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Seeking Advice

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“Can- Ah, may I ask you a question, Touya-kun?”

Akira looked up, surprised to see Isumi. “If you like.” he said uncertainly. They were cordial, of course - and Isumi had never been as strange around him as many of Shindou’s friends - but . . . it was unusual for him to have sought Akira out. “Would you like to sit?” he invited, gesturing to the chair opposite him.

Isumi nodded, sliding into the seat that had hosted Shindou so frequently over the past few years that it had all but become his place, as this was Akira’s. “Thank you.” He fiddled with the cuffs of his shirt.

“Would you like a game?” Akira asked when he didn’t speak for a few minutes, looking faintly nervous. Akira retreated to Go when he was uncertain, and. . .

Isumi smiled gratefully at him. “If you would.”

Akira inclined his head with a smile. Perhaps he wasn’t the only one - in any case, Go was a familiar constant to them both. Akira collected the stones he had been using to run through shikatsu problems, returning them to the goke. Isumi remained silent through nigiri and the opening of the game, but he looked less nervous, and it was relaxing to play against him, a casual game.

“Touya-kun. . .” Isumi said as they moved into midgame.

“Your question?” Akira asked gently, putting down another stone.

Isumi smiled weakly, nodding. Akira waited patiently, watching the other man through his lashes. He had been told that when he was thoughtful his direct gaze was unnerving. Shindou didn’t seem to mind, but then, Shindou himself had something of the unstoppable air of a shinkansen when he really got going.

“How do you . . . manage,” Isumi said carefully, and Akira’s eyebrow twitched, “with Shindou-kun?” He gestured vaguely at his temple as Akira repressed amusement, given the trend of his own thoughts. But. . .

“Manage?” Akira asked, perplexed, brow furrowing.

“I mean. . .” Isumi frowned, leaning closer, and fixed his attention solely on the board for a few minutes. Akira didn’t disturb him. “Shindou-kun is very . . . loud.” Isumi’s eyes flicked up to meet Akira’s. “Yet even when your bond was new, you did not seem . . . bothered. By the connection. The . . . overflow. How do you manage?” he asked, looking wan and perhaps faintly hopeful.

Akira sat back a little. “Ah.” he rolled his stone between his fingers before placing it with a delicate pachi. That was a difficult question to answer. Akira managed because . . . it was Shindou. How could he not? How could it be strange, or difficult, or too much, when it was Shindou in his mind?

Akira was aware that was probably not precisely helpful, however.

“I don’t mean to- to pry, or to ask personal questions,” Isumi began apologetically, “I shouldn’t have-”

“It’s fine.” Akira said, cutting him off. Akira lifted his head and smiled at Isumi politely. “Merely thinking.” He paused for another few moments, organising his thoughts. He took a moment to chastise Shindou for his last wild move and countered it, then nodded slightly.

Akira did his best to explain how he maintained the more orderly quiet of his own mind against the wilder mess that was Shindou’s, using his absent focus on their light game to help him think and to divert some of the . . . intimacy of the discussion. Soulmate bonds were not often discussed in quite this way.

After their game was done, Isumi departed, leaving Akira with his thoughts stirred up on a topic he rarely really considered, rather than simply accepting - appreciating. He looked at the board before him without really seeing it for a while before focusing and clearing his mind once more, smoothing his fingers over the wood.

Four three, Akira murmured in response to Shindou’s last move, dipping his fingertips into the white goke and letting the stones run through his fingers.

Took you long enough! Shindou replied almost instantly, followed by his own next move. What were you up to? Find someone to challenge you after all?

Akira smiled slightly as he turned the board over in his mind. Isumi-san came by for a game . . . and to speak with me.

Speak with you? Shindou asked, bright with curiosity. What about?

Seven five. Waya-san. Akira provided, rubbing a stone between his thumb and fingers.

Waya? You have to be the worst person ever to talk to about Waya! Shindou said, bubbling with his amusement.

Akira smiled. He could hardly deny that, after all. They might be slightly more friendly now - not that Akira had ever harboured animosity, exactly, on his side - but they were still not terribly . . . close. Indeed. I don’t think his questions would have found much common ground had he asked you, however.

Did you help him, then? Shindou asked, sounding a bit more abstracted.

Akira raised an eyebrow, settling back in his chair and cradling the white goke in his lap. Help? There was a flare of impatient curiosity. I hope so, Akira sighed, tapping his fingers idly, but I am not sure.

Shindou offered a flare of fondness. Well I’m sure you did your best. You and Isumi get along, right? Eight twelve. He’s sorta quiet, even if he’s not like you.

Akira’s eyes narrowed. Idiot. he scolded over the hand Shindou had played, before playing his own. We do. We played a pleasant game.

Bite me! What was he asking about, anyway? Shindou asked.

I have been bonded for longer than Isumi. Akira said delicately, not wanting to explain what Isumi had wanted precisely to his soulmate.

Ah! A thoughtful ripple came through their bond from Shindou. I thought our bond is, ah, what did your uncle the hentai say?

Akira sighed. Ogata-san is not- He shook his head. Our bond is . . . unlike most, but perhaps that is why Isumi wished to speak to me.

Their bond flared with prideful stubbornness from Shindou, and Akira smiled.

Unusual, Akira offered, with a feathery brush of fondness, but . . . perfect.

Tengen, Shindou finally said, their bond warm with pleasure. Yeah. . . Perfect.

Akira rubbed his thumb along the edge of the goke, bowing his head politely to one of the regulars who had come to ask for his input, if he wasn’t busy. He rose, leaving his currently-empty board, and looked over the game in question even as he played out his own with Shindou. An eternally re-fought battle for territory that flowed back and forth through their bond.

The deep, restless, yet quiet ocean of Akira’s mind and the near-constant buzz of inexhaustible activity that was Shindou’s met and wound together in their bond, meshed smoothly by their endless shared hands of go.