Author: Juxian Tang
Warning: AU, corporal punishment
Disclaimer: I don't own Prince of Tennis
Summary: There is a special clause in the rules of Rikkai tennis club, and Kirihara brings an unexpected kind of punishment upon himself
Notes: Lots of thanks to Syl for beta.
Corporal punishment is forced pain intended to change a person's behavior or to punish them (Wikipedia)
Kirihara's face twitches - like with static electricity.
The brash smile on his lips disappears for a moment and then it is back there, wild and defiant. Sanada raises his arm again and now the whip cuts across the right shoulder. Kirihara squints to see the end of the welt reaching his collarbone.
The welt is thin and bright red, as if drawn with a red pencil. But it hurts unjustly more than something so insignificant should.
Under the stares of his teammates Kirihara pulls onto the belts that twine around his wrists, clenching the stretched leather, fortifying himself against the next blow. And it comes, another 'thwack', tightly plaited cord against skin, and the smile is still on his lips, desperate and haunted - and who cares, who will notice it isn't in his eyes, never has been there. Everyone pays attention to Kirihara's eyes only when they go red, and they are not red now - but dark and wide open, and maybe somewhat lost - as if he can't quite figure out where he is.
Well, it's surely not a fairy tale.
Oh there is no reason for him to feel confused. He's got the idea, got it all right. Yukimura is pretty clear in his little speech. Intolerable behavior. Justified penalty. Crossed the line one time too many. In other words, Kirihara Akaya is too much to handle for the team. Everyone's got fed up with his frolics, his wildness, his impertinence, his outbursts of violence. The only way to keep him in line is that, after all.
Yukimura tells him the rules of the club allow such a punishment - doesn't Kirihara remember, he should've been told about it when signing-up? The other thing is that the clause is exceptionally rarely applied.
"Oh. So I'm, like, exclusive?" Trust Kirihara to make that sound like an achievement; and his face only falls a little at the infinite sadness in Yukimura's eyes.
He acts unconcerned, walking to the posts with the belt loops ready for his wrists.
Funny, as many times as he saw those posts near the clubhouse, he never wondered what they were for. He cheers up, tosses his head back with indubitable "Bring it on!" in his expression - staring rebelliously around, catching the eyes of each of his comrades for a moment. Marui is chewing; Yagyuu looks politely bored; Niou leans against the wall, his arms crossed. Whatever else, they all seem completely unimpressed.
And Sanada's face is closed, shut, like a bricked-up aperture, yes, anything to have to do with bricks, or walls, or stones. This non-expression makes him look like a statue of some deity, neither cruel nor kind, just implacable. A minor deity, though… because the major one, the one who has them all in the palm of his gracious hand - is standing right there, almost blinding in his passivity and composure. Yukimura… And the truth is that Kirihara's smile is here for him - a challenge, almost an insult, an attempt to win. Let Yukimura see his smile, not the tiny drops of cold sweat breaking on his temples.
If Yukimura wants to see him punished, fine, Kirihara will oblige. If Yukimura thinks it necessary to deal with him like that, didn't find, didn't want to find another way to cope with him - let it be. And the absurd hurt of *betrayal* - do-I-deserve-it? - is buried so deep that Kirihara would hardly believe if someone said it was even there. But it makes him smile brighter, like today's almost the best day in his life.
"Are you going to demonstrate your Invisible Swing today, Sanada-fukubuchou?" he drops as Sanada tightens the belts around his wrists. Sanada doesn't answer, just gives him a dull, dark stare from under the peak of his cap. It looks like the captain's stand-in isn't completely happy with the responsibilities his position lays on him. Kirihara grins and writhes in the bonds slightly, not even noticing it and without realizing how obvious his tension is for everyone.
His hair feels soft as it falls onto his nape when he raises his face in anxiety.
Another welt crosses his back, between his shoulder-blades, and Kirihara involuntarily rises on his tiptoes. But it's nothing serious, really, he's been hurt much worse that that; surely he will be able to stand it - not only without a cry but keeping a smile.
Thwack. A stripe of stinging pain goes over the small of his back, making him lean forward. He feels softness of his lip between his teeth - and at some point the absence of taste suddenly becomes copper and salt.
Another stroke - like a splash of boiling water over his shoulder. The muscles of his face start hurting, with the smile he tries to hold.
He tenses waiting for the next blow, wondering despite himself where it'll land. Damn, Sanada, do you have to be so thorough? Can't we just finish it quickly and be done with it?
"Nine," a placid voice of Yanagi recites. It's the voice that Kirihara usually rather enjoys hearing, at least it seldom causes him a burst of antipathy; but he can't help wondering if from now on everything that Yanagi-sempai says will be colored for him in these ascending numbers.
Yukimura stands in front and slightly on the left of him - where Kirihara can see him perfectly. But it is almost excessive because there is no way Kirihara can forget his presence. After all, it is what matters most: the looks he gives Yukimura, every one of them having a meaning.
Do you think you can change me like that, Captain? Do you think I'll learn the lesson? The lesson you give me… but I didn't ask for one.
He isn't even sure what this lesson is supposed to be. He's mildly surprised that Yukimura could even think it would bring any good. He should've understood Kirihara better - because Kirihara sometimes feels so completely transparent before the soft stare of Yukimura's slanting eyes.
Something trickles down his back, he doesn't know if it is blood or sweat. It surprises him that he can discern such a minor sensation, since it seems to him all his back is on fire - and every next blow of Sanada adds a little more fuel to this fire.
"Nineteen," Yanagi counts. This voice is just as toneless as it sounds when he referees and declares a taken point. In the pause between the count and the next blow Marui suddenly pops his bubble-gum loudly - and Kirihara jerks, as if feeling the next blow landing on his back and trying to escape it.
His face flushes - deep, dark red - to the degree of blood rumbling in his ears. He's given himself away, despite his efforts. They all must have noticed it - that he was so afraid of the next lash that he's imagined it before it touches his skin.
Through this noise he barely hears Niou say something - and probably it's for the better, Kirihara can only imagine what an inventive joke his slip could cause.
"Shut up," someone answers, probably Jackal, isn't he in a charitable mood today?
"Taking into account how Akaya is faring so far, it is highly probable that he won't be able to stand it to the end in silence," Yanagi says, his voice as quiet as before, and it reaches Kirihara clearly, unlike Niou's previous remark. And strangely, his words hurt - much more than whatever Niou said probably would. Kirihara bites his lip harder when the next blow comes.
See? I'm not crying out. Now how about sending your data to the dump?
But he flinches hugely; the next lash seems to crack his skin open, much stronger and harder than those it all has started with. Is Sanada, like, getting a taste for it?
"Just three more left." It's a mumble behind him, something that Kirihara can almost think he's simply imagined - but the sheer surprise it sends through him is undeniably real. Sanada seldom talks to him; hasn't said a word to him since Kirihara has brought this punishment onto himself.
And for some reason Kirihara knows that these words are not like what Niou and Yanagi said; they are not meant for others.
Just for him - for them both because it has somehow connected them tightly, this exchange of pain, of taking and administering the punishment.
But he sees how the eyes of Yukimura narrow into blinding slits - because nothing escapes the captain's notice, and these words are not exclusion.
Twenty-three. Twenty-four. Twenty-five. Kirihara doesn't make more than a hiss, letting go his bleeding lip. His fingernails have left indentations in the leather of the belts. Kirihara stands, pulling on the belts with his weight, rolling from heels to toes and looking up, at the dimming sky above him.
It's a victory, isn't it? He's won over Niou's meanness, over everybody's indifferent just-being-there, over Yanagi-sempai's data - he hasn't cried out, not even once. He's won over Yukimura. Whatever the captain planned to achieve, isn't there. It hasn't changed Kirihara at all. At all. Nothing like that ever does, doesn't Yukimura know? Kirihara's parents are daft, still trying to find a way to tame him through a punishment; but Yukimura, he should've known better. But maybe it's in the nature of people, after all, blunder like that. And Kirihara giggles - because he feels good right now, he feels brave and smart and just like a winner should.
But it takes him an effort of will not to jerk away when he feels the heat of Sanada's body next to him, the vice-captain's hard fingers loosening the belts around his wrists. And Kirihara knows that even though he's managed not to, Sanada still has noticed, somehow: his face shuts down even more, gloomy and expressionless.
He doesn't fall on his knees when the belts don't support him any more, nothing like that - he doesn't even feels prone to it. He felt worse after a bad match, for example, when he was defeated by Yukimura, or Sanada, or Yanagi, during his first year. Then Kirihara was on his knees on the court, breathing hard and shivering. Now he keeps standing straight easily, only his body is stiff.
His back hurts but he can bear it. It's more like he feels lightheaded for some reason - as laughter keeps breaking from his lips.
"Calm down," Sanada says. "You're hysterical."
Hysterical, who? That's a funny idea; but Kirihara still does his best to suppress laughter. Okay, he won't laugh if Sanada finds it offensive.
Others around start talking now. They don't talk to Kirihara but among themselves, as if the long silence tired them out… and taking into account how much some of them enjoy talking, it might be so.
"Let's go," Sanada says, "I'll walk you to the showers."
His hand squeezes Kirihara's upper arm firmly but not painfully, and Kirihara feels both grateful for this unexpected support and insulted with the idea that he might want it.
"No need for that, Sanada."
Yukimura's voice is bland and quiet - but Sanada looks as if Yukimura has slapped him. The hand still lingers - and Kirihara understands that it may be as close to rebellion against the captain as Sanada will ever get.
"Sanada," Yukimura repeats a little sharper.
And the hand that has held the whip just a short while ago is gone - but before that Kirihara still manages to say flippantly: "As if I can't get there by myself!" - to make it all look like his own choice.
He really can, and he walks to the showers with an easy gait, just a little faster than usual because he's just curious to see in the mirror how his back looks like.
Hmm. It *is* ugly. The welts have swollen for some reason, become thick, pink and puffy, standing out on his skin.
Kirihara gingerly touches one. It seems to him it should feel like some kind of repulsive caterpillar - and he is surprised with a jolt of pain that goes through his body with the touch.
The voices behind the windows of the clubhouse fade. The last one is Marui who sticks his head into the door and tosses a bunch of keys on the floor.
"Lock the room, will ya?"
It's good that they are gone. There's nothing to appreciate but Kirihara is still grateful to them for leaving him alone. He's smart enough to bite his lip before stepping under the shower - and it is a good thing he does.
"Taking into account how it stings, it is highly probable that Akaya won't be able to stand it without screaming," he whispers imitating Yanagi when his breath is no longer caught in his throat. Yes, it stings; so hard that it brings tears to his eyes - and he has to press his palm against the wall to support himself. He stands in the empty showers, under pouring water - and he cackles… because he doesn't want to moan.
And when the water is turned off - and somebody steps behind him, arms wrapping him in a big towel, soft but still harsh on his raw skin - it only slightly surprises Kirihara.
"Sanada," he says leaning against the body behind him, his eyes closing. And jerk open as he's yanked around abruptly - and a voice sharper than a handful of needles snaps at him:
"That would be 'Sanada-fukubuchou' for you."
Kirihara's eyes open wide, and his mouth drops open as well, his voice almost gone as he whispers:
Yukimura holds his shoulders, hands hard through the towel and slightly hurting the welts there - and Yukimura's stare is lazy and searching from under the half-lowered eyelashes. It is the most beautiful face Kirihara has seen in his life. He feels his heart tremble in his chest, like a bird squeezed in a fist, ready to be crushed.
"Did you…" he asks, the insolence of this question almost too much even for him. "Did you get what you wanted, Captain? Did it… do any good?"
Yukimura's hands get heavier, strangely heavy for someone so slim, as he keeps looking at Kirihara. Then his gentle lips move - and Kirihara thinks that when he looks at these lips so close he doesn't see anything else. That's so simple not to see anything else when Yukimura is near.
"It hurt me more than it hurt you, believe me," Yukimura says.
And Kirihara answers:
"I believe you," mainly because he would answer that even if Yukimura said that the moon was made of cheese.
"As for whether it did any good," Yukimura continues, "we'll see."
"Fine with me," Kirihara retorts. Even if he doesn't exactly know what 'fine' is in the world that Yukimura's closeness is redefining right at this moment.
Yukimura touches Kirihara's mouth with his lips, soft and insistent, and his tongue slides in, knowing exactly what it does and what it needs - and it seems to Kirihara that his mouth starts burning, even though Yukimura's kiss is just warm, nothing more.
Yukimura backs up a little and holds his face while breathing on his lips that seem so tender now, as if skinned raw - and it seems to Kirihara that the only stability in his world is these palms holding his cheeks because everything else swims around him madly - but he doesn't care. Yukimura's thumb touches the corner of his eye.
"No," he says indignantly. Hasn't Yukimura seen? He's smiled all the way. "Who the fuck would be crying over something like that?"
But for some reason his vision gets funny right now, as if something is clouding it - and when Kirihara blinks, there is wetness on his eyelashes that he could swear hasn't been there a moment ago. How could it be? He hasn't cried before; what has Yukimura done to make him…
And Yukimura smiles at him with this pale evanescent smile of his, and pulls Kirihara closer, kissing his hair.
"You're forgiven now," he says, and his long fingers wrap around Kirihara's stiff cock.
"What are you…" But Kirihara is already beyond words and even thoughts, dizzy with pleasure, reeling in Yukimura's embrace. And the truth is he knows what Yukimura is doing. He wishes he didn't. Because as his body melts in pleasure under Yukimura's caress, he knows that he hasn't won today, not at all. There has been this final game he hasn't known about, the crucial one. And Yukimura has taken it, game and match.
I'll be anything you want. Kirihara doesn't say and he doesn't need to because Yukimura knows it; and because Kirihara already *is* becoming what the captain wants - already changing, already rejecting parts of himself, parts of what he feels - for the sake of being with Yukimura, for being taken along with him.
And it scares Kirihara but it also feels good. Like the first shot of drug into your vein does.