Full summary: In the oppressive Kaiba Boarding School for Boys, Seto and Jounouchi find life difficult at best. But when Jounouchi becomes a pawn in Gozaburo's schemes he finds himself caught up in Seto's horrific world. It's a long school year ahead, and as despair and depravity start to take over their lives, they can only find solace in each other.
Warnings: strong language, violence, sexual content, non-consensual sexual content.
We Are the Future
Dear Jounouchi Katsuya,
We are delighted to inform you that you have been awarded a one year scholarship at the Kaiba Boarding School for Boys, in accordance with your score of 489 out of 500, which is considered an exceptional grade for even this, the most prestigious of schools.
We look forward to your joining us on the 1st of September for the first term of school. We hope you enjoy your stay at our school and welcome you most sincerely to our student body.
With the highest regards,
Jounouchi reread the letter once again, rather pointlessly as he now knew it by heart. He took a deep breath of the barely cool air filtering in through the open coach window. The temperature was unbearable, the open windows doing little to alleviate the heat. He read aloud his high score, 489, and looked to the boy sitting beside him.
"What does it say you got, Yuugi?"
Yuugi held a nigh identical letter, printed on the same fine, cream paper in elegant font. "494." He glanced out of the coach window, looking faintly sad. "I left out the final essay question. That was worth 20 marks alone."
"It's quite strange," came Bakura's soft voice, knelt on the seats behind him, hands crossed beneath his chin. None of the many students crammed into the overheated coach were sitting in their allocated places, most leaning over the backs or sides of their plastic backed chairs, exercising their last moments of freedom.
"I really want to believe we all got in again on merit," said Yuugi. "Last year, I just put it down to a fluke. But it's just not possible to only miss 6 points when you left at least 50 points' worth of questions blank."
"I don't think they're admitting us based on test scores," said Bakura quietly.
The three of them settled back into silence. They all knew it was true, but nobody was willing to discuss it. Exactly one year and two weeks ago, they had all been mailed a letter notifying their acceptance into the Kaiba Boarding School. They had taken the scholarship exam on a whim, really just as a laugh to see how badly they did, and somehow, brilliantly, they had all been offered a place.
"Perhaps we should be thankful," murmured Bakura, his head resting like a doll against the headrest of the dully patterned orange seat. "It's the school with the best reputation in the country. Perhaps the continent."
"It's a fucking concentration camp, not a school," Jounouchi spat back, falling back to his seat from where he had been surreptitiously trying to dispose of a cigarette outside the window. "I hate it. I know I say it every day, but I hate it."
Outside the filthy window, the houses started to morph into lines of cultivated trees, and the road narrowed into a thin one-way drive, sloping elegantly up to the front of the school.
"Sometimes I wonder," Yuugi said quietly, his head against the window as they moved steadily towards the grey brick building of the school. "If you jumped off the highest tower, just how long you would be falling before you hit the ground."
A strange silence hung over every pupil that entered the main hall, setting in as they passed through the knowing looks of the gargoyles surrounding the main doors. You couldn't lose yourself in the excitement of seeing new friends, or get caught up in the wave of nostalgia, because all memories made here were made to be forgotten.
Jounouchi immediately lost the company of the rest of the group as he stepped inside, separated by a mass of students clamouring to find the staircases to go up, the right notice boards to read and people to locate. There were plenty of familiar faces, people he recognised and had never spoken to, people he was friends with, and people he hated. Nobody acknowledged one another.
As he scanned the crowd, his eyes drifted up to the top balcony, the one that connected the teachers' private quarters to the more… private areas of the school. You hardly ever saw anyone up there, but today there was one familiar figure. He was leaning onto the stone of the balcony, standing dressed in the black formalwear, providing a harsh contrast to the final bout of rainbow the students had donned before they had to revert to their uniforms.
He stood looking out at the students with a quiet boredom. For a brief, surreal moment, Jounouchi and Kaiba's eyes met, the boy looking down at Jounouchi's inquisitive features for less than a second before he looked away again. Jounouchi continued to stare, not really noticing as he was jostled back and forth by the sea of students, as Kaiba turned and walked slowly back along the balcony, his hand trailing over the rail. He wasn't going to the teacher's quarters, of course. He had his own room, being the son of the headmaster. Down on the ground, Jounouchi pulled a face and turned himself roughly in the direction of his dormitory.
"Oh great," said Jounouchi sarcastically. "New uniforms."
And indeed they had; a little dark blue pile on each of the twelve beds all neatly folded and perfectly positioned. He watched as Bakura unravelled the clothing, a long elegant pair of navy trousers and a white shirt, covered in a little matching navy jacket, to one another by a plain metal hanger. There tumbled onto the bed from the opened package of clothing a pair of silver cufflinks, a blue striped tie and a pair of light black dress shoes.
"Are they any better than last year's?" Yuugi's voice, forcing its way out from behind his wet hair which was dipped into the sink, the boy smearing cheap black dye into his multicoloured locks. "Mine were about three sizes too small."
"No, these look even worse," Jounouchi replied, carefully scrutinising the tiny waistband of the trousers folded on his own bed. "I hate it here." He threw them back upon the bed and then threw himself on top of them, looking up at the yellowing white of the ceiling. "Managed to raise a bit of cash over the break so I paid to have last year's uniform tailored so it would actually fit. You know what happened?"
"They mysteriously disappeared from your suitcase?" asked Yuugi.
"Right. Right!" He rubbed his hands over his face, calloused from whatever manual labour he had been working on. "Along with the booze I tried to smuggle in a hollowed out text book. Bastards."
From across the sink Yuugi nearly choked on thin air and Bakura looked up with utter shock on his face. "Jounouchi, if they hear you-"
"No one's around," Jounouchi waved a hand, falsely blasé, fleeting panic washing over his face, little waves of urgency. "I mean… They wouldn't… I'm just out of practice, that's all. When lessons start I'll stop swearing."
"And the slang," Yuugi's voice again, letting the inky water drain slowly out of the sink. "They'll get you even worse for that." He ran his hands through his hair, moaning in a disgruntled way at his reflection. "It's not working; now it's just three different shades of murky black. I told them it was naturally different colours; I had grandpa write them a note." He gave Jounouchi a reproachful look. "I don't understand why they let your ridiculous fringe pass without comment."
Jounouchi shook his hair about proudly. "I'm a rebel." Yuugi threw the towel at him, then, and Jounouchi threw it back at Bakura.
"Really, I can't go to class like this; they'll send me straight back." He emptied the bottle of dye upside down and a few mournful, inky drops fell into the sink. "I don't have any left… What am I going to do… What am I going to do…"
Jounouchi was late. Too late. Criminally late.
After a late night talking with his friends he'd fallen asleep at lunch, and now afternoon classes were starting and he had to get to his form group at the other side of the school. His shoes squeaked a little on the polished wood floor as he desperately tried to slow his pace as he rounded a corner. A surge of adrenaline shot through him as he saw the prefect at the end of the corridor, the dark head turning for a fraction of a second before it was hidden by the corner of the wall, Jounouchi lurching back out of sight.
The clacking of polished boots on polished floor, the perfect rhythm of the perfect student making its way down the corridor. Prefects. Chosen for privilege, not talent or skill. Jounouchi wouldn't get given a prefect badge even if he turned himself into the perfect emotionless clone that they all had to aspire to be.
The footsteps slowed and then stopped. Jounouchi took a breath, turning his head a little to the direction they had been coming from. Then they started up again, slowly getting quieter as they walked off in the other direction.
Jounouchi let out a slow breath, relief flooding through him. He turned back around the corner, and immediately froze as he saw who was standing in said corridor.
The pale figure was gazing thoughtfully out after the prefect, a small silver badge fastened to his lapel, although bearing a different symbol to the prefect badge. It was all there, the signs of the perfect pupil: the well fitted, well ironed navy jacket with all the buttons done up so that not a millimetre of skin on his neck showed, the white shirt beneath, only visible by the bleached cuffs. The silver cufflinks with the school crest on each one. The matching navy trousers that clung too tightly and fell at just the right length over the gleaming black shoes. Perfection.
How Jounouchi hated him, and everything he stood for.
"The great Kaiba Seto," crowed Jounouchi, spitting out the name as if it were a bad taste. The figure turned his head, empty blue eyes looking his inferior up and down briefly before alighting on his face. "Didn't expect to see you late to class."
He watches as Kaiba considers his reply, the faintest brush of a frown preceding the words. And when he speaks, everything is measured exactly and utterly perfectly. "I have reason to be. I have duties to attend to. You, on the other hand, have neither." His arms fell to his sides, his voice dropping the classical lilt. "And you should be thanking me, bonkotsu. You'd have been in detention if he had caught you here."
"Don't bother, I can take care of myself," Jounouchi retorts, eyes going to the hall clock to check the time.
For a fleeting moment a sad smile crosses Kaiba's lips. He recognised the bluff. It's one he's played himself so many times. "Of course," he said quietly, without sarcasm. For a moment he hesitated, trying not to think about the kind of punishment the idiot blond would have received if he had been caught. And then the mask came back, all snide curl of the lip and knowing smirk. "Of course. But you're nevertheless late and I would more than happy to put your name on the detention list myself."
"Yeah, yeah," Jounouchi starts to saunter towards his classroom, not wanting to test Kaiba's limits, not when he was given such an unfair advantage. "I could talk my way out of it."
Kaiba's eyes fell into a dead glare, cold eyes burning into the back of Jounouchi's head. "Like Gaku talked his way out of it?"
He stops his slothful walk and exchanges the glare with ferocity. "Don't you dare joke about that,"
Kaiba shrugs, his gaze moving to stare out of the window at the perfectly cultivated lawn. "I'm not. I'm just reminding you to drop the frivolity a notch or two." He lowers his eyes again, a sick smile twisted his mouth. "Or you'll end up just like him."
Jounouchi pulls a face and turns back to the classroom once more. Gaku… He's buried in the school cemetery under a faceless headstone, cleaned weekly by those in detention. The engraving is clear and emotionless. "Sato Gaku" (three centimetre gap before the next line) "12th June 1990 - 19th November 2006" (another gap) "First year student" (the final gap, and then in twenty percent bigger font:) "Rest in peace". It wasn't his fault. And it wasn't the school's fault either, or so the papers claimed. He was too ill for corporal punishment; he had a weak heart; he couldn't take it.
None of the students believed a word of it.
By some miracle, Jounouchi managed to slip into class a moment before the teacher did. He ignored his work freely, looking instead at the heads of his fellow students, noting with a smile how easily you could distinguish us from them. The subtle nuances that helped you tell who was on your side and who… well, wasn't. Who didn't support the institution. Who did.
"Alright class," Everyone looked to the front in varying degrees of wakefulness. The teacher, Yoshida, a short man with a laughably bad comb-over and a little too fat around the middle, surveyed the class with lifeless eyes, hidden behind thick, distorting glasses. "Two minutes until first period -Mori, take the books in at the bell- so I just wanted to remind you all of tonight's dinner-" He doesn't need to remind them, of course. Every Friday night it's the formal dinner, with every single school pupil and teacher in attendance. "-and that you should all be on your best behaviour, alright?"
"Now," He walks around from behind his desk to the front, sitting on its edge and causing it to creak loudly, complaining at its very existence, no doubt. "I'd like to welcome you all back after the long holiday. It's your final year here, so I expect you all to be working as hard as you possibly can. There are to be no excuses this year for slovenliness or any other nonsense. Is that clear, class?"
"Yes, sir," The dead chorus of twenty voices -no, nineteen, one seat is empty- chimes out. The empty seat is Kaiba Seto's, of course, Jounouchi wonders why he didn't notice before. But then, he's hardly ever in class. More often he has private lessons at the headmaster's insistence.
The headmaster, of course, the most respected and honourable Kaiba Gozaburo.
Utter nausea at the mere mention of the name.
They hate him. They all hate him. His own son hates him, his never seen wife hates him, and yet, everyone greets him with a smile and a bow. He could kill you with a snap of his fingers if he wished. He's not just any headmaster, of course. He's the headmaster of the most prestigious school in Japan -hell, maybe even all of Asia, maybe even the world- and descended from god-knows-who, but born into money and power and more than comfortable with those inheritances.
The bell goes, a dull three second klaxon, and Jounouchi shuts his book and waits for it to be collected. He watches a boy bearing the silver prefect badge pick it up as he passes, throwing Jounouchi a superior smirk.
Jounouchi restrained himself, gritting his teeth as he stood.
Kaiba Seto watched the students laid out beneath him like crops in a field, his face expertly blank. They were more like weeds, really. He watches them, tearing into their dinner with revolting abandon, laughing, talking with full mouths. He sits above them all, at the staff table, back straight and food untouched. I hate them all.
"There are less than last year," Seto's voice is almost inaudible, barely the whisper of the wind. "I've counted."
Next to him, his father moves his head a little closer to Seto's, never taking his eyes off the plethora of students lying out before them. He thinks of them more like ants, mindless ants desperately working to please each other. He finds it even more pathetic than his son does.
"Why do you care?" He's about to turn back to his food, the rich plates loaded with even richer food, all the highest quality. You can almost taste the money as you swallow mouthful after choking mouthful. "It's a waste of time thinking about them. Do something useful instead."
"And what would you suggest?" He wishes he could muster the energy to be sharp-tongued, to cut down his father's superior tone. But he swallows the words. He can use them on someone who doesn't carry a gun in his belt. "Term hasn't even started yet, and already I'm bored." He hides a smirk with a turn of the head, adding a dry "Sir."
Next to him, his foster father laughs. More than derisive; simply dismissing anything Seto could have ever made of himself. "Shut up and eat your dinner," Seto's muscles clench beneath his shirt as the faintest ghost of a kiss is placed on his cheek. He refuses to look up at the man on his left, instead keeping his eyes fixed on the cold plate of vegetables and small scraps of meat in front of him. He feels like vomiting.
He remains in silent obedience as his father stands, the only student who's eyes are not on Kaiba Gozaburo, who is ready to address the hall. There's the longest of brief silences, the man revelling in the sheer terrorised fascination he holds the hall in.
And he smiles.
"Well, I must say it's a pleasure to see you all back again," Looking at each table in turn, picking out every nameless student and mindless tutor. "Or at least, most of you. It's sad that we're missing several of our number this year…" Another of those pauses, letting you all remember exactly who those several were. Disappeared, dead, nobody knew exactly what had happened. "…But I suppose that can't be helped." He smiles again, everybody aware that he is the only soul who could have helped it, yet chose not to. "I'd like to welcome the newest year of our students, and assure you all that you're going to be for one of the most exciting and trying years of your lives, and also to greet once more our returning students, who will of course have graduation to look forward to at the end of their time here, moving out into the world after these final terms." The smile widens, the perfect wolf surveying the sheep. "I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I will."
Thank you for reading. I always appreciate reviews and it encourages me to keep writing knowing people are actually reading this fic because I know it's a bit niche, what with being both an AU and pretty dark.