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The Mermaid

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The starry sky glittered above the city like a reflection, providing ample light for the tall man on the rooftop to observe his distant target. She walked slowly through a graveyard in the Foreign Cemetery, her head down and her beautiful long dark hair fluttering in the midnight breeze.

He’d been summoned to the Fifth Holy Grail War of Fuyuki as a nameless Archer for reasons close to his heart. He’d thought he’d found a way to escape from his deal with the devil, in a way even she couldn’t thwart. That which stood in his way seemed hardly worth considering.

But when his master—not the Holy Grail War Master, Rin Tohsaka, but his true master—finally spoke to him, he once again became the Counter Guardian EMIYA. He had no choice. Or rather, he’d had one choice, and he’d made it long ago.

Alaya spoke with a little girl’s voice that he’d never forgotten: mischievous, laughing, twisted. She tilted her head, her silver hair blowing across her face.

“Hey, EMIYA. This is important, okay? You must remember that she was warped long ago. That she's now the target of the Counter Guardians is absolutely not the result of what happened tonight." She gave him that amused, expectant look she got when she'd said something particularly nasty.

“Yes,” he said flatly. “I’ll remember that. As soon as you remind me what happened tonight.” His long and fractured memory made this a familiar game, although she didn’t usually start with such a warning. He held out his hand. Alaya, her crimson eyes dancing, placed her small hand in his, and information crashed through him like a tidal wave.

The downloads from Alaya were never exactly pleasant, but this one was worse than usual. History, context, and assignment thundered through him all at once, and this time it was deeply personal: that humiliating encounter that his younger self had experienced that very night; that lethal, tragic encounter of another version of himself in a long ago/not yet; the assignment itself. And drifting through all that came Alaya’s silent commentary on his task.

He absorbed the information in silence, letting the emotions flow through him and pass away, already thinking through ways and means of accomplishing his task. Alaya’s manifestation lingered, in case he had questions, or perhaps just to see if he squirmed.

“You set me to this,” he said aloud. It wasn’t that he disbelieved it. He knew too well the depths of Alaya’s casual cruelty. But he wanted to see how she justified it.

Alaya’s eyes flickered to a deep blue like dawn, as his sister’s never had. “Well, you’re here already.” She elbowed him, hitting him in the thigh. “Oh, come on, EMIYA. You didn’t really think you’d joined this Holy Grail War without my permission, did you?”

“I keep hearing you’re a non-sentient force mindlessly clearing threats to humanity and hoping that’s true,” he told her sourly.

Alaya giggled. “Perhaps I am. Perhaps I’m just the face your broken mind assigns to your own hell.” She put a finger to her cheek. “That makes what happens next even more interesting, don’t you think?”

Still laughing, she faded from his perception, leaving him alone with his thoughts and renewed memories.

God, he hated his younger self. If he’d succeeded at his self-imposed task before this night, this wouldn’t—

—Alaya reached out of nowhere and flicked him on the forehead. “I warned you!”

Ouch!” Forehead flicks from Alaya made an assignment download seem like a day at the beach. When his vision cleared, he took her point and exercised the self-control of decades of experience to shove aside his personal feelings.

Somehing had happened, something he couldn’t change. Even if he were able to, his target had been cursed long before. All he could do now was clean up the mess before it got out of control.

And yet…

He sat on the high rooftop, watching her as she walked along the graveyard path.

What he had to do was inescapable: written into his soul in the steel-gray ink of plasma. How… was always up to him.

As the Servant in the graveyard lifted her head, finally sensing his gaze, EMIYA made a decision.




Kiara walked through the Foreigner Cemetery, going over and over her plans in an attempt to restore the mental order destroyed by her earlier failure with Shirou. Setbacks were inevitable. If she couldn’t move past them, then she would be lost in the chaos of her own machinations.

The cool breeze played through her unbound hair, and goosebumps prickled on her arms. She realized abruptly that she was being observed by another Servant and readied herself for an assault. Then her combat readiness became a different sort of tension as Archer appeared near her.

Kiara gave him a cold, unfriendly look. Her Master didn’t recognize him, but she did, and his presence here annoyed her intensely. While she knew that the Throne of Heroes could dispatch Servants from a multitude of timelines, the presence of Archer suggested a limit to the scope of her eventual success. So too had her failure with Shirou earlier implied this future was more likely than she would ever have predicted. The man’s very existence seemed designed to irritate her.

“Well?” she said to Archer, making her voice low and playful. “What’s amiss? Has your cute little Master sent you to check on me?” She ran her tongue over her lips. “Perhaps she’d like me to teach her how she too can please Shirou?”

Somehow her barbs missed utterly. Archer’s expression didn’t flicker as he studied her, his eyes fixed on her face. She made herself smile more broadly, and ran her hands down her hips.

When his gaze followed the motion of her hands, her tongue touched her upper lip again. “Yes,” she crooned, feeling back on familiar ground. “Or perhaps—”

“Come with me,” he said, cutting her off, and instantly dematerialized.

Startled, Kiara stopped. Archer had dematerialized but he waited for her in spirit form. It was an incredibly foolish act for the man. Servant Spirit Forms were very fast, as well as invisible to human eyes, but they were vulnerable to attacks from other Servants. She could critically injure him with so little effort. Their Masters might be temporarily allied but even so… she would not have expected him to be so stupid as to trust her.

Yet… she felt curious about his intentions. And removing him from the field would tip her hand far too early with her frustrating young Master. She could afford to see what Archer wanted.

And if this was a trap? Well, she thrived on the souls of men who thought they’d conquered her. With that smug thought in mind, she too dematerialized.

For a moment, their spirit forms mingled and overlapped. Sensory data always became strange and distorted in spirit form: songs merging into rainbows that tasted of wine. When their two spirit bodies touched, so too did their sensory inputs.

The cemetery wind whispered through Archer like razors against his skin, like silk against hers. The dry scent of stone and withered roses cloaked Archer like peaceful darkness and shrieked like nails on a chalkboard for Kiara. But as they passed over the Shinto district, the bright lights of the city felt like grasping hands and sang like tomorrow for them both.

They passed through the walls of a structure, high up. Only once Archer disentangled himself and rematerialized did Kiara realize where he’d brought her.

The room had been decorated in shades of glittering blue and green, with mermaids and sea creatures disporting themselves in fantastic murals on the walls. Disporting themselves rather lewd ways, Kiara realized. The central element of the room was the luxurious round bed with smooth green satin sheets.

She returned to her body, adjusting her garb from her habit to something more appropriate to the location: a white and pink garment that would only pass for a dress in a whorehouse.

Then, laughing in delight as she looked around, she said, “A love hotel, Archer? Oh my. It’s been… how long for you? And you still want to give it another try? It’s haunted you that long?” She chortled. “A love hotel. It’s been so long since a man’s brought me to one of these.”

Archer’s shoulders tightened as he did something at the door. When he turned to her, she caught something in his carefully blank face. Another peal of laughter rippled from her. “Oh no, it’s even better. You’ve never been with a woman, have you? Not to speak of. Oh, my, Archer. You certainly learned a lesson tonight, didn’t you?”

Instead of answering, he removed his red coat, tossing it on the plush, vinyl-covered couch. The dim glow of the lights reflected off the muscles on his bare biceps as he stood there, arms loose at his sides, watching her as he’d watched her in the graveyard.

Kiara didn’t care this time. She stretched, bringing her hands up her body and through her hair, piling it on her head and then letting it fall around her as she reached high overhead, lifting her breasts and letting the light catch against her own bared stomach.

She keenly enjoyed the movement of his eyes and the slightest catch of his breath. Had his hands flexed? Oh, she hoped so. Would he grab her, shove her down on the bed, fumble once again at her body? Hopefully as an Archer, this time his aim would be better.

But even if not, even if this time went no better for him than last time, she would treasure this experience, this absolute proof of her power. How many years had it been for him? And he’d never had anyone else since then? It was too delicious.

Kiara snuck a glance at him from under lowered eyelashes, and he said, "Well?” That word alone, to convey the depths of his longing for her.

Another gurgle of laughter escaped her. She ought to make him beg at least a little, perhaps. But he’d already brought her here, to this glorious room, and in truth she wanted to get on to the main event. He’d been a skittish boy, and might prove a skittish man if she teased too much.

“Yes,” she told him, still smiling. “Let’s do this.” Then she crossed her arms over her chest and looked demurely away. “Just as you wish.”

He walked over to her, putting his hands over hers on her shoulders. The warmth sank into her skin and the lightest touch of his thumbs stroking her own made her hands relax and fall against his hard chest.

Coyly she looked up at him and met his calm gray eyes. The faintest flicker of an odd nervousness, barely identifiable, trembled in her belly. His hands moved from her shoulders to the sides of her head, fingers on one hand splaying through her hair while his other hand curved around the back of her neck. Once again, he moved his thumb, this time gently brushing across her mouth.

There was something indescribably sweet about the roughness of his bowman’s thumb across her soft lips. A hard sexual ache joined the tickle of nervousness, blooming between her legs with a fierce urgency. Oh, lord, she truly hoped he’d be at least marginally competent this time, enough for her to enjoy his pleasure.

His thumb moved away and she realized she’d closed her eyes. As she opened them, she met his once again, very close, before he gave her a delicate butterfly kiss on the side of her mouth.

Frustration flared within her. Had he really missed on a simple kiss? They’d not kissed at all on the first attempt, when she and younger Shirou earlier that evening had tried to raise the barest modicum of power. She’d wondered if it might have helped, but if—

He kissed the other side of her mouth, very deliberately, and then his tongue gently touched the center of her lower lip. The tiny sensation was so exquisite that she opened her mouth to him without thinking, pressing her breasts against him.

Archer’s hand in her hair tightened, tugging painfully, and then relaxed again. He kissed her very slowly, his mouth tender against hers as he stroked her tongue with his, very gently bit her lower lip. He moved to kiss the line of her jaw, returned to her mouth like it was home base, and then ventured out again to nuzzle her neck.

When he reached her collarbone some time later, he lifted his head, pulling away. Kiara, who had been utterly distracted by his explorations, blinked and tried to figure out why he’d stopped.

His fingers played with the silken spaghetti straps of her outfit and then stroked down to touch the exposed side swell of her breasts. A delicious shiver ran down her spine. The intent expression on his face made her feel first warm, and then cold as it crept over her that this wasn’t going as she’d expected.

Then he found the first of the ties behind her neck and tugged at it. The apron-like top of her outfit collapsed, completely baring lush, perfect breasts. His intent expression didn’t change, and she once again remembered only a few hours ago. A sigh escaped her.

He looked up from his contemplation of her assets, meeting her gaze. A smile pulled at one side of his mouth; the first expression other than stoic calm she’d seen from him. He cupped her breasts, but they overflowed even in his big hands. His little half-smile widened momentarily before vanishing. Quietly, with a gentle push on the handfuls he held, he said, “Sit down.”

Startled, Kiara felt the back of the bed against her legs. She’d been standing at least a few steps away when he’d started kissing her, but somehow without her noticing, he’d stepped her to it.

Something was very wrong. This wasn’t going as she expected. Ideally they’d both be soaked in sweat and entangled in sheets by now. He’d be utterly and entirely her slave. But Archer, Archer, her enemy in every sense of the word, was being slow and gentle.

She had to retake control, get things back on the course she’d anticipated. She simply couldn’t tolerate another disappointment tonight.

So she pulled herself away from him and sat down, leaning back on her palms and thrusting her breasts up for his delectation. He took a step closer, so that he stood at the edge of the bed looking down at her. His lips were wet, and the sight made her quiver inside.

Then he dropped to his knees at the edge of the bed, his great height still allowing him to easily bend over her as she leaned back. He braced himself on his left hand and once again caressed her breast lightly. That smile flickered across his face. “I remember this.”

He looked at her a moment more. When he finally bent and caught her nipple in his mouth, his left hand spasmed, twisting in the silken sheets until the tendons stood out. She drew her fingers lightly over those cords and then flung her head back, gasping, as he began to suckle at the nipple he’d taken between his teeth.

His right hand remained at her other breast, stroking gently, but his mouth, oh—oh, it was good. He sucked and licked and nibbled and when she thought it couldn’t get any better, he switched to her other breast and started all over again. She felt like she was melting inside.

At the same time, he shifted her on the bed, pulling her forward just a little, so she sat at the very edge, her cunt pressing against his contained erection. She held his shoulder with one hand and everytime she writhed under his mouth, she rubbed herself against him and felt his surge of energy in response.

Yes. Yes, this was better, this was more like she’d expected. Any moment now, he’d give up that precious self-control of his and climb on her to bury himself in everything she had to offer. She squirmed more in delicious anticipation.

He lifted his head from her sensitized nipple, leaving his hand in place and kissed her mouth again, just enough to bear her completely onto her back. But then he pulled away and untied the second knot behind her back, pulling her garment down further. He moved his mouth lower on her torso, along her ribcage and down to her navel.

Once again, puzzlement and an odd sense of insecurity swept over her as he defied her expectations. But she was still enjoying the sensation of his mouth and his gently moving hands. The liquid delight of his ministrations was too good to simply shake off.

She stared at the ceiling above her. The room even had murals there: a story in pictures of a mermaid seeking a human lover. It reminded her of… precious things, although the story she knew had been rather more innocent.

He shifted his lower body away from her, so he could reach her lower stomach with his mouth. His hands went to her hips, digging under the panels of magenta lace and indirectly stimulating her cunt via the fabric between her legs. What had been sweet excitement became once again an ache.

Archer was pleasing her far too well. She didn’t understand it, and suddenly the nagging sense of wrong became genuine fear.

“Stop,” she said, still looking up at the ceiling, and he lifted his hands and his mouth from her at once. She trusted nothing about the situation now except for one thing: Shirou Emiya at any stage of life would stop when she asked.

Most men wouldn’t even have done that.

He crouched back on his heels as she sat up, regarding her once more with impassive calm. Her gaze flicked from him, still fully garbed in his black Servant gear, to the red coat he’d tossed over the couch. “Why are you doing this? You’re a better man than this. A better warrior. This is insanity and you must know it.” Her eyes narrowed. “Is this a Command at work?”

“Don’t you bring out the insanity in men? I thought you had me all figured out.” He never took his gaze off her.

“Hah!” she said. “But you’re not acting like a man who’s spent decades yearning for me. I don’t even believe you’re actually still a virgin. You’re deceiving me somehow.”

He shrugged, his muscles rippling, and the ache between her legs increased. She wanted that body under her control, tight and then utterly exhausted on top of her. It was the correct order of the world.

Archer said, “I may not have yearned for you, but you can trust that I’m enjoying myself. As for being a virgin, I suppose I still am, technically.” He paused, his gaze hardening as he looked into the past. “You taught him that sex and heroing don’t mix.” He shrugged a second time. “The lesson lingered, even if the first cause faded.”

“And yet here you are now,” she said nastily. “Why?” A second time, she looked at the coat, and then it hit her. This was, after all, Shirou Emiya, if a far future, far more cynical form.

Once again, delight tickled her into laughter. “You’re here on behalf of your Master, but not that milky little girl. Your other master… and you’re here to save me.

It really was too much. “You’re here to save me, a poor sinner. You’re going to redeem me with your… power? Show me the glory of paradise?” She laughed again, caught up in the memories of all the other self-righteous men who had tried to save her. “I assure you, I’m a challenge.”

Something flickered across his face, something definitely not a smile, and her delight abruptly faded as she remembered earlier that same night. Shirou Emiya certainly didn’t need reminding.




EMIYA watched Kiara, as she watched him. He could read on her face the exact moment she’d remembered her recent experience with his younger self. He himself found the memory useful as context, but it took a large part of his self-discipline to keep the details shoved down so he could focus on what he had before him now.

He waited as she bit her lip, looked away from him, and then looked back at him with uncertainty that might have been real. Her naked breasts rose and fell as she breathed, and that splendid hair draped around her shoulders and tits. Looking at her like that, he added a few more items to the list of things he intended to do to Kiara once she’d worked her way through her hesitation.

“And now what?” she finally said, her voice once again sultry. It too brought back flashes of the shame he’d inherited from his past self. He preferred her delighted laugh, and even more preferred the scent of her skin.

Once again he chose not to answer her. There was no victory for him in bandying words with Kiara. She understood very well what would happen next, if she but consented. Instead he lowered his gaze to contemplate her breasts, and the thatch of hair between her legs.

Oh, yes, he had plans.

“You’re really a virgin?” she asked him.

“Sure.” It was a meaningless question to him. He had no memories of skin like hers under his fingers and tongue, or a mouth as hot as hers under his lips. He had no memories of personally doing some of what he yet intended, either. But he’d learned over the years to pay attention, take things slow and see what was actually before him—and here he ignored the giggle of Alaya in the back of his mind—and it seemed to be working so far.

“And you’re a priest of sorts,” she mused.

“Alaya isn’t a god,” he told her.

Kiara seemed to come to a decision, shifting her weight and leaning back again in a silent invitation. As he once again splayed his hands against the softness of her hips, she said, “I can break any holy man with enough time, you know.” Her breath caught in her throat as he closed his mouth over the tip of her breast once again and rolled his tongue against her nipple.

Yes, she liked that. He’d noticed.

“I’ve gone down on them while they preached Scripture at me,” she said dreamily. “I’ve had them try to fuck the bad out of me with their big holy cock. Are you going to do that, Archer?” She trailed her fingers along the back of his neck. “I look forward to it.”

She sighed as he left her nipple, trailed little kisses down the lush underside of her breast and then traced the contour of a rib with his tongue.

“They were all such filthy hypocrites, though. They cared far more about their own pleasure than my supposed salvation.” Her fingers tangled in his hair. “You’re not like that. You’re not even trying to tell me this is for my own good. But you’re Shirou Emiya. You’re definitely trying to save me.”

EMIYA preferred to think of it as disabling her, but the musk rising from her skin, especially a few inches below his nose, made correcting her uninteresting.

He used his hands to part her legs and plucked away the remains of her outfit. Then he paused to take in the woman spread out before him. She was incredibly beautiful: the proportion of her slim waist to the curve of her hips; her heavy, exquisitely shaped breasts with their pink peaks; her cascade of dark hair, the delicacy of her nose above her generous mouth, her rich golden eyes. That was her in a painting, and it was indeed lovely—but it was the least of her beauties.

The real Kiara could only be seen in her movements. Her eyelashes as they dusted against her cheeks in a moment of pleasure. The small curve of her mouth as she contemplated something exasperating. The twitch of her hips as she waited impatiently.

He smiled down at her and caught those twitching hips, sliding his hands under her rounded ass and lifting so he had a better angle. Then he buried his face in her muff, breathing deeply of her dizzying scent.

After he’d processed the initial impact of her scent, he went exploring, just as he’d done first with her mouth and neck, and then her breasts. He began with long strokes of his tongue, building a mental map of the territory. The technical details matched expectations, but the context was everything. He paid attention to when her breathy little sounds because squeaks, noticed where she clenched her ass against his hands and twisted her fingers in his hair. He found the spot where she exhaled and the spot where she gasped, found how to move his tongue to make her gasp more, and when she relaxed against him.

After a while, he brought his fingers into play, to open things up and to reach where his tongue couldn’t. He experimented with rhythms and pressures. Finally, having confirmed a few suspicions, he finally lifted his face, slid her legs off his shoulders where they’d come to rest and stretched out beside her on the bed, dragging his hand up her stomach and cupping a breast once again.

Her golden eyes heavy-lidded, she gave him a lazy smile. “You’ve definitely improved at foreplay. Ready to fuck?” She trailed a hand down his chest. “But you’re still wearing this full-body condom, Archer. Take it off.”

He once again took her nipple between his teeth in response, just to leave her gasping as he then rolled off the bed and proceeded to unhurriedly strip under her hot gaze.

In a distracted voice, she said, “The worst holy men are the ones who don’t even start out seeing me as a woman. The ones who see me as an assignment, or a checkbox. No different than the men I grew up with. I’m just a body with a hole they think they can fill.” As he finished undressing, she ran her hands over her breasts. “Are you going to fill my hole, Archer?” Her gaze dropped. “My my, Emiya, you have grown.”

The sight of Kiara toying with her own nipples with her legs spread and her pink lips parted was so unspeakably erotic that for a few pounding heartbeats EMIYA’s entire plan was in danger. She sensed it and ran one hand further down her body invitingly. Her magenta nails seem to demand he fall under her thrall, use her as she expected to be used, fuck her in a frenzied passion until he had nothing left and she once again laughed, this time in cynical triumph.

He actually swayed. His fingers, with which he’d stroked her innermost parts, twitched. He remembered that silken heat, and he regained his slipping control. He wanted to stuff his cock into her so intensely it hurt, but he’d dealt with so much pain through his life and afterlife. He could deal with this.

Instead, he sat on the bed again, waiting until she shifted position and wrapped her arms around him from behind. Her breasts flattened against his back and even with as much as he’d enjoyed them already this night, he looked forward to more.

He’d never really enjoyed disabling an enemy this much before. Was that why Alaya had seemed so smug?

Kiara put her chin on his shoulder and whispered, “What are we doing?” In response, he twisted his torso, catching her around the waist and bringing her forward onto his lap.

“Oh!” she squeaked breathlessly, and then glanced down at his cock, caught between the two of them. The soft give of her flesh felt good. The immediate future would be a severe test for him. And yet… he thought again of her eyelashes on her cheeks and knew it would be worth it.

“That won’t work,” she said teasingly as she wrapped her fingers around him. “Here, let me…”

He covered her hand with his. “Won’t it? At least to start?” She gave him another uncertain glance and he said, “Give this old virgin a break, Kiara. I don’t want to be done too soon.”

His clumsy excuse clearly didn’t reassure her. But she was as aroused as he was, and he’d long since moved past a childish reluctance to take any cheating advantage he could. So he took her hips, angling them slightly and then rubbing her clit against his cock. Her wet folds parted and enfolded him, giving him just a taste of what true penetration would be.

He gasped, and then found her mouth, kissing her hard as instinct took over for both of them. She kissed him back just as passionately, her tongue entwining with his as she rubbed herself against him. Her slippery heat stroking up and down his shaft was maddening and amazing, and he indulged himself as long as he could. But when it became nearly too much even for his Servant-backed self-control, he broke the kiss and went for the spot near the back of her neck he’d found before, carefully biting down hard enough to leave a mark.

She gasped, stiffened, and then began to buck wildly against him, breathy, gasping cries escaping her lips until she shuddered in his arms and went limp.

Carefully, he laid her down across the bed and stroked a sweat-soaked strand of hair away from her forehead, drawing its entire length through his fingers. He was entirely unsurprised that she finally opened her eyes, she regarded him with wordless fury.




Archer met her furious gaze with a calm she now found intolerably insolent. She wanted to scratch his mocking eyes out. She wanted to take his still stiff cock in her mouth and do to him what he’d just done to her. She could still feel the echoes of her unexpected orgasm in her toes and in her teeth.

No. No. Rage wasn’t the way to beat him. He wanted her. That was undeniable. She ran her hands down her body again, and the sensation of her own curves calmed her as much as the way his eyes followed her hands.

Her body was part of her power and he was in no way immune. He was just one of those stupid men whose egos required that she orgasm before they could. It was probably a legacy of his other self’s failure earlier. So she smiled at him and parted her legs again, purring, “Naughty Archer. Don’t you know that my faith requires that we come together, you inside me? Let’s try again.”

He gave her a skeptical look that made her clench her long nails into her palm. Was this was the Counterforce had in mind? Was he trying to hurt her by rejecting her?

But she’d been despised before and she knew the flavor. Archer had reveled in every inch of her body, and more thoroughly than most of her lovers. He’d put his fingers in her, stroked her most intimate part with his tongue. She shivered at the memory, and then reached out for his cock.

He allowed her to wrap her fingers around him, but once again wrapped his own hand around hers. “Please,” she breathed. “Come inside me. I want you to enjoy yourself too.”

Pulling her hand away, he stretched out beside her. “I have been.” He ran his thumb across her now swollen-lips again. “But you see, what I’ve been enjoying the most is your pleasure. And I don’t think you’ve ever felt the touch of God simply from a man’s cock in you.”

Her eyes narrowed as she stared up at him. “Ridiculous. Of course I have. As long as my partner can manage to make it in,” she emphasized with a glare. “That’s all I need. Poor Emiya. Are you afraid you’ll miss again?”

Once again, her barbs entirely missed, and part of her marveled at his invisible armor. Instead of getting angry at her taunts, instead of trying to prove her wrong, or even just leaving her in a fury, he simply raised one eyebrow at her and ran his hand down her body, lightly brushing over a nipple before continuing down her torso, trailing across her stomach, and coming to a halt between her legs.

With his eyes still locked on hers, he plunged two fingers deep inside her and began to slowly move them. She gasped at the brief jolt of pleasure, and then began to moan and gyrate her hips, closing her eyes. As she gasped and cried out, his fingers continued their steady, regular movement. It was fine. She didn’t need anymore.

When he leaned down and whispered, “Faker,” in her ear, it was like a slap in the face. She froze for a moment and then resumed her moaning and thrusting with more fervor.

He laughed and murmured, still at her ear, “It takes one to know one, you know.” Then he lowered his mouth to that spot on her neck he’d found and began to delicately and gently kiss her there, sliding his other arm under her so he could shift her toward him.

As he did, he withdrew his fingers from the depths of her cunt and settled them higher up, against her clit. When he began once again to move them, her moans changed pitch, became shorter and faster and completely beyond her control.

Less than two minutes later, another wave of blinding pleasure broke over her, even stronger than her previous orgasm. White fire poured through her veins and carried her floating into the boundless sky. When she finally returned to herself, Archer still cuddled her close, watching her again, his hand an unmoving pressure between her legs.

Kiara looked past him at the ceiling, once again staring at the mermaids. She thought of how the mermaid in the story had feet that didn’t work right. She could dance, yes, but she never enjoyed it like the other girls did. Like everybody thought she did. And in her attempt to seem just like the other girls, to be what was expected, her very voice was stolen from her.

Abruptly, she fought free of his embrace, pushing herself up and tucking her legs under her. Urgently, she said, “Archer. Please let me pleasure you.” She needed this, needed to restore some semblance of normality to her world. Otherwise… otherwise…

He tilted his head, looking up at her. “If that’s what you want. But Kiara? I won’t ‘take’ you, not the way you think you should be taken. And you can’t take me the way you took those priests.”

Her eyebrows furrowed. “So you believe.”

He touched her cheek. “Do you really want to?”

She sat up straight, her fists clenched on her folded legs, and couldn’t remember when she’d last been this unhappy. “Yes. No.” She drew in a breath.  “I want to know how much you want me.”

He raised his eyebrows again in clear amusement and indicated his body. “That’s not blindingly obvious?”

Stubbornly she said, “If you wanted me enough, you’d take me.” 

He finally sat up again as well and pulled her into his lap, her back to his chest. “No.”

“Yes,” she argued. “That’s what desire means. That’s the whole point.” He moved his hands up her waist as she spoke. “You fuck me and I give you salvation. That’s the whole game.”

“Leaving you with… what?” he asked, his hands stilling. “The emotional satisfaction of self-sacrifice? The continual enhancement of your cynicism? Fuel for your desire to destroy everything?”

“Yes,” she said breathlessly. “All that. That is what I am.” She turned and took his face between her hands. “Let me save you, Emiya. I can free you from this hell you’ve trapped yourself in.”

He smiled up at her and said nothing.

Impatiently, she said, “Well? Shall I be your salvation?”

“No. Nor my damnation, either.”

A pout pushed her lips out as she sat back. “Then what am I?” She thought about the question, and hastily added, “To you? What am I to you?”

In response, he lifted her off the bed and carried her over to the wide full-length mirror near the bathroom. After he put her on her feet in front of it, he stood behind her, and they looked at each other through the reflection.

“You are a woman, with a body right now, beautiful in her self.” He began once more to touch her breasts, light, delicate motions. This time, she could see the intent concentration on his face.

“A woman with a body that craves attention for what it is rather than what they dream of.” His hand moved down to the thatch of hair between her legs, brushing it gently. Even that tiny, indirect contact made her knees go weak.

And then suddenly it wasn’t just desire that made her feel weak. It was the warmth of his arms around her, the gentleness of his hands and the way his attention was riveted on her every breath. She felt lost, swept away by the realization that all this was a gift, from Shirou Emiya to her.

She wanted to give him something back. Not to win. Not to save. Not to swallow up. She wanted to give him a gift, freely and without recompense, just as he’d done for her. And if she couldn’t… if she couldn’t, maybe that was all right. Maybe that was how gifts went.

But still. She bent forward, placing her palms on the mirror, and said, “Fuck me now, Shirou Emiya.”

He inhaled, long and slow, put one hand on her hip, bent his knees a little. She watched his face as he’d spent so much time watching hers, and recognized that expression of thoughtful concentration. His cock nudged against her entrance. Then all at once, he sheathed himself cleanly in her.

He exhaled, and straightened his knees, lifting her feet clean off the ground and  leaving her to balance herself against the mirror. His eyes finally met hers, and she gave him a little smile. He reached around and supported her from underneath, his hand once again providing a firm pressure to her clit.

She gasped, at the rush of sensation that combined with the pressure of his cock inside her and the sight of his big body behind hers in the mirror to almost trigger another orgasm. But before she could protest that this was for him, her gift to him, he began to move. Each thrust lifted her and drove her cunt against his hand.

Between that and the mesmerizing reflection of him pounding into her, her breasts jouncing and even the little bit of spittle spraying from her mouth, she came harder and quicker than she ever remembered before. For what seemed like a long time, she was in a distant place: aware of her body being used, even appreciating the savage, snarling look Emiya had at his own orgasm, but observing it all from a pink floating cloud of bliss.

When the cloud finally dissolved, she and Archer were both on the floor where they’d collapsed, their limbs tangled together. She looked up at him blankly, feeling utterly sated both emotionally and physically.

It was wrong. She didn’t understand it. This wasn’t who she was. Tears filled her eyes and then spilled over, a legacy of the joy and rage and confusion of the night. She wiped them away quickly, glanced sideways at Emiya to see if he laughed at her.

He didn’t, of course. He watched her, and his eyes smiled.

“This isn’t who I am,” she told him defensively.

That made his mouth curve, too. “That’s the whole point, Kiara.” He brushed her mouth one last time with his thumb. “You’re not who you thought you were. Who, then, are you?”

He drew in his breath, sighed as if giving up on something, and added, “Rhetorical question. You don’t know now.” He sighed again. “But if you want to find out, I know an idiot who will help you find out.”