Disclaimer: Fate/Stay Night is the property of Type-Moon and Geneon. No money is earned by me for this simple fanfic.

'' Thoughts

"" Spoken words

By: Hawker748

Fate/Stay Night:

Dessert

Flames crackling through the downtown business district…

The discordant wail of a railroad crossing alarm…

The ringing clatter of steel striking steel…

A conflagration of fire and annihilation, destroying virtually everything it touched…

XXX

Shirou Emiya woke up, the images of his dream and memory fading back into the mist as he sat up on his futon, absently using his hand to wipe his sweaty brow. Ten years ago, Fuyuki City had had its heart ripped out in a disastrous fireball of unknown origin, resulting in scores of deaths, including Shirou's mother and father. Shirou had no memory of the actual disaster, all he recalled was walking through the aftermath in a daze, collapsing due to his injuries, and looking up to see the face of the man who'd eventually adopted him as his own son.

Shirou shook his head as the last images faded from his consciousness. Glancing at the clock, he got up and headed for the shower, using the hot water to clear away the morning grogginess and wash away the sweat and grime his dreams induced. He felt like a new man when he stepped out of the bathroom, clean and refreshed, and he made his way back to his room, slipping into his clothes, brushing his red hair, when the aroma of breakfast told him that Sakura had arrived.

"Hurry up Shirou! The food's getting cold!"

And in her unmistakable way, Taiga Fujimura announced her own presence. Shirou allowed himself a smile; some things never changed, and Fuji-nee was one of them. After his adoptive father had passed away five years ago, she became his legal guardian, and she'd served as a surrogate big sister, the closest thing he'd had to a mother since his biological parents died. "I'll be right there Fuji-nee," Shirou called out.

In addition to being a pseudo-family member, Taiga was also a teacher at Honurabaru School, Shirou's homeroom teacher as it happened. She brought the same excitable energy to her class that Shirou saw her use out of it, and her students universally liked her, often tweaking her by calling her 'Tiger-sensei,' which absolutely drove her up the wall. Shirou opened the door to the dining room, and sure enough, Taiga was in her usual place, wearing her usual yellow shirt with green stripes and green dress, which made her look a little like a tiger, and her pearl earrings. "How come your visits always seem to coincide with breakfast and dinner?" Shirou asked.

"I promised Kirigitsu that I'd look after you," Taiga stated imperiously. "I won't be lax in my responsibilities, especially when Sakura does so much for you as well…"

Shirou nodded a greeting to the younger purple haired girl. When he'd taken ill with a fever a few months back, she'd come over to look after him, cooking meals for him and looking after the sprawling estate he lived on. She's continued to do this even after he'd fought off the illness, despite his insistence that he could take care of himself. "It's bad enough that Sakura thinks she needs to cook my meals, but she shouldn't have to cook for three…"

"It's no trouble sempai," Sakura insisted, much to his chagrin. "It's just as easy to cook for three as for two, and we use the extra for lunch."

"But you don't need to do this!" Shirou objected. "At least take weekends off…"

Sakura gave him one of her usual gentle smiles. "It's no problem sempai," she replied dismissively.

Shirou's shoulders slumped. Once again, his wishes were being ignored; it was the way Sakura did everything, her disposition made Shirou feel like a jerk for daring to disagree with her, and while he was sure he could make her stop if he just put his foot down, her inherently sweet nature made that impossible. Resigned to losing yet another round to Sakura and Taiga, Shirou started eating, taking consolation that at least the food was excellent.

Breakfast was eaten in a comfortable silence, at least until Taiga finished eating and got to her feet, scrambling out the door in a rush, crying out about having to prepare a lesson. Shirou wondered if it was another coincidence that she seemed to remember that she had things to do when the time came to clean up after breakfast. He and Sakura cleared the table and put the leftovers in the fridge, before Shirou put on his school uniform top and the two of them began to walk to school.

"Sempai, how long have you known Ms. Fujimura?" Sakura asked as they walked towards the school.

Shirou let out a breath and looked skywards. "Fuji-nee? Since before my father died," he told her.

"Has she always been like that?"

Shirou felt his lips turn up in a smile. "Yes, she hasn't changed at all… She's the closest thing I've had to family since…" He broke off, a little upset at the conversation taking a somber turn.

Sakura noticed Shirou's discomfort and changed the subject. "Were you able to fix the VCR in the student council office?"

He shook his head. "No, I figured out what the problem was, but it would be cheaper to buy a new one than to fix it…" Shirou's special ability to almost instantly diagnose malfunctioning machinery meant he was in constant demand to fix things. No one knew that it was a form of magic, they just assumed that he had a gift for tinkering. He'd found that with more and more new machines, it was cheaper to replace them than to fix them, and that older devices were indeed built better than current ones. "They really don't make 'em like they used to…"

The two of them reached the gates of the school and went their separate ways, Sakura joining up with a friend of hers while Shirou encountered Issei, the student council president. "Good morning!" Shirou greeted his friend.

"Morning Shirou," Issei replied. "Thanks for trying to fix that VCR… Oh, and I just remembered, the parts for the air conditioner in the staff room arrived today. They'd like you to fix it."

"No problem, I'll do it after school…" The air conditioner had had a worn bearing, resulting in it shrieking like a banshee when it was running. He'd have to pull out the old one, pack the new one with grease and install it; nothing too difficult, but he'd get his hands dirty.

Issei smiled. "They'll be glad to hear that, it's going to be hot this week…"

Shirou shook his head. "It's no big deal…"

"You could always ask for something in return Shirou…"

"There's no need," Shirou replied dismissively. Issei had nothing to say to that and the two of them walked into their class, took their seats and waited for Ms. Fujimura to arrive.

XXX

Shirou's lips curled up in a smile as he listened to the faint hum of a running motor and felt cool air wash over him. It had taken him over an hour, but he'd successfully managed to repair the air conditioner. It had taken longer than he'd expected, the old bearing had proven to be especially difficult to remove, but it was working now, another piece of equipment added to the long list of things he'd fixed around the school.

He put his tools back into his kit, washed the grease and grime off of his hands, taking time to make sure to get all of it out from under his fingernails, and placed his toolkit back in the storage room. After making sure that the door was locked, Shirou walked through the empty hallways, listening to his footsteps echo through the deserted corridors. Enjoying the peacefulness of the moment, he was startled when he turned the corner and found himself encountering a moving stack of storage boxes.

"S-Shirou? Is that you?" Taiga called out from behind the stack of boxes. "A little help? These are heavy…"

Shirou took hold of three of them, and Taiga let out a sigh of relief. "What are you doing here?" he asked.

"I was grading papers, and I needed to lock these files away," Taiga replied. "I only wanted to make one trip, but they're heavier than I thought…"

"I'll carry them for you, Fuji-nee."

Taiga gave him a grateful look. "Thank you… It's at the end of the next hall." She adjusted her grip on the one box he hadn't taken and led him down the hall, Shirou struggling to balance the three boxes and see past them, hoping that he didn't trip over anything.

When they reached the storage room, Taiga used her key to open the door and she turned on the light, frowning when she realized where they had to go. "Figures it would be the top shelf…"

"Do you want me to do it?" Shirou asked.

Taiga shook her head. "No, I'll do it, just hand me the boxes." She moved the rickety looking stepladder in front of the shelves, and slowly climbed up to the top step.

"Be careful Fuji-nee," Shirou cautioned, casting his eyes over the flimsy ladder and the absurdly high shelf she had to stretch to place the box on.

"I will." She placed the box on the shelf and then reached down and took the second and third boxes from Shirou and put them where they belonged. Taiga took the last box from him and reached over her head, stretching to set it next to the others when she stumbled, letting out a squawk as she slipped off of the ladder.

"Fuji-nee!" Without thinking, Shirou moved to catch her, but he miscalculated her mass and inertia and he was knocked off of his feet as she collided with him. He managed to keep himself from collapsing too quickly, and he ended up on his back, his head connecting with the floor, making him see stars, the wind knocked out of him with a "Whoomph!"

His head spinning and ears ringing, Shirou was able to focus enough to see that while Taiga looked dazed, she seemed otherwise unhurt. He saw her shake her head to clear it, her eyes going wide when she realized that he was under her. "Sh-Shirou! Are you okay?" She patted his cheeks with her hands, trying to help him focus.

"I-I'm fine… You all right…?" Shirou murmured, his senses not quite fully recovered.

"I'm fine, did you hit your head? How many fingers am I holding up?"

"Two… I'm fine, just-just give… me… a… minute…" As his head cleared, Shirou's reply died off, looking up into Taiga's brown eyes. He'd known her for years, but he'd never seen her quite like this before; her hair was a little rumpled, with the light on the ceiling casting a slight aura around it. The worried look she was wearing was surprisingly cute, and he was a little astonished to realize that she smelled really good, her face just a few inches from his own. And the feeling of her body on top of his was quite pleasant.

Shirou would never remember making a conscious decision; one moment he was looking up at Taiga's eyes, the next his right hand was behind her head, gently entwined in her hair, pulling her down till her lips touched his. The kiss was closed mouthed and open eyed, going on for about ten seconds, before it sunk into Shirou just what he was doing, and he let her go, his eyes widening in a delayed expression of surprise.

Taiga seemed to teleport to the door, her cheeks scarlet, her expression a strange fusion of surprise, confusion, and embarrassment. "I-I should be going… I-I'll see you later Shirou," she stammered, before she all but bolted back into the hallway, her footfalls rapidly fading into the distance.

"Fuji-nee…" Shirou murmured quietly after she'd left. He stared at his hands in wonderment, trying to figure out why kissing her seemed like a good idea. He rubbed his lips gently, recalling just how soft Taiga's had been, his own cheeks flushing in embarrassment at what he'd done. Shirou stayed on the floor for some time, trying to think of a logical reason for his actions and finding none. He tried to tell himself it was because he'd hit his head, but deep down, he knew it wasn't that simple.

Not being able to put it off any longer, Shirou got back to his feet, made a mental note to fix that step ladder, turned off the light, locked the door and left the storage room. He walked through the deserted school towards the exit, leaving the grounds and slowly making his way back home, his mind in turmoil as he mentally replayed what had happened, each time trying to make sense of what he'd done. When he finally made it home, he still hadn't figured it out.

XXX

The next morning, Shirou nearly jumped out of his skin when he found Taiga at the breakfast table, eating calmly and admonishing him for not being faster. Though his heart was beating like a jackhammer, he managed to keep his composure, absently accepting a bowl of rice from Sakura, but he couldn't keep from flinching whenever Taiga started to speak. 'Did-did I dream that?' Shirou asked himself. 'No, no I didn't, did I… I kissed her. But she isn't going to kill me… Or she's just waiting till she finishes breakfast…'

"Is something wrong Shirou?" Taiga asked, making him flinch.

"No, I'm fine…" he replied instantly, not able to make himself look her in the eyes. Shirou forced himself to concentrate on his food, only giving Taiga brief looks, and only when she was looking away. He did his best to appear normal, but he wasn't able to engage in his normal verbal sparring with Ms. Fujimura, not even rising to the challenge when she happened to muse about whether he should enlist in the Self Defense Forces.

Breakfast was lively enough, with Sakura and Taiga chatting amiably, but Shirou kept quiet unless he was spoken to, and his responses were usually short, monosyllabic replies. Shirou's mind was a whirlwind of activity as he tried to make sense of what had happened after school the day before. 'Is she alright with what happened?' he wondered. Talking to Taiga was the obvious solution, but there was no way he'd do that in front of Sakura, and even if he'd been alone with her, he had no idea how to even approach the subject, never mind discussing it

"That was delicious Sakura-chan," Taiga said, wiping her mouth with a napkin. "I'll see you two later, I have to prepare some lessons…" She stood up and picked up her lunch, heading towards the exit.

"I-I'll see you to the door Fuji-nee" Shirou told her.

For the briefest moment, Taiga's expression faltered, before it slipped back to normal. "No need Shirou, I won't get lost…" She left the room and headed for the door.

"It'll be rude if I don't," Shirou insisted, following her. He had to walk quickly to keep up with her, and she was slipping on her shoes by the time Shirou reached the front door. "Fuji-nee, wait…"

"I'll be late if I do…"

"Shouldn't we, you know, talk…?"

Taiga looked at him with a curious expression on her face. "What about?"

Shirou blinked in surprise. "What about? You're kidding…"

"I'm sorry Shirou, I'm going to be late," Taiga replied, effectively terminating the conversation. "See you in class."

Shirou watched her pull on her shoe and dash out the door. Her desperate scrambling wasn't an unusual sight, but it left him wondering if she was going to actively avoid him. 'Then why did she come here?' he asked himself. Shirou shook his head. "I can't believe she asked what I wanted to talk about… How about the fact I kissed you?" he murmured.

"What was that?"

Shirou jumped in surprise, Sakura having managed to sneak up behind him. "Nothing! Just talking to myself!"

Sakura frowned a little at his answer. "Isn't that a sign of madness?"

Shirou shook his head. "Only if you say, 'Pardon me?'"

Sakura's usual smile returned. "Okay."

"Let's clean up now, okay?" Shirou pressed, making a none too subtle effort to change the subject.

"Okay sempai…" If Shirou's bluntness upset her, Sakura gave no sign.

The two of them packed up the leftover food and washed the bowls and chopsticks in comfortable silence, and Shirou was grateful for the activity, as it meant he had something else to think about. By the time they'd finished, Shirou had mostly cleared his head, and after they'd packed lunches, the two of them slipped on their shoes and left for school.

Walking to school with Sakura was a comfortably familiar ritual for Shirou, and he found it reassuring. As they walked, the two of them made small talk, Shirou insisting that she didn't have to come over every day, as well as asking about her older brother Shinji. As usual, Sakura brushed off his concerns about what she did to help him, somehow phrasing it in a way that made Shirou feel like a jerk for even raising the issue.

But when they reached the gates of Honurabaru School, Shirou hesitated. Taiga was his homeroom teacher, and being in her presence was going to be awkward for him. She appeared to have gotten over it, perhaps just dismissing it as a result of getting his bell rung, but it felt odd the way things were now.

"Is something wrong sempai?" Sakura asked him, looking back over her shoulder.

"No, I just… thought I forgot to do something, that's all…"

"Did you?"

"It's fine…" Squaring his shoulders and taking a deep breath to muster his courage, Shirou resumed walking, steeling himself for his homeroom class.

XXX

For the next ten days, the pattern repeated itself; Taiga came over for breakfast and dinner, and Shirou couldn't bring himself to look her in the eyes. Sakura had even asked him once if something was bothering him, but he'd simply told her that he hadn't slept well, satisfying the younger girl's curiosity. Taiga had no difficulty talking to him, but Shirou wasn't able to bring the same energy that he once had. He'd made one more attempt to talk to Taiga about what had happened, but she'd shown no interest in discussing it, convincing Shirou that she considered the matter closed.

'Dammit, it's not closed to me!' he raged silently on a Friday afternoon in Taiga's class, less than ten minutes from the end of the day. 'Shouldn't have done it then, moron, then you wouldn't be in this mess…' He let out a sigh and looked out the window again, not really paying attention to the lecture. Her classes hadn't changed at all and Shirou was relieved at that; she hadn't shown him any more or less attention, though it made him wonder how she was able to put it behind her so easily. 'Guess it wasn't her first kiss… Maybe that's why…' He continued to stare out the window, wishing that time would speed up so he could get out of there. 'I don't have to work this weekend either, so I'll be able to-'

"What's the answer, Emiya?" Taiga's question intruded into his thoughts.

"Sorry Tiger, don't know…" Shirou replied absently, before his eyes went wide when he realized what he'd said. 'Oh shi-'

Another student had made the mistake of calling Ms. Fujimura 'Tiger' today, so Shirou's slip up was like pouring gasoline on a bonfire. "What have I told you about calling me 'Tiger?!'" she raged. "I've warned you all that you'll be sorry if you don't call me Ms. Fujimura! And you're the second one today Emiya! You're going to join Yamashita in detention!"

"Yes Fujimura-sensei," Shirou replied weakly, knowing that there was no way to get out of this. When Taiga was like this, she couldn't be reasoned or bargained with. He slumped into his desk, mentally kicking himself for his slip and bemoaning the delay of his escape.

When the final bell rang, all of the students except for Shirou and Keitaro Yamashita filed out of the class, giving the unfortunate two sympathetic looks that screamed, 'poor bastards…' Shirou put all of his things into his bag and waited, knowing that Taiga didn't allow students in detention to do school work, believing that it lessened the punishment if they did. He sat at his desk and watched her grading assignments, and wondering why time always seemed to slow down in detention.

After an interminable hour, Taiga looked up at Yamashita and told him, "You can go…" She then turned to Shirou. "You stay where you are… You said it second, so you're not finished yet…"

"Yes Fujimura-sensei," Shirou replied, watching as Keitaro picked up his bag with a flourish and exited the class. He watched his liberated classmate striding across the courtyard and out of the gate. By now the school was virtually deserted, and within the next fifteen minutes he saw the last members of the school's custodians and teachers leave, and Shirou rested his head on his desk, wondering just how long he'd have to stay.

"Why did you kiss me?"

Shirou lifted his head, wondering if he'd imagined what he'd heard. Taiga was still correcting homework, her eyes on the papers before her. Shaking his head, he returned his gaze to the window.

"Shirou…" He looked back at Taiga, and he saw that she hadn't lifted her head, though she'd put down her pen. "Why did you kiss me?"

Why indeed? Shirou had been asking himself the same question, and he still hadn't come up with any reasons. "I-I don't know…" he admitted.

Now Taiga did look up. "You don't know? So… you would have kissed anyone?" she asked. "If-if Sakura had fallen on you, you'd have kissed her…?"

"I don't think so… But I'm not sure…"

"Then… Why me?" Taiga stood up and walked towards Shirou, taking a seat at a desk in front of his, sitting backwards and looking at him closely.

Shirou swallowed and idly made a mental note to ask the principal if he could take a look at the schools HVAC system, as the class seemed to be far too warm to him. "I don't know… you just looked so… nice… I-I suddenly just wanted to…" he murmured. 'Smooth, REALLY smooth…' his mind sarcastically commended him.

Taiga let out a derisive snort. "I'm your legal guardian, and quite a few years older than you… And you thought this was a good idea…?"

"Wasn't really thinking about that…" Shirou confessed.

"You know what I should do?" Taiga asked. "I should slap you down and warn you to NEVER do that again, and maybe even try to have you expelled." She nodded as Shirou went pale. "That's the proper thing in this situation… But I'm not going to do that…"

"You're not…?"

Now Taiga shook her head. "No, I'm not. And you know why?"

"No…"

"Because… Because I've been wondering why you stopped…" Taiga whispered.

"I-I stopped… Because I thought that I was being stupid… I wanted to kiss you… even though I knew better, and I guess I realized I was being foolish…" Shirou murmured. "I mean, what was I thinking, kissing you. Thinking you'd accept it…" He still couldn't look Taiga in the eyes. "I should go… I-I'm sorry I did that Fuji-nee, making you feel awkward… It won't happen again…" Shirou stood up, even though he hadn't been dismissed, but feeling uncomfortable being this close to her, remembering what had happened the last time. He bowed formally. "I'll see you later, sorry for the trouble." He then strode for the door, placing his hand on the handle, when Taiga's hand quickly covered his own.

"Wait Shirou," she told him. "Why are you leaving?"

"Because I did something stupid Fuji-nee, and I'm ashamed of myself…"

"Because you kissed me?"

"Yes… And because if I could change it, I'm not sure I would…" Shirou confessed. He lowered his head and stared at his shoes, feeling humiliated, until Taiga placed her hand under his chin and lifted his face. "Fuji-nee?"

"Shirou," she told him softly, "I WAS surprised when you kissed me… I used to baby-sit you when you were growing up… But-but since you did it, I-I haven't been thinking of you as a boy anymore…"

Shirou really looked at Taiga for the first time since the kiss. "Why are you saying that? Trying to make me feel better? So I won't feel guilty?"

Taiga caressed Shirou's cheek as she shook her head. "No, I'm telling you the truth Shirou… It-it's been so long since someone looked at me like that…And I've missed that. I-I thought you'd stopped because I-I repulsed you…"

"No! No, not at all," Shirou insisted. "You're beautiful Fuji-nee…" He let go of the door handle, gently grasping the hand caressing his cheek, nuzzling it briefly before he kissed it softly. After a moment, Taiga pulled her hand free, and then she took hold of the back of his head and pulled it towards hers until Shirou's lips touched hers. He hesitated for a brief second, then he slipped his arms around Taiga's waist and pulled her against him, holding her tightly.

The kiss was soft, tentative, with neither of them closing their eyes, both watching the other for some sign of hesitation or uncertainty in the other. But as it continued, it grew deeper, Shirou easing his right hand behind Taiga's head, slipping his fingers in her short hair. He saw Taiga close her eyes and felt her tongue begin to push up against his lips, so he opened his mouth and eased his own tongue forward, letting it brush up against hers, letting out a contented hum as he closed his own eyes.

Shirou absently realized that he was still standing next to the door of the classroom, and he let go of Taiga's waist and reached out to lock the door, then took a step back so he was resting against the front wall of the class, pulling Taiga tight against him. She let out a brief exclamation of surprise, and then began to grind herself against him, the warmth of her body apparent even through both of their clothes, and Shirou felt himself growing hard in response.

When it was all over, having moved from the wall to her desk and finally finishing on the floor, and after he felt as if he'd recovered some of his strength, Shirou pushed himself back up on his hands. But Taiga took hold of his head and pulled him back down into a languid kiss. When she broke it off, Taiga caressed his cheek and looked up into his eyes adoringly. "Oh Shirou… That was… amazing."

"I'm glad you… liked it…" Shirou replied. His mind was clearing, and the euphoria of what had happened was fading, allowing reality to interject into the situation "Is this right? You're a teacher, I'm just a student…"

Taiga's smile faltered a little. "That's true," she allowed. "But you're in Grade Eleven, you've got only a year left, right?" When Shirou nodded, Taiga's smile returned to full brilliance. "As long as we're…careful…in just over a year you'll graduate. Then we can do it as much as we want and no one can say anything."

Blushing, but NOT surprised by Taiga's bluntness, Shirou asked, "You'd want to be with me? Why?"

"I promised Kirigitsu I'd look after you, help you grow into a fine young man…" Taiga reminded him. "You've become such a good man that I'd like to spend more time with you."

"So how do you feel about me-"

Taiga cut off Shirou with a finger to his lips. "We shouldn't talk about that now, it'll make things difficult…" She then gave him a half-lidded smile. "But, yes, I think I could…" she added.

"So could I…"

"Could you let me up Shirou? The floor's a little dirty, and I have to pick up those assignments…"

"Huh? Uh, sure…" Shirou pushed himself back to his feet, feeling self conscious about hanging out in the open, extending a hand to Taiga and helping her back to her feet. He grabbed some tissues from the box on the desk and handed them to her, using a few to wipe himself before zipping back up. "What now?"

Slipping her panties back up her legs and straightening up her dress, Taiga replied, "You should head back home and clean up. Sakura will worry if you're too late. I've got to finish here, I'll see you later." She started gathering up the papers from the floor as he headed for the door, surprised by the quick return to reality.

Shirou was at the door when Taiga told him to wait. Turning back, he saw her walking towards him, an enigmatic smile on her face. "Taiga?"

She ignored his question and kissed him, breaking it off after a minute or so. "I'm sorry if I'm being abrupt," she apologized. "But we should be distant at school. This doesn't mean I don't feel anything for you…"

"I understand…"

"Don't expect to bang me on the classroom floor again anytime soon…" she told him, making him go scarlet. "But there's always your place, or mine…"

Shirou gave her a quick peck on the lips. "I'll see you later, then…" he whispered, opening the door.

"You better believe you will," Taiga assured him.

XXX

Shirou hurried home as quick as he could, giving Sakura a quick greeting before he headed to the bathroom, stripping down and stepping into the bath, and scrubbing himself. Satisfied that he'd removed all traces of Taiga's scent from his body, as well as the sweat, he dried off and put on some clean clothes before heading to the dining room.

He was a little surprised to find Taiga waiting for him at the dinner table.

"F-Fuji-nee? Wh-what are you doing here?" He wasn't upset to see her, but he hadn't figured on seeing her again till Monday.

"What I'm supposed to do, keep an eye on you," she replied imperiously. "And since Sakura was making dinner, she felt it was right to invite me to stay…"

Shaking his head ruefully, Shirou sat down. 'Shoulda known Taiga wouldn't let this change things, especially missing out on a meal…' He accepted a bowl of rice from Sakura with an appreciative nod and started eating. He wanted to look into Taiga's eyes, or maybe even have her rest against him, but with Sakura sitting opposite him, he had to act as if nothing had changed.

The three continued to eat, until Taiga set down her bowl with a satisfied sigh. "That was excellent, as usual, Sakura-chan," she complimented the young girl. "I'm so glad I came over to help Shirou with his schooling…"

Shirou looked up, his chopsticks halfway to his mouth. "What are you talking about, Fuji-nee?"

"I finished grading those assignments, it took longer than I expected, something came up, and you only got a 'C+' grade." She explained. "As your guardian and teacher, it's my responsibility to help you do better."

"Does that mean you'll be eating with some of your other students from now on?" Sakura asked.

"I don't think so, Shirou's my first attempt at improving the student/teacher relationship," Taiga told her. "Makes sense, if you think about it, since we've already had relation- Ow!" She broke off her explanation when Shirou kicked her under the table, his eyes wide in disbelief. Taiga looked at Shirou, giving him a smile that only he could see, before she continued. "Shirou's been working long and hard on his studies," she cheerfully related to Sakura. "The poor boy was hard up when he was in detention today; he needed some attention from me." Taiga shifted her legs under the table, resulting in Shirou's foot jostling it when he tried to kick her again. "It was a tight squeeze, but I was able to fit him in. He won't have to worry about the pressure building up anymore…"

"Sempai, is something wrong?"

Shirou had gone ghostly pale, and he'd developed a tic in his right eye. "I'm fine," he rasped hoarsely. "Just… tired, is all…"

Taiga nodded sagely. "I'm not surprised, he gave it his all in detention… He was completely spent when it was over."

Shirou gripped the table to keep from falling backwards in a dead faint "Yeah… Tired… I'll be okay…"

"You sure?" Taiga asked, the innocent tone in her voice not matching the look on her face.

"Yes," Shirou replied with a little more surety. He stood up and started to gather up the dishes, waving off Sakura when she started to help. Cleaning away the dirty dishes and packing away the leftovers took only a few minutes, and Shirou then prepared tea, handing a cup to Sakura and Taiga, giving her a pleading look. She simply accepted her tea and smiled back at him.

They sipped their tea in silence, until Sakura set down her empty cup and stood up, telling Shirou that she had to be going. "We'll see you out Sakura," Taiga told her. "Thank you for the meal, it was delicious…"

"You're welcome Ms. Fujimura. I'll see you tomorrow sempai…" she told Shirou.

"But it's Saturday," Shirou protested, as the three of them reached the entrance. "At least take a weekend off…"

"It's not a bother," Sakura told him as she slipped on her shoes. She then turned and bowed politely. "See you tomorrow…"

Shirou and Taiga watched her walk to the gate, and when he thought that Sakura was out of earshot, he turned on his teacher. "Are you insane?" he hissed. "Talking like that around her."

Taiga didn't reply, continuing to watch the young girl walk to the gate and out. "Sakura's an excellent chef, isn't she?"

"Um, yeah, she is…" Shirou replied, wondering what Taiga was getting at.

"But, there's one important part of the meal she missed…"

"Oh? What?"

Taiga turned and placed her arms around Shirou's shoulders, pulling his head towards hers. "Dessert…" she whispered, just before her lips pressed up against his. She eased her tongue up against Shirou's lips, and after a second of hesitation, he let himself respond to the advances, sliding his arms under hers and embracing her, pulling her until he could feel her pressed up against his chest.

Shirou pulled his lips back and moved them to the side of her throat, laying a path of soft kisses upon it, then letting his tongue run over the skin he'd just kissed. He heard her let out a throaty moan at his efforts, and he opened his eyes in surprise when he felt her pull down on his shoulders. "Taiga? Wha-what are you do- Ohhh!" He lost his train of thought when she took his left earlobe between her lips and suckle on it. When she increased her efforts to get him off of his feet, he managed to make himself gasp out, "Sh-shouldn't we go-Ahhh!-inside? W-we're outdoors…"

"So?" Taiga replied, slipping a warm hand under his shirt and sliding it up to grab his shoulder.

"Sa-Sakura could come back, a-anyone could see…" Shirou stammered.

"We're inside the entrance," she pointed out.

"B-but the doors open!"

"We'll be okay," she stated confidently, before she quit trying to simply pull him down and used her legs to trip him up, bringing him to the floor in what was essentially a controlled fall.

"I hope you're right…" Shirou murmured, abandoning all attempts at self restraint. He took hold of Taiga's head and crushed his lips against hers, letting his tongue rub up against hers as he moved his right hand to her chest, squeezing her left breast through her clothes. And when they were finished, the two of them held tight to each other, shuddering heavily and both of them completely winded, drenched in sweat, and their hearts sounding like they were sending Morse code.

For a time, only the presence of the other kept them from slumping back and dozing off, as post orgasm tiredness gripped the both of them. Eventually, the two of them got their bodies under control, their pulse and breathing approaching normal as they shared another languid kiss, content to be held in the arms of the other. "That… was… incredible… Shirou…" Taiga purred happily.

"Does it always feel that good?" Shirou asked.

"I don't know," Taiga admitted. "But I'll do my best…"

"So will I…"

They continued to hold each other for a while, Taiga running her fingers through Shirou's hair while he rubbed her bare back, the two of them enjoying the closeness before Shirou spoke again. "Taiga…?"

"Yes?"

"NOW can we go inside…?"

Taiga smiled at him. "Of course… Can you carry me?"

"Yes…" The pair gathered up their discarded clothing, and Taiga held it while Shirou stood up while holding on to her, her legs still wrapped around his waist as they made their way to Shirou's bedroom. Once there, they cleaned themselves up a bit before they laid down on the futon, Taiga resting her head on Shirou's chest, his arms wrapped around her. As he held the sleeping woman, his last thought before he drifted off to sleep was that 'dessert' was one of the things that made life worth living.

XXX

The following morning, the two of them had to scramble to get cleaned up and dressed before Sakura showed up; when she arrived, Shirou was still in the shower, while Taiga was waiting in the dining room. The young woman looked a little surprised to see Ms. Fujimura, but she took it in stride, accepting her explanation on being there to help Shirou with his studies and for breakfast. When Shirou finished getting dressed and joined them, he relaxed upon learning that Sakura had no suspicions.

He tensed right back up again when Taiga began to use all sorts of thinly veiled innuendo, seeming to delight in making him twitch. When Sakura asked how the studying had gone, and Taiga replied with, "It was hard, but I rode him last night until we were both spent," Shirou ended up spitting out a mouthful of food, very nearly choking on it. When Sakura inquired about the facial tic he developed, Shirou mumbled an explanation about being tired, preempting a rejoinder from Taiga with a kick under the table.

For the sake of discretion, they decided to not make love at the school anymore, choosing to use either their homes or the occasional love hotel. They both agreed that until Shirou graduated, the two of them shouldn't spend another night together, just to be careful. So they continued to see each other whenever possible, and Shirou found himself becoming more and more fond of his teacher, and he often wondered if this was love.

Things went on like this for some time.

But then, Shirou was unwillingly introduced to the Holy Grail Wars.

When Lancer's spear pierced his heart, Shirou's last thoughts before he slipped into the black oblivion were rage and regret that he hadn't had the chance to tell Taiga he loved her.

When Rin Tohsaka brought him back, Taiga was the first thing that went through his mind.

When Kotomime explained the rules of the Grail Wars to Shirou, and gave him the choice of whether or not to participate, he accepted. Rin figured it was his nature of trying to spare others pain that motivated him; she wasn't completely wrong, but his real motivation was making sure that nothing would lead to Taiga being hurt like in the catastrophe of a decade earlier.

As he expected, Taiga wasn't too happy at learning that Saber would be living with him, but he assured her when he had a moment that it wasn't like that. She still didn't like it, but she relented, much to Shirou's relief, and told him that Saber wasn't allowed to sleep in his room. "That's MY turf…" she reminded him.

Shirou was able to keep Taiga from getting drawn into the Grail Wars, until Shinji Matou erected the barrier at the school. When Shinji had laughed about kicking Taiga, and possibly even killing her, Shirou felt a surge of fury grip him, and he used that to fight through the defenses, while Saber battled his Servant Rider. Taking pleasure from the feel of his fingers around Shinji's throat, Shirou snarled at him to drop the barrier, and terrified by the look in his eyes, Shinji relented. When Rider deactivated the Blood Fort, Shinji breathed a sigh of relief when Shirou let go of his neck, only to have his eyes widen in shock when he grabbed him behind the head, gripped him under the chin and twisted hard, the sickening crackle of his neck breaking sounding like rifle shots in his ears.

As he died, Shinji Matou's last thought was that Shirou's face had barely shown any emotion while killing him.

When Shinji's body hit the ground, Rider disengaged from Saber, blazed past a surprised Shirou, picked up the book that held the Command Seals, and bolted out the window. Saber was prepared to pursue, but Shirou told her to take Shinji's corpse and dispose of it, while he ran into the class, pulling out his phone and calling the paramedics. Wordlessly, Saber lifted the body and leapt away while Shirou attempted to revive Taiga.

As Taiga's ward, Shirou was allowed to ride to the hospital in the ambulance with her, and he was keeping vigil next to her bed when Rin and Saber arrived, presumably with Archer as well. Shirou wouldn't leave her side until the doctors were able to convince him that she'd be fine and that she just needed to rest undisturbed. Reluctantly, he allowed Saber and Rin to lead him home, numbed by all that had happened, and trying to come to grips with the fact that he'd killed someone he'd once called a friend, but felt no remorse. His overloaded mind took another jolt when he discovered Sakura waiting for him, with Rider standing behind her.

Before a free-for-all could break out, Sakura explained how Rider had originally been her Servant, but that she'd been compelled to give her to Shinji. She also assured that Rider would not make any attempts to harm any of them. Too tired and upset to deal with anything else, Shirou simply headed for bed, telling Saber, without any trace of humor or mirth, that unless they had news about Taiga, to kill anyone who tried to disturb him. In his room, he shrugged out of his clothes and slipped into bed, tears silently gliding down his cheeks as he recalled how Taiga had looked in the hospital. The image stayed with him all night, tormenting him before he was able to doze off, and haunting his dreams when he did manage to sleep.

Breakfast the next morning was a tense, hushed affair, with three Masters and three Servants sitting at the table, all eyeing the others carefully. There was an unspoken truce, but Saber looked like she wanted nothing more than to slay the others. A hard look from Shirou made her stay her hand, but only just. Sakura looked especially hurt, as it had been her Servant and brother who had caused so much pain. After he finished eating, Shirou thanked Sakura for the meal, and then announced that he was going to visit Taiga in the hospital. Saber, Rin, and Sakura went with him, with Archer and Rider following along in spirit form.

When they reached the room, Taiga was still unconscious, and Shirou pursed his lips, before he snapped his fingers as an idea struck him. Leaning close to her, he called out, "Up and at 'em Tiger!"

"D-don't… call me… Tiger…" she murmured sleepily, her eyes fluttering open. "S-Shirou…?"

"Hello…" Shirou whispered, smiling down at her, and blinking away tears.

Her own eyes welling up, Taiga reached up and pulled Shirou into an embrace, her shoulders shaking as she sobbed quietly onto his shoulder for a minute, as Shirou made calming noises and gently rubbed her back. The others in the room were a little surprised at the level of contact between the two; they were completely taken aback when Taiga pulled her head back, wiped her eyes, and gave Shirou a passionate kiss, which he unhesitatingly returned. When they broke off the kiss after a minute, Shirou turned around and saw Saber looking at him with a neutral expression, though for a second he thought he saw a trace of sadness; Rin had developed a severe twitch around her eyes, and Sakura looked to be on the verge of tears. "I guess I should explain…" Shirou murmured quietly.

"Ya think?" Rin shot back.

Shirou detailed his relationship with Taiga to all present, the heartbroken look Sakura gave him making him feel miserable. He then explained to Taiga about what the Grail Wars were all about, even having Archer and Rider show themselves as proof. The sight of the Servants materializing made Taiga faint dead away, but when she regained consciousness, she seemed to handle it pretty well, saying something about him being his father's son. Shirou then made it known that Taiga was not to be dragged into the Grail Wars, and that anyone who tried would answer to him. While he may not have been any match for a Servant, the look in his eyes spoke volumes about his resolve.

Taiga then asked everyone but Shirou to leave, thanking them for visiting her. Saber said she'd be on guard in the hall, but all the others left without comment, Rin doing her best to console a crushed Sakura. When they were alone, Shirou spoke. "I-I'm sorry Taiga, about not telling you about this…"

"Why didn't you…?"

"Wanted to keep you out of it… It's dangerous."

"Why would you do something like that?" she asked, sounding upset. "Keep a secret from me."

"I didn't want you to get hurt…"

"Look where I am Shirou… Why didn't you tell me? I-I thought you cared…"

"I do!" he replied vehemently. "I was trying to protect you, keep you safe…"

"But who's protecting you?" she asked. "How can I look after you if you don't tell me about everything?"

"You shouldn't have to-"

"I do," Taiga interrupted. She took a deep breath. "I-I love you Shirou… And I'm supposed to watch over you, so don't make it harder for me to do that. Don't keep secrets…"

"I love you too Taiga…" Shirou confessed. He took her hand in his. "I'll tell you everything from now on…"

"That's good," Taiga replied with a smile. "When I get out of here, I'll be moving in with you full time…"

"Huh? B-but you're-"

"You're my ward, you'll just be helping me with the months of therapy I'll need to recover, right? Besides, I don't want to leave Saber alone with you. Or Rider. She looks like she might grab you one day, tie you to a bed, and have her way with you. I'm the only one who gets to do that…"

Blushing, and thanking every god that might be listening that Taiga had a private room, Shirou acquiesced. "Yes Taiga…"

"And when you graduate, we can drop any pretense. No need for subtlety then…"

Shirou wondered if Taiga even knew the meaning of the word 'subtle.' "Okay."

Taiga let out a yawn. "I need some more rest, I think…" She slid over on the bed. "Can you just hold me while I sleep? I've missed that…"

"Just sleep?"

"I don't really feel like fooling around now, but if you're in the mood…"

"No-no-no, that's fine. I'd like that, I've missed you too…" Taking off his shoes, Shirou lay down beside Taiga and took her in his arms, smiling at the contented sigh she let out. "Sleep well," he told her, kissing her on the forehead. Taiga simply snuggled against him and dozed off, Shirou listening to her gentle breathing.

Shirou had no idea how the Grail Wars were going to play out now, but as he lay there with Taiga sleeping in his arms, he resolved that he would do whatever it took to protect her.

End of Dessert

This was pre-read by Rx7 and Fatuous One.

Thanks a million guys!