue flower on it. He reaches out for it, groans a little at the ache in his head and sighs when he hears his dad stir.

“Stiles?”

“Hi.” There isn’t much he can say anyway, so this seems succinct.

“God, never make me take a call like this one again.” The Sherriff looks exhausted, worry edged into his features making Stiles feel guilty all over again, and doubting his choices for the millionth time.

“Sorry. It was stupid to go alone. I know. But really, demons? Here? But then again, this place is boring as hell so maybe not that surprising.”

His dad just shakes his head, sighs and settles back into the chair. He brings Stiles up to date about how he’d gotten out. With a mild concussion and a rather heavy sedative in his system the doctors want to keep him for another day.

He hasn’t been out as long as he had suspected. He’s also off-duty for an entire week which doesn’t bother him as much as it should be.

It’s only when his dad is gone to get some decent food that he remembers the card. Stiles grabs it, ignoring the pain and flips it over the second he can.

Call when you are conscious again

Almost on instinct he grabs for his phone as well. The pounding on his head is joined be the one of his heart while he waits for the call to connect.

“Stiles.” It’s not even a question, just a statement despite the hour of the day or rather night that Stiles only realizes now.

“Thanks,” he blurts out in lieu of anything else he could have said or that is tumbling around his mind. Thanks for getting him out, for taking his message seriously, for sending him cards, encouragement when he need it, for being just being there. All of it, he puts it in this one word and hopes the message is loud and clear.

“Always.”

And Stiles knows he means it, just knows it deep down. He swallows stickily not really knowing what to say.

“Derek.”

“I know. Just, can you promise me something?”

“Yes,” he doesn’t even hesitate, doesn’t wonder when this thing between them shifted into irrevocable trust. Derek sighs on the other end of the phone but it sounds more like relief than anything else so Stiles smiles a little.

“Follow the postcards.”

There is so much he wants to ask. He wants to know if Derek is ok, wants to know why he started sending those cards in the first place. He wants to ask why he isn’t here now and if this is just something he’s been imagining because he’s filing lonely. In the end he doesn’t ask any of it.

“Okay,” is all he says.

Then he listens to Derek exhale before the dial tone sounds in his ear. Something tucks inside of his chest, snaps and reattaches itself somewhere else, somewhere closer to his heart. It scares him a little how good it feels and it takes him a second to guess what u it means.

His phone lights up with a text from Scott.

U ok?

Stiles doesn't even try tp type out a reply. The second the call connects Scott's worried voice reaches him.

"Stiles? Your dad that things were fine. But I felt something change. It's weirds. I can still feel you but like you are farther away now."

Stiles doesn't really know what to say, doesn't know how to explain the fact that he thinks he just changed packs - just like that. It's not something to be discussed over a phom hundreds of miles apart. He tries to anyway. Tells Scott everything, aout the cards, about him doubting the life he has chosen, about how Derek anchors him. He talks until there isn't anythign to say anymore.

Fearing Scott's answer is childish in some way but Stiles know this must hurt on some level. It's hurting him even though he's okay with it happening.

"Derek huh?"

"I guess. Yeah. For a while... Maybe even since that first day. But yeah..."

There's silence on the other end for a while.but not in a bad more way. More like Scott trying to find the best words and figuring everything out along the way. Stiles waits.

"We'll find a way to make it work. I can still feel you in my pack. You won't ever be alone. You know that, right?"

"Yeah. Yes, Scott. I know."

"Good. Well, Derek... guess you'll have to go an chase him then."

Stiles guess Scott is right but also knows that Derek will come to him when the time is right. He falls asleep to Scott's voice in his ear and tales of the legendary McCall adventures at UC Davis.

5.
Future

Being back home is weird on so many levels. He suddenly has his family, his friends, and his pack close again. Just knowing that people are close to be there for him when he needs it, makes him feel calm and level headed.

He’d needed to leave back then, to see a life without Beacon Hills looming over him. He’d needed to try things with Lydia only to realize that it wasn’t meant to be. He needed to have a life so different from everything back home to be able to come back stronger.

Being the FBI liaison to the Sherriff’s office is still something he’s getting used to right now.

Stiles isn’t sure why he took the offer once it came through two months after his run-in with the demons. But a day before that a card had arrived. A Sherriff’s badge on the one side and the words “go home” on the other.

He didn’t question it, just packed his things, called his dad and moved back home. He did promise to follow the cards after all.

So here he is, three months later, in his office at the Beacon Hills Sherriff’s station working cases that he knows have supernatural connections and feels happier than he has in years. Something settled inside of him and it’s not just the fact that he’s back home.

Stiles thinks it’s the anticipation of what’s coming next that has him all excited these days. Even his dad has commented on it. Stiles though just smiles whenever his good mood comes up and waits for the next card.

He never has to wait long. They keep coming a week apart. Always and without fail. It’s simple things, like “take a day off” or “go out with Scott” or “call Lydia”. Just things he needs to do to feel good and settled.

Stiles always texts back with a thank you’re a detail description of how he fulfilled the instructions. It’s sort of a routine by now but he wishes Derek was around to just tell him in person. Stiles knows when he needs time to care of himself but it’s still nice to have someone watch over him like that.

His in the middle of archiving a solved case when his dad comes in, postcard in hand. Stiles so doesn’t like the look on his father’s face.

“What?” He asks, more petulant than he intended it to come out. His dad’s answer is a raised eyebrow which is more judgmental than Stiles thought possible.

“When’s this chase coming to an end?” The Sherriff asks while handing the postcard over to Stiles.

“When we are ready for it to end,” he answers and knows it’s the truth. This thing between him and Derek is unexpected on a lot of levels but it feels more natural then any of the relationships he’s had before. He isn’t even sure that’s this is where they are heading but he’s not willing to let it all slide away.

The card reads “Betty’s. Tonight. 8 pm” and Stiles feels a stupidly wide grin spread over his face. He checks his watch and sees that he has about an hour to get ready. His dad looks amused when Stiles turns to him.

“Go.”

Stiles is out of the office before his Thanks is even fully formed.

6.
Years

Derek’s already there when he arrives, waiting in a booth that faces both the door and windows. He smiles when Stiles all but flails onto the bench opposite him.

“Shut up,” Stiles mumbles and tries to calm his racing heart. The way Derek smirks some more he’s rather unsuccessful.

They order when the waitress walks up to them but remain silent after that. It’s like neither of them really knows where to start. So Stiles takes the opportunity to look at Derek. To really look at him. He takes in all the small changes he hadn’t had the chance to witness happening during the last few years.

His beard is fuller, neatly trimmed though with some small specks of grey in it. It’s a good look on him. His features seem more relaxed now, like a weight has been lifted off of him. He certainly doesn’t look the murder suspect from all those years ago.

Derek seems to be doing the same, watching Stiles, taking in all the differences.

“That first card. Why’d you sent it?” Stiles asks into the silence between them. It’s not what he wanted to ask first but it’s something he has been wondering for so long that he’s genuinely curious once it’s out there between them.

If he hadn’t been watching Derek as intensely as he did, he probably would have missed his ears turning slightly pink. Oh this is going to be good Stiles thinks and waits for the answer.

“I just saw the card and had to think of you. Malia and Peter kept me updated for some reason, so I knew where you would be. I don’t really know why. Just sent it.”

It’s not as satisfying as he’d hoped it would be but he can live with it. So Stiles just nods and lets the silence settle between them again. It’s not uncomfortable but it’s charged in some way they both seem to feel.

“Why the others?”

“Malia told me how you kept the first one up. And every time she’d let me know when you weren’t doing so well I thought, maybe they would help,” Derek answers never taking his eyes off of Stiles.

“They did.”

“Good.”

This is turning into something beyond awkward and Stiles doesn’t want that. He wants to see here and talk to Derek on a normal level. So he asks the one question he thinks is important right now.

“Why now?”

At that Derek smiles, soft and self-conscious but real nonetheless.

“Because, we are not in a traumatic situation, nothing is after our lives and… You are pack. To me… I’m ready. And I hoped you’d be, too.”

There’s so much he could say to that. He could tell Derek that he has been ready for years. He could say that he has been waiting for a sign or something. He could ask what Derek needed to do to be ready. He could ask so many questions. But it all doesn’t matter.

Stiles simply smiles and then leans over to kiss Derek. It’s slow, unhurried and rather sweet than hot. But’s enough to settle something between them. The uncertainty that has been lingering the entire time they sat there is gone, replaced with some kind of tentative hope. Derek's soft slips smile against his and Stiles can't help but do the same.

It feels good.

It feels like coming home, like these things should feel. It’s everything he’s been waiting for ever since that first card arrived. Looking into Derek’s eyes he knows it’s the same for him.

It feels like he’s finally found himself, found his anchor, too. He’s his own person, doesn’t need anybody to define him but he now has someone who compliments all that he is.