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The bitter cold of the night bites into Matou Kariya’s skin through his tracksuit. His right eye opens, roused from his pain-riddled slumber—if you could call it that, the worms would never allow him a true peaceful night’s sleep—not only by that, but by something else; a prickling sensation along his nerves. If it had happened a year prior, he wouldn’t have paid it any mind.

Magecraft had nothing to do with him at that point—he’d left that world, it didn’t matter if he felt a spike of magical energy here or there. But now, now that he was in this war, in the heart of Fuyuki, he couldn’t ignore it; it was no longer a minor spark, but now a powerful surge, his senses to it augmented by his boosted magic circuits.

Mion river, he thinks to himself sluggishly, picking out each energy signature as they appear. Caster’s there… ah, and Saber and Rider. Lancer, too. And…

Kariya seizes up, clawing his way to a sitting position. He could feel it—he’d have to be more than half-dead not to, with that overwhelming magical energy.

Archer’s there, he thinks, mind already in a haze as he struggles to his feet. Which means…

“Berserker,” Kariya says, already limping his way out of the alleyway. Just calling to him was a strain, but he doesn’t care; Tokiomi is out in the open, finally, finally, and Kariya isn’t about to let this opportunity slip away. “Mion river.”

Kariya can feel Berserker stirring, roiling and making his way to the river ahead of him in spirit form. That’s just as well. As long as Kariya keeps a good enough hold on him, he doesn’t have to worry—Berserker can tear Archer limb from limb this time, and Kariya can finally get a goddamned answer out of Tokiomi.

The mental image of Kariya bringing that pompous bastard to his knees is a satisfying one, even if it causes the worms inside him to bring his blood to an intense, uncomfortable boil.

 

 

“Consider this an act of mercy, Kariya.”

The insects are thinning out. Blood seeps from the veins in his face, dripping down his chin and hitting the ground, mingling with the pools of blood already there. Matou Kariya tried mustering up more power, but between this and maintaining Berserker, he was torn. He could call off Berserker, but—no, no, he would lose, he wouldn’t, not against Tohsaka, of all creatures—!

Intensive Einascherung.

The next few moments are a special kind of hell, and the pain wrought from it is just edging beyond the consistent, endless pain from the worms. Kariya screams, clawing at his face, his stomach turning and clenching at the sound of his own flesh boiling. He screams his throat raw at Tokiomi, that he would kill him, kill Zouken, kill, kill, kill. He stumbles, hitting something. The railing. His weight is too much, he’s leaning over it too heavily, he can’t—

Kariya feels an extra pair of eyes on him, just for a moment, as the ground goes out from under him. He blacks out before he even hits the pavement below.

He can’t recall when, or how, or who, but Kariya slides briefly, partially into consciousness after the fire goes out. Someone pulling on his hair, lifting his face up. He whimpers, giving a full-body twitch—it feels good, please, more, more, the worms writhe inside him even now, bringing his blood back to that discomforting heat even in his state of semi-awareness.

His head is set down, not slammed. It can’t be Tokiomi. No, he’s too full of himself to think a job unfinished, too absorbed in his own bravado that Kariya’s fate is likely already an afterthought to him. As is, he’s not conscious enough to get angry at that—at most, he’s confused. Scared that some poor soul from the city has found him like this. He feels the compulsory need to hide, to apologize, but all he can manage is another whimper.

Kariya can feel himself being turned onto his back. He doesn’t have enough strength to open his eye, to see who it is. He wonders if it’s another wayward like him, crawling the streets, living day to day, never expecting to see tomorrow. If they’re trying to pick his pockets, they’re out of luck; Kariya has nothing on him, not a wallet, not even pocket change. He wonders if he’ll be killed for that.

There’s pressure against his stomach now, sudden. Whoever is there, they’re pressing their palm against him now. Kariya can feel a prickling, searing sensation ebbing from that hand, spreading through him. It’s almost soothing. Healing magecraft… a mage? It couldn’t be one of the other Masters, could it?

Those questions are quickly forgotten. That soothing feeling turns to agony, whipping the worms into a frenzy. Fresh meat for them to devour, mending flesh for them to chew on, it’s nearly worse than being burned alive. Flesh being mended, only to be gnawed away as fast as it regenerates, reopening wounds before they even finish closing. Kariya screams, tossing his head, hands grappling for purchase, only to find none.

“P—Plea—” he wails, not even knowing the words that bubble past his lips like blood, unbidden. “Nngh—Mm—aahhh!

He swears he can feel those fingers curling in against his sweater before they smooth out again. Kariya wonders what it means. Wonders if this is an act of God. Maybe it’s less God, and more fate—he can’t die here, he knows that well. If he dies now, Sakura will…

It’s her eyes, those sad, dead eyes that he sees before he slips back into unconsciousness.

 


 

Kotomine Kirei keeps his hand on Kariya’s stomach for a few moments more after he stops thrashing, his voice finally giving out. Those crest worms of his seemed to enjoy that impromptu forced healing as much as he did, tearing open the mended flesh on his burns all over again, even as Kirei healed them over. Again and again. He isn’t sure how long he spent just watching it happen, himself.

He’s breathing, at least, Kirei thinks to himself. For all that’s worth. He would’ve been better off if I’d left him to die.

But he couldn’t, not after watching him come that close to killing himself in that fight against his master. Kirei glances upward, towards the railing that Kariya had tumbled over. Is Tokiomi still up there? Would he come to check, to see if Kariya was just a splatter of blood and grime on the pavement? Would he see that his student was healing him, the very man he’d promised to kill? What would he think, then?

Kirei can feel his heart skip a beat. He shakes his head, looking back down at Kariya. What to do, now? Bring him back to the Matou house, surely? Or bring him back to the church? The former seemed the more logical of the two options. He had nothing more to do with Matou Kariya after this. Any prolonged contact with him while he was still working under Tohsaka was dangerous.

Strange, then, he thinks. Kirei loops his arms around Kariya’s waist, lifting him easily and slinging his prone body over his shoulder. That the latter is so tempting.

Under his arm, Kirei can feel Kariya tense, wheezing out a pained gasp. A shudder wracks Kirei’s frame at the sound.

A soul naturally seeks pleasure, whether consciously or not,” Archer’s words once again taunted him, teased him, urged him to look at the bigger picture. Though he wasn’t there, he could feel him, as if the King of Heroes was pressed against Kirei’s back, lips pressed to the shell of his ear. “He was the only one you had Assassin investigate thoroughly enough so that you could understand those circumstances… all due to your unconscious interest in him.”

Just how long has he been allowing himself to be tempted by him, Kirei wonders. How long has it been since that last mattered to him.

Kirei shakes his head again, falling into step. He could take Kariya back to the Matou house, and leave it at that. Let the Matou family deal with him. But…

Part of him didn’t want to leave things at that. He wanted to know more about this miserable man, hear things that he could only learn from the man himself. Kariya may not cooperate—but that, in itself, is exciting in its own way.

Excitement… a foreign concept to him, up until now. Perhaps for unjust reasons. But his curiosity outweighs his need to force himself into an acceptable, pure mold, one that his father would want him to be in—

Father, Kirei realizes. I can’t let him see Kariya. The panicked thoughts of a child bringing home a stray animal, perhaps. No—such things were beyond Kirei. If Risei saw that he was harboring one of the other Masters, he would ask questions, questions that Kirei is presently unable to answer.

He doesn’t know why he’d rather bring this man back to the church with him, rather than take him to his home. Selfishness? Curiosity? Is it the sickening fascination that one has with watching something lesser die, just to affirm their own mortality?

“… no,” Kirei says aloud, though he knows Kariya can’t hear him. “He needs further healing.”

Yes. That makes more sense, doesn’t it? He doesn’t know if his family will heal him upon his return—Kariya had a strained relationship with the Matou family, if he was dropped at their doorstep, then… as tantalizing as it would be to let them torture this poor man further…

You would rather see it yourself, Archer’s voice, the voice that he’s unknowingly branded into his mind’s ear crooned, You want a front-row seat to his day-to-day suffering. It’s too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Indeed. If Matou Kariya were to die now… that would be so boring. A tragic end to be sure, but not nearly as tragic as it could be. Why such a thing excites Kirei… it would have eluded him once. But he thinks, gradually, the answer he seeks is cresting the horizon, just barely coming within his line of sight. If he were to let this man go, the answer would be out of his reach for god knows how long.

Kirei purses his lips, wetting them with his tongue. Which side will win out, in the end? He wants to see it for himself—the answer that lies beyond him. Beyond whatever comes of bringing this man to the church, hiding him away, keeping him alive long enough to learn the why, the how, and the who. He only hopes his interest is not truly unfounded.

Instead of heading in the direction of the Matou house, then, Kirei turns on his heel and heads towards Fuyuki church.

With all the chaos still surrounding Caster’s monster, he slips away with relative ease. Any rabble he passes on the way easily overlooks him, in favor of the madness happening by the river. There’s a moment he feels conflicted; as a member of the church, allied with the Mage’s Association, he should be helping to cover this incident up.

But he doesn’t care. Not right now. Perhaps not ever, now that he thinks on it—if he had, it was for the sake of his father. His holy, pious, pure bastard of a father. Kirei scowls, tightening his hold around Kariya. Not this time—no, he would not allow his father’s worries cloud over his own desires.

His desires. He knows, for sure now, that these desires are his own. Not false ones, forced upon him by an outside party. Gilgamesh had only pointed it out—and thinking on it, Kirei knew it to be true. He had watched Kariya, observed him through Assassin’s eyes and ears. Watched him save Tohsaka’s daughter, listened to him reassure Tohsaka’s wife, far beyond what a mere friend would do.

Infatuated with a married woman, Kirei’s eyes flicked over to Kariya’s face. Loving her, knowing that she won’t love him back. Kirei wasn’t certain what love felt like, even now. He knew of grief—of course he did, after Claudia. But love… such a thing still escaped him.

Just recalling her name while his wounds were still so fresh made Kirei feel uneasy. He put her face out of his mind, though he knew it to be a fruitless endeavor.

As he walks up the road leading to the church, he feels Kariya twitch against him. He isn’t awake yet, but he is still alive. He’s still in poor shape, he knows that to be true—he will need another bout of healing once they’re in his study.

“You’re a strange man,” Kirei finds himself saying out loud. There’s no one else on the road, no one besides the two of them, and Kariya likely can’t even hear him. That’s fine. “Sacrificing so much for a family that doesn’t love you as much as you love them.”

Kariya groans softly. It’s an involuntary sound. Kirei continues.

“You’re firm in your resolve. But.”

Kirei draws near the church. He knows he shouldn’t go in through the front entrance with Kariya slung over his shoulder like this. He breaks from the path, heading for the back.

“It means nothing. The people you are fighting for do not appreciate you.”

He twists the knob of the back door, poking his head in before entering fully. Risei must be in his own study, struggling to keep up with the Mage’s Association and their near-constant demands. Kirei holds his breath, shutting the door behind him softly and quietly making his way down the hall.

But you don’t seem to care, Kirei thinks, brows furrowed. You don’t…

Kirei opens the door to his study as softly as he can, shutting it behind him just as softly. After a moment of consideration, he locks it as well.

The room is empty. Archer is still out by the river, it seems. He lets out a sigh, keeping his footsteps light as he brings Kariya over to the couch. Taking a knee, Kirei bumps Kariya off of his shoulder and lays him along the cushions on his back. Kirei can feel his own features going slack, lips parting as he stares down at him.

Kariya’s face is marred with those burns, still. He wonders if they would only worsen if he attempted to heal him again. I shouldn’t attempt it now, Kirei thinks. Not while father is still here.

Kirei lets out a sigh and sinks into his usual armchair next to the couch, tipping his head back and closing his eyes. His heart is still racing, even as he rests. He isn’t sure how much time passes as he sits there, listening to his own heartbeat, listening to Kariya’s shaky breathing. There’s a quiet murmur below, but Kirei can’t bring himself to care.

Father must be talking with someone, Kirei’s thoughts drift, aimless, a blessed silence he rarely finds himself afforded. He drifts, half-awake and half-asleep, letting his mind wander. Typically, his thoughts would stay quiet, blank; but thanks to Archer and his insistent urging to let go, to let himself just feel and think without hampering himself with the ideals forced upon him.

Let go. Feel. Kirei breathes in deeply.

He imagines Kariya waking from his troubled sleep, looking upon Kirei’s sleeping form. Kariya stands before him, clutching that useless arm of his, staring down at him.

What would his expression be? Confusion, relief, fear? Or something else, some formless emotion that Kirei can’t feel, can’t comprehend? Kirei imagines himself waking, meeting Kariya’s one working eye. He reaches out, touching the back of Kariya’s right hand. Slowly, he slides his palm into his, grasping Kariya’s hand firmly and pulling him closer.

Kariya flinches, lips parting, but he doesn’t move to flee, nor to push Kirei away. There it is, that confusion, that slight hint of trepidation, but more than that. The curiosity, the need to understand—

A gunshot rang out. Kirei sat up straight in his armchair, eyes snapping open, nostrils flaring with the sudden, terse breath that came to him. His head whips toward Kariya, feeling a hint of relief that he was still out like a light. He wants to stop and reflect on just what in the hell his mind was just conjuring up, but now doesn’t seem to be the time, if someone’s firing off weapons in the church.

Was that real, he wonders, blinking the film from his eyes, trying to regain his senses. Or was I imagining that, as well? This is a neutral zone, the other Masters are not permitted to…

He recalls the last time one of the other Masters attempted to have a familiar monitor the church. Not just anyone—Emiya Kiritsugu. Would he have dared to do something that bold, storming the neutral zone just to get at him?

The idea sends a pulse of heat through his veins. It’s unlikely, but just imagining it, adding that to everything else he’s been doing this evening… tonight may very well end up being the most indulgent that Kirei’s allowed himself to be, period.

Kirei heads for the door, but then he pauses, glancing back at Kariya. It’s a shame that Assassin is gone—he would feel more at ease, if he had someone to stay and look after him while he’s out. For the moment, he just has to be quick about checking for intruders and hope that Kariya won’t wake up while he’s gone.

 


 

A pulsating pain in his stomach rouses Kariya. That pain spreads from his stomach upward, to his abdomen, his chest, his neck, and his face—ah, that makes sense. Now that he’s awake, the worms are, too. But he can tell, gradually, that he’s not chained up in the worm room, or face-down in an alleyway. No, he’s lying on something soft for a change.

Letting out a low groan, Kariya opens his eye. His surroundings are blurry, but he can at least tell that he’s indoors—somewhere, he’s not sure on the location. He blinks, clearing his vision and clenching his teeth through the pain. Huffing through his nose, he turns his head, trying to get a better look at the rest of the room. There’s a table to his right, and two armchairs at each end of it.

Across the room is a desk. Kariya can’t tell what’s on it, his vision still foggy. It doesn’t help that the room is so dimly lit.

Where the hell am I, he shifts slightly on the couch, and immediately regrets it, a spike of pain shooting up his spine and whipping the worms into another frenzy. He shouldn’t move—can’t, really, in his condition. This isn’t the Matou manor. No one there would set me up on a couch, let alone one this nice.

All right, don’t think about the where, figure that out later, Kariya shuts his eye again, trying to focus. Focus on the how. What happened?

He remembers Tokiomi casting a spell that set him on fire. Not exactly the most pleasant of memories, but a start. What happened after that… he fell from the roof, and… blacked out.

“God damn it,” Kariya bites out, wishing he could use his left arm to slap his hand over his face. “Kariya, you useless idiot, think harder, the worms haven’t eaten your whole brain yet.”

Just most of it. Those brain cells he lost after passing out probably could’ve helped him, too. Damn it.

Didn’t someone find me? He probes, trying to pick out what he can from what little he recalls. Someone pulled my hair, turned me over, and… did something. It hurt… but… I felt…

His flesh was being healed, wasn’t it? Someone, probably a mage, found him and healed his burns. Or, at least tried to. The worms would’ve noticed and started eating away at the new flesh, impeding any sort of progress.

Whoever tried healing me must have been confused and brought me back to… wherever the hell this is, Kariya struggled to lift his right hand from where it dangled off the couch, feeling the worms wriggle under his skin at the slight movement. That’s probably what happened.

There’s a flash of magical energy nearby, so strong that Kariya can feel it rattle his bones and excite the worms in him. He can hear footsteps through the walls—though made of stone, noise seems to carry fairly well in this place. Footsteps, the sound of something being dragged… and then silence for a while. Kariya swallows the excess saliva in his mouth, straining to hear any other signs of life.

Shit. What if I got picked up by some lunatic? Kariya thinks. I’ll have to call Berserker or fight them off myself. With the state I’m in now… it’ll kill me for sure. And then… and then Sakura will—

The doorknob turns. Kariya lets out a breath, his only working eye staring wide at the door.

A tall, dark haired man walks in, his eyes devoid of life. His cheeks are wet, redness rimmed along the tan skin of his cheeks. His right hand is twitching, as if discomforted. A rosary dangles around his neck—someone from the church.

The Overseer, then? I thought he’d look older… Kariya feels the weight ease a little from his chest. Not completely, but partially. It was common knowledge that the Church and the Tohsaka family have a long history with one another, so he can’t help but feel suspicious. But… why did he… and why does he look like he’s been…

The man turns his eyes toward Kariya. His lips part on a sudden, quiet breath, as if he wasn’t expecting him to be awake so soon. He’s quick to shut the door behind him, but he doesn’t move otherwise, just standing there staring at him. Like his being awake has thrown off everything he had been planning on saying.

“I…” he says, his voice deep and rich, like the ringing of the very bells of the church. “Thought you would still be unconscious for some time, Matou Kariya.” He says it slowly, as if he’s still affirming this fact to himself.

“How do you—” Kariya almost asks, just on impulse. He stops himself, however, realizing how ridiculous that question would be. He continues, not without struggling for breath. “No, you’re… the Overseer of the Grail War… right?”

The man pauses before speaking again. “Kotomine Kirei.”

It isn’t an answer to his question, but Kariya finds himself too exhausted and strung-out to press, at least not right now. The man calling himself Kirei seems a bit out of it, himself—at least they’re on the same page in that regard. “Where are we? This place, it’s…”

“Fuyuki church,” Kirei says simply, still frozen in place by the door. “I brought you here after finding you collapsed in a back alley.”

Kariya blinked his one eye, feeling his brows pinch. “But why? Masters are… they’re supposed to get hurt and killed, it’s a war, after all… why would you…”

“I…” Kirei says, looking out of sorts, his hands clenching and releasing rhythmically. He takes another long pause, eyes sliding away from him. Kariya watches his Adam’s apple bob as he swallows.

“You were in need of healing,” Kirei finally says, still not meeting Kariya’s eye. It seems breaking eye contact with him brings back his ability to walk, because he’s quick to move over to his desk now that he’s not looking at him. “And I healed you. That’s all.”

He states it so simply, it brooks no argument. But Kariya can’t help but feel odd. After the long year of constant backlash and torture from Zouken, a genuine act of kindness seemed beyond him, seemed like something that wouldn’t be afforded to him as long as this war was going on.

Now that it’s happened, that someone’s actually paid him enough mind to actually help him… Kariya doesn’t know what to think. Especially considering this man more than likely has some connection to the Tohsaka family, if the rumors about the Tohsaka and the Holy Church are true. Turning his head away from Kirei, Kariya lets out a pained sigh.

“Well, I…” Kariya struggles with his words. He has half a mind to tell this man that it’s pointless, that it’s only a matter of time before the worms finally take their toll on him. But this is the first kind thing that anyone’s done for him in over a year; though he’s riddled with vermin and pain, Kariya still at least remembers his manners.

Softly, he says, “… thank you.”

 


 

Kirei freezes for a split second. Slowly, his gaze moves from the papers he’d been (somewhat mindlessly) sorting through, letting it wander back over to the disheveled former Matou heir. To his relief, Kariya was no longer looking at him, his head turned to look up towards the ceiling.

“It’s been a while since anyone’s done something like this for me,” Kariya continues, his tone firm. “And I didn’t want to just… overlook that. So really and truly, thank you. But I’m not brain-dead yet. You don’t have any reason to save any of the Masters unless they ask for sanctuary—which I haven’t. Whatever you want me for, you can just f—”

Standing abruptly, Kirei sends his chair clattering against the wall. Kariya stops, his head whipping around to look at him again—followed by a pained groan, the lesions on his face bulging and squirming.

But then something odd happens. Kirei had expected him to writhe in agony, yes, from what little he’d gathered about him. However, that isn’t the extent of what happens to Matou Kariya.

His eye glazes over, splashes of color lighting up his sickly complexion. The way Kariya is looking at him now—it isn’t suspicion or relief, or even fear. In that eye of his, Kirei sees… hunger. Though Kirei knows himself to be a fundamentally passionless man, even he can recognize that kind of hunger.

“D—Damn… it,” Kariya’s voice has dropped an octave and taken on a strange edge. He sounds out of breath, as if he’s just finished running down to Miyama town and then back up to the church several times over. Sweat lines his brow and his hairline, and his right arm has started shaking. He grabs a fistful of his track pants, as if he’s trying to keep himself still.

“Don’t—don’t look at me, priest,” Kariya whines, trying to force his body onto its side, away from Kirei. “I—I can’t—shit, I’m sorry, don’t take… anything I say… seriously—hnngh, god.

Kirei says nothing, just watches. He opens his mouth once, about to ask him what on earth has gotten into him, but he quickly shuts it once he spots Kariya’s right hand inching lower down his own thigh.

“F… Fuck,” Kariya grunts, his hand sliding between his legs—Oh, Kirei realizes, eyes darting down to the inconspicuous tent in Kariya’s track pants, he’s aroused—and rubbing frantically, his entire body jolting at the touch. He starts panting heavily, his voice rising to a fever pitch. “You healed me, back there—I thought—I thought I was gonna die, but then I felt your hand on me, fuck, I want you to touch me again, I want you to pull on my hair again, pull my hair and bend me over and fuck me raw until I can’t breathe, fuck me till I cry, fuck me till I can’t think straight, shit—

Kariya continues on like that, jerking himself off through his clothes while rambling near-incoherently. Without realizing it, Kirei starts moving around his desk towards Kariya, as if entranced.

Kirei grabs at Kariya’s right wrist, wrenching his hand away from himself. Kariya lets out a loud, whimpering moan, drool spilling down his chin as he looks up at Kirei. He babbles more, fuck me, fuck me please, I can’t take it anymore, the worms, please, spread me open and wreck me, but Kirei pays none of it any mind.

Instead, he cocks his other arm back, fingers spread, and jams it against Kariya’s stomach. A soft green glow ebbs from his palm, the magic spreading through Kariya’s body.

“Thrashing around like this will only reopen your wounds,” Kirei says, his tone oddly soft to his own ears. “Calm down and sleep after this.”

Kariya lets out a scream, throwing his head back against the couch. His hips twitch up, desperately seeking out the friction that he’s being denied. “More, more, holy fuck, yes, yes—just like that—ah, aah, aaahhhh!

He cums like that, with Kirei’s hand against his stomach and his arm held above his head. His right eye shuts, lips pursing around an ever louder stream of curses and pleas as he stains the dark fabric of his pants. Soon enough, he calms down, sinking heavily down into the cushions. His breaths hiss out of him, shaking, his entire body trembling under Kirei’s hands.

The healing doesn’t take long after that. The worms have all but stopped moving under Kariya’s skin, seemingly sated by his release. That’s just as well; it makes the healing more potent, now that the worms aren’t impeding his efforts.

Kirei sets Kariya’s arm down, lying it against his chest. His breathing has evened out, now that he’s passed out. He gives a cursory glance down towards Kariya’s ruined pants, nose wrinkling. Even his hospitality will only go so far—if he’s sleeping fine now, he doesn’t need to strip him.

Lifting his hand, Kirei stares down into his own palm. His brain kicks back into gear, having whited out somewhere along the line. He was operating on instinct alone that entire time, not stopping to think about his actions, just acting.

“What,” he says, feeling a bead of sweat roll down the back of his neck. “Was that?

Clearly, the Matou crest worms did far more than just eat away at their host. Though he’s having trouble coming up with a justifiable reason for them to incite that kind of reaction in their host. Sexual activity stirs up mana, he thinks. Though it’s strange that he reacted in that way just because I stood up suddenly.

His gait slow and heavy, Kirei walks back over to his desk, sitting down and burying his face in his hands. He needed to call Tokiomi to tell him about Risei, still, but he’s oddly winded.

He’ll wait until after his blood cools to call him. He hopes Kariya stays unconscious for that.

Chapter Text

“Does your father’s death truly arouse no feeling in you?” Archer says from behind him, his smile bleeding into his words. “He was killed, after all. You could at least try to look a little sad.”

Kirei did not turn to look at him, knowing how dangerous it would be to make eye contact with the snake. It wouldn’t be wise, especially considering just how close by Tokiomi still is—just beyond that door, a few steps away.

“I am,” Kirei replies, though he doesn’t move—even if he wanted to, he finds himself unable to take another step. “I am frustrated to no end.”

“Oh, surely you are,” Gilgamesh laughs lightly, his voice washing over Kirei in waves. He need only speak a few words, and Kirei could feel himself succumbing to that formless contentment that always comes when he’s speaking with the King of Heroes. “But I wonder if that’s all. You seem a tad distracted, as well… as if there’s something else on your mind, that outweighs even the death of your father.”

Kirei felt his brow twitch. Gilgamesh has a way of sounding like he knows more than he lets on, and it’s rather grating. “Meaning?”

Gilgamesh’s voice comes in close now, though Kirei does not move to face him still. “Could it be you’ve found a new toy to play with while I wasn’t looking, Kirei? I wonder if we will be alone the next time I stop by.”

He knows, Kirei thinks, feeling himself grow tense. He hopes and prays that Tokiomi isn’t listening, because he isn’t certain he can take an extra headache. I don’t know how, but he knows. Why must he bring it up here, of all places—

“I’m interested in meeting that mad dog’s Master face to face,” a voice in his ear now, lips grazing his skin. “Kotomine Kirei.”

Before Kirei can get a word in edgewise, Archer returns to his spirit form and vanishes in a shower of golden light, leaving Kirei to struggle to catch his breath. Swiping a hand over his face, he takes in a deep breath, continuing down the hall.

He only had until later that afternoon to check on Kariya. Tokiomi is getting restless, even stooping so low as to ask the Einzberns for an alliance. It can only go poorly, Kirei has already decided; knowing that homunculus serving as Saber’s keeper, an alliance will be out of the question as soon as she sees Kirei standing next to Tokiomi.

She may even want him killed, or removed from the Holy Grail war all together. He supposes he can’t blame her. Though it’s troublesome, he knows it to be so, Kirei… isn’t worried. If anything, this gives him a grand opportunity.

To rid himself of Tokiomi once and for all. To get that much closer to finding the answer he’s been seeking. However… there is one wrench in that plan.

Matou Kariya.

Perhaps that, too, can be worked around, Kirei pushes through the front door of the Tohsaka manor, the morning wind kissing against his cheeks. His animosity for Tokiomi could work in my favor, if I manage to keep a clear head… but first, I will have to ensure that his mind is not entirely lost.

Those worms were both a blessing and a problem. A blessing because watching Kariya writhe fills Kirei with a strange sort of warmth. A problem because he won’t have much longer to toy with him, if he allows the worms to devour him completely.

Fuck me,” Kariya says, squirming against the couch cushions. “Please, priest—Kirei, I need it, I want you so bad—ahh—” He threw his head back, pursing his lips against a moan.

What are you waiting for, Kirei?” Archer is there now, too, kneeling at Kariya’s side, his hand grasping at his chin tightly. “Show me that interest of yours. I want to see it, and so does he. And if you’re good, I might just give you something, myself.”

Kirei knocks his knuckles against the gate as he reaches for it, the pain sending shock waves up his still-tingling right arm. His imagination has been a little too active lately, conjuring images like that, continuations to events that he’d really rather not conceptualize.

Blasphemy may have been a concern of his before. He didn’t care much for that fact now, though, and instead of reeling in disgust at such thoughts, Kirei can only find himself exasperated that they couldn’t wait until he was back at the church.

Rubbing his knuckles absently, Kirei continues down the road. He hopes Kariya hasn’t woken yet.

 


 

A crack runs down Berserker’s helmet. Kariya, held up by both his hands, feels himself throb at the sight of his true face.

Framed with long, dark hair, if he’d been summoned normally, he would’ve been astoundingly handsome. But now, it’s twisted by madness and rage, his teeth brought to a razor sharp point and his eyes bulging, twitching incessantly. Kariya feels his heart clench up in fear, but something else—something strange—grips him, too.

He had summoned him as a Berserker at Zouken’s behest. He hadn’t considered what it would do to the Servant he was giving the Madness Enhancement to—hell, all he’d been concerned with was Sakura, to hell with everyone else. But he feels… an overwhelming sadness at the words he’d spewed, words that were as eloquent as they were hateful. He didn’t summon Berserker to make a friend or bond for life, but as heat floods his veins, so too does a sudden sense of passion.

Releasing his hold on Berserker’s wrist, Kariya reaches out. Gently, he cups Berserker’s face, watching his features falter at the tender touch from an otherwise stand-offish Master.

You gave into love, and it destroyed you. No wonder I summoned a Servant like you,” Kariya’s thumb swept over the pinched swell of his cheek, feeling Berserker’s grip on his throat loosen. “Lancelot.”

The uttering of his true name brings light to his eyes. Perhaps it’s here, and here alone, that Lancelot du Lac can truly manifest as the proud, chivalrous knight he once was. Lancelot releases Kariya’s neck, his hands moving to cup his Master’s face, mirroring Kariya’s action.

My… Master,” Lancelot grinds out, through the veil of madness. His voice is a deep grunt, framed around an anguished gurgle. Tears budded at the corners of his eyes, his entire frame beginning to shake now that his anger had no outlet, now that his rage was bleeding back into sorrow. “I…”

Kariya pulls him close, pressing Lancelot’s face into his bare neck. “I know.”

Lancelot shudders against Kariya, and then, given his Master’s wordless assent, he sinks his teeth into Kariya’s neck.

 

 

With a jolt, Kariya wakes, feeling the worms leisurely eating away at him. It’s not as frenzied as normal, but it still hurts like hell, enough to rouse him. He tries calming down, but to no avail. Gritting his teeth, Kariya swipes a hand over his forehead, his palm coming away drenched in sweat.

Where… oh right, Kariya’s thoughts come to him slowly. Fuyuki church. That priest brought me here after healing me, and I…

The rest of the previous night came rushing back to him. He looks down to see the dark stain at the front of his pants, and Kariya feels his face turn hot. He tries not getting worked up, but the things he said, the things he did in front of a man he’d only just met—

“Oh my god, kill me,” Kariya says out loud, covering his eyes. “It had to happen right then, didn’t it, for fuck’s sake—ugh.”

There’s a few reasons why Kariya doesn’t like staying at the Matou house; one being that, aside from Sakura—who he doesn’t want to see him like this—no one likes him. The feeling is very much mutual there. Another is the worms; as it seems that eating him alive isn’t enough, sometimes, in between bouts of pain, he gets hit with a wave of overwhelming lust.

That old bastard, Kariya grits his teeth, hissing through them. He was probably hoping I’d embarrass myself like this at some point.

Kariya thanks his lucky stars that the priest seems to be out, because he isn’t sure he could look him in the eye after that. Though, that brings up a good question—why is he feeling leagues better than he did before? Usually after those bouts of arousal, Kariya feels remarkably worse, that much closer to his inevitable death.

“Don’t tell me healing works best when I’m like that,” Kariya grumbles to himself. “I’d sooner die.”

“You will, if this keeps up.”

Kariya just about jumps, shooting up to a sitting position at the sudden voice. Standing in the door is Kirei, regarding him with those blank eyes of his. Kariya can’t meet his gaze, opting instead to stare at the top of his head. A spike of pain goes up his spine at the sudden movement, but Kariya bites down on the groan that threatens to escape him.

“Y—You’re back…” Kariya says, his voice cracking. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

Kirei lets out a soft huff, coming in the rest of the way. He sits behind his desk, propping his elbows up on the surface and bridging his hands, looking at Kariya over his entwined fingers. “I did not expect you to be awake so soon. Your wounds were quite severe. And yet, I can see that the burns on your face have healed over entirely.”

Blinking in surprise, Kariya lifts his hand to touch at his face. Aside from the usual protrusions, the skin there was normal, completely healed. “They are… I didn’t…”

“But you’re not completely healed yet, correct?” Kirei presses, his voice even. “You were burned from head to toe.”

Kariya looks back towards Kirei, eye narrowed. “You didn’t check me while I was out, did you?”

“Of course not.” Kirei scoffs. “I find it surprising that you would accuse me of such a thing, given your own conduct. You are aware that you are in the house of God, are you not?”

Feeling his cheeks burn anew, Kariya’s expression breaks back into embarrassment. Swallowing thickly, he combs a hand through his hair. What the hell is he supposed to say? Sorry I started jerking off in front of you? Or, even better, Apologies for desecrating your holy church with my worm-fueled horndogging, Father? No matter what he says, it’s going to come out awkward.

But the priest is looking at him intensely, expecting an answer out of him. Letting out a groan, Kariya reluctantly meets his eyes. “I’m really, awfully sorry that you had to see that, Father Kotomine. I, uh… can’t exactly control when that happens. But still, I didn’t intend to bring any disrespect to the church, or to you, for the. You know.”

Kirei raises an eyebrow at him. Shit. Does that mean he wants Kariya to elaborate? No, no, please god. “Um… when I said those things to you, they were… I… I wasn’t in my right mind, and you were the only other person here, I… god, please don’t make me say anything more.”

There’s an odd little smirk on Kirei’s face now, and Kariya doesn’t know how to feel about it. “No need to worry, Matou Kariya. All is forgiven. After all, you prefaced everything with do not take what I say seriously, so I had an inkling that you were not in control of yourself.”

A sigh so heavy leaves him that Kariya almost deflates along with it, the relief washing over him in waves. “Thank you for understanding. It’s… I mean, you have eyes, you can probably see I’m… riddled with parasites.”

Kirei stands up—slowly this time, Kariya notices—and walks over to him, sitting down in the armchair to his right. “I had been meaning to inquire about that. Is it a preexisting condition?”

Under normal circumstances, Kariya would feel the need to tell him to mind his own business. But the poor guy watched him cum while he screamed for more, so he feels he at least owes him more of an explanation. “Not exactly. Well, kind of. I was implanted with several crest worms about a year ago, and on occasion, just eating me isn’t enough for them…”

“Crest worms?” Kirei raises both eyebrows this time. “That’s…”

“Yeah, sounds pretty nasty, right?” Kariya flops back down onto the couch, feeling too strung-out to care much about staying upright, or about keeping the Matou family’s secrets. “That’s the Matou family for you. I’m sure you’ve heard rumors about their magic, but the truth’s a lot uglier.”

Kirei leans forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. He bridges his hands once more, resting his chin atop his knuckles. Kariya wonders if he’s shifting to a more comfortable position because of him—that rigid posture didn’t last long, that’s for sure.

“Isn’t the Matou family magic meant to be secret?” Kirei asks. Kariya swears he can hear an odd tone of delight in his voice when he next speaks, “You are the heir apparent to the family, are you not?”

Kariya laughs, a humorless, nasty sound. “Yeah, right. I couldn’t have gotten the hell out of that shithole faster—I couldn’t give less of a damn about spilling the secrets about their devil’s magic. I’m not fighting for their sake, anyway.”

He isn’t sure why he’s so talkative with this man. Being left on his own all this time, having no one to talk to aside from Berserker (and let’s face it, he’s not much for conversation anyway)… he didn’t realize it before now, but Kariya had gotten very lonely. During times like these back when he was on the road for his job, he could at least call Aoi, but this time… it’s out of the question.

Like it or not, Kotomine Kirei is talking to him. Listening to him. And he isn’t berating him or belittling him, like Zouken or Byakuya would. It provides him with the positive interaction he’d been missing these last few weeks.

But it’s still… Kariya feels himself grow tense all over again. What if the rumors are really true, and he’s…

“Mind if I ask you a question, Father?” Kariya says without stopping to think hey, maybe phrase it a little less hostilely, idiot. He can’t help himself; just thinking that this man had any kind of connection with Tokiomi put a bad taste in his mouth.

If it’s true, he may very well end up dead before he can reach the Grail.

 


 

Kirei finds himself a bit surprised by Kariya’s sudden shift in attitude. And he was thinking that he’d had him in the palm of his hand this whole time… seems like the other man is a bit sharper than he thought.

“Certainly,” Kirei answers, tilting his head to the side just slightly. “What is troubling you?”

Kariya squints at him, his mouth drawn into a tight line. “Is it true that the Holy Church is in league with the Tohsaka family?”

Far sharper than I thought indeed, Kirei does his best not to react outwardly, but he still feels himself stiffen a bit. And quick to the point. He will not trust me if I tell an obvious lie. And if I do lie… and Archer happens to come knocking… it will be messy.

Kirei sighs. “Yes. It is true. My father, Kotomine Risei, and Tohsaka Tokiomi entered an agreement before the start of the Holy Grail war, and I have been cooperating accordingly… to a point.”

As Kirei had anticipated, Kariya scowls, sitting up and leaning away from him. It makes Kirei feel strange, and not in a good way. He hoped that the to a point would have eased Kariya’s worries, but it doesn’t look like that worked.

“Then I have a follow-up,” Kariya says, his tone sliding lower. His right hand balls into a fist, his shoulders shaking with the effort. “Why did you save me, really? Are you going to hand me over to Tokiomi?”

Now what? Kirei finds himself clenching his jaw. If I don’t think of something quickly, he’s sure to summon Berserker and have me killed. I don’t want that, not now. I still haven’t…

“No,” Kirei’s lips move on their own, giving voice to instinctive thought. “I wanted to save you because I did not want you to die.”

Though Kirei is about to take it back and try to elaborate, it seems like that worked better than anything else. Kariya’s eyes softened, his hand uncurling slowly as he gradually relaxes—not out of relief, but sheer shock, as if he hadn’t been expecting an answer like that. He doesn’t speak, leaving Kirei to continue.

“My father was killed in this very church by one of the other Masters,” Kirei says, feeling a cold spike of rage shoot down his spine at the memory. “As the new Overseer of this war, I am merely exercising more proactive means in carrying out my duty.”

Kariya grits his teeth, the left side of his mouth opening slightly. “Even so, that doesn’t change the fact that you’re working with the Tohsaka family. Or are you telling me that, in saving me, you’re even willing to—”

A hearty laugh cuts him off, and Kariya jolts at the interruption. Kirei doesn’t have to guess to know who that laugh belongs to.

“How shrewd,” Croons that new voice, echoing slightly as its owner manifests. Archer appears behind the couch, his arms resting on the frame as he regards Kariya with the same look a predator gives its prey. “That you’ve allowed him to wander down the path of your own mind, Kirei. And in my spot, no less.”

Kariya all but jumps, making that the second time today. Kirei is quick to stand, reaching out to brace Kariya’s body before it can completely tumble off the couch. He does it without thinking, again. Gilgamesh saunters around to the front, moving to sit down with no regard for Kariya’s legs. Kirei takes care of this too, moving Kariya’s limp left leg to bend and give the King of Heroes room to sit.

He’s given a brief look by Kariya, a look that Kirei can’t quite name. It’s an odd mix of scandalized and grateful—Is there a word for that, Kirei wonders.

“An open act of fraternization and betrayal to my Master,” Gilgamesh says airily, leaning back and crossing one leg over the other. He tips his head back, eyeing Kirei’s strangely thoughtful actions with a cocked eyebrow. “All because of this stray mongrel you’ve picked up… I’m in awe, Kirei.”

Kariya, thankfully, is speechless at Archer’s sudden appearance, as well as just how at home he is in Kirei’s presence.

“Archer,” Kirei says, disengaging from Kariya after a breath. “Are you really so surprised?”

Gilgamesh smirks to himself, clearly pleased that he’s been let in on this particularly dangerous secret. “Maybe a bit, Kirei. I never thought you would be so proactive in seeking out real pleasure,” he turns attention back to Kariya, meeting his eyes. Kariya is still shocked silent, sweat lining his brow. “Aren’t you lucky, mongrel?”

Closing his mouth, Kariya is quick to break eye contact with Gilgamesh, looking back up towards Kirei. “Uh…?”

“Archer has been paying me visits like this for some time now,” Kirei gives, his voice startlingly calm to his own ears. “Pay him no mind, he is only here for my wine stores.”

“Come now, give me more credit than that!” Gilgamesh says, holding a hand to his chest in mock-hurt. “I come for your company as well, don’t I?”

Kirei gives him a blank look, which only seems to amuse Gilgamesh more, a deep chuckle rumbling from his throat. For all that banter, Kariya still doesn’t seem satisfied with the answer.

“No, I—I mean, yeah, I guess that’s… good to know,” His eyes dart back towards Gilgamesh for a split second. He seems further unsettled by Gilgamesh’s half-lidded look of smug satisfaction. “But no, I mean, what’s he talking about when he says pleasure?”

“Oh Kirei,” Gilgamesh answers for him, looking up at Kirei with pitying eyes. “Don’t tell me you haven’t done anything with him yet?”

Kirei narrows his eyes, feeling his ire ripen at that. He tries offering Kariya the closest thing he can manage to a sympathetic look, but he’s certain it doesn’t look much different from his usual blank stare. “I would appreciate it if you did not make such sinister implications on my behalf, Archer.”

Rolling his eyes, Gilgamesh turns his full attention to Kariya, leaning towards him over the couch. He braces a hand on Kariya’s left knee. “Come now, mongrel, surely you’ve—ah, I see… you’re shy, aren’t you? Swept off your feet by a handsome man of God, you, looking as wretched as you do… you need not worry, he is as passive a lover as they come. Though I intend to change this, so try not to get used to it.”

Kariya looks like a fish out of water the longer this goes on. Kirei pinches the bridge of his nose and lets out a sigh. “We’re getting off topic, Archer. You were about to berate me for fraternization or some such.”

“Aha, yes. Well, berate may be too strong a word.” Gilgamesh releases his hold on Kariya’s knee (to Kariya’s extremely evident relief, if the sigh he lets out is anything to go off of) and leans back, eyes back on Kirei. “But I’m sure you already know that Tokiomi will not be pleased, should he learn that you’ve scraped the mad dog’s Master off the pavement and secreted him away in the neutral zone.”

Kirei let his eyes wander to Kariya, seeing how his face instinctively pinches into displeasure at the mention of Tokiomi’s name. “I am aware, Archer,” Kirei says, his tone smooth. “And he shall not learn of it.”

Gilgamesh raises his eyebrows at that, but that brief look melts back into his usual smugness, his head tipping up, challenging. “Oh, he won’t? You know, I could very well let it slip to him… a happy accident… and then he would have me come and finish the job. How, pray tell, are you going to prevent that from happening?”

“But you won’t,” Kirei folds his arms behind his back, staring down into Gilgamesh’s eyes with cool detachment. “Such petty things are beneath the King of Heroes, are they not?”

Kariya squirms a bit where he’s sitting, looking like he wants to be anywhere but here at this very moment. Kirei can’t help but watch from the corner of his eye, his blood coming to a simmer at the sight. He flinches at the boisterous laugh that Gilgamesh lets out then, and again when he falls back against the couch, clutching his stomach.

“Aren’t you a bold one, Kirei!” Gilgamesh says in between fits of laughter, one hand smoothing up into his own golden locks to try and calm himself. “Yes, it’s true—there’s nothing in it for me, if I report this. What Tokiomi does not know won’t kill him… though, I’m sure that your pet mongrel here would desire nothing more, yes?”

Even when he isn’t looking at him directly, Kirei can see the way Kariya’s hackles raise. Before Kariya can say something that will get him killed, Kirei says, “Your jokes leave much to be desired, King of Heroes.”

With a soft huff, Gilgamesh stands up, walking towards the cabinet next to his desk, where he knows Kirei keeps his wine. Kirei lets out a sigh, his eyes back on Kariya now. The disgraced Matou heir is in poor spirits, scowling to himself and drawing his hood up and over his head.

An idea suddenly occurs to Kirei. He doesn’t particularly want to try healing Kariya while Gilgamesh is in the room—God only knows what would happen if Kariya got worked up again—but he also knows he won’t leave if asked. Kirei breathes in through his nose, and catches a whiff of Kariya’s track suit, now that the hood is up.

“Matou Kariya,” Kirei leans forward, getting Kariya’s attention back on him. “I presume it’s been some time since you’ve bathed.”

 


 

Kariya feels about ready to summon Berserker and let him tear this entire church to the ground, at this rate. It’s bad enough that Tokiomi’s Servant is here, and obnoxious, and was he hitting on him just then with the hand on his bum knee or was he just imagining it, and now the priest is implying that he stinks.

Actually no, he’s not implying it, he’s just saying it. Kariya glowers, “I’ve been living on the street for the last few weeks, and no, I couldn’t get anyone to let me use their place without them asking questions.”

The priest arches an eyebrow at him. “You could have used magecraft to that end. Simple hypnosis isn’t beyond you, is it?”

Turning to glare at him, Kariya scoffs. “I’m not like other mages. I won’t use magic on innocent people for something that inane.”

Kirei gives him a look before offering him his hand. “In that case, come with me. You may use the bath we have here in the rectory. I can use that opportunity to heal you further.”

So not only is he telling him that he stinks, he’s also offering to bathe him, like he’s some kind of old bastard that can’t take care of himself. That’s what this is, isn’t it? He’s pitying him. If what Tokiomi’s Servant says is true and Kirei’s only brought him in as a ‘pet,’ then he must have only rescued him out of pity.

“I can wash myself just fine,” Kariya swings his right leg off the couch, having to nudge his left along with it. He avoids looking Kirei in the eye. “Just show me where it is and I’ll handle the rest.”

“I do not doubt that you can,” Kirei insists, his hand still outstretched. “But I still wish to aid you.”

It still doesn’t sound like a good idea but, really and truly, Kariya wants nothing more than to get the hell out of here, away from Archer. At least Kirei isn’t nearly as obnoxious and prone to laughing at his own jokes—if this guy even has a funny bone in his body, Kariya thinks.

Heaving a sigh, Kariya takes Kirei’s hand, feeling his stomach clench as Kirei hardly even shifts in place with Kariya’s added weight pulling at his arm. “You don’t want to see me naked, I can tell you that much right now.”

“Given what you’ve already shown me,” Kirei says, his face blank and his tone monotonous. “I think that seeing you naked is rather low on the list of things that should concern you.”

The entire room falls silent. Kariya feels the worms starting to pick up speed in their once-leisurely pace, now working their way to a frenzy—or, worse yet, trying to work him back up to that uncomfortable lust that plagues him every so often.

“Let’s,” Kariya croaks, already limping towards the door, feeling the tips of his ears burn. “Let’s just go, don’t say anything else.”

Kariya pushes through the door, hearing Kirei behind him talking with Archer, “Feel free to help yourself all you like, Archer. If you’ll excuse us.”

(Kariya counts his lucky stars that he didn’t linger long enough to see the knowing smirk Gilgamesh gave Kirei in return.)

Kirei leads Kariya down the hall of the rectory to the bathroom. It’s not what Kariya expected; a mix of modern and traditional, with a more up-to-date bath tub, sink, toilet, and shower, clearly modern tiling, but with low-lit candles protruding from the walls as opposed to electric lighting. The design is odd, but practical, though the balance between the two is obviously skewed towards the traditional.

The door shuts behind them. Kariya feels the anxiety setting in, watching Kirei brush past him to start the water for the tub. Should… should he undress while his back’s turned? That’s probably better than waiting for him to turn back around and watch, or to awkwardly cover his eyes while he does it.

As Kariya attempts to unbutton his tracksuit, he realizes belatedly why he hasn’t tried changing clothes since the start of the Grail War. Getting undressed with only one good hand was a pain in the ass. Still is, because the buttons are slick and caked in grime, and the awkwardness of the situation doesn’t help him when it comes to keeping himself steady. How pathetic, he can’t even manage this much.

He sees a pair of feet enter his field of vision from where he’s got his head tipped down. Kariya looks back up to see Kirei, leveling him with an unreadable stare. Those eyes, no light in them, cold as ice, piercing right through him…

The steam rising from the hot water running is getting to him. That’s what it is. That’s why he lets his hand drop, surely, allowing Kirei to step in closer to help him unbutton his jacket. He doesn’t say anything, just dutifully undoes the buttons, one after another, his fingers deft and unwavering.

He’s got such big hands, Kariya’s thoughts start bubbling, broiling, his vision starting to cloud. He suddenly finds himself not minding if Kirei uses those hands to touch him. He tries not breathing through his mouth like his urges tell him to, like the worms insist he does, like the animal he is.

Just to wash me, Kariya’s last bastion of rational thought insists. Nothing else. Nothing weird. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? Right? Yeah.

Even that rationale is fading fast as Kirei’s hands smooth over Kariya’s shoulders, easing the jacket off him and letting it fall to the floor. His nose just barely wrinkles at the sight of Kariya’s turtleneck, rumpled and caked in blood and sweat. “I’ll have these washed.” he murmurs, mostly to himself.

“Yeah,” Kariya hears himself say, his voice cracked. “Sure.”

Kirei flicks his eyes up, scrutinizing Kariya’s face. Kariya isn’t sure if he’s as flushed as he feels, but if he is, Kirei doesn’t comment on it. “Can you lift your arms?”

Arms. Right. He has to take his shirt off if he wants to get into the bath. He’d really rather not let anyone see the poor shape his body’s in, but it seems like that’s not an option. Kirei doesn’t look like he’s willing to bargain, as far as this goes. Kariya lifts his right arm, trying to steady his breathing before he answers. “I can’t move my left arm much, I don’t think I can lift it.”

“Is that so…” Kirei moves now to grab at the hem of Kariya’s shirt, gingerly lifting it up and over his abdomen. Kariya bites the inside of his cheek, pulling his right arm out of the sleeve and allowing Kirei to slide it off his left arm. Feeling his heartbeat pound lightly in his ears, Kariya chances a look at Kirei, and of course, he’s looking at the sorry state he’s in; the burns left by Tokiomi’s attack don’t look as poor as they might’ve looked last night, but the skin is still raw. As for the lesions… Kirei’s gaze didn’t linger.

The two of them stood like that for a time, Kirei holding Kariya’s rumpled turtleneck in his left hand, Kariya unconsciously lifting his right arm to clutch at his bum arm by the elbow. He feels like he’s being stripped down in more than just clothes—with those eyes on him, Kariya feels like Kirei’s gaze is leaving trails of heat in their wake. His head is starting to swim, his lips parting to suck in the dampened air.

“Will you be needing help with the rest?” Kirei asks, his tone oddly soft, thoughtful.

“Yes,” Kariya’s lips move without his permission, his voice coming out in a desperate hiccup. “Please.”

Really? ‘Please?’ Thank god you’re using your manners while trying to get your rocks off, Kariya’s rationale is but a whisper in the back of his mind now, unable to keep from picking at how quickly he is to throw his pride out the window. It isn’t anything like last night, it isn’t as sudden—it’s breaking over him slowly, bleeding into him at a sluggish pace.

Kirei doesn’t look back up at him when he gives his assent. Instead, he takes a knee, and Kariya can feel that simmering in his veins coming to a boil. Letting go of his left arm, Kariya covers his mouth, trying to muffle the little sigh that threatens to leave him. He can feel his pants tighten just at the implications, and since Kirei’s already down there, he’s sure he can see it, and—

“I—I’m… sorry,” Kariya mutters through his fingers. Kirei looks up at him, pausing where he had started unbuckling Kariya’s belt. “It’s… happening again—”

“It’s fine, Matou Kariya,” he replies, his tone flat as he resumes undressing him. “I am well aware that it is involuntary, and not because of me.”

No, but it is, Kariya thinks, his thoughts now completely flying off the rails. It was because of you last night, too, but now it’s because you’re so close and warm and please, please, please touch me, no one’s touched me in so long and I need it, I need it.

It takes all of Kariya’s self control not to voice these thoughts, instead letting out a high whine as Kirei slips his belt out of his pants. He unbuttons them, and then unzips the fly. Kirei’s thumbs slip into the waistband of his slacks—that touch, just the feel of the backs of his thumbs against his hips, even through the fabric of his boxers, is enough to drag a moan out of Kariya.

Kirei pauses. He slowly glances up at Kariya, and Kariya feels like dying. But he slowly pulls his slacks down, still staring up at him, until they’re around his ankles. He pointedly did not look between his legs. “Are you able to move your left leg?”

Yes, he is, just a little. “No,” Kariya lies, craving his touch more and more now. “Not much.”

What Kariya failed to recall in his heat-filled haze is that his left leg, while mostly useless, serves as an anchor for him. As soon as Kirei’s hand is on his ankle, lifting it off the ground to slide his pants off, Kariya can feel his right knee buckling, losing his balance as he pitches to the left.

Shit, shit, shit, shit— Kariya flings his arm out, trying to at least break his fall. Great fucking job, asshole, now you’re gonna crack your skull on this guy’s bathroom floor all because you couldn’t keep it in your pants—

Thankfully, Kirei is there, before he can even blink. Strong arms shoot under Kariya’s and wrap around his shoulder blades, his leg sliding out to bear the brunt of their combined weight. He catches Kariya like he weighs nothing, like he’s as light as a doll. He could probably break Kariya if he really wanted to.

Kirei says something, but Kariya can’t hear it over the ringing in his ears. His face is pressed into Kirei’s shoulder, against his broad body, and before Kariya can stop himself, his right arm is coming up to clutch at the back of Kirei’s shirt. He presses the full line of his body against the priest, all of his weight settling against him, sliding one of Kirei’s legs between his thighs.

“Ma—” Kirei says, as close to startled as his voice can probably sound. Kariya throws their balance off, sending Kirei to the floor. He lands on his ass, Kariya’s knees bumping heavily into the floor as he closes in further, clinging to Kirei as if he’s his only lifeline. Kirei’s arms are still around Kariya, tightening around him out of shock. “Are you all…”

“I’m…” Kariya muffles into Kirei’s shoulder. He shakes against him, trembling as the worms only work him up further, flooding his mind with thoughts of he’s so warm and so hard and he’s so strong I want him to touch me, I want him to kiss me until I can’t breathe, shove his tongue down my throat and work my cock against him, want to shove my cock down his throat, please, please, please. “I can’t… I can’t… help… please help me.”

Kirei turns his head slightly, but Kariya can only feel it, not see it. “Help… you mean…”

“Please,” Kariya begs. He can feel his eyes are starting to water, his breath wheezing out of him. “It’s really strong this time, I can’t think straight, I just—need someone to—I-I’ll make it up to you after, I swear, I swear, please just—help me.”

There’s silence for what feels like years as Kirei contemplates this. Finally, in a low voice, Kirei says, “What would you have me do, then, Matou Kariya?”

Hearing his voice so close, and giving consent at that, makes Kariya sob into his shoulder. “Just touch me, and… and… can I use your leg? I won’t take my boxers off, I’ll wash your pants after, I just…”

His voice is no better than incoherent sobbing, but strangely, he can feel Kirei’s grip around him tighten. The priest lets out a deep, rumbling sigh, and he starts smoothing his hands up and down his back. “You’re an easy man to please, Matou.”

“Don’t call me that,” Kariya shuffles his hips, resting his cock against the swell of Kirei’s thigh. He grinds against him, feeling the thickly packed muscle there, and he moans. “I don’t care about formalities, just call me by my first name.”

Kirei’s hands are moving in tandem now, one sliding up and along his neck, and the other dipping down the knobs of his spine. “Kariya, then.”

His entire body jerks, the wet spot against the front of his boxers growing with each jerk of his hips. Kariya pants heavily, his tears soaking into Kirei’s shirt, his voice leaving him sporadically in whines and moans. Kirei’s voice is so deep and rich, Kariya can feel it rattling his bones. He wants to hear it more and more. “Say it again—my name, please, say it.”

Threading his hand through his hair, Kirei takes in a breath, sounding oddly winded. “Kariya,” he says, and then, just to make matters worse, he presses his mouth against Kariya’s ear and whispers his name again. And again, and again, and—

Fuck,” Kariya swears, each breath leaving him framed around a moan, growing in volume as he nears his climax. He starts babbling, his hips grinding over Kirei’s thigh faster and faster, his movements becoming jerky and imprecise. “Yes, yes, yes, oh my god, I—”

Kariya.

He cums like that, shivering against a man he hardly knows as he whispers his name like a prayer into his ear, his hands wandering up and down his back slowly. Kariya cries into Kirei’s shoulder over and over again, his cock pinned against Kirei’s thigh as he cums in his boxers for the second time in the last two days.

He collapses, boneless, in Kirei’s arms. “Thank you…” Kariya breathes, his voice dry. “Father Kotomine… I’m sorry…”

Unbelievably, Kirei laughs. It’s soft, but it’s there, dusting through the hair against his neck. “I believe you can call me by my first name at this point, as well.”

“Fuck,” Kariya slips his arm free, bracing it against Kirei’s shoulder and putting some distance between them. “Sure thing. Kirei-san, how about that.”

Kirei gives another chuckle, with one side of his mouth quirked up. “Fine enough.”

Gathering Kariya up in his arms, Kirei gets them both to their feet. Glancing behind him, Kirei twisted the knob on the bath off; neither of them had the presence of mind to stop the tap for the hot water during all that, and now the tub was a mere few centimeters short of overflowing.

Chapter Text

Kariya sits in the tub, bottom lip trapped between his teeth, as Kirei holds his hand over his stomach. With the worms sated for a time, he’d explained, the healing will be more effective. Kariya didn’t want to think about what that meant, if he had to be healed more after this—he wanted to insist, tell Kirei that it’s meaningless, he’s as good as dead, that it’s only a matter of time…

But, as Kariya is starting to learn, Kotomine Kirei is not an easy man to argue with. Impossible, really, especially when he needs only to level Kariya with one blank look before he backs down, begrudgingly conceding to the priest.

So he sits there, right hand braced in a white-knuckled grip against the side of the tub, trying to breathe through the healing. The worms aren’t acting up, but magical healing still hurts like hell. It’s a bearable sort of pain, though, so Kariya can’t complain much.

“Your skin is beginning to heal over,” Kirei comments mildly, and Kariya notices that he’s staring, eyes tracking over his lower abdomen. “After this, I believe you will need one more session of healing before the burns are gone.”

Kariya fidgets a little. He knows he’s only looking down at him to assess his injuries, but after dry-humping the guy to nonexistent resistance, Kariya can’t help but wonder what he’s thinking. He thought the Holy Church was against couplings like that? Maybe this guy’s just really progressive or something, he thinks, trying to distract himself from how his ears were starting to burn. Guess I’m lucky, if that’s the case… it’s either that, or… he already swings that way?

It could very well be either. Kariya hadn’t thought of himself as much of a curious guy—he’d loved Aoi for what felt like his entire life, he didn’t think he could feel that kind of attraction towards anyone else. He blames most of his newfound libido on the worms—they make it so bad that grinding on an exposed lead pipe sounds like a good idea on Kariya’s better days—but the more he thinks about it… why is he not freaking out about this, now that his mind is no longer clouded by lust?

Did I always have that in me? Kariya glances back over to Kirei, getting a good look at his face. The priest’s gaze was still on his abdomen, his hair hanging low over his brows, casting those blank eyes of his in light shadow. He has his sleeve on his left arm rolled up over his elbow, the muscles in his forearm pulled taut. He’s a handsome man, Kariya is willing to admit that much. He’s always considered himself comfortable enough in his own masculinity to acknowledge when another man was handsome without panicking. Up until these circumstances arose, he thought it just stopped there, at modest appreciation.

But now? He’s starting to look back on all those times, trying to discern whether or not he had a type, to see just how deep this rabbit hole went. There were celebrities, of course, that he found attractive—men with squared-off shoulders, broad bodies, dark hair, and deep eyes, those sorts called Kariya’s attention more than anyone else.

“So it’s tall, dark, and handsome, huh…” Kariya mumbles to himself, somehow forgetting that Kirei is quite literally right next to him. Kirei’s eyes flick up towards Kariya, questioning. Heart shriveling up in his chest, Kariya clears his throat. “Oh, uh. Nothing. Just… thinking out loud.”

Kirei raises an eyebrow. “That is a first.”

“What is?” Kariya purses his lips, stiffening.

“Being called handsome,” Kirei says, elaborating. His expression is still blank, but his brows are slightly higher than normal. “Tall and dark, both are adequate descriptions for me. But handsome, coming from another man… well, other than Archer—”

Stop, oh my god,” Kariya covers his eyes with his hand, tipping his head back, as if trying to physically escape this conversation. “This is new for me too, okay? I don’t go around grinding on whatever poor saps happen to be in my vicinity every time I get like that. I’m not a pervert.”

There’s a bemused quirk at the priest’s mouth now. Kariya really and truly begs for the worms to eat him alive at this rate. “I am well aware, Kariya,” Kirei says after a pause. “That your condition is something you cannot help. You needn’t continue to justify yourself to me.”

“But I—ugh,” Kariya winces, the muscles in his stomach clenching as the healing shifts inward. “You make it sound like I need to, like I’m doing all this on purpose—I didn’t sign up for learning these kinds of things about myself when I agreed to get these worms implanted in me, you know?”

Kirei hums. “I can only imagine what possessed you to have this done to yourself.”

Kariya’s brows furrow at that. The way he said that sounded… off. Like he knows more than he’s letting on—but it’s just vague enough that Kariya isn’t sure if he’s reading too much into it or not. Kariya stares at him openly now, scrutinizing, not minding if he gets caught.

He still doesn’t trust this priest. He can’t tell what he’s thinking, can’t tell what he wants from him—his answer before is wholly unsatisfying to him still. Then again, their original conversation never really reached a conclusion—Archer had interrupted them and made everything awkward before that could happen. Now that they were alone, though, Kariya has more of a chance of getting answers out of him.

“Kirei-san,” Kariya says, his voice low. “We didn’t get to finish talking back there. Mind if I ask you again?”

The priest doesn’t react, slowly peering over towards him. “Ask me about what, exactly?”

“Your relationship with the Tohsaka family as it stands now,” Kariya meets his eyes, sitting up straighter in the bath. “And your relationship with Tokiomi.”

Kirei doesn’t even blink. He’s as still as a statue, save for the slow rise and fall of his chest—stop that, Kariya, focus—just staring straight down the barrel at him. Kariya doesn’t flinch; now that the topic has shifted back to something important, Kariya isn’t about to let this priest force him into kowtowing.

“Ah yes,” Kirei tips his head up at him. “You were inquiring as much earlier, weren’t you. As I said before, the Church and the Tohsaka family have been in league with one another for years. However, I find myself less willing to blindly cooperate than my father was.”

“I don’t give a damn about that,” Kariya tries to be patient, he really does, but that’s not the answer he’s looking for. Kirei’s just telling him what he already knows. When he sees Kirei’s eyes slide back down to his own hand against Kariya’s stomach, Kariya seizes Kirei by the wrist, wrenching it out of the water to gain his full attention. The pain of the steady healing suddenly cutting off causes Kariya’s stomach to lurch, and he has to grit his teeth against the wince that slips out. “What about you and Tokiomi? Your father worked with him. I know that. But you still haven’t told me about what your role was in that agreement they entered.”

Kirei regards Kariya with vague surprise. Kariya can feel the muscles of his left wrist flexing under his tight grip; Kirei could rip his hand out of his hold if he really wanted to, Kariya knows that. But he doesn’t, merely letting Kariya hold onto him while he formulates a response.

“I was to serve under Tokiomi as his apprentice,” Kirei says, not flinching when Kariya’s nails start digging into his flesh. “He was to teach me magecraft, and I was expected to uphold my role as a support Master for him.”

So I dry-humped Tokiomi’s errand boy? Is that it? Kariya’s jaw clenches tightly. He shouldn’t work himself up, but the overwhelming wave of disgust that thins his veins is too much for him to tramp down on. Why would Tokiomi’s apprentice of all people scrape him off the pavement and take him in? Kariya doesn’t understand it, and the longer he doesn’t, the angrier he feels. He can’t afford to waste time with some stranger, he has to keep fighting, keep trying, because if he doesn’t, Sakura will be forced to—

Bye-bye, Uncle Kariya,” her soft, sad voice rings in his ears. “Bye-bye…”

Kariya’s voice lowers to a growl, the knuckles of his right hand standing out in clear relief. The lesions in his face pulse. “Then why did you save me? Don’t give me that I didn’t want you to die crap, I want the truth.”

Kirei’s hand twitches in Kariya’s hold. He blinks once, twice, gaze sliding away from Kariya. He doesn’t say anything, seeming to visibly struggle for an answer. It’s hard to tell with those eyes of his, but from what Kariya can tell, he isn’t putting on an act for him. Slowly, Kirei’s eyes meet Kariya’s once more, and in a soft voice he says, “I do not know. In saving you, Matou Kariya, I am actively rebelling against my teacher. But… I cannot find myself feeling any sort of regret for my actions.”

Gradually, Kariya lets go of Kirei’s wrist, his hand dropping back into the water with a small splash. That was not the answer he’d been anticipating; he thought that the priest would come up with some spiel to feed him, to try and avoid the question further, but he didn’t. He gave him what feels like an honest answer—it feels like it, but Kariya still isn’t sure. It’s clear enough to him that Kirei isn’t lying about not having a concrete answer.

“What are you going to do, then?” Kariya asks quietly, his shoulders still tense. “Tokiomi doesn’t… I mean… if he finds out, he’ll try to kill you.”

“If he tries,” Kirei’s voice thrums, rattling Kariya’s very bones. “I will kill him first.”

Eyes widening, Kariya lets his jaw drop. No—no, no, no, he doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want Tokiomi or Zouken dragging anyone else into this—it was enough when it was Sakura. It was more than fucking enough when it was just Sakura. This priest… it’s sounding more and more like he’s just being strung along by Tokiomi. Strung along by that arrogant, pompous, self-serving prick. If Tokiomi tries killing this man for doing something of his own will, then… then—

“No,” Kariya leans forward, unthinking, reaching to grab Kirei’s shoulder. “I’ll kill him, if he tries. He’s involved enough people in this pointless war, you shouldn’t have to get your hands dirty with that bastard’s blood.”

The way Kirei’s eyes widen, in turn, tells Kariya that he must not have been prepared for that sort of reaction. “You would go so far? You hardly know me.”

“But I know Tokiomi,” Kariya insists, “And that’s enough. I don’t want anyone dying at that man’s hands, if I can help it. For all he’s done… not just to me, but to…”

Kariya bites his tongue. He wonders if Kirei knows Aoi. If he knows about what Tokiomi did to his second daughter. Even if he does, he isn’t sure that he wants to allude to it, at least not now. Just thinking of Aoi, of what she might think if she heard him talking like this… he draws his hand away from Kirei. He doesn’t want to think about that.

“I think I’ve had enough healing for today,” Kariya mutters, turning his face away from the priest. He can still feel those deep, dark eyes on him. “Sorry, but could I have some time alone? I wash myself just fine.”

“You’re certain?” Kirei presses.

“Yeah,” Kariya tries forcing a smile, though he swears that it must look as fake as it feels. “You’ve already done more than I could’ve ever asked for. Thank you, Kirei-san, I mean that.”

Kirei pauses for a moment or so more before he gives a slow nod, getting to his feet. Without even needing to be asked, he starts gathering up Kariya’s discarded clothes. “I will begin washing these, in that case. I’ll see about laying out a robe for you in the bedroom here—it is down the hall, last door on the right. Get some rest there, if you’d like.”

Kariya draws his good knee up in the water, resting his cheek against it as he watches Kirei. He feels himself cringe when Kirei grabs his ruined boxers. He can’t even maintain eye contact when Kirei looks directly at him when he grabs them—why he does that, Kariya isn’t sure, but he isn’t about to ask.

Just as Kirei is about to leave, he pauses at the door. “We can discuss Tokiomi later…” he says lowly, casting one last look over his shoulder. He turns the knob, stepping out into the hall. “As I feel our goals line up, when it comes to him.”

The door shuts with a soft click, and Kariya is alone. He sighs heavily, sinking lower into the water. It’s still warm and soothing, a sensation that Kariya hasn’t been familiar with in over a year. He hasn’t used magic to con anyone into letting him use their bathrooms since the War started, and it’ll be a cold day in hell before Zouken allows him to engage in anything that’d make Kariya feel like less than trash. The only showers he’d allow back during those hellish months the year before the War were cold and quick, nothing satisfying or relaxing.

Worm pit, cold shower, worm pit, a few scraps of food for a meal, worm pit, rinse and repeat. He tries not to think about it often, given the worms inside him are always eager to remind him, but as awful as it was… Sakura had it far, far worse. Did Zouken even allow her to bathe, to eat properly, to sleep in a bed? For a child her age, all those things should absolutely be prerequisites. But Zouken is an inhuman monster—alive for so long that he doesn’t even know what it means to be a good father anymore, if he ever did, let alone a grandfather.

Kariya dunks his head under the water, shaking himself slightly once he resurfaces. If the Overseer wants to be buddy-buddy with him for the moment, that’s fine—the sooner he can kill Tokiomi, the closer he gets to winning the Grail, and therefor, Sakura’s freedom. If he manages to land himself a proper bath in the process, he isn’t going to turn it down. He’ll feel bad, naturally, but once this is all over… he, Aoi, Sakura, and Rin can go somewhere far away, maybe take a trip to a hot spring. It may not make up for everything—but… as long as she’s safe, that’s what matters.

It doesn’t take him long to wash, once he decides that. At least, it doesn’t feel long—Kariya’s sense of time is so skewed, he can hardly tell. Lathering one-handed is a bit of work, but he’s still able to rid himself of the grime and dried blood that caked his body from head to toe, coming out of the slowly-draining tub smelling much cleaner. Nothing floral, since the only soap Kirei seems to have is the generic-smelling stuff, but it’s better than carrying around the scent of the last dumpster he’d slept behind.

Drying off is more of a challenge. He can’t manage it completely on his own, and he’s still damp by the time he gives up and tucks the towel around his hips. His hair drips water onto his shoulders, mixing with the few splotches of wetness he couldn’t reach on his back.

You should ask Kirei-san for help, an errant thought strays in, taking Kariya by surprise. He shakes his head at the thought as soon as it forms, limping his way out of the bathroom. He really, sincerely doubts that Kirei wants to get physical with him again so soon, especially with the risk of turning him—the worms, not him, the wormson. He’ll just air-dry the rest of the way.

A shiver bites at him. The hallway of the rectory is colder than he remembers it being. Quickly limping, he makes it to the room that Kirei had specified, shutting the door behind him. It’s just as dimly lit as his study; there’s a single window, letting in the early afternoon sun through thick red curtains, but even that isn’t enough to light the entire space. Though there is a single candle on the bedside table, flickering, illuminating the rather plain looking bed sheets.

It’s a queen size. Kariya wonders if it belongs to Kirei, or if this is a guest room. Kariya decides not to think about it, instead reaching for the robe that’s been laid out for him. It’s black and silken, almost too big on Kariya once he shrugs into it. He struggles, but manages to fit his left arm into the left sleeve, pulling it on the rest of the way and knotting it.

This, without a doubt, belongs to Kirei. The thought brings his blood to a simmer.

Just as Kariya starts thumbing along the sash, deep in thought, he hears a loud clatter coming from across the church. The walls are thin, it seems like—but either way, it startles him. Was that Kirei just now? Is he being attacked? Wait—could Archer have told Tokiomi about Kariya being alive?

He doesn’t know. And there’s only one way for him to find out.

As quietly as he can manage, Kariya eases out of the bedroom and slinks down the hall. That clatter came from Kirei’s study. It’s quiet now, save the low hum of two voices—one of them is unmistakably Kirei. It’s hard not to make noise with the drag of his left leg, but Kariya doesn’t care. If it’s an emergency, he can afford to be a little noisy.

Noisy… speaking of, why isn’t it noisy? Kariya wonders as he nears the study. Wouldn’t Archer be making more noise, if he was attacking? His fighting style tends to lean more destructive than subtle. As he draws closer, he can hear more of what’s going on; Archer’s voice, lower than usual. And the sound of… panting?

Kariya stops just before he reaches the door. Oh no. It couldn’t be, right? No, no, of course not. Archer was probably just torturing Kirei, that’s got to be it, right? But what if it isn’t? Kariya groans, wiping his hand over his face. If he leaves without peeking, he’s sure he’s going to start imagining things, and the worms will take full advantage of that.

Fuck it, Kariya gives up, grabbing the knob and turning. Best case, they’re fucking. Worst case, Kirei’s dying. Might as well just confirm either or.

The door swings in, and there it is. Kirei is bent over the front of his desk, face pressed against his arms, pants caught around his knees; Archer is positioned behind him, hands braced against his hips, his cock halfway buried inside Kirei.

Gilgamesh glances at Kariya, not even stopping mid-thrust. Kirei’s head turns, his eyes glossy, flushed up to his ears. He twitches against the desk, obviously shocked, but caught between that and Gilgamesh working him relentlessly. He tries opening his mouth to say something, only for a deep rumble to fall past his lips, eyes rolling back in his head as Gilgamesh pins him with a particularly hard thrust.

“Ah,” Kariya’s voice wheezes out of him. His hand shakes against the knob. “I’ll. Come back later. Sorry.”

He slowly shuts the door. And he limps back down the hall to the bedroom, his ears ringing.

 


 

Kirei nearly bites clear through the inside of his cheek, shuddering as Gilgamesh pulls his cock out of him, leaving only the head inside him. “You,” he growls, indignant. “Left the door unlocked… on purpose… Archer—mmgh.

“Did I? Ah,” Gilgamesh slams back into Kirei, dragging a shout out of him. Kirei can hear the grin in his voice, clearly relishing in just how debauched he’s left him. “That’s right, it must have slipped my mind. You are rather distracting, you know? I couldn’t wait any longer.”

Glaring at him over his shoulder, Kirei purses his lips against any further noise that threatens to leave him. He knows that Gilgamesh is being arrhythmic on purpose, keeping the pace unpredictable in an attempt to loosen Kirei’s lips. He likes hearing Kirei’s voice, but Kirei doesn’t want to make it that easy for him. It’s enough that he’s in this position in the first place, knees quaking, hands scrabbling for purchase against rumpled papers on his desk. Having Gilgamesh seeing him like this is enough. But now…

Gilgamesh weaves his fingers through Kirei’s hair, taking a fistful of it and pulling hard. Kirei’s neck arcs, the sudden force wrenching a grunt from him. “You didn’t want that mongrel to see you like that, did you? Is that what you’re thinking? Ah… but you can’t fool me, Kirei. Just look,” Gilgamesh thrusts his hips slowly, pressing in deep. Kirei shudders, accidentally letting out half of a moan. His other hand snakes around Kirei’s hip, taking hold of his aching, dripping cock. Gilgamesh leans over Kirei’s back, his lips tickling Kirei’s ear as he whispers. “Look at how wet you’ve gotten. I’ve hardly even touched you down here.”

Squeezing his eyes shut, Kirei feels a wave of heat wash over him. Livid he may be, he can’t argue the truth. His hips twitch, cock pulsing in Gilgamesh’s hand. He doesn’t bother anymore—pride be damned, he’s overheating, he needs more now. “Archer—un… ngh. Hurry… hurry.”

Letting out an appreciative hum, Gilgamesh bites the shell of Kirei’s ear. He draws back slowly, driving back in just as slowly, only to snap his hips into a faster pace without warning. “How impertinent of you, Kirei. Are you that desperate? Is having my cock inside you truly too much? I can hardly blame you. There are very few in this world that can handle me. Though… mmn, I may feel more compelled to show you mercy if you… beg.”

“Damn you—ghh,” Kirei grits his teeth, huffing through his nose. He tries pushing back on Gilgamesh’s hips, trying to wrest some kind of control for himself, only to find Gilgamesh’s hand back on his hipbone. Off of his cock, which strains hot and heavy between his legs. “You would—humiliate me so—damn it, just—aaahh, hah, Archer—”

A boisterous laugh cuts out of Gilgamesh at this show. His laugh trails off into something warmer, a low moan from deep in his chest. “So stubborn.”

Kirei sinks his teeth into his bottom lip, his breath stuttering out of him with each thrust. Gilgamesh isn’t giving him any time to catch it, pressing his cock in deep, rubbing insistently against his prostate. He wants Kirei to cum before he does, without even having to touch him—having him cum on his cock alone… it would humiliate Kirei, with how easy it would be for him just to let go, to give in and let himself go—but it would be more than enough to bring the King of Heroes over the edge, he’s sure.

Finally parting his lips, Kirei lets out a deep, rumbling moan. He clenches around Gilgamesh’s cock, letting loose just a bit of his own control, giving Gilgamesh that much more power over him in this moment. Gilgamesh notices this and hums again, almost a moan, as he shifts his rhythm into something that will bring him off. Deep, slow thrusts, pressing in hard against him.

“Hngh,” Kirei all but snarls, feeling his orgasm creeping up on him. “Archer—”

“Do it,” Gilgamesh orders, pulling his head back so that his lips are pressed further against his ear. “Cum for me.”

And he does, his hips stuttering forward against the front of his desk, sullying the aged wood with his release. Gilgamesh lets go of his head, letting Kirei bury his face back into his arms, taking both of Kirei’s hips in his hands as he pounds into him. Even his moans are framed around a smile, air hissing out around his smirking lips as he finishes inside Kirei, pinning his hips to his ass so that none of it slips out.

Kirei closes his eyes and sighs, letting out the air of ten men. It takes him a moment to remember his own name, and a few moments longer to remember Kariya is most likely very, very confused. Perhaps not too confused—Archer was hardly subtle, when Kariya was in the room with them earlier—but still.

“You always insist on making a mess whenever this happens,” Kirei pushes himself up, his voice dry. Gilgamesh is still pinning him to the desk, but he can feel the telltale twinge of pain collecting in the base of his spine the longer he stays bent over. “I am beginning to wonder if that is your true end goal in these meetings of ours, Archer.”

Gilgamesh lets out a long, lilting sigh before he pulls out without warning. Kirei winces, feeling himself clench around nothing with the sudden absence of something inside him. It’s quickly replaced by the feeling of cum leaking from him, a sensation that Kirei can’t grow accustomed to. Behind him, Gilgamesh casually tucks himself away and does his pants back up, wiping his hands against the back of Kirei’s shirt.

“It isn’t without its charms,” he says, strolling back over to the couch and dropping onto the cushions. He’s loose-limbed and relaxed, grinning at Kirei like a smug cat. “Making a mess of you, a man that’s normally so stiff and prim, is very, very entertaining. You’re so stubborn in the face of pleasure, watching it overtake you… I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.”

Kirei huffs, reaching over his desk to root around in the drawers, hoping to find a pack of tissues before Gilgamesh’s release drips from him onto the carpet. “I would not say I am usually prim in any sense, Archer. Being used in such a way would cause anyone to lose their composure.”

Used, he says,” Gilgamesh, pouring himself a glass of wine, gives a heavy sigh this time. “Kirei, you really need to rethink your definition of sex, if that’s what you think I did. You certainly didn’t seem to mind when I first pushed you against the wall, after all.”

Cleaning himself up, Kirei casts a glance towards Gilgamesh over his shoulder. He takes note of how openly Gilgamesh is leering at him, finding that it doesn’t bother him. “I did not mind that.”

“Then why are you so cross, Kirei?”

Kirei pauses, tossing the dirtied tissue aside before grabbing another, wiping at the backs of his thighs now. “You did not lock the door.”

Gilgamesh tilts his head, taking a sip of wine before answering. “Wasn’t it more fun that way?”

What way?” Kirei bends down to pull his pants back up, zipping his fly and fastening the buttons. Knowing that Gilgamesh wiped his hands clean on his shirt, Kirei unzips it and shrugs out of the sleeves, bunching it up and setting it aside. He hasn’t started the laundry yet, but considering the way things were going today, he’s rather certain that he’ll have a bigger load than usual. “I fail to see how being walked in on is fun.”

“Come now, Kirei. It’s unbecoming to lie to me, not to mention yourself, Gilgamesh points straight at Kirei now with the hand holding his wine, only extending the index finger. “You got far more excited when Kariya walked in. I could tell, for one, because of how hard you clamped around me.”

Kirei wrinkles his nose. “Must you phrase it in such a vulgar manner…”

“And that’s not all,” Gilgamesh presses on, ignoring him. “I could feel your entire body react to it. You went stiff, but then started to shiver near-violently. You were also more vocal, telling me to hurry up. Which is rather disrespectful, in any other case, but when you’re under me… hmm, I suppose it’s all right. That side of you is almost cute.”

Kirei crosses his arms over his chest, sitting back on his desk. “You’re rambling, King of Heroes.”

“In any case,” Gilgamesh dips his head now, lips parting in a smile. “You derived enjoyment from it. I never would have thought you to be an exhibitionist, Kirei.”

“I am not. I can confirm that much for you right now,” Kirei grimaces. It isn’t a lie—he can’t find himself enjoying being walked in on by someone, nor can he find any sort of appeal in having sex out in the open. “I can’t say that I would enjoy engaging in those sorts of activities with you in public.”

Gilgamesh lets out a hum. He takes a long, deep sip of his wine, making a noise in the back of his throat halfway through, as if he’s just realized something. “Perhaps something else is at work here, then. You don’t suppose it has to do with Kariya himself, do you?”

Kirei raises an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

“Exactly what I said,” Gilgamesh sets his wine glass down, grabbing the bottle to refill. “You’ve had an unconscious fixation on him for some time now, haven’t you? And now that you’ve acted on it, new things are coming to light, at least when he is concerned. Perhaps, unconsciously, you enjoyed having him see you so prone.”

Furrowing his brows, Kirei remains silent. He can’t exactly dispute that—back in the bathroom, when Kariya was grinding on him, Kirei can’t deny that he had lost his head slightly in the excitement. Having the disgraced Matou on him in such a way, his weight bearing down on him, coming completely and utterly undone because of him… he hadn’t intended on doing anything, if Kariya’s lust overwhelmed him again, but he had touched him back. He’d agreed to letting Kariya use him, agreed to bringing him further off by saying his name, whispering it in near reverent tones into his ear.

But why? He could clearly tell that being in such a state was edging close to agony for Kariya—ah.

That must be it, then. Kariya’s forceful arousal rarely seems pleasant. It’s so intense, so sudden and overwhelming, Kariya’s moans sounded just a bit pained, as if he was more excited for the end of it than he was for the process.

For a split second, Kirei can picture Kariya, spread out beneath him, red down to his chest and tears rolling down his face in his mind’s eye. Kariya’s voice, breaking over a sob, begging him to hurry, to make it all stop, to bring him off so that he could feel anything. And Kirei would toy with him, drag it out, control when and how he would make Kariya come undone.

“Perhaps you have a point, Archer.” Kirei pushes away from the desk, headed for the door.

Gilgamesh grins, reclining on the couch. “Off to check on the mongrel, then?”

“Indeed,” Kirei says, feeling just a hint of a smile tugging at his own lips. “He’s sure to be desiring answers, after all.”

That, and more.

 


 

Kariya lays flat on his back on the bed, staring at the ceiling. His blood is pounding in his ears, lesions pulsing along his face, neck, and chest. The worms are already working him back up, and it’s hardly even been—how long ago was it? An hour? Maybe less? Though, to be fair, he’d like to see anyone witness something like that and not get a little hot under the collar. But he isn’t going to let himself run wild this time, not when he’s already made an ass of himself twice in this church.

Technically you’re in the rectory, the heated part of his brain pipes up. So God won’t mind, right?

“Stop,” he says out loud, turning onto his left side. He clutches at his borrowed robe, trying to even out his increasingly rapid breathing. “For fuck’s sake, control yourself, control yourself, control—ngh.”

He should be angry. Kirei told him that they had the same goals when it came to Tokiomi, and yet he’s letting himself get fucked by Tokiomi’s Servant? And he seemed to be enjoying it? Kariya finds it hard to dispute that the priest looked far more lively while getting dicked down, with color flooding his usual stony face and a more defined wrinkle in his brow…

So he does swing that way, Kariya’s useless worm-infested brain presses. Or he swings both ways. Either way, that’s lucky for you, isn’t it? Maybe if you’re nice enough to him, helpful enough to him, he’ll do the same to you.

Kariya groans, feeling his cock throb between his clenched legs. It’s hot, too hot, but Kariya refuses to take his robe off—his robe, Kirei’s robe, he’s worn this before—

That’s right… The quieter, more rational part of his brain is starting to melt down too, though less out of lust and more out of lonesome sentimentality—which is worse, in a way. He slides his hand up his chest, bunching the silken fabric in his fist and bringing it up to his face. He’s lending me this… it has to be his, right? One that he’s used before…

Thinking back to their moment in the bathroom, Kariya recalls that, under the scent of old wood and wine, Kirei smells of faintly of spices. However, this robe gives off a natural, faint musk of skin and soap. It’s raw and real, and imagining Kirei wearing this… it’s intimate, so much so that it’s suffocating.

It’s not new for Kariya to imagine these sorts of things; during his trips, in between jobs, he’d think about what it would be like to be with Aoi. Waking up next to her, watching her get ready for the day, helping her around the house… he’d end up feeling lonelier afterward, but he couldn’t help himself. Now, though, he has something in his hands, something real.

A broken whimper leaves him as he reaches down between his legs, parting the folds of his robe to pull his cock out. He barely knows this man, but just the whisper of potential intimacy is enough for him; it’s even less likely to happen with Kirei than it is with Aoi, but that doesn’t matter to him. He’s thinking further on it now.

What would Kirei look like wearing this? He hasn’t seen Kirei without that high-collared shirt—the low dip of the robe would show off his collarbones, his chest, and the barest hint of his navel. He was clearly in good shape, if not muscular. The realization that Kariya wouldn’t mind seeing him naked causes him to twitch, his cock oozing precum.

He can still hear Kirei’s voice, whispering his name against his ear. His voice is so deep and rich, just thinking about it is riling Kariya up further. What if he said more than just his name? What if he said something sweet, something hot? Commenting on his body, on how much of a mess he’s making, but with a fond tone in his voice, like I can’t leave you alone for even a second, can I? Kariya.

“Kirei-san,” he mutters, his hand moving faster and faster, his grip slick with precum. “Ah, ahh, Kirei-san—”

“Your stamina is quite something, Kariya.”

Kariya stops, hand clamped almost painfully around the head of his cock. His back was facing the door. Why did he do that? Why wasn’t he listening for footsteps? Why didn’t he lock the goddamn door? Stupid, stupid, stupid—Kariya slowly looks over his hunched shoulder, knowing his face must be several more shades of red than it had been before.

There the priest stands in the doorway. His long sleeved shirt is gone, a tight black undershirt in its place, tucked into his high waisted pants. It isn’t him naked, but seeing him with even one less layer makes Kariya’s cock throb in his hand. He starts stroking again without realizing it.

“Ki… Kirei-san… I.” Kariya can’t move, save his hand, which seems to have its own agenda now. His breath shudders, soft moans starting to leak out the longer he stares at Kirei. “I’m…”

Kirei shuts the door behind him, slowly making his way over to the bed. Kariya can feel his breath quickening with each step he takes, his thoughts racing, incoherent and heated. There’s something different about Kirei right now, as if he’s… amused.

“I see you found the robe I left for you,” Kirei speaks as if Kariya isn’t currently touching himself, furiously in fact, with said robe hiked up and over his hips, most of it bunched around his face. “I trust it is not too spacious for you?”

Opening his mouth, all Kariya can manage is a long whine. Kirei nods, as if this was an acceptable answer.

“Well,” he continues, looking as if he’s about to turn back around. “I’ll leave you to it, then.”

Kariya sits up abruptly, his voice desperate as he cries out, “No! Please! I—”

Kirei stops, his head turned away from Kariya. Looking at him from this angle, Kariya can swear his cheeks are somewhat uplifted, as if he’s smiling. And as he turns around, Kariya realizes he is, and it sends another pulse of heat through him, settling heavily in the pit of his stomach.

“Could it be, Kariya,” Kirei says, drawing in closer. His knee dips the bed next to Kariya’s hip. In an unexpected move, Kirei slides his hand along Kariya’s shoulder, up the column of his neck and under his chin. “That you are in need of my help?”

Kariya just about goes limp with relief, his hand working over his cock in earnest now. He nods numbly, unable to speak, wanting nothing more than for Kirei to touch him more. More, more, all over, please, it hurts, it hurts, I need it, please, his thoughts scream, tumbling out of his mouth in the shape of needy moans and helpless whimpers.

A chuckle rumbles from Kirei’s chest, his other hand sliding over Kariya’s thigh. “There’s no helping it, then.”

Kirei leans in, closing his hand over Kariya’s, and presses his lips against his.

Chapter Text

Kirei kisses Kariya with a bit more force than needed. Perhaps it’s because he pulls his hand away from his cock, as if Kirei’s touch is scalding hot. He shouldn’t mind as much as he does; with Kariya’s hand out of the equation, it makes stroking him much easier, more controlled. But something violent bubbles in Kirei’s chest, something bombastic, and his instinct begs him to seize Kariya’s hair in his other hand, wrenching his head back to get a better angle.

His tongue pushes past Kariya’s lips. He tastes of blood, primarily—if he tastes of anything else, Kirei can’t tell. It’s the bite of iron that grabs him, compels him to slot their mouths together, wet and obscene and depraved and right. Kariya shivers beneath him, his hips working up into Kirei’s hand. But Kirei doesn’t move faster, like he’s insisting he does—No. Not now. I want to…

Want. That is new. Wanting. Is this the sort of want that he has been searching for…? No, that can’t be it. This is too base, only barely scratching the surface, hardly a definitive key to that burning question of his. But it’s something. Kirei doesn’t know what it is yet, but he can feel it stirring low in him, waking something buried deep within himself.

He doesn’t feel this way when Archer kisses him. The answer to that question… Kirei will have to press on, see this through. Follow his instincts. Feel.

His movements sluggish, Kariya moves his hand up, weakly pawing at Kirei’s shoulder. His hand is still slick with precum, slipping against the fabric of his shirt as his fingers curl in against him. That’s yet another article of clothing of mine that needs washing, Kirei mulls, an errant thought that’s forgotten as quickly as it’s formed. Instead of dwelling on that, Kirei leans in further, licking deeper into Kariya’s mouth, rubbing his thumb against the head of Kariya’s cock.

Kissing Claudia, infrequent as it might have been, had never been like this. Kissing Archer, while just as depraved, wasn’t like this either. He was confused still, desperate, grasping at what felt normal with his wife, and with Archer, it’s more often his own mouth being assaulted rather than the other way around. He has so much control here, and Kariya is yielding, a moan—tainted, pleasured, pained—rumbling from the back of his throat.

Kirei parts from Kariya suddenly, feeling something alien, something hot tingle down his spine at the sight of Kariya’s tongue straying out, trying to follow Kirei’s. Huffing through his open mouth, Kirei slides his hand down Kariya’s cock, tightly gripping the base. Kariya whines, squinting, shuffling, but not retreating. He hangs limp in his grasp, prone, begging for more.

“How much can you feel?” Kirei’s voice comes out in a graveled snarl, strange to his own ears. Kariya swallows, the bob of his Adam’s apple near-hypnotic.

“Barely… anything on my left,” Kariya gives, dry and breathless. “Can only feel… on my right…”

His hand slowly releases Kariya’s hair, only to grip at his right shoulder and shove him down. That hand squeezes, trailing down to his partially exposed chest. Kirei smooths the robe aside, thumb brushing against Kariya’s nipple. Kariya wails, his hips bucking up into Kirei’s hand—Kirei can feel his cock pulse, but with his fingers hooked around him, Kariya is no longer in control of his own body.

This is an experiment, of sorts; to see just how ardent Kariya’s pain in this state can be. Will he scream? Cry? Beg for Kirei to finish him off, beg for him to let go?

Will he die, if he is unable to get the release his body is begging for? That thought makes Kirei realize just how much he is sweating, moisture lining his hairline and sliding down the back of his neck, dampening his shirt. His shirt is itching against his skin, his sweat grounding him, reminding him of his place—he is no demigod, no monster, he is not the King of Heroes.

This is not an experiment, Kirei thinks, eyes widening. Shame pricks at his pores, seeping under the skin and into his stomach, turning it and making his blood run cold. This is a gluttonous indulgence.

Kirei sits back, letting go of Kariya, watching him fall back onto the bed. The weight of the rosary around his neck is unbearable, the string digging harshly into his sweat-slicked skin, the hyper-awareness of his faith bringing forth an unsettling wave of nausea.

No, he thinks, staring down into Kariya’s eyes. Kariya seems too lost in lust to notice that Kirei’s backed away; now that he’s not touching him, he moves back to touching himself, as if possessed—mumbling, please, please, make it stop, please. That litany is too sweet to Kirei’s ears, all too aware of the tent in his pants at the sound of it, but he feels nothing but disgust in himself for it.

This is not what I seek, Kirei wipes his clean hand over his forehead. Bits of Kariya’s hair, trapped between his fingers, stick to his dampened forehead. Kariya moans under his breath, eyes glassy, legs twitching, pulling Kirei’s robe back up to his nose before continuing to touch himself.

“Kirei-san,” he slurs, his voice breaking over a sob. Kirei doesn’t know how he didn’t notice earlier—Kariya has started crying, tears leaking from his one good eye. “Kirei—ahh… hgnn. Please don’t… leave… nn.”

He wants to. Kirei wants nothing more than to get the hell out of here—what had he been thinking, wandering down here, with anything other than an apology and an explanation on his lips? What is wrong with him? But Kariya sounds so pitiful, so needy, Kirei finds his feet rooted to the spot.

Kirei can’t handle much more of this. It’s near-constant, how often those worms work him up to that fever pitch. And now—well now, Kariya is starting to grow attached, within mere hours of being brought here. All it took was an act of mercy, a few words, civility, and that had been it. Kariya is imprinting on him.

Just how many of those insatiable worms are inside Kariya? Is this actually a harm to him—will each orgasm he reaches bring him that much closer to death? Is that what the Matou family is striving for?

Kirei shakes his head. He will die, and I will have had nothing to do with it.

That thought should be a comfort. And yet, it is anything but.

As Kariya’s hand stutters over himself, as his orgasm grips him, Kirei steps over. He extends his right arm, feeling the command seals burn against his flesh as he reaches for Kariya, whose eye is starting to drift shut. Enough is enough. The Matou family magic is disgusting, and if he can help it, Kirei will eliminate it.

He calls upon the use of six of his command seals to ensure the command’s potency.

Expel as many of those worms as you can,” Kirei orders. “Right here and now.”

The magic grips Kariya with no warning. His eye bulges open, his body suddenly wracked with uncontrollable trembling. Blood seeps past the seam in his lips as he claws himself towards Kirei, his gaze wide and accusatory as he pitches over the edge of the bed. The lesions in his body are pulsing violently, forcefully, glowing red as they undulate through his body, through his veins and magic circuits.

Kariya heaves, vomiting straight onto the rug. Blood and bile course past his lips in harsh waves, something solid and alive squirming around in the mixture. He isn’t done, pass after pass forcing more and more of those worms out of his body. Perhaps Kirei should be supporting Kariya, placing a hand on his back and patting, but… he can’t bring himself to move. He’s oddly captivated, watching the roll of Kariya’s spine, listening to his groans of agony, gurgling beneath the scrape of bile and blood against his teeth and throat.

The worms he’s expelling are wriggling against the rug. Kirei pulls out his black keys and impales them on the spot, producing more as more appear. Kariya screams through another wave, a particularly large worm squeezing past his lips and landing on the floor. It’s faster than the others, already trying to crawl back up the bed, trying to get back into Kariya’s mouth. Kirei is faster, launching a black key into its back and pinning it in place. It thrashes, squeaks, and dies there.

Soon enough, Kariya stops, blood and vomit dribbling down his chin, his borrowed robe slipping down over his left side. He braces his hand against the bed frame, pushing himself up to glare at Kirei. He doesn’t speak—he probably can’t, with the state his throat must be in. Kirei notices that most of the lesions in Kariya’s neck and shoulder are looser than usual, not taut and occupied. There’s still substance there, but it’s far less prominent.

“Need you look so angry?” Kirei’s mouth moves on its own, his ears ringing. “Those worms were the source of your problem, were they not?”

Kariya spits at the ground, his voice cracked as he forces it out. “… you shouldn’t have done that. Those worms… they—I can’t use magic properly if they’re—”

“The command shouldn’t have interfered with your magic circuits,” Kirei cuts him off, taking a knee to further inspect the mess on the rug. It’s a sickening sight, the smell of it burning Kirei’s nostrils. Good thing this is father’s old room, Kirei can’t help but think. “Though I am still not clear on the specific methods in which these creatures are meant to augment your magical abilities.”

Blinking at him, Kariya stares down at his own body, right brow furrowing tightly. “I can still feel at least one or two inside me. Those must be the ones that…”

“The ones that… what?” Kirei can’t stop himself from prying. This entire ordeal, forcibly removing most of the worms in Kariya’s body—he would be lying if he said the outcome did not intrigue him, at least a little.

But Kariya shakes his head, refusing to elaborate. He tips his face down, away from Kirei. “Anyway, that was a stupid move. Why would you do that? The damage is already done, I… I’m going to die soon, it doesn’t matter if there are two worms inside me or two thousand. You’re just delaying the inevitable.”

He has a point. Kirei furrows his brow, fully analyzing the depth of his impulsive actions. He’s wasted six of the command seals his father gave him, he’s prolonged the miserable existence of Matou Kariya—likely drawing the ire of the Matou clan, who must be seeking Kariya’s death moreso than victory, if this is what they call a usable pawn for this Grail War—and he’s made it so that Kariya, who has minimal control over his Berserker, has even less magical clout to use to control his Servant.

All because… why?

You wanted him to stop, his reason tells him. You showed him the barest hint of intimacy, and he latched onto it. You didn’t want it to go any further.

That much is true. The idea of having someone develop feelings for him, misguided and hollow as they may be, so soon after Claudia made Kirei sick to his stomach. No one has understood him since her, and no one will. He knows this, holds it to be true in his heart.

She knew him better than he knew himself, and even then, she still knew so, so little. But the longer he thinks about her, the worse he feels. He wasn’t able to kill her, himself—he wasn’t able to give her the death that he wanted for her. She deserved something grander, something suiting the suffering that she had endured till that point. He wanted it for her, and wanted to do it to her.

Is that love? No. Kirei doesn’t know what that feels like. He doesn’t.

I don’t, he reaffirms to himself, the ice in his veins thawing slowly. She thought that I did. She was wrong, wasn’t she? If she was wrong, then why…

“You may be right,” Kirei finally says, closing his eyes. “It is a pointless endeavor, ridding you of the worms that did you more harm than good.”

What more can he say? Kariya won’t be satisfied no matter what answer he gives him. The truth is out of the question, because Kirei really isn’t sure why he went out of his way to tack on a few more weeks at best to Kariya’s lifespan. He’s been running on instinct and impulse ever since picking him up, and as of right now, he has no real explanation for any of it.

All this,” the voice of Gilgamesh chants in his head once more, a constant reminder. “Due to your unconscious interest in him.”

Interest. There’s been so, so little about this war that’s intrigued him. Emiya Kiritsugu is one, and Matou Kariya is the other—that makes two, three if he counted the Einzbern homunculus, which he doesn’t. That is merely the fascination one has with a particularly rare insect. As for Emiya, he can’t quite put it into words; he wants nothing more than to find him, to fight him, to kill him, to find out if they truly are one in the same.

But with Kariya, it’s less clear. He doesn’t want to admit that it’s his circumstances being as tragic as they are, that it’s the constant pained furrow in his brow, the tenseness in his jaw, the fact that he’s so blinded by his own selfishness that, at the end of it all, he would need to confront just how twisted and illogical his heart is—Kirei doesn’t want to admit he wants to watch him fall, wants to be the one to push him. Wants to be the one to pick him back up, dust him off, only to push him further from behind.

No. It had to be something else about Matou Kariya that pulled him in. It had to be. And he wouldn’t find that out unless he kept him alive long enough to seek out that answer.

“It would be pointless,” Kirei continues, moving around the bed and taking a knee, rolling the rug up, making a mental note to burn it later. “If I did not continue to heal you.”

The look that Kariya gives him sets his blood racing all over again. The disgraced Matou lifts his misty eyes to Kirei, his lips parted slightly around a confused murmur, his throat constricting around any and all sound he produces. His brows twitch, furrowing and relaxing, pinching up—he’s dumbfounded, but beneath that, there’s hope in those eyes. Fear, loneliness, hope, desperate, desperate hope…

He shouldn’t delude Kariya any further than he’s already deluded himself. But Kirei finds himself unable to stop himself.

“You are no good to anyone dead,” Kirei says, wiping his hands on the underside of the rug once he’s rolled it up. “Not those you are fighting for, and…” Not to me, he wants to add, but he bites it back. Kariya can see him do it, he knows he sees it. Instead, he adds, “Not to yourself. You need not blindly accept the death sentence that those worms plagued you with.”

As if he had been holding the weight of the world on his shoulders, Kariya slumps where he sits, only barely remembering to keep himself upright by bracing his good hand against the bed. He blinks, his one good eye blurring with tears. Kariya huffs, his mouth curling up into a smile, as broken as the rest of him. He laughs, relief so potent that it seems to be hurting him.

“That’s… hah… you,” Kariya’s voice is tight, pulled taut over the disbelief he can’t shake. “You don’t make any sense, priest, you really don’t. You hardly even know me, and you’re saying stuff like that—you’ve seen what kind of person I really am, I haven’t bothered hiding it, and you’d… you’d say that? To me?

Kirei feels himself smile. He doesn’t know what it looks like. “Of course. It is the truth.”

And it is. But not the entire truth. Perhaps Kariya will know it at some point, that Kirei stands to gain more if he lives—but seeing this man fall to pieces over being told, point blank, that he is better off alive…

Kirei doesn’t want him to know that much just yet, if only to keep this image with him, burned into his heart.

 


 

This is just fantastic, Kariya clenches his jaw, more than a little sure that this entire bizarre exchange—first we make out, get closer to having sex, like actual sex, and then it gets kind of blurry until I start puking most of my guts and worms out, and now I’m crying because this is positive attention and that’s foreign to me now—has left him feeling quite a few shades of disgusted. Disgust at himself, mostly.

He’s always been quick to emotion, even as an adult. It makes him feel juvenile, stupid, weak—weak, pathetic and wretched. Zouken didn’t help in that regard, that was for damn sure, and neither did Byakuya, who was even more of a crybaby than he was, but was different in that he only cared about himself. Kariya cares about others too much, cares with every fiber in his being, to the point that it hurts, all of it—and no matter how many times he gets hurt by his own vulnerability, he’d always wear his heart on his sleeve.

Aoi seemed to like that about him. Seemed.

Kariya shakes his head, don’t think about her now of all times, you’ll only become more of a mess for the priest to clean up. And that’s the other thing—the priest. Kariya hasn’t been able to tell what he’s been thinking since the moment he met him, but now, it’s even more impossible. He sounded sincere, looked as sincere as anybody could with eyes like his, and, in spite of his confusion, he did manage to get most of the crest worms out of him. Kariya would be lying if he said that he hasn’t felt this painless in… well, since that first night before the worm pit.

There’s still one or two in there, he thinks, Trying to merge with my magic circuits. I don’t even know if they can be removed, but…

At least those aren’t the ones eating him alive. He knows one is there to augment his magic, but the other one he’s not so sure about. Please, please god, please don’t let it be a lust worm. He can’t remember how many of those were inside him—too many, enough to make it damn near impossible to function on a day-to-day basis. If there’s just one, at least those bouts of lust will be less frequent. Not entirely gone, but well, he can’t win.

“Do you need a moment alone?” Kirei’s voice brings him out of his own head. He bends over to grab the rug—now ruined by blood and worms, nice going, Kariya—to heft it up. “I need to burn this, and then I need to pick up Tokiomi—”

It’s like something gets switched on in his head, whenever Tokiomi is brought up. Scrubbing at his eyes, Kariya snaps his head back up. “What the hell are you picking him up for?”

Kirei stalls, staring down at Kariya with the rolled-up rug slung over his shoulder. “He has scheduled a meeting with the Einzberns here, tonight. Seeing as how my father has been killed, he is beginning to panic.”

Kariya blinks at that—Tokiomi, of all people, in a panic? He finds it hard to believe. But he doesn’t interrupt, listening as Kirei goes on.

“His careful planning for the progression of this war relied on my father being alive. Now that he has died, he has decided a change in plans is necessary. It seems that, without the power of Kotomine Risei at his side, he is far more uneasy about the upcoming confrontations with both Rider… and Berserker.”

Serves that arrogant asshole right, Kariya grits his teeth. Damn right you should be uneasy, prick.

“So,” Kariya speaks slowly. “You’re going to bring him here. You don’t expect me to just sit in a closet or something and hide from him, do you? I’m not going to hide if he’s basically coming to me—

“No,” Kirei cuts him off, coldly and simply. “You cannot attack him while the Einzberns are there.”

“And why the hell not?!” Kariya sits up on his heels, finally able to feel anger without the torturous bite of pain—but he winces all the same, his throat burning against the heightened volume of his voice. “What the hell do the Einzberns matter? I’ll take them down, too. I’ll kill them, and then I’ll kill Rider, and then—”

This time, Kariya is cut off by the loud, squelching thud of the rug hitting the floor. Kirei moves closer, standing over him, lording over him, with those calculating, lifeless eyes of his. “You are in no shape to call on Berserker. You are still recovering from Tokiomi’s attack, not to mention the loss of most of those worms that have been sustaining your magic circuits. Summoning Berserker to fight against both Archer and Saber would be suicide. As I said earlier, you are no good to anyone dead, Kariya.”

Mercilessly, Kirei repeats those words. Kariya feels his heart squeeze in his chest, warmth budding behind his eye, tears threatening to form all over again. It shakes him to his core yet again, and Kariya can’t bring himself to argue with it, lest his voice break on a sob.

“If you want Tokiomi dead,” Kirei straightens up, his eyes still pinning Kariya in place. “You will wait until the Einzberns are gone. This meeting should bear little fruit, if Tokiomi is seeking out another alliance. Therefore… the Einzberns will refuse him, leave, and then—and only then, will you be able to exact your fury upon him.”

Kariya’s throat bobs with the gulp he takes. It’s taking form, his second chance to finally kill Tokiomi is once again tangible, within his grasp. The magic in him is weak still, his mana reserves damn near dry. I don’t need magic to kill him, Kariya clenches his hand into a fist. I… I’ll find a way.

“How will I know when the Einzberns leave, then?” Kariya lifts his eyes to Kirei, feeling a bit less confrontational with the priest. “The only ones that know I’m here are you and that Archer, right? You want me to just… hide?”

Kirei shakes his head. “Nothing so juvenile. You need only wait in my study. The walls here carry sound quite well, you see. You will be able to hear everything that goes on during the meeting, and no one will be any the wiser,” Without warning, Kirei leans in again, entering Kariya’s personal space, lifting a finger to his own lips in a hush motion. “So long as you keep quiet.”

Kariya can smell spices on his breath, and he feels himself grow dizzy. He shudders. “Yeah, I can do that. You think I can’t?”

“Considering the volume your voice has reached thus far during your stay here,” Kirei backs up, looking down on him with a strange expression. “You must understand my concerns, Kariya.”

Though it’s not as powerful a reaction as the previous ones, Kariya feels his cheeks burn. Did he just accuse him of being a screamer? Is it much of an accusation if it’s true? Groaning, he covers his face with his good hand. “Please don’t phrase it like that, oh my god.”

The priest turns away at that, but Kariya can swear that there’s a hint of a smile on Kirei’s face. He moves to pick the rug back up, talking over his shoulder as he heads towards the door. “Get some rest for now, Kariya. Perhaps not in this room… can you walk?”

Huffing through his nose, Kariya moves to stand. He stumbles, but this time, he doesn’t fall—he’s on one good shaky leg and one dead one, but by god if he’s going to let himself get babied again by this man. Kirei raises an eyebrow at the frown Kariya levels him with, but says nothing else, jerking his head in a motion for Kariya to follow him.

Back into the drafty hallway of the rectory, then. Kariya bunches his borrowed robe around himself and limps after him, keeping his eyes on Kirei’s heels. It’s not as if he’s trying not to look at his back or the way that t-shirt stretches over the lines in his shoulder blades and the way the sleeves cling to his biceps and the Holy Church turned this guy into a hunk for what reason, now—

Kariya shakes his head, forcing his eyes back down. He had thought that, with the loss of most of the worms, his head would be a little clearer. In a way, it almost is; he’s getting distracted, yes, but it’s not bringing his blood to heat like it usually would’ve by this point.

But I was just throwing myself at this guy because it was convenient for me, Kariya reasons with himself. He’s not hard to look at, he doesn’t seem to mind the fact that I, too, am a guy, and that I’ve been dogging him ever since he picked me up, but that’s it. It was the worms. It should be over now, shouldn’t it?

It should. Matou Kariya, who’s only had maybe one or two, maybe three instances where he was curious about other men, should not be ogling the man that saved his life. Or is he really that pathetic and lonely that he’d cling to the first not-terrible contact he’s had with another human being for the first time in weeks?

Blinking, Kariya realizes he’s been staring at Kirei’s ass this entire time he’s been reaming himself out. Pathetic and lonely it is, then.

“These are my quarters,” Kirei says, snapping Kariya out of his daze. Kariya quickly shifts his eyes away from Kirei’s ass and up to his face, hoping and praying that the priest hadn’t noticed that he’d been staring at him like he’s a piece of meat. “It is not as spacious as the last room. But it should suffice, for the time being. You are free to borrow any of the clothes in there, while I wash yours.”

“Uh, you sure?” Kariya says, his right hand squeezing his left arm. He doesn’t like the way his chest tightens, thinking about wearing more of this guy’s clothes. “I, uh. Don’t think you have anything that’ll fit me.”

“Indeed,” Kirei turns the knob, opening the door for him. “But there should be at least one pair of pants in there that are old enough to fit you. If not, I have belts.”

Pursing his lips, Kariya turns his head down and shuffles into the bedroom, hoping that Kirei doesn’t see his flushed face. “Fair enough.”

Looking into the cramped space, Kariya balks—Kirei really wasn’t kidding. This room is about a fourth the size of the other one, barely constituting as a bedroom with the single full-size bed, plain oak dresser, small bookshelf, and shabby old armchair. There’s one window, with pitch black curtains covering it.

“It’s…” Kariya tries coming up with a nice word for it. “Cozy.”

Kirei arches his eyebrow at him. Before Kariya can further embarrass himself, Kirei says, “Try to get some sleep. It will be a few hours before the meeting begins. Be sure to be in my study before midnight.”

“Uh,” Kariya turns to look back at Kirei, swallowing around the lump in his throat. “Yeah, sure.”

The priest stands there for a few moments more, just staring at Kariya. Though it doesn’t rile him up like it did before, Kariya can still feel his skin prickling the longer those eyes are on him. It’s as if he wants to say something; his gaze seems to soften, but before Kariya can look closer, Kirei is shutting the door.

Groaning under his breath, Kariya runs a hand through his hair. “Shit, was he waiting for a thank-you? Shit. Maybe it’s—”

Operating on impulse, Kariya lunges for the door, swinging it in and poking his head out. Kirei’s already halfway down the hall. Shit—it’s now or never, Kariya.

“Uh,” he calls out. Kirei stops, looking over his shoulder at Kariya. Before he can get a word out, Kariya says in an earnest tone, “Thank you, Kirei-san.”

Kirei’s eyes widen. He turns his head away quickly, clearing his throat. “You are welcome, Kariya. Get some rest.”

Strangely, hearing that makes Kariya feel even worse. He hurriedly shuts the door and leans back against it, trying to will his pulse to slow down. What the hell is this? This is too weird for Kariya to think about at length.

“Just get some rest,” Kariya tells himself. He pushes away from the door, limping towards the bed and pulling the covers aside. “Don’t think about it, it’s nothing.”

Kariya sits down heavily on the mattress. It’s soft, at least—Kariya isn’t sure why he was expecting it to be anything but. Fitting his right hand under his left knee, he shifts his bad side under the covers, scooting into the middle and pulling the blankets and the feathery down cover up around his chin.

He stares at the ceiling, surrounded by softness and warmth. Kariya feels… comfortable. How long has it been since he’s felt comfortable? He can hardly remember, and the longer he lays here, the harder it gets for him to keep his eyes open.

Sighing heavily, Kariya glances at the door. He wonders if Kirei really doesn’t mind letting him use his bed, rather than the guest bed. Then again, he doesn’t want to be anywhere else at the moment. He can admit that much to himself.

Kariya lets his eye slide shut. I’ve never slept in someone else’s bed before, he realizes groggily, feeling himself relax fully. Not even Aoi’s.

He finds himself not caring, at least not now.

Chapter Text

When Kariya sleeps, he does not remember his dream. The most he can recall is the sensation of soft hair pressed against his cheek, of a tongue against his neck, and teeth sinking into his flesh.

He groggily opens his eyes, head filled with fog; he hasn’t slept that heavily or soundly for some time. For a few good, long moments, Kariya doesn’t remember where he is, or how much time has passed. All that matters is how soft the mattress is beneath his bony back and how fluffed-up and comforting the blankets curled around him are.

This is even nicer than the beds in that one fancy hotel in Tokyo, Kariya blinks slowly, not wanting to get out of bed just yet. God, how many years ago was that? This, though, this is…

Kariya isn’t sure what’s different. But he likes it, he knows that much. He wouldn’t mind sleeping for a while longer, but he knows that Kirei must be expecting him. Reluctantly, Kariya pushes the blankets back, sitting up and rubbing at the corner of his right eye. Kirei’s robe slips from his shoulder, pooling around his hips; the sash must have come undone at some point or another.

His bleary eye spots something at the foot of the bed; his underwear. But his turtleneck, track pants and jacket are nowhere to be seen. I guess that makes sense, Kariya reasons, fitting his hand under his bum knee to slide it over the edge of the bed. There’s probably more blood and dirt caked into those. And Kirei’s boxers probably wouldn’t fit me.

“Wearing another guy’s boxers is kinda…” Kariya mutters to himself, swallowing thinly. It’s intimate. He’s heard about couples wearing each other’s clothes before, but he isn’t sure if that goes as far as undergarments. But he and the priest are hardly a couple—frankly, Kariya isn’t sure how to classify what he and Kirei are at present. Partners in the Holy Grail War, maybe? Their interests in that regard line up, so that wouldn’t be too far off.

He’s not exactly certain that partners in a war would do the things that they’ve done to one another at this point, but that’s not important.

Letting his borrowed robe slip off him naturally, Kariya grabs his boxer-briefs, turning them over in his hand. They’re clean, almost cleaner than they’ve ever been—they’re warm, too, and neatly pressed. Kariya can feel himself frown, his face heating up at the prospect of having freshly done laundry done by someone that isn’t Aoi. Not that she’s ever done his laundry.

“What’s that guy thinking, spending all that time on another man’s underwear…” Kariya shakes his head, trying not to think about it as he maneuvers his left leg into them. “He didn’t have to go that far.”

But the fact that he did makes Kariya feel strange. Maybe it’s just how Kirei does everything, not even sparing any expense for a complete stranger’s clothes. Thinking of it like that, that Kirei just is this way naturally and isn’t giving Kariya any special treatment, is a bit of a relief.

Just a bit. There may be another part of him that aches at that reasoning, but he quashes it down.

Shoving his right leg into his boxers, Kariya stands up from the bed. Kirei said that Kariya could borrow any of his clothes, but… as he opens one of the drawers in the dresser, he realizes just how big Kirei is. Just pulling out one plain, black collared shirt is enough to cement that fact; where the ends would sit perfectly on Kirei’s abdomen, they trail down past Kariya’s thighs, almost to the midpoint.

“God d—” Kariya stops himself. He’s not a particularly religious person, but he doesn’t want to go around saying god damn inside a church. “… no way in hell does he has a pair of pants in here that fit me.”

He doesn’t have many other options. He doesn’t think he’ll be able to get a pair of pants on without help—as much as the thought infuriates him, what is he, a toddler?—but he can at least manage the shirt. If Kirei asks, he’ll just give it to him straight. Kariya’s starting to learn that mincing words with the priest is better than fumbling vaguely.

Sighing through his nose, Kariya shoves his right arm into the sleeve, finding that he has to roll the cuffs up so that his hand can actually make it through. Getting his left arm into the left sleeve is a bit more challenging, but he manages. Buttoning it up is just as difficult, and takes longer than he’d like it to, but soon enough he has all but the top and bottom buttons fastened. As he’d guessed, he’s swimming in it, the ends long enough to make up for the fact that he’s not wearing pants. At least, that’s what he’s hoping.

Will he even mind? Kariya wonders. He doesn’t seem to care much either way, but still… like hell I’m killing Tokiomi with no pants on.

His stomach clenches a bit at the thought. It’s finally time. He can pay that smug bastard back for Mion River, for trading away his own daughter without even a second thought, for everything. All things considered, Kariya finds himself a bit nervous.

The priest said to wait in the study, so that’s what he’ll do. Swallowing around the lump in his throat, Kariya limps towards the door, stepping into the drafty hallway.

 


 

Kirei turns the key in the ignition, turning the engine off. Tokiomi smiles placidly at him in the passenger’s seat, reaching over to grip and squeeze his shoulder.

“Thank you again for this, Kirei,” he says, his tone earnest. “I still can’t quite get the feel for this thing, myself.”

With a flat tone, Kirei replies, already unbuckling his seat belt and opening the door. “I’m sure it’s far less complicated than most of the devices in your basement, Master.”

Tokiomi laughs, doing much of the same, but with that usual Tohsaka flourish. His cane clacks against the concrete, the jeweled tip gleaming slightly in the cresting moonlight. “You may be right about that. But I still don’t feel very comfortable, nor natural, behind the wheel of such a contraption.”

Kirei can’t disagree. He isn’t certain if Tokiomi even has a driver’s license. Not to say that Kirei had one, either, but he at least knew how to drive. He’s not sure he can say the same for Tokiomi, who has always insisted on Kirei driving him from place to place, if he needed escorting.

His thoughts (or at least, his mild confusion) must be apparent on his face, for Tokiomi laughs at him again. “Don’t look at me like that, Kirei. I know how to use these things, I simply choose not to.”

“My apologies, Master,” Kirei gives, not feeling the least bit sorry about assuming Tokiomi is as archaic as the rest of his lifestyle. “I did not mean any offense.”

There’s a strange softness in Tokiomi’s eyes as he shakes his head, holding his arm out to rest against Kirei’s back, ushering him inside. “It’s quite all right, Kirei. If you’d like, I could drive you around town one of these days, if we have time. Perhaps once we’ve dealt with Rider and Berserker.”

Driving around with Tokiomi at the wheel… sounds too boring to even be deadly.

Instead of refusing, which would cause Tokiomi to pry needlessly into why ever not, and then would devolve into Kirei, I am a perfectly competent driver, Kirei dips his head in a nod, opening the doors of the church for his teacher. “Perhaps, Master.”

It wouldn’t be long after their own arrival that the Einzberns would come. With that in mind, Kirei lets his mind short out; he isn’t interested in these so-called negotiations. He knows that the best outcome is a temporary ceasefire. The Einzbern homunculus would never agree to an alliance, nor would Saber, both for their own reasons. Tokiomi is delusional if he’s hoping for anything more than that.

No, Kirei is far, far more interested in what will happen after the meeting is adjourned. His eyes slide over to Tokiomi before him, who’s been chatting away at him for the last several minutes. Behind him, he can sense Gilgamesh’s presence, leaned against the wall. Kirei is just about ready to clock out completely, at least on a mental level, when Tokiomi says, “It truly is a shame, how the Matou clan has presented itself this time around.”

Kirei opens his eyes, suddenly finding himself much more interested. “Is it?”

“It is,” Tokiomi nods, fingers idly drumming against the head of his cane. “I was under the impression that they would not throw their lot in this time, given the state of affairs. After he had come to me before, I had thought that Zolgen wouldn’t attempt something so unsightly, but… well, you’ve seen him, I take it. The state that Berserker’s Master is in.”

“Zolgen?”

“Ah,” Tokiomi casts a glance towards Kirei over his shoulder, smiling serenely. “The head of the Matou clan. I believe he goes by Zouken now, but Zolgen was his original name. My father always referred to him as such, in any case… I suppose it rubbed off on me.”

That is new information. Assassin had always just referred to the Matou head as Zouken. He supposes it doesn’t matter, but it’s rather interesting, the distinction between how the Tohsakas speak of him, and how his own family does. Dipping his head, Kirei tries to ignore the piercing burn of Gilgamesh’s eyes against his back. He swears he can even feel him smiling. “I have caught glimpses of Berserker’s Master, yes.”

It isn’t a complete lie. Tokiomi doesn’t seem to doubt him.

“I used to know him on a more… personal level,” Tokiomi continues, his tone almost wistful. “I knew him before I met my wife—in fact, it was through him that I met her. We were acquainted as children, though I wouldn’t call us friends… I certainly wouldn’t call us friends now, either. But he was… how do I put it… rather passive. Not threatening, in spite of his potential to become a mage. If he’d trained from that age, perhaps he would be more of a threat in this war. But alas… he is still the frail boy he’s always been.”

Kirei casts his eyes down. Kariya had been consistent in his overt distaste for Tokiomi thus far; he had an inkling that Kariya had some past relation to Tohsaka Aoi, but he hadn’t been able to find out much more than that. This, though, is an unexpected surprise—hearing of his teacher’s past with Kariya gives Kirei a bit more context into the nature of their relationship. And yet…

“You sound as if you’re disappointed in that fact, Master.” Kirei points out. He doesn’t ask if he hates him—but the question is lingering on the tip of his tongue. It’s tempting, very tempting to ask, to pry further. But he’s pushing his boundaries as it is.

“Ah… perhaps I am, just a bit,” Tokiomi glances over at Kirei, smiling sadly. He sighs, his shoulders slumping for a mere moment before his rigid posture sets back in. “It isn’t often that I find rival in other mages. And the Matou clan, at least back in their better days, were powerful. To have the opportunity to wage battle against a boy I’ve grown up with… can you imagine anything more exciting? A grand battle for the ages between two of the great families… Kariya had potential, and were it not for his nature, we would have been great adversaries. Maybe even greater allies.”

But he hates you, Kirei almost says. He hates the very ground you walk upon. There’s a warm prickling sensation at the base of his spine, and he has to clench his fists to keep himself from twitching.

“I did not mind his presence before now,” Tokiomi continues unprompted. As if he’s unaware that he’s going on a tangent now, sounding oddly more and more sad as he goes on. “My wife remained good friends with him. And my daughters saw him as an uncle… if absolutely nothing else, he is good with children. It really, truly is a shame that he has no respect for the world of mages… I cannot respect a man like that, no matter how close he is to my family. He’s naught but one of the rabble now. It’s such a waste.”

Kariya should be awake and in the study now, Kirei realizes, He must be hearing all of this. He hopes he is. All of this can only stoke the flames of rage in Kariya’s heart—Kariya, who hates the mage world, who hates everything that Tokiomi stands for, hearing the lamentations of a man he wants dead.

“I had no idea.” Kirei finds himself muttering. He must sound contrite to Tokiomi’s ignorant ears, for he turns around, putting that hand on his shoulder once again.

“It’s quite all right, Kirei. Don’t sound so down,” he says, tipping his head down with a warm look in his eyes. “It’s beyond any of our control. The best that we can do is meet each obstacle with the proper grace and elegance befitting a mage.”

He couldn’t be more mistaken. He isn’t showing Tokiomi the compassion he thinks he’s showing; with all of this heartache and tragedy before him, Kirei can’t help the heat that brings his blood to a simmer. It disgusts him, in a way—but he can hear Gilgamesh’s words in his mind, don’t think, feel. They ring louder with those blazing red eyes burning into his back, that snake’s smile practically searing against the exposed flesh of his neck.

“My apologies,” Kirei says, biting the inside of his cheek to prevent himself from smiling. “Master.”

Tokiomi smiles at him, looking as if there’s more he wants to say. But the sound of a car pulling up outside the church brings him out of it, his touch lingering as he pulls away. He steps back, turning towards the doors.

“They’re here.”

 


 

Kariya leans back against the door of Kirei’s study. Tokiomi just never knows when to shut the fuck up.

Talking big like that, like he really knew anything about the Matou family. Like he knew about the difference between Tohsaka magic and Matou magic, like he knew anything at all. He always had that habit, just coming to his own conclusions without considering hey, maybe I need to look more deeply, maybe, just fucking maybe, I shouldn’t be looking at a surface level.

He was fine just accepting Kariya’s nature as a quiet, fragile kid, but he didn’t bother wondering why, because he’d already come up with his own conclusions. And when Kariya ran away from home, he must have figured ah, it’s because Kariya’s a coward.

It takes all of Kariya’s self control not to start screaming. Grabbing his left wrist, he brings his dead hand up to his mouth and sinks his teeth into the webbing between his thumb and forefinger, huffing through his nose, trying to breathe through the anger. He couldn’t feel the sting of teeth against flesh, not even when he starts tasting blood.

You never even thought to talk to me, Kariya shuts his eye, feeling the burn against the backs of his eyelids. You never gave a damn about me, you lying prick, don’t try acting like you wanted to be all buddy-buddy when you don’t even know—!

Kariya can hear the front doors opening through the walls. He can’t focus, but he can hear three sets of footsteps, and he can feel a violent wrench in his chest as Berserker realizes who it is. Kariya keeps a tight hold on that leash, not letting him take form, using his own rage against Tokiomi to keep Berserker pinned down.

The meeting begins. Tokiomi goes over the introductions, thanks them for coming, and gets down to business. As Kirei predicted, when the woman—the Einzbern master—starts speaking, she sounds curt, not willing to yield to Tokiomi.

His blood boils when he hears Tokiomi mention his family name. He has no love lost for the Matous, but when he calls Kariya fragile, he has to bite harder against his hand to keep himself from growling.

The Einzbern master makes it clear that she won’t accept an alliance. She agrees, at most, to discussing the order in which they deal with the remaining Masters, willing to focus more on those two than on Tokiomi. A conditional, temporary ceasefire…

“We have two conditions. First, that you hand over any and all information regarding Rider and his Master. The second,” the Einzbern Master pauses, as if seething. “Is that Kotomine Kirei must be removed from the Holy Grail war.”

Kariya flinches away from the door, turning around to face it fully before cautiously approaching it again. He hadn’t been expecting something like that—then again, when he thinks about it, he didn’t know anything about Kirei, least of all what he got up to during the war before they formally met. He must have had it out with the Einzberns then… but it had to have been at Tokiomi’s discretion, right?

But that isn’t it, evidently. Tokiomi reacts with confusion, if the tone of his voice is anything to go off.

“I’m not suggesting that he be killed,” the Einzbern Master clarifies. “But I must insist that, until this battle is over, that he be expelled from Fuyuki—better yet, from Japan entirely. Immediately, before morning.”

That throws a wrench into things. If Kirei leaves…

His first thought should be regarding the war, not anything like I’ll be alone, alone again, and I’m pretty sure none of the other Masters will be as willing to partner up with me, but that’s what it is. The fact of the matter is that he owes Kirei more than he’d like, and he wouldn’t feel right, just leaving things like this. Kirei must feel the same—or, he should at least not want to leave anything unfinished, as the Overseer.

“Would you explain why?” Tokiomi asks, and Kariya’s focus is back on the conversation.

“There is bad blood between the Einzberns and the Executor. If the Tohsaka team continues protecting him, we will be completely unable to trust you.”

Why hasn’t Kirei said anything? Kariya finds it strange that he isn’t even making an attempt to defend himself. Though he hasn’t pried much into Kirei’s reasons for fighting in this war, Kariya can tell that he’s troubled by something. And that that something, whatever it might be, lies at the end of this war for him. There’s an underlying confusion behind all of Kirei’s actions, and that includes his rescue of Kariya himself. Kirei’s wants, needs, everything—none of it is clear to him, if Kariya’s analyzing this correctly.

Kariya doesn’t know why he was saved, and neither does Kirei. If they make it to the end of this war, they might just find the answer.

But Kirei remains silent. His lack of answer seems to be enough.

The meeting concludes at that, Tokiomi giving his assent regarding Kirei’s departure. The Einzberns leave just as quickly as they came, with only Tokiomi and Kirei remaining in the church. Kariya can’t even force himself to act as they’d planned; this isn’t what they discussed, there’s too many variables now. All Kariya can do is listen now, to see what happens, to see what action Kirei takes next.

“I wish you’d told me about your history with them,” Tokiomi says after a long pause. He sounds genuinely troubled, a tone Kariya isn’t used to hearing from him. “Unfortunately, this leaves me with no choice…”

Come on, priest, Kariya presses against the door. Say something. What are you thinking?

“You must withdraw from this war,” Tokiomi continues, uninterrupted. “Kirei.”

 


 

In the end, Tokiomi leaves without another word. Kirei watches his back as he leaves the church, and he has to tramp down on the urge to send black keys flying into his back, one for each notch of his spine. That sad look in his eyes—just how much of a fool did Tokiomi take him for? He knew that the man was, even in his harsh pragmatism, prone to fits of sentimentality. But Kirei had no idea that it extended to him, of all people.

The silence of the church is drowned out by the incessant ringing in Kirei’s ears. He is being sent away. He will never see Emiya Kiritsugu’s face at this point, nor will he confront him. He won’t be able to reach the Grail, to find out what he wants, what he really wants. All of his struggling, questioning, fighting—all of it will be rendered completely and utterly pointless.

He will be back at square one. Back in the same shoes as the man who’d just lost his wife.

Kirei pinches the bridge of his nose, leaning heavily against the bench. Does he even want to go through with the rest of this war? Maybe it would be better if he played the role of the dutiful student until it felt natural, until he forgot all about this, until Gilgamesh’s voice turned into naught but a whisper in his subconscious.

He is not meant to be understood. He is not meant to ask these questions. If he’d been meant to know these things, the Lord would have answered his many, many fervent prayers, rather than remaining utterly silent to his pleas over the years.

Yes, Kirei, feeling his resolve drain out of him, turns to head to his study. He needs to pack. I… should just…

His feet drag, his hand heavy on the knob as he turns it. Normally, this is when he would see Gilgamesh, reclining on the couch—but this time, it’s Kariya, standing right in front of him in the doorway. Kirei flinches in spite of himself, eyes widening at his sudden appearance for a fraction of a second. He’d nearly forgotten that he’d instructed Kariya to wait in his study.

He thought that Kariya would at least be wearing pants. But that’s the least of his concerns at the moment. (Even if it is rather distracting, seeing him in one of his shirts.)

Kariya, for his part, does not flinch in his presence. If anything, he looks firm, looking him up and down with his only working eye. “You’re not just giving up, are you?”

Brows knitting, Kirei looks down, focusing his gaze on Kariya’s exposed clavicle instead of his eyes. He doesn’t answer him, brushing past him carefully to start gathering up his things. Kariya grabs his wrist, halting him—if anything, it’s the action itself that brings Kirei to a stop. Kariya continues to surprise him, it seems.

“You can’t just let Tokiomi order you around like that,” Kariya insists, apparently not afraid of retribution, should Kirei take this brazen behavior personally. “You can’t be all right with this.”

The weight of Kariya’s hand against his wrist likens to that of the rosary around his neck. Insistent, burning, perplexing. “You have no idea what I am thinking, Matou Kariya. Do not presume to understand what you cannot fathom.”

“That’s just it, though!” Kariya pulls, turning Kirei back around to face towards him. “You don’t understand anything, either! None of this has made any sense to you, not your role here, not why you wanted to rescue me—”

“What makes you think you have even the slightest clue about me?” Kirei’s tone drops to a growl. “When you, yourself, are just as lost?”

Kariya’s frown deepens. “Don’t turn this around on me! I hit the nail on the head, didn’t I? You’ve been confused about what you’re doing here since day one. You can’t want to leave after all this—you can’t just give up without figuring anything out.”

It’s impossible. He’s pried into him, just the same way that the King of Heroes has. He’s hardly been here for a full day, and he’s already figured out the wretched state of affairs he’s in. Is he that perceptive? Or is it just stubborn nosiness? More likely the latter than the former, but Kirei just doesn’t know anymore.

“Why does it matter?” Kirei presses, his throat dry. He doesn’t like where this is going at all. It was enough when it was just Gilgamesh, but now Kariya, too? “I’m no longer a competing Master. I don’t have a place in this war, even if the Grail beckons to me still. And even if I were to disobey my teacher and reenter the fray, it would only leave you yet another opponent—”

“Then team up with me officially,” Kariya cuts him off. “And if we’re the last ones standing, we can have it out then.”

“But why? Kirei rips his hand out of Kariya’s grip easily, leaving the other man to stumble briefly before catching himself. “You and I are meant to be enemies, not—”

Kariya’s hand is at his chest now, roughly twining the string of his rosary around his palm and pulling him down to his level. Shocked once again at his sudden unabashed behavior, Kirei allows himself to be tugged, at least for the time being. Kariya stares him in the face, his eye glistening.

“You saved my life, idiot! Isn’t that reason enough?”

Ah. It’s a sense of needing to repay his debt, then. Nothing to do with Kirei, himself—though he can’t help but feel apprehensive, with how hard Kariya is trying to understand him. Seeing that he is confused at least puts him a few steps above Tokiomi, though that’s hardly saying much.

“I see,” Kirei puts his hand over Kariya’s, hoping to loosen his grip. “You want to repay me for that. What if I told you that you did not need to? That your being alive is enough payment for me? Would you still be so insistent on my staying?”

If Kariya is just trying to pay him back, that should be enough to throw him off. Or at least get him questioning his own motives. Kirei isn’t sure what he’s going to do, no matter how Kariya responds. But if he doesn’t ask…

Kariya’s eyes soften. His grip on Kirei’s cross doesn’t loosen. Kirei’s almost certain that Kariya isn’t going to answer when his voice picks up, just as soft. “I would. You… you have a reason to seek the Grail, just like me. If you were leaving of your own accord, I wouldn’t be stopping you, but… you shouldn’t give up on something you want for someone else’s selfish agenda.”

It’s not the answer Kirei had been expecting. It gives him pause, his grip on Kariya’s hand faltering. Why on earth does it matter to Kariya so much that he stays? If he’s to be believed, it’s because he doesn’t want anyone else to be ordered around by Tokiomi. If his intel was correct back then, a similar situation happened with Tohsaka’s wife, in that she had no choice in the matter of giving away their second daughter.

He’s being treated in the same way as Kariya’s unrequited love. He wonders what the significance of that is, if there is any.

“Aren’t you two cozy,” a haughty voice interrupts them. Behind them, on the couch, the King of Heroes materializes in a shower of gold, smiling to himself. “The mongrel’s rather quick on the uptake, isn’t he, Kirei? He took most of the words right out of my mouth.”

“You were eavesdropping?!” Kariya lets go of Kirei’s rosary, seeming to remember his state of still-relative undress in the company of Gilgamesh himself. It’s not as if Gilgamesh isn’t giving him the once-over, either, prompting Kariya to shuffle behind Kirei, out of his line of sight. For all that they were arguing about, Kirei doesn’t feel like pushing Kariya away, content to let Kariya use him as a shield. For now. “Didn’t you leave with Tokiomi or something?”

Gilgamesh, now unable to behold Kariya’s pale, veined legs, lets out an airy sigh. “You really need to teach this one better manners, Kirei. Hypocrisy in any form is unsightly, even on a mongrel.”

Before Kariya can bluster about anything else, Kirei addresses Archer. “I would have thought that Master Tokiomi would want you with him at all times, especially now.”

Rolling his eyes, Gilgamesh sprawls out over the cushions, one arm propping his head up. “I was with him until he returned to the house. I’m sure you’re quite aware that there are more pesky insects about tonight than normal.”

Emiya Kiritsugu, Kirei realizes. Of course—his two women were here, there’s no way he wasn’t listening to their meeting somehow, through a bug or wire tap. Just the thought of Emiya makes his skin prickle.

“Indeed,” he says, knowing Gilgamesh can see just how unraveled the thought of not being able to confront the man that could be the answer he seeks makes him. “He must be on high alert.”

“Don’t dodge the question though, Kirei.” Gilgamesh disappears, dematerializing, just to reappear at Kirei’s side, propping his elbow up on Kirei’s shoulder. Kariya is too startled to jump away, but Gilgamesh pays him no mind. “You long to keep fighting, don’t you? Be honest.”

Now he’s trying to get an answer out of him. Kirei can feel Kariya’s expectant gaze on him, too. He’s cornered. Before he can agonize over it further, Kirei finds his mouth opening, letting his thoughts spill from his lips.

It doesn’t matter that Kariya’s here. It doesn’t matter that he’s laying himself bare in front of another Master. If he doesn’t say it now, it will destroy him.

“For as long as I remember,” Kirei starts, his voice coming out naturally, not strained. “I have spent my life in search of a single ‘thing.’ I’ve devoted every moment, endured great pain for it. But… it has been nothing but a fruitless endeavor, to this point. And yet, I sense that I’ve never been closer to that answer, that ‘thing,’ than I am right now.”

Kariya looks like he’s about to say something, but Gilgamesh beats him to the punch. “If you’ve thought on it so deeply, why do you continue to hesitate?”

“Because,” Kirei’s throat bobs as he swallows. It’s a subtle motion—he knows that Gilgamesh sees it, maybe Kariya too. He lifts a hand to his face, covering it. “I fear… that once I learn all the answers… it will lead to my utter annihilation.”

It would be better to turn back. To leave. To just…

“Don’t be stupid.”

This time, it’s Kariya who speaks. Kirei glances down towards him, shifting his hand away from his face. He realizes, belatedly, that Kariya’s hand is curled against his back, bunching up the fabric of his shirt. How long has he been touching him, and why hasn’t Kirei knocked that touch away?

“You won’t know that unless you see it through,” Kariya says. “If you just give up on everything now, you’ll still have those questions. You’ll die with them, too. Don’t let someone like Tokiomi interfere with something that important to you.”

Ah, there it is again, Kirei feels his eyes narrow. All this, all these words… over Tokiomi. Not for me.

If he wants this man to do anything for him, Tokiomi is the factor that needs to be eliminated first. He made that empty promise to him just to keep him around, to keep him from leaving Kirei’s sight—but now. Oh, now, he wants it just as much as Kariya, but for different reasons.

“Quite tenacious, this one,” Gilgamesh says lowly, lips brushing Kirei’s ear. “Perhaps I could get used to him after all.”

Before Kariya can interject—and based on how his nose wrinkles at Gilgamesh’s comment, he was just about to—the phone behind them rings. It doesn’t startle Kirei as much as it should; he recalls that the Church’s forces were in his hands, now. He had sent them out to hunt down the location of the Einzbern camp, lying and insisting that it was his father’s dying wish. He can’t think of anyone else that might try calling him. Save Tokiomi, but he wouldn’t dream of using a telephone for that.

Kirei disengages himself from Gilgamesh and Kariya, noting that both touches linger. He isn’t sure how to feel about that. He picks up the receiver, holding it to his ear. He does not speak, only listens. Evidently, the inquisitor on the other end doesn’t mind, dutifully giving their report:

They had located the Einzbern’s hideout. They had an address, even.

“Understood. Well done.”

He places the receiver back on its hook. The effect this news has on him is overwhelming. Knowing where the Einzbern homunculus, Emiya’s assassin pet, and Saber were hiding filled him with renewed vigor. He’s excited now, but not nervous—no, he finds he’s never felt so relaxed. Everything that he had been agonizing over not even moments ago… doesn’t matter.

He knows where they are. Emiya Kiritsugu knows where they are. Already, he’s thinking of all the different ways he could use them to draw him out.

“Ah,” Gilgamesh speaks up, materializing next to him once more. “You’ve just received an exciting bit of news, I take it.”

Kirei can feel his mouth drawing up at the edges. “We’ve finally learned where the Einzbern camp is.”

 


 

It’s then that Kariya realizes just how sinister this priest really is. That smile on his face—he’s only smiled once, and he can hardly remember what that looked like without the lust at the time fogging his perception. But now, it’s…

Unsettling. If there’s anything Kariya is certain of about Kotomine Kirei, it’s that when he smiles like that, it’s unsettling. Like the peeling grin of a ravenous wolf—all he needs to do is lick his chops and the analogy would be perfect.

Archer’s laugh barks out sharply, echoing as he fades away in a shower of gold from Kirei’s side, only to reappear at Kariya’s. Without warning, one arm wraps around his abdomen to pull him flush against his chest, the other snaking up to his front to grasp at his face, his hand squeezing his jaw with a clearly measured amount of restraint.

“Isn’t it just astounding, mongrel?” Archer says, jostling Kariya around as if he were a toy. He laughs again, and Kariya can feel it against his back, hypersensitive to the rise and fall of his chest. “He never planned on leaving in the first place! As I live and breathe, he continues to amaze me!”

Kariya really should be struggling more, but he’s realizing a lot of things about Archer right now. One, he’s taller than him, almost as built as Kirei, and two, he shouldn’t be kind of into being manhandled like this, that single remaining Lust worm is going to be the end of him.

“I did hesitate,” Kirei says, moving closer to them. As if Archer just grabbing Kariya is completely natural. “I even considered giving up.”

In a strange move, Kirei lifts his left arm, peeling back the sleeve of his right. Even if Kariya hadn’t been tangled up in Archer’s arms, he would’ve gasped anyway at the Command Seals etched into the back of Kirei’s right arm.

“But it is as you say,” he continues. “Someone like me can only live on with questions.”

Though he, as a participant in the war, should have known about the leftover Command Seals that he would’ve inherited as the new Overseer, Kariya still can’t help but feel amazed at the sight. They were intricate, wild, yet controlled in their strokes against his flesh.

Archer laughs again, the rhythmic beat of his chest pressing insistently into Kariya’s back as he leans over him. “However, Kirei. There remains for you a rather grave problem,” All too suddenly, Archer’s grip around Kariya tightens, to the point where Kariya can feel his bones grinding and groaning beneath his grip. “Were you to begin participating in the Holy Grail war once more, but on your own merits, Tokiomi Tohsaka becomes your enemy… and right now, you are in the presence of not one, but two enemy Servants.”

An echoing, bestial growl rolls forth from behind them. A glance over his shoulder confirms it; Berserker has manifested all on his own, standing behind the couch. Just standing there, the dense magical fog rolling off him. I didn’t call for him, Kariya thinks, heart clenching in his chest. Why is he here? This is bad, if he can appear all on his own, that’s—

But before Berserker has the chance to attack, Archer releases Kariya, letting him fall to his knees. “Now, now, mad dog. I was only teasing. A joke, you know? Can you even understand humor, I wonder?”

Berserker lets out a gargled growl in response. This only seems to amuse Archer further. The Black Knight tips his head down, angled towards Kariya. His gaze feels strange, somehow—Berserker has hardly ever looked at him before, only operating as a wild weapon up till now, but the way his head is tilted towards him… is he concerned? Can he be concerned for a Master that only exists to feed him mana?

“I’m fine, Berserker,” Kariya tries talking to him. If he’s lucid, he’ll react, and if not… he has Command Seals. “You don’t have to worry. Just go.”

There’s a pause. And then, just as suddenly as he’d appeared, he fades, going back to his spirit form.

“Well, one enemy Servant, then,” Archer continues, unperturbed. With no regard for propriety, he sits down on the end table between the chairs, crossing one leg over the other. “But the fact remains that you, Kirei, have no real plan to defend yourself. Rather dire for you, wouldn’t you think?”

Kariya is about to struggle to his feet when, once more, a hand reaches out for him. He looks up that arm, eye resting on Kirei’s still-smiling face. There’s a moment of hesitation before Kariya takes that hand, huffing as Kirei hauls him back up to his feet. There’s confidence in that smile, and it doesn’t seem like Berserker’s sudden appearance shook him at all.

“No, not at all. I’ve something to trade for my life, you see,” Kirei answers Archer, though he’s still looking at Kariya, still holding onto his hand. “I’m sure you know what I’m referring to, as well, don’t you? Kariya.”

Brows furrowed, Kariya shifts his gaze away. “No, I don’t.”

“Of course you do.” Kirei guides Kariya to the chair on his right, urging him to sit. Archer, content to sit back on the sofa rather than on the table, fades from view in a shower of gold, reappearing mere meters away from where he had just been. Why he didn’t just get up to move is beyond Kariya, but he isn’t about to ask.

Kirei’s touch lingers as his hand slips out of Kariya’s, fingers brushing gently along his palm. Kariya bites the inside of his cheek, looking up towards Kirei briefly before looking away again. He isn’t sure he likes just how… jovial the priest is right now.

“I speak, of course, of the truth behind the Holy Grail war, that has been kept from you, Gilgamesh.”

Oh, Kariya blinks, realization dawning on him. He means that, huh. He knew that it was the original plan of the three great families, but the only one that really cared about it has always been Tokiomi. If he won the Grail, then he would go through with those decades-long ambitions, meaning…

“The sacrifice of all seven Heroic Spirits to open a path to the Root,” Kariya says. Both Kirei and Archer look to him. Kirei, still smiling, arches his brow, while Archer just pins him in place with those crimson eyes of his. Swallowing, Kariya continues, “That’s… what you mean, isn’t it? Kirei-san?”

“Indeed,” Kirei nods. “The activation of the Third Magic. And yes, Gilgamesh, you heard right—all seven Heroic Spirits. It is essential that all seven Servants are killed in order to activate the Greater Grail. This is why he has been so hesitant to use any of his Command Seals… because he requires them to order his Servant to commit suicide, once the war reaches its conclusion.”

Kariya isn’t sure what he expects Archer’s reaction to be, but the dry laugh that comes from him is still strange to him. “So you mean to tell me that Tokiomi’s so-called devotion to me has been nothing but a falsehood, Kirei?”

“To put it another way,” Kirei speaks, his tone emotionless, but the narrow of his eyes belying his true feelings on the matter. “My Master is a mage to his very core. He may worship a Heroic Spirit, but he harbors no illusions about his idols.”

Curling his fingers against his sleeve, Kariya glowers. He’s been saying this since the start, that Tokiomi is garbage, nothing but a selfish, self-important blowhard that would give up his own daughter for a chance to reach the Root—

Kirei’s smiling at him, directly at him. Kariya swallows, shifting his gaze from the priest over to Archer, who’s remained quiet in the wake of all this.

“Oh, Tokiomi… at last you’ve shown some hint of promise.” he says, tipping his head up. He’s grinning madly, lips peeled back against his teeth. “That boring little man will finally be able to entertain me!”

It’s like I’m in a lion’s den, Kariya finds himself thinking, unconsciously shrinking back against his own chair. With Kirei smiling like that, and now Archer showing his teeth in his own grin, it’s abundantly clear that these two are hungry. Not for food, not sex, but violence. Kariya gulps. These two really are… something else.

It’s not that he’s scared. Berserker is here, and strangely lucid, and he knows he’s prepared to call on him if he needs to—but he isn’t. These two don’t want him, no. Their eyes are firmly on Tokiomi, and while Kariya shares that, he wouldn’t group himself with Kirei and Archer.

His hatred for Tokiomi is deeper than any excited bloodlust these two might have for him. They might want to rip him apart, but Kariya wants more than that—he wants to rub it in his face how much of a horrible person he is, remind him that he gave away his own daughter to an inhuman monster, that Kariya loves his family more than he ever would.

And then he would kill him for good.

“Now then, what will you do, King of Heroes?” Kirei’s voice brings Kariya out of his bloody fantasy. “Knowing what you know now, will you continue to serve my Master… and punish me for rebelling against him?”

“Ah, a fair question indeed,” Archer leans forward, elbows braced on his knees. “In spite of his treachery, Tokiomi still provides me with the mana I need to stay materialized… oh,” He straightens up, and though Kariya can only see his profile, he can still see the salacious look that Archer gives Kirei. “Come to think of it! There is a partnerless Master that I know of, currently seeking out a Servant unbound by a contract.”

Kirei’s eyes are on Gilgamesh now, that smile growing somehow wider. “As a matter of fact, you’re right. But there remains the question of whether or not that man is a worthy Master in the eyes of the King of Heroes.”

Kariya blinks as this exchange continues on before him, watching as Archer and Kirei plot to team up once Tokiomi is dead. But it brings up a question of his own. Have these two always just… flirted like this, or is this a new thing, now that Tokiomi’s out of the equation?

The bewilderment must be evident on his face, because Archer laughs again, draping himself over the right end of the couch towards Kariya. Though he can’t retreat any farther into the chair, Kariya attempts so, not used to this kind of attention from someone like the so-called King of Heroes.

“Say now, mongrel,” he purrs, his voice thick with amusement. “This means a partnership with you, too, you realize.”

“Uh,” Kariya looks to Kirei, hoping for an out, but he gets none. All he gets is that smile, which is still more unnerving than his usual dourness. “Yeah, I had that figured, since…”

“Then,” Gilgamesh cuts him off, as if he didn’t even need to answer. “Surely, you know that this makes you, as well as that mad dog, mine for the time being. After all, Kirei is well aware of my possession over him, and if you are to work with him, that means being under me.”

Under—hang on,” Kariya holds a hand up, trying to get him to slow down. “You lost me, what? I mean, if it means Tokiomi gets killed, I don’t really care either way, but this sounds a lot more like you’re… this doesn’t sound like you’re choosing vassals or whatever, it sounds more like—”

“Vassals? Hah!” Gilgamesh slaps a hand against the arm of the sofa, falling into another fit of hysterics. “No, no, you are my possessions until further notice. And based on how loose and limber you were in my arms earlier…”

All the blood in his body floods to his face in that moment, and Kariya can’t help but let out an indignant squawk. “That’s what you were doing?!”

“Now, now,” Kirei interrupts their conversation—though Kariya isn’t sure what he would’ve had to say to that—standing up from his seat. “If we are going to do this tonight, we will need to stay on track.”

Gilgamesh gives Kariya one last predatory grin before sitting back up in the middle of the sofa. “Ah, yes, you want the overture to commence, in other words? Very well. I leave it in your hands, Kirei… I look forward to what you have planned.”

And with that, Gilgamesh disappears, presumably on his way back to Tohsaka manor. Kariya can feel himself relax involuntarily; he isn’t afraid, that’s for sure, but he really is… put off.

Letting out a sigh, Kariya meets Kirei’s eyes, his mouth pulling into a tight line. “So… what now? The whole plan revolved around Tokiomi being here, and not back home.”

Kirei crosses over to him, and slowly but surely, that smile of his softens into something… new. Something Kariya can’t put a name to. He thinks he likes it better than his other smile, but it’s still got an edge to it that leaves him unsettled.

“You needn’t worry about that, Kariya,” Kirei’s hand settles on Kariya’s shoulder. It slides up his neck, cupping his jaw. It’s a mindless sort of touch, his hand moving up and down along the skin of his neck, the strokes almost soothing. “I will ensure that he comes back. Everything will be arranged according to our original plan.”

Kariya doesn’t answer.

Chapter Text

There is fear in Kariya’s eyes now, an addled discomfort now that he’s seen Kirei (at this point, at least) at his most indulgent. And as his hand smooths over the distended veins along Kariya’s face and neck, Kirei can only feel heat bubbling through his own.

“Kariya,” Kirei says. He knows they are short on time. But the look in Kariya’s eyes—a little frightened, a little curious, almost besotted with the touch Kirei is laying upon his skin—begs Kirei to take just a few minutes more, now that they are alone. “Are you afraid of me?”

His throat bobbing with the deep swallow he takes, Kariya averts his gaze. “Kind of. I mean… with you smiling like that, kind of. But at the same time, it’s…”

The fact that Kariya can’t quite meet his eyes and that he trails off like that… Kirei can tell he’s as scared as he is fascinated by his shift in demeanor. His hand slides up to cup Kariya’s jaw, thumbing at his bottom lip.

It’s…? Kirei prods, tugging at Kariya’s chin, trying to get him to meet his eyes. “It’s what, Kariya?”

Kariya gulps, reluctantly looking up into Kirei’s face. The tips of his ears are pinker than normal—and slowly, his one working eye slides up to meet his. Kirei can feel his own smile growing, and he has to fight to keep it back, to keep himself from baring his teeth. With how nervous Kariya seems to be, he must be able to tell.

“It’s…” Kariya tries to find the right word, blush spreading to his cheeks. “Kind of… hot? Which is weird,” he doesn’t look away, but Kariya starts fiddling with the end of his borrowed shirt, his toes curling against the carpet. “I don’t usually… I mean, I… this is still new to me, so… I’m figuring this stuff out as I go, and I’m… not sure why I think that just yet. It’s scary, but I also… like it?”

It takes all of Kirei’s self-control, which itself is fraying as the hours go by, to keep himself from barking out a laugh. He can’t quite stop himself from chuckling, though; it’s just precious, watching Kariya work through his own confusion.

“Quite the predicament indeed,” Kirei purrs, reveling in how Kariya twitches. “Have your tastes always eluded you so?”

There’s a thoughtful pause. “No,” Kariya says, but it’s slow, as if he’s really unsure. “Just… I guess I’m learning more about myself. There’s only ever been one person I loved, I never stopped to think about what else I might like. It’s only ever been one person, so this is…”

Tohsaka Aoi. The woman he could never have, and never will. Kariya must know that more than anyone—ah, but the desperation with which he clings to the idea that maybe, just maybe… it’s exquisite to behold. Even now, though he hasn’t mentioned her by name, Kirei can see the pained furrow to his brow.

Matou Kariya, a man with only one thing sustaining him. That one, shining thing that keeps him hopeful. His entire reason for fighting in this war. Kirei wants to rip it to bits in front of him, leave him without it, just to see what he does.

No… not yet, he reminds himself. Yes, that’s right. Kirei needs to see what Kariya will do once the object of his hatred is no more—without that to sustain him, what will happen? Will he realize his folly, realize that now that he’s killed the husband of the woman he so desires, he can’t pursue her without that guilt eating away at him?

It’s almost too beautiful to imagine. Kirei can feel himself growing more and more aroused the longer he contemplates it.

“It’s new,” Kirei finally says, his thumb sliding along Kariya’s lip. “And frightening… isn’t it?”

Kariya’s tongue darts out of his mouth to wet his lips, just barely grazing Kirei’s thumb. It’s a subtle motion, but it leaves Kirei sighing, a low hum rumbling from his chest. If the way Kariya shuffles his thigh is any tell, he’s not unaffected by this, either.

“Yeah,” Kariya’s voice is low, breath hot on Kirei’s hand as it hisses from him. His eyelid lowers, good eye fogging over slightly. “It’s…”

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Kirei draws a step closer, easing Kariya’s head back further to accommodate. “But I have a feeling that this is the first time you’ve had such inclinations towards another man. You seemed quite eager, the moment I first touched you.”

His mouth is soft with inattention, just watching Kirei now. He doesn’t say otherwise—Kirei assumes he’s correct, then.

“In fact,” Kirei grows bolder, his thumb dipping into the corner of Kariya’s mouth. “I’d go as far as saying that this may be the first time you’ve ever acted on such urges.”

This seems to startle Kariya out of his stupor. He pulls back, turning his head away from Kirei. Kariya grips at his arm tightly, shrinking as far back into the chair as he possibly can. “You don’t have to say it like that. I was… I never thought about… I had work, and… it’s complicated.”

Kirei just about chokes. He didn’t see this coming. The man who practically threw himself at him is a virgin. Perhaps he should feel shame in all that he’s allowed him to do, in all he’s done to him, but all he feels is an arousal so thick, so heady, that Kirei has to actively ensure he isn’t going to stumble.

He must have been making a face, because Kariya glances back up at him and weakly shoves at his thigh. “Shut up, it’s not that strange.”

Laughing softly, Kirei reaches out again, fingers carding through Kariya’s hair this time around. “I think you’ll find that I haven’t said anything, Kariya.”

“You didn’t have to! It’s—written all over your face,” Kariya doesn’t flinch away from him this time, but he still refuses to look him in the eye, drawing a knee up to press into his chest. “You probably think I’m some loser that couldn’t get himself laid, don’t you?”

“Not at all,” Kirei tips his hand, cradling Kariya’s head, attempting to get that one working eye back on him. “Chastity is a precious virtue.”

Kariya shifts in his seat, unconsciously tipping his head into Kirei’s hand. Kirei wonders how often, if ever, Kariya’s been touched like this. Has Tohsaka Aoi ever carded her hands through his hair, as Kirei is doing now? Or is this the first time Kariya has known this kind of intimacy? The thought of it sends a shiver up Kirei’s spine. And though there’s still an edge of uncertainty in his voice, Kariya relaxes bit by bit, breathing out his next words. “You say that… but I’m getting the feeling you’re trying something.”

Kirei hums. “Nothing nefarious, I can promise you.”

“Oh yeah?” Kariya, his voice heady and slurred, lets his eye slide shut. “So you are trying something.”

“It would be beneficial for what needs to be done,” Kirei bends slightly, eyes fixed on Kariya’s left eye, still open, milky white and glazed and lifeless. It’s a sudden, impulsive thought, but Kirei wonders if Kariya would even feel it if Kirei ran his tongue over it. Would he even blink or twitch? Questions for later. “You’re in need of mana, are you not?”

Kariya’s right eye snaps back open, fully attentive once more. He doesn’t pull away from Kirei this time, but his gaze is tense, anxious. “Yeah, but… I don’t know if… I want to be able to walk, and if I can’t walk by the time Tokiomi gets here—”

It’s rather cute, in a way. Though the thought is tempting in itself, if Kirei were to properly bed him, he doubts he would be able to control himself—indeed, he may very well make it so that Kariya can’t walk for days on end, if given such free reign. Lightly shushing him, Kirei shakes his head. “No, not that. We are short on time as it is. I was merely going to suggest you use your mouth. That should provide you with enough to adequately deal with him tonight.”

“You mean…” Kariya’s nose wrinkles. “I have to swallow? That’s… doesn’t it taste bad?”

Kirei resists the urge to roll his eyes. “Half of your taste buds are dead, Kariya. I think you’ll survive.”

Good eye narrowed, Kariya huffs, conceding to his point. He shuts his eye again, leaning into Kirei’s hand. “Fine, okay, that’s fair. You know, you’re kind of tactless—you’re lucky I’m already kind of horny.”

Deciding against commenting on the tactless remark, Kirei relinquishes a bit of his control, letting himself guide Kariya’s face towards the bulge in his slacks. Even having that mild pressure against him is enough to draw a low groan from deep in his throat. “Then I shall leave it in your hands.”

Even Kariya’s blush, from this angle, looks lopsided; as if the blood in the left side of his body was slower to pump due to the damage from the worms. Lowering his knee back to the floor, Kariya pulls his face back and lifts his hand, fumbles with the button and fly of Kirei’s slacks.

He’s shaking. Kirei swallows the excess saliva gathering in his mouth.

“Um,” Kariya says softly, stopping short at Kirei’s boxers. “Jesus, you’re big…”

The inanity of his statement almost makes Kirei want to laugh. He huffs a single breath, his hand tightening in Kariya’s hair. “Remember where you are, Kariya.”

“W—Well I’m sorry,” Kariya sputters, shooting Kirei a look. “I wasn’t expecting you to be—this is so unfair, what kind of genes do you have to get this huge…”

The absolute last thing Kirei wants to think about when he has Kariya before him like this is his family, so he takes the next step that Kariya seems hesitant on and pulls his cock out of his boxers. There’s a special sort of heat that stirs in his stomach at the sigh that Kariya gives upon seeing it, his good eye fogging over anew.

“Go on then,” Kirei says, his voice rougher than it usually is. “Or will you need guidance in this, as well?”

He doesn’t mean it to sound like a challenge, but Kariya seems to take it as such. Without another word, he shakily wraps his hand around Kirei’s cock and starts pumping him clumsily, brows furrowed deeply in thought. Kariya’s palm is clammy with sweat, his throat bobbing with repeated gulps. He’s so nervous, and he hasn’t even started yet.

Of course, these facts don’t make Kirei any less aroused. In fact, Kariya’s abject terror at the prospect of potentially making a fool of himself in this, in pleasuring Kirei, sets his blood to greater heat with every passing second. The wait is such agony, such sweet torture, it flavors the experience. He doesn’t even mind if Kariya is terrible at this; he will guide him, use him, and he will cum down his throat regardless.

With an unsure grimace, Kariya places a kiss to the head of Kirei’s cock, and Kirei lets out a low groan. A bead of precum smears against his lips, and the taste seems to leave Kariya wanting. Perhaps it’s the few remaining worms inside him, compelling him to greater hunger at the taste of it. Slowly, Kariya licks over the head, his hand beginning to steady in its strokes against his shaft.

It’s a tease, and Kirei can hardly stand it. They’re short on time as it is, and as much as he’d like to let Kariya discover his newfound lusts in real time, he can’t enjoy that luxury right now. This is the first time he’s been dominant when it comes to sex—barring Claudia, and even then, even then—and though he’s wont to admit it, Kirei feels frustrated that he’s fumbling as he is. If Archer were here, it would be easier, just having him urging him along, goading him into further boldness.

Take, that voice says, and Kirei can practically feel the King of Heroes at his back. He wants it just as badly. Do it.

“Open your mouth,” Kirei grunts, jerking Kariya’s head back by the hair. Rather than protesting, Kariya lets out a moan of his own at the rough treatment, his mouth opening willingly as wide as he can manage it. “Good.”

Kariya whimpers, his hand dropping back into his own lap. “Pull yours out,” Kirei orders, just as he can see Kariya attempting to touch himself through his boxers. It’s a vague, formless thought, but Kirei would rather not do laundry again so soon, and not on the same garment. Kariya does as he’s asked, sending another pulse of heat straight through his cock. Huffing a breath, Kirei grits his teeth. “Touch yourself. Do not finish before I do.”

Using his other hand, Kirei grips tightly at Kariya’s jaw, wedging it open further. Kariya makes a wordless sound, but Kirei cuts it off in the middle, shoving his cock down Kariya’s throat as far as he can get it. Kirei can feel the slackness of Kariya’s left side in his hand, can feel the pressure against his cock bear down heavier on that side, light impressions of teeth against his shaft. Kirei pushes in until Kariya’s nose jabs into his pelvis, letting his eyes roll back and fall shut at the feeling of Kariya’s throat convulsing around him.

Kariya moans around him, and Kirei cries out, forgetting himself. He’s meant to be in control, he shouldn’t be reacting so readily, but he can’t help it. He wants to relinquish it, deep down—to forget himself completely, to let himself be ruined and pried open and laid bare. But all the same… he wants to do that to Kariya. And that he wants it, wants at all, must have some meaning.

And if he wishes to learn that, he must continue. He must stay in control.

Trembling minutely, Kirei draws his hips back, centimeter by centimeter, and then drives back in hard. He doesn’t want to pull himself out too far—Kariya’s mouth, while mired and ruined and half-dead, is warm and tight, wet and edging near perfect in this moment. Shakily, he keeps his thrusts short, but hard, focusing more on how Kariya’s throat squeezes around him with each thrust, as if trying to keep him there—Kirei trembles at the thought, in spite of himself.

Kariya makes a loud, keening sound, his hand stuttering faster over himself. Kirei growls—he told him not to finish before he did, he was very clear. But he’s close, himself, and the noise Kariya makes around him, the arrhythmic pulsing of his throat around his length is too much. If he opens his mouth, something else will spill out—a moan, a cry, perhaps even an impassioned sob of Kariya’s name—

He can’t do any of that. No. He can’t. They just don’t have the time for it, if he lets himself want any more, he’ll keep going, milk Kariya for all he’s worth, push him further, further, further. Take everything that he has and leave nothing left.

Take everything, leave nothing for anyone else. Nothing for the Matou girl, nothing for Zouken, nothing for the Tohsaka matriarch.

Hnnh,” Kirei grits his teeth against the groan that threatens to leave him, his grip too tight on Kariya’s face now, too tight in his hair. Not tight enough to cause lasting damage—he is a master of discipline, not even this can make him lose control over his own body—but he’s sure that he’s leaving bruises against Kariya’s jaw, tugging against his scalp to the point of pain. But Kariya doesn’t protest; if anything, it seems to arouse him further, his hand all but abandoning his own cock to grip tightly at Kirei’s hip. Gasping through his parted lips, Kirei shuts his eyes and growls his warning, “… I—”

Kirei can’t even finish his warning before it seizes him. Deep, paralyzing heat uncoils from deep in his stomach, causing his knees to buckle, his muscles to seize—he pulls Kariya in against his pelvis, presses his cock into his mouth as deep as he can get it. Kariya is making noise around him, whimpering and keening, huffing hot air through his nose. hunching over him, Kirei lets out a long, deep moan, keeping his eyes shut against the fire scorching his nerves as he cums hard down Kariya’s throat.

It lasts longer than Kirei expects it to, pulse after pulse of cum emptying into Kariya’s mouth, mana flowing through him and passing to Kariya. He can feel Kariya shiver against him with the transfer, his arm sliding around Kirei’s hips and keeping him pinned against him. Though he had complained about having to swallow, there’s no trace of hesitance in the deep, loud gulps that Kariya takes, ending each with a soft, muffled moan.

Though it lasts for what feels like minutes, Kirei takes in a long breath as he feels himself finish completely. He slowly eases Kariya’s mouth off him, though Kariya’s arm is still hooked around his waist. Kariya sighs, almost wistfully, as his head tips back. Kirei’s cum is smeared against his lips, a crude reminder.

His eyes wander down further, noting Kariya’s still-throbbing erection.

“You…” Kirei wheezes, not realizing just how out of breath he still is. “You haven’t finished yet.”

Kariya blinks heavily, as if still well within the grips of a trance. “Huh… oh yeah, I haven’t…”

Kirei slides his hand from Kariya’s hair to his face. He can feel something pulse in his stomach when Kariya leans into his touch. “Do you require my…”

Fuck, yes,” Kariya says, panting anew. Kirei didn’t even need to finish his offer. He rubs his cheek into Kirei’s palm, his lips catching at his thumb as he speaks. “Please, please touch me, all I need is just a little more and I’ll—”

Kirei taps at Kariya’s hand, still curled around him possessively. “You will need to let go of me, if I am to reach you.”

“Oh,” Kariya sighs. He sounds oddly pained by the notion. “Yeah.”

Reluctantly, Kariya’s arm eases in its death grip around Kirei, letting him take a knee. Reaching into his pocket, he pulls out a packet of tissues, keeping one ready for when Kariya finishes. He is not going to do another load of laundry before Tokiomi is dead.

Kirei doesn’t pause to ask what Kariya would like him to do. With his free hand, he grasps Kariya’s cock, reddened and leaking, and kneads at it with a tight grip as he leans forward to lathe his tongue over his head. Kariya all but screams, his hand grasping desperately at Kirei’s shoulder, his face pressing into the crown of Kirei’s head.

“Please, please, ohmygod—hnnn,” Kariya sobs, “Kirei, Kirei, holy shit more, more, I—”

Though Kariya is slight and lean of frame, Kirei can feel a sharp pain forming beneath the hand Kariya has at his shoulder—it will bruise, Kirei’s certain of it. Licking a stripe up his cock, Kirei places a kiss to the tip and quickens the pace of his hand. He can’t lift his head far; Kariya still has his face pressed into his hair, his breath hissing through his scalp and wetting it into clumps with his saliva.

Anticipating it, Kirei covers Kariya’s cockhead with a tissue. Just as he can feel the first pulse of warmth, Kariya’s hand leaves his shoulder, gripping tightly at Kirei’s jaw. Lifting his face away from Kirei’s hair, Kariya jerks Kirei’s head upward to crush their lips together, clumsily shoving his tongue into his mouth.

Awareness of his surroundings slides away from Kirei at that point—he thinks he’s catching most of Kariya’s release in the tissue, but he isn’t sure, because he’s being kissed so abruptly. He stares at Kariya, whose one good eye is squeezed shut, wondering why? Kariya’s nails are rough against his skin, scratching out of absent-mindedness. He’s sure that Kariya’s finished by now, but he hasn’t stopped kissing him, as if he’s intent on stealing more than just his mana away.

Before his eyes, he watches as a tear squeezes past Kariya’s tightly shut eye, tracks it as it rolls down the unmarred side of his face. What could he be thinking, Kirei can’t help but wonder. That tear could be brought forth by any number of things—but that they would appear now makes something in Kirei’s chest twinge in pain.

Kariya lets him go, his hand dropping back into his lap. His tongue leaves Kirei’s mouth, dragging against his teeth and lips, smearing him with saliva. Blinking his good eye back open, he seems to prickle at whatever look he’s perceiving in Kirei’s eyes.

“That kiss sucked. It sucked, didn’t it?” Kariya mutters. “Well, sorry. I don’t have experience with that, either.”

“Neither do I,” Kirei admits, though he isn’t sure why now, of all times, he’s admitting to something so meaningless. “Archer complains about my ineptitude in that regard.”

Kariya wrinkles his nose at the mention of Gilgamesh. “Something tells me his standards are a little… impossible. Being a king and all, he’s probably kissed more than he’s told.”

Bunching up the tissue still held at Kariya’s cockhead—earning him a rather nice gasp, it almost sounded pained—Kirei moves to stand. “Perhaps so. It doesn’t interest me, in any case. I’ve no need for a skill like that, no matter how much he bemoans it.”

Kirei can feel Kariya’s eyes on him as he crosses over to his desk, reaching underneath to throw the tissue into the wastebasket. When he turns back around, Kariya snaps his mouth shut, as if he wanted to say something about that.

“How is your mana?” Kirei asks, changing the subject with little thought. “I trust I gave you an adequate amount.”

It’s a fact, and Kirei knows it. Why Kariya gets so red in the face after he says it, however, is beyond him.

“Y—Yeah,” Kariya turns his head away sharply, one shoulder hunched up around his ear. Kirei fails to see why he does it, because the left side of Kariya’s face is still completely visible to him. “I’m good. I mean, it’s good. It was good—the transfer, it was… my mana’s… it’s strange.”

Kirei tilts his head. “Meaning?”

“I’ve been…” Kariya’s shoulder slumps a bit. “Fatigued and worn down this entire time, but now it’s like I’m filled to the brim with energy.”

Ah, so that’s it. The realization dawns on Kirei then. “As is natural. I take this is your first proper mana transfer?”

“If by proper you mean getting it from someone human, then yeah,” Kariya’s right hand grips tightly at his upper left arm. Kirei’s only now noticing that it’s his most constant tic. His voice turns to a growl, resentment dripping from his tone. “The Matous aren’t exactly what you’d call proper, after all.”

There’s a great deal more that Kirei could ask, but this isn’t the time. His curiosity can wait for the moment, though even having curiosity nibble at him is an alien sensation in itself.

“In any case,” Kirei walks past him to the door, turning to look Kariya in the face as he rests his hand on the doorknob. “It should be more than you are used to—therefore, plenty for you to properly control your Berserker with. Should you decide to use him in this endeavor.”

There’s a thoughtful pause. And then, Kariya shakes his head. “No. If… if I have to, I will. But I want to do it with my own hands.”

Kirei, feeling giddy at the implications of that, lets himself smile. It’s a wicked, ugly thing, but it feels so natural. “I see.”

 


 

Kariya is so full of mana, he’s finding it hard to sit still. Kirei had excused himself to get Tokiomi, and now, Kariya just has to wait.

Wait in front of the pulpit,” Kirei told him. “Tokiomi shall be dropped at your feet within the hour.”

That’s what he says, Kariya thinks to himself, his good leg bouncing impatiently. But how the hell can he be so sure about that? Why couldn’t he just take me right to Tohsaka manor and—

Well, he knows why—the barrier around the mansion would’ve made that impossible. If nothing else, Tokiomi is a top-notch mage. All the more reason to hate him, all the more reason to rip him apart on sight.

As an aside, Kariya’s thankful that Kirei took the time to at least get his pants out of the laundry for him to put on, though he’s still wearing Kirei’s shirt. Not because he has to, but well, you know how it is.

Rolling up the sleeves of that borrowed shirt, Kariya stares down at his right arm. He can feel his magic circuits humming beneath his flesh, a comforting warmth. It’s strange, not seeing them bulge against his skin, like they usually do when the worms infuse him with mana—hundreds of crest worms, eating away at his life force, jerking and undulating inside of him; no, that was anything but warm and comforting.

He could get used to this. He could get used to feeling this warmth, and that frightens him.

Turning his left arm over, Kariya presses his thumb into his unfeeling skin, pressing hard against where he knows the magic circuits are. He can’t feel it, but there’s a throbbing he can sense under his right thumb, an involuntary, sluggish reaction.

Am I going to die? Kariya wonders. If so, when? Will it be sooner, or later? Did Kirei add a few more days onto my life? Weeks? Months, even?

The fact of the matter is that Kariya, for the first time in over a year, feels alive. And he doesn’t know how to deal with that. He’d been going forward this entire time thinking that he had a set expiration date, one that was growing closer and closer each time he called on Berserker or when he called forth the bugs—horrible fucking things they are, disgusting, putrid—but now, that expiration date was murkier, perhaps not as close as he’d thought.

Would he even die at all, at this rate? As things stand now, he doesn’t feel like it’s a certain thing anymore.

If I live longer than a week, then… Kariya feels his heart swell. I could rescue Sakura, bring her back to Rin and Aoi, and we… we could…

Two things occur to Kariya, then, two things that he hadn’t considered. One, would Aoi even want to look at him if he kills Tokiomi? Would it even matter if he brought Sakura home—he wants to lie to himself, to her, that she doesn’t really love him that much, right? Tokiomi doesn’t care at all about them, not one bit, but he does! He cares about Rin, about Sakura, about Aoi, so much more than he cares about anything else. Would that count for anything? Or… would Aoi just take Sakura, bring her in, and slam the door in Kariya’s face?

That would about line up with my luck, Kariya presses a little too hard into his left arm with his thumb, wincing as he pulls his hand away. I’ve had it okay so far, but will this weird lucky streak I’ve been having last that long…?

And then there’s the second thing Kariya hasn’t considered; Kirei. He’s been more physically intimate with him than anyone else in his entire life, and yet, he can’t help but regard the priest as little more than a stranger. He doesn’t know anything about Kotomine Kirei, nothing that matters, not like with Aoi—

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Kariya shakes his head, feeling himself cringe. “Don’t even go there…”

Putting the strange, too-attractive-for-his-own-good priest on the same level as the girl he’s known and loved since he was a kid is a little much. It’s definitely not something he’s willing to confront right now—focus on the task at hand.

He’s going to have to fight Kirei at some point, after the other Grail War participants are taken out… right? He promised Kirei as much earlier, that they could cross that bridge when they came to it. But what would happen when they got there…?

He swallows heavily. Instead of finding it in himself to calmly, rationally go over his plans for the future, Kariya only finds himself getting overly anxious the longer he thinks about it. He can’t say for sure what will happen.

Don’t think about it, he tries telling himself. Not now, anyway. You can’t back out of it now, you can’t.

Kariya turns his right hand over, palm facing him. Just a few days ago, he’d been covered from head to toe in burns, and god only knows how many bones he’d broken in the fall. It isn’t the pain that Kariya remembers most, though—it’s the look that Tokiomi had been giving him.

A frown had wrinkled his brow, his mouth in a tight line. He didn’t look pleased with himself, or mirthful in the face of Kariya’s defeat. If anything, in those eyes, all Tokiomi looked at Kariya with… was pity.

He pitied him. He called burning him to death an act of mercy. As if he knew anything of mercy, of the kindness that comes with mercy. As if he knew anything of kindness at all.

No kind man would ever give his daughter away to a man like Zouken, Kariya curls his hand into a fist, shaking with rage at the thought. No kind man in his right mind would ever trust the Matou family head.

Tokiomi reveres himself as royalty, as one of the elite, and yet he doesn’t understand a single thing about the real world. To a run-of-the-mill mage, kindness and compassion were both seen as folly. To Tokiomi, Kariya was a fool for abandoning the Matou name, for fleeing that hellish house as soon as he could. As if he knew anything about what Zouken was like now.

You think you know everything, Tokiomi, Kariya felt his nails biting into the skin of his palm, his breathing coming out in terse hisses. But you don’t. You don’t. If you were half as smart as you claim to be, you would’ve kept Sakura the hell away from the Matous. If you’d thought for one second about how she felt, how Aoi felt, how Rin felt, you wouldn’t have said yes to any of that—you would’ve—

Before Kariya can upset himself any further, the doors to the church swing open loudly.

 


 

“Thank you,” Tokiomi says, lifting his head and looking Kirei right in the eyes. He’s genuine, his tone so warm that Kirei can almost feel it from where he sits across from him. “Kirei.”

Kirei doesn’t say anything. It’s the same kind of warmth he felt from Risei, whenever he smiled at him. Kirei never felt anything stir in him at the sight of it, even as a child, and it’s much the same here. These feelings that Tokiomi is sharing with him, this warmth, may as well wither and die. It’s wasted on him.

Glancing down at the table between them. He spots a box, rectangular in shape, too long to house something like a framed picture or sweets. Kirei raises his eyebrows, performative in his curiosity. “What’s this?”

“A little something for you,” Tokiomi smiles wider. “A gift from me. Go on, open it.”

A gift. Kirei blinks, looking towards Tokiomi again, before he bends over to grab the box. Lifting the cover, the light of dawn filtering in through the window catching on the smooth surface of a blade. Numbness tickles at the tips of Kirei’s fingers as he stares at it, as he pulls it out of the finely woven silk that it sat upon.

“It’s an Azoth dagger,” Tokiomi explains, though his voice is distant to Kirei. “It symbolizes your mastery of magic, and marks the completion of your apprenticeship to me.”

Kirei speaks up, saying what he truly feels. “I am without words… you are too kind to me. I am filled with gratitude, my Master.”

It isn’t a complete lie. He is grateful. Tokiomi has supplied him with the very weapon that will end his life; and he gave it to him with such heartfelt emotion, such earnestness, just thinking of the look on his face when he inevitably plunges this dagger into his back—

“It is I who should be thanking you, Kotomine Kirei,” Tokiomi says. “Now, I can finish preparing for the final battle of this war.”

No, Kirei thinks, smiling placidly at Tokiomi. Not here. I have to bring him back to the church. Initially, he thinks that he could just ask Tokiomi to come back with him for a short while, say something along the lines of, I’ve also prepared a gift for you, back at Fuyuki Church. Also not a lie; his gift to Tokiomi is Matou Kariya, an unhinged dead man walking, with the chains of a wild Berserker clasped in his hand. Could there be any better gift?

But Kirei is already seeing flaws in this idea. If he says he has a gift for Tokiomi back at the church, he will ask, whyever did you not bring it with you? And Kirei will have no answer, because yes, he should have brought it. Kirei is not the forgetful type, and for all of his gross misunderstanding of him, Tokiomi knows at least that much.

Then how, Kirei tilts the dagger in his hands, staring at the reflection of his own eyes. The only other way is… yes.

“Oh my, look at the time.” Tokiomi peers over Kirei’s shoulder, moving to stand. He makes his way towards the door of his study, leaving himself wide open, a foolish show of trust. “I’m terribly sorry to have kept you this long. I hope I haven’t made you miss your flight.”

Kirei slides the handle of the dagger into his non-dominant hand and stands, as well. No, he won’t kill him here. And he won’t try to convince him to come back to the church with him; he’s simply too cautious, especially this late in the game. If he’s going to bring Tokiomi back to the church, it will need to be quick and quiet.

“No,” Kirei says, a step behind him. He lifts his right hand, muscles tightening in his forearm, hand tensing. “You needn’t worry about that… my Master.”

Though the knife is heavy in his left hand, Kirei directs a hard, decisive chop to the back of Tokiomi’s neck. Tokiomi lets out a sharp, startled cry, before his legs give out underneath him. Kirei is quick to catch him before he falls forward, holding his teacher up with ease.

“You see,” Kirei bends to Tokiomi’s ear, knowing full well that he can’t hear him. “I never got around to buying that ticket.”

Kirei checks Tokiomi’s pulse, shifting the dagger into his armpit to free his hand. Good, Kirei thinks. It would be so very dull, if I killed him on accident.

“Aren’t you bold all of a sudden.”

A shroud of golden dust twinkles in Kirei’s peripherals, along with a familiar build. “He had a Servant dematerialized in the very same room,” he says, removing the dagger from his armpit and straightening up to face Archer. Tokiomi sags in his grip, but Kirei pays him no mind; the blow he landed will keep him out for a while yet. “It’s no wonder his guard was down.”

“Is that so,” Gilgamesh bends to look Tokiomi in the face, sneering. “Quite foolish of him to lower his guard in the face of such a traitorous man, then.”

Kirei almost laughs. “He, much like my father, failed to understand me to the last. That he is now in such danger… is his own fault.”

Gilgamesh shifts his eyes back up to Kirei, staring straight at him with a gaze sharp enough to cut, pupils thin slits befitting a beast. And then he laughs, shoulders shaking as he just about doubles over. Were Kirei still doubting himself, he may have found it disturbing otherwise—but no. Now, he can’t help the strain of his own smile.

“Why, Kirei!” Gilgamesh bellows, wiping a tear from his eye. “You’re learning how to jest, of all things! To think you would catch on so quickly!”

I’ve you to thank for being such an influence upon me, Kirei thinks to say, but he holds his tongue. There will be plenty of time for banter once they return to the church—to Kariya, who Kirei is certain must be rather anxious for their arrival.

 


 

Kariya stands, feeling his veins clench at the sight of that aggravatingly familiar red suit. He feels himself calm, slightly, seeing Kirei toting him around like a ragdoll, but it isn’t much.

“Many apologies for keeping you waiting,” Kirei says, the sound of Tokiomi’s feet dragging echoing off the church walls. Though Kariya can hardly hear it over the sound of blood rushing through his ears. “Traffic, of all things. The sun has hardly even risen…”

Instead of answering him, Kariya steps down off the altar, walking down the aisle. Kirei reaches the midpoint and stops, waiting for Kariya to meet him before he simply drops Tokiomi to the floor, face-first. With how heavily he hits the floor, Kariya worries that he’s already dead. Kirei must see this in his eyes, for he speaks up, “He is still alive. Merely unconscious.”

“Good,” Kariya says. His voice is shaky, low. He isn’t looking at Kirei at all; no, his eyes have been glued to Tokiomi the moment those doors opened. “That’s fine. Good.”

Silence stretches between them. And even though he isn’t looking at him, Kariya swears he sees Kirei flinch, though he isn’t sure why. He doesn’t care.

Kirei takes a step back, turning on his heel. “I’ll leave you to it.”

“Okay.”

His feet leave Kariya’s line of sight, and distantly, he can hear the church doors slamming shut. Taking an unsteady breath, Kariya takes a knee, grabbing Tokiomi’s shoulder and turning his body over, laying him out on his back. Once he’s situated, Kariya swings his leg over Tokiomi’s waist, straddling his body and staring down at him. Tohsaka Tokiomi, patriarch of the Tohsaka clan, father of Tohsaka Rin and Tohsaka Sakura, husband to Zenjou Aoi—

It’s Tohsaka Aoi, his logic reminds him. It does little but infuriate Kariya further.

“Bet you thought you killed me, Tokiomi.” Kariya starts talking. “You were wrong. Dead wrong, even. I’ll never fucking die at your hands, you inhuman bastard. Never, never, never.”

Of all the times, Kariya’s memory starts to kick in right then—nothing about Aoi, but instead about the man before him. The first time he’d met Tokiomi… just how long ago was that? He had met him before Aoi, he knows that much. He’d known them both for most of his adolescence, but Tokiomi had entered the picture before Aoi.

Though the Three Founding Families were hardly what one would call close, the connection the Matous had with the Tohsakas was stronger than their relations with the Einzberns. Kariya had met Tokiomi as a young boy—funny enough, it was Byakuya who had introduced them, though he hardly cared what Kariya did at the time. It was a thing of happenstance; Kariya just so happened to be in Byakuya’s care the day they crossed paths with Tokiomi.

Byakuya had taken Kariya to the park, mostly to get him out of his hair while he faffed around with some girls he’d called on his way over. That was normal. Kariya was almost always alone on days like this. He’d been sitting at a picnic table, writing in his notebook when he was approached by Tokiomi.

Hello,” he’d said, sitting across the table from him. He was a year or so older than him, but he didn’t seem like much of a child. He spoke in a refined manner, with big words that Kariya thought only he knew. “You’re Matou Kariya, aren’t you?”

Kariya remembers feeling apprehensive and anxious. “Yes,” he’d replied. “If you’re looking for Byakuya, he’s…”

Oh no, I am not,” Tokiomi smiled. It was soft, almost sweet. “I want to talk to you. I am Tohsaka Tokiomi—we met only once, when we were infants. I suppose I’m rather strange, remembering something like that… but I’ve been meaning to talk to you for a while.”

Kariya can practically feel himself fidgeting, like he had done back then. “Really…?”

Oh yes,” Tokiomi nodded emphatically. “You’re the one taking up the Matou family magic, aren’t you?”

Um… yes,” Kariya picked at the corner of his notebook, not quite feeling confident enough to meet Tokiomi’s eyes. “I’m still… learning the basics… but grandfather tells me that I’m a fast learner. I should be moving up in my studies soon…”

Tokiomi had reached out, then, clasping his hand over Kariya’s. “If you need help with the basics, I can do that! We could learn together, and then we could both become great mages!”

Blinking, Kariya shakes his head, swiping his right hand over his face. He’s not a kid anymore, he’s not that naive, he’s not stupid enough to think that Tokiomi actually wanted to be his friend. No. No, no, no, he just wanted a rival, someone to square off against, someone to fight for the right to reach the Root or whatever the fuck it was.

“You piece of shit,” Kariya mutters. He can get as angry as he likes, but even recalling those times for a brief moment, thinking about how it felt back then—how Tokiomi, for a split second, seemed like someone that could care about him, someone that he could confide in, before he’d met Aoi—it makes him shake. Recalling that pathetic, lonely boy that he was—still is—and thinking about how now the lonely kid in the Matou house is Sakura, how history’s fucking repeating itself…

“You could’ve fucking stopped it,” Kariya pulls his hand away from his face, looking back down at Tokiomi’s slackened features. Grabbing his left arm, he presses his useless hand into Tokiomi’s neck, willing himself to use whatever remains in his nervous system to clench. He sets his good hand over his left, bearing down on him. “You could’ve been a fucking good person and kept your daughters away from that monster, that vampire, but you just handed her off like it’s no big fucking deal!”

Kariya tightens his grip, bearing all of his weight down on Tokiomi’s neck, feeling some depraved, disgusting delight at how Tokiomi starts sputtering. Spittle starts rising from Tokiomi’s lips, his mouth forming around slurred words—he’s conscious, Kariya realizes, and he puts more of his weight into strangling him.

“You bastard,” Kariya sinks his nails into the skin of Tokiomi’s neck. Tokiomi is sluggish beneath him, trying to work up the strength to fight back. The damage done by Kirei’s blow to his head must have done quite a number on him—but Kariya isn’t thinking about that. “You putrid, awful, sick fucking bastard!”

Tokiomi mouths Kariya’s name.

Gasping loudly, Kariya throws himself off of Tokiomi, stumbling backward. Without stopping to think, Kariya calls on his command seals, summoning Berserker. Kill him, crush him, don’t make me fucking look at his face anymore, kill him, do it, Berserker! FUCKING KILL HIM!

In a dark shroud, it appears. A gurgled roar pierces the air as Berserker slams his fists down on Tokiomi’s head, the sound of his skull crunching beneath the force making Kariya’s stomach turn. Berserker doesn’t stop at that, doesn’t stop even when Tokiomi’s face is just a mangled mess of blood and flesh and muscle.

Kariya thinks of that spring day as Tokiomi’s blood sprays on his face.

Chapter Text

Kirei shuts the church doors behind him, not daring to turn his back on the decrepit insect that stood beyond the statue of Mary stepping on the snake. His eyes narrow; he knows who this is without even needing to ask. He wasn’t certain when he felt that presence inside, but now, he’s sure of it.

“What is it that you want,” Kirei steps out from behind the statue, meeting the cold, dead eyes of the Matou head. “Matou Zouken?”

The laugh that creeps from Zouken’s throat is dry and cracked, coming from the belly of a monster that clearly doesn’t know when to die. “I’m impressed. I didn’t even have to knock… you came right to me. Indeed, sensing me so quickly… you’re a veteran Executor, eh?”

Kirei squares his shoulders, his ears picking up on a faint humming coming from Zouken’s body. The murmured clicking and chattering was not lost on him; after all, he’s seen it firsthand… the Matou magic is as disgusting as Kariya says.

When Kirei doesn’t respond to Zouken’s baiting, the old man shakes his head, his teeth bared in a malicious grin. “I have business with you, dog of the Church.”

“Which is?” Kirei tips his chin up. Why would he say something like that? Just how much does he know about what Kariya’s been up to? “You are not an active participant in the war, nor are you the representing Master of the Matou family at present. What else could there be?”

Zouken just smiles at him. All too slowly, all too wretchedly, that smile slowly falls, a sneer twisting his wrinkled face. “What have you done to the crest worms I implanted in Kariya?”

Kirei can’t help but flinch. Clearly, there’s more to the Matou worms than even Kariya knows. In any case, this is a good way to probe for more information. “What do you mean?”

“It was a lot of painstaking work, you know,” Zouken steps forward, his cane clicking against the stone. “With only one year to prepare, I had to make sure he had as many worms as possible. Each one of them… required much care. And yet… I can hardly sense any of them right now. Faintly, I believe there is…” Zouken pauses thoughtfully, smacking his lips. “One worm merged with his magic circuits, and one lust worm, wriggling around inside him even as we speak. I was certain I implanted more than just that. Now then… you’re housing him, aren’t you?”

Was he monitoring Kariya using all of those worms? Kirei can’t fathom why else he would use so many, other than to kill Kariya faster. A father going out of his way to kill his own son. How putrid.

“What does it matter to you, Matou Zouken?” Kirei curls his hands into fists, not backing down even when Zouken is hardly a few steps away from him. “Paternal concern?”

A cackle peels from Zouken’s mouth then, nearly doubling over from fits of horrid laughter. “Oh, you have jokes, do you? You Holy Church types, here I thought you had no sense of humor…”

Kirei narrows his eyes. “That was not a joke.”

Zouken slowly stops laughing, though the smile doesn’t fade from his face. Kirei can’t glean anything from the look in the old man’s eyes—they’re completely black, pupils rolling around in a dark, murky sea. “You’re an odd type. But you’ve the same smell as me, in any case. I’ll allow it, for now…”

Kirei can feel his patience wearing thin with this back-and-forth. The same smell? What does he mean by that? “You’ll allow it? You speak as if you have any bearing on what we do next.”

“Oh, it’s we, is it? We? As in… hah. You and Kariya? Tell me, is that the we you’re referring to?” Zouken tilts his head, a smirk curling on his face. His eyes bulge open wide, unblinking, contemplating Kirei like a black vulture contemplates a newborn calf. “You’ve grown rather attached, haven’t you? Hmm, in that case… you’re less like a maggot… more like a blood leech.”

Pulling back on the involuntary twitch his body wants to give, Kirei furrows his brows instead. He does not ask what Zouken means by that—at this point, he doesn’t care. But regardless of what he thinks, Kirei imagines that’s not all he has to say. And rather than let him off lightly, Kirei wants him to say it—give him all the more reason to hunt him, to turn this half-baked scavenger into a mere stain on the church steps.

“You and Kariya… hah,” Zouken laughs. “Now that he’s crawled back to his family, to me, there is no room for anyone else. Least of all… another wriggling, hungry little maggot.

Black keys form between Kirei’s fingers on instinct. Before Zouken can get another word out, Kirei sends three keys flying into Zouken’s face, looking to kill the bastard once and for all. Instead of flesh rending beneath the blades, Zouken’s entire head caves in. As if made of paper, only one half of his skull remains, his wounds entirely bloodless as his body crumples in a heap.

No, Kirei creates more keys. He’s made of them—the Matou insects.

There’s no denying it. Bugs crawl and writhe where Zouken once stood, a swarm of them spreading their wings and taking flight.

Ohh, scary, scary!” Zouken’s voice, disembodied and hollow, rings in Kirei’s ears. “You truly are a dog of the Church. I tease you at my own peril, eh? See to it that your true nature has fully ripened by the next time we meet… so that we may fight on equal footing.”

Kirei grits his teeth and scoffs. He holds onto his keys for a moment or so more, until he can be entirely certain that Zouken is gone. He takes a deep breath, trying to soothe his nerves. His eyes wander up to the statue of Mary, trying to find some sort of peace in her serene visage.

That man… Casting his eyes to the snake beneath Mary’s foot, Kirei clicks his tongue. Is in my way.

A thunderous crash from within the church brings his attention back to the task at hand. Just as morning begins to break fully, Kirei turns on his heel and heads back to the doors, feeling an odd mixture of tense and giddy.

 


 

Berserker is still smashing the ground where Tokiomi’s head once laid. He’s pounding through the floorboards, blood and viscera flinging wildly from his fists and splattering against the benches, against the far wall, against Kariya’s face—and all the while he’s roaring, visor glaring red.

Kariya shakes where he sits, just beyond Tokiomi’s feet. He’s trying to regain his breathing, it’s all over the place, he’s hyperventilating, he can’t draw enough air into his one working lung. He’s panting so hard, he can almost feel his dead lung shivering in his rib cage, as if it’s trying to will itself to expand again. Sweat lines Kariya’s hairline, droplets of it cascading down and over his dead eye, dripping onto his shirt.

There won’t even be anything left of him for Aoi to bury, Kariya’s thoughts whirl incessantly, a cacophony of noise that won’t stop, won’t stop, won’t stop. How am I gonna break it to her? How am I gonna break it to Sakura-chan and Rin-chan? I can’t, I can’t tell them, they can’t know, they can’t—

“Berserker,” Kariya mutters. His voice is strained, breathless and dry. “That’s enough. Berserker, stop. Stop it.”

Though Kariya had expected his words to go unheard, Berserker slows, the sound of his fists pounding into muscle and bone and splintered wood coming to a gradual stop, the squelching and crunching making Kariya’s stomach turn. Berserker tips his head up towards Kariya, letting out a gurgle.

“Go now,” Kariya says, his voice shaking. “You did a good job. Go rest.”

In a surprising moment of clarity from the mad dog, Berserker dips his head in a slow nod before disappearing. All that remains is Kariya, still shaking, and Tokiomi, completely unrecognizable from the neck up.

Or, so Kariya thought. Just as Berserker vanishes in a plume of dark fog, a shower of gold appears at Kariya’s side, Gilgamesh descending in one smooth motion.

“My, wasn’t that an exciting conclusion for him,” Archer says, nudging at Tokiomi’s motionless foot. Kariya can’t find it in him to look up at the King of Heroes, his gaze still centered on the mess that was once Tokiomi’s head. The smell was putrid, the stench of iron staining Kariya’s nostrils. “A bit too good for a boring little man like that. Ah, but well, it was quite dramatic. A lot more than I’d expected from you, mongrel.”

Kariya doesn’t reply. The most he can manage is a sob.

Out of the corner of his eye, Kariya can see Gilgamesh taking a knee at his side. With little care, he grasps Kariya’s chin, turning him to look into his eyes. They’re a deep red, his pupils serpentine. He can’t tell what’s going through the King of Heroes’ head from this alone—infuriatingly, he has that in common with Kirei.

“What a nice face,” Archer says, though his smile is anything but comforting. “Reality completely betrayed your expectations, didn’t it? Your dreams have finally come true, and yet you look more miserable than before.”

His words sting like a harsh slap to the side of his face that can still feel. But of all the people to speak them, why did it have to be Archer? Snarling, Kariya wrenches his chin out of Archer’s grasp. Though his voice isn’t nearly as convincing as he hoped it’d be. “Don’t touch me.”

“Oh, are we getting shy now?” Gilgamesh laughs, getting back to his feet. “You’ve a long way to go before your stomach matches your bloodlust, mongrel.”

Kariya grunts, trying to will the feeling back into his good leg. “I don’t have any regrets, if that’s what you’re implying.”

He’s not even looking at him, but Kariya can practically feel the nasty grin peeling across Archer’s face. “For a man with no regrets, you certainly shed the tears of one.”

Just as he says that, Kariya feels something wet drip onto his good hand. Looking down, he watches as a tear slides across the back of it, trailing against the one remaining Command Seal he has left. The tear is followed by another, and another, until Kariya truly realizes it.

I’m crying over Tokiomi, he turns his hand over, wiping at his cheek. He isn’t sure how long he’s been crying—did he start while he was strangling Tokiomi, or when he started thinking about breaking the news to Aoi? When did it start? He doesn’t know, he can’t remember. I’m fucking crying over Tohsaka Tokiomi.

Blood sticks to his thumb as he continues wiping at his face. Tokiomi’s blood, maybe more than just blood, Kariya didn’t stop to think about where all that viscera would fly during Berserker’s rampage. There’s bound to be bits of Tokiomi everywhere now—on the seats, the floor, the windows… it’s disgusting.

You’re the one that gave the order, Kariya tells himself. Guilt seizes at his chest, an ironclad grip threatening to choke out what little life remained in him. Berserker was following your orders. You wanted this. You’re worse than he was.

“Ah, Kirei,” Gilgamesh’s voice cuts through Kariya’s panicked thoughts, his footsteps echoing as he walks off behind him. “You missed out on quite the show.”

Kariya looks over his shoulder. He hadn’t even heard the door opening again. Early morning light filters in, framing Kirei’s form, making him look almost angelic.

That’s a riot, one voice in Kariya’s mind says, focusing on the irony of that comparison instead of on the blood still caking his face—not even just his face, but his hair, his borrowed shirt, just about everything.

With the strange, unhinged look in Kirei’s eyes as he stares Kariya down, however… that’s definitely something worthy of focus. They’re blown wide, and though his eyes have always been dark, they seem darker somehow.

As if his pupils are dilated. As if seeing Kariya in this state is something that Kirei likes.

Gilgamesh starts talking to Kirei, but Kariya can’t hear it. He’s pinned in place by Kirei’s gaze, feeling a hot rush of… fear? Or anticipation? Kariya isn’t sure, and Kirei isn’t giving him any answers—he takes his eyes away from Kariya for a moment, pulling his sleeve down and baring his command seals.

“My will creates your body,” Kirei’s voice, unlike Gilgamesh’s, rings loudly in Kariya’s ears. His low tone thrums deep down, forcing a bone-deep shudder from Kariya just from the sound of it. “And your sword creates my destiny. If you heed the Grail’s call and obey my will and reason…”

Oh, Kariya suddenly remembers. That’s right. Archer was Tokiomi’s. But now…

The stench of Tokiomi’s blood hits him all over again, now that he’s not frozen in Kirei’s gaze. Kariya turns back to the splayed-out body before him, the deep red of his suit growing ever darker. At least this way, Kariya doesn’t have to see his face. Doesn’t have to remember that infuriating look of pity in his eyes.

Doesn’t have to remember how he used to smile at him, when they were boys. Those were fake, though. They had to be. That prick never saw me as anything but weak… he never knew me at all. If he had, he wouldn’t have…

A hand clasps over his right shoulder. Before Kariya can turn himself around fully, Kirei is looming over him, dipping his head in, crowding Kariya as his lips press haphazardly against the corner of Kariya’s mouth.

Of all the things Kariya had been expecting, getting almost kissed after murdering a man hadn’t been on that list.

“Kirei-san!” Kariya’s voice cracks, leaning away from the priest out of shock. Wait, he kissed the side of my face that had blood on it, what’s happening, his thoughts come in rapidly, the noise growing so loud that Kariya can’t discern what it is he should say and what he wants to say.

There’s the pleasant little pitter-patter his heart does at the intimacy, and wait when did I start getting butterflies around him? Why are his eyes all glazed over like that? He looks really turned on right now, what the fuck is happening anymore? Indeed, Kirei looks… different. His lips are parted, his breath hot against Kariya’s cheek as he pants. His eyes are half-lidded, pupils blown wide.

Kariya doesn’t know how to react. He’s shaking, still pumped full of mana and adrenaline and—say something, you already said his name, don’t just leave it at that!

Drawing in a deep breath, Kariya grasps at the hand Kirei has on his shoulder. “I… I—I’m covered in blood and god knows what else, you don’t—you… don’t want any of me right now.”

That’s not what you were supposed to say, idiot.

Kirei doesn’t seem deterred. He looks him up and down, turning his hand under Kariya’s so that he can lace his fingers through his. He doesn’t say a word. Just pulls Kariya to his feet, stares at his face—his other hand comes up to rest against Kariya’s jaw, thumb swiping at a streak of blood that dotted his cheek.

Pursing his lips, Kariya licks them. There’s a coppery taste clinging to his tongue. He realizes his mistake a few steps too late—the taste of Tokiomi’s blood is in his mouth now, he’s swallowing it down, and the minute traces of mana in the amount that he licked is flushing the rest of his body into an unbearable heat.

I don’t want to think anymore.

Tokiomi being dead, dying at his hands no less, complicates things between him and Aoi. It complicates things between him and Rin and Sakura. It complicates a lot of things, and Kariya doesn’t want to think about them anymore. It’s bad, it’s bad, it’s bad and Kariya didn’t think that this would make him feel bad but it does and he doesn’t want to think about it anymore.

It doesn’t matter, a voice, silky and warm, rings loudly over his other panicked thoughts. The effect it has on him is instantaneous; like a string being plucked, Kariya shudders, but feels relaxation take hold of him afterward. Bone-deep, pleasurable relaxation. Don’t think about it. Look, Kirei-san is right here. He thinks you did well. He wanted you to do this. And look at how pleased he is.

Sighing, Kariya turns his head in Kirei’s hand and licks at the priest’s thumb, lapping up the smeared blood from his warm flesh. He’s so warm. He wants to feel those hands on more of his skin, wants Kirei to run his palms over his neck, his arms, his sides, his hips, his thighs, he wants more.

Don’t leave me alone.

It’s a single thought that leaks in, through the lust-addled desperation and overpowering white noise. All it is is those four simple words, just a quiet, unvoiced request in the back of his mind—and that’s all it takes for the floodgates to open up all over again. He hadn’t wanted to think that deeply on it, but he wonders. He wonders, and it’s a dangerous thing, especially now.

He can’t lie to Aoi. If he ever saw her again, he would tell her the truth, and she would hate him for it. Kariya doesn’t know why, can’t even bring himself to ask why she loved someone like Tokiomi, because Kariya loves her, too. He can’t explain why he loves Aoi, didn’t ever think he’d need to. Aoi was always kind to him, always pleasant and sweet, ever since the day he met her. Aoi, for whatever reason, probably thought the same of Tokiomi.

It would be wrong of him to assume she didn’t love him. Even if he doesn’t understand.

From day one, Kariya didn’t know why Aoi loved Tokiomi. And now, now that Tokiomi’s blood is on his hands, he can’t even ask her. He can’t tell her that he regrets killing him, because he doesn’t. He can’t tell her that everything will be fine, because even if he believes it, even if he tells her I’ll be here for you, I won’t let you feel lonely, I love you, I love you, I’ve always loved you, there’s really only one response she could give.

The Aoi in his mind, the idealized and perfect version of her, twists into something hateful and warped. It breaks his heart to see her like that—to the point that he doesn’t blame her for slapping him in the face, if she does, and growling at him, though he’s never heard her take that tone—

If she said, ‘Don’t ever show your face around my family again,’ Kariya would believe that she meant it. And it would break him.

It takes a moment for Kariya to realize he’s crying all over again, his tears pooling into the dip of Kirei’s palm. Kariya’s been squeezing Kirei’s other hand, too tight, doesn’t it hurt? It hurts Kariya just to do it, why hasn’t Kirei said anything? And he’s pretty sure he’s biting down on his thumb now, his canine sinking into the give of his flesh, and still nothing? Now that Kariya’s eyes are focused again, he sees that Kirei’s just been staring—gaze darting from his brow to his nose to his eyes to the blood smeared against his cheeks.

Kariya says something, but he isn’t sure what. He’s a mess in every way right now, he can hardly think straight, he’s horny, he’s heartbroken, he’s everything and he’s nothing and he just wants it to stop—

Kirei leans in. He’s so big, he blocks out the rest of the room. He’s in his face, breathing his air, staring, staring, not saying anything. But then he does; his voice thrums deep, making Kariya shiver.

“This was not the reaction I was anticipating from you,” he murmurs, the hand he has at Kariya’s face sliding down, cupping his neck. He looks thoughtful, his thumb pressing against Kariya’s Adam's apple. “These tears… who are they for? For Tokiomi?”

Kariya swallows, trying not to sob. His voice is broken, cracked, pathetic and hopeless. Kariya lets go of Kirei’s hand, scrubbing at his eye. “No… I don’t. I don’t know.”

With his other hand free, Kirei brings it up to the other side of Kariya’s neck. There’s a twitch in his fingers then, as if he wants to tighten his grip. But he doesn’t, both hands sliding up to cup at both sides of Kariya’s jaw.

“Who, then?” Kirei’s voice has dropped to a whisper. His hands suddenly clamping down on his shoulders, he urges Kariya down the aisle, away from Tokiomi’s corpse. Kariya’s feet scrape against the floor, his hand coming up to grab at Kirei’s shoulder to keep himself from falling over. He’s backed against the wall, against a window. The panes rattle with the impact, the cool of the glass bleeding through Kariya’s borrowed shirt. Kirei’s hands are back on his jaw. “Who are they for, Kariya?”

Sucking in air through his teeth, Kariya averts his eyes. Why is he asking, anyway? Why is he so insistent on finding out? His fingers sink hard into the flesh of Kirei’s shoulder, still seeking out an anchor. “What does it matter? I can cry for her all I want, I… I fucked it all up, I’m never gonna see her again. I fucking murdered her husband, she’s gonna hate me for it, she—”

Kirei presses his lips harshly against Kariya’s, cutting him off. His nose is jabbing into Kariya’s, but he isn’t letting up, licking impatiently at the seam in Kariya’s lips. For a fleeting moment, Kariya’s reason insists on pushing him off, or getting him to ease up, but he doesn’t.

Opening his mouth, Kariya surges forward, his good hand grabbing a fistful of Kirei’s hair. With Kirei, he doesn’t need to be gentle. With Kirei, he doesn’t need to worry about anything. He doesn’t have to walk on eggshells around him, doesn’t have to look at him and feel a twinge of guilt.

Kariya leans back, just barely parting from Kirei, in order to speak.

“Forget it. Forget everything. Fuck me, Kirei-san,” Kariya says, his tone low. Kirei sucks in a breath, grunting when Kariya pulls harder on his hair. “Please. Please, god. Fuck my brains out.”

Kirei’s eyes darken, pupils blown wide. The windowpane groans as Kirei presses Kariya firmly against the glass, slotting his mouth against his, tongue delving in deep. Kariya digs his nails into Kirei’s shoulders, pulling the priest flush against him.

Don’t leave me, Kariya thinks. The ache in his chest is unbearable.

Without warning, Kirei breaks away from him—damn it, not this again, not again—only to grab Kariya by the waist, hoisting him up and over his shoulder. Taking long, quick strides, Kirei carries him off to the rectory.

Logically, Kariya should feel affronted. He’s just picking me up and hauling me around like a bag of rice, like, what the hell? Or something to that degree; but no, all Kariya can find himself thinking about is just how easily Kirei can haul him around, how he didn’t even strain or make a noise when he picked him up. Sure, Kariya’s not very heavy to begin with (and the worms definitely didn’t leave much behind, either), but he’s rarely ever been carted around by another person like this. Like many of the things he’s experienced with Kirei, this is new.

And it’s hot.

They pass the study (a shame, it would’ve been great, Kirei could’ve bent him over the desk or spread him out and fucked him on the coffee table, or hunched over him on the couch and covered him like a second skin, or), moving straight to Kirei’s room. As Kirei all but kicks the door in, something dawns on Kariya.

He’s about to lose his virginity in a church, to the priest that runs the place. Kariya huffs out a laugh as he’s tossed onto Kirei’s bed, only given a moment to stop his head from bouncing before Kirei’s on him all over again. He’s straddling Kariya’s legs, both of his hands grabbing at Kariya’s wrists and pinning them above his head.

“Wait—hang on, Kirei-san,” Kariya murmurs wetly, his breathing growing erratic as Kirei moves on from Kariya’s mouth to his neck. Kariya has to focus, his eyes rolling back in his head as Kirei sinks his teeth into the space between his neck and jaw. It’s good, really good, too good—he doesn’t want to miss anything. Is Kirei even going to take his clothes off? “Ahh, fuck, hold… hold on… can you—aahhn, Kirei-san—

“What,” Kirei growls against Kariya’s nape, biting again, hard enough to hurt. “I am not stopping.”

“N—nnnn,” Kariya whimpers, swallowing down the moan that threatens to bubble up. He shuffles his hips under Kirei, trying not to get distracted by Kirei’s clothed cock rubbing against his. “Not asking you to! I… just… can you take your shirt off?”

There’s a pause. Kirei pulls back, releasing his wrists and sitting on his heels over Kariya. His brows tighten, mulling it over, as if he wasn’t expecting Kariya to ask for anything other than more or harder.

“… my shirt?”

Kariya feels himself flushing hotter, turning his head away. It’s not that strange of a request, is it? “Yeah, I… I wanna see you without your shirt on. I mean, ideally I wanna see you without your pants and boxers on, too, but… uh… I don’t want to boss you around or anything, since I’ve never, um. Done this before.”

Kirei just stares at him for a few seconds. Those seconds feel like hours, and Kariya is about this close to losing his erection from abject embarrassment, but then Kirei reaches up to his collar, regaining Kariya’s full attention.

Sliding the zipper down, Kirei shrugs out of his shirt, leaving only his tight undershirt. Kariya gulps, his good eye following Kirei’s movements as he fits his fingers into the hem, pulling it up and over his stomach. His abdomen. His chest, and then his head.

Oh fuck me, Kariya feels himself drooling. He’s really, really ripped.

Without thinking, Kariya sits up, drawing closer. Can he… can he touch him? Is that allowed? He’s only ever touched his cock when it was pulled out of his pants, everything else has been clothed; can he actually touch this fucking hulking monster of a man with his bare hands? It almost feels like it’s too much of an indulgence, like Kirei’s bare skin is too precious, too unblemished and holy for the likes of Kariya’s hands. But he really, really wants to get a handful of those tight pecs, and if he doesn’t get it now, Kariya might fucking explode?

A pulse of heat shoots straight through him the longer he stares at Kirei’s bare chest, the tightly coiled muscle and hard packed abs and the light dusting of hair… Kariya’s gaze wanders down, down to the waistline of his pants, and that is one very evident happy trail dusting along his navel. How had he not noticed it before? Now that he has, though, Kariya’s body is practically moving on its own, his right hand pressing against the dip of Kirei’s hipbone, his thumb sliding along the hem of Kirei’s pants.

Kariya dips forward, his cheek haphazardly crushing against Kirei’s chest, right between his pecs. Is he drooling? He might be drooling a little—hell, he’s been drooling, and has he always had a thing for buff guys? Tall, dark, and handsome, wasn’t it? He never, ever thought he’d be with anyone but Aoi, let alone a shady priest like Kotomine Kirei.

But now that he’s had a taste, he can’t get enough. He wants more. Kariya shudders, a moan rattling from deep in his chest. He needs more.

“You should undress, as well.”

Kirei’s voice sends another pulse of arousal through Kariya’s veins, but it takes him a second to register oh right, he’s talking to me, probably. Blinking past the haze of lust, Kariya’s eye is back on Kirei’s face, his own face still pressed against Kirei’s chest. His tongue feels too big for his mouth as he gives a simple, “Huh?”

“Your clothes,” Kirei repeats, his breath subtly strained. His eyes rake over Kariya’s body briefly, his chest heaving. “My clothes, that is. Will you need my—”

“Yes,” Kariya says it quickly. Maybe too quickly, he thinks, as he lets himself flop onto his back. “I, uh. I don’t want to ruin any more of your clothes… unless you want me to?”

For whatever reason, that last aside that Kariya gives him makes Kirei suck in a sharp breath through his nose. His hands are grasping at the ends of Kariya’s shirt, carelessly ripping it open without even so much as a flinch. Buttons fly in all directions, clattering against the floor, ricocheting off the walls, and Kariya can’t help but feel guilty.

“Slow down,” Kariya’s voice gives out as Kirei roughly pulls the sleeves off him, throwing the shirt at the far wall before moving onto his pants. “Hey, hey, you haven’t even gotten your pants off yet, hold on—that’s not fair!”

Kirei pauses, his hands still firmly on Kariya’s button fly. He looks up at Kariya’s face, his jaw tense. Kariya breathes shakily, feeling his hips push up in spite of himself, his cock straining against the confines of his pants.

But for all that, for all of Kariya’s own struggles with the instinctual need to just jump Kirei’s bones now, Kirei himself looks… overheated. Kariya’s used to seeing Kirei impassive and cold, maybe with one or two wry smiles here and there, but this is something else.

His lips are parted, a flush darkening the bridge of his nose and spreading high over his cheeks. That’s the most color that Kariya has ever seen in the priest’s face.

Oh for the love of god fuck me already, Kariya’s thoughts fly right off the tracks once more. Though, to say they’ve ever been on track is a stretch.

“I cannot,” Kirei manages. He speaks as if just taking the time to form a sentence is harrowing. “I…”

Fuck me fuck me fuck me, Kariya’s brain is short-circuiting, his entire body shaking under Kirei’s weight. Maybe it’s just better to let him take the lead, if the wait is affecting him like this.

Though it’s flattering that he wants me that badly, Kariya thinks. It’s… has anyone ever…? No, no one’s ever… no shit no one has ever…

“O—Okay,” Kariya reaches out, his hand carding through Kirei’s short, cropped hair without thinking. He might be imagining it, but Kariya swears he can feel Kirei flinch a little under his hand. Kariya’s heart beats a funny little rhythm against his ribs. “Do whatever you want, I’m… I’m the newbie here, after all, not to mention you’ve taken good care of me since I got here.”

Kirei’s jaw visibly clenches, his Adam’s apple bobbing hypnotically. Though this is the most undone he’s seen him thus far, Kariya still can’t tell what’s going through his head. There’s part of him that wants to pry, wants to ask what he’s thinking, but… he also enjoys not knowing, in a way. It keeps him guessing, thus far in only good ways. Would knowing what goes through Kirei’s head ruin that? Or would it enrich his enjoyment?

“But,” Kariya says, unable to stop himself from tenderly rubbing his fingers against Kirei’s temple. He feels the corner of his mouth tilting up despite himself. “It’d really make me happy if you took your pants off, first.”

Just as Kariya is about to lean in to kiss him, a wave of tenderness overflowing from deep within his chest, a familiar, very infuriating voice pipes up, “My, you two work fast.”

Slowly, Kirei and Kariya both turn towards the shabby armchair in the corner of the room, not far from the bed. Their hands remain where they are, neither of them daring to move—and all Kariya can do upon seeing their new guest is purse his lips tightly, keeping the scream he wants to let out trapped in his throat.

For his part, Kirei just sighs. “You said that you had things to attend to, Archer.”

Gilgamesh leans his face into one hand, his elbow propped up on the arm of the chair. His other hand is conspicuously in the pocket of his pants, one leg crossed over the other. The look in his eyes is nothing short of salacious, and it half makes Kariya want to crawl out of his skin, half makes him want to jump his bones, too. Okay, what the fuck.

“Did I? Ah yes, that’s right,” Archer said, baring his teeth in a smug smile. “But this seemed more interesting. Not to mention you neglected quite a few things in your lust-addled rush to the bedroom, Kirei.”

 


 

Staring down Gilgamesh, Kirei can hardly hear him over the blood rushing through his ears. He can feel Kariya pull his hand away from his hair, but he at least doesn’t move to leave.

As if I would let that happen, Kirei swallows around the lump in his throat. Though it’s strange; he isn’t feeling angry that Gilgamesh interrupted them. If anything, his added presence here is making him flush hotter, further proven by how hard his cock is starting to throb now, hips twitching involuntarily at the sudden intense heat.

Kariya has moved his hand to grab at Kirei’s hip now, and it’s very distracting. His hand slides against the front of Kirei’s pants, cupping his stiff cock through the rough material and squeezing. Shutting his eyes before they roll back completely in his head, Kirei tries keeping his voice level, saying rather than asking, “And what would that be.”

Pulling his hand out of his pocket, Gilgamesh waves a small bottle at him. Kirei feels his ears burn at the realization of what it is. “You’ll be needing a little of this, won’t you?”

Kirei has a response ready, he truly does—there is lubricant on the dresser, I am not as unprepared as you think I am—but just as he opens his mouth, Kariya firmly jerks his hand up and over Kirei’s clothed cock. Kirei lets out a harsh groan, his head tipping forward as he pushes his hips hard into Kariya’s hand on instinct. He’s used to receiving, used to bucking and thrusting into a hand, used to bending over and biting into the meat of his arm; Kirei hasn’t been on the giving end for some time now, not since…

Gilgamesh laughs, bringing Kirei’s attention back to him. “Aha, he’s got your number, doesn’t he? Say, mongrel,” he shifts his eyes away from Kirei, addressing Kariya. “He’s rather sensitive around the collarbone, give that a bite or two. Ah, but if you really want him docile, kiss and bite at his chest, he loves it there—”

“Archer, you—hah,” Kirei can feel a very evident damp spot beginning to form in the front of his pants, his entire body starting to shake at the feeling of Kariya’s lips pressing firmly against his neck, teeth dragging against the skin roughly. What’s gotten into Kariya all of a sudden? He had been so slow earlier, but now he’s pushing harder, practically jerking Kirei off through his pants. “Kariya—”

“Oh-hoh, is he the jealous type, Kirei?” Uncrossing his legs, Gilgamesh leans forward, elbows propped up on his knees. He taps the bottle of lubricant lightly against his own cheek as he watches, head tilted to the side. “How cute, he wants your attention all to himself. Is this really the same mongrel that was keening like a cat in heat the other day?”

That’s what gets Kariya to acknowledge the King of Heroes, ultimately, his mouth parting from Kirei’s shoulder wetly as he turns his head to face him. “I do not sound like a—wait, you could hear us?!”

“These walls are very thin, mongrel, I’m surprised you had no clue how loud you got. Ah, though,” Gilgamesh pushes himself to his feet, crossing the short distance between the armchair and the bed. Kirei feels Kariya’s thighs clench around his leg as he approaches, his body starting to slump down further under him, as if trying to hide. Gilgamesh kneels at the bedside, looming over them both, and says, “I suppose I can’t blame a mutt for its heats.”

Kirei has never been able to parse what the dynamic between Kariya and Archer is; this instance, as well, is just as confusing as all the other times they’ve interacted. Archer has looked at Kariya differently since the battle at Mion River, since Kirei brought him here—that is, the fact that he has started looking at Kariya at all is strange, given his assessment on the other Masters. Is it because of his proximity to Kirei? Or is it something else?

Kariya, for his part, seems just as put off by Archer as he’s always been. However… with his leg trapped between Kariya’s thighs, Kirei can feel the very evident swell of Kariya’s cock pressing against him, twitching as Gilgamesh draws nearer. He’s trembling, as well, though whether it is in anticipation or fear, Kirei can’t tell.

Brows drawn together, Kirei watches as Gilgamesh grasps Kariya’s chin. Kariya stares up at Gilgamesh with wide, uncertain eyes, while Gilgamesh smiles and kisses him. Kirei wonders why Kariya isn’t trying to stop him, if he truly dislikes the King of Heroes that much. In fact, with how tight Kariya’s thighs are around him now, Kirei is just about convinced that Kariya was hoping for this.

This angle gives Kirei an optimal view of Gilgamesh’s sharp profile, how his hair falls over his forehead and conceals his eyes. Kirei’s gaze follows the line of Gilgamesh’s neck to his collarbone, down to the swell of his chest, the dip of his shirt teasing at the flesh that lies beneath.

Eyes darting back up to his face, Kirei swallows heavily at the sight of Gilgamesh sliding his tongue along the seam of Kariya’s lips, the sound that Kariya makes as he lets him in going straight to Kirei’s cock. As aroused as he is at this sight, Kirei feels his shoulders growing tense as the kiss grows hotter and heavier between them. As if they don’t realize he is right here. As if he is being ignored.

Is this… envy? Jealousy? Or annoyance? What is this I am feeling now?

Kariya’s hand clenches against the bulge in Kirei’s pants, beyond the point of discomfort, and Kirei groans. His attention drawing back to him, Gilgamesh laughs, slowly pulling away from Kariya. A string of saliva connects them briefly before snapping, Kariya licking his bottom lip in a daze as Gilgamesh settles his gaze on Kirei.

“You’re angry, aren’t you?” Gilgamesh purrs, reaching over to stroke his fingers along Kirei’s jaw. He’s close, breathing in Kirei’s air, but not close enough to bridge the gap between them. Those red eyes bore into him, their deep, unfathomable depths threatening to swallow him whole. “I told you. You both belong to me. And as such… I am free to do with you as I please.”

Jaw clenching, Kirei growls, “Archer.”

Letting out a laugh, Gilgamesh grasps Kirei by the wrist, pressing the bottle of lubricant into his palm before moving off the bed. “Now, now, don’t look so scary. I’ve no intention of staking such a claim now, of all times.”

Kariya, seeming to snap out of the spell that Gilgamesh’s kiss put him under, shakes his head. His hand, still between Kirei’s legs, mercifully loosens in its death grip around his prick. “W—Wait, what are you doing here, then? If you’re not…”

Gilgamesh sinks back into the armchair, legs spread. “I will be observing. This will be Kirei’s first time in the dominant role, after all; should he need guidance, or even assistance…

Kirei just about allows his eye to twitch at that, setting the lubricant aside and letting it sink into the sheets. This is a challenge, isn’t it? Gilgamesh does not believe that Kirei can be dominant, not even with someone like Kariya… though the thought of Kariya pinning him down and riding his cock until Kirei forgets his own name is an oddly tempting one

“I have no need of either, Archer,” Kirei bites out, sitting back and working at the fastenings of his own pants. “But if you wish to observe, I will not stop you.”

“As if you would in the first place, Gilgamesh barks out a laugh, leaning his face into the palm of his hand once more. “Now put on a good show for me, won’t you?”

Squirming under him, Kariya lets his hand fall from Kirei’s hip, moving to unbutton his own slacks. Kirei grabs Kariya’s wrist, a firm no. Kariya stares up at him, his cheeks flushed a lopsided red, his lips spit-slicked and parted. Kirei wants, he wants, he recalls that mouth around his prick and he wants to slide it back down that throat, fuck out an orgasm there. The glazed look in Kariya’s eye tells him that he wants it, too.

No, Kirei is disciplining himself now. I have already felt his mouth.

Indeed, it would be an overindulgence if he forced himself down Kariya’s willing throat. And though Kariya may yield to it as he did last time, this is not what he was asked to do.

Fuck his brains out, Kirei repeats the words to himself. Does he mean that literally? No, no… right? He should have asked him if he was speaking figuratively back there, but in his defense, the fact that he can even speak through his heady arousal is a miracle gifted to him by the Lord, Himself. If he meant it literally, Kariya will correct him if fucks his brains out figuratively, right?

… He’s getting off track.

“You wished for my pants to be off first, did you not?” Kirei says to him, his pulse jumping when Kariya’s eye darts down to watch Kirei shuck his trousers down his hips. He lets go of Kariya’s hand, easing them down his legs, leaning on one side to properly kick them off. His boxers come off soon after, his nose wrinkling at how damp they’ve grown. “I am acquiescing.”

Kariya makes a helpless noise from deep within his chest. “God, I wanna suck you off so bad.”

A thought occurs to Kirei, at that desperate plea. His eyes dart over to Gilgamesh, who is leaning back in the armchair now, watching with lowered eyelids and a wide, parted smile. He thinks back, back to when he first thought of something like this, with both Kariya and Gilgamesh involved—how simple, how easy it would be to suggest that Archer stuff his gorgeous cock down Kariya’s throat while Kirei pounds into him mercilessly. The image painted in his head brings a heavy sigh from deep within Kirei’s lungs, and he’s sure that Gilgamesh can tell what he’s thinking of just by looking.

Gilgamesh slides his hand down his stomach and adjusts himself through his pants. As Gilgamesh lets out a low grunt at the sensation, Kirei feels his mouth go dry.

Focus.

“You’ve,” Kirei turns back to Kariya. “Already used your mouth on me. Your request was quite clear… have you changed your mind?”

Kariya tries leaning up on his elbow, shaking his head frantically. “No, no, god no, I haven’t. I still… I still want you to…”

A sense of power floods through Kirei, seeing Kariya shaking and struggling beneath him like this. It had been like this before, back in the alleyway—with Kariya begging and crying, Kirei remembers an errant thought, a brief flash in his mind’s eye that he had quashed down on before he could register it. But it comes to him now, flashes before him with sharp clarity; Kariya, his pants shucked around his thighs, arm wrapped helplessly around Kirei’s shoulders, and Kirei, fucking Kariya hard into the pavement, one hand in a crushing grip around Kariya’s neck—

“You’ve thought of this before, haven’t you?” Gilgamesh comments lightly from his perch, though Kirei can’t bear to look at him. Especially not when he can hear his own breathing hitch. “Tell him, Kirei.”

There’s a confused twist to Kariya’s brow. “Tell me… what? You’ve thought about this before?”

Kirei eases back, his hands on Kariya’s hips now. He hooks his thumbs into the waistband of both his slacks and his boxers, pulling them down in one go. Just as he sits up a bit to shove them down to Kariya’s shins, Kirei quietly admits, “I have.”

Kariya, spreading his legs to give Kirei room to sit, doesn’t reply right away. It gives Kirei the chance to trail his eyes down his chest, his navel, to his stomach—and finally, between those thin, spindly legs of his. There’s more color in Kariya’s cock than there is anywhere else, a clear bead of precum sliding down the shaft as it lays against his pelvis. Kirei can’t stop himself from grasping it, earning a soft gasp from Kariya in the process.

“What—ahh,” Kariya’s hips jump, seeking out the warmth of Kirei’s palm. Kariya lets his good eye shut, the other eye stationary, half-lidded. “Can you… tell me?”

There’s an unspeakable softness in the way Kariya asks that. Swiping a thumb over the head of his cock, Kirei removes his hand and grabs the bottle of lubricant, twisting it open with his thumb. “It is inconsequential.”

“Still… I wanna hear it,” Kariya says. “Not a lot of people think about me to begin with, so…”

“Don’t tease him like that, Kirei.” A shower of gold rains down on the cramped bed, Gilgamesh materializing on the edge of the mattress to Kariya’s left. Kariya, for all his vulnerability, lets out an indignant squawk, flinching hard—Kirei has to steady both hands on Kariya’s hips to keep him from flying off the bed, the half-opened bottle of lubricant hitting the sheets once more.

Gilgamesh kicks his legs up, knocking over the stack of books piled on the short bookshelf by the headboard. “Playing coy will only make him lose interest—coyness is only appropriate for when you’re already inside him.”

“Wh—Why are you over here now?!” Kariya groans, sharply turning his head away the moment he makes eye contact. “Will you make up your mind already, my heart’s not in the best shape as it is—”

“Hush, mongrel,” Gilgamesh leans back, sprawling out over the pillows. Kirei has to consciously ease Kariya down the mattress so that he doesn’t lay on his head. “You ought to be honored that I am guiding this experience along at all.”

Letting out a long breath through his nostrils, Kirei grabs the bottle again and removes the cap. He’s tuning out the back-and-forth going on between those two, focusing on the next step. He has to open Kariya up with his fingers before he can proceed; it seems simple enough, Gilgamesh has done it to him countless times. Bent over his desk, knuckle-deep inside, or up against the door, three fingers pumping in and out mercilessly—

Kirei has to repress the bone-deep shudder that wracks him at the memory. Perhaps recalling the details is counterproductive. If he gets lost in them, he may forgo preparing Kariya at all—and while Kariya has always sounded lovely in the throes of agony, Kirei doesn’t want to accidentally kill him. Not now, anyway. Maybe someday. Spreading a healthy amount of lube into his hand, Kirei slicks his index finger with it and eases Kariya’s legs apart.

Kariya still doesn’t notice, too deep in his nonsensical one-sided argument with Gilgamesh. Something about that makes Kirei’s jaw click, so he circles Kariya’s entrance with his finger, pressing it in abruptly.

“And another thi—eeeaah!” Kariya’s back arches, his entire body jerking at the intrusion. Turning away from Gilgamesh, he stares down at Kirei with one wide eye, his voice shaking. “Ki—Kirei-san, h-ho—hold on, you’re doing it already?!”

Meeting his gaze, Kirei pulls his finger out to smear the lube against the outer ring, merely saying, “You seemed preoccupied.”

For his part, Gilgamesh laughs, slapping his hand over his eyes and clutching his sides. “Why Kirei, how underhanded! Don’t tell me you’re the jealous type, too? Hahaha!”

“Sh—Shut it, Archer! You’re thousands of years old, you probably don’t even remember how weird this felt!”

“Bold of you to assume that I’ve allowed anyone access to my back door, mongrel.”

Kirei weighs the pros and cons to using a Command Seal to make Gilgamesh stop talking. The results would be disastrous, in either case. Sighing, he presses his finger back into Kariya—slowly this time. “Kariya, relax.”

“That’s—ugh, easy for you to say,” Kariya grits out, tightening around Kirei’s single finger. His right hand makes a grab for Kirei’s shoulder, digging his nails in. “How am I supposed to relax with a finger up my ass—ahhh, hngh, hold on, wait, wait, wait—

Frustration settles low in Kirei’s gut. It’s a conundrum, finding Kariya’s nervousness to be both aggravating and arousing. Pulling out again, Kirei tries running slow circles around his hole, using his other hand to grasp at Kariya’s hip. “You need to relax, or I won’t be able to prepare you. If you can hardly handle my finger, you will not be able to stand the rest of me.”

“Then—tell me that thing from earlier!” Kariya scratches at Kirei’s shoulder, his chest heaving with quick, panicked breaths. “You know, that you’ve thought about this before! Tell me that!”

Feeling Gilgamesh’s expectant gaze on him as well, Kirei inhales slowly. There’s really no helping it, is there? “If you truly want to hear something that insignificant…”

“I—” Kariya gasps out. “I do.”

Kirei shuts his eyes. He recalls the scene his mind had conjured for him in that alleyway. Remembering it is simple enough, but how will he verbalize it? Bluntly, with no feeling? Or does he try emulating how he felt at the time, fantasizing about something as depraved as fucking a complete stranger in a filthy alleyway? Or…

Don’t think. Feel. Let it come naturally.

“I found you lying on the pavement,” Kirei starts, circling Kariya’s entrance with his finger again. “On your stomach. I lifted your head to see if you were still breathing—and you were. I was under the impression that… I was meant to finish you off. But… I did not. I could not—I… did not want that.”

Both Kariya and Gilgamesh are (blessedly) silent. Kariya’s eyes aren’t leaving him, while Gilgamesh has closed his, a proud smile playing on his lips.

Kirei continues, his tone beginning to reflect his emotional state back then, “I turned you over… onto your back. You were unconscious, still, and barely hanging on. In a direct act of treason, I pressed my hand to your stomach… and began to heal you. It did not wake you, but you stirred, screaming and thrashing in pain. It was then that I thought…”

He will take this one of two ways, Kirei pauses. He will either enjoy it, or he will be disturbed by it. I am not certain which I prefer.

“You thought…?” Kariya pressed. There is no taking it back now.

“I thought,” Kirei’s voice dips low, his finger pressing in slowly—to less resistance on Kariya’s end. Kirei shifts his gaze downward, focusing on keeping his hand steady. “That you were beautiful. Your voice—I had never heard your voice before then, not in person. But it was music to my ears. And as I pressed my hand in against you, your screams echoing off the walls… my heart throbbed, my strength failed me; and the light of my eyes, even that failed me.”

Kariya tightens around his finger, muscles contracting involuntarily. He works his way in to about the second knuckle before pausing. Chancing a look up, Kirei meets Kariya’s eyes. Kariya’s breath shudders, but he doesn’t try closing up; his face is flushed completely red, his eyes glossy, almost wet with tears. With him being as thin as he is, the feverish beat of Kariya’s ailing heart is visible against his flesh.

“I…” Kirei swallows, the weight of his words bearing down on his soul. “I was tempted. I wanted. My flesh was weak, but so too was my spirit—I desired you, I wanted to have you there, out in the open. Without even a word passing between us, I wanted you.”

It is true—it was, and still is. He has been doing his best not to think of that, not to think of the absence of his virtue in that alley. But now, here… his virtue has no place. His virtue has been nothing but a mask, a thin veneer of guilt about his own nature planted into him by his father, by the Church, by himself. The weight he feels is a fleeting sensation, where back then it would have been crushing. He wants, he desires, and in this, he must be drawing closer, closer to what his soul truly craves. If telling Kariya all of this will get him closer…

“If I had no restraint,” Kirei murmured, squeezing Kariya’s hip. “I would have given in fully to that desire that night.”

Kariya is silent, save for his unsteady breathing. The look on his face is so open, so gutted, as if the very prospect of being desired, being wanted is unbelievable to him. The weight of wanting, of being wanted—once more, he finds something in Matou Kariya that he shares. Though it is the inverse, the weight of wanting is upon both of them.

“You… wanted me… no, you want me,” Kariya whispers to himself. He sounds just as gutted as he looks, and the heat that floods Kirei’s veins is almost enough to stagger him. Kariya draws his hand back and towards himself, combing his fingers through his hair. “I don’t know if I’d call that romantic, but… holy shit, hearing it at all is… really, really nice…”

Something stirs in Kirei’s chest. A distantly familiar sensation, yet alien all the same. Tearing his eyes away from Kariya, Kirei draws his finger out halfway before thrusting it back in, biting the inside of his cheek at the sound that Kariya makes.

“You’ve gone and flustered him, mongrel,” Gilgamesh’s voice comes from above, though Kirei is stalwart in not looking back up. He can tell by the King of Heroes’ tone that raising his eyes would only worsen the situation. “Who would have thought someone other than I could accomplish such a thing, and without even trying.”

Kariya lets out a strained groan, twisting, his right leg hooking around Kirei. Releasing his hip, Kirei reaches for the lubricant, squeezing more out onto his fingers as he adds a second. Now that he’s stretched him at least a bit, opening him up the rest of the way shouldn’t be much of a trial. Though, considering Kirei’s size, and Kariya’s inexperience… the bite of pain will still be there, moreso for Kariya than for himself.

He shifts his gaze up. Kariya is still a mess—Tokiomi’s blood has dried, clinging and crumbling along the skin of his face, matting his sweat-slicked hair. His voice is strained, and it’s only a matter of time before it rises in volume, to the point where Kirei won’t be able to discern the difference between his cries of pleasure and his howls of pain.

Kirei feels his cock throb at the thought.

 


 

Kariya thinks he’s starting to lose his fucking marbles. This entire situation is just insane. Someone wants him, someone he’s only known for a few days—someone he still doesn’t know, not really, just someone he’s been conspiring with. But even then… even then, he’s admitting to it. A guy like Kotomine Kirei, silent and stoic and otherwise emotionless, actually wants Kariya. Has wanted him since the moment he first saw him.

His chest feels heavy, overfull with the erratic beating of his heart. He bites his lip, trying to force himself to breathe evenly—the intrusion of Kirei’s fingers is altogether alien, just weird, and the pleasure coming from the occasional brush against something deep inside him still isn’t quite enough to make him completely okay with it.

“What a look,” that infuriating Servant hums above him, his bracelets jingling as he brushes his fingers along Kariya’s forehead, a mocking gesture. “You howl as if you’ve never even tried putting a finger up there.”

For as aggravating as he is, Kariya is a little thankful for his presence—at least, a little. It might’ve been a little too intense for him to handle, if all Kariya had to focus on was Kirei and his dark eyes and soft, deep breaths.

(Then again, the one lust worm working him into this fuck it I don’t care I just need something inside me frenzy might have softened him on Archer, too. Maybe a little.)

Tipping his head up, Kariya glares at Gilgamesh, that smug grin just as annoying upside-down as it is when it’s right side-up.

“Oh sure, and you were all put-together and fine when somebody put a finger up your royal ass,” Kariya bites out, though the way his voice trembles makes it sound a lot more pathetic. “You probably smiled like that, too—hnngh.

Gilgamesh leans over, his face hovering over Kariya’s. “So you’ve thought of my first time, have you?”

Kariya shrinks back against the pillow, the taste of Gilgamesh’s tongue still fresh in his mouth. He’d never been kissed quite like that before—he’s kissed Kirei, yes, but Kirei’s kisses are more confused than passionate. Kirei kisses like he’s searching for something, probing, unsure. Gilgamesh kisses like he owns you, like he holds absolute dominion over you, like you’re a plaything. Like he has a right to you, and he’s exerting it readily.

No one’s ever kissed Kariya the way Kirei and Gilgamesh do, and the contrast is more than a little jarring.

“I mean,” Kariya mutters. He can’t look away from those snake eyes. “I…”

“An indulgence such as that would normally earn you a death sentence on the spot,” Gilgamesh says. His voice is syrupy sweet, like his words are sweet nothings and not blatant threats on his life. “But this is a special occasion, isn’t it? Blushing and vulnerable as you are, open, wanting… and yet still so nervous. You’re afraid of it, but you want it all the same.”

Kariya inhales shakily. Kirei’s finger brushes against that spot again, and Kariya has to purse his lips and trap that moan in his throat—he doesn’t know what Gilgamesh would do if he just suddenly shouted in his face, but he’s sure he doesn’t want to find out. It must be obvious, because Gilgamesh laughs as he moves to sit upright, swinging his legs onto the bed.

“Virgins are a precious commodity in all cultures, aren’t they?” Gilgamesh remarks, his tone flippant. “You’ve amused me thus far, mongrel, that I have decided to allow you a further indulgence upon my flesh. You should be honored, all the same—I do not offer my divine favor so readily. This is a moment you should forever brand upon your soul, for it shall be the closest you come to pleasuring a king.

Before Kariya can even answer—yes yes yes holy shit I don’t want to think at ALL anymore just fuck me both ways holy fuck your highness—he can feel Kirei tense under him, his hand stalling in its steady thrusts.

“Archer,” Kirei growls. The sound just about makes Kariya cum on the spot. “You need not take liberties without consulting me. I told you, I do not need your help.”

Amazingly, Gilgamesh laughs. He then unfastens his belt, the sounds overwhelmingly loud to Kariya’s ears. “Don’t think of it as such, Kirei. Think of it more as… hmm… I am enhancing the overall experience. And besides… don’t act as if the thought hadn’t crossed your mind before.”

Wait, has he thought about this, too? Kariya looks down at Kirei. He thinks he can see Kirei’s jaw tightening, but whether that means yes, he’s thought about fucking Kariya while Gilgamesh fucks his mouth, or no, he hasn’t, Kariya isn’t sure. God damn it I wish you’d emote a little more, I can’t read minds.

“Um,” Kariya says, his voice sounding wobbly to his own ears. “For what it’s worth, I’m all for it…?”

Kirei snaps his gaze back to Kariya, eyes narrowing. Even as he feels a twinge of fear, the buzz of arousal is thick enough in Kariya’s blood that all he can do is bite his lip, his breath shuddering out of him. Kirei’s eyes track his face, down towards his throat, back up to his face.

“Very well,” Kirei finally says, looking back to Gilgamesh. “Though your whims elude me, I shall continue my role as the fool, Archer.”

Before Kariya can ask what that means, Gilgamesh’s weight settles in next to Kariya’s head. With little regard for his autonomy, he grabs at Kariya’s hair and jerks his head upward, the sting against his scalp sending a thrill through his nerves. Gilgamesh maneuvers his legs under Kariya’s head and shoulders, the material of his expensive pants dragging roughly at the skin of Kariya’s back.

“Oh, Kirei,” Gilgamesh says, his voice dragging over a satisfied hum. “Don’t forget, you are showing me how well you can dominate him. Do not disappoint me.”

It’s like Kariya isn’t even a person, with how Gilgamesh handles him. Fingers digging in hard against his scalp, Gilgamesh turns Kariya’s head towards his crotch, his other hand unzipping his pants. But he doesn’t take his cock out just yet; he frames the bulge in his boxers with his thumb and index finger, practically tearing at his hair as he shoves Kariya’s nose into it, grinding his clothed prick hard against his face.

Tears cling to Kariya’s lashes, even as he instinctively mouths at Gilgamesh through his underwear, the overwhelming musk filling his nostrils causing his brain to white out. It’s strange—being treated like this is not something that Kariya thought he’d be into. These past few days have been quite the learning experience.

“An eager mongrel, isn’t he?” Gilgamesh says—not to anyone in particular. Certainly not to Kariya. Paying no mind to Kariya’s efforts, he pushes his mouth away in order to reach in and pull his cock out. Without even giving him a chance to suck in a breath, Gilgamesh presses his cockhead against Kariya’s lips, pushing past the seam and forcing Kariya to open wide. Kariya has to struggle to open wide enough, not wanting to risk scraping his teeth against him—though it’s tempting to bite down, just to see how the pompous prick reacts. Kariya sputters, hurrying to flatten his tongue and suck him down. It must be at least passable, because Gilgamesh’s fingers tighten in his hair, humming, like he’s appraising him. “Quite a natural whore.”

Tears prick at Kariya’s eyes, his right one squeezing shut at the intrusion. It does wonders, at least, to distract him—he can feel Kirei slide in a third finger down below, but it doesn’t bother him as much as the ache in his jaw, the sting against his scalp, and the burn in his lungs as he huffs through his nose. Part of him wants to bite down at the whore comment, but… he would be lying if he said it didn’t turn him on. It’s nothing like Kirei, who hardly talks without prompting during times like this. And he definitely doesn’t call him names like that… dirty things like that.

Swallowing around him, Kariya whimpers low in the back of his throat. With his eye shut like this, he can feel everything, everything, so sharply that it edges on agony. The heavy weight on his tongue, the burn of Kirei’s fingers pushing in and out of him—but also… the warmth against his face, with Gilgamesh’s hips so close. And Kirei’s thumb rubbing against his hip; he doesn’t know if he’s doing it intentionally, but it’s nice.

It’s… really, really nice, Kariya’s brain is mostly quiet, save for remarks like that. It’s overwhelming, it’s too much, it’s not enough, and he wants more, more, more.

“I am going to put it in,” Kirei announces, snapping Kariya out of his trance. Opening his eye, he tries looking down towards him, feeling a shudder wrack his body at the dark look in his eyes. “Kariya.”

It’s enough to make Gilgamesh bark out a laugh, arching his hips forward, choking Kariya. “How considerate of you, telling him when. Have I ever told you when I was going to fuck you, Kirei?”

“This is his first time,” Kirei mutters. Kariya can feel Kirei lifting his hips up, bunching up the sheets beneath him and shoving them under his back. The bump of Kirei’s hot, hot tip against him makes Kariya jump a little. “And I am not you, Archer.”

Gilgamesh says something back, but Kariya’s ears start ringing, trying to push down on Kirei’s cock, like he’s desperate, like he’s a slut, and he is, he’s so empty empty empty and he’s still thinking and he doesn’t want to think about it, doesn’t want to think about Tokiomi or Aoi or Rin and Sakura or—

Kirei grunts, pushing forward. Centimeter by centimeter. It burns. It hurts. It’s warm, it hurts. Kariya lets out a whine, shaking, feeding more of Gilgamesh’s cock into his mouth—it’s hot in his mouth, too, it’s hot and heavy and it hurts, Gilgamesh is pounding into his mouth leisurely, pulling at his hair, using him, salty precum staining his tongue and sliding down his throat.

He’s so big, Kariya tries saying, but he can’t, he can’t. And he’s not even sure who he’s talking about—Gilgamesh is huge on his tongue, and Kirei’s slowly, slowly forcing his way in, and it hurts so bad, he’s enormous. He knows just how big Kirei is, he’s had him in his mouth, felt him in his hand, seen him with his own eyes. And now he’s feeling it in a completely new way, slowly, slowly…

“Suck harder, mongrel,” Gilgamesh’s voice is harsh in his ear. “More. Don’t slack on your king now.”

Kariya doesn’t even need to be told. He sucks, he tongues at the slit of Gilgamesh’s cock, moans like the slut he is around him. He has to finish him off now, he has to—if he doesn’t finish him now, he might bite, he might bite because he’s burning down below, burning, burning, burning—

“Mm,” Gilgamesh sighs, jerking Kariya’s head firmly into his hips, burying his cock in Kariya’s throat to the hilt. “Enjoy this. I’m allowing you to taste me. Just this once, you can taste my pleasure—you’re not comparable to even my best whores, but seeing Kirei like this is enough for me to deign you… passable.”

A hard, hot pulse is all Kariya can use to prepare himself for it. Gilgamesh cums hard down his throat, and Kariya just about chokes—he might die like this, drown from getting face-fucked by the King of Heroes, and he won’t even get to appreciate Kirei fucking him senseless—if he ever gets there with how slow he’s going.

He doesn’t mean to swallow it down, but he does. He sobs, sucking him harder, harder, milking him. He feels so bright, so hot and full of energy as he takes in his cum, his mana, and he could easily stay like this forever—but Gilgamesh pulls out of his mouth abruptly. Cum slips past Kariya’s lips, dripping down his chin. Blinking through his tears, Kariya glances up at him. There’s an odd look in Gilgamesh’s eyes now, a frown set on his face.

“You…” Gilgamesh says, his voice low. Strangely serious. Before Kariya can gather enough brain power to ask, the weight under his shoulders vanishes in a flash of gold. Gilgamesh reappears in the armchair, tucking his cock away into his pants and sitting upright. The frown slowly twists up, a smirk replacing it. “How interesting.”

What…? Kariya’s heart, in its fever pitch, freezes for a split second. What’s he talking about?

Kirei pushes in harder, finally nestled in to the hilt. Kariya can think about that later. He’s not about to ask him now, not when he’s having a hard enough time stringing two thoughts together.

“Shit, shit, holy shit,” Kariya grits out, his voice wrecked and hoarse. Now that Gilgamesh isn’t under him, he can easily toss his head back, feeling stuffed full to his fucking lungs now. The pressure is too much, too intense, and Kariya needs to remind himself to breathe. “Fuck, Kirei-san.

Instead of a reply, Kirei lets a growl rumble from deep within his chest, folding over Kariya and covering him with his body. Pressing his face against Kariya’s shoulder, Kirei breathes against his sweat-slicked skin, his hands moving up to grip tightly at the pillow at both sides of Kariya’s head. Kariya can see just how much he’s trembling when he’s this close; this isn’t Kirei’s first, but it must be the first time in a while that he’s done this.

And he’s doing it with me, Kariya’s brain supplies. Numbly, he grabs at the back of Kirei’s shoulder, feeling the shuddering muscle underneath. Of all people.

They stay still like that, Kariya trying to adjust to Kirei being inside him, and Kirei—hiding his face from Kariya, his breathing slowly starting to even out. But he still twitches, fighting to regain control over his own body. His hair, short and cropped, pokes and drags against the skin of Kariya’s shoulder, the slight itch doing nothing to distract him from the ebbing pain in his pelvis.

Kirei’s face is pressed into his right shoulder. Straining, Kariya tries getting a look at him, only able to parse out the sharp line of his jaw, the pinched corner of his eye, and the light sheen of sweat coating his temple. This close, Kirei’s scent is all the more overwhelming; the smell of spices is there, but it’s merely overlaying Kirei’s natural musk, the scent of sweat and flesh and bland store-brand soap.

He doesn’t mean to, but Kariya fantasizes about waking up next to Kirei once this is all over. Fantasizes about Kirei getting up to shower before him, leaving Kariya to roll over and press his face into the pillow that Kirei had just been sleeping on, inhaling that smell, letting it wrap around him as he drifts back off to sleep. It’s the sort of fantasy he’d only had for one other person—but now…

Forgetting himself, Kariya slurs out, “Kirei. Look… look at me.”

Watching the tan plains of his back rise with the deep breath Kirei takes in, Kariya grips hard at his shoulder as he pulls back. Dark eyes meet his, the open, heated want in Kirei’s gaze making Kariya’s heart skip a beat. The tops of Kirei’s cheeks are flushed, the color spreading to even the tips of his ears. And Kariya, poor, hopeless Kariya, thinks for just a moment, Maybe.

“I—I think,” Kariya says quietly, his voice ragged. “You can move now.”

Kirei blinks, the fog in his eyes clearing just a bit. His tongue snakes out, dragging slowly as wets his lips. Kariya wants to kiss him, he wants to dig his fingers hard into the meat of his shoulder and kiss him until he can’t breathe, until they both can’t breathe, until—

Whoa, whoa, whoa, Kariya tenses up at that train of thought. He accidentally squeezes around Kirei’s cock, too, forcing a moan from deep in his chest. Kariya bites his lip at the sound. Don’t make him go down with you, Kariya. Besides, you’d asphyxiate way before he would. He’s in such great shape, he can probably hold his breath for god knows how long.

That just gets Kariya thinking about what it’d be like if Kirei ever sucked him off, and he tightens around him all over again.

“Kariya,” Kirei groans, his head dropping, forehead pressed against Kariya’s collarbone. “If you keep doing that—”

“Sorry, I—sorry,” Kariya whines, shifting his hips, trying to relax. “I’m cool, I’m… I’m good.”

Though Kariya himself cringes at using the phrase ‘I’m cool’ in bed, Kirei doesn’t seem to mind, or even notice it. He shifts his hips forward, grinding deep inside, stirring himself up.

Kariya squeezes his eye shut, tipping his head back against the pillow. Breathe in, breathe out. Kirei’s so big, it feels like he’s everywhere. Inside him, on top of him, around him… it’s hot and wet and sticky and Kariya can’t think straight.

It’s not exactly good. Kariya doesn’t know how to describe it—his nerves are buzzing, lighting up, but it doesn’t really feel good. If he had to put words to it, he’d call it… pleasantly uncomfortable. He’s still hard, and having someone this close to him is really, really nice, but… this isn’t mind-blowing or anything.

But then Kirei starts drawing back, the relief of pressure against his pelvis so jarring that it startles a moan out of Kariya. He’s going slow, the drag of his cock leaving a simmering burn in its wake—it’s hard to breathe all over again, and Kariya has to dig his fingers in hard against Kirei’s shoulder to keep himself grounded.

Kirei pulls himself out until just the head is still anchored inside him. Kariya shivers; the ache is somewhat lessened, but now he just feels empty inside, empty and cold. It hurt so much before, but now… now, it hurts worse without him. Just as Kariya feels a whimper bubbling up, Kirei snaps his hips forward again, grinding hard back into him without warning.

Kariya screams. Kirei’s roughness, his impatience, it brings forth a wave of pain—but more than that. With that hard thrust, the head of Kirei’s cock pounds right into him, just right, so hard and so good that Kariya’s vision completely whites out for a second, his back arching, nails scraping hard down Kirei’s shoulder, scratching into his chest.

“Well now,” Gilgamesh comments lightly from the armchair. Kariya can’t look at him, can’t even move, but he can hear him loud and clear. “That’s quite the rousing approval, isn’t it? Give it to him harder, Kirei.”

Opening his eye back up, Kariya tips his chin down to look at Kirei. Their eyes meet, Kirei’s pupils wide and dark, his lips parted as he stares at Kariya. There’s a look in his eyes that Kariya doesn’t recognize, much less put a name to; bloodthirsty, carnal, hungry, he wants to say those words fit, but Kariya isn’t sure. It could be anything, he’s never seen this look on his face before.

There’s a slight upturn at the corners of Kirei’s mouth, too. With his eyes open wide like that, his mouth parted around a smile, Kariya can only think of a wild animal, one that just got a taste of a new kind of meat. One that can’t wait to take another bite.

He should be scared. The sensible part of his brain, what’s left of it, is setting off all kinds of red flags. But…

“Again,” Kariya slurs, frantically sliding his hand into Kirei’s hair and gripping tight. He’s hooked on it now, can’t get enough. “Do that again.”

Kirei does.

Powerful, toned hips pound into him, over and over again. Kirei sits up, changes his angle, practically folding Kariya in half as he thrusts into Kariya with enough force to bruise. Kariya’s going to bruise, he knows he is, it’s just how his body is now—ruined and filthy and half-dead, he bruises far more easily. But he can’t bring himself to care. Kariya can’t even think anymore, any and all coherent thought getting fucked right out of him, sliding from his ears and pooling along with his sweat and tears.

Kariya tries speaking. Something about that must set Kirei off, because in the heat of it, one of his hands shoots up and clamps down hard around Kariya’s throat.

You should be scared.

Kariya sputters, choking, drool slipping down his cheeks. He wheezes, trying to breathe through his mouth, but Kirei’s grip crushes him down, keeps him pinned against the pillow. Kirei looms over him, his hips working faster against him, staring wide-eyed at Kariya’s face as he chokes him with his one hand.

You should run away.

Instead of trying to pry Kirei’s hand off his throat,

Why aren’t you scared? He might kill you.

Kariya slides his right hand down his stomach, gripping his own cock tightly and jerking himself, his pace erratic and unfocused. His eye rolls back, his head growing fuzzy with the lack of oxygen. Kirei’s thumb presses hard into his Adam’s apple, like he’s trying to break him. Like he wants to break him.

I wouldn’t mind that.

Letting out a harsh, choked moan, Kariya cums, his entire body convulsing. Kirei seems to snap out of whatever trance he was in, removing his hand from Kariya’s throat. Kariya doesn’t have the brain power to analyze his face, crying out Kirei’s name now that he can speak.

“Kirei,” he sobs out, warmth pouring out from him. Kariya thinks he can taste blood, but he doesn’t care, staring blearily at Kirei’s face. “Please—inside me, please—fuck!”

Growling, Kirei grabs hard at Kariya’s hair, jerking his head back and kissing the remaining breath from him as he pins his hips hard against Kariya’s ass. His cock pulses with his violent orgasm, cumming hard inside him, his teeth worrying against Kariya’s bottom lip as he rides out the waves of pleasure taking them both over.

 


 

Kirei groans low in his throat, slowly parting from Kariya once he’s certain his orgasm has subsided. Looking at him, Kirei sees that Kariya has passed out, his one working eye shut. Tears and saliva and dried blood cake his face, his lips parted on a slow, sated sigh.

The sound of Gilgamesh applauding him feels too loud, the vibrations somehow rattling in Kirei’s nerves. “About what I’d expect from two amateurs, but… hm, you have room for growth yet.”

Now that his lust has ebbed from him, Kirei feels unpleasantly sticky, grimacing as he pulls his cock from Kariya. His seed leaks out onto the bed, Kariya’s hole twitching with his absence. It’s obscene, sending a prickle up Kirei’s spine. But he sighs, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed to face Gilgamesh, feeling nothing but pins and needles as he tries to wake them up.

“An honor to be sure,” Kirei says mildly, arching his back until he feels a satisfying click. “I presume you are taking points off due to your… intervention.”

Gilgamesh laughs, waving his hand dismissively. “Well, naturally. I can’t count anything that I did; that would be cheating, you see.”

Kirei feels the urge to roll his eyes, but he quashes it down. He reaches for his ruined shirt, the one he’d let Kariya borrow, and turns it over in his hands. Smeared with blood and sweat and precum, ripped to bits. On the one hand, he will need a new shirt to replace this one; and on the other hand, it at least means he won’t have as heavy a load when he next does the laundry.

“Archer,” Kirei says, moving to stand. “I will be in the bathroom.”

“Mm, all right,” Gilgamesh reclines, lacing his fingers together over his chest. “Surely you know better than to expect me to clean up after you. This will all still be waiting for you once you come back.”

“I know.”

Leaving Gilgamesh with Kariya, still passed out, Kirei shuts his bedroom door behind him and carefully pads down the hall to the bathroom. His head is buzzing, vigor bubbling just below the surface, just waiting to burst forth once he’s clean and clear-minded. He still needs to clean up Tokiomi’s corpse, too, but after that.

After that. He and Kariya will have to discuss their next move. He knows where Emiya Kiritsugu is, knows where Waver Velvet is. He knows where Matou Zouken is. For each of them, Kirei has something in mind. While it’s less clear what he wants from Emiya Kiritsugu, he knows exactly what he’s going to do to Rider and his Master, as well as the putrid Matou patriarch.

Recalling how Kariya’s neck felt pressed against his palm, Kirei lets himself smile.

Chapter Text

Kariya wakes up with his neck craned awkwardly over the lip of Kirei’s bathtub. His hair is wet, slicked against his head and dripping wet onto the floor.

The soreness hits him in slow pulses. First, he realizes just how much his ass hurts, and then he feels it in his hips, his back, up to his shoulders and to the back of his head. His face feels puffy and he’s dehydrated, lips cracked and dry as he wets them with his tongue. The hollow clicking of the only remaining worms in him indicates that he must have been healed while he was out, too.

Fuck. What even…

Turning his bleary gaze to the left, he sees Kirei, sleeves rolled up to the elbow as he scrubs at Kariya’s left arm. He must have bathed before Kariya, because he smells a lot better than he does. I mean, I’m getting there, Kariya thinks. He sniffs at his own shoulder to check. He got at my neck and chest, I think.

“You don’t have to do this,” Kariya mutters, his voice thick and gravelly. “I…”

Kirei looks up from where he’s scrubbing—the dip in Kariya’s left elbow, the sponge dragging over a few distended veins in his flesh. He looks a little perturbed. “I did not think this would wake you.”

Kariya feels himself flush a little. “Oh no, no, it’s okay—I mean, yeah, you gave me a… hell of a workout, but… really, you don’t have to wash me up like this, I can handle it.”

“I am certain you can,” Kirei gives. Reaching down, he grabs a bottle of shampoo—two in one, shampoo and conditioner, store-brand—and uncaps it, tipping the bottle towards Kariya. “This is faster. You take care of your hair, I will get the rest of your left side.”

Pursing his lips, Kariya lifts his right arm and cups his hand, letting Kirei squeeze the two-in-one into his palm. Without another word, he starts massaging it into his scalp, shifting his eye away from Kirei as he gets back to it.

This is weird, Kariya steals a few looks over at Kirei as he lathers up. This is really, really fucking weird.

It’s not weird in a bad way, for sure, but… the last time someone bathed him (outside of Kirei, that other time he did) was when he was a toddler. Byakuya, for all his faults, could at least make sure Kariya got clean every night before they went to bed. But this… he found it strange the last time Kirei washed him, and he finds it stranger now.

Guy probably just didn’t want me stinking up his sheets, Kariya reasons. Speaking of… god, all that…

They made a hell of a mess, Kariya knows that much. While he feels guilty about piling on the slowly-growing stores of dirty laundry, he also feels proud about it. Feels warm, thinking about all the clothes they ripped, the sheets they ruined with sweat and cum and blood—

His hand freezes in his hair. Kariya grits his teeth, tensing up as he says, “Kirei. About… about Tokiomi—”

“The church has been cleaned, and the body taken care of,” Kirei doesn’t even wait for Kariya to finish, stating it all in a matter-of-fact tone. He doesn’t even look at Kariya’s face as he speaks. “Officially, Tohsaka Tokiomi was killed in his home, his body found dumped on the steps of the church. The employees of the Holy Church that once worked under my father, the ones who now work under me, have taken custody of it. They are on a need-to-know basis, and thus are unaware of the truth of his demise.”

Kariya’s throat closes up, his blood running cold. But… but—if they did that, then—“Does his family know? That he’s…”

Kirei’s eyes dart towards Kariya for a split second, before resuming his work. He lets Kariya’s left arm drop back into the water, moving on to scrub at Kariya’s flank. “I have not sent employees to deliver that news to the remaining Tohsakas, no.”

Swallowing, Kariya lets out a strained breath, working more shampoo into his hair with an unsteady hand. His heart is hammering a frantic, percussive beat against his ribs. What the hell now, then? Is… is he expecting Kariya to deliver the news personally? Or is Kirei going to do it?

“Your father also stopped by earlier.”

It’s as if the water he’s sitting in has turned icy cold, and all it took was for Kirei to drop that on him. The water sloshes as Kariya sits upright, pulling away from Kirei. He grips at the lip of the tub with his sudsy right hand, turning his upper body towards Kirei and leveling him with a hard glare. It’s not as hard as he’d like it to be—as angry as he is, he’s also very, very scared. “What did you just say?”

Kirei lifts his head, his stare as blank and unreadable as it always is. Resting his upper arm on the edge of the tub, he sighs through his nose. “I did not invite him here, if that is what is concerning you.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure—I’m not accusing you of that,” Kariya shakes his head, his voice growing in volume. “Start talking. What happened? What—did he talk to you, or you to him? Does he know I’m here? Did you tell him—”

No,” Kirei says firmly, his voice raising above the slight murmur that he had been speaking in. Kariya flinches back a little at it, anticipating a strike—one that does not come. “I did not. I do not know how he knew you were here. I am as perplexed about it as you are. I told him that what you are doing here, what we are doing is none of his business.”

He actually looks… disgusted, Kariya notes, letting himself relax. The man’s such a dry well when it comes to expressiveness, Kariya keeps finding himself surprised when Kirei actually makes a face that Kariya can understand. That he can recognize disgust in Kirei’s face now… Well, the old man has that effect on people, so it’s not too surprising.

“That thing…” Kirei continues. “Is obscene.

It’s a weight off his shoulders—Kariya still isn’t happy that Zouken actually showed up at the church, but seeing Kirei hate him so openly is a comfort he didn’t know he needed. Settling back down into the tub, Kariya goes about rinsing the soap out of his hair.

“Yeah, well,” Kariya turns on the nozzle, combing the attached shower head through his hair. “Like I told you. The Matou magic is filthy.”

Maybe he should be saying something different; maybe apologize, or express sympathy. But Kariya is starting to understand Kirei, bit by bit. He doesn’t need to be coddled or spared the grim details.

If anything, Kirei would enjoy hearing the ugly facts.

“The entire Matou family line is just shit,” Kariya continues, unprompted. He tips his head back, working his fingers through his scalp, combing them through the matted tufts of hair. “All the good ones die early or turn rotten. There’s no in between.”

Kirei’s hand stalls against Kariya’s hip, his broad fingers digging in lightly against his flesh. “Where would you say you fall, in that case?”

“I’m both,” Kariya says, not even needing a moment to think it over. “I just have enough sense to die before my stench lingers.”

Even if his death date has gotten somewhat murky now. Even if he isn’t sure if he’s going to die at all now. Kariya can’t see himself living beyond this war, and thinking about it has only brought him turmoil. Sighing through his nose, Kariya leans forward in the tub to turn the water off, moving to put the shower head back.

“You must hold quite a lot of contempt for the heir apparent, then,” Kirei murmurs, his tone indecipherable. “If you are not the next head of the family.”

Kariya lets the shower head drop, letting it clatter loudly against the tub, its metallic finish ringing against the floor. He shouldn’t react—for all he knows, Kirei has no idea about what’s going on with the Matou family. Just because he was close to Tokiomi doesn’t mean anything, he doubts that Tokiomi would’ve told Kirei everything, the prideful bastard. But still.

“No,” Kariya says, his voice low, edging on a growl. He stays hunched over, not willing to look Kirei in the eye. “I don’t.”

“I had been wondering about that,” Kirei presses. “When I confronted Zouken, he seemed rather jovial for a man with no guaranteed heir. If it is not you…”

“It’s not going to be her, either,” Kariya bites out without meaning to. Thinking about Sakura being forced to take up the Matou family magic, to perfect her as breeding stock for better heirs, to guarantee that they have a lot to toss in for the next war—it’s too much, and it loosens his tongue.

Kirei’s voice is even, seemingly unaffected by Kariya’s sudden tension. “Her?”

Shit, does it even matter if I tell him? Kariya feels his jaw tighten. Does he even know about Sakura? I didn’t say anything to him, I know I didn’t…

“When Zouken came here,” Kariya turns toward Kirei, his brows furrowed with a glare. “What did he say?”

The mild look in Kirei’s eyes tells Kariya that he wants to press, but decides against it. “He asked what I had done with the worms he had implanted in you.”

Of course he fucking knows, Kariya grits his teeth, a painful pulse beating inside his neck. “And? What else?”

“He said he would allow… this,” Kirei gestures between them with his damp hand. Kariya feels his face flush in spite of himself. “My housing of you. Though he seems convinced that he still has sway over you… which, I presume, is the ‘her’ that you just spoke of.”

Kariya pinches at the bridge of his nose, feeling a vein pulsate under the pressure. What now? Does he just tell him about Sakura? Part of him is still wary, recalling that unnerving smile pulling at Kirei’s lips as he cheerfully discussed murdering Tokiomi.

Hypocrite, he chastises himself. You were just as much a part of that as he was.

But it was the delight that Kirei seemed to take in it that bothered him. And something nags at Kariya still, telling him that he’s hardly seen anything from him yet, urging him to get the fuck away from the priest while there’s still time. There’s no doubting that Kirei is dangerous, unpredictable, and maybe even monstrous.

On the other hand… he’s the one that saved him. If it hadn’t been for Kirei, Kariya would be dead. In a way, he owes Sakura’s life to Kirei as much as his own.

“It is,” Kariya says after a pause, his voice weak, still marred by hesitation. “I haven’t told you about her yet. I didn’t think I’d have to… but with how close we’re getting to the end, he might be getting restless.”

Kirei raises an eyebrow. Pursing his lips, Kariya turns his head away from him again; it’s so hard to look at him now, and he doesn’t know if it’s fear or shame or arousal or a mix of all three. He doesn’t want to think about it—maybe not now, maybe not ever.

“The Tohsakas have another daughter,” Kariya says into his blurred reflection, his right hand sliding up to grip at his deadened left arm. “I don’t know if Tokiomi ever told you about this—I don’t know why he would, bastard probably wanted to keep the damn business under wraps for as long as he could. But he… gave his youngest daughter, Sakura, over to the Matou family on my father’s request.”

“To carry on the Matou magic in your stead.” Kirei finishes for him. In a way, Kariya feels a little grateful for it; if he had to say that out loud, there’s no way his voice wouldn’t have cracked.

“Yeah,” Kariya digs his thumb into the flesh of his arm. The only feeling that comes from it is the sickening twist in his stomach, hating how he can’t even sense the imprint of his fingers against his skin. “No one should have to go through that… no one should have to learn that disgusting magecraft. Least of all a girl ripped away from her family, tossed aside like she’s—like she’s breeding stock for… some other shithead mage down the line.”

He almost slips up, almost calls her breeding stock for the scores of worms in that hellhole. It isn’t wrong, but it still feels horrible, downright sick to say it out loud. Kariya doesn’t close his eye, but he can still see it; the outline of that basement is burned into the back of his retinas. He hears the constant clicking and trilling of thousands upon thousands of insects, wriggling and crawling all over the walls, all over one another, all over Sakura, all over him even now. Inside him, all around him, little legs scrambling over his naked flesh, worming inside every crevice they can find.

He can’t feel his arm, but he can feel them, like they never left. Like they’re all still inside him—two still are, he can feel them, coiling and thrashing around, feeding off him even now, but he doesn’t have any room to complain, because Sakura, poor Sakura’s feeling this tenfold, and she never did anything to deserve it. She wasn’t born with this filthy, rotten Matou blood.

“Kariya.”

A cool, damp hand slides over his jaw, a thumb swiping under his bottom lip. Startled out of his stupor, Kariya turns toward Kirei, grounded once more by the priest’s touch. As usual, there’s no clear expression on his face, but there doesn’t need to be—Kariya can understand what he’s aiming for just by his touch. The controlled strength behind that hand, wiping so carefully against Kariya’s chin, tells Kariya more than any one look might’ve.

“Tell me,” Kirei’s voice rumbles deep, and Kariya can feel the vibrations thrumming along his nerves. “The Matou family’s wish for the Grail… it isn’t yours at all, is it?”

It takes Kariya a moment to realize that he had split his lip with how hard he’d been worrying his teeth against it. The beat of his pulse is painful against the swollen flesh, more so now that Kirei was pressing his thumb against it. Blood collects against the swell of his finger, oozing out with each uneven pulse.

“No,” Kariya finally speaks, smearing the blood beading from his lip against Kirei’s thumb. “It isn’t.”

Drawing his hand away, Kirei leans over the lip of the tub, closing in on Kariya’s space. Kariya doesn’t back away, like his instinct is screaming at him to do; he stays still, eyes wide open as Kirei crowds him, bringing his lips in close towards Kariya’s. The warmth of Kirei’s tongue against his bottom lip causes Kariya to flinch, but he doesn’t try breaking away.

Kirei laves his tongue up and over Kariya’s lips, his eyelids heavy as he smears Kariya’s own blood against his upper lip, his own crude sort of lipstick.

“I want to burn your childhood home to the ground,” Kirei breathes against him. “And give you the wish you were denied.”

In every other respect, such a horrible statement shouldn’t touch Kariya’s heart so strongly. But Kariya’s breath leaves him in a startled shudder, heat spilling through his veins, warming him in a way he’s never quite felt until now.

Licking Kirei’s upper lip, Kariya murmurs, “I think that’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me.”

 


 

Emiya Kiritsugu kneels by the front gate of Tohsaka manor, brows furrowed. There is no active magical barrier as far as he can tell, and the gate is slightly ajar. It’s the sort of carelessness that’s unlike the Tohsaka Tokiomi he read up about in his files.

Something isn’t right. He hadn’t been able to tail Tohsaka as closely as he’d wanted to before—not with Archer’s ever-present surveillance. He had to break away, had to come back later.

Had to see Iri, he reminds himself. Don’t know how much longer she’ll last. It’s clear-cut and logical, but Kiritsugu can’t help but feel a persistent burning behind his eyes at the thought of it.

But now, not only is he certain that Archer isn’t here… it doesn’t feel like anyone is inside. No, there shouldn’t be anyone there, not with the gate open like this. Squinting through the mid-morning sunlight, Kiritsugu weighs his options.

No barrier. No signs of life. No car. Front gate’s left open. Tohsaka is a pragmatic mage, down to his bones—he wouldn’t leave his base so suddenly, especially not after already doing so to negotiate their little would-be ceasefire.

Could it be a trap? Leaving his front door open, practically begging for one of the other Masters to ambush him? Kiritsugu shakes his head; that’s more El-Melloi’s speed, and well, he’s already been well taken care of. Tohsaka is a showy man, but not in the same way as El-Melloi; he’s reserved and poised, almost something of a relic by modern standards. He enters and exits the battlefield on his own terms, doesn’t allow any of the other Masters to try and force his hand.

Not to mention the smell—or the lack of one. If someone had died on these grounds, Kiritsugu would’ve been able to tell. He walks past the front gate and approaches the door, finding it to be unlocked. The stuffy, almost earthy smell that wafts down the halls… it’s not the stench that Kiritsugu’s looking for.

No one’s home, and no one’s dead in these walls.

What now? Kiritsugu grimaces. If Tohsaka isn’t even here, where else could he be? Though he didn’t follow him the entire way back, Kiritsugu knows that he left the church. If he’d gone back on his own, he wouldn’t have left his front door open, nor would he have left the gate ajar.

Did one of the other Masters ambush and kidnap him? Kiritsugu knows for sure that Rider’s Master is out—he heard the brat’s voice over the talkie, he doesn’t have the stomach for kidnapping. Not to mention Rider himself isn’t the insidious type.

Berserker’s Master is out, too. Though there’s a motive there, Kiritsugu just can’t see it. Berserker isn’t exactly the most subtle of Servants; even if his Master remained out of sight, there’s no way a mad bastard like that would’ve left so little carnage in his wake.

No, this is the sort of foul play that Kiritsugu would’ve enacted, himself. If that’s the case, then…

Kotomine Kirei, he realizes, feeling his stomach churn at just the mere thought of the Executor’s name. It has to be him.

But that still leaves more questions. What the hell could he gain from kidnapping Tohsaka, rather than outright killing him? And…

Could he have anticipated my movements? Kiritsugu takes a step back, letting the front door shut on its own. Was he hoping I’d come and waste my time here… or… is he hiding away in there, waiting for me?

Kiritsugu feels a wave of nausea hit him, and he turns on his heel. No. Not happening. Like hell. He makes his way out through the front gate, pulling out his handheld transceiver. Clicking the button, he holds it up to his mouth. “Maiya.”

“Yes?” Comes the immediate response.

“Tohsaka isn’t home. His car’s gone, and the barrier’s down,” he says, moving down the road, breaking off into a wooded area to cross over to the next road. Giving a few glances over his shoulder, Kiritsugu pulls out his keys with his free hand. “I think the priest might be involved.”

Maiya pauses. “The Executor?”

“Yes,” Kiritsugu finds his car, hidden from view behind an old hedge. He’s quick to get in, shoving the key into the ignition. “I’m going to use a Command Seal to send Saber back your way. If my gut’s right, he’s already making his move—I’ll take care of Rider and his Master myself.”

“Are you sure?” Maiya asks. “I can protect Madam just fine—”

No,” Kiritsugu bites out, feeling his heart clench up in his chest. “If Kotomine Kirei is on the move, I don’t want you and Iri to be alone, not when a Servant could be sent your way. Saber will be guarding you both until I can be sure you’re safe, understand?”

There’s a long silence on the other end of the line. Kiritsugu winces, feeling a cold spike of shame seep into his nerves. He shouldn’t have yelled at her, but… but just thinking about the two of them being alone with that man is…

“Please… Maiya,” Kiritsugu says, his voice soft. His eyes burn, but he forces himself not to shed the tears that threaten to spill forth. His tone shakes as he continues to speak, the HT rattling in his hand as he leans forward and hangs his head against the wheel, forehead cushioned by his knuckles. “I don’t want… I… please.

Maiya’s voice filters in after a moment, the soft smile clear in her voice. It’s a subtle thing, but just hearing that smile in her tone sets him at ease, just a bit. “… understood. I will contact you in the case of an emergency.”

It takes Kiritsugu a moment to steady his voice, but he replies, “Good. Over and out.”

Clicking the HT off, he stuffs it back into his belt and takes a deep breath. The keys are in the ignition still, but he hasn’t turned them yet, and with how rattled he is, he knows better than to try it right away. Deep breath in, slow breath out. Don’t do anything for thirty seconds. That method only works every other time he tries it, but he always does it anyway.

When it doesn’t work, he reaches into his coat pocket, fumbling for a pack of cigarettes and his lighter. Shakily closing his lips around the end, Kiritsugu keeps counting past thirty, the click of his lighter nearly making him flinch as he leans the tip into the flame.

Forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty… Kiritsugu inhales deeply, the burn of nicotine dragging an unsteady shudder from him. Mindlessly, he reaches down to crank the car window open a crack—the last time he smoked without the windows open, Iri wouldn’t let him sleep in the same bed with her for three days.

It smells,” she’d said, “Have you been washing behind your ears too? Silly, can’t you smell it? You reek! Do I have to wash you myself? Ooh, that might be fun...” The memory makes Kiritsugu smile, the sound of Irisviel’s voice naturally easing his nerves in a way the cigarette could only halfway manage.

Exhaling a puff of smoke, Kiritsugu sits back up straight, resting his head back against the seat. He doesn’t feel great, but he’s not panicking as badly as before. He’ll deal with it one step at a time—as far as difficulty goes, Rider’s Master shouldn’t pose much of a threat. It’s Rider, himself, that poses a problem; but after that battle at Mion River, there’s no way he can fully manifest so soon, not after using that Noble Phantasm of his.

“I order, by Command Seal,” Kiritsugu raises his hand before his face, watching the strokes of his Command Spells glow. “Saber, go back to the storehouse, now.

One stroke disappears before Kiritsugu’s eyes, leaving only scant traces of the pattern that once laid in his flesh. He doesn’t listen, if she tries speaking to him through their Master-Servant connection; Maiya will explain once she gets back, which should be immediately. Turning the key in the ignition, Kiritsugu eases his foot on the gas pedal.

Kiritsugu had hoped that Saber could dispatch Rider and Archer at the same time with his original plan, but that doesn’t seem possible now. No matter. Doing it this way is faster, anyhow. He knows Waver Velvet’s location. He knows his face and his voice. If Rider can’t materialize, that just makes his Master a sitting duck.

As Kiritsugu merges into the mid-morning traffic, he swears he catches a glimpse of something stark white in one of the passing cars. But when he looks for it in the rear-view mirror, there’s no sign of it.

 


 

Kirei only vaguely notices the faint, passing scent of nicotine wafting in through the driver’s-side window. Wrinkling his nose, he rolls it back up, slowing to a stop at an intersection. Though the temptation to mow down pedestrians tickles at him, there is a time and a place for that.

“Don’t scratch at it,” Kirei says, glancing towards the passenger’s seat for a split second. “You will draw more attention to it that way.”

Kariya grumbles, obediently dropping his hand into his lap. “I can’t exactly help looking half-dead. I don’t see how slapping an eye patch on me will draw any less attention.”

The edge in Kariya’s voice warms Kirei’s blood. Even with reassurance, the self-deprecation in Kariya’s tone would remain, and it is wonderful. Kirei almost wants to smile—but he fights the temptation, shifting the car back into drive once the light changes.

“This is more of a precaution against one of the other Masters potentially spotting us; it won’t be the end of the world if a few people point and stare, so long as they are not mages. That aside, you wear it well,” Kirei replies, casting a sidelong glance his way. “You are unrecognizable.”

Though he is wearing his own turtleneck (once more washed and pressed, Kirei notes), Kariya is wearing more of Kirei’s clothes. For once, Kirei finds himself thankful for his father’s insistence on filling out his wardrobe with more than just the necessities; the gray tweed jacket that sat in the back of his closet fits Kariya far better than him, as it turns out. Paired with some of Kirei’s old slacks, if not for the white hair, Kariya wouldn’t look out of place on the street.

Kariya winces, resigning himself to itch at the bandages covering his Command Seals. “Can’t tell if that’s a good or a bad thing. You didn’t even dress up at all, how come you don’t have to try as hard?”

Kirei found that merely keeping his shirt open, rather than zipped all the way up, made him look nothing like himself. It bothers him, really, not being completely put together—but the few quick glances that he catches Kariya stealing of him makes up for it.

“I have little trouble blending in to begin with,” Kirei pulls into his usual parking spot for his trips into the shopping district; they’ll need to walk the rest of the way. “You, on the other hand…”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, Christ…” Kariya fumbles with his seat belt, bristling when Kirei reaches over to get it for him. He huffs, making a show of opening the passenger-side door on his own. “What’s the excuse for if someone asks, again? Albinism or something?”

Stepping out of the car, Kirei looks at Kariya over the hood, tempted to squint at how the sunlight makes his skin and hair near-blinding. He could pass for an angel. Kirei thinks of the archangel Raphael, and has to fight against the smile that wants to form at the cruel irony of such a comparison. “Marie Antoinette syndrome is another one that we could use.”

“Is that even real?” Kariya asks with a quirk in his brow. He limps over to Kirei’s side, his borrowed loafers clicking against the pavement. He’s almost drowning in Kirei’s tweed jacket, but for some reason, Kirei only finds that it makes the sight more pleasing. “I’ve heard about that before, but I’ve never seen anyone that actually had it.”

Kirei gives a shrug, feeling a strange chill as the wind brushes past them, rustling his open shirt. Once Kariya is at his side, he begins walking down the sidewalk, keeping his gait slow. “Do you really believe anyone would press if they ask? Most would be satisfied with the answer and go about their day.”

“I guess,” Kariya hobbles alongside him, still struggling to keep up even with Kirei’s slow pace. His teeth worry at his bottom lip, fingers tugging at the ends of his sleeves. “Sorry, I’m… it’s been… really long since I’ve been out in public, I’m a little…”

“Anxious?”

Kariya lets out a terse breath. “Yeah.”

Kirei slows to a stop, pondering this. He’s acutely aware of the creeping dread that anxiety brings; perhaps not in the same ways as Kariya, or even anyone else in the world. But uncertainty and unease are both feelings that he is intimately familiar with. He knows how he handles it… but how does Kariya? Does he shiver, come apart at the seams, or does he seize up entirely? He should have paid closer attention earlier, after Tokiomi had been murdered. Kariya had been a wreck, coming apart completely.

In more ways than one, his mind gives him unprompted. Kirei represses a shudder.

Realizing that he’s been standing there silently for a few moments, Kirei holds his arm out towards Kariya.

Instead of taking hold of it, Kariya squints at him, head tilted to the side. “Uh…?”

“Hold onto me.” Kirei says, realizing that he needs the clarification.

Kariya’s eye widens, his entire body giving a flinch at his offer. His mouth opens, as if he wants to question Kirei, but the only sound that leaves Kariya’s throat is a soft whine. With his face flushing in its usual sluggish, halfway pace, Kariya curls his fingers around Kirei’s elbow, drawing in closer.

It’s simple; if Kariya holds onto his arm, Kirei can better monitor how he reacts to his anxiety. With his fingers fitting into the bend of his elbow, he can feel them tighten, can feel his nails dig through the fabric and into his skin.

Kirei nods to himself. Keeping Kariya close, he starts walking again. His pace is still slow, but with this arrangement, Kirei finds himself minding far less. The occasional breeze is hardly noticeable now with Kariya’s sickly warmth pressing against him.

“Maybe we, uh,” Kariya mumbles, ducking his head. Kirei can feel that he’s beginning to shiver the closer they get to the bustle of the shopping district. “Should’ve splurged for a wheelchair for me, or… something.”

It makes sense, when Kirei thinks about it. If he’d gotten a wheelchair for Kariya, they could get to their destination faster—not to mention the guilty averted gazes that Kariya’s ‘condition’ would bring from the passers-by. Though there’s still plenty of those now, and in spades, with the people around them starting to go out of their way to put space between themselves and Kariya.

As if Kariya is contagious. No—as if Kariya, himself, is a contagion.

“No,” Kirei says, trying not to smile at how Kariya’s grip against his arm is tightening to the point of pain. “This is better.”

Kariya sucks in a breath through his teeth. From the corner of his eye, Kirei can see Kariya scrutinizing his face. “You’re getting off on this, aren’t you?”

A tendon in Kirei’s jaw tenses at that. How easy it is to forget how sharp Kariya can be—does this mean Kirei is slacking in maintaining his unreadable exterior, or is Kariya getting better at recognizing his tells? And if it’s the latter… why is Kirei allowing it?

He’s even taking Kariya to the one place that makes him feel anything. He hasn’t even told Gilgamesh about this place. It had been on a whim, deciding to take Kariya out to lunch; they were both hungry, and they were going to head to Miyama Town that day anyway. The shopping district was out of the way, but there was no harm in stopping to eat before they head to the Matou mansion.

That’s what Kirei had told himself. There’s no harm in it. No harm in exposing more of himself to this man, sharing something so meaningless yet so personal with him. Kirei had nothing to gain by sharing this with Kariya, this wouldn’t further their plans, it wouldn’t do anything. He was just… having lunch with him.

He could’ve easily let Kariya get something to eat for himself back in the rectory. Kirei could’ve made himself something bland and tasteless, if all he needed to do was fill his stomach. Going out of his way to disguise Kariya so that they could eat out… what was the point of it?

“Perhaps,” Kirei replies, starting to wonder if he’s in a fugue state. “Or it could be that I…”

That I…

Kirei looks down towards Kariya. A coiling, searing pain beats at his chest the longer he stares. The sudden hammering rhythm of his pulse inside his veins is deafening, and Kirei is hyper-aware of each beat, the hurried flutter of his own blood zipping through his body at a pace that doesn’t match his actions; his heartbeat shouldn’t be this fast, not when all he’s been doing is walking and talking.

It almost makes him feel sick.

“Hey, isn’t that the place?” Kariya mercifully (or cruelly, Kirei can’t decide) cuts him off, pointing out the restaurant front. “Koushuuensaikan Taizan?”

Shaking his head, Kirei directs his attention away from him. “Yes, that’s it.”

“It’s been years since I’ve had Chinese food,” Kariya comments. His voice still shakes, but he seems to be relaxing a bit now that they’ve arrived at their destination. “I’ve only ever had take-out, nothing fancy like this.

Though the pain in Kirei’s chest has not subsided, he keeps his voice steady as they come to a stop at the sliding door. “You’ve never been here before?”

Kariya shakes his head, squeezing Kirei’s arm. “We never went out all that much. We had hired chefs for a while, but after that, we’d have to cook for ourselves… none of the Matou men are really known for their ability to cook, so it was never anything fancy.”

Kirei slides the door open, inhaling the rich aroma of spices as he ushers Kariya in. The scent of Sichuan peppercorn and ground pork is already making his mouth water. “What a shame. This is the only Chinese restaurant in Miyama Town, and yet so few people seem to realize it’s here.”

As Kariya lets go of Kirei’s arm, Kirei watches the look on his face as he takes in the atmosphere. As usual, the banquet hall is mostly empty, but that doesn’t take away from its charm. Chinese knot decorations hang from the walls, spaced between the tables, the walls lined with posters advertising weekly specials and recommendations. Over one table in particular, there is a painting of a stone staircase swathed on all sides by rolling fields, leading up to a far-off paifang. The colors are muted, almost nonexistent, creating an empty and morose feel.

It’s Kirei’s preferred spot, that table. Something about that painting… comforts him. He enjoys the Chinese werehua style of painting, though he’s more familiar with Japanese nanga.

And without even needing Kirei’s insistence, it’s that table that Kariya chooses to sit at. He even leaves Kirei’s usual seat open for him, though Kirei is certain that he can’t possibly know that Kirei typically takes the seat facing the front of the banquet hall.

“I can’t believe I’ve never stopped here before,” Kariya’s voice is light, and as Kirei sits down across from him, he finds himself surprised to see the smile on Kariya’s face. “It’s so… authentic? I don’t know if that’s the right word for it, but it’s nice.”

It’s funny, hearing Kariya say such a thing. Kirei has heard all manner of hushed condemnations of the place, that its lack of windows makes it oppressive, that it shares its likeness with a prison. The manager seems to rub most people the wrong way, too, if they haven’t been scared off before even entering the banquet hall. Batsu-san’s tendency of drowning every dish in peppers only adds to the illusion that Koushuuensaikan Taizan is less of a banquet hall and more of a spicy torture dungeon.

It’s Kirei’s favorite spot in Miyama Town. That Kariya doesn’t seem repelled by it… he isn’t sure what that means. Is Koushuuensaikan Taizan merely the unfortunate victim of a close-minded public, or is Kariya a masochist?

Kirei suddenly finds himself wanting to know. No—needing to know.

“Most people say this place isn’t unlike a prison,” Kirei says, trying to make it sound casual. “You don’t get that feeling?”

Kariya shakes his head. He doesn’t even look disturbed by the thought. “Not at all.”

That strange pain seizes at Kirei’s chest again. Does it show on his face? He suddenly feels all too aware of the weight of his flesh upon his bones, the throb of his own blood coursing through his veins. Is he sweating? He hasn’t even ordered for them yet, and he’s already like this?

“Kotomine! You’re back-aru?”

The manager’s voice cuts through Kirei’s roiling thoughts (again, blessedly), and he’s quick to turn away from Kariya to meet Batsu’s expectant eyes. He still needs to crane his neck down a bit, given his height.

“Jeez, you’ve been gone for the last few days, I was starting to think you were dead-aru,” Batsu huffs, hands on his hips. Cocking his head towards Kariya, Batsu raises an eyebrow. “And who’s this-aru? You have friends?”

“He is my colleague,” Kirei answers, the word colleague feeling strange on his tongue. His voice dips in volume as he continues, “It is his first time.”

Across from him, Kariya bristles with embarrassment. “Don’t say it like that, Kirei.”

“Ohhh, so it’s like that-aru?” Batsu eyes Kirei, a crude smile playing on his lips. “The girls had you pegged all wrong, Kotomine! Heheh, and here they thought they’d be in for some easy cash-aru! Shows them for betting against Batsu-aru.”

The longer this conversation goes on, the stronger the urge to crush Batsu’s head between his hands like an overripe melon becomes. The man is lucky his food can stir some feeling within me, Kirei inhales through his nose. Otherwise…

“Now! Onto you-aru,” Batsu turns his attention onto Kariya. “You gonna have the same as your colleague here, or do you want a menu?”

Kariya blinks, his fingers drumming on the tabletop. Giving Kirei a cursory glance (and likely receiving nothing, though Kirei has no clue what face he might be making), Kariya clears his throat. “Uh, I… I’ll have what he’s having?”

Batsu claps his hands, evidently deeming this interaction over as he makes his way back to the kitchen. “Two extremely spicy servings of mapo tofu, coming up-aru!”

Perhaps Kirei should have informed Kariya of his usual order before they came in. But seeing the shock flash across his face is worth it, in its own way.

“Extremely… spicy, huh?” Kariya’s brow arches, looking a mix of bewildered and amused. “The, uh, extremely part is just for flair, right? It’s not—”

“It is extremely spicy.” Kirei says earnestly. Or, as earnest as he can manage.

Kariya gives a slow blink, an indescribable look dawning on his face as his sheepish smile weakens bit by bit. It doesn’t fade entirely, but there’s clearly more trepidation lurking in his expression. His tongue darts out to wet his lips, his fingers drumming faster against the tabletop. “You’re… not joking.”

Kirei shakes his head. “I am not.”

“I don’t know why I thought you would, you’re not the… I mean, you don’t…” Kariya’s getting more and more anxious by the second, propping his arm up onto the table and leaning his face into his hand. Kirei maps out each minute shift in his posture, each slight twitch that he gives, and finds that this is more than an adequate appetizer. “I don’t think I’ve heard you tell a single joke since I met you?”

Not to you, Kirei almost blurts out. And not the kind of joke you’re thinking, either.

“The gift of comedy does not smile upon the Holy Church,” Kirei says instead, lifting his arms up to rest on the table. “It is one of the first things we are meant to discard. Not to mention that I, myself, haven’t a humorous bone in my body.”

“Really? Not one?” Kariya seems to relax a bit as the conversation goes on, fully resting his cheek in his palm as opposed to pressing his entire face into it in a desperate bid to look natural. Kirei isn’t sure which look he prefers. “Have you ever tried? Telling a joke, I mean.”

Angling his chin up, Kirei wonders why he’s indulging this, why he hasn’t just shut Kariya down by not answering him at all. But keeps talking, much to his own confusion. “No, not that I recall.”

“Has anyone ever told you a joke?” Kariya presses.

It doesn’t matter, Kirei should say. None of this matters. Stop talking, Kariya, you’re wasting precious breath. I don’t want you dead just yet.

“No,” Kirei continues with this farce. “I don’t believe so.”

Kariya frowns. Is that pity wrinkling his brow, or is it sympathy? “Well, that sucks. How can you tell any jokes if you’ve never heard any?”

“I don’t particularly feel the urge to, Kariya. A priest is meant to be a symbol of stability, not frivolity…” Kirei laces his fingers together. And then, unbelievably, something that he had no intention of saying manages to slip past his lips. “Unless you have a joke for me?”

Kariya looks just as shocked to hear it as Kirei is upon having said it. Before Kirei can take it back, Kariya nods, “Sure, I can think of one… let’s see…”

He is in for a world of disappointment, Kirei knows; the only things that can bring him joy or make him laugh, he’s found, are horrible, wretched things. Violence, bloodshed, schadenfreude of the worst variety; there isn’t a single raucous, poor-tasted joke in the world that can make Kirei feel anything but derision.

“Okay, I got one!” Kariya straightens up, his face alight. “So, there’s two hunters out in the woods one day, right? They’re out hunting for deer, everything’s fine… when suddenly, a really nasty-looking grizzly bear jumps out at them!”

Though he doesn’t see the point in it, Kirei pictures the scene in his mind’s eye. Without meaning to, he imagines one of the hunters as himself—and the other… as Kiritsugu Emiya. Why he and Kiritsugu would be out hunting is beyond him, but he can’t help himself.

“They both get mauled,” Kariya continues. “But they both play dead, until the bear eventually leaves. One of the hunters is worse off than the other, and the hunter that’s better off is like, oh shit, I need to call an ambulance, he might be actually dead? So he uses a nearby payphone to call emergency services…”

Without even needing to put conscious thought into it, Kirei places Kiritsugu in the role of the half-dead hunter. His imagination gets the better of him, providing an intensely, vividly detailed image of Kiritsugu’s ruined, tattered body; blood gushes past his lips, deep claw marks having torn open his midsection. His breathing is scattered, shallow and meek, his eyes hazing over as death looms near. Tears cling to his lashes, a single droplet sliding down his cheek and running red.

Kirei swallows, squeezing his thighs together.

“Once he connects, he tells the operator, my friend and I’ve been mauled by a bear, I think my friend’s in trouble, he might be dead, what do I do?” Kariya seems oblivious to the sudden onset arousal that his joke has unwittingly hit him with. “And the operator goes, okay, before anything, can you make sure he’s dead? And then the operator just hears this loud BANG on the other end of the line—and then the hunter says, okay, now what?”

The added indignity of being mauled by a bear, being left half-dead, and then having his life snuffed out by Kirei’s own hands—in a way, it is funny. In fact, Kirei feels the muscles in his face twitching, a sudden burst of air bubbling up and out of his throat in a single, percussive cough. Is it a cough, or did he actually just laugh? Kirei’s never heard himself laugh, never thought himself capable of it. But the cough-like noise that leaves him is so sudden and harsh that Kirei moves to cover his mouth.

He can feel the edges of his mouth against his palm. They’re upturned—an unmistakable smile.

Kariya looks just as shocked by the sound. In fact, he looks more than shocked—his nostrils are flaring, fingers curling in tightly against his palm. His eye is wide, his one working pupil nearly engulfing the iris. He’s visibly shuffling in his seat, and Kirei is starting to wonder if Kariya actually did pick up on his spontaneous arousal.

“Wow,” Kariya’s voice sounds strained. Kirei watches the bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallows. He’s openly staring, his gaze darting from Kirei’s face down to his throat. “I didn’t think I’d… actually get a laugh out of you on the first try, I’m…”

A heated pause settles between them. Kirei didn’t factor in this possibility—he had thought that, with their most recent coupling, Kariya’s needs would be sated for a time. It seems that he’s vastly underestimated the drive that one lust worm can have. And it isn’t as if his own erection has flagged; the fantasy he had unwittingly crafted for himself had more of an impact than he thought it would, clearly. The fact that Kariya can somehow sense it is…

“H—Hey,” Kariya stands up. “Can you show me where the washroom is?”

Kirei can hardly hear his own voice over the sound of his blood pounding in his ears. “It is down the—”

“No,” Kariya moves around the table, reaching out to grab onto Kirei’s arm. “You have to show me.”

Though he has the strength to shrug him off, Kirei allows himself to go along with the insistent pull of Kariya’s hand, getting to his feet. Giving a cursory glance to the partition that separates them from the kitchen, Kirei tugs Kariya along down the hall leading out of the dining area to the washroom.

He has a vague idea of where this is going. In the grand scheme of things, it is cutting into their already tight schedule. But Kirei disregards that, allowing Kariya to drag him into the dimly-lit, windowless washroom, allowing himself to be pressed back against the door once they’re both inside, allowing Kariya to lean up and bite savagely at his bottom lip.

Kariya shoves at Kirei’s shoulder with no finesse, rumpling his open shirt, twisting his hand into the fabric as he licks into Kirei’s mouth. Kirei feels off-balance, off-kilter, as if the only thing keeping him upright is Kariya’s weight shoving him into the door. The muted little whimpers that Kariya is making only makes him burn hotter, his cock pressing uncomfortably into his closed fly.

He shouldn’t have let Kariya drag him in here. Kirei risks getting himself banned from the banquet hall. But Kariya is pulling away, dropping to his knees before him, and the crack of Kariya’s knees against the tile tears a hungry groan from Kirei’s throat. His awareness narrows in an instant, and all he can hear is the rush of his own breath, the clatter of Kariya tearing at his belt and fly, and Kariya’s wheezing, whimpering exhale once he pulls Kirei’s cock free from his boxers.

There’s no preamble, no shy fumbling or hesitation from Kariya this time around. Letting his eye roll back as it shuts, Kariya sucks the head of Kirei’s cock into his mouth abruptly, and Kirei has to bite his tongue to suppress the growl that wants to leave him. The last thing he wants, especially now, is to be walked in on.

Kariya doesn’t seem to have that inhibition, a muffled moan vibrating around Kirei’s flesh as he tips his head forward, taking more of him in. Kariya’s one good hand is clutching at Kirei’s hip, his entire arm shaking—and though he’s gripping his hipbone through his pants, the point of contact still burns for Kirei.

“Sss—” Kirei hisses. He almost tells Kariya to slow down, to keep it down, what if someone found them? But as he’s looking down at him, taking in the raw, open need that Kariya is putting on display for him, Kirei comes to a realization.

He is doing this for my sake, Kirei purses his lips, moving his hand to grip at Kariya’s hair. The muffled keen that Kariya lets out encourages him to pull, to press Kariya’s mouth further down his cock. He keeps his other hand pressed to the door, curling his fingers into a tight fist. He is not just doing this for himself. He is seeing to me, first, rather than seeking out his own release.

Kariya isn’t touching himself at all. He’s shuffling his hips, bucking helplessly, but he hasn’t made a move to relieve the insistent pressure between his legs. His focus is entirely on Kirei, his tongue pressing against the underside of Kirei’s cock, his throat flexing and squeezing around the rest of him—

Kirei knew he wouldn’t last, not like this, not with how strangely he’s been feeling today. His orgasm hits him without warning, heat pulsing through his veins, his focus now entirely narrowed onto Kariya, his lips chapped and sticky against his shaft, Kariya, his thumb and index finger squeezing a bruise into his hip, Kariya, Kariya, Kariya.

“Kari—ngh.” Kirei bites down on the name that almost bursts from his lips, shutting his eyes as he cums down Kariya’s throat. But it isn’t quick, it drags on, his cock pulsing over and over again until it’s too much for Kariya to hold in. He pulls off, but Kirei’s still cumming, and a long stripe spurts across Kariya’s face.

It stretches from Kariya’s upper lip to the swell of his cheek, coating the white patch over his eye. That could present a problem for them once they go back out to the dining area. But Kirei is still trembling, too full of still-ebbing bliss to care about that. Too caught up in the unmistakable pressure of Kariya leaning his head into Kirei’s slowly loosening grip.

“Fuck,” Kariya’s voice is completely wrecked, though he sounds oddly pleased. Kirei can’t look away from him, eyes wide as Kariya thumbs at the stripe of cum at his lip, smoothing upward until he collects it all. Instead of wiping it off on the floor or getting a paper towel, Kariya sucks it into his mouth, and Kirei forgets how to breathe. “I need to start telling you jokes more often if this is what happens, god damn.”

Kirei inhales sharply, sliding his fingers out of Kariya’s hair. “You knew that I was aroused.”

“Oh. Uh… yeah, I did,” Kariya clears his throat, biting the inside of his cheek. “Your eyes, they, uh… rather, it was your pupils? They got a lot bigger towards the end of that joke, and… it got me thinking about how they did that earlier, too. I only just started noticing it, really—”

Clamping both hands down on Kariya’s shoulders, Kirei drags him to his feet. Kariya opens his mouth, but before he can let out so much as a yelp, Kirei is switching their positions, pushing him face-first against the door. Kirei is pressed against the line of Kariya’s back within moments, covering his mouth with one hand and sliding the other along his chest.

He can feel the flutter of Kariya’s nervous heartbeat against his palm.

“How odd,” Kirei says in a low tone, leaning forward to rest his chin on Kariya’s shoulder. Kariya makes a bewildered noise against Kirei’s hand, but Kirei doesn’t pay it any mind. Keeping his eyes on the door before them, Kirei lets his hand wander down further, the touch against his stomach causing Kariya to flinch. “Your heart still hasn’t given out on you, even after all this exertion.”

Kirei knows that Kariya can’t see his face; he’s resting his chin on Kariya’s blind side. If this frightens him, Kirei can’t tell. The hitch in Kariya’s breath is warm and wet against his palm, which Kirei takes as an invitation to continue. Flicking open the button and fly on Kariya’s slacks, Kirei can’t help but chuckle when Kariya all but humps into his open hand once he slides it into his boxers.

“Did it start pounding as soon as you realized how your words affected me, Kariya?” Kirei isn’t good at this sort of thing, talking during sex, but… Gilgamesh tends to talk to him in this way, when it’s the two of them. Kirei is curious at how it would feel, pushing Kariya’s limits not only with his hands, but with his voice as well. As if possessed, Kirei presses his lips against Kariya’s ear and growls. Can he even hear anything through this ear? If so, how well? It doesn’t matter—as long as he’s close, Kariya will hear him. Curling his hand around Kariya’s cock, Kirei breathes heavily against his jaw, “Dragging such a reaction from me in public… where anyone could see…”

A heady stream of precum slicks Kirei’s grip against Kariya’s shaft, the wet slap of flesh against flesh reverberating off the bathroom walls. It would be enough if it was just that, but Kariya is sobbing and whimpering into Kirei’s palm, his mouth open and licking against his skin, hardly even trying to keep himself quiet. Clearly, his words are having an impact on him.

“What if I—took you, right here,” Kirei almost says fucked, but he finds that the word feels too strange, too alien for him. Kariya keens, bucking erratically into Kirei’s fist. “It is tempting, Kariya. Now that I know how it feels to take you, I cannot stop thinking about it.”

Kirei shuts his mouth so suddenly that he can hear his teeth clicking. That creeping, seizing pain in his chest returns with sudden intensity. What are you saying?

“Kirei,” Kariya’s voice breaks through Kirei’s hand—his fingers, they loosened around Kariya’s mouth, and now his voice is louder than ever. As if things weren’t bad enough. “Kirei, Kirei, fuck, please—yes—

With a yelp that couldn’t have possibly been missed by anyone potentially lurking outside, Kariya spasms in Kirei’s arms, and Kirei doesn’t even have enough presence of mind to cup his palm over the head of Kariya’s cock. He spurts against the door, his voice going in and out with each pulse as Kirei milks his orgasm from him.

Belatedly, Kirei realizes that Kariya’s right hand has been clutching at his wrist this entire time, pressing Kirei’s hand against his own face. Though Kirei doesn’t mean to, his fingers slide into Kariya’s mouth, twitching at how quickly Kariya’s tongue curls around them. He sucks, humming into his skin, and Kirei doesn’t know if this is real or if he’s having a heat stroke.

Kariya is dead weight in his arms once his orgasm subsides. They both remain where they are, slumped into the door, trying to catch their breath. The bathroom has grown humid and sticky, the smooth texture of the door before them fogged up by their combined efforts. Kirei should say something. He needs to say something, needs to break the silence, but he can’t for the life of him come up with anything.

“Oh shit,” Kariya mutters, breathless. “Did you—fuck, I came on the door, didn’t I?”

Though he doesn’t need to look to know that yes, he did, Kirei pulls Kariya back, keeping him braced against his chest as he looks down at where Kariya splattered the door with his release. And though he doesn’t need to answer, since Kariya is looking at it too, Kirei says, “Indeed, you did.”

A wilting wince rattles up Kariya’s throat. With boneless grace, Kariya tips his head back, resting against Kirei’s shoulder. “Ah, fuck, there’s paper towels in here, right? Oh my god, I didn’t even realize where I was gonna…”

Kirei still feels as if he’s having an out-of-body experience, but he helps Kariya steady himself, reaching behind them to pull a few paper towels from the dispenser. “My apologies. I should have caught it.”

“No, no, it’s okay—shit, I’m not complaining,” Kariya’s voice cracks a bit, taking the paper towels from Kirei and leaning down to clumsily wipe his cum from the door. He has to strain to reach, because Kirei still has one arm wrapped around his waist. “I thought you were gonna ream me out for not being able to keep it in my pants.”

Shaking his head, Kirei lets out a short breath. Carefully, he releases his hold on Kariya, giving him more freedom to move. Kirei has to tear his eyes away from the back of Kariya’s neck, turning sharply to the sink to wash his hands. He keeps his mouth shut tightly, lips pursed as he scrubs his hands mechanically under freezing water.

We have less time now, Kirei scolds himself. All because I couldn’t stop myself.

The shock of cold water stings his hands, but he can still feel his palms throbbing. Can feel the ghost of his fantasy still licking at him, the imagined feel of his fingers curled around the forestock of a rifle, the smell of blood, the sound of strained breathing, and the sight of Kiritsugu Emiya, prone and dying—

“Okay, I think… yeah, that looks fine, right?”

Kirei blinks, turning his head. Kariya has wiped down the door thoroughly—there’s a faint mark if the light hits it just right, but that too will fade with time. Something that won’t fade with time, though…

“Your eye patch,” Kirei says. Though it’s his own fault, he can’t bring himself to feel badly for it. “It’s stained.”

Shocked, Kariya reaches up to feel at the material, his nose scrunching up once he feels how damp it’s grown. “Oh, Jesu—uh, jeez, I mean. You didn’t happen to bring any spares, did you, Kirei?”

The ache is back, swelling tenfold. He corrected himself before he could use the Lord’s name in vain—he didn’t even need to give Kariya a look, Kariya just… remembered to do it. Such a minor thing, Kirei doubts he would have noticed under any other circumstances. But now, for whatever reason… it sticks out.

Kirei dries his hands, tossing the used paper towel aside mindlessly as he approaches Kariya. “When did you start calling me that?”

Kariya raises his eyebrow. “Huh?”

“You called me Kirei,” Lifting his hands, Kirei traces his fingers through Kariya’s hair, begins untying the strap that fastens the soiled eye patch to his face. “You dropped the honorific.”

As the patch falls from his face, fluttering to the ground, Kariya is quick to look away, his cheeks coloring. Once Kirei’s hands leave him, Kariya quickly limps past him. His voice is soft, framed by the quiet rustling of the bandage around his hand being undone. “Oh, uh… you noticed?”

Kirei doesn’t turn around to watch Kariya wash his hands, keeping his eyes fixed on the door. If he isn’t looking directly at Kariya, perhaps the ache would subside. Kirei breathes deeply and closes his eyes, saying, “I did.”

“I hope it’s not too big a deal? It just, well…” A pause. The sound of the soap dispenser clicking, foam working haphazardly into flesh. The fumble of a dead hand against the only working one, knuckles knocking against the edge of the sink. The hush of tap water against skin. The ache does not grow, nor does it fade. “… it just felt kind of weird, to keep up the formalities. I mean, you’ve been calling me by my first name this whole time, it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t follow suit, right?”

You are right, Kirei feels his jaw clench. It is not fair. But not for the reasons that Kariya might be thinking.

Though it pains him, though every fiber of his being is screaming for him to stop, Kirei opens his eyes and turns around. Kariya is facing away from him, still huddled over the sink. His working eye is focused on scrubbing his hands, but his lazy eye is lolling in its socket. Kirei makes contact with it with his own eyes, though he knows it’s meaningless.

Meaningless. White hair, ashen skin, one working eye. Calling to him with a soft, familiar tone.

No,” she had said, “You do love me.”

For a moment, Kariya’s working eye flashes golden—it’s a trick of the light, a trick of Kirei’s own mind, but it’s enough to make him turn away again. He needs to get out of this bathroom, now.

“You don’t need to cover your eye,” Kirei says, already grasping at the door handle. “Take your time. I will meet you back out there.”

Before Kariya can say anything else, Kirei turns the handle and briskly walks out.

 


 

The door shuts loudly, causing Kariya to flinch. He stands there, alone, dead hand still under the lukewarm spray of the tap.

“Shit,” Kariya turns the tap off, reaching for a paper towel. “Did I say something wrong?”

With his right hand, Kariya starts scrubbing at his left, brow furrowed. At this point, he’s gotten mostly accustomed to Kirei’s off-putting behavior, but that seemed a little abrupt. Even for him.

I shouldn’t have started calling him that without asking, fuck.

But that surely couldn’t have been it, right? He didn’t seem to care about calling him Kariya from the start, so what’s wrong with Kariya calling him Kirei? It was only natural, right? The guy’s fooled around with him on an almost nonstop basis since they met, and he took Kariya’s virginity, doesn’t that mean something?

He lets Archer call him that, Kariya’s petulant jealousy adds. Why can’t I?

Kariya shakes his head, reaching for another paper towel. He wraps it around his hand as he pulls it out, needing to sort of shuffle it around his knuckles and palm using the fingers on that hand. No amount of clumsy bumps will encourage his left hand to cooperate, he knows that already.

With his hands dry, he now faces a dilemma. He can’t get the bandage back around his hand without Kirei’s help. He’ll have to ask him out in the dining hall.

“Ughhh,” Kariya groans pinching at the bridge of his nose. “I’m not a mind reader, I gotta ask him if I said something that upset him, right? Like an adult?”

Kariya looks at himself in the mirror. He might’ve looked his age before, but now, he’s not sure how old he looks. Would someone even try to guess at his age after seeing the scarring and pulsing veins on his face?

They’d have to actually stick around long enough, Kariya thinks bitterly. Tossing the paper towel into the waste bin, he limps toward the door, turning the handle and hobbling back into the hall. Not like I’m in a position to do that, anyway.

The only exception is Kirei. And they still haven’t exactly talked about what, exactly, they’ll be at the end of all this. Kariya said that they could have it out, see who comes out on top, but… just imagining that inevitable fight makes Kariya’s stomach twist up into knots.

Don’t think about it, Kariya shakes the thought from his mind. There’s still Saber and Rider to deal with. If you start having second thoughts now…

Kariya shuffles back into the banquet hall, cringing a bit when he sees the back of Kirei’s head. He’s back at their table, sitting rigidly. Their food isn’t here yet; biting his bottom lip, Kariya keeps his right hand shoved into his pocket as he makes his way over, using his foot to pull his chair out. He sits back down quietly, not quite able to look at Kirei’s face until he’s scooted in.

“Um,” Kariya mutters, gritting his teeth and looking Kirei in the face. Kirei isn’t making eye contact; he’s staring at his own hands, laced together on the table. “I couldn’t get the bandage on my hand back on… can I—”

“Give me your hand,” Kirei says suddenly. His tone is hollow, eyes still not meeting Kariya’s. “Quickly.”

Lifting his hand, Kariya lays it palm-up on the table, holding the gauze out for him to take. Kirei gives a quick glance over his shoulder before focusing his attention on Kariya’s hand, pinning one end of the gauze in place with his thumb. Kirei looped it around his palm, urging his knuckles off the table in order to properly cover up his Command Seals.

I should say something, Kariya thinks, fidgeting in his seat. How do I even start, though? ‘Hey, are you mad at me?’ Will he even give me a straight answer if I’m not specific?

There’s no way to know without trying, he knows that. Clearing his throat, Kariya says, “Hey, about back there… if you’d rather I keep things formal, I can tack the honorific back on? I didn’t mean anything by it, I just… after this morning, I thought…”

He trails off. Kirei hasn’t looked up from his work, hasn’t even flinched. Is he even listening? Was there even any point in bringing it up? God, now I look like an idiot, why did I—

“No,” Kirei says, tying off Kariya’s bandage. “It is fine. You may call me whatever you wish.”

Kariya curls his fingers in, withdrawing his hand from the tabletop. “Really? Are you sure?”

“I am. It matters little what I am called,” Kirei, after a moment, finally lifts his eyes to meet Kariya’s. “Be it Father or Overseer, or even Kotomine. I’ve no real attachment to any one title.”

He sounds and looks genuine. Even with that, Kariya still can’t help but feel that there’s something that Kirei is holding back from him. It must be personal—Kirei doesn’t hold back, not with anything. And it doesn’t seem like it’s important or linked to the Grail War in any way; pressing this subject isn’t just unnecessary, it could very well make Kirei reconsider keeping him around.

Whatever Kariya says next needs to be carefully phrased. Something that tells Kirei that he understands, that he won’t pry, but that he can open up about it if he ever feels the urge. Something eloquent, but casual, something—

“So… you wouldn’t mind if I called you Kirei-chan, then?”

Ah, Kariya just about bites through his own tongue once he realizes what just came out of his mouth. Probably not something like that, for instance.

Like always, Kirei doesn’t react in a conventional way. One brow ticks up, and that’s it. “Is that another one of your jokes, Kariya?”

Kariya holds his breath. Holds it in his cheeks. Turns his head and lets all of that breath out in a rush. His voice cracks when he says, “Maybe?”

He could take this in any number of ways, and Kariya dreads them all. The one way that he hadn’t been expecting, though, was for Kirei to give him a small smile. It’s terrifying in its own special way, but Kariya decides that he’ll take it over the subtle tension that was in his face before.

“You’re an interesting man, Kariya.”

Dispute settled, Kariya lets himself relax a bit. Their food arrives shortly after, two plates of extremely spicy mapo tofu dropping right in front of them. The waitress doesn’t spare them any small talk, though Kariya isn’t sure that he’d be able to respond; the overwhelming heat radiating from his plate is intense, so much so that he can feel it on his face.

With a confused wrinkle in his brow, Kariya looks back up at Kirei. His plate has hardly been at their table for more than a few seconds and Kirei is already digging in, spiritedly shoveling it into his mouth at a near-breakneck pace. Kirei’s face turns a scorching red, sweat rolling down his face.

Kariya snorts. “Look who’s talking.”

Chapter Text

“No, I’m afraid he isn’t home,” Mrs. Mackenzie says, her voice slow and slurred, as if she’s half-asleep. “He left earlier, and said that he was going to be late coming home today…”

Kiritsugu represses the urge to sigh. “Go back inside and lay down, take a nap. If anyone asks, you never answered the door today, you were napping the whole time. You never saw me or anyone like me, and you won’t even remember the sound of my voice by the time you wake up.”

Martha Mackenzie nods sluggishly, her eyes already drooping as she heads back inside, fumbling for the door as she shuts it behind her. With that taken care of, Kiritsugu steps off the Mackenzie’s stoop, heading back across the street. The afternoon sun was high, reflecting off the hood of his car and gleaming into his eyes. He didn’t bother squinting; the burn of UV rays bouncing into his eyes is not the worst thing that’s happened to him. In fact, the biting, burning sting is comforting in a horrible, twisted way.

He already had a feeling that Waver Velvet wouldn’t be home. Even if he was, there’s no doubt that Saber’s earlier poking (if she did any poking) around would’ve at least alerted Rider, even in his more-than-likely weakened state.

What now? Kiritsugu got into the driver’s seat, slamming the door shut. I can’t sit here and spin my wheels waiting for the kid to come here—the old woman said that he would be late, does that mean he’s not even in Miyama Town?

With Kiritsugu’s luck, he’s probably in Shinto. Or, hell, maybe he decided to uproot his base of operations and move somewhere else completely, and Kiritsugu’s been wasting his time since this morning, and—

Breathe in for ten seconds, Kiritsugu leans his head back against the headrest. Breathe out for ten seconds.

Panicking would get him nowhere faster than if he just stayed put. Keep it together, keep it together. Start from the beginning—why would he be leaving for the entire day in the first place? If he can figure that out, the rest should come naturally.

From the top: Rider is all but incapacitated, probably, after that fight on Mion River. There’s no way he’d be back on his feet that quickly, not with how much of an amateur his Master is. With how much mana it must have taken to use that monstrous Noble Phantasm of his, Kiritsugu thinks as he scratches at his jaw, breathing slowly while he works through his thoughts, I’d be surprised if Rider can even maintain his physical form right now.

If that’s the case… the kid would probably need to seek out a leyline—whether it was the one closest to his base or one that was most compatible with his Servant, it didn’t matter. If Kiritsugu’s instinct is correct, the two may very well coincide.

Kid like that, he probably thinks it’s convenient and too obvious for anyone to figure out that he’s actually right by the damn thing, Kiritsugu opens his eyes, tipping his head forward. Something like ‘hiding in plain sight, what a stroke of genius.’

Kiritsugu almost snorts at the absurdity. Mages are all the same, young and old. Pompous, convinced that they know it all, right up until Kiritsugu puts a bullet between their eyes.

Reaching for his HT, Kiritsugu turns it on. “Maiya,” he says, “Did Saber make it over to your position?”

It’s a stupid question. But Kiritsugu feels the need to ask anyway—there’s always the possibility that things have gone horribly wrong in his absence, after all, and if Kiritsugu doesn’t feed into that, he might be lulled into a false sense of security, and then something worse might happen.

“Yes,” Maiya answers, “She arrived right after I got off the transceiver with you. I’ve explained the situation to her.”

Not necessary, but okay, Kiritsugu almost says. If Maiya thought it was best to explain things to her, then that’s fine. He swallows, his throat suddenly too dry as he says, “Good. How’s Iri?”

Another stupid question, Kiritsugu admonishes himself. How fine can she be? Idiot.

“She’s lucid. I’m by her side as we speak.” Maiya doesn’t demean him for asking, sounding as stern as usual. “Saber is outside the storehouse, standing guard. Nothing unusual to report yet.”

It’s one less weight off his shoulders. And yet, Kiritsugu finds that he’s no less tense than usual. He sighs shortly, steeling himself. “Good. Now, I need your help with something. There should be a map of Fuyuki’s leylines in the storehouse with you. What I need is for you to tell me where the closest one to my current location might be.”

“Right away, Kiritsugu.” Maiya says.

 


 

Kirei marvels at his own tremendous self-control. Kariya is one spoonful into his mapo tofu, and his face has already broken out into a sweat. He’d had his doubts; with half of his taste buds likely dead, Kirei was worried that Kariya wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy (read: suffer through) the invigorating spices dancing on his tongue.

“Haah,” Kariya sticks his tongue out, panting rapidly, trying to cool his scorching mouth. “Haaht, haht, sh’too haaht!”

“It is called extremely spicy for a reason, Kariya,” Kirei swallows another fiery spoonful, huffing through his nose. He can feel his own face flushing, and he wonders what sort of sight he must be to Kariya. “As I told you before.”

Rather than answering him right away, Kariya sets his spoon down to scramble for his glass of water, hurriedly bringing it to his lips. He downs the entire glass in three heavy gulps, all but slamming the glass back down on the table with a long, sharp exhale.

“I—holy shit,” Kariya huffs, letting go of his glass to wipe at his forehead. “I thought I liked spicy stuff, but this isn’t spicy, this is… this is—what kind of bean paste do they use in this?”

Kirei contemplates throwing their pitcher of water across the room, just so he can enjoy the look on Kariya’s face. He doesn’t, after a few scant seconds of thinking it over. “Most mapo tofu recipes use several different spices, not just bean paste.”

Kariya’s jaw drops. “There’s more than just spicy bean paste in this?”

“There is. For example, the bean paste you are tasting is doubanjiang from the Pixan county of Sichuan, paired with douchi—ah, rather, hamanatto. Alongside that, there are heaven-facing pepper flakes, there is chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns, green onions, rice wine… and garlic.

“Though mapo tofu tends to be different depending on the person making it.” Kirei clears his throat, the unforgiving sting of the peppercorn shredding at his esophagus. “Do you need more water?”

Kariya blinks, as if he’d been entranced by Kirei’s rambling. His face contorts with the sudden comprehension of what he’s been eating, like he’d forgotten for a moment. The pinch in Kariya’s brow and the twist of his lips is mesmerizing. “Oh yeah, please.”

However tempting it may be to watch Kariya choke on the heat, Kirei knows that if he forces all of this strife on him at once, he may never want to come back here with him again. He would agonize over the fact that he wants to bring Kariya back here, that wanting, but he can put that aside for the moment. Kirei will tolerate no distractions during this meal.

The very fact that he finds this idle conversation worth that consideration is another thing, but, well. He can save the introspection for after they burn Kariya’s house down.

Kariya gulps down the contents of his glass with the same fervor of a man dying of thirst, the flush on his cheeks fading into a less intense shade of pink. “Glad I blew you before we ate, holy shit.”

“I would have thought you would be complaining about that,” Kirei remarks, suppressing a shudder as he spoons more mapo tofu into his mouth. “I can’t imagine the spice mixes well with the taste of semen.”

Hardly even flinching at the frankness in Kirei’s tone, Kariya carefully sets his glass down, a small quirk in his brow. “Trust me, I’ve heard horror stories about eating—hell, even touching spicy food and then having sex. I don’t really know if any of those stories are real or if they’re just total crock, but still. If we had this before I dragged you off for that, you’d probably be in tears.”

Kirei can feel his brows furrowing at the thought. “I have a hard time believing that such a scenario would be enough to bring me to tears, Kariya. Immense pain, I can see—but otherwise, it is unlikely.”

It would take far more than that to bring me to tears, Kirei thinks, concealing his face behind a glass as he takes his first sip of water. He doesn’t cry when he’s hurt, not in the way most people do. One tear might escape if he’s in truly dire straits, but his tolerance for physical turmoil is far higher than the average person.

He’s too fundamentally broken to cry naturally—the normal circumstances that one feels sorrow, or joy, or anger, none of them apply to Kirei. When anger grips him, he is still fully in control of his own body—blood would flow more freely than tears might, in that situation. When joy permeates his body, it is often at the expense of another. As for sorrow…

The face of that woman, lying in her bed with a smile, her own blood soaking through her clothes and the sheets. The face of his father, flat on his back on the church floor, the whites of his eyes shining in the moonlight with blood matting his robes and hair alike.

Kirei wonders if it was sorrow he felt upon losing them in such ways. And if it was sorrow, had it been sorrow at the loss of a wife and a father, or was it sorrow brought on by the fact that they did not die by his hands?

There is no need to question it, Kirei knows. It is the latter.

“I can imagine, yeah.” Kariya sets his spoon down, evidently unable to finish the last fourth of his meal. Unsurprising, but impressive nonetheless, Kirei notes as Kariya fiddles with the edge of his sleeve. “I think the only time I’ve seen you with tears in your eyes was when I first saw you.”

That’s right, Kirei thinks, setting his glass down. He runs his index finger lightly across the rim. Yes… it happened on the same night that I found Kariya.

“You…” Kariya continues, his eyes soft. “You said that your father was killed around that time, right?”

There are several different ways that he could respond to that, but Kirei merely nods and says, “Yes, that’s right.”

Kariya fidgets in his seat, lips pursed, as if he has something to say but can’t bring himself to say it. Kirei braces himself for it—the obligatory condolences that are sure to follow. Even with how… attached he is to Kariya, Kirei doesn’t try fooling himself into thinking that he understands how Kirei feels about the loss of his father.

Instead of condolences, though, Kariya merely asks, “What was he like? I never met him face-to-face.”

A bump in the routine, Kirei acknowledges it for what it is. Kariya will offer his condolences after Kirei answers his question, and the crushing reality that Kariya, too, misunderstands him shall bear down upon Kirei’s shoulders in due time.

What his father was ‘like,’ though… Kirei isn’t sure how to go about answering that question. Rather than having consideration for the dead and speaking lightly, Kirei embraces brutal honesty.

“He was prudent man,” Kirei says, spooning the last of his mapo tofu into his mouth. He allows himself to indulge in the searing sensation that rips through his senses for a moment or two, shuddering to himself, thinking of how his father would have hated seeing him eat with such blatant irreverence. “Always looking to the future, always planning things carefully. He felt most secure when he was well-prepared, no matter what the situation might’ve been.”

Risei had been that way with Kirei’s upbringing, too. Training him strictly, teaching him scripture and martial arts in equal measure. Rigidly shaping his son’s faith along with his body, without considering whether or not Kirei had wanted either.

“He thought,” Kirei sets his spoon down, staring at his empty plate. He smears what remains of the chili oil with the edge of the spoon, the resulting reddish smudge looking quite a lot like the bloodstain his father left on the church floor. “That he always knew best.”

But he didn’t, Kirei doesn’t say. And he died because of it. Like a dog.

“He was a proud man.” Kirei sighs shortly through his nose. He can’t keep the mild reproach out of his voice, though it hardly sounds any different from his usual tone—to his own ears, at least. “Proud of his discipline, proud of his piety… and proud of me.”

Now, what will you say to that, Matou Kariya? Kirei’s thoughts edge on reproachful, his mood dampened considerably by this talk of his father. Will you express grief for him? For me, his only son? You, who may have wished for the kind of father that Risei was?

“I see…” Kariya says. “Looks like we have one more thing in common, then.”

Of all the potential responses, that hadn’t been one that Kirei had been expecting. It takes Kirei a few seconds to digest that. He lifts his head, brows raised by a millimeter, and meets Kariya’s gaze. Does the confusion show on his face? If it doesn’t, what is his face showing? Does he want to know?

Kirei’s voice comes out soft, “What?”

“Shitty dads.” Kariya shrugs his shoulder. “Different kinds, sure, but shitty nonetheless.”

There must be something he’s misunderstood—either that, or Kariya just assumes all fathers are awful. Whatever misconception he has, I need to weed it out. Kirei taps his index finger against the table and asks, “Why do you say that?”

Kariya rests his face in his hand. His forehead wrinkles with the pull in his brow. “You just don’t sound all that fond of the guy.”

“I’ve said nothing but good things about him.” Kirei insists.

“Yeah, you have. And based on all that, it sounds like he really loved you. But,” Kariya leans forward on the table. “Not the real you, right?”

Kirei doesn’t dare say anything. He can hardly even stomach the idea of moving under Kariya’s watch now; he should tell him to stop, should get up and leave, should say we don’t have time for this, but Kirei remains frozen. Waiting for what may come next. Waiting for Kariya to get it wrong, to say something that proves that he doesn’t understand Kirei at all.

For his part, Kariya maintains eye contact, his mouth pulled tight in a frown. “That’s the problem with parents. They get an idea about what you’re gonna turn out like—they decide it when you’re only just learning how to breathe. And if you don’t turn out the way they wanted, they’ll try and force you back into that mold. They don’t listen if you try telling them hey, I don’t want this, like they don’t even hear it—because damn it, they’re supposed to be raising you, right? And if you’re doing things wrong, it’s on you, not them.

“Eventually, you just… try to change, right?” Kariya sighs. Kirei can feel his warm breath, even with the short distance between them. “Because you want to make them happy. You don’t know why, but you just—you want them to say that you did something right, just once. Sometimes, it might be enough for them… and other times, it’s never enough. They’ll either delude themselves into thinking they finally did it, they raised their kid the right way, or they’ll treat you even worse.”

There’s an indescribable swelling in Kirei’s chest as Kariya trails off. He curls his fingers into his palm, his voice barely above a whisper, “And it was never enough for Zouken…”

Kariya shakes his head. “While Risei thought he molded you into the man he’s always wanted his son to be.”

This isn’t happening, Kirei’s thoughts whorl, his eyes burning. He feels unsteady, as if his seat is teetering right off the edge of the abyss, swaying dangerously at even the slightest twitch. You’re not supposed to know any of this. You aren’t supposed to see me.

“Your wish,” Kirei’s mouth moves on its own. “Have you decided on it yet?”

“Well…” Kariya traces his finger along the edge of his plate. “Not really. The one thing I wanted out of this war was for Sakura to be saved. From Zouken, from the Matous… the only thing I ever wanted out of any of this was for her to go home to her mother and sister.”

A simple wish—so simple and kind, it makes Kirei’s stomach churn with contempt. It is the knowledge of the connotations of that wish, should it be granted, that lend Kirei any sort of warmth; sending the younger Tohsaka girl home after ridding the world of the Matous may very well be good, yes, but Kariya seems to be ignoring the damage that has likely already been done to the girl. Her psyche, her emotional state, her physical health—at any given moment, should she be ripped away from the circumstances that torment her, her body could give out.

Destroying the basement will eradicate the worms, yes. The worms outside of her body—and Kariya’s, as well. The girl, in particular, has surely lost all hope of leading a normal life.

And that’s not even factoring in what Kariya himself has done, Kirei’s thoughts begin to sing, goosebumps rising over his skin as these horrid realities begin dawning on him. The blood of Tohsaka Tokiomi is still fresh on his hands.

Kariya will never be able to live the happy life he so desperately wanted. In fact, the likelihood that Kariya will be able to see any of the Tohsakas ever again after this war is very slim.

It will be, Kirei thinks. If I have any say in the matter.

Yes, that’s it—if Kariya can see him, then there’s no turning back. Kariya has caught a glimpse of Kirei, of the true Kirei, and now he can never return to the life he once had. He is bound to Kirei now, whether he knows it or not; Kirei can’t let him free, won’t let him, because they have become so intertwined with one another that they can no longer be separated.

He will not make the same mistakes he made with Claudia. He no longer feels compelled to try and be someone he is not—it’s a shame, really, that he couldn’t have had this revelation earlier. She saw him, Kirei knows that she did. But now… now, he has no qualms about allowing that self to surface. He no longer needs to be concerned about trying to ‘fix’ himself.

He is broken. And like any broken object, he is dangerous, harmful to the touch. It’s only now that Kirei finds that he enjoys that notion.

“It is still a good wish,” Kirei says, smiling. “One that you should hold onto.”

Kariya raises an eyebrow at him. “But aren’t we—”

“Yes, we are. However, it is not a bad thing to wish for her continued safety…” Kirei tips his head forward. With intent, he reaches across the table for Kariya’s hand, delighting at how he flinches once Kirei touches his knuckles. With deliberate slowness, Kirei entwines his fingers with Kariya’s, the size of his own hand nearly dwarfing Kariya’s own. “Don’t you think?”

Wish for her continued safety so that you may be crushed by it, Kirei wants to say. So that I may look into your eyes as you realize that you can never see them again. So that I may hold you as you fall apart, knowing full well that I could have prevented it. So that I may hurt you as I comfort you.

If Kariya has any idea what Kirei is thinking, he doesn’t show it. All the better. That lovely half-flush rises to Kariya’s cheeks at the intimacy, his thumb brushing over Kirei’s.

“Hearing that from you, I don’t know…” Kariya murmurs. “But… it’s not like I had anything else to wish for, anyway. You’re right.”

Perhaps once this is over, Kirei squeezes Kariya’s hand. I shall make it official. Truly spit in the face of the God that made me this way and make you mine, forever.

 


 

Kariya leans heavily into Kirei as they walk out of the banquet hall. There’s an odd fluttering in his chest, and he’s not sure if it’s anxiety, or… something else entirely. The likelihood of it being the latter makes him all the more anxious, but oddly, it isn’t the bad kind of anxiety.

Who even knew there was a good kind of anxiety, Kariya snorts to himself. But damn if that wasn’t the weirdest time I’ve ever gotten my hand held.

The skin of his knuckles is still tingling, and Kariya can’t put a name to the feeling coursing through him. No—he can, but even thinking about naming it is beyond terrifying. If he names it, then he has to admit to himself that there’s room in his heart for more than Aoi.

That now, there’s a little space reserved for this shady priest that he’s known for… what? A couple of days, at most?

It had been fast with Aoi, too. But Kariya figured that it was just easy for everybody to fall in love with someone like Aoi. Kind, warm, gentle… with a smile that could melt anyone’s heart. No shit he’d fall in love with someone like that.

But with Kirei, it’s weirder. Cold, intimidating, impossible to read, and when he does smile, it looks like he’s imagining what you might look like if you got caught in a car crash. Kirei is probably someone’s type, but not exactly the type that everyone falls in love with.

(Frankly, Kariya would be surprised if anyone fell in love with him, and no, pompous golden kings do not count in his book.)

And yet.

Kariya steals a glance at Kirei as they walk back to the car, his face just as dark and reserved as ever. There’s a very faint hint of dark intent in those empty eyes of his, and the slightest pull at the corner of his mouth.

Aoi may have stolen his heart, but… she would never do something like this with him. She would insist that there’s nothing they can do about his family, that the rules of the world of mages are too strict to allow anything but passive acceptance. Aoi would never smile and agree to burning the Matou mansion down, even if it was for Sakura’s sake.

Maybe it’s better this way, Kariya miserably notes. Aoi isn’t the violent type. I can’t disparage her for not wanting to sink this low. It’s just how she is… and I don’t want her to change. The fact that I’m fine with this… what would she even think, if I told her?

Though Kirei is the one that suggested it, Kariya knows full well that he only plucked the idea from Kariya’s dreams. Kirei saw the desire in his eyes, plain as day. Kariya might like to believe he’s a nice enough guy, but no nice guy in his right mind would want to do something like this, no matter how justified it is.

But Kariya feels no regret for it. Compared to what he did before, this is better. He’s not running away anymore—and he already has blood on his hands, there’s no coming back from the things he’s done. If Aoi ever knew… he doesn’t know what she would think. He doesn’t want to think about that.

“Kariya,” Kirei brings him out of his own thoughts, opening the passenger’s side door. “Are you ready?”

No. I’m not. Are you kidding? I want out, I want everything to go back to the way it was, I don’t want any part in this anymore.

“Yeah,” Kariya ignores the few faint remnants of who he used to be, stepping into the car. “Let’s go.”