Summary: It takes more than years to heal. It takes more than moving on from the past. Written for 31 days, October 24, 2008: once more, with feeling. Post-series, Shirou/Rin, some Shirou/Saber.

your cross of jewels bathed in gold

All so quickly, life is back to the way it was.

Sakura comes over to make breakfast and lunch. Fuji-nee follows wherever the food is.

Ilya continues to stay at his home. Rin has left, the previously claimed 'house repairs' having long-since been complete.

Saber is gone.

(And if this is how life always was, so be it, because that's exactly how it was.

It was.)


One day, perhaps a month after the end, Rin comes to him.

(the look in her eyes, the twist in her mouth – it means something, he's sure, but he doesn't know what – this is how it always was – )

"You look well," she says, as some sort of pleasantry.

"You, too." "Of course." "Why shouldn't I?" "I feel well, after all."

Rin opens her mouth like she means to say something pointed, but seals her lips again, doesn't say it. Doesn't say anything about him or her like he thinks she probably would, like he thinks all of them try to say around him lately. Is he becoming paranoid? He can't tell that, either.

(maybe he never could tell any of these things at all.)

Instead, she says something else. "I'm leaving."

He blinks.

"Leaving Japan."

Pause. "Where are you going? Why?"

The jade in her eyes is too still. "London. Because I want to continue my studies as a magician."

("Because there's nothing left for me here. Because I don't grieve the way that you do. Because all I want is to move forward, whether you will or not.")

"You can't do that here?" he asks.

"The elites of the association are there. If I want to hone my abilities further, there's no one better to learn from." Her smile-smirk is reminiscent of her past confidence, that self-assuredness. "They'll take me in. I'm a daughter of the Tohsaka house."

He smiles; at least, he thinks he does. "You really want this, don't you?"

Her grin matches his. "Yes."



"Good luck, then, Tohsaka."

"Thank you, Shirou."

The green-blue in her look is haunting, and the bittersweet smile lingers after she walks away. It all goes by so quickly that he's almost unaware of what happened, with words such as London and leaving and want hovering somewhere in the peripheral that he vaguely hears.

(leaving. for London. I want to go.)

Rin has long since walked away, strands of her hair fluttering in a memory wake.

Oh, he thinks. Oh.


After the end of the Holy Grail War, Shirou had to coherently explain to Fuji-nee and Sakura just why it was that Saber was suddenly gone, and without having left a goodbye at that.

("What happened? Saber's so polite, how could she have left without saying a word? Where did she have to rush off to so quickly? Will we ever see her again?")

Rin had saved him, saying something about family emergencies and extenuating circumstances and difficulty in initiating contact from here on out. The girl was too good at weaving stories. But it was okay, because Saber was gone, and he didn't really know how to explain something such as that. It was something that simply existed in his mind, knowledge that he simply knew like the sky is blue and we breathe oxygen and saving people is important; things that he didn't have to fully understand to know and accept.

It was okay. Maybe he could believe her stories too, and it would be okay. It was already okay that Saber was gone, because he would always remember that he loved her, and she told him that she loved him too. It was already okay. This would just make it even more so.



(And now, his storyweaver is leaving.)


There's a minor uproar at school the next day, starting from the moment when Rin stands at the front of the room while the teacher says, "Class, I regret to tell you that Tohsaka-san will be leaving us at the end of the week..."

The boys and the girls alike are devastated at the prospect of losing their idol of sorts; said idol puts on a polite face and wears a sad little smile and says that yes, she wishes it wasn't this way too but she has to move, and yes she wishes that they could all keep in contact but no, she's sorry that she'll be very busy and that it'll be difficult for them to reach her – they understand, of course.

It makes Shirou reflect on how, despite that mask of cultured niceness, he – and Issei most especially – had seen her as stoic, cold, aloof. How in the end, she's actually so much more than what anyone really sees. How she really has so many different personas, depending.

But right now she's playing her least favorite role for the sake of propriety, and he's far away from her spotlight, staring out the window and seeing blues and gold.


Shirou sees her off at the airport; he'd forgotten that Rin lives alone and that there wouldn't be anyone else to do it. She semi-asked and he semi-volunteered. Or perhaps they just had a synchronicity. They never did explicitly say anything about it; he merely showed up at the right time as she walked to her door.

There's white light shining down in rays on the harried commuters towing their little wheeled suitcases here and there, on the overenthusiastic tourists with gaudy visors going and leaving. Then there's Rin, red sweater and black skirt, two oversized suitcases probably weighing just below the maximum ( - "What do you mean, this is too much? Girls need much more luggage than guys do – it makes sense!" - ) and a large carry-on bag to boot.

They have time – the plane doesn't take off for one and a half hours – so they sit down for coffee and tea.

(it's been a long time since we've sat together like this, Shirou thinks, a while since we've really even talked.)

"It's been a while," Rin says.

He doesn't say anything.

"Are you still angry?"

It comes out as honest sentiment with a lemon-sour twist, enough that he's taken aback. "What? No, why would I be?"

She takes a sip of her tea. "Good."

He's not stupid. He still remembers. And she remembers too.

(one more try.)

"Okay," he says. "I'm sorry."

She levels a look at him across her cup. "I never wanted an apology. Not like that."

This should be frustrating by now. They haven't even spoken in a few days, after all, aside from when she told him about London. "Then what is it?"

"You really are a fool, Shirou." Another sip of tea; she's completely calm. "And a liar."

(it's about her, it's always about her)

"We've been over this already, Tohsaka." He's not getting annoyed. "Saber has nothing to do with – "

"Well, at least you're not stupid," she deadpans.

He sighs out of frustration. "We've been over this."

"I know." There's nothing sharp in her words, merely a soft acknowledgement that he rarely hears, a softness in the jade cut of her eyes. "I know that you say you're okay with it – "

(I am over it – )

" – I know that you say you're over how Saber is gone forever – "

(yes, forever, I know too - )

" – and I know that you're okay, and adjusted, and that you've accepted everything."

(yes, I have.)

"But I wish you could admit to yourself that maybe you're grieving as well."

"I'm – "

"I know, I know," and she clenches the teacup in her hand. "This is what Saber would want. She wouldn't want you to be sad about it, she'd want you to move on, she'd want you to enjoy life. And I know that neither of you will ever forget each other. But Shirou – "

( - her irises are like sharp shades of truth – )

" – grieving, even just a little bit? Is part of moving on."

(And if you keep denying that, keep denying that you need to and you're not yet all right and not quite completely at peace with it all, well, you haven't moved on.)

His voice sounds like something weary and foreign. "I'll always miss her. I'll always know that there were memories. I'll always know what I felt, even if I forget everything else."

And at that moment, something flickers in Rin's face; he doesn't know what, doesn't even know if it's really there, but it's something. She gives him a strange smile: "Maybe you should visit England sometime."

"Maybe one day," he says, and it feels more genuine than anything he's said all day. "Wait, tell me about London, what your school will be like."

"It's not quite a school," she starts out, and then they talk with ease for the rest of the hour.

It's easy.


(There was an ease to being around with Saber, something he couldn't put into words. Simply the way they got along, the way their steps fell into stride, the way she moved like liquid gold. Simply everything –

- When she first appeared, how she was easily one of the most beautiful people that he'd ever seen –

- The day they spent out, the easily-kept company. The little plush lion that she took a liking to, before growing embarrassed about it and leaving it behind. He'd bought it. He just never managed to give it to her, before everything happened –

- I love you too, she'd said, with that perfect ease, that liquid gold.

And then she'd disappeared.)


The call for boarding flight UA392 came twenty minutes ago.

They stand there, she at the desk, he to her left, her carry-ons in one hand and her ticket in the other. It's sometime in the late afternoon, and the light through the windows dances chiaroscuro patterns across her face.

It's almost picturesque, in a strange way. The kind of image you'd see in a movie. An absurd, unrealistic, sappy, post-at-the-end-of-everything one that isn't grounded in reality.

"Take care," he says, for lack of anything better to say.

Her lips harden into a line but her eyes soften, and there's dim red-gold playing on the black of her hair. "Don't live in the past."

He startles.

"I'll write you letters," she says smoothly, the usual Rin-edge creeping back into her voice. "So you'd better write back as well. If not, I'll be sure to find you the next time I'm here."

(I'm not in the past. I'm not your mere memory. I'll never let you forget it.)

"Okay," he replies, and toys with the idea of not sending any all the same. He knows the consequences.

"Goodbye, Shirou."

It's not quite a smile that she gives him, yet it's the most dazzling thing he's ever seen.

(painstakingly so – )

And then she's gone.

He looks out the window until the plane's long-since buried in the sky.


(It had probably started here, when he'd been on that same bridge again, staring off at the dimming sun:

Rin was there. When she had entered the picture, he doesn't know. He wasn't paying any attention.

She wasn't nearly as content to simply stand there, though she had no idea what to say either. "Why are you so…happy?" she managed, after fumbling for a moment, as though her words could have been better, as though she was a wordsmith hating her trade.

"Do I have a reason not to be happy?"

"I can think of one in particular."

He shrugged; one slow, loose action. "She wouldn't have wanted me to – "

" – be miserable or grieve, I know."

The sun was beginning to set.

"What you think she wants and what you actually need are different things, Shirou."

"And you would know," he whispered.


He didn't say it. "I have nothing else left of her, except these promises that I think we might have made. And I'm not…unhappy. I'm not going to be unhappy about the choice she made. And I'll always remember."

(that's enough, isn't it?)

It wasn't scorn that she was looking at him with. She'd never look at him like that. Like he was an idealistic naïve idiot who really had no idea, no idea at all.

(except when she did. except when she walked away without saying a word and the setting of the sun left him cold. except when she didn't look at him the same way the next day, and didn't speak to him the same way either.

just except then.)

He didn't like to dwell. Especially on things like this, he didn't like to dwell.

It made him feel slightly ashamed.)


He finds a letter in the mailbox two weeks later.


How are you? London is all right, though quite dreary and rainy sometimes. To be honest, I miss Japan more often than not sometimes – maybe I'll return sooner than I thought, for a vacation. Magic schooling can be pretty demanding, though of course it's not too bad. Otherwise, they wouldn't have asked me to come.

You'd better be treating Sakura very nicely while I'm gone. Now that she has to keep up with both you and Fuji-sensei – and Ilya, I nearly forgot – you're probably all making her put up with far too much. So behave, you hear me?

And write back, or else.

- Rin

Shirou smiles. It's just like her. Too much like her, in fact.

(don't you remember when – )

He refolds the letter carefully and puts it back in the envelope. Of course he'll write back. Soon.

(Dear Rin; there's nothing much to say, Japan's the same as it's always been – )


It's a normal day with a normal breakfast, a normal time at school, and a normal dinner. Sakura has cooked crab cakes tonight.

"Have you heard from Rin?" she asks over the soup.

"Hm? Well, aside from the letter I got last week, no. She doesn't call."

Sakura smiles. "I miss her."

(It's an implicit question: do you?)


(and do you miss her? goes the rest, but he doesn't hear it. So he thinks.)

Instead he eats; it would be a shame to let her cooking go cold.


They keep up their correspondence on a fairly regular basis. A letter from the other comes every two weeks, and a successive letter goes out after several days. It's like long distance clockwork.

(a ticking reminder: what we went through, what we had, who is gone – )

How are you doing, she writes one day, and he knows it's really saying, stop being an idiot, have you finally –

"No," he says automatically, and doesn't know what he's denying.

After all, they're only happy memories; he doesn't understand.


(dreams, a merging of memories he might've had and memories that he wishes had been:

I love you, Shirou, I always loved you


I'll always remember you


I'll never forget you, I'll never forget all of this

(but maybe never)

I've stopped living in my past; I love you but I need this resolution

- and he thinks and remembers and dreams, lets it all slip through his fingers like paper-thin threads of feathers, dream-breathes white and gold:

I will always, Saber. I will always.

He's a man of his word.)


Do you ever miss me, she never asks in her letters. It would be completely unbecoming of her.

(Neither of them. Neither of them would.)

I miss it all, he would reply.

(Because now, he's not sure what he misses more or what he's forgotten best.)

Liar, she manages to write in response, despite never having said a thing. Lying about so many things.

You never believe me when I tell the truth, he spells out in his head, doesn't put on paper.

(Trust me, I'm doing fine.)


It happens slowly but surely, a crawl that he doesn't notice but a resulting crack that jolts.

He's staring out the window at the sunset again, because now he always watches when day bleeds into dusk. The warm colors aren't a comfort, and the multihued light doesn't warm.

Saber, he thinks, and pictures the face –

- and the image doesn't come to mind.

He remembers that she was the most beautiful person he'd ever seen, that day. He remembers that her hair was brilliant liquid gold. He remembers that her voice was jagged on one end and fiercely soft on the other. He remembers that he loves her and always will.

Though he knows all these things, he's lacking the most crucial thing of all. No matter if he knew this moment was to come one day or not.

It's a cold realization that sinks in, this.


They keep up their correspondence on a fairly regular basis. A letter from the other comes every two weeks, and a successive letter goes out after several days. It's like long distance clockwork.

(a ticking reminder: what we went through, what we had, who is gone – )

And then, one day:

I'm coming back to Japan for a while. I've booked my ticket already; you had better be there to pick me up. The time of my flight's arrival is…

In five days, he calculates. He makes a note to chide her about timely correspondence when he sees her at the airport.

He does not write a response. He knows it won't get there on time.


(He had a fight with Saber again, over the same things as always. He walked into the kitchen to fix himself some tea after she'd stormed out, and Rin was already there, two cups laid out on the table.

She gave him that tiny little look she'd mastered as he helped himself.

"What?" he asked, annoyed.

"You shouldn't try to pick fights with her so much," she said, taking a sip.

"You never fought with Archer?" he retorts.

She went strangely silent. "I'm not cavalier the way that you are."

"Why do you keep putting a negative light on it? I'm only trying to prot-"

"You're telling her that she can't fight her own battles. That's pretty weak, Shirou. By all means, she should be the one saying that to you – only she's too polite to."

"Then, has Archer ever said so to you?"

She shrugged. "Don't compare us to you. It's not the same."

"Fine," he didn't say because it wouldn't have been like him, and they went back to drinking from their simmering teacups.

She sighed; he looked up, and for a moment noted that she looked uncharacteristically…something. Regretful.

"For a while, I wasn't happy because I had summoned my servant, and not yours."

Shirou already knew this, and nodded.

"It didn't last very long, and it was a ridiculous, immature thing to do, but, " and she twists her teacup around in its saucer, "I just…pretended that this wasn't how it was. Pretended that he wasn't there. To deny someone's existence, that's the cruelest thing you can do. To deny that something exists. And if the person knows about it, that's even worse. If he or she forgives you for it without you having to do anything."

(do you see what I'm saying, Shirou? do you see why I'm saying this to you?)

"I'm sorry," he says.

(for what?)

(I don't know what you're asking.)

(then you're not really apologizing for what you should be, are you.)

Thinking back now, he thinks…no, he's not sure. He's not sure he wants to be sure of what it means.

He'll leave it at that for now.)


Her flight is fifteen minutes late, but she's as timely as ever.

Shirou watches as she strides towards him; red sweater, black skirt, long leggings, heeled shoes. Nothing's really changed, long hair jade eyes quirked lips and all.

"Welcome home," he says without really thinking about it.

Her expression echoes the brilliant goodbye smile she gave, only with a few more years' worth of weight at the edges.

(He knows; she knows.)


(Dream conversations that he might never have had, all melded into one:

"You deserve to be happy, Shirou."

"I know; I'm not choosing to be unhappy."

"Why are you always trying to be the martyr? Why do you think that merely taking all of the blows will keep whomever you're trying to protect unscathed?"

"Isn't protecting someone important? Don't you protect everyone around you?"

A sigh. "Because I can fight. I can defend myself. I can protect you without making you afraid of the likely outcome."

"But I'm always worried, Saber. I was always worried."

"Without reason."

"You don't understand – "

"No, Shirou. In your determination and fear you tried to take the hits meant for me, never mind that they were scratches for me while being life-threatening for you. Don't you see? It only makes everyone worry more, taking all of the burden for yourself. You most of all."

"Because I'm weak?"

"No, you're not weak. Because I care. Because we all care. I was not going to lose before we had won the grail. I was not going to leave before that."


"I know, Shirou. And I'm sorry. It had to happen, and I know you understand."

"I knew. I finally knew at the end."

"But do you understand?"

"You sound like Rin."

"That girl has more sense than you."

"Funny, she says that too."

A pause.



"We loved each other. We love each other."

"I know, Saber."

"I will never forget you, even if your face fades away from my memory. And I know you will never forget me. But…you must remember. After everything, the good and the bad, life goes on."

"I know it does."

"You have to make life go on."

"I know, I've always known…I just…I don't know, what I wanted. I wanted to hang on, just a little bit longer. Just that much more."

"Even if you let go, I will never forget. You will never forget either. You don't need to hang on like this any more."



And she will always be the most beautiful being that he's ever seen. The most beautiful. The first one that he ever loved.

The first, always.

Why the last?)


He helps Rin with her luggage – only one large suitcase and the carry-ons this time – and they get on the train. It's rather empty today.

"How is London?" he asks.

"Pretty. Colder, sometimes, and it rains more often there than it does here. But it has a special charm of its own."

"And your studies?" He wonders how many jewels she had left after the Holy Grail War. She never did tell him how many she used up on his behalf, when they'd fought Castor.

Lines of pride appear on her lips. "I moved through things faster than the association anticipated. Perhaps I could even return in time for university. Or I might stay in London and study there instead."

(I have nothing keeping me anywhere, here.)

"Are your studies that important to you?"

She shrugs, and he cannot see polished jade in her eyes.

Before he knows it, the train arrives at their stop and she's walking in front of him while he wheels along her luggage in tow. He didn't have to offer to take it; she left it to him, knew he would.

"Did anything interesting happen while I was gone?" she asks.

"Not really. Nothing's changed, except that you deprived the school of its idol."

"Oh. Is that so." Her long hair swishes to and fro with every step that she takes. It's like a pendulum.

"People kept trying to investigate the strange events that happened during the War, but nobody could figure anything out."

Something flickers over her face once he mentions the word 'War'. "Hm."

Silence. He continues to watch the swish-swish of flowing black.

"Do you still miss it all that much?" Rin says, not so much as a question but a whisper, a tiny little gust of breath that barely makes it past his ear.

"I missed you more," he almost doesn't say, curses himself for it.

She looks at him with a tiny bit of disbelief and scorn. You're lying again. I know.

He tries again. He's always trying again.

(where to even begin?)

"Of course I miss her." He smiles. "I'll always miss her a little bit. It doesn't mean that I'm going to live in that feeling, that I'm not going to keep going, find new things to miss."

She stops at that moment and turns to look at him. There is something in her expression that he cannot name, something that is so vivid and brilliant that it could melt into the sky like a trail of sparkling tears against the dark. Something that says, was I worth missing? Was I worth remembering?

Shirou has just never remembered seeing Rin ever look fragile. Wanting. Completely without the raised, aloof mask, and simply as the pieces underneath.

She had turned to look at him, but he realizes she had stopped because they're now standing in front of his house, the passage of time having eluded them. He thinks that those eyes are going to haunt him for a while.

It adds itself to the kaleidoscope of colors in his mind, all of the gold-white-blue-red-jades that he'll never be able to forget, now.

"Come on. Dinner's probably ready."

She startles. "What?"

His hand rests on the doorknob. "You're staying here, aren't you?"

Warmth creeps back into her face. "Are you asking me to, Shirou?"

He says nothing, merely smiles. He feels lighter, in spirit and in mind.

(And tomorrow I will wake up and see golds and blacks and reds…)

The last rays of the sunset are dying, barely-warm embers amidst coal.

He can feel them all the same.


I'm a bit brain dead and hanging out with crazy people right now so I can't really think of a decent author's note but uhm hm. I meant for it to be more Shirou/Rin than it turned out to be, but hey pairings whatever, so yeah. Why isn't Shirou/Rin more popular? Or am I just looking in all the wrong places?

Anyway, uhm, comments and critiques are loved, thanks to Rae (Astarael00) for the amazing, quick beta, and hope you enjoyed etc. :D