A fleeting glimpse of might-have beens.
They rushed westward with the night, leaving the battlefield behind to greet the dawn. Shirou felt slightly guilty about abandoning the fight just like that, but he had every confidence in the girl who stood in his place, a better mage than he'd ever be. All he could do was put his faith in her word that she'd finish the battle they'd started. Just as she had entrusted him with the safety of her sister.
The girl in his arms slept, breathing softly and steadily, a slumber uninterrupted by nightmares for perhaps the first time in over a decade. The soft hair that whipped in the wind would never be its natural color again, but the source of poison was gone, and in time she might even be able to touch her magic potential without the pain that had been drilled into her all these years.
Behind them, long arms wrapped around her passengers, rode the master of the winged mount. As the white wings beat a steady rhythm in the night air, she leaned on her perch, supporting her passengers in their swift flight. She guided them towards a park on the edge of the city, outside of the influence of the magical duel they'd just escaped.
They wheeled a slow, descending spiral into the park, a graceful whisper in the night. Shirou slipped off the Pegasus, gently easing his passenger down and carrying her to a bench, and turned to look at their protector.
She stroked the mane of the white phantasm, her long hair curling like living things in the breeze. He winced at the comparison that sprang naturally to mind, knowing she would find it painful.
So this was it. Her expression was unreadable beneath the black mask, and even at the end of their short association he didn't feel that he had a right to ask. But something in him wanted to try anyway, because in the brief moments of sanity during the war he had seen glimpses of joy that might have flourished, under different circumstances.
She forestalled the attempt, answering his unspoken question. "My sisters are waiting."
Calling the white phantasm born of her own blood, she swung onto its back and vanished into the ether. For a moment he thought he could hear the voices of gulls and the rustle of waves from across the centuries, whispering along the shores of an island that was now beyond the reach of any mortal man.