"Read my mind

It will tell you that I love you and

You're all I ever wanted in a man

You'd see how I feel.

What my head won't let my heart reveal

If only you could

Read my mind, read my mind."

-Reba McEntire


Read My Mind

It was morning. The birds were singing sweetly to one another. The sun was shining generously, and the forever blue of the sky was highlighted by a few fat, lazy, white clouds drifting their way along on the gentle, cool breeze. Breakfast was just ending in the mansion inhabited by five young men, one woman, and one tiger. It was an extraordinarily good day so far.

So Shin had no idea why he felt like something was wrong. Not in him, but in one of the other guys. At first it had been hard to tell the difference between his own feelings and the others', but he'd had quite a bit of practice.

He looked immediately to his best friend, Shu. He was in the dining room, lazing around on a morning made for it, talking with Ryo, who was scratching White Blaze behind the ears. They were talking and joking loudly; Shu's volume alone could probably be detected by DYoujakaiears. Shin shook his head as he continued washing up the breakfast dishes in the kitchen. Nothing wrong with either of them. The sense of tension and frustration wasn't radiating from either of them.

Seiji. Shin nearly laughed. Seiji was meditating quietly in the living room, ignoring (somehow) the ruckus their former leader and comrade were making. Tension was an alien concept to Seiji at this moment.

That left Touma, by default. But just to be on the safe side, Shin checked...and was hit with a toronado of anxiety.

Ostensibly reading (yet another) science fiction book, Touma's true mental focus was obviously elsewhere. Shin hated to pry, but not only was Touma as tense and anxious as a bird in a cage, he was ignoring A Science Fiction book. Something HAD to be wrong, and Shin couldn't stand not knowing what was wrong with his friends. He followed the line of Touma's focus quietly, stealthily, so as not to be detected.

Shin blinked and nearly dropped the dish he'd had in his hands. He thanked the powers-that-be once again for his quick reflexes; he'd rather face the entire Youjakai again by himself than have to apologize toNasutia for breaking any of her dishes.

SAGE was Touma's focus? But there was no mistaking it. There was a slight undercurrent of jealousy (apparently at how Seiji could manage to ignore Shu and Ryo's cacophony), but mostly there was anxiety, tension, and frustration derived from a very powerful sense of need and desire.

Touma wanted Seiji? Shin paused in his washing. It was surprising and yet it wasn't. Surprising mostly because he hadn't seen it sooner. Shin, the nominally observant one of the group, had apparently just not noticed until Touma's frustration accidentally radiated quietly.

Shin quietly left Touma's mind and stole back towards Seiji's. His mind was a void. Oh, right. Meditation. Okay, so finding out Seiji's feelings on the matter would have to wait. He had dishes to do anyway, and it might not hurt to have a chat with Touma first.


Touma desperately wanted to ignore everything right about now. Shu and Ryo could most likely be heard in the next prefecture by now. The book that was supposed to be distracting him was doing nothing of the sort. Not that it wasn't a good book...at least, he thought it was a good book. He hadn't read much of it so far.

He cast another wary glance at Seiji. How he could manage to be so calm in the midst of the vocal turbulance was mystifying. Everything about Seiji was mystifying. Touma wanted so badly to find out. Find out what went on under that meticulously kept blonde hair. Find out what Seiji felt about him, hell, about ANY of them. Find out what Seiji tasted like, felt like; what it was like to wake up next to him in the morning...

Touma cut those thoughts off, yanking his eyes back to his book. Read. Words. Friends. But the book mights as well have been Russian, for all he could read. His mind wasn't concentrating on them. He was seeing them, not reading them.

He tried again to weigh the evidence. There were his feelings about Seiji. He knew those. But what about Seiji's feelings about him? The blonde young man was cold, giving off nothing, revealing nothing. Like light that shone so brightly it blinded you. You knew it was there, and it was marvelous, but that was all.

With nothing to go on, his mind continued telling him the risk was too great. It wasn't worth risking friendship and rejection for an uncertain gain. He grumbled mentally again and tried desperately not to let his eyes wander.


"Come in." That was Touma's "I'm doing something right now, but if you come in and leave a message, I'll get back to you later" tone of voice. Shin sighed and entered.

"Touma, this is important. I need to talk with you," he said as soon as he was through the doorway.

"What is it, Shin?" Touma was sitting on his bed, his nose buried in the same science fiction book. Shin noted that it was the same page as it had been earlier that morning at the breakfast table; he was actually bothering to read it this time.

Shin shut the door, sat down in a chair and gathered his courage. Touma, waiting for Shin to say something, commented irritably, "If you need to talk, then do so. If not, then I don't see the point of sitting and staring at me."

"Touma, I know how you feel about Seiji." It was a torrent let loose, all at once. Shin held his breath, waiting for the archer to explode about Shin invading his mental privacy.

The book lowered an almost imperceptible degree. "Really?" Touma asked in a conversational tone. "And what makes you bring this up?"

Shin blinked before realizing that Touma wasn't going to let anything slip. "No, I mean I know how you REALLY feel about Seiji." He explained how he had wound up with this information, and ended all of that with, "I'm really sorry, I know I shouldn't have just....you know, done all that without asking you first, but I was worried and..."

"Shin." The book lowered fully now, and Touma was looking at him. Shin frowned a little at the look Touma was giving him. Like a teacher with a slow-witted pupil who'd finally figured out the most basic of concepts. "I'm not going to kill you. It's my own fault for not keeping better mental control of myself. The question I have for you now is, what do you plan to do with this information?"

"Well, I....have you...even considered talking to Seiji about it??"

"No." It was a quick, brief statement of truth, but there was an edge there.

"What's the worst that can happen, Touma?"

Touma's voice took on an almost storytelling tone now, as though he'd painted the scenario a hundred times, which was most likely true. "He'd look at me with those cold, violet eyes and turn away from me. Completely. He'd shut himself away, more so than he already Is shut away, and he'd never open up again." His voice returned to normal. "He's opened up so much since we first got to know him. I don't want to ruin all that progress."

"He's not a science experiment."

Touma snorted. "You don't have to tell me that."

"Look, you have to do something."

"No, I don't." Touma put the book back up. More ostensible reading. Shin wondered idly whether Touma'd ever get past that page.

"Touma, who're the two most....mentally receptive and observant of the five of us?"

Without thinking, in a flat voice, Touma replied instantly, "You and Seiji..." and trailed off. Shin's train of thought finished in Touma's mind. If Shin had accidentally stumbled across it today, then who knew when Seiji might?

"Because if you continue bottling this frustration up, it'll continue to release itself...the way it did this morning. And who knows who'll pick up on it next?" Shin commented aloud, quietly. "Far better you tell him yourself, aloud, on your terms. Not as a mental leak."

Touma shut the book and tossed it across his bed. His eyes fell on the cover, but his gaze was elsewhere. "You're right. But...how do I...? I...I've never even thought about how I'd...well, I have, but I haven't....what do I...."

Shin suppressed the sudden giggle. Touma speechless. No comments, no wisecracks. He suddenly thought of Hamlet: "Where are your gibes now, your gambols, your songs, your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?" That sobered him quickly.

He stood and walked over to his friend. He thought "friend" a poor word for it. They were all of them more than mere friends. That was why Touma's feelings didn't surprise Shin.

Shin clapped a hand on Touma's shoulder. The archer's blue eyes looked up at his comrade, confused, lost, and searching.

"I'll help you."


I thought it was the other way around in the book Touma hissed mentally at Shin. The intelligent one supplies the words...not that you aren't...I didn't mean...

No, I know that, Touma. And yes, in Cyrano de Bergerac, it's the other way around. But this isn't exactly the same. For one thing, I'm only HELPING you. You still have to do this by yourself. I'm just the moral support.

You couldn't just feed me words to say?? Touma begged pitifully. He was watching Seiji practice his sword form in the backyard from around the corner of the house. He knew Shin could feel the sick sensation of having one's heart in one's stomach as surely as he did.

NO. Besides, I'm sure you can think up much better words than I could.

Not Right Now I Couldn't!!!!

Just Do This and Get It Over With. He'll find out one way or another, and this is the best way for all concerned. Shin tried again to enter Seiji's mind, but sword form, like meditation, required focused concentration, and there was nothing to be gained.

Touma cleared his throat and walked out into yard as though he were about to go face to face with Lady Kayura on a bad day with PMS: he was armed with only a Nerf ball for a weapon, and she had a massive collection of nuclear weapons. Shin shook his head. Touma's mind had a flair for the melodramatic imagery.

"Uh...." Nice squeak there, Touma. I think Mickey Mouse couldn't have done it better.

So far, Shin, you're a great help. Touma cleared his throat again and his normal, deep voice returned. "Seiji, I wanted to talk to you about something."

"Go ahead." Shin flinched physically as Touma did mentally. Seiji's voice was flat, and he had never stopped working the forms. Touma once again mentally pleaded with Shin to let him make up something and run away. Shin gave him a definite NO and prodded him onward.

"I...well....it was...more of a question really...." ??? Shin sent mentally. A question? YOU'RE supposed to be Telling HIM....

Well, I...sort of wanted to change the focus....I'm staying on topic, really... Touma affirmed.

Seiji: "Go ahead." Again, calm, cool, collected. The fact that he had spoken at all was the only indicator he gave that he acknowledged Touma's existence.

"H-how do..." Touma swallowed hard; Shin could almost feel the lump go down his own throat. He discovered his hands were sweaty, partially from the feelings Touma was transmitting and partially from his own. If Seiji did actually reject Touma coldly, Shin wasn't sure what would happen to Touma. He was used to looking out for them, and he didn't want Touma hurt.

"....you feel...about...me?" Touma finally managed. Seiji continued to work sword forms.

"You're very intelligent and very skilled with your bow," came the flat answer. Shin blinked as Touma worried.

Touma!! He evaded the question!!

Pause. Yeah, so?

Well...maybe it's because...

And maybe it's not. Shin, I think we ought to just leave well enough alone. This is Seiji, for cryin' out loud. Like you pointed out, he's observant. He may have figured everything out by now, and...

Just keep going, you big blue baby.

I am not. Touma pouted mentally. Aloud, to Seiji, he pushed out, "No, I mean...Feel. Emotions. You know...." He tried to think of something witty and characteristically HIMSELF, but nothing came. It seemed his self was taking a holiday. He hoped his self was enjoying it, because the rest of him was having an awful time.

Seiji paused momentarily in his exercises. "I don't believe I've ever heard you bring up the topic," he commented.

"Well....I....it's not exactly something guys talk about much, you know. I mean..."

"Touma, what's upsetting you?" Seiji interrupted. "You've gotten yourself obviously worked up about something." There was something about the way Seiji said "obviously worked up" which made it sound almost distasteful. That, in turn, made Touma balk.

"N-nuh-nothing, nevermind, I'm just...." Touma started to walk away. Shin screamed at him and discovered Touma was ignoring him, but had not completely shut his mind away. So Shin, out of desperation, did something he never thought he'd do.

He pushed. He mentally pushed Touma's feelings into Seiji's mind, now that his mind was receptive instead of closed.

He could feel Seiji blink. It was an interesting sensation.

"Touma?" Seiji said quietly. Despite the lack of volume, Touma heard it, and he stopped where he stood, frozen, his back to Seiji. "I was not aware of this." Ambiguous, unreadable. Shin made a frustrated groan. He was getting as sick of "No Data Available" as Touma was.

Touma was now almost literally frozen. He felt as though arctic winds were blowing through him. He hesitated. The truth was known, so being frank would only make things easier. Now, there was no other choice than "Say it and get it over with." Once that was done, he could go back to his room, curl up and die. "I didn't exactly....I wasn't real sure I wanted you to be aware of it."

"Why not?" There was a faint rustling behind him. Touma didn't look. He only laughed self-consciously.

"Because I'd rather go up against Talpa by myself, no armor, no weapons, no nothing than possibly ruin....everything."

There was another long pause, and when next Seiji spoke, his voice was closer to Touma, though it certainly wasn't much louder. "I must confess that I have not been one to show much of myself. Neither of us is that way. It is something I sometimes envy of the others. Their...openness with each other."

"Yeh, you're...you are something of a mystery, Seiji."

"Is that how you like things?"

"No. I've never liked mysteries. I always wanted to know. But...well, curiosity killed the cat."

Seiji was right behind Touma now, and yet his voice had never risen in volume. He must've lowered it, to maintain the same apparent level, Shin thought. "White Blaze is a cat. You're a human being, Touma."

Touma laughed embarassedly again. "So good of you to notice." He couldn't move. Shin could feel it. Touma wanted to turn around, but was worried about what he might do if he did. This close...and yet Seiji was giving away so little, as always. Was Seiji REALLY this close or was he still as distant and unreachable as the stars?

Seiji nodded. "I have noticed. I have noticed quite a lot actually." And Shin was amazed to receive Thank you, Shin, for your help, but I think we need to be alone now from Seiji. He almost laughed as he slipped from their minds; it was silly of him to assume that Seiji would not notice his presence, especially after that little stunt he'd pulled. He gladly left them their privacy.


Touma felt Shin leave his mind and nearly panicked. Don't leave me alone!

"You aren't," Seiji answered. Touma blinked. "You are not alone, Touma. Have you forgotten so quickly about my presence?"

"As if I could," Touma muttered.

"Turn around." It was a statement...wasn't it? There was the barest hint of a questioning tone. Was he asking or ordering? Did it matter? Either way, Touma knew there really wasn't much he could refuse Seiji.

But...turning around meant...could he really be this close, face to face with a friend, brother-in-arms, and...he couldn't, could he? But he had to. Seiji had asked him to. Well, sort of.

He turned around, eyes closed. He took a deep breath to steel himself and opened them. Sky blue met Violet. His eyes were cold around the edges, as cold as they always were, but somehow, they seemed warm to Touma. As though the spring thaw had finally hit.

"I have noticed, Touma. I have noticed you when it was safe for me to do so. I am nothing if not careful." Seiji sounded almost wry there, and Touma stifled a bark of laughter. "I have even, on occasion, thought that I had caught a quick glimpse of emotion from you, but I assured myself that it was a daydream. Such things were discouraged in my family."

"Daydreams?" Touma asked sadly. Seiji nodded.

"Unnecessary flights of fancy, when there was the real world to be dealt with. My family taught me that life is cold and hard, and that is how you must be. You confused me at first, when I saw, through you, that life could be warm and gentle."

The archer nodded at the swordsman, still nervous but beginning to feel a little giddy at the turn the conversation was taking. He felt giddier still when Seiji lifted a hand and ran it through Touma's hair, brushing his cheek softly along the way.

"I am not confused anymore," Seiji said quietly. So quietly, Touma strained to hear it, moving forward slighty in reflex, ears straining for the words. And Seiji must've known that his words would not carry, for he moved forward as well, to help Touma hear better, surely. Touma wasn't entirely certain the kiss was not an accident until he finally, Really HEARD Seiji's words. It was about that time that Seiji's other arm encircled Touma, his one hand still in his hair. Touma would've laughed with joy if he'd been able to.

The next sensation Shin got from Touma nearly killed him quite literally. As he was walking downstairs, he was hit with a gale force of dizzy happiness that nearly made him trip and fall the rest of the way down.

Have I told you what a wonderful friend you are?

Shin grinned as he straightened, releasing the rail from the death grip he'd had on it. You don't need to.

Thank you so much, Shin. I never could've done this without you.

You're more than welcome, Touma. For some reason, Shin heard a small mental whimper amidst all the happiness. What is it?

I'm never going to finish that damn book. The distraction's just gotten worse...if for a different reason.

Shin laughed and only replied I can't help you with that one.

Wisdom's Sacrifice Fiction:.