All from a hospital's bed

Written by: NAHTCUW

X=X=X=X=X

A gas leak, that's what they were all told. The mass unconsciousness, the scarred skin, the blood-red sky… It was all part of a gas leak. The sky was a hallucination, the scars were from the dangerous gases that burnt skin on contact, and the unconsciousness was from the lack of oxygen.

It was believable, almost.

"You're pretty lucky to have missed school on a day like this." She stated, with a mix of relief and annoyance. "Seriously, it's kind of unfair."

Mitsuzuri Ayako was one of the people that were there when the gas leak occurred. She was in the hospital, along with everyone else, and would remain there until it was determined there were no lasting effects from the gases.

"Well, there's nothing I can do about that, you know." The red-haired boy at her bedside sheepishly answered. He was Emiya Shirou, and through some stroke of luck was absent when the leak happened.

"Still, this hospital is ridiculous. Over a week in here, just for a little gas?" She said, clearly annoyed. Still, she kept most of her body under the covers. She had been affected by the gases as well, and didn't want to parade it.

"They're just being careful. These gases can have some long term effects, and they just want to make sure none of you are in danger." Shirou said, more annoyed at her than anything. "I wouldn't want to put you in anymore danger, so you'd better just stay here where they can help if something goes wrong."

"Gee, that's comforting. Stay in the hospital in case the gases try to kill you again." She jokingly said at her ex-club member, with one of her staple grins.

"I'm not joking, Mitsuzuri." Shirou scolded her with a serious look, which took her aback. "I really don't want you, or anyone else from our school, getting seriously hurt. In here, you're in a place which can treat you in case there are aftereffects. So, stay here until the doctors tell you otherwise."

"Yeesh, were you always this serious? Fine, fine… I'll do as you say, doctor Emiya." She teasingly said, provoking a smile from Shirou.

"Sorry, sorry. I'm just genuinely worried, you know?" Shirou said sheepishly, before his mood turned dark. "I mean, if I had been there..."

"You would have collapsed along with the rest of us. Don't beat yourself up, Emiya." Ayako said, still smiling. She decided they needed a change of subject, so change the subject she did. "You came here to visit Taiga, right? How is she?"

"Oh, she's so energetic you'd think the leak never happened. Even the doctors were baffled by her rapid recovery." Shirou said, accepting the change. "She was already bellowing at the doctors to let her leave, because apparently I need her 'continued guidance'."

"You mean, she needed to eat your food? That's so like her." Ayako let out with a laugh. "I can see where she's coming from, though. The hospital is rather boring."

"Well, would you like me to bring you something to pass the time with? A book, maybe?" Shirou asked, and Ayako sighed. He was doing that thing where he wanted to be overly helpful again.

"No, I'm fine. I don't really like books that much anyway." She answered, sounding slightly tired. "Now, bring me an archery range in here and I'm a happy woman, but no books."

Shirou accepted the little joke and laughed, his mind conjuring up an image of an archery range sticking out of the hospital's third floor.

That laughter was killed as soon as loud noises came from the corridor, and through the halfway open door both Ayako and Shirou saw a bed rush past, pushed by many doctors. Their voices were loud, yet neither of the room's occupants understood what they said because of the speed they were talking at, and the person they were moving.

"… That was Takeda, from the kendo club, right?" Ayako nervously said, after what felt like an eternity of Shirou staring at the doorway. He snapped out of his reverie and looked back at her.

"Yeah… he was pretty much in the middle of it all, from what I heard from Fuji-nee." Shirou said, looking like he just took a fist to the gut.

"Just relax. He'll be fine. That's why we're here anyway, right? So that the doctors can act as soon as something goes wrong?" Ayako said, skillfully throwing his own words back at him.

"Yeah, you're right. I guess I was just worrying needlessly." Shirou said, with a sad smile. "Anyway you look tired, the sun is setting and you had a pretty bad day. I'll let you rest."

"What? Forget that. Stay here and talk to me, I'm not falling asleep yet. And I'll be bored to death waiting until I do, so keep me company." She forcefully said with a smile, and Shirou couldn't find it in him to refuse.

Until the sun set and the nurses shooed him out, Shirou and Ayako talked about anything and everything. And at the end, Shirou promised to come back the next day.

That sounded nice.

X=X=X=X=X

He came back the next day, as promised. Ayako didn't doubt he would, either. He was too good-natured to lie about something like that. So, for what felt like hours, they talked about more inconsequential things, while she lay on the bed and he sat on the chair at her bedside. The weather, rumors, the school's newest couple, the basketball club's star, no subject was beyond their grasp, until Ayako said something she wasn't supposed to.

"Did you see the news? Shinji was found dead last night."

"Yeah, I know…"

Shirou looked down to the floor, dejected. No matter how badly Shinji seemed to treat him, they were actually quite close. Ayako could understand that, and almost didn't bring up the issue, until it suddenly slipped out between words by accident.

"Sorry, I shouldn't have brought it up." Ayako said, waving her hand defensively. "Instead… uh… How's Taiga?"

Fully willing to return to more casual conversation, Shirou took the obvious bait.

"Oh, she's restless. She says the hospital food is downright terrible." Shirou said with a smile.

"That's your fault for giving her such high standards, though."

"Yeah, definitely. I did promise to deliver her some food from now on, though." Shirou sheepishly said, his mood slightly lifted. A sad glint in his eyes was still present, but Ayako figured that after talking, it would be gone.

"Was that her idea, or yours?" She asked with an eyebrow raised, her concern for him hidden.

"It was partly mine, partly hers. She told me she missed my cooking, and I told her I had some leftovers because I was used to her eating over." Shirou said, scratching the back of his head.

"Really? You sometimes make too much? That's unexpected, I thought you were more precise than that." Ayako said with a slight smirk, making a reference to the fact Shirou never missed out on the archery range.

"Well, Sakura is staying over for now, and I'm not really used to making food for two instead of three, so it just happens sometimes." Shirou said with a troubled expression.

"Well, I'm honestly impressed. You've been trumped by… wait a second…" Ayako's face suddenly turned pensive, and looked at Shirou with an accusatory frown. "You made the extra food on purpose, didn't you?"

He tensed for a moment, and looked away while he scratched his head. Ayako just burst in laughter at the sight, and Shirou just started pouting at the teasing.

"Well, what was I supposed to do? Fuji-nee said she didn't like the food, so I had to help…" He said, barely audible.

"Oh, you are so tsundere. It wouldn't hurt for you to just tell her you cooked for her on purpose." Ayako said, her grin never leaving her.

"Oh, leave me alone." Shirou said, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Ha! You're adorable." Ayako pointed out to the pouting young man, whose face reddened at the teasing. "Anyway, how's Sakura doing?"

"She's… dealing with a lot, but she looks like she'll be alright." Shirou said, his face returned to a semblance of seriousness.

"You're helping her get through it, I hope?" Ayako said with a sly smile and a crooked eyebrow.

"Hey, it's not like that. It's just, until this whole thing dies down, she's staying at my place." Shirou said defensively, waving his arms in front of him. "I mean, with what happened to Shinji…"

"Yeah, I get what you mean. She needs a shoulder to lean on, right?" Ayako said with a mischievous smile, something Shirou didn't miss. He was about to reply, when someone knocked on the door.

"Excuse me." A nurse said, gently pushing open the door and making her presence known. "Visiting hours are over, sir."

"Ah, alright." Shirou said, pushing himself up from the chair. He turned to face Ayako one last time before leaving. "I'll try to come visit again tomorrow. Is that alright?"

"Sure, I'm dead bored here anyway. Bring Sakura too, if you want." Ayako said, almost serious enough for Shirou to believe she wasn't implying something.

"Yeah, I will." He said, before heading out the door. Before closing it behind him, he waved at her one last time. She waved back, but he was gone before he could see it.

She slumped down, letting herself fall from her seated position. She sighed and brought her left hand through her hair.

"So, Sakura almost got her man, huh…?" She said, letting out another sigh. She was happy about her junior's progress, to be sure, but another part of her felt slightly jealous.

Some would word it that Ayako had a crush on Shirou. It started when he completely outdid everyone in the archery club. Afterwards, she would keep asking for more and more matches, never accepting defeat. Somewhere along the way, it became more akin to just wanting to spend more time with him.

But she had never acted on it. In all honesty, every time she tried she would freeze up, and just ended up asking him to rejoin the club or just asking him for a rematch.

With that on her mind, she fell asleep and dreamed a girl's dream, the kind said girl does not share, ever.

X=X=X=X=X

"Like I said, Sakura is pretty sick. I can't come today, sorry." Shirou told Ayako apologetically, over the phone. "She has a big fever and everything, I can't really leave her alone either…"

"No, it's fine Emiya. I can live with being bored, but I can't live with my junior getting sicker because I stole her precious sempai." Ayako said jokingly, and his blush was almost audible.

"Stop that! I already told you, it isn't like that." Shirou said, his fluster obvious. "Anyway, could you just tell Fuji-nee?"

Ayako stayed silent at that, for far too long.

"Mitsuzuri? Are you there?" Shirou asked, concern in his voice.

"Hm? Oh, right. Yeah, I'm here. Don't worry, I'll tell Taiga, so you just take care of Sakura, alright?" Ayako said, forcing her voice into its usual energy.

"Un, thanks for that. I'll try to come by as soon as Sakura is better." Shirou said, oblivious to the meaning behind her momentary silence.

"Alright, I'll see you then. Bye." Ayako finished, and barely heard Shirou say his goodbyes himself before she hung up the phone.

She stayed silent for a moment, just staring at the phone. After a while, she handed it to a nurse who had been at her bedside the entire time. She took it, and returned it to its place on the wall.

"Thanks for that." Ayako said, talking about the nurse handing her the phone in the first place.

"It's nothing, Mitsuzuri-san. You shouldn't be walking, after all." The nurse politely said, giving a small bow to the hospitalized high-school student. "Is there anything else you want, before I go?"

"Yeah, could you go down the hall and tell Fujimura Taiga that Shirou Emiya won't be coming? Tell her he's caring for Sakura, she'll get it."

"All right, I will. Press the button if you need anything else, Mitsuzuri-san." The nurse said before leaving the room.

Ayako just leaned her head on her left hand and looked outside the window to her right. This day, to her, was going to be very boring.

X=X=X=X=X

The next day, Shirou did not call her, and she did not know if she'd get visited or not. Which is why, when her brother Minori opened the door, she had accidentally thought it was Shirou and called out his name.

"I'm not Shirou, idiot. I'm just your brother." He said, looking just as he usually did.

"Yeah, I can tell now that I see your ugly mug. What do you want?" She said, with a slightly dismissive look on her face. It was all in good humor though, because this was mostly the dynamic they shared. However, this time her brother looked a little uncomfortable.

"Nee-chan… are you alright?" He asked with a difficult expression. "I heard from the doctors and, well…"

"What, are you worrying about that? I'll be fine." Ayako said, completely dismissing the issue. "Who you should be worried about is Sakura, Minori."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Minori said, looking away. As usual, he was obvious in his crush at the younger Matou, Sakura.

"Just that she's staying over at Emiya's right now. Before you know it, those two will be married." Ayako said with a grin, causing Minori to pale a bit.

"Gah, I shouldn't have worried. You're the same as always." Minori said, before leaving. He stopped just before crossing the door, however, and looked back. "Just make sure you get your rest."

"Yeah, yeah, get out of here." Ayako waved him off, and he just left without properly telling her goodbye. It was alright though, she was used to it.

X=X=X=X=X

The next day, Shirou stopped by. He was looking tired, and a bit worn, but acting the same as he usually did.

"Sorry, I can't really stay long this time." He apologetically said, as his first spoken words when he entered the room.

"No, it's fine. At least you're here. I've been bored these last two days, like no one's business." She said tiredly, yawning to prove her boredom.

"Sorry, there's been a fair amount of stuff happening." He apologetically said, scratching the back of his head.

"No, it's fine. Is Sakura all better, now?" Ayako harmlessly asked, but Shirou's face fell at the question. "What's wrong?"

"Wha-? Ah, no, it's…" Shirou hastily answered, jumbling his words, until he took a calming breath. His next words felt heavy, tormented almost, turning on a few alarms in Ayako's mind. "It's… complicated. That and Sakura herself wouldn't want me talking about it, so I can't tell you."

"It has to do with the 'gas leaks' around town, right?" Ayako said, her eyes narrowing. Shirou immediately lost his fluster and looked her in the eyes, with a worried look.

Ayako had figured something was wrong after the school's 'gas leak'. After being in it, she couldn't believe the other 'gas leaks' were so simple. Then, the day after the incident, Shinji dies, and Sakura gets sick immediately after? It was suspicious. There was too much to Fuyuki that was suspicious right now, starting from the murders, and she didn't like that. She didn't like not knowing. So, she grabbed onto any thread of knowledge she could find.

"Mitsuzuri… you…" He started trying to talk, but his words died in his throat.

"Okay, that reaction settles it. There's something going on, and you know what it is." She said, more or less ordering him to tell her. He leaned both of his elbows down on his knees, and looked at the floor with dejection.

"I… can't tell you." He said, and before waiting for her answer continued on. "If I tell you, I'd be killing you. I don't want that, Mitsuzuri."

"Fine." She said, reacting faster than even she expected. "At least tell me this: All these 'gas leaks' and missing persons and all that, it'll end soon, right?"

"Of course." He stated as strongly as he could, and Ayako found herself believing him, but there were things she couldn't let go of so easily.

"And no matter what, you won't tell me what going on?" She asked, keeping a hardened face.

"No, I won't. It's too dangerous for you." He answered unflinchingly, and Ayako almost laughed at the way he worded it. It was too dangerous for her. He probably wasn't even looking at his own risk. He was probably being thoughtful and helping others at his own cost again, just like he always was.

She somehow hated that part of him, but loved it too.

"Well, you are pretty stubborn… I guess I'm not convincing you any day soon." Ayako said, sighing and withdrawing her earlier look. "Just… end this silly stuff and come back alive. We have lives to continue once… once whatever is done and over with."

"Yeah, you're right. I promise I'll let you all go back to that normal life." Shirou said, almost too quietly for her to hear.

"That includes you, Shirou. You have your own life to live." She forcefully said, but Shirou just flashed a small smile.

Silence followed after that statement, and Ayako wasn't even sure he heard her. He just stared at the floor, until he pulled his head up and looked at her.

"Thank you, Mitsuzuri. You helped me out." Shirou said, and Ayako just gave him a raised eyebrow as a sign to continue. "I was kind of having a rut, and you helped me out by reminding me of something important."

He looked sad, somehow. He looked like the kind of person who had just been told someone close to him had cancer. But, all the same, his eyes looked more resolved than before. They looked hard, almost like steel.

"I'll be going now, Mitsuzuri. I'll see about visiting in the next few days, when I can."

She couldn't say anything as he left. There was just something about him now, something she couldn't explain, that made it almost too sad to let him go like that. She wanted to talk, to tell him to reveal the whole truth, but she couldn't. Just like she could now barely move, she didn't have her usual strength and couldn't call out to him.

She couldn't reach her friends anymore, and that infuriated her.

"Damn it, Emiya. You better have an explanation once this is all over. You owe me that much." She said to herself, as she let her upper body fall down on the bed.

That night, she slept very little.

X=X=X=X=X

For the next two days, he didn't come visit.

Ayako did receive some visits, sometimes from a club member, a teacher or her family. Still, she anxiously waited for Shirou to come back, to prove he was still alive and not dead in an alley somewhere.

When he came back, she almost didn't recognize him.

The look in his eyes was cold, mechanical, and void of emotion. He wasn't smiling, frowning, or wearing any expression at all. His face was set in stone.

But still, he went to her bedside and sat in the chair like he always did.

"Hello." He said calmly, and Ayako felt like she was talking to another person. Nevertheless, she answered him.

"Hi, Shirou. How are you?" She said, almost too quietly. She blinked hard a moment, and reminded herself that the person in front of her could be no one other than Shirou.

"Barely hanging in there."

"At least you're still alive."

From there, they started talking. Not, however, as usual. It wasn't Ayako and Shirou talking, but Ayako trying to talk to Shirou, and Shirou not talking back.

"Weather's nice, right?" Ayako tried, to start up a conversation.

"Yeah, it's alright." Shirou nodded and made a small comment.

"Remember that time Taiga came into the dojo and tripped on her own feet, and fell directly onto you? Everyone was calling you an H-game protagonist for weeks." Ayako tried again, bringing up a past incident.

"Yeah, that was something." Shirou nodded and made a small comment.

"How's Sakura? Is she still over at your place?" Ayako tried again, bringing up a subject she thought might incite a reaction.

Shirou said nothing.

"Oh yeah, have you seen Rin anywhere? I tried looking her up in the hospital, but she must have dodged it, like you." She tried something completely out of nowhere, about a person Shirou probably didn't know terribly well.

Shirou said nothing.

"Shirou, talk to me." Ayako said, as strongly as she could. She could play along a bit, but enough was enough.

"Which choice would you think is right?" Shirou said, almost silently.

"What? Speak up, I can't hear you."

"If you had to choose between someone important to you, and ten people you didn't know, but have lives, families and friends, which would you pick?" Shirou asked her, straight to her face with no reservation.

"Emiya, that is way too heavy to suddenly drop on someone." Ayako said with a frown.

"I guess it was, sorry." Shirou said, and he made to push himself out of the chair like he always did before leaving.

"…Neither choice is wrong." Ayako surprised him by talking. "I mean, one is definitely more selfish, but it's not wrong in and of itself. The other choice is callous, but it isn't wrong either."

"Then…" Shirou said, hesitantly. "Which choice is the wrong choice?"

"Not making the choice would be the wrong one, I think. I mean, this is just an opinion and all, but… Why are you asking this, anyway?" Ayako said, cupping her forehead in her left hand. "Talk to me, Emiya. I have no idea what you're saying or why."

"I had to make that choice." Shirou said, and Ayako's eyes grew wider. "I chose the people I didn't know, and the person I did know never blamed me. Even when she died, she never blamed me. She died with a smile."

"Emiya, what… Who was it?" Her voice was tiny. All of its strength was sucked out, to the extent that is was barely even a squeak.

Shirou stayed silent, as if he never even heard her.

"Who was it, Shirou?" This time she used his given name, and it made him react. He looked up at her, as if he was looking at someone else entirely, but then looked down again.

"It was Sakura. I had to make a choice, but I couldn't let too many people die. I couldn't just drop my ideal." Shirou said, and the atmosphere seemed to turn into ice.

"Why?" She said, her tone strong, yet not hateful. She was not making judgment, not yet. She'd let him speak first.

"The 'gas leak' at school, along with a lot of recent missing persons… That was her fault, unwillingly. But the only way to make it all stop…"

Was to stop her. Ayako didn't need him to finish to understand that. She couldn't say he was wrong. She couldn't say he was right, either, so instead she asked the second question on her mind.

"Is it over, now?" Ayako asked almost pleadingly. Her voice sounded too weak for her liking.

"No, there's still one more thing to do, one more person who… has to die for this all to end." Shirou said quietly, and Ayako couldn't say anything.

For what felt like hours, neither spoke. Shirou fixated the floor, and Ayako stared absentmindedly at the wall.

"Was there any other way? For Sakura, I mean?" Ayako said, her voice barely a whisper.

"None." Shirou answered, and looked at Ayako. "Do you blame me? Do you hate what I did?"

More silence followed. Noises were audible in the hallway beyond the door, or from the open window, but both of them ignored it.

"No." Ayako answered, and she looked at him again. "I don't blame you. You had to make a hard choice, but you didn't run away. I don't like the result, but you can't be blamed for making the choice."

His gaze softened. No, his gaze melted, his eyes lost their steel and his face seemed to regain the emotions it had discarded. He pushed himself out of the chair, and Ayako knew she had just convinced him to finish what had started.

"Ayako, do you want me to come back? Once it's all done?" Shirou said, too calmly for the painful look on his face, a look that screamed sadness to all who would see it.

"Yeah. I do want you to come back." Ayako simply answered, and that was that. Shirou left the room, and neither said goodbye.

Once he was gone, Ayako could only think. She thought about Shirou, about what he admitted to, and about how much he changed. The bright boy she had known was all but gone, replaced with either a cold, emotionless facade or a person haunted by their own actions.

In a way, he was now resolve incarnate. Yet, in another, he was broken beyond belief.

With the fresh memory of a broken young man, she did not sleep at all that night.

X=X=X=X=X

Two more days passed without him.

Every time someone would knock on the door or walk in, she would feel nervous. She didn't know how she would react, or talk to Shirou at all at this point. She had, essentially, told him he wasn't wrong for killing someone. She didn't deny him, even though killing people is wrong on principle.

But, the way things were in the city, with the many murders, gas leaks, and missing persons, a part of her mind told her that a few people dying for it all to stop was worth it.

So, she honestly didn't know what to think about Shirou. She almost dreaded when he would come back, another person's blood staining his hands.

So when he finally came, in the dead of night, she didn't know what to say. He had probably snuck up, past the security guards, just to fulfill his promise of coming 'once it was all over'.

For the longest moment, he stood with his back to the door he had closed, and she looked at him. A small clock at her bedside told them both that minutes passed by in silence.

"It's done." Shirou said, breaking the silence. "I'm done."

"So… no more people have to die?" Ayako tried, her voice hopeful.

"No, one more person has to die." Shirou calmly said, and Ayako knew exactly who he was talking about. He was, at his core, a good person. He couldn't let a killer, a murderer of the innocent, run around freely.

He was going to end his own life, but he was fulfilling one last promise first.

"Don't."

It was all she could say.

"Don't do it."

It was all she could do.

"I'm broken. Like this, the only thing I can do is hurt people." He quietly said, and she had to deny him.

"You're not. You were just trying to help people."

"The road to evil is paved with good intentions. I killed good people, Ayako." He said, casually using her given name.

"That was to help people. You were just doing the best you could." She tried, but his eyes were too strong. All the resolve he had was there, coupled with sadness.

"That was then. I'm broken now." Shirou just replied, without additional argument. "My mind of steel is filled with cracks, and once it shatters… I won't stop killing."

That was too sad. It was too wrong.

"Shirou, you listen to me. You aren't broken." Ayako said, frantically removing her covers with her left hand. With pronounced effort, she started using her right hand as well.

That was the first time he had seen her right hand since the accident. It was reddened, stiff, scarred. Still, he had to tell her she was wrong, he couldn't be distracted.

"No, I am. I would have never killed Sakura before this. I would never have disregarded Saber, or Ilya. I regret everything, I wish it all never happened, and I just want it to end." Shirou just continued, while Ayako removed her blankets completely. She didn't recognize the names he said, except for Sakura, but she didn't have time to care right now.

"You still aren't broken, Shirou. If you were broken, you wouldn't even be thinking about it." Ayako said, moving her left leg over the edge of the bed, while she used her hands to move her right one the same way.

Her right leg was reddened too. It was scarred and stiff, and pain was visible on Ayako's face when she sat on the border of her bed.

"No, I'm broken, Ayako. At the end, I killed an innocent girl, who only even wanted to see her father again. At the end, I killed a girl who had great dreams, and ambition to spare, who had been brought low because of circumstances."

"How many people did killing those two save?" Ayako asked, still on the bedside. Shirou stayed silent, still in the same place he had been since the conversation started, his back to the closed door.

"A lot. Too many to count. I don't know." He finally said, and Ayako forced one of her smiles.

"See? You saved people. Then it was worth it." She said calmly, her voice not reflecting her smile.

"It was unforgivable." He said, and he looked at the floor. Looking at her was painful now.

"It wasn't wrong."

At that, he couldn't say anything anymore. She was right, she knew she was right, even though a part of her mind told her she wasn't. She knew Shirou knew that too, and she was gambling on that alone to stop him from jumping from the top of some building.

"It doesn't matter. They were innocent, they never did anything wrong, and I killed them, without mercy. I'm broken." Shirou said with the same look, the same voice he had possessed ever since he entered the room. It was hard and unyielding. Ayako still had one last idea to get through to him though.

"Well, look at me then." Ayako said, while she fiddled with her left hand behind her back. Untied, she shook off the hospital gown, revealing her almost naked body, covered only by her underwear.

Its right half was covered in scars and damaged tissue. Nothing was left undamaged. Her face was somehow left clean, but the rest of her was not. It looked like a scar-like stigma that had spread from her right leg. Second worst was her right arm, and then it was her chest, abdomen, and neck.

Shirou's eyes widened in surprise, but his mind stayed calm. His mind was always calm, always cold, always calculating, and always heavy now.

"You say you're broken inside, and I'm pretty much broken outside." She said with a smile and a blush. She was basically exposing herself in front of her crush, after all. Anyone would be embarrassed. "I was pretty close to the center of that thing too, you know, and I fell on my right side." She explained, before pausing for a moment and speaking in a lower tone. "Just look as us, huh?"

"It's not the same."

"No, it is. I'll show you it is." Ayako said, and she stood up. She obviously favored her left leg, her face contorting with pain every time her right one touched the cold, hard floor. She took a few steps forwards, each shakier than the last, but inevitably fell.

And Shirou moved and caught her. She laughed lightly, held in his arms in front of him.

"See? You aren't broken." She turned her head to see him, a bit to his left. On his face was a look of complete surprise, his eyes wide and mouth gaping. "You can still help people."

"Ayako… I…" He started speaking, but she winced in pain as her right leg caused her pain again, while in contact with the hard floor.

"Yeah, could you put me back on the bed first? I'd like to have this conversation when I'm not in pain." She said with a pained smirk, and he nodded. He forced himself a bit, and with a grunt of effort carried her in bridal style back to her bed, where he gently set her down.

After she had been re-gowned and put under the covers again, Shirou took his usual seat at her side.

"It's still not the same." He stated after a moment of silence.

"Oh, will you stop that? It's exactly the same." Ayako said forcefully, flicking him on the forehead. He didn't even react. "I can still move, but I need someone to keep me from falling. You can still help people and care, you just need someone to remind you every now and then."

"I've done bad things." He said after a moment, looking her straight in the eyes. It wasn't self-deprecation, simply him stating a fact.

"I'll forgive you, then." Ayako said with her normal smile. "So you better stop moping. It isn't like you."

She knew now: she had no reason to be nervous. Deep down, he was still the Shirou she had admired and competed with. No matter how much he changed, he would still be that person. He would never do something openly evil, never forgive such acts when they were presented to him, even when he was the perpetrator.

He was still the same person she had fallen for.

X=X=X=X=X

Author's notes: Now I know some people would say "Shirou wouldn't break that easily!", but you'll remember that Kiritsugu (whom the MoS is based on) broke, and so did Archer once all he started doing was killing people. It's hardly unprecedented for the Emiya MoS to end in tragedy.

Hope you guys enjoyed it.