Disclaimer: Himura Kenshin and all his friends (and various enemies) belong to Nobuhiro Watsuki, who was wise and kind enough to create such an enjoyable series. Other original characters invented in this fic belong to me. But I'm still not getting any money out of this, so please don't sue.
Author's Note: Nobody shoot me please, I'm posting this story as a stress-reliever while I'm working intensely (read that "insanely") on a couple other fics for contests, one of them very serious indeed. So...yes, I know I should be working on other things, but I needed to post something easy and lighthearted as a diversion, before I broke my brain. ^_^; Gomen nasai to all, and I hope you enjoy.
Prologue: I Just Want You To Know
2nd Year Keiou
1867 - Afterlife
"There is still such sadness in him," whispered a voice, as soft as a summer breeze. "I wish that he could stop fighting, but I would not see him lose the will to live..."
An etherial woman, dressed in a pale kimono and a blue scarf, watched anxiously as events continued in the living world. Time had stopped for her, for all the rest of eternity, but still she looked back, through the Veil, concerned for the ones she had left behind.
"Worrying for him again, love?" spoke another voice, causing the woman to turn.
"Akira-kun..." Himura Tomoe's face softened at the sight of her slain fiance; a man she had loved--still loved--and had been promised to marry. "Hai. Sumimasen...I know it should not matter to me any more, but..."
"I know," Kiyosato Akira replied, smiling gently as he kissed her forehead. "I felt the same way about you. But," he went on ruefully, "Himura-san was there to look after you, so I didn't worry too much."
Tomoe smiled thankfully. "I am still ever grateful you do not resent him...for what happened..."
"I did resent him for killing me," Akira reminded her quietly. "But he made restitution by caring for you in my absence, when you were left alone. And in the end, he reunited us in death at the cost of his own heart...and I know you cared for him deeply, love..."
"Still, why do you worry for him so? I know the times that you left behind are dark, but they won't remain that way."
Tomoe glanced down. "I just want him to survive this horrid war, and to find happiness someday..."
"He will, darling," Akira promised her, putting an arm around her shoulders. "I've seen it."
"Seen it?" Tomoe gasped, staring at him. "But how?"
"Ah--gomen, I forgot. You haven't been here quite as long as I--did you not know? There are different rules here," Akira explained with a wry grin. "We are outside of Time now...above it, so to speak, so we can look at it any way we wish."
"Truly?" Tomoe wondered, amazed. "All this time, I didn't realize..."
"I'll show you," Akira said, pulling her in another direction. "Come, look over here..."
He showed her where to look through a different part of the Veil--ahead in Time, she supposed--and when the image cleared she gasped aloud at what she saw.
A slim red-haired man in magenta knelt in the yard of a large, pleasant-looking house, scrubbing at the laundry--her Kenshin, doing laundry!--and possessed of a most cheerful, gentle smile. Tomoe had never seen such a look from him, even when they had been so happy together in their little house in Otsu. This Kenshin--though he hardly looked any older than when she had known him, and she wasn't sure how many years had passed--had open, peaceful eyes. He was...content.
His voice spoke, soft and gentle, comments regarding an upcoming meal and friends to arrive. The one he spoke to, a dark-haired woman in yellow on the porch of the house, laughed and replied, calling him "Kenshin-no-baka" in a lovingly teasing manner, her blue eyes sparkling.
Tomoe heard more laughter, then; a child's laughter, shrill and bright, and in a moment another figure entered her view--a tiny boy-child, perhaps no more than two or three, with familiar red hair and brilliant blue-violet eyes. The child danced in to play in the soap suds, cheeks flushed from activity, and gazing at the boy Kenshin's face changed even more.
At the sight of father and son together, Tomoe made a soft sound of wonder, and though she was not supposed to shed tears in this place, her eyes still welled--with happiness, not grief; happiness for Kenshin, at how peaceful and glad he looked with a new home and family, free of shadows and war. And pure joy at the sight of the beautiful little boy who brought so much light and life into her Kenshin's existence.
Akira's arm tightened around her. "See, love? One day, he will be happy."
"Hai...one day..." Tomoe looked back at the place she had been viewing, where her Kenshin stalked through the dark city of Kyoto with a broken heart and bloody hands. Her Kenshin, the one she'd left behind to mourn her death by his own sword, who saw no hope and no end to war and death--who was dying inside because of her memory and all the sorrows he bore, bleak and burdened, seeing only a doomed future ahead of him. "I wish...he could see," she confessed in a whisper, her eyes once more turning to the little boy. "I wish he could see this child...and know that there is light and hope in his future..."
Akira chuckled softly. "It would change his outlook, wouldn't it? If he knew. But then, seeing one's own child long before that child's birth is bound to change any man. I daresay it would turn Himura-san's world on its ear."
"I just wish for him to keep the will to fight, to finish this war and to live on," Tomoe replied with a faint smile. "I hear in the channels of Fate that this war must be finished, and that Kenshin must win...but each day I see him fading, like a candle dying out. I fear for him, Akira-kun..."
"Ah...yes, he has to succeed..." Akira turned back to her from the place he had been looking--another spot in Time he had not shown her--and there was an odd grin on his face. "You know...you are not far off in your wish, darling. If Himura-san could see that child, it would give him the reason he most needs to overcome his obstacles and win."
Tomoe nodded sadly. "Hai. But..."
Her fiance winked conspiratorily. "It can be done."
Now, Tomoe looked positively flabbergasted--uncharacteristically gaping. "A-Anata...how...?"
"You yourself said, Fate calls for Himura-san to succeed. We are allowed." Akira looked positively sly--rather uncharacteristic of him as well. "I had done some looking into things like this after I died, to find some way to reach you. We have some 'credit,' so to speak, due to the circumstances of our deaths; we both died in defense of another--you most especially, love. We can call in a favor, as it were, and let Himura-san see the hope in his future."
"We...we can?" Tomoe's expression shifted to something gently joyful once again. "Oh...Akira-kun...! But how would it be accomplished?"
Akira shrugged slightly. "I'm not certain of the specifics; a higher power sees to that. All we can do is submit the wish, and it will be carried out as Fate sees fit. Himura-san will see the child."
Tomoe glanced shrewdly at her grinning fiance. "Akira-kun, you have seen something, haven't you?"
"Perhaps. Let us make our request, and I will show you."
"You wicked, wicked man," Tomoe laughed, too ladylike to give in to the temptation to smack her fiance on the shoulder. "Very well--and hurry, for I do not want to see him fall any further into despair."
Akira smiled at her, and reached out. "Aa. Let us send him hope."
"Hai...let us send him love," Tomoe whispered, her eyes fixed upon the face of the precious child. "And...I pray it will be enough..."
She took his hand, and from their joined hands a light shone forth, asking a boon of Time and Fate itself, and reaching far to touch and change the world they'd left behind.
15th year of Meiji
Mid-Summer 1882 - Tokyo
Himura Kenshin hummed softly to himself as he hung up the laundry to dry, listening to the happy sounds of the Kamiya Dojo at peace--Kenji's laughter, Yahiko and Kaoru shouting at each other in the practice hall...
As he worked, Kenshin kept a close eye on Kenji as the little boy hopped and played--barefoot and somewhat disheveled, since he had apparently escaped from Kaoru after his bath, while she was distracted by Yahiko's teasing insolence. Mature lady though she might try to be, his beloved young wife still had a fiery streak in her that reacted quite powerfully to her best pupil's stubbornness--and Kenshin would have her be no other way. Still smiling, Kenshin resigned himself to running Kenji through another bath once the last of the laundry was hung up.
It really was much, much easier to raise a child in these peaceful times of Meji, that it was.
Kenshin fluffed out the last gi and spread it carefully over the pole so that it would dry properly and with no unsightly wrinkles, stepping back to untie his sleeves and sigh in satisfaction for a job well done. He glanced at Kenji, who was curiously poking at traveling ants with a twig, and felt his expression soften in fondness.
Precious little Kenji, his joy and promise of the future; Kaoru's temper and insistence all bundled up with his own--he ruefully admitted--rebellious, stubborn bull-headedness, in a toddler-sized package of childish energy and insatiable curiosity, and with enough intensity to be daunting even to his own Shishou. An intelligent, willful child, combining the best--and the worst--of both his parents, in a completely new and unique personality that represented its own rewards and challenges.
Kenshin shook his head wryly; Kenji didn't seem to appreciate him much, still young enough to cling solely to his mother and consider his father just another, albeit constant, face in the crowd. And Kenji was spoiled enough to cling, that was for sure. Sometimes Kenshin wondered where his own parenting backbone had gone to; he wasn't nearly as strict--he'd even cut his own hair to avoid tugs, rather than simply insist on Kenji behaving. But then, he supposed that seeing one's child born and raising him from infancy caused one to go quite soft on said child. Gratitude for the child's existence, gladness in participating in this new life, joy for leading a child of Meiji into a world of peace...
Though...really, sometimes he wished things could be more like he remembered...
Smiling, Kenshin continued to watch Kenji, feeling almost wistful at the way the child looked; nostalgia made him sigh--those tiny, dusty bare toes and rumpled light gray-blue yukata...it was almost familiar...
He caught his breath--and the moment the realization hit was the moment that reality warped around him and the yard of the Dojo erupted in a silent explosion of light, centering around his small son. For an instant, panic blanked his thoughts before comprehension restored order; the shout died in his throat and his muscles relaxed. He winced almost in pain as Kenji squawked in alarm--a childish yell that was truncated almost as it began, as the soundless light faded in an eyeblink and the Dojo yard was restored to normalcy once again.
Kenshin stared at the place the strange glowing tunnel had been. Closing his eyes, he took a deep, calming breath, the last few pieces of an old, old puzzle falling into place in his heart. Wistful, and almost sad, he gazed at the clear blue sky for a time, rather than the now-empty yard.
Then, with a tired, knowing smile, he turned to leave, to find Kaoru and inform her that their son would be gone for a little while...
Kenji tumbled through the bright light, eyes squinted and limbs flailing--until he was uncermoniously dumped into darkness in a place that was cold and smelly and hard. He was left quite abruptly sitting on his rump in this dark place, on the dry, dirty ground, blinking owlishly as he waited for his eyes to adjust.
How did he end up in the middle of a dark street?
Confused and a bit frightened, his small lips turned to an upset pout and his brows to a pensive frown. This was not the right place--only a second ago he had been at his house, playing in the yard on a sunny day, with Touchan just nearby...
Movement caught his eye. There was someone there--just at the mouth of that alley, a human-shape in the dark, barely edged by the distant lamplight. Kenji went still, eyes wide; he couldn't see who it was, and it was scary enough to be abruptly dropped outside in the cold dark street.
The figure stepped forward, just a little. It was enough for a bit of light from the shaded windows nearby to softly illuminate the stranger--half of his face, the cut of his clothes, the color of his hair.
And it was a very familiar face indeed. Kenji's expression lit up immediately, glad to see the person who--even if not his most favorite, his Kaachan--was known and kind and most of all safe. So he scooted to his feet, smiling once more, small hands reaching out toward his savior.