Disclaimer: I don't own them, Type-Moon and Nasu does.

Author's Notes: Yes, this is the same Elf who is one of the mods on Beast's Lair and this story has been on Beast's Lair for a while. I'm posting it here for shits and giggles, and to maybe let the people who've just seen the anime get a better feeling about the characters. Read the VN, it's a lot of fun.

Also, crack pairing ahoy here!

This story sort of grew from discussion on the Beast's Lair forums and I started writing it to show that it could be done. However a major part of this came from the idea of what would happen with the Servants having to adopt to the modern world. Some of them would adjust swimmingly, then there are cases like shown below. I took a lot of inspiration from soldiers returning home from war and not knowing how to cope. Especially in the case of the hero here.

Also, if you favorite, please take the time to write a review. It's really easy to do. It's nice to know you like the story, but please critique. It makes the writer better.

Steel and Cherry Blossoms

Part Three

By: Elf

Sakura had just finished getting dressed as she heard a familiar knock on the door. She froze as she looked around, hoping Shinji was here to answer the door. However, he was out with the American exchange student again leaving her alone with Grandfather. Sighing, she smoothed out her hair and skirt before heading for the door. She braced her shoulders and opened the door only to freeze.

Standing at the doorway were the two people she wanted to see the least. Emiya Shirou smiled at her, his golden-brown eyes closing at the expression and the petite blond foreigner that was formerly his Servant and currently his lover standing beside him smiled as well. She forced a smile on her face and said, "Hello, Sempai."

"We are concerned about you, Sakura. It has been quite some time since you have dined with us," Saber said.

Shirou continued to smile as he said, "The house hasn't been the same without you, and Fuji-nee is really starting to miss your cooking. Plus if she brings home this mystery guy that works for her Grandfather over, we could really use you there for support."

Sakura's hands clinched into fists at her sides as she stared at the happy, clueless couple. She looked down and said in a soft voice, "I'm sorry, I've been busy."

"Wait, has Shinji hurt you again?" Shirou asked as he moved towards her, his brilliant eyes bright.

He peered down at her and she took a step back from him. She smiled and said, "No, everything has been fine with Nii-san. He's been dating the new American exchange student. I've just been busy with the Archery Club. Apparently some of the other First Years managed to break some of the bows and I've been helping Mitzuzuri-taicho with them." The lie tasted bitter even to her, but it was a partial truth at least. There were several bows damaged by the First Years, but Taiga-sensei had taken them to the new repair shop that was ran by an Archer-san that had to be one of the former Servants.

Saber frowned slightly and said, "We just want to make sure you are treated well, Sakura. You are our friend." The blond smiled at the last part, transforming her whole face and making it radiant. Sakura swallowed and resisted the urge to run into the house and hide from the spectacle of the happy couple.

Sakura smiled back and Shirou frowned at her. He asked, "Are you sure everything's okay, Sakura?"

"Everything is fine, Sempai," Sakura said with a tiny bow.

Saber reached out and rested her small hand over Sakura's wrist. She stared down at the tiny hand and wondered how such a small girl could have been the most powerful Servant and if she still carried her power reborn. Or was she just a small girl with a big sword? Brilliant emerald eyes met hers as Saber said, "You know you are always welcome at our home. If there is any trouble here, please come to us no matter how great or small."

Sakura bit her lip as she was torn from wanting to slap the girl or fall to her knees and tell them every horror her grandfather had inflicted upon her. To tell them how she screamed for her Nee-san and how Rin never came to save her. Instead she smiled and said, "I will be over tomorrow to help with dinner then."

"Good, I could use some competition," Shirou said with a warm smile that made her chest ache.

Sakura nodded and Saber asked, "Would you like to come shopping with us? You could help pick out what you and Shirou are going to cook tomorrow."

Sakura swallowed and looked behind her shoulder at the dark house behind her. Shirou smiled and said, "Come on, Sakura, we could really use your help."

Sakura smiled and said, "Just give me one moment to grab my purse and I'll be right there." With that she ran into the house and rubbed her forehead. She realized that she had ran up the steps and could look at the couple standing on the doorstep. Her shoulders slumped and her chest tightened at the sight of them. As she watched, Shirou intertwined his arm with Saber's and leaned down to lightly kiss the crown of her head.

She bowed her head as she wondered what it would have been like to hold his hand and have him kiss her head like that. She shook her head as she grabbed her purse from her room and slid it over her shoulder. Grandfather was asleep right now due to the sun being so high in the sky, so she could easily leave the house and be back before Shinji came home and Grandfather woke up. She ran down the steps, slid into her shoes and joined the happy couple in the sunlight. As she locked up, she took one look into the gloomy atmosphere that she would have to return to and sighed.

"Something wrong, Sakura?"

She smiled and said, "Not at all, Sempai." More than you know.

Sakura was at the fish market with Saber and Shirou, with Saber haggling with the shopkeeper to get the price down for some scallops for dinner tomorrow. She was standing under the awning of the store, but yet she felt the heat crawl and dig under her skin. Her throat was parched and she felt her vision blurring. She felt the familiar flush spread through her as well as her body clinch in need.

She placed a hand over her stomach as she looked around and shifted her weight. She shrugged her heavy shoulders and swallowed only to have Shirou look at her. He asked, "Sakura, are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Sempai," she said in a soft voice as she straightened to her full height. She felt the things within her growl in need as she realized she hadn't been with Shinji in days, that he had been so preoccupied with the American that he had forgotten her. She loathed his visits, but it kept them at bay. She knew soon enough she wouldn't be able to stand and her body would be flushed with shameless pleasure and need.

Saber turned to them and frowned. "You are flushed, Sakura. Are you sure you are not ill?"

"I'm fine, Saber," Sakura said between gritted teeth as she forced herself to smile.

Shirou asked, "Do you want us to take you home?"

"I'm fine. I promise. I'll take some medicine when I get home, it's probably nothing but a summer cold," Sakura said with a wave of her hand as she turned back towards the fish.

She pointed and said in a light voice, "This tuna looks good, Sempai. Do you think you could make us some sushi tomorrow as well?"

"That's a good idea Sakura. I have this really good rice that we bought last week that I still need to use the rest of. Let me get some seaweed and spices and we can have both Japanese and Western food tomorrow," Shirou said with a smile as he began to look at the tuna.

Saber's eyes lit up as she clasped her hands together. She asked, "We are having both Japanese and Western food tomorrow?"

"Of course," Sakura said with a chuckle, "I already know what I want to do with the scallops and Sempai's Japanese food is second to none."

Shirou shook his head and said, "You're getting closer to beating me though, Sakura."

"I doubt that," she said with a smile that she actually felt.

Saber was practically glowing as she said, "Well, with the two of you cooking we will have a meal fit for a king. This is something that will not be missed. Shirou, do you think we should invite Rin and Lancer for dinner tomorrow as well, allowing Rin to cook something too?"

Sakura looked away at mentioning Rin's name as Shirou scratched the back of his head and scowled. "Tohsaka I don't mind, Lancer . . ." Shirou shook his head and sighed.

Saber folded her arms over her chest and said, "Shirou, for us to enjoy Rin's company we must put up with Lancer's."

"Fine fine, you win. Geeze Saber, I can't win against you, can I?" Shirou said with a laugh as she wrapped an arm around him.

Sakura stared at them embracing each other so easily and looked away. She heard Saber said, "You should know better by now to challenge me in such things."

"Well, I could always refuse to cook," Shirou said with a smirk.

Saber's green eyes widened as she stared at him. She gasped, "You wouldn't!"

"Well, I mean, with Sakura and Tohsaka probably cooking tomorrow there's really no need for me," Shirou said with a shrug.

Sakura swallowed and said, "Tohsaka-sempai is not as good as you, Sempai. I would rather eat your food than hers any day."

"Ah, thanks Sakura," Shirou said with a tiny flush.

Saber looked at her and said, "If you keep flattering him like that, he will become lazy."

"Saber!" Shirou said as he glared down at her, causing the blond to chuckle slightly.

She patted his hand and said, "I was only jesting, Shirou. Besides, you should see your face."

"That's it, I'm not cooking for you tonight then," Shirou said with a snort before grinning slightly and looking away from her.

Saber shrugged and replied, "Well, I am most sure that Rin would be delighted to have me."

Sakura bit her lip and looked away, trying to ignore the hot flash that washed over her body that had nothing to do with the worms inside of her. She flexed her hands at her sides and looked down at her feet as the two continued to playfully banter. She tried to drown it out, focus on the person playing loud pop music across the street or someone shouting from down the road. She closed her eyes and then felt a warm hand on her shoulder.

Her eyes flew open as she saw Shirou peering worriedly at her and he asked, "Are you sure you don't want us to take us home? You're looking flushed, Sakura."

"T-t-that might be a good idea, Sempai," she stammered as she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and forced a smile.

Saber blinked at her and asked, "Are you sure everything is fine at your home? We know that Shinji is not trustworthy."

She looked down at her feet, knowing that they thought she was just an innocent bystander in all of this. They all thought she had no part in the War, when she was actually Rider's real Master. So everyone just told her that Saber was someone that Shirou's adopted father knew from England that had come to help him, and he help her. Some of the other Servants had wilder stories woven about them, like one of them being engaged to one of the teachers at the school and so on and so forth.

She looked back up at them and said, "It's fine, thank you for your concern." She bowed politely to them before gathering her purse and heading back to the dark Matou household.

Archer had his office and workshop closed and was in his actual work room. He had a good majority of his plan already formed, but there was one more thing he had to be sure of before he implemented it. He took off his shirt and carefully folded before he laid it on the work bench. He then had a small pocket knife sitting on the work bench as well as his first aid kit. He reached over to open up the first aid kit to have it ready incase this didn't work.

He picked up the pocket knife and looked over his arms and chest. His chest was scattered with a myriad of scars from anything from swords to bullet wounds to the scar Gae Bolg had left him when Lancer stabbed him as a teenager. His arms were in better shape, so he picked up the knife and cut himself open on a burn scar on his left shoulder. He registered that it hurt, he also felt the warm rush of blood and the subtle sting, but Archer had grown close to pain during his life time and as a Servant.

He wiped off the knife with a paper towel and planned to clean it better later. He set it down on top of the soiled paper towel and closed his eyes. He opened up his Magic Circuits and flooded his prana through them. He felt them spark within him, the hammer slammed down and there was the signal that he was ready to Trace. He whispered, "Trace On."

He could see the beautiful sapphire blue and golden sheath, see each exquisite line and etching in its metal surface. He could dissect it into eight parts and tell you how it was made and who the true owner was. He put those parts together and forced it into reality. He opened his eyes and found the famed scabbard of King Arthur in his hands. He brushed his thumb over the smooth surface before closing his eyes and forcing prana into the sheath.

He waited for his shoulder to heal, but there wasn't even a tingle. He sighed as he looked at the blood streaming down his shoulder and pulled off more paper toweling. He held it over the wound with pressure to get it to stop bleeding. At least a sword didn't poke out of the wound, he thought dryly as he removed the toweling and threw it away. He then proceeded to clean out the wound, disinfect it, apply styptic to it and bandage it. He threw away the trash and then looked at the perfect copy of Avalon sitting on his worktable.

He released the prana holding it together and it shattered into glittering particles before completely fading away. He scowled at where the sheath had been laying and muttered, "I had a feeling that wasn't going to work." He sighed and ran a hand through his hair before stretching his now aching shoulder. He rolled his arm and stretched, reforming his plan.

For Sakura to survive, I'm going to need Saber. Getting Saber involved gets that idiot involved. However, because this is for Sakura the both of them will help. However the one person I know who can best remove the worms is someone that both of them would probably kill on sight, Archer thought with a shake of his head.

He pulled on his shirt and cleaned up the area. He then put the first aid kit and the knife back into their proper places. Now here comes the next part in my daunting plan, Archer thought as he headed out the door. He jumped into the air since he didn't own a car or a bike, and this was far faster and more fun than walking.

Archer landed on the roof of Kotomine's church in a crouch before standing to his full height and dropping off the roof into the courtyard. His keen eyes looked around to see the corrupted priest standing at the door leading to his personal quarters with one hand behind his back. Archer calmly strolled up to him and Kotomine moved his hand from his back to clasp the other one and rest in front of him.

"Most people choose the use the door, Servant Archer," Kotomine said as he approached Archer, "Instead of breaking and entering."

Archer looked up and said, "I hadn't broken into anything yet, habit anyway."

"Sneaking into places? That's not a savory habit," the priest replied with a shake of his head.

Archer shrugged and said, "Like you have any room to talk Kotomine Kirei."

"Very true. Still, were you able to complete your task?" Kotomine asked as he turned his back to Archer and started to head back into the church.

Archer fell into step with the man who was actually taller than he was and answered, "I found out what I needed, but the execution's going to be more difficult than I planned."

"Zouken is ancient, he's not without his tricks. He may look feeble, but don't discount him," Kotomine said ominously as his gaze flickered back to Archer.

Archer smirked and replied, "He's not what I'm worried about. I'm worried about Sakura."

"Ah, yes Tokiomi's forgotten daughter, the unwanted one," Kotomine said with a shake of his head as he opened up the door that lead to the church's office.

Archer eyed him and said, "Well, apparently Zouken put some sort of failsafe in her."

"Oh?" Kotomine asked with a tilt of his head.

He nodded and said, "Apparently he could take over her body if need be."

"So, he did find a source of immortality, albeit flawed," Kotomine said with a thoughtful tilt to his head, his large hands now clasped behind his back as the two of them stepped into his office.

Archer looked around the Spartan room, finding it matching his records of previous visits during different versions of the Fifth War. There was the heavy oak desk, high back chair, two hard chairs in front of the desk and a faded red couch. Tucked in the corner was a giant wooden cabinet with closed doors. The only detail that was different was that the room didn't have drops of blood staining the couch, the desk or the chairs.

He replied, "Just at the cost of another's free will."

"True. So, how are you going to handle this, Servant Archer?" Kotomine asked as his dark eyes met Archer's. One thick brow arched up sardonically as the priest watched.

Archer answered, "That's why I'm here."

"Oh? You don't look like the type to seek spiritual guidance," Kotomine said with a tiny smile and the shake of his head.

Archer smirked in response and replied, "We all know that your credibility as a priest is questionable to say the least."

"I'm not going to argue with that," Kotomine said, the smile spreading ever so slightly.

Archer folded his arms over his chest and replied, "However, your skills as a spiritual surgeon are wildly regarded and nearly second to none."

"So, you want me to purge his safeguard from Sakura?" Kotomine asked as he sat down at his desk, calmly folding his hands together on the scuffed surface. "As adept as my talents are, I know I do have limits. She may die on the table, Servant Archer."

Archer smiled and said, "Oh, I have a safeguard for that."

"And, you come to me as if I've already decided to help the girl," Kotomine replied as he continued to look at Archer, "I've made no such decision."

The former Servant shrugged and said, "Think about all the misery Sakura being free will caused. Not to mention she'll have to adapt to life away from both her step-brother and Zouken. It's easy to die, but it's harder to live. Not to mention how do you think Rin would respond?"

"You've thought about this carefully, Servant Archer," Kotomine said as he stood up from his desk and walked to the cabinet. He opened it and pulled out a bottle of wine and two glasses. He set the glasses on the desk, uncorked the wine and said, "Gilgamesh always complained about the wine I kept here, but I always enjoyed it."

He filled each glass and gave lifted it to Archer. Archer snorted, eyed it for a moment, took it and said, "When you're in a War where almost everyone vastly overpowers you, you tend to think things carefully or cheat wildly."

"What was it that Gilgamesh called you? Faker?" Kotomine asked as he swirled the burgundy liquid in the crystal glass. It reflected like deep rubies in the dim light in the room and Archer found his eyes drawn to the rich hue before Kotomine brought his cup to his lips and drank.

"Something like that," Archer answered as he stared down into his own wine. He could smell the tart, fragrant smell of it. He really didn't like to drink, other than the odd bit of sake to beat down dangerous mapo tofu's heat, because he was such a lightweight, even after his growth spurt. He hated the loss of control it brought him, not to mention he never really remembered what happened during the time of his inebriation. However, not to be out done he took a sip and almost winched at the bitter, astringent taste of it.

Considering Kotomine, that's really not surprising, he thought with a small shake of his head.

"And despite your dishonorable acts, you're still going to save this girl that means nothing to you," Kotomine said as he set his wine glass down.

Archer replied, "I was asked to help."

"Not by Sakura. Why help someone who can't even ask for help themselves?" Kotomine asked.

He shrugged and said, "I needed something to do, I guess."

"Or maybe you couldn't turn her down, no matter what your reasoning told you," Kotomine replied as his eyes locked on Archer's with shocking familiarity.

For a moment he was a seventeen year old boy again, in over his head in something he didn't understand.

However, he was twisted enough that Kotomine didn't make him uncomfortable anymore, and in hindsight he realized he actually liked the priest. He didn't feel awkward in his own skin around Kotomine and that he could speak to him on a more even playing level. He wasn't muddling around trying to force himself into a mundane existence with people who didn't understand what had driven him.

Archer looked down at his wine with a sound that wasn't quite a laugh, but wasn't a snort either. He swirled the deep crimson liquid in its glass as he watched the play of light in its depths like little shimmers of rubies. The color made him think of Rin, and how she had made her choice, and honestly he didn't blame her.

Lancer hadn't betrayed her.

Lancer had saved her from the man before him at the cost of his own life.

Archer had forsaken everything on a chance that less than a percent and now was paying for it.

"I guess no matter what I do, I always need to save someone," Archer said before he realized he was talking.

Kotomine asked, "Even if death would be a kinder fate in some fashion?"

"Then by your accounts, then you should want that person to live," Archer said with a wiry grin as he took another slow sip of wine. This time he was ready for it and didn't nearly choke, even without Reinforcement.

Kotomine actually smiled at him and replied, "But we're not talking about me, Servant Archer, we're talking about you."

"And I'm avoiding the issue until after Sakura is free," Archer replied as he swirled the wine around again.

Kotomine picked up his wine glass again and asked, "And what about after?"

"I'll tell you everything if you agree to this," Archer said as he set the wine glass down and refolded his arms across his chest.

Kotomine's eyebrows arched as he replied, "And why would that mean anything to me?"

"You're already curious," Archer answered with a shrug, "And I'm well aquatinted with suffering."

Kotomine said, "Then I look forward to it."

Archer decided he wasn't going to be rude and break into his former home, especially since he was asking for Saber's help. Still, he wasn't looking forward to going to his former home, seeing his idiot past self with her and then actually asking for help. Knowing Saber, he was fairly certain that he was going to have Excalibur pointed in his face at least once during the entire conversation.

Even though apparently Saber had gotten her answer while watching him and Shirou fight, he had a feeling that she was still upset about his treachery. He might have been some alternate version of her lover, but she knew the difference between them even though she could see the similarities in him and her. The irony had not been lost on him, he knew fully well that his and Saber's paths were too alike to the point where they were even going to change the past to correct their plights.

Except at the end he knew his chance for a paradox was less than a percentage point, so he was just going to pour all of his frustration into killing Emiya Shirou.

Fortunately, he had his eyes opened to realize that dream had been beautiful and he hadn't been wrong. Just he know knew that saving everyone was impossible and he hoped that Saber would keep Emiya Shirou from following in his footsteps. It was just that he had no goal and didn't know what to do with himself without having to fight or clean up after humanity as a whole.

Which has to be part of the reason why I'm saving Sakura, Archer thought as he raised his hand to knock on the door. He paused as he realized for the past few days since Rider had asked him for help he actually felt like he had a purpose. He didn't feel like a glorified handyman or out of place. He'd been enjoying himself from his talks to Kotomine and Ilya, despite his anger and regret over Sakura's plight.

He knocked on the door and waited. He heard an all too familiar voice shout, "Shirou, I'll get the door!" He shook his head as a moment later the door opened and he was greeted by a small blond girl with huge emerald eyes.

Aurtria Pendragon's eyes widened as she stared up at Archer with one hand gripping the door frame. Then her eyes narrowed as she said, "Archer, what reason do you have to be here?" She folded her arms under her small breasts and glared up at him.

Archer remembered the first time he had met Saber in his time, how the image of the petite girl had been burned into his mind despite all the Hells he had been through. He remembered the moonlight pooling behind her, gleaming off her silver armor as emerald eyes looked down at him. It was something he would always cherish, despite their differences. However, it was sort of odd seeing her in blue jeans, a white tank top with her hair pulled up into a simple pony tail.

He answered, "Actually, I need to talk to you."

She frowned and asked, "Whatever for?"

"I need your help to help someone," Archer answered.

Saber sighed, her shoulders slumped as she asked, "Is Rin in trouble?"

"It's not about Rin, it's about Sakura," Archer answered.

The frown grew deeper as Saber took a step back and said, "Come in. We saw Sakura yesterday, she seemed a little ill . . ."

"What's wrong with Sakura isn't something she wants broadcast out to everyone," Archer replied as he closed the door behind him.

"And how do you know of her plight then?" she asked with a scowl.

Archer answered, "Rider asked for my help."

"Rider?" Saber said as her eyes widened as she continued to frown.

He nodded and said, "It's a long story."

"Will you actually tell it, or are you just going to boldly lie as you did during the War?" Saber asked as her hands went to her hips.

He resisted the urge to grin at her as he replied, "I doubt it's something that Sakura's going to want you or Emiya Shirou to know."

"If Sakura is in trouble, she should know that we would do all that we could to help her," Saber said as she turned from Archer, her blond pony tail swaying back and forth with her graceful movements as she walked deeper into the home.

He silently agreed with her, but he also understood Sakura's stance on the subject as well. He said, "I don't think this is something Sakura wants people to know about."

"She should know that we wouldn't judge her," Saber said with a frown as they made their way to the kitchen.

Archer shifted slightly as his keen eyes could make out the familiar mop of red hair bent over a pot. He could smell miso, rice, tofu, and sushi being prepared with normal perfection. Emiya Shirou looked up with a smile and asked, "Saber who was at the . . ." The smile wiped off the boy's face as golden-brown eyes narrowed at Archer as he finished, "Archer."

"Emiya Shirou," Archer replied with a slight smirk as he folded his arms over his chest and made sure to stare down at the boy. It was childish, but he still enjoyed needling his alternative, younger self.

Saber glared at them both before moving over to her lover. She said in a low voice, "Apparently Archer needs our help to help Sakura."

"What's wrong with Sakura? She wasn't feeling well yesterday, but other than that she seemed okay," Shirou asked with a frown.

Saber sighed and answered, "Archer is being unforthcoming with information."

"That's not surprising," Shirou grumbled as he moved back to stirring the miso soup. However he looked up at Archer and asked, "And why are you helping her anyway?"

Archer answered, "Rider asked me." He wasn't going to talk about how he'd been wandering through his new life almost as if he was sleepwalking and now he felt like he had a purpose again.

Shirou's frown furrowed his brow even deeper as he looked at Saber. Saber shrugged and said, "Well, she was Shinji's Servant. Maybe she had learned about Sakura's situation during the War."

Shirou sighed and said, "And you're not going to explain anything to us."

"Actually, in this situation I would want to, but I'm also respecting Sakura's right to privacy," Archer answered before clearing his throat. Besides, at least Saber will find out soon enough.

Saber asked, "If Sakura was in trouble, why would she not ask us for help?"

"Because she wouldn't want to burden us," Shirou answered quietly as he placed a lid on the miso soup so it could simmer.

Archer added, "Or put either of you in danger."

"It's bad isn't it?" Shirou asked as he methodically moved to cutting the fish for the sushi. His eyes lifted and locked on Archer's. They were still enough alike that Shirou would understand his reasons even if he didn't like them.

He nodded and answered, "Yeah, it's bad."

"What do you need us to do then?" Shirou said with a grim scowl.

Archer answered, "I mainly need Saber. Saber and Avalon."

"Avalon?" Saber asked.

Shirou frowned and asked, "Couldn't you just Trace it?"

"I tried, it doesn't work without its rightful owner," Archer said as he looked pointedly at Saber, "Trust me, I didn't want to come to the both of you for help."

Shirou snorted, grinned lopsidedly and said, "I wonder why."

"Well, I'm surprised that I wasn't greeted with Excalibur under my nose when Saber opened the door," Archer replied with a shake of his head and a grin.

Saber said, "The thought did cross my mind, but I do have to admit you proved yourself in the end, even if I do not agree with your methods."

"I use those methods to keep up with you and Lancer," Archer retorted.

Shirou raised both eyebrows at him as did Saber as they both stared at him. He sighed, shrugged and said, "That's beyond the point though. I need Saber and Avalon to help Sakura."

"What about me?" Shirou asked as he moved to stir the simmering soup again.

Archer sighed and answered, "Just be here to support her."

"Sakura is actually going to be here in a short while to help prepare dinner, we should tell her of our plans," Saber said with a nod.

"No," Archer said at the same time as Shirou did, causing the two of them to glare at each other.

Shirou took a deep breath and said, "Saber, if Sakura finds out, she might try to stop us. What exactly are you going to do anyway, Archer?"

He answered, "I need a little more information first, but I hope to be able to act tomorrow night. Saber, can you meet me at the bridge tomorrow night around Midnight?"

"Of course, and I will have both Avalon and Excalibur with me. Archer, if it is to aid Sakura, I will gladly offer my sword to you," Saber said firmly, her emerald eyes bright and gleaming like the jewels they so shamed.

He stared at the petite King of Knights and had to remember that she wasn't a Servant anymore. Even though she was still vastly powerful, she was mortal now and could be hurt by mortal means. That, and she was also a woman, and from what he'd found out, he didn't want any girl near that home. Not even as one as powerful as Saber.

However, he had no plans of telling Saber that.

He said, "Thanks, that's going to be useful."

"Should we get her to spend the night?" Shirou asked.

Archer shook his head and said, "No, that would cause suspicion on both ends. Just act like everything is normal."

"I will see you tomorrow night at the bridge then," Saber said with a nod.

He nodded back to her and said, "Thanks, both of you. I better get out of here before she gets here too."

"And Rin and Lancer are also coming by for dinner as well," Saber said with an arch smile.

Shirou snorted and said, "Saber made me invite Lancer as well as Tohsaka. I didn't want him here."

"That's one thing that's stays the same," Archer said softly as he moved to leave the kitchen.

Sakura slowly made her way to Sempai's house, but it felt as if someone had doused her body in napalm and lit a match. She could barely breathe and each step sent a jolt through her body that made her shiver. She could feel those things crawling in her core and seeking satisfaction, but there had been none. Nii-san had seemingly all but forgotten her, and Grandfather hadn't done anything to get him to resume his duties.

She rubbed her forehead and took a deep breath that made it feel as if someone was stabbing thousands of tiny needles into her lungs. She sagged slightly and considered going back home because she knew Sempai would worry about her and he'd press to find out what was wrong. With Saber at his side, Sakura knew that they would eventually know her dark secret, and that was the last thing that Sakura wanted.

She wanted to at least pretend she was a normal girl when she was with them. If that was taken away then she didn't know what she would have left. So she would furiously fight to keep up that illusion no matter how horrible she felt or what the worms were doing to her. She gripped her hands into fists and doubled her step, no matter what the cost.

She smiled and sighed in relief as she reached the familiar old Samurai house and pulled the key from her pocket. Sakura quietly opened the door and made her way into the home. She slipped out of her shoes, made sure they were neatly stacked and frowned at the fairly large pair of black combat boots neatly arranged at the other side of the door away from Sempai and Saber's much smaller footwear. They were immaculately kept, as if they were Sempai's, but she knew him to wear sneakers whenever he could.

She didn't see Rin's familiar loafers so they couldn't be Lancer's, and Lancer didn't seem the type to keep a spit polish on his shoes anyway. She moved away from the shoes and headed to the kitchen, shifting the weight of her grocery bags as she did. Halfway down the hall, she nearly ran into a man so tall that the top of her head was actually under the line of his shoulder.

Sakura cried out as she nearly stumbled backwards and a pair of large, tanned hands reached out to steady her before immediately letting go. She automatically looked down and said, "I'm sorry, I should have been looking where I was going."

"It's okay, I wasn't exactly paying attention either," a voice that was rough but yet oddly familiar at the same time replied.

Sakura actually looked up at the speaker and blinked. He was tall, broad shouldered with deeply tanned skin and white hair that was spiked up. Even under the black T-shirt he was wearing, she could see the heavy definition of muscles in his arms, shoulders and chest to the point she felt her cheeks heat up ever so slightly. However, his eyes were closed and he was smiling kindly at her, which made her smile back ever so slightly.

"Still, I apologize," Sakura said with a tiny bow.

He opened his eyes and said, "Well, I think we're both at fault here."

Sakura opened her mouth to reply to him, but he was already moving down the hallway. She stared at the broad line of his back curiously and wondered who he was. Maybe he's the Archer from the War, she thought, Nee-san's former Servant. She realized she was watching him putting on his boots and quickly turned away to flee to the kitchen.

More Author's Notes and Self-Promotion: First off, the thing I've enjoyed writing most in this story has been the Archer and Kotomine scenes. I'd always wanted to see these to interact. After all, Archer is Kirisugu's ideas taken to their most extreme, which would be something that Kotomine would dig. Plus Archer's old enough to realize how much he and his odd friend are alike despite being on opposite ends of the spectrum.

In fact, a lot of the Kotomine scenes are because I was stuck with what to do with Sakura. Originally I started this story to prove Sakura and Non-Sakura fans alike wrong with how she's normally portrayed. She's neither a slut or a sweet hapless victim. Trauma leaves a mark as scene here, the same thing that goes for Archer as well.

See, I write Archer as having one hell of a case of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I treat him with the same sort of mindset that . . . okay I'm showing my age here but John Rambo in First Blood but taken to the extreme. Most people sort of forget or gloss over the fact that Archer's had to slaughter millions if not billions of people as a Counter Guardian. Sure there's the whole "It's only records . . ." argument, but the point of it is that he does have information that he's done these things.

And, in some cases, just that information can be worse than remembering full out what he did. He's got the information and as every good horror author knows is that the reader's imagination is going to be better than what's on the page. He has the information and when he's summoned his mind starts filling in the blanks. Plus it's been hinted that Archer has been summoned many times before and has records of those summonings. So any positive thing he might have picked up, such as the end of UBW, is going to be buried under so much shit that it really isn't going to do any good. (Yes, I was in tears when reading the True End of UBW, and no, I did not go back and get the Good End because that's just going to piss me off.)

Plus, deep down the guy's still Emiya Shirou.

Now with all of that serious crap out of the way, I've been professionally published recently and like all good authors I need to promote myself. Plus the books are really cool. . - Check out "Fem-Fangs" for tales of female creatures of the night who don't fucking sparkle. My story is "Night of the Suck" by Jennifer L. Barnes.

Annnnddd if you're in the mood for a lighter hearted FSN fic, I'm working on . . . well, the synopsis sort of speaks for itself:

One's a Celtic Half-God with a love for battle and women, the other is a former Counter Guardian who's body is made out of swords. Together they battle the forces of evil. Or something.

Enter The Hound and the Blacksmith, a series I have planned that's an Urban Fantasy done Type-Moon style. Think of the Nasuverse as written by Jim Butcher . . . or at least I hope. There's romance, action, witty dialogue and Shinji getting his just deserts. You can click on it here: .net/s/6884089/1/The_Hound_and_the_Blacksmith_The_First_Case

Also, please feed the muse and review.