Title/Author: The Barriers Within Yourself by Reiko Katsura
Fandom: Teen Wolf (MTV)
Main Characters: Isaac Lahey, Derek Hale
Side Characters: Erica Reyes, Vernon Boyd, Scott McCall, Stiles Stilinski, OCs
Warnings: S2 spoilers, AU, canon-typical violence, angst, and mentions of past child abuse.
Rating/Length: PG-13; ~2975 words
Summary: It all comes down to Isaac messing up.
Author's Notes: I started this with the intention of writing a fluffy Isaac/Erica/Boyd fic but somehow this happened. Yeah, I don't know either. Anyway, this was written for seemslikaporno who left a prompt at thecivilunrest's awesome Sterek-Free Ficathon. I loved writing this a lot. Prepare for lots of Isaac feels, guys.
This was beta'd by the wonderful Liz. If you see any mistakes, assume they're my own.
Title and opening comes from a quote by Jalal ad-Din Rumi.
This is also my first Teen Wolf fic. Treat me kindly.
"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find
all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."
Isaac can run with the speed of a wolf, fight with the strength of a bear, move with the grace and agility of an African wild dog, and yet.
The barrel of a gun swivels in his direction and he freezes, panic gripping his heart in an unrelenting vice. He hears the distant sound of roaring and shouting and gunfire, but it's all mute against the rushing in his ears. His vision tunnels, eyes locked on the firearm and the man who's wielding it. The hunter's eyes are wrinkled at the corners, mouth stretched wide, and Isaac can see the similarity as clearly as if the man were the real thing.
"Gotcha," the hunter says with his father's voice.
His wolf is screaming at him to fight, to flee, to move, to do something, to do anything. It's ramming against the walls of his consciousness, snarling to be let free, but Isaac can't. His human side is at the forefront, triumphant in its fear, and Isaac is going to die because he's too weak, too pathetic, to do anything but stare at his opponent, wide eyed and shaking and so reminiscent of the boy he'd thought, he'd hoped, had died with the bite.
He catches the movement of nimble fingers and the sound of straining metal and thinks, dad would be so proud.
And then he's eating grass and dirt, and there's solid weight against his back, pinning him to the ground.
"What the hell are you doing?" Stiles' voice snarls in his ear, and he looks up just in time to see his Alpha slam the hunter into the grass in a flurry of blood and bone.
He notices that he's been holding his breath for far too long when the realization that he's been saved by a human hits him. Hard.
He chokes out a laugh as his vision goes black.
He hears them talking about him. Their voices are low, distant, almost too far away to hear. He strains his senses as awareness trickles slowly in and hears snippets of conversation that make him cringe.
"What are we—"
"—serious? He can't—"
"—well, obviously, for fuck's—"
Isaac snaps his eyes shut and wills his heart to stop pounding. Prays for unconsciousness.
There's a moment of quiet when Isaac thinks that maybe he's succeeded, when Boyd's voice cuts cleanly through, shattering the illusion.
He slumps against the—the mattress, he realizes belatedly—and struggles to breathe.
They treat him like glass afterward. No, worse than that; at least glass can be handled, can be shifted from place to place, can be trusted to contain things and not break on its own. It's more as if he's suddenly made out of sand and one wrong movement, one wayward shift of air, will have him sifting through their fingers and crumbling upon himself.
The fact that he can't look any of them in the eye and mumbles and stutters when they try to speak to him only cements their portrayal of him; proves them right. If he were Erica he'd be staring them all down, daring them to make an issue of it. If he were Stiles he'd laugh it off. And Scott would apologize and Boyd would shrug it off and Derek—
Well, Derek wouldn't be in his situation in the first place.
Fact of the matter is, none of them—not even Stiles, who's human—would have frozen up the way he had and passed out in the middle of battle.
His shame is a ball of flame in his chest, ever burning and wild, and grows stronger, grows hotter, whenever anyone in his pack tries to approach him, tries to make him talk, tries to help.
Like now. He can feel Erica staring at him from where she's seated on the sofa, can feel her intent, her lack of patience. His wolf is desperate to meet with her, but Isaac shoves it down, remembrance of its betrayal hot behind his eyes. He hears Erica's thinly veiled growl, sees Boyd steady her at the corner of his eye, and gives into the fire and stands up and stalks away.
He walks into his room, the one Derek had designed especially for him when he'd had the old Hale house renovated, closes the door, and locks it.
Doesn't come out again until everyone's gone.
The thing is, Isaac knows what they'll say. All he has to do is close his eyes and he can all too clearly imagine the genuine, if poorly executed words of reassurance and forgiveness and love. Because that's what pack is; that's what pack does.
The problem lies with himself. Isaac doesn't want to hear what excuses they make for him, doesn't want to listen to them try to reassure him that he's fine, doesn't want their forgiveness, not when he doesn't deserve it and not when it's not theirs to give.
So he ignores them, and avoids them, and keeps to himself as much as possible, all the while guiltily hoping that another opportunity arises where he can prove himself, where he can show them that last time had been a fluke, that he's not some pathetic weakling, that he deserves to have been bitten as much as any of them.
He wakes up with a muffled scream, heart slamming and blood roaring in his ears, vision black around the edges. He pats his arms and chest and legs and face, tension trickling out of him in tiny increments when he discovers no blood, no bruises, no battered skin, no broken bones. He's in his bedroom, he's at Derek's house, and there are no ice boxes with metal chains or spiked belts or bloodied gags.
It takes a while for his senses to fully sharpen, and even longer for him to accept that he's not locked in, or bound, or gagged; that he's not bleeding and broken in his father's basement; that his father isn't standing outside his door, waiting for the opportune moment when Isaac's guard is down to come in and restart the torment.
It takes him even longer than that to become aware of the people hovering outside his door.
Just two months ago that cognizance would have filled him with warmth. He would have whispered come in and yes and please and would be instantly surrounded by pack. They'd toss their blankets and pillows to the floor and drag Isaac from his bed and sort themselves around him like a pile of sleepy pups.
But two months ago Isaac hadn't fucked up.
He burrows his head beneath the pillow, hears the soft rattle of a doorknob and the firm hold of the lock and the resulting shuffle of feet and snicks of closing doors.
Stiles and Scott corner him the next day and Isaac panics and runs.
They don't follow him.
He hides in the forest for a whole day after that, and neither of them try it again.
Erica eventually stops trying to meet his gaze.
Boyd stops leaving him cranes.
The flames grow hotter the more days go past.
In the end, it's Derek who sets things in motion.
"You want me to what?" Isaac stammers.
Derek stares at him. "You heard me."
"B-but… Derek, I—I…"
"You don't have a choice," he says firmly, eyes flashing red. His wolf surges to the front, and Isaac tips his head back and whines.
"You don't have a choice," he says again, more softly this time. His eyes fade to green and he takes a step forward and wraps his hand around Isaac's neck, up the side of his face, cups his head. "You'll do fine."
Isaac swallows heavily and has to force his head not to shake. He has a million reasons why he shouldn't be the one trusted with this, why he's going to mess it up, but Derek is staring at him expectantly and Isaac's left with no choice but to nod and lean into his touch.
"The rest of pack will help you," Derek assures him. "It'll be fine."
But all Isaac can think is that he'll regret his words when he comes back from Oregon to find all of his pack dead.
Stiles names it 'operation: find-feral-rogue-omega-and-make-him-run-away-with-his-tail-between-his-legs-and-slash-or-shank-him-dead'.
Erica shoves him into the sofa with a complaint that it's too wordy, then promptly names it 'operation: kill-stupid-omega'.
Somehow it sticks.
It's been a while since he's interacted with any of them so communication is awkward, conversation's stilted. The silences run too long and the discussions keep veering off topic and it isn't anything like a pack meeting should be. But Isaac is doing his best to act like he hasn't been avoiding them all for the better part of two months and everyone else is making an obvious effort to help things run smoothly.
After all, a discordant pack is a dead pack.
Isaac assigns himself, Erica, and Scott to go out into the woods and track the omega's movements, catalog patterns, and sniff out used or potential hiding places. Boyd and Stiles are at the house, on preparation duty, because they're the more level-headed, underhanded, and organized of the group.
It's well after midnight before a plan is finalized and they all retreat into Derek's empty bedroom for a couple of hours of rest. Isaac can't get out of it, doesn't even want to, and both his human side and his wolf revel in the feel of being encased by family and pack. His back is to Boyd's chest and Erica is tucked beneath his chin and Scott's hand is on his waist and Stiles' leg is flung over him and it's hot and stifling and there's hardly any room to move but it's the best Isaac has felt in weeks.
He still feels ashamed when he thinks about what happened, still feels fear like a noose around his neck when he considers what might happen if he fails them again, but it isn't consuming him, burning him from the inside out, not like it had before.
"Sleep," Erica whispers against his throat, and Isaac does.
The next day passes quickly. They go out into the woods again, setting up the traps Stiles and Boyd have designed, and go over the plan so many times they'll probably be reenacting it in their dreams for months to come.
There's no word from Derek, and that makes them all anxious. Sure, it's just one omega but they're all still teenagers and this is the first time they've ever planned to fight another werewolf without their Alpha nearby.
Derek's absence makes them all nervous, and they're touching each other so much it's almost inappropriate even by werewolf standards. And that's saying something.
By the time the sun sets they're all on edge and their wolves are desperate to hunt. They leave the Hale house a little after dusk—four werewolves and one gun-carrying human who no one even tries to convince to stay behind—and begin the chase.
Turns out there are two werewolves. How that got past them, had gotten past Derek, eludes Isaac completely.
The first is, while not entirely easy, easier to take down. It'd taken a wolfsbane bullet in the leg and the strength of both Scott and Erica combined to kill her, but none of them have been injured and they're lucky for it.
The second werewolf is something else entirely. He's fast, much faster than an omega—because that's what he is now that his other pack member is dead—should be. He's also frighteningly cunning, turning their larger number and greater strength against them and evading all the traps they've so carefully lain out.
Isaac catches sight of movement between the trees beside him and snarls at the phantom cackle that hangs in the air.
He doesn't know what to do. They weren't prepared to deal with a pack of two, let alone one who's so obviously been a werewolf far longer than the rest of them. The traps they'd set, the maneuvers they'd memorized, had all been done with a specific prey in mind. What they're dealing with now is something none of them are equipped to face.
If Isaac were different, if Isaac were better, then things wouldn't have escalated to this. If Derek had been the one to lead this attack the werewolves would have been buried by now. If it had been anyone else, this might have been over already. Instead they've become the playthings of an insane omega because the one who's been put in charge, the one they're all forced to follow, is too fucking inept to take one single werewolf down.
A wild howl to his left, and Isaac sees the omega burst from the shrubbery. He's moving even as he catalogues the shine of fangs and outstretched claws.
"Stiles!" he shouts, and Stiles drops to the ground within the blink of an eye, endless training sessions with the pack accounting for his quick reaction. The omega growls and Isaac reacts without thinking; he grips the omega's legs and hurls him sideways with a verbal snap for Boyd, and Boyd's on him within moments, claws flaying fur and skin. The omega doesn't even have time to strike back before Erica's kicking him down, leaving Isaac free to tear his throat open.
Blood splatters over Isaac's arms and chest and face, but he makes no move to wipe it off until the easing heartbeat of the omega stills and silence fills the wrecked clearing.
Relief hits him, followed by elation, and before long he's tilting his head back and howling at the moon in triumph. The howls of his pack echo jubilantly, and he accepts the sudden weight of clinging pack with a grin.
It takes them two hours to find a good enough hiding spot to bury the bodies and clear any evidence that might lead back to them.
They barely make it back to Derek's bed, a mess of leaves and dirt and blood and skin and fur, before passing out.
Isaac is the first to wake. He ignores the whines and growls of his pack and crawls out of the pile and into the shower, where he lets the hot water wash away things he doesn't even want to think about in the light of the day.
When he walks into the kitchen a half-hour later he sees Derek perched at the table, a cup of coffee in one hand and a newspaper in the other, pale eyes trained on him.
"G'morning," he grunts, settling the cup down. Then, with a hint of a smirk, "Rough night?"
Isaac ignores the poor humor and accuses, "You knew there were two werewolves."
It's something he figured out last night.
Derek shrugs. He's not denying anything.
"Why?" Isaac asks, and he's a little embarrassed by the way his voice cracks on the word. "You should have told us. We went in there blind. Anything could have happened, someone could have been hurt, someone could have died, and I—"
"Did well," Derek interrupts, and Isaac swallows.
He shakes his head. He hadn't done well, not at all. He'd been careless, in hindsight. He'd overlooked so many clues, made so many stupid mistakes, had put the pack in danger for far longer than they would have been if anyone else had been in charge and—
"Isaac!" Derek snaps at him, and Isaac looks up quickly, wolf a second away from baring its throat.
"Isaac," Derek repeats, more gently. "You did well."
Isaac makes an indefinable sound. "I—"
"You. Did. Fine."
His vision of Derek blurs, and before he can wipe the evidence of his weakness away his face is being shoved into Derek's neck and he's wrapping his arms around him and squeezing so tight that Derek would die if he were human.
"You did fine," Derek says again. "More than. I asked you to lead this hunt because I knew that you could. The pack knew that you could. There was never any doubt in our minds that you weren't capable. Do you understand, Isaac?"
Isaac starts to nod his head but Derek pushes him back a little and forces his face up.
"No. I'm asking, do you understand?"
That you're a part of this pack, that you're allowed to make mistakes, that you're allowed to be weak, just as you're encouraged to be strong.
That you will never be abandoned.
That you're loved.
"I understand," Isaac rasps, voice like broken glass.
Derek nods once, eyes burning red.
"I chose you for a reason," he says finally, "and there's not much you can do to ever make me regret that."
Isaac, for the first time in a long, long time, leans on somebody else and cries.
He's not surprised to see the rest of the pack hovering outside the kitchen, shifting uneasily and eyeing his puffy eyes warily.
He cracks a smile, one that's small and wobbly but more honest than it's been in a long time, and he goes down before he can get his mouth open.
They're all over him, nuzzling into him and dragging their hands over his skin and petting everywhere they can reach, and even though he has about 500 pounds of werewolf (and human) on him and he's seriously worried that he might have cracked his tailbone, he manages to laugh.
"Missed you," Scott murmurs in his ear. There's a chorus of agreement.
"Yeah," Issac says. Thinks, me too.
Derek is eventually pulled down to join them, and even though the floor's uncomfortable and most of them haven't taken the time to actually bathe, they remain this way for hours.
A/N: Dudes, I am so behind on TW because things just got so angsty and depressing that I just had to stop. I'm not looking forward to catching up. I've been on tumblr, okay, I know what's been happening and I am not prepared to have my heart repeatedly crushed. Damn tragic show.
Anyway, thanks so much for reading! Comments and con-crit are, as always, very welcome. Cheers.