Disclaimer: I do not own Fate/Zero or any of its characters. All credit for the characters and situations goes to the rightful owners. The only thing I own is this story.
It was late at night. Lancer wandered the dark back roads of Fuyuki. His last battle had been a huge bust. After caster escaped, Lancer had successfully saved Kenneth from certain doom, however now he was incapacitated, and unable to participate in the war any further due to his ruined magical circuits. The contract had been begrudgingly transferred to Sola-ui, and thus Lancer sunk deeper into the same pit that had caused his demise in the first place.
He was relieved that Kayneth was still alive, however Kayneth himself seemed to believe he would have rather died than to have survived like this. As soon as he was able to sit upright he made a point to take out all of his anger on his now former servant, ranting on about how he "let caster escape" or "wasted the chance he was granted" or "at least could have turned the situation around by defeating Saber or her master while he had the chance, but didn't because he was a chivalrous imbecile."
Sola-ui was standing by and apparently wouldn't stand for it. She defended lancer, saying that as she was now the master she wouldn't allow anyone to badmouth her servant. It developed further into a fight, and even when Lancer tried to simply accept Kayneth's harsh words, and defended him against Sola-ui's claims, Kayneth refused to have anymore of Lancer, telling him that "If he respected him in the least, he would at least allow him to handle himself." Lancers attempts to break up the fight ended up with both participants claiming that it didn't involve him, and eventually Sola-ui commanded him to go search for caster again.
And so left Diarmuid to wander the streets of Fuyuki alone, utterly rejected, and left to wonder what he could possibly do to turn the situation around.
At the same time elsewhere Saber was suffering from her own set of problems. Apparently her last battle had been a bust. After caster escaped, she allowed Lancer to go to his master's side. The battle was not between them after all. When she got back to the castle a few minutes later and asked Kiritsugu about what happened after Lancer arrived to tend to his master, Kiritsugu sent her an infuriated glare before simply walking away, leaving her in the dark. He wouldn't speak to her or acknowledge her presence at all after that.
Saber still didn't know what happened, so she resorted to asking Irisviel to fill her in on the details. Iri confirmed that Lancer had made it in time to save Kayneth, and they both got away. Saber hardly saw this as a reason for Kiritsugu to be as furious with the turn of events as he was, so she innocently asked, "And what of Kiritsugu? He acts as if something happened to him, but won't tell me anything."
Iri gave a saddened simile, and although she wished to not talk about it, she would for the sake of clarity. "For one, no other servants were eliminated that night, but what really bothered Kiritsugu was-" Iri hesitated but struggled to push forward in the least offensive way she could. "It was when Lancer arrived at the castle. Kiritsugu can easily hold his own against a mage, but if he were confronted by a servant the grail war would have been as well as over for us."
Saber didn't hesitate to defend. "I had complete faith in that Lancer would uphold his word. There is nothing stronger than the word of a knight; and I should know! There is no glory in underhandedly attacking a master like that."
Despite Iri's best efforts, Saber still took offence. "I myself still have trust in such honor as well but what if-" Iri continued "if Kayneth had somehow managed to regain consciousness and ordered Lancer to attack Kiritsugu? You know he wouldn't be above doing such a thing! What then?"
Saber was at a loss of words. She simply thought for a second then lowly asked "Did Kiritsugu tell you that? Is that what he believes?"
Irisviel sadly nodded. "He told me. Even if he seems like he keeps to himself, he will tell me. He's told me how he really feels, and I know that the events of that night scared him more than anything. Caster suddenly disappearing meant he could have been anywhere, Lancer coming so close to attacking Kiritsugu, and Maiya and myself faced with Kotomine Kirei. These last few days have been extremely taxing on him…"
Saber placed a hand on Irisviels shoulder and looked seriously into her eyes. "Irisviel, what else has he told you? Please! I need to know what else he isn't telling me!"
Iri placed a tentative hand on saber's forearm. "Sorry saber, but can we… just. It's late. Can we please continue this discussion some other time?" She offered Saber a sad yet apologetic gaze.
And so left Saber, who decided to take a walk alone on the dark back streets of Fuyuki at night. She hoped the change of atmosphere would help clear her mind as she sorted her feelings.
Lancer took a breath and looked up at the stars. From where he was laying on the grassy ground along the side of Fuyuki River he could see the sky a lot more clearly compared to in the middle of the city, but it was not the same as he had remembered. The glow of the urban lights made the stars seem hazy; almost far away, and Diarmuid longed to see the sky as clearly as he could back in his time. The same way he could also see his whole life and purpose so much more clearly back then. He doesn't even remember exactly what it was he is fighting for anymore.
Suddenly he recognized a faint presence and his breath caught. He leapt to his feet with great agility and took an offensive stance, preparing himself for whatever was to come. Behind him, Saber stood in her casual attire with a sad, almost longing smile. "So you noticed me Lancer?"
He gave a deep, half-hearted chuckle. "If you were trying to hide your presence, you weren't doing a very good job. If I noticed it was anyone other than you behind me I would have cut them down immediately."
"Hiding from you wasn't my intention. I was simply doing what was necessary to prevent any other unwanted attention."
They both stood quietly for a while after that, closely monitoring each other's every movement, trying to gauge whether or not the other had any Ill intentions. Before the tension built up any higher, Saber made a move. Lancer rigidly watched as she fluidly walked forward and sat down where he had been laying earlier. Lancer released the breath he didn't know he had been holding in and allowed himself to lower is guard, joining her to sit on the grassy bank.
"What was that sigh for?" she lightly commented when he sat down next to her.
"It wasn't a sigh. It was an exhale."
"An exhale huh? Did you expect me to pull a quick one on you Lancer?"
"Not really…" His usual bold voice was replaced with a much gentler tone, making Saber turn to see if something was wrong. Diarmuid said that he trusted Saber, but honestly he was starting to question if that was true. It wasn't that he mistrusted her, so much as he wondered if he was still worthy of her trust.
Ever since Saber saw Lancer laying in the grass, looking at the stars, she knew something was wrong. It wasn't really her place to ask what was upsetting him; essentially they were enemies after all. She also believed it was unfair to ask about personal issues if she didn't have a way to help, so instead she broke the silence with a more general question. "So, bad day?"
"You could say that." Lancer responded, sounding far away. To avoid explaining himself further he questioned her back. "What about you? It's not like you to take any leisure time."
Saber felt a little glad that Lancer was willing to partake in conversation. Although being opposing competitors of the war made them unlikely companions, they were both on the same page. Even if offering help was out of the question, at least they could understand each other. "I just needed a change in scenery. I thought maybe it would help me sort out my thoughts."
"So, bad day then?" Lancer repeated her earlier question to her.
Saber sadly smiled, gazing at the sky's reflection on the river's surface. "Ehh, yeah. I guess you could say that." She also mimicked his answer.
Saber threw her head back to look at the stars, and for the sake of keeping the conversation going ventured another question. "Shouldn't you be out looking for trouble tonight? You can't win the grail by wishing for it."
He smiled at the irony of wishing for a wish-granting devise, but the smile faltered when he looked up at the sky as well and responded, "It's no use winning the grail if things keep heading in this direction. In truth, I may have already lost the grail war."
Saber glanced at him questioningly, and he sadly shook his head.
"No, remember during our first battle, how Rider interrupted and my master mentioned that the kid had stolen his summoning relic? I was never the servant Kayneth wanted… I was only a backup. Perhaps I was doomed from the start."
Saber clenched a fist, uprooting a fistful of grass, then she held it up and watched the grass flutter back to the ground with a sigh. "If that's the only reason for your grief, then I must say that it's a real shame that your master doesn't realize just how lucky he was. Being fortunate enough to have been able to summon the heroic spirit Diarmuid on a whim…"
Her words seemed to snap him out of his daze and he looked over to see a slight blush covering her cheeks. Even if it was a farce, he was still happy to hear those words. Especially coming from her.
He laid back in the grass and she followed suit so that they were stargazing, side by side.
"I have no wish for the grail, Saber, so I almost feel bad that I must compete with you for it." Lancer started, feeling more willing to share now. "You know my legend, correct? So then you must know what end I've met. The only reason I am participating in this war is so I can fix the mistakes of my past. I want to honorably uphold my lords wishes until the very end, and well… things aren't going so smoothly so far."
"What are you going to do?" Saber asked in a whisper. The atmosphere between them so seemingly fragile that she feared a forceful question could break it.
Lancer let out a deep breath. "I don't know. Things have gotten… pretty bad. Maybe I should just give up?"
Even though he said them, Saber knew that Lancer didn't really believe those words. "Giving up in war is equivalent to suicide, and there is no sense for a knight to commit an honorless suicide."
"I wonder what options I have left though." Lancer muttered more to himself than to her.
After a little while Saber answered anyways. "You can still turn this around. You just need to prove your worth to your master. If he doesn't recognize you, force him to. Make it up to him in a way so unexpected and great that he will have no choice but to see you as the great knight you are."
Lancer considers this. The suggestion repeats over and over in his head and the silence between them stretches on for many seconds. He realizes that she's right. He could turn this around, and now would be the perfect chance. His breathing becomes deep and uneven, and he turns his head towards Saber. His eyes are wide.
She remains looking up at the sky. She doesn't even have to look at him, because she already knows what he's thinking.
"Diarmuid, are you going to kill me?"
He takes a shaky breath and sits up, looking down at her. She is sprawled out on the grass still. She looks very small and vulnerable beside him, yet the expression on her face is more peaceful than he had ever seen before.
"You know" her voice startled him out of his deep thinking. "Usually the knights code comes before all else, but what good does it do you if it leads you to the same sad end? If this is the one thing that will get you the conclusion you deserve and allow your soul to rest, perhaps it would be worth it for you. I can keep a secret."
Sabers words are sharp as knives to his heart, and her eyes are so clear he can see the night sky reflected in them. He is instantly reminded of everything he stands for, and why he has chosen to pursue the difficult road of one who lives by their chivalry. She reminds him of what he fights for. He is immediately repulsed that he lost his way in the first place, and that he could have killed her over it. He knows this definitely isn't what he wants.
He clumsily bursts out "There's no way! I'm never going to do something like that! It comes at much too high a price! And, I- I!"
Saber's eyes are wide and she looks straight at him for the first time in their whole conversation. "What's the price?"
"My chivalry and-" He cuts himself off before he takes it too far, but the desperate way he looks at her tells her everything she needs to know.
Saber sits up and she suddenly realizes just how dangerously close they are now that they are face to face. They take a moment to fully look at each other. Lancer seems deeply apologetic for everything that happened so far, and Saber can't seem to look away. Despite being so close they seem to somehow still gravitate towards each other until the tips of their noses are nearly touching. Lancer closes his eyes and lets out a shaky breath.
The meaning of Lancers implied words was left hanging in the air, and even without him voicing them, they both knew exactly what he meant.
Before he is lost in the emotions he is feeling he breaks away from her. He gets up and walks a few paces back towards the road, so that they are now back to back. Saber is left sitting on the grass facing the river, and she makes no move to follow him. She already knows that she helped him.
"I'm going to find a better way to set things right, Saber."
She smiles at the fact that Lancer's voice holds a little more of its usual strength now.
"Because you reminded me of a lot of things, I'll keep fighting. For you too. For those reasons, I won't be giving up again. I know what I must do now, and for that reason, the next time we meet it will be either you or me. We can finish things then."
He is quiet for a while. Shortly he works up the courage to leave her with some honest parting words.
"If it's any consolation though, if in the end I don't win the grail, I want you to."
Saber smiles. She truly and honestly smiles. She wonders if she should thank him but decides it would be silly. She decides to tell him instead that she also hopes he's the one that wins if she can't, but when she turns around he is gone.