WARNING: This chapter may spoil, and there's kissing scene(s) ahead!

Also, extremely light FeMC x Cuchulainn (Lancer) if you squint.


"An Ancient Thaumaturgy Ritual"


(Week 3)

"I'll leave you here, alright? If you need anything just ask the nurse," Archer told her gruffly, gently depositing his Master on the edge of the bed. She looked up into his steel gray eyes. "Where are you going?"

"I'll buy something from the commissary to help you relieve your stress. Don't worry, I'll be back soon." Without looking back, the bowman left. The nameless maste sighed. It wasn't even time for the third week duel with her opponent and she'd already gotten hurt in the arena! Luckily, it was just a small bruise on her arm. But when Sakura had looked her over she had declared her to be overstressed and overworked, and that she needed to retire early or she'd and up getting hurt again.

She hated this - her Servant Archer was the one doing the actual fighting and he was just fine! Unlike her, the rookie who couldn't withstand stress (of all things!) after only two weeks.

She was metaphorically beating herself up for it, but Archer himself didn't seem to bothered about this situation, whic was almost the exact opposite of what she expected from him. She'd apologized to him just to make sure, and he'd simply waved it off, saying she should just concentrate on resting so she could get back to her training the next day.

"Just don't push yourself too hard." Was what he'd told her.

"Excuse me, I'll just take these supplies to one of the Masters. Will you be fine on your own?" sakura suddenly asked, poking her head through the curtains. The rookie Master nodded and smiled. "It's okay. Take your time."

"If you're not feeling well, you should lie down for a bit," Sakura suggested. "You need to rest."

"It's okay," she repeated, smiling reassuringly at the long haired nurse. "Sitting here is enough for me. Besides, my Servant will be back soon."

"If you say so, then I'll be going now." With that, Sakura made her leave as well, carefully shutting the clinic door behind her. Now, the nameless master was alone in the nurse's office. Archer still had yet to return, and she had no idea how far away Sakura was planning to go to deliver whatever supplies she needed to deliver.

...

Wasn't it times like these when someone would come and try to pick her up? She laughed softly to herself. Those things only happened in movies and tv dramas - there was no way anything like that could happen!

"...Hello, ojou-chan."

"?!" She jumped from her seat on the bed in shock and spun around to face the man who had whispered sweetly into her ear. Standing before her on the other side of the bed was a man she'd never seen before. She knew instinctively that this guy was a Servant, but she couldn't tell what class he was. He was wearing a tight blue bodysuit that showed off his powerful, athletic body, and although there wasn't any visible weapon in sight, she felt that if something endangered him he would have it out in an instant.

He ran his fingers enticingly through his blue locks and grinned at her. "Are you feeling alright, ojou-chan? You've been sitting there, spacing out for a long while now. Where is your Servant?"

What did this man, this Servant, want from her? "...He went to the Commissary to pick up something, so he'll be back soon." She always believed that Nurse Sakura's office was one of the safest places in school, but now she wasn't so sure. The apprehension in her voice could clearly be heard. "What... what are you doing here?"

He laughed. "I got into a small accident while my Master and I were training in the Arena. I shielded my Master from harm, of course... but then I got banged up a little." He turned around and the nameless master gasped at the long, scary-looking gash that ran from his left shoulder and down his back.

"That looks painful," she told him honestly.

He shrugged and turned around to face her again. "Eh, I've had worse."

Then he smiled at her again. She felt her face slowly grow warm. Now that she'd calmed down a bit, she noticed how attractive he was. He wasn't as rugged as her own Servant, Archer, nor was he pretty like Gawain. Rather, he was somewhere in-between. What she didn't understand was the way his ruby-red eyes glanced her up and down apprecatively, and his rogueish grin, which seemed to hide something.

"I heard that you're stressed and fatigued, and you need bed rest?"

"Uhhhh, well-" Unfortunately, he was right on the mark. It was pretty embarrassing to know that someone other than Archer and Sakura knew what was going on. Was he here, listening to the convo the whole time? Unable to think of a reply, she just bowed her head in silent acknowledgement, blushing. To her surprise, in the next minute he was suddenly standing next to her. He gently grabbed her chin and applied pressure, tilting her head back so she couldn't look away.

"There's nothing to be ashamed of. Even the greatest magi get this problem once in a while," he said. She had a feeling he was leading this somewhere, but she didn't know where exactly. "Bed rest is certainly one way to fix this, but did you know there are other, faster ways to cure stress and fatigue, ojou-chan? Have you any knowledge of thaumaturgy?"

"...That's 'magic', right?"

"Close enough, I suppose. So you know that, lots of things can be achieved through thaumaturgy, or 'magic' as you put it. Right, ojou-chan?"

"Yeah, I know that much at least." She couldn't help but think about her current opponent, Alice, and her 'reality marble', which completely transformed the Arena's interior and was powerful enough to wipe her memories - her very existence - away. Archer had explained to her that it was the work of some fancy, powerful thaumaturgy. She knew that thaumaturgy was pretty amazing, but she still didn't understand what the handsome Servant was getting at.

If possible, the Servant's voice had gone softer and deeper, almost at a confidential, sensual pitch. "If you want, I can teach you a simple thaumaturgy ritual which has been used since ancient times. It can relieve your stress instantly." His ruby eyes flasshed with an emotion she didn't recognize, but that was just a fleeting thing compared to what she heard him say. The surprise was obvious on her face. Thaumaturgy could do stuff like that? It wasn't just about trying to hurt your enemies? And this guy, this enemy Servant, was willing to teach her something so convenient?

Suddenly, a familiar arm snaked tightly around her waist and in the next instant, she was rudely yanked away from the blue-haired Servant and held against an iron-hard body. "Sorry to interrupt your little thaumaturgy lesson, buster. I'm pretty sure you have a lot you want to teach her, but my Master doesn't need your kindly assistance," Archer sneered.

The other, unknown Servant just laughed. "What, were you planning to teach her yourself? Was that why you needed to go buy... something at the commissary?"

Archer didn't take umbrage. Instead, he took a different tack. "So, the Servant-less Master at the commissary is your Master?"

The other Servant's smug expression vanished instantly and was replaced by an angry look. "You bastard-!"

"You're lucky this girl is my Master this time around," Archer smoothly interrupted. "If I did anything out of line, it would only hurt her and confuse her. We'd gain nothing, and risk losing everything. But if she were someone else I would've slain your Master on sight." There was menace laced in with his rather mild tone of voice. "If I were you, I'd stop lurking in the nurse's office - making indecent offers to unsuspecting girls - and go to my Master's aid."

"Waah- Archer! Put me down, you meanie!" the nameless Master complained when the bowman hoisted her into his arms and marched off.


(Week 7)

Archer stared hard at the back of his current Master as she looked outside the window of their room. He knew that she really wasn't seeing anything outside; she was actually wrapped up in her thoughts. Whatever she was thinking about, it wasn't good. He could see it in the slump of her shoulders and the soft sighs that came from her mouth.

She was too easy to read. Unlike his other Master from that other dimension, who had a good control over her emotions, his current Master was an open book for everyone to see. Her emotions were also contagious; if she was happy, Archer couldn't help but feel (somewhat) happy as well. If she were angry, Archer felt his own blood boil with murderous intent. If she were sad, like now, Archer felt that sadness pricking his chest like thousands of tiny needles.

It bothered him and enthralled him, how he could feel such a wide range of emotions when he was with her. It was almost as if he were alive again.

At first, he wasn't conscious of just how much she affected him. As time passed he caught on to the change that was happening inside him, and tried to reject it. But by the time the sixth week had rolled in Archer knew he was well and truly lost: whenever she asked him a favor, all she needed to do was look at him with her big chocolate colored eyes and he became her puppy dog.

Long story short, Archer was whipped.

Archer finally realized he was staring at his Master's tantalizing backside for a minute too long. He shook his head to snap himself out of it and cleared his throat loudly. "Master, it's late. You've trained in the arena for a long time, even longer than usual. You need to get some sleep or you might get sick," he lectured.

"Can you get sick while inside the virtual world?"

"...Do you really want to find out?"

"Not really."

"Go to sleep, then."

The nameless master reluctantly stepped away from the window and made her way over to where the silver-haired man sat. Ever since the incident with the cyber ghost, Archer and his Master had been sleeping together in his throne. She sat down on his lap and moved a bit, trying to get comfortable before she finally setted down. But instead of sleeping, she whipped out her Terminal.

"Master..." Archer intoned.

"I know, I know-" she replied, but instead of putting it away and going to sleep, Archer's Master continued to fiddle with her Terminal.

He sighed. Acting fast, he reached around he with his arm, gently pried the thing from her fingers and slipped it safely into one of his pants pockets, eliciting an incorregible grumble from the girl. He decided to tackle the problem head on. "Master, are you nervous about your Elimination Battle with that young king tomorrow?"

She bowed her head in acknowledgement, her face flushing. Archer had been with her since day one - he learned long ago that she did this whenever she was confronted with an embarrassing truth, and was too mortified to verbally confirm it. "So, I was right," he continued conversationally.

"...Archer, I'm so nervous, I can't sleep," she admitted.

"I can see that." Archer bit back about a dozen snarky comments for his Master's benefit and settled with saying, "Master, there is nothing to fear. I will sunder that white knight's blade and open a path to the Holy Grail for you." It was really cheesy, and it was out of character for him to say something so noble. But it had been so long since Archer had to comfort anyone, and rest their fears. Maybe he was too battle-hardened, after all. Maybe he lost his ability to sympathize with a human being like his Master.

"I know you will, Archer," his Master replied. "I believe in you."

He knew this to be true. She told him that same phrase so many times. The problem wasn't a lack of trust in him - rather, it was all because she lacked faith in herself. Even after defeating six Masters to get to this point, even after the hardships she faced, the trials she endured and the lessons she learned, underneath the respectable calm veneer she'd developed for herself over the past few weeks she was still that girl, that peaceful human being who tried to find a way around killing someone.

This time though, he knew that words would not be enough. Archer's entire body tensed slightly as he tried to come up with a plan to arrest her doubts and fears. For some reason, his mind flashed back to a certain incident that happened in nurse Sakura's office during the third week...

The words were out of his mouth before he could think about them. "Do you remember what happened in the nurse's office back in round three? With that guy?"

"Do you mean, when I was stressed and fatigued after escaping Alice's reality marble? Yes. At the time, I was really surprised that an enemy Servant wanted to help me out," she replied honestly.

The way she said it made him realize that she had no idea what that sly Servant was really trying to do at the time. It made him angry at himself for leaving her alone in the nurse's office... and he actively denied being jealous. Plus, it made him feel like a complete bastard for what he was about to suggest. When he remained silent for several minutes however, his Master couldn't help but say call out to him, worried. "Archer?"

He couldn't believe what his own mouth was saying. "If you really that stressed, I guess I can use thaumaturgy to help you relax... if you let me."

"You could do that?" She asked him in amazement. She shifted slightly on his lap so she could see his face. "so, all Servants must know about this type of thing, huh?"

Don't look at me with that kind expression... "I can't speak for other Servants but yes, I definitely know how to perform the ancient ritual. It's nothing complicated like Alice's thaumaturgy or even Tohsaka Rin's. It's just a simple ritual that would take ten to fifteen minutes to perform if I had your full cooperation," Archer explained to her gruffly. "What do you say?"

"If it can help me prepare for tomorrow..." her eyes shone with resolve. "Please go ahead, Archer."

"..." He found himself caving in to the determined look on her face. "Alright, then. I'll perform the spell." He hated himself for feeling a jolt of excitement at this new development.

"So, how does the ritual work?" She asked innocently.

"...It's mouth-to-mouth," Archer admitted bluntly, hoping to scare her off the idea... and protect her from himself.

"I see... w-w-wait-! J-just wait a damn minute! What do you mean, mouth-to-mouth?!"

She reacted just as he expected her to.

"So... at that time, in the nurse's office with that Servant..."

"Yes, it's most likely the "ancient thaumaturgy ritual" he was about to "teach" you is the same one you're asking me to use on you."

"..."

Archer carefully watched her facial expression go from surprised to confused to horrified and then to thoughtful, one after the other. He held his breath as he waited for her next words.

"...Archer, you told me it was mouth-to-mouth, but how exactly does the "magic" work? How would that get rid of... stress and fatigue?" She asked him neutrally after a long minute.

"Well, that's often the case when healing another person with thaumaturgy. One sends out "mana" from his own body and it enters the other person's body. For something simple such as relieving stress, mouth-to-mouth would be enough. There's nothing to be ashamed of if you use thaumaturgy," Archer said reassuringly at the end when he saw the apprehension flicker in his Master's eyes. He inwardly cursed himself. He was suppossed to be manipulating her into refusing this method, not reassuring her!

"In that case, let's continue with the ritual, Archer," she said, nodding her head in agreement. "Is there anything I need to do?"

There was no turning back now. Not when she was so gung ho about this. "No, there's nothing in particular you need to do, but... Master, if it would help you relax you could close your eyes..."

"Alright, then." Her eyelids fluttered closed, and she sat perfectly still on his lap.

"...Master, you look quite funny right now."

"Hmph."

"Master, you shouldn't be so submissive. You'd be at every man's mercy if you were." Archer couldn't help but get another dig in.

"Sh-shut up, Archer! I thought we were going through with this?!" she complained.

"I wish I had a marker to use right now..."

"You wouldn't dare write on my face, Archer...!"

"How are you so sure about that?"

"Grrrrr..."

She should be properly distracted now. Archer had teased her so she wouldn't be so self-conscious, and his plan had worked like a charm. Now was definitely the perfect time. Without hesitation, he swooped down to claim her soft lips with his-

"W-w-w-wait! Hold on!" His master reacted rather abruptly, startling him. She pushed his face away with both hands.

"Gaah! What was that for, Master?!"

She looked away and crossed her arms over her chest. "I've changed my mind! There's just no way I can allow my first smooch be so... so... so boring!"

"...'Smooch'? What are you talking about?" He asked her, bewildered.

"You know, a kiss!" she snapped. "Two pairs of lips touching!"

Archer sighed. He seemed to be sighing a whole lot tonight. "You don't need to think of this ritual in that way, Master. It's thaumaturgy, plain and simple," he explained wearily.

"Well...that's not how I see it, so there!"

"Do you hate the idea that much...?" Archer asked her softly, his arms around her tightening ever so slightly. Earlier, he wanted to make her back out of this. But now that she was actually rejecting him, his feelings were a little hurt.

"...N-no," she admitted eventually, her face flushing a little. "I don't hate it, but...it's the... the mood..." she mumbled the last part of her sentence so quietly Archer couldn't catch what she was saying.

"Jeez, what are you whining about now? Listen, whatever you want, I'll do it for you if it will calm you down."

"No, it's nothing..."

"Then, shall we try again, Master?"

"W-wait!" She protested again, the blush on her face reddening even more. "At the very least... at the very least, we should close the window curtains!"

Archer's jaw dropped in disbelief. "Master, are you afraid that someone will peek in and see us from outside? Are you daft?"

"I won't let you smooch me if you don't."

"...Master, have you already forgotten that I'm doing this for your benefit?" The bronze-skinned man sighed for the umpteenth time that night before he gathered the girl up in his arms and marched towards the window. With impressive balance, he cradled his Master against him with one arm and yanked the curtains closed with the other before returning to the throne of chairs. Now that the windows were covered, their room was darker than before, but not in a bad way - all the furniture seemed to be enveloped in sensual shadow. Somehow, the atmosphere in the room had magically changed into one more private with just the slightest modification. Archer couldn't believe how appealing he thought the idea was.

"Is this acceptable, Master?" The bowman asked her softly, only half-sarcastic.

"Yeah. Thanks, Archer." He heard the sincerity in her voice and it pleased him for some reason.

"Master, about tomorrow..." he said abruptly.

"Huh?"

"You don't have to be so anxious about your limitations. Besides, when have you ever let those weaknesses of yours stop you? The last six weeks were never easy. The entire Holy Grail War has been one long struggle for you. Your Elmination Battle tomorrow will be no different from the ones you fought before."

"Archer..."

"Everything will be alright, Master," Archer vowed. "Because I'll be with you the whole way."

"...Mm."


It was as if a ball of tension had loosened up inside her.

With those kind words, Archer leaned in once more towards her. Her eyelids fluttered closed just as his rough lips touched her own.

"Nn...!"

It was more forceful than she had anticipated. It fit his nature, actually, and it didn't surprise her that much. But somehow, at the same time... the "kiss" felt gentle and caring. It really felt as if he was trying to reassure her. Sure, there was some roughness... but she was able to understand that he was thinking carefully about her. She could feel it because she was inside the circle of his strong arms.

His lips were stroking hers tentatively now, almost as if he were afraid she would try to run away. The nameless master finally worked up the nerve to respond, moving her own lips against his. She heard a groan that seemed to reverberate from deep inside his throat. When she felt something stroke the very edge of her lips she parted them in response, without thinking. In the next minute she felt his tongue sweep inside her mouth. For a second, she was frozen. And then she felt his tongue caress her own with such loving deliberation that she couldn't help but whimper softly.

Almost at the same moment, she felt this wonderous power pour from his mouth into hers. It seemed to go straight past her throat and flow down into her body and soul. It was warm, and comforting. At the same time, she felt her own energy being drained away, like he was absorbing it from her with every hungry move of his mouth against hers. Was this the ritual? Which was the last thing she reflected hazily to herself before Archer's tongue stroked hers again, more roughly than before, which effectively scattered all of her thoughts to the winds. For some reason, it... made her want to cry.

The girl felt his arms tighten around her. Without breaking lip contact, he lifted her and adjusted her position so she was straddling him, her body pressed against his. She tried to lift her arms to put around his neck but he refused to let her go - she was trapped in his strong arms, at the mercy of his touch, of his lips. Rather than feeling frightened by the idea of being embraced by a man who had taken so many lives, the thought of this incredible, dangerous power thrilled her.

She felt lightheaded. Plus, a strange, euphoric feeling seemed to be invading her senses. The energy continued to flow into her and drain away from her reserves as Archer kissed her. The nameless master couldn't help but think that, rather than the "mana" he was giving her, it was the feel of his mouth on hers, of his arms wrapped tightly around her that put her at ease. Would any other man have this effect on her like he did? Could there have been another man who made her feel so safe and secure?

Suddenly, Archer pulled away, breathing hard. She suddenly felt faint, and would've fallen backward if he hadn't put his arms around her in the first place.

"Master... how...do you feel now?" He whispered huskily. She felt his lips lightly skim her throat.

She was too breathless to reply. She didn't even remember the reason why they did this in the first place, or how much time had passed. The rookie felt drained. Literally.

"-...-...-" she could hear him murmuring softly in her ear, but she was too tired to comprehend it all. His steel colored eyes were the last thing she saw before she blacked out.


When the bowman was sure that his Master had finally fallen asleep, he readjusted her again so that she sat across his lap. He tucked her head under his chin, and held her securely in his arms. Her breaths were a little shallow, but her face was no longer flushed and was clear of any tension. He sighed heavily.

Luckily she didn't seem to notice anything wrong with the "ritual".

It had started out alright - Archer had found no problems opening a line for energy to flow to his Master because he himself was a magus. What he didn't expect was her to be so damn responsive to the tiniest of movements he made. He nearly lost control over himself, and it would've ended up with him just draining her of her mana instead of just trying to ease her stress.

A strange feeling had settled in the pit of his stomach. It had been so many years since he ever felt anything like this...

The reality of the situation was like a bucket of ice-cold water in the blacksmith's face:

He desired her.

Why did everything have to be so damn complicated?


END


A/N: Done! This is my first try at writng a graphic kissing scene, and it sucks. :P But, I tried my best! Anyways, you know the drill! Let me guys know what you think! Are they out of character? Is the kissing awkward? Did I make any typos? Please review!

Next chapter: "Names to Go By"