Disclaimer: I don't own Northern Exposure or any of the characters included in this fic.
The air smelt the same. That crisp chill in the wind and familiar scent of the surrounding pine trees surrounded him as he climbed out of the plane. The pilot asked him if he needed help getting from the airport to his destination but he shook his head, he knew where he was going.
He hiked his duffel bag up his shoulder and slowly made his way down the road. Unlike his previous visit, he found himself taking in everything about his surroundings, listening to the sounds of the wood life in the trees beside him. He had been so willing to get back to the big city that he hadn't realised how large a part of him he had left behind in Cicely, Alaska.
Eventually the flashing neon light of the Brick's sign came into view over the horizon and he smiled; a strange feeling coming over him as he headed into town. He was coming home after so many years away.
Strolling down the main street, he decided against dropping by for something to eat, even though his stomach was rumbling and pleading with him to feed it. Standing outside the building that had been his office for over five years, he felt a strange tug in his chest.
The bottom right hand corner, which had once displayed his name, now read 'Dr Richard Farrington'; another reminder of how much time had passed since he had left. The last time he had heard, Dr Capri had taken over his practice.
He passed Ruth-Anne's store, noticing that it had been renamed. The realisation that she was probably dead, hitting him like a fist to the gut.
The streets were wider than he remembered, it seemed to take forever to cross the street from his former office to Chris' KBHR radio station. Well, it had once been Chris' station, now there was someone he didn't recognise sitting behind the microphone, rapidly talking to some random caller.
He leant against the railing, dropping his backpack on the floor, he surveyed the street before him. It seemed to have the same amount of cars as before, yet it seemed to be empty at the same time. He hadn't seen anyone he knew and wasn't sure if was unsettled by that fact or comforted.
Every one had always seemed to be perfectly content with the style of living in Cicely, perfectly safe in the knowledge that everyone knew everyone's business. Every one except for him. He had been the one person who had never been comfortable with being in Alaska.
Standing on the Staten Island ferry coming into the harbour in New York, he couldn't believe that he was finally free of the chains that had bound him against his will for so long. Feeling New York soil under his feet, he had vowed that he would never return to Cicely, where Moose freely roamed the streets and Starbucks and Burger King were distant dreams and wishes.
Yet now, here he was, ten years later, a successful New York doctor with his own private practice to some of the City's most elite residents, standing on the streets of a town he had once called home, despite his initial reluctance to stay there.
Joel looked down at the keys in his hand; when he had discovered his former residence was up for sale and within his price range, he hadn't even thought twice about calling up the Real Estate agent and arranging a meeting to sign the contract.
After ten years of putting up with the urge to return, he had finally swallowed his pride and boarded a plane, finally answering the call home.