Disclaimer: The properties of FSN and Revolutionary Girl Utena do not belong to me and will never belong to me, as much as I wished they did. Damn.


Chapter 1

Her hand dangled limply in the empty space, reaching out into the darkness, reaching down, for the hand of a girl who had already fallen into the depths and was well beyond her reach. A part of her knew, of course; had known in that horrific, sudden instant when Anthy's hand had slipped from hers.

She had failed.

She would have cried, if she had the energy. She might have laughed, with the way things had gone. As it was, though, she had nothing left. No energy, no will, no desire to even try and move.

So she just lie there, her hand dangling in empty darkness, feeling the blood drip from her fingers into the nothingness below.

She heard the faint whistle of parting wind, and closed her eyes.

She didn't even scream as a million swords drove home, sparing no part of her body.

It was a beautiful day in Fuyuki City, all things considered. The sun was shining enough to warm the air, but not hot enough for him to feel the sweat running down his back. The sky was clear and blue, and there was a fresh breeze blowing for the moments that he felt like he was starting to get a little overheated.

All things considered, Archer mused, it was a beautiful day to be spending in the thick woods surrounding the city. He was glad he had decided against a jacket for this outing; it really wasn't necessary with how mild it was.

It had become one of his odd little habits, ever since the end of the Grail War and the start of his second life. He couldn't explain why, on his days off from work and when he had nothing better to do, he spent time exploring the woods. They had never held his interest when he had been younger, and he was relentlessly teased for it by pretty much everyone he knew.

Even so, he liked it. There was something oddly calming about coming out into a quiet, secluded area like this, and just wandering around until he felt tired enough to go back home. He didn't always think when he was out in the trees, but usually when he did, they were good thoughts.

A relief, really. Archer liked his life better when his mind didn't work against him, when his memories were at peace.

Even if his new hobby was enough for Lancer to make jabs at his pride ("Next thing you know, he'll be bringing home little injured birds and flowers!"), he didn't mind it too much. And for the times he did, there was still the old Emiya dojo.

He smirked a little at the thought, and kept walking.

He'd walk a little further, probably find a stream or something, and sit there for awhile. He had all day, after all; it was his time off, and he could do whatever he pleased. Liking the thought, he cut through a small thicket of trees, a quick shortcut and a way of escaping the afternoon sun.

Archer ducked his head slightly to avoid a branch, grimaced a little when a few loose leaves drifted down and tangled in his hair. He paused, brushing them off…

And in the dappled sunlight of the thicket, he spied a gleam of pink.

Archer paused.

Every muscle in his body, every instinct he had honed from his years of battle and wandering, told him to keep walking. It wasn't his business, not anymore; he had a new life, he didn't need to concern himself with someone else's problems. Now was the time he lived for himself, not for others.

He told himself that, but he was already pushing his way through the trees, already kneeling down beside the small, thin body, already turning her over gently—he could tell from the build, from the soft weight, that it was a girl, even before he saw the lips and the long hair and the breasts—already studying her bloodied, bruised hands.

Quite suddenly, he wished he'd brought his coat along, after all.

Well, first things first, he thought, resigned, and carefully gathered the girl into his arms, cradled her to his chest.

Her hands were her most obvious problem. He'd tend to them first, and worry about the rest when she actually woke up.

She was oddly light in his arms.

It was already dark, the moon climbing steadily in the inky black sky, by the time Lancer returned to the modestly-sized apartment he shared with his fellow former Servant. The blue-haired man was tired, but pleased with how his day had gone. He had worked hard, earned some money, and had even got to flirt with some pretty girls and fish a little.

Indeed, at the rate things were going, nothing could ruin his night.

Humming, he hung up his jacket and went into the kitchen. His throat was dry, so he felt no guilt in reaching into the fridge and grabbing a bottle of Pepsi, even if he was pretty sure Archer had bought the last batch. He twisted the cap off and took a long drink, heading to the living room. His roommate was nowhere around, so maybe he could get the television to himself for a little while.

Flicking on the light, Lancer paused in the doorway. After a moment, he took another sip from his bottle, surveying the scene before him with calm red eyes.

Curled up on the couch, tucked under a thin blanket that looked as though it had seen better days, was a young girl; rather young, he mused, probably not even sixteen yet judging from her face. Tangled pink hair spilled along the arm of the couch, and a few strands draped across her face as she slept.

For a very long moment, Lancer simply stared, taking a few more sips from his bottle and savoring the sugary taste of his drink. When he had emptied his first bottle, he went back to the kitchen, tossed it into recycling, and got a second bottle, opening it without missing a beat.

This time, he spared the sleeping girl in the living room only a brief glance as he headed down the hall, to Archer's private work room. Finding the door already open, he opted to lean against the frame, watching as his roommate leaned over a plan for repairs that a customer of his garage had requested.

He was wearing glasses. Lancer always thought it was odd, that Archer wore glasses.

He waited, taking another long, deep swallow from his Pepsi. Finally, he spoke. "Archer."

Archer didn't even look up. "What?"

"If we're going to be roommates, I need you to not take me seriously when I joke about you bringing home things you find in the woods."

Archer finally looked up, adjusting his glasses with a small, amused smirk. "At least she isn't a bird?"

Lancer snorted and drained his bottle dry.

So I'm starting to think maybe I should put my ideas on some kind of birth control.

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