My darling @blacktofade‘s birthday was, uh, two months ago, so here I am, ten years late with her birthday present. ILU BB!! If this lil au seems like it should be a full-length fic, that’s because it desperately tried to be, and I had to keep chopping at it to keep it under control, like some kind of rouge hedge on meth. (Now on AO3!)
In the hours after the fight, Stiles drives and drives and drives. At first it’s late, and then it’s so late that it’s early, but he keeps on driving, fueled by anger, mostly in silence, though somewhere around the middle of Pennsylvania he thaws enough to put on some music. He stops at a rest stop just past the Ohio border to get a breakfast sandwich, and as he sits at a dirty table and eats, he thinks: shit.
Doubt begins creeping into his thoughts; maybe he’d been too hasty. Maybe he should have given Jay a chance to explain - but no, no, fuck that. He’d always made it really fucking clear that if their relationship ever got to the point where cheating seemed like a good option, he’d rather just be broken up with and yet look what fucking happened. Stiles scoffs scornfully, chucking the wrapper to his sandwich in a nearby trash can. Two and a half years down the drain.
Refreshed by a new wave of anger, Stiles heads back to his car and gets back on the highway. He manages to wrangle his phone from his pocket and, ignoring the multiple text and missed call notifications, he calls his dad, who picks up with a sigh.
“You know what time it is?” his dad asks, and Stiles looks at his dash guiltily. He’s been so worked up that he forgot about the time difference - or the fact that even on the east coast, it’s early, the sun barely above the horizon.
“Sorry,” Stiles says with a wince. “I’ll call back later.”
“It’s fine,” Dad says with another sigh. “I just got home from an overnight shift. Everything all right? You’re not usually up before ten.”
Stiles opens his mouth and then closes his mouth, startled by the raw ache in his eyes.
“Stiles?” his dad presses, somehow gentle and sharp at the same time; Stiles is worrying him.
“I’m - ” Stiles clears his throat, tapping his fingers against the wheel. “Um. How would you feel about me moving home for a while?”
Jean squinted in the blinding California sun as the automatic doors of the airport shut behind him. He shouldered his duffle bag and tightened his grip on his suitcase and swept his gaze over the sea of cars entering and exiting the drop off zone. Jean exhaled slowly and looked for the yellow Jeep Jeremy told him to expect. The five-hour flight had been the first time in months he had been truly alone. With the smell of the ocean on the breeze, the warmth of the sunshine, and the cheery palm trees, California seemed like something out of a dream. Untouched and untainted like a blank canvas.
He couldn’t shake the thought that had been obsessively floating around his mind since take off. Was he just walking into another nightmare? Walking in of his own accord, an unknowing lamb led to the slaughter?
It didn’t take long before he spotted the bright vehicle or it’s equally sunny driver. Jean used the time to take in the sight of his new captain. Jeremy was staring at his phone, his attention focused on the text he typed out as he leaned against the hatchback. The blond looked relaxed in his aviators. His broad shoulders, bared by his tank top, sported a tan. At the sound of Jean’s approach, Jeremy glanced up and grinned at his new Backliner. Pushing up his sunglasses, his gaze fell to the 3 inked on Jean’s cheek, but his smile didn’t waver
“Jean! Welcome to California. Let me get your bag.”
Jeremy opened the trunk and stowed Jean’s bags in the trunk. When he slammed the door shut, his eyes crinkled with a soft smile.
“Ready to go?”
Jean nodded and wordlessly turned towards the unlocked passenger door. As Jeremy crossed over to the driver’s door only then did his smile falter. Two minutes in and he was already getting the silent treatment. He took a steadying breath before climbing in to join his new teammate.
Jeremy spared a glance Jean’s way as he started the car. Jean sat still, staring out the window. A living statue of what Jeremy imagined was a practiced state of calmness. No, not calmness, control. Not a fidget of anxiety or pent up energy that Jeremy was all too familiar with, this was just…nothing.
Update on My Working Theory of The Location of Night Vale:
Alright, so after getting caught up, and finishing the novel, I can say with certainty that, not only was my original estimation for the location almost undoubtedly accurate, but using the new data from these sources, that I can narrow down the search even further.
Night Vale must be within a triangle that consists of fifty miles of the westernmost border of California and Arizona, Thirty odd miles of the southernmost diagonal tip of Nevada, and run parallel to the county lines of Southern California via the Mojave Desert, which all run at a certain parallel.
Carnival mentions the city of Modesto (word up to my home town) as being close enough that a wrong turn along the highway would lead you to Night Vale instead, and both King City and Soledad of Monterey County (as in Monterey beach and aquarium) are very close by, and play an integral part within the Novel.
Using Maps, I’ve found a stretch of the Mojave desert that is still sparsely inhabited, but does not connect to any of the other major highways whatsoever.
Using that parallel I calculated, and my previous thoughts about it being near Coalinga, which I found runs roughly parallel between King City and Las Vegas, I found a patch that is just west of Death Valley National Park and just east of Ponderosa where the Highway dead ends that seems conspicuously blank, even when zoomed in.
That smattering of gray flecks east southeast of Visalia, where the road refuses to intersect with that other highway, is the general area I believe Night Vale to be in, as it runs the general parallel of King City, if the Man in the Tan Jacket had just driven east aimlessly until he arrived in Night Vale. Additionally, if the Carnival had been headed north to Modesto, and taken a wrong turn at Bakersfield, and headed west past Ponderosa, they would have ended up in the same area. Topographically, there are enough bluffs and vales to constitute both city names, cliffs and Ponderosa Pines enough to justify the existence of the ill-fated Pine Cliffs, and right smack dab in the Middle of the Mojave Desert.
I know the location of Night Vale is both in and out of normal existence, a liminal space at best, but if one were to go looking for the edges of that liminal space, this is where I’d start. It’s south enough that what few Krogers you find are called Ralph’s, follows a ley line, and it’s still in the part of California, where only a town this liberal and permissive yet paradoxically conservative and restrictive could exist.
Another point towards it being in California has to do with the Novel, and the emphasis on Jackie’s mom’s green lawn and how annoying it is to her neighbors, as we are Californians and always in a drought, and hate to see green lawns as ours suffer and wither. The obsession with avocados, and avocados being fake, doesn’t hurt either. That this region was also considered instrumental for things like mining and military weapons assembly doesn’t hurt either. I’ve heard about people looking for Uranium and Plutonium in those general areas of the desert.
I’m still open to other interpretations of the location, or theories of there being several ways to get to Night Vale, but seeing as how Joseph Fink is a once and always Californian, something nobody from California can ever escape, I’m going to say that his experiences have molded much of where Night Vale is going to be.
As it stands, I say it is northeast of Bakersfield, southeast of Visalia, roughly parallel with King City, Coalinga, and Las Vegas, and on a part of the map that is unusually blank for California.