Wayward of the Flock

Yosh! I'm writing another chapter! Twice in the same year, what's gotten into me?

A harsh scraping sound woke Yusuke a few hours later. He gave a little spasm and opened his eyes, sitting straight up in bed and wondering why the hell he was in pitch blackness. There was a streetlamp just below his bedroom window, so he hadn't slept in complete darkness in years. It was nearly a minute before he remembered that he was at school, and that the room he was in had no window.


Huh? Yusuke felt movement beside him and heard a low voice cursing. Curious, he reached out with one hand and grasped what felt like a shoulder. He had just realized that the shoulder was small enough that it must be Hiei's when another scraping sound hit his ears, louder this time.

"What's going on?" Yusuke asked.

"Room checks! They must have changed the schedule again!"

"Room checks?" Wait, Kurama had mentioned that earlier. "What do we do?"

"Just—just get as far to that side as you can and pretend to be asleep. Don't open your eyes until they tell you, and don't open your mouth no matter what."

This does not sound good, Yusuke thought, moving over as far as he could without falling off the mattress.

"H-Hiei?" Kurama murmured, sounding sleepy but scared.

"Shh, quiet. They're doing another check."

"But we had one last night," Kurama said worriedly.

"I know, they changed the schedule." Hiei sounded like he was trying not to panic. "Mouth shut. Not a word."

There was some shifting behind Yusuke and a slight whimper from Kurama. Yusuke had just enough time to shut his eyes before a third loud scrape sounded and the room was suddenly flooded with light from outside.

"Wake up you!"

Remembering Hiei's instructions, Yusuke opened his eyes. There were three unfamiliar boys in the doorway and another inside the room. The light abruptly went on, and as it swung from the chain Yusuke got a better look at the intruders. They were healthier than any other student he had seen at the school, tall and solid with clean, well-laundered clothes and neat hair (or in the case of the one who had turned on the light, a shaved head).

"Up," barked the boy in the middle of the room, who was apparently the leader. Kurama scrambled off the mattress immediately, Hiei crawling after him on hands and knees, and Yusuke rolled off the other side.

As the disciplinary committee grabbed the mattress and upended it, Yusuke snuck a glance at his roommates. Kurama was sitting quietly with his wide, frightened eyes on the floor and his legs tucked under him as if he wanted to make himself as small as possible. Hiei sat beside him, glaring hotly at the wall across from him, his knees pulled up under his chin.

"What are you looking at, Jaganshi? Find a spot of dirt?" sneered the boy with the shaved head. Hiei didn't answer. "Stand up, all of you."

Yusuke did as told, rising to his feet. He sent another glance across the room and froze, seeing the stain on Hiei's sleep pants.

Oh crap.

"What is that?" asked one of the boys. Kurama sent a sideways glance at Hiei and paled. "Well, what is it?"

"What does it look like?" Hiei said with the sort of angry defensiveness of a cornered animal. When two of the boys dove toward him and grabbed his arms, Hiei snarled and struggled. "Get your hands off me!"

"Why? You couldn't keep your own hands off, could you? And with them in the room too—shameless."

"I didn't do anything, I just woke up like that!"

"Sure," the leader said sarcastically. "And that's why you've got it all over your hands, huh?"

As if to stress that point, one of the boys holding Hiei's arm seized his wrist. Hiei let out a cry of fury, trying to keep his arm still, but the other boy was bigger and stronger. Hiei's pale face turned redder than Kurama's hair as his hand was pushed up to it, smearing seed all over his cheek and mouth. Yusuke was suddenly, vividly reminded of some advice he had heard about training a dog not to mess on the carpet by rubbing its nose in its own crap.

"What's wrong? Don't like it so much now?" Hiei growled at the taunt and set his teeth as the boy attempted to force his fingers into his mouth. His teeth remained firmly locked, until one of the boys punched him in the gut. Hiei gasped in pain, giving unwilling access to the fingers.

"Hah, look at the mess you made! Why don't we get that cleaned up for you, hmm?"

The boys dragged Hiei out of the room, paying no mind to his screeches and wild thrashing. Yusuke made to follow, but he had barely gotten his head out the door before Kurama grabbed his shoulders from behind.

"Oh please don't," Kurama begged him. "You'll make it worse. He hates it when people watch."

"Where are they taking him?" Yusuke demanded.

"To get cleaned up."

More scraping sounds filled the hall as doors opened, curious boys emerging from their rooms to see who was getting punished this time. They followed the disciplinary committee down the hall to the washroom. Yusuke waited for all of two minutes, but when he heard a scream he broke away from Kurama and ran to catch up to the crowd.

"Out of the way," Yusuke hissed, elbowing his way through the flock of boys. He stopped just short of the front since he was able to see over the shoulders of the other onlookers. As soon as he saw Hiei, he wished he had taken Kurama's advice and stayed in the room. He hadn't known his roommates for a full day, but this... This was the last thing he had ever wanted to see.

"Get off, damn you!" Hiei cried as he was stripped naked and dragged under a showerhead. "It wasn't my fault!"

"It's bad to lie, Jaganshi." The leader grinned darkly as the tap was turned to full blast.

Hiei screamed and shuddered violently as ice-cold water pounded down on his bare skin. The pair who had grabbed him before were holding him in place while a third boy scrubbed him with a hard-bristled brush. Once they had scrubbed Hiei's body until it was red and raw, they grabbed him by his hair and shoved his head under the spray. Hiei jerked away, sputtering, but they pushed him back under and drowned him in the freezing water.

"There, all clean now," said one of the boys in a mockingly caring voice as they tugged Hiei back. The boy brushed Hiei's soaked black hair out of his eyes and twirled a lock around his finger. "Don't you feel better now?"

Oh God, this is sick, Yusuke's mind reeled. Unable to watch any more of this torture, he shoved his way back out of the crowd, hurrying back down the hall and into his room. He ran a hand through his hair and then looked at Kurama, who had put the mattress back in place and was compulsively smoothing his hands over the blanket. His face was white and streaked with tears. He knows. He knows what they're doing. How many times has this happened?

Not long after, the disciplinary committee returned, dragging Hiei between them. They threw him back inside, where he stumbled, tripped over the edge of the mattress, and landed in a heap on top of the blanket.

"Learn some self-control," the boy with the shaved head said in a sort of dismissal, tossing Hiei's sleep pants after him. The boy looked at Yusuke and Kurama, smirking wickedly. "Have a good night."

The door closed with a crunch.

For a long moment no one dared to move. There was the scrape of a door as the disciplinary committee went to check the next room. Then, very slowly, Hiei sat up. He curled in on himself, his legs tucked up under his chin, his head bowed over his knees. He didn't bother going to retrieve his dirty pants from the corner, just sat silently on the far side of the bed. Yusuke stared at Hiei's trembling shoulders and couldn't tell if he was shaking from the cold or the force of his own resentment.

"Hiei?" Yusuke said quietly. "Are you okay, man?"

"Leave me alone."

"I-I'm sorry," Kurama whispered.

"I said leave me the hell alone!"

Kurama brought his hand to his mouth, attempting to stifle a sob. Yusuke frowned and pushed the distraught redhead toward the mattress. As Kurama climbed into the middle, leaving nearly a foot of space between himself and Hiei, Yusuke raised a hand and tugged on the light chain, returning the room to pitch blackness. When he got back into bed, as close to the edge as he could, he felt Kurama's uneven breaths tickling the back of his neck.

A few minutes passed with only Kurama's faint crying to break the silence. But soon there was a sharp, distinctly lower gasp and screams quieted against a pillow. Though Kurama eventually stopped crying, the screams continued for hours.

* * *

It was hard to look Hiei in the face the next morning.

They were woken at five thirty and dressed in silence. Kurama struggled to get his arms through his shirt sleeves without disturbing the bandaged wounds on his back, and kept looking at Hiei as if he wanted to ask for help but was too embarrassed. When Kurama looked at Yusuke pleadingly, Yusuke took a step forward. That was as far as he got before Hiei abruptly stalked toward the redhead. From the look on his face Yusuke was almost afraid that Hiei was going to attack, but the shorter boy just grabbed the sleeve of Kurama's shirt and held it open.

"Thank you," Kurama said softly as he slid his hand through.

Hiei's face contorted in disgust that Yusuke knew wasn't meant for Kurama. "Hn."

They got Kurama's arm through the sleeve, and then Hiei began to do up the front of the shirt, even though Kurama probably could have done that by himself. The redhead bit his lip, looking at his friend searchingly.

"I'm sorry," Kurama whispered, just as he had last night.

"It wasn't your fault."

"It wasn't yours either." Kurama gave Hiei one of those shy smiles that had immediately drawn Yusuke to him. Hiei actually closed his eyes and turned his face away, as if he were unable to bear it. As if the punishment last night had convinced him that he couldn't possibly be innocent.

It hurt just to look at him.

It was too quiet.

"Do they do this a lot?" Yusuke asked, more to fill the silence than anything. Hiei and Kurama blinked at him, startled.

"Oh... Oh, yes," Kurama answered as Hiei resumed dressing him. "The checks are supposed to be random, but they do twelve every month, so it's not too hard to predict if you know the disciplinary committee's class schedules. They get someone every time. Sometimes it's us, sometimes it's someone else."

Hiei did up the last button of Kurama's shirt and looked the redhead up and down, checking to make sure he hadn't missed any. He gave a short nod.

"We should go," Hiei said gruffly. "We don't want to be the last ones to breakfast."

They went down to the cafeteria together and got their food (gray oatmeal and apple juice—again, no milk). Just about every eye in the cafeteria followed Hiei, some pitying and far more mocking and amused. Yusuke glared at every one of those eyes until they shied away.

Yeah, just try to look at him. Fuckers. Yusuke raised his chin, feeling that he had to give his disgraced roommate at least this form of protection. They sat down at the same table they had shared yesterday, and this time Kurama and Hiei's roles seemed to be reversed. Hiei poked at his food listlessly while Kurama attempted to cheer him up with offerings of packets of syrup and sugar. After nearly a minute of prodding, Hiei finally managed to look at Kurama.

What do you think you're doing? Hiei's flat look seemed to say.

Kurama responded with a beat of his lashes and a softening of his eyes. Please. I don't want you to feel bad anymore.

Hiei sighed through his nose and took the sugar, ripping it open and dumping it on his oatmeal. Fine. He shoved a spoonful of the oatmeal in his mouth and rolled his eyes toward the ceiling in a look of annoyance. See? I'm eating it. Now stop staring at me, or we'll be caught.

Kurama's lips tilted up at the corners, and he quickly looked back down at his own tray, some of the distress that had been in his eyes melting away. Okay.

Yusuke watched the exchange in fascination. He had never seen so much expressed without words before. He glanced around the room, wondering if everyone here knew this nonverbal means of communication, but he couldn't see any of the telltale signs—the other boys seemed to ignore each other just as Kurama had warned him. But the way Kurama and Hiei read each other...

Well, if you really want to talk and your mouth can't do it, you're bound to find other ways.

A/N: Another chapter ended. I suddenly had inspiration to write it yesterday after suffering sleep deprivation for nearly two weeks (my new roommate and I have very different sleep patterns). *shrugs* Hiei got a bit more attention this chapter, as I'm feeling more in sync with him right now. Hope you all enjoyed that...or, well, since it wasn't particularly pleasant attention I guess enjoy isn't really the word I'm looking for here.

- Yes, schools like this do exist, though they're rare. I got the idea for this story after reading an article about them and proceeded to research them in full. If you want more information, just Google 'reform school abuse'.