The fire died down as Gilgamesh vanished, his body fading into a sparkle of gold. Tohsaka looked up at the massive black hole in the sky supported by Ilya's body, triumph all over her face. "Finally... it's mine."
"Tohsaka, you can't use that thing!" Shirou objected. "It's evil."
"Perhaps it can be purified. And even evil things have their use." She flipped her hair over her shoulder. "Archer, go get it."
"Funny, that's not what you said about Sakura," Shirou countered.
"A rouge magus is different from a power source, Emiya-kun." Tohsaka's eyes were like ice. "Archer."
"...Emiya Shirou is correct, Rin. The Grail should be destroyed."
Tohsaka whirled to glare at her Servant. "Are you seriously going to defy me now, when the Grail is in our hands? Have you gone mad? This is for you as well!"
"I never desired the Grail." Archer looked at Shirou. "Project it. You know how."
"...fine. Have it your way." Rin stiffened her back and held up her hand, her Command Seals glowing. "By the power of the Holy Grail-"
"Hurry, Emiya Shirou. Or it will be too late."
"I don't know how-" Except, suddenly, he did. The concept of creation, basic structure, composition materials...
"-I command you-"
Faster, he had to be faster - give it the years and then excel the manufacturing process-
"-to bring me the Holy Grail!"
"Rule Breaker!" Shirou shouted the words as the Noble Phantasm materialized in his hand. He brought the blade down as Tohsaka finished her final sentence, stabbing Archer.
Tohsaka's eyes went wide. "No - that's impossible - how can you project a Noble Phantasm?! Archer! Don't you dare-"
The Servant did not even look at his former Master. His eyes were only on the Grail. He raised his bow, a sword appearing in his hand. Even Shirou, not the most astute magus, could feel the sudden influx of power into Archer. The sword began to shine, then shattered as he let it go. The dark void of the Grail was shattered, taking the vessel - Ilya!- with it.
"No... everything I've done, all I've worked for..." Tohsaka turned and rolled up her sleeve, her Thaumaturgical Crest glowing brightly. "You've destroyed it all!" The rage on her face would have scared Shirou once, but that was before his mind had turned to steel. He merely met her gaze without flinching.
Archer stepped between the pair before it could come to blows, looking down at Tohsaka. "This once I give you my thanks, Emiya Shirou. Had you gained that power, you would have been dispatched by a Counter Guardian, Rin. I have seen it too many times."
"Archer?" Tohsaka's voice was weak, almost fearful as she looked at the Servant's cold face. He didn't say anything, fading away in the coming dawn light. "Archer!"
The dream ended
Emiya Shirou woke up quickly, all at once, his muscles tense and ready to jump into action despite the pain he was in. He looked around. There were no visible enemies, but that didn't mean he wasn't in danger. Quite the contrary, in fact. One was rarely safe in prison.
Years and years of fighting, and then this happens. Captured, framed, and slated for execution. Emiya Shirou would die tomorrow. He would have felt a lot more depressed about it if not for his contract with the world. Even if he died now he would continue to help others after his death, and that brought him more than a little solace. Not matter what, he would continue on, saving people one at a time...
Shirou studied the cuffs binding his wrists, wondering where his captors had found them. They somehow managed to interfere with his Magic Circuits, making it impossible to project anything. More than that, they caused a regular series of shocks to surge through him, slowly turning his muscles to water. There was a constant ache in them now. His arms were almost useless, and by morning his legs would likely be in the same state.
It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if I die - I have the contract. I'll keep saving people.
Shirou turned his mind back to the cuffs. The workmanship wasn't superb; they certainly didn't compare to the Noble Phantasms within his Reality Marble, but they had a certain simplicity of design that pleased him. He might not be an ordinary magus, but metal magecraft appealed to him on some fundamental level. You've really gone around the bend, Emiya. You're going to die because of these damn things, and you're admiring their design. Figures. Trying to ignore the ache that raced through his circuits yet again as the cuffs let out a pulse, he shifted his body just a bit so he could get a closer look.
Two tiny gems were mounted right next to the chain that held the cuffs together, so small he hadn't noticed them before in the shadows of his cell.
There was one person who knew him better than anyone else - knew his circuits, knew his abilities, knew his body, and most importantly had a blood relative of his in her possession, with whom a simple scrying spell would pinpoint his exact location.
"I was wondering when you would notice." The voice was chilly, as it had been since that day. With an effort that made his body scream, Shirou forced himself to turn over so he could stare through the cell door. Rin sat in a chair in the middle of the hallway, still as a statue, as if without a care in the world. Her eyes were icy, the same way they had been during the Grail War, the same eyes he had seen before she had killed Sakura. (Her sister, his heart whispered. As always, he forced the thought from his mind.)
The very sight of her nearly caused Shirou vertigo. There were so many, many memories of her: the sheer rage on her face as the Grail was destroyed, the fear when Archer had coolly proclaimed her possible fate, the closed-off look that she'd gotten whenever she'd seen him after the war ("Emiya-san"), running into her years later, arguing with her, kissing her in frustration, falling into bed with her-
-the way she had looked when he had come back from some trouble in South America to find her four months pregnant, when she'd informed him that no, she hadn't ever intended to tell him; yet somehow they had fit back together, had a life together, somehow in between missions there had been a place for him to come home to-
Until violence and death had torn them apart again.
"You've always been a bit slow, Emiya, but this is long even for you."
"Oh? What about?"
"The Grail War, among other things." Shirou hadn't thought of the Grail War in years, but apparently being locked in a cell made it come to the front of his thoughts. Almost every night he'd been down here he'd had a nightmare about it. And yet no matter how vivid the dream he could never quite remember Archer, even if he had helped the Servant destroy the Grail. All he could remember was his blades, Kanshou and Bakuya - beautiful weapons that had fascinated him. And they'd been terribly useful later on, too. Shaking his head, he pondered his current situation again and looked at the woman who had put him in it. "Is this for Archer?"
Rin gave him a look that somehow managed to describe how incredibly stupid he was. She'd always had an expressive face. "No. As much as I hate to admit it... Archer was right." She shifted, her eyes going to the floor. For a moment, she looked like the Tohsaka Shirou had once known and admired so much, but the emotion was quickly wiped from her face. "I can't believe you don't already know. How thick are you?"
"Just tell me, Rin."
"This is for Daiki."
Shirou froze. Their son, their baby boy, whom he had visited whenever he had gotten the chance, had played with and loved with all his heart - the bridge between the Tohsaka and Emiya families that had, for a short time, allowed him into Rin's life again-
Until the day the boy decided he would follow his father into the battlefield. One of those stupid accidents, a rogue magus close enough to Rin's house that a young teenage boy could try and get to the site without even a car - without either of his parents knowing-
There had been so much blood.
"...how is he?"
"They had to take the leg after all. Velvet-sensei has been experimenting with some prosthetics adapted from a hospital in the States, but until then he's on crutches. After three years, he's almost used to it. He lost three fingers on his right hand, but he's becoming a left-dominant. He's more determined than ever to become a great magus." Rin's voice was relatively calm, almost as if she was reciting from a text rather than describing the damage inflicted on her own son. But underneath it there was an icy rage that stemmed from the day she had destroyed her own flesh and blood that had consumed part of her heart; it was a fury that pushed her to make decisions she'd never have considered in her youth. "He's adapting and he'll live. Not that you were any help."
"You were quite clear that you didn't want to see me ever again." Not to mention she had erased him from Daiki's memories. That never stopped hurting.
"And for good reason! How could you let him...?" Her voice trailed off as her anger took her words.
Shirou said nothing. Everything he could have said he'd told her long ago. She hadn't believed him then. There was no way she'd believe him now.
"I told the magi at the Association you needed to be put down, but they didn't think you were dangerous - or rather, they thought they could control you. I know better. You're a wildcard and a danger to those around you."
Just like Sakura.
Shirou closed his eyes. Somehow he should have known it would come to this. Rin had nagged him about his lifestyle, his choice to use magecraft among those in need so that he could save them, even if he took steps to keep it concealed. She had worried about a break in secrecy for a long time. And then his son had followed him into the battlefield and nearly died. He had become a danger to at least one magus, even if it was only by example, and in Tohsaka Rin's book, apparently danger to that one was enough to warrant being silenced. "...Please tell me you didn't start the war, Rin."
"Hardly." She rose. "Wars always happen, Emiya. It's up to us to profit from them."
"You suit your name more and more these days, Rin."
The magus started, staring at him in surprise. Then she laughed. It was a harsh sound with no joy in it. "So you have said." She smiled, but it was a bitter thing, full of only pleasure in another's pain. "Enjoy your contract, Emiya. If you were smart you'd use Rule Breaker on yourself right now - but you can't, can you? I won't be there tomorrow, but know that your death will end this war. At least for a while."
Shirou watched her leave, suddenly uneasy. The way Rin had said that... did she know something he didn't about the contract? No, it wasn't possible. He'd only told her the briefest details, and those only under duress.
But this was Tohsaka Rin. She always seemed to know more than he did.
Rin's visit shook what composure he had managed to retain. For the first time since he was captured on that bloody hill, surrounded by swords, he was afraid. No matter how he tried, he couldn't seem to bring up the mental discipline he usually had, the steel cage that locked away fear and doubt. Instead, he was assailed with regret after regret - if only he could have saved Sakura, if only the Grail hadn't been corrupted, if only he had been able to heal Rin's broken heart - if only he had seen Daiki before he'd been hurt-
-if only he hadn't lost Saber-
-then, maybe, maybe this wouldn't have happened.
Emiya Shirou was executed after years of service to others. He was branded the mastermind of a war by his own lover and shot to death, his powers silenced by her magic. He was quickly forgotten as the world went on its way. Many owed him their lives, but they never so much as remembered his name or told his story to their children.
And as he fell, he only wished for one thing - a second chance to make things right.
Notes: Like a lot of fans, Archer fascinates me. I really have to wonder what exactly happened in his version of the Grail War. I had always through "well, clearly Rin just had to summon a different Archer" until we got to Heaven's Feel, and then suddenly, instead of trying to get Shirou to give up his ideals, he basically tells Shirou to hold to them ("…This is a warning. If you're going to protect the beliefs you've had until now, that's fine, but — if you choose another path, there will be no future for Emiya Shirou.") and I was like wait, WHAT? Furthermore, the Superhero/Mind of Steel Bad Ending ending only further interested me, when Kotomine says "Of course. You are Emiya Kiritsugu now. There is no way you cannot win." A number of people have pointed out the parallels between Archer and Kiritsugu. Add in the fact that Archer's ID is EMIYA and not Emiya Shirou and you get an interesting situation. I started wondering: could Archer possibly come off of this end, or something very similar to it? (Which, adding insult to injury, would mean that Archer helped to create his own existence, which would make the possibility of erasing it even more impossible.)
This idea literally took over my muse and would not let me think of anything else. I believe it doesn't contradict anything presented in the game proper, though it's quite possible it doesn't mesh up with information presented in other material like guidebooks and interviews. If that's the case, I'm going with artistic license. This is an alternate dimension's EMIYA.
On Rin, and RinxShirou: I love this pairing to pieces, but I know from this particular ending of HF that is supposed to break Rin badly. In my mind, one of the side effects is that she is super sensitive to 'threats' regardless of who or what they are and how they're connected. It's stated in UBW (I think?) that Archer had a lover, and the way that Archer talks to Rin in HF when he's about to fade makes me think he cared about her a lot, and was probably pretty close to her. Thus I felt she would be the best candidate, but they're both really broken here and neither really is a good person to be in a relationship - at least not with a lot of therapy, which neither got here.
On Daiki: Getting Japanese names off the internet is always chancy, but (and Kiraya, who is always a better source) tell me that 'Daiki' can be written with the kanji for "large" and "radiance" so he's their "largest shining moment", so to speak. Their relationship is at its best when all three of them are together, until it all goes to hell.