Touch And Go

Kirihara’s relationship to Sanada and his temper. Drama, I-3

1

The first time wasn’t really a surprise. Even one summer of observation was enough to tell anyone that Sanada-senpai had no sense of humor. But the frown he had been wearing at the end of Akaya’s smash practice was too good to resist.

“Sanada-fukubuchou,” Akaya said, as solemnly as if he were imparting the secret of immortality, “if you’re not careful, your face will freeze like that.”

The expression didn’t change one bit as Sanada-fukubuchou fetched Akaya a brisk swat across the back of the head. “Your grip is too light. Work on that,” he directed, as if Akaya had never spoken.

Akaya’s mouth quirked. “Yes, Sanada-fukubuchou.”

2

The second time, Akaya ducked out of range and the swat missed. Sanada-fukubuchou gave him a steady look.

“Two hundred laps. Now.”

Akaya made a face at Marui-senpai, who was laughing, and started running. Easier not to duck, he decided.

3

It was another three months before he stopped trying to get a rise out of his vice-captain and Sanada-fukubuchou stopped letting him.

In December.

4

“Is it really spring? It’s too cold,” Akaya complained, wrapping his jacket around him as the team finished changing. He admitted to himself that it might just be the atmosphere, with Yukimura-buchou gone, but he wasn’t about to say that out loud.

“Should we bring you flowers to cheer you up?” Niou-senpai tossed over his shoulder. “Didn’t know you liked spring so much, Kirihara.”

Akaya gave his smirking senpai an evil look. “Well, I guess that depends on how much you’re selling it for, Niou-senpai,” he drawled.

The faint sting of a cuff across the side of the head made Akaya start. It had been months since that had happened. He blinked at Sanada-fukubuchou, who was giving him a look of distinct disapprobation. The entire team was still for a long moment, and then sound rustled through them as everyone seemed to let out their breath at once. A faint grin tugged at Akaya’s mouth.

Yeah. It was spring again.

5

Akaya stood silently as Sanada-fukubuchou approached. He was distantly aware that he was in shock; he had never lost to anyone but those three. And now… an unofficial match with a first-year from the school they were about to play in tournament. He could tell when Sanada-fukubuchou saw the scoreboard by his abrupt stillness.

“I lost.” The words brought it home, made it real, and the sharp impact that jarred him off his feet was a strange kind of relief. Even the ache along his jaw, when it caught up with him a moment later, helped. It snapped the world back into focus, and Akaya actually felt the hard clay under him and the small scrapes on his palms where he’d caught himself.

When he looked up the flash of hot rage in Sanada-fukubuchou’s eyes was already fading back into tight, measured determination. His gaze rested on Akaya with hard question, and Akaya bit his lip and nodded shortly.

He would not fail again.

6

Akaya watched the suppressed exasperation with which Sanada-fukubuchou dusted Akaya’s footprints off the coach’s bench, and ignored both Yagyuu-senpai’s tolerant look and Marui-senpai’s snort; he just pushed the hair back out of his eyes from where it had fallen when Sanada-fukubuchou swatted him.

It was good to know he was definitely forgiven for the other day.

7

Akaya felt like he couldn’t breathe. There was no tension between Sanada-fukubuchou and Yanagi-senpai, as they spoke; all the tension was in Akaya, watching them.

This was wrong.

It was one thing for Sanada-fukubuchou to strike Akaya for being an idiot, and careless enough to lose. But Yanagi-senpai… okay, maybe he had let his feelings get in the way, but…

But they were the center of Rikkai! The three of them together. For Sanada Genichirou to strike Yanagi Renji… it was wrong. No matter what Yanagi-senpai said about setting an example for the club.

That feeling of wrongness had already pulled Akaya to his feet. The tightening line between Sanada-fukubuchou’s hand drawing back and Yanagi-senpai turning his head with quiet acceptance snapped Akaya into motion before thought could intervene.

Under other circumstances, the startlement of his senpai, as they both stood there looking down at him and his interposed racquet, would have made him laugh.

He half expected to feel the brief clip of Sanada-fukubuchou’s hand that his insolence usually got him. All he got, though, as he skipped out from between them again, was the weight of thoughtful eyes on the back of his neck.

8

Akaya didn’t remember losing, this time. Didn’t remember the end of the match at all. But Sanada-fukubuchou’s statement of the score echoed through his head.

He had failed.

Again.

Could he even call himself Rikkai, anymore?

Choking shame threw him out from under Yanagi-senpai’s hand and over the rail to stand before Sanada-fukubuchou. But his half-frantic demand for the reprimand that a team member could expect for such a loss dropped without a ripple into Sanada-fukubuchou’s considering look.

And then he was stepping past Akaya with only a quiet “Sit down.”

Akaya did as he was told.

9

Sanada-fukubuchou’s hand on his shoulder as they left the courts that day reassured Akaya. But it reassured him a lot more when, a week or so later, he collected a swat for taking a nap on top of Sanada-fukubuchou’s uniform jacket.

End

  • Note: “Selling spring” is a Japanese euphemism for selling sex.