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Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:08 PM
Disclaimer: I don’t own them, Type-Moon and Nasu does.

Steel and Cherry Blossoms
By Elf

The vibration of the motorcycle shook her to her very core as her field of vision seemed to grow smaller as she increased speed. She wanted to drop the hammer and let her new beloved bike go as fast and hard as it could go, but she already gathered enough attention anyway. Still, she was smiling ear to ear as she nimbly moved the Hayabusa through Fuyuki City’s streets.

Hot air whipped through her long, braided hair and passed through her jacket, but the former Rider class Servant was thankful for its armor as she rode. Rider knew all too well that with one miscalculated movement that she could easily lose her new life. Her smile melted from her face as she gripped the handlebars, moving her booted foot to shift the gear as she had to slow to her destination.

Rider had a purpose, but she knew she couldn’t do this alone.

There were other former Servants who would be more than willing to help her, but they lacked any finesse to get what she needed done. Power had its uses, but Rider needed someone more who thought before they charged in screaming with a bladed weapon. She needed someone who could notice things that she couldn’t, plan accordingly and adapt if needed.

Most of the former Servants would fail miserably at that, and one of the ones that could Rider wouldn’t trust. The other she wasn’t too keen on trusting either, but she knew if she presented the situation properly he would cave in. Just how to present the problem would be the problem.

After the miracle of the Fifth War that had given Servants and fallen Masters a second chance at life, most of the Servants happily reintegrated into Fuyuki’s society. Romances blossomed, second chances were granted and mostly everyone was happy. Everyone except my former Master, she thought as she slowed her bike. Her true Master’s situation had not changed, if anything it had gotten worse and Rider was not going to let her go through the same hellish existence she had.

Rider stopped the bike at the address given. She looked up at the small brick building looming before her. There was a neat, simple sign in black that simply stated “Repairs” in both English and Japanese. The windows reflected plenty of light and she knew that above the shop there was a small apartment for the shop owner.

Out of all the other Servants, Servant Archer had distanced himself as much as possible from his former Master and everyone else. Rider actually got the information about the former Servant from several girls in Sakura’s class who were giggling about it at the library that Rider worked part time. She had pressed for more information and suffered through the girls swooning over the “Handsome Archer-san” before she gotten what she had needed.

She parked the bike, turned off the motor, propped the kickstand and dismounted. She pulled off her helmet and rested it on the seat before pulling off her beloved purple, white and black leather racing jacket. She tossed the jacket over her shoulder before collecting her matching helmet and headed into the shop.

The only sound in the room was a chime of bells above the door announcing her arrival. Sitting at a work bench bent over an antique oak clock was Archer himself. Sweat made his skin glisten and part of his white hair was falling in face while other was in its normal spikes. Steel grey eyes flickered up to her, narrowed and his hands dropped from the clock and under the table.

Rider studied him and adjusted her glasses to make sure her eyes wouldn’t petrify him as he stared at her. The last time they had met had been a battle and they had crossed blades. For an Archer, she had been surprised with his skill in close ranged combat even though he was slower than most of the other Servants. However, unlike Saber who had been pure instinct in battle, Archer calculated and could maneuver around any trap that she would attempt to lure him in. It had gotten to the point where she had to take off her Gorgon Breaker to petrify him with her eyes.

That had only slowed him down, and to her amazement he had been able to move still.

They stood in their silent dead lock for countless moments before Rider smiled ever so slightly and said, “Hello Archer.”

“Rider,” he replied in a rough voice.

She looked around and asked, “May I set these down please?” She nodded to her jacket and helmet. He blinked and the scowl deepened in his features before he pointed to a tidy desk with paper work towards the front of the shop. Rider turned around and walked over to the desk.

She had the urge to scatter the painstakingly neat paper work to see his reaction, but quelled it as she draped her jacket over the office chair there and set her helmet in the seat. She turned to look at him with his hands still hidden behind his work table. She tilted her head and said, “I’m not going to attack you, Archer.”

“Can’t be too careful,” he replied as his eyes narrowed at her.

She smiled at that, placed her hands on her hips and said, “No, you can’t, but the war has been over for a long time now.”

“Hn,” was his taciturn response, however he brought his hands back to the table to continue to work on the clock.

Rider moved over to the antique and examined it. The dark reddish wood was polished to a high enough sheen where she could see her reflection. Archer had taken the face of the clock out and the mechanisms were currently organized on the table as well as a set of delicate looking tools. For someone who would have been an Epic Hero, Archer seemed to be good at tasks like this. Then again, none of us know his true identity, she thought to herself as she ran her fingers over the wood.

“What are you doing here, Rider?” he asked as she moved her fingers off of the clock.

She answered, “I need help.”

“Don’t we all?” he replied in an acid laced voice as he stared at her.

She sighed, drew a deep breath and fought against the urge to punch him. She answered, “Good point, Archer. However, some people need more than others. I’m sure you are aware that with the change in events there are still loose threads.”

His eyes narrowed, but he said nothing. Rider took that as a sign that he was listening and considering her words. Good, she thought as she readjusted her glasses. She pushed a stray lock of her lavender hair off her shoulder before eying him again.

“Why me then? There are six other Servants you can ask for help,” Archer said with a frown.

She smiled at that and said, “Two of those I don’t want anything to do with due to past history, one of which is too arrogant to do anything for anyone other than himself, one I know nothing about, and two of which charge into battle with a scream waving a bladed weapon. No, I need someone with a bit more finesse.”

“I attempted to kill the person my Master allied herself with,” Archer replied in a flat voice. She noticed that his eyes flickered down and his hands clinched into fists before relaxing on the table again. She briefly wondered what he was thinking, if he was reacting in guilt or anger for failing.

She said, “Honestly, your attempted betrayal is one of the reasons I’m here.”

Archer’s eyes narrowed as he asked, “For what?”

“I want you to help my Master,” Rider said as her eyes met and held his.

Archer froze as if she had taken off the glasses blocking her Mystic Eyes before taking a deep breath. His shoulders tensed as he flexed his fists and said, “I doubt you’re talking about Shinji.”

“I want you to help Sakura,” Rider said evenly as she looked him in the eye.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:10 PM
(Author's Notes: When Berserker appears in this fic and speaks, you must imagine his lines as spoken by Kevin Sorbo.)

Archer felt tension spring through his shoulders, down his spine, arms and legs as those oddly beautiful pale violet eyes with their square pupils met his. He knew the enchanted glasses Rider was wearing would protect him from the dangerous effect of Rider’s eyes, but still seeing them so open and naked was enough to make him pause. He mentally shook himself as her words entered his mind.

As a boy, Sakura had been like family to him. She had helped nursed him when he had the acid burn on his shoulder and helped shoulder his cooking and cleaning as well as keeping track of Fuji-nee. Then the Fifth Grail War hit, he had met Ilya, Ilya died and he threw himself into his hollow ideal saving as many as he could. He grew farther and farther away from both Sakura and Fuji-nee, becoming closer and closer to Rin and Luvia Edifelt.

He frowned and asked, “What’s wrong with Sakura?”

“It’s a long story,” Rider said as she looked away, a faint flush tinting her cheeks.

Archer looked back down at the clock, grabbed his smallest Torx screwdriver and began to work on it again. He tightened a screw that was holding onto one of the more intricate gears. He stared at the gear for a moment, sighed and looked back at Rider. He set the screwdriver down in annoyance.

The sensible thing to do would be to kick the Gorgon out of his shop. However, her words and expressions were staying his hand. I can’t let this go, can I? he thought to himself as he clinched his hands into fists before relaxing them. He sighed and opened his eyes before he realized he had closed them. Rider was watching him expectantly with those unblinking eyes.

He said, “I’m not going anywhere.”

“What do you know of the Matou bloodline?” Rider asked as she folded her arms under her breasts.

He answered, “They’re a dead magi, no circuits left. Or at least none active.”

“And what do you know of the Tohsaka line?” Rider asked in a soft voice.

Archer took a deep breath and answered, “Sakura is Rin’s younger sister.”

“How long have you known?” Rider asked as she smoothed a stray lock of hair that had escaped from her braid from her face.

He sighed and answered, “Since after this War. I put two and two together and got four. There were hints here and there, not to mention Rin has a matching hair ribbon in her bedroom that’s the exact copy of the one Sakura wears in her hair.”

“You deduced this from a hair ribbon?” Rider asked with wide eyes.

Archer shrugged and said, “And a thousand other little things too. I did follow Rin a good deal in incorporeal form during the War.”

“So you noticed a lot then,” Rider said in a soft voice.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:10 PM
Archer raised his eyebrows and said, “Not to mention I know Rin very well. So, apparently the Matous made a deal with the Tohsakas and received Sakura in the process.”

“From my understanding yes, I don’t know all the details,” Rider admitted.

Archer felt his lips quirk up as he snorted and said, “I know magi. They’re self-serving bastards who only care for themselves and their pursuit of knowledge. They kill their emotions and isolate themselves for power.”

“So, will you help Sakura?” Rider asked as she placed her hands on the table and leaned forward.

Archer sighed and said, “I really don’t have a choice, do I?”

“You could say no,” Rider said as her eyes met his again.

He chuckled darkly, shook his head and replied, “No I can’t.” He picked up his screwdriver again to set to work on putting the gears back together. He whispered his personal spell to Reinforce his eyes before asking, “What’s the situation?”

Rider answered, “Matou Zouken has control over Sakura due to his mage craft. He has . . . experimented on her as well as other things.”

“What do you mean by experiment?” Archer asked as he put down the screwdriver, picked up a pair of pliers and started on a very small cog. With his eyes Reinforced like this he could see the tiny notches in the brass from when the gear was originally manufactured. It was a beautiful clock and there was something soothing about the work he was putting into it.

He heard Rider take a deep breath and answer, “It is . . . personal.”

Archer gritted his teeth and took a deep, calming breath. In his existence and tenure as an Ally of Justice, there were several reasons why someone would answer a question with “it’s personal” and none of those were ever favorable. Especially with women, he thought darkly as he adjusted the cog before putting the tools down. He looked up at her and simply said, “I see.”

“Do you?” Rider asked sardonically.

He smirked again and answered, “Those words never mean a good thing when a woman is in trouble. I’ll help.” He gritted his teeth as he picked up the pliers and tightened a nut. He replied, “I might be an asshole, but there are lines that I’ll draw.”

“Thank you, Archer,” Rider replied and through the corner of his eye he could see her bow.

Archer straightened up from the clock and replied, “Now, since we are going to save Sakura, I need to know details of what we’re dealing with. What happened to Sakura stays with her unless she’s ready for someone else to know, however I need to know what I’m dealing with so I can plan accordingly.”

Rider’s face brightened to a smile as he bent down to continue to work again. He ignored the radiant smile as she replied, “Good. Zouken is apparently centuries years old, I’m afraid I don’t know all that much. I do know he is controlling Sakura with some sort of mystical worm implanted in her body.”

Archer felt his stomach twist in disgust at that and he said, “I think I know someone who can give me more information, especially if Zouken is that old.”

“Who would that be?” Rider asked with a frown.

Archer’s lip quirked up in a parody of a grin as he answered, “Kotomine Kirei.”

“The priest?” Rider asked as she tilted her head.

“False priest,” Archer answered with a dark chuckle. Once the initial bad gears were replaced, putting the rest of the clock together was going rapidly. He looked at Rider and said, “Put your finger right here and lightly press.”

Rider leaned forward, lavender hair trailing on the table as she pressed on the nut in question. “It’s beautiful,” she said in a soft voice as she looked at the clock with a smile.

He smiled himself and replied, “It is. A lot of care and love went into building this.”

“You respect that,” Rider said, her voice not making it a question.

He nodded and said, “Yeah, I do. The owner does too.”

“How unlike most of the heroes here,” Rider said with a shake of her head, “I have my idiosyncrasies, but you are an enigma to me, Archer.”

He smirked at that as he tightened the clock around the bolt Rider was holding into place for him. He replied and said, “Yeah, I’m odd.”

“So you are going to talk to the priest?” Rider asked him as she backed away from the clock.

Archer nodded and said, “False priest, but yeah.” He chuckled at the irony of the situation. Rider frowned at him but said nothing. He grabbed the cloth beside his tools and wiped his hands off. He said, “Once I get information and a plan, I’ll come find you.”

“You’ll know where I’ll be?” Rider asked with a tiny grin.

He replied, “You sort of stand out. We all do.”

She chuckled at that and said, “True. I work at the Library Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.”

“And you street race on Thursday and Friday nights,” Archer replied as he put his towel down beside his tools.

Rider’s eyes shot to his face as she asked, “How did you know that?”

“I worked for Fujimura Raiga to save up enough money to get this place,” Archer said with a shake of his head.

Rider opened her mouth to reply when the chime above the door sounded. Archer looked up and felt his stomach drop. Standing in the door way was one Sensei Fujimura Taiga and Mitsuzuri Ayako. Archer’s former guardian smiled at the sight of him and nearly bounded over to him. Archer resisted the urge to flea as far and fast as he could, but instead looked over at Rider who was practically glowing as she approached Ayako.

The teenage girl swallowed and her amber eyes widened as she physically took a step back from Rider. She was dressed in blue jeans and an olive green tank top to stave off the summer heat. Her fox colored hair was pulled up in a pony tail, exposing her neck to which Archer noted Rider’s eyes lingered on for a moment. Rider smiled as she gently placed her finger under Ayako’s neck and asked, “Are you eating well?”

“Hi Archer-san, we’ve got some repairs for you,” Taiga said with a smile as she lifted up a duffel bag that had arrow shaped bulges all through it. She asked, “So, could you take this for me, it’s kinda heavy?”

Archer rapidly wiped his hands again and took the bag of bows from her. He set it on the clear part of his work bench and opened it. He felt his shoulders slink in annoyance as he looked at the broken parts in front of him. He ran his finger over one heavy crack in a carbon bow and shook his head. He remembered the students in the Archery Club being more careful with their bows.

“So, can you fix them?” Ayako asked as she tried to move away from Rider, however the Gorgon was persistent in her stalking.

Taiga clasped her hands behind her back and swayed back and forth, causing her green skirt to sway with her. With a knowing smile she said, “Archer-san can fix anything.”

Archer swallowed as Rider stood so close to Ayako that they were almost touching. There were two high spots of color on Ayako’s cheeks as Rider smiled down at her. He ignored Taiga’s comment and cleared his throat. Taiga moved closer and asked, “So, when can you have these fixed, Archer-san?”

“When do you need them? Summer break’s only has two more weeks right?” he asked as he looked away from Taiga. She was leaning closer towards him with a smile and her lashes lowered under her eyes.

Ayako said, “Yeah, could you have them done by next week Archer-san? I would like to get training started before the new term starts.”

“Of course. Fujimura-sensei, I’ll charge my regular rates,” Archer said, the formal title rough against his tongue.

Taiga giggled, waved her hand and said, “Archer-san, how often do I have to ask you to call me Taiga?”

“Every time we meet, Fujimura-sensei,” Archer replied as he tensed.

Taiga asked, “Could you deliver those when they’re finished to the school?”

“Of course,” Archer said.

Taiga grinned and said, “Great, you know my phone number so call me when they’re ready!”

He swallowed and quietly nodded. Then she reached out to lightly touch his arm and said, “Grandpa wants to know if you’ll come work for him again.”

“It depends on what he wants me to do,” Archer said with a tiny smile. He had honestly enjoyed working for the yazuka leader for the past few months until he had enough money to buy this place. “He knows how to call me.”

Taiga pouted and mumbled something like, “Well, I don’t . . .”

Archer ignored that and then looked at Ayako. Rider was still smiling at her and getting all too close. Archer said, “Well, I’m going to get to work on these then. I’ll let you know when they’re finished.”

“Thank you Archer-san,” Ayako said as she took a step back from Rider.

Taiga winked at him and said, “You’re the best. Hey, you want to go to dinner some time? I know someone who’s an excellent cook and would probably love to meet you.”

I seriously doubt it, Archer thought dryly as he simply smiled and politely said, “I’ll think about it, Fujimura-sensei.”

Taiga pouted for a moment before smiling again. She said, “Well, take care Archer, come on Ayako, let’s go get something to eat!”

She moved to grab the girl’s arm and Rider smiled and said, “Be sure to eat well, Ayako.”

Ayako flushed even more before bowing her head at Archer and nearly making a run for it out of the shop. Once they were gone, Archer raised his eyebrows at Rider and she raised her eyebrows at him. “The teacher seems quite taken by you,” she said with a slight grin.

Archer smirked and retorted, “And you’re taken with Ayako.”

“Mmm,” Rider said with a smile before it fell. She rested her chin on her knuckles and said, “I’ll be ready once you come up with a plan Archer.”

He nodded and said, “I’ll find you.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:11 PM
After he had closed, Archer headed for the Chinese side of town to a certain restaurant that had a very infamous reputation. The owner spoke very poor Japanese, but during his travels in his lifetime, Archer had forced himself to learn Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese), English, and Korean. He spoke English the best out of the three languages and two dialects, but then again he had spent a good majority of his life in England. However, he spoke and read enough Chinese that the infamous restaurant owner couldn’t bully him and use his ignorance of the Japanese language as an excuse to over charge him.

Not that anyone tries to bully and overcharge me now anyway, Archer thought dryly as he opened the door. He towered over most men of average Japanese height and with his darkened skin, grey eyes and white hair he stood out among a crowd despite his decidedly Asian features. The restaurant was nearly empty except for the one Asian man in Fuyuki that would be taller than him.

Kotomine Kirei was sitting in a booth in the back, dressed in his full cassock despite the mid-July heat wave eating a giant plate of mapo tofu. Even at this distance Archer could see the sweat beading down the older man’s gaunt features as he ate the deadly, spicy concoction. As if Kotomine sensed him, the older man looked up, dark eyes fixing on Archer. The false priest smiled at Archer and made a languid gesture to the other side of the booth. Archer moved over to the priest and sat down, the burning spice already burning his nostrils.

“Servant Archer,” Kotomine said in his rolling, deep voice with a smile as he rested his white spoon against the dish. As a teenager, that voice both enraged him and puzzled him, but now that he was vastly older Archer felt a perverse fascination towards the false priest.

Archer replied, “Kotomine Kirei.”

“If it was any other Servant save for Gilgamesh or Lancer, I would ask how you knew where to find me,” Kotomine said with a smile as he picked up the spoon again. With a smile he asked, “Would you like to dine with me?”

Archer eyed the fiery mixture of bean curd and dangerous spices that almost seemed to be glowing from the white dish that Kotomine was eating. He felt as if he was a teenage boy again with the priest almost daring him to eat the insane food. Archer briefly wondered if Kotomine had somehow burned all of his taste buds eating the sludge. He inwardly shrugged, squared his shoulders and said, “Actually, yeah, and I would like some sake as well.”

“Oh? Well it’s a rare thing to have someone who wants to dine with me, especially here,” Kotomine said with a smirk as he lifted his hand up to signal the waiter over.

Archer replied, “Well I’m curious to see if this is as bad as Rin says it is.”

“I haven’t seen or heard from my student in a while. How is she?” Kotomine asked as the old Chinese man made his way over to them.

Archer shrugged and said, “I’m pretty sure she wants you dead. I don’t know, I moved away shortly after Lancer moved in with Rin.”

Kotomine’s eyes narrowed at that and Archer resisted the urge to snicker at the priest. The Chinese man made his way over to him and Kotomine opened his mouth to order, but Archer said in Chinese, “One mapo tofu with one bottle of sake.”

The old, rotund man blinked at Archer before scowling at him and nodding. Without another word, he shuffled away. Kotomine raised an eyebrow and said, “You don’t look Chinese, Archer.”

“I traveled a lot when I was alive,” was his reply as he calmly folded his hands on the table.

Kotomine said, “I’m still surprised that any of the participants of the War would seek me out.”

“I want answers,” Archer replied, “And since this is stuff about the Fourth War you’re the person I should ask.”

Kotomine smirked ever so slightly and asked, “Not Saber and Gilgamesh?”

“The answer to that one is obvious,” Archer said dryly as he looked at Kotomine. The other man chuckled ever so slightly before digging into the mapo tofu before him.

The priest paused to wipe a bit of sweat from his forehead and asked, “So what do you need to know?”

“I want to know about Matou Zouken,” Archer answered.

To his surprise, Kotomine actually scowled as his spoon hovered centimeters from the sludge in the bowl. “The vampire,” Kotomine said before looking up at Archer, something along the like of disgust lurking in normally unreadable eyes.

Archer’s eyes widened as he quietly asked, “He’s a Dead Apostle?”

“I’m surprised you even know what a Dead Apostle is, Servant Archer. You say that term to any of the other Servants and they would cant their head in confusion. Even Rider,” Kotomine said with one eyebrow raised as he looked at Archer, “Then again, you are the enigma. The one Servant that his true identity is unknown, even to him.”

Archer smirked and replied, “I know exactly who I am now, Kotomine Kirei.”

“Oh?” the priest asked as he tilted his head at Archer.

He nodded as the round Chinese man brought out the tofu, sake and sake cups. He held out one of the ceramic sake cups to Kotomine and he took it. Archer opened the bottle of rice wine and filled each cup full. He placed the bottle where Kotomine could easily grab it and stared at the food. He picked up the ceramic white spoon and brought the first bite to his lips.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:13 PM
Archer was an expert on pain. As a teenager he had forced a magic circuit in his body every night and it felt as if someone was shoving a hot rod into his spine. As an adult when he tried his first projection he practically lost his left arm. There were times when he used his Tracing abilities that caused swords to poke out of his body. He had overtaxed his body so much that he had burned his skin. Then there was a myriad of injuries he had withstood. And getting stabbed by the stupid Irish bastard.

However he nearly gagged when the first bit of spiced tofu hit his tongue. He swallowed quickly and grabbed the sake shot. He poured it down his mouth, swallowed and the intense inferno was quieted. He took a deep breath through his nose as he took another sip of sake just to cleanse the reactive spices. Kotomine was watching him with the slightest bit of a grin on his face, and knowing him, Archer was sure he was enjoying Archer’s suffering.

Archer whispered, “Trace On.” Then he Reinforced his tongue to keep the tofu from burning it and from him tasting it. He continued to eat and Kotomine simply shook his head before picking up his spoon again as well.

“I won’t ask you your identity, but why are you asking about Matou Zouken?” Kotomine asked before taking a sip of sake.

Archer smirked and answered, “I have been asked to take care of something and he’s heavily involved.”

“Is Rin aware of this?” Kotomine asked with a thoughtful expression.

Archer shook his head and said, “No, she’s not. If you end up telling her, I can deal with her.”


There was that slight chuckle again as Kotomine shook his head. He looked at the tofu and mused, “Zouken is a disgusting creature. Perhaps you should talk to ‘it’ as well.”

Archer stiffened at Kotomine’s words and glared at the priest. He replied, “It has a name. Her name is Ilya.”

“She will die soon,” Kotomine said matter-of-factly, his eyes meeting Archer’s and holding them.

Archer retorted, “No she won’t. She’s already found a way around that.”

“You seem quite close with it,” Kotomine said before taking another bite. Archer noticed that the platter was almost empty. He looked back at Kotomine before taking another bite himself.

“She housed my soul inside of her. It doesn’t get much closer than that,” Archer replied with a smirk.

Kotomine said, “That’s very true, Servant Archer. It’s no wonder you have an attachment to it as well.”

Archer knew that he was being baited so he took a deep breath and mentally focused on all of the swords he had in his records. In his mind he flashed through each one, their name, their composition, and their abilities as he said, “I’m surprised you’re not more attached to her. After all, she almost gave you exactly what you wanted.”

“And Emiya Shirou took that away,” Kotomine said with a shake of his head, “Yet in his folly we are both here.”

Archer snorted, “The boy’s a fool.”

“Is that what prompted you to attempt to kill him?” Kotomine asked as he scraped up the last bit of tofu in the dish.

Archer found himself smirking as he answered, “Partially.”

Kotomine did laugh at that before shaking his head and stating, “You are truly an interesting man, Servant Archer.”

“I want to know about Zouken,” Archer said as Kotomine was brought another platter of mapo tofu. Archer’s platter was still half full and he wasn’t in any hurry to eat the sludge.

The priest said, “He’s ancient, perhaps from the First Grail War. His form of mage craft is rather disgusting. What do you know of mage craft?”

“More than I’d like to admit,” Archer answered.

Kotomine’s eyebrow lifted again and asked, “Do you know about Magic Crests?”

“Yes, Rin has one. They are how most magi families pass down spells and family secrets, as well as other magical functions,” Archer answered, “They can also be painful.”

Kotomine nodded and said, “You should have learned that much from Rin. Well, the Matous use worms to use their magic. Disgusting, but effective.”

Archer steeled his expression so Kotomine couldn’t read him. Kotomine did look him over and his eyes flashed ever so slightly before he continued, “The worms are implanted in the body, and need to feed.”

“I take it they don’t eat normal food,” Archer said with a shake of his head.

Kotomine smirked and said, “No, they don’t. I don’t know the exact details, just Zouken is a rather disgusting man. Speaking as a former member of the Burial Agency, if he was dealt with . . .”

“What suffering would that cause?” Archer asked with a tiny smirk as he rested his spoon against the dish as he met Kotomine’s eyes, “What joy would his death bring you?”

Kotomine’s face spread out to a slight smile as he replied, “I do have my limits, Servant Archer. However, killing something that sought immortality that hard and denying him his wish is a joy all its own.”

Archer laughed at that and shook his head before looking back at Kotomine. He stood up and pulled out his wallet. He pulled out enough for the sake and his share of the tofu. He replied, “Well, I’ll let you know how this turns out then, Priest.”

“I hope you do. I look forward to it,” Kotomine said as he wiped more sweat off of his brow.

Archer stepped from the booth and said, “So do I.”

Ironically, he found himself meaning it.

******
“Onii-chan!”

Archer felt his face stretch in a smile as he opened up his arms and the snow fairy bounded right into him. He easily lifted the slight weight off of the ground and held her close. He stroked her long, silvery white hair and said, “Hello Ilya.”

Crimson eyes peered up at him as his adopted sister replied, “Hello Onii-chan. So, why did you come see Ilya?”

“Well, I wanted to talk to you,” Archer replied honestly as he held her close. He felt utterly at peace when he held Ilya von Eizenbern in his arms, a sort of serenity he only experienced in his lifetime and certainly not his afterlife. Part of him wanted to keep her to himself, but he knew that one couldn’t cage Ilya for too long. She had friends and family she had to visit, but she understood all too well that for the most part that family could not get along.

Ilya tapped her lower lip and sighed, “Well, I’ll guess I’ll talk to Onii-chan . . .”

“Oh, well, I should feel honored to gain audience with a snow fairy princess,” Archer retorted as he lightly danced his fingers against her ribs. Ilya squealed, bucked in his arms and squirmed. Archer smiled at the sight as he continued to tickle her as the delightful after rang through his ears. She squirmed enough where he finally set her feet down, but didn’t let up on the tickling.

Ilya’s cheeks were flushed as she waved her hands and said, “I can’t take anymore, Oni-chan! Stop it!”

“Yare, yare, you know it’s my duty as your oni-chan,” Archer said with a sigh and a shake of his head.

She grinned and said, “Well, that’s true, so I’ll let it pass.” Her small hand took his and he held it as they walked through the all too familiar castle. She looked up at him and asked, “So, what did you want to talk about?”

“We’ll get to that later. How are you?” Archer asked with a smile.

Ilya smiled and said, “I’m good. How are you? You know Ilya worries about you.”

“I’m fine. I promise. My business is doing very well,” Archer answered.

Ilya stopped and scowled up at him. Her free hand went to her slim hit as she retorted, “Then why don’t you talk to anyone? Why don’t you go out and do stuff? All you do is stay there and you come visit me. You have a second chance, Oni-chan. Don’t waste it brooding because Rin’s stupid.”

He chuckled at that and said, “I’m not pining over Rin.”

“Liar,” Ilya all but sank as she rocked back and forth on her feet.

He sighed and replied, “I’m not lying. I’m not pining over Rin.”

“Then why did you move out so quickly when Lancer moved in?” Ilya asked with a scowl.

Archer raised his eyebrows and retorted, “Well, would you want to hear Saber and Emiya Shirou doing . . .” He felt his cheeks flush and he looked away. He cleared his throat before looking back at her.

Ilya chuckled and finished, “No, I wouldn’t want to hear them having sex, Oni-chan.”

He stared at her, gulped and made a sound that sounded quite like, “Mughmumph.”

Ilya smiled up at him and laughed. She swung his hand back and forth and sang, “Oni-chan doesn’t like the fact that Ilya knows about bigggg badddd sex. Well, when I get into my new body, I’ll look my age and then both Oni-chans will be sorry.”

He swallowed and asked, “How is the body coming along?”

“Good, would you like to see it?” Ilya asked with a smile.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:14 PM
Archer swallowed again as he looked around. Unease crept around his spine and he felt his palms sweat. He sighed and ran his free hand through his hair. He answered, “Of course.”

Ilya bounced slightly, tugged on his hand and began to drag him to her work room. The Eizenbern Homunculi were famous around the magi community, and she could design a body that would look her natural age instead of being stuck as a twelve year old girl and dying a year from when the War was won. She had a long life a head of her filled with all the things she missed out as a teenager, including stuff like boys, parties, dating and other things Archer really didn’t want to think about.

I’m lucky Berserker’s here, he thought dryly as he looked around for the former Servant. There wasn’t a sign of him, but Archer knew that he was always near by. Then again, they were going deeper and deeper into Ilya’s workshop, and most sane people stayed away from that place. They walked through one of the castle’s many secret corridors until they reached the workroom. Ilya let go of his hand to open the door.

With various body parts swinging from the ceiling as well as tables upon tables of surgical tools, Archer had to admit that the work room looked more at home in a horror movie than a castle. He had to move body parts so they wouldn’t hit him as Ilya made her way to the giant sheet covered table. Archer’s eyes widened at the curves that were already very apparent through the sheet as Ilya whisked the cover away. He stared at the lovely white haired figure that looked as if it was asleep.

The limbs were long and lean, the stomach was firm with the slightest hint of muscle. The face could have been easily Ilya’s mirror if she was six years older. However the figure’s nippleless breasts were seemingly larger than Ilya’s head by half. He gestured to the mammoth chest and asked, “What the hell is that?”

“Aren’t they great?” Ilya asked as to more of his horror she leaned up and groped them. “Look how big they are!”

He swallowed and asked, “Are those . . . Es?”

“F’s,” Ilya all but chirped with a giant smile as she rocked back and forth on her heels.

He stared at them and then back at her. He asked, “Are you sure you want them that big?”

“Why not?” Ilya asked with a frown, “I thought guys liked girls built like this.”

A dim, fuzzy memory of Finnish blond perfection and plum eyes filled his mind. She had been perfectly curvy, but had surprisingly broad shoulders as well as sleek muscles hidden underneath her exquisite clothing. He pushed it away and looked at Ilya.

He honestly answered, “Ilya, not every man likes large . . . I mean, look at Saber.”

“Well, I’d figure that Shirou would like a nice change,” Ilya said with a scowl as she swayed back and forth.

He chuckled and said, “I think I would know that better than anyone.”

“So, smaller then?” Ilya asked with a cant of her head.

He swallowed, cleared his throat and answered, “Yes, like maybe a third of that size.”

“Well, I’d still be bigger than Rin . . .” Ilya said as she lightly tapped her lips. She nodded in satisfaction and said, “I’ll fix it this afternoon after tea then.”

Archer sighed and said, “Right.”

Ilya frowned up at him and took his hand. She sighed, looked up at him and asked, “What’s wrong, Oni-chan?”

“It’s not important,” he answered with a tiny smile that seemed forced.

She scowled and said, “I don’t like it when you lie to me.”

“It’s weird,” Archer confessed with a sigh as he looked away from her and back at the body on the table.

Ilya asked, “How so?”

“I’m just so used to seeing you like this, that’s all,” Archer answered with a shrug as he continued to hold her hand.

She smiled sweetly at him before gesturing him down to her level. He bent forward and she lightly pressed her small, white hand against his cheek. She said, “Oni-chan, I don’t want you to lose Ilya again, even though I’m different than your Ilya, I know you still love me, and that makes me happy. I love you too, but you should be happy that I get to grow up and experience all the stuff that the other Ilya didn’t.”

“Part of me wants to keep you like this forever,” he said as he closed his eyes and leaned slightly into her palm. He rested his free hand over it and inhaled her delicate violet scent. He felt a soft press of silken pressure against his forehead before he felt Ilya back away slightly, but still holding onto his face.

She whispered, “Everyone needs to move on, Oni-chan. Even you. If you don’t change, you’ll grow stagnant and rot away.”

Archer smiled at that and opened his eyes. He let go of her hands to hug her close in this macabre room full of body parts. Hair like fine silk cascaded against his rough hand as he stroked her head. Slim arms held him fiercely as Ilya pillowed her head against his shoulder. Her small hands clutched at his shirt as she said, “You’ll find some place to fit soon, Oni-chan.”

It never ceased to amaze Archer just how much this small girl could disarm him; he who’s body was made of blades. He could be himself with Ilya and forget about being rejected for that drunken Irish bastard or having to avoid a woman who he thought of as a big sister’s highly clumsy advances simply because he reminded her of his father. Which is ironic, isn’t it? Archer thought to himself as he easily lifted Ilya up to head out her work room.

Ilya chuckled and said in a lilting voice, “You really don’t like going in there, do you?”

“Not really,” he drawled as he grinned at her.

She canted her head, sighed and said, “Well, suppose since you’re carrying me I won’t mind.”

“I didn’t think you would,” Archer said with a tiny smirk as he took her towards the kitchen. He had brought with him a few taykiakis as well as Ilya’s favorite tea. He knew she’d be delighted at the treat because Sella never truly let Ilya indulge in sweets. Leysritt was another story, but Sella ruled her with an iron fist as well.

Once they were in the kitchen he sat her on one of the stools as he began to prepare the tea. He set the kettle of water to boil before moving to the tea pot and putting the loose leaves in. Ilya rested her elbows on the counter and leaned forward on her hands, watching him with wide crimson eyes. “You’re really good at that, Oni-chan,” she said as he moved to get out the rest of the tea set so they could drink together.

He smirked and said, “Lots of practice.”

“For Rin?” Ilya asked as she looked at the paper bag that held their treats.

He sighed, looked down at the tea pot and said, “Once, yeah.”

“You weren’t with her in life though,” Ilya said with a tilt of her head, “What about that Viking girl you were with?”

Archer gripped his fists as he could hear the soft chuckle and that melodic voice that always mispronounced his name but he never minded. Luvia had stood by his side as long as she could have, until her father pulled her forcibly away from his “influence”. After that he had thrown himself into saving as many as he could and separated himself from the one person who had tried to save him from his folly and he’d been too stupid to listen.

He had been torn between the two rivals, but had ended up with Luvia by some twist of fate. He had a feeling if he had been with Rin he wouldn’t have been at Ilya’s right now making tea. He would have never become a Guardian at all, but he moved fast enough that not even Rin could keep up.

Archer wondered if every time he’d been summoned by various Rins in his existence if he always felt the thrill of seeing her. He wondered if there had been versions who had abandoned the quest to end their existence to stay with her or to save her. He wondered how many times he had betrayed her. It was just a conflicting mess, but he did know whenever he did see Rin there was always a bittersweet pang of wanting something he wasn’t worthy of having.

He smiled and replied, “Luvia, there was too much keeping us apart. She was a princess and I was a peasant with a sword. Her father was too powerful . . .”

“Why don’t you go find her?” Ilya asked with smile.

He laughed at that and said, “Part of the attraction was that I was very simple, almost normal. Now . . . well, not so much.”

Ilya sighed and said, “Well, at least you won’t make a stupid mistake with Rin.” She grinned deviously as she looked up at him. She asked, “What about Taiga? She really wants you, Oni-chan.”

“ . . . No,” was his only response as he shook his head with a sigh. He looked at the giggling snow fairy perched on the stool and reached out to poke her nose. Her face scrunched up like a startled rabbit’s as she shook her head, giggled and backed away. Archer asked, “Why are you so interested in my love life or rather lack there of?”

“Well, other than Berserker and me, you’re the only one who’s not with someone,” Ilya replied, “I just want to see you happy, that’s all. Well, I have to approve of her too. I don’t approve of Rin. She can keep Lancer, you can do better than her.”

Archer laughed and asked, “What about Bazett?”

“Didn’t she go back to Ireland? She dressed like a man anyway,” Ilya said with a dismissive snort and a wave of her hand.

Archer grinned and said, “Well, I thought she was rather attractive myself . . .”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:14 PM
“No you don’t,” Ilya replied, “And Taiga’s all wrong for you too . . . Well, don’t worry, we’ll find you someone.”

He sighed and said, “Ilya, I’m not looking for anyone.” Rin didn’t want someone damaged like me.

Ilya shrugged and said, “You’ll just wait and see, Oni-chan. You’ll just wait and see.”

The whistle on the kettle began to blow and Archer smoothly moved over to it. He pulled the kettle off the flame and poured the boiling water into the tea pot. He smiled at the fragrant steam that bellowed up from the tea pot and filled the kitchen. He sighed blissfully before putting the teakettle back and grabbed the sugar and cream for the tea. Ilya rubbed her hands and eyed the tea pot with a smile before grinning up at him and pointing at the bag. With a laugh, Archer reached over and handed it to her.

“Yay!” Ilya exclaimed as she pulled out a fish shaped pastry and placed it on a little plate.

Archer pointed at her and said, “I get the red bean paste one.”

“You can have that one, I want the chocolate one,” Ilya said with a smile, “Or did you bring a custard one for me today?”

He grinned and replied, “Well, we’ll have to see won’t we?”

She giggled at that and eyed the tea pot again. Archer checked it and poured them each a cup of tea. He added sugar and cream of a respectable amount to Ilya’s because if he left her to her own devices she’d pour the entire bowl of sugar into her tea cup. He added a miniscule amount of sugar to his as well as a dollop of cream. He looked at the beige liquid thoughtfully before looking up at Ilya.

They chatted amiably as they drank tea and ate their treats, and Archer couldn’t bring himself to ask about Zouken. His time with Ilya like this was the one thing he treasured in this new “life”. Everything else seemed like he was going through the motions, surviving like an animal because he honestly didn’t know where to go or what to do. There was no real satisfaction in his job, it was just something he was good at and he had no real friends or family, but he was surrounded by people who were versions that were people he cared about and loved, yet he couldn’t speak to them.

He traded one hell for another, the only salvation was the white haired girl before him.

For a moment his mind flashed to a priest eating hellishly spicy Tofu and smirking at him. That short while last night he had perversely enjoyed talking to the man who was as empty as he was. Despite the fact that Kotomine wanted to unleash Hell on Earth, Archer found himself drawn to the man. He had a feeling that despite common sense he would find himself looking for Kotomine soon.

Ilya looked up at him and asked, “Oni-chan, what did you really want to talk to Ilya about?”

“What do you mean?” Archer asked as he looked at her.

She sighed and said, “You’re good at lying to everyone else, but I know you better than everyone else too, Oni-chan. You wanted to ask me something that you think is going to be unpleasant.”

Archer sighed and ran a hand through the white spikes of his hair. He looked away and answered, “Rider came to me asking me to help her save Sakura. I’ve found things out about Zouken . . .”

“Ah, silly Makari,” Ilya said with a tiny smile and a shake of her head. Her expression sobered and she said, “Yes. Sakura could become another Grail.”

******

The girl was breaking.

It was a sad thing, really, but not entirely unwelcome. Even though the ancient magus did not get his wish at the end of the Fifth War, he still had his trump card. The remainder of the Grail from the Fourth War was still inside of her and with proper tampering Makari Zouken was confidant he could turn his granddaughter into another Grail. The Association had sent one of their leading magi to dismantle the Grail system, but he had failed to see Sakura and there was a magus who was one of the original founders of the Holy Grail War.

The paradoxical miracle of the Fifth War had brought dead Masters back to life and granted the Servants chances at life again as humans or whatever their original race was. So Fuyuki City was now home to demi-gods and creatures of legend, and the population was none the wiser. From Zouken’s knowledge most of the Servants were happily ingraining themselves into mundane life, like the Rider Servant they had used. Even though the former Servant was meddlesome, Zouken wasn’t afraid of her as long as he had his control over Sakura.

One side effect of the miracle was that the boy Sakura had been so infatuated over, the prodigal son of Emiya, had fallen in love with his Servant. The two of them lived together and Sakura now only left the house for school. She didn’t visit the boy anymore, and while that break in her spirit was troublesome at first, Zouken was nothing if adaptable. He would go to his original plan to use her as the Grail for a later date and one of her and hopefully Shinji’s offspring, unless he found a more suitable donor for genetic material, to be the Master in that war.

Right now he would bide his time and let his false Grail fill with mana over the years. Once the girl had graduated from High School it wouldn’t bore any unwanted questions if she became pregnant. However due to the worms he had implanted inside of her, impregnating her was going to be difficult. Still, he had several years before he had to worry about that. His estimate was that the Grail within Sakura would be ready to use within sixty years unless she had a giant increase of mana pour into her to quicken the process.

Unfortunately, Zouken didn’t know of a source where he could speed up the process. He did have time though and he would thoroughly look into his options. Then he would eventually get what he had waited so long for. He looked down at his weathered hands and then back at the nude girl biting her lip to keep from writhing in the mass of worms surrounding her.

Maintaining his form became harder and harder each time he had to feed. If push came to shove, he would over take the girl. She might fight him at first, but he was confidant that he could shut her down as well.

After all, with the Emiya boy happily taken, what did she have to fight for now?

******

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:15 PM
I want to die.

Matou Sakura looked down from her pale reflection as she turned on the shower. She grimaced at the thin trails of mucus covering the ample curves her body and cursed. Her core still ached and quivered from the latest round of training and her body was painfully sensitive. Still, she wanted to wash herself as clean as she could even though she would just end up like this again and again.

Steam began to fog up the mirror and she looked at her distorted reflection.

Her dirty, distorted reflection.

She bit her lip to keep the tears from falling. There was no one to hear her cries now. Nee-san had forgotten about her long ago. Sempai found someone who was good enough for him and wasn’t stained like she was. He had found someone as pure and good as he was, and she was happy for them. After all, Sempai deserved a gallant knight to save him as well.

She had said good bye to her long love in her heart after she had seen him return holding the petite blond girl’s hand. Their eyes had only seen one and another, and Sakura knew she’d be soon forgotten. It was for the best anyway, Sempai didn’t need to be burdened with someone like her.

Sakura knew now that no one would ever save her, not even Rider. She accepted that, but yet she cursed her cowardice for not killing herself. She knew she could end the shame, the pain, and the torment easily, but the thought of taking her own life terrified her so much she would break out into a cold sweat. There was still some part of her that raged, that yelled that she had every right to live and be happy that everyone else did.

She pulled the dark pink ribbon from her hair and carefully laid it on the sink. She then proceeded to step in the scalding hot shower. The first thing she did was wash off with harsh, anti-bacterial soap that smelled like hospital disinfectant with a pumice scrub. She would scrub her skin so much that it would match the color of her ribbon. Then she would wash her hair and then her body again with the floral soap that Shinji insisted that she used.

It was cloying and thick, and it made her feel like some sort of cheap whore. She hated the soap. Part of her wanted to throw it at Shinji, but she could never do that. So she used the soft, heavily perfumed soap and shampoo because that was what she was told to do. Besides, it wasn’t Shinji’s fault that he was denied his family’s heritage. She had taken that away and she felt sorry for him feeling so worthless, even when he hurt her.

Once she was clean she stepped out of the shower and dried off. She dressed and retied the ribbon in her hair. Then with a sigh she went to the room that served as her bedroom when she wasn’t training, even though that was mostly for appearances. She sighed in relief as she realized that Shinji had a date that evening with the new foreign exchange student from America.

Even though the filthy things inside of her would demand attention, she hated it when he came to her. She hated the way he made her respond. She hated the way he forced her to beg for him. She hated that no matter how much her mind said no, her body pushed her father and farther into depravity.

Most of all she hated that there was no end in sight for her.

Still, Sempai is happy, that’s what matters, she thought to herself as she squared her shoulders. She sat down at her desk and stared at the book that Rider had brought for her to read. She wished that her former Servant wouldn’t visit her. She didn’t want Rider to see her like this and didn’t want her to worry.

And seeing Rider gave her false hope that there was someone that could help her.

Sakura knew that despite how powerful Rider was there was nothing she could do against her Grandfather. There was no way to safely remove what he had implanted in her and she knew with a thought he could easily make her his puppet. To keep her free will, Sakura had to willingly submit.

Even though each time she did now without clinging onto caring for Sempai like a lifeline a part of her free will died anyway.

******
That night, Archer was leaping from rooftop to rooftop, feeling a little like a superhero in one of those American comic books. One interesting side effect was that he still had his Servant’s abilities such as being able to all but fly with high jumps and being able to take the impact of the landing. It was dark enough and he was dressed in black to keep from being seen, besides the area of town he was in wasn’t exactly what one would call crowded at this time of night.

He was leaping from rooftop to rooftop to try to clear his head. He had tried everything else. He had tried meditation. He had tried Tracing various swords. He had cleaned his shop and reorganized his paperwork twice. He had finished all of the jobs he had lined up days a head, but none of this was helping.

“Zouken placed part of the previous Grail inside of Sakura.”

His conversation with Ilya still rang through his ears. Despite the fact that the Greater Grail had been dismantled by the representative from the Association, Archer was certain that with enough time Zouken could create a system like it. Or worse, release Angra Mainyu instead, he thought grimly as he soared into the air before landing on another rooftop. He stood there as he let the cool night air at this height whip through his hair and the T-shirt he was wearing.

He felt a dull throb at the back of his temples and rubbed his forehead. He sighed as he looked at the skyline around him. If he reinforced his eyes he could practically look into people’s houses and reiterate all the details. With all of his abilities though he was unsure of what to do.

The logical thing would be to kill the whole Matou family to keep this from happening.

However, Sakura was a victim. She had a right to be saved as much as anyone else did. Archer frowned as he looked at the both alien and familiar city around him. He thought he had put past him the whole idea of being an ally for justice, but someone had asked him for help because the person who need help couldn’t. He had enough innocent blood on his hands from his afterlife, and he certainly didn’t want to add a former friend’s who happened to be the lost sister of the girl he still wasn’t sure how he felt about.

I should put together what I have and see what I can do. Zouken implants his crest through a series of worms. From what Ilya said he put part of the Fourth War’s Grail in her as well through said worms. Also, the old monster’s been keeping himself alive for centuries with these worms as well. It’s possible that he could control Sakura with those worms, and who knows what damage they’ve done to her physiology as well.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:16 PM
Archer looked down at his bronze arm and clinched his fist. He knew all too well about the changes magic could wreck havoc with one’s body to the point where it would make someone unrecognizable. He briefly wondered if Sakura had originally shared Rin’s raven hair and aquamarine eyes before the Matous gotten their hands on her and did what they did. If he hadn’t seen the matching pink ribbon in Rin’s room or noticed how she watched after Sakura, he would have never have thought that Matou Sakura should have been Tohsaka Sakura.

Rider had wanted him to save Sakura, and that would require him killing Zouken at the very least. From what he had gathered, killing Zouken wouldn’t be a problem. Just figuring out what to do with Shinji and Sakura afterwards was what was going to be troublesome. He also knew that, honestly, he would have no qualms about killing Shinji either.

That’s not my problem, Archer thought. However, I need straight answers now. Archer turned and jumped from his post, heading down to a familiar area of town. He’d been there on a few errands for Fujimura-domo, and despite it wasn’t a night for what usually happened there he was confidant to get answers. He landed as he saw a sleek, black racing motorcycle and more importantly the long lavender hair whipping behind it like a banner.

He landed right in front of the bike and Rider slammed on her breaks, angled the bike so it stopped centimeters in front of him. She flipped up her visor, looked away from him, pulled off her glasses, took off the helmet and smoothly put her glasses back on. She glared at him from underneath the white beryl lenses and snapped, “What the hell are you doing, Archer?”

“I want answers,” Archer replied with a smirk as he folded his arms over his chest.

Rider flushed ever so slightly, looked away and said, “Like I told you before, it’s not your business.”

“If Zouken can turn Sakura into all the world’s evil, it’s fucking sure my business,” Archer retorted.

Rider’s alien eyes widened as she looked at him and then she looked down at her helmet. She absently traced one blunt finger nail over the violet pattern in the helmet before looking back at him. She whispered, “I wasn’t aware of that.”

“Well, I’ve done a lot of research because the person who asked me for help was so damned closed lipped about everything. I understand wanting to protect Sakura, but if you want my help Rider, I need to know everything that you do so I don’t jeopardize her,” Archer replied as he looked at her.

She sighed and tilted her head back before shrugging her shoulders. She then looked back at him and said, “It’s . . . I don’t want you telling anyone. Especially that girl.”

“Rider, who else do I talk to?” Archer asked with a shake of his head and a sigh.

She frowned and asked, “Don’t you still talk to her?”

“I talk to Ilya, but . . .” he sighed and rubbed his forehead, “You mean Rin.”

“She lost her rights as sister long ago when she abandoned Sakura,” Rider said with a scowl as she folded her arms under her ample breasts.

Archer rolled his eyes up and despite the orange haze blanketing the sky, he could still make out all of the stars above him if he had been in the country. He said, “It’s up to Rin and Sakura if they want to repair their relationship, Rider. Not you. Frankly, I don’t give a damn. Right now I want to know what is going on so I know what I’m walking into when I rescue her.”

Rider sighed and asked, “What do you know?”

“I know that the Matou crest is passed on through a series of worms and apparently he implanted parts of the previous Grail and its contents inside of her,” Archer answered with a shrug.

Rider’s alien eyes narrowed as she asked, “Do you know what those . . . things make her do? How they tortured her, day after day? How the worms need to feed?”

He did not reply and simply waited for her to continue. She sighed and rubbed her forehead. She said, “They kill men eventually by devouring the spinal cord, but women . . . apparently they’re more compatible with women. They’re also called lude worms as well. They crave sexual energy, and the semen from a magus. When a magus is not available, anyone will do.” Rider closed her eyes.

An old memory flashed through Archer’s mind. Sakura as a teenage girl with a bruise on her cheek, the bruises on her wrists and how she always hid herself. His hands made a fist as he simply said, “Shinji.”

“Also, Zouken has contingency plans. He is so old because he transfers his soul into the body of those worms,” Rider explained.

Archer sighed and cursed, “Well, goddamn it, that means he could possess Sakura.”

“Yes, not only was she raped, violated by unnatural things, and cannot even have a will of her own and if she tries he can take her over,” Rider said.

Archer said nothing but simply stared at the Gorgon as she looked away from him. She said, “I will not have you judging Sakura.”

“I won’t” Archer replied, his voice hoarse even for him. He clinched his fists at his side and let them go. He cursed himself, he cursed the alternate version of his younger self, he cursed Saber, he cursed Rin, he cursed Shinji and he cursed magi in general. He sighed and said, “Yare, yare, this isn’t going to be easy.”

“That’s why I went to you,” Rider said in a soft voice, “Because you seem to go above and beyond what you should be able to do.”

Archer snorted and felt his lips quirk up in a crooked grin as he replied, “Because I cheat.”

“Well, I need that to get Sakura away from them,” Rider said with a sigh and a shake of her head, “But I don’t know what to do with those worms, if they can bring what you claim . . .”

“We need to get them out of her, and isolate Zouken’s worm,” Archer said with a shrug.

Rider looked at him with those eerily beautiful eyes and asked, “And how do we do that without killing her?”

“I have something I want to try. However, I may need some back up on this,” Archer said as he looked steadily at her.

Rider swallowed and asked, “Who would that be?”

“Well, for Zouken, I know who’d be perfect for dealing with him. As for Sakura, I need to look into something first,” Archer replied as he looked down at his chest. He wasn’t sure if he could do it, and he wanted to test it first. If his fake didn’t work, at least he knew how to get his hands on the real one.

Rider nodded and looked away. Archer watched as she took off her glasses, put her helmet back on, put the glasses back on and then slid the visor down. She said, “Once you get things figured out, I need to know.”

He nodded then asked, “And Shinji?”

“What about him?” Rider asked.

Archer smirked and said, “Zouken’s going to get exactly what’s coming to him. I want to make sure Shinji does the same.”

He saw Rider’s lilac eyes light up from even behind the visor and the glasses and her cheek bones lift. He couldn’t actually see her smile due to the helmet covering almost half of her face, but it was obvious to anyone who knew her she was smiling. “You are rather interesting, Archer,” she said before the blare of the motor revved up, killing any reply.

Archer watched her spin the bike around and rapidly disappears into the night. He sighed and asked the sky, “What does this make me? Someone who’s cleaning up a mess before it starts, or someone who’s correcting everyone else’s errors?”

He snorted to himself as he did not get an answer.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:18 PM
Ryudou Issei sighed as he started down the temple steps. It wasn’t even noon yet but he felt his shirt already sticking to his skin and beads of sweat already running down his back. He rubbed his forehead and adjusted his glasses to see a tall figure heading up the steps. He frowned as he took off his glasses to wipe them off with a handkerchief to remove the sweat from them before sliding them back into place.

He didn’t recognize the tall, broad shouldered man dressed in head to toe black heading up the steps, but there was something familiar about him that Issei couldn’t put his finger on. The perfect posture, the squared shoulders, but the man’s hands casually stuck in his pockets was something all too familiar. Issei shook off the déjà vu as the white haired man stopped at the step that Issei was standing on.

The man smiled, his eyes closing slightly and the expression tightened Issei’s chest. He felt his cheeks warm up in a way that only had to do with one other person that he would never confess to. He quickly looked away from the man’s handsome face, cleared his throat and said, “Ah, may I help you?”

“Yes actually. I’m looking for Kuzuki-sensei’s fiancé Caster,” the white haired man replied with a smile.

Issei blinked up at the tall man and asked, “You know Caster?”

“Yes, we worked together, just . . . It’s been a long time since I’ve been here and I don’t know where she’d be,” the white haired man replied as he looked awkwardly around the temple.

Issei felt his cheeks burn even more as he pushed his glasses more firmly on his nose. He said, “Ah, well, I’d be happy to take you to her then. I’m Ruyudo Issei.” He bowed slightly before looking at him with a smile.

The man in black bowed as well and said, “I’m Archer, thank you.”

The two of them started to head back up the steps and Issei asked, “So, are you from Fuyuki then?”

“Actually yes I am. It’s been a while since I’ve lived here though,” Archer answered as he slid his hands back into his pockets.

Issei asked, “So are you visiting?”

“I’m actually living here. I own the repair shop by Shinto,” Archer replied.

Issei’s eyes went wide as he looked up at the bronze skinned man. He placed his hand over his mouth and said, “You’re that Archer-san?”

“I guess?” Archer said with a small, lopsided smile.

They were right, Issei thought as he thought about the giggling girls in the Student Council who kept finding things that were broken at school to take to have repaired. He was a little sad because it meant that he couldn’t spend as much time as usual with Emiya Shirou because there wasn’t as much to fix as usual. However looking at Archer now, Issei could easily see why those girls scour the school grounds for things in need of repair. Issei simply said, “I see.”

Archer smiled at him and said, “So, are you training to be a monk?”

“Yes, hopefully after High School I can finish my training,” Issei said with a smile.

Archer frowned and said, “It’ll be a shame to shave all of that hair.”

“That’s what Caster keeps telling me,” Issei admitted with a shake of his head.

The older man looked at him and said, “Just don’t deny your feelings.”

“What do you mean?” Issei asked with a frown.

Archer answered, “Nothing, just remember that.” Then, with a smile, Archer headed up the steps in a steady lope, leaving Issei behind.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:19 PM
Archer quietly moved past the monks’ quarters to the quasi-apartment set up for Kuzuki and his “bride” to be. He knocked on the wood frame of the paper door and a moment later the door slid open and a head of long, periwinkle hair with pointed ears poked out. Eyes a shade darker and a tad more violet than the woman’s hair flickered around as she muttered, “It’s too early for Issei to be back . . .”

“Well, I’m not Issei,” Archer drawled as he watched the ancient witch’s eyes widen and she looked up at him.

The Ancient Greek witch Media stared up at him and took a shaking step back before her eyes narrowed at him. She clinched her right hand into a fist as she glared at him. “Archer,” she said in a low voice as she flexed open her hand and her lips began to move.

He smoothly moved up and clasped her mouth. “Now, it’s not a good time to be throwing divine words,” he said as he let her go, “And if I was going to kill you, I wouldn’t have politely knocked at the door.”

“Your record on being trustworthy isn’t favorable, Servant Archer,” Caster said as she folded her arms under her ample breasts. His eyes traveled up her form as he took note she wasn’t wearing her robes but a black tank top and a long, soft white skirt. She looked more like a young woman waiting for her lover to return home than a dangerous witch.

Archer smirked and retorted, “Well, I see you’re adjusting well, Caster.”

“Unlike you. So, how is your little former Master and her big, strong Irishman?” Caster asked with a tiny grin as her eyes gleamed maliciously.

He gritted his teeth and replied, “I wouldn’t know.”

“I know what it’s like to be rejected, and it’s not a pleasant thing,” Caster said with a smile as she stepped back into the apartment. However her eyes darted around him before locking on his form again. Her whole body was tense despite her flippant words. “Now, what are you doing here?”

Archer smiled slightly and replied, “You’re nervous.”

“Considering the last time we met at any length of time you betrayed me and riddled me through with swords,” Caster said with a snort, “Especially after all I did for you.”

He replied, “Well, we were at war, and you were endangering both Rin and Saber. You were just a means to an end anyway.”

“Since the boy brought us all back to life, I would safely assume that you failed on that regard,” Caster continued as her smile narrowed at him and she tapped one finger with its finely manicured delicate pink nail against her full lips.

Archer shrugged and said, “Not exactly. We came to an agreement that mutually benefited everyone. Including your Souichirou-sama.”

“Don’t you dare speak his name like that,” Caster hissed as she started to extend her hand towards him.

He replied, “You do.”

“I have my reasons,” Caster replied as a pretty pink flush stained her features, “What are you doing darkening my doorstep anyway?” She tossed her hair back as she stared at him with a small frown.

Archer smiled and answered, “I need your help.”

“No,” Caster said with a shake of her head.

He asked, “And why not?”

“Ah, let’s see, because you betrayed and killed me,” Caster retorted with her hands on her hips.

Archer shrugged and said, “And don’t forget Kuzuki.”

Caster’s eyes widened at that as she simply stared up at him. Her whole being shook as she stared at him. She gritted her teeth and then her hand came up. She swung with all of her might but Archer already saw the tell of her body.

While she was able to run circles around him magically, Archer was still physically stronger, faster and smarter than her. His hand caught her wrists several centimeters from his face as he grinned down at her. He said, “It was in self defense after all. If he would’ve retreated instead of trying to avenge your death, he wouldn’t have needed to be resurrected with the rest of us. Not that you have room to talk, Medea.”

She stared up at him before looking down. She bit her lip and asked, “Souichirou-sama attacked you even though he wasn’t reinforced? To avenge me?”

“It was ridiculously romantic,” Archer said with a snort as he dropped her hand.

She flushed even more and tucked her small braid of periwinkle hair behind one of her pointed ears. She hissed, “I should kill you.”

Archer’s nostrils twitched as he smelled the familiar smell of miso burning. He turned to her and dryly asked, “Is that miso burning?”

“Oh no,” Caster said as her eyes widened and she turned sharply on her heels. She almost stumbled as she ran towards the kitchen area of the living quarters. Chuckling to himself, Archer followed her to the kitchen as she took the ruined tofu mixture from the stove. She groaned and her shoulders slumped as she put it in the sink. “Not again,” she moaned with a shake of her head.

Archer asked, “Problems?”

“Like you know anything about cooking,” she snapped, “And why are you still here anyway?”

Archer smirked and replied, “Because I need your help.”

“Why should I help you?” Caster asked with narrowed eyes.

“Because I can give you access to a form of mage craft that has kept a soul alive for almost five hundred years,” Archer answered.

She snorted, “I don’t care about that, Archer.”

“You just want to live a normal life with Kuzuki,” Archer said as he shook his head.

She glared at him and said, “You’re still here.”

“Yes, and I’m going to be here until you agree to help me,” Archer said calmly as he sat down on the floor Japanese style.

Caster’s cheeks flushed as she snapped, “You’re going to leave if I have to drag your ass out of here.”

“Drag my ass out of here? Wow, I’m surprised that a princess and relative of the gods knows such coarse language,” Archer said with a sly grin.

.The flush spread from her cheeks to the tips of her ears as she placed her hands on her hips and said, “You are vexing.”

Archer smiled and said, “You’d better scrape the tofu out of that pan before it congeals again.”

“I know that,” Caster all but yelled at him before turning back to clean up the mess.

For the next hour, Archer watched her attempt twice to cook the miso, and each time she burned the soup. The third time he started giving her hints and suggestions, which only flustered her even more. She finally screamed, threw up her hands and spun around to face him where he was sitting. “What is it going to take to make you leave?!” she screamed at him.

Archer looked around and said, “Be any louder and you’re going to get some unwanted attention.”

“Yes, and you’re the one here who’s not wanted,” Caster snapped at him as she pointed at him.

He shrugged and replied, “I think I can convince Issei to letting me stay.”

“You wouldn’t,” Caster said as she narrowed her eyes at him.

His smirk spread into a grin as he replied, “I would and could.”

“Fine, tell me what you need my help with and we can go on from there,” Caster said with a sigh as her shoulders slumped.

Archer felt his face fell as he answered, “I need your help to save a girl who’s been tortured and raped since she was seven years old.”

“You’re . . . not kidding,” Caster said in a small voice as her hands went to her mouth, “By the gods, who would do such a thing?”

“The magus who in control of the mage craft I just described to you,” Archer replied, “I figure you can experiment on his body. The more painfully the better.”

Caster did smile at that and said, “Why Archer, despite your brutality, I had no idea your tastes ran that way. Here I thought you were too much like the boy.”

“I am, but sometimes Justice needs to be painful,” Archer replied as he met her eyes, “So, are you in?”

Caster replied, “I’ll help you on one condition.”

“I’ll teach you how to cook,” Archer replied with a dark grin.

She turned colors again and said, “Fine, now would you please leave?”

“Give Issei my regards,” Archer replied as he stood up to leave the quarters.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:21 PM
Sakura had just finished getting dressed as she heard a familiar knock on the door. She froze as she looked around, hoping Shinji was here to answer the door. However, he was out with the American exchange student again leaving her alone with Grandfather. Sighing, she smoothed out her hair and skirt before heading for the door. She braced her shoulders and opened the door only to freeze.

Standing at the doorway were the two people she wanted to see the least. Emiya Shirou smiled at her, his golden-brown eyes closing at the expression and the petite blond foreigner that was formerly his Servant and currently his lover standing beside him smiled as well. She forced a smile on her face and said, “Hello, Sempai.”

“We are concerned about you, Sakura. It has been quite some time since you have dined with us,” Saber said.

Shirou continued to smile as he said, “The house hasn’t been the same without you, and Fuji-nee is really starting to miss your cooking. Plus if she brings home this mystery guy that works for her Grandfather over, we could really use you there for support.”

Sakura’s hands clinched into fists at her sides as she stared at the happy, clueless couple. She looked down and said in a soft voice, “I’m sorry, I’ve been busy.”

“Wait, has Shinji hurt you again?” Shirou asked as he moved towards her, his brilliant eyes bright.

He peered down at her and she took a step back from him. She smiled and said, “No, everything has been fine with Nii-san. He’s been dating the new American exchange student. I’ve just been busy with the Archery Club. Apparently some of the other First Years managed to break some of the bows and I’ve been helping Mitzuzuri-taicho with them.” The lie tasted bitter even to her, but it was a partial truth at least. There were several bows damaged by the First Years, but Taiga-sensei had taken them to the new repair shop that was ran by an Archer-san that had to be one of the former Servants.

Saber frowned slightly and said, “We just want to make sure you are treated well, Sakura. You are our friend.” The blond smiled at the last part, transforming her whole face and making it radiant. Sakura swallowed and resisted the urge to run into the house and hide from the spectacle of the happy couple.

Sakura smiled back and Shirou frowned at her. He asked, “Are you sure everything’s okay, Sakura?”

“Everything is fine, Sempai,” Sakura said with a tiny bow.

Saber reached out and rested her small hand over Sakura’s wrist. She stared down at the tiny hand and wondered how such a small girl could have been the most powerful Servant and if she still carried her power reborn. Or was she just a small girl with a big sword? Brilliant emerald eyes met hers as Saber said, “You know you are always welcome at our home. If there is any trouble here, please come to us no matter how great or small.”

Sakura bit her lip as she was torn from wanting to slap the girl or fall to her knees and tell them every horror her grandfather had inflicted upon her. To tell them how she screamed for her Nee-san and how Rin never came to save her. Instead she smiled and said, “I will be over tomorrow to help with dinner then.”

“Good, I could use some competition,” Shirou said with a warm smile that made her chest ache.

Sakura nodded and Saber asked, “Would you like to come shopping with us? You could help pick out what you and Shirou are going to cook tomorrow.”

Sakura swallowed and looked behind her shoulder at the dark house behind her. Shirou smiled and said, “Come on, Sakura, we could really use your help.”

Sakura smiled and said, “Just give me one moment to grab my purse and I’ll be right there.” With that she ran into the house and rubbed her forehead. She realized that she had ran up the steps and could look at the couple standing on the doorstep. Her shoulders slumped and her chest tightened at the sight of them. As she watched, Shirou intertwined his arm with Saber’s and leaned down to lightly kiss the crown of her head.

She bowed her head as she wondered what it would have been like to hold his hand and have him kiss her head like that. She shook her head as she grabbed her purse from her room and slid it over her shoulder. Grandfather was asleep right now due to the sun being so high in the sky, so she could easily leave the house and be back before Shinji came home and Grandfather woke up. She ran down the steps, slid into her shoes and joined the happy couple in the sunlight. As she locked up, she took one look into the gloomy atmosphere that she would have to return to and sighed.

“Something wrong, Sakura?”

She smiled and said, “Not at all, Sempai.” More than you know.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:21 PM
Sakura was at the fish market with Saber and Shirou, with Saber haggling with the shopkeeper to get the price down for some scallops for dinner tomorrow. She was standing under the awning of the store, but yet she felt the heat crawl and dig under her skin. Her throat was parched and she felt her vision blurring. She felt the familiar flush spread through her as well as her body clinch in need.

She placed a hand over her stomach as she looked around and shifted her weight. She shrugged her heavy shoulders and swallowed only to have Shirou look at her. He asked, “Sakura, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Sempai,” she said in a soft voice as she straightened to her full height. She felt the things within her growl in need as she realized she hadn’t been with Shinji in days, that he had been so preoccupied with the American that he had forgotten her. She loathed his visits, but it kept them at bay. She knew soon enough she wouldn’t be able to stand and her body would be flushed with shameless pleasure and need.

Saber turned to them and frowned. “You are flushed, Sakura. Are you sure you are not ill?”

“I’m fine, Saber,” Sakura said between gritted teeth as she forced herself to smile.

Shirou asked, “Do you want us to take you home?”

“I’m fine. I promise. I’ll take some medicine when I get home, it’s probably nothing but a summer cold,” Sakura said with a wave of her hand as she turned back towards the fish.

She pointed and said in a light voice, “This tuna looks good, Sempai. Do you think you could make us some sushi tomorrow as well?”

“That’s a good idea Sakura. I have this really good rice that we bought last week that I still need to use the rest of. Let me get some seaweed and spices and we can have both Japanese and Western food tomorrow,” Shirou said with a smile as he began to look at the tuna.

Saber’s eyes lit up as she clasped her hands together. She asked, “We are having both Japanese and Western food tomorrow?”

“Of course,” Sakura said with a chuckle, “I already know what I want to do with the scallops and Sempai’s Japanese food is second to none.”

Shirou shook his head and said, “You’re getting closer to beating me though, Sakura.”

“I doubt that,” she said with a smile that she actually felt.

Saber was practically glowing as she said, “Well, with the two of you cooking we will have a meal fit for a king. This is something that will not be missed. Shirou, do you think we should invite Rin and Lancer for dinner tomorrow as well, allowing Rin to cook something too?”

Sakura looked away at mentioning Rin’s name as Shirou scratched the back of his head and scowled. “Tohsaka I don’t mind, Lancer . . .” Shirou shook his head and sighed.

Saber folded her arms over her chest and said, “Shirou, for us to enjoy Rin’s company we must put up with Lancer’s.”

“Fine fine, you win. Geeze Saber, I can’t win against you, can I?” Shirou said with a laugh as she wrapped an arm around him.

Sakura stared at them embracing each other so easily and looked away. She heard Saber said, “You should know better by now to challenge me in such things.”

“Well, I could always refuse to cook,” Shirou said with a smirk.

Saber’s green eyes widened as she stared at him. She gasped, “You wouldn’t!”

“Well, I mean, with Sakura and Tohsaka probably cooking tomorrow there’s really no need for me,” Shirou said with a shrug.

Sakura swallowed and said, “Tohsaka-sempai is not as good as you, Sempai. I would rather eat your food than hers any day.”

“Ah, thanks Sakura,” Shirou said with a tiny flush.

Saber looked at her and said, “If you keep flattering him like that, he will become lazy.”

“Saber!” Shirou said as he glared down at her, causing the blond to chuckle slightly.

She patted his hand and said, “I was only jesting, Shirou. Besides, you should see your face.”

“That’s it, I’m not cooking for you tonight then,” Shirou said with a snort before grinning slightly and looking away from her.

Saber shrugged and replied, “Well, I am most sure that Rin would be delighted to have me.”

Sakura bit her lip and looked away, trying to ignore the hot flash that washed over her body that had nothing to do with the worms inside of her. She flexed her hands at her sides and looked down at her feet as the two continued to playfully banter. She tried to drown it out, focus on the person playing loud pop music across the street or someone shouting from down the road. She closed her eyes and then felt a warm hand on her shoulder.

Her eyes flew open as she saw Shirou peering worriedly at her and he asked, “Are you sure you don’t want us to take us home? You’re looking flushed, Sakura.”

“T-t-that might be a good idea, Sempai,” she stammered as she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and forced a smile.

Saber blinked at her and asked, “Are you sure everything is fine at your home? We know that Shinji is not trustworthy.”

She looked down at her feet, knowing that they thought she was just an innocent bystander in all of this. They all thought she had no part in the War, when she was actually Rider’s real Master. So everyone just told her that Saber was someone that Shirou’s adopted father knew from England that had come to help him, and he help her. Some of the other Servants had wilder stories woven about them, like one of them being engaged to one of the teachers at the school and so on and so forth.

She looked back up at them and said, “It’s fine, thank you for your concern.” She bowed politely to them before gathering her purse and heading back to the dark Matou household.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:22 PM
Archer had his office and workshop closed and was in his actual work room. He had a good majority of his plan already formed, but there was one more thing he had to be sure of before he implemented it. He took off his shirt and carefully folded before he laid it on the work bench. He then had a small pocket knife sitting on the work bench as well as his first aid kit. He reached over to open up the first aid kit to have it ready incase this didn’t work.

He picked up the pocket knife and looked over his arms and chest. His chest was scattered with a myriad of scars from anything from swords to bullet wounds to the scar Gae Bolg had left him when Lancer stabbed him as a teenager. His arms were in better shape, so he picked up the knife and cut himself open on a burn scar on his left shoulder. He registered that it hurt, he also felt the warm rush of blood and the subtle sting, but Archer had grown close to pain during his life time and as a Servant.

He wiped off the knife with a paper towel and planned to clean it better later. He set it down on top of the soiled paper towel and closed his eyes. He opened up his Magic Circuits and flooded his prana through them. He felt them spark within him, the hammer slammed down and there was the signal that he was ready to Trace. He whispered, “Trace On.”

He could see the beautiful sapphire blue and golden sheath, see each exquisite line and etching in its metal surface. He could dissect it into eight parts and tell you how it was made and who the true owner was. He put those parts together and forced it into reality. He opened his eyes and found the famed scabbard of King Arthur in his hands. He brushed his thumb over the smooth surface before closing his eyes and forcing prana into the sheath.

He waited for his shoulder to heal, but there wasn’t even a tingle. He sighed as he looked at the blood streaming down his shoulder and pulled off more paper toweling. He held it over the wound with pressure to get it to stop bleeding. At least a sword didn’t poke out of the wound, he thought dryly as he removed the toweling and threw it away. He then proceeded to clean out the wound, disinfect it, apply styptic to it and bandage it. He threw away the trash and then looked at the perfect copy of Avalon sitting on his worktable.

He released the prana holding it together and it shattered into glittering particles before completely fading away. He scowled at where the sheath had been laying and muttered, “I had a feeling that wasn’t going to work.” He sighed and ran a hand through his hair before stretching his now aching shoulder. He rolled his arm and stretched, reforming his plan.

For Sakura to survive, I’m going to need Saber. Getting Saber involved gets that idiot involved. However, because this is for Sakura the both of them will help. However the one person I know who can best remove the worms is someone that both of them would probably kill on sight, Archer thought with a shake of his head.

He pulled on his shirt and cleaned up the area. He then put the first aid kit and the knife back into their proper places. Now here comes the next part in my daunting plan, Archer thought as he headed out the door. He jumped into the air since he didn’t own a car or a bike, and this was far faster and more fun than walking.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:23 PM
Archer landed on the roof of Kotomine’s church in a crouch before standing to his full height and dropping off the roof into the courtyard. His keen eyes looked around to see the corrupted priest standing at the door leading to his personal quarters with one hand behind his back. Archer calmly strolled up to him and Kotomine moved his hand from his back to clasp the other one and rest in front of him.

“Most people choose the use the door, Servant Archer,” Kotomine said as he approached Archer, “Instead of breaking and entering.”

Archer looked up and said, “I hadn’t broken into anything yet, habit anyway.”

“Sneaking into places? That’s not a savory habit,” the priest replied with a shake of his head.

Archer shrugged and said, “Like you have any room to talk Kotomine Kirei.”

“Very true. Still, were you able to complete your task?” Kotomine asked as he turned his back to Archer and started to head back into the church.

Archer fell into step with the man who was actually taller than he was and answered, “I found out what I needed, but the execution’s going to be more difficult than
I planned.”

“Zouken is ancient, he’s not without his tricks. He may look feeble, but don’t discount him,” Kotomine said ominously as his gaze flickered back to Archer.

Archer smirked and replied, “He’s not what I’m worried about. I’m worried about Sakura.”

“Ah, yes Tokiomi’s forgotten daughter, the unwanted one,” Kotomine said with a shake of his head as he opened up the door that lead to the church’s office.

Archer eyed him and said, “Well, apparently Zouken put some sort of failsafe in her.”

“Oh?” Kotomine asked with a tilt of his head.

He nodded and said, “Apparently he could take over her body if need be.”

“So, he did find a source of immortality, albeit flawed,” Kotomine said with a thoughtful tilt to his head, his large hands now clasped behind his back as the two of them stepped into his office.

Archer looked around the Spartan room, finding it matching his records of previous visits during different versions of the Fifth War. There was the heavy oak desk, high back chair, two hard chairs in front of the desk and a faded red couch. Tucked in the corner was a giant wooden cabinet with closed doors. The only detail that was different was that the room didn’t have drops of blood staining the couch, the desk or the chairs.

He replied, “Just at the cost of another’s free will.”

“True. So, how are you going to handle this, Servant Archer?” Kotomine asked as his dark eyes met Archer’s. One thick brow arched up sardonically as the priest watched.

Archer answered, “That’s why I’m here.”

“Oh? You don’t look like the type to seek spiritual guidance,” Kotomine said with a tiny smile and the shake of his head.

Archer smirked in response and replied, “We all know that your credibility as a priest is questionable to say the least.”

“I’m not going to argue with that,” Kotomine said, the smile spreading ever so slightly.

Archer folded his arms over his chest and replied, “However, your skills as a spiritual surgeon are wildly regarded and nearly second to none.”

“So, you want me to purge his safeguard from Sakura?” Kotomine asked as he sat down at his desk, calmly folding his hands together on the scuffed surface. “As adept as my talents are, I know I do have limits. She may die on the table, Servant Archer.”

Archer smiled and said, “Oh, I have a safeguard for that.”

“And, you come to me as if I’ve already decided to help the girl,” Kotomine replied as he continued to look at Archer, “I’ve made no such decision.”

The former Servant shrugged and said, “Think about all the misery Sakura being free will caused. Not to mention she’ll have to adapt to life away from both her step-brother and Zouken. It’s easy to die, but it’s harder to live. Not to mention how do you think Rin would respond?”

“You’ve thought about this carefully, Servant Archer,” Kotomine said as he stood up from his desk and walked to the cabinet. He opened it and pulled out a bottle of wine and two glasses. He set the glasses on the desk, uncorked the wine and said, “Gilgamesh always complained about the wine I kept here, but I always enjoyed it.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:24 PM
He filled each glass and gave lifted it to Archer. Archer snorted, eyed it for a moment, took it and said, “When you’re in a War where almost everyone vastly overpowers you, you tend to think things carefully or cheat wildly.”

“What was it that Gilgamesh called you? Faker?” Kotomine asked as he swirled the burgundy liquid in the crystal glass. It reflected like deep rubies in the dim light in the room and Archer found his eyes drawn to the rich hue before Kotomine brought his cup to his lips and drank.

“Something like that,” Archer answered as he stared down into his own wine. He could smell the tart, fragrant smell of it. He really didn’t like to drink, other than the odd bit of sake to beat down dangerous mapo tofu’s heat, because he was such a lightweight, even after his growth spurt. He hated the loss of control it brought him, not to mention he never really remembered what happened during the time of his inebriation. However, not to be out done he took a sip and almost winched at the bitter, astringent taste of it.

Considering Kotomine, that’s really not surprising, he thought with a small shake of his head.

“And despite your dishonorable acts, you’re still going to save this girl that means nothing to you,” Kotomine said as he set his wine glass down.

Archer replied, “I was asked to help.”

“Not by Sakura. Why help someone who can’t even ask for help themselves?” Kotomine asked.

He shrugged and said, “I needed something to do, I guess.”

“Or maybe you couldn’t turn her down, no matter what your reasoning told you,” Kotomine replied as his eyes locked on Archer’s with shocking familiarity.

For a moment he was a seventeen year old boy again, in over his head in something he didn’t understand.

However, he was twisted enough that Kotomine didn’t make him uncomfortable anymore, and in hindsight he realized he actually liked the priest. He didn’t feel awkward in his own skin around Kotomine and that he could speak to him on a more even playing level. He wasn’t muddling around trying to force himself into a mundane existence with people who didn’t understand what had driven him.

Archer looked down at his wine with a sound that wasn’t quite a laugh, but wasn’t a snort either. He swirled the deep crimson liquid in its glass as he watched the play of light in its depths like little shimmers of rubies. The color made him think of Rin, and how she had made her choice, and honestly he didn’t blame her.

Lancer hadn’t betrayed her.

Lancer had saved her from the man before him at the cost of his own life.

Archer had forsaken everything on a chance that less than a percent and now was paying for it.

“I guess no matter what I do, I always need to save someone,” Archer said before he realized he was talking.

Kotomine asked, “Even if death would be a kinder fate in some fashion?”

“Then by your accounts, then you should want that person to live,” Archer said with a wiry grin as he took another slow sip of wine. This time he was ready for it and didn’t nearly choke, even without Reinforcement.

Kotomine actually smiled at him and replied, “But we’re not talking about me, Servant Archer, we’re talking about you.”

“And I’m avoiding the issue until after Sakura is free,” Archer replied as he swirled the wine around again.

Kotomine picked up his wine glass again and asked, “And what about after?”

“I’ll tell you everything if you agree to this,” Archer said as he set the wine glass down and refolded his arms across his chest.

Kotomine’s eyebrows arched as he replied, “And why would that mean anything to me?”

“You’re already curious,” Archer answered with a shrug, “And I’m well aquatinted with suffering.”

Kotomine said, “Then I look forward to it.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:26 PM
Archer decided he wasn’t going to be rude and break into his former home, especially since he was asking for Saber’s help. Still, he wasn’t looking forward to going to his former home, seeing his idiot past self with her and then actually asking for help. Knowing Saber, he was fairly certain that he was going to have Excalibur pointed in his face at least once during the entire conversation.

Even though apparently Saber had gotten her answer while watching him and Shirou fight, he had a feeling that she was still upset about his treachery. He might have been some alternate version of her lover, but she knew the difference between them even though she could see the similarities in him and her. The irony had not been lost on him, he knew fully well that his and Saber’s paths were too alike to the point where they were even going to change the past to correct their plights.

Except at the end he knew his chance for a paradox was less than a percentage point, so he was just going to pour all of his frustration into killing Emiya Shirou.

Fortunately, he had his eyes opened to realize that dream had been beautiful and he hadn’t been wrong. Just he now knew that saving everyone was impossible and he hoped that Saber would keep Emiya Shirou from following in his footsteps. It was just that he had no goal and didn’t know what to do with himself without having to fight or clean up after humanity as a whole.

Which has to be part of the reason why I’m saving Sakura, Archer thought as he raised his hand to knock on the door. He paused as he realized for the past few days since Rider had asked him for help he actually felt like he had a purpose. He didn’t feel like a glorified handyman or out of place. He’d been enjoying himself from his talks to Kotomine and Ilya, despite his anger and regret over Sakura’s plight.

He knocked on the door and waited. He heard an all too familiar voice shout, “Shirou, I’ll get the door!” He shook his head as a moment later the door opened and he was greeted by a small blond girl with huge emerald eyes.

Aurtria Pendragon’s eyes widened as she stared up at Archer with one hand gripping the door frame. Then her eyes narrowed as she said, “Archer, what reason do you have to be here?” She folded her arms under her small breasts and glared up at him.

Archer remembered the first time he had met Saber in his time, how the image of the petite girl had been burned into his mind despite all the Hells he had been through. He remembered the moonlight pooling behind her, gleaming off her silver armor as emerald eyes looked down at him. It was something he would always cherish, despite their differences. However, it was sort of odd seeing her in blue jeans, a white tank top with her hair pulled up into a simple pony tail.

He answered, “Actually, I need to talk to you.”

She frowned and asked, “Whatever for?”

“I need your help to help someone,” Archer answered.

Saber sighed, her shoulders slumped as she asked, “Is Rin in trouble?”

“It’s not about Rin, it’s about Sakura,” Archer answered.

The frown grew deeper as Saber took a step back and said, “Come in. We saw Sakura yesterday, she seemed a little ill . . .”

“What’s wrong with Sakura isn’t something she wants broadcast out to everyone,” Archer replied as he closed the door behind him.

“And how do you know of her plight then?” she asked with a scowl.

Archer answered, “Rider asked for my help.”

“Rider?” Saber said as her eyes widened as she continued to frown.

He nodded and said, “It’s a long story.”

“Will you actually tell it, or are you just going to boldly lie as you did during the War?” Saber asked as her hands went to her hips.

He resisted the urge to grin at her as he replied, “I doubt it’s something that Sakura’s going to want you or Emiya Shirou to know.”

“If Sakura is in trouble, she should know that we would do all that we could to help her,” Saber said as she turned from Archer, her blond pony tail swaying back and forth with her graceful movements as she walked deeper into the home.

He silently agreed with her, but he also understood Sakura’s stance on the subject as well. He said, “I don’t think this is something Sakura wants people to know about.”

“She should know that we wouldn’t judge her,” Saber said with a frown as they made their way to the kitchen.

Archer shifted slightly as his keen eyes could make out the familiar mop of red hair bent over a pot. He could smell miso, rice, tofu, and sushi being prepared with normal perfection. Emiya Shirou looked up with a smile and asked, “Saber who was at the . . .” The smile wiped off the boy’s face as golden-brown eyes narrowed at Archer as he finished, “Archer.”

“Emiya Shirou,” Archer replied with a slight smirk as he folded his arms over his chest and made sure to stare down at the boy. It was childish, but he still enjoyed needling his alternative, younger self.

Saber glared at them both before moving over to her lover. She said in a low voice, “Apparently Archer needs our help to help Sakura.”

“What’s wrong with Sakura? She wasn’t feeling well yesterday, but other than that she seemed okay,” Shirou asked with a frown.

Saber sighed and answered, “Archer is being unforthcoming with information.”

“That’s not surprising,” Shirou grumbled as he moved back to stirring the miso soup. However he looked up at Archer and asked, “And why are you helping her anyway?”

Archer answered, “Rider asked me.” He wasn’t going to talk about how he’d been wandering through his new life almost as if he was sleepwalking and now he felt like he had a purpose again.

Shirou’s frown furrowed his brow even deeper as he looked at Saber. Saber shrugged and said, “Well, she was Shinji’s Servant. Maybe she had learned about Sakura’s situation during the War.”

Shirou sighed and said, “And you’re not going to explain anything to us.”

“Actually, in this situation I would want to, but I’m also respecting Sakura’s right to privacy,” Archer answered before clearing his throat. Besides, at least Saber will find out soon enough.

Saber asked, “If Sakura was in trouble, why would she not ask us for help?”

“Because she wouldn’t want to burden us,” Shirou answered quietly as he placed a lid on the miso soup so it could simmer.

Archer added, “Or put either of you in danger.”

“It’s bad isn’t it?” Shirou asked as he methodically moved to cutting the fish for the sushi. His eyes lifted and locked on Archer’s. They were still enough alike that Shirou would understand his reasons even if he didn’t like them.

He nodded and answered, “Yeah, it’s bad.”

“What do you need us to do then?” Shirou said with a grim scowl.

Archer answered, “I mainly need Saber. Saber and Avalon.”

“Avalon?” Saber asked.

Shirou frowned and asked, “Couldn’t you just Trace it?”

“I tried, it doesn’t work without its rightful owner,” Archer said as he looked pointedly at Saber, “Trust me, I didn’t want to come to the both of you for help.”

Shirou snorted, grinned lopsidedly and said, “I wonder why.”

“Well, I’m surprised that I wasn’t greeted with Excalibur under my nose when Saber opened the door,” Archer replied with a shake of his head and a grin.

Saber said, “The thought did cross my mind, but I do have to admit you proved yourself in the end, even if I do not agree with your methods.”

“I use those methods to keep up with you and Lancer,” Archer retorted.

Shirou raised both eyebrows at him as did Saber as they both stared at him. He sighed, shrugged and said, “That’s beyond the point though. I need Saber and Avalon to help Sakura.”

“What about me?” Shirou asked as he moved to stir the simmering soup again.

Archer sighed and answered, “Just be here to support her.”

“Sakura is actually going to be here in a short while to help prepare dinner, we
should tell her of our plans,” Saber said with a nod.

“No,” Archer said at the same time as Shirou did, causing the two of them to glare at each other.

Shirou took a deep breath and said, “Saber, if Sakura finds out, she might try to stop us. What exactly are you going to do anyway, Archer?”

He answered, “I need a little more information first, but I hope to be able to act tomorrow night. Saber, can you meet me at the bridge tomorrow night around Midnight?”

“Of course, and I will have both Avalon and Excalibur with me. Archer, if it is to aid Sakura, I will gladly offer my sword to you,” Saber said firmly, her emerald eyes bright and gleaming like the jewels they so shamed.

He stared at the petite King of Knights and had to remember that she wasn’t a Servant anymore. Even though she was still vastly powerful, she was mortal now and could be hurt by mortal means. That, and she was also a woman, and from what he’d found out, he didn’t want any girl near that home. Not even as one as powerful as Saber.

However, he had no plans of telling Saber that.

He said, “Thanks, that’s going to be useful.”

“Should we get her to spend the night?” Shirou asked.

Archer shook his head and said, “No, that would cause suspicion on both ends. Just act like everything is normal.”

“I will see you tomorrow night at the bridge then,” Saber said with a nod.

He nodded back to her and said, “Thanks, both of you. I better get out of here before she gets here too.”

“And Rin and Lancer are also coming by for dinner as well,” Saber said with an arch smile.

Shirou snorted and said, “Saber made me invite Lancer as well as Tohsaka. I didn’t want him here.”

“That’s one thing that’s stays the same,” Archer said softly as he moved to leave the kitchen.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:27 PM
Sakura slowly made her way to Sempai’s house, but it felt as if someone had doused her body in napalm and lit a match. She could barely breathe and each step sent a jolt through her body that made her shiver. She could feel those things crawling in her core and seeking satisfaction, but there had been none. Nii-san had seemingly all but forgotten her, and Grandfather hadn’t done anything to get him to resume his duties.

She rubbed her forehead and took a deep breath that made it feel as if someone was stabbing thousands of tiny needles into her lungs. She sagged slightly and considered going back home because she knew Sempai would worry about her and he’d press to find out what was wrong. With Saber at his side, Sakura knew that they would eventually know her dark secret, and that was the last thing that Sakura wanted.

She wanted to at least pretend she was a normal girl when she was with them. If that was taken away then she didn’t know what she would have left. So she would furiously fight to keep up that illusion no matter how horrible she felt or what the worms were doing to her. She gripped her hands into fists and doubled her step, no matter what the cost.

She smiled and sighed in relief as she reached the familiar old Samurai house and pulled the key from her pocket. Sakura quietly opened the door and made her way into the home. She slipped out of her shoes, made sure they were neatly stacked and frowned at the fairly large pair of black combat boots neatly arranged at the other side of the door away from Sempai and Saber’s much smaller footwear. They were immaculately kept, as if they were Sempai’s, but she knew him to wear sneakers whenever he could.

She didn’t see Rin’s familiar loafers so they couldn’t be Lancer’s, and Lancer didn’t seem the type to keep a spit polish on his shoes anyway. She moved away from the shoes and headed to the kitchen, shifting the weight of her grocery bags as she did. Halfway down the hall, she nearly ran into a man so tall that the top of her head was actually under the line of his shoulder.

Sakura cried out as she nearly stumbled backwards and a pair of large, tanned hands reached out to steady her before immediately letting go. She automatically looked down and said, “I’m sorry, I should have been looking where I was going.”

“It’s okay, I wasn’t exactly paying attention either,” a voice that was rough but yet oddly familiar at the same time replied.

Sakura actually looked up at the speaker and blinked. He was tall, broad shouldered with deeply tanned skin and white hair that was spiked up. Even under the black T-shirt he was wearing, she could see the heavy definition of muscles in his arms, shoulders and chest to the point she felt her cheeks heat up ever so slightly. However, his eyes were closed and he was smiling kindly at her, which made her smile back ever so slightly.

“Still, I apologize,” Sakura said with a tiny bow.

He opened his eyes and said, “Well, I think we’re both at fault here.”

Sakura opened her mouth to reply to him, but he was already moving down the hallway. She stared at the broad line of his back curiously and wondered who he was. Maybe he’s the Archer from the War, she thought, Nee-san’s former Servant. She realized she was watching him putting on his boots and quickly turned away to flee to the kitchen.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:32 PM
The tall, statuesque figure with long, braided lavender hair that trailed to the floor wasn’t hard to miss in the library stacks. Archer quietly approached the former Servant and she turned towards him with unblinking eyes. Rider looked around, adjusted her glasses and said, “I have a break in ten minutes. It’s not safe to talk here.”

Archer nodded in agreement and said, “The rooftop then.”

She nodded before gathering up a rather impressive stack of books and heading back to the stacks. Archer looked around and headed for the roof of the library. He sat down Japanese style as he felt the hot sun beat along his darkened skin and black clothing. He closed his eyes at the discomfort and began to run through the arsenal within himself just to kill the time.

He was breaking Durandal into the requisite eight parts when he heard light footsteps on the roof. He opened his eyes to see Rider standing there with her green work apron thrown over one shoulder and her hands in her jeans pockets. She headed over to him and he stood up in one moment. A light breeze played with the excessively long strands of her hair that had come loose from her braid and she lifted a hand to keep her hair from her face. She asked, “So, you have a plan now?”

“Yes I do,” Archer said with a nod.

Those queer square pupil eyes met his and she asked, “What do you need me to do?”

“Well, I need to see Sakura and get her out of the house before I can take care of Zouken. Kotomine will remove the worms and Saber has something that will help Sakura heal without any complications,” Archer answered, “Once Sakura’s safe at the Church I want you to stay there and guard her just in case while I come back for Zouken.”

Rider frowned and folded her arms under her breasts. She raised one graceful hand to push up her glasses again and replied, “And how will Zouken not know something’s wrong?”

“I’m going to sever the connection between Sakura and the old man,” Archer said with a tiny smirk, “All thanks to Caster.”

Rider’s frown twisted into a scowl and she said, “Caster? There’s no reason that witch would help.”

“She’s not doing anything personally, but I’m well acquainted with a tool of hers,” Archer said reassuringly.

“And the priest? From the time that I met him, he wasn’t exactly trustworthy,” Rider said with a tiny shake of her head.

Archer replied, “The one thing I can count on with Kotomine Kirei is that he never lies, and he’s too intrigued to see what’s going to happen not to do this.”

Rider gave a tiny nod and asked, “When do you want to meet tomorrow?”

“If Shinji or the old man sees you anywhere near the home that’s going to throw alarms. And I know how not to be seen,” Archer answered, “However, meet me at the bottom of the hill around 11:30, then we’ll get to the bridge to meet Saber.”

The tiniest smile graced Rider’s full lips before she gave a tiny bow. She said, “Thank you Archer, for doing this.”

“Don’t thank me until it’s done. You’ll take care of Sakura after everything, right?” Archer asked, blinking at the suddenness of the question.

Rider blinked as well before nodding, “Of course. I already have room for her at my apartment.”

“After we’re done, she’ll be the sole beneficiary of the Matou home and its assets, but I doubt if she’s going to want to stay there. I just want to make sure she’s taken care of,” Archer said before clearing his throat and looking away.

One slim hand stifled a chuckle as lilac eyes twinkled with mirth behind their precious glasses. Rider pointed at him and said, “Ah, you do care!”

“Look, I don’t want to go to all of this trouble and have Sakura out in the cold. Well, metaphorically speaking. It’s bloody hot,” Archer said as he adjusted the collar of his T-shirt and almost winched at the dampness he felt on the light fabric.

Rider chuckled again and said, “I know what you’re saying, I was just surprised that you mentioned it.”

“I’m not a total bastard,” Archer said with a snort and a wry grin.

As silent as a shadow, the voluptuous woman moved beside him and rested one hand on his shoulder. Blinking rapidly, Archer turned to look down at the woman and she chuckled. “In my day I was considered freakishly tall, but you are quite a bit taller than me, Archer,” Rider said with a shake of her head, “Still, thank you.”

He blinked at the Gorgon’s musings before shaking his own head and confessing, “When I was a kid I wanted to be taller.”

She laughed at that and removed her hand from his shoulder. He awkwardly rubbed the back of his head and Rider’s eyes locked on him and she slowly blinked. He shifted and asked, “What?”

“Nothing, I had a moment of déjà vu that’s all,” she said with a smile as she headed towards the roof access, “I will see you tomorrow night then.”

He sighed with a nod as he watched her go, silently wondering, When did I become so awkward again?

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:33 PM
Archer had one more stop before he could go home, and that was with Kotomine to tell him the last part of the plan. This time, since it was still daylight out, he stepped through the front door of the church and walked inside. He wondered if Kotomine would be in the confessional, gleefully taking sinner’s confessions and enjoying their sorrows. He shook his head at the mental image and headed towards the false priest’s office.

“Hello Faker.”

He froze at the familiar voice that turned the word “Faker” into something more akin to “Faaaaaaakkkkerrr” and grimaced. He sighed, turned around and said, “Hello King of Heroes, what the hell are you doing here?”


“I could ask the same of you, Faker,” Gilgamesh replied as he slowly strode over to Archer. As always, he was impeccably dressed in light trousers and a white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up at the elbow due to the heat. Crimson eyes focused on Archer so hard that it was almost tangible before the handsome face broke into a slow grin.

Archer replied, “It’s been a while since my last confession.”

“I had no idea you followed this faith,” Gilgamesh said, “Or any faith at all.”

He shrugged and said, “I’ve been surprising a lot of people lately.”

“You have a talent for that,” Gilgamesh said with a leer as he closed the distance between them. Crimson eyes searched Archer’s face before the King of Heroes canted his head thoughtfully. “You killed me.”

Archer shrugged and said, “And you obviously got better.”

“Still, I’m conflicted,” the blond said as he folded his arms across his chest with a petulant frown, “I should stomp you under my boot like the mongrel you are, but I suppose even fakes have their worth.”

Archer sighed and asked, “And what the hell are you doing here?”

“I’m bored,” Gilgamesh said with a sigh of his own as he rolled his eyes heavenward with a shake of his head.

Archer slid his hands into his pockets and replied in a dry voice, “How horrible.”

“This world disgusts me, Faker,” Gilgamesh said as he looked around the church, “Too many useless people. However, it there are some things that are fascinating.” Crimson eyes flickered over Archer and he resisted the urge to flinch.

Archer eyed him and said, “Well, you can always try world domination through Wall Street.”

“Yes! I’ve studied much about this Wall Street and Day Trading and the like,” Gilgamesh said with a smile, “With my wealth, I could command the world within days, but this world still confuses me. I need help in my conquests, Faker.”

Archer said, “Well, I doubt Kotomine’s going to want to sign up.”

“I’m not talking about the priest,” the King of Heroes said as his eyes met Archer’s, “You, despite your fakes, were able to kill me. That’s an impressive feat in itself.”

Archer didn’t reply, but instead looked around the church. He had a feeling that Kotomine was watching the entire exchange and probably enjoying his discomfort. “It’s a shame someone with such cunning and skill is wasting away as nothing but a mere . . . what’s the term? Handyman?” Gilgamesh flashed him a lopsided little grin as his crimson eyes narrowed possessively at Archer.

“Sorry, I’m not interested in world domination,” Archer replied as he headed towards the confessional booth.

Gilgamesh’s laughter bubbled up and bounced throughout the church, sending shivers of ice down the former Servant’s spine. “Well, I’ll ask again and again until you are, Faker,” the blond jovially called out as Archer entered the booth.

He had to duck down to keep from bumping his head on the low beam and sat in the tiny, hard seat. “How long has it been since your last confession?” the familiar, deep voice said from the next booth.

Archer found himself smiling as he replied, “Well Father I can tell you first hand that there is no God. There’s just the Earth and the Spirit of Humanity and the Earth is trying to kill humanity because humanity is killing it, but humanity is trying to survive and humanity is trying to kill itself.”

“That’s an interesting view on things, Archer,” Kotomine said, his voice carrying a slight lilt of amusement.

He leaned his head against the hard wood of the confessional booth and closed his eyes. Broad shoulders slumped as a callused hand rubbed a tense forehead. “It’s not a view, it’s the damned truth Kotomine,” Archer said as he rubbed his forehead.

“Oh?” the corrupted priest asked and through the wooden mesh Archer noticed Kotomine’s silhouette sit up.

Archer nodded and opened his eyes, looking up at the dark wooden ceiling. He continued, “So humanity has safeguards to keep it from destroying itself. A cleaning crew if you will that disposes all evidence of disasters. Spirits of the dead instead of going back to the record to be recycled go to the Throne, but they’re used over and over to clean up after death for all eternity.”

“And they bare witness to these events?” Kotomine asked, his face turning towards Archer.

He nodded and answered, “And recorded in exact detail in records in the Guardian’s mind.”

“They’re called Guardians?” Kotomine asked and even through the dimness separating them, Archer could see his smile.

“Counter Guardians if you want to be technical,” Archer answered.

“From the Counter Force?”

“The very one. A last defense to keep humanity from wiping itself out. A force that cleans up and only gets to see the worse side of humanity,” Archer said as he rubbed his face one last time.

“Sounds interesting,” Kotomine replied, the lilt of amusement very evident in his voice.

Archer smiled dryly and said, “Sell yourself after death for power and you’ll see enough misery to make yourself happy for eternity.”

There was a very slight bit of laughter from the booth before Kotomine said, “That was the most interesting confession I had all day.”

“Probably one of your only confessions today. Fuyuki is not known for its devout Catholic population,” Archer said as he emerged from the booth. Moments later Kotomine followed suit, his hands going into the pockets of his simple black slacks.

The false priest smiled at Archer and said, “Well, I’m now looking forward to knowing exactly who you were in life then after that.”

“That’s why I told you,” Archer said with a smirk of his own.

Kotomine laughed and retorted, “To make sure I didn’t betray you or not hold up my part of the deal.”

“Something like that,” Archer replied as he looked around the church, “Be ready tomorrow around Midnight. I’ll have Sakura, Rider and Saber with me.”

“Saber and Rider? Do you not trust me that much?” Kotomine said with a shake of his head.

Archer smiled ever so slightly and replied, “Something like that. You’ll see tomorrow.”

“I look forward to it then,” Kotomine said with a tiny bit of a smile.

Archer nodded and said, “Well, I’ll see you then.”

“Afterwards, I expect that you and I will have a long talk,” Kotomine said as Archer began to head out of the church.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:35 PM
It had been months since Archer had donned the lightweight cuirass, heavy steel reinforced boots, and the industrial black leather pants. He stared at the mantle and tail made out of holy burial cloth hanging up in his closet and gently ran his fingers down the ragged edges of the cloth. He managed to repair his armor and pants, but the cloth was ripped in so many places and the edges torn that his limited sewing skills couldn’t cope with. He removed his hand as he stared at the deep crimson fabric as he remembered the reason why he wore it.

Still, it could be useful, he thought as he put on at least the mantle. The tail was in such ragged condition that he wasn’t sure if it would last the trip. The only thing really wrong with the mantle were the wrist guards cracked, but they were more hairline fractures and would still offer protection. He had learned fairly early with using his falchions that lacked wrist guards for the most part was a blow to the back of the hand could be nearly crippling. So he devised the mantle with the guards for his wrists and hands to protect in lieu of a guard on a sword.

As soon as he fastened the clasp on the throat of his mantle there was a familiar knock on the door. Scowling, Archer went to answer the door and his shoulders slumped as soon as he saw his caller. Standing there was the aspiring hero of justice dressed in blue jeans and a white T-shirt, his red hair even more disheveled than normal. Without a word, Emiya Shirou stepped into Archer’s living quarters.

Amber eyes flickered around the Spartan furnishings and a slight grin caught the boy’s features as he saw what had been dubbed the Frankenbox, a personal computer cobbled from a myriad of parts that somehow managed to function. The Frankenbox, as Lancer had dubbed it, was how Archer managed his business and did any online research that he needed to do. He folded his arms over his chest and asked, “What are you doing here?”

“I’m helping you save my friend,” Shirou answered as he folded his own arms over his chest, his hostile posture matching Archer’s so much that it was looking into the past.

Well, it is in a way, Archer thought dryly with a sigh. He asked, “And how are you going to do that, boy?”

“Well, how do you plan on saving her without scaring her half to death? She doesn’t know you,” Shirou said with a shake of his head.

Archer’s eyebrows lifted as the boy’s words hit home. He inwardly cursed because one important fact had slipped his mind. Sakura had no idea who I had been or who I was. At most she would be able to recognize him as Rin’s former Servant, which wasn’t exactly the sort of thing that would inspire confidence. “Damn,” he said with a soft sigh before running a hand through his hair.

Shirou flashed him a tiny smile and said, “So, you do need my help.”

“That would make things go smoother,” Archer admitted as his mind began to race to reform his plan. The initial things with meeting with Rider and then going to get Saber on the way to Kotomine Church would not change. The variable with Emiya Shirou was something he can work around. The boy did have access to his version of Unlimited Blade Works, even though opening the reality marble was very taxing on him.

Shirou nodded and said, “I know you said what’s happening with Sakura is private, but is she okay?”

“It’s . . . complicated, Kid. Hopefully after this and with some help, she will be,” Archer answered as he headed towards the door with Shirou in tow.

Shirou asked, “Can you let me in on the plan?”

“I go in, trace Rule Breaker, stab Sakura with it, we get Rider, head to Kotomine Church, get Saber at the bridge, and then Avalon keeps Sakura alive while Kotomine performs an operation,” Archer answered briskly as he locked the door behind him.

Shirou’s eyes widened as he stopped. “Wait, if she needs to be stabbed with Rule Breaker . . .” he said in a small voice, “But Shinji’s not a magus. How could he have any control over her?”

“He doesn’t but their grandfather is fully capable of using his Circuits,” Archer said in a grim tone with a shake of his head, “This is what I can tell you. The Matou line is dying and Matou Zouken did something to Sakura that would help bring them back to power. Rider came to me because this will only hurt Sakura in the long run.”

Shirou sighed and said, “And Kotomine is the only one who can perform the operation to help her.”

“Right,” Archer said with a nod.

Shirou stared at him and sighed, “And you stated you didn’t want to be a superhero anymore.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:36 PM
“No, I stated that I wanted to erase my existence by killing you,” Archer retorted with a glare.

Shirou’s eyes gleamed as he asked, “Then why did I win that fight?”

“Because I realized my ideal was beautiful despite its flaws and let you win,” Archer answered as he found himself smiling despite himself.

“Then why are you miserable?” the boy asked, his question hitting Archer as soundly as Berserker’s axe club.

Archer quietly answered, “Because this isn’t my life, it’s a shadow of the life I use to live and I’m living outside of it.”

“Yet this is the most animated I’ve seen you since the War ended,” Shirou said as Archer realized he had fallen into step with the boy and they were walking side by side, instead of the redhead following.

He answered, “Because I’m doing something worth meaning. Saving someone I didn’t know needed saving in my own life time. Because I couldn’t save that Sakura, maybe I could save this one.”

Shirou fell quiet as the two of them walked to the part of Fuyuki that housed the Western mansions. As always, the Tohsaka house loomed on top of the hill like a foreboding king watching his subjects. Archer could see the glow of lights on in Rin’s bedroom from where they were standing and wondered what she was doing now. Doing with Lancer, a snide voice firmly reminded him in his mind.

“She’s fine,” Shirou said softly, “We invited her and . . . that man to dinner last night. They were both well.”

“Hn,” was Archer’s grunted reply as they headed towards the Matou manor. It was larger than the Tohsaka home, and the aura was different. Rin’s family had set up wards to keep normal onlookers away by making the house give people passing by a foreboding feeling if they didn’t belong or did not know the key to the wards. Word had sped around Fuyuki that the Tohsaka house was haunted, and that only added to Rin’s mystique at school.

However the Matou house had a sickly sweet aura to it, almost like it was decaying. Considering Zouken, that’s an apt description, Archer thought as they looked up at the house. He swallowed and said, “At this time of night, there are two places Sakura can be, either the basement or her bedroom.”

To his credit, Shirou didn’t ask any questions but grimly nodded. “We should try her bedroom first,” the boy whispered.
Archer nodded, it had been his plan too. The two of them moved quietly to where Sakura’s bedroom was on the second story. The light was still on, but the curtains were drawn obscuring Archer’s view inside. He could easily leap to the windowsill and perch, but Shirou didn’t have a Servant’s abilities to get up there. So he grabbed the boy by the back of his shirt, hunched his muscles and jumped. Heavy boots and well worn sneakers landed with ease on the heavy stone sill that supported its recently increased load.

Shirou lightly tapped the window and looked at Archer. Archer nodded and whispered, “Trace On.” Analyzing window. Structure complete. He was now fully aware of the mixture of silicon used to make the window as well of the type of wood for the seal. More importantly, he knew that he could unlock the window from the outside without breaking it. He closed his eyes and visualized a long, slim bladed knife he’d seen one before, broke it into the required eight parts and with a snap of mana the blade materialized in his hand.

He applied mana to his eyes and slid the blade under part of the seal to the window locking mechanism. With a subtle twist of the wrist the thin blade shoved the lock aside and there was a gentle click that filled the silence. Shirou moved to open the window right as the curtains were drawn and a pair of large purple eyes stared down at them. Shirou froze and stumbled back, Archer reached out and righted the boy as the girl stared at them.

“S-sempai?” she said in a hoarse, breathy voice as she looked at Shirou before her eyes moved towards Archer, widening slightly before frowning and staring at them. He noticed that there were high, bright spots of color on Sakura’s cheeks, her eyes were glassy, her chest was rising and falling rapidly and sweat was trickling down her fair skin. Small, delicate hands were shaking on the window sill as the girl watched them, breathing as if she had ran a marathon.

Shirou automatically flushed, looked away and stammered, “Ah, I’m sorry Sakura we didn’t mean to startle you . . .”

“We’re here to help,” Archer said as he looked at the girl, “Can we come in?”

Startled violet eyes moved rapidly back and forth as both of those delicate hands flew to her chest. She shook her head and stepped back, her supple body wavering. Wavering too far actually as she began to list to the side as gravity took over.

His reaction was immediate, Archer didn’t even think before his body was in motion. He stepped into the window and over to the girl right before she touched the ground. White fingers clutched the burial cloth covering his forearms as Sakura was mere centimeters from hitting the ground, the ends of her hair actually brushing against the hardwood floor. He heard Shirou cry out her name, but he was too stunned to do anything when she moved one hand to his face, rose up and her lips hungrily met his.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:37 PM
Sakura stared at Shirou and Nee-san’s former Servant perched on her windowsill. Somehow the old stone managed to support both of their weight as she moved the curtain aside. She had felt the release of mana from where she had been lying on her bed, trying to ride out the latest wave of need. She’d walked over to pull the curtain to see identical expressions of surprise on their wide eyed faces.

They had even been kneeling the exact same position as well, almost mirrored images of each other.

She swallowed as she felt her body heat up again as she felt the squirming in her body, gnawing and crying out. She bit her lip as she stared at them, and they stared at her. Each breath was a tremendous effort and her heart was pounding like a drum. She clinched her fists at the gnawing within her as she looked at the two men perched on her window.

Shirou flushed, looked away and stammered, “Ah, I’m sorry Sakura we didn’t mean to startle you . . .”

“We’re here to help,” the former Servant said as his steel grey eyes locked on hers, “Can we come in?”

Sakura’s eyes widened as she looked at them, her heart thundering in her chest as she felt her body began to shake. Eyes darted around rapidly as panic threatened to take over. A small voice chanted in her mind over and over, They know. They know. They know. They know how dirty and filthy you are . . .

She stepped back from the window and felt her balance shift. The world spun and it seemed like the floor was too close to her. She let out a tiny cry as she felt herself rush to meet the ground. However, the impact never came and strong arms cradled her. An oddly familiar smell hit her nostrils, but it was different. There was leather intertwined with the smell of steel, forge smoke and the overall cleanliness that made up Sempai, but it was close enough that it caught her breath.

She opened her eyes to look up at her rescuer before her body took over. She surged forward and captured warm lips with her own, seeking to devour him from the inside out. The former Servant stiffened but made no move to pull away as she began to sweep her tongue through his mouth. She dimly heard someone shout her name but made no mind as her hands started to trail down hard body armor.

However hands like steel that were oddly gentle pushed her away. A cry of protest escaped her lips as she moved forward again, but he held her at arms’ length. “What did you do to her, Archer?”

I just kissed Nee-san’s Servant, she thought distantly as she reached for him again.

There were high spots of color on Archer’s cheeks as he looked at Shirou and answered, “I didn’t do anything, Kid. Neither did she. It’s that old man who lives here that made her like this.”

“No,” Sakura whispered as she looked from Shirou to Archer as her heart began to sink. They knew, she thought as she squirmed, but apparently he wasn’t letting her go. Delicate hands shoved at arms like steel with no effect, they still held strong despite the girl’s best efforts. She felt tears burn her eyes as she shook from side to side and opened her mouth to shout.

That large, bronze hand eased over her mouth as Archer looked down at her. “If you scream you’ll alert Zouken and Shinji. If we’re going to help you Sakura, you need to be quiet.”

She swallowed, the hand was removed, and looked over to the redhead watching with large, golden brown eyes. She whispered, “Sempai.”

“I don’t know what’s going on Sakura, but we do want to help you,” he said with a smile that made her chest tighten. He’s not mine, he’s with Saber, she thought with a shake of her head as she looked away. To him, she was a family member at best, and certainly not a lover.

Her legs began to buckle, but oddly enough she wasn’t sinking to the floor. Archer’s hand came up again, this time resting on her forehead and he swore, “Damn, she’s burning up.” Grey eyes met hers again as he said, “Sakura, you’re going to need to trust us, but you’ll never worry about that after all this is over. I’m not going to lie and say this is going to be easy and that it won’t hurt, even after knowing that, do you still want us to help you?”

She nodded as she felt an all new warmth tickle down her cheeks as she looked down at the floor. She whispered, “Yes . . .” Tremors ran up and down her body as she looked down and wondered how long she had dreamed of this day, of Sempai saving her. However, it seemed to be more of Archer saving her than Sempai. Delicate shoulders quaked as a choking sob left Sakura’s throat as a hand flew to her hand to stifle her cries.

Sakura hated herself at that moment, hated her weakness and the fact she was crumbling so easily. This wouldn’t happen to Nee-san, she thought distantly and that just brought up another sob as her vision began to blur. Before she knew it she was sitting on the floor with Archer kneeling in front of her. Firm hands cupped her shoulders as his intense eyes bore into hers.

He easily lifted her back to her feet and took a quick look back at his watch. “Come on, let’s get out of here,” he said as he moved her towards Shirou.

Shirou asked, “How are we on time?”

“Good. Rider’s waiting,” Archer answered as he eased himself onto the windowsill and turned back to Sakura and Shirou.

Shirou swallowed and said, “Ah, Archer, my reinforcement’s not good enough yet to keep me from breaking my legs from here.”

“I’ll handle the jump, Boy,” Archer said as he held out his hand to Sakura. She stared at his callused hand, swallowed and took it. “Easy,” he said as he helped her onto the sill. She swallowed as she looked down the three stories to the ground and clinched her eyes shut.

She heard Shirou grouse, “Archer, stop calling me Boy, it’s annoying.”

“Why do you think I call you that then?” Archer replied with an amused lilt to his voice.

“Asshole,” Shirou mumbled and Sakura’s eyes flew open as she saw Shirou’s scowling face as Archer was smirking.

She stared at him and gasped, “Sempai!”

His cheeks turned adorably red as he pointed at Archer as he took to the other man’s side and said, “Well, he is!”

“To you anyway, Boy. Sakura, hold onto me tight, okay and it’s okay to close your eyes,” Archer said with a slight, reassuring smile as he brought her closer to him. Her body flushed anew, cringing at all of her nerves firing at once. A gasp torn from parched lips as the girl listed forward as sensation threatened to engulf all of her nerves at once.

She dimly heard Shirou call for her and a strong arm wrap around her waist to keep her from falling. Shirou asked, “Archer, what’s wrong with her?”

“I don’t know,” Archer replied with a sigh. Sakura swallowed as her body trembled, the welcoming warmth of Archer’s body was so close. She wrapped an arm around him and sighed at the feel of muscles under the hard armor he was wearing. Despite her best intentions, her body heated up in response and she looked away in shame.

Shirou audibly swallowed and said, “We need to help her.”

“We’ll get off the window and then we can use Rule Breaker. It’s just going to kill Zouken’s connection with her, Kotomine needs to do the rest,” Archer explained before there was a rush of air. Sakura cried out as she felt her stomach go flying to her throat and her hands latched onto the former Servant like a vice. There was a heavy thud from the other side, but slipper covered feet gently skimmed across the grass before gently landing.

A deep breath flooded lungs that were straining for air as eyes opened. Sakura swallowed as she realized she was standing in her yard. She flushed as she let go of Archer and took a step away from him right as Shirou was dropped unceremoniously onto the ground. Grey eyes scanned the building and Shirou looked up as well. He asked, “Do you want to trace it?”

“My copy’s better anyway,” Archer said with a sort of a self-depicting grin as Sakura felt a flare of mana as he whispered, “Trace On.” She blinked as a wicked dagger with zig-zagging edges and a prismatic blade that shone with every color she could think of appeared in his right hand. He flexed his left arm as he clinched and unclenched his hand into a fist, the muscles visibly flexing under the red mantle he wore.

She froze as he lifted the dagger and turned to her. He explained, “This breaks magical contracts. I know it won’t kill what’s inside of you, but it’ll cut the connection to that old bastard.”

“He won’t hurt you,” Shirou said as he looked at her with unflinching eyes before glaring at Archer, “I won’t let it.”

Archer sighed, shook his head and said, “It’ll be a little prick, it doesn’t hurt that bad.”

“You should know, shouldn’t you?” Shirou said with a dry snort and a shake of his head.

Sakura stared at him then at Archer, who merely smirked ever so slightly and shook his head. If the situation would have been different, she reasoned she would have laughed at the pair of them and their obvious dislike of each other. Instead she wavered as she felt another rush fill her veins and cause her to gasp. She looked down, clinched her fists and swallowed, her eyes wavering with burning tears.

A warm hand lightly touched her shoulder and her head jerked up to see Archer towering above her. She had to crane her neck to look up at him and found her hands twisting the fabric of her skirt. “Do it,” she whispered with a nod.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:38 PM
“Rule Breaker,” the Servant said in his rusty voice as he gently brought the blade down towards her free shoulder. She felt something like a pinprick before something snapped like a rubber band pulled too tight within her. She drew in a deep breath before she felt something like a weight lifted off her shoulders. She relaxed and stared at her shoulder in wonder as the blade vanished from the corner of her eye.

Shirou asked, “Did it work?”

“It broke the connection to the old man, Kotomine’s got to do the rest,” Archer said with a nod. He looked at Sakura and said, “This is going to be the hard part.”

“I’m ready,” she said with a nod as she stood up straight. He nodded as Shirou peered worriedly at her. Archer started to walk and Sakura fell into step beside him while Shirou took her other side. She blushed at the two of them escorting her away from that hellish place that had imprisoned her for ten years.

This is . . . exactly what I wanted, she thought as she looked at her two savors. Even though Sempai is with someone else, he still saved me. She felt herself smiling when suddenly every nerve in her body caught on fire. Pain and need washed over her body as she felt her knees start to quake, her legs unable to hold her own weight. She felt gnawing inside of her and her vision swam and darkened.

With a tiny cry, the girl collapsed.

******

Archer cursed as Sakura swooned, except it was Shirou that caught her this time and not him. The redhead looked up at him with wide eyes as Sakura’s eyelid fluttered shut, her chest rose and fell sharply with each breath, and sweat trickled down flushed features. “What happened?” Shirou asked with gritted teeth.

“Goddamn it,” Archer swore as he glared at the house. In one of the windows he saw the silhouette of a small, twisted bit of a man watching them. He knew, Archer thought with a glare as he reinforced his eyes so he could pick through the shadows casting on the man from the light behind him. He saw a stooped old man in a blue kimono holding a twisted cane. He seemed to be entirely made out of wrinkles, but black pitiless eyes like a shark’s met Archer’s as the old man grinned ever so slightly.

Son of a bitch, Archer thought, but took a deep breath. He’d gained control of his hair trigger temper years ago and then smirked at the old man before slowly drawing his finger across his throat. Zouken threw back his head and laughed at that before drawing the drapes closed, shutting himself from Archer’s hawk’s eye view. He turned to see Shirou glaring up at the same window that Archer was just watching, his arms protectively encircling Sakura.

“Come on, Rider’s waiting,” Archer said with a sigh as Shirou flushed before attempting to arrange Sakura in a fireman’s carry. Without a word, Archer reached for the girl and lifted her into his arms. There was a tiny murmur of protest and Sakura’s eyes were moving rapidly under her eyelids. Shirou blinked, but said nothing and Archer wanted to punch him for the small smile the boy wore on his face.

The two of them walked rapidly down the hill, attempting to stay out of eyesight when Archer spotted Rider’s voluptuous form at the bottom of the hill. She was leaning against a street light, the golden light playing with long lavender strands of hair and reflecting off her glasses to make them look opaque. She turned towards them and within a moment she was sprinting towards them.

“What happened?” Rider asked as she placed her palm on Sakura’s forehead and smoothed her sweaty bangs back.

Archer answered, “I broke her connection to the Old Man and she then collapsed.”

“Rider, what the hell is going on? She was acting weird when we went to her, she almost fell and then she . . . kissed Archer,” Shirou asked, running his hand through his hair.

Rider’s eerie eyes fell on the boy and she asked, “What is Shirou doing here?”

“I demanded that I come with Archer. Sakura’s my friend, but he’s not saying what’s wrong with her,” Shirou answered with a glare at Archer’s direction.

Archer sighed and said, “And I made a miscalculation. I figured Sakura would be more cooperative if she had someone she was familiar with and cared about instead of some former Servant dressed in body armor and leather pants showing up at her door stating that they’re there to rescue her and scare her half to death.”

“I see,” Rider said with wide eyes before adjusting her glasses and fussing over Sakura more. The girl’s body was burning hot against Archer’s, even through the armor and cloth. Rider’s fists clinched as she swore softly in what Archer assumed was Greek before looking back up at him.

Archer nodded and said, “Come on, let’s get Saber and get to the Church.”

******

Lancer grumbled softly to himself as his wee lover commanded him to head for the attic and fetch some sort of blueprint or the like for some magic he’d never heard of. He’d offered to teach her Rune Magics, but Rin simply scoffed at him and stated she would be ill suited for that sort of thing. Then to rub salt in a man’s wound she threatened to withhold herself if he didn’t get his bum up to the attic and get it for her right that instant.

The demi-god ran a finger through thick blue bangs as he stared at the clutter around him, wondering how the hell he would find it in this mess. Wish the Curmudgeon was still here, he’d find it in this mess. Hell, if he was here, everything would be perfectly arranged by alphabet and color, Lancer thought with a chuckle as he sneezed at a giant dust cloud. Rin Lass stated it was in a red chest with brass fitting, bugger, there’s like three that match that description.

He sighed as he opened the trunk closest to him to find it empty. The second trunk provided pretty much the same story except it housed a spider that could carry away small children. Lancer promptly closed the lid on that one before moving to the last trunk. With a sigh, he grabbed it to lift the lid, except it stuck.

With a scowl, he used more strength and there was a loud pop before the trunk opened. He blinked at the trunk’s strange contents, mainly the pink stick with wings leaning against the sides as well as a safe box, some rolled up scrolls and a very old leather bound book. The Hound blew off the layer of dust on the objects and move to pull out the pink stick with wings.

As he was reaching, he heard rustling outside and a very familiar footstep that had a slight metallic clang to it that made his ears twitch and he lifted his head up. Smiling to himself, the stick forgotten for the moment, Lancer made his way to the window. He peered out and his eyes widened at the familiar broad shoulders dressed in red and the redhead walking beside him.

He saw something violet move along Archer’s bicep and noticed it was a head of hair, and that he was carrying Rider’s Master’s little sister in his arms. Lancer watched from his perch as he watched Archer carry the wee lass with little Shirou at his side as they walked down the long hill. His errand forgotten, Lancer ran down the steps calling out, “Rin, you can’t believe what I just saw!”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:40 PM
The walk to the bridge was a quiet one, and Archer saw Saber’s tiny silhouette shrouded in street light, haloing her golden hair. Emerald eyes narrowed as she saw Shirou approaching as well, but the anger swept off of her face as she noticed Sakura’s condition. The former King moved with her usual grace towards them and placed her hand over her mouth.

“In the name of the Holy Father, what is wrong with her?” Saber whispered against her fingers.

“I don’t know,” Shirou answered his lover with a frown.

Green eyes narrowed as the former King looked up at the taller, lavender haired woman. “What are you doing here?” Saber asked in a cold voice as her hand went to her side.

Rider simply smiled and Archer sighed and moved between the two women and said, “She’s the one who told me what’s going on with Sakura. We don’t have much time, we need to get to the church.”

“I think it’s time for you to be more forthcoming in your information,” Saber said with a glare as they started to walk again.

Rider tucked a lock of stray hair from her braid behind her ear and replied, “It is none of your business, Saber. It is Sakura’s, and she would prefer if you and your lover don’t know the details.”

“She is our friend, she should know that we wouldn’t judge her,” Saber protested as she looked up at the prone girl in Archer’s arms.

Archer ignored the bickering women and walked faster with Shirou trailing at his side like a lost puppy. At that moment, the violet haired girl bucked up with a sharp cry, her eyes snapping open as she writhed before slumping forward and breathing hard again. Somehow that old bastard knew what I was planning, or had a good idea, Archer thought to himself as he looked down at Sakura’s sweating, pain filled grimace. She gripped the lapels of his mantle and rasped, “Grandfather . . . He’s doing this . . . I . . .”

“Who’s harming you Sakura?” Saber asked in a soothing tone as she reached for the other girl’s hand. To Archer’s surprise, Sakura slid her hand away from Saber’s, causing the small blond’s eyes to widen. “Sakura?” Saber asked in a small voice as she awkwardly moved back.

“Rider,” Sakura said and the quiet woman moved to her former Master’s side.

Rider reached up and smoothed Sakura’s sweat soaked hair from her face and said, “It wasn’t fair that we were brought back to life and you were still in that situation. You needed help . . .”

“Saber and the boy don’t know what happened,” Archer told her quietly, “And they won’t, unless you tell them.”

Sakura nodded and then attempted to shift out of Archer’s arms, one hand pushing at his chest as her cheeks became even redder. She shook her head and said, “I can walk, Archer-san, please put me down.”

“Like hell you can,” Archer said with a snort, causing misty violet eyes to widen as Sakura looked up at him. He swallowed at the look on her face and looked away.

Then, in a small voice Sakura asked, “Did nee . . . Tohsaka-sempai ask you to help?”

“No, I did,” Rider said with a slight smile, “Because I wanted someone who could do more than get you away from that place.”

Eyes welled up and the girl looked down. Sakura took a deep breath and said, “I see.”

Archer sighed at the irony of it all, both Servant and younger sister wanted Tohsaka Rin to save them, and she had turned her back on both of them. In his case she chose another man over his, in Sakura’s case she ignored her existence. His eyes strayed to the faded, slightly frayed pink ribbon tied in a simple bow in Sakura’s hair. Rin had a match of it in better condition in her room, it had been the clue Archer had to deciphering the bond between the two girls. However, other than that there was no proof that Rin acknowledged Sakura.

Unless . . . That’s the real reason she healed Emiya Shirou and wasted her jewel on him. She knew how important he was to Sakura, Archer thought as his eyes widened. He inwardly shook his head and thought to his former Master, Rin, you’re not nearly as cold as you like to pretend. Still, Sakura was unaware of all of this, and it seemed all Sakura wanted was to be saved and acknowledged by her nee-san.

Without another word, the motley crew headed to Kotomine’s church.

******

Rin heard Lancer’s jovial voice and smiled to herself as she wondered what he saw to make him so excited in the attic. Then her eyes widened as a mental image of Lancer carrying around a certain magical artifact with mischievous intentions and a rather innocent looking appearance. Lancer had more than enough Circuits to activate Ruby and a mental image of him prancing around in a dress made her shudder.

She ran towards the steps and breathed a sigh of relief to see his hands were empty and he was still wearing that horrid neon green Hawaiian shirt he seemed to favor. She then scowled and asked, “Where’s that blue print I asked for?”

“Eh, still up there. Still, I was looking for your scroll and I heard familiar metal clad footsteps outside. So I took a gander only to find Archer carrying Rider’s Master’s wee sister with little Shirou tagging along. Wonder what’s going on with that, don’t ya, Lass?” Lancer said as he looked out to the window.

Rin’s blood chilled in her veins as she asked, “Lancer, where were they coming from?”

“Oh, that house that’s larger than yours down the hill,” Lancer said with a jerk of his thumb behind his shoulder.

She reached out, grabbed his wrist and said, “Come on.”

“Oh, we’re going after them then?” Lancer said with a grin as he gave no resistance.

******

Sakura swallowed as she looked around the plain room. The smell of disinfectant was cloyingly thick in the air and there were items draped with pristine, white sheets. She was sitting on top of a table, her heart thundering in her chest as she looked up at the large priest who’s hands were currently hovering over her. “Take a deep breath,” he instructed in a low, deep bass voice that reverberated through Sakura’s spine and made her shiver.

Her lungs expanded and she gasped as she felt something tingle within her. Pain shot through her nerves and she gasped, her hands digging into the fabric of her skirt. “How bad is it?” Archer’s voice came from behind her.

The hand was lowered and the pressure lessened. Sakura’s vision swam as she took a gulp for air as her body started to burn again. “Apparently the vampire installed some sort of safe measures inside of her. Even with Saber’s sheath, there is a good chance she might not survive,” the priest said with a slight smile that made Sakura shiver.

Archer sighed and said, “Don’t look so damn delighted about it, Kotomine.”

Kotomine’s fathomless dark eyes met Sakura’s as he asked, “Knowing that, do you still want to go on with this?”

“Yes,” Sakura said, swallowing the lump in her throat and nodding, “I . . . I can’t be like this anymore.”

Kotomine nodded and said, “There may be side effects. You may not be able to use your magecraft again.”

“I don’t care. None of that matters to me in the first place,” Sakura said with a shake of her head.

Archer awkwardly patted her shoulder and asked, “Do you want Rider in here too?”

Heat rushed to her cheeks and she bit her lip. Despite her giving up Rider to her brother and despite the second chance at a normal life, Rider was going out of her way to save her. Not Sempai and not nee-san, but two former Servants, she thought with a nod. She swallowed and looked up at the man with the sad grey eyes. She asked, “Archer-san, will you be here as well?”

“Of course. I like to finish things through,” he said with a nod.

Sakura nodded and thought, I bet you do. Kotomine said, “I’m ready to begin.”

Archer nodded, his grey eyes met Sakura’s before he headed to the door. He said, “I’ll get Saber and Rider then.”

“Good, at one point you may need help holding her down,” Kotomine said with a slight smile.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:41 PM
Archer thought he had a strong stomach and was desensitized to most pain the world had to offer. After all during his tenure as a Counter Guardian he had seen so many causalities and tragedies, so many broken and torn bodies, and walked hand and hand with the Grim Reaper himself. However Kotomine’s surgery had been one of the more unsettling things that Archer had seen even with Avalon in full use and glowing before Sakura.

Sakura herself did not scream, nor did she black out. Tears did stream from her eyes and Archer found himself holding her hand through most of the surgery except for the few times both he and Rider had to hold her down. Blood was sprayed across the room in crimson swatches and the room smelled sickeningly sweet. Kotomine had a jar filled with these obscene things that he handed to Archer with a smile. Archer stared at his macabre offering as the things writhed inside. Kotomine said, “They’ll die within a few hours without a steady supply of prana.”

“Good,” Archer said as he set the jar down.

Sakura was sleeping on the table, her skin slightly flushed but not the bright red it had been. Her hair was slick was sweat, but her chest rose and fell easily with each breath. Archer looked down to see that her hand was still holding his ever so slightly and he felt his cheeks flush. He cleared his throat and extracted his hand, not even aware she was still holding it. Kotomine handed him a smaller jar where the worm was different than the others, more flagella shaped than obscene. Unlike the others it was still and shriveled around the edges.

“This unusual specimen was used to house a soul. Except it was freshly dead when I removed it,” Kotomine said as he strummed the glass with his index finger.

Saber paled and her eyes were so wide that Archer could see the whites around her irises. She asked, “Why?”

“Because he sought immortality,” Archer said with a glare at the jar before looking back at the former king. “We both know about deals made, but at least our means weren’t selfish.”

Saber nodded and brushed her hair from her face, she was gleaming with sweat as well and looked paler than normal. Then again, she had been charging Avalon during the entire surgery to keep Sakura in a stable condition and then to completely heal her at the end. She swallowed and said, “Do you need my assistance for anything else, Archer?”

“No, go to the boy and get home,” Archer said with a shake of his head. He then bowed and said, “Saber?”

Saber’s cheeks flushed as she looked up at him. “Yes, Archer?” she asked in a weary voice.

He smiled and said, “Thank you.” Then he rose to his full height, and to his surprise, Saber gave him a slight bow as well. Then the former King rose to her full height and walked out of the door. Archer watched her proud form leave as Rider lightly stroked Sakura’s hair as she slept.

Those strange eyes locked with Archer’s as she said, “Thank you.”

“It’s not safe for her to be moved yet,” Kotomine warned the Gorgon, “She’s going to need a few more hours rest.”

“Then I’ll stay here,” Rider said.

Archer said, “Get me when she’s ready. I’ll walk you both home.”

“I think I’m able to get home safely on my own, Archer,” Rider said with a tiny smile as she pushed her glasses up her nose.

Archer grinned back and said, “Yes, but until she’s safe with you, that part of my job is not finished.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re so thorough in your work,” Rider replied, her smile turning slightly wicked.

From beside him, Kotomine chuckled and Archer cleared his throat. Kotomine said, “Well, since you are going to be here awhile, Servant Archer. I think you owe me a long talk.”

Archer nodded and said, “I think you’re right.”

******

Archer stared at the crimson glass of wine sitting in front of him and then at the priest sitting at his desk. Kotomine asked, “Would you like to go to the confessional, Archer? You seemed to be rather forthcoming the last time we spoke in there.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Archer said with a shake of his head as he looked up at Kotomine. “

Kotomine took a sip of his wine and asked, “So, you were going to tell me who you were?”

“Yes. In my life my name was Emiya Shirou,” Archer answered, his eyes not leaving the priest’s face. For a moment there was silence, Kotomine studying him intensely, those dark eyes flickering over Archer’s armor and fixating at his face. Archer made no movement as Kotomine silently studied him before taking a rather large gulp of wine.

A smile graced Kotomine’s face as he set the wine glass down and said, “Well, I’ll be damned.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:43 PM
“I’m not going to deny that,” Archer retorted with a shake of his head.

The false priest threw back his head and laughed before leaning closer to Archer. “So you hated your existence so much you were going to kill yourself before you made the deal with the Spirit of Humanity?”

Archer nodded and said, “Except the chance of a paradox was next to nothing, even if I killed the boy with my own two hands.”

“At that point you wanted to take your frustration and hatred out on the one person you could blame for that situation,” Kotomine said with a slight smirk.

Archer nodded and looked up at the ceiling. He said, “The road to Hell is paved by good intention.”

“You wanted to save everyone, and in the end you realized how foolish it was,” Kotomine said, “Yet, you went to all of this trouble to save that one girl.”

Archer simply nodded. “Even though it gets you nothing in return, and you know the folly of such things, you couldn’t help yourself,” Kotomine said with a shake of his head and another smile. “You saw that dream shattered before you, yet you still cling to it. It broke you and twisted you, but yet you still cannot let it go.”

“It was beautiful,” Archer replied in a sharp voice as he glared at the other man, “You thrive on people’s suffering, I want to thrive on the happiness of those close to me.”

Kotomine leaned closer to Archer, faces mere centimeters away as he asked, “But who is close to you now, Emiya Shirou? You have no friends, you have no lover. These people here are not a part of your life, and nor are you in theirs.”

“I have you,” Archer replied with a smirk, causing the priest to blink and sit back.

After a moment’s pause, Kotomine smiled, shook his head and said, “I’m surprised you’re not trying to kill me.”

“Why? There’s nothing you can do now and it’s nice to know that there’s someone just as hollow as me in this town,” Archer said as he finally picked up the wine glass and took a sip.

******

“How are you?” Rider asked as Sakura was redressing. She grimaced at the sweat starting to dry on her and was in desperate need of a shower and a change of clothing. And I don’t have to use that stupid soap anymore, Sakura thought with a smile. There was nothing inside of her, no sickening crawling with need, just herself.

She answered, “I’m . . . better, thank you, Rider.”

Rider’s normally stoic face was made even more radiant by the smile she flashed at Sakura. Sakura found herself smiling back until a wave of weakness washed over her. She staggered and ended sitting on the table as the room spun ever so slightly. Rider scowled as she was at her side in an instant, elegant hands lifting Sakura’s face up to study her.

“You’re still low on prana,” Rider said with a sigh and a shake of her head.

Sakura rubbed her forehead and said, “I’ll be fine. I’ve been worse, now I just . . .” Need to figure out what to do.

Her eyes widened as she realized she was now homeless and all of her belongings were at that place. Lungs constricted as Sakura’s chest tightened as she realized she had utterly nothing. “Oh god,” she whispered as she placed her hands over her mouth as she felt her eyes begin to sting.

Rider peered at her and said, “Sakura, it’s over . . . you can do whatever you want to now.”

“What am I going to do Rider? I was in that place for so long and . . .” Her breath was coming in ragged gulps and the room was suddenly closing in on her. She looked around rapidly before shoving herself upright. “I . . . need to get out of here,” she muttered as she wobbled on her feet.

She put her hands on the wall to adjust herself and began to walk out of the operating room. She looked around the church and swallowed, it’s brightly lit interior and brilliant stain glass windows doing nothing to calm her. She bit her lip as she looked around, noting that Shirou and Saber were long gone.

Not surprising, they have their own lives to live. I have nothing. I don’t have nee-san and I don’t have sempai and no one wants me and I don’t know what to do. A sob tore from Sakura’s throat as she looked around the church. She heard Rider’s even footsteps behind her, but she took off not towards the exit of the church, but towards the back of it.

“Even though it gets you nothing in return, and you know the folly of such things, you couldn’t help yourself,” Kotomine’s voice was muffled by the door, but Sakura could clearly hear the low tone. “You saw that dream shattered before you, yet you still cling to it. It broke you and twisted you, but yet you still cannot let it go.”

She froze as she moved to the closed office door. She pressed her hands to it before tilting her head and putting her ear up to the door despite the improperness of it. Rider was beside her and looked down at her with a frown before following suit beside her. The two of them stood quietly, Sakura’s cheeks burning as they listened to the conversation between the two men.

Archer’s voice was sharp as he retorted, “It was beautiful. You thrive on people’s suffering, I want to thrive on the happiness of those close to me.”

“But who is close to you now, Emiya Shirou? You have no friends, you have no lover. These people here are not a part of your life, and nor are you in theirs.”

Sakura felt her eyes widen right as she looked up at Rider and Rider peered down at her with eyes the size of saucers. The two of them stared at each other and Sakura eased away from the door, the priest’s words echoing through her ears. More importantly, what he had called Archer. Rider was scowling as she mouthed, “Emiya Shirou?”

Sakura took one look at the door and pressed her hand against it. Sempai, but not Sempai. Her cheeks flushed as she realized it was Archer she had went after without realizing it. The mannerisms, that smile, the neat way he had stacked his shoes and even his smell. Even though she knew she couldn’t have Sempai, in that state she had recognized one she could have.

And he’s just as alone as I am, she thought as she moved away from the door. A shaky hand rested on her heart as she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. Rider gently pulled on her arm, tilting her head back to the operating room. However, Sakura did note that her Servant looked rather . . . thoughtful.

******
After a long, exhausting talk with Kotomine, Archer hoped that Sakura was ready to travel. The clock in the false priest’s office read that it was after 3 AM, and there was still a twisted magus to deal with. Kotomine’s words about the worm created to house a soul that was now empty made Archer’s blood boil even more. The old bastard had set up Sakura as a safeguard just in case, he thought with a scowl as he headed towards the make shift operating room.

He knocked on the door and within moments it was pushed open. Rider was standing there and she offered Archer a smile as Sakura sat up from reclining on the table. The girl quickly rearranged her skirts, her cheeks flushing softly as she stood up. She bowed and said, “Thank you, for everything.”

Archer shook his head and said, “It’s not over yet.”

“I want Shinji,” Rider said with a slow, easy grin.

Sakura shook her head and said in a rather firm voice, “No. You’re not to hurt Nii-san.”

The smile fell off Rider’s face and Archer studied Sakura who was looking down, but her hands were clinched tightly at her sides and trembling. Archer asked, “What about Zouken?”

“I don’t want Nii-san hurt,” Sakura said in a small, but firm voice as she lifted her head to look up at Archer, her teeth worrying slightly at her lower lip.

Archer looked at Rider, shrugged and said, “Well, I wasn’t planning on going after Shinji anyway. My primary target right now would be Makari Zouken.”

“Fine, I will refrain for now,” Rider said with a sigh and a shake of her head.

He looked at the small, violet haired girl and said, “Sakura, your Grandfather is dangerous. With you gone, there’s no guarantee that he won’t come after you again, or hurt someone else.”

“I understand,” Sakura said with a nod, “But with Nii-san . . . He wasn’t always like this.”

Rider was scowling behind Sakura, her hands folded under her breasts but otherwise silent. From her face, Archer was sure she would have killed the boy and enjoyed every minute of it. Shinji was a pest, but he wasn’t outright murdering anyone or causing anyone harm at the moment so he was below Archer’s radar. Archer nodded to the girl and then looked at Rider. He said, “I’ll make sure you get home, then I’ll take care Zouken.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:44 PM
“Alone?” Sakura asked with a frown and wide eyes, one hand going towards him but stopping half way and dropping to her side.

Archer shrugged and said, “It’s safer that way.”

“Not for you it’s not,” Sakura said with a scowl and a shake of her head.

It’s not like I have anything waiting at home for me, he thought, Kotomine’s conversation still ringing through his ears. His only real friend it seemed was the priest, and there was his relationship with Ilya, but there were plenty of others who could take his place. He was a man out of place in a time he already lived in filled with familiar faces that were at turns strangers to him. He was a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, but failing. He had no purpose here, and he was so disillusioned that he had no one he wanted to keep safe other than Ilya and Rin.

Or Sakura, he thought as the girl scowled up at him, her face set in an oddly familiar determined line. Heat filled his cheeks as he replied, “I’ve handled worse things than Zouken.”

“Don’t underestimate Grandfather. At least ask Kotomine-san to go with you,” Sakura said with a frown as she moved closer to him.

He frowned and said, “I don’t want to owe Kotomine anything else.”

“Then I’ll come with you,” Rider said, her voice barely audible.

Archer shook his head and said, “No.”

“Why not?” Rider asked as she adjusted her glasses.

He cleared his throat as he felt his cheeks heat up. “Well, um, those things are rather focused on . . . and since we freed Sakura, he might try to . . . And you should make sure Sakura adjusts to your apartment.”

Sakura blinked and asked, “I’m going to be living with you, Rider?”

“If that is fine with you. I have a big enough apartment for the both of us, and I already have a bedroom ready for you,” Rider said with a slight smile.

Archer shook his head, sighed and said, “We wouldn’t have gone to all of this trouble and not have figured out living arrangements once you were safe.”

Sakura fussed with her skirt and then bowed her head, her cheeks flushing. Her violet hair obscured her face, but her shoulders were slightly shaking. Rider stood there awkwardly but Archer moved forward. He had enough experience with trauma victims to at least know what Sakura was going through.

Hell, I’m going through a version of it myself, he thought dryly as he bent his legs down so his face was even with Sakura’s. He hadn’t been aware of how petite she was when he was a teenager, or had he just grown so much that he towered over everyone else he knew? He shook off his train of thought as Sakura peered at him with red rimmed eyes and tear tracks coming down her face.

He whispered, “Trace On.” He visualized eight parts and in his hand a simple, white cotton handkerchief appeared. It was a waste of mana, but sometimes one needed to be frivolous when someone else was in need. He lifted it up to Sakura and said, “Here.”

“Ah, thank you Archer-san,” she said in a soft voice as she took it from him and gently dabbed her eyes. Once she was finished she handed the cloth back to him. He released the mana and it vanished into gold shimmers, causing her to smile ever so slightly. “So you know mage craft then,” she said as her smile widened slightly as he stood back to his full height.

Archer shrugged and said, “It has its uses.”

Rider asked, “Are you going to go after Zouken tonight?”

“Yeah, to keep further complications from happening. Once everything’s cleared up, you should be able to help Sakura collect her things,” Archer said with a tiny smirk, “I doubt Shinji will protest too much.”

Sakura bit her lip with a frown and said, “I still don’t like you going alone, Archer-san.”

“Sometimes you have to do things you don’t like, but the results are worth it,” Archer said with a shrug as he looked towards the door, “However it’s getting late, let’s get you home.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:45 PM
Getting Sakura to Rider’s was rather uneventful and Archer was back to the Matou manor. He scowled at it as he knew the easiest thing to do would be just to jump on Rin’s roof and nail it with a charged Caldiblog. However, that would draw too much attention and cause Rin to go into fits because a magical explosion of that magnitude would get back to the Association. Besides, that house is full of secret compartments. He has to have an escape route, Archer thought grimly.

So, I have to go in and hunt him down. He hated infiltration missions like this, even when he had been alive during his time they made him uneasy. Breaking into an ancient magus’ lair wasn’t anything to thumb one’s nose at either, especially one who apparently had a basement full of prana starved worms. He had stabbed the jar Kotomine had given him with a prana loaded knife to make it explode, obliterating any trace of what had been in Sakura.

Then again, the old man might be expecting him. After all, Archer did take his most precious experiment right from underneath his nose. Magi tended to be an arrogant, paranoid bunch as they searched for the origin or perfected whatever magecraft they were obsessed with. He stared at the old home and weighed his options before walking up to the front door.

The lock was old, and with the right tools it slid open. Heavy boots moved surprisingly soundlessly as Archer walked into the door. He gritted his teeth as he had several pairs of Kansho and Bakuya already in mind to use, all he had to do was bring them to form. He walked through the once familiar house, the echoes of old ghosts running through his mind when he had been a boy. Shinji bringing him here after school to show off some new video game or toy. Long hours had been spent playing hide and seek with Shinji and Sakura, trying to get the morose girl to smile.

Then again, the Shinji and Sakura that lived here were not the ones that haunted his memories. Shinji had been the first bit of blood to stain his hands while his version of Saber had killed Rider. Shinji had shown no remorse, in fact he had laughed while people began to melt away and ordered Rider to drain more and more. Archer had felt bad about killing his friend, but Shinji had stopped being his friend the moment he decided to become a mass murder. Or attempt mass murder, Archer thought dryly, even though the survivors hadn’t been able to live very fruitful lives after that.

He walked along the hallway paneled with dark wood had a rose carpeting. There were pictures along the walls of various Matous around the ages and Archer stopped at an old painting of a slyly handsome man with sharp blue eyes and wavy blue hair. He looked like a more intense, rugged version of Shinji. There was part of the picture covered up by a curtain. Makari Zouken.

Curious, Archer moved the curtain aside and stared at an all too familiar crimson pair of eyes. Standing beside Zouken and smiling was what looked like an older version of Ilya, dressed in a floor length white dress with a purple sash. The young woman was exceptionally lovely and her smile had a hint of wickedness to it, just as Ilya’s did. Standing behind her was an Asian man with wavy black hair and sloe black eyes dressed in a typical kimono but bright red. Justica Von Eizenburn. Makari Zouken. Tohsaka Nagito. The three founding members of the Holy Grail War of Fuyuki.

“I’d almost forgotten I had that,” a raspy voice said behind Archer.

Archer turned around to see Zouken standing there, holding his old cane as he was stooped over, one hand bent to help support his back. The man looked like an old, shriveled apple who had been left in the sun for too long. He stared up at the painting with dark eyes and sighed, “She was lovely, wasn’t she?”

“Justica?” Archer asked, surprised by the question as he looked up at the painting again. “Yes, yes she is,” he answered quietly.

One eye opened almost grotesquely compared to the other one that was almost squinted shut as Zouken studied Archer. “So you know who she was then?”

“I know whose body her soul inhabits now,” Archer replied.

Zouken nodded and said, “I . . . don’t remember her well.”

“Well, your body is decaying,” Archer replied as he folded his arms over his chest and looked down at the old man.

The ancient magus chuckled, “Yes, my body’s decaying. I wanted immortality, but not in a corpse’s shell. And you took the means from me to get a new body.”

“Yes, but somehow you knew to take your soul out of Sakura,” Archer said with a shake of his head.

Zouken chuckled again and replied, “Of course. A better opportunity presented itself. Why wait for an offspring when I have a former Heroic Spirit right in my grasp.”

Fists clinched at nothing as the familiar blades became ready as Zouken simply smiled. Wordlessly, Archer drew his blades back to attack, but Zouken simply stepped back and slammed his cane into the floor. Prana began to ripple in obscene amounts, the air around Archer becoming impossibly thick to move through. He swung his blades and lurched forward. However he kept looking around him, knowing that was all too easy. A magi of Zouken’s age and ability didn’t get that way by playing it easy.

Archer noticed that his vision was blurring ever so slightly and his blades shattered into fine gold mist. The old man was standing there, his whole body was trembling and there was strain in his eyes. Muscles became slack and fatigued, his whole body was heavy and his prana was dropping dangerously low. As his vision started to fade to black, Archer thought, Of course. The Matou family’s expertise is absorption.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:45 PM
Sakura was curled up on the futon in Rider’s fairly spacious apartment. She had been surprised at its sheer size and wondered what sort of rent she paid to stay in a place like this. That also made Sakura wonder what Rider did for a living. She was aware of the former Servant working at the library part time during the week, but those earnings couldn’t come anywhere close to affording a place like this.

She had seen the sleek racing motorcycle parked in the apartment complex’s garage and Rider was a rider after all. There were rumors of street racing that happened on the later parts of the week down in Shinto, but nothing was really confirmed. Taiga-sensei had a rant once during archery practice about some hooligans that had cheated some men who worked for her grandfather involving motorcycles. The teacher then made everyone on the archery squad promise that they would never buy or ride a motorcycle as long as she was their teacher.

Mitsuzuri-taicho had scowled as she had made the promise and some of the other girls had teased her about being a tomboy. Then rumors had circled around that Mitsuzuri was racing illegally at night for extra money. Everyone had a good laugh about it because street racing was rather far fetched, but thinking back at the motorcycle in the garage it did seem like something Rider would enjoy.

Still, Rider had enough foresight to buy her a few change of clothing once she had arrived as well. The first thing she had done was take a long, scalding hot shower and scrubbed hard. She had scrubbed until her skin was pink and tingling and had washed her hair until all she had smelled was the antiseptic scent of the soap Rider had for her. It’s as if Rider knew I needed to get clean, she thought as she looked around the unfamiliar surroundings. She wondered if Rider had needed to get clean once she had gotten away from Shinji herself.

Sakura shook the dark thought off and lightly fingered the faded red ribbon in her hair. Eyes stung with unshed tears because Nee-san hadn’t been the one to save her. Rider hadn’t even thought to ask Nee-san, but instead went directly to her former Servant. Her abandoned Servant, she thought as she pressed her lips together and curled her knees to her chest. The same Servant who had carried her from her house and knew everything that was going on with her, but didn’t speak a word of it to anyone.

Nor did he judge me, and now he’s going after Grandfather alone, Sakura thought as her chest tightened. A shiver ran up and down her spine and she clutched the blanket more closely to her chest despite the room being a comfortable temperature. Archer had all but forced Rider to stay with her, but Sakura didn’t want to leave Archer alone.

After a few moments, Sakura got up from the futon, made it and dressed in some of the street clothing that Rider provided. Even though the colors were darker than what Sakura normally liked, the black tank top and matching skirt fit perfectly. And the black will make it easier to hide, Sakura thought as she went to find Rider.

Rider was still dressed as she met Sakura half way. The former Servant pushed up her glasses more firmly on her nose and said, “You want to go after Archer.”

Sakura bit her lip, felt her cheeks warm but she didn’t lower her eyes from Rider’s. Hands twisted in soft black fabric as the violet haired girl nodded. She said, “Y-yes. I do.”

“Then let’s go,” Rider said with a tiny bit of a smile as she tilted her head towards the door.

Sakura blinked and asked, “You’re not going to tell me to stay here?”

“Of course not. You are your own person, now I will let you know that I am going to do everything in my power to keep you safe, and I do owe Archer for that safety,” Rider said as she zipped up her riding jacket.

Sakura smiled and said, “Thank you Rider.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:46 PM
The first thing that Archer was aware of was that he couldn’t move. Muscled limbs felt like lead and that he was on a hard, cold surface lying face down. Stone or concrete and considering the temperature of the room during this time of year I’d say I’m underground. Which means I’m in the basement of the Matou household. Archer opened his eyes as he felt something slick and damp slither across his cheek.

In the corner of his eye was a bulbous, obscene looking worm and even in the dim light he could see hundreds of the creatures writhing and slithering about. “Ah, you’re awake,” Zouken said in a very cheerful voice as Archer saw small, withered bare feet beside him.

He kept still and silent. One of the withered feet reached out and poked his now bare arm, the mantle had been taken off. Or eaten, he thought as he suppressed a shudder at the things slithering all around him. “A bit scarred, but in very good condition despite everything. You Servants really were the peak of humanity, weren’t you?” Zouken asked as he bent forward to look into Archer’s face.

“Well, I wouldn’t say I was. It seems like you got a flawed specimen. If you’re looking for perfection, I’d go for the King of Heroes,” Archer replied as he forced a smirk on his face.

Zouken shook his head and said, “No, I’m not risking anything else. Besides unlike the others you seem to be a magus which makes things useful. That draining spell I used against you up there wouldn’t have worked on someone such as Saber or the like. You on the other hand it worked like a charm.”

“My brand of magecraft is rather specialized,” Archer replied as he flexed his fingers. The skittering sound was getting closer and he could see the mass writhing around him, gnashing tiny mouths filled with razor sharp teeth.

The old man nodded and said, “I know that. So I need to change you so that the Makari magecraft works with you. Your prana output is far less than Sakura’s maximum, but I can’t be choosy at this point can I? Besides, I could produce a heir through you that will be a more acceptable host with proper care.”

“I thought the worms are more acceptable with a female host,” Archer said as the bulbous bodies moved ever closer.

Zouken nodded and said, “You did your research well, Archer, as I did mine. Another reason I chose you is that no one is going to miss you if you vanish. You sealed your fate the moment you betrayed the Tohsaka. You live alone, you have no lover, and people move away all the time. Especially ones that have connections with the yazuka.”

Archer gritted his teeth as he felt anger spike hotly through him, but he didn’t let it show on his face. As a wise American had told him in his life time, “Giving into anger gives that person who made you angry power over you.” He had remembered the words well and made it part of his internal mantra to remain absolutely calm and also used it to generate anger in an opponent. Get angry, one got sloppy and a lot of the people he had come up against in the past had hair trigger tempers that were easily exploited.

However he was becoming very tired of everyone letting him know just how alone he was. He was very aware that all he did was work, clean, cook, eat and sleep just to keep doing something. Kotomine’s face came into his mind and he almost started laughing at the irony of everything. He had saved Sakura from this fate only to end up trapped in it himself and the only person he “had” wasn’t going to help.

Not that I haven’t been in hopeless situations before, he thought dryly before taking a deep breath.

Zouken said, “First I’m going to begin the process by making your magical alignment something that I can use with the worms. This will hurt and you may not survive.”

“However chances must be taken,” Archer said as he attempted to move his legs, but they felt like lead weights.

Zouken smiled and said, “Of course, now, let’s start the process shall we?”

The worms quickened their pace, slithering in an increased rate as their tiny teeth clicked in anticipation. Within moments their bulbous bodies were mere centimeters away from Archer. The first thing slid across his arm, leaving a thick trail in its wake. He shuddered in revulsion and then the first set of teeth nipped into his skin like a thousand pinpricks all at once.

More and more followed it, the grotesque process already beginning.

His heart was racing in his chest, he was completely pinned down and could not move. Thousands of little teeth were already biting him, and he could feel blood trickling hotly from the tiny wounds. Soon they would either make an opening or find one on their one. He clamped his teeth together as one tried poking its way into his mouth while he felt them traveling lower down his body.

Ice rushed through his veins as he flailed. His mind froze, every calculated plan he could have laid was unreachable to him at the moment. However, his body reacted defensively.

I am the bone of my sword.

It was the first line to open his inner world, yet in Emiya Shirou’s case it was all too true.

Even with his teeth clinched he cried out as he felt the first set of blades poke from his body, acting defensively against the oncoming invaders. Fire and agony slashed through his nerves as the blades poked through his skin, stabbing into some of the worms and sending others slithering back. The blades retracted a moment later, sending another bout of agony from his head down to the soles of his feet causing him to hiss in pain as well. However his body was responding again and Archer began to stand, blood dripping from various wounds in his body as he glared at Zouken.

******
Sakura paused as she heard the sharp cry of pain at the door and looked at Rider. Rider waved back and she stepped back. The statuesque woman pushed her glasses more firmly up her nose before pivoting gracefully into a spin kick. The heavy, steel toed biker boot hit the door with a resounding crash and shattered under the impact.

Rider smiled at Sakura before stepping over the ruins of the door and extending her hand to the girl. Sakura swallowed as she gripped Rider’s hand as she helped ease her over the debris. “Archer’s in trouble,” was all Rider said.

Sakura nodded, licked her lips and clutched Rider’s hand as they hurriedly made their way to the basement. The girl silently prayed, Please let us be in time. Please let us be in time.

******

There was a soft squish as heavy, steel reinforced and toed boots pressed down firmly on the mass of wiggling bodies with each approaching step. Blood dripped onto the stone floor from a variety of wounds that the wiggling mass swarmed to only to be crushed in Archer’s wake. The former Counter Guardian glared down at Zouken, who oddly enough smiled up at him before chuckling slightly.

“Interesting,” Zouken said with a shake of his head.

Archer flexed his arms and rolled his shoulders to release some of the stiffness there. The blaze in his nerves had calmed down to shocks that he was more than familiar with and could deal with. Eyes like steel met Zouken’s and he said, “My body’s made of swords. Trace. On.”

Kansho and Baykura appeared in his hands as he swiped at the writhing mass of the floor, tiny bodies flying against the wall and splattering in a spray of dark ichor. He worked methodically, using his blades over and over to make sure there was nothing left of the worms until the walls and floor were covered in their remains. The blades vanished in a snap of prana as Archer towered above the ancient magus.

“Are you going to kill me now?” Zouken asked with a shake of his head.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:47 PM
Archer shook his head and replied, “I can’t. Your soul could be stored anywhere and I don’t know where it is. I know you have more of those things.” He pointed to the wall at the gore staining it. “You could always create another body.”

“So, what do you plan to do with me?” Zouken said as Archer approached.

It felt as if a nail had lodged itself into Archer’s spine and he gritted his teeth at the sudden surge and the draining afterwards. However the heavy crimson cloth was soft against his palms and finger tips and there was yards of it, more than enough to contain Zouken. The old magus didn’t move as Archer moved forward and bundled him up with the copy of the Burial Shroud of Martian, the same shroud his mantle and tail had been made from.

He threw Zouken over his shoulder, winched slightly at the pain radiating through his body and began to walk up the long steps. The door at the top suddenly shattered and standing there, haloed by residual light was Rider holding Sakura’s hand. Both women were peering at him with wide eyes as Archer strode up the steps with his bundle. Rider smiled and said, “Apparently we were late in our rescue, Archer.”

He stared at both women, his chest tightening as everyone’s words about him being alone came racing back to him. The cynical part of him scoffed that they were just replaying him for what he had done. However, there was a part of him that remembered Sakura stubbornly coming to his home day after day to help take care of him despite Shinji’s protests.

“I’m surprised anyone came at all,” Archer said with a bit of a lopsided, dry smile as he shifted his burden on his shoulder.

Sakura frowned at him and reached out one hand to his bloody arm. Her hand hovered in front of him before she pulled it back to place over her mouth. Violet eyes were wide as she asked, “What happened?”

“My body defended itself,” Archer said with a shrug, “I’ll be fine.”

Sakura scowled and said, “But you’re bleeding.”

“I’ve been through worse,” Archer said again with a shrug as he moved past the two women to step through the ruins of the door.

There was a tiny stomp and Sakura blurted out, “But you’re not a Servant anymore! You’re a person who can be hurt and it doesn’t heal instantly . . .”

He blinked and turned to face her. Sakura was staring up at him with wide eyes and a trembling lip. He noticed that she was wearing black, and while it harmonized with her skin tone, hair and eye color it wasn’t Sakura. Before he realized it, he said, “Black doesn’t suit you, Sakura.”

Then he started to walk out of the door. Rider fell into step beside him, a tiny frown marring her features. She asked, “Where are you taking him?”

“To Caster,” Archer said with a grin, “For some karmatic retribution.”

******
The Greek witch was garbed in a deep grey kimono with a bright flowered print and her periwinkle hair was completely unbound. Her pointed ears were drooping slightly and she stared at Archer as he dropped off his bundle. Her ears perked back up as she asked, “Is that him?”

“That’s him,” Archer said.

She folded her arms under her breasts and asked, “Do you know what time it is?”

“Late,” Archer answered as he rolled his increasingly stiff shoulders. He noted that there was some numbness in his left arm and his vision was blurring along the edges. He shook it off as Caster frowned at him.

She scowled and said, “You look like the inner ring of Tarturus.”

“I feel like hell too,” he said as he moved to turn to head for the door. His head swam and the room spun. His stomach clinched and he swallowed. He shook it off and clinched his fists.

He looked over at Caster right as the burial cloth dissolved and Zouken was sitting on the ground. The witch smiled sweetly at him and reached out to cup his cheek with her palm. “You are an interesting specimen, aren’t you?”

Zouken chuckled then looked at Archer. He said, “You should have killed me.”

“I didn’t know where your soul was,” Archer said as he blinked against grey splotches in his vision.

Caster grinned and said, “Well, I’d wager I will find out. Won’t we, my little prune?” Then she frowned at Archer and said, “You will uphold your end of the bargain, won’t you?”

He nodded and said, “Yeah. When I’m done with you you’ll be an expert in Japanese style cooking.”

She smiled and said, “Good. Now, what to do with him . . .”

Archer nodded and said, “Thank you again, Medea.”

“I’m not Medea anymore. I’m Caster,” she said with a tiny smile as she began to speak in her ancient tongue, possibly binding Zouken in something inescapable.

Archer nodded in satisfaction as the room began to tilt again. The grey dots in his vision were becoming increasingly more intense as was the nausea. He attempted to shake it off as he started to walk down the temple steps were Sakura and Rider were waiting.

Their forms were becoming more and more indistinct despite him getting closer to them. Everything spun again and he felt his knees buckle. He tried to brace himself, keep moving, but then everything went decidedly black.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:48 PM
Rider moved faster than Sakura could even blink as they watched as Archer started to sway before finally collapsing. The lavender haired woman bounded up the steps almost faster than Sakura’s eyes could follow and she managed to catch Archer before he hit the hard steps. Heart pounding, Sakura gathered up her skirts and began to run up the steps to meet her former Servant. She was breathing hard once she reached Rider and stared down at Archer’s face.

He was pale underneath the dusky bronze of his skin and he was breathing hard as well. In the moonlight she could see a slight sheen of sweat gleaming from his skin. Worriedly, Sakura placed a hand on his forehead to find that it was cold. She frowned up at Rider as Rider adjusted his broad body. “We don’t know what Grandfather did to him before we got there,” she said in a hushed voice.

Her chest was tightening and it was becoming harder and harder for her to breathe. She darted her head around as her throat began to close up. Rider’s strange eyes intently stared into hers and she said, “Sakura breathe. We’ll get Archer to his home and then we’ll take care of him from there.”

She nodded and took a long, deep breath. Her hands clinched and unclenched at her sides as she gave Archer another worried look. She nodded and said, “Do you know how to get to where he lives?”

“Of course. He has an apartment right above his shop,” Rider said with a nod. She looked at Sakura and asked, “Can you make it there? It’s quite a walk from here.”

Sakura nodded and replied, “Of course I can. Let’s get Archer home and taken care of.”

Rider smiled ever so slightly as she managed to support Archer with relative ease. Sakura rushed to his other side and felt her cheeks heat up the instant she wrapped her arm around Archer’s waist. Her breath caught, her body tightened greedily at the stark reminder even though that they had been removed, their need still lingered strongly. The violet haired girl shook it off as she helped Rider guide the quite large man down the steps.

As they walked, it was apparent that Rider was bearing most of the burden and Sakura was just helping her balance. There was no strain on the former Servant’s face, just her normal calm countenance. Sakura shook her head as they walked towards were Shinto met with Fuyuki, towards the industrial end of the two towns. She knew that Shirou often had jobs at the various warehouses here and that was how he got the acid burn on his shoulder.

Blinking, Sakura looked at Archer’s exposed bicep. The red mantle had vanished, leaving his arms and shoulders exposed. She peered up to see the same familiar scar that she had nursed what seemed like a life time ago. Biting her lip, she lightly pressed her fingers into it and felt its raised texture. I didn’t take care of this, some other version of me did, she thought as she readjusted her arm to help balance him better for Rider. She wondered what that Sakura thought of this Emiya Shirou and what had he felt for her.

If he had felt anything for her other than familiar affection.

She shook off the dark thought as they approached a shop with a neat, simple sign that said “Repairs” in both English and Japanese. Oddly enough, there was the golden glow of a light from the second story of the shop. She looked over at Rider and Rider’s beautiful face was marred by a scowl. Sakura whispered, “Archer-san has to have keys on him.”

“Well, these interesting pants do have pockets in them,” Rider said in a soft voice with a tiny smile.

Sakura’s cheeks heated up instantly as she blinked mutely up at Rider. Rider was still smiling ever so slightly as she said, “Well, I’m supporting his weight, I can’t look.”

“Ah, then I will have to,” Sakura stammered before sliding her hand into the pocket closest to her. Almost immediately her hand brushed against something hard and cold. It jingled ever so slightly as it was pulled from the confines of the thick leather-like fabric. She clutched the keys in her hand and brought them up. She moved away from Archer and to the door.

After a few attempts and a few misfires caused by shaking hands, Sakura found the right key. However as soon as she pressed on the door to balance to unlock it, it swung open. She frowned at Rider and Rider frowned back at her. “Someone else is here,” was all the lavender haired woman said as she brought Archer into the shop.

He was still breathing hard and his chest was rising and falling sharply with each breath. Sweat had dampened his hair to the point where the hard spikes had partially fallen into his face. Sakura’s chest tightened as she looked at his sleeping face, and with his hair falling into it he looked even more like the boy he use to be. Biting her lip, Sakura placed her hand on Archer’s forehead and he made a sort of murmuring sound and tried to move away. The flesh under her palm was cool and clammy. She sent Rider a worried look, afraid he would go deeper and deeper into shock.

Rider looked at Sakura and said, “Lock the door. We are going to see who is intruding upstairs.”

Sakura nodded and did as she was instructed. Rider, still holding Archer, headed up the steps first with Sakura following closely behind. They slowly crept up the steps to the apartment, but the door swung open before Rider could reach the last step. Crimson eyes set into a friendly, smiling face peered at them.

A jovial, male voice with an accent that Sakura couldn’t place called out, “Oy, you three were making enough racket to raise the dead!”

“Lancer, what are you doing?” an annoyed, high pitched female voice that Sakura knew all too well.

Sakura froze behind Rider and looked around. She swallowed hard as a pair of aquamarine eyes framed by raven hair poked underneath Lancer’s outstretched arm. Tohsaka Rin rose to her full height as her eyes met Sakura’s. Sakura moved to be more behind Rider as Rin’s eyes traveled over to Archer. Her eyes widened, then narrowed as she simply moved Lancer aside and ran the rest of the way down the steps.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:49 PM
Rin frowned as she saw that her Archer was desperately low on prana and bleeding from pretty much everywhere. There were half healed cuts on his body, but they had come from the inside out from the angle that she could see. Her eyes widened as she remembered Archer’s Reality Marble.

Then she saw tiny bite marks that looked a lot like what she’d seen on TV with Lancer about shark attacks but quite smaller. She frowned at the wounds and noted that at least they had stopped bleeding. “We need to get him into bed. He may have lost a lot of blood,” Rin said as she looked over at Lancer before looking back at Rider. She inwardly cringed at the sight of Sakura almost hiding behind the former Servant.

She’d demand answers later, but right now Archer needed care. Lancer nodded and moved to take the fallen man from Rider, but Rider tightened her grip on Archer and glared from her special beryl glasses that Rin herself had made. Rider started up the steps again, moving past Lancer who had that half amused grin that made Rin want to punch him sometimes.

Rin asked, “What happened?”

“Archer did what you should have done a long time ago,” Rider said in a voice that could have frozen water despite the Summer heat.

Sakura looked down at the steps as she trotted behind Rider, pointedly ignoring Rin’s gaze. Rin bit her lip as she looked at her lover. Lancer was frowning slightly as well before glaring at Rider. He moved rapidly up the steps and said, “What do you mean something that Rin should have done a long time ago?”

Rin froze at that and she heard a very familiar voice groan, “Loud. Irish. Annoying. Why is Lancer here?”

“Archer-san,” Sakura said as she moved to Archer’s side as he tried to push away from Rider.

Rin approached as well and sighed in relief, but then Archer could be sarcastic and insulting half dead. She gritted her teeth and expected Sakura to move away when she approached. However, Sakura drew closer, glaring at Rin ever so slightly as she looked Archer over.

The white haired man finally managed to move away from Rider, take two steps, and then promptly start to fall again. Even after all of this time, Rin was still amazed at how fast Lancer moved to catch him, even reaching him before Rider. “Eh, Bowman, when a man’s being escorted by two lovely lasses you’re supposed to be a bit more lively,” Lancer said with a tiny grin as he attempted to help straighten up Archer.

Almost automatically, Archer started to back away from Lancer, grey eyes narrowed and his face twisted in a scowl. Rin walked over to Lancer, placed his hand on his shoulder, shook her head and then pushed him. Lancer frowned, but nodded and stepped away. Rin stepped in front of her former Servant, moved to his side and wrapped an arm around his waist.

His arm draped over her back to help her support him as they walked away from the group. Rin knew her Archer well enough that he wasn’t going to say anything helpful around Lancer and he’d keep his condition hidden as much as he could to keep the others from worrying. His bedroom was at the back of the small apartment, and it was no surprise that it was as well kept and Spartan as the rest of it. The one piece of luxury in the room was an air conditioner seemingly made out of spare parts.

She helped ease him on the futon before turning on the light and moving to close the door right as Sakura was approaching. Rin blinked as the younger girl glared at her as the door was closing. She took a deep breath, felt her shoulders sag and turned around to see him lying there. She bit her lip and approached him.

“Rin, I . . .” he began.

She lifted up her hand and snapped, “Don’t. You have this new life, saved from your Hell and . . . just look at you. It’s déjà vu all over again. I’ve been in your head, seen your life and . . . why are you so stupid not to be happy that you can live again?”

“You try living in a world with people you know but yet you don’t and they don’t know you and you expect them to even though you know they don’t. And I don’t know what to do. I’m not some Hero of Justice anymore, but I’m not some normal person who . . . Goddamn it, Rin,” Archer retorted as he sat up, his steel colored eyes narrowing. However, he still looked far too pale under his normal bronze countenance.

She sighed, her shoulders slumping as she shook her head. She felt the familiar pressure behind her eyes that she experienced every time she seemed to talk to him lately. She rubbed her eyebrows and slid her hand into her skirt pocket. The familiar glasses case was warm and the latch opened easily. She slid the familiar frames over her face and it immediately took away some of the strain.

Archer looked away and they sat there quietly for what seemed like a small eternity. Rin bit her lip and then reached out for his cuirass. She said, “I need to get this off to see how bad you’re actually hurt.”

“It’s probably full of holes,” Archer said as he moved to unlatch the armor. There was the briefest flash of pain in grey eyes as the armor came off. As soon as Rin saw the smears of dried blood on his back and the countless half healed wounds that looked as if something had stabbed out of him she drew back her hand.

Her fist connected with hard bone and Archer’s head was snapped back. She all but shouted, “You idiot. What where you doing?”

Archer rubbed his jaw with the back of his hand and replied, “You were waiting for a long time to do that.”

Rin glared and said, “Answer the question Archer.”

He smirked, just the slightest little bit and she clinched her fist with a glare. He smiled ever so slightly and said, “It’s hard to order me around without the Command Mantra, isn’t it? However, I was taking care of Matou Zouken.”

It felt as if an icy hand gripped Rin’s heart as she stared at him. She looked towards the door and asked, “And what are you doing dragging Sakura into this?”

“I was saving your sister,” he said, making the words “your sister” feel as if he had slapped her.

She recoiled slightly and stared at him with wide eyes. She looked down and said in a soft voice, “No one’s suppose to know that except the Tohsaka and Matou houses.”

“Rin. It’s me. Besides, that pink ribbon in your room is a direct match to hers and you were always watching her, making sure she was safe. It wasn’t hard to figure it out,” he said in a quiet voice.

She bit her lip and then pressed them together. She gripped her skirt and said in a soft voice, “Not even Lancer knows.”

“Rin, Lancer’s not exactly known for his powers of deduction,” Archer said with a shake of his head.

She raised her eyebrows and said, “He’s smarter than you give him credit for.”

“He’s instinctual, there’s a difference,” Archer replied with a snort, his lip curling up ever so slightly.

Rin sighed and pushed her glasses more firmly up her nose. She said, “Archer, you can be bitter at me all you want, but it’s not my fault.”

“I know,” he said in a voice that she almost didn’t hear.

She stared at him and rested her hand on one of his broad shoulders. She frowned at all the scars she saw there, including the one his version of Lancer gave him as a teenager. “Shirou, you need to be more careful,” she said, using his real name to get his attention.

“I don’t want to die,” he said with a shake of his head, “I realized that tonight.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:50 PM
She smiled and said, “Good. So what brought this amazing realization then?”

“Talking to Kotomine started it, then almost being overwritten by Zouken cemented it in,” he answered as she began to peer at his wounds. She would have to clean the bites and bandage them before infection sat in. However the stab wounds from the inside out were already recovering, it was just the blood and prana loss that would be his main problem at the moment.

Then Rin registered that he said that name. She glared and asked, “What where you doing with Kirei?”

“I needed a spiritual surgeon. He’s the only one in the area,” Archer said in an even voice.

She clinched her fists and gritted her teeth. The rage she had felt that night, bound helpless before her former mentor and his stolen Servant had over ridden any fear she had felt. The man had killed her father. Betrayed him in cold blood for what? Nothing.

Rin hadn’t been overly close with either of her parents for obvious reasons. Tohsaka Aoi had been somewhat of a doormat that hadn’t protested when her daughter had been taken away. Tohsaka Tokomi had given up his youngest daughter to make sure she wouldn’t be experimented on by some random magi and to live to her potential. Not to mention magi for the most part were not social people, if anything they shrouded themselves in secret and isolated themselves from people.

Still, it didn’t mean the betrayal stung less, and despite everything she had loved her father very much and a man he had trusted took him away from her.

Then, of course he attempted to rip her heart out to put the Einzbern’s heart in its place to make her the Grail. If Lancer hadn’t turned against him, she would have died. In hind sight she knew that Archer expected Saber to do what any other Servant should have to save her Master. Instead, Saber had watched the fight between boy and possible future to see if her question could be answered. Rin understood the need, but in hindsight that bothered her almost as much as Archer’s betrayal.

“What was wrong with Sakura?” Rin asked as she took a slow deep breath.

Archer sighed, his shoulders slumped as he answered, “I’m sorry Rin. I can’t answer that.”

“Why not?” Rin said with a frown.

Eyes like steel met hers as he answered, “You need to talk to Sakura about it. And you can by the way now.”

Rin bit her lip and looked at the door. She shook her head and said, “Our families made an agreement.”

“Consider that agreement null and void,” Archer said, “Zouken’s in Caster’s tender care.”

Rin frowned and said, “But he’s from a prestigious magus family. What am I going to tell the Association?”

“You don’t have to tell them anything. It’s not like they visit here often,” Archer said with a shake of his head.

She looked towards the door again and asked in a small voice, “I . . . I can talk to Sakura?”

“I think that would make her happy,” Archer said with a smile, “And let her call you Nee-san.”

Her cheeks heated up as she stared at her former Servant. She looked down and said, “I don’t know if I can do that Archer.”

“Just a suggestion. By the way, the first aid kit is in the shop downstairs Rin,” Archer said with a shake of his head.

Her cheeks heated up even more at that as she stood up. She stammered, “I figured that. I’ll be back with it.”

She moved to open the door to see Sakura standing there, holding said red bag with the white cross on it. Sakura said nothing to her as she simply brushed past her and made her way to Archer’s side. Rin turned around and blinked at the odd image of her sister dressed all in black as she gracefully sat Japanese style beside the broad shouldered, white haired man. She watched as Sakura’s cheeks began to match the old ribbon in her hair as the violet haired girl deftly unzipped the bag.

Archer’s cheeks started to redden as well as he said, “Ah, we’re okay Sakura. You should get home and get some rest. You’ve had a long night.”

“I’ll rest better when I know you’re not going to faint again, Archer-san,” Sakura said with surprising firmness as she pulled out a gauze pad and some antiseptic. “Now, hold still, this may burn.” She poured some of the liquid onto the pad and began to dab at the myriad of bite wounds covering Archer’s arms. As always, Archer showed no hint that it currently felt like what had to be the equivalent of acid in an open wound.

However, his cheeks were still pink.

Rin leaned on the door as Sakura quickly cleaned the bite wounds and began to wrap his arms in clean gauze. Slim fingers nimbly tore off pieces of white medical tape to keep the bandages in place. She then cleaned off his shoulders, chest and back, her eyes widening at the scars there, and the rapidly healing stab wounds.

Rin wasn’t that surprised that Sakura was still blushing, but the fact that his cheeks were still flushed was rather interesting. She stored that information for use as she watched the two of them. Rin thought as she thoughtfully watched them, I haven’t seen Archer this animated since he was brought back to life. I think he might have just found his purpose. She felt a hot, spike of jealousy at that, that he wasn’t blushing at her like that. She shook it off, reminding herself firmly that she had Lancer.

She had made her choice and she wasn’t going to regret it.

However, Sakura had better prove herself worthy of him, and he needed to prove that he was worthy of her.

******

Sakura swallowed at the many scars covering Archer’s back, chest and torso. There was the familiar acid burn on his shoulder that she knew all too well, but there was a particularly nasty one over his heart as well as other ones that looked like bullet entry and exit points as well as stab wounds. One scar had a rough, raised texture as if someone had tried to file down the muscles on his back shoulder blade. She stared at them as she cleaned up the drying blood.

She knew the antiseptic had to sting the bite marks caused by those things, but he didn’t even flinch as she cleaned them. Her cheeks were currently on fire as she bandaged his arms. There were far too many bites to simply bandage them individually, and they needed to be kept covered and clean anyway. Those things were filthy, and who knew what else they carried inside of them.

Rin’s aquamarine eyes were focused on them as Sakura started to clean the blood off his back. She blinked at the odd, mostly healed stab wounds that seemed to come from the inside out, as if the blade was coming out of his body. What was even more strange was how rapidly they were healing compared to the bites. Even with her limited training as a magus, Sakura knew that he was dangerously low on prana, to the point where it had been almost fatal.

She had listened in on the conversation between Archer and her sister. She had heard the all too familiar sound of a fist striking flesh, and she had almost ran into the room. Then she realized there would have been nothing she would have been able to do, and worse was that it seemed that Rin knew Archer very well.

However, Archer had guarded her secret again.

She wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of having Rin try to figure out what happened to her, but the former Servant was right. If Rin wanted to know the situation she should ask Sakura, not Archer or Rider. She also realized if she didn’t want to tell Rin this she didn’t have to.

Once she had him cleaned off and bandaged, she stood up, smoothing up her skirt. She said, “You need to rest. Grandfather nearly . . . he could have killed you.”

“Thank you, but I’ll be fine Sakura,” Archer said with the slightest bit of a grin, reminding her all too much of the boy he had been.

She bit her lip, clinched her fists at her sides and replied, “No, he drained you of prana until it nearly killed you and then you pushed yourself to the point where you blacked out. You need to rest, and you will not argue about it.”

“He’ll sleep for a few hours and then probably will be up on time to open his shop,” Rin said dryly with a shake of her head and a sigh.

Archer looked at her and said, “Traitor.”

“I learned well,” Rin said with a sweet smile, “Also, I’m calling this retribution.”

Archer snorted and said, “Tyrant.” Yet he was smiling ever so slightly. Sakura felt a hot spike of jealousy as the two of them easily talked to each other. Their banter was like second nature. Why is Nee-san even with Lancer when she could have been with Archer?

Rin said, “Sakura is right though. You need to rest. This could have killed you. Whatever happened was enough to trigger a defensive response from within.”

“I know. It’s been a while since that’s happened,” Archer said as he flexed his right hand into a fist.

“Any numbness?” Rin asked as she peered at him.

Archer answered, “Right now everything hurts. I won’t know of any circuit damage until tomorrow.”

“If you need them reset, let me know. Shirou explained what happened when he felt those symptoms and I think I can rectify the problem,” Rin said firmly.

Sakura bit her lip and bowed her head as Rin started to leave the room. Rin turned towards them and she flushed as she looked at Sakura, her lips pressing together in the same way. She swallowed and said, “Ah, Sakura . . . if you want to, would you like to meet me for tea? We could talk.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:52 PM
“I am going to be busy, Tohsaka-sempai. It may be a while,” Sakura said as she looked up at Rin.

Rin wearily closed her eyes and nodded. She said, “Well, let me know when you can. I look forward to it. Archer, you had better rest.”

Sakura merely nodded as Rin exited the room, leaving the two of them alone together. She was suddenly aware that she was alone in Archer’s bedroom with Archer. She looked around the Spartan, lonely room that was almost a mirror of Shirou’s, except instead of being in an old Samurai’s house, it was in some warehouse downtown. However she had noticed that since Saber had moved in, Shirou’s bedroom was growing more and more of a personality as well as becoming a haven for various stuffed animals.

“You should go home with Rider,” Archer said after a moment.

Sakura shook her head and said, “No, I’m not, and if I want to stay here Rider’s not going to drag me home.”

“I’m fine,” Archer said with a shake of his head.

Sakura swallowed and met his eyes. A shaking hand reached out and gently pushed him back into bed. She bit her lip and said, “No. And I’m going to make sure that you don’t open up that shop tomorrow and rest.”

“I have orders that I need to finish up,” Archer protested with a frown.

She frowned back at him and said, “They can wait. You’re not a Hero of Justice anymore. You . . . you can I don’t know, but do something for yourself for once.”

“You’re not under Zouken’s control. The same can apply to you,” Archer retorted.

There was another spark of heat and she stammered, “I want to be here.”

“I’m not your sempai,” Archer said with narrowed eyes in a low voice.

She jumped at that and looked up at him with wide eyes. He sighed and said, “I know you know who I was. I’m not that person anymore. I haven’t been for a long time. In fact, I nearly killed him. Then I rescued him several times, but it’s a long, complicated story.”

Sakura bit her lip and said, “You helped me when no one else would. I am not leaving you alone.”

“The only reason I helped is because Rider asked me to,” Archer replied in that same steel laced voice.

She gripped her skirt and stammered, “A-and you could have turned her down. But you didn’t.”

He chortled ever so slightly and said, “No, I didn’t.”

“So, you had better rest. I know that you aren’t this Sempai, but you must have known a version of me where she took care of you,” Sakura replied as she pointed to the burn on his arm, “And you remember she kept coming back despite you telling her not to.”

He sighed and laid down in the futon. “I guess I have no choice then,” he said with a shake of his head.

“Well, you need someone other than Father Kotomine,” Sakura said with a smile as she got up and headed to the door. “I will be sleeping on the couch in the living room. I’ll have breakfast ready in the morning.”

******
Archer awoke to the smell of slightly burnt toast, fried eggs, rice, tea and vegetables. His eyes opened to see a smiling face framed by purple hair holding a tray of steaming food. There was toast, slightly burnt as he liked it, eggs over easy, rice and steamed vegetables with a cup of black tea. It had been his favorite breakfast a life time ago and he blinked as Sakura waited for him to sit up before placing the tray on his lap.

Once the sleep was blinked for his eyes he noticed that there was actually two servings of food, a larger one presumably for him and a smaller one for her. She sat gracefully beside him Japanese style as she picked up her plate and chopsticks. The girl bowed her head for a moment before starting to eat. Archer picked up his food and began to quietly eat.

As expected of Sakura, everything was delicious and perfectly cooked. He scowled as he scooped some of his runny eggs onto his toast and ate. She smiled at him and asked, “How is it?”

“Good, very good,” he answered after swallowing. He reached for the tea and took a sip. His nose wrinkled slightly and she blinked at him, large violet eyes widening.

She asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Too strong,” he said with a cough, “And the leaves were burned.”

Pale cheeks flushed pink as she looked down at her tea cup. She said, “I apologize Archer-san.”

“First off, stop apologizing. Second, please don’t call me Archer-san, it feels off,” Archer said with a sigh.

She blinked at him and stammered, “Ah, I’m . . . ah . . .”

“Don’t apologize. It’s not something to be sorry about,” Archer said as he took a bite of rice with a shrug.

Sakura bowed her head and replied, “Just . . .” She started blushing furiously again, one hand rubbing against the other arm as she looked away. Archer gritted his teeth and hoped that Caster was taking very good care of Matou Zouken right now. He sighed, set his food down and stared at her. Most of her face was hidden by the fall of her hair, and she was avoiding direct eye contact.

He knew it wasn’t her fault, but it was annoying. And if she keeps like this someone else is going to take advantage of her, he thought angrily. Telling her that she was free and safe wasn’t going to do any good until she realized it herself. She was saved, but she wasn’t aware of it yet. And I know how that feels.

Archer said in a soft, but firm voice, “Sakura, look up at me, please.”

Slowly but surely, violet eyes looked up at him from Sakura’s worried expression. He studied her closely and noticed that she and Rin had the exact same noses, but Sakura had rounder, softer more Asian features while Rin’s foreign blood was evident in her sharper features. He reached out and rested his hand on her shoulder, her skin warm under his palm. She jumped slightly and her eyes widened at him, her chest falling rapidly with each breath now.

“You can’t cower now,” he said with a shake of his head, “Besides, it’s sort of disconcerting if you’re flinching all the time.” He smiled and to his surprise she smiled back.

She gripped her skirt and said, “I don’t mean to and I know you won’t hurt me just . . .”

“Because of your Grandfather and Shinji it’s what you expect,” Archer said with a sigh and her nod confirmed it, as did the pale pink flush across her cheeks. He looked around and said, “And you’ve just suddenly been thrust into a world where it shouldn’t be what to expect and you don’t know how to handle it. You expect to wake up in that same hellish situation despite all the time you’ve been put into this new situation. It’s uncomfortable, and you don’t know how to deal with it.”

Large, violet eyes looked up at him as he idly picked at the few grains of rice still remaining in his bowl. He scowled at the bowl before looking at her. She nodded and said, “Y-yes, that’s exactly it Archer. Except for me being in this situation for some time. You and Rider only freed me last night.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:53 PM
“And you’re spending your first day of freedom taking care of some moron,” Archer said dryly with a lopsided smile.

She smiled back and said, “I wouldn’t say a moron, but someone who helped me when no one else would.”

He finished off the toast and egg mixture and asked, “Why didn’t you ask for help?”

“Why didn’t you?” Sakura asked as her eyes unflinchingly met his. They stared at each other like that for several heartbeats.

Archer finally answered in a soft voice, “Because we didn’t think we’re worth saving.”

“But yet, here we are,” Sakura said as she looked around his apartment with a frown.

He looked around as well and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“It’s very plain here,” she said with a frown.

He eyed her and replied, “Your room was rather plain.”

Sakura chuckled slightly and shook her head. She studied him and asked, “How are you feeling?”

Archer stretched his arms and closed his eyes. He attempted to flood prana through his circuits, but there was nothing to flood. Aches were running up and down his body from the tip of his head down to his feet. There was no numbness and he wasn’t dropping anything, so that was a good sign. However, the prana drain hadn’t recouped.

“You’re still drained,” Sakura said in a soft voice with a frown.

He opened his eyes and asked, “You?”

“Ah, I’m recovered actually. After they were removed my body started to automatically recuperate,” Sakura admitted with a tiny blush. She shook her head and said, “You can’t stay like that though.”

He shrugged and said, “I’ll just not use any magecraft for a few days, give it a chance to build back up again.”

She continued to frown at him, causing him to shift as if the futon was digging into him. He started to gather their plates and said, “I’ll take care of these.”

“No, I will, you need to rest,” Sakura said, practically snatching the tray out of his hand and rising up in a smooth, fluid motion.

Archer sighed and said, “I can’t just lay here all day. It’s not like I haven’t worked like this before.”

And apparently, he chose those words poorly.

Sakura’s violet eyes narrowed at him and she asked, “You do this all the time?”

He rubbed the back of his neck and answered, “In worse condition.”

Her eyes narrowed until mere slits of violet were visible as she clutched the tray so hard that her knuckles turned white. She simply said, “I see.” Then she moved away from him briskly, leaving him sitting on his futon. The door shut behind her and Archer groaned, sinking back into his bed.

Now that he was alone, he could take better stock of his condition. Jolts of pain danced along every nerve ending and all four limbs felt as if someone had injected him with lead. He wasn’t the type of magus that could regenerate his prana at will, and his stock was so low compared to someone like Rin, Ilya, or even Sakura apparently. Then again, it would make more sense if Sakura had the same capacity as her elder sister, she just has no desire to use it, Archer thought.

He had studied magecraft extensively, but only had a rudimentary grasp on the basics, but excelled at reinforcement and Tracing not to mention his “forbidden” talent. He understood most theories, but he couldn’t follow through. Besides what he could do helped him helped others. At least my boost from humanity didn’t go away when I was brought back, he thought dryly.

He spent countless moments staring up at the ceiling when he heard loud knocking verging on pounding and a cry of, “Onnnniiiiiiii-cccccccchhhhhannnnnn!”

A strikingly bold and rich male voice called out, “Archer, can you hear us? Are you well?”

A moment later there was a soft knock on his door and Archer said, “Sakura, let them in. It’s okay.”

“Right,” Sakura’s soft voice drifted from behind the door and he heard her light steps as she went down the steps. Moments later he heard boots rush up the steps and a slower, heavy pounding behind that. The bedroom door flew open and Archer felt his face light up at the snow fairy standing in a lavender sundress at his door.

“Oni-chan!” Ilya called out before rushing to his side and curling up on the futon beside him.

Cherubic lips pouted and crimson eyes narrowed as one slight hand touched his face. “Oni-chan, what have you been doing?” Ilya asked with a sigh and a shake of her head.

Archer gave her a dry smile and replied, “Saving people. Well, one person.”

“Sakura, so that’s why she’s here,” Ilya said with a tilt of her head as she looked at the door the same moment that the massive mountain of man known as Berserker ducked into the bedroom. Standing almost three meters tall he seemed to fill the room, however the giant demi-god was smiling as he sat down Japanese style in Archer’s room.

Berserker said in his oddly rich and rolling voice, so different than the loud bellows Archer had come to associate with him, “We received a call from Rin today and she said you were in an unfavorable condition.”

Sending my little sister to check up on me after I saved yours. You’re cheating, he thought to the absent girl. Archer shrugged and answered, “I’ve suffered worse.”

Ilya scowled and said in a brittle voice, “You shouldn’t be doing stuff like that, Shirou! You could have gotten yourself killed. I mean, I know you’re unhappy, but . . .”

Archer sat up as Ilya’s bottom lip started to quake and her eyes started to glisten with tears. “I know I wasn’t upset when you died during the war until after I looked inside of you,” she said in a soft voice, “But . . . I don’t want to lose you again, Oni-chan.”

Sighing, Archer pulled the frail girl into his arms and stroked her hair. He held her close and said, “I promise I’m not going anywhere again, Ilya.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:55 PM
Archer sighed, after Ilya and Berserker had left he’d been told to get back into bed however he wasn’t tired. So he simply stared up at the ceiling and went through the various swords in his head. Automatically he began to reconstructing Caliburn in his head after breaking it into eight parts there was a tiny snap and a jolt of searing pain ran through the left side of his body.

Well, damn it, he thought as he gritted his teeth after the pain subsided to feel the whole left side of his body prickly and numb. He sighed loudly and ran his right hand through his hair. And I wasn’t even aware I was opening my circuits, he thought dryly as he rested a hand over his eyes.

A moment later the door bust open and Sakura came running in holding a dish towel and wearing his simple white apron. “Archer, what are you doing?” she asked with a scowl as she knelt beside him.

“Something unconsciously idiotic,” he answered as he looked up at her.

She glared and replied, “You have virtually no mana and you opened up your circuits for what?”

“I was bored and going over analysis of the weapons I have stored,” he admitted as he sheepishly shrugged, “And before I knew what I was doing I started the process . . .”

Amethyst eyes narrowed and gleamed at him and Archer’s eyes widened at the terse look on Sakura’s face. “I can’t believe you’re doing something so reckless,” she said in a voice laden with steel.

He blinked up at her and said, “I really wasn’t trying to do anything. I just . . .”

“You just can’t lay there and let yourself get better,” Sakura said with a huff as she got up, spun away from him and walked out of his room. He blinked as he caught angry mutterings as she walked away.

Sighing, he managed to jerk himself out of bed and move towards her. As expected the left side of his body was having trouble responding and sluggish. He knew that his circuits were probably severely taxed and needed a jolt to get the nerves working properly again. Teeth gritted tightly gritted, Archer made his way to the kitchen where Sakura was at.

The purple haired girl was furiously scrubbing dishes from lunch, rinsing them off and setting them to dry. Her slim shoulders were tense and her back was ramrod straight as she cleaned. “Sakura,” he said and she jolted, the plate in her hand falling from her hand and into the sink with a loud crash. Shaking hands reached up to turn off the water as the young girl started to shake so slightly.

She took a step back from the sink and looked up at him with wide, fearful eyes. “It’s just a plate,” he said as he half drug himself over to the sink and started to pick up the large pieces of the plate out.

“You startled me,” she said in a soft voice.

Archer looked at her and said, “And you stormed away calling me things that normally are reserved for people who aren’t as nice as you.” It was awkward shuffling to the trashcan with half of his body responding as oddly as it was, but the pieces of the plate found their new home in the bag.

She stood there watching him with wide eyes as she said, “Why are you moving like that?”

“This has happened before,” Archer replied.

A frown marred her pretty face as she said, “That didn’t answer my question, Archer.”

He blinked at the firmness of her voice in regards to his welfare. Heat washed ever so slightly at his cheeks as he shifted. Just like Rin, he thought with a chuckle, just nicer about it.

“Your condition worsening isn’t anything to laugh about,” Sakura said, her scowl deepening even more as her own cheeks reddened.

He found himself smiling as he shook his head and said, “I’m not laughing at that, just its not that often people worry about me.”

“You don’t even worry about yourself,” Sakura accused as she pointed at him.

He rubbed the back of his head and said, “Well, some things never change I suppose.”

“Your left side of your body is barely moving and you keep saying things like that. You’re even worse than Sempai!” Sakura said, her voice rising at the last sentence.

He stared at the little purple haired young woman yelling at him, her eyes bright with tears as her fists were clinched at her sides. Ample breasts rose and fell sharply with each intake of breath as Sakura looked as if she was torn between yelling at him and crying. He blinked as he looked at her, a sudden lump forming in his throat that he swallowed down. He reached out his good hand to her and said, “It was an accident, I didn’t do this on purpose.” It’s been years since I’ve done something that stupid.

Sakura blinked at the hand on her shoulder and she tensed ever so slightly before she relaxed. The flush on her cheeks was beginning to match the ribbon in her hair as she said, “I . . . don’t like seeing you like this. Especially . . .” She bit her lip and looked down.

“Especially after I helped you?” Archer asked as he patted her shoulder and the girl nodded, still looking down.

She looked up at him and answered, “Yes.”

He lifted his hand from her shoulder and to the top of her head. Her eyes widened as she stared up at him. “I’d be a damned poor superhero if I couldn’t save a girl in distress, wouldn’t I?” he said with a smile.

“Well, I’d hope you wouldn’t have gotten hurt doing it,” Sakura said as she was now gripping the fabric of her skirt.

He shrugged and said, “It’s part of the job description.”

“Anything I can do to help?” Sakura asked as he lowered his hand from her head.

Archer blinked as he studied the girl. Coddling her would only make her more closed in, however giving her something to focus on would help her more than she’d realized even if it was him. However he was going to make it completely clear that he wasn’t the same Emiya Shirou that she called Sempai, but he had a feeling that wouldn’t change the situation that much.

He said, “I have a cluster on my back that with a jolt of prana it will correct the nerve problem.”

“Where is it?” Sakura asked in a soft voice.

Archer turned and lifted his shirt. Sakura gasped slightly and he smiled dryly as he knew she was looking at all the scars there. Awkwardly, he moved his hand to the lower left of his back and pointed. “Right there,” he said in a quiet voice.

Warm, nimble fingers pressed into the spot right before a jolt of warmth filled his body. The numbness was washed away and he could move easily, just the lethargy from the lack of prana still remained. He rolled his shoulders and flexed his left arm before lifting it up and down. Sakura was watching expectantly with her hands clasped together and with wide eyes as he turned around and smiled at her. “Thank you,” he said.

She flushed and asked, “Did it work?”

“My movements aren’t restricted and sluggish, so I would say yes,” he said with a nod.

A smile brightened her features while a flush crossed her cheeks. She said, “Well, you’re welcome, I thought it wouldn’t work.”

“And here you said you didn’t want to practice magecraft,” Archer said with a shake of his head.

Sakura bit her lip and said, “Honestly, I’m not sure what to do at all.”

“With your new life and freedom?” Archer asked as he checked the sink for any shards of broken ceramic from the expired plate.

Sakura nodded and replied, “Yes . . . It’s . . .”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:56 PM
“Overwhelming,” Archer said with a nod.

She nodded and bit her lip. He looked down at her and said, “Look, I can’t tell you how to live your life or how to be happy, because frankly I don’t know myself. All you can do is fumble along until you find something you do love.”

“Are you still going to help people?” Sakura asked as she reached a hand to toy with the edge of the sink.

He chuckled at that and said, “Honestly, I don’t think I can stop. I’m not going to be an idiot about it, and I do want to live this life. Trust me, I’ve seen Hell and it’s not pleasant. I have no intentions on going back anytime soon.”

Sakura pointed to the chair at the kitchen table and said, “Please sit down. If you won’t stay in bed, at least rest somewhat.”

Archer smiled at that as he eased his body in the simple wood chair. He looked around most of the furnishings in the sparse kitchen, most of which he had found in the local junkyard. With enough sanding and lacquering, the chairs and table were like new. As with most of his other furnishings except for his futon, that he bought new.

Once he was seated, Sakura asked, “Do you mind if I ask you something?”

Archer looked up at her and answered, “You want to know what happened to me, don’t you?”

The girl quietly nodded and Archer sighed with a shake of his head. It had been the moment he’d secretly been dreading, but . . . Part of him wanted to get this off of his chest as well. He trailed his fingers over the wood over the table, remembering all the scarring and cigarette burns that had covered every centimeter of it before he had salvaged it. With enough work, a lot can be saved, even people, Archer thought with a slight frown as he looked up at the expectant girl.

“After I graduated from high school I started traveling looking for conflicts to save as many people as possible. I figured out quickly that if I killed one terrorist I could save ten innocent people. Originally I wanted to save everyone, but the more I killed, the larger number I could save. So I went around the world doing this until there was a major disaster.”

Archer shook his head with a snort as he looked up. “I thought it would be a good idea to make a deal with the World. Service after death for the power to help the hundred or so that would have died in the disaster. I made the deal thinking I was going to help people after death, which made me happy. Eventually one of the people I saved pinned the start of World War III on me and I was publically executed for my crimes against humanity. I was okay with that though, it wasn’t until . . .”

“After your death you became unhappy with your deal,” Sakura said in a soft voice as she finished up the dishes.

He nodded and said, “Yeah.”

“To the point of doing something desperate like trying to erase your existence by killing your past self,” Sakura said with a shake of her head.

Archer gave her a wiry grin and said, “It wouldn’t work anyway. Then it became if I killed him before he became like me I’d be doing him a favor.”

“And what about those he’d leave behind?” Sakura asked as she turned to look at him, “Ilya, Saber, Fujimura-sensei, Nii-san . . .”

“You,” Archer said with a sigh. If I would have succeeded, then what would have happened to you, Sakura? He gritted his teeth, unhappy with that train of thought and shook his head.

Large, violet eyes stared at him and she bowed her head. Even, white teeth worried on the girl’s bottom lip as she turned back to the dishes. Sighing, Archer stood up and walked over to her, only to notice that her shoulders were silently shaking and she had her head bent at an angle to obscure her face. However there were splotches of wetness that were hitting her arms that had nothing to do with the dishes she was currently drying to put away.

It was the one thing he hated more in the world, hated more than the Special Hell he had served in for such a long time.

“Sakura?”

“What else did you do?” she asked, her voice hitching with a soft sob.

Archer blinked and asked, “What do you mean?”

“Ilya mentioned you kidnapping Nee . . . Tohsaka-sempai?” Sakura asked as she turned to look up at him with red rimmed eyes. Tears were quietly spilling down her face, but Archer figured she learned how to silently cry years ago.

His shoulders slumped as he said, “You can call her Nee-san if you want, Sakura. I’m sure . . . if you’d talk to her, she’d want to reconcile if she had the chance. She always worried about you, and she saved the boy for you I think.”

“What do you mean saved Sempai?” Sakura asked as she wiped her tears away.

Archer lifted up his shirt and poked the scar over his heart. Violet eyes became huge as Sakura went even paler as she reached out to hover her fingers over it. “Before we summoned Saber we saw Lancer fighting an Archer class Servant. In his case it was me, in my case it was the Archer that Rin had summoned in my time. Lancer saw us, and as rules of the War he was going to kill the witness. Gae Bolg right through the heart. Technically we were both dead, but both versions of Rin were able to return our hearts back to us. I didn’t know what the Rin of my time said when she healed me, but the one that is your sister was upset, but not for her sake. So she used her most powerful jewel to heal us, losing it in the process.”

He dropped his shirt down and Sakura shook her head as she withdrew her hand. She stammered, “Q-q-quit trying to distract me.”

“It’s a good tactic,” he replied with a slight smirk.

Sakura stomped her foot on the ground and he blinked at her as she snapped, “I want to know what you did to Nee-san!”

“I kidnapped her, held her at Ilya’s castle and waited for Emiya Shirou to come and fight me,” Archer answered, leaving the part about betraying his former Master to save her life and letting Caster use Rule Breaker on him to escape Rin’s Command not to kill Emiya Shirou.

Her eyes narrowed and said, “You’re leaving something out.”

“Yes,” Archer answered with a shrug.

Sakura sighed, blushed and looked away, her cheeks puffing out slight. Smirking he leaned forward and asked, “What?”

“N-nothing,” she said as she moved towards the dish rack where the dishes were still dripping dry.

Archer smirked and replied, “I think something’s bothering you, Sakura.”

“I-I’m not bothered,” she said as she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. She then grabbed the dishtowel again to dry the remaining dishes. She reached up to open the cabinet, but as soon as the door was open, Archer leaned forward and closed it.

Her eyes narrowed at him, but she simply side stepped him to put the bowl she was holding up. Archer watched as she grabbed a couple of plates to put them up, but closed that cabinet door on her as well right as she was about to push them into place when she rose on her tip-toes. Again, she glared but said nothing, however the glare was better than the head bowing and the cowering.

She spun around swiftly and began grabbing the tea set to put it up. Archer grabbed the plates she just put up and set them back in the wet dish rack, just to see her reaction. Shoulders stilled and went tense and she continued to glare at him. However her hands were trembling ever so slightly as she spun to face him better.

“Stop it,” she said in a trembling voice.

Archer asked, “Or what? It’s my home and my dishes. I think I can put them where I wish.”

“You’re . . . you’re toying with me,” Sakura said between gritted teeth, her tone of voice rising just a bit.

Archer nodded and answered, “Yet another good tactic.”

“Why are you using tactics on me?” Sakura all but cried out at him.

He answered, “Because it’s getting a reaction other than you cowering from me. It’s anger, but at least it’s something than fear, than nothingness.”

“Well, stop,” Sakura yelled at him before running out of the kitchen. Archer blinked and watched her head not for the steps, but for the restroom. He heard the door slam in the small hallway and then after that nothing. Afraid he’d taken his game too far, Archer swiftly dried and put the rest of the dishes up before going after her.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:58 PM
Sakura shut and locked the door to the restroom before turning to press her back against the wall. It felt as if someone had lit her on fire again and she was shaking. Tears burned her eyes as she gripped her hands into fists at her side. She was taking slow, ragged breaths, but her body was prickly and restless, as if her skin was stretched too tight.

“It’s anger, but at least it’s something than fear, than nothingness.”

She swallowed and ran a hand through her bangs to shove them off her face as she could still see that smirk on his face as he teased her. However, he was right though. He had provoked her enough to get her to yell at him.

I yelled at Archer, Sakura thought as her eyes widened. Her mind started running around in scared patterns. Images of Archer scowling at her as he ordered her out of his home entered her mind. Of course he would, I yelled at him, she thought as she pressed her hands to her mouth as her heart was racing in her ears. Tears fell from her eyes and she briskly wiped them away.

Tiny tremors ran up and down her hands and her stomach clinched angrily. Her throat burned and a sudden wave of nausea washed over her. She spun around, lifted the lid off the toilet and was on her knees in an instant. A wave of clenching, burning welled over her as she dry wretched hot bile into the pristine, white porcelain bowl.

“Sakura?” Archer’s voice was muffled behind the door and there was a soft knock.

Another wave hit her hard and she gagged more into the toilet. Her face was burning, but the rest of her was shaking and cold. There was a dull click she could make out beyond the strange rushing, buzzing sound that was all around her. She was aware of the sound of water coming on and the feel of pressure behind her.

She jerked when she felt a large, warm hand move her hair from her neck and something cool and damp was laid across her neck. Each breath that left the girl’s mouth was a ragged gasp as there was the slightest bit of pressure placed over the cool cloth at the back of her neck. The tension slowly eased out of her and she looked up to see Archer kneeling beside her with a slight frown on his face as he held the wash cloth in place.

“Better?” he asked in a soft voice.

Sakura nodded and moved to wipe her mouth with the back of her hand. Archer shook his head and passed her another damp cloth. Her eyes widened as she took it and used it to lightly dab at her mouth. He reached up and flushed the toilet, sending the contents swirling down the drain. “I pushed too hard, I’m sorry Sakura,” he said as he smoothed her hair back for her.

She bit her lip, heat filling her face even more and she nodded. The soft, damp cloth twisted between her now cool fingers as she looked down at the scoured floor around her. Her hair brushed back into place as the towel on her neck was removed. Strands stuck heavily to her neck and Sakura absently rubbed the back of her neck under her hair.

“Here, let’s get you home,” Archer said in that same soft voice as he easily lifted her up to her feet.

Sakura bit her lip and said, “I . . . I don’t know where home is anymore.”

“Well, let’s get you back to Rider. How does that sound?” he said. Sakura looked up at him to see him gently smiling.

Sakura twisted the wash cloth in her hand and asked, “Is this some tactic too?”

“No, this is me being apologetic for being an asshole,” Archer said with a shake of his head.

She blinked at his use of profanity and then swallowed. She asked, “Are you apologizing?”

“Yes. I’m sorry, Sakura. Let’s get you home to Rider to rest,” Archer answered with a nod.

Sakura bit her lip and asked, “May I still keep in contact with you?”

He blinked at that and Sakura tucked her hair behind her ear. She explained, “I know you’re not the Sempai I know, but . . . you seem to understand. And you treated me like a person, and not an object or something to pity.”

Archer smiled, transforming his whole face, making him look all too like the boy Sakura had loved. Her chest tightened as he said, “I think I would like that, Sakura.”

She smiled in response and replied, “G-good, and maybe next time you make me angry I won’t throw up.”

“That’s a new one for me,” Archer said with a tiny laugh as he rubbed the back of his head, “I’m not use to helping someone after I save them. It’s a lot of work.”

Sakura bowed her head and quietly handed him the towel. Warm, callused fingers brushed against hers as he took it from her and she bit her lip. Her first instinct was to apologize to him for being such a bother, which would only get him irate at her again.

“With enough work almost anything can be saved, even people,” Archer said as he held the towels in his hand.

She looked up at him, almost having to crane her neck to look up at him. Sempai use to be so upset with how short he was, apparently he doesn’t have to be upset anymore if he grows that tall, Sakura thought suddenly. She shook her head and asked, “Would you get mad if I thanked you?”

A slight flush tinted his dusky cheeks and he canted his head. He swallowed and said, “Ah, no. And you’re welcome, so let’s get you back to Rider. Once you’ve adjusted more maybe we could get together again.” Then he quickly added, “And if Rider wants to join you, I’m fine with that too.”

Sakura nodded as she let him guide her out of the bathroom.

******
Archer had returned Sakura to Rider’s apartment without any trouble. The Gorgon had been out of the house, but Sakura had a key to the flat and entered with ease. It was too late to open up the shop, and honestly he didn’t feel up to doing any repairs today anyway because he often had to use his Analyzation ability to find out what was wrong. Since he practically had no prana in his system he couldn’t even do that.

So he found himself walking to the Church. He blinked as he watched a few people leave the Church, huddled against each other despite the heat with faraway looks etched on their features. Archer shook his head, wondering what on earth Kotomine would preach about. Possibly the most despaired filled passages of the Bible or old school Fire and Brimstone, he thought as he entered the Church.

Kotomine was there with a long candle snuffer in his hand as he blotted the flames on the candelabra around the pulpit. As if he sensed him, the tall man turned to face him, his dark eyes fixing on Archer. “Emiya Shirou,” the priest said in his low, deep voice as his face spread to a slow smile.

“It’s Archer now, at least here,” he replied as he approached the older man.

Kotomine said, “I’m a bit disappointed that we couldn’t have traded blows over our ideas.”

“Because we’re both empty, just you were on one side of the spectrum or the other,” Archer replied with a shake of his head, “Instead you were stabbed by Lancer.”

The priest snorted and said, “Yes, he got his revenge. However his Master is back in England once again while the former Servant bides his time with my former student.”

“You’re bored,” Archer said as he sank down on the pew closest to the pulpit.

Kotomine looked him over and said, “And you look exhausted. Zouken dealt with?”

“He’s in Caster’s tender mercies,” Archer said with a half smirk.

Kotomine chuckled and said, “I didn’t think you had that in you, Archer.”

“Sometimes Justice can be harsh,” he replied with a shrug.

The priest nodded and said, “Yes it can. Maybe you and I aren’t so different after all.”

“Difference in ideals, but still if you hit our chest there would be an echo,” Archer said as he looked up to the ceiling.

Kotomine looked at him and said, “That’s an interesting way to phrase things, Archer.”

“I’m feeling rather introspective right now,” Archer drawled as he sat back up and rubbed the back of his neck.

Kotomine eyed him and asked, “How so?”

“It’s an odd sort of mood,” Archer replied with a shrug, “So, as the local priest I thought I should bring up my complaints.”

Kotomine smiled at him and asked, “And how is the girl?”

“She could be better,” Archer answered with a sigh with a shake of his head. The image of the poor girl kneeling on the floor over his toilet was currently etched in his brain. He had heard of such things happening and during his life time he spoke with a combat nurse who told him all about reactions to stress. She also informed him that everyone reacted to stress differently. Some people cry and throw up, others have swords protrude from their body and try to kill teenage boys.

“She’s having to adjust,” Kotomine said with a smile, “Living a normal life maybe more difficult for her than the life she had before.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 10:59 PM
Archer eyed him and said, “And you enjoy that fact.”

“Of course I do, just as I enjoy the fact that you’re utterly miserable and have come to visit me on a regular basis,” the taller man said with a smirk.

Archer chuckled at that and said, “Well I’m glad I can amuse you, Kotomine.”

“Kirei,” the priest corrected.

Archer asked, “So, I’m on a given name basis now?”

“I think so, and the next time you injure yourself near death, come to me. It would be a shame to lose you,” Kotomine said with a shake of his head.

******
Archer’s limbs felt like lead and his stomach was gnawing slightly in hunger. Tension rang out through his shoulders as the lethargy he’d been feeling had gotten worse. He scowled as he wondered if he was recovering any of prana at all and hated the fact that he might not be able to open the shop tomorrow because of it.

He was walking home from the Church after an amused lecture from Kotomine about not getting himself killed. There was a slight thrill at the fact that someone such as Kotomine wanted Archer alive and well, even if to just bare witness to his misery. The priest had even offered to get them dinner, but Archer didn’t think he was up to facing Tofu from Hell without Reinforcement. So he was going to go home and see what he could make without too much effort.

Yare yare, I’m getting lazy in my old age, he thought dryly, even though he wasn’t all that old. My soul feels like it is, he thought wearily as he rolled his aching shoulders. He hadn’t even been thirty yet when he’d been publically executed, but his services as a Counter Guardian could equate to thousands of years. He sighed as he walked back to his apartment on the other side of town back to his lonely bed.

“Faker,” an all too familiar voice purred behind him.

A sharp chill ran through Archer’s veins as he turned around to see the blond standing there, one hand tucked nonchalantly in his pocket and the other resting on his hip. The King of Heroes was wearing black slacks and a simple red T-shirt, yet expensively cut and probably made out of some ridiculously expensive fabric. Gilgamesh smiled at him and said, “I would like to see what is mine in better condition, Faker.”

“I’m not yours,” Archer replied as he started to walk again, “And I’m getting tired of you.”

Gilgamesh said, “This rebellion has been entertaining, but it needs to come to an end. As much as I’d hate to take you like this, I’m afraid this is going to be the only way I can get you.”

More ice slithered up Archer’s veins as he moved faster. He didn’t look behind him as he heard a quiet snap fill the silence of the street around them. The metallic chime of chains echoed all around as Archer took off at a run.

Of course. No prana, no way to Trace or Reinforce and Goldy is deciding that it’s time to stalk me again, Archer thought as he turned and ran down an alley way. The only chance that he had was that maybe he knew the city better than Gilgamesh. His heart was racing in his chest as sweat trickled down his body as he ran. The manic laughter rang out behind him before Gilgamesh called out, “Why are you running, Faker?”

“Can’t you take a damned hint?” Archer said between gritted teeth. Without the normal amount of prana coursing through him as the after effect of being a Servant, he wasn’t that much better than a normal human. Gilgamesh, somehow through some really messed up math, was two thirds god. Archer shoved a trashcan to hinder the King’s path and hopefully disgust him enough to stop chase.

Gilgamesh sighed and said, “Faker, who let you get like this? Was it the harlot of your former Master? You really need to be in someone else’s care when you cannot think to take care of yourself.”

A hot spike of anger cut through the icy fear running through his veins as Rin was insulted. Archer gritted his teeth and turned only to hear a sharp ringing right before something hard and heavy wrapped around his neck. A sudden jerk choked the air out of him as pain shot through his body as he was jerked back. Panic shot through him as countless people’s faces filled his mind, cheering for his death as the floor dropped from underneath him.

Archer struggled as he was drug to the ground and pavement shredded into his back and arms. He cried out, digging one hand into the ground and the other to keep from being strangled. Gilgamesh stood before him, holding his infamous chain as he effortlessly drug Archer over. Crimson eyes peered down at him as the blond knelt beside him.

“Mm, I think I rather like you like this,” he said thoughtfully as one elegant, long finger hand ran over Archer’s cheek.

He jerked his head back and glared up at the former king as he choked in air as best as he could. Gilgamesh laughed as he leaned forward with his eyes half closed. Archer’s eyes widened right as the King of Heroes’ face descended towards his as if to kiss him. Archer jerked his head to the side as he heard in the distance a low roar of a motorcycle motor as light flooded the alley.

Gilgamesh twisted around and looked up right in time for a steel toed boot to drive right into his face. Archer blinked as Gilgamesh crumpled to the ground and Rider gracefully landed in a crouching position. Long, lavender hair trailed all around the supple woman as she lifted herself up and charged Gilgamesh. Archer blinked as Rider lifted up the blond man with one arm and threw him to the far side of the alley as if he weighed nothing.

She turned her back to Archer and he saw her hands going to her glasses as she said, “Get on my bike.”

“You can’t take him,” Archer managed to choke out as he shoved Endiku from around his neck and rise to a semi-upright position.

From her profile Archer could see that she was smiling slightly as she said, “I’m not going to ‘take’ him.” Archer covered his eyes as he saw her hand slip her glasses into her pocket and rush towards the King of Heroes, who was still getting up.

******
Rider slid her glasses into her pocket as she sensed Archer moving towards her bike. She knew he had enough sense to cover his eyes as she approached Gilgamesh. “You . . . whore. You mongrel whore, I’ll show you what happens when you keep something away from me,” the blond said as he pushed himself into an upright position.

Rider shoved her hair back and looked at him dead on without the protective cover of her glasses. Gilgamesh’s movements slowed as his crimson eyes widened as she moved to him. Then, without preamble she kicked him as hard as she could right between the legs.

A slow smile spread across her features as crimson eyes widened, his cheeks puffed out as he choked and one hand went down to cradle the wounded area. The blond king sunk to his knees and Rider kicked him in the face before turning away from him and running to her bike before he recovered. She slid her glasses back on her face, grabbed Archer and took off on the Hayabusa.

To his credit, Archer didn’t fight her as she nimbly wove the bike through the back streets to their apartment. Rider kept looking behind her to make sure there wasn’t an angry Gilgamesh dogging their steps home. She smoothly parked the bike, put down the kick stand and dismounted. Archer was rubbing his throat and there was already a purplish bruise appearing on his dusky skin.

He climbed off the bike as well and coughed, shaking his head slightly. Watery grey eyes looked at her and asked, “How the hell did you find me?”

“Sakura was home and she told me that you walked her home. I went by your apartment and didn’t find you there. The only other place you’d be at would be the Church, and the false priest said you’d left about ten minutes after I arrived there,” Rider said as she shoved her hair back from her face and made sure her glasses were in place.

Archer frowned and asked, “Did Sakura have you come look for me?”

“Actually, I did this on my own violation,” Rider answered with a frown as she looked at him. There was the slightest bit of blood on his lip, calling to her with its sweet, iron smell. Wordlessly, she leaned forward and licked the tiny cut there and frowned at the bland taste marking his lack of prana.

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 11:02 PM
Archer jumped back as if he’d been shot and nearly fell. She reached out, her fingers caught his shirt and she pulled him upright. His cheeks were bright red as he stared at her with wide eyes. She rubbed her lip absently with her index finger and said, “I think you’re somehow even lower on prana than you were last night.”

“I’m not in any danger,” Archer said with a frown and a shake of his head.

She placed her hands on her hips and retorted, “Yes you are. Maybe not physically, but without prana in your system you are . . .” Rider reached out for him with lightning speed and pulled him close. His hands gripped her shoulders and tried to push her away, but she was far, far stronger than him.

She leaned forward, her hair brushing his body as his heart raced loud enough for her to hear it. Arousal was slightly tinting his normal forge smoke, steel and leather scent as she brushed her teeth against his ears. “Helpless to the rest of the former Servants as you are right now,” she whispered before letting him go.

Archer stumbled back, his chest rising and falling as he stared at her. He shook his head and started to walk away from the bike, heading away from her apartment building as well. She reached out and grabbed his arm and he said, “Let me go,
Medusa.”

“So, you know who I am?” she asked.

Archer replied, “It’s only fair right? You know who I am.”

“When have you ever played by fairness?” Rider asked as she kept a hold of his arm.

He swallowed and looked at her. He said, “I don’t want to. I know what you’re going to suggest but . . .”

“Did it ever occur to you that maybe that we would want to?” Rider asked with a smile, “Sakura is already fond of you, and I like you as well.”

“I . . .” he nervously stammered, blushed and looked away and Rider chuckled at the sight of the normally sardonic Archer flustered like this.

She asked, “Would you rather be with Sakura and myself or get violated by Gilgamesh?”

His grey eyes widened at that and Rider took that moment to lead him inside. She knew her plan was underhanded, but knew him well enough that if he did sleep with Sakura he wouldn’t leave her. He was already protecting and caring for Sakura than he’d openly admitted, it was just a matter of bringing them together, which Rider would do.

With force if necessary.

At least on Archer’s part.

******

“Would you rather be with Sakura and myself or get violated by Gilgamesh?”

Rider was smirking ever so slightly at Archer, her queer lilac eyes alight with emotions he couldn’t register. Before he could open his mouth and reply, if he had a voice, she took him by the arm and led him in the apartment building. A loud, pounding sound raced through his ears that matched the throbbing in his throat as they walked down the darkened hallway together.

He couldn’t do this.

Sakura had already been through enough hell.

I have to lose her.

I can’t do this.

Sakura deserves better.

She’s younger than Rin, forced worldliness aside.

For Christ’s sakes she’s a victim of rape and abuse.

Rider, what the fuck are you thinking?

I’m already broken. I shouldn’t be here.

Why am I not running?

Archer’s mind was rapid firing thoughts at him as Rider finally stopped at her door. She reached into her jacket’s pocket and pulled out a set of keys. In the hallway’s dim light the bright steel gently gleamed as a key was stuck into the lock and nimbly twisted. A loud, metallic click signaled the door’s unlocking before a pale hand twisted the knob. The door quietly creaked open and golden light spilled from the apartment.

It was large and had gleaming hard wood floors adorned with deep violet and wine colored rugs. The furniture he could see was black, there was no TV but a massive book case filled with the most books he’d seen in a private collection that wasn’t a Tohsaka’s. Chilled air whipped out and caressed flushed skin from an impressive air conditioning system that made Archer nearly sigh. A light, gingery scent wafted from the kitchen to fill the nostrils. Despite the myriad of aches and pains, his stomach growled.

“Rider?” Sakura’s soft voice called out as the purple haired girl emerged from the kitchen. A long, gauzy deep blue skirt swayed around supple legs and a charcoal grey short sleeved shirt were at odds with the soft pinks, earth tones and white Archer was use to associating with the girl. Misty violet eyes widened as she saw them standing at the door and she rushed over to them.

“What happened?” she asked as she peered up at the swollen mess of his throat.

Rider answered, “Gilgamesh tried to take ownership of him.”

“He got lucky,” Archer said before a burning spike of pain made him cough. He shook his head before coughing again.

Long, lavender hair swayed ever so slightly as Rider shook her head and said, “No, he was careless.”

“Somehow I’m not surprised,” Sakura grumbled with a scowl and a shake of her head.

Rider nodded and her smile displayed slightly elongated canines. Archer looked between the two women before his eyes darted towards the closed door. “I’m glad you followed him Rider,” Sakura said as she came even closer, her eyes sharp and narrowed.

“He was too low on prana to properly defend himself,” Rider said with a sigh.

Then Sakura froze, her eyes widening as she became absolutely still. Archer glared at the Gorgon and said, “Sakura, I could have gotten away.”

“Liar,” Rider all but sang out, clasping her hands behind her back.

Archer glared at her again as Sakura said in a soft voice, “I . . . I can replenish it.” A faint flush like her name sake crossed her fair features as she continued to look up at her. Her eyelashes lowered over her eyes while flicking a small pink tongue over parted lips. Each rise and fall of breath brought Archer’s attention to the ample breasts covered in grey cotton.

Rider was behind him, a scorching presence as her supple arms wrapped around him. Silken hair seemingly caressed every inch of him as those sharp teeth found his ear. The small spike shot through him, sending his breath out in a rush as Sakura walked forward. He swallowed and managed to find his voice. “S-sakura . . . you don’t have to do this.”

“Maybe I want to do this,” she said in a low voice before rising up on her tip toes all the while Rider was nibbling his ears. He shivered at the soft, scorching feminine forms completely surrounding him. Knees went weak and heat rushed through him as every centimeter of him became aware of both women. Need rushed up to the surface leaving its owner weak, quivering and aching.

Rider’s low voice whispered, “Maybe I want to do this as well.”

“And maybe you need to do this,” Sakura said as her eyes met his and her hand cupped the aching ridge currently making itself every apparent even through heavy denim.

Fire shot through his body as he felt his toes curl in his boots and his breath came out in a ragged drawl. It had been far too long since he had felt the touch of another in this way. Centuries. Millennia even. Time had little meaning for a Counter Guardian who could be summoned at any point in the time stream. He had spoken to Emiya Shirou about mortal desires reawakened when he became as Servant, and of course it had slipped over the naive boy’s head.

It was torture to go from an unfeeling Hell of death and misery as sheer knowledge of past deeds to some semblance of flesh and blood. That had its own wants and needs hardwired from within. Even though as a Servant, technically, the needs for things such as food, shelter, and sex were not truly needed, but the desire still raged to the forefront. Taking matters into one’s own hands only did so much, and the need for companionship seemed to be even stronger than mere release.

Archer shook his head at Sakura’s words as he attempted to step back, pushing himself even more to Rider. His head was spinning as nimble fingers continued to stroke sheer need through heavy fabric. Sweetly sharp teeth continued to nibble at sensitive flesh as one long hand pulled up simple cotton to run nimble fingers over scars and heavy muscle. A moan left his mouth as he was helpless between them.

“ . . . I shouldn’t be here,” he groaned as he felt small hands unbutton his jeans.

A low voice whispered, “Why not?” The sweet timbre of it made Archer shiver as nails bit into his chest right around the scar Lancer had marked him with ages ago.

“It’s wrong,” Archer answered as his vision focused at Sakura going down to her knees with a practice that cut through the fire within him like a ice. Large, callused hands gently gripped smaller ones as misty amethyst eyes looked up.

The wicked hand dipped lower as Rider whispered, “We don’t think it’s wrong.”

Sakura nodded and lowered her eyes as she was between kneeling and standing
upright from when Archer had stopped her. “Y-you need the prana and I . . .”

“It wouldn’t be right,” Archer said as he stepped forward, shaking his shoulders to break from Rider’s velvet steel grip. He moved his hands from Sakura’s forearms before gently lifting her to her feet. Her actions had far too much practice to them, as if she was running on autopilot because that was what she had been taught.

From the corner of his eye he could see Rider step back, a thoughtful cant to her head as she watched them with her alien eyes. Sakura bit her lip and clinched her fists. She asked, “Why wouldn’t it be right?”

“I’d be no better than Zouken or Shinji if we continued,” Archer said, his own voice rough to him. Teeth grit, the jeans’ fly and button were fastened without care to what was underneath. Archer hissed at the painful throbbing that only sent more fire spiraling within him. He was throbbing, his heart was racing and his skin was tingling with awareness. Sakura’s skin beneath his fingertips was like silk, and then there was Rider.

Sakura frowned and said, “But I want you, Archer.”

“You’re confused,” Archer said as he took a step back, all but wincing at the discomfort of full arousal with no release. He then swiftly moved away, heading for the door. He had to get out of there because he knew if one of them touched him again he’d be lost. Rider had her arms folded under her breasts as she watched him leave, and there was the faintest smile on her face.

His eyes narrowed as he opened the door before stepping through it.

Was that damned gorgon testing me?

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 11:02 PM
Sakura watched wide eyed as Archer fled as if he couldn’t get out of there fast enough. She bit her lip as her hands shook before looking at Rider. She felt tears burning their way to the surface and placed her hand over her mouth before they escaped. Slim shoulders quaked as the girl lowered herself to the floor, one hand over her mouth to stifle any sobs that would escape.

Rider was at her side in an instant, hands going for her shoulders. Sakura jerked away and screamed, “Don’t you touch me! It’s all your fault!”

“Sakura,” Rider said with a shake of her head.

Sakura stood up and said, “You said, you said he wouldn’t be able to resist and but he’s running out the door.”

Because I’m filthy. Because I’m dirty. Because I’m used. Why would he want to hold me when he knows what was inside of me? I’d run away too . . .

Tears trailed down burning cheeks as Rider blinked at her as she rose to her feet as well. Rider said, “Apparently Archer is better than most men.”

“No! He doesn’t want used goods, and can you blame him?” Sakura all but screamed as she threw her hands at her sides, “I wouldn’t want to touch me either if I
found out . . .”

Her eyes darted around the room before she headed for the door herself. She had no idea where she was heading, but that didn’t matter. No one wanted her, no one cared. Her father gave her to some stranger to be tortured and worse, Nee-san had abandoned her a long time ago, and Sempai found someone more deserving of him. The door slammed hard as Sakura ran out of the apartment, not even bothering to gather her shoes.

The cool floor felt wonderful against her heated feet as she ran down the steps. She threw open the door to the apartment building and stepped out into the night. The sky ahead was bathed in an orange haze and there were little stars to be seen. More and more tears poured down heated cheeks as bare feet moved across hard concrete. Each step lightly bit into vulnerable skin, but Sakura didn’t care. She just needed to get away from pitying eyes and sympathetic glances.

She didn’t need them to tell her that she was broken beyond repair. She already knew that. Shinji had made it very clear with every thrust and rough touch that brought unwanted pleasure that she was only good for one thing. Sakura could cook and clean until her fingers bled, but in the end no one would want her. She had caught Rider eyeing Mitsuzuri-taicho, and therefore she knew that soon her loyal Servant would abandon her as well.

So Sakura ran through the city streets as rocks and glass bit into her feet with each step. She ran until it felt her lungs were going to pop so she slowed down. Each breath was like a hammer being driven home as feet ached and burned and ankles ached under such exertion without support. She leaned against a wall before pressing her back against it. Hands briskly wiped tears away as a thundering heart finally started to slow. Despite each ache, Sakura took a deep breath as her head began to clear.

She had ran.

She didn’t submit and take what was happening, but she had gotten away from it.

Sakura smiled at the odd joy of it. She had finally been able to take control of her life, even if it was as simple as running. She took a deep slow breath before pushing herself from the wall.

I can run, I can take control but . . . where do I go now?

Toes curled in protest and she winched as she took another step. The pain was pushed back to the background as she took yet another step, then another. She knew staying on the streets at night was dangerous. She wondered if she could go to Fujimura-sensei’s. She knew that Fujimura-sensei would take her in without a word of protest and then fuss over her, but Sakura didn’t want that.

Large, dark hands took dishes from where she had put them only to place them somewhere else. Again and again he did this, steel eyes watching her.

“You’re . . . you’re toying with me,” Sakura said between gritted teeth, her tone of voice rising just a bit.

Archer nodded and answered, “Yet another good tactic.”

“Why are you using tactics on me?” Sakura all but cried out at him.

He answered, “Because it’s getting a reaction other than you cowering from me. It’s anger, but at least it’s something than fear, than nothingness.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 11:04 PM
Sakura stopped as her eyes widened at the memory. She knew where she wanted to go, but he had made it clear that he didn’t want her. The ache that gripped her chest was intense, but in his own way Archer had helped her more than she could explain. Instead of quietly suffering at his rejection, she had done somethingabout it, and it felt good.

Sakura stared down at her hands as she closed her eyes. Potential welled up beneath the surface and thrummed within her. So much power was at her fingertips, and the ways to use it had been carved into her since childhood. She just never had thought of using it. She just couldn’t sit and do nothing now. Someone had saved her and gave her the means to make herself take notice and take care of herself.

“Hehe, what do we have here?”

She froze at the unfamiliar male voice behind her as a few more chuckles echoed behind her. A slow turn revealed four young men dressed in scruffy clothing with sharp smiles and hungry eyes. “Lost sweetheart?” the one who spoke said as he took a step closer to her. Sakura felt a wave of revulsion as they looked at her with very clear intentions. She took a glance behind her and started to take off again.

However they were bigger, stronger and faster.

Within moments the pack animals grabbed their quarry and drug her into the nearest alley to have their way with her. Sakura opened her mouth to scream but a leather gloved hand clamped over it. Rough hands began to pull at her clothing as ice slithered through her veins. “Well, well, look what we have here,” their leader said with a smile as he pressed her against a wall.

With a flick of his wrist sharp steel glittered into Sakura’s line of vision. “Now just relax and we won’t hurt you,” he said with a smirk as he began to drag the knife over Sakura’s shirt. The fabric gave away to the blade with a sickening tearing sound. Ice continued to pour through her veins as she stood very still.

“Because it’s getting a reaction other than you cowering from me. It’s anger, but at least it’s something than fear, than nothingness.”

Prana sparked through circuits not used nearly enough and were aching with atrophy. Magical memory carved into flesh and tissue made itself very aware, as did a lingering darkness. Matou Zouken had worked hard into making Sakura all but one of his bloodline. The tools were all there, and even though she had no practice using them her body knew.

Binding and Absorption.

These were the tools of the Matou family.

The knife continued to tear through the shirt to expose her simple white bra and her shameful breasts. “Holy shit, look at those tits,” one of the lesser predators said in an awed filled voice. One large clumsy hand reached for her.

Black laced with red wrapped around the unwanted hand, and in the clumsy eagerness of a first time the tendril grasped too hard and wetness sprayed from the bindings. A injured scream filled the alley as the punk cradled the severed stump where his hand had been as blood continued to jet out of it from the torn artery. Their eyes widened as they took a step back from Sakura.

“What the fuck?” the leader screamed as he moved faster than Sakura could react to. A hand wrapped itself around the slim column of the girl’s neck and began to press into it. Sakura choked as her vision swam as her air was being cut off from her. “You’re going to fucking pay for that, bitch!”

Sakura couldn’t scream as her windpipe was constricted even more, but she didn’t need to. More of the tendrils shot from her and wrapped around her attackers. The hand around her throat let go before it twitched to the ground. She flinched at the hot spray that splashed against her and cried out at all the crimson spurting everywhere. With a cry she cut off the prana and the tendrils vanished, leaving only shredded hunks of meat behind.

Tears spilling down her face as her heart hammered into her chest, Sakura ran again, but for another reason.

******
Archer couldn’t sleep.

His body ached and he was exhausted, but he couldn’t sleep. The cold shower really didn’t help when he got home, and he had gotten desperate enough to take matters into his own hands. Even after that, he was still on edge and cursing Rider and Sakura. He had done the right thing by leaving, but that didn’t make the utter devastation on Sakura’s face easy to take.

Like it or not, both women had gotten under his skin.

So he was working. He was barely aware of the finishing repairs he made to the bows from the school, but he realized that he had promised them back sooner than he realized. There weren’t any other really pressing repairs, but after the bows were taken care of he would find something else to work on. He would repeat the process over and over until he finally lost consciousness at his work bench.

As he worked his mind was running at full force. He had no idea to handle the situation and realized he needed help. However the only person he was truly comfortable talking to was Kotomine. The problem with talking to the priest would be the delight in Archer’s suffering and the lack of assistance he could give.

As he worked, there was a loud and frantic knock at his door.

Scowling, Archer got up and walked to the front door of his shop stopping dead at his tracks. A pale, blood stained face looked up at him as a shaking hand clutched a tank top that had been torn in half. Archer automatically opened the door and Sakura all but fell in.

She was covered in crimson splashes from head to toe and her whole body was shaking like a leaf. Bare feet were bloody and raw as violet eyes darted around before finally looking up at him. Without a word he gathered the shaking girl in his arms and all but ran up his steps to his apartment. Sakura clutched her ruined shirt in a vice like grip as he carried her to the kitchen.

“I’ll call Rin,” Archer said as he went to grab his phone.

Sakura lunged forward with a cry of, “Don’t!”

“You’re hurt,” he said as he started to remove her hand from his arm. His eyes widened at the smear of blood her touch had left upon him as she fiercely shook her head back and forth.

She said, “. . . The . . . blood . . . it’s . . . not mine.”

“What happened?” Archer asked as he looked down at her.

She bowed her head and said, “ . . . I was attacked . . . I . . . fought back. They’re . . . dead. Archer. I killed them, I didn’t mean to but I lost control and . . .”

Archer’s eyes widened as she started to cry. He gathered her up in his arms again and said, “Shush. We’ll deal with it later. Let’s get you cleaned up.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 11:06 PM
Archer was very aware of the supple curves pressed against his body and in his arms as he carried Sakura to his bathroom. She was quivering like a leaf in the wind as her unfocused eyes simply looked down. White teeth worried their bottom lip ever so slowly as tears slowly fell from those unseeing eyes.

The door to the bathroom came open when Archer nudged it with his bare foot before he stepped into it. He set Sakura down and she looked up at him, one hand still clutching her ruined shirt closed. Eyes drifted over her, taking in every detail to assess the damage. Other than the remains of the tank top and her feet, she was physically fine if pretty much covered in blood.

He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, clinched his hands and slowly exhaled. Eyes now open, Archer slowly reached out to first untie the pink ribbon barely holding violet hair back. He winched at the blood stains marring the ribbon and wondered if he could get them out of the satin. The ribbon had been Rin’s parting gift to her little sister before she had been sent to Hell, and Sakura had never been seen without it. Archer didn’t want to think about what that would do to Sakura to lose the ribbon as he curled it on the sink.

He expected Sakura to flinch as he reached for her hands so he could peel the bloody fabric from her, but she was compliant. “I’m sorry for running here,” she said in a whisper soft voice as he threw the bloodied cloth into the waist bin.

“Where’s Rider?” His voice sounded like a growl even to him and Sakura blinked back, taking a step away from him. Her hands flew to her chest, either in shock or modesty Archer wasn’t sure.

She blinked and answered, “She’s . . . she’s at the apartment.”

“What happened?” Archer asked as he swallowed and sat Sakura down on the rim of his bathtub. A flush spread across pale, blood stained cheeks as he knelt before her and lifted her right foot. He grimaced at the scrapes and cuts littering the bottom of her foot. A feather light touch ran over it inquisitively before Sakura jerked with a tiny yelp when a thumb caught on something stuck in the meat of the foot. He didn’t need to reinforce his eyes to see the tiny shards of glass and rock sticking in her foot.

He grabbed the rather well stocked first aid kit from under the sink and opened it up. A bottle of alcohol was opened and splashed over hands before they slid into a pair of blue nitrate gloves, Archer had seen too many people go into anaphylaxis due to latex in his turns on the battle field. He then picked up a pair of tweezers and doused them with alcohol too. The blue gloved hand lifted up the injured foot and Archer looked up at Sakura who was now gripping the sides of the tub.

“Don’t ever go running without your shoes on again,” he said as he angled her foot. Steel tweezers bit into a bit of rock before a nimble flick of the wrist sent it flying out of broken skin.

Sakura, to her credit, didn’t wince or cry out at the treatment. She said, “I . . . wasn’t thinking.”

This is my fault, Archer realized. If he had stayed and gone on with what they had planned, Sakura wouldn’t have run off into the night. Instead when he had thought he had been doing the right thing by leaving he had done the opposite. He gritted his teeth before he said, “I’m sorry.”

“I . . . understand Archer. I wouldn’t want me either,” Sakura said in a soft rush as she looked away from him, “N-not after what Grandfather had done. Shinji always told me I was dirty and who’d want someone after they’d been hollowed out by those things right? I’m disgusting and I’ll never be clean and Sempai’s right to be with Saber. She’s pure, like he deserves and . . .”

The tweezers’ grip on a shard of glass jerked before it was pulled out. Her words were cutting him right to the quick. If I had stayed . . . Goddamn it I’m an idiot, he thought before he carefully pulled out the last bit of debris from the foot he had been working on. He gently let it go and looked up at her.

“Sakura, I’m sorry,” Archer whispered before taking up the other foot.

She shook her head as a bitter laugh bubbled forth from her lips. “No, it’s good. At least you’re the only one who’s honest. And you were right, it feels good to get angry . . . I finally did something on my own and . . . I felt free. But . . . I didn’t mean to kill them. I got scared but I didn’t want to be hurt again, and there wasn’t anyone to save me . . . but Grandfather had engraved the answer to save myself into me rather deeply . . .”

“You used magecraft to defend yourself,” Archer said and Sakura nodded.

That’s going to be problematic if someone finds out. She was right to stop me from calling Rin. Even though she’s abandoning the path of a true magus, she would be pressured to stop unauthorized magic use. However, we’ll deal with that when it happens. Sakura needs help now.

Sakura shivered and said, “I . . . didn’t know people had so much blood in them, Archer.”

“It’s because the liquid is spread out that it looks like more than it actually is,” Archer said with a shrug, “There’s not as much blood as you’d think in a human body.”

Wide, purple eyes stared up at him before laughter bubbled up awkwardly from her lips. She shook her head and he said, “I’m more familiar than I’d like to be with Death.”

“I know,” Sakura said, “And I know I shouldn’t have ran here.”

If he hadn’t been digging fragments of pavement and glass from her foot, he would have stroked her hair. Instead he said, “I’m glad you did.”

“You are?” she blurted in a rush.

He nodded and said, “Yeah, I am.” Once the last shard was out of her foot, he cleaned off the tweezers and stood up. He felt heat fill his own cheeks as he asked, “Do you need help cleaning off?”

“I’m use to it,” Sakura said with a weak smile, “But thank you for asking.”

Elf
March 14th, 2011, 11:06 PM
Archer stood up and said, “I’ll get you something to wear and I can finish with your feet after they’re clean.” He inspected her one last time, checking for anything he missed on the first time. Again, she was shook up, but otherwise unharmed. Blue gloves were easily pulled off before thrown into the wastebasket as well.

She looked up at him and said, “T-thank you, Archer.”

He looked at her vulnerable, blood stained form perched as it was as her words still ran through his head. “Sakura, I left not because I didn’t want you, but because I didn’t want to hurt you,” he said as he met her eyes before quickly leaving the room.

*****
Once again Sakura was washing away filth and didn’t feel as if she couldn’t get clean. The simple soap and sponge had been used until pale skin had been rubbed red, but it seemed as if the crimson splashes couldn’t be washed away. The scene played over and over again: the sharp metallic tang of fear, the sudden urge and the knowledge to snuff life with ease.

A wrinkled hand was lifted and inspected as it shook under the rapidly cooling water. Sakura clinched her fist and brought it back to her, resting it over her heart that wouldn’t slow down. Yet despite all of that she felt safe in this small haven and knew that as long as she was here Archer wouldn’t let anyone even see her unless she allowed it. She bit her lip as she turned in the spray to rinse the last layer of suds off.

He’s glad I came here, she thought wildly, the thought almost enough to chase the shadows in her mind away. In some ways he was like some lighthouse that offered safety and sanctuary, ever close but so far away as she was adrift. Yet Archer had taken her in, carried her up here, tended to her feet and let her invade his home again. He said things she needed to hear even if she didn’t want to hear them, but seemingly respected her enough to do so.

There was as soft click and footsteps as a cold rush of air filled the room. Sakura yelped and spun around to see Archer’s large silhouette through the shower curtain as he laid out a couple of towels and what looked like to be a change of clothing for her. “I brought you some clothing. It’ll be big, but I’ve got what was left of your clothes in the washer,” he said in that low, rough voice.

Sakura nodded and said, “Thank you.”

“Sakura, you’ll freeze if you stay in there too much longer. The old water heater here needs a few more parts that haven’t come in. I don’t want you catching cold,” Archer said.

Heat filled her cheeks and she said, “I’m . . .” That’s right. He doesn’t want me to apologize . . .

“I can still feel their blood on me,” she whispered.

Archer replied, “I know.”

She jerked up to look at him through the curtain and she saw his silhouette shrug. “It feels heavy and sticky, and that you’re stained too. Yet you’re surprised it was so easy to do it,” Archer said in a soft voice.

Sakura nodded and replied, “Yes . . . I . . . didn’t want that to happen again.”

“Good,” Archer said and Sakura jerked.

She replied, “But I killed them!”

“Well, that’s not necessarily good, but you realized that you didn’t have to put up with that. You fought back,” Archer said, “And I’m glad you did.”

She blinked and said, “But . . . Archer . . .”

“Yes, you killed them. I wouldn’t have wanted you to do that, but if I would have happened along a gang of punks about to gang rape a young girl I would have killed them too,” Archer said with a shrug, “I may hate killing, but I can when it’s necessary.”

She bit her lip and lowered her head against the spray. It felt like icy needles were pelting vulnerable skin now, but it didn’t matter. Then suddenly the spray stopped and the pipes choked. Sakura shivered as the remains of the steam were chased away as the curtain was opened, but a large towel was wrapped around her. She looked up to see Archer with his eyes closed as he still tended to her.

“I’ve got your ribbon soaking to get the blood out of it,” he said in a low whisper against the crown of her head.

Sakura felt her eyes well up again before the heated tears spilled down her cheeks. “T-thank you,” she whispered. It was ridiculous, but that ribbon meant so much to her. The pink length of satin had been a sign of hope for so many years that she was still loved somewhere, even just as a memory. She bowed her head as she quietly cried before a warm hand gently tilted her chin up.

Archer offered her a lopsided smile and said, “We both have a lot to get through, Sakura. Let’s make a deal.”

She tilted her head and frowned.

“I’ll help you out, if you’ll help me out,” Archer said as he continued to smile warmly at her.

The warmth of that smile filled her from the bottom of her hurt feet to the top of her head and made her fingertips tingle. She found that she could smile in return and said, “I accept, just . . . I don’t know how I can help you, Archer . . .”

“I think just being around someone is doing a lot,” he said.

She blushed and said, “Well, you’re helping me so much . . .”

“Get dried off and dressed. I’ll yell at Rider over the phone and then make us some tea,” Archer said as he stepped away from her.

She nodded and said, “Right . . . Would you mind if I made something for us? I know it’s late but I didn’t get to finish cooking what I made for Rider and myself.”

“If I can help. It’s all too rare for me to show off my skills in the kitchen anymore,” Archer said as he took a step back form her.

She nodded as his large frame retreated from the washroom, the lighthouse finally giving her sanctuary.

Mike1984
March 15th, 2011, 12:06 AM
Woo, three pages of awesome fic. It looked a bit lonely, so I thougt I'd add a comment....

ItsaRandomUsername
March 15th, 2011, 12:08 AM
Well, two's company.

Glad to see that S&CB has been revived and is looking quite comfortable in its new home.

Elf
March 15th, 2011, 01:09 AM
Thanks guys. XD

What's going to be killer is the post limit.

Next part should be up soon! I got a HUGE chunk done on Sunday.

Kieran
March 15th, 2011, 06:39 AM
Yay! Nice to see I wasn't the only productive one. :)

Hoster
March 15th, 2011, 07:11 AM
We await for this new chapter with great anticipation...

Erlkonig
March 15th, 2011, 07:11 AM
Makes me wonder when the post limit will be updated.

Great work, Elf.

Mike1984
March 15th, 2011, 09:50 AM
What's going to be killer is the post limit.

Do you mean the post length limit?

If so, it's been changed now (I don't think they wanted me posting triple/quadruple posts in the middle of arguments :))


Next part should be up soon! I got a HUGE chunk done on Sunday.

Ah, good, that's nice to hear.

Elf
March 15th, 2011, 10:56 PM
Rider was sitting in the small office Archer used for paperwork when she heard footsteps approaching. The memories of the last hour were constantly playing in her head. She hadn’t seen what had happen exactly, just Sakura finishing mangling her attackers with the magic that monster had pushed inside of her.

She was scared. They were attacking her. She defended herself, Rider firmly told herself. However memories of screams, scales and blood were still fresh after so many years. It was something that she wasn’t going to have Sakura subject herself to, but she had no idea how to protect her or even help her.

The one who seemed to be doing the best was currently upstairs, caring for her again.

She stood up as the man in question approached and asked, “How is Sakura?”

“Shaken up. She doesn’t know you’re here,” Archer said as he folded his arms across his large chest.

In her youth a man like him would have made her wary to protect her sisters. He was large, battle worn, and had a dangerous streak in him. Men like that in Rider’s time were generally trouble to her family and eager to get their wandering hands on her elder sisters or herself. However Archer had proven himself different than his appearance time and time again, surprising Rider time and time again until she was placing him in a category that only Sakura currently resided in.

It was vexing, but if this man needed it she would do anything to protect him.

And Sakura needs him, Rider firmly reminded herself as she nodded quietly at his words. If what she had started tonight had continued she would have marked Archer as just another man, perhaps enjoyed herself, and consider it payment for his services rendered. However he had done the unexpected and turned both of them down on some moral integrity.

He had no lover, no one to play at being faithful to. She had tasted the frustration in his blood at his lonely situation. He had reacted to their touches, and in Rider’s experience that was all the excuse a man needed. Once aroused they would do anything to sate their lusts no matter who they harmed in the process. Archer risking his life wouldn’t have been that impressive if things had continued between the three of them.

But he didn’t. You are truly a fascinating and vexing man, Emiya Shirou, Rider thought as she gathered her words. She said, “That maybe for the best right now.”

“Yeah considering she didn’t leave on the best of terms, but part of that was my goddamn fault too,” Archer said with a sigh as he sat down at the hard chair behind his desk. A dark hand still covered with bandages ran through spiky white hair before resting upon the facetiously neat desk.

Rider sat back down and reached for that bandaged hand. His skin was shockingly hot against hers, and considering the air conditioning in this place kept it near frigid levels the heat was not unwelcome. She said, “I thought you did, however . . . I didn’t consider Sakura’s reaction like that.”

“She thinks that no one wants her because of that. Because all the shit Shinji and Zouken probably stuffed in her head while doing only God knows what to her,” Archer said, his voice deepening as his mouth curved into a slight snarl.

Rider sighed and said, “You thought you’d be taking advantage of her.”

“Good of you to finally get that Rider,” Archer said with a sharp smile and narrowed eyes.

She raised her eyebrow and pushed her glasses more firmly on her nose with her middle finger as she continued to watch him. “Most men I would have known would have just given in and enjoyed their time with us,” Rider replied.

Archer laughed, a harsh, bitter sound and said, “You know how goddamn tempted I was to just say the hell with it and do something so utterly selfish for once?”

“Considering how hard you were through your jeans and the way you smelled, yes,” Rider said as her lips curved up at the memory. Crimson raced against Archer’s cheeks as he stared at her, which easily caused laughter to bubble forth from her lips. She shook her head as she muffled her enjoyment with her hand so Sakura wouldn’t discover her presence.

She shook her head, still smiling, and said, “You should see your face, Archer. The more time I spend with you, the more I can see the boy you were peaking out.”

“I’m not worldly,” Archer said as he picked up a pen and lightly tapped it on his desk.

She eyed him and said, “Well, you’re not a virgin.”

“I was only with one person, ever, and we were both virgins when we got together,” Archer said as he looked away, his grey eyes distant and illusive as smoke.

Rider gritted her teeth as she said, “Poseidon smelled like sea water, he tasted like brine, and I thought I was going to drown in him. He was also cold and each movement hurt.”

There was a tiny clang as the pin dropped. Grey eyes were watching expectantly as memories came forth. Rider shrugged and said, “I eventually became a monster because of it.”

“I’m . . . sorry,” Archer said in a soft voice.

She adjusted her glasses with a smile and said, “Yet if you start treating me as if I was made of glass the treatment I gave Gilgamesh would seem . . . pleasant compared to what I’d do to you.”

The color from Archer’s face completely drained and he cleared his throat. He said, “That’s why Sakura Summoned you. You were the most compatible Servant for her. “

“I wanted to save her from becoming a monster like I did,” Rider said with a shake of her head, “I wanted to protect her and see her happy. Yet you seem to be doing a better job with that than I am.”

Archer snorted and said, “And I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”

“You have an inherent kindness that most do not,” Rider said in a soft voice with a smile, “A kindness the world would be better having than not.”

“Bullshit,” was the bitter reply, but Rider was use to that from him.

She leaned forward and brushed her lips against his cheek, causing him to still somewhat. “You’re warm,” she said with a smile, “But . . . thank you.”

“Did you see what happened?” Archer asked, the steel in his words as obvious as the steel she had tasted in his blood.

She sighed and said, “I saw the aftermath of it. I thought she would have returned sooner, but when she hadn’t I started looking for her. If I would have been there in time . . .”

“Then Rin and Lancer would have came after you for killing men on her land, self defense or not,” Archer said.

Rider snorted and said, “Sakura’s negligent older sister and her proxy don’t scare me.”

“I’m not afraid of Lancer, but I’m terrified of Rin,” Archer said with a shake of his head and the faintest hint of a smile.

Tohsaka Rin, Rider thought with a shake of her head, I hope Lancer breaks your heart. Just that one slip of a girl had both Sakura and Archer in knots, and neither of them deserved that. She shook her head at the thought and Archer’s words.

She said, “I’m just glad she came here.”

“I’m going to try to help her,” Archer said with a shake of his head as he stood up.

Rider smiled and said, “Thank you.”

“I need her help as well,” Archer said in a soft voice.

Rider smiled at that and said, “Then I’ll be in touch. Let her know she always has a place to stay with me.”

“It would be better if she stayed with you,” Archer said with a shake of his head, “I don’t want people talking about her like that if they find out she’s living with a man my age.”

“You know, not too long ago your age difference wouldn’t have been uncommon,” Rider said, “And she is a lot more mature than you give her credit for.”

Archer stood up and said, “Well, I need to get back to her. It’s not good for her to be alone for too long, and she thinks I’m yelling at you on the phone.”

“Try to be more honest,” Rider said as she started to head for the door, “Deception is not good for recovery. I read that somewhere.”

There was a snort and Archer said, “Yeah, I know.”

“I could get some of Sakura’s things, if you’d like,” Rider said.

Archer sighed and said, “Tomorrow morning. Right now the both of us need rest.”

“Then I’ll see the both of you tomorrow, and I’ll apologize to Sakura,” Rider said as she started towards the door.

*****
Saber had slept like the dead. Once Shirou had gotten home she merely collapsed on the futon even without dressing for bed. She awoke to Shirou advising that she have a long soak in the tub. Not at all adverse to the idea Saber had headed to the bath, but she had scrubbed until her skin had become red and raw.

Last night still haunted her.

As a king she had been prepared to see and deal with horrors, but what had taken place had even crept under her skin. Plump, writhing worms with an obscene appearance had been removed from the writhing girl as the false priest rooted his hand through her body. Sakura had thrashed so hard at one point that both Rider and Archer had to hold her down.

Then Kotomine had taken great pleasure to notify everyone that a soul other than Sakura’s had been housed in her body. Saber was not foolish enough to deny how those worms had gotten into Sakura’s body. The thought of their shape and the obvious entrance that every woman had was enough to make the knight’s stomach turn. How long had she suffered? With as many as Kotomine managed to pull from her . . .

Saber curled her legs to her chest in the tub and rested her head on her knees. Blond hair obscured her vision as steam continued to drift around the room. Yet, despite the humidity and heat chills and nausea still warred within Saber. Shirou, bless him, had not pressed to find about the horrors that Saber had witnessed that night.

She reasoned he had enough on his mind, and knowing him he was borrowing guilt because he had not known about his friend’s plight. Even more disturbing was that Sakura had not asked for help. She had suffered in silence for years until Rider of all people asked Archer for help. Saber’s pride smarted that Rider had chosen the red knight over herself, but she new why the Gorgon had.

Archer had been the weakest Servant, but in a fight he could defeat them all. It was not about power, but skill and cunning. The man was observant and could plan rather well, nor was he afraid to gamble. Archer was luckless, but through hard work, perseverance, and cleverness he persevered. She understood his betrayal of Rin and his desire to kill Saber’s lover more than she would admit to anyone save him.

As he had pointed out, they were kindred spirits just with different goals and origins.

Saber was learning how to live for herself, and she knew Archer was struggling with the task himself. In this new life she had found out that if the kingship had been changed her people would have lost no matter what. If anything, she had created a legacy to inspire others after her “death”. She had done all she could as a king, and no one could ask for anything more of her. It was just her that was asking it of herself.

Shirou had shown her that she had needs and wants of her own, and that she could accept them. With him at her side she was happy. Happy in a way she had never known, and not just because Shirou was an excellent cook. However the happiness she had been given was not going to go unprotected. Saber might not bare the moniker “King” any more, but she still had her “subjects” she would protect and ensure their happiness no matter what. Shirou was obviously the most important, then Rin, Sakura, Taiga, Issei, and Ilya; those six only need to ask and she would do all in her power for them.

She would die for them if they asked it of her.

However Sakura’s silent suffering had been too much to bare. She had told the girl time and time again that if she needed help all she need was ask. Yet Sakura kept silent. Saber could not fathom why Sakura continued to allow herself to be tortured in such a fashion when with a word she would have had Saber’s sword at her command.

Yet when she had Shirou had demanded answers Sakura had fallen silent. Archer and Rider kept the girl’s council and were not being forthcoming either. Rider had outright refused to give any information, but Archer had given enough to gain their aid.


The image of Sakura’s crying face and her trembling, hand so stark against Archer’s skin as he held her hand was burned into Saber’s mind. He had been gentle to the girl, in a way that reminded her of the intimacy Saber had seen him share with Rin or how she had seen him with Ilya. That alone was an interesting situation that was confusing and worrisome at the same time.

Saber would have never thought that Archer would have left Rin in the position that he had. True, it could be argued that she should have saved her Master at that point instead of watching the fight. However Lancer had been there, and she needed to see the fight for her own sanity. Even under Rin’s Command and prana, she was still Shirou’s and Shirou’s alone, and Rin had known that.

The door to the bathroom opened and she heard Shirou’s footsteps enter the room. He knelt beside the tub and rested some towels down for her to reach. She looked at them and said, “Thank you.”

“What happened last night?” Shirou asked in a soft voice.

Saber hugged her legs to her chest and said, “ . . . I do not know how to speak of it.”

“Then don’t,” he said as he leaned forward and kissed her forehead, “But . . . I . . . I didn’t know what was happening. It was right in front of my goddamned face and . . . Some superhero I’ve turned out to be, right?”

Saber looked at him and took his hands. She said, “We cannot correct our mistakes, but we can ensure Sakura’s happiness now.”

“I don’t think she wants to talk to us,” Shirou said with a sigh.

Saber met his golden-brown eyes and said, “I believe she is afraid. We just need to show her there is nothing to fear.”

He nodded and rested his head against the edge of the tub. He said, “I’m going to have a long talk with Shinji.”

“Oh?” Saber asked, tilting her head. In all rights, the world and her subjects would be better off if he was dead.

Shirou nodded and said, “Sakura might not tell us what happened, but I can make Shinji talk.”

“Then, I believe you need my assistance,” Saber said with a smile.

Keyne
March 16th, 2011, 04:30 AM
I believe Shinji's going to get a new set of assess all over his body. :| Also, I do believe that Saber would not want to have sex for a while. Shirou should understand.

Mike1984
March 16th, 2011, 08:54 AM
I believe Shinji's going to get a new set of assess all over his body. :|

Yeah, I think he's in a bit of trouble here....


Also, I do believe that Saber would not want to have sex for a while.Quite possibly, yeah....


Shirou should understand.Shirou doesn't even know what happened to Sakura. She didn't want him to see. Even Saber was only there because she was needed for Avalon to work.


But, anyway, this is another excellent chapter, and it's interesting to see how Saber has been affected by all of this. It does make sense that she would be appalled at seeing how Sakura has been treated, and she would of course not understand why she had simply not asked Shirou for help. Also, I liked the bit with Rider teasing Archer, and telling him how much respect she has for what he did (even if it ultimately did more harm than good).

Keyne
March 16th, 2011, 08:58 AM
Shirou doesn't even know what happened to Sakura. She didn't want him to see. Even Saber was only there because she was needed for Avalon to work.
No, no. I mean that after seeing her reactions, he would understand that Saber saw something horrid, and wouldn't want to push her in that direction.

But, anyway, this is another excellent chapter, and it's interesting to see how Saber has been affected by all of this.
They are friends after all, and Saber's a woman, too. She also has emotions and feelings. Of course she'd be shaken the least.

Mike1984
March 16th, 2011, 09:21 AM
No, no. I mean that after seeing her reactions, he would understand that Saber saw something horrid, and wouldn't want to push her in that direction.

He'd know she saw something pretty horrible, yes, but not that it had any sexual connotations to it, so there's no reason he'd expect her to suddenly go off sex.


They are friends after all, and Saber's a woman, too. She also has emotions and feelings. Of course she'd be shaken the least.

Well, of course. Seeing a friend suffering like that and knowing that they'd suffered for God-knows how long prior to you finding out would be absolute hell.

Elf
March 16th, 2011, 09:24 AM
Altima and I were talking about this last night.

"Archer, I ran into Nii-san while shopping today."

Then cue Archer's concern and Sakura shaking her head. "Sempai and Saber-san had just left him and when I got to him . . . he was dripping with . . ." Her nose would scrunch up. "Urine."

Archer then starts laughing.

Kratosirving
March 16th, 2011, 09:25 AM
I approve.

Keyne
March 16th, 2011, 09:27 AM
He'd know she saw something pretty horrible, yes, but not that it had any sexual connotations to it, so there's no reason he'd expect her to suddenly go off sex.
I think it would be enough to know that she saw something horrible. Though I imagine Shirou wouldn't be in the mood as well until the matter is settled.

he was dripping with . . ." Her nose would scrunch up. "Urine."
Only urine? D:

Mike1984
March 16th, 2011, 09:29 AM
Altima and I were talking about this last night.

"Archer, I ran into Nii-san while shopping today."

Then cue Archer's concern and Sakura shaking her head. "Sempai and Saber-san had just left him and when I got to him . . . he was dripping with . . ." Her nose would scrunch up. "Urine."

Archer then starts laughing.

Heh, yeah, lol.

Elf
March 27th, 2011, 12:32 AM
WARNING THIS NEXT PART INCLUDES LEMON CONTENT. YES, FINALLY, THE MOMENT YOU'VE BEEN WAITING FOR! THE PORN!

A length of pink satin sat in the middle of briny, cold water that was tinted the color of rust. One long finger reached into the chilled fluid to vigorously spin the soft length of cloth in the bowl. The salty tang reached Archer’s nostrils and he wasn’t sure if it was from the salt water the ribbon was soaking in or the blood that was currently coming off of the ribbon. The water was pleasantly cool against his constantly overheated skin, but he withdrew his finger and the ribbon.

He lifted the length of pink satin to the light and inspected it with sharp eyes. The dark stains had lightened to an almost orange color with a ring of darker red around the splotches. Sighing, Archer set the ribbon down, threw the contents of the bowl in his sink and rinsed it out. The ceramic bowl was filled with cold water again and some rock salt was sprinkled in. He shut the water off before using a spoon to dilute the salt into the water. Next a couple of ice cubes were gathered in the freezer and laid into the bowl before the ribbon was placed back in. Archer once again swirled the mixture of cloth, salt water, and ice in the bowl before setting it back down to soak again.

As much as he hated to admit it, he was an expert on getting blood out of fabric. He was dead set to get Sakura’s ribbon as free of stains as possible and then some. After everything that girl had been through tonight and the nights past she deserved to have her one comfort returned to her free of any ghastly reminders of what had happened. If I can’t get it clean, then I’ll take it’s match from Rin’s room, Archer thought wildly.

A sigh escaped his lips as his heavy shoulders sagged. Tension ran up and down his neck and arms and his limbs felt like lead. Pressure was raging behind his forehead, through the bridge of his nose and behind his eyes. Archer rubbed the bridge of his nose in a vain attempt to relive it, but it brought him little solace.

Instead he moved to his next task by filling his teakettle with water and setting it on the burner. With a flick of a wrist blue flames shot up from the burner and gently licked at the teakettle’s copper bottom. He grabbed his tea pot and the plastic bag that he kept tea leaves in and set them on the counter. Leaves were put into the tea pot as the burner gentle crackled as it continued its work to boil the water. He got two tea cups, sugar, and the cream out as well because he wasn’t quite sure how Sakura took her tea.

He turned and leaned his back against the sink as he eyed the burner, the flickering blue flames drawing his attention. Archer heard rustling in the washroom, signaling Sakura was getting dressed. Within moments the girl emerged from the room, wincing with every step.

Her feet, Archer thought wildly, cursing himself again that night for forgetting to bandage them. He was over to her in an instant and carefully lifted the girl off of her feet. Warm, lush curves under soft cotton pressed against him as large, violet eyes bore into his and slim arms wrapped around his neck. “A-archer?” Sakura asked in a small voice before blushing and looking down.

“I forgot to bandage your feet,” he said as he carried her back into the washroom.
She looked down, her violet hair obscuring her face as she said, “I’m fine you really don’t need to . . .”

“You’re wincing,” Archer said as he set her down before grabbing the first aid kit from the sink.

Sakura tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and said, “It’s my fault.”

“You were upset,” he said as he opened the red box. He sheathed his hands in blue nitrate gloves before opening sterile packaging for gauze. He knelt in front of her and took her right foot in his hands. The appendage was small and delicate, the skin as fragile as the porcelain it resemble.

He looked up at her dressed in a long sleeved black shirt that hit her mid thigh and a pair of running shorts that went almost to her ankles. His clothing hung loosely on her, but it still gave hints to the ample curves he’d seen all too well tonight. He took a deep breath before slathering her foot with an antibiotic salve that had a slight numbing agent and wrapping it in gauze and taping it up. He repeated the process and heard a slight gasp above him.

Eyes drifted upward to see Sakura clutching the sides of his shirt with her body tensed. Her mouth was parted and her cheeks were flushed, and each unsteady breath made her breasts rise and fall heavily under his shirt. Archer swallowed and asked, “Did I hurt you?”

“N-n-no,” Sakura said with her voice catching before violently shaking her head.

Frowning, Archer reached up and rested the back of his hand on her forehead. There was warmth there and he scowled. He said, “You spent too long in that shower, you’re going to catch a cold.”

Again there was a violent shake of her head that made violet hair move rapidly. She swallowed and said, “It’s . . . not that Archer.”

“What’s wrong?” Archer asked as he looked up at her.

Sakura looked down and she said, “I . . . don’t want to talk about it. I . . . damn it!” Her hands flew to her face as she stifled tears. Archer’s eyes widened as she used his shirt to hide her face from him as she looked away.

He stood up and gently stroked her hair, enjoying the silken texture between his finger tips. He said, “Sakura, I can’t help if you won’t tell me.”

“I . . . I thought with them gone I wouldn’t feel like this anymore,” Sakura all but wailed as she looked up at him, “Nii-san was right . . .”

Archer sighed and said, “If that worthless bastard was right about anything I’d go up to Gilgamesh and kiss him.”

Sakura peered up at him with red rimmed eyes and a tear streaked face. She said, “You don’t know Archer . . . what those things were. What they did . . .”

A shrill whistle erupted from the kitchen, causing Sakura to jump. Her hands gripped his arms and Archer smiled at her. “It’s just the teakettle,” he said in a soft voice before stoking her hair again. It’s whistling became even more shrill and more insistent and she blinked.

“Maybe we should go stop it,” Sakura said as she looked up at him.

Archer nodded and said, “You can explain to me while we have tea.”

Then he gently eased her too her feet before taking her in his arms again. Sakura wrapped her arms around his neck and said in a small voice, “You’re . . . rather good at this.”

“I’m glad someone thinks so,” Archer said as he carried her into the kitchen.

******
Sakura’s fingers bit into the warm cloth of Archer’s shirt as he carried her like a child into the kitchen. She wanted to protest to him, but she knew well enough that he wouldn’t listen. He’d seen her wince when she walked into the kitchen after emerging from the shower and, even though he didn’t know the full details, he knew her well enough that she would hide to keep from inconveniencing him. Even though he seems the happiest when he’s taking care of me, she thought wildly as the aromatic steam hit her nostrils.

With each movement brought more awareness to broad shoulders, long, muscular limbs and heated skin. Sakura felt warmth spread through her as she was carried, thousands of sparks lighting through her skin in a way that she was all too familiar with. Familiar wetness was already starting to seep from her core as heat flashed through her while she ached. It was maddening, swarming and clamping down on her while threatening to suffocate her.

She felt as if she was going to burst, everything too much within her. Her head swarmed with the heat of it and tears were threatening to fall. She had wanted him earlier tonight when Rider had brought him in, but not like this. Not like before, Sakura thought as darkness started to seep into her mind once again.

“There may be side effects. You may not be able to use your magecraft again.”
But I used it tonight against those men . . . Her mind was racing as her skin felt aching against her bones, feeling hollow and desperate. The urge to be filled was racing through her even more and she looked up at Archer as he used a foot to push a chair out for her. She clung to him as he sat her down and his steel grey eyes widened.

“Sakura, you’re burning up,” he said with a frown as he sat her in the chair.

She gripped the fabric of her borrowed shirt and cried, “It’s back Archer . . .” His eyes widened even more as he knelt in front of her as the tea kettle continued its shrill whistle. Large, hot hands engulfed smaller ones to gently pry them from the cloth.

“What’s back, Sakura?” Archer asked as he held her hands as if they were made of glass.

More heat flashed through her, as if napalm was being poured over her nerves and lit. Tears trailed down heated cheeks as tiny gasps of air were being drawn in a desperate attempt to regain control. He continued to look up at her with those intense steel eyes and she bowed down to him. She didn’t even have to lean that far to press her lips against his.

A hot tongue swept to open her lips as Archer kissed her back. His lips, teeth and tongue were demanding in their scalding intensity. Her arms wrapped around him to pull him closer as she flicked her tongue against his. The scent of steel, leather and smoke was starting to fill her nostrils, making her head swim. More and more wetness was seeping from her core, soaking the borrowed shorts she was wearing. Her empty core fluttered and gripped at nothing, desperately wanting to be filled.

He broke the kiss and she cried out before he backed away slightly. His face crumbled as he stroked her sweaty hair back. “Kirei did say there would be side effects,” he said in a soft voice.

Sakura looked up at him and said, “I . . . hate this Archer.”

“Even gone, those damned worms leave their mark,” he said as he cupped her cheek with his other hand. The look in his eyes was heartbreakingly sad, as if he had all the weight of the world on his shoulders. Her chest tightened and she swallowed a deep gulp of air.

The tea kettle was still whistling.

She looked down and said, “I don’t want to be this way. I . . . don’t want to be how Nii-san said I was.”

“What did Shinji use to say?” Archer said as he stood up. In a few quick motions he was at the oven and the tea kettle was starting to quiet.

Sakura swallowed, looked down and said, “H-he called me a cock hungry whore.”

“That’s not true Sakura, it wasn’t your fault,” Archer said as he moved back to her side again. He was on one knee, the very image of a knight defending his lady. She stared at him and shook her head.

She said, “I wanted you earlier tonight! I wanted you inside of me and . . . you did the right thing and left, thinking you were protecting me. You’re too good for me, Archer and I wouldn’t want to be with a dirty thing either if I were you.”

“Who said you were dirty?” Archer said, his voice thickening at the words.

Sakura met his eyes and whispered, “No one needed to say anything to me Archer, I knew.”

“I saw you naked tonight, you didn’t look dirty to me,” he said as his large hands were brushing her hair back from her face again.

With a cry she jerked back from him and stood to her feet. There was a loud clamor as the chair fell victim to the girl’s ire. Meeting Archer’s eyes, Sakura’s own narrowed before she hooked her thumbs into the waistband of those shorts and yanked them down. The dark fabric pooled at her feet as she lifted up his shirt so he could just see how dirty she was.

******

Sakura was utterly bare and her thighs were slick with lust that copiously wept from the delicate slit protecting the haven of her body. Archer looked at her flushed, angry face that was daring him to agree with her. However his eyes trailed down between her parted thighs at the softness there. Softness that was already soaked and weeping, begging to be touched.
Begging him to touch her.

“See?” Sakura said as more tears spilled down her violet eyes, “See how dirty it is? It’s a nasty hungry hole that wants your cock . . .”

Archer stood up, looming over and Sakura’s eyes widened as she clutched his shirt. Hard points were already making themselves known from where generous curves stretched the fabric. Sakura standing there with her flushed skin and his shirt while baring herself to him was too much for his strained control.

He looked down at her and took her shoulders in his hands. Wide violet eyes met his as he leaned down to her. He said in a low voice, “I never want to hear any of those words out of your mouth again, Sakura.”

“But it’s true Archer,” she whimpered as she looked down.

Archer shook his head and said, “It’s not. That’s not what I see.”

Her head tilted as a frown etched into her pretty features as she looked up at him. “You’re not dirty at all,” he said as he gathered her face into his hands.

“Archer,” his name was a whisper on her swollen, parted lips.

He said, “If you don’t want this, tell me now because I don’t think I’ll be able to stop.” His own need was brought back in a rush, the ache even more apparent than earlier tonight. The hard, thick length was already making its demands known as it swelled eagerly.

Archer knew that it wasn’t the best grounds for a relationship, but she needed someone to save her and he needed someone to save. He had seen other relationships start on rockier foundations and last for along time. If they gave each other what they needed and Sakura could move on, Archer would understand. He really didn’t have the grounds to “move on” anymore. He was too old, too tired and seen too much.

He had no idea where this would go after this moment, but he would have this moment. Sakura needed this and he was starved for it. “I don’t want you to stop,” Sakura said before her lips met his again.

The kiss was heated. Lips, teeth and tongue dueled as Sakura pressed her mouth hungrily into his. Archer’s hands roamed her damp hair before skimming the supple curve of her back. Her hands eagerly dug under his shirt to trace over scars and muscle. Their lips danced and caressed for endless moments until Archer pulled away gasping for breath.

Sakura was panting too, ample breasts rising and falling under his shirt. He swallowed and said, “I want to see you.”

“Ah, okay,” she said with a blush as she looked away while he pulled his shirt from her skin. It fell languidly to the side as well, leaving her completely bare to his gaze. He looked up at her, marveling at the deep violet hair that spilled over creamy white shoulders. Her skin was flawless and soft, like porcelain and there was the slightest definition of muscles in her arms from pulling her yumi. Nipples the color of her namesake stood at full attention, already hard points begging for lips and tongue at the tips of supple breasts. Sakura was all curves and softness from her breasts, hips, thighs and rear, as if someone had made her the perfect shape to cradle a man’s body.


He stroked her cheek and said, “You’re beautiful.”

“T-thank you Archer,” she said as the pink in her cheeks deepened.

He smirked as he took her breasts in his hands, kneading them gently together and apart. Their skin was like silk under his callused fingers and their weight perfect. Sakura arched up with a tiny cry, her hips parting even more to reveal more wetness leaking from her core. He smiled at her before bowing his head to her right nipple and laving his tongue around it.

Again another cry filled the kitchen as he hungrily sucked on her while his hand pinched and pulled on her left nipple. He switched positions after a few moments before biting down lightly on the left. Sakura gripped his shoulders with another tiny cry, each one stroking his own fire within him. “A-archer, please . . . I need . . .” she moaned as he soothingly laved what he’d just bit.

He slid another hand down her body to her soaked thighs. At the flood of silken wetness questing finger tips found signaling her readiness, he wanted this to be as good as possible for her. She deserved at least one time with a man that was focused on her bliss instead of what she’d been through in the past. So his nimble fingers slid over her bare slit, the skin delicate and quivering under his finger tips before gently parting it.

The tiny nub at the apex of her folds was already hard and swollen. Archer swirled his index finger around it back and forth. Sakura’s body tensed as more and more gasping cries left her throat. Still nursing on her, he moved his other hand downward while he prodded at her. One finger slid in easily before it was engulfed in soft, wet heat and clamped down on by her core. He hissed at the tightness in surprise as he pushed his middle finger in her as well.

He looked up at her flushed and panting body as she continued to cry out incoherently. A subtle twist of the wrist brushed his fingers along her upper wall before he began searching by pressing his finger tips in her. His other index finger was currently lightly rubbing the tiny nub as it began to retreat back into its hood, signaling that the girl was about ready to burst. He found the more pliant tissue on her upper wall he was looking for and began to rub it.

Sakura’s eyes flew open as she began to move her hips wantonly against his hands. Misty amethyst eyes looked down at him and she could only cry out, her voice unable to find words. He rubbed the tiny nub faster without apply pressure while his fingers within her beckoned to her even more. Within moments Sakura grew taunt like a bow string before screaming. Spent passion splashed against his hands as the musky scent of her need grew thick in his nostrils as her core collapsed against him.

He pulled his fingers out of her to grab her so she wouldn’t fall as she all but crumbled against him. She looked up at him with wide eyes as she caught her breath. A deep flush stained her pale skin and her eyes were unfocused as she held onto him. “Archer,” she gasped.

“I’m here,” he said with a smile as he kissed her again.

Quickly her eyes focused again as she sat up, her hands pulling at his shirt. He lifted his arms to let her undress him, and her eyes grew wide at all the scars he knew she’d seen there. She stood there silently for a moment before kissing him again. He felt wetness splash his cheeks and he held her as she cried while kissing him. He parted and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“That you let yourself get like this,” she said with a shake of her head.

Archer stroked her back and said, “It doesn’t matter anymore. We can’t change the past.”

“I know,” Sakura said as she unzipped his pants and he kicked them and his boxers off. He saw her eyes widen as his length sprang forward, eager and needy. A soft hand wrapped around him and began to stroke, sending bits of lightning down her spine.

A groan escaped his lips as more fire spiked along his nerves. He gripped her shoulders and moaned, “Sakura . . .”

“Take me,” Sakura said before kissing him hotly again.

Archer needed no other concession as he sat down at the remaining standing chair and gathered her onto his lap. Her eyes widened as she blushed at him as he lifted her up, the thick head pressing wantonly against her. “Ride me,” Archer demanded before grabbing her into a kiss and thrusting up.

He groaned as he was surrounded by the tight, hot, wet haven of Sakura’s body as she arched most becomingly. Her breasts were offered to them again and he bowed his head to greedily suck on her. “A-archer, oh god, Archer!” Sakura moaned as her hands found his shoulders and her hips began to move up and down his swollen length.

Each thrust up was a silken caress that tugged him closer and closer to the breaking point. Her cries were inflaming him even further as he was simply engulfed in Sakura. Her core clinched greedily around him again and again. He was only aware of her as bliss was bubbling through his blood and crackling like lightning through his spine.

Sakura arched hard with a scream as her whole body collapsed around him like a rhythmic vice. Archer held her close and thrust as deep up into her as he could as he felt himself swell for one last time. The lightning within him struck and the dam with him broke with a low moan as he held her close, emptying his essence into her. He felt his own warmth engulf him and he thrust slightly back and forth as Sakura moaned in delight.

Archer leaned back in the chair, completely drained as Sakura happily held him. He looked up at her and lightly kissed her and a joyous laugh danced from her lips as she picked up his hand and kissed it. He moaned as she kissed his finger tips as she smiled at him.

“When I can move, we’ll get cleaned up and head for bed,” Archer said with a smile.

Sakura grinned at him and said, “Archer . . . that was amazing and . . . you seemed to need it too.”

“You have no idea,” he said with a shake of his head.


Elf's Random Musings: I realize this has now become the first part of a multi-fic series that I'm going to call "The Catharsis Series" dealing with Archer in multiple loops in a situation such as this with the Servants and second chances etc. Sakura's story is the first, then Saber, then Rider, and I might have to do one with Rin because . . . it's Rin.

Keyne
March 27th, 2011, 05:00 AM
Sakura grinned at him and said, “Archer . . . that was amazing and . . . you seemed to need it too.”
We're all thinking like that, Sakura. Yay! One of us! One of us! :3

Great story. Really had my imagination going.

Kieran
March 27th, 2011, 07:29 AM
God, what they did to twist her head . . .

*makes note to smite Matous later*

I'd kind of been hoping that learning the difference between the worms' hunger (and the kind of things done to her under it) and simple desire and lovemaking would help - but it looks like there's a ways to go before that can happen.

Elf
March 27th, 2011, 11:29 AM
God, what they did to twist her head . . .

*makes note to smite Matous later*

Actually, that's sort of a common thing with rape victims. They can either become almost violently against having sex or they become raging nymphos. Not to mention even though the worms are gone, like Kotomine said, there would be side effects of them being there. They did change her whole physiological structure from having coloring similar to Rin's (except she may have had brown eyes like Aoi) to violet hair and eyes.


I'd kind of been hoping that learning the difference between the worms' hunger (and the kind of things done to her under it) and simple desire and lovemaking would help - but it looks like there's a ways to go before that can happen.

Yeah, she's all sorts of messed up. Which means More Fun Times with Kotomine!

Kotonoha
March 27th, 2011, 11:40 AM
(except she may have had brown eyes like Aoi)

Actually no (http://i55.tinypic.com/oj001k.jpg)

(Incidentally, that image makes me think TM probably used the "Sakura is 18" thing to calculate Sakura's age in Zero, because she looks only barely younger than "Shirou, age 12" there, certainly not four)

Elf
March 27th, 2011, 11:58 AM
Actually no (http://i55.tinypic.com/oj001k.jpg)

(Incidentally, that image makes me think TM probably used the "Sakura is 18" thing to calculate Sakura's age in Zero, because she looks only barely younger than "Shirou, age 12" there, certainly not four)

I figured she had blue eyes, but there was a couple of pictures from the Fate/Zero tribute arts that gave her brown eyes like Aoi. Not that it matters, worm rape's totally changed her but . . . That one picture threw me off.

Also, Shirou's an adorable sullen little boy, isn't he?!

Now, you're tsundere for this fic, aren't you?

eddyak
March 27th, 2011, 12:18 PM
That's exactly the way I've always pictured young Shirou. Hot blooded and always ready to run up and kick you in the shin.

Kotonoha
March 27th, 2011, 12:50 PM
Also, Shirou's an adorable sullen little boy, isn't he?!

I KNOW RIGHT?!


Now, you're tsundere for this fic, aren't you?

Still haven't read it, don't hurt me >_>

Erlkonig
March 27th, 2011, 12:51 PM
Kotomine: So, you are Kiritsugu's son---! *Is kicked in the nuts*
Shota!Shirou: Take this, you evildoer!

Hoster
March 27th, 2011, 12:52 PM
I like how one of those looks just like on of the adult concepts of Shirou, the exact same expression...


... now I will read these two latest parts later.

Elf
March 27th, 2011, 12:59 PM
I KNOW RIGHT?!

I wanna take him home . . . Seriously though, Shirou's always been adorable and he'll grow up into a real hottie if Archer's any indication. Especially if he doesn't fuck himself up and keeps his red hair.


Still haven't read it, don't hurt me >_>

Wibbles softly . . .

LOL, it's fine.

[shameless plug]At least go check out The Hound and the Blacksmith. It's the Lancer and Archer buddy cop fic![/shameless plug]

Altima of the Gates
March 27th, 2011, 04:15 PM
Nice, I enjoyed that.

I chuckled at the “You have no idea.” Somebody is gonna have a good rest tonight.

Also about that concept pic, yeah Shirou did seem like quite a rabblerouser(the bandaid completes the ensemble), and always nice to see adorable Tohsaka Sakura.
Very sweet of Archer to do his damndest to get the ribbon cleaned.

Neir
March 27th, 2011, 04:28 PM
I'm looking forward to seeing how this will change Sakura's self-confidence.

Mike1984
March 27th, 2011, 05:07 PM
Wow, that was hot....

And, yeah, Sakura's self-esteem has been seriously crushed by the Matous, and you're right that even without them she still seems to get easily aroused (in HF Rin was finding shampoo bottles all over her house...). Nicely done by Archer there, though, reassuring her and then making her feel good.

Kieran
March 27th, 2011, 06:51 PM
You know, given Sakura's problems, she and Kohaku might have an interesting time comparing notes - especially depending on which route Kohaku's from. If she got the better version of her own ending, then maybe she could play counsellor?

Kotonoha
March 27th, 2011, 09:30 PM
Kohaku should never, ever be allowed to affect anyone's mental health. :|

Kieran
March 27th, 2011, 10:14 PM
Under most circumstances, absolutely - but I seem to recall something in one of her sex scenes about never having been made love to before - a difference that was noted there, and which Sakura (at least for the moment) can't appreciate. And it's not as though Kohaku can't relate, either - so I thought perhaps she might be able to help.

Mike1984
March 27th, 2011, 10:21 PM
Well, from my (admittedly limited) knowledge of Kohaku, I'd say that, if anything, Sakura would be helping her, not the other way around. Certainly Sakura seems to cope with her situation better than Kohaku does (i.e. not by trying to kill everyone she knows...).

Neir
March 27th, 2011, 10:44 PM
Although Sakura is vastly more successful at that very same plot than Kohaku was. But moving right along...

Mike1984
March 28th, 2011, 11:01 AM
Although Sakura is vastly more successful at that very same plot than Kohaku was. But moving right along...

Yes, but Sakura did it whilst possessed by Angra Mainyu. The rest of the time she's (relatively) sane, and certainly not homicidal. Kohaku, on the other hand, is not.

Sakura in HF suffers from temporary Angra-Mainyu-induced insanity, whereas from what I can tell Kohaku is permanently insane. They both need psychological help (understandably), but Kohaku needs it more than Sakura does, so there's no way Kohaku could do Sakura any good.

Keyne
March 28th, 2011, 12:04 PM
No, Kohaku is not insane. Kohaku has revenge for a reason for existing. Read Hisui's and Kohaku's rou.... what am I saying? :|

Mike1984
March 28th, 2011, 12:31 PM
No, Kohaku is not insane. Kohaku has revenge for a reason for existing. Read Hisui's and Kohaku's rou.... what am I saying? :|

Which I'm pretty sure is classed as "insanity"....

Anyway, regardless of whether she is insane or just plain evil, it would most definitely not help Sakura to get "advice" from her. All it would do is make her even more conflicted and think of herself as even more useless because she did nothing to act, even though she couldn't (and following Kohaku's lead would just make things worse for her and those she cared for).

Keyne
March 28th, 2011, 12:33 PM
Which I'm pretty sure is classed as "insanity"....
Read the routes. Please, just read them.

Mike1984
March 28th, 2011, 12:35 PM
Read the routes. Please, just read them.

I'm pretty damn sure that having revenge as a reason for existing makes you insane, especially when it's revenge on someone who isn't even responsible. Also, doesn't Kohaku actually end up in a loony bin at the end of her route?

Keyne
March 28th, 2011, 12:37 PM
I'm pretty damn sure that having revenge as a reason for existing makes you insane, especially when it's revenge on someone who isn't even responsible. Also, doesn't Kohaku actually end up in a loony bin at the end of her route?

No, she does not end up in a loony bin at the end of her route.

GlanGR
March 28th, 2011, 12:42 PM
If anything, the insane one during Hisui/Kohaku route is Shiki, not either of the maids.

Neir
March 28th, 2011, 05:34 PM
Let's not get into classifications of insanity, especially because there is no clinical definition of the word insanity. Moving right along.

Hoster
March 30th, 2011, 04:32 AM
Just read up on these two latest parts, and I have to say I like reading this quite a lot, though I might have said that once already...


Wow, that was hot....

This, I very much second this.

MrTags
March 30th, 2011, 03:07 PM
Arrrggh, just power read the lot of this. So much brain drain, and worse I'm getting it confused with other stories now. Arrgghh...

Can't complain about content though ^_^

Oh but you might need a wee bit o' proofreading on the first page.

Catharsis series? For you or them?

Keyne
March 30th, 2011, 03:13 PM
Catharsis series? For you or them?
For the characters, as in Archer and his love (of the route). Now it's Sakura, then Saber, then Rider, and at last, Lin. :3

MrTags
March 30th, 2011, 03:18 PM
Oh I know, that's the official line, I was just wondering who it was actually supposed to be cathartic for.

Her or the characters.

Keyne
March 30th, 2011, 03:20 PM
Oh I know, that's the official line, I was just wondering who it was actually supposed to be cathartic for.

Her or the characters.

*pout* I already said that the characters.

Keyne
April 10th, 2011, 04:11 AM
Why isn't this continuing? D:

Kratosirving
April 10th, 2011, 04:18 AM
MISTRESS IS BUSY! SHOO, SEIBAPHILE!

Keyne
April 10th, 2011, 04:19 AM
MISTRESS IS BUSY! SHOO, SEIBAPHILE!

Stfu. D:< I wanna see the end of this!

Kratosirving
April 10th, 2011, 04:24 AM
hEHEH, yOU wANT eND, wE aLL wANT mOAR!11!!

*End chaos transmission*

To be a bit serious here, she's always got stuff going on. Just have to be patient. :D

Keyne
April 10th, 2011, 04:44 AM
hEHEH, yOU wANT eND, wE aLL wANT mOAR!11!!

*End chaos transmission*

To be a bit serious here, she's always got stuff going on. Just have to be patient. :D

Patient..haha... patient... haha...ahaha... *takes out a knife and starts jabbing it into the gaps between his fingers in inhuman speeds*

Elf
April 24th, 2011, 02:23 PM
Sakura smiled as she was surrounded by warmth and hard muscles, her head pillowed on one broad shoulder. Long, powerful arms were around soft, feminine curves with enough of a grip not to be uncomfortable, but to keep one close. She looked up into her lover’s sleeping features with his white hair falling into his face and his lips slightly parted as he lightly breathed.

He looks years younger like this, she thought as she reached up to run her fingers through the thick locks. They were surprisingly soft under cool finger tips and Sakura studied him. With his hair down and unspiked the resemblance to his former self was more marked, not to mention it gave him a sweeter and more approachable air than the battle hardened solder.

Warmth pooled within her as her cheeks flushed as she continued to look at him. Memories and phantom sensations flashed within her, burning last night into her memory for forever more. His large hands, his heat, the feel of him moving inside of her and seeing to her first. He’d given her control. She had set the pace and he followed, after giving her the most amazing orgasm in her life.

A frown darkened her features as memories of Shinji and the lust induced by those things that were inside her started to surface. Her nii-san had been smaller, obviously, and he enjoyed taunting and hurting her. The worse part with being with him was that she was helpless to enjoy his attention.

Archer on the other hand made sure to make her feel wanted, needed and gave her attention she never would have thought she’d get. Tightness filled her chest as she started to have trouble breathing. Her arms tightened around Archer as ice started to fill her veins.

He’s going to get taken away from me. I’m going to get taken away from him. This is a dream. I’m going to wake up in that basement and . . .

“Sakura?” a low, rough voice said as her mind raced.

She clung to him and whispered, “I don’t want to go back to that. I can’t go back to that.”

“Sakura,” Archer said as his breath came out in a sigh as he sat up. Automatically she was resting in his lap as he held her close, stroking her hair. Her eyes widened as she felt being poked by him as he cradled her body to his.

She looked up at him and said, “This can’t be real.”

“It is real. You don’t have to go back to that. Never again. I’d die before I see that happen,” he said as he stroked her hair back with a gentle smile.

Her eyes widened as she could get in air and rested her head on her shoulder. She asked, “Archer, can I stay with you?”

“You can stay with me as long as you need and want to,” he said before planting a kiss on her forehead.

She smiled at that and relaxed in his arms. She said, “Thank you.”

“How are you?” he asked in a soft voice in her ear.

Sakura smiled and said, “I’m better now, thanks to you. Thank you, for last night.”

“I should be thanking you,” he admitted with a smile as a faint blush crossed his tawny cheeks.

“I . . . didn’t know it could be like that,” Sakura said as her own cheeks flushed as she looked down, but she felt the smile across her face.

Archer ran a hand through her hair and said, “About that.”

She bit her lip and looked up at him. He said, “Look, Sakura, I don’t know what’ll become of this. Maybe you’ll find someone better, and I hope you do.”

“I don’t want anyone better,” she said with a shake of her head, “There’s no one better.”

Archer stroked her hair and said, “It’s not going to be easy.”

“But like you said last night, we need each other. We’re different than the others, and the only one who could possibly understand that is Rider,” Sakura said with a sigh, realizing she was going to apologize profusely to her former Servant. She stroked his cheek and said, “Let’s save each other, Archer.”

He smiled at her, his eyes closing and the look made her chest tight and stoke the air from her lungs. He said, “It’s going to be a lot of hard work, Sakura. I know you’re strong. The first thing we need to do is see what damage those worms have done.”

She stiffened and nodded, falling silent. He reached under her chin to tilt her head up so she could meet his eyes. She swallowed and said, “So we’re seeing Father Kotomine about this?”

“No, this needs a woman’s touch. I have someone in mind, but it’s not going to be easy,” Archer said with a smile.

Sakura frowned and said, “Nee-san.”

Archer leaned down and gave her soft kiss. She looked up at him and he said, “Rin loves you more than you can think. She was always watching after you, you know.”

Sakura bit her lip and said, “Then why didn’t she save me, Archer?”

“Because Rin is Rin,” Archer said with a sigh, “She’s stubborn and trying to put up that magus front until it kills her or someone shatters it.”

She nodded her head, looking down until Archer reached up and stroked her cheek. She bit her lip and asked, “H-how do you feel about Nee-san, Archer? I heard some of the other Servants taunt you about it and . . .” She drew off with a sigh as she lightly curled her hands into fists on Archer’s chest.

Archer sighed and said, “My feelings for Rin are complicated. They will always be complicated. However some things are not meant to be, but at the end perhaps everyone is where they need to be with who they need to be with.”

“You love her,” Sakura said in a small voice as she clinched her eyes shut. But you’re with me. If you really wanted to be with her you would have fought for it.

“I’m sorry,” Archer said with a sigh, “But Sakura . . . you’re not a replacement for her. I think in the end . . .”

She looked up into his soft grey eyes and swallowed before stroking his hair back. She said, “In the end we’re with who we need to be with and where we need to be.”

“Exactly,” Archer said in a soft voice before stroking her hair back from her face.

Sakura smiled and continued to stroke his hair. She said, “You need to keep it like this.”

“Oh?” he asked tilting his head.

She nodded and said, “You don’t need to hide who you are or who you were, and . . . it looks a lot better.”

Archer grinned at that and said, “Done, then I have a request.”

She grinned at that and said, “Anything.”

“Grow your hair out,” Archer said as he lifted up a violet lock of hair and smelled it.

Sakura blinked and reached for her hair, letting the shoulder length strands run through her fingers. She bit her lip and remembered how her Grandfather wouldn’t let her keep it any longer than this due to the training. She had a feeling he would have wanted her with hair like Fujimura-sensei’s if Shinji didn’t have a habit of bruising her face on occasion.

An image came to mind of Rider’s glorious mane and how it blanketed around Archer in her apartment when they had tried to initiate sex then. She wondered what it would feel like to have her own hair fall around him like that, maybe not to that extent. Rin had always gotten complements of her own raven hair due to its thickness and length.

Sakura briefly wondered what it would be like to get that sort of attention. Or to see grey eyes light up every time large hands ran themselves through long violet strands. Flame brushed Sakura’s cheeks as she nodded as she continued to toy with her own hair. She said, “I’ve always wanted long hair like Nee-san’s or . . . well Rider’s hair is gorgeous but . . .”

“It’s ridiculous. One day it’s going to get caught up in her motorcycle and cause her to crash,” Archer said with a snort and a shake of his head.

Sakura smiled and said, “But . . . you’re right. We both need to see Nee-san. Later.”

Archer smirked as he rolled so he was on top of her, his eyes filled with smoldering heat. A gasp escaped parted lips as hard, hot length brushed against sensitive flesh. As his mouth came down to hers, Archer whispered, “Much later.”


******

After a rather eventful morning of lovemaking and napping, Archer made his way to the kitchen after taking a shower. The scent of omelets and other wondrous foods filled the air as well as the carbon char of burnt toast. Steam was whiffing out of the tea kettle, but the tea pot itself was left out with the box of tea leaves sitting beside it.

Sakura was standing there with her violet hair brushing against the black fabric of her borrowed shirt. Shapely thighs peeked out of the shirt to meet with graceful calves as the front of the shirt strained ever so slightly against nicely ample breasts. Sakura had his back to him and was looking at something in the sink.

He said, “You could have slept longer, I would have cooked.”

“Archer,” Sakura said in a soft voice as she looked up at him before pulling something out of the sink. She spun to face him with a sodden length of pink satin streaming from her palm. She looked up at him with wide eyes and held up the ribbon.

He crossed over to her and inspected the faded length of fabric. Rusty brown stains were gone, leaving only the faded pink color behind. “Good, the stains are out,” Archer said with a smile.

She looked up at him before throwing her arms around him. “Thank you, Archer. Thank you,” she said, her voice muffled by his chest.

He smiled as he wrapped his arms around her and replied, “I know it’s important to you. I didn’t want you to lose this too.”

She didn’t say anything but she squeezed him tighter. He held her and stroked her hair, laying a gentle kiss on the top of her head. She looked up at him with her misty amethyst eyes and said, “I love you.”

“Sakura,” Archer said as he held her tight, not able to say the words himself.

She looked up at him and said, “I . . . know you won’t say it right now, but I love you. I loved the person you were, and I love the person you are now. I love you for everything you’ve done, I love you for making me angry, I love you, Archer.”

“Sakura,” Archer said as he cupped her cheek and pressed his lips to hers. He parted her lips with ease and she was kissing him sweetly in return. He eased up from the kiss and looked down into her smiling face and bright eyes.

Words pricked his tongue as if they were the thousands of swords in his body. Thousands of images entered his mind, like her clinging to his hand while in execrating pain as Kotomine removed the worms. The stubborn line of a jaw as a small girl refused to leave. The same girl who came back no matter how hard he pushed her away.

This girl he couldn’t get enough of, if this morning had been any indication of anything.

Matou Sakura had saved him, gave him purpose and made him want to live.

He rested his forehead and hers and said, “Sakura, I love you too.”

Her grip around him was like iron as she hugged him tight. He rocked her back and forth until the tea kettle began to whistle. He opened his eyes and glared at it. “You know, that thing has been a real pain in the ass,” Archer grumbled. A loud rumbling from his mid section painfully reminded him he hadn’t eaten in almost twenty four hours.

Sakura laughed and said, “Come on, let’s finish breakfast. You need to eat.”

Mike1984
April 24th, 2011, 03:22 PM
Awwww....

This is really sweet....

Erlkonig
April 24th, 2011, 03:38 PM
*Worships Elf*

EricDagger
April 24th, 2011, 05:23 PM
First I went "Awww".
Then I went "oooh".
After that I went "yay".
Finally I went "Squee".

Kieran
April 24th, 2011, 06:43 PM
Awww - and yay! Sweetness is nice - and believable is even better. :)

Kratosirving
April 24th, 2011, 07:05 PM
Wow. Very touching, and I really like it. I'm really impressed. :D

Counterguardian
April 24th, 2011, 07:31 PM
Oh hello there...

amado
April 24th, 2011, 07:43 PM
yay, a nice update.

Elf
April 24th, 2011, 08:22 PM
. . . . Annndddd this means this story FINALLY HAS AN END IN SIGHT!

*Takes deep breath*. And this will be my longest, finished FSN fic. Ever.

RJL333
April 24th, 2011, 08:29 PM
. . . . Annndddd this means this story FINALLY HAS AN END IN SIGHT!

*Takes deep breath*. And this will be my longest, finished FSN fic. Ever.

Congratulations.

Mike1984
April 24th, 2011, 08:31 PM
Woo.

Although, I guess the end means no more updates, so maybe that should be "damn"....

EricDagger
April 24th, 2011, 08:45 PM
The problem with a good story. It has to end at some point. :'(

shiningphoenix
April 24th, 2011, 08:57 PM
So I guess it's better that it end with a conclusion rather than abruptly cutting off where the author finally gave up.

EricDagger
April 24th, 2011, 09:00 PM
That is a truely horrifying possibility never to be spoken of around fic addicts like myself.

lethum
April 24th, 2011, 09:36 PM
The problem with finished fics (of good quality) is that they're over. The problem with unfinished fics (of good quality) is that they aren't over.

Kratosirving
April 24th, 2011, 09:44 PM
That is a truely horrifying possibility never to be spoken of around fic addicts like myself.

Yes, because as we know, there is a no cure for a fic addict. They go and get their fics the moment you leave them alone.

*Rimshot*

Elf
April 24th, 2011, 09:45 PM
The problem with a good story. It has to end at some point. :'(

Well, then there's the excitement of the author moving onto something else . . .

Like Archer and Saber.

amado
April 24th, 2011, 09:49 PM
hmm. I havent seen a proper archer and saber fic yet.
im interested in that. :)

EricDagger
April 24th, 2011, 10:01 PM
Well, then there's the excitement of the author moving onto something else . . .

Like Archer and Saber.

I'm a Sakura fan myself so a "yay" to that but not a "YAY".

Elf
April 24th, 2011, 10:03 PM
hmm. I havent seen a proper archer and saber fic yet.
im interested in that. :)

It's part of the reason I'm doing it. Other than TypeWannabe no one else has written it, and there are a lot of people who are interested in it. While I am, at heart, a Rin/Archer shipper, Archer/Saber could be quite interesting.

Also, if you want to see what I can do with my own worlds and waiting for this to update check this out:
http://forums.nrvnqsr.com/showthread.php/441-Scream-Queen-%28Vol-1-Of-The-Law-Unto-Herself-Chronicles-%29
http://forums.nrvnqsr.com/showthread.php/330-SPF-Elf-s-Original-Novel


I'm a Sakura fan myself so a "yay" to that but not a "YAY".

Don't worry, Sakura's not going to get neglected. Also, if you want to see Sakura being cute, go read The Hound and the Blacksmith (http://forums.nrvnqsr.com/showthread.php?176-The-Hound-and-the-Blacksmith). See Sakura call Archer "Tsundere" see Lancer being awesome and bro.

EricDagger
April 24th, 2011, 10:12 PM
Don't worry, Sakura's not going to get neglected. Also, if you want to see Sakura being cute, go read The Hound and the Blacksmith (http://forums.nrvnqsr.com/showthread.php?176-The-Hound-and-the-Blacksmith). See Sakura call Archer "Tsundere" see Lancer being awesome and bro.

A good addict always has his hands in the stash before an offer is ever made. I started that already since I am a black hole for fics.

Elf
April 24th, 2011, 10:24 PM
A good addict always has his hands in the stash before an offer is ever made. I started that already since I am a black hole for fics.

LOL, but The Hound and The Blacksmith (http://forums.nrvnqsr.com/showthread.php?176-The-Hound-and-the-Blacksmith) is my non angsty fic. It's more fun and Urban Fantasy esque. Like if Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Dresden Files met Type-Moon. Also, I'm discovering just how much I love Lancer.

Still, thanks. It gives me a SQUEE and a happy when someone enjoys my work.

Altima of the Gates
April 24th, 2011, 10:43 PM
Still, thanks. It gives me a SQUEE and a happy when someone enjoys my work.

Then you'll like this. I can safely say I am completely satisfied with this fic. All good thing must come to an end though, but I can look forward to a lot more. I'll say the rest when I see the final wrap-up. But it is just a joy to read these installments. It's like crack.

Eveonder
April 24th, 2011, 10:43 PM
I enjoy your work. I'm an addict ._.

Makes me feel like a ArcherxSakura fanboy. I guess Archer can understand why HF!Shirou gave up his ideal. Mmm.. seeing ArcherxSaber will be interesting but it leaves a complicated feeling almost bittersweet to see the end of this fic approaching.

Mike1984
April 24th, 2011, 10:45 PM
Then you'll like this. I can safely say I am completely satisfied with this fic.

And I'll definitely have to second that, just in case Elf hadn't worked it out already. This is a wonderful fic, and Archer's interaction with Sakura in this chapter is just so sweet.

Hotako
April 25th, 2011, 02:05 AM
Yeah, Elf, you could finish Fate/Law, I've been waiting for an update for a while now! Not saying this isn't awesome!

Hoster
April 28th, 2011, 12:19 AM
This is a wonderful fic, and Archer's interaction with Sakura in this chapter is just so sweet. I second this statement.

Agailius
February 9th, 2012, 02:57 PM
I love this fanfic. I really do. It makes me squee (for obvious reasons) and... heave (for *ahem* other obvious reasons)

nitewind
February 9th, 2012, 06:39 PM
THREAD NECRO!!!!!!!!! Seriously, couldn't you have just sent Elf a pm?

Agailius
February 10th, 2012, 11:01 AM
Sorry, yeesh.

Mike1984
February 10th, 2012, 05:54 PM
Honestly, if it encourages Elf to come back and finish it, I'm not overly bothered....

Keyne
February 10th, 2012, 05:59 PM
Geez, first you kill the thread and then come back to rape the body... bad boiz

Agailius
February 21st, 2012, 11:40 PM
Geez, first you kill the thread and then come back to rape the body... bad boizI said I was sorry! I haven't been here for half a month--how am I supposed to know posting after so long was bad?

Imaginary
February 21st, 2012, 11:44 PM
I said I was sorry! I haven't been here for half a month--how am I supposed to know posting after so long was bad?

If its not on the first or second page, don't post. If it hasn't had an update/active discussion for a few days, don't post. If you are making a benign comment that serves no purpose or creates no new relevant discussion, don't post.

The post you just made could be considered a necro. Stop replying and just. don't. post!

Elf
February 22nd, 2012, 12:16 AM
If its not on the first or second page, don't post. If it hasn't had an update/active discussion for a few days, don't post. If you are making a benign comment that serves no purpose or creates no new relevant discussion, don't post.

The post you just made could be considered a necro. Stop replying and just. don't. post!

Now it's necroed again!

Ergast
February 22nd, 2012, 05:57 AM
Well, you could just continue it, now that it's still on the first page, Elf *staaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaare*

LunarLegend
February 22nd, 2012, 07:54 AM
She looked up at him and said, “I . . . know you won’t say it right now, but I love you. I loved the person you were, and I love the person you are now. I love you for everything you’ve done, I love you for making me angry, I love you, Archer.”


*Sniff* I think I have something in my eye...

expertus
February 22nd, 2012, 09:22 AM
Necroing is bad... very bad...

but

finding this fic because of nerco is good... really good...

please update this elf...

Keyne
February 22nd, 2012, 09:27 AM
Yes, keep raping the corpse, guys. You're doing fiiiii~~ne!

Mike1984
February 22nd, 2012, 09:31 AM
Well, if we keep going enough, maybe Elf will decide to put a stop to it by actually updating :p

RadiantBeam
February 22nd, 2012, 09:52 AM
Or she could just be amused by how we're keeping the thread alive.

Keyne
February 22nd, 2012, 09:57 AM
It's funny cuz no matter how hard you're gonna rape it, it won't respond. :3c

LunarLegend
February 22nd, 2012, 10:19 PM
Aw, crap. Now I feel double bad. [1] for thread necromancy (I was up until 6am reading trying to finish this) and now [2] I suffering guilt over orphaning my own projects.

Damned shame, too. I started to write a sequel to that RiderxCasterxSakura one, but now I don't know if I can imagine Sakura as being comfortable with sexual submissiveness :/

Mike1984
February 22nd, 2012, 10:28 PM
Damned shame, too. I started to write a sequel to that RiderxCasterxSakura one, but now I don't know if I can imagine Sakura as being comfortable with sexual submissiveness :/

Why not?

Forced submissiveness due to abuse and consensual submissiveness in a loving relationship are two very different things, psychologically speaking. Sure, some people might have difficulties with it, but then a lot of people who went through what Sakura went through would have problems with sex full stop, and she was perfectly OK with it.

Sakura's mental strength is such that I think she'd be quite OK with pretty much anything provided she knew she was safe and that they meant her no harm.

LunarLegend
February 22nd, 2012, 10:48 PM
Why not?

Forced submissiveness due to abuse and consensual submissiveness in a loving relationship are two very different things, psychologically speaking. Sure, some people might have difficulties with it, but then a lot of people who went through what Sakura went through would have problems with sex full stop, and she was perfectly OK with it.

Sakura's mental strength is such that I think she'd be quite OK with pretty much anything provided she knew she was safe and that they meant her no harm.


I'm just finding it hard to characterize Sakura as someone eager and excited about fun kinky sex with the mental image of Elf's Sakura who has massive self-image issues and takes a lot of coaxing into having sex with the same levels of intimacy seen with Archer here.

Agailius
February 23rd, 2012, 12:28 AM
...I'm not even certain it's safe for me to be here.

Fancy Face the First
February 23rd, 2012, 12:30 AM
Worry not, my good fiend.

I'm somewhat sure that Beast's Lair operates on a three strike rule. At least, I think so.

Mike1984
February 23rd, 2012, 05:44 AM
I'm just finding it hard to characterize Sakura as someone eager and excited about fun kinky sex with the mental image of Elf's Sakura who has massive self-image issues and takes a lot of coaxing into having sex with the same levels of intimacy seen with Archer here.

Well, the issue here doesn't seem to be so much "Sakura having sex" as "Sakura having enough self-worth to see herself as worthy of intimacy from Archer". Which wasn't helped one bit by her killing people. She seems fine in HF when she's having sex with Shirou (possibly due to the situation), and that, in turn, builds up her self-esteem.

In your story, presumably, the sex would come first, and then would be followed by the intimacy. Given that, Sakura is unlikely to feel "oh, I don't deserve this", any more than she did with Shirou, because it starts out as "just sex", and then they build up her self-esteem by showing that they care for her.


Worry not, my good fiend.

I'm somewhat sure that Beast's Lair operates on a three strike rule. At least, I think so.

Eh, what?

Agailius
February 23rd, 2012, 01:35 PM
Eh, what?
Er, I'm kinda the guy responsible for necroing the forum.

Keyne
February 23rd, 2012, 01:49 PM
Er, I'm kinda the guy responsible for necroing the forum.
How does it feel to rape a corpse? 83

Kotonoha
February 23rd, 2012, 02:02 PM
Worry not, my good fiend.

I'm somewhat sure that Beast's Lair operates on a three strike rule. At least, I think so.

I don't think we even have strikes. Otherwise I would have like fifty by now.

Agailius
February 23rd, 2012, 02:37 PM
How does it feel to rape a corpse? 83Awkward, confusing, and somewhat remorseful. Then again, I'm a newbie here, so that's how I usually feel.

wert1990
February 23rd, 2012, 05:09 PM
Just be glad you didn't do it on spacebattles.
The necro-flaming, that you cam see there is the worst I have seen.

@Keyne why raping the corpse. That was oviously necromancy, now we have something that is obviously quite alive, but missing its soul. Isn't this Beast's lair, home of the beeings that eat inocent new posters souls?

Keyne
February 23rd, 2012, 05:42 PM
@Keyne why raping the corpse. That was oviously necromancy, now we have something that is obviously quite alive, but missing its soul. Isn't this Beast's lair, home of the beeings that eat inocent new posters souls?
That's still a dead body being controled by magic. Thus, you're ravaging a corpse and you like it. 8)

NuitTombee
February 23rd, 2012, 05:51 PM
http://i.imgur.com/EMsojl.jpg

Agailius
February 24th, 2012, 01:48 PM
That's still a dead body being controled by magic. Thus, you're ravaging a corpse and you like it. 8)Does that mean I have necrophilia?

LunarLegend
February 25th, 2012, 04:21 AM
Does that mean I have necrophilia?


It's okay, Agailius. I have strange attractions to dead things, too!
http://arka_voltchek.pagesperso-orange.fr/perso/roa_copiep.png
Oh, Roa. I'd let you suck me dry!

I must ask, though - how will this story conclude? I have a feeling there's almost no tension left. Perhaps a final confrontation of the Tohsaka sisters? Or will Gilgamesh have to be slapped down? I'm not sure, the plot seems to be only a few paragraphs away from typing up nicely.

amado
February 25th, 2012, 06:03 AM
I must ask, though - how will this story conclude? I have a feeling there's almost no tension left. Perhaps a final confrontation of the Tohsaka sisters? Or will Gilgamesh have to be slapped down? I'm not sure, the plot seems to be only a few paragraphs away from typing up nicely.

apparently, elf already did finish the last chapter/s. its just that her computer broke down before she could upload the rest.

rajvir
February 25th, 2012, 01:21 PM
apparently, elf already did finish the last chapter/s. its just that her computer broke down before she could upload the rest.

Hopefully she retypes them sometime.

ItsaRandomUsername
February 25th, 2012, 01:30 PM
So much necroing in this thread.

/realizes the irony in this post

Agailius
February 27th, 2012, 02:25 PM
It's okay, Agailius. I have strange attractions to dead things, too!I had no idea I could be so perverted... Still, it's a Sakura fic, so I regret nothing. :neco_arc:

Keyne
February 27th, 2012, 02:55 PM
I had no idea I could be so perverted... Still, it's a Sakura fic, so I regret nothing. :neco_arc:
You're raping a dead Sakura. Don't let that disturb you.

Kotonoha
February 27th, 2012, 02:59 PM
Kinky.

Agailius
February 27th, 2012, 03:31 PM
You're raping a dead Sakura. Don't let that disturb you....Okay, now THAT is disturbing. I need to go see a psychologist. And see if they have an opening at the funny farm Anyone have a straight-jacket?

Impstar
May 11th, 2013, 02:02 AM
This is a fairly entertaining story. Will it be continued?


...Okay, now THAT is disturbing. I need to go see a psychologist. And see if they have an opening at the funny farm Anyone have a straight-jacket?

How do you rape a dead person? Unless their undead or something, they aren't aware enough to be unwilling (or willing for that matter).

Kuradora
May 11th, 2013, 02:20 AM
This is a fairly entertaining story. Will it be continued?



How do you rape a dead person? Unless their undead or something, they aren't aware enough to be unwilling (or willing for that matter).

Aw...
I was expecting a new chapter too...

amado
May 11th, 2013, 10:41 AM
This is a fairly entertaining story. Will it be continued?



How do you rape a dead person? Unless their undead or something, they aren't aware enough to be unwilling (or willing for that matter).

pro tip: do not necro(aka post) any thread that has been inactive for over 2 months. if you want to ask about the story, message the writer.

oh and ever heard of necrophilia?

Renko
October 22nd, 2013, 10:03 AM
wHY IS zOUKEN A dEAD aPOSTLE IN THE STORY? :3

kinlyki
October 22nd, 2013, 10:06 AM
First off, caps lock.

Second, I hate you necro's.

Altima of the Gates
October 22nd, 2013, 10:11 AM
To nip possible bitching in the bud: Renko, in case you missed the advice on the same page, if you have a question about the story months after the last post was made, ask the writer instead through PM, especially since this story is pretty much dead now.

Half a year necros made for superfluous questions aren't favored.

Arch-Magos Winter
October 22nd, 2013, 11:25 AM
>Think Elf might have updated
>Was going to ask her why this declared dead story and not Utopia, and enjoy the greatness
>Fucking necro'd by a newfag
Such is suffering

Altima of the Gates
October 22nd, 2013, 05:18 PM
I did not leave that message for additional input, stop.