A day in the life of an ordinary hero.
The old church was in ruins. Somewhere in the distance, a dull crash signaled yet another piece of masonry losing its fight against gravity.
Shirou dug his way free from the remnants of the pew that had shielded him from most of the falling debris, and breathed a sigh of relief when he found his Servant a few feet away, bruised and bloody but lacking any lethal wounds.
It was a stupid question, but he asked anyway. "Are you okay?"
"Sure. All in one one piece."
"But you had to use your Phantasm what, three times?"
"Good thing I'm pretty fuel-efficient then, eh? I oughtta be good for, say, another couple of months if there's no serious fighting."
They'd survived. In the end, there had been no heroes, only a slow, uphill struggle to contain and destroy the tainted miasma of curses before it had a chance to spread.
"I- I'm sorry."
The words came out in a rush, and Shirou didn't bother to hide the fact that he knew. His Servant had known - had to have known - about the dreams they'd shared, even if he'd been too tactful to mention them aloud. "I'm sorry. I don't have the power to let you fight the way you want. That's why you're here, that's your wish, isn't it?"
"Sure, but it's not the only thing worth doing in life." Clapping him enthusiastically on the back, the warrior grinned and leaned down to peer into Shirou's eyes. "Don't beat yourself up over it, kid."
At close quarters the great hero of Ulster looked completely ridiculous. His bangs were smeared across his forehead with blood and sweat, purple bruises fading across his cheeks where he'd taken a nosedive into a Buddha statue. The metal hair clasp had gotten lost somewhere during the fight, and unruly blue hair spilled down the back of a striped sweater like a mutant ferret.
Shirou didn't need a mirror to know that he wasn't in much better shape himself. The sleeves of his shirt had been slashed to ribbons, skin beneath raw and scraped, and he could feel a dull ache in the back of his mouth where he'd probably lost a tooth or two. And yet he found himself smiling back, a goofy, stupid grin shared between kids who knew they'd broken the rules and there was going to be hell to pay.
Something in Shirou broke right about then, as the laughter bubbled over and he nearly collapsed right then and there. Leaning on each other for support and giggling maniacally all the way, they half-stumbled, half-walked the path back to normality.