The way Rin’s muffled moan blended with her and Shirou’s voices as they cried out was actually really nice, some part of Saber’s mind pointed out, and her already flushed face heated further as she collapsed back against Shirou, who panted harshly against her neck. For a time, they didn’t move, and there were no sounds but their breathing. Then, with a little sigh, Rin used a hand on Saber’s thigh to lift herself up unsteadily and settle back on her heels, licking her lips. Even in the dim gray half-light before dawn her color was high, her eyes heavy-lidded but bright, her smile smugly satisfied; Saber and Shirou both shivered at the sight, and his hands tightened their grip on her hips.
Shirou’s calluses against her bare skin reminded Saber just how little she was wearing compared to the two of them, and she tensed up, embarrassed (stupid after what they’d just done, perhaps, but reasonable objectivity seemed to be escaping her often this time around).
“Uh, sorry,” Shirou said, and they awkwardly (reluctantly?) separated. To her credit, Saber managed not to wince. The soreness would soon pass, nothing to worry about unless thoughts about its source intruded at inopportune moments.
…This was seeming a more likely possibility all the time.
Shirou cleared his throat. “Um,” he began, and blushed as Saber half turned towards him, which made her redden in turn, pulling her sweat-damp shirt closer around her self-consciously.
Rin gave an exasperated sigh. “Out.”
Shirou blinked in surprise, and then frowned. “Hey now—”
“Out, Shirou,” Rin repeated, pushing him towards the exit. “Girls have adjustments and things afterwards, and we need our privacy for it. I’ll call you when we’re done.”
He stopped at the top of the stairs, and in a disgruntled voice began, “Tohsaka—”
“Emiya-kun,” said Rin, smiling sweetly, “why are you still here?”
Shirou opened his mouth as if to reply, apparently thought better of it, and descended the steps with a heavy tread, grumbling to himself.
Saber paused in the act of buttoning her shirt to look up at Rin, holding out the rest of her clothes. "Ah. Thank you."
The bed dipped a little as Rin sat beside her. Whether it was the distance or what they had just done she didn’t know, but Saber was intensely aware of her presence, warm and alive.
“…I’m sorry,” Rin said after a moment of silence.
“We didn’t exactly have time for the two of you to awkwardly dance around each other like you do, and things got a bit rough because of it.” Her hands tightly folded in her lap, Rin scuffed the toe of her shoe against the floor a little.
“I am sure that if things had been different—” Saber stopped herself, biting her lip as she pulled on her stockings.
Rin huffed a quiet laugh. “If things had been different we wouldn’t have done it at all,” she pointed out, and there was an odd quality to her voice that caught Saber’s attention, but her face turned away in the dimness showed nothing.
…Of course. Archer’s loss must wound her deeply. Though he had kept to himself for the duration of their acquaintance, Archer had proven himself a consummate knight by his last actions. If he had recovered more quickly from the injury she’d given him, Saber would have been proud to fight with such an ally and glad to have concluded the Grail War with a match against him. “I apologize.”
“Why are you apologizing?”
Saber looked away. “It is because of my weakness that Archer had to fight Berserker alone. If I had been stronger, we could have bettered the odds by fighting him together, and you and Shirou would not have had to—”
“Shut up!” Rin said vehemently, slamming her fist into the mattress, her eyes flashing. “That was something Archer and I decided on ourselves, and as for the rest of it, I don’t regret it, so don’t you dare apologize!”
Saber looked at her in surprise. “Rin…”
She leaned in close. “I don’t regret it,” Rin repeated, “and I’m sure Shirou doesn’t either. This was all we could do to help you, and I’d do it all again if it made the difference between losing one of you and going home with the three of us together.”
Saber tried to compose herself enough to reply, but the space between them, small enough that she could feel the heat of Rin’s body and her quick shallow breaths against her cheek again, stirred up all those new memories she needed to suppress to face the coming battle: warm bodies pressing against her, trapping her in a way that both terrified and thrilled her; soft lips and a clever tongue, working a magic that had nothing to do with magecraft; slim nimble fingers and strong careful hands deftly laying bare her insecurities even as they rendered them irrelevant. She finally met Rin’s gaze, and her breath caught at the intensity of the emotion there, the fierce determination of her words underscored by a smoldering combination of affection and possessiveness and desire that left Saber speechless.
It was too much. Saber closed her eyes to escape it, turning her head, and after a moment Rin sighed deeply and moved away, the bed creaking as she settled her weight a little more distant. It had been the threat of impending death and the knowledge that each moment might be their last that had heightened the experience and made each sensation starkly clear in her memories, Saber knew. They were making too much of it; they needed to discard these irrelevant thoughts and focus on what they knew would be upon them soon.
“Anyway,” Rin said, and the seriousness of her voice made it clear she was trying to do just that despite her averted gaze and her tense posture, like that of someone who knew they had crossed a line but was trying to downplay it. “Are you feeling better, at least?”
“Hm.” Saber smoothed her skirt into place and turned her senses inward. Her reserves were a sea of red-gold dragonfire, its swells far lower than she’d like, but an inferno of razor-edged silver flames danced atop it and drove it to surge higher. This, Saber knew instinctively, was Shirou’s od; what was less familiar were the few tiny scattered jewels floating among it, melting in the heat into many-colored whorls that shone bright with power on the crests of the tides, but they could only be… “—Rin, you…”
“Ohh, so it did work.” Rin smiled, clearly pleased with herself. “I wasn’t sure it would, since there’s not a path between us like there is between you and Shirou, we hadn’t prepared at all or made a contract, and then the timing…” Her cheeks went rosy. “Well. A-anyway, is that enough?”
There was a high likelihood it wouldn’t be, depending on how much damage Archer had inflicted on Berserker before his defeat and how well Berserker could heal himself or be healed by his Master, but Saber couldn’t say so. They were running out of time, and so the moments they’d already shared, stolen in desperation from fate to shore themselves up against odds that were massively stacked against them, would have to suffice. “I will be able to fight,” she finally said, “but to use my Noble Phantasm in my current condition would be inadvisable.”
“I thought that might be the case,” Rin admitted with a sigh. “I have an idea that could work instead, but I don’t like repeating myself, so I’ll call Shirou back before we talk about it.” She rose.
“First, Rin, I would ask a favor of you.”
“Huh?” She stopped in surprise, turning back to Saber. “A favor?”
“Yes.” Saber nodded decisively. Rin was a still a Master and therefore a potential enemy even without a Servant, but her instincts told her she could trust her with this. “It is about Shirou.”
A complicated collection of emotions moved across Rin’s face as quickly as the wind through fields of barley before she settled into her usual cool nonchalance. “Ohh?” she drawled, her lips curving into a smirk.
Saber ignored the heat that rose in her face at that, and said seriously, “I worry about him. The more time I spend with him, the clearer it becomes that he is insufficiently concerned with his own safety and the value of his life.”
“Hmm,” Rin said, her voice neutral, her arms folded across her chest, a pensive expression on her face as she looked at Saber.
“I cannot remain here always to protect him,” Saber continued, “and so when I am gone I would entrust him to your care, if that is acceptable to you.”
Rin’s eyes widened in shock. “Saber…”
“I understand that magi have their own concerns. I certainly would not expect you to set those aside for this, but I have seen that you are a trustworthy woman, and fond of him. I would ask that you remain Shirou’s friend and help guide him away from the more serious blunders to which he is prone.” She paused, and added earnestly, “Please, Rin.”
Rin’s face was nearly as red as her shirt now, Saber could tell, even in profile. “A-as if I could let some half-trained amateur who doesn’t even have a workshop run wild on my land!” She raised her head and scowled, her gaze firm. “There’s so much he needs to learn even to be just a third-rate magus that we won’t have time to cover before the end of the Grail War, and since I’m the supervisor of Fuyuki he certainly won’t be rid of me so easily!”
Saber smiled. “I see. That is good to hear.” And knowing Rin, Saber doubted she’d leave off teaching Shirou when he reached the level of a ‘third-rate magus.’ It would surely be some time before her pride would allow her to declare Shirou’s apprenticeship, unofficial as it were, complete. “Thank you.”
“I-it’s nothing.” Rin looked away again, and though her cheeks were still pink she seemed pleased. “But could I ask you something in return?”
Saber cocked her head. “What is it?”
“Take care of yourself, too.” Saber blinked as Rin continued, “If you disappear before the end of the Holy Grail War, Shirou’s going to be upset, and I’ll be really angry too, so don’t even think about doing anything stupidly noble and self-sacrificing.”
Certainly, Saber would give her all to survive their remaining battles — she wanted to obtain the Grail, after all, and fading away wouldn’t help her do so — but what an unreasonable request. “But Rin—”
“I said don’t even think about it, or I swear I’ll call you back from the Throne of Heroes to give you a piece of my mind, see if I don’t!” Her glare was fierce.
Saber smiled in spite of herself. “I shall endeavor to spare you the trouble.” Before Rin could respond, she said, more serious, “However, we are running out of time. Please call Shirou back so that we may discuss our strategy for facing Berserker. You said you had a plan, did you not?”
Rin took a deep breath. “Yeah. It’s a long shot, but I think it’ll be our best chance for all of us to survive.” She looked away again. “Remember that’s our goal. I don’t want to... I don’t want Shirou to lose you the way I lost Archer.”
Not entirely sure what she could say to that, Saber simply nodded.
“Well,” Rin said, “the sooner we get through this, the sooner we can go home and sleep.” She gave Saber a little smile. “Sound good?”
“Most definitely,” Saber agreed, returning her smile, and as Rin turned towards the window she moved to the stairs in anticipation of Shirou’s return. Dawn was fast approaching, and it was important that they be ready for what was to come. She clenched her fist. Rin had answered her trust, so she would do her best to do likewise.
Home, with the three of us together.
It was, after all, something she too wanted.