Author's Note: A friend gave me a prompt for this fic. I liked the prompt, so I decided to go through with the challenge and wrote this out. I'm fond of Shirou and Rin as a pairing, so that didn't hurt my chances any. Reviews aren't required, but they're appreciated. Finally, I've fact-checked everything I can in terms of continuuity, so please enjoy the story!
Legal Disclaimer: "Fate/stay night" and all related indicia are strictly ©2006 Type-Moon. In no way does the author attempt to challenge ownership or make any claims to the material.
Located in London, this illustrious academy of Magecraft rests in the heart of the British Museum.
From the outside, it's a charming complex of buildings. Well maintained, it looks like it belongs there – like we belong there, as though we weren't outcasts in the modern world. People go about their business, completely unaware of what goes on inside.
It may sound like a single entity, but Clock Tower is actually split up across several different facilities. Most of them are located within and below the British Museum. A few outlying buildings can be found elsewhere in London, like the Norwich Student Dormitory.
I've been assigned to the dormitory when I fly to London. All I need to do is reserve the room that I want.
By the look of it, I won't be in Fuyuki City much longer.
I decided to purchase a car here – it might seem like a useless expense, but I plan on having it sent ahead of me. I want reliable transportation when I arrive. The last thing I need is to be at the mercy of the public transport systems.
It's a good car. At least, it should be a good car. It's small convertible. Black, and beyond its cleanliness, very plain. It won't draw too much attention, and it came to me at a reasonable price, even for my standards. Theoretically, it should be great, but it doesn't seem to run at all.
I stand here on the driveway, glaring at the car.
This little problem explains why I'm waiting outside, perched on the front step with a glass of water.
It's summer, and both the heat and humidity are unreasonably warm for the hour.
I have a car that doesn't run.
The first person to come to mind was Shirou Emiya. There's no getting around it – he has a knack for working with machinery of every stripe and hue. He has a particular knack for restoring things that seem like they can't be fixed. Even if he isn't using his own peculiar Magecraft to do it, that's definitely where his specialties lie.
I also knew he'd come if I called him, but…
…he's late. I don't mind sitting outside today, though. The clouds are high and thin, like gauze stretched from one end of the sky to the other. No doubt they're why the air is so thick today, but there's something pretty about the way the sunlight diffuses through them.
It's definitely not my style to be so aimless, but I know I won't have an opportunity like this for a long time. I'm going to be busy in London. There won't be any idle time like this.
So, I sip my water and I watch the sky. The clouds don't change, creeping along so slowly movement is almost an illusion.
Half an hour passes before I notice a change in the bounded field around my house. Half a second later I hear something coming up the driveway.
I shrug off the disturbance. It's designed only to alert me, so it's not much more than a brief discomfort – a vague buzz in the back of my head, like a lurking headache.
"Shut up," I grumble to the empty air. I'd already felt a brewing headache. I don't need the boundary warnings to invite a real one. Heedless of my words, the buzzing never falters. "Ugh. Alright, alright… I'm coming."
I can hear something at the front gate of the garden. It sounds like a bicycle. Was that a bell? No, wait, it sounds like he's trying to lean it against the gate, and it's fallen over.
He doesn't live that far away, but it seems that Shirou has been bicycling more. Without Saber to train him, he hasn't been getting as much exercise – though that isn't saying much for him. He's always doing something.
Admittedly, I stopped offering him instruction with Magecraft, about a year or two ago, when the Grail War was deconstructed. There wasn't any point in wasting both of our time. He knows what his specialty is, and it isn't something I can help him with. We've reached a tacit agreement – if he needs something, he'll let me know.
And in exchange, I can call in small favors like this.
Though, I reflect, sipping my water, he would do this anyway.
…Alright. I can't stand that buzzing sensation any more. I call off the wardings, uttering a short command to make an exception for the half-magus at the gate.
Reluctantly, I push myself to my feet. The heat is oppressive. I don't really want to move, even to greet a guest.
"Tohsaka!" He calls my name from the distance by way of greeting, already walking his bike in towards the house itself. I guess he finally managed the gate. "Sorry I took so long to get here. Issei needed a favor or two—"
"Ah, the esteemed head of the student council," I reply coolly, and push my hair off my shoulder in an idle gesture. "I suppose I should be happy that he's keeping himself busy. It means he doesn't have any time to level wild accusations against me."
I don't care about Issei Ryuudo, but he's still convinced I'm bad news. Honestly, what is that guy's problem? I never did understand that.
To Shirou, I only shrug.
"I guess it can't be helped." He reaches up to rub at the back of his neck, with that idiot grin of his. Once he lets his hand fall, I can see him looking around. Chances are he's looking for the car I've asked him to come repair.
I start walking toward the side of the house. There's a garage there that probably hasn't seen use for a generation or two. To my knowledge, Father walked or he took the bus. He disdained technology, and there would be no reason for him to acquire one – even if he did have the financial means.
We round the corner, where the side garage is. There's the car, in all of its useless glory. It's immaculately clean, if nothing else – it had better be, for the price I paid – and looks perfectly fine, other than the lack of ignition. It's a small convertible, and I'd left the top down.
"How much did you say you got that for?" Shirou's setting his hands on his hips, casting a critical eye towards the car. His brow's furrowed. Maybe he thinks I was duped.
Like that would ever happen to me.
I tell him how much I paid – a modest amount, but nothing to break the bank. I can't help it – it isn't like me to spend extravagantly. Someone might say they save their funds for an emergency or a rainy day. I don't even save it for that reason. I just dislike spending it if I don't need to.
He seems to be going over the total in his head for a moment.
"Wow, that's impressive." Shirou smiles that pleasant smile. He looks eager. Eager to get his hands dirty, no doubt – I'm convinced that the opportunity to get grease and oil on him is his favorite hobby. It must be a guy thing.
"Well?" I raise an eyebrow, just so.
"What's wrong with it?"
…I feel a slight stab of irritation.
"Idiot." I stifle the urge to do something unseemly, or something violent, and instead brush my bangs out of my eyes. "I don't know. Why do you think I called you?"
He only laughs. "No, no. I just need to know what it's doing out of the ordinary."
Hey, now. Is he making fun of me?
"Well, then you should have said that," I snap, with a little more annoyance than I'd intended. "Anyway, it's not starting. Here, I'll show you."
I rummage in a pocket for my keys. Not surprisingly – they aren't there.
…Oh, Father, I can understand why you prefer not to deal with this kind of thing.
Shirou waits patiently, hands stuck into his pocket, a bag of his tools slung over a shoulder.
I growl something unseemly under my breath – out of the corner of my eye, I notice Shirou flushing a little – and check my other pockets. My fingers settle around something cool and hard. Triumphantly, I pull out—
—my old pendant, the one my father left for me.
I stare at it for just a moment, dumbfounded, before irritably shoving it back into my pocket.
Where the hell are my keys?
Annoyed, I check the pocket on my blouse. I'm rewarded by the jingle of the key.
"There it is." Actually, Shirou's the one to say it first, and cheerfully. "Well, then, let's see what's wrong with this one."
I hop over the door and settle into the driver's seat.
I like the upholstery in it. It's simple, grey cloth. I look back toward Shirou. He's dropped his tool bag and crouched down to rummage through the things he brought with him. He must sense my eyes on him, because he looks up from where he's knelt down after a moment.
I turn the key.
The engine doesn't start. Not a hint of anything happening. There's a faint hum of electricity when I turn the ignition, but that's about all I can hear. I just hope that's encouraging.
I lean back in the driver's seat. The weather is truly oppressive, I think to myself.
"You said it was running just fine, yesterday?" Shirou looks puzzled, folding his arms as he looks the car over. "Hunh… that's strange."
"Idiot." I tilt my head back; let my eyes wander the hazy summer sky. "Of course it did. How do you think I got it home?"
"I didn't know you could drive…"
I crack one eye open, just far enough to look at Shirou. He looks… sheepish.
"I mean—" He waves his hands in a pacifying gesture. "I just mean that I've never seen you drive! That's all. You've always walked, or taken the bus or train."
"What, you think I can't do it?"
Against my better judgment, I narrow my eyes.
"I do have a license, you know. I admit, only recently, but I hadn't needed a car before now—"
I really can't help it. When he puts it into those terms, I can't help but get defensive. The way he says it makes it feel like a flaw or something.
I'm not going to be shown up by anyone!
…Not even him.
Shirou coughs and rubs at the back of his neck, one arm upraised. I ignore the brief silence, tense and somewhat awkward; finally, I look away.
"You can fix it, right?" I manage to sound a little less defensive.
I do hope I haven't burnt any bridges, here. I need this car in London. I refuse to put myself at the mercy of the transportation system in those maze-like streets. Something tells me—
Shirou stands there, rubbing the back of his neck and looking thoughtful. Seems like his mind's already moved past my brief lapse of composure.
"I think so. I can hear the electricity in it, so the engine still has something running. It must be…"
He's muttering under his breath, totally absorbed in technical terms that have no meaning to me. I shrug and lean back in the seat. "Do whatever you need to do, then. I guess I'll just watch. I don't have anything else to do, today… my affairs are in order."
Was he even listening? No, I don't think so. He has the hood open before I even finish talking.
Then, I hear him mutter something.
—I should have known that's what he was going to do. I don't really mind as much as I thought I might. He might be a talentless hack of a magus, but there are a few things he does spectacularly well…
I close my eyes. Maybe I can nap while he works, and by the time I wake up, he'll be done. Several minutes of silence pass, and I can almost feel myself drifting…
Quick as thought, I'm sitting up and looking at him.
It's a little embarrassing.
For a minute I've almost forgotten where I was. I thought I was in my borrowed room at his house. The strangest thing is, I don't mind it.
"Um," I manage say, articulately.
Either he doesn't notice my brief disorientation, or he doesn't acknowledge it.
"Can you start the car again?"
"Yeah." I still have the key in the ignition, and give it a twist.
"Thanks." The car shifts a little. Shirou must be leaning on the front guard; I can't see him, with the way the hood's been pushed all the way open. He sounds thoughtful. "Hmm."
He's muttering to himself again. I can at least imagine what he might be doing. He's standing in front of that bewildering array of cables, wires, and God knows what else; he knows exactly what they do and where they run – and I'm sure he knows what to do next, too, after a few minutes of consideration.
I lean back in the seat and sigh, folding my hands behind my head. He's already back in his own private little world of machinery again. I close my eyes. There's nothing to see, anyway, even if the hood weren't in the way.
Considering the magnitude of this trip, I really should be considering the things I need to set in order before I leave. It's too hot and humid to concentrate. All I think about is how much I want to be back inside, where the air's a little cooler.
But I should be thinking about my airfare, and my plans for when I get off the plane. I don't know where exactly I'm going, so maybe…
A cold shower would go over nicely… just enough to keep my hair wet…
…I can't think with all that noise. Shirou is enthusiastically rummaging through my car's engine and going to work. I try not to grind my teeth.
"Hey! Idiot!" I yell at him, but the heat's got me. I can't really sound annoyed. "Can't you do any of that any quieter?"
I don't really expect a reply.
I don't get one, either.
Wait, is he laughing? At me? He says something, but it's too quiet to make out.
I just lean back in the seat, grumbling under my breath at nothing in particular. Don't get me wrong – I appreciate that he's coming to take a look at the car, but I'm hot, I'm bored, and I have better things I could be doing with my time than sitting here.
He could at least talk to me while he's slaving away over there…
I sigh again and open my eyes. My head is still tilted back, so I'm looking up at the sky.
It's still bright. The clouds are over the sun, and I can see the hazy brightness where it should be.
"What miserable weather…"
Shirou's still tinkering with the car. I can hear a tool scraping against something metallic, and the sound of some part or another coming loose. There's a clatter as it falls, and I hear him pick it up with a quiet grunt.
I don't really care as long as I don't hear him saying 'oops.' I can't take a financial loss right now.
I fold my arms behind my head, adjust the seat so I can lie back a little more, and close my eyes again.
Well, let him have his fun. I draw in a breath of thick air and let it go. Maybe he'll talk to me this time. I'm bored.
He's still working. I can hear parts moving, and I can feel the car moving slightly as he puts his back to it. The sound and movement stops, abruptly; he must have straightened.
"Yeah? What is it, Tohsaka?"
I consider what I was going to ask, and sigh. Maybe not.
"How long is it going to take?"
He thinks for a minute or two.
"Maybe another half hour? I found out what's wrong, and there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to fix it." I hear him start digging around in the engine again. "It's just—"
Off he goes again, on another technological tangent. He's talking for at least three minutes straight about what a simple matter it is, and what exactly it is that's wrong with the engine.
…I don't think I understood any of that. I don't think he knows he's completely lost me, either.
Still, I have to admire his skill. He definitely knows what he's talking about. Dare I say it? He's as skilled with this junk as I am with Magecraft. Maybe that's why I called him over. I knew that if anyone could fix it, he would.
I hear more as he works in there.
"Uhm." It's not the most articulate response, but I'm not exactly feeling articulate right now. The heat's starting to weigh down on me. "Is it fixed, yet?"
"I don't know. I was going to ask, could you try the engine again?"
I sigh and turn the key.
It seems to be making more electrical sounds, this time, but not a whole lot more than that. Shirou, however, makes a noncommittal sound and pulls back. I can see him from just around the edge of the hood, wiping the grease and oil on his hands onto a towel.
Well, at least he brought his own.
"Hey, are you even doing anything up there?"
How can he be so calm about this? He's been plugging away at this thing, completely unperturbed that it looks as though he's made no progress at all?
"It's a nice car." I can hear him from the hood. His voice is a little muffled, and a little strained. He's probably trying to pull something out of there. "Did you try to haggle them down?"
I smile, a little nastily, even if he can't see it. Of course I did.
"That sounds like you." Maybe he knows I'm smiling that way. I hear the wrench hit the ground; the rustle of cloth as Shirou stoops to retrieve it. Was that a chuckle?
Honestly, I'm not in the mood for it.
"What was that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing." He sounds like he's grinning, but I can't see his face. "I just think it's admirable that you don't let yourself be taken advantage of. That's all."
"H-hey!" I almost jump upright, but not quite. I do manage to bang a fist against the car door, though. "It's not like I did it for your praise! Idiot…!"
Is he still chuckling?
I'm too irritated to lean around and check, but… I'm also flattered, just a little. Shirou admires something about me – I don't know why it matters so much to me. But—
"What?" I grumble. My face feels uncomfortably hot.
"Try the engine again, will you?"
"Yeah, fine." I straighten up and turn the key again. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Shirou backing away, but I still can't quite see him.
The engine turns over with an electrical whine, and I almost cheer. Thank God. It's going to be finished, and I can get out of this miserable—
With a different electrical tone, the engine gives out.
I could cry.
"Wh-what the hell was that?"
"Aaah…" It's a sigh. Shirou sounds disappointed. "It looks like we've got a short…"
…I don't think he's nearly as disappointed as I am. Believe me. I lean back against the seat, a little angry. It was so close, too.
"Don't worry. I can fix this." Shirou's response is cheerful, and he's right there digging in the engine again. "There's just a short in the computer, here, and…"
He loses me again in technical terms. I just lean back against the driver's seat, adjusting it slightly. Even this is getting a little uncomfortable after a while.
I stare at the bleak summer sky.
Even still, I appreciate his help. I'd be paying exorbitant fees if I took the car anywhere else. On top of that, there's no saying that any garage I took the car to would guarantee fixing it. Some of the garages around here aren't exactly trustworthy.
I know Shirou is.
Besides, he seems so happy, rummaging around under the hood of the car. He's in his element. How could I say no to that?
I kick off my sandals and sprawl in the driver's seat, one bare foot propped up against the side mirror. The other I rest against the dash, and close my eyes again.
I must sound dreadfully bored. He actually stops what he's doing, and I can see his head poke around the side of the hood. His hair's a little unkempt, by now.
"How long have you been doing this?"
I'm not really sure why I'm asking him this.
"What do you mean? About a half hour—"
"No, I mean working with cars. You've never worked with them before. Not that I saw during the war, anyway."
He doesn't answer right away. Some small part of me freezes, and I hope I didn't say something wrong.
The air feels like a thunderstorm overhead. Maybe that's why it's so oppressive out, today.
"Eh, no. I thought I might get into something useful, you know?" It almost sounds like he's scratching the back of his head. He's probably leaving grease stains, too. "I want to start my own business, eventually. Fixing things. It seems to be the one thing I'm good at, and I enjoy doing it, so – why not?" He shifts, enough for me to see him. He's reaching for the towel; wiping the dirt off his face. Honestly, he's like any guy. He relishes a good chance to go play in the dirt. "Why do you ask?"
I can hear him going back to the machinery, and he vanishes from my field of vision. The sounds are quieter this time, so he must be doing delicate work. Wiring. It has to be. Something shorted out, he mentioned.
Another few minutes pass in silence. I don't answer him immediately.
"I don't know." I pause. There's got to be a way I can expedite this process a little. "Hey, is there anything I can do to help?"
It's a thoughtful sound.
I feel a vague flutter of hope. We're almost done, here, right? But at the same time, I feel reluctant. I like having the company around. This house is awfully empty, most of the time, and I feel strangely at ease having him around.
"Try the engine again. One last time," he adds. "I think this should do it…"
Without answering him, I turn the key again.
The engine turns over.
Encouraged by a few small repairs, the engine purrs like a sleek panther of carbon and steel. Well, I wasn't expecting him to finish so quickly, but at least it seems my investment is protected. I turn the engine off again.
There's a small, clattering sound, and to my surprise—
—I hear a yelp of alarm from Shirou. He doesn't say anything, and I start to worry if that was the death knell for this car after all.
"Um." I hear his voice after a minute. Even with just that single syllable, he sounds worried. "Just a minute. I dropped something…"
A key, maybe? It sounded small and metallic.
I lean back, just a little annoyed.
Never mind my earlier generosity. I've had enough of this humidity. I just want to go inside. I feel like I can't breathe; the air is just that thick and stifling.
"I can't believe I did that." I can hear him muttering under his breath, but I'm not sure if he knows I can hear him or not. "Of all the things…"
I'm a little puzzled. Why should he be this concerned over pocket change? I have no answers, so I settle for staring at the sky a little while longer.
The sun looks like it's going to come back out again, but in the end, it's engulfed by clouds. I watch them creep by. Barely moving. It looks like there isn't any more wind up there than there is down here—
"There it is."
Bam. The hood closes as Shirou pushes it down.
I don't expect that, and I jump a little at the sudden jolt to the seat I'm sprawled gracelessly over. But what surprises me the most is the fact that when I can see him again, Shirou's toweling his hair off a little, and he's…
…not wearing his shirt.
I can't help but stare. Well, it's true that I've seen him without a shirt, before, but… I never really noticed. It's not like I was studying him or anything.
After a few seconds of staring, I remember to close my mouth.
He looks up, finally tossing the towel over his shoulder. "What?"
Wait a minute.
Why is he blushing, too?
"Um…" I'm the one supposed to be blushing, here… though by the heat in my face, I know I still am. I marshal my wits and force myself to keep on going. "Was that all there was to it?"
Shirou walks over to the door of the car. Once he's up to it, he leans on it a little, a hand braced against the doorframe.
I'm a little perplexed. Why does he look so flustered? I pull myself back together, sitting up. Is there something wrong? What's with that look on his face? And why is his being so close making me so nervous?
"Hey." I keep my voice flat. I'm not really sure what to expect. "What's with that look?"
He reaches into his pocket. Pulls out something small. I can't see what it is.
"Well, the car's fixed. It should last you until you get to London. Take it in when you get there, though, and have something put on the undercoating. If you're by the sea, the salt might damage the undercarriage."
I'm still blushing, just a little. It seems like the closer he gets, the hotter I can feel my face grow.
"Hey. Say something, will you? Something not related to the car. What's with that look, all of a sudden?"
He looks down to whatever-it-is in his hands. I can't see it, but he looks… well, he almost looks upset.
"We've known each other for several years, now, right? And we've been there for each other…"
I'm not really sure I know where this is going, but I admit. I'm a little curious. I let him keep talking.
He doesn't look up at me, though, keeping his eyes on whatever he has in his hands. "I was a little disappointed when you said you were going to go through with the trip to London. Not that I'm not certain you'd do well," he adds, with a lopsided little smile. "I know you will. But I thought I'd have a little more time with you before you left."
"H-hey, my ticket's not for another few days, still…"
He continues as though I hadn't said anything.
"You said yourself you didn't know when you'd be coming home." He looks down at me, amber eyes uncharacteristically serious. Just what's going on, here? "And it's not exactly easy for me to visit, that far away."
I don't say anything. I don't know what to say. Is he…
"Well," he sighs, "I guess the truth is that I'm not sure I want you to leave."
"Wh—what are you talking about?" Damn it, why do I keep stammering at a time like this? But he's so close I can almost feel the heat. I can almost smell him. Granted, he smells mostly like the inside of a car, but…
"I like being around you, Tohsaka. I used to admire you from a distance. I used to think you were something I could never have – so far out of my league there wasn't any point in trying. But we got to work together, through the war, and I got to understand the real you – not that mask you put up for everyone else."
"I think I like the real you better," he continues, not giving me a chance to talk. It's the kind of pace that says if he stops now, he won't be able to keep going. He keeps fiddling with that thing in his hands, too, but it's behind the car door where I can't see it. "You might bluster, but you're a good person. You're intelligent, beautiful, funny, powerful, and you never let anything get you down or stop you."
"H-hey, wait just a minute… where the hell are you going with this? Are you trying to guilt me into staying here in Japan?"
He just snorts, but by his smile, it's a laugh.
"And you're silly, sometimes."
"I'm being completely serious…!"
"Can't you see what I'm trying to say?"
I just stare at him, mostly because I'm completely lost. Part of me can guess where he's going with this. I'm not stupid – I can put two and two together just fine. Another part of me refuses to pursue that line of logic, because I don't want it to be untrue—
He finally settles down to one knee; reaches for the thing in his hands. It's some kind of small box.
My stomach feels curiously light.
That's a ring box. My mind comprehends the fact dully.
My voice fails me.
"Shirou…" All I can do is breathe his name, because I don't trust myself to use any other words right now. My eyes are wide.
He smiles, a little sadly.
"Please don't say no. Do you know how long I've been trying to convince myself to do this, so I don't chicken out?"
He's taking the ring out, slowly.
Is that grease on the back of the band?
…Don't tell me he actually dropped it into the engine.
"I really don't think I could take it. There isn't much I've asked from life, but—"
He must have dropped it. That was why he was cursing. The thought actually amuses me. He would do something like that, wouldn't he? That must have been what he was rooting around for in there.
He stops, looking a little sheepish as his face flushes red. One hand rises to rub at the back of his neck, the other carefully holding the ring and its box.
I can't help but smile.
It's not the usual smile I wear. It's not reserved. It's a genuine smile, because—
—because this is what I want, too.
He lets out a breath and his shoulders slump.
I know that look.
"Ah, thank God…"
Before he can think about saying anything else, I laugh. And I lunge forward with more agility than I thought I could call up. I pull him down by slinging an arm around his neck, and I do something impulsive.
Dimly, I realize it's something I've wanted to do for a very long time.
I'm also thankful – when I kiss him, he doesn't taste like motor oil or grease.