If you've only seen the anime this may startle you. In the manga Sanada slaps Kirihara hard when he catches him tormenting people on the street courts. Possibly other times as well, but that's the one I've seen for myself. I get the impression corporal punishment is still a lot more common in Japan than in North America these days. On the other hand if you've only read the manga, the bit about the oni may not make much sense, as I understand that the Senbatsu training camp arc wasn't in the manga.
Series: Prince of Tennis
Warnings: It's a fic for kink bingo. It's kinky, and... not X-rated, oddly. Nuff said.
Punishment is only a deterrent to bad behaviour if it's not also a reward.
The sharp crack of flesh striking flesh was as distinctive as the sound of a tennis ball hitting the sweet spot on the racquet - and, at least on the Rikkaidai courts, nearly as common.
Kirihara's head rocked back from the force of the blow, his neck twinging in protest. The sting of it actually followed the sound, as if his brain couldn't consciously process the painful sensation until his ears told him what had happened.
For a moment he just stood there with his face turned away, breathing hard and struggling to collect himself. The burn of the backhanded slap stretched from his jaw across his cheekbone, ending just below his eye. Sanada was strong, with one of the most feared backhand volleys in all of Tokyo, and he hadn't pulled the blow at all. He never did.
Kirihara loved him a little for it.
Working his jaw to make sure it was only bruised, Kirihara finally turned to look at his vice-captain. Sanada gave him a flat look in return, the expression in his eyes closer to dissatisfaction than anger. That was the part Kirihara didn't like so much; Sanada was one of only two people in the world whose opinion Kirihara actually gave a flying fuck about. He didn't like disappointing the older boy.
But oh, gods, it was worth it for that instant of shock, of connection, when everything snapped into place and the only thing in focus was that moment in reality.
"Ten laps," Sanada said. "Next time it will be twenty. Go."
Kirihara went. His cheek throbbed with each step he took, keeping him grounded and centered. This one felt like the pain might last the whole evening, and the thought made some of the tension in his shoulders ease.
Practice was over before he was finished, and people were already leaving the clubhouse. He couldn't stop his feet from dragging a little as he made his way to his locker; it had been a brutally hard practice, and ten laps on top of that had thoroughly exhausted him.
"Hey, you're three for three this week, Akaya," Marui joked as Kirihara joined the other Regulars. "Not a single practice without pissing Sanada off enough to hit you."
"I swear it seems like you deliberately provoke him sometimes," Niou drawled. Halfway through stuffing his racquet in his bag, Kirihara froze. "You sure you're not enjoying it a little too much?"
Breathing in slowly through his nose, Kirihara forced himself to start moving again."You can only say that 'cause he's never hit you," he retorted when he was certain his voice would stay steady. "I'm gonna lose teeth one of these days."
A locker door slammed, and Kirihara glanced over to see Sanada zipping up his jacket. The senior was watching him, his face so carefully blank that Kirihara couldn't tell what he was thinking. Was he annoyed by them treating the discipline issue like a game? Or was he wondering if Niou was right?
With an effort Kirihara managed to produce a cheeky grin, and tossed a jaunty salute at Sanada, hoping the sweat on his face would be written off to the hard practice. If Sanada ever realized that Kirihara regarded the slaps as a reward, not a punishment, he would lose the one thing he'd found that helped to ground him.
One practice going by without Sanada slapping him was disappointing, but not unusual. Two in a row was a bit odd, especially since Kirihara was deliberately being obnoxious. All he got for his efforts was the promised twenty laps - twice. Three was almost unheard of, and even the rest of the club was starting to whisper that Sanada had given up on attempting to control his wildest Regular.
By the start of the fourth practice, Kirihara was frantic. The world had gone sharp-edged and disjointed, and it was hard to focus on what people were saying and doing around him. The oni was louder than it had been in weeks, ghosting along the edges of his vision and taunting him. He was sure it was obvious to everyone else, that people were whispering and giggling behind his back, but when he looked he never managed to catch any of them at it.
As he did his warm-up drills he told himself that he'd managed just fine for thirteen years before he'd even met Sanada. He didn't need the other boy, it just helped. Fuck, it wasn't like it would be hard to find someone else willing to hit him; all he had to do was go hang out at one of their rival schools and taunt the players a bit. The trick was finding someone who would stop after just hitting him once.
A gaggle of first years moved by, heading to another court to do their own warm-ups and racquet drills. Kirihara eyed them. They were so awkward and gangly, uncertain of their bodies and their movements, especially on the courts. It would be so easy to break one of them, not even a challenge. He was absolutely forbidden to toy with them, that was one of the first rules Yukimura had laid down when he'd allowed Kirihara to join the Regulars. Surely, surely breaking that rule would get him more than just fucking laps.
Of course, it would also disappoint not only Sanada, but Yukimura, since the story would inevitably get back to their captain. The thought of letting down the one person who had ever believed in him and given him a chance broke Kirihara's heart... but it was starting to seem worth it.
A heavy hand gripped his shoulder, tight enough to hurt. Kirihara barely managed to stifle a gasp, the tiny pain giving him an anchor at last. Not enough, not nearly enough, but at this point he'd take anything he could get. He turned to see Sanada standing next to him, looking down at him with that blank expression Kirihara could never read past.
"Try behaving for once, Kirihara," Sanada said, his voice dry. "Just once."
Then he was gone, moving on to call out to the sub-Regulars, organizing their practice matches for the day. Kirihara stared after him, trying to decipher his meaning. Obviously Sanada would always prefer him to behave, that went without saying. So why had he said it?
And why that hard grip, when Kirihara hadn't done anything yet? A warning because Sanada had seen him watching the first years like a snake watches baby chicks in the nest? Or... a promise?
With an effort he forced himself to turn away from the court where the first years were practicing, and went to join the other Regulars. If it killed him, he would not fail Yukimura, he promised himself fiercely. And just for today he would behave, and see if Sanada had actually meant anything by his words or if he'd just been scolding Kirihara on principle.
It might have been the hardest thing he'd ever done. Keeping his temper had never been one of Kirihara's strong points, and of course the moment he made up his mind to behave it seemed half the club decided to test his resolve. Having the oni constantly egging him on didn't help matters. He devoutly hoped that snarling and snarking at people didn't count as 'misbehaving', because he had to have some outlet.
Twice his control snapped and he started to lash out at the source of aggravation, but both times he caught sight of Sanada standing with his arms crossed, watching him with that neutral expression. Both times he managed to stop himself, just barely.
By the end of the practice Kirihara was drenched in sweat, and it wasn't all from physical exertion. He'd never tried so hard to control himself for so long, not when he was this bad. He wanted to hit something so much he could taste it.
Sanada said nothing to him as he called for an end to practice, didn't so much as look at him as they all trooped into the clubhouse to shower and change. Not even an offhand comment to acknowledge that Kirihara had been uncommonly well behaved. Kirihara seethed with frustration and anger, with a thread of despair running through it all.
Fuck it, he was going to the street courts. There were always people from Seigaku and Fudoumine playing there. He'd either take out his destructive urges by thoroughly breaking one of them, or provoke them into attacking him. Maybe both.
He slammed his locker shut hard enough that it made everyone in the room turn to look. He snarled back, and suddenly they all found much better things to do than stare at him. Nobody wanted to be his target at the best of times, let alone when he was already this upset.
The sound of his name drew Kirihara's attention, and he turned to find Sanada standing in the doorway of the tiny office he and Yukimura shared. When he saw that Kirihara was looking, he beckoned with two fingers and stood aside, holding the door.
Nobody ever got called into the office, unless they'd done something bad enough to warrant a private lecture as well as punishment. The whispers started even before Sanada shut the door behind him, but Kirihara didn't care. Let them talk. Let them wonder.
"What?" he snapped as Sanada turned to face him. "What? Gonna lecture me about being nice now, as well as behaving? The fuck do you want from me, Sanada? I'm not..."
His ears rang and the world spun, and then he registered the pain exploding in his jaw. He gasped as the world snapped into abrupt focus and the oni went silent, the throbbing in his cheek pounding in time with his heart. His legs gave out without warning, but strong hands caught him by the shoulders and guided him down into the chair in front of the desk.
Almost sobbing with relief, Kirihara didn't fight as Sanada pushed his head down between his knees. The bent position prevented him from getting as much air, and helped calm him. Only then did he realize he'd been hyperventilating. He started laughing, and then he couldn't seem to stop.
"Niou was right," Sanada said. "You were deliberately provoking me." His voice was even, with no hint of judgement or disgust in his tone, and when Kirihara looked up Sanada's expression was only thoughtful. "I couldn't understand why you were only getting worse the more I was forced to punish you."
"It... helps," Kirihara whispered. "Oh gods Sanada, you don't even know..." He lifted one hand to touch the new bruise on his cheek, and the contact made the pain spike sharply again. It felt all the sweeter for the long absence.
Then he tightened his shoulders and lifted his head, glaring at Sanada defiantly. He had his pride to consider. "So, what?" he demanded. "So what if I was? You gonna go tell everyone how fucked in the head I am? They already know that. Fuck you, too."
Sanada didn't react to the challenge, just watching him with one raised eyebrow until Kirihara's angry posture began to wilt. "I'm not going to tell anyone," he finally said. "It's nobody's business but yours. I will do whatever it takes to keep this team functioning and improving. If that means using corporal punishment as a reward instead, then so be it."
It took a moment for the words to sink in. When they did, Kirihara gaped at him, certain he'd misunderstood. "A reward?"
Nodding, Sanada leaned against the desk and crossed his arms. "Behave, at least as well as you are capable of, and when everyone else has left after practice we will repeat this. Act out, and you'll find yourself running laps and cleaning balls with no hope of physical punishment until after the next practice. Is that clear?"
Kirihara felt a little dizzy, and it wasn't just from the force of the blow that still had his ears ringing faintly. Sanada wasn't going to lecture him about being perverted or disturbed or just plain fucked up? He was willing to hit Kirihara as a reward?
Belatedly he realized Sanada was waiting for his response. "Clear as crystal," he said. The smile trying to spread over his lips made his cheek throb harder, which only made him smile wider. The oni was still silent, and the world was still in focus.
It would be harder to behave than it had been to act up enough to provoke Sanada into hitting him, but it would be worth it to be able to feel this connection without the far less pleasant ache in his chest caused by the disappointment in Sanada's eyes.