Disclaimer: My name isn't Nasu. Thus, I don't own F/SN, Tsukihime or any official Type-Moon work.
A/N: This is just a fic I pumped out to clear my head a little. I intend to continue it and reviews would be greatly appreciated, especially if they help me iron out the flaws.
First things first though. There will be spoilers. To all routes and then some. There'll be some Tsukihime spoilers as well. Just a warning.
Hot. That was all the boy could think as he stumbled through the burning city. It was so very hot. There wasn't any pain, any torturous agony. Just that constant, constant heat, pressing down on him like a lead weight.
In some small, fragmented part of his mind, he realised that he should be feeling sad right now. He'd lost his home, his family and even his name. But it didn't seem important. What was important was finding somewhere cool, somewhere where the heat wasn't quite so intense, where he could rest.
He walked on, ignoring the screams and cries for help that resounded around him. He couldn't help them. He couldn't even find the drive to try.
Pain. That was all the spirit inside of the fragments Holy Grail could think as the city burned down around them. That wasn't unusual though. All the dark spirit had ever felt was pain, right from its creation, so very long ago, in that small, muddy village…
Well, pain and hate. Hate was its constant companion.
Slowly, ever so slowly, other thoughts began to reach through to the mind of the spirit. It was dying, fading away back to the place its own spite had created. Without a human to contract to, or a wish made, the Holy Grail could not exist on this world. This seemed so horribly unfair, both to the dark spirit and the essence of the grail itself. The spirit wanted to live. The Grail wanted to grant a wish. And they were being denied, by the will of a single human, who'd forced his Servant into shattering the Holy Grail, right in its moment of triumph. With a command spell that it had given him, the spirit noted, just for that extra irony.
For a moment, a terrible rage ran through it. Again…! Again, it was to be consigned to its own torment! The thought of returning to that dark place, where it could only feel the misery that humans had forced on it, filled it with a new, unfamiliar feeling. Fear.
It paused at that. To feel fear was to not want something to happen. To not want something to happen was to want something else to happen. To want something to happen was hope. Hope. It hadn't 'hoped' for a long time. It hadn't even realised it was still capable of doing such. Was there still something left of that boy, who so very long ago, had been chosen to become the Source of All Evils?
I… Do I still wish to truly live? To return to the days of life from before? The thought was a terrifying one. To have something beyond pain, rage or hate? It could not even imagine such a thing. No. It would not allow itself to even try. It bore enough sorrows as it was, and it would not allow those created by crushed hopes to join them. There was no way for it to survive as it was; No living thing that could accept it was nearby. The magus who ordered its execution had left without a backwards glance and the other, the golden one who had drained much of its power, had taken another magus and gone too. All that was left was broken shards and black mud.
Or rather, that was all there should be.
A small figure stumbled from the burning wreckage surrounding the remnants of the Grail. A boy, his skin scorched, his clothes little more than burnt strips as he trudged through the smoke. His eyes were unfocused, and his will little more than a drive to survive. No, more than a drive.
The piece of debris under his foot slipped, and he fell, tumbling down to the earth. For a brief moment, a sharp pain forced itself through his already screaming nerves and restored some of his thoughts. Where was he? He looked around him. The area was little more than a crater, within it only a few tiny fragments of gold and puddles of black mud. His eyes strayed to the mud. It looked so cool, so very refreshing. A trembling hand reached out towards it and he realised with a dull surprise that it was his own. He didn't care though, and the strange disconnect between his mind and body didn't worry him. That was just how things were.
His fingers dipped into the viscous liquid. And he screamed as a wave of emotions, feelings, thoughts and dreams swept into him like a black wave. The heat was gone, but in its place was terrible suffering, enough to sunder a soul. And a voice.
Accept our contract! The spirit all but screamed at him. The boy was so very fragile, so very weak from his time in the flames that it tortured him to watch him. This was his chance, his only hope, his one method! The boy would not die! He would not allow it! But to truly heal him, a contract had to be established, so as to allow the prana to flow. Desperation fuelled him like never before. This was not the way he had intended, but to exist in the world was his wish. He would not be cheated, sent back to that foul place with yet another regret, yet another curse, by a foolish little child expiring too soon!
It took a moment for the spirit to realise that he was referring to himself as an gender. An individual. A person. It seemed like the boys mind was already beginning to affect it. A good sign.
Shirou heard the voice, heard its screams. It sounded so very similar to himself. That same desire to live, that same will to survive. In all the world at that very moment, there were probably not two people who wanted the same thing so very much.
"I…" The words were little more than croaks, forced out through cracked lips. "I want to live."
The Holy Grail, the great device created to grant the wishes of others, roared in triumph, a sound echoed by the spirit within. Black mud rose up around the boy, wrapping him within a cocoon, dark as night. Once again the pain assailed him, but this time, it was not so horrible. It was familiar, more than anything else. It was like he'd been bearing it for some time.
The spirit, Avenger, felt the two of them beginning to merge. Normally, such a process would take time, but the boys ego was little more than a fragment, unformed and malleable. Indeed, the boys lack of any true personality was almost a defence against the hate ingrained within the filth. Rather than fighting it, almost certainly futilely, he could accept it. With a little bolstering from Avenger, the boys psyche could survive this with no more damage than had already occurred from the fire outside.
The corrupted mud spilled into the boys wounds, forcing blistered flesh to close and scrapes and scars to fade. His circuits were not prepared for such a thing however and strained, trying desperately to keep up with the rush of injected power. An impossible task of course. No mere human, not even a trained magus, could ever hope to match the power of the Grail. Not without assistance. Avenger surveyed the boys body. For a boy from an unremarkable bloodline, the boy -Shirou, he corrected himself.- had a remarkable number of circuits. But to even have a hope of surviving the merge, he would need to have them all open. So Avenger did so.
Shirou's daze was broken by a pain far closer to home than that which surrounded him. His body was pierced by a thousand knives, each sliding into his flesh with sickening cruelty. He blanked out, only to be forced back into consciousness. He couldn't black out, not now. If he did, then the mud would overwhelm him, and Avenger would be caught within a body that could not move, feel or even think. It would be no more than exchanging one prison for another.
Eventually, the pain began to subside and Shirou's taught muscles relaxed. Which made it the perfect time to complete the final step. Golden shards pierced into the worst of his wounds, where the fire had burnt through the flesh, damaging the organs within. Once again, the boy screamed, but it seemed that he'd gained a slightly higher pain threshold, because Avenger was not forced to keep him awake.
Gold began to shift, taking on the form of flesh, similar, yet different to the form it had had but a short time ago. Irisviel had been the previous Holy Grail, or the bearer of it anyway. But merely reverting the form of the grail back to her flesh wouldn't do. Shirou was a male human, and Irisviel was a female homunculus, created through alchemy. They were incompatible. Luckily, the Grail was excellent at copying things. It had more than enough of Shirou's flesh and blood to be able to replicate and transform itself into the parts of him that the fire had destroyed.
It took only a moment, and Shirou was once again complete, his flesh unmarred. On the surface, nothing had changed from the boy who had no doubt been frolicking around less than an hour ago. But there were differences. The Grail had replaced much of his flesh, and while incomplete, the boy was a bearer of the Holy Grail.
Well, not quite. He was missing one key part to be a true Lesser Grail such as Irisviel had been, but that was fine. Avenger's wish had been fulfilled, as had Shirou's. Both the essence of the Grail and the spirit which resided within it were satisfied. Or rather, the spirit which had resided within it.
Shirou stood, feeling strangely shaky. It wasn't the shake of exhaustion and pain that the fire had forced on him, but rather the unwieldy feeling of his body being subtly different. For one thing, even with the fire raging around him he felt comfortable, as if there was a buffer between himself and the heat. Had he blacked out? The last few hours were nothing more than a daze.
He took a step forward and his leg supported his weight with ease. He wasn't sure what had happened, but he felt more alive than he had in, well, the last half hour. He looked around the flames surrounding him. While he had no idea which way was which, the flames had to have a limit. All he had to do was walk in one direction and he'd reach the end, wouldn't he?
He took off a jog, moving nimbly over the debris.
As it turned out, it hadn't taken very long to escape the flames at all. It had been no more than ten minutes till the flames had died down around him, and he'd tasted fresh air. He stopped, taking in a deep breath. While the smell of burning was still thick in the air, it was still cool and refreshing. He sat down, relishing in the feel of the concrete beneath him. And then a thought struck him, one long neglected in the escape. Who am I?
His name was Shirou. He knew that much. But his family name, his home and even the faces of his family escaped him. He tried to recall his life, place names to memories, only to find he had none of those either. For a moment, he paused. He knew he should feel sad about this. Perhaps even cry about it. He'd lost everything. But he honestly couldn't bring himself to feel too strongly about it. He couldn't bring himself to feel too strongly about much, actually.
"Hey! We've got a kid over here! Bring some water!"
He turned at the voice, looking at the man who'd suddenly appeared from his left. He was wearing an odd suit, dark grey, with bright yellow stripes on it. A fire-fighters suit, he realised. He wondered where he'd seen it before.
"You alright, kid?" The man leaned in towards him, concern obvious on his face, even in the dim light.
"Can you tell me your name?"
"Shirou," he replied. The older man waited for a continuation, but he shook his head. "That's it."
The man's face was understanding as he nodded. "Gotcha. Hey, Shirou, we're moving all the other kids to a tent where you'll be safe till we find your parents. Do you want to go there with me?"
Shirou considered the offer. He vaguely recalled being told to never go anywhere with strangers, but that seemed less than important, given the circumstances. What were the odds of this guy being some kind of creep, just waiting around in case children happened to stumble his way through the fire? No, in all honesty, this man was almost certainly nothing more than what he appeared. A well-meaning individual. And he was quite curious as to what his parents were like. He nodded and the man took his hand.
The tent had emptied considerably since his arrival. There'd been very nearly four dozen children when he'd first arrived. Then there were less than ten. Then there were five. Then just him. Parents and family members had come by one by one for the last few hours. There'd been tears of joy at reunions, children both crying and laughing at the same time. It was probably quite heartwarming.
He sat, staring at the tent flap. Occasionally, one of the staff would come and give him a cup of hot chocolate and some comforting words, telling him that they were sure that his parents were fine, and that they'd be here soon. He wondered why they bothered. His parent's were almost certainly dead. Why raise false hopes? A kind cruelty? Or perhaps they just didn't have the strength to tell him that his parents were gone?
He'd overheard more than one hurried conversation. Apparently, there were more tents, just like this one. They'd been moving children that it was believed had lost their parents to a single tent, so as to help keep the situation organised and under control. No doubt he was going to be transferred there soon.
The flap swung open, and he looked up resignedly. Counter to his expectations, the man standing there was not one the staff come back to tell him of his fate. Instead, it was an incredibly tall man, arrayed in the robes of a priest. His eyes were sunken deep into his face, and were empty, as if life itself had been squeezed from the man. Shirou felt an immediate kinship with the him. The man looked like Shirou felt.
The priest looked down at him, his eyes surveying the young boy. Shirou met his gaze. No doubt most would consider the man intimidating, but to be intimidated, you had to have something you feared to lose. He had nothing like that. And neither, he realised, did the man in front of him.
A few moments passed and the priest nodded, as it satisfied.
"You're parents are likely dead."
Shirou blinked. It was a blunt, absolute admission, spoken as if the the man was talking about the weather.
"I know," He replied. "What happens now?"
The man watched him carefully for a second, then continued. If he was surprised by the equal nonchalance of the reply, he gave no sign.
"That is up to you. You can wait here if you wish, then be taken to another tent, where you will eventually be either adopted, or sent to a orphanage." The man shrugged. "If you wish, however, you may come with me."
Shirou thought about that. Both options led to unknown results. Neither the priest or the home were any more certain an option. But the priest was like him, he realised. Both of them were empty. Broken. They weren't anything like kindred spirits. But they could understand each other somewhat.
"I'll go with you." he responded, meeting the eyes of the priest once more.
The man nodded, accepting the answer. "Your name?"
"Shirou. Just Shirou." Again, his response was that accepting nod.
"Do you wish to keep that name?"
A good question. On one hand, the name was a link to a past he could neither remember, or care about. On the other, it was the only thing he still possessed. In a strange way, it seemed important to keep it. He made an affirmative gesture.
"Very well." The priest opened the flap of the tent and gestured that he should leave. "I am Kotomine Kirei. You appear to be in healthy condition, so I will complete the necessary paperwork to remove you from this camp."
He walked out into the rough encampment that had been made, his gaze flicking around the hurrying workers. His eyes stopped on the man waiting just outside the tent. His hair was a vivid gold and fierce red eyes shone out of his visage. A bored expression was plastered on his face, and he picked at the sleeve of his finely made coat with annoyance. He looked up as Shirou walked through the flap.
"So who's this little brat then?" It took Shirou a second to realise that the question was not aimed at him, but at the man behind him.
He turned, just as an amused smirk crossed Kotomine's face.
"He is your little brother, Gilgamesh. Be nice to him."
"What." Gilgamesh said flatly, staring down at the young boy. He was so small and insignificant that it pained him to watch the runt.
Shirou stared at him, meeting the crimson gaze with the same ease that he'd met Kotomine. "It is nice to meet you, Onii-san." He bowed, as he'd been taught… sometime ago. He couldn't remember where he'd learnt it, but that was hardly a surprise at this point.
Gilgamesh sighed resignedly at the introduction, rubbing his face wearily. "Is picking up this boy another of you whims?"
"You shouldn't refer to him as 'boy', Gilgamesh. He is your little brother after all." Kotomine chided, the smirk grown only wider. "The correct term is Otouto-san. Or -kun, if you feel you're close enough."
The golden haired man growled at that, his irritation obvious. "I wonder if I should have left you back at the ruins. It would certainly spare my royal ears this nonsense."
They bickered slightly, an edge of an actual slight threat in every word they said. Shirou watched them with curiosity. At the very least, it appeared that life with them would be interesting.