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Foreigner

Chapter Text

Shirou wasn’t having a good day.

Okay, it did start pretty well, but then it just went downhill really quickly. Some weird guy tried and succeeded in killing him, he survived (somehow) and now the very same guy was trying to kill him again.

It would have been fair if they guy had been a normal human, but no, he definitely wasn’t .

He actually didn’t know why the hell he was running to his sloppy workshop, but taking into account that he was running from a man armed with an otherworldly spear who moved like the wind and that meeting him head-on (again) wasn’t such a good idea, he couldn’t keep a cold head.

It wasn’t surprising that his “shield” cracked under the spear. The man was actually quite laid-back and if they were in different circumstances, Shirou was sure that he would have been friedly. But, for whatever reason, he was about to die. Yeah, not his day at all.

“I don’t get it, though” mumbled the spearman, staring at him. “You think fast on your feet, but you’re hopeless at magic. You seem to have potential, though. Maybe you were meant to be the seventh. Well, even if you were, this is the end for you.”

Shirou sat up on the ground and glared at him. The man readied his spear, but Shirou didn’t back down.

“Screw you!” he rasped. He touched gingerly the injury that should have killed him, did kill him, and he stared right into the man’s red eyes with clear defiance. “My life was saved. My life was saved, so I’m not going to give it up so easily! I need to live, I have to fulfill my duty. And I can’t do that if I’m dead! I’m not gonna die for no reason in a place like this,” the spearman shot out with his spear, red light cracking around it, “killed by a guy like you who takes lives like it’s nothing!”

And then he had to close his eyes, because the red light from the spear wasn’t the only one anymore, there was also green and white and gold and it was pretty but also powerful and he couldn’t see . His hand burned for some reason, but he ignored it and tried to shield his eyes from the light.

“The seventh Servant?” yelled the spearman and Shirou frowned, confused, until he heard metal against metal and the man let out another yell as he was thrown outside the building.

Shirou hurriedly opened his eyes, backing against one of the crates around him. His eyes widened. There was someone else in front of him. Someone that wasn’t there just a few seconds ago and that was surrounded by white light.

“I ask of you,” said the newcomer and Shirou blinked like an idiot at the soft and polite voice while the man, no, boy turned to him, still enveloped in white and gold, and looked at him with the intensity of the sun, “are you my Master?”

There was a beat of silence between them as Shirou tried, and failed, to get a grip on reality, but he just couldn’t do it under the clear eyes of the boy in front of him. He was wearing a white cape that hid most of his body from sight, pure white hair that glowed under the moonlight and Shirou was reminded of a ghost or a spirit, someone who had seen the world evolve and change in front of his eyes.

“‘Master’?” was the question that left his lips. The boy tilted his head slightly, and Shirou’s eyes locked immediately on the large scar that covered the left side of his face. It somehow made him more real, actually tangible.

“I am the Saber class Servant,” he explained and Shirou noticed how even the boy was somewhat confused. “I have come in response to your summons.” Then his arms shifted and Shirou’s eyes moved to them, sucking in a breath when he saw that his left hand was actually a menacing claw with golden talons. “Master, your orders.” Shirou could only clutch his hand when it throbbed painfully. The boy sent an understanding glance at him, before looking outside with fierce eyes. “We have a contract between us, so it is my duty to protect you.”

Shirou watched, still too shocked to react, as the boy turned, cape swirling around him like a king’s, before flexing his arms and legs and jumping out. Shirou shook his head and stumbled to his feet, bracing himself against the wall and following the fast blur of white as his claw collided with the red spear.

“What do you mean, ‘contract’?” he asked, even when he knew that the boy wasn’t listening to him anymore.

He could only watch and bit his lip as the two battled fiercely. He was maybe a little bit surprised that the boy was actually making the other man back down with strong slashes from his claws, seeing as the boy looked to be around his own age. But something in his eyes told him the opposite.

The two’s movements were fluent, fast and strong, and Shirou worried silently. They were matched. It didn’t look like there was a clear winner. Even if the boy, who seemed to be on his side, was powerful and could throw the other with just a swipe of his claws, the other man wasn’t weak at all and he could keep the other far away from him with his spear.

When the two fighters jumped back, the spearman frowned, annoyed.

“What class are you?” he asked, staring right at his opponents claw. “You don’t use a bow, a sword… You’re too sane to be a Berserker, so maybe Assassin? Caster?”

“Who knows?” shrugged the boy, a soft smile on his face that only seemed to aggravate the other man.

“Ha ha, very funny.” The spearman twirled his spear and Shirou tensed. His ally did the same, smile gone, as his light eyes trailed over the red weapon.

“That stance…” mumbled Shirou.

“One more question,” said the lancer, grinning, but the boy didn’t return it this time, remaining serious and cautious. “Since this is our first meeting, would you be interested in calling it a draw?”

“You killed my Master a few hours ago,” said the boy in a light tone and Shirou jumped. The man’s eyes widened too, surprised and shocked. His stance faltered slightly but he controlled himself again almost immediately. “And you almost killed him now again. That is something that I can’t forgive.”

“Is that so?” frowned the lancer, analysing the other. Shirou gulped. He was ready to just jump in there and stop that nonsense. “A shame. I was only ordered to observe.” His spear light up in furious red light. The boy tensed his arms. “I’ll have your heart!” The spearman started running, spear at the ready, and Shirou opened his mouth to shout, hand outstretched towards the boy that had saved his life, but the man was just too fast and he could only watch again as he readied his spear to throw it. “Gae Bolg!”

The spear shot out of his hands with incredible speed towards the boy clothed in white. Shirou let out a raspy sound. The boy smiled slightly, as if someone had told him a joke, and his right hand, covered in pure white that shimmered under the moonlight, clenched around his cape and whipped it forward in an elegant motion.

Shirou sucked in a breath when he saw the cape move, like a living being, and tendrils of white closed around the red spear, before flicking it to the side like it was nothing, like it was an annoying bug.

The spear pierced the ground next to the spearman, who stood shell-shocked and immobile, staring at the boy like someone who had seen a ghost, which, seeing how the boy looked, seemed somewhat fitting.

“You escaped my mighties blow, Saber?” asked the man, expression twisting into an enraged one. The boy’s smile took on a teasing tone.

“So you did know my class,” he said calmly. Shirou let his hand fall. “An attack that reverses cause and effect? You’re Ireland’s Child of Light, aren’t you?”

“I messed up,” mumbled the lancer and he shook his head. “If I use that move, it has to kill.” The boy arched an eyebrow. “My lord is a coward you see. You deflected my spear, so he’s ordering me home.”

“So you’re going to run?” asked the other, in a surprisingly calm tone. Wasn’t he the one who told the other that a draw wouldn’t do?

“You’re more than welcome to follow me,” he answered, turning his back on them. “But if you do, be prepared to die!”

With that, the spearman jumped over the wall, faded into blue dust and disappeared from sight. The boy watched him go in silence, shoulders slightly tense but not battle ready like before. Shirou hesitated for a moment.

It wasn’t that he was scared of the boy, he had saved his life, after all. It was just… the aura around him felt strange. Powerful. Ancient. And it clashed greatly with his young appearance. It was unsettling, but not bad, he decided, so he hurried to his side, hands restless and touching lightly at his own injuries. He wondered for a moment if the boy was okay, if he had been injured somewhere, and felt guilty that he didn’t know any healing magic.

“Are you okay?” he asked in a quiet voice. His ally turned to him, face relaxed and eyes mostly curious. His face softened even more and his lips formed a smile.

“Yes, don’t worry about me,” he said lightly. His eyes moved to his own wounds. “You should worry about yourself. Do you know healing magic?”

“No, I don’t,” he answered quietly, scratching the back of his head in a nervous gesture. The boy’s eyes didn’t change into the expected disappointment. In fact, Shirou couldn’t make out any clear emotion in them. Shirou looked around nervously again. “Um, not to sound rude or anything,” he felt as if that would be a bad idea, “but what are you?”

“I’m a Saber class Servant,” explained the boy. He didn’t look offended at all, so Shirou let his tense shoulders relax. “I guess you can call me Saber.”

“I’m Shirou,” he introduced himself and hastily offered his hand, slightly cringing at the dirt and dust covering it, “Emiya Shirou.”

Saber didn’t seem bothered and took his hand in his right one, still covered in a soft white glove. Now that he was closer to him, Shirou could see the details of the white cape, how feathers seemed to sprout from the folds and borders, like wings, how even more feathers and fur formed a fluffy scarf around the boy’s neck and a wide hood on his back and how a silver and gold mask seemed to smile at him from its perch on his ally’s shoulder.

Said ally was now staring at him with an intent gaze, face set into a neutral expression, and Shirou opened his mouth to ask something, anything at all, to fill in the silence between them, but the boy beat him to it and he smiled slightly.

“I understand what’s going on now,” he said and Shirou could only blink at him. Saber nodded to himself. “You’re not a legitimate Master, are you?” Shirou only made a low humming noise. “Still, you’re my Master.”

“Wait, hold on, isn’t it kinda weird to start calling me ‘Master’ out of the blue?” he blurted out. Saber blinked at him, caught off-guard. Then he chuckled lightly.

“I’ll call you Shirou, then,” he said with a friendly smile. “Yes, that sounds better.”

Shirou nodded gratefully and raised his hand again to touch it, confused about the numbness, but paused and let out a surprised gasp.

“What are these?” he blurted out again, maybe too loud, but Saber turned to him, glanced to his hand for a second before glancing up to his face and smiling calmly.

“Those are Command Spells,” he explained, pointing to them with a gloved finger. Shirou looked over them curiously, touching them and rubbing them with his finger, expecting them to just wear off like ink. “Try to avoid using them carelessly.” The boy paused, frowned, and looked at the building, no, over the building, at the street behind it. Shirou frowned in confusion. “There are enemies here, Shirou. I’m going to check. You should stay here.”

Shirou didn’t even get to complain or say anything at all before Saber flexed his legs and jumped high over the building itself like it was nothing, twirling in the air like an acrobat and disappearing from sight.

“What do you mean?” yelled Shirou, but Saber couldn’t hear him anymore, so he growled, ruffled his hair in confusion and hopelessness, and started running towards the street.

There wasn’t a fight like he had expected.

Saber was standing next to the gate and Shirou almost crashed into him, but the boy didn’t pay him any mind, staring at the two so-called enemies. One of them, the one in the front, was looking at them with clear mistrust in his gaze. He had white hair a similar shade to his own Servant’s and he was wearing red and black. But Shirou focused on the person behind him, a girl, wearing red and with her hair styled in familiar pig-tails.

“Tohsaka?” he mumbled and he saw Saber’s head tilt to look at him.

“You know them?” he asked, voice soft, and Shirou opened his mouth to answer, but the girl beat him to it and took a few steps forward until she was standing ahead of the other man, who was probably her Servant.

“Ah, so that’s how it is, my good novice Master?” said Tohsaka Rin and Shirou looked at her with apprehension. “For starters, good evening, Emiya-kun.”

Chapter Text

After Tohsaka fixed the hole in the glass, she literally dragged him to the living room. If Shirou was being honest with himself, he didn’t know either how he even managed to summon something as powerful as a Servant. He couldn’t even do decent magic, only reinforcement magic, and that was nothing much, comparing it to what Tohsaka could do with just a simple thought.

Saber was in the living room, looking around with curious eyes that Shirou finally noticed were a pale silver. His cape and claw had disappeared and Shirou was quite surprised to see normal clothes beneath it. Saber was wearing a long black coat with a hood and white and black thigh pants. His boots, which he had left by the front door, looked heavy and were a deep black with red belts, like something made specially for battle. His hands were still gloved, this time in black leather.

“Do you want some tea, Tohsaka?” asked Shirou and Tohsaka looked at him with a confused face, before shrugging and nodding.

“I’ll help,” chirped Saber and Shirou sent him a grateful and nervous smile as the boy followed him into the kitchen connected to the living room.

Tohsaka sat on one of the pillows and stared at the table or at her nails, looking relaxed but thoughtful. She was clearly reorganizing her thoughts to figure out how to explain the predicament that Shirou was in.

Shirou wondered why Saber didn’t take off his coat like Tohsaka had done, but he shrugged. It wasn’t really his business, was it? He was just glad that he had normal-looking clothes instead of some weird clothing from the 10th century or older, or maybe a shiny armor that was impossible to hide.

Saber carried the teapot to the table and left it near Tohsaka, exchanging a polite smile with her, and Shirou handed her a glass. He sat on the other side of the table and Saber followed suit, sitting down neatly, slightly behind him.

“All right, let’s get down to business,” said Tohsaka after taking a sip. “You don’t have any idea what you’re caught up in, do you?” Shirou found himself nodding. “To be blunt, you’ve been chosen as a Master. Have you noticed a brand somewhere on your body?”

“A brand?” he repeated, frowning.

“She’s referring to the Command Spells, Shirou,” explained Saber. Shirou startled and then raised his hand.

“O-oh, these?” he asked. Tohsaka glanced shortly at his hand and then looked at him in the eye.

“Yes. Those symbolise your status as a Master,” she explained. “They’re also spells which bind your Servant. So as long as you have those, you can control your Servant.”

“What do you mean, as long as I have them?” he asked. He looked shortly at Saber, whose expression was thoughtful but not particularly concerned.

“Command Spells are inviolable orders,” continued Tohsaka, hands on the table. “They force your Servant’s obedience, even if it means bending them to your will. However, you only got three such orders, so try not to waste them. If you use them all, you’ll probably be killed, so I suggest you exercise caution.”

“I’ll be killed?” he blurted out, looking with wide eyes at Tohsaka.

“That’s right,” she nodded. She was too relaxed with the whole thing, but Shirou supposed that a sensible and serious person like her would have no trouble with the whole situation. “The Holy Grail War is based around Masters defeating other Masters. Whichever Master prevails over the other six will win the Holy Grail, which can grant any wish.”

“Hold on a second,” interrupted Shirou. “What do you mean ‘Holy Grail’?”

“To cut a long story short, you’ve been dragged into a ritual,” said Tohsaka. “One called the Holy Grail War, fought by seven Masters- a battle to the death between mages.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” asked Shirou. Apprehension was threatening to choke him.

“I’m simply laying out the facts,” said Tohsaka, too relaxed, too natural. “Besides, it should be obvious even to you at this point. After all, a Servant nearly killed you not once but twice.” Shirou lowered his head. “Convinced yet?” There was silence between them for a few seconds while Shirou tried to get a grip on his raging thoughts. “I was also chosen as a Master. Think of your Servant as a familiar, granted to you by the Grail to help you win the war.”

Shirou turned his head slightly to the side to watch Saber again, taking note of his relaxed stance and pale eyes and then shook his head.

“He doesn’t look much like a familiar to me,” he said begrudgingly. Tohsaka chuckled lightly.

“Of course not,” she said. “Thought they’re technically classified as familiars, Servants are actually superhuman beings- heroes from the past.”

“Heroes from the past?” mumbled Shirou. He looked shortly at Saber. “Saber too?”

“That’s right,” nodded Tohsaka. “Servants are heroes summoned from legends, be they ancient or modern, into our time and given physical forms. It’s the Master’s roll to summon them, upon which they are made manifest through a phenomenon of the Grail. Basically, a Servant is always with you in spirit form. And should the need arise, you can make them materialize and fight.”

“So that guy in red can transform at will between spirit and physical form?” he asked.

“That’s Archer,” explained Tohsaka. “I’m having him keep watch outside for the time being. Do you understand everything so far?”

“The individual words, sure,” grimaced Shirou.

“If you want a more detailed explanation, you should talk to the man who oversees the war,” she said. “All I can tell you is that you have no choice but to fight and that Servants are powerful familiars, so you should use yours well.” Shirou lowered his head again. Of course he wouldn’t have a choice. “Now then,” continued Tohsaka and turned to Saber, “from what Emiya has said, I gather that you’re in an incomplete state, Saber?”

“Yes,” nodded Saber. Shirou turned to him, surprised. “I am not at full fighting strength right now. Shirou is not a full-fledged Master, so even replenishing my mana is going to be difficult.”

“That’s surprising,” said Tohsaka. She had stood up to get the teapot and now looked at Saber with wide and surprised eyes.

“What are you two talking about, Tohsaka?” asked Shirou, looking from one to the other.

“Servants maintain their existence here with mana supplied by the Masters,” she explained, bringing the teapot back to the table. “But because you’re a novice, he can’t get mana from you directly, which will make things difficult.” She paused. “Would you like some, Emiya?” Shirou mumbled softly a negative and leaned back again. “I have to admit, I haven’t expected you to be so forthcoming with me.”

“You already knew that something was wrong,” shrugged Saber with a small smile. “Plus, I think that you could help Shirou understand the situation better.”

“His disposition is perfect, too,” mumbled Tohsaka and Shirou blinked, confused. Then Tohsaka slammed her glass and fist on the table. “Damn it, that makes it even more of a waste! If I were Saber’s Master, this war would be as good as won!”

“Hey, are you saying that I’m not worthy of him?” asked Shirou, standing up as Tohsaka started rolling on the ground. From what Shirou could see, Saber was mostly watching the scene with a surprised smile in place, but his eyes gave away his amusement.

“Of course I am, you hack!” she said, glaring at him. Saber shook his head slightly. Tohsaka stood up again. “Okay, shall we go?”

“Go? Where?” asked Shirou, confused.

“To see the man who knows all about the Grail War,” explained Tohsaka patiently. “You want to know what all this is for, don’t you?”

“Of course,” said Shirou quickly. “It’s kind of late, though.”

“What? Not interested after all?” taunted Tohsaka. Then she shrugged. “Well, it’s your call. What about you, Saber?”

“Leave Saber out of this!” he blurted out before he could stop himself. “Don’t try to strong-arm him.”

“Oh, you do think like a Master,” blinked Tohsaka, even if Shirou was quite sure that she was just joking around. “You don’t want me talking to Saber?”

“Why should I care?” He really shouldn’t become so annoyed by it. “I mean, Saber’s a hero from the past, right? He won’t be able to make sense of the modern world.”

“That’s not actually true, though, Shirou,” came Saber’s soft reply. Shirou blinked and turned to look at him. He was still sitting on the pillow, relaxed and calm. “Servants adapt to whatever era we are summoned in, so I am familiar with this time.” Then he arched a white eyebrow. “I’m not from a really far away time, either, so it isn’t difficult for me.”

“Is it really a good idea to give clues about your true identity, Saber?” asked Tohsaka, curious but also a little worried. Saber only smiled.

“...I doubt anyone could be able to figure it out,” he said with a careless shrug. Shirou frowned. “I could even tell you my true name right here and now and it wouldn’t change anything.”

Saber was awfully confident on his legend of origin being completely secret and unknown and Shirou could see that Tohsaka was analysing his words in her mind, trying to figure them out. He couldn’t say that he wasn’t curious either, because for a hero to be born, people would need to know of them. Did his legend hide his identity with some kind of alias? But then again, why would a legend be a secret in the first place?

“To reveal your identity or not is your and your Master’s decision,” shrugged Tohsaka. Shirou arched an eyebrow at her.

“Where are we going?” asked Saber as he stood up.

“To the church in Shinto,” answered Tohsaka.


 

Going around town with bloodied clothes wasn’t the best idea so, after changing them, they set off. Saber’s clothes seemed somewhat modern and they wouldn’t look out of place, plus, it was the middle of the night and they wouldn’t come across anyone, so he didn’t need to change them.

Shirou was forcefully reminded of what Saber was exactly when he reminded Tohsaka of the dangers around town and she told him to keep in mind, in turn, how strong Saber was.

“Tohsaka?” called out Saber after a while of walking around. Tohsaka just told him to call her Rin. “Okay, then, Rin, what did Shirou mean earlier?”

“Oh, that, he was saying that he’ll leap to our rescue if we get attacked,” explained Tohsaka with a light-hearted voice. Saber frowned, then turned to Shirou, who looked everywhere but at him.

“That is my job, you know?” said Saber lightly. “You’re the Master here.”

“He’s probably not thinking like that at all,” chirped Tohsaka from the front and Saber arched an eyebrow at her. “He couldn’t care less about Masters, Servants or anything like that.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Really, she was making it sound as if he was a complete idiot who got into trouble for fun.

Tohsaka just smiled and didn’t answer.


 

He went inside the church with the clear intent of getting out of the Grail War and stop being a Master, but when the conversation between him and the unsettling priest was over, his viewpoint had changed drastically and he decided to continue.

Through the entire talk, Saber stayed by his side with Tohsaka, like a guardian, like a ghost, one that always had his pale and cautious gaze on the priest. It was as if he was gouging out his true intentions, his true nature, and in return, the priest’s gaze moved from Shirou to the Saber with a level of curiosity and interest that Shirou couldn’t figure out if it was good or worrisome.

“Moving on, I think it’s interesting the choice of Servant you’ve summoned,” commented the priest and Shirou stopped again, turning around.

Saber hadn’t moved an inch from his spot, leaning against one of the benches, and he was still staring at the man with his arms crossed over his chest and a blank expression on his face.

“Uh?” blurted out Tohsaka. She looked from one to the other. “What do you mean?”

“So you know about me?” asked Saber with an arched eyebrow, but his voice was unreadable, as was his expression and eyes. He was good. He had a really good poker face.

“Quite the opposite, that’s why it’s interesting,” nodded the priest and Shirou frowned. “You’re not from a legend, are you?”

“Oh? Then you can give me the answers I’m looking for?” questioned Saber.

Shirou looked at Tohsaka, completely confused, but he was disheartened to see that the girl was as lost as him, looking at him with the same confused look in her eyes. Both of them turned again towards Saber and Kirei, waiting for one of them to shed a little light.

“Your Saber…” nodded Kotomine towards Shirou, “doesn’t come from a legend. I would know. So, theoretically, you shouldn’t be here. You must come from a ripple in history.”

“My timeline is different from this one, then,” mumbled Saber and Shirou blinked like an idiot at him. Saber nodded to himself. “As I’d thought…”

“My question is,” continued Kirei, without moving his gaze away from Saber, “how did you even get to be summoned here?”

“That is something that I don’t know,” shrugged Saber himself. Then his usual smile appeared again on his face, closed off and perfectly proportioned to move Kirei’s attention away from him. “In any case, thank you for giving me some answers.”

With that, Saber turned around, letting his arms fall down by his sides just long enough to breeze past Shirou and close his right hand around his arm to drag him away at a brisk pace. Shirou could only throw a last brief glance at the priest, who was looking at them with a weird kind of intensity, before looking back at Saber, who looked thoughtful again.

“What was all that about, Saber?” he asked as soon as they were outside church grounds. Saber had had his back turned to them, but turned to him as soon as his question left his lips.

“As you have heard from him,” he pointed with his gloved finger at the church, “I’m not actually from this world.”

“Well, that’s usually the case for legends,” pointed out Tohsaka. Shirou could see how peeved she was about not understanding something and maybe he didn’t know her much, but he knew that she wouldn’t stop until she got a clear answer that explained everything. “That’s why they’re called ‘legends’ and not ‘history’. Plus, historical figures can be summoned if they’re well-known.”

“Yeah, yeah, but I mean,” sighed Saber and Shirou could see now how confused and lost his own Servant was about this whole situation and he tried to put himself in his shoes for a moment, only to find himself incapable of imagining the level of confusion and nervousness and worry that the boy would surely be feeling, “I know that legends are not historical fact, but my origin was treated as fact when I lived. And he said it himself, it’s a ripple in history because my facts didn’t happen here, at all.”

“Legends are usually a short alteration that happens outside historical fact,” mumbled Tohsaka, hand under her chin. “So, you’re saying that your reality was like a legend that was treated like historical fact?”

“In my reality, they whipped out a whole country, Japan, to be precise,” said Saber and Shirou opened his mouth but closed it again when nothing came out. “It was a historical fact. Historians recorded it. It happened. What I did… I wasn’t the only one who did it, there were regular people involved. And it wasn’t short either… 7000 years.”

“A ripple in history, he said…” mumbled Tohsaka. She had started to walk around in circles.

“Could it be a parallel universe or something?” mumbled Shirou. He was surprised when both pairs of eyes turned to him with interest. He grimaced. “I was just… It reminded me of those sci-fi movies. Ah, forget it.”

“No,” cut Saber, “that actually sounds plausible.” He moved his gaze away at the mist around them. “Go figure…”

“Ugh, as if we didn’t have enough with the Grail War,” growled Tohsaka, shaking her head from side to side.

There was silence between them for a few minutes.

“So?” asked Saber and Shirou looked at him with a frown. Saber smiled. “What is your decision? About all this.”

“I’ll fight,” nodded Shirou. “Will you agree to me as your Master, Saber?”

“I swore from the start, didn’t I?” said Saber. “I never break a promise.”

“Right, in that case… I will be your Master.” He reached out with his hand and Saber didn’t hesitate to take it again.

Chapter Text

Tohsaka was actually a kind person, if only because she hadn’t fought them even if her own Servant had advised her to do so. She had said something about wanting to figure things out first and that it had been partly her fault that he had to go through the ‘trying to kill him’ stuff, so she would go easy on him because of her ‘debt’.

Shirou had noticed that Saber had jumped at that word, but he didn’t get to ask if it was because of the word itself or if it had been because he had sensed the little girl that had come closer to them.

She had white hair and Shirou wondered why he was seeing so many young people with white hair those days when he hadn’t seen one in his entire life. She was wearing purple clothes that seemed extremely expensive and Shirou could swear that her eyes were red like blood. But what really made him tense and worry was the giant man that stood behind her like a bodyguard and who was glaring at them with such intensity that Shirou was surprised they hadn’t caught on fire yet.

“Good evening, Big Brother,” greeted the girl, her voice pleasant. It contrasted greatly with the dangerous shine of her eyes. “This is the second time we’ve met like this.” Her eyes moved to Tohsaka. “It’s nice to meet you too, Rin. I’m Ilya, Ilyasviel von Einzbern. You know the name ‘Einzbern’, don’t you?”

“I’m surprised, in terms of raw ability, that thing outclasses even Saber,” mumbled Tohsaka and Shirou turned to her worriedly. Shirou stared at her as she talked with Archer about strategy until she turned to him with an even gaze. “It’s up to you whether you run or fight. But if you can, I recommend you run.”

“Finished with your little strategy meeting?” called Ilya. Shirou gritted his teeth and looked shortly at Saber. He looked as impassive as always, even if his shoulders were tense. “Shall we begin?” There was a beat of silence, before her sweet smile widened. “Okay, I’ll kill you now. Get them, Berserker.”

The enormous man growled and jumped, cracking the ground behind him. Shirou watches with wide eyes as the Berserker came closer to them through the air like a missile, eyes mad and furious, like an animal, and he shivered for a moment.

“Shirou, get back!” yelled Saber, but there was no need, because at least a dozen of arrows hurried to close the man’s path.

Most of the arrows didn’t even pierce him, they were just deflected with the rough sword he had, and Shirou and Tohsaka hurried to follow him as he was pushed back by Archer’s arrows. Saber stayed back, pale eyes thoughtful as the Berserker roared at them.

“No way! They had no effect?” shouted Tohsaka and Shirou bit his lip. Just what were they against?

He only heard Tohsaka’s yell when Berserker was immediately next to him, sword raised. He was growling again, eyes almost glowing in the dark. Shirou only stared, wide eyed and in shock. He could only wait until that sword tore through him as if he was mere butter. But, of course, Saber stopped his blow with his left hand, which had turned into a claw again.

“Stay back, Shirou,” was the only thing Saber said, before he kicked Berserker hard on the chest and sent him back a few meters.

He was gone in the next second and  Shirou could only watch as a white blur twirled around the Berserker, slashing at the huge man and dodging the blows with ease.

“A Saber that doesn’t use a sword?” asked Tohsaka and Shirou jumped. He had forgotten that he was not alone.

They both watched as Saber actually held up against the Berserker, but the other man was really agile and Shirou’s worry skyrocketed when he saw him match Saber’s level of acrobatics with ease. Saber himself had noticed, if Shirou had to guess from how the boy started forming a gap between them.

His cape shifted and Shirou could hear Tohsaka’s gasp as the white enveloping him twisted until the cape was larger and floated around him, hugging Saber like threatening wings. Wings that looked sharp and dangerous and Shirou squinted to see how the feathers that had been sticking out rebelliously from the folds and borders of the cape now seemed as sharp as blades. Saber whipped his cape around and maybe it was the moonlight bouncing off it, or maybe it was the natural glow it seemed to have, but it distracted the Berserker enough for the sharp feathers to leave a deep wound on his chest.

They all watched as the wound seemed to regenerate itself before their eyes and Shirou didn’t miss Saber’s annoyed grimace. He didn’t make his cape retreat, though, and good thing he didn’t, because the Berserker looked even angrier and started slashing at everything that moved, which was basically the cape floating around them.

“Is he… holding himself back?” mumbled Tohsaka, and Shirou wondered for  a moment if she meant the Berserker or his own Servant, before she shook her head and looked up. “Archer, fire support!”

An arrow surrounded by deep blue fire shot towards the Berserker and Saber hurried to get his cape out of the way, clenching his gloved hand around a portion of it and whipping it aside. Saber took advantage of the explosion to get farther back from the man, but it came to nobody’s surprise that Archer’s attack didn’t affect him at all.

Shirou looked back at Ilya when she gave the order to crush Saber and he looked back at the fight, where his Servant was now in a battle of wills, claw against sword. Tohsaka grimaced by his side.

“Not if I can help it,” she growled and Shirou was about to ask her what she was going to do, but she didn’t give him time to do so and started running towards the fight. He tried to call to her, but she just kept running. “Archer!”

She threw some kind of jewels that glinted in the air for a moment, before they grew large enough to cage Berserker in some kind of bubble made of purple crystal. An array of arrows came shooting down the dark sky and the crystal cracked under the pressure. Shirou almost felt confident when everything blew up with a loud boom that made his ears ring, but his soul fell down to his feet when he saw the silhouette of Berserker still standing. Completely unharmed.

“Is he immortal?” he asked himself, staring at the man. Then he looked at Saber, whose cape had returned to a normal form, and their gazes met.

Saber inclined his head slightly, eyes still locked on his, and then looked pointedly at a nearby graveyard. It was in that moment that Shirou thought that knowing about his Servant’s origin, as special as it was, would be really helpful. Even so, he nodded and Saber lost no time luring Berserker into the graveyard with a few slashes of his claws, perfectly timed jumps to dodge in that direction and a few tendrils of white feathers and cloth.

“You run away, okay?” yelled Tohsaka and ran away before Shirou could say anything.

“Damn it!” he rasped, kneeled on the ground. “I couldn’t do anything. How could I possibly stand against a monster like that?” He clenched his fist on the ground, digging his nails in the dirt. There was just no way, one hit from that thing and he would be dead , never mind that he wasn’t even a proper mage. A loud noise came from the forest where Saber had disappeared to with Berserker in tow and he jumped, eyes flying to the source. “Saber…” He had been such a helpful and kind ally, he had been patient with him, even if Shirou knew that he wasn’t the best to have as a Master, they had made a pact together, that they would work together to win the Grail War. He looked at his hand, the hand with which the contract had been sealed, and he clenched it into a fist. “Didn’t we just decide… that we would fight together?!”


Shirou couldn’t, for the life of him, figure out why his survival was so important to Tohsaka.

They were both very stubborn and the conversation seemed to be getting nowhere, they were going in circles; Tohsaka trying to get him to get away from the fight and Shirou refusing to do so because of his pact with Saber. At some point Shirou was quite certain that he had managed to get through her, if he could guess from her conflicted gaze, so they got closer to the battle.

Saber was expertly dodging blows and letting Berserker slash through the gravestones. The dust created by his attacks did a good job hiding the boy as he dashed through the area, eyes intent and claw readied. His blows didn’t really affect the huge man and Shirou wondered if he really was immortal, or something close to it, or maybe it was Ilya’s doing. There had to be a way to kill him, the Grail War would be unfair if there wasn’t.

“That Saber’s pretty good,” commented Tohsaka by his side. “He’s letting Berserker’s blows to land on purpose.”

“Did he do it to lure him out here?” asked Shirou, watching as Saber did a backflip to avoid a blow that would have been lethal if it had connected to his head.

“That’s right,” nodded Tohsaka. “Fighting that thing without cover would be suicide. It was also to draw Berserker away from you, Emiya. Of course, he couldn’t expect any support from Archer from here, but his arrows don’t really work against him, anyway.”

Shirou nodded slightly. It made sense, even if he was still kind of iffy about letting Saber by himself. He couldn’t do anything to help him. He was useless, he was weak. And that hurt him more than anything.

“This is hopeless,” sighed Saber. Berserker was far away from him, seemingly catching his breath, even if Saber didn’t look too winded. Shirou was reminded of the time when Saber knew how he had died moments before he had summoned him and wondered shortly if Saber had some kind of power related to the death. “Maybe I should stop holding back so much…”

“So he was holding back,” mumbled Tohsaka and  Shirou blinked. He was holding back all this time?

They watched as Saber tensed his claw by his side, eyes focused and locked on Berserker, who seemed to growl at him, ready to start attacking again. Saber’s claw started glowing a light green and Berserker stopped his charge when ribbons of white pierced his path without mercy.

Shirou didn’t get to make out what Saber said, but the light from his claw shot towards Berserker with incredible speed after Saber slashed the air in front of him. The light made a shining cross on Berserker’s body and Shirou had to shield his eyes against the blinding light. He heard Berserker’s yell of fury and opened his eyes after the light had died down.

“Is it over?” asked Tohsaka, tired. Shirou looked down at the graveyard and he met Saber’s even gaze with his worried one. Saber sent him a small smile. Shirou sighed softly. He looked okay. “Archer? What do you mean by get clear?”

Shirou widened his eyes again when he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Saber too, turned to Berserker again, mouth set in a grimace, and he returned his cape to its usual length and form before taking a few steps back. Shirou gritted his teeth and hurried down, almost falling down.

“Regeneration? No, this feeling… Time reversal…?” was mumbling Saber to himself. “A Noble Phantasm that activates after his death…” He turned his head to the side. “Shirou, get back!”

Shirou stopped, but not because of Saber’s words. He could feel it… Archer’s attack…

Saber frowned deeply and jumped. A gloved hand clenched around Shirou’s arm for the second time in the past hour and Saber tugged at him, dragging him away from Berserker and, probably, Archer’s attack. Shirou looked up and saw a shooting star… No, a blue arrow coming straight at them .

He stumbled and almost fell, but Saber managed to get him upright and running. The arrow was so close…

It was all so fast, Shirou was really confused and disoriented and the arrow hit Berserker.

Saber’s arms wrapped around him and the feathers of his cape tickled his nose when Saber pressed his body close to his. Saber’s cape was soft, like a miniature piece of heaven, and Shirou groaned when the explosion from Archer’s arrow left his ears ringing.

It was a few minutes later that Saber deemed the surroundings safe enough to free his Master from the shield his cape had created. Shirou watched as the soft material floated down around them, almost lazily, and he looked back at Berserker, expecting him to be as unharmed as all the other times. Saber’s focused gaze did the same, looking suspiciously at Berserker’s body.

He was still intact.

Fire lapped at his bare feet and yet, he was as impassive as ever.

“Are you okay?” asked Saber and Shirou looked at him. He didn’t look injured, only slightly winded and dirty, dust clinging to his hair and turning it a light grey.

“I’m fine,” he nodded and both of them looked up when Ilya’s voice carried over the flames.

“I’ve changed my mind about you two, your Servants are impressive. That’s enough. Return to me, Berserker. I’d hoped to get the boring stuff out of the way first, but my plans have changed.”

“What? You’re running away?” asked Tohsaka and Shirou sent her a reproachful glare.

“Yes. I’ve changed my mind,” answered Ilya. “Your Archer and specially Saber have picked my interest. So, I’ll let you live a little longer.” Shirou watched as Berserker walked calmly until he was side by side with the girl. He saw how Saber’s cape and claw disappeared in a shower of green and gold glitter, even if his pale eyes remained locked on the pair, mistrustful and alert. “Okay. Bye-bye. Let’s play again sometime, Big Brother.”

When they couldn’t see them anymore, Saber cleared his throat softly.

“Shirou?” he called and Shirou turned to him with a questioning gaze. “Apart from you trying again to save me, of which we’ll talk about later, don’t worry,” his smile seemed somewhat annoyed, even if it was similar to the ones he had seen before, “you can let me go now.”

Just then did Shirou realize that he was still gripping Saber’s arms with his tense hands. He let go hastily with a stuttered apology and stood up, only to fall back down and cough blood.

He stared at it in a daze.

Uh, who knew this could happen?

He could hear Saber’s worried voice before he passed out.

Chapter Text

After his talk with Tohsaka, Shirou dressed in comfortable clothes and got out of his room, looking around in search of Saber.

He didn’t need to go too far, because Saber was sitting on the porch, coat still on and legs hanging over the edge. He looked thoughtful, but he picked on Shirou’s presence soon enough and turned to him with his usual smile in place. His hair was clean again and his clothes weren’t covered in dust and dirt anymore.

“I’m glad that you’re okay,” he said as a greeting and  Shirou groaned slightly as he sat by his side.

“Yeah, the wound still hurts a bit, but I guess Tohsaka knows what she’s doing,” nodded Shirou. “What are you doing here?”

“Mm? I was just resting,” answered Saber with a careless shrug, eyes looking over the laundry ropes and plants around the garden. Then he frowned and turned back to him, expression serious. “We need to talk about last night.”

“Uh? What about it?” blinked Shirou and Saber huffed.

“You came too close to the battle and you threw yourself to get me out of there before Archer’s arrow came down, which was unnecessary, dangerous and really reckless on your side,” said Saber and it wasn’t that Shirou didn’t see the point he was trying to make, but…

“You do the same, though,” he commented and Saber rolled his eyes slightly. And it was true, because Shirou had only seen him fighting two times, but it had been Saber the one to jump to him to protect him that time with Archer’s arrow. Maybe it was because he knew that his cape would be able to protect them both, but still.

“I’m different,” said Saber, shaking his head, eyes still locked on Shirou in a way that made him squirm. It reminded him of Kiritsugu’s scoldings. “I’m a Servant, a fighter, I know what I’m doing.” Saber sighed deeply, looking away. “So, please, don’t do that.”

“You were in danger, though,” frowned Shirou and jumped when Saber’s surprised gaze turned to him again.

“You would trust a Servant you’ve only just met so much?” blurted out Saber and Shirou blinked.

“Of course,” he said immediately. “We shook it out and everything.”

Saber widened his eyes and then hurriedly turned his head to the side, his medium-length hair hiding his face from Shirou’s confused eyes. Was he… blushing? If just a show of trust like that made him flustered… Just what kind of life had his Servant had?

“Still, don’t do it again,” mumbled Saber. “If we want the Grail, both of us must be alive by the end of it all.”

“You want the Grail too, Saber?” asked Shirou, surprised. Saber hummed to himself, lifting his head.

“I’m still trying to figure all this out,” he said, voice thoughtful and Shirou was forcefully reminded that his Servant’s situation wasn’t like the others. He came from a parallel universe, yes, but did that mean that he died too? Did the Servant remember how they died? “My memories are all jumbled, I can’t make much sense of them, of why I might be here of all places, but I think that I might want the Grail.” Saber blinked. “I should probably explain some more how Servants work, now that I think about it.”

“Do you want some tea?” asked Shirou with a smile. He relaxed when he saw Saber return it.

They came back inside the building and into the living room and Shirou prepared some tea. Saber found the cups and they set up the table quickly. In no time, they were both sitting at the table, with their hands around cups of steaming tea.

“We Servants are Heroic Spirits,” explained Saber and then paused. “I don’t know if I would count as one too. I’m not actually dead… or at least, I hope I’m not.”

“What do you mean?” asked Shirou, eyes wide. Saber lowered his head and shuffled awkwardly.

“Like I said, my world is not actually… peaceful,” he forced the words out and Shirou wondered just how much he actually remembered of his world. “What if I’m only here because I died and… I don’t know, became an actual Heroic Spirit?” Then Saber shook his head. “It would make no sense, though…”

Shirou hummed to himself, tapping his fingers on the table between them restlessly. Allen was staring at his tea, a frown on his face.

“If the theory of Parallel Universes isn’t true, then... “ started Shirou and Saber looked at him with an arched eyebrow. “What are the chances that you’re actually from a legend? Maybe you’re from an actual legend but you were recorded with an alias.”

“Still, for me of all people to become a Heroic Spirit…” mussed Saber, lowering his head again. Shirou was becoming even more curious about this strange world, but he was hesitant of asking. He didn’t know much about Saber, they had met not even a day before, but what he knew was that his ally was pretty closed off. He kept secrets, almost like a spy.

“Okay, let’s continue with that idea...” mumbled Shirou. “If you were from an actual legend or from a legend that was treated more… more like a secret, what kind of people would know about it?”

Saber remained silent a few minutes, clearly organizing his thoughts and trying to find some reason behind it all. In the end, he just sighed and shook his head.

“I don’t really know,” he said and Shirou lowered his head. “But if I had to guess… My… conflict was strongly tied to religion, so maybe religious people? Maybe some higher ups? Do you know if the mages have some kind of higher ups?”

“I don’t know anything, really,” said Shirou, scratching his head. “I only know some reinforcement-type magic, I can’t do anything else like Tohsaka. Why?”

“Special people, that is, not normal humans, usually stick close,” shrugged Saber. He talked from experience. “It would only be logical if the mages here had some kind of organization or something of the sort… Rin didn’t know about me, but even if someone knew my supposed legend, my appearance is more telling than my name.” He took a sip of tea as Shirou clung to his words. “That is not the case for other Servants, though. Their names, their identities, reveal their weaknesses.”

“That’s why you use the name ‘Saber’, right?” asked Shirou. Saber nodded. “But you don’t really need to, do you?”

“I don’t.” Saber shook his head, then frowned. “Maybe that would be an advantage for us.” At Shirou’s confused gaze, Saber nodded to himself. “Yes, it could work. I’m a Saber-class Servant, but I haven’t used a sword, as you’ve seen. If I were to use my name, it would only confuse our enemies even more.”

“That… actually makes sense,” nodded Shirou. Then he frowned. “Do you even have a sword?”

“I do, don’t worry,” smiled Saber. “Masters usually have a certain Servant in mind when they summon. They can even use catalysts for it. Your summoning wasn’t anything planned, and I’m not really known here, so…” shrugged Saber. Then he reached out over the table with his right hand, still gloved, the same hand with which they had sealed their pact just hours before. “My real name is Allen Walker.”

“Yeah, I don’t know it,” said Shirou and he took Saber’s- no, Allen’s hand.

“I call you Shirou, so it’s only fair that you call me Allen, don’t you think?” grinned Allen and Shirou chuckled.

“Of course,” he agreed easily enough. It was actually easier to call him ‘Allen’ in his head, instead of some synthetic name that was just a class. “What are the other classes?”

“They’re based on our area of expertise,” continued explaining Allen, leaning back. “Saber, Archer, Lancer, Berserker, Caster, Rider and Assassin. Seven classes.”

“I get it,” nodded Shirou. Then he paused. “But you said that you don’t usually use a sword?”

“I haven’t used my sword yet ,” clarified Allen with a small smirk that seemed more playful than malicious. “I still forget that you’re a novice… I should probably explain my powers.” He paused. “To be honest, I don’t know why I was chosen to be in this class but, knowing the others, I guess I don’t classify as any. Saber was the most likely because I do have a sword, even if I’m not proficient with it. I usually prefer hand-to-hand combat.”

“And you have a claw,” nodded Shirou, then frowned. “And a cape. Where do those come from? Do other Servants have something like that?”

“Servants have Noble Phantasms, which are the manifestation of their myths or identities and can even give away their true names. I don’t think anyone other than me has a power similar to mine, if they had I would be worried,” said Allen with a small smile. Then he started to unbutton his coat under Shirou’s completely confused gaze. “My power, my Noble Phantasm, isn’t an object. It’s part of myself. Kinda like Berserker’s curse.” Then he paused when he finally had his coat open, thoughtful. Shirou could see a black vest over a white shirt and a red tie. “I don’t know why it’s still with me, though.”

“Why… wouldn’t it be?” asked Shirou. His Servants situation was so confusing, he wondered if Allen was actually panicking all the time and he was just that good at hiding it. He was sure that he would have panicked if he found himself in a similar position.

“My power came from a substance called Innocence,” explained Allen. Shirou blinked. Wasn’t that name… too ironic? Allen fought a war, didn’t he? And if it was in that war where he needed to use that power of his… it was just cruel. “It was explained to be the Crystallization of God. It’s a sentient substance, I guess. That’s why… I don’t know if it’s the same…” Shirou was pretty sure that Allen was rambling at this point. “I can still feel it and maybe hear it, so maybe it is the same one, but could it even be possible?”

There was silence between them for a moment as Allen got lost in his own thoughts. Even Shirou ended up thinking over what he was learning about his ally. A sentient substance… His timeline seemed completely different from their own, if he had to guess from the disconnected facts that Allen threw from time to time. The parallel universe theory got stronger and stronger by the second in his mind. Even more so, who could know it better than someone that had known both timelines? If Allen was sure that it wasn’t the same world, who was he to say that it was?

“You said that it was a sentiend substance, right?” he asked and Allen looked up at him, surprised and maybe a bit embarrassed, probably because he forgot that he wasn’t alone in the first place. “So I guess it isn’t tied down to any rules the world could have. Maybe it followed you.”

“It wouldn’t be surprising anymore,” mumbled Allen to himself. “In any case, like I said, my Innocence is a parasitic type, which means that it’s a part of my body.” Allen twisted until he could get his arms out of his coat. The first thing Shirou laid his eyes upon was the red skin of his left arm. “This is my Noble Phantasm.”

Allen seemed a little apprehensive about the whole thing, even if it had been him the one to offer in the first place and his hand shook slightly when he laid it on the table, far enough so that Shirou could take hold of it if he wanted to, which he did with no hesitation, as he did with every new piece of technology or, well, anything in general. The skin seemed hard, but soft, the fingers were segmented, like armor, and there was a emerald cross on the back of his hand. All in all, it looked awesome and he wasted no time grinning at Allen, trying to put him at ease again. He was kind of sure he succeeded, because Allen gave him a small smile.

“So your Innocence changes your arm into a claw and gives you a cape?” he asked. Allen nodded.

“When I activate it, it takes that form or…” Here Allen grinned and took his hand back. He closed the gloved fingers of his right hand around his left wrist. Shirou blinked, confused. “I’m sure you’re wondering about my sword, right?”

And then Allen pulled . His hand and arm shone a blinding emerald and gold and in the next moment Allen was twirling a broadsword around the fingers of his right hand. And he had no left arm.

“What the-?” jumped Shirou and Allen laughed .

“Your reaction was priceless,” said Allen between chuckles. Shirou playfully glared at him, but he couldn’t hold it for long, because Allen twirled the sword a last time before offering the hilt of his sword to him.

Shirou almost let the sword fall on the table when Allen cautiously let go of the other end and he had to hold up the whole weight of it. It was heavy but, yeah, it was a broadsword. He wondered how Allen could twirl it like that and then almost slapped himself. Allen was a fighter. He was fit.

The sword was harmony between white and gold, like Allen’s cape and claw had been. The blade was pure white, framed by gold that glinted under the light, as was the cross in the middle of it. The hilt was also gold and long, which was to be expected, as it was a broadsword, and there was a little golden cross dangling from the end. It was surprisingly detailed. All in all, a glorious sword.

Just as an experiment, he let his magic course through his hands, through his fingertips, and into the sword, and then let out a pained gasp as a sharp pain through his whole arm was the answer. The sword seemed to vibrate on his hands and he hurriedly gave it back to its owner, offering a rueful smile at Allen, who had arched a white eyebrow at him, curious.

“I can’t analyse it with my magic,” he explained. He watched as Allen transformed the sword back into his arm. He took note of the long black leather glove that covered most of his right arm. It reminded him of his left arm and wondered if it had been done in purpose. “It’s like there’s a barrier preventing me from it. And… it doesn’t like it when I probe at it.”

“It’s probably my Innocence, then,” nodded Allen, looking shortly at his red arm. “Those are basically my powers. I have various techniques, but those are all for combat and I can’t really demonstrate.”

“I’ll leave it to you, then,” nodded Shirou with a small smile. Then he widened his eyes. “I’ll make breakfast.” He stood up and almost laughed as Allen perked up noticeably at the mention of food. Then he paused. “And we’ll have to do something about the clothes. You can’t dematerialize, I think, right?” Allen shook his head slightly. “When you’re wearing your coat they look normal enough, but even then, they are clearly meant for combat and they look a bit out of place around here. Would it be a problem?”

“I’m pretty sure that I could change form if a battle takes place,” shrugged Allen. Shirou nodded to himself as he walked to the kitchen.

“You’re taller than me, but I think that my clothes would fit you,” mumbled Shirou, taking what he needed from the cupboards.

It took him no time to make a simple breakfast and he put it on the table as Allen’s eyes practically shone in his excitement and Shirou worried for a moment about his Servant drooling on the table. Okay, if he ever needed to cheer him up,  Shirou would just give him food. It would be even fun, he could try new recipes. Oh, he wanted Sakura to meet him now, too. He was sure that Allen’s kind and peaceful nature would be good for Sakura.

“I’m sorry,” he said with a nervous smile. Allen visibly struggled to tear his gaze away from the food to look up at him, confused. “Masters are supposed to replenish their Servants, but since I’m such a novice, I can’t.”

“It’s not a problem,” said Allen with a small smile. “I can recharge sleeping. I was going to, anyway, so it doesn’t matter to me.”

The phone rang after that, so he hurried to the hall to pick it up. It was Fujimura and he couldn’t even get a word in before she hung up on him a few minutes later, expecting him to bring her food to the dojo. He sighed.


“I think it would be best if you pretended to not know Japanese, Allen,” said Shirou. It was a nice day, with clear skies and a breeze that wasn’t freezing. “Your name is clearly foreign too, so it wouldn’t be too suspicious.”

Allen had borrowed a pair of jeans, a simple long-sleeved t-shirt and a long cream-colored coat and Shirou still found himself doing double-takes when looking at him because, apart from his scar and hair, he looked so normal . He didn’t look like a superhuman fighter at all, even if his movements sometimes seemed pointed and his gaze looked around with suspicion that Allen didn’t waste time twisting into wonder and curiosity.

Shirou knew that Allen was on high-alert because of what happened the day before and had tried to get the idea of walking with him to the school out of his head, but Allen managed to convince him telling him that he wanted to see the town. Shirou was about to protest, but then he paused. Didn’t Allen say that his Japan had been completely destroyed? So, he sighed and allowed him to follow him.

It was when they arrived at his school’s grounds when Allen paused with a frown. He looked around and Shirou tensed slightly, even if he couldn’t feel anything out place. He trusted Allen’s instincts.

“Something feels off,” commented Allen, looking around with a focused gaze. Then he shrugged. “It doesn’t seem to be dangerous, in any case.”

He could hear people talking when they got to the dojo and when the door opened, Shirou smiled immediately at Sakura. Even as he talked to her, he saw how her violet eyes moved behind him, where he knew that Allen was standing, probably looking around. But she didn’t comment on it and jogged away to search for Fujimura.

It wasn’t long before Mitsuzuri came to the door too and Shirou followed the conversation with ease, wondering when she would ask the inevitable.

“Who was that boy out from?” Ah, there it was. Shirou took note of the glint in her eye. “He was quite handsome. Is he a friend of yours?”

“Um, it’s kind of complicated,” he said with a rueful smile, but he wondered that too. Allen was friendly and gentle and he had saved his life a few times now. Were they friends? He sure hoped so. Then he paused. “Wait, ‘was’?”

‘Where could he have gone?’ he shouted at himself in his head. He kind of imagined that Allen was quite independent, he looked like it, anyway, but to go away on his own?

He hurried through the doors of the main building and sighed a sigh of relief when he saw the unusual white of Allen’s hair. Then the worry raised again when he saw his tense shoulders and how his left hand seemed to twitch. He gritted his teeth, but hurried to him nonetheless.

It became clear why Allen was so high-strung when he was able to finally see the other person. Soichiro Kuzuki, the History teacher. He was intimidating and cold like a winter day, but even then, for Allen of all people to become suspicious of him…

He called his name and stepped between the two, arms slightly spread apart to block the path for both of them. He didn’t know why. Was it for Allen or his teacher’s sake? Kuzuki looked at him with his cold eyes and Shirou felt himself freeze.

“He’s an acquaintance of mine,” he explained, trying to hide his gasps. “He’s… here to check out the school.”

“We’ve never had a student from overseas before,” commented Kuzuki and Shirou almost expected the teacher to brand him a liar. “If he enrolled, he’d be an object of curiosity. You should look out for him, Emiya.”

Shirou was quite sure he also meant Allen’s appearance, but he didn’t say anything more than a soft “yes, sir”.

“Incidentally, Emiya.” Shirou tensed again, but his teacher’s gaze was on Allen’s black boots. “Outdoor shoes are forbidden in the school building.”

The teacher disappeared, but Shirou stayed a few more seconds catching his breath and relaxing his tense shoulders. Allen looked thoughtful, staring at the wall.

Shirou led them to the Visitor’s Lounge so Allen could change his heavy boots for a pair of soft slippers. Shirou plopped on one of the sofas strewn around the room and sighed, running a hand through his messy hair.

“About that man…” said Allen, staring at his feet with a frown clear on his face.

“Did you sense something?” asked Shirou with the friendliest tone he could muster. Allen lifted his head and gaze at him.

“Not exactly.” Allen shook his head. “He seemed more than he let on, but he doesn’t seem like a mage and he doesn’t smell of blood at all.”

“I would be surprised if he turned to be a mage, to be honest,” he sighed. “What do you mean, ‘more than he seemed’?”

“He was really composed,” shrugged Allen. “A perfect poker face is rare. I was surprised.” Then he seemed to cheer up and he smiled at Shirou, back to the normal Allen that he was used to. “So, will you give me a tour?”

“You want to see the entire school?” blinked Shirou.

“I’ve never been to a school in my entire life, so all this is new to me. I’m curious,” said Allen. Then his smile dimmed and Shirou could see some pink on his cheeks. “Actually, I got lost when I wandered away from the dojo. That was when I met your teacher and then you showed up.”

Shirou was sure that Allen had an ulterior motive for wanting to explore his school, but the curiosity and wonder he expressed seemed genuine, so he humored him. He showed him the hallways, a few club rooms that were open and the gym, and by the time they were done, it was dusk and Shirou was exhausted. Allen, in turn, seemed satisfied and energized. Shirou supposed that he was used to being active.

Mitsuzuri was still at school too, because she got closer to them with a knowing smile and eyes that glinted. Allen moved to wait by the door and Mitsuzuri’s smiled faded slightly.

The Archery Club… Even if Shirou wanted to start again, he was already in deep trouble with the Holy Grail War. There was no way he could come back and keep up with everything else without having a nervous breakdown in the process.

He was so lost in thought that it didn’t occur to him that he hadn’t said anything about Allen’s presence to Fujimaru and Sakura.

“So you know him, senpai?” asked Sakura, leaning forward and shooting a nervous glance at their backs, where Allen seemed just as lost in thought as Shirou.

“Yeah, he’s an old acquaintance of my dad’s,” he said. He stuck to the same story, because, honestly, he couldn’t come up with anything else and Allen was clearly from overseas, so it would make sense to not have heard from him before that moment.

“Of Kiritsugu’s?” repeated Fujimaru, eyes wide. “He came to visit Kiritsugu, then?”

“That’s right,” nodded Shirou. “He’ll be staying at my place for a while, so be nice to him.”

He turned around when he stopped hearing their steps behind him and arched an eyebrow when the two girl’s gazes met. Allen himself had stopped and looked at the two with confusion.

“I didn’t know you swung that way, Shirou,” said Fujimura and Shirou startled at the seriousness in her voice. “It doesn’t matter, okay? I fully support you, no matter who you wanna have s-”

“It’s nothing like that!” he shrieked when he finally understood what they were implying. He shot a reproachful glare at Allen when the boy couldn’t hide a snort before he heard him. “Allen is just a friend, okay?! He’ll be staying for a little while.”

“So his name is ‘Allen’?” asked Sakura, voice curious.

“Yeah. I’d really appreciate it if you tried to be friends with him, Sakura,” he said with a tense smile. Sakura’s eyes widened. Fujimura made a sound between a snort and a offended mother and Shirou shot a glare at her. “I said friends .”

“S-sure, I can do that,” nodded Sakura and Shirou sent her a grateful smile. He knew that there wouldn’t be a problem. Allen’s calm aura and gentleness could probably help Sakura. Then she turned to Fujimura. “Are you giving him your approval to stay?”

“As a teacher I’d say it’s out of the question,” she said and Shirou looked at her with worry, “but I can’t turn away a boy who’s come here to see Kiritsugu, so…” She got hold of her scooter and continued walking, shrugging carelessly. “Sure, why not? Just think of it as a homestay!”

Shirou smiled at her and jogged, looking back to watch as Allen smiled softly at Sakura and matched her pace while they walked. It had an immediate effect, as Sakura’s usually tense shoulders relaxed slightly.

The atmosphere at home was a bit tense, but Shirou supposed that it was because they didn’t actually know each other yet. He didn’t know if he wanted Allen to stay much longer or to leave as soon as possible. Allen was a friendly person, but the implications for his stay weren’t exactly pleasant.

Sakura and him cooked a few dishes and when Sakura asked Allen in a quiet voice what he prefered, the boy sent her a soft smile and said that it didn’t matter to him. With that in mind, Sakura and him could experiment as much as they liked and soon enough they brought the plates to the table.

It was domestic, but quiet, and Allen seemed to eat at double the speed as any of them. Shirou wondered why he ate so much and so quickly, but decided to not dwell on it too much and instead took note of Sakura’s smile when Allen commented on how good her salad was.

“Starting today, I’ll be staying here too,” smiled Fujimura and Shirou could only let out a confused noise. “Care to join me, Sakura? I can call your folks, so don’t worry.”

“Yes! Please!” nodded Sakura and Shirou would have said no, but Sakura smiling so broadly was such a rare thing, he didn’t want to dampen the mood.

“You don’t mind, do you, Allen?” asked Fujimura and looked at said boy with a wide grin. Allen smiled back.

“Not at all, Ms Fujimura,” he said and Fujimura shook her head.

“No, no, Taiga is fine, no need to be so polite,” she said, then paused. “Where are you even from?”

Shirou almost hit himself for forgetting. Allen had mentioned Japan, but were their dimensions the same? Would some places be named differently? Should they have thought of some cover? It wouldn’t be a good idea to say that Allen came from a parallel dimension, now, would it?

Even Sakura had stopped, gaze curious but shy. Allen seemed to have everything under control, though.

“I’m from Great Britain,” he said easily enough and Shirou hid sigh. “A friend of mine teached me some Japanese to get by.”

“Ah, that’s good to know then,” cheered Fujimura and ran along with a much calmer Sakura in search of the futons.

Shirou sighed. Everything was getting way too much complicated.

Chapter Text

“Geez, she’s the one to suggest that you stay over and then she bails,” sighed Shirou the next morning.

“But it’s okay. It gave me a chance to chat with Allen about things,” smiled Sakura. She moved her gaze to him and their gazes met. Allen couldn’t help his genuine smile.

Shirou had nearly overslept and Allen was usually an early riser when he wasn't really tired, so he had found Sakura moving around the living room.

Sakura was shy and really hesitant, but Allen tried to coax her into a calming conversation between the two of them. He asked about things to do in the town, about where he could go if he wanted to see the best landscapes, about the best coffeeshops, about cheap shops. Little by little, Allen managed to get Sakura to speak more, louder, to smile and they ended up having a lively conversation until Shirou finally woke up and found them in the living room.

“Yes. Sakura and I have broken the ice,” he nodded and Sakura’s smile widened.

Shirou and Sakura went to the same school as students and Taiga was a teacher there too, apparently, so Allen would stay alone in the house. Not that he liked the idea. They were fighting a war full of secrets and it didn’t feel right to leave Shirou to his own devices. He wasn’t a proper mage, after all. Still…

“It would be suspicious if you came with me, right?” said Shirou. Allen grimaced. “I’ll be fine.”

Allen had tried to find hiding places while Shirou showed him the school, but it was absurdly difficult, not to mention that he didn’t look exactly normal. Not only that, but Shirou, as nice as he was, was stubborn. As stubborn as him, really. Allen knew when he needed to back down. It might even be good for him. A chance to think.

“Just be careful, okay?” he sighed. “Use a Command Seal if you need me.”

“Will do,” smiled Shirou and with that, he was gone.

Allen rubbed his face.

Shirou’s clothes reminded him slightly of his old training outfit, but he didn’t feel confident about going out for a run or explore the area. He didn’t have Tim, his guide, and knowing him, he would get lost in no time.

So, he moved around the house, peeking into rooms and sneezing because of the dust floating around some of them. He looked at photos, of a child that looked like Shirou and of a man with dark hair and tired eyes.

All the while, he let his mind roam.

His memories weren’t so bad anymore, but he couldn’t, for the life of him, figure out how he had gotten there. It was all a blur. The last thing he remembered was being out and around, doing something or other for a mission, not for the Order but for the new cause he was confident in. Then everything was blurry or black or… something. Something had been calling to him. It couldn’t be Nea, because Nea had that irritating habit of just pushing him out of the way and getting control over his body because he needed to do something and he didn’t have the decency to tell Allen beforehand -

He couldn’t have died. He was sure of it. He was just… misplaced?

When Shirou had been unconscious, he had convinced Tohsaka and Archer himself to tell him everything they knew about the Holy Grail. A magic artifact. It could grant wishes. There wasn’t that much information about it.

Could the Grail transport people across universes? Because it sure as hell looked like it. And if it was possible, then how did he return ? What would happen if he somehow died there? Would he just return home like nothing ever happened?

In any case, he wasn’t about to kill himself just to prove it. He wanted to help Shirou. When the priest had talked with him, Allen had seen something in his eyes. But it had disappeared so quickly that he couldn’t put a name to it. Still, to have to kill people… At least Shirou and him had the same morality, so they probably wouldn’t kill anyone, but…

The knowledge the Grail gave him was weird too. He could understand and speak Japanese, he knew what had happened in that world, and it varied so strongly from his own that there was no way that the parallel universe theory was wrong. There was no destruction of Japan, there was no mysterious deaths or disappearances or legends or the like. So then, why was he there ?

There was no way that a legend would cover that much , right? Yeah, okay, the Black Order wasn’t formed until a few centuries before Allen was even born, but the Earl was around. Acomodators were around. And strange happenings couldn’t go unnoticed for everyone. It had to be noticed so that it could be hidden .

Not only that, but there was that… ability. When Shirou summoned him, he could feel how death still clung to him. It felt like a black cloud, floating over him, slowly fading away. The thing was that he had a weird sixth sense with death. Was it because he wasn’t actually dead? Was it his Innocence? Or could it even be his cursed eye?

Allen entered the spacious dojo and sat on the polished floor. Everything was silent, a great contrast to his own mind, so he took a deep breath and then let it out slowly. He was getting too worked up over it. He couldn’t keep dwelling on it. He would help Shirou for the time being and hope that things became more clear with some more time.

He didn’t have to worry about Nea hijacking his body anymore because, as surprising as it was, he was alone . Completely alone, save for his Innocence. He couldn’t feel the usual darkness that was Nea in the back of his mind. He still remembered what he learned, but he was sure that Nea wasn’t with him. It was the same feeling as before the Ark, when Nea was asleep. Which, if he had really been transported to another world, made sense. Apparently, only his soul had gone into this world. Nea was a separate soul, after all, with his own mind, his own power, his own memories. But his Innocence… his bond with it was so strong, so deep, that his soul and the Innocence must have been intertwined.

Just to try, he went over the lyrics for the Ark song in his head, humming under his breath, stretching his mind to the familiar presence of the Ark. A presence that was there but, at the same time, wasn’t…

A sharp pain went through his head and he let out a short yell, raising his hands. He closed his eyes thighly and groaned. He felt dizzy and his head hurt even more now that he had fallen to the floor, but at least he had a new answer.

The Ark was still there. His mind could still reach the Ark. But it seemed… distant. As if the Ark was too far away from him.

“No, that’s not it…” he mumbled to himself, curled up on the wood floor, hands still buried in his white hair. “There’s… something…”

There was something blocking his way. He couldn’t connect an Ark Gate because there was something that only let him sense the Ark. The Grail? It could be possible. It was trapping him there. He couldn’t escape.

“Then it’s decided,” he mumbled. He sighed. “I’ll have to win this stupid war so I can go home and win my war.”


He ended up leaving the house when he was too bored, just after eating the lunch Shirou had made him that same morning. Shirou’s cooking was excellent and Allen found himself surprised when he compared it to Jerry’s cooking and found both to be at the same level.

The TV was an interesting thing and Allen wondered if the future in his world would have it too, as well as the rest of the technology. Thanks to the Grail he knew how to use it, but Allen was an active person and spending his day just lying around didn’t really sound fun to him. That was more Lavi’s thing.

So, he took a chance at leaving the house and decided to be careful and make sure that he didn’t wander too far. He could remember the way to Shirou’s school and he wondered if he should go and make sure that everything was okay. That urge became even stronger when he felt a slight change in the air and he frowned in its general direction.

“So, you’re the mongrel that shouldn’t be here,” said a voice from behind him and he startled, turning quickly on his heels. He met a pair of red eyes with a guarded gaze. Blond hair, red eyes, hands in his pockets, the man in front of him moved like a lazy king that could kill people with just a flick of his wrist, and that only made Allen tense further. The easy smirk stretching the man’s lips dimmed with every second that ticked away until it was completely gone and in its place there was only caution. “Maybe you’re worthier than I thought.”

“Who exactly are you?” asked Allen. His left hand twitched.

“Ha, you don’t need to know,” snorted the man. Then his face twisted into a grimace. “It seems I don’t even have your Noble Phantasm in my collection.”

“Why would it even be in your collection?” asked Allen, rolling his eyes. Seriously, did this guy think that he could have his arm in his collection? Collection of what, even? Noble Phantasms? Who was this guy?

“You’re definitely interesting,” nodded the blond to himself and Allen was itching to just deck the guy in the face and have him spill what he meant. The man looked thoughtful. “Just for that, I might even refrain from calling you a mongrel.” Thanks? “Yeah, that would be best.” The man turned around and started walking down the street. “We’ll see each other again, Foreigner.

Allen rolled his eyes and just turned around to continue his walk. Something told him that the man wasn’t worth his trouble and, to be honest, he was kind of tired of mysterious people telling him mysterious things that made no sense to him. It became exhausting after a while.

He looked around a few small local shops and chatted with some people that noted his foreigner features. A few of them asked about his hair or scar, but he was already used to those kind of questions, so it was easy to derail them or make a lie up that placated them and made sure that they wouldn’t pry anymore.

He arrived back home after a worrisome moment when he thought that he had gotten lost again, just in time to see Sakura and Taiga carrying some grocery bags into the house. He frowned. Where was Shirou?

“Let me help you with that,” he said and took the bags from Sakura’s arms so she could open the door. She blinked in surprise but smiled at him gratefully. Taiga greeted him with a lively cheer, but Allen didn’t waste time and asked, “where is Shirou?”

“Senpai stayed at school for a while,” explained Sakura as they got inside. “He said that he needed to help with something, I think.”

I swear, if they haven’t killed him already, I’ll do it myself.

“You’re awfully protective of him, Al-chan,” snickered Taiga. Allen sighed as he left the bags on the counter.

“I just worry,” he said with a small smile that he knew had a sharp edge to it, if he had to guess from Taiga’s nervous smile.

He helped Sakura where he could, opening and closing cabinets and putting away the food where Sakura told him to, all the while keeping an eye on the darkling sky. His frown became more and more pronounced with time, no matter how many times Taiga or Sakura told him that Shirou coming late wasn’t really all that weird and that he would be home soon enough so that he could yell at him all he wanted. He was really looking forward to do that.

Just because he had nothing better to do, he went to the dojo and holed himself in there. He had enough space to do some of his usual routines, some acrobatics to let out steam without actually exhausting himself. He needed something to keep his mind from thinking of the worst.

At least he knew that Shirou wouldn’t be dead. He would have been gone in an instant. But it wasn’t that which annoyed him. No, it was the fact that Shirou would stay out so late. Didn’t he notice that all the action happened in the dead of night? It was the best time for a secret war, after all. That Shirou didn’t care about it annoyed him to no end. They were a team, damn it, weren’t they?

Then again, didn’t he act the same way back when…? No, that was different. They were different circumstances and yeah, Kanda did nail him about it, but it wasn’t the same as this .

The door to the dojo opened just after he had landed a perfect backflip and the floor creaked softly under his feet. He turned to the newcomer, silver eyes immediately locking on his bandaged right arm. He frowned, mouth set on a thin line.

“I hope you have a good excuse and that you are going to explain what happened to your arm.”

Chapter Text

Now that Shirou knew just how damn dangerous the town became after dark, he didn’t hesitate to tell Sakura to stay at his place, at least for a little while. He felt a strong surge of relief when she said yes, but then he grimaced when Taiga told him that Allen was at the dojo and that he wasn’t exactly thrilled with him.

He walked slowly, thinking over what he would say. However, he knew that Allen had the kind of aura that would make him forget everything he had planned to tone down and make him say the entire truth.

Allen had just landed a perfect backflip when he opened the door, and Shirou flinched slightly when his silver eyes locked on his bandaged arm immediately without even looking at his face. Allen frowned deeply and his voice was sharp and clipped when he spoke to him. Shirou gulped.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “You have every right to be angry.” He almost hit himself after that and it looked like Allen might do that himself, but Shirou hurriedly continued, “but before you yell at me, do you mind if we discuss our strategy first?”

He saw Allen nod slightly and Shirou hesitantly sat down. Allen followed soon after, sitting not like him, but in a way that Shirou knew athletes usually stretched before or after working out.

“There was a third Master at school,” he started, “so Tohsaka and I agreed to form a truce until we can identify them.” He looked at Allen, looking for any kind of signal that made it clear that he didn’t like the idea, but Allen always had a tight grip on his expression, so he couldn’t figure anything out. “Are you opposed to working with Tohsaka?”

“No,” sighed Allen after a few tense seconds that had seemed like hours for Shirou. He shook his head. “I just wish that you had asked me before making such an important decision. We are a team, aren’t we?”

Now that Shirou thought about it more calmly, he had approached the decision rather recklessly, hadn’t he? He felt a little dumb, but at least Allen wasn’t looking at him as if he hated him.

“...Sorry,” he mumbled in any case.

“So, after this Master at your school is defeated, your truce with Rin will be null and void, right?” asked Allen, arching a white eyebrow.

“Yes,” nodded Shirou. He wondered where he was going with this, but paused when he saw how his companion closed his eyes with a tired sigh, before he schooled his face back into the usual neutral expression.

“As long as that is clear for you, then… I don’t have any objection,” he said. It became quite clear to Shirou that there was much more to unpack from those sentences alone than he would have thought, but he didn’t want to annoy him even more than he already was.

“Have you thought of a way to go back… home?” asked Shirou.

“The method I could have used doesn’t really work right now,” sighed Allen again. “So, I can only wait and fight for the moment.” Then he grinned. “You won’t get rid of me that easily.”

“I’m not complaining,” chuckled Shirou. Then he paused, thought back to Archer’s words, but shook them off and instead tried to know more about his companion. “What were you doing when I came in?”

“Um?” Allen blinked at him. “I was doing some acrobatics. Moving always helps me clear my head.” Then Allen hummed to himself for a moment, before standing up straight. “You said that you weren’t such a good mage, right?”

“Yeah, right…” nodded slightly Shirou, flushing lightly. Allen smiled at him.

“Then maybe I should teach you how to defend yourself. You know, just in case,” he said, but his eyes moved again to Shirou’s bandaged arm.

“That… is actually a pretty good idea,” said Shirou. He ignored the obvious stab and focused on actually learning something useful. He didn’t actually want to die a horrible death for being too weak, after all.


 

Training with Allen was educative but exhausting.

It wasn’t that Allen was an abusing and inhuman teacher, quite the opposite, really. But he could be harsh and demanding, dragging Shirou pass his limit over and over again, and after just two hours of training, Shirou felt like the dead.

The next day he went through his routine with stiff muscles that made Sakura freet until he confessed that Allen was training him. He spoke with Shinji and he couldn’t help but feel suspicious, so after school he talked with Tohsaka while they searched for sigils, which was actually easy for him to do.

Then, before going back home, he ran into Shinji again and this time everything became clear.

He went back home in a bad mood.

It must have reflected on his training, because Allen was able to push him around even more than the previous day. He ended up sore when they finished, but he moved to the shed to practice his magic while Allen made a beeline for the kitchen.

He hadn’t expected to see Allen again, but after a few minutes of breaking wood, the boy came to the shed with a sandwich in his ungloved hand, looking around with curious eyes.

“This is where you summoned me,” he commented and Shirou blinked at him.

“Do you need something, Allen?” he asked. Allen hummed, but shook his head.

“I just sensed magic,” then he paused, before entering the shed. “So this is your magic? Fortification?” Shirou nodded. “How does it work?”

“Fortification isn’t just about increasing a thing’s toughness. It also includes increasing its effectiveness,” he explained and when he looked over at Allen again, he found the boy listening to him with rapt attention while he munched on his food. He pointed to the rock in his hand, “for this rock, it’s making it harder.” He pointed to a light bulb, “for that light bulb, it’s making it brighter. I visualize an object’s components and pass my mana through them to fortify it.”

“I see,” mumbled Allen.

“It’s better to show than tell,” said Shirou and focused on the rock. “Trace on.”

He scrunched up his face and focused on the structure of the rock, its components, the molecules, it was a process he was used to doing, but the last part was always the hardest for him. If the adjustments he did weren’t enough, the object would be lacking what he wanted; if he made too many adjustments, the object would be too altered and if he made the wrong adjustments…

The rock fell apart in his hand and he clutched at his arm with a grimace of pain, willing his magic circuits to stop the energy flow.

“My success rate is actually pretty low,” he said, resentfulness finding its way to his voice. He couldn’t help feeling a bit useless. Here was Allen, an expert fighter, even when he was younger than him. Then again, he was sure that his ally’s life hadn’t been pretty, so he couldn’t exactly say that he was jealous of him.

“I think it was just that you weren’t concentrating enough,” commented Allen from his side. He had finished his sandwich and was now staring at the rock. “You know, I don’t know much about magic in my world, but it isn’t like this.”

“You’re not a mage?” asked Shirou, curious. Allen hadn’t explained much about his world, about his alternate dimension, but Shirou could see how the two worlds were different. He only knew about the Innocence, and that was because Allen himself had it. He hadn’t expected for there to be magic too.

Allen seemed to think hard about it, eyebrows pinching together, and Shirou wondered if it was because Allen didn’t even know where the border between ‘magic’ and ‘Innocence’ was or because he couldn’t remember. Had Allen lost part of his memories? Was it another thing entirely?

“I don’t think so,” he said slowly, still lost in thought. Shirou arched an eyebrow. Then Allen lifted his head and smiled ruefully, eyes nervous. “I’m sorry, even in my world, my situation is quite… special.”

“You don’t need to tell me anything,” said Shirou, shaking his head. Allen widened his eyes and his eyebrows shot up. “I mean, I don’t even think I would understand, and it’s not exactly my business what goes on in that other world, right?”

Allen blinked at him and tilted his head, before huffing in a way that seemed more like a laugh than anger and he stood up carefully, the same way that always reminded Shirou that Allen was an acrobat.

“I’ll leave you to it, then. Goodnight,” he said with a small smile and Shirou blinked when the white-haired boy glanced pointedly at the objects thrown around the floor. Shirou said a soft reply.

Shirou remembered what the boy had said just moments before about his concentration and everything made sense. As he watched the boy walk through the grass and into the house, Shirou could feel the tenseness on his shoulders dissipate slightly. He supposed that using his magic when he was under mortal peril wasn’t the same as when he was being stared at.

He must have fallen asleep at some point, because he was pretty sure that he was dreaming. A weird and unsettling dream that sent shivers down his body. Scenes blurred in front of his eyes and he could swear he was walking. He didn’t know where, but he was, and he wondered absentmindedly if this was a servant’s doing.

When he opened his eyes, he was standing in the middle of the Ryuudou Temple and the first thing he thought was that Allen was going to kill him.

Chapter Text

Caster was powerful, much more powerful than what he had imagined a Caster class Servant would be, and her mindset was twisted and she was dangerous .

If Archer hadn’t stepped in then, he would have been dead.

As it was, he was alive and spitting insults at the man who had saved his life because, while he could see some semblance of a good will, the man was an utter ass to him. He felt it fair to retaliate.

But he was maybe a bit concerned about Allen. Caster and Archer had said that he was going against Assassin. Shirou knew better than anyone else how strong Allen was, but they were still a team. And maybe friends.

He watched as Archer laid a good blow on Caster and the mage fell on the ground, bloody and glowing with anger, but Archer didn’t kill her. And then she tried to ally with them, which Shirou immediately declined. It was when Archer let her go when Shirou finally moved, running towards her, even as she took flight and disappeared like a mirage.

Maybe it had it coming, but he was the one to throw the first punch, which wasn’t the best idea. They had an alliance, after all. But he couldn’t overlook Archer’s mindset, it rubbed him the wrong way, and so, it wasn’t really surprising when he finally snapped.

He stomped towards the front gate, eyes focused on the distance, frowning deeply, hands shaking by his sides, so he didn’t see Archer move, he only heard the sound of a blade cutting through the air, until it stopped with a loud ‘clang’ of steel against some kind of metal he couldn’t recognize.

“Mind explaining what is going on?” asked a voice tightly woven with cold fury that seeped into Shirou’s veins like ice.

He turned around as fast as he could, almost slipping on the gravel of the ground, and blinked at the sudden white in his vision.

Archer was pushed back with no problem and Shirou could only stare at Allen’s back, covered with the familiar white cloak that glowed like a mini-moon in the middle of the temple. But instead of seeming soft like angel wings like other times, now it looked like sharp blades made out of the ice from its owner’s voice.

There was someone running from the gate and then they stopped, but Shirou could only stare forward, to where his Servant was staring Archer down and even if he couldn’t see Allen’s expression, he could still feel the rage coming off him. It was always when the most composed people lost their cool that it was the scariest thing in the world.

“Move aside, Saber,” said Archer and Shirou was surprised at how calm his voice sounded. It was as if he hadn’t tried to kill him just moments before.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” replied Allen and Shirou almost flinched at his voice again. When before there had been softness, now only remained a biting cold not unlike a blizzard. “What do you have with Shirou?”

“It’s something personal, you see,” said Archer and Shirou scoffed. “I’m not sure you would understand.”

“Try me,” cut Allen. Archer frowned deeply and his eyes moved shortly behind Shirou. He remembered how he had heard steps behind him and turned. There was a man dressed in traditional clothes, with a long sword by his side, and Shirou quickly realized that it was Assassin.

“I don’t think this is any of your business,” said Archer, still calm, still with his swords in his hands. He snorted. “After all, you’re not even from this world. You’re just a stranger, a foreigner .”

And Archer moved so fast that Shirou didn’t even have time to react, much less to yell a warning at his companion, but it didn’t matter, because Allen had been just as fast and his claw blocked his slash with no problem.

“You’re threatening my Master, even if we have an alliance,” mumbled Allen and when he turned his head and Shirou could see part of his face, he actually flinched at the cold fury that his eyes showed. “I’d say that’s actually my business.”

And then Allen pushed Archer away again, but instead of staying in front of Shirou motionlessly, he jumped forward and slashed at Archer with his claws. Archer had no choice but to defend himself with his swords, blocking Allen’s blows and glaring at the boy with fierce eyes.

Shirou bit his lip. They were evenly matched. Archer was that, an archer, but he moved fluently with swords too, so a close-range fight didn’t pose much of a threat to him, not to mention that he could match Allen’s strength with ease. Shirou was actually worried about Allen, because the boy wasn’t fighting like usual. His attacks were reckless, more reckless than normal, and his movements were violent and unrestrained, so Shirou could see proof of collateral damage spreading all around the place, from deep gauges on the ground to burned rails and corners from the temple.

“I can’t allow you to continue destroying the temple I am to defend with my life,” said the deep and calm voice of Assassin, and Shirou turned to him, but the man was fast too, so he was between the two frustrated fighters in no time.

Assassin pushed Archer back and didn’t let him come back for Allen. He was giving them a chance to escape. For a terrifying moment, Shirou expected Allen to just yell and force his way into the fight again, until either he defeated Archer or until he was defeated himself.

Fortunately, Allen jumped back to Shirou, hugged him tightly, murmured a ‘hold on tight’ that still sounded wrong in how feral it was, and Shirou didn’t get time to ask what for, before they were flying .

When they landed in the middle of a street that Shirou didn’t even bother to recognize, Allen let him go and he stumbled on his feet. He gasped, trying to catch his breath and calm his heart. How the hell had they even done that ?

“I’m sorry.” Shirou blinked and turned his head to his companion. Allen was turned away from him, Innocence still active, but it looked softer again, more relaxed. Allen, in turn, only looked miserable. “I’m so sorry.”

“Uh? Why?” he asked, because, just, why? Allen had saved his life. Why was he-?

“Why?!” repeated his companion, voice unstable, and only when he finally turned around, eyes wide, did Shirou notice the tears in his eyes. “You were kidnapped! Right out of your own house! And I didn’t notice until it was too late! What would have happened if Archer hadn’t been there? You would be dead! I… I…”

And it finally dawned on Shirou just why his Servant, his friend, was that hysterical, why his hands shook so much, why the tears were running down his cheeks now. Allen was right; if Archer hadn’t been there, he would be dead. If Archer had made his mind up about killing him a little sooner, then he would have just watched as Caster took his Command Seals and probably killed him.

“Allen, it’s okay, I’m okay, alright?” he tried to calm him down, hands raised, but he couldn’t bring himself to touch his companion because he was scared he would only make it worse.

“If I hadn’t sneaked away from the fight with Assassin when I did, Archer would have killed you,” continued Allen, but he wasn’t yelling anymore. Shirou didn’t know if that was a good sign, because his voice still shook and his hands were still raised and trembling violently. “He was supposed to be our ally, and yet… I can’t, I…”

Shirou paused. He went over everything he knew about his Servant, from his mannerisms to what little he knew of his past, which was… actually not that much. But what little he knew was enough to explain what was going on with him.

Servants were Heroic Spirits, heroes who had already died, and people remembered their adventures or achievements. Most of them fought. Most of them lived in peace with their own memories, maybe even ignored them in favour of their wish and the Holy Grail War.

Allen was an anomaly. He wasn’t supposed to be there. He was an Heroic Spirit, but at the same time not, because he hadn’t died . He was still alive. He was still fighting his own war. If this all was fixed in the end, Allen would return to his world, only to continue fighting for a crumbling world. He hadn’t come to terms with everything like the other Heroic Spirits, who had died and had been summoned to fight again. Allen still had something to lose . The fear of defeat was still there, the fear of losing someone he cared about was still there, every aspect of a war was still with him at full force.

“Allen, it wasn’t your fault,” he said, in a tone of voice that he hoped would actually help his servant come back to the present. It was clear from the way he was hugging himself that he was overthinking things too much, maybe remembering something terrible. “You can’t see the future Allen, I can’t either, it’s not our fault. Hell, it’s not even Tohsaka’s fault, I don’t even think she knows what has happened.”

Allen still looked troubled, he was still clutching his own arms a little too tightly, and Shirou eyed his tense claw with apprehension. He looked smaller than he was. A tight ball of worry. However, little by little, Allen’s shoulders started relaxing, and only then did Shirou put his hand on his shoulder, hoping to ground him.

“I guess you’re right,” mumbled Allen, eyes still locked on the pavement. Shirou rubbed his shoulder awkwardly for a few seconds before finally letting his hand fall.

“Uh,” he coughed and Allen lifted his head slightly, eyes red but clearer than moments before. “We should go home. I can cook something to calm us down.”

There was a beat of silence between them and Shirou worried silently when Allen didn’t jump at the chance of food like every other time. He was about to say something more and probably make a fool of himself, when Allen finally let out a long sigh and let his Innocence disappear in a wave of green and gold light.

“That sounds good,” he said and maybe his smile wasn’t the brightest, but Shirou smiled back and led the way back home, darting glances back to his companion to make sure that he was alright.

Everything was going to be okay.

Chapter Text

Shirou wondered why his dreams were being so weird lately.

At least this one seemed harmless enough. He was standing in the middle of a wheat field that seemed to cover the entire world. There was a warm breeze caressing him and making the wheat sway from side to side. It was like a sea of gold.

When he woke up, he didn’t know if the nostalgia and yearning he felt was his, because he was quite sure that he hadn’t been to that field at any point in his life.

Allen wasn’t with him, so he ate a light breakfast and went to the dojo. He didn’t know if his companion had slept at all, but if he had to guess from how shaken he had been, he was ready to believe that he hadn’t.

Just like how he had imagined, Allen was at the dojo, doing his usual routine, and when he noticed Shirou, he didn’t say much other than a ‘good morning’ before throwing a practice sword at him. Shirou was grateful that he didn’t nail him about what had happened, but he was still worried. At least, it seemed like Allen had a good enough grip on himself to act as if nothing was wrong. Shirou didn’t know if that was a good thing. Probably not.

Maybe it was a bad idea, but he changed his movements to match the ones he had seen Archer doing. Allen frowned slightly, but didn’t comment and just continued blocking and attacking with his own sword.

It had always seemed interesting to him how Allen only used his right hand when using the sword. It was most likely because of his own broadsword, but Shirou wondered if he would see him actually using it in battle.

“Were you holding back?” he asked when they finished. Allen, sitting close and stretching, hummed.

“I wasn’t,” he said finally, with a small smile in his face. Shirou blinked. “You are using Archer’s form, I see.”

“Ah, yeah, I… suppose I am,” he mumbled. Would Allen be angry with him? “I guess it’s because I was with him yesterday.”

“I’m not mad, if that’s what you’re thinking,” said Allen. He stood up and put the swords away neatly before walking calmly towards the door. “Like I said, I’m not the best with swords, so maybe that’s a good thing. You don’t even have a broadsword like me, anyway, so my form isn’t exactly fit for you.”

Shirou couldn’t help but smile and he stood up to walk beside his companion. He still had some time until he needed to leave for school, but he needed to dress in his uniform, so he walked calmly towards his room, Allen in tow.

Allen usually dressed in loose clothes when training, but always changed to clothes that covered more skin when he wasn’t. Shirou wondered if it was because of his left arm. It probably was, because he was always careful with how much he left Sakura and Fujimura see his hands ungloved.

“Ah, I’ve been wondering this for a while,” he commented while he was putting on his uniform and Allen was choosing from Shirou’s clothes.

“Mm?” hummed Allen, turning his head slightly to him.

“You’re… well, you aren’t actually dead, so I was wondering… how old are you?” asked Shirou. He had wondered so since the very beginning. Allen’s face was youthful and he was fit, but his white hair made his exact age difficult to figure out. Shirou could only deduce that Allen was around his age.

There was silence. For a moment, Shirou wondered if maybe Allen hadn’t heard him, but when he turned to him, the boy looked thoughtful. His expression reminded Shirou of the one he had when he had asked him if he was a mage.

“It’s… complicated,” laughed Allen, head still lowered, nervous and insecure. He raised his head with a rueful smile. “But I guess… Around 16? Yeah, something like that.”

“Uh?” blinked Shirou. He didn’t know if he was surprised or not. “You’re younger than me?”

“How old are you?” he asked back, arching a white eyebrow.

“17 years old,” answered Shirou.

Allen blinked. His expression darkened slightly for a moment, but then both of them jumped when Fujimura shouted from outside that Shirou was going to be late if he didn’t hurry and that Sakura had already let because he was a slowpoke. Shirou cursed under his breath and almost crashed into the door when he started running towards the gate.

“Have a good day!” laughed Allen.

Shirou didn’t dwell on the fact that Allen hadn’t reminded him to be careful.

Maybe he should have.


 

Shirou was losing his patience with Shinji, which wasn’t really surprising, because the guy was actually making an effort this time to be as annoying as possible.

It took him by surprise that Tohsaka was waiting for him, but he didn’t let the gossip mill distract him from what they needed to do.

Tohsaka had used a Command Spell on Archer and it should have relaxed Shirou, maybe slightly, but it didn’t, because now he knew that Archer felt strongly about him. Not in a good way. Still, that Archer was being an ass wasn’t Tohsaka’s fault. And, well, Archer did save him.

“We’re even,” said Shirou and Tohsaka looked disgruntled, but she nodded.

“Just be careful with Archer from now on,” said a voice from above them. Both of them jumped and moved away from the wall. Tohsaka raised her arm, a black sphere already formed and ready to launch, but Shirou stopped her, eyes wide and mouth open, staring at the person. The person smiled. “Good day, Rin.”

“Allen?” yelled Shirou, at the same time Tohsaka yelled “Saber?”. Both of them turned to the other, Shirou with a small forced smile and Tohsaka with a confused frown.

“Allen?” she repeated and Shirou scratched his head as Allen jumped down to meet them.

“Yeah, that’s his real name, you see,” he explained. He was looking everywhere but her and maybe it was a good idea, because as soon as he looked into her eyes, he flinched at the irritation in them. “We figured that it would be good for strategy. You know, since he doesn’t usually use a sword and all.”

“That…” started Tohsaka, voice low and annoyed, but then she paused and considered his words, a hand under her chin. “That actually makes sense.” Tohsaka nodded to herself and then looked over at Allen, who seemed so much more relaxed than Shirou had ever seen him. “Is it alright if I call you Allen too?”

“I’d prefer it, actually,” smiled Allen.

“Um, but, what are you doing here, Allen?” asked Shirou. Didn’t they have a deal? That Shirou would go alone to school. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to ask, because Allen’s smile became pinched and his hands twitched.

“Did you expect me to leave you on your own after what happened yesterday, Master ?” he said and his voice sent a shiver down his spine. “I’ll keep an eye on you from now on.” Then he sighed and whispered under his breath, “I swear, he’s like a toddler.”

Shirou was about to complain, but then he saw people returning to class and he groaned.

“You can skip classes with me,” shrugged Tohsaka with a smile. “It’s not bad to do so once in a while.”

Shirou looked at Allen, because - he didn’t know why - he almost expected Allen to act like a strict parent and yell at him to go to class like an honor student. It didn’t happen, Allen shrugged as if to say ‘it’s your life’. Shirou sighed.

He didn’t know why, but they ended up talking about their type of magic and Tohsaka rolled up her sleeve so Shirou could see her magic crest. Allen, who had been walking around the roof, staring at the city like it was a new world for him (it probably was), moved closer and looked curiously at the tattoo on Tohsaka’s skin.

“Do you have magic where you’re from, Allen?” asked Tohsaka. The interest was clear in her voice. Allen hummed.

“Yes, but it’s nothing like yours,” he ended up saying, and Shirou almost expected him to say ‘it’s complicated’ again, but he continued. “My Noble Phantasm could be considered magic, too, now that I think about it. But there are a few more types.”

“Oh? Like what?” asked Tohsaka.

“One of them is used to control the branch of an organization,” said Allen and Shirou found himself leaning forward, curious. “Another one can be used for a lot of things, like creating barriers and… I guess it’s like the most ancient one there is. And then, there’s another…” This time, the pained expression was as obvious as day on his face, “it’s mostly used for battle.”

Tohsaka ended up trying to get more answers out of him, but they didn’t get far, because Allen didn’t actually know the technicalities of the different types. Shirou wondered why Allen had been so hesitant about whether he was a mage or not if he didn’t know that much about magic that wasn’t Innocence. And then his age. He had said around 16 years old. Was he an orphan? It would explain a few things.

Apparently, Tohsaka had learned that Shinji was a mage just that morning and yet, she had managed to stop his weird advances. Even so, Shirou wasn’t really sure that everything was okay.

And of course it wasn’t.

The field activated and the school shook under them.

In no time, there was a creepy eye looking straight at them, surrounded by darkness and red energy that sent shivers down Shirou’s spine.

They hurried down the stairs and into the silent school and Shirou wobbled on his feet, using the wall as support. Allen was looking at him worriedly, but then he straightened.

“Shirou,” he called after Tohsaka reminded Shirou that he needed to keep generating mana to stay conscious. “Sakura studies here too, right?”

“Sakura!” yelled Shirou and he ran straight towards the one he remembered to be Sakura’s class. He grimaced when he saw all the students laying around, looking completely lifeless. He heard Tohsaka gasp behind him, but he entered anyway and walked around the desks, ignoring the sight of all the people he had seen just hours before looking like dead bodies, until he got to Sakura. “She’s breathing!”

“It isn’t too late to save them,” said Allen before he could do so himself and Shirou looked at him. He remembered how Allen had known that he had died moments before summoning him and wondered, not for the first time, what the Innocence was actually used for.

“We have to find Shinji and take down his field,” said Shirou.

Then Allen tensed, Tohsaka gasped, and Allen didn’t waste time, changing form and activating his Innocence, lunging with no hesitation towards an enemy Shirou couldn’t see. He took a mop, reinforced it like so many other times, and hurried out of the classroom, just in time to see Allen tear a skeleton surrounded by darkness to shreds with his golden talons.

“What are these things?” asked Shirou, eyes still locked on where the monster had disappeared in a cloud of dust. Allen looked around, eyebrows pinched, but gaze focused.

“Golems,” answered Tohsaka, arm poised and ready to attack at any moment. “A type of familiar!” A new golem appeared behind her in a cloud of dark energy. “Allen, there must be a reason why you’re a Saber class. Don’t you think this would be a good idea to use your sword or something?”

Allen paused, biting his lip. Shirou looked around. The hallway was not exactly wide and maneuvering a broadsword as big as Allen’s could be more trouble than it was worth. But Allen was seriously considering it. He was looking at the golem and then at both of them, for some reason.

Then Tohsaka looked behind him and shouted a warning. Shirou was lucky enough to be able to hit the skeleton that had tried to sneak up on him with the mop and send it against two others that were getting a little too close. Then Tohsaka let out a scream and Shirou turned around, heart jumping in his throat, because what the hell, Allen was with her, wasn’t he?

And that was definitely Allen’s sword piercing straight through the skeleton.

And piercing Tohsaka.

“Allen, what the-?” started yelling Shirou, but then he looked at Tohsaka’s face as Allen moved, cape swirling around him, the tip of the sword now on the floor, clean, completely clean of blood, and Tohsaka was blinking, absolutely dumbfounded.

“What-? How-?” she was saying, hands shaking and patting her torso where the sword had been piercing her, or had it? “Uh?”

“Ah,” sighed Allen, shoulders slumping, and Shirou blinked, confused, so confused . “I’m glad that worked like it should.”

“Like it should?” repeated Shirou.

Allen turned to him, eyes focused again, and Shirou widened his eyes when Allen hurried forward, elbowed him behind himself and slashed upward with his sword, obliterating the three skeletons that had been about to probably kill him.

“Yes, like it should,” nodded Allen. “I’ll explain later.” Then he paused. “There’s a Servant on this floor.”

Rin, who had finally gotten a hang on herself, had been trying to contact Archer, but if Shirou had to guess from her frown, she didn’t have much luck. They were actually lucky that Allen had been with them to start with, otherwise Shirou would have needed a Command Spell to call him to his side. Not that he was short on those; he still had all three of them. Tohsaka only had  one . This realization only made him even more grateful that Allen was his Servant.

“The Servant is here, even though the field’s origin is on the first floor?” she mumbled to herself.

After a short debate, they agreed to leave the Servant to Allen and head out to take care of the field for themselves. He had said so, but they had to defeat the army of golems that blocked the way and that was hard work. It was tiring and soon, Shirou felt sore and heavy with each hit.

After they somehow managed to clear a path, they hurried down the hallway and slammed open the door, running in with no hesitation, ready for a fight… that didn’t come. They could only stare open-mouthed at Rider’s twisted body and Shirou could feel his stomach rolling uncomfortably.

Rider disappeared in a waterfall of dust and the field crumbled around them like a house of cards. Shirou sighed in relief.

Allen turned up a few minutes later, looking fine, if not a bit winded, and Shirou let his shoulders fall. Then he noticed the conflicted shine of his grey eyes.

“Did something happen?” he asked, slightly worried.

“The Servant I sensed… was Caster,” grumbled Allen and Shirou took a deep breath, looking at his Servant again, back in his clothes, for any signs of injuries. And again, he seemed okay.

“She… didn’t do anything?” he asked, just to make sure. Allen had to notice the concern in his voice, because he smiled slightly.

“She didn’t, it was just her shadow, after all,” he said with a sigh.

Shirou hummed. He didn’t know what to make of Caster, because he had only seen her in one occasion and it hadn’t been the best. Tohsaka was deep in thought, hand under her chin again.

“She probably manipulated Shinji to lure Rider into a trap,” mumbled Tohsaka.

“Still, we know that Caster’s Master is in this school,” he said.

Then he turned to Tohsaka, noticing her silence. Allen seemed curious too. She praised him and Shirou felt cold all of a sudden. Or was it hot?

“I’m used to seeing dead bodies,” he said. The other two fell silent. Then Shirou shook his head and turned to Allen. “Do you want to help me with the students?”

He could hear Tohsaka talking with (or more like threatening) Shinji close to where they were carrying the students to the hallway and laying them on the floor. Tohsaka was mentioning how Shinji had abandoned his Servant to save himself and Shirou clenched his jaw. Shinji was a coward to the end. He remembered Rider’s twisted body.

He made sure Sakura was actually okay, wanting to punch Shinji in the face, again , as he listened to Tohsaka and him talking. After that useless ‘talk’, Shinji ran away screaming that they would come after them next and Shirou sighed, exhausted.

Couldn’t they have a normal day for once?

Chapter Text

He had called Kotomine Kirei, but in the end, they had needed to take the students to the hospital, so the three of them had to sneak past the ambulances.

Allen stopped them before they could get to the exit, body tense but without activating his Innocence.

“I’m surprised to see Saber with you,” said the familiar voice of Archer and Shirou tensed unconsciously.

As Tohsaka chewed Archer out, Shirou remained with his gaze locked on him, just in case. Allen himself had moved closer to him, Innocence still inactive, but his silver eyes were glaring daggers at the other Servant without even trying to hide it.

They hurried out of the school when they heard people getting closer to them. All the way, Tohsaka explained what had happened, until they were standing in the middle of the woods near the school. Shirou could still see the lights from the group of ambulances and hoped that everyone was okay. He couldn’t stand the idea of being the only one who got away, not again.

“How spineless,” grumbled Archer and Shirou could feel Allen’s anger from where the boy was standing next to him.

“Rider died for her Master, Archer,” his voice was a dangerous growl, but Archer didn’t bat an eye.

“She was spineless all the same,” said Archer, voice monotone. “One who calls herself a hero should at least try to take her opponent out with her.”

“Didn’t you stop to think that maybe she couldn’t?” asked Allen, voice icy, the eyebrow he arched more mocking than actually interested. “And, anyway, you of all people are not exactly the perfect example of a hero, now, are you ?”

Shirou was reminded of the saying ‘beware of the nice ones’, because Allen was aiming to hurt, and he cut deep, without hesitating, and Shirou was sure that the irritation in Archer’s eyes was genuine.

“Well, hero or not, it stands to reason that anyone who isn’t worthy of this battle should be eliminated early on.” Archer didn’t open his eyes, nor uncross his arms, but the implication was clear.

“Oh?” Shirou shivered at Allen’s voice and his hand moved to his Command Spells. They had been doing so good, but should he use one on Allen? “Do you want a fight, Archer?”

“I am compelled by a Command Spell not to do so,” grimaced Archer. Then he smirked. “And without the ability to fight back, I would die just like Rider. Would you be okay with that, Saber?”

“Don’t act so smug, Archer,” replied Allen, voice cutting through Archer’s picking. “Contrary to you, I’m not an actual hero .”

Shirou was about to just shout out a command, because Allen was starting to scare him, but Tohsaka was faster and stopped them.

“My apologies, Saber,” said Archer, but Shirou didn’t know how much he actually meant them. Allen was quiet, too quiet, and his silver eyes were still locked on Archer with something close to fury.

“Call me Allen, Archer,” said Allen in the end. Shirou relaxed his shoulders slightly, but didn’t leave Allen from his gaze. “Or maybe Walker, I don’t want that kind of familiarity with you. I will ignore your words for now, just because I trust Rin. Nothing more .”

Shirou tried to form a plan, but Tohsaka dragged him to the side and pointed out that Archer was not acting like usual, so he didn’t complain when they finally split up to go home.

It had been bugging Shirou since the words came out of Allen’s mouth, but he didn’t get to ask Allen until they were finally at home and sitting at the table. Allen had been sulking the whole way back, or maybe not sulking more like lost in thought. In any case, he looked a little less out of it and Shirou cleared his throat.

“What… did you mean?” he asked and Allen looked at him with a confused tilt to his head. “I mean, when you were talking to Archer. About not being an actual hero.”

Allen hummed to himself and lowered his head again, eyes locked on the cup of tea between his ungloved hands.

“I guess I meant that I’m not exactly an all powerful person that shows up at the perfect time to save the day like it happens in legends,” explained Allen, voice soft. Then he laughed, but it wasn’t a happy laugh, it looked almost pained and Shirou flinched. “Hell, most of the people where I come from hate me.”

“Is it…” Shirou gulped, “because you’ve killed someone?”

“Kill?” repeated Allen, this time with surprise that seemed genuine. Then he shook his head. “No, I haven’t killed anybody… I think. It’s just that… my ideals and those of most of people don’t really align. My priorities are different from theirs.”

Shirou knew when to back down, so he did just that, because Allen’s eyes now looked sad and his dropped shoulders only made him look… lonely. Incredibly lonely. Shirou couldn’t imagine how disoriented and insecure Allen must have felt. He acted confident and kind and he was the best ally he could have hoped for, but Shirou could see, as well hidden as it was, the constant turmoil in his eyes. He had been ripped from his world, from his friends, his own companions, and thrown in a world that seemed alien, no matter how much knowledge the Grail gave him.

He didn’t know what to do to cheer him up, so he ended up getting up and offered to make dinner, asking Allen if he wanted to help him. Allen wasn’t the best cook, but he was good helping, and Shirou had noticed that he liked being active, so it was better than being just sitting while he waited.

He couldn’t contain his smile when Allen nodded, eyes just a little brighter.


 

Fujimura had said that all the students were okay, if only a bit amnesiac. Shirou tried to act dumb and say that he didn’t know why the incident happened in the first place, but he wasn’t the best actor. Allen had seemed to catch on pretty quickly and stepped in, weaving lies from nothing with an ease that left Shirou puzzled. What did that say about his own Servant? Had Allen been lying to them too, all that time? Then he shook his head. Impossible.

The next day, Tohsaka ran to him and told him that Issei was suspicious. They moved behind a building when some students started staring at them as they argued. Shirou sighed, glad that the inquisitive glances from his classmates were off him for now.

Allen, who had been following him from a distance, appeared in no time as Tohsaka explained the situation. When Shirou had left the house, Allen simply followed him, a few steps behind him, like a shadow. Shirou had looked at him, confused and maybe exasperated, but Allen had only arched an eyebrow at him and he decided to let the boy be. He actually felt better having his companion nearby.

After a brief argument with Tohsaka, in which Allen tried halfheartedly to keep things logical and not over the top, they split up to start with their day at school. But before leaving the back of the building, Allen stopped Shirou with a hand on his shoulder.

“Do you even know how to prove that Issei is not a Master?” he asked, not quite convinced. Shirou smiled nervously.

“I’ll think of something, don’t worry,” he said and left quickly, so Allen wouldn’t be able to complain.

“I wasn’t worried before, but I am now,” he heard the other boy mutter, before Allen jumped over the building to hide who knew where. Shirou only hoped he wouldn’t get lost again.

He made a beeline towards the student council room, trying to think of a better idea than the only one he had at the moment, but by the time he got to the door, he didn’t have any other option, so he decided to carry it out, hoping that it wouldn’t tear apart their friendship.

Fortunately, it didn’t, but Issei was quite annoyed with him, so he left the room at once. Shirou could almost hear Allen laughing at him.

Students were not permitted to stay on campus after school hours, so Shirou followed the flow of students to the gate. Allen was waiting for him, leaning on the wall. Shirou could see some of the other students giving the boy curious glances and more than one group of girls giggling nearby while darting glances at him.

Allen noticed him immediately, smiled and got closer. It was then that Shirou noticed the cup of something warm in his hand.

“Where did you get that?” asked Shirou, pointing at the plastic cup. It smelled like tea, but it also smelled like a lot of sugar, so Shirou wasn’t really sure. Allen blinked, then his smile widened.

“There’s a coffee shop near the school,” he shrugged. “It gets a bit boring just hanging around here with nothing to do.”

Shirou hummed and started walking. He wondered if Sakura had been discharged from the hospital and decided to check, just in case. He wanted to make sure that she was okay. Then he frowned as Allen took another sip of his tea.

“What a minute, where did you get the money for that?” he asked, tilting his head towards his companion. “I don’t remember giving you money or anything.”

“Ah, apparently Taiga likes card games,” explained Allen, with a smile a little too wide and shining eyes that Shirou couldn’t decide made him nervous or afraid. Maybe a mix of both. He debated with himself if he should ask anymore, but Allen continued. “We played a few rounds of poker last night, and she said that the game wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t bet, so…”

So Allen had gotten the money from Taiga playing poker. Okay, then, time to stop asking, because Allen’s grin was getting too close to a malicious smirk. Allen looked too smug. Shirou didn’t want to learn anymore and made a mental note to himself that playing card games with Allen was a bad idea. Specially if money was involved.

“We’ll go visit Sakura first, okay?” he said, changing the matter as quickly as he could without giving away his nervousness. Allen nodded calmly.

“I don’t mind, I want to make sure she’s okay too,” he answered with a small smile. Shirou couldn’t help his own. Sakura and Allen had become fast friends in just a few days. He was so glad that it worked out. Allen hummed. “So, did you figure out if Issei is a Master?”

“He isn’t,” he shook his head, and Allen was about to ask something else, an amused smile on his face, when Shirou frowned, confused, and called, “Tohsaka?”

When she didn’t answer, he got closer, not noticing how Allen had stopped a few steps behind. Tohsaka grabbed his scarf and pulled him into an alley, followed by Allen himself, who was frowning deeply.

“There. In front of Sakura’s house,” muttered Tohsaka, and she moved them so they could see. “See that weird guy standing there?”

There was a man standing outside the gate, with his hands casually in his pockets. Blond hair…

“A foreigner?” asked Shirou, and he saw Allen jump from the corner of his eye.

“Right. He’s been watching the Matou house for a while now,” explained Tohsaka. Then she startled. “He’s coming!”

Shirou and Tohsaka stayed behind the plant as the strange man walked down the street. Shirou had to drag Allen to the side so he didn’t stay in the middle of the alley where the man could see him clear as day, which was pretty easy, because the boy seemed to be lost in thought.

“I wonder if he’s the guy who was talking to Sakura,” wondered Tohsaka when the coast was clear. Shirou blinked.

“To Sakura?” he repeated. Why would someone like him be talking to Sakura?

“Yeah, it seemed like he was asking Sakura for directions,” explained Tohsaka, voice low and thoughtful. Shirou frowned.

“I’ve met him before, too,” said Allen and Shirou jumped, looking back at him with wide eyes.

“Uh? When?” he asked. Allen hadn’t been around much to start with, and the first days of his stay he hadn’t gone with him to school, so when…?

“On my first day here, I took a short walk around,” explained Allen, gaze locked on the floor, eyes thoughtful. “He said something about me not being supposed to be here and how he didn’t have my Noble Phantasm on his collection or something like that.” Then Allen wrinkled his nose. “He also said that he wouldn’t call me a ‘mongrel’. He called me a ‘foreigner’ instead.”

“Foreigner…” mumbled Tohsaka, hand under her chin like so many times before. Shirou blinked at Allen.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked. He wasn’t able to hide the hurt in his voice.

“Ah, I guess I forgot,” said Allen apologetically, scratching his hair with his free hand. He still had the cup of tea. “I was still trying to piece everything together, and then you came home hurt, so it slipped my mind.”

Shirou grimaced, the hurt turning into guilt in a second. Right, he completely brushed over how chaotic everything had been at the beginning. Not that it wasn’t anymore, but it had been a really big change in his life. Tohsaka hummed by his side, tapping her fingers against her cheek.

“If he knows about you, Allen, then he’s probably related to the Holy Grail War,” said Tohsaka. Shirou felt worry crawling its way up his throat. “A Servant, perhaps?”

“His presence is difficult to figure out,” nodded Allen.

There was silence between them as they tried, and failed, to find a logical answer to why that man had been there moments before and who he could be. Then Tohsaka blinked and jumped.

“W-wait, what are you doing here?” she asked. Shirou frowned at her.

“I could ask you the same thing,” he replied. Allen rolled his eyes by his side.

“We’re here to visit Sakura,” he explained, finally remembering that he still had tea and taking a sip. “It was actually Shirou’s idea.”

“What’s with that evil grin?” asked Shirou, frowning at Tohsaka again.

“Nothing!” she said, but Shirou was sure that it wasn’t ‘nothing’.

Shirou took that opportunity to fill her in as Allen finished his tea and spent the next few minutes wandering around the empty street mumbling to himself in what Shirou recognized as English about the lack of rubbish bins and how the future wasn’t that different from the past, after all.

Apparently, Tohsaka had been worried about Sakura too, but when Shirou mentioned that she would be discharged from the hospital that same day, she just up and left. And then she asked a question that was oddly specific that Shirou couldn’t even begin to understand or unpack, let alone answer in a way that was probably what Tohsaka wanted.

They finally split up again after agreeing to brainstorm ideas to find Caster the next day at school. Shirou noticed how Allen’s eyes didn’t leave Tohsaka after that strange question, gaze considering.


 

“After Dad died, I kind of stopped,” said Shirou, rubbing his shoulder.

Allen hadn’t used a sword this time, which had only made Shirou apprehensive to attack him. That had been a huge mistake on his side, because Allen without a sword was probably even more dangerous than Allen with one, so Shirou found himself being thrown around like a ragdoll more than usual.

Apparently, Allen and Taiga were closer than he had realized, because for Allen to know how good Taiga was at kendo meant that he had seen her at it. Those two were dangerous together, he concluded.

“That’s right,” nodded Taiga. “After Kiritsugu-san died, Shirou barely touched his bamboo sword again. It made me so sad.”

“Don’t bring up the past now,” said Shirou. His gut twisted at the memory and he insistently pushed it down again, because if he started dwelling on the past, that meant that his dreams wouldn’t be pleasant that night.

“So your father died?” asked Allen, voice soft. Shirou turned to him, confused at his voice, but nodded. Allen bowed his head slightly. “My condolences, then. I know how hard it is to lose your father.”

“Oh?” It was one of those rare moments where Taiga actually turned serious. “Allen, did your father die too?”

“When I was around 10 years old,” nodded Allen. Shirou noticed how his eyes were more guarded than usual, how his hands clenched on his lap and how his mouth was set in a thin line. Then Allen shook his head slightly and his smile was back in place. “Anyway, Shirou’s childhood stories?”

“You wanna hear? Do you?” asked Taiga, back to being her usual cheery self. She probably caught on how Allen didn’t actually want to talk about his dead father, and neither did Shirou, for that matter.

“Yes,” nodded Allen and Shirou sighed. “I don’t have much to share myself, so I’m curious.”

Shirou wondered, as Taiga rambled on about how Kiritsugu and him were polar opposites, if Allen didn’t have much to share about his childhood because he didn’t actually have a happy one. He didn’t know much about him, but the little snippets that Allen threw to the air from time to time pointed to his life being a living nightmare from the start. He might not be a genius, but Shirou could see it clear as day.

Still, he supposed that it was nice that the both of them had something in common.

“Why a champion of justice?” asked Allen and Shirou blinked, returning to the real world.

“That’s… a hard question to answer,” said Shirou. He paused for a moment. “Because I look up to it, I guess.”

“Look up to it how?” asked Allen. His gaze was clear, focused, and Shirou wondered if he had a reason for nailing him like he was. “To being a champion of justice, you mean?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Shirou scratched his head, moving his gaze away from Allen’s grey eyes. He wondered if Allen thought that it was something childish, taking into account that Allen himself fought.

“Why?” asked Allen again.

“Well…” How did he even begin to explain that? That it wasn’t actually his dream? That it was a promise he made? How would someone like Allen take it? “Sorry. I’m gonna head back to my room.”

He could feel Allen’s intense gaze on his back, Taiga’s confused eyes, but he didn’t turn around and he didn’t stop. He walked back to his room on autopilot, mind buzzing with images from the past, from his father.

He was tucked into bed in no time, staring up at the ceiling with unseeing eyes, until the door to his dark room opened and Allen slipped in quietly like a ghost. Shirou pretended to be asleep, but he was sure that Allen knew that he was awake. He listened as Allen changed into his own clothes and slipped into bed. There was silence between them, a tense silence that Shirou was tempted to break but didn’t.

“Shirou,” called Allen, but Shirou didn’t make a move. “It may be none of my business, but…” a pause, and Shirou could feel Allen’s gaze on his back, “you should walk your own path. Don’t let other people choose it for you.”

Shirou heard Allen turn around and sigh. Even as Allen fell into his usual light sleep were any suspicious sound would wake him up immediately, Shirou stared at the wall for hours.

My path, uh?

Chapter Text

“We’ve found him,” nodded Tohsaka.

“After what happened with Issei, I think it’s crazy to suspect someone just because they live at Ryuudou Temple,” sighed Shirou.

“Why?” asked Tohsaka. “He couldn’t be more suspicious. He must be the Master.”

“I agree with Rin, Shirou,” said Allen from his perch on the fence. “From what you’ve told me, that “fiancée” of his is Caster. It all adds up.”

“We attack tonight,” said Tohsaka with a confident grin. Shirou jumped. “Emiya-kun, you should prepare too.”

“Hang on,” stammered Shirou. “Tonight?”

“Of course,” nodded Tohsaka. “There’s no guarantee that Kuzuki-sensei will come to school tomorrow. We’ll test him on his way to see if he’s a Master.”

“Test him? How?” asked Shirou. He didn’t like where this was going.

“I’ll hit him with a light Gandr shot,” explained Tohsaka. “Even if Kuzuki-sensei is a normal person, he’ll only be bedridden for a few days.”

“That doesn’t work either,” sighed Shirou.

“Isn’t there another way?” asked Allen.

“If he’s a Master, it’ll probably turn into a fight.” Shirou stood up. “And you’ll be in danger.”

“I can handle him myself,” shrugged Tohsaka.

“We’ll go with you, don’t worry,” said Allen with a smile. Tohsaka smiled back at him and made finger-guns. Shirou just hoped everything would be okay.


 

It was lightly snowing when they got to their meeting place. Allen had decided to stick with his own clothes for once after getting a look at Shirou’s scarce winter clothing, so he moved even more like a ghost than before.

Kuzuki would be walking down the gas station where they were waiting soon, so they used the time to fill each other in. Shirou shouldn’t have been as glad as he was when Tohsaka said that she had left Archer at home, saying that she didn’t want him around Caster.

They stayed close to the border in the mountain to keep an eye on the road and Shirou reinforced a piece of steel to use as a weapon, just in case, even though he wasn’t really sure he could hold up against a real mage. He had barely escaped Tohsaka’s attacks when she ambushed him at school what seemed like years ago and he only got away because they found a common enemy.

Kuzuki appeared when Tohsaka was about to make some kind of plan with Allen, so they had to get in position immediately. Shirou had a bad feeling.

Tohsaka aimed and shot as soon as Kuzuki was in her sight from where they were hiding inside the rundown building. Shirou saw his umbrella catch flames, so he tried to get outside, but Tohsaka held him back.

Before his eyes, Caster materialized in a wave of violet light.

He had to check, he had to make sure that he had to fight one of his teachers, so he got out of their hiding place, no matter how much Tohsaka complained and tugged on his arm.

Kuzuki didn’t know what Caster had been doing, but he hadn’t been, wasn’t, controlled by her. That made the two confessions clash in Shirou’s head and he felt disoriented for a moment. And then he said that the deaths of strangers were of no concern to him and Shirou frowned deeply.

Apparently, Kuzuki wasn’t a mage. And he wouldn’t care about the Holy Grail War or if Caster killed people and Shirou could only stare, because what the hell .

Tohsaka hurried out of her hiding place, which was closer than Shirou had expected, and threw a few jewels to Caster, yelling at Allen to come out. Caster blocked the attack, but Allen had already got out of his own hiding place in the woods and was running straight at Kuzuki, his white cape flowing behind him like the wings of an angel of death.

Caster tried to attack him, but Allen wasted no time and whipped his cape so it blocked the attack with no trouble. And he got closer, and closer, and closer to Kuzuki, until he was close enough to slash with his long talons, silver eyes ablaze with something close to fury.

Caster yelled, Tohsaka and Shirou stared, and Allen’s eyes widened when Kuzuki grabbed his wrist before his claw could injure him in any way.

“You underestimate me?” he asked, his eyes more expressive than Shirou had ever seen them. And Allen smiled .

“Of course not,” he said and with a fluid motion, twisted out of his grip and put distance between them, all in the matter of seconds.

Shirou took it back; Kuzuki Soichirou was a mage. And a good one, if Shirou had to guess from how fast he moved. He could barely keep up with his movements, and he worried about Allen.

But when the dust cleared, he could see Allen dodging every punch and kick with the grace of an expert fighter and blocking the hits he couldn’t miss with his arms. And, what was most important, he was attacking back . Kuzuki was fast, yeah, but Allen almost seemed at home with that kind of fight, and Shirou remembered distantly how Allen had said that he was, in essence, a hand-to-hand fighter.

Shirou was reminded of his own magic, except that it wasn’t used to reinforce objects, but to reinforce his own body . He wondered how Allen was keeping up if that was how Kuzuki fought. How could Allen block his reinforced punches like they were just a normal ones? How could Allen keep up with someone like him ?

Tohsaka and him ended up fighting Caster, trying to make some sort of strategy as they went, but it didn’t look too good on their part. Really, the ones who actually seemed to be having the time of their lives were the other two. In a lull in their fight, all three of them turned to the other two when they distanced from each other again.

“You’re actually keeping up with me,” even if Kuzuki’s voice was as monotone as ever, Shirou could still notice some interest in it. It made Shirou’s skin crawl.

“If I was an actual Saber, you would’ve demolished me by now,” shrugged Allen. Shirou looked with wide eyes as Allen’s white cape disappeared in a waterfall of white light and green dust. Allen cracked his knuckles and smirked. “Luckily for you, this is actually my area of expertise.”

Shirou hoped that Allen deactivating his Innocence was not him underestimating Kuzuki, because that wasn’t a mistake that they could make, but that didn’t look to be the case, because without the cape flowing behind him, Allen was able to move faster and more fluidly.

Tohsaka and him were trying as much as they could to not let Caster interfere with Allen and Kuzuki’s fight, but as the fight dragged on, it was clear how impatient and worried Caster was. She kept shooting glances as Kuzuki between attacks, and Shirou noticed how her hands shook more and more as Kuzuki failed to stop Allen from throwing him to the other side of the gas station with just his left arm.

Then it all went badly.

Allen kicked Kuzuki in his stomach, hard , and the teacher coughed up blood. Caster saw and Shirou shivered at her completely enraged growl before she cast a powerful spell that threw Shirou back and made Tohsaka slam against a railing. She fell on the floor, unconscious.

Then Caster hurried to where Kuzuki was doubled over with Allen over him, making Shirou lose his balance with the gust of wind she left in her wake, clenched her gloved hand around Allen’s white hair and pulled . Allen had been so engrossed with Kuzuki that he didn’t have time to react as Caster growled and blasted him away to break through the wall of the gas station. He didn’t reappear.

He was the only one standing as Caster and Kuzuki turned to him like he was an easy prey and he clenched his jaw. Both, Tohsaka, who had agreed to an alliance with him even when he didn’t know what he was doing and who had been so patient with him, and Allen, who had protected him so many times and who was so patient, were counting on him, he couldn’t let them down, he had to do something, protect them. And to do that…

...To do that he needed strong weapons. Strong weapons that would hold their own against Kuzuki’s mad strength and Caster’s raw power.

Something like Archer’s swords.

Incredible pain shot through his hands, his arms, it spread through his whole body and he coughed, but he fought to keep his focus, to keep that image in his head, until he could feel steel forming in his hands and he gripped the two short swords as tight as he could, hands shaking and sight wavering all around him like some kind of dream.

Then a blur of white shot from the building and slashed at Kuzuki, but Caster was faster and she flew away before the one who Shirou could now recognize as a winded Allen could hurt him.

After Caster and her Master disappeared in a wave of toxic violet, Allen and Tohsaka got closer to him.

“Are you injured anywhere?” asked Allen, looking over Shirou and shooting nervous glances at the swords still in his hands.

“And what are those?” asked Tohsaka, brow furrowed in thought and confusion. “I thought that fortification magic was the only type of magic you could do.”

After a brief argument with Tohsaka that Shirou couldn’t even figure out if it was actually an argument or not, they decided to call it a day and head home.

But before Shirou could as much as stand up, a new wave of piercing pain spread through him and he winced. Allen was there in seconds and his gloved hand clutched his shoulder to keep him from toppling over.

“I’m fine,” smiled Shirou, but Allen’s expression didn’t change to a smile.

At least Shirou was sure that Allen wasn’t angry at him or at himself, so that was good.

Chapter Text

“Let’s skip training today,” said Shirou. “You were hurt pretty badly, right?”

“I’ve had worse,” shrugged Allen, but his gaze was intent. “I’m more worried about you. Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yeah, I’m alright,” nodded Shirou with a smile that he hoped was enough to put Allen at ease. It didn’t. 

“Then why don’t you move your left arm?” asked Allen, arching an eyebrow. 

“Um, well…” started Shirou, but Allen shook his head and entered their shared bedroom. 

Shirou hesitated for a moment at the door, running his hand over the open sliding door, but after maybe a minute of watching as Allen dug out his futon and his pajamas, he sighed and entered. 

Like Allen had said, he didn’t move much his left arm and when he did he usually flinched. He was awfully aware of Allen’s glances as he changed, but he was too tired to keep pretending that he was perfectly okay and after a few more minutes, he couldn’t hold his hiss of pain down. 

“I’m pretty sure your pain is not physical, am I right?” spoke Allen from where he was sitting on his bed. Shirou turned to him, surprised, and blinked at him. Allen tilted his head. “And you don’t have any scars, so it can’t be phantom pains like mine.” Allen got phantom pains? Wait, did that meant that he had more scars than the one-? “So, what is it?”

Shirou bit his lip and lowered his head, rubbing his arm. Up and down, up and down, and then he sighed. 

“I don’t really know, but I guess that it’s because of what I did earlier,” he said in the end. Allen hummed. Then Shirou risked a glance at the other boy. “You get phantom pains?”

“Mm? Oh, from time to time,” shrugged Allen, but he didn’t elaborate. Shirou wondered if he got them even now that he was in another world and in another situation, but he decided against asking, just in case. 

The sharp pain returned and he grimaced slightly. For a moment, he wondered if maybe he should try to learn more about Allen, because he still didn’t know much about the boy and because it could be a good idea to ignore the pain in his arm. But then again… They’d had a rough night, so he didn’t want to keep Allen awake and from resting just because he was having a hard time dealing with his pain. 

“Hey, Allen,” he called. He could give it a go, in any case. He hadn’t asked about his sword yet, after all. “That time you used your sword… what did you mean? About it working like it should?”

“Oh, that, I guess I didn’t explain,” hummed Allen. He sat more comfortably on the bed and covered his legs with the comforter. “My sword only harms evil.”

“Uh, what?” was Shirou’s smart reply and Allen smiled ruefully.

“Maybe I should explain a bit how my world works,” he said. 

And that was how Shirou spent the next minutes listening as Allen made a brief summary of his world’s hidden history, the two matters, Innocence and Dark Matter, the Black Order, the Noah, the Millenium Earl, the Heart, the Akuma . It was a war, the Holy War, and even if Shirou had known that Allen had been fighting, seriously fighting, for a long while, actually knowing just how complicated and dangerous that war was made his own seem like child play.

He must have had fallen asleep at some point, because he woke up tangled in his own comforter. At least his arm didn’t hurt when he sat up on his bed and poked at it experimentally. 

Allen was still sleeping next to him, which might have been a first, because, even if both of them were early risers, Allen was usually up before even him. He must have been really tired, then, and that only made him feel guilty, because Allen had spent a good part of the night explaining the basics of his world to him. 

He was quite sure that Allen hadn’t told him all the details, because Allen’s words from previous days made it sound like there were a lot of secrets and hidden allies and enemies and the war looked too complicated to summarize it as much as Allen had. But he was still thankful, because not only had Allen helped him fall asleep as his arm was in piercing pain, he had opened up to him enough to not sugarcoat the war he had been (would have to return to) fighting. 

It was still early, so he tucked the comforter around Allen’s shoulders neatly, because apparently his companion had had a restless night, and padded quietly outside to make a breakfast as thanks, after a worrisome moment when his legs didn't seem to work and he couldn't get up. 

He didn't cook too much after realizing how his left arm didn't seem to cooperate with him. He couldn't grab anything with his left hand and his whole arm trembled after every movement. 

He tried to act normal when Allen finally appeared, yawning widely and wearing an oversized sweater that Shirou didn't even remember he had, and he was maybe a little glad that Allen was still too sleepy to notice his condition. It was just before he had to leave, so he told Allen to stay home for the day, resting, and he promised to come home as soon as the classes ended after seeing his companion frown. 

His day was uneventful, except for the numbness on his arm that didn't seem to go away at all. He almost forgot to meet with Tohsaka, but in the end he decided to pass. Tohsaka would have seeked him out if something had happened, but she didn’t, and he didn’t really like the idea of Tohsaka finding out that he was having problems with his arm. It was already bad enough that Allen had figured it out. 

So, he went home early, if only to get on Allen’s good side again and calm him down. Even then, he arrived slightly late, but Allen wasn’t roaming the gate with furrowed brows when he got there, so Shirou supposed that was a good sign. 

Allen turned up when he was making lunch, just in time to see how he dropped a dish and it shattered noisily on the ground. Shirou tried to ignore Allen’s sharp gaze as he cleaned it up. 

“It isn’t getting better, is it?” asked Allen from behind him, and Shirou startled, turning his head to look at him. Then he grimaced and looked down again.

“It isn’t,” he admitted, because it was just too obvious. Allen, who had been with his arms crossed, sighed and dropped them by his sides. 

“It’s okay, I’ll clean it up,” he said and he smiled slightly when Shirou lifted his head again. 

“...Okay,” he nodded and stood up, just in time to hear the doorbell. He exchanged glances with Allen, before his companion nodded in the direction of the front door and started taking care of the broken pieces on the floor. 

It turned out to be Tohsaka, who had sought him out after he ‘forgot’ about their regular meetings. When they even agreed to do just that was beyond Shirou, but he couldn’t exactly send Tohsaka away when she had come all the way to his house, so he followed her as she walked around the house like it was hers. She greeted Allen with a warm smile and Allen did the same. Shirou wondered when they had become that close, but when he started thinking about it, he noticed that they had always got along perfectly well. Shirou was the one who clashed the most with her, for reasons that he didn’t even know himself. 

The lunch was calm, not silent, not noisy either, and when they finished, Allen was the first to stand up to carry the plates back to the kitchen, sending a pointed glance at Shirou. 

They got to business quickly, agreeing that they would need to attack Caster head-on, at the temple. Then Tohsaka paused. 

“Why are you sitting so far away?” she asked and Allen snorted from his place. 

“Because you stole my usual place,” complained Shirou and, yeah, maybe it was childish, but that was his seat for years. 

“The question is how we’ll corner Caster,” said Tohsaka. Allen hummed. 

“That would be dangerous,” he said. “People who feel in danger usually do something crazy to get out of the situation.” Here he grimaced and Shirou frowned when he saw a flash of something close to guilt in his usual calm eyes. “She could even take out the entire temple.”

“Don’t say such things, Allen,” complained Shirou and Allen’s eyes bore into him. He flinched. Allen was talking from experience, wasn’t he? “Are you saying that Caster might self-destruct?”

“It’s likely,” nodded Tohsaka, completely unbothered, and Allen followed her lead.

“I think so,” he said simply. Shirou blinked. 

“You two are totally in sync,” he mumbled. Then he looked over at the clock on the wall and he jumped. “When did it get this late?” He got up and stretched his back. “I guess we should wrap things up. I need to get dinner started.”

“What is it, Emiya-kun?” asked Tohsaka when she saw how Shirou was looking at her. “Why are you staring at me?”

“No, I was just…” he stuttered, and he could feel the blood rise to his cheeks. Tohsaka smirked. 

“Oh, I get it,” she said, and Shirou didn’t like her sing-song voice at all. “In public, we’re fellow Master, so I don’t bother you there, but inside your own home, you revert back to your natural instincts.”

“I’m a guy, so it’s a perfectly ordinary reaction,” he tried to amend, but Tohsaka was still smirking and Allen was no help at all, what with him looking at them with an amused but exasperated gaze. 

“But don’t you think it’s strange?” continued Tohsaka. “From what I’ve heard, Fujimura-sensei and Sakura are always coming over. I shouldn’t be any different.”

“What about Allen, though?” he blurted out and Allen looked at him with an arched eyebrow. He sent a call for help at him, but Allen only smiled innocently at him. Allen was of no help at all. 

“Allen is different, you see,” said Tohsaka, still smirking, and she exchanged an amused and playful glance with Allen. “He’s a gentleman, after all.”

“Look, just go home, okay?” he sighed. 

“Oh? How can I go home when we’ve yet to settle on a strategy,” continued Tohsaka and Shirou had the urge to rip his hair out. Allen chuckled. 

“Just let her stay, Shirou,” he said and Shirou sent a betrayed look at him. “It’s not like we don’t have room for her.”

“Don’t you start too,” he grumbled and he let himself fall to the floor, grateful that the floor wasn’t made from hard wood like other houses. He heard Allen laughing, and then Tohsaka, and sighed. “All right, fine. But Fujimura and Sakura will probably show up later, so if anything, you should worry about convincing her.”

“I know, don’t worry,” said Tohsaka, sounding far too pleased with herself. “I have  Allen on my side, so it should be okay.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” he grumbled from the floor.

Allen and Tohsaka stayed talking in quiet tones while he started on the hot pot. It was a cold day, so it would be nice to have something warm for dinner. Fujimura was as energetic as ever as she entered the room like a miniature storm and proceed to cover his eyes with her freezing hands, almost making him pour the hot pot all over the counter and the floor. 

Fujimura finally realized that Tohsaka was with them after Shirou carried the hot pot to the table and started asking questions. Shirou watched from the floor as Tohsaka and Fujimura argued between them about who had less common sense, until Allen sighed softly from his side. 

“Tohsaka is staying here for tonight, nothing more, nothing less,” he said, and maybe it was because Fujimura had become close with him that she stopped and thought it over. Then she nodded. 

“I see, I see, so it’s not Shirou,” she said and all three of them tilted their heads. confused. “Well, I’ve got no say in what you two do, so I won’t come between your relationship, just remember that-”

“It’s not like that at all!” screeched Tohsaka, standing up from the seat she had been hoarding all evening, Shirou’s seat, and waving her hands in the air, trying, and failing, to backtrack and come up with something that explained everything. Allen sighed again and closed his eyes, rubbing his brow with his right hand. “Emiya-kun and I’ll be studying for a test after dinner. That’s all!”

Fujimura still looked miffed and kept shooting mistrustful glances at Tohsaka for all dinner, but in the end she just laid her head on the table after dinner and stared at the TV like every other night. 

“I’ll do the dishes,” said Allen when he carried them to the counter and saw how Shirou’s arm shook when he tried to grab them. “I’m living here for free, it’s the least I can do.”

Even then, when Shirou looked up, his gaze met Tohsaka’s and he hurriedly looked away. She had seen. 

Shirou retreated to take a shower. A part of him hoped that his arm would get better after a hot shower that relaxed his muscles, but when he came out, nothing had changed. When he returned, he blinked when he didn’t see Tohsaka. 

“She's in the courtyard,” explained Allen, sipping the tea between his hands. Now that Fujimura was asleep and Tohsaka was away, he didn’t hesitate to show more of his left hand that was usually covered by his leather gloves or oversized sleeves. “You should go with her.”

Shirou ignored Allen’s knowing eyes and smile and walked out into the courtyard. 


 

“More magic training tonight?” asked Allen’s voice from the door and Shirou jumped. 

“Yeah, Kiritsugu taught me to never miss a day,” he explained. Allen didn’t waste time and got closer, moving around the cottage with expert grace until he could sit next to him. “But I guess that was the only thing I really learned from him.”

“He never taught you about other mages or anything?” asked Allen, genuinely curious. Shirou hummed.

“Nah. After all, despite being my teacher, he wasn’t much of a mage himself,” he explained. “He was a poor excuse for an adult. He’d say that if you were going to enjoy something, then you should enjoy it to the fullest, and then he’d play around like a kid.”

Allen remained silent and Shirou risked a glance at him. He was looking up, outside the still open door, at the sky and at the snow that was falling. There was something in his expression, in his eyes, that made Shirou wonder if it had been a good idea to talk about his father. Allen had lost his own father when he was young, right?

“He sounds a lot like my father,” mumbled Allen in such a soft voice that if there had been any other sound, Shirou would have missed it. Shirou’s eyes softened. 

“You miss him, don’t you?” he said in a quiet voice meant to calm, but Allen flinched like he had been hit. Shirou blinked and reached out, worried, but hesitated. 

Allen turned his head away, hiding his face with his long hair that he hadn’t bothered to tie up, and he moved, slow, deliberate movements, until he had hugged his legs and propped his head up on his knees.

“I do,” he said, two short words, but two words that had so much behind them that Shirou couldn’t even figure it out. The only thing he knew, was that the topic wasn’t one to bring up and that Allen was hurting. What had happened in his world? Then Allen took a shaky breath. “I heard you. When you were talking with Tohsaka.”

“Uh? What?” was his smart reply and then he felt a surge of anger and nervousness. That was a private conversation. That was a private conversation that he didn’t want Allen to hear. He gulped. 

“My words from that day still stand,” said Allen and finally turned his head to look at him again. His eyes were as determined as ever. “You should choose your own path, Shirou. I know from experience that you shouldn’t let other people choose for you. You’re the only one who can choose your own fate.”

“Wise words, Walker,” said a new voice and Shirou jumped, as did Allen, but he stood up, left arm ready and eyes blazing. Archer appeared at the door, arms crossed and face pinched. He sighed. “Relax. I’m not going to do anything to him.”

Allen hummed but his shoulders remained tense, even as Archer’s gaze moved to Shirou and he guessed correctly what was going on with his body. 

Shirou let Archer do his thing and Allen remained close, leaning against a wall as Archer explained his situation. Even if he was tense because he was with someone who hadn’t hesitated to kill him just days before, he felt strangely safe while under Allen’s careful gaze, so he listened intently to Archer’s explanation about magic circuits. 

When Archer let some mana flow through him, he jumped at the flash of pain that faded as the seconds ticked by and Archer backed away, saying that he would recover in a few days and that he would be a better mage. 

“You know a lot about this, Archer,” pointed out Allen. Shirou looked at him, but he didn’t look back, silver eyes intent in the other man. 

“I went through something similar,” said Archer, voice monotone. Allen frowned slightly. “At first, I lost the use of one arm.”

The Archer turned to walk away, but Shirou still had questions he needed answered, so he glared at his back. 

“Wait,” called Shirou. “What did you mean by ‘let your ideals drag you to your death’?”

“It’s self-explanatory,” shrugged Archer, ever the calm man, and Shirou could feel Allen’s gaze on him again. “You should listen to Walker here. He’s awfully similar to you, but at least he has some more common sense. Some more self-preservation.”

“Then what the hell are you fighting for?” he asked, fists shaking. 

“That’s obvious. I fight for myself- simple as that,” explained Archer. He wasn’t even looking back. 

“Just for yourself?” asked Shirou. 

“That’s right,” continued Archer. “If you desire to fulfill your ideal of nobody getting hurt, then so be it. But only if that desire is truly yours.” Shirou blinked. That was… basically what Allen himself had told him, wasn’t it? “If you fight of your own free will, you bring the consequences upon yourself. Accepting them is a part of that ideal. But if that desire was borrowed from another, the ideals you uphold are mere fantasies. One must have a reason for fighting. Isn’t that right, Walker? You’re fighting a war, aren’t you?”

“It’s true, Shirou,” was Allen’s answer and when his silver eyes looked back at him, Shirou flinched at their intensity. “You need to understand that if you keep going like this, you won’t get anywhere and you’ll only suffer.”

“Salvation by another’s hands is not salvation, it’s like money,” continued Archer. “When used, it passed into another’s hands. It’s true that you can probably achieve your ideal to save others. But you have no desire to save yourself. You will repeat the circle until you die, still clinging to ideals that aren’t your own. That is why your ideals are meaningless. In the end, you can’t save neither others nor yourself. A lie of a life.”

And with that, Archer was gone in a waterfall of blue dust. 

“You’re wrong,” he growled and Allen turned to him with surprised eyes. “That isn’t true.”

Allen didn’t say anything and just left silently, like a ghost. 

Chapter Text

After running away from Tohsaka’s room he returned to the living room, where Allen was mixing the ingredients like scientists mixed different substances, with his white hair still mussed from sleep tied into a messy ponytail. He looked up when Shirou slammed the door with more force than necessary and yawned, hiding his mouth with his red hand now that there wasn’t anyone else in the room. 

“So, how is your arm?” he asked, voice still sluggish in a way that Shirou had never heard before. He could pick his English accent and it reminded him of when foreign politicians talked on TV. 

“The numbness on my left side is gone,” he said with a wide smile. It faltered a bit when he remembered that it had been Archer who had helped him and the conversation that followed, but if Allen had noticed it, he didn’t comment on it. “It still feels a little heavy, though.”

“That’s good,” nodded Allen and yawned again. Shirou smiled. 

“Had a good sleep?” he teased, and Allen nodded.

“It’s been a while since I last had a good night’s rest,” he admitted, scratching his head and messing his hair even more. 

Tohsaka chose that moment to open the door and shuffle inside, eyes still vacant, and when she sat down next to Allen Shirou almost laughed when he could compare the two sleepy-heads side by side. Almost, because he was reminded of what had happened moments before. He carefully and slowly slid a cup of tea to her. 

“We’re going out,” she said. Allen looked at her curiously. 

“Where?” he asked. 

“The next town over,” nodded Tohsaka, taking a sip of tea. 

“For what?” asked Shirou this time. 

“What else?  To have fun, of course,” said Tohsaka, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Allen seemed interested, at least. “It’s a date, dummy.”

“A date?” repeated Shirou, because surely he had heard wrong. “Between who and who?”

“Me and you,” answered Tohsaka and Allen hid his smile behind his cup of tea. 

“Okay, me and you-” Shirou blinked. “Wait, what?!”

Shirou ignored Allen’s knowing glances as he debated on what to wear for the so-called ‘date’. Apparently, Allen gave up on him after a while and threw some clothes at him, chuckling and getting out of the room when he heard that Fujimura was up and around. He was probably going to tell her all about ‘the date’. 

And of course he had, because when Shirou got to the front door, Fujimura was smiling widely and her eyebrows didn’t seem to want to stop, and he tried to act like nothing was going on, even though Allen was waiting by the door with Tohsaka, smiling all the while. 

They got to the bus station just in time to get one that would leave them just in the centre of the town, and Allen looked curiously as Tohsaka paid the trip with her card. Allen hurried to take the seat next to the window, almost acting like a kid, and Tohsaka and him exchanged an amused glance before following him. 

“I suppose you don’t have buses in your world?” asked Tohsaka when the bus started moving. Allen turned to look at them with a small embarrassed smile. 

“We don’t,” he said, and Shirou almost expected him to leave it at that, if only because he hadn’t told Tohsaka anything about his world and the war that took place. “It's the 19th century, you see.”

“Oh? The 19th century?” Tohsaka leaned forward and her eyes sparkled. Shirou was about to ask why she was that excited, when she continued. “That’s when magic started gaining momentum… then again, they’re different worlds…” She deflated slightly, but then smiled once more. “Tell me all about it!”

Even if Shirou knew about the war where his Servant fought, he didn’t actually know that much about 19th century Europe and Asia, other than what they learned fleetingly in History at school. To have someone who actually lived in that time period was amazing and much more informative than books and dull explanations from a teacher. Allen himself knew a lot about the world, its people, different cultures, all because he had traveled so much all his life, so the trip to the town seemed shorter than it was. 

“So, where shall we go?” asked Tohsaka, stretching her arms up. “Do you two have any requests?”

“Don’t ask me,” said Shirou, frowning. The trip was her idea, after all. 

“Should’ve known,” smirked Tohsaka, and then looked at Allen, who was looking around with curious eyes. “What about you?”

“I don’t really mind where we go,” shrugged Allen and Shirou looked at him, surprised and maybe worried, because that meant…

“Then you two are okay with completely submitting to my every whim?” asked Tohsaka, smirk widening. 

“Don’t be so sinister,” complained Shirou, but Tohsaka’s eyes met Allen’s and all Shirou could think was ‘oh no’. “Anyway, I said I’d tag along, not go on a date with you. I thought it might be nice for us to take a breather.”

“Let me stop you right there,” smiled Tohsaka. “That happens to be what people call a ‘date’. You won’t be very popular if you don’t know when to give in.”

“With who?” called Shirou after her when she walked away, hands behind her back. 

“Who indeed,” she chirped and Shirou could feel his eyebrow twitch. Allen chuckled by his side and poked him on the side. 

“C’mon, don’t be such a wet rag,” said Allen, genuine smile on his face. “Like you said, a breather is just what we need. If you try to tackle a war only worrying about everything you’ll become mad in no time.”

“Ugh, fine!” he caved in, throwing his hands in the air. Allen only laughed a bit more before following Tohsaka. 

Tohsaka wasted no time dragging them to a fancy cafe that served all kinds of deserts. Shirou was still miffed with the whole thing, but maybe it was worth it when he saw Allen’s face and then the waiter’s face when Allen ordered one of everything. 

“What about the money, Allen?” he hissed at the boy, who paused before he could take his first piece of cake.

“That’s not a problem, it’s on me,” chirped Tohsaka by his side. Shirou grumbled, but Allen turned to her with the most blinding smile yet.

“Rin, have I ever told you how much I love you?” said Allen and Tohsaka laughed. She had a nice laugh. 

“So? How is it?” asked Tohsaka, getting closer to him, and Shirou jumped.

“Um… I can’t really tell,” he mumbled and Allen’s foot hit his leg. He glared at his companion. Allen looked at him for a long moment, then at Tohsaka, then back at him. Shirou how his cheeks were getting more flushed by the second.

“What? I’m sure you can tell it’s sweet, at least!” continued Tohsaka, an annoyed tone in her voice. 

“Well, I guess it’s sweeter than it looks,” he managed to mumble and he looked away from her just in time to see Allen roll his eyes and grab his next plate of cake. 

After that, they went for a walk around the neighbourhood. Tohsaka bought a pastry for Allen after she saw him eyeing them for a while and Shirou swore that Allen was ready to become her Servant. 

As the day progressed, Shirou found himself relaxing more and more. Allen and Tohsaka carried a nice and calm conversation in front of him, talking about the people they saw, their clothes, different cultures from Japan. Shirou could admit that the trip had been a good idea.

They went to more cafes, bookstores, parks, even gift shops. Tohsaka insisted in trying on different glasses, even if they didn’t need them at all. She kept asking him what he thought and Shirou found himself completely lost, so he turned to Allen, but paused when he saw him. 

Allen had a pair of big round glasses in his hands and was looking at them with furrowed brows, eyes confused and pained. Shirou reached out to him, concerned, because that was not a expression he wanted to see on the boy’s face when they were having such a nice day. Tohsaka tilted her body to the side and then walked over to him with a wide grin.

“Try them on, Allen,” she said and took the glasses, opening them and handing them back to an insecure Allen. He tried them on and looked at himself after Tohsaka pointed at the mirror. Allen blinked, as if he was surprised to see himself with glasses. Tohsaka beamed. “They look good on you!”

“Really?” chuckled Allen and hurriedly took them off, almost as if they were burning him. 

Shirou frowned when he saw how his gloved fingers lingered on the wire-rimmed glasses for a moment, before putting them back and turning around to look at other things as Tohsaka gushed over some nice sunglasses she had found. 

It was when Tohsaka made him try on some round glasses that Allen returned, just in time to snort with Tohsaka. 

“I will never ever wear glasses,” he grumbled as they walked. Tohsaka was still laughing and Allen was trying to hide his wide smile. It wasn’t working. “I look young enough already!”

“Oh, right,” said Tohsaka, straightening out. “You’re self-conscious about that.”

“Even Allen is taller than me, and he’s a year younger than us,” he grumbled and  Tohsaka, who had walked faster to walk side by side with him, blinked, surprised. 

“Wait, you are?” she asked Allen. Allen’s smile was rueful. 

“I don’t know my exact age, but I think so,” he said and Tohsaka hummed thoughtfully, before turning back to Shirou again. 

“Well, I don’t think you have anything to worry about, Emiya-kun,” she said. Shirou blinked, confused. “You’re perfectly fine the way you are.”

“No, I’m not!” he complained. “I have to grow a little taller.”

“You’re pretty average, I’d say,” said Tohsaka and Allen nodded from behind them. 

They continued talking about it for some more time, with Tohsaka trying to convince him that he would grow taller with no problem. Shirou didn’t know how she could be that confident in her claims, but Allen seemed to catch on to something, because he was backing her up in no time and Shirou had no choice but to accept it. 

Tohsaka mentioned a ‘main event’ that confused both Allen and him, but when they got close to a tennis court, everything made sense. Shirou had never played, at all, and neither had Allen, of course, so Tohsaka explained the basics, which wasn’t hard, really, and they took their place in no time. 

“Oh wow,” mumbled Allen next to him and Shirou turned to him, finding the other with the bat against the ground and with a hand shielding his eyes, looking up- oh. 

“You threw it too far?” he asked with a small smile. Tohsaka laughed from his other side as Allen turned to him with an embarrassed smile. 

“Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to swing with my left arm…?” he said, voice small. 

Shirou reassured him that the staff wouldn’t make him pay and, even if they did, Tohsaka would take care of it, so Allen didn’t need to worry. Shirou always wondered why his companion was so paranoid with money, but he guessed that if he’d had a hard life as an orphan, he would think that money was important. 

After the eventful ‘main event’, they stayed resting at a park. Tohsaka had prepared some sandwiches and a fruit salad and Allen’s eyes were nearly sparkling at that point. It had been a very long while since Shirou had gone to a picnic and he wondered distantly if Allen had even done one in his entire life. He felt a bit depressed when he came to the conclusion that he most likely hadn’t and stopped dwelling on it. 

“I figured you’d scarfed down the bread as a midnight snack,” laughed Shirou and Tohsaka glared at him, cheeks ablaze. “Then again, that seems like something Allen would do.”

“Hey!” complained Allen, but he was munching on a sandwich already, so the anger didn’t last for long. 

Shirou was pretty surprised that Tohsaka was such a good cook, but he couldn’t exactly say why. He hadn’t actually thought that Tohsaka could cook at all, but didn’t she live alone? It would only make sense that she knew how to cook. 

Allen stayed silent as Tohsaka and him talked, munching on the sandwiched and looking around at the people walking around with children and dogs, with a small smile on his face. Shirou tried not to think that Allen’s life was so chaotic that he wasn't able to appreciate the calm moments of life and failed. 

They had to run to catch the bus when it started to rain. Tohsaka nailed him about the trip and Shirou finally relented after a while. 

“Shirou, look outside,” said Allen from the seat behind him and Shirou frowned at his serious voice. It was such a contrast to the peaceful voice he’d had all day that he feared the worst.

“Is something wrong?” asked Tohsaka. They couldn’t see anything?

“I don’t know, it’s weird,” he answered, looking at the driver… or at least, where the driver was supposed to be. 

There was an explosion next to them and Shirou braced against the window, eyes closed, and Tohsaka yelled. When the bus stopped, they got out of it and looked around at the destroyed bridge. Allen changed forms beside him and followed by activating his Innocence in a flash of green light. 

When the skeletons appeared it became clear.

Allen and Tohsaka slashed at them, but they were made out of water, so it wasn’t effective at all, they kept reforming like nothing even happened at all. 

Caster was looking at them with a smirk and Shirou felt cold in his bones. Something was wrong. Really wrong. 

“Perhaps you should look at this before you raise your weapon at me,” said Caster and her voice sounded too smug, and when Shirou looked up, his breath caught in his throat. 

Fujimura. 

His hands shook when he saw the violet thread around her neck and Allen growled by his side, claw lowered and cape floating in the wind. 

“What do you hope to accomplish by taking a hostage?” asked Tohsaka, voice cold as ice. 

“I have no business with you,” replied Caster, unbothered, and  Shirou made a move to take a step forward, but Caster moved her hand and he stilled. “My interest lies with that boy there. Your magic circuits are fascinating. I’d like to take them without killing you. Do you understand?” Caster shrugged. “I’m resorting to these crude tactics to win you over, not kill you. If you become my puppet, I shall refrain from any further violence.”

“Shirou, don’t,” mumbled Allen from his side, but Shirou kept his eyes locked on Caster. 

“Listen to you, you’re doing all this behind your Master’s back!” yelled Tohsaka, but Shirou could see how afraid she was. 

“Is that jealousy I hear?” taunted Caster. “I hate to disappoint you, but it is not perfect omnipotence that I desire, but rather imperfect, unique abilities. So, boy, what is your answer?”

Shirou stayed silent. 

“Such a difficult child. This should be an easy decision.” tutted Caster. “No matter how skilled your Servant is, he cannot defeat me with my limitless reserves of mana.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” growled Allen. 

“So you understand. Even humans who are devoid of mana have souls, right?” Shirou could practically feel Allen’s rage at that point. “And we are soul-eaters by nature, are we not…? Ah, yes, you’re not like us all, now, are you?” Shirou clenched his jaw. “Listen, boy, you have no chance of winning. Serve me alongside your Servant.”

“Let Fujimura go,” he said clearly. 

“Weren’t you listening?” asked Caster, annoyance clear in her voice. “I said to surrender to me.”

“Like hell I will! Let her go!” he yelled, glaring at her with all his fury. 

“So you have no interest in working with another Master?” asked Caster. Shirou scoffed.

“No, just not with you,” he said. 

“I seem to be on your bad side,” said Caster, voice thoughtful, and Shirou huffed. “That really is a shame. I would have shared the Grail with you.”

“I don’t care about that,” he snapped. “I promised myself I’d stop people like you. The Grail is irrelevant!”

Caster laughed and Shirou had to endure as she told his two companions about his past, his carefully hidden past, and he could feel their stares in his back. And then Caster asked again and Shirou hesitated for a moment, because Fujimura , but ended up saying never, again. 

It was when he called her a witch that everything became silent. And then everything went wrong. 

Allen prepared himself to lunge, but Shirou managed to stop him, because Caster still had Fujimura, and he could see the conflict in Allen’s eyes, the fear

Taking a deep breath, he started walking forward. 

He would need to hand over his Command Seals. 

He couldn’t look back at Allen. He couldn’t. And he felt horrible , but Fujimura. 

“I’ll take them, of course,” chuckled Caster, raising her blade. “Arm and all.”

“Shirou!” shouted Allen. “Do you truly think that she would release her?”

“Same here!” yelled Tohsaka, genuinely angry. 

“Take it, that’s all you want, right?” he said, raising his arm. Please, let it work, please, let it work…

“You don’t have to go to such extremes to help others!” shouted Tohsaka, but Allen was silent, but Shirou wouldn’t look back.

“I do!” he yelled back. He wouldn’t look back. “If giving up my arm will save Fujimura’s life, then I’ll do it without a second thought!”

“You truly are a foolish child!” laughed Caster as she lunged. “You’re a nuisance, so die!”

Shirou saw Caster getting closer and closer in a violet blur, but then a white blur got in the way and shoved her away, again, and again, and Shirou stumbled, hand raising in his panic, Fujimura was going to fall at this rate , and he locked his eyes on Allen, his faithful companion, his friend , and he was so sorry, but-

“Allen, stop!” he yelled and a sharp pain shot through his hand. A red ring shone in the air and Allen came to a sudden stop with a surprised yelp. Shirou gaped at his hand. He had used a Command Seal. “Oh, no.”

And then Caster shot towards the ground, towards Allen , and all Shirou could do as Caster’s blade pierced Allen was watch. 

The energy floating through the air was a violent purple and red and Shirou could see how Allen was clenching his jaw to stop himself from screaming, but he couldn't do anything about the tears running down this face. 

Shirou trembled, feeling completely helpless. It was all his fault. 

Shirou groaned when his hand throbbed again and he grabbed his wrist, watching with wavering eyes as the remaining two Command Seals faded one by one after each painful stab in his hand. When they were gone, he struggled to catch his breath as he stared at his now normal hand that shook violently in front of him. 

“This is Rule Breaker!” laughed Caster, but Shirou could only stare at his hand. “It nullifies all magic in this world!”

“Allen!” yelled Tohsaka, and Shirou heard sounds of a fight. She was probably fighting against the skeletons. 

“Something is wrong,” said Caster and Shirou lifted his head, eyes unfocused, and he could see Allen standing in front of Caster, hunched over as in pain, and Caster was gaping at him? What was going on? Then Caster snarled and grabbed Allen by his hair, lifting his head and glaring at him furiously. “ Who are you? Why isn't this working at all?!”

Caster raised his dagger again, the blade shining unsettlingly in the destroyed landscape, and Shirou tried to get up and help, damn it, he had been so close to giving him up, what had he been thinking-? 

“Leave him alone!” yelled Tohsaka and Shirou watched as a Galdr shot next to him and hit Caster straight in her arm. 

Caster let out a growl that turned into a yell and she released Allen, who wavered but didn't fall yet, head lowered and body shaking. What was going on? Another Galdr shot through the air and hit Caster on her torso, so she growled and took flight. 

Shirou saw movement and looked up, just in time to see Fujimura plummet down. Straight at the ground. Shirou didn't think. He shot forward and caught her, falling down on his knees when they gave up on him. 

“Fuji-nee!” he called, arms shaking, and let out the breath he hadn't noticed he'd been keeping when she sighed. She seemed to be only unconscious. 

Then red arrow shot through the air and Shirou looked up. Archer. There was a hole up in the stormy sky that Shirou noticed was actually fake and Archer was coming down. 

Shirou watched as Caster clicked her tongue. Archer was breaking through the magic field with ease and Shirou wondered what she would do. Now that Archer was here too they weren't helpless anymore, he had Fujimura back and whatever she had tried to do to Allen had failed. 

It was no wonder that she ran away, dispersing the magic field with just a wave of her hand. 

Then Shirou locked his eyes on Allen again. He hadn't moved at all from his place. He hadn't even lifted his head to see Archer. He was still shaking violently, hugging himself as if it would help him get a grip on himself and his breathing was so erratic that Shirou almost expected him to pass out from that alone. 

Realization spread through him and then worry. Allen was an anomaly. He wasn't supposed to be there. He wasn't a normal Heroic Spirit. Rule Breaker nullified all magic in the world, at least that was what Caster had said. What would happen if-? 

Shirou acted fast when he saw Allen tilt his body to the side. He left Fujimura on the now perfectly fine road as carefully as he could, he heard Tohsaka yell at him, and he lunged forward. He ran as fast as he could, even though his legs felt like jelly and his sight was still wavering. 

He was just in time to stop Allen from cracking his head open on the ground. Shirou struggled for a moment as he lowered them both to the ground, arms still shaking. Allen's Innocence deactivated in a wave of green and white dust and feathers that danced around them and Shirou looked back at Tohsaka, eyes worried and panicked. 

Tohsaka hurried over, telling Archer to make sure that Fujimura was okay. Shirou almost wanted to stop him, because he still didn't know if it was a good idea to trust Archer with one of his most precious people, but he felt as if he was going to burst, to explode, from the stress and worry, because Allen was still shaking in his arms, gasping, with his brow furrowed in what could only be pain, and he didn't know what to do, and guilt was eating at him. 

“What's happening to him?” asked Tohsaka, kneeling beside him, and Shirou tried to smile at her, but he was quite sure that it looked more like a grimace. 

“I was hoping you could tell me that,” he said, voice hoarse. 

“I don't know either,” mumbled Tohsaka, eyes roaming over Allen with worry and nervousness. She reached out, brushed the white hair away from his face and touched his cheeks and forehead. He was far too pale. “He's freezing.” Tohsaka bit her lip. “Let's go to my house.”

Shirou was still wobbly on his feet, so Tohsaka heaved Allen on her back and Shirou helped her positioning his arms around her neck. Shirou bit his lip. 

“It's okay, I can manage,” reassured Tohsaka with a smile that didn't reach her eyes. Archer was waiting for them further ahead, carrying Fujimura with more care than Shirou had expected. “He's pretty light.”

That's not what worries me , he thought, but didn't say anything as they walked. Tohsaka was already carrying Allen and Archer was leading the group, so Shirou had to fend for himself. It was more difficult than it seemed, specially since his legs didn't want to work with him and every time he caught a glimpse of his hand he remembered what had happened moments before and guilt crushed him more and more. 

Tohsaka’s house was silent like the last time he'd been there, but this time the silence was defeating as Tohsaka pointed to a bedroom and Archer disappeared into it with Fujimura. Tohsaka herself entered another and Shirou stood in the middle of the hallway, biting his lip for the hundredth time until he tasted blood, conflicted. 

In the end, the crushing guilt won again and he followed Tohsaka into the luxurious bedroom. She had laid Allen on the bed and was searching inside a drawer, mumbling to herself and shooting worried glances at Allen. Shirou hesitated again by a coffee table, hands shaky, and then walked closer. 

Allen looked younger, smaller, weaker laying in the middle of the spacious bed, trembling and gasping. 

“We need to raise his body temperature,” said Tohsaka and she smiled slightly when she finally found the bundle of blankets. She looked at him. “Get him out of those damp clothes and change him into this pyjama I found,” she pointed to a fuzzy pyjama she had left on the sofa, “and then get him into bed. I'm gonna check Fujimura and I'll be back in a bit, alright?”

Shirou found himself nodding absentmindedly as Tohsaka brushed past him and disappeared behind the door. Shirou blinked. The he remembered what he was supposed to do and got closer to Allen. 

He did as told, struggling to get Allen out of his damp clothes and noticing how his own clothes were damp as well. He removed his coat and left it on the sofa, hoping that it wouldn't ruin it and that Tohsaka wouldn't mind. 

He was forcefully reminded that Allen had been fighting a real war when he took a brief look at his bare torso and saw all the scars. It made him feel sick for a moment but tried to focus more on the motions and not on his sight, least he couldn't finish his task without freaking out again. He felt as if he was floating on a cloud, a cloud that would give under him at any moment, and he was pretty sure that he could see the void if he so much as lowered his head.

Allen didn't stop shaking even after he had changed him into the fuzzy pyjamas and he had wrapped all three blankets around him, but it looked like it had worked somehow. Or maybe it was just that Shirou was desperate and his tired mind was playing tricks on him.

“I'm sorry,” he mumbled, sitting on the floor, back propped on the bed. His eyes stung and there was a rock on his chest that made it hard to breathe. “I'm so sorry.”

Chapter Text

“I don't know what's happening to him,” said Tohsaka, voice soft, almost a whisper, as if she was afraid of waking Allen up. “All we know is that it was Caster’s doing.”

“I'm sorry,” repeated Shirou, hands tightly intertwined on the bed, eyes downwards. “If I hadn't-”

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” cut Tohsaka, but her voice didn't have the usual bite behind it. “If you want to make up for it, then don't dwell on it and focus on helping him.”

“I think I know what Caster did,” said Archer's voice from the door. Shirou looked at him from the corner of his eye, but looked down again just as quickly. 

“Enlighten us, then,” said Tohsaka. Archer rolled his eyes. 

“He isn't a Servant any more,” he said simply and Shirou jumped. He looked at his hand again, bare of any Command Seals. 

“So that means that he's human again…” mumbled Tohsaka under her breath. Shirou stayed silent, listening half heartedly to Allen's irregular breathing. “I guess that this is happening because he's getting used to a normal body again. He won't be dependable on mana anymore, he won't be bond by Command Seals or a contract anymore… But would it even be possible? I mean, he isn't from this world, shouldn't he have disappeared as soon as his bond here was severed?”

Tohsaka was talking to herself now, Shirou knew. Archer had left again, probably to check on Fujimura or to do whatever Servants did when they had free time. Shirou listened to Tohsaka’s mumblings for a few moments before he became engrossed in his own thoughts again. 

Allen and him weren't bond by a contract anymore. Did that mean that Allen wouldn't help him anymore? Not only that, this was not his war anymore. Why would he want to continue fighting in a war that wasn't any of his business? Hell, it wasn't even from his world. Not only that, Shirou had betrayed him. Yes, he had wanted to save Fujimura, but he had completely ignored Allen's wishes. Goddammit, Allen only wanted to go back home! And what did he do? Almost give him to Caster on a silver platter. Scratch that, if Caster’s ability hadn't failed, Allen would be her Servant, he would be in her clutches, with no freedom and-

He sighed shakily and ran his fingers through his hair. He was frustrated, tired, mad at himself, mad at Caster, worried, extremely worried, guilt was crawling in his stomach and he was pretty sure he was catching a cold because he had been wearing damp clothes for a long while before Tohsaka kicked him out of her house so he could get a few changes of clothes because it was, in her words, ‘time for another sleepover’. 

“This sucks,” he grumbled and Tohsaka paused in her rant to look at him with an understanding gaze. 

“It does,” she nodded slightly. Then she sighed and adjusted the blankets around Allen absentmindedly. “We should rest for a while before deciding anything. We’ve done all we could.” She paused and Shirou raised his head to look at her pinched face. “Let’s just hope that this is happening because he’s adjusting to a normal human body again.”

Having said that, Tohsaka managed to drag him to a bed, mumbling that she would have Archer tell her if Fujimura woke up before them so they could come up with a logical excuse for what was going on. Shirou tried to resist, to say that he would stay with Allen, just in case something happened, but Tohsaka shook her head and reminded him that they needed rest to think straight, which he wasn’t doing. 

Shirou stayed in bed instead of returning to the other room, staring at his bare hand until he finally fell asleep, but his sleep was restless, he kept turning in bed from side to side, frowning and grumbling. He wasn’t surprised when he woke up an hour before dawn, body aching and sweaty, and he wondered if he would be able to find the bathroom to have a shower. 

He stumbled around the room blindingly, hands stretched in front of him to make sure that he didn’t run into any walls, but apparently it wasn’t enough, because his leg bumped into a short table and a box fell on the carpet with a dull sound. He cursed and stayed frozen in the middle of the room. 

When nobody came to check on him, he silently reached out to the box, but when he still couldn’t see anything, he padded towards where he supposed he could find the windows and opened the curtains to let the soft glow of the moon enter the bedroom. He sighed at the box still on the floor, but then frowned when he saw a flash of red between the various jewels that reminded him of the ones Tohsaka used to store her magic.

That necklace… 

Then it hit him. 

It had been Tohsaka. It had been Tohsaka the one who had saved his life that night, when his life went off the rails and Lancer tried to kill him and Allen-

He left the pendant on the table and hurried out of the room, but came to a stop when all that greeted him was silence. Was Tohsaka not at home? All that talk about rest and she was the first one to leave. 

He shook his head and walked quietly to Fujimura’s room, sighing in relief when he saw her still sleeping soundly in bed. Tohsaka had said that she didn’t know when she would wake up but she definitely would because Caster hadn’t aimed to kill her. And, well, her condition was ten times better than Allen’s. 

Allen was still trembling slightly when Shirou opened the door and peeked inside, curled on his side and with half his face hidden under the blankets. Shirou couldn’t make out if he was still gasping for breath in the darkness, but he couldn’t bring himself to step a foot inside the room. He felt as if it wasn’t his place. They probably weren’t allies anymore, much less friends, because Shirou knew better than anyone that Allen had trust-issues and he had betrayed him. He had been ready to give his Command Seals to Caster, after all. And he hadn’t even looked back. 

“Emiya-kun?” called Tohsaka’s voice from behind him and Shirou jumped, slamming his shoulder on the door. He hissed and turned to her, rubbing his shoulder with his now bare hand and closed carefully the door. 

“Where were you?” he asked, and maybe his voice sounded irritable, but she had been the one who had dragged him to bed and told him to rest, just before going away on her own. 

“I was trying to locate Caster,” said Tohsaka. Shirou saw Archer’s form turn a corner and disappear into what he remembered was the living room. Tohsaka shook her head. “As we are now, she could attack at any moment and we’d be done for.”

She nodded to the living room and Shirou followed her grudgingly, eyes lowered and hands in his pockets. Archer was leaning against a wall as Tohsaka took her usual place on the sofa and Shirou followed her lead and sat next to her. 

“What do we do now?” he asked when no one made any move to start the inevitable conversation. Tohsaka blinked at him with wide eyes. 

“‘We’?” she repeated and  Shirou frowned at her. “Shirou, you’re not a Master anymore. Allen is as good as dead right now in the eyes of the War.” Shirou flinched. “So, I don’t think you should continue being involved.”

“I still want to… to help Allen!” said Shirou, louder than he intended, and Tohsaka sighed from his side. “And what do you mean ‘as good as dead’, anyway? Are you saying that Allen is dying ?”

“Of course not!” screeched Tohsaka, eyes ablaze. “But you need to understand, Shirou! Allen is a normal human right now. He isn’t dependent on mana, he isn’t a Servant. He isn’t a participant of the War.”

“He can’t make a wish to the Grail,” pointed out Archer from his side, and Shirou’s panicked eyes looked from one to another, hands shaking.

“Does this mean that he can’t go back home?” he asked and, even if it didn’t look that bad for him, he knew that there was no way that Allen could accept it, he would want to go back no matter what , because he still had people waiting for him there, he couldn’t abandon them. 

“It… could be a possibility,” said Tohsaka, and Shirou clenched his jaw, lowering his head, feeling even more guilty than before. Had he ruined Allen’s life? “In any case, we can’t be sure until Allen wakes up… if he wakes up at all.”

“Didn’t you say that it could be because he was getting used to a normal human body again?” he mumbled. Tohsaka hummed softly. 

“Yes, but Allen is a special case on itself, so I can’t be sure, I can only guess,” she said and then sighed again, rubbing her closed eyes. “For the moment, we need to get your situation straight. Do you still want to fight? Even when there’s nothing tying you down to this War?”

“Yes,” nodded Shirou immediately. Tohsaka looked at him. 

“Why?” 

“As long as there could be some way to make a contract with Allen again so he could get his wish-” he started, but Tohsaka cut him off.

“Allen isn’t a Servant anymore, Emiya-kun.” Shirou lowered his head again and locked his eyes on his shaking hands. Tohsaka considered him for a moment. “Ah, I see. You feel guilty about it.”

“Throwing yourself at danger to make up for it could be worse than staying out of his business, you know?” pointed out Archer and Shirou tensed his shoulders further, curling in on himself. He knew that, and yet-

“Caster still has an advantage,” he said and Tohsaka arched an eyebrow. “There’s only Archer and you, and Caster has her Master, Kuzuki, and Assassin. She would demolish you.”

“And what makes you think that you would be of help at all?” snorted Archer. Tohsaka was still staring at him. Shirou made the effort of raising his head to look at her in the eye and she jumped.

“I can do projection magic,” he said, putting all his determination into his voice. “I can hold out until Allen wakes up.”

“We still know nothing about Allen’s situation,” reminded him Tohsaka, shaking her head. “He could wake up and not remember anything. He could never wake up, stay in a coma forever. He could even wake up and not have any powers.”

“He would have his powers,” nodded Shirou and before Tohsaka could cut him off again, he continued, “he would. His powers don’t come from magic, they are not actually a Noble Phantasm. They come from Innocence.”

“What if it doesn’t activate, then?” said Tohsaka, brows furrowed. Shirou shook his head. 

“His Innocence followed him all this way,” he explained and Tohsaka closed her mouth with a click, considering. “There’s no way that it wouldn’t activate for him.”

“Okay, okay, we weren’t talking about this to start with,” complained Tohsaka and she stood up from the sofa to walk around the coffee table, hand under her chin. “So, you think that you can be some kind of back-up against Caster? After everything that has happened? Would you risk having Fujimura or even Sakura taken again?”

Shirou paused. Would he? Last time, he had almost given his faithful companion up. Would he do something that risky again? 

“I do,” he nodded in the end, because there was no way that he would betray Allen twice. There was always a third option. He just had to come up with it before everything went to hell. 

Tohsaka sighed and plopped back down on the sofa. She sent a pleading gaze at Archer, but the man only shrugged, making a noncommittal sound in the back of his throat, and Tohsaka growled, running her hands through her tousled hair. Shirou had the urge to smile at his victory, but Tohsaka turned to him and pointed a perfectly manicured finger at him, turquoise eyes ablaze with determination. 

“You better get your ass in gear and get stronger if you don’t want us to leave you in the dust,” she growled, before she stood up again and disappeared behind the door, yelling something about breakfast as Archer sent a pointed glance at him and disappeared in a waterfall of blue light. 

Shirou wandered around the house for a bit, debating with himself if he should have gone with Tohsaka to make breakfast. But his legs carried him to Allen’s room again and he hesitated. He wanted to apologize, even if it meant that he would see Allen’s eyes blaze with fury, because how dare he

After another minute of doubts, he opened the door again and slipped inside. He looked around, almost expecting Archer to be around to knock him down and have him have an existential crisis. But he wasn’t, and Shirou didn’t feel eyes on him either, so he moved quietly to the bed. 

As it had seemed moments before, Allen wasn’t shaking as much as before, but when Shirou touched his forehead with his hand, he could still feel how the other was colder than normal. It wasn’t as extreme as before, but he doubted that shaking so much during such a long time was healthy. He sighed. 

When Tohsaka called him for breakfast, he hesitated, but moved away after a few seconds of staring at a loose thread on the comforter. Archer wasn’t present at the kitchen, not that Shirou would have expected him, and Tohsaka and him ate their breakfast in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. 

“How is Allen today?” asked Tohsaka, and Shirou wondered how she had known that he had been with Allen, before thinking it over and admitting that he was pretty predictable. 

“He isn’t shaking as much as yesterday and he isn’t as cold, but…” he trailed off. Tohsaka hummed behind her cup of tea. Shirou compared her cups to his and decided that her family was well-off. He didn’t know if her parents were abroad or if they had died years ago, so he didn’t ask, just in case. 

“As long as his body temperature continues going up, there’s nothing to worry about, I think,” she said, mostly to herself. “Going from being dependent on mana to not must be a really hard change.” She took another sip. “I’ll slip in a few thermal bags later.”

“When will Fujimura wake up?” asked Shirou after he finished off his toast. 

“She should wake up at some point today,” shrugged Tohsaka. So helpful. 

“How will we even explain everything?” mumbled Shirou to himself and Tohsaka shrugged. 

“We’ll think of something,” she said. Shirou rolled his eyes. 

He followed Tohsaka as she walked to another room when they finished with breakfast, not knowing what to do with himself. He wasn’t in his own house anymore, and maybe he wouldn’t be there for a while, at least until Allen woke up or got better. He wondered if he should warn Sakura and decided that he would call her later, when Tohsaka and him had came up with some kind of excuse to explain the chaos that was going on all around them. 

Tohsaka heated some sacks in the microwave, humming to herself while she waited, and Shirou cleaned the plates halfheartedly. He finished just in time to follow Tohsaka back into Allen’s room and he leaned on a table as Tohsaka moved away the numerous blankets and put the sacks close to Allen’t body carefully. Shirou could still see the shivers that racked his body, but they came and went in random intervals and his breathing wasn’t erratic anymore, it came in puffs and shaky deep breaths when the shivers hit. 

“It isn’t as scary as yesterday, at least,” mumbled Tohsaka. She tapped her fingers on her arm. “If it doesn’t look up, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to… to ask Illya Einzbern.”

“What?” blurted out Shirou. He remembered perfectly well how the little girl had tried to kill them without mercy and wondered if they could even have a civilized conversation with her.

“If we make a truce, we can ask,” said Tohsaka. She sighed and turned away from the bed. “There’s the Matou family, but… they don’t seem to be too cooperative.” Shirou almost blurted out that Illya wasn’t the most cooperative either and that she would probably kill them as soon as they got close, but he remained quiet and fidgeted with his sleeve. Tohsaka hummed a few moments later. “We’ll probably attack Caster tonight.”

“Uh?” was Shirou’s smart reply. He turned on his seat so he could send a incredulous glance at her. “So soon?”

“Caster is probably overthinking why she couldn’t get Allen on her side,” explained Tohsaka, pointing at said boy with her head. “This is our best chance.”

“Wouldn’t leaving Allen here be dangerous, though?” he asked and he almost mentioned Fujimura, but if Tohsaka was right, then Fujimura would have woken up at some point during the day and Shirou would do anything in his power to send her away. 

“He doesn’t have the presence of a Servant,” explained Archer, and Shirou jumped. He was actually glad that Allen couldn't dematerialize. He was already like a ghost and he gave him scares all the time, giving him that ability would have been unfair. “His presence is basically like a normal human now, so Caster won’t be able to track him in anyway.”

“If you’re sure…” mumbled Shirou, lowering his head again. He didn’t point out that Caster had been able to find Fujimura in the first place. 

“You better hold up,” said Tohsaka, arching an eyebrow at him. 

Shirou only sighed. 

I hope so too.

Chapter Text

Fujimura woke up when Shirou had finished cooking a simple lunch after the silence in Allen's room had become stifling. Tohsaka had gone out with Archer to make sure that the place where they had seen Caster was the actual place where she was staying because, apparently, she wasn't staying at the temple anymore. 

He had heard noise coming from the bedrooms and for a moment he wondered if Allen had woken up before Fujimura. His heart jumped in his throat and he hurried to put everything in place before stumbling out of the kitchen and running to the bedroom. 

“Shirou, where the hell am I?” screeched Fujimura, fighting against the blankets that had tangled around her body when she had panicked after waking up. 

“Calm down!” said Shirou and he moved toward her with his hands up. “Don't be so noisy.” He didn't know if all that ruckus would disturb Allen's rest, but he wasn't taking any chances. “We're at Tohsaka’s house.”

“Uh? Why?” blinked Fujimura, but she let him help with the blankets. 

“You… fainted,” he said and cursed Tohsaka in his mind, because they were supposed to tackle this together, he wasn't a good liar and they hadn't come up with any explanation. Ugh, he wished Allen was awake…

“I fainted?” mumbled Fujimura, and Shirou felt slightly guilty because she sounded so confused, but there was no way he could tell her the truth. “When?”

“We found you passed out when we came back from our trip,” explained Shirou, hoping that Fujimura wouldn't dwell too much on it. “We came here because Tohsaka’s house was closer.”

“I see…” mumbled Fujimura, eyes locked on the carpet. “That's weird though, I don't remember anything.”

“Are you okay now?” Shirou could feel sweat forming on his neck. 

“Uh? Oh, yes, I'm perfectly fine like always!” she chirped and raised her arms up. Shirou forced a smile and turned to hide it. 

“Then that's good. Do you want to have lunch?” he asked hurriedly. He heard her getting up from bed and follow him, looking around with curious eyes. 

“Of course!” she smiled. Then she paused and her voice turned softer. “By the way, where is Rin? And Allen?”

Oh, no, this was bad. 

“Tohsaka went out to buy some groceries,” he tried to make his tone brighter than what is mind was like, which was as dark as a hole, but he wasn't sure that he succeeded. Fujimura had known him for years after all. “And Allen, well… He wasn't feeling too good yesterday. That was why we came back sooner than expected, which was lucky because we found you… He's resting right now.”

“Ahhh what a bother,” whined Fujimura, but didn't press the matter. Shirou sighed in relief. 

Fujimura tried to get information about ‘the date’ from the day before, but Shirou didn't really say much. Every time he thought back to the day before he couldn't stop the memories about the confrontation with Caster and all the chaos that it caused. He couldn't focus on the peaceful day that they'd had just before that moment. He just couldn't, and he itched more and more to run and check on Allen for the hundredth time that day. 

“I'll probably stay here for a few days,” explained Shirou when he guided Fujimura to the front door. She blinked at him. “I've already grabbed some clothes from home.” Fujimura stared some more. Shirou sighed. “I want to make sure that Allen is okay.”

“Is he really that sick?” asked Fujimura, much more subdued than normal and with serious eyes. Shirou gulped. 

“He's been better,” he managed to choke out. Fujimura hummed. 

“If it looks bad, you should get him to the hospital,” she said and it was in moments like this that Shirou was reminded of who was the adult. 

“Of course,” he coughed out. Fujimura looked at him for a few more seconds, before sighing and stepping out. 

“If you're going to stay here for a few days, then you should warn Sakura,” she said, sent her an amused glance and left with a “Don't do anything I wouldn't do~” that reminded Shirou how Fujimura saw romantic relationships where there weren't. 

He sighed and closed the door when he couldn't see Fujimura anymore. Cleaning the dishes was not the best activity, because he kept overthinking things- he almost broke a plate when he was putting it away- so he decided to hurry with them and moved back to Allen's room. 

He grabbed the phone as he went, dialing Sakura’s number and closing the door behind him as he listened to the line. He made sure Allen was as comfortable as he could while he waited for Sakura to pick up, checking to see if the sacks were still warm. He took out the ones that weren't, just in time for Sakura to pick up. 

If Sakura didn't believe his excuse, then she didn't show it, but Shirou could hear disappointment in her voice. She worried when Shirou mentioned that Allen was pretty sick and he couldn't help his smile. Her friendship with Allen was so warm and he was so thankful for the kind and calming aura the boy seemed to have, which had helped Sakura so much. 

He returned to the kitchen to heat up the sacks again and left the phone in its place while the microwave worked. 

Shirou had always liked the silence. It was one of the reasons why he didn't play music to fill in the silence at home while he cooked or cleaned. But in Tohsaka's house it was different. It wasn't a calming silence. It was lonely. 

He wondered how Tohsaka could even live in that house without becoming crazy and he sighed, because he had tried to send her back to this empty place just the other night. He wondered if he should invite her to his house another time, like Sakura. Tohsaka got along with Sakura, right? 

Tohsaka came back at dusk. 

Shirou had been cleaning a few rooms to pass time. The place was dusty and he wondered how Tohsaka could even stand living there. He didn't dare going too far away from Allen's room, just in case something happened. 

Shirou liked to think that Allen had improved through the day. He still got shivers from time to time, but Shirou made sure to change the sacks periodically and adjust the blankets around him. Every time he checked his forehead it seemed just a bit warmer and he didn't know if it was the light coming from outside, but his face didn't look as pale as before. He didn't look or feel like a shaking corpse anymore. 

They left just moments after, with a flimsy strategy and doubt clouding their hope. 


 

Shirou had to run to keep Tohsaka from slamming the door and maybe break it. 

He could relate, though, he wanted to do the same. 

Archer. 

It all came back to that insufferable guy. 

He had sided with Caster, which wasn't really surprising anymore, but what a great time to do so, uh? 

“I can't believe it,” growled Tohsaka and Shirou turned to her after making sure that the door was intact. “I can't believe it!” She was walking furious circles around the bedroom and Shirou dodged her angry pacing as he stumbled and sat down on the bed carefully. “Can you ? Because I really hope that this is a joke or-or a dream ! Yeah, a dream would be really nice .”

“Calm down, Tohsaka,” sighed Shirou, but he wasn't really trying at all. 

Tohsaka growled again and it turned into a screech as she messed up her hair, making her hair ties slide down her pigtails dangerously. 

“I just- I can't-” She sighed again, took a deep breath and sat down next to Shirou, avoiding Allen's legs. Her voice turned into a whisper. “ What do we do now ?”

Shirou stayed silent for a moment. 

“I guess we wait,” he said, voice as firm as he could. Tohsaka grumbled again. 

“I don't like waiting,” she said. Shirou could believe that. Then she sighed deeply and let herself fall backwards, avoiding Allen's legs once again, and stared at the dark ceiling. “We aren't Masters anymore. We could get out of the War, ignore all of it…”

“We can't let Caster keep doing what she wants,” said Shirou. He knew that Tohsaka was with him. Still, she growled again. 

They stayed silent for a few minutes, each of them lost in their own thoughts. The moon shone softly in the sky and its light washed over the dark room, soothing over Shirou’s nerves. He sighed. 

“I guess… Allen is our last hope,” mumbled Tohsaka. Shirou nodded slightly. Then yawned. 

“We should get to bed,” he said softly. “We can talk strategy tomorrow.”

“Don't wanna,” whined Tohsaka and she curled up at the foot of the bed, dark hair spilling around her head like a black halo. “Too tired to get up.”

“C’mon,” pushed Shirou, but he knew that he wouldn't succeed. 

“We have a bed right here.” Shirou nearly couldn't make out what Tohsaka was saying at that point because she had buried her face on the soft comforter. And it really was soft… “Beds are for sleeping, idiot Shirou.”

“I'm not stupid,” he complained and yeah, the comforter was soft and silky, he wondered how it would feel against his face… 

Tohsaka won that round. 

If Allen had been awake, he would have smirked at them.