Story: The Sword and the Staff (chapter 26)

Authors: bleeding.blade

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Chapter 26

Title: Chapter 25

She didn't know what to choose. She didn't even know how to go about choosing.

All her life she had bound herself to duty. While obligation had made her suffer, it had also spared her the agonies of decision-making. In every single prior case, responsibility had dictated her actions.

But in this case, she had two opposing duties, did she not?

The first was to remain faithful to her love for Shirou.

The second was to assist Rin in a dangerous mission she had been responsible for creating.

Saber covered her face with her hands.

She was lying to herself and she knew it. Her allegiance to Rin had nothing to do with duty...and everything to do with what the Mage made her feel.

But Shirou also made her feel things. If it was difficult to tell where duty ended and love began, it was even more difficult to tell where one love ended and another began...

Shirou made her smile. Rin made her laugh.

Shirou understood her heart. Rin understood her soul.

Shirou made her warm. Rin set her on fire.

One offered her security. The other gave her freedom.

To one she was a queen. To the other she was a king.

She had always been a king.

She had always been free.

She understood that now.

Rin. She wanted Rin.


He was in his room, packing, when she made her presence felt.

"There you are," he smiled. "I was looking all over for you. I got a note from Rin saying that we could leave now—though she also sent her regrets about not being able to see us off."

He'd gone on packing for a few more minutes before he realized that she hadn't answered. He looked up then, and the sadness on her face gave him a foreboding of grief.

"Saber...?" he asked, his smile vanishing.

"I'm not leaving with you, Shirou," she spoke softly.

He looked at her for a long time. When he spoke, there was a trace of desperate entreaty in his voice. "Is this about Excalibur?"

"It is, Shirou, but not in the way you think." She looked away then. "Rin is in trouble because I didn't want to let go of the Sword. She acted against the Council's wishes and prevented them from Banishing Excalibur."

He took a deep breath. "I know how strongly you feel about duty, Saber, and I understand that you feel responsible for what happened to Rin—"

She cut him off with a firm shake of her head. "I'm not staying to help Rin out of duty, Shirou. If it were a matter of duty...I'd stay by your side."

"Why are you staying then?" he asked quietly.

"Because..." she looked at him then, and there was a plea for understanding in her emerald eyes. "Because I can't bear to be away from her, Shirou. I can't bear to be away from Rin."

He knew then, from the way she'd said it, that he'd lost her—and that, at that same moment, she'd finally found herself.


He was dreaming, as always, when he felt her presence in the room.

He opened his eyes, and for a few brief moments, saw the seven-year-old girl-child who had clung to him for days on end. The rush of nostalgia that assailed him then was as keen as a blade through his chest.

She looked at him resolutely. "I need a favor."

The Council Master raised an eyebrow.

She hesitated briefly. "Will you give me back my Sword?"

The Council Master smiled. "I thought you'd never ask."


She was in a Hallway between Dimensions—a tiny black speck in the cavernous corridor between worlds.

She had never felt as alone in her life—and she had been alone almost all of her life.

They had sent her through the Gate without ceremony, and it was only her memory of the Council Master's blessing that had allowed her to make the traversal with head held high.

He had told her of the Hallways—that there was a journey yet to be made between the Dimensions. He had also assured her that they were not unpleasant, that after a few hours, they tended to assume a form comforting and familiar to the Traveler.

Right now, Rin didn't know if it comforted her that the Hallway she was in had come to resemble the environs of Avalon.

She tried not to think of the memories those environs conjured; tried not to remember the sight of a blonde woman with emerald eyes, or the sound of her silvery laughter, or the touch of her slender arms.

She was sure she wouldn't have known what loneliness meant if she'd never had those memories.

She would just have been alone, the way she'd always been—and not alone in this acutely painful sense of missing a badly wanted presence.

She was in the middle of her reveries when a quiet voice called out.


Rin froze.

The Council Master hadn't told her that there would be apparitions in the Hallways.


She turned around.

The figure before her couldn't possibly be real. No one else could have gotten through the Gat—

"The Council Master helped me pass through the Gate."

Rin shook her head.

"You shouldn't be here, Saber," she said quietly.

"It was my choice to be here," the blonde replied calmly, drawing near.

Rin shook her head again. There was exasperation and the slightest tinge of anger in her voice when she spoke. "This is my battle, Saber, not yours—"

"I didn't come here out of duty!"

The Mage stopped short.

The blonde halted a few feet away from her. When she spoke, her voice was soft. "I didn't come here out of duty, Rin. I came here...out of love. I came here because...I love you. And I want to be with you even if it contradicts what I've always believed in about loyalty and obligation."

The lump in the Mage's throat made it difficult to speak. "But can you live with that, Saber?"

"I've tried living otherwise, and it only hurt me...and the one who loved me."

Rin looked away for a long moment. "He'll never forgive me," she whispered.

"He already has," Saber interrupted gently. "You know Shirou, Rin. Even if it hurts him, he only wants the happiness of those he loves."

Rin shook her head. "I can't take you with me, Saber. I may never ret—"

She never finished her sentence, for Saber's mouth was suddenly on hers. It was a fierce and ardent kiss, and when it ended after a long and breathless moment, the blonde looked at her with glittering emerald eyes and asked in a low voice:

"If you can look me in the eye and tell me that you don't want me—that you've never wanted me in your arms the way you have me now—I'll go back and never look for you again."

Rin looked at her for a long and serious moment. "Is this what you really want?" she asked the blonde softly.

Saber smiled. "What do you really want?"

Rin reached out and brushed a thumb across the blonde's lips. "You," she said simply. "I want you."

"That settles it then," Saber replied with a smile. She'd started to draw away when the Mage pulled her back again for a long and tender kiss.

When they finally drew apart, Rin murmured: "That's strange..."

"What?" Saber asked with some concern.

The Mage frowned slightly. "It's just that I had a sense of déjà vu when we kissed...Like, it wasn't just the first time or the second time..."

Saber hesitated. "Funny, I felt exactly the same thing."

They stared at each other for a few moments before the Mage finally shook her head and smiled.

"It doesn't matter...Not when there'll be a third time, and a fourth time, and many other times after."

The blonde responded by taking her hand and tugging her forward.

"We should be going. Merlin said the Gate on the other end wouldn't stay open for long."

Rin froze.


Saber laughed. "So there are things after all that even you don't know." Then smiling tenderly at her, the blonde spoke softly, "Come on, I'll explain things while we walk..."

 And somewhere in another world, in its distant past and its distant future, a Sorceress and a Wizard smiled.

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