Peorth

Peorth

Disclaimer: All rights reserved by Type-Moon.

It was a night like any other.

That is to say, a night like any other night taking place during the 5th Fuyuki City Holy Grail War.

Which sounded far more exciting than it actually was, at least as far as Lancer's involvement up to that point was concerned. Simply put, he was bored out of his skull. All because of his boring Master, who assigned him boring tasks in this boring town. Lancer scowled blackly as he noiselessly set about his latest and thus far only order, nimbly leaping unseen in the night as he performed surveillance on the Masters and what Servants had been summoned so far.

Engaging the Servants had been the most entertainment he had gotten so far out of his summoning, and even then it was a paltry pleasure given that his bastard of a Master ordered him not to use his full strength. Which had been all fine and well until Berserker had nearly cleaved him in two, leaving him with a set of broken ribs, several agonizing gashes, and a broken jaw in making his escape.

The priest had found it amusing, his dry laugh as he healed Lancer's wounds still reverberating in the Irish hero's mind. Lancer's scowl deepened as he weighed for not the first time the advantages and disadvantages of killing the twisted bastard and finding a new Master to contract with. That Tohsaka girl who had yet to Call her Servant hadn't been too hard on the eyes...

With a irritated grunt, he let it go. Sometimes, a strong sense of honor could be a real pain in the arse. Especially when what little company you had was so far away from having one they were practically approaching honorability from the opposite direction. For the moment, he'd live with the tedium. If he was lucky, once all the spying was done with he could move onto real fights and let loose like he wanted to.

Focusing on the task at hand, he easily jumped from rooftop to rooftop, his crimson gaze not wavering from his target for a second. Not that it was all that difficult to keep track of Rider's Master. The violet-haired girl moved slowly on the streets of downtown, her black uniform skirt swaying gently in the night breeze. Her striking looks and slow pace made her all too easy to follow, even more so with how sparse the crowds were. Recent violent homicides tended to have that effect on people's desire to go out.

Unfortunately, Lancer was beginning to think his observation was a bust. It was true observing the Master was part of the deal, but at the heart the Servant was more important. That he couldn't sense Rider anywhere near her Master was strange to say the least.

Actually, the word strange could really be applied to the situation as a whole, and had really been the only thing keeping him observing the girl. Sakura, he vaguely recalled from the information Kotomine had given him. From what he could tell about her from the previous day's spying, Sakura seemed to be a pleasant, well-mannered girl, if not rather demure and quiet. Not all that different from any girl her age, other than maybe being a bit more traditionally feminine than women usually were in this time.

This impression only made the way she was acting now all the more unusual. Sakura had been moving with slow, almost sluggish steps all night in marked contrast to the ladylike way she normally held herself. A hectic flush burned on her cheeks, along with a hazy look in her eyes. It was a little like someone moving around in a fever-dream, but this behavior didn't feel to Lancer like it was caused by illness.

Sakura continued walking, her motions stilted but unceasing. When Lancer had first started tracking her, she seemed to be moving randomly without any real destination in mind. It had only been after an hour or so of pursuit that he realized despite occasionally meandering, the girl was always heading northwards. To what, he wasn't sure. As it was, she had already brought them both to nearly the very outskirts of downtown Shinto. An aggravated snarl escaped Lancer as he leapt down from his high perch to go to ground. Landing silently, Lancer let the darkness and the sounds of night conceal him from the girl...although with the way she was acting, he had a feeling she'd barely notice him even if he was right in front of her.

At least he was positive Rider wasn't with her. Any Servant who let such an obvious threat get so close to their Master wasn't worthy of the name. Once more, he felt the abnormality of the situation. Lancer knew Rider hadn't been killed, so that she was not nearby to protect the person keeping her tethered to the world was an incredible aberration. There was something strange going on, an unnerving sensation causing the fine hairs on the back of Lancer's neck to rise. The silence made the pounding of blood in his ears all the louder.

The atmosphere didn't help any. From a dimly lit path lined with trees, Sakura stood at the entrance to the large park he had noticed upon first exploring the city. The chill Lancer had felt deepened, setting into his very bones as the overwhelmingly oppressive feeling in the air grew. Bleak moonlight only made the shadows cast by the trees darker, twisting them into strange, sinister shapes. The waning light even made Sakura look oddly witchlike and menacing, her skin pale and cold, her plum-colored hair darkening to the black of dried blood.

Lancer actually found himself halting for a second, the bestial instincts that had never failed him in the past urging him to get away from this girl and this place as quickly as possible. One long moment passed as he stood utterly still, gaze locked on the girl staring blankly at the empty park.

With some effort, he shook the feeling off even as the chill remained. While Sakura was a competent enough magus to perform the summoning ceremony for a Servant, it was unlikely she could be any possible threat to him. Even without his good Magic Resistance, he was fast and strong enough to kill her in less than the blink of an eye.

So why did he still feel so unnerved?

The gentle whisper of cloth rustling in the wind snapped him out of his thoughts. Sakura was moving a bit more purposefully now, headed off the pathway running through the park to what looked like a small copse of birch trees that created a small illusion of isolation within the greater area of the park. Lancer's eyes narrowed once more as he moved under the cover of wood and shadow. Using the faintest amount of prana possible, he summoned the Hagalaz Rune to test the area for traps. Finding nothing, not even Rider waiting to spring on him, somehow didn't come as a comfort. At least he would have known what was coming in such a case.

Uncertainty had never been Cu Chulainn's style, though. He pressed on, moving swiftly as Sakura slipped through the narrow opening in the crescent-shaped circle of trees. He was only a few steps behind her when she abruptly stopped, her slender frame swaying slightly as if just holding herself up was an struggle.

Lancer was barely able to spare the attention to notice this, as the chill he felt transcended to the sensation the marrow in his bones was turning to ice. Freezing the very heart of him, the feel of old grudges and old miseries, the curses of those who cried out to God, to anyone who would listen, and hadn't been saved anyway.

The dark enmity of those killed at the site of the fourth Heaven's Feel.

He should have realized earlier that the feelings of oppression had to have come from the dead of this place. As a spirit, Lancer was naturally sensitive to the reverberations of a place where so many had been killed, and in such a painful way. It wasn't like the fake-priest hadn't mentioned it to him while giving the lay of the town out either. But somehow, the combination of the girl and the general strangeness of his pursuit had slipped the information from his mind.

A ragged, strained breath broke the dead-quiet of the night. Sakura's body shook like a leaf in a strong wind before she collapsed limply on the grass. Taken aback, Lancer automatically moved in as closely as he could without being in her line of sight. Her breathing was regular if not heavy, but her lack of movement otherwise seemed to indicate unconsciousness. Clearly, any observation he had left to perform was done with for now.

The Heroic Spirit started to make his retreat before hesitating. He eyed the girl carefully, still crumpled on the ground like a doll that had been tossed aside by a petulant child. What he could see of her face had a feverish flush along her cheekbones, and despite the cool air there were bead of sweats trailing down from her temple. Altogether it painted a picture of fragileness, someone who needed looking after...

Lancer cursed viciously under his breath in Gaelic for a good minute before moving to where she lay and kneeling down. That damn sense of honor, rearing its head again. But he couldn't just leave a pretty girl alone and helpless like that. If she wasn't aware of what was happening, at least moving the lass to a bench couldn't do any harm. His conscience would rest easier for it, and one of the police patrols that went through the park on a regular basis would find her and take her home.

He shifted his weight to balance Sakura's out as he slid an arm underneath hers to bring her to sitting. She was surprisingly light despite her nicely curved body, soft and warm the way he liked in a woman. Petite, but not so much she didn't fit nicely against him. Her pale hand, gently brushing his face, was delicate and smooth-

Lancer started, his crimson eyes meeting Sakura's now-opened violet ones. They were oddly hazy, like someone in a waking dream, but their focus on him was clear enough. His hand was already moving to incapacitate her when that pretty mouth of hers met his own in a hot, melting kiss that shattered his striking intent in an instant. Lancer's hand froze against the back of her slim neck, his body overwhelmed by sensation as he responded without thinking.

It had been such a long time. Too long. And she was a damn good kisser, her lips gliding against his in a way that aroused sensitive nerves to near-madness.

He knew he was being monumentally stupid, that he should knock her out and run. But against the cold nothingness of the Throne, Sakura was captivatingly hot and sweet. He could have no more pulled away from her than he could survive without mana. He groaned involuntarily as her hot, wet tongue traced his lips before boldly darting inside his mouth.

Challenged, Lancer responded in turn, his tongue fervently stroking hers as he moved to lay her out flush against the grass. His solid, leanly muscled frame pressed firmly against her slender one as her fingers tangled in his hair to pull him closer still. Her breasts were soft and full, and even with the layers of cloth separating them he could feel her nipples stiffening up. It was fair enough, he thought distantly as her thigh brushed against his. After all, part of him was getting really hard too.

The thin red ribbon was the first to surrender to his questing fingers, sliding down to undo the top button of the conservative white blouse to bare her neck to him. Lancer's thumb traced the pulse pounding hard and fast in her throat before he broke the kiss for air.

They were both panting as their eyes met and held. Some of the haze had lifted from her expression, but more than anything Sakura looked like she was waiting for him. Not for long though, Lancer gently raking his teeth down her pale neck that elicited a breathy moan from her as she trembled. His tongue traced the same path his mouth had taken, her needy whimper as her hands tugged impatiently at his bodysuit all too sweet to his ears.

It felt like Sakura's skin was burning hot, all the more so against the cool air as he worked the buttons of first her dull brown vest and then white blouse to free her to his hungry eyes. And what a lovely sight she was, too. That creamy skin lightly flushed with arousal called to be caressed, her luscious breasts heaving with every light breath...

The modest pink undergarment restraining those generous mounds was annoying him far too much. Lancer's hands moved down her chest to work the little front clasp, kneading the soft flesh as they went. His fingers fumbled with the unfamiliar fastener-why women in this era had to have such frustrating shifts was beyond him-before unlatching it to let Sakura's breasts spill into his waiting hands.

Warm and heavy against his calloused fingers, her pink nipples were already stiff with need. A strangled moan escaped her lips when he softly blew on one, then the other, causing them to harden even more. The first teasing brush of his mouth against one rosy peak brought it back once more; closing his mouth around it and sucking firmly making her dig her fingers into his back.

His free hand moved to give attention to her other nipple, rubbing and teasing in time with his tongue before he switched to repeat the process. He felt her frustrated whimper as Sakura pulled at the material of his bodysuit once more as she slowly licked his earlobe. Reading her intent, a moment's concentration had him cutting off the mana supporting the upper half of his clothing to leave him bared to the waist.

Even through her panting, Sakura managed to make a pleased noise with his actions. Her dainty hands began exploring his back to finger toned, hard muscle and the occasional old battle scar. Lovely as her breasts were, Lancer was also spurred on by the desire to do more himself. He moved his mouth from her breast to trail his tongue slowly downward, from the soft under swell of her chest, to her ribs and then the smooth flatness of her stomach.

Her simple black skirt was still on, but its hidden zipper fell to him as easily as her socks and shoes. She lifted her hips to help him slide the fabric off, revealing panties that perfectly matched her bra. It seemed like her to be so fastidious with her clothing, and somehow rather charming at the same time. The pale pink cotton was completely soaked through, so much so her inner thighs were already slightly sticky. Lancer couldn't help but be a little surprised that she was already so aroused, but didn't exactly have a problem with it either.

Sakura took advantage of his musing to pull off the damp garment herself, peeling it off before tossing it aside without a thought. Shifting on shaky legs, she moved to make her back facing his direction. Lifting her hips as she spread her wet folds open with one trembling hand, her eyes met his once more in a silent plea for fulfillment. Her breasts shook with her ragged breathing, her face concentrated in desperate need.

Consent given, Lancer cut of the remaining mana that made up the bottom half of his bodysuit to leave him bare as she. He could feel his heart pounding like a drum in his chest as he leaned down to grip her sweetly curved hips, rubbing his cock against her entrance to tease her even more. At her urgent groan Lancer lined himself with Sakura's core before burying himself in her with one swift, firm thrust.

Tantalizing heat and tightness greeted him, Sakura's soft inner walls holding him in a tight grip. Amazing as the sensation was, the fire within him burning all the hotter for her...Lancer couldn't help but note the lack of resistance on her body's part. There was a disconnect between reality and the image of the innocent, modest girl he had been watching, but lust and pleasure were overriding what little ability he had left to notice. Still, something about it struck him as odd-

Sakura rocked her hips up, the bolt of pleasure running through him cutting through his thoughts like a sword through water. Unconsciously, his fingers dug into her soft skin as she slid deliciously around his length. The maddening friction, too much and not enough at once, was more than he could bear. A growl rose in his throat as he began to move with Sakura, his hips thrusting to slide himself in and out of her.

"H-haa..!" Sakura gasped as he began to move faster. Lancer could feel her breathing grow uneven, her body trembling with every movement of his own. Just the sound of it made him harder inside her, fueling his urge to hear her make more sounds like it. Bending himself without breaking his pace, he slowly ran his tongue down the length of her spine. The salty taste of her sweat made the long moan she gave in response all the sweeter by comparison. She was even wetter than before, and already he could feel a subtle difference in the pressure clenching his member.

Moving his hands to lift her hips even higher, Lancer thrust into her harder. This way, he was able to hit her deeper, and if the way Sakura's spine curved as the violet-haired girl groaned was any indication, she appreciated it. Slowing his movements slightly but in turn making them firmer, he could already feel her thighs shaking gently where he had them gripped. A slight grin spread across his face as he gradually trailed his hands up from her hips, teasing his calloused fingers feather-light against her smooth, supple skin. From the way her ever slicker walls gripped him tighter, he could tell she was sensitive just to being touched. The throaty moan that spilled from her lips when his mouth brushed the crook of her neck, his hands settling at her full, perfect breasts to knead, was proof enough of that.

Then his fingers brushed her stiff pink nipples, and her core clenched him so tightly he nearly came right then. To say the lass was sensitive there was like saying the Mórrígan was known to have a bit of a violent streak, both understatements of massive proportions. Nuzzling the delicate nape of her neck, Lancer began to lavish attention on the hard nubs as her needy whimpering increased in time with his thrusting.

Her skin smelled, and his tongue rasping against the warm flesh told him tasted, of ripe peaches. For some reason, he found that absurdly pleasing, that a girl named for a delicate spring blossom carried the scent of luscious, sensual fruit. Perhaps it was simply because Lancer hadn't been expecting it, and that made things even more interesting. Amused at his own thoughts even in the midst of heady desire, Lancer nipped at her neck hard enough to leave the faint shadow of a bruise before sucking at the bite.

In a spot her hair would naturally fall across when upright. He wasn't a complete animal, after all. Though he had to admit there was something all too appealing about the mental image of Sakura flushing prettily whenever her eyes fell upon his mark...

Sakura's hand reaching down between her legs to cup his balls with the perfect amount of force shot him right out of his fantasy and straight into a reality that was so much better. Her small palm was hot against him as she stroked, and only gritting his teeth to near the breaking point held off his release. That, and he was planning to show her two could play at that game. His right hand remained teasing her nipple, his left moving downward to her smooth entrance to seek her clit out.

His fingers easily found the hard, aching nub that was the key to a woman's satisfaction amidst the slickness of her folds. Even as he was amazed by how drenched Sakura was Lancer began to rub it mercilessly with his thumb, her hips bucking hard against his still-thrusting ones as her moans turned to pleading half-sobs. From the angle he was at her could see her slender fingers raking the earth, drawing furrows in the black soil with tension and need.

The lass wasn't the only one feeling pure need. Lancer could feel himself swelling within her tight, hot walls on the precipice perfectly straddling fulfillment and lack of it. He was so damn close he could taste it.

"P...please..." Sakura rasped hoarsely, a distant part of him realizing it was the first time she had spoken at all in their encounter. "I need..." Her voice broke into panting, but her violet eyes were steady. Somehow it felt like she had only really started seeing him now. Lancer was so drawn in by her gaze he almost wasn't aware of his thumb rotating faster around her clit, but her strangled cry as she clenched around him like a vise cut through the mental haze. With a low, primal roar he came hard, swelling up before filling her with his seed in a hard hot burst.

Sakura shuddered hard in turn as his wet essence dripped slowly down her legs. A moment later her spine arched as she screamed, her inner walls holding him fast in place as she came hard before slumping weakly to the ground, utterly spent. Lancer fell with her, freeing his length from her folds as bone-deep exhaustion hit him like he had been drained to nearly the last drop-

Wait. Drained?

Anyone who hadn't been a Servant would have taken longer to notice, but Lancer was an eirei. Magical energy was literally the fiber of his being, and Sakura had taken nearly all he had. A leaden feeling filled his limbs, his head reeling with sudden exhaustion even as he felt fresh reserves slowly replenish him through his connection with Kotomine. The minutes it took for enough energy to return to him to do something as simple as summon his clothing and sit up passed like a small eternity, slow and endless. In contrast his thoughts raced through possibilities, seeking both explanation and motivation as to what had just happened.

Guard up, Lancer pinned Sakura with a lethal glare. If she had planned this from the start to trick him into giving up that much mana, weakening him and strengthening her in the bargain...

Immediately, he dismissed the thought as being too ludicrous for words. For one thing, it would be a plan with too many flaws to ever hold up with the sheer number of chances he would have to kill her alone. But what really convinced Lancer she hadn't at least intentionally set out to trap him was the simple fact that Sakura was sound asleep, curled up into a tight ball as if trying to conserve heat. No sane person would leave themselves so open to attack after striking at him as hard as she had, in her own way. Sakura's breathing was soft and deep, and she looked much healthier than she had before their encounter. It was a while before Lancer realized he had been staring at her sleeping face for a good five minutes, and that he had thought it was actually rather cute.

He scooted away from her, sensing he was in a different sort of danger than earlier. Distance put between them, Lancer flexed his arm to test how much strength and energy had returned to him. By his own estimate, he wouldn't be able to put up anything resembling a decent fight, but he could at least move easily enough to escape should he run into one. He was already making his way to return to the Kotomine Church when his gaze fell, as if forcibly dragged back, on the girl still curled up on the grass. Alone, naked, shivering in the cold with his come drying on her thighs.

"...Damn it all to hell." Lancer cursed, reaching for the various articles of clothing scattered about the copse. Somewhat clumsily, he redressed her as neatly as he could without waking her up. She never even stirred, in as deep a sleep as he had ever seen. It gave him all the more time to notice the bruises.

Some large. Some small. Dotting her arms, her back, her legs, her chest. There were old, faded ones, and fresh, new ones that looked only a day or two old. The rage that had been banked earlier came burning back with full force, though his hands were still gentle as they buttoned her vest back up. It was obvious someone had been using Sakura as punching bag, and for a long time now. Lancer gritted his teeth even as he retied her deep red school ribbon, angered in ways he couldn't begin to name. No woman deserved such treatment, and the question of why no one seemed to have noticed Sakura's abuse would stay with him longer than he would ever admit. Didn't she have anyone who cared enough to help her? Friends, family...hell, even her own Servant should have protected her Master if no one else would. That nobody had gnawed on his sense of honor-no, even more on his pride as a man.

He easily lifted her slight body, cradling Sakura carefully as he strode out of the circle of trees to the main path. Soon enough, a wide park bench under a bright light came into view. It was in a spot within sight of the police patrol that should be making its regular rounds soon enough that she wouldn't be in any danger. Lancer smoothly laid Sakura out on the bench, task complete.

Only to unbelievably hesitate once more as he turned to walk away. Rubbing his temples, Lancer sighed in resigned frustration as he made his decision.

"You really are a troublesome one, lass. But I may as well see things through to the end."

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Matou Sakura stirred, feeling the wooden slats of a bench against her back. The slightly uncomfortable sensation roused her into full wakefulness, her eyes opening the smallest fraction. She was in the large park north of Shinto, and...the memories, even through the fog her mind had been in, came rushing back with feelings of shame and disgrace. Having sex with some random stranger, she really was as filthy as Shinji constantly told her. And a Servant, no less. The mana was warming, easing the pain her body was in, but the pit of her stomach was cold as ice. It was a wonder Senpai wasn't disgusted by the sight of her-

Sakura's eyes, even barely slit opened as they were, caught sight of deep blue amidst the mottled green-grey of the trees. Her night vision was excellent even without magical aid through Reinforcement, but she couldn't believe what she was seeing. He-the Servant who could only be Lancer-he had stayed.

He had stayed, and watched over her. He hadn't left her alone. Sakura could feel her throat tighten as confusion tugged at her.

Why did he stay? For the life of her, Sakura had no idea. There was literally no reason for him to do so, but he had-

"Sakura-chan! Sakura-chan, thank goodness!" Fujimura-sensei's familiar voice, tinged with unfamiliar worry cut across the park. Sakura was unsurprised when the blue disappeared faster than her eyes were capable of tracking, but kept looking at the spot where he had been crouching anyway as she slowly sat up. She kept her face neutral with the ease of long practice as Fujimura-sensei gave her a thorough look-over.

"Why, when I got the call saying you never got home I was so worried! Shirou and I have been looking all over for you for three hours now. Sakura-chan, you need a cell phone or something-" The teacher babbled on, not noticing Sakura still staring up at the branches of the tree opposite the bench. With some effort, Sakura turned her attention to the teacher.

"I'm sorry, Fujimura-sensei." Sakura said, bowing slightly with an apologetic smile that didn't quite reached her eyes. But then, her smiles almost never did. "I was feeling feverish and dizzy, so I must have wandered off on my way back to the house. I feel much better now, so I'll just return now."

Fujimura-sensei's expression set into almost comical sternness even as she pulled out her cell phone to call Shirou. "I'm glad you're feeling better, Sakura-chan. But you shouldn't go home all by yourself. What if you relapse?"

Sakura barely managed to keep her lips from twisting with irony, feeling Lancer's hot, almost bestial energy still running strong in her body. "I doubt that will happen, sensei-"

"No buts!" Fujimura-sensei said firmly, walking away in a manner that booked no arguments. Giving in, Sakura followed her silently down the trail. The trek back to the Matou house went more or less that way, Fujimura-sensei chatting cheerfully and Sakura giving the occasional one-word response.

"Well then, I'll see you tomorrow, Sakura-chan." Shirou's guardian told Sakura, patting her arm before turning away. "Don't force yourself, understand?"

Sakura clasped her hands together automatically, feeling the familiar oppressive air of the house as she nodded gratefully. "Yes, sensei. Thank you for seeing me back." She watched the teacher walk away before moving stiffly up the stone path leading to the heavy oak front door. Turning the handle, Sakura let herself in knowing the kind of welcome that awaited her. She had barely stepped into the parlor when a palm met her face, backhanding her so hard she fell down.

"Where the hell were you?!?" Shinji snarled, shaking with spiteful anger over her downed body. Rider stood behind him, muscles tensed tightly as piano wire as she was held back from coming to Sakura's aid. Sakura bit back a pained cry as her hair was grabbed to pull her more quickly to her feet, long experience telling her that would only mean another blow.

"I'm....I'm sorry, Nii-san." Sakura gasped, her jaw aching with the effort it took to talk. "My head got all hazy and-"

"Shut up with your pathetic excuses!" Shinji cut her off, using her hair as leverage to drag her after him. "You're here now, so get to your room."

Sakura's mouth went dry, a thousand different protests dying in her mouth. Stumbling, she cut off her mind of all feeling, trying not to think of Senpai. Unbidden, the blue-haired Servant flashed across her mind's eye, her feelings of self-loathing deepening.

The creak of a walking stick hitting old floorboards stopped them both. Like a worm emerging from black soil, Matou Zouken stepped out of the shadow he had been in. His sunken eyes rested on Sakura, not paying the slightest attention to Shinji.

"G-grandfather..." Shinji stuttered before straightening up, bravado returning. "I was just about to follow your orders like usual-"

"There's something different about you tonight, girl." Zouken said, ignoring his grandson as he moved closer to Sakura. There was something of a smile on his craggy, withered face. He looked pleased about something, an event Sakura had never, ever known to be a good sign. "Where did you acquire such a marvelous amount of energy?"

"I...I'm sorry, Grandfather. I don't know. Everything before Fujimura-sensei found me is a haze." Sakura replied, her face revealing nothing suspicious as Shinji let go of her hair. She knew perfectly well Zouken wouldn't believe a word she said, but it didn't matter. His control over the familiars in her bloodstream had slipped long ago. Pain had been carved into her body over and over by the Matou family over the years, but her mind had always been her own. There was no way he could prove she was lying.

Not much surprised Sakura anymore, but that she wanted to keep her encounter with Lancer to herself was...strange. If pressed, she wasn't sure even she knew why. Even the weight of Zouken's gimlet-like stare couldn't drag the truth from her.

"Well, either way it's fortuitous." Zouken rasped slowly, his smile dagger like as always. "You did well, girl. There will be no training tonight, so go to your room." For the time, his gaze settled on Shinji, her adopted brother doing a poor job of disguising his tremble. "Alone."

Sakura's eyes widened slightly, but her face remained composed as she bowed. "Yes, Grandfather." Her sharp ears picked up Shinji's angry hiss, but she knew his fear of Zouken was stronger still. For tonight she'd be left in peace.

"Fine!" Shinji said, scowling before his lips moved into a twisted leer. "Rider, you come with me, understand?" Slowly, he ran his fingers against the Servant's tense thigh. Rider's stiff set of her jaw in contrast to her emotionless face stirred something in Sakura, and before she was aware of it, she had spoken up.

"Grandfather, I don't really remember anything from before, but when I woke up there was a Servant at the park." Her voice quavered at the look Shinji gave her, but she summoned her courage and pressed on. "H-he may have followed me back, so wouldn't it be wise to have Rider stand guard tonight?" Thinking quickly, she added, "After all, both Nii-san and I would be easy targets for an unknown Servant, especially once we leave the house."

The air felt heavy and dense as lead as her words were considered. Anger and fear fought across Shinji's face, but as usual Zouken was all but impossible to read. Sakura had nearly given up the tiny fire of hope that had lit within her when the old man nodded in approval.

"Very well. After all, it would truly be a tragedy for either of you two to be eliminated before all the Servants are even summoned, eh?" Zouken said with his crackling laugh like a dying flame. Shinji's eyes narrowed, but he stomped off in the direction of his room without a word of protest. If nothing, his cowardice was consistent. "I bid you goodnight then, granddaughter."

"Goodnight." Sakura answered automatically, her legs shaking slightly in relief. Zouken chuckled once more before disappearing into the shadows the way he came to leave her alone with Rider. Even through her mask Sakura could feel her Servant's thoughtful stare.

"Sakura...did something happen?" Rider asked slowly, as if picking her words carefully. "While you were out."

She hesitated for a second, eventually shaking her head in denial. "I'm fine, Rider. There's no need for you to concern yourself, so please just stand guard."

The Servant looked at her doubtfully but didn't press her further, her form going immaterial to stand guard on the roof. A soft sigh escaped her before she headed to her room to pick up a change of clothes for after her shower. An hour later her hair was still damp against her neck, sticking to her skin with wet strands. Sakura paid it no mind as she sorted through the basket of laundry, separating her dirty clothes into neat piles to be cleaned.

Mechanically, Sakura went about her chores. It wasn't until she was holding the last piece of clothing that she realized it was the school blouse she had been wearing when she had run into Lancer. She held it for a second, her fingers clenching the white cotton so tightly she could almost hear it tearing before something caught her eye. Her cheeks flushed, but her hand was steady enough as it carefully pulled off the strand of blue hair.

She wondered, for what felt like the millionth time that night, why he had stayed. The question still stayed with her even after she finished setting the laundry up and returned to her room. Sakura settled onto her desk chair, the strand twined into a perfect loop in the palm of her hand.

"I should just forget it ever happened." Sakura said to herself, voice hollow in the emptiness of the room. "With Nii-san serving as Rider's Master, it's not like I'll be doing any fighting..."

She rummaged around in her desk drawer and put the hair in a small silk pouch anyway. Reprimanding herself for being so foolishly sentimental, Sakura slid into her bed to fall asleep with unusual ease.

Sakura rarely had dreams, and when she did have them it was even rarer that they were pleasant. But when she fell asleep that night, she dreamed of a dying warrior tied to a post, who laughed as the river otters lapped up his blood in the water.

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Lancer easily slipped through the heavy double doors of the church, knowing his unpleasant evening was nowhere near finished. The fraud of a priest was not in the main body of the building, revealed upon further exploration to be in the small back room that served as his office. A bowl of ripe, fresh fruit lay before Kotomine, alone with a small plate and an ivory-handled knife that looked sharp enough to cut through bone with ease.

"Ah, you're finally back." Kotomine said in his usual tone, swirling the wineglass of some fine, undoubtedly expensive red wine before taking a small sip. "Forgive me for not standing, but I'm still recovering from rather strong mana deprivation." He set the glass down, plucking a beautiful golden peach from the bowl to slice it into eight pieces with surgical precision. Lancer's spine stiffened, well aware the man in front of him was getting as much enjoyment out of making him sweat as he would actually cutting him down for his actions.

"Get to it, Kotomine." Lancer growled, trying not to take in the sweet scent of the peach. "I don't like games."

"Not as much as women, certainly." The priest agreed, washing down a slice of the fruit with another sip of wine. "I never would have thought Matou Sakura to be your type, at least as far as personality goes. How fortunate for you that physically she suited your tastes well enough."

"Fuck off." Lancer shot back, leaning against the wall as he replayed the events of the night in his head. "I didn't set out to do something like that, it just...kind of happened that way." Even if he hadn't been looking at the priest, he would have felt that utterly withering stare that was Kotomine's only response. "The whole thing was damn strange, which is why I even kept following her in the first place. Rider wasn't with her at all."

Silently, Kotomine helped himself to another slice, his look growing far more intent as Lancer continued to muse aloud. "She...was feverish, hot. When she collapsed, I thought it was sickness, but after..." The Servant stopped, the memory of how soft and sweet Sakura had been flashing all too vividly across his mind. He was positive the priest was smirking behind the wineglass, finishing off the drink before leaning back in his chair with his fingers folded against each other. "I didn't think modern humans could take as much as she did without overloading their Circuits."

Kotomine absorbed this all, lost in thought. "It is said the specialty of the Matou is the consumption of energy, but to take the amount you had...well, it's mysterious but inconsequential for now. Apparently, she's transferred her Master's Right to her brother with an artificial Command spell." The priest gave him a dry look, mouth curving into something resembling a smile. "Speaking of which, you still have yet to fulfill your own Orders. When you've recovered enough, fight Rider." Standing up, the priest exited the office to head down the hallway and his quarters. "Try to summon the self-control not to bed her too."

"Fucking twisted bastard." Lancer grumbled, making his own way to Kotomine's treatment room where a summoning circle had been draw up for quicker recovery time. Settling on it, Lancer stared up at the ceiling aimlessly. Kotomine made a valid point, as transferring Master's Right meant that Sakura had more or less taken herself out of the war. But he couldn't forget the bruises, or how soft her lips had been. He shifted restlessly, closing his eyes.

It was going to be a long, long night.

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Six days after the official start of the Grail War, Sakura sat on a bench once again. Shinji had pulled her aside at lunch, ordering her in terse, angry tones to leave the school. As her questioning him why had only been answered by her arm being grabbed hard enough to leave bruises, Sakura had simply done as he asked. It had been the same way for eleven years; easier to bend rather than resist and break. With the Grail War, things had only gotten worse. From what little Rider had told her, Caster seemed to have the greatest lead so far in the War with her stronghold at Ryuudouji and the massive amounts of mana she had been gathering from the citizens of Shinto. Naturally, Shinji had not reacted well to this at all, lashing out at both his Servant and his sister. Rubbing her sore arm, Sakura looked at the road with dull eyes and a face blank and downcast.

The bench she was sitting on was only a little ways down the street that lead up to the school. If she turned her head slightly, she could even look at it. Her Senpai wasn't there, though, and she didn't see the point of trying. Maybe she could go to his house? Even with Saber there, at least she'd been able to spend time with him, the only real pleasure in her life-

The flare up of a huge amount of magical energy broke her train of thought. Sakura jolted upright, turning to Homurabara Gakuen to see a massive, blood-red kekkai spring up and cover the entire grounds. Sick horror filled her body as she realized the entire school was to become a sacrifice to power up Rider, one hand pressing to her mouth to keep her nausea down.

"N-nii-san...you said you wouldn't make her use Bloodfort." Sakura whispered helplessly, knowing every single person inside was doomed as much as she knew there was no way for her to stop it. Drawing her knees tightly to her chest, she watched as Bloodfort Andromeda grow darker in color for every bit of energy it sucked up. Senpai would have tried to help the people inside, to save as many as he could, but she wasn't strong like him. All she could do was punish herself by watching.

She wasn't sure how much time passed, but the Bloodfort winked out of existence as abruptly as it had come in. Sakura hadn't even had the time to wonder what happened before her right arm flared up painfully. Pushing her sleeve up, Sakura stared blankly at the Command Spell, one petal of which had already been used up. The answer came to her like a stab in the heart.

"Rider..." Sakura said, her stomach sinking. "Someone killed her?" In shock, the violet-haired girl remained seated on the bench. Clearly, the Matou family was eliminated from the Grail War. Sadness and joy tore at her in equal amounts. She missed Rider, but was happy that at least her Senpai would no longer be a target by Shinji.

As if her thoughts had summoned him, her adopted brother came racing down the road. His hair was mussed, his eyes bulging out and frantic like a cornered animal. They settled on her, and the madness she could easily see had her shrinking away in fear.

"Nii-san, what happened-" Sakura began to ask before she was yanked to her feet by her arm.

"Y-you..!" Shinji wheezed, his breath fetid and hot in her face. "You worthless...this is all your fault, summoning such a weak Servant who gets killed so easily...!"

"So, Rider is dead." Sakura said sadly, heart panging as the Servant who had always been kind to her flashed across her vision. She watched Shinji mumble in a deranged manner, a crazed expression on his face as he blamed everything and everyone but himself for his troubles. The sight of him was beyond pitiful, even with his fingers digging painfully into her bicep. Suddenly, his eyes focused on her, his grip tightening.

"T-that hurts, Nii-san!" Sakura protested, her words falling on deaf ears.

"They're going to come after me...that bitch Caster and Kuzuki...and Tohsaka and Emiya still have their Servants too-" Shinji stuttered out, his entire body shaking with fear and nervous tension. "I need to get to the church now-" With graceless, stumbling motions, he began to run desperately down the road, dragging her after him.

"Why are you taking me?" Sakura asked, her pained look easing as Shinji's hand moved down to her wrist.

"You're the original Master and have the Command Spells...if you're not there I might not get sheltered..." Shinji bleated out, hate clearly lacing his words. Seeing he was beyond reasoning with, Sakura fell silent with the only sound being his rasping, animalistic panting. Finally, they were at the venerable double doors of the Church. Shinji let go of her wrist, fumbling at the door handles with sweaty, shaking hands before forcing them open so hard they banged against the entrance hall walls. Sakura could see his limbs trembling with seizure-like force as she followed him into the cool depths of the house of worship, quietly amazed he hadn't already collapsed.

Against the tranquil emptiness of the building, Shinji's ragged panting sounded almost obscene. Uncertain of what to do, Sakura simply watched him with hands folded and eyes hooded.

"So, a Master has come to this place to seek sanctuary." A deep, controlled voice rang out as Kotomine appeared before the two Matou. Sakura's face didn't betray her surprise at his sudden emergence, but Shinji actually yelped in terror before falling to his knees. He took a moment to take as much control of himself as possible before saying something in a voice too hoarse and dry to be understood.

Understanding didn't seem to be necessary, though. After all, Kotomine clearly already knew why the both of them were there.

"Then are the Matou withdrawing from the Grail War?" The priest asked, his muted brown gaze moving from Shinji to Sakura. Something in her chest tightened, though she tried not to show it. Sakura had a feeling such an effort was useless with a man like Kotomine, but kept it up as best she could. On the other hand, the sheer force Shinji's fury and despair was so obvious it was practically effervescent.

"W-what else could I be here for?! Without a Servant, to fight for the Grail would be a death sentence-!" Shinji gasped out, jabbing his thumb at Sakura. "I even brought this piece of trash with me, so no excuses! Sending me out without protection would be cold blooded murder...!"

Kotomine looked thoughtfully at Shinji for a moment, but once more his all too discerning eyes shifted back to Sakura. Despite her efforts, a tiny shiver ran up and down her spine. Locking gazes with Kotomine felt like being dissected alive, and watching the process while he was at it.

"Answer me! Do I get protection or not?" Shinji demanded with more bluster than he had any right to.

"If sanctuary is what you desire, you will certainly receive it here, Matou Shinji." The War Supervisor replied smoothly. "After all, you are the first to lose your Servant and come here to rescind your participation in the war."

"Damn it! We were really so pathetic as to be the ones whose Servant was killed first?" Shinji beat his fist into the ground, Sakura unconsciously taking a protective step backwards. "This isn't my fault, if I had a strong Servant like Saber or Berserker instead of a useless shit like Rider...a weakling like her was only good as a woman. I put all this effort in for her, and she dies from one measly blow to the neck?!? Any Servant would have been better than her."

"..." Sakura bit her lip hard enough to sting painfully, wanting desperately to rise to Rider's defense. She may have had no pride in herself, but she was proud of a good, loyal Servant like the one she had Summoned. It hadn't been Rider's fault she had been held back so badly, but Sakura's for not being strong enough to be her Master. Sakura wasn't even strong enough to defend the woman after she was gone.

"It's not fair." Shinji continued, his voice that of a spoiled child on the verge of a violent tantrum. "I did everything I was told, but it turned out this way. It wasn't my fault, who could be expected to win with odds like that? A better Servant and a Master who can fight, trying to win against that would be ridiculous..." His voice trailed off, but the malice in his harsh breathing said enough.

"Hm..." Kotomine murmured, the sound alone causing a nervous lump to rise in Sakura's throat. "It appears your fighting will is still strong, is it not?" In an almost fatherly gesture, Kotomine laid his hand on Shinji's shaking shoulder. His smile was friendly enough, but as someone who had smiled in a similar way so often, Sakura could see through its hollowness.

"Wha...?" Shinji looked up at him, face blank. Sakura's clasped hands went nearly white with tension, dread rising in her stomach.

"As luck would have it, there is a Servant available for you. Of course, your sister would have to make the contract as the one who holds the Command Spells, but I'm sure there will be no problems there." The priest elaborated, smile kind and eyes sly. Strangely, Sakura could feel genuine joy coming from the man.

"She'll do it if I tell her to." Shinji said, looking back at his sister with eyes that promised a world of pain. "Won't you, Sakura?"

The dread deepened, but with a heavy heart Sakura managed a nod. "...Yes, Nii-san."

The Supervisor clapped his hands together, the matter settled to his satisfaction. "Excellent." His smile went a little strange as he glanced at the violet-haired girl, some meaning in it she didn't understand. "Yes, I think she will be well suited to handle a contract with this particular Servant."

Sakura's heart pounded so loudly in her chest it felt like a miracle it wasn't echoing throughout the church. She didn't know what he meant by that, but-oh, you do know what he means, a dark part of her mind whispered treacherously, you don't know just how he found out, but he knows you're a bad girl who spread her legs for a dead hero-

"Materialize now,"

A leanly muscled body like a panther's. A deep blue body suit the same ultramarine shade as his long hair. Silver earrings that matched the clasp holding his hair back in battle. A wild, bestial smell like the forest air.

And crimson eyes that looked to the heart of you, friend or foe.

"Servant Lancer."

The blood drained from Sakura's face, leaving her bone white as she took in the man standing before her. He stared back, completely ignoring the boy at his feet.

"Kotomine, what's the meaning of this?" Lancer growled, his gaze not lifting from the trembling girl before him for an instant, even when Shinji scrambled to his feet.

"Isn't it obvious? I'm transferring Mastership of you from myself to the Matou. It's just too unorthodox for a Supervisor to also be a Master, so this works for the best." The priest gave a shrug that seemed to say things couldn't be helped.

"Keh, is he really all that strong?" Shinji whined, looking over Lancer like a man inspecting an animal for its quality. "Well, beggars can't be choosers, but still-" He shut up quickly at the merest look from Lancer, stepping back behind Sakura. "A-anyways, hurry up and make the contract! Why do you have to be so slow and useless at a time like this?!?"

Those blood red eyes with their catlike slit met hers, commanding all her attention. Sakura could feel heat rising to her cheeks, but was unable to bring herself to look away.

"You're to be my Master?" Lancer asked her, his voice striking her as oddly rough and pleasant at the same time. With what felt like all the strength she had, Sakura managed a weak nod in response. "Show me your Command Spells."

Sakura's hand shook with nervousness, but she held it out for his inspection after pulling his sleeve up. To her astonishment, he took it in his own calloused one before falling to one knee in front of her with an expectant look. Her cheeks burned even hotter until realization dawned.

"I...I announce. Thy body shall be under my command, my fate shall be determined by thy sword. Follow the call of the Holy Grail. If thou wouldst obey this mind and this reason, obey me. Then I shall entrust my fate to your sword-"

"I will accept your oath under the name of Lancer. I accept Matou Sakura as my Master."

Brilliant, blinding light filled the chapel for a second before fading. On Sakura's wrist, a fresh set of Command Spells lay to bring her total back to three. Lancer absently rubbed them with his hand, standing to his full height to be an entire foot over her. Mentally chastising herself for the way her heart was racing, Sakura looked down and tried to repress her flush.

"Are you finished now?" Shinji cut in impatiently, crossing his arms over his narrow chest. "Hurry up and transfer the right of Command to me."

Sakura took back the hand Lancer held, her palms damp with sweat. "Nii-san, I can't do that until we get back to the house."

"More problems still? You really are totally worthless trash, just like Rider." Shinji snapped at her, his hand already whistling through the air. With the resignation of many years, Sakura closed her eyes and braced herself for the hit.

What she heard instead was a creaking noise and a pained yelp. Startled, she opened her eyes to see Lancer holding Shinji's arm tightly enough to fracture it. In contrast to Shinji's pale face, Lancer's was dark with anger. Without a doubt, Sakura could tell he was only waiting for her orders to kill or spare her adopted brother.

"W...what are you waiting for, Sakura?! Make him stop it!" Shinji wheezed, his knees bucking with pain as Lancer added pressure.

"Lancer, please let him go. H-he's just had a hard day..." Sakura ordered, the excuse old and bitter on her tongue. The Servant looked like he wanted to protest, but did as she said and released Shinji to let him fall to the floor with a heavy thump. Glaring at him, Lancer's lip curled in a canine-like snarl.

"Never lay a hand to my Master. You won't get so easy a reprieve if you're ever foolish enough to try again." The blue knight spoke, looking down at Shinji like he was lower than an insect. Sakura could tell easily from the set of his brow that her brother was boiling with rage even as he was being frozen by fear. Scrambling to his feet, Shinji backed away and out the double doors to safety.

"W-whatever. Sakura, let's head back now so you can make the book." Shinji said with a measure of his usual bravado before storming off. Feeling awkward, Sakura bit her lip, unable to look Lancer in the eye.

"Take care, then." Kotomine told Master and Servant, his amusement at the events very evident. "I trust you'll make this a war worthy of the Holy Grail." Without waiting for a reply, the priest exited the way he came in, leaving Sakura and Lancer alone in the church.

"We should be heading back now...." Sakura murmured, trying to muster up even a tiny smile for Lancer's benefit. "I'm sorry Nii-san was rude to you."

Lancer gave her a look she couldn't quite read. "Was he the one who gave you all those bruises you have?"

Sakura's shoulders stiffened, her bangs hiding her eyes as she cast her gaze to the ground. She had cried all the tears she could hold a long, long time ago, but she thought if she had anything left to cry...it would have happened now.

The Servant made an angry noise, but he reached out and held her hand with surprising gentleness. "He'll never hit you again. By my lance and my honor, I swear to protect you as long as I live."

Sakura's head snapped up, her eyes wide as she stared at him. Her mouth open and closed, but she could think of nothing to say. But almost of their own accord, her fingers curled against his to desperately drink in the contact.

He smiled at her, showing canine teeth that were slightly sharper and more pointed than normal. "Lead the way, Sakura."

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As far as keeping his word went, Lancer lived up to his legend. Even three days later, Shinji stayed as far away from her as his pride would allow out of fear of Ireland's Son of Light. Sakura was left alone in her bed, and the bruises began to fade. The basement training continued with its agonizing pain, but she dealt with it as she always had. Sakura took care to keep Lancer from finding out about the pit of worms, rather facing the pain than the shame of his learning how fallen she truly was. But for the most part, Lancer and Shinji went out together, and Sakura was spared from thinking about the Grail War.

She should have known better than to think it would last.

Night had fallen on the ninth day of the Holy Grail War. Sakura lay curled up in a protective ball on her bed, body still racked with pain from training. Shinji had taken Lancer out with demands to confront Caster at Ryuudouji despite the Servant's warning that she'd be difficult to face. They had been gone for a few hours now, and Sakura found herself wishing from the bottom of her heart that the blue knight would prevail.

By my lance and my honor, I swear to protect you as long as I live.

Her face burned at the memory, her body heating up. Though she would have never believed it to be possible, just thinking about Lancer aroused the same feelings Shirou did. Although there was a slight difference in what the two men elicited from her. Shirou made her want to be protected, but Lancer...made her want to be a stronger person. Even recalling the way her Senpai had been staring at the blonde foreigner staying at his home, like a man utterly entranced, didn't sting as badly as it first had...

The sound of a door slamming open with a sound as sharp and loud as a gunshot had her cringing in reflex. Even from the second floor, Sakura could hear Shinji barking at Lancer to return to the summoning circle to heal. The Servant's reply was too indistinct for her to make out, but it didn't matter. She could already hear her brother stomping violently up the steps.

Her bedroom door swung open, and the bone-deep sickness that filled her was as familiar as the color of her hair. Just the sound of his grinding teeth told her how utterly furious Shinji was now. Sakura slowly sat up, not even having any hope to lose from the start.

"It...never...ends..." Shinji hissed, striding to her bed. Even knowing it was coming didn't keep the fist to her stomach from knocking the breath from her lungs. "The gods are mocking me, gifting me with a new Servant who's barely stronger than the last one I had. He managed to kill that damn samurai Assassin, but couldn't take that witch-slut and her bastard Master?! I had to return home with him like a dog with its tail between its legs. What did you do, not contract with him properly?"

"N..nii-san..." Sakura whispered, her abdomen aching. "Lancer...is trying his hardest..."

"His hardest isn't good enough, you worthless trash!" Shinji snapped back, before his face twisted into a sneer. He pushed her down to the bed, crawling to crouch over her on all fours. "And thanks to him, I've got a lot of pent up aggression. At least you're good for something in that regard." Roughly, he shoved her shirt up before squeezing her breast so hard a small cry of pain escaped her. "Heh, that bastard probably just wanted to fuck you himself. Maybe if you got on your back for him he'd be a better Servant."

Sakura closed her eyes, her lips trembling. She knew the less she fought, the sooner the humiliation would be over with. But....

By my lance and my honor, I swear to protect you as long as I live.

"Nii-san...stop now." Sakura said quietly, summoning her meager pool of courage. "I don't want this-"

He slapped her so hard her ears rang, his hands clammy and cold on her bare skin as he pulled her skirt up to her waist. "Shut the hell up! You're just a mare who'd accept any stallion put out to stud."

I swear to protect you-

Defeat evaporated her bravery like the morning mist. Sakura's shoulders crumbled in surrender as she prepared to give in to Shinji.

"She's nothing like that. She's my Master, and you're dead." Lancer's rough voice, normally so easygoing, rang with lethal intent. Sakura's eyes sprang open at the blue Servant, radiating a killing will so sharp and cutting it felt like the air itself was being sliced to ribbons. With one arm he lifted Shinji off her to throw him aside like unwanted garbage. A groan escaped the wavy-haired boy as he hit the wall hard enough to dent the plaster before sliding to the floor. Lancer ignored him as he made his way to Sakura, pulling her to sitting and straightening her clothing with a care so far removed from the violence he had just displayed.

"Are you alright, Sakura?" Lancer asked, lifting her chin with a delicate touch to examine her. Shaking, Sakura was unable to stop the tears from welling up in her eyes after all this time.

"Y...you came for me." Sakura whispered, feeling the hot trickle of salty water run down her cheek. "No one's ever...not once..."

"I made a vow to protect you." Lancer told her, smoothing down her hair. "And I keep my promises to the death."

Sakura's vision blurred as the tears fell freely, wetting the dark blue of his body suit. "I...I didn't want you to see me like that. I know you know I wasn't pure, but I didn't want you to see me being so shameful-"

"He's done this to you before?" Lancer growled, the rage contained in his voice reminding her of a lightening bolt, unstoppable energy gathered together to strike with a single ultimate blow. "He beats you and rapes you and no one's helped you once?"

Sakura bowed her head, unable to face him. To her surprise, he pulled her into a tight, warm embrace, his heart beating hard and steady against her ear. "Pack your bags, lass. I won't have you stay in this damn cesspit a second longer." Lancer kept her in his arms a moment longer before leaping off the bed. "Hurry."

Somehow, Sakura mustered the will to make it off the bed. Her legs were trembling, but her hands were rock steady as she pulled her gym bag out of the closet to stuff it with clothing and nothing else. There was nothing here for her worth taking beyond those essentials. Or rather, almost nothing. She caught sight of her desk, and opened the drawer to pull out the silk pouch she had put Lancer's strand of hair in for safekeeping.

"Lancer, I'm finish-" Sakura stopped, realizing she was alone in the room. Her heart raced as her mind told her that could only mean one thing.

Lancer was going to keep the rest of his word.

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The Blue Knight made his way down the stairs, his rage so intense he could feel himself dangerously close to the ríastrad state. Concentrating his will and focusing his anger to a laser keen point brought the urge down to a manageable level. As much as he wished to go utterly berserk, there was no way Lancer could let himself risk Sakura's safety as well. Besides, a quick death was the last thing he wanted to give Matou Shinji. All the sick little worm had done over the years deserved so much more in the way of punishment.

Tracking Shinji was easy enough. A door he had never seen open before gaped, the smell emitting from it terrible even for one used to the battlefield such as him. What the hell kind of house, even one belonging to magi, reeked so strongly of corpses? Bounding down the stairs with animal grace, Lancer was meet with a vision so twisted bile rose in his throat. Insects, hundreds of thousands of them lined every surface, their combined chittering grating on his ears like blades being scraped against each other. The only bare spots were the open cubbyholes containing bodies for the worms to feed on, and the small circle of space where Matou Shinji stood surrounded by them. Lancer's eyes narrowed as he hit the floor, the insects automatically giving him berth in the face of the sheer magical power he was radiating.

"S-stop now, you can't hurt me-!" Shinji shrieked, his voice high with terror. "I was o-only doing what the old man ordered, so it's not my fault-! The worms in her bloodstream, they make her want men even as they eat her energy, so there was no choice-!"

"Those things are in her?" Lancer said, revolted beyond words. Suddenly, that first night between them began to make sense. But as much as he wanted more details, Shinji had lived long enough. "I'll just save her from those too. But first...this is for Sakura."

A dash forward to close the gap between them. A flash of red so fast even Archer wouldn't have been able to track it. The scent of fresh blood mingling with the scent of rotten corpses. Shinji looked down at the gaping wound in his stomach, looking almost surprised at the entrails hanging out before his body accepted what had happened and fell to the filthy stone floor.

Lancer cast his senses out. There was one more to deal with here. "I know you're here, you old bloodsucker."

With the careful, measured steps of an old man, Matou Zouken stepped out of the shadows. "Ending the Matou line isn't enough for you, Cú Chulainn? How spiteful from a heroic spirit of your noble stature."

Lancer didn't say anything as he shifted into the stance fit to release the curse of Gae Bolg. He focused on the withered being before him, to the exclusion of everything else. "You tortured her, for all this time. I promised her she'd never get hurt again, and that means the end of you, vampire."

Zouken leaned heavily on his walking stick, lips twisting at some private amusement. "Oh? I suppose there's no chance of my stopping a Servant, but you'll die by my hand indirectly at least." He leered over Lancer's shoulder, the knight realizing Sakura was standing on the steps with shocked eyes. "Goodbye, Servant Lancer."

Sakura screamed, her body curling up in agony. As if in the depth of a seizure, her entire frame shook as spasm after spasm hit her. Lancer didn't think for a second, only reacting as he summoned all eighteen of the Runes at his disposal to form a protective barrier around her. The effect was instantly noticeable; though Sakura's lovely face was still set in a painful grimace, the agony she was in had been greatly reduced for at least a few moments.

"As to be expected from the Spirit of the Lance. To think you've managed to halt the process this much..." Zouken mused, studying Sakura like a scientist with a specimen under a microscope. Lancer ground his teeth, but didn't bother to say anything else. Every second he waited was a second longer Sakura was in that incredible pain. Shifting once more into position, he didn't bother to waste another moment.

The air froze, time and space twisting themselves around the red lance. A cursed spear, that had taken the lives of his loved ones, would finally be put to use to save one. The destiny of the heart being hit had already happened. All that was left was to see it through.

"Gae Bolg!

In a blur, the barbed Noble Phantasm was buried in the chest of Matou Zouken before exploding in a thousand spikes. His body torn in two wasn't enough for Lancer, and with a brutal swing he destroyed Zouken's head. Leaping back to the foot of the stairs, Lancer ran to Sakura. Recalling the Runes, her limp body fell into his arms. Her breathing was shallow, as if each expansion of her lungs was a labor, but she didn't seem to be hurting badly otherwise. Gathering her up, Lancer started to make his way up the steps.

A tiny, weak groan caught his ear. A grim, satisfied look flashed across Lancer's face as he mounted the stairs without looking back. His slash at Shinji's stomach had been calculated with the greatest of care. Too weak to move, the boy would spend the next few hours painfully bleeding to death. Behind Lancer, the insects chittered louder, the screeching noise almost gleeful. With their master dead and gone, their own existences were finished...

But at least they would go out with a fresh, living feast.

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Kotomine Kirei looked up from routine Church paperwork at the loud, desperate banging on the Church doors. Neatly piling the forms up, he stood and made his way over to open the heavy double doors.

"Ah, Lancer. Returning already?"

"This is not the time, you Godbotherer." Lancer glared at him, Sakura's slight form held protectively against his body. Kotomine merely raised an eyebrow at the two of them, not commenting on the duffle bag slung over his shoulder. "You're a healer, so heal her."

"So that's what you're here for." The priest glanced at the unconscious girl with an appraising eye, detecting nothing out of the ordinary physically. "Having some idea of exactly what am I supposed to cure would be helpful." Beckoning the Servant to follow, Kirei walked back to the room that was doing double service as a medical center for Grail War injuries. Resisting the urge to curse the aggravating fraud out, Lancer strode after him to lay Sakura out on the operating table.

"These...worm familiars. They're in her body and eating up her energy. I think they're functioning as some sort of Crest, but it's killing her. Take them out, or I'll take us both out of the fight and your Grail War will be as big a fraud as you are." Lancer said, tone clipped and to the point in contrast to the gentle brush of his fingers against Sakura's pale cheek.

The priest raised his hands, voice irritatingly calm. "There's no need for such drastic measures. As a priest, it is my job to heal those brought before me. Wait in the chapel while I treat her. You've done all you can for your Master for now."

Angry and worried as he was, Lancer was well aware he'd only be in the way. Giving the Supervisor a terse nod, Lancer reluctantly left the room to return to the main body of the church. He settled down in one of the old wooden pews, prepared to wait however long it would take. The blue knight hesitated for a second before drawing his Runes out. While he rarely did divination with them, his worry this time was simply too great not to.

Afterwards, Lancer wished he hadn't. The Peorth rune shone innocently up at him despite the glare that sent lesser men fleeing.

"Uncertainty, feminine mystery, and the occult. Like I didn't fucking know that m'self." Lancer recalled the Runes, slumping back to let the minutes tick endlessly away. "You're troublesome as always, lass. I just can't leave you alone."

Hours later, the priest walked into the chapel. It said something of the man's exhaustion that there was nothing near his usual grace and composure in his weary steps. Despite impatience and anxiety having driven him to near the breaking point during the long, seemingly endless wait, Lancer sat upright and waited for the Supervisor to speak.

"You could have rested, you know. Conserving your energy would have made things a little easier on your Master." Kotomine said mildly, seating himself in the pew opposite Lancer's. The fact that the twisted bastard had a point stung, but Lancer suppressed it for the moment. There were more important things to concentrate on now.

"How is she? Did you get all the parasites out?" Lancer asked, cutting to the heart of the matter.

Kotomine sighed at his persistence before speaking. "It was close. Very, very close. Drawing eleven years of poison from her body was no small task on its own. If those worms had gotten any closer to her organs, you'd be able to measure Matou Sakura's lifespan in a matter of days at the most. One of them was only a breath away from her heart, and then she would have been beyond any help up to the level of Magic. But it seems luck was on her side in this instance. She'll need a day's rest, but her body and Circuits can begin to recover now." The priest gave Lancer a dry smile. "It seems that draining your energy was what let her survive to this point. That's what they call serendipity, isn't it?"

Lancer snorted, but inclined his head at the priest in thanks. Getting to his feet, he started to move in the direction of the room Sakura was in.

"Leaving so soon?" Kotomine asked, remaining in place. "Lancer may be the fastest class, but there's no need for such rushing."

"Like you care." Lancer shot back. "I'm getting her to a safe house to recover. Then we'll be able to participate fully, so you'll get what you want."

"That's all the compensation I need, then." Kotomine said, smiling faintly. Lancer returned with his sleeping Master and her things, exiting through the front doors. The sound of Lancer's footsteps had barely faded into the distance before a set of new ones replaced them.

"Don't tell me you're getting sentimental in your old age, Kotomine." The King of Heroes commented, his golden hair gleaming in the bright chapel lights. "Helping the dead hero save his lady-love like something out of a children's tale."

"It wounds me deeply that you think so little of me, Gilgamesh." Kotomine replied, standing up. He flashed the eighth Servant a smile as the strength to stand finally returned to him. "Saving her helps me attain my wish, of course, but there will be a more immediate reward for my efforts too."

"A good one, I should hope. Using up your entire Crest to save her would call for nothing less." Gilgamesh said, leaning leisurely against the pews.

"Oh, it will be. Knowing my pupil, her reaction to knowing a Servant ran off with her sweet baby sister after killing her entire adopted family...she'll definitely make it worth my while. Listen in when I phone her with the news. I promise you it will be the most entertaining thing you've heard in ten years."

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Sakura stirred, brilliant sunshine filtering across her eyes. Moving to cover them only made her wake up faster. In the distance, she could hear birdsong. There was a soft suggestion of lavender in the air-

The violet-haired girl bolted upright. She was in an light, airy, and unfamiliar room, but that wasn't the strangest thing.

They were gone. She couldn't feel the wiggling, painful presence of Zouken's worm familiars swimming through her body. For the first time in over a decade, she wasn't in any pain. Closing her eyes, she thought about Lancer. While her face heated up and her heart raced, no pain, no wave of overwhelming lust accompanied her mind's image of him.

She was free.

The enormity of it washed over her like a wave, leaving her stunned and breathless. It was beyond believing. For years she had suffered alone and unwanted, with only her Senpai bringing her any happiness. That all that had changed in a little over a week's time seemed a miracle worthy of the Grail itself-

"Oh, you're finally awake." Lancer strode into the room with his typical easy grace, a tray laden with tea and toast adding a hint of incongruity to the whole image. "I wasn't expecting that so soon, but it's a good sign. You're recovering even faster than I thought." He set the food down on the nightstand next to her deep pink hair ribbon, her large hand pressed against her forehead to check her temperature. "So, how are you feeling?"

"..."

"Sakura? You didn't lose your voice, did you?"

"...at all."

"Lass, would y'mind speaking up a bit? I couldn't really hear you-"

"I DON'T UNDERSTAND YOU AT ALL!!!"

Lancer scooted back, the expression on his face almost comically cowed. Sakura's shoulders were shaking, her expression completely incensed. "This...all you've done makes no sense whatsoever! Why would you do all this for a girl you barely know? Taking care of me that night and contracting with me and protecting me...I don't understand why you've go through such lengths, even with all the pity in the world-" Sakura stopped, cheeks flushing in a combination of anger and embarrassment.

"You know, you just looked a lot like Archer's Master there. Please, don't ever become as scary as her." Lancer said dryly, raising a dark blue brow at her subtle wince. "And just to make things clear, I didn't do all this out of pity."

"Then...why...?" Sakura asked, voice small.

Lancer shrugged, tugging absently at one of his earrings. "From the start, you were just someone I couldn't leave alone."

Sakura frowned. "That doesn't tell me anything."

The Servant only chuckled at that, placing the tray in front of her. "Well, when I know better myself I promise I'll tell you. But you need something to recover first. Eat up and then get some more rest. I'll guard the house, so you don't need to worry on that front. Although I doubt anyone but that fraud-priest would be able to find us right now."

Piece of toast in hand, Sakura's brow knit together at his words. "Where is this place, Lancer?"

A deeply pained look flashed across his face before his expression shut itself off. "At a mansion used by one of the 3rd Grail War Masters. Southern Shinto. We actually aren't too far from the church." He paused a moment as if comparing the value of talking against not talking. "It...was my first Master's base."

It took Sakura a second to realize that the hot pang in her chest was jealousy. "Your first Master?"

"Irish mage. Bazett. She was a hardworking type, very serious and focused. You'd almost forget she was only twenty-three, from her attitude." Lancer said, tone distant and detached. Even though he could have only known Bazett for a short while, Sakura could tell he had been fond of her. That losing her had hurt him. "Kotomine met her on one of his Church missions, and invited her to participate in the war."

Sakura looked away as he stood, fiddling awkwardly with her meal. "What happened to her?"

Lancer stopped at the door, his expression the cold, focused one of a hunting dog closing in on its prey. "Kotomine chopped her arm off, stole her right of Command, and killed her. Forcing me into servitude bought him some time, but his heart will be mine before the war's over." He exhaled, the black air about him lifting some. "But right now, all I want is for you to get better. Don't push yourself, Sakura."

The violet-haired girl didn't reply as he shut the door behind him, biting thoughtfully into her toast. Taking a sip of her tea, a million different thoughts warred for her attention. She honestly wasn't sure where to go from here, what would be the best path for the both of them.

All she knew was there was one thing she wanted to do more than anything before the day was over. Spreading some raspberry jam on her toast, Sakura gave a rueful laugh.

"I'm sorry, Lancer. Forgive me if my selfish and weak self imposes on your good nature one last time."

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Brooding. Lancer had never really seen the appeal of it-that Archer, under the cynicism and sarcastic veneer, looked like the type who did it constantly inside-but he was certainly going at it with his best effort now. So much had changed so quickly, all because of a chance encounter at a park. The Grail War seemed simple enough at first.

First, he wanted to fight.

Second, he wanted to fight some more and kill Kotomine in a horrible manner while he was at it.

Now? Now all he wanted to do was keep the girl resting in the other master bedroom-there had been two, but he couldn't bear to let her use Bazett's-from ever being sad again. Simple enough on the surface, but aggravatingly complicated underneath. For one thing, he had no idea what Sakura herself wanted, except not to fight. The setting sun lit his slight smile at that. He had never met a woman with inner strength like Sakura's. To survive the treatment she had, with her spirit and self intact, and remain free of the desire to lash out at others...it was truly incredible. He was well aware he never could have done such a thing.

Lancer snorted, crossing his arms over his chest. Hell, she probably would have even spared the damn dog, and gotten it to roll on its back like a pup begging for a rub. He couldn't tell whether the thought amused or irritated him more, but it slipped his mind the second the soft scent of peaches drifted into the air. The Servant turned from the window, only to have his heart skip a beat.

Sakura stood quietly before him, wearing a simple white blouse and deep violet skirt. Her expression was peaceful in a way he hadn't seen from her before, but he could see the hints of nervousness lurking beneath the serene surface.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you." Sakura said sincerely, bowing slightly. The idea that he'd ever chose something as mundane as a sunset over her company was nothing short of laughable, but he could sense now wasn't the time for it. Instead, he settled for patting her head in a friendly manner, grinning down at her.

"Well, y'gave me something much more beautiful to look at than a sunset, so who am I to complain about my good fortune?" Lancer told her, grin widening as she blushed. His eyes studied her carefully in a stark difference to his relaxed smile. "Are you sure you're ready to be out and about, lass?"

"I'm sure." His Master reassured him with an sweet lifting of her lips. Violet eyes met his crimson ones, the simple, honest gratitude in them making his heart race. "I feel better than I have in years, and it's all because of your help. I know I'm too weak to be a good Master to you, but I'm very thankful for all you've done for me."

"What do you mean, too weak?" Lancer asked, frowning down at her. "You're one of the strongest women I've ever met, and believe me I've met quite a few." He rubbed his cheek, some very hard and mostly deserved blows to the face rising from the depths of his memory. "Although you're the only one that's never slapped me..."

"S-slapped you?" Sakura repeated, eyes wide. "I could never do that! Lancer, you saved me so many times already..." She looked at the floor, face downcast. "And still, I have a request left, even though I've no right to ask."

"Don't be ridiculous. You're my Master. Anything you ask me to do that I'm capable of, I'll do for you." Lancer said firmly, a little puzzled by the pinkness warming Sakura's cheeks.

"T-this isn't a request as a Master." Sakura began, biting her lip in a gesture Lancer had learned by now signified nervousness. "It's more like...a personal favor."

"I'll still do it, Sakura. Just tell me what you want." Lancer replied, wondering what could possibly make Sakura this flustered. "I know you wouldn't make me do anything weird."

Sakura played with her fingers, stuttering for a moment before actually getting something coherent out. "W-well, in your legend Lancer, there's a lot of things you were famous for. U-um...besides battles..."

They stared at each other before horrible, embarrassing comprehension dawned. Suddenly, Sakura's red face was all too easy to understand.

"The women, Sakura?" Lancer croaked, his throat dry. "It's true, for the most part, but...why...?"

His Master licked her lips, her cheeks flushed to roughly the same shade as her hair ribbon. "Because I'd like it if you would do me a favor and make love to me, Lancer."

Lancer's jaw dropped, and for a second he felt like the teenaged boy he hadn't been for what was technically centuries. But even though Sakura's face was hot, her face was sincere. She meant everything she said. "Sakura..."

"I-I know I'm not as strong as the women you were with," Sakura continued, a verbal dam bursting, "Or as pretty, or talented. B-but that night, in the park...you cared about my pleasure. I-I have an impure body that's known men, but I've never..." Her lips trembled with the force of her emotion before she calmed herself down. "I've never known what it's like to have someone love me."

Something inside Lancer broke with those vulnerable words, years of suppressed emotions finally let free. He stepped closer to her, laying a gentle hand on her slender, delicate shoulder. "Sakura." He waited until she looked at him once more, his heart melting at the mix of wary hope and fear in her eyes. "Are you sure that's what you want? Because I have to tell you now, that if you let me hold you even one more time...I don't think I'll ever be able to let you go again."

Her own hand reached up, her graceful white fingers tangling with his. "I don't think I'd be able to let you go either, Lancer."

The Servant's heart pounded in his chest so loudly it seemed like all of Fuyuki could probably hear it. "Dammit, Sakura-" His voice sounded unbelievably hoarse, but he didn't care. His arms slid around her waist, pulling her soft body close to his hard one. "I'm going to kiss you now."

Sakura blushed even when she smiled up at him, her thumb tracing his lower lip. "Make it a good one, then. It's my first real kiss, after all."

No Noble Phantasm could overpower him the way those words and that smile could. It crushed everything-reason, will, leaving nothing for him but her. His lips met hers in a tender caress, a gentle melding of two mouths. His fingers brushed against the soft smoothness of her cheek before he deepened the kiss to something just as tender but far more intense. In the tiny, pathetic shred of his mind still capable of thought, he registered Sakura's soft, wondering gasp and knew he had given her the first kiss a rare, amazing girl like her deserved. Her arms twined around his neck, pulling him even closer while her slim fingers ran through his hair. Careful, his tongue prodded at her mouth, patiently waiting for the consent given by the parting of her lips to enter. They teased each other, until the hot, maddening warmth and lack of air proved to be too much. Breaking the kiss, both Lancer and Sakura breathed hard, gazing at each other.

"L...lancer..." Sakura whispered, smiling warmly at him. "I don't know how you're going to top that."

He grinned, nuzzling her throat. "You've only begun to see what your Servant can do, Master." He scooped Sakura into his arms, relishing her surprised squeal. With no effort at all, Lancer carried her to her room.

"Y-you don't have to carry me, Lancer-" The violet haired said quickly, her face hot as she waved her hands frantically. Then stopped midwave to groan as he licked her ear.

"I warned you, Sakura, didn't I? That if I held you, I wouldn't be able to let you go." Lancer teased, breathing in the sweet peach scent of her skin before settling them both on the bed with her in his lap.

"Well...yes...but I didn't think you would be so literal..." Sakura pouted at him for a second, but sucking at the crook of her neck wiped the sullen look right off her face. "O...oh...Lancer..."

"I'm going to make you feel good, Sakura." Lancer said, his mouth planting light kisses against tender flesh while his hands began to slowly lift her shirt over her head. "I'm going to love you the way you were meant to be loved. And I'm not going to be satisfied until I've made you come at least three times."

"T...three?" Sakura repeatedly weakly, her cheeks flushing as she looked at him in utter astonishment. It really was too much for him to take. What man could, in the face of such adorability?

"No, now you've made it four times." Lancer rumbled, licking her throat again. Shirt removed, he cast his attention now to her long, plum-colored skirt. Fingertips dancing light, teasing patterns down her soft skin, his rough warrior's hands easily overcame the zipper with the focus of conquering an enemy in battle. He slid the garment down her elegant hips, past her slim calves and dainty ankles. His heart skipped a beat at her body, bared yet not bared before him, greedily drinking in every inch of soft, perfect skin. Kotomine's treatment had apparently done away with her bruises, something Lancer was deeply glad for. He wanted nothing to mar this for Sakura.

Sakura noticed his stare, her tension rising in a way he didn't want. Carefully, his fingers moved to her back to unlatch her bra, his voice a soothing murmur in her ear. "Tá tú go h-álainn, Sakura. You're so beautiful I can't stand it."

Pressed against him like she was, he could easily feel her breath catch. Judging her to be at ease again, Lancer pulled off her simple white panties with their little purple bow to completely expose her. "I adore everything about you. Your hair, your eyes, your soft skin, your lips...even how you smell like fresh peaches." Taking his time, he began to knead her soft, lovely breasts, giving attention to them in a way he hadn't before.

"Lancerrr..." Sakura groaned, her face going soft with geniuine pleasure. "C...could you please take your clothes off too? I want to see you. I...want to feel you."

The Irish hero smiled slightly as he ran his tongue down Sakura's spine. "Course, lass. But only if you do something for me first."

She shivered, looking at him with dazed but trusting eyes. "W...what's that, Lancer?"

He kissed her, long, slow and deep, his hand making its way past her chest, her stomach, to settle between her legs. Cupping her bare sex gently, he stroked her with a single testing finger. "Come for me first. Then I'll take it all off."

"L...lancer..." Sakura gasped, cheeks flushing even more as a second finger joined the first, rubbing at her damp folds. His free hand went to work on her white breasts, teasing one rose-pink nipple into stiffness before moving to the other to repeat the process. "A..ahhh....it's so..."

"That's a good noise from you, but I want more still. You've made a greedy man of me, lass, so take responsibility." Lancer said agreeably, feeling his own cock growing rock hard between her moans, her backside rubbing against him, and just her beautiful, naked body. But seeing to her was by far more important. His fingers began to stroke her faster, feeling her starting to shake.

"Fuu..ah...Lancer...you've got good hands..." The violet-haired girl moaned out, her breath coming in heavy pants. One, then two fingers slid inside her to penetrate her softness, dragging another heady moan from her throat. His thumb rubbing at her hard clit, Lancer grinned triumphantly as she already began to clench around the digits, shaking harder.

"Not good enough if you're still able to talk, my girl." A third finger entered her to be gripped as tightly as its fellows, a needy whimper falling from the lips of the woman they were pleasuring. By now, his hand was soaked to past his wrist, Sakura was so totally wet. "Close yet, Sakura?"

"Y..y...esssss...." Sakura replied weakily, giving him a pleading look. Tempted yet again, he kissed her one more time before rubbing harder. Her back was damp with sweat as she arched against him, crying out as she fell into the first release he would give her tonight. "L....lancer!!!"

She fell against him, panting but clearly elated. Lancer kissed her sweaty forehead before closing off the mana powering his clothing to instantly leave him naked as her, even if he wasn't nearly as nice to look at.

"That's one. As promised, the clothes are off too." Lancer commented, stroking Sakura's hair patiently while he waited for her to recover. A few moments later, he shifted down to between her legs. Against the delicious sight in front of him, the urgency of his hard-on faded into the background. He licked his lips, barely resisting the urge to thank her for the meal. "Now time for round two-"

"W...wait." Sakura murmured, sitting up. For a second, dark dread made his blood run cold. But then she smiled, melting it like his own personal sun. "I want to do something for you, Lancer."

"There's no nee-" Lancer began, only to be silenced by Sakura's hand over his mouth and her teasing eyebrow raise. Smiling a little, he slowly licked her smooth palm before moving to speak. "Well, there's a way for us to both get what we want." He laid himself full out on the bed, easily lifting Sakura above him with upper-arm strength alone. "Move so your center is even with my face, and your face with my thigh."

"More than just your thigh." Sakura replied with a wickeder look than he knew her to be capable of, before moving as directed with a single fluid motion. Her hot, wet core made even with his face, Lancer breathed in the scent of her, pure woman. One long, slow lick was enough to make her thighs shudder on either side of him.

"Lancer, p-play fair..." Sakura gasped, slim white fingers already massaging his shaft. Her tongue darted out to lave him from tip to base over and over again, pulling the desperate groan out of him like she was tearing it from his very soul.

"L...look whose talking, you damn cheater." Lancer panted in return, pulling her dripping slit to his face to start his revenge. His tongue traced a path along her wet folds, drinking her in like a man dying of thirst. Randomly, his tongue would stop to pay special attention to her clit. In turn, Sakura had already taken him in the hot cavern of her mouth, her dark head bobbing up and down as she sucked at as much of him as she could manage. What she couldn't, her fingers caressed and stroked to greater hardness. Already, her thumb and tongue had sought out a particularly thick, sensitive vein to tease him into coming or pure insanity, whichever happened first.

In turn, Lancer's tongue worked with greater urgency, darting within to actually penetrate her as well as lick every last drop of fluid escaping her. Even muffled by his member in her mouth, Sakura's needy cries where getting louder with each pass of his tongue against her womanhood. Pulling her even closer, Lancer's insatiable mouth found her clit, sucking hard. Her hips bucked hard against his face, his own rocking up into her mouth once her hands found the heavy twin sacks of flesh beneath his aching cock and kneeded. With a hoarse growl, Lancer came hard and thick in her mouth a second before Sakura reached her own orgasm to dampen his face with clear, musky wetness.

Winded, they both lay like that for a second before Lancer summoned the energy to move Sakura to lie against him. Giggling softly, the violet-haired girl's generous chest puffed out with pride even as she swallowed his seed and wiped the come splattered on her face. "Fufufu...I won that time, didn't I?"

Lancer shrugged, his hand gently squeezing the soft swell of her wonderfully rounded bottom. "I intend to win two more times, so I don't have a problem with letting you have one out of four."

Sakura ground her hips against his swiftly returning hardness, that smile that reminded him oddly of Archer's Master on her face. "Oh? You're pretty confident you've got two more victories even though it's fifty-fifty now." Absently, she reached around to undo the clasp binding back his hair, letting the blue strands fall loose around his shoulders for her fingers to play with.

The blue knight smirked, lifting his beautiful Master to straddle his hips. "Irish, remember?"

"You'll have to explain your reaso-oooohh...Lancer..." Sakura purred, her folds hot and tight around his hardness as she began to slowly take him in. "I...It's so full this way..."

Lancer groaned as she engulfed him, covering inch by inch until he was inside her to the hilt. "T-that's kind of t'idea." His hands moved down to grip her hips, slowly moving her whole body up and down his cock, all the while giving her the best grin he was capable of. "Now...ride me good and hard, Sakura."

She blushed sweetily, but gave her hips an experimental rock. Seeing pleasure ripple across his face was all the encouragement she needed, thrusting her hips against him as they moved together, motions already in sync with each other. It felt like the purest pleasure he had ever experience was seeping into every pore, to melt him from within using nothing but sensation. Sakura was so wet and perfect around him, Lancer felt like he would lose his mind at any second with the merest movement of her womanly hips.

Well, it wasn't like he could say it wasn't a worthy sacrifice and not be a stone liar.

Sakura had worked up a good pace, the steady swaying of her breasts into his face with the slightest bit of motion too glorious for words. Gripping her hips to move her faster and harder, Lancer craned his neck to suck at each stiff nipple. The bloom of slight, stinging pain as her nails dug into his shoulders somehow only made him harder still.

"L...Lancer, it's....it's too much...I can't take this much sensation-" Sakura whimpered, but the steady stream of wetness coating his member told a completely different story.

"No...Sakura..." Lancer rasped, releasing her breast for a second to kiss her again and again. "That's the way this is supposed to be."

Her mouth dropped a bit even as her hips kept moving. Understanding flashed across her eyes before she returned the kiss with equal passion and strength.

"T...thank you, Lancer. I'm glad it was you." Sakura whispered softly, before her face twisted with need and she clenched him tightly. Biting his inner mouth hard enough to fill it with the coppery tang of blood, through some small miracle he managed to resist coming with her even as she rippled around him so deliciously, half-sobbing out his name. "La...Lancerrrr!!!"

The violet-haired girl slumped down, more winded by her last release than the previous two. It was agony, but Lancer forced himself to remain still inside him, even hard and aching as he was.

"I'm glad too, Sakura." Lancer said, his fingers tangling in her soft violet locks. He was enough of a gentleman to wait for her dwindling energy to build up again before adding, "And this makes us two for one, doesn't it?"

Sakura gave him another one of those pouts that was more effective than a geas for cracking his power in two. "Well just see about that, Lancerr-?!?"

Sitting up, Lancer lifted Sakura by her hips again, moving her so her back was against his chest without pulling out of her hot fold for a second. "Lancer, what-"

"Sorry Sakura, but this time is all mine. I promised, after all." Using his own power and none of hers, Lancer began to lift Sakura up and down in a mimicry of the way she had just ridden him. Left with nothing to distract her from the feeling, Sakura writhed as her recently released tension started to flare up for the fourth time.

"Y...You're showing off, Lancer-" Sakura gasped, her eyes hazy as the pleasure increased. "I already know how i...incredible Servants are-"

"No, I'm not...showing off..." Lancer grunted in her ear before his mouth sank into her neck to mark her firmly but painlessly. "I want to spoil you so badly...treat you so well you have no idea what to do with yourself..."

"L...Lancer...?" Sakura asked him, already shaking around him as sensation overwhelmed her. One of his large hands found the nub at the apex of her folds, stroking it again to make her clench him tighter still.

"B...because I just can't leave you alone..." Lancer continued, almost to himself before redoubling his efforts. "Come for me now, Sakura."

His words and his fingers together sent her over the edge, white lights flashing across her vision as she came hard around him. Almost immediately afterwards the Servant followed her, coming so hard and fully his seed dripped in thick, cloying strands down her thighs. Exhausted beyond words, Sakura felt herself slump bonelessly in his arms, the eirei somehow finding the strength from some hidden reservior to pull them both into the bed and draw the sheets over the two. Lancer pulled her to rest against his chest, and even for the first time it felt like the most natural thing in the world to do.

The room was completely quiet. Even the birds' chirping seemed muted.

"Hey...Lancer..."

"Yes, Sakura?"

"You win."

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Lancer shifted in bed the next morning, surprised at himself for falling asleep like that. Even with energy he had expended, it's not like he needed it. But in its own way, sleep was a nice luxury for a spirit in much the same way eating or drinking was. Just a little way he could enjoy the things in life the living took for granted all too often.

Speaking of which, Sakura wasn't there beside him. Annoyed, it wasn't until the sound of the shower running hit his ears that he recalled Sakura had good reason to need cleaning up. Smiling smugly, Lancer rummaged in the bedside table until he found the lighter and cigarettes he had stashed away when he had still been with Bazett. Lighting up, he took a long drag of the cig before exhaling to make a perfect smoke-ring.

"Smoking is bad for you, Lancer." Sakura chided him from door, still toweling off her hair but otherwise fully dressed in another pair of the same white shirt and purple skirt she must have packed away.

"Things that feel good usually are." Lancer quipped before smiling at her. "Most things, anyway." Nonetheless, he stubbed the rolled up tobacco in a handy ashtray, Sakura's severe expression lifting.

"Thank you." Sakura said, her smile easing the coolness of her prim tone. "I don't think I'd really enjoy kissing you if it felt like licking an ashtray."

He scowled slightly, tossing the entire pack in the trash. "That's an underhanded way of making a man quit, lass."

Sakura laughed slightly before leaning down to kiss him anyway. "What if I promised to make it up to you?"

His hands skimmed her spine, never tiring of the feel of her. "Of course, that's an entirely different situation alto-" Lancer stopped abruptly, summoning his body suit and leaping out the window in a blur of blue. "Company, Sakura!" Even with her hearing not nearly as sharp as Lancer's, Sakura could pick up the sound of weapons clanging together, and a girl's voice-

"Nee....Tohsaka-senpai?" Sakura swallowed at the thought of facing her sister, but forced herself down the mansion stairway and outside anyway. She was Lancer's Master. It was time for her to live up to the strength he believed she had.

Opening the entrance doors revealed an obviously fierce battle that happened to be at a temporary standstill. Lancer and Archer both stood at ready, prepared to fly back into combat in an instant. Some way back Rin stood, her face lighting up with relief at the sight of Sakura.

"Sakura! Are you alright?" Rin asked, her vivid aqua eyes studying the younger girl as best she could considering the distance. "Considering what Kirei said, I thought you'd be much worse off-"

"Fucking hell. You actually listened to that Godbotherer?" Lancer growled as he struck at Archer so quickly neither girl could follow his movements. The red knight's defense still held strong, though, and even with her lack of experience Sakura could tell he was working to close the distance. "I thought you were brighter than that, Ojou-chan."

Rin flushed, crossing her eyes over her petite chest. "I-I had to check it out! And besides, you just carting her off like that-"

"Tohsaka-senpai!" Sakura shouted, her voice sterner than she even knew she could make it. Even Archer looked startled, for some reason. "I'm...grateful for your concern, but Lancer hasn't done anything wrong. He...he's helped me more than you can imagine." Butterflies fluttered in her stomach, but she somehow found the nerve to stand firmly behind Lancer. "If all you wanted to do was make sure I was alright, then let's just part peacefully. I'm going to fight as Lancer's Master, but you only came here because you were worried about me so it would be wrong to battle each other now."

Her sister...no, her senpai looked shocked, her mouth opening and closing as she tried to collect herself. Finally, she sighed, nodding at Sakura. "If that's the case then, it seems fair enough to me. We can be enemies next time we meet."

"Okay, Tohsaka-senpai." Sakura said, glancing up at the blue knight beside her. For some reason, he was staring at Archer and Rin in turn, looking extremely amused. "Is that alright, Lancer?"

"Sure, sure." Lancer replied easily before grinning at Rin. "Hey, Ojou-chan! If you ever get sick of this idiot, I'm sure my Master wouldn't mind you joining up with us."

Sakura blinked, not getting what Lancer was getting at, or why Archer look like he wanted to tear the other man's spine out piece by piece.

"Come on, Archer." Rin urged, turning to walk away. With another murderous glare at Lancer, Archer followed her. Somehow, the stance of his broad back struck Sakura as slightly different than before...

The red team had disappeared by the time Lancer's shoulders started shaking with his laughter. Confused, Sakura gave him a look begging for an explanation.

"S...sorry lass." Lancer chuckled. "Riling up that bowman is just too much for me to resist."

"I don't understand. What does that have to do with Tohsaka-senpai?"

"Everything. It's in his stance, after all. He can't hide that even if he hides everything else." The blue knight said, catching his breath. "The way he stands in front of her...it's a man protecting his woman, not a Servant protecting his Master. It makes him more dangerous than a Servant, to be sure, but she hasn't noticed and he's just the type to ignore the obvious like that."

"O-oh." Sakura pondered this. A Master-Servant romance was about as unorthodox as anything, but...well, she obviously had no right to talk there. And if that red knight cared for her sister... "But now what, Lancer? What should we do?"

"Hm." Lancer mulled this over for a moment, joviality gone. "I killed Assassin, but Caster's still the biggest player right now. Teaming up with another Master/Servant would be obvious, at least until the threat's gone."

"...Senpai." Sakura said after a second's hesitation. "My senpai at school, Emiya Shirou, is the Master of Saber. I'd have to explain how I'm involved, but we'd have a better chance of allying with him than anyone else."

"Fine then. We'll go to his house in two nights, then, and try to work something out. I'd go sooner, but you still need the recovery time. If we're not able to work something..." Lancer shrugged. "We'll find another way."

Two days later, the moon hung in the sky like a slivered pearl scattered amongst diamonds on a length of black velvet. It was much colder this night for some reason, and Sakura found herself burrowing a little more tightly into her cloak. At least it wouldn't be too much farther to the Emiya home-

Turning the corner, Sakura ran straight into a hard chest. Stumbling back in surprise, she felt Lancer materialize behind her to catch her.

"What the-senpai?"

"Sakura?"

"Lancer?"

"Saber?"

Dumbfounded, both Servants and Masters stared before springing back to put some distance between each other.

"Sakura, get away from that guy!" Shirou yelled, brandishing a bokken. "Saber, quick, get Sakura somewhere safe-"

"Senpai, wait!" Sakura said quickly, stepping in front of Lancer. "We didn't come here to fight, we came here to make an alliance with you."

"...Sakura...you..." Shirou stuttered, leaning on his bokken for support.

"Yes, she's my Master, her brother was a fake all along, we came here to ally with you against Caster." Lancer said, rolling his eyes. "So, where's Ojou-chan and that uptight knight of hers?"

Shirou flinched, shoulders stiff until Saber lay a gentle, comforting hand on his shoulder. He gave the golden-haired girl a warm smile, relaxing some. "You've missed alot for just two days. Archer betrayed Tohsaka, joined up with Caster, then betrayed Caster and her Master and killed them both."

Lancer blew a strand of hair out of his eyes, leaning against the property wall. "You could tell the guy was a first-rate bastard just by looking at him, but I didn't think he'd ever do such a thing to Ojou-chan. So, what happened?"

Shirou and Saber exchanged an uneasy glance before settling on the most comfortable truth. "It's...a long story, but Archer wishes to fight Shirou to the death. He took Rin as a hostage. We were actually headed to the Forest of Einzbern to duel him and get her back."

"Senpai, what about Berserker..." Sakura began, trailing off at Shirou's pained look.

"Berserker and his Master are both dead. There's a rogue Servant who stay from the last war in Fuyuki. He was the one who did it."

"Keh. So it's just you and Saber, kid?" Lancer got to the point. "If you want to rescue Ojou-chan and give that red idiot the beating he needs, allying with us is the smart thing to do."

"Fine. I trust Sakura even if I don't trust you." Shirou said, holding his hand out. Hesitantly, Sakura held out her own, shaking his hand to seal their alliance.

A moment's silence passed before Shirou and Saber nodded, returning to their trek down the taxi station.

"Don't look so worried, lass. I'll keep my word to you no matter what." Lancer said, his large hand resting on her head.

"I know. And I trust you." Sakura replied, her breath casting faint puffs in the cold. She smiled up at him. "Just kiss me once before we go?"

The blue knight chuckled, bending down to seal her lips against his own. For one blissful moment, the cold was forgotten, replaced by warmth and the scent of the forest.

Finally, he slowly pulled away, tenderly brushing her hair out of her face. "And that won't be the last kiss I give you either. I promise."

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Epilogue
Lancer lived up to his word. He always did, even two months after the finish of the Fifth Fuyuki City Grail War, almighty...or rather, unholy, clusterfuck it had been. Which was more than he could say for idiotic heroic spirits who said things like "I'll try my best, Rin" after acting like a total asshole who wasn't, in fact, more or less crazy about his lovely, thigh-high clad Master. It only strengthened his opinion that even ten years and the betrayal of his ideals hadn't changed Archer as much as he thought.

"Is the coffee alright, Lancer?" A gentle voice broke his train of thought. Sakura smiled at him, sipped at her own cup of tea in her preferred spot in the Tohsaka Mansion parlor. Two months, and he still wasn't entirely used to the grand house...or living with Archer. And seeing his idiotic face everyday. And putting up with his aggravating attitude. Lancer wondered, for not the first time, whether one of the stipulations of Counter Guardian-hood was getting one's sense of fun surgically removed. What on earth Ojou-chan saw in him, he honestly didn't want to know. It was pretty obvious that something had happened while Archer had in hostage at the Einzbern Castle. For one thing, he was damn sure Archer's mana supply being near-fully restored, and the careful way Rin had walked after they had retrieved her wasn't a coincidence. Sakura had talked quietly with Rin afterwards, and in her way reassured him her sister hadn't been forced to do anything by Archer even when his sanity had been at its weakest.

Her sister. That had come as another surprise, after Gilgamesh had kidnapped Sakura and used her as a plant for the little homunculi girl's heart. That Sakura had retained the Grail's energy after Saber had destroyed in, and enough energy to easily support three Servants on her own, almost paled in comparision. But after the dust had settled, and Archer had stopped staring wistfully at Rin long enough to recontract her and stay in this world...

Rin had offered her home to Sakura and Lancer. And they had accepted. Which brought them to two month's later, or rather, the present-

"Lancer!" Sakura pouted at him with her sure-KO face.

"I'm sorry, I was lost in thought." He apologized, silently noting more of Rin's personality seemed to have rubbed off onto her sister. Although oddly, Ojou-chan seemed to have grown a bit calmer in some areas. Lancer figured that was a fair enough exchange. "Of course the coffee's good. Everything you make is." How he had the misfortunate to be a coffee hound surrounded by consummate tea lovers, the Servant couldn't even begin to guess. Really, really pissing off the Morrigan had probably done it.

"I'm sorry I snapped. I'm just worried about Nee-san." Sakura sighed, setting her cup down to lean against him. Automatically, Lancer wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "She and Archer-san...I thought for sure they would have made up by now."

"It was pretty pathetic to see Archer pining." Lancer agreed, before coughing awkwardly."But I think they'll be working something out today."

Sakura gave him a penetrative look, but all the Command Spells in the world couldn't make Lancer tell Sakura the reason he was sure Ojou-chan and the red bastard had made up was because the man had her pressed against the wall of the training hall Rin used to practice her kenpo, buried hilt deep inside his Master. That had been almost an hour ago, but Lancer's almost-godlike hearing could still pick up the sounds of passionate lovemaking even with the distance. Two months was a considerable time to hold back with two people who obvious wanted-and cared-for each other as much as Archer and Rin. "After all, that idiot worships her even if he does a crap job of showing it."

"Hm?" Sakura responded in a tone he knew boded mischief. "Nee-san's just lucky, I guess." The violet haired girl walked to the great window, looking carelessly out the window. "I bet you couldn't even name three things you like about me, could you?" Her smile was teasing and harmless, but the predator in Lancer still rose to attack.

Before Sakura could even register it, a strong pair of arms were wrapped firmly around her waist. Startled, she reflexively tried to jump back, but he held her fast.

"Three things, huh? I can manage that." Lancer murmured in her ear, eyes gleaming blood-red.

"I like the way you wake me up in the morning. I like the way you always smell like fresh peaches, even when they aren't in season. But most of all..."

"I just love you, Sakura."

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