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Caged Humanity

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The Ceremony was less of a celebration and more of an endurance. All those who had turned sixteen since last year would gather up in the school gym and stand, line by line, the boys and girls separated. Not that it really mattered, wolves were notoriously uncaring about gender. And the lucky few humans who were picked would have to be pretty uncaring too, though they tried to be prudent with Selections. But if a wolf wanted you, and there were no other takers? 'No' wasn’t an option, just like it wasn’t an option now.

This had been mere weeks before Scott had been turned by a rogue Alpha, so he had been lined up too, sweating it out with the rest of them. It wasn’t a day that was televised or put up with pomp, and parents would sit nervously on the bleachers. Only close family allowed. Stiles’ dad was up there too, the same worry in his eyes as the rest of them. The Mediators, older werewolves who would travel throughout the state to every high school in the past next weeks, stood tall before the terrified crowd of teenagers. Not every high school would have students selected. It was a rare quality, being compatible as a Companion. Stiles had researched it thoroughly. Knowledge was how he dealt with stress.

Beacon Hills was of course special, so it was one of the first high schools to go through the Ceremony. That was because it was the location of two specialty schools, both under the careful watch of the Hale family. Or what was left of the Hale family in any case, Peter Hale with a niece and nephew that apparently lived on the outskirts of town. New teens, human and werewolf alike, would soon pour in after the Ceremonies were completed, filling up the dorms. It was almost a given that a local would be joining them.

The Mediators began by walking down the rows, and Stiles flinched as they moved towards him and Scott. He was a little old to be holding hands with his best friend, but he could have really used the support. Especially when the werewolf, gray stripes along the sides of his hair, stopped in front of the teenager. Especially when the wolf inhaled deeply, and Stiles had the unfortunate knowledge of what that meant. Companions were selected by scent.

Maybe it was an accident. Maybe Stiles just smelled off. He hadn’t gotten around to to the laundry, he hadn’t taken a bath since- okay, since yesterday, but. But teenage boys always smell bad, right? And the Mediator wasn’t smiling, so maybe... maybe...

“Name?” the wolf asked, lifting up his clipboard.

Stiles’ heart hopped into his lungs before taking a pitfall into the bottom of his stomach. Scott looked over with sympathy. His father looked devastated, like he was about to break. Stiles would have given anything not to have his father look like that.

“Stilinski,” he whispered, knowing there was no use in lying.

“Well, congratulations Stilinski.” The man’s smile came out more as a wince. “Welcome to a new life as a Companion.”

+++

Was it a selfish thought that Stiles was glad Scott had turned into a werewolf? At least they belonged in the same world now. The only sad thing was that they couldn’t really meet in person anymore, unless they snuck out. Which, okay yeah, they did a lot. The specialty school’s security was kind of a joke once Danny the hacker genius had been befriended.

The specialty schools were... different. Yes, they had the same high school curriculum as normal schools. Actually they had advanced curriculum, some of the best teachers and technologies available. AP courses were usually equated to top notch college classes. Professors would stop by and give special lectures. The dining halls had some of the best curly fries Stiles had ever eaten. Scott had pretty much painted the same picture of his own school. It didn’t really make it any better though.

Okay, yes, the Hale Institute of Lycanthrope Training (nicknamed HILT, to many teenage snickers) was important. Young werewolves and newly turned alike were taught to control their anger, their shifts, and the powers given to them. Ages ranged from pubescent to newly turned in their 30s (much older and the bite was unlikely to take). So classes were a bit more hodgepodge than Stiles’ school, which had a straight curriculum of junior and senior high school level courses. A sister school to HILT, the Hale Center for Companion Courtship (called HC cubed by most, Pet School by douches) was just as well maintained as HILT. Sometimes an odd older student would join, someone who may have caught a werewolf’s eye but not necessarily have classic Companion qualities. And just what were classic Companion qualities?

Well... that was debatable. As in Stiles debated them a lot, with just about anyone who would listen. The most obvious was, naturally, the scent that the students had, something that apparently any werewolf worth his or her salt could sense. It increased attraction, though not to the point where most wolves couldn’t control it, except perhaps a new Turned during a full moon or bloodlust. It was a pretty scientifically sound theory that there was a biological factor that made Companions smell attractive to wolves.

The other factors sounded like complete bullshit. Like about Companions having certain dispositions for submission, and a personality built around wanting to please. Fuck that, Stiles was a strong independent man who didn’t need no wolf. Submitting was straight up taught in classes. Don’t talk back, try to reason not argue, never run away when your Mate was in heat. Mate? More like owner. There was a reason Companions were called Pets. God Stiles hated it, the hypocrisy of it all. An honor? More like a life sentence.

Okay, for some people it was kind of an honor. There was no denying that being a Companion had perks. Wolves were the high ends of society, the c’est bonne of the c’est bonne. They had wealth and power, were the highest paid models (because they were basically all gorgeous) and the top CEOs. Take the Hale family, for instance. They got huge donations from every wolf born student, and government subsidies for every Turned. Companions were basically “sold off” to the highest bidders, compensation for training. Right, well, not exactly sold off. Companions did have the right to leave a wolf if they were mistreated, and the Hales were also in charge of that. At least Stiles had some basic human rights left.

But for people like Lydia Martin, the only other person in Stiles’ class who had also been selected as a Companion? Yeah, it was a social status money couldn’t even begin to buy. Oh Lydia, what sweet torture it was when Stiles had found out his all time crush was going to be with him for the next two years. Not that it mattered, because every Companion was forced to remain ‘pure’ before being given to their Mates. Not that that mattered, since Lydia still didn’t give him the time of day, despite declaring that Danny and Stiles would have to include her in sneaking out plans once she had somehow figured out that they were leaving. And, thinking back on it, maybe Scott and Allison would have never fallen in love if that hadn’t happened.

Because Allison was Lydia’s friend, a Companion selected in San Francisco before moving to the dorms. She sure was a lot nicer than the red head, all smiles and dimples, and it was no wonder Scott had basically gone head over heels for the girl the first night Lydia had brought Allison along with them. The sickeningly sweet star crossed lovers would often go into a corner to kiss and cuddle, and Scott often bemoaned the fact that they weren’t allowed to do anything until the wolf claimed her when they graduated.

Stiles didn’t have such luck, despite discovering that he was fine to bat for both fields. Lydia and Jackson got together, and broke up, and got together again, and it was always up in the air if they would pair up after graduation. Erica and Boyd were lucky in that they found each other, which was rare. For some reason Wolves were often hostile rather than attracted to each other. The two didn’t have any reason to remain ‘pure,’ much to the rest of the groups disgruntlement. Even Danny had occasional flings with other wolves. The guy was so well liked that his preference in men didn’t even matter, he would probably have tons of proposals once he graduated and have his pick of the litter.

So, even though Stiles could have a choice out of the proposals he would inevitably receive after graduation, it just didn’t matter much. There was no one he really wanted to choose. And so, as graduation loomed ever closer, so did Stiles’ dread. Sure, it was horrible to be given away like a hunk of meat, but what happened when there was no takers?

+++

It turned out a lot of things happened after graduation. Scott got to be with Allison, despite the fact he was basically broke. Her loan would have taken the wolf a lifetime to pay off if it wasn’t so likely Scott was going to be rolling in the bank. Even Turned were pretty much guaranteed a well off job with minimal searching. Jackson and Lydia got together (guess they were more in love than it appeared). Danny was actually rare. He had shown such aptitude for computer technology that the government had intervened and whisked him away to a far off facility for special training. Stiles wondered if Danny would get a Mate after the training, and couldn’t help but feel jealous. Sure, Stiles could get a job. That is, if his mate let him.

And about that... Well, it wasn’t all that rare for a Companion to graduate without offers right away. Stiles was to remain in the school until a match had been settled. And that involved some very awkward interviews in the meantime.

The first was with a vivacious woman who made Stiles think that, hey, maybe this being a Pet wasn’t such a bad thing. She had taken one look at him, made a face, and walked out the room. Whoa, way to be an ego booster lady, would you like to take a kick at his nuts while you’re at it? Just in case you didn’t take away his manliness enough already.

The second was an older man, probably in his late 40s, and that was really weird to think that a man his father’s age might bid for Stiles. Sure the guy was attractive in that DILF leaning towards GILF kind of way, but it was kind of awkward thinking of the age difference. The man basically winced through a few questions before admitting that his daughter had set up the interview, and that he wasn’t ready to take on a new Companion. The sadness that creeped into the man’s eyes as he spoke of his late wife made Stiles uncomfortable with how much it reminded him of his dad talking about his mom. He hoped that the werewolf was honest about not placing a bid.

The third was a big surprise. Isaac had graduated with Scott, but had only joined the friend group late in senior year. Stiles wouldn’t call him a close friend, but the guy had been through a lot and was pretty close to Scott.

Isaac looked just as surprised, and smiled awkwardly as he sat down. “Sorry, I only looked at the first name when I signed up. I didn’t realize it was you.”

It was obvious Isaac hadn’t been harboring secret feelings for Stiles, and he wasn’t sure if he was disappointed or relieved. Isaac was handsome, and though he was a bit cocky at times Stiles got the feeling that was just a facade put on after being Turned. The wolf had some genuine moments, especially with Scott. Actually, Stiles had been a bit jealous before he learned about Isaac’s dad. If anything could help heal sadness, it was Scott.

“That’s okay. I haven’t exactly hit the jackpot either,” Stiles joked. “And these interviews aren’t helping.”

Isaac winced in sympathy. “Yeah, talk about awkward. Half of them hate you on sight and half practically jump in your lap. I’m getting dizzy with all these mixed signals.”

“Doesn’t feel very... natural, does it? Like, you’re suppose to meet your true love by chance, at a coffee shop or something. But we can’t do that. No, we get five minutes of 20 questions.”

Isaac smiled at that. “Anyone ask you about sex kinks yet?”

“Oh god,” Stiles cried, horrified. “They do that?”

It turned out that yes, they did. Often. Stiles had no idea what felching was, but that was one Google search he wasn’t about to pop the smartphone out for. He also wasn’t sure what the werewolf kink with bondage was, or just why his skin would look so great against leather. He definitely wasn’t sure if his shocked reactions was helping deter those certain individuals either. Both the women and men kept giving him hungry looks that made him shiver, and not not not in a good way.

Finstock, a man who was neither Werewolf nor Companion yet somehow in charge of Stiles’ interviews, decided to give the teen a pep talk after an hour or so.

“We’ve gotten a great reaction kid, just great. Only they’re saying you’re being a bit... what was the word? Oh. Dumbass.”

Stiles wanted to point that one couldn’t be dumbass, but the last thing he needed was to add fuel to the fire which was a Finstock rant. God, how did his economics teacher end up being a mediator for Stiles’ fate?

Finstock was nowhere near finished with that sentiment. “Show some enthusiasm Stilinksi, or you’ll be picking from the bottom of the barrel. Do you understand how horrible the bottom of the barrel is in these situations? Rotten apples don’t fall far from the tree. So I highly, highly suggest you start learning to show a bit of enthusiasm if you don’t want to be barreling rotting apples for the rest of your life.”

Behold, the glory which was the Finstock rant. Basically so incomprehensible that the original point was often lost by the end of it.

“Now this next interview is probably the most important of your life, and more importantly, my career.” Finstock looked down at the clipboard in his hands. “If I can be the one to land this guy a Companion I’ll be set, and you’ll be set for life too. So if you want to stop fishing for rotten apples, I suggest you don’t throw this one back in the barrel.”

“Who is it?” Stiles asked, gleaming that Finstock meant that the next wolf was going to be an important figure, which probably meant rich. Or, well, richer.

“Derek Hale.” Finstock gave Stiles a pointed look. “He’s rejected every interview he’s ever been in, and his Uncle’s put him through a lot, so don’t feel special, Princess. But if you can pull this off, there’s no two ways about it. You’ll be set for life, living a luxury life of nice, ripe, not rotten apples.”

Stiles answered with a shrug. “I’ll give it the old college try.”

Really, there was no reason to get worked up. No way Derek Hale was going to pick him. The guy was notorious for being a recluse after his family was burned alive, leaving only him, his sister, and his Uncle. It would take a Companion a lot more special than Stiles to spark the werewolf’s interest. And, what with Derek’s messed up past, was that really a bad thing?

Stiles had no idea that he was about find out.