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Let Words Fall From Your Mouth

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The first time it happens, Derek is confused.

He's in the loft, sitting on the couch and still trying to wrap his mind around everything. The nogitsune is gone, and with it are Allison and Aiden (He doesn't like to think of their deaths. It leaves a bitter taste in his mouth). Ethan's skipped town, and Derek understands that more than anyone. It's barely been a few days, and he hasn't even been able to speak to Stiles or Scott, or anyone for that matter. He's mostly cut off from everyone else. But that's probably for the best, he decides.

Derek knows none of this is his fault, nobody's fault actually. Derek can try to convince himself it's Noshiko's fault, after all she was the one to initially summon the nogitsune, but he knows it's a moot point. After everything, all Derek wants is for a sense of peace to wash over Beacon Hills, and trying to find someone to blame is no way to do that.

He's thinking about it all when something causes his ears to perk up.

He hears Stiles before he sees him. The quick thrum of his heart trickling closer with every passing moment, beating hard and fast. Derek can smell the pain and the fear and the anger and the sadness that radiates off Stiles like waves.

Derek stops to consider leaving the loft before Stiles can pull the door open, but decides against it.

He waits.

The door to the loft opens and Stiles comes in, hands twitching nervously and face still gaught and pale. His eyes are blank and empty in a way Derek doesn't like to think about for too long. Stiles doesn't say anything, just opting for staring at Derek with an empty expression. Derek is about to open his mouth and ask why he's there, but then Stiles makes a move. He walks up to Derek with frantic steps and grabs his wrist, fingers curling around it so tightly that it would hurt if Derek was human.

"Stiles?"

Stiles doesn't listen, he just raises Derek's hand up to his face; and slowly, his hand moves up and he starts to count Derek's fingers. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Stiles slowly pushes Derek's fingers up with his thumb as he counts, and when he's finished his eyes hesitantly move over to Derek's other hand. Derek blinks and slowly raises his other hand and offers it to Stiles without a word. Stiles lets go of Derek's hand and quickly clutches the other with a fierce grip, and then he begins counting again. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.

"This is real," Stiles says with a shaky breath as he drops Derek's hand. It slowly falls to Derek's side.

"Stiles?"

Stiles swallows and looks up at Derek with a ghost of a smile. It's sheepish and shy and embarrassed, but Derek would happily take an almost-smile to the haunting look that Stiles now tends to walk around with. "Sorry. It's just. I didn't really know who to go to. I just had to make sure."

"That this was real?" Derek asks slowly.

Stiles nods mutely.

Derek stops for a second, remembering something Scott had once told him, about pulling Stiles out of the delusion that he was dreaming. He didn't ask how Scott did it, but when he glances down at his own hand and flexes his fingers, all ten of them, and then he realises it was Stiles who told Scott about the way to figure out whether or not you're dreaming.

"This is real," Derek reassures him, tentatively grabbing Stiles hands and holding them. Slowly, he presses his fingers against Stiles' counting them softly under his breath, just loud enough for Stiles to hear him. He counts until they're fingers are pressed against each other, palms just barely touching. "This is real. You're real. I'm real. We're all real, Stiles."

Stiles lets out another shaky breath. "Okay. Right. I'm okay."


Things start to clear up after that.

Well, not really.


Derek can smell Kate in the air, her sharp scent and still so familiar, and he doesn't really want to believe it. Fuck, she's supposed to be dead. He can't believe it.

But he actually has to, doesn't he?

"Derek," she purrs, and Derek's eyes snap shut, blocking everything out.

In the haze and denial, Derek forgets about counting his fingers and manipulative hunters when he finds himself sitting in the boy's locker room of the high school. He's sitting on one of the benches, hunched forward with his hands clasped together in front of him. His heart pounds with an unknown fear, and then he hears himself speaking about a dream.

Derek doesn't actually realize he's talking to Stiles until he sits in front of him.

"I don't remember waking up. So, how do you know?" Derek finds himself asking. "How do you know when you're dreaming?"

"Fingers. You have more fingers in dreams."

When Stiles answers, Derek suddenly realizes something wrong and reaches out, gripping Stiles' wrist and pulling Stiles' hand up to his face. He counts the fingers, a dull sense of ache settling deep within him. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six.

Stiles stares at him with a pained expression. "Derek. Wake up."

Then he's awake again and there's a loud clapping sound, and then suddenly there's a bullet lodged in his stomach; and Kate, she's smiling widely, baring her white teeth at him. Derek isn't really paying attention though, he's looking down at his hands, counting his fingers. When he reaches ten, his heart drops and his hands curl against his wound, deep red blood staining his hands.

"You're real," Derek croaks. Fuck.

She says something he can't really make out, but he can see her face morphing into something strikingly blue and inhuman right before he crashes to the ground and loses consciousness. He's thinking about fingers as his eyes flutter shut.

When he wakes up, Stiles is staring down at him with a concerned expression on his face, hands curling around his face. Scott's right behind him, watching silently.

Kate's gone, but her scent, dark and inhuman, still engulfs him. It's so strong he almost chokes on it.

"Derek?"

Right now though, Derek can't find himself caring about Kate's scent, or the bullet in his chest. Stiles calls out his name again, but Derek doesn't respond. Not yet. He has to be sure. Slowly, ignoring the pain sprouting from his chest as he stretches his wound, he reaches out with his bloodied hands and pulls Stiles hands in front of his face and starts to count, the tips of his fingers pressing again Stiles. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.

"You're real," he lets out a painful breath he didn't know he'd been holding in, and moves his hand to touch Stiles' neck softly, covering it with blood.

A sense of realization makes it's way onto Stiles face, and Stiles reaches up and clutches Derek's hand presses his fingers hard against Derek's. "Yeah. I'm real. You're real. We're all real, Derek."

Derek nods. "Real."


After they defeat Kate and burn her body to ash, Stiles limps over to Derek, arms drenched in his own blood, and he holds up his hands. Derek sighs with relief and presses his fingertips against Stiles'. They count.

"This is real," he whispers.

"This is real," Stiles whispers back.

It becomes a routine after that. Every single time Stiles and Derek come into contact with each other, no matter the reason, they stop and slowly press their fingertips together, counting to ten under their breath. They need to make sure it's real, that everything around them is real. When they reach to ten, their shoulders slump and they relax.

It's the only comfort Derek knows.

It goes on for months, through every single battle and every conversation. Until one day, after Derek and Stiles finish counting and their hands fall to their sides, Scott finally asks, "Why do you and Derek do that?"

"It's our handshake, you know?" Stiles brushes it off with a casual shrug of his shoulders, but the look he shoots at Derek is anything but casual. Derek silently reaches out and clutches Stiles' hand.

Nobody asks after that.


Most nights, Derek is laying with Stiles on a bed of grass or a worn down couch, and he counts Stiles' fingers, slowly pressing his own fingertips against them as he counts with Stiles. Sometimes he counts to ten. Sometimes he doesn't.

And when he doesn't, Stiles looks at him sadly and whispers, "This isn't real."

When Derek wakes up with a muffled scream on his lips and a wild look in his eyes, Stiles is always there to press his fingers again Derek's, softly counting to ten into his ear, his forehead resting against Derek's temple.

Then he tells him, "This is real."